I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
April 21, 2017 - 12:52 p.m.
I have a new nemesis! He is not nearly as cool as Perry the Platypus or Doctor Doofenshmirtz. I need better nemeses. What's Professor Moriarty doing? One of my nemeses insulted the other. If the enemy of my enemy is my friend does that mean that they are both my friends? Nah.
Yesterday I made a shopping expedition to Aldi. For the first time in ages I bought a ton of meat, Nathan's hot dogs, hamburgers, boneless ribs, chicken wings, and chicken thighs. I will finally get to eat something different every day. I was wrong about the Nathan's hot dogs. I said they were $3.49 for a package that costs $3.99 and Stop & Shop. They are only $2.89; that's why I shop at Aldi. I don't have to check to see what's on sale. It's all inexpensive. You might question the wisdom of buying a ton of meat, perhaps closer to 8 lbs and 5 lbs of potatoes and other things, when you have a 14-minute walk and two buses to get home; I know I did. I put the potatoes in my back pack. All the meat and most of the heavy stuff in a shoulder shopping bag, and the rest in another shopping bag that I carried. I'd do it again. Maybe next time I'll try it with a shopping cart. I think that Jane has one.
I made a cheeseburger for dinner. I can't remember the last time I did that. I slightly overcooked it, it was closer to medium-rare than rare, but still delicious. I spiced it up and used ketchup.
I had a revelation the other day while talking to Jane. Every Christmas Santa Claus travels the entire world in one night and goes into people's homes. Every Pesach Elijah travels the entire world entering people's houses. He does not break and enter like Mr. Claus; you have to open the door to him. Santa works one day a year, Elijah works two days. They have very similar jobs. Here's the revelation; they are the same person! Jane then realized that he is also the Easter Bunny. I'm not sure about that as Easter and Pesach can overlap so he couldn't do both. Perhaps I'm not giving the gentleman enough credit. Deni came up with the Elijah/Easter Bunny theory independently. If two such intelligent people came up with it I think I should not dismiss it. I see some of you are skeptical. Answer me this; have you ever seen Santa Claus and Elijah in the same room?
Enough of the deep philosophy. It's time for my second attempt to tackle something that's been in my ideas bin for ages. I once wrote this all out then deleted it. today I'm going to try again with the help of Neil deGrasse Tyson.
You wanted that right? You can't skip over it. I need Neil to soften you up for me. I think about this every day. I get frustrated by it every day. I decide to write about it today as it's come up so often the last few days, there's the video, a post my friend made on Facebook, "Just read a comment that said to trust intuition over medical research. #headdesk" and hearing someone discuss powerlines causing cancers and my friends #headdesk on my telling him about it. It's good to know that I'm not the only one feeling the frustration. Isaac Asimov was bothered by it decades ago, "Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'"
Tyson was wrong when he said that this is a new thing but he is right that it's getting worse. Neil and I were Sputnik babies, we grew up in the wake the shock America had when the Soviets launched Sputnik. This created a national movement to improve in the sciences. We overhauled the teaching of math and science. Made all sorts of grants and scholarships. Scientific achievement was honored and to many patriotic. That faded in time. The Vietnam War and Watergate eroded people's trust in institutions. The rise of first talk radio, and then the Internet exacerbated this. Truth became politicized.
The sheer volume of information we have access to, creates problems. There's a source of error well known to science. If there are 20 experiments performed to see if one thing affects another each with a 95% confidence interval, the odds are that one of them will show a false positive. That's what the 95% means, that the odds are only 5%, 1⁄20, that it will happen by chance. One study means nothing. If enough studies were done to determine if playing ping pong causes or prevent cancer, you find studies that said it causes cancer and others that said it prevented it. With everything on the internet you'll find each of those studies. You'll also find totally fake studies. You'll find pages exaggerating the results. You'll find whatever you look for. If you don't trust experts, people who have studied and understand the subject you end up just believing what you want.
You can't order truth ala carte, only accepting what you want to accept. He made a point of not making a point of it, but notice that when Tyson gave three examples of anti-science positions he chose two favored by the right, evolution and climate change, and one by the left, GMOs. I would love to see a survey to find out how many people don't accept the scientific consensus on one of the three. As the majority aren't very sure about evolution, I wouldn't be surprised if the total was over 75%. I bet a majority of My Gentle Readers disagree with one of them.
It goes beyond science. There is biased and fake news. News is reported by people so there will be biases. Mistakes will be made, but some sources make an effort to be balanced and protect their reputations for veracity. For others, the bias is a feature not a bug. People go to sources like Redstate and Breidbart because they want to hear things that feed their world view. They exist on the left too. My friend posted an article from the Greenville Gazette. Sure, it sounds like a newspaper but have you ever heard of it? It was on something that didn't take place in Greenville. I was suspicious and looked it up. I found out that it isn't a newspaper but a left-wing news compiler that puts a slant on things. In this case they changed the facts, they lied. I tracked down the real story which was worth reporting. I told my friend and as he's a mensch he changed the link to one that tells the true story. I was excited as I got to report my first fake news story to Facebook. On a very good note I'm not finding much fake news on my timeline of late. Things might be getting better. They might not be. One person's observations over a limited period of time are less convincing than a single study.
For a while I was seeing a spate of the worst variation of this yet, people not quoting fake news but making their own fake news. With no evidence and no sources people were giving their guesses as fact. Did you know that when we attacked the airfield in Syria with cruise missiles it was all a conspiracy between Trump, Putin, and Assad? If it were, "I wouldn't be shocked if it were a conspiracy" I could live with it. But no, it was simply an affirmative statement. They were sure of how they felt and that's what matters. But it's not. If we all go by how we feel how do we resolve disagreements? Tyson puts it so well. First you get the facts and then you discuss how to deal with them. That's where the politics enters.
OK enough ranting. It's very late now. I don't know what I'm having for breakfast but I'm having something. It's almost 1 PM but it's still breakfast as I'm breaking my fast.
If You Disagree With This Read It - April 27, 2017
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