Category Archives: Community

Community August 21, 2018

How to Pick a Democratic Presidential Candidate 2020

Agree on the criteria first

I smoke cigars, but we don’t pick ‘em that way anymore. And it is not for a lack of back rooms. The current one came to us from the locker room.

None in the gaggle of front runners make my list. Like Joe Biden, most are on the list because of name recognition. “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” is disqualified on age and character, not to mention aiding and abetting Clarence Thomas’ circus hearings that made him one of the notorious Supremes. Name recognition is the only reason Bernie, the Santa Claus Socialist from Vermont, is on the list.

Here are the criteria that we think matters most:

  1. Personal character matters—20 years-worth of it at a minimum.
  2. Experience in more than one field.
  3. Identified judgment on a range of issues of public concern—five issues.
  4. Evidence of working “across the aisle” with Republicans.
  5. Release of candidate’s and spouse’s tax releases one month before the first primary.
  6. Fresh policy ideas with specifics of how they will be implemented.
  7. Under the age of 70 when he or she would be sworn into office.

As a practical matter, the winner of most presidential contests is the opposite of the person holding the office. For example: Obama intelligent, Trump slick; Gore techie, Bush 43 fake rancher; Bush 41 too patrician, Clinton all home boy; outsider Carter wins over consummate insider Gerald Ford; actor Reagan from California over peanut farmer Carter from Georgia; JFK new face from Camelot squeaks by Nixon, used car salesman from California.

So, the Democrats need to find someone who is younger, articulate about the complexity of issues (use the word “complex”) and the workings of government, specific details for proposals instead of “we’ll see,” factually correct instead of factual exaggeration. Ideally, they should come from “Trump country—the so-called “Blue Wall” where Trump won his electoral victory.

It matters not if Trump runs. If he runs, the Democrats will have a hard time if the economy sustains itself and Mueller gives him a “C” for good intentions. If he doesn’t run, his ghost will and the Republicans will need to find a Trump 2.0. That will divide the Republican party and a party divided as the Democrats experienced (2016, 2004, 2000, 1980) during the primaries invariably lose.

So, given that, the next successful Democratic Party candidate should have a straight-forward manner of speaking, show knowledge of public policy issues—not just refer everyone to a website—live someplace other than New York (or California), have experience in multiple jobs,

There are multiple sites preparing scratch sheets, putting out betting odds, checking ouija boards, saying their prayers (usually a Republican strategy), lining up the big checks and name backers. We are relying on the Washington Post, in part because they update it regularly.

Here is the WP top 10 with our analysis of their performance on several criteria of our editorial choosing. We are using a simple plus-minus symbol to keep things simple. Bellow are some examples of what we mean.

Candidate Age Experience Character Issues WP Rank Other
Sanders 1
Warren 2
Harris 3
Biden 4
Booker 5
Gillibrand 6
Patrick 7
McAuliffe 8
Holder 9
Bloomberg 10

FAN first analysis on these rankings and candidates: none make our list.

Most are here because of name recognition, with the possible exception of Duval Patrick, #7, former governor of Massachusetts and black. Hence his negative rating in the “Other” category. The country is not ready for another black man in the white house. He would be running as a third-term for Obama without the panache: he was one of Obama’s mentors. And some of Obama’s best lines came from Patrick—with his permission.

Booker and Holder have the same problem. Besides, Booker is trying too hard—Obama with drama.

Sanders is still not a Democrat: he is a Socialist and will not change party affiliation. He is too old and too tiring and is clueless how to change party affiliation and too disdainful. It’s all about “him”.

Biden is a big-time plagiarist, almost single-handedly enabling the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court while turning a blind eye and waxed-up- ears to what was becoming the MeToo Movement. He would also be a third-term Obama waterboy. And enough with exploiting the cancer death of his son. As someone who has had cancer twice, Beau would be embarrassed. Get a new crutch Joe.

Gillibrand and McAuliffe have too much Clinton baggage, especially McAuliffe. Will we ever learn?!

Bloomberg Should be #1 on this List

Credit: nymag.com

The only one who could take on Trump is Bloomberg who is richer by far, more experienced and from the same city. That would be the mother of all presidential elections.

But for that to happen, Bloomberg has to run as an independent. He has been a Democrat, then a Republican, now an independent. His theme could come from the song “Stuck in the Middle with You” and its refrain, “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.”

He entertained the thought in 2016 and word is he would have jumped in if Hillary had not been nominated. He is totally rich and could fund his own campaign. He has a national grassroots framework in place working on gun control issues at the state and local level.

The math works for Bloomberg: Trump or another Republican gets 42 percent if they repeat. Democrats lost on strategy but a little help from Putin America First, can get 45 percent out of the gate. Bloomberg with a Millennial Democrat from the Midwest as a running mate would be irresistible. Possibly with a woman governor from the Midwest. Let’s see what happens in Georgia’s election for governor, and if Amy Globuchar, Senator from Minnesota, wins this fall. I submit that right now, Bloomberg vs. Trump and a generic Democrat leads on the first turn. He can count on most Millennials, possibly the largest voting block in 2020, most Independents, a bunch of disenfranchised moderate Republicans, plus some fed-up Democrats.

The worst thing that happens is there is no Electoral College winner. It then goes to the House of Representatives for a vote: if the Democrats win control the House this year, a consensus Democrat will emerge from within the Congress. Mike will be out of it.

But he’s Jewish. Racism and anti-Semitism go hand-in-hand in America: still. As Hillary proved: you can’t win unless you carry the mid-west where some of the hotbeds of anti-Semitism lie, or where the fires could easily be stocked.

Also, he busts one of our criteria: age. He would be 77 on election day.

So, we have, at least here at FAN, a blank sheet… for now.

Our next post will list our candidate, next month.

Any suggestions—using the above criteria?

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Community July 24, 2018

Why Do We Fight?

Why is so much of our public dialogue framed as an argument, a fight

Why is so much of our public dialogue—especially on cable news—framed as an argument, a fight? Why do we fight cancer? Why do we want a candidate to go to Washington to fight for us? Why do we have to fight city hall? Why is the choice fight or flight? What does “fight like a man” mean? Is speaking softly and carrying a big stick in Teddy Roosevelt fashion nothing more than a pretext for a fight?

What ever happened to Muhammed Ali’s “dance like a butterfly, sting like a bee”?

Is it time to bring back dueling in lieu of fighting in Congress over public policy?

I’ve had three formative experiences with fighting. The first was when I was a kid of less than eight years. My brother was a year older. We fought like brothers and when it interfered with our father’s studies, he had no interest in moderating a who-started-it yelling match. Instead, it was his habit to make us put on boxing gloves and go at it. No rules. The last one standing won, and in a perverse way, my father concluded that the winner was the blameless one.

I suspected he liked it that way. So, I went through some back issues of “Boys Life” and found an illustrated article about how to box if you thought the other person had an advantage of height, reach, experience. The next time my father had us put on the boxing gloves, it didn’t take long for my brother to be the one who started the argument.

The second experience was hearing Paul Simon in concert in New York singing “The Boxer.” While I recently learned that it is in no way a biograph song about him, I discovered it was about me: “in the clearing stands the boxer and the fighter by his side.” I like Marlon Brando, but I wasn’t going down the “I could have been a contender” road.

The third time was 14 years ago when I was diagnosed with two different types of blood cancer putting me in a rare cancer group. I chose not to fight cancer, rather to do what I was told by the great doctors at Sloan Kettering in New York and Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia. I referred to the whole experience as “an oil change” to make it easy to visualize and explain to others. I also chose a photograph of a crumbling auto factory in Michigan and put it alongside the state-of-the-art auto factory in Dresden of all places,  of all reminders. Through a simple affirmation process I put all my visual energy into the Dresden image.

It helped that from my window I could see the 59th Street Bridge, the title of another Paul Simon song about feelin’ “groovy”. Hey you take what you get: but you don’t fight it.

Pictured above is a famous painting by George Bellows: it is considered the greatest sporting painting in American sports—a masterpiece. It was originally known as “Dempsey Through the Ropes,” but now is simply know as “Dempsey and Firpo,” one of the greatest boxing matches ever. Something boxing aficionados can argue (fight) over for years to come.

The fight, which took place September 14, 1923, has been called the most savage two rounds in boxing history. You don’t have to take my word for it; check out all four minutes of the action here.

The fascinating details of the fight are here.

George Bellows (1882–1925) was regarded as one of America’s greatest artists when he died, at the age of forty-two, from a ruptured appendix. Bellows’s early fame rested on his powerful depictions of boxing matches and gritty scenes of New York City’s tenement life. But he also painted cityscapes, seascapes, war scenes, and portraits, and made illustrations and lithographs that addressed many of the social, political, and cultural issues of the day.

I wonder how he would paint the fighting that is going on today in the Halls of Congress, on the Streets of Baltimore and across America and in our homes? Are these fights worth having? Can we find a synonym for the word “fight”? What about

  • advocate
  • emphasize
  • uphold
  • affirm
  • champion
  • aver

Half of these options start with the letter “a”, so there are many options before we get to zoned-out. What’s your preference?

There’s a hint for all of us: in the real fight it is a right hand that knocks Dempsey out of the ring, but Bellows shows paints it as a left. There might be a lesson here.

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
Why Man Creates?

By Saul Bass
Part 1, The Edifice
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by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
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Community July 19, 2018

Crossing Sounds

An Experiment in Listening to the News

It happened quite by accident. The TV news was on but the sound was off. So, I watched the news without sound. Then I remembered Pam, a professional percussionist who has played every percussion instrument within reach. She has performed  at more than 75 concerts around the world from the Coro Gospel Choir in Spain to the World Café Live in the Philadelphia areas. Her talent and skills are part of a dozen CDs.

Her preference is the drums. I asked if she had any sound-loops that would fit. In no time my computer almost crashed. I chose the two you can hear on this video. They are so evocative and say more than the narrators and interviews that we snipped out.

Pam’s idea that we should  listen to the news rather than just see the news is very refreshing and engaging. I’ve asked Pam to tell us what the instruments are in the comment section below so I don’t miss a beat.

If you like this idea, we can try it again. If you have a video that would lend itself to this kind of music overlay, let us know, and we’ll give it try.

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He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
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Community July 11, 2018

Dispatch from The Isle of Man

Another Fine Mess

Another Fine Mess, by Geoff Carter

 “Well that’s another fine mess you have gotten me into.”
Oliver Hardy to Stan Laurel.

Here am I at 02.00 in the morning this time of the year, driving my local rugby club’s 15-seater mini- bus with six Uber-fit firemen from the Isle of Man, asleep in the back after their physical endeavours on Day 2 of the Three Peaks Challenge for the Firefighters Charity, thinking exactly the same thing, only this time it is me talking to myself rather than Ollie to Stan.

The National Three Peaks Challenge involves climbing the three highest peaks of Scotland (Ben Nevis), England (Scafell Pike) and Wales (Snowdonia). The challenge is to complete the task within 24 hours. The total walking distance is 23 miles (37km) and the total ascent is 3064 metres (10,052ft) The total driving distance is 462 miles.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, I said to myself silently as we travelled down the country lanes of the Scottish Highlands north of Glasgow before hitting the motorways that would take us from Scotland to climb the second of the Three Peaks, Scafell Pike, located in the English Lake District.

Credit: Walkhighlands.co.uk

Note that I say “we” but of course I am a shadow of my former buffed, football and squash playing athletic looking Adonis. And my part of “we” is now restricted to just being 1 of 2 people whose sole duty is to get these six Uber-fit firemen from the Isle of Man Fire & Rescue Service from one Peak to another.

The man who recruited me to the team is primarily a builder but he also serves as one of the 110 “retained” (part-time) fireman on the island and, being a smart cookie, he did not reveal all when he first approached me about signing on for the gig.

I visualised 3 nights, albeit different locations, in a bed in my own private room with clean sheets and shower/toilet in a comfortable, but not necessarily expensive, hotel. After all this is for charity so we can’t be profligate. But I swear he didn’t tell me at the start of our dialogue that I would need to bring a sleeping bag with me because on the first night we would be bedding down in a youth hostel with the great unwashed, or that for the 2nd night there would be no sleep at all for me as, along with my co-driver, I would be tasked with driving through the night to the Lake District for 6 hours to make sure we kept to schedule. As I discovered only after I said I would do it, the team would only “succeed” if we did the Three Peaks in 24 hours or less.

In fact, my experience has been akin to peeling an onion. You know what I mean, one layer after another and believe me there has been a few tears in the eyes along the way as the layers are unfolded.

The Sunday evening before the great adventure started on the following Wednesday we rendezvoused in a local hostelry where I met the six members of the Three Peaks Team, along with my co-driver, for the first time.

A jolly time was had by all over the warm pints of beer as the layers of the onion were peeled back some more. For instance, apparently, this summer in Scotland the midges are in great abundance and so I was told I needed to purchase a bottle of Avon Soft Skin Silk cream as it is recognised by those that know these things as the only cream known to man, and indeed woman, that can protect us mere humans from the midges’ presence and interest in our flesh.

And then I am presented with a form I have to sign to apply to join the Rugby Club as this is the only way to get me onto the bus as a driver and covered by the Club’s Insurance Policy.

What’s the worst thing that can happen just by signing a harmless piece of paper I hear you say.

Let me tell you here and now that however short they might be one Saturday afternoon to put out a team of 15 players next season I am not putting my boots on in preparation to be tackled by a 200lb opposition front row forward for anyone.

The one ray of hope that was offered to me on the Sunday evening in the pub was that once we had finished the 3rd Peak, yours truly would then drive the, no doubt knackered but hopefully jubilant team, to Liverpool where I was promised my own bed and shower/toilet for the evening, preceded by a tour of several of the wonderful gin houses that the 2009 European City of Culture offers.

Credit: Scafellpike.com

Postscript

It is now Saturday morning and my work is done, well almost as we still have to catch the Steam Packet back to the Isle of Man, but the good news is that I am now a “legend,” at least in the eyes of these six firemen and my co-driver.

Having successfully completed the ascent & descent of both Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike, the first half of the final leg of the journey to Snowdon was a pleasant drive, well managed by my co-driver through scenic parts of the Lake District under a full moon and, time wise, we made steady progress. However, the second half of the journey, my bit, was fraught with traffic problems on the motorways and there was growing nervousness in the bus as we worried that we might not make the 16.00 deadline to register for the third climb. Certainly, the Sat Nav was suggesting it would be a close-run thing as we set off from Scaffel Pike and the official at the bottom of Scafell Pike who registered the team’s success in completing the second climb left us in no doubt that, in her opinion, we wouldn’t make it.

So much effort extended to conquer the first two Peaks only to be denied at the last due to road works and the associated traffic congestion.

The mood in the back of the bus became sombre but they all agreed that they would still complete the third climb, even if they missed the official deadline but nonetheless, it meant they would have failed to succeed in completing the challenge in 24 Hours and would not therefore get the medal and certificate as the official confirmation of success.

And then the miracle.

With yours truly at the wheel, and a fixed determination that we would indeed make it, the rugby club mini bus became a magnificent chariot, carrying its 6 warriors and 2 supporters as we drove, fast and furious, but of course always respecting the Highway Code, towards Snowdon.

The closer we got to the check in point the more the team wondered if they might actually make it. Slowly but surely the mood in the bus changed from one of disappointment to one of possibility.

With less than 30 minutes to go before the 16.00 deadline, it was still touch and go whether we might make it but, ever optimistic, the team started to get their third set of clean climbing gear on, just in case, and a new energy emerged.

Suddenly watching the hands of the clock inexorably ticking away became all-consuming for the team whilst I concentrated on the driving and as we climbed the final hill towards the Snowdon check-in point we could see the station and the nervous tension in the air was palpable.

We crested the final hill and hurtled up to the check-in point with three minutes to spare. Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.

The Band of Brothers threw themselves out of the van, whooping & hollering and shouting “Geoff, you are a legend”

Credit: VisitWales.co.uk

It seems I might have found myself a new career as either a rally-cross driver or at the very least, a chauffeur to madcap teams who need to get from A to B in good time.

However, I try to learn from each experience that life gives me and knowing these guys do charity challenges every year, I will make sure I am better prepared next time and know what questions to ask before I get myself into another Stan & Ollie, fine mess, situation.

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
Christina Aguilera
"Climb Every Mountain"
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He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
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Community July 10, 2018

Hooked

How long before you need another fix?

A useful definition of addiction is any activity that interferes with the normal functions of your life by disrupting your relationships and responsibilities with family, friends and yourself, at work and at play. While many condemn anyone who uses drugs, they reserve judgment about those who use technology in the same way: a fix, another rush, the next high, a boost to get over the obstacle in our way which is not as life-threatening as it is with a junkie.

Measured on a time scale, the addiction to Facebook and Twitter is more intense, more addicting. Depending on psychological characteristics and the variable strength of heroin and other drugs that are taken, most junkies can make it up to four hours between hits on average. Not so with Facebook or Twitter. There the next fix is measured in minutes.

Some Twittering appears to happen continually. Non-stop ’til bed time. But I’m not a tweeter so I don’t know for sure. These folks had some interesting insights and their studies and recommendations are all over the place, but it’s a start in understanding this troubling behavior.

(We’ll have a lot more to say about drugs. Spoiler alert: almost everyone has it all wrong, and what would work has not been tried on a broad scale. Too much money on all sides. Everyone from the farmer in Afghanistan to the border guard in Arizona to the DEA in Washington and drug rehab people in New Jersey have dollar signs in their veins. Nothing like a money high?!)

 

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
One pill makes you larger
And one makes you small

Jefferson Airplane
Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
I've seen a lot of people walkin'
'round with tombstones in their eyes
But the pusher don't care
Ah, if you live or if you die

Steppenwolf
Updated Posts

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by Josh Hammond

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by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
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Community July 4, 2018

Everyone Ought To Treat A Stranger Right

Just in from Ry Cooder

We had to wait six years for Ry Cooder to sing and produce again. It was worth it. An album for the turbulent 2018. It’s been too many years since he discovered The Buena Vista Social Club and changed the world music scene forever. Now the notion of the return of prodigal sons is timely and maybe, just maybe we can take it from a great old blues, slide guitar, multi-instrumentalist with an ear for a new sound and songs that rise to meet the times.

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
Ry Cooder
"Making of the
Prodigal Son"
Updated Posts

Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
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Community June 27, 2018

The Yellow Card

A Way To Improve All Sports

The greatest thing about the World Cup is its name and scope of participation. There is no “world” in baseball or American football, even hockey or basketball, although basketball is making a claim for it on the professional level. But the world does participate in soccer as a player or fan. The only true world sport.

From my perspective it is the most civilized team sport on the planet. To others it is too slow and too low scoring. Unlike basketball, the entire team is not involved all the time. But I guess that depends on what “involved” means.

Shockingly, soccer has only one referee and two assistant referees formerly known as linesmen. One at each end to determine if the ball is out of bounds or the players are off sides. The rules of the game are understood by everyone—nothing new there—but the players have a quality of self-enforcement you don’t see in other sports. I’m not saying there is no pushing and shoving, tripping, I’m saying players don’t argue with the referee or challenge a call as it done in other major sports. Egregiously. When this happens to excess in soccer, the referee can issue a Yellow Card, a warning for everyone to see. Then next infraction in the same game by the same player results in a Red Card and the player is ejected. The player can object but has no appeal and he or she can’t get in the face of the referee as they do in American football. Even that infraction—a lack of respect—can earn a second yellow card: the red card. And here is the beauty—there is no substitution allowed for the ejected player—the team then needs to play with one less player. And the yellow card infraction carries over to the next game.

There is no such thing in other sports: basketball players can play at the yellow-card level for four more times before being “ejected.” They can’t be replaced. They can’t be taken out of the game to cool down after their first foul as happens in other sports. That kind of substitution is not permitted in soccer. In American football egregious fouls result is a 15-yard penalty against the team. The individual is not punished

Finally—although there is no such word when discussing sports—it is the only global sport that requires a player to play for the country where he was born. For example, Lionel Messi, pictured above, is the greatest player of his era, plays for Barcelona for his paycheck, but plays for Argentina in the World Cup. The pressure to perform for country is greater than playing for local fans. It’s unique to soccer.

So join several 100 million who will be watching the World Cup finals in the next few days and be a global sports fan for a while. It will take your mind off whatshisname!

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
Christiano Ronaldo
Surprises a kid
On the streets of Madrid
Updated Posts

Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
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Community June 27, 2018

Helping Prevent Drug Abuse

7 Things ONLY Reporters Can Fix

Never seen an ugly ex-addict. Never seen a black woman in an opioid ad. Never seen a white jazz player with a heroin problem. Never heard a junkie speak who couldn’t string it out and get you hooked on his or her hopeless story. And I’ve been looking for years on end.

There is a reason for this: reporters, editors, directors, producers pick the images we see to make their editorial point, to get you to read their article. There is no return on ugly.

Here are seven things reporters can do to help prevent drug abuse and help us all understand what is going on. Only reporters can fix these

  1. Put all drug abuse (use of illegal drugs) in context of America’s century of drug addiction. The opioid crisis is just the latest cycle of addiction. Here is the only article I have seen in the past few years that has a proper context: an editorial at the New York Times.
  2. The sooner the better, reference that alcohol and tobacco are drugs that are age-restricted but legal. They are among the leading causes of death. No overdose deaths from marijuana have been reported.
  3. Avoid leading off with a sensational anecdote that is not representative of the using population. Reporters are trained to do this in order to get the readers’ attention, but the exceptional profile or experience distorts the data and trendlines.
  4. Avoid white images for opioid use and black images for heroin use or scraggly-haired teens for pot use. Opioid addiction was called to the attention of the nation by white politicians campaigning for president in predominately white states, especially Chris Christie in New Hampshire when his poll numbers started to tank.
  5. Avoid the use of healthy ex-addicts talking about their misery: the medium is the message. Kids with low self-esteem want to be like that person: healthy, wealthy and wise. The glamour of recovery.
  6. Avoid misleading data charts. Display trend data in full context of the entire population rather than a data field that has a 30 percent use rate filling the entire data box and using a short time span to make a more dramatic point. When 30 percent is displayed as the height of the problem, where is the 70 percent not using the drug or not addicted to the drug? When the chart only shows the past year, at what level was the problem 5 years ago, 10 years ago.

Here is how it is too often reported:

Here is how it should be reported, but rarely is:

  1. Remember there is big money in drug abuse prevention. Billions over the years, most of it wasted to support the status quo according to the first United Nations Global Commission on Drugs that included former Fed Reserve Chairman Paul Volker, Sir Richard Branson best known with his development of Virgin Airlines, former head of the UN Kofi Annan and former US Secretary of State George Schultz . If you are a cop you will say enforcement is the answer, if you are a doc you will say that treatment is the answer, if you are a parent you will say education in schools is the answer and so on. Each solution has its own constituency. Its own money pot.
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Community June 20, 2018

One Nation Under God

With Liberty and Justice for All, But Immigrant Children

Everyone it seems is dusting off his Bible to justify what is happening on the Mexican border. No one in the Trump Administration has gotten into the Book of Matthew yet. Some critics have, and they are starting to quote Jesus from the King James Version of the Bible that uses the English word suffer instead of the word “allow” or “permit.”

In Matthew chapter 19, verse 14, Jesus says, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of heaven.”

There are plenty of other versions that don’t use the word “suffer,” so there is no excuse for quoting only this Biblical imperative.

The word “suffer” is mentioned around 165 times in the Bible. It has two meanings. One, meaning physical suffering as in the Book of Job, and two, meaning to “allow” or “permit.” Most of the meanings in the Bible are the second meaning. For those of you who want to dig a little deeper, here is a good starting point.

This is a complicated and vexing problem. But there is no reasoning—only bullying and denial.

America’s cultural DNA is manifest here. We have choices and finger-pointing is the least effective. The number of kids involve is too small, under 10,000. The news media, as Katy Tur did on MSNBC on June 18, 2018, has started projecting the number to be twice as big—20,000 by the first of August. Oh, that sounds better, but to what end? And mistakes are manifest everywhere and the facts are on the loose again. Here the Washington Post has an analysis of what is being said and done. It’s time to improvise, to look for new solutions—that is what we are made of.

Just as the Mexican border immigration has a broader and more troubling background, so does what Jesus had to say in the context of his admonition to allow the children to come to him. Here is the part we don’t read from Matthew, Chapter 18 (KJV):

“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!

Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”

What’s your take? Do we hear an Amen?

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Our Newsletter
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Community June 8, 2018

Why “Just Say No” To Drug Abuse Failed

Drug Abuse Part 2 of 3: How Trump’s Administration will make the Same Mistakes

Editors Note: This is Part 2 of our analysis of today’s drug abuse problems. Part 1 was an examination of Who Is To Blame? This post is an examination of what went wrong with the good intentions at prevention that started in earnest in the late 1960s. It’s long and more for the policy and program finder/fixer than the casual reader. The final in the series will outline solutions that have not been tried, or tried and too quickly discarded.

What went wrong with Just Say No?

First Lady Nancy Reagan is properly credited with popularizing the “Just Say No” to drug abuse prevention campaign during the 1980s—the first and last sustained attempt at a national public “education” program about drug abuse prevention. It’s a great example of confusing activity with results. The problem was that neither she nor her advisors understood the problem.  I (Josh Hammond) know this because I created the concept, an ad agency added the restrictive and misleading word “Just,”—implying simplicity and excluding other options. Adults liked the message because it gave them another chance to tell kids “no” to something.

When we say “no” we create a vacuum. If we ignore the vacuum it is quickly replaced with something else we need to say no to. When we find a way to say “yes” there is no vacuum.

The biggest reason for failure of prevention programs is the lack of a specific goal the sponsoring agency wants to achieve. As in many top-down federal education programs about health, the goal is usually abstinence. While it may work for some of the target audience, it wears thin and quickly becomes counterproductive. Soon all information from the “source” is invalidated.

Preventing experimentation with drugs is not a realistic goal. Kids of any age know about the “magic” of pills: they know some pills make the headache go away, stop the upset stomach, stop the coughing and running nose. The pills make them feel better. Then they discover that being pushed on a swing—higher daddy, higher—alters the landscape and they can see an altered view of the back yard, or zooming down a swim slide makes the pool look really cool and inviting. It’s natural to want to alter the way we want to see the world and then come back to the way things were. The search is always on for that little thrill, buzz, dizziness, spin.

As kids grow older, exploring their world on their terms is natural. Exploring curiosity is the best “drug” experience a kid can have. The understanding of what drugs can do and what the alternatives are to achieving the same goal with less risk is an exhilarating part of growing up.

Kids need to know is that all legal drugs have to establish effective dosage levels, toxic dosage levels and lethal dosage levels. The Food and Drug Administration requires this evidence as part of approving the use of a drug for prescription and over-the-counter purchase. Illegal drugs have no such requirement. Some illegal drugs, such as marijuana, are among the safest drugs on the planet with no lethal dosage levels established or known.

Taking illegal drugs for the first time is weird: it’s an acquired taste, much like beer, wine and cigarettes. When a kid takes his or her first sip of beer or wine, it’s usually a yuk! Then the pals are into it and yuk takes a back seat, and it’s not so bad—just takes some getting used to it. Same for cigarettes.

Drug abuse prevention ads don’t start with tobacco and beer and that’s a big mistake. Preaching only about the evils of illegal drug experimentation is like saying we are going to cross the country by starting you off in Kansas.

For the record and a way to sort out some of the myths about this campaign, the Say No message was created by Pacificon Productions in San Francisco under a competitively won contract from the US Department of Health and Human Services for the Carter Administration. I was a partner at Pacificon and manager of this campaign which included message strategies for classroom teachers (math, language, science, social studies), public service ads (Drugs Just Aren’t My Style for 12 year-olds), and community support programs, patterned after the highly touted Framingham Heart Program. The Framingham model shows how effective community support is for prevention and how replication of studies is essential to effective treatment solutions. Isolated messages alone do not work in prevention, rather they are the “knock on the door” for a comprehensive, community-based support program that includes alternatives, counseling, and support programs.

The first litmus test for anyone running a community drug abuse prevention or treatment program is to ask them what they know about the Framingham study and what lessons-learned have they applied. You are likely to get a “whats study”?

Why Just Say No Failed

The “Say No” campaign was designed for 12-14 year-olds only: the first national public education program to segment its audience and target a message that was age-specific. Instead, it was broadcast indiscriminately from the start with a total disregard to targeting. What was designed as a research-based peer-to-peer development strategy was turned into a personal-based media campaign championed by “first mom,” a talk-down lecture, the voice of authority.

This was the first time that any government agency planned for any form of market segmentation and narrow-casting of a health message. Instead of referring to all kids as “youths”, this was an effort to use psychographic data, case studies, and qualitative research to drill down into a message that met a particular age group at their level of need, using their words, using their images. It was based in part on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It was the first of three targeted messages. The plan was to have a follow up message for 15-17 year-olds, then a second follow-up for 18-21 year-olds. Each was to be tailored to the developmental needs of young people within those age groups. The three campaigns would be released in two-year intervals starting in 1978. Then Nancy Reagan mistakenly “found” a one-fits-all message and drug experimentation still tracks that what young people discover is natural, normal and not the end of the world.

Today, with the dominance of the internet and social media, these age limits are not as rigid as they were in the 80s. So, fudging on the front-end of the age group is a safe and smart way to go. The key message point is that as kids turns 12 they are at a stage where they want to express themselves about their values and habits and interests in their way, in their words.

Too many parents get confused and they are afraid to let go and let the child do things their way. There is rarely a case where the kid diverges from the values he or she has been raised. There is little disagreement on what decision needs to be made: the clash comes with how the child chooses to express himself or herself.

A critical step The Trump Administration is likely to skip.

The Say No message was based on research conducted at the University of Houston. The findings were replicated at the University of Minnesota. That never happens any more in the design of public social programs. The goal of this research was to discover strategies to prevent cigarette smoking—yeah, it’s a drug and in the top three causes of death in America.

FYI: 16 million Americans are living with a health problem directly related to cigarette smoking; 480,000 die each year at the rate of about 1300 every day. And this is all legal. Marijuana does not even make the bottom of the list on causes of death. And the opioid crisis—part legal and part illegal—is tragic, but not in the same death league.

Here is what happened at Houston that is so essential to understanding where to begin when crafting a prevention message of any kind for any age group. 750 seventh and eighth graders were randomly selected and separated into four groups.

  • Group 1 was exposed to scare information only: smoking leads to heroin addiction
  • Group 2 was exposed to factual information only: nicotine is the active ingredient
  • Group 3 was taught interpersonal skills, ways to resist peer pressure, how to say no
  • Group 4 was the control group. They were not exposed to any of the strategies.

The surprise conclusion: Group Three, those taught interpersonal skills as a way to resist peer pressure to experimenting with cigarette smoking, delayed their experimentation with smoking cigarettes for up to two years over the other three groups.

The key word for the health care professionals was delayed. The longer time a young person waits to experiment with drugs, the more mature the brain is in helping process the decisions and the more developed the person is for accessing risks and exploring alternatives to achieve the same purposes without the same possible negative consequences. The Carter Administration rejected the strategy when they found out it was not an instant abstinence program. That it only delayed the potential experimentation for a few years. Adults and authority didn’t want something that worked for kids as a natural part of growing up, but something that made them feel good while delivering the message.

The Trump Fixation

 I am not on the inside of the Trump Administration’s development of its drug abuse prevention strategy. We do know several factors. The president does not smoke or drink. He sees drug use as a sign of personal weakness, a matter of character and personal discipline. His attorney general Jeff Sessions is back to the dark days of arresting young people, especially blacks and Hispanics, for simple drug use and possession. The Attorney General is on a moral crusade and wants draconian federal laws to replace the progressive decriminalization and legalization laws of states that have finally brought some common sense to the nation’s drug abuse challenges.

Like the Reagan administration, the Trump administration will be focused on clever sayings that make copy writers happy, engage media critics in the reuse of scare tactics, and enable the epidemiologists to document a year or so from now that none of this made a sustainable difference, except it was something authority could check off their list of what makes America great again.

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The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
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In "Donnie Brasco"

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Updated Posts

Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
Go to the Newsletter Subscription page