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Mr. West Goes to the Movies

Ken West is taking a break from discussing the news of the day to talk about one of his favorite subjects: modern film. During the day Jan. 22, West phoned in two important movie reviews, both of them in the genre of comedy sci-fi.
The first film impressed West so much that he phoned the newsdesk several times to deliver his review, often repeating parts of the plot and describing key characters more than once.

 

“People get on me for repeating things,” West said. “How many times have you heard Mick Jagger sing ‘Brown Sugar?’ You have something important to say – you say it again.”

 
The film, titled “Paul”, was released in 2011. It features the voice of Seth Rogen as a wisecracking, chain smoking extra-terrestrial, and veteran comedy duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two friends.
“They were working stiffs,” West said, describing Pegg and Frost’s characters. “They went on a road trip. A road trip.”
West spoke at length about how the “Paul” character correlates to his perceptions of actual space aliens, describing “highly advanced humanoids with big heads and tiny little bodies.”
West also theorized that entities like Paul could be the “god-planets” from which sections of humanity are descended.
“They’re a billion years more advanced than you.” West said, describing a scene where Paul picks up a dead bird, heals it, then eats it, as a reminder to humans not to eat “dead meat.”
Noting that in real life, Area 51 is “more likely a test range for high-class military installations,” West proceeded to the second movie review, saying he recently viewed “Men in Black” and was favorably impressed.
“There was this cat that had a galaxy around its neck,” West said.
Another of his favorite parts, he said, was the end.
“The guy that was the major man in black – I don’t remember his name, famous actor – he had to jump into the belly of a giant bug from another part of the universe. He went into the gullet – he antagonized it – he said ‘eat me!’ – he comes out with a bang – blows it in half.”
Signing off, West put in a quick plug for his “snap-on,” an affordable sheet that can keep ice off of a car’s windshield.

Your Neighbor, What a Guy

“Modern globalization
Coupled with condemnations
Unnecessary death
Matador corporations
Puppeting your frustrations with a blinded flag
Manufacturing consent is the name of the game
The bottom line is money …
Boom, Boom, Boom,
Every time you drop a bomb
You kill the god your child has born
Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom …BOOM”

– SOAD

***
After a lengthy hiatus in honor of a very special woman, Leading the Horse has returned to chronicle the life and times of Ken West, America’s Premier Itinerant Carpenter, to find our intrepid source preparing to take on the Virginia chill.
“I’m sleeping outside tonight,” West said, while wearing four layers of clothing and wrapping leaves around his legs. “I’ve made arrangements – I got a cardboard house. Cardboard is good – it’s only 32 degrees. It’s only gonna snow 3 inches. I’m gonna get my ass up tomorrow and go do something exceptional.”
Going “back to square one,” West began with the usual screed on North Korea and its legacy of constructing underground tunnels.
“They’ve got all their military underground,” West said before contrasting the Hermit Kingdom with its neighbor to the south.
“South Korea is a christian nation,” West said. “They live in apartment buildings, they all eat the same rice … South Korea is like a super-organism.”
West renewed his often-repeated calls for peace on the Korean peninsula in the form of food aid.
“We don’t need to be starving humanoids,” West said. “They’re militarily prepared to not be threatened anymore – let them be unified – that’s the solution. Rice – we got plenty of it, don’t we? Send them a barge of rice – and olive oil – and some vegetables … they’d probably like to eat roast beef – they wouldn’t be puny people no more.”
West called for disarmament of a radical kind and dismantling the nuclear stockpiles, turning today’s swords to plowshares.
“The only thing the bomb is good for is destroying the flesh,” West said.


Just hours later, in a follow up interview, West reported from the interior of a Best Buy, while watching the seven wonders of the world displayed on many large screens.
“Do they know that there are so many souls buried under that wall?” West said, describing a scene depicting the Great Wall of China. “You died while you were building that wall – they put your bones under the wall – you became part of the wall.”
While explaining to a salesman on the floor that he was contemplating a purchase, West made several disjointed analogies between the Chinese wall and the new border wall promoted by former WWF personality turned president Donald Trump.
West then turned his thoughts toward home, reporting on “the latest from Charlottesville” and quoting an unnamed former Virginia governor.
“He said that Charlottesville made a bad boo-boo,” West said. “Everybody’s busting on Charlottesville right now. They busted on me. They broke my teeth out.”
West described his plans for reparations.
“I’ve started the process,” he said. “I’ve got names and numbers.”

In addition, West plans to market a “snap on” product for car windshields, and a set of instructional videos for DIY house painters.
Before signing off, West mentioned his need to confide “a peculiar thing” to the people of the world, describing a theoretical spiritual process.
“What if Jesus asked the Creator to do it all again?” West said. “But not to die – just to experience life in this crazy world we live in?”

After several asides, West ended with another stab at autobiography.
“Who am I? I used to skateboard in Hollywood … Guess who I am? I will not brag. I’ll just be.”

Want to Compete and Innovate in Business? Hire a Receptionist

With major recent advances in all sorts of analytical and cognitive technologies, business seems to be moving decisively in the direction of automation. However, this list to starboard, which has been happening for a number of years, leaves businesses in a profound state of disconnect with their audiences. It may be that the only solution to this problem is to return to a more human-centered approach to business communications.

Nearly anyone who contacts a business has a problem. Or, to state it another way, the customers need help. They want to engage and rationalize on a human level — on a social level and in the context of social human relationships. However, increasingly, what they hear and experience in first-tier communication is a bewildering and unwieldy interface — an aggravating series of menu options. Machines that talk much more slowly than a human would in a social scenario. Unclear directories and unclear choices. Some of the worst systems also have poor comprehension, so that they restate problem messages multiple times.

All of this is decisively negative to the customer experience. There is a reason that executives and others have been pounding the drums about customer experience, suggesting that automation will soon innovate at a level beyond what is currently offered. It’s because customer experience is key to business, and a lot of people seem to understand that.

What some don’t understand is that even though artificial intelligence and machine learning are progressing rapidly, these technologies are still more or less in their infancy and have specific limitations related to their capabilities. These specific limitations can be applied in different ways to self-driving vehicles, generative and discriminative engines in machine learning, chat bots and other artificial intelligence entities, and last but not least — interactive voice response systems.

Ask a human receptionist why their IVR is so bad, and you’re not likely to be understood. They may not know the acronym or even the term — or they might play dumb. Part of the irony inherent in these business systems is that the humans at the very end of this automation chain don’t understand how aggravating that automation chain is for the customers. This compounds the problem.

Take the example of mental health services. In corporate mental health services systems, providers will often put their scheduling and appointment setting functionality into an automated IVR system. The problem is that when a customer needs assistance from a mental health provider, he or she is unlikely to be in the frame of mind to navigate one of these aggravating and unwieldy systems. In other words, the automation does not serve the customer.

This is particularly salient in the example of mental health services, because what should be a human-based communications model for a humane service setup has been largely replaced by a corporate and automated model that is inherently incapable of handling the demands placed on it. But it’s not necessary to restrict this problem to the field of mental health services — it can be as broadly applied as the customer who has purchased a sweater with holes in it, the individual whose vehicle has broken down the freeway, or even a business buyer who needs marketing services. In any of these cases, the likelihood is that the customer experience is going to be degraded and poorly served by today’s automated technologies.

Again, this is not a reflection on the rapid progress of the technologies themselves. Deep Blue can beat Kasparov, and Watson can beat human Jeopardy contestants, and different technologies can pass the Turing test with flying colors, but none of this solves the customer’s problem — that he or she needs to be served in the context of the social interaction.

This brings us to a somewhat more technical analysis of the major shortcomings in current machine learning and artificial intelligence models.

Although engineers have learned to simulate the human brain to an amazing extent, deficiencies still exist related to the specific classes of functions that make up human behavior and activity. Specifically, although these technologies can use probabilistic inputs to provide complex results, they are not extremely adept at the sorts of contextual transactions that make up our everyday lives. As a concrete example, a machine learning program may be good at predicting whether or not a human actor will take a step, direct eye movement in a specific way, move a hand or choose a specific button from an array of controls. What the technology is not good at is understanding why someone may make these or other actions.

Another limitation has to do with what some experts might call the “politeness principle” based on a disequilibrium in rational actors’ choices. Going back to the example of a classic Nash equilibrium, we realize that in game theory, most social games have an applicable Nash equilibrium that can be modeled fairly easily. However, some games are structured so that a Nash equilibrium is not practical – or, more specifically, where a Nash equilibrium is only applicable in a fixed set of game scenarios.

 

In a lecture on game theory, Professor Padraic Bartlett explains this in terms of a “social game” of two individuals walking down a hallway toward each other (given a hallway with only two binary path options) –  identifying (left, left) and (right,right) as the two acceptable Nash equilibria, and stating:

“These are the only two equilibria: if we were in either of the mixed states, both players would want to switch, (thus leading to yet another conflict, and the resulting awkwardness).”

Here we see the challenges of applying a Nash equilibrium based on complex social factors. The rational actors have “de facto” choices – and when those choices are made clearly enough, the equilibrium results. Each player knows what is best. But when certain outlier events create uncertainty (maybe one person steps hesitantly, or the other approaching individual misreads a visual cue) the rule fails and the resulting social program is thrown into a infinite loop.

It’s easy to confuse these kinds of “glitches” with scenarios that dispute an equilibrium, such as the “prisoner’s dilemma” where two players must avoid cooperation for the best outcome, but in reality, as we can see, with the politeness principle, a Nash equilibrium does exist and can be implemented. It’s only in the glitchy application of the rule that the equilibrium proves insufficient. (In the established lexicon, this is “trembling hand” equilibrium challenge.)

In other words, we see that if two rational actors choose complementary binary choices (or “uncomplementary” binary choices as it were), they are likely to experience the kinds of recursive decision-making problems that will throw the programs into an infinite loop without exterior human guidance. Unlike two individuals walking toward each other in the hallway, these newly sentient technologies do not have the social ability to make a choice, and to a great extent will not be successful in navigating the problem itself. Here the politeness is a learned skill that is largely unquantifiable and presents machine learning with a significant modeling problem.

Yet another specific limitation relates to the use of highly fitted or possibly overfitted engines that actually approach some of the human qualities that produce indecision. In other words, machines that adopt some of our behaviors may be presented with difficulties related to some of our other behaviors. An article in KD Nuggets posted earlier last year speaks about the use of deep stubborn networks and how they have been engineered with greater complexity. A generative and discriminative engine work at odds with each other to produce collaborative results. This starts to approach some of the higher-level activity in the human mind that is not able to be modeled through linear programming. As the writer describes, what happens is that the competition between the generative and discriminative engines produces some quality that can almost be described as social — a malaise or conflict or, as the author puts it, “anxiety” that is an essential part of the human experience.

Applying words like “anxiety” and “doubt” to machine learning models is inherently a bit of a contradiction. It shows how much progress we have made in constructing machines that can think like us — but it also shows why those machines are not fully or even remotely functional in social roles. They cannot deal with the indecision and anxiety that are produced by their mechanics — and so they cannot serve customers who need this higher-level functionality. This is easy to understand in an elementary sense — we know that although IVR systems can tell people what hours the shop is open, or give people directions to the location, they can’t help customers with a broken toilet or guide them through how to negotiate a better rate on services. However, we don’t know exactly why this is unless we scratch the surface of these cognitive models and start learning about what machine learning can and can’t do.

Faced with an ultimate choice, many companies will stubbornly continue to focus on the possibilities of automation. They will rely on the prestige of new technologies and their abilities to dazzle the general public. They will throw their eggs into the basket of trying to increase the spectrum of what IVR can do. (Many of them led by profit-seeking vendors). Other companies, debatably smarter companies, will simply employ humans to direct business communications in ways that will actually really enhance the customer experience.

Hmmm

This morning I had an epiphany.
Much has been made of the far right’s destructive power in national politics — for example Thomas Frank’s “The Wrecking Crew” and other tomes, pamphlets and essays that remind us of how a party out of control has taken a monkey wrench to the levers of power in American politics.
There’s a simple solution that many of us have been overlooking — people who don’t like politics, and don’t like politicians, and don’t really believe in civic micromanagement, maybe shouldn’t be involved in evaluating politics at all.
The Republican Party at this point is like a child who’s been asked to come to the board and do a math problem, and he does it badly, because he doesn’t want to.
Johnny and Susie went up to the board to figure out 2+2. Susie went primly up to the board and neatly wrote a well-contoured “four” under the chalk line. Johnny swaggered up, ripped a loud fart, and angrily scrawled a five.
The tragedy of the situation is that enough students voted for Johnny’s “2+2=5” mostly to spite the teacher, who in this metaphor is either Lady iberty or the individual holds the scales of justice. Sorry folks – Susie’s a suck-up.
The evidence is all around us — incompetent and mean-spirited individuals being promoted to posts which they have in the past wanted to eliminate entirely; the rampant defunding and mismanagement of various federal agencies, etc.
There is a very easy fix to this — people who don’t like the job of providing for others and finding a way to steer the ship of democracy in the right direction should simply go do something else instead of voting and giving money to candidates and all that stuff.
In other words, as a country we been trying to desperately meld the values of the far right with the idea of civic good. The problem is that these two things are not inherently mixable — an ideology that alienates millions of people and up to half of the entire electorate isn’t going to be oriented towards working toward that civic good. It’s going to be inherently oriented towards a divisive and radically disruptive goal that has nothing to do with the civic good, and is extremely toxic to its intentions. This has been played out instructively in the “states rights” civil rights battles of the last century. The federal government’s job was to protect all citizens – and the state houses didn’t like it.
To put it yet another way — many of the individual constituents of the far right base do have values and ways of life that are worth preserving. They are abundantly steeped in the ways of traditional America — which is probably not a bad thing in many, many ways, but again, may be somewhat toxic to the job of federal statesmanship.
Many of these individuals take pride in being hard-working people of the land and people who do not choose to spend their time scribbling in pages or squinting at a computer screen, or dealing with the inherent bureaucracy of the federal system. Let these individuals do what they do best, whether it’s farming or ranching or blacksmithing or whatever gets their hands dirty and provides needed services for a population. Do not force them to, like recalcitrant students, go up to the chalkboard and try to participate in the evaluation of civic and public administration.
Many of them have no interest, and frankly very little aptitude, and have not practiced the inherent skills needed to do this in any meaningful way. Let’s be very clear that this is not to state that these individuals are inferior in any way, or that they lack the intellectual stamina in general to govern — instead, my view is that they lack the will and the sensitivity and the general disciplines needed to participate in these civic exercises – simply because they have not invested in them. Aas exhibit one, look at the marginalization of any realistic voices in the Republican party – the marginalization of “mavericks” like McCain and deficit hawks like Ron and Rand Paul. The base has chosen “apolitical” operatives whose platforms don’t make sense – partly because they dislike government so much that they don’t care if it makes sense or not.
As a result, they can simply give to God what is God’s, and to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and cease to try to steer the ship directly into the iceberg. We will be left with a set of technocrats and statespeople who will calmly and cleverly run the American ship as it has run for many years, largely as a system acquiescent to big business, but which has at least a veneer of normalcy.
Will they be the best people? No. They may not be entirely responsive to the needs of the population, but they will at least apply that responsiveness or unresponsiveness fairly broadly and universally, because having been trained in the sensibilities of civic administration, they understand how not to alienate. They understand how not to divide.
This doesn’t suggest, again, that they have in general superior moral or ethical premises when it comes to wealth redistribution, family values or anything else — although the case can be made that their social sensibilities fit better with the needs of today’s electorate.
The point is that they can bring a basic level of organization and brinksmanship to the job — which they will need, because the efforts of the right can be again focused on simply hating the federal government and everything that it stands for. The only remaining job will be to keep the peace between the federal government and the states, as we have done these many years since 1865.
The above is one of those ideas that might yet have its day — it seems simple, but stated out loud, just scratches the surface of the roiling morass of political turmoil that has now seeped into every aspect of our lives. We owe it to ourselves to explore these ideas, and to try to explore them, not with the bias inherent to each of us in this polarized society, but instead more conceptually, as individual scholars and again — those of us who don’t want to do this can simply leave the whole dirty issue of politics alone, instead of trying to struggle with something they hate.

The Virtual Chair

The last decade has seen a technology industry in overdrive, a furious wave of innovations coming one after the other, with more promised on the horizon. The blending of cloud computing, IoT, network virtualization and mobile device functionality have thrown the outline of cutting-edge technology into a nebulous space. However, there’s an obvious consensus that machine learning, as a general subset of AI, is the most fundamental new frontier on which the next generation of enterprise and consumer technologies will be built.

All of the methods and tools that made up the machine learning industry, algorithms and training sets, simulated annealing and equilibrium and vector matrices, seem dull and overly mathematical, too esoteric to really reveal what ML has to offer. So it’s instructive to take a different look at what may be coming our way sooner rather than later, with a comprehensive shift in the ways that we view technology as a whole, and how we will embrace our digital peers as they start to develop.

To that end, consider the virtual chair.

In looking at the emergence of new software capabilities over the personal computer era, and even further back to the days of punch cards, it can be helpful to focus on a particular object and its treatment by the spectrum of new principles that we have created. There are reasons why “object-oriented” design became so popular in the advent of a new group of programming languages, and stayed in our lexicon afterward. One primary reason is because an object is an excellent way to comprehend the digital world that we interact with and, increasingly live in, and since this kind of comprehension is becoming necessary, the “object” might help us to make new technologies more egalitarian, to better serve a wider range of users.

The chair is, in some ways, an arbitrary example. It’s one of many such objects that might be printed on flash cards, installed in virtual spaces, or, today, included in training sets. It is, overall, one of a practically infinite number of “classes” that are created ‘ex nihilo’ from the digital world.

In the beginning of the information age, the chair was only a sketch, perhaps a label applied to a linear program written in numbered lines of code. Certainly, mass production facilities began to label chairs as units of production digitally, and might even have stored some rudimentary data on the properties of office furniture.

Since information was limited to what could be produced on the early curve of Moore’s law, the early chair was likely just a collection of text characters or bits intended to be drawn on a monochrome screen. The chair would only become “virtual” manifestly if some programmer had the time and the determination to hand-code its dimensions and other data into a mainframe or, later, a workstation, as in Ellen Ullman’s legendary novel “The Bug,” where an embattled coder puts together virtual “organisms” endowed with certain properties and allows them to “grow” and evolve in a world of code. This example was really ahead of its time, although in retrospect, it didn’t take too many years to move from a BASIC world to the age of “big data.”

Ten years after the millennial change, that’s where we found ourselves: enamored with “big data” and awed at the terabytes that could be rendered to create real, vibrant, virtual objects with real heft, things you could “hold in a (digital) hand” and examine for real insight. In reality, the change happened slowly, by tiny increments, as Moore’s law progressed, and programming methods followed. By gradations, as big data fleshed out what could be held in the average container, the virtual chair became a real work of art, with exact dimensions, color, texture and other properties defined and manipulated in the intricate logic gate halls of fast processors.

But although big data offered the complexity to “make digital things real,” it was also still purely deterministic. Through most of its tenure, big data has been applied through logical I/O, and the castles that it builds are built strictly at the whim of the engineer who writes the code.

Now, with machine learning, there is a fundamental break in this principle: for the first time, technologies have the ability to work according to a mix of probabilistic and deterministic inputs. Computers can produce unpredictable outcomes! The ability for computers to “learn” is the ability to take in data and filter it through probabilistic layers to model it and produce something that was not planned out by human makers. In other words, going back to the virtual chair, while big data programming allowed us to define a piece of furniture to complex specifications in a virtual space, machine learning essentially builds the chair for us, and knows before we do what the finished product is going to look like.

But before there’s too much fanfare over this benchmark of achievement, it makes sense to ask what rules will be applied to the mix of D and P inputs that we will be using to “build virtual chairs.”

Think of a poker player, such as John Malkovitch’s character, “Teddy KGB” in the very human film “Rounders,” sitting at the table, examining another for ‘tells.’ Linear programming, big data analytics, tells us what happens if the other player makes eye contact: “IF (eye contact) THEN (x)” and, in its more sophisticated forms, tells us how many times eye contact has been made in the past, forecasting outcomes. Machine learning purports to tell us whether there will be eye contact, according to training data, and what that means. But as a model, how the algorithms interpret the training data has to depend on how we treat the weighted inputs: for example, the difference between guessing at human intentions, and guessing at physical outcomes that seem random. Will there be eye contact? Will a player move a hand? Machine learning systems progress beyond tabulating results, and move toward complex modeling that, again, depends on its parameters, although there is a real and growing element of self-determinism and automation applied. We have to know the rules, we have to know how to apply them, and we have to know what they mean.

Machine learning will build us the virtual chair, but what else will it build?

What will our chair look like when it is delivered to us, and what will its design depend on?

One of the best clues is the common use of image processing algorithms to translate visual inputs into logic. ML programs “look” at something and identify it – that’s one of the bellwethers of their nascent intelligence. And it’s a big insight into how the learning will work. If programs can be made to process images according to logic, there are many inherent rules built into that process, and the contours for logic become a little more knowable.

To use the poker player analogy, the outcomes will be goal-oriented. Maybe an ML program will take in images of the opposing players, parse them for meaning, and deliver results that reach a more solid “Turing point” of AI-completeness, where we see the program as a living, breathing player (especially if paired with realistic-looking human-styled robotics).

In the end, the bulk of what we will enjoy based on ML engines will be simply a reflection of ourselves, our tastes and behaviors and tendencies, filtered and modeled and fed back to us, chatbots that use our responses to build their own, parroting our impulses. But the significance of moving beyond pure determinism in the digital world shouldn’t be lost on us – as technology obtains the power to build, that’s one more giant capability that humans surrender as their own exclusively, moving us closer to a time when digital entities become, if not our equals, a much more confounding facsimile.

The N.O.S.H.ling

“And that’s nuclear, that’s hysteria / Ahmedinejad, North Korea
You getting money? Watch your paper chase / Every third or fourth person is CIA
Every fifth and sixth person is DEA / Your best friend will turn snitch to put you away

I’m – I’m – I’m just tryna show a better way / Every other day when your A.K. sprays
April Showers, lookin like they fallin every day / April Showers, lookin like they fallin every day…”

  • Wyclef Jean, April Showers

 

Ken West’s newest update on North Korea Dec. 4 takes into account some of the natural resources of that part of the world.

“I’ve got good news,” West said, reversing many of his prophesies regarding the imminence of nuclear war.

West said the North Koreans have 6 to 10 billion U.S. dollars worth of rare earth minerals in the ground, and that if the nation were to be attacked, Americans would have a hard time getting batteries for their smart phones.

“The whole planet needs (the resources),” West said. “There is not to be war.”

Later, in an uncharacteristic foray into his own identity, West described more about his identity as a “N.O.S.H.ling,” an alien presence that walks among humanity.

“I fear nothing — because my essence comes from a world beyond human imagination,” West said.

West started to describe his own origins by stating that the universe is 13.2 billion years old.

“It’s inevitable that there are humanoids in the universe that are way advanced,” he said.

West referred to an esoteric force behind these individuals as “God planets,” describing them as intelligent entities that have evolved to a plane above the average human experience.

“They have overcome greed, and have empathy for every living creature,” West said, adding that the entities in question do not eat meat.

“They are not carnivorous,” West said. “They can eat mushrooms — because mushrooms are sex organs of a thing that is in the ground.”

In fact, he said, many kinds of mushrooms are good food for the “God-planets,” as well as both N.O.S.H.lings and humans. The key to eating “puffballs,” he said, is to get to them before they start to release spores.

“They’re good raw,” West said. “They’re like portobellos.”

Describing the “God-Planets” and their origins further, West also spoke about an advanced civilization’s ability to capture solar energy and convert it into biomass.

“The science is so beyond humanity,” West said.

In describing an article that he recently read a Christian magazine, West also talked about the future of humanity with artificial intelligence.

“It’s coming,” West said. “If I get rich enough, I’ll be able to download my mind.”

West spoke about putting a chip in a cloned human body, but suggested the science is much more complicated than can currently be accommodated.

“You have to give the cloned one a chance to be himself,” West said.

 

T.J. and the Question of Original Sin

“I never go to bed without an hour or half an hour’s reading of something moral, whereon to ruminate in the intervals of sleep” – Thomas Jefferson, 1819

 

 

While having caffeinated drinks and smoking cigars with some friends at the Haven on the evening of November 28, and waiting to receive an “Obamaphone” that apparently comes with enrollment in Virginia’s food stamps program, Ken West weighed in on the idea of original sin, and its treatment throughout American history.

The concept of original sin, West said, is actually part of the basis for a novelette that he has finished but has not yet published.

“God said: ‘don’t eat off the tree of life,” West said. “It wasn’t apples … it was an old ancient tree – it had psychedelic mushrooms under it.”

Although a snake is commonly figured in the biblical tale, West says, that part is a myth.

“They went on a really cool trip,” West said of the two human characters in the Genesis story. “They saw the face of God in the trip – they weren’t supposed to. They were supposed to be innocent. They hallucinated the snake.”

West briefly remarked on his own situation, noting that he is “in abstract poverty” and “living among the vagrants of the world,” before re-orienting the conversation toward his efforts to build a rhetorical case for bullet control.

“Let’s get back to square one,” West said. “I like square one.”

In going about laying the groundwork for an essay on how to curb gun violence, West said, he has found some important literary and historic ballast in the form of a book about a founding father who, like himself, was critical of various elements of the Christian faith.

West is reading Henry Wilder Foote’s “The Religion of Thomas Jefferson,” which, he said, sheds light on some of the guiding principles of a man who founded the University of Virginia, and, in West’s words, separated church and state in the U.S.

“He hated Christianity,” West said of Jefferson. “He was an atheist and a deist. He fought against the Christians because they were narrow-minded – he was a scientist.”

Jefferson, he said, valued education in a time when many wanted to control the masses through the promulgation of ignorance.

“In his time, you could be executed for heresy against the Christian doctrine,” West said. “They didn’t want people to be educated – they could kill you.”

Some of the backwards ideas that found fertile ground in Christianity, West said, go much further back, for example, to the time of the crusades.

“They didn’t take baths,” West said of many Christians of that era. “They were nasty-ass Europeans – they were stupid as dirt – they let dirt cake up on them because they thought diseases could get through your pores. When they took over the Muslims – they abolished baths.”

West feels that the European Christian’s aversion to bath water marked them as one of the low points on modern human society.

“The Romans were dirty ********,” West said, “but at least they took baths.”

However, describing Jefferson’s moral trajectory throughout his life, West said that Jefferson was only opposed to some aspects of Christianity, not rejecting it entirely – and West himself doesn’t, either.

“As he was passing,” West said of Jefferson, “In his old age – he found God. He loved Jesus. He rewrote the bible.”

Of what West called “rumors” of Jefferson’s despicable ill-treatment of slaves, West said the allegations are probably true.

“We know he had his sins behind him,” West said, “but (Wilder’s book) is the best of Thomas Jefferson. It will enlighten you – it’ll wake you up to what’s happening in Charlottesville right now.”

What’s happening in Charlottesville, West said, is that residents are prevailing over a recent invasion by neo-nazis and assorted white nationalists, who, despite converging and sowing chaos, have not changed the fundamental character of the community.

“We’re defeating them here,” West said.

In closing the interview, West mentioned the mysterious man named Silverman, who, West said, can’t figure him out. West said Silverman recently called him “insane”.

“He picked on the words I use,” West said. “I told him a song I wrote. It was a little on the nefarious side – Silverman couldn’t figure it out, because he didn’t have the music with it.”

West then sang an excerpt of the song, which has been very roughly transcribed due to poor cellular communication signals:

“Adonis, Venus, snow / the devil sheets take way / our sins and sheets / yes, it will be sweet / like honeybees …”

“It has to be done with a piano – and I’m accomplishing it,” West said.

 

 

Mulvaney is Not the Boss of the CFPB

Today there were two bosses at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after the departure of Rob Cordray.

Mike Mulvaney came in with donuts and let everyone know he wasn’t going to burn the place down, even though he’s on record as saying he hates the CFPB and wants to kill it with fire.

Leandra English stayed home, probably scared out of her wits that “the Emperer” has tried to install his own hand-puppet instead of following established Congressional procedure that was specifically set up to keep the CFPB away from partisan sin.

The situation is “in the courts” which means it’s hopeless and probably will come down to public opinion.

Leading the Horse has called Lloyd Smucker’s office to ask for the legislator’s statement on this absurd development. A response letter is pending.

Silverman and the Snitch

Although major cable news networks have backed off some of their reporting on troubling scenarios in the Korean peninsula, Ken West is still trying to warn the world that a nuclear conflagration is closer than it might seem.

“Within my mind, I came up with this revelation,” West said November 22, calling war “a real possibility.”

North Korea, he said, has built an extensive network of tunnels.

“They are diggers,” he said. “One of their primary resources is rare earth minerals.”

West is sure that Kim Yong Un has a “superhardened” place to go to in any emergency.

“He is ready for anything that happens,” West said. “He can survive it.”

West speculated that if China, Korea and Russia are planning to use an electromagnetic pulse weapon or EMP against America, trying to control the impending chaos is crucial.

“When there is no water or food, but plenty of ammunition, they will hit the gun stores.” West said. “There will be absolute chaos in the streets … the military will be on the loose to try to force martial law … one more good reason to abolish military-style bullets.”

West also criticized the idea that preventing gun massacres is a mental health issue, saying that reviewing individuals for mental status is entirely ineffective.

A person who is sane one moment, West said, can be insane the next.

“It can change in a New York minute,” West said. “If some man has a bad divorce, gets pissed off at the mother-in-law, he’s fully sane one moment, and the next moment he’s insane…”

West referenced a scene in Charles Dickens ‘Tale of Two Cities’ that he said pre-figures the chaos that is to come.

“He could feel it in his bones,” West said of an unnamed character in the novel. “He knew that it was going to come to its bloody end.”

In other news, West is excited about a newcomer to the Haven, a man named Silverman who he said might be “in cahoots with Hollywood.”

Silverman, he said, seems receptive to West’s ongoing plan to produce a major motion picture involving extraterrestrial activity, comparative religion and a good dose of prophecy.

Silverman, he said, also has some interesting ideas of his own.

“He claims to have the ultimate economic solution,” West said, suggesting that news media should try to reach Silverman for comment.

Another new resident in his community, West said, has begun to try his hand as a confidential informant — and West believes this effort will end badly.

West described a man who showed up in an old pickup truck, who exudes an air of phoniness and “always seems up in everybody’s business.” He described the individual as a “snitch” and suggested it would enhance the man’s longevity to “snitch better.”

Five and a Half Lies a Day

In comments November 14, Ken West responded to a CNN story published this week contending that the president Donald J. Trump lies approximately 5.5 times per day in office.

“What happened to George Washington?” West said. “’I cannot tell a lie.’”

West answered his own question, speculating that the young Washington “probably got his butt kicked” by his father.

“It was probably just a little tree,” West said. “Why did he chop the tree down?”

West theorized that maybe the cherries were too high, and Washington was a “young, big-assed teenager” and wanted to reach the cherries.

“How did he chop it down?” West said. “Did he have a nuke?”

In any case, West noted that the story of the cherry tree is a famous anecdote promoting the first president’s character, also positing that, had America had a different initial leader, its resounding power as a first world democracy might not have been so strong.

“We’ve gone a long way from 1 to 45,” West said. “The truth is twirling on a twitter.”

West also made a vague stab at estimating the costs of a trip he said was made to “call somebody a rocket man,” saying taxpayers probably paid a billion dollars.

However, most of his criticism was reserved for the final days of the trip in which he said Trump met with Duterte, a known aggressor in his own country.

“He gets up in the morning, he goes ‘get me an Uzi, I’m gonna hunt a drug dealer,’” West said of Duterte. “They shoot him down, they say, well he was a drug dealer.”

West questioned how this kind of aggression plays to evangelicals.

“How are you going to come back and tell that to Christians?” West said.

Going back to his continuing study of what he called a “proxy war” in the Middle East, West seemed to conflate the standoff between the U.S. and North Korea with the Sunni-Shia conflict in MENA, suggesting that America might, in one scenario or another, find itself embroiled in a world war to end all world wars.

“I told you about the Chinese submarines,” West said.

Cataloguing his count of the numerous national world arsenals of nuclear weapons, West suggested that part of China’s arsenal may not be known to the west, and that others, such as Pakistan’s, may not be well secured. Issuing dire Cassandra warnings about various doomsday scenarios, West welcomed the news that in the U.S., legislators are currently holding hearings to determine whether the president’s nuclear weapon authorities should be curtailed.