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Stuff that people think they know

March 17, 2012

[30th J.P.'s Moment of Common Sense on Broad View, KBZZ 1270 AM and 96.1 FM in Reno.]

President Obama misquoted Rutherford B. Hayes this week. Hayes is our 19th president, he’s been dead for 120 years, but he was Republican so I guess that makes him fair game for Obama... I don’t know. Maybe that’s the reason he misquoted him, maybe not. I’ve given up trying to explain the president’s factual errors politely.

What’s interesting about the misquote is that when the curator of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio, was contacted, she admitted hearing and correcting that same misquote numerous times. It’s one of those things people think they know, but really don’t.

There’s a lot of that stuff in circulation—stuff people think they know. Quick quiz: did Richard Nixon get impeached for sending people to break into the Watergate? Most people would say yes but, in fact, Nixon resigned before he was impeached and he didn’t know about the break-in until after it happened.

Here’s another one: back during the 2000 presidential election people kept talking about how smart Gore is and how dumb Bush is, until somebody pointed out that Bush had better grades in college and has an MBA from Harvard while Gore flunked out of two different grad schools before becoming a politician.

Intelligence is an area where Stuff-That-People-Think-They-Know thrives. Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin are two politicians who get insulted constantly for being dumb but, in fact, both of them were blessed by God with photographic memories.

The worst victim of all might be former Vice President Dan Quayle, who lives in infamy for not being able to spell the word “potato.” In fact, we don’t know anything whatsoever about Quayle’s ability to spell—he was reading from a flashcard made by the teacher. It was the teacher who couldn’t spell.

Most of these misconceptions have one thing in common: they work to the detriment of conservatives and to the advantage of liberals. Strange, isn’t it? Quayle points out that right around the time he was being lampooned for misspelling “potato,” his opponent, Al Gore, made reference to “a leopard changing its stripes.” Quayle thinks that was much funnier than putting an ‘e’ at the end of potato. How about Hillary Clinton’s “vast right wing conspiracy?” She used that phrase on The Today Show in 1998 to counter what she called “fabricated rumors” that her husband had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, and the phrase has been popular every since... even though we now know that Bill really did have that affair. We know it by DNA, for crying out loud.

Recently some very harmful misconceptions have damaged our nation, perhaps permanently. During the healthcare debates the assumption was made that U.S. healthcare wasn’t functioning very well, even though we spend lots of money on it. In fact, recent studies have verified what I was saying three years ago: U.S. healthcare is far and away the best in the world. We tore something good apart and replaced it with a monstrosity for no good reason.

Energy is another area where people hoard nuggets of Stuff-They-Think-They-Know. Our president said this week that drilling for oil won’t help because we only have 2% of the world’s proven reserves. We’ve heard variations of this nonsense for so many years I can’t blame anybody for believing it. In fact, it’s a clever lie. “Proven reserves” is only the stuff we’re already drilling. If you take into account all the oil we’re not drilling but we know is down there, the United States has enough oil to satisfy its own needs for hundreds of years... without one drop of imported oil from those Muslim thugs in Saudi Arabia.

By the way, speaking of oil, oil companies do not get government subsidies. They might drill on government land but they pay for the privilege and the depletion allowance you hear about is simply depreciation by another name. All companies deduct depreciation, not just oil companies.

Maybe the most harmful misconception comes from environmentalists who peddle the notion that economic development is bad for the environment. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Study after study proves the more economically successful a nation is, the cleaner its environment gets. If you had a time machine and traveled to the New York of 1850, when per capita income was less than a tenth what it is now, the smell alone would convince you.

One last example of Stuff-That-People-Think-They-Know: comedians love to portray Republicans as stiff-necked sexual prudes but, every time somebody takes a survey, it turns out conservatives are enjoying sex more than liberals and having more of it... but that really shouldn’t surprise anybody: look at Sarah Palin and then look at Hillary Clinton.

That's... today’s dose of common sense..

"It's not that our liberal friends don't know anything. The problem is so much of what they know is wrong." – Ronald Reagan

From Reno, Nevada, USA       

March 20, 2012 - This is really funny. If we start with grades, I challenge you to compare the grades or intelligence of the President to any of the candidates or past presidents. I've never seen so much humor provided to the country by the right. Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, Mitt Romney, George Bush...sounds like a line up for a comedy club. Santorum claims he can get gas down to 2 dollars a gallon if he is elected. If he can why wait???? Since he want be elected does that mean he want help lower gas prices....another idiot. If the republicans were smart they would realize they are making it easy for the left. Please continue to expose the country to the ignorance of the right and join the left in november for this comedy show of an election. Can you imagine the jokes VP Biden will tell!!!! LOL!! - Daryl M., Kansas
J.P. replies: I would love to compare the grades of President Obama... to anybody's. Unfortunately, his entire college career is a blacked-out super-secret, remember?

March 18, 2012 - Regan was a miltaristic depot who did more damage to this country than Obama ever did. - P.D., New York
J.P. replies: Mr. Porretto suggests a hypothesis about public schools, then you provide the proof—the scientific method in action. Thank you.

March 18, 2012 - (chuckle) Here we see the fruits of the two most pernicious of the institutions of post-World-War-II America: the government-run schools and the national media.
I hardly need to expand on the terrible damage the government-run schools have done and are doing to our spratlings' knowledge of history, and their interest in it. What most people fail to grasp is the national media's place in the thing.
For about sixty years now, we've had the national media assuring us that they are the One True Source of all we need to know, whether it's about What's Happening Now or What Happened Back When. For quite some time, Americans treated them as if they were as authoritative and trustworthy as they claimed to be. To put it as gently as possible, that's turned out not to be the case.
Ambitious politicians, and the directors of political forces of various kinds, long ago grasped that the keys to getting people to accept a proposition are authority, intensity, and repetition. The national media have all three of these assets: authority, from their persistence and breadth of exposure; intensity, by reason of their cultivation of technique; and repetition, because they operate in a mutually sustaining fashion that acts to confirm its own emissions. Far too many people have come to believe that if it's in the New York Times, it's the gospel truth. After all, the Times is the "paper of record," isn't it? Doesn't it employ the most skilled journalists in the world? Didn't we read the very same thing in the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, and hear it from Dan Rather on CBS, Tom Brokaw on NBC, and Peter Jennings on ABC as well?
Thus, falsehoods of any sort can be impressed upon Americans' minds with the proper placement, treatment, and coordination. It can take the most determined, diligent effort to demonstrate, even to a typically open-minded person, that he's been fed a line of crap.
We need a big booster shot of skepticism. - Francis W. Porretto, Connecticut

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