Grand Conspiratorial Fantasies

Other98
The image at right was culled from a friend's Facebook wall a few years back. It is merely the introduction, the building 7 of this rabbit-hole of a conspiracy post. 

You might well ask, what does the image mean? Anyone who doesn't recognize Morpheus from The Matrix movies really needs to go back and do some homework before reading this. The Matrix is its own introduction to conspiratorial thinking, a rabbit hole of its own metaphorical making. However, the  text on the image is misleading. Anyone running for public office, from any party, is subject to the will of the people who fund their campaigns.  If the candidates from the party do not pander to the big spenders (i.e. the corporations) then the party will not get the funds they need to win, meaning their ideology will never take root directly in the politics of the nation. All parties work for corporations, even the third parties. The Kochs owned the LP for a long time before they shifted to the Republicans. The Kochs represent some of the worst of the worst of corporate behavior, strong-arming groups that they fund trying to force them to echo the policies that the Kochs find favorable.  This will continue to be true until we get money out of politics, plain and simple. There is no other way to fix the problem of corporations buying the parties and the candidates for office.

I have no problem with the image. I probably don't have a problem with the website the image came from, although I haven't spent any real time on it. What I had a problem with was where the conspiratorially motivated fantasists took the image in the wild after it was released. I have culled most of the incorrigible conspiracists from my Facebook wall.  Every now and then a new one pops up and I subject them to the ban hammer; but generally my wall is free of their posts. Some of my oldest friends do indulge in conspiracy fantasies though, and as a consequence of this I still have to deal with the odd reference to a conspiracy theory even though I find the entire subject of grand conspiracies completely ludicrous.

Grand conspiracies are ludicrous, starting with the phrase conspiracy theory. Grand conspiracies aren't theories.  A theory not only explains the facts in evidence, it survives rigorous testing through trial and error.  The theory of evolution is an excellent example of this. It has survived test after test, and has made predictions about evolutionary history which have been proven to be true. It is a robust theory, accepted by nearly all of the scientific community. The fact that nearly half of Americans reject the theory of evolution merely serves as a painful reminder of just how misinformed most of us are.

Grand conspiracies aren't conspiracy hypothesis either, which is the step in evidence below theory. A hypothesis of necessity must explain all the predominant facts it is attempting to address.  A hypothesis has to be testable to be acceptable as a scientific explanation. Grand conspiracies tend to ignore all evidence and instead look for anomalies that can be held up as examples of failure for explanations the grand conspiracy believer doesn't like. Phrases like magic bullet get thrown around, as if the unexplained will remain inexplicable forever.

Grand conspiracies are conspiratorial conjecture, nothing more. They are stories that are told to entertain. They are, as the title of this piece states, conspiracy fantasies.  When you start allowing your fantasies to replace the reality around you, a whole host of bad is waiting in the wings to descend upon you. When the Facebook friend (mentioned previously) made a tangential reference to the Rothschild family in his post, I recognized the reference immediately (Rothschild Skeptoid episode) It is an old anti-Semitic/white supremacist fabrication. Like the whole sovereign thing. There is no sound basis for asserting that the fantasy has any reality to it, unless you have a problem with Jews, which says more about you than about anyone else.

I've argued with this guy and his friends over beers before. I know there is no convincing him that his pet fantasies were meaningless. Rather than hopelessly resign to having to ignore him once again, I tried to tangent into a discussion of the gullibility of conspiracy fantasists. I linked this video of Rebecca Watson discussing a recent study on that subject,


Rebecca Watson May 18, 2015, No Shit Study: Scientists Show Conspiracy Theorists Will Believe Anything

Unfortunately for all concerned, the only fact that penetrated was that "the Pink Haired Lady says chemtrails aren't real"  which lead him and his friends to try to convince me they were real. Well, they aren't real. Of course chemicals are delectable in airline contrails. The planes that create them are shedding molecules into the atmosphere everywhere they fly. The combustion engines they are powered by emit exhaust chemicals, which are also detectable. This really isn't that hard to figure out.

...Unless there is a ready-made market of science denial set up specifically to use the tools of science against it. An entire method of approaching the world around us that paints the activities of others as nefarious and unscrupulous. This says more about the conspiracy fans than it does about the rest of us, but there is a large group of people out there ready to confirm your suspicions about any activity that concerns you. All that is required is to entertain your curiosity without engaging your critical thinking skills. If you ever learned to think critically in the first place. Without critical thinking we are all babes in the wilderness.

If you, dear reader, think the pink haired lady only dismisses chemtrails, then you are probably also a conspiracy fan, lack critical thinking skills, and are as gullible as the study she talks about shows. If I felt like messing with conspiracy fans I could feed them all kinds of crazy stuff which they would buy right into, just like Alex Jones does. So if that kind of trolling is something you enjoy, have at it. They'll never know you're pulling their legs.

The conversation with the Facebook friend proceeded to spiral down the rabbit hole, into a discussion of various other conspiracy tales, immediately following my attempt to explain their gullibility to them. Haarp was mentioned. Like Agenda 21, it isn't anything close to what conspiracy fans think it is.  Monsanto was raised, Godwin style. It was at that point that I knew I was quite literally wasting my time, and I really didn't want to have to hear about Building 7 one more time. I didn't want to have yet another conversation where the fans throw each conspiracy they believe at me one at time, each time certain that it can't be explained. All of them can be explained, and not with grand conspiracies. Good luck getting one of the fans to notice this fact.

So why are grand conspiracies fantasies? Scale. That's really all there is to it.  Fantasists who support whatever conspiracy I sent you here to inoculate yourself against (if you got here without my linking this article in a discussion, well done!) will likely talk about the Gulf of Tonkin incident or Watergate or more recently, Edward Snowden. Well, Watergate wasn't a grand conspiracy. It relied on about ten people keeping their mouths shut, and that conspiracy not only failed because ten people couldn't keep quiet, it failed because Nixon was taping everything said in his office. He was that paranoid.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident, like the revelations of NSA spying, are the very stories that illustrate the problem with massive conspiracies and the theories spun about them.  The NSA spying was anything but secret. Oh, it was officially denied like Tonkin was denied, and the US government would love to punish Snowden for his revelations. But the spying was itself an open secret.  Anyone interested in the subject knew that the NSA was involved in a dragnet of information across the internet.

It is a lot like the people who point to the denials of Groom Lake (area 51) being a location for testing new Air Force technologies, and then conclude that the stories of alien visitations are true.  The locals knew it was testing facility for decades. The official denials proved nothing aside from the fact that they were conducting secret tests there. They certainly don't point to any factual truth concerning extraterrestrial contact. The NSA's spying program, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Tuskegee experiment, Project MKUltra, etcetera, are all hallmarks of the inability for large conspiracies to remain secret. It is only a matter of time before the secret becomes common knowledge.

After once again being forced to ignore an old friend, I'm left wondering why is the US such a misanthropic nation? Why do we obsess over these silly fantasies that cannot possibly be true? Perhaps the reason why so many Americans believe conspiracy fantasies is because they understand their culpability in allowing their government to go so far astray.  Like all the guilty parties of the world, they are quick to point to those shadowy others out there "Them! They did it! It wasn't me!" rather than take the blame for their own inaction, their unwillingness to sully themselves with real politics.  I mean, if lizard people are running the world, why bother with democratic participation?

A previous version of this was originally posted here.

The CTRL-Z Blogger Hole

Blogger.com
I've run across this ctrl-z bug a few times in the Blogger interface and it's about to drive me nuts. The first time I noticed it I was working on an article that I had published previously, an article that still had some cludgy wording in it I wanted fixed, and I wanted to add a bit of HTML zing! to the post. I had it open in the blogger edit interface, the same old Blogger interface that has been the Blogger interface since the beginning of the world wide web if not the beginning of time as we know it. A white and grey interface with orange buttons? The one that has a toggle in the upper left corner that says "Compose" on one button and "HTML" on the other? Two different shades of grey? You know the one I'm talking about. I had messed up some code I had entered under the "HTML" setting, and after checking the results in "Compose" I hit ctrl-z to undo the change, and the entire post I was editing simply disappeared!

Luckily I could just back out and start over re-editing. It was a pain but at least I could access the original post. This error has happened a few times since then. Every time it has happened, I have had a version of the post that I could go back to, luckily. A frustrating but recoverable error. Until this time.

Today I was working in a test post that I keep hanging around to save snippets of code in, handily named test post. I had just done some tweaking on some code in the HTML interface. I didn't like the way it looked in the Compose interface, and I stupidly did the same thing again. I can clearly remember thinking "where was that error?" right before discovering the error again. However, this time I had no version to go back to because test post had never been published for more than a few minutes, and since it was currently a draft post the blogger interface helpfully over-wrote my test post, with all those years of HTML coding snippets saved just for this reason, so that I wouldn't lose them, and it over-wrote that long, ugly mess with a fresh, new, blank post it had created when I hit ctrl-z.

Funny? It did once. Does again
If I had been thinking at the time I might have stopped everything and gone looking. I mean, I know there is an excellent article (from 2009) on recovering deleted posts over on The Original Blogger Tips and Tricks. I first ran across his five points for recovering deleted blog posts last year when the mobile Blogger app helpfully overwrote a published post I just happened to have created in the mobile interface before completing it later on the desktop. When I reopened the mobile version to do what I saw as some quick editing, it opened the stored version of the earlier post, and then wrote that clearly unfinished, earlier work over the published, significantly longer, one. Suggestion four from his list look for a cached version worked like a charm on that occasion, and I was able to just pretend the entire screaming-rage-fit had never happened.

It has views to prove it.

Suggestion number three, go back to a previous version in the same window might have been helpful had I not rage-quit the window in frustration just moments before going to the blogger forums to complain about the fact that ctrl-z still deletes everything on screen in the edit interface and being helpfully reminded of the Tips and Tricks post by the first thread that mentioned ctrl-z.

This is an old, old interface error. I know it's an old and common complaint, because there is a near-endless string of threads on the blogger forum that documents just how old and frustrating this error is. Just enter ctrl-z into the forum search window, and look at all the people who have the same problem, with no good resolution to be offered to them other than to be lectured to about backing up your data.

Yes, we understand. We are all but children in the eyes of the internet gods who never commit an error. We are so sorry to have to point this out but sometimes shit just happens. Sometimes you do something that you know is wrong at exactly the instant you do it, but you somehow still do it anyway. We children would really like known bugs to be fixed when they are brought to the attention of the for-profit programmers who work in the giant corporations that can't help but run our flawed, childlike world. If you aren't going to fix your errors, why the hell should the rest of us be any different? Why the hell are we relying on you when we could write code at least as well as you do, and do it in our own time? How many years does it take to fix an obvious flaw like ctrl-z blanks the edit window? I'm certain I could duplicate blogger's interface in less than a decade, and I really don't have to since I could install Wordpress on my own website and learn about all the bugs that are in that interface, just for a nice change of pace.

At least if I'm paying Wordpress I'm no longer the product being sold, but the customer being served. Food for thought.

Email and Crime

No, I don't follow the OHM.
This little gem showed up as a notification on my phone today, Sessions Speeds Up Clinton Email Case. Just in case anyone is mystified by how this is still a thing we talk about, I will direct you to the Orange Hate-Monkey's (OHM) need to beat the dead horse of Hillary Clinton's political aspirations on a near-daily basis. He rage tweets so often about Hillary Clinton you would have good reason to think that she won the office that he now occupies. And while she did win the office by a landslide in the popular vote (three million more votes than the OHM) we all know that the slavery compromise of the Electoral College has corrupted the intentions of the authors of the Constitution we still live under, requiring us to pay lip service to the OHM as president when he is quite literally the furthest thing from presidential that most of us can imagine. There is no more visible example in the United States today that the system we live under is corrupt and requires maintenance and repair, than the fact that the OHM sits in an office that he has no traceable ability to perform in even a substandard fashion, and that he was given the office by people who could have done otherwise but felt they were powerless to do so.

So the OHM has gained the office of President of the United States. He has personal control over the largest military ever assembled on the face of the Earth, with more destructive capability than is needed to reduce the Earth to an essentially lifeless husk. If you have half the imagination that I do, this prospect gives you nightmares you awaken screaming from several times a week. That kind of power is resting in the hands of our Presidential real estate developer and Russian money launderer.  The fact that he laundered and continues to launder money for the Russian mob will be demonstrable by the time that Robert Mueller finishes his investigation into Trump's business practices, and anyone who thinks that isn't grounds for impeachment all on its own doesn't understand business or politics. Why the OHM continues to pretend that he didn't coordinate with his buddy Vladimir Putin, even though half his campaign staff has now been brought up on charges relating to the investigation of Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election, is anyone's guess. Only his stormtrumpers are dumb enough to believe the theater he creates daily to distract us from the fact that the proverbial Manchurian Candidate sits in the office of the president. Oh, what about Crooked Hillary? What about the other losers that I beat to get here? Why aren't they under investigation?

Spotted in the wild here
Let's talk about the OHM's predecessors, then. Let's talk about their use of email to avoid embarrassment at having their machinations revealed to the voting public. And since we are talking about crimes that went down in previous administrations, let's go all the way back. Not just to Hillary and her nearly unprecedented willingness to cooperate with investigators on the subject of her email correspondence, but all the way back to George W. Bush, the infamous W, and his administration's completely different take on public access to correspondence that they didn't want us to have,
Like Clinton, the Bush White House used a private email server—its was owned by the Republican National Committee. And the Bush administration failed to store its emails, as required by law, and then refused to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking some of those emails. “It’s about as amazing a double standard as you can get,” says Eric Boehlert, who works with the pro-Clinton group Media Matters. “If you look at the Bush emails, he was a sitting president, and 95 percent of his chief advisers’ emails were on a private email system set up by the RNC. Imagine if for the last year and a half we had been talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails set up on a private DNC server? 
”Eventually, the Bush White House admitted it had lost 22 million emails, not 5 million. Then, in December 2009—well into Barack Obama’s administration—the White House said it found 22 million emails, dated between 2003 and 2005, that it claimed had been mislabeled. That cache was given to the National Archives, and it and other plaintiffs agreed, on December 14, 2009, to settle their lawsuit. But the emails have not yet been made available to the public. - Newsweek, The George W. Bush White House ‘lost’ 22 Million Emails
When the Republicans pictured above are on trial for deleting their records rather than hand them over, I will care about the records that Hillary Clinton turned over. Millions of messages deleted by every significant figure in the W Administration, and no one is investigating these very real crimes. Not one official has been charged with a crime relating to their destroying this information, no one has gone to jail. The selective memory of stormtrumpers and GOPpers is the problem here, not Clinton's public records.

Spotted in the wild here
For those of you who think this is a smokescreen, that what I am and others are suggesting, is that Hillary Clinton be let off on a technicality, let me set you straight. Hillary Clinton surrendered her emails that weren't her private correspondence. I know that the idea that politicians don't have something to hide (especially female politicians. Female politicians who seem overly fond of privacy) just strikes the average cynic as implausible, but there it is. She complied with the request from legitimate authority and has suffered no end of pain over it. People are convinced there is a crime there somewhere. There just has to be, after eight inquests and millions of dollars spent. Surely there is something?

No. No there isn't. I know this breaks your heart but if you want to satisfy your intense interest in other people's private correspondence, why don't you go look through George W. Bush's email records? Why? Because you can't. Because they destroyed that information rather than turn it over when it was requested by legitimate authority.

But really, why go back in time at all? There is no need to look any further than to the sitting president, since an example of the kinds of transgressions that drive stormtrumpers and GOPpers alike into frothing fury when it comes to Hillary Clinton can be found sitting at the right hand of the OHM. His son-in-law was recently reported to be using a private email server to conduct official White House business,
As a candidate, Mr. Trump aggressively attacked Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, for her use of private email while she was secretary of state. Some of Mr. Trump’s allies outside the White House are urging him to press for a prosecution of Mrs. Clinton, even though an F.B.I. investigation into her handling of classified information has been closed. At Mr. Trump’s rallies, his supporters still break into cheers of “lock her up!” - New York TimesKushner Used Personal Email Account for Government Business
So we can add this hypocrisy to the list of administration officials past and now present, officials who have also not been indicted for using a private email server to conduct government business. Will the Republicans now be chanting Lock Him Up? Don't hold your breath.

A version of this was originally posted here, I let the freak flag fly this time out. I don't think I can get more pissed off that this is still a thing than I am right now. I can give it a shot if you think more visible anger would help. 

Jack Welch Freakonomics Feedback

Dear Freakonomics,

The minute that it became clear that Jack Welch not only supports Trump, but thinks he's doing a great job, that was the minute I deleted this podcast from my queue. I have no need to dilute my thinking with the thoughts of someone so blind as to think that the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) has done anything right on purpose. It is possible that the actions of the OHM may lead to something good, such as women stepping forward and claiming the leadership roles that should rightfully be theirs; but anything good that occurs will be IN SPITE OF the OHM's actions, not something that he can be credited for.

The OHM is and will be remembered as the most corrupt president in the history of the United States. Providing, of course, that we as a nation and a species survive his time in the White House. That is still not a foregone conclusion.

Comment left on Freakonomics.com: Extra: Jack Welch Full Interview