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Tag: Mitch McConnell

Facts, reality and what our own eyes tell us, matter in this space

Since its inception, the goal here at The Critical Mass has been to post at least one blog a week.

But it’s been weeks now. And silence…

What happened?

Is it writer’s block?

No.

Nor is it PTSE. Pandemic Trauma and Stress Experience, that’s what the psychologists are calling it. An epidemic of “collective exhaustion.” Weariness that is the result of living and working through a year of uncertainty. Like so many Americans, I am exhausted by the past year. Here we are, it’s April, and last week the neighbors finally dragged their Christmas tree out to the curb.

When is this coronavirus pandemic going to end? When will things get “back to normal?”

There will be no “back to normal.” More than a half a million Americans are dead from COVID-19. What kind of unreal thinking allows us to fool ourselves into believing that society can simply shrug off so much human tragedy and get “back to normal?”

How do we recover what we’ve lost? Not just the lives. But all of the social constructions that were built, or have evolved, over the years? How long will it be before we see the re-emergence of our favorite restaurants and music venues? Or small businesses that were forced to shut their doors? How long before we’ll feel safe about utilizing services such as public transportation? How long before we are comfortable with getting on an airplane, breathing the re-circulated air of strangers? When will those of us who have been working from home feel safe to be among co-workers again? How do we reward front-line workers such as doctors and nurses, or the people who stock grocery-store shelves, for showing up for work every day? How long will it be before it’s safe to take part in vast communal events such as festivals or the opening of an exciting new museum exhibit? And how long will it be before all of the jobs that have been lost will return?

How will we react when a resurgence of COVID-19, or one of the variants now lurking on the edge of news stories, blossoms into yet another threat to our lives?

My losses over the past year of pandemic have not been personal. Parents of friends have passed away of COVID-19, and I miss John Prine. While some friends have contracted it, they have recovered, none have died. I still have a job. Forced to work from home, I’ve made use of the time as best I could. Recognizing the shortcomings of our house, we’ve invested heavily in home improvements: New vinyl siding, updated kitchen. I’ve been alphabetizing CDs and albums. Dusting out-of-reach places. Reading books I’ve been meaning to read for years.

I’ve been exploring movies. How did I miss this one: A low budget but effective comedy called “Spivak,” about a failed writer. That one hit too close to home.

I am wary of television. TV commercials are a place where, despite what specialists in bird anatomy tell us, a boneless chicken wing is a real thing.

Reality check: chicken wings do not function without bones. Gary Larson’s “The Far Side” has definitively illustrated that point.

Yet I’ve watched more television than I believe I ever have. While wondering whatever happened to Dennis Miller, it occurred to me that today’s successful comics – those working standup and as late-night talk hosts – offer only a very progressive point of view. Why is that? The answer seems obvious. Conservative politics and social issues generate a fresh and plentiful supply of new chum. And like sharks, comedians are feeding on it.

Yet something more dangerous is afoot. Unreal thinking is found not only in television commercials, and in the inability of the richest country in the world to deal with COVID-19, but among the people most responsible for our well being.

Case in point: While President Joe Biden was creating legislation that will have a huge and positive impact on Americans, Congressional Republicans were complaining that gender-neutral gremlins are castrating Mr. Potato Head. He’ll no longer be a “Mr.” Kids can now decide the gender of their Potato Head. Free to create same-sex Potato family units. At the same time, Republicans were bringing before Congress complaints that Dr. Seuss is a victim of “cancel culture” because six of his books containing racist imagery will no longer be published.

Reality: That’s not “cancel culture” at work, that’s the publisher’s decision. The “canceled” books are not strong sellers, and the Seuss empire no longer wants to be associated with the casual racism of the 1960s. Classics such as “Green Eggs and Ham” are safe, of course. If you want to share Asian stereotypes with your children, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” will be selling for insane money on eBay.

Unreality’s next-door neighbor is hypocrisy. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and the Republican party welcome megabuck corporate donations. It’s about influence, those corporations want something for their money. Tax breaks, the loosening of environmental laws. But now citizens have begun taking note of Republican efforts to suppress the voting rights of likely non-Republicans. Pressure is being put on Georgia-based corporations such as Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines to get involved, and throw their economic weight behind the movement to protect voting rights. Major League Baseball responded by pulling the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. And McConnell squealed. Now that political free speech is running in the other direction, he’s warning these suddenly progressive-acting corporations to stay out of politics.

And finally, blindness sets in. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson saw the same domestic terrorists who attacked the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6 that the rest of us witnessed. “I knew these were people who love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law,” he said. Trump has spoken of Capitol police officers kissing and hugging those domestic terrorists, and holding the doors for them as they rampaged through the building.

Patriots do not set out pipe bombs, mix Molotov cocktails, and carry spears, tasers and bear spray to a riot that leaves five people dead and more than 140 injured, including police officers, and more than 300 rioters charged with federal offenses.

Polls tell us a majority of Republicans believe the election was stolen from Trump. Despite the lack of any evidence that this happened.

I guess what’s slowed The Critical Mass these days. Facts, reality and what our own eyes tell us, matter in this space.

I shall now resume writing about things that we really have to take a hard look at. Like Bigfoot.

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It’s a world of people out there who think the truth hurts

chem-spill-map
The problem with this country is, we can’t handle the truth. Unless it’s our own truth.

I was dwelling on the fragility of truth about a week ago, while watching the debate on creationism vs. evolution between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham, the intellectually shuttered fellow who runs a Kentucky museum dedicated to the notion that The Bible is literally true. A poll conducted a couple of days after the debate indicated that 92 percent of people who watched the event on the Internet believed Nye had won. That poll, by the way, was conducted by Christian Today.

So the debate was a bit more one-sided than even the last Super Bowl. Nevertheless, it was fascinating viewing, with Ham the Biblical coelacanth, living evidence that there are people out there who think the fossil record is a prank by God. And by the way, when Pat Robertson – who believes that hurricanes are caused by gay people – tells you to quit saying crazy stuff, you know you’re off the charts.

Score a big win for the truth. Otherwise, it’s a world of people who think the truth hurts.

Let’s start in that most-obvious portal to fantasy, politics. Politicians are rarely held  accountable for distributing misinformation. The Affordable Care Act and its death panels, immigration and anchor babies, rich money-hoarders as job creators, Obama is a Muslim Socialist emperor from Kenya. The leaders who manufactured these long-refuted talking points still have many followers. As does New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a man who’s willing to punish his constituents if a mayor didn’t endorse him, or back a real-estate project that Christie favored. Nor does the truth fare well in Kentucky, where Senator Mitch McConnell is either a liar or has horrible reading comprehension skills. Last week he said the Congressional Budget Office estimates Obamacare will cost the country two million jobs, when it says no such thing.

Here’s one of my recent favorites. Kentucky senator and proven plagiarizer Rand Paul often refers to “studies” to back up his claims, yet rarely names those studies. But last month, while insisting that employers are less likely to hire people who have been unemployed for long periods of time, he did cite one example: A paper written by Rand Ghayad, not yet a high-level economist, just one who’s finishing up his Ph.D. in economics from Northeastern University. Unfortunately for Paul, Ghayad was less than appreciative of the attention. Just because companies discriminate against the long-term unemployed doesn’t mean long-term benefits are to blame,” Ghayad wrote in rebuttal in The Atlantic magazine. “Paul might know that if he read beyond the first line of my paper’s abstract.”

We know government officials in West Virginia have a problem with the truth because 300,000 people there whose water has been rendered unusable for a month after a massive chemical spill are being told it is now safe to drink. Except those officials are falling far short of making definitive assurances, because the water still has an odd odor to it. “Just because you smell something doesn’t mean it’s not safe,” said Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water. Would you take his word on that?

You can’t. Apparently moonshine stills tucked away in the mountain hollers of West Virginia get more government regulation than the chemical storage tanks rusting on the banks of the state’s beautiful rivers. We know the people who spilled those chemicals downplayed the size of the spill at first, and later admitted it was actually a much larger event. BP did the same thing with the Gulf oil spill. That’s the strategy every time an industry is confronted by an ecological disaster. Lie about how minor the damage is, then work your way up to: Run!

NBC’s Olympics coverage is a lie. Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko was forced to withdraw from the men’s figure-skating competition because of an injury before the start of Thursday’s event. Unwilling to admit that it had lost one of that evening’s marquee figures – NBC’s broadcast of the event is delayed because of the nine-hour difference between Sochi and the U.S. Eastern time zone – the network continued to promote Plushenko’s appearance throughout the day. It even used a quote from the skater, saying he would compete, words taken from an interview recorded days earlier. Using lies to hype a drama that never happened.

Holocaust-level exaggerations can be useful when the evidence is weighing in heavily against you. We heard some rich guys this week dismiss the dangers of income equality by comparing their critics to Nazis. Those critics, incidentally, include the majority of the world’s economists and the Pope.

We heard arguments supported this week by absolutely ludicrous dishonesty. Colorado Republican Sen. Bernie Herpin challenged a gun control measure in his state by suggesting that high-capacity magazines shouldn’t be banned because the guy who shot up a Colorado movie theater in 2012 had one that malfunctioned, preventing more carnage. Speaking of the accused shooter, James Homes, Herpin said it “was maybe a good thing he had a 100-round magazine because it jammed. If he had instead had four, five, six 15-round magazines, no telling how much damage he could have done until a good guy showed up.” Twelve people dead and more than 70 wounded puts the lie to the twisted theory that a reliance on defective weapons will keep us safe.

Enraged that Woody Allen was being honored at the Academy Awards, Dylan Farrow, daughter of Allen’s former longtime companion Mia Farrow, wrote a damning essay reviving old accusations that Allen had molested her when she was 7 years old. Disinterested in weighing both sides on Farrow’s serious accusations of child abuse, Allen’s Hollywood supporters trampled the alleged victim in the rush to defend the comedian and director.

And perhaps most notably this week, there was an announcement by Michael Sam, the star defensive lineman on a very good University of Missouri football team, that he is gay. Reactions were wide ranging, and it’s no surprise that there are a lot of homophobic bigots lurking in the Internet weeds. But most interesting was the reaction of NFL people who insisted that the league “is not ready for a gay player,” and warned that allowing a gay man into a locker room would endanger its “delicate chemistry.”

I’ve been in plenty of locker rooms. Delicate chemistry isn’t quite the right description.

Other NFL authorities questioned why Sam would come out now, right before the NFL draft, and likely ruin his chances of being picked higher. Their suggestion was clear: Lie to your future employer.

Sam made the tough decision. The decision that felt right to him. He wanted to be honest with himself, and those around him. “I want to own my truth,” he said.

The truth, instead of a lie that others are more comfortable with.

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