Friday, 7/11/14

  1. How will history rhyme next time?
  2. Flash! NPR Story that makes people stupider!
  3. Ignorance so baffling it defies a headline writer
  4. Siri, the 6-year-old’s oracle

1

I heard a story on NPR very recently about the extent to which the tobacco industry may have been the principal drummer generating the “Type A behavior” drumbeat that shifted attention from tobacco to attitude as the cause of many health problems.

History, as they say, doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes. Will we, in 40-60 years, be reading hearing seeing USA Today infographics about how the pharmaceutical companies today were dissembling or diverting our attention from the possibility that uterine defoliants weren’t all that safe for women?

2

Speaking of NPR, Thursday brought the rare All Things Considered story that made me feel stupider by the minute.

Some northeastern-sounding expert, who may or may not have been there or old enough to remember, was talking about the 1964 Republican Convention. I wasn’t there, but I remember fairly well, and I think this expert is full of it. “It” being fanciful if not outright dishonest revisionism according to his template of how the world works.

I shut it off when he said that Goldwater’s “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” was (I believe this is almost exact) “as much about fighting Communism as about defending the liberty of southern whites.”

Nice touch. It was kinda 50/50. Communism and [racial epithet implied]. Oh, those wacky Republicans!

Except that it wasn’t. I think that comment was 100% anti-communist. I was maybe a little young to pick up on “dog whistles,” but I was watching nightly from a fishing lodge among white adults who were plenty old enough to pick up dog whistles.

The NPR interviewer also was marveling that 27 of 33 Republican Senators voted for the Civil Rights Act that year. Well, yeah: the Democrats were the party of Jim Crow, and there was much more Democrat than Republican opposition to the civil rights movement. From inside northern white Republican families, my wife and I agree that Republican concerns mostly centered on the folks Martin Luther King hung out with – thought to be Communists. Maybe we was had, but frank racism it wasn’t.

I think we’ve got us a real juggernaut of journalistic ignorance going on here.

3

There’s a “Gay blood drive” hitting My Fair City that sees the FDA ban on blood donations by men who’ve done other men since 1977 as a “slap in the face” instead of a legitimate public health measure. Local news story concludes (emphasis added):

The men and their allies are also being asked to sign an online petition that asks the Obama administration to call on the U.S. Department of the Health and Human Services and FDA to lift the ban.

“Ultimately, our goal is to save more people’s lives,” McDowell said. “That’s why we’re pushing for this legislation.”

I don’t know whether McDowell is confused about the meaning of “legislation” or whether the reporter totally omitted another aspect to the Gay blood drive, but I searched the story in vain for any suggestion of “legislation” proper.

4

My 6 year old grandson is spending time at the ocean with his mother and sister while my son continues to work. Son’s cell phone rang early the other morning. It was his wife’s number.

“Hi, Sugar. You’re up early.”

“Hello, Daddy.”

Grandson doesn’t know the code to unlock the phone, but used Siri to call, just as he’d seen his mother do.

He wanted to know how to spell the last name of his Kindergarten girlfriend, a shy and retiring sort who’s an odd match for his brashness. Later in the the day, his mom heard him interrogating Siri: “Where’s Katy [Lastname]?” as if Siri were the Oracle.

I don’t think Siri answered.

It’s going to be a long adolescence, starting all too soon.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.