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    • The Law of Equal Treatment
      Last Friday I wrote an article on the idea that if a society has a rule or duty, it must apply to everyone in the applicable situation, no matter who they are, even if it’s someone you love. It was interesting to me that most of the commenters disagreed. Perhaps this is my fault in choosing the famous example of a German general executing his own son for aba […]
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Proudly Defying Consensus Reality Since 2008

cjsnmttLong time readers know that I started this blog in response to the ridiculous, over-the-top, pre-accomplishments hagiography of Barack Obama during the primaries in 2008. The man could do no wrong. Don’t even get me started, I’ve written War and Peace over that primary season. And what did we learn from his eight years in the White House? We learned that the media and Obama’s fan base will do almost anything to obscure his flaws. That was fatal for us because if we weren’t allowed to be critical, we couldn’t correct when he was on the wrong track or hold him accountable for poor policy making.

For that early assessment of the media and his mysterious well-heeled fanbase propping him up in 2008, many of us were labeled “racists”. I hope that the left has learned a painful lesson from the last election about throwing that word around. Yes, there are racists. Real racism exists but it isn’t all about Barack Obama, who is a class based aspirational president and not John Lewis. But there many voters who were sick to death of having their perceptions invalidated by that cynical accusation. Unfortunately, some of them did not know when they were being played. We’re still trying to figure out what separated the casual Trump supporter from the lefty voter who simply didn’t like Obama but had no problem voting for Hillary. The Nate Silvers of the world who crunch their models can point to surface causes but I think the answer is buried in how labile we are to pressures to conform and adapt to consensus reality. We may need to find new descriptors for that model.

The purpose of this blog is to defy consensus reality. Commenters here feel safe to say what they think is really going on. The way we do this is by avoiding mental short cuts and slogans and buzz words. If you have a problem with out of control capitalism, calling a politician a “corporatist” is not going to cut it here. You need to say exactly what you mean, think it through, choose your words to convey their intent clearly.

Choosing carefully where we get our news and touchpoint with actual reality will also make a difference. Here are my tips for finding reality based news. Do with them what you will:

1.) Avoid any news source that provokes an immediate emotional response, especially if that response is fear or anger. People who are provoked to anger or fear do not make good decisions. It is difficult to reason with someone who is enraged. Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you tried to have a reasonable conversation with someone in a rage state.

2.) Avoid television news. This means ALL television and cable news programs. The combination of audio with visual cues is very powerful. It doesn’t matter which network you choose. Some are worse than others but they all do it. Just don’t watch it. Give it a week and you won’t miss it. Get to know your family again, take up the guitar, go for a walk. Make the TV a special thing where you binge watch Outlander and oogle Jamie Fraser in a kilt.

3.) If you need to get a quick news fix, try radio. Again, some radio is better than others. NPR used to be my go to. Now, I can hear the narratives built into the scripts. So, be careful with this. Again, if you find yourself becoming fearful or angry, stop listening.

4.) Find reliable sources in print journalism. Even this is getting increasingly difficult to do. There are some sources that are more reliable than others. I read a wide variety of sources like the NYTimes, Washington Post, ProPublica, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Conversation, The Guardian. If it seems like my choices are left leaning, that’s because truth does seem to have a strong liberal bias. That being said, the NYTimes and Washington Post have been lax with their standards in the last decade or so. I wouldn’t necessarily call either paper “left”. But occasionally, you can find articles that are less biased and better investigated. Also, read foreign news sources, like Der Spiegel for an outsider’s perspective. Google translate is amazing.

5.) Try alternate sources for news. I like podcasts. In 2016, we saw a bumper crop of good podcasts, some more analytical than others. Among my favorites, The Weeds from Vox, Five Thirty Eight from Nate Silver and his data modelers, and my current favorite, TrumpCast with Jacob Weisberg from Slate.

6.) Apply the Cindy Lu Who test. If you see a green imp in a Santa suit stealing your Christmas Tree and he tells you a story about taking it back to his workshop to fix a broken light, ask yourself why he couldn’t have come by during the day when your parents were awake. In general, the simplest explanation is the most likely. Conspiracies are rare. Most people are motivated by simple things like greed, revenge, arrogance. (I’m looking at you Rudy Giuliani) Those deadly sins can lead them to do a number of unethical things. But if your favorite news reader starts spewing an improbable scenario, and if that scenario makes you mad before you can figure out if it’s true or not, apply the Cindy Lu Who test and start asking questions.

7.) Read non-fiction. Read history, science, paleobotany, it doesn’t much matter. Find a well reviewed non-fiction book and learn from it. It’s especially good for learning to analyze and that can be applied to the here and now. Some of my favorite non-fiction include, A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman, Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, anything by Michael Lewis, In the Garden of Beasts by Eric Larsen, SPQR- A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard.

Lastly, check out this diagram of where news sources fall on the left-right, reliable-unreliable spectrum. If you are confused and distrustful about what and who to believe, stick to the top layer in the middle. Even the Wall Street Journal, as crazy as its opinion pages are, has a very good news bureau and high quality reporting.


We’re about to be bombarded by a high volume of issues and controversies all at once. We will be disoriented. We may have a hard time keeping track of what is going on. Many people who have studied authoritarian regimes say that citizens quickly learn to accept the unacceptable so you are encouraged to write down what your beliefs and principles are right now and check them periodically to see if you are slipping.

Hold hands, stick together, look out for one another.


29 Responses

  1. Speaking of media, Obama and his mega rallies then, I remember reading that after one such rally, he came back stage and told MO(?) or others there with surprise (not in a good way but with condescension in his tone) how they are lapping it (what he says) up (wish I could dig up the link to it but I am lazy). You know what that reminds me of? This:

    “Later as his political and cultural demise approaches, Rhodes says this about his audience when he thinks the microphone is off (Jeffries has kept it on to expose him as a fraud and make amends for creating a monster): “Those morons out there? Shucks, I could take chicken fertilizer and sell it to them as caviar. I could make them eat dog food and think it was steak. You know what the public’s like? A cage of guinea pigs. Good night, you stupid idiots. Good night, you miserable slobs. They’re a lot of trained seals. I toss them a dead fish and they’ll flap their flippers.”” — A Face in the Crowd

    The article is talking about Trump. It could have been about Bernie. Media is a big part of how the con artists get there. How I despise these mega rallies and the people who go for it.

    • A Face in the Crowd. Sounds very familiar. Should go look it up.

    • PM, amazing how “idols” hold their adoring followers in such contempt. Thanks for the tip on a Face in the Crowd. I have never seen it and wondered what I would be watching on the day the earth stood still.

      • Are we all bracing for impact?
        Doesn’t it seem strange that we see the crash coming, we had two months between Election and inauguration when something might have been done and we are powerless to stop it.
        And there will be no relief for at least two years. The line of succession is Trump- Pence – Ryan. At no point in the next two years does it get better.
        What were Trump voters thinking???

      • This is where Hillary shines. She didn’t want to lie or exaggerate or make false promises. She didn’t want to scream at the top of her voice things that sounded good but were mostly just that. She was incapable of such theatrics because she understood governing was about bringing hard fought consensus and making incremental changes. She was a serious doer and not a show horse. Media if they had loved her, could have made this aspect of her candidacy as sexy as it is serious. They didn’t care and were much worse. Intellectual honesty is what is sorely lacking in our public figures and with Trump era, it is just chaos and mental cruelty through distorting reality. It is like when you want to scream in your dream but you can’t — you know what they are saying is not true but nobody is hearing it and some are believing the lies.

        Hillary was exceptional but without a win or power what good is it? She understands that point better than most, I imagine but she would also not change how she wants to win. It was on us. She gave us a choice that we could not afford to reject but some still did.

        “That she lost to a man who is as comprehensive in his ignorance as he is relentless in his arrogance to put it on display underlines a certain rot in the heart of their society. “

        From here

        • Yeah, I read that in The Guardian. That was a good piece.
          The world looks at us and shudders.

        • pm, I’m in tears again, what a beautiful article. I wish I could share it with my Trump-voting, 3rd party-voting and no-voting republican friends but I know they would read the title and immediately delete it. Thanks for linking it.

        • that blocked quote in full display in ’09 (!) :

          {how the hell did we get here?}

          • Everything that comes out just gets worse and worse when it comes to him. Of course if the media had done their job our entire country might not be dealing with this nightmare.

  2. About new/old familiar faces, I will just say, people go where they feel welcomed and comforted. These are tough times and people are looking for solace and some blog owners are mindful of that and they show leadership in shepherding the community they built. I have moved around many blogs staying with one or the other out of habit at different times and leaving when they stop being a good fit. I appreciate the effort that goes into maintaining a public space like this and there is a philanthropic quality to providing this space for people because as much as they need readers/participants, this is still a labor of love.

    • Also, there was a lot of space between posts for a while, and I, for one, although the site never left my bookmarks, checked in for updates less frequently over time. I’m glad to see riverdaughter posting more frequently again these past several months.

  3. Re the Obama hagiography in 2008. It continued through his eight years in office and I fear will never end. He is to Dems what Reagan is to repubs. I watched Samantha bee’s first show this season and she did a critical (gasp) piece on his deportation policy which trump applauded and wants to emulate. She also confirmed what I believed: She said this was the FIRST time she EVER criticized Obama. How can this be good for the country? No one is perfect, no one believes everything we believe. No one is always right or always wrong. Everyone makes mistakes and misjudgements and our political leaders in particular should be held to the highest critical standards.

    Thanks RD for the news source analysis. I have been watching Rachel Maddow lately and she has done interesting, thought provoking shows that sound well researched. Her new mantra now is we must pay attention, now is not the time to look away and be complacent. I wondered where she fell on your chart.

    Lastly, Rachel brought up the cspan black out and RT stream during the hearings. Has any one heard more on that? Was it a prank? A dry run?

    • I actually like Rachel Maddow even if she was pretty strongly an Obama fan from the beginning.
      I like her approach to telling some significant event thru a backstory. She gets to the essential nugget of an issue.
      Because of her unique style, I’d give her more credibility than many voices on the left. But if she were my only source, she wouldn’t be enough.

  4. Great post RD.
    Still the militant that thankfully you are, yet focusing how alert and cautious we need to be from now on. The misinformation in our new world of digital use and control is creating chaos and the dark side is streaming through.
    Congrats on your new working conditions, well deserved.

  5. Just for the record, no Republican presidential candidate has won a clear, comfortable victory in the general election since 1988.

  6. Just a note about Der SPIEGEL…. I think it is the best thing going as far as interesting, thought provoking and truth telling in a way you wished everything was written. You can subscribe to the English version app on an iPhone. Not sure about other versions. I pay $2.99 for 6 months. It is the best $3 you can spend. Every time I read an article I am so amazed that journalism still lives without BS and memes and pillow fluffing. Obama legacy, unfortunately, is Donal Trump!

  7. There is another source for news that some of us of a certain age, ahem, will remember. It’s Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. I became acquainted with it when I would check the Kyiv Post (https://www.kyivpost.com/) to check the news from Ukraine over the years.

    The Kyiv Post would link to other sources and one of them was Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

    One of their journalists, Brian Whitmore, has a blog and podcasts. Considering Cheetolini Twitler’s fondness for Vlad, it may mean that keeping informed means watching what is happening in Russia.

    The link to It’s Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is:


  8. This tweet and the Trump phenomenon make me think if the founding principles of America are too sophisticated for its own people; that is, that without a smart leader to parse it and spell it out, an ignoramus like Trump can get away with saying what he does. Because I bet for his rally goers it makes sense, parsing the sentence in its most literal meaning like he does and in the process, makes it easy for them to deride others who ascribe sophisticated notions to it as elitist. He is doing it out of ignorance and is not even aware of how he comes across (at least in this interview transcript) but this skill (if you want to call it that) of his has served its purpose in rounding up the most ignorant section of this society to vote for him in this election.

  9. I’ll be wearing black on Friday. Won’t be watching, but mourning for our country.

    • I wore black today too.

      I read that Hillary did great today attending what should have been her inauguration.

  10. Most Americans are simple people, intellectually at least. If you have a message spell it out for them and please no required reading. My niece was telling me about a conversation she had with a trump voter. An engineer from the best engineering school in the country. He said he didn’t vote for her because of the emails. She asked him what bothered him most about to warrant such reaction. He knew shitt. She must have done something otherwise…blah blah blah. So again you spell everything out. Same with ACA the improvements don’t count on voters reading about who reads anymore. Simple people simple message and simple messenger. Simple.

  11. I could make the case that Obama in essence defeated Hillary twice. The first time was purposeful, obviously, even though he was handed the nomination by the DNC. This time, it was not purposeful, but just as effective. It was a result of his inaction on the Russian story, on the FBI meddling in the election, and on the voter suppression going on all over the country.

    But it was more than that. Look at it this way: How many people do you think voted for Hillary because of Obama? Very few, I would guess. How many voted agaInst Hillary because of Obama? Many more. This is not directly Obama’s “fault,” is the nature of Obama and his untransferable whatever it is which only pertains to him.

    I could make the case that Obama was disastrous for the Democratic Party. Based on numbers, we have far fewer Congress members, far fewer state legislatures and governors. We are virtually denuded. And that is Obama’s fault, one way or another. Obama could not help any Democrats in eight years, just himself. Part of it is that he didn’t seem too interested in helpting them. The other part is that his appeal seemed to transcend politics or policy or anything substantive. And that is actually not a good thing.

    And so there was this love affair with Obama, based on his race, his ability to give good speeches, the perception by many of him as almost a religious figure, a saint, an icon. And yes, criticizing Obama by his own side, was seen as absolute heresy, and of course virulent racism. So some of these people called racists got their revenge by voting for Trump. Or they were sick of Obama, and so they voted against the person who may actually have made a noble mistake in working in his administration, but of course she cares about helping the world.

    So Obama’s eight years have come and gone, and where are we now? The Republicans have slowly taken over the country during his administration. He probably just allowed the Russians to take it over as well. He wouldn’t even fill the Supreme Court vacancy to shift the balance And virtually no one criticizes him for it. And I gree that when you have a political figure, much less a President, whom it is a virtual sin to criticize, it is not good. It is a cult, in its way. It leaves one emptier than when one started. Everything that deflected off Obama, ended up on Hillary, the human scapegoat and whipping person. If liberal Democrats weren’t so desperately anxious to fall iln love with candidates, rather than find one who is highly intelligent, competent, and caring, they wouldnt be i this horrible situation. It is like having a passionate affair with a lotharios, while you blithely pass by some decent men. Of course, Obama is not as callous as a lothario. But he didn’t help the Democratic Party one bit, outside of his own victory. He didn’t eve explain to people why they should vote Democratic forever, the way that FDR did, or even the way that Reagan made a long-term case against Democrats. He just presented himself almost out of thin air, charmed many; left the stage gracefully to the applause. The curtain then drops, comes up again–and the fascists are in charge.

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