Media Magnifying Glass – More Like a Fun-House Mirror

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Disasters, accidents, violent events, novelties, and scandals sell news.  Human nature compels us to gawk when we drive past an auto accident.  Danger, violence, and death attract us.  We “try on” the situation as if it is happening to us.  If our imagination is vivid enough, we experience what we see.  Our adrenal glands secrete cortisol, which gets us ready to freeze, fight, or flee.  The media know this well, and play to that part of our nature.  The more they succeed, the more fearful and suspicious we become.  Common sense tells us to lock our doors and cars, and take other wise precautions.  But, exaggerated fear-based stories lack context and perspective.

Gun Violence

Fifty-million Americans own more than 300 million guns.  We see the gun violence on TV and read about the terrible incidents of people dying. We hear about the mounting toll of Chicago’s homicide victims.  That does not mean you can expect more gun violence in your neighborhood.  It does not mean that every owner of a gun is a menace to you or your family.  The statistics sound horrific until you realize how vast America is and how many people live here.  The US population is over 323 million today.

Race      Pop.   %
Total 323,515,021 100%
White & Hispanic 232,943,055 73.6%
Black 44,908,095 12.6%
Other 50,663,871 13.8%

Below is a table of firearm death facts.

Firearm Deaths
  Total Black White & Hispanic
Homicide 17,250 7,881 6,576
Suicide 21,000 1,152 16,980
Police      500    233      267
Accidents      800    400      400
Total 33,900 9,666 24,223
% 100% 28.5%   71.5%

I broke the figures down by race because news about guns often revolves around race.  Note that blacks were 28.5% of the victims, which is more than double the 12.6% of the population who are black.  The FBI statistics show that 90% of black homicides were shot by blacks; likewise, 90% of white homicides  were shot by whites.  Gangs were responsible for most of the  homicides, while attacking other gangs, or committing  crimes.

Gunshot injuries 2015 were 85,000, according to CDC.  Total dead and injured 118,900.  Divide 118,900 by 300 million = .04%.  That means that 99.96% of guns did no harm.  That same total divided by 50 million gun owners = .24% were involved.  That means 99.76% of gun owners did no harm.

Police Shootings

Police shot 963 in 2016; 233 were black; of those all but 16 were armed.  The news media make it seem like hundreds of white police officers are shooting unarmed black men. A new study, “Do White Police Officers Unfairly Target Black Suspects?” used details of 2,699 police shootings 2013-2015 from 1,500 police departments around the country to discover:

  1. Black officers killed unarmed black suspects at a significantly higher rate than white or Hispanic officers.
  2. Both black and white police officers kill unarmed black suspects with higher probability than unarmed white or Hispanic suspects
  3. White police officers are not more likely than black officers, to kill black suspects.
  4. Hispanic police officers are significantly less likely to kill black suspects than either black or white officers.
  5. No evidence of significant racial discrimination on the part of white police officers with respect to black suspects.

John R. Lott, Jr and Carlisle E. Moody
College of William & Mary and the Crime Prevention Research Center
July 21, 2017

Here is a link to the study: https://goo.gl/xqI4bu (Unless you are a statistician, their paper can be daunting)

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Take Time Off from Politics – Flowers for Las Vegas Before Pointless Witch-hunts

Today, Stephen Paddock, a deluded, deranged, depressed, millionaire, from a small town in Nevada committed suicide in a Las Vegas hotel.  Tragically, beforehand, he tried to take 600 people with him.  He shot 586 outdoor concert-goers from his hotel window, before shooting himself.  He killed 59 people and wounded another 527 in the worst mass shooting in US history.  The grief and pain of the victims and thousands of loved ones is unthinkable, and indescribable.

President Trump showed true class in his address to the nation.  His speech held not one shred of politics, only honest compassion for the victims, their families, and friends.

Meanwhile, the political wolves began to howl partisan slogans, about gun control.

Gun control?  How about a CDC campaign against prescription hatred addiction and vitriol overdoses?

Hayley Geftman-Gold, CBS vice president and senior counsel, posted on Facebook: “I’m actually not even sympathetic [because] country music fans often are Republican gun toters,” and, “If they wouldn’t do anything when children were murdered I have no hope that Repugs will ever do the right thing.”

This is heartless, dispassionate, disregard, of death, pain & suffering, in Las Vegas.  She dismissed empathy for the victims and families of the tragedy.  This is a frightening manifestation of a widespread mental illness – ideological, borderline-personality, “left-supremacism.”

Here is a scary question: How many “friends” does she have on Facebook?  She must have felt safe posting her feelings to them.  Who would share, or be sympathetic to, such a soulless, sociopathic viewpoint?

CBS quickly disowned and fired her.  But she and her madness are not gone.  If anything, she now has more free time and a lot more anger, to power her rhetoric and spread the word.   I shudder to think that people with similar beliefs are kneeling next to me in church.  The harm their hatred does is pernicious, poison in the spiritual air we breathe.

She needs our prayers too, to heal herself and her “friends.” But not before we pray for the souls of the dead, and the hearts of the living who mourn them.

Intelligence Could Not Be More Artificial – Screen Addiction Steals Our Reality

Our pre-American forbears led lives of subsistence; work all day, every day for enough food to survive; prepare and eat the food; collapse into sleep; awake to the same exhausting challenges.  This work ethic and focus are a major part of what colonists brought to the New World, driven by the chance to own the land they work, hunt and fish the wilds about them, and live free of the crushing burdens of near-slavery as serfs, peasants, and servants.  They could not dream of a time that was not filled with all the efforts of pulling and putting together the pieces of life’s necessities.

Just meeting today’s needs was never enough. They could not afford to face the seasons unprepared. They had to be alert, to anticipate, prepare, learn, and plan for the cycles and dangers of nature; they had to be ready for the seasons, timing, preparing, sowing, harvesting, preserving, and storing of food: crops, fish, game, fruits; cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood, clothing, tools, weapons; sickness, injury, childbirth; shelter, stewardship of farm animals, and on, and on.

Except for a few times, when nature did not allow work, people, including children, worked, ate, and slept.  Church was a mandatory break for the work-cycle.  Not only did weekly Sunday services provide “leisure” time for peaceful, renewing, and moral guidance, but it also allowed for physical regeneration through rest; it fostered hygiene and discipline; it fostered family and community “leisure” and play.

This kind of all-absorbing farm life continued for most Americans until technology began its ascent.  Within a dozen decades, we expanded, invented, and produced, new tools, factories, mines, roads, bridges, harbors, waterways, and railroads.  Farmers and ranchers produced enough food to allow them to sell it to non-farmers, who earned the money in towns and cities.

“Money-crops” such as cotton, tobacco, wool, hides, and furs, fed the textile mills, the leather tanneries, and tobacconists; cash was used for things the farmer could not produce easily, such as cloth, dye, needles, pins, shoes, glass, pots, pans, jars, jugs, clocks, medicines, spices, firearms, gunpowder, swords, axes, shovels, scythes, harnesses, chains, hinges, nails, buttons, buckles, candles, lamps, and things we needed then that we no longer remember.

Non-farm work had start and stop times.  Workers arrived at a certain time, worked and ate at certain times, and left at certain times.  That meant the rest of the day was up to the workers to use as they chose.  Holidays became expected days of rest.  Merchants tailored shop hours to worker schedules, which gave them down time as well.

The Great Depression and World War II accelerated three trends:  migration to cities, training in trades, and advanced education.

They also introduced and promoted the first virtual technologies, telephone, phonographs, movies, radio, and television.  Costs, broadcast time and reception areas limited the time people spent talking, listening, and watching.  But the attraction was clearly evident.  People would plan their days and evenings around their favorite news and entertainment programs.  Trips to the movies were considered treats.

The return of prosperity brought expanding demand for all the virtual technologies.  One limit on these technologies was location: phonographs, telephones, radios, movies, and televisions were locations people had to attend to use.  One exception for police and fire fighters:  two-way radios mounted in vehicles.  World War II saw the advent of “walkie-talkies,” the conceptual and technical precursors of modern cellphones.

Car radios, and the transistor radios released the listener from having to find a radio, to having a radio with them

The 1950’s, and 60’s introduced computers to American Business.  Once again, computers were locations, entombed in rarefied environments defended by physical security, and complete ignorance of the general populous.

The 1980’s advent of “personal computers;” which were portable, with some effort.  All that was missing was connecting computers through telephone systems – the Internet, and connecting radios to telephones – cellular phones.  The catalyst for the connectivity we enjoy today was the cellphone, which erased any connection between phones and locations, and made people the locations for telephone numbers.

Televisions were limited by the stations that broadcast in their reception area.  Three major national TV networks evolved, connected by satellite to the world.  Connecting televisions directly to satellites, coaxial cables, and now the Internet, brought us out of “network-tv” into the 24/7 “cable-tv” era.

Once cellphones connected to the Internet and television, where we watch movies, we arrived to today, where the distinctions have almost completely blurred.  Likewise have our senses of reality.

Now, “friends” are not people we know, “social media” is anonymous and often anti-social.  “Gamers” give a whole new meaning to “WoW,” spending days lashed to their computers, dispensing with bathroom breaks, installing Mountain Dew, refrigerators, and cutting pizza delivery slots in their doors.

We already have an entire generation living in basements.  What is next?  Maybe evolution will soon give our species extended narrow thumbs for “Texting,” and dimmer judgement for “Sexting.”  Maybe someday, all our ogling will be “Googling.” Is the “Zombie Apocalypse” upon us with the living “undead?”  I wonder if Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence will converge into caskets, from which we never need emerge?  Will we live to see the rise of VARZI?

America’s Legacy – Can We Remember on Memorial Day?

Yes, it is Memorial Day weekend, and for many Americans it is another holiday, albeit with precursors to the 4th of July, American flags, and hot dogs.  It seems that we have developed short attention spans, given the acceleration of information, the associated decline in verity, the expansion of scope, the collapse of objectivity, the explosion of assertions, and the evaporation of examination.

This is my 71st Memorial Day; I was born two weeks after Japan surrendered, ending World War II.  Sixty to eighty million died in that horror, about three percent of the over two billion people who inhabited the earth in 1940.

Twenty to twenty-five million military deaths included about five million prisoners of war. Some estimates show thirty-five million civilians died as a direct result of the war, and another twenty million died from disease and starvation.  No one has tallied the deaths and disabilities of the aftermath.  The mental scars darkened the lives of the survivors for generations.

More than four hundred thousand Americans died in that war, with another six hundred seventy thousand wounded.  In other words, one million Americans dead or damaged.

Then, only five years later, America engaged in the Korean “Conflict.”  Thirty-six thousand killed, one hundred three thousand wounded.

Eleven years passed before our official entrance into the Vietnam war.  Fifty-eight thousand killed, one hundred fifty-three thousand wounded.  My brother and I are fortunate, surviving, Vietnam veterans.  We both have friends on the lists of dead and wounded.  My wife’s little brother is one of the fifty-eight thousand.

Our casualties in the Middle East are not final, but six or seven thousand have died, nearly fifty thousand have been wounded.

This is the evidence of our courage and strength, despite the critics of those wars.  Please take a few minutes to remember the grim violence, the constant terror, the pain, agony, suffering, and sacrifice of those men and women, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

I still cry.