The Truth Machine

Issues, not "isms"

Pop Quiz time:

Question 1: How many words do the American Heritage Dictionary definitions of Democracy and Capitalism share in common?

Answer: 4

Question 2: What are those words?

Answer: and, of, a/an and the

Before I see Capitalism: A Love Story, the new film by Michael Moore, I wanted to jot down some of my own thoughts on how we define ourselves as a country. This way if we have the same ideas no one can accuse me of ripping him off, and if we have different ideas I can point out how much smarter than him I am.

Seriously though, this subject has been on my mind a lot during the health care debate. It seems to have become commonplace to discuss capitalism and democracy as if they are interchangeable. This implies that you can not have one without the other. This assumption has becoming a leading factor not just in the ‘public option’ debate, but in our foreign policy as well. And it is dead wrong.

Let me be honest up front. I am a strong believer in our constitutional democracy. I am also a strong believer in capitalism. What I am not is an absolutist. In fact it is impossible to reconcile democratic absolutism and capitalist absolutism. Elements of each are in direct opposition to elements of the other.

Let’s start with the dictionary, shall we? Without any further adieu, the American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Edition (2009) proudly presents capitalism and democracy:

cap·i·tal·ism (kāp’ĭ-tl-ĭz’əm)
n. An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market.

de·moc·ra·cy (dĭ-mŏk’rə-sē)
n. pl. de·moc·ra·cies

  1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
  2. A political or social unit that has such a government.
  3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
  4. Majority rule.
  5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.

So, starting at the root, we can see that we are dealing with two entirely different animals, one an economic system and the other government by the people. If you compare democracy to fascism you might say “one is a basset hound, the other is a rottweiler”. I am not sure why you would say that, but if you did it would at least be worth trying to figure out. However, to compare democracy and capitalism you might say “one is a basset hound, the other is a dishwasher”. I am not sure why you would say that either, but if you did people wouldn’t even try to figure it out. If you were at a bar, you would probably be cut off.

However, what most people would likely say is that they are both basset hounds or both rottweilers or both dishwashers. Do you see my point? If so, can you possibly explain it to me? I’m getting a little lost here.

Seriously though, the point is that you could substitute any supportive or pejorative word for the dogs and have a debate; they are after all the same animal – a system under which people are organized. Compare either of them to capitalism and the analogy falls apart. Capitalism can function in some form or other under a democratic, fascist, or even (to some degree) a communist system (see China today).

Hong Kong still has an ownership society after being returned to China. Nazi Germany remained largely capitalist. However, the utilities in Hong Kong belong to the state.

Pop Quiz #2

Question 1: How many times does the word Capitalism or a derivative thereof appear in the constitution and all of the amendments?

Answer: Zero

Question2: How about the Declaration Of Independence?

Answer: Zippo, zilch, nada

So, as we debate health care, and government bailouts and the many other things that are bound to come down the pike, let’s keep in mind that we are a Democratic Republic, not a Capitalist Democracy, by law.  Capitalism is a choice, and generally a good choice. However, anyone making the claim that regulating or incorporating elements of other economic systems into American capitalism is “unpatriotic” is showing a fundamental misunderstanding of what we are. The very concept of “government by consent of the governed” allows for fundamental change to our economic system as the will of the people evolves, as long as it does not interfere with the democratic principles of the Declaration and the laws of our land. To say anything else is, in and of itself, unpatriotic.

In my last few posts I have given my outlook on the loss of critical thinking skills in the US and how mass media, television in particular, has contributed to this. I admit it can be enough to make you want to move to …. oh, I don’t know, say Mars perhaps. Unfortunately that won’t work for two reasons; the atmosphere is inhospitable to human life and Lyndon LaRouche wants to colonize it.  Come to think of it, the second part could make life here a lot better, seeing as LaRouchites are the ones mass-producing Obama-as-Hitler placards.

So we are left with the good old “America, love-it-or-leave-it” decision. Well, it just so happens that I love this country – or at least the ideas that make up what this country is supposed to be, so I’m sticking; and as long as I’m sticking I’m going to put forward some ideas to make things better – because screaming at my TV is starting to make my head hurt. To do this I am going to appear to digress for a minute or two, but I swear it all comes together.

In 2004 I joined Election Protection, a new nonpartisan NFP started by some recent Columbia University law grads and students, sponsored in part by People For The American Way.  The idea for Election Protection was born at a study session one night shortly after the Supreme Court handed down it’s decision in Bush Vs. Gore, stopping the Florida recount and thus giving the presidency to George W. Bush. The students were concerned by two things, the apparent unconstitutionality of the Court agreeing to hear the case in the first place** and the evidence of misinformation campaigns that had cropped up as journalists looked more closely at what had happened not just in Florida but elsewhere.  While they realized that since there was nothing they could do about the gaping flaw that had been revealed in our system of checks and balances there was a need to make sure things never got that far again.

What they came to realize is that regardless of where any plans for voter fraud, intimidation, or misinformation originated that they could only be carried out at the local level, at the polling stations and in the various local Boards of Election. In other words, keeping elections fair was a “ground game”. If you wanted to keep mischief at bay you had to be where the mischief occurred.

Thus an organizing concept was born. By partnering with local chapters of national organizations, grassroots organizations, and local union chapters and operating fully in the open they created an all-American equivalent of the poll monitoring we have often done for other countries. However they added two new twists, proactively countering misinformation campaigns prior to election day and creating a legal network that could act to stop fraud or rights violations on election day before the polls closed.  Volunteers would go door-to-door in neighborhoods where posters had been hung or calls made trying to make people question if they could vote (fake state ID requirements, etc.), when they could vote (even number houses on Tuesday, odds, on Wednesday, moved back one week if it rains, etc. etc.) and where they could vote (false information as to polling places and times). These volunteers were all trained on the specifics of local, county, state, and national voter rights and provided a summary flyer of the same. The drill was simple – ask the person at each residence if they knew if they were registered, how to register, when and where to vote and what if anything they needed to bring with them. Discussion of individual candidates, issues or political parties was strictly prohibited.

On election day everything switched gears. Instead of letting people know how they could vote, the job became making sure that no one stopped them from legally voting. Anywhere that Eelction Protection was present the Board of Elections was informed. They were told why we were there and what we intended to do. Specifically, we would stand the legal distance required from the polls and keep a lookout. If we saw any attempts at voter intimidation we would right up a report and call an 800 number, from which a civil rights attorney would be dispatched to the scene. If rights had been violated they would contact another lawyer, already located at the local courthouse, who would file any necessary motions.

The test run was in congressional districts in Florida and Pennsylvania in 2002, districts where suspicious and illegal behavior had been reported in 2000. The program proved to be very effective. In several locations illegal police blockades were called off. In one location Immigration Officers standing right at the polls were forced to leave. This was particularly important because in Florida after 9/11 it was not uncommon for Immigration to hassle legal residents, bringing them in for questioning for no reason, thus US citizens of foreign descent were scared. If anyone came out of the polling place without an “I voted” sticker they would be asked by EP if they had been able to vote. Where the law allowed a person to be assisted in voting they could then invite EP into the polling place, where EP would inform the poll operators of why the voter did in fact have the right to vote.  Most often this resulted in the person being allowed to place their ballot.

In 2004 the program went national and I joined. I was sent to Phoenix, AZ. In 2002 there had been several attempts to misinform voters in the poorest communities about their rights, and about where and when they could vote. This was happening again in 2004. I spent two days going door to door in an area where posters had been placed just days earlier with false information about polling places and times. I met a lot of people who intended to vote, but had the wrong information and provided them with the right one. On election day I was assigned to a polling place where there were, fortunately, no problems. In fact the Phoenix Board of Elections, which had been very skeptical of EP’s presence, was so impressed that when lines started to get long at the end of the day and there was concern that not everyone would get to vote they deputized us so we could actually go in and help run the election.  It was an amazing three days, culminating with the nightmare of going to the hotel and watching the news from Ohio. Still, I found the work very rewarding and went to Philadelphia for the 2006 midterm elections and to Ohio for the 2008 presidential election. Wherever they need me to go in 2010 and 2012, I’ll be there.

Yes, I would love it if everyone who reads this decides “Gee, I want to do that” and joins EP, but that is not my point. My point is that what we need today to counter the massive misinformation campaigns that take advantage of the lack of critical thinking to convince people that their way of life is somehow being threatened when it is not, is some sort of equivalent – an Information Protecton program. Theoretically that is what 24 hour news should be providing, but as I laid out in my last post that is no longer their mission.

How would such a program work? I would love to be able to follow that question with a manifesto for the information age, but I don’t have one (not yet, anyway). What I do have are some ideas of what such a program would have to look like to be accepted and as well as some ideas of what it should do:

  • In order for an “IP” program to be acceptable their would have to be NO question as to its nonpartisan nature. If anyone has any ideas on how to pull that off, I am all ears.
  • Any IP Program would have to make all materials it disseminated available to local government and local press for scrutiny. Printing the entire text of any handouts in the public notices section of local papers should be part of that.
  • Where a specific, documented lie is told, the documentation itself must be provided along with the refutation. For example, the now (in)famous Joe Wilson “You Lie” should be countered with a flyer that states and reprints verbatim the specific sections of each bill that specifies that neither government subsidies for health insurance nor a public option wuld be available to illegal aliens.
  • In making the case for actual statistics an IP program would have to be able to cite the source’s credentials and independence. It should also be able to show the relationships between statistics that are being used that may not be accurate and their sourcing.

In other words, an IP program needs to do the work that the mass media no longer does.  This still leaves the question of how do you get millions of people who have not been taught critical thinking and have nested within a media-driven comfort zone to listen to all of this unanswered.  I don’t have the full answer to that question, but I can think of two things that would be crucial:

  1. The most important element of success is personal contact. Information has to be disseminated in a local manner, with people going door-to-door. Enough work has to have been done in advance to make the IP system respected as nonpartisan that people from the left and the right will be willing to answer the door.
  2. The main goal CANNOT be to convince people that they are being lied to, or that they should support one position over another. The goal must be to show them that they can not always (in fact, rarely) trust information that is spoon-fed to them, and to help them see how they can find out more for themselves and reach their own conclusions. To re-use an earlier example, it is not as important to convince them that Joe Wilson was lying as it is to convince them that they should not assume he is telling the truth because Fox says he is – but rather to show them why, when the nation is caught up in an argument such as the one we are in now, it is important that they do their own research and reach their own conclusions – and then to teach them HOW.

Is this achievable? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that any such attempt will require an enormous effort and be met with a huge amount of resistance from lobbyists and even media on all sides. It will be called an indoctrination program by those who oppose it on the right and it will be seen as interference by those on the left – especially when critical thinking might not lead to the conclusions one side or the other wants. This is profoundly true in health care, where both sides HAVE had good ideas, though you couldn’t tell that through all the noise. The end-of-life discussions that became demonized as death panels and shoved out of the bills were in fact a Republican amendment, and I have yet to hear an argument against the Republican insistence on interstate competition that makes any critical sense to me.

Obviously, the elephant in the room is our entire educational system needing an overhaul, but even if we did that today we wouldn’t really see the results for another 18 – 20 years. If we can get back to teaching critical thinking in schools and make sure that everyone can and does get a quality education then this will all be moot. Until then we need to take action now so that people will know the facts and understand when they are or are not working towards their own interests. I have tried over the last week to discuss why I think we are where we are, and spitballed a few ideas on how we might start to work our way out of it. Am I crazy to think we can? Maybe – but I look forward to the debate.  Speaking of which, anyone reading this on Facebook please click through to the blog (thetruthmachine.wordpress.com) and post your comments there so everyone can see them.

Coming next week – something lighthearted, I promise.

**Two books that look at this question in detail are Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000 by Alan M. Dershowtiz, and The Betrayal of America: How the Supreme Court Undermined the Constitution and Chose Our President by Vincent Bugliosi. Dershowtiz’s book is an easier read, but also clearly partisan. Bugliosi’s book is denser, but an extremely convincing legal argument.

…to bring you this story. I have been planning to write on health care, and certainly will at some point. But for now, there is nothing I could say about the piece of manure put forth by Sen Baucus yesterday that is not brought home better by this woman’s story.

In my last post I discussed how the deterioration of critical thinking in our school curricula has contributed to our becoming a nation of morons. This may explain the roots of our “moron-ness”, but fails to look at how it is reinforced in our adult life. How does one go from a child lacking the skills to form an opinion to an adult with an unwavering opinion?

The first and most obvious factor is social self-identification. The ideas that our heads are filled with by others when we are children greatly influence who we become as adults. Without the ability to think critically we are much more likely to absorb the ideas of those we admire and reject the ideas of those we dislike. The more we want to be like someone or believe that someone to be like us, the more likely we are to accept their world view as our own.

Still, we are bombarded by information 24/7/365, aren’t we? We live in the age of information, don’t we? Well… yes and no.

Yes, there is more information readily available to more people in more places and forms than at any time in human history. Yet we do not live in an age of information so much as we live in an age of content (not to be confused with an age of contentment – though hope springs eternal). Without critical thinking skills, people do not seek information as much as they choose content. Thanks to the explosion of the internet over the last 20 years, and social networking over the last 5 years, the existence of places to pitch your online tent where everyone thinks and feels as you do is guaranteed.

Fortunately for all of us (or most of us at least) we have a natural curiosity to know what is happening now, today, this very moment, that may effect our ability to live out our world view.

Enter The News Media (If I were a conservative I probably would say “Enter the News Media, Stage Left”).

Did you know that Charles “only call me Charlie in the morning” Gibson is retiring? Do you know who is replacing him? Here’s an easy one – do you know which network he anchors?*

Don’t worry if you answered “no” to all of the above. Network news is no longer that relevant anyway. Wait… On second thought, worry a lot.

Between Internet direct access to the wire services, internationally read blogs, Twitter and facebook – just to name a few – you already know everything that happened today. And if you don’t you can always turn 24/7 to the three wise men: CNN, MSNBC and FOX News.

Herein lies the problem. Before the advent of the 24 hour news cycle critical thinking was essentially organic. The environment forced it. Three channels had 30 minutes each to tell you what happened in the world that day. This meant a staff of producers and editors who had to shift through the ton of info coming to them from local, national and international newspapers, wire services (so called because they distributed information on a way not that far removed from telegraph) and other TV broadcasts, as well as there own sources and journalists.

This required serious (and rapid) decision making. What do people need to know?  what is or isn’t important? How do we communicate the most amount of information with the least words?  Of course, they could always do a “special report” if there was breaking news that demanded immediate attention, but evn that was frowned upon as it meant eating into revenue with news – a loss leader that functioned more as a public service then as a way to sell ads. Newspapers competed with this by taking advantage of their additional space to provide in depth analysis and special feature reporting, so that you could get all the details you needed to decide what you thought and felt about the information.

Then CNN came along, and the whole process was thrown on its rear end. They started with traditional news hours, starting over at the beginning each and every hour.  However, they had to face a new challenge – as a network that existed only for news, they could not be a loss leader for something else. They had to make money, and that meant original programming. You couldn’t get by on one guy each who watched at 6:00 or 7:00 or 8:00. You needed all three watching at 6:00 AND 7:00 AND 8:00. But what if there wasn’t enough news of interest to fill three hours?

You stretched, you found as many different people with as many different takes on one item and then you had them talk about it incessantly. Since the information could often be communicated in 15 – 30 minutes they had to fill the other two hours with analysis. What does yada yada mean to the Democrats, to the Republicans, to your checkbook? This seemed helpful at first, but as the time required to analyze a thing grew to be so much longer than the time required to identify that thing, and as who analyzed that thing started to drive ratings it all went to hell. The Mass Media, and in turn the people who watched it – already weakened by a lack of critical thinking skills – became obsessed with process.

A perfect recent example is the Joe Wilson incident during the President’s speech to a joint session of Congress. From the moment the speech was over the questions began: Who said that? Why did he feel that way? Had anyone ever done that before? How would the Democrats react? Would discussion of censure derail the health care debate? Is Joe Wilson a racist?

Do you see what is missing here?  Come on, put your critical thinking caps on.  I’ll wait….

….

….

DID THE PRESIDENT LIE? Does or doesn’t the bill (or bills, depending on how you look at it) allow for federal dollars to go for paying illegal immigrant health care?** Did Joe Wilson lie when he called the President a liar?  For extra credit (ok – not for extra credit – but because you really have to) tell us where the answer to that question comes from. Once you know the answer to that question, THEN you can start to form your own opinion on why he said it. They can report on his biography and you can make up your mind. You can also hear the plusses and cons of such a provision in the bill from a purely statistical point of view and decide how that fits into your own moral framework.

But that does not happen. You see, the ratings started to come in, and the news channel (CNN) started to realize that certain personalities and opinions drew higher ratings. Now instead of helping the people figure out what they want it became about giving the people what they already want. Why educate 50 people when you can reinforce the already held beliefs of 100?

For that matter, if you have the money and know what you want people to believe, why not hire the talent that will communicate that constantly, over and over again, in a format that allows the uninformed to think they are being given facts when they are really just receiving positive reinforcement of already held views.  Why not use this to move forward a larger agenda? Why should the news be about information when it can be about control?  ENTER FOX NEWS, STAGE RIGHT.

Now the news cycle and the Republican spin cycle were one and the same. As shown in the Robert Greenwald documentary Outfoxed, a whole new process was born. Each morning the republicans (and the democrats for that matter) would chose a story of the day. The thing that they wanted to try to concentrate on and get in front of the people.

The democrats did this through press conferences and public appearances, as well as giving interviews. The republicans just emailed it to Roger Ailes, president of Fox News. Literally. Ailes would then prepare a “Message Of The Day”, distributed to all producers, writers, and online personalities, stating what point the channel wanted to try to get across to the American People that day. Not only was this always based on the party talking points, it often just cut and pasted them verbatim from the email to the memo.  By the way, did I mention that they did all of this under the banners of “Fair and Balanced” and “We Report, You Decide”. Those already inclined to believe whatever the right told them now had a home, a place where they could receive non-stop propoganda while convincing themselves they were receiving fair and balanced information and then deciding for themselves. It was the ultimate self-reliant delusion.

If not for the dependence on ratings this could have been harmless. So what if the right has their own mouthpiece? What’s the harm if the people watching are inclined to believe what they are hearing anyway? And the answer is none – no harm at all – as long as they are looking at the facts and just presenting their take on it.  But what happens when they stop presenting the facts?  What happens once they have built their army of viewers who believe everything they say and start lying to them?

Welcome to America today – an America when many on the right believe that the Clintons ran a coke smuggling operation out of Arkansas and had Vince Foster killed. An America that believes that a man who dodged his Air Force Reserve duty is more qualified to be Commander In Chief then a man who won a Bronze Star for running INTO enemy fire to retrieve an injured soldier. An America that believes that the only way to guarantee a fair election is to stop counting ballots. An America that believes the President has a plan to kill old people when they become too expensive to take care of, and isn’t even trying to hide it. An America that believes that the President isn’t an American. A land gone mad – a country of morons.

“But wait!” scream my conservative friends***, “You have MSNBC! It’s the same thing!”

Ummmmmm, no. Not even close.

First:  Unlike CNN and Fox, MSNBC does not brand itself as News. While Fox is “Fair and Balanced” and CNN is “The Most Trusted Name in News”, MSNBC is “The Place For Politics.”

Second: While MSNBC hosts are clearly opinionated, they use clear sourcing and allow opposing view points. hey may discuss an issue with an Op-Ed Columnist, but they will have that columnist cite their sources rather than treat them as a source. They will give airtime to opposing view points – especially Rachel Maddow, who often has on guests that disagree with her – including regular commentary from Pat Buchanan.

Third: They correct themselves.  On several occassions I have heard Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann (Yes, I admit it, a bit of a blowhard) correct themselves if they got a fact wrong the previous day, or even before the commercial break.  I have even seen Olbermann and Matthews (GASP!) change their minds on an issue after speaking with a guest. Compare that to Bill O’Reilly, who claimed the day after Dr. Tiller’s death that he stood by all of his “reporting” and that he had “never said anything about Dr. Tiller that was not true”.  Sorry Bill, but for the record not once did Dr. Tiller perform a third trimester abortion because the woman was depressed that day or didn’t like that she couldn’t fit into her shoes – both things he had stated as fact.

Fourth: They have a conservative host – Joe Scarborough.

So where does this leave us? The Republicans play more and more to their base, which as they lose the independents becomes more and more made up of the radical right, galvanized by right-wing radio. In order to hold on to these people they become more and more extreme in their speech, and in what they disseminate on Fox. Critical Thinking? Please – that only works against them. They report what you’ll decide.

But wait, don’t slit your wrists yet, there is good news. Very good news.

THEY ARE THE MINORITY. THERE ARE MORE OF US. We just need to get ourselves together.

How?  I’ll posit my humble suggestions about how we turn the very people who oppose the change this country needs into critical thinkers who support it in my next post. Stay tuned.

* Yes, he is. Diane Sawyer. ABC.

** No, he did not. Section 274 of HR3200 specifically states that no federal funds can be used for the insurance or treatment of illegal aliens. That was already in the bill before Joe Wilson opened his mouth.

***Yes, I do have conservative friends. We talk about TV and the weather a lot.

I have been giving a lot of thought these past few days to what I fear will NOT be remembered as the Summer of Madness. Why will these last few months of insane public discourse not be remembered as such? Because it’s going to get worse.

Many reasons have been posited for the crazy rantings of birthers, deathers, tenthers and teabaggers (yes I know that isn’t what they call themselves but who could resist). Many have tried to decode the reasons behind believing in death panels and screams of keep government out of Medicare. Some believe it stems from economic fear and desperation, some from religious fervor, and some from racism. I think it is much simpler than that.

We have become a nation of morons.

Or should that be “morans” as one protester’s sign put it? Seriously, one could watch Idiocracy and think it’s a documentary. Some probably do.

Did you notice that I did not specify Republicans Vs Democrats, or Right Vs Left? We on the left should not make the mistake that just because we have facts to support us that our supporters understand the facts. Rachel Maddow happens to be a brilliant journalist who should probably win a Pulitzer for her coverage of the money behind the “Tea Party” movement. However, if she had made it up out of whole cloth there are plenty who would believe it just as fervently.

Then there is the left’s disappointment in Obama being a centrist. When was he not? I voted for the man because I thought he was the right man at the right time, but I never fooled myself into believing we were going to suddenly swing so far to the left we would get whiplash. Single-Payer supporters – I hate to break it to you but it was NEVER on the table. To be upset at Obama for rejecting it is to imply that he considered it. He did not. One of the major differences between he and Hillary in the primaries was that she supported a universal guarantee and he DIDN’T.

Yet somehow the right-wing man-on-the-street thinks he is a socialist, except for when they think he is a fascist or a communist. They are not any dumber than the left, they are just being spoon-fed bullshit instead of facts. Think about it – the more Sarah Palin proves herself to be an utter moron the more people on the right identify with her. What does that tell you?

So, how did we become a nation of morons?

I entered High School with Jimmy Carter as President and exited with Ronald Reagan. By my senior year the writing was already on the wall. The national debate on illiteracy came to center on kids being ‘passed through’ to the next grade despite not achieving grade level competency. We looked at the relationship between illiteracy and poverty, but instead of acknowledging that the latter was 100% responsible for the former we did what we usually do in this society – we cut the baby in half. Redistribution of wealth was considered evil but education was considered important, so we increased general funding to education by increasing the percentage of property taxes that went to it. This guaranteed that the poorest schools would remain the poorest schools. Then, to make sure that our funds were working we started to rely heavily on standardized testing. A new term became popular, or perhaps I should say unpopular, among educators – “teaching to the test.”

With this development, knowing started to become more important than thinking. This concept was expanded by George Sr. and finally fully ensconced by George Jr. with “No Child Left Behind”. Now, for a school to even receive certain federal funding it has to show certain results. The farther from the desired results, the less money they get. Schools find themselves intentionally dumbing down material or grading on curves to keep those precious dollars.  Teachers work their butts off to make sure that the kids can regurgitate onto a test at the end of the year. As a result we have all but stopped teaching critical thinking.

What am I speaking of when I say critical thinking? I am speaking of the ability to take a set of disparate facts, analyze them, and come to your own conclusion. I am speaking of the ability to consider the speaker, the circumstances under which they are speaking, and what the speaker hopes to accomplish when deciding the validity of the speaker’s ideas. I am talking about thinking what to know instead of knowing what to think. As a result, our beliefs lead us to choose who to listen to, instead of listening to many and then choosing what to believe.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the debates we see on television between talking heads and online between each other. It used to be that people would argue about what they read in news stories and what they thought it meant, and they would cite news stories and investigative reporting in their arguments – including specific studies or scientific proofs. Today almost every citation you hear or see comes from a “think tank” with a specific political agenda or a link to an online “article” by a group with a specific statement of purpose, left or right. In other words, our arguments consist of stating something as a fact and when questioned by the other side responding with a link to someone else stating something as fact without any actual sourcing as to where the fact ( a number, a percentage, a trend) comes from. We argue “Look, it’s true. I know it’s true because this guy says it’s true.” We don’t even consider the speaker, and if each of their arguments support each other or if they contradict themselves based on the situation (i.e. situational ethics)

As I stated earlier, some believe the madness we now see stems from economic fear and desperation, some from religious fervor, and some from racism. All of these are factors, to be sure. But they would be much smaller factors if not for the death of critical thinking.

In my next post I will address how I believe the media contributes to this, and posit some ideas on how we get past it.

Well, I’ve finally gone and done it.

After several people telling me that I am so opinionated on Facebook that I should have a blog I have started one – “The Truth Machine”.

Why that name? For years my friend Luke has discussed the idea of building a Truth Machine, a form of assisted A.I. that would mine information and test its veracity.  Think of it as a “bullshit detector” for the internet.  Now, this is NOT what my blog will be – but the concept inspires me and the title will help me hold my own feet to the fire.

Over time you will find posts on a wide variety of things, depending on what has caught my eye, contained herein. Expect musings on local politics, national politics, humor, religion, memories, etc. etc.  I may sometime post everyday, or I may go periods without. Hopefully some of you will find it interesting enough to give feedback. Then again, perhaps I will just be talking to myself. Is this thing on? Buehler? Buehler?

So hold on, it may be a bumpy ride!

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