Bashar al-Assad sucks at conspiracy theories

There was recently a sarin gas attack in Syria, perpetrated by the Syrian government against a rebel-controlled area. Over 80 people were killed, including children. In response, the United States fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the facility thought to house the country’s chemical weapons. But, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claims the sarin attack didn’t actually happen. How do we know it did? Simple: Bashar al-Assad sucks at conspiracy theories. He may kill me for saying that, but at least everyone will know it was him – dude couldn’t make it look like someone else stole a pencil, much less killed somebody. So, if you’re still alive, give that pencil back to him, because Bashar al-Assad’s about to go to Conspiracy School…

Conspiracy Lesson 1: Make your conspiracy theory sound logical.

The most recent conspiracy theory being pushed by Assad is that the United States somehow staged the recent gas attack as a pretext to attack Syria. The problem here is that Trump spent the entire campaign running against attacking Syria, had previously said Obama shouldn’t attack Syria even if they used chemical weapons, and was even talking about not going into Syria a few days before the attack. Add in the fact that he sometimes makes split-second decisions based on what he just saw on TV, and what’s more likely – that the US staged a big gas attack so they could shoot at buildings, or that the Syrian government killed a bunch of people with gas, Trump saw the terrible aftermath on TV, and he and his advisers decided to attack where more gas was stored?

Conspiracy Lesson 2: Don’t leave fingerprints all over your conspiracy theory.

The gas attack is the most recent example of an Assad conspiracy theory, but it’s not the first. As a brutal dictator, Assad lives in a patented Dictator Echo Chamber (DEC), which means it’s incomprehensible that people could dislike him (because, you know, they all get killed). When the Syrian Civil War started, he claimed all the people fighting against him were either from outside of Syria or were being persuaded not to like him from outside of Syria. At the same time, he was playing all the Syrian rebel groups against each other to weaken them and doing things like releasing terrorists from Syrian prisons to radicalize them. In other words, Assad A) is a terrible guy who most Syrians hate, B) actively tried to make the people who hate him hate each other more, C) tried to radicalize the people who hated him so the international community wouldn’t get involved, and D) tried to blame everything on international conspiracies. Of course, outside countries and groups now support various rebel groups in the country. But, the war started because Syrians hated Assad, not because non-Syrians did.

Conspiracy Lesson 3: Make sure everyone pushing your conspiracy theory is on the same page.

It has to be killing Assad’s biggest ally, Russia, that he’s so bad at conspiracy theories. During the Cold War, Russia perfected conspiracy theories to an art form. Now, they can’t even get a dictator they’re basically propping up on the same page. Worse, Assad’s claim that the whole attack was faked undercuts his own army, which said that “terrorists” carried out the attack. Certainly, there are times when conflicting conspiracies can muddy the waters about what actually happened, but when you’re trying to make it look like you’re not guilty of something, the opposite is true. In this case, Russia’s claim (Syria struck a building that had rebel-controlled gas, releasing it) and the army’s claim (The rebels intentionally released the gas) already don’t match up, so adding a third view may as well be removing the mud altogether.

Conspiracy Lesson 4: If you’re going to deny the facts on the ground, at least have some kind of explanation for discounting them.

If you’re claiming the opposite of everything that actually happened is what actually happened, you have to come up with some alternative explanation. Think, “magic bullet,” or “Jet fuel doesn’t melt steel beams” – two classic examples of ridiculous explanations designed to make it look like the facts don’t add up. When Assad claims there was no sarin attack at all, he discounts the dead people, the people who examined the dead people, the injured people, the people who examined the injured people, the video evidence, the satellite evidence, and all the other evidence. He’s also discounting the fact that he’s carried out chemical attacks before, although he claimed those attacks were actually carried out by rebel groups. Which brings us to…

Conspiracy Lesson 5: Be consistent.

Like I said before, it’s important to be on the same page as other people pushing your conspiracy theory. It’s also important to be on the same page AS YOURSELF. See, this isn’t the first time Assad’s used chemical weapons against Syrians. It’s not even the first time he’s tried to come up with a conspiracy theory to claim he didn’t do it. It is, however, the first time he’s claimed a chemical attack was completely fake. In the past, he’s said rebel groups committed attacks to try and frame him, so the international community would get involved on their side (Hey, I told you he sucks at these things.). Now, he’s suddenly saying an attack was fake? Dude, nothing’s going to make you look like a Syrial killer more than changing your story every time you’re obviously the one carrying out an attack. People who think Americans never landed on the moon don’t randomly say the fifth mission there was real but the rest were fake; they stay consistent.

Had Assad followed these simple rules, he might have been able to turn his conspiracy hypothesis into a conspiracy theory. But, I guess when you’re a brutal dictator who always gets his way, you get used to doing things the easy way…

Sex fear rights: A time-tested method for defeating civil rights

President Trump recently reversed an Obama executive order that said schools had to let transgender students use the restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities of the sex they identify with. This reversal marked a landmark achievement for the coalition of states’ rights and sex fear rights. However, while a major victory, it was far from their first. You see, when a historically discriminated minority pushes for civil rights, it’s tough to argue they shouldn’t have them. Civil rights are supposed to be for everybody, so how can you deny them to a specific group? Well, centuries of denying rights to various minorities have produced at least two effective arguments. The first is states’ rights: The right of a state to decide who to discriminate against and who not to. The second is what you could call, “sex fear rights”: If the minority is given equal rights, it will somehow result in the rape, molestation, or sexual assault of some other group or groups.

Perhaps the most well-documented example of the states’ rights/sex fear rights coalition (SRSFRC) involves discrimination against blacks. For centuries, white people used the argument that if black people were freed/integrated/allowed into society, they would quickly use the opportunity to rape white women. Indeed, the longevity of the white-women-will-be-raped argument is amazing. The states’ rights argument lasted as long, but it had to adapt every time the federal government came in and changed something. States can’t decide to have slaves anymore and have to let blacks vote? No problem – we’ll just pass harsh laws that only apply to black people, and put up obstacles that make it impossible for them to vote. States have to provide services to white people AND black people? No problem – we’ll just separate them and give white stuff more funding.

But, what if you can’t convince people that civil rights will rape white women? What if you’re denying rights to, say, gay people? Have no fear – well, actually have lots of fear. For, what at first seems like a challenge turns out to be a boon. Are gay people trying to get into the military? Just say that they’ll sexually assault members of their own sex. Are they trying to get into positions of authority over children? Just say they’ll molest those children. And, since women can be gay, you can extend sex fears from WHITE women to ALL women. And, since homosexuality has to do with sexual attraction, you can make up whatever sex act you want and attach it to gay people. Want to stop gay marriage? Say allowing men to marry men and women to marry women will inevitably lead to polygamy, animalygamy, and toasterovenygamy. Don’t want gay people to be seen as human? Just make up some sexual acts with things no one ever dreamed of, and you’re good. The states’ rights argument is pretty straightforward – say that your state doesn’t want to allow gay rights because, well, just look at all that stuff the sex fear rights people are saying. Also, once you’ve got people good and propagandized, have them vote against it. Indeed, both these arguments have proven so successful, there are still many legal discriminations against gay people.

Unfortunately for the SRSFRC, fighting gay rights has increasingly been seen as a losing battle. So, they moved on to another group: transgender people. Although the transgender community has been included in some legislation protecting other LGBTQ groups, they still have a long way to go, and there are some issues unique to them. That’s why so much of the press in recent years has been about access to restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities that match their gender of preference.

Here’s where sex fear rights proponents really showed their creativity: Instead of directly attacking transgender people, they targeted phantom child molesters. You see, transgender people want to use restrooms that identify with their gender of preference, because they identify with that gender. There’s a bunch of science behind why that is, but if there are two things that trump science, they’re sex fear rights and states’ rights. Proponents of sex fear rights decided, rather than target the imaginary perversity of transgender people themselves, they’d say that child molesters might PRETEND to be transgender, so they could go to the wrong restroom and molest children. There’s no evidence this ever happened, but there’s no evidence a gay person ever had sex with an electrical outlet, either. The states’ rights side didn’t have much trouble: Obama signed that executive order, and nothing gases up the states’ rights tank like the federal government telling states what to do. The original anti-transgender state bills that had passed (popularly known as “bathroom bills”) were based on the phantom child molester argument, but when Trump rescinded the federal order, he invoked states’ rights.

Transgender rights are proving to be a fertile ground for the states’ rights/sex fear rights coalition, and they’re still having some luck fighting gay rights. But, if history is any guide, these wells will eventually dry up. What minority group will they fight next? And, what people will they pretend are at risk of sexual assault if that group gets rights?

Crawl & Order: Federal Intent

​In the federal justice system, the precedents are represented by two separate, yet equally important, groups: the Democrats, who get rid of filibusters for all non-Supreme Court justices, and the Republicans, who refuse to let new Supreme Court justices in when they don’t hold the presidency.

Now that a new president has nominated a new Supreme Court justice, which side of the irony will blink first? Will it be the Democrats, who threaten to filibuster the new nominee? Or, will it be the Republicans, who threaten to get rid of filibusters for Supreme Court nominees?

How to Be Racist without Being Racist

We’re all familiar with racists. They’re usually pretty easy to pick out of a crowd, what with their pointy hoods, swastikas and loose use of words that rhyme with animals (chigger, tick, donkey, mink…). In fact, some people would argue that it’s only these people that truly fall into the category of racist.

But, just so we’re sure that we know who’s racist and who’s not, many people find it useful to remind us how not racist they are before they say something racist. For example, using a phrase like, “I’m not racist, but…” before saying something racist reminds the listener that, though they are hearing something racist that the speaker believes, it’s okay, because the speaker has assured him or her that he or she is not, in fact, racist.

I’ll use an example to help clarify. In this example, Ralph is telling Ted about his neighborhood:

Ralph: I live in a really loud neighborhood.
Ted: What color are your neighbors?
Ralph: Uh…I guess most of them are black?
Ted: I’m not racist, but black people are really loud.
Ralph: …

See, what Ted has said here is okay, because he has assured Ralph that he is not, in fact, racist. Had he not prefaced his racist statement with, “I’m not racist, but…,” Ralph might have mistaken someone who says something racist for someone who is racist.

Another useful phrase, though usually put after something racist rather than before it, is, “I have lots of (offended race) friends,” or “My best friend is (offended race).” Clearly, someone who has friends of the race that they are insulting can’t possibly be racist.

In this example, Fred is telling John about his boss:

Fred: My boss didn’t pay me for working overtime like he said he would.
John: What color is he?
Fred: He’s white. Why?
John: You just can’t trust white people.
Fred: …
John: I mean, I don’t have anything against white people. I have lots of white friends. In fact, my best friend is white.
Fred: …

In this scenario, John manages to use both of our example quotes, to hammer home the point that he is not racist.

These racist escape clauses can be very useful to people who wish to be racist but don’t want to be racist. As a general rule, though, they tend to be said in the presence of people who are not members of the race being criticized. This is understandable, of course, because if a member of the offended race was around, he or she might mistake something racist for being something racist.

So, what do you do if you want to say something racist to a member of the race you are offending? How can you convince him or her that you’re just saying something racist and that you’re not actually being racist?

At first glance, this seems like a difficult problem, but it can actually be solved with three simple words: “No offense, but…” Because, it’s okay to criticize an entire race, as long as the person you are talking to doesn’t get offended. That way, you have managed not only to convince someone else that you are not racist – you have managed to convince someone of the race you offended that you are not racist.

Let’s use one more example. Here, we have Kim, who is Asian, and Carol, who is not:

Carol: No offense, but Asians all look alike.
Kim: …

Here, Carol has performed a masterstroke – she has managed to say something racist to a person of the very race she is offending, without being racist.

There are, of course, many other racist escape clauses, including, but not limited to:
– “I’m not being racist, because I know this (offended race) person who does that.”
– “There are two types of (offended race) – (derogatory term) and (offended
race).”

I hope this primer on non-racist racism has been helpful. As you can see, there are countless ways to be racist without actually being racist…

To understand why we have the Electoral College, just remember the Three C’s

​The Electoral College has officially selected Donald Trump to be president, which means it can go back to not existing for the next four years.  This year was pretty rough for the EC, largely because Trump won the electoral vote but lost the popular vote.  It’s not the first time that’s happened: John “Quincy ME” Adams, Rutherford “Bye Bye Reconstruction” Hayes, Benjamin “I’m Totally Going to Get Reelected You Guys” Harrison, and George W. “Unfinished Business” Bush also won the popular vote without winning the Electoral College.  But, I’m not bringing up the EC because I like to give forgotten presidents nicknames.  I’m bringing it up because this whole situation has gotten a lot of people asking, “Why do we have the Electoral College?”

That’s simple.  If you want to know why the Framers of the Constitution created the Electoral College, all you have to do is remember the Three C’s: Closing Time, Compromise, and Can’t Everybody Just Be George Washington?

Closing Time: As with most colleges, procrastination played a major role in the Electoral College.  Indeed, so many things were put off in the Constitutional Convention, they had their own committee: The Committee of Eleven on Postponed Matters.  Strange as it sounds, the method for selecting the president didn’t get much attention until the very end.  Throughout the Convention, most members just assumed the president would either be elected by state legislatures or by Congress.  Which brings us to…

Compromise: If you’ve ever wondered why so much of the Constitution is vague, ambiguous, or unusually focused on fractions of slaves, this is why.  Convention attendees were obsessed with compromise.  This was partly because they weren’t actually SUPPOSED to be writing a new constitution – they were just supposed to be fixing problems with the existing one, the Articles of Confederation.  They also wanted something more stable than the Articles, so they needed to get everyone on board.  When they finally got around to how to elect the president, some members objected to having Congress pick the president (It would make the president too beholden to Congress) or to having state legislatures pick them (It would make them too beholden to state legislatures.).  At the same time, proponents of these methods objected to a popular vote, as they felt it could result in a demagogue being elected.   It was in this atmosphere that everyone asked the question…

Can’t Everybody Just Be George Washington?: Although Washington was at the Convention, he didn’t contribute much to the actual writing.  However, he was so highly respected that whenever it seemed he disapproved of something, members scrambled to change it more to his liking.  Also, everyone assumed Washington would be the first president, and everyone assumed he’d be a good one.  In addition to having a compromise between the popular vote and the not popular vote, the writers wanted to make sure that subsequent presidents would be as good as it was assumed Washington would be.  The Electoral College was created in this atmosphere.  Electors would be a line of defense between voters, whose passions frequently change, and the presidency.  As political parties didn’t yet exist and campaigning for one’s self was looked down upon, the EC could also be a way to help select the best candidates.

As with many things in the Constitution, current arguments for and against the Electoral College are way different now than they were at its writing.  Sure, the one about how someone can win the popular vote and lose the presidency is still there, but no one’s arguing Congress or state legislatures should choose the president instead.  But, as society changes (Political parties didn’t exist when the Constitution was written; campaigning for one’s self was looked down upon; only white landowning males could vote), so do justifications for and against the EC.  And, it’s not like the EC itself hasn’t changed: Its numbers are based on the number of senators and representatives, which was originally supposed to continue to grow with the country’s population.  Instead, various laws have resulted in that number being capped at 538, instead of continuing to grow (which would have resulted in several thousand more representatives and electors).  Finally, it should be noted that states are free to develop their own methods for choosing electors.  While most have gone with a winner-take-all system, a few go by congressional district instead, and in some states it’s illegal for electors to go against the state’s popular vote, while in others it’s not.  Due to these and other factors, arguments for and against the Electoral College – as well as who is on which side of the debate – have changed throughout its history.

Are we entering a new Golden Age of Conspiracy Theories?

Election Season is over, but that doesn’t mean conspiracy theories have to be. Why, just the other day I heard that protesters are being paid to protest election results. Journalists who’ve investigated these claims have found no evidence for them, but like I always say, “The absence of evidence is the evidence of evidence.” After all, people in America never protest, especially over election results. What other explanation is there? They MUST have been paid.

But wait – there’s more. Even President-Elect Trump has gotten in on the action. While the official vote count has Mr. Trump winning the electoral vote and losing the popular vote, he insists he actually won both, because millions of people voted illegally. What evidence does he have that millions of people voted illegally? You guessed it – none. Put another way, Mr. Trump has as much evidence for his claim of massive voter fraud as I have for my claim that he’s the King Midas of Truth.

So, are we entering a new, Golden Age of Conspiracy Theories? I certainly hope so. The real world is just so boring, random, and factual. Or is it? Maybe that’s just what they WANT me to think…

What happens if Donald Trump loses? Donfirmation bias, that’s what.

If Donald Trump loses tomorrow, will he concede? Will he contest? Will he say the whole process was rigged? It all depends on what he said he’d do. That may sound simple enough, but you have to remember that only Mr. Trump can tell you what he said – not his campaign, not the media, and certainly not recordings.

While most politicians have mastered the arts of plausible deniability, false equivalence, and basic damage control, newcomers to the political scene don’t always have that luxury. They must develop their own ways to deal with inconvenient news cycles, opponent attacks, and unforced errors. Such is the case with Mr. Trump, who has established his own method: Donfirmation Bias.

Donfirmation Bias means never having to say you’re wrong. When Mr. Trump says something, even if all evidence appears to the contrary, he has to either stick with what he said or deny having said it in the first place. He has to find sources that agree with him and ignore or attack those that don’t. Neutral or nuanced stories must be interpreted to agree. This is why scandals that sink other politicians don’t sink Mr. Trump: He either didn’t do them, they were misreported, or they were the right thing to do. But, don’t confuse Donfirmation Bias for hardheadedness. A lot of work goes into it. When a claim Mr. Trump has made appears to be false, he has to put in a lot of time and effort to find sources that agree with him. It also requires being a principled chameleon, so when he does change his mind, he does it so completely, he can later deny it.

The closer a presidential election gets to Voting Day, the more supporters of a candidate will close ranks and defend their candidate against anything negative. Voters are also more likely to focus on the negatives of the opposing candidate when challenged on the negatives of their own. Thus, Mr. Trump’s (and Ms. Clinton’s) own supporters feed into the notion that what they are doing must be right. In other words, voter confirmation bias reinforces Donfirmation Bias.

Donfirmation Bias may at first appear to be a bad way to run a campaign. But, what at first appears to be a fatal flaw – that Mr. Trump is always right – is in fact its greatest strength. You see, Mr. Trump has contended that the election is rigged, and he has said that the only way he can lose is if Ms. Clinton, the media, and/or the establishment has rigged it in her favor. Therefore, even if he loses, he wins. It’s as true now as it was when he said it in the primaries. Ms. Clinton may have an arsenal of non sequiturs and the best crisis management team money can buy, but she has conceded that, if Mr. Trump wins the election, he will have won the election.

But, what if Mr. Trump concedes? That’s an easy one – it’s what he will have said he’d do all along…

What I’ll miss most from the election

I don’t know how many crazy things from this election will continue after it’s over, but I’ve certainly enjoyed the ride. I’d hate to have to say goodbye to things like:

The Comey-22
The FBI finished its investigation of Clinton’s email practices in July and recommended not charging her with anything. But, a few weeks ago, some Clinton emails appeared in an entirely unrelated investigation. There wasn’t yet a warrant to search them, so no one knew if there was anything there. But, it was a new development. The FBI generally doesn’t like to do anything that might influence an election, especially a presidential one. But, if it was discovered after the election that they hadn’t been publicized, they might be accused of the same thing. FBI Director James Comey had a decision to make: Release the information and be accused of trying to affect the election, or don’t release it and be accused of trying to affect the election. Of course, what he did was say that it was happening but that they didn’t know anything about it yet. We still don’t know what’s in the emails, other than a potential pink slip for Comey if Clinton gets elected…

The Lord’s Way
Comey may have had a difficult decision to make, but Jeffrey Lord never has that problem. Lord is a CNN contributor and Donald Trump supporter extraordinaire, and whenever Mr. Trump says, does, or doubles down on anything ridiculous, he’s there to clean it up. How does he do it? Simple: When Lord is asked a question about a negative thing Trump has said or done, he either a) compares him to Ronald Reagan without answering the question, or b) accuses Democrats of being racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted without answering the question. It doesn’t matter if the question has nothing to do with any of those things, because the Lord’s Work must be done. Say, for example, someone asks Lord if Donald Trump can win in the general election, since he’s said so many things that turn so many people off. Of course he can win, Lord will say, because Ronald Reagan said things that turned people off, and he won in a landslide. If pressed for specifics, Lord will specifically say that Reagan was great and that Trump is great, and if pushed for even more specifics, he will even more specifically say that Reagan was great and that Trump is great. But, sometimes Reagan just isn’t enough, so Lord has to go to Plan B: Operation History. You or I may have learned in history class that, up until about the 1930’s, the Democratic Party ardently defended slavery, was heavily involved in the KKK, and Jim Crowed about everything. And, until about the 1960’s or ’70s, Southern Democrats were pretty much still doing that. However, while we might have also learned that the Democratic Party started appealing to blacks in the ’30s, passed various civil rights laws in the ’40s, passed the Civil Rights Act in the ’60s, and has actively tried to appeal to blacks since, the Lord’s Professor wants you to know that’s all wrong. As it turns out, the Democratic Party is still the Party of Racism for the simple reason that it was in the past. Lord also makes plenty of other “historical” appeals to portray Democrats as the party of sexism and pretty much everything else that Trump gets accused of throughout the campaign.

The Clinton Calculator
Quick: What’s the biggest non-biological difference between Bill and Hillary Clinton? That’s right – charisma. Bill Clinton used polls and focus groups all the time to figure out what to talk about and how to talk about it, but he was so good at communicating, no one really cared. Outside of a debate stage, Hillary seems overly-scripted, overly-calculating, and overly-rehearsed. I’m not sure how she does so much better in front of debate audiences than in front of other audiences, but I’m sure a focus group could tell us. Indeed, if the T-800 was Hillary Clinton, it would probably pay more attention to polls to find out why John Conner cries than to life experience and terrible ’90s slang.

Law & Order: DJT
If you want to see a political phrase used to maximum potential, take a look at how Richard Nixon talked about “law and order” in the 1968 campaign. If you want to see the opposite of that, take a look at how Donald Trump talks about “law and order” in the 2016 campaign. Sometimes, he uses it as a vague rallying cry. Sometimes, he just says it as a quick answer to a very specific question on law enforcement or the legal system. And, sometimes, he’ll just say it when something law- or law-enforcement related happened, with no real explanation as to what it means. Put another way: In the 2016 Election, the Donald is represented by two separate yet equally important words: law, which comes before order, and order, which comes after law…

Election 2016 – Episode IV: A New Slippery Slope

Election 2016
EPISODE IV: A NEW SLIPPERY SLOPE

It is a period of GOP civil war.  Khizr Khan, striking from the Democratic National Convention, has won his first victory against the heroic Donald J. Trump.

During the battle, Future President Trump managed to crudely copy Khan’s ultimate weapon, MAKING SACRIFICES FOR AMERICA, a tweetable phrase with enough power for Trump to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

Pursued by the Mainstream Media’s sinister agents, Future President Trump races home aboard his private plane, custodian of the secret tweets that can save his reputation and restore freedom to America…

The Messiah Candidate

The Messiah, Bernie Sanders, will soon ascend to Heaven. But fear not, friends: Just as Jesus did, He will return within our lifetimes (Perhaps as soon as the Year of Our Lord 2020). For did not St. Paul return four years after he rallied His believers to vote for him? Did not Father Bryan return more than once to assuage our fears?

He may go by a different name. He may appear in a thunderclap of McGovern and return to the Heavens just as suddenly. Perhaps He will be a reformed sinner, in the tradition of Roosevelt of Bullmoose. Or, perhaps He will make his presence known by turning Goldwater into wine.

The Book of I Nader teaches us, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no establishment candidate.” II Buchanan tells us to “Trust in the purist with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

And, do not worry about how to recognize the One True Candidate. For, to quote Goldwater 4:13, once you see Him, “In your heart you know He’s right.”