No explanation

Anybody who knows me will know that I crave explanations. It’s likely one of the things that’s so appealing to me about being a scientist. I’ve written about the confusion between explaining and justifying before. In fact, a post about this was one of the first things I wrote for Hitting Bregma. As much as I hate it, so many things go unanswered. Last night, many witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in America’s history. What we think we know is that a man named Stephen Paddock opened fire from a hotel room into a country music concert below. As of now, 58 are dead and more than 500 injured (unclear how many were injured by gunshot, and how many were injured in the frenzy during the shooting). This horrific event seems, at least for now, without explanation. For me, that makes it even worse than it already is.

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Ups and downs

The past day (or so) has been hard for me. The events in Charlottesville have taken an emotional toll, and it’s been almost nonstop fighting on FaceBook since then. I’m so saddened that anybody would turn a blind eye to the President’s reluctance to take sides against Nazis, but my FaceBook threads, and those of others, are full of horrible defenses of what President Trump said and failed to say in response to the events. The last post came before the President’s first statement, and that was when my disgust really started.

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“It’s all about trust”

My wife has some strong opinions about things, and some of them she raises over and over again. One (of the many) with which I agree is that trust plays a fundamental role in how we feel about our leaders. We trust some leaders, and we don’t trust others. If we trust a leader, we assume that some action is legitimately justified. If we don’t trust a leader, that same action can be nefarious or a sign of incompetence. I’ll come back to something more contemporary in a minute, but let’s start with Obama and Bush.

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More distractions and straw men

I’ve been posting a lot on FaceBook (as me, not as Hitting Bregma) about the lousy journalism and logical fallacies I’m seeing on FoxNews. I don’t watch a ton of FoxNews, but I flip over somewhat regularly, just to see what’s going on. Many of these times, I’m struck by how different the coverage is. For instance, while all the other networks (regular networks and cable news) are focused on one story, like a new leak about something from the Trump administration, FoxNews will run a story about a person killed by an immigrant in a hit and run, or something equally unrelated to what everybody else is covering. I’ve also spent a lot of time harping on the classic straw man fallacies that they are so good at. They construct this ludicrous picture of a “liberal” or something that liberals are mad about, and then justifiably call them silly or hypocritical. The problem is that the whole premise gets it wrong. It’s not just FoxNews, but it’s also clearly a tactic of the Trump administration. Let’s look at a couple of key examples, including one from today.

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Feeling good by doing practically nothing for refugees (otherwise known as, I can’t be racist because I like that one black guy)

I’ve been on the fence about whether or not to make an effort to take this blog/diary/lunatic ranting more public. My thoughts today make me want to keep it more on the private side. Mostly because what’s got me riled up this morning is about people close to me, and how sad they make me sometimes. I know they mean well, but it’s amazingly frustrating to watch them do what they do, and support what they support all at the same time. So I’ll probably keep things private for a while, at least until this gets buried enough that they’d have to read so much to get to it, making it unlikely that it will ever come to light. This is about refugees. More below the fold.

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A safe world? With lots of flight? How are both true?

On Point, from wbur radio (broadcast on NPR stations), had a segment yesterday that created a bit of a conflict for me. The story was about migration (of people) and the dangers of migrating through particular parts of the world. On the show, Leonard Doyle, from the International Organization For Migration, described the present time as being in the midst of a boom in migration. The segment starts with the host reading a statistic:

…sixty five million people are now in flight because of war or persecution or terror. It’s considered the largest displacement in human history.”

The guest confirms this to be true, and continues to paint a picture of humans being at a time of mass movement, all because of war or persecution or terror. I don’t doubt that these numbers are true at all, but I have a hard time reconciling them with something I wrote about earlier: that deaths from war, worldwide, are remarkably low these days.

I don’t have an answer for this inconsistency, but, looking at both stories, it appears that people are fleeing their homes at a very high rate (historically), even though combat deaths are markedly low. That makes me think there is some other factor at play. Perhaps it’s the increased communication and awareness of the rest of the world. Perhaps more people see what other cities look like, and are more willing to uproot and try to reach them. I don’t know, but conflicts like these excite me. Maybe I’ll get an answer someday…or I’ll forget all about it by this afternoon.