Russia isn’t the issue — it’s our vulnerability to exploitation that matters

Who’s at fault for the Trump presidency? Ariel Dorfman says it so well. It’s not the Russians, it’s us.

I’m tired of hearing about how Russia intervened in the recent U.S. election and tired of the talk about collusion, and I’m especially fed up with the speculation that all this will doom the Trump presidency.

My weariness is not due to a lack of indignation at how a foreign country covertly helped a reckless con man become president. And I would certainly celebrate if the uncovering of crimes forced President Trump to abandon the White House and slink back to his tower. But I fear that the Russia investigations — and the hope that they will save the republic — are turning too many opponents of this administration into passive, victimized spectators of a drama performed by remote actors over which they have no control.

The psychic, intellectual and emotional energy expended on this issue would be better employed, I believe, by addressing a more fundamental concern: What was it, what is it, in our American soul that allowed the Russians to be successful?

Short of evidence that Russian hackers explicitly flipped voting machines, all they did was feed false information to a receptive audience that wanted to believe what Fake News was selling. We keep looking for an external cause for an American failure, and the real cause is right here at home: a wealthy oligarchy that’s been wrecking education for decades, that feeds the sense of entitlement of racist white people, that discourages taking a close look at policies and practices of the military-industrial complex, because that’s become a wonderful money funnel for the rich. Both Republicans and Democrats have been supporting a system of oppression that keeps the electorate fat, stupid, and greedy, and makes them easily manipulable. That we’re also vulnerable to manipulation by foreign sources is our fault, our weakness.

Real patriots would have been working for the last several decades to make the electorate better educated, better able to evaluate information, and more critical of our government. That’s where the strength of a democracy lies, and we’ve been undermining it for generations. Instead, we’ve built up a population that listens to Fox & Friends uncritically, that keeps Alex Jones and Ann Coulter in business, that thinks their illusory notions about what God is thinking is a path to truth.

The investigation into the Russian conspiracies is a good thing — if it ends a dangerous and corrupt regime, I’m all for it. But it’s superficial. At best, it’s going to flip open a manhole cover that will expose the sewer of the American id. The real test will be whether we can then dive in and clean up our own problems.


  1. brett says

    I don’t think it even can permanently hurt the Trump Presidency. Trump himself can only be removed with a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate, meaning a huge chunk of Republicans would have to defect and vote for it. He can pardon his subordinates of any federal crimes. The only guaranteed way that anyone under Trump ends up in jail over this is if one of the state-level investigations gets them on something.

  2. whywhywhy says

    A secondary note to all of this is how come Trump wasn’t investigated years ago for what appears to be money laundering, failure to pay contractors, illegally hiring workers, etc? How come Deutsche Bank was not investigated years ago for money laundering with respect to Russian folks (and who knows who else)? Why did we stop sending white collar criminals to prison?
    I understand that all of these are mere symptoms of the larger problems outlined by PZ but we as a country need to address them as well as the core weaknesses in our culture that devalue the search for truth.

  3. jrkrideau says

    Short of evidence that Russian hackers explicitly flipped voting machines, all they did was feed false information to a receptive audience that wanted to believe what Fake News was selling.

    I have yet to see anything even demonstrates that. I’m seeing the same irrationality we saw in the build-up to the Iraqi invasion.

    Does anyone remember the famous yellowcake “evidence” in the run-up to the Iraq invasion? Or Colin Powell’s stellar performance in front of the Security Council? The one where two senior UN civil servants politely suggested that either he was delusional or lying?

    Quick translation: If told the White House or a US intelligence agency told me the sun rose in the East, I’d want it independently verified by experts outside the USA.

    The investigation into the Russian conspiracies is a good thing — if it ends a dangerous and corrupt regime

    Here, here, but I think it is more likely one could get Trump, as Mueller got Flynn, for illegal financial transactions or breaking US sanctions.

  4. ardipithecus says

    The Russians had nothing to do with Judge Roy Been getting nearly enough votes to win a Senate seat. That ought to reveal the sickness more than anything the Russia probe can do.

  5. says

    This has been a long time coming; pretty much all the way back to before the Reagan administration. Rightwingers with money have been pushing the weaponization of American stupidity for decades, and now they pretty much own the country politically. The Stupid we’ll always have with us, but the difference here is the way it was fed, formed and organized in order to further the aims of the plutocracy. We now have large sections of the country fully under the spell of proto-fascist nonsense, where it takes an earthquake to dislodge it from power.

    Despite all that, it’s not hopeless. The problem for rightwing project is the same as ever: it’s not a workable way to organize a society. To the extent it succeeds, it produces misery and failure. For a while plutocracy can blame its failures on its enemies, but that only works for a while. Over time, rightist rule creates a reaction that upends it. Trump’s administration is historically unpopular, and the demographics of rightwing support are catastrophically bad. The coming generations reject nearly everything in the rightwing worldview (racism, homophobia, fundamentalism, religious authoritarianism, the lot).

    Next time sane people come back to power, we need to not make the mistake Obama made, of seeing his opponents as loyal Americans, whom he could appeal to for compromise. They’re not that. There’s no common ground with them. They must be defeated. The rightwing plutocratic project is completely poisonous to the workings of a modern liberal democracy. We need to understand that, and treat it as such.

  6. robro says

    jrkrideau @ #3 — I’ve seen evidence of information manipulation to influence public opinion both here and in England for the Brexit vote. If “Russian” entities played a part in it, it might be about the same as the Macedonian entities claimed to be a part of it…young men (mostly) operating troll farms.

    And then there’s the billionaires funding the rollercoaster ride, but they come in all stripes, not just “Russian oligarchs.”

    Information manipulation to influence public opinion is common place. It’s called marketing. There’s nothing new about it…the Bible has plenty of examples. The Internet and social media may be providing some new tools.

    As it happens, I listened to a few minutes of an interview with Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF. He wrote a pop-science book a few years ago called Fat Chance about the impact of sugar on our health. He has a new book out titled The Hacking of the American Mind about the constant drive for pleasure that stimulates dopamine production, lowers serotonin effectiveness, results in many forms of addictive behavior, and leads to a lot of destructive unhappiness.

    I then read a sample from the book. He resists saying there’s a conspiracy, but he makes the assertion that corporate marketing people have understood the basic principles of addictive behavior for a long time and exploited it to sell products, whether those products are cigarettes, chewing gum, cars, politicians, or belief systems.

    In his remarks during the interview, he cited the recent statements from Sean Parker that Facebook founders were deliberately exploiting “a vulnerability in human psychology” when they created Facebook. For all his problems, Parker is a former Napster dude and probably really does understand the hacking mentality. Lustig also mentioned the criticisms of Goolge’s exploitation by former employee Tristan Harris.

    I’m cautious about this. I really don’t know much about brain chemistry, so I can’t evaluate whether Lustig’s focus on dopamine and serotonin are legitimate. And, the fear social media part may be as overblown as Kurzweil’s Singularity, or it’s own form of fear exploitation.

    Still, there’s no question corporations have shown no compunction about creating and exploiting addictive behaviors to make a profit.

  7. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    The mindless insistence of every generation of progressives on relearning the hard way that the perfect is the enemy of the good and decisions are made by those who show up deserves a mention.

  8. jrkrideau says

    @ 6 robro
    I’ve seen evidence of information manipulation to influence public opinion

    Well, the head of RT has said that, of course, they had bought advertising time (US$200,000 ?) from Facebook, IIRC.

    She said it was something they did on a regular basis and I would assume RT would do the same in the UK and elsewhere.

    She, also, said that RT existed to provide a Russian point of view, so yes this would probably imply influencing public opinion. Perhaps like the BBC or Radio France, or Deutche Welle or Al Jazzera?

    BTW, have you seen this?

  9. says

    Yes, the two party system is just pissed off that the Russians managed to accomplish so much with their few millions, compared to the manipulation they were able to accomplish with their billions. It’s galling, when an uninvited contestant comes in out of left field and makes you look so bad.

    The mechanisms of manipulation of American politics have been in place, arguably, since the beginning. All that’s new is that the Russians happened to turn out to be surprisingly strong players on a shoestring budget. Israel did OK this round, too, but we can’t talk about that.

  10. dhabecker says

    I guess the question was whether we can “dive in and clean up our own problems.” I’d give it a 10% chance in the near future.
    Instead of making progress, we will witness this week the passage of a tax bill that gives more of our country’s wealth to the few at the top. I listen to the complaint that this new money give-a-way will cause a $1.4 trillion dollar debt at the end of 10 years, forgetting that this is on top of a yearly deficit of around $0.6 trillion added to the 20 or so trillion we are already in debt. The wealthy will get the cash and we will get the bill while the Republicans claim victory.
    @#2 asks when we stopped sending white collar criminals to prison. How could they commit crimes when we hand them the cash legally?

  11. thirdmill says

    I was roundly criticized here a few threads ago for my “lizard brain” theory of why men are sexual harassers, but this is another example of the same phenomenon. There is this deeply flawed assumption that humans are rational, intelligent, decent, inclined to do the right thing, and basically good at heart. I see no evidence to support that assumption. In reality, an awful lot of people are spiteful, racist, stupid, hostile to anything that challenges their ideas about what the world should be like, and act purely out of what they see as their immediate self interest (and they’re often too stupid to even get that right). Which makes one wonder just how good an idea democracy actually is.

    I’ve seen polling data that indicates that even in so-called liberal democracies like Canada and Western Europe, there are still a lot of people who don’t like people with brown skin, people of different religions, or liberal social and economic views. Those places seem better at putting in checks and balances to keep such people out of power, but they’re still there. And maybe always will be.

    I had lunch not long ago with my brother, who is an avid Trump supporter. He knows full well that Trump is driving us off a cliff and he doesn’t care, because Trump pisses on all the people my brother hates: blacks, Jews, gays, anyone with a college education, anyone who lives in California or New York, the media, feminists, people on welfare. He is so excited about sticking it to all those people that he doesn’t care that he’s shitting in his own bed as part of the deal. And there is literally nothing that can be said to such people. Unfortunately, last election they reached critical mass.

  12. Jado says

    I’m starting to think it might have something to do with the changing nature of war. War used to be a national issue – declared and overseen by Congress, integrated into the national consciousness, a venture in which MOST of the country was involved. It hasn’t been that way since WWII.

    Life during the Korean war was mostly the same for most Americans, with the exception that everyone probably knew someone who knew someone who was involved in the war.

    And then the Vietnam war was a war where the young were sacrificed for the benefit of the old, and the general impact was a nation-wide generational disagreement.

    Grenada was a blip.

    Iraq I was a technological display of the Cold War Victors, as a lesson to anyone who might be watching that they were probably correct to never engage fully with us.It was a victory parade.

    W’s Grand Middle East Fuster Cluck was hardly on the news in a strategic or tactical way. The national discussion wasn’t progress of the war, rather one side saying “this is wrong” and the other saying “we’re winning”, and both sides going to the mall with the checks from their home equity line of credit

    I am sure there are Americans who never think of the troops stationed overseas and technically in “war zones”. It is one more partisan issue to be debated like it was a monetary policy or whether Wall Street CEOs should sign their annual reports.

    We are waging war as a video game, with remote-controlled troops and no impact on the ordinary life of those not directly involved. And therefore there are no consequences.

    No consequences, no risk.

    No risk, no caution.

    No caution, no forethought.

    And therefore we have a nation of people unable to see past their next week, their next day, their next hour. And we get self-indulgent ignorant ranters addicted to rage because it feels good, who cannot fathom why their lives are getting worse.

    We need to re-introduce consequences to the American experience, or we are doomed to fall farther down this rabbit hole.

  13. vucodlak says

    I fear the answer to our problem is a very uncomfortable one.

    If Trump gets away with his crimes and walks away with from the FBI investigation with his stolen presidency, then our nation will have finally, completely abandoned any pretense of being a nation of laws. At that point, any fool who talks about elections as though they still matter will be guilty of fiddling while the world burns.

    As Tashiliciously Shriked said in 13, the problem is that the people at the top, who are directly responsible for the corruption of all we supposedly hold dear, never face consequences for their evil.

    We must change that. If the people at the top refuse, completely, to even pretend to be beholden to the laws of this nation, then neither will they be allowed to claim the protection of those laws.

    It will be a terrible thing. It’s entirely possible that humanity will not survive. But if we keep going the way we are now, we’re all dead anyway. We have our choice of dooms; let us not simply lie down and die.

  14. KG says

    I was roundly criticized here a few threads ago for my “lizard brain” theory of why men are sexual harassers – thirdmill@11

    No, you didn’t, because it’s not a theory, just a stupid and misleading metaphor, as was pointed out to you at the time.

    Which makes one wonder just how good an idea democracy actually is.

    That is of course exactly how the far right think.

  15. bachfiend says

    Trump was elected with a minority of the electors voting, which was a minority of the voters registered, which means that he won with support from less than 25% of the electorate, which didn’t including everyone who was eligible to be registered and to vote.

    The Republicans’ tactic is to discourage as many Democrat voters as possible from voting by making voting difficulty (by reducing the number of polling booths in Democrat areas) or to remove them from the electoral rolls, and to encourage their supporters to vote with dog whistle politics, such as religion or abortion.

    The way of reforming the system is to adopt Australia’s electoral system. Elections should be run by a single independent authority with uniform laws and regulations, regardless of whether it’s national, state or local government. Registration to vote and attendance at a polling both to vote should be compulsory, and there should be no barriers placed in preventing a person eligible to vote from registering and voting. Political parties and candidates would then be encouraged to campaign on issues that matter to the entire electorate instead of issues that matter to the much smaller fraction of the electorate that votes for them, and which is necessary for them to win.

  16. thirdmill says

    KG, No 15, I recall a lot of screaming at me, but I don’t recall anyone actually explaining why it’s “stupid and misleading.” Feel free to take a crack at it if you think you’re up to the task.

  17. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Thirdmill, you never had anything other than an unsupported notion. “That which is asserted without evidence (like your notion) can be dismissed without evidence.” Both happened. You are back at square one, starting over.

  18. zibble says

    I might just be an ignorant-ass pig farmer, but I would strongly wager that Mueller’s investigation is finding out things way beyond what we already know. I think at the end of this, far more people than Trump are going to be implicated, which may be why the entire Republican party right now seems to be looting the country as they run out the door.

  19. F.O. says

    Agree with PZ 100%.
    Let’s assume that the current presidency implodes in scandal and falls.
    How do you ensure it doesn’t happen again?
    How do you train and enable your citizens to be responsible voters?
    Democracy simply doesn’t work if tribalism and FUD can override evidence and fact.

    This is not a problem unique to the US, all western democracies are facing it.

  20. zibble says

    @20 FO
    The thing is, all western democracies partly *because of* Russia. There doesn’t seem to be a single fascist party in the world that isn’t getting funded by Putin.

    Yes, there are broader problems as well, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we do live in a world where one family of shitheads with too much money can do unspeakable damage – whether that’s the Mercers funding Nazism, the Kochs funding libertarianism, the Saudi royals funding Wahhabism, or the Murdochs funding general ignorance, there aren’t *just* complex societal issues with no clear solutions, there are also tangible villains who need to be prosecuted.

  21. sobriquet says

    I made the mistake of wading into the comments of the LA Times article that PZ linked, and Lawd Jeebus is it a complete cesspool. An example:

    “Hmm, as more comes out about the reign of terror of Obama, like the IRS , Fast and Furious, the illegal spying on reporters and citizens, and the opponents campaign, the illegal Iran payments … all in cash, the Hezbollah regime of drug dealing, money laundering etc… I think the author is talking about the wrong president here. Trump has done nothing but enforce laws, bring back the economy, expose the Deep state, … and so much more. The author must not like his “tone”, Trump should just bend over and allow the fake media to shaft him 24/7 .. now they have been exposed for the partisan corrupt hacks they are.”

    The comments there quite effectively proves the author’s point about a dumb-as-rocks populace. I ask, where do these people come out from? I’d expect commentary like this from Breitbart, Infowars, Youtube, etc, but LA Times? The level of discourse in the comments section between LA Times and Washington Post is astonishing.

  22. thirdmill says

    Nerd, the assertion on the table is that my argument is stupid and misleading. That’s a positive assertion, so the burden is on KG to defend it. That aside, for you to say there’s no evidence for it tells me that you are simply ignorant of the work that’s been done on it. That’s hardly surprising since I actually had to explain that it was a metaphor rather than a literal statement that we descended from lizards, but before you go saying “no evidence” perhaps you should educate yourself as to what is out there. You may not be persuaded by the evidence. You may take a look at it and decide that you still disagree with it. But at least find out what you’re talking about before you pontificate about it.

  23. Zeppelin says

    Let me make an assertion of my own, while we’re at it. I’d say people are as a rule decent and sensible until they get hungry or scared, at which point most of us turn into selfish idiots. We need to stop essentialising people’s situational behaviour into a fixed “moral character”.

    When things are all right, when people’s needs are met and they’re feeling safe and accepted, they’re for the most part perfectly agreeable. The problem isn’t lack of ethics, but of moral fortitude. Bad situations make bad people. So if we want fewer bad people, we shouldn’t just teach/enforce compassion and responsibility, we should also strive to reduce the moral hazards they (we) are subjected to. Make it easier for people to be good.

  24. Ed Seedhouse says

    thirdmill@24: “the assertion on the table is that my argument is stupid and misleading. That’s a positive assertion, so the burden is on KG to defend it.”

    What has already been established does not require further evidence.

  25. DanDare says

    bachfiend #16 the Australian system is good but its not a total solution. Democracy has to be more than just voting. It needs to involve full engagement via discussion and persuasion. Not just via the representatives but among the electorate. Its an elephant we may need to eat one teaspoon full at a time.
    Education is key and something horribly under threat.

  26. thirdmill says

    Ed, No. 27, I guess I missed the part where that had been established, but let’s back up a minute.

    I think that because of the silliness from the evolutionary psychology crowd, for whom *all* behavior has a biological explanation, there has been an over-correction so that it is almost heretical to assert that *any* behavior has a biological explanation. And each of those extremes is just as bad as the other; never statements are false about as often as always statements are.

    In the case of humans, what is so controversial about observing that animals act like animals? I could go with Zeppelin’s theory that people are basically good unless they are hungry or scared except that the selfish, greedy, race-baiting assholes currently running the United States have probably never been either in their entire lives. I think a far more probable scenario is that if those of us here had been born into wealth and privilege, we’d be acting like selfish, greedy, race-baiting assholes too. It’s far easier to be virtuous when you’re not the people being asked to give up wealth and power.

    Ayn Rand may have had horrible social and political and economic views, but she called it right on human nature. We’re selfish and greedy. Nobody has to teach us to be selfish and greedy. In fact, parents spend a great deal of time and effort trying to get their children to stop acting like Lord of the Flies, as you know if you’ve ever seen two toddlers fighting over the same toy. And pretending otherwise is a fool’s errand; it’s as if someone expected shit to taste like ice cream and kept being disappointed when that turned out not to be the case. And any political movement that doesn’t take that into account is doomed to failure. It’s why Republicans keep winning. They’ve figured that out; we seem not to.

  27. DanDare says

    And I’m speaking as a parent and uncle and sibling of many people that do not and have not as children been selfish or greedy.

  28. vucodlak says

    @ thirdmill, #29

    I could go with Zeppelin’s theory that people are basically good unless they are hungry or scared except that the selfish, greedy, race-baiting assholes currently running the United States have probably never been either in their entire lives.

    The people whose entire lives are ruled by fear… have never been afraid? Where do you think all the anger and hate and selfishness comes from, if not from fear?

    The problem with your “lizard brain” hypothesis is not that it’s completely wrong (in this instance, anyway). The problem is that it’s completely useless. Yes, the Republicans understand humanity’s baser nature and win votes by playing to it, but so what? That doesn’t mean that we can or should do the same thing. You don’t get anything positive from plumbing those depths. You get atrocities.

    Fear is the enemy of progressive policy, not a tool that we can use. It’s corrosive to the unity necessary to accomplish our goals. Want to drum up a pogrom? Play on people’s fear of the Other. Want people to vote for policies based on short-sighted greed? Play on people’s fear of not having enough.

    Yes, humans are animals. We are social animals. Playing to our antisocial tendencies is destructive, because anything worthwhile we’ve ever accomplished has been a social endeavor. Rather than simply accepting that humans are “selfish and greedy,” we must have an answer to the fear that underlies those emotions. Progressives really do understand this. Even the Democratic establishment understands this, though they keep trying to have it both ways and sabotaging themselves in the process.

  29. hemidactylus says

    @29- thirdmill

    Ayn Rand may have had horrible social and political and economic views, but she called it right on human nature. We’re selfish and greedy.

    Rand from what I recall was an unrepentant blank slater. She had a naive view of human nature. She believed in self-made egoism and discounted the a priori or biologically inherited undergirding of human behavior. She also derided the social aspects. Infrastructure is awkward for the self-made egoist.

    And humans aren’t pure individualists. We are oriented toward our ingroups, due to genetic kinship and reciprocity. Hence nepotism and cronyism and ethnic cleansing.

    And though we don’t have triune lizard brains, since we are plainly amniotes we do share biological structure with fish, other amniotes and other mammals. LeDoux ably deconstructed MacLean’s overly integrated “limbic system”, but we do have things such as amygdalas that play important roles in how we interact with others as Édouard Claparède showed with the pinprick.

  30. nomadiq says

    People have always been idiots. Always will be. What got liberal democracies ahead is we ended up voting in people who were better than the average. People who could honestly debate ‘the issues’. At least for the most part, they were answerable to their constituents. Power was restrained.

    This is no longer the case. Power has found a way to usurp democracy. Power was always going to try to. It must by nature. Money from big corporations and rich people buy elections through legal bribes (campaign contributions). So the ‘better of us’ now don’t get to serve the people. They lose elections because the ‘idiot majority’ can be bought with useless trinkets from the powerful – principally getting satisfaction in seeing their ‘enemies’ being destroyed on social media… the most pointless and fickle victory on offer, but nonetheless the most satisfying in the short term. Russia understands this. It’s not surprising Putin used it. But he isn’t the only one.

    Power structures alway collapse. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, so it will all end in one of two ways. 1) People will figure out what’s going on, restore democracy by limiting the influence of money and already existing power in policy decision making and restoring some sense of majority rule, or 2) most of us, rich and poor, smart and stupid, powerful and powerless, will end up dead.

    I hope for 1) but honestly, I expect 2). Brace yourselves.

  31. chigau (違う) says

    thirdmill #29
    Everyone in Lord of the Flies was a fully indoctrinated member of a hierarchy.
    They did not revert to a primitive state, they just did what they had been told.
    There were no “todders”.

  32. unclefrogy says

    the thing about fear and hunger in how they effect people is the people have to feel fear, they have to “feel” hunger, and feelings do not have to coincide with actual objective facts at all to have the effect in fact it is probably the feeling that is the operative condition.
    I had a talk with a friend the other day about how she is not really feeling it (christmas spirit) this year probably because she keeps expecting it to explode any day. Me I have no idea.
    the most telling part of The Lord of The Flies was the boys were rescued from the island by a war ship on patrol during a war. They had been recreating the world that they knew. not some idealized primitive world of the Nobel Savage.
    uncle frogy

  33. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Thirdmill, the Forest Troop showed that aggressive behavior is not innate, but learned. People in this country have learned to be idiots, and men have learned to harass women. Which is why your ideas are not taken seriously, as they show lack of serious thought. The right education is needed.

  34. johnlee says

    Trump told people in the right demographic group what they wanted to hear. He didn’t need any help from the Russians at all.

  35. photoreceptor says

    Several of the posts go along with what I have been thinking for some time, namely that if it was so easy for Russia to influence the general public’s thinking, then a country which loves to call itself the greatest in the world is not so great. If Russia has a hand in global destabilization I would even submit they might warrant that epithet. I remember Trump saying that the world was laughing at the US as part of his strategy of putting the US first, I doubt anyone was laughing then but they may well be now (especially Russia). But I am not claiming any moral highground, post-Brexit UK is also unpleasant with hate crimes on the rise. I also ain’t no historian, but when democracy appeared in ancient Greece, exception made to the fact women were excluded from the vote it worked well because the people were well informed about such matters as public spending, foreign affairs, etc, and political candidates were expected to master all these facets. What can one say about modern day democracy when the level of debate is about the size of Trumps hands?

  36. rorschach says

    Didn’t take many votes to flip Michigan and Wisconsin. Jill Stein and Flynn partied with Putin in Moscow. The Russian facebook ads and twitter bot army. Cambridge Analytica’s role in Brexit and the US election. Ivanka and Putin’s ex being besties. The pee tapes. CIA seniors judging Putin is treating Trump “like an asset”.
    Yes, media failure and education cuts, but Clinton would still have won without the Russian interference.
    The tax bill with its 1.5 trillion increase in deficit will cause a new great depression, which will in turn serve as justification for more cuts to health and education. And PZ wants to tell me that Idiocracy wasn’t a f’ing documentary.

  37. jrkrideau says

    @ 6 robro

    Not sure about Lustig. Sounds a bit like Wheatbelly and other pop diet books. They all seem written by Xuuu Yyyyy M.D. but no visible qualifications in diet and behaviour. Perhaps a endocrinologist is a bit more qualified than the author of Wheatbelly who is a cardiac surgeon.

    Lustig probably is correct that North Americans consume far too much sugar. This seems to have been a by-product of Ancel Keys’ promotion of the Mediterranean diet based on some really bad research and some very aggressive marketing.

    Based on your brief description of The Hacking of the American Mind it sounds a nutty.

    You might be interested in Teicholz, N. (2014). The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet (Reprint edition). Simon & Schuster.

  38. hemidactylus says

    Russia could have tipped the balance, but we still played a role in providing them the means and easy targets. I watched RT on TV multiple times in the past and smelled a rat. Sure there’s much to criticize in the US especially with a Kremlin slanting, but they wouldn’t dare turn around to look in the mirror at Russia. Others in the US may be more easily duped by Russian sourced propaganda. Yet we try to manipulate other cultures to do things we deem in our interest. Radio Marti?

    And we propagandize ourselves quite capably. Cigarettes. Kuwaiti incubators. Yellow cake. Global warming as myth.

    Freud’s nephew Bernays saw the value in PR. Chomsky realized the problem of manufactured consent of the governed. The 14th amendment had been coopted long ago down the corporations are people route and now money=speech.

    But now the web 2.0 has democratized spin to put it in the hands of anyone, not just the gatekeeping media elite. And we get counterculture demagogues such as Alex Jones who manipulate a gullible population with poor epistemic filters. Then they self create on Youtube and Facebook.

  39. rickeyemiller says

    In our case, the Rooskies didn’t require many uncivilized methods installing this giant mirror reflecting a naked empire.

  40. says


    Short of evidence that Russian hackers explicitly flipped voting machines, all they did was feed false information to a receptive audience that wanted to believe what Fake News was selling.

    That’s not remotely all they did. What the hell?

  41. Ed Seedhouse says

    thirdmill@29: “Ayn Rand may have had horrible social and political and economic views, but she called it right on human nature.”

    The scientific evidence is utterly contrary to your beliefs. Humans took over the planet because they learned how to co-operate more efficiently than similar hominids.

    These beliefs of yours are also childish. I found them attractive at 17. I grew out of that. Some people never do.

    You missed the part where your earlier screeds were proven to be nonsense because you did not listen. You are still not listening.

    Since this is now an old thread I will not be responding further here.

  42. thirdmill says

    Ed, No 46, yes humans cooperated because they saw that doing so was in their selfish interests — that way they could take over the planet from the other hominids. I doubt they thought it through in those terms, but they had a non-altruistic goal. Republicans cooperate too when they want huge tax and service cuts, but I wouldn’t use that as an example of altruism.

    Nerd, 38, then why do idiocy and sexual harassment of women seem to be near universals? You might find an outlier culture here or there where they’re not, but in general the world is run by charlatans and abusers of power.

  43. vucodlak says

    @ johnlee, #39

    Nixon didn’t need to have someone to burgle the DNC offices, but he did it anyway.

  44. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Yes, media failure and education cuts, but Clinton would still have won without the Russian interference.

    Even with Russian interference, Clinton would have won without Let-It-Bern-er petulance.

  45. vucodlak says

    @ Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y, #49

    And if the Democrats didn’t insist on having it both ways, then the Sanders Campaign wouldn’t have had a tenth of the traction it did. Alas, they always do, and the people at the top didn’t learn a damn thing from the shellacking they got in 2016.

  46. KG says


    KG, No 15, I recall a lot of screaming at me, but I don’t recall anyone actually explaining why it’s “stupid and misleading.” Feel free to take a crack at it if you think you’re up to the task.

    No-one “screamed” at you, and I already did explain, you dishonest numpty. I linked to an article explaining that the notion that the human forebrain is made up of three successively evolved layers is rejected by the great majority of neuroscientists. Both Caine and I explained that we understood very well that “lizard brain” was not intended literally, but that doesn’t make the metaphor any less stupid and misleading; our empathetic and cooperative impulses are just as deeply rooted in our biological nature as our selfish and greedy ones.

    Ayn Rand may have had horrible social and political and economic views, but she called it right on human nature. We’re selfish and greedy.

    Unsound generalization from your own case, perhaps?

  47. KG says

    Ed, No 46, yes humans cooperated because they saw that doing so was in their selfish interests — that way they could take over the planet from the other hominids. I doubt they thought it through in those terms, but they had a non-altruistic goal. – thirdmill@47

    You were there observing the process, presumably. It must either be that, or that you’re content just to make shit up.