Jeff Hutchins

Jeff Hutchins was born in 1948 in New York City, but his parents moved to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in 1954 and lived there until 1966. After finishing 9th grade in Dhahran, he went one year to Mt. Hermon in western Massachusetts, and then finished high school in 1965 at the American Community School (ACS) in Beirut, Lebanon. He graduated from Boston University in 1969 with a degree in Broadcasting & Film, and began working at WGBH-TV in the brand new Caption Center in 1973. He stayed there until 1980, when he joined the new National Captioning Institute as an executive. In 1986, he helped found VITAC, which became the country's largest captioning company, with partners Joe Karlovits, Marty Block, Dave Crane, and Ed Fulesday. Jeff has been married since 1971 to Diane (nee Mahler), and they have two children: Rachel (b. 1976) and Nell (b. 1982). Diane and Jeff live in beautiful Black Mountain, NC, just outside of Asheville. Jeff is a lifelong Unitarian and a Humanist. His first book, "A Press Conference with God," is now available. He has just completed three novels: "Jerome v. God," "Perfection," and "The Message." He is an unabashed liberal.

Author's posts

What if he’s right?

Barack ObamaWhat If We Really Are Defeating ISIS?

By Jeffrey Hutchins, 2015


As soon as the first big snowstorm of 2015 hit, there were people who said it is proof that “global warming” is a hoax. Of course, it’s no such thing. One storm, one cold spell, even one lasting many days, or even one brutal winter does not overturn a mountain of evidence that the globe’s climate is changing and generally growing warmer.

And so it is with terrorist attacks. President Obama has said that the Islamic State – Daesh, if you will – is “being contained” and has been “degraded.” Many conservatives, and virtually all the Republican presidential candidates have said that in light of recent Daesh violence, Obama’s remarks prove he is: a) “uninformed,” b) “weak,” c) “deluded,” and d) “dangerous.”

But what if Obama is none of those? What if he’s right?

As an aside, let me scoff at the notion that this president, or any president, who is briefed daily by our military leaders, our intelligence community (CIA, FBI, DIA, etc.), the State Department, and diplomats from around the world is “uninformed” or less informed on the facts than, say, Ben Carson or Ted Cruz. I am certain that Mr. Obama is quite well informed about everything that is known about Daesh and the situations in the Middle East. That is not to say his analysis or his judgment about those facts is infallible, but he has more facts available to him than all the Republican candidates combined. He is hardly “uninformed.”

So when the president said that Daesh is “being contained,” I take him at his word, and a few horrible, brutal, and sadly successful terrorist attacks do not prove otherwise.

There have always been and will always be people who are paranoid, angry, sick, scared, easily manipulated, or just plain evil who are ready and willing to commit horrendous acts in the name of some “cause” or as retribution for some perceived injustice done to them or their tribe. Whenever their tribe – whether it is people of the same religion or nationality or ethnic group or alliance of political outsiders – is threatened, they will react, sometimes as lone wolves, with unspeakable violence. A very small group of individuals can, with today’s technology and mass transportation, wreak terrible damage.

There is abundant evidence that the group of a dozen or so terrorists who killed over 130 people in Paris were barely connected to Daesh. Only one or two of them had been in direct contact with Daesh. Family members said that most of the terrorists never went to the mosque and were not at all religious. Nearly all of them had long criminal histories. In other words, they were not the core of Daesh. They were sociopathic outlaws who found in Daesh an outlet for their sadistic tendencies.

When groups like Daesh are under stress, losing battle after battle, they tend to strike out, to make it appear as if they are stronger than they really are. These behaviors are intended to mask the reality that they are in trouble, that they are losing.

I believe President Obama told the truth when he said Daesh is “being contained” and being “degraded.” There is no evidence to suggest they are growing stronger or bigger… only that they are growing more desperate and being forced to take action in other countries because they are weaker in the countries where they have tried to dominate.

In any case, “being contained” is not the same as “contained.” The war against Daesh by so many powerful militaries is a process, not yet completed. I do not believe that a few thousand mostly uneducated extremists can match the combined military might of Russia, the United States, France, England, Turkey, and Iran. It is folly to give these lunatics too much credit and ascribe to them too much power. When nations change their laws, policies, and principles in response to terror, then the terrorists win. Daesh is not winning; they are, in fact, degraded. A cornered animal will strike.

Do not assume that a few snowstorms mean the earth is getting colder. Do not assume that a few terrorist attacks mean the terrorists are winning. Most importantly, do not give them, through fear and political expedience, the victory they cannot win when we, their intended victims, refuse to be cowed.


Photograph of President Barack Obama at the Summit on College Opportunity, by Jacquelyn Martin (AP).

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A country that is overrun by idiots

Pamela GellerExorcising Our Rights

By Jeffrey Melvin Hutchins, May 12 2015


Here’s the thing about rights: You have them, even if you don’t use them.

Twenty years ago, I learned several things about trademarks. One of the most important things is that if a company owns a trademark and does not protect it, then the trademark will be lost. Companies must be vigilant in policing the use of their trademarks. That’s why you sometimes see big companies come down hard on little companies that infringe a trademark even in a very small way. The big company really does not have a choice. A trademark not used or protected is surrendered.

That’s not the case with civil rights, especially those enshrined in law.

Many people seem to feel that if you have a right to do something stupid, then you must do it. They will acknowledge that what they are doing is stupid… intentionally so. They do it to prove that they have the right to do it. Think of flag burners.

It is, of course, everyone’s right to act in a stupid manner, but they conflate “A right (i.e. legally protected action)” and “THE right (i.e. correct thing to do).” It’s really too bad we use the word “right” in ways that encourage people to mistake one for the other.

If we used the word “correct,” it might become clear that the editors of Charlie Hebdo should not be honored or celebrated. Yes, they are allowed to be colossally stupid and knowingly offensive, but that kind of behavior should be castigated, not revered.

And then there’s Pamela Geller and her idiotic American Freedom Defense Initiative. People like her deserve a special place in Hell.

She believes that free speech is in danger in America, and that if she does not offend Muslims, then the terrorists win.

That’s exactly like saying that if you don’t run into a crowded theatre and shout “fire,” then the arsonists win… even though there is no fire and there is no arsonist anywhere about.

I get that we must not let fear of a negative reaction prevent us from saying those things we wish to say, even when we know they will offend. Ideas should never be stifled due to fear. I am writing these words even though I fear that Internet trolls will attack me in print and conservative nut jobs will attack me in person.

But Ms. Geller did not express an idea. Her recent exhibition of drawings of the prophet Muhammad was not about sharing an idea, but about provoking an attack. You may have the right to poke a bear with a stick, but that does not make it wise or clever.

Islamic militants are horrible people. They believe they have a moral right, as proven by the Koran, and they are willing to hurt others who do not believe as they do. We do well to condemn them, to imprison them, and, if necessary, to stop them with force. People who live in countries that are overrun by Islamic militants are understandably afraid of them. We do not live in such a country. We live in a country that is overrun by idiots like Pamela Geller. I will defend with my life her right to be an offensive asshat. I will also defend with my life my right to call her the dangerous lunatic that she is.


Photograph (modified) of Pamela Geller

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How about a War on War?

metropolis android

War Is People Too

By Jeffrey Hutchins, 2014


It’s very interesting that Corporations are now legally invested with nearly all the same rights and protections as individual people. We have made Corporations the second androids: beings made out of non-living parts.

The first android, of course, was Religion. Every person’s vision of God or No God is so sacrosanct in America that we allow no laws that deal with the establishment of any particular religion or the free exercise of religious observance. In other words, when it comes to what you believe about God and laws for human behavior, anything goes. We do not punish belief (in theory, anyway), but we do forbid believers from engaging in certain behaviors, such as human sacrifice, financial fraud, etc.

Now our Supreme Court has decided to invest Corporations with nearly all the same protections as Religious organizations.

Since “Corporations are people” is now the Law of the Land, I would like to propose another addition to the android population, and that is War.

We Americans have always treated War with reverence. We go to War more often than any other country. We shower great respect – if not jobs – on our former Warriors. We treat War like a God, something over which we have no power but to respond. If War comes, so be it; we will not resist its call. We’ve never been that comfortable with Peace.

So why not now give War the same constitutional protections as Corporations? In the same way that Corporations now write their own rules and get nothing more than slaps on the wrist for the most egregious violations (of the few laws they could not revise to their benefit), War should be given carte blanche. All is fair in Love and War, but especially in War. Civilians killed? That’s collateral damage… or maybe it’s the civilians that were the target all along. Torture? Why not? Is it worse to torture someone and let them live… or to kill them? Gas warfare? What’s the difference how our enemy dies?

Americans have accepted the notion that either we must be at War, or getting ready to be at War. We never, never take the time to stop and smell the peace lilies. Our political leaders love to declare War on anything they can. War on Poverty. War on Drugs. War on Pornography. War on Terrorism. How about a War on War?

Colonial nations used to have rules for civilized warfare… as if there were such a thing. Modern nations such as Vietnam and Iraq showed what foolishness it is to have “rules.” They recognize that War is an all-in affair.

No, if there’s going to be War in our world, it is going to be nasty and brutish and bloody and unfair. Civilians will die by the millions. They will be “disappeared” and tortured. That is the way of warriors today. Dick Cheney understood that “new math.”

That’s why we must do everything we can to banish War from our lives. We must stop accepting it as inevitable. We must refuse to play that game. If we wage War the way War wants us to, with no moral judgments, then we cannot tell others to behave any differently.

If America is going to engage in War, we must accept who War is. We do not make the rules; War itself does that. War says that if Side A follows rules that Side B does not also follow, then Side B is going to kick Side A’s butt. Israel’s Netanyahu accepts this fact. He is very comfortable killing civilians, including children. Hamas feels the same way. They would be well-matched opponents if Hamas did not have an extraordinary disadvantage when it comes to armaments and soldiers.

We Americans want Israel and the Palestinians to play nice… have a nice little War, in which only armed combatants are killed, and the quaint Geneva Conventions are respected. Ain’t gonna happen. Either pony up, America, and stop complaining when children are killed, or stand up and say, “No more! No more sending weapons to Israel. No more placating Egypt and Saudi Arabia. There will be no more War in the Levant. We will wage Peace, not War.”


Photograph of the robot Maria, from a scene in Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis.

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What the Devil really wants



Here is a list of (mostly fictitious) articles I will never read:

What Conservatives Really Want
What Liberals Really Want
What Muslims Really Want
What Christians Really Want
What Jews Really Want
What Women Really Want
What Men Really Want
Etc, ad nauseum 

I self-describe as a liberal, but like each of you, I have some opinions that do not fit into a neat little box.  I have many liberal friends, and no two of us think exactly alike on every issue. 

There are, in America, roughly 100 million people (plus or minus 20 million) who would call themselves left of center on the political spectrum.  We are all snowflakes… remarkably similar in most respects, but not exactly identical.  The same numbers apply to those who are right of center and dead center.  How can anyone say that the thoughts and feelings of 100 million people can be distilled into a what-they-really-want format?  It is not worth my time to read such nonsense. 

About 51% of Americans are women, which means about 160 million women and 150 million men.  I believe it is very hard for a man to understand completely what ONE woman wants or thinks or feels, much less to fit all 160 million of them into a neat bundle.  Ditto women understanding men.  Ditto each gender comprehending others of the same gender. 

You get my point, I’m sure. 

Most conservatives I know think of themselves as good people.  They love their families; they are kind to children; they cry at funerals and weddings; they are moved by certain music or movies or books; they obey most laws most of the time.  (The laws they are most likely to break are drug and traffic laws.)  Sadly, too many of them cheat on their spouses, at least once. 

ALL of the above paragraph ALSO APPLIES to liberals and moderates. 

I disagree strongly with the political positions of most conservatives, but I do not think their political positions make them bad people. 

But here’s where things go sour.  In my experience, many conservatives tend to think that MY political positions DO make me a bad person.  They believe I should be tolerant of them, but they do not afford me the same courtesy.  They call me and my fellow liberals terrible names.  They say if I do not love America (loving it, apparently, means doing so in exactly the same manner as them), that I should leave it. 

I have never heard one liberal suggest that conservatives should leave this country.  Never.  Not once. 

Conservatives (no, not all conservatives) say that liberals are not “real Americans.”  Whatever that means.  They say liberals want to drag America down, though they offer no reason why we would want to do that.  They say we hate America.  They say we are communists.  (I am not, but so what if I were?)   

Yes, [Virginia], some liberals use stereotypes and bad names when they talk about conservatives.  I recognize that, and I hate it.  There is no place for name calling or ad hominem attacks.  It undermines any chance at constructive dialogue.  A smart person can espouse a stupid idea.  A moral person can adopt an immoral position.  I try my best to behave morally and intelligently, and fall short far too often. 

Nearly all of us want the same things in life for ourselves.  Nearly all of us want our neighbors to live in safety and comfort.  Nearly all of us want our children and our neighbors’ children to grow up healthy and happy.  We may not agree on how governments should behave, but I cannot for the life of me understand why we must demonize each other when we disagree, whether about politics or religion or culture. 

Jeff Hutchins, ACS ’65

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