Conspiracy Theory and Political Identity

Paranoid Android

One of my news feeds on one of my devices brought this very interesting new article summarizing her polls about the correlations between conspiracy theory and political identity by Kathy Frankovic to my attention. My source tells us that she “is one of the world’s leading experts in public opinion polling. She has been an election and polling consultant for CBS News and other research organizations.” Find the full article at

https://today.yougov.com/news/2016/12/27/belief-conspiracies-largely-depends-political-iden/

These graphs, for the most part, back up what many of us already thought was true – that many of the conspiracy theories circulating right now are subscribed to by more voters on the right than on the left.  Empirical data is usually satisfying in offering backup for what we believe, unless, and in this case, you are from the right and you dismiss this all as counterfactual because it probably just comes from the left. What crazy times we live in? I did not foresee that the Fox News/ Talk Radio folks would lie so often that truths would seem to be mutable elements. Those on the right would say that I only like this data because it validates my worldview and that I am, once again, deluded. But I think history will be on my side in the end, for what that’s worth.

Belief in conspiracies largely depends on political identity

 

 

 

These polls shocked the media last week when they saw that 46% of Trump voters still believed that Clinton emails linked her to a pedophilia and child trafficking ring. What puzzles me is why the media was so surprised.

 

December 19, 2016 – Unfettered Capitalism Wins

It is December 19, 2016, the day America’s electors decide whether to break with tradition to keep a crazy authoritarian leader from running our nation or not. I am sure that no one is brave enough to keep this man out of office. My mind cannot help but move ahead into the future we are about to usher in, although our reasons are good ones because we are between a rock and a hard place. We take a chance on destroying our nation either way. But this is also a referendum on Capitalism and our global environments.

Even as I await the surely inevitable results an image comes alive in my mind of the conference table at the G8 Summit (yes we are back to eight nations because I am certain that DT will reinstate Russia). At one end of the conference table will be Putie and at the other end The Donald, finally face to face and, for the moment, sharing power. Each of these men is determined that fossil fuels and GDP and military might will still determine which nations are most powerful. If we switch away from fossil fuels how will the order of power among nations be determined?

So the G8 has changed its mission statement and has become the Board of Directors of Planet Earth. It plans to make sure that gas and oil continue to be a currency mill pumping money into the economies of the eight member nations. This old energy, fossil fuel energy will be used to bring back an Industrial age that has been rapidly morphing into something else, some je ne sais quoi. We know that industry is being turned over to robots, with less human fodder required to run the world’s engines of manufacturing and commerce, and soon even in the service sectors. Perhaps we will turn away from robotics for decades so that the Board can find a use for all of the world’s extraneous masses.

Because with an exploding world population and less and less work for humans to do what will the leaders do to keep the thumbs of  their power on the people, to keep them as useful consumers, but to never allow them to believe that they can have something for nothing. Life should be a “beach” for the wealthy, but for the poor it should be a struggle. We can’t have people enjoying themselves all over the place on the public dime. And that will not even be acceptable to poor folks. Most of us expect to have to pay our way in life. But we do not expect the obstacles to be so strong that we cannot get over or around them with a reasonable amount of effort.

So given all that, what will this G8 Board of Directors do in this all-Capitalist-all-the-time world if we are still earthbound with no technology to expand into space? I don’t think it will be pretty for anyone except the top 1%. Human life will be cheap. We will be cheap labor and no one will mind if our lives become hamster lives – running endlessly on a wheel to nowhere. Perhaps drugs will become plentiful, but I don’t think these folks will offer the new peasant class any way out of their servitude.

And when I say that life will be cheap that means that our new Board of Directors will not care if we live or die – in fairly large numbers. Disease may wipe out huge sectors of the population. Violence will also be quite common. Why would the Board require order when they do not have to live anywhere the rest of us live? Perhaps building walls will become common – walls to keep us out.

But what will the upper echelons do with their money in such a world. Perhaps they will not go this far just so they still have the world they are used to in which to enjoy their power and success and people to envy them and wish to join them. Perhaps there will be chances to climb out of the muck and revel in life at the top. Nine billion people is a really big audience though. Probably too big. Many of us will have to die to keep the population of the planet within comfortable limits. Perhaps the population will always be set to what it was in 1950.

Will there be any concession to keeping environmental conditions that offer beauty, biological diversity, and fresh air and water? If the Board of Directors is limited to living within the confines of this planet it is safe to say that they will have to find a way to balance their avarice with their survival. It will be interesting to see how they create that equilibrium.

A Capitalist dream may take over the minds and hearts of our new global Board of Directors for a while but even they will soon discover the disadvantages of fouling their own nest. Will they get it in time to save the planet? Maybe not. It does seem as if money makes you stupid.

[The Group of Eight (G8) refers to the group of eight highly industrialized nations—France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, Canada, and Russia—that hold an annual meeting to foster consensus on global issues like economic growth and crisis management, global security, energy, and terrorism.]

http://www.cfr.org/international-organizations-and-alliances/group-eight-g8-industrialized-nations/p10647

 

 

I Feel a Great Disturbance in the Force

 

I know that Star Wars is not true. There may be a force that connects us all but it is not the force that the heroes access in Star Wars. But when that sinister Death Star destroyed an entire innocent planet it seemed a great metaphor for the terrible destruction we inflict on each other and we wish there was a rebellion we could join without violating our beliefs in a nation’s right to autonomy. It is not our fight, but it is our grief. We repeat the emotional impact of the words a great disturbance in the force because it sometimes expresses exactly how we feel.

Aleppo – Before

Aleppo – After

 

Residents inspect damage after airstrikes by pro-Syrian government forces in the rebel held Al-Shaar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria February 4, 2016. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail – RTX25GU1

From Google Earth – After

We the People – Hypnotized

Watching DT choose his cabinet is sort of like rubbernecking at a terrible accident. You want to turn away but you can’t. You are hypnotized. All that past-its-prime testosterone on display, my, my. And American women actually thought it might be time to elect a woman President. Well our new president elect (not my president) is making it very clear that this is a male, excuse me, white male, dominated world. That makes the spectacle somehow even more fascinating. Watching the kiss-my-ring-courtiers-in-the-anteroom action at Trump tower made me think that I was back in a time dominated by white male kings.

Will this be a cabinet of serpents or of chess players? Probably both types of strategists will be represented in this crew of actors who are distinctly non-political, at least in the sense that we have no knowledge of how they will behave in our American political arena. That is what has us hypnotized. Are we watching the death throes of our American Democracy/Republic? Are we watching a sell-out to Russia? Are we watching savvy businessmen who can put the American economy back on top of the heap? Will there be any rules about what they can or cannot do as they supposedly are somewhat constrained by the American people and the Constitution, or will it be total unfettered Capitalism run amok? Are our American documents resilient enough to make it through to the other side of this onslaught or will we finally be only the Plutocracy we seem to have been headed towards all along?

Yes it is all astonishing, and because we have no idea how this will go, we are somewhat convinced that a wait-and-see attitude might be best. But our brains are screaming that this cannot turn out well. Letting this crew get their hands on American government will turn us into a nation we hardly recognize. Letting these admittedly very successful, but very intolerant and opinionated people control our fate will not bode well for “we the people.” After all, DT has already told us he does not respect us because we are not successful.

Can we shake ourselves out of our torpor? Can we come out of the tabloid trance induced by our daily news? Perhaps we could start with flash mobs, and work our way up to organized demonstrations that will at least register on the Washington Richter Scale. If we come out in large enough numbers then it might get through to the world that we do not all feel comfortable with our new administration and we wish to be heard. I am as bad as everyone else as I will not be putting together any demonstrations any time soon. It’s very cold here.

(Side note) At least it feels like the Republicans we used to love to oppose in Congress are also just a bunch of annoying fleas to these “he-men” that surround Trump. (Yes I know there are women but only in posts that are traditionally considered feminine.) So although these guys in Congress talk about repealing Obamacare and turning Medicare into a voucher program and privatizing Social Security we have no clue if the new King and his court are even paying any attention to these peons who are so excited to be finally in charge of remaking America in the Conservative image. Does DT have the same agenda as the Republicans? They seem to think so, but I have my doubts.

It is all so engrossing, and yet allowing ourselves to be onlookers is dangerous when our daily lives could be so deeply affected by what our “emperor” decides. Will it be too late once the president elect becomes the actual president?

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – Book

We live in a time when civility and charm seem difficult to find and tempers are on a short fuse. Even a trip to the grocery store can seem like negotiating a mine field of human hostility. People disconnect from fellow shoppers and single-mindedly rush to get items crossed off their errand list. All they long for is to get home to their personal sanctuary. In times like these, Amor Towles is just the antidote required to inspire introspection and self-evaluation. Perhaps he will even help us change the way we relate to the world. A Gentleman in Moscow, although just a fiction story, makes a point that could transform us all.

Our gentleman in Moscow, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, Member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt, is 33 years old when we first meet him in 1922. He is a man caught between two ages in Russian history so disparate as to induce whiplash. He is an aristocrat who returns, to his peril, to Russia from Paris in 1918, which if you know your history, is just after the Russian Revolution when Russian society gets turned over like a compost pile. What was on the bottom is now on the top and what was on the top is now, for the most part, either dead or in Siberia.

But Count Rostov is such a benign style of aristocrat that he manages to wend his way through the anger and revolutionary righteousness of the new Communist state, not completely unscathed, but as a permanent resident of a luxurious Russian hotel right near the center of Moscow. Rostov has never held a job, has never been a worker, but he is trained by his former lifestyle to have skills that are quite useful to have. He is a great judge of human interaction and he knows how to arrange people at a state dinner or in a well-run restaurant so that any strife is defused and affairs run smoothly. Besides this talent he is charming and amenable and flexible in the face of change. His good nature is adaptable but he is not a chameleon; he is always himself.

Count Rostov’s punishment for coming back to Russia at exactly the wrong time is that he is imprisoned in the lovely Metropole Hotel where he has been living for four years. When asked by the tribunal why he came back he says he missed the climate and they all shake their heads in understanding. He has to give up a large suite of rooms with excellent views that he has been occupying and move into servant’s quarters in the attic. If you think that once sentence has been passed this tale will turn gloomy and scary then you have not yet met our Alexander. He’s in a hotel. Things happen. You may find that you have to “suspend your disbelief” a bit but it will be well worth it.

Amor Towles, author of Rules of Civility writes like times that are past and gone, like one who is on earth to remind us of slower times when people were kinder and more (heaven forbid) socially correct. It was a balm to my spirit to read A Gentleman in Moscow at this particularly pugilistic moment in the history of our nation.

This is the Dark Side

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This is the dark side of the internet. This is where the trolls live and the conspiracy theorists and the authors of fake news. The writing is often dramatic with lots of “documentation” offered and perhaps illusions to organizations of myth and history which we imagine no longer exist, such as the Knights Templar. These folks demonize politicians and people who are rich and famous. They like to create graphic images of them as Satan, suggesting that they worship Lucifer. Do they believe what they write? Do they actually think Nancy Pelosi is Lucifer on some days and Hillary Clinton is Lucifer on others? I doubt it but they hope their readers will believe, and some actually do become converts.

Comments were made on my articles about Hillary which began to refer to things that I did not really understand. They accused her of child abuse, they talked about how “dark” she is, they hinted that she performed criminal acts. These sly comments hinting that Hillary Clinton is some kind of monster began to appear before 2016 voting started, during early voting and even up to and including election day. I have no idea how much of an effect these conspiratorial whispers had on the election.

Recently the malignant messages came to a head in the attack on a pizza shop in Washington, D. C. where a guy with a gun entered the establishment with the intention of breaking up a secret pedophilia ring involving Hillary Clinton that was supposedly being run from secret spaces under the pizza shop. Who started this rumor? An article appeared in The Daily Beast on Monday, December 5, 2016 which describes these events.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/06/pizzagate-is-the-satanic-panic-of-our-age-but-this-time-the-president-s-men-believe-it.html

A colleague on tremr.com also wrote about this:

https://www.tremr.com/the-normalizing-of-tyranny

illuminati-big-3

 

After reading this eye opening article I began to remember the many references to Lucifer that I had been seeing on the Right and the word Illuminati being used as a shortcut to a larger body of thoughts and ideas, but I thought the conspiracy theory ended there. Apparently this stuff goes way beyond the academic and posits a theory that there is an enormous pedophilia ring and child slavery trafficking operation that has engulfed almost all of our politicians, and in fact politicians and famous people around the globe.

This activity has been practiced, according to some, by every American President except Reagan, Carter, and perhaps Nixon. A shadow government has resulted from these nefarious activities which allows financiers and others who know of and have proof of these activities to hold our government leaders (and even EU leaders) under their control, to make them do their bidding for fear of exposure. So all the while I was saying that Hillary Clinton is hardly nefarious, this conspiracy theory nonsense was enthralling readers on the internet and possibly affecting the outcome of the election. Even the infamous Alex Jones got in on this one, or was, perhaps, the prime mover

http://anonhq.com/heres-various-politicians-said-shadow-government/

http://www.wanttoknow.info/shadowgovernment

http://www.infowars.com/shadow-government-in-charge-of-clintons-investigation/

http://www.thelastamericanvagabond.com/podcast/pizzagate-shadow-government/

Am I naïve or sane? If this crap these writers are pedaling is in any way true then our planet is doomed. I choose not to believe a word of it; it’s obviously a conspiracy theory. Who makes this stuff up though? General Flynn’s son just got fired for blogging about this bizarre tale but I don’t think he authored the theory; I think he was just repeating what he had read on another site. Why do people make this stuff up? I suppose the answers seem fairly obvious (create fear, get attention, influence events).

Pedophilia and child trafficking are very real though, and it is impossible to ignore the fact that if there is a “product” (in this case a young human being) then there must be a market for that “product”. Who are the people who create a market for trafficking such as this? I assume that all of our political class is not involved in this. That’s the part I believe is fake. But, will this particular twisted vice ever be eradicated?

I’m writing about something I find loathsome and that I know very little about but I am worried because this stuff seems to go way beyond a pizza parlor in Washington D. C. and therefore I think it should be on our radar.

 

 

What the Democratic Party Should Do, Part 2

redbluemap2016sm2

From the New York Times

I have been thinking a lot about what the Democratic Party and the Progressives should do next. I include both groups and everyone else on the left because I think we need all hands on deck and because every time I mention the Democratic Party someone schools me on how corrupt and depraved the party is these days with just as many ties to Wall Street and billionaires as are found on the Right. In spite of all the lectures it will entail I will, henceforth, talk about all of us on the left as the Democratic Party for the sake of brevity. Of course if we can’t really agree that the Party is even a viable and inspirational force these day then perhaps that shows us where we need to begin.

How do we make the Democratic Party a party that people can respect and feel proud to belong to, contribute to, and vote for in elections? Are the days of poverty programs over and should humanitarian benefits that provide for citizens when they are old, or sick, or unemployed become a thing of the past? Perhaps without a robust industrial sector we are not an affluent enough nation to set aside dollars for people who are less fortunate than us? Perhaps we do not pay enough taxes these days to be able to afford programs where our government redistributes our tax dollars back to us in the form of retirement benefits or health care or payments if we become disabled or unemployed.

Programs for People

It has been explained to us that it is actually today’s young workers who pay the benefits of today’s seniors, just as our benefits paid for our parents. If there are fewer jobs and the jobs young people have pay less than people made in the past then is there still enough to go around? Perhaps Social Security could be redesigned rather than privatized as the Republicans would like. Health care is not paid for in quite the same way, but we have our government deduct extra tax dollars from our pay checks while we are working to pay for most of our health care when we no longer work. Once again costs are apparently exceeding our contributions. These are programs that people like and that offer real benefits to the tax payers/citizens in our republic/democracy. As a Democrat I have always been proud that we support these kinds of benefits for we the people.

And there are many other platforms and policies that Democrats back which still seem important in order to set a society apart as one that is highly developed, educated, and enlightened. These are the kinds of things that prove a government is absolutely a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Take away all of our social programs and what is left for our government to do – wage war and support business. Our government would then become a government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy. We are almost there now.

The Party of the Workers

The fact that Americans no longer go off, almost without exception, to work in factories has been a game changer for the Democratic Party. We used to be the party of the working man/woman. Unions and the Democrats were close allies against bosses and wealthy business owners. If workers joined the Democrats their numbers and solidarity gave them clout against the wealthy owner classes. When Republicans tried to take away all government regulation on business and commerce, we the people could dial them back a bit and stave off the worst abuses of unfettered capitalism.

Dems Have Lost Their Worker Mojo

Times have changed in more ways than just where Americans go to work these days. The Democrats have lost their mojo. Workers have had to practically go begging for jobs, and although we have the current push to buck up salaries through passing minimum wage levels that at least cover the bare essentials required by working families to maintain their homes, afford transportation, and eat and buy clothing, it does not feel the same as when the people joined unions and negotiated fairly splendid wages.

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The Republicans make a big stink about how the government is getting too big and it is not the business of government to determine the minimum wage for the whole nation, given the differing conditions across the states. But with few factory jobs and with many states passing “right to work” laws which eat away at the power of unions to negotiate for their members, the government is the only entity workers can fall back on right now to make sure employers provide a decent wage that meets our current standards of living. Employers have been hit hard by recession and changing markets in America also. They have been known to pay more attention to their bottom line than the needs of their workers. Better to generate plenty of profit and then worry about your employees. Pay yourself first can be carried to extremes without some protections.

Given that the workers no longer require a dedicated party to support labor. Given that there is no longer a matrix of unions for workers to use as a vehicle for negotiating with both employers and government. (Unions still exist but as sort of obsolete institutions, much like medieval guilds, comforting but basically nonfunctional, although public service sector workers still have functioning unions.) Given that retail, which has shown the most growth in offering employment, has never been unionized. Given all of these changes it is no wonder the Democrats have lost their footing and are not quite sure how to redefine themselves.

“Identity Politics”

Identity politics is a newly coined type of politics, meaning politics that backs minority groups within our culture that are vocal and that often find themselves up against the reactionary stances of the right in America. Democrats have become the party that backs minorities and defends civil rights of all kinds (even for people who live in America but did not arrive through the proper channels). The left strives for equal opportunity and tolerance of diversity, goals which many feel are exclusionary.

White people are already feeling the pinch of so many minorities groups which clamor for attention (taking attention away from the white folks who, many feel, are the rightful owners of America because the original settlers of America were overwhelmingly white.) Race superiority enters through this door, although some simply never pictured any America other than a white America, and for the latter this becomes a matter of possession as opposed to superiority. People want white tax dollars to go for the needs of white people and not any deadbeat white people either. However, many Americans think that their tax dollars are going to people who just don’t want to work, or people who refuse to work for one reason or another. Lots of commenters are saying that the Democrats need to stop using arguments from “identity politics” to sway minority voters to vote left because then we lose those white worker votes that used to make the Democrats so strong. They argue that we need to fight for things that would improve the lives of all Americans and no longer differentiate between groups of Americans.

 

Democrats, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

I offered my suggestions in my last article and I asked people to offer their ideas. I got no substantive answers. To repeat my suggestions: use the Democrat organizations that already exist and hold conventions, forums, convocations which make use of speakers but also provide opportunities for attendees to interact. Encourage people who are not already party leaders to speak and get used to speaking in front of groups; train them to develop interviewing skills so they are not shy about talking to the media; get them to sit down and share their viewpoints on important topics for American governance and society and to hash out differences and give the Democrats new ways to talk to Americans that are more progressive, practical, and also aspirational than what we have offered in the past. Spend some money on this. Pay the way for people who cannot afford to attend. Put together some scholarships to send promising people to study politics or law in college. Make an investment in messaging that will work in a post-industrial age and deepen the bench on the left.

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Joy Reid’s Fifty State Strategy

This morning I read the article by Joy Reid (don’t you just love Joy Reid?) on The Daily Beast website and I found her ideas offered a solution to that huge amount of red we saw on the election maps in 2016. I remember noticing in 2010 or 2011 that Republicans were making a push to control state governments and that they had succeeded in 23 states. By 2012 the number of red states was 30. And as we know, by 2016, it was higher than that. It was the Koch brothers’ strategy to spend lots of money on local and state elections and even to use ALEC to send prewritten laws to legislatures which were often passed without revision.

I knew that the Republicans were pushing small government and state’s rights and I was not feeling it. I felt it would create a United States that looked more like Europe than America with each state passing its own laws and no uniformity on things like educational standards and job requirements and job safety rules and environmental laws. I also did not like to see wealthy corporate Conservatives playing power games that leapfrogged democratic practices. With Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United allowing rich donors to spend as many dollars as they wished to influence politics things were looking pretty grim in terms of stopping the momentum of these powerful guys, even if some of the little people saw what they were up to.

Joy Reid suggests that rather than fight these guys we should follow their lead and get right down into the grassroots of politics in each of the fifty states and spend our money to find and elect promising left leaning local people. She feels that state’s right is an area where we might compromise, offering more autonomy to the individual states.

“But there’s something else Democrats ought to be focused on as they prepare for the long, dark years ahead. It involves trading in a bit of the beloved Hamilton for a dash more of the less morally appealing Thomas Jefferson and embracing what the Yale scholar Heather Gerken has called “progressive federalism.”

“For decades, conservatives have argued against the heavy hand of Washington on the states; embracing the idea of each state as a kind of mini-country, only loosely overseen by the federal government. Liberals have argued the opposite—that without a strong central governing hand, the states would devolve into a disaggregated mess where Americans’ rights, opportunities and even their health and life expectancy vary wildly from New York to Mississippi, with the results heavily freighted by race.”

“Take Obamacare: loathed by Red America even when their families use it. Just the concept of a federal mandate rankles their spirits so thoroughly they’d risk losing their insurance, their health and even Medicare and Medicaid just to be rid of it. The mythical idea of “selling insurance across state lines” is a nonsensical answer to the lack of healthcare, as is the exhortation for people to simply rely on the emergency room. But for nearly half the country, those indignities are preferable to submitting to federal authority of any kind.”

“Democrats need to make that case, forcefully, to voters in their states. They need to recruit strong candidates who can advocate for strong state and local governments that will defend working men and women of every racial, ethnic and religious group—their healthcare, their civil rights, their right to vote, their air, water and land—from the gang of billionaires about to take over Washington.

Focusing on the states would also finally force the Democratic Party to put real resources and muscle into statewide and midterm elections, massive voter registration, and defense against disenfranchisement and voter ID. By the 2020 Census, they may finally regain enough power to draw the federal districts that determine congressional outcomes.

A federalist approach—balancing defense of beloved New Deal and Great Society programs with a sharp focus on the states—would at long last allow Democrats to build a bench of qualified and tested candidates—including those drawn from the strongest and most loyal voter base of the party: people of color, and specifically women of color. By the time 2020 rolls around, many of these political leaders will have shown that they can deliver real results for people in their states. That’s a much more organic way of choosing a presidential nominee than throwing names of sitting senators at The Washington Post and seeing if they stick.”

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/03/the-best-way-to-stop-trump-is-at-the-local-level.htm

There is more detail in this article which is well worth reading.

Combination Plan

I see no reason why these two plans offered by two Democrats, albeit one quite a bit more influential than the other, would not work well in tandem. No reason these two ideas couldn’t both inform the strategy on the left as we prepare for the next election, a midterm election. We could make a lot of progress in two years, but we must be organized, work together, and begin soon.