Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Top Conspiracy Theories of 2012

I am amused, and yes, a little alarmed by the crazy conspiracy theories that proliferate on the internet. I am a healthy skeptic. I like to fact check and keep informed, and I don't take a politician's statements at face value. This makes me wonder, what kind of person can possibly be so gullible? As P.T Barnum allegedly said, "There's a sucker born very minute."

The list is in no particular order. The embedded links are to sites with more rational views on the "facts" used by the "alternate reality" sites.

1. Benghazi, the massive cover-up. Started in part by a less-than-forthcoming preliminary CIA memo, this conspiracy, fueled on by rumors and speculations by the right-wing media, grew to include: President Obama watching the attack happen live, and the president ordering the rescue teams to stand down.

2. Obama to declare himself Supreme Dictator: This involves the lie that Obama has issued more executive orders than any other president in history. According to the theorists, he is going to issue even more executive orders, disbanding Congress, the Senate, and the Supreme Court. Then he will declare himself "dictator for life."

3. The Department of Homeland Security readies for Armageddon: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bought up to, depending on the conspiracy theorists source, 1.4 billion rounds of ammunition in 2012. DHS obviously plans to suppress a revolt of the American people when Obama declares himself dictator. The DHS did buy ammunition, but not for the above nefarious purpose.

4. A UN treaty gun grab: Drawn up by the UN, a world-wide treaty was meant to keep arms out of the hands of terrorists, not private citizens. The treaty created great fear among some gun manufacturers, and was twisted into a conspiracy to disarm Americans and override the 2nd amendment.

5. Muslims are in the House (and Senate). The Muslim Brotherhood and other scary people are supposedly infiltrating the government. Remember the good old days when there was a commie behind every door? Sadly, some leading politicians push this fear-mongering.

6. The presidential election was fixed (again). This claim uses untrue and misleading "facts" to prove President Obama again stole an election (with George Soros' help, of course.)

7. The "gubbmint" is coming for your guns. Until the Sandy Hook massacre, gun control was not part of the president's agenda. Obama actually loosened some existing gun laws. This is a favorite conspiracy, trotted out every time a Democrat is elected president. It is used to solidify the right-wing base, and to sell lots of guns and gun memberships. It also causes a big boom in survivalist goods sales. Nothing sells products like fear-mongering.

8. Fast and furious with the truth. This whopper has the government deliberately botching an anti-gun operation, which led to the death of a federal agent, to build outrage and support for gun control laws. See number 7 above.

9. President Obama orders a hit. What could be more intriguing then a conspiracy theory involving a conspiracy theorist? People actually believe President Obama had Andrew Breitbart (and a witness) murdered because Breitbart had incriminating videos of Mr. Obama meeting with members of The Weather Underground, a terrorist group of the 1970's. Ah, this brings back memories of President and fellow mafia boss Bill Clinton. Who killed Vince Foster? Vince Foster did.

10. The Newtown massacre was staged. This is the most disgusting and heartbreaking conspiracy theory. Again, Obama, wanting to advance his supposed anti-gun agenda, either deliberately caused the massacre, or it was staged. Pictures are floating around the internet of one of the victim's sitting on President Obama's lap (it is actually her younger sister.) There are also pictures (obviously Photoshopped) of the mother of one murdered child supposedly sitting with the defendant of the Aurora massacre. People have no shame. Is there nothing they won't stoop to for fame and money.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Poverty Isn't About Getting Your Nails Done on the Taxpayer's Dime

Photo by JD Hancock via Wikimedia
I know it could be worse. Millions of people across the planet are starving, dying, and living in misery. I have a roof over my head, water and electricity. I'm not writing this to garner sympathy. I am writing this because every time a friend or family member makes a remark denigrating the "takers" in society, I feel humiliation. And anger. Lots of it. I am writing this to vent.

A little background on me. I was raised on a farm in ND. I was a marine. I helped build a successful landscaping business with my now ex-husband. Eight years ago, divorced but not financially struggling, I made some bad choices in my life, and I ended up with a young son to raise by myself. I went to college, earned an A.D. in radiography, and certificates in C.T. and M.R.I. I worked during college until it was no longer economically feasible to continue. I would not have survived without food stamps.

Media stereotypes

Some of the media has been very good at perpetrating class warfare with not-so-subtle stereotypes. Who hasn't heard the story of the welfare queen and her Cadillac? The stories of people buying food with food-stamps, while talking on their fancy phones, and then getting in their brand new SUV? Yes, there are people who scam the system, but they are the exception, not the rule. Though the number of people receiving food stamps has risen over the last few years, the number of Americans receiving cash benefits has fallen over the past 15 years, from 12.6 million in 1996, to 4.6 million in 2011. Most people who receive help from SNAP, (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) are either the elderly, disabled or working poor and their children. 80% of households receiving SNAP had some form of income. Only 8% of families receiving assistance with food also received cash benefits.

The poor pay no taxes?

A lot has been made of the 47% who pay no federal income tax. That number includes the elderly and disabled, the working poor, students, some members of the military and disabled veterans.They DO pay sales tax, payroll tax, gas tax, taxes on electricity and phone service, vehicle tax, license tax, etc. The list goes on and on. The poor pay a greater percentage of their income on taxes, the wealthy the least.

What is poverty really like?

Poverty is NOT going to the beauty salon before you head to the welfare office. Poverty is keeping your hair in a pony tail because you can't afford a haircut. Poverty isn't driving your luxury vehicle to pick up your SNAP card. It is praying that your car keeps running until you get your tax refund. It is the sinking feeling when you see a note on your front door -is it the water or electricity that has been cut off? It is telling your son you're "camping" when you cook hot dogs over candles and bring out all the blankets to keep warm. Poverty is the despair you feel when there are no presents under the Christmas tree that you cut from the woods. Poverty is the shame of having to ask for help.

Poverty is trying to keep alive that little ray of hope that someday, somehow, somewhere, things will be better.

Another Conservative Alternative to Facebook

Facebook has two new competitors, WePluribUs and the Tea Party Community.

Why WePluribus?

The founder of WePluribus, Scott Rohter, an author and conservative commentator, believes Facebook is discriminatory towards conservatives. Speaking to the Examiner, Rohter states he is being censored by the world's largest social media site, Facebook. He says he has been reported to "daddy Zuckerberg" as a spammer, and by people who don't agree with his point of view. Rohter launched WePluribUs as the conservative alternative to Facebook in December 2012. WePluribUs wants to put the "we back in the U.S." As of this writing it has 2000 members, a far cry from Facebook's one billion plus users.

Rohter has another website, Less Gov is the Best Gov, which proclaims itself the "Independent Voice for Conservative Values telling it like it is!" (sic). Rohter refers to Dr. King as " the great Negro orator " in a blog entitled Martin Luther King and Lewis Farrakhan. Power on Earth or Poison on Earth? Amazing. Isn't this the 21st century? Other articles speak on the usual conservative boogeymen such as welfare; election fraud; and that constitution-destroyer, President Obama.

Is Facebook a bully?

Other conservative organizations have felt picked-on, too. Facebook temporarily removed an ad placed by Americans for Prosperity after too many viewers flagged it as offensive or misleading. (Sorry about that AFP, but they were.) The Council of Conservative Citizens were outraged when their Facebook group was shut down. The Council's views on black Americans and seeming ties to white supremacist organizations gives a hint as to why they were censored. WePluribUs will undoubtedly welcome them with open arms.

I admire entrepreneurship. I wish Mr. Rohter and the Tea Party Community great success in their competition with the internet Goliath, Facebook. I hope their sites become the Mecca for ultra conservative Americans to congregate and worship at the altar of paranoia and outrage. The survivalists and conspiracy theorists can peacefully mingle without fear of censorship. They can post their "Obama is a socialist-Marxist-Hitler wanna-be" memes without fear of being muzzled. Isn't capitalism great!

Tea Party Community, the Conservative's Facebook Alternative

Why the new social site?

The Tea Party Community, Facebook's newest competitor, officially launched February 2, 2013. With a membership at that time of 88,000 members, it wants to be the place for conservative Americans to socialize without fear of censorship. Examiner.com quotes Tea Party Community co-founder Ken Crow as saying the new website will be a " safe haven" where conservatives can share ideas and connect with like-minded people who are tired of Facebook's constant badgering and warnings."
Some conservative groups feel they have been unfairly targeted and removed by the social media giant. Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group, had advertisements removed by Facebook after people claimed the ads were misleading. Facebook later reinstated the ads, saying they had been mistakenly removed. The Council of Conservative Americans Facebook group was removed altogether after complaints.

What's on the Tea Party Community's website?

Browsing the groups on the website, you'll see the usual conservative groups: homeschooling, religious, patriotic, survivalists and conspiracists. Under the group Gun Rights, are the threads: "We are being LIED TO........Obama ORDERED the murders in Connecticut", and "Civil War Coming? You Betcha.... " That must explain why a friend visiting North Carolina found it almost impossible to find ammunition for target practice. This kind of thinking leads to children being held underground in bunkers against their will.

Freedom of speech?

It sounds like a great idea for those who believe there should be no restrictions on freedom of speech - but will the Tea Party Community be supportive of members with viewpoints with which they don't agree? Apparently not. I found a conversation on an organization called Patriotic Ninjas' page; a woman is asking why her mother was banned from the Tea Party Community. Her mother, a conservative, had posted a poll asking if the people, not the government, should make the decision about civil unions. She was apparently banned from the site without warning. I have also apparently been kicked from their community. I made no posts or comments, but did make some colorful friends. I guess the Tea Party Community didn't like the company I kept.

Will it succeed?

It is doubtful the Tea Party Community will have quite the global impact as Facebook and its one billion plus members. I don't think other conservative people like Mid-Eastern Muslims will find a warm welcome in this community. My fear is that by blocking out all other dissenting opinions, the neo-conservative movement will become more fearful and exclusive of their fellow citizens. We may not agree on a many things, but we all, liberal and conservative, love our country. We are still the United States of America.