Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Reum

The last few years have been fascinating as to what constitutes a fact versus an opinion. In the last election, it seemed that the national mood was exasperation. It became apparent that the nation's voters were paralyzed and did not care to investigate the arguments that various office holding incumbents used to explain their votes in legislative assemblies such as Congress.

In an election where most of the focus in 2016 seemed to be on which issues that the candidates coyly evaded, the word obfuscation took on new significance. The old adage emerged that candidates should nod their heads empathetically to constituents while not giving honest opinions about anything of consequence. It seems that being "warm and fuzzy" trumps being principled and honest. The honesty is reserved for dark money campaign contributions.

Since the Vietnam War, the trust of the American people has been repeatedly and cynically taken for granted by public servants who listen to campaign donors and pretend they hear the voices of voters in their home States and Districts. Should a concerned employee indicted for being a whistleblower be treated as a traitor? The Pentagon Papers, released in 1970 to several United States newspapers, had been kept classified for years prior to their dramatic entry into the public court of opinion. Through defying the norms of the Departments of State and Defense, Daniel Ellsberg was able to show the citizens who took the time to read the Pentagon Papers the dysfunctional, irrational, and wrongheaded manner in which the USA set post World War 2 policy in Indochina.  The USA's failure to understand was that the Vietnamese people simply wanted France and later the USA TO GET OUT OF THEIR COUNTRY.

The newspapers of the United States are privately held, the First Amendment allowing them an unfettered and critical role in the close examination of governmental policies, actions, and degree of success or failure that results from them. The tension between the constructs of freedom and authority, obedience and personal action of conscience, and cultural maintenance and innovation could be termed the checks and balances of a nation's society. The architects of our nation's beginnings were keenly aware that the effect that rigid/absolute or underdeveloped models of decision-making were toxic to the development of a long- term nationally prioritized agreed system for social change. 

The current tension between the Executive and Legislative branches of our government over the possible meddling of the Russian government in the 2016 election cycle calls into question the manner in which then possible future members of the Executive Branch interacted with the Russian Government while  involved in Republican campaigning for the Presidency.

The democratic model of national government is vulnerable to espionage precisely due to the independent media and the Constitutional freedom to vote, protest, financially influence, and offer dissent regarding various stands on issues at all levels of governing--family, city or county, state, and national. Such dissent creates huge  forces pushing for their desired outcomes which can be manipulated by subtle or secret espionage interactions not easily traced back to their origin.

When one of the three branches of our government is permeated with toxic foreign influences systematically and secretly advanced, the only possible counterintelligence answer is to ruthlessly self-examine by backward engineering the espionage strategies that worked and eliminating them.

If the targeted or victimized government branches uncooperative to the counterintelligence systems,  the counterintelligence is hobbled, making the operations of the enemy espionage more likely to be successful.  The self-serving and ruthlessly ambitious politicians become blind to the fact that they are being played like a banjo by forces hostile to free elections in a democracy. 

The citizens of a democratic republic owe it to themselves to understand the deleterious  impact of a successful espionage disinformation campaign. Instead, they must decide to hold accountable the elected or appointed officials who refuse to ruthlessly seek the truth to remedy a successful espionage disinformation campaign. To do less is to open the door to demagoguery and lies from the very people who were elected to seek the truth without exceptions.

To seek truth, the public official must remember the principle that government is only possible if the official in question remembers that he or she serves  by consent of the people.

Copyright 2018 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Heroes Are Hard to Find by Peter Reum

The impact that television and similar media present daily has  been life changing, mainly making the viewer's access to world events instant, and, at times quite shocking. With news channels available 24/7, there is very little left to the imagination pertaining to the people whose lives are closely intertwined with stories that broadcast news shows tell.

Pete Townshend's The Seeker conveys glimpses of the interface between television viewers and witnesses to tragic events. The person who is the target of a truth seekerin real life may be an introvert or feel indifferent to the public as a whole, yet is capable of finding the needed presence of mind to respond in a manner that is empathetic in a given situation.

The advent of email, message boards, and sites that are socially complex, like Facebook, has led to the shrinking of the emotional  gulf between family and friends. In my situation,  I have friends that  I have made over a 50 year span who share a strong interest in music. They live in 50+ countries around the world, and we often Skype or chat in real time to keep up with each other.

The advent of use of sites like Facebook for raising money for friends who have been touched by some sort of tragedy has made the world a smaller place and perhaps less xenophobic. Recently, I used Kickstart to help produce a film on a poet whose work deserves more attention than it has gotten. The ease that large nonprofit organizations have in raising funds for short term or long term projects has allowed nonprofits to use their websites to  seek people  from highly diverse backgrounds to discuss how a given project will be structured.

The overwhelming flood of media stimulation that the person who uses online news sites and network national/local news is the effect upon the viewer in question. That person is flooded by media output and is desensitized to the human tragedy or joy.  The most dramatic effect for viewers is that they have lost the ability to empathize or really internalize the implications of worldwide news stories. Part of the problem is the rapid pace that serious and tragic stories are presented. The death of hometown newspapers, combined with the local television and radio stations being gobbled up by national news giants, as well as the blurring of news and opinion on 24 hour news channels has made the world more connected, whether wanted or not. The overall net effect is that events that are tragic on a large scale happen what seems like every week. The desensitization and loss of the effect of feeling empathy due to loss of perspective is profound.

One sad example of this pattern is the high frequency of the massacre of innocent adults and children through terrorism and senseless wars. The reaction that people who are usually nervous regularly have is that the frequency of violence combined with the immigration of traumatized war refugees into their various countries who do not speak the national language of the host nations frightens or offends the sensibilities of some nations' citizens. If the economic picture of such a nation in question is  stagnant, fear rises and normally quiet citizens express their fears openly. Through the media, especially television, the fears of the worried population can be manipulated by unscrupulous politicians and heightened, making despots, once thought impossible to rule to be successful.  The rise of fascism in Germany, Japan, and Italy in the years between the two World Wars was often attributed to economic depression and inflation. In the case of Germany, an added factor is the terrible terms that Germany was forced to adopt to end the World War 1.

The scope of heroism as a paradigm has both broadened and shrunk. To be a true hero in today's world, the heroic consistency and stability of national, local, and family leaders has risen in the collective mind of families, regions, and nations. Today, due to the high rate of divorce worldwide, the couple that stays together and raises kids or exerts local leadership is often considered heroic. Partners in marriages that last with kids who reflect the best aspects of society's norms are heroes. Conversely, for other people, heroes are people who are entertainers or athletes. There are a few other avenues to becoming a hero. People who are towering examples of moving forward their vocation dramatically could include Nobel Laureates, scientists who improve quality of life, Peace Negotiators, and Leaders of Nations and Regions that improve quality of life.

The question directed to you as a person is Who Are Your Heroes and Why Do You Hold Such Heroes as exceptional persons in your life?

Here are some of mine...

Brian Wilson

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer

Georgia O'Keeffe

George Gershwin

Soren Kierkegaard


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Montanans in Disneyland: Some Observations by Peter Reum

Over the holiday break, my wife, the kids, and I spent 6 days in Southern California. Our plan was to visit Disneyland and the newer California Adventures Park. Our trip to and from Anaheim was paid in advance, including airport transport to and from LAX. Anaheim's local transit  system was also excellent, taking us from outside our hotel to the admission gates of both parks. We paid everything in advance through Disneyland Travel Services, who were very helpful in giving us choices for the decisions we had to make.

Flying economy is difficult in traveling anywhere. Our United Airlines flight attendants made our flights less stressful by pleasantly talking with our kids, who are 8 and 9. Our time at the Anaheim Disney Parks was compromised by enormous attendance at both parks. For anyone planning to go to both parks, I would suggest traveling at a time that is not a vacation period for schools. Crowds at both parks were very large, and park visitors have to be respectful of Indigenous tribe's traditional practices, as they  as they wind their way through park rides and themed sections (e.g. Frontierland).

My last visit to Disneyland was in 1986. I had a two year old child on that visit. I was fortunate to have had several visits. I went to Disneyland for the first time when I was four, in 1957, when Disneyland had been open for two years. The memories from that first visit are somewhat hazy.  Fantasyland and Frontierland are the areas that made the biggest impression 60 years ago. Disneyland has always been crowded on the visits I have made.  As time has marched onward, Disneyland has changed the exhibits and rides to reflect the nation's changes. This is excellent.

I remember Monsanto having had a home of the future, and using the slogan "better living through chemistry." This was in my 1957 visit. Parking was ample, and the way the parking lots that were set up made it easy to find our 1955 Mercury when we were done with the park. The Matterhorn coaster was still on the development plan. Crowds were large, but waits for park attractions were much shorter. As the Fifties passed into the Sixties, Walt Disney World took up more of the Disney Company's time.

When Disney World opened, for a time Disneyland was less crowded on my visits. It seemed that Disneyland was given less attention by Disney Corporation.  Despite the company's priorities being mostly shaped by Disney World, new attractions were periodically opened at Disneyland. As time moved along, new attractions opened at both parks regularly.

The story of Disneyland after Walt Disney's passing in 1966 was for me all about the Disney family carrying on Walt Disney's vision and staying true to the vision Mr. Disney had for the Disney Company's various operating divisions.   There was a point when Disney Corporation appeared  to have lost some of the clarity Mr. Disney brought to the operating divisions of Disney Corporation. At some point in the Eighties, the Disney family holdings in Disney Corporation became a minority interest with other investors holding majority interest.

The Disney Corporation's priorities moved into an international platform with Disney amusement parks opening in Asia and Europe. Disney Corporation placed themselves in the burgeoning cable television market. The Disney Channel and it's offshoots were dominant in the cable television market for programming targeting young viewers. In the Fifties and Sixties, Walt Disney's weekly show dominated Sunday night programming on ABC. In the Nineties, Disney Corporation bought ABC....!

Disneyland, the former flagship park in the Disney chain of amusement parks sadly began to show its age. An intense long-term  development plan brought Disneyland into the Twenty First Century. Attendance at Disneyland expanded and grew. New attractions boosted the public's interest. New areas of Disneyland and the new California Adventures Park made Disneyland competitive with parks like Six Flags and Magic Mountain.

The Disney name became synonymous with excellent service to customers.  Disney patrons were called "guests" and other service and vacation sector market corporations used Disney's customer service model with similar successes. Disney's  reanimated pictures experienced a rejuvenation of box office success that brought awards and an anticipation of each new Disney film that had not been witnessed since the Sixties. Disney rereleased Walt Disney's masterpiece,  Fantasia. The film finally received the artistic adoration it had always deserved, and Roy Disney, Walt's brother, oversaw the release of a 21st Century sequel to Fantasia that was acclaimed.

Over the first decade of the 21st Century,  Disney became an entertainment giant. Disneyland was expanded correspondingly.
That brings me to our visit to the park over the holiday just passed.

Disneyland/California Adventures combines the traditional vision of Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom with the overpowering Star Wars franchise. There are the original sections, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, and new attractions in Mainstreet, plus all of the attractions in California Adventures.   The price for a day in Disneyland is $125 For an adult and $95 for young children.

Price stated, I would like to offer some observations about my family's experiences in both parks - Disneyland and California Adventures...

1) The two park's "cast members" were unfailingly helpful. We misplaced our son's diabetic medication and testing kit one night. We were given excellent  instructions on who to see and report the lost kit. The staff's instructions were given clearly, and as they predicted,  the kit was in lost and found the next morning as they had predicted.

2) The abuse of the so called "fast pass" insofar as the disparity how fastpass buyers and regular patrons are treated is a very disappointing. The wait time  fit most popular rides until 40 to 50 fast pass holders got their ride on an attraction.  Regular customers are admitted at roughly one regular customer to fifteen fast pass  holders. The regular customers are called "standbys" and on high attendance days have wait times averaging rights times longer than fast pass purchasers. This often results in a 3 hour wait time for popular rides.

3) We found that food quality at both parks was generally fair to good, but that the prices were excessive for what you buy. The problems centered on food quality and presentation. But for the price, helpful staff tried to speak with a supportive understanding tone to our family.

4) The staff people we met were pleasant for small talk. Disney Parks seems to attract high quality staff.  Their loyalty to standards of the original founders has a solid positive impact.