Sunday, June 29, 2008

Red in the morning

The sun was red last week. The sailor knows that's a warning sign. Take heed! Danger ahead! A brewing storm! But this sun was not red from a brewing storm, it was the result of smoke coming from fires all over California. So where's the danger? Of course the danger stems from the fires. But that's not all. I noticed it was also a little cooler. It was as if the sun had a veil. It kept its face from us and left us without the clear blue sky.

The smoke from the fire also withheld the beneficial UVB rays that are needed for Vitamin D production. A wind was blowing past my ears that said: Take time to look at nature. Get out of your box! Meet the sun when you can! She gives you and me a free dose of life. She is your friend. That friend is a glistening white.

Red in the morning sailor take warning! The red was so beautiful, and yet it was such an ominous sign. It might have fooled me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I am pro war

Yes, I am pro war. I am pro war on illness. In a previous blog I had thought of maybe calling doctors the illness police so that the American people believed in paying taxes for wellness. The idea behind it was the greater willingness of taxpayers to foot the bill. But taxes for a police force might not bring in enough revenue; apparently the police is often self-supporting by receiving money through ticketing motorists, and confiscating drug money and other assets.

Instead there never seems to be a shortage of people who are willing to support taxes for war, i.e. the military. The beauty of naming health care the war on illness would be that we already have a war on drugs. The war on drugs could simply be reorganized and incorporated into a new agency called the illness administration. The surgeon general would be the highest ranking soldier. The doctors would be officers ranked according to academic status, such as how many papers they have written that satisfy the criterion of a pro-health agenda, or how many lives they have saved. Nurses and lab technicians could be the specialists of their various units.

As far as the war on drugs is concerned, medication and recreational drugs would be treated the same. All drugs that are now considered illegal would have to go through a testing procedure with the various stages similar to tests that are done on pharmaceuticals. There would be comparisons to currently legally available drugs. The testing would ferret out whether legal or illegal drugs are indeed as good or as bad as they are purported to be. All drugs would be eliminated if they prove to be more harmful than previously thought.

The beauty of the war on illness would be the improvement in health among the population. The money would come from the military budget, and the budget for homeland security, and voila we could eliminate the country's health care problems, and it would satisfy the needs of the population to call something a war.

Does it have to come to that?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

More on propaganda and conflict of interest (3)

Propaganda is made for an interest, such as for an interest in a cause that brings an interest group together. Propaganda is an appeal to increase the ranks of an interest group. That means that any time support for an interest group is expressed, it leaves no room for expressing support for a competing interest.

Without fail this problem arises when news media have to juggle news interests that relay events as they are with advertisers' commercial interests.

An example would be the reporting of news about a drug that has caused deaths when at the same time that drug is being advertised by that same TV channel. It is likely hat the advertiser tells the station to avoid telling the truth or to make it appear less negative, possibly to the point of including rose-colored views by so called experts that will give any opinion for money. The competing interest groups are the media groups as opposed to, in this case, the pharmaceutical company. The pharmaceutical company is making propaganda for the drug and the TV channel is conflicted by what the alternative would be if they didn't receive the money and told the real unvarnished truth. Either the news group tells the truth and loses the money or it says nothing or it lies.

Here is another example. For the longest time there was complete silence in the media about the potential damaging effects of mercury from any source. The competing interest groups were dental associations, medical associations, coal mining industries, and even fisheries. All these groups do not want to see mercury be the cause for alarm because activities from those groups increase the levels of mercury in the human body. The tug of war here is being created by the opposing interests from consumer groups on the one hand, industry groups, and the media on the other. The complicated interactions between the propaganda of the wealthy industries, the less wealthy media, and the even less wealthy consumer make the whole issue very complex.

This problem exists in government. It exists in election campaigns. It exists in the art world. It exists in academia. It's pernicious.

Can the problem be solved? Yes, but not without, unfortunately, more propaganda, and more education and probably laws that promote the truth.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Conflict of Interest or Propaganda?

A number of years ago I read "Propaganda" by Edward Louis Bernays. Bernays was Sigmund Freud's nephew. He had taken it upon himself to write about the history and nature of propaganda. It was a small book, but it carried much weight in 1928 when it was written. No doubt the dictators of Europe all knew about that booklet, because it gives insight into the psychological aspects of how to get people to join in a cause and sway them by using psychology.

The word propaganda was first used by bishops in the catholic church after the reformation had decimated the faithful. The church needed to recruit new members. The bishops decided to use certain measures to keep the faithful in the church and to add members to the congregation. The bishops used propaganda. The Latin word propaganda, the gerund of propagare, means to be propagated. The church used those measures very effectively to retain old members and sign up new ones. The Jesuits did this with great skill. One might say that the arts, the music, everything that might influence the church members to want to be catholic was used. Ornateness was the order of the day. No expense was spared. The 30-years war was fought to fulfill the church's need to not lose ground. "The end justified the means."

Gradually the word became a more secular word until the age of psychology started a whole new way of thinking about the world of influence. Propaganda thus became influence by any means. Check out Bernays. He is thought to be one of the most influential men of the 20th century.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

When is it propagenda, when conflict of interest.

Propaganda can't be separated from conflict of interest anymore. So, it seems, especially in the media. No word is uttered without somebody paying for it, no picture shown without ulterior motive. That includes the writing of this blog. For me the difference is compensation. Of course news have always been sold to the highest bidder. But that bidder used to be the reader. Now the most important part of news is not the news anymore but the advertising sideshow. That's the way the Internet became profitable. But when is this type of recompense influencing the news itself, and when is it propaganda, and when is it conflict of interest? I'd like to know myself. I have read about propaganda. That will be in tomorrow's blog.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A neat image

I have a grandson who loves birds. So, when his uncle went to visit him he relayed to him the following story:

"Calvin," he said, "Imagine a red-tailed hawk sitting on the backyard fence between the vines. My binoculars were trained on the big bird when a shimmering hummingbird landed on its head. The hummingbird was known to perch in that tangle of vines. It was not afraid. It thought that the hawk was just the extension of the usual branch."

I heard this story over the telephone, and it stirred my imagination. I was so pleased that such an unlikely event could arise. Such a little bird sitting on the brown head-feathers of a raptor is a miracle of the unexpected, a totem, a symbol of unison that shouldn't have been.

I marveled at the rare nature of this kind of event, and a friend gave an explanation that seemed quite plausible. The hummingbird was invisible to the hawk because a hawk does not look up. It only dives down to hunt. So, anything flying above him would be safe, no matter how easy a kill. I like that explanation.

Another explanation I like even better is one that tells me that there are rare occurrences when things align in a certain way, and they make you wonder about nature. I like the idea of a miracle once in a while.

My grandson will probably agree, although, since he knows the ways of the birds, he would rationalize the theory that hawks dive to hunt.