Thursday, August 30, 2012
Paul Ryan’s lies and misstatements during his speech at the Republican Convention last night bring up an interesting existential question about the nature of “reality.” Is there more than one reality? Can you claim your own reality in a world where the facts say otherwise? Aren’t people who do that considered mentally ill (or politicians. Take your pick)?
Many of us remember a quote from an anonymous source in the Bush Administration early in W’s tenure who said, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
Ryan and Romney and their surrogates seem to have taken this philosophy to heart. Just a few days ago, a pollster for Romney responded to accusations from a variety of sources that the Republican candidate’s campaign ads were factually wrong by saying, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”
So facts be damned, apparently. Ryan’s not a stupid man. He must know that he is spewing lies and misstatements about Obama. Has he convinced himself that they are not lies or, more likely, he, like many Messianic Republicans, believes that the ends justify the means. Lies and distortions in the name of a greater good are acceptable. Sounds kind of cult-like to me.
I just don’t know how we can ever solve the pressing issues we face as a country when we can’t even agree on the very nature of “reality.” It’s one thing to say, “I disagree with your approach to dealing with global warming,” but when one side doesn’t even acknowledge the reality of man-made global warming, finding solutions is nearly impossible.
Yes, there is some truth to the argument that both sides do it, but in my sixty years I’ve never seen anything like the egregious and even contemptuous distortions of reality exhibited by today’s Republicans. When the mainstream press starts calling you out for lying, it must be pretty damned blatant. Is it a sign of desperation? Or do they really believe they can create their own reality? Stay tuned.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
The theme of the Republican National Convention, “We built that,” which is based on a blatant misrepresentation of an Obama statement, should be, “We tried that.”
Conspicuously absent from the speeches up to this point is any mention of two-term president George W. Bush. What’s up with that? Bush implemented many of the policies and plans being pushed by Romney and company today: A tough, shoot-first-ask-questions-later foreign policy, tax cuts for the wealthy, more privatization, more money for the war on drugs, an ongoing assault on public education, using war as a foreign policy tool rather than an act of last resort, more government secrecy, the use of torture, etc., etc. Many of the policies that Romney now champions were already tried by Bush. So why the Bush blackout? Because the Bush presidency was a miserable failure.
Bush took an economic surplus from Clinton and turned it into a black pit of debt eight years later with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and unlimited defense spending. His tough Texas cowboy personae got us into two wars that we continue to pay for with young people’s lives and enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars. The war on drugs is acknowledged by virtually everyone outside of Washington as a disaster that is causing much more harm than it is preventing, not to mention billions of dollars annually.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Why on God’s green earth would we want a repeat of the Bush years? Folks, we tried it, and it didn’t work. Please, don’t make us go through it again.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Are we on the verge of our own American Dark Ages? We now have a major political party, one of only two allowed to exist within our deliberately constrained process of elections, that turns its back on science and rational thinking. Hijacked philosophically by the Tea Party and conservative Christians and funded by corporate America (that has its own agenda), the Republican Party has abandoned reality for a patchwork quilt of religious dogma, superstition, pseudo science and wishful thinking. The result is a continuous barrage of jaw dropping, astonishingly stupid statements not confined to the paid bloviaters of talk radio, but now bubbling up through the sludge to our elected officials sitting in leadership positions in the legislative branch of government. The latest comes from Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who claimed in a television interview that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant.
"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," said Akin said of pregnancy caused by rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist."
While some might assume that such a ridiculous notion was pulled from thin air (so thin it resulted in a lack of oxygen to the brain), research by blogger Justine Larbalestier reveals that Akins belief is actually grounded in historical precedent. In fact, it reflects a long-debunked eighteenth century assertion based on nothing more than biased male conventional wisdom.
Larbalestier pulls this section from Thomas Laqueur’s book “Making Sex:”
Samuel Farr, in the first legal-medicine text to be written in English (1785), argued that, “without an excitation of lust, or enjoyment in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place.” Whatever a woman might claim to have felt or whatever resistance she might have put up, conception in itself betrayed desire or at least a sufficient measure of acquiescence for her to enjoy the venereal act. This is a very old argument. Soranus had said in second-century Rome that “if some women who were forced to have intercourse conceived . . . the emotion of sexual appetite existed in them too, but was obscured by mental resolve,” and no one before the second half of the eighteenth century or early nineteenth century question the physiological basis of this judgment. The 1756 edition of Burn’s Justice of the Peace, the standard guide for English magistrates, cites authorities back to the Institutes of Justinian to the effect that “a woman can not conceive unless she doth consent.” It does, however, go on to point out that as matter of law, if not of biology, this doctrine is dubious. Another writer argued that pregnancy ought to be taken as proof of acquiescence since the fear, terror, and aversion that accompany a true rape would prevent an orgasm from occurring and thus make conception unlikely.
So we, the voters, are handing the levers of governance to individuals whose belief systems are rooted in an era when female hysteria was a common diagnosis and masturbation was considered a serious public health threat. In other words, we are rewarding stupidity rather than relegating it to obscurity. America has long had a strain of anti-intellectualism, but we are carrying that regressive notion even further by electing officials who vocally denounce science (climate-change deniers) and revel in their superstitious beliefs.
It’s maddening that the society that put the first person on the moon is now electing people who want to dismantle public education and replace it with Taliban-style religious indoctrination. People like Akin (and Bachmann, Ryan, Cantor, Pence and so many others) are attacking the very things that made this country the envy of the world at one time. Not anymore. Today we are in the midst of America’s decline, which is being funded by corporate America and abetted by a misinformed, fearful public.
Ironically, the eighteenth century was the height of the Enlightenment, while in America, the twenty-first century heralds a new Dark Ages.
Late for work. Now where did I put my powdered wig and snuff box?
Monday, August 13, 2012
Friday, August 10, 2012
“Congresswoman Bachmann Says World is Flat. Some Experts Disagree”
“Democrat’s ‘Puppies are Cute’ Bill Stalls in Republican-lead Committee”
“Romney Denies He Was Governor of Massachusetts. Blames Past Record on Evil Twin”
“Michael Phelps Steps in for Injured Javelin Thrower. Wins Gold”
“Mars Photos From Curiosity Prove Obama Not Born on Planet Earth, Claims Trump”
“Broadway Producer Says Madonna and Bieber Signed On for All-Star Remake of ‘Springtime for Hitler’”
“North Korea Leader Kim Jong-un Promises to Give New Wife Belated Wedding Gift: South Korea”
Thursday, August 02, 2012
Every now and then a story pops up in the news about some scientific discovery that could extend our lives. Among researchers, the hunt for physical immortality goes on. My question is “why?” Why would we want to live forever?
No matter how long you live, you still won’t pay off your credit card balance.
How many more times do you want to hear “Stairway to Heaven?”
Do you really want to be around to watch seven generations of grandchildren flunk algebra?
The desire to live forever seems particularly odd when expressed by those people who claim to be religious. In America, nearly 80% of the population identify as Christians. If you’re a Christian, it goes without saying you believe in the concept of heaven, with its streets paved with gold, eternal bliss, and 24/7 pasta buffets. So why would you want to live forever on this fragile pebble drifting through the black emptiness of space?
On the other hand, existence is a series of transitions, from egg to zygote to fetus to newborn and on and on to death. But is death the literal end of the cycle? I am a nonbeliever who considers religion and superstition synonymous, however, I also have a difficult time looking at the continuous thread of existence that science has opened our eyes to and accepting that whatever energy animates us as human beings — and how can you dispute the existence of energy if at one point we are animated and living and another point we are simply a dry pile of flesh and bone no more alive than a pile of leaves? — disappears once our bodies have worn out. Science tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed. What happens to the energy that animates us with what we call “life”?
This brings me back to the idea of immortality. If we are in fact animated by energy, aren’t we already immortal? Organized religion is a naïve, childish and ultimately destructive way created to try and comes to grips with this idea, but the very core belief of most world religions — that the energy (soul) that compels us to move and live does not die when our physical bodies do — may actually prove to be correct.
Do what I did and stand in front of a mirror while considering physical immortality. No thank you. Science, please stop wasting your time on this and turn your attention to more serious matters, like how to make Brussels Sprouts taste like Boston cream pie.