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Newton Was Right


Reading time:  56 seconds  .  .  .

In case you missed the short New York Times essay entitled When May I Shoot A Student?, I suggest you read this fine piece of satire about carrying guns on campus. Then consider the awful realities.

We are living in times that are awash with fear.  We fear “Islamists” and people we see as political extremists (although we ourselves are not extremists).  We fear the Russians, Malaysian Airlines, anyone with ties to Iran and fundamentalism anywhere (with the exception of those who agree with our own) and we plod through our lives harboring the handmaidens of fear, anger and hostility.

There is a relatively small cadre of actors who exploit our fears to manipulate us.  Sometimes it is for money and power (ref: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-AZ), or because they are true, hair-on-fire believers (ref: Sheriff Joe Arpaio).  Regardless, it is always for self-promotion.

They use these times of rampant fear to change America in hideous ways that are not wanted by the majority of us, like rejecting universal background checks before gun sales, allowing concealed carry and allowing guns in public places like bars (what could possibly go wrong there?) and now college campuses. One of the results of guns on campus will be ongoing, random shootings of college kids. It’s just a matter of time. And our grade schoolers of today are headed soon to a college campus to join their heat packing peers.  What is your comfort level with that?

Bear in mind that we tried the Wild West and found it far too brutal and bloody. Going back to that is not likely to produce a different result. So, I appreciate the satire in this essay about new laws allowing guns on campus, but as I read it my gut churned and my heart ached for the coming hordes of mourners.

Given our experience at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia Tech and other school campuses, what is the requisite number of dead kids that will cause us to change our laws to something approaching sanity?

Newton was right: A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Applying that to the present situation, we will continue to have radical, death producing laws and lots of unnecessarily dead Americans unless we (which includes you) do something about it.  Hand wringing won’t help.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Propaganda


Editorial note: Before anyone goes hyperbolic, imagining that this is a comparison of anyone today to the Nazis, get that it isn’t.  The issue is propaganda, and you need to be clear about what that means to you.

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I recently visited the Field Museum in Chicago to see the exhibit, “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda.” It is a special production of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and this visit was my second time reviewing the material.  I came away with a shocking realization.

The Nazis were early masters of manipulation through words and images and they managed to cow an entire nation into support of or, at the very least, indifference to their aggression and brutality.  The exhibit is about how they went about messaging that.

First, some basics about propaganda from the exhibit.

Propaganda:
 
  •      –  Uses truths, half-truths or lies
  •      –  Omits information selectively
  •      –  Simplifies complex issues or ideas
  •      –  Plays on emotions
  •      –  Advertises a cause
  •      –  Attacks opponents
  •      –  Targets [tailors its message to individual] desired audiences

A fine point about the propaganda of attacking opponents is the accusation that opponents are the ones doing the terrible things that the propagandist attempts to create.  For example, the Nazis falsely accused the Jews of trying to gain world domination.  They claimed that the German people were the poor victims of this fictitious attempt, leaving Germany the only option of all-out war to stop the takeover.  Bear in mind that this claim was made while  Hitler was leading Germany in a quest to dominate the world for 1,000 years (“Deutschland Uber Alles”).  That kind of claim allowed citizens to feel justified in supporting German atrocities.  That is to say, the propaganda of attacking the opponent  by accusation worked.

In response to President Obama’s State of the Union address this year, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) made a quick reply, emphasizing the need for jobs for Americans.  There is truth to that claim.  However, in the same breath he accused the President of being ineffective at creating the conditions to promote jobs, asking the question, “Where are the jobs, Mr. President?”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) gave the formal Tea Party response to the President’s speech and asked exactly the same question, “Where are the jobs, Mr. President?”  Interesting, that they used exactly the same words.  I wonder how that happened.

Now, that’s pretty good propaganda, accusing their opponent, President Obama, of poor performance regarding job creation.  There’s just one thing: President Obama has promoted job creation with ideas for infrastructure work, hiring incentives and several jobs bills.  Nearly every one has been shot down by – guess who – John Boehner and Rand Paul using the propaganda of attacking opponents by accusation.

President Obama has repeatedly promoted comprehensive immigration reform.  When that wasn’t possible he proposed bite-sized pieces (e.g. The Dream Act).  Now Republican leadership is blaming the President for the lack of immigration reform, this even as John Boehner has blocked any action on this issue yet again.  Once again, the propaganda of attacking opponents by accusation rears its ugly head.

In Nazi Germany propaganda helped to incrementally take away rights, property, freedom and the lives of the “undesirables,” the Jews, the Communists, the gypsies and others.  Hmmm, incrementally taking away rights  .  .  .  that sounds disturbingly familiar.

Republican state legislatures and governors are crusading to create voter ID laws in over 30 states.  They claim that their purpose is to stop the epidemic of voter fraud that plagues and pollutes our elections.  And they say that people have to show ID to get on an airplane, so why not when they vote?

They have successfully created a boogeyman for we good people to fear and hate, those who are cheating our voting system. That plays effectively on our emotions.  And that propaganda uses half-truths and lies quite effectively.  But let’s look at the truth.

Investigation after investigation has shown that voter fraud is infinitesimal, bordering on non-existent.

Of course, it is true that we all have to show a government issued picture ID to get on an airplane.  On the other hand, air travel is not a Constitutionally guaranteed right.  Voting is.  The comparison is nothing more than the propaganda of selective information and playing on emotions.

Clearly, voter suppression laws are being attempted for reasons other than to stop non-existent voter fraud.  And it has been amply demonstrated that such laws will overwhelmingly restrict the voting of poor people, minorities, the young and the elderly, all of whom but the elderly vote mostly for Democrats.

Now who do you suppose would benefit from restricting voting as these Republican controlled legislatures are attempting to do?

Actually, that’s the kind of question to ask about any of these and dozens of other propaganda-laced issues.  As always, stick to the advice of Deep Throat: “Follow the money” to find out who  benefits.

And dig through the layers, because stopping at identifying the politicians who benefit from such manipulation gives the big kahunas a free pass.  Ask who doles out cash to those legislative beneficiaries?  What do they get out of rigging the system by manipulating you with propaganda?  And to whom do those people answer and how do they benefit from the half-truths and lies?

My shocking realization following the museum visit was about how pervasive propaganda is, how it has become slicker over the years but the basics haven’t changed.  Don’t imagine for a moment that propaganda became a thing of the past with the demise of Nazi Germany and later of the Soviet Union.  It’s being played on you every day.

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Ed. note:  There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better.  It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better.  That is the reason for these posts.  To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.  Please help by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

It’s Personal


August 6 is the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and it is appropriate to remember in the ways that we can.  There are millions of stories connected in various ways to that event and two are very close.  They are quite different from one another, yet at root they bear the same message.

Even in the early 1940’s, when an atomic explosion was only a theory and had never been witnessed, the conflagration that would be produced was well understood.  That was a different time, though, and the imperative was to win the war with a minimum of American casualties.  Estimates ran north of a million dead and injured, should we attempt a land invasion of Japan, so, awful as it was even to contemplate, using an atomic bomb to subdue the enemy looked like the better option.  Indeed, in those days, there was little controversy over whether to use such a weapon if doing so would avoid suffering 25,000 marines killed on every island in the Pacific on the way to Japan.

My father-in-law was a scientist, a chemical engineer Ph.D and for decades was a go-to guy for making chemical manufacturing plants operate well.  He was so talented that he was called to serve on the Manhattan Project during WWII.  What that meant for him and all the scientists working on the Manhattan Project was that in order to honor their duty and responsibility as Americans to help win the war, they would have to set aside their concerns over the moral dilemma of dropping a bomb on Japanese cities.  Some, like my father-in-law, had to compromise a piece of their souls to do that, a compromise they came to deeply regret.

While the construction of that new and terrible weapon was ongoing, my father was posted in England and flew a P-47 fighting the Nazis, escorting bombers, dodging bursts of flak, getting shot at and shooting back, sortie after sortie.  In today’s more gentle terms, he was in harm’s way, but there was nothing gentle about what was happening.  He lived in a world of brutality every day, a world of sudden death and long suffering, a world where human beings saw and did unspeakable things.  Indeed, like so many vets, even years later he was unable to speak the raw truth of those days and most of his terrible secrets died with him.

He did not entertain the post war moral analysis made from the comfort of peacetime over the dropping of the bomb.  He had completed his tour of duty before that bombing, had served as an instructor to new recruits after his combat days and was on inactive status with the army.  Had a land invasion of Japan been mounted, he would have been called back into active service and sent to the Pacific to wage war once again.  Dropping the bomb made good sense to him, yet he was anything but absent of regret over those terrible days.

He had been raised to be a good boy and not do harm to others, but it had been wartime and doing what he did was his duty and responsibility, so he, like my father-in-law, did what had to be done.  And he, too, had to compromise a piece of his soul, a compromise that came with deep regret.  There are literally millions of stories like these from that awful time.

Today we use the word “sacrifice” to describe what our military people have to do.  Yet in this country where less than 1% of our people shoulder our military burden, most of us don’t really understand what that means.  My father-in-law and my father understood quite well.  They did their duty and honored their responsibility for their loved ones and for our country.  Their sacrifice was enormous, as both men shouldered a weight that they carried throughout their lives as a continuing torment to their souls.  They paid an enormous price for us.

In their sacrifice they left us a country that remains free.  Over the years they let me know in countless ways that they believed in personal responsibility and that they expected me and all of us to honor our duty and the responsibility that is inextricably bound to our freedom, just as they did.  It’s likely that all of those brave men and women of that greatest generation would expect us to do that.  Part of the keeping of our freedom is to sacrifice a piece of our convenience every four years and vote.

It’s personal.


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

The Common Wisdom


We all know that the country is center-right.  Perhaps it’s there as a result of a pendulum swing from the socially farther left pendulum of the 60’s and the politicians and pundits now like to tell us we’re center-right almost as throw-away line.  Or maybe people just keep saying that and have done so for such a long time that we’ve come to believe it, but repetition doesn’t make the claim accurate.  Take a look at just a few issues before us.

Jobs – About 306 million of we 307 million Americans want the government to take energetic action to ramp up the economy and create jobs.  The noise from the far right is the only thing that is making it seem like there is huge opposition to that.  As a nation, we are left of center now on jobs.

Voting rights – Americans believe overwhelmingly that all of us over the age of 18, with the possible exception of convicted felons, should vote.  That’s pretty much smack dab in the center, not center-right.  On the other hand, there are Republican strategists who have openly stated that the only people they want to vote are those who will vote Republican.

In the 2010 election many states voted far right legislators into office and they have enacted laws they have fraudulently proclaimed are to protect us from a blight of voting fraud.  The thing is that voting fraud almost never happens – not even in Chicago.  These laws serve solely as an obstacle to voting for young people, the elderly, the poor and those in minorities who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.  Let’s see, righty R’s preventing D’s from voting.  Hmmm.

Immigration – Most of us believe that if people do something wrong that they should bear the consequences.  And most of us believe that children of illegal immigrants, born in this country and who have broken no laws should not bear those consequences.  Righties don’t want to pass the Dream Act and they are completely out of step with the majority of Americans.  The R’s continue to oppose it because they’re afraid they’ll get “primaried” in the next election by a fanatic on the lunatic right fringe.  That keeps them disconnected from everyone but the aforementioned lunatic right fringe.

This issue is complex, but as a nation we’re pretty much in the center.

Taxes on the wealthy – Depending on the week and the poll, anywhere between 62 – 80% of Americans favor increased taxes on the rich.  Only the righties who signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes, along with some already wealthy people are opposed to that.  That is to say, the country is center-left on this issue.

Contraception – Do you really need an explanation about this?  Even 98% of Catholic women have used some form of birth control and only some fundamentalist righties have a problem with it.  It’s just that a few of them have very loud voices.  We Americans are far left in favor of contraception.

Women’s choice – The majority of Americans continue to be pro-choice, although by a smaller margin now than in past decades.  In part that’s because of the loss of institutional memory of how things used to be before Roe v. Wade.  It wasn’t pretty.  We are center-left on this.

Global warming – It’s not just all the environmental scientists; most Americans believe that the Earth is getting warmer and that mankind’s activities like burning fossil fuels is contributing to it.  The only question is why anyone denies that.  To find the answer, follow the money.  It’s way on the right.  (Ref: “And another thing” below)

Social Security & Medicare – These are the two most popular programs ever created by the federal government and America is far left on them.  Only the righties want to abolish or privatize them.

Note to budget hawk absolutist righties: We made a contract with the American people, who pre-paid for these services and we must keep our word.  I know you’ll understand that.

Education – The righties want to abolish the Department of Education at both the federal and state levels.  They are starving schools of funds, so teachers, administrators and janitors are being laid off.  School maintenance and improvement projects are being halted and the disparity between the education of our poor children and the rich kids who get to go to elite schools continues to widen.  Our children are suffering, their future becomes bleaker every day we fail them and we are putting the future of America in peril.

Americans don’t like this.  They want their children to be educated and think public education is a very good thing.  The righties are completely out of sync with America on this.  This country is way left on education.

Healthcare – Most Americans want the government to do more to fix it.  All that is standing in the way is the resistance borne of the hundreds of billions of dollars being collected every year by the medical insurance companies, big pharma, big hospitals and a few others.  We’ve tried letting the market fix this.  That has resulted in our having the most expensive healthcare in the world, while at the same time we’re getting just middling results.  Only the far righties with megaphones attached to their faces think that continuing to let the free market work is the solution.  We want affordable healthcare and are at least center-left on this issue.

The list can go on until sunrise.  Those saying that we are a center-right nation have either bought into the Big Lie or think they will benefit by making you believe it.

It turns out that the common wisdom isn’t so common, nor is it so very wise after all.

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And another thing .  .  .

Have you seen the TV commercials with the pleasant looking blonde lady in a black pants suit talking about American energy?  She tells us how plentiful it is and all we have to do is go get it.  As an example, she walks across a map of the lower 48 and tells us about, ”  .  .  . tapping Canadian oil sands for U.S. consumers.”  Sounds great.

Except the plan for the Canadian oil sands crude is to transport that heaviest, dirtiest crude oil with the greatest global warming footprint via the XL Pipeline to our gulf coast for exporting to other nations.  I need for them to explain once again how that stuff is for U.S. consumers because I’m not seeing how exporting it makes it for us.

One last comment: That ad and the others like it are sponsored by the American Petroleum Industry, the promotional organization of Big Oil.  Just so you know.

“We move through life like a man in a rowboat, looking back even as we move forward.” – William Landay


Copyright 2018 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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