Monday, May 31, 2010

Why are they Changing Health Care?

          Recently I was in a university math class when the boy beside me made some snide comments about my Canadian health care, punctuated withsome ill informed statements about the current American health care reform. This rather annoyed me as I was aware of some rather abysmal facts about the previous United States health care system.  That is the event which inspired me to investigate more closely the United States Heath Care System, its benefits, its shortcomings, and the newly introduced health care system.

          We are all aware of the benefits of health care, or at least we would quickly be if we did not have it.  Any health care is good health care, but our goal is not to have adequate health care, but the best possible to ensure a high quality of life.  In this publication I will examine some of the current health care problems, many of which this new system was, and is, being designed to correct.  This hopefully should allow you to understand why such a health reform is in process, and what issues need to be addressed.

          This publication is not meant to examine Obama's health care, or the United States health care in general, it was designed solely to show some of the reasons why a change is necessary or logical.  The United States has one of the best health care systems in the world. I am showing some statistics that focus in on why the United States needs to continue to reform, while doing so I am not focusing on the currently working programs of the United States health care except as they related to the negative ones.


Something commendable about the United States Health Care is that they are not skimping on monetary support.  The United States spent 17.3% of their gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009 which is up from a little over 13% in 1999.   That is a rise of about 30% in the last ten years.  It is estimated that by 2017 the GDP percent will have raised to 19.5% a 3% rise in 7 years.  That's a total of $2,466,336,000,000 (2.5 Trillion) or $8,000 a person (307 million people in the USA).  There are a minimum of 15.3% of citizens uninsured (22,933,893) (excluding illegal citizens who still get emergency care).  So in reality the average American pays ($2,466,336,000,000 / (307,000,000(US POP) – 22,933,893(Uninsured))) $8,682 annually. That is 20 %( 2003 stat) of the long term American earning average of 43,000 a year.

             This amount of money in comparison to other countries is exorbitant. The next closest contender is Switzerland at a little over 11%, which would have to increase its price by 40% to match the United States GDP output towards health care.  It is 60% more than Canada's cost.

            Now heath and quality of life should be worth that money right?  So if the US is spending head over heels more than any other country then there should be Rudolph Giuliani stated "the best medical care in the world". And this could very arguable be true for the top medical centers in America but as the New York Times declared "the disturbing truth is that this country lags well behind other advanced nations in delivering timely and effective care".


            The World Health Organization preformed an assessment of the level of health and health care in countries around the world.  According to this study the United States Rates 37th in the world out of 191 countries, which is on the outside of the top quarter for overall health care system.  This was assessed by several factors.  Of those factors the funding and responsiveness significantly boosted this mark while the overall health in the United States and the fairness in financial contribution drug the mark down.  The following are the categories and ranking.

CategoryRank out of  191
Health Level24
Health Distribution32
Responsiveness Level1
Responsiveness Distribution3-38
Fairness in financial contribution        54-55
Overall Goal Attainment15
Health Expenditure per captia1
Overall level of health72
Overall health system performance  37

            Other notable countries rankings are:

CountryOverall Rank
The United Kingdom18

            A second study done by the Common Wealth Fund compared with five comparable countries  (Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom)  the US ranks last (if GDP spending is not taken into the equation), or second to last (if GDP spending is taken into the equation as a positive).  From the Common Wealth Funk:

"Among the six nations studied—Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States—the U.S. ranks last, as it did in the 2006 and 2004…The U.S. health system is the most expensive in the world, but comparative analyses consistently show the United States underperforms relative to other countries on most dimensions of performance…The U.S. is the only country in the study without universal health insurance coverage, partly accounting for its poor performance"


            The association "Save the Children" published a report called "The State of the Worlds Mother Reports" where it gauges the combined and individual health care quality of care for mothers and children. The United States placed 28th out of the 43 in the "tier 1" countries overall ranking. Below is a listing of key developed countries in the weighted ranking system which I  have abbreviated.

Following are some comments from this study regarding the low United States ranking

"One of the key indicators used to calculate well-being for mothers is lifetime risk of maternal death. The United States' rate for maternal mortality is 1 in 4,800 – one of the highest in the developed world. Thirty-five out of 43 developed countries performed better than the United States on this indicator, including all the Western, Northern and Southern European countries… A woman in the Unites States is more than five times as likely as a woman in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece or Italy to die from pregnancy-related"
"At this rate, a child in the U.S. is more than twice as likely as a child in Finland, Iceland, Sweden or Singapore to die before his or her fifth birthday."
"Only 61 percent of children in the United States are enrolled in preschool – making it the seventh lowest country in the developed world on this indicator."
"The United States has the least generous maternity leave policy – both in terms of duration and percent of wages paid – of any wealthy nation."
"The United States is also lagging behind with regard to the political status of women. Only 17 percent of seats in the House of Representatives are held by women, compared to 46 percent of seats in Sweden and 43 percent in Iceland."
          On the official United States of America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) the United States ranks 48th lowest infant mortality rate at birth with 6.7/1,000(2008) which is high comparative to other systems.  Furthermore is seems to be on the rise from 5/1,000 in 2006. As Medical New Today said:

"…the USA has fallen a long way behind [in the live birth death ratio]."
Below is a list of comparable countries.

CountryRankMortality Rate (X/1000)
Hong Kong52.92
United Kingdom324.85
United States466.26


            The quality of health of a country is a good indicator on the effectiveness of the health care system.  The health care system is specifically to support the people in becoming and staying healthy.  Although ultimately personal health is primarily the responsibility of the individual, the greatest testimony of a user system are the users.

     We have seen in the above health care assessment study that statistically the overall health of Americans ranks 72nd in the world.  As an established nation when we think of health we may firstly jump to the thought of weight, as that is the most common ailment in our society, this is a big contributor to this number but if this were the sole factor the united states would be ranked 191 out of 191.  The rank of 72nd is abysmally low for an established nation, this is below many south America countries, and is on par with Iraq.
Body Weight

    Having said this, statistically 30.6% of Americans are obese (Meaning that they have a BMI (body mass index) greater than 30 Kg/sq.meters).  This is over double the international average and the highest percent in the world.  It ranks high even in comparison to its immediate neighbors Canada and Mexico; Canada being ranked 11th at 14.3% and Mexico being ranked 2nd at 24.3%.

What is more is that a good majority of Americans are overweight (67%), making it the norm.  Possibly more disturbing is the rise of child obesity currently at 17%.  Being overweight makes it more difficult and more expensive to get health care.  It leads to a spectrum of illness and conditions, which brings down the overall health of the American people.  Although we cannot say that medical care is to blame on these statistics, it does shoulder a portion of the blame. What is clear is that what we are doing is not working, and it is not getting any better.

When it comes down to it, controlling weight is up to the individual, which means what has to change is the mentality.  This focus can start on a national level with health care. There is hope that in the new health care will focus more on child obesity, rising awareness, and getting doctors to focus more on keeping the citizens healthy.  With this focus in school, with regular check-ups and evaluations it is hoped to change the American mentality on weight.


Aside from weight and the associated complications therein, America still has several health issues that it is trying to resolve.  One of these is smoking.  An article from "America's Health Rankings" summarized the recent efforts to cut smoking out of the American lifestyle:

"Despite focused efforts, nearly one in five Americans [or 21%(2003)] still smoke, which is only 8 million people fewer than 20 years ago."

Although this number may seem high to some, and the decrease of habitual smoking depressing, the percent of Americans that smoke is below the international average of 24%.  It is ranked 44th highest female smoking rate and 115th highest for men.  These statistics are on par with most of the established world nations.  Although this is a serious problem in the United States it has little to no negative effect on the overall ranked health of the United States in comparison with other nations.

Life Expectancy

As the purpose of health care is to support and encourage good health a great measure of its effectiveness is how long a person lives.  The United Nations publishes a "Human Development Index" which measured the quality of life in selected developed and developing countries.  This index, or ranking is weighted on three dimensions: Life expectancy, Education, and standard of living.

In their assessment of life expectancy they placed the United States ranked 38th highest life expectancy in the world with a life expectancy of 78.2 years (75.6 for females and 80.8 for males). This is above the international average of 67.2 (2005) by 11 years.  Below is a comparison of a few countries and life expectancy.

CountryRankLife Expectancy
United Kingdom2279.4
United States3878.2

  So although the United States does have an above average score, but compared to other economically leading countries, the average is much lower then would be expected.

Below is a graph showing the correspondence between amount paid to life expectation.

Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL)

Year of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) is a measure of premature death.  It shows the additional years a person would have lived if they had not prematurely died.  It examines the overall expected life expectancy of the desired sample group, then calculating the difference between actually life length and the expected age (Expected Life - Age of Death = Potential Life Lost). To get a country's YPLL you calculate the cumulative number of years lost of a sample size, the total YPLL is generally calculated per 100,000 people. The United States is currently rated the 3rd highest YPLL country with 10%.  Comparatively this is 48% higher than its northern neighbor Canada which has a rate of 6.7%.   Below is some key countries YPLL.

CountryRankYPLL% Compared to US
United States34,9620%
New Zealand83,644-36%
United Kingdom103,392-46%

A health care should be striving to minimize premature death.  Some may assert that these years are generally not related to health care as much as the United States homicide, suicide, and accident rates.  It is true that the US has an above average homicide rate in established nations, it being three time the amount in Canada.  But in comparison to overall world homicide average, it is much lower with it being only 10% of the homicide rate of Honduras rates.  Although the US has a higher than average homicide rate for an established nation it does not hugely effect the overall YPLL rate of the United States as out of 100,000 deaths only 4.2 are murders, to find the actually effect of murder is on the YPLL you need to multiply this number by the years they lost.  The mean age of murder victim is 27, 51.2 years younger than the US average of 78.2. Thus the YPLL attributed to murder for the US is around 215 years (51.2 X 4.2), which accounts for only 4.4% of total YPLL.

A large percent comes from infant and child deaths, as we have discussed above, but the Majority of the YPLL comes from medical reasons.  Some of those medical fatalities are for reasons that our current medical knowledge considers unpreventable, or untreatable.  But a large portion of these years come from people who are uninsured or underinsured.  45,000 people die a year because they do not have insurance. Many die because they do not receive medical preventive measure because their insurance will not adequately cover the treatments, or because they simply do not have the money to make the copayments to combat chronic illnesses.  I am not suggesting that the majority, or even a large minority, is because of lack of medical care, but a significant number do die due to problems with health care.  Below is a graph showing the breakdown for premature death. Keep in mind that this accounts for reasons of death and not PYLL.

 Death Amenable to Health Care            

To get down to some "real" health care meaty statistics we can look at the extreme topic of death  amenable  to health care, or death that could have been prevented to timely and effective health care.  This is quite simply how many people died a year when they didn't have to.  This is one of the best ways to measure the quality and coverage of national health care.

            In a study published in the peer-reviewed research and commentary "Health Affair" it aims precisely at this topic. The goal of the study was to see how the countries that participated in the World Health Organization's health care ranking system would be ranked if all the other factors were stripped away and all that was left was death amenable to health care.  The way this is tabulated is that they took the World Health Organizations constructed list of ailments or conditions that can generally be treated at their corresponding ages by proper health care attention.  Then they took the countries with highest quality mortality documentation and plugged it into the list that was constructed. Then they received the list of people that hypothetically could have been saved if they had access to proper medical care at the proper time.

 So how does the US stack up against the other countries?

The following are the statistics from 1997 – 1998 study a little more than 10 years ago.

 The United States is on the lower quadrant of the graph, but from statistics that we have already seen this is not a big surprise.  Overall it is not doing all too terribly but is only a little behind the average.

The following are the statistics from 2002 – 2003 only 5 years later.

            An important note is that everyone is decreasing in deaths  amenable to health care, this is a good sign, and it means that we are continuing to hone our health care systems and techniques.  The average improvement of any given country in this graph is 16%.  If we look at the United States though we notice that it only decreased by 4%, a much lower rate of decline than any other country on the graph. What is more it is now has the highest mortality rate  amenable to health care out of all of the countries listed.  So apparently this can tell us that the Health Care system is considerably underperforming in comparison with other developed countries and what is more, is that it is not significantly improving. The United States could take a couple leaves  out of the other countries books when it come to health care.

                    The major contributor to these low number is that all those other developed countries have universal health care whereas the United States has been working off of privatized health care, where money talk;   If you have the money to pay for health care you can have the some of the best health care in the world.  But if you don't, well then you can come to the hospital is you are dying, but don't expect too much.


The narrow coverage of the United States health care is the source of the majority of negative attention in international health comparisons.  The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 45.7 million Americans (15.3% of the total population) have no health insurance coverage. The Commonwealth Fund published an article in Health Affair that states 16,000,000 (16 million) (5.3%) (2003 statistic) Americans were underinsured.  That is a huge percent! One in every five Americans have inadequate insurance.

The following are some statistics retrieved from surveys:

"Among adults surveyed in the U.S., 37% reported that they had foregone needed medical care in the previous year because of cost… 42%—among those with chronic conditions"
"19% of U.S. adults surveyed reported serious problems paying medical bills, more than double the rate in the next highest country [in the study]."

Mental Health

In one study the United States dominated a study of 14 countries in prevalence of mental illness at a rate of 26% of the population is mentally ill, or will be diagnosed as such.  This could also be linked to diagnosis practices and effectiveness for less developed countries, but for established countries it is fairly accurate.  A look to Canada shows an estimated 20% that will suffer from mental illness, this is still a 30% lower rate than the US, but it is much higher than the other countries in the study. There is currently a lack medical coverage for mental health. It is estimated that less than half of those suffering a mental illness receive treatment for it because of lack of access to care or because of stigma. This leads to more and more serious conditions then if they would have received health care in a timely and efficient manner.

The Medically Uninsurable and Underwriting

With privatized medicine it isn't focused on the people as much as it is about the money. It is a business and a competition. In most states the people go through a medical screening process called underwriting.  This is essentially the policy that the private medical country has the right to deny coverage based on the health information provided, and also to set the rate of the premium. This is to ensure that the company makes a profit off that plan. All in all it is an investment and a gamble.  The Medical Insurance is betting that you will pay more money in then you will get out, while you are betting against those odds.  Because of this practice there are some people out there that insurance companies will not bet on, and thus they are labeled as "uninsurable". These are those who are not able to get health care anywhere because of preexisting conditions. Disease is a big part of the factors that keep these people uninsurable but also common ailments such as acne or being overweight or underweight.  An estimated 5,000,000 in America are considered uninsurable because of preexisting conditions.

A survey of a large company showed that 13% of all applicants were denied plans, out of the 87% that were accepted 22% were offered higher than average insurance rates, which the other 78% received regular rates.  Insurance acceptance rises correspondently with age, thus it will be easier and cheaper to have insurance when you are young, as the insurance companies see it as a easy bet.


          As discussed in my previous post "Propagating Propaganda", a way to manipulate people and their ideas is to latch on words with negative connotations to influence the people to reject the idea, not based on content but based on association. It comes from the human desire to put everything into a box. If you can link negative images and emotions in the mind of a person the object then becomes associated in negative ways. The government constantly uses this in even small ways such as changing "The Department of War's" name to "The Department of Defense". In our minds we associate war with negative emotions, and defense with positive emotion.  We see war as bad and defense as good, even though the functions of the department didn't change the thoughts, emotions and connotations changed because of the change of name.  It gets placed in a different box because of the title we give it.

           During and post World War II there was and is a huge communist scare.  There were many people calling others "communists" as a dirty word, a way to label people.  Communism in general is not inherently evil; if it were conducted purely it has many, many good effects and very few negatives.  The obvious problem in the soviet system was that it wasn't being conducted that way, and as far as we know there have been no successful communistic societies.

           Universal health care is the focus of pejoratively.  It is labeled unaffectionately by many Americans as socialized health care this to predispose the people against it.  The term first came around to public usage to employ this propaganda method against Harry Truman's health care initiative in 1947.

 Universal health care goes back to the Germans who introduced a universal health care in 1882.  Britain constructed their universal health plan in 1911. Most other developed nations adopted it shortly after World War II concluded as a result of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This article was presented by the United Nations to set a standard of rights that everyone is entitled to.  In it was discussed the right of life, the right of equality, the right of freedom, the right of non-discrimination,  the right of presumed innocence, the right of privacy, and several other fundamental issues that were not observed during World War II.  It was signed by the majority of developed countries at the time.  The United States did not ratify the 25th article which states:

  1)Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

           For this cause at this time most of the developed countries adopted universal health care, which generally greatly improved the general health of the countries.

           Despite what may be said about Universal health care, it is the most widely used health care system in developed countries; it has and is replacing the privatized medicine.  The top ranked (according to the World Health Organization's ranking) medical care countries are all using universal health care.

Below is a map from Wikipedia made before the new United States health care decision which shows the prevalence of universal health care. Both blue and green are Universal health care systems where grey are other systems or where there was no data available.


How much is a human life worth?  Having discussed this topic with many Americans due to the current reform, and the propaganda spread about universal health care, in particular Canada's health care, I have noticed a prevailing selfish attitude among the majority of people.  Many get angry that they would have to pay for someone else to receive health care. The health care in the United States is catered for the rich while is buries the poor. According to the statistics for 2002-2003 there around 337,700 people that die every year that don't have to, that is the size of New Orleans. The American people are griping about paying less to save more lives, not because of the price, but because that means they feel they are paying for indolence, that they may in the process help someone who doesn't deserve to be helped.

 Where is the most expensive medical work preformed? The hospital. The United States public is already paying for the health care of those uninsured and underinsured by the means of hospital bills. Rather than these people getting the preventative measured they need they are forced, or choose, to go without because of the exorbitant price.  In a few months they will get the care they need from the hospital staff, but you can bet this far down the road it will not be their last visit.  At this point they will need to make regular stops at their hospitals, they will not able to secure health insurance, and will be caught in the rapid whirlpool of health care with no hope of escape.  As the platitude rightly states:

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Out of the federal budget (not GDP) the United States spends 23% on the Department of Defense, formerly the Department of War, which for 2011 has a predicted budget of $1.003–$1.223 trillion $1,223,000,000,000.00.  That is about $4,000 a person. Maybe instead of sending off trillions of dollars to other countries to fix their governments, the United States should look to fix their own first.  Instead of spending their money on guns that are in part responsible for the 5,400 Americans that have died in war this past decade and 120,000 Afghanis and Iraqis, maybe it should be spend in saving the lives of the (estimated) 3,377,000 Americans that, in the same amount of time, died unnecessarily due to the inefficiency of health care. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Sign of Jonas Blog

     I have recently started a new personal Mormon based religion blog called The Sign of Jonas.   I invite you who are religiously inclined to follow the posting that will be published there. If you are interested in authoring for this site below is an email sent out to those specifically invited to join our community.

The reason I have created this new blog and did not choose simply to express my ideas on the Know Justice blog is because that this blog, in my mind, is to be an unbiased look at things as they are. This has been my goal in publishing on Know Justice: to provide facts and reasonable assertions with a minimal amount of authoritative conclusions but leaving the conclusions to the reader.  

          On The Sign of Jonas blog, it will be approached from a biased pre-supposed position.  It will examine information with an assumption of the faiths validity and from a faith perspective rather than secular knowledge.  It will be addressed to those who have knowledge of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its doctrine and its history.  In my vision of this blog, this is not the place to be pushing my own personal beliefs.  I would prefer to keep those ideas separate from the ideas on Know Justice to best insure the unbiased nature of the blog which I have strived to observe.

          Thank you for your support.

For further information about The Sign of Jonas blog, see the following links:


This is a formal invitation to join us as an author of the academic research blog "The Sign of Jonas" blog.  This is a newly initiated multi-author blog that has a focus on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Each of the authors of this blog has a unique and distinct focus on the blog that has chosen by the authors.
The Sign of Jonas blog team is currently searching for "Regular Publishers" (once a month 1,000-2,000 word post), along with authors willing to publish occasional or incidental posts as a "guest" blogger.    
You have been recommended as one who has the interest and the ability to create academic and coherent religious studies. We would welcome your contribution and support in whatever way you wish.
As an author you would have administrative power over The Sign of Jonas Blog, and The Sign of Jonas Forum, where you help moderate discussion.  Also as an author there is a section in the forum restricted for authors only wherein ideas and plans are discussed, which will be coordinated by The Sign of Jonas Calender.
If being a Regular Publisher interests you please review the attacked "Expectations of the Authors of The Sign of Jonas Blog" then follow the instruction under the "Application Form for Authorship on The Sign of Jonas Blog" attachment.

If you are interested in becoming a Guest Author it is only needful to read and follow the instruction in the "Application Form for Authorship on The Sign of Jonas Blog".

Your response will be reviewed by the existing member of the team and we will respond to your e-mail by the end of May.  After this period there will be Author discussions on the forum.  The blog is anticipated to launch its first post June 6th 2010. 

Thank you for you time, we hope to hear from you soon,

The Sign of Jonas Team

P.S. If you know of others who would be capable and might be interested in participating please forward this message along to them.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Seventy-Six and Counting

Crescent Valley, Nevada: one square mile, one elementary school, one gas station, two hundred people, seventy-six stop signs. It was the densest concentration of nothing within fifty miles in the middle of the waste which is northern Nevada. Fortunately for these people, God loves all his children and sent to them two willing, young men on a mission.

Speeding down the I-80 in a 2006 Mazda 3, my cruise control was set to 83 miles an hour, just 8 miles over the limit that way if the cops were to catch me with their radar guns they would not pull me over since I was not even going 10 miles over the limit. It was 10:15 in the morning and there was not a cloud in the morning sky. I squinted down the road as the sun glared back at me off of the blacktop. There was no denying it; even with the air conditioning maxed out it was a hot summer morning which only promise was a hotter afternoon. Gently droning from the car speakers was the enthused voice of a man lecturing. I glanced over to my passenger, he wore a white shirt and tie with a stark black name tag over his right chest pocket His seat was reclined, sunglasses askew with his mouth draping open. His hair, shaggy, brown, and unruly, hid his forehead from view while his eyes remained shut and motionless. His hair was way too long for missionary regulations. He just did not realize how important it is to be obedient. I turned back from my sleeping companion to survey the road ahead of me. There was one thing that was for sure: being the senior companion had its drawbacks. Most notably in my mind at this moment was the responsibility of driving.

On this particular trip our destination was the aforementioned Crescent Valley. We were currently exiting of the town in which we were stationed, Carlin Nevada. The town was really only good for one thing: gold. What else would lure 3,000 people to a little town with no natural resources or beauty in the middle of a desert? Everyone in the town was working for the gold, whether directly or indirectly, their efforts were to support the extraction of this shiny substance.

            We, as the missionaries in the area, covered a huge geographical area a little over 8,000 square miles. That is about the size of New Jersey. However, unlike New Jersey, which has thousands of cities and a population of around nine million, this desolate portion of Nevada consisted of only three small towns: Carlin, Crescent Valley, and Eureka, each of which were significantly distant from each other and which collectively was home to fewer than five thousand people.

I looked out my window to the left; there was nothing but a cluster of rolling hills and a vast panoramic horizon. I thought I could see a point of reflected light shining in the sea of brown, it must be a shed or possibly a small trailer home.  Being stationed in Carlin defiantly afforded me a lot of opportunity to dive. I would have dreaded driving if I didn’t enjoy it so much.

As missionaries we do everything together. We eat together, read together, travel together, shop together; we even sleep in the same room. As a rule we were to never be apart from our companions. This can become very stressful at times. You do not get to pick your companions, and sometimes you just need to be alone for a while. These regular trips afforded me the opportunity to have some solidarity. As we would prepare to go on one of these trips I would slip in the Mazda, crank up the air conditioning and pop in one of my favorite lecture CDs. This served a dual purpose: firstly I really did enjoy listening to Truman Madsen speak of the Life of Jesus Christ, and Hugh Nibley speak of the ancient prophets but also because it quickly and effectively placed my companion in a comatose state, allowing my mind to wander and be freed from the constant confinement of companionship.

 As I turned off the main road onto the car rumbled and swayed as we started down a narrow gravel street. My companion jerked awake. He quickly readjusted his seat and then fixed his glasses. He looked around; there wasn’t much to see. The rolling hills were behind us now, the view now was nothing but flat, treeless desert, which was littered with mobile trailers and a few small houses. A few dozen meters ahead was a fire-red stop sign caked in dirt, an utterly useless precautionary measure as you could see a car coming down the road from ten miles away. As I approache I scanned the horizon: not a sign of life in sight. I continued on through the stop sign. It was illegal but I blame my audacity and dissonance on the fact that I am a second child. Second children are notoriously free willed and natural rule breakers. It was not a big deal.

We took a right onto a smaller, less-well maintained gravel road. A sign proudly proclaimed the roads name: Hillbilly Lane. A short while later I threw the car into park, unbuckled my seatbelt and opened the door. I was greeted by a scorching vindictive cloud of trailing dust, two dogs and a half-dozen young boys. This was our first stop.

            An hour later we returned to our car, which in our absence had been turned into an oven. After it had cooled we continued on our journey. Five minutes later we were passing the crown and jewel of the community: the Elementary school. It is a huge school for the number of people who attend it. The grounds were pristine and held a monopoly in the city on grass. You see, because of the gold mines and the low populations of the area, the cities receive huge sums of money from the mines which goes into the public facilities of the area. As I approached the school I glanced at a sign at the side of the road: School Zone: 15 miles an hour. It was an hour since school let out. There was no one in sight. I continued at 45 miles an hour beside the school. Ahead was another stop sign; I slowed to 30, looking around. I saw in the distance a bus traveling very slowly. I continued on through the stop sign. We just had one more stop, and then we would start on our way home. We approached the trailer, walked up the constructed stairs and knocked on the door. There was no reaction. After about fifteen seconds longer and a repeated attempt to notify the occupants, we returned to our vehicle.

As I slammed my car door behind me I fell back into my seat, my head tilted towards the roof, my eyes shut. As I sat up and turned the key in the ignition I surveyed my surroundings. The horizon was a tapestry of purple and red. How stunning it was to see the darkness creep into the sky. The sinking sun bred long shadows from behind the far blue mountains, texturing the otherwise barren landscape. Maybe Nevada did have some redeeming beauty after all.
My companion turned to me; “Hey, we need to go to the Holts and pick up some milk before we go home.”
“Right.” I replied.

I turned from the view and we drove off towards the Holts’. The Holts were an extremely nice family who were members of our church. They supported us by feeding us when we came to Crescent Valley, telling us who needed to be visited, and giving helpful suggestions and information. They also owned a couple of milk cows and offered free milk to the missionaries.

As we pulled up next to their high fence and walked in through their driveway we saw Brother Holt was outside doing some chores. Brother Holt was a middle aged man in his late 40’s. He was about 5’10” with salt-and-pepper hair, slightly overweight with thick large rimmed glasses. He was wearing jeans and a tight striped collared shirt. I smiled and waved to him, offering a salutation.
“Brother Holt! How are you doing?”
“I’m doing well, how are the Mission Mormonaries doing?”

After a few moments of talk he looked deep into my eyes. I could tell that something was coming. Brother Holt was known for several things, one of those was for being forthright and opinionated. There was something in those eyes that told me that I was now the focus of his opinionated displeasure.
“I have a bone to pick with you two!”
“What is that?” I asked
“Who is the driver?”
“I am.”
“Well then I have a bone to pick with you! Do you believe in obeying an honoring the law, Elder?”

I didn’t like the way he used my title, nor did I like his aggressive tone of voice. This was a rebuke, I knew it, and the use of my title was merely an attempt to manipulate me. He was also citing an Article of Faith, a pillar of the Latter-day Saints doctrine.
“I do.” I replied
“I don’t l know if you know, but I am a school bus driver. This afternoon as I was returning to the school with the bus I saw you blow past a stop sign in a school zone going forty-five miles an hour! We are trying to show the people in this town what kind of people we are by the kind of lives we live, and it’s tough when you go and blatantly disregard the laws. I have it all on camera on my bus.  The footage now belongs to the school, they can do with it what they want, whether it involves you getting a ticket or not.”

Walking away from that conversation I felt a spectrum of emotions. We grabbed our milk and started the long trip back home. There was no CD playing, I was very concerned about getting a ticket.  Missionaries do not make money, all I had was the money I had earned from work back home as a cabinet installer, which was already in use to support me on my mission. On the way home my companion attempted to console me. He told me of how Brother Holt was being unfair and how he doubted I would get a ticket. Shortly after, he fell asleep, leaving me in the solitude of my own thoughts driving towards the failing rays of light emitting above the mountains. It was ridiculous the way he reacted, who is he to lecture me? He is just a grumpy old man. He has nothing better to do then to harass the people that were trying to do some good in this deplorable town. There was no logical reason for the laws, no one even lived there! There were more four wheelers on the road then cars, what is the point? It was unreasonable! I felt a passionate wave of anger towards the man. I had a strong desire to speed past that same intersection going 80 miles an hour with Brother Holt standing on the corner. That would be satisfying, that would be justice. I would show him what I thought of his tirade. I smiled at this, as the final rays of sun disappeared. I felt closure, I felt a simmering pleasure laced with vindictive fury. As I sped down the highway I looked over to my right at my passenger; his seat was reclined, glasses askew, mouth draped open. His shaggy hair hid his forehead from view while his eyes remained shut and motionless. I looked out my window to the left; I stared at the silhouette of the mountains eclipsing the bright shining stars for a long moment.

 I closed my eyes and whispered to myself; 
“He was right.”

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P.S. Pictures taken by Lynden.  The families name has been changed, though it seems pointless as if anyone in that area were to read this they would know who it was.  If anyone in that area or family does read this know that I have great respect for that man/family.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Propagating Propaganda

"Propaganda (prŏp'ə-gān'də)

The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause.

1718, from Mod.L. propaganda, short for Congregatio de Propaganda Fide "congregation for propagating the faith," committee of cardinals established 1622 by Gregory XV to supervise foreign missions, prop. abl. fem. gerundive of L. propagare (see propagation). Modern political sense dates from World War I, not originally pejorative." (

     When you hear the word "propaganda" what comes to your mind? What do you feel?  How big of an influence is propaganda in your life? What every day decisions do you make that are driven, at least in part, by propaganda? 

     Propaganda often elicits ideas of deception, betrayal, and manipulation.  Images of Nazi Germany, North Korea, and China come easily to mind.  However, is propaganda by nature unethical or wrong? Could there be positive propaganda? How pervasive is propaganda in the so called "free countries"? 

Before answering such questions, we must first address what propaganda is and how we can recognize it. 

An Introduction to Propaganda
          Propaganda is simply the expression of a certain view while purposefully excluding other contrasting views. As discussed previously, the word propaganda has been in use since the 1700's. However, propaganda techniques have been commonplace throughout all of human history. 

          The origin of the word "propaganda" is religious. In 1622 the Pope Gregory XV created the "Congregation of Propaganda" in order to win back defectors from the Catholic Church. Only recently has the word propaganda held such deep negative connotations. The word "propaganda" is now commonly used as a slander or attack against others, particularly in politics. However, propaganda is not necessarily a bad thing. Propaganda can be seen everywhere, it is used by every major faction or organization on the earth. Every hour of your day you will likely encounter propaganda, whether you are watching the television, reading a book, surfing the internet, studying in a classroom, or talking to a friend.  

         Propaganda is distributed through a variety of medians. In the 20th and 21st century world there have been great developments in methods to propagate propaganda.  These include radio, newspapers, posters, cartoons, movies, television, books, blogs, social media, and the internet. Among the most effective methods of distributing propaganda is to expose and integrate the message into the audiences recreational lives.  While you could spend weeks distributing thousands of pamphlets or booklets, this method hinges on the peoples desire to read them. In most cases it is much more effective to use the entertainment media to air a commercial or endorse your product.

         As a man flips through his paper a poster catches his eye. On the poster are familiar images that he has associated feeling towards; The swastika -- "Hitler", "Germany", "evil"; the Hammer and the Sickle -- "communism", "Russia", "evil"; The stars and stripes -- "America", "patriotism", "good".  Already in 5 seconds this poster has portrayed a message to this person's conscious and subconscious mind stronger than if he had spent an hour reading a pamphlet on the ills of communism and Nazi Germany.

Methods and Techniques of Propaganda
          The use of symbols in propaganda is very effective and widely used, especially in politics. As a casual observer, these symbols may seem to be easily tuned out or ignored due to their familiarity, however, while consciously these symbols may not have much impact on you, much of modern propaganda deals with subconscious perceptions and associations. This is particularly true in political adds. For example, in the 2008 presidential election, if you look at the participants advertisements you would notice a almost universal color scheme, with three colors, red, white and blue. They often have stripes and stars on it as well. I am sure that you are not surprised, but at the same time, I doubt that you took notice of it. Most often it is seen as just a common background for, but this is an often used subliminal message. This message affirms to you that the candidate is a patriotic "true" American, not only that but it can infer that if you are patriotic you must vote for them.
          Television goes one step further. How often have you seen an army commercial, the next time you see one pay close attention to the images and music they use to invoke feeling into you. 
          These examples are sensual ways that propaganda is administered, through symbols, through music, through color and shape. Other ways that it is administrated is through carefully intentional mental strategies designed to influence you. The following are some examples of cognitive strategies used in implementing propaganda. 

Name Calling: By giving labels to a person or an idea it allows their audience to quickly classify and judge the object. These names often elicit a "us versus them"  attitude,  Democrats vs Republicans, Christians vs Non-Christian.  This allows an audience to judge something off the of established prejudices and opinions rather than logical rational.  People want to have things in nice little boxes. When a box-like suggestion is presented we are inclined to accept it and apply all the attributes and emotions of that box to its new occupant regardless of its validity. This effectively helps the audience feel the "appropriate" emotions and come to the desired conclusion. Name calling can both detract from opposing viewpoints and build your own authority.  Generally when referring to adherents of your view you maximize their credentials through terms such as "scholar" or "expert"  while the credentials of those who oppose are minimized or ignored.  

Connections: The technique of connections is where a person gains authority or validity from a publicly trusted figure thus influencing people to a decision that they otherwise would have rejected or further questioned. Common administrative allusion is to the church, or the country, and especially science. They will often use these words to avoid conflict. "The pope said..", "according to science..." etc. Connections also are used through symbols; the swastika, the cross, a flag, Uncle Sam, a solider, a president, etc. This can be done explicitly or implicitly. You can openly declare your affiliations or you can be subtle by closing a meeting with a prayer, implying Gods sanction. Many times connections are made by quoting out of context, or omitting key thoughts from the texts.

Testimonials: Although testimonials are not necessarily misleading often times those who are giving the testimonials are not qualified to speak on topics they are testifying of (E.G. Jenny McCarthy on autism and vaccines). This is similar to connections as it is influencing the decision of a persona by the endorsement of a trusted, or idealized by the public, who more often then not are not qualified authorities in the matter.

Common Folk: This is where the aerator seeks to appear in the same situation as the audience, thus empathizing and leading them to their conclusion. This is propaganda because it is deceptive and manipulative, they put on an image to change people mind. This is done frequently in politics; candidates will take photo shoots or videos, chopping wood, fishing, gardening, etc. Then ask for endorsements because you can now see that he understands you and will represent you.

Bandwagon: Peer pressure, I am reminded of a saying from a catholic priest when asked what if they are wrong, that "if we are wrong there are 1 billion of us going down". That is security in numbers, a trust in the majority. Last night I was at a show comedic improvisation show.  With propaganda techniques on my mind I noticed how pressured I felt to applaud when all the rest were doing so regardless of the act or my desire to do so.  At the end there was a standing ovation which was altogether compelling.  The next time you are in a similar situation just don’t clap and keep in your seat and you will realize what a power that bandwagoning has over us. Altogether it is not bad for the uneducated decision to follow the majority, when making choices on this ground it will lead you into error and will invite manipulation. Who has not heard the justification of an obvious fallacy "Everyone is doing it"?

Half Truths: To gain validity you lull the masses into security with truths, but lead them into half truths; truths that can be viewed as true but are misleading, or even flat out wrong.

Fear: Perhaps the most explicit and also the most common propaganda technique. All of us have been exposed to it. From our earliest memories our parents used fear to control us: "If you are late again you are grounded!", "If you don't do you don't stop right now I'm going to send you to your room!". At school we are subject to is as well in the form of detention, suspension and expulsion. We may get it at church "If you don't ___ you'll go to hell", we get it from the government "We are in desperate circumstances and the only thing that will change this is ___". We get it from the TV and salesmen who are trained to present a problem and give the solution. It is now law that fear propaganda appear on all cigarette packs. Fear comes in the form of a threat to your way of life, whether it is your job, your home, your freedom, your family, your children, your religion, your ego, or anything else.

          In these modern days the greatest source of propaganda, and the greatest remedy is the internet. You can find anything that you want on the internet, but it is extremely hard to secure validity. For every cause there are lies and propaganda on both sides on the internet. This is ironically the same reason the internet is a remedy for propaganda; because the information is out there for anyone to see. Ultimately it lies in the hand of the readers desire and ability to distinguish truth. Many choose not to look for the truth, but look for propaganda that will support their existing prejudices.

US History Of Propaganda
          These are just a few of the several diverse ways that we can perceive propaganda. As far as a history of propaganda in the west goes, the start of a government sanctioned propaganda system really started when the US renounced its isolationist views at the onset of their entering into World War I. War is a tough thing. There is always opposition, and with opposition comes problems, governments turn to propaganda to turn the people, the use titles, symbols, ideas, and band wagon arguments and advertisements to control the people. World War I is when widespread US government funded propaganda truly initiated. Too see more on the rise of US propaganda during WWI see this short 1:30 clip below.

World War II American Propaganda
          The climax of explicit US government funded propaganda was during World War Two. Below are some pro World War II US implemented propaganda posters. As you view them notice how they implement different propaganda tactics. Notice the color tones, the symbols, the emotions they are playing on, and the end of their advertisement. What do they want you to do? Why? What will happen if you don't? How does this control the people?

Cartoon Propaganda
          The following are some well known animation studios that helped the government by producing World War II propaganda. Once again pay attention to the messages, it is important to note the audience, although it if for children the messages are for their day and effectively molding the minds in order to suit their agendas.

An American Perspective of how the Nazis work, and how they maintain control.

An attempt to solicit war bond purchases

Axis Propaganda
          Due to allied propaganda most are quite aware of the German, Russian, and Axis propaganda campaigns.  Due to this I will not spend a proportionate amount of time on them.  Of course on the other side of things there was even more propaganda implemented, but I will not spend as so much time on this due to the fact that it is widely known. But here are some anti-allied propaganda.

Post-Axis Russian Propaganda

Korean War Propaganda

Vietnam War Propaganda

Cold War Propaganda

          These posters and videos of wartime propaganda are somewhat explicit in their methods. They utilize emotions to trigger action. In modern days propaganda has often become more subtle, propaganda has not ended since the cold war.

Modern Propaganda
          Today we face it, in every aspect of out lives but still continually in war. As discussed earlier a way to control popular support for a war it to create and distribute propaganda. A good example is too look to the "War on Terrorism". The title in and of itself is propaganda. You go up to someone on the street and ask "Do you support the War on Terrorism", it would be counter intuitive to reply "no", because the title itself employs generalization, images, and symbols. Is invading countries, killing thousands, and uprooting governments really a War against terrorism, or is it terrorism itself? If you do not agree with the war then you are labels "Anti-patriotic", "Anti-american", and maybe even "terrorist". In a similar word game the "Department of War" changed its name to the "Department of Defense", not because of the lack of war but because of the connotations of the words. It still remains the Department of War, for that is what it deals with but the new sounds more noble and righteous rather than domineering.
(not an actually government issued poster)
A Pamphlet distributed the US Psychological warfare to Iraqis saying "This is your future with al-Zarqawi"
          As this is a current war it is more difficult to distinguish propaganda from fact, but a few things have come to the surface, and other are obvious. In this war the US starting using "Black Propaganda", which is creating false information published or distributed purporting to be from the other side of the conflict. America set up radio stations in Iraq that claimed to be pro-Saddam but reported pro-American material. Also a government funded operation was found in 2005, where American material was given to Iraqis to publish in their paper under Iraqis names.

          Aside from propaganda administered to the Iraqis, there is a large degree of propaganda administered to the American citizens. The first evidence of this is the fact that the above information was only revealed and admitted by the government after it was revealed by a source. I once talked to a man who drove a truck over there for over a year during the initial invasion of Iraq. He told me that the causality numbers and details that were released were far off from the actual. He told me a lot of things that isn't spouted off in the reports, some details, some numbers, some atrocities, many of which are not reported to the people. That is a form of propaganda, that knowledge is vital for citizens choices.

          Coming generally from the media and religious leaders is coming an influx of anti-Muslim/anti-middle-eastern propaganda. From name calling to racial profiling we see this is action. here are some examples.

          Aside from the misinformation of Americans, and deceptions of Iraqis there is also the same pro-War. Lets examine this recruiting commercial.

Notice what it is telling you to do, and why. It is telling you to join the army because:
1) It will make you the strongest person on earth (physically, mentally, emotionally, character, purpose)
2) You will gain the respect of others
3) You will receive rewards
4) You will be doing what is "good"
5) You will make friends and be part of a community where you belong
6) You will be serving your country
7) You will have adventure/amusement/excitment
8) You will be obedient
9) Help this earth

          Notice some of the symbols used to portray these aspects. A man receives a warm familiar embrace by his comrades for an unknown deed. A old apparent veteran that could well be your grandfather salutes you in a supposed parade with US flags waving in the background. A man embraces his supposed wife in a long embrace. A solider escorting children to safety. A woman gets decorated with a metal. A man fishing with his son. A group running slow motion with the US flag at their front. A woman receiving help from her comrades while scaling a wall. An american flag waving in the background right before the clinching sentence followed by soldiers in front on a US flag. Other methods employed in this short clip is the epic inspiring music. Try watching it with the sound off and notice the emotional difference. Another symbol of coarse is the uniform in and of itself has connotations within us. All this information in this commercial is in the positive, but we can easily infer it in the negative, that "if don't join the army you will not be ___" . All these messages portrayed in under 3 minutes.

          Propaganda is everywhere, but it is not all bad, it is not a dirty word. We cannot expect us for Obama to tell us what positives Mccain has in his argument and philosophies. We are the ones with the responsibility to be informed. A great majority of the problems of the world come from miscommunication and misinformation. As we educated ourselves we come closer to seeing the world as it really is. We cannot hope to rid ourselves of all our prejudices but we can actively try to seek the truth. I leave with a quote from William James:

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices."


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