Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Reality-based thinking

So the House Judiciary Committee released thousands of pages of documents (here and here and here and here) regarding the decisions to fire U.S. Attorneys in 2006. which reveal that Karl Rove in particular and Harriet Miers and the White House generally were far more deeply involved in the decisions to fire U.S. Attorneys in 2006 than they'd previsouly admitted. And, the documents show, at least some of the motivation was purely political.

As Claude Raines might put it, I'm shocked, shocked.

The Justice Department is looking into whether we illegally tortured prisoners at Gitmo or elsewhere. But althogh waterboarding is torture, we're not concerned about that because now-Professor John Yoo said it was legal. Ditto, for extraordinary rendition. Warrantless wiretaps. Indefinite detention. (Oh, wait, we actually endorse that.)

While the Republicans are screaming about how Obama wants to take over health care and decide who gets to live and who must die, the administration is cutting back room deals with the pharmaceutical industry.

The President gets a chance to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and though the Democrats have the votes in the Senate to confirm anyone they like - including someone who's at least marginally honest - either the candidate herself or her handlers in the administration insist that she present herself as more rigidly conservative in her judicial philosophy than either Bush II appointees - Roberts or Alito.

Meanwhile, only 53% of Virginians agree that Obama was born in the United States and is, therefore, constitutionally qualified to be President. And Virginians are actually pretty trusting for southerners. The polling data shows that only 47% of southerners believe Obama was born here. Of course, some of those are Democrats. Among Republicans, 28% are sure he's not from this country while 30% just don't know.

And don't get me started on creationism.

An old professor of mine, paraphrasing a line attributed to Mark Twain, said that a lie can travel halfway around the world before truth has time to put its britches on. I've noted before that anyone can start a blog and mouth off. The problematic part is that, it seems, just saying it is enough. It's on the internet, so it must be true. Unless you disagree, in which case it's obviously false.

The problem is that reality is a whatever-that-might-be sort of thing.

Science tells us that what we do, our industrialization, burning fossil fuels, clearing forests, polluting the atmosphere, leads to global warming. But if you don't believe in science, if you see the work of scientists as no more reliable than the work of alchemists, then why believe such nonsense? And, more importantly, why act on it?

And why should we believe the scientists? Why not take the Biblical story of creation (or at least one version of it, since there are several) as literal truth? The earth is some 7,000 years old. The evidence to the contrary is either misunderstood or was planted by god to test us. Or something. Why not?

Ohio law includes what's known as the "Physical Facts Rule." The Rule was adopted in 1975 and says that
testimony of a witness which is positively contradicted by the physical facts cannot be given probative value by the court.
That's so obviously correct that you have to wonder why most states reject the rule. Yes, that's right. In most states the witness may be believed when he says that he could see through the brick wall. Or maybe the surprising part is that Ohio has joined the minority of states that accept the rule. Reality reigns.

So, next time you're called for jury duty, try telling the one certain truth and see what happens. Gee, your Honor. Unless what the witness says contradicts the laws of physics, there's no way to tell who's speaking the truth and who isn't. Only the physical facts rule applies. And maybe not even that.

Round up the usual suspects.


  1. Not really the point of your post, but....

    While I think it's likely that Obama was born in the US (after all, what idiot would run for president without meeting the constitutional qualifications), I don't understand why people are criticized for asking to see a birth certificate. Since when do we believe politicians?

  2. Quite frankly, I don't want lawyers interpreting the law of physics and trying to apply them to the testimony of witnesses. Let the jury sort it out. If a witness says he ran to the moon yesterday, I would trust a jury to see through that testimony.