Tuesday, July 10, 2018

'No doubt'

Thomas Hobbes
     "Scientia potentia est," Thomas Hobbes wrote in Leviathan. "Knowledge itself is power." 
     Which is why this particular era in our nation's checkered history can be thought of as The Great Abdication of American Power, since we are in full retreat from what we know to be true, racing willy-nilly to embrace what our leaders wish were true.
     Accusations of the president colluding with Russia? A "witch hunt." Again and again, drilled into us. Before a charge is leveled or evidence shown. 
    Is the president a traitor? Half the country doesn't know and doesn't care and never will.
    The respected lawman conducting the investigation? Hopelessly compromised. The media? Fake. Except for news flattering Trump. That always seems on-the-level. 
    Does this contradiction bother millions of Americans? No.
    We act like what we don't know won't hurt us. When it can and does and will. Consider climate change. 
     The weather ratchets warmer, day by day, year by year, gradually, on average. It's hotter than it's ever been. That warm weather drives storms, fires. We see it all around us. 
     The nations of the world gathered, agreed to do something with the Paris climate agreement. It wasn't a lot, but it was a start.
    Then Trump was elected. And our country crawled before industry, in general, and the coal industry in particular, naming a paid lobbyist, Scott Pruitt, as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, a government body he used to regularly sue.
     Being a shill of the coal industry—a paid lobbyist who continued to hoover up favors as EPA head—did not end Scott Pruitt's career with the federal government last Thursday, when the president accepted his resignation.
     Trump knew what they were getting. Pruitt was chosen because he was a shill. Pruitt was Oklahoma attorney general and a hireling for the coal industry. Since the complexity of that phrase might elude some readers, I should elaborate: the fossil fuel industry paid him hundred of thousands of dollars to encourage the use of coal.
     Of course Pruitt kept that gravy train rolling even after Trump made him administrator of the EPA, while he also vigorously began trying to dismantle the environmental regulations put in place to keep the country from being polluted and the world from burning up, and urged Trump to pull out of the Paris accords, where the nations of the world had banded together trying to reverse climate change—the process by which carbon dioxide, created by burning coal and oil, collects in the atmosphere and causes the climate to become warmer . 
     There is no question this is happening. Unless you sell the stuff causing it to happen, or are in the employ of people selling the stuff causing this to happen. Knowing the truth, we could have done something, were trying to do something. Almost did something.

     Now we're just blinding ourselves to the problem, in order to maximum our short term gain. It's like burning your home's floorboards in the furnace on a cold day.
     As scary as this is, even scarier to see how it is perceived.
     I used to think it was just Fox News. But looking at the reaction to Pruitt's resignation, I happened across a Wall Street Journal editorial that begins: 
   Chalk one up for the swamp. The permanent progressive state finally ran Scott Pruitt out of the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, and the tragedy is that Mr. Pruitt gave his enemies so much ammunition.
     President Trump announced on Twitter Thursday afternoon that he had accepted Mr. Pruitt’s resignation. Mr. Pruitt cited the “unrelenting attacks on me personally” and his family that have “taken a sizable toll on us all.” He’s right about unrelenting. Dozens of reporters have examined every furl of Mr. Pruitt’s forehead since he started the job.
     Dozens! Oh my! As if scrutiny is a bad thing. The editorial mentions a few of Pruitt's more minor abuses and then lets loose with this startling sentence: "Mr. Pruitt says most of this was false or exaggerated, and no doubt much of it was."
     "No doubt." Could you summarize the requirement to be admirer of the current administration better in two words? You cannot doubt what he says, no matter how obviously incorrect, or contradictory, or petty. Easier to imagine a Deep State bogeyman—I suppose we should be grateful it isn't the Jews, yet, because when you're imagining a shadowy presence to blame for your own faults, it usually falls to them. Maybe that's coming.
    So Pruitt had to go, not for corruption, not for tearing down regulations but—as the New York Times reported—because he was coveting Jeff Sessions' job and Trump got tired of reading about his daily excesses and petty grifts.
    The Journal faults Pruitt, not for viewing his office as a personal dole, but for appearing to do so. He isn't responsible for what he did—that's the Deep State, the "collaborationist press" and the "left's environmental agenda." Not because he was terrible, but because it looked terrible.
     These people have "no doubt" their pieties are true, because it is in the financial interest of a few, who put out a lie, that their supporters slavishly believe, contrary to their interests. I wish I had the knowledge why, but I don't. Talk about powerless. 


  1. Seems that “1984” is more instruction manual now, than entertainment fiction.

  2. "Chalk one up for the swamp"?

    Pruitt was a denizen of that swamp. He just got a little too conspicuous with his greed. (Strong-arming subordinates into putting his personal expenses on their credit cards, then stiffing them?) Even Laura Ingraham, as odious a pundit as ever cashed a Fox News paycheck, tweeted "Pruitt is the swamp. Drain it."

    I don't read the WSJ these days (it's behind a paywall and can stay there), but from what I understand, they're reacting with horror to Trump's ongoing trade-war tantrums. Give them credit--at least their priorities are consistent.

  3. The dumbing down of America. I know I’ve seen that phrase before, and how true it is. We are losing our brain power, our reasoning, our ability to doubt what’s set before us. It’s like a marathon of stupidity, with no finish line in sight.

    I hate to say this, but I think it’s actually a good thing the U.S. is losing power and prestige in the world right now. Otherwise, our feckless leader would be even more unbearable and dangerous. Better for us that he is mocked and treated like the outcast he is.

  4. Orwell's "1984" has never felt like entertainment to me, but more like a cautionary tale..."This is what can happen if we are not careful"...and even back in junior high, when I first read it, I got the chills.

    Now, more than a half-century later, it reads like one of the old "Dick-and-Jane" primers. The back cover of the Fifties paperback edition called it "a prophecy of the future...the not-so-impossible world that many of us may live to see."

    And so we have. The three monster superpowers, endless warfare, vast bureaucracies, constant surveillance, elimination of privacy, government lying and espionage, the new encouragement of old hatreds, suspicions, and fears. Even those flat, shiny, ubiquitous television screens that spy on their viewers.

    Much of all that actually began long before the year 1984, and even more followed. Today, as we approach 2020, it's reality. War is peace, slavery is freedom, evil is good, and ignorance is strength. Truth is a witch-hunt, and climate change is a hoax, even as temperature records are being broken somewhere almost daily. The liars can figure all they like, but the figures don't lie. The frogs are sitting happily and mindlessly in the pot, even as the water begins to boil.

  5. O.K., but expecting anything else from the WSJ is a bit like being surprised that it's hot in July.


  6. I think the answer to "why" is that human beings are tribalistic by nature. Most aren't capable of thinking for themselves, so they congregate with other like-minded people. It's herd mentality. Taken to the extreme, it's cultist. It's safe to say that Trump aspires to be a cult-leader.

  7. Neal Boortz radio show about 8 years ago. One news story about record snow in Buffalo or somewhere elicits scoffers about global warning. Same show, different news story about record heat and wildfires in Australia, complete indifference. Right wing radio pushing this denial agenda, Clinton Derangement Syndrome, feminize fears and the whole conservative program is an unrelenting attack on truth. Pay for adhering to dogma and punishment for any deviation has left us with a political party that cannot even utter the name of the opposition lest people see through the lies. The WSJ is in cahoots with Fox news while the President denigrates the free and honest press BECAUSE they tell truth to power. That not enough people are hearing it means you have to amp up the volume. Will any Republican senator summon the courage to oppose Cheetolini? If not the only solution long term, if Congress can voted blue will be increasing the number of Supremes to 11. The constitution specifies no amount of justices.


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