The Rest of the Story

I wish a buck was still silver
It was back when the country was strong

I wish a lot of things — and with certainty I can say we’ll be in sync on some of them.

In John Wayne: The Life and Legend, the author relays a story about The Duke growing up as Marion Robert Morrison — and how every day he rode eight miles to elementary school on a horse named Jenny. No matter how much he fed his horse, Jenny was still too thin.

Some ladies in town took notice of what they perceived as malnutrition and reported his family to the Humane Society. After a vet examined the horse it was diagnosed to have a disease and eventually they had to put her down. On top of losing his beloved horse, Marion was understandably unhappy with how he was treated:

[A] sense of outrage over being falsely accused never left him. “I learned you can’t always judge a person or a situation by the way it appears on the surface,” he remembered. “You have to look deeply into things before you’re in a position to make a proper decision.”

John Wayne - tomorrow quote

When I came up with the idea for this site, Are the Good Times Really Over immediately came to mind. As someone perfectly put it on Wikipedia: “The theme of the song is the desire to return to a simpler time.”

Back before Elvis and before the Vietnam war came along
Before the Beatles and ‘Yesterday’
When a man could still work and still would
Is the best of the free life behind us now
And are the good times really over for good?

I see the song as a microcosm of America in its longing for greatness long gone.

But a lot of people got screwed in the pursuit of that greatness (none more so than Native Americans). “Make America Great For Once” is not an anti-Trump site — it’s just a forum for timeless truths and good old-fashioned fundamentals. I said essentially the same stuff during the prior two presidencies.

At the heart of why we fail to live up to our potential as a society is because we excel at polluting even the purist form of fact.

Even in a debate where fractions of a millimeter matter — the dead certain tap dance to talking points in doubt-free delight.

Tolstoy - quote-i-know-that-most-men_fabric-of-their-lives

In 11 seconds this clip encapsulates what America has become

Our culture loves to argue but eschews the rules of argument. It’s high time we appreciate the difference between an assertion and an argument. A perfect depiction of the distinction is on a blog I stumbled across called Duane’s Mind: A Christian’s Perspective:

An assertion is just a point of view, an opinion. An argument goes further. An argument is a point of view supported by reasons that demonstrate the view is a good one.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that at least 90% of all discussion in the domain of politics is dominated by assertion.

I’m far more interested in principles than policy.  Whatever issues are perceived as “politics” on this site — they are merely a medium in which to demonstrate the psychological gymnastics of human nature.

My Cousin Vinny is maybe the most hilariously educational movie ever — and this site is about exposing the illusions that his card trick so brilliantly brings to light:

How is it possible that everyone can so easily get that concept but flagrantly forget it when it counts? C.S. Lewis had a nice way of putting it:

pride-is-spiritual-cancer

Merle’s sorrowful song has an uplifting twist at the end, and without that final 45 seconds — you’d miss the meaning of the message.

That there’s something more to see is what this site is all about . . .

Study: Falling Man (Wheelman)

When I was working in St. Louis, I went to the Route 66 exhibit at the History Museum. What sticks out in my mind the most is The Negro Motorist Green Book. Like most people, I had a romanticized image of Route 66 — it never hit me how dangerous it was for blacks to travel back then — they needed “special” travel guides for safe places to stop.

So while we’ve had periods of greatness, we’ve rested on our laurels and looked the other way all too often. And with the technology of today, we “see no evil” with lickety–split satisfaction (that goes for liberals and conservatives both). At times, the right is justifiably infuriated by the left, and vice versa — and this site will illustrate their systematic efforts to derail debate.

Instead of genuinely listening to each other with our fine collection of communication tools — slinging snippets of certitude has become America’s pastime. We have created a knee-jerk nation where discernment is derided and negligence is in vogue. What was glaringly impolite in the past is now perfectly acceptable.

Much to our detriment we have fashioned a society in which “I say tomayto, you say tomahto” is all the authority required to have a “point of view.” Most maddening of all is the dedication to preserving beliefs that, at minimum, would be revealed to be seriously flawed by the slightest objective scrutiny.

How much can we hope to accomplish in a culture that razes reason for fun?

And are we rollin’ downhill like a snowball headed for hell
With no kind of chance for the flag or the liberty bell?
I wish a Ford and a Chevy
Would still last ten years like they should
Is the best of the free life behind us now
And are the good times really over for good?

Speaking of Ford — the documentary Ford: Rebuilding an American Icon explains the company’s comeback after its largest-ever loss of $12.7 billion in 2006. At the helm of its turnaround was Alan Mulally — who faced quality concerns by embracing criticism from Consumer Reports. When he says the following, it’s not some fancy quote to float — it’s a mindset that can make all the difference in the world:

We’re gonna seek to understand before we seek to be understood.

This 2:20 scene shows what serious-minded leaders look like (and not just Mulally). Ya gotta hand it to the great-grandson of Henry Ford for having the humility to see what was best for the company by putting the right person in place:

Mulally didn’t invent the phrase — but his version flows a bit better than Stephen Covey’s from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The synopsis for the “seek to understand” tenet is as follows:

Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.

I happily belong to the minute minority that feels we’re not informed enough to know the answers to every controversial issue in America. We don’t have a monopoly on virtue — and don’t want one. We’re not only willing to change our minds — we welcome the edifying experience of taking a trip to another point of view.

Like the evolution of this song, I think of conversation as a journey — where even the tiniest kernel of truth can alter your course. No matter how much I disagree with another’s view, I look for anything that’s true and work backwards from there. It’s amazing what curiosity can uncover, and even if I don’t change my mind on the whole, at least I’ve learned something along the way.

I wish coke was still cola
And a joint was a bad place to be
And it was back before Nixon lied to us all on T.V
Before microwave ovens when a girl could still cook, and still would
Is the best of the free life behind us now
And are the good times really over for good?

I’ve never had an interest in marijuana, but I’ve learned a few things on the medical front due to my dad’s disease. He’s had peripheral neuropathy for over 20 years —  and prescription narcotics have significantly waned in their effectiveness. So for the untold millions who suffer — it wouldn’t hurt to humanize our debates and be more informed to boot.

There are powerful forces that poison endless possibilities in America. Our country is weighed down by misguided beliefs that became calcified over time. What’s worse is that we’re doing it now more than ever. We are in perennial pursuit of ideologies — warfare waged with “opinions lightly adopted but firmly held . . . forged from a combination of ignorance, dishonesty, and fashion” (to quote Theodore Dalrymple’s Life at the Bottom).

The internet and the cable clans paved the way for the onslaught of the utterly absurd. As dialogue becomes more and more reduced to fragments by issuing disdain with delight — our ability to communicate is eroding at an alarming rate.

Stop rollin’ downhill like a snowball headed for hell
Stand up for the flag and let’s all ring the liberty bell
Let’s make a Ford and a Chevy
That’ll still last ten years like they should
‘Cause the best of the free life is still yet to come
And the good times ain’t over for good

After every game in Little League we lined up to high-five our opponent with “Good game!” Back then we were told, “It’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game” (an honor code not to be confused with the “everybody gets a trophy” business). I imagine coaches still preach the same thing today, but what’s the point if we’re just gonna abandon our sense of honesty and fairness for political gain?

“Two wrongs don’t make a right” is the kind of policy I care about most

I’ve always thought that there’s something wildly out of whack with pursuing values in a manner devoid of virtue. In one form or another, inevitably there are consequences for convictions unguided by conscience. Our 2nd president saw the writing on the wall long ago. In 1805 John Adams wrote the following in a letter to Benjamin Rush, a friend and fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence:

Our electioneering racers have started for the prize. Such a whipping and spurring and huzzaing! Oh what rare sport it will be! Through thick and thin, through mire and dirt, through bogs and fens and sloughs, dashing and splashing and crying out, the devil take the hindmost.

How long will it be possible that honor, truth, or virtue should be respected among a people who are engaged in such a quick and perpetual succession of such profligate collisions and conflicts?

Believe it or not, the best way to serve your interests is to first and foremost — hold your own accountable. If you wanna make the opposition look bad, try looking good. If you wanna have the moral high ground, try earning it:

The moral high ground, in ethical or political parlance, refers to the status of being respected for remaining moral, and adhering to and upholding a universally recognized standard of justice or goodness.”

It seems we have all the time in the world to promote the false — but not a second to spare for the truth. “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on” — a quote that’s been around in various forms for over 300 years (evidently the original being from 1710):

Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect . . .

The road to reality is blocked by detours designed to keep you going in circles. Purveyors of poppycock reroute you with narratives that avoid detail like the plague. The way out is to start with something small — an inconsistency or two that’s narrow in scope — and take the trail where it leads.

I can think of no finer example than 12 Angry Men. This 32-second modified montage captures the core of the story — and then some:

Henry Fonda’s character stood alone in his quest to examine the evidence before prematurely coming to a conclusion. He doesn’t get any traction early on — but sticking that duplicate knife into the table worked wonders — opening the door for the el-tracks inquiry:

Let’s take two pieces of testimony and try to put them together . . .

One of the most exceptional aspects of that movie are the motives of the jurors — one guy wants to quickly come to a verdict so he won’t miss the ballgame. As bad as that is, the ulterior motives are even more dangerous.

We weren’t shown this film in high school simply to prepare us for the unlikely event of getting jury duty someday — it embodies the building blocks of reasoning that create the foundation for justice.

And to me, justice is about doing right by your fellow man — regardless of the context. I can’t say I’ve always lived up to that, but I try pretty damn hard.

In The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, he shares an encounter that gave him pause for reflection:

Then one day at the end of my thirty-seventh year, while taking a spring Sunday walk, I happened upon a neighbor in the process of repairing a lawn mower. After greeting him I remarked, “Boy, I sure admire you. I’ve never been able to fix those kind of things or do anything like that.”

My neighbor, without a moment’s hesitation, shot back, “That’s because you don’t take the time.” I resumed my walk, somehow disquieted by the gurulike simplicity, spontaneity and definitiveness of his response.

“You don’t suppose he could be right, do you?” I asked myself.

‘Could he be right?’ . . . I asked myself.”

Surely you’d like people to show you that same courtesy.

Peck didn’t just ask himself “Could he be right?” — he acted on it (and the result is proof positive of how the even the smallest consideration can change the dynamic of your thinking).

Somehow it registered, and the next time the opportunity presented itself to make a minor repair I was able to remind myself to take my time. The parking brake was stuck on a patient’s car, and she knew that there was something one could do under the dashboard to release it, but she didn’t know what. I lay down on the floor below the front seat of her car. Then I took the time to make myself comfortable. Once I was comfortable, I then took the time to look at the situation. . . .

At first all I saw was a confusing jumble of wires and tubes and rods, whose meaning I did not know.

But gradually, in no hurry, I was able to focus my sight . . .  I slowly studied this latch until it became clear to me . . . One single motion, one ounce of pressure from a fingertip, and the problem was solved.

Clearing the clutter can be quite revealing . . .

That didn’t make Peck mechanically inclined any more than reading his books will make you a psychiatrist. But even a guy who dedicated his life to helping others through his insight into the human condition — allowed another to help him see something that was hidden.

Tragically,  instead of taking that time — smugly circulating invalid arguments is the way of the world now. When debating our views, we would do well to remember the wisdom of The Deer Hunter. This 5-second scene is the essence of arguing on the merits — which means to stay true to the topic at hand. More specifically, let’s look at the definition of “merits” — since not everyone understands it (and so few practice it). From The Free Dictionary.com:

Merits are the intrinsic rights and wrongs of an issue — as distinct from extraneous matters and technicalities. The factual content of a matter — apart from emotional considerations.

By design — the debauchery of platform politicking overlaps all that you seek — so when you think you’re arguing over one issue, you’re really arguing over them all. And ya wonder why this nation never solves anything?

Stanley, see this? This is this! This ain’t somethin’ else — THIS IS THIS!

discern

This 2:22 scene from Shattered Glass is a model of self-deception — how a reporter allows her friendship to severely cloud her judgment. What’s especially educational is the turnaround time to see what would be obvious if not for the cloak of loyalty’s lies.  She repeatedly digs in to find a way to absolve her friend, but she can’t escape the envelope of arguments that cut off every avenue of evasion:

If only we could calculate the astronomical amount of waste we produce in our steadfast refusal to open our eyes as she did. No need to see the next scene — as the excellence in her acting shows that intellectual honesty has overcome her. As the swivel door swings a breeze her way, and she looks around to wonder — she’s well on her way to the truth.

She lived up to the intellectual inquiry described in Anna Quindlen’s article: Life of the Closed Mind:

“To learn to ask: ‘Is that true? Maybe there’s something to what she just said. Let me think about it. That’s interesting. Maybe I should change my mind. I changed my mind’.” When is the last time you can honestly remember a public dialogue — or even a private conversation — that followed that useful course?

On top of being far more fruitful, such conversation would be so much more interesting, don’t ya think?

Alas, only in the movies. In the real world we defend the indefensible as if it were a call of duty — avoiding any truth that has even a whiff of inconvenience.

Putting aside Bill Cosby’s fall from grace — he was a universal icon for goodness growing up. In just this 5-second scene from Picture Pages — a parallel can be drawn to everything I advocate on this site:

The.Deal.Is.That.We.Connect.These.Dots . . . You see

There’s a mutual responsibility in communication — and that “deal” is to hold up your end of the bargain (and it’s in your interests to do so). After all, you want others to consider your concerns — so shouldn’t you do the same in return? Wouldn’t some good ol’ give-and-take be refreshing for a change?

Wouldn’t it be cool if we sharpened each other’s minds instead of dulling them?

From where I sit, we owe it to all those who came before us who had to fight in ways we’ll never have to. They handed us so much to build on — and this is how we honor their sacrifice:

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  • Rather than read and digest, people scan and dismiss — frantically seeking any fragment they can frame in their favor.
  • Sensible arguments are snubbed with meaningless replies that are utterly absent of original thought — mercilessly torturing reason with trite talking points.
  • Even against overwhelming evidence served on a silver platter, they will swat it away in disdain without so much as glancing at the goods.
  • Any sound bite that can be manipulated to their liking will be repeated in endless cycles of certitude.
  • Always at the ready — they’ll gleefully “inform” you with 60 seconds of “research” — compiled by copying & pasting material disseminated by the equally uninformed.
  • They’ll look away from a mountain of evidence against their side — while nitpicking over pebbles to pounce on the other.
  • Their civility is a charade in their immovable contempt for correction — playing childish games that fit a formula designed to infuriate you (at which point they’ll pull the innocence card and haughtily condemn your tone).
  • They want a presence without having to exert any effort to legitimately participate
  • They peddle their opinions while shirking any responsibility to validate them
  • They launch volleys of vitriol as fireworks for freedom
  • They see themselves as conveyors of truth while dripping in duplicity
  • They want respect without having to earn it
  • Their hypocrisy knows no bounds

Does that look like a country capable of greatness to you?

And for those who might feel a bit offended —  instead of being bothered by someone trying to inspire you to use your intelligence, I’d like to think you’d be more insulted by politicians & pundits putting a wrench to your brain in hopes of removing it from the equation.

Truth or reality is avoided when it is painful. We can revise our maps only when we have the discipline to overcome that pain. To have such discipline, we must be totally dedicated to truth.

That is to say that we must always hold truth, as best we can determine it, to be more important, more vital to our self-interest, than our comfort. Conversely, we must always consider our personal discomfort relatively unimportant and, indeed, even welcome it in the service of the search for truth. Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.

The Road Less Traveled - 2

I think this scene from Braveheart symbolizes the decline of America:

You’re so concerned with squabbling for the scraps from Longshank’s table . . . that you’ve missed your God-given right to something better.

I have fond memories of growing up listening to Paul Harvey’s radio program. I love that closing line: “And now you know . . . the rest of the story.” I’ve always loved being enlightened on something I didn’t know or fully understand — even if I feel foolish for not knowing sooner.

I’d rather be embarrassed for 5 minutes than be pleased in my ignorance for a lifetime.

The Rest of The Story

For all the talk of college campuses these days — I find it ironic that social media is safe-space central — where you can hide amongst “friends” in fellowship of fury. Ah yes, the part-time conveyors of conviction — who foam at the mouth over facts in one context but show bottomless scorn for them in another.

Humans are hardwired to want some degree of attention, and forums like Facebook are phenomenal for sharing what matters to us. But the ever-rising ocean of partisan pettiness is gluttony under the guise of concern.

How did we get to a place where regurgitating garbage gets people to “Like” you —  celebrating “victory” by clicking “bravo” to bad manners and bunk?

And by the way — “safe spaces” go way back:

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The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion . . . draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises . . . in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.

Francic Bacon - picture and yearsNovum_Organum_1650_crop

We don’t solve problems in America — we perpetuate them by ceaselessly jockeying for the upper hand . . . betraying some of the very values you supposedly hold so dear.

There’s a classic scene in Seinfeld that delightfully illustrates the divide between declarations of virtue and delivering on them:

If we can’t even agree on the most demonstrably provable, how on Earth can we responsibly address issues that aren’t so clear-cut?

When I was growing up, I could not have imagined that our country would devolve into creatures without an atom of curiosity in the clutch of baseless opinions. The dead certain will not budge one bit even in the face of the flagrantly obvious — which is brought to light in this 20-second scene from The Insider:

And nobody could deliver this line better than Pacino:

The cat . . . TOTALLY OUT OF THE BAG!

In July 2013 I had just returned from Virginia after doing some research. There was a time when I could have said, “I was there to interview a world-renowned nuclear scientist” — and instead of eye-rolling, people might actually respect a quest for answers — and who knows,  maybe even ask a question or two.

quote-the-most-difficult-subjects-can-be-explained

The bottom of this page is the end result of that day. I was just doing research for a book — it was only when I got home that something happened in the news that gave me an idea for a documentary (juxtaposing how both liberals and conservatives behave when their interests are at stake).

By intersecting those topics, I show no favoritism in illustrating how emotion runs roughshod over evidence.

How does a nuclear scientist fit into all this? Most of us take our cars into the shop counting on reputable technicians to fix them — but somehow in the political domain, specialists are shunned like lepers. And I’m not talking about on-call blowhards booked as “experts” to create the impression of debate.

I recently came across The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters — and lo and behold, that’s the basis of my documentary.

The Death of Expertise

Even my set design is similar in spirit to his book cover — as I surrounded myself with know-nothing know-it-alls who get their jollies from rapid-fire ridicule. Their black and white outfits are emblematic of their thinking — and the shiny masks reflect how they see themselves.

Whatever happened to taking pride in backing up your beliefs? And how about a hint of respect for those who do their homework?

Then again — why study when you can just “agree to disagree” about everything under the sun (quoting myself below to offset the text — as I will do from time to time):

We have become a society of spin doctors who manipulate language anytime it suits our needs. It took the toppling of time-honored traditions to fabricate our fact-free liberties. In days long gone, “agree to disagree” was usually engaged with some degree of sincerity in order to get beyond an impasse with civility.

The intention of the well-meaning motto is that you actually offer something in the realm of a sensible argument. Baseless assertions devoid of any effort in the discovery of truth do not qualify. Naturally, the slope got slippery over time as the egregious abuse of the adage caught on.

Nowadays you can “agree to disagree” about subject matter that you know absolutely nothing about. . . . Its indiscriminate usage is so off the charts that you could even to deny the existence of gravity and gleefully get away with it.

Being smoothly smug is now considered civil — never mind the notion of genuine courtesy that comes with the willingness to be wrong. We begin and end our conversations believing that we’re right — shunning the discipline it takes to be correct. . . .

Anything goes in our Age of Unenlightenment — where “all opinions are equal” whenever you feel the need to call on that convenience.

I’ve been writing about “agree to disagree” for over 13 years, and whad’ya know — the author above was tracking the same tactic:

No matter what the subject, the argument always goes down the drain of an enraged ego and ends with minds unchanged, sometimes with professional relationships or even friendships damaged. Instead of arguing, experts today are supposed to accept such disagreements as, at worst, an honest difference of opinion.

We are supposed to “agree to disagree,” a phrase now used indiscriminately as little more than a conversational fire extinguisher. And if we insist that not everything is a matter of opinion, that some things are right and others are wrong . . . well, then we’re just being jerks, apparently.

Oh yeah, I know the routine — all too well . . .

I had a friend with such razor-sharp wit that I called him the “Atomic Clock of Comedy” — for his consistency in making people laugh. To survey a situation in split-second timing requires an astute level of alertness. You’d think that some semblance of that awareness would show up when you have all the time in the world on matters of consequence.

He fell into the “all opinions are equal” trap  — insulting his own intelligence all the way down. That one’s intellect can vanish on cue is a psychological stunt that never ceases to amaze me.

Making matters worse is when your friends come to your aid by coddling you instead of calling you on your crap. You’d be doing your friends a far better service by goin’ Gambini like this 8-second scene that says it all:

Never-ending battles to claim Victory for Values has become trench warfare between armies of unreachables. Raising questions that simply cross paths with a worldview is seen as a challenge to entirely undo it, so the good soldier pooh-poohs any effort that could tarnish their utopian image.

Instead of acting on a set of principles that allow for a more fluid understanding of an issue, hermetically sealed minds employ all the same tactics to turn the opposition into the problem. The blurb for On Bullshit perfectly captures how shit shovelers spread their folly with infinite freedom:

Bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant.

That is the universal plug-and-play device of every apologist who defends their position purely on faith. It’s easy to spot someone who has no interest in considering an issue on the merits. No matter what the context, bullshitters have a bond in how they cling to the same patterns in issuing the patently absurd.

As if using a Response Form template governed by the International Bunk Speak Organization (IBSO), he or she just spews out formulaic nonsense to fill in the blanks. Not an ounce of effort will be exerted in a quest for the truth — and in so doing the accuracy in one’s perception will be butchered beyond belief.

Whatever energy is applied will be in the form of incoherent arguments. The party in question will whitewash any actions on their part as they paint the accuser as the problem. Whatever form it takes — all offenders are hell-bent on heading down the path of least resistance.

Isaac Asimov 2

Speaking of trench warfare, in the slightly summarized passage below — the author is referring to Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam:

True folly, Tuchman found, is generally recognized as counterproductive in its own time, and not merely in hindsight. In Tuchman’s template, true folly only ensues when a clear alternative path of action was available and ruled out.

Tuchman also stipulated that real folly was most often the product of a group within an organized government. Tuchman alighted on a root cause of folly that she called “wooden-headedness” — defined in part as “assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting contrary information.”

She also saw wooden-headedness as a certain proclivity for “acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by facts.” Wooden-headedness, said Tuchman, was finally — “the refusal to benefit from experience.”

Note: I’ll cite the above book later (for reasons that will become clear)

Tuchman could have just as easily been describing America as a whole.

You know why most people don’t care for history? It’s because people like Dan Carlin weren’t teaching it. His Hardcore History: Blueprint for Armageddon podcasts are riveting — explaining World War I in ways I had never even imagined. The vividness of the imagery he paints — and how he brings historical figures to life while connecting the past to the present — is nothing short of spectacular.

Whoever wrote his bio knocked it out of the park:

He’s been called a lot of things, but no one says that Dan Carlin is boring. His two long-running podcasts are among the most popular in the world. Part storyteller, part analyst, Carlin has mastered the art of looking at subjects from multiple angles and dissecting and thinking about them in original ways.

He isn’t afraid to go deep or to inject historical context into modern debates. Whether it’s history or current events he’s discussing, his passion is contagious, his approach refreshing and his ideas tickle your brain in all the right places. He’ll make you mad too. You’ll like it.

We look at everything in-the-moment with so little understanding of how our history brought us to where we are. That college history book I show in the sidebar is where I found Falling Man that fateful day. But far more important was finding a fascination with history (and whad’ya know, it was due to a fantastic teacher).

In the first podcast, I remember thinking how cool it was that I knew a bit about Archduke Franz Ferdinand — and how his assassin Gavrilo Princip lit the fuse that inflamed so much of the 20th century and beyond.

Carlin quickly made me realize how little I knew (just on that alone — never mind the 23-hours that followed).

You think taking that class, one on Hitler & 20th Century Germany, a book report on Kaiser Wilhelm II, and watching Mel Gibson’s Gallipoli — qualifies me to get in the ring and debate the War to End All Wars with someone of Carlin’s caliber?

Would I be justified in “agreeing to disagree” about the impact of the Treaty of Versailles — simply because I read Mein Kampf and wrote a couple of papers on Hitler? Or how about hanging my hat on another old faithful in the arsenal of silly sayings: “You can’t believe everything you read!”

Who cares if his reading list dwarfs mine, that he’s done countless hours of research and preparation, and that my limited knowledge is hardly fresh after 25 years?

After all, it’s my opinion — and I’m entitled!

Not even the Atomic Clock of Comedy would buy that — so he doesn’t really believe that “all opinions are equal,” does he! So why did he that day? (quoting myself below):

An axiom for self-deception is that irrationality is directly proportional to the individual’s emotional investment in the issue. The more personal the subject matter, the more ridiculous a person is willing to be.

franz-ferdinand-newspaper

Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Just like with Little League, that World History course delivered lessons for life — as I learned to connect and correlate in ways I never had.

Dan Carlin’s podcasts are great for long drives, walks, and whatnot — as they can really liven things up by transporting you to another time and educating you along the journey.

If that doesn’t interest you, fine — but at the very least, you could knock it off with this “all opinions are equal” business — because you know damn well and good you don’t believe it. And speaking of correlating:

“everybody gets a trophy” sounds an awful lot like “all opinions are equal,” doesn’t it?

Echo chambers of circular certitude have a way of turning people into the very thing they complain about. Bringing back Old Glory of genuine disagreement (where you gotta work for it) — would go a long way to turn the tide.

Entertaining information with an open mind is an essential tenet of integrity. McCullough’s masterpiece John Adams speaks volumes on that front:

By late summer of 1756 Adams had made up his mind about the future. . . . Beholding the night sky, “the amazing concave of Heaven sprinkled and glittering with stars,” he was “thrown into a kind of transport” and knew such wonders to be the gifts of God, expressions of God’s love. But greatest of all, he wrote, was the gift of an inquiring mind.

But all the provisions that He has [made] for the gratification of our senses . . . are much inferior to the provision, the wonderful provision that He has made for the gratification of our nobler powers of intelligence and reason. He has given us reason to find out the truth, and the real design and true end of our existence.

To a friend Adams wrote, “It will be hard work, but the more difficult and dangerous the enterprise, a higher crown of laurel is bestowed on the conqueror. . . . But the point is now determined, and I shall have the liberty to think for myself.”

Or — we can continue down the dead end described in The Death of Expertise — because it’s worked out so well . . .

The United States is now a country obsessed with the worship of its own ignorance. . . . we’re proud of not knowing things. Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything.

It is a new Declaration of Independence: no longer do we hold these truths to be self-evident, we hold all truths to be self-evident, even the ones that aren’t true. All things are knowable and every opinion on any subject is as good as any other.

Making the Most of One's Best

FARGO fans will surely appreciate this 57-second clip. In a nutshell, this is what my site is all about — how to handle information that doesn’t look or sound right, is inconsistent, too coincidental and so on. If you just put aside the politics aside and look at something objectively — it’s AMAZING what you can see.

The Rubber Meets the Road . . .

America has gone totally off the rails in its worship of the wildly undeserving — a line I wrote 4 years ago.

While I voted for Obama in 2008, I knew he wasn’t an agent of change — and said so at the time. The reason I knew that is because he had no history of risk (not of the boldness it would take to give D.C. a good kick in the ass). But I gave the guy a shot — and wished him the best in the way I do for all who assume the office:

I hope he’ll be the greatest president ever!

Same as I said for Bush in 2000 and Trump in 2016

My vote went to Romney in 2012. I just have this old-fashioned idea about not rewarding people who are dishonest and don’t do a good job.

Hannity and O’Reilly were spot-on about a lot during the Obama years. That I can’t stand the likes of those guys is precisely to the point — because if someone’s making sense, I don’t care who they are.

Is that enough for my bona fides for fair-mindedness? Just how far does one have to go to lay the foundation for impartiality?

That was the question I continually faced when I wrote my documentary.

We must be clear-sighted in beginnings, for, as in their budding we discern not the danger, so in their full growth we perceive not the remedy.

Montaigne, Essays

(from In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam by  Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense JFK/LBJ Administrations)

In Retrospect

That nuclear scientist I interviewed — he’s not “an” authority on the issue — he’s THE authority (the one even the best experts in the world go to for the final word). It would be unthinkable not to talk to him if you really wanted to know the truth.

quote-facts-are-stubborn-things_John Adams

The second you shun something that doesn’t fit the narrative you want — you have contaminated your perception.

I’m sure many of you found it maddening when the Left played the race card to discard your criticism. Well I didn’t appreciate being called a “Bush hater” for going after the truth that nails both parties to the wall.

Purely on the math alone — Colin Powell’s case to the UN revolved around 3 WMD claims

  1. Chemical
  2. Biological
  3. Nuclear

Defenders of the Indefensible invariably ignore #2 and #3 and distort the hell out of #1:

LA_LA_LA_GIF_SHANEEASY_AS_1

That you even think that something so complex and convoluted could be explained away so easily — is a monumental problem all by itself . . .

Does this sound like an arsenal of chemical weapons from an active WMD program to you?

  • Remnants from Iraq’s arms program in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war
  • All had been manufactured before 1991
  • Filthy, rusty or corroded, a large fraction of them could not be readily identified as chemical weapons at all
  • Some were empty, though many of them still contained potent mustard agent or residual sarin
  • Most could not have been used as designed, and when they ruptured dispersed the chemical agents over a limited area
  • Many chemical weapons incidents clustered around the ruins of the Muthanna State Establishment, the center of Iraqi chemical agent production in the 1980s

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not-equal-to-hiCentrifuge style comparison

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The administration had its hands on 60,000 tubes — and yet not one of them was presented by Powell at the U.N. According to HUBRIS, they scrapped the idea of displaying a tube — since Powell would be holding up the one piece of evidence that was most in dispute.

As David Albright put it in a combined quote from Spinning the Tubes and HUBRIS:

If you want to stir up a war, then nuclear’s always the flagship. Everybody in the Middle East has chemical or biological weapons, and they’re not decisive. And so it’s really always the difference between some concern and a lot of concern.

The tubes were everything for the administration’s case. They were something tangible that they could point to. Without it, they had nothing!”

  • What does it say to you that a conversation as complex as uranium enrichment could be hijacked by 10-second sound bites?
  • What does it say to you that untold millions fervently believe that Trayvon had a can of iced tea in his pocket — not the watermelon drink that was entered into evidence?

“Everybody believed Iraq had W.M.D.” is not a valid argument any more than “armed only with skittles.”

Such fragments of folly are nothing more than empty slogans to serve a narrative. Arguing your views in good faith demands discernment — the willingness to examine all factors — instead of seizing on one-dimensional elements for inadequate conclusions.

Citing outdated and generic claims from Democrats is an emotional response to outright reject opposing arguments in a wholesale manner. That is the epitome of spin — to engineer an illusion — to make you believe that something meaningless has substance.

How can we possibly solve serious problems when we refuse to adhere to some semblance of the fundamentals of making sense?

And instead of the media helping to sort things out — their highly-selective interest in the truth prevents the possibility of rational discourse.

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I intertwine the Trayvon story with the Iraq WMD delusion — an echo chamber of timeless deceit by Democrats and Republicans alike. The Iraq WMD debacle is one of the most manipulated, convoluted, and costly stories in history — and my documentary is the only source that brings crystal-clear clarity to it all (and no — I’m not exaggerating).

On the nuclear claim, I dismantle Colin Powell’s UN speech unlike anything ever seen before. But in a society that systematically derails reason, evidence alone cannot penetrate such depths of duplicity — so I take an artistic approach to deliver facts in the face of delusion. The Trayvon element is the hook into the documentary — putting up a mirror to mankind’s perpetual hypocrisy. On all-things Iraq, conservatives were in lockstep — just like liberals were for Trayvon Martin.

The psychological maneuvering of bunk-ridden beliefs is far and away the biggest barrier to a better world. We need a tectonic shift in critical thinking skills — and to do that we need to start looking at the root of problems instead of spinning our wheels on the symptoms.

We live in a country capable of magnificence — and yet we’re throwing it all away by wallowing in a cesspool of servility.

Teddy would be appalled:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole.

Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else.

— Theodore Roosevelt (Kansas City Star, May 7th, 1918):

Theodore Roosevelt quote

Being true to your word is more involved than simply telling the truth. More so than ever, people feel free to believe whatever they want and still see themselves as honest.

As a real-life character in the documentary essentially put it with pride: “It’s not a lie if I believe it’s true.”

All the more reason why intellectual honesty is far more demanding than honesty itself. The former requires the curiosity to question, a willingness to reflect, the welcoming of criticism, the acceptance of correction, and an objective interest in the truth — whereas with the latter you can be satisfied in your perception alone.

Undeniably, the exponential increase in self-righteous certainty is tied to technology. Instead of becoming more worldly with our exceptional tools — our conveniences are eroding our ability to think things through. In our brave new world, we seem to thrive on being dismissive, distracted, distant, and shortsighted. After all — who has time to be thoughtful anymore?

With a complicit media feeding an increasingly incurious audience, flagrant dishonesty will forever reign. It’s time to do something about that.

From Prologue to Epilogue, my 7-part series shines a light on what we have become:

Note #1: The animations are almost all original. The importance of that point is that you have to be an authority on the subject matter in order to write this material. The only exceptions are the Uranium Enrichment Primer and the animations that illustrate the entire cycle from Uranium Milling to Yellowcake to UF6 Conversion to Uranium Enrichment (all of which were modified by my magician of a videographer Shane Killian).

Note #2: Clicking on postcard below will take you to the Welcome page of the website — which explains a little background behind how all this started. Each segment is under the View Documentary menu (as well as a sub-menu for Transcripts).

Note #3: You can also get to each segment by the links below the postcard. Each one was painstakingly designed to build on each other, so the sequence is critical to understanding how it all ties together. Nevertheless, if you wish to watch the promo-clip excerpts first, then feel free to do so by clicking on playlist video that follows the links.

mount-everest-of-the-obvious_postcard_front

  1. Prologue — 22:09

  2. Act I — 20:35

  3. Act II — 23:35

  4. Act III — 21:59

  5. Act IV — 20:50

  6. Act V — 25:38

  7. Epilogue — 34:25

Below is a YouTube playlist of the 4 promo-clip excerpts.

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Playlist of promos is comprised of the clips below. Clicking on the image will take you to YouTube playlist where you can play them individually if you like.

The WMD Delusion - Playlist