WOOF! Watchdogs of Our Freedom

Keeping up with the Universe (or) Why “Settled Science” needs a “New Physics!”

In "The World Turned Upside Down" forum on May 26, 2019 at 2:08 pm


In which WOOF’s editor in chief, Old Bugler, expresses his up-to-the-minute-if-frustratingly-excursive views on nothing but 100% guaranteed genuine news, mostly in the annoyingly officious third-person, as befits his station!   

 Too apolitical you say? They asked your humble editor to submit a critique of the “Green New Deal,” but he refused. Anyone more intellectually gifted than a hamster can spot the idiocies with which that particular travesty is brimful, so devoting a column to their itemization amounts to shooting fish in the proverbial barrel; unsporting, boresome–a profligate expenditure of spleen. Instead, Old Bugler sets fingers to Woodstock to peck out a review of something famously intelligent: settled science, and its handling of a topic that directly affects all of us—the universe. As every high school student would know if it weren’t for the NEA, CommonCore, and the Department of Education, the consensus among astrophysicists has, for nearly a century now, maintained that our universe started with a Big Bang and has been expanding ever since—settled science at its most immutable–and dull. But recent events have taken a turn for the dramatic.

Apparently, a majority of Americans under 35 identify the Big Bang Theory as a television comedy, rather than as an astrophysical hypothesis. Perhaps the NEA isn’t all bad.

When the universe stood still….

Einstein originally believed the universe was reliably static. In keeping with the commonsense assumption that the mutual gravitation of all matter would naturally cause the universe to contract, he speculated that we were saved from cosmic implosion by some mysterious force that counteracted the compressive impulse, thus creating stasis. In other words, the universe was stable and —pleasantly enough—eternal. Einstein called this “the cosmological constant,” and for a while, this was settled science because—well—Einstein. But Einstein, we are nowadays assured, miscalculated because, as the Encyclopedia Britannica rather snarkily asserts, “he was not well acquainted with recent work in astronomy.”

When the universe started moving…

Vesto-Slipher: discoverer of Einstein’s greatest blunder.

Einstein’s rookie error was uncovered by American astronomer Vesto M. Sliphe, after he more rigorously measured the radial velocities of spiral nebulae. (The lay reader is encouraged to accept the result as decisive–mainly in lieu of the space-consuming complexities otherwise necessary for its confirmation, and particularly because Einstein acknowledged the error, calling it–by most accounts–his “greatest blunder,” or at least the greatest one he knew about.) Many experts ignored the retraction, however, and remained wedded to the cosmological constant, persuaded, in other words, that Einstein was right before he incorrectly decided he was wrong. The universe was supposed to be static, and several astronomers went to considerable lengths to keep it that way. In 1917, the Dutch mathematician Willem de Sitter announced his own proof of a static cosmology, different from Einstein’s, by calculating  a correlation between distance and redshift. Redshift, for the dismally uninformed, refers to a phenomenon whereby electromagnetic radiation (such as light) undergoes an increase in wavelength. There is also blueshift, but most WOOF readers will immediately apprehend that redshift is better.

Willem de Sitter, explaining to Einstein why he was right all along, but for the wrong reasons.

The universe’s legal age….

In 1927 Belgian physicist Georges Lemaitre published his study of Doppler shifts of the spiral nebulae as evidence of cosmic expansion, and first postulated the Big Bang–but everyone ignored him. Lemaitre received his due only once astronomy grew less resistant to the expansionist theory, mainly after 1929 when Edwin Hubble showed a linear relationship between distance and the aforementioned redshift, from which he inferred our cosmic velocity. Hubble’s formulations were soon pronounced “Hubble’s law,” which, among other points inconsequential to this discussion, allowed Hubble to estimate the age of the universe as two billion years. This figure, being lawfully derived, enjoyed the status of settled science until other scientists with different proclivities determined that Earth itself was at least 4.5 billion years old. In that era, before the validity of two clearly contradictory findings could be simultaneously defended by evoking quantum physics, logic seemed to discommend Hubble’s Law– but no one hurried to abandon it. The fault, experts agreed, was not in Hubble’s reliance on the distance-redshift equation, but traceable in all likelihood to some glitch buried deep in his formidable computations. The Law, in other words, was correct, but would be more correct after some minor adjustments.

Georges Lemaitre, Big-Banging before anyone believed Catholic priests could do physics.

Trouble with Hubble….

Walter Baade–rethinking galactic distances.

Fortunately, in the nick of time–as it were–American astronomer Walter Baade discovered Hubble’s trouble, (the silly goose had underestimated galactic distances). Then, In 1948, Ralph Alpher’s landmark dissertation injected nuclear physics into cosmology, one consequence of which was the ascendancy of the previously underappreciated Big Bang Theory. While generative of numerous fresh insights, equations, and derivative postulates, the theory also had the unfortunate effect of requiring scientists to demonstrate how something burst forth out of nothing, which they frankly admitted they couldn’t—although they retained the theory on the premise that sooner or later they’d come up with an explanation. In the meantime, thinkers like Akash Peshin at Science ABC kept the religiomanics at bay by laughing to derision the notion that some deity had preexisted and perhaps even induced the “bang,” explaining in clear, scientific terms that, “The answer, at least right now…is… we simply don’t know. What we can say is, apparently, there is something rather than nothing.” Try to keep up, Christians.

Actual historic photo of the Big Bang, captured just as it created the universe–and they laughed at us for saving all those old LIFE magazines!

Allan Sandage said “Astronomers may have found the first effect, but not… the first cause sought by Anselm and Aquinas.” Obviously, he wasn’t smart like Akash Peshin.

By 1953, Hubble’s former assistant Allan Sandage, embarrassed, perhaps, by his boss’s misidentification of gaseous nebulae as single stars, recalculated Hubble’s formula. His results hiked the age of the universe to 3.6 billion years, still frustratingly short of the earth’s known age, meaning wrong.  Undaunted, Sandage recalculated, this time incorporating an additional (and, some thought, suspiciously-arbitrary) 1.5-fold increase which produced a more satisfactory result of 5.5 billion years. Still, many experts took exception, arguing that Sandage’s figure remained implausibly low. Decades ensued during which astronomers and astrophysicists battled over what, in fact, the “cosmic constant” really was, or ought to be, and how best to apply it to the dimensions of the cosmos. Finally, however, came the arrival of the Lambda-CDM model, ushering in a welcome era of stability during which order was restored to the turbulent cosmos–just as Edwin Hubble envisioned it–well, mutatis mutandis.

One way you can tell Hubble’s Law was correct the whole time is: They put Hubble on a postage stamp! They don’t do that unless you’re correct. For instance, there are no Immanuel Velikovsky postage stamps. Think about it!

Lambda, Lambda, Big Bang!

Highest resolution photo to date of Dark Matter in our galaxy. Did we mention you can’t actually see Dark Matter? That’s because it’s theoretic.

The Lambda CDM model recalibrated the cosmological constant by factoring in such avant-garde concepts as vacuum effects in space, dubbed “dark energy,” and their equally-theoretic counterpart, dark matter—not to mention non-baryonic dark matter (which is colder, supposedly, than garden-variety dark matter). Skipping over the complexities, the findings were summed up nicely by science writer and Chambliss Achievement Award-winning astronomer, R. Jay GaBany, who wrote: “An overwhelming weight of evidence has convinced cosmologists that the Universe came into existence at a definite moment in time, some 13.6 billion years ago, in the form of a…fireball of energetic radiation known as the Big Bang event.” (Actually, the figure more frequently given is 13.7 billion, but why quibble with a man bold enough to go on record asserting our universe began “at a definite moment in time?”) The corresponding velocity of expansion was found to be 44 miles per second per megaparsec (don’t ask), settling the precise value of the long-disputed “constant” to almost everyone’s satisfaction.

Unsettling Science from The Edge

The EDGE newspaper, breaking a cosmic bombshell! (And the “I’m on a Boat!” story looks pretty compelling, too, we think.)

And there the matter rested, or one might say settled, until one of our contributors here at WOOF forgot to bring a book with him to college. This was significant because our contributor was about to administer final exams to several sections of psychology undergrads, meaning he would need something to read while his students pondered and scribbled.  In the cafeteria lounge, he chanced upon a thin, unprepossessing tabloid titled The Edge. Upon returning to the WOOF cave, our compatriot (having by then read the issue in its entirety numerous times) tossed his crumpled copy on the desk of your humble editor, directing his attention to a specific headline. There, all the more arresting juxtaposed to such frivolities as RED SOX REPORT CARD and AVENGERS ENDGAME:THE END OF AN ERA, the headline NEW STUDY SAYS UNIVERSE YOUNGER AND EXPANDING FASTER, demanded attention, if only because it begged the question: “younger and expanding faster” than what?

No nonsense!

Your amazed editor absorbs the cosmic implications!

Readers may well imagine your editor’s amazement upon discovering that what the universe is now scientifically proven to be “faster and younger” than, is, in fact, itself.  The perceptive reader (tautology hereabouts, we think) will readily apprehend with what sense of urgency Old Bugler scanned this report, authored, (to verbify in the interest of brevity) by Seth Borenstein of the Associated Press. Apparently, and, we think admirably, The Edge holds matters of cosmic magnitude too vital to entrust to staff writers already burdened with updating “The Weekly Time Waster,” reviewing the latest production by the Penobscot Theatre Company, and reporting from the scene of Bangor’s city-wide celebration of Independent Bookstore Day—which we applaud despite being unaware (until now) of the tradition.

Congressman Nadler–if you find the close-up disturbing, bear in mind we tastefully cropped out the rest of him.

All this by way of emphasizing, this is no tall tale confected by sensation-mongering yokels to boost circulation. No indeed. This is authentic science hot from the wires, and more  important, one assumes, than the Green New Deal, or even the latest accusations from such congressional luminaries as the rhotacistically amusing Jerry Nadler.  No, my fellow Americans, these are revelations of literally cosmic significance that affect all of us—or at least all of us who don’t anticipate being dead in 12 years from climate change. Brace yourselves for what follows.

What follows….

Adam Riess–the man who totally bollixed the entire universe. Look at those beady eyes!

Either the universe is expanding faster than it used to, as the AP story maintains, or, to inject an insight that seemingly evaded writer Borenstein, it may have been expanding faster all along. Whichever the case, a new study by Nobel Prize laureate and Johns Hopkins Astronomer, Adam Riess, revealed a rate of expansion almost ten percent faster than previously supposed. This, in turn, led Riess to recalculate the universe’s age, which he found to be a billion years younger than it was when settled science believed it was older than it is now.  But if Riess’s study threatened the canonical status of Hubble’s Constant (as currently calculated), it managed to inspire a fresh consensus among astronomers, namely that his findings were unsettling.

When reality fails….

Given the shocking nature of Reiss’s data, one might expect astronomers and physicists long reliant on the Hubble Constant (often called “the most important number in cosmology”) to greet its disconfirmation with fits of introspective angst—but whether in science, or elsewhere in our vast social matrix, cognitive dissonance continues to be resolved the old fashioned way—by applying whichever intellective adjustments seem least damaging to one’s previous beliefs. In this instance, many astronomers who acknowledged the validity of Reiss’s figures, hypothesized, after carefully reviewing the previously established estimates, that while Reiss’s findings seemed unassailable, so did the calculations supporting the Hubble Constant. Amazingly, Riess agreed, telling a collection of perplexed science writers, “It’s looking more and more like we’re going to need something new to explain this.”

Psychologist Leon Festinger invented “cognitive dissonance” in 1957, and it’s been a problem ever since.

Hubble’s proof of cosmic constancy–it’s pretty straightforward, right?

Readers, by now, will have grasped your editor’s fascination with this story. Consider: When our professorial contributor turned off his bedside lamp the night before testing his university classes, the universe was contentedly broadening its circumference at the established rate of 44 miles per second—a fact confirmed only recently by Dr. Wendy Freedman’s widely acclaimed  “Hubble Space Telescope Key Project on the Extragalactic Distance Scale,” which involved a team of 28 top-notch astronomers, possibly just to name it.

As Yale’s Gruber Foundation stated  in 2009, Freedman’s work underscored the validity of “the Hubble constant, one of the most important measurements in astronomy,” because, “after a painstaking decade-long effort, the team determined the best value of the Hubble constant …enabling scientists to more accurately answer some of the most profound questions about the age, evolution, and composition of the universe.” With an air of tangible satisfaction, not to say smugness, the Grubber report concluded that astronomers could “now confidently state that the universe is approximately 14 billion years old—the same age as the oldest stars,” or as a recent article in Cosmos Magazine affirmed, “…the Hubble Constant is, as the name suggests, constant, and…the rate at which the universe is expanding is the same today as it was pretty much 14 billion years ago.” But those were the good old days.

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An Evening with Karl Marx: In Which “the Moore” agrees to be Interviewed, Postmortem.

In "I only read WOOF for the interviews!" forum on July 18, 2019 at 8:50 pm

Prologue:
Following our embarrassment back in 2013 [viewable here] when he persuaded us to go ahead with a story based on his psychic surety that Obama’s presidency was doomed to collapse that very year, (which our historically adroit readers will recall it did not), we at WOOF severed ties with our long-time official psychic, Dr. Gootensteiner Johannes Walters, resident of beautiful, historic, Zug, Switzerland,(nestled against the breathtaking azure placidity that is Lake Zug) and for quite some time WOOF’s official seer, prophesier and mystic, was banned from these pages, relieved even of his editorship of ODD, WOOF’s fabled Occult Divination Division, now expertly overseen by Grayson Moseley Straith as part of his duties as editor of our Science and the Paranormal forum.

Doctor Walters

Recently, however, Dr. Walters approached us with an exciting proposal. Reminding us of his (admittedly somewhat innervating) skills as a necromancer and a medium par excellence, he offered us exclusive rights to one of the most astonishing interviews ever conducted—and with the interviewee of cur choice. Why, you may ask, (or may not, we don’t pretend to know) would such an interview provoke astonishment? Because, Goot insisted, it could be with anyone we cared to name–so long as the interviewee was dead. As you might surmise, considerable debate ensued in the WOOF Cave as to whether the Doctor’s proposal was too bizarre to pursue, and simultaneously, concerning which dead person should be chosen in the event we proceeded. We agreed to rule out religious figures because Dr. Walters caused us enough trouble with his Obama predictions, and we knew all too well his methods often affronted orthodox sensibilities–ours included. But after bruiting about several possibilities, we settled on a preference–and in so doing, essentially acquiesced to the project.

Given his tremendous influence on nearly every Democrat presidential contender approaching 2020, the faith placed in his teachings by waves of millennials, his pervasive influence on our entertainment industry (rhetorically, that is, although never practically), and his largely unsung but near total dominance of higher education, we decided on Karl Marx. A fortnight elapsed, and we received word from Goot [Dr. Walters] that the interview was arranged, and that only two conditions obtained: We could ask no more than 20 questions, and we could only send one interviewer. We agreed, and prepared to dispatch a staffer to Switzerland.

Beautiful downtown Zug, Switzerland.

Alex arrives in Zug.

Alex arrives in Zug.

We initially chose a Woofette who was fluent in German. But economic expediency took over once Dr. Walters assured us Marx spoke quite understandable English, on which basis we reassigned the interview to junior-assistant Tech-Elf Alex, because he was already booked on a flight to Bern for entirely unrelated purposes. While this proved a budgetary blessing, it meant handing the responsibility for the interview to a callow youth of 20, whose relative inexperience was worrisome. This in mind, we supplied Alex with a list of 20 questions for Marx, although. in the event, this method met with only partial success.

The redoubtable Mrs. Heffelfinger

It is young Alex’s unshakable testimony and firm belief that he witnessed the shade of Karl Marx summoned in the candlelit ambiance of Dr. Walters’s Victorian parlor,snugged in Zug’s Old Town district at the foot of beautiful Mount Zug. There, at twilight, May 1, 2019, Alex insists he interacted with the ghostly presence of “The Moore,” Karl Marx, and addressed him directly, Unhelpfully, Dr. Walters lapsed into a trance (also observed by Alex) and remembers nothing of the event after Marx’s materialization. The only additional witness apart from Dr. Walters’s cats, Rudolf and Helena, was his loyal secretary of several decades, Mrs. Heffelfinger, who confirmed Marx’s appearance—and who dutifully transcribed the dialogue between Alex and the ghostly presence, she being adept at shorthand, and fluent in English.

What follows, then, is what we believe may well constitute a record of a phenomenal event–an interview conducted by Tech Elf Alex. (last name withheld in deference to his WOOF affiliation and consequent anonymity) and the legendary founder of the sociopolitical-cum-historical philosophy generally known as COMMUNISM! We invite you to judge for yourselves. –Editors

Dr. Walters's study in Zug, scene of interview.

Dr. Walters’s study in Zug, scene of interview.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Alex: Doctor Marx, I can see you—at least I guess it’s you—you look kind of like Brahms.

Marx: Young man, I am most definitely not Brahms—I am, as you clearly perceive, Karl Marx: philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist, New York Tribune columnist, author of Das Kapital, and revolutionary. Brahms was a composer, and I cannot possibly discuss aesthetics in fewer than six or seven lectures, except to be dismissive of Wagner. You are not an admirer of his, I hope?

Alex: Uh—not really….

Marx: I should hope not. His romanticism in the service of what amounts to a total falsification of primitive times is intolerable. Also, it’s nationalistic propaganda—which is a betrayal of the potential of the musical arts. Brahms? You said Brahms? I prefer Beethoven, Mozart, and Handel. Engels liked Wagner; can you believe it? I couldn’t cure him of it!

By way of comparison, Johannes Brahms. Maybe Alex had a point, but not much of one.

Alex: Okay.

Marx: You also don’t need to call me “doctor,” I am not reliant on such elitist honorifics.

Alex: Okay. I’m sorry—I thought I read where you were in the Doctors’ club, or…

Marx: The Docktors Club? Ha! That club was for students! I joined while I was convalescing in Stralau—having been diagnosed with a weak chest. It was a good group of young scholars devoted to the philosophy of Hegel—are you familiar with Hegel’s works?

Alex: Well, I….

Marx: They say I plagiarized Hegel—can you plagiarize a man whose thought you amplified to cover the entire span of socioeconomic oppression through the ages, and in greater detail than his philosophies ever touched upon? So did you say you are familiar with Hegel?

Alex: Well, no, ….I…

Marx: No? You must begin at once—pick up his Science of Knowledge, young man—but be warned, his metaphysics are deficient and mystical to a fault—No, it is his pure theory of dialectics you must grasp—because it will assist you in grasping my own theory of dialectical materialism.

Alex: The dialectical part—that’s what they say you sort of stole….

Marx: Liars! That is the part I perfected and trimmed of its gauzy esotericism! It formed the perfect backbone of my thinking—it permitted me to demonstrate the inevitability of the revolution of the proletariat, not to mention….

Hegel–who regardless of the dialectics controversy, doesn’t seem to resemble Brahms at all.

Alex: So I’m sorry, I didn’t know you weren’t really a doctor– and as for the revol–

Marx: Did I say I wasn’t? I said I abjure such bourgeois titles. If you must know, then, I earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1841 from the University of Berlin. Quite an accomplishment, by the way, given that even then the bourgeois state and its functionaries in the academy were set against me—determined as they were to obstruct any scholar who embraced Hegelian dialectics as a revolutionary philosophy! Also, I must admit I was pretty drunk most of the time in those days, which marginally impeded my—

Alex: Drunk? I never thought of you as–

Marx: Well of course, I overcame that defect. Mostly. But at the time I was somewhat prone to the bottle, and prone to getting into quarrels about philosophy, politics, religion, society—yes, I was quite outspoken. One might even say insolent. Back in Bonn I was tossed in jail for drinking and disturbing the peace. That’s also when I fought that duel.

Alex: I didn’t know you were ever in a duel!

Marx: Almost two of them–even three. The first time, I was drunk enough to show up—and the martinet who challenged me nearly killed me—he nicked the side of my eye—so, of course, I missed him completely. The other time was in England—I was supposed to duel someone on behalf of Engels, but I didn’t show up—why risk it, given the importance of my survival to the workers of the world? And just as a point of history, I was challenged also to a third duel by some idiot Prussian named Willich.  I declined, but a friend dueled Willich on my behalf and was wounded for his troubles. Anyway, after the dueling got out of hand, my father enrolled me at the University of Berlin because he wanted me to study law.

Karl Marx, reluctant gunfighter.

Alex: So, I guess you learned about law at that point…

Marx: Law? The law is mask for the enrichment of the holders of the means of production! The invalid erection of statutes serving only to protect bourgeois property…which is improperly called property, but never fear! The very autocracy that creates the chimera of law shall prove the means by which communism advances. It’s dialectically inevitable, but since you don’t understand dialectics, I suppose there’s no point in my continuing. Anyway, yes, I received a degree in law—big deal–a reward from the bourgeoisie for imbibing the juridical pretexts empowering the ruling class!

Alex: But I—I’d like to know about…

Marx: About how I evolved my critique of the bourgeoisie? Of course! It depended a lot on where I was, because I got thrown out of a lot of places. I think one of first breakthroughs was in France—there was this guy, Bruno Bauer, a Hegelian and a mentor to me in the early days—you’ve heard of him?

Alex: Umm…possibly not—

Marx: No matter. Bauer is unimportant, except as a transitional figure whose misconceptions found antithesis in my correct ones. I first noticed he was wrong about Jews—he wrote this completely absurd tract about how Jews could become politically emancipated in Prussia—but he didn’t understand Jews at all—he failed to grasp that Jews are not understandable in a religious context—they can only be understood economically.

Bruno Bauer,–getting Jews all wrong, apparently even Jesus.

Alex:: Really?

Marx: Is that your first question?

Alex: No, no—I just meant, I always thought part of being Jewish was religion—maybe—

Marx: Ach, you’re as hopeless as Bauer! The real Jew is not understood through his religion, but rather by the real secret of his religion!

Alex: You mean, like—the Kabbalah?

Marx: Ach, that is such a stupid question, I won’t count it either. No, of course not—mysticism and transcendence are absurdities—they can never lead to truth—they only distort it in order to make it seem bearable to the masses—they are a principle tool of oppression!! The secret of the Jew, as I wrote in my essay–which you obviously haven’t read–is his practical need, his self-interest. What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering! What is his worldly God? Money! His god is only an illusory bill of exchange…. The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general…of capitalism! And then, I ended with this really snappy line, where I explained that in the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism! A little dialectical humor, get it?

Alex: But aren’t you Jewish?

Marx: All right, hold it right there, my young friend! Your inappropriate fixation on my lineage is irrelevant to matters fit for philosophical discussion, but since you’ve introduced the subject, let me just say, for your information, neither of my parents was a Jew!

Alex: Really? I–

Marx: Really! They both converted to Protestantism! And I? I, sir, was baptized Lutheran!

Karl Marx, lifelong Lutheran–nevertheless keeping company here with a well known Jew.

Alex: So–umm–

Marx: I can show you Jews, young man! Take that embarrassment to the socialist cause, that ignoramus Lassalle—

Alex: Who? Or wait—did that count as a question?

Marx: It certainly does not count as a question, for the simple reason that Lassalle doesn’t count as a human being—that repulsive combination of Jewry and negroid substance—that’s what I called him, and rightly so!

Alex:: I’m confused—he was Black, this Lasalle guy….but he was–

Marx: Not entirely, but you could see it in him—not just his simian cranial shape, either! His pushiness was also [N-word deleted]-like…

Ferdinand Lasalle–called “simian” by the Interviewee… not by us!

Alex: Oh! Uh, sir…sir, I think we have a policy against racist terminology, I don’t know if…

Marx: Das ist blödsinn! Your corporate overseers may indulge themselves in all the bourgeois conventions they like, young man, but you will find my remarks on Lasalle quoted in all the most important compendia of history’s great thoughts and thinkers! They wouldn’t dare deny my voice– and I was quite vocal about Lasalle! It was completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descended from–very well–let us simply say Negroes, isn’t that the current bourgeois idiom?.

Alex: Uh—not really, but meanwhile, you were telling me how you came up with Communism.

Marx: Well! First, let us define our terms, since philology is essential to intellectual accuracy—that is, once relieved of capitalist distortions and falsities—so, in the interest of linguistic clarity, Communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes and money.

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Lionesses of the Left: Where are They Today? (The Cindy Sheehan Story)

In "It's witch in the afternoon" forum on June 22, 2019 at 3:54 pm

Who, today, remembers the apogee of Cindy Sheehan–or, for that matter, remembers her at all? No, gentle readers, we have not resorted to annoying you with pop quizzes. Herewith, our first in a series of tributes to legendary ladies of the political Left, presented this time around with the following mnemonic stimulus: Cindy Sheehan occupied the screens of cable newscasts earlier this century as omnipresently as does, say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez today. After her son Casey was killed in action in Iraq, Sheehan determined to honor his memory by becoming an anti-war activist. She gained immediate fame, mainly for camping out in proximity to wherever George W. Bush happened to be at any given time while reciting increasingly shrill anti-war shibboleths to reporters who clustered about her like flies on a sugar cube. But Sheehan’s sugar cube may have been akin to the variety hippies once called “electric.” Evidence of her divorcement from reality grew in tandem with her media exposure. Her early protests, voiced as reasoned, rationally expressed arguments against the war, quickly deteriorated into radical diatribes, and the more attention these garnered, the more Sheehan’s bombast degenerated.

Despite a pleasant and mutually respectful meeting with President Bush, Sheehan soon began second-guessing the matter, envisioning a rematch in which she promised to overwhelm Bush, challenging him to “tell me, what the noble cause is that my son died for. And if he even starts to say freedom and democracy, I’m gonna say, bullsh*t. You tell me the truth. You tell me that my son died for oil. You tell me that my son died to make your friends rich…. You tell me that, you don’t tell me my son died for freedom and democracy.” Wisely, “W” resisted issuing Cindy a second invitation. Unruffled, she moved on to tax resistance, a form of virtue signaling so rare among liberals that a cynic might have inferred a hint of niggardliness. According to Sheehan, though, her mounting IRS debt symbolized her resolve to end the war. “I feel like I gave my son to this country in an illegal and immoral war,” she told reporters, “And, so, if they can give me my son back, then I’ll pay my taxes.” But the IRS (which remained unresponsive regarding Sheehan’s proposed swap) was not alone in demanding a cut of her stash. Her husband, Patrick, filed for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences” including differences over Cindy’s decision to cut him out of the government payments disbursed to the family following their son’s death in battle.

The Peace Mom, ascending…

Dubbed “the Peace Mom” by applausive cable-news prattlers, and named “The Rosa Parks of the anti-war movement” by Lennox Yearwood, Jr. (about whom the less said the better), Sheehan founded Gold Star Families for Peace, which in turn funded TV commercials–which in turn featured Sheehan. On Hardball she exchanged flummeries with Chris Matthews. On NPR she was praised in hushed,  pseudo-Brythonic tones. John McCain, never one to give forethought precedence over impulse, invited her into his office for a heart-to-heart, after which “the Peace Mom” denounced McCain as “a warmonger.” Urged to expatiate, she added that President Bush was “the biggest terrorist in the world, worse than Osama Bin Laden,” and declared she would prefer living under Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez—but instead of renouncing her citizenship, she moved to Berkeley, California…we will forego the obvious remarks.

Okay, Bush already met with Cindy, but she wanted him to do it until she got it right.

Arrogance abroad….

Sheehan did, in fact, take her act abroad. In the grand tradition of useful idiot-ism, she visited Caracas and paid her respects to Hugo Chavez, thanking him for “supporting life and peace.” By way of underscoring this support, Chavez put his arm around Sheehan and exhorted activists worldwide to “help bring down the U.S. empire.” Following a private one-on-one with the chubby despot, Cindy revealed Chavez had advised her to run for president in the U.S. “I was impressed with his sincerity,”she added.

With Hugo in Caracas–all about love and peace!.

Nobel prize winning playwright Dario Fo; we have no idea either.

Next, Cindy showed up in London, where she was lauded (in authentically Brythonic tones) by BBC newsreaders, after which she addressed something called the International Peace Conference–a Labourite event that generated no appreciable effects on peace anywhere. From there she was whisked off by chauffeured limousine to attend a performance of “Peace Mom,” a hagiographic stage play about Sheehan, penned by Nobel Laureate Dario Fo (we never heard of him either). Cindy gave “Peace Mom” a rave review, and then hopped a flight across the Irish Sea, stopping at Shannon Airport long enough to harangue Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern (who was kind enough to greet her upon landing). “Your government,” she told Ahern, “even though they didn’t send troops to Iraq, are complicit in the crimes by allowing the planes to land and refuel.” Ahern’s response is lost to history, although Ireland’s criminal complicity continued unabated. Returning home, Sheehan produced not one, but two books (in what seemed preternaturally short order), reprised her D.C. arrest by tying herself to the White House fence, and proceeded, upon release, to the Capitol Building where she was arrested a third time (but for the first time by the Capital Police) for attempting to crash the state-of-the-union address.

Cindy endures martyrdom for the cause–did they take it this well in Selma?

So, what happened to Cindy Sheehan? How did her widely heralded crusade for world peace evanesce into a memory so dim, it requires WOOF to revivify it in this premier entry of our exiting new  Lionesses of the Left series? Explanations are not readily forthcoming, or rather, those available are mainly inadequate, inaccurate, or sophistic in the extreme.  For instance, displaying that magnitude of subliminally-driven avoidance that invariably afflicts the liberal press whenever accurately describing the facts would betray its own accountability, USA Today reported that Sheehan vanished from the scene because “Instead of focusing on issues where an increasing number of Americans agree with her, she disappeared into fringe politics.” But that, dear readers, is abject hooey–and an example of media twistedness we’ll revisit in the conclusion of this article. Suffice it for now that Sheehan immersed herself in fringe politics almost from the beginning and rose to media stardom by raging against the values and sensibilities of “an increasing number of Americans.” It was only once she radicalized her gabble that the media made her a star. Why these same forces ultimately cast her aside will never be detailed in the pages of USA Today, or by any other establishment rag. That, gentle readers, is why our rag is here.

A somewhat retiring figure….

While Sheehan played no conscious role in her downfall, she hastened it unwittingly through a series of markedly imprudent miscalculations. Prey to that form of  impulsivity that is particularly ill-suited to chess and politics, she repeatedly followed her instincts, which repeatedly betrayed her, and for reasons she grasped too late in the game. The first instance came as the dazzlingly acclamatory publicity surrounding her early efforts took a modest downturn–a clearly cyclical diminishment any media-savvy analyst might have predicted.  Sheehan, however, reacted to the dip in coverage like an addict in the throes of withdrawal. Persuaded that only drastic action could avert her movement’s demise, (and restore her flagging notoriety) she  cast about for an attention grabber–something different and newsworthy enough to generate fresh headlines. Drawing on a staple of the entertainment industry, she unleashed the manipulative power of feigned retirement.

Coming out….

To officialize the event in an authoritative venue, Cindy turned to no less a medium of record than the Daily Kos, informing its readers of her resignation as the “face of the American antiwar movement,” in order, she said, to resume domestic life and devote herself to mothering her “surviving children.” This created the desired shockwave, all right, but once that wave swept the establishment’s news crawls, attention once again withered.  After a news cycle spent spotlighting the “Peace Mom’s” ostentatious withdrawal from active activism, the ever-myopic media leviathan lumbered onward, quickly forgetful of the Cindy Sheehan story. So the retirement ploy was a bust, but reversing it presented a challenge. Sinatra, Streisand—even Eminem and Alec Baldwin, enjoyed the option of ascribing their returns to popular demand—but Sheehan wasn’t dealt that card; the masses seemed content to stumble along without her guidance. Absent anything resembling popular outcry, Sheehan intuited (and not un-incisively) that some irresistible provocation was needed to legitimate her reappearance. Some colossal affront—preferably emanating from the Bush administration–a perversion of justice or some militaristic aggression so vile–so fascistic–so arrogant–as to impel the Peace Mom’s return to public life. But if Cindy’s tactical calculations seemed uncharacteristically workable, her patience proved unequal to the task.

The Scooter Infamy

The detestable Libby–look at those beady eyes!

One cannot play the mythic hero absent an equivalently epic challenge. Every Beowulf needs a Grendel, every Cú Cuchulain a Lugaid. In this instance, however, Cindy Sheehan was in too great a hurry to wait around for the ideal nemesis to pop up–and the best she could produce on short notice was the hapless Scooter Libby. Libby, it may (or may not) be remembered, was an official in the Bush White House whose misfortune it was to be Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff during the media-confected Valerie Plame scandal. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (an earlier avatar of Robert Mueller) was charged with tracking down whichever un-American rapscallion leaked Valerie Plame’s CIA affiliation (an affiliation known even to her neighbors, and announced by her husband at every upscale Georgetown dinner event) to the press.

The “outed” Valerie Plame: “I’m the victim here!”

After spending part of 2004 and most of 2005 feeding “evidence” to his grand jury, throwing reporters in jail for refusing to testify, and pretending he didn’t know all along  that Richard L. Armitage was the inadvertent leaker, or that Plame’s CIA work was non-clandestine, Fitzgerald caught Libby in a perjury trap–albeit one so feeble it required sending Libby to prison for failing to remember details that Fitzgerald psychically divined Libby did, in fact, remember, and therefore must have lied about forgetting.  Ignoring the probation office’s recommendation that Libby receive home confinement, the prosecution insisted on prison where Libby languished until Bush finally got around to commuting his sentence. (Just recently, Donald Trump fully pardoned him.)

Treachery, left and right!

Et tu, Nancy?

But according to Cindy Sheehan, Bush’s pusillanimous commutation of Libby’s sentence was tantamount to treason, and treason so vile as to necessitate the Peace Mom’s return to the public arena, there to rejoin the battle against the resurgent forces of tyranny. Announcing her return to reporters already struggling to recall her previous exploits, Sheehan fiercely defended her decision , announcing “I believe that when George Bush commuted Scooter Libby’s sentence for a crime that he was complicit in, he committed treason.” Noting, perhaps, that even the most leftward among the assembled newshounds appeared baffled, Cindy drove her point home, explaining, “a president can commute sentences, a president can pardon people, but not when they are involved in the crime.” Feet shuffled–throats cleared–Cindy pressed on: “I believe that Nancy Pelosi committed treason when she took impeachment off the table,” she rasped. “You cannot ignore our constitution. And not only that, they have also been going against the constitution by approving torture, which goes against the Eighth Amendment, by approving spying on us without warrants, which goes against the Fourth Amendment….” and so on.

Like in Venezuela!

Sheehan ally McKinney–helping the U.S. become Venezuela.

Support was meager from the outset. Political backing came chiefly from the infamously addlepated Cynthia McKinney who exited congress to seek the Green Party’s presidential nomination, and failing that, appeared with Sheehan at a San Francisco demonstration, bellowing, “We have an opportunity to learn from countries where people power has stepped up and through the power of the ballot they have changed things, like in Venezuela…”

Hugo goes soft on the Evil Empire….

“I don’t know what the book is yet, Valerie–the man won’t let go of my finger!” 

But even Venezuela was adjusting its rhetoric, sensitive to the imminent departure of “W” and the nearly inevitable ascension of Barack Hussein Obama. In the event, it bears noting, Chavez (who claimed to smell brimstone whenever Bush was in the vicinity) greeted the Bamster with a fraternal embrace and handed him a copy of “The Open Veins of Latin America” a gongoristic denunciation of U.S. imperialism by the Uruguayan communist Eduardo Galeano.  Obama, whose Marxist roots were primarily African, didn’t recognize it. “I thought it was one of Chavez’s books,” he told reporters, “I was going to give him one of mine.” Vintage Bamster, right? But The New Yorker called it “a quip,” and one of the many “good lines” Obama “got in” during his hug fest with the Venezuelan despot.  Point being: nobody was saying anything critical of America’s first Marxist in those early days, except for a handful of contemptible fringe figures–Rush Limbaugh, and his Neanderthal ilk. Cindy Sheehan, however, didn’t get the memo. A flaw peculiar to clinical narcissists is a level of self-absorption that inures them at times to even those rudimentary tactical insights accessible to the average schoolyard bully (like Hugo Chavez, come to think of it). Hitler invaded Russia. Commodus thought he could outfight champion gladiators in the Colosseum.  And Cindy Sheehan decided to attack everyone at once.

Commodus enters the arena! (More gumption than common sense.)

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