March 10, 2018 · 10:25 am
In his satirical poem ‘Don Juan,’ Lord Byron may have coined the phrase ‘truth is stranger than fiction,’ but sometimes it is the strangeness of the phony that makes fiction more powerful. Recently the Atlantic noted, “By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.”
The ‘study’ to which Atlantic refers was published in Science [http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6380/1146]. The abstract of that study informs us: “We investigated the differential diffusion of all of the verified true and false news stories distributed on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. The data comprise ~126,000 stories tweeted by ~3 million people more than 4.5 million times. We classified news as true or false using information from six independent fact-checking organizations that exhibited 95 to 98% agreement on the classifications. Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information. We found that false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.”
So, the more far-fetched fiction are the tweeted utterances from POTUS45, the more likely they are to penetrate to the substrata of our commonwealth. That fact/truth does not penetrate so exhaustively is obvious to the casual observer as well as to the scientific enquirer. Why else could the Liar-in-Chief maintain such a hold on so many in the substrata?
February 7, 2018 · 10:54 am
Back in July 2017 I opined here that we need a ‘Newer Deal,’ one which took seriously the earlier New Deal of FDR and faced our deteriorating national infrastructure. In that brief blog, I asked ‘Is anyone listening?’ Apparently someone is trying to appear to listen. In the recent State of the Union Address the speaker touted a ‘huge’ infrastructure plan.
There are only a couple of problems with his plan. The spans will still be out for bridging the gap of improvements and the roads to any real progress will still be impassable. Trump does not want to spend Federal Funds on highways, bridges, electrical grid or communication networks. He wants to fund investors who will support private projects for toll-ways, toll-bridges and other profit-making ventures. And since he has no idea from where such funds will come, his plan will increase the deficit by billions.
This may well be a way to run a business, i.e., borrow money with little intention to re-pay in full and instead look to bankruptcy or some other scheme, encourage investors, and market it all with deceptive ads splashed with glitter, but it is no way to run a government. That is precisely the problem with our current administration, the chief executive knows almost nothing about governing and those he surrounds himself with are businessmen.
Now, Putin knows how to govern. If the Russian President wanted to make massive improvements in Russia’s infrastructure, he’d simply demand that his oligarchs see to the rubles to fund the project. But in our country, Government does not control our oligarchs, rather our oligarchs control the Government. So, in the State of the Union Address, the speaker gives voice to the preferences of the oligarchs.
The necessity for a ‘Newer Deal’ still cries out for attention. It is not rocket science, but it is the necessity for more Federal taxes to fund improvements; it is not a demand for lining the pockets of private investors.
Once again, is anyone listening?
December 24, 2017 · 4:26 pm
Way back when I was a pastor and my brother and his family would visit us just after Christmas, my sister-in-law fussed and fumed that my post-Christmas homily always focused on a somewhat ugly part of the Silent Night narrative. It was my habit/discipline to preach from one of the texts assigned for that Sunday in the Common Lectionary. I could not help it if Matthew’s Gospel told the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents. Musing from ‘Bethlehem to Bedlam,’ I’d always have to wonder aloud whether Jesus grew up with almost no friends his age to play with. Oh, dear, why do liberal preachers have to expose parts of the story so as to take some of the edge off the cozy feelings?
Well, I haven’t preached for a very long time and I’ve got the itch to resonate in a very dissonant tone from “Silver Bells” on this Christmas Eve. It is time to remember that it was very dark that first Christmas and still is.
It is no slaughter but all of us are threatened. It is a worse plague than HIV-Aids; it is more of a threat than Ebola. It is trumpacardia, so named as it strikes the very heart of our Democracy.
The outbreak has been identified as recently as mid-October by our 44th President, George W. Bush, when he spoke openly of a “nationalism distorted into Nativism.” Senator John McCain, himself at the mercy of a life-threatening cancer, joined in the identification of this disease when he spoke of “half-baked spurious nationalism cooked up by people [he didn’t mention specific names] who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.” Republican Senator Bob Corker aligned himself with this diagnostic team by pointing out an “utterly untruthful President.” Corker’s fellow Republican Senator Jeff Flake signed off on the frightening diagnosis when he similarly characterized a “flagrant disregard for truth and decency.”
That trumpacardia is dangerously contagious is evident in its infection of military stalwart Gen. John Kelly, daughter of pious evangelicalism Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and even straight-laced convert from Roman Catholicism to Protestant fundamentalism Vice President Pence, who regularly calls his wife ‘mother.’ All three indicate by speech patterns as well as cognitive dysfunction, that their brain cells have been altered, as though by genetic manipulation, to patterns not imagined except by George Orwell’s prescient 1984. Apparently nearly half the population of the USA has been exposed to and is showing clinical signs of this deadly outbreak.
Do not panic! There is a remedy! Researchers with capability like that of the World Health Organization, but not limited by the recently truncated vocabulary of the Federal Center for Disease Control, have traced the source of the outbreak to a Republican nomination and subsequent election of a real estate entrepreneur become TV personality, Donald John Trump.
Surgical removal of the primary source of the outbreak, followed by vaccination, researchers assure us, will over time cure the infection and lead to the restored health of our People and Land. Do not let suspicious naysayers deter you from receiving the inoculation. There are no health-related injuries from receiving this vaccination; there is no mercury used in its manufacture and it is not a live virus. It is though a remarkable preventative. This vaccination is without cost and is self-administered. It is most effective when received in daily doses from MSNBC or NPR. A milder inoculation can result from a similar regimen from CNN.
The warning label on the inoculation cautions that recurrence of the disease can result from subsequent exposure to FoxNews and anything controlled by Sinclair Broadcasting. Both these sources are being sold as truly effective but are in fact, placebos at best, but more likely counterfeit or fake drugs.
Filed under candidate, ethics, impeachment, politics, progressive, removal from office, Republican, Resistance, swindle, Trump, voters
December 14, 2017 · 10:08 am
My most memorable Christmas happened in the early 1950s, when I was 11 or 12. At the top of my list to ‘Santa’ was a Gilbert Microscope Set, with which I dreamed of discovering the wonders of the wee world cavorting below the range of my normal sight. Supposing this coveted treasure was in the largest package “Santa” had left under the tree, I saved it for last. I tried my best to hide my overwhelming disappointment when the microscope was not in the box, instead pajamas, slippers and a robe.
After we had devoted ourselves to the final rite of Christmas morning, burning the gift-wrap in the fireplace, I turned to open the can opener, screw-driver and broad blade of my new Boy Scout pocket knife, my second choice under the tree. As I laid it aside to enjoy a piece of candy from the sock hung on the mantel, my Dad, reaching behind the couch, uttered a surprised, “What’s this? Seems Santa has left something here!” It was, of course, the microscope set. My tears told Mom and Dad that I had, for however brief a time, been confronted with a lesson about expectations and disappointments.
By Spring the next year, the green, hinged case with the microscope, its glass slides and chemical reagents, was on a shelf in my room where it sat neglected until it was thrown/stored away probably about the time I graduated from High School.
This year an unexpected and new favorite present has arrived from the majority voters of Alabama. They have given us all the gift of hope that a republic being shredded by religious tribalism can begin to be restored by responsible citizens. They did not hide their gift from us though. Instead our own cynicism had kept their promise out of our sight. Our cynicism had insisted that a State that had not sent a Democrat to the US Senate for twenty-five years could not possibly put that nation’s best interest ahead of narrow party and pious loyalties. Their present shames our cynicism.
Now we must all make certain that we do not fiddle away our time with multi-bladed amusements but put to use the hope they have given us. We simply must not shelve their gift after a few weeks of marveling at it and let their bright hope drift into obscure memory. They have shown us that we can and must resist the further degradation of our values of justice and equality for all of us.
May 12, 2017 · 6:41 pm
Impeachment is not a possibility for the Republican leadership. Their only option to rid us all of this President Trump is to invoke the 25th Amendment, and declare the sitting President of the United States medically incapable of fulfilling his sworn Constitutional responsibilities. If you do not understand why this President must be removed from office, you simply have not been paying any attention to the news articles of the past few days regarding FBI director Comey, the President’s ‘tweets’ and the implications therefrom.
The Republicans cannot follow through with impeachment without indicting themselves and the history of their Party (two Republican Presidents impeached in our generation?). Their only alternative to themselves taking refuge, as did Press Secretary Spicer, in the Rose Garden woody ornamental plantings is to move carefully, but with deliberation, to remove the President on the grounds of his medical incompetency. No one but someone totally ignorant of the criteria for megalomania and narcissistic personality disorder can for a moment doubt that our President is seriously mentally ill.
It is time for the Vice President, the Cabinet and the House of Representatives to shoulder their Constitutional responsibility to begin action to remove this Donald J. Trump from office following the path outlined in the 25th Amendment.
The very future of the Republican Party and the United States of America as a democratic republic depends upon this immediate action. All the Democrats have to do is to pressure Constitutional remedies, and to , as Tom Brokaw recently insisted on a news program, pile brick upon brick, until the same wall of evidence that brought the impeachment of Nixon will have built itself into an irresistible barrier.
Trump has laid out all the bricks for building this wall at no expense. We need only to stack them patiently and #45 will be history!
November 21, 2016 · 9:47 am
Don’t worry, ‘we have danced this dance before,’ contends Zachary Karabel, writer for the Washington Post in an article that drew my attention in the Sunday, November 20, 2016 Columbus [Ohio] Dispatch. Karabel denigrates the liberal hue and cry that this election portends the ‘end of our republic.’ (The Columbus Dispatch, Section H, Sunday, November 20, 2016)
He reminds us that the same liberal wail was heard following the elections of Nixon and Reagan. “And yet here we are, decades later, still enamored with the republic they were sure was doomed.” “If the past is at all prologue, we will find that the sum of all our fears amounts to far less than many of us now believe.”
Yes, we are still a republic after Nixon and Reagan. After Nixon, we are a republic profoundly changed by the ‘Southern Strategy’ of the Richard Nixon-Kevin Phillips campaign that reinforced the political South in its indelible racially biased stain. Apparently the normalization of racism is OK? I do not find such racism a norm by which I want my republic measured.
Yes, we are still a republic following Ronald Reagan’s role, playing a statesman and leader of the Free World. It was not however, an Oscar-worthy performance, and it left our republic a lesser institution. Are we a stronger republic for Reagan, as President-elect, actively undermining the foreign policy of his predecessor? Are we a better republic for Reagan’s having cooperated/approved supplying arms to Contras in the Nicaraguan war? Well, that is the normalization of our republic left in Reagan’s wake.
The Reagan Legacy is a republic with a norm that applauds/approves the invasion and destruction of a country and culture based upon lies and fabrications regarding weapons of mass destruction. That is not the normal that assures me that I have less to fear from a diminished republic.
Karabe says that Trump has ‘tapped into a dark anger to an exceptional degree,’ but doubts this will lead down the “ugly road’ of earlier times and other countries. As an assurance that such is a mere possibility but not a probability, Karabe ends on the cheery note that ‘we have danced this dance before.”
A danse macabre is hardly a reassuring image. It is a rite to drive home our fragile mortality, as individuals and republics.
November 12, 2016 · 4:50 pm
The eve of the first day it started and has continued. Protest gatherings and marches across the country proclaim ‘Not My President.’ This is not simply sour grapes, it is some of the other half of the electorate giving voice to our deep resentment and revulsion that such a moral/ethical degenerate could become the President of the United States.
Yes, Bill Clinton was a moral/ethical embarrassment, but Bill’s sexual escapades behind closed doors (and beneath desks) were mere adolescent sexual games compared to the bigotry, sexism, racism and xenophobia of D. J. Trump.
Progress in Feminism LGBT freedoms and race relations have been set back to the early 60s by Trump’s election, which is precisely what his supporters elected him to do. To pass off the motives of his supporters as the anguish of neglected and disillusioned white working-class males is to miss the point. Yes, there are a very large number of such working class deprived, but deprivation is not the reason for the weight of his win. It is depravity not deprivation, as was co-joined in the lyric of ‘West Side Story.’ A vast number of D. J. Trump supporters were in no way deprived. They are among the morally depraved who cannot abide the newer society evolving in which the liberation of women, Latinos, Blacks and anyone who differs from their notions of real traditional Americans.
I began to see this more clearly when an acquaintance complained that she, a college educated, white, female Trump supporter, was sick and tired of hearing the newscasters attribute Trump’s victory to less-educated white males. She seems obviously proud to be in the company of the depraved majority of Trump supporters. Heavens! We wouldn’t want her pigeon-holed with those deprived masses! She is much above that class!
Hillary was ‘right on’ with her description , with some modification. Some Trump supporters weren’t deplorable, no, they were among the great number of working class folk whose needs have been ignored. But those who do not live under that sign in the Thousand-Acre Wood cannot escape having their address labelled ‘Deplorable and Depraved.’
With news reports that ‘White Power’ signs appearing in Junior High Schools and people with brown skins being pulled from cars and being assaulted, pundits are beginning to speak of Trump’s election encouraging such morally retrograde behavior.
For both of President Obama’s terms, we have had to stand by and watch a recalcitrant Republican Party attempt, most often successfully, thwart the President’s every effort. Now we are being asked by appeasers to recognize that yesterday is gone, to forgive and forget, to smile in a conciliatory mood and carry on as though the wound inflicted to our body politic is but a soon-healed knee-scrape.
The wound inflicted has been no accidental tumble. It has been inflicted by the deliberate actions of a very powerful bully. To let him and his ilk spread such attitudes and behavior without protest and intervention is moral cowardice.
February 7, 2016 · 2:50 pm
Well, it is looking like we will have two choices in left-of-center candidates.
Hillary Clinton invites us to trust the status quo, to settle into stasis.
Bernie Sanders incites us to revolution, to radical change.
Hillary suggests we settle for working in partnership with The System for what is probable.
Bernie foments an uprising against a rigged system for what is possible.
Hillary affirms we participate in practical incremental reform.
Bernie asserts we join a rebellion against the patient progress that has left us in this mess .
‘Delegate equivalents,’ whatever-the-hell ever those are, give Hillary the lead out of Iowa but actual votes in New Hampshire will probably give the lead to Bernie.
So, it appears that we can choose a future that is yet to unfold or a future that has already happened. Back to the future is not an option for me.
Of course, to even think of the other Party is to long for a nostalgic past that looks like Reaganomics, sounds like Jim Crow and resembles the ‘Mission Accomplished’ of ‘W,’ ‘shock and awe’ and all.
I find it almost incomprehensible to imagine that anyone would consider anything that even resembles what we’ve had in the Bush-Obama continuum.
OK, Hillary has served well as Senator and as Secretary of State, and I do really want a woman as our Chief Executive, but the former First Lady is not the female who portends any change in our national identity. I’ll take an ageing, male, liberal Jew who sounds like he dozed off when FDR was President and awakened only recently to discover that nothing has changed in half a century.