Media Magnifying Glass – More Like a Fun-House Mirror

scary-04

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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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.

Care Denial – The Truth About Health Care “Coverage”

Much talk about insuring people for health care needs.  The giant bedpan in the room is availability.  What good is having Medicare, Medicaid, exchange plans, if you cannot find a doctor for hundreds of miles who will accept your provider’s coverage?  Just look.

The pundits talk about providing millions of people “access” to healthcare; however, they cannot explain why many of the “covered” still do what they did when they had no insurance, go the emergency room of the public hospital known to be the one that cannot turn them down.

Health insurers specify what they will cover and what the insured must pay, in terms of dollars and percentages.  What they do not spell out, is the amounts they are willing to pay the doctors and hospitals for various treatments.  The doctors and hospitals that are willing to accept the insurer’s terms are added to a “network.”  If the insured uses these doctors and hospitals, “in network,” the patient pays less; “out-of-network” providers, the insured pays much more.

Medicare, and the related private insurance plans are shunned by many healthcare providers because of the intense complexity of coding rules, poorer reimbursement rates, and 6-month slow-pay of claims.  I cannot blame them for wanting the easiest, most profitable patients, but look at what that does to retirees:  it shoves them into the offices of the newest, least experienced doctors, who do not have privileges at the best hospitals.

Another specious barrier doctors erect is “not accepting new patients.”  If that is true, why do they prominently promote their doctors, facilities, and services?  Why do they list the insurance plans they accept, on fancy websites?  What do they do when patients get well, move, change, outgrow their need, or die?  Who takes their places?  Are there waiting lists?  This policy seems wildly inconsistent, and dubious to me.

Today’s labyrinth of laws, maze of insurance coverages, intricacies of medical practice, incorporation of hospitals, vast array of medical devices, tests, and procedures, and incomprehensible myriads of drugs and medicines, are the starting point of future choices.  The concept of choosing your doctors, clinics, and hospitals still appeals to me.  If all health insurance policies must meet some minimum standards of coverage, why should health providers exclude any of them?

We have a historic opportunity to put features into the fabric of healthcare; the federal government has more incentives and flexibility to “get it right” as they formulate new laws.  Why not pass a new law called “The Available Care Act?”  If you accept anything except cash for medical services or goods, you accept the coverage of any patient who walks in your door.

 

Town Hell Meeting – Public Political Pillory

You read it right, “Town Hell Meeting;” the town hall meeting is the latest casualty in the left’s war on winners; turning plowshares into swords.  Politicians and public figures are targets of a recent tactic by their political enemies – “Public Political Pillories.”

Pillories were used to humiliate and torture people who were guilty of malfeasance, breaking taboos, or committing sins.  The pillory was usually a hinged wooden device, attached to a post; it held the head and hands of the subject locked in place.  The pillory was placed in the most public area of a town or village to get maximum exposure.

john_waller_in_pilloryCourtesy of Wikipedia

Once a person was placed in the pillory, they received no food or water; there were no bathroom breaks; the public was free to scorn, humiliate, & pelt them with organic and inorganic matter, sometimes killing them.

Today, vicious partisans employ a new form of pillory – the televised, town-hall ambush. Traditionally, town hall meetings were community gatherings, bringing together all the local citizens to discuss matters of public, common interest.  Yes, people discussed important topics using Robert’s Rules of Order.  http://www.robertsrules.org

The modern version has neither good intentions, decorum, nor civility.  Innocence plays no part in the deployment of this weapon.  Now, it is a form of political ambush.  Only foolish office holders attend public town hall meetings that are “public media pillories” in disguise.

The process goes like this:  Opposition partisans invite public figures saying, “we want to talk to you in an open forum,” when they really mean, “we want you to sponsor a media-covered, public event, where we will hound, berate, criticize, insult, accuse, interrupt, scream invectives, and attack you personally, without allowing you to express ideas, answer questions, or even be heard.”

Only the brave or the foolhardy accept their cleverly encoded, poison-pen invitation.  If you decline, they cast you as non-transparent, and postulate what you could be hiding.  If you accept, you find yourself trapped on a stage, with a microphone.  You are greeted by a standing- room-only crowd.  You are surrounded, not by a cross-section of the community, but by a cohort of angry enemies; some are not even members of the local community.

The hounds are loosed, the cameras capture the mayhem, and the air is filled with posters, chants, rants, and pithy aphorisms.  At some point, you shrug and walk off the stage, having only introduced yourself and thanked the people for “coming out.”

You may think it is over because you survived with all your body parts.  Alas, the torture has just begun; the editing and augmenting begin.

Before and after the meeting, the “reporters” identify photogenic, outraged attendees, recently-ousted office holders, and bussed-in opposition pundits.  They script interviews with everyone and anyone who hates you, and “the horse you rode in on.”  They use snippets and sound bites to punctuate the later broadcasts with righteous indignation, and proud assertions of having done a public good.

The masterful image-smiths design a “storyboard,” and use video tape, & sound bites to fulfill it.  When they are done, the town-hall meeting is a victory of good over evil at Armageddon.  They tailor the context, emphasize “talking points” to meet “breaking news” standards; they include hints that support the opposition, bolster conspiracy theories, and not so subtlety, deride your credibility as a public figure.

If you get invited to lead a “town hall” meeting, think “abattoir,” a spider’s parlor.  This use of the media has eliminated its community value, and weaponized its destructive power.

Donald Trump–The Matryoshka Candidate?

Matryoshka

I am amazed at the number, scope, and continuous flow of speculations about Donald Trump, as president-elect.  Now we have an American, billionaire, capitalist, accused of being a Russian sympathizer, and even a collaborator with Russia’s Putin to win the election.  Does that sound like the Russian version of “The Manchurian Candidate” to you?  (FYI:  a Matryoshka (ma-trosh-ka) is a hollow, Russian, nested, wooden doll with smaller and smaller dolls inside.)  I guess there are no limits on imagination, enmity, paranoia, malice, and disappointment.

Those who oppose Donald Trump, and those who are left bitter, dazed, angry, and confused by his election as President do not need to be rational in their relentless attacks on anything Trump.  Those accusing him of being soft on Russia, a Putin sycophant, and naïve about our enemies might take a minute to reflect on how silly that sounds.

Is it soft to sell some rich Russians overpriced condos and land in the US?  Is it sycophantic to use Putin to criticize political opponents as being weak?  Is it naïve to get the Russians to pay premium prices to have the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow?  Do I hear a no?

Until now, Mr. Trump’s interest in Russia has been limited to money, i.e. making money, not losing it, and not giving it away.  All his dealings with Russians have been real estate in the US, or visiting Moscow for a US-based beauty pageant.  Trump has never met Putin face-to-face, or made any deals with him.  Putin even cancelled a scheduled meeting with Trump during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.  Does that sound like love to you?  I believe Trump could continue to make money from Russians without being President, and without being friends with Putin; therefore, I do not think there is a sinister link. What else would he have to gain?

Some cite the friendly, respectful tone of comments and letters between the men.  A friendly demeanor is not the same as friendship; sometimes negotiations can benefit from pleasant diplomacy.

Others suggest that Putin sees Trump as weaker than Clinton.  Do we have some evidence that Trump is as passive as Obama has been in foreign matters, such as Crimea and Syria?  Or maybe evidence that Putin is afraid of Hillary after meeting her as Secretary of State?

Let us see what happens after January 20th.

The Divided States of America?

America is an idea; a concept; an agreement; a contract; not a structure; not separate from its citizens; not invincible; not divine.  America is the sum of us; e pluribus unum; one nation; under God; a work in progress.

Now, our unity is deeply wounded; the cut is painful; we blame each other; we separate; we abandon trust; we lose our faith; we suffer; we fear; we lash out; we seek redemption; we want to be healed.

Staying together as a nation is hard; we are attacked; we are blamed; we question our beliefs; we question our leaders; we question ourselves; we become angry; we defend ourselves from each other.

Our children watch us; they trust us; they copy us; they love us; they grow up; they have love; they have work; they have families; they have children; they have the life you gave them; they inherited the America of today; they do not know what to do.

Too much everything intoxicates Americans; too much abundance; too much safety; too much power; too much food; too much information; too much ignorance; too much entertainment; too much violence; too much vulgarity; too much separation; too much taking; too much hurting; too much lust; too much abandoning; too much hate; too much racism; too much chemistry; too much addiction; too much medication; too much advertising; too much preaching; too much teaching; too much attitude; too much Satan; too much to handle.

Not enough truth demeans and degrades Americans; not enough knowledge; not enough love; not enough wisdom; not enough peace; not enough grace; not enough nature; not enough helping; not enough learning; not enough vocabulary; not enough strength; not enough compassion; not enough praying; not enough intimacy; not enough sharing; not enough family; not enough courage; not enough community; not enough contact; not enough respect; not enough God; not enough to thrive.

Some wounds are slow to heal; some feuds are hard to end; but America is ours to mend.

Guns Without Roses

The Clinton campaign and the allied media have set bear traps with hair triggers; mention guns and they snap.

Hillary Clinton and her party have a reputation for favoring gun control.  Check out the gun laws in California and New York, if you doubt the bias.  (Note:  So far, no criminals obey gun laws, including the ban on gun ownership by convicted felons.)

Despite the palliative assurances of Democrats that gun ownership is not in jeopardy, the evidence screams the opposite.  It seems that leading Democrats are very afraid of guns.  Otherwise, why would they construe every challenge to the hypocrisy of spouting gun control from within a heavily-armed cocoon?

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Mr. Trump said, as the crowd began to boo. He quickly added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

The most generous interpretation of Trump’s comment that the second-amendment supporters could prevent the appointment by voting against Clinton, or prevent confirmation by lobbying their Senators not to consent to such appointments.

But no; inferring that Trump was inciting assassination was the immediate response.

More recently Trump said,

“Now, you know she’s very much against the Second Amendment, she wants to destroy your Second Amendment — guns, guns, guns, right? I think what we should do is, she goes around with armed bodyguards like you have never seen before. I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons, they should disarm, right? I think they should disarm. Immediately, what do you think? Yeah, take their guns away. She doesn’t want guns. Take their – let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, OK? It’ll be very dangerous.”

Once again, the immediate inference that Trump was inciting Clinton’s assassination, not highlighting the irony of her politics compared to her actions.

Ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that the Clinton campaign and the press were misconstruing Trump’s words.

“What he intended is very, very simple — that (gun owners) should vote against her,” Giuliani said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “He had no idea that anybody would interpret his words that way. It was so obvious to all of us what he meant.”

Do you believe that Trump wants Hillary dead by violence?  The pro-Clinton forces want you to think so.