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 na├»ve 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

"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.