The Comedy of Being: Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger (“Being and Time”) often reads like a parody of philosophy.   The first 35 pages are replete with repetitive (in my opinion) insistences that before you can analyze reality in any sense you must apprehend the being-ness of being there in the radical sense of existential being, which everybody else has failed to do.

I consider the idea that Heidegger may be a massive fraud.  I think it’s a possibility.  He is very, very esteemed in the world of cool philosophy geeks, but it is quite possible that they are entranced by Heidegger’s incomprehensibility being confused for “mystique”, combined with the language that is almost poetically inane.  “The being of being is the beingness of not-being authentically in a non-thematic ontological context that cannot be known.”  Ok.  I made that up– but it’s close.

It is quite possible that he has hit upon something that everybody already knows in a certain valid sense and has taken to describing it as if it is hidden from everyone else and must be revealed to them.  Don’t you see that we are all breathing?!  We’re all sucking air in and out of our lungs!  This has profound implications for all of life.  Read him long enough and you begin to think about your breathing.  Maybe you try breathing differently.  Two exhales for every inhale.  Try breathing through one nostril at a time.  What if I stop breathing?  By golly, he’s right: breathing is incredibly important.  We all need to think about breathing.

He is his own best argument for Wittgenstein’s argument that the world is comprised entirely of facts.  What we believe to be reality is always and only a construct of the language we use to express our experience of it.   How does Heidegger know that everyone else does not know what he knows about being?  He offers no explanation.  He only knows the language that others have used to describe time and existence and phenomena but he really has no explanation of how he can possibly know that the way this language is used is inadequate to explain the authentic meaning of being.

He seems at times to assume we have a reason for believing there are others in the world, yet I have not seen the slightest discussion of the senses through which we experience others, and the world itself.  He seems to insist that we cannot really know if they have a real existence outside of our imagination, just as he doesn’t seem to be concerned about how time can be explained if we only barely understand the meaning of our own “being there” or Dasein.   Is time linear?  Is time atomic?  Is time continuous?  I’m at page 113.  I’ll let you know if I find an answer.

According to Heidegger, Western Philosophy has it all wrong because it has skipped the most essential truth which is that “being” itself, or “being there”,  or “Dasein”, is the proper subject of philosophy and has been almost entirely ignored, at least, since the Greeks.  He is going to rescue us from this terrible omission.  Get out of your car, burn your records and books, change your diet and haircut: we have  no way to experience the world.  Being there.

Let’s get this out of the way right from the start: Heidegger believes that Western Philosophy has forgotten the essential character of “Dasein” but what it is it has forgotten, he can’t seem to remember.

There it is.  I summed up Heidegger that way at Trinity Christian College 45 years ago and I stand by it.

What prompted this reflection is my reckless urge to revisit “Being and Time” now that I have experienced a lot more of both.  I am in my 60’s and haven’t looked at this book since I was in a philosophy course taught by Dr. John Roose at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, back in 1973.  It is the only course I ever took anywhere which I did not complete, and for which I received an “F”.   It wasn’t the difficulty:  “Contemporary Philosophy” taught by Dr. Vrieze was far more challenging– and satisfying– and of course I did well in it.  I still remember a considerable chunk of that course, on Paul Feyerabend, Imre Lakatos, Karl Popper, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and others.  Feyerabend was the first philosopher I read that convinced me that it actually was possible for 2 x 2 to not equal 4.  And Karl Popper’s discussions of paradigms is still very useful to me.

But here’s a line from Martin Heidegger that I think you might find as amusing as I do (from “Being and Time”, translated by Joan Stambaugh, page 35):

Because phenomenon in the phenomenological understanding is always just what constitutes being, and furthermore because being is always the being of beings , we must first of all bring beings themselves forward in the right way, if we are to have any prospect of exposing being.

In regard to Kant, one question that remains: if we can never know a thing in itself– only our empirical experience of that object– does it matter?  If we can never know the thing in itself, then, really, does it even exist?    And so if Heidegger insists that we don’t apprehend Dasein– being itself– does it even exist?  More critically, does it matter?  Heidegger seems to believe that we can encounter Dasein if we cast off our archaic beliefs.  This makes him a superman, since he is the only one who knows about Dasein and he is here to enlighten us.  (In fairness, he does credit some other philosophers– even Kant– with having a diminished idea of Dasein).  But again, given his explanations of how we are ignorant of the decisive importance of Dasein, how can he possibly know anything about others’ experience of it?

All this so far and I haven’t even mentioned that Heidegger was a Nazi.



The Thought Police Strike Again

Once again the thought police have sprung into action.   The Canadian Broadcasts Standards Council has banned the original version of Dire Straits “Money for Nothing”.

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is a “self-governing regulatory body for Canada’s private broadcasters”.  What does that mean?  That means it can’t arrest you.  It is reminiscent of the Hays code, Hollywood’s attempt to clean itself up before Congress did it legislatively.  It is the CRTC, thank god, that has the real power, but I assume that the CBSC has some sway.

And how do you get the CBSC to ban a song you don’t like?  Hey, it’s a free-for-all!  Just contact them and announce that humble little you, just one out of 30 million citizens, has decided that you must step in and decide which songs should be played on the radio no matter how many people like it.

I am curious now: what if I filed a complaint.  What if I alleged that the censorship of “Money for Nothing” is deeply offensive to my delicate little sensibilities about truth and integrity and honesty and historical accuracy?  I am veritably traumatized by the idea that my precious memories of dramatic depictions of real personalities and social values are being erased by repressed puritanical little zealots with a political agenda.  Does my objection count?

Yes, I am enraged.  I feel threatened by a world that is sliding towards banality and antiseptic homogeneity.  Hey, can I file a complaint about vocalists using Autotune?  If ever there was a legitimate complaint to be made to a “broadcast standards” council that would be it.

Not only do they want to correct your current misshapen and erroneous ideas and feelings; they want to go back in time and correct your past iniquities.  Do you remember “Money for Nothing”?  It was a snippet of a certain attitude at a certain time and place.

Let’s get one thing absolutely clear and straight right off the bat:  “Money for Nothing” is not a dramatization of Mark Knopfler’s thoughts and feelings about MTV or gay people or microwave ovens.  It is a clever, insightful, reasonably accurate depiction of the attitudes of a working class schlub working at an appliance store watching MTV and thinking, geez, I could do that.   Are we clear?  Do you understand the difference between and artist and the subject?  Do you understand what drama is?  Do you get that when a writer tells you that a character committed a murder that the artist himself is not committing murder?

Here are the “offensive” lyrics:

See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup?
Yeah buddy, that’s his own hair
That little faggot got his own jet airplane
That little faggot, he’s a millionaire

I knew people who thought like that.  I don’t need any one to tell me to not remember him or his attitudes.   I don’t need anyone to try to erase the record of that person from public discourse.

Is the next step to go through Shakespeare and Dante and Dostoevsky and remove all the violence and murders and even the insults from their works?  Why not?  We no longer think people should be murdered.  It distresses people to see murder depicted in a play or movie.  Let’s remove it.  Let’s remove the rape scene from “Streetcar Named Desire”.  We don’t approve of rape any more.

And how does “Walk on the Wild Side” (Lou Reed) and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” get away with it?   How about this, from the innocuous Elton John and Bernie Taupin (“All the Girls Love Alice”):

And who could you call your friends down in Soho?
One or two middle-aged dykes in a Go-Go
And what do you expect from a sixteen year old yo-yo
And hey, hey, hey (hey, hey, hey) oh don’t you know?

And please, please, please:  “All the Girls Love Alice” is not “by” Elton John.  The salient component here is the lyrics which are by Bernie Taupin.  Would the internet please grow up and get this straight?  Most of the songs it says are “by” an artist are actually merely recorded by that artist.  They do not deserve the holiest credit of all, the act of creation, which most of them don’t deserve even in respect of their vocals.

You think, well, we can’t gut one of America’s greatest works of drama, can we?  “Streetcar Named Desire” is a classic.  It is untouchable.  But how does that make a difference when public morals are at stake?  And what is the difference between the character saying “faggot” in “Money for Nothing” and the character raping Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire”?  They are both dramas of believable human behavior.  They both tell us, this is something someone would do (and has done, in real life), in the setting and circumstance depicted.  What is the problem?

There is no real problem.  What there is is a bunch of pious, self-righteous individuals trying to assert their own virtue by punishing a perceived miscreant.  Burn the witch.

If I was a gay man of any prominence I would have issued a statement– like the self-righteous guardians of public morality do– and insisted that Dire Straits keep the fucking lyrics exactly the way they are, just as “Huckleberry Finn” should retain the word “nigger” used in reference Jim, the escaped slave, just as Stanley should continue to rape Blanche in stage productions of “Streetcar Named Desire”, just as Ophelia should continue to commit suicide in any staging of “Hamlet” (spoiler alert).

And Leonard Cohen should never have excised “give me crack and anal sex” from his searing original version of “The Future”.    (Here, in a supreme act of gutlessness, Cohen jumps the shark and changes it to “careless sex”; am I harsh?  Yes, I admit it.  When you were influenced by an artist to embrace the authentic, the true, the audacious, and then he starts embracing compromise– yes, I’m harsh.  The odd thing is that as I am getting older, unlike Cohen, I feel less and less inclined to cater to the more delicate sensibilities around me.  Maybe it’s just a phase.  And here, expanding his audience for the sanitized version, he appears on– god help us– Letterman (!), changing  “crack” to “speed” and interjecting the awful “careless sex”.)  He didn’t have to castrate anything here:  he’s on the Ralph Benmurgui show.  And if you’re curious, here’s the original lyrics attached to inane video effects.  Finally, thank you, thank you, thank you Erlend Ropstad & the Salmon Smokers for this!

Finally, let me note the hypocrisy.  Here are the lines no one seems to object to:

It’s lonely here
There’s no one left to torture….

There’ll be fires there’ll be phantoms on the road
And the white man dancing…

Destroy another fetus now

Lie beside me baby, that’s an order

“Nigger” is what white people called black people at that time in history.    If I was teaching a college class on racism, I would discuss how the word “nigger” was used in America for years as a label of contempt and expression of white superiority.  “Faggot” is what straight working class white men called gay men at the time Mark Knopfler wrote that song.  “Dyke” is what they called women who were either gay or had turned down their advances.

We have reached a new pinnacle of stupid when a writer has to explain to the audience that this song or story is about someone who really existed and really thought that way.  Listen.  Consider it.  Be glad that we have made some progress (never enough, but some).  Tell your children that that’s the way working class white men used to talk about gay people.  Tell your children we now know better.

Tell your children is wrong to try to rewrite history into something false in order to avoid offending the delicate sensibilities of the weakest among us.

The New McCarthyism

There are two kinds of news sources prominent today. One, the older institutional part, identifies a story, sends a reporter, interviews people, acquires documents, submits to an editor, contacts the parties for possible confirmation or not, and then publishes. The other one goes to air to millions of listeners immediately with, for example, provocative claims that there is no 10-year-old girl in Ohio who was raped at 9 and was pregnant and had to go out of state to get an abortion, claiming this was all a plot by the Democrats to steal more votes. When it emerges that the story was true, they don’t apologize because … well, why don’t they? Because their listeners don’t really care about facts and information? I don’t know. It’s not just this one story: there are dozens of examples, maybe hundreds. They rarely publicly admit they got it wrong, or lied, and even more rarely apologize. They have discovered that most of their listeners don’t seem to mind; they aren’t about to change the channel.

Their listeners aren’t watching the January 6 Congressional Committee hearings, even if almost every witness has been a staunch Republican, and Trump’s own appointees to the judiciary have consistently rejected claims of a stolen election. The “Deep State” is so deep that even Trump, apparently, was fooled at times.

I don’t know how we get past polarization if people don’t listen even when their own side is telling them they are wrong. People like Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, Marco Rubio are complicit: they don’t like Trump but are frightened of standing up to him.

In the 1950’s, McCarthyism had the same dynamic. Respectable conservatives didn’t like him but were scared to call him out. Eventually, he was found to be ridiculous and people moved on. (He once accused Santa Claus of being a communist infiltrator.)

One can only hope.

The Myth of Sybil

The story of “Sybil”, the woman with 16 different “personalities”,  is a myth, pure and simple.

(NPR on one of the books that has debunked it.)

One website, defending Sybil, refers to “Michelle Remembers”–without comment–as a reference to the influence of “Sybil”.  That is astonishing.  “Michelle Remembers” is one of the most discredited books of the 1980’s.

First of all, you do need to know what in no other developed country is the concept of a “multiple-personality” widely accepted.    Only in America, and only in a certain part of America.

As is well known, Sybil herself acknowledge the hoax in a letter to Schreiber:

She got the very, very strong impression when she went in and brought this letter of recantation to Dr. Wilbur that if she didn’t go with the program she was not going to have Dr. Wilbur anymore,” Nathan says. “Dr. Wilbur was giving her 14 to 18 hours of therapy a week. Dr. Wilbur was coming to her house and eating with her, giving her clothes, paying her rent … so, how could you give up Dr. Wilbur?

Sybil Exposed

Is this really difficult to see?  Look at the culture around MPD?  Look at who revels in it, thrives in the lurid stories attached to it?

Or look at hypnotism:

HS: Yes. She was very hypnotizable, what I call a “grade five.” On a zero to five scale we can classify most levels of hypnotizability. The top group—the hypnotic virtuosos—are about 5 percent of the population and they show extra phenomena that we don’t ordinarily see even in good hypnotic subjects. For example, they have the ability to regress in time and they will report past experiences in the present tense. It is as if they “ablate,” or remove from memory, the period of time from, say, their fourth birthday to the present time, and you have an expression of what was there up until the age of four. For most people, to get them to a fixed point in time, we use something that has an affect potential. You can’t just say, “I want you to go back to January 14, 1916″—that doesn’t mean anything. You will say to the subject: “You are getting younger and younger. You are now nineteen, eighteen, seventeen years old, twelve years old, seven years old,” and then: “This is your fourth birthday.”  NY Review of Books

If this impresses you, I have some bitcoin I want to sell.

Let’s put it this way: if you want to accept what Dr. Spiegel says about hypnotism at face value, it would be possible, for example, to go back in time to when you lost your keys and discover where you lost them.  In fairness, I believe Dr. Spiegel implies that this is not possible.

It is not possible, unfortunately, and neither is it possible to go back in memory to “a fixed point of time” (see Dr. Spiegel covering his tracks?).  You are always only going back to a memory you already have, or one that you have constructed, if you are suggestible, and I would suggest that the best patients for hypnosis– or any kind of psychiatry– are very suggestible.

That said, even Dr. Spiegel didn’t buy Sybil’s multiple personalities and he made clear why Dr. Wilbur and Schreiber did (and why they stopped speaking to him):

Schreiber then got in a huff. She was sitting right in that chair there, and she said, “But if we don’t call it a multiple personality, we don’t have a book! The publishers want it to be that, otherwise it won’t sell!”

Exactly.  The publishers knew what gets you on Phil Donahue and 20/20 and maybe even 60 Minutes, and they knew that that is what sells books and makes movies.

Ronan Farrow, Sit Down and Shutup

Well, now it’s CBS News and 60 Minutes.

At Last: Someone Takes a Closer Look at Ronan Farrow’s Journalistic Credibility

Stop everything you’re doing, all the research and investigation and interviews, travel, exploration, documentation and exposure– stop it all and resign and crawl into a hole, because Ronan Farrow has managed to find some former female employees and associates who didn’t like the way you hit on them.  No matter how long ago, or how disputed, or how misinterpreted or misjudged, or how marginal it is to whatever it is you do with your life, you must now resign, because the almighty, pitiless, puritanical Inquisitor Ronan Farrow, son of Frank or Woody– we don’t know– has deemed you to be shriek-worthy and foul and you must be replaced by some woman or transgender woman or man or gay man or gay woman or black transgender gay indigenous being, because he or she or it is really just as talented and hardworking as you, but you, oppressor, bully, monster!— kept him, her, or it from fulfilling the great destiny worthy of his, her, or it’s talents, by kissing without permission, by expressing your desire for him, her, or it, by leaning too close, by initiating sex with her, him, or it while he, her, or it was asleep.

By not asking politely, in writing, before hand, if you could say to them, “you are hot– I’d like to have sex with you.”

Let us gather a red cloak for Ronan Farrow and  begin the purge of our libraries and museums and art galleries,  and let us expunge all the works, the films, the books, the paintings, the sculptures, the music, the podcasts, the radio programs, by all the horrible men who made them, who created the models we use today, who inspired generations of other artists, who moved us, who wrought the world of culture– let us take all their works and burn them.  For it doesn’t matter and never mattered that you actually built or created or invented or led or organized or directed– it never mattered at all.  It doesn’t matter that you saw beauty or truth in a gesture, an expression, a conversation, a shape, a way of describing a scene.  None of your acts of compassion or generosity, or wit, or improvisation, or imagination can now be countenanced: you must be expelled from human society!

The only thing that mattered, ever, is that in one of the millions of small moments of your life, you offended one of God’s dainty little angels who, though gentle and delicate and innocent, and helpless, when roused, is mighty and bold and courageous and will now speak out and tell her story!  On Oprah, if possible, or Jerry Springer, if necessary!   Now that it is safe to do so.   That is enough.  It erases everything else you were or could be.  And it makes a monument of courage and genius of the accuser, who never had any such courage or genius when it was all that would have been required for her, to turn around and spit in your face and say “no” and leave.

Let’s replace them all with Ronan Farrow’s scribbles.  Or the films written and directed by Mia Farrow.  Or Illeana Douglas’s exposes.  Or Kirsten Gillibrand’s mountains of legislation.

[whohit]Ronan Farrow: Please Shutup[/whohit]

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

I have heard this figure quoted numerous times in the past six months, usually in connection with another suspected campus rape: according to psychologist David Lisak’s 2010 study, only 2% to 10% of sexual-assault reports are false.

I didn’t dig into it at the time I first heard it– I just assumed that it belonged in the category of “30% of women in the military report being sexually assaulted”, which is based on a definition of sexual assault that includes inappropriate comments and “leering” behavior or standing too close.

In any case, the Wall Street Journal dug into it a little more deeply and reports that Lizak’s statistic is based on the assumption that all reports of sexual assault that are not categorically proven to be false are therefore true.

Think about it. There is a percentage of cases which are clearly proven to be true, as when there are witnesses and physical evidence or a confession. There is a percentage which are definitively proven to be false, as in the now notorious case at the University of Virginia reported in Rolling Stone Magazine by Sabrina Erdely in an article which has since been retracted and discredited. And then there are all the cases for which there is no proof either way. Mr. Lizak seems to assume that proof is only required to demonstrate that an allegation is false. Otherwise, it is assumed to be true.

One of the lame arguments presented in defense of Sabrina Erdely’s work for Rolling Stone was the usual “re-victimization” trope: that the idea of actually needing to confirm a victim’s story is itself a form of “re-victimization”.

Incidentally, you may have been left with the impression– as I was, for a time– that the victim in the University of Virginia case, “Jackie”, might have really been a victim, but of somebody else, somewhere else, on a different day. She was traumatized and confused so she conflated different fragments of experience into the one damning narrative and accused the wrong person.

Okay– that sounds a bit absurd now, but I was trying to be fair. The trouble is that Jackie actually went though some effort to deceive her friends about the issue: she actually made up a fake former boyfriend (whom she claimed set up and encouraged the gang rape) using the picture of a former classmate and created an anonymous SMS account from which “he” sent texts to her friends. She wrote fake love letters to the fake former boyfriend that she showed to her friends, which appear to have been copied from “Dawson’s Creek” episodes.

Lizak assumes that all of the other cases, which have not been proven either way, are actual sexual assaults. This is a scurrilous assumption.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some earlier studies have placed the percentage of false reports at 40-50%. You might say that those are just some studies. So is Lizak’s.

You might also say– as I have heard frequently– that women just “don’t make those things up”. I don’t know why anyone would believe that, given the overwhelming evidence that, in fact, women do sometimes make it up, as in the two thirteen-year-olds who destroyed their Grade 8 teacher’s life successfully even though it was later shown that they were lying. (Among other things, they claimed it happened in a room that had not been built at the time they said it happened. They later confessed they had made it up.)

By that time, the teacher’s career and marriage had been destroyed.  And it must be noted that even when the accusations are proven to be false, people still tend to believe them.

If you like think that we live in a world in which school boards and ex-spouses then say, “oh, I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you”, you are delusional.

The two girls? They were not punished. We don’t punish people for the real harm that they do (or half of the Wall Street brokers would be in prison) but on the basis of what is required politically. That is why the Wall Street Journal is more sympathetic to the victims of false accusations than the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal is more conservative. It’s an issue I think they might be right about.

Why did those two thirteen-year-old girls make it up? It’s not congenial to anybody, it seems, to inquire into that.

Some people cite the number of women claiming to have been drugged and raped by Bill Cosby as proof that he’s guilty. On the other hand, the similarity of the stories might also suggest that the alleged victims are cribbing from each other.

I am skeptical of the “drugged” angle: there is a widespread belief out there that there are drugs– Rhoponal and GHB– that turn women into compliant zombies who will forget that they were raped. The reality is that these drugs are no more or less effective than alcohol at achieving the results claimed. Read their stories: the use of these drugs is almost always within the context of the victim drinking a lot. Some studies suggest that the symptoms the women describe, of having been drugged, are more indicative of a simple hangover.

I have no problem believing that vulnerable and impressionable young women, believing that Bill Cosby could give them a big break, an acting role in his tv series or movies, or whatever, might end up willingly going to his apartment or hotel room and drinking with him and drinking too much and perhaps even (willingly) ingesting some of drugs he offered them. Perhaps he forced himself on them.

Perhaps they were willing and then disappointed that he didn’t promote their careers as they hoped he would.

You want real political correctness?  Try discussing that angle with anybody.


Let’s stay balanced:

In More Detail, a Review of Jon Krakauer’s book “Missoula”.

Real Character

David Brooks, columnist for the New York Times, has written a book about character. He essentially defines character as a strong connection to something outside of yourself. He means “character” in a positive sense– not in the sense of “what a character!”. And not in the sense of “he is a deeply flawed character”. He means, “this man has character”. He has principles. He has strength and conviction. His life means something.

It really is an odd criteria, but it plays well with conservative tropes about duty and respect for authority and service. It honors soldiers who come back from war, having done their “duty”, and having killed for the state, or the state’s vested interests, without ever questioning the justice or rationality of its cause. It plays well with religion: character is obedience, to that something outside of yourself, God, or the church itself.

And so, among the failures of Bill Clinton, we often hear conservatives insist that his was a failure of “character”. He was dishonest as a politician. He cheated on his wife.

He was such a character!

But what if character is the opposite? What if it is precisely the man who refuses to obey authority unquestioningly, because he doesn’t have that connection with that outside thing that he thinks is smarter or more respectable or more honorable than his own conscience? What if a man with character is more like Thomas More, not because he believed in something outside of himself– the Roman Catholic Church and it’s corrupt hierarchy– but that he might be right and everyone else, who had all sworn allegiance to King Henry VIII as the new head of the church, was wrong?

Brooks’ mistake is that he assumes that the thing “outside of oneself” is transcendent.  It isn’t potentially just as flawed as the values of a person who, in his view, isn’t loyal to those principles “outside” of his own needs and wants.  But it is obvious that the values that exist “outside” of yourself are someone else’s values: patriotism, religious belief, prurience.  Brooks wants you to believe that those values aren’t the product of some other person’s wants and needs– like a king or corporate executive or general.

That’s why it’s a pity to see Rand Paul trying to go mainstream. I thought he had character, with his odd positions on the drug laws, the invasion of Iraq, and tax breaks for corporations.

The Grass Grows Under My Feet

They said the psychiatrist told them he didn’t believe their son had a substance abuse problem. But by then, the boy had other problems. After the disciplinary hearing, “he just broke down and said his life was over. He would never be able to get into college; he would never be able to get a job,” Linda Bays said.   Roanoke Times, 2015-03-15

On March 14th, the Roanoke Times posted a story–a true story– about a school district which suspended an 11-year-old boy for possession of marijuana.

The “marijuana” was not marijuana, but here’s what happened– and it’s a profound story that authorities far and wide should study carefully, because it’s the story of the most wicked and stupid actions of authorities everywhere.

A snitch told the principal at Bedford Middle School that a boy– known as R. M. B.– had some marijuana in his possession that he was showing around, on the bus, or maybe it was in the bathroom, or, wait a minute, I think it was in the classroom.

The boy was apprehended and searched and a leaf of something was found. The expert pedagogue consulted google and concluded that it was a marijuana leaf and summoned the police and suspended the boy from the school for 364 days.

First detail of note: it was a leaf, not a bud. It does not appear to have occurred to the authorities that this detail mattered in the least.

Second detail of note: the boy was 11 and both of his parents were, or had been, teachers in the public schools in this area. No matter: zero tolerance. Authority must be respected.

The leaf was sent away to be tested.  Take note: the authorities did not wait to see if it really was marijuana– they acted before any real evidence existed.   They acted based on disinformation.  Do I need to say something like “lord help us if authorities can punish us for something someone said that might or might not be true before doing the due diligence to determine if it is or is not true”?

Months went by. The suspension had a profound effect on the boy’s self-esteem, feeling of community, trust in authority figures, and happiness. The leaf was tested: it was not marijuana. But authorities must be respected and respected authorities do not make mistakes that have unpleasant, destructive consequences on innocent people. Test again! Still not marijuana. Test again!!

I’ll bet that the authorities were “disappointed”.

Think about that.

Do you think they were elated to discover that the young lad was not a hardened criminal drug addict?  I have no doubt that they were disappointed. At this stage, the story is about authority that refuses to admit that it makes consequential mistakes. No: that refuses to admit that it is stupid.

That is what they know, and we know, they must admit to, if they are to honor the truth: we were stupid. We were not worthy of your trust and respect. We are more concerned with our personal status and comfort and authority than we are with the welfare of a young, innocent if slightly mischievous 11-year-old boy. Screw the boy: authority must be respected.

The parents rightly– well, too late, for my taste, but eventually– launched a lawsuit. Here we see how far the authorities will go: they announced that it wouldn’t have mattered if it was real marijuana or not because the school system’s policy states that possession of anything that is an “imitation” of a prohibited substance can have the same consequences as possession of the real thing.

Are there any criminal laws that state that a person can be convicted for doing something that looks illegal to an idiot regardless of whether or not they actually did something illegal? Maybe there is– but it still seems stupid. It is stupid.  I refuse to sound moderate and temperate and diplomatic about this:  the school board, and their lawyer Jim Guynn, are stupid: they didn’t care if he really had marijuana; they wanted to punish him for having something that  morons in the administration of a school might mistake for marijuana.

What they are obviously, manifestly angry about is having been made fools of.  And only a genuine fool would be this spiteful about that.

The truly moronic thing about it, though, is that anyone ever thought it was a good idea to have a one-year suspension for possession of real marijuana. This is a policy that only a psychotic person could believe in. But we are, unfortunately, a psychotic society. We approve. We elected the fools that appointed the fools who implemented this idiotic policy.

What happened is that the authorities become vested in their own actions and judgments. They have to continue the charade because the moment they drop it, it they confess that they are inadequate human beings without common sense or decency.

The drug war is the most obvious misguided policy of the United States government, but listen and learn: there are a host of other candidates. Homeland Security, the War in Iraq, the War in Viet Nam, oil subsidies, sports stadium subsidies, non-negotiable pharmaceutical rates, and countless others that are clung to because the authorities have become invested in them and can’t bear to admit they were stupid to implement them.

What could President Johnson do in 1968? Admit that he made a mistake that cost thousands of American lives or continue the war until something could be tarted up to look like victory “with honor” and then walk away and hope it all doesn’t collapse until the helicopters have been dumped into the ocean?

What could Bush do once he — perhaps– realized what an egregious error the war on Iraq was?

What can Obama do now that he has doubled down in Afghanistan?

The CBC’s Tunnel Hysteria

CBC Hysteria: tunnel vision
Why does the CBC do this? A CBC reporter happened upon the story of a tunnel found in a wooded area near the University of Toronto and, for the next week, never failed to use the word “terror” in every report connected to it. Ooooo— it is near a venu that will be used during the PanAm games! We know that they are probably a top target of Isis!

It was, perhaps, the most narcissistic news story of the year, so far: the CBC reporting on itself being absolutely, hysterically, almost sexually obsessed with what an amazing story this was.

It was a nothing story. It was trivial. It was not newsworthy in any respect whatsoever, except, perhaps, as a minor, one-off triviality.

But without a current contagion story in it’s dossier, the CBC had to do something to keep listeners riveted.

The most offensive part of it all was the way they kept insisting that the entire world was now enthralled with this ridiculous story and was waiting with baited breath for every new installment from the CBC, and couldn’t wait to hear Gill Deacon speculate as to what the purpose of this tunnel was.

It was nauseating and utterly unworthy of the CBC.


Oily Bears

I have no doubt that if the oil industry succeeds in wheedling another chunk of Alaskan wilderness from the government to drill and develop and exploit, that they will solemnly insist to everyone that they, more than we could ever imagine, are passionate about preserving some other part of Alaska’s remaining pristine wilderness for generations to come. And then, once they have sucked up all the oil they can, their pimps in the Alaskan state government will once again whine and whimper that it is so unreasonable to insist that this other pristine wilderness area be preserved.

There is no end of parts of the world that have been despoiled by the energy or lumber or mining industry, but there are precious few parts that remain pristine wilderness. And they will come after those parts, relentlessly, hurling millions dollars at politicians, begging and pleading, and lying through their teeth: we care about the environment.

If conservatives think liberals are fools for thinking that poor people can be improved with education or opportunities, or that negotiations can lead to peace, or that some black youths are not out to kill police officers, then liberals have a right to think conservatives are absolutely idiotic to think any energy company has the slightest interest in preserving the environment. Industries are driven by profit: they have no conscience. Their PR flacks will say and promise anything to increase profits. Money doesn’t weep: actors do, and the top executives of these corporations are primarily actors.

If you believe them, you seriously have to answer the question, why, do you think, they would keep those promises? What possible incentive do they have? Once they have fully exploited the mineral or energy resources of a given area, they can retire with untold riches. There are no real consequences for a corporation: they can pay any modest fines out of future profits– someone else’s problem.

It’s not like perjury. Standing in front of a TV camera and mellifluously praising the mountains and meadows and creatures of some distant land promising that never, in a million years, would you do anything to harm them, cost nothing. There are no consequences for lying.

In 1994 Verizon promised to lay fibre optic cable to every house in Pennsylvania in exchange for over $2 billion in tax breaks.

Were they laughing even then? 20 years later, they have done nothing to deliver on that promise. Refund the taxpayer’s money? Are you mad? Recall the politicians who made that deal? Can you even remember that they made that deal? Do you care that they sold you down the river? Not enough, apparently, to not re-elect them.

Verizon learned what the oil companies already know: they have immunity. They all know whose side the politicians are really on.