Idealism, Blumenthal and the Media
Much is being made about Richard Blumenthal’s Senate race because of a New York Times article published last Monday which accuses Blumenthal of lying about his military record: claiming on camera that he had served in Vietnam when in fact he had not. Blumenthal was a member of the Marine Corp Reserves during Vietnam and was never called up for duty. At issue is the standard we hold our politicians and our media to, and in both cases, our standards seem to have been set too low.
Dan Kennedy at Media Nation has expressed his disappointment in the Times’ initial reporting on Blumenthal because the newspaper only posted the section of the video in which Blumenthal says he served in Vietnam. In fact, only moments earlier in the same video, Blumenthal says he “served in the military during the Vietnam era”, which does perhaps suggest he served in Vietnam, but falls short of the lie the Times piece implicates him in.
That Blumenthal has in the past emphasized his connection to the Vietnam War using suggestive phrasing seems clear not only from what Blumenthal has said about himself, but from the number of local newspaper stories that reported he had indeed served in Vietnam. To be sure, military records are public, and reporters in these instances fell short of their responsibilities to fact check sources.
Now confronted with his past remarks, Blumenthal says he “misspoke” which, according to the London Times’ columnist Dominic Lawson, is American political speak for squirming out of a lie. Lawson does have a point. Too often “misspeak” is a polite euphemism politicians use when they have said something untrue, or in other words, when they have lied.
Maureen Dowd in her column at the New York Times is more forgiving of Blumenthal. He’s human, she says, and humans exaggerate their past when memory mixes with desire, specifically the desire to be someone greater than the actual person in real life.
I recently stumbled on a lecture given by Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, which seems applicable here. Frankl, quoting Geothe, says that “if we take man as he is”, as Maureen Dowd has done rather proudly, “we make him worse, but if we take man as he should be we make him capable of becoming what he can be.”
Frankl is defending idealism and were we to hold our politicians and media to higher standards, there is no place they could go but up.
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?
- During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
- The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
- Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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