Thursday, May 25, 2006

Got Faith?

"The point is that faith, even moderate faith, is pernicious because it teaches that believing something without evidence is a virtue."
Richard Dawkins

Of course, Dawkins is referring to religious faith, but there are all kinds of faith that are at least as destructive – faith that the Iraq War is about anything but oil; faith that America stands for liberty and justice; faith that our elected representatives actually care what we think – and this rampant faith has infested our public discourse so badly that it is impossible to calmly discuss the best course of action for our society.

In Hennepin County, where I live, for example, many people have faith that the newly ratified $500 million Minnesota Twins stadium will generate enough revenue to justify the cost. This is in direct conflict with well-publicized facts. Just across the river in St. Paul, the Chamber of Commerce estimates that fans of the Minnesota Wild NHL franchise generate about $23 million of revenue per season. So at $23 million per season, it would take about 28 seasons to recuperate the $500 million cost of a new stadium. That’s if there are no strikes or steroid controversies or any other interferences with the sports fans’ mindless adulation.

Meanwhile, health clinics that serve the uninsured – around 50,000 strong in supposedly liberal Minnesota – are closing left and right because the legislature rejected an initiative that would have provided them with $1.5 million in grants. We know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, thanks to that notorious liberal, Benjamin Franklin, but far be it from us to put those wise words to use.

Faith – 1
Evidence – 0

This is nothing new, of course, in Minnesota or America. Dumbfucks infatuated with the glory of the ballpark – or the battlefield (or the Elysian Fields) – always prevail over common sense.

In addition to the healthcare crisis alluded to above, Minneapolis’ schools and libraries are also in financial trouble despite the obvious and well documented correlation between education and financial stability.

Faith – 2
Evidence – 0

And the local Ford plant, which has been a source of jobs and revenue since 1924, is also in danger due to soaring gasoline costs and plummeting common sense among Ford’s leadership, which insists upon churning out Rangers and Explorers instead of more fuel efficient vehicles.

But don’t worry. Real estate developers will come to the rescue. You see, they have faith that despite increasing unemployment and diminishing wages, the housing boom will continue unhindered and it will profit all of us to convert the abandoned Ford plant into condominiums.

Faith – 3
Evidence – 0

Next year, Twin Cities residents can look forward to another stadium proposal. This one will benefit the Minnesota Vikings, who just can’t seem to make ends meet in the 60,000 seat Metrodome. A new publicly financed football stadium is just the ticket.

In Major League Losers: The Real Cost of Sports and Who’s Paying for It, Mark S. Rosentraub, of the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment at Indiana University, analyzes the finances surrounding publicly financed sports palaces. What he has found in city after city is that public financing of professional sports stadiums provides a dismal return on investment, and that team owners and their minions in government use falsified financial projections to promote the schemes. In the introduction to the book, Rosentraub writes, “A welfare system exists in this county that transfers hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers to wealthy investors and their extraordinarily well paid employees.” Rosentraub also suggests that professional sports leagues use team loyalty against fans who fear of losing the team to another, more deserving city.

Faith – 4
Evidence – 0

But of course, Barry Bonds didn’t check 714 books out of the library; he hit 714 home runs, which allows us to vicariously enjoy his display of testosterone (and other hormones). For those of you who are keeping score, you can see that this is going to be a trouncing. We have faith that the telcom companies don’t want to fuck up the internet for narrow self interest; we have faith that the TeeVee never lies; we have faith that The Big Game isn’t rigged. It’s a collective faith because we share a collective fear of reality.

UPDATE: Make that 715 home runs. Bonds broke Babe Ruth's mark on Sunday, putting him in second place on the all-time home run list, right behind Hank Aaron, but first among prima donna steroid junkies.

UPDATE II: Compare and contrast the new Twins stadium deal with other such corporate bailouts around the nation. Neil deMaus provides the lowdown in the City Pages - the only local publication to critically examine the scheme. Like Major League Losers, mentioned above, deMause's book, Field of Schemes, thououghly debunks the local-profits-through-billionaire-bailout myth. His web site is here.


Fran / Blue Gal said...

Yeah but I come here with a great deal of faith that you will crack me up and I am never disappointed. Chalk up one for faith.

Pissedoffcabbie said...

Ouch. The evidence always bats last, huh?

That was a great post, perhaps your best. I get the feeling that Mr. Big Daddy is mad as hell, and isn't going to take it anymore.

Big Daddy Malcontent said...

I believe it was Lynard Skynard who said, "You got that right.You sho' got that right."


But at least I deliver, Blue Gal.