Trust, reliability, and confidence in performance go out the window when lying becomes the norm. When the rule of law is dubious, subject to whimsical interventions by unrelated, self-interested parties, deals fall through or do not get negotiated at all.
We have known for many months about the Russian troll factories that worked to elect Donald Trump, but we finally know their names and who was running the operation. We also know that many "unwitting" or a we like to say "witless" Americans assisted the Russians in this effort.
Fighting back will be very difficult. Right now, Jared Kushner, a man who cannot pass a top secret security clearance and has dealings with Russians is collecting intelligence reports for who knows what? Is he relaying intelligence to our enemies for profit? Are our agents compromised? We may not find out until it's too late. But we do know a few details from Robert Mueller's indictments of Russian operatives.
We need to remain vigilant and observant. Americans need to rely on each other to tell the truth, to correct one another honestly and directly and without attacking on another. That is a difficult task, with issues that are being exploited by the very people we are combating. The book recommendations below should help in that endeavor.
Imagine having to prove that you voted for the right party to obtain a driver's license or to collect social security, to have your papers processed in court, or to get a guaranteed loan for a house. What if you had to pay a bribe or a kickback to the office holders?
That's how things operate in banana republics around the world. Supporters get jobs, opponents do not. It's one reason Andrew Jackson holds such a special place in the current White House. That was the man who relished the spoils system of government, of insiders and outsiders, of exclusive access, and lest we forget -slavery.
Those things are not accidental coincidences. They are part and parcel of an authoritarian way of doing things, of seizing control of other people. It is no wonder that the current administration praises dictators and leaders who abuse their people and profit from criminal activity. These are the models for the kind of kleptocracy we are facing today.
The Kremlin is the mode of privatization we are facing, where national parks, federal agencies, and the nation's infrastructure is being eyed for takeover by cronies. That sort of opportunistic dealing would be unthinkable in the past 50 years, but this administration is putting it on the table. We have to fight this. To keep future generations of Americans free from the robber barons of the present, who are trying very hard to serve themselves and their friends to the bounty of hard-working Americans.
Be vigilant, be prepared, be connected to other people. Together we can stop this. But we also need to think of the future and how to prevent it from happening again. We need better anti-corruption laws, and more work on embedding the kind of behaviors we should expect from elected officials, making it harder to do self-dealing.
For this reason, we support the efforts of those who are working on improving our laws to prevent this kind of catastrophe. The National Task Force on the Rule of Law & Democracy
is an excellent endeavor at this critical moment in our nation's history. We fully endorse it's objectives and the methods by which it is seeking to implement them. Please join us in supporting this work. Corruption must end.
It is very exciting to see so many women (and some men) running for office to make America a better place. Running for political office is more complicated than many people realize, but please don't let it deter you. There are many public resources as well as a number of helpful guides and books to ensure that you know how to run a clean campaign, free of Russian interference or funding (Avoid NRA money please.).
First, for federal offices, House, Senate, President, you will need to abide by Federal Election Laws as well as a variety of state laws for getting on the ballot in the jurisdiction(s) in which you are interested in holding office. The Federal Election Commission provides information for potential candidates. Check with the Secretary of State's Office in your state regarding the state laws, filing and reporting requirements for your state.
Second. choose the right people for your campaign. Among the most important issues that you will face is hiring a competent campaign manager and treasurer. You may want to consult you local Bar Association for a list of attorneys who can assist in preparing the myriad reports that you may need to file. Competence matters. For a treasurer, you may want to hire a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to ensure that your finances are handled according to law. Again, seek recommendations from local accountants and state boards of public accountancy. Be sure to check references. Always call and follow up on the references provided. Ask whether each of them would hire that person again and how they would rate them on a scale of one to ten. Develop questions about how each candidate has performed in the past. It is the best predictor of the future. See the book recommendation below. Who, by Geoff Smart and Randy Street is a fantastic book, which is listed at the very bottom of this post.
Do not hire the first person you find. Compare at least three candidates for these positions. We recommend that you include other people in the interviews to get their opinions as well. Make sure that they use the same standards that you are using. Plan the interviews together and make your decision about who to hire together. You will continue to need people to advise you.
Finally, be very selective about who you listen to, who you hire, and what their qualifications and knowledge really is. Avoid people who just want to hang around. Look for people who share a passion for making the country a better place to live. Selecting people around you will be the most important part of serving the public in the best possible way. If you think that you know everything you need to know. please do not run for public office. We need people who are wise enough to know that they do not know everything. If that is you, and you have the good of the broader community in mind, we need you now.
There is almost nothing to say about Dr. King's message or legacy that has not already been said, but on this day, we need to remember how important it is to continue to fight for justice, to fight for the oppressed, to recommit ourselves to the struggle for equality.
Here are some very good educational resources:
The National Civil Rights Museum (Memphis, Tennessee)
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Alabama)
The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute (Selma, Alabama)
We now know that the obvious is true. The administration is a poorly built house of cards, smoke and mirrors, cheap Chinese ties, and phony claims of grandeur. By any measure, popularity, national prestige, number of countries willing to follow our lead, we have experienced a disaster of massive proportions. A small percentage of the electorate was duped into voting for a con artist and America's most absurd institutional weakness allowed the Electoral College to give an incompetent, lazy, billionaire the keys to the White House.
It should never have happened, but it did. Now, all the world can see what a fool we have in office. As the editorial by Klaus Brinkbäumer, 19 May 2017, in Der Spiegel noted:
"Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States.
He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it.
He doesn't read.
He doesn't bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities.
His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.
He is a man free of morals.
As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat.
I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are.
But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump.
And one of the media's tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House.
Quickly. He is a danger to the world."
For details, read Fire and Fury, on sale now, and available on Kindle:
The Test for Alabama is the test Our System Failed in 2016
On December 12, Alabamians will decide the fate of the state's reputation, its moral legacy for the coming generation of residents. It is a fate that can be promising, or it can reinforce the depravity of the current administration, led by a man whose campaign survived this revealing confession (printed in the New York Times):
Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.
Trump: I did try and fuck her. She was married.
Unknown: That’s huge news.
Trump: No, no, Nancy. No, this was [unintelligible] — and I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping.
She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture —
I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.
Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Bush: Whatever you want.
Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
Despite the fact that a majority of voters rejected Trump at the polls, but due to the quirks inherent in the distorting allocation of votes in the Electoral College, Trump was able to squeak by with less than three million votes than his principal opponent. These flaws in our electoral system were exploited to our great disadvantage, but there were deeper flaws being exploited in our culture as well.
In a normal process, a quote like the one above would have been disqualifying, and there is ample evidence that many people in the Republican Party believed that it was. Nevertheless, Trump continued to hold the nomination, and garnered enough votes in key areas to prevail in the Electoral College. Since taking office, the administration has been relentlessly attacking every institution, organization, and policy that protects America's most vulnerable people while promoting policies that would enrich its own donors and high officials, much like the banana republics so common in high poverty countries, where human lives are easily discarded or bartered for political power. Our national treasures and the protection of our liberties are being sold away as well.
Experts on authoritarian regimes are not surprised. These patterns are typical of the kind of behaviors that occur frequently in countries where there has been economic and social collapse. The Great Recession damaged confidence in our institutions, but it also revived fears that produce ripe opportunities for scapegoating other people, conditions ripe for tribalism, jingoistic nationalism, and xenophobia, all things that provide fertile ground for demagogues.
The divisive, outrageous behavior and rhetoric is designed to divide the population, mobilize supporters, and provide a public test of loyalty. The more depraved and morally damaging that the behavior and rhetoric become, the more degraded supporters become and the more willing they are to accept more outrages. Standing by their peers, and being loyal to one another, can easily take precedent over all other considerations, including basic standards of decency.
For those of us who have not been compromised by an overwhelming sense of loyalty to peers, we need to consider what matters more, our humanity or our loyalty? Where do we draw the line? At what point do we say enough?
Ending Net Neutrality is Theft - Control is Ownership
The Internet is one of the most important inventions in American history. It is our national treasure, a great highway of information available to anyone who connects, available to all in public libraries. What is the value of the Internet? How is it possible for the control of all that value to be transferred to a very few hands? Just give it to them to control. Make no mistake, this is a giant heist of massive proportions. Our entire economy is now dependent on the Internet. That is what is at stake in this moment.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering reversing the principle of open, equal access to information in the United States. Reversing this rule would allow large Internet providers to determine which websites and services are available at what speeds to Americans.
The potential for private corporate interests to decide what Americans have access to see, to witness, to communicate is a huge threat. It is also a power grab of astonishing proportions. Control of information, information created by other people, is a form of theft and should not be tolerated by a free people. This arbitrary exercise of raw power must be resisted.
Write to the FCC to tell them that you want the freedom to see everything, without those choices being mediated by corporate gatekeepers.
Please email the commissioners:
Ajit Pai, Chairman
Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner
Michael O'Rielly, Commissioner
Brendan Carr, Commissioner
Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner
Comment on the FCC website to save net neutrality (proceedings 17-108)
Fight for your future America!
Harry Frankfurt wrote this in his book, On Truth:
"We really cannot live without truth. We need truth not only in order to understand how to live well, but in order to know how to survive at all."
Other writers, like Bruce Bartlett, are pleading with their fellow citizens, to pay attention to facts, to the specifics of our current affairs. In his new book, The Truth Matters, Bartlett explains,
"One problem every reader has these days is figuring out who to trust as an analyst or news source. It sometimes seems as if everyone is compromised, saying what is in their own economic interest or whatever suits their partisan point of view at that particular moment. Cable television is very much at fault here because it pretends that there are only two points of view on any given subject, and it seldom subjects its talking heads to much in the way of vetting."
Part of knowing the truth is knowing how reliable a source of information is. We count on people who are experts on the weather to tell us when we should expect extreme weather, rain, excessive heat, floods. There is a practical necessity to knowing who to trust. This connection seems to have been lost in politics. It has become fashionable to doubt reliable people, to ignore people who do their best to be accurate reporters of information, of data.
Information is less expensive than ever before to obtain in vast quantities. In some ways that is unfortunate, because it may have devalued the quality of information. It's too easy. And the cost of dismissing high-quality information and replacing it with dubious information may not be realized for years, when the opinions and attitudes formed from those mistakes come to fruition, when it is too late.
Older Americans know more about the costs of accepting lies, about wars that were not winnable, about drugs that caused birth defects, about pollution that made people sick, about tobacco and lung cancer. Younger Americans see a constant stream of contradictions, including refutations of the truth we knew about the lies we were told in the past. In the midst of these disputes about what is real, we are now in a social revolution with regard to sexual abuse, with bizarre claims being made about justifications, accusations, and behaviors that should not be entertained or tolerated.
Unfortunately, being able to express the truth is also a matter of social, economic, and political power. It is something we need to protect, for everyone. If we do not make an effort to protect the truth, and those who tell it, our civilization might not survive.
The president of Puerto Rico seems incoherent, irrational, and emotionally unstable. He also doesn't know who that is. Yes, we are in the most dire leadership circumstances in our nation's history.
We are being led by a man personally advised by well-known white supremacists. There is no pretense to be had about this. Plausible deniability has turned into willful ignorance. Despite these readily apparent issues, which are eloquently written and discussed among rational people, there is far less discussion about what to do about it. Appeals tend to rely on pleas to the cabinet to act using the 25th Amendment, or calls for impeachment by the president's own party. These are unlikely avenues for repairing the damage being done. Instead, Americans need to look to themselves. They need to be educated and trained to defend themselves against dictatorial leaders. Institutions and legal structures are not enough.
The norms that keep us safe are not matters that can be left to politicians. Even as we deal with gun violence and threats of war, our safety depends on more than formal agreements and Constitutional declarations. What keeps us safe and what puts us in danger, are mirror images of a society that understands what is good, what is honorable, decent, and fair. When we stray from those norms, we invite trouble. No claim to a right can withstand a culture where a privileged few can run amok without restraint. We need to understand that, make it part of our identity in the same way that we often claim membership in our religions. The civic virtues cannot be ignored or allowed to deteriorate.
Those virtues require us to think, to understand the dangers of rash decisions, of emotions, of impulses that would lead to even more trouble if they are unleashed. We need maturity, character, and reflection in our leaders. We need to understand the problems with self-interest, with a lack of understanding about the common good, communities, and practices that allow us to live our lives the best way we can, with the support of friends and neighbors.
To that end, we need to educate a new generation of leaders, of followers committed to selecting leaders worthy of being followed. Awareness of our history, an honest perspective on our culture, the values that we hold dear, and the circumstances of our people are necessary for the formation of such a citizenry. This means that we must put the bar higher, work harder, and lift our aspirations for our country in ways that we seem to have forgotten. One of those things is that our country works best when we recognize that we are all Americans and deserve to be treated as fellow Americans, even in Puerto Rico.
These books provide a glimpse of what such a citizenry might be like and the things we need to fix:
The compassion of everyday Americans is limitless, but we are being attacked. From the dismissal of the suffering of the people in Houston, to the elimination of protections for children who know no other country, this administration is attacking the foundations of our society. We cannot allow ourselves to be deluded by appearances or rhetoric. We are in danger.
We need to help those in need and support the people who are doing good work. Many private companies are pitching in to help Houston. Others are standing up to discrimination. We need to seek them out and support them. Some people hesitate to give to nonprofits they do not know or have trouble trusting those that they do. Use charitynavigator.org to learn about them.
Our little bit here is to provide some symbolic supplies, to make people think about these humanitarian disasters.
The tragedy in Charlottesville was the predictable result of our president encouraging the radical right, a band of white males whose sense of entitlement and racist attitudes and hatred of other people has been nurtured by a poisonous political party intent on wielding total control. There is no excuse for what happened in Charlottesville, a crime committed by Nazis and white supremacists. There is also no excuse for creating circumstances in which white supremacists and Nazis feel comfortable enough to march into an American city and threaten people. These same racists were instrumental in assisting the rise of a leaders who is trying to strip our daughters of healthcare, of access to educational opportunities, and other benefit that have resulted from decades of struggle. Allowing them to be subverted by these perverts needs to stop. Making that happen may mean that we need to step up, to make an effort to resist at times and places where people have turned a blind eye to these events. We may need to make influential people uncomfortable.
Polite People Gassed Millions of other People
We need to understand who we are dealing with. According to Vanity Fair, Stephen Millerdescribed himself this way: “I will say and I will do things that no one else in their right mind would do,” he admitted in a 2002 speech to his Santa Monica High School classmates. In the same speech, to a chorus of boos, he said, “Am I the only one who is sick and tired of being told to pick up my trash when we have plenty of janitors who are paid to do it for us?”
This is a man who was mentored by Richard Spencer at Duke University, and has worked for Michele Bachmann, Jeff Sessions, and now Steve Bannon and Donald J. Trump. It no accident that the most virulent, most malignant policies have emanated from his vicinity. These are the men who believe that they should determine the policies for our daughters, who think that they own the world and should decide how our daughters will live.
These men are led by a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women, yet his favor is sought by every Republican candidate. These are people who frequent country clubs, attend galas for charities, and sponsor internships for young people. These are the same people who need to be uncomfortable with the way things are going. The challenge for all of us is to figure out how to apply the appropriate social and political sanctions on people who feel compelled to do the same to our daughters, when they are not supporting those who would run them down with a car.
Recommended Readings & Current Events (And #sheetcake t-shirt):
Self-Censorship: Timidity is the Danger
While extremists are taking over, our institutional structures appear unable to prevent the destruction of decades of work to provide social, economic, and environmental protection for Americans. The can only happen if we are silent, if we don't complain, we go along, and hope for the best.
That's not likely to happen. The pressure to conform, the pressure to appear one of the crowd, and to be socially appealing makes the problem worse. Like high schools students wanting to fit in, adults who should know better are sitting silent, pretending that what they see is normal. That has to stop.
While it's true that we need people who can see beyond their own tribal commitments, who can weigh options, and think through the consequences of political choices, we also need people who are willing and able to challenge a system of selection that limits choices in such a way that potential solutions are taken off the table. That means challenging other people to think, to consider alternatives, to take a look at more than one source of information, and to question information, but not merely to dismiss it, but to determine what the truth really is. That takes effort, it takes courage.
We need to set an example for our children, our grandchildren, and the people who depend on us for their well-being. We need to rock the boat. Get in the way.
Robert Mueller is a real investigator with a solid reputation and a track record to match. We should all be encouraged by his appearance at this stage. But investigations will not solve the problems unless we have other officials who are willing to act.
At this point, there is little doubt that the administration is incompetent, misinformed, uneducated, and misdirected by self-interests, business opportunities, and other self-serving distractions. Responsible men and women have to be vigilant and careful to do what they can to curtail the mendacity bearing down on America, vigilant to spot the damage being done, and careful to avoid being targeted by operatives out to destroy the protections that Americans have enjoyed for decades. We need to protect ourselves from the kleptocracy and the plutocrats who are intent on eliminating our ability to keep our environment clean, our workforce productive, and our children well-educated and healthy. These are not trifling matters. They are essential to a way of life that we need to defend and improve.
To defend ourselves, we need good public servants, like Robert Mueller, and we need to exercise the powers that we have inherent in our own citizenship. We must become good stewards of our country's ideals and promises. For that, we need to remind ourselves of what those ideals are, what promises we have made to one another, and what kind of country we want our children to inherit. The models of Russia and Turkey are not what we should aspire to become. We are better than that, and we deserve better than that.
We need to articulate that vision for the election in 2018, so that the people we choose to lead us forward understand it and will pursue it.
When we look at the struggles people have had to make America what it is, we have to remind ourselves of the sacrifices and dedication it took for us to enjoy the benefits of their labors. Our generation must draw inspiration from that to keep us on the right path, so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
With the second attempt to attack American healthcare well under way, we need to focus on the immediate threat, while looking at the next chance we have to prevent disaster and reverse this appalling administration.
Over the past month, we have seen clearly the profiteering among Congressional members and of the paid and unpaid White House staff. Admissions of loans from Russians have been documented, while the Kushners touted the purchase of visas, supposedly approved by the president himself. We can do better.
Congressional leaders are resorting to the most ridiculous lies to promote their interests. Under this administration, there seems to be no shame in the most openly corrupt policies, regardless of the damage that they can do to the population. Again, this pattern of bad behavior is not a theoretical mystery. It is a consistent feature of small coalition politics, where those holding power do with very few insiders and hold power by the thinnest of margins. In the long run, these narrow interests sap economic prosperity by keeping profits high and wages low. It is a recipe for economic decline. Still, the game is not over. We can win against the oligarchs. Read about how to fight it below:
This past weekend scientists and their supporters marched in Washington and in cities around America and around the world. Many carried signs that read about how incredulous they were that they felt that they needed to demonstrate in support of science, facts, and evidence-based policies. The current administration is rolling back protections for individuals at an alarming rate, exposing many of the most vulnerable portions of the population to increased environmental, economic, and health risks. These efforts are often led by people who are actively spreading false information and discredited theories.
While there are conspiracy theorists who still believe that we did not land on the moon, they and people like them have rarely been taken seriously. That has changed.
People with no experience in research of any kind have attacked professions who have honed their skills in designing experiments, gathering data, verifying information, and subjecting evidence to rigorous testing and analysis. People holding political power have joined them to serve people and organizations who have an economic interest in distorting research, misrepresenting facts and hiding information that might injure those same interests. This is not a new phenomenon. It was already a well-developed machine.
Large corporations and wealthy individuals have been involved in promoting their ideological and economic interests for decades. Tobacco and chemical industries have fought research that challenged their interest. Several of the books below recount those efforts, some in great detail.
Bold Actions Are Not Proposals
More than a dozen journalists praised the Trump administration for its attack on Syria, one that did almost nothing to the capability of the Syrian military to continue to attack civilians. The same Congressmen who opposed President Obama's request to use force, praised Trump's attack, while Trump's own very well documented history of opposing involvement in Syria is mysteriously ignored. If logic fails, it is because the whole story is incoherent. Critics make strong arguments to the attack being an impulsive reaction to a challenge to his masculinity, a smokescreen to divert attention from allegations of Russian interference in the election, or an attempt to garner favor among male voters. Whatever the motivation, it cannot be explained in terms of a coherent policy toward the Syrian government. Legal arguments aside, the order appears to be a matter of pure fiat.
A coherent policy would have several defining characteristics. First, it would have a policy goal. At the moment, no such goal has been articulated. The use of chemical weapons may be a trigger, but no such declaration preceded the attack and the Secretary of State had just declared that the Syrian people would have to deal with the situation there, giving a green light to their oppressor to make that outcome more to Assad's liking. Second, there would be clear expectations for our allies and opponents in the Middle East and elsewhere. Publicly abusing our NATO allies with claims of unjust burdens and celebrating Brexit and denigrating the European Union does not inspire confidence in our allies and trading partners, while it encourages our opponents. Finally, the resources for implementing such policies would include staffing, planning, and international coordination for implementation. The lack of understanding about the basics of running a government is being revealed.
Clarity, especially in dangerous situations, is the best way to avoid unintended reactions. Having a policy that people understand, both Americans and foreign leaders, will do much to ensure our security. That is the responsibility of a leader. It is also an antidote to 'mission creep,' mistakes, misunderstanding and miscalculation.
Whatever the opposition does, one thing will be critical: there must be an articulate explanation of the alternative. Proposals need to be specific and attainable. Support has to be built at the base and the opposition needs to hold itself accountable for maintaining the discipline and focus necessary to implement clear policies, whether in Syria, North Korea, or in trade. We cannot afford an inarticulate, haphazard approach to foreign or domestic policy.
Beware of Incoherence
We have to teach ourselves to see through blather and incoherence and demand clarity and evidence in new ways. Our future and that of our children depends on securing better leadership, with a clear, inclusive vision for all of us. To have coherent policies, we have to find coherent leaders who can articulate policies that are more detailed than slogans or sound bites. Clarity is a matter of accountability and responsibility. Incoherence is a serious problem for a leader and more serious for the people he leads. Character matters. Reputation matters.
When leaders mumble, when they don't articulate a clear vision, when they obfuscate, are evasive and incoherent, they are not being good leaders. The tools of obfuscation include incoherence. Avoiding responsibility is a habit that makes problems worse and the future more uncertain. This is what we are facing now.
Our military is trained to assess their opponents and to consider the risks of engagement. We hope that their advice is heeded and weighed against the cost to Americans and our allies. In dictatorships, the interest of the public and the costs of military failures is borne by people who are treated as expendable and casualty rates reflect that indifference. A coherent policy will recognize these costs and benefits.
For additional information on how bad foreign policies are common to small coalitions like the one we have in place, read these books:
Freedom of Speech - Our Inherent & Inherited Vulnerability
We've had a social media Pearl Harbor and we're still floating in the harbor, waiting for another wave of troll kamikaze drone-bots to spread disinformation. America's greatest weakness is our collective inability to identify the truth and smell bullshit and our freedom to spread it among ourselves. We should know better, but we don't. Why is that?
We don't know better because many of us were never taught to think critically about what we read or to go beyond our social and political borders to see different perspectives. That skill, and it is a skill, requires a number of emotional, intellectual, and social virtues that we do not normally associate with national defense or protecting our country, but may be the most important skills we can develop, those of the citizen. It would help if we could see examples.
Identify and Neutralize the Enemy
We may not be able to destroy the enemy, the Russian attackers who have infiltrated our social media, but we can identify them. Some clues are obvious, an new account with 250,000 followers is one, but there are many more subtle indicators that the account may be a bot and not a real person, or a highly intelligent enemy combatant. We cannot go into the fray unarmed or we will hurt. But first, we need to know who they are. We can't get bogged down in verifying the truth of this or that quote or this or that story. Snopes, Politifact, and the Washington Post, among others, have tried to be fact-checkers, but the sheer volume of disinformation is overwhelming. We can't stop it, but we can identify it, and try not to step in it. While that may not be a complete answer, it might allow other decision makers in the social media industry to change policies about access to the huge megaphones they have provided to people who spread disinformation.
In the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, Clint Watts recommended that the private sector create a "Consumer Reports" for the public to use. At Trumptrashbags, we have not pretense at status or "authority." Those are the tools of people we need to resist. Our partner is this will be Political Research.US, The mission and values of that entity represent the kind of approach we want to support.
To that end, we are proposing a GoFundMe campaign to develop a public access database of suspicious accounts on Facebook and Twitter. A great start on this has already been made with regard to news sources, but the "repeaters" and tweeters in Facebook and Twitter need to be identified as well.
The Budget Plan
We think these costs seem reasonable to begin such an effort:
Phase 1 - Develop Identification System
$50,000 - Develop good business rules, verification standards, best practices for investigation and tagging (Staff Search Cost $5,000). Estimated Staff - 2 people, Time - 2 months
$150,000 - Develop secure database, tip line access, project management system for development and deployment. Estimated Staff - 3 people, Time - 4 months.
Phase II - Advertise and Mobilize Identification System
$150,000 - Advertising on Google Ads, Twitter, Facebook for database and email lists. Estimated Staff - 2 People, Paid placements $125,000.
Assuming that we can get sufficient funding for Phase I by May, we anticipate a 6-month roll-out for Phase I, with Phase II comingsomewhere near January 2018 to go live with Phase II, prior to the mid-term election.
In the meantime, we recommend the following books for people to read about propaganda and the Russian threat to democracy:
We have many more recommendations at our online store.
The Root Cause: A Deeper Truth
Now that Trumpcare has collapsed, at least temporarily, under the weight of its own bullshit, we need to think ever more deeply about the reality that we face. Rising inequality is not an accident, neither is the increase in the despair and mortality of whites with less than a high school education, or bias in our justice and law enforcement systems, our extraordinary incarceration rates, the student loan debt crisis, or the stagnation in wages for the middle class. The key to each and every one of these great socioeconomic dysfunctions is a singular issue: the size of the ruling coalition.
Ruling Coalitions: Large and Small
Americans like to believe that they live in a land of equality, justice, and freedom. Those are nice ideals, but they are very far from reality. There is a very large discrepancy between perception and reality when it comes to economics. Much of this discrepancy is the result of invisible differences in wealth, the holding of assets that are not tangible in the common sense. Holdings of stocks, bonds, financial assets of various kinds are not readily apparent in daily life. The accumulation of those assets may be completely invisible to most people, many of whom are unaware that such things even exist. Asset bubbles and sophisticated credit default swaps are part of a world few citizens venture into or have expertise. Yet those who inhabit the organizations and institutions where those financial transactions occur make decisions that have profound consequences for the rest of society, as we saw vividly in 2008. Many were hurt, but a few were not. That is not an accidental difference.
Small groups of people have personal access to the central decision-makers in our society. In general, when there are very small coalitions of people ruling, they tend to be part of highly extractive institutions, where a few people benefit at the expense or through the use of many other people. Examples include mining, oil and gas, and in the past through slavery and plantation operations. These patters are well documented in The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics and Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. There is little doubt that, in the broad course of human history, larger ruling coalitions, representing larger groups of people, produce better opportunities and more prosperous societies.
Whenever the size of the ruling coalition shrinks, fewer people are well off. When it shrinks to the size of one family, as it does in most autocracies, even more people suffer, as they do in North Korea and in many of the dictatorships we have witnessed in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. That is a truth that needs to be reckoned with in our own political future. For more information, here are some great resources, see below:
We're past the point of wonder, past the fairy tales of a pivot, a shift to responsibility. Instead, we are in the grip of an administration that is being advised by an avowed Leninist who seeks the destruction of the federal government with a coterie of bizarre characters with sketchy backgrounds that include Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, corporate shills, and an uncomfortable hodgepodge of party officials and military leaders. The latter seem to be the most responsible people in the room, and the only ones tethered to reality. The administration's first budget proposal lays bare the reason why it hasn't nominated many vacant positions.
What is more disturbing than the misanthorpic priorities are the justifications for them. Logic defying relationships between means and ends, the dismissal of humanity, the naked greed and the blatant deceptions involved in making the case for this or that policy have rendered the administration immune from critical examination. These are not serious people. They are dangerous people.
By rendering policy into absurdity, by making up bullshit that goes far beyond lies, they have created the kind of reality-show suspension of disbelief in which atrocities can be tolerated, ignored, or denied with relative impunity. It is clear that, up to this point, there are no adults in the competing institutions with sufficient moral fortitude to challenge the emerging status quo. Normalizing the administration is harmful to society. This is not normal. There should be more holding our government together than bullshit.
Beneath the layers of lies, deception, and pure bullshit are thousands of communities that depend in various ways on the lifelines of federal programs, Many of the states dominated by Republicans depend the most one the good graces of government, a fact so widely known by people who follow such things that it seems pointless to repeat the obvious - most of the failed American states are in the South. This too is no accident.