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.
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.
I don’t have a lot of friends in the Republican camp, but there remain a few. It didn’t used to be such a gigantic divide, but it has loomed hugely since the last election.
The other night I heard from an old friend who lives down in the middle of Georgia. Not Atlanta. The less expensive part where the non-city folk live. She is a warm, sweet, kindly woman, but times they are a’changing.
I don’t know what I said — probably nothing I really thought about — and she said “But we don’t know what the truth is. The media just lies all the time.”
Pause. Longer pause.
“Garry spent his whole life in news and many of our best friends were or are in the news business. Sally, they DO NOT MAKE UP THEIR NEWS STORIES. They never did and they don’t do it now. They spend their lives searching for the facts. For proof. For truth. They do not lie.”
An even longer pause. “But what difference does it make anyway?”
If she cannot understand that there is an uncrossable gap between truth and lies, then what is there to discuss? Perhaps that is the bottom line of our current issues with truth, that so many people on both sides of the political lines don’t care about truth and don’t think truth matters.
If the truth doesn’t matter, then I am not sure what does matter. For me, the truth always matters and I can’t even imagine a time when that would no longer apply.
I don’t know why I’m writing this. I don’t know why I’m wasting both my time and yours. But, what the hell. As I’m writing this the news is still in full-time coverage of the latest mass shooting at a public school.
This time in Florida, not that it matters much. It could have been anywhere in the country. Hell, it has been anywhere in the country. Tomorrow it will be somewhere else. And of course, politicians, mostly Republicans, trotted out the same old crap. “Thoughts and prayers” and “now is not the time to talk about gun control”.
You know, the usual bullshit. One of Jimmy Kimmel’s writers posted all the Republican tweets next to the amount of money the NRA has given them. The average is around 3 million dollars. Except for Trump. They gave him 21 million. You can read it here.
I did notice one new thing this time. As the students were being led to safety by the police they all had their hands in the air.
Why? Well, they hadn’t caught the shooter yet and the police couldn’t trust anyone. There might be a second or third shooter amongst them. I thought the photo of the three-year-old girl practicing standing on the toilet seat because that’s what her preschool taught her to do “when the shooters come” was as sad as things could get. I was wrong.
When it was happening, the initial report was that one person was dead and 17 injured. Ellin’s first response was “Only one dead? That’s not so bad”. A few moments later she said “I can’t believe I just said that. I’m getting immune to this”. As it turned out, it wasn’t just one dead, it was all 17. Not the record, but the shooter sure gave it the old school try.
Instead I’m going to completely change the subject. I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a true story. It happened to me when I was in first grade. I was 6 years old. It was 1957. I grew up in Schenectady, New York. I went to Lincoln Elementary School.
It was one block away from the original Freihofer’s Bakery.
The bakery was local back then. Today you can order their products on Amazon. Every day at 3 pm, I would leave school and be enveloped in the amazing smell of freshly baked bread. It was awesome. They had horse-drawn carriages that delivered their baked goods right to your door. The horse that came up my street every day was named Tony.
My Grandpa used to follow Tony up the street everyday and scoop up Tony’s “droppings”. He used them to fertilize a tiny tree he planted in our back yard. Today the tree is over 50 feet tall. It’s over 60 years old. Tony made good fertilizer.
We only had three TV channels back then. CBS, NBC and ABC. The NBC channel, WRGB, had a daily afternoon show called “Bread Time Stories”. But everybody called it “The Freddie Freihofer Show”. It starred Uncle Jim Fisk.
His sidekick was a puppet called Freddie Freihofer.
They played cartoons, had a band and the show had an audience of kids.
It was basically a rip off of The Howdy Doody show. But we didn’t know that. What made this show different was they also had “Birthday Boys and Birthday Girls”. They got to sit in the front row. They each had their own special birthday cake. A Freihofer’s cake, or course.
At the end of the show all the kids would line up in front of a big box with a handle on it. Like on a slot machine. Each kid would pull the handle and get a prize. Freihofer’s baked goods! (Duh) The show was just a big infomercial, but me and all my friends didn’t know that. You have to realize that Freihofer’s made some really good stuff. Their chocolate chip cookies were the best in the world. Their sugar donuts where amazing. At school, we had a scale of best to worst. Chocolate chip first, oatmeal raisin second, sugar donuts third and so on.
But the main part of the show, the most amazing part of the show was “The Squiggle”. You see, Uncle Jim was a genius. He would give a kid a big piece of white art paper and a magic marker.
The kid would then make a random squiggly line on the paper. Then Uncle Jim would make his magic. He would look at the squiggle and say “Wow, you just drew a bunny rabbit. He would then draw around the random line and PRESTO! A bunny rabbit!
Forget Picasso, DaVinci, Van Gogh. They were nothing compared to Uncle Jim! I found out later in life that it was something that pretty much any first year art student can do. But who cares? It was a Squiggle!
I tell you all this because I was actually on the Freddy Freihofer show! My friend was having a birthday and his Mom got him on the show. He could bring one friend. He picked me! I was an instant celebrity at Lincoln Elementary School! I was going to be on “The Freddie Freihofer Show!” I was going to get a Squiggle! And a prize! Cookies? Donuts? Who knew?
Kids were asking for my autograph!
So, the day finally came and reality set in. I didn’t know it then, but the universe was giving me a heads up on what my future career in TV would be like.
First, when I got there I was put up in the farthest back row of the peanut gallery. I wasn’t “a birthday boy”. I was basically an extra to fill a seat. Second, my friend’s Mom had to actually buy the Birthday cake. No freebies from Freihofer’s. Before the show started a producer came out and promised us that if Uncle Jim didn’t make us a Squiggle during the show, he would stay, and we would all get one after the show. Phew, I was worried for a while there.
So, the show started and out came Uncle Jim. Looking and acting much like my Dad and my Uncle Dick used to act on New Year’s Eve. We did the whole show, and of course, I didn’t get my Squiggle. I mean, I was up in the nose bleed section. But I wasn’t worried. The producer said we’d get one after the show. The show ended and we all lined up in front of the big prize machine to get our prize. They ran the credits over us. I was last in line. The credits ended before I got my turn. I then experienced what in the TV biz is called “a union shutdown.” That’s where 5 seconds after you go off the air, the crew shuts everything off and leaves the building immediately. Whoosh! Gone. Everybody. Including Uncle Jim.
So, there I was, standing in the dark, suddenly realizing I was not getting a Squiggle. But, it was OK. I mean, I still had my prize! By the time I got to the prize box I was all alone. In a dark TV studio. I pulled the handle. Oh, the suspense! I might not be able to bring a Squiggle to school, but I’d have my prize! What would I be sharing with my friends? Chocolate Chip cookies? Oatmeal Raisin? Hell, even sugar donuts would be OK. It seemed to take forever, but finally, out came my prize! And what was it?
A PACKAGE OF ENGLISH MUFFINS!
English Muffins!? Are you kidding me??? I have to go back to my school mates with no Squiggle and a package of friggin’ English Muffins. I say friggin’ because I’m sure if I said fucking English Muffins back then, my Mom would wash my mouth out with soap. It was a thing back then.
So, with my head down, I slowly walked out of the dark studio, back into the sunlight. A package of English muffins in one hand, and no Squiggle in the other.
But I still got to leave school every day to the smell of freshly baked bread. I never had to practice standing on a toilet seat. AndI never had to leave school with my hands over my head.
What a shock! The best that our government could offer to Parkland were … you guessed it … thoughts and prayers and of course “it’s too soon to make decisions when we’re still trying to figure out what happened.”
We know what happened. We always know what happened.
How many answers do you need? A school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 people dead and another 14 wounded in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday. To no ones surprise, he used a military-style AR-15 semi-automatic machine gun. We don’t call them machine guns anymore. We have fancier names, but that’s what they are. Of course, rather than examine the gun issue, the spotlight is on Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who admitted the shooting.
It was interesting watching Wolf Blitzer try everything to pin Florida’s slippery governor to agreeing that in a state where an 18-year-old can’t buy a legal beer or a handgun, he can buy an AR-15. If you have a really dark sense of humor, you could enjoy the wriggling of the governor trying to find any possible way to say he was going to protect the kids, but not get rid of the law that allows a troubled 18-year old to buy an AR-15. Because, well, y’know, there’s a second amendment. Moreover, we wouldn’t want to upset gun manufacturers or the NRA. They donate lots of money to politicians and money talks. In fact, ONLY money talks.
It doesn’t matter how many kids get killed every year. Or how many adults and toddlers. The real, key issue is that gun manufacturers need to have the right to sell guns to everyone, mentally ill or nominally sane and the younger, the better.
And even though I would love to lay all the blame on our current administration, this problem has been with us a very long time. No president or congress in my lifetime has been willing to brace the NRA or give up all that money the NRA gives to candidates. The Republicans are even worse having managed to eliminate what few laws we had and then acting like these killings are some kind of mystery. Like we don’t know that the AR-15 is the weapon of choice for those who prefer killing many people quickly.
And here we are. Again.
In Florida, almost any adult can buy a rifle so long as he or she is not a convicted felon — or unless he or she has a medical marijuana card. Because as we all know, marijuana is the drug of mass violence and overeating on chocolate cookies.
Most guns used in mass shootings across the United States were legally obtained — sometimes by the shooter, or from a family member who had a gun permit. You should know that all of the deadliest mass shootings in this country involved an AR-15 or similar weapon. ALL of them. Every single one.
It is very difficult for me to find anything amusing about this, or find any way to excuse anyone for failing to change the laws to protect lives. Every other “first world” country has banned guns and they have as a result a hugely reduced rate of gun violence. No matter what nonsense the gun lobby spouts, the reality is incredibly simple. Limit the purchase and use of guns and gun violence goes away too.
But of course, it won’t happen. It has never happened. It doesn’t matter how many kids we slaughter. We will keep selling as many guns as the market will bear until we are all mentally and emotionally completely numb. Beyond anger and mentally dead.
There’s an old joke about a psychiatrist who was trying to see if he could change an optimist into a pessimist and a pessimist into an optimist. He took two children, one very optimistic and one very pessimistic. He put the pessimistic child in a room filled with every toy and game imaginable.
He put the optimistic child in dimly lit room filled with horseshit.
The pessimistic child did nothing but complain. This toy didn’t work, that toy is the wrong color, these games all suck, and so on. Meanwhile the optimistic child was smiling and diving into the horseshit, digging and laughing, totally joyful. The psychiatrist couldn’t understand what was going on, so he asked the child why he was so happy. The child responded “Are you kidding? With all this horseshit, there’s gotta be a pony in here somewhere!” The joke has other variations, but you end up at the same punchline.
This joke came to mind the other day when I read a really odd article. The Remington Company, the one who makes guns are 950 million dollars in debt and are about to declare bankruptcy.
The Smith and Wesson company, the country’s largest gun maker has seen their sales drop over 70% in the last year.
Why? The article says it’s because of the “Trump Slump.” Now that all three branches of government are in the hands of Republicans who really, really love guns and anything “gunny” (is that a word? If not, I just made it up. Trademark!), all the gun nuts have stopped buying guns.
Turns out the major driver of gun sales in America are Democrats. That and any mass shooting. It’s the irrational fear “the government is coming to take all our guns!!” which causes the gun nuts to buy more guns.
As I am writing this, I’m watching literally every cable news and network news network’s constant coverage of the latest school shooting in Florida. So far, seventeen dead.
It will be interesting to see if gun sales spike tomorrow. Everyone knows Trump will do nothing.
All this got me to thinking of other actual good things our Comb-Over-In-Chief has done. Not on purpose. He’s never done anything good intentionally. He’s enraged women to the point were millions of them protested on his first day in office.
He’s been a major force behind the “Me-Too” movement and the “Time’s Up” movement.
Polls show Republican women, especially college-educated white women, are turning against Trump in droves. He’s brought domestic abuse into the public spotlight by defending the abusers! He’s reminded the country that being a pedophile is bad by defending a pedophile!
He’s energized a Democratic progressive grass-roots movement which has resulted in dozens of local and state seats going from red to blue. He has mobilized young people to not only get out and vote, but to also run for office — all around the country.
Sadly, the vast majority of the shit this shithead has done far outweighs the positive things he’s inadvertently done. He’s still a clear and present danger to the security of the United States and the world. For all the horrible things he’s done, we all now know that he will do things that will be even horribler (is that word? If not, trademark!). The Oval Office is currently filled with horseshit and an amazing amount of bullshit.
But hey, maybe we’ll find a few more ponies out there.
I love reading the papers and talking about what’s going on in the world. You used to be able to do that without getting caught up in ‘partisan politics’. That time seems so long ago, you may have forgotten how it used to be. Let me remind you.
There used to be ‘facts’ about what was happening on any given topic on which everyone could agree. People may have disagreed about how to deal with a problem such as increasing crime and declining GDP, but there was a consensus that the former was in fact increasing and the latter was declining.
Not so today. Facts have been the meat and potatoes of partisan politics for too long now. Let’s say that if you’re a liberal and/or a Democrat you believe that unemployment is down. And let’s assume that if you are a conservative and/or Republican you believe that unemployment is up. How can anyone have a rational discussion about a problem if the nature or even the existence of the problem is itself the issue? When people argue whether a ‘fact’ is, in fact, a ‘fact’?
Talk shows and news interviews usually devolve into shouting matches about what used to be called empirically proven facts. I don’t want this to happen in my personal life. Therefore, unless I’m sure we are in the same ideological camp, I am careful not to talk about anything that could remotely have one liberal and another conservative interpretation. That rules out a wide swath of conversation topics and makes talking to strangers even more difficult for me. I’m not good at small talk under the best of circumstances.
It also presents the problem of how to feel out someone’s political views without bringing up a potentially controversial topic. I had a whole conversation with someone at a party about how much we love following the news. At no point did we reveal which version of the news we espoused. When she said that her husband only watched one channel all day, I surmised it was Fox News and that they were conservative/Republicans.
I later had my ‘guess’ confirmed by a mutual friend. I am so relieved that we had not marred our pleasant conversation with the revelation that we were ideological adversaries. We would not have agreed on the statistical reality about almost anything.
At a recent dinner with someone we just met, our new friend talked about how well the stock market was doing (Republican code for: Trump is good for America). He then asked what the problem was with Trump since “He hasn’t done anything bad yet.” There was silence at the table and then Tom said something like, “Well, that’s a debatable point”. We quickly moved on to other topics.
This is why even well-meaning, open-minded people like me have become polarized. I’m happy to listen to your views and may even be swayed by a good argument. But I will not be open to the idea that the earth is really flat, that evolution isn’t a scientifically proven process or that man-made climate change is not a real ‘thing’. In today’s world, I guess that makes me a closed-minded ideologue. So be it.
My political bent nowadays is towards any view that is based on facts that can actually be proven to be true. And I want to see the evidence and decide for myself if your ‘evidence’ actually proves your ‘facts.’