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Is Trump a madman or a genius?

August 23, 2017

Along with most of the human population, I have been struggling to find a frame of reference to look at the phenomenon of Donald Trump. To say that Trump has broken all political conventions is stating the obvious but it does not by itself answer the title question of this post. Arguably, it was following the established conventions of international politics that burdened the World with the multiple crises of ISIS, unending war in Afghanistan, nuclear North Korea, refugees flooding Europe etc. It has also instituted political correctness as a de facto speech code of the media, to the detriment of the quality of public discourse. Trump challenges this status quo and the fact he is still there seven months into the most tumultuous presidency in the recent US history forces us to consider the possibility that he is not as mad as most people think.

In the post published in November 2016 I stated that I did not like him much but:

“At some point (…) I started feeling admiration for Trump who singlehandedly took on the whole political establishment of the US. Facing pathetically biased coverage in the media, condemned to defeat by the pundits, dumped on by feminists, Marxists, LGBT crowd and activists of all sorts he just carried on. His persistence was so impressive he earned my genuine respect.”

Donald Trump has not mellowed and his war with the Fake News merchants and politically correct pundits is still in full swing. But, much as I commented, he seems completely unaffected by the incredible pressure piled on him from all angles and has even managed to get a few things done. So what are Trump’s words and actions – as opposed to the mainstream media commenting on the style of his presidency – telling us about whether he is a madman or a genius?

  1. As the multiple investigations into Trump’s purported collusion with the Russian government are scraping the bottom of the barrel his consistent denials of any impropriety are looking more and more credible. Nothing that has played out in the public arena leads me to believe that a collusion – in any definable sense of the word – has taken place. The relentlessly biased, hair-splitting, self-referencing, hysterical media coverage amplifying and endlessly regurgitating every possible rumour suggesting collusion between Putin and Trump is now looking demonstrably silly. Trump on the other hand is likely to come out of it clean. Genius.
  2. One would think that, faced with so much external pressure, Trump would gather the few remaining faithfuls around him, circle the wagons and assume a defensive position inside the White House but this is not what has happened. He is still willing to fire whoever displeases him and keeps jabbing the Fake News outlets. It defies belief that a newcomer to the world of US politics with shaky support from the party he represents keeps turning against both his own men and the mainstream media the way Trump does. Mad.
  3. If anything, Trump’s war with the politically correct speech code is intensifying. In the aftermath of Charlottesville he deliberately violated the cardinal rule of the western public life which states that anything right-wing/white/male/heterosexual/Christian must be condemned outright before any nuanced criticism of the opposite views is allowed to be expressed. Progressive elements in all their guises – including the Antifa thugs – are always morally superior to the exponents of conservative views. Regardless of what had actually happened in Charlottesville Trump had little to win by stating that the blame was shared by both sides and, predictably, he got crucified by everyone. Mad.
  4. In February 2017 in a one-on-one closed door meeting with Comey Trump passed a hint of a suggestion to drop the investigation into Flynn’s Russian affair. This exchange documented by Comey in a contemporaneous memo gave the impression Trump got dangerously close to attempting the obstruction of justice. What was he thinking? Mad.
  5. For someone new to international politics Trump’s achievements are nothing short of remarkable. He punished Assad for using chemical weapons (something Obama never had guts to do), engineered a partial ceasefire in Syria with Putin, held his own in the rhetorical confrontation with Kim and now delivered a new plan of action for Afghanistan which appears to be reasonable. Trump made the unpredictability ascribed to him by the media into an asset he uses during negotiations. Genius.
  6. Despite the public stunt of the CEOs abandoning Trump’s council the real judgement of his business policy is delivered by the US economy. The Dow Jones is at an all-time high 22% up from the election date (not that you will learn it from the CNN coverage) and the unemployment is very low. The money people see through Trump’s abrasive presidential style and have confidence he has what it takes to provide a stable environment for growth. Genius.
  7. From the beginning of his presidential campaign Trump faced the hostile mainstream media twisting his every word and depriving what he says of context. Yet, he managed to force the same media to deliver his statements to the US electorate verbatim and unaltered – 144 characters at a time. Genius.

While the jury is still out my count is 4:3 in favour of a genius. What is yours?




Collusion or delusion?

July 17, 2017


This post will present my views on the confused affair of Donald Jnr’s meeting with the Russians in June 2016.

The undisputed facts appear to be that on 3/6/16 Donald Jnr received an email from a Russian national he had had business dealings with in the past, offering some compromising information on Hillary Clinton purportedly originating from the Russian government. Less than 20 minutes later Donald Jr confirms he is interested. On 9/6/16 the meeting takes place with eight people present: three of the Trump election team and five Russian nationals. The public statements released by those who attended are consistent – it appears that when no substantive information on Hillary was offered the Trump team lost interest, Jared Kushner left the room after a few minutes and the remainder of the meeting was spent discussing issues around the adoption of Russian children by the US citizens. It also appears that there was no follow up on the meeting.

Rather than sifting through who said what during the meeting I will focus on the big picture. What was the intent of both parties going into the meeting, was the Russian leadership involved and, if so, what was their game plan? Of course this is only my speculation, based on the publicly available disclosures, common sense and my understanding of the shady world of politics.

First we must consider the most obvious possibility that Veselnitskaya was indeed working for the Russian government keen to offer some dirt on Hillary with the intent of helping Trump to get elected. This theory has a weakness which I consider fatal. If the Russian leadership went to the trouble of arranging the meeting with the Trump team why was no substantive information offered? They found a contact leading to Trump’s inner circle, managed to attract Jnr’s attention, got him and two other Trump’s hot shots to sit at the table with five Russian operatives and, well – nothing. Anyone trying to convince me that this is how in June 2016 Putin’s people were trying to help Trump will need to first explain why no meaningful information was provided. Also, if the intention was to discuss confidential and compromising details it is surprising that the Russian team swelled to five – I would expect sensitive information to be discussed with as few witnesses as possible.

I have two other theories which may better explain the real story behind the mysterious meeting.

It is completely possible that Veleniskaya made up the Clinton story to get Trump’s people into the room to discuss her pet project – the Magnitsky Act. She found a person connected to Donald Jnr (Goldstone), took a few random people with her to appear more credible, had no political information to offer and quickly moved on to discuss the adoptions. When that ploy failed she gave up and hence no follow up on the meeting.

The other possible explanation is that the Russian government did indeed send Velenitskaya to Trump Tower but their real intention was not to offer dirt on Hillary but rather to collect a dossier which could be used against Trump. They risked nothing because if Donald Jnr had showed no interest the meeting simply would not have taken place. As things unfolded, Jnr took the bait and the Russians ended up with a bombshell media package that could be (and was) released at the time of their choosing. Trump had the guts to challenge Putin at G20 and, in retaliation, got dealt a body blow by KGB.

I must make clear here that the Trump team showed serious naivety by going into the meeting with the Russians claiming to be Putin’s agents. Donald Jnr may have even broken the law by not reporting the initial contact to the FBI and Kushner absolutely should have declared the meeting in his security clearance. I trust that these transgressions will be investigated and acted on by the federal authorities. But to claim that their single short meeting amounted to “collusion” with the Russian government is laughable. If no sensitive information changed hands during or after the meeting no co-operation or conspiracy can be claimed to have existed so the likes of CNN and NYT have to keep looking for that elusive smoking gun.

Trump the leftie

January 24, 2017

The complexity of the modern World often defies simplistic labels used to describe it. One example of this is Donald Trump who, despite being universally despised by the Left, actually does quite a lot to advance their agenda. This post has been written for the benefit of my ultra-progressive friends who may be surprised to find an unlikely ally in the White House.

Donald Trump hit the Oval Office floor running. His first executive order pulled the US out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (also known as TPPA). The Left have been fighting furiously to dismantle TPPA for years and I am surprised that they are not giving Trump any credit for his decisive action. It should make no difference what ideological corner he is boxing out of as long as what he does aligns with the will of the proletariat, right? Obama did his level best to advance the globalist agenda but he has now vacated the taxpayer-funded accommodation in Washington. Hillary Clinton, anointed by Obama as his successor, is on record saying that TPPA is a “golden standard” for trade agreements so I am not sure where she stands on the issue. And then, out of the blue (errr – red, actually), comes Trump and destroys TPPA with a stroke of a pen on the first working day of his presidency. This should endear him with the Marxists of the World who have united for the very same cause.

In a more general sense Trump favours national protectionism over a global, free-market economy. He is happy to introduce tariffs on the imported products putting the US industry out of business. Again, this is something the likes of Communists and Greens (excuse the linguistic redundancy) have been campaigning for for years. The fate of the workers in the Rust Belt of the US should be close to the heart of every caring leftie but now Trump is prepared to stand up for the dispossessed and his commitment should be recognised. It is true that the German proletariat will suffer if the US introduces tariffs on BMW cars to protect the American proletariat working for GM but this is a subtlety anti-globalists never worried about so why bring it up now, just because the guy pushing for the tariffs does not wear a beret with a star?

Donald Trump is also happy to confront China on the trade issues. Abuses of the workers’ rights, prison labour, price dumping and other dodgy practices in China have been in the cross-hairs of the caring lefties for a long time. Unfortunately, the previous US regime was not prepared to touch the issue so it is good someone with bigger cahunas is now inhabiting the White House. Let us hope that, with the support of the labour rights movement and other Marxists, Trump will be able to exert enough pressure on China to force some changes. Both the Chinese workforce and those in other countries whose  jobs are threatened because of cheap imports should benefit from it.

In another development Trump broke the long-standing tradition of pussyfooting around China’s sensitivities by talking on the phone with the Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-Wen. It is something the previous US presidents, including the folk hero Obama, were too scared to do. This brave step by Trump may open the door for confronting China on the other two of the three “T’s” which were considered off limits for any discussion – Tibet and Tienamen . If things go well maybe even the brazen Chinese expansionism in the disputed maritime areas can be given some air? The human rights NGO’s in the West have been decrying the fact no one was prepared to stand up to China so good on Trump for raising his voice. It is also significant that it made no difference to him the Taiwan’s president who called him is in fact a woman. So much for Trump’s alleged misogyny, which so agitated the feminists during the presidential campaign.

But most importantly of all, Trump was prepared to listen to the concerns and fears of the ordinary Americans and devised his political program to address them. This is why he won the elections humiliating the much favoured Clinton team. The story of an underdog defeating an inbred political establishment has echoes of the Bolshevik coup d’état,  1933 German election or Cuban Revolution and should strike a chord in every progressive heart. Well done comrade Trump!

I hope the above examples show that Donald Trump is not a barbarian simpleton but rather a pragmatic politician who has picked the policies that resonate with the mainstream Americans and is prepared to carry through at least some of them, including the contentious ones. There should be no harm in the lefties supporting and praising him for making the changes which align with the progressive agenda.


Where does Go go? (3)

December 28, 2016

In March 2016 AlphaGo computer program defeated the top human player Lee Sedol. During their match AlphaGo was much more powerful than during the games it had played against Fen Hui a few months prior. This was because AlphaGo had been playing a lot of practice games over that period. About two million a day to be precise. And it played them against itself.

AlphaGo utilises a programming feature mimicking the way human brain functions known as neural networks. Without going into too much detail it has two modules assessing the current board position which it used to work out the best move. But more importantly, AlphaGo can learn from the outcome of the games it plays against itself. This way it evolves much like humans do – it gets better at playing Go every single day.

When AlphaGo defeated Fan Hui in 2015 the experts predicted that a world beating Go playing computer program was still a decade away. In fact it only took under a year which shows that the progress in the development of artificial intelligence surpasses all expectations. The next challenge for computers is the Turing test – being able to pass as a human in a casual conversation. I doubt if it takes another decade.


Where does Go go? (2)

December 12, 2016

Due to the incredible complexity of the game of Go the computer programs playing it could not utilise the brute force approach which has cracked chess. The method used by most Go programs instead is known as Monte Carlo tree search. The name is quite apt in that the algorithm runs through possible play sequences (game tree) using a random generator of moves (like a roulette in a Monte Carlo casino).

Instead of applying any strategic thought most Go computer programs start from the current board position and play millions of games consisting of completely random moves made by both players. When each games finishes the result is stored in the cells of computer memory corresponding to the moves selected. After millions of searches a picture is beginning to emerge of which move about to be made by the computer tends to statistically end up with a high probability of the computer winning – in multiple random sequences of games played to the end.

It is important to note that a Go program relying on Monte Carlo tree search does not need to “know” anything about the strategy of the game. It only needs to know which moves are legal (even if completely nonsensical) and play enough random simulations to arrive at statistically significant conclusions. This approach is devoid of any analysis and, predictably, Monte Carlo programs are not great at playing Go. While they reached a decent amateur level a while ago they had no chance against Go professionals who spend their lives studying the intricacies of the game and developing strategies to play it.

The challenge for the programmers was to improve the performance of the Monte Carlo algorithm by adding more Go-specific depth to it. The breakthrough was finally made by the DeepMind software team formed around 2014 and funded by Google. In October 2015 their creation, AlphaGo, managed to beat a competent professional player Fan Hui by 5 games to 0. The Go community was perplexed but most experts still believed AlphaGo stood no chance against a top human player. This was proved wrong when in March 2016 AlphaGo defeated a top ranking Go champion Lee Sedol by 4 games to 1. Following this match the program was awarded an honorary rank of 9 dan – the highest awarded to any human player.

So how did AlphaGo manage to deafeat Lee Sedol? Read on to find out!


Who is da-boss?

May 21, 2012

A middle-aged immigrant Kiwi with professional background in engineering and a wide range of other interests. This is my first plunge into the world of blogging. On da-boss you will find thoughts on the issues like politics, society, media, science, technology, environment etc. Blogging is a vehicle for the exchange of ideas so your comments and critique are very welcome. The rules for moderation on da-boss are soft – please just keep a decent standard of communication and stay on topic.

I will kick things off by recycling some of my older essays. Enjoy!