Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Caravan? Another lie.

The U.S. media, 90% of which is owned by 6 entities, manipulates us again. The White House and President Trump’s tweets alarmed millions of Americans about a ‘caravan of over a thousand-people headed across Mexico to the USA’ and reported that most would seek asylum. The facts do not support the fake news.

Since 2010, people have participated in this yearly event to draw attention to the dangerous situation in Mexico for those trying to cross the country. Many participants dress as ancient Biblical people and some carry crosses as Jesus carried a cross. It is not an invasion of the United States or a mass of refugees intending to enter our country. It is a protest against Mexico! It happens every year.
These protestors do not even come to Mexican cities on our border. The tweets and news reports were designed to play to our fears (when did we become cowards?).

Today, the Mexican media shrugged its shoulders and reacted to the ridiculous tweets and American news reports by explaining the truth about the ‘caravan’. Mexico and Latin America remain amazed at how hard the media and our politicians work to scare the American people.

Today, President Trump said that he will cut aid to Honduras if they do not stop the caravan. There is no caravan to stop. When they keep to their plan and do not come to the USA, Mr. Trump will declare victory. How sad that millions of Americans will applaud him.
By the way, if less aid is sent to places like Honduras, the poor will have even less hope and be incentivized to give up and come to the USA.

I wonder if the fake-news and tweets will make people from Honduras aware that they could arrive in a huge group and gain legal status in the USA by making credible claims as refugees? The reckless attempt to play to his base might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

School Shooting and Bad Solutions

Yes, we should have a safety plan in the event of an armed person entering school grounds. Sheltering in place and evacuation plans at every school are warranted. However, arming teachers and providing students with rocks to throw at an active shooter are ludicrous ideas.

We are scaring the children. The odds of an active shooter are minuscule, considering that there are over 95,000 public schools in the United States. The adults should not over-alarm the children.
In the confusion of an active shooter, armed teachers is a terrible idea. The noise of gunfire in an enclosed building, the smoke, the screaming, the people running make armed teachers a danger to the children. Police officers have no way to distinguish between an armed teacher and an active shooter. Lastly, trained law enforcement officers often do not hit the suspect under the stress of an active shooter: imagine how armed civilians will perform. Bullets flying everywhere is the last thing that is needed.

The idea of arming children with buckets of rocks to throw at a shooter is so ridiculous that it beggars the imagination. Someone recently watched the comedy, “Support Your Local Sheriff” where the hero threw rocks at an armed bad guy and ran him out of town. School shootings is not a western or a comedy. It involves the death of children and the idiot who suggested giving each classroom a bucket of rocks should be run out of town by rock-throwing citizens. Ask a parent of a 1st grader if they want their children to confront an armed killer and throw rocks at him as the killer is blazing away with an AR-15.

I will give anyone a bucket of rocks and borrow an AR-15 so we can test the ‘bucket of rocks’ solution.

Like a fire drill, each school should be prepared for the remote possibility of an active shooter. Children should be assured that they are safe and it is very unlikely this will ever happen to them

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Next Step: Fake News

The polarization and extreme positions in our nation received a huge boost when President Donald Trump cried out “Fake News.” Millions of Americans now label any fact that they do not like as fake news, completely dismissing any actual thought or debate.

Certainly, throughout history news stories have been exaggerated or built upon lies. We’ve gone to war because of such stories. But labeling a story as ‘fake’ should at least require the reasons a person holds such a view. But, not in today’s world. It is simple, convenient, and is the ultimate answer for idiots. Somehow branding facts as ‘fake’ seem to satisfy millions of people that their views are still perfect.

While we worry about foreign nations that interfere in our elections, we ignore the fact that we are killing democracy and capitalism. Russia, China, North Korea and other nations need do nothing to harm America because we continue to do it to ourselves.

If decriers of fake news provided specific reasons that a story is false, they would do America a great service. Pointing out exaggerations, missing facts, incorrect facts, flaws in opinion polls, and childish mistakes in stories, without rancor or condescension, might compel news outlets to do a better job. For example, a recent story about the murder of a mother and father at a college stated that the college was in Michigan and also in Illinois. That degree of poor fact gathering and sober editing calls into question what other parts of the story are wrong. Simply shouting, “fake news” is not helpful.

We need to find common ground with fellow Americans. This does not mean that we surrender our core values, but we must consider alternative views and compromise extreme positions.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Are Your Credible?

Check the facts before reposting!

Making informed decisions and persuading others to your views requires credibility and nothing destroys credibility more quickly than unknowing publishing lies. With products like Photoshop and with 'build your own website' tools that even a 4th grader can follow, we need to make a little effort to check the facts.

There are enough facts about hot-button issues like police shootings, immigration, DREAMERS and the building of a border wall for anyone to justify and make persuasive arguments that support their beliefs. Posting lies, fake photos, rumors and the like only take away from your opinions. The darn trouble is that researching real facts takes effort and reposting everything that comes your way that supports your opinion is simple. (I leave 'simple' to those who are simple-minded).

Emails, Tweets and Facebook posts can easily be verified by visiting websites like https://www.snopes.com/, http://www.politifact.com/, etc.

Controversial photographs that do not include the date, location and event should never be re-posted. Those with this basic information can be checked in the same way that you can check emails.

Youtube videos are often misleading as are videos from news outlets. Try turning off the volume and let your mind determine what is happening. Consider what could have happened before the camera was turned on and try to draw several conflicting conclusions. Then watch the video with the sound turned on - paying attention to adverbs and adjectives. (Adverbs and adjectives in articles and speech often influence what we conclude).

Always consider the source. GOOGLE the name of websites and media outlets with the words: conservative or liberal.

Photoshop is used by millions of people who do not really know more than the basics, so their lousy alterations and additions to the original photos are easy to spot. Shadows and reflections in windows are often dead giveaways. Protest signs are altered and sometimes the sign itself is made larger so that more words can be put on the fake sign. When this is done by a novice the edge of the added portion may not line-up with the original sign and fingers disappear. The bottom line with controversial photos with a political agenda is simple: no location, date or event = never repost it.

On the other hand, posting lies that support your cause will make the friends who support the same cause happy and they will quickly repost it.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Passionate or Closed Minded

Perhaps it is our freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but we have moved from being a passionate people to be a polarized and closed minded people. We march in lock-step without genuine individual thought. We seek out and find sources of news, polls, and studies that support our convictions instead of testing our convictions by examining evidence that supports other views and beliefs. Fear drives our beliefs. In these United States of America, the home of the brave, it seems that we are afraid of everything. When did we become so afraid of everything?

We fear words! People cannot be old. People cannot be handicapped.  (My computer’s grammar checker just warned me about the word ‘handicapped’!  (Warning: “In this context, some readers may find handicapped biased or non-inclusive. Consider replacing it with a more neutral term.”). Every child receives a trophy because scores no longer matter. Children who call other children a name are bullies (which seems like name calling itself). The bloody noses and black-eyes of my youth, my experience of getting back up and fighting a bigger and stronger kid could result in expulsion from school or criminal charges. Why are we surprised when 30-year olds still live with mommy and daddy?
Read comments posted on news sites and count the number that is fear-based. Better still, count the number of comments that suggest an open-minded response. (Counting those willing to consider other opinions, or at least respecting those opinions are so few that counting those comments will be easy).

We dig in! We copy and paste bald-faced lies on websites and emails if they support our beliefs. A free and simple fact check on Google would reveal most of these copy and paste stories are lies. If a politician that we detest is the subject of some horrendous lie, we grab it and send it to our friends and post it on social media. I used to believe that people simply did not know how to find fact-checking websites, but I was wrong. People fear to discover that the latest gossip or chain-mail is a lie. A very close friend once sent me this e-mail: “I am not going to send any more of these posts to you because you always fact-check and discover they are hoaxes or lies. I will just send them to my friends and family.”  Think about that! I will only send hoaxes and lies to my friends and family!

Get past our fear. Remember that we live in the real world. Sometimes, what seems logical is not supported by evidence. Deliberately challenge our beliefs by searching for evidence that supports an opposite belief. Compromising to form laws, without compromising our core values is key to a working democracy. Anti-capitalists predicted that democracy would eventually become so polarized that the government would fail to function. Our first president, George Washington, feared political parties because they might bring about people more loyal to Party than Country.  Anti-capitalists also predicted that investors and owners of businesses would pursue profits at the expense of the workers. Labor is a large expense, so let’s buy workers in other countries.

We face serious problems (another inappropriate word- I should use ‘challenges’ so as not to upset anyone or cause worry and the hand-wringing). Serious problems require serious people that understand the problems. Bumper-sticker solutions need not apply.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Government by the People

A government run by the people actually means it is run by the people who vote, the wealthy (who control the media and sway public opinions), and large corporations.

Non-voters do not count for very much.

People receiving help from the government in the form of social programs (including Social Security) and those receiving other government cash, such as farmers being paid not to plant crops and farmers with government contracts to provide foreign aid are part of the largest block of voters.  Every person receiving government assistance with housing, food, clothing, and education are part of this group. The list of members seems endless. This group will control our nation.

Perhaps the fastest growing group of voters is the elderly. For over a decade we have been warned that retirees will outnumber workers and that it takes a minimum of four workers contributing to Social Security to cover each person currently receiving a Social Security check. We are now at a zero birth rate, meaning that the same number of new births is equal to the same number of deaths. (One study concluded that we actually have a negative birth rate). Medical science is constantly increasing our life span and constantly finding new ways to avoid giving birth. While an increased lifespan is welcome a decrease in new life is sad.

If most of this is news to you, turn off the TV and stop using social media. It is time to act like a grown-up.

Cutting government services may be what is needed to keep the government from crumbling, but voters will not tolerate needed cuts. The only other choices are steep increases in taxes or severe cuts to the military budget. I am betting we will see tax cuts.

There will be some feeble attempts to keep local entities from going bankrupt, but ultimately increased taxes will be their solution.

At the local and state level, the government will plead poverty to break contracts with retired employees, but that will only help their budgets for a short term. (It will happen because local mayors only care about the immediate short term and it is this very attitude (stick the next administration with the bills) that caused unfunded and underfunded pensions in the first place.

Whenever a new ‘benefit’ is given to the people, regardless of intent or worthiness, it is seldom funded. Also, the new benefits are never stopped; they often increase.

The government will try targetted tax cuts, such as taxing only increasing the taxes on the wealthy. However, even if we tax the super-rich at 90%, there would not be enough money to keep us afloat. How do I know? I remember, and history is the best predictor of the future and any new revenue will be quickly spent/ Also, I can add and subtract. It will not be enough money.

Most states sold us on the idea of state lotteries by explaining that the profits would be used to fund education. Have the pleas for more education funding decreased since we voted in favor of lotteries? Has anyone even bothered to explain where the added tax revenue from those huge lottery winnings was spent?
Are you aware that so much money initially was given to schools that at least one school district paid for individual taxis to transport children to and from schools? Do you know the amount spend on school swimming pools and the amount spent on school sports? Strangely, these investments did nothing to raise test scores. How odd?

What can the average person do? If you are one of the of 231,556,622 eligible voters that did not vote in the 2016 election it is time to change that behavior. It is also time to stay informed and examine views that are the exact opposite of yours.Stop allowing the media to control your thoughts and form your opinions.

Start writing Congress and the president in clear, professional words that express what changes you want in our government.

Go to school board meetings. The education of our citizenry is more than just the concern of parents. We all pay for our educational system and should all have a voice. Before opening your mouth, learn what is happening and what could be made better.

Who has the time? Turn off social media and avoid the time wasted on gossip. Limit your tube time. 

Somebody told me that I am dreaming if I think people today will do anything about this crisis. A friend said, "It is a damn good thing that most of the people living today were not here during either of our world wars. They are incapable of even turning off the TV, let alone making real sacrifices".

Dead Babies do not Matter - Cell Phones Matter

In Utah, a two-year-old died in a hot car at a family reunition. The father discovered the dead baby after several adults returned from a religious meeting.

Many people say that this was sad, but the father simply did not notice that the child was missing.

Yet, I believe that they would have quickly noticed if a cell phone was left in the van. They would have raced back to the van to get that phone! After all, a cell phone can be ruined if left in a hot van.

The same level of alertness and concern for a 2-year old? Not so much. Where in the hell are our priorities!