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Cheap Gas and Other Cheap Conspiracy Theories   October 23rd, 2006
       

 
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Amazingly enough, there are those who believe that the recent drop in the price of gas is some conspiracy designed and executed by President Bush and his accomplices with the purpose of improving GOP chances in November.

Not surprisingly, when gas prices are high, the president is unpopular; when gas prices are lower, the president's popularity generally increases. Since a popular GOP president would tend to help the GOP in midterm elections, and an electorate that is not upset about high gas prices is less prone to vote out the incumbents, the low prices in gas would generally be assumed to help the GOP. Of this there is little disagreement.

However, as many as 42% of the citizens of the country believe that the drop in gas prices is a conspiracy orchestrated by the Bush administration to make the 2006 midterms less painful. That so many people believe such absolute nonsense is quite depressing. Analysts and investors fully understand why the price of gas has fallen. Political tensions in the Middle East have eased as the war between Hezbollah and Israel tapered off with a UN-brokered cease-fire. Attention to Iran has temporarily shifted to North Korea. Investors also expected a hurricane season as bad as 2005, which brought us Katrina, and with the hurricane season almost over, that just didn't happen. The summer driving season in the U.S. also ended which always leads to a drop in prices between Labor Day until about the beginning of December--after which the price rises again due to increased demand for heating oil. This happens almost every year, with or without elections--gas prices have fallen between mid-September and early November 12 of the last 17 years . And if you plot the price of gas against the price of crude oil, you'll see that the two move together--which is not surprising since the price of the crude oil makes up almost 60% of the price of gas. If the price of crude goes up, the price of gas will go up; if the price of crude goes down, the price of gas will go down.

The market sets gas prices. This is something that is so elementary that an explanation can even be found on sites that are written to make things understandable to everyone . Yet some people are so predisposed to be suspicious of Bush or to believe in mindless conspiracy theories that they believe this nonsense that Bush actually has control over world oil prices. This despite the fact that even OPEC only has marginal and sketchy impact on oil prices--to say they have "control" would be to vastly overstate reality. Yet Bush--who many of those same people think is a bumbling idiot--is somehow able to control the world oil market, something that investors would die to know how to do. Believe me, if Bush could control oil prices he wouldn't be wasting his time being president: He'd be at his ranch, making money off of manipulating the price of oil, and making Bill Gate's look like the poor man on the block.

Yet I suppose it's hardly surprising that so many people believe Bush controls the world oil market when over a third of Americans apparently believe that the administration was complicit in the 9/11 terrorist attacks . These people either think Bush orchestrated the attacks or, at a minimum, had definite knowledge that they were coming but intentionally did nothing to stop them--some even go so far as believing that the military response was on orders to "stand down." The neat thing about 9/11 conspiracy theories is that there have been so many to choose from. One, called "Flight of the Bumble Planes" suggests that the real airplanes were deviated (and their passengers subsequently killed) and then remote-controlled airplanes were flown into the WTC and Pentagon. Another long-lived theory is that while airplanes were flown into the buildings, they were not enough to cause the destruction we saw: Instead, the actual collapses were controlled demolition provoked by an explosive known as thermite. This theory was promoted by a professor from BYU, Steven Jones, who has since been put on paid leave as his highly speculative theories are reviewed by administrators. Others claim that some of the hijackers are still alive . Yet others believe UFOs (or maybe Stealth bombers) were involved . Then, of course, there is the obligatory anti-Jewish crowd that believes the Jews were somehow involved . And, finally, there are just those that are out to make money by taking advantage of and fueling the ignorance of others . Perhaps the most incredible thing is that these people have the audacity to call themselves the "9/11 truth movement" (I guess in the same way that communist regimes make sure to put the word "democratic" in the name of their country in the hopes that people will believe them).

Most of these 9/11 conspiracy theories are mutually exclusive--if one of them is true, the others have to be false. But what all these silly theories have in common are: 1) There is no substantive evidence to support them. 2) They defy logic and Occam's Razor by proposing schemes that are orders of magnitude less believable than what we know is true. 3) Most misrepresent the established facts of the matter and take amazing liberties with interpreting chemical and physical law, as well as structural engineering. 4) They all depend on a relatively huge number of people being "in on it," executing the plan perfectly, and there being no leaks before, during, or after the plan. 5) They play the "sheeple" card in which--knowing that their evidence isn't sufficient to prove their case--they try to shame people into believing by calling them "sheep" if they believe the "government" version of events. 6) They are accused of not thinking critically (the irony here is amazing). 7) Anyone that resists all of these attacks at their intelligence are accused of being paid government disinformants or, at least, Bush lackeys or apologists.

And, if we are to believe polls, over a third of America believes this trash. This is extremely depressing. Has America become so downright stupid that they'll believe anything that is presented to them? Because believing this is not a result of critical thinking; nor is it just traditional cynicism. It takes a special kind of ignorance, stupidity, blindness, and a twisted world view to believe this kind of stuff. The "Bush lies about everything" mantra that has been hammered into the American psyche has been so successful that, apparently, people even think that not only has he lied about 9/11, he went so far as to orchestrate it and then lie about it.

Conspiracy theories are nothing new. Whether it be the USS Maine, Pearl Harbor, JFK, the USS Liberty, the Northwood Conspiracy, 9/11, that Bush controls gas prices, or that Elvis was abducted by aliens, there has never been a shortage of conspiracy theories. As best I can tell, they've almost always been overly-simple or nice "logical" explanations for complex or horrific events that, to civilized people, don't make rational sense. So people try to deal with the events by trying to explain it in a way that makes some logical sense to them, and usually brings the "bad guy" closer to home. It's hard to blame a faceless Japanese enemy for Pearl Harbor, so we accuse our president of knowing about it beforehand and doing nothing. We can't accept that 34 sailors died on the USS Libery due to an unfortunate mistake, so we blame an Israeli conspiracy. We cannot accept that less than two dozen terrorists that we can't punish got together and caused the most significant non-natural tragedy on U.S. soil since the Civil War, so we blame it again on our president. And people are so suspicious of the president these days that they can't accept the simple fact that prices have come down in September and October--just like they do in virtually every year--not because of the market, but because the "bumbling idiot" President Bush (who is too stupid to walk and chew gum at the same time) is apparently so smart that he can control oil prices as an election approaches to give his popularity a bump in the polls.

That despite the trivial details that, as it turns out, even with lower gas prices Bush hasn't been able to get his job approval numbers to stay above 40%... and, if we are to believe these same people, he stole the election in 2000 and 2004: So if he has really demonstrated his ability to steal two elections, why go through an elaborate magic trick of manipulating oil prices in a failed attempt to increase his popularity in the hopes that that will rub off on congressional candidates? Why not just steal another election for those candidates?

Of course, logic was never the strong point of people that believe this junk.

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