...between reality and what's reported by the news.

ISSN 2993­-8589
Copyright © 2023 by ALC Press, All rights reserved
Portland, Oregon, USA

This newsletter is for those whose main news source is cable television. News networks like Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC tend to be highly biased and are greatly influenced by the two political parties and their wealthy donors. This newsletter will strive to present facts without partisan and media bias.

The name “The Gap” represents the gap between objective reality and the spin placed on stories reported by the press.

This is a copy of The Gap printed to paper. It's missing the links to the additional information you may need to fully appreciate the significance of the stories. It's best to view The Gap online here:

Military Spending

The United States spends more money on its military than all other countries. It spends more than the combined military budgets of the dozen or more largest countries on Earth. In a few more years, the military budget is expected to be over one trillion dollars.

The military budget has been steadily increasing, and military appropriations bills usually pass Congress easily, even though groups on both sides of the political spectrum are calling for limits on military spending. Cable TV news seldom covers military spending issues unless there's a disagreement between the political parties like there is now (in the summer of 2023). Republican Congressmen are trying to restrict military families from traveling to other states for reproductive health care. They're holding appropriations and promotions hostage to do it.

In this issue of The Gap, and future issues, we will have stories that are critical of the military. As taxpayers*, we deserve a report card on how well the military performs, and the results it achieves given the vast sums of money we spend on it.

* Given The Gap's readership, we will use the classic idea that taxpayers help fund government spending. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) changes that idea but will likely confuse many or most of our readers, given that cable news generally does not use MMT when covering the news.

Afghanistan and Iraq Wars a Bipartisan Disaster

Humvees in Afghanistan
Humvees at Camp Liberty in Baghdad

study by Brown University puts the total cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in the neighborhood of $8 trillion. That's eight million million or eight-thousand billion dollars. It's over $53,000 per taxpayer.

These wars began during the administration of George W. Bush, continued during the Barack Obama and the Donald Trump administrations, and finally ended—over 20 years later—with Joe Biden. What was accomplished? What did that money buy us?

Little or nothing and it made many things worse, such as abandoning thousands of Humvees and other weaponry to the Taliban. It was a gigantic waste of money that could have been put to far better use.

There were mileposts during the wars when they could have been wound down. Here are a few obvious ones:

  1. On March 13, 2002, President George W. Bush was asked about Osama bin Laden at a press conference. He answered, “I truly am not that concerned about him,” Yet, Bush continued the war and invaded Iraq in 2003. Here's his statement to the press:
  2. On March 1, 2003, Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” during a speech he gave on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. The mission may have been accomplished, but the wars continued:
  3. During a 2005 press conference, Bush said he no longer thinks about Osama bin Laden—another opportunity for withdrawal, but no.
  4. On July 3, 2006, the CIA closed down the unit named Alec Station that was searching for Osama bin Laden. The search for bin Laden may have been over but the wars weren't.
  5. On December 13, 2006, Saddam Hussein was captured and executed. The wars continued.
  6. On May 2, 2011, Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by SEAL Team Six on orders from the Commander in Chief. President Barack Obama could have used that opportunity to stop the wars but didn't.
  7. In February 2020, President Donald Trump negotiated a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, freed 5,000 Taliban soldiers, and set a withdrawal date of May 1, 2021. That withdrawal was completed on August 30, 2021, during Joe Biden's presidency.
U.S. Rep Barbara Lee
Barbara Lee

A week after the World Trade Center attack in 2001, Congress voted on the joint resolution titled Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which granted the president the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” to fight those responsible. Everyone in Congress voted for the resolution except U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), who cautioned that “we not become the evil we deplore.”

She was the subject of intense criticism and received death threats. History now shows she was correct.

You can learn more about the wars from these sources:

Pew Research: Fear and False Beliefs Bolstered U.S. Public Support for War in Iraq

Video: The Afghanistan Papers: A secret history of the war

Council on Foreign Relations: 1999–2021 The U.S. War in Afghanistan

Molten Earth

A Fox News watcher recently said we shouldn't worry about climate change because the Earth will probably explode soon. He learned that the Earth has a molten iron core and concluded that it would eventually explode because of it. The reality is much different.

Solar wind and Earth's magnetosphere
Earth's magnetosphere

That molten iron core protects the planet's atmosphere from being carried away by the solar wind. It's one of the main reasons why air-breathing life thrives on this planet. That protection relies on the molten core circulating or rotating, thus creating a magneto effect that surrounds the planet with a magnetosphere. This magnetic field deflects the solar wind and keeps our atmosphere in place.

That magnetic field is weakest at Earth's poles, so some of our atmosphere is lost through these gaps. Also, some of the sun's solar wind (its plasma particles) enters our atmosphere through the gaps, and that's why we see the Aurora—the Northern and Southern Lights.

Territorial Voting

From time to time, the talking heads on cable news and the people they interview claim that residents of U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico, are not U.S. citizens because they can't vote in presidential elections. Citizenship and voting are separate things. There are many citizens who can't vote.

Citizens of Puerto Rico have been U.S. citizens since 1917, when Congress voted for it, and President Wilson signed the legislation. However, the federal government does not conduct elections—states conduct elections. Since Puerto Rico is not a state, presidential elections are not held there. If Puerto Ricans move to a U.S. state, they are eligible to vote there.

Similarly, residents of Guam became U.S. citizens in 1950 and the Northern Mariana Islands in 1986. Citizens of American Samoa are not citizens—they're U.S. nationals who can't vote even if they move to a state. Residents of the Virgin Islands also cannot vote in presidential elections.

Government Regulations

Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup was a patent medication containing morphine and alcohol that killed thousands of children in the late 1800s. Although reports of it killing children began appearing in newspapers in 1881, that didn't stop the company from running ads in newspapers for decades following. Here's an example of an ad:

For Over Fifty Years Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup has been used by millions of mothers for their children while teething. If disturbed at night and broken of your rest by a sick child suffering and crying with pain of Cutting Teeth send at once and get a bottle of "Mrs.Winslow's Soothing Syrup" for Children Teething. It will relieve the poor little sufferer immediately. Depend upon it, mothers, there is no mistake about it. It cures Diarrhea, regulates the Stomach and Bowels, cures Wind Colic, softens the Gums, reduces inflammation, and gives tone and energy to the whole system...

Consumer protection didn't exist in any meaningful way back then. Those protections were put in place by government regulation starting in the early 1900s. But now, some politicians are calling for the repeal of some of those protections to “get the government out of our business.”

Do we value our children and ourselves so little that we should prioritize business profits over the safety of our children and ourselves?

COVID Origin

The Democrats and Republicans have been battling since the start of COVID over its origin. Both parties agreed that its origin was China, but the Dems pushed the explanation of the “wet market,” and the GOP pushed the lab leak theory. The Democrats (and their voters) were solidly behind the wet market theory until Jon Stewart poked fun at it during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. That planted some seeds of doubt.

There is no proof of its origin yet, but recent publicized correspondence between scientists adds fuel to the Lab Leak theory. Regardless of which theory of COVID origin eventually prevails, understand that the process of reaching a scientific consensus is not a failure of science and most scientists. Making the COVID origin story a political blame game is a failure of the intersection of politics and science.

Feel free to print this newsletter and mail it to friends and family who don't have convenient access to the Internet. Consider setting your printer to double-sided printing to save paper.

In an upcoming issue

The Debt Limit craziness is anti-democratic—it allows the minority party to undo legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president. It's an attack on the proper functioning of our representative government. But would the parties eliminate it if they could?


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