Orion, and Tribal Politics

  • What Orion would look like if we had better eyes;
  • The Iowa landslide for Trump reveals evangelicals for who they really are; The country needs a dictator; Sobbing woman begs Trump to save her;
  • Conspiracy-monger set the fires himself;
  • Nikki Haley denies that the US has ever been racist;
  • Liars and better liars.
  • And why humans don’t need to understand reality, or truth.

What Orion would look like if we had better eyes.

Astronomy Picture of the Day: The Orion You Can Almost See

See the link for an un-annotated photo, which will show the annotations upon hovering.

There are many, many impressive astronomical photos of distant galaxies and nebulae, from the big space telescopes of recent decades, but, as I’ve mentioned before, few of these put their images in context. How ‘big’ are these objects in the sky, if you could see them, compared to the full moon? Many of them, I gather, would be easily visible, in the sense that they span an area of the sky that we can see. They’re not tiny portions of the sky expanded by these telescopes. (Telescopes gather light more than they expand tiny images.)

Here’s a great photo today on APOD.nasa.gov, of the entire area of the sky that we identify as the constellation Orion, composed of long-exposure digital camera imaging and post-processing, it says.

Actually, if we had better eyes, we wouldn’t see this; if we were able to perceive those faint nebulae at a glance, our eyes would be blinded by the brightness of those stars, some of which, like Rigel and Betelgeuse, are among the brightest in the sky. So in a sense, a photo like this is a fiction, just as the many many photos taken in the infrared or ultraviolet, and ‘translated’ into colors we can see. But they are not fiction; they are adaptations of reality to comport with the limitation of our senses, which were evolutionarily derived to be most efficient in the environment in which we evolved. Of course.


As I’ve been saying.

Salon, Amanda Marcotte, 16 Jan 2024: With Donald Trump’s Iowa landslide, evangelicals reveal who they really are, subtitled “Forget Jesus — modern evangelicals look at President Drink Bleach as their lord and savior”

Over the past eight years, we’ve all watched as evangelicals have grown ever more fanatical in their love of Trump, a thrice-married adulterer who bragged about committing sexual assault. Still, many pundits cling to this fantasy that American evangelicals are morally upright people who actually mean all that talk about chastity, charity and Christian values. It was always a silly notion, of course, as the evangelical movement has long shown itself more interested in right-wing politics than in feeding the poor and healing the sick. But the romantic fantasy about an American heartland replete with simple but good people had powerful sway over the imaginations of the chattering class.

With history of George W. Bush, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz. Then DeSantis. She references the NYT piece I linked in my Jan 10th post, and the comments of Tim Alberta that have been floating around.

Just like every Republican winner of the Iowa caucus for over two decades, Trump is an avatar for the current mood of white evangelicals. They are done pretending to be “compassionate.” The mask is entirely off. Evangelicals are not the salt-of-the-earth types idealized by centrist pundits. They are what feminists, anti-racists and pro-LGBTQ activists have always said: authoritarians who may use Jesus as cover for their ugly urges, but have no interest in the “love thy neighbor” teachings of their purported savior.

For years, progressive academics and activists have argued that the “evangelical” identity in white America was constructed less around spirituality and more around a very racist, sexist set of political preferences. It’s why evangelicals are rabidly anti-abortion and hostile to birth control and sex education, even though the Bible doesn’t even mention those topics. It’s why they center homophobia in their theology, even though same-sex relations are treated as roughly as sinful as getting a tattoo in the Bible. It’s why they hype patriarchal marriage as the end-all, be-all of their faith, even though Jesus explicitly regarded it as a secondary concern to salvation.

None of this is new to evangelicalism in America. As historian Randall Balmer has laid out, the religious right emerged directly as a reaction to the civil rights movement, as a way for segregationists to justify their racism on the grounds of faith rather than bigotry. The architects of modern American evangelicalism, such as Jerry Falwell, often got their start by pushing the view that the Bible demands the separation of the races. The infrastructure of the modern evangelical movement, especially its schools, grew up as a way to establish white-only spaces after the federal ban on most forms of racial discrimination.

Trump may not believe in faith or salvation, but he sure believes in racism and sexism. That Iowa evangelicals turned out to back Trump isn’t a betrayal of their values. It reveals the values that always fueled their movement. It’s just the last bit of plausible deniability has faded away.


Boing Boing, Jason Weisberger, 15 Jan 2024: A Trump supporter says it all: “This country needs a dictator”

Articles on this site are often quite short, as this one is (I’m omitting the link to the TikTok video); I’ll quote the entire article.

This red-be-hatted moron is certainly not a good American!

Isn’t the United States of America all about not having a king? Not forcing a specific religion on folks, and everyone being equal in the eyes of the law? Perhaps they want to Make America Not America anymore?

Republicans are pledging themselves to a fascist who has openly announced his intent to become a dictator, and not to leave office.

My comment: What he means is, he wants someone on his side to boss around all the people he doesn’t like. Put them in their place.


Boing Boing, Mark Frauenfelder, 15 Jan 2024: “I don’t even see our American flag anymore!” — Sobbing MAGA woman begs Trump to save her

These people are frail, and perhaps not quite sane.


Here’s one about conspiracy-mongers, certainly overlapping the evangelicals in a Venn diagram.

Joe.My.God, from CBC, 16 Jan 2024: Qanon Quebec Man Pleads Guilty To Setting Wildfires

A Quebec man who posted conspiracy theories online that forest fires were being deliberately set by the government has pleaded guilty to starting a series of fires himself that forced hundreds of people from their homes.


The New Republic (via), 16 Jan 2024: Nikki Haley Tries Weighing in on Racism Again—and It’s a Disaster, subtitled “Why is the daughter of Indian immigrants like this?”

GOP presidential hopeful Nikki Haley tried to claim that racism is no longer an issue on Tuesday, arguing that the United States isn’t a racist country and never has been.

“We’re not a racist country, Brian,” Haley told Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade. “We never have been.”

I’m trying to imagine what Nikki Haley would imagine an actual racist country would look like. Slavery, perhaps? Jim Crow laws? Continued discrimination against minorities in everything from law enforcement to real estate assessments? Oh, wait.


From a few days ago.

Washington Post, Kathleen Parker, 12 Jan 2024: Opinion | In politics, there are liars and better liars

This refers to last week’s Republican debate.

It’s a good thing Donald Trump doesn’t do campaign debates anymore. He couldn’t have survived Wednesday night’s liar-liar-pants-on-fire name-calling extravaganza between runner-up Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations and former governor of South Carolina, and third-place Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida.

Trump would have stalked off the stage, the clear winner in the liar sweepstakes. Instead, Haley and DeSantis argued between themselves for two exhausting and boring hours about who had lied most about this position or that policy.

Haley repeatedly referred viewers to DeSantisLies.com to check her opponent’s alleged prevarications, warning Drake University students: “Don’t turn this into a drinking game because you will be overserved by the end of the night.”

Such playfulness around the subject of lying is worrisome, as though lying is a prank, a harmless game of hyperbole. It risks normalizing deceit.

Their followers seem not to care.

But lies are rarely harmless. Beyond disrespecting objective fact, lies undermine trust, which is essential to a properly functioning republic. Powerful liars like Trump count on this. He has never been coy about his ambitions for greater control over the country, and his demands for loyalty are legendary. He has made clear his disdain for the truth-tellers and for anyone who would contradict him.

And this gets to my notion that those who support Trump — or any of the Republicans for that matter — have completely discredited themselves in all matters of morality.

I will never understand how people either know he’s a liar and accept it or are too blinded by their truth to see what’s in front of their noses. Do his supporters not care about the truth — at all?

Again, I will invoke one of my provisional conclusions: humans don’t need to understand reality. They don’t need to care about truth. They only need to conform to the beliefs of their community/tribe, in a Darwinian struggle against other communities/tribes, including those who do understand reality — those who have constructed our modern world. The former are, in a sense, parasites on the latter. They deny science while using their smartphones to spread fatuous “proofs” that the Earth is flat (as I just saw today, for example).

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