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planetc's Journal
planetc's Journal
November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving in a plague year

I’m thankful for living in an advanced society that can develop and test a vaccine for the current pandemic in, relatively speaking, no time flat. I’m grateful for living in a rich country, where I can afford to live with some security, and where medical care is provided for me in my retirement. I’m thoroughly grateful I don’t need much medical care, but happily roam around doing what I want and buying small things, like gifts, and lamp components so I can pursue my latest interest, lamp repair. I am delighted with YouTube and its hosts of instructors, some of whom are very good, and all of whom save me money. I am grateful to The Internet, which provides me with information, news, ways of connecting with people across the planet, and a very efficient way to shop for stuff the local stores can’t provide. The internet allows me to satisfy all curiosities, large and small. I’m grateful for Dr. Anthony Fauci, who tells me what’s going on without exaggeration, or editorializing, and with sympathy. I’m grateful for every public servant and private scholar with integrity and good will. I’m grateful to my local restaurants, who are still alive: I’m happy to let one cook me Thanksgiving dinner, and others who let me take out lunch, as I try to keep the local economy alive without the budget Congress has to play with. I’m grateful to all honest contractors and all their skills, who help me keep my house and car running (especially those who can persuade a car window to close despite its computer and little motor being dead). Library! My library is open!

At the end of this plague year, I’m conscious of just how lucky I am, and how the forces of cynicism encourage us to forget we have all this, right this red hot minute: with a cure for the plague in the pipeline, but not here yet. I’m delighted with the creativity being shown by people working on cures, and medical staff working on patients, and business people who want to stay in business, and artists who figure out how to sing and dance for cameras rather than people. These people can’t be kept down, and when they reach the end of their lives, I hope someone will tell them how proud they should be of themselves.

Be proud of yourselves, people: the conditions for fighting the good fight have been crappy this year, but we have won a major battle, and many smaller victories are ours for the taking. Remember to take a medical person out to dinner as soon as that can be done safely. Get them wine, and toast them!

April 30, 2020

Could I say this about "He said, she said"?

That is the phrase that we used to use to imply that it was impossible to know who was telling the truth when He Said one thing and She Said the opposite. The phrase was thought to be perfectly sufficient to explain the impossibility of getting to a truth that would stand up in a court of law.

In the old days the phrase was used to explain why a woman's accusation of rape would not be prosecuted, because there had been no witnesses. And to this day we keep asking for a higher degree of certitude than one man's or one woman's unsupported statement. Since the MeToo movement took off, we have accepted that the phrase by itself is insufficient to determine whether a predator can and should be prosecuted. Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein have been. We have accepted that there may be circumstantial evidence that could usefully be introduced to give credence to the accuser, and we have seen convictions and jail sentences.

But I want to point out that both male and female predators are usually not so stupid as to commit rape in front of witnesses. In many many cases, it will be impossible to produce a witness because there wasn't one. We will have to do justice, or just make up our minds, without the relative security of a conviction in a court of law. This is not the standard of proof that I would like to have before I make up my mind about an accusation against anyone, especially a prominent figure running for office, like Joe Biden. But I will not get that certitude, because there were, as usual, no witnesses.

What the MeToo movement says is that women can be believed, and should be treated as though they are telling the truth by prosecutors. But we cannot manufacture a witness if none exists. We have to accept the lack of witnesses, and get on with the job of making the best judgment we can. Many of us were deeply suspicious about Al Franken's accusers, and I am suspicious of Joe Biden's accuser. The existence of MeToo does not automatically guarantee that every victim will tell the truth all the time. MeToo was used against Franken, and is now being used against Biden, to the extent we feel we should automatically believe the accuser. In a court of law, we would be instructed NOT to automatically believe anyone, but to weigh all the evidence and arrive at the best judgment we can. Perfect certitude is impossible, but we have to keep our wits about us. We have to accept the fact that in many cases, one person is lying, and while the other is not. Life is messy, and politics recently has been messier. Let us continue to wade on through the mess with prudence, and caution, and care for the truth, even if we can't wrap it up in a tidy package handed to us by a jury foreman.

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