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Truth in action

BY BEAU ELLIOT | JANUARY 19, 2010 7:30 AM

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So it’s been a fun four weeks — if you can call 11-straight days of subzero temperatures “fun” (no, really; you had to be there) — full of holidays and good cheer and a new year (which looks pretty much like the old year, but then, new years have that tendency).

And, as we were incessantly reminded, from dawn to dusk and dusk to dawn and everywhere in between (if there is such an in between), the end of the first decade of the new (well, not so new anymore) millennium.

Well, of course, the first decade of the sort-of new millennium doesn’t really end until the close of this year, but if everyone believes that the first decade ended in 2009, it doesn’t truly matter, does it?

Or, as Paul Krugman wrote in the Dec. 28 New York Times, “Yes, I know that strictly speaking the millennium didn’t begin until 2001. Do we really care?”

Apparently not. I mean, this seems to be the age in which we believe what we believe and don’t bother me with the facts, as Ronald Reagan once reportedly said.

Thus we get a number of people who fervently believe that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, despite all the evidence, and think he is an illegitimate president.

Or we get BBC Radio, as it did a few weeks ago in those oh-so-suave British accents, tell us that the 9/11 attacks occurred nine years ago.

Um, no. The 9/11 attacks occurred approximately eight years and four months ago. Call me picky, but eight years and four months don’t add up to nine.

Or, just to pick another example at random, we have the author of a new biography of Raymond Carver, Carol Sklenicka, describing Carver’s stay in Iowa City, write “On a rise west of the river, the gilt-domed Greek Revival Old Capitol …”

Now granted, Sklenicka is writing about August 1963, but I’d be willing to bet a large amount of money (say, the money I saved on car insurance by not having a car) that in 1963, the Old Capitol sat pretty much where it sits today — which is to say solidly east of the river. (You don’t have to take my word for it; check it out.)

Or we could take Sarah (remember the death panels?) Palin. Turns out, according to the book Game Change, that the John McCain foreign-policy experts had to teach the Alaska governor about World War I and World II.

Palin didn’t know about World War I and World II? Huh?

Well. I guess she couldn’t see World War I and World II from her porch in Alaska.

Or we could take Pat Robertson and his take on the earthquake in Haiti:

“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’ True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out.”

There’s a small problem here. And no, I’m not talking about poor taste or pacts with the devil.

(Robertson has his devils, you have your devils, I have my devils. I call mine the New York Yankees. And no matter how many pins I stick into New York Yankee bobble-head dolls, the Yankees don’t seem to go away. Curious things, devils.)

No, the problem is the Haitian slaves did indeed revolt against the French colonialists/imperialists and kick them out behind the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture. In 1804. (The year after the Louisiana Purchase, in case you’re keeping track at home.) Napoleon III (“You know, Napoleon III and whatever.”) was born in 1808. So I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s quite probable that he wasn’t the French emperor in 1804.

But then, accuracy — do we really care?


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