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.
When my grandfather retired and my grandparents moved back to Tennessee from Chicago where they had lived for close to twenty years, they gave away many items they felt they no longer needed. Chief among them was a snow blower. “What if it snows, grandpa?” I asked. He explained that in the unlikely event of snow, it would melt off in a day or two. There was no need for something they may never use again.
When he asked if I would like anything, I said I would take his nightstand if the plan was to leave it behind. It was an inexpensive little piece with a small door on the front to hold just a few items inside. It had a homemade quality and symbolized my grandfather to me. I was probably in early teens. I still have it today. The item could be 100 years old by now.
Their home in small town Tennessee was remarkably uncluttered. They had just what they needed for the next twenty years of their lives. The house was always, neat, clean and orderly and I truly believe that it added to the relaxed and comfortable existence they enjoyed for many years. They never seemed to lack for anything when I would visit. I envy that simple existence now.
When my father retired and moved to Florida with his second wife (not my mom), he too left behind things he could not imagine using again. He had decided to give away his winter outerwear and offered me a nice coat and other items. “What if it gets cold, or you come back to visit in winter, dad?” He pointed out that it never gets that cold in Florida and while he may be back to visit, it would never be in winter.
Aside from taking this winter offering, I desired nothing else. I had his World War II medals and discharge paper. There was nothing else I wanted. I have since passed the World War II memorabilia to my older brother. He has children and may be able to pass them on. By the way, I kept a Good Conduct medal for my “good conduct.” Dad had more than one and I decided not to award my brother with several of these.
Mom was a collector of stuff. I sometimes wondered if this was the result of growing up poor in the Depression. Was the accumulation of items, no matter how little the value, important to someone who had nothing growing up? Were many of us from the Baby Boomer generation collectors because we saw that our parents were?
Mom collected everything from coffee cups to shot glasses, refrigerator magnets to picture frames, swizzle sticks from hotels and restaurants, to match books from the same. There were figurines and candle holders, tea services not to be used, special occasion kitchen ware that may never have seen the special occasion. There were “knickknacks” of all sorts, or what her mother would have simply called “dust catchers.” To me, most of these items did not have enough value to have to dust them every weekend.
After mom had reached her 80’s and could not care for all the stuff, or even recall all the stuff she had, I moved her to an apartment in the same building so we could watch over her a little more closely. That lasted less than a year and she was in a hospital, then a nursing home. I moved to the larger apartment to hold on to the “stuff” in case she recovered well enough to come home. She lived almost 6 years at the home and I not only had a lifetime of my own stuff, I then inherited a mountain of stuff I would never have considered owning. Worse yet, many of the dust collectors I owned were some of the same items I grew up looking at. I can not explain how I did not want these things. For whatever reason, I could not get rid of much of it in the years that followed.
In the past year, however, I decided it was time to start to eliminate many of these things. I had shelves and cabinets overflowing with items that I would never use and in some cases never wanted. What if I have to move? I do not want to have to take a lot of these things. What if I die? Someone will just toss out most of it anyway. Is this “stuff” adding anything to my life? This really is the key question. If I was not going to use it and it did not hold some great personal value, it was time to go.
It is hard to do an assessment of items that have been in your house for decades. You may falsely conclude that they have a sentimental value when all they really enjoy is longevity. Consider cleaning up and not leaving it to others. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your kids, or grandkids, do not want your stuff. Yes, they may desire an item or two, but for the most part your stuff will end up being donated or tossed out, so you might as well do it yourself. Consider how much of your parents or grandparents stuff you wanted? I am not talking about family photos, I am talking about “stuff.”
Last year I tossed out a lot of stuff. I did not want them and could not imagine anyone paying 25 cents for them, so they finally hit the trash. I gave a lot of stuff away to various charities, depending on the type of item. I also listed things on eBay if I thought they had a value. I sell about a half-dozen items a month. At this pace I could sell stuff for the next 25 years and still have a lot of things. When I retire, I will likely increase my eBay offerings or my donations to resale shops, probably both. If anyone wants stuff, I will be happy to oblige.
Age is a very strange thing. You are a child, then you are young and these days, you are young for a very long time. Young really up through your fifties and for many people, pretty youthful into their sixties. Then, it changes. Maybe a little. Sometimes a lot and quite suddenly.
The face that has been almost the same since your twenties is different. Older. Not just wrinkles, but there’s a “look” of maturity that tells the world — and you — that’s you’ve been around. You’ve seen a lot. You know things. Older eyes are different and it’s impossible to explain what that means. It doesn’t mean they do not sparkle with joy, but there is a knowingness that is missing in young eyes.
This year has vanished even faster than usual. In fact, this entire last decade has been a wink and a shrug. I do not feel older this year than last. Actually, I feel better this year than last, but I’ve been gradually recovering from earlier surgeries and it’s nice that there’s a semblance of progress. Still, I sometimes don’t understand how I got here. I remember the years. I mostly remember what I was doing for most of them … but how do they add up to such a big number?
Yet here I am.
This twirling, whirling, busy world is a bauble in the great universe and we are just little crawly dots on its surface. In the even greater scheme of things, we are barely here at all. I’m not sure whether or not that perspective is comforting or chilling. Maybe both?
Come, Sleep! O Sleep, the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man’s wealth, the prisoner’s release,
Th’ indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof shield me from out the press
Of those fierce darts Despair at me doth throw!
O make in me those civil wars to cease!—
I will good tribute pay if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf of noise and blind of light,
A rosy garland, and a weary head;
And if these things, as being thine in right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella’s image see.
Sir Philip Sidney
I remember when going to sleep was simple. I changed into a nightgown or pajamas. I took off my jewelry. Brushed my hair. Brushed my teeth. Washed face and hands. Plumped up the pillow, pulled up the covers — and went to sleep. Sometimes, I read for a while … and then fell asleep.
Last night, I went to bed. I did the whole nightgown, hair, wash, brush thing. Of course. Then I adjusted our electric bed trying to find the angle which would give me the least amount of pain in my back while keeping me sufficiently upright to continue to breathe.
I then took the various medications I take before bed — some for blood pressure, others for pain, and one for actual sleep. That was when I realized my rash was acting up. Damn. I put some cortisone cream on it, but that didn’t do it. So I went into the bathroom and used the other, stronger gunk. I stood there for a few minutes waiting for the gunk to dry, then went back to bed.
I realized I couldn’t breathe. I used the daily inhaler. Still couldn’t breath. Used the emergency inhaler — twice. Breathing restored, I realized my eyes were dry enough to feel like I had gravel in them. I found the eye-drops.
“Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch,” I said as the liquid hit the gravel. Garry couldn’t hear me. He had the headphones on and was deep in a western.
I tried another round of eye-drops. “OW!” I yelped. Two rounds of eye-drops later, the gravel had diminished. I realized I needed to do something about my incredibly dry lips. One round of chap-stick. Another round of chap-stick. One more round of chap-stick and by now, I’m wide awake. And my back was killing me.
I found the lidocaine cream. Applied it to my right hip. My left hip. Up and down the spine. Then — again — I waited for the most recent gunk to dry.
By now, a full hour had passed since I put on my nightgown and brushed my teeth. I had been sleepy, but by now, I wasn’t sleepy. Not a bit. I thought wistfully of those long ago days when going to bed was just … going to bed.
Worse, I still had to look forward to the thrill of getting out of bed. Convincing my legs and arms to wake up. Making sure my spine was going to let me stand up and hopefully, walk.
The getting up ritual is a whole other thing, starting with around four in the morning when I start readjusting the bed. Because during the night, my spine will congeal into a solid lump of misery. I have to decide what — if any — medication will help. I have to be careful because I can only take a specified amount. If I take meds at four in the morning, I can’t take them later.
You get the idea.
Sometimes, the complexity of going to bed then getting up — first for medication and going back to bed. Next, rearranging the electric bed, trying to go back to sleep, hearing The Duke hit the door, knowing if I don’t get up and give everyone a biscuit he’s going to keep hitting the door until the door breaks or I get up and do the “Good Morning, beloved Dogs” thing.
Nothing is simple. Especially not simplest things.
I’m not the first person to see this, but have any of you noticed that 2018 seems like 2017 on steroids? January is barely half over, and it seems like over a half-year has gone by. In 2017, we experienced “Trump Time.”
A crazy story that would have normally lasted a week or two, or maybe even a month, lasted for two days, tops. We were reeling from the insane shit the Shithead-in-Chief did on a Monday, only to completely forget about it because he did something even crazier on Tuesday. And that’s how it went all year.
But something happened, or seemed to happen on January 1, 2018. The crazy went into overdrive. I say ‘seemed’ to happen because his turning the crazy up to eleven was inevitable.
Why? Well, it’s because of the word exponential. Most of us know what it means, but I think most of us don’t really understand it.
1. (Of an increase) becoming more and more rapid. “The social security budget was rising at an exponential rate.”
2. MATHEMATICS – Of, or expressed by, a mathematical exponent, for example, “an exponential curve.”
More specifically, we need to understand exponential growth, something that gets bigger and bigger, or grows faster and faster over time.
It’s hard for humans to think like that because we are hard-wired to think linearly. It’s easy for us to understand it takes a guy two hours to paint a room, so he can paint two rooms in four hours. Commonsense, right? That kind of commonsense is part of our DNA. It helped us survive in the old caveman days. Back then, we had to be able to figure out in a hurry how fast we had to run to get to that tree before the really large saber tooth tiger caught up to us and ate us for lunch.
The best example of exponential growth today is in technology. Like, say, computers. There’s a thing called “Moore’s Law.” It says the processing power of computers doubles and the cost is cut in half every 12 to 18 months.
That was true, but, it is a perfect example of linear thinking. In reality, the time that computers double in power and drop in cost is taking less and less time. Science and all knowledge, is growing at an accelerated rate.
It has always been that way. The increase in human knowledge has always been on an exponential curve, but the way the curve works didn’t make it seem that way until recently. On an exponential curve, things grow at a steady rate for a long time. Then suddenly, it hits a tipping point and everything begins to race along much faster.
Think about it. Humans have been on this planet as Homo sapiens for a few million years. Most of that time, we spent surviving. And throwing rocks at each other. Then, about 12,000 years ago, we stopped roaming and settled down. Although we still threw rocks at each other.
We created agriculture and civilization. Why did we do that? Because we discovered beer. I know this sounds like a joke, but it’s true. There’s a great documentary called “How Beer Saved The World.’ It’s fascinating, but that’s another blog for another day.
Basically, we had a choice. We could continue to wander around and throw rocks at each other. Or, we could stay home and make more beer. And throw rocks at each other. It wasn’t a hard decision.Think of all the science — all the knowledge — mankind figured out starting 12,000 years ago up until 1900. By the 1900’s the industrial revolution was well underway. Cities were lit by gas and some places, by electricity. People and industry moved on steam-powered trains. The internal combustion engine was in production.
All this knowledge doubled between 1900 and the 1960’s. From horse-drawn carriages to putting a man on the moon.
The knowledge of mankind doubled again between 1960 and 1980, then doubled again by 1990.
Can we remember when smartphones didn’t exist? When iPads didn’t exist? They’ve been around for a while, right? Actually, the iPhone came out June 29, 2007. That was just ten years ago. The iPad was released on April 3, 2010. Just seven and a half years ago!
When my step son was diagnosed with kidney disease, he was told he would need a transplant. I asked his doctor if an artificial kidney would soon be available. He said, yes, but not for at least 50 years.
A few years later, he received the transplant and Ellin was the donor. After the surgery was over I asked the same doctor the same question. His answer? “Oh yeah, they will probably make a kidney from his own stem cells. Maybe five, ten years from now. ”
That was five years ago. Today, they’re talking about making kidneys with a 3D printer.
Mankind reached the tipping point of that exponential curve. We’re at the point where the curve ends and the line goes straight up. This is when our knowledge quite literally explodes.
This is not something I thought of myself. There is a fascinating book by futurist Robert Kurzweil, called “The Singularity Is Near.” I highly recommend it.
What does any of this have to do with our Toddler-In-Chief? A lot. In particular, with his mental illness. Literally hundreds of psychiatrists and psychologists are screaming at the top of their lungs that this nut job is, well, nuts. and getting worse.
They have collectively pointed out that the stress of the job is accelerating his illness. He’s not merely getting crazier at warp speed. He has gone all the way to plaid!
You can see it yourself and you don’t need a Ph.D either.
Every interview he gives is a trip further down the rabbit hole. His last few interviews have gone from, “Bizarre” to “Unhinged” to “Insane” to “Insanely insane.” Read the transcript of his last interview with The Wall Street Journal. It was a literal word salad. Not a single sentence was complete or made any sense.
I just watched a news conference where the doctor that supposedly just examined Trump said he passed a cognitive mental test and he got all 30 questions right!
Really? The questions were things like “name four animals” and “point out what 3:15 looks like on a clock.” Wow, so the President is sane because he recognizes a cow, a pig, a dog,a rhinoceros and a pussy. He also knows when it’s quarter after three.
Do the same test next month.
I think Grandpa is not just losing it. He’s losing it faster and faster each day. It’s time to take away the keys to his car. Remove the big nuclear button from his desk. Get him into the memory care unit at a good nursing home. Hell, you can designate Mar-A-Lago as his official nursing home and lock him in his room. It’s only the middle of January as I write this and I’m hoping we make it to February. Last year, at this time we were hoping to make it to 2020. The month isn’t even over yet and he’s managed to shut down the government. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.
I apologize for not finding more humor in all of this. I try, but sometimes it just ain’t there. So, to make up for it. Here are two dogs playing “I Got Your Nose!”.
It was pointed out to me that there’s a lot we don’t know about the people who came before us.
How — why — they dressed and spoke and related to each other as people in their society. We are fuzzy about a lot of cultural material and mostly, we take our best guess as to what they were thinking as they lived from one day to the next in whatever capacity they lived it.
We have no clue about how our great-grandfather confessed his love to great-grandmother. We don’t know the words they used, or their tone of voice. We don’t know if their moment of passion happened at all. We don’t know because they left no evidence for us. They spoke differently, yet surely they held the same emotions we do — and we base all our fiction on that assumption. But of course, we could be entirely wrong. It’s just guesswork.
On the other hand, we know precisely — anyone could know this because it’s easy material to find — that the people who drew up our Constitution precisely understood how deeply wrong slavery was. They knew — fully and completely — that failing to remove this horror would cause a war. A big war.
Many expressed gratitude they would not live to see it.
They knew right from wrong.
They spent agonizing hours, weeks, months and years writing about it. Discussing it. Keeping notes about what they said and what others said. They didn’t for a minute think building a nation on slavery was “okay.” Abigail Adams, for one, didn’t want to live in the White House — not merely because it wasn’t finished, but because slaves built it. Yet without the compromise of making slaves three-fifths of a person — a person who would never vote or have anything to say about his own life — there would not have been a Constitution or a country. Getting the country to be a country was, ultimately, what mattered. Under this devil’s decision lay the future in which we are now living.
We didn’t get here by accident. It wasn’t one bad election or a few unfortunate choices. The path on which we are walking was being laid out for us before there was a United State. The issues we now face have always been there.
For all the northern objections to slavery, it wasn’t as if there weren’t any slaves in New England or New York. Southern plantations bought slaves, but New England sea captains brought them here. The first port of call for southern slave owners were the slave markets of New York and New England. Until the Constitution when northern slavery was formally abolished, there were plenty of slaves up north, too.
About those Native Americans from whom we grabbed this land and who we slaughtered so we could keep it? Of course we knew it was wrong. Maybe not every unread slob understood it, but anyone with a modicum of education got it. We still know it, even if we have tried our best to tuck the information as far from “common knowledge” as we can. We don’t want to think about what we did to get this place — and what we are still doing.
Did our ancestors understand this?
But you see — they wanted this country. They wanted it and they wanted it beyond any moral compunctions. If that meant slaughtering entire tribes — see Andrew Jackson for more on that — so be it. Why should “those savages” get this rich and beautiful country? They didn’t deserve it. It should be ours. To make this righteous, we made up a bunch of crap about white being better than not white, but we didn’t get that from anyone’s religion. We quite simply made it up because we needed to believe it.
So, as has happened throughout history, we did what we wanted. We took everything, killed anyone who got in our way and have more less continued to do that ever since. Was it the first or last time an invading group of foreigners stole a nation from its native inhabitants? Obviously not.
I do not buy any concept which says “we didn’t understand what we were doing.” We knew just fine. Our ancestors — your ancestors — might not have talked the way we do, but they were much better at acknowledging good and evil.
Again: How do we know this? Let me reiterate.
They wrote about it. At great length. In documents, diaries, letters, newspapers, and books. We don’t have to guess: they told us. Whether or not great granddad Josiah proposed in flowery English to great grandma Elizabeth may be a guess, but that Josiah thought our behavior toward slaves and Natives was wrong — we do know that.
The reason the Trump White House can do what it is doing is because there is so much hatred in this country. All he needed to do was play to the haters and leave the windows open. We don’t know what our so-called “leaders” believe, but we know who and what they hate. I don’t care in how many other countries this same ugly scene is happening. That doesn’t justify it happening here. If the whole world needs to clean up its act? So be it.
The majority is not necessarily right.
For my entire life, I believed this country — my country — was getting better. Was becoming more of what it said it wanted to be. That we were struggling, but trying to become a moral light in the world. I’m not seeing that anymore. Not on a national level. Are there many individuals who are still fighting the good fight? Sure. But nationally, as a nation, that isn’t what I see. I cannot begin to tell you how deeply disturbing I find this.
How is your conscience doing these days? Having a bit of a rough patch?
I went to work yesterday. It’s something I don’t do much anymore. I retired a few years ago, so I work part-time. This year, I’ve only worked five days out of the whole year. I’m a director for CBS News in New York City and work at the CBS Broadcast Center. It’s a big place. Takes up an entire city block.
I’ve worked there for more than 40 years. These days, I work less and less. Increasingly, I’ve noticed how things have changed at CBS. Not for the better. A few months back I came into work and noticed this billboard in the lobby.
Yeah, we have to point out the obvious these days. But yesterday I noticed this as I was leaving the men’s room.
THE MEN’S ROOM. I went to a few other men’s rooms. They all had deadbolts on the inside, too.
This is the world we live in these days.
A while back I read a story about how a mother went into their bathroom. Her pre-school daughter was standing on the toilet seat. It was so cute she took a picture of it.
Then she asked her daughter why she was doing that. You know what she said? She said she was practicing because that is what you are supposed to do at school when the shooters come.
This is the world we live in today.
Every time there is a mass murder in this country, stocks in gun companies go through the roof. Why? Gun nuts are afraid that we are going to pass gun legislation and they have to collect all the guns they can while they last. This, despite the fact that our government has NEVER EVER passed any kind of realistic gun control laws. Nor is there any indication they ever will.
This is the world we live in today.
CBS has a reputation for overreacting to things. Especially terrorist types of things. After the attack on Charlie Hedbo in Paris, they put electronic locks on every door in the Broadcast Center. Except the bathrooms. For any other room, you needed a coded key card. Even to get into your own office — or anywhere else, for that matter.
This is the world we live in today.
At this point, I have to confess that I’m a little disappointed in myself with this particular post. I usually try to see the humor in the insanity of the world we live in today. But I’m not coming up with anything this time.
Instead I’ll tell you a story. A true story. It happened a long time ago. It’s sort of related. It turns out that CBS has a long history of being worried about terrorism. In the late 70’s I was an engineer for WCBS-FM in New York.
WCBS-FM was famous for creating the “Oldies” format. They are still using it to this day.
That was a great job. I spent 8 hours or more every day playing rock and roll music. The job didn’t suck.
Our General Manager, as it turned out, was ahead of his time. He had a bit of an obsession with terrorists. Back then, there weren’t many terrorist attacks. There was the Munich attack at the 1972 Olympics, but really nothing in America. None the less, our GM was convinced terrorists might attack WCBS-FM. Why?
Nobody knew. Too much Chuck Berry? Not enough Chuck Berry? Didn’t they know they could just call the request line?
Anyway, he instructed our Chief Engineer, a great guy named Torchy, to install a big button on the central equipment rack in our control room.
If you pushed the button, it would shut down the transmitter located at the top of the Empire State Building.Apparently, the scenario he envisioned was as the terrorists broke into the control room and shot me in the back, I would reach up with my blood-stained hand. Using my last breath on Earth, I would push the button and deny the terrorists any more Chuck Berry.
Torchy explained to the GM how this was illegal. Back then, you needed what was called an FCC First Class License to operate a transmitter. Not everybody in the control room had one. The GM ordered Torchy to do it anyway. So, he did. There it was. A big button right in the middle of the control room.
Now, you have to understand: I was an engineer. My job was — literally — pushing buttons. I wanted to push that button. I really, really wanted to push the button. But, of course, I couldn’t. If I pushed it, I’d take a multi-million-dollar radio station off the air. This would have been frowned upon. So, for more than two years I lived with the button. That God-Damned, untouched button.
Then it happened.
It was Sunday night around 3 AM. I was working the overnight shift. Probably obvious, in that I was there at 3 AM. The private tech phone rang. Which was unusual because I was the only technical person there. Hell, I was the only person there. I answered it. A voice at the other end said he was the engineer on duty over at the transmitter at the Empire State Building.
He said, “Do you guys have a kill button for the transmitter over there?” I said yes, we do. He said, “press it.” I said I couldn’t do that. It would take us off the air.
He then said “Oh for Christ’s sake. Just push the fucking button.” And there it was. I was gonna get to push the button! The forbidden button. The only one I never pushed. I relished the moment. I reached up, and I pushed the button!
The engineer said “Yeah, I didn’t think the thing actually worked.” And then, he hung up the phone.
I was in shock. I went behind the rack and looked at the back of thebutton. There were no wires hooked up to it! The next day I told Torchy about what happened. He said “I told the GM it was illegal. He wanted a button, so I gave him a button. I knew nobody would ever test it.”
True story. Really happened.
Those were the days. No deadbolts on bathroom doors. Little girls didn’t stand on toilet seats. Big buttons which didn’t do anything solved our problems.