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To Tell the Truth

The words “truth” and “lies” are ones we all know from an early age. Even so, cultures have struggled with the concepts. “What is truth?” “Is there a metaphysical truth, or is it phenomenological, dependent on how one sees the world?” “What about ‘white lies'”? And so on.

I read a book in graduate school about this topic, written by a female academic, but I can’t remember the name of her or the book. It was written in a non-academic style and easily readable, but ultimately I thought that it did not really delve deeply enough into the complexity of it. But maybe that is the problem at the outset. She seemed to rely on an argument that lying is bad in itself, a selfish putting of one’s own needs ahead of someone else’s, and didn’t want to brook any excuses.

I love topics like this, they get to the heart of the human condition. But indeed, one could write many books on it. Is it ever morally acceptable to lie? About what, and when? Of course, this kind of question presupposes a wish to be moral, a concern about what is morally right and wrong. Some people just do not have it.

Why they don’t, is another subject for books. Are they born that way? Do they get it from early childhood development? Do they learn it from interactions with fellow children or adults? Do they at some point consciously or unconsciously decide that they can get more of what they value in life by lying when it suits them? Are there some people who literally are so wrapped up in lies, that they cannot discern lies from truth?

So much has been written about Donald Trump, who lies about everything. It is about 95% likely that any sentence which comes out of his mouth is either a partial lie or a complete lie. How the media has allowed this, in not just announcing to its listeners that Trump is LYING (not misstating, or saying something controversial) is a disgrace, and a horrible danger to democracy. Newspapers like the NYT have contorted themselves to not use the words “lie” or “lying.” But that is what he does.

So he lied when he ran, he lied when he was President, he lies now. I have no idea whether he knows it or not. I think that his view of the world, such as it is, is so transactional, that he just says what he thinks will help him get the pleasures he wants. Truth vs. falsity is not in the equation for him. It is beyond weird and unsettling, but there he is.

And Trump’s amorality and conning has seeped down into the rest of the Republicans in office, and to his voters. But we should not give him all of the perverse credit for this. It has to have been at least inchoate in the natures of these people, because they do it so easily. Al Franken wrote his book about lying liars a few decades ago, before Trump was doing it on a national scale. These Republicans lie and lie, and revel in it. And their followers love to be lied to, and told this fantasy story in which they are the heroes, fighting against evil forces who want to tell them what reality is.

The lies told by Republican officials seem to grow exponentially in number and scope. Elise Stefanik, soon to be #3 in the House Republican leadership, says that 140,000 ballots in Fulton County, Georgia, were illegal. She might have said that they were flown in by bats who dropped them onto the desks, after having forged the signatures of humans. There is as much chance of one or the other, they are both beyond ludicrous. But she says it as easily as someone might tell you what they had for breakfast

This is a woman who went to Harvard, whatever that means now, and she says this. Does she believe it? If so, she is insane. Did she just repeat what some other insane person told her? That would make her utterly irresponsible. Or, and probably most likely, did she just say whatever she felt best suited her political needs, and that of her Republican Party?

Charles Grassley says that it is good to have the Cyber Ninjas conduct their own recount in Maricopa Country, Arizona. It is interesting that neither he or anyone else has called for a recount in any state which Trump won. Apparently we are never going to have any election where Democrats win. Either Republicans win, or it is a fraudulent election. The ultimate extension of sociopathy. The world view of dictators and psychotic tyrants from the onset of human history.

This is what seems to be going on. Republicans like Stefanik and McCarthy and Graham and Cruz and many others, just say whatever they think helps them. The actual truth or untruth of it is something that is not within their internal framework. “Might Makes Right” is a very unsettling rationale for power. This is “Winning Makes Right.” If you win, all the lying is worth it. And this is the rationale and process of every single Republican, with the very few and desperately needed exceptions of Liz Cheney, Barbara Comstock, and a couple of others.

Is this kind of mentality coming from the Russians? Totalitarian states, not just Russia, have long thrived on lying about everything. Russian propaganda is essentially to deny the existence of any truths; hence the Kellyanne Conway statement about “alternative facts.” Anything you say might or might not be true; who can know or care? This of course not only countenances lying, it also elevates the most ignorant person to the same level as the scientist or historian. It’s all just made-up stuff, anyway, right? The perfect refuge for stupid and willfully ignorant people.

Democracies need a moral foundation of some sort. Right vs Wrong, Good vs Evil, Facts vs Lies. Have the Republicans decided to completely abandon all of this and just lie and lie, more each day? They obviously think that this will help them in their only goal, which is winning elections and maintaining permanent power. Do they just rationalize to themselves, that once they win the Congress and then the Presidency, it will have been worth it, no harm done?

But there is immense and lasting harm in what they are doing. The chaos which they are creating will consume them and everyone else. If there is no right and wrong, no truth, no lies, just opportunism, then no one can believe any of it, or listen to anyone. As bad as I have seen Republicans be for decades, this is an entirely new level of depravity that they are wallowing in. And they can’t just climb out of it when they think they want to. They are the depravity now, there is no separation between it and them.

Fruit Season

It was nice to see that the weekend fruit markets were quite busy. Everyone is required to wear masks there. But, without being too upbeat about it, it does feel as if there are more good spirits there now, than there were in the bleak times last year.

I love summer fruits. Plums are my favorite, although it does depend on the variety. There are no plums out yet. The first peaches I got last week were not good, but the ones I got yesterday are not bad at all. And there were even apricots, quite good. You have to choose carefully as regard to farms; some are just better than others in how they grow and tend the fruits.

One concern is that the number of family owned farms is decreasing. Some of the legendary farmers of twenty years ago, have retired. Sometimes the adult children take over, but some of them do not want to farm, and the farms are sold. What we do not want are those large farms where the fruit is bland. But they sell a lot, and I don’t really know why.

One of the better farmers who had many varieties of peaches, finally decided to sell his farm a few years ago. The person who bought it, kept t going for a couple of years, but didn’t really want to do it, and was looking for a way to make more money off the property. The woman who was running the fruit market part of it, who is very smart and nice, tried to save it, though she did not have the money. It was far too much for me or any few people to buy the farm. Finally, the “farmer” cut down all the trees, which is an awful thought in itself, all those lovely trees. First I heard that he was going to sell pistachios worldwide, then that he is just going to sell the land for development. This is the kind of thing that should not happen. It takes at least five years for a peach tree to grow, and then one has to have the land, the love of farming, and the ability to make a living at it.

There are going to be less choices this year, but there are still a few good farms, family owned. I am told that it will be a good crop of red beaut plums, which are just about my favorite, with a fresh and clean taste. Most varieties of summer fruits are only on trees for a few weeks, and then there is another variety which comes to the fore.There was a legendary farmer, Art Lang, who had a PHD in biology, and developed better systems for growing fruits. He retired some years ago, though, and his son had no interest in farming, wanted to surf. His farm, Honeycrisp Farm, had so many wonderful varieties of plums, and no one else has nearly as many now.

I am one of the few people who go to fruit markets, who does not look for soft peaches. I like fruit that is firm and rather crunchy, though with flavor. The sellers are always saying to their customers,”Just leave them on the counter for a few days,” but I want to immediately put them in the refrigerator to stay firm as long as possible. It requires some fast eating, but it is the best snack I can imagine, to have a few peaches and plums.

Right now it is cherry season, and there are many varieties. The prices have gone up, which is rather understandable, after last year’s season when most of the fruit markets were closed or limited for a few months. My favorite varieties of cherries are Sequoias, Brooks (but only if they are from the best cherry growing farm there), and Bing. Cherry season here only runs from early May until early June, so one has to take advantage of it while one can. The entire summer fruit season essentially ends in late August and early September, so one has to gather one’s fruits while one may, to paraphrase the Cavalier poet Robert Herrick.

And then there is berry season, which is even shorter, but rewarding. Boysenberries are my all-time favorite, though few grow them. There was one great farm where that is almost all they grew; and it went through generations, but the son got married, and decided he wanted to do something else with his life. Supposedly a younger daughter was going to try to make a go of it, but I have heard nothing as to whether they are going to go to fruit markets, they didn’t last year. So it gets more difficult, but there still are a couple of farms which grow berries.

I hope that you live in a place where they have fresh summer fruits and fruit markets. They are happy places, almost everyone is cheerful. People get there early, including those who represent famous restaurants, who buy large quantities of the fruit, which is not ideal, because they then use it to make $40 desserts for Hollywood types. I have run into Wolfgang Puck at fruit markets, but never had a reason to talk to him. I am told that he only goes there to shop for his family, not his restaurants, which is how it should be.