Saturday, June 4, 2016

Post No. 197c: Muhammad Ali


© 2009 and 2016, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Muhammad Ali died yesterday, on June 3, 2016. Today, the airways are full of documentaries and special programs discussing The Champ's life. Back in 2009, I generated two posts about Ali, "Who is This Muhammad Ali, and Why are So Many Still Saying Things about Him," and "More Things People Have to Say about Muhammad Ali." I decided to re-post them today. (You can access the first article through a link in the second.)

I, like many people, always had a special affinity toward Ali, despite the fact that my Mother so intensely disliked him. My good friend, Willy Hopkins aka the Laughingman, who grew up in Louisville at the same time, often spoke of him as his personal hero. No matter where you stood or stand on his contributions to the Universe, you would have to agree that he made a difference, and that has to be a "good thing." I hope that you enjoy reflecting....



Earlier this week, we posted a piece on how Muhammad Ali still commands the world’s attention, even though his boxing days are behind him, and Father Time has been in his opponent’s corner in recent years. By writing it, we gained a better appreciation of the man, and what sets him apart.

For decades, many have asked why so many admired him, warts and all. He never claimed that he was perfect, just that he was pretty.

Our readers from all across the philosophical and ideological spectrum, even at its extremes, shared their admiration. Something about his appeal is obviously universal.

Simply put, Ali is the quintessential “Fighter.” He has always stood up for what he believed in, even if society did not always believe in it with him. For all of us who do not stand up for ourselves on occasion, he represents the possibility.

During his recent trip to Ireland, much was written about Ali’s legacy. Sports Illustrated and PBS commentator Frank Deford, in a poignant piece, A Fading Champ, But a Champ Still, claims that, “… a great many people find it as upsetting as it is sad that the old champ continues to make personal appearances.”

But, as one of our readers noted, “They don’t really understand who Ali is.” His eternally youthful attitude, humor, and quick wit have served him well, and counter the ravages of time.

One of our friends loves The Champ – always has; always will. Ali made 3 personal appearances in his life, although the first was not exactly face-to-face, and perhaps apocryphal in nature. They reflect certain aspects of who Ali is.

In 1978, on his way to a wedding, our friend visited a friend in St. Joseph, Michigan on the shore of Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the St. Joseph River. At the time, The Champ maintained a training camp in nearby Berrien Springs.

After getting off the train in a torrential down pour, he took a cab along the winding road alongside the river, and noted people sitting on its banks in the dark of the night, with giant lanterns. He inquired as to what they were doing out in the rain, in the dark.

The cabbie said they were illegally fishing. The area was known for its salmon, and fish are attracted to light emitted by the lanterns. The poachers simply extended their nets from banks, catching salmon as they sprang into the air.

The cabbie told of how The Champ was once on a boat fishing with a local resident, when a group of salmon sprang into the air, and surprised him. Without hesitation, he instinctively turned and punched one of them in mid-air, with his eyes wide open.

The second meeting took place in Universal City in the offices of MCA Music. Our friend maintained his office in the same building. One of his associates had just traveled up the elevator with Ali and his confidante, Bundini Brown. She burst into our friend’s office and yelled that one of his idols was in the house.

He ran back and forth through the halls of the 2nd floor to find Ali, and found him in the dark gray, glass, Italian motif, minimalist lobby of MCA Music. There he stood panting from his run, alone with The Champ and Bundini. Even the receptionist had left her desk to get the person Ali was to meet.

He nervously approached this massive man, and said, “Champ, I’ve waited a long time for this opportunity.”

Ali flicked his head, clinched his teeth, shot out his left fist stopping just short of our friend. In that characteristic Ali tone, he said, “Whew! Bundini. He’d better be glad that I’m so fast. He look like Joe Frazier. I thought that you were Joe Frazier! I was about to kill him Bundini!” His face reflected that special Ali “join me in the joke” smile.

The third meeting was even more personal. During the 80s and 90s, our friend ran the Los Angeles Marathon, and The Champ frequently shot the starter pistol for the race. It was necessary to arrive early, in order to park, store one’s sweat suit, get a massage, and then stretch.

While warming up one year, he encountered The Champ wandering alone among the trees and grass outside of the Los Angeles Coliseum, and once again shook The Champ’s hand. However, by this time, The Champ was more distant, already suffering from the condition which makes him tremble, and appear dazed. Additionally, the one-time, rapid-fire “loudmouth,” as proclaimed by our friend’s Mother, was more subdued and mumbling slightly.

But he still had that twinkle in his eyes, and that smirky smile. He wished our friend a good race.

He was, and still is The Champ.

It made us consider what many have learned from this man, with very little formal education?

1. Backing up your promises is generally viewed as a positive attribute.

2. Cheating on your spouse is not.

3. There is some value to recognizing that there are some issues bigger than your short-term personal issues.

4. There is tremendous value to being open to associating with people of all backgrounds, faiths, social position, classes, races, and such, and not judging them.

5. Society admires people who just keep going like the Energizer Bunny.

6. A Father must ensure that he takes care of and is involved in the lives of his children.

7. Saying that you are sorry and admitting that you messed up goes a long way.

8. Society will always admire someone with a twinkle in his eye.

9. Your legacy is enduring and long-lasting, and doesn’t die with you.

There’s only one Champ in our book.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Post No. 197b: Now That Cruz and Kasich are Contenders of the Past


© 2012 and 2016, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Yesterday, Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz dropped out of the race. Rumors are swirling today that John Kasich will do the same. That will leave Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee for the election for President. We revisited an earlier post to see how much has really changed since November 7, 2012, the day that this post was originally posted after Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama. By the way, a prominent political operative noted roughly 100 years ago, that, "In the realm of politics, passion and prejudice will kick the ass of reason and principle on any given day."

We constantly re-visit posts to see if our views change. Although we occasionally find grammatical mistakes, the underlying thought process generally remains the same.

There is one post we never re-visited, and we are not going to do so now. It’s irrelevant. That post, The Morning After, was written hours after Obama was elected the first time.

On the other hand, there is an article we re-visit far more than others. It accurately outlined what we expected Obama to face in the event he was elected in 2008. Why I am Concerned that Obama Might Win (October 25, 2008), noted that the global economy was in bad shape, predicted it would continue for years, and that Obama would be blamed for not pulling the U.S. out of the economic doldrums quickly enough.

That was a no-brainer, but we re-posted that fluff piece 28 times, and each time a bunch of people exclaimed, “Amazing!”

Politicians, like lawyers on corporate payrolls, are necessary evils and part of our current governance model. But politicians have a significant problem apart from trying to act like money does not influence their decisions. In the real world, to solve problems it is far more efficient and effective if one’s analysis in addressing them is a thing apart from one’s values. Just imagine an ER doctor taking into consideration whether the patient was at fault before providing treatment, or how much money he or she will make if the patient lives or dies. Unfortunately, politicians have the dual, often conflicting, goals of defining what they stand for (depending on who they’re talking to), and ultimately getting re-elected.

Many Republicans are already heading down the wrong road today as they emerge from last night's limousine, caravan pile-up. They claim their message and mission are still on point; implicitly suggesting they were “right” all along, but that they picked the wrong driver for their vehicle.

Actually, Romney could have been the right man, and probably would have been in an earlier version of the Party. Our sense is that he is a good and decent man, with nothing but the best interests of our country at heart. Additionally, America could really use a business-oriented technocrat right now.

However, truth be told, the man never was as extreme or angry as the loudest elements of his Party wanted him to be. The most vocal and angry members of his Party out-shouted the thinking members.

This is a preview of our common sense presentation to the RNC on where the Republicans went wrong, and what they need to do to get back on track:

(1) You threw everything in the kitchen sink plus all of the crap in the outhouse at Obama. By doing so, you lost credibility with sensible folks, and your message became, per Marvin Hagler, “odiferous.” (College students simply held their noses.) If your positions on a few key issues were really that strong, you didn’t need all of the other stuff, or the Donald Trumps of the world.

Last week, someone sent us a chart outlining “Almost Every Obama Conspiracy Theory Ever.” The visual representation overwhelms you. It did not matter whether every single allegation was true. The President is an Incompetent, Dangerous, Treasonous Retard Side Show ™ was simply “over the top,” suggested something kooky was going on, and more importantly, unnecessary.

(2) The relatively small, extreme, fringe elements of your Party high-jacked the larger Party, in much the same way as the relatively small, extreme, fringe elements of Islam have high-jacked their religion. The Democrats also have such folks, but they shut the muck up. Your problem was that heretofore sensible, thinking members of your Party joined the fringe chorus, because they thought it was their ticket to Disney World. As the Laughingman often says, “If you think that hitchhikers you pick up are going to pay for all of your gas, you’ll probably never reach your destination.”

The Party needs to expel the kooks and extremists. Right now, there is no other club where they can hang out. Take some of that Koch Brothers / Super PAC money and build a third club house, where the bigots and narrow-minded can go party. They are pulling you down, in very much the same way Islamic terrorists are hurting their religion.

Deep down inside, your Party as presently constituted scares not all, but many, thinking people.

(3) The leadership of your Party abdicated responsibility and went on the road with The Fringe Circus. That suggests you don’t really have any leaders. It looked more like a revolutionary movement. Someone needed to take control, show some non-kooky qualities, and get the ship out of the rough seas. No one did that. The Good Governor didn’t want to do that. That’s not who he is.

(4) Our last point is the same one we made in October 2008. Economists predict another 5 – 7 years of economic sluggishness, GLOBALLY. Your Party asked us to believe that one man was supposed to turn around this giant ship in the middle of the ocean after both Parties had charted the same route for 30 or so years, AND you expected us to ignore all of the past trips where you collected bounty.

In 2016, you need to clearly articulate that your solutions will yield (not would have yielded) better results than those achieved during the preceding 8 year period, without making it seem as though you are the Virgil Starkwells of the economic world, who want to Take the Money and Run.

Quite frankly, the middle class never really believed that you cared about them.

You just looked greedy and disingenuous.

This is not to suggest that Democrats do not have significant comparable problems; just that they proved to be the lesser of the 2 evils this time around.

To the RNC Chair-Person [?], you need some new image consultants for the next round. We here at the Institute will gladly assist you, at a rate 1/1000th of what you were paid by your largest campaign contributor. Give the Koch Brothers our telephone number.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Post No. 197a: What Would Dr. King Say?


© 2011 and 2016, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We considered calling this piece, What Would Dr. King Do?, or What Would Dr. King Think?

Frankly, none of them would be really appropriate, since none of us has any first hand knowledge of his thought process, or even a comprehensive appreciation of his view of the world.

For example, most think that Dr. King adopted Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy on his own. Yet, many involved in the movement contend that it was actually Bayard Rustin who counseled Dr. King to adopt non-violence as his MO.

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that after having his home and family threatened, Dr. King grabbed a rifle on his way to confront his attackers on the front lawn.

Rustin supposedly stopped Dr. King in mid-stride and suggested how to get the upper hand on his attackers, that being to take the higher moral ground - less subject to attack.

Per Rustin, resorting to a tactic that placed the good doctor in the same violence stratum as his attackers only served to hurt the cause, and made it less likely that others would side with him (defense of his castle be justified or not).

On this past MLK Day, those of you fortunate enough not to have become infected with that virus commonly known as Twitter [which should be changed to “Twitcher”], would have been amazed at the volume of thought-provoking MLK quotes posted by “kids” of every imaginable color, age, country, and station in life.

But two situations or events, both featuring the NAACP, kept bothering us.

Why the NAACP? [That’s exactly what we asked.] Because, in theory, one might think that their positions and the interests advocated by Dr. King would bear some resemblance to one another. In both instances, we’re just not sure what was going on. [Plus, we recognize that only certain racial groups are monolithic.]

The first involved something seemingly innocuous as school snow make-up days.

In many districts around the country, schools are required to end their year by a certain date. Most states also require that a school year consist of a certain number of days. Because of severe snow storms, many districts found themselves trying to discover make-up days on the calendar.

Some announced that they were “considering” having their charges attend school on MLK Day. The NAACP, in virtually every region where such a plan was “considered,” shifted into Sharpton-Jackson mode. [Where is a Michael Steele or an Alan Keyes when you need one?]

We need not even explore the substance of their arguments. Many prominent in the black community even suggested that parents keep their kids home. [That’ll show them.]

But it occurred to us, what better day to spend the time in school, reflecting on all that Dr. King represented, and all that he valued?

What better opportunity for black folks to consider the importance of, or show the outside world how much they value, that education thang?

What better day to suggest and support the extension of the school week to Saturdays, or the school year into the summer?

What would Dr. King have said, or done?

The second situation involved the Governor of Maine. This maverick of a politician was invited to participate in an NAACP celebration in memory of Dr. King, and he declined. [Uh, oh…!]

When questioned further about it, he simply said that there are only so many special interest events that one man can attend in a 24 hour day.

He further suggested that if someone thought that his declination was racially motivated, they could “kiss his butt.” [At least he has the balls to tell some group to kiss his rear end.] He finally alluded to the fact that all one needed to do was examine his family portrait, and they would find that he has a black [adopted] son.

Once again, the local NAACP went ballistic, and suggested that whether he had a black son was irrelevant. [Any of those NAACP folks have any white sons?]

Once again, we asked what would Dr. King have said, or done?

Of course, we don’t know. But we have a guess.

As great as all of the quotes posted on Twitter were, there was one missing that may reflect how he might have reacted.

On Monday night, we watched a tape of one of Dr. King’s speeches at the close of an MSNBC segment. During it, he said:

“We must conduct our struggle on the high plain of dignity and discipline.”

Did the NAACP heed his word?

You be the judge.

P.S. Yeah, we know. This was not a very dignified post.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Post No. 197: Have We Arrived at the Point Where We Should Consider Toy Gun Control?


© 2015, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

I do not know the source or provider of the toy gun being “wielded” by 12 year old Tamir Rice, who was killed by Cleveland police officers arriving on the scene. However, who provided the kid with the toy weapon is something which has bothered me since I first heard the story.

I also recognize that “kids” today are taller, larger, and in some instances, appear to be more mature in appearance, than in years past. (We might also consider addressing the distribution of human growth hormone to adults who might share it with their underage children to boost their Little League performance. But that’s a story for another day.)

Yet, I had toy guns when I was a kid, and never had to worry about police showing up in response to a call (or human growth hormones for that matter).

Knowing what I know today, and taking into consideration the intense media coverage and public debate surrounding officer involved shootings, if I were a black parent, or perhaps a grandparent, I would not buy any member of my family under the age of majority, any toy weapon which resembles a real weapon. If I were a white individual, even though I might not have the same level of concern, I would not let any of my kids play with such a weapon. Toy guns arguably rise to the level of illicit, street drugs, with respect to their danger potential, depending on your neighborhood. They can lead to your death, or that of your minor loved one.

The same arguably applies to extended family members, and friends and neighbors of the affected family, whether they be black, white, or polka dot (referring to the purchasing adults not the kids).

Several questions come to mind, assuming a kid is killed by police while wielding a toy gun. For purposes of this discussion, although I speak of toy guns, it is my intent to include any type of toy weapon, including toy knives, which, now that I think about it, I had as a kid, and which I could affix as a bayonet to my military style toy rifle):

1. Should adults (including parents) providing toy weapons to kids, killed by police who mistakenly think that the weapons are real, be responsible for the deaths?

2. Should those adults be civilly liable or perhaps have their other kids taken from them?

3. Should those adults be criminally liable, perhaps for child endangerment? (Or, should parents be charged with child endangerment when they inadequately prepare their kids for the dangers and complexities outside of the home before they reach the age of majority?)

4. Does an adult who is merely a passerby or who sees a kid with a weapon prior to the arrival of the police, and who thinks or knows that it is a toy, have any personal, ethical, moral, community, or societal responsibility to disarm the kid, or notify the parents, because a dangerous confrontation might develop once someone calls the police?

5. Does the adult making the call to the police bear any responsibility to determine whether the weapon is real?

5. Do the manufacturers of toy weapons bear any responsibility for making toys look so realistic that it is difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not, or as some would argue, for making any toy weapons at all?

6. Should manufacturers of toy weapons bear civil legal responsibility?

7. Should manufacturers of toy weapons bear criminal legal responsibility?

My blog’s target audience is college students, and my goal is to raise some personal responsibility issues (ahead of time) so that when stuff happens, at least they will have mulled the issues and considerations over, instead of trying come up with solutions on the spot. After all, There are More Than 2 or 3 Ways to View Any Issue; There are at Least 27. ™

Processing those 27 or more possible explanations for the kid having the weapon as the sirens blare and the force rolls up is a tad complicated for even the best trained and well-intentioned officers. So it arguably behooves us to think about this stuff before the call to 911, since the “talking heads” offer no solutions. But then again, perhaps we do not want law enforcement first responders considering the other 26 reasons if the goal is efficiency.

Would we, as a society, having answered or addressed any of the questions enumerated above, reduce the number of instances where kids are killed by police arriving on the scene after being informed that “someone” is carrying a “weapon.”

The cynic in me says no.

However, as we begin this New Year, in a nation where there is such a level of fear of others and we are seemingly incapable of addressing the number of officer involved shootings of adults (including those who have committed minor infractions but paid the ultimate penalty), I sure as hell hope that we adults at least figure out a way to deal with this kids with toy weapons issue.

I didn’t have to worry about carrying my toy weapons in the 1950s. Perhaps it was an expectation on my part that my adult parents and others in the community would protect me, as naïve as that may have been.

However, today, I can’t help but think that we purportedly responsible adults ought to be able to figure out something. After all, we are capable of sending a man [and now a woman] to the moon. We ought to be able to figure out how to keep our kids safe and allow them the freedom to play… and simply be kids.

The really is that we can't change how police perceive threats, and who they consider to be threats primarily driven by DNA. So the question is, "Have we arrived at the point where we should consider toy gun control," or leave it to free-market economic, private enterprise entities to police themselves?

Happy New Year

Friday, December 18, 2015

Post No. 196: Why (I Suspect) DNA Trumps Everything in Determining Which Side of the Fence One Sits on Banning Muslims (Temporarily?)


© 2015, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

I am fascinated by people who take sides on an issue. In my view, taking a side means that you think that (1) you are right, (2) you have something to gain; (3) your position is the better or preferred position, or, perhaps (4) your God told you to do it. Even in the physical science realm, it is becoming far more difficult to be certain about one’s chosen position.

I admit that I do not possess the skills or wisdom of Samuel Clemens, but we are kindred spirits in terms of our attitudes about politicians. No group of citizens distresses me more. Not only are they absolutely certain about their positions, and that their positions should dictate the conduct and lives of all over whom they exercise dominion, but the logic they use and positions they take are so patently goal- determinant.

On those issues which affected my business, I was a staunch Republican, while with respect to issues which now affect me in my retirement, I am a Democrat. It is with this background that one of my buddies recently sent me a Washington Post article entitled, What Social Science Tells Us about Racism in the Republican Party.

After reading the article, I suggested to him the issue is far more complex than discussed in the article. He is aware of my position on racism, namely that although it is problematic, it has a pragmatic and utilitarian function, driven by DNA.

As for how we respond to the terrorist threat from certain factions of the Islamic faith, I think that where one stands is related to, and also derives from, our DNA. To a significant extent, it determines what we are fearful of, or paranoid about, and the whole fight or flight syndrome bears on our short-term concerns about our longer-term evolutionary survival.

Take for example the issue of guns. I used weapons while serving stateside in the Army, and appreciate what they can do. However, despite traveling in some very dangerous neighborhoods (in the U.S., and Mexico City, Rio, Caracas, Marseille, and Naples), I've never felt the need to have a gun on me or that a gun would make a difference. Yet, I respect those who feels differently.

It’s not that I see myself as Cordell Walker, Texas Ranger. It’s just that I don’t feel the need for a gun. Additionally, I could care less about the government coming to take away the gun I don’t have.

I am convinced that so much is emotion-driven (primarily dependent on our particular electro-chemical formula along with some environmental factors), and not logically driven. It should come as no surprise that so many support Trump's view of the world; they are on Trump’s side of the electro-chemical brain determinative fence, with respect to what we should fear and loath. It’s functional; it works for them, and the options in their toolbox which eliminate fears and threats (and thus makes them feel more secure) are those which decisively accomplish their immediate goal.

We here in America, in my humble opinion, waste far too much time, energy, and resources discussing race, prejudice, and discrimination. People are going to feel what they feel.

Right now, the more interesting issue to me is why so few have really challenged Trump on what he would practically be able to do as the Chief Executive of only 1 branch of government, within the confines of the Constitution. After all, he is not a dictator. The Constitution did not establish a monarchy. But that doesn't really matter, does it, if the reality is in the mind of the beholder? After all, arguably only the intellectual elite care about the legalities of what one elected leader can or cannot legitimately do.

Trump is perhaps the best thing to happen to America in a long time; he's laid bare our visceral concerns, taken off the intellectual veneer and fine clothes, and he's revealed us to be who many in our society really are. I want to know the true feelings and motivations of those who potentially pose a danger to me so that I can figure out what to do; not have a bunch of actors and actresses playing roles suggesting co-existence.

The reason America will have a difficult time winning the war on terror is because we want people to think that we will take the high philosophical road motivated by some higher moral authority. However, unfortunately that doesn't win wars, and we are not generally inclined to bomb civilians. A recent program on WW II suggests things really began to turn around when the Allies started bombing civilian areas occupied by Germans.

Ask the typical person whether, given the choice, they would rather be the noble loser, or the unethical winner. Check out nature shows about how dominant animals / predators handle themselves. We're just animals with larger brains.

For those of you who feel that I pulled this straight out of my rear orifice where the sun doesn’t shine, you are absolutely correct. However, there is a modicum of scientific proof, to support my position, upon examining the work of Robert Sapolsky. But then again, neither he, nor I, would ever considering running for political office.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Post No. 195: Why Those of Us Who Consider Ourselves to be “Pretty Smart” Should Not Be So Quick to Label Donald Trump a “Clown”


© 2015, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

A buddy of mine sent me a copy of a blog post by another blogger where reference is made to Donald Trump as the “clown genius.” Many other commentators have chosen to leave off the word genius. The following is my response, which I originally entitled, Why I Think that Donald Trump is Doing So Well in the Polls, after reading the other blogger’s post.

I have always felt that the political discussions (and almost all discussions about most anything for that matter) which take place on TV (and now other technological platforms) are dominated by those of us fortunate enough to have acquired at least some type of higher education, become professionals of some sort, read certain types of books, make enough money to consider ourselves truly middle-class, OR who are motivated for whatever reason to actively seek out information and analyze it with some degree of detachment.

Some years ago, there was a C-Span2 Book TV program where the author or authors discussed their book about how politics in particular is controlled by roughly 20% [if I remember correctly; it may have been as little as 10%] of the entire population here in the United States, and that ½ of whatever the percentage is considers themselves progressive, and the other ½ considers themselves conservatives.

We sit around talking about policy this and policy that, and position this and position that, just like we do (or did) in our respective professions, and we hang around, socialize, and live near people who might have different views than we do, but still have similar educational, class, and socio-economic backgrounds and experiences, and similar appreciations of history.

When I returned to my hometown in the South after living in Los Angeles for 30 years, and started teaching at the community college level, working day laborer jobs, selling watermelons and peaches (particularly to people in housing projects and poor communities), and traveled “down east” to interview people about the impact of unions and large corporate employers on their lives, it became very clear to me that those who I refer to as “regular folks,” do not have the discussions we “intellectual snobs” have. They have far more significant issues to face in life on a daily basis. When I started blogging, and coming across the views of those who previously did not have a voice which reached beyond their communities, I saw it even more clearly.

They could give a shit about listening to Charlie Rose, Thomas Friedman, David Brooks, George Will, or Face the Nation. I contend that they constitute about 80 – 90% % of the population, but that the vast majority of us within the educational or “higher interest” snobbish elite fail to really comprehend their size because we do not deal with them on a regular basis.

It is my position that Mr. Trump speaks to, and to some extent represents, those who have “real issues” in life on a daily basis and who have FEELINGS and positions which may not politically correct, but which are very real. We routinely minimalize their issues and concerns because we intellectual snobs are too busy controlling the agenda and the discussion, and telling others what to do, and how policies should be applied “for the benefit of society.” Donald Trump at least claims (whether rightly or wrongly) that he will get certain things done and take action, not merely talk about them or intellectualize ad nauseam. I believe that he speaks to the huge segment of society with whom we intellectual snobs have little regular contact – folks with REAL issues, and who fight REAL battles on a daily basis.

That so many of us in the rarefied air laugh at him and designate him as a clown speaks volumes in my view.

At the end of the day, big money interests and Super PACs unleased by Citizen’s United will control, and the vast, vast, vast majority of us will continue to be the pawns that we are. As a practical matter, 95% of us who consider ourselves "sophisticated" really have no more marginally significant power than regular folks. We’re just 5 or 6, or maybe 10 paychecks or Social Security payments from disaster, as compared to most of society which lives from paycheck or payment to paycheck or payment.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Post No. 194 : Why, As Some Frame It, "A Conversation about Race," Will NEVER Happen in America

© 2008 and 2015, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

The original title of this post when I first generated it in 2008 was, "Why Racism, Although Problematic, Serves a Pragmatic and Utilitarian Purpose." In the context of the recent shootings by a young Caucasian of numerous African-Americans at a Bible study session in Charleston, South Carolina, many have spoken about that elusive "conversation about race," which we seem to be incapable of conducting here in America. It is my contention that such a conversation will never, never, never, happen.... I periodically review my thoughts from earlier posts to determine whether they are still consistent with my current views, or whether I should change them in light of intervening events. In this instance, they remain the same 7 years later.

Hold tight, give me a moment while I put on my Kevlar protective vest and body armor. “Racism problematic!,” you say; that’s an understatement. I realize that I’m about to take a journey filled with land mines and sniper fire. As I have often said, sometimes you have to go to a place to appreciate that you don’t want to be there on a regular basis. At least I know that I am going to take some heat on this one. Well, maybe not…

I’ll tell you at this point – my intentions are good. Additionally, it is my hope that by the time that you finish reading this, you will consider at least some of what I have said, and return your weapons to their rightful and appropriate place. I’ll also warn you that this piece should be read while sitting on the toilet seat of your favorite bathroom. It’s a tad labyrinthine in nature. Addressing the entire racial history of humankind requires at least two pages.

You see, I’m 56 years of age, and I’ve never really given much thought to this thing called racism. It is a concept that I recognized from a theoretical perspective, and about which I had read. However, I simply could not imagine spending much of one’s time dwelling on it.

I also was afraid that by visiting the issue, even intellectually, it might have a “bittering” effect. Consequently, I came up with a construct in the 1950’s that worked for me, and I must say reasonably satisfactorily, at least for most of my years.

You will recall the recent furor generated by Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s comments during a sermon. In the context of the Obama campaign, many commentators reminded us that “America has never really dealt with the race issue,” or that we “have never had a conversation about race.”

I beg to differ. We’ve dealt with it in many different ways, and during the course of many conversations. The frustration expressed has really come about as a result of our inability to reach some satisfactory resolution, or at least some consensus about the issue.

I would submit that the reason that America has never really come to grips with the issue is because America has always dealt with it in a manner that results in it becoming an emotional issue at the very beginning of the conversation.

It is difficult to come up with an effective way to address a problem if you just focus on the symptoms, and do not really address the underlying sources. Approaching the subject from a little different perspective might enable us to formulate new solutions.

Quite frankly, although I do not have any empirical evidence to support this, it is my suspicion that we really have not made any progress in racial relations over the past fifty years. By relations, I mean how we feel about other races in our hearts and private thoughts.

That’s what really matters.

America has mucked this whole thing up in about as many ways as possible. There is plenty of resentment and seething anger out there, although it may be “inappropriate” to express or display it.

I actually hold my former secretary, Anne, responsible for setting me up on this racial thing. Virtually everyone who knows me knows that it is not a place that I like to go. (I’ve even been accused of denying that racism exists because of my philosophical attitude.)

Anne sent me an e-mail and inquired as to whether I thought that Obama (who I understand is African-American) was “for real.” She said that she was somewhat intrigued by him, but that she had her reservations, as she did with virtually all politicians. She was interested in my take.

I responded by first noting that at a very early age, I remembered someone saying that the most important thing that an elected leader can do is to convey an attitude or feeling to his or her followers. That person went on to describe the attitude that Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill both displayed during their terms. They had the hearts and minds of their people. Both made their respective nations feel that certain goals were achievable. Some would say that Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, did the same thing for most of his years in office, whether you agreed or disagreed with his policies.

I continued by proposing to Anne, on a more personal level, that we might take some cues about this leadership thing from our parents. Fortunately, for most of us, when we were kids, we thought that they were the greatest people on earth. When we became adults, particularly when we had to deal with them during difficult times, we realized that they are just people, ordinary people, with all of the human flaws and problems that we see in others, and in ourselves.

However, during the period of time when their “leadership” was most important, and had its most significant impact, namely our developing, childhood years, they did what they needed to do to provide sufficient guidance for us to become decent, thinking, human beings and hopefully positive contributors to society.

Whatever our personal issues with them may be, that is about the best that you can ask where there is no instructional or operational manual, or even agreement as to what is right or wrong. I suggested to Anne that it’s not dramatically different with the Leader of the Free World. Stay with me, I’ll get back to this racial thing.

One other thing: When one observes celebrities and famous people, one person can say or do certain things, and you have some doubts about their sincerity. You’re just not quite sure whether it is about the celebrity and his or her ego, as opposed to their really being interested in doing things for the benefit of society.

On the other hand, you observe others, who might say or do some of the exact same things, and folks will say that he or she is sincere and really means it. Then again, there are some folks in whom you do not have much faith or confidence initially, and then you have to mature, or you see them mature over time, resulting in you having a different view.

I suggested to Anne that she had to follow her heart; feel it in her gut. I told her that if you think too hard, and look too long, you’re bound to find disappointment and flaws. It’s inevitable. They exist in us all – and we know it.

Actually, I had not paid much attention to Obama until Caroline Kennedy endorsed him. I had not even entertained the theoretical possibility that a black man might become President in America at this point in our country’s evolution. However, Caroline crystallized a nebulous uncertainty in my mind. Those few, carefully delivered words did the trick for me.

Paraphrasing, she essentially said that in her youth, she did not appreciate or comprehend what her Father meant to others. However, listening to the expression of feelings by others who were around when she was a youth, Obama instilled in her the same type of inspiration that those folks claimed her Father did for them. It’s obviously not about experience, is it?

Is he more qualified than any of the other candidates? Hell, I don’t know. I’m not sure, contrary to the case of race, that it really matters. (Parenthetically, I wondered whether a person, contemplating the selection of a spouse, might consider whether various potential “candidates” were more qualified than others, and whether experience would be a prime determinant.) But, then it hit me – the realization that race was not the primary, instinctive, instantaneous factor that I processed upon focusing on him.

Kennedy’s comment suggested that (1) he had the potential to inspire something in us to move beyond our personal crap; (2) this certain amorphous quality was rare; and (3) we really haven’t seen it for far too long a period of time, and yearned for it. It reminded me of Jack Nicholson’s comment to Helen Hunt, “You make me want to be a better person.” It draws or tugs on your whole being. For millions, Obama apparently makes a lot of people want to follow him, regardless of his position on issues, and irrespective of his lack of experience.

I told Anne that it was, quite frankly, transcendental, in nature.

It occurred to me that not knowing, or not paying attention to, Obama’s race, like the position that most of you occupy vis-à-vis me at this point, might be a good thing. But it also got me “athinking.” Are there some “good” things about racism? Well, “good” might be too strong a word. Although the academicians would question the appropriateness of this, I use the words “race” and “racism” interchangeably, since, as a practical matter, if you did not have the latter, the former would be a non-issue. Let’s get back to why racism, although problematic, serves a pragmatic and utilitarian function in all societies, and has done so since the beginning of humankind. Are you still angry with me now?

There is analysis, and then there is drawing a line for one’s self. A few years ago, I met this gal of a different race. A number of her friends had met me and said that I was “acceptable.” She was apprehensive and uncomfortable about meeting me, and had to get drunk and show up at 11:00 pm in order to face me alone. She reiterated that she had been brought up in a home in a working class town, where her Father had clearly expressed his disdain for members of other races.

Her Sister in the Navy had married a man of a different race, and they had an interracial child, who her Father refused to acknowledge or even see. The Father disowned his daughter. My friend struggled with our relationship for years. She frequently made reference to her internal conflict in getting to know me better, and what she had been taught by her Father. She also noted that the friend, who was most supportive of her Brother as he was dying of AIDS, was a member of a racial group that her Father despised.

What I told her, and what I have come to accept about folks who hold views with which I disagree, is that people adhere to the principles and values that they think or feel work for them. It does not advance our cause to be angry with them if our view of race is different.

While some might view it as ignorance, or a lack of sophistication, I call it “muddling through.” Some folks do not seek out information, education, or people of other races, because knowing more stuff complicates their thought process and ability to function in everyday life. There is, after all, only so much time in a day.

For some folks, occupying it with trying to understand what is really going on is problematic. If one has the benefit of being around certain groups of people, and the time, interest, and resources that permit you to engage others outside of your group, you will probably not view those new and different as threatening. However, if your position in life is less secure and more tenuous, the threat appears to be more real. That is not to suggest that it should, or that I am an apologist for racists.

However, for certain segments of the population, it is simply more efficient for them to deal with people and cultures that they recognize, and concepts that they understand, or take positions that someone else, or some other institution, controls. Does that sound familiar? I admit that it may not be the most palatable thing to say in certain settings.

There are two phrases that I have begun to use with more frequency now that I have reached my mid-fifties. They are, “Don’t try to make your issues my issues,” and, “It’s not the way that I want to spend my time.” Racism is frequently about efficiency, with respect to conduct, thought, and emotion.

We only have so much time or energy that we are willing to devote to relationships with folks outside of our known realm, or our realm of priorities. Racism is also about probabilities. Arguably, there are fewer complications and unexpected events associated with sticking with our own and what we know. Is it limiting? Perhaps it is, if that is an issue for you. However, for people who subscribe to it, racism “works.”

Additionally, there will always be a need for humans to feel that they are better than some group of people, and a recognition that they are less well off or fortunate than others, even though it might not be accurate, fair, or justified. Are there perhaps other ways, not comparative in nature, to establish one’s place in society and establish self-worth and value? That we are still uncomfortable with the subject of race, during an era when Obama might have a chance, is reflective of its enduring problematic legacy.

Have you ever watched any shows following animals in the wild, and wondered about their applicability to understanding human conduct? Imagine that you are a tiger, amongst other tigers. Let’s assume that there are other, different animals in your vicinity. If you are familiar with them, and have had other experiences with them, then your reaction or attitude will reflect that prior experience, however limited it may have been.

If the new animal in your midst is a total stranger, who you have not encountered before, then you need to size it up, your guard is immediately raised, and you must make a decision fairly quickly as to whether it is friend or foe. You may or may not be able to run away or successfully fight the strange new animal.

As humans, we have advantages over our animal counterparts. We can move to certain parts of town, join certain organizations, place our kids in certain types of schools, and otherwise take steps to reduce certain undesirable events, and to increase the probability or number of those events occurring that we consider positive in nature.

But having a larger and more complex brain, we can also do others things. We can depersonalize acts that might be interpreted as racist acts toward us, and realize that the act is really not about us, but about the actor. We can also try to address those systemic and structural issues or conditions that encourage the practice of racism, or that make it such a useful coping mechanism for so many.

Hope springs eternal. Laughingman, of the Institute for Applied Common Sense, wrote in a recent piece:

“[T]he dilemma that this Nation faces is significantly more apparent amongst us aging baby boomers, than amongst the kids who will be inheriting the future implications of our, and our parent’s, mistakes. Half of our racial perception problem is hard wired genetic preference. Those of our ancestors who sought out their own kind, (and we still do this on the basis of first blush visual similarity), were more likely to enjoy the support and protection of the group. Adherence to group think advanced the chances of finding a desirable mate and passing along one's genes through reproduction.”

“The other half of the boomers’ perceptual problem is environmental. We may have learned to shake off the fear driven prejudice and behavior, acquired as children from our less enlightened parents. However, acting equal and thinking equal are different things. This may help explain why the most libertine, least cautious, generation in recent memory (we were, after all, willing to swallow damn near anything put in front of us) has become the most compulsively concerned, micro-managing, group of parents...ever.”

“The good news is our kids seem to have inherited our best thinking, rather than our worst fears. So, the ground work put in by MLK, Muhammad Ali, Bill Cosby, and Malcolm X, is showing up as a very new irrelevance of the importance of racial background. Affirmative action has nothing to do with the value of Tiger Woods' endorsement contracts, Oprah's audience, Senator Obama's chances to be our next president, or with the extraordinarily talented Lewis Hamilton's probability of being the next Formula One World Racing Champion.”

“I can't help but think that this is a very good thing. As the population continues to divide into ever smaller tribes based primarily on personal interests, those who pick their leaders based on performance, and emulate their behavior by choice, will enjoy more than their fair share of economic prosperity, and the unfair advantage in the genetic crap shoot.”

“Those who limit their learning to conforming to a previous generation’s preferences may go the way of the Dodo.”

Earlier this week, the world witnessed a generational and philosophical chasm between Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Senator Barack Obama. Rev. Wright has personalized this whole of issue of race, and a result, feels that it is about him.

Obama on the other hand, and this is why he will probably not prevail, has recognized all along that the significance of him even being in the hunt is bigger than the racial factor. However, I don’t think that we are ready for that level of conceptual evaluation yet in this country. (Remember Adlai Stevenson?) That’s why many in the media have turned this into a media circus and resorted to demeaning and demonizing those with whom they disagree.

Yes, America, racism works; and it runs both ways.
© 2008 and 2015, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Post No. 193b: Exist with Caution: You May Not Be Who You Think You Are (or Be Seen the Way You Want Others to View You)



© 2014 and 2015, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

I previously wrote this piece and posted it in December 2014, when there were numerous instances covered by the media of police coming in contact with citizens resulting in disturbing results. Since then, it appears that the media coverage has increased exponentially.

Yesterday, charges were filed against 6 Baltimore police officers in connection with the death of Freddie Gray. I invite you to check out the various ethnic groups of which the officers are members. Interestingly, the police union supporting them thinks that they are one and the same, namely police officers. I think that the police - citizens events which have occurred between December 2014, and May of this year, make me feel even stronger about the comments I originally made in December 2014.


This is Christmas Day, 2014. According to Dickens, on Christmas Eve in 1812, a young orphan by the name of Pip encountered an escaped convict. That meeting changed Pip’s life, but more importantly, his appreciation of the event evolved over the years which followed. We’re at that point where many reflect on what the year has brought us.

I considered naming this piece, “Everything is in the Eye of the Beholder.” I am often fascinated by the contortions we humans go through trying to understand other human conduct, and our seeming inability to understand why we as individuals are so frequently misunderstood.

Back in my legal days, when I interviewed and deposed hundreds, if not thousands, of witnesses under oath (who seemingly had no dog in the fight), I was struck by how honest people who witnessed the same event could testify so differently about what they saw.

To some extent, I think I may have gained a better understanding of this phenomenon when I saw a PBS program on eyesight and the brain. What I came away with was that instead of the eye and brain working together to take a snapshot or picture of an event, the brain functions more like a hard disk in a computer. Once the eyes (really the senses) transmit the image (or a message in the case of the other senses) to the brain or hard disk, the question is posed, “Where have I encountered this before?"

If it is something familiar, or that we encounter with some regularity, then we go with what we know, or as close to it as we have the time and energy to process it. For that which we don't recognize at all, we come up with an interpretation which we think ensures our continued survival.

Numerous news analysts who have ruminated about this year claim that it has been one dominated by conflict and tension at every imaginable level, and in virtually every geographic area.

Back in the early 1980s, when I used to hang out with a group of 5 fascinating and extraordinary women who called themselves the “Slut Sisters,” several of them maintained that all conflict was due to testosterone.

This year, we’ve had numerous events featured in the news, where the typical citizen was emotionally forced to take a position on one side, or the other, often without even a paltry appreciation of the facts. Reporters sought out friends of those individuals who died at the hands of police, or fugitives from justice who the authorities were pursuing. In almost every instance, the friends and neighbors related diametrically opposed perceptions of the people involved. “He is the most generous person you’d ever want to meet, and he wouldn’t harm a fly,” or “He was vile, scum who should be put to death.”

And this was during the first 2 hours of the coverage of the event, and before Nancy Grace had an opportunity to render a guilty verdict.

It causes one to wonder whether the side we choose is really not by choice, analysis, or even about our participation in the event, but rather about which group to which we can relate the most.

I previously shared my thoughts about race, which I believe is primarily driven by DNA and genetics. In my reality, it’s not a delayed conversation, or one which we keep trying to avoid, as much as it is one which we cannot have (and never will), because it is so deep within us that we cannot explain it.

Mr. Jaggers, the lawyer for both Miss Havisham and Pip’s benefactor in the 1946 film version of Great Expectations, suggests to Pip, "Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There is no better rule."

One would think that this would suffice for making decent and fair judgment calls, assuming once again that one has the time, interest, and motivation to pursue the evidence. But two other events threw a monkey wrench in my quest to understand this year’s conflict.

I started thinking about the issue of fear, and how important a factor it might be. In an earlier post, I questioned why fear was not characterized as the Eighty Deadly Sin. There is a television network by the name of TVOne. An African-American journalist and syndicated columnist, Roland S. Martin, who appears regularly on CNN, also anchors a news show on TVOne. During the frequently aired trailer for his show, he asks, “Why is America so afraid of black people?”

Then a couple of years ago, while watching C-Span2, Book TV, I heard a book discussion involving author Michael Shermer, a columnist for Scientific American, and the publisher of Skeptic Magazine. The title of the book says it all, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts to Gods to Politics and Conspiracies – How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.”

So, what’s the take away from all of this? I must confess that I don’t know with any degree of certainty, but suggest that neither should you. However, we need to consider something different. Perhaps we could focus on the restructuring of those systems or modifying those environments where there are higher probabilities of conflict, and not focus as much on explaining conflict on an individual or even a group level. Maybe we should accept conflict on an individual or group level, as a given.

Martin Wolf is the Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator for the Financial Times, who recently appeared on the Charlie Rose show. He suggests that we need to urgently address some global economic issues which were also extant during the years leading up to World War II. His concern is that if we do not, we may find ourselves in another major, global conflict. In an environment where intense competition and paranoia rule, that more animal, survival-oriented part of our brain takes over.

I’m not sure if he is right. However, I’m not looking forward to another year of conflict like we had this year. And neither is Pip.

Merry Christmas to all, and remember what the O.J. trial may have revealed about us….

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Post No. 193a: The Anticipation (Or Perhaps, The Lack Thereof)



We first generated this piece in January 2011, just minutes before President Obama delivered his State of the Union Speech at that time. Upon reviewing it earlier today, we concluded that not much has changed. What do you think?

© 2011, 2014, and 2015, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

It is now 7:59 pm EST, as we begin to type this piece. President Obama delivers his State of the Union message in just 61 minutes, and it is our intention to have this article posted long before the broadcast begins.

In addition, Turner Classic Movies will air, at 8:00 pm EST, what some consider the best Laurel & Hardy movie ever made, Sons of the Desert.

Suffice it to say that we are ”under the gun.” But not nearly as much as our President, following what many have termed the shellacking he took during the mid-term elections. As he walks to the podium, he will be subject to intense scrutiny, and before the night is over, he might wish that he had walked across the Sahara under the glaring light of the equatorial sun.

This piece is not about how he will perform or be received, at least not in an objective sense, but rather how so many have already peeped into their crystal balls, and know how he will perform. For the past three days, the talking heads have told us what they expect of him this evening.

Part of the responsibility for this attitude can be laid at the foot of the President and his staff themselves. In preparation for the speech, the White House has leaked its intentions, put out press releases, and employed all manner of preemptive and public relations vehicles to gain the upper hand and capitalize on the moment.

His detractors have exerted an equal, if not greater, amount of energy preparing to do the Tonya Harding, and test his knee caps with their version of Obamacare, a lead pipe.

As ridiculous as it may seem, somehow we yearn for an era (if ever one existed), where all of us wait in anticipation to listen to what our President has to say, hoping that it will somehow inspire us, and lift us out of our doldrums.

In a recent documentary on Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, and the final days of the Civil War, a noted historian quipped, “One of the great ironies about American democracy is that we claim that control is within the power of the people, and yet we yearn for a savior to deliver us from our problems.

[Those of you reading this before the President’s speech might switch over to the Laurel & Hardy movie right now. It’s a beauty.]

A couple of posts ago, in Where Our Heads Take Us, we spoke of preconceived ideas and their power. At the end of the evening, we strongly suspect that the Democrats will give the President an “A,” and the Republicans will provide a grade of C-, noting that the President is a gifted orator, although he is wedded to the teleprompter.

And that can’t be good.

For any of us, and definitely not for the Nation.

And so we must confess that we are guilty of having preconceived notions also, because we anticipate that nothing will change, and the politicians will all return to business as usual, and all the talk about the potential for a change in tone in Washington following the Arizona shootings will be for naught.

Is that sad? Yes, especially because we consider ourselves to be idealistic optimists. We are also pragmatists.

But there’s hope out there even amongst some of our most cynical followers. Take for example Douglas, who has been with us from the very beginning. In response to our last post, Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, he commented:

“I would argue that each of us, if we are concerned about violent speech, not engage in it. Who knows? It might catch on.”

Douglas is also the guy who from experience told us that when he decided to not argue with his wife and agree with her, it didn’t work, and that she continued to argue.

We’ve often told friends of the Institute that this experience (operating this blog) has been simultaneously one of the most rewarding during our lifetimes (in that we have learned so much about how others think), and one of the most frustrating (wondering whether they read the same article that we wrote).

S___ has to got to get better than this. It just has to….

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Post No. 193: Exist with Caution – You May Not Be Who You Think You Are (or Be Seen the Way You Want Others to View You)



© 2014, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

This is Christmas Day, 2014. According to Dickens, on Christmas Eve in 1812, a young orphan by the name of Pip encountered an escaped convict. That meeting changed Pip’s life, but more importantly, his appreciation of the event evolved over the years which followed. We’re at that point where many reflect on what the year has brought us.

I considered naming this piece, “Everything is in the Eye of the Beholder.” I am often fascinated by the contortions we humans go through trying to understand other human conduct, and our seeming inability to understand why we as individuals are so frequently misunderstood.

Back in my legal days, when I interviewed and deposed hundreds, if not thousands, of witnesses under oath (who seemingly had no dog in the fight), I was struck by how honest people who witnessed the same event could testify so differently about what they saw.

To some extent, I think I may have gained a better understanding of this phenomenon when I saw a PBS program on eyesight and the brain. What I came away with was that instead of the eye and brain working together to take a snapshot or picture of an event, the brain functions more like a hard disk in a computer. Once the eyes (really the senses) transmit the image (or a message in the case of the other senses) to the brain or hard disk, the question is posed, “Where have I encountered this before?"

If it is something familiar, or that we encounter with some regularity, then we go with what we know, or as close to it as we have the time and energy to process it. For that which we don't recognize at all, we come up with an interpretation which we think ensures our continued survival.

Numerous news analysts who have ruminated about this year claim that it has been one dominated by conflict and tension at every imaginable level, and in virtually every geographic area.

Back in the early 1980s, when I used to hang out with a group of 5 fascinating and extraordinary women who called themselves the “Slut Sisters,” several of them maintained that all conflict was due to testosterone.

This year, we’ve had numerous events featured in the news, where the typical citizen was emotionally forced to take a position on one side, or the other, often without even a paltry appreciation of the facts. Reporters sought out friends of those individuals who died at the hands of police, or fugitives from justice who the authorities were pursuing. In almost every instance, the friends and neighbors related diametrically opposed perceptions of the people involved. “He is the most generous person you’d ever want to meet, and he wouldn’t harm a fly,” or “He was vile, scum who should be put to death.”

And this was during the first 2 hours of the coverage of the event, and before Nancy Grace had an opportunity to render a guilty verdict.

It causes one to wonder whether the side we choose is really not by choice, analysis, or even about our participation in the event, but rather about which group to which we can relate the most.

I previously shared my thoughts about race, which I believe is primarily driven by DNA and genetics. In my reality, it’s not a delayed conversation, or one which we keep trying to avoid, as much as it is one which we cannot have (and never will), because it is so deep within us that we cannot explain it.

Mr. Jaggers, the lawyer for both Miss Havisham and Pip’s benefactor in the 1946 film version of Great Expectations, suggests to Pip, "Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There is no better rule."

One would think that this would suffice for making decent and fair judgment calls, assuming once again that one has the time, interest, and motivation to pursue the evidence. But two other events threw a monkey wrench in my quest to understand this year’s conflict.

I started thinking about the issue of fear, and how important a factor it might be. In an earlier post, I questioned why fear was not characterized as the Eighty Deadly Sin. There is a television network by the name of TVOne. An African-American journalist and syndicated columnist, Roland S. Martin, who appears regularly on CNN, also anchors a news show on TVOne. During the frequently aired trailer for his show, he asks, “Why is America so afraid of black people?”

Then a couple of years ago, while watching C-Span2, Book TV, I heard a book discussion involving author Michael Shermer, a columnist for Scientific American, and the publisher of Skeptic Magazine. The title of the book says it all, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts to Gods to Politics and Conspiracies – How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths.”

So, what’s the take away from all of this? I must confess that I don’t know with any degree of certainty, but suggest that neither should you. However, we need to consider something different. Perhaps we could focus on the restructuring of those systems or modifying those environments where there are higher probabilities of conflict, and not focus as much on explaining conflict on an individual or even a group level. Maybe we should accept conflict on an individual or group level, as a given.

Martin Wolf is the Associate Editor and Chief Economics Commentator for the Financial Times, who recently appeared on the Charlie Rose show. He suggests that we need to urgently address some global economic issues which were also extant during the years leading up to World War II. His concern is that if we do not, we may find ourselves in another major, global conflict. In an environment where intense competition and paranoia rule, that more animal, survival-oriented part of our brain takes over.

I’m not sure if he is right. However, I’m not looking forward to another year of conflict like we had this year. And neither is Pip.

Merry Christmas to all, and remember what the O.J. trial may have revealed about us….

"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense should be a Way of Life"™

Opportunity to Serve as "Guest Author"

This forum was designed to be YOUR forum for the civil exchange of ideas by people with all points of views. We welcome the submission of articles by all of our readers, as long as they are in compliance with our Guidelines contained in Post No. 34. We look forward to receiving your submissions.