Tag Archives: politics

The Most Subversive Thing You Can Do Is…

Nothing.

Wait, what?  Nothing?

Yes, that is right, do nothing.  I do not mean do nothing in a political or activist sense.  Good lord no, please make sure that your elected representatives know very clearly what you think of their behavior in office and how that is going to make you vote in 2018.  Make their lives unpleasant by actually showing up to their town hall meetings—assuming they actually schedule town halls in their districts unlike Rod Blum—and let them know how displeased you are with their proposed legislation and Donald Trump.

When I say do nothing I mean stop participating in the consumer driven shell game.  Our consumption of stuff just feeds the beast.  We can rail against the political machine in Washington D.C. as much as we want but as long as we are filling our shopping carts the wheel will keep on spinning.

Do you think Exxon Mobil really cares about protests?  Not really.  They would care however if a measurable percentage of their customers stopped buying gasoline because they were commuting by bike.  How many?  Enough to flatten their growth curve and cause investors to panic.  Looking at the current state of oil markets a drop in demand of 5-10% is enough to cause major perturbations in price.  Could you reduce your personal consumption of gasoline by 5-10%?  Heck, all of us could probably do that without thinking.  No one is saying that you need to stop driving entirely, just reduce it by 5-10%.  The upside is that it costs nothing to do less driving.

Do you think WalMart really cares about anything other than its quarter versus quarter results?  Not really.  However, given that the counties that supported Hillary Clinton account for ~64% of the nation’s GDP if those voters were to stop patronizing WalMart the results would be staggering.  Remember, the game is now about growth and if companies cannot show a path toward growth the market will punish them.  Look at coal companies.  Once these companies could no longer show a clear path to growth, never mind declines in demand, the market punished the companies by withholding capital and the coal companies began declaring bankruptcy.  It costs nothing to not shop at WalMart.

Political activists constantly harp on us to “vote with our wallets,” but it is much more effective to vote by not opening our wallets.  Just shifting our spending from one faceless corporation to another is not going to create any kind of meaningful change.  If over a short period of time there was a measurable decline in consumer demand for stuff you would see some real change.  Granted, Republicans would probably start trying to pass legislation that guaranteed WalMart a certain amount of income because they love welfare when it is for corporations.

Doing nothing when it comes to consumerism is subversive because it goes against the dominant paradigm in modern America.  Heck, when we were facing the greatest existential threat to the United States in a generation George W. Bush implored us to go out and shop.  A stirring call to action this was not, but it does represent what passes for action in the minds of modern politicians.

Step back from the cash register and do nothing.  Put that book down and check out something from your public library.  Avoid that trip to the mall and see what unused items lurk in your closet that would be better served as a donation to the Salvation Army.  Resist the urge to go out for dinner and be truly revolutionary by cooking dinner for a group of people.  Heck, that may be the most revolutionary thing you could do because nothing smacks of “commie socialism” like sharing a meal with a group of people and expecting nothing return save for good conversation.  I can read the tweets from Donald Trump already “Sad.  Dinner without tableside service so un-American.  Mar-a-Lago will always be tremendous.”

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Living in a Bubble

During the few times that I have been stuck listening to right wing radio—it can happen, trust me—I was always struck by the conciliatory tone of the callers.  It did not matter if Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity were calling for armed insurrection or accusing the President of the United States of being a closeted Muslim from Kenya as the callers would continue to offer support or even more fringe views.

It appears as if the phone lines were not filled with actual members of the listening public, but rather were paid actors.   The company profiled in the linked article is Premiere On Call, which is a service of Premiere Radio Networks which is in turn a subsidiary of the giant media company Clear Channel Communications.

So, while we have always suspected that some of the callers to Howard Stern and his ilk were fabricated for the purposes of entertainment there was always the veneer of “reality” applied to the callers of politically centered talk radio.  It looks like the ardent supporters of Glenn Beck might not be so motivated by ideology as much as paying the rent on their studio apartment in Echo Park waiting for that call back.

This brings to bear the larger problem in our modern politics where we increasingly inhabit isolated bubbles of thought.  The internet has enabled this to a degree that would have been unimaginable only a few years prior.  Just think about someone who held some very fringe beliefs as far back as the early 1990s.  In those prehistoric times there was no easy way to discover a community of likeminded individuals.  Now, it’s just a Google search away for even the most esoteric set of beliefs.  Do you think that John Boehner is secretly an oompa loompa who escaped from Willy Wonka’s factory and took growth hormones?  There is probably an online gathering right now of kindred spirits.

The phenomenon of living in an ideological bubble afflicts both the left and right wings of American politics, but it seems to have metastized on the right to a degree that is increasingly detrimental.  Prior to the 2006 midterm election Karl Rove got into an argument with NPR host Robert Siegel where he said:

Yeah, I’m looking at all these, Robert, and adding them up, and I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math, but you’re entitled to your math, I’m entitled to THE math.

Neither of Rove’s predictions was borne out during the election.  In the subsequent elections Rove finds himself on the wrong side of electoral votes.  Why?

One could sum up the losing streak to a case of overinflated reputation.  Outside of being considered “Bush’s Brain” the man does not have a good history of being right in terms of electoral politics.  However, the right wing looked to him as a guru and that alone gives him power.

The reason may be that he, like so many right wingers, increasingly lives in a bubble of self-selected information.  What do I mean by this?  Well, if someone does not like the polls they exclude the results until it looks like something more favorable to your side.  In science this is considered junk research or methodological malfeasance, but in politics it is considered “unskewing the polls.”

During the run-up to the 2012 electoral contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney there was a story about how the Romeny camp “unskewed” the polls to account for the supposed “left wing” bias in traditional polling.  While it may have given the eventual losing side some extra spring in their step it was erroneous to a degree that was almost laughable.  When done correctly there is no need to adjust the results of a poll because it is statistically significant and, even more so, aggregates of polls or polls of polls reduce the chance of bias even further.

Just because you do not like what the poll is telling you does not mean that the poll is inaccurate.  It means that no one likes you.  Or, rather, just 47% of the population likes you in the case of Mitt Romney.

Politicians are spending so much time in echo chambers of their own creation that they are beginning to believe that the sound of their own voice is the will of the people.  Damn the polls!  Damn the election results!  I know I am right because that is all that I hear!

And we wonder why the U.S. federal government was shut down this fall and is looking at another shutdown in early 2014.

Todd Akin Speaks for the Republican Party

The Lorax may speak for the trees, but Todd Akin speaks for the Republican Party:

If you think that these beliefs are taken out of context consider what is going to be in the official Republican Party “plank” for the upcoming convention:

  • A complete ban on abortions with no exceptions in the case of rape and/or incest
  • No legal recognition of same sex couples because if Republicans just ignore gay people and the hate within their own party maybe gay people will just go away
  • A shout out to the joy of mandatory ultrasounds because Republicans want government out of healthcare decisions unless it is the healthcare decisions they choose to interfere with
  • Arizona-style immigration laws for everyone because Governor Jan Brewer is the person you want to emulate when it comes to effective legislation
  • Audit the Fed because the Ron/Rand Paul acolytes had to be given a little red meat otherwise they were going to throw a fit and take their toys home with them
  • Guns, guns, guns because the NRA said so
  • No new taxes unless it is to fund war or the Department of Defense or an increasingly militarized police force or whatever they want save for actually helping people

It is going to be a fun fall.