We often hear the United States Senate referred to as “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” That expression was coined by the fifteenth President of the United States, the otherwise unremarkable James Buchanan. You could say that the United States Civil War was just Abraham Lincoln cleaning up the mess Buchanan left behind. Since Buchanan was himself once a Senator, calling a body of which he was a member “the world’s greatest” anything smacks of shameless self-promotion.
This is supposedly the dawning of the age of artificial intelligence. We have cars that can drive themselves, sort of, and thermostats that can adjust to our daily patterns, more or less. Google just showed off a technology where the electronic “assistant” inside your phone can call a restaurant or a hair salon to make an appointment, and the person on the other end of the call won’t even know they’ve spoken to a piece of software.
Now we’ve all seen enough movies to know what happens next. Next, HAL murders the rest of the Discovery crew, then Skynet becomes self-aware, and, boom, we have Terminators.
You may have had this experience, where your racist, right-wing uncle, the one who shows up drunk for Thanksgiving with his Chinese-knockoff MAGA hat on backward, puts something like the following on his Twitter feed:
“Nazi means ‘National Socialist,’ so that means socialism equals Nazism. Checkmate, libtards!”
Neil DeGrasse Tyson is the avuncular face of science in our popular culture, and I am confident that virtually all of what he communicates to the world is conscientiously accurate. However, there is one instance where a statement by Dr. Tyson flew in the face of objective reality as I understand it.
He said that he is not an atheist, but he is an agnostic.
In 1967, Under-secretary of State Nick Katzenbach was testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the progress of United States military operations in Vietnam. When Senator Fulbright expressed concern that President Johnson was waging war in Southeast Asia without the authority of a Congressional declaration of war, Katzenbach scoffed that this constitutionally-enumerated power reserved to the legislature was obsolete in the nuclear age, when a president might have mere minutes to respond to a Soviet missile launch.
Libertarianism sure sounds great in principle, and as a purely philosophical position, the idea that in all situations, personal liberty should be the first priority, there is a lot to praise about it. As a political governing principle, however, I found it lacking in the power to address real-world problems.
If you want to start a spirited debate among a group of technology-savvy young males, wait for one of them to mention the graphics file format known as the “GIF.” They’ll pronounce it with either a soft G, like “giraffe,” or a hard G, like “gift.” Whichever pronunciation they use, correct them by insisting the other one is proper.
Trust me. It’ll be hilarious.
If you pay attention to progressive media, you will hear people use the term “corporatist” to describe politicians who accept generous bribes, I mean campaign donations, from large corporations, usually via dark money contributions to their SuperPACs. In this use of the word, “corporatist” means “wholly owned by and beholden to corporate interests.”