Americanized / The Dilbert Future – BONUS POST

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The first Bonus Book of the Week is “Americanized, Rebel Without A Green Card” by Sara Saedi, originally published in 2018.

According to this slim volume (which appeared credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), the author’s family had a difficult time getting permission to live permanently in the United States, after fleeing the Iranian Revolution in the early 1980’s.

The author, born in 1980, provided a host of details on her family’s immigration ordeal, and her own life’s trials and tribulations (mostly First-World problems). Incidentally, she unwittingly wrote a line that would have subjected her to cancel-culture [In 1992]:

“…I’d personally reached peak frustration levels at our country’s complex and seemingly arbitrary immigration laws. I wanted to get on the first flight to Washington, DC, and storm the Capitol, but I didn’t, because any form of criminal activity would get me deported.”

Read the book to learn more.

The second Bonus Book of the Week is “The Dilbert Future, Thriving on Stupidity in the 21st Century” by Scott Adams, published in 1997.

The author discussed his predictions, obviously at the book’s writing. One of them was particularly accurate:

“As dense as they [the children] might be, they will eventually notice that adults have spent all the money, spread disease, and turned the planet into a smoky, filthy ball of death. We’re raising an entire generation of dumb, pissed-off kids who know where the handguns are kept.”

(!!!)

Read the book to learn more of the author’s insights.

Ghosts from the Nursery

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The Book of the Week is “Ghosts from the Nursery, Tracing the Roots of Violence” by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley, published in 1997. The authors cited scientific studies to support their assertions about the links between the increasingly younger ages at which Americans are committing increasingly more frequent horrific crimes, and the social and cultural trends that are driving this alarming revelation.

At the book’s writing, in the United States, criminal justice system spending was three times (!) the entire healthcare budget. The authors argued that the seeds of criminality in humans are planted in the womb rather than in early childhood, as previously thought.

Environmental factors, such as a future mother’s or father’s consumption or inhalation of toxic substances, alters the reproductive mechanisms in a fetus’ brain cells. If the fetus’ environment is neglectful, chaotic or hostile– people are raucous, or physically abusing the mother-to-be– it stands to reason that the child might have behavioral problems later on. These problems could range from hyperactivity, impulsivity, attention deficits and learning disabilities to criminality.

The range and extent of damage done varies with the time frame in which the abuses occur. It has been found that any amount of alcohol drunk by a potential father or mother can adversely affect: spermatozoa and ova weeks before conception, the zygote, embryo, fetus and then the child’s health thereafter. Maximum visual damage is done to the brain of a fetus, when the abuses occur during the limited time, for instance, in which the neural connection from the retina to the visual cortex is made. Language skills develop or fail to develop, similarly.

The opposite is true, too: a nurturing environment will maximize benefits for the child (even in the womb!) when parents’ soothing or happy voices are heard by the fetus during his or her audiological development. After emergence from the womb, the baby can recognize his or her mother’s, father’s or others’ voices. Preverbal memory (an emotional vibe emitted by parents and others– a mood felt by the fetus and then infant and then child) stays with everyone through their entire lives. Parents have been shown to display the same behaviors their parents did with their own babies and children.

The authors mentioned several European studies that showed the incidences of juvenile criminality and suicide increased with an increase in unwanted pregnancies. That’s obviously a can of worms. But, since reams and reams of data have been collected from decades and decades of sociological, psychological, medical and legal studies worldwide, perhaps a multi-pronged approach applied locally would help– instead of commissioning more, additional expensive studies for the purposes of procrastination and patronage.

HOWEVER, one particularly rich vein of data on how to invite failure of the multi-pronged approach at the federal level of poverty-fighting (and on a related topic, crime-prevention), can be found in the administration archives of the late president Lyndon B. Johnson. A 20/20 hindsight look at the enduring actions he did take, are unfairly omitted from the history books that show an anti-liberal bias. His administration saw the start of Medicare and Medicaid and the passing of landmark civil rights legislation. BUT, these great accomplishments were overshadowed by conspiracy theories that he plotted the assassination of JFK and of course, his role in a needless war.

Johnson had grand plans to eliminate poverty at home, but shortly after he came to power, he decided to send Americans abroad to fight a war that led to countless deaths and ruined lives. And continued to rationalize why it needed to continue. Johnson’s anti-poverty programs weren’t given sufficient time to succeed because they became starved for funds.

That is why this country has regressed on the social-programs front: Every American president has sold his soul to the MILITARY [Currently, that military is fighting a war at the Mexican border instead of overseas; a future post of this blog will elaborate on this].

The only president fully justified in diverting significant taxpayer monies from improving conditions at home, toward fighting a war, was FDR. Since WWII, alpha males with hubris syndrome have been funding military actions whose long-term costs outweigh the benefits.

As a final insult that indicated that Johnson had major control issues, was the fact that he cruelly teased his own Democratic party by withdrawing from a 1968 reelection bid at the last minute, leaving the field to a few other candidates, and uncertainty in his wake. He also gave his political opponents a golden invitation to smear him in so many ways.

Granted, there are countless other vicissitudes of history that come into play with any president’s actions, but as is well known, campaign-finance regulation in America has become horribly eviscerated in recent decades, so the increase in financial influence of special-interest groups other than the military, has also played a role in this nation’s shifting priorities.

Be that as it may, the United States’ practices fly in the face of reason by bringing in a “pound of cure” (after the fact!) via a complicated, expensive bunch of bloated, bureaucratic government services (special-education, welfare, foster care, criminal justice, etc.). Instead of an “ounce of prevention.” One specific program has been found to be the most effective solution thus far in preventing crime in the long run: infant home-visitation programs, because the problems are dealt with early! This was the conclusion of a criminology team who submitted a report to the U.S. Congress in April 1997.

Clearly, different levels of government can implement more of a combination of social programs and legislation in order of what works best pursuant to all those scientific studies (preferably longitudinal ones), regardless of costs, limited by whatever the budget will reasonably bear; instead of going the easy, greedy, or power-hungry, politically expedient (and fraught military) route.

A grass-roots movement would have to hold officials’ feet to the fire on that– perhaps appealing to their egos by giving them a legacy via a footnote in the history books crediting them for getting it done. This, while keeping political patronage to a minimum (It used to be called “honest graft” but has reached excessive levels in certain regions; time will tell whether upcoming elections oust the “Tammany Hall/Boss Tweed” contingents.).

So, for instance, a hypothetical mandate for a large, diversely-populated city might consist of:

First, an infant home-visitation program;

Second, no-charge universal pre-kindergarten program;

Third, stricter background checks and bans on specific firearms and loophole-closing;

Fourth, a community-policing program (that does not involve military hardware) like those mentioned in this blog’s posts, “L.A. Justice” and “Riverkeepers”; and

Fifth, imposing and enforcing a legal maximum to class sizes in early-childhood education.

If additional funding is found (for whatever reasons), there could be other kinds of education programs that deal with issues such as: teen pregnancy, sex education, birth control, substance abuse prevention (all possibly as a part of the high school health-class curriculum), parenting classes, family planning, welfare-to-work, at-risk youth centers, and job training– again, prioritized from the most to the least effective outcomes.

Anyway, read the book to learn much more about research results on this topic, and the authors’ suggestions on crime prevention via focusing on ways to improve outcomes in connection with pregnancy and child care.

Maverick

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The Book of the Week is “Maverick, The Personal War of A Vietnam Cobra Pilot” by Dennis J. Marvicsin and Jerold A. Greenfield, published in 1990. Marvicsin nicknamed himself “Maverick.”

Born in 1940 in Mansfield in Ohio, Maverick had a burning desire to become a helicopter pilot. He joined the Navy right out of high school, but after a year and a half, switched to the Army in order to fulfill his dream. In September 1964, he began boot camp in Fort Wolters in Texas, and finished advanced training in Fort Rucker in Alabama.

According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), in 1965, Maverick began his first Vietnam-War tour in Vinh Long. The American military base there had comfortable living conditions, and creature comforts such as alcohol and cigarettes. At his periodic reassignments to other locations, he encountered primitive accommodations. He began by flying re-supply missions to ARVN troops and American advisers in the Cam Ranh Bay area before a full military installation was built there.

The American military killed not only the enemy, but also dangerous animals such as tigers, and elephants because they were useful beasts of burden to the enemy. In autumn 1965, when he began flying a Huey helicopter that had the ability to return fire– for the purpose of rescuing the war-wounded– he took to the work like a fish to water. When they answered a typical call for help, he and the three other adrenaline-junkies in his crew rushed to “… the middle of the jungle, miles from the base, but someone had set off a red smoke grenade which meant enemy fire.” A crashed or shot-down chopper might be stuck in the trees with fire all around, and the pilot pinned in the wreckage’s cockpit.

On more than one mission, Maverick got to host a highly-decorated military bigwig. This, in an allegedly aerodynamically improved aircraft (but it had yet to be perfected and was shot down), such as the “…brand new Charlie-Model Huey with the fancy 540 rotor system, and now it’s fancy garbage and it’s on fire…”

Maverick began his second tour in Vietnam in Tay Ninh, a mountainous region where the Viet Cong had made tunnels underground. The Huey helicopter had been replaced by the Cobra, which was easier to maneuver but had its own flaws. Regardless, the traumas of war had caused Maverick to become twice shy about getting emotionally close to his fellow soldiers. He said, “First tour, you make friends and they get blown up or shot down or simply never come back. Second tour, you make no friends.” One of numerous other emotionally troubling aspects of Maverick’s participation in the war was not knowing how long it would be, if ever, before he was released when he was taken as a Prisoner of War.

Read the book to learn of many more episodes of Maverick’s personal experiences in combat, in captivity, and in collecting medals and glory.

BONUS POST

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“Inflation, profiteering, and corruption are rife, and the food situation and (closely connected therewith) the transportation situation are most serious, as is also the housing problem… The present regime does not at present command a sufficient majority, or perhaps sufficient constructive talent to initiate the drastic measures which alone could save the situation.”

The above happens to have been written in January 1946, by the British embassy in Rio de Janeiro, about Brazil.

The Bonus Book of the Week is “Brazil, The Fortunes of War, World War II and the Making of Modern Brazil” by Neill Lochery. This wordy and redundant volume described how a South American leader, Getulio Vargas– through cleverly navigating: relationships with war alliances and foes, and tricky political issues– was able to modernize his country by the Postwar Era, compliments of American taxpayers.

In late 1937, Brazil got a new Constitution. Vargas, duly elected leader since 1930, had gotten friendly with the United States in exchange for agreeing to fight Italy and Germany when war came. However, by May 1938, there occurred a failed coup against him; perhaps partly because he had banned all political parties except his own. His enemies included the Communists and the Fascist Green Shirts (Integralistas), and he wasn’t exactly buddy-buddy with two of Brazil’s top military leaders.

One conflict Vargas faced in September 1939, was that he couldn’t afford to make trouble because: Brazil’s military was weak, Brazil traded with both Germany and the United States, and it had immigrant communities from Germany, Italy and Japan. Vargas’ speech at the May Day parade in 1940 didn’t go over too well with the United States, as his language was that of a Fascist; he sounded like he was siding with Hitler and Mussolini. This was deliberately calculated to tease FDR, in order to secure financing for a steel mill in Brazil.

By the time of the infamous December 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, Brazil had still yet to receive the bulk of the weapons it was due from Germany and the United States. Brazil had a fuel shortage, and the U.S. supplied Brazil with most of its fuel. Other wartime hardships and plot twists abounded; 1942 was a year crowded with incidents, too numerous to mention here.

Suffice to say, in autumn 1945, when dissatisfaction with Vargas reached critical mass among military leaders and many ordinary Brazilians, there was distrust that he would actually hold free and fair elections. They were scheduled to be held in December 1945.

Read the book to learn what happened in August 1954, and about the cast of characters and propaganda that shaped the history of Brazil just before, during and after WWII (hint: public relations schemes included wartime visits to Brazil by Walt Disney and Orson Welles, thanks to Nelson Rockefeller.).

Ask A North Korean

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The Book of the Week is “Ask A North Korean, Defectors Talk About Their Lives Inside the World’s Most Secretive Nation” by Daniel Tudor, published in 2017.

As is well known, North Korea is an insular dictatorship, one of just a few left in the world. From birth, its people are brainwashed into worshiping their supreme leader, the dictator. His leadership style resembles that of Stalin’s: threatening the oppressive social order will cause one to be arrested in the middle of the night and thrown into a political prison camp.

There is one-party rule (the Workers’ Party). The people are allowed: no free speech, no freedom of assembly, no due process, no freedom of religion (Christianity or any other), and anyone who does not work for, or is not a sycophant of the government is probably poverty-stricken.

Jail time or public execution awaits those who are caught in possession of videos or music from the West (likely the United States, China, Hong Kong or South Korea). A tiny percentage of North Koreans get a view of other cultures, but only when they are permitted to travel to China on business, or when they risk their lives to listen to radio broadcasts from South Korea.

The government owns ALL property of all of the people. It even used to provide limited amounts of food and goods to the people. But in the 1990’s, the country suffered from a famine that forced people to become creatively capitalistic in order not to starve to death. North Koreans living near the borders of China and Japan traded black-market consumer goods with them. They hunted, fished, bred domestic animals and literally prostituted themselves. Illegally, they sold alcohol.

In North Korea, the most economically powerful entities are those that obtain foreign currencies because they are affiliated with the government, which is an unavoidable behemoth of cash-only bribery and corruption. The people do not have credit cards or even bank accounts.

Cars, which are very few in number, are a status symbol in the country’s capital city, Pyongyang. Those who own them are likely government workers, who have drivers. The highly coveted job of driver requires obtaining a license that takes a minimum of three years to obtain. One needs to get training for the job, but first must achieve hard- won acceptance to one of only two driving schools in North Korea. Unsurprisingly, there is a black market in fake driver’s licenses.

A high percentage of North Korea’s population is in the military at any given time. For, males must serve a minimum of ten years; females serve seven. Exceptions include college graduates, who serve five years, and science or engineering majors serve only three. Ironically, malnutrition is widespread in the military, as North Korea does not provide its ranks with enough to eat (!)
Read the book to learn a wealth of additional details about North Korea.