CSotD: Examining the evidence

I’m not sure if Tom Tomorrow is breaking the rule here about ascribing to evil that which can be explained by stupidity, but he does echo the lyric from Phil Ochs’ “Cops of the World,” “We’ve done it before, so why all the shock?”

Why did everyone react with such horror to the drone strike that accidentally took out an aid worker and his family during the evacuation from Afghanistan?

As Droney says, it happens all the time, or, at least, it happens when we’re running around playing Cops of the World and intending to take out people we don’t like. “Intending” is a key word and we’ve blown up all sorts of people we didn’t intend to.

You can love your country without believing that everything we do is intentional. Love means sometimes having to say you’re sorry.

I suspect part of the problem is that, in the first Gulf War, the Pentagon oversold the “smart bombs,” with footage of precise strikes on precise targets a highlight of Gen. Schwartzkopf’s press conferences.

Obviously, he didn’t show bombs going off uselessly, in the middle of the desert, and the targets shown were clear and isolated — military convoys on lonely highways — where there was little possibility of tragic error.

Well, except for the occasional baby formula factory.

But we explained that, just as we explained the thrilling, heart-tugging story of Jessica Lynch’s “rescue” (who, for awhile, was a missing white woman, unlike Lori Piestawa or Shoshana Johnson) and the heroic death of football star Pat Tillman.

Those stories fell apart, but we maintain a level of trust.

Though healthy skepticism should not mean reflexively distrusting everything. There absolutely are unjustifiable war crimes: We just marked the anniversary of Baba Yar and our own country has seen inexplicable fits of genocide against native people, including the Bear River Massacre.

But there is plenty of unintentional horror in war as well.

It really is Hell, which used to be something only people in war zones understood. The rest of us would read the newspapers, shake our heads and go on with our lives.

In today’s hyperconnected world, it’s harder to look away, or to only hear one side of the story.

But we’re doing our best.


And if you’d like to see what we’re able to ignore, head over to Paul Berge’s blog for a look back a century, to when Congress investigated the Ku Klux Klan, hearings made more complex by the appeal of the Klan to more than one member of Congress and to various influential people in the country at large.

Everybody was against it, certainly, except that, as Berge notes of the above cartoon

Dorman Smith was featured in a great many newspapers around the country. But I have observed that a few of the papers that ran Smith’s cartoon daily and exclusively skipped this one.

Perhaps the editors were afraid of upsetting members of the benevolent non-profit society’s local chapters.

And if you’d like to nail down the similarities between the America First movement of those pre-WWII days and our current round of the same, I strongly recommend Sarah Churchwell’s “Behold America,” which traces both our capacity for hate and our ability to ignore the growing crisis.

Never mind stocking up on horror stories for Halloween — Churchwell’s prose is both entertaining and terrifying, particularly since the book is a couple of years old now and things have only gotten worse.


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Matt Wuerker – Politico)


(Steve Sack)

For more horror, consider the non-response to news of the extinction of 23 species.

It is the result, in part, of human encroachment and corresponding loss of habitat, but other species have died off because of global alterations, including climate change and pollution.

As Wuerker and Sack suggest, people read their papers and tut-tut, as Wuerker’s character says, over “a few insignificant birds, fish and mussels.”

Sack links more favored critters to the growing disaster, but, even when they go, comfortable people will shake their heads and turn the page.

Though, if they can ignore the more frequent flooding of hurricanes in American cities and other no-longer-extreme-extremes in the weather, it does make you wonder what might get them to sit up and pay attention.

We’re seeing later fall foliage this year, and an increasing threat to maple syrup production. As long as Log Cabin and Mrs. Butterworth bottle flavored corn syrup for people, that likely won’t matter, but there is also a growing threat well south of here to coffee production, and I don’t think burnt toast and chicory are going to fill that gap.

But there is this: I covered a panel back in 1992 in which some rightwing talkshow host declared that we didn’t need to worry about spotted owls because they were so plentiful that they’d been seen roosting in the rafters at K-Mart. Since I wasn’t part of the on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other school of non-journalism, I called K-Mart and got mostly laughter, but also a denial for my story.

The lies of the exploiters need to be countered, but knee-jerk skepticism is another enemy: It’s also a lie that those who take their living from the natural world don’t care about it.

Specific to forestry, I have seen how loggers here in the Northern Forest are quite willing to rig sheeting, drive across hillsides rather than up-and-down and make sensible tree selection to preserve not just the wood itself but the environment in which it grows (and in which, BTW, they live).

I’ve also seen LL Bean pull a major catalog contract from a paper mill that couldn’t verify that its pulp sources were sustainable.

And I had a friend who managed a huge forest in the Northwest who said they’d be happy to set aside habitats for spotted owls if they could get an appropriately reduced tax rate on property taken out of production. That seems fair.

It’s not just them. It’s farmers and it’s town governments and it’s fishermen and it’s all sorts of good honest people whose lives and livelihoods depend on intelligent stewardship and are being disrupted and destroyed by greed and waste.

They care. But they need support, and they need it now.


5 thoughts on “CSotD: Examining the evidence

  1. Here in Washington commercial timber land is taxed primarily as a revenue tax when it is harvested. Tax breaks alone are insufficient to accomplish habitat/species protection. Another problem – timber mills need logs to process to supply lumber (and pay salaries). Tax breaks doesn’t make up for a reduction in timber to the mill

    There’s a growing movement to create community forests, non-profits dedicated to manage forests for multiple benefits – a balance of conservation and sustainable timber harvest. When you take the profit motive (I e. return on investment) out of the equation, it is the possible to accomplish habitat conservation and keep timber flowing to the mills.

    Also, when timber is managed for multiple community benefits, it is possible to delay harvest, letting those big trees do what they do best, sequester carbon.

  2. Yes, it’s not hard to find favorable press given to the Klan in Oklahoma, as well as in Dixie. Search for “Klan” on the Oklahoma Historical site (https://gateway.okhistory.org/), and you’ll find several examples of the Oklahoma Herald, described on the Oklahoma Historical site as a “Weekly newspaper from Muskogee, Oklahoma that includes news and editorials promoting the Ku Klux Klan along with advertising.”

    It’s not the only paper in OK that afforded the Klan favorable press or accepted its advertising in 1921,

    “Loafers” refers, I am sure, not to shoes, but to men who the Klan believed were unemployed by their own choice.

  3. @Paul I wasn’t thinking of “loafer” as a shoe, but in my understanding of current usage “loafer” is more of a synonym for a lazy person than someone in the same class as gamblers, bootleggers, hijackers, gunmen, and lawbreakers.

    I think “loafer” must’ve meant something like tramp/hobo/beggar/panhandler in that period, but that’s just an unsubstantiated guess.

    Google n-grams shows its peak usage was around 1910. Then it tapers off until it begins to rise again in the 1990s. I know the shoe is at least as early as the 1960s — “Penny loafer” shows up in 1960 — so I was surprised to see no noticeable effect of that in the ngram plot.

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