Biblical Solutions: Calling all Virgins

Our nation is embroiled in a search for a solution to the problem of gun violence. As much as I hate to admit this, perhaps the answer lies in our vaunted Judeo-Christian tradition.

Maybe the solution has been here all along, but in our rush for the toys and pleasures of modern society; cell phones, Cable TV, drive-up fast food, America’s Got Talent, semi-automatic weapons, we’ve lost sight of the obvious.

All we need do is look to the Bible for the answer. Thoughts and Prayers, while comforting, are not enough. They are just a part of the solution.

They are the warm-up act for the real petition to the Almighty. The full invocation seeking holy intercession requires one more simple gesture.

The sacrifice of Virgins.

In the Old Testament, it tells us 37 times the Lord loves the pleasing aroma of burning flesh. Look it up; some are even in the red words.

It is the missing piece for a divine solution to our problem.

Think of the possibilities.

We can hold it twice a year on special holidays, Christmas and Ground Hog Day. Add one more memory to childhood.

We can have a torch run and a contest for the chance to “light the fire.”  Jose Feliciano’s version of “Light My Fire” can be the soundtrack.

We can have corporate sponsors. “This year’s sacrifice is brought to you by Armalite.” Sort of a mea culpa for contributing to the problem.

We can have a food truck contest. Nothing like barbecue at the Barbecue.

We would make it humane.  We’re not barbarians.  It would give us something to do with all those Opioid painkillers Big Pharm couldn’t dump on America.

We can use a combination of wood and all that new coal we’ve been mining since the rejuvenation of the coal industry.

Selecting the Virgin could be the next Mega-hit, kicking my 600-lb Life to the curb.

Of course, like athletes having to pass drug tests, the aspiring sacrificees (if that is a word) would need certification to ensure we have a “virgo intacta.”

Male virgins cannot participate since it would be difficult to confirm their status, although you can usually tell by looking at them. Funny how life has made it so easy to place women at the forefront of our sacrificial needs.

If Virgins are too painful a choice, we might consider trying to sacrifice a member of Congress or the loser in the Presidential election.  Undoubtedly among them are no virgins, certainly a harlot or two, but would God care if the “aroma” of the burning flesh is not “fresh meat?”

It might bring out the vote. We’d kill two birds with one….never mind.

Then again, now that I think of it, for the offering to be compelling it must be meaningful. Abraham’s almost sacrifice of his son serves as a guideline. Nobody would grieve Roast Member of Congress or former candidate.

Isn’t the main act in the second half of the Bible a hint at what we need to do?

At the very least, sacrificing a virgin reduces the death toll to a tolerable level. I mean, isn’t one or two killed a year better since we can’t stop it all? If there is something to this Judeo-Christian tradition, isn’t the Second Amendment an inspiration from God?

tumblr_myjjelip4j1sum3xmo1_500Maybe it was on the stone tablet Moses dropped as he backed away from the burning bush? (I might be mixing up my Bible stories, but you get my point.) Because, if it was a Commandment instead of an Amendment, you anti-gun weenies might feel a bit foolish.

Go ahead, mock my idea. But think about it. Not one civilization where the practice of Virgin Sacrifice took place ever experienced a school shooting.

What more proof do we need?

 

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Cold War Redux

Let’s assume for the moment that President Trump is correct in his assertion that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians during the 2016 campaign. Indeed, to this point, there is nothing but conjecture and innuendo to show any such collusion.

PutinLet’s accept that premise.

Let us also agree that there is compelling evidence that the Russians intentionally interfered with the 2016 election seeking to prevent Hillary Clinton from being elected President. I think this is a legitimate contention. Not certain, but less speculative than most other scenarios.

Which leads us to the question, why did the Russians go to such extreme lengths to interfere in the election and derail Hillary Clinton’s candidacy?

Let’s consider the question.

While there would have been minor differences in Clinton’s domestic policies compared to President Obama’s, her foreign policies would likely have been much different. She might have sought to alter or solidify the Iranian nuclear agreement, take a harder stance on North Korea, or (here’s the key) enforced the sanctions against Russia as voted on by Congress. (https://www.cnn.com/2016/12/29/politics/russia-sanctions-announced-by-white-house/index.html)

As it has turned out, the Trump administration did exactly that, deciding not to impose sanctions. (https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/29/russia-sanctions-white-house-congress-376813)

President Trump also makes another viable contention. The Russian interference began as early as 2014, long before he announced his candidacy when it was clear that Hillary Clinton was favored (as it turned out, the fix was in) to win the Democratic nomination and, at that point, the Presidency.

If these reasonable and defensible points are factual, then the Russians feared a Clinton presidency more than any other candidate back in 2014. One could conclude they saw Mr. Trump’s later entry into the process in the same light. Better for Russian interests.

If this is the case, one can also suggest one of two probable corollaries. Mr. Trump’s campaign actively worked with the Russians to secure their own purpose or were duped by the Russians.

Either one is troubling.

Divining Russian motives is not an exact science, but once again we can rely on ole’ Occam’s razor for guidance. Look for the simplest explanation.

Любой, кроме Хиллари (Anyone but Hillary)

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Deja Vu All over Again

Reposted from October 2015 and likely to be reposted again and again and again, usque ad mortem accipit nos (see, Mr. O’Toole and Mr. Needham, I did pay attention.)

Guns, Laws, and Common Sense: Not Mutually Exclusive. 

Once again we face the horror of a school shooting. The politics of these issues need be stripped away so we can devise a solution.  Time is of the essence since lives are at risk.

One idea which might demonstrate a clear intent to set aside partisan bickering and seek a solution would be for all elected officials, Democrat and Republican alike, to refuse to accept donations from the NRA, related PACs, or any lobbying group associated with the firearm industry. Much like the issue over automobile safety liability championed by Ralph Nader and the automakers buying support in Congress through campaign contributions to stop Nader’s efforts we need to isolate these vested interests in arriving at a practical solution.

“Those who do not learn history, are doomed to repeat it” George Santayana

In light of the recent spike in mass shootings, the usual hysteria from both sides of the issue ensued. We have those that propose to eliminate all firearms. They lack any realistic proposal or plan for accomplishing such purpose, We have those that choose an unsupported interpretation of the Second Amendment that prohibits ANY laws that restrict or control private, non-militia related possession of weapons regardless of the nature of those weapons.

What we don’t have is rational discourse or commitment to do more than chant slogans or repeat tired and meaningless historical failures. The pattern is familiar. Incident, outrage, prayers, virulent accusations back and forth, search for rational motivation to irrational behavior, relapse into forgetfulness.

The cycle of response to such incidents is the classic process of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Except we replace acceptance with resignation to the insolubility of the issue because it is not simple.

One of the things I find most frustrating about opinions in this country is the lack of foundation upon which most people base their argument. I am willing to bet many of the staunchest supporters of the right to own firearms have never read the Second Amendment. I bet the same holds true for those that hold the opposite opinion.

They chant slogans and rhetoric without any fundamental understanding of the complexities involved.

For those of you so inclined to explore issues with a sense of logic and fullness of examination, I invite you to read a dissent by Justice John Paul Stevens (a Republican appointee by President Ford) in the case DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER (No. 07-290) 478 F. 3d 370, affirmed.

Take the time to read the case, but here are some selected quotes

“The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the right of the people of each of the several States to maintain a well-regulated militia. It was a response to concerns raised during the ratification of the Constitution that the power of Congress to disarm the state militias and create a national standing army posed an intolerable threat to the sovereignty of the several States. Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature’s authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms. Specifically, there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution.”

“The view of the Amendment we took in Miller (Miller, 307 U. S., at 178. )—that it protects the right to keep and bear arms for certain military purposes, but that it does not curtail the Legislature’s power to regulate the nonmilitary use and ownership of weapons—is both the most natural reading of the Amendment’s text and the interpretation most faithful to the history of its adoption”

“Since our decision in Miller, hundreds of judges have relied on the view of the Amendment we endorsed there we ourselves affirmed it in 1980. See Lewis v. United States, 445 U. S. 55, 65–66, n. 8 (1980).3 No new evidence has surfaced since 1980 supporting the view that the Amendment was intended to curtail the power of Congress to regulate civilian use or misuse of weapons. Indeed, a review of the drafting history of the Amendment demonstrates that its Framers rejected proposals that would have broadened its coverage to include such uses.”

“With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view. “The Militia which the States were expected to maintain and train is set in contrast with Troops which they were forbidden to keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia—civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion. “The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators.” Miller, 307 U. S., at 178–179.

What is clear is that the Second Amendment does not prohibit the states from enacting legislation to impose controls on the private, i.e. non-militia related, possession and use of firearms.

Now let me be clear, I do not oppose private ownership of firearms. I am not opposed to hunting, not opposed to recreational shooting but I think we all must acknowledge the risk that firearms pose to society.

Which leads us to access to firearms. If the NRA is so strongly supportive of the so-called “right” to bear arms, why would they be opposed to stringent regulations regarding purchasing and carrying these same weapons?

If the claim that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is true, then let’s ensure those “people” that obtain firearms do so honestly, are qualified to do so, and maintain that qualification. The goal being equal protection for everyone.

Here are my modest suggestions for dealing with the issues.

  1. Background checks for all firearms purchases
  2. Automatic relinquishment of all firearms upon conviction for any felony or possessing a firearm while intoxicated with a lifetime ban on ownership.
  3. Mandatory licensing of all persons owning firearms with annual renewals (we require hairdressers to renew their license more often than a gun permit)
  4. Seven-day waiting periods for any purchase (pistol, long gun, or shotgun)
  5. Minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years for any criminal act committed while in possession of a firearm, 20 years for the use of a firearm during the commission of a crime. (Perfect opportunity to empty the prisons of non-violent drug offenders and replace them with gun violators)
  6. Mandatory drug screening for all firearms licenses
  7. Mandatory liability insurance for all gun owners.
  8. Remove the product liability protections of weapons manufacturers to come in line with all product liability law. This is a biggie.  See  Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act PLCAA is codified at 15 U.S.C. §§ 7901-7903.
    This prohibits gun manufacturers and dealers from liability. We can sue companies for making soap look like candy, or food service companies for serving scalding coffee, but not weapon manufacturers for producing an inherently dangerous and easily misused product.  It strains credulity.

The other argument is that those that commit these acts suffer from mental disabilities. While this is certainly an aspect of the case, most of those charged with these crimes ultimately stand trial. They may have exhibited irrational behavior but it does not rise to the level of diminished capacity or being unfit to stand trial. A character flaw is not a defense to criminal behavior.

Take all of the tax revenue from the sale of firearms, ammunition, licenses, or any firearm related items and direct it toward access to mental health treatment. Sounds like the proverbial win-win to me.

Here is another rather interesting read, http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

The article dispels certain misconceptions about weapons and the dangers posed and underscore others. Remember knowledge is power, some would prefer to keep us in the dark. Don’t let that happen.

This is a dangerous world. It would seem to me that the American people, if they truly believe this to be the greatest country on the Earth, are wise enough to recognize we have a problem in this country and an obligation to deal with it. Isn’t it enough that a parent worries about things that can happen to a child without adding sending them off to school involving a calculated risk?

There are many smart people in this country, unfortunately very few run for office. We need to encourage intelligent dialog to deal with the problem of gun violence, not useless pandering to a select few.

Some would suggest that arming everyone is the solution. I think about that whenever I see images from other countries with everyone firing AK-47’s in the air and driving Toyota pickup trucks with anti-aircraft weapons.

I do not want to live in an America that is nothing more than an armed camp. The idea that we can eliminate all risk is silly, life is full of uncertainty; the idea that we cannot find a realistic solution to such a serious problem is nonsense. All it takes is for all of us to pay attention, understand the truth, and demand that those in position to find solutions do so or face finding a new place to live and a new job away from Washington DC.

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Killing Elmo and Big Bird

The latest salvo in the cultural deterioration of America comes with an attack on CPB, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and its primary operations the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR). The value of public media, supported by both public and private funds, has been a constant source of quality programs since it was created by an act of Congress in 1967. It has provided an excellent return on the federal dollars invested.

The effort to cut Public Broadcasting spending is not a new one. It seems this is a common theme whenever a Republican holds the Speaker of the House chair. Republicans would argue they are the party of fiscal responsibility (and deficit reduction) but the latest budget proposed by President Trump decisively puts that to rest.

Here’s a quote from 2012 when a previous effort reared its ugly head in Congress.

Cutting PBS support (0.012% of budget) to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500Gig hard drive

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) October 4, 2012

The percentage of the federal budget paid to PBS since then has decreased.

In 2017 that amount was $450 million out of a $4.147 trillion ($4,147,000,000,000) dollar budget, or 0.0018%.

What do Americans think about PBS and NPR?

Here’s a couple of interesting 2017 polls to go along with the one President Trump recently touted showing his rise in popularity. (Here’s the link to those political polls although Mr. Trump was a bit selective in his choice of which poll to highlight.  https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls/)

federal-funding-infographic-twitter

In the latest poll of voters regarding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS and its affiliate entity NPR) they overwhelming supported federal funding.

 

 

In a poll conducted on the public trust of information sources, the results showed a significant pbstrustlevel of confidence in PBS with the closest media competitor 18% behind. (Interestingly enough PBS is 30% ahead of Congress and the Federal Government.)

And last but not least, in a poll of parents of children under eighteen, PBS exponentially exceeded a host of other for-profit channels in educational values.1-pbskidstrust

 

 

 

 

All of this begs the question, in light of the dismal performance of most other media outlets and the federal government itself, why would the President seek to silence such an organization?

While I applaud any reductions in Federal spending when waste is identified, the Federal contribution to PBS doesn’t amount to a rounding error in the proposed $4.1 trillion ($4,100,000,000,000) dollar federal budget. I would think a quick walk through the halls of Congress could find much more meaningful savings.

The budget benefit realized from such cuts is barely a couple of bricks in the Muro de la Vergüenza Mexicano. Maybe we can get Mexico to kick in the $450 million and call it even?

If the budget benefit is so low, and support of PBS is so high among American voters, why the rush to cut the funding?

Like Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is often the correct one. A reasonable conclusion is that something simple, and infinitely more sinister, may be afoot. Perhaps it is the very confidence and trust in PBS by a significant majority of the American public that concerns the President.

Fake news doesn’t thrive when one eliminates unrestrained private control of the media and curbs their power to censor or edit the news. Publicly-funded resources like PBS and NPR provide a check and balance to the for-profit media. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting offers the best return on federal dollars invested for non-partisan, trustworthy media programming. Not just in my opinion but the opinions of a significant majority of American voters.

The press in this country must be free and unfettered.  One cannot, and should not, look to the motive behind the offerings of media outlets or seek to silence those who may embrace one philosophy over another. FOX and CNN may offer diametrically opposed views of the same story, but the truth is somewhere in the middle if you use common sense.

An informed and intelligent public should be trusted to find substance hidden in propaganda.

However, in the world of social media, where anyone with a keyboard and access to the web can post “news” stories, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a wise investment of federal money. Investing in a trusted source of information, by allowing it to be independent of commercial pressures, is money well spent.

We can hope the more rational Republicans in Congress will see fit to derail this effort.

ElmoPlease, Mr. President, don’t kill Elmo and Big Bird.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Special thanks to Jon Parker for giving me the idea, if not the tone, for this topic.  One of those unintended consequences I suspect. Click here to contribute to NPR and PBS. And be sure to thank Jon on Facebook for his thoughtfulness.)

 

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Words (and acts) of Wisdom once Common in America

I think we can learn something from the words of a great Republican President’s wise warnings about the future of America. This is a from the farewell address of President every-gun-that-made-is-every-warship-launched-every-rocketfired-signifies-12030955Dwight David Eisenhower to the American public before the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.

“As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.

Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Where have all the Americans like Eisenhower, or the “alert and knowledgeable citizenry” gone?

Here’s the ransoming of America’s future.

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Survival Skills: The Lost Art of Self-reliance

The backbone of America has always been the courage and indomitable determination of its people, no more so than in the wide-eyed enthusiasm and optimism of our youth.

But something has changed. Something fundamentally dangerous has weakened the latest generations. Not all mind you, but an increasingly significant number have no intestinal fortitude.

tireSome of the signs have been with us for a bit of time.

Handing out trophies for 9th place in a 9-team league.

Mercy rules to control the margin of victory (actually to anesthetize the pain of losing.)

The need for warnings about trigger words or safe zones where no one need be offended by, well, anything.

It is from the whirlwind of our disagreements that our best solutions arise. We chose to ignore this because somebody’s feelings may be hurt when we point out they are whining idiots.

Nothing better illustrates the “sissifying” (oops, trigger word warning, politically inappropriate term for those who lack self-respect or backbone)  of America than a commercial on various TV channels.

Two young men stand at the side of the road next to a disabled car. The car has a flat tire. One young man is on the phone with his father listening as the father explains their insurance company doesn’t have roadside assistance. Between the two men, they don’t know what a lug wrench is.

The father, instead of whining about the insurance company, should be teaching his son how to change a damn tire. I mean, you put the kid in charge of a several thousand pound mobile projectile lacking even rudimentary skills to perform such a simple task? It borders on child abuse.

We have raised a generation of illiterate and dependent mice on which rests the future of the country.

Frightening.

And then there’s the bullying phenomenon. It is as if bullies are a new invention no other generation ever faced. It’s not. Life is not fair. Get over it. I know I’ll hear from those who have some perceived example of extreme bullying, but I have an answer.

I honestly think this nonsense all began when parents switched sides in schools and adopted the mantra of not my kid, turning teachers into the enemy. If we once again gave teachers the latitude and respect they deserve, things might change. With our renewed support to let teachers quickly and forcefully address bad behavior, instead of looking for some external factor to blame, it would pay dividends in the future.

Instead, some parents blame teachers for the poor performance of their kids without making the least effort to support the teacher’s efforts at home.  Your child’s education is not something you order online; it is something you participate in and reinforce.  If your kids are failing it is not due solely to the teachers.

At the high school I attended, Cumberland High School in Rhode Island, there was a legendary teacher named J. Richard Charland.  He taught a business course and was the Dean of Students. The title Dean of Students is a kinder and gentler way of saying head disciplinarian.

When you were there, you lived in fear of crossing him. He would often tell us that he had spoken to our parents and they gave him permission to knock us around if we got out of line. Whether it was true or not, most of us believed it.

Some had it demonstrated.

Mr. Charland recently passed away and the universal outpouring of admiration and respect from several decades of CHS graduates (and even a few who may have had a shortened high school career) was telling. He made a difference and helped steer generations of CHS grads towards being better adults.

His reputation was built on a demand for mutual respect and underlying love of students. He dealt with those incidents that inevitably arise in the hormone-ravaged teenaged years firmly, swiftly, and appropriately.

No one sued the school when they addressed problems. No one blamed teachers for bad grades. No one looked to some psychological excuse for bad behavior.

I wonder if we can ever reclaim the courage, heart, and endurance that built this country if we have generations who lack fundamental respect for teachers, basic math or literacy skills, or can’t even change a tire?

Please don’t bully me or say things that may trigger my anxiety.

 

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Where Have all the Real Reporters Gone?

There are no more Walter Cronkite’s

Cronkite

Walter Cronkite was the face of news reporting in America for many years. Others joined him, David Huntley and Chet Brinkley, Eric Sevareid, and more who reported the news without distortion or interpretation.

Oh, that we had such reporters today.

When Cronkite or the others interrupted a television show with the words “we interrupt this broadcast for breaking news,” it was for something that mattered. They told the story, relayed the information, and left the commentary or analysis for those who made their function clear.

Cronkite’s integrity and honesty were so highly respected that, when he went to Vietnam in 1968 shortly after the Tet Offensive and gave a brutally frank report on the conduct and state of the American involvement, his words turned the tide of American support for the war.

After Cronkite’s report, President Lyndon Johnson told his close personal advisers, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the American people.” As history shows, Vietnam was a death knell for Johnson’s administration. Cronkite’s reporting, not criticism, not condemnation, not opinion, just his reporting of the facts on the ground in Vietnam was what made the difference and changed the course of a government.

President Trump’s approach to critical reporting is to attack the source. Such tactics will remain effective until news broadcasters develop a reputation for integrity that withstands such attacks, the absence of such reporters is sad and troubling.

Today’s 24/7 breaking news agenda driven media thinly disguised as reporting is a pox on America and the tradition and powerful voice of an independent and trustworthy free press.

News today is blood sports entertainment. Broadcast media, amplified by social media, has turned news into the Roman Circus. Truth becomes the moral equivalent of Christians fed to lions. The lions being the talking heads misdirecting facts to suit their particular bent and twisted into truth tearing carnivorous attacks.

The reason we ended up with such a divisive election is the result of the media widening the chasm between liberal and conservative philosophies. America’s strengths have always been its ability to embrace a centrist policy. Neither too left or right wing. Marginalizing the extremes on both sides and melding the best into a successful strategy.

Clinton made the error of trying to embrace Sanders more extreme foreign policy agenda and social programs, perhaps out of some sense of recompense for her gerrymandering the convention, and it hurt her in middle America.

Trump exploited this by firing up the extremes of the right, the xenophobic isolationists, and distorting the threat of illegal immigration. His embracing the “criminalization” of his opponent with the “lock her up” chant is a playbook out of many authoritarian governments throughout the world.

And it worked, Sanders supporters who couldn’t vote for Trump or Clinton voted for third parties or didn’t vote at all. Some Democrats crossed over to Trump because of a perception that he was the lesser of two evils.

All of this facilitated, compounded, and occluded by a profit-driven media seeking only to boost ratings.

The print media, a dying breed due to the changing nature of technology and the short attention spans and dirge of analytical thought among Americans, still has not found a way to preserve its place despite continued outstanding reporting by many of the established newspapers.

In the final analysis, until the news is no longer considered entertainment, we will continue down this dangerous road. Those of us who recall the Cronkite’s of the world, in whom you could place your trust in the truth of the reporting, long for a return. Those raised on the 24/7 media circus don’t understand what they’re missing, or the damage it does to the country.

Cronkite

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