the species of Fact-Free Man

When I sit down to write some new entry here in my corner of interwebs yappiness, I do tend to sit back for a few minutes and think about what I’m doing here in general. There isn’t a big master plan primary theme, other than “here’s some stuff on my mind lately”. I don’t have a Mission Statement filed away, and that’s probably a theme for some other time on its own. That would be how simultaneously dopey and pompous and useless “mission statements” usually tend to be.

I do find that there is, more often than not, a kind of common set of elements to the topic focus here. Things tend to have these driving elements. One is that the topic rattling around my tiny little noggin is pretty important, not just to me, but to a broad range of people. It’s not all about me. With that probably comes another factor, that despite the general importance, it looks to me from where I sit like too few people are paying attention to the matter at hand. That’s a problem, that should be dead obvious enough that it’s silly to explain it. What’s worse than simple clueless ignorance is to get a little bit of confused or flat out deceptive misinformation, sheer bullshit, and develop an notion that you know what’s what in the topic.

If you’ve read earlier installments here, you should be very well aware of a good sized chunk of that sort of thing, as I’ve written about it often enough. The club membership political absurdity, the near complete oblivion or presumptuous misunderstandings about situations involving finite hydrocarbon fuel sources, et cetera. There are people who, when you get into some subject areas, aren’t just missing some important and relevant facts about the matter. They’ve gotten some fiction lodged in their heads one way or another in place of facts, or in some cases, something even worse, they can’t seem to even grasp what is a matter of fact, and the importance of dealing with facts.

That is, by far, the worst part. I don’t think it’s really possible to overstate this, even if it sounds a bit melodramatic. When you try to discuss a serious subject, a matter of fact, and somebody fails to register the relevant facts, when they can’t even comprehend the importance of facts in the matter, when they can’t even seem to consciously discern what is a fact and what is not, what is something else, this is a serious problem. In that mode of oblivion, people are indeed in deep shit. It’s a compound problem, and one I’ve written about this before. Carrying that little metaphor forward; in that kind of mental mode, people are in very deep shit, especially so because they can’t even understand that they are, indeed, in deep shit.

 

Just recently, the circus of absurdity generated this story.

The start was campaign ads for the reelection of Barack Obama as President, talking about Republican candidate Willard Romney and his business enterprise Bain Capital being a player in the business practices of “outsourcing” tossing people overboard, which, in simplest plain terms of realism, job destruction, not “job creation”, which Romney insists he is, and would somehow be if elected President of the United States.

Romney and his campaign responded with indignation of an aggrieved party, saying that Obama and his campaign were telling lies about Romney, claiming that in fact Romney had left his management position of Bain before any companies with Bain involvement had done anything involving such outsourcing, demanding apologies for these “lies”.

The Obama people replied that according to records of papers filed by Bain Capital with the Securities Exchange Commission, Romney certainly was involved in Bain Capital at a time when he claimed to have no involvement, and if what Romney and his people were telling the truth in the “I had no involvement in such business decisions because all that kind of thing happened after I wasn’t involved in Bain management” protestations of outsourcing innocence, then this meant Romney was lying to the SEC.

The next event was not surprising. Romney goes into righteous indignation about that, demanding that Obama apologize for saying Romney was lying, and possibly even committing a crime by making false statements in SEC filings.

The ridiculous thing about this is that in this story of one instance and then another in Romney and/or his campaign staff acting outraged and offended and demanding that President Obama and/or campaign staff apologize for “telling lies” about candidate Romney, something is plain and clear once you actually examine this. Romney is lying here, it’s only a question of “which one is the lie?”.

If the original protest and demands for apology for supposedly lying regarding the TV ad about Romney and Bain and outsourcing, saying Romney wasn’t part of this anymore when any such things happened because he wasn’t involved after 1999, is true, then he lied in information filings with the Securities Exchange Commission.

If Romney was filing truthful statements in SEC filings, then he was lying when he said he had no management involvement in Bain Capital after 1999.

We do still have some actual journalism providing facts. From an article from The Boston Globe, we find-

Government documents filed by Mitt Romney and Bain Capital say Romney remained chief executive and chairman of the firm three years beyond the date he said he ceded control, even creating five new investment partnerships during that time.

Romney has said he left Bain in 1999 to lead the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, ending his role in the company. But public Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed later by Bain Capital state he remained the firm’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.”

Also, a Massachusetts financial disclosure form Romney filed in 2003 states that he still owned 100 percent of Bain Capital in 2002. And Romney’s state financial disclosure forms indicate he earned at least $100,000 as a Bain “executive” in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings.

As that article then says, following the above text-

The timing of Romney’s departure from Bain is a key point of contention because he has said his resignation in February 1999 meant he was not responsible for Bain Capital companies that went bankrupt or laid off workers after that date.

One statement from somebody involved with Romney tried to dismiss all this by saying the information in the SEC filings were just “legal formalities”, that in actual practice Romney wasn’t involved in management in those years. Some people, myself included, would tend to say that if official paperwork of the legal kind, where truth is not just expected but required, says that a person is the firm’s sole stockholder, and the chairman of the board, and chief executive officer, and president, then it might be reasonable to say that you have some involvement in the firm and can be expected to take responsibility for what that firm does. Not demanding an apology from someone who dares to suggest this.

This is not a surprising series of events, for reality-based humans, as Willard Romney has already proven beyond any kind of doubt to be a chronic and blatant liar. He does it in public view, and when called on it, he doubles up on the lying.

It’s way worse than annoying. It’s not even surprising anymore, any surprise at that passed long ago, while it’s still astounding. I can’t even say that I don’t understand how it’s possible that somebody can get away with this kind of blatant weasel dishonesty, and there could be anybody who seriously considers this character as a potential president. There is a clue in another side element in this story.

I flipped through TV channels and found myself landing on Fox News, greeted by the sight of former half term governor Sarah Palin, staring into a camera at some remote location, babbling at show host Greta van Susteren. The subject was this circus. Following Palin’s usual word salad babbling, van Susteren was joined in the studio by somebody else, somebody from Time magazine whose name I already forget. Between the two of them, talking with the host, I ended up listening to probably about ten minutes or so of chatter about this subject. I never heard a single fact about the matter at hand.

This is what regularly passes for information and news on the yapping shows on Fox. What I did hear from the above people was not a single fact about Romney’s involvement in Bain Capital and what the facts are about the situation recounted above, but lots of chatter about what people supposed or speculated or imagined or assumed, or asserted as true, without any facts about the matter, just what the Obama campaign and President Obama himself are, according to these people, trying to do, intent, strategy, agenda, et cetera.

Speaking in the vernacular, this is known as “talking out your ass”.

But, they evidently find an audience, willing to sit through hours of this rambling nonsense, and accept it all as information and insight and truth.

We’re surrounded by people who form opinions, reach conclusions, without a basis of fact, and with almost nothing in the form of reason. Behold, the new form of human, Fact-Free Man.

It goes beyond political subjects and specific stories, too, you can select any subject that matters to the population in general, that affects everybody in some serious form, directly or indirectly, and you can find crowds of people who form notions in their heads, and probably talk about those often, without so much as a whiff of a fact or understanding what they’re talking about. They don’t even seem to understand that this could matter.

In a discussion thread running on a web forum where I’m a regular, somebody neatly and concisely summed something up. In a variety of different issues, for a lot of people, to talk about what they think about the subject is not really right, because they don’t actually think. They just absorb and repeat what they’re told they’re supposed to think in order to remain an accepted member of the group they see as theirs. Tell them something different, and what you say is likely to be dismissed, with varying degrees of vigor depending on who it is, as some sort of propaganda from “the other side” they see as a polar opposite to their side.

Facts and reasoning don’t get through.

I wrote recently about what I called a subculture of real. This is the opposite. And the awful thing is, the subculture of real I talked about is practically considered freakish, while you can encounter the kind of thing I’m talking about today just about every day, easily.

The problem isn’t just that the species of Fact-Free Man is doomed. It’s hard to care about that, although one problem there is that this can include people you care about. The extra problem is that it’s taking the rest of us down with them.

Name a subject, and chances are that any serious examination and discussion of a problem is made damned near impossible by people who seem fiercely determined to avoid a grasp of relevant facts of reality and instead dwell in some strange realm that seems to be more about hanging on to a belief about something determined by what they like, or even just conforming comfortably to what they see as their tribe. To say that this is not useful, and is unhealthy, would be extreme understatement.

At this point, I’m drawn toward possibly restating again things I’ve already written before, but I don’t want to do that. Aside from the time and effort to do that, it’s not necessary, because I’ve written it before, and you can follow the links on this blog page to read earlier items. Plus, people might start thinking I have some sort of memory problems and don’t realize that I’m writing virtually the same things over and over. Not only that, but people might start thinking I have some sort of memory problems and don’t realize that I’m writing virtually the same things over and over. On top of that, people might… um… hang on.

Anyway.

No kidding around here. This is serious. I know it’s easy for all this to look like just another asshole sitting around proselytizing, but this can’t get much more serious. As I’ve put it before, too many people are just sleepwalking, buried in diversions and distractions and all sorts of evasion.

The campaign of Barack Obama raising issues about candidate Romney and Willard’s business activities are not just noisy political game muckraking, there’s a fundamental and serious point about the man and how he does things and views things, particularly in economic matters. It’s not trivia.

All of the political noise has varying degrees of empty tapdancing around and managing to remain detached from reality too often.

I’ve recounted the economic problems before, last time out in fact, if I remember right, and I won’t go through it all again, but a general summary is worth a reminder. Here in America, we’ve had a long period of virtually destroying much of the activity of making things, and maintaining and repairing things. At the same time, we’ve had a kind of collective frenzy of allowing ourselves to be seen, and to see ourselves, as “consumers”. That word has to just die, now. The result of all that has been basically turning America into Debt Nation.

That doesn’t even get into the whole subject of all this “globalization” activity, and even national commerce, being based entirely on the assumption of infinite endless cheap petroleum for transportation fuel, and that’s another fact of reality to face. We’re into the diminishing returns of Hubbert’s curve in that department, and we can lie and trick ourselves and each other about that all we want, but the more we do, the worse we’re going to find our problems much worse, and this is right now, not “sometime next century” or “some decades from now”. We are there, now.

The realms of banking and finance have gone thoroughly nuts, another whole large messy and incomprehensively complex subject, but the generalities are simple enough to summarize. People have gone insane with complexity and supposed cleverness and just plain dishonest and irresponsible bad behavior in all sorts of games detaching ideas of “investment” from useful productive work and real value and into strategic games to get something for nothing, and as much as you can accrue, to hell with everybody else and the long term. Even worse, people doing this call themselves “job creators”, when they’re more often job destroyers, and they’re not “job creators”, not even “wealth creators”, but more simply “wealth collectors”.

That’s one of the most galling scams of the present day and recent history in the ugly saga that has played out, still playing out. The people trying to rationalize themselves in this kind of thing like to basically point to themselves and their peers and cronies accumulating Croesus levels of money and telling everybody “see how successful and wealthy we’ve become!” and presenting this as evidence for selling the idea “this stuff works, then!”. The obvious problem unless you’re completely blind and taken in is that in the kind of things we’re looking at here, there are people in the cliched (with good basis for the cliché) “one percent” who haven’t created wealth, they’ve only managed to collect a great quantity of it for themselves. Meanwhile, looking around, I don’t see how they’ve made things so great for anybody else, and nearly everybody else is either struggling, or teetering on an edge (even while many people have no idea how close to disaster they are).

That last bit is worth close consideration. A large number of fact-free humans are in the latter crowd, who seem awfully self satisfied and smug about how well they think they’re doing, oblivious to their own precarious position as a result of all the games and madness.

But basically, and this is hardly a secret anymore, we’ve had a long run up to disaster from people playing games not of “creating wealth” (never mind creating jobs, the job destruction has been going for years now), but creating incomprehensibly complex illusions of wealth, and then sucking up payments for themselves in salaries, bonuses, and assorted other kinds of gains, and tucking it away in accounts before everybody realizes that much of the “wealth” never actually existed.

In simplest form, we need to be back into activity making good useful things, maintaining and repairing things and keeping them in good working order. The notions of capital and investment must come back to investment in support of those activities creating actual real value to create return on investment, not “financial innovations” that are just somebody creating monsters they don’t really understand and it turns out they can’t control.

The activity and financial management of government is another entire large scale circus of detachment from reality. That’s too much to tackle here. In shortest form, government needs to do the things needed by the country and its people, and these things must be paid for. The US federal government can’t spend a trillion dollars a year on all the things added up under “national security”, when most of that probably has little to do with defending the country, and people (and business entities) have to pay taxes for what their government does. It’s that simple. The reality evasion in this subject is massive, with both the Democratic and Republican parties in just slightly different versions of disassociation from reality.

They might do well to read John Michael Greer’s essay The Distant Sound of Tumbrils.

In the meantime, the rest of us need to pay attention and sort reality and facts about it from vague vacuous babbling and lying.

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