Tag Archives: American politics

The System Comes First

‘In the past, the man has been first; in the future the system must be first.’ — Frederick Winslow Taylor, 1912

JIM MCNIVEN: THOUGHTLINES
February, 2017

Since Fred Taylor’s classic The Principles of Scientific Management was published in 1912, it has never been out of print; the latest reprint of the original book came out in 2014. Taylor was an important intellectual founder of the modern world; if you wish, you can read about him in Chapter 4 of my book The Yankee Road.

What he was addressing in the above quote is the idea that complex industries, and by extension, complex governments cannot be run through the personal whims of managers and leaders. In order to be stable, they must adhere to some kind of system. The personalist Hitlerian regime lasted a dozen years before collapsing in war; the personalist Maoist system collapsed in about the same time span from its own excess; the Russian system petered out when its momentum died with its long-time leader, Stalin; its only sustenance beyond then coming from having nuclear weapons.

This is not to say that some simpler companies cannot be structured around the whims of individual owners, such as developers, fund managers and venture capitalists, but any kind of large corporation having thousands of employees and fabricating complex products, be they physical or digital, that are sold in many countries, has to have a system of management that constrains the people at the top as well as those below, if it is to survive in its desired form. Call it a constitution, if you want. Peter Drucker, the famous management theorist did, in his Concept of the Corporation in 1946.

There is much made of the survival of the American system of government for 230 years under its present Constitution It has done so through many perilous situations, including a Civil War, precisely because it constitutes a system, not beholden to the whims of the ‘man’. There is a complex of laws emanating from this document that constrains the ability of any man from making wholesale changes and ignoring the basic rules of this system. The idea of a written constitution arose in the 1780s to meet the challenge of governing a huge piece of land inhabited by a complex, yet intertwined population. Taylor’s genius lay in his realization that a system was required for the continuing governance of large national and multinational corporations.

Today, the US has a President who comes from the personalist tradition, not that of systems. He has a relatively simple mix of companies that he can govern effectively, it seems, by just intervening here and there. He functions in a broader context that he may well be unaware of, in its wider application. He fights lawsuits—claims that his decisions transgressed the rules set by the larger system—and enjoys legal protections for his companies from those who might injure his interests. He does not have thousands of investors nor produce complex products, so he can run things personally, with all the whims and phobias attached to his psyche. He is 70 years old and this is the only way he has ever run an organization.

Now, he is like the dog who chased the car and caught it—what does he do next? He won the Presidential election by a fluke in the Constitution, has been inaugurated and has set out to rule the country just like he rules his company—as a person, not within a system.

At the same time, there is a system, and it is a strong one. Most of its employees, from the Vice President on down and including Congress and the judiciary, are invested in the system, not in the person of the President. He has gloried in the idea that he will (personally) break the mold and go off in his own direction. Two things are beginning to happen as a result of his following his own decades-long habits. First, he has given a signal to government employees that they also can break the mold and act as they want to, but their action consists of leaking all kinds of stuff that the President does not want out there. Yet his example, for instance, of tweeting his personal reactions to trivia sends a message that the system’s rules do not have to be obeyed by anyone in the system. Monkey see, monkey do.

The second thing is mixed up with his ignorance of the system that he has ‘caught’. Neither he nor his loyalists realize that there are different laws that deal with issues deemed to be of national importance. These are not like traffic laws or skyscraper setbacks or height restrictions. These condition what you say and to whom you can say it to, because these are considered matters of national policy. A citizen can pretty much say anything he or she wants, because it is not considered to be an American policy statement, but any elected person, that is, an officer of this complex organization called the federal government, has to be cognizant that his or her speech rights are abridged to the degree of their importance in the system. As Taylor noted in 1912, the system incorporates the individual, not the other way around.

This is important in the problem of foreign involvement in American elections. During the campaign, the President had not yet been elected, but his staff were apparently involved in discussions with a foreign government, encouraging its involvement in the American elections. Now, there has been interference in American elections before, going back to before 1800, and it has always worked out badly if the perpetrators were caught, though, like today, it is usually after the election.

The problem gets serious when the relationship between miscreants and the campaign is reaffirmed even after the scandal has broken. An experienced politician would instinctively know enough to distance himself or herself from this kind of action. In the present case, this is not happening, or happening reluctantly, which is probably worse. Some experienced Senator, caught up in something similar, would have expressed shock and horror, dismissed the miscreants with words of shame and anger and apologized to the electorate, even if he or she had been knowledgeable of what was going on. This hypocrisy is a necessary part of acknowledging the legal and moral existence of the system.

Now, a President who is 70 (this being an age that I know what I am talking about) and who is used to a particular managing style just can’t do that. The personal bonds that tie such a President to a confidant mean that loyalty takes precedence over system. Add to that his rookie factor and there is a scandal of truly Nixonian proportions unfolding.  Remember, it was only a campaign dirty-tricks break-in gone wrong that set that one off in the 1970s.

The Congress, which has fumed in the purgatory of the constant naysayer for the past 6 years, is eager to get on with its huge to-do list of policy changes. Instead it is faced with the need to get this scandal out of the way first. The problem is that the longer it drags on, the more likely there will be a personal rupture between a wounded President and a frustrated Congress. The legislative result this standoff, for a couple of years or so, will be even more ‘nothing’.

If a Congressional whitewash is done in order to clear the decks for action, there is no doubt that this issue will just drag on under the surface, damaging Republican claims to be the real patriots, in effect, asking voters to disregard their accepting foreign meddling (and money?) once in a while.  Meanwhile the civil service will just keep imitating their bosses and ‘leaking’ all over the place.

I expect the President to become more isolated in the White House and in his places in Miami and New York, while a Game of Thrones rerun works it way through his competing groups of advisers. I expect the Vice President, with assistance from Congress, to come out on top. He’s almost the only one around the President who knows the system. Maybe Mr. Cheney can give Mr. Pence some helpful tips.

This is not going to end well.

 Copyright Jim McNiven 2017

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Related works on F&O:

Rule of Law vs Rule by Man by Deborah Jones, Free Range column

The American Dream has shrunk to one simple question: rule of law, or rule by man?

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Jim McNiven’s latest book is The Yankee Road: Tracing the Journey of the New England Tribe that Created Modern America

Who is a Yankee and where did the term come from? Though shrouded in myth and routinely used as a substitute for American, the achievements of the Yankees have influenced nearly every facet of our modern way of life.

Join author Jim McNiven as he explores the emergence and influence of Yankee culture while traversing an old transcontinental highway reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific — US 20, which he nicknames “The Yankee Road.”

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Jim McNiven

James McNiven has a PhD from the University of Michigan. He has written widely on public policy and economic development issues and is the co-author of three books. His most recent research has been about the relationship of demographic changes to Canadian regional economic development. He also has an interest in American business history and continues to teach at Dalhousie on a part-time basis.

 

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Real journalism has value. Thank you for your support. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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I Cover Hate. I Didn’t Expect It at My Family’s Jewish Cemetery

Traditions don’t protect you from death, or the life of anxiety in preparation for it.

 

ARIANA TOBIN, ProPublica
February, 2017

When it comes to death, my family honors all of the Ashkenazi Jewish traditions: We name our children after dead relatives, we sit shiva for a week, we gather around trays of fruit and lox and cream cheese, we cover the mirrors, we say the Kaddish prayer, we each toss three shovelfuls of dirt into the grave, and we wait a year to put a stone on top of it. When I got my driver’s license at 16, my mom asked me not to sign the organ donor card because Jews are supposed to be laid to rest in one piece. When I turned 18 and signed it anyway, I couldn’t stop imagining her face when she found out after I’d died in a car accident.

But traditions don’t protect you from death, or the life of anxiety in preparation for it. When I told my grandmother — her mother called her Malka, her sisters called her Mollie — that I had an opportunity to teach English abroad, I knew what to expect in response: “That’s nice, baby, but why don’t you find a teaching job around here where it’s safe?” That, and a $20 bill she couldn’t necessarily afford to give.

But when I added, “I’m going to a place in Belarus called Minsk; it’s a big city,” her reply took me by surprise. “Minsk!” she exclaimed. “That’s where my mother was from! I guess you could go. Maybe you’ll see where they lived?”

I did go. I didn’t see where they lived because that place does not exist anymore, thanks to World War II and the Soviets. To identify the symbols of Judaism left in a city that was about 37 percent Jewish in 1941, you have to squint at the stone facades of buildings and say, “Yes, I think that might be a Hebrew character.” You have to stare hard, and wonder, “Hmm, is that Yiddish?”

There are statues and plaques here and there. But look as one might, there are few relics of Jewish death. When you visit Khatyn, a memorial to the victims of “the Great War,” you learn about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, but little to nothing about what religion they practiced. Nor are there signs marking entire villages of Belarussians, Jews and non-Jews, that became unmarked mass graves. When I would ask my students and co-workers and friends, “What happened to the Jews here?” all most of them would say was, “They left.”

Here, of course, we know why they “left.” My relatives who stayed in Eastern Europe died. Those who moved to America lived. Every single one of my great-grandparents was a first- or second-generation Eastern European immigrant to St. Louis. If you’ve been following the news this week, you probably know where this story is going: Almost all of my immigrant ancestors are buried in the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery, where nearly 200 graves were vandalized this past weekend.

I’ve been to only one funeral at Chesed Shel Emeth, which is in University City, about 15 minutes from where I grew up. I certainly wasn’t there when they buried my grandmother’s mother, Alice, the immigrant from Minsk, more than 40 years ago. Her tombstone wasn’t among the ones vandalized. But I know the idea that it might have been desecrated — that it is even a possibility — is on Grandma Mollie’s mind today, and on my mother’s as well. I know because for the last several days all we’ve been talking about are relatives like “little Grandma Alice,” who never grew to 5 feet, who cooked elaborate noodle kugels, whose husband died young, who never really learned to drive or speak English and who was scared of strangers unless her family was around.

I’m privileged to have grown up in St. Louis, a place where my grandparents wanted me to stay because it felt “safe” to them — a place they’d made their way to with the help of documents that we know weren’t entirely accurate or complete, and they became citizens anyway. So when a news link about my family’s Jewish cemetery popped up in the group chat for a reporting project on hate crimes that I’m involved in at ProPublica, I wasn’t prepared. Nor was I prepared when I called home and my mom told me that she was going to exchange cash for gold in case “things get worse” and that my dad — who has never considered shooting anything in his life — had wondered out loud about getting a gun.

I wanted to say, “You’re overreacting.” But I can’t, really, in part because it’s so hard to gauge the threat. Data on hate crimes — against Jews and everyone else — is miserably incomplete and poorly tracked. My job is about presenting facts to contextualize the news of the day, horrible as it may be. This time, I had to tell my family that I didn’t have them.

We don’t know if the vandalism at Chesed Shel Emeth was technically a hate crime. The motives behind it may well be uncovered. What we do know is that there is a long tradition of desecrating Jewish cemeteries, from Nazi Germany to present-day France and New York. And whatever the particulars, the news hit at a time when the Jewish community has been put on edge by threats to Jewish community centers where kids go to preschool and their retired grandparents take Kabbalah-infused yoga classes.

That’s why our project, “Documenting Hate,” an attempt to create a reliable database of hate crimes and bias incidents, asks victims to submit their stories. When I read the submissions, it’s clear that defining “hate crimes” can be as elusive as reliable data tracking them. It’s just as clear that we need to make the attempt to define them, report them, investigate them — to gather enough, at least, for context.

Yes, it’s about confronting the ugliness and comforting the scared. But it’s also about giving real answers, using actual numbers and telling true stories when our children ask questions like, “What happened to the Jews?”

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Ariana Tobin is an engagement reporter at ProPublica, where she works to cultivate communities to inform our coverage. She was previously at The Guardian, where she was an engagement editor focused on audience analytics, social media, and SEO best practices. Before that, she worked at WNYC, producing the technology-focused Note to Self podcast. There, she helped launch the multi-platform Bored and Brilliant and Infomagical series, which analyzed information on nearly 30,000 participants’ smartphone habits.

Ariana has also worked as digital producer for APM’s Marketplaceand contributed to outlets including The New Republic, On Being, the St. Louis Beacon, and Bustle. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, and studied on a Fulbright grant in Minsk, Belarus.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

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America: One Nation Under Allah

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
February 18, 2017

 Governor Mike Pence of Indiana speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr


Governor Mike Pence of Indiana speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Headline got your attention? I thought so.

First let me say that my intent is not to promote the idea that all Americans need to convert to Islam. That’s a personal choice. Me, I’m an atheist. I want as little as possible to do with any form of religion. But I use the headline not to make a point about Islam, but about right-wing Christianity.

My children, like my wife and I, are also atheists. One day earlier this week, one of my daughters was at school, debating with a bunch of other students whether or not America is a “Christian nation.”  (Living in rural Virginia, this is often a topic of conversation.)

My daughter, who knows her United States history, reminded this group that nowhere in the US Constitution (or in the Federalist Papers) is God or Christianity mentioned. And she remembered John Adams’ comment that the US “Is not, in any sense, a nation founded on the Christian religion.”

“That’s the problem with you liberals,” one kid opined.” You get so upset at the mention of God. If you don’t believe in him, why does it even bother you that it’s in the Pledge of Allegiance?”

To which my daughter answered, “So why don’t we just change it to one nation under Allah? It still means god, and if you don’t believe in it, what difference would it make?”

At this, the other kid angrily stormed off. Which brings me to my point. Many right-wing Christians in America aren’t interested in any religion but their own.

And that is why America faces a far greater danger to democracy from right-wing Christianity than from any Islamist terrorist. It’s not that we don’t face dangers from a terrorist attack by an Islamist, because we do. No doubt there are misguided individuals planning attacks at this moment. The hope is that American security agencies like the FBI will continue to discover these plots and prevent them before they take place.

But the danger from the Christian right is twofold.

On the one hand there is also danger of a terrorist attack by a Christian. Just this week the FBI arrested an individual in South Carolina who was planning to attack non-white and Jewish institutions and murder as many people as possible. Reportedly, he planned his attack a tribute to the white-supremacist murderer Dylan Roof, who last year killed nine African-Americans in a Charleston South Carolina church. There have been more attacks in the past decade in the United States by white supremacist and racist terrorists than there have been attacks by extremist Islamists.

Yet it is the other danger that is in fact more insidious and potentially damaging to democracy. And that is the kind of danger presented by American Vice President Michael Pence. The Huffington Post described Pence as ”perhaps one of the most anti-LGBTQ evangelical Christian political crusaders to serve in Congress and as governor of a state:”

‘Long before he signed the draconian anti-LGBTQ “religious liberty” law in Indiana last year, he supported “conversion therapy” as a member of Congress. Later, as a columnist and radio host, he said in a speech that marriage equality would lead to “societal collapse,” and called homosexuality “a choice.” Stopping gays from marrying wasn’t biased, he said, but was rather about compelling “God’s idea.”’

Pence isn’t the only member of the Trump administration who is anti-LGBTQ. His housing secretary Ben Carson, and unofficial advisor Newt Gingrich, have both made statements against gays, lesbians and transgender individuals.

And it’s not just on the issue of homosexuality. Expect this administration to constantly push religious rights over rights guaranteed to all Americans in the Constitution. There are more than a few members of Congress who adhere to to Dominionist values. Dominion theology is a form of Christian nationalism that seeks have the United States governed by Christians where laws are based on Christian understandings of biblical law. Not every right-wing Christian is a Dominionist, but all Dominionists are right-wing Christians.

It’s for this reason that I hope nothing happens to Donald Trump. While Pres. Trump may be an infantile, ego-obsessed, whining, celebrity president, he is not a Dominionist. In fact, he’s probably barely a Christian. To Trump, religion is just another tool that he uses to convince people that he’s on their side.

This is not the case with Mike Pence. A future administration run by the current vice president would be one that endangers many civil liberties now enjoyed by Americans. It would be a dream come true for the far-right, especially considering that conservatives now control all levers of government in the United States.

This is why far-right Christianity is a far greater danger to this country than any Islamicist threat. The terrorists who run Islamic state or Al-Qaeda aren’t interested in taking over America. They use terrorist attacks as a means to scare Americans away from the parts of the world they do want to control. Dominionists, on the other hand, are absolutely interested in taking over and running the country according to their twisted values. (If you want to get a taste of what this might be like, read Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, which is now being turned into a serialized TV show on Hulu. The timing could not be more appropriate.)

The genius of the founding fathers was that they recognize the danger of institutionalized religion. Many of them, or their parents, had come to America to escape religious persecution, so they created a country where many religions could bloom without interference from government, but where no one religion would supersede the others.

If Americans are going to remain true to their vision, we need to be vigilant about what people like Mike Pence plan to do.

Copyright Tom Regan 2017

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com
LINKS:

The Long List of Murders Committed by White Extremists Since the Oklahoma City Bombing, Slate:
http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/06/18/white_extremist_murders_killed_at_least_60_in_u_s_since_1995.html?cq_ck=1486485587473

Why President Trump Isn’t Anti-Gay Enough for the Religious Right, the Daily Beast:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/02/17/why-president-trump-isn-t-anti-gay-enough-for-the-religious-right.html

FBI: White Supremacist Says He Planned to Kill Jews ‘In the Spirit of Dylann Roof’, the Daily Beast:  http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/02/16/fbi-white-supremacist-says-he-planned-to-kill-jews-in-the-spirit-of-dylann-roof.html

 

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Tom Regan Tom Regan is a journalist in the Washington, D.C., area. He worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92, and is a member of the advisory board of the Nieman Foundation for journalism at Harvard.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

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Rule of Law vs Rule by Man

DEBORAH JONES: FREE RANGE
January 29, 2017

A sign at the Women's March protesting President Donald Trump's inauguration in Vancouver, on January 21. © Deborah Jones 2017

A sign at the Women’s March protesting President Donald Trump’s inauguration in Vancouver, on January 21. © Deborah Jones 2017

The American Dream has shrunk to one simple question: rule of law, or rule by man?

Will Americans govern themselves by laws — or be ruled by a man? The question is as old as civilization. Every political idea in history has confronted it.

Peoples ruled by man could only pray for a wise, smart, and far-seeing ruler — or wage war to overturn him. (Most were and are men, though many claimed divine endorsement.) Historically, enough people were unhappy with rulers and arbitrary rules to fight for democracy, to claim some degree of sovereignty for each person, to find ways to work together to draft enduring laws.

America once embodied this dream, but such ambitions, and its democratic notions of equality and opportunity, have been long crumbling. High-quality evidence (see this Princeton research, or this Guardian report, or this ProPublica series on Dark Money in politics) suggests America’s democracy is illusory, and a sophisticated, slick and secretive “rule by the rich” is winning a war on its founding ideals.

The situation would be easier to grasp if there were an easy catch phrase. “Neoliberalism” gets much attention, and blame. But the campaign against America’s democracy is far more complex, and shape-shifting, than any academic concept like neoliberalism. Perhaps it’s more like “rule by paid-off lawmakers and other useful idiots,” all secretively manipulated by for-profit corporations, oligarchs and ideologues, who insist their subjects believe, cultishly, in whatever economic models most benefits the leaders at any point in time. And that’s a mouthful, unfit for either sound bite or tweet.

“The United States is a nation governed by the rule of law and not the iron will of one man,” insisted  Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, this weekend. Citing America’s constitutional laws, the ACLU led the fight against the ban President Donald Trump issued Friday on people from Muslim-majority countries, including refugees. Late on Saturday, a judge sided with the lawyers and imposed a partial stay on the ban.

Score one for for the lawyers, and the rule of law.

But that was just one battle in a long-running war. Rule of law is up against rule by man. Expect casualties.

Copyright Deborah Jones 2017

Contact: djones AT factsandopinions.com (including for reprint inquiries.)

Further information:

Return to Free Range

Contact: djones AT factsandopinions.com (including for republishing.)

If you value this story, the author would appreciate a contribution of .27 cents, Canadian, to help fund her ongoing work and pay for this site. Click on paypal.me/deborahjones to be taken to Deborah Jones’s personal PayPal page.

 

 

 

DebJones in Spain

Deborah Jones is a partner in Facts and Opinions.

Bio 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Donald Trump Sworn in as 45th U.S. President

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) and first lady Michelle Obama (L) welcome U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania for tea before the inauguration at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) and first lady Michelle Obama (L) welcome U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania for tea before the inauguration at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Steve Holland
January 20, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, succeeding Barack Obama and taking control of a divided country in a transition of power that he has declared will lead to “America First” policies at home and abroad.

As scattered protests erupted elsewhere in Washington, Trump raised his right hand and put his left on a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln and repeated a 35-word oath of office from the U.S. Constitution, with U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.

At Trump’s side was his wife, Melania Trump.

The transition from a Democratic president to a Republican took place on the West Front of the domed U.S. Capitol before a crowd of former presidents, dignitaries and hundreds of thousands of people on the grounds of the National Mall. The crowd stretched westward on a cool day of occasional light rain.

The new president was to deliver an inaugural address lasting about 20 minutes centred on the campaign themes that he used in his improbable November election victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Clinton attended the ceremony with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

“It will be optimistic. It will be visionary, but it’s going to be philosophical,” his spokesman, Sean Spicer, said of the speech, speaking to NBC on Friday morning.

Trump, 70, takes over a country divided after a bitter election campaign. A wealthy New York businessman and former reality TV star, he will set the country on a new, uncertain path at home and abroad.

“It all begins today!” he wrote in a note on Twitter at about 7:30 a.m. on Friday “I will see you at 11:00 A.M. for the swearing-in. THE MOVEMENT CONTINUES – THE WORK BEGINS!”

Away from the Capitol, masked activists ran through the streets smashing windows with hammers at a McDonald’s restaurant, a Starbucks coffee shop and Bobby Van’s Grill steakhouse several blocks from the White House.

They carried black anarchist flags and signs that said, “Join the resistance, fight back now.” Police used pepper spray and chased them down a major avenue, a Reuters eyewitness reported.

In another location not far from the White House, protesters also scuffled with police, at one point throwing aluminium chairs at them at outdoor café.

At the inaugural ceremony, former presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter were also present with their wives. Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, 92, was in Houston recovering from pneumonia.

Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, began the day attending a prayer service at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House.

Trump, wearing a dark suit and red tie, and Melania Trump, clad in a classic-styled, powder blue ensemble, then headed into the White House for a meeting with Obama and his wife, Michelle.

Trump takes office with work to do to bolster his image.

During a testy transition period since his stunning election win on Nov. 8, Trump has repeatedly engaged in Twitter attacks against his critics, so much so that one fellow Republican, Senator John McCain, told CNN that Trump seemed to want to “engage with every windmill that he can find.”

An ABC News/Washington Post poll this week found only 40 percent of Americans viewed Trump favourably, the lowest rating for an incoming president since Democrat Carter in 1977, and the same percentage approved of how he has handled the transition.

General view of west side of US Capitol prior to the inauguration to swear in Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

General view of west side of US Capitol prior to the inauguration to swear in Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

TRUMP’S AGENDA

His ascension to the White House, while welcomed by Republicans tired of Obama’s eight years in office, raises a host of questions for the United States.

Trump campaigned on a pledge to take the country on a more isolationist, protectionist path and has vowed to impose a 35 percent tariff on goods on imports from U.S. companies that went abroad.

His desire for warmer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and threats to cut funding for North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations has allies from Britain to the Baltics worried that the traditional U.S. security umbrella will be diminished.

In the Middle East, Trump has said he wants to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, at the risk of angering Arabs and stirring international concern. He has yet to sketch out how he plans to carry out a campaign pledge to “knock the hell out of” Islamic State militants.

The inaugural festivities may have a more partisan edge than usual, given Trump’s scorching campaign and continuing confrontations between him and Democrats over his take-no-prisoners Twitter attacks and pledge to roll back many of Obama’s policies.

More than 60 Democratic lawmakers plan to stay away from the proceedings to protest Trump, spurred on after he derided U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia, a hero of the civil rights movement, for calling him an illegitimate president.

Thousands of anti-Trump protesters were expected among the inauguration crowd and many demonstrators will participate in a “Women’s March on Washington” on Saturday. Protests are also planned in other cities in the United States and abroad.

Keith Kidwell, chairman of the Republican Party in Beaufort County, North Carolina, was among the crowds on Friday, eager to see the start of the Trump presidency.

“I cling to my guns and my Bible. I’ve been waiting a long eight years for this day,” said Kidwell, adding he initially supported U.S. Senator Ted Cruz to be the Republican presidential nominee but was now squarely behind Trump.

A supporter of President-elect Donald Trump carries a flag bearing Trump's likeness into a march of protesters against Trump along the inaugural parade route outside the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

A supporter of President-elect Donald Trump carries a flag bearing Trump’s likeness into a march of protesters against Trump along the inaugural parade route outside the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

QUICK ACTION

Trump’s to-do list has given Republicans hope that, since they also control the U.S. Congress, they can quickly repeal and replace Obama’s signature healthcare law, approve sweeping tax reform and roll back many federal regulations they say are stifling the U.S. economy.

“He’s going to inject a shock to the system here almost immediately,” Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway told Fox News.

Democrats, in search of firm political footing after the unexpected defeat of Hillary Clinton, are planning to fight him at every turn. They deeply oppose Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric from the campaign trail and plans to build a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico.

Trump’s critics have been emboldened to attack his legitimacy because his win came in the Electoral College, which gives smaller states more clout in the outcome. He lost the popular vote to Clinton by about 2.9 million.

Trump’s critics also point to the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia used hacking and other methods during the campaign to try to tilt the election in the Republican’s favour. Trump has acknowledged the finding – denied by Moscow – that Russia was behind the hacking but said it did not affect the outcome of the election.

To his critics – including Obama who during the campaign called Trump temperamentally unfit for the White House – his straight talk can be jarring, especially when expressed in tweets. His supporters, many of them working-class whites, see Trump as a refreshingly anti-establishment figure who eschews political correctness.

“He’s here for the working man” supporter Adam Coletti of Plainfield, Connecticut, said as he headed towards the inauguration.

Copyright Reuters 2017

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Richard Cowan, Ian Simpson, David Alexander, Susan Heavey, Roberta Rampton, Phil Stewart and Emily Stephenson; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Related stories:

 

Pins are out for the Trump balloon, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Even as the inaugural party hangovers still throb in Washington, leaders in other capitals are dreaming up ways to discover what kind of blow-hard Donald Trump is. He has given them plenty to work with.

The Trumping of Rationality, by Tom Regan   Column

For many years, economists, philosophers and pundits thought that people would always act rationally:  people would look at options and the information available to make rational choices. But in the mid-70s, two Israeli psychologists – Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky – turned that idea on its head.

Trump Hits Populist Note in Inaugural Address, by Richard Tofel, ProPublica  Column

Donald Trump’s speech largely lacked lofty language, but contained a full-throated populist vision, delivered with confidence, and signaled this from the start in one of its most memorable lines: “Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.” This might be heard to echo Ronald Reagan’s 1981 statement that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” but that would actually miss Trump’s point: The speech did not oppose government — it opposed the governors.

Links:

The full text of the U.S. President’s inaugural address: https://www.whitehouse.gov/inaugural-address

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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The Urgency of Now

Wynton Marsalis, with long time ensemble member, drummer Ali Jackson, in the background. Frank Stewart, publicity photo

Wynton Marsalis, with long time ensemble member, drummer Ali Jackson, in the background. Frank Stewart, publicity photo

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
September 12, 2016

Now and then, in the normal crazy routine of life, you get a chance to experience something special, something out of the ordinary. Something, well, real. This past Saturday night presented just that kind of opportunity.

I was in Boston for the 100th anniversary celebration of the Pulitzer Prizes, which honour the best writing in American journalism, photography, poetry, biography, history, drama and fiction. There is also a prize for music, and that was what Saturday evening was all about.

Wynton Marsalis, who won the Pulitzer in 1997 for his composition, Blood in the Fields (the first piece of jazz music to be so honoured), performed with his longtime ensemble. Listening to Marsalis play the trumpet is — for an atheist like me -– as close as you can come to believing there might be a god. Seldom have I heard a musician in live performance whose music leaves me speechless, hardly able to describe its effect on me.

Just as affecting, however, was the conversation Marsalis had with that audience throughout the performance.

The theme of the Pulitzer celebration is a reflection on “Power: Accountability and Abuse.” Marsalis talked about the creation of Blood in the Fields, the importance of jazz, why arts are so essential to the idea of America. He joked about writing a long-form piece of music at a time when our attention spans are shorter than ever. He grew more serious when talking about how music and the arts are the cornerstones of freedom and democracy. His easy-going talk was filled with witty sayings and aphorisms of other great jazz musicians or family members, but always used to drive home the point he wanted to make. He was educating us, but with us barely knowing that was what he was doing.

Several moments stuck with me. He talked about ‘the urgency of now, it’s all that’s important.” It’s all we have, he said. Now, this moment. Even when we talk about the past, it’s only to help us understand now. His other important point was authenticity. And then, putting these ideas into the musical context of the evening, he said this is what all music – and indeed all of humanity – strives to achieve: to be authentic in the now.

When musicians play in the now, there is a feeling that passes among them: they feel the music. They listen to the others, and that listening affects what they play. The authenticity of now, of being real in the moment, is what helps us find meaning. One of his band members illustrated this point by playing, but not listening to the other band members. The result was discordant and harsh.

If I can extrapolate, Marsalis made me realize that this is what is missing most from life around us at this particular moment in history – authenticity in the now.

Here in the United States, we face a presidential election in which both candidates are enormously disliked by the general public. Authenticity is almost completely absent for many Americans, who must, nevertheless, choose someone to lead the country for the next four years. Regardless of what you think of the candidates (and I’ve made my preference for Clinton know in many previous columns) it is hard not to sense a widespread feeling of resignation, a sense of “How did we come to this?” malaise.

Meanwhile, our social and journalism media struggle daily to be authentic, but more often than not fall into a black hole of tropes, conventional wisdom and clichés. More and more media seem deaf to what is really happening, some choosing to be willingly so. Authenticity is as far from their minds as the Earth is from the Sun. They don’t listen to us and, perhaps worse, we don’t listen to each other. We hear only the sound of our own voices.

Which is why, when you have the chance to experience a real sense of the urgency of now and the authenticity that flows from it, you embrace it like a man lost for days in the desert who lunges at water. It revives you. It gives you strength to move forward.

And that is what music and art do for you, Marsalis concluded. In a world that barely pays attention to authenticity, music and drama and writing and painting remain the best way for us to constantly rediscover the urgency of now.

I think that what Marsalis was trying to tell us: that the best way to hold power accountable, and to prevent abuse, is to be in the now, because that is when we are the most aware of life and the meaning of what is happening around us. That is when it is the most difficult for people to lie to us or to lead us astray.

~~~

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Perspective — and bogeymen

Stuart Anthony/Flickr/Creative Commons

Stuart Anthony/Flickr/Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
December, 2015

For many years I have had two particular pictures above my desk at work. One is from the mid-90s, of a Bosnian Serb executing a man in cold blood. The other is of a star, the same size as our own sun, going nova.

I call them my perspective pictures. I have the first one because it reminds me no matter how bad things in my life seem to be, there is always some place in the world much, much worse. The second one reminds me that one day all this (all life on earth, all traces of us ever having been here) is going to go away. So why worry? What does it truly matter in the scheme of things? At both the micro and the macro level, it’s all a matter of perspective.

These pictures have been very helpful to me lately because I currently live in a country that has lost all sense of perspective. The ability of Americans to reason and to calmly take a step back and look at the big picture seems to have vanished faster than Scott Walker’s presidential aspirations. If I may borrow a quote from Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers, everybody just needs to R – E – L – A – X.

Let’s take a recent example.

To listen to the talking heads on cable news networks or politicians in Washington DC, the country is about to be overrun by terrorists at any moment. They lurk everywhere. (Muslim terrorists that is … Christian terrorism, like the attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, is never included in the “terrorism” category by the so-called experts that bloom on cable TV like kudzu in the South.)

Well, consider this. So far in the United States this year, 17 people have been killed by Muslim terrorists, and 15 people have been killed by Christian terrorists. That’s 32 people in total.

Every year in the United States, an average of 176 people are killed by televisions falling on them. (True fact.)  You are 40,000 times more likely to die crossing the street than in a terrorist attack on a commercial airliner. Your chances of being killed by a terrorist are about one in 3.5 million. Your chances of being killed in an accident with a deer are one in 2 million. Your chances of being hit by lightning TWICE are greater than being killed in a terrorist attack. I could go on and on. (All of the above statistics come from organizations like the National Safety Council, the CDC in Atlanta, or universities that have done research on this topic.)

Yet under a constant bombardment of intentionally provocative images and often false information, alongside many people’s bigotry and racism, and with a dose of confirmation bias added,  people who will never in their lives, even if they live to be 150, come into contact with a terrorist, act like there’s one living next door, ready to slaughter them in their sleep.

As a result, instead of looking at situations like the current refugee crisis squarely and reaching out a hand to help Syrian families in dire need, Americans allow themselves to be bamboozled. They allow themselves to think all of the people fleeing from terrorism may themselves be terrorists. And while other countries, like Canada, put fears aside and allow their humanity to be the deciding factor, many Americans retreat into dark little holes of xenophobia, quietly muttering the word “freedom” under their breaths while clutching AK-47s.

And it’s not just the so-called threat from terrorism that causes Americans to lose all sense of perspective. Last year the Ebola “crisis,” which claimed the life of exactly one American, had people behaving hysterically.

There always seems to be something in this country that pushes people towards a place where they lose all ability to think rationally.

When did Americans become such fraidy cats? When did their own shadows start to scare them so much? When did they become so gullible that a snake oil salesman politician, or a greasy cable news commentator, can convince them to be so afraid of false bogeymen?

It’s not that these issues are without concern, but they need to be put into (wait for it…) perspective. When you lose all sense of perspective, when you allow yourself to be thrown about on a sea of misinformation and fear like a boat whose engine has failed, then you behave in ways that betray the very values you say you stand for.

How do we restore perspective in a country so sorely lacking it? Take a look at the world around you. Not the world you see on cable news talking head shows. Not the world you hear about on talk radio. The real world. There are more than enough sources at your local library, for heaven’s sakes, that will help you gain better understanding of important issues.

It’s time for Americans to stop being so afraid of everything. There are real problems that need to be solved. Being afraid of things that go bump in the night is not the way to find those solutions.

LINKS:

The Terrorism Statistics Every American Needs to Hear: http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-terrorism-statistics-every-american-needs-to-hear/5382818

10 Things More Likely To Kill You Than Islamic Terror: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-12-12/10-things-more-likely-kill-you-islamic-terror

You’re 55 Times More Likely to be Killed by a Police Officer than a Terrorist: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/03/youre-55-times-likely-killed-police-officer-terrorist.html

The 25 most common causes of death: http://www.medhelp.org/general-health/articles/The-25-Most-Common-Causes-of-Death/193?page=1

Copyright Tom Regan 2015

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

Facts and Opinions relies on the honour system: try one story at no charge and, if you value our no-spam, no-ads work, please chip in at least .27 per story, or a sustaining donation, below. Click here for details. 

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.

 

 

 

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Misunderstanding U.S. Gun Violence by Counting Mass Shootings

by Lois Beckett, ProPublica
December 4, 2015

According to articles this week across the Internet, there has been an average of one mass shooting every day in the United States: 355 so far this year. It’s a jarring statistic, and one that has gone viral in the wake of this week’s massacre in San Bernardino, California.

But there are two problems with the number: It doesn’t actually provide a clear estimate of how often the country has seen shooting rampages like the one in San Bernardino. And it obscures the broader reality of gun violence in America.

Counting “mass shootings” is notoriously complicated and contested, since there is no standard definition of what they are. Is it best to count shootings that injure or kill a certain number of people? Or should the definition focus more narrowly on attacks in which the motivation of the shooter “appears to be indiscriminate killing“?

Mother Jones, which has been tracking mass shootings since 2012, has counted just four mass shootings this year, and a total of 73 since 1982, as Mother Jones editor Mark Follman has noted in The New York Times.

In 2014, the FBI released its own count of “active shooter” incidents, focusing on events where law enforcement and citizens may have the chance to intervene and change the outcome of the ongoing shooting. It tallied a total of 160 of these events from 2000 to 2013–including high-profile shootings at Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, and Sandy Hook Elementary School– with an average of 11 per year.

The “355 mass shootings this year” that has been rocketing around the Internet comes from a crowdsourced Reddit initiative that gathers media reports of shootings in which four or more people were shot.

The Reddit count includes many incidents that Mother Jones, the FBI, and others leave out: for instance, a home robbery, a drive-by shooting, and a gang fight.

The Reddit project’s organizers suggest this broader approach does a better job of capturing the burden of gun violence–including the suffering and costs of treating people who are shot and survive.

“The most obscene incidents of gun violence usually do not make the mainstream news at all,” the project’s introduction says, citing a nightclub shooting in Tennessee in which 18 people were shot and only one person killed. “We believe the media does a disservice to mass shooting victims by virtually ignoring them unless large numbers are killed.”

Yet bundling together all incidents in which four people or more people are shot doesn’t capture the bigger picture.

As ProPublica detailed last week, gun murder in America is largely a story of race and geography. Half of all gun murder victims are black men. The gun murder rate for black Americans is dramatically higher than it is for white Americans. And the burden of violence tends to be concentrated in certain neighborhoods of certain cities.

Reddit’s Mass Shooting Tracker does not include any breakdown by race. In response to questions about the group’s numbers, one project organizer, GhostofAlyeska, wrote, “Our intent is not to analyze the causes or cures for gun violence, but simply to expose the available data. We’re volunteers working from a reddit community, nothing more.”

The Reddit project cites 462 people killed under its broad definition of mass shootings. The number of gun homicides of black men killed in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 5,798.

Baltimore alone has seen a total of 316 total homicides so far this year–the vast majority of them shooting deaths of black victims, according to the Baltimore Sun’s homicide map. The city’s homicide rate is now at a record high. The Reddit tracker captures eight of those deaths.

San Bernardino has two entries in this year’s Mass Shooting Tracker: yesterday’s attack, and a nightclub shooting reportedly linked to gang violence. The area has long struggled with poverty, gangs, and homicide. “My son was shot to death with an AK–47. My nephew was murdered and his body was burned and buried,” San Bernardino resident Marisa Hernandez told Vice News on Wednesday. “This type of mass shootings happens everyday here to our kids and nobody stops it, nobody does anything.”

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

 

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No safe place left in America — NRA to blame

Concerned citizens attempted to deliver petitions signed by over 235,000 Americans in 2012, calling on the NRA to stop blocking gun control legislation.

Concerned citizens attempted to deliver petitions signed by over 235,000 Americans in 2012, calling on the NRA to stop blocking gun control legislation. © Josh Lopez, Creative Commons

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
December, 2015

“Just another day in the United States of America, another day of gunfire, panic and fear.”

That was how the BBC began its coverage of the shootings in San Bernardino, California, which left 14 people dead and more than 20 injured.

Just another day in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Shootingtracker.com is a site that counts the number of mass shootings that take place in this country. It defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot, and injured or killed. So far, in 2015, there have been 350 mass shootings. That’s more than one a day.

Here’s the truth about the United States of America. There are no safe places left: not schools, not churches, not hospitals, not Christmas parties, not workplaces, not private homes, not office buildings, not public streets. Nowhere. Americans live in a war zone of gun violence. It is not as dangerous what residents of Syria and Iraq face, it is overwhelming.

You can point the finger of blame for this unbelievable toll at many individuals and organizations. But in reality it is a toxic stew of many ingredients, each perhaps harmless by itself. When all are thrown together, and stirred vigorously by the National Rifle Association and its puppet masters the gun manufacturers, and promoted unthinkingly by media, you end up with staggering statistics.

Some, including myself, previously pointed to gun regulations enacted in nations like Canada and Australia after their own mass shootings. But it’s time to forget about that. The United States is not Canada. It’s not Australia. The love of guns is so ingrained in the American culture and mythology that I daresay that trying to end it could provoke another civil war. I’m not joking.

The U.S. takes this gun-loving culture and combines it with a paranoid distrust of government (particularly among those who own multiple guns). It’s added to a society where white males in particular see themselves diminishing in power and numbers (which helps to fuel their anger at almost every minority group). Then, there’s a rising chorus of right-wing media and conservative demagogues who promote racial imbalance in an effort to gain money and power. Put all this together, and very bad things happen.

It seems to me that Americans have lost the ability to talk things out. Instead, the solution to grievances, whether on a personal or societal level, is to grab your gun and start shooting.

Are you upset at the way you’ve been treated at work? Then head to your nearest gun show, load up on semiautomatics and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and go to your office. Tired of how you’re being treated at school? Angry at a professor who didn’t give you the mark you needed on your dissertation? Then take out your anger with a gun. Angry at someone who believes in a different cultural value than you do? Then crash into their clinic and fire at will. Face discrimination because of your religious beliefs? You don’t have to take it, you could shoot your way to paradise. Think there are too many Blacks, or Muslims, or uppity women, or Hispanics, are responsible for all the troubles in your life (because that’s what the talking heads on conservative media have told you)? You know how to deal with them.

And at the apex of this pyramid of violence stands the NRA and American gun manufacturers. Now the NRA in and of itself doesn’t shoot anyone. It’s not pulling the triggers. It is just doing everything in its power to make sure that any individuals who want to use a gun to express anger and frustration at other people or society, they can access all the weaponry and ammunition that they desire.

It’s not just that the NRA is opposed to common sense gun regulations: it actively seeks out and undermines those who propose them. Under the leadership of Wayne LaPierre, a man the New York Daily News has designated a “terrorist,” the NRA has not only pushed to put guns in every possible place in America, including churches and schools – and bars – it has helped to promote laws like Stand Your Ground in Florida and Texas that encourage people to settle disputes with guns.

Perhaps the most egregious example of this was the man who murdered another man in a movie theater when he didn’t stop looking at his cell phone prior to the start of the movie. The shooter immediately claimed Stand Your Ground as a defense, because he said he felt threatened when he and the other man were arguing.

The NRA claims to promote its position based on its belief in the Second Amendment, but in reality it is helping its corporate masters, the gun manufacturers, make staggering profits. It is unrepentant in its venal motives and does not hesitate to try to spend or bribe its way to victory over anyproposed law that would restrict its agenda.

And here’s the kicker. The NRA can count on the support of the American public as it marches on. Scared to death by the overwhelming number of shootings, whipped into a frenzy by conservative media that promotes hatred and gun ownership, and fueled by mythology that says you can’t be an American without a gun, I can promise you that nothing, nothing will happen to change these grim outcomes.

Think I’m wrong? Gun stores all across America reported increased sales on Black Friday and after the San Bernardino shooting – as if someone with a handgun could take down two shooters armed with semi-automatic weapons. That is the world of the NRA has created in America.

You want to feel safe? Don’t press your politicians to come up with real long-term solutions, don’t try to find a way to help include those who feel alienated, don’t look at a long-term strategy towards possible acts of terrorism that might actually work. No. Just buy a gun. You’ll make Wayne LaPierre’s day.

And the mass shootings will go on and on and on and on…

 

 

Copyright Tom Regan 2015

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

References:

Gun stores expect to see increase in sales after San Bernardino shooting, ABC: http://abc7news.com/news/gun-stores-to-see-increase-in-sales-after-san-bernardino-shooting/1107809/
Mass shootings in 2015, Shooting Tracker: http://shootingtracker.com/wiki/Mass_Shootings_in_2015
Terrorist Attacks are Strategic: The Response Should Be, Too, Foreign Affairs: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2015-12-01/terrorist-attacks-are-strategic?cid=nlc-twofa-20151203&sp_mid=50169381&sp_rid=YnBldHplbkBnbWFpbC5jb20S1&spMailingID=50169381&spUserID=OTgzNzM0MTEzNjQS1&spJobID=820493626&spReportId=ODIwNDkzNjI2S0

Facts and Opinions relies on the honour system: try one story at no charge and, if you value our no-spam, no-ads work, please chip in at least .27 per story, or a sustaining donation, below. Click here for details. 

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.

 

 

 

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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America’s Lying Season

Lie

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
October, 2015

It’s the lying season in American politics.

Lies fall from politicians lips like leaves fall from the trees in autumn. Most of the heaviest lying is taking place on the national level, at the moment particularly within the Republican Party (more on that below). But you can find lying at almost every level of political office.

Here in Virginia, where I currently live, we have an election this week. It’s not a big election. No governors nor senators nor a president being elected. Just elections for the state house and senate, local sheriff, the other odd office. But lying is on full display. Candidates lie about the policies they would enact. They creatively ‘embellish’ past achievements. And they lie about, and twist, the things their opponents have said and done. And often these are not little lies, but great big whoppers, sometimes made of whole cloth.

And when lying doesn’t work, fear is the fall-back strategy.

“Be afraid, be very afraid of electing my opponent because his or her election means your pocketbook, your religion, your guns, your children’s school, your very lives, might be in danger.”

Truth is more elusive than Susquatch and just as well hidden. And like Susquatch, the question is, does it really exist?

It certainly doesn’t among the men and women running for their parties’ respective presidential nominations. While Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are no saints when it comes to truth telling, they are novices compared to the Republican candidates.

You would need a calculator to keep track of the lies and fabrications spun out like cotton candy during this party’s recent presidential debates. Donald Trump, for instance, is a veritable Grand Master of Outrageous Statements. And Dr. Ben Carson, who is just as bad as Trump at inventing scenarios but lacks his over-the-top craziness, and so is taken more “seriously” by observers, just plain lies.

Even second-tier candidates know the game. Candidates like Carly Fiorina lie about seeing controversial videos, and Jeb Bush lies about what his brother did in the war on terror. They refuse to admit that they are wrong, even when confronted with the facts, because admitting you lied is the worst of all possible political sins.

But Trump and Carson are too outrageous, each in their own way, to be ultimately victorious. And candidates like Fiorina and Bush are too irrelevant to worry about.

It’s the quiet lies and twisted truths of Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz that are more worrisome. Some of their policy statements defy mathematical and scientific logic, but in the lying season you are not judged on your truthfulness, but on how well you can tell the lie and your ability to maintain the lie.

And when, now and then, the media plucks up enough courage to actually say, “Hey, that’s kinda B.S.”, the cries of bias ring out like church bells on Christmas Day. In the GOP, the cries are almost always of liberal media bias, while in the Democratic Party, the cries tend to be more focused on the individual journalist being “unfair,” rather than the entire group.

After a while, you get tired of the people who are supposed to represent us treating democracy like shit.

Then again, maybe they represent us better than we would like to admit.

It’s no blazing insight to say that politicians lie in order to get elected, and keep lying so that they can remain elected. Politicians have been doing it forever.

What’s different is our willingness to accept these lies. Thanks to things like polls, focus groups, surveys, social media, etc., politicians know exactly which types of lies will work with what group of people and in what area. They tailor their lies so that confirmation bias becomes their greatest political asset. (Trump says all Mexicans are dangerous and bad, although stats show that whites have a far greater incarceration rate. Truth doesn’t matter, because these lies play to the confirmation bias of the GOP’s racist base, for whom the lie was told in the first place.)

Mendacity has become the political standard and truth-telling is seen as stupid and a sign of weakness. But perhaps even worse is that ‘truth’ has also taken on a new meaning. It is no longer absolute, but is now only relevant to particular groups in particular ways. In a very post-modern sense, truth is what a politician tells you is true, regardless if it is or not.

And this, for me personally, is the great danger. Lies have become the ‘truth’ for too many people. Genuine truth creates too many problems: it asks us to change, to be different, to move out of our comfort zone in order to create a better democracy. Believing lies are true lets us off the hook. Our democracy shrinks and becomes sterile, but we remain ‘safe.’ And this is particularly true in Western nations in the past decade.

As I said above, it is the lying season in American politics. I’m afraid it’s become the only season we have left.

Copyright Tom Regan 2015

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.

 

 

 

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