Confirmation Bias, Cont’d

A few posts back, explored the role Confirmation Bias, or You Find What You’re Looking For, plays in panics, such as the ones (1) we’re experiencing now.

Many thanks to reader Martin Shotzberger, who kindly sent me a link to a transcription of a talk by Irving Langmuir, titled Pathological Science, delivered at the Colloquium at the Knolls Research Laboratory, December 18, 1953, as transcribed and edited by R. N. Hall

Irving Langmuir, according to Wikipedia, was an American chemist, physicist, and engineer, Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, and wide ranging inventor and just all around brilliant dude. The audience, I presume, are other elite physicists and other scientists, so it took a little time and effort for me to understand a few of the examples, but they’re not too hard to get. Chiefly, Langmuir is noting the insidious and persistent nature of confirmation bias. He give examples where honest, dedicated, even brilliant scientists worked themselves into a state of utter conviction that they’d seen or discovered something, such that any new observations were reflexively explained away – nothing could be seen except for phenomena that confirmed their theories or discoveries. He labels this Pathological Science.

Langmuir goes to some length to say (usually) that he has no reason to doubt the honesty of the researcher, and that the main problem is overreliance on edge cases, observations right at the edge of perception, where it’s oh so easy to see what you want to see. Honest, bright-to-brilliant men letting their legitimate desire to know overwhelm their prudence.

Most telling, perhaps, is Langmuir’s observations that sometimes up to 50% of the specialists who examined the experiments were convinced, and that it sometimes took decades for the skeptics to win out. There was no one moment where everybody went: no, that doesn’t work. Instead, in a manner eerily parallel to the cult described in When Prophecy Fails (4th bullet at the link), people double down at first, then slowly drift away as evidence, or lack thereof, mounts. The theory or claims just sort of die out.

Highly recommended read.

Keep in mind that scientists are supposedly trained to anticipate and take measures against confirmation bias – and, in these examples, despite intelligence and education, fell to it anyway. If education and intelligence are no barrier, if men such as these can fall to it, what hope do we peons have? This brings us back to the Salem witch hunts, and, indeed, the COVID panic and, terrifyingly, the effectiveness of the “insurrection” propaganda campaign. Take confirmation bias, add fear, then stir briskly with a campaign to silence critics and demonize all opposition, and we are so, so screwed.

Prediction: there will never be a general public acknowledgement in our lifetimes that the lockdowns and masks were based on out-of-control confirmation bias fanned by fear-mongering and fraud. Nope, the Doom, if it ever is allowed to go away, will simply fizzle out over many years, and, with any luck, our progeny in a generation or two will stare back at it in wonder and horror at what we did to ourselves.

God help us.

  1. Plural. Not only is every death assumed to be corona-doom until proven otherwise, every act or word by anyone not on board the Blue Train to Paradise is assumed to be a call for bloody insurrection, any dissent from Critical Theory catechism is hate speech, any pushback at all on any point, any failure to accept without question whatever is being promulgated at the moment is eeeevil incarnate. Even noticing the story has changed is condemned. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Writing Update?

Can I talk about my humble writing efforts without bringing in the collapse of Western Civilization? Probably not.

So, been doing work, but not getting enough production – research, writing down backstory and character arcs, thinking through plot points, but not actually writing stuff for other people to read. Trying to not get too worked up over it, because a couple stories and the two (three? Is the White Handled Blade the beginning of a novel? Stay tuned…) sure the heck need some serious thoughtsmithing before the wordsmithing can go anywhere.

I’m going to get 1,000 words down on something before I go to bed tonight. That, I can do.

Been writing out some character details arcs, and, due to the nature of the NTSNBN, some family histories as well. I think some of these people need to kill each other. Seriously, I’m setting up some good guys/bad guys/people in the middle dynamics, but only abstractly so far. My evilest character in particular is, I hope, a little sympathetic, at least to the degree that you get why this person acts the way she does. Not going for the ‘misunderstood’ angle at all, this character is very aware of what she’d doing. But, so far, I haven’t though out exactly how she is going to crush people. It’s a little like: if someone pulls a gun in Act 1, somebody better get shot by Act 3. Yet, at the same time, don’t want to telegraph it too bad – it should be a shock when it happens…

That’s the kind of thing I’m thinking through, multiplied by 100. I want to make these stories good, but I also keep reminding myself that getting them done means accepting some imperfection – good and done beats perfect but never done.

I have this theory that, if I can get the ending to the NTSNBN complete, even just in my head, that everything else will come together. Don’t disabuse me. Part of the thoughsmithing is the realization that I wasn’t thinking big enough – there’s got to 20-25 pages of epic disaster before the denouement or it will seem disproportionate.

I think. Like I’ve done this before? But I have read a lot of books…

Astrophysicist discovers numerous multiple star systems ...

In the middle of writing this, I started wondering: if I want my longship to get anywhere inside hundreds of years, it’s (duh) going to have to go to a nearby system. But, leaving out brown dwarves and other minor objects, all the nearby systems, say, within a couple hundred lightyears, are known to some degree. So, if I say my people go to a nearby system with some easily-identifiable characteristics, I should probably see if there is, in fact, a system passably like the one I describe in our near galactic neighborhood…

…hours and hours later, I’ve now read up on dozens of nearby systems, hoping to find one that will work. You might be amazed at the variety of systems within a few hundred lightyears: single, double, triple, multiple star systems, some doing the dance of death with stars well under 1 AU from each other; others with stars 100+ AUs apart whose orbits take millennia to complete. Red giants, white dwarfs, everything in between…. Yet more pages bookmarked, notes taken, time – wasted?

Sigh.

Anyway, got to find some balance. But at least I’m making something like progress here.

Now, onto business: I’m guessing the right move for me is to a) write under a pen name; and b) set up some sort of account – PayPal? – that’s not so obviously traceable back here. I don’t flatter myself that I’m somehow important enough to bother with, but I do wonder how thorough an automated search for badthink might be, and how I’ve committed a whole boatload of pretty definite badthink over the years, in print, right here. It is impossible to overestimate the petty vindictiveness of our self appointed betters, nor the moral orgasms they get persecuting helpless people.

Better safe than sorry, I suppose, although there’s no way I’m safe if somebody really wanted to go after me. But, as I said, that seems pretty unlikely.

On that topic, I now have four protonmail addresses from people who want to be on my mailing list if this blog gets taken down – Thanks. Again, seems remarkably petty and unlikely given my insignificance, but, well, take a look around. I’ll do a general announcement soon.

If Only We Had Known…

CaliforniaProposition8.svg
Green: for . Red: Against. Even L.A. was only pink.

In California, for reasons that date back a century, the voters can enact laws and, indeed, amend the state constitution directly through the ballot initiative process. Thus, when a proposition amending the constitution is passed, the state constitution is changed. The proposition becomes ‘constitutional’ – enshrined as part of California’s constitution.

Back in 2008, Californians were given a chance to vote on the idea that marriage is something that can only exist between a man and a woman, at least as far as state law goes. Prop 8, which amended the state’s constitution to that effect, passed by 600,000 votes.

Yet, as a result of a ruling by a carefully selected (gay) judge on a carefully crafted lawsuit, Prop 8 was declared unconstitutional. So, follow the head-exploding logic here: an actual part of the state constitution, put there by a fairly decisive majority of the voters, expressly amending the constitution, is ruled *unconstitutional*. Now, there could be problems with an amendment that require clarification, because, frankly, the initiative process does put some pretty poorly thought out or poorly worded stuff to the vote. A judge could say: this part here is unenforceable as written, so we will suspend enforcement until it is clarified. Or: I will apply this range of interpretations according to what I believe the spirit of the law intended until such time, if any, these particular issues are clarified. Or something that recognizes the law is the law.

What is not rationally possible is to declare the constitution unconstitutional. The will of the people as expressed with their votes, not to mention the thousands of hours invested by citizens to get this law on the ballot and passed, were simply set aside. It was more than a partisan ruling that defied any concept of the rule of law. It was a flex, a show of force and contempt, where our self appointed betters showed us deplorable little people just how much our votes mattered to them.

It hardly stopped there: in 2014, Brendan Eich, who was well-respected enough to get appointed CEO of Mozilla, was forced out due to having committed the heinous crime of having given $1,000 to Prop 8, a cause that won handily, and for supporting Republicans.

That most voters agreed with Eich at the time means: these people would do the same to most voters. And, indeed, when I get together with Catholic dads, one topic that often comes up is the need to keep your opinions to yourself at work while simultaneously tolerating having the ‘correct’ views rammed down your throat.

So, now we are being treated to a similar insult and flex: Congress is attempting to impeach a private citizen. The way it works in law: government officials can be impeached; military people can be tried by military courts; private citizens get tried in courts of law. These are constitutional rights – guaranteeing the right to a trail when we private citizens are accused of breaking the law is just exactly the sort of thing you bother having a constitution *for*.

If only we had known that our elected officials can simply change the Constitution at will, when they really, really feel like it!

The real point here: if Trump were to be accused of treason and given a real trial in the civil courts according to established legal practice, the prosecution would have to produce coherent charges and produce evidence, there would be a discovery period, and his team would get to present evidence and make counterarguments, witness would be called to testify under oath – in public, on the record, with normal people watching.

Can’t have that. We will instead, if sanity doesn’t miraculously prevail, have an utterly illegal show trial, where senators shout down and threaten each other and anybody testifying ‘wrong’, and where rules are changed as needed to get the desired result and prevent any counter-evidence from being presented (not that the media would allow us to see it even if the Senate slipped up and let it get said out loud). All law is suspended so that we little can be kept ‘safe’ and in our place.

We have the spectacle of elected officials blatantly violating the Constitution in order to ‘protect’ ‘us’ from somebody violating the Constitution. Somebody is trying to incite insurrection, but it ain’t the most recent former president. Got to follow through on the Reichstag Fire Capital ‘riots’ to complete the congressional purge so that the federal and state purge can proceed efficiently. Then it’s reeducation for the little people.

Well, miracles do sometimes happen.

Note: “The Reichstag Fire Decree suspended most civil liberties in Germany, including habeas corpus, freedom of expression (see above), freedom of the press (riiiight), the right of free association and public assembly (gone since March), and the secrecy of the post and telephone (let me check with Siri about this… Yep, gone).” Wow, we’re ahead of the curve! Already lost almost all that – to the applause of millions. Boy, are we ‘safe’.

We Have Always Believed in American Exceptionalism

Remember when the belief that America was not like other countries, but somehow especially blessed and protected, was a shibboleth that marked one out for culling at the next round up? Only deplorable people would ever believe such a stoopid fantasy….

Well, forget that. Nope, that went down the memory hole. We are now required to believe that, unlike every other country on earth now and throughout history, we are immune to:

  • A State-controlled media. Nope, not in America! Just can’t happen. All media – real media, that is – agrees on all particulars and the general sweep of current events and history that has brought us to this, a dawn of a glorious new era where 6′ 200lbs men will be playing women’s hockey and paper masks both trap billions of deadly virons AND pose no health threat when you handle them and throw them in the trash. Among a million other absurdities obvious truths every right-thinking person believes.
  • Election Fraud. Nope, not here, not even possible! All the most intelligent, enlightened, and moral people (as they themselves will tell you) roll their eyes so hard at this, you just KNOW it’s true! Only a rube, an ignoramus, a bad person, would even dare bring up Huey Long, or the Chicago Outfit, or Billy Bulger, or Tammany Hall, or… Only someone truly evil would point out that same Europe at whose feet we should sit and learn – not only do they have flawless, perfect socialized medicine with no downsides whatsoever, but they gave the Lightbringer a Nobel Prize – require IDs to vote, because, well, they have much more experience than us in….uh, never mind.
  • Propaganda. What? Not here in America! Impossible! We are the land of free and open expression, and, besides, way too intelligent, educated, and moral to fall for that sort of nonsense! it’s like advertising: Only rubes buy anything because it appears in an ad or the product is placed in a movie we like. Only pork rinds and Coke are sold that way, to people living in trailers and missing teeth. The advertisements in the shows and magazines we consume have NO EFFECT. AT. ALL. We can’t be swayed by stories repeated and repeated and repeated until they are part of the background noise. Only an evil person would suggest we enlightened Americans have anything to learn from the German intelligentsia, professional classes, lawyers, judges, journalists – who, by the way, were objectively the best educated, most enlightened and, indeed, most moral people the world had ever seen up to that point- who fell right in line with Goebbels’s propaganda campaign. Not the rubes, not the farmers – the smart people. But we’re different, because we’re told we’re different.
  • Totalitarianism. Well, THAT almost happened until the good, intelligent, moral people, for our safety as determined by them, put a stop to freedom of association, freedom of speech, and fair trials. Can’t have the rubes talking among themselves. It’s not safe to hear out the other side when we already KNOW who’s right. But that’s the opposite of totalitarianism, which can’t happen here. Only an evil, crazy person would point out the parallels with many, indeed, EVERY democracy that fell into totalitarianism, via some mix of reigns of terror, military dictatorship, revolution, counterrevolution, and so on. Because, you idiot, that simply can’t happen here.

America is simply different. We make our own rules. We are beyond history, beyond reality, even – everything that is, is spoken into being by our word. Have I mentioned that we are the most intelligent, most enlightened, most moral people the world has ever seen? We are incapable of being fooled, manipulated, herded! We are just the best! America: History’s Chosen People! But totally not in any religious sense – that’s just stupid.

Slow on the Uptake

Although I receive constant reminders of my profound ignorance of almost everything from this little thing we like to call ‘reality’, nonetheless I’m having a bit of a ‘doh!’ moment. My head keeps spinning with frustration over the level of scientific and historical illiteracy evident everywhere, the level of functional innumeracy, when, obviously, those are mere symptoms. People have been screaming the name of the real problem from the rooftops for centuries. I have even heard it, and acknowledged it. Repeatedly.

Few Americans have have any understanding of science or history, no grasp of what a set of numbers might mean, because few Americans have any grasp of reality. Not merely no grasp on the particulars any one of us receives moment by moment through our senses – although even that is clearly lacking – but no grasp of the general principle that there even is an objective reality that doesn’t care how you feel about it.

Somehow, I keep forgetting this grim fact, and waste my time gathering evidence and shaping arguments, as if evidence and arguments will convince anybody except the tiny fraction of people willing to be convinced – OF ANYTHING.

Memento Mori – not just a good idea. It used to be that death, a very real thing that a) happens to everyone, and b) clearly doesn’t care how you feel about it, put some sort of cap or lid on our fantasies. At the very least, even those convinced of their own immortality would (eventually, gratifyingly) die. Reality got the last word, and, more important here, everybody knew reality got the last word.

Now? Death, where is thy sting? Hiding out in nursing homes, hospices, homeless encampments, third world countries – places YOU don’t have to see it or worry about it. This partly explains the freak-out over the d*mn virus: people refuse to consider exactly WHO is dying of this thing. An easily identifiable population sharing one critical trait: they are already dying of something else. That’s why they’re in nursing homes in the first place. But we are not allowed to consider this factor, instead, on the off chance anybody notices the age distribution, it’s sweet, welcoming grandmas who we are killing if we go maskless, or get together with friends, or open a restaurant, or support the wrong political candidate. Which grandma would that be? The comparatively vigorous grandma out gardening in the yard every day? Or, perhaps, the grandma who been stuck in a nursing home, where she will be lying in bed with soaps on the flat screen, drifting in and out of coherence, unable to take care of even her most basic needs, for the last few months of her life?

Have any of these people ever been to a nursing home?

Without any real experience of death in their lives, except as a horrible wrong thing that we need the government to protect us from, the last real tether to reality has been broken.

As I written before (perhaps ad nauseum), I learned a lot from getting to know a large variety of families from very different backgrounds through the school and church. My own families, while closer and experienced in more detail, don’t work as well, in the fish-describing-water sense. One thing that I noticed many times: the family story. Two examples:

I was once having dinner with this ‘blended’ family. The sisters of the mother to two out of the three children were also there. They were discussing an incident from their childhood where one of them got hurt on a trampoline. At one point, they all became, again, little girls: one of them explained that no one was to blame for the accident, and the other two nodded and spoke in agreement. It was clearly a critical part of the story that they all agree on the explanation of where the blame lay, and that this was not the first time this issue had arisen.

This seems, no doubt, utterly trivial, but you had to be there. These three professional women’s whole demeaners and even voices changed, for the brief moment it took to make sure they all agreed to the story. It was clearly very important to them that they agreed, and had been since the time of the incident. This made me wonder what had actually happened. There’s lots more to this picture, mostly centering around how this family also shared a story about how the damage to the children of divorce could be mitigated if not eliminated if all the adults behaved properly. Reality suggested otherwise, in this case.

Next, a tragically more common experience: there was a family with two mutually exclusive stories, one in which divorce was no big deal, and that the one parent acting as if he’d been betrayed was just being a big baby, and that the kids needed to get over it. The other story was, obviously, that this husband had been blindsided and betrayed by an act of wanton, petty selfishness, an act that damaged his and their children’s lives.

Because the stories were incompatible, the kids were forced by the mother to pick one. If they even acknowledged any validity at all of dad’s story, they were cut out of mom’s life. So siblings start by losing their family, then move on to losing each other as they are forced to pick. The price of acceptance was never contradicting the story.

And on and on – once you see this, you can’t unsee it. This buy-the-story-as-the-price-of-membership shibboleth is EVERYWHERE in human lives. At a very base emotional level, we stupid, crazy, damaged humans need our stories, and even more, need our tribes. To belong to the family, and, by extension, the tribe, there are tales we must accept. Comparing those tales to objective reality is suicide in most cases. So we simply don’t – some abstract notion of truth simply can’t prevail over the immediate, visceral need to belong.

The incessant ad hominem attacks on dissenters is exactly this: if you disagree with the story, you are not a part of the tribe or family – and that is problem! No vitriol or imaginative effort is spared in describing the evil that lurks in the hearts of – take your pick: climate change deniers, Trump voters, people who don’t ‘believe’ (note the word choice) that lockdowns are absolutely necessary and are saving millions of lives. Truth? What is that? We just need to know: are you of our tribe, or not?

At least the Yanomami are upfront about it: if you don’t speak our language, you are not human. But we’re certainly gaining ground on this front. Ah, progress!

Brazil's Highest Mountains: The Lone Guards of the Amazon ...
If only our self-appointed betters would embrace Yanomami fashion sense as well. That would be an improvement.

M.A.D.

Note: I have C. S. Lewis’s level of interest and knowledge of day to day politics. Despite having written so much of what might be called political observation, Lewis didn’t know who his own local representatives were. In a like manner, I typically concern myself (for whatever that’s worth) with big picture, long term stuff, but am hardly someone you’d go to for tactical stuff. That said:

I think if Trump can be said to have made a fatal error, it would be underestimating the level of M.A.D. * among our elites. That’s certainly what the rapid, simultaneous folding of so many of his political ‘supporters’ looks like. The swamp creatures were very reluctantly willing to back Trump as long as his presence in office provided some degree of protection from retribution. Their constituents demanded it, so they put on a show.

BUT – if people high enough in the racket started going down, all those public officials further down or one or two levels up from the target suspect all the sudden were guaranteed M.A.D. Imagine someone on Dragon Lady’s team gets caught dead to rights in something seriously illegal, say, selling out to China or having people killed, and manages to avoid getting Epsteined. Even if that guy doesn’t make like a canary, the implications of being associated with him will be bad. (This, BTW, is why control of the FBI is so critical. Crimes are not outed when investigations just don’t happen.)

If this seems far-fetched, look at the career of J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI was set up as a temporary step to deal with the organized crime that flowered under Prohibition. You all get *why* they needed Untouchables? Because so many people, and some important people, and local cops, and local judges, and so on, weren’t about to stop drinking just because some Puritanical Karens had gotten a law passed. It quickly became a religious war: those who thought it was their sacred right to use the force of the state to fix other people’s problems, versus ‘scofflaws.’

Scofflaw Was Created for a Contest

In 1924, a wealthy Massachusetts Prohibitionist named Delcevare King sponsored a contest in which he asked participants to coin an appropriate word to mean “a lawless drinker.” King sought a word that would cast violators of Prohibition laws in a light of shame. Two respondents came up independently with the winning word: scofflaw, formed by combining the verb scoff and the noun law. Henry Dale and Kate Butler, also of Massachusetts, split King’s $200 prize. Improbably, despite some early scoffing from language critics, scofflaw managed to pick up steam in English and expand to a meaning that went beyond its Prohibition roots, referring to one who violates any law, not just laws related to drinking.

From Merriam-Webster:

The FBI needed to keep their investigations secret, because if very many people knew, a scofflaw was likely to be among them. Once you throw in an Al Capone or three, who provides key links in the black market supple chain, makes a lot of money doing it, and doesn’t shy away from using force to protect his interests, you will need Untouchables, men who can’t easily be bribed or blackmailed. Every local cop, every local judge, every mayor, alderman, or civic leader was at least potentially a weak link, a scofflaw who would, at best, thwart your investigation, or, at worst, get you killed.

BUUUT – now you’ve set up a Bureau that conducts secret investigations. What could possibly go wrong? J. Edgar Hoover, founder and until his death in 1972, director of the FBI, liked his position of power. The Oracle Wikipedia states:

Later in life and after his death, Hoover became a controversial figure as evidence of his secretive abuses of power began to surface. He was found to have exceeded the jurisdiction of the FBI,[2] and to have used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. Hoover consequently amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten others, including multiple sitting presidents of the United States.

“…in a position to intimidate and threaten others, including multiple sitting presidents of the United States.” Got that? A federal employee used his access to information and a large, sophisticated investigative apparatus set up to be outside the ready review of anybody to, essentially, blackmail *sitting Presidents*. In other words: MAD: he goes down, you go down. That’s how Hoover managed to keep his position until his death; that’s what Trump was up against.

Of course, after Hoover died and all this stuff came out, Congress, at the urging of the President, abolished the FBI, citing the obvious threat to democracy that having a bureau with huge, secret investigative powers inevitably presents.

Ha ha ha, I’d slay me, except I’m already slain, having made the same joke about Fred Roti a couple posts ago. Nope, hearing were held, a little muted outrage was expressed -and the people in power under J. Edgar kept right on keeping on, for the most part, and the FBI continued growing in power to this day. I wonder how they pulled that off? You want a definition and poster boy for what sane people mean by the Deep State? There it is.

In a sense, Biden is their Incitatus .

*n For you youngsters: Mutually Assured Destruction, the strategy (successfully) followed during the Cold War and mocked in Dr. Strangelove, of making sure all the nuclear powers understood that there was no way any one of them could strike hard enough to prevent a counterstrike from destroying them.

Let Me ‘Splain…

No, it is too much. Let me sum up:

Let me explain (With images) | Princess bride quotes ...

I’m an amateur, not going to lie. But I do have a few what seem to me obvious generalizations about history, things you can’t not notice once you’ve noticed them:

The default state for us humans is something like a tribe. We will fall back into this state unless diligent effort is made to prevent it.

For today’s discussion this means: we see tribal membership as primary to survival, for the simple reason that, during the last few million years of evolution, it was. No lone man was likely to long survive, and, if he remained a lone man, he didn’t leave many offspring. You want to play the natural selection game? Better stick with the group , where breeding opportunities exist and children have a decent shot at surviving, too.

Tribes have leaders. While it is nice to imagine small tribes working things out democratically, the reality is that tribal peoples are (despite the endless propaganda to the contrary) typically very violent. The Mauri, the Yanomami, The Iroquois – sure, they may have plenty of redeeming qualities, but you want to see cultures where they would just as soon kill you as say hello? So, in such a setting:

Tribal leaders tend to act like Mafia leaders. When the Roman Republic fell, to take one example, they had a centuries old culture of trying to work things out, and had largely avoided internal political violence for a couple centuries. (Three long wars with Carthage also put internal issues on the back burner.) When it finally fell, leaders in the Senate had Tiberius Gracchi, who threatened their power, clubbed to death along with 300 of his followers – first significant political violence in a couple centuries.

It quickly went to hell. The resulting regimes looked a lot like a mafia sans the titles: Caesars were the people who the muscle would follow; turf wars/civil wars – tomato/tomahto; as far as they could manage it, everybody paid their protection money, and nobody got to do any business without clearing it with the local rep – who got a cut. Etc.

Even in Republican times, life in the Roman countryside (where 90% of the people lived) looked like this: a patriarch had his estate(s), everyone who did anything at all on his turf had to come pay him honor. You would regularly show up to share a graciously-provided meal at the patriarch’s estate, or people would check on why you didn’t. If you ran a business, it was because he let you run a business – and he took a cut. Fail to comply, and people do stuff.

A key feature: all the other clients are desperate for you to go along. To them, the local patrician *is* the government – he’s police, he’s the judge, he’s the one who settles disputes. If he were to murder you, a commoner, there’s no one around to do anything about it. And just like mafia dons, when things are going according to plan, you’re not whacking anybody. The sheep are therefore invested in not rocking the boat. You can play the ‘somebody has to maintain order around here’ card – you’re not exploiting people, you’re *protecting* them!

The transition from lawful government to mafia just isn’t much of a transition. You may have noticed that mafias do a lot of the stuff that governments do: collect taxes, enforce behaviors, ‘regulate’ businesses, ‘police’ their turf. It has long been said that, when the mob more overtly controlled Vegas, crime was all but non-existent there. There was no trial or warrants or any of that nonsense – you do crime on there turf, and there’s a few thousand square miles of god-forsaken desert nearby in which a body can be dumped and will quickly disappear.

Aaaand – that’s the way the tourists liked it! Sure, mom, dad, and the kids from Des Moines were not thinking about how Vegas was so safe – but they counted on it. I’ve heard – not going to research it – there’s more crime now that the mob runs things at arm’s length. All that law and order stuff getting in way of just, you know, solving the problem.

Did you all see the Daniel Day-Lewis movie Lincoln? * It is of course hagiography with a subtle message: Lincoln is shown early telling a story about when he was a lawyer, helping a (very sympathetic) murderer escape. Ignoring the law and his duty as a lawyer to uphold it, he does the ‘right thing’. Later, he tells his henchmen to do whatever needs doing to get the 13th Amendment passed, but don’t tell him about it – plausible deniability, you know. The film follows his team as they cut dubious deal, threaten, bribe, and bully enough votes to get it through.

The movie most definitely does not invite us to spare a thought about how Lincoln was behaving indistinguishably from a mafia don. Instead, we are to simply wipe a sympathetic tear from our eye and nod in agreement with the idea that our Greatest President ™ can ignore the law if he really, really needs to, to do the right thing. What, you want the poor beaten wife to get hanged for killing her abuser? You don’t want the slaves freed? All because of a pedantic belief that public officials should obey the law? YOU MONSTER!

Some of my beloved readers, in a perfectly understandable reaction, may think from my last post that I’m claiming Vinny the Neck has got his feet up on the desk in the Oval Office. Nope, nope, nope! Rather, what I think is that, after the manner of Lincoln as portrayed in the movie above, stuff needed to get done for all sorts of really really good reasons, way bigger reasons than obeying the letter of the law, and so people say things, people do things, and stuff happens. THEN: we reach a state of MAD: if I go down, you go down. Did Lincoln specifically tell thugs to go crack some heads? Did he buy the murderer a ticket out of town? NO! He merely stated his earnest desires – ‘will no on ride me of this meddlesome priest?’ style – and left it up to his underlings to get it done.

To conclude, this is why I don’t think it requires anything like a literal conspiracy for the election to have been stolen. There wasn’t a Democratic official anywhere in America who didn’t know that the Evil Orange Man needed to be defeated no matter what. They’re not waiting around for explicit instructions, which were never going to happen. Instead, they are seeing the same thing on the news we were seeing: Trump ‘inexplicably’ ahead in 5 states they needed. Nobody needed to order the locals to do something about it – they could figure that out on their own. And they’re unlikely to ever discuss it, before or after. What would Vinny the Neck want them to do? Are they getting a nod and wink next time they see him, or a frown of doom?

Hopes this helps.

* That it came out while O was running for a second term makes me laugh.

Stealing Elections: Unheard Of?

I’m beginning to agree with those who think American Exceptionalism is deplorable, but, as usual in our Orwell topsy-turvy land, it’s another case of Goebbels’s rule: always accuse your enemies of what you’re doing. For some people seem to really believe that, unlike every other country that’s tried Democracy of any sort for any length of time in history, our fair land is immune to the obvious temptation for any who’ve gained power through democratic means: use that power to make sure you never get unelected, and to get your buddies elected.

In this respect, America is not exceptional. Our fine leaders are every bit as likely to see free, open elections not as a sacred blessing to be preserved and defended, but as a problem to be solved, as any number of the other illustrious leaders of democracies history puts before us.

Let’s take one example, one of many, one I’ve mentioned before: Fred Roti. Born in 1920, Roti was the son of a Chicago grocery store owner, one of 11 children. Roti began his public service career in road repair, shoveling asphalt, and went on to serve as a machine gunner on a boat in France in WWII. In 1950, Roti, in the words of the Oracle Wikipedia, “was tapped by the Democratic Party organization to run for Illinois state senator from the 1st District.” He won, and served until redistricting broke up his district in 1956.

Going back to his public service roots, he then took a job as a drain inspector, while staying active in Democratic politics as a precinct captain. In 1968, he was again “tapped” by the Democratic Party to run for Chicago Alderman. He won handily, and won reelection handily until he left office in 1993. Over his 25 years in office, he was well known for helping others get their start in government work and elected office.

So, another heart-warming American success story? A few other details: Fred’s father was Bruno “The Bomber” Roti, a capo under Al Capone and a Mafia hitman. That grocery store where he was born was a few blocks down the street from Capone’s headquarters. Bruno managed to get all 11 of his children jobs in government. Fred, the youngest and the runt of the litter, rose to the most prominence.

Fred’s side interests were very profitable. He was estimated to be one of the richest men in America in the 1970s, despite having held only a number of what one would assume were full-time government jobs. He used his wealth and influence to become a major player, although a low-profile one, in state and national Democratic politics. He was a close friend, at least (FBI said: made man), of the Chicago Outfit, a mafia gang that controls much business in the Midwest, with fingers in pies from Florida to California, to this day.

Fred was known as a ‘fixer’ – if you got in trouble with the law, Roti could fix it for you. He managed this via continuing a long-standing Chicago tradition of having police chiefs and judges vetted by the Mob; e.g., “Roti was instrumental in the appointment of William Hanhardt as Chief of Detectives of the Chicago Police Department. Hanhardt was the Chicago Outfit’s main plant, was convicted in 2001 of masterminding multi-million-dollar jewelry thefts, and served 10 years in prison.” (Wikipedia, again. Being a bit lazy this morning.) A good fixer also has his people in the state law enforcement and the FBI. Roti certainly did.

Roti worked closely with Richard Daly and other Chicago mayors. Whenever an important vote came up in city council, all the other aldermen would – out of deep respect, no doubt – let Roti vote first. Then, they would all vote whichever way he did.

Roti won reelection all but unopposed all those years. Would you want to campaign in the first district, put your face and name on campaign signs to run against a guy whose daddy and friends killed people for a living, knowing that, if you were wronged, you would need to go through the police whose leadership Roti controlled, then before judges Roti got appointed? Once this level of power is obtained, you no longer need to do anything so crass as throw ballot boxes in the river or have dead people vote. You win by default.

So, when the FBI finally caught up with Roti, and managed, Al Capone style, to get him on some comparatively minor charges, there was a great purge of all his appointees and associates from all Chicago, state, and national positions of power as good American citizens were horrified that all these people were not already in jail.

Ha ha ha. I slay me. Nope, Roti took a bullet for the team. No one else was convicted, no one else lost their job, all those people he had helped get government jobs and elected office kept right on running things.

They still do.

The national Democratic party paid no price for having had a mafia don in their inner circle for decades. In fact, the team Roti put in place and their protégés got to “tap” a Presidential candidate only 14 years after Fred went to jail. Yes, sports fans, these are the people who discovered and nurtured Barack Obama’s career, grooming him for high office. These are the people on the Lightbringer’s team.

These are the people who ran the country for 8 years.

You may have noticed nothing much happened during the Barry’s reign, except the attempt to place 1/6th of the economy – medical care – under the mob’s indirect management. Gotta get your skim. But that’s because the true work was more subtle: Barack – well, his team, he was an absolute figurehead – got to be “fixers” on a national level. Instead of vetting chief inspectors and local judges, they got to vet FBI directors and Supreme Court justices.

For 8 years.

This is why I always told people that claims that Trump wasn’t moving fast enough misunderstood the situation: he had to replace enough of Obama’s team’s people at the FBI, regulatory agencies, military, judges, and so on and on – you couldn’t get to be federal equivalent of dog catcher unless O’s team knew they could control you.

Now with complete control of the FBI, the Chicago team could use it to research and intimidate anybody who had somehow gotten into office without their approval. If they fail to squash some investigation they didn’t like, they can make sure cases against their people get put before their judges. A Flynn, for one example, must be crushed – as the Dread Pirate Robert says: “Once word leaks out that a pirate has gone soft, people begin to disobey you and then it’s nothing but workworkwork, all the time.” 

Almost as an afterthought: You want to run a news organization, or even work as a reporter? These same mechanisms are in place. You want to do that devastating expose against people who know how your kids get to school? So, effectively, cutting out the middle men, our press has been vetted by the mob. (Note: this does not mean the press isn’t also a nest of Marxists and their useful idiots. The two are hardly mutually exclusive, as history amply shows.)

This is what Trump was up against, and why they were terrified of him and hated him. That’s why they’re loosing their sh*t right now. Chips are being called in, people are being reminded of certain dirt they’d rather not have see the light of day. Anything but complete compliance means your career, and possibly life, are over. It’s frankly a miracle anyone in office is still standing with the President.

Of course, Roti was just a piece in a bigger story. Crime makes what at first might look like strange bedfellows. Marxists and mobsters agree: the police should be defunded. Unions and mobsters agree: businesses need to be brought under out control. Critical Theorists and mobsters agree: right and wrong are all a matter of how you look at it.

For our purposes here, we should note that mobsters fall under C.S. Lewis’s general rule: they just want money and power, and so are willing to let people alone at least some of the time. Therefore, they are not the ultimate threat here. It’s the people who believe that they, in their state of glorious enlightenment, need to fix (or destroy) any who don’t get with their program that will get us killed. Sooner, I mean.

On the plus side, when push comes to shove in the inevitable power struggle and purge, my money is on the mob. In America, at least, that seems more likely.

William Thompson won election as Chicago’s mayor in 1927, the last non-Democrat to hold the office. He had very good relations with Capone. Once he was gone, the Chicago Democratic Party refined its controls of elections, such that no non-Democrat has stood a snowball’s chance of getting elected ever since. Consider: Chicago has –

  • The highest paid teachers in America – AND the worst schools
  • An extensive set of Progressive social programs – AND endemic areas of poverty and despair
  • Some of the tightest gun control in the nation – AND an appalling amount of gun violence

BUT – for 90 years, no one has ever successfully been able to mount any alternative. Nope, the good people of Chicago just keep electing the same old people to keep doing the same old stuff. Chicago must be a paradise. Guess they’re just the most politically contented people on earth.

Boston, Philly, New York, LA, San Francisco, etc. – similar story: demonstrably terrible local governments that, somehow, keep getting reelected, year after year, almost always all but unopposed. At first, as a baby step, you might have to do stuff in actual elections – Roti was a precinct captain, after all – but, once you’ve got it refined, actual outside challenges are simply not allowed to happen.

So, in this light, is stealing a national election some sort of unheard-of crazy conspiracy theory? Or just the next logical step?

It will be interesting to see how this turns out. Just too bad my family and I – and you and yours – get to live through it.

A Possibly Relevant Autobiographical Note

In general, brave people are simple souls. Not stupid, by any means, but simple. Such people will face up to outrageous evil because they cannot imagine doing otherwise. Many great saints suffered outrageous martyrdoms because they simply couldn’t be made to say what they knew was untrue.

With my back against a golden throne, I fought once again for Dejah Thoris.

A somewhat secular example is Captain Carter in Princess of Mars. He says himself several times in the course of the story that he took heroic action because he simply could not imagine doing otherwise. And that’s the trick – in saner times, honorable people saw it as their duty to raise up such people from the cradle, because that sort of simple heroism is what is needed to be honorable in everyday life, let alone at times of crisis.

And it is the right thing to do.

I am not that guy. At my roots lives a deep well of fear. From whence it comes, I can only speculate. It is not attached to anything I can confidently identify. Just as I cannot explain how it could be that I’m not an alcoholic – if I were, no one would be surprised, given my personality and weakness – I cannot explain why I do not spend my days rolled into a ball whimpering in the corner. God knows there are many days I would like to.

So, how comes it that I find myself, trembling, at least trying to stand up for the truth? Growing up, as we all have, amongst the People of the Lie, truth may appear a fragile thing, easily beaten down and ignored. Certainly, the idea that truth is a lion, that you just need to set it free and it will take care of itself, is not something one can often see over the number of years one is given to live. Defending truth, in other words, is generally expensive and fruitless, at least in the short run.

I would like to hear your stories of how you came to care about the truth, Dear Readers, if you care to share. If you put truth above tribe, you are a rare bird.

For me, the answer is 3-fold:

  1. I have always been an outcast, and usually didn’t care. I never remember once obsessing over being a part of some group or other. In fact, I’ve never quite understood the desperate energy with which so many people strive to be part of the Kool Kids Klub, the Inner Circle.
  2. I think the appeal of science, which I began reading compulsively at age 9 (in the form of Time/Life books, tbh, so not *that* precocious), was at least partly in that it provided some level of certainty, truth on some level. As I got older and realized science could not address any of the really important questions, I started reading philosophy.
  3. When, in 5th grade, I made a fool of myself trying to straighten out our poor teacher on some minor point of astronomy, and found nothing by eyerolls and exasperation, I tuned out. These people, least of all the teacher, didn’t WANT TO KNOW. This was a profound realization, even if, at the time, I was not at all clear about it. What I was clear about: school was going to get the absolute minimum effort needed from me to get by.

So, more or less accidentally, I was immunized against caring what the school thought of me. 5th grade was also the only time I ever won the ‘merit pin’, given to the student with the best GPA. Found out that didn’t make me any friends or get me anything positive, either. So, from then on, the head-patting and gold stars and brownie points meant nothing to me.

But none of this makes me brave. I still avoid conflict, and tremble inside when forced to speak out against evil. I’m trying to overcome the fear, and am greatly encouraged by the example of my wife and children, who are brave in the way described above.

In a 10 days, the annual Walk for Life takes place in San Francisco. There is, of course, no rally, probably no mass, but people are planning to walk, my wife and children among them. I tremble, but I will go. Then, the 40 Days for Life starts up over Lent in February.

Word is the SF police are aware and will maintain order for the Walk. Over the 40 days, police in one local city have clearly been told to stand down, so that the harassment, screaming of obscenities’ and physical threats are allowed against the people praying. Our city so far has been better, but who knows? This is where the rubber hits the road. I’m terrified. I need to stand up anyway.

We all need to pray for each other.