TheGap

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

ISSUE 5 — January-March 2024
ISSN 2993­-8589
Copyright © 2023,2024 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: https://alcpress.org/gap/

Occam’s Razor

by Ed Sawicki

William of Ockham
William of Occam

Occam’s razor is a principle attributed to 14th–century friar William of Ockham that says if there are two or more competing explanations for some phenomenon, you should prefer the simpler one. It allows for choosing the most likely explanation when you’re lacking enough information to have definite proof of one.

A good example of it is my own personal experience involving a job I took at a government agency. Everyone in my management chain knew I took the job mainly for the health care benefits. One day, my manager claimed that I refused to perform an important task when it really was he who said he’d do it weeks earlier. He reported me to upper management and I was assigned to a mediator. I was a new hire and he was with the agency for several years, so the mediation didn’t go well for me at first.

I was sitting at my desk thinking “All other things being equal, a manager has the advantage. Is there some way to neutralize that advantage?” Then I remembered Occam’s Razor. I went to the mediator's office and asked if she was familiar with it. She asked, “What’s Occam's Razor?”

I said, “You know, the Jodie Foster movie, Contact. All other things being equal the simplest explanation is the correct one. Occam's Razor.”

She smiled and nodded. She saw the movie and remembered that part! I continued, “What's the more likely explanation, a) Ed, who treasures his government-provided health insurance above all else, refused to do what his manager asked, or b) his manager was supposed to perform the task but forgot.”

She looked dazed. The logic of this was compelling. Later that day, I was told that I was cleared of the charge. The manager was relieved of his management responsibilities. The head of the agency later said to me, “Occam’s Razor. Brilliant.”

In this issue of The Gap, we’ll see how Occam’s Razor helps to identify those who most benefited from the murder of President John F. Kennedy. It’s also been used to determine the most likely explanation for the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

Bellamy salute

Bellamy salute
The Bellamy Salute

The original American Pledge of Allegiance was written by Baptist minister and author Francis Bellamy in 1892. Bellamy was a Christian socialist who believed in the separation of Church and State. At the time, he worked for the Youth’s Companion, a patriotic circular and magazine that also sold American flags to schools.

He worked with James B. Upham on a project that used the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus reaching the Americas in 1492 to sell more flags. The plan was to have school children all over the US salute the flag on October 12, 1892 and to recite a pledge. So, a salute and a pledge were needed.

Bellamy and Upham’s salute involved stretching the arm out towards the flag. A very similar salute was adopted by the Nazis in 1926. On December 22, 1942, Congress amended the Flag Code to change the salute to today’s hand-over-the heart salute.

Bellamy’s pledge was simple: I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands-one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

In 1954, President Eisenhower, concerned about Communism, had the pledge changed to: I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

The full story of the Pledge of Allegiance can be read at the University of Rochester Library website.

Bloated Government

One political party likes to complain that the federal government is too large. A proponent of a limited federal government, Grover Norquist, says that he wants to reduce the federal government “to the size where I can drag it in the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

Drowning it? Is Norquist saying he doesn’t just want to reduce its size, he wants it eliminated completely? If so, he has a lot of support for that given the constant federal government shutdowns.

The claim is that the federal government is too large and spends too much but not when it comes to the military and Homeland Security (Customs and Border Protection).

Those criticizing the federal government for its inefficiency and wasteful-spending aren’t considering other parts of our government. The federal government is only one piece of the country’s government.

State government

Our fifty states mirror the structure of the federal government. They have their own Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary. Except for Nebraska, states have bicameral legislatures with the upper chamber called the Senate. The lower chamber in most states is called the House of Representatives except for these:

CaliforniaState Assembly
MarylandHouse of Delegates
NevadaAssembly
New JerseyGeneral Assembly
New YorkState Assembly
VirginiaHouse of Delegates
WisconsinState Assembly

States have their own revenue and spending. Each state is further broken down into smaller units called counties or boroughs or parishes, etc. These also mirror to varying degrees the structure of their state governments.

Most states have their own prisons.

Counties

All states have counties except Alaska calls them boroughs and Louisiana calls them parishes. Yes, those parishes get their names from the Catholic churches that had influence in the area. Plus, New York City refers to its counties as boroughs.

The number of counties per state ranges from Delaware’s 3 counties to the 254 counties of Texas.

Here’s a diagram of the United States showing just the counties. There are about 3,143 of them. They have County Executives, Boards of Supervisors (and various other names), County Clerks, Public Works Departments, Health Departments, Sheriffs, jails, etc.

map of U.S. counties
Counties in the United States

According to the U.S. Census Bureau: “Over the period 1850 through 1900, the number of counties and statistically equivalent entities increased from 1,621 to 2,828.” So, government “bloat” has increased over time but it was local government that was bloating more than the federal government.

Municipalities

Counties are divided into smaller governmental units called municipalities. For example, New York State has 62 counties but 994 municipalities. Of those, 933 are towns and 61 are cities.

New York state municipalities
New York State municipalities

There are 19,429 municipalities in the United States, most with some degree of their own government.

Districts

Additionally, there are districts that operate in parallel with one or more counties and states. John Oliver exposed districts on his show Last Week Tonight on March 6, 2016. There are about 40,000 districts in the country that account for about $100 billion of spending. During the show, a spokesman for the state of Kentucky referred to districts as "ghost government".

Special Districts: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

It would be impossible to create a map of all the districts in the country; there are more than 40,000 of them and many overlap. Such a map would be a mass of lines and curves.

How long before the spending hawks go after your state and county?

How long before they run ads on TV showing three of four county workers patching a single pothole and calling for the privatization of all county governmental functions?

This article is a brief introduction to U.S. local governments. This Wikipedia page will introduce you to more of the details: Local government in the United States.

Cuba and JFK

Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba largely because of the massive corruption caused by U.S. companies and the Mafia bribing the Batista government. President John F. Kennedy was critical of the Batista government when others in the U.S. government were very much in support of it. He said this in 1960:

Fulgencio Batista
Fulgencio Batista

“Fulgencio Batista murdered 20,000 Cubans in seven years… and he turned Democratic Cuba into a complete police state – destroying every individual liberty. Yet our aid to his regime, and the ineptness of our policies, enabled Batista to invoke the name of the United States in support of his reign of terror. Administration spokesmen publicly praised Batista – hailed him as a staunch ally and a good friend – at a time when Batista was murdering thousands, destroying the last vestiges of freedom, and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the Cuban people, and we failed to press for free elections.”

On October 24, 1963, JFK said this about Castro:

“I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption.

I will even go further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.”

Jean Daniel Bensaid
Jean Daniel Bensaid

On October 24, 1963, French journalist Jean Daniel Bensaid interviewed John F. Kennedy. The interview had been arranged via Ben Bradley of Time Magazine (later to head the Washington Post) because Kennedy was told that Bensaid was to interview Castro in November. Kennedy wanted Bensaid to pass a message to Castro that the United States was willing to start exploring ways of resuming harmonious relations.

Bensaid was in Cuba interviewing Castro on November 22, 1963 when news of Kennedy’s assassination reached both men. Bensaid said Castro was surprised and saddened by the news. Castro knew that many in the United States would blame him for Kennedy’s assassination, but given Kennedy’s conciliatory statements about Cuba, it was unlikely that his successor would be better for Cuba-US relations.

Similarly, the Soviet Union had little reason to expect that Kennedy’s successor(s) would be a benefit to them. Their experience with the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962 showed them that Kennedy wanted peace and was willing to remove the U.S. Jupiter missiles from Turkey in exchange for them removing their missiles from Cuba.

It was Lee Harvey Oswald who killed JFK, but there’s been speculation that he acted on behalf of Cuba or Russia. Without more information, it’s not possible to say what country benefited most from Kennedy’s death, but applying Occam’s razor to the problem points the finger at elements of the U.S. government as the most likely suspect. Or, it could have been private interests who were making fortunes in Batista’s Cuba. Far less likely are the Russians and the Cubans.

Sources

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at Democratic Dinner, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 6, 1960

Wikipedia: Jean Daniel Bensaid

Video and transcript: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Jean Daniel, 1986

Why the Kennedys Couldn’t Stand Fulgencio Batista


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