Posted by: drgeophysics | September 15, 2009

Selling the future and harnessing ignorance.

Few things to think about:

A guitar player who decides to make money by selling his guitar (aka what has happened to the US economy during the last 20 years).

I watched a “teabag” event (there are lots of youtube videos) and was amazed at the signs people were carrying.  One said “Take your UNIONS back to CHINA!” (?), another said “Cap and trade = Socialism” (?).

The people carrying the signs didn’t seem to know where they came from (even though they were carrying them) or what they meant (other than they were, depending on who you talked to, anti-socialism, anti-communism, anti-fascism, anti-nazi, anti-government, anti-UN, or anti-new-world-order).  When asked, it’s clear that the people at the event have no idea what Cap and trade referred to; these were the people with the signs, it is all very strange.  It reminds me of John Birch Society, Anti-Civil Rights, or Pro-America events I saw as a child during the Vietnam War.  The emotion, people, and mix of messages is very similar to those other demonstrations.  This is the political party of George Wallace, circa 1968.

So where did this all come from this time around?  Why do we have people shouting “You LIE!” at the President of the United States during a formal speech to Congress?

Here are some images, check the signs, do you agree with any of this?

How crazy is all this, check these images out.    These are the people who want to control nuclear weapons and decide the fate of the planet.

The resolution below recently passed Congress by a vote of 240-179 (179 members of one party voted against this resolution).

Whereas on September 9, 2009, during the joint session of Congress convened pursuant to House Concurrent Resolution 179, the President of the United States, speaking at the invitation of the House and Senate, had his remarks interrupted by the Representative from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson; and Whereas the conduct of the Representative from South Carolina was a breach of decorum and degraded the proceedings of the joint session, to the discredit of the House: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives disapproves of the behavior of the Representative from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson, during the joint session of Congress held on September 9, 2009.”

PASSED by a majority vote.  Sane people are still in control, for a while, burdened by the mess created by amazing and prolonged stupidity.

It was a rare triumph for civility in a country that seems to have lost all sense of it — from music arenas to tennis courts to political gatherings to hallowed halls — and a ratification of an institution that has relied on strict codes of conduct for two centuries to prevent a breakdown of order.

“When you look at the various incidents of misbehavior all across the spectrum,” Representative James Clyburn, the highest ranking black lawmaker in Congress who had pushed for the reprimand, told me afterward, “the one place we ought to be able to say that such conduct is not acceptable and just cannot be tolerated is in America’s classroom, as I call Congress. Students are looking at us, and they ought not to be able to ever feel that such bad behavior would be condoned.”

It was a powerful showdown between two congressmen from South Carolina, one black, one white; one Democrat, one Republican.”

This reaction comes from a New York Times editorial.

From the Los Angeles Times a harder viewpoint:

Wilson, for example, isn’t just a loudmouth with impulse-control issues. He’s one of those Southern lawmakers with links to the sinister neo-Confederate movement and, as a state legislator, was one of the die-hards who opposed removing the Confederate battle flag from atop the South Carolina statehouse. He’s also an unrepentant supporter of Obama’s extreme critics. When he spoke on the House floor Monday, Wilson praised the “patriots” who turned the town halls into shouting matches and the tea party demonstrators who gathered in Washington last weekend to oppose “a government takeover” of healthcare. (Among the 179 representatives who voted against rebuking Wilson — and circulated a letter on his behalf — was Iowa’s Steve King, who recently alleged that Obama was excluding “white men” from his initiatives.)”

So what is happening in the crazy section? Glenn Greenwald puts everything together (again).

So who were the people marching for the KKK in the 1920s, fighting the teaching of evolution in the schools and trying to put biology teachers in prison and placing religious plaques on court houses?

H.L. Mencken’s eulogy of William Jennings Bryan: The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 27, 1925

It was plain to everyone, when Bryan came to Dayton, that his great days were behind him — that he was now definitely an old man, and headed at last for silence. There was a vague, unpleasant manginess about his appearance; he somehow seemed dirty, though a close glance showed him carefully shaved, and clad in immaculate linen. All the hair was gone from the dome of his head, and it had begun to fall out, too, behind his ears, like that of the late Samuel Gompers. The old resonance had departed from his voice: what was once a bugle blast had become reedy and quavering. Who knows that, like Demosthenes, he had a lisp? In his prime, under the magic of his eloquence, no one noticed it. But when he spoke at Dayton it was always audible.

When I first encountered him, on the sidewalk in front of the Hicks brothers law office, the trial was yet to begin, and so he was still expansive and amiable. I had printed in the Nation, a week or so before, an article arguing that the anti-evolution law, whatever its unwisdom, was at least constitutional — that policing school teachers was certainly not putting down free speech. The old boy professed to be delighted with the argument, and gave the gaping bystanders to understand that I was a talented publicist. In turn I admired the curious shirt he wore — sleeveless and with the neck cut very low. We parted in the manner of two Spanish ambassadors.

But that was the last touch of affability that I was destined to see in Bryan. The next day the battle joined and his face became hard. By the end of the first week he was simply a walking malignancy. Hour by hour he grew more bitter. What the Christian Scientists call malicious animal magnetism seemed to radiate from him like heat from a stove. From my place in the court-room, standing upon a table, I looked directly down upon him, sweating horribly and pumping his palm-leaf fan. His eyes fascinated me: I watched them all day long. They were blazing points of hatred. They glittered like occult and sinister gems. Now and then they wandered to me, and I got my share. It was like coming under fire.

What was behind that consuming hatred? At first I thought that it was mere evangelical passion. Evangelical Christianity, as everyone knows, is founded upon hate, as the Christianity of Christ was founded upon love. But even evangelical Christians occasionally loose their belts and belch amicably; I have known some who, off duty, were very benignant. In that very courtroom, indeed, were some of them — for example, old Ben McKenzie, Nestor of the Dayton bar, who sat beside Bryan. Ben was full of good humor. He made jokes with Darrow. But Bryan only glared.

One day it dawned on me that Bryan, after all, was an evangelical Christian only by sort of afterthought — that his career in this world, and the glories thereof, had actually come to an end before he ever began whooping for Genesis. So I came to this conclusion: that what really moved him was a lust for revenge. The men of the cities had destroyed him and made a mock of him; now he would lead the yokels against them. Various facts clicked into the theory, and I hold it still. The hatred in the old man’s burning eyes was not for the enemies of God; it was for the enemies of Bryan.

Thus he fought his last fight, eager only for blood. It quickly became frenzied and preposterous, and after that pathetic. All sense departed from him. He bit right and left, like a dog with rabies. He descended to demagogy so dreadful that his very associates blushed. His one yearning was to keep his yokels heated up — to lead his forlorn mob against the foe. That foe, alas, refused to be alarmed. It insisted upon seeing the battle as a comedy. Even Darrow, who knew better, occasionally yielded to the prevailing spirit. Finally, he lured poor Bryan into a folly almost incredible.

I allude to his astounding argument against the notion that man is a mammal. I am glad I heard it, for otherwise I’d never believe it. There stood the man who had been thrice a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic — and once, I believe, elected — there he stood in the glare of the world, uttering stuff that a boy of eight would laugh at! The artful Darrow led him on: he repeated it, ranted for it, bellowed it in his cracked voice. A tragedy, indeed! He came into life a hero, a Galahad, in bright and shining armor. Now he was passing out a pathetic fool.

Worse, I believe that he somehow sensed the fact — that he realized his personal failure, whatever the success of the grotesque cause he spoke for. I had left Dayton before Darrow’s cross-examination brought him to his final absurdity, but I heard his long speech against the admission of expert testimony, and I saw how it fell flat and how Bryan himself was conscious of the fact. When he sat down he was done for, and he knew it. The old magic had failed to work; there was applause but there was no exultant shouts. When, half an hour later, Dudley Field Malone delivered his terrific philippic, the very yokels gave him five times the clapper-clawing that they had given to Bryan.

This combat was the old leader’s last, and it symbolized in more than one way his passing. Two women sat through it, the one old and crippled, the other young and in the full flush of beauty. The first was Mrs. Bryan; the second was Mrs. Malone. When Malone finished his speech the crowd stormed his wife with felicitations, and she glowed as only a woman can who has seen her man fight a hard fight and win gloriously. But no one congratulated Mrs. Bryan. She sat hunched in her chair near the judge, apparently very uneasy. I thought then that she was ill — she has been making the round of sanitariums for years, and was lately in the hands of a faith-healer — but now I think that some appalling prescience was upon her, and that she saw in Bryan’s eyes a hint of the collapse that was so near.

He sank into his seat a wreck, and was presently forgotten in the blast of Malone’s titanic rhetoric. His speech had been maundering feeble and often downright idiotic. Presumably, he was speaking to a point of law, but it was quickly apparent that he knew no more law than the bailiff at the door. So he launched into mere violet garrulity. He dragged in snatches of ancient chautauqua addresses; he wandered up hill and down dale. Finally, Darrow lured him into that fabulous imbecility about man as a mammal. He sat down one of the most tragic asses in American history.

It is the national custom to sentimentalize the dead, as it is to sentimentalize men about to be hanged. Perhaps I fall into that weakness here. The Bryan I shall remember is the Bryan of his last weeks on earth — broken, furious, and infinitely pathetic. It was impossible to meet his hatred with hatred to match it. He was winning a battle that would make him forever infamous wherever enlightened men remembered it and him. Even his old enemy, Darrow, was gentle with him at the end. That cross-examination might have been ten times as devastating. It was plain to everyone that the old Berseker Bryan was gone — that all that remained of him was a pair of glaring and horrible eyes.

But what of his life? Did he accomplish any useful thing? Was he, in his day, of any dignity as a man, and of any value to his fellow-men? I doubt it. Bryan, at his best, was simply a magnificent job-seeker. The issues that he bawled about usually meant nothing to him. He was ready to abandon them whenever he could make votes by doing so, and to take up new ones at a moment’s notice. For years he evaded Prohibition as dangerous; then he embraced it as profitable. At the Democratic National Convention last year he was on both sides, and distrusted by both. In his last great battle there was only a baleful and ridiculous malignancy. If he was pathetic, he was also disgusting.

Bryan was a vulgar and common man, a cad undiluted. He was ignorant, bigoted, self-seeking, blatant and dishonest. His career brought him into contact with the first men of his time; he preferred the company of rustic ignoramuses. It was hard to believe, watching him at Dayton, that he had traveled, that he had been received in civilized societies, that he had been a high officer of state. He seemed only a poor clod like those around him, deluded by a childish theology, full of an almost pathological hatred of all learning, all human dignity, all beauty, all fine and noble things. He was a peasant come home to the dung-pile. Imagine a gentleman, and you have imagined everything that he was not.

The job before democracy is to get rid of such canaille. If it fails, they will devour it.

Of course this dynamic continues in the United States, carefully read this nugget:

A British film about Charles Darwin has failed to find a US distributor because his theory of evolution is too controversial for American audiences, according to its producer.

US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution.

Here is the Telegraph article.

The Daily Show covers the crazies (the ones wearing ties).

Understanding of these issues clearly is based upon education, science education and earth science education.  How bad can this be in the United States?  Very bad.

The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is, according to the US Department of Education, “the largest, most comprehensive, and most rigorous internationa l comparison of education ever undertaken.” In the 1995 school year, TIMSS tested 500,000 students from 41 nations at five different grade levels on math and science topics. The study included tests, questionnaires, curriculum analyses, videotaped classro om observations, and policy issue case studies. Representative random samples of students and teachers were used to collect data for the study. Coordination of the study was funded by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Canadian government. Each participating country was required to follow data collection guidelines and pay the costs of gathering the data.

U.S. twelfth graders finished near the bottom of the twenty four nations who participated in the test. The results of the study, released February 24, 1998, showed that U.S. students outperformed only three countries — Lithuania, Cyprus and South Africa. The Netherlands and Sweden had the highest scores.

Here is the report.

These people, individual for individual, are shadows of those who marched against Civil Rights (in the 1950s and 1960s) or for the KKK (in the 1920s). One can only pity them and their small, selfish, and backward vision of what America is, or can be.

Charles Dickens understood the cruelty of these people, his insights are important today.

“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,’ said
Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe,’ but I see
something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding
from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw.’

‘It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,’ was
the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. ‘Look here.’

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children;
wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt
down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

‘Oh, Man. look here. Look, look, down here.’ exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling,
wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where
graceful youth should have filled their features out, and
touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled
hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and
pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat
enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No
change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any
grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has
monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him
in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but
the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie
of such enormous magnitude.

‘Spirit. are they yours.’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon
them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.
This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both,
and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy,
for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the
writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out
its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye.
Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse.
And abide the end.’

‘Have they no refuge or resource.’ cried Scrooge.

‘Are there no prisons.’ said the Spirit, turning on him
for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses.'”

– A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Ignorance is our most dangerous enemy. Fools think that they can fashion ignorance into political or monetary power, but in the end they are destroyed and forgotten.

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