All posts by Richmond Shreve

Vaccine Hesitant?

This NYT article analyzes social research on why people are hesitant about vaccines and how the rest of us can help them choose to get vaccinated. In addition, it lets you examine information specific to your locale.

Getting everyone vaccinated in the United States has become much harder now that demand for the Covid-19 vaccine is flagging. America’s vaccination strategy needs to change to address this, and it starts with understanding the specific reasons people have not been vaccinated yet.

The conventional approach to understanding whether someone will get vaccinated is asking people how likely they are to get the vaccine and then building a demographic profile based on their answers: Black, white, Latinx, Republican, Democrat. But this process isn’t enough: Just knowing that Republicans are less likely to get vaccinated doesn’t tell us how to get them vaccinated. It’s more important to understand why people are still holding out, where those people live and how to reach them

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Consequences of Mendacity

The second impeachment of Donald Trump has all but eclipsed the ongoing catastrophe that political “going along” to get along has produced. Three thousand deaths daily, and with only 4% of the world’s population we now have 20% of the fatal outcomes. That figure does not contemplate the so-called excess deaths this year.

The chart below further exposes the ghastly reality that is colliding with GOP denial and posturing. (There are still those who refuse to wear masks!) I hope our Republican partisans will resolve to never again let a charismatic extremist leader escape accountability for the sake of solidarity.

It’s time for soul searching and truth. It’s time for genuine goodwill for the success of the elected administration. Those whe were complicit must make amends, go the extra mile, and act in good faith to heal and strengthen representative democracy. They must speak out against mendacity, disinformation, dirty tricks.

All is NOT fair in love, war, and politics. Lack of leadership and character is killing 3,000 of us a day.

Google, Wikipedia, ohers

America’s Kristallnacht

Arnold Schwartzenegger was born in Austria after World War Two. His father and other fathers in his neighborhood bore the physical and emotional scars of having fought for a regime that brought great cruelty and suffering to Europe and the world. He sees that terrible time echoed in the mob rampage at the US Capitol on January 6th.

Remembering the Fruits of Kristallnacht

The moral injury of fighting for theThird Reich led to alcoholism and abuse. We all need to ponder how we can heal the injury of the past four years.

“I see it differently”

It has become abundantly clear that the left and the right see the world quite differently. It may be because we are all deluding ourselves with the help of algorithms that tell us what we want to hear.

But it is also becoming clear that these algorithms are being harnessed by those who shape perception: advertisers and propagandists.

“Media Literacy” is a term describing a skill set we all need if we want to avoid being pawns in the struggle to capture our attention and motivate us to action. Susan Mehrtens and I wrote about knowing what’s authentic in our book Credible? But critical thinking skill is not enough. We also need to be schooled in how the flood of information that gains our attention is shaped and tinted so that we maintain our perspective.

The same social mechanisms that bind people into cults allow political bubbles to form and be perpetuated. We are seeing this emerge and play out in what’s happening among the political followers of Donald Trump. To what extent are those aligned with Biden, AOC, and various liberal social movements also living in cultish systems of belief? How do we keep it real?

The List

A friend of mine cautioned me that Trump has no corner on scandalous behavior. He meant to imply that Biden and the Democrats are no better. In many of our discussions, he’s diverted from the latest Trump scandal by detailing wrongdoing by Clinton, Obama, or Biden. I’ve argued that there is no equivalency, even if you accept his allegations. (I usually find them meritless when I check the sources.)

Wanting to come up with actual verifiable evidence of Trump’s excesses, I remembered an article about the work of Amy Siskind. She’s made a list of thousands of acts large and small perpetrated by the 45th president since November 2016. The Washington Post published a feature (Outlook 10/16) by her.

The website catalogs the wrong things Trump has done EVERY WEEK for 207 weeks. The total number of items is in the thousands and it fills volumes. You can scan the whole ugly catalog on the website.

https://theweeklylist.org

This is far from the only list of misdeeds. The list published by McSweeney’s is up to 954 as of 10/30.

Of course, there is WaPo’s list of lies that will exceed 25,000 by election day. You can search the database by topic here (click).

The Poynter Institute

Politifact also keeps a running list of the President’s mendacity. Here’s the scorecard as of 10/31/2020

There are books being sold on Amazon purporting to list all of Trump’s acts of generosity and compassion. The top listing is actually a blank book – a cover with no inside printing. It’s yours for $15. Another is a collection of apocryphal stories about Trump’s excessive modesty about his selflessness. It’s published by an evangelical preacher/author (Michael Yeager) with more than 10,000 sermons and 100 book titles to his credit who claims to have helped start more than 25 churches. Among his titles is a book wherein he recounts his personal two-hour visit to hell and how it informed his life and the lives of others who heard his report. I have no information about his journalistic integrity or his motives.

Visit https://www.promiseskept.com/ to see the official list (by Trump) of his accomplishments. But you’ll want to fact check carefully, his veracity is highly questionable. Here’s a less partisan review:

Civic Literacy

About 40% of American’s are loyal supporters of Donald J. Trump. Almost none of them are aware of the facts these various lists present. His fans are focused on the President’s personality, or they have a narrow self-interest that overrides any concerns about character or deceptive behavior. They listen selectively for information that supports their affinity for the President. They revel in the emotional buzz of crowding into the bleachers at rallies with like-minded people experiencing the affirmation of hundreds who resonate with the words of their President. They are often described as “low information voters.” It’s not about facts, or lists. It’s about belonging and being uplifted by a successful and powerful man who promises to be their champion, one who never talks down to them. One who isn’t afraid of anything. Not even COVID-19.

With the manipulation of social media networks by foreign powers and political activists using coordinated disinformation (propaganda) campaigns, it is clear that most of us are poorly equipped to discern what’s real and authentic (the truth) in the torrent of lies and deceptions.

The book Sue Mehrtens and I wrote is a guide to civic literacy despite the mendacity. Credible? is available at Lulu.com and major booksellers.

Gaming the Electoral system

There is plenty of evidence that the GOP has been preparing to exploit all possible strategies to retain power without winning either the popular vote or the electoral college. The US Constitution provides for deciding an election where the election results are not conclusive, and the alternative means make a “win” possible by a minority that refuses to accept the election results. Van Jones explains:

Van Jones’ TED Talk

The play hinges on successfully contesting the validity of the voting or at least miring the certifications in litigation. The GOP has laid the groundwork by promoting the idea that mail-in ballots are prone to wholesale fraud. (Ther aren’t.) They have launched numerous court battles to prevent changes to vote-counting practices that would allow speedy processing of mailed ballots. They have hobbled the US Postal Service’s ability to process the peak volume of mail-in ballots promptly. They have made it as inconvenient as possible to return ballots without mailing them. All of these actions foretell bad faith in accepting the reality of unfavorable results when ballots are tallied.

Here’s a WaPo story on these strategies:

These forebodings of an organized attempt to steal the election have prompted the mobilization of many diverse groups to prepare for active resistance. George Lakey sounded the alarm early on.

The Project on Government Oversite (POGO), not given to alarmism, has added their advice to protesters:

It is sad indeed that America is faced with the grim prospect of extreme civil unrest and a constitutional crisis. One party appears to have embraced a strategy of large-scale disenfranchisement of urban and minority voters. The grass-roots progressives are preparing to take to the streets.

God save America.

Fascist or Socialist?

Those on the right fear that progressives will bring Socialism to the US. Those on the left fear that conservatives will bring Fascism. Neither fear reflects the broad continuum of political positions. Heather Cox Richardson offers a clear and nuanced perspective on these concerns. It’s not an either-or choice, except in propaganda.

Songs of Democracy

The popular uprising against authoritarianism, tyranny, and deception has given rise to parody in song. The talent matches the cleverness. Enjoy!

[Added 12/8/20]

The COVID-19 pandemic should not have become a political issue. But it is. Disregard for the practices that protect others became an expression of right-wing individualism. Late in the 2020 campaign the right began advocating for abandonment of the curve-flattening practices that slow contagion. Driven by the desire to restart the retail economy, GOP leadership flaunted maskless super-spreader events. While experts rallied to oppose this wrong-headed notion, the President persisted.

Coronavirsu Rhapsody lyracizes the issue.

Updated 210115

strengthening our democracy

The past four years the past twelve years have brought the fragility of our democracy to the fore. We are part of a pivotal moment in US history and it behooves us all to examin why this is so.

Here is an interview with Danielle Allen of Harvard. It’s worth watching and discussing.

How we went wrong

“Denial is not a river in Egypt.” This joke has become a cliche among those who understand addiction. But willful blindness to reality is not exclusive to addictive behavior. Reality has a way of biting those who deny it, as President Trump is demonstrating as he fights his personal infection with the COVID-19 virus.

Though few ordinary citizens think much about it, our government at all levels is big on being prepared. We have an Office of Emergency Management at city, state, and federal levels that seeks to anticipate what will be needed when emergencies arrive.

Detailed plans are made that establish the systems needed to coordinate first responders and mobilize needed resources before, during, and following an emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic was not unanticipated. Plans were made. But they were largely ignored.