OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS - "Parallel Universe"

(02/14/2004)

By Tony Russell

"Thanks for meeting with me, Dr. Zweistein. My editor thought that having a Nobel Prize-winning physicist in town was an opportunity too good to be missed."

"It is my pleasure, Mr. ."

"Ace. Just call me Ace."

"Fine. How may I help you, Mr. Ace?"

"Well, maybe you could just explain to me what your research was about. And could you kind of keep it simple? My last science course was in the 9th grade, and I got a 'D' then. After that I sort of majored in football and girls."

"I see. I'll do my best. Um, first off, my research is still ongoing, so your reference to it in the past tense is misleading. But that small detail aside, I would say, generally speaking, that the Nobel committee was intrigued by my pioneering work in an entirely new scientific field, where physics intersects with psychology."

"Doc, that doesn't say a whole lot to me. Could you break that down a little bit?"

"Certainly. My studies in physics early on were of a theoretical nature, dealing with the possibility of parallel universes. My interest in the political dimension was aroused by the complete mismatch between what we might call the 'historical record' -that is, the document trail, the photographic and audio archives, and the observations of a variety of participants-on the one hand, and the pronouncements of the Bush administration on the other. What I came to realize was that most of us, most of the time, live in what I have called 'the real world,' while the Bush administration does indeed operate in a 'parallel universe.' To find this tangible illustration of my physics theories was an incredible stroke of luck."

"I'm not sure I follow you, Doc. Could you give me a 'for instance' or two?"

"Of course. Take the issue of the weapons inspectors in Iraq. Now, in the 'real world,' we know that those inspectors were there, working hard, and only left because the U.S. was preparing to attack. We have their reports, we have their names and credentials, we have lists of sites they visited and inspected. But President Bush said that one of the reasons he had to go to war was that Saddam Hussein wouldn't let the weapons inspectors in. And Senator Pat Roberts, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the same thing. Remember, these are people in the highest levels of government, briefed constantly on the latest developments, dealing with life-and-death issues. Now, what would a person in the real world conclude from Mr. Bush and Mr. Roberts's statements?"

"Gee, I don't know. I guess I'd have to say they were either totally clueless about what was going on, or they were so cynical they thought they could say anything and it wouldn't come back to bite them."

"Precisely. That's a typical layman's response. But I began to see so many examples of this phenomenon that I told myself, 'Surely no one in such responsible positions could possibly be that ignorant or that cynical. There must be an alternative explanation.'"

"I think I'm starting to see where you're headed. Could you give me any more examples?"

"Easily. Take the questions about Mr. Bush's National Guard service during the Vietnam War. Now in the 'real world,' it appears that Mr. Bush simply, as young people would put it, 'blew off' his obligation for about a year. His commanding officers say they never saw him; nobody can turn up anybody who says he was ever around. But he has pay stubs for some of the time, and an honorable discharge. How do you square those things?

"Well, before we started talking, I would have said that he never showed up, and he got paid and an honorable discharge because his connections pulled strings. But if I understand what you're saying, he did fulfill his obligation-not in the 'real world,' but in that 'parallel universe.'

"Bravo, Mr. Ace! Let's look at one more example. This one is a little more complex-the budget deficit. Mr. Bush says that the deficit is caused by having to respond to the terrorist threat after September 11, and by drops in income after the stock market fell. That's the view from the parallel universe. In the 'real world,' -for example, in reports by the Congressional Budget Office-the picture is entirely different."

"Different how?"

"Well, in the 'real world,' spending increases for homeland security and boosts in the defense budget account for only one-fourth of the shift from a surplus to a deficit. The primary cause was something that Mr. Bush didn't mention at all. His tax cuts for the rich. The government's revenue from individual income taxes was actually less in 2004 than it was in the year 2000, and that decrease accounts for almost 60 percent of the shift from a surplus to a deficit."

"So somehow the way those tax cuts are killing the budget just doesn't get into Mr. Bush's explanation?"

"That's right. But as a scientist, I must always ask 'Why?'"

"Well, I'm no expert here, Doc. I guess I'd have to say, 'It looks like the tax cuts were terrible policy, and he won't admit it. He thinks we're too dumb or apathetic to actually look at the budget.'"

"There you are again. But once more I told myself, 'No President could possibly be so irresponsible as to deliberately cut revenues and then attempt to mask the effects.'"

"So if we rule out ignorance or cynicism or irresponsibility as explanations for things like these, we're left with .."

"Yes! This is where my 'Parallel Universe Theory' comes in! The 'parallel universe' looks like the 'real world,' but the rules of logic and evidence are totally different. They intersect at many points, so studying the areas where they touch and interact has been fascinating from a scientific viewpoint. Just fascinating."

"How are the rules of logic and evidence different?"

"That's the elegant part of my theory. Both worlds have the appearance of functioning logically. And in fact, they both do. But in the Bush world, logic flows in the opposite direction. Instead of starting with facts and working toward a conclusion, as things operate in the 'real world,' they start with the conclusion and work backwards to create the facts they need. 'Facts' and 'evidence' are created or disappear, based on whether they support the conclusion with which they began."

"I think I'm getting it. So that's the whole 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' thing!"

"You do get it! Right! They started with the conclusion-they wanted to go to war-and created the facts and evidence they wanted. Tons of chemicals. Nuclear weapons. Anthrax and botulism. Iraq was full of them-in the parallel universe."

"And once they had the war, and our soldiers were on the ground, we were in the real world, where none of that stuff existed!"

"You do understand! It all works out in a way consistent with my theory!"

"Wow! Thanks, Doc. I can't wait to get home and explain this all to Patty! She always accuses me of lying about where I go on Saturday nights, and here I've been entering a parallel universe!"


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