A long time ago, Pontius Pilate famously asked, "What is truth?"

More recently, Elon Musk questioned, "What is the value of truth?"

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, December 19, 2022 at 5:31 am | Edit
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Maybe you smoked some pot when you were young. Or know that your parents did. I did not, except second-hand and co-mingled with tobacco smoke, back in the days when our college movie theater—along with nearly everywhere else—put no restrictions on polluting the indoor air. I saw no reason to foul my lungs and risk fouling my brain. Maybe you think you survived your experiences unscathed. Maybe you did—though you will never know.

So maybe you think marijuana is harmless, remembering the fuss and scare-mongering from your youth. Maybe you are thrilled that in many places marijuana has "gone legit." But this is not your father's weed. Perhaps you thought that legalizing marijuana would take it out of the hands of the drug dealers, that it would be purer and safer.

Apparently not.

Truly, the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil. It seems we have not supplanted the illegal drug dealers and dishonest suppliers, but rather supplemented them with equally greedy mega-businesses, and replaced the lone marijuana plant or two growing in someone's apartment with chemical factories producing ultra-high-potency products that can maim and kill.

Here are two links to one family's story, the tragedy that alerted me to the problem.

Mila's Story, on Heather Heying's Natural Selections substack, and What Happened to Our Daughter; the latter is from the family's Slowdown Farmstead substack and tells the same story slightly differently, with more details about the drug problem (and lots of references). Be sure to notice how quickly Mila's mind disintegrated after her first encounter with the drug.

It wasn't just the marijuana that killed Mila. Suicide is always a complex event, with more than one contributing factor.

When you read Mila's story, you'll see that there's no shortage of guilty parties: the school drug counsellor to whom Mila went for help against the addiction that she knew was destroying her, whose response was merely to advise her to "moderate her use"; the First Nations reservation that supplied the dangerous drug "pens" to children, against which the Canadian government was apparently powerless; and most of all, the Canadian governments (federal and provincial) whose draconian COVID-19 restrictions left vulnerable high school students with literally nothing to do and no place to go. The Devil had a field day with those idle hands and minds.

We are just beginning to recognize what is certain eventually to be acknowledged as the truth: that the COVID closures, lockdowns, and travel restrictions, along with masking, social distancing, and vaccine mandates, have destroyed more individuals, families, and relationships than the COVID virus ever did.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, December 8, 2022 at 4:56 pm | Edit
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I found this meme on a Viva Frei video. (The link is to give credit; I'm not asking anyone to watch the video, which is an hour and 40 minutes long.)

I'm leaving it as it is for now, for those who enjoy puzzles. What's going on here? (I'll explain later.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 29, 2022 at 11:44 am | Edit
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I'll admit I'm astonished that Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s shocking book, The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health has not generated more interest, especially since at the time I first wrote about it, the Kindle version was only $3. It's $15 now, and the hardcover close to $20, but I'd say it's still worth it at that price, especially if you can't get it from your local library. Or you can do what I do: put it on a watch list at eReaderIQ; for a brief time yesterday it was only 99 cents. At that price I would have bought copies for a few friends—if I hadn't been away from home for the whole day. I find the eReaderIQ service worth supporting, by the way: it really helps with playing Amazon's little games.

I understand that people might be skeptical, whether, as in my case, from distrust of the Kennedys in general, or from a reluctance to question authority—especially when questioning authority can get you shoved into a "right-wing extremist conspiracy theorist" bucket. If you have the courage to look around outside of your comfort zone, however, I predict you will find this book worth your while.

Here are two short (about 5 minute) videos from my current favorite Left Coast liberal academic scientists, whose genuinely liberal credentials I don't doubt, albeit they also sometimes find themselves flung into the above-mentioned bucket when their search for truth leads them in certain directions. Both videos contain Bret's and Heather's evaluations of the book, and more importantly, their evaluation of its documentation. The videos do well at double speed if you want to save time. Spoiler alert: Bret and Heather are even more concerned than I am, with better reason and authority.

This one is just over five and a half minutes long.

And this one four minutes.

As I said in my review of the book, if what Kennedy claims, with such extensive documentation, is true, why are Dr. Fauci and a whole lot of other people not in jail? If it's not true, why isn't Fauci suing Kennedy for libel? I expected outrage on all sides, refutation, corroboration, investigation.

I did not expect ... silence. That silence on the part of investigative journalists, academic researchers, and medical professionals almost scares me more than the book.

I understand that people's lives are too busy for them to want to tackle a long, dense non-fiction book, so I don't urge you lightly to read The Real Anthony Fauci. But for your own health, and especially for your children, if you can make time to read this book, or listen to it in audiobook format, it has my strongest recommendation. The story is as riveting as it is frightening, and I was surprised at how quickly I finished it. I do recommend the Kindle version; the primary reason I also bought the hardcover was the knowledge that Amazon can make a Kindle book "disappear" at any moment, even from my physical e-reader. Most of the time I'm more comfortable with physical books, but in this case I actually find the digital version friendlier to the eyes. Don't be put off by the fact that the e-book format appears to double the page count (934 vs. 480).

Those who know me know that I do not like horror stories. Even during my Girl Scout days I was not a fan of ghost stories around the campfire. The Real Anthony Fauci is a horror story par excellence, because most of the others are about situations we are very unlikely to experience, and this one has already happened to us—we just didn't recognize it. Nonetheless, I am, as Bret suggests, hopeful: Information is power, and this book has answered questions that have troubled me for decades.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, November 21, 2022 at 11:28 am | Edit
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What do you think explains the current political climate?

  1. Half the country is made up of f-ing idiots.
  2. The elections were stolen.
  3. People are helpless sheep, easily manipulated by dangerous, dark forces.
  4. All of the above.

Sorry, all of those answers are unacceptable, no matter how tempting they might be.

Even if they were 100% true, none of them would be an answer we can work with.

Suppose you are right in your take on the issues. Half the country see them differently. You're not really so egotistical as to believe them all to be less intelligent, less educated, and less wise than you, let alone less kind, generous, thoughtful, and loving. There are reasons these people believe the way they do. It's important to understand them.

Suppose any given election was won by nefarious means, cheating, gaming the system, or error? Some of them have been, guaranteed. And it's nothing new; what's novel is that the effects are so nationally important. Our COVID response ushered in radical changes to our voting system, and faith in its integrity is understandably very low. It will take everyone on board to restore that; we must get beyond the elementary school playground level of "I lost, therefore you cheated" and "I won, therefore the elections were fair."

Are we being manipulated by outside forces? By conspiracies, cabals, demons, extraterrestrial aliens, or self-important elites with unprecedented wealth and power? I'm inclined to think the chances are well above zero. But mostly I think we are just too busy, too tired, and too stressed to be able to resist the currents that push us.

I believe our only hope is to think small. We can't fix the world. But we can be good neighbors.

Get to know people whose opinions you despise. Work with them. Eat with them. Find something in common that you like to do and do it together. Serve together for a common cause.

In being good neighbors, we might learn how to take the next step.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 18, 2022 at 8:03 pm | Edit
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This is a general announcement to the Political World:

I have voted.

This means there is no point at all in calling me on the phone (mobile or home), texting me, sending me e-mails, waving signs in my face, or wasting our trees and your money, trying to influence my vote. It's done.  It can't be changed.

The only thing I can do at this point is to continue to pray for the best outcome of the election.

So stop already.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, November 3, 2022 at 4:34 pm | Edit
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There are a number of people—I certainly am one of them—who strenuously object to being unwilling medical guinea pigs in the matter of the COVID-19 vaccines.

I'm all for medical research, worked as part of a medical research team, and have been a willing human guinea pig in a few experiments myself. This work, when done carefully, knowledgeably, and ethically, is an essential part of scientific and medical advancement. But the ethically part is essential, and I don't think it's ethical to "enroll" masses of people in experiments for which there cannot possibly be adequate knowledge of the risks, and thus they cannot possibly give "informed consent." Plus, when there is no documented, adequate control group, not to mention that the experimenters have done their best to make sure there cannot be an adequate control group—well, then you've lost good science as well as ethics.

You're thinking I'm talking about the COVID-19 vaccines here, and I am—but that's not all. I don't know how many times we've been unknowingly subjected to these unethical experiments, but I do know that it has happened at least two other times in my lifetime.

Aspirin used to be the standard, go-to medication for children, even babies, with fevers or discomfort. I vividly remember the doctor recommending alternating doses of aspirin and acetaminophen when my infant daughter had a stubborn high fever. This was in the early 1980's, and for most people it worked just great. However, there appeared to be a possible correlation between aspirin use in children and young teens, in combination with a viral illness (often chicken pox), and a rare but sometimes fatal condition called Reye Syndrome. We had many doctors among our coworkers, and had no reason not to believe what they told us at the time: The decision to tell doctors and parents to avoid giving aspirin to children was a deliberate, national experiment: They thought aspirin caused Reye's Syndrome in children, but they couldn't prove it, so they hoped that if aspirin use went down dramatically, and so did the incidence of Reye, their point would be made. The disorder did, indeed, retreat significantly, whether through causation or merely correlation is still unknown. The cynic in me insists on pointing out that, whatever the stated reasons for this massive non-laboratory experiment, and whatever good might or might not come of it, one clear result was that a cheap, readily-available, and highly effective drug was massively replaced by one still under patent. The patent for acetaminophen (Tylenol) did not expire until 2007, and Tylenol was still reeling from the 1982 poisoned-Tylenol-capsules scare. Practically overnight, and with timing highly favorable to the pharmaceutical industry, Tylenol became the drug of choice for a large segment of the population.

The next example I remember of such a huge, non-controlled experiment happened in the early 1990's, and was not a drug but a parenting practice: the insistence by the medical profession that all babies never be allowed to sleep on their stomachs. Sleep position recommendations have flip-flopped several times over the years. The professionals never think it safe to leave that decision up to the babies and their parents, they just keep changing what it is that is "the only safe way for a baby to sleep." Personally, I think "whatever helps the baby sleep best" is almost always the right choice. (But I am not a doctor, nor any other medical professional, so make your own choices and don't sue me.)

Early in the 1990's the thought was that back-sleeping might reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Indeed, there was a decline after the "Back to Sleep" push went into effect, though once again the experiment was unscientific with no significant control group. Certainly there were still parents who put their babies to sleep on their stomachs, but if there was any widespread study of them I never heard of it, and indeed the data was necessarily corrupted because the pressure was so great not to do so that few parents talked openly about it. And doctors, even if they were well aware of the advantages of stomach-sleeping, could not risk mentioning them to their patients. I remember vividly the one young mother who, months later, confessed to the pediatrician that her son had always slept on his stomach. The doctor laughed, saying, "Of course I knew that! Look at how advanced he is, and look at the perfect shape of his head!" But stomach-sleeping is still very much a "don't ask, don't tell" situation.

These massive, uncontrolled, and to my mind unethical experiments on the human population are justified in the minds of many because, after all, they "did their job." Deaths from Reye Syndrome, SIDS, and COVID-19 have all fallen, so who cares how we got there?

Well, I care—and so should anyone who believes in the scientific method, the Hippocratic Oath, and open, honest, and ethical research.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 29, 2022 at 6:09 am | Edit
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The idea that those who criticize Fauci are inherently on the right is insane and really makes the left look like a bunch of baboons, frankly, and you know, we're not—not all of us.

I think both left and right can smile at that. It is one of my favorite quotes in this excerpt from DarkHorse Podcast #143, though it's just one small part. The larger topic is the capture of our most venerable institutions, such as journalism, academia, and science, by ... Something. Bret and Heather don't have a name for it, but find it has become too obvious to be ignored. They leave out government, but maybe that goes without saying.  (20 minutes)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 11, 2022 at 8:36 am | Edit
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Since COVID isn't so much of a problem in New York City anymore, Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Health & Hospitals CEO Dr. Mitchell Katz have come up with a new way to terrorize those who must be admitted to a Big Apple hospital. At the moment, it's just three facilities: H+H/Lincoln, Metropolitan, and Woodhull Hospitals, but it's feared the contagion may spread.

If you're unfortunate enough to be admitted to one of those hospitals, keep an eye on your dinner plate.

Culturally diverse plant-based meals are now the primary dinner options for inpatients.

Don't panic, NYC residents and visitors. I'm here to reassure you that this problem is not actually new, and there are ways around it.

Back in the mid-1980's, when we moved to Florida, we were warned that our local hospital was run by Seventh-Day Adventists, and consequently meat was never on the menu. The solution, we were told, was to be sure that your doctor provided you with a prescription for meat. I have no idea if making it a prescription increased the cost of meals fifty-fold, or if any insurance plans covered it. But we were assured that the hospital honored the doctors' orders, and the kitchen staff even did a better-than-usual job of preparing the special meals.

Apparently the same work-around will be honored in New York.

 Non-plant-based options continue to be available and are offered in accordance with a patient’s prescribed diet.

Choose your doctor well.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 1, 2022 at 6:38 pm | Edit
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A liberal Democrat Constitutional lawyer speaks on why everyone should be concerned about illegal behavior on the part of the FBI, and why he's involved in a lawsuit against "his own" party's actions. The video is long (26 minutes), and more relevant at the beginning than the end. You can get a good summary at about minutes 13-17. Or just this:

The Constitution is not only for people you agree with; it's primarily designed to protect people you disagree with, people whose views are out of fashion, people who everybody wants to see prosecuted.... I'm going to especially, especially, focus on people who are having their Constitutional rights violated by my political party, by my people who I voted for ... that's the special obligation that every citizen has to hold to account those who are on your side.

Also, look at about minutes 5-10, covering search warrants, and the dangers of having our whole lives on our cell phones. One day, out of the blue, we may find government officials seizing our phones, and our computers, and our external drives, ruining our businesses and even our lives in ways that cannot be redressed, even if we are eventually vindicated in court. So it behooves us to be grateful for those lawyers and politicians who seek to enforce strict Constitutional limits on when and how that is allowed—even against the most heinous people. (Cue the A Man for All Seasons devil and the law speech.)

Also, who knew (about 8:30-9:15) that it's safer—from the point of view of privacy—to store medications in a medicine cabinet rather than in a drawer?

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, September 26, 2022 at 8:21 am | Edit
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Hubris: Exaggerated pride or self-confidence

The original of this article by George Friedman, entitled "John F. Kennedy and the Origin of Wars Without End," is at Geopolitical Futures and is currently behind a pay wall. I was able to read it because Porter is a subscriber. A few quotes won't do it justice (though you'll get them anyway), but I was able to find the same article here at PressReader.com, so you can check it out for yourself, at least for now.

Friedman's basic idea is that John F. Kennedy sealed the fate of future American military action in his inaugural address:

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

This view of America as the the world's police force, making the world safe for democracy, was not new, of course. It was President Woodrow Wilson who led us into World War I with that phrase about democracy. In World War II, President Roosevelt considered the United States as the world's savior, but "carefully calculated the cost." Eisenhower calculated the risks and benefits and wisely refused to send American troops to Indochina.

Kennedy wrote a blank check from his country. ... In assuming the burden, he assumed the cost of war if needed, and he did not ask the question of whether our hardships would bring success or failure, and at such a price that the nation might not be able to bear it militarily, financially or morally.

There were three wars following Kennedy’s stated principles that lasted for many years and were unsuccessful: Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. But they were only the long and agonizing cases. The United States used military force in Iran during the hostage crisis but failed to achieve its desired outcome. The United States invaded Grenada. It succeeded, I suppose. The United States sent troops to Beirut and withdrew when hundreds of Marines were killed by explosives. The United States succeeded in Desert Storm. It conducted an extended bombing campaign in defense of Kosovo. And it has sent troops into Libya, Syria, Chad and northern Africa.

I am no pacifist, but the tempo of operations imposed on the U.S. military and the widely varying environments it went into, frequently with a mission that was opaque, made little sense. In World War II, there was a clear moral and geopolitical reason for combat, a clear if flexible strategy that would withstand reversals. Most important, the military was configured for this war. Training a force takes time, and a force cannot be trained for “whatever comes up.” Having been trained to face the Soviets in Germany, the U.S. military was then unreasonably asked to fight limited wars in the jungle, the desert and so forth. In other words, it was asked to go anywhere to fight any foe and protect any friend. So that’s what it did.

If you go into combat without an appropriate force, and with a sense of invincibility, you may not lose, but you won’t win. And if you go in unprepared for the terrain, weather and horrors of the battlefield, the failures will mount, the politicians will deny any failures, the machine will pump more soldiers into the war, and the public will rightly determine that the war was a horrible failure. And then the soldiers who broke their hearts trying to win will feel betrayed by their nation.

Kennedy’s doctrine, then, should be expunged from our minds. That doctrine leads to endless war and continual defeat. War is not an action designed to do good. It is the use of overwhelming force against an opponent that threatens your nation’s fundamental interest. War is not an act of charity for deserving friends, not even an act of vengeance for a vicious enemy.

A fundamental foundation for peace is an unsentimental understanding of geopolitics, the discipline that distinguishes sentiment from necessity, capability from boast, and the enemy who matters from the one who doesn’t. ... Kennedy assumed that the U.S. could afford to fight any enemy anywhere. It can’t. And Washington better be certain that the next war it fights can be won, and that the next enemy is actually an enemy.

Note that this article was written in September 2021, almost six months before the United States became involved in yet another, very costly, war to make the world safe for democracy.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, September 23, 2022 at 7:54 am | Edit
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It's time for another in my series of YouTube channel discoveries. I resent the amount of time it takes to get information out of the video/podcast format, but it's so popular these days that it has become a major source for interesting and helpful information. So I'm unapologetically recommending another video channel: Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying's DarkHorse Podcast. That link is to their podcast website, but I usually watch it via their two YouTube channels: Full Podcasts, and Clips. Full podcasts are long. Very long. They would be great on a car journey, not so much in everyday life, unless you have a lot of work to do that doesn't require much thinking. I can fix dinner while listening to a podcast, but I sure can't write a blog post. Clips, on the other hand, are much shorter (maybe five to twenty minutes). Focussing on clips means I miss good insights, but giving in to Fear of Missing Out is a pathway to madness.

I've mentioned Bret and Heather before, in my Independence Hall Speech post, so it's about time I gave them their due. I must also give due credit to the good friend who introduced me to DarkHorse, as well as to Viva Frei, and remained patient with me even though it was at least a year later before I finally got around to checking them out.  Thank you, wise friend.  (There's but an infinitesimal chance he'll actually see that, but still, credit where credit is due.)

By way of introduction, the following quotes are from their DarkHorse Podcast website:

In weekly livestreams of the DarkHorse podcast, Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying explore a wide range of topics, all investigated with an evolutionary lens. From the evolution of consciousness to the evolution of disease, from cultural critique to the virtues of spending time outside, we have open-ended conversations that reveal not just how to think scientifically, but how to disagree with respect and love.

We are scientists who hope to bring scientific thinking, and its insights, to everyone. Too often, the trappings of science are used to exclude those without credentials, degrees, or authority. But science belongs to us all, and its tools should be shared as widely as possible. DarkHorse is a place where scientific concepts, and a scientific way of thinking, are made accessible, without diminishing their power.

We are politically liberal, former college professors, and evolutionary biologists. Among our audience are conservatives, people without college educations, and religious folk. We treat everyone with respect, and do not look down on those with whom we disagree.

Needless to say, I often disagree with them—sometimes strongly—but more often I find their insights at least reasonable. And it is always interesting to listen in on their conversations. I take great pleasure in hearing smart people interact with each other—assuming they're polite, which Bret and Heather always are. It's also particularly satisfying in the rare circumstances when I find I know something that these highly intelligent people, with much greater knowledge than I, don't. I love living in Florida, at least in its current free-state situation, but I've never gotten over the loss of the intellectual stimulation that came with having the University of Rochester within walking distance.

I find DarkHorse so diverse and absorbing that it's really hard to limit myself to three examples here. But you can always check it out for yourself. Here are a couple of hints: Bret and Heather's speech is measured enough that I can hear it at 1.5x speed, and Porter can manage 2x. I prefer not to speed it up, but it is a time saver. An ever greater help with the full podcasts is that, once the livestream is over and the video is set on YouTube, you can hover your mouse over places along the progress bar and see where a particular subject begins and ends. I sure wish more long videos would provide that information.

Warning: Objectionable language occurs, though rarely, in the DarkHorse Podcasts.

Multi-age education (11 minutes)

 

When science is not science (9 minutes) 

 

Wikipedia redefines recession (19 minutes)

 

I'll close with some advice from their website, which makes me smile every time I read it.

Be good to the ones you love,
Eat good food, and
Get outside.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 at 5:32 am | Edit
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It takes a lot to get me to watch a 2+ hour movie I'm pretty sure I will not like. One thing I can say about watching V for Vendetta—it was almost as negative an experience as I expected it to be. I put myself through the agony because Brett and Heather, among others, have made the connection between the movie and President Biden's recent Independence Hall speech.

I think we need to take very seriously the fact that not only is there the evidence that these people have fascist inclinations ... but they are now actively playing with the symbolism ... that blood-red background ... the ranting demagogue. What does it allude to? It alludes to V for Vendetta, which is a movie adored by the Left.

I thought it might be worth checking out.

Was it worth two hours of my time? I'm not sure. I'll say flatly: It was an awful movie. As a film, I see nothing to commend it. On the other hand, to know that it was made in 2005 and see the parallels to recent years (including the deadly virus and government—pharmaceutical business—media collusion) does make it somewhat interesting. As dystopias go, however, I think Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was also an unpleasant experience, is more important.

What I find most confusing, however, is why the president's speech writers and stage designers would want his audience to make a connection between the speech and the movie. V for Vendetta can only be "adored by the Left" if you see the demagoge and the tyrannical government as being of the Right—those President Biden insists on calling "MAGA Republicans." Coming to the movie only after having seen the speech, however, I had an entirely different view.

The invocation of V for Vendetta is not accidental, of that I am sure. It's manipulative, certainly. It may also be brilliant. Whether one sees the speech as hateful or hopeful, diabolical or innocent, President Biden's supporters, reminded of the movie, will of course see themselves in the heroic role, and—this is the brilliant part—so will his stated enemies. This is a movie that might have been designed to foment anger, hatred, insurrection, chaos, and above all self-righteousness.

Qui bono? Who profits from anger and fear? Who benefits from chaos and division irrespective of party, partisanship, values, and goals? Do you ever feel that someone is pulling our strings and doesn't care a bit whether it's Black Lives Matter or the Ku Klux Klan, as long as hatred and violence reign? What are the odds that this is unrelated to the design of the setting and text of Biden's speech?

Qui bono?

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 14, 2022 at 4:30 pm | Edit
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I couldn't bring myself to watch the speech that President Biden recently gave at my home-town Philadelphia's Independence Hall. That's not a partisan reaction; I generally try to avoid such events, and treated President Trump the same way. I prefer to judge presidents by their actions; their talk always makes me queasy.

But I heard so much about this one that I had to check it out for myself. Instead of watching, I read a transcript, which allowed me to leave behind the freaky red lights and odd Marine guard, leaving only the content to interfere with my blood pressure. Since many of my readers will not have seen the speech, and I don't want to have to deal with copyrighted photos, I'll attempt a brief description of the backdrop that sent me flying to the transcript.

The Independence Hall building was decorated in an ostensibly patriotic scheme: the middle red, the top white, and the sides blue. Unfortunately, the word that came to my mind was not patriotic, but garish. Angry, even. This was the long-distance view, which some have called more benign; the close-up shot, when President Biden was speaking, with his two Marine guards behind and to the sides, was a wrathful and intimidating red. If you question how a lighting scheme can look angry, you can find plenty of images online and judge for yourself.

I thought I'd walked into a dystopian movie scene. All I could think of was, "What are they trying to convey to the audience?" Every public encounter these days is theater, and I don't believe it was accidental. But I certainly don't understand it, especially for a speech that tried to invoke light and angels and the "willingness to see each other not as enemies but as fellow Americans." The only angel brought to my mind by the lighting was a fallen one. As one of my friends commented, "To what constituency was the eerie, hellish setting supposed to appeal?"

The speech, even extracted from the setting, left me with the same question.

As I said, there seemed to be an attempt to invoke something positive, with phrases like these: sacred ground; our better angels; all created equal; a beacon to the world; prosperous, free, and just; a nation of hope and unity and optimism; courage; free and fair elections; come together; unite behind the single purpose of defending our democracy; unlimited future; we can see the light; America’s economy is faster, stronger than any other advanced nation in the world; there is not a single thing America cannot do; I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s future.

Despite the attempt at portraying goodness and light, however, the impression left in my mind by the speech was very, very dark. The angry red color perfectly presaged the color of the speech, which even when the president was speaking of positive things used images of fire and burning.

"I’m an American President," Mr. Biden said, "not the President of red America or blue America, but of all America." That sounded hopeful. So did "The soul of America is defined by the sacred proposition that all are created equal in the image of God. That all are entitled to be treated with decency, dignity, and respect."

Unless you happen to be a "MAGA Republican."

Who are MAGA Republicans the president referred to so often in his speech? Despite his efforts to fit his opponents into some dark, backwoods corner of "extremism," the president has flung the tent of disfavor so wide as to cover half the country, including not a few Democrats like myself. I have never been a fan of former President Trump, but the further I went into this speech, the more I knew that neither he nor his supporters deserved the words President Biden tarred them with: equality and democracy are under assault; threatens the very foundations of our republic; extreme ideology; dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans; a threat to this country; do not respect the Constitution; do not believe in the rule of law; working ... to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies; promote authoritarian leaders; fan the flames of political violence; a threat to our personal rights; a “clear and present danger”; embrace anger; thrive on chaos; live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies; will put their own pursuit of power above all else; inflammatory; dangerous; look at America and see carnage and darkness and despair; spread fear and lies; white supremacists; calling for mass violence and rioting in the streets; believe that for them to succeed, everyone else has to fail.

Having found the scapegoats, he urges the faithful to join him in stopping the evildoers: it is within our power, it’s in our hands—yours and mine—to stop the assault on American democracy; we have to defend it, protect it, stand up for it—each and every one of us; there are dangers around us we cannot allow to prevail; I will not stand by and watch—I will not—the will of the American people be overturned; I will defend our democracy with every fiber of my being, and I’m asking every American to join me.

A call to arms? An incitement to violence? Despite words against violence (we do not encourage violence; we each have to reject political violence), it's hard to see the speech as benign. From the inflammatory lighting to the verbiage, the speech felt to me like an intentional threat. The president used the word "violence" ten times, "threat" nine times, and "MAGA" thirteen. In the midst of all this, his attempts at evoking light were, like the lighting behind him, garish rather than illuminating.

Whatever the intent was, whoever the constituency it was expected to appeal to, my own reaction was disgust at the hateful and harmful lies my president was willing to tell about his political opponents. And so of course I had to take action, to do something socially and politically significant.

I designed a t-shirt.

It was inspired by a comment of Porter's, and by stories of non-Jews who chose to don their own yellow stars when the Nazis began separating and demonizing their Jewish neighbors. I can't call myself a MAGA Republican, so....

The best commentary I've heard about the speech is by Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying, about whom I'll have more to say in a subsequent post. Suffice it to say now merely that they are evolutionary biologists who tend to relate everything in life to their field, classical liberal academics whose observations often run afoul of modern academic dogma. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I disagree—but I always enjoy listening in on their discussions. Perhaps I like what they say here because they agree with me on some key points. :) I discovered their commentary only after I'd drawn my own conclusions.

The clip below is the one relevant here, from 1:06:41 to 1:24:05. If I've done it right, that's the part you'll see if you click on the embedded video.

I'll leave you with my favorite part of President Biden's speech, which may stand out as the single most truthful statement any president ever made:

Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal.

How do we return to normal—or to something better? My own suggestion—possibly more helpful than donning a t-shirt—is that we need to get to know each other better on the ground level. It's easy to hate groups of strangers, not so easy to hate the person of polar-opposite political views who sings next to you in choir. There's also little as eye-opening as travel—what a tragedy it is that pandemic and inflation have crushed that impulse for so many. I can think of no better antidote to this speech than the experience of a good friend of ours, as liberal a Democrat as President Biden could wish for, who was in need of major assistance far from home, and was aided by the kindest and most helpful people—in a hotbed of "MAGA Republicans." I wouldn't wish her troubles on anyone, but if we all had more boots-on-the-ground experiences with our diverse fellow Americans, we'd find ourselves much less willing to demonize them.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 6:39 am | Edit
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Sometimes, you just have to make a meme.  It's so much more fun than getting angry about the relentless and ubiquitous anti-meat propaganda these days.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, September 8, 2022 at 9:03 pm | Edit
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