Can’t Anybody Here Make a Good Conspiracy Theory?

By: FireTag
February 2, 2013

Not Catholic? Seriously?

Mystery guest number 1 was never a practicing Catholic. Mystery guest number 2 never believed in Temple rites. Now, there’s a good conspiracy theory.

Sometimes a conspiracy theory turns out to be true. There is even a class of crime for which people go to jail that starts out “conspiracy to commit…”. But the conspiracy theories that ought to bother us as being “crazy” are the ones which just a little thought shows replace more likely explanations. The Pope is not Catholic? He’s fooling all of us? Seriously?

Wouldn’t that require that he had been fooling the entire hierarchy of the Catholic church as he rose within it? Otherwise, why wouldn’t that hierarchy have kept him from rising in the first place? Or are we supposed to believe that the entire Catholic hierarchy was part of the conspiracy to keep us from realizing that there is actually no Catholic hierarchy left? It makes so much more sense to simply believe the Pope is Catholic than to explain how he got to the top of the Catholic church without being Catholic.Not a Mormon? Seriously?

The same Occam’s Razor applies to Thomas Monson. It takes a crazy conspiracy theorist to presume that he rose to the top of the Mormon hierarchy without being Mormon. You may not know what debates go on among the Brethren. You may not know anything about the boundaries of personal disagreement the Quorums may share as individuals, or the questions and concerns they may raise in their personal prayers at night. But you do know that there are definitions of faithfulness and worthiness held by past leaders that would ensure they would not knowingly be open to his promotion to even mid-levels of the hierarchy were they unconvinced he met those standards.

All of us believe in crazy conspiracy theories. It’s just that we don’t notice as long as we are among people who agree on a common definition of craziness. There are at least a billion people who know that it is crazy to believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet because there are no prophets. There are billions more who know that it is crazy to believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet because his visions conflict with the visions of their prophet. I know that at least one of those groups is crazy.

Thus, deciding whether something is a crazy conspiracy theory is all a matter of what your “prior assumptions” tell you should be the burden of proof. If you knew nothing about institutions like the Catholic or Mormon churches, you’d probably start out treating their leaders as having views similar to those you expect from any person to whom you are being introduced for the first time. And that probably says more about your personality and experiences than it does about the leaders. If you are trusting, you’ll assume the newbie is trustworthy. If such trust has burned you in the past, you’ll be guarded. It’s only human that that would be the case, and there is no obvious “morally right” stance. Jesus surely loved the Sanhedrin, but did Jesus ever trust the Sanhedrin?

However, the first knowledge that you gain about a leader or his/her institution, favorable or unfavorable, can make a lasting shift in your impression that is much harder for further evidence to undo. Once you form an impression of what a “Pope” or a “Prophet” of a particular religion ought to be and how they ought to behave, that becomes the basis to judge what will seem the simplest explanation: behavior to type is easier to explain than behavior counter to type, and it takes far more of the latter to convince us that our “typecasting” was originally in error (even if it actually was).

A confrontation with reality must be jarring to break the typecasting, and, even then, there is still likely to be backsliding to reconstruct the original belief system. However, once an irreparable break does occur, subsequent emotional shifts in expectation can also be profound, with new “typecasting” held as fervently as was the old. Converts to or from a worldview can be zealots.

So, one can say that a good conspiracy theorist starts out with (or ends up with) a mistaken identification of type, and holds to it fervently, creating ever more elaborate narratives to avoid further adjustment.

And that brings me to the question of what role narrative should play in this typecasting at all, when we fundamentally determine expectations of type on a much more primitive basis. Don’t our narratives just provide ideological frosting, so we don’t have to face too openly our more primitive motivations?

My background in science suggests to me that human beings have had primitive drives a lot longer than we’ve been creating elaborate narratives — whether we call those narratives philosophy, myth, theology, ideology, worldview, or theory. The primitive drives have had time to embed themselves in the genes of thousands of generations, where it’s hard to dig them out with even intense effort.  Our narratives become almost unrecognizable in a fraction of that timescale.

Walter Mead recently wrote an article summarizing how today’s liberalism sees itself as humanely concerned with those in society who can not make it without societal help.

“Once the privileges of race, gender and fortune have been neutralized so that the elite is a purely meritocratic body, the members of the elite are obliged to concern themselves for the welfare of the majority, but there is nothing more to be done about equalizing their condition with that of the elite. Authority must rest in the hands of the qualified; those who score poorly on aptitude tests, don’t do well in classes and/or lack extraordinary beauty, artistic talent or ambition must resign themselves to taking direction from the natural aristocracy that a well ordered society has brought so smoothly to the fore…

“In this vision, liberalism has accomplished its historic mission by bringing a true meritocracy into our midst. No longer do accidents of race or gender block the path of the talented to the heights of power; hardwired into the social structure by the shape of the economy and legitimized by equal access, a radical inequality of power and status will indefinitely persist. Liberalism now has nothing to do with attacking or eroding the power of the liberal elite; as long as that elite carries out its duty to share with the masses and [EMPHASIS ADDED] accepts that its children must in turn earn their own place in the elite rather than simply inheriting one, the elite has no further need to democratize. The long job of social evolution, the fight against entrenched power going back to Magna Carta is over. It has done its job, it has brought us into the golden age of absolute and permanent meritocracy. The best now truly rule.

“And something else has also come to an end: the rise of the common people. … Gentry liberals today see something different: the ‘ungifted’ majority is the object of their pity and care, rather than a force that demands their respect and even their fear. As they contemplate what post industrial society will look like, they are filled with pity for the incompetent losers, the untalented, those who will only be able to get jobs as pool boys and cocktail waitresses in the post-manufacturing world. Industrial society saw the workers as a rising irresistible force whose interests could not be ignored; post-industrial liberals seem to see the common folk as a collection of sad and weak losers whom the strong must protect.

“The economy is making us more unequal, but a wise elite can mitigate the harm—if only we are willing to live under their tutelage.”

Now, in light of the discussion in the JST for Genesis — “make man in our image” versus “none shall be lost, but give me the glory” — the “humane” nature of the philosophy Mead attributes to our elites is probably worth a lengthy debate on its own. However, what caught my attention, and caused me to emphasize it in the quote, was the notion that our elites have overcome the evolutionary imperative of promoting their own offspring. Does anyone really believe that part of the narrative? How many university professors do you know who don’t start ensuring that their offspring are going to be elite-college bound from, oh, say the age of three? How many politicians in our system are the children of elected politicians? Is the Bush or Clinton clan at the end of the 20th Century less driven by promotion of their young than was the Adams clan at the end of the 18th Century?

Although I am sure that the large majority of liberals are trying to “be their better selves”, meritocracy is not the best hypothesis to explain what we have produced. If we don’t close our eyes to the distressing counter-evidence, something more primitive than merit seems to driving our power relationships.

An article earlier this week in the New York Times discusses the nature of the political system in Illinois, and by extension, demonstrates the longstanding bipartisan, multi-class, multi-ethnic, multi-racial corruption that infests the Chicago political environment.

“George Ryan was released from a federal prison in the dark on Wednesday morning, and Illinois became a state with only one former governor behind bars….It was a morning not too unusual for people living in a state that has grown familiar with the sight of convicted politicians…

“Outside the state, Mr. Ryan, 78, is best known as the “other” governor from Illinois who was convicted of corruption. His trial in 2006 has since been largely overshadowed by the fanfare surrounding his successor, Rod R. Blagojevich, who was convicted of, among other things, trying to sell the United States Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama in 2008.

“They are among four Illinois governors who have been found guilty of wrongdoing in recent history, along with hundreds of public officials and business leaders charged with public corruption in recent decades. Before his corruption trial, Mr. Ryan, a Republican, was best known for a moratorium on capital punishment in Illinois. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for commuting more than 160 death sentences in 2003, clearing the state’s death row in the final hours of his single term as governor.

“His indictment later that year came amid a federal investigation that lasted years and led to more than 70 convictions of Illinois state officials, government employees and business leaders. Mr. Ryan was accused of handing out state contracts to friends in exchange for bribes during his tenure as secretary of state and as governor. He was convicted of 18 counts, including racketeering and fraud, and was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.”

It is statistically unlikely that a pure and noble political system in one of the United States’ largest metropolitan areas is being consistently outvoted by all of those evil farmers and shopkeepers downstate. In Chicago, even Nobel Peace Prize nominees are often more motivated by cash than the purity of their cause. So, if you are one who thinks that everyone lived happily ever after in a reformed Chicago once Eliot Ness walked off the set at the end of The Untouchables with Al Capone in jail on tax evasion, adjust your expectations. The cancer was not cured; it only spread to other urban areas. Now it seems to be in the process of nationalization.

If you believe that “the best now truly rule”, and that this is somehow different than “might makes right”, we better stop and ask ourselves just who it is that has the really crazy conspiracy theory.

The Pope rises to the top of Catholicism without being a participating Catholic. Seriously?

The Prophet rises to the top of the Mormon church without being a practicing Mormon? Seriously?

The President of the United States rises to the top of the Chicago government machine, is promoted as its representative first to the Illinois system, and then to the national stage as the champion of the party of government, but actually fooled all of the corrupt politicians around him about his basic nobility and altruism. It is all about sacrificing himself for the good of the downtrodden, the marginalized, and the besieged middle class, not simply the more primitive nihilistic need to acquire all of the power that he can. I mean, there are no rulers anywhere who rationalize that the preservation and expansion of their rule is imperative for the good of their nations. The President was never complicit in the corruption as he rose through the ranks. That’s what you want me to believe happened? The machine let that happen without crushing this idealistic reformer the way the Mormon church would reign in an out-of-control bishop? Seriously?

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38 Responses to Can’t Anybody Here Make a Good Conspiracy Theory?

  1. Howard on February 2, 2013 at 7:54 AM

    Boy that was a long read to seemingly logically arrive at a corruptsion guilt by association specific to Obama. Care to name a few presidents who rose to that office without being corrupt?

    What do you make of the Law of Consecration?

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  2. Jettboy on February 2, 2013 at 8:03 AM

    “The same Occam’s Razor applies to Thomas Monson. It takes a crazy conspiracy theorist to presume that he rose to the top of the Mormon hierarchy without being Mormon. You may not know what debates go on among the Brethren. You may not know anything about the boundaries of personal disagreement the Quorums may share as individuals, or the questions and concerns they may raise in their personal prayers at night. But you do know that there are definitions of faithfulness and worthiness held by past leaders that would ensure they would not knowingly be open to his promotion to even mid-levels of the hierarchy were they unconvinced he met those standards.”

    I think this is close to what President Wilford Woodruff meant when he said, “the prophet will not lead the Church astray. The Lord will not allow it.” I don’t think he meant the common interpretation that every word that comes out of a prophet’s mouth is set in stone revelations.

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  3. Casey on February 2, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    I confess to not really being sure what this post is trying to say…I’d echo Howard and add that I don’t think there’s any national politician that hasn’t been involved in something deemed corrupt by somebody, but when it comes to Obama, depending on your political leanings there’s plenty to praise and criticize from his record as President by now without requiring vague insinuations about his background. And I’ve never heard that President Monson wasn’t LDS either so, yeah. Don’t get it.

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  4. dba.brotherp on February 2, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    “The President was never complicit in the corruption as he rose through the ranks. That’s what you want me to believe happened? The machine let that happen without crushing this idealistic reformer the way the Mormon church would reign in an out-of-control bishop? Seriously?”

    What? The Church reigns in out of control Bishops? When did this happen? :) But seriously, this is a very clever post. However, I do believe that reform can come from within the power system, it just take longer because those who have the most invested in the system will fight it. I wonder though, if both sides of the political and religious spectrum will see themselves in this OP, instead of saying, “Yep, that’s the other guy.”

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  5. FireTag on February 2, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    Howard:

    The “everybody does it” argument should make us feel SO much better, shouldn’t it? :D

    It should particularly not be comforting to those that advocate government as an ALTERNATIVE to control other corruption in our society. Caesar, even more than Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion. If you believe that EVERYBODY in power is corrupt (and there is a lot of scripture about such situations throughout history, with various responses offered as possible guidance) you ought to take thought to what your response will be.

    Will you be quick to explore charges of corruption — regardless of ideological leanings of the official — and demand accountability? Will you instead conclude that the corruption is too entrenched for such an approach to be successful, and instead look to how you can protect people from the corruption? Or will you defend one side’s corruption and fight the other’s, though you do believe both sides do it? Lots of choices, but I continue to think that “not to choose is also to choose” and we are still accountable.

    You’ll have to explain the reference to the law of consecration, since the LDS and CofChrist interpretations of that principle are sufficiently different that I’m not following you.

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  6. Howard on February 2, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    Yawn, rubbing his eyes he finally comes awake. OMG Obama emerged from the Chicago political machine and it is corrupt? Thanks for waking me up Fire Tag. Where’s Richard Nixon when you really need him? Maybe we should hold an election!

    Sorry, I’m not familiar with the CoC interpretation but since the overwhelming majority of W&T readers are likely to be LDS I suspect they will get the reference. Perhaps you’d be willing to share enough of the CoC version here to explain how it does not argue to some extent against your liberal criticisms.

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  7. FireTag on February 2, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    Jettboy and Casey:

    I’m really trying to illustrate by contrast. Nobody expects people to prove that Monson is Mormon, or refers to “vague insinuations” when people claim that he is. If you haven’t noticed he’s Mormon, you’re just out of touch with the issues.

    Yet, somehow, our country has allowed itself to be seduced into the notion that one must ignore the obvious explanation that a Chicago politician who rose to prominence through the Chicago political system usually acts like a Chicago politician.

    He’s going to proclaim his innocence with great theatrics of outrage, demonize his opponents, intimidate them, blame them for his own failures, buy support, and bend the law when it suits him. There is NO reason to think that down deep a Chicago politician is really just a cuddly guy with a deep longing to do good, so the burden of proof lies with those who would make such a ridiculous claim.

    There is no master plan to turn the economy around; there is a plan to accrue economic power to the government whether or not that helps the economy. If the economy improves, that will become the rationale for giving more power to the government, but if the economy doesn’t improve, that will also be used as a rationale for giving more power to the government. Because the narrative ABOUT the explanation is NOT the explanation.

    There is no master plan to bring peace and stability to the Mid East or to withdraw the United States from violence there. Did Al Capone have a foreign policy other than keeping prohibition-era liquor flowing across the Canadian border? We fight or not depending on what is more likely to distract the politicians from short term domestic power objectives. (I’ve been writing in this forum for a couple of years now as the wars have grown “over there” that we’ll end up fighting more, not less, because you can’t “kick the can” on foreign policy for domestic objectives indefinitely while your domestic economy flounders and helps take down the world economy. Starving foreigners tend to get violent just like starving Americans would.)

    There is no plan to pay down the debt. That’s for the chumps (in this case, the next generation of taxpayers) who get left holding the bag in a reduced standard of living. Meanwhile, the machine lives merrily high on the hog. That’s always been the Chicago way!

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  8. FireTag on February 2, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    Howard:

    I happen to think that one of the proudest days in American history was the day the House of Representatives rose up and told Richard Nixon where he could shove his Presidency, knowing the Senate would back them up.

    Part of the point here is that a liberal OUGHT to criticize Obama MORE STRONGLY if the machine is corrupt, because liberalism is then merely a political cover to achieve outcomes liberals who actually care about the poor would detest.

    If you look at the link two paragraphs above the graphic of the young Obama teaching Saul Alinsky’s power relationship analysis, you’ll see what kind of damage pretend liberalism is actually doing to the poor in our urban areas. It should make a liberal’s blood boil at the kind of thing being done in his/her name.

    I’m not getting more enlightenment about the consecration reference, so I’ll have to guess. Sorry, if I’m wrong.

    But I’m presuming that consecration is meant as the sharing of wealth for the good of the poor and needy. If so, then I’ll repeat: a government official stealing wealth consecrated for the good of the poor and needy in order to extend his own economic OR political power should make a liberal’s blood boil.

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  9. Stephen R. Marsh on February 2, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    Ouch.

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  10. Howard on February 2, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Now we’re getting somewhere! And what would you have liberals criticize Obama MORE STRONGLY about? Being from Chicago? Continuing the wars started by the other party?

    Stealing? Well I understand the concept but where is the line? Do you oppose the income tax?

    I would frame it more like this. The size and cost of government has grown out of control! While the number of people employed in food production and manufacturing have shrunk to a tiny fraction of where they began the number of people employed by government has grown exponentially. This cost must be born by the middle class because those on the bottom have no money to pay it with and there are too few we’ll to do to pay the bill even if you taxed them at a very high %. Therefore it is in the middle class’ best interest to reduce the size of government before we go broke. Of course it’s pretty late for that because we are already broke, we are just pretending we’re not!

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  11. FireTag on February 2, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    dba.brotherp:

    I vary from day to day about whether reform of our system is still possible before some really nasty wake-up calls have to strike home. (I’m a long-term optimist in that there will be a happy ending, but I think the middle is really going to leave a mark.)

    Nevertheless, the urgency and intensity of attempts at reform really have to accelerate. The exponentially-rising debt curves that even Obama’s own budget documents project suggest we’re running out of runway before the reform plane will get the speed to take off.

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  12. Casey on February 2, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    Sounds to me like Chicago has nothing to do with your real problem, which centers around a slightly paranoid conservative/libertarian vision of government creep (and, oh boy, there’s a Saul Alinsky reference…here we go). I very much doubt you’d feel any differently if Obama came into prominence through Albany or San Diego or pick-your-city, besides perhaps latching onto whatever narratives arose about supposed shady associations there. So again, why not say what you actually mean instead of vague insinuations about evil men in smoky rooms?

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  13. FireTag on February 2, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Howard:

    The links are quite specific about the “stealing” that was occurring in Detroit, who the money was going to, and why. It hardly had a thing to do with tax rates. It was kickbacks for city business, purely and simply.

    In Washington, which is a one-party city, we have the practice of one Democratic faction obtaining campaign funds (again for later favors) to secretly set up an opponent for a third Democratic incumbent. This has now resulted in indictments, as the Wa Po has been reporting.

    Chicago has also continued to make news: the Illinois legislature convened at the beginning of this year with three Chicago reps under indictment: two for financial corruption crimes, and a third — oh, irony of ironies — for trying to bring a gun aboard an aircraft.

    We also have Jessie Jackson, Junior, resigning from Congress immediately AFTER his reelection. He claims this has nothing to do with the investigation his involvement in the Blagojevich scandal of attempting to sell appointment to Obama’s vacated Senate seat. This is probably true, since Jackson also disappeared from Congress for four months before the election in order to undergo treatment for bi-polar disorder, without releasing that diagnosis to the voters before the election. Apparently the machine wanted to be sure they would appoint his successor, rather than allow the voters to even pick WHICH democrat they wanted to resent them.

    And I don’t even know if most of the liberal press is even reporting yet that Senator Menendez of New Jersey is now being investigated by the FBI for corruption involving the juicy story of underage prostitutes being supplied to him by a contributor while on paid trips in the Dominican Republic to pressure the DR government to give business to his contributor.

    So what I would have liberals do is to expect no less integrity from their own than they DO expect from the other guy. The final lines of comment 4 are relevant here.

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  14. FireTag on February 2, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Casey:

    But Obama DID come through Chicago. He DID embrace Alinsky tactics, and Alinsky is on record in an interview he gave to Playboy that HE learned those tactics from his association with Frank Nitti, Al Capone’s “enforcer”. Those are the fact you don’t want to have to explain. You want that to be declared out of bounds (itself an Alinsky tactic!) and paranoid and pretend the Pope wasn’t Catholic.

    Why? Because you fear that your endorsement of idealistic liberalism is contaminated by admitting that Obama might be a liberal-of-convenience only who might indeed have chosen another ideological route to power if he had not been born into economic privilege?

    Idealists are not contaminated by association with corruption. They are contaminated by silence about it — exactly the way a Pope is when not reacting harshly against accusations of sexual abuse by priests.

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  15. Howard on February 2, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    Sorry I haven’t read the links due to blogging while mobile. Thank you for the summary. So you want liberials and the liberial press to criticize this and the positive result of that will be what?

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  16. Jettboy on February 2, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    Howard, I will answer that question. The result will be that Obama won’t get away with everything like he is now. Then again I fear that his supporters don’t actually think he has ever done anything wrong. He has become a king and a god with the title of president.

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  17. Howard on February 2, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Jettboy,
    I assume you are using of King and god as hyperbole, I doubt you mean that he will not step down at the end of his term, so are you arguing Presidential abuse of power, if so please explain how.

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  18. Jettboy on February 2, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    He more than likely will step down (although I really have my concerns), but that doesn’t mean he isn’t acting like a king and his supporters not see him as a mortal God.

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  19. Howard on February 2, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    I get that you oppose him but please explain why. What is he doing or not doing that you want changed? How is he acting like a King and why is that wrong? Are you talking about his use of Executive Orders or politically side stepping congress? If so, do you see this as unusual?

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  20. FireTag on February 2, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    Howard:

    Sorry I needed to step away for awhile, but let me respond to 15 and jump into your discussion with Jettboy.

    I regard the positive result of taking a tough stance on corruption to be the removal of an essential obstacle that prevents the parties from reaching compromises on the very real policy issues that separate liberal and conservative worldviews. The worldview reconciliation is problematic enough given how much time we’ve let problems build; if we won’t act PUBLICALLY on things BOTH sides will say PRIVATELY are wrong, things are bound to get a lot worse.

    As to abuse of power, I haven’t known Presidents to claim powers through Executive Orders that the SAME President himself claimed were forbidden to him earlier in his term. Yet, Obama has done that, most recently revealed when the courts slapped down his “recess” appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. Only in Chicagoland can a politician claim the right to make an appointment because the Senate was in recess while SIMULTANEOUSLY signing another law he wanted that was passed by the Senate DURING the same supposed recess. Heads he wins; tails we lose.

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  21. Howard on February 2, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    Fire Tag,
    Thank you for your response and clearly stating your goal. I agree with your desire for ethical government. Presidential power creep has been going on for a long time and has been *advanced* by both parties but I support checking it to retain a balance of power between branches.

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  22. Jettboy on February 2, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    Howard, I am against ALL Presidential Executive Orders power no matter what Party. It goes against the spirit of the U.S. Constitution if not the written word (although I think it goes against that as well). With Obama, however, things that would bother liberals and did bother conservatives with Bush are no big deal with Obama for some reason. That bothers me because the only difference between an Executive Order and an Edict is the former is done by someone who is called a President and the other done by a King. Worse, when Obama isn’t getting his way because the House that was duly elected by the people keep him in check, he then goes around them openly and proudly. His supporters and the media don’t question these methods, but hail him as the best thing since slice bread going up against those “evil Republican obstructionists” like the electorate are Constitutionally supposed to be able to as their right. It these ways he acts like a king while his followers and most media treat him like a savior from those awful checks and balances things.

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  23. whizzbang on February 2, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    Two things I learned in the mission field about conspiracy theories, 1) The Key to disobedience is DO NOT volunteer information. Don’t brag or leave a paper trail about what goofy things you did, the control of information is vital which leads to number 2) involve as few people as possible. The more people are involved the more lack of control over the situation you have and the more chance of leaks.

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  24. Howard on February 3, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    Jettboy,
    Thank you for the clear explanation!

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  25. FireTag on February 3, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    whizzbang:

    Well, your second point may be the most optimistic thing I’ve heard all week. If there is one thing that is likely to spoil the conspiracy to convince us that Obama is NOT just another Chicago politician, it would certainly be the inability of politicians in general to just keep their mouths shut and not brag about their connections to power. :D

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  26. FireTag on February 3, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    Jettboy:

    Executive orders do have well-established status as the law of the land (just as do regulations issued by the Executive Branch agencies themselves) PROVIDED that they are derived from constitutional authority or statutory authority delegated by the legislative branch. (Congress is often too afflicted with ADD to write laws that resolve potential regulatory conflicts, leaving it to the bureaucracy to sort out the mess, but that’s a problem with Congress that I can’t fairly blame on the bureaucrats.)

    So the Executive Orders by Obama that bother me are the ones where he asserts he can NOT do an end run around Congress at one point in his Presidency where doing so might hurt his vote total, then asserts the exact opposite later when he needs the vote of a constituent group. The “Dream Act” comes to mind as an example. Throughout much of his first term he stalled Latino activists demanding action on immigration reform with plain, clearly articulated statements that he had no authority to implement discretionary enforcement without new grants of power by the Congress. Throughout that period, he judged unilateral imposition of the Dream Act politically inexpedient, regardless of its moral or practical aspects of policy. As Romney closed to a point or two before the 2012 election, suddenly Obama asserted that he COULD use discretionary enforcement authority to achieve the activists’ goals, and signed a directive to that effect.

    As you noted, the redefinition of one’s own executive authority for one’s own political convenience, without action by those constitutionally created bodies who are supposed to check the Presidency, IS INDEED the action of one who does not grasp that he is not entitled to kingship.

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  27. OAK on February 3, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    This post is all over the place!

    Behind the two major parties(and political theories) lies the true corruption of(you guessed it)money called lobbying which is just another form of bribery.

    The Supreme Court decision in Citizens allows corporate rule over these United States. Corporations guide our destiny, not political figures, those are just the puppets.

    Beware the continuing wide divide of the rich versus the common people. It happens in the church as well.

    We have been warned in the BoM, and it isn’t political parties, it’s who has the money, what are they doing with it, and to to whom are they doing it?

    No one cared about Jesus until he threw the money changers out of the Temple. Then all hell broke loose.

    Now just give me my social security benefits(redistribution of wealth?), my two union pensions with their defined benefit plans(I earned every penny),and my 401k and I will disappear into the unknown land of walmart, senior living facilities, and dementia with the rest of the retiring generation. Go baby boomers!

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  28. FireTag on February 3, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    OAK:

    At the risk of sending this post into still further directions, let me note, as I wrote here–

    http://www.wheatandtares.org/2011/08/06/by-the-numbers-sorting-out-equality-when-the-debt-expands/

    that I think it is useful to view the system as centered on power, defined simply as the ability to make happen what you wish to make happen. In a modern society, power can come in different “currencies”. Some prefer to be paid directly in the currency of economic power; others prefer the currency of political power. A few even prefer to be paid in sex, drugs, or fame.

    So, in this broader sense of “money”, I suppose I would agree with you, but in this broader sense of money, than corporations have to be defined more broadly as well. Indeed, I think the prevalence of lobbying shows that the politicians, far from being the puppets for corporations, actually have to be symbiotic participants with a lot of power currency to sell, err, altruistically distribute. :D

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  29. Hedgehog on February 4, 2013 at 2:51 AM

    Joining with those felt this was a rather tortuous route to a somewhat paranoid(?) conclusion.
    Was having a discussion at the weekend, along the lines that money only works so long as everyone believes in it, the wealthy, businesses and those in power can’t afford not to believe in it (or indeed anyone wanting stability), so my guess is the behemoth will keep on moving, however ungainly, rather than collapse outright. And I guess that applies as much to the corrupt as anyone else…
    Well I have seen the Untouchables, but really know nothing at all about the state of play in the US political scene now (or even then really). I don’t think the divide between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ (relatively speaking) has yet reached the point where the majority of ‘have nots’ are willing to embrace a loss of stability, but some sort of reform or compromise or call it what you will is needed to address the fundamental problems.
    On the whole executive order issue, lets just say a constitutional monarch would appear to have a heap less power than a president.
    And I thought this was pertinent to the power issue, and might lighten the atmosphere (or not?)..
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUPUSp4SV6g
    Anyone looking at the middle east can see revolutions are as far from fun as…

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  30. FireTag on February 4, 2013 at 11:04 PM

    Hedgehog:

    I agree that we will go to great lengths to delay the pain (just as most will want to ensure they aren’t the ones assuming the pain when delay no longer works). Delaying the pain when the illness is real, though, is a bad choice. Life style changes are better outcomes if they occur before the heart attack, but they will occur one way or the other, and I’m an expert bad example on that subject.

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  31. Hedgehog on February 5, 2013 at 1:45 AM

    I get the analogy FireTag, but I am not so sure that it really works. A human life is of finite length, and a human body will degrade no matter what the power of positive thinking, or burying of heads in sand. The whole money construct is not living thing. Is there any reason the bulk of the ‘problem’ won’t be held in the hypothetical future indefinitely, so long as everyone playing the game is happy to keep it that way? Sure, it might need some small tweaks here and there, to keep them all happy, or even the odd bigger tweak from time to time. All the emperor’s new clothes, yes. I’m just wondering where and when you think the rug is going to be pulled I guess.

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  32. FireTag on February 5, 2013 at 4:34 PM

    Hedgehog:

    But EVERYONE playing the game is NOT happy to keep it that way. On this forum we more often discuss crises of religious faith than crises of economic faith, but I suspect the latter do share certain features with the former, including the fact that “crises” are seen as such because they came whether one wanted to have them or not.

    What was the plot of “Inception” — that a doubt once triggered could be as unstoppable as a cancer? Once you doubt, is it moral to keep silent, or to seek to express what has produced the faith crisis?

    In the US, and I think in many other places in the world, including Europe, too, more and more people doubt that their elites really have things under control. You see that registering in political instability, even to the level of failed states. But you also see it in decreased risk taking despite massive stimulus by the developed economies’ central banks. Indeed, the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008 occurred when the bankers themselves loss faith that their money was safe and so would not even lend to each other.

    Like every crisis of loss of religious faith is different and proceeds at its own pace, I suspect the same is true for loss of economic faith. But I think one has to be cynical when elites tell YOU not to worry at the same time they start reserving an extra seat or two on the lifeboats for their favorites. It seems too much like “keep the party going just long enough for me and mine to get away”.

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  33. Hedgehog on February 6, 2013 at 2:03 AM

    FireTag,
    I agree not everyone is happy with the status quo. I’d say this period definitely requires one of the bigger tweaks, so that all players will feel more secure. They aren’t all tugging in the same direction, and do need to thrash out a mutually acceptable solution, for all to continue playing. I don’t believe too many are prepared to stop the game and get off however.

    We have reached a point where global business and interdependence mean that the elites of any one nation cannot be in full control of their nation’s financial health. Governments are pulled in many directions by the competing forces. Early in the Euro crisis there was fuss in Britain because the British government were lending money to Ireland, in the wake of their financial crisis. Didn’t we have enough of our own crisis to deal with at home was the cry from one faction, we weren’t part of the Euro, why should we get involved. The government answer was that we couldn’t afford not to loan to Ireland, because they were a fairly large market for British business. Similarly, governments can’t tax business as much as they would like to do, because those businesses could up and leave and take their business and employment opportunities elsewhere. Businesses also makes demands of government when deciding to invest in that country. Unless governments are going to be able to work together on this, business will continue to play one off against another. And whoever owns businesses (and China are certainly busy buying up business in Britain this month), they are still dependent on markets for their products. Greece, in particular, are suffering mightily at the moment, but it doesn’t look as though they’ll be pulling out of the Euro any time soon, for all it is talked about. The US is one of the bigger players, a fair amount of global business, contracts etc. are conducted in US dollars, which also puts the US in a much stronger position than the rest of us.

    Where and what are these lifeboats you mention? Where are they going on their getaway? Is it really possible for anyone to insulate themselves? I don’t think so. Those with more simply have more to lose if the game grinds to a halt. Which is why I think things will just keep lurching onwards, somehow or other.

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  34. FireTag on February 6, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    The notions that there are lifeboats may be totally delusional. Ask Assad or Mubarak. But, many people do try to hoard as much for their futures as possible, regardless of its impact on others or the total system.

    People who rise to positions of great political power are probably not LESS narcissistic than the average citizen, so I certainly think there are leaders who imagine they will still be standing on top of the rubble (or watching from the comfort of a well-stocked villa) surrounded by their personal wealth.

    I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the “trillion dollar coin” to illustrate that, while money may rest on the credibility of promises, the rich and powerful can always translate money back into real goods. Cynically, its the old saying that “gold may not always get you good soldiers, but good soldiers can always get you gold.”

    As to your point about Britain and the EU, we see something very similar here in the US in which states (and cities) are limited in their ability to tax by the competition with other states (and cities).

    There is certainly going to be pain for the individual EU states in resolving the difficulties of their common currency either way countries like Greece go. I would note, however, again with my usual lack of cynicism :D , that the political leaders at both national and EU levels have lots of reason to be sure that they don’t get kicked out of office in the short term by deferring the pain until they are out of office anyway.

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  35. Hedgehog on February 7, 2013 at 1:29 AM

    There is some rebalancing going on I think. This new year we’ve seen the new Barclays bank CEO waive his bonus. Staff have been asked to sign up to some kind of ethical crtiteria. And Mr Cameron has told RBS that the big fine they just received as a result of Libor rate fixing will be paid by the bankers (out of their bonuses) rather than profits (and since the tax payer currently owns a rather large chunk of RBS, I hope he’s in a position to ensure that happens). To what extent all this is window dressing, or all smoke and mirrors with numbers, as opposed to real change, I couldn’t say. But it does acknowledge that they have been seen to go too far in the past.

    “we see something very similar here in the US in which states (and cities) are limited in their ability to tax by the competition with other states (and cities).”
    I think that is much the same everywhere – the north of England often seems to be in competition with Wales for inward investment, and local councils are constantly having to woo businesses, in the hope of persuading to invest in this city, rather than that one.

    The thing about a democracy, is that however narcissistic the leaders, they are forced to take into account the opinions of the electorate to some extent. I think this does enable them to have a clearer picture of the truth (although goodness knows privilege of wealth does mean the majority cannot really relate to the average citizen), and does mean that they are more inclined to listen rather than shoot the messenger. It is shooting the messenger that results in leaders being told only what they want to hear, I think, making them totally delusional. I don’t think you need to worry that the US has reached that stage yet ;-) .

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  36. FireTag on February 8, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    Hedgehog:

    “however narcissistic the leaders, they are forced to take into account the opinions of the electorate to some extent”.

    Good point. We are seeing some “strange bedfellow” effects this week, as the President suddenly realizes that the Republican electorate is quite willing to see defense cuts go into effect March 1 in order to get some spending restraint on domestic programs. The doomsday sequester that he originally proposed back in 2011 as part of the kick-the-spending-can-down-the-road-until-after-the-2012-election strategy was supposed to be so harmful to defense that Republicans would never let it go into effect, thereby guaranteeing preservation of entitlements and increased tax levels, and smaller cuts in domestic discretionary spending.

    So, having got tax increases just six weeks ago in the fiscal cliff negotiations, and with entitlements still off the table, and defense cuts already cycling in last fall as a huge drag on 4th quarter GDP, the Republicans insist that he eat his vegetables on the domestic cuts or propose spending cuts for which he will take responsibility instead. More tax increases will not be accepted.

    So we now have the Dems who have been shouting against defense spending for years suddenly becoming defense hawks in order to save domestic GDP for 2013. Who knew?

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  37. FireTag on February 10, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    And to update comment 13, we now have ABC News reporting that Jesse Jackson Jr. has agreed to a plea deal involving jail time for misappropriating hundreds of thousands in campaign funds for personal use. His wife is stepping down from the Chicago City Council as well.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/congressman-jesse-jackson-jr-pleads-guilty-federal-probe/story?id=18442233

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  38. FireTag on March 13, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    And as a further update to comment 13, regarding the situation in Detroit, we have the conviction of Detroit’s mayor on 24 counts of corruption, with tremendous financial costs on the future of the city, here:

    http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2013/03/12/an-important-day-for-detroit/

    “Too many of Kilpatrick’s colleagues and collaborators are still at large. And far too many of America’s big cities are cursed by deeply corrupt political machines that don’t just steal but also wreck the fabric of governance and deprive poor people of the services they need to have a chance at a better life.

    “Detroit’s sorry demise is a reminder that vigorous investigations and a zero tolerance policy for organized political crime is a pressing national priority. This is not an anti-black agenda, nor an anti-city one. It is a pro-poor, pro-urban agenda that fights to free American cities of one of the leading causes of blight and decay.”

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