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Irrational People, Dystopian Film, Integration, Heroism

The Morning Show
  • Sep 24, 2014
  • 01:43:48
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FREE MARKET MADNESS Despite our best intentions, Dr. Peter Ubel says humans often let their emotions over ride reason and end up making irrational decisions. We roll over and hit the snooze button instead of going to the gym, even though we know we’ll feel better if we exercise or lose a bit of weight. We take out home loans we can’t possibly afford. And how to explain the fact that people named Paul are more likely to move to St. Paul than other cities?   In his book “Free Market Madness: Why Human Nature is at Odds with Economics – and Why it Matters,” Ubel (a professor of business, public policy and medicine at Duke University) argues for the “moral philosophy” of markets.  “Markets don’t help people make perfect decisions.” He points to the current obesity epidemic in the U.S. and says the “free market causes it,” by “making foods so tasty and cheap and easy to consume.” Ubel doesn’t let us off for our choices to consume foods that make us fat, but says the we need to recognize the market’s role in encouraging obesity: “There’s plenty of blame to go around.” To those who resent the idea of government regulation impinging on their freedom to choose what to eat or how much debt to incur in buying a house, Ubel warns, “we’re often less free than we think. People are very susceptible” to influences of corporate marketers targeting their emotions to trigger decisions that are not good for their physical or financial health.  Ubel’s most recent book, “Critical Decisions: How You and Your Doctor Can Make the Right Medical Choices Together,” adds an additional layer to his argument.  “Patients have a right to make decisions,” says Ubel. But he says the current medical system does not provide patients with enough information to make good decisions. He urges doctors to be more transparent about the choices they offer patients – and he urges patients to push for a clear understanding of those choices. “Doctors often don’t realize that they’re leading patients down a treatment path that will bankrupt the patient – and the patient’s don’t realize there’s any other alternative.  As a patient, you need to know the difference between a medical fact and a judgment call your doctor is making,” says Ubel.  DYSTOPIAN LIFE IN THE MAZE The latest dystopian young adult franchise to make a big box office splash “holds up quite well” in the panoply of similar offerings, says Parent Previews’ Kerry Bennett.  “The Maze Runner” features a group of youth trapped in a maze and struggling to escape. But, like the first installments of The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Giver, Bennett warns “you won’t get any resolution from this film.”  A sequel to The Maze Runner has already been announced for next year.  A common theme running through these dystopian YA films is isolation (think “Lord of the Flies”).  They also tend to feature youngsters (millennials) being used and controlled by adults (baby boomers). “I wonder if that’s the message we want to be sending our youth,” says Rod Gustafson of Parent Previews.  “Even if the reasons why the adults are doing things in The Maze Runner are positive overall, the adults are always portrayed as bad.”  The theme has some parallels in current events, notes Gustafson, where reports of increasing national debt and global warming often question whether there will be anything good left for the next generation. As family viewing, Parent Previews gave “the Maze Runner” a B-minus grade for violence and mature themes. LYING TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT MONEY Three-quarters of U.S. parents report lying to their kids about their finances in a recent survey by T. Rowe Price.  Financial behaviorist Syble Solomon says parents often have good intentions in wanting to protect their children from the stress of being short on money. But she says not being honest and transparent with your kids can lead to additional stress and fundamental misunderstandings about the value of money.  Solomon offers tips for talking about money in her latest book “Deck of Cards” and at www.moneyhabitudes.com. LEGACY OF THE LITTLE ROCK NINE You’ve likely seen the photo in a history book or newspaper. It was taken in September 1957 outside Little Rock Central High School.  On the right hand of the frame are young white men wearing the uniforms and rounded helmets of the Arkansas National Guard.  And on the left, a row of black teenagers dressed in collared shirts and neatly pressed frocks, books in hand, waiting to be allowed into school. That iconic photo taken by a Time and Life magazine photographer made national headlines and polarized the nation. It also created a Constitutional crisis since the governor had engaged the National Guard in essence to thwart the will of the Federal Government.  “The response in the south to the Civil War and efforts to integrate the South after civil war had been to create a system of segregation.” The South really dragged its feet in implementing any form of desegregation, with the exception of Arkansas and Little Rock, particularly, says Madsen.  The school board in Little Rock decided to integrate Little Rock Central High School, but Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus had other ideas. As a man of the white-working class, Faubus had a personal, economic incentive to stay governor and an understanding of the resentment among poor whites about plans for integration, says Madsen.  Faubus claimed he called in the Arkansas National Guard to “protect the nine black students who were going to integrate Little Rock Central High School. But instead of working to quell the mob, the soldiers worked to prevent the integration.”  Who were the Little Rock Nine? “They were essentially very brave young black students who knew they were the test case for progress,” says Madsen. Most of the nine had been tipped off to the possibility of a mob and came prepared with supporters. Bystanders stepped in to help support the students as the mob began calling for lynching.  Governor Faubus’ actions caused a “Constitutional crisis since the governor had engaged the National Guard in essence to thwart the will of the Federal Government,” says Madsen.  That prompted swift reaction from President Dwight D. Eisenhower – including a speech to the nation – announcing his plan to send in troops to support the “carrying out of the decisions of the Federal Courts, even, when necessary with all the means at the President’s command. Unless the President did so, anarchy would result. There would be no security for any except that which each one of us could provide for himself. The interest of the nation in the proper fulfillment of the law’s requirements cannot yield to opposition and demonstrations by some few persons. Mob rule cannot be allowed to override the decisions of our courts.” CIVIL WAR HERO ALONZO CUSHING  “Very few medal of honor winners deserve it more than Alonzo Cushing,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and emeritus Princeton professor James McPherson. “He was commanding an artillery battery at the point of defense against Pickett’s charge at the Battle of Gettysburg,” recounts McPherson. “Cushing was wounded twice – once with a life-threatening wound and he was advised to go to the rear, but he said, ‘No.’ At the climax of the charge he was the only member of the battery still left on his feet and fired the last shot just as the Confederates were closing toward the gun. Cushing was shot through the head and died instantly.”  The decision to award Cushing with the nation’s highest military honor – the Medal of Honor - comes after more than a decade of lobbying by his descendants and Civil War historians. Typically, Congress gives the medal to soldiers within three years of the act of valor. In this case, Cushing has been dead for 151 years and has “long been denied this award,” says McPherson.  The Battle of Gettysburg played out over three days in an area about 10 miles by four miles near the small town of Gettysburg, says McPherson.  The Union had 90,000 soldiers in the arena, the Confederates hat 70,000. When it was all over, some 50,000 casualties (killed, wounded and missing) resulted from the Battle of Gettysburg. Of those, about 11,000 died, split roughly between Union and Confederate armies.  “The place where Cushing was killed at the climax of the Confederate attack is sometimes called the high-water mark of the Confederacy. From them on the ‘tide’ was ebbing in that metaphor of the tide,” notes McPherson.  “So it could well be said that Cushing’s death helping to repel that supreme attack was a major turning point of the war in the Union’s favor.  Cushing’s artillery battery of six guns were a key part of the Union defense of that position at about 3:30 in the afternoon of July 3, 1863.” Cushing was a member of the regular United States Army, rather than the volunteer regiments which comprised most of the soldiers in both Union and Confederate armies, explains McPherson. Advancement in rank was slower in the “regular army,” which explains why Cushing was still only a First Lieutenant at the time of his death at 22 years old.  Cushing’s younger brother William Barker attended the naval academy, enlisted in the Navy and was better-known than Alonzo in their lifetimes.  “The biography of William Barker is called ‘Lincoln’s Commando,’ and it’s appropriate given his bravery in penetrating enemy lines and leading raids against the Confederacy,” says McPherson. “His most famous exploit was to go up the Albemarle River and destroy a confederate Iron Clad behind enemy lines in North Carolina. Most of the men he was with in that raid were captured or killed. Cushing managed to escape by swimming. That was probably the most famous Naval exploit of the war – and it happened a little after his older brother Alonzo was killed.” The Cushings were a family of military heroes, notes McPherson, adding that Alonzo and William Barker had two other brothers who served in the Civil War.  Alonzo Cushing is scheduled to receive the Medal of Honor from the President of the United States in the coming weeks. Show More...

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