February 21st, 2018

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(2) Our National Insanity

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Once again, a gremlin in editing feature of my blog…So, once again, I need to do a chapter 2.

Two comments came soon after publication about the Newsweek article about Al Franken:
from Eric: I went to Newsweek to read the Franken piece you highlighted. They have taken it down because they couldn’t verify it. Cheers and keep up the good work toward a better world.

from Carol, from Newsweek:Newsweek has retracted its story about a conservative botnet effort to force the resignation of Senator Al Franken.

The initial report was based on research conducted by Unhack The Vote, a group examining outside influence in U.S. elections and politics. It alleged that a “decidedly alt-right” botnet “weaponized” anti-Franken stories and amplified pressure on Franken to resign after allegations of sexual misconduct. Newsweek was unable to independently verify their claims after a further review of their work.

Newsweek regrets the error.

Dick: I guess it just reemphasizes my point, that it is good to be skeptical about “facts”. At least Newsweek provided the correction, by removing the article.

from Claude: I liked your thoughtful blog, Dick. It’s easy to think that the new media (current and upcoming) are out of control because there are so many actors. “There is no pilot” to borrow a line from Laurie Anderson, poet/songwriter. Or to assume that the global corporations are learning on the fly to use the new media for planetary crowd control. The truth is more likely in the middle.

There is much to be learned on media by revisiting Marshall McLuhan who is my hero when it comes to media studies. Most people think he only focused on TV and therefore is out-of-date. But his ideas were born from looking back at the big picture which includes the invention of the phonetic alphabet, the printing press, telegraph (Marshall 1844 as the start of the Electric Age with the coming of the commercial telegraph), radio, TV, etc.

One of his prescient insights was his generalization (and warning) that every new medium gets the content it deserves. That’s why your insight that a tweet is a headline without content hit me like a brick.

I have a playlist of my “video collages” devoted specifically to Marshall McLuhan: here

In a couple of them [#42 and 43] I use the clip in which Marshall states “If unimpeded the logic of this sort of electric world is stasis.”

Thanks for all you do. Uploaded video collages are here.

Dick: Speaking as a former junior high school teacher in a large junior high school, there is no more stupid idea than arming teachers to take out potentially dangerous intruders. I recall a situation in the late 1960s when a 9th grade kid – a student – came to my school with a pistol. In those days, and in that situation, he was just a show-off in a crowded hallway between classes, and the administration dealt with it since he was near the office. He had the gun, and it was a crowded hallway. He could have been anywhere in the building. He was, as I say, just a showoff, a ninth grader. This was 50 years ago. I still remember the incident.

2:35 a.m. Overnight came this, from a long-time good and valued friend in another state. It speaks for itself.

(click twice to enlarge)

So…I’m a “Democrat” and thus a killer? That seems the implication. The enemy is me! I’m sure my friend will dispute this, but that is the narrative sold to the ‘flock’, terrified that they will lose their weaponry.


I’m no stranger to the “guns” conversation. Put “guns” in my search box (above right), and you’ll see reference to 66 posts that have the word. If you read every one of them, you’ll not one time any advocacy for getting rid of guns in this society, though I have never owned a firearm, and don’t intend to, and years ago qualified as expert with the M-1 in the U.S. Army. What I call for is sane management of guns, more than the tiny ‘bandaids’ proposed.

The insanity of this whole converstion is that I think it is far more likely that Guns are a liability than an asset for those who use them – or threaten to use them – as self-ordained militia. Prisons are full of people who murdered someone with a gun. Most of them probably felt the victim had it coming….

With respect to the instant issue, I think that the Parkland high school shootings may end up being for the gun lobby and its supporters the same as the Kent State killings in 1970 escalated the end of the Vietnam War. Yes, 1970 is a long time ago. But back then the young had finally had it with they or their friends being cannon fodder in Vietnam.

To my old friends, from my generation, this battle has to be for the youth who are most affected. Our day is past. Support, yes. Dominate, no. To the youth, this is my test for you: how are you going to manage your own future concerning weapons and other aspects of your future? It is a serious question. Another question to think about: how does the serious proposal to make universal the right of gun owners to transport their states gun rights into someone else’s state. That is frightfully near passage in the Congress.

With no military weaponry easily available to a teenager on Valentine’s Day, 2018, there would be no 17 dead being mourned now in Florida.

The same can go for other deadly events where other weapons of destruction were the players, such as the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. An army of gun-toting defenders against violence at Murrah Building would have had no chance.

We are a violent society. It is time that we deal with ourselves.

From Norm (Norm is a long-time DFL (Democratic) activist in Minnesota.) News story this morning regarding Tim Walz’s decision to support some gun control efforts that the NRA does not support. Walz is a member of the NRA and has received support from that organization in the past, support that may now be in jeopardy.

Obviously, contrary to some of the claims made by some folks residing under our big tent, NRA membership does not mean that a member supports all of its official public policy positions. In fact, there have been indications that the “rank and file” NRA members generally support more controls such as background checks and so on.

The news article claims that the “change in position” by Walz on the matter will put him at odds with Minnesota gun owners which may or may not be true.

In any event, his new position on the matter may change the dynamics of the race for governor in Minnesota both in the DFL contest for party endorsement as well as for the support of the Republican candidate for the office, Tim Pawlenty.

You can be sure that once Pawlenty enters the fray, he will wrap himself in the Second Amendment which the Supreme Court of the US has affirmed as meaning the right of all citizens to bear arms for protection and so on at any time and not just in the time of war.

As such, the argument as to what the Second Amendment means has been settled.

On the other hand, if the claims are true that most NRA members favor some additional controls on the purchase and ownership of guns, then Walz may benefit by speaking out on the matter as he has just done.

Of course, as you well know, his change of position as well as any more tragedies like the recent one in Florida will significantly increase the sale and registration, i.e. permits to carry, throughout the US which may not work in Walz’s favor.

Big doings (as one of my uncle would also refer to as local events in my home town) this weekend in the NRA sponsored conference of conservatives that will be attended by the narcisstic draft dodger and his VP as well as I am sure other prominent Republican legislators to reassure their supporters that all is well and that no one is going to take away their guns.

I am sure that the spin will be on the Second Amendment and the right of citizens to defend themselves with a suggestion or two regarding arming school teachers and/or placing guards in the schools. They will probably also throw in something about preventing mentally ill folks from purchasing and owning guns…which would seem to be almost an impossible thing to legislate let alone prevent.

I mean, do mentally ill folks walk around with a scarlet M on their foreheads or a wrist band noting that they are mentally ill?

They will emphasize that they are only concerned about public safety, of course!


Our National Insanity

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Published as the students from Marjory Stoneman Johnson are speaking in Tallahassee FL.

Previous related posts: Feb. 14, Feb 15, Feb. 17 (two posts)

Today is one week out from the massacre at Parkland, Florida.

In the last 48 hours came two items that especially drew my attention. There are many, many more such items, granted, but I’d recommend these two:

1. The Washington Post (WaPo), on Monday morning, simply listed the names of those killed in mass shootings in the United States since Columbine, April 20, 1999. I hope you read it, here.

But only one week after the carnage in Parkland, FL, on Valentine’s Day, we seem generally back to our “normal”: A kind of national insanity, hopelessness. Outrage replaced by resignation…except for a few very brave souls.

2. Then there’s the plague of misinformation: Newsweek Online, scroll down to the article “The social media psy op that took down Al Franken“. These days it is hard work to decide what to believe. Is everything “fake news”. No longer is it a foolish question. Can I even trust “Newsweek”?

Newsweek. I subscribed to Newsweek for many years, at minimum through 2004 (I have hard evidence of such here in my home office). But Newsweek the magazine no longer even exists. Thankfully there’s a wiki article about Newsweeks changes in recent years.

WaPo, too, has gone through major changes in ownership. Washington Post is a part of the Amazon empire.

Then there are local entities, like the Minneapolis Star Tribune, to which we have long subscribed, but which I rarely read these days. It is a shell of its former self, and the most recent years ownership reflects a different ideological slant from years ago, when I was first subscribing.


And how about your social media choices? As we are learning through the Russia indictments (and the Franken gambit, above referenced), social media is a major problem. We are living in the “wild west”, open to being duped. No one can blame anyone else for their personal gullibility. We need to be our own gatekeepers, when responsible gatekeepers are few and far between.


How to be an “informed citizen”?

It is one thing for a “tweet” to reflect the tweeters own “truth”, which may or may not have a shred of truth within. A tweet is a headline with no content, no substance. Gullible consumers can take that tweet, etc., and create their own fantasy reality.

As a society, today we are in very, very dangerous territory. We are susceptible to addiction to deliberately false misinformation.

Informed and engaged are ever more essential. Like most everyone, it is easy for me to become almost paralyzed by the blizzard of information (and, especially) mis-information swirling around. There is no more important task, now, than to stay on the court.


I come from an era where there was a reasonably safe presumption that your “mainstream” print media gave a reasonably decent shot at “fair and balanced”, or at least was basically truthful (in the religious sense – lying was once a big deal).

I recall touring Harry and Bess Truman home in Independence MO with my Dad, in 1983. The guide pointed out the kitchen table where Harry read – if I recall correctly – 5 newspapers every day, including the local Independence publication.

There was a television in the living room. Harry died in 1972, Bess in 1982, and the best guess is that neither spent much time in front of the tube whose programming was, then, very unsophisticated compared with today.

(If you’re in the Twin Cities make it a point to see “1968” at the Minnesota History Center. It will give you a window into communication and events of that watershed year in our history as a nation. You have 11 months, still to see it. It is very worthwhile as a thought-provoking place.)

I didn’t see television until my junior year in high school, 1956, and then it was a single channel with awful reception on only during the daytime and early evening.


As for today, watch very carefully your own choice of “news” tomorrow. I don’t care your ideology. Watch it carefully. If you’re one of those who still get newspapers, note what you read. Note what it includes, and by extension what it excludes.

If your major source of news is other media, like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or similar, notice what you choose to open. What do you know about the source of that news, if anything? What do your choices say about you?

Not all of you are on Facebook. Daughter Joni’s post on Thursday (here) has received a lot of attention. Yesterday, came another Facebook post from Joni, referencing something which had moved and inspired me many years ago.

Double click to enlarge the screen shot. Here’s the pdf: Joni on Risk003

As best I can discover, this inspirational saying is attributed to William Arthur Ward.


Always informative: Just Above Sunset for today: “On Being Oblivious to Humiliation“. Consider subscribing. The price is right: free.

POSTNOTE: As I’ve previously noted (Feb. 15), I was more than a far-away spectator of Columbine High School, April 20, 1999. Little did we know, then, the future. Yes, there were outrages before: the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City by white anti-government types April 19, 1995, comes immediately to mind.

Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Johnson HS has much more potential for long term action than the earlier Columbine. For one thing, communication means are now universal. Columbine was before iPhones (2007); as well as the other technologies previously mentioned (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter).

Columbine could reasonably be viewed as an aberration at the time. No longer.

I applaud the kids who are getting in action. And everyone else who has the courage to speak out.