Posts Tagged ‘truth’

Statement by the Honorable Brett Kavanaugh

September 25, 2018

Members of the Senate, and fellow citizens:

Telling the truth

Two women — Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, and Deborah Ramirez — have described episodes of improper sexual behavior, by me, as a teenager. I wish that I could continue my denial about these things. But, searching my heart and soul, I no longer can.

These things did happen, they were wrong, and I profoundly regret them. To say otherwise now would compound the offense — compound it by lying, and compound the injury I committed against these women by falsely calling them liars; indeed, further, by subjecting them to the kind of disgraceful partisan vilification we have already seen. Instead of that, I wish to extend to Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez my heartfelt, though much belated, apologies.

I could say that my past misdeeds in question occurred in an extreme state of inebriation. That is true, but doesn’t excuse the behavior. Getting so drunk was itself irresponsible and wrong. I could also say that such behavior was condoned, indeed encouraged, by the “boys will be boys” frat culture in which I was immersed at the time. That is also true, and also not exculpatory. That culture was rotten; my participation inexcusable.

I come before you now as a reformed, repentant sinner. The long-ago episodes at issue have weighed upon my soul ever since. I have tried to atone for them by living the rest of my life — more than a third of a century — in the opposite way. So that when I stand before my God, for judgement, those three decades of what I hope has been mature right conduct will outweigh the wrongs I so carelessly committed as a foolish, callow youth. And, senators, I put myself before you for the same judgement. Hopeful that you will see me as the man I have been for thirty years; not the boy I was so long ago.

Finally, in the same spirit of honest truthfulness, I wish to add this. I have said that I consider Roe v. Wade settled law. That is true, but not the whole truth. Of course the Supreme Court can change settled law. I believe Roe v. Wade was a wrong decision, and if presented with a case posing that issue, I would vote to reverse it.

(Note to readers: the above is satire.)

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QAnon and the Republican war on reality

August 5, 2018

QAnon” is the handle of an online person or group claiming access to all kinds of secret information (“Q” refers to a high security clearance) about “deep state” conspiracies against Trump; with Trump actually being the great mastermind behind everything. QAnonism is spreading like wildfire among his Republican fans, especially at his rallies (where big “Q” signs are proliferating).

Included in the deranged QAnon catechism: Kim Jong-Un is actually a CIA puppet; the Democratic National Committee hired Salvadoran Gang MS-13 to murder its staffer Seth Rich; the Mueller probe is actually a counter-coup by Trump himself to expose Democratic wrongdoing; Obama, Hillary, and George Soros are child traffickers, also plotting a coup; that Trump’s enemies like John McCain wear ankle bracelets so he can track them; that J.P. Morgan sank the Titanic; that the Rothschild family heads a satanic cult. That QAnon explains the whole universe and will usher in a Christian “great awakening.”

The clues to all this are labeled “breadcrumbs.” When asked, QAnoners are fuzzy about how the dots actually connect and just say follow the breadcrumbs. But they’re certain it’s all true.

Striking too is the crazed obsession to pin fantastical misdeeds on Hillary — admittedly no paragon of virtue — and Obama, who actually was one, guilty only of officeholding-while-black — while blind to unquestioned facts showing Trump as the filthiest turd in U.S. political history.

In June a guy was arrested on terrorism charges after driving an armored vehicle, wielding an AR-15, and blocking traffic for two hours at Hoover Dam, claiming to be on a QAnon mission demanding release of an FBI report on Hillary (that had actually already been released). Previously another guy shot up a pizza parlor flagged by QAnon for having a Hillary-run pedophile ring headquartered in its basement. (Allegedly.)

Loopy radio conspiracy monger Alex Jones earlier promoted QAnonism, but now it’s too far out even for him. Even for Alex Jones. So now, within the Republican universe, Alex Jones is something of a moderate.

Meantime, at his recent Pennsylvania rally, Trump loudly called Russian election meddling a “hoax,” even while the rest of his government held a top-level meeting sounding the alarm about Russian election meddling. He also said “Russia is very unhappy that Trump won, that I can tell you.” While Putin, standing beside him just weeks earlier in Helsinki, openly said he’d wanted Trump to win.

So Trump lies outrageously to a huge crowd, and they cheer madly. (Literally.) Those waiting for his base to turn against him for something got their final answer in Helsinki where he sold us out to Russia. And 79% of Republicans (in an Axios poll) approved his Helsinki performance.

“Great awakening?” More like a great conking out.

My previous review of a book about conspiracy theories is worth re-reading (click here). It explains the deep evolutionary and psychological reasons why conspiracy theories (like QAnonism) find a ready audience. And we all want to believe what we’d like to be true. Yet most people retain a grip on reality. Except Republicans.

That’s not just a cheap shot but making a serious point. Having been a Republican myself till last year, I am still struggling to understand why most Republicans have totally drunk this Kool-Aid. I keep returning to the point that most of them believe in a supernatural god, Heaven, Hell, and the Bible. Does sustaining such fantasy beliefs compromise the brain’s ability to grasp reality — priming it to accept all the constant massive Trump lies?

Most religious people are able to compartmentalize — keeping their faith delusions in a separate mental folder, while thinking rationally and normally in other spheres. Even Republicans seemed to do this, until Trump came along. I could see through him from the start, as a very bad character in every possible way. I watched with horror as most other Republicans, en masse, dove over the cliff like lemmings. Where were their critical faculties?

This would be sad for them if Republicans were on some island of their own, and the rest of us could move on. But with 40% of our electorate embedded in this meshugas, it infects everything.

America has built up a tremendous reservoir of assets over two centuries. Strong institutions, rule of law, a culture that promotes dynamism, and a wonderful population full of good energetic people. And again, despite religious faith, empiricism was a crucially prevailing ethos. Empiricism means knowledge grounded in reality. Without that, we’re cast adrift. But now America’s leader actively, intentionally, assiduously works to destroy the line between reality and falsehood, and the credibility of real information sources. With too many following him down that road to perdition.

I have on my wall an enlargement of a onetime U.S. postage stamp that proclaimed “America’s light fueled by truth and reason.”

That light is going out.

Joint Statement by ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and CNN

July 21, 2018

For Release July 21, 2018

We have always taken with utmost seriousness our responsibility to the American people to inform them truthfully, accurately, and objectively. In furtherance of this, we have traditionally maintained a stance of partisan neutrality — even though it has always been deemed appropriate for news media to present analyses, evaluations, and opinions. Editorial endorsements of political candidates have been standard practice for newspapers.

We have ourselves refrained from such editorial expressions until now. But extraordinary times require extraordinary responses.

Our loyalty to our own traditions should not negate our loyalty to our country and to the larger principles it stands for.

Hence we now state here, forthrightly, our editorial opinion: that our country and its principles are today under assault, and disgraced by, President Trump. We will elaborate in future broadcast editorials.

We acknowledge some responsibility on our part for the sad state of affairs. During the 2016 campaign, we thought we were showing what our viewers wanted to see (and, frankly, what would attract viewers). This resulted in one candidate, Donald Trump, receiving a grossly disproportionate share of coverage and what amounted to billions of dollars worth of free advertising. This likely affected the outcome.

We will not repeat this mistake, not only because it was bad journalistic practice, but also to avoid contributing to a bad 2020 election outcome. Based on what we’ve previously said, his re-election would be bad for our country and its ideals.

There are already two major news networks that are highly partisan mouthpieces for this administration: Fox News and Sinclair Broadcast Group. We will not emulate their partisanship on the other side. But what we will do is to now adopt a code of conduct to ensure, at least, avoidance of any complicity with the administration’s propaganda efforts promoting President Trump’s political interests.

This does not mean we won’t cover the President when his actions are legitimately newsworthy. It does mean we will not give him a soap-box for self-aggrandizement and spreading his message and his lies. We will not broadcast interviews with him. We will no longer routinely cover his tweets, rallies, speeches, and statements — except to expose the lies therein. (Which actually should mean ample air time.)

Also, we will no longer participate in the daily White House “news” briefings currently conducted by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. We have made a determination that they are not a legitimate information source. Nor will we give air time to the President’s other spokespersons, defenders, apologists, or propagandists; except, again, to point out lies and other scandalous utterances.

With those parameters, we will continue our mission to keep the American people well informed of all the facts bearing on the state of the world, to enable them to participate as good citizens.

The President says we are biased against him, and calls any factual reporting that doesn’t flatter him “fake news.” No doubt our statement today will be exploited by him in that vein. So be it. We have now made clear that we are indeed opposed to him, because of our loyalty to our country and its values. And, while we have thusly expressed our view, we will never lie or bend the truth in its service. Heaven knows there’s enough damning truth that our faking it is wholly unnecessary.

The independent news media is not “the enemy of the people.” It is the enemy of liars.

[Note: this statement is imaginary]

Telling It Like It Is: My Presidential Campaign Speech

September 12, 2015

Unknown-1My fellow Americans:

I didn’t want to run for president, but alas now I must. Mr. Trump supposedly “tells it like it is.” Unfortunately he – and other candidates – tell it like it isn’t. But I believe Americans can face reality.

This is a great country, but it wasn’t anointed by God to be that always. It requires work and even sacrifice. It’s not “morning in America” now – it’s getting late in the day.

Problem One: we face financial ruin. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were great programs, as long as three or four times as many people were working (and paying taxes) as collecting benefits. Unknown-2But that ratio is inexorably falling as lifespans rise. If nothing is done, these programs will swallow up the entire federal budget, leaving no money for anything else.

As a nation, we’ve actually been spending way more than our income for years, borrowing the difference (much from China). We could do this thanks to historically low interest rates. But at some point the debt’s size will outgrow what the financial markets can tolerate, causing our interest costs to balloon. Then we’re fucked.

Ignoring all this is the Obama administration’s seminal, historic failure.

Like Winston Churchill, I offer nothing but blood, sweat, toil, and tears. However, we remain a very rich people, who can afford to take care of the less fortunate. What we cannot afford is welfare for the better off. Social Security and Medicare will be phased out for higher income people. Taxes will rise too.

imagesSome of that money will go to infrastructure, on which we’re way behind, threatening our status as a world-class country. That spending will create a lot of jobs. I call the program “America Works.”

Another reality is that we cannot insulate ourselves from global economic competition. But free trade benefits more Americans than it hurts. No more stupid whining about “shipping jobs overseas.” If a product or service can be produced better and/or cheaper in India or China, that’s where it will be produced. American businesses that cannot match them will fail and won’t be able to employ anybody.

And did you know our rate of creation of small businesses (responsible for most job growth) is way down? images-1We’ve made it increasingly hard for businesses to operate, what with all the taxation and regulatory hassles. For starters, Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank must be repealed.

A lot of folks, concerned about inequality, think businesses make people poorer, with “profit” a dirty word. That thinking must end. It’s successful, thriving businesses, making money by producing things people want, that make everybody richer. Otherwise nobody has a job.

images-2But job skills that used to assure a good life increasingly don’t cut it in today’s world. The real inequality problem is not the 1% versus the 99%, it’s the well educated versus the less educated. I know, people have been yakking about education forever, and there’s no magic bullet. But a quarter of Americans dropping out of high school cannot be tolerated. A great expansion of school choice would inject a much needed competitive ethos. And we need a rethink on college costs, because subsidizing tuition only enables colleges to raise it.

On all these issues, I will work with both parties, seeking compromise and consensus. We must end the culture of partisan demonizing, and recognize that Americans of all political stripes all sincerely want what’s best for everyone, disagreeing only on how to achieve it. Nobody’s evil (or very few).

Unknown-3Foreign Affairs: no more “leading from behind.” That doesn’t mean rushing into wars. But President Obama got the balance wrong between caution and assertiveness, shredding American credibility and making a world much more disorderly and dangerous. America must take the lead and act resolutely to nip conflicts in the bud. There must be no reprise of Ukraine. And if we decide ISIS must indeed be fought, then Heaven help ISIS.

The UN, as a vehicle for international order, has long been broken, due to bad guy vetoes. I will push to create a new “League of Democratic Societies,” with strict membership criteria (like the EU’s), to assume the role the UN cannot.

One last thing.

On May 14, 1938, my mother stood on the deck of a ship as it passed the Statue of Liberty. She was a refugee from a murderous tyranny. America has always been the go-to place for people seeking better lives; and that’s been one of the key things that has made America great. images-3Because such people, willing to give up everything comfortable and familiar, with the ambition to start life anew, even risking their lives to get here – those are the best people. We need more of them.

Elect me and we’ll keep America great.

An Ideology of Reality

February 22, 2013

I’ve done many blog posts, books and articles, and otherwise engaged in public discourse, upon a wide range of topics. So I ask myself if there’s a unifying idea, a thread connecting it all.

I’ve previously discussed what really matters: and the only possible answer is the feelings of beings capable of feeling. Hence the over-arching goal to advance human flourishing.

imagesBut this verges on banality; most people would embrace some variant of it, and likewise profess to aim at human betterment. Even some of history’s worst villains would have. Where did they go wrong? Fundamental mistakes about reality (including realities of human nature).

It’s not enough just to want good. The road to it runs through truth and reality. Other roads lead to Hell.

And so, there’s the real essence of my ideology: truth and reality.

images-3Of course, we all think we see truth. But it’s not so easy. Too often, people believe things because they want to, because it’s comfortable believing them. Ideology or faith drives perception, to see the world in ways that comport with the belief system. Cynics in particular flatter themselves that they’re seeing through to real reality; but very often this too is just what makes them feel good and isn’t reality at all.

So, mindful of all this, I turn things around. I try to make perception drive ideology. I strive to base my beliefs on what I see, not the reverse. That IS my ideology. (Or do I too flatter myself? At least I’m cognizant of the pitfall.)

My core belief system is to respect and accept truth rather than trying to wish it away. Only by understanding the world’s realities can we ever hope to overcome the constraints they impose on us, and make life truly better. The quest for the good cannot be divorced from the quest for the truth.

images-4Consider the example of our current gun debate. Gun control opponents believe a gun in the home protects you. Reality check: statistics indisputably show it’s many times more likely to hurt or kill you than protect you. Gun fanciers believe differently because, well, they just prefer to. (Or they don’t think the statistics apply to them.) They also believe guns can fend off potential government “tyranny.” And pigs can fly.

I’ve written before how some Lefties idealize the likes of Hugo Chavez. I look at the reality. Some people see vaccination as causing autism, and dangers in GM foods. I look at the reality. Some reject evolution. I see the evidence. Ideology leads some to deny the reality of climate change; others, to cling to a solution that denies reality.

images-1The problem is especially prevalent in economic matters. The whole antipathy toward market economics is grounded in caricatures rather than the reality of how it works, what it actually does, and its results. Not to speak of alternatives. While some advocates of protectionism do act with clear-eyed self-interest, most who go along are blind to the broader harm, indeed the harm to their actual self-interest. Opposition to outsourcing reflects a simplistic zero-sum economic picture totally at odds with the reality. And the French, many Democrats, and even Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman seem to think there’s no limit to how much can be borrowed to pay out ever spiraling “benefits” (the Greeks learned differently). And so forth.

Of course the biggest whoppers people tell themselves are religious. Now, there isn’t great harm in believing inconsequential nonsense like astrology. But when you believe some divine being is running the world and your life, that’s consequential in the highest degree. images-2Likewise belief in Heaven. How can one make proper sense of life, and operate rationally in the world, laboring under such profound reality mistakes? You can’t even get right the basic “mattering” question if you think God is in the answer.

I’ve written about Muslim societies and violence. I did say there’s something besides just religious belief in play. Nevertheless, imagine how Muslims might settle down and behave if all that religious insanity went away. And please don’t tell me religion is the only check on their baser impulses. I know lots of atheists, and nearly all behave quite nicely. As for Muslims, the reality is that conflict and violence aren’t doing them any good; and if they got a better grip on the reality of the world they live in, they would realize this, and act differently.

Gimme that old time reality – it’s good enough for me.