Letters for December 29, 2016

Labor’s champion?

President-elect Trump’s Department of Labor nominee is a man whose beliefs and actions demonstrate contempt for the basics working people need to lead a decent life. As the head of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s fast-food restaurants, Andrew Puzder has repeatedly argued against increases to the minimum wage or overtime pay for the women and men who make his chains so successful. The millionaire fast-food giant even has complained about the need for providing rest breaks and meal breaks in the workplace. And the Labor Department found him guilty of at least one wage-and-hour violation in 60 percent of their investigations at his restaurants.

How can the American people trust that the textbook definition of a bad boss will safeguard their rights and enforce labor laws at the helm of the Department of Labor? We can’t.

Kris Swanson


Fan mail for Bruce

Re “Putin’s electors?” (Notes from the Neon Babylon, Dec. 15):

Bruce Van Dyke has completely lost it. Russia had nothing to do with the leaked emails. There is enough evidence now to support that they were leaked from the inside and not hacked by some nefarious government. They were leaked most likely by a disgruntled Democratic National Committee insider who could no longer stomach Clinton and her dirty dealings, something Bruce ought to take a long look at.

Clinton lost the election because enough people also could no longer stomach all her neoliberal agenda. Why is it that Bruce and his ilk so easily look past her foreign policy and war crimes regarding Honduras and Libya, for just a start? Clinton is hideous. So is Trump, for the record. And as for Bruce’s conflict-of-interest ramblings regarding Rex Tillerson and Exxon in Ukraine, ponder the following.

Bruce makes no mention of the USA’s involvement in overthrowing a duly elected leader in Ukraine, which completely destabilized the country in February of 2014. In Bruce’s world only the big bad Russia had anything to do with it. Nice revision of history. And guess who’s son benefited by that action? Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, joined the board of a large Ukrainian natural gas company in April 2014, a couple months after the overthrow of the government, orchestrated using neo-nazis at the hand of the USA.

Alan Banfield

Carson City

PR or propaganda

A number of conservative businessmen have spent billions over the last 30 years to build a network of “think tanks,” bloggers, radio shows, and other propagandists, and use public relations firms such as Hill and Knowles—first used by the tobacco industry to spread lies about a link between tobacco and cancer—to spread deliberate lies to discredit and smear. Over that time this network has created a fantasy land for its listeners who believe the lies repeated over and over from these different sources.

There are a multitude of well-studied examples as detailed for example in Merchants of Doubt, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Doubt is Their Product by David Michaels, and The Politics of Deceit, by Molly Ivins. As cognitive scientist George Lakoff says, “common sense” is just things you have heard or experienced many times. That makes you become certain over time that they are true. That worked well in a world where we learned by direct experience, but makes us very susceptible to a well-organized effort which presents repeated lies from many sources and types of media. Nazi Germany minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels understood this very well and he applauded the efforts of Edward Bernays in establishing the public relations industry in the U.S. Prior to Bernays this type of effort was known as propaganda, but Bernays said that word had negative connotations so he coined the term “public relations.”

Alternative energy and EVs are some of the latest targets. A right-wing PAC, Citizens for the Republic, led by one of Donald Trump’s top propagandists, Laura Ingraham, recently launched a campaign called Stop Elon From Failing Again. The initiative claims Elon Musk is “defrauding” American taxpayers through his companies. Expect these efforts to proliferate greatly during the Trump administration.

Tom Wicker