Mathematics is now “sick” and “gross”

I’m right-brained by nature, so math was never my forte. But one professor at the University of Utah changed my whole perspective.

“Mathematics,” he said, “is not a matter of opinion. Rather, the study of mathematics is nothing less than the study of truth itself.”

I found this revelatory not only because it is accurate, but also because it recognizes the reality that truth is not relative or negotiable. It exists independent of interpretation, and it is not subject to change via majority vote. All the protests in the world cannot make two plus two equal five.

I’ve been thinking about that old math professor all day as I’ve watched the madness unfold in Ferguson in the wake of the grand jury’s decision. Many view the violence as a righteous reaction to what they perceive as a system where racist cops delight in slaughtering unarmed black teens, and where a grand jury of Klansmen turned a blind eye to this horror so they could protect one of their own.

But none of that is objectively true.

Ferguson attracted so much attention largely because it is so unusual. White cops do not routinely gun down unarmed black teenagers. As Rudy Giuliani noted on Meet the Press, 93 percent of black people who are murdered are killed by other blacks. And for that true observation, Giuliani was branded a racist and a hater by those who think their feelings of outrage trump that which is objectively true.

As for the specifics of the case, very little of the information that emerged from the initial media reports turned out to be reliable. The cowardly cop shot Michael Brown in the back! (Oops. No, he didn’t.) Michael Brown didn’t attack the cop! (Oops! Yes, he did. And all eyewitnesses who said he did were African-Americans.) These initial accusations were the subject of hours of breathless reporting and stoked the fires of rage and fury. In the weeks that followed, the true details trickled in quietly with little fanfare, as they got in the way of the “AmeriKKKa” narrative.

As for the grand jury’s decision, consider this true account from the Wall Street Journal:

A jury of a dozen average citizens, chosen long before this case came before them and including three black Americans, looked at 70 hours of testimony, heard 60 witnesses and deliberated for two days. The public statements of some witnesses proved to be false upon examination of the physical evidence, Mr. McCulloch said, including the claims broadcast on TV that Brown was shot in the back. Brown resembled a suspect identified in a local theft and there was evidence that he reached into Mr. Wilson’s car to punch him.

The jurors were presented with five potential criminal counts, including involuntary manslaughter, and rejected each one. The evidence was released to the public after Mr. McCulloch’s press conference, so others will be able to sift through the file and make their own judgment.

But the rioters aren’t going to sift through anything with facts in it to make their judgment. They’ve already made their judgment, and their verdict of chaos, violence, and destruction promises to devastate their local economy, hurt or even kill their own neighbors, and further widen the gulf between black and white.

The media, for their part, are doing everything they can to make the situation worse. Saying “This is revolting,” Salon.com posted a link on Facebook titled “Right-wing’s sick Twitter celebration: Ann Coulter, Ted Nugent, Brit Hume battle for grossest Darren Wilson tweet.” Looking for something sick and gross, I clicked through reviewed their entries and saw these instead:

“Hardcore leftists’ don’t really give a rip abt facts. Goal is and has always been to undermine civil society, stoke unrest, chaos.” – Laura Ingraham

“Dear Liberal Media, You are the problem. Again.” – Melissa Clouthier (who I’ve never heard of, along with many other examples Salon used.)

“Might say they’re anti science MT “‪@RichLowry: Liberals pride selves on their supposed adherence to facts, but can’t accept them in Ferguson” – Brit Hume

“All of the witnesses who testified that Brown charged Wilson were African American.” – Jonah Goldberg

Ted Nugent’s tweet – “DarrenWilson did good MichaelBrown did bad justice is served” – was the only one that was remotely celebratory. The rest were appeals to fact and reason, which are apparently now “sick” and “gross” in an era where truth is less important than feelings. By that template, the haters are the Rudy Giulianis and other “sick” conservatives who point out facts that people don’t like, not the rioters burning down their neighbor’s homes and businesses.

In this new Orwellian nightmare, mathematics, which is “nothing less than the study of truth itself,” must also be seen as “sick” and “gross,” too.  I can live with that. But the rest of this is more depressing than I can express.

Consistency and Bill Cosby

As the accusations against Bill Cosby continue to pour in, society at large has chosen to abandon him. TV Land yanked its planned “Cosby Show” Thanksgiving marathon, and NBC axed its in-development sitcom that would have marked Cosby’s return to prime time. As more and more venues where he was scheduled to perform withdraw their invitations, Cosby looks to spend his golden years in a permanent state of pariah-hood.

It is unlikely, however, that any of these accusations will be proven in a court of law. The alleged assaults took place decades ago, and assembling a legal case against him is all but impossible. Yet the accusers are credible, and collusion among them is very unlikely. In light of these realities, Cosby’s defenders are few and far between. (My Esteemed Colleague thinks this may be a white supremacist plot, but he’s the only one I’ve seen who has even come close to providing a defense.) Public opinion’s judgment is unanimous, and it is not contingent on the findings of a jury.

The masses have spoken, and they, now and forever, will view Bill Cosby as a rapist.

Make no mistake – I am not writing this to appeal the public’s verdict. I also find the accusations persuasive, and the pattern of behavior is too consistent to ignore. I had tremendous respect for Bill Cosby prior to this scandal, but my opinion of him has now been forever changed. Barring some dramatic revelation that invalidates the testimonies of his multitude of accusers, I will regard this man as someone beneath contempt.

You know, the same way I regard Bill Clinton.

Clinton has been accused of rape and sexual assault by just as many women as Cosby has, and the women who have come forward against him are just as credible as Cosby’s accusers. Unlike Cosby, Clinton has been proven to have repeatedly lied about his sexual behavior, and the pattern of abuse is far more readily established in his case.

Yet while Cosby is a pariah, Clinton is the Democratic Party’s patron saint.

Clinton’s speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention was the killing stroke that effectively ended Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Polls show Clinton is the most popular political figure in the country, and his wife is the prohibitive front runner to become the first woman president, due largely to residual affection for her husband’s administration.

So can anyone explain why Cosby should be shunned but Clinton should be revered?

Proof that I’m not Glen A. Larson

I haven’t posted here since the passing of “Battlestar Galactica” creator Glen A. Larson, which might serve as circumstantial confirmation to my arch-nemesis Languatron that the good Mr. Larson and I are one and the same person. He has made that accusation countless times and in countless forums, and I wondered what he would think when the sad day came that Mr. Larson was no longer with us.

Well, with apologies to Languatron, I’m still here. And this article I wrote, published today by the Deseret News, proves it.

_________

So Glen A. Larson has passed away.

If that name means nothing to you, then you weren’t a kid in the ’70s and ’80s. But it just so happens that I was such a kid, and during my childhood, it was impossible to turn on the television and not see Glen Larson’s name on just about every TV show that mattered to me.

But there was one occasion when I got to see some of Mr. Larson’s work live and in person.

I grew up in sunny southern California, and back in the day, our Cub Scout pack took a field trip to the special effects studio doing work for Larson’s series “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.” This was the pre-CGI era, so all we saw was some tedious stop motion photography. But the real excitement came when one of the technicians took us to a storage room where the models for the canceled series “Battlestar Galactica” had been mothballed. He cracked open one very large crate, and all of us got a good look at the Galactica herself.

That may well have been the greatest moment of my pre-pubescent life.

“Battlestar Galactica” — the original, not the nihilistic, joyless reboot of the series that aired on the SyFy Network around the turn of the century — wasn’t Larson’s most successful series, but it was arguably the most personal to him. It was launched in the wake of “Star Wars” mania, and it spurred a lawsuit from George Lucas for copyright infringement. Lucas lost that battle, and rightly so. Yes, there are superficial similarities between the two space operas, but “Galactica” offered a premise that was actually something much deeper and richer than the “Star Wars” universe.

“Battlestar Galactica,” in essence, was Mormons in space.

Glen Larson, himself a Latter-day Saint, had infused his series mythology with too many Mormon references to ignore. His Twelve Colonies of Man were essentially the Lost Tribes of Israel whose history began at Kobol, an obvious anagram for Kolob, which, in Mormon theology, is the star nearest to the throne of God. The colonies were led by a “Quorum of 12,” and marriages were referred to as “sealings” that extended beyond mortality and “through all the eternities.” The show never shied away from religious themes, and, at one point, the characters encounter a group of angels who paraphrase LDS Church President Lorenzo Snow.

“As you are, we once were,” the angels tell the Galactica crew. “As we are, you may become.”

Sound familiar? It certainly did to me.

I was thrilled to see Mormon themes woven into pop culture, but not everyone shared my enthusiasm. My mother thought it was a light-minded approach to sacred things, and I have to concede that time has provided some evidence for that point of view. Critics of my faith take Mormon precepts and present them with a Galactica-esque spin to make them sound kooky and bizarre. An anti-Mormon film in the 1980s sneeringly referred to the LDS concept of heaven as “Starbase Kolob,” and during the so-called “Mormon Moment,” I sensed “Galactica’s” influence in the media reports about Mormons “getting their own planet” after they die.

So if “Battlestar Galactica” is your only context for what Mormons believe, you can be forgiven for thinking that we Mormons are a whole lot less boring than we really are.

But I don’t think Larson’s intent was to mock things he held sacred. I think he was trying to make them accessible to a wider audience. Those kinds of themes were missing from 1970s television, and they’re still missing from much of television today. In a medium celebrated for its vapidity, Glen A. Larson dared to produce something profound.

He will be sorely missed.

 

Partisan Promise Disparity

This is the first election in living memory where I couldn’t care less about the outcome.  Yes, I think Republicans will take the Senate. Big whoop. What will this mean in terms of its practical impact on the nation at large?

Nothing. Nothing whatsoever.

Every piece of significant legislation that might reverse the damage Obama has done will be summarily vetoed. And, conversely, every attempt by Obama to advance his agenda will be nipped in the bud. There will be a flurry of partisan activity and a marked increase in rhetorical volume, but no actual lawmaking will take place.

That’s actually just fine with me, as I find government inaction to be a preferable default position to well-intentioned, expensive, and ultimately destructive social engineering. But there is action government needs to take to avoid the fiscal implosion of the entire nation – entitlement reform, anyone? – and neither party will take it. A Republican Senate will not stop or even slow our inevitable collapse.

So forgive me if I’m not giddy with partisan glee.

My exile from the GOP has given me a different perspective on the party that was once my home. It occurs to me that the Republicans will always be at a disadvantage, because we can never out-promise the Democrats. The Left believes that government is the primary – indeed, the only – vehicle for positive social change, and that all the ailments of humankind can be attributed to an inadequate amount of government. Poverty, violence, disease, despair, the global thermostat – all these can ostensibly be managed and controlled for the betterment of humanity if we just send the feds enough money.

Of course, none of that is true.

That’s not really a matter of opinion. For decades, we’ve been dumping truckloads of taxpayer cash on these problems, and, if anything, they’re worse, not better. Our fifty-year “War on Poverty” has cost trillions upon trillions of dollars and has created a permanent underclass with no intergenerational memory of self-sufficiency. Those governments that go whole hog and abolish private ownership produce tyranny, corruption, and crushing poverty – but at least everyone is equally miserable.

But real-world, empirically verifiable results don’t get in the way of Democrats who continue to dangle the promise of taxpayer-funded paradise in front of voters. Just keep writing checks, and, sooner or later, the government will get it right, even though they’ve gotten everything terribly, horribly, miserably wrong up until now.

Republicans, on the other hand, don’t offer anything nearly as exciting. Vote for us, they say, and we’ll minimize the damage government does. Of course, there will still be poverty and inequality and misery and pain, but at least it won’t be as bad as it will be if the Democrats add huge new gobs of government into the mix.

So the Democratic promise is “Vote for us and the government will create a paradise!” Whereas the Republican promise is “Vote for us and everything will still suck, but it might suck a little bit less.”

Which one of those rallying cries is more likely to stir the soul?

I think government is a necessary evil, and it has a critical role to play in establishing boundaries within which freedom can flourish. But freedom also admits the possibility of failure, and government cannot remedy the pain and affliction that is fundamental to the mortal experience. Only Jesus can do that. And when He comes back as King of Kings, that’s when I’ll get excited about government again.

Until then, it’s “meet the new boss; same as the old boss.”