Category Archives: Politics

Alternative facts and the politics of obfuscation

It didn’t take long for Americans to witness a major Gaslighting moment from the administration. There was Sean Spicer, blustering from the WH podium that the inaugural crowds were YUGE! The dishonest media just didn’t photo(shop)graph the scene correctly.  There are a couple of serious points to consider about this performance.

First, there’s the obvious lie. Easily debunked, easily dismissed. The crowd wasn’t historic, the ratings weren’t all that impressive. That the crowd size and the ratings are of primary interest says more about the personality deficits of the incumbent than about the politics of the nation.  Even if infotainment from the press room can be categorized as “alternative facts.” (Lies)

Secondly,  we’re seeing clues here about both the media and the administration.

E.J. Dionne opined this morning that we should be concerned about the continual tendency of the administration to propound those “alternative facts,” lest we start to fall for the Gaslighting and start doubting our own knowledge and experience.  He’s right, because obfuscation is an exceptionally effective tool to move masses.

Consider the example of the tobacco industry.  When it was perfectly clear from the science that smoking and cancer were definitely related, the corporations first denied the correlation and when that failed the focus shifted to the “need for more study” to eliminate all doubt.  This playbook informs the current debate about climate change.  In both instances the object of the game was to sow doubt where none should have existed, and thereby protect corporate interests and place profits before people.

Lies make an effective smoke screen.   An administration spokesperson may announce that there is, for example, an epidemic of abortions for female foetuses.  There isn’t, but that doesn’t really matter.  The game, as Sherlock said, is afoot.

The comment, if left unchallenged will enter the civil discourse and become a talking point. The talking point becomes magnified by social and press media, leaving those who would want a rational discussion scrambling to debunk lies before they can make space for their own public arguments.

The challenge element is essential.  Creating a challenge friendly environment is necessarily a cooperative effort.  Broadcast and print media must function based on standards of ethical journalism.  To do less is to reduce the press to stenographers and mouthpieces.  There’s a role for the public as well.

There are station managers who periodically need to be reminded that some biases may be inevitable but the retailing of lies and  their cousin falsehoods serves no one’s interest in a democracy.  Newspaper editors should be reminded as well.  Talking back to your television set is never as effective as talking to an editor or station manager.

Ultimate truth might be difficult to discern, but discerning accuracy is much simpler.  Simply demand accuracy.

So, while we’re compiling phone contacts for our members of the Congress we might want to add a couple of station managers and editors to the list?

** 202-224-3121 for your Congressional Representatives and Senators. #resist

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A few words for concern trolls and boo birds about the Women’s March

A word or two for the concern trolls and boo birds regarding the Women’s March…

First, to the Trumpers: Hurling epithets is outdated. While terms like “libtard, buttercup, snowflake, or femi-nazi” may induce chortles from the bar buddies saturated with hate radio talking points, times have changed.  There’s a point at which formal policy is secondary to cultural acceptability.  And, no, it’s no longer socially acceptable to grab and grope the women. Actually, in polite society it never was. There are fewer judges willing to adopt the boys will be boys, or the she must have been asking for it, mode and when they do they make undeniably negative headlines. What might have been socially comprehensible 50 years ago is unacceptable today — in part because women have simply stopped putting up with it, in part because no brother, uncle, father, or husband wants his female relatives to put up with it.

Secondly,  to the concern trolls who pontificate that the March won’t be effective because…it doesn’t have a precisely focused agenda, it encompasses too many divergent interests, it doesn’t have the right people saying all the right words…

Let’s start with the obvious proposition that there is no magic formula for effective social action. Nor is there any single organizational structure that guarantees efficiency and instant rewards.

For example, consider the unfocused agenda argument.  This presumes that the protesters must have a single issue or a specific agenda. Issue organizations which develop agendas have to start somewhere,  and that somewhere is networking.  The Occupy movement was pronounced ineffective because it didn’t generate specific policy proposals and attendant lobbying.  This critique is roughly analogous to arguing that all fires should be lit with a blow torch, because it’s far more efficient than putting a match to kindling.

We won’t know for some time how much local networking was accomplished during that protest. It won’t be immediately  apparent how that networking will play out in single issues and focused agendas to come. We’ll not know how many interconnected individual snowflakes will come together at some point to create an avalanche.

We might move along to the marches don’t work anymore argument, too often premised on the notion that if it isn’t the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice it isn’t worth consideration.

Again, those looking for instant gratification as the measure of social activism will forever be disappointed. The point of the Women’s March, as I understand it, isn’t to drive the Orange Foolious from the District of Columbia taking his myrmidons with him, but to direct national attention to the rights and needs of women in this country.

Then there is the ripple effect. Women who participate in the Washington March and those who engage in the satellite marches,  will go home and from thence come more measurable results.  Those who participated in these activities we can assume will be more likely to contact their congressional representatives, more likely to write or call senators, more likely to organize local issues, or even more likely to run for offices.

Newton’s First Law, abbreviated, an object in motion will stay in motion until it encounters another force. The motion is just beginning.

 

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Questions for Black Friday

Question One – When might we expect to see Representative Mark Amodei  (R-NV2) hold a town hall meeting to explain to the 22,500 constituents who have health insurance via the Affordable Care Act in his district why repealing the ACA is such a great idea?

Question Two – If the Trumpster Administration shuts down the multi-agency investigation of contacts and ties to the Putin regime, will the beltway media slink off quietly into the night, or will the press pursue the story?

Question Three: Will we have to subscribe to foreign newspapers to find out the results of investigations into collusion between the Trumpster and the Russians?

Question Four – How quickly will Trumpster cabinet members find out that running a government department dealing with real issues affecting real people isn’t fun when reality clashes with their ideological fantasies?

Question Five – Will the Democratic Party get started today planning for the 2018 mid term elections?

Question Six – Can the Democrats stop applying Purity Tests to each other long enough to effectively coordinate efforts to win in those mid term elections?

Question Seven – What are the implications of the fact that the Trumpster’s approval is at 35%, remembering that George Bush’s approval after Katrina was 43.7%?

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Zero Sum Games

Well, at least white men still like him? Perhaps the same white members of the population who stick to Fox News and hate radio? Perhaps the same folks who have donned the trappings of victimhood and bemoaned their losses? This only works if freedom and civil rights are perceived as finite. The more I get the more you lose?

I suppose that this is possible if people spent hours each day bring bombarded by messages like ‘there’s a war on Christmas.’ The underlying idea is that Christians are under attack, no such thing of course is taking place or ever has. This is the classic examplar, but it does serve as a marker for the general image.

This in turn creates the underpinning for that zero sum game, and the associated double standard for how opposition is described. When women organize a march on Washington they’re indulging in a ‘tantrum’ but when tea bag adorned protesters descended on the District it was a grassroots movement — organized by Americans for Prosperity.

If women are guaranteed control of their own health care decisions this is characterized as anti-life, but when the government adopts a forced birth policy this somehow doesn’t violate their concept of personal liberty.

If African American home buyers are guaranteed that their financials will be evaluated under the same standards as those of white American home buyers, how does anyone lose?

If gay and lesbian couples are guaranteed the same benefits of marriage as straight couples, then how is the institution of marriage as a recognized contractual relationship not strengthened?

If police officers are better trained to adopt the best practices of community policing, then how are anyone’s rights diminished?

It is not by addressing ethnic and religious differences that we are divided, it’s because there’s truncated dialog that stops when the majority decides that discussion is a form of assault.

It is not by debating the merits of financial, educational, and economic reforms in terms of their impact on minorities, women, and working people that’s divisive, it’s when we don’t acknowledge the needs of others that we unsure of their commitment to our interests.

So, only when those trappings of imaginary victimhood are removed will the scales drop from the eyes. <rant>

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My List

Monday morning the need for accountability becomes paramount.  There are some issues which require continuous investigation and reporting, my list:

  • The efforts of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. Investigations have been launched, some ongoing since last summer.  Efforts to curtail or stall these investigations could easily be characterized as evidence substantiating the charges.
  • The efforts of Tom Price as a cabinet member to implement the elements of his Empowering Patients First Act, which would send the health insurance system back to the days of junk insurance and perhaps worse should the corporations be allowed to bypass state consumer protection systems.
  • The unholy alliance of Pruitt, Perry, et.al. to deconstruct environmental protection in favor of protecting the interests of exploiters and polluters.
  • The efforts to suppress voting and civil rights.
  • The privatization of public education, and coordinated efforts to use public funds to support religious efforts.
  • The tendency to demonize members of minority/ethnic communities.

That should keep journalists busy for a while?

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Repeal and Replace with stale and fail

There is a sort of, kind of, GOP pn to replace the Affordable Care Act, it’s the set of proposals from Tom Price. [Some discussion available at Forbes] Essentially this version of the ‘replacement’ is a collection of the frail, the failed, and the stale. Some items of note:uran

  • It gives the insurance companies a loophole to reintroduce exclusions for preexisting conditions.
  • It encourages health savings accounts, another way of giving the well to do another tax break.
  • It offers subsidies which would likely only help with the low coverage health insurance plans that could be advertised as ‘comprehensive’ before the ACA.
  • Just about anything on a piece of paper would qualify as an insurance policy, opening loopholes for the creation of ‘place holder policies,’ and the life time limit junk insurance which could be sold before the ACA.
  • Portability is shorthand for the elimination of consumer protection enforced by state insurance officials. If almost anything qualifies as an insurance policy then such policies would be allowable in all states, regardless of state requirements.

This, of course, isn’t the only set of proposals out there. However, it does contain some common GOP ideas about how to get back to those not so wonderful days when junk insurance could pass for the real thing, and when insurance corporations could use all the premium money they wanted on executive compensation or other shenanigans.

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2092 days

The Trumpster promised that if President Obama would release his birth certificate he would release his tax returns.  So, as of April 27, 2011 Trumpster was on record … Not that keeping his word is of much importance.  It’s been 2092 days since the promise was made and subsequently ignored.

It’s not just the returns. Build a wall?  Well, maybe a bit of fencing. Mexico will pay for it? No, that would be the American taxpayers. Now, the Trumpster announces health insurance for everyone,  Everyone!  Well not unless the old ideas like health savings accounts, portability, high risk pool can do the job. That these haven’t worked in the past is conveniently omitted.

It appears the only words which tend to hold are the Kremlin talking points. NATO is obsolete. (Unless you happen to be in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland…) The European market is failing. (Unless you happen to be in Germany, France, Spain…)

At least some questions might be addressed by releasing the tax returns, but until such time as they appear in public the obvious conclusion is that there are “foreign entanglements” enveloping the president-elect.

2092 and counting.

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