Even the most plain-vanilla presidential races are filled with conspiracy talk. Pundits speculate about secret deals. Reporters chase down candidates’ financial ties and look for quid pro quos. Activists parse speeches for secret messages —dog whistles— pitched at frequencies only certain constituencies can hear. Pretty much everyone acknowledges that such small-scale conspiring takes place. And pretty much everyone acknowledges that larger conspiracies are sometimes at work, such as Richard Nixon’s sabotage and surveillance operations in 1972. In each party’s base, rumors circulate every four years. Under certain circumstances, some of those rumors might find their way to the lips of campaign officials.
But which stories take hold, and why? While there are plenty of reasons the Russia theory would find a receptive audience, given the unpopularity of both Putin and Trump with large segments of the electorate, one element of these accusations may be especially appealing to Trump’s foes.
By linking the candidate to Moscow, this narrative suggests that Trump is precisely the sort of threat that he constantly warns against. His political rise began five years ago when he embraced birtherism — the notion that President Obama is a foreigner who has been hiding his origins from the public. The idea that Trump is a foreign pawn flips that script on its head; now it is a prominent birther who stands accused of uncertain loyalties. The Putin story invites voters to reject Trump on Trumpian grounds, a combination that could undermine the man’s appeal. But by amplifying anxieties about outsiders, it may reinforce a fear that isn’t so far from Trumpism.
Paranoia seems to require being imitated to be understood,Eve Sedgwick once wrote,and it, in turn, seems to understand only by imitation.Like a vast conspiracy, it’s everywhere.
–Jesse Walker, Sure, Trump loves conspiracy theories. So do his foes.
Washington Post, 12 Sextilis 2016
Here’s a recent story from the Washington Post, informing us that
More students are illegally downloading college textbooks for free.
It’s hard (if not impossible) to know just how prevalent this practice is, but some college students around the country are uploading their expensive college textbooks onto the Internet so other students can download them for free and avoid the hefty fees that are sometimes more than $200 a book.
Vocativ.com has a story titled “Why College Students are Stealing Their Textbooks,” which notes that some students are even downloading them for ethics classes.
The cost to students of college textbooks skyrocketed 82 percent between 2002 and 2012, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. General Accountability Office, the research arm of Congress. As a result, students have been looking for less expensive options, such as renting books — and, now, finding them on the Internet, uploaded by other students.
In August, an organization called the Book Industry Study Group, which represents publishers, retailers, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, librarians and others in the industry, released a survey of some 1,600 students and found, according to a release on the data, that “students continue to become more sophisticated in acquiring their course materials at the lowest cost as illicit and alternative acquisition behaviors, from scanned copies to illegal downloads to the use of pirated websites, continue to increase in frequency.”
–Valerie Strauss, More students are illegally downloading college textbooks for free
Washington Post, 17 September 2014.
Well, good. The textbook industry is an obscene racket, predicated on extraordinary costs and a maze of perverse incentives, controlled by a tightly organized cartel of copyright-monopolists, gargantuan institutional sellers and gargantuan institutional buyers, throwing every ton of their incredible weight onto the shoulders of students, tollgating and massively hampering the dissemination of knowledge.
Pirating textbooks isn’t just a good idea. It’s a mitzvah. Burn the domming industry to the ground. Knowledge can and should be free.
Guest Column | by Charles Johnson
Is the Problem Really Too Little Trust in Government?
Posted August 23, 2010
There is one point where I can unequivocally agree with E.J. Dionne’s column “Can We Reverse the Tide on Government Distrust” (Washington Post, May 6, 2010) – when he tells us thatSo far, the Obama administration has missed the opportunity to demonstrate … how it is changing the way government works. How is its approach to … regulations different from what was done before? … How are its priorities different?
Two years in, if there’s any noticeable difference between Bush’s policies of corporate privilege, endless warfare, bailouts, executive power, and bureaucratic expansion, and Obama’s policies of corporate privilege, endless warfare, bailouts, executive power, and bureaucratic expansion, I’d like to know where to find it. The difference between me and E.J. Dionne is that Dionne is apparently surprised by this outcome — why hasn’t Obama done better? At issue is what used to be calledGood Government– the problem of ensuring that a centralized managerial State, with expansive powers to intervene in all matters economic, social, or hygienic, will be run cleanly, and competently, by qualified experts. Dionne insists that financial market meltdowns, oil spills, and coal-mine disasters reveal the catastrophic results of a few years of Bush-era government neglect. Those of us who remember the Bush administration may have a hard time accepting the claim that it was an era in which government was not doing enough; and we see these headline-grabbing catastrophes as only the tail end of a decades-long crisis – a bipartisan, politically created crisis of institutional incentives and industrybest practice-ism,created, nurtured, and protected by government itself.
Dionne may present his article as a commentary on recent news, but the headlines are only carelessly chosen illustrations for a message that seems copied out of a children’s civics textbook circa 1948. Elected government’s task is tostand up for the many against the few,tomake sure that corporations are properly supervised,and toprotect those with weaker bargaining positions … against the harm that those in stronger bargaining positions might inflict.Our problem is simply that we do not trust the political means enough. According to Dionne, if we are ever to solve these politically created crises, we need to knowthat government in a free society is not a distant force but, rather, something that all of us influence and shape.
To be sure, government is not very distant from the downtown offices of the Washington Post. For the rest of us, though, access is somewhat more limited, and not “all of us” have the same influence in shaping government policy. That is done by political insiders and economic incumbents: As scholars like Gabriel Kolko and Butler Shafer have repeatedly shown, government regulatory bodies from the FTC to the MSHA to the SEC have consistently been captured by the incumbents in the industries they are supposed to regulate, systematically rigging government regulations in such a way as to build up cartels, exclude competition, and protect businessmen from liability for harmful practices.
Even with the record of regulatory capture and industry-driven policy, Dionne, like many Progressives, simply insists that politicians need even more trust and fewer restraints on action to give them the independence to do the right thing. You might call this kind of Progressivism a theory of trickle-down politics: When government devotes the overwhelming majority of its power and resources to foolish or destructive programs directed by concentrated interests – subsidies, bailouts, anticompetitive regulations, or an ever-growing military-industrial “National Security” complex – the proposed solution is to give that same government even more strength and greater resources to dispose of, on the hope that some of the surplus will eventually make it through the net of insider control to reach programs that offer a pittance to the little guy.
Individualists know that when you reward the institutions that created crisis, you are going to get more crises. Greater regulatory powers will only make government more attractive to industry incumbents; the more politics is involved in industry, the more that political pull pays off for the industrialists. The root causes of the crises we’ve faced in recent years are not problems of competence or corruption. They are problems of cartelization and capture. The solution is not more trust in government; it’s to realize there are things the political means just cannot accomplish, which should instead be addressed through decentralized, peaceful social cooperation.
The article also includes some brief recapitulations of the Money Monopoly, the Land and Natural Resource monopolies, and the recent history of BP, Massey Energy, and the MSHA. You can read the whole thing at The Freeman Online to-day.
Thanks to Sheldon Richman, again, for making this possible, and for his invaluable aid as an editor. My only complaint is that I think The Freeman really should have chosen a better author photo for me than the one they have at the top of the story. In that one the camera adds about 20 years, and a lot of corporate liberalism.
In fifteen words or fewer: Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post on immigration and poverty statistics
Robert J. Samuelson, in the Washington Post (2008-05-14):
Finally, let’s discuss poverty. Everyone’s against it, but hardly anyone admits that most of the increase in the past 15 years reflects immigration — new immigrants or children of recent immigrants. Unless we stop poor people from coming across our Southern border, legally and illegally, we won’t reduce poverty. Period. That doesn’t mean we should try to expel the 12 million illegal immigrants already here — an impossible and morally dubious task. Many families have been here for years; many have American children. We need a pragmatic accommodation: assimilate most people now here; shift future immigration to the highly skilled.
Let’s reduce poverty by forcing all the poor people to be poor in other countries.
A couple years ago, the Virginia state legislature took bold action against a grave and gathering threat to democracy, freedom, and our way of life:
The House of Delegates voted 60 to 34 Tuesday to impose a $50 fine on anyone found wearing pants low enough that a substantial portion of undergarments is showing. Note the vote: It wasn’t even close.
About those pants: Lots of kids these days are conducting a large-scale experiment to see if trousers can defy gravity. This results in the widespread public exposure of underpants.
This greatly offends Del. Algie Howell Jr., a Democrat from Norfolk and author of the no-low-pants bill, which still faces a vote in the generally more skeptical Senate.People that live in my neighborhood don’t want to have to see undergarments,Howell told me.It’s not about individual rights; it’s about values. I own a group home; we take in kids who’ve been in trouble. Most of the men who come in in shackles and handcuffs are trying to hold up their pants. The way you dress does have something to do with how you behave.
Since the state has an interest in fighting unemployment and crime, Howell figures the state is right to ban a practice that he says makes young people less attractive as employees and more likely to turn to crime.
Now here’s the latest from Delcambre, Louisiana:
The Delcambre Board of Aldermen outlawed indecent exposure in the form of sagging pants Monday, but not before several residents voiced their objections.
The board voted unanimously to make it illegal for anyone to wear clothing that exposes them or reveals their underwear in public.
The ordinance states,It shall be unlawful for any person in any public place or in view of the public to be found in a state of nudity, or partial nudity, or in dress not becoming to his or her sex, or in any indecent exposure of his or her person or undergarments, or be guilty of any indecent or lewd behavior.
It is punishable by up to a $500 fine or up to six months in jail, or both.
Delcambre Police Chief James Broussard said violators can be arrested if officers spot them while on patrol, or if another resident files a complaint.
Radley Balko informs us that there is a movement afoot amongst the Real Americans, in both Red states and Blue:
Moreover, civic organizers in Atlanta, Detroit, Nashville, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala., are planning antisagging rallies, says Pastor Dianne Robinson of Jacksonville, Fla., who last week handed out 78 donated belts at abelt rally.This sagging of the pants is to me a defiant act, and it has all kinds of implications,says Ms. Robinson, who is black.If you can’t get up in the morning and pull your pants up, that says a lot about you, even if I don’t know anything about you.
Now that we already have a professional cadre of bureaucrats running behind us all, yelling
You’ll put an eye out with that! and
Don’t drink that, it’ll stunt your growth!, how could our statesmen and
civic organizers possibly refuse their duty to set the Law running around after people wearing
dress not becoming to his or her sex [sic!] and black kids committing
defiant acts, screaming
You’re not going out like that, are you?! and
Don’t you take that attitude with me, young man!