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An election year PSA

We start elections 24 months in advance in this country but I’d like to reiterate some things I’ve said before about the way these cycles have gone since the advent of social media. Specifically, I’m going to talk about how to protect yourself from undue influence.

Before we start, I highly recommend reviewing Stephen Hassan’s BITE model. This is how high control groups operate. A high control group exerts undue influence by controlling a target’s Behavior, Information, Thought and Emotions. Any group can use elements of these along a spectrum of influence. Just because it doesn’t look like a cult doesn’t mean you’re free from influence.

Additionally, here are some things I learned from DailyKos in 2007-2008 when the Obama campaign took over and flipped the site.

  1. Beware of sites where the comments are liked or scored. If your comments are liked or scored, that element can be used to influence your behavior. Why does this work? It works because people like to be liked. It’s positive reinforcement. So if your site has been infiltrated by people who want to turn sentiment a certain way, a good way to do it is to reward commenters who write things that are close to that sentiment. Unliking is also feedback. No one likes to be unliked. Gradually, a commenter can be nudged to parrot the party line or the candidate’s line. Similarly, if you get enough mojo to become a super user, you become an enforcer with status. If you buck the party line, loss of mojo means loss of status. In general, just stay away from rated comment sites.
  2. Beware of conversion stories. There’s nothing so heart warming as a voter who has seen the light after resisting for so long. They have an emotional “road to Damascus” moment and suddenly Bernie Sanders is the most reasonable, effective and hot 77 year old they’ve ever seen. Conversion stories are incredibly effective because they appeal to our emotions and bypass the rational parts of our brains.
  3. Beware of love bombing. Love bombing is similar to a rated comment system. The unsuspecting is showered with praise. All of the sudden, you are the sexiest, most intelligent person alive and you are part of the family. You might indeed be all of those things. You might also be susceptible to the attention and sense of belonging. Test your environment: disagree about something. If your new family still loves you, great! If you find that the love is conditioned on you not questioning, then you might be dealing with a high control group.
  4. Beware of swarming. I don’t think the media has adequately acknowledged or has planned to deal with swarming. I first noticed swarming on DailyKos among John Edwards’ supporters. How it works: an operative writes a diary. As soon as the diary is posted, it’s recommended by dozens, sometimes hundreds of people. It happens very quickly. Usually, the same recommenders are listed. The result is that the diary rockets to the top of the recommended diaries list. Lather, rinse, repeat. The reader gets the impression that there’s a huge wave of support behind a certain candidate. In 2007, after Edwards was found to be tainted, the phenomenon was repeated by the Obama fans. Obama diaries took over the recommended list in the exact same way. I’ve seen this repeated in online newspaper comment sections. As soon as an article was posted in 2016, hundreds of anti-Hillary commenters would flock to the comments and a particular talking point would be repeated and recommended until it looked like the entire Democratic voter coalition thought she was a corrupt, untrustworthy, unlikeable, calculating, inauthentic hack. I call it swarming because it’s like a hive of bees with the same motivation highjacking a public comment system. It’s very easy to see once you look for it. For all I know there are people at the NYTimes who shaped those swarms. It sure seemed that way. But I have no way to prove they were in on it. I only know that the technique exists.

More thoughts:

Any time you are on a site, like this one, remember that you are part of a unpaid focus group. We used to get a lot of operatives here in the 2008 campaign season. It was through a lot of vigilance by myself, Katiebird and a few others that we managed to keep this site free for the most part from provocative memes and psychological warfare. I used to think I was just being paranoid about these things but ever 2016’s Russian campaign, I’ve learned that I wasn’t paranoid enough.

There are reasons why your comment may end up in the moderation queue. It’s a holdover from 2008 when we had to carefully test certain words to make sure we weren’t being swarmed or converted. I think for the most part that it worked even if it is a bit annoying to those of you whose comments need to be vetted before they are approved.

I’ve always said that this site is where you can be free to be unpopular and to not get rolled by the great mass of Democrats who want an instant consensus for good or ill. In fact, we try to resist consensus reality. Reality is reality. It’s not what the popular group says it is. You should test your reality periodically. That’s why you might see a pain in the ass Republican here occasionally. Get to know what they are thinking. I hate to say “know your enemy” because not all Republicans are enemies but you can be sure that all Trumpers are. They were influenced at some point. We can learn from them, how they were compromised and how to defend ourselves. So, gird your loins and sharpen your snark. They cannot hurt you. They’re just little black pixels on a screen.

Right now, the bigger threat is coming from what appears to be our own side. There seems to be a concerted effort to get many Democrats to make a hard commitment to support one candidate. Yesterday, the pressure was intense to jump on the Biden bandwagon. I recognized the guilt tripping and conversion stories. Here’s the problem with that. We haven’t had even one single primary yet. No one has cast an official vote and we are already being stampeded into voting for a man who has run for president THREE times and has failed to secure the nomination all three times. He’s targeting a very narrow base, ignoring almost every other member of the vast Democratic coalition, especially women. That last bit of info should set off alarm bells. If there is going to be a brokered convention, you can bet that California is going to have a huge influence and that’s Kamala Harris territory. Does anyone here think Harris is going to take second place to Joe Biden? Didn’t think so. But you can see where this would get very dicey, very quickly.

So that’s one possible scenario. But there are many others that we can’t know until they actually happen.

What I don’t want to see happen is for Democrats to take a pledge today to support one particular candidate and then be held to that pledge on pain of social ostracism. That’s what I see happening here. If you’re going to take a pledge, pledge to vote for whoever the nominee is. Don’t pledge a particular candidate until he/she has shown they can compete.

One last thing, stay off of Facebook. Most of you know I have never been a Facebook fan and I’m less so now. To paraphrase JK Rowling, never trust anything where you can’t see it’s brain. We frequently don’t know where our friends and relatives are getting the news they are sending us. In 2016, I sat next to a woman at my nephew’s wedding. She told me that Hillary Clinton and her droogs we’re responsible for the deaths of dozens of political opponents. Imagine a sort of Westchester Ton Ton Macoute. The scary thing was this woman wasn’t kidding. She really believed it. Read it on Facebook.

That’s how we lost central PA. Lots of very vulnerable people who didn’t keep their guard up.

Don’t let it happen to you.

Always let your conscience be your guide. Your values may evolve over time but if you find yourself straying too far from your core beliefs, pull back and test your reality.

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Impeachment part deux

Democrats,

Don’t waste your time or breath going on TV to talk about how you want to focus on the issues going into 2020. That would be all great and hunky dory but it’s not going to happen. The Trump administration is going to continue to do more and more outrageous things, poking at you and provoking you.

It’s not in Trump or Mitch McConnell’s interest to have you talking about healthcare or climate change. You know what else you’re not going to get from the Senate besides a conviction on impeachment?

Any cooperation on any vote whatsoever that you find good, desirable or necessary.

That’s the truth.

In fact, die hard Trumpers might even be excited about blocking you on absolutely everything. You’re also not going to lose even one die hard if you impeach the president. These people are locked in. You can safely write the vast majority off.

One exception is that there does seem to be a slight peeling away of support for Trump in the last week. Yep, there’s a softening of support because like I said last week, innocence does mean something and he sure as heck isn’t innocent, isn’t acting innocent and it’s hard to defend him.

To sum it up, you’re going to get the goblet with the iocaine powder in it no matter what you do.

So, go ahead and impeach. It’s what Republicans are daring you to do anyway. They want to bait you into what looks like a year long, fruitless process to bring Trump down. Why should you do this? Couple of reasons.

Nothing else is going to get done and no one is above the law.

Some people have no restraint when there’s no restraint. Just be upfront and honest about it.

“We’d like to be telling you about policy but we’ll let our presidential candidates do that. In the meantime, we’ll be impeaching Trump so that we can focus on election integrity and the fact that no one is above the law. We might not get anywhere but there’s really no other choice. We won’t get anywhere with policy anyway until 2020. We got to this deadlock by the skullduggery perpetrated on voters in 2016. We need to unpack that.”

Then stop worrying about what swing voters may think and start the hearings.

He looks less and less innocent as time goes on.

To impeach or not to impeach, that is the question

If this was a fair world, the answer would be crystal clear. We have never had a president who is more corrupt or willing to violate the constitution. If any other president had done 1/20th of what Trump has done, he would have been impeached after yesterday’s report.

And yet, the House of Representatives still hesitates. It hesitates because it knows that the Senate will never, never, never vote to convict. (Never say never).

That makes the whole impeachment procedure look like Team D vs Team R. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out why Team R, who is constantly wrapping itself in the flag, singing God Bless the USA and is addicted to security porn is so intent on protecting the least patriotic, most cowardly, ungodly, criminal sadist in the Oval Office. But that’s where we are. The perception is that we have two teams, ready to go to the mat over Trump.

You can almost imagine Vladimir Putin taking off his shirt and rubbing, well, whatever it is Russian mafia state leaders rub when they’re excited. What could be better than sowing even more division, enmity and chaos in your adversary’s country? It makes him tingle in places … ok, let’s not go there. You get the point.

It’s just one part of his plan to amp up the entropy. After all, his intelligence units are already making Bernie Sanders an inevitability. He probably likes Mayor Pete too. What better way to divide Democrats than to pit the white guys against all those women whose fury and drive managed to take back the House last year? Eggsellent, eggsellent.

Why impeach anyway? Do Democrats really need this? Do you think my congressman, Conor Lamb, wants to impeach Trump? He thinks he got in office based on the strength of his contingent of older, white guys. He seems to have completely forgotten about the slice of Mike Doyle’s District he got last year through redistricting that made the old white guy vote almost irrelevant. And anyway, are we saying that old white veterans have no concern for the honor and dignity of the country?

So that’s what Nancy’s dealing with. She’s got to make sure her contingent keeps the House next year.

I think there may be a little too much gazing into the crystal ball at this point.

One thing is for sure though. Trump has a history of getting away with things in the past and then doubling down on his worst instincts when he thinks he can get away with even more. You can look it up from the time he was fined by the feds for not renting to African Americans 40 years ago. He’ll do whatever he thinks he can get away with. That’s not forecasting. That’s just his nature.

And what does he want? Who knows but he’s got all his “acting” cabinet officials and Supreme Court justices all lined up. If he is a ruthlessly vengeful man who’s enraged by the damage to his image, I can easily imagine him deciding that if he’s going to go, he’ll take the whole place with him. You know, ship some DACA recipients to the desert in summer via cattle car, take all their stuff, dare anybody to make him stop as the death toll from heat exhaustion starts to climb. Maybe his Supreme Court will finally overturn Roe v Wade. That will cause anger, protests, and chaos. Maybe he’ll do something stupid on the financial front like refuse to pay our debts and watch our global credit rating plummet. Or allow Russia to have a free hand with the election next year, physically prevent African americans from voting, change the voting machines like they do in Minsk or East Bumfuck, Russia. Sure it’s unconstitutional but who’s going to stop him? Attorney General Bill Barr? Lololololol!!!!

He should be encouraged to resign. That would be the best scenario. The rest of us just want to get on with our lives and solve the healthcare issue, fix the consumer financial services problems, tackle global warming, make life more affordable and just and fair for regular people.

If we could strike a deal with Trump, pay him off to the tune of $10 billion and promise not to prosecute him when he leaves the White House, we would be saving ourselves money in the end. He could give some dorky speech where he makes it sound like a great sacrifice on his part and the networks would roll their eyes and read the prepared script that says what a hero of the working class he is who gave up his throne after the biggest inauguration crowd EVER blah blah blah. Then he could jump on his plane to a remote island and we’d all get back to business.

That’s the best scenario.

If I were Nancy, that’s what I’d be rolling around in my mouth with that Lifesaver as I contemplate my next move. Just pay him off for God’s sakes.

Or get rid of all of Trump’s droogs one by one until there is no one left to protect him.

Start with Bill Barr.

Also…

That’s why she was hated. Relentless negative coverage works.

It worked in Ukraine with Yulia Tymoshenko too. She was the Russian test case. Falsely accused of multiple crimes, lots of negative propaganda. Eventually, she was thrown in jail to get her out of the way. She was eventually released and exonerated.

Lock her up indeed.

Why Republicans should take this report seriously: Chaos is a ladder

From what I’m hearing on my iPhone, the report is very, very damning for Trump. I guess the only bright spot in all of this is that so many of his underlings refused to carry out his illegal orders. So, yay, otherwise revolting Trump underlings with a smidge more honor than your boss.

Here’s the reason why Republicans should not dismiss the report: it could happen to your candidate next time. According to the report, it’s very easy to seed the public with propaganda so that an otherwise decent human being (not Jesus but better than most of us) can be cast as a completely corrupt politician with little to no redeeming value. It’s easy to hack into the IT systems of BOTH parties. If you’re curious about why Republicans are sticking with Trump in spite of his manifest corruption, it could be that the hackers found some tidbits they can use on people like Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham.

It’s easy to target swing states with tailor made but wholly improbable stories about how your opponent has knocked of dozens of people. We don’t even know if the election was manipulated in the swing states but gosh, didn’t that crazy narrative about Wisconsin get a healthy airing the day after the election? Note, Wisconsin had no effect on Clinton’s loss. Pennsylvania had a huge impact.

Why did Russia try so hard to turn the election? Because there’s nothing better than instability to ruin your adversary. Chaos is the exact opposite of a smoothly running machine, which the US is (was) for the most part. But just imagine a world where the biggest superpower can’t get its shit together. If you wanted to invade another country or plow a path through the Middle East to give you access to a large body of water, it’s much easier when there’s no one big standing in your way. If you have billions of your people’s stolen assets, and there’s some asshole running around the globe getting an act passed so you can’t enjoy your ill gotten booty in Manhattan, you could make your problems all go away by getting your guy elected to not enforce sanctions.

The problem is, it’s your team that “won” this time. But it could be my team that “wins” next time. Or they could manipulate the system for some weird obscure third party. Sure, just manufacture support, hack some election machines, get the stooge to cooperate and voile! You could be looking at a Christian Socialist or Bernie Sanders in office.

It could happen. That’s what this report is saying. We are easily manipulated and the guy they got elected turned out to be onboard in every way. Just like President Jill Stein might be next time. I wouldn’t vote for her. But my ballot might say I did. And yours might too.

And once she’s in office, she can create all kinds of chaos because no one will be able to figure out how it happened.

It might be the Russians in 2016, the Chinese in 2020. Taking us down to the level of a bit player on the world stage has many benefits. Meanwhile, the taxes get even more uneven, infrastructure continues to disintegrate, social security deferred benefits become negligible and the whole country will be indebted to student loan companies and oil barons. We’ll start looking less like the US with every subsequent election and more like Greece.

That’s why you should care.

One more thing:

Trump and the Congressional Republicans have done nothing to secure the 2020 election or tighten cybersecurity. Maybe they think that they can use the Russian tactics to win and that the election will be in their favor.

Possibly.

But if Mueller’s report is accurate, there’s no guarantee of that. Tightening cybersecurity and securing the election could be a better strategy because there are only so many African Americans you can disenfranchise. It’s the other votes they have to be concerned about and which country or domestic actor is playing the part of Littlefinger.

Here’s the approved GOP talking point for today.

Yes, it doesn’t matter what Trump and his party have done or how many votes they have trampled on, we are all supposed to STFU today.

Without seeing all of the evidence.

Without knowing if Trump and his droogs perpetrated a coup on the rest of us.

Without Trump ever being held accountable for anything he’s ever done wrong including any national security violations.

The GOP must think that non-Trump voters are all a bunch of Democrats, Independents, non-voting, crunchy granola, highly manipulable Facebook addicted middle aged white working class whipkissers who are easily confused and can’t tell when a president and his party are lying, covering up and screwing us over with nimble hobnailed boot efficiency.

Hey, most of us have had teenagers in our homes. We have heard it all.

Good luck with that.

By the way, I usually refrain from giving advice but since Barr’s presser is likely to be some version of the GOP talking point shown above, and that it will have about as much relevant content as an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians, I’d just skip it altogether and wait for Preet Bharara’s debrief tonight on his Stay Tuned podcast.

Song du Jour:

Mueller Report Strategery

So, AG Barr is going to give a press conference where he massages the highly redacted Mueller report two hours before he hands it over to Congress. There is no question that what the report says is just the tip of the bad news for Trump. Can we all agree on that? It’s probably going to be embarrassing and describe unethical and corrupt behavior but in Barr’s hands, stop just shy of impeachment material.

The talking points are being written up now about how partisan Democrats are trying to stage a coup blah blah blah. In reality, the Mueller report is about the degree to which Trump propagated a coup against the rest of us who did not consider his character and behavior worthy of the honor of the office. Oh yeah, we were paying attention BEFORE the general election. There were a lot of hinky things going on that predicted Trump to be a dark stain on the history of our country.

Slightly off topic: Do Republicans hate Democrats and Independents more than they love their country? Sometimes, I think Nancy should have given him the money for his stupid wall. It would still be in the planning stage at this point and immigration fearful Trump voters would have had a lot less to be angry about. Maybe that could have freed their attention to actually watch what Trump is doing. And they might have asked themselves, if Jimmy Carter had done even half of what Trump has done, wouldn’t they have impeached his ass back to the Georgia peanut farm? The rest of us don’t have blinders on so challenging us on why Trump is a national security threat is easy. But what does it take for the Trump contingent to see it? Presumably, they are adamant about his innocence. And that might be a hopeful thought. Because innocence still seems important to them.

Anyway, all I ask is for the non-Trump voting Republican to maintain his dignity and decency. Siding with a man who is trying so hard to prevent the report to come out has the likelihood of tarnishing good Republicans someday. If you can have courage and are kind, why should you expect anything less from your president?

Back to the Mueller report. Mueller’s spokesperson reached out to the media to confirm that Mueller and his team will not be at Barr’s press conference tomorrow. Mueller’s team is literally saying that it is not standing behind Barr’s version of the report. And it’s clear now that the White House has been briefed on the contents because it is planning to issue a rebuttal. So, by this time tomorrow, the whole country will be flooded by Trumpian messaging that can’t be refuted because so far, no one, including Congress will have seen all of the evidence. Congress will subpoena the report and they will get it. No doubt about that. But the damage will be done because negative advertising works and the truth is just putting its shoes on while the lie makes it half way around the world.

Let’s just admit that’s what the plan is.

The only way around this is for the Mueller report to be leaked. About a week to ten days ago. And the people who actually have it are keeping vewy, vewy quiet.

The best time to release it would be about 7am. Just my humble opinion.