The 2020 U.S. presidential election was contested like no other federal election, both before and after the votes were cast. Now, months later, the data have been compiled and verified, and we can look back at what happened. This analysis largely ignores the electoral vote even though that’s what determines presidential elections. The popular vote is more interesting in terms of what is happening with individual voters in the States.
Three Major Demographics
This analysis goes beyond the traditional comparison of Republicans versus Democrats to look at the third dominant category—Nonvoters. Nonvoters are individuals who could have voted but, for some reason, did not. They may not have voted because of systemic reasons, like eligibility-requirements, the operation of the polling locations, or intentional and unintentional voter suppression. They may not have voted because of personal reasons, like physical, logistical, schedule, or lifestyle challenges. They may be apathetic. fearful of the government, unprepared for making voting decisions, or convinced that their vote doesn’t matter.
Nonvoters can’t be counted the way voters are. The exact number of voters is known based on the ballots they cast. Nonvoters leave no trail. Their numbers have to be estimated from the population of citizens, including those outside the country, who are over the age of 18 and who are not in prison, on probation, on parole, or ineligible because of a prior felony.
Turnout is simply the percentage of eligible voters who cast a ballot on election day. Overall turnout in the popular vote has increased by about 10% from 1980 to 2020, as shown in the following graph. However, the change wasn’t strictly uniform. It seems that there was an upward shift after the 2000 election. Perhaps all the news about butterfly ballots and hanging chads in Florida made people aware that our electoral system was in a crisis. Certainly, 2001 brought home the message that elections have consequences.
Within the increasing long-term trend in voter turnout are changes attributable to the nature of the political contest for President. Turnout rose to 62% in 2008 for the election of Barack Obama as President. But, turnout dipped to 58% for his second election. The Trump-Clinton contest drew a 60% turnout. After four years of Donald Trump, 68% of the electorate turned out to elect Joe Biden. This pattern is reflected in the turnout statistics for nearly every State, as shown in the following graph of changes in turnout rates.
The 2020 Election
November 3, 2020 was an unremarkable day, other than it being Election Day. The weather throughout the area was mostly dry with mild temperatures in the 60s. Besides Covid-19 restrictions and activities typical before any National election, there were no major events or conditions that would have caused people not to vote. However …
The map of the U.S. at the top of this article depicts the States in which most of the voters voted for Biden (21 States and D.C. in blue) or for Trump (17 States in red). In 12 states, there were more non-votes than votes for either candidate:
- 4 States went to Biden—AZ, HI, NV, and NM
- 8 States went to Trump—AR, IN, MS, OK, SC, TN, TX, and WV
Nine of the States—AZ. AR, IN, MS, OK, SC, TN, TX, and WV—are considered to be Red States. Trump captured all of these Red States except Arizona. Perhaps the most curious aspect of the map, though, is that eight of the States lie south of the 37° N parallel, in the southern third of the country.
So why was non-voting so predominate in this area? Maybe it had something to do with Covid-19, hangovers from Halloween, or football season. Maybe it was related to voter suppression. Or maybe, voters just lost faith in their candidate and didn’t bother to vote. Who knows?
Overall, Biden got the most popular votes and there were more non-votes than votes for Trump. This may show that the electorate was energized but not necessarily by the presidential candidates. If the Democrats had fielded a better-liked candidate or if they had not alienated so many factions, they would have won by a bigger margin. They managed not to lose an election that was theirs to win, like they did in 2016. Trump showed that he was corrupt and immoral, which turned off many voters, but he still represented the conservative ideals of authoritarianism, guns, and hatred of liberals, which is all some people will vote for. Still, it isn’t clear that nonvoters affected the outcome.
And the Winner Is …
So who won? Biden. With or without the non-voters, he won both the popular vote and the electoral vote. That’s a nice change from the elections of 2000 and 2016. And Trump? He came in second in the electoral vote and THIRD in the popular vote. Yes there were more people who didn’t vote than people who voted for Trump.
Causes of Death
Causes of human deaths have been classified and recorded since the end of the 19th Century. In 1948, the effort was taken on by the newly created World Health Organization as the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). In the current version of the classification, ICD-10, there are 20 major classes of causes of death, called Chapters. Within the Chapters, there are 6,121 more specific causes of death. Each primary cause of death can have up to twenty contributing causes of death (in the database, that is, life may be more complicated). We die in many ways.
In the U.S., the Center for Disease Control manages the implementation of the ICD. From 1999 to 2019 (before Covid-19), 53,422,612 individuals died in the United States, represented in the graphic. That’s about 2,671,131 per year, more than the current population of New Mexico. more than the populations of Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota combined.
The most common causes of death in the U.S. from 1999 to 2019 were diseases of the circulatory system (heart disease and stroke), accounting for 33% of all deaths, and neoplasms (cancers), accounting for 23% of all deaths. Each of these categories account for more than one death per minute.
The next most common causes—COPD,Alzheimer’s, and dementia—each account for about 3% of deaths. Since Covid-19, the flu and pneumonia category will also account for about 3% of deaths. After that, septicemia and Parkinson disease account for 1% of all deaths.
For comparison, Ebola, selenium deficiency, pathological gambling, anal spasms, second-degree sunburn, nervousness, and over 700 other causes have each accounted for only one death in the U.S. in twenty years.
Gun-related deaths accounted for about 1.2% of all deaths, of which about 60% were attributable to suicide, 37% to assaults, and 2% to accidents. Less than 0.1% of gun-related deaths occurred in a mass shooting, about the same as dying in a lightning strike or a cave-in.
Four of the best known contributing causes of death in the ICD database are obesity and usage of tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs. By far, alcohol is the worst, at least as represented in the database. There are so many codes, however, that some patterns of causes might be obscured. Patterns also change over time, such as with the opioid crisis.
Some causes of death are not natural. They may be the result of accidents, suicides, or homicides, or all three. For example, alcohol and drug-related causes are usually unintentional. Gun-related deaths are usually intentional.
The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.Josef Stalin, 1943
Society’s reactions to the various causes of death is thought-provoking. People are aghast when hundreds die in a sudden, unexpected natural disaster, transportation accident, illegal activity, or health crisis. But deaths attributable to familiar risks, like cancer and heart disease, rarely make the news even though they account for over a million deaths every year. We barely notice 2,000 deaths every day from heart disease but 10 deaths from a mass shooting make us gasp and demand legislative action. Why do we react so strongly to some deaths and ignore others?
The U.S. spends more than half of its three-trillion-dollar discretionary Federal budget on defense and counter-terrorism yet war and terrorism account for only 0.00006% of deaths. Is the spending wasteful or exceptionally effective? The US spends over $100 billion annually on controlling illegal drugs, yet drug-related deaths account for less than 0.1% of all deaths.
But funding isn’t a good indicator of how people feel about death. Politics is too corrupt and unreliable a filter. Neither is media attention. What makes a death newsworthy?
- Magnitude. The number of people who died, and sometimes, the number of people who might die because of an event, is a primary factor in national news coverage. Chernobyl and Bhopal are examples.
- Victims. Deaths of celebrities and high-status individuals are reported nationally most of the time. Local victims are sometimes reported, especially vulnerable victims like children, the elderly, and the handicapped.
- Manner of death. Unusual deaths garner more news interest, for example, deaths involving exotic weapons and unseen agents like radiation and poison. Deaths that are somehow shocking, such as those that are sudden and unexpected, especially if preventable, are more newsworthy.
- Relatability. Deaths in malls, churches, schools, theatres, sporting events, concerts, and public places that make the viewer wonder if it-could-have-been-them are newsworthy.
The media believes that these are the deaths you should know about … but there are more, many more. And that’s just one of the many mysteries of death
Nature—from its mightiest planetary forces to the tiniest of its microbial inhabitants—does more to control our lives and deaths than anything humans do to each other or to ourselves.
Here are data on gun-related deaths from the CDC. Download the Excel file for more details on the entries.
Even as SATIRE, this concept will get nasty comments from both sides of the debate.
I’m not averse to gun ownership. I have never owned a gun that wasn’t a toy and never will until phasers become available. This is fortunate because if I did own a gun, I would shoot everybody. That Nun walking her dog across the street puts me in fear for my life. I went to Catholic school so this is legitimate. If guns had a STUN setting, the gun-rights versus gun-control debate would be easier.
I believe that people have the option to own guns. They have since the 1600s, a century before James Madison was even born. But it’s not a right. We also have the option to wear those wide-brimmed hats with buckles on them, but that’s not a right ether. Rights are concepts that bring you to who you are as a person. A hunk of metal is NOT a right. Neither is gun ownership a need. A need is something you have to have to survive and flourish, like air and food. Guns are a want, to fulfill a desire for comfort and power.
While the buckle-hats made a killer fashion statement for the Puritans, they were never used to kill people. Guns are. That’s why guns were invented, to kill animals and people. It’s also why we’ve had gun-control laws since the 1600s.
If you study the long history of firearms in the U.S., even before it was the U.S., it is clear that the Second Amendment was meant to ensure that the new Federal government wouldn’t impede the States from managing their militias. It had nothing to do with individuals. Gun ownership by individuals was assumed, as it had been for a century. The only caveat was that you had to abide by applicable gun laws, of which there were many.
Neither James Madison nor any of the other Founding Fathers discussed gun ownership by individuals in any of their conversations about the Constitution and the new Nation. For that matter, neither does God mention gun ownership in the Bible. To gun-rights advocates, though, the Constitution consists of fourteen words — the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Everything before that is, as Justice Scalia contended, prefatory. Everything after that is … well, who cares if it’s not about guns.
Today, the Second Amendment is irrelevant. Like the Third Amendment, it has been pointless since the Federal government committed to maintaining a large, permanent military to defend the Nation. But it has persisted as a Constitutional issue for one reason — gun-control advocates want to abolish gun ownership and gun-rights advocates have no counterargument except their absurd misinterpretation of the obsolete Second Amendment. But there’s an alternative strategy gun owners could take — declare gun ownership a religion.
The concept is simple. The First Amendment prohibits the government from making any law prohibiting the free-exercise of a religion. It is a more strictly held right than any other in the Constitution. If gun ownership were a religion, no laws could be passed, Federal or State, that would control it (without passing a free-exercise challenge from the Supreme Court).
Could this be feasible? It can with the NRA’s help. It would be older than several established religions, including the Churches of Scientology, Eckankar, All Worlds, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It would be almost as old as the Churches of Latter Day Saints and Seventh Day Adventists. Consider the fourteen characteristics the IRS uses to recognize an organization as a church.
The NRA would provide the foundation of the religion:
- Distinct legal existence
- Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
- Distinct religious history
- Literature of its own
They could derive from their history
- Recognized creed and form of worship
- Formal code of doctrine and discipline
They would have to define the qualifications and responsibilities of ministers and establish programs to train and organize them. They would need:
- Organization of ordained ministers
- Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study
- Schools for the preparation of its members
- Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young
This shouldn’t be a major obstacle. The NRA has been training its followers about firearms for over a century. Finally, the new religion would need:
- A membership that is not part of any other church
- Established places of worship
- Regular congregations
- Regular religious services
Think of all the people who already claim to worship guns. Think of all the gun shops and firing ranges across the country that could serve as churches. As churches, they would be tax-exempt. They already have congregations (customers) and regular services (operating hours).
To keep their status as a religious organization, the NRA would have to make one BIG change, they would have to curtail their lobbying efforts. That would be a good trade because without laws restricting gun ownership, there would be no need to lobby governments. It wouldn’t prevent them from advertising and Ted Nugent could become a televangelist.
There’s so much drama in Congress over increasing the minimum wage. Our plutocrat leaders can’t agree on what to do. And can you blame them? Most of them have never had to endure subsistence living. They may have had to scrape by at times to pay the mortgage on their vacation home, but that’s different from knowing that your paycheck won’t cover both groceries and rent. And there’s no end to it. If you manage to make it to the end of the month, there’s always another month.
So here’s an idea to help our beleaguered plutocrats make some real changes to the minimum wage.
- Set a different Federal minimum wage for each State. Everybody agrees that each State has their own economic challenges, so tie their Federal minimum wage to those economies. If a State wants to set their State minimum wage higher, as many states now do, let them. If a business wants to pay a lower minimum wage, as many now do, let them by paying the same penalties as they do now. There’s not much of a change here.
- Index each State’s Federal minimum wage to the equivalent wage of the Top 1% of household incomes in the State. States with strong economies will probably have higher incomes in the Top 1% of incomes, so those States will be given a higher Federal minimum wage. Less economically strong States will have lower Federal minimum wages.
Each State’s Federal minimum wage would change every year because it would be indexed to the income of the Top 1% of households. The IRS determines that income every year anyway so there would be no additional work. There would be no debates or negotiations, just some simple calculations. The minimum wages may go up or down from year to year, depending on State economies, but there will be no more long-term wage stagnation. Congress wouldn’t have to do anything once the system is in place.
To put the system into place. Congress would have to do two things—decide on the percentage to be used to index the State minimum wages and write the legislation. The percentage to be used to index the State minimum wages is actually easy to determine with a spreadsheet. All Congress has to do is decide on a goal for the minimum wages. Here are three goals they might consider.
- Scenario 1: MINIMUM of $11 Wage for all States. This is a goal suggested by Joe Manchin. It would allow a full-time worker to live above the federal poverty line. In this scenario, the minimum wages would be 7.595% of each State’s Top 1% Wage. Maine would be assigned a $11.00 minimum wage, inconsequential because they already have a $12.00 minimum wage. New Jersey would be given a $30.47 minimum wage, a boon to minimum-wage workers now making $11.00. The overall average minimum wage for all the States would be $17.37.
- Scenario 2: AVERAGE of $15 Wage for all States. This goal would implement the $15.00 minimum wage proposed by several members of Congress as an average of all the States. In this scenario, the minimum wages would be 6.560% of each State’s Top 1% Wage. Maine would have a minimum wage of $9.50, again, inconsequential. New Jersey would have a minimum wage of $26.32, much better than $11.00. 17 States would have a minimum wage below $15.00 and 34 States would have a minimum wage above $15.00, depending on their economies.
- Scenario 3: MINIMUM of $15 Wage. This goal would implement the $15.00 minimum wage for all of the States. In this scenario, the minimum wages would be 10.358% of each State’s Top 1% Wage. Maine would have a minimum wage of $15.00, a $3.00 increase, and New Jersey would have a minimum wage of $41.55.
The following table shows how all the States would fare under the three scenarios. For each scenario, the left-hand column is the calculated minimum wage for the state and the right-hand column is the difference between the existing State minimum wage and the new minimum wage indexed to the Top 1% income. The percentage under the scenario title is the index for achieving the scenario goal.
These scenarios expose some of the problems with the current minimum-wage system. Maine currently has a minimum wage of $12.00 but is a relatively poor state. The average income of the Top 1% households is only about $290K. In contrast, New Jersey currently has a minimum wage of $11.00 with an average income of the Top 1% households of about $800K. Minimum wage workers are much worse off in New Jersey than in Maine. Kentucky and New Mexico also don’t treat minimum wage workers as well as Maine. Overall, the correlation between the States’ minimum wages and the equivalent wages of the Top 1% of households is quite low.
It is ironic that indexing the minimum wage to the income of the Top 1% might create a new dynamic in American society. Instead of hating or being jealous of the incomes of the wealthy, minimum wage workers might appreciate their doing well. An increase in the equivalent wage of the Top 1% would lead to an increase in the minimum wage. A rising tide lifts all boats. The Top 1% wouldn’t be taxed to support the minimum wage. They would lose nothing. And despite what the naysaying fear-mongerers claim, increasing the minimum wage would benefit the economy. There would be more purchasing from local businesses and less of a need for public support.
There are many other scenarios that Congress could consider. This is an opportunity for them to show leadership in correcting an undemocratic system.
Conspiracies are everywhere. Prosecutors use them all the time in court. And the Internet … well, ‘nuff said. Conspiracy theories are like animals. Even within a single species, they come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. You need a taxonomy to keep them separated in your mind.
A conspiracy is a plot by two or more people to do something unsavory. A conspiracy theory is an attempt to explain something unusual. Some conspiracy theories are false, some are unproven, some are unprovable, and some have turned out to be true.Attacks on Conspiracy Theories Are a Conspiracy
Categories of Conspiracy Theories
Conspiracy theories can be categorized in many ways. This is useful for understanding that they are not all the same, just like all animals are not the same. Characterizing QAnon-based theories as typical conspiracy theories is like saying a Komodo dragon is typical of all animals. Any fifth-grader knows that’s just silly.
Here are seven ways that conspiracy theories can be classified.
People forget that many of the conspiracies that have been proven to be true began as disbelieved theories. That makes them useful for understanding the fundamental characteristics of the theories without getting caught up in all the emotional baggage of extraterrestrials operating a sex-trafficking ring from Area 51. Proven conventional conspiracy theories tend to be not too unusual and fall into five groups:
- Government conspiracies, those perpetrated by governmental organizations rather than by rogue individuals, tend to be nationwide, aimed at controlling information, involving thousands of participants organized in a hierarchy, and not uncovered for years. Examples include the Holocaust, Operation Paperclip, Prohibition poisoning, Operation Clearview, War on drugs, Gulf of Tonkin, My Lai, Fruit Machine, Indian residential school system scandal, Military Nuclear Accidents, weapons of mass destruction, White phosphate in Iraq, Enhanced interrogation (torture), Tuskegee experiment, Human experimentation in the US, Project SUNSHINE, MK ULTRA, COINTELPRO, warrantless wiretapping, and High School spying.
- Political conspiracies, those perpetrated primarily to acquire power, tend to involve only tens of individuals in a group, operating in secret but manifesting on a national scale. They continue for months before being discovered. Examples include the FDR coup, Watergate burglary, Koreagate, Reagan’s hostage fraud, Iran-Contra conspiracy, Clinton-Lewinsky affair, CIA-leak scandal, PRISM, Coingate, Debategate, Bridgegate, and Ukraine quid-pro-quo.
- Business conspiracies, perpetrated by organizations for financial gain, tend to be organized in a hierarchy, compartmentalized so that only the top tier of conspirators understand everything. They can continue for years before they are uncovered by investigations. They are often mistaken for capitalism. Examples include Enron, WorldCom, Halliburton, Tyco, Volkswagen, Lehman Brothers, and Bernie Madoff.
- Sports conspiracies, perpetrated by either organizations or individuals to gain some competitive advantage, tend to be national in scope, group activities that may fall apart in days or persist for years. Examples involving teams include Patriots spying, deflategate, Saints bounty hunting, Black Sox Scandal, Houston Astros sign-stealing, and Olympic badminton. Examples involving individuals include steroid scandals, Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones, Tanya Harding, and Skategate.
- Crime conspiracies come in varieties—small, local conspiracies that prosecutors handle in court and huge, well-organized, activities that are carried out overtly for years before being exposed, usually by whistleblowers. Examples include pedophilia in the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, USA Gymnastics, and Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring.
Russian-Doll conspiracies are those in which a simple, readily-apparent conspiracy theory serves as cover for one or more much more complex conspiracy theories. The challenge with Russian dolls is that you don’t know which doll, if any, holds the truth. Often the whole purpose of a Russian doll is to cast doubt on which of many alternative theories might be true. There are quite a few examples, and as you might expect, the government is associated with many of them.
Take the conspiracy behind the 9/11/2001 attacks. Was it a small, privately-run conspiracy involving a few dozen people operating from a cave on the other side of the world (the cover doll), or was it a huge, compartmentalized set of concurrent conspiracies involving hundreds of people from government and business interests (the inner dolls), or neither?
Was the 1947 incident near Roswell, NM the crash of an alien spacecraft as originally reported (the inner doll) or a simple weather balloon (the original cover doll) or a top-secret intelligence-gathering device (a revised cover doll)?
The huge election-fraud conspiracy of 2020 (the cover doll) turned out to be no more than a few isolated cases (inner dolls) of individual voters voting, intentionally or unintentionally, more than once.
While there aren’t a lot of Russian dolls, there are probably more than you might imagine.
Sometimes it’s not the original event that captures everyone’s attention, it’s what happens after the event that spawns notable conspiracy theories. Look no further than Watergate. One simple, local, political conspiracy to commit a burglary turned into a HUGE national conspiracy that led to the first resignation of a U.S. President.
Governments are the leading raison d’être for rebound conspiracy theories. In trying to suppress scrutiny of a conspiracy, they instead draw attention to it, called the backfire effect. Actions taken that often cause the backfire effect include:
- Denialism—maintaining that a conspiracy is unlikely or even possible. This is the universally-accepted first response to any questions about a conspiracy theory.
- Cover Up—withholding incriminating evidence.
- Whitewash—releasing misleading evidence.
- Mischaracterization—making a strawman argument that focuses on one interpretation or aspect of a theory while ignoring more relevant parts.
- Misdirection—focusing on obfuscatory details instead of the gist of a conspiracy. Misdirection is sometimes called red herrings or whataboutism. South Park fans know it as the Chewbacca Defense.
- Debunking—using facts and data to erroneously disprove a theory. The issue is that sometimes the debunkers are biased and unqualified, and their analyses are faulty, but they create the perception that the theory is invalid when it is not.
- Defamation—attacking critics by making ad hominem arguments.
Almost all government conspiracies have a rebound component. The CIA at one time paid operatives, called mockingbirds, to spread false conspiracy theories and other misinformation.
Most conspiracies involve a single event or a series of occurrences; only a quarter or so target an individual or a group. Any theory that targets people instead of events is probably suspect. They are too often just gossip, products of bias, bigotry, or hate. Still, they are repeated because people forgo critical thinking and surrender to their worst failings. Emotionally charged conspiracies can be:
- Individual Conspiracies. A theory with an individual at the center of the conspiracy. It seems like Hillary Clinton is involved in many of them. Other individual conspiracies include Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones, Valerie Plame, and Alexander Litvinenko.
- Cohort Conspiracies. A theory with a small, well-defined group at the center of the conspiracy. Many conspiracies fit this category, mostly in which the cohort consists of the conspirators rather than the targets. Examples include Bernie Madoff, the Watergate burglary, the Clinton-Lewinsky Affair, Debategate, Bridgegate, the Harding-Kerrigan Attack, School spying, and the Jeffrey Epstein sex-trafficking ring.
- Class Conspiracies. A theory with a large class of individuals at the center of the conspiracy. Examples include Trump-supporters are all racists and Liberals hate guns. There are also a variety of theories involving political ideologies, genders, and religions.
It’s important to distinguish whether an emotionally-charged theory focuses on the conspirators or the targets. Theories that target specific individuals or groups should be treated with skepticism.
- Event conspiracy theories—conspiracies related to specific events, like political assassinations, murders of celebrities, and 9/11.
- Systemic conspiracy theories—conspiracies having broad goals to infiltrate and subvert existing institutions. Examples might include Jews, Freemasons, Communism, or the Catholic Church.
- Superconspiracy theories—combinations of multiple alleged conspiracies. His cited examples are the ideas of David Icke and Milton William Cooper.
Barkun’s classification is aimed at some of the more speculative conspiracy theories.
Theories with Many Interpretations
Proven conspiracy theories are straightforward. All the facts are pretty much established. But unless all the details are known, a conspiracy theory can mean different things to different people. They’re like Russian dolls except that instead of there being a limited number of separate, complete theories, there are a seemingly infinite number of minor variations. It’s difficult to debate a theory because people who agree on major elements may disagree on details.
Theories about the 9/11/2001 attacks are a good example. One person might believe that Flight 93 was shot down by a military jet and another might believe that the jet crashed because the passengers fought the hijackers. One might believe that the Twin Towers fell because of structural deficiencies and another might believe it involved explosives. One might believe that Building 7 fell because it was hit by debris and another might believe it was intentionally demolished. One might believe that the Pentagon was hit by a passenger jet and another might believe it was a missile. There are many variations.
Vaccines are another example. Most people no longer subscribe to the conspiracy concerning autism that was exposed in 2004, but there are other reasons people have for avoiding vaccines. Some people believe that some vaccines are no longer needed because of natural immunity or because the diseases they are supposed to prevent are disappearing. Some people believe that vaccines can be harmful because they contain potentially harmful ingredients (thimerosal, aluminum, formaldehyde) and are administered too early in a child’s life, too often, and in too many combinations. They believe vaccines can cause side effects and allergic reactions, and even weaken the immune system. Or, they believe they should have the freedom to choose whether their child get vaccinated. They may just mistrust the government, “Big Pharna,” or science in general. Some people have religious beliefs that say they should avoid vaccines. You can’t just lump everybody who avoids vaccines into one group.
I won’t even get into the variety of theories involving secret societies ruling the world … they might read this.
You have to understand what the details of a conspiracy theory that a person believes are before you can discuss it with them. If you don’t, you are just an arm-waving bully.
Theories with Many Instances
Some conspiracy “theories” actually represent many separate instances of the same phenomenon. The interesting aspect of theories with many instances is that if you can prove that one instance is true, it may follow that all or most of the other instances are likely to be true.
UFOs are a good example. There are thousands of photos, videos, eyewitness accounts, and other types of evidence supporting the notion that extraterrestrial craft have visited Earth. None of that evidence, however, is considered to be definitive. But, more than 700 cases, described in the U.S. Air Force’s 1947-1969 Project Blue Book UFO investigation program, could not be explained. If even one of those cases could be proven to involve extraterrestrials, the others would be worthy of further evaluation. Surely, the proof has to be incontrovertible. The Navy’s video of a UFO doing unearthly things won’t do it. We need to see a real alien.
Cryptids are another example. They can be considered to be a conspiracy theory in the sense that their existence has been claimed, without acceptance, for years. Some legends of cryptids go back hundreds of years. The coelacanth was thought to be extinct for 66 million years until one was caught in 1938 off the coast of South Africa. The 13th Century legend of the Kraken was solved in the 1850s when giant squids, unknown before then, washed up in several parts of the world. The gorilla, the manatee, the Komodo dragon, the kangaroo, the platypus, and many other animals used to be classified as cryptids. We’re just one Yeti away from having Netflix move Harry and the Hendersons from the comedy section to documentaries.
Hunting a Craze
Like the animal kingdom, you can learn a lot by observing conspiracy theories. For instance, how did a particular theory come about? The Moon-Landing-Hoax started as a NASA joke. The vaccines-cause-autism theory started with an article in the medical journal Lancet. The Russia-assassinated-Alexander Litvinenko theory started when they found plutonium in his tea. None have been proven so why do these theories persist? What are the grains of truth that keep a particular theory from collapsing into a pool of absurdity and disappearing from our consciousness?
Evaluating conspiracy theories can reveal much about both the individuals who hold them and about the segment of society that supports them. Such evaluations benefits from understanding how theories, proven and unproven, compare with each other. This is no different than comparing competing scientific theories; you examine evidence, reasoning, and predictions. Doing this benefits from having ways to classify conspiracy theories.
The collective noun for many conspiracy theories is a CRAZE.
Forget the politicians, how do Americans want to change the Constitution?
From 1789 to 2019, approximately 11,770 measures have been proposed to amend the Constitution. Congress sent 33 of the proposed Amendments to the States for ratification. Of those, 27 have been ratified: 11 in the 1700s, 4 in the 1800s, and 12 in the 1900s. The six Amendments that were never ratified are:
- Congressional Apportionment Amendment, 1789
- Titles of Nobility Amendment, 1810
- Corwin (pro-slavery) Amendment, 1861
- Child Labor Amendment, 1924
- Equal Rights Amendment, 1972
- District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment, 1978.
I had just turned 18 in 1971 when the 26th Amendment was ratified giving me the right to vote for George McGovern. Richard Nixon won, resigned after Watergate, and the country hasn’t been the same since. But, I learned how a change in a 200 year old document could change lives.
What Could Go Wrong?
Amending the U.S. Constitution is a difficult task. The usual method requires that a proposed change be adopted by two-thirds votes of both Houses of Congress, and then ratified by 38 State legislatures, usually within a stipulated time period.
In today’s divided government, there is little chance of this happening. Both sides fear what might happen when a proposed Amendment that they favor is exposed to the machinations of their opponents. They believe that the dysfunction of the status quo is better than the evil that might come from a change.
What Could Go Right?
But there are quite a few issues that do need to be addressed by Constitutional Amendments. We don’t all agree on what the changes should be, but most of us agree that changes should be made. The status quo is not working. That said, here are 18 ideas for amending the Constitution. Two have been adopted but not ratified — the Congressional Apportionment Amendment in 1789 and the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. Ten of the others have been proposed multiple times in different forms but never adopted by Congress. Six of the Amendments have never been proposed to Congress, as far as I know.
1. Balanced Budget Amendment. This amendment would require Congress and the President to balance the Federal budget every year. This amendment has been proposed many times.
2. Campaign Finance Reform Amendment. This amendment would place limitations on how candidates for Federal office could raise and use funds to be used in their campaigns. This has been proposed in many forms at many times.
3. Congressional Term-Limit Amendment. This amendment would limit Senators and Representatives to three terms and change the terms of Representatives from two years to four years. This amendment has been proposed several times in different forms.
4. Corporate Personhood Amendment. This amendment would prevent the government from providing any right specified in the Constitution to a non-organic, non-living, non-sentient entity.
5. Economic Bill of Rights. Proposed by FDR in 1944, this amendment would guarantee all citizen the rights to employment, a fair income, freedom from unfair business practices, housing, medical care, secure retirement, and education.
6. Electoral College Replacement Amendment. This amendment would replace the current Electoral College with either a simpler two-round system or abolish it entirely in favor of a direct vote for the Presidency. This amendment has been proposed several times in different forms.
7. Equal Rights Amendment. “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” This was originally proposed in 1972.
8. Federal Elections Amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to expand voter participation by providing tax deductions for voting and funding States to provide adequate polling places and voting equipment, allowing vote-by-mail, and clarifying the schedules for voting and vote counting. This Amendment has not been proposed to Congress (AFAIK).
9. Government Funding Amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to fund its operations from a national tax on all financial transactions including consumer sales, stock purchases, corporate mergers, estate transfers, capital gains, and so on. The income tax would be abolished.
10. Gun Ownership and Use Amendment. This amendment would repeal the 2nd and 3rd Amendments and replace them with a clear statement requiring the government to research and regulate gun ownership to minimize violence without unnecessarily restricting the ability of qualified individuals to own and use firearms. This Amendment has not been proposed to Congress (AFAIK).
12. Military Constraint Amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to limit all spending on defense, including interest from prior military engagements, to less than 50% of the Federal budget. This Amendment has not been proposed to Congress (AFAIK).
13. Minimum-Maximum Income Amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to implement a national basic income with a minimum wage tied to it, eliminate all Federal taxation of individuals with incomes below the poverty level, and establish a surtax for those in the top 10% of wealth. This Amendment has not been proposed to Congress (AFAIK).
14. Opportunity to Govern Amendment. This amendment would allow naturalized citizens who have been U.S. citizens for at least twenty years, to become President or Vice President of the United States. This Amendment was proposed in 2003.
15. Representation Realignment Amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to apportion votes in the House of Representatives to States according to their populations determined in the latest census (e.g., 1 vote for every 250,000 constituents). Federal office space for individual representatives would be allocated by tax income from the States.
16. SCOTUS Reorganization Amendment. This amendment would expand the Court to 15 members — 6 selected by Republicans, 6 selected by Democrats, and 3 selected by members of the Court. The Chief Justice would be elected annually by the 15 members of the Court. This Amendment has not been proposed to Congress (AFAIK).
17. USPS Enablement Amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to remove restrictions and provide conditions that will enable the USPS to achieve and maintain a revenue-neutral position. This Amendment has not been proposed to Congress (AFAIK).
What Do You Think?
Which of the following 18 proposals for Amendments to the U.S. Constitution would you most like to be considered by Congress for adoption? Indicate your preferences as:
- FAVOR — Definitely would support.
- NO OPINION — Ambivalent. Don’t care. Figure it out when it gets adopted.
- OPPOSE — Would NOT support.
Mention in the comments which of the proposed Amendments is your favorite. Also comment in what other Amendment you would propose.
What if a crazy conspiracy theory turned out to be true in 2021?
In this decade of ceaseless improbabilities, what else can happen to add a little more chaos to society? What if a well-known conspiracy theory were proven to be true? Conspiracy theories are usually ridiculed because they are not supported by sufficient evidence. Sometimes, though, they turn out to be true (e.g., tobacco causes cancer, asbestos in baby powder, pedophilia in the Boy Scouts, Iran-Contra, Gulf of Tonkin, and Watergate). So, for the sake of something different to talk about, suspend your disbelief for a moment and vote for the conspiracy theory that you believe would cause the greatest societal upheaval if it were shown to be true.
In the comments, speculate about how you think most people would react. Which conspiracy would be hardest for people to believe? Would there be widespread panic and unrest or would people just shrug and go about their lives? Is there something else that would make 2021 even crazier than 2020?