Putting the life back in science fiction

Chaos and the Art of the Dead Cat
November 23, 2016, 10:46 pm
Filed under: 2016, American politics, Uncategorized | Tags:

I know, I know, everybody’s getting stressed out about acting thankful tomorrow, and I’m supposed to put out a message about what I’m thankful for (which is a lot, actually.  I’m still breathing.  That counts for something).

Unfortunately, I’m just providing ammo for that Thanksgiving political argument you don’t want to get into.  So if you’re not interested in that, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and read the rest of this on Friday.

Still reading? Hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

This is just some junk on Trump.

One is that, speaking as a Californian, I’d be *happy* if the feds cut taxes.  We apparently get back less than a dollar in federal spending for every dollar of taxes we send out (reference), and given how much South Carolina, North Dakota, and Florida get, I’m happy to stop supporting them.  The argument isn’t perfect, as some states that went for Trump (Ohio, for one), get back even less than Californians do, and some liberal states like Hawai’i are heavily tax subsidized.  Still, if you’ve got a red relative who wants small government, check and see whether their state is a net payer or  net taker.  If they’re on the dole relative to you, reminding them of this factoid might serve to escalate the argument (assuming you want that).

The bigger issue, though, is the dead cat, as used in British political slang.  Trump throws dead cats. Last weekend, it was his tweets on Hamilton.  To oversimplify, a dead cat is a misdirection.  It’s the thing you throw on the table when you’re delivering bad news, because it gets everybody shouting about the dead cat on the table and ignoring the bad news you just delivered.  In this case, the bad news was that Trump settled three Trump University fraud lawsuits for $25 million, which a huge price to pay for a non-admission of guilt.  Note also that being convicted of fraud would have put him at risk of impeachment, which might explain why he settled even at such extreme costs.  Last weekend, the news media babbled on about the Hamilton kerfuffle, and ignored the fact that the president-elect just paid $25 million to avoid acquiring a criminal record that might take him out of office permanently.  Which story was more important again?

Trump’s really good at misdirection.  That’s what his twitter account is about.  He loves to unsettle people with a verbal hash of random statements on all sides of issues, leaving everyone’s confirmation biases to make them, afraid, or soothed, or whatever.  The problem is, when we stop to process his noise, we take our eyes off what he’s actually doing.  That’s our mistake.

You have to treat him like a magician.  If you don’t want to be fooled by the tricks he’s trying to pull, you have to ignore the patter, the bombast, the vague conciliations, the bullying, the promises and the sweet talk, and especially the dead cats.  Instead, you have to watch his actions, to the extent you can.  With this dude, you need  to “follow the money” with extreme prejudice, if you’re trying to understand what he’s doing.

While the truth shall make us free, BS is a hell of a lot cheaper than truth.  Truth needs to be vouched for, and that takes time and resources that we may not have.  A lot of people have figured this out, which is why BS has proliferated to an extreme degree.  Heck, this blog might even be part of the BS effort.

On a slightly different subject, Trump’s in an interesting position.  He may well owe his surprise election to the Koch Brothers. At the very least, he’s staffing up using Koch people.  Is this quid pro quo, his real agenda, or more dead cats?   Hard to tell, yet.  Just keep watching his hands and see who he signs on.

If you’re really paranoid, you might even think that the Koch brothers hacked the election for him.  If they did, I suspect that the hack wasn’t in the voting machines in themselves, but in the offices of the registrars.  I’m reminded of a story about a Wisconsin registrar, an ardent  and active republican, who kept the vote totals from her county on an Excel spreadsheet, no password, no protection from someone just typing in whatever numbers they felt were right.  Somehow, with this registrar around, Wisconsin elections started getting won by pro-Koch people by narrow margins, and that county may have been part of the reason.  If an election’s very close and only one or two people know the true vote total, it doesn’t take much to ever-so-gently nudge the numbers the “right” way.  On a cruder but more effective level, our election maps have been hacked by gerrymanders, our voter suppression laws have been gutted, and huge amounts of money have been allowed into the process.  I suspect that the hacks, if they really happened, are more on this level than on the level of reprogramming voting machines.

So why do the Kochs do this?  Well, they have their own power hunger and libertarian ideology, but I think just as much about getting their chief foe, government, away from their chief moneymakers, most of which happen to be toxic or causing climate change.  Their activities are strikingly reminiscent of those of drug kingpins corrupting police departments and governments so that they can stay out of prison.   Also, the Kochs are big into misdirection too.  They even make nice on occasion, giving generously to organizations like NPR and supporting the TV science program Nova.

The thing to remember about the Koch brothers is that their purposes are served by government chaos as much by a government on the take.  It doesn’t matter if it’s smaller government, gridlocked government, government by misdirection, or whatever; so long as the government can’t stop them, they’re fine.  Of course they’d like to be in power, but a government paralyzed by an incompetent president is almost as useful to them as a government run by a corrupt crony.  Either way works.  They’d have sat pretty with a Clinton White House gridlocked with a  Republican Congress too.

How to deal? We can take the attitude of the small kid at the magic show, who doesn’t  spend any time on the patter, and catches the magician in every misdirection and trick.  Going forward, I’d suggest focusing more on money and action, and less on rhetoric, especially the really splashy stuff.  I’d also suggest that, if there are legal and effective ways to sow chaos in the organizations that are stealing our elections, it’s really worth promulgating those as well.  Throw a few dead cats in their bedrooms, for a change.

Oh, and finally, for the tinfoil hat trifecta?  How many ways can the US get into a constitutional crisis?  One is if some smoking gun evidence of vote tampering turns up, in a way that puts Trump’s victory in question.  A second is if the electoral college shocks everyone and decides that Trump is a despot who doesn’t deserve the Presidency.  Under the Constitution, they can do this, but whoever they put in power will have, at best, a questionable mandate, and we’ll be lucky if we don’t have a civil war.  However, civil war might be preferable to a nuclear war under an incompetent despot, so we’ve got to think about which is the least bad option.  The third crisis will come if Trump does something singularly impeachable,  neither the Congress nor the Supreme Court act on it, and Washington loses all its legitimacy as a result.  Could we see state National Guards, commanded by governors, versus the US military?  That would get horrible, especially if various world powers decide to back various national guards as a way to dismember the US.

What do you think?  Anything else to make all our Fridays truly black?

And before you go, yes, I’ll be getting back into climate change stuff and science fiction soon(ish).


4 Comments so far
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Add voting machine to your analysis of how states voted vs. machines used – each state can/does choose its own supplier:

From Wikipedia re: previous election results:

‘Avi Rubin, Professor of Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University and Technical Director of the Information Security Institute has analyzed the source code used in these voting machines and reports “this voting system is far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts.”[12] Following the publication of this paper, the State of Maryland hired Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to perform another analysis of the Diebold voting machines. SAIC concluded “[t]he system, as implemented in policy, procedure, and technology, is at high risk of compromise.”[13]’

‘Cat on the table’ – I’ve been wondering whether TD has peppered his outbursts with nuggets of truth so that if ever questioned under oath he could claim that he did say ‘such-and-such’.

Comment by SFreader

As a Brit, I have never heard of “dead cat” used as you indicate. Merriam-Webster dictionary gives it a related, but different meaning. It appears to be a new meme for 2016, but whether it was ever from the UK I cannot tell.

I think it is pretty clear, whether DJT intends to or not, the Republicans are going to push hard for reducing entitlement spending. That is going to hit those “red states” relatively hard. Cutting taxes which reduces transfers is going to exacerbate this. Watch the cognitive dissonance as voters explain why this is good (they have been voting against their interests for decades, so what is new?) I think it might take a few years before Trump voters realize they were really conned, but will justify it by “but we shook up the elites in Washington” (which they didn’t at all.)

Comment by Alexander Tolley

Another possibility — enough EC electors abstain that nobody gets a majority. That throws it to the House which must choose Trump, Clinton, or Johnson.

It seems more plausible to me that GOP electors would refuse to vote for Trump, than that they would vote for Clinton. In theory they might agree on anybody, but that’s never happened before and it doesn’t seem all that likely now.

The result would be another delay.

Comment by J Thomas

It does depend on that whole “despot” thing, and you’re correct, Clinton has been portrayed as despotic as much as Trump has. My guess is that the electors will elect Trump, but it does depend on him not losing it between now and December 19.

Comment by Heteromeles

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