The Founders were agile

The Founders meant for the republic to be agile in philosophy — always changing to meet the new demands of the next generations. They meant for us to be self-governing, and empowered to create policy for problem-solving in new eras they themselves could not even conceive of. Thomas Jefferson wrote forewarningly of the Dead Hand of the Past and how critical it would be to not remain trapped by it. The Founders were agile not in the sense of software development (obviously!), but in the same spirit: they embraced responding to change over following a plan, and in continuously uncovering ways to develop a more perfect union.

Conservative ideology on the other hand — and in particular, Originalism — flouts the actual intentions of the Framers while cloaking itself in nationalist symbology. It tries to claim that our modern hands are tied by the dead ones of the past. The Originalist doctrine currently holding sway at The Supreme Court, The Federalist Society, and the majority of right-wing judiciary maintains that the best we can do is peer feebly into the distant past and try our best to squeeze ourselves into the minds of the men who inked our Constitution some 235 years ago.

The Founders wrote things. A lot of things.

Leaving aside for a moment the impracticality of that theory as an actual practice of interpreting the law, some consideration of materials on hand shows us that we needn’t go to all that trouble in the first place — why? Because the Founders left a lot of writings behind about exactly what they meant, and the principles they were thinking about, at the time of the nation’s founding and the drafting of our Constitution.

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Essential thinkers on authoritarian personality theory

Many people around the world were shocked in the aftermath of World War II. How could “polite” society break down so utterly, so swiftly, and so zealously? Why did the authoritarian personality come to dominate human affairs, seemingly out of nowhere? How thin is this veneer of civilization, really?

The authoritarian personality is characterized by excessive strictness and a propensity to exhibit oppressive behavior towards perceived subordinates. On the flip side, they treat authority figures with mindless obedience and unquestioning compliance. How did they get this way? Are people born with authoritarian personalities, or is the authoritarian “made” predominately by circumstance?

A braintrust of scholars, public servants, authors, psychologists, and others have been analyzing these questions ever since. Some of the most prominent thinkers on the subject of authoritarianism were either themselves affected by the Nazi regime, or lived through the war in some capacity. Other more recent contributions have built on those original foundations, refining and extending them as more new history continues to unfold with right-wing behavior to observe.

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Why do people believe conspiracy theories?

Conspiracy theories are not new. Covid-related conspiracies may be new, but conspiracy theories about pandemics and contagious diseases have been around for centuries. Anti-vaccination hysteria goes back decades. The specific group of theories known as QAnon may be new (or maybe not really?!), but conspiracy theories themselves are a tale(s) as old as time — or at least time as we know it, from the start of recorded history.

QAnon flag epitomizes modern-day conspiracy theories
Image credit: Anthony Crider

A large body of psychological research has shown that there are some deep cognitive reasons that conspiracy theories tend to resonate with us, and especially in particular types of people, or people in certain types of circumstances.

We are fundamentally wired to be storytellers. It’s intuitive why this ability might be hard-coded into our brains, as it so clearly relates to survival, self-preservation, and our ability to navigate and succeed in a complex world. We need to be able to understand cause and effect in an environment of many rapidly shifting variables, and storytelling is a framework for weaving coherent narratives that reduce our anxiety about the great uncertainties in the environment around us.

Conspiracy theories tap into psychological needs

Conspiratorial thinking is far more common than we think, and can ebb and flow in populations based on prevailing conditions. Our ability to see patterns in randomness and dissemble stories on the spot, along with numerous other cognitive and psychological biases, make us vulnerable to belief in conspiracy theories.

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January 6 Commission hearings reveal evidence of a coup

In a special 6th session of the January 6 Commission Hearings that was not anticipated, former Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson revealed bombshell testimony under oath about what the witnessed and heard in the White House leading up to and on the violent January 6 coup event. From her forthright and gripping account, today we learned:

Trump didn’t care the protestors had AR-15s

According to testimony, he was mad the Ellipse did not appear more filled in such that photos of the event would look anemic. He wanted the security screenings stopped so the people with guns, knives, and other weapons could come in without fear of having their weapons confiscated.

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End mass shootings now

Freedom is freedom from the fear of death.

Freedom is freedom from fearing you’ll be gunned down at school.

Freedom is freedom from fear your kids won’t come home from school.

Freedom is freedom from fear of going to the grocery store.

Freedom is freedom from senseless violence.

Freedom is freedom from murderous rampages replayed night after night.

Freedom is freedom from domestic warfare.

Freedom is freedom from weapons of warfare in our communities, in our churches, in our schools, in our stores, on our playing fields, on our streets.

Freedom is freedom from injustice.

Freedom is freedom from inaction.

Collective narcissism is a bad solution to modern anxiety

I’ve been reading Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom and it’s synthesizing a few things together for me in new ways — prime among them the realization that collective narcissism is the shared root ideology of both Christian nationalism and Nazism. First off, I’d recommend it:

Next, I’d like to thank it for reminding me about the insidious dangers of Calvinism and the Protestant Work Ethic, as described in sociologist Max Weber‘s most cited work in the history of the field. Beyond the problematic authoritarianism of John Calvin as a person himself, the ideology of predestination coupled with a paradoxical obsessive compulsion with working yourself ragged is a noxious brew that fed the Protestant extrusion of American capitalism as well as the murderous violence of its Manifest Destiny.

Reformation Ideologies

Calvin — like Luther before him — was reacting to the social and economic upheavals of his day which, during the Reformation, were all about the middle class emerging from the security and certainty of feudalism into a far more dynamic world of competition, isolation, and aloneness. It held promise but also peril — hope along with, inescapably, fear.

During the Middle Ages, humankind had retreated from the aspirational virtuousness of the Greek and Roman civilizations and descended into almost 1000 years of darkness, as compared to the dazzling intellectual brilliance of the millennium before it. Those who would prefer cultish cowering in self-righteous ignorance over the humility of fallible science and critical thinking managed to topple a glittering civilization and scatter it to the wolves. It was a return to cruel and arbitrary happenstance, a horrifying Hobbesian world of pestilence and pathology.

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The GOP is 3 Cults in a Trenchcoat

One of two major parties in our American first-past-the-post voting system of dual-party reality, the Republican Party, has evolved into a full-throated authoritarian movement seeking to overthrow our democracy, The Constitution, and the rule of law in order to establish a fascist regime in the United States. It’s been a not-so-secret fever dream on the right for decades and even centuries — and the old guard reflexively senses their time is coming to an end. The GOP is 3 cults in a trenchcoat, having been hollowed out and twisted to the point of trying desperately to hold it together for another election cycle in which they can try to capture power forever — or at least long enough to erase the evidence of their criminal behavior during the Trump years culminating in a coup attempt on January 6, 2021.

The 3 Republican cults are as follows:

  1. The Wealth Cult — led by Charles Koch, among others
  2. The Christian Nationalist Cult — led by Mike Pence, and by Mike Flynn and the Council for National Policy
  3. The White Nationalist Cult — led by Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, with a parallel intertwined branch led by Peter Thiel and the Dark Enlightenment neo-Reactionaries

The Wealth Cult

Led by Charles Koch et al, the mostly aging, Boomer crowd who controls much of the US government either directly or indirectly as a donor or operative is starting to panic for one reason or another: the fear of death looming, existential worries about thwarted or unmet ambition, economic turn of the wheel starting to leave their fortunes in decline. Much of this crowd inherited the free market ideological zeal from their fathers along with their trust fund fortunes that some have squandered (Trump), tread water with (Coors, Scaife), or grown (Koch, DeVos).

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Ukraine War and Russia resources πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦

Some of us have been boning up on this topic for about 6 years already, while others are just tuning in now based on the horrors of recent events. It can be overwhelming to come in cold, so here — don’t go it alone! Take this:

Putin’s war against the west

President Biden “declassified” an intelligence analysis many of us had arrived at some time ago: Russian president Vladimir Putin is a cruel revanchist leader who will stop at nothing to claw out a larger legacy before he dies. His goal is nothing less than reconstituting the former Soviet Union and restoring the “glory” of the Russian empire of yesteryear. And for some reason he thinks the world community is going to let him get away with his delusional fever dreams of conquest — as if fever dreams of Mongol domination are still de rigueur.

The attacks on the 2016 election and on the American Capitol in 2021 are related — both are Russian hybrid warfare operations. Russia also is the cold beating heart of the right-wing authoritarianism movement around the world, via financial, political, psychological, economic, and other means of government and regulatory capture.

Putin has hated democracy for a long time — since before the Berlin Wall fell where he was stationed in East Berlin as a young KGB agent, taking the news hard. Now, he has many fifth column confederates aiding and abetting him from within the United States — a number of them brazenly, and openly. It is getting harder and harder for those treasonous types to “hide out” in the folds of disinformation, misinformation, and plausible deniability. The play is being called — and everyone will need to decide if they’re for democracy or authoritarianism.

Further reading:

Media Resources

Twitter Lists

Legitimate political discourse? πŸ€”

The Republican National Committee, in perhaps the most stunningly stupid self-own in the history of modern politics certainly in my lifetime, finally said the quietest part out loud: that in their official pronouncement, the events at the Capitol on January 6 constituted “legitimate political discourse.” Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger were censured by the RNC in the statement as well, for their role on the January 6 Committee and their investigation into these “legitimate” events involving a murderous attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power.

Yale historian Joanne Freeman had this to say about the RNC statement:

Democracy vs. Authoritarianism is on the ballot in 2022

If there’s any upside to the dark situation we’re in, it’s these gifts Republicans keep on giving — further debasing themselves each time you think they can’t possibly stoop any morally lower — that we can use to our advantage to turn out our base in record numbers in these upcoming midterms. We did it in 2018, and there’s no reason to believe we can’t do it now. Trump’s support is waning, not growing — and the fractures within the GOP are widening, not tightening. Plus, we’ll have 8 million new 18-year-old eligible voters we can potentially reach — the vast majority of whom statistically speaking, are going to be progressive Democrats.

None of the other policy questions or culture wars will matter if we cannot solve the most fundamental question at the heart of our democracy: do we still believe in the ideals of the Constitution, the rule of law, and the vision of a self-governing people shared by the Founders? Or do we want to hand over the keys to the nation to the erstwhile billionaires, old money heirs, and trust fund playboys who want to drag us back to some perverted nostalgic fantasyland that’s part Leave It To Beaver, part wild west, and part Silence of the Lambs?

Do we want democracy, or authoritarianism?

Do we want to choose our leaders, as citizens — or do we want politicians to choose our leaders?

It’s the only question in 2022.

January 6 Attack: A “dagger at the throat of America”

President Biden and Vice President Harris commemorated the 1 year anniversary of the January 6 attack on our democracy with morning speeches and a day of remembrance inside the Capitol rotunda with Representatives and Senators giving a number of moving speeches in their respective chambers. The tone on TV news and blue check Twitter was somber and reflective. The President referred to the violent events of Jan 6, 2021 as a terrorist attack on our democracy, and said that the threat was not yet over — that the perpetrators of that event still hold a “dagger at the throat of America.”

Only two Republicans were present in chambers when the moment of silence was held for the nation’s traumatic experience one year ago — Representative Liz Cheney and her father, Dick Cheney, the former VP and evil villain of the George W. Bush years. That this man — a cartoonish devil from my formative years as a young activist — was, along with his steel-spined force of nature daughter, one half of the lone pair that remained of the pathetic tatters of the once great party of Lincoln.

What do you do if you’re in a 2-party system and one of the parties is just sitting on the sidelines, heckling (and worse!?)? How do you restore confidence in a system that so many people love to hate, to the point of obsession? Will we be able to re-establish a sense of fair play, as Biden called on us to do today in his speech?

The Big Lie is about rewriting history

We don’t need to spend a ton of time peering deeply into discerning motive with seditionists — we can instead understand that for all of them, serving the Big Lie serves a function for them in their lives. It binds them to their tribe, it signals a piece of their “identity,” and it signals loyalty within a tight hierarchy that rewards it — all while managing to serve their highest goal of all: to annoy and intimidate liberals. Like all bullies, their primary animating drive is a self-righteous conviction that “I am RIGHT!” at all times and about all things, and that disagreement is largely punishable by death or, in lieu of that, dark twisted fantasies of death passed off lamely and pathetically as “just joking, coworker!”

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Change the filibuster to save democracy

Majority Leader Schumer is right to come around to the idea that the filibuster must be changed in order to pass voting rights and save our democratic republic from the forces of authoritarianism.

The filibuster is an archaic rule that was at first only there by accident, then whittled into a sharp blade of minority rule by Southern plantation owner John C. Calhoun — a man credited with laying the groundwork for the Civil War.

The South Carolina plutocrat strategized on behalf of wealthy aristocratic ambitions in the 1820s and 30s. Dubbed the “Marx of the master class” by historian Richard Hofstadter, Calhoun consumed himself with an obsession over how to establish permanent rule by his 1% brethren. He was an early proponent of property over people — the original “just business” kind of cold calculating supremacist that would come to typify the darker southern shadow culture of America.

Calhoun came to the conclusion that the Founders had made a grave mistake when creating the nation, and had put in too much democracy and too little property protection. He had a conviction that collective governance ought to be rolled back, because it “exploited” the wealthy planter class such as himself. During his time in the Senate he engineered a number of clever devices for the minority to rule over the collective will of the public — dubbed a “set of constitutional gadgets” for restricting the operations of a democratic government by a top political scientist at the time.

Public choice theory and Charles Koch

Slaveholding Senator John C. Calhoun inspired a series of men in the future to take up the torch of minority rule and its apparatus. James McGill Buchanan combined ideas from F. A. Hayek with fascist strains of Calhoun’s ministrations in the Senate to pack a conservative economic punch with public choice theory.

A young Charles Koch was exposed to Buchanan’s re-interpretation of Calhoun’s re-intepretation of the founders’ intentions, and embarked on a lifelong mission to indoctrinate the world in the religion of hyper-libertarian Ayn Randian fiscal austerity.

New lie, same as the old lie. The old lie is that America was never intended to be a democracy — which is doublespeak nonsense. But “conservatives” have been fighting fervently for this original Big Lie since time immemorial.

So: Charles Koch is the new John C. Calhoun. He and his vast navel-gazing empire of “think tanks” and other organs of self-regurgitation have managed to brainwash enough people and operate enough bots to make it almost a coin toss whether the average citizen believes the nation was founded as a democratic republic or an authoritarian theocracy.

The filibuster is one of the strongest minority rule tools in their toolbox.

We must bust the filibuster.

Repression causes authoritarianism

Research has shown that emotional repression causes authoritarianism (Altemeyer, Adorno, Stenner et al). Fundamentalist religious groups favor the most repression, culturally — ergo, fundamentalist groups are at the highest risk for nurturing authoritarian traits.

Emotional repression is the keystone of fundamentalist parenting. The strict application of “Biblical law” as cherry-picked by extremists is inherently contradictory & hypocritical, stunting emotional and psychological growth through corporal punishment and capricious applications of anger for sometimes opaque reasons.

When trusted caregivers apply physical violence to a developing mind, seeds of deep distrust and paranoia are planted. Children learn to “obey” by repressing negative parts of themselves so deeply they fall out of conscious awareness altogether & rule the personality “from below.”

The abused child learns “splitting” as a psychological defense mechanism, which later in adulthood is considered a “superpower” — they present a saccharine but False Self in their outer aspect to the tribe, and sequester negative id impulses deep down into an “inner sociopath.”

Repression creates divided minds

Never being given the required emotional support to transcend the paradoxical human project of reconciling the positive & negative aspects inherent in all people, they become “arrested” at a moment of obsession with punishment as the only solution to every problem. They see the world in very black and white terms — the classic “you’re either with us or against us” zero-sum worldview in which everybody who doesn’t agree with you must be delegitimized and eradicated completely.

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Koup Klux Klan: The authoritarian movement trying to take over America?

It may have seemed like the election of 2016 came out nowhere, and the January 6, 2021 attempted coup event was another deep gash to the fabric of assumption — but in reality, the authoritarian movement to dismantle America has been working diligently for a long time. Depending on how you count, the current war against the government began in the 1970s after Roe v. Wade, or in the 1960s after the Civil Rights Act, or in the 1950s with the John Birch Society, or in the 1930s with the American fascists, or in the 1870s with the Redemption and Lost Cause Religion, or in the 1840s with the Southern Baptist split, or in the 1790s when we emerged from the Articles of Confederation.

We are facing an unprecedented crisis of democracy under attack by the most current roster of these extremists, hardliners, theocrats, plutocrats, and others of their ilk. The following mind map diagrams the suspects and perpetrators of the Jan 6 coup as we know so far — including the Council for National Policy, the Koch network, Trump and his merry band of organized criminals, the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and other right-wing militia groups, rioters who have been arrested in the January 6th probe, persons of interest who have been subpoena’d by the January 6 Committee in the House, and anyone or anything else connected to the ongoing plot to kill America whether near or far in relation. The map extends to include coverage of the basic factions at work in the confusing melodrama of American politics, and their historical precedents.

Mind map of the sedition diaspora

I’ll be continuing to work on this as information comes out of the various investigations and inquiries into the attempted coup to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, from the January 6 Committee to Merrick’s DOJ, the GA district attorney, NY district attorney, various civil suits, and probably more we don’t even know about yet. You can navigate the full mind map as it grows here:

Head onward into “Continue Reading” to see the same mind map through a geographic perspective:

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McCarthy’s speech stunt gives gift of Democratic midterm slogans

Bootlicker Kevin McCarthy showboated his way through an evening of scorn and ridicule for his audience of one: Herr Trump. His sad evening comedy routine for the “just joking!” crowd was an act of political theater given no votes in his caucus were ever in danger of voting for the bill, thus no need to persuade them. McCarthy’s speech sparked jeers and heckles from the chamber itself as well as the wider outside world, as tweets poured forth from inside and out of the Capitol.

Fortunately, the GOP Leader failed to stop Biden’s Build Back Better plan while gifting the Democrats with a healthy dose of both comedy gold and some irresistable mid-term slogans:

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Property vs. People, all the way down

Or capital vs. labor, oligarchs vs. plebes, plutocrats vs. proles, rich vs. poor — however you want to narrate it, the property vs. people struggle continues on in new and old ways, each and ere day.

Here in America, the plutocrats have devised many clever methods of hiding the class struggle behind a race war smokescreen, that is both real and manufactured — instigated, exacerbated, agitated by the likes of schlubby wife abusers like Sloppy Steve Bannon, wrinkly old Palpatines like Rupert Murdoch, and shady kleptocrats like Trump and Putin.

The United States has nursed an underground Confederacy slow burning for centuries, for sociopathic demagogues to tap into and rekindle for cheap and dangerous political power. Like The Terminator, racist and supremacist troglodytes seem always to reconstitute themselves into strange and twisted new forms, from slavery to the Black Codes to sharecropping to convict leasing to Jim Crow to Jim Crow 2.0 — the psychopaths want their homeland.

The political left loves people, and our extremists for the most part destroy capital or property that insurance companies will pay to make shiny and new again — unlike the right wing extremists who bomb federal buildings, killing hundreds of people and costing taxpayers’ money to replace.

Meanwhile, the right wing claims to be the righteous party for its extreme fixation on life before birth, yet its regulation-allergic capitalists destroy people and the natural world more broadly, from factory farming to deforestation, the destruction of habitats, strip-mining and other toxic extraction practices, and on into climate change itself. Being in fact the chief architects of manmade atmospheric devastation, they have managed to make themselves invisible from the deed by simply (wink wink!) denying it exists.

WWJD?!

Certainly, not anything the Republican Party is up to. Jesus would be sad.