Category Archives: Musings

The Third Camp

In the past, people tended to fall  into one of two political camps regarding the Constitution.

Camp One thinks the Constitution mostly protects our right to own guns without restriction, protects Christianity (and other religions to a lesser degree) and (if read correctly) prohibits abortion and other sins. The rest is boring boilerplate but basically says that, aside from the common defense, the government shouldn’t interfere with our lives, especially by taxing us or regulating our businesses.

Camp Two thinks the Constitution mostly protects rights like free speech and assembly (including guns, but maybe they could be “well regulated”) and says the government should not play favorites with any religion, including Christianity. It instructs the government to act as a counterweight to the rich and powerful when they’re tempted to discriminate against the poor and weak. The government should try to solve the problems of citizens. Beyond that, except for defense, the government shouldn’t interfere with our lives, especially by restricting personal choices regarding our own bodies. Sinning is a personal choice.

A third camp seems to be emerging. This group thinks words (including those in the Constitution) and facts are fluid; their meaning changes, and they don’t really matter. This camp and the way it’s evolving scares some of us. Think about it: rights are just words on parchment; convictions and beliefs shouted with righteous fervor are trivial ephemera; science is a story woven to comfort children. With this mindset, there’s nothing wrong with repeating crap spawned by the Internet that old fashioned guys like me call “provably wrong.” There’s nothing wrong with calling people “liberal pukes” (as some of my Facebook “friends” call me) because those are only words. Insults are colorful blossoms in the garden of free speech. “Lies” just represent differences of opinion. What’s the big deal?

I think words matter. America is a country based on ideals, but those ideals are powerless until crystallized into words. We write down our laws. History is experience condensed and preserved as language. Christianity grew from the words Jesus spoke, the words His disciples wrote down. Without the Bible, there is no Christianity. Without the Constitution, there is no America. Without history, the next generation becomes cavemen. When we trivialize words and their link to truth, we risk everything our country and its people stand for. Conservatives revered Justice Scalia for his (perhaps extreme) agreement with this idea.

People supported Trump for various reasons, many of them noble and sincere. But did they make their decision based on his words? Words like “drain the swamp” and “make America great again?” If so, they should prepare to be disappointed.

Trump does not treasure language the way our founding fathers did, or Scalia did, or Jesus did. Words don’t really matter to him; he says what comes into his head even if it’s not consistent with the words he said five minutes earlier. Some of Trump’s fans might have second thoughts once they realize that, to him, the “right to bear arms” is just four or five words strung together randomly. Not important. Certainly not one of his core beliefs. “Right to life” is only a phrase and subject to interpretation. “Well regulated” could mean “regulated strictly by me.”

If a man doesn’t care whether or not his words match the truth, even a little bit, we’ll never know what he actually believes. There is no way to predict what he might do. That doesn’t seem to bother people in that third camp.

And that’s scary.

 

 

Can I name my new van Tonto?

Naming vehicles is silly. On the other hand, I’ve named blank sheets of paper for a long time, and occasionally make money at it. I named one ream of blank paper “Jumper.” Others pages became Belinda, Marcus, Malcom, Billy Billy Billy, The Magician who was learning electronics, Miss Pounder the exercise instructor who inadvertently taught math, Bruce the Duck who saved the day, the evil Nightsmoke, Pon, Braindead the Algebra Student, and many more. Naming things is kind of what I do. Continue reading →

Cicada Songs, Ebola Dreams

I’ve read several popular books about diseases recently: Rabid, The Hot ZoneSmallpoxDisease, Spillover, and  Deadly Outbreaks. More books on a single topic than usual, but not with any project in mind. It just happened, the way it happens to folks who start to read books by Michael Connelly or Rex Stout. Several focussed on diseases that leap from animals to humans (“zoonotic” diseases). No curious person could resist daydreaming about some of the unsolved mysteries one encounters when reading about diseases like Ebola and Marburg. You play detective in your brain and then you almost certainly come up with your own crackpot theory, just like I did. Continue reading →

Political Plagiarism

Rand Paul is upset that people caught him using lines from Wikipedia and elsewhere as if they were his own. He feels like a victim and wishes he could just duel someone to settle it all. Or spend a couple days in detention after school, but certainly not his whole career. His words, I hasten to admit. Personally, I think most of what he did was harmless and we should cut him some slack. Continue reading →

Goats and Pigs, Iodine and Thiamine: a Hypothesis

It’s easy to decide that iodine deficiency plays some role in neurological diseases like ALS and Alzheimers. For over fifty years we’ve known that you’re much likelier to get one of these diseases if you spent your infancy in a region that’s deficient in iodine. Another example: exposure to the fungicide maneb dramatically increases the chances of getting a neurological disease from a toxin; maneb works by disrupting the use of iodine in animals. Our instincts shout that iodine must be involved; but we can’t say it out loud. Although iodine deficiency remains the number one cause of mental retardation in the world, we can’t prove it has a role in Alzheimer’s or ALS. No one has found a smoking gun. Continue reading →

April Sleet and Monkey Eyes

April snow, bittersweet like wedding tears,
Catches me every time.
Winter, a grizzled gray monkey,
Is a pest in the bananas;
Everyone’s glad to see him killed off.
But an April snow is that last monkey
We finally discover after a long
Day of exterminating
Clinging to the highest branch,
Staring at the knife with wide eyes,
A question on his forehead,
And we hesitate.

The snow floats fat and wet, like popcorn,
Or little white kittens,
Chasing the juicy gray fish to the ground.
Each feather tries to win the sidewalk,
But is washed away by warm minnows of spring.
Each drop washes off a bit of the man,
Exposing the wide-open monkey eyes.

“April Sleet and Monkey Eyes” by Kenn Amdahl. All rights reserved.