Whatever Happened to Facts

Am I a romantic or was there a time when there were such things as facts? Seems to me there was a time when I was much younger when you could say things that were simply not disputable.

The Earth is round.
Water is a liquid.
Rain falls out of the sky.

Then things got a bit more sophisticated but facts were still facts.

George Washington was our first President.
The Civil War was fought between North and South over the central issue of slavery.
The Great Depression started in 1929.

Even if we go a bit deeper, still a fact, our country was founded on separation of church and state to protect religious freedom and prevent the establishment of a state religion.

These were all things we could count on as common knowledge. We could have discussions amongst ourselves and know that folks who denied plain facts were either ignorant or crazy.

Two exchanges that I witnessed in the past 24 hours reinforce for me that facts are now dead.

The first occurred between two of my readers in the comments section.

Well, [the Obama administration] could have saved the lives of 47,000 people annually who die because they don’t have insurance [if they had passed health care reform].

To which the retort was:

I’ve done some looking on the 47k thing. You really like that number don’t you? I personally find the number to be unbelievable and a discredit to anything it is attached to.

This conclusion was backed up by its own numerical spin.

How can we debate what is at stake in health care if we cannot agree on the basic numbers? There was a time when the best way to defend an argument was to quantify it. We now live in an age where any stat I offer up will be challenged as false.

The other example was an exchange between Marc Thiessen and Daniel Freedman on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”. Thiessen’s new book gets right to the point (in its title) that Barack Obama is making America less safe. Daniel Freedman, a former aide to Rudy Giuliani of all people, says Thiessen doesn’t know what he’s talking about. As I watched the back and forth I could see everyday regular people scratching their heads. Both men make credible arguments at least on the surface. When we get right down to it, both men are calling each other liars. Again, we’re left wondering, where are the indisputable facts?

These two examples are not atypical. Returning to Rudy Giuliani for a moment, he famously said recently that there were no terrorist attacks under the Bush administration (a claim also made by former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino and conservative gadfly Mary Matalin).  This observation was made with a straight face and was not challenged by the so-called journalists in the discussion. It occurred to no one to remind these folks that we got attacked on 9/11/2001, during the Bush administration? Here, we have an indisputable fact that gets cast aside in the most absurd way.

I am at a point where I am almost filled with despair that we Americans will ever have sane debates about anything again. No longer can the average person listen to an authority on a subject and feel they’ve gotten the truth. Now  we must devote hours of our day scouring the Internet to research virtually everything because listening to just two people simply gets us an exchange of the Joe Wilson “you lie.” Who has the time to do that kind of research with full-time jobs and family lives? The average person therefore simply believes whomever is easiest for them to believe. Then the average person parrots this belief as fact.

We live in a world where Joe Friday’s “just the facts ma’am” has been replaced by “perception equals reality”. And then we wonder why we make so little progress in solving the major problems of our time.


WordPress.com Political Blogger Alliance

No Siege Mentality, DICK

Yesterday, President Barack Obama addressed the nation on the findings behind the Christmas Day attempted attack on the US by Al Qaeda. A couple of facts still astound. First that eight years after Richard Reid used PETN, a powerful explosive, in an attempt to down a plane, we are still unable to detect PETN being concealed in the clothing of would be terrorists. While Obama indicated we would step up our efforts to detect this explosive, isn’t that too little, too late? How is it possible that we allowed eight years to pass without closing this known vulnerability?

The other astonishing element just came to light recently and was not addressed by the President. Apparently, we did not know Abdulmutallab had a visa because his name was misspelled by a State Department data entry clerk. In an age where Google can do a “fuzzy search” and even suggest alternatives to you when it thinks you’ve misspelled a search word, how can our security infrastructure be so limited?

However, the more important part of the President’s speech concerned tone, not facts. In what may or may not have been a direct response to the rabid ravings of former Vice President Dick Cheney, the President said (interjections added by me):

Here at home, we will strengthen our defenses, but we will not succumb to a siege mentality [DICK] that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans, because great and proud nations don’t hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust [DICK]. That is exactly what our adversaries want. And so long as I am president, we will never hand them that victory.

We will define the character of our country, not some band of small men intent on killing innocent men, women and children [DICK].

And in this cause, every one of us — every American, every elected official — can do our part. Instead of giving in to cynicism and division, let’s move forward with the confidence and optimism and unity that defines us as a people, for now is not a time for partisanship, it’s a time for citizenship [DICK], a time to come together and work together with the seriousness of purpose that our national security demands.

That’s what it means to be strong in the face of violent extremism [DICK]. That’s how we will prevail in this fight. And that’s how we will protect our country and pass it, safer and stronger, to the next generation.

Perhaps my memory fails me but in the wake of 9/11 all I remember is a lengthy report being issued. Granted Bush declared with empathy from a bullhorn “we hear you” but he never addressed the nation about our culpability in 9/11. I’m not talking about any climate that we may have created to make parts of the world hate us. There is no justification for the horrible acts of that day. I’m talking about our security failures in protecting the country.  Wouldn’t it have been refreshing to see Bush say:

This terrible attack on America could have been averted with better security. At the very least, we should have taken more seriously a memo entitled “Osama bin Laden to attack America”. I feel a grave responsibility for this massive loss of life and I pledge to you, the American people, that we will do better.

Of course, that speech was never made. Bush was always hard pressed to find fault with any of his policies or lack thereof. He can now rely on the revisionist history being offered by the likes of brain-dead twit Dana Perino who talks about how “we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term.”

Well fortunately folks there is a new sheriff in town, an adult who talks to us like adults and who takes responsibility when we mess up.


WordPress.com Political Blogger Alliance