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Strategy & Tactics

A Recurring Nightmare: Kleptocrats Making Deals

Issues, Strategy & TacticsTalking Trash

Remember that Tariffs are Taxes for the Little People

The consequences of the tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans and multinationals have become abundantly clear. The investments that were supposed to occur turned into stock buybacks and increasing inequality for people seeking to partake of the growth in stock values.

The trade wars are fueled by tariffs, which are actually taxes, but not just any taxes, these are highly specific taxes to favor certain interests and to punish other interest, solely at the discretion of the administration and its donors. Coal wins, steel wins, but more people lose, even many of the people who supported the candidate in the Midwest. There is no strategy, only transactions, deals, and payoffs for very specific people and companies. This is not merely an abuse of power, it is a means to maintain power for a very small group of insiders.

All of this was perfectly predictable, easily anticipated. Americans need to be better educated about the economic reality. There are several good sources that offer thoughtful, accessible explanations of how economics work and what alternative policies could produce. One of the key issues is the kind of self-dealing that has become the hallmark of the current administration. An informed public could build support for reforming the political system, and that would require a deeper understanding of how the system is broken. Below are several websites worth closer inspection in that direction.  Please share the items you discover with people you know.

Center for Public Integrity

Evonomics: The Next Evolution of Economics

Freakonomics

Gin and Tacos

Book Recommendations

The Russian Troll Factory Gets Indicted

Mission, Strategy & Tactics, IssuesTalking Trash

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.

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics
By Ari Rabin-Havt, Media Matters for America
On Bullshit
By Harry G. Frankfurt
On Truth
By Harry G. Frankfurt

Rule of Law: Why Civil Service Matters

Mission, Issues, Strategy & Tactics, OrganizingTalking Trash

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.
 

Readings

Running for Office: Things to Know (with book recommendations)

Mission, Organizing, Strategy & TacticsTalking Trash

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.

Book Recommendations:

Who
By Geoff Smart, Randy Street

The Great Theft: Net Neutrality Means Survival for Americans

Issues, Strategy & TacticsTalking Trash

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
Ajit.Pai@fcc.gov

Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner
Mignon.Clyburn@fcc.gov

Michael O'Rielly, Commissioner
Mike.O'Rielly@fcc.gov

Brendan Carr, Commissioner
Brendan.Carr@fcc.gov

Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner
Jessica.Rosenworcel@fcc.gov

Comment on the FCC website to save net neutrality (proceedings 17-108)

https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express

Fight for your future America!

Why the Truth Matters: We Need the Power to Tell It

Issues, Strategy & TacticsTalking Trash

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.

Recommended Reading:

On Truth
By Harry G. Frankfurt

Our Daughters Deserve Better: We Owe them More

Issues, Strategy & Tactics, OrganizingTalking Trash

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):

Vanity Fair
By Condé Nast
The Atlantic
Atlantic Monthly

Consistently Bad: Kleptocracy Will Steal Everything

Mission, Issues, Strategy & TacticsTalking Trash

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:

Incoherence is not a Strategy, It's a Tool

Mission, Issues, Strategy & TacticsTalking Trash

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.

Understand coherence

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.

Demand coherence

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:

Help Americans Identify and Stop Russian Social Media Attacks

Strategy & Tactics, IssuesTalking Trash

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.

What is Important? Lies Matter but Truth is Critical

Issues, Mission, Strategy & TacticsTalking Trash

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:

"Dizzy with Success" - The Stalinist Phase of Trump's Administration

Issues, Strategy & TacticsTalking Trash

Expect more claims of success from the Trump administration, but don't be fooled. 

Business Insider reports that between 50% and 70% of all farm workers are undocumented immigrants. They pick the tomatoes, the fruits and vegetables that appear in the produce sections of the local supermarkets around the country.  Produce isn't the only area that will be hit by the administration policies.  The Texas Tribune cites Census data showing that:

"..in 2015 Mexico imported more than $92 billion worth of goods from Texaswhile Texas imported more $84 billion worth of goods from Mexico."   

These are not insignificant impacts. And they are all negative.

The impact of devastating policies implemented by authoritarian leaders is nothing new.  Joseph Stalin implemented the 'fake science' developed by Trofin Lysenko to employ in Soviet era agriculture in the U.S.S.R., while instituting collectivization.  The result? Estimates vary, but somewhere between 10 and 30 million people perished in the process, while Stalin also attacked those who clung to the truth and resisted.  He famously said that he was "Dizzy with Success," when his bureaucrats cooked the numbers to lie about the results.

We can expect the same with Trump.   As Bloomberg notes, he is already taking aim at economic statistics to produce 'alternate facts.'  We must resist and support those who do.

It is no accident that women played an important role in the resistance to Stalin's policies. In most cases where practical issues are at play, women are usually the first to experience the problems and the first to take action.

From Wikipedia:

"Women's role in resistance

Women were the primary vehicle for rumors that touched upon issues of family and everyday life.[23] Fears that collectivization would result in the socialization of children, the export of women’s hair, communal wife-sharing, and the notorious common blanket affected many women, causing them to revolt. For example, when it was announced that a collective farm in Crimea would become a commune and that the children would be socialized, women killed their soon-to-be socialized livestock, which spared the children. Stories that the Communists believed short hair gave women a more urban and industrial look insulted peasant women.[24] After local activists in a village in North Caucasus actually confiscated all blankets, more fear dispersed among villagers. The common blanket meant that all men and women would sleep on a seven-hundred meter long bed under a seven-hundred-meter long blanket.[25] Historians argue that women took advantage of these rumors without actually believing them so they could attack the collective farm “under the guise of irrational, nonpolitical protest.”[26] Women were less vulnerable to retaliation than peasant men, and therefore able to get away with a lot more.[27]

Peasant women were rarely held accountable for their actions because of the officials’ perceptions of their protests. They “physically blocked the entrances to huts of peasants scheduled to be exiled as kulaks, forcibly took back socialized seed and livestock, and led assaults on officials.” Officials ran away and hid to let the riots run their course. When women came to trial, they were given less harsh punishments as the men because women, to officials, were seen as illiterate and the most backward part of the peasantry. One particular case of this was a riot in a Russian village of Belovka where protestors were beating members of the local soviet and setting fire to their homes. The men were held exclusively responsible as the main culprits. Women were given sentences to serve as a warning, not as a punishment. Because of how they were perceived, women were able to play an essential role in the resistance to collectivization."

Read more about the techniques Stalin used to gain and maintain control, and how people resisted in Stalin: Order through Terror (see below).

Invisible or Indivisible?

Organizing, Strategy & TacticsTalking Trash

Over 50 years ago two political scientists noticed something profound about the policy agendas in America, the things that are missing (along with those issues are the people who have them).  Since then, that observation had become pedestrian. We talk about people who are forgotten, who don't make the news, and who don't get any attention from politicians. Often, they are marginalized populations with little power.

Some pundits argued that the people who have been forgotten are the white, lower-to-middle income people who were left behind in the economic expansion. Globalization is not the first instance of economic changes leaving people behind. They are often invisible to the wider society, languishing in their misery in private, without opportunities or choices. It's worth know about those struggles, which have re-emerged in our last election. Resistance is sometimes subtle, sometimes not.

 

Gaslighting Grifters, Crackpots, and Rubes: Why Sympathy Is Dangerous

Strategy & TacticsTalking Trash

We are experiencing what demagogic, authoritarian leadership is like. The constant stream of nonsense, lies, and outright attacks on the very notion of truth are spectacular in scope, bravado, and sheer audacity. We have also witnessed how unprepared Americans are for such an attack, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and politically.

There is substantial evidence that a widespread propaganda campaign was directed at the American public by the Russian government. As additional details emerge, we already know of connections between the administration and members of the Russian intelligence community. These facts will themselves be side-stepped, refuted, and dismissed by those who benefit from the outcomes they produced. Many people will reject the same facts out of misplaced loyalty and a distorted sense of duty and patriotism. They will not be swayed.

The methods and techniques of mass propaganda are not new. Wartime propaganda has an ancient history and was one of the features of the old Soviet-era regime in Russia, where a program of ‘dezinformatsiya’ was one of the main techniques of Soviet control. Pravda and other official Soviet news outlets maintained a tight control over the message and access to verifiable facts.  Only in the waning days of the regime did that edifice of lies start to crumble, with glimpses of food shortages, empty store shelves, etc.  But the old techniques are being revived by the new Russian state, this time for American consumption, especially those with little education and limited access to unbiased news sources.  Sadly, these are the same people who were pivotal in the election and the people most vulnerable to the policies that it will enact. Still, too much sympathy for ignorance is dangerous for the rest of us.

Today, we are faced with blatant, in-your-face lies about events we witness first-hand on nationwide television. While the public record should be sufficient to dispel or rebut false claims, a cynical culture of ignorance and corruption has taken root. Crackpots like Alex Jones, from InfoWars, are leading the charge to dumb down coverage of the administration and create more noise for the crowding out of credible information. These are deliberate attempts to undermine society, to undercut the foundations of civilization itself. Without a strong understanding of the fundamental elements of rational discourse and the veracity of what is said, chaos and fear take control. That is when force is welcomed by the masses for security. And that is when they win.

A keen awareness of propaganda is necessary.  Above and below are a couple books that are outstanding primers on propaganda and its uses.

Don't React, Read, Debate, Act

Strategy & Tactics, Issues, OrganizingTalking Trash

There are several serious thinkers writing about what to do, what not to do.  There are lists of do's and don'ts about the way to resist the administration. There are several common themes. 

First, don't react. Being mindful and well-measured earns respect. Control the impulse to respond immediately. Let the dust settle so you can see more clearly. There will be a constant stream of nonsense, idiocy, and outrages to endure. Don't spend your time and energy on chasing the rabbits down the holes.  Don't engage the trolls. Block and delete them. They're not worth the time and they're being deployed to waste yours. Stop it. But stay informed.

Second, don't contribute to the noise, be the signal. Check the facts and sources before you share information. Use reliable sources, check the URL's, know who you're citing and what their evidence is for what you're sharing. Take stuff down when you're wrong.  We all are sometimes. There's enough bullshit in the world without contributing to it.

Third, remember to focus on the policies that you care about, where you are willing to invest your time. Make sure that you know the pros and cons of the debates. No idea is completely perfect. Reality is messy and nothing is 100 percent accurate, not ever. Accept that truth. Acknowledge the things that are uncertain and be honest about what you know and what you don't know. Make the best case you can with the information you have. Keep learning. Know things.

Finally, stay civil, peaceful, but be persistent Lean in. Don't give them a reason to escalate. They have a real army now. Don't ignore the opposition's argument. Carefully unwrap it and tear it into little tiny pieces. Then feed it back to them with a spoon. Learn the art of rhetoric, read Aristotle, but don't stop with him. Keep going and you'll discover something important.  It's hard to debate without referring to specifics. You'll need to understand how things work in government, in specific areas of public policy, and how those policies impact real people in their lives.  We have a lot of books on a variety of issues.

One last thing, remember that it's not about one thing, it's about a lot of things. Don't lose sight of the needs of others in sharing support and trust in one another.  Give your support, your time, your attention, and whatever resources you can afford. We're in this together.

 

Fear Itself: We will fight on the beaches

Mission, Organizing, Strategy & TacticsTalking Trash

The use of intimidation is nothing new in politics or social interactions.  The widespread use of fear is almost always part of an attempt to manipulate people to do things that they would otherwise not do.  That is the power of fear.

But fear dies in the face of laughter.  It dies in the light of day and loves the darkness.  Don't let fear overwhelm you.  We are the majority, we are determined, and we are resilient.  Remember to shine the light, stand up, be counted, be brave, and know that a majority of Americans have your back.  We won't stop and we won't give up.

Remember the defeat at Dunkirk and Winston Churchill's famous speech.  Read it out loud to yourself when you're up against the wall: We Shall Fight on the Beaches.

 

 

Reframing the Debate

Strategy & TacticsTalking Trash

The Atlantic published a great article today by Olga Khazan, The Simple Psychological Trick to Political Persuasion explaining how those who support immigration bans see the issue in light of protecting the country.  What those same patriots also hold dear are the things that make this country worth fighting for, our families, and the opportunity to build a good life.  What she notes; however, is that different people on the left and right, based on research, are more likely to have differing preferences between fairness or purity or between loyalty and harm.  One set is relatively blind to the other's concerns, but issues can be reframed to be more appealing.

While we may interpret these differences as "biases," it is important to understand that we should not be impartial between them.  That is an abdication of our moral agency.  As Dante wrote, "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those, who in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality." That said, our lives should not be wasted trying to convince retirees that equal opportunity is important. That was 50 years ago for them.  It's over. Don't bother.

The books below might shed more light on this subject.