Tag Archives: insanity

The Inmates and the Asylum

Remember the old line about the inmates running the asylum? We’re so there.

Catherine Rampell’s recent column in the Washington Post spelled it out:

Time to trade in those red #MAGA caps, Trumpkins. If you want your headgear to fit in with the latest White House fashions, invest in some tinfoil.

From top to bottom, this administration has been infested with conspiracy theorists. Most appear to be true believers. Take Stephen K. Bannon and his anxieties about the “deep state,” or the recently ousted Michael Flynn and his propagation of suggestions that Hillary Clinton was tied to a child sex ring run out of a D.C. pizza parlor.

Others, such as Kellyanne Conway, appear to just be paranoiacs for pay.

Conway, as you’ll recall, says our microwaves are spying on us…. Then there’s Budget Director Mick Mulvaney , who shared his suspicions of his predecessor’s job reports:

We’ve thought for a long time, I did, that the Obama administration was manipulating the numbers in terms of the number of people in the workforce to make the unemployment rate, that percentage rate, look smaller than it actually was,” Mulvaney told CNN’s Jake Tapper. Mulvaney declined to say exactly how the numbers were being manipulated, saying the explanation might “bore people.”

In case you were concerned about this numerical manipulation, you will be pleased to know that when the numbers made Trump look good (or so he believed–he actually hadn’t been in office long enough to have an effect on employment one way or the other), they suddenly/magically became credible.

Rampell points to others in the administration who hold–how to put this?–unconventional ideas. There’s Scott Pruitt, of course, who dismisses settled science on climate change. There’s  Curtis Ellis, an appointee in the Labor Department who has argued that Democrats engage in “ethnic cleansing” of working-class whites. There’s Sid Bowdidge, a massage therapist with no discernible relevant credentials, appointed to the Energy Department, Rampell tells us, “despite tweeting that Muslims ought to be exterminated and Obama was related to radical Islamist terrorists”.

It’s hardly just coincidence that the Trump executive branch is rife with beliefs that are wholly disconnected from reality. Such beliefs were a foundation of his campaign. Of course this would be the talent he attracts. Not scientists, experts or others who believe in weighing evidence, but people who heard Trump’s many malicious lies and reckless insinuations — that vaccines cause autism, that Ted Cruz’s dad was connected to the JFK assassination, that Mexicans are flooding over the border to rape and kill, that Antonin Scalia and Vince Foster may have been murdered, that 3 million people voted illegally, that our first black president was born in Kenya — and said: “Sign me up!”

Not long after reading Rampell’s funny-but-sad-and-scary enumeration of the Trump Administration’s nutballs and conspiracy-theorists, I came across a report confirming her assertion that many Trump voters shared and applauded these sentiments. And worse.

Maricopa County burnished its reputation as the Trumpiest in America last weekend as hundreds of locals, including heavily armed militamen, white nationalists and even a few elected officials, gathered to support the 45th president. The ensuing “March for Trump” was as horrifying as it sounds.

Aside from the predictable misogyny, the continued calls to “lock her (Hillary Clinton) up,” and angry rejection of the notion that America has any obligation to take in refugees, there was lots of that “old time religion” aka unrepentant bigotry.

Some even dared to tell Dan Cohen of the Real News Network how they’d make America great again now that Trump is in office. And Muslims weren’t the only religious minority unwelcomed.

“If she’s Jewish, she should go back to her country,” a 13-year-old Trump supporter said of a protester.

“This is America, we don’t want Sharia law,” one attendee explained. “Christian country,” he added.

One man insisted that Senator John McCain was a “secret communist.”

Beam me up, Scotty!

Today’s deepest political schisms aren’t partisan, and they aren’t political in the traditional sense of that word. Americans aren’t arguing about policies, about different prescriptions for solving problems, or conflicting interpretations of constitutional restraints.

The reason we are having so much difficulty communicating is because today’s divisions are increasingly between people who live in the real world, and people who have long since lost touch with it.

And guess who’s running the show?

When Evidence Doesn’t Matter

Political Animal recently reported on negative reactions from rightwing bloggers to a statement made by President Obama.

Now, granted, reporting the fact that rightwing activists would criticize this President falls under the “sun rose yesterday” category of news, but this reaction was unusually revealing, given the point the President was making: that evidence should trump theory.

Here’s Obama’s entire paragraph, so that the context is clear:

I guess to make a broader point, so often in the past there’s been a sharp division between left and right, between capitalist and communist or socialist. And especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate, right? Oh, you know, you’re a capitalist Yankee dog, and oh, you know, you’re some crazy communist that’s going to take away everybody’s property. And I mean, those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works. You don’t have to worry about whether it neatly fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory — you should just decide what works.

The point being made in the rest of the article is the fairly obvious one (obvious, at least, to folks who follow politics in the real world)–the reactionaries who currently control the GOP are obsessed with ideology to such an extent that when reality doesn’t confirm their beliefs, they opt to retain the beliefs rather than acknowledge the reality. Thus

A simple statement from the President that economies should simply pick solutions that work, somehow becomes a fundamental betrayal.

We see this reaction everywhere. The article refers to Kansas and Louisiana, both of which are in a world of hurt after several years of GOP orthodoxy, and the very different experience of blue states like California. I’ve previously compared Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, where Koch brothers ideology reins, to Mark Dayton’s Minnesota, where the economy is booming despite the imposition of new and higher tax rates and increased public investment in education.

In a functional political ecosystem that would be a cause for reckoning and introspection, but no acknowledgement of failure has been forthcoming from the GOP. Instead its candidates are doubling down on more of the same. For them, conservative orthodoxy cannot fail; it can only be failed.

In the alternate reality built by committed ideologues, changing one’s position because the evidence has demonstrated that the position is in error makes one a “flip flopper.” In the real world, amassing evidence of what works and what doesn’t is called “research,” and successful humans do it in order to bring our beliefs into conformity with facts that can be empirically demonstrated. (In the academy, we call that process “learning.”)

A popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. By that definition, the GOP has gone insane.

What’s More Dangerous Than Ebola??

Question: What’s more dangerous than Ebola? Answer: How about ignorance, racism, hysteria…Not to mention that most of us face an immensely greater chance of dying from flu, guns, automobiles, obesity and other causes about which we don’t panic and against which we don’t even take reasonable precautions.

Ebola is one of those “gifts that keep on giving” for our sensation-loving news media. Like missing blonds in Aruba, media outlets can milk it for endless speculation and sensationalism, and best of all, terrifying the public requires virtually no actual journalism.

I’ve been increasingly annoyed by the hypocrisy and disproportionate coverage, but what really set me off was a recent Huffington Post compilation of crazy. Some of the hysterical pronouncements came from the “usual subjects”–Faux News, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, etc. (Donald Trump parades his idiocy at every available opportunity; he tweeted that Americans who go overseas to fight the outbreak should not be allowed to come back.)–but there were others.

I don’t know who Morgan Brittany is, but she evidently suggested that American government officials had “orchestrated” the whole thing.

“Maybe the current administration needs this to happen,” she wondered, “so martial law can be declared, guns can be seized and the populace can be controlled.”

For sure, Morgan. The fact that Obama hasn’t confiscated those guns yet is just part of his clever, nefarious plan to keep you off balance….

Someone named Cyril Broderick went her one better:

Broderick published an article in a Liberian newspaper, titled “Ebola, AIDS Manufactured By Western Pharmaceuticals, US DoD?” Between references to conspiracy theorist websites and “The Hot Zone,” a popular book about Ebola from the 1990s, Broderick implies the virus is a result of bioterrorism experiments carried out by the U.S. government in Africa.

And of course, Indiana embarrassment Todd Rokita had to chime in, claiming that “the real Ebola threat lies with Latin American immigrant children.” Well, Todd, glad to see you are maintaining your own immunity to accurate information.

There were many more, one crazier than the next.

We have an epidemic on our hands, all right, but it isn’t Ebola.

 

Why I Hate AT&T

AT&T is trying to drive me crazy. And they’re succeeding.

I know a lot of people have problems with AT&T’s service, or their arguably evil politics. That’s not our complaint. (Yes, it probably should be, but I have limited amounts of political spleen to vent, and what I’ve got doesn’t extend to my phone service.)

No, my problem is with their billing. Not only are the statements themselves incomprehensible–I made it through law school, I teach graduate students at a major university, I don’t think I’m unusually stupid, and I don’t begin to understand them–but their record-keeping is screwed up and their website has clearly been designed by the liquor industry in order to drive users to drink.

We’ve had an account with AT&T for years. A credit card on file with the company was routinely charged as bills came due. And then, for reasons that will forever be beyond me, it wasn’t.

We were out of town, and I picked up my phone to make a call. I got a message telling me that service was being cut off for lack of payment. We couldn’t figure out why, and we weren’t at home where we could look at our records, so we called the billing office (that call is allowed!), made a payment from our bank account, and then pretty much forgot about it.

Then today–barely ten days after we’d made the late payment–we got a text message telling us that we still owed money. Confused, my husband called. In the two or so hours he was on the phone, he was told that the credit card on file had been rejected. When he asked for the account number of that card, it was a number totally unfamiliar to us. I don’t know whose account it was or is, but it was a number and an account we don’t currently have, and have never had previously.

The “service representative” (!) was unable to explain why they showed a number utterly foreign to us, but insisted that AT&T would not take a substitute–indeed, that the company could no longer accept any credit card from such dubious customers. (We’ve been paying AT&T regularly and without incident for well over 25 years, but evidently that wasn’t enough to earn us the benefit of the doubt.)

Long-suffering husband paid–again–through bank transfer. Per instructions from “customer service” (note quotation marks),  he then went online to correct the credit card information.  There he encountered a form clearly devised by Kafka: upon filling out the profile, with name, account number, etc., and clicking “submit,” a message comes up asking that the type of credit/debit card be entered. But there is no place to enter that information. NONE.

Another call. Another “service” representative unable to explain the rather glaring omission on the online form. A lengthy effort to convey the information verbally.

I hope we’ve finally gotten our account straightened out, although god knows I wouldn’t bet on it.

Bottom line? The two of us have spent a significant part of our day talking to people who were unable to answer reasonable questions like “why do you show a credit card that isn’t ours” and “when did you start seeing rejections from this card?” and “where on your profoundly fucked-up online form can we insert the information you are asking for?”

The next time someone tells me how unresponsive “big government” is, I’m going to suggest they try dealing with big telecom. For now, I’m heading for the liquor cabinet…

 

 

More GOP Insanity

Back in the Ice Age, when I was still Republican, the GOP used to be a party of grown-ups. It is painful to watch what has become of the Grand Old Party–and even more painful to see what it’s doing to the country.

Neil Pierce’s current column is yet another example.  As he reports,

“There’s no sane way to say that America’s criminal justice system is “OK.” It costs over $100 billion a year; it imprisons hundreds of thousands for minor drug possession or sale; overall it’s incarcerating 2.3 million men and woman — the most of any nation on earth.

But that didn’t stop 43 Senate Republicans from recently wielding the weapon of a filibuster to torpedo a proposal by Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) for a bipartisan national commission to undertake a stem-to-stern examination of how we apprehend, try and punish in America.”

The entire column is worth reading, but the essence is that the GOP claims a STUDY of the criminal justice system would be an infringement of “states rights.”

Mull that over for a minute. We have now gotten to the place where simply informing ourselves about what is happening in our country cannot be tolerated. Information has become the enemy.

I suppose I shouldn’t be so stunned; these are the people who deny the existence of global climate change, who insist that evolution is just a “theory” (betraying their ignorance of the meaning of scientific theory), and that people are poor not because they can’t get jobs but because they’re lazy. They’re the people who sneer at educated “elitists.”

So now the party that talks endlessly about the need to cut costs has killed a perfectly reasonable, modestly priced study aimed at determining why we are overspending by billions for a system that is both inefficient and inequitable–a study to help us spend less to make Americans safer.

Welcome to the age of the new and improved “know nothings.”