Oversight

There is psychological evidence that people tend to behave more morally when they know, or when they believe, someone is watching them. When observers are present, people’s worst antisocial tendencies tend to be mitigated to some degree. There is also evidence from religious studies, that show belief in a moral god who has infinite access to your deepest motives enhances the effect from more “secular” oversight from experiences like instinctively braking when you see a cop on the highway.

On the other end, there is a lot of benefit to all manner of people and organizations being able to have oversight — from a boss supervising an employee, to a client evaluating an agency, to law enforcement surveilling suspects and surveillance more broadly. Observation is the key to experimentation under the scientific method, and a surveyor prepares land for development. The feedback loops that result from being able to see how a plan, theory, or hypothesis work out in the real world allow the original assumptions to be validated or adjusted, accordingly.

The government is an organization that operates largely in an oversight capacity. The executive branch runs departments that broadly oversee the nation’s transportation, military, national security, diplomacy, law enforcement, justice system, budget, economy and fiscal policy, education policy, energy grid, and stockpile of nuclear weapons — among much else. In a federalized system of 50 states under a larger national banner, many regional and local differences add to the complexity of the policy and enforcement concerns, and the difficulty of managing both a large population and vast land mass.

Conversely, if you believe no one is watching, you are more likely to commit corruption or crime. If someone thinks they can get away with it, they are much more likely to try and grab an opportunity. The growing scale and speed of modern society tends to exacerbate the feeling that “no one is watching,” making it seem like it matters less if small rules are broken here or there — an effect which can continue to snowball into crimes of greater and greater severity.

Related concepts:

  • God
  • the watchful eye — annuit coeptis
  • the Oversight Committee
  • the rule of law / spirit of laws
  • surveillance
  • night watchman state
  • police brutality
  • transparency
  • “Hell is other people”
  • Eye of Sauron
  • the peanut gallery
  • hecklers
  • hall monitors
  • judges
  • supervisors
  • parents
  • overseers
  • vantage points
  • command view
  • crow’s nest

The Republican Party is a criminal organization

Only 7 out of 50 among them are patriots — the rest, cowards and knaves who continue to seek destruction of this republic out of self-interest and an authoritarian’s need to dominate others. Today’s impeachment vote of acquittal for Trump’s role in the January 6 insurrection was brutal but of course, not surprising. It highlighted once again something that’s been hiding in plain sight for some time — that the Republican Party is a criminal organization.

“Law and Order” is just another Big Lie

It’s used to cover up quite the opposite — criminality, entitlement, sadism, and a zeal for the domination of others. Including both the violent insurrectionist kind and the pasty jowly turtly slow walking kind on the right wing. The GOP is an insult to the rule of law.

There is no best time to impeach a president

Unfortunately the spineless toothless Republican Senators defanged the Constitution today, by casting into doubt its power to achieve healthy checks and balances between the branches of government. They gleefully gave up the role of Congress in moderating the chief executive — to the probable detriment of us all.

As usual, they performed a series of timeline hacks, rhetorical games, and parliamentary tricks that resulting in the “logical” impossibility of ever successfully impeaching a US president. They are masters at avoiding responsibility for their actions, and fiercely protect their own, even despite heinous crimes.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his merry band of “institutionalists” have managed to do more damage to our institutions than any other Republican administration, and that’s truly saying something.

In addition to sowing doubt about our elections, throwing SCOTUS and the courts under the bus despite having packed them with conservative judges and loyalists for years, damaging our sovereignty and our national security, and impugning our reputation with nations around the world, they’ve managed to turn the United States into a kleptocracy. It’s official: the Republican Party is a criminal organization.

Let the DOJ do its work

Even Trump’s own lawyer advocated for it, along with McConnell. Though he can’t be trusted and will surely have tricks up his sleeve, it would be cathartic to see Attorney General Merrick Garland and the much-maligned Department of Justice bring down the largest RICO case in the history of history. I hope that karma brings justice to all of them, regardless of the actual outcome here and now.

Conspiracy Theory Dictionary: From QAnon to Gnostics

In half a decade we’ve gone from Jeb Bush making a serious run for president to Marjorie Taylor Greene running unopposed and winning a House seat in Georgia. QAnon came seemingly out of nowhere, but taps into a much deeper and older series of conspiracy theories that have surfaced, resurfaced, and been remixed throughout time.

Essentially, QAnon is a recycling of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracy theory that drove the Nazi ideology and led to the genocide of over 6 million Jews, gypsies, gays, and others who made Hitler mad. It’s wrapped in a bunch of other dangerous myths, paranoid delusions, and invented “alternative facts,” but shares its common DNA with the kind of conspiratorial paranoia that led to the deaths of over 75 million people in World War II.

The spread of the QAnon conspiracy theory greatly benefits from this long historical memory, by getting a generous marketing boost from piggybacking on sheer familiarity. It also benefits from an authoritarian mentality growing louder in America, with a predilection for magical thinking and a susceptibility to conspiratorial thinking.

Conspiracy theories have been around much longer even than the Protocols — stretching back about as long as recorded history itself. In an increasingly complex world brimming with real-time communication capabilities, the cognitive appeal of easy answers may be stronger than ever before.

TermDefinitionNotes
4chan
8kun
9/11 truthers
alien abduction
American carnageEvocative of "immense loss" in the Nazi mythology
Antifa
Anti-Semitism
birtherism
Black Lives Matter
blood libel
child trafficking
Christian Identity
The Confederacy
Crossing the Rubicon
deep state
fake news
GamerGate
George Soros
Hollywood
Illuminati
InfoWars
JFK assassination
John Birch SocietyThe QAnon of its day (circa 1960s), this extreme right-wing group was theoretically about anti-communist ideals but espoused a host of conspiracy theories and outlandish beliefs
lamestream media
micro-propaganda machineMPMthe “micro-propaganda machine” — an influence network that can tailor people’s opinions, emotional reactions, and create “viral” sharing (��LOL/haha/��RAGE) episodes around what should be serious or contemplative issues
motivated reasoning
New World Order
One World Government
PizzaGate
post-truth
PR
propaganda
Protocols of the Elders of Zion
PsyOps
QAnon
Q Drops
reactionary modernism
Reichstag fire
Rothschilds
"Stand back and stand by"
The Storm
WikiLeaks
ZOGZionist ---- Government

Antifa

Antifa stands for “anti-fascist,” and is predominantly a social movement as opposed to an organized group. FBI Director Christopher Wray said of Antifa in September, 2020 during testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee, that the intelligence community considers Antifa to be an ideology, and not an organization:

9/17/2020

The modern American Antifa movement started when a group named Anti-Racist Action confronted neo-Nazi skinheads at punk shows in the 1980s. It took its inspiration from those who fought European fascists in the 1920s and 30s, and became a watchdog with an eye on the creeping American fascism of the right wing.

I remember first learning of Antifa back in the early 2000s, during my time as a street medic in the anti-globalization activist movement against the WTO and others. The black bloc would routinely appear at protests that had been peaceful for hours, and suddenly set off a confrontation with the riot cops that would send teargas flying and everyone scrambling for cover. It was annoying as fuck and pretty much never failed.

As one of the most extreme factions on the left, its adherents are few in number. They were far to the left of my own politics in my youthful 20s, and I’m much more centrist now in my 40s. I’ve been an avid volunteer in activist circles and Democratic electoral politics for over 20 years and have never met an advocate of Antifa. They’re not endorsed by or supported anywhere within the Democratic party that I have ever been aware of.

Antifa is a scapegoat

Antifa makes for a good smear campaign though, as well as a convenient far-left entity with a kernel of truth (i.e., the movement technically exists) to use as a scapegoat. In fact that script has been used so often it’s a veritable cliché at this point: the white supremacist group the Proud Boys announced their intention to camouflage themselves as Antifa on January 3, 2020 — 3 days before the assault on the Capitol on January 6 after which the right wing has tried, laughably, to sell a narrative that Antifa and BLM staged the coup attempt as a false flag operation.

Beyond the utter obviousness of publicizing your strategy beforehand, there is the glaring logical flaw presented by motive: why would Black Lives Matter endanger their own Black lives to prevent their own Democratic president from being certified?! Not to mention the absurdity of claiming that the sea of white faces who stormed the Capitol were the sudden new pale leadership of the notoriously Black Black Lives Matter crowd.

Antifa is a sort of Bigfoot for the right wing to postulate as being responsible for everything in their web of conspiracy theories. Pay no attention to the shriveled old wizards behind the curtains.

American Fascism: a Right-Wing Authoritarianism Dictionary

We glibly believed it could never happen here even though we’ve been warned again and again. And in some sense, even though it’s been here all along — hiding in plain sight. I’ll be adding to this authoritarianism dictionary over time, as I can chip away at it and as new words get added to the lexicon.

TermTopicDefinitionNotesRead more
13th Amendmentwhite supremacyThe Amendment that put an end to slavery. It was passed by Congress and ratified by 2/3 of the states in 1865.
14th Amendmentwhite supremacyThe second Constitutional Amendment passed following the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to freed African American former slaves, along with equal civil and legal rights as specified in the Constitution.This Reconstruction Amendment also contains the critical due process clause that has been so important to the pursuit of civil rights.
15th Amendmentwhite supremacyThird and last of the Reconstruction Amendments, the Fifteenth gave African Americans the right to vote -- and prohibited any type of voter discrimination on the basis of race.
19th AmendmentmisogynyThe woman's Suffrage Amendment gave women the right to vote in the United States.
4chanalt-RightA notorious internet message board with an unruly culture capable of trolling, pranks, and crimes.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4chan
8chanalt-RightIf 4chan isn't raw and lawless enough for you, try the even more right-wing "free speech"-haven 8chan, which is notorious for incubating a large swath of the Gamergate culture.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8chan
abortionreligious extremism
active measuresRussian
aggrieved entitlementwhite supremacy
America's "original sin"white supremacyslavery
amoral
armed robberyorganized crime
ASPDabuse & controlantisocial personality disorder
assassination
astroturfingPretending a well organized and financed operation is a grassroots groundswell
authoritarianism
banality of evil
banana republicpolitically unstable countries whose economies are monocultures controlled by an oligarchy; puppet stateshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_republic
birth controlmisogyny
bitcoinalt-Right
Black Codes
BLMwhite supremacyBlack Lives Matter
BLM (US)Bureau of Land Management
blockchainalt-Right
blood libel
Blue ChecksReference to Twitter's "verified" feature for certain members, who have satisfied the company that they are who they say they are. Originally the feature was meant to identify the official accounts of news sites and reporters, so it has both an association with -- and a legitimate lineage from -- the media industry. "Blue Checks" is perceived as a pejorative term, to the right wing. It's a shortcut for referencing "fake news," the "lamestream media," and the "intellectuals" all in one fell swoop: The Establishment.
bolt holeEnd TimesA type of retreat or refuge for those in the survivalist subculture, to be absconded to in case of disaster or apocalypse.
Brown v. Board of Education (1954)white supremacySupreme Court decision ordering the desegregation of schools. Resistance to the ruling took the form of "states' rights" advocates, among much else.
bug-out location (BOL)End TimesAnother name for a bolt hole or survivalist refuge location.
CalexitMovement to split the state of Californnia into East and West statesNigel Farage, Scott Baugh, Arron Bank, Gerry Gunster
capital gains tax
civil society
Civil War
Cluster B
collective narcissism
Communism
conscience
conspiracy theory
covert narcissist
cults
deep stateNetworks of opposition within governments who undermine the official regimeWas also used as a concept in WWII Germany to mean anyone "not loyal to the Nazis"https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/world/americas/deep-state-leaks-trump.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0
democratic socialism
desegregation
disinformation
domestic violenceabuse & control
Doomsday Clock
double standardmisogyny
down ballot
doxingabuse & controlresearching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual
Drain the SwampCampaign slogan of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential contest.He was referring to the dastardly no-good downright evil of individuals like his campaign advisor, Roger Stone, known for his role in about-to-be impeached Richard Nixon's campaign as a "dirty trickster," a moniker he relishes to this day.
Emancipation Proclamationwhite supremacy
empathy
estate tax
"Eternal Rome"ideology positing Russia as a geopolitical bulwark of conservatism against a weak-kneed West (part of Alexander Dugin's reformulation of Eurasianism theory)
exfiltrationThe removal or copying of data from one server to another without the knowledge of the owner
facial recognition
fake news
false flagRussiancovert operations designed to deceive by appearing as though they are carried out by other entities, groups, or nations than those who actually executed them
fascism
fellow travellers
fifth column
fifth world warRussiannon-linear war; the war of all against allterm coined by Putin's vizier Vladislav Surkovhttp://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n20/peter-pomerantsev/putins-rasputin
Financial Crimes Enforcement NEtwork (FinCEN)organized crimeDepartment within the Treasury that handles and maiontains FBAR filings from US persons holding in excess of $10,000 in foreign banks.
FISA Courtorganized crime
FISA warrantorganized crime
fiscal policy
Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)Legal statute requiring those persons lobbying on behalf of a foreign government or other entity to register such with the U.S. government.
foreign bank account report (FBAR)Required disclosure to the US treasury by persons holding in excess of $10,000 in funds in foreign banks.
forensics
Freedmen's Bureau
FreedomFestConservative evangelical event annually in Las Vegas
free trade
fronto-paralimbic areaPart of the brain associated with empathy, along with the anterior insula
GamerGatealt-Righthttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamergate_controversy
genocide
gift tax
"global cabal"conspiracy theoryeuphemism in far-right Russian discourse to refer to a perceived "Jewish conspiracy" behind the international order of institutions like NATO and the EUsimilar to/related to "cultural Marxism," neo-Nazism, and anti-Semitism in general
Grand Jury16 to 23 people impaneled to hear evidence from a legal prosecution, and decide if said prosecution has a caseworthy set of evidence to bring charges.
Greensboro Massacre
Great Migration
Great Society
human traffickingorganized crime
hybrid warfare
incelmisogyny"involuntary celibate" -- a male individual who believes society owes him sex
inflation
information warfare
interest rates
interpositionwhite supremacyDubious theory underpinning the idea of states' rights, which is that individual states have veto power over any laws passed by the federal government
Jim Crow Southwhite supremacy
Johnson Amendmentprosperity gospelAllowed televangelists to funnel tax-free riches into luxury goods and political advocacy
KochtopusTerm for the sprawling political machinery of the Kansas-based billionaire Koch Industries inheritees, Charles and David.
kompromatRussiancompromising material on a head of state or other important figure; typically used for blackmail purposes
lamestream mediaalt-Right
liberalismPolitical and ethical framework based on individual liberty via human rights and equal protectionLiberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Whereas classical liberalism emphasises the role of liberty, social liberalism stresses the importance of equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas and programmes such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, gender equality, and international cooperation
lobbying
"Lock her up!"alt-Right
Logan Act
lynchingwhite supremacy
machine learning
Mafia stateorganized crimeA systematic corruption of government by organized crime syndicates.Term coined by former KGB/FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko. See also: kleptocracy
MAGA
malignant envy
malignant narcissismabuse & control
manospheremisogyny
Marxism
#MeToomisogyny
micropenismisogyny
micro-propaganda machineMPMthe “micro-propaganda machine” — an influence network that can tailor people’s opinions, emotional reactions, and create “viral” sharing episodes around what should be serious or contemplative issueshttps://medium.com/@d1gi/the-election2016-micro-propaganda-machine-383449cc1fba#.3iq7mbess
misogyny
money launderingorganized crime
narcissism
narcissistic collusion
national debt
national deficit
neggingabuse & control
neomaniaobsession with the new -- a hallmark of Americsan culture
New Deal
non-linear warfareRussian
novichokmilitary-grade nerve agent developed by Russia and used in the poisoning of former FSB agent turned Putin critic Andrei Skripal and his daughter in Lonson in March, 2018
oligarchy
one-party state
open source intelligence
opposhort form of opposition research
outrage industry
Palantir
pathocracy
patriarchymisogyny
peculiar institutionwhite supremacyslavery
plausible deniability
Plessy v. Ferguson1896
plutocracy
populism
postmodernism
post-truth
Potemkin villageAny structure or facade built expressly for the purpose of making the situation appear more favorable than it really ishttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potemkin_village
Powell MemoLewis Powell's 1970s memo to the wealthy white male elite, in anger over the crackdown against tobacco companies, as a call to arms to organize politically against "anti-capitalist" forces
PRabuse & controlpublic relations
Progressive Era
propagandaabuse & control
prosocial behavior
psychopathabuse & control
psyopsRussian
PUAmisogyny"Pick Up Artist" -- a self-styled lothario who helps train other would-be casanovas in his ways of manipulative charm
race riots
race war
rape culturemisogyny
Reagonomicsconspiracy theorysee also: trickle down economics, supply side economics, Chicago School econ
Reddit
retweetWhen a Twitter user amplifies the tweet of another, by "retweeting" it out to her or his network
Right anterior insular cortexPart of the brain associated with empathy; psychopaths have a deficit here
right-wing authoritarian
Ruby Ridge
sadopopulism
Second Wave Feminismmisogyny
senicide
sexual assaultmisogyny
sexual harassmentmisogyny
shadow profilessurveillance capitalismData that Facebook collects on people who are not members of Facebook, via association with their friends who arehttps://www.zdnet.com/article/firm-facebooks-shadow-profiles-are-frightening-dossiers-on-everyone/
shared reality
show trials
Signalencrypted messaging app
SJWwhite supremacySocial Justice Warriors -- used as a pejorative by the alt-Right
socialism
sociopathy
sockpuppet accountsFake social media accounts used by trolls for deceptive and covert actions, avoiding culpability for abuse, aggression, death threats, doxxing, and other criminal acts against targets.
SMStexting
special interest groups
spearphishingAn email designed to appear as if from a trusted source, to solicit information that allows the sender to gain access to an account or network, or installs malware that later enables the sender to gain access to an account or network
spite voter
stochastic terrorismhttp://www.vox.com/2016/8/10/12422476/trump-second-amendment-hillary-stochastic-terrorism-anti-abortion-violence
suffrageThe right to vote, sometimes referred to as "the franchise."
swattinghoaxed reports to emergency services intended to provoke a SWAT team response at the target's home; a form of Internet-based attack used by Gamergate, the alt-Right, and other groups and individuals
symbolic violence
tax avoidance
tax fraudorganized crime
tax havens
Third Wave Feminismmisogyny
total war
trial balloonInformation put out or leaked to the media to gauge public reaction.
trickle-down economicsconspiracy theory
truth decayconspiracy theory
The Turner Diarieswhite supremacy
unmaskingcybersecurityIntelligence protocol redacting American identities from transcripts of foreign intercepts
volcel
Voting Rights Actwhite supremacy
Waco, TX
wag the dogabuse & control
wage gapmisogyny
watering holecybersecurityhacker attacks that infect entire websites
whataboutismRussianClassic debate tactic of old Soviet apologists to deflect criticism of Soviet policy; whenever an American would levy a critique, the response would be, "What about the bad things America does?"Trump parrots this strategy in an early Feb 2017 interview with Bill O'Reilly, in response to a comment about Putin being "a killer"http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/04/politics/donald-trump-vladimir-putin/
white nationalismwhite supremacy
women's liberationmisogyny
World War IWWI gave job opportunities to blacks in the North, causing a great migration -- as well as a backlash and resistance from Southern law enforcement.
World War II
Yes CaliforniaMovement to secede from the US entirely, run by Marcus Ruiz Evans, Louis J. MarinelliMarinelli lives in Russia

Capitol Riots: The President led a terrorist attack on Congress

January 6: A Day that will live in ignominy. The day Capitol riots broke out when an angry mob, following instructions from Donald Trump, stormed the halls of Congress and came within minutes of a potential hostage situation or worse: a massacre.

I’m still processing the events of Wednesday, as are many. Even though I fully anticipated something horrifying given the utter obviousness of the confrontation brewing, I did not have a particular picture in mind of what that thing was going to be.

Despite having steeled myself for the past 4+ years, I wept many times at some of the imagery and video footage. The defilement of the people’s halls by a violent armed mob who took selfies with Capitol Police was just not something I could have conceived of.

There must be accountability

This was one of the darkest days of our nation. Even during the Civil War the Confederates never stormed the US Capitol, so to see the Confederate flag waving in Congress was a desecration. It twisted me up to have such a raw display of America’s deepest gash of white supremacist history taken symbolically and literally to the nation’s capital.

This event was broadcast around the world, to our allies and to our enemies. We received rebukes from Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran. We — the supposed bastion of democracy. The country that lectures other nations around the world on how to do democracy better. We have been humiliated for the entire planet to see.

We need answers about what happened here. The people deserve to know who planned this, who helped this along, who looked the other away, and perhaps most importantly: who still agrees with it (Hawley and Cruz, for one — they must go).

We must stop fascism in America

The rot of fascism has been allowed to spread to the point where a violent mob of white supremacists, QAnon conspiracy nuts, MAGA faithful and a demon’s host of all stripes came within minutes of taking hostages inside the chambers of Congress. Five people lost their lives and already are being made into martyrs.

This did not begin with Trump, but he certainly amplified the signal at a much more psychotic rate than under previous administrations, certainly of my lifetime. We are now at a dangerous precipice: in a time of staggering wealth inequality, a once in a century health crisis largely being ignored by the right wing, deeply bitter partisanship played out over decades, the creep of authoritarianism around the world — and now at home.

Wednesday’s Capitol Riots did essentially mark the “crossing of the Rubicon” that the Trump cult begged him to do — it was a coming-out day for fascism. It was the President of the United States instructing an armed mob to walk up to the Capitol where lawmakers were certifying the election for the guy who won it, and telling them to “take our country back” and give it to him — by force if necessary. Which, of course, was necessary.

That is the Rubicon — the Rubicon is the willingness to use political violence when you have exhausted all other legal, shady, illegal, and hideously criminal means. That is the fascist twist. If we do not react now; if we do not censure, remove, and allow justice to hold these individuals accountable — both inside and outside of the government — they will take it as permission to try again and again until we deal with this.

We must hold the insurrectionists accountable — if we are to keep this republic.

Sources and Media Outlets

I try to be choosy about my news, yet also read widely. I make it a habit to routinely consult sources outside the US, and to mix up the types of media ownership to avoid a monolithic class view.

Other habits: try to corroborate stories amongst multiple publications; evaluate the credibility of authors and references; read source material; do my own calculations; consult public data when available; go back further into history to understand the trajectory of preceding events; keep listening for new information on the subject. Adjust my views based on new incoming information, if warranted.

Having worked in media for most of my career, I have a lot of practice evaluating the quality and veracity of reporting. Cross-referencing comes second nature. I’ve studied the media industry as a professional imperative and understand a bit about its ownership structures and its history, both technical and economic. As a political philosophy buff, I’m aware of the great importance of a free press to our democratic republic.

NameCountryFundingYear foundedAgeLink
The GuardianUKPrivate1821200https://www.theguardian.com/
The EconomistUKPrivate1843178https://www.economist.com/
Scientific AmericanUSPrivate1845176https://www.nature.com/
Associated PressUSNonprofit1846175https://apnews.com/
The New York TimesUSPrivate1851170https://www.nytimes.com/
ReutersUSPrivate1851170https://www.reuters.com/
The Daily TelegraphUKPrivate1855166https://www.telegraph.co.uk/
The AtlanticUSPrivate1857164https://www.theatlantic.com/
NatureUSPrivate1869152https://www.nature.com/
The Washington PostUSPrivate1877144https://www.washingtonpost.com/
LA TimesUSPrivate1881140https://www.latimes.com/
Financial TimesUKPrivate1888133https://www.ft.com/
The New RepublicUSPrivate1914107https://newrepublic.com/
BBCUKPublic192299https://www.bbc.com/news
TimeUSPrivate192398https://time.com/
The New YorkerUSPrivate192596https://www.newyorker.com/
CBCCanadaPublic193685https://www.cbc.ca/news/world
SpiegelEUPrivate194774https://www.spiegel.de/international/
Radio Free EuropeEUPublic194972https://www.rferl.org/
New ScientistUKPrivate195665https://www.newscientist.com/
Rolling StoneUSPrivate196754https://www.gregpalast.com/
PBSUSPublic196952https://www.pbs.org/
Foreign PolicyUSPrivate197051https://www.euronews.com/
NPRUSPublic197051https://www.npr.org/
C-SPANUSPublic197942https://www.c-span.org/
CNNUSPrivate198041https://www.cnn.com/
The IndependentUKPrivate198635https://www.independent.co.uk/us
Sky NewsUKPrivate198635https://news.sky.com/
Greg PalastUSIndependent197645https://www.gregpalast.com/
EuronewsEUPrivate199328https://www.euronews.com/
MSNBCUSPrivate199625https://www.msnbc.com/
VoxUSPrivate200516https://www.vox.com/
PoliticoUSPrivate200714https://www.politico.com/
BellingcatEUIndependent20147https://www.bellingcat.com/
Gaslit NationUSCrowdfunding20156https://www.patreon.com/m/1844970/posts
AxiosUSPrivate20174https://www.axios.com/
Just SecurityUSAcademic20174https://www.justsecurity.org/
The ConversationalistUSNonprofit20192https://conversationalist.org/

28 Cognitive Distortions

Sometimes our minds play tricks on us. They can convince us that untrue things are true, or vice versa.

Cognitive distortions are bad mental habits. They’re patterns of thinking that tend to be negatively slanted, inaccurate, and often repetitive.

These unhelpful ways of thinking can limit one’s ability to function and excel in the world. Cognitive distortions are linked to anxiety, depression, addiction, and eating disorders. They reinforce negative thinking loops, which tend to compound and worsen over time.

Cognitive distortionExplanationExample
all-or-nothing thinkingviewing everything in absolute and extremely polarized terms"nothing good ever happens" or "I'm always behind"
blamingfocusing on other people as source of your negative feelings, & refusing to take responsibility for changing yourself; or conversely, blaming yourself harshly for things that were out of your control
catastrophizingbelief that disaster will strike no matter what, and that what will happen will be too awful to bear"What if tragedy strikes?" "What if it happens to me?"
counterfactual thinkingA kind of mental bargaining or longing to live in the alternate timeline where one had made a different decision"If only I could have done it differently..."
dichotomous thinkingviewing events or people in all-or-nothing terms
discounting positivesclaiming that positive things you or others do are trivial, or ignoring good things that have happened to you
emotional reasoningletting feelings guide interpretation of reality; a way of judging yourself or your circumstances based on your emotions"If I feel that way, it must be true"
filteringmentally "filters out" the positive aspects of a situation while magnifying the negative aspects
fortune-tellingpredicting the future negatively
framing effectstendency for decisions to be shaped by inconsequential features of choice problems
halo effectbelief that one's success in a domain automagically qualifies them to have skills and expertise in other areas
illusory correlationtendency to perceive a relationship between two variables when no relation existshttps://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_correlation
inability to disconfirmreject any evidence or arguments that might contradict negative thoughts
intuitive heuristicstendency when faced with a difficult question of answering an easier question instead, typically without noticing the substitution
just-world hypothesisbelief that good things tend to happen to good people, while bad things tend to happen to bad people
labelingassigning global negative traits to self & others; making a judgment about yourself or someone else as a person, versus seeing the behavior as something they did that doesn't define them as an individual
ludic fallacyin assessing the potential amount of risk in a system or decision, mistaking the real randomness of life for the well-defined risk of casinos
magical thinkinga way of imagining you can wish reality into existence through the sheer force of your mind. Part of a child developmental phase that not everyone grows out of.http://doctorparadox.net/essays/magical-thinking/
magnificationexaggerating the importance of flaws and problems while minimizing the impact of desirable qualities and achievements
mind readingassuming what someone is thinking w/o sufficient evidence; jumping to conclusions
negative filteringfocusing exclusively on negatives & ignoring positives
nominal realismchild development phase where names of objects aren't just symbols but intrinsic parts of the objects. Sometimes called word realism, and related to magical thinking
overgeneralizingmaking a rule or predicting globally negative patterns on the basis of single incident
projectionattributing qualities to external actors or forces that one feels within and either a) wishes to promote and have echoed back to onself, or b) eradicate or squelch from oneself by believing that the quality exists elsewhere, in others, but not in oneself
provincialismthe tendency to see things only from the point of view of those in charge of our immediate in-groups
shouldsa list of ironclad rules one lives and punishes oneself by"I should exercise more" "I should eat better"
teleological fallacyillusion that you know exactly where you're going, knew exactly where you were going in the past, & that others have succeeded in the past by knowing where they were goingacademia especially is rife with this one
what if?keep asking series of ?s on prospective events & being unsatisfied with any answers

30 Common Psychological Biases

Two psychologists ended up unlocking important keys to both the mind and to economics. Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman created the field of behavioral economics and revolutionized cognitive psychology with the discovery of cognitive biases that affect our decision-making abilities.

These systematic errors in our thinking and logic affect our everyday choices, behaviors, and evaluations of others.

Psychological biasExplanationExample
action biasBelief that when we're faced with an ambiguous situation or challenge, that we must take some action vs. doing nothing, whether doing something is a good idea or not (and often quickly, without taking the time to fully examine the problem); also known as "naive interventionism"sports enthusiasts rooting for their favorite teams are notorious for the superstitious rituals they are in psychological anguish if not able to perform, despite the objective fact that they have no ability whatsoever to affect the outcome (in pop culture, Robert DeNiro's character in Silver Linings Playbook exemplifies this)
adjustment heuristicTendency to start from an implicitly suggested reference point when assessing probabilities (the "anchor") and making adjustments to that reference point to reach an estimate
affect heuristicWe tend to underestimate the role of feelings of liking & disliking in our judgments and decision-makingInstead of considering risks and benefits independently, individuals with a negative attitude towards nuclear power may consider its benefits as low and risks as high, thereby leading to a more negative risk-benefit correlation than would be evident under conditions without time pressure (Finucane, Alhakami, Slovic, & Johnson, 2000)
anchoring effectFixating on a value or # that gets compared to everything else, b/c we tend to compare/contrast limited sets of items (aka “relativity trap”) — store sale items take advantage of this (so we compare the new value to the old, but not the old value on its own as a measure of worth)
availability heuristicTendency to make quick "intuitive" judgments about the size of given categories by the ease with which particular instances/examples of the class come to mind
bandwagon effectSimilar to groupthink, arising from our built-in desire to fit in and conform, we tend to "go along with the trend" when it becomes apparent to us
contagion heuristicTendency to avoid contact with people or objects viewed as "contaminated" by previous contact with someone or something else viewed as "bad"Related to/inclusive of magical thinking — believing a person's sweater still carries their "essence," e.g.
confirmation biasWe tend to agree w/those who agree with us & avoid associating with those who don't, to avoid the discomfort of cognitive dissonance (the Internet has sadly made this worse)
conjunction fallacyA formal fallacy that occurs when one believes a specific condition is more probable than a general one
current moment biasPreference to experience pleasure now, & put off the “pain” til later; lack of ability to imagine ourselves in the future & altering today's behaviors accordingly
disjunction fallacyMisjudging that the disjunction of two events must be as likely as either of the events individually (as definitionally, via probability theory)
false consensus effectPeople tend to overestimate the degree to which the general public shares their beliefs and opinionspotentially related to the availability heuristic, the self-serving bias, and naive realism
focusing illusionPlacing too much emphasis on one aspect of an event, outweighing its importance and causing error in judgment
Gambler's fallacyPutting a tremendous amount of weight on previous events, believing they will influence future outcomes (even when outcome is random)also frequently a logical fallacy
Identifiable Victim EffectTendency for people to care deeply about a single, specific tragedy but seem disinterested in vast atrocities affecting thousands or millions of peoplemore broadly, abstract concepts motivate us less than individual cases (especially when given visual evidence)
ingroup biasOverestimating abilities and values of our immediate group & underestimating that of outgroups (oxytocin plays a role)
naive realismThe belief that each one of us sees the world objectively, while the people who disagree with us must be either uninformed or irrational"Everyone is influenced by ideology and self-interest. Except for me. I see things as they are."
negativity biasWe pay more attention to bad news
neglecting probabilityReason we're afraid to fly even though it's statistically far more likely to be in a car accident (same way we fear terrorism but not more mundane accidents that are far more likely)
observational selection biasSuddenly noticing things we didn't notice before & assuming frequency has increased (also contributes to feeling appearance of certain things or events can't be coincidence)
optimism biasTendency to believe that good things happen more often than bad things
planning fallacySystematic tendency toward unrealistic optimism about the time it takes to comple
positive expectation biasSense that our luck has to change for the better
post-purchase rationalizationMaking ourselves feel better after we make crappy decisions (aka Buyer's Stockholm Syndrome)
projection biasAssumption that most people think just like us (false consensus bias is related: thinking that others agree with us)
resemblance biasTendency to ignore statistical facts and use resemblance as a simplifying heuristic to make difficult judgments
self-serving biasTendency to evaluate ambiguous or complex information in a way that is beneficial to the speaker's interests, as well as to claim responsibility for successes and attribute failures to others or to uncontrollable external factors
shifting baseline syndromeWe tend to use very recent data points in our research (even when more data is available) and thus can miss picking up on some long-term trends
status-quo biasWe fear change, so tend to make choices that guarantee things remain the same (& by extension, assume that any other choice will be inferior, or make things worse)
treadmill effectOur desire for the new version of a product or service is acute, even if upgrades are minor & incremental; but the pleasure we get from the new object wears off quickly to leave us back at the original satisfaction baseline

24 Logical Fallacies

These flaws in rhetorical logic can be observed aplenty in modern political and civil discourse. They are among the easiest types of argument to dispel, because their basic type has been discredited and compiled together with other discarded forms of rational persuasion, to make sure that ensuing generations don’t fall for the same tired old unethical ideas.

Logical fallacyExplanationExample / Notes
ad hominem attackattacking something about the character of the opposing side, instead of engaging with the argument or offering a critique
ambiguityusing double meanings and language ambiguity to mislead
anecdotalappeal to a personal, individual observation as relates to the topic in questionoften used to dismiss statistical analysis
appeal to authorityusing opinion of authority figure or institution in place of an actual argument
appeal to emotionmanipulating emotional response in lieu of valid argumenta huge part of Donald Trump's playbook
appeal to naturearguing that b/c something is “natural” it is valid / justified / inevitable / good / ideal
bandwagonappealing to popularity as evidence of validationRetort: "When everyone once believed the earth was flat — did that make it true?"
begging the questionwhen conclusion is included in the premiseone form of circular argument (tautology is another)
black or whitepresenting two alternative states as the only options, when more possibilities existvery commonly used by political and media resources as a way to polarize issues
burden of proofclaiming the responsibility lies with someone else to disprove one's claim (& not with the claimant to prove it)
composition/divisionassuming what is true of one part of something must be applied to all parts
fallacy fallacypresuming that a poorly argued claim, or one in which a fallacy has been made, is wrong
false causepresuming that a real or perceived relationship between things implies causation
gambler's fallacyputting a tremendous amount of weight on previous events, believing they will influence future outcomes (even when outcome is random)also a psychological bias
geneticvalue judging based on where something comes from
loaded questionasking a question with an assumption built in, so it can't be answered without appearing guilty
middle groundclaiming a compromise between two extremes must be the truththe media establishment is often guilty of this for a number of reasons: lack of time for thorough inquiry; need for ratings; available field of pundits and wonks; established programming formats, and so on
no true scotsmanmaking an appeal to purity as a way to dismiss relevant criticisms or flaws
personal incredulitysaying that because a concept or argument is difficult to understand, it can't be true
slippery slopearguing that a small change or decision will inevitably lead to larger-than-intended (perhaps even disastrous) consequences rapidly
special pleadingmoving goalpost to create exceptions when a claim is shown to be false
strawmanmisrepresenting someone's argument to make it easier to attack
texas sharpshootercherry-picking data to suit an argument, or finding a pattern to fit a presumptionthe impending era of big data will increase the prevalence of this type of sheister
tu quoqueavoiding having to engage with criticism by criticizing the accuser

Hyper Partisanship: How to understand American politics today

Buckle up, we’re in for a wild ride. Many of the serious scholars of political history and authoritarian regimes are sounding the alarm bells that, although it is a very very good thing we are getting rid of the Trump crime family soon, it is still a very very bad thing for America to have so rapidly tilted towards authoritarianism. How did we get here?! How has hyper partisanship escalated to the point of an attempted coup by 126 sitting Republican House Representatives?

These are some of the resources that helped me grapple with that question, and with the rapidly shifting landscape of information warfare. This outline is a work in progress, and I’m planning to keep adding to this list as the tape keeps rolling.

Right-Wing Authoritarianism

  • Karen Stenner — Australian political psychologist Karen Stenner found that approximately 1/3 of populations are authoritarian, or have authoritarian tendencies.
  • Hannah Arendt — The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Derrida — the logic of the unconscious; performativity in the act of lying
  • ketman — Ketman is the psychological concept of concealing one’s true aims, akin to doublethink in Orwell’s 1984, that served as a central theme to Polish dissident Czesław Miłosz‘s book The Captive Mind about intellectual life under totalitarianism during the Communist post-WWII occupation.
  • Erich Fromm — coined the term “malignant narcissism” to describe the psychological character of the Nazis
  • Fascism — elevation of the id as the source of truth; enthusiasm for political violence
    • Jason Stanley — How Fascism Works
    • Robert O. Paxton — The Anatomy of Fascism
    • Tim Snyder — On Tyranny
    • Federico Finchelstein — A Brief History of Fascist Lies
  • Tyrants
  • John Dean — 3 types of authoritarian personality:
    • social dominators
    • authoritarian followers
    • double highs — social dominators who can “switch” to become followers in certain circumstances
  • Loyalty; hero worship
    • Freud = deeply distrustful of hero worship and worried that it indulged people’s needs for vertical authority. He found the archetype of the authoritarian primal father very troubling.
  • Ayn Rand — The Fountainhead
  • Richard Hofstadter — The Paranoid Style
  • Lakoff — moral framing; strict father morality
  • Neil Postman — Entertaining Ourselves to Death
  • Anti-Intellectualism
  • Can be disguised as hyper-rationalism (Communism)

Cognitive and psychological data

  • conservative minds don’t accept new information coming in
    • vs. Bayesian logic
    • vs. Thomas Kuhn scientific revolutions
  • Psychological biases
    • Status quo bias
  • The Asch Experiment — more than 60% of the time, people bow to social pressure
  • Stanley Milgram 1974 — we will submit to the demands of authority to a far greater extent than we might expect
    • it absolves us of responsibility
    • a “loophole” to quickly route around our conscience, making “normal” persons susceptible to the appeals of psychopaths
  • The Marshmallow Experiment — drive towards instant gratification
  • Edward Bernays — Propaganda
  • Narcissism and Sadism | The Dark Triad — difficult personalities
    • narcissism = seeing oneself “above”
    • Christopher Lasch — Culture of Narcissism (1979). Idea that narcissism is a defense mechanism against social change and instability in the modern world. It’s a method of psychological self-preservation in a hostile, threatening world; a cynical ethic.
    • Tom Wolfe — The Me Decade
    • Jerrold Post — authoritarian parenting
    • The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump
    • Mary Trump — Too Much and Not Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man
    • narcissistic injury
    • narcissistic rage
    • aggrieved entitlement — elevated expectations combined with resentment at society for not meeting them (Michael Kimmel, 2013)
    • dehumanization of the Others
    • splitting; black and white thinking
    • object permanence
    • magical thinking — relation to Norman Vincent Peale and prosperity gospel
    • Political ponerology — the nature of evil; interaction of difficult personalities with power and politics
      • pathocracy — Andrew Łobaczewski (2007)
      • sadopopulism — Tim Snyder
    • Narcissistic collusion — the interplay of the grandiose expectations of the tyrant and his followers. It gives him power as a meshing of mutually compatible needs.
    • Narcissism of small differences — Freud 1991
    • Scapegoating
    • Psychological decompensation
    • Psychopath World
      • The Upside Down — up is down, black is white
      • No conscience
      • No empathy
      • The ultimate narcissist
      • Obsession with power, dominance, and hierarchy
      • Primitive goals, relentlessly pursued
      • Rigidity; inflexibility
      • No access to higher human ideals
      • Performative; mask-wearing
      • See people as objects for their use
      • Control issues
      • Cruel and sadistic
      • Empty and thrill-seeking
      • Enjoy breaking rules
      • Inauthentic; insincere
      • Projectivity
      • Destructiveness; recklessness
      • Conspiracy-minded
      • Cold and inaccessible
      • Reptilian
    • Terminology: ASPD and the shifting umbrella of personality disorder and Cluster B
    • Malignant narcissism as a historical conception of this group of personality traits
  • Paranoia
  • Abuse culture
    • Bullies
    • Emotional abuse
    • psychological abuse
    • physical abuse
    • financial abuse
    • legal abuse
    • abuse of power
    • Alice Miller — Her work identified the psychological impact of childhood neglect and abuse, not just at the individual level but at the societal level — where it has a tendency to produce a hierarchical worldview characterized by the need to control the environment.
    • One-sided development — Dąbrowski (1996)
  • Cults
  • “Big Cults” — rise to the level of nation-state and even beyond
  • Psychological warfare
    • Propaganda
      • Bernays –> Goebbels
      • Michiko Kakutani — The Death of Truth
    • Emotional abuse
    • Interrogation techniques
    • Disinformation
      • Conspiracy theories
      • Fake news
        • “Flood the channel” strategy
        • Overwhelm and drown out the truth
        • Deep fakes
      • Lying with statistics
    • Bot networks and cyborg botnets
      • agents
        • distraction
        • confusion
        • probing
        • persuasion
        • conversion
        • neutralization
      • flying monkeys
      • automated response
      • timed response
    • Extortion
    • Doxxing
  • Religious extremism
    • Evangelicals
    • Dominionism and extremist religious circles believing literally in the End Times and the rapture coming soon (Tim LaHaye et al), including at the highest levels of government (Pompeo, Pence, etc.)
    • Calvinism
    • Prosperity gospel
  • Living on Fantasy Island
    • Norman Vincent Peale — the power of positive thinking (1952)
    • Ernest Becker — The Denial of Death & the basis for fundamental self-deception
    • Buddhist / Shambhala conceptions of “The Cocoon” — a mental place of safety we construct for ourselves to remain shielded from Real Reality
    • Republican Denial Bubbles: climate change, trickle-down economics, “no one is racist,” birtherism, covid is a hoax, everything is hunky dory, you are getting very sleepy…
    • It Was All a Lie — Stuart Stevens, former GOP strategist and co-founding member of the Lincoln Project, spills the beans on the Republican capture of civic discourse with a set of false narratives all spinning out from the white supremacist backlash to the civil rights movement of the 60s.

HISTORY

  • Capitol Riots and Putsch — insurrectionists storm the Capitol
  • Raffensperger extortion call
  • Georgia runoffs
  • Biden elected + Big Lie begins (continues, really)
  • George Floyd murder and summer of protest
    • long struggle with police brutality and “driving while Black”
  • Votings Rights Act gutted
  • Citizens United
  • Growing nationalization of politics parallels the demise of local news

Hyper Partisanship in Congress: The Gingrich Years

  • Newt Gingrich and the Contract on America — Steve Kornacki, Julian Zelizer
  • Rise of Evangelicals and the deals with the devils (Paul Weyrich, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, prosperity gospel, etc)
    • ALEC
    • abortion as a 180-degree turn for use as a wedge issue
    • Brown v. Board of Education & the fight over segregated Christian private schools
  • White nationalism’s reputational laundering
    • David Duke popped back up in both the 90s and the 2010s
    • Some Vietnam vets nurtured their own “stabbed in the back” culture after the war
    • Rise of the militia movement
      • Many returning soldiers saw the fringe left Communist movement in the US as an “enemy at home”
      • Greensboro, NC massacre
      • The Order
      • KKK & KKKK
    • Paramilitary operations in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere in Latin America to “bring the war home”
    • After the fall of Communism, the movement needed a new enemy. During the immediate post-Vietnam era they claimed to be working on behalf of the state, but towards the end of the 80s they did a 180-degree turn to a hard anti-government stance
    • Survivalist fringe
      • Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing
      • Waco
      • Ruby Ridge
      • Unabomber / Ted Kaczynski
    • Intersection of militia movement with NRA
      • Intersection of NRA with Russian active measures

Post-Soviet Capital Flight and the Rise of Russian Organized Crime

Rise of Dark Money

The explosion of Super PACs and other seemingly endless vehicles for anonymous money lending to political campaigns exploded after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010. The hyper partisanship tilted even further when the GOP quietly began accepting far more foreign contributions than many people realized.

  • Citizens United
  • Koch Brothers / Kochtopus
  • offshore tax havens
  • unregistered FARA agents (Flynn, Manafort, Elliott Broidy, etc)
  • Jane Mayer
  • Panama Papers — biggest offshore data leak in history
  • FinCEN files

Rise of Russian Hybrid Warfare

  • Gerasimov Doctrine
  • Vladislav Surkhov’s surrealistic war theater
    • Fifth World War: all against all
  • Cheka –> KGB –> FSB / GRU
  • Psychological warfare
  • Cyber warfare
    • energy grid
    • US Treasury
    • election infrastructure
    • nuclear weaponry
  • Information warfare
    • Disinformation
    • Cyborg bot networks
    • IRA & Robert Mueller indictments
    • Cambridge Analytica, data theft, and microtargeting
    • Astroturfing, fake activism, paid crisis actors
  • Financial warfare
    • Magnitsky Act
      • Bill Browder
      • Natalia Veselnitskaya
      • Trump Tower meeting June 9, 2016
    • Campaign funding
      • Marie Le Pen (France)
      • Viktor Orban (Hungary)
      • Brexit (UK)
      • Trump / GOP (US)
      • Law and Justice (Poland)
    • Corruption — organized crime, money laundering, bribery, human trafficking, drugs, arms, fraud, racketeering, etc.
  • Proxy warfare
    • Private security forces and arms’ length deniability
      • Yevgeny Prigozhin
      • Erik Prince
    • Ukraine
    • Belarus
    • Syria

Role of Facebook, Google, and Big Tech

Silicon Valley played its part in enabling — and profiteering from — hyper partisanship not just in the U.S., but around the world. Facebook in particular has a reputation for being callously cheap about moderating content from hate speech to live mass shooting video, including arguably playing a significant role in the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar.

  • Facebook as a rogue nation state with almost 3 billion non-voting citizen-serfs
    • Reluctant moderators require regulating
    • Questionable ethics
      • Moral hazard in political leanings
      • Paid propaganda machine for dictators and authoritarian regimes around the world
      • Allow disinformation to “skirt around” the rules too often, or fail to police bad actors at all
      • Fail to live up to their own moderating standards repeatedly
      • Refuse responsibility for arguably essential roles in geopolitical disasters including the Rohingya massacre in Myanmar and
      • A business model that fundamentally benefits from human conflict
      • Cambridge Analytica
      • Traumatic conditions of the Facebook moderation team, in the US and abroad
  • Google’s capture of the web
    • monopoly powers
    • surveillance powers
    • AI powers
    • collapse of online advertising market
    • collapse of local journalism
    • Youtube radicalization
  • Surveillance capitalism
  • Data as the new oil

Economic insecurity and staggering inequality

  • Piketty
  • Gilded Age
  • Progressive Era
  • Anti-Trust
  • Herbert Hoover –> FDR
  • Great Depression –> New Deal prosperity
  • Keynesian economics
  • Hillbilly elegy
    • Bowling Alone
    • The Big Sort
  • Globalization
  • Opioid crisis

Republican Myths

As further enabled by the rise of the PR-state

  • White supremacy and the myth of American innocence
  • Trickle down economics –> Reagan
  • Powell Memo –> Think Tanks
  • McCarthyism; John Birch Society
  • America as a Judeo-Christian nation
  • Immigration is bad
  • Climate change denialism
  • Smoking is good for you

Americana and Hyper Partisanship through the ages

  • 2020 election
  • 2016 election
  • Obama years
  • 2008-09 financial crash
  • 9/11, WMD delusions, Iraq War, Islamic terrorism
  • 2000 Bush v. Gore
  • Welfare queens
  • Clinton and the Crime Bill
  • Reagan years
  • Watergate
  • Spiro Agnew
  • Nixon’s war on drugs as a proxy for the war on 60s counterculture
  • White militia movement
  • Civil rights & Vietnam
  • Cold War
  • The Holocaust; Stalin’s Great Terror; Mao’s famine
  • WWII & fascism
  • New Deal
  • Great Depression
  • WWI
  • Gilded Age
  • Snake oil
  • PT Barnum
  • Great Awakening preachers George Whitefield & Jonathan Edwards
    • they argued that church authorities should not own people’s direct relationship with God
  • KKK
  • Jim Crow
  • Reconstruction
  • Civil War & Confederacy — the ur-Hyper Partisanship.
  • States’ Rights
  • Anti-Intellectualism
  • Slavery
  • Racism, Misogyny
  • Federalism vs. Decentralization
  • The Constitution and the Rule of Law
  • Democracy overthrows monarchy
  • Spirit of the Laws — Montesquieu
  • Social contract; consent of the governed
  • Puritans
  • Religious freedom
  • Liberty vs. freedom
  • The Enlightenment
  • Magna Carta
  • The Bible

kompromat

What I do when I have compromising files to hide is I distribute them evenly across 3 different laptops and ensure that all 3 highly reliable “works for decades” Apple machines go kaput at the same exact time, at which point I leave my home and fly across the country to a jurisdiction patrolled by Rudy Giuliani to service these machines and perform data recovery because I am looking to add maximum inconvenience to my very busy life — a life so busy that I completely forget about my 3 precious laptops which once contained both my livelihood and my most deeply personal and secret materials.

You?

Also, data recovery for 3 laptops is totally $85.

Antidotes to the here and now

When the onslaught of news is overwhelming and oppressively Right Now, I like to escape by:

  1. Getting out of Here — read non-US and non-US based news, media, culture, and history. Try to intellectually get out in the world.
  2. Getting out of Now — read history, watch documentaries, read old novels, listen to classic (and classical) music, learn from the Stoics. Ponder ago.

War of the Worldviews: Hierarchy vs. Fairness

Hierarchy vs. Fairness is the dominant Manichaean struggle of our age, and perhaps every age before it: shall we structure our society with a strict hierarchical system of highs and lows, with power concentrated at the top? Or shall we have an egalitarian society where truth, justice, and fairness rule the day?

There are a lot of stories, myths, and narratives centered on this question: hierarchy or fairness? Cultural wars and actual wars have been waged — numerous times throughout history.

We are fighting a new incarnation of that war now in our nation, as civil unrest spreads following yet another extrajudicial murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin — who knelt on the neck of George Floyd for a jaw-dropping 8 minutes and 46 seconds: 2 minutes and 53 seconds beyond the point where Floyd lost consciousness and 1 minute and 54 seconds past the point fellow officers checked to confirm he had no pulse.

That is a staggeringly long time.

There is simply no credibility to the typical excuse that Chauvin somehow feared for his life — from an unarmed, handcuffed, prone, unconscious, and then lifeless George Floyd. Arrested over an allegedly counterfit $20 bill. Meanwhile Congress appropriates hundreds of billions and even trillions for big business and last I heard, no arrests had been made. Curious.

It starts in childhood

Psychologists like Alice Miller and Darcia Narvaez attribute this troubling mentality — this mentality that exhibits complete disregard for human life — as originating in our child-raising “techniques.” At one time corporal punishment for youth was the rule and not the exception; not uncoincidentally, the Hitler Youth of Germany had been largely raised under the “advice” of Daniel Gottlieb Moritz Shreber who advocated beating babies from a young age so the importance of obedience would be drilled into them early on.

It wasn’t until much later we learned that traumatized and neglected children display severe lesions affecting up to the 30 percent of the areas of the brain responsible for controlling emotions. In other words, “traditional” authoritarian child-rearing in the fundamentalist religion style of “spare the rod, spoil the child” produces emotionally crippled adults — who tend to enact the revenge fantasies of their internal repressed rage as adults later in life. They simply need be provided with an “authorized” scapegoat.

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt

Miller goes on to suggest the psychological survival mechanism of denial employed by abused children to survive their situation leads them to develop the kind of emotional blindness in adulthood that will turn the other way when witnessing violations of another person’s humanity — or may even be induced to carry them out. We’re all familiar with Nazi Adolf Eichmann’s “defense” of why he should be exonerated for behaving like a robotic killer: “I was just following orders.”

Teaching children to be obedient or be emotionally abandoned — whether through physical abuse or emotional abuse or both — is the key to unlocking this mystery of the appeal of hierarchy and authoritarianism which is seeing a resurgence not just in the United States but around the world — especially in Europe as well. Miller calls it “poisonous pedagogy” — not just parents but many other forms of authority indoctrinate youth in this vicious cycle and benefit from the creation of obedient individuals by amassing and maintaining power.

The kicker is we are not supposed to recognize this process — and if we do, we most certainly are not supposed to speak up about it. We are supposed to remain unaware that our deference to authority is merely a construct; a thin veneer over the insecurity of power that hopes desperately to continue wielding absurd moral authority over the masses. This collective and complicitous denial keeps us all locked in the dance of abuser and abused — essentially pretending it isn’t happening all around us including in our own homes.

The Founders advocated fairness

For all the right wing enjoys brandishing the Constitution as fundamental law, they tend to often miss the forest for the trees — that the founding fathers wrote extensively on their views and consideration in constructing a new nation towards the end of the 18th century, and that those views were decidedly against the arbitrary rule of kings and the strict striations of class as seen in the empires of Europe. They sought to get away from the cult of personality paradigm of the divine right of kings, believing that the rule of law should hold sway and that men ought to govern themselves through a political process with enough checks and balances to ensure no single branch or individual could wield too much power over others.

James Madison especially was a big believer in the “wisdom of crowds” to arrive at a better, more morally appropriate solution to legislation and problem solving. Moreover they were extremely uncomfortable with the role of slavery at the founding of the nation, despite being simultaneously apiece with the times and not entirely living up to those professed ideals.

Nevertheless, the role of ideals is to move us forward towards better times; to continually improve our individual and collective characters to get closer to living them out. Taking the founding ideals of fairness and equality as the guiding north star of a new nation and falling short is, in my humble opinion, still leagues farther along than giving in to the indulgent impulse towards supremacy and hierarchy and calling it a day. It’s the essence of progressivism as a vehicle for a narrative of self-growth — as opposed to the narrative hierarchy offers, which is static; dead; inert. There can be no change, no dynamism to a system which defines a priori everyone’s place in society.

Hierarchy is the politics of death.

Mass death is actually a bad thing for the economy

This past week we had a serious, unironic “debate” about whether or not senicide is a reasonable “plan” for handling the coronavirus crisis. This under the pretense that the other course of action — following the advice of medical professionals and epidemiologists to stay home and socially distance ourselves to curb the spread of covid-19 — is tantamount to shutting down the economy, which is tantamount to killing more people than the virus will.

Meanwhile, Congress passed a $2 trillion relief package, one quarter of which will go to the billionaire class with precious little oversight as to how it can be spent — and still apparently no one seems to have the slightest bit of confidence that the world’s richest economy can possibly weather the storms of depressed consumer demand for even several weeks much less the potentially many months this pandemic will rage across the planet. Perhaps this reveals that The Economy simply isn’t as robust as we tell ourselves it is during better times.

Dead Men Pay No Taxes

The proposed Sophie’s Choice between weeks or months of physical separation and allowing many people to die all around us is a false frame.

Millions of people dying is bad for The Economy in a very similar way to how having ICE eject millions of people from the economy is bad for The Economy. Insofar as economies require a labor force, and insofar as governments require revenue from taxation to pay for the infrastructure upon which The Economy rests, having millions of people depart from them is not a pathway to improving the economy — it is the opposite.

However, perhaps The Economy itself has become a contested concept. There may be a class-based and/or ideologically-based difference of opinion on what this concept means. Perhaps there is now:

  • the economy: the traditionally-held view of economies as markets in which individuals labor and contribute value, and trade assets in mutually beneficial ways to allocate resources efficiently
  • The Economy: a sort of shell game played by the right-wing authoritarian cohort in which the Plebes are starved of infrastructure and resources to the point of being mired inside an Eternal Present — in which we lurch from crisis to crisis — that brokers no hope for the future and no actual policy being made, other than the “policies” which continue to print money from the Federal Treasury for the purposes of propping up the precariously fragile billionaire class whose claims of meritocratic supremacy are stretched thinner and thinner each time the shells are moved yet again

Starving the Beast kills it: Feature or bug?

On paper, “Starving the Beast” is passed off as deeply held ideological libertarianism regarding the fundamental goodness of small government. In practice, starving beasts tend to die of preventable causes — and if governments are to retain the kind of power needed to be a check and balance on a growing hypercapitalist economy, they must indeed grow as well.

But beyond the general case, our specific circumstances of global pandemic lead us to a reasonable question: if laissez-faire capitalism and the free hand of the market is supposedly both sufficient to solve all human problems and vastly superior than the socialist hand of government at doing these things, then why are we in such a pickle? Why hasn’t the Invisible Hand managed to come up with its own solution to the mass death we are currently experiencing?

Or is the answer we might hear one that is too grim to bear — having been provided a clue this week in the grumbling of sacrificing the old to save the young — that a certain part of the political spectrum believe this is the market working as intended. That mass death is an acceptable “negative externality” of laissez-faire capitalism and that we bleeding-heart liberals ought to suck it up and grow thicker skin, rather than demand that governments step in to prevent preventable human atrocity.

Not only am I afraid of the answer — I’m afraid we’ll never get a straight answer in the world of political ketman we seem to have blundered into. In this world, right-wing elites including numerous elected officials continue to give lip service to a democracy that has been systematically hollowed out since the redoubling of the conservative movement in the 1970s to present, to currently resemble a geopolitical reality closer to that of modern Russia than to anything James Madison or Alexander Hamilton would have recognized.

It is technically possible that psychologically speaking, they themselves are actually unaware of this seismic shift in ideological views from that of democratic power and Constitutional authority to one of authoritarian rule and total technocratic control — but I think it’s more likely they’re simply not saying it out loud.