How Dare He!

Andrew McCabe was once a member of the White House Theatrical Troupe–so called because at any given moment many top officials work in an “acting” capacity. McCabe was acting Director of the FBI (and, I might add, never nominated for an Oscar, an Emmy, or even a Tony).

Unfortunately, McCabe neglected to learn the rules. According to the rules, 96.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot. In most cases they are unnecessary because “people tell me” or “I’ve heard” is sufficient to substantiate a statement.  The rules further state that facts are, fluid, dynamic and always changing. And most importantly, anything with which you disagree is “fake news.”

McCabe, instead, looked to, of all places, the United States Constitution for guidance. In this case, he questioned whether the 25th Amendment should be considered. Using the Constitution is really hitting below the belt. It’s a good thing he got fired before he could invoke any other sections or amendments to the Constitution.

Who does he think he is, anyway–James Madison?

 

Which Way Did They Go?

There was a time, or maybe I just imagined it, when the conservative party had clear goals and objectives:

  1. People should take personal responsibility for their actions.
  2. Try not to spend more than you earn, and to the degree possible, avoid going into debt.
  3. Values are important.

Where did the people who believe that go? They were either replaced by, or became the ones who now espouse different values today:

  1. “It’s not my fault! I can’t remember! My attorney did it!”
  2. “If there’s a huge debt, but I’m gone, it doesn’t matter.”
  3. Value = Personal Benefit

Well, it’s just as well, those pesky idealists are a nuisance. However, Reagan is probably spinning like a gyroscope in his grave.

I Hate You, Pick Me!

Today, pride and self-promotion are the primary driving forces; in other words, today’s philosophy is, “It’s all about me.” This cannot lead to good things for the nation in either the short term or the long term.

As the White House uses and discards people, there is no lack of others eager to step into those positions. These same people, last week, last month, or last year, were condemning the very administration to which they now bow and scrape for a piece of the action.

Power is that seductive; these glory seekers contradict their own statements without apology. John Adams told us that “Facts are stubborn things . . . ,” but many people are far more stubborn than facts.

The revolving door in Washington, DC will continue to spin. Ambitious people will step in—regardless of qualification or commitment—willing to do anything (and I mean ANYTHING) to wrap themselves in prestige, even if it’s only for a short while.

 

*“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

John Adams, ‘Argument in Defense of the Soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials,’
December 1770, US diplomat & politician (1735 – 1826)

Vote, Dammit, Vote!

Every person who chooses to dedicate some portion–even a few years–of their life to serve in the United States military takes an oath. An oath was once was considered the most binding of promises, but is not taken very seriously, anymore. It’s kind of like adultery–no big deal.

The oath they take includes this phrase, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Americans do not swear an oath to a person or an organization, they swear to uphold the very idea that has allowed this great American experiment to exist for 231 years. The Declaration of Independence declared our intent, but it was the Constitution that made us who we are. Why is this important? Why an oath?

Those who take the oath have sworn to defend the Constitution in its entirety–every single part. This includes freedom of speech and the press–not just for those with whom they agree, but especially for those whose views they not only disagree with, but may even absolutely abhor.

Military members know that “to protect and defend” may mean that they are called upon to give the “last full measure,” as Abraham Lincoln called it–giving one’s life, if necessary.

I’ve never seen anything that claims that this oath expires at the end of one’s enlistment, retirement from the military, etc. Therefore, my belief is that it does not expire; there is no “use by date.”

It’s interesting that the President’s oath is more casual, he or she says, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

For what it’s worth I respect those who put their money where their mouth is their life on the line for their beliefs.

 

Truth

In the movie, Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford–as Indiana Jones–tells his class that archaeology is the search for fact. He recommends the philosophy class for those who are seeking truth.

John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Truth, like beauty, is subject to interpretation; facts are not.

For example, when it comes to religious beliefs, people rely on faith to find their truth. Their god or gods cannot be proven, yet many view their beliefs as the one true religion. This is no criticism of truth or faith–after all, it would be a fairly pathetic god who could be factually proven to exist or not exist. A leap of faith, which is probably unique to human beings (at least on this planet), is often appropriate and, indeed, justified. My God expects me to walk by faith, not by light.

Facts, on the other hand, must meet more stringent criteria. Ideally, they can be tested and proven with the results subject to verification by others. That’s how science works. Facts are used to this, which is why many scientific and mathematical “facts” are properly referred to as theorems (or, for the popular press, theories). Many  are challenged regularly, perhaps in every high school chemistry class around the world, year after year.

Today, truth, facts, news, fake news, tweets, social media, etc. should all be held suspect instead of being accepted as absolute, irrevocably proven. They must be challenged. There are many things presented as “truth” that are not facts, that are not substantiated by evidence, and cannot be proven.

Maybe you belive I am stuck on this particular subject, which is likely so. However, it was I who carried a lit lamp during the day, searching for an honest man. In fact, I was not searching for an honest person, I was trying to emphasize this very point.

 

When the Press Became the Media

In Colonial times, and the early days of the United States of America, there was nothing that even resembled true journalism. Port cities would glean what news they could from passengers and crew of arriving ships and print it. There was no independent verification, no one would even think of having two sources. The Port City Herald (or whatever) would print the gossip that had come ashore. The next city over, once they got a copy of the Herald would reprint the story; like a stack of dominoes, the story would fall into place in other newspapers. It might be weeks or months-old when the Gazette first printed it, and it might not age well as it trickled through the countryside. No matter–it was something to read.

Most newspapers were primarily political in nature, printing articles that promoted the owners’ views shamelessly. Since everybody knew this was the norm, nobody got upset and few took the news at face value. Ben Franklin, after learning the business from his brother, bought the Pennsylvania Gazette, for which he wrote many articles under various pseudonyms; after all, there was more credibility in multiple authors sharing a viewpoint than in a single person’s opinion. However, it’s probable that most who read the Pennsylvania Gazette knew that it leaned away from King George III and toward independency.

Things changed, probably because of the invention of the telegraph, so that current events could be printed in newspapers. There was still–and always will be–bias, but for many people a single newspaper was not their only source of information. People were interested in the outcome of battles during the Civil War, but then, as now the newspapers promoting the Union reported the same story quite differently than those favoring the Confederacy.

Eventually, there was at least a modicum of journalistic ethos, if for no other reason than newspapers did not want to be sued or be defenseless against opposing political forces. Perhaps the late twentieth century is a good example, if for no other reason than the reporting on the Watergate break in.

Today, newspapers are being killed by social media. It is difficult to compete with the 24 hour news cycle on the internet in which anyone with a smartphone (which is pretty much anyone over the age of three) can record an incident, present it from his or her own perspective and post it to social media without any vetting, editing, or oversight and without identifying the source of the author. Comments in response are unconstrained as well. There’s no way (or interest) in checking sources, determining facts, or balancing biases.

When Twitter becomes the communication channel of choice for the President of the United States, you can see what I mean.

Fear

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

For much of my life I have viewed this as an admonition to not be afraid–that we can and should resist fear.

Fear is normal and triggers a number of physiological and psychological changes, which is good. Fear compels us to leave a burning building or to choose between fight or flight when faced with a threat. Some fears are totally and logically justified. How we deal with fear is what defines us. Heroes–and I’ve met a few–are just as afraid as everyone else, but they decide to act on what is right. I can tell you, there are far more heroes among us than we admit because most of them do not see themselves as heroes and want no attention. They not only know that what they did was right, but they believe that anyone else who found themselves in the same position would have acted as they did.

Sadly that is not always true. Let’s go back to Roosevelt’s quote. FDR’s advice actually goes deep–probably deeper than Roosevelt himself realized. Fear is such a powerful force that the unscrupulous can use it to bend others to their will. It’s difficult to get people to organize and work together for something ; it’s easy to whip a mob into a frenzy to work against something.

– The Spanish Inquisition
– The Salem witch hunts
– Kristallnacht
– McCarthyism

Today, too many people are either using fear or succumbing to fear, and it bodes ill for all of us. People are afraid of those who don’t match their skin color. People are afraid of those who speak a different language. People are afraid of those who practice a particular religion. We fear those who are not at least 75 percent like us, so in “self-defense” we use deadly force based on a persons appearance rather than their actions. Throughout Europe and the United States, there are many who want to reject anyone from another country who wants to enter their country.

On the other hand, is it a crime to flee your home when it is being bombed? When narcotics gangs rule the streets? When your spouse and children could be senselessly slaughtered.

Unfortunately, there are some who pounce on the opportunity to use these situations to their advantage; to further their own agendas; to gain more power; to bend people to their will. They’re easy to spot–their the ones who stoke the fear in people, but many people prefer not to see, but to be blind.

If more of us were brave, we’d still feel fears–justified, unjustified, real, or imagined–and still make decisions based on what is right rather than out of fear. If more of us had a solid moral compass, we could do this. Unfortunately, it’s much easier to not be brave and not worry about what is truly right or wrong but to choose what’s best for ourselves at a particular moment.

If you don’t study history, you may not know the whole story, but there once was a brilliant American general who based his decisions on what was best for him in the moment. You may not know the entire story of how he took Richmond–but you probably know the name–General Benedict Arnold. The troops he led were British, fighting against the Americans.