CONSPIRACIES ON STEROIDS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve been watching the Republicans trying to convince themselves and the world, yet again, that 2 + 2 = 5. An overtly political Republican Congressional memo was released recently that clearly states “A”. However, it is being touted as proof that “A” is false. Most of the country has not been taken in, but a majority of Republicans have been.

Republican Congressional Memo released to the public

This is just the most recent example of a Republican misinformation campaign. This one is designed to prove that the entire intelligence community, all 17 agencies in the government, are all biased, corrupt and working together to overthrow the Trump government. This is a ludicrous, far-fetched and dangerous idea.

But so was the popular right-wing conspiracy theory about the Newtown School massacre. The conpiracists claimed that the massacre never really happened. Actors were hired to make it look real. It was faked to make Second Amendment gun advocates look bad. Hard to believe that people actually bought into this craziness. But many Republicans did.

Whatever happened to the rubric, ‘When you hear hooves, assume horses, not zebras’? What kind of person is willing, if not eager, to believe the convoluted conspiracy theory rather than the simple reality? Do you have to be somewhat paranoid yourself to believe this shit? Can you just be a low information person who never goes anywhere near critical thought?

I think you have to believe that people are horribly nefarious and at least a little bit out to get you. But you also have to so desperately want to cling to your beliefs that you will buy into anything that allows you to keep them, untarnished.

I strongly believe what I believe. But I critically evaluate the information I’m given both for and against my positions. I would get no comfort from a flimsy, outlandish theory that could not be verified, just because it bolstered my world view. I would analyze it and reject it as false or unsubstantiated. And move on.

So we’re back to what makes me reject the ridiculous theory and others embrace it. Maybe it’s that my most fervent belief is in the existence of absolute facts. I believe that there is a way to determine, definitively, what is real and what isn’t. Maybe others have a looser definition of ‘truth’ than I do. Maybe others don’t care if something is true once they choose to believe it.

Have you ever watched “America’s Got Talent”, or any other talent show? There are people out there who genuinely think they are great singers or dancers, or whatever. And they are, in fact, horrible. So horrible that they get booed by a huge audience and eviscerated by a panel of judges. Yet most of these performers leave the stage believing that everyone is wrong about them. That nobody sees or ‘gets’ their true talent.

That may be the answer to my question. People have a great capacity for self-deception. Particularly when there is a deep seeded need to perpetuate that deception.

People don’t want to be bothered informing themselves and finding actual facts to back up their beliefs. They just want to ‘feel’ that they know what they’re talking about, that they understand the world around them. Most important, people want to ‘believe’ that they are 100% right about their beliefs.

Everyone wants to think they are smart and have a good sense of humor. So they just ‘believe’ it. And they live happily ever after.

CAPTIVATING AND ALSO, THE MOTOR VEHICLE BUREAU

Captivating. Adorable. Charming.
And then, there’s the Motor Vehicle Bureau


For me, that would probably mean dogs, cats, birds, horses … and anything going on in New England in the Autumn. And, okay … those first few minutes after snow has fallen when the world is hushed and completely white, blanketed in snow so that every little thing is hidden by that perfect white frosting.

Late afternoon with the sun low in the sky
The little white house with the big red tree
The Duke
Gibbs
Bonnie 
Sunrise – Home on the Vernal Equinox
Manchaug
Sunset
Vermont
Sunset – Jackman, Maine

I hope you will find this all quite captivating. It makes me years to go out and shoot a few more pictures. Except today, we are off to the Motor Vehicle Bureau because — yes, it has come around again and Garry is past 75 and he has to go in and prove he can see and understand simple instructions. I think from this point on in our lives, we are never going to escape again.

At least we can still renew the registration by mail. I’m going to try to deal with this with as little stress as I can manage. Thing beautiful images, oh self. Think sunrise and mountains and rivers and don’t think about bureaucrats.

Today, I am thinking captivating, beautiful

 

MEANDERING THROUGH LIFE

I love posts about whether to take the traveled or less traveled path.

As if we get that choice. All paths are untraveled until we walk them.

Choices? When I was 18, I had a choice to go to Cape May and spend the summer with my previous boyfriend (good sex, bad everything else) or marry my first husband (meh sex, but great conversation and social life) including a real opportunity to never have to spend another night under my parents’ roof.

1990 in Ireland

I went with the husband. It was what they now call “a jail-break marriage” and it worked surprisingly well. I wasn’t the only one who needed the jail break. He needed to break out of his prison too. We urgently needed to make a life. We might not have been the most passionate of lovers, but we were very fond of each other. We had tons of shared interests and many mutual friends. We liked the same books and loved history, cats, and dogs. We even had the same taste in furniture and houses. We got along well and what we lacked in fervor, we made  up for in affection and caring.

Somewhere in Ireland

We meandered along for 13 years and if he had not been an alcoholic and so terribly depressed all the time, we might still be together — and he might still be alive. I don’t know if the alcohol and the depression were linked, but probably were. Back then, these connections had not been made.They hadn’t invented Prozac and going into rehab wasn’t a “thing.” So we meandered along, had a son and a life. Garry was his best friend which is how Garry became Owen’s godfather and eventually, his stepfather. It isn’t as complicated as it sounds if you realize that we were all really good friends.

Most of my life has been one or another kind of meandering. Over the years, maybe a handful of distinct choices got made and I am happy with how they worked out, though are often times when I wonder how the other option might have gone.

In some other world, I made other choices. I’d love to chat with the other me and find out how it went. But — never was there an option to choose the “less traveled” or “more traveled” path. That’s a poem, not reality. When we need to choose, all paths are equally untraveled.

For most of us, there also comes a time when we get to say: “Okay world, I’m up for something different” and we have an adventure. Every life deserves adventures. I hope you are having yours  now — or delighted with the memories of those you had.

WHEN THE SWORD COULD BE MIGHTIER THAN THE TRUTH

In theory, we applaud “whistle blowers.” We are grateful that they have brought forth an important story. An issue with which we should all be concerned.

In the real world, whistle blowers fare poorly. They don’t get a lot of congratulations. They are distrusted by everyone in their industry and elsewhere. They are frequently prosecuted for failing to come forward sooner by outside authorities and always fired by their employers — regardless of what “the law” says.

Within the organization on whom they are lowering the boom, they are ostracized. Typically they are prevented from earning a living in that profession again. Scorned. Hated by many whose careers are ruined.  A lot of people will go down when that whistle blows.

The other day, I told the story of Bernard Cardinal Law and our Somali cat, Big Guy. It was a true story. Cute and friendly.

The story gets a lot less friendly a few years later. That was when Garry and others in his age-group were being forced out of television by virtue of having gotten “too mature” or just “not the right type” to roll with the “new kids” on the TV block. It was the same time that the huge story of the pedophile priests of Boston was breaking. Garry didn’t cover the story (though he followed it closely) because by then, he was not working.

Cardinal Law had been one of his friends in Boston’s power structure. He was one of the people Garry would have turned to when his own fortunes needed a lift. Instead, the Cardinal was coming down. He went back to Rome where he passed away in December 2017.

The demise of the reign of Bernard Cardinal Law was tragic on many levels. He was in charge of moving the pedophile priests from parish to parish, year after year. More than 20 years that we know of. He had to know it was wrong. He was a bright man. A Jesuit. Well-educated. Intelligent in a worldly way, not just as a churchman.

But, he had his orders. Discipline in the Church is no different than in the military or police. Strict. You do not fight with your superiors … not if you intend to remain in the Church.

While this was going on, William (Billy) Bulger — an important Massachusetts political figure for many years and who was another friend of Garry’s — was grabbing his golden parachute and drifting away. He had been promoted from head of the Massachusetts’ Senate to President of the University of Massachusetts. A genuine intellectual, he was political, funny, and rivetingly smart.

But. He had a brother and that brother was a criminal. Not just any criminal. Whitey Bulger was one of the FBI’s most wanted criminals. A very big deal on the criminal scene. Whitey had been in hiding for decades. Despite this, no one had closely questioned Dr. William Bulger about his brother’s location.

You’d think that would be on the tip of everyone’s tongue, but it wasn’t. Or, maybe it was, but it never made it past the ears of those who heard or knew.

How many people — other than brother Billy — knew where Whitey was hiding? Politicians, reporters, policemen, and more than a handful of FBI agents knew, not to mention the entire Bulger family. But no one was publicly saying anything.  Supposedly, Whitey was also an informant and protected by the FBI. It got extremely tangled and in the end, at least one agent ended up in prison.

Note: John Connolly, the former FBI agent, was convicted of racketeering, obstruction of justice and murder — charges stemming from his relationship with James “Whitey” Bulger, Steve Flemmi, and the Winter Hill Gang. He was convicted on racketeering charges in 2002 and sentenced to ten years in federal prison. In 2008, he was convicted on state charges of second-degree murder in Florida and sentenced to 40 years in prison. 

Everything wound up in court. Movies were made.

The issue always arises — when does conscience force you to tell the whole truth? When does  being on the right side exceed your need to survive, have a career, get your pension, protect your family? Protect your life? At what point are you obligated to question orders and do the right thing? This is no simple question. While we acknowledge good and evil, in our real lives, there is more going on than that. There are other people to protect. Family. Friends, Co-workers. That can add up to an awful lot of people and if you bring them down, they aren’t going to thank you because you “did the right thing.” How hated are you ready to be?

This is the question. Whether you march with the church, a political machine, are a police officer, or in the military — the truth can get you and yours killed. As in literally (not figuratively) dead. Or locked in a prison from which you will never again see the light.

When does obedience to the order to which you belong end and obedience to higher principles begin? Discipline is strict. If you do not obey a direct order — conscience or not — you can and will be brought up on charges. Fired. You will lose everything. Probably forever.

In theory, conscience should (must) rule but in reality — there’s a lot more to it. You don’t just disobey a command from a superior officer, whether the officer is the Pope, a Colonel, or the President. Not without paying some stupendous price. Your disobedience might easily cost you your life or the lives of those you care about. Not to mention everything you value.

The cost of obeying your conscience is only a small thing when the issue is maybe snitching on your older brother to a mom or dad. That’s probably the last time it’s no big deal. The higher up you get in the ranks of any organization, the harder you will fall.

Nor, in the end, will you got a lot of thanks for your efforts. Even those for whom you went out on a limb will probably not be thanking you.

While all this high-end drama was playing out, the people that Garry had hoped he could ask for help in repositioning himself in the market were collapsing, never to be publicly seen again. While he was going down, they were falling too.

They had better parachutes than Garry. Life can be very funny that way.

Note 2: For a real life look at the life of a prominent whistle blower, take a look at the life of Frank Serpico, the guy about whom they made the movie. 

SQUARING THE SQUARE AND A CIRCLE

Circles and squares in squares. What could be simpler?

Seeking squares and circles — inside squares, of course!

Squaring the Circle with Squared Squares