Monday, December 29, 2008

Post No. 72: Country Seeking New Year Resolutions

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Now that the New Year is upon us, we’ve decided, as citizens, to approach it differently. After all, we’re nothing if not eclectic.

Although some suggest that the concerns about the state of our nation (and the world) are much ado about nothing, we’d rather not be lulled into complacency and leave it to our purported leaders to pull us out of this mess.

As stated in our Post No. 71, entitled “Our Responsibility as Citizens,” (, we believe that each and every one of us can have a significant influence in improving our collective situation.

If we don’t have that belief as citizens, we’re screwed.

And we’ll be left to the devices of the slick, the charlatans, and the cads.

The period in history, which we believe most powerfully reflects the power of individual contribution (at least in a measured way), is WWII. (So was the French Revolution; however, it was not particularly coordinated.)

War bonds, rationing, women lifting riveting machines, dramatic re-tooling of industry, and individual sacrifice, in addition to the men and women fighting on or close to the front line, all contributed to the ultimate success of the Allied forces.

What we’d like for you to do is to come up with a description of something pragmatic and practical, which you are capable of doing in the coming year, as an individual, responsible citizen, which you believe others could emulate. Don’t make it too conceptual.

We all know what we didn’t do during the past 8 years. Now it’s time to stop complaining about the actions of others, and to take charge and do something.

Send what you plan to do to via e-mail on or before January 1, 2009.

We will review the submissions, and on January 2, 2009, post the Top Ten Actions of Responsible Citizens for 2009 on our blog. We will then take efforts to have them presented to the media and our elected leaders, and go from there.

We look forward to your input.

We’re sure that you’re up for the challenge.

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Post No. 71a: Article of Interest from Baby Boomers Out, Cuspers In

The following article is taken from a recent edition of It was forwarded to us by one of our loyal readers, Stever.

Commentary: Baby Boomers Out, 'Cuspers' In
By Marian Salzman, Chief Marketing Officer, Porter Novelli Worldwide
"New York (CNN) -- Rarely has there been a year when so many things went out of style in such a short time: not just investment bankers, gas-guzzling vehicles, corporate jets, conspicuous consumption and political polarization, but also a whole generation.
* * *

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Post No. 71: Our Responsibility as Citizens

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

In response to two of our recent posts, dealing with same-sex marriage and abortion, one of our readers facetiously suggested that we were engaging in “mental masturbation,” while another suggested that we were “going in circles.”

Both comments were constructive in that they reminded us, here at the Institute, that we should occasionally engage in a discussion about why we do what we do.

There are three of us here engaging in multi-disciplinary masturbation. The Laughingman keeps us in check, and reminds us of the historical, psychological, and anthropological underpinnings of things. The Logistician is engineering, management, and policy oriented. The Optimizer injects the human and governmental elements, and impresses upon us the importance of nuance.

Together, we have a goal. We’re three Baby Boomers who recognize that, despite our lofty, idealistic goals and views in the 70s, we did little to improve on the citizen model. And for that we must take responsibility.

You see, we believe that all adult citizens bear most of the responsibility for the current state of our nation. Not our purported leaders.

We abdicated our responsibility each time that we stepped into the voting booth, we shopped, we worshipped, we sent our kids to school, and the manner in which we functioned as employees and managers.

And each time that we remained silent and acquiesced.

Someone recently suggested that we are approaching a new era in our nation with respect to the role of government going forward.

At the same time, we recognize that a new crop of kids will inherit a mess of massive proportions. Consequently, we’re here to assist them in recognizing that there are more than 2 or 3 ways to view any issue; there are at least 27.™

Because it is going to take thinking outside of the box, and coming up with bold, innovative, untried approaches, to tackle this monster. We’re getting our asses kicked, soundly, and the first step in turning that around is to admit that it’s our fault. Each one of us.

It’s now the turn of the kids to turn this thing around.

We will ultimately take our concept on the road and engage college students throughout the nation in a conversation about Personal Responsibility, and how the decisions that they make ultimately bear on the success of the nation as a collective whole.

We need more engineers.

We need more scientists.

We need more inventors.

We need more entrepreneurs.

And we need each member of these groups to tackle our problems, not from their personal perspectives, and what might be in their best interests, but what is ultimately in the long-term best interests of the nation.

We will utilize adults who have encountered and recovered from various difficulties in life, as teaching vehicles, in conjunction with the latest research on the brain, and decision theory. The goals of the Institute are the following:

(a) To provoke thought;

(b) To encourage students to consider their choices in life;

(c) To assist students in analyzing the decisions that they make along with the consequences; and

(d) To have them recognize the importance of taking personal responsibility for their choices.

We hope to achieve, during our discussion of issues, the de-personalization of the analysis, by avoiding subjective and partisan approaches. We believe that the analysis will improve through objectivity (as much as it can be achieved) and creativity, along with “digging deep” to expose the root causes of issues, instead of merely being distracted and sidelined by symptoms. We can thereafter craft better solutions.

Although maintaining the status quo might be, solving problems shouldn’t be, partisan and political.

If the election of President-Elect Obama signifies anything, it tells us that we all need to chip in and do our respective parts. It’s our duty as citizens.

It’s time for a whole new collective approach.

Remember, experience isn’t expensive – it’s priceless.

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Friday, December 19, 2008

Post No. 70a: From the We Just Couldn't Resist File

Over the past couple of weeks, we delved into some very controversial subject matter, specifically same sex marriage and abortion. Passions ran strong. Many drew lines in the sand. Needless to say, there was no satisfactory resolution.

The following is an example of how a little creativity, in the absence of emotion, can go a long way toward helping people resolve their differences.

A little girl asked her father:
'How did the human race appear?'

The father answered, 'God made Adam and Eve;
they had children; and so was all humankind made.'

Two days later the girl asked her mother the same question.

The mother answered,
'Many years ago there were monkeys from
which the human race evolved.'

The confused girl returned to her father and said,
'Dad, how is it possible that you told me the
human race was created by God,
and Mom said they developed from monkeys?'

The father answered,
'Well, Dear, it is very simple.

I told you about my side of the family,
and your mother told you about hers.'

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Post No. 70: From the Yin and the Yang File

Interestingly, although we are not often inclined to read our local newspaper, we must admit that it always provides ample food for thought. The following two pieces are taken from today’s edition of the News & Record based in Greensboro, North Carolina. We’d be curious as to your instinctive responses, and what they may tell us, if anything, about this nation in which we live.

We’ll lead off with the lighter piece, a letter to the editor from a local woman.

“In response to Tammy Wrenn’s letter (Dec. 1), the fact is this: If a person voted for any politician who supports abortion rights, they and their candidates are in no way Christian. God’s commandment states, ‘Thou shall not kill.’ You can’t follow only the commandments that you like or that fit your lifestyle. God attached no disclaimer to any of them.

“Abortion is not one issue. For true [emphasis added] Christians, it is the only issue. Murder of a human being in their mother’s womb and the support of that act [are] nothing short of spitting in God’s face. The act interrupts the plans he had for his child. It is a mortal sin.

“Please, if you are not willing to walk in the footsteps of our Lord, Jesus Christ, do not take the title of his follower. It is an insult and great hurt to him and all true Christians.”

Jo-Ann Sarti Peck of Greensboro, NC, © 2008, Greensboro News & Record, LLC

* *

The second article is entitled, "Vatican Issues New Doctrine on Bioethics," and is an Associated Press article which also appeared in the December 13, 2008 edition of the Greensboro News & Record.

“Vatican City – The Vatican hardened its opposition Friday to using embryos for stem cell research, cloning and in-vitro fertilization.

“But in a major new document on bioethics, it showed flexibility on some forms of gene therapy and left open questions surrounding embryo adoption.

“The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith issued ‘The Dignity of a Person’ to help answer bioethical questions that have emerged in the two decades since it last such document was published.

“The Vatican’s position stems from its belief that human life begins at conception.

“The Vatican says human life should be created through intercourse between husband and wife, not in a [P]etri dish. [Isn’t it purer (free of contaminants) and more hygienic in a Petri dish?] The Vatican also opposes the morning-after pill even if it doesn’t cause an abortion, because an abortion was intended.”

What think and say thee readers?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Post No. 69: A Country Has to Know Its Limitations

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

On November 30, 2008, shortly after Sen. Obama’s election, we asked our readers whether any governmental entity should have the responsibility to provide healthcare for its citizens.

We invited our readers to provide their views on the subject, prior to our putting forth an argument as to why no government entity should have that responsibility, except perhaps in the case of veterans, or those injured during the course of service for the nation. (Since that time, we have also considered the inclusion of children below a certain age, since they have very little role in making decisions about their health until they are much closer to adulthood.)

It led to a very lively and stimulating exchange. Even a cursory examination of the comments in connection with Post No. 68d ( reveals the diversity and passion of opinion regarding this subject.

Is it really the government's responsibility to ensure the good health of, and the provision of health care facilities and treatment to, its citizens? Why do so many citizens feel that it is something which the government, at some level, should provide? Is there a reasonable expectation on the part of the taxpayers that health care is a "service" due them by virtue of their current level of tax contribution?

What responsibility should be placed on the citizens themselves to make the "best efforts" to maintain their health, and utilize the very latest in scientific knowledge about health risks, particularly nutrition, and the detrimental consequences associated with certain behaviors? Should citizens be required to show that they engaged, or failed to engage, in certain behaviors, prior to being extended heath care benefits by the government?

We indicated that we would generate some thoughts after entertaining those of others. Here are five arguments which can be advanced to support the notion that we should not have a national healthcare system, or perhaps that America is not yet ready to have such a system.

1. All relationships are about expectations. An argument can be made that the American public has an unreasonable expectation about what it takes to manage and operate a large organization and its accompanying bureaucracy. Most interestingly, those who have never run a large organization seem to think that they have all the answers. The criticism of the various executives, associated with the Big Three American Automakers, suggests to us that we as a nation do not fully comprehend the complexities and difficulties associated with management of a large organization in an everchanging, global environment. We are apparently “qualified” to criticize others who do not achieve the results that we expect.

2. In contemplating a national healthcare system, it appears that most proponents suggest that it provide benefits to all of our nation’s citizens, namely 300 million people. We do not have the capability to manage anything involving 300 million people. We don’t do it with respect to the other “essentials” of civilized life, food, housing, clothing, or education, which are arguably more simplistic in nature, and which at least have components around which we can wrap our arms. What makes us think that we can do it with respect to arguably the most complex of issues, namely human health? To borrow a phrase from Dirty Harry, “A country has to know its limitations.”

3. We do not have anyone, or any board or committee for that matter, with the capabilities, sophistication, and experience to manage a 300 million recipient organization. Furthermore, as noted earlier, as an organization grows in size, its sense of “reality” changes to ensure the advancement of its interests and its continued survival. We’re setting ourselves up for failure and unnecessary criticism.

4. Any system delivering services to 300 million people will undoubtedly parcel out its services in unfair and inequitable ways during the course of the execution of its policies. It’s not like an engine with simple, mechanical, moving parts. Humans do not function in accordance with the rules of physics. They’re emotional, and they have minds of their own. No one has yet discovered how to manage emotion. At least in the military, they understand what needs to be done to craft humans into fungible, interchangeable units, for management purposes, and even they have difficulties.

5. What makes us think that we can devise a system to provide benefits or services to recipients who essentially do whatever they want or desire to do, from a health perspective, and then have an expectation that the system should address the negative ramifications flowing therefrom? It doesn’t make sense. What makes us believe that we can “herd cats,” each with their own goals, motivations, and selfish interests, and deliver some nebulous, unspecified level of service resulting in what we refer to as “good health?” As a general proposition, Americans are not “sufficiently motivated” to maintain a state of good health. We don’t want it badly enough. The only proven way to get humans to adhere to a policy or approach is to force/ prod them, or have them buy into it voluntarily.

Although some ambitious and very thoughtful suggestions were put forth in your comments, no one, who responded to our challenge about reforming the health care system, really explained how they planned to address the uncertainties and complexities associated with the human side of the equation, and each individual’s responsibility to the system.

As a practical matter, it can’t be done in America, at least not under our current political philosophy. Any attempt in that regard will be regarded as socialist, or even worse, communist, in nature. As we all saw during the most recent election, we can’t have that.

This is a country built on social Darwinism or survival of the fittest. If you happen to be one of the fittest and you survive, kudos to you. If you are one of the not so fit, we leave it you to fend on your own, perhaps with the gratuitous assistance of non-profits, the religious community, and the kindness of others. Many in our country feel that if we assist the not so fit, or guarantee certain things to the masses, we play into their weaknesses and thus become enabling agents.

This is neither a culture nor governance model which has as its goal the equal treatment of its citizens or the equality of the services or opportunities available to them. It is a culture that simply guarantees that each individual citizen has a chance to pursue whatever they might so desire. That has nothing to do with results.

We don’t guarantee results in America.

Simply put, a national healthcare system does not fit within our governance model, nor does it fit within our cultural philosophy. This is not to suggest that it should not, just that it does not. It’s just that it would require a significant paradigm shift in our way of thinking about our role as citizens.

Don’t you think?

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Post No. 68d: An Argument Why No Government Entity Should Have Responsibility to Provide Healthcare for Citizens (Except Vets)

Much debate has been waged in our nation for quite some time now about the establishment of a national health care system available to all US citizens. Former First Lady Hillary Clinton's efforts in this regard were met with extreme resistance. The issue has been revived again recently by virtue of the election of Sen. Obama.

Is it really the government's responsibility to ensure the good health of, and the provision of health care facilities and treatment to, its citizens? Why do so many citizens feel that it is something which the government, at some level, should provide? Is there a reasonable expectation on the part of the taxpayers that health care is a "service" due them by virtue of their current level of tax contribution?

What responsibility should be placed on the citizens themselves to make the "best efforts" to maintain their health, and utilize the very latest in scientific knowledge about health risks, particularly nutrition, and the detrimental consequences associated with certain behaviors? Should citizens be required to show that they engaged, or failed to engage, in certain behaviors, prior to being extended heath care benefits by the government?

Our next article shall explore an argument to the effect that the government should not provide any medical or health care benefits, to any of its citizens, with the possible exception of veterans, and those individuals injured during the course of service to their nation.

We invite you to weigh in with your views before we present that argument.

Post No. 68c: TV Broadcast at 7:30 pm Sunday Evening "Evil Genes"

Television Show of Interest
Tonight, Sunday, November 30, 2008, at 7:30 pm EST, C-Span2 Book TV airs its program featuring Barbara Oakley, author of Evil Genes. She contends that the immoral behavior of individuals such as Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler, and Slobodan Milosevic has a genetic basis.

Post No. 68b: Financial Meltdown Worsens Food Crisis

The following article of interest is taken from the October 26, 2008 electronic edition of the Washington Post. We suspected that because of the impending presidential election at the time of the original publication of the article, many readers would pay little attention to it and the significance of the issue.

We purposely held it in abeyance with the intention of bringing it to your attention once the election mania subsided. The situation described in the article should cause us all to pause.

It should remind us that all conduct has consequences, and possibly consequences beyond our immediate circle. It suggests that we should always consider the long-range (both in space and time) ramifications of our conduct. It should further prompt us to consider that responsible conduct is always bigger than us, and always bigger than the here and now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Post No. 68a: Outgoing Bush Administration and Incoming Obama Administration Working Together

The link below will take our readers to an article of interest appearing in today's electronic edition of the New York Times. The article outlines the manner in which President Bush and President-Elect Obama are working together to deal with the economy, in an effort to calm jittery nerves. Our hats are off here to both individuals and their respective administrations. This is the type of common sense collaboration which the American public and the world expect from responsible leaders.

Once again, it shows that doing the right thing is not rocket science.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Post No. 68: Prejudice as Survival Instinct

[As many of you are aware, we invite our readers to become Guest Authors and submit articles to us for posting on our blog. The guidelines for the submitted articles are contained in our Post No. 34. ( Leading up to the election of Sen. Obama, there was much discussion in our country about the effect of race, and where we as a nation have come in terms of dealing with that issue. The following article has been submitted by one of our regular readers on the subject. Enjoy.]

© 2008, D. W. Haire

Every so often, I am reminded of something my Mother said to me. It was odd because it was "out of the blue," and had nothing to do with anything going on around us, or the conversation we were having. These are her words as well as I can recall them:

"I don't think I'm prejudiced but, if I am walking down the street and a black man approaches, I get very nervous and afraid."

Years later, my Father (a couple of years before he passed away) was relating a story that seemed important to him. We had been talking about various things and he was remembering a period when he was frustrated at work. There was something about a meeting and it may have been when he was leaving the company to start his own business (a small bike shop). The details are unclear, but I remember his words, and the emotion behind them, when he told me what he said to his supervisor.

"I never liked your smiling Jewish face."

My father never uttered a word of prejudice regarding anyone or any group in my presence in all the years prior to that. It was another "out of the blue" remark that sticks in my mind.

The following is not scientific. It does not have extensive research to support it, nor does it provide any references. It is strictly opinion, and my own opinion at that. You can disagree or not, as you see fit.

It will likely remain my opinion regardless of your argument unless you can show me a scientific, well researched, paper that refutes it. Even then, I will be the judge of that proof. This is not something I have just popped up with. It is opinion which is based upon what logic, knowledge, and observations I have gathered over the years. In short, it works for me. Let's start with my hypothesis and work from there.

I believe that hate and fear of others began with early man as a matter of survival. That is, prejudice and bigotry were survival techniques that actually worked to ensure the survival of individuals and of tribes. I am not condoning bigotry or prejudice, but rather I am taking an objective view, and positing a reason for their existence and persistence throughout the history of our species.

Early humans were hunter-gatherers. They banded together initially in family units and quickly into tribes or clans. It was necessary to do this in order to insure survival. It was easier for men to hunt in groups. More berries, grains, and wood (for fuel) can be gathered by a group than an individual. A family might survive on its own, but its chances are increased when it becomes part of a group. So tribes and clans are natural extensions of family and increase the odds of survival.

The first clans, as the name implies, came from family. But inbreeding would quickly destroy the group within a few generations. It is necessary to expand a gene pool. Therein lays the first dilemma - who to bring into the clan and where to find them.

To answer the question of where to find new blood, we turn to the prevailing lifestyle - hunting and gathering. For all practical purposes, men hunted and women (and children, often) gathered. It made sense. It worked. Clans migrated, as would tribes, following the herd animals they hunted. They would have to run into other clans from time to time. These clans were rivals for the food resources; game and vegetation and water. It is likely they would skirmish from time to time. The result would be one clan would be run off or wiped out.

Only they wouldn't be wiped out, would they? The women were likely to be spared because women are a resource. They provide an expanded gene pool that is non-threatening, add to a work force, and provide comfort, pleasure, and children. And they are compliant. They can be tamed (contrary to movie and novels).

Men are not resources, generally speaking. They are competition. They resist domestication. In a primitive society, the basic ingredients of power are strength and boldness. It is, therefore, more likely that women would be saved than men when a clash between clans occurs. It was not uncommon, for thousands of years, for the winning side to murder all the males, including male children, and take the women and female children.

From close breeding and a shallow gene pool, the tribe takes on common characteristics. Also, people really don't follow the "opposites attract" maxim for the most part. They are attracted to those who most look like themselves. Put another way, they are their own standard of beauty. Since the tribe has similar physical characteristics, outsiders would seem to them as "unalike."

It continues to today. I am reminded of an exchange in the O.J. Simpson trial where Judge Ito becomes unhappy when he is likened to a forensic investigator who is Chinese. To Judge Ito, the difference in physical characteristics between Japanese and Chinese was obvious, not so to the prosecutor who made the mistake. Differences may be subtle between Hutu and Tutsi but each is readily capable of recognizing the other.

In order to survive, primitive man needed to quickly determine friend or foe. And the biological answer was the precursor to prejudice. If you look like me and mine, you are my "Friend", if you do not, you are the "Enemy." Bigotry and racism also play a role in that they offer support for the belief of success in battling the enemy. If you perceive those that do not look like you as inferior, weaker, and/or less intelligent, then you feel you have an advantage and are more willing to fight.

I have heard many people express the idea that children are born without prejudice, that they learn this from their parents. I disagree. I think we are all born with it in our genetic makeup. Our parents and our peers simply teach us to articulate it, express it, and, all too often, to embrace it.

The question is, can we overcome this and rid humanity of the effects of prejudice and bigotry? Can we get people to expand their instinctual perception of their "tribe" to include all people of the planet? I think we must. Otherwise, that part of our survival instinct will eventually lead to our extinction. I know that I have learned to suppress my own prejudice, which is all I think is needed. I believe that when we understand why we think a certain way, we can control it.

© 2008, by D.W. Haire

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Post No. 67b: TV Show of Interest: History of Race & Prejudice Back to Ancient Times

On C-Span2 Book TV at this moment, is a presentation at the Brooklyn Public Library, by Author Marc Aronson, about the history of race and racial prejudice going back to ancient times.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Post No. 67: The Dangers Associated with Being "Peculiar"

The Dangers Associated with Being Peculiar, Revisited

Over the past week, much has been made of the issue of same sex marriage and civil unions. Even on this blog, a very lively exchange developed, with individuals on all sides weighing in with their views.

We thought that it might be a good time to re-post one of our earlier articles about being "peculiar." We'd appreciate your thoughts.

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Several years ago, I attended a conference sponsored by a professional association at a high end resort in Florida. An incredible buffet dinner was scheduled for one evening, to which everyone was looking forward.

I arrived just as the food was being taken away.

Upon my arrival, everyone inquired as to why I was so late. When I informed them that I felt compelled to watch two episodes of the Andy Griffith Show, they all howled with laughter.

Their laughter grew even louder when I mentioned that, in my opinion, one could learn more about life from that show than perhaps any other show on television. (Interestingly, my Father tells me that it was also the favorite show of my Mother, who passed away at a relatively early age.)

I saw an episode of the show yesterday, which reminded me of the manner in which this simple show, about life in small town America, has provoked many a thought throughout my lifetime.

It was the story of Ed Sawyer, a clean-cut, well-groomed stranger who arrives in Mayberry. Throughout the episode, Ed is always dressed in a conservative business suit, articulate, respectful, polite, and there is nothing visually alarming about him. In fact, he could be the poster boy for virtually any All-American organization or movement.

The first scene in the episode unfolds as Ed enters Floyd’s barbershop, where Barney Fife is in the chair getting a shave. Several other citizens, including Andy, are also present.

Ed engages them all in a pleasant, upbeat conversation, calls them each by name, and exhibits a degree of familiarity which causes the shop’s occupants to become uncomfortable. As he leaves the shop, all heads turn to follow him down the street, and they all exit to watch his next move. Almost immediately, there is a suggestion by Barney that Andy commence an investigation of this suspicious and “peculiar” stranger.

As Ed proceeds down the sidewalk, he encounters a double baby stroller parked in front of a store, where the mother is looking through the shop window. Ed greets the two twins, their mother, and then poses questions which suggest that he can distinguish between the two boys at this early stage in their development. The suspicions grow.

Ed next proceeds to the local rooming house, and when offered one room, he declines because of an incident which had occurred in the room, arguably about which few would have known. Although he has never stayed at the rooming house, he then proceeds to request a specific room, by number, which although green in color, has a cheerier d├ęcor.

At this point, Barney is beside himself, and inquires whether Ed speaks German. Fortunately, Andy, the voice of reason, intervenes and initiates a conversation more normally associated with welcoming a visitor to one’s town. At the same time, Andy poses a number of questions in an effort to get to know this fellow better, since he is also experiencing some degree of discomfort, although unarticulated.

Later that afternoon, Ed approaches Andy and seeks his advice and assistance. It appears that the local gas station is up for sale, and Ed is considering buying it. Andy suggests that perhaps Ed might be moving a tad too quickly, and that he should take the time to get to know the townspeople a little better.

He further suggests that the town’s citizens might regard Ed’s sudden emergence on the scene as “peculiar,” without some “warming up.” (By the way, I learned the word “peculiar” from this show, which was used with some frequency on episodes airing in the 1960’s.)

Ed then segues into how much in love he is with Lucy Matthews, who he has never seen. However, he is familiar with all of her physical attributes, and he inquires of Andy as to why she does not answer his calls and knocks on her door. Lucy soon walks in to lodge a complaint, to which Ed responds that she is just as pretty as he suspected. It is at this point that Andy feels, as the town’s sheriff, he must get to the bottom of this behavior, since it threatens to disturb the town’s peace.

Ed admits that his behavior might strike some as odd, but provides a very plausible, if not immediately obvious, explanation. Ed explains that Joe Larson, a long-time resident of Mayberry, was an Army buddy. While serving together, Joe received the local Mayberry newspaper, and Ed found himself reading the paper on a daily basis.

As time moved on, he began to feel that he “knew” the citizens about whom the articles were written. He further explains that over time, he began to envy Joe, because Joe was from Mayberry, a place that Ed admired, and Ed was from, well, “Nowhere.”

Ed further explains that over time, he began to wish that Mayberry was his hometown, and he eventually convinced himself that it was. When he saw the ad in the paper that the service station was up for sale, he regarded it as an opportunity to fulfill a dream.

After Ed leaves the courthouse / jail, Barney rushes in and proclaims that Ed has finally “overplayed his hand.” When Andy inquires as to what Barney is referring, Barney states that Ed has been hanging around Lucy Matthews’ house and actually crossed the line by ringing her bell.

Andy suggests that insufficient grounds exist to justify an arrest, to which Barney replies that he pulled in three 12 year olds the preceding Halloween for ringing doorbells unnecessarily.

He further exclaims that Ed doesn’t even have the excuse of being out for trick or treat. Deputy Fife then inquires as to whether Ed speaks Spanish.

Of course, Ed’s efforts to integrate himself into the community go terribly wrong. That’s even after Andy makes everyone feel pretty small and provincial after facetiously suggesting that they all were justified in their prejudicial attitudes toward this stranger, just because he was an unknown, peculiar, and somewhat different.

Ed realizes that this really isn’t the place for him, and leaves. And the town lost a potentially energizing and illuminating individual.

This 40 plus year old episode of the Andy Griffith Show made me think of several things this weekend. First, the power of the visual media came to mind, along with its potential to expand the minds of its viewers, particularly young viewers, as well as its power to narrow.

Second, it reminded me of the 30 year period when I lived in Southern California, and I interacted with all sorts of people of different races from different parts of the world. Virtually everyone was a stranger. Upon returning to North Carolina, despite the fact that North Carolina is the number one state in terms of percentage increase of Hispanics, I noticed the lack of interaction between whites and blacks on the one hand, and Hispanics on the other. Asians operate many mom and pop businesses in the black parts of town, but the social interaction ends there.

At several public meetings in my hometown, I have mentioned that despite what one may think of our immigration policies, many immigrants are here, and we need to engage them and integrate them into our society, with the goal of deriving the best that we can from their involvement. Each time I have broached the subject, many citizens in the room have lowered their heads and looked at the floor without responding.

In recent months, I have tried something different. Every time I have encountered Hispanics, I have taken the initiative to walk up to them and start a conversation. Each time, without fail, they have been pleasant folks and almost ecstatic that someone outside of their group took the risk to engage them. It has always been a rewarding experience, although guarded it may have started.

Third, this episode also struck a chord when I learned of Senator’s Obama’s reference earlier this week to the efforts of his opponents to label him as different, and thus necessarily something that we should fear.

Our fear of the unknown, caution, and prejudice, even that racially based, appear to be hard wired to ensure survival and ease of negotiation in a complex world. But we also have a bigger brain which should enable us to think and reason beyond our biggest primal fears.

Some criticism has been leveled against the Andy Griffith Show over the years because of its conspicuous absence of blacks in a show based in a southern city. However, Andy Griffith himself sure made up for that during the airing of his Matlock series.

Be that as it may, my hat is off to the Andy Griffith Show, and particularly its writers, particularly considering the era in which the show was first viewed. Perhaps more of you will have the opportunity to view the Ed Sawyer episode before the upcoming presidential election.

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Post 66d: Television Show of Interest - CBS 60 Minutes Interview of President Elect

No matter the side of the aisle on which you sit, I strongly suspect that you will find the interview of the Obama family interesting, from a personal perspective. It might better explain the “intangibles.”

You can also watch it online at

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Post No. 66c: Question to Ponder – Why Are We So Worked Up Over This Same Sex Marriage Issue?

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

In our immediately previous post, “Would Jesus Discriminate,” (, a very lively discussion developed about the subject matter of Rev. Dr. Cindi Love’s book of the same name.

In one of the comments to that post, “Stever” brought up an interesting point, about which we occasionally thought during the week following Sen. Obama’s election to the Presidency. Having previously lived in California for many years, one of our Senior Fellows contacted a number of his friends in California to discuss their thoughts about the election. Interestingly, virtually all of them had something to say about Prop. 8 and its effect on same-sex marriage, as if it were equal in significance.

In fact, one friend suggested that in a state disposed to electing an African-American, one would have thought that it would have also been able to handle same-sex marriage. (We will not delve further in the accuracy of any portion of this statement, at least not right now.)

Stever mentioned our country's obsession with who sleeps with whom, contrary to many other parts of the modern, industrialized world. Should one simply look at the religious views of the original settling colonists, and their successors, one can easily identify the roots.

However, why have these views, about such a relatively small aspect of the human body, spirit, and condition, persisted and occupied so much of our time and energy over the years?

In the grand scheme of things, aren't food, clothing, housing, shelter, and lack of disease or deformity the most important things to humans, as opposed to where someone places his or her appendage or orifice? How did such a biological, reproductive function evolve into a moral issue? Of course, there are many tomes written which explore this history. However, this is the 21st Century. Even if one has a conflicting view, why is it such a big issue that there is uniformity in behavior or conduct, either way?

We think that part of the answer is that when certain basic needs in society have been addressed, we then move on to deal with the less significant issues. That does not explain the sexual philosophies of so many in our country, who still struggle to provide the basics for themselves and their families.

As we prepare this piece, we are listening to a C-Span2 Book TV presentation ( by Charles Taylor, author of A Secular Age ( During the discussion, Taylor looks at the history of secularism and its relationship with the force of religion. He notes that as a country becomes more prosperous and “advanced,” it becomes more secular.

We are often reminded of a comment made by someone in Afghanistan about why the Taliban was welcome to his country, from 1995 until the US arrival in 2001. He noted that prior to the arrival of the Taliban, there was utter chaos and difficulty merely surviving. The Taliban (like Marshall Tito in the former Yugoslavia) established order, so that people could live in peace. In response to the complaint of westernized countries about the Taliban's position on women's rights, he said, "Who cares about women's rights when you have order?"

We here in the US have the luxury of looking at others and questioning their values and practices, and the discretionary time to address issues that are not necessarily basic survival issues. Some would suggest that we are the moral compass for the rest of the world. Are we?

A friend of our Senior Fellow earlier in the week said that she wants to be able to "love" whoever she wants to love. But what does that mean? What does love have to do with marriage? (The character of Gregory House, played by Hugh Laurie on Fox’s House, claims that a successful marriage is based on lies.)

What if the law permitted "spiritual love," but no same sex touching, or penetration, or genital contact? Would society be satisfied? Would we allow members of the same sex to get married as long as they did not have sex, or hold hands or kiss in public, so that minors could not view this conduct? Perhaps we could allow members of the same sex to marry, but not allow them to become, let us say, public school teachers, where they might come into contact with children.

What’s the deal with this same sex marriage thing? And why is it so important now that folks have difficulty feeding their families, filling up their gas tanks, and finding a job?

If we all decided to become more “religious,” and follow the purported dictates of God, would our country’s financial situation improve? If the individuals desirous of becoming married to one another agreed to abandon their quest, and marry individuals of the opposite sex, would the interests of our society be advanced and improved?

You tell us.

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Monday, November 10, 2008

Post No. 66b: Question to Ponder - Would Jesus Discriminate?

Those of you who are regular readers of our blog are aware that we, the Fellows at the Institute for Applied Common Sense, are big fans of the weekend book presentations on C-Span2 Book TV. Many ideas and concepts are discussed in a relatively short period of time.

After having our thoughts stimulated, many of the questions posed in our articles reflect our consideration of various issues raised by the authors, panelists, or participants in book fairs.

Today’s consideration is whether Jesus would discriminate. Yesterday, the Rev. Dr. Cindi Lowe ( discussed her book, Would Jesus Discriminate: The 21st Century Question ( You can actually watch the interview by clicking on this link:

What’s interesting about Dr. Lowe is that she was apparently brought up in a religious environment where she was taught to be intolerant of certain behavior of others. In fact, when her brother was dying of AIDS, she initially took the position that God had punished him for his sexual behavior. However, at some point later, when her relationship with her daughter was at issue, Dr. Lowe decided to change her attitude and position.

Dr. Lowe, who is now a lesbian, claims that God called on her to disseminate her new message. After this occurred, she realized that there are all sorts of discrimination associated with religious beliefs. [It reminded us of how the Ku Klux Klan often couches its philosophy in religious terms. (] It is now her role to “correct the behavior of other people.”

Her original target audience consisted of religious fundamentalists and Christian Evangelicals ( She noted that she discovered that her book is appreciated by a much wider audience.

Of course, we do not have a position here. However, we’d be curious as to your views. Would Jesus discriminate or tolerate discrimination against any of God’s children?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Post No. 66a: Television Broadcast of Interest -- America - United We Stand

As this article is being generated, C-Span2 Book TV ( is airing a panel presentation conducted on November 1, 2008, several days prior to the election of the President. It was a presentation made during the 2008 Texas Book Festival, entitled “America-United We Stand.” The panel explored the social and political divide in America and how it developed over time.

Paul Stekler (, a political documentary film maker and Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, served as the Moderator.

The assembled authors presented some very interesting arguments, even prior to the election. The panel consisted of three authors.

Robert Cushing ( is a retired sociology and statistics professor from the University of Texas at Austin, and the author of The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart (

Bill Bishop ( is a journalist who, in 2004, first coined the phrase, “The Big Sort.” He is Cushing’s co-author.

Ronald Brownstein ( is a CNN Political Analyst, and author of The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America (

Interestingly, a couple of the speakers made strong arguments for the continuation of the Electoral College. They fear that direct popular vote would actually bring out more bitterness and extreme partisanship.

Since this discussion is so pertinent to the events of the day, we are reasonably sure that C-Span2 Book TV will air it again at some point during the coming week.

In that same vein, later this afternoon, Sunday, November 9, 2008, at 3:15 pm, C-Span2 will air another panel discussion from the 2008 Texas Book Festival, entitled “The War over American Ideals” ( The panelists discuss the Bush Administration’s war on terror and its effect on America’s standing in the world.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Post No. 66 by Guest Author: Positive Choices

© 2008 by muttonchopsbyiris

When I took a class on interpersonal relationships (more years ago than I care to admit), the instructor stated that we always have a choice. Regardless of the situation or circumstance, there is absolutely, positively, undeniably a choice. I was among those in the class who said, "Not always - sometimes your back is against the wall, there are times ...."

The teacher shook his head in opposition. "You may not like your choices, but they are always there."

After digesting his statement, I realized he was right, and even better, that his statement was liberating.

We are never stuck with one option. Even if someone has a gun to your head, you have a choice - do as you are told or don't. Ultimately you have the power of making the decision and accepting the consequences of your choice.

Taking choices a step further, you can opt to turn negatives into positives based on the choices you create for yourself, as proven by one woman's political statement. Shannon Bennett of Texas was tired of having the Obama political signs stolen from her yard. She had choices - she could have stopped putting out signs, she could have staked out the thieves, she could have whined to her local authorities. Instead, she made a better wheel - she bought 12 cans of spray paint and turned her front yard into one huge Obama sign! Innovative, positive and she's a great role model for thinking outside the box.

In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Shawn Turschak was fed up with his McCain/Palin signs disappearing. Being an electrical engineer, he decided to send a shocking message to would-be criminals. Unfortunately, his first victim was a 9-year-old boy. Of course dad says the kid was just examining the sign. The child was also trespassing and should have been taught, like I was, if it's not yours, don't touch it! The police got involved, no one got in trouble.

Was the Chapel Hill Shocker wrong? Perhaps, but it was predictable. He took the easy choice and was vindictive in his quest to assault burglars. The kid probably deserved a pop on the hand but got a zap instead and there's always the danger of shocking the wrong person, sending them into deathly arrhythmia. (I shudder to think about the potential for barbecued squirrels on this guy's lawn.)

As election day closes and we obtain the results, we must realize the choices we had, recognize our actions, and live with them in a positive manner. Voter turn-out is breaking records everywhere and people are passionate about their candidates.

If you chose to vote, you exercised one of the most important freedoms we have. This country was established on freedoms and creating democracy. Early settlers took huge risks and lost much by coming here. So many died and suffered while declaring independence from the English monarchy. Everytime I see "Iron Jawed Angels" (, I am awestruck by how long it took women to get the right to vote, and that less than 100 years ago, suffragists paved the way for me to do something many take for granted.

Yet, those who chose not to vote must recognize they exercised a right as well. Today, we have a multitude of ways to become registered voters, and the methods of voting are abundant. No one can say they are left out of the voting process. Additionally, to ignore it is to make a choice.

Perhaps you weren't aware of your options, but again, made the choice not to inquire. I would never condemn someone for not voting, but would admonish them should they complain.Whether our preferred candidates win or lose, we still have choices about our behavior over the next four years. We can sit back, whining or cheering, basking in victory, or shuddering in defeat.

Another option is to move forward. If you are not happy with the politicians in office, start acting now. Get involved, learn the issues, stay informed, and volunteer in the next election.

If you are satisfied, my advice is the same. Don't rest on your laurels thinking our world is now safe. Make sure these elected officials keep their promises by writing, calling, and having your voice heard.

People in the past made choices and died for me to have a voice today. The least I can do is choose to make sure I am heard.

© 2008 by muttonchopsbyiris

The Institute for Applied Common Sense invites our readers to serve as Guest Authors, and to submit articles on any subject in the universe, consistent with our philosophy.

What is that? We believe that all discourse can be civil. We also believe that reasonable people can differ, and yet intelligently work together, in a collaborative fashion, to come up with innovative solutions which advance the positive, long term interests of society. We also strive to stimulate thought and assist our readers in appreciating that there are not just 2 or 3 ways looking at issues, but at least 27. Responsibility requires such an approach.

The article appearing above was submitted earlier in the week, prior to the election. We apologize for not publishing it earlier.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Post No. 65: A Chat with the Man and the Woman on the Street – Reflections on the November 2008 Presidential Election

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

In Post No. 63, entitled, “How Political Polling Potentially Does a Disservice to the Democratic Process (, we discussed the various ways in which polling organizations have the ability to affect the outcome of a poll by doing certain things. We also discussed why there are wide disparities between polls.

Yesterday, following the election of Sen. Obama as President-Elect, we took to the streets of Greensboro, North Carolina and simply asked those with whom we came into contact, for their thoughts about the election result. We did not make any effort to assemble a representative cross-section of the population. We just stopped people who, as we walked about town, were willing to respond.

Their comments are outlined below. We have neither embellished nor otherwise modified them. We also received comments from others throughout the country via e-mail and during telephone conversations.

We are purposefully not providing information regarding the respondents, such as age, race, profession, etc., with one exception, which shall be obvious. Make of it what you want. It’s simply information. And this is the Information Age. We simply need to figure out how to interpret it and use it to our collective benefit.

Nobody’s paying attention to that nigger; the only reason that they would even let him win is because the country ain’t worth a s___ anymore.

There is still work to do. This is just the beginning. We as a people, all of us, have to work together. It will open up the eyes of young black males. They’ll have to change their way of doing things, and be more responsible. I have really been into it. I have not been sleeping. I told my doctor that I had electionitis.
As I heard Obama speak over time, I felt a kinship with him as he articulated his goals. The speech itself? He called for unity, and essentially said, “Here we are; let’s put this other stuff behind us.”

You can’t beat God.

Sixty percent of the world’s population consists of colored people. It is about time.

The age of whitey is over.

He’s going to lead us down a socialist, Marxist path. I’m concerned.

If only this historic moment could be replicated in our communities.

The message is that if you work hard, you can aspire to be whatever you want to be, and this proves it. Life is not always fair, it’s hard, but life is what you want it to be.

John McCain carried Kentucky by about 7 points...very close to his best popular vote performance. Period. I spent some time today with about 50 college educated adults of a certain age. Responses to the open ended question; "Well, what do you think?" varied on a more or less normal distribution, from disappointment to elation. Most individuals on the negative end of the spectrum expressed resignation, and relief that the campaign was finally over: "At least I won't have to look at any more of those damn ads." Virtually no one expressed any spontaneous or prompted anti-black threats or reservations. On the positive end of the spectrum, there was a similar absence of gloating. The most common universal response was; "God bless, and I hope he can fix this mess."This "mess" is the Louisville job market. This is a very small sample survey, but the word "Us," seems to have taken on a new meaning. God bless...let's hope...

I’m excited; very positive. I actually got a little weepy. I hope that it signals a big change. We need to quit viewing the world and our potential in such a negative fashion. We must bring our kids on board, and make them feel that they have something at stake. Their frequent use of the word “whatever,” reflects their attitude.

We must be practical and realize that one man can not do it all by himself.

Nobody cares about that nigger. We don’t matter. He’s just another nigger.

I am one of the few people who did not believe it possible. I was convinced that America was not ready to have a black president. I was sure that the religious fanatics, the rednecks, the narrow minded, the bigots, the skinheads, and the scared, would turn out in record droves, and join forces with the thinking conservatives, to prevent this. I’m actually quite surprised. I did not have an emotional reaction, because I still do not believe that it occurred.

Change started when Obama first came on the scene. There was a dramatic increase in the number of people who registered to vote. He provided a spark when people saw him. That he was allowed to even enter the arena is significant alone. That he is a successful black man is a message that will be sent to others. The force is unstoppable, and there is a lot of hope. I actually feel that he was “anointed’ by God. He’s too flawless. Perhaps not perfect, but no major flaws. There appears to be a feeling of unity. It means that all of the work done in the past to address racial discrimination has yielded some results.

A guy with whom I work said that he cried all night out of disappointment in his country.

Bush and his cronies were arrogant. Although I am generally not this cynical, I believe that they felt that America was on the decline, and they decided to take as much wealth with them for themselves, their families, and friends, and they are going to leave the rest of us to fend for ourselves. They “took the money and ran.” They’re not much different than lots of other money grubbing leaders around the world-- Idi Amin, Papa Doc Duvalier, Sadaam Hussein, and others. They just wore suits and were more subtle. And they did not kill their citizens. I do not get the sense that Obama is a crook, or greedy. I think that he will legitimately try to help as many people as possible.

I’m ecstatic. The masses or young people have prevailed. It proves that we could get it done. We are building on our past as opposed to being crippled by our past. The youth see this as an opportunity and are pretty ignorant of history. They’re looking forward. They did not get caught up in the bitterness of the past. It is an opening to newer, bigger, and greater things. It’s a fresh start.

I saw a white person walking down the street with an Obama sign, and I said to myself, “Even white folks feel that Bush screwed up.”

When I first went into the voting booth to vote, I paused and looked at the ballot in somewhat of a state of disbelief, and realized that something significant had occurred. I was really moved, and realized that it had happened. He managed to sidestep all of the usual pitfalls. He could have been equally negative and used personal attacks, but he was graceful and let it be known that he was interested in serving all of the people of the nation. In fact, I sensed a genuine concern for all people, and a desire that our nation become all-inclusive.

We needed a person who moved the heart. All of this craftiness will do very little in the long run.

He is the Person for This Time.

On election night, my buddy and I drove around looking for a celebration party. We came across a large group of white kids in an art gallery/living museum, who were staring up at a large flat screen TV suspended above their heads, while Obama’s voice resonated through the speakers. They were staring up toward him, speechless, and appeared to hang on every word. Without saying anything, they appeared to really be looking up toward him for hope. You could feel it.

It tells me that change is going to come. It is the moment that the world has been waiting for. It is the younger generation that put him into office. It represents pride for black folks. We now believe that there is nothing that we can’t do. I really believed him when he said that change was going to come. He really provided me with a sense of hope. There was an absence of hope during the Bush administration. They appeared to advance the interests of a small group of citizens, and ignored the rest.

This is their 60s. Obama is their Kennedy. Let’s hope they can avoid some of our mistakes....

From a mentally challenged, compensatory education student with an organic learning disability, in response to the question, “Hello, how are you doing today? “We have [pause] a black President!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Post No. 64: Let's Hear from You

We here at the Institute for Applied Common Sense appreciate your insightful and thoughtful comments responsive to our posts. We thought that we would approach this election day a tad differently. We'd like to hear from you on the front end.

Assuming that Senator McCain ultimately wins the election, tell us what you think that means for this country. On the other hand, assuming that Senator Obama wins, tell us what you think that means? Finally, a large segment of the voting public has found something distasteful about the elective process this year. Tell us what you would recommend we do to ensure the nomination of qualified candidates by both parties, and what you would recommend be done to eliminate the use of inaccurate allegation tactics, or the use of misinformation, if anything.

We look forward to hearing from you. We wish the best to which ever candidate ultimately prevails. We need unity going forward, and we all should back the new administration.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Post No 63a: Book Which May Be of Interest: "Just How Stupid Are We?"

Just saw a discussion, on C-Span Q & A ( featuring Richard Shenkman, the Founder and Editor of the George Mason University History News Network. His latest book is Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter. You may find it interesting.

Post No. 63: How Political Polling Potentially Does a Disservice to the Democratic Process

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Over the past 18 months, we have been bombarded with all sorts of polls regarding this Tuesday’s presidential election. Probably most of you assume, with the exception of the Fox News polling organization, that most polling organizations are reasonably ethical, professional, and honest.

You know, cynicism is a terrible thing. It encourages us to think less of others. It discourages opening ourselves up to information, experiences, and most regrettably, other people. It encourages us to think less of the potential positive influence which we can have on others. It can also lead us to think that corruption is so deeply entrenched in the fabric of our nation, that there is little chance that things can improve.

What is the ultimate tragedy of such disillusionment? Giving up.

Fortunately, none of the people with whom we have personally come into contact who read this blog, and even those who comment and with whom we have not come into personal contact, are quitters. But there is something about which we should be concerned, and which we need to address.

Believe it or not, Fox News has actually done our nation a great service. It has revealed to us that seemingly responsible and well educated people can appear on our media vehicles, and with a straight face, argue the position which advances the interests of one side of the political and societal spectrum, and call it “fair and balanced.” Its success and popularity have alerted us to the same potential in all other media vehicles to disseminate a slanted message, and that’s a good thing.

Earlier this year, it occurred to some of us here at the Institute that the Fox News polls might not exactly be the most useful vehicles to use in gauging public opinion about various political issues J. However, being the optimists that we are, we assumed that the other polling organizations were, to borrow a phrase, “fair and balanced.” (To borrow another phrase from one of our Senior Fellows, the Logistician, “Silly us.”)

At a minimum, one would hope that the Gallup poll, with its long history and prominence in our nation, would lead us in the right direction. Au contraire mon frere. (We imagine that given the instructions by the client, the service provider complies.)

As we are generating this piece, we are simultaneously watching C-Span2 Book TV (, as former Gallup Senior Editor, David Moore, discusses the flaws in our polling system. Moore, now a Senior Fellow at the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, has written a new book, The Opinion Makers: an Insider Exposes the Truth behind the Polls. The bottom line: As currently structured and implemented, the polling process does a disservice to the democratic process.

(Moore is also the author of How to Steal an Election,, and The Superpollsters,

Interestingly, Moore claims that in the 1920s, there was an intense debate about whether the American electorate was too disinterested and too uninformed to really involve them in the political process. Many apparently felt that the world of politics should be left to the intellectual elite and the power brokers.

We also learned from Moore’s discussion that political primaries were created to wrestle the elections away from party bosses, and give more control to the voting public. Polling emerged from that same sentiment.

In the 1930s, George Horace Gallup ( wanted to monitor the “pulse of democracy,” or what the voting public was thinking. Unfortunately, according to Moore, that laudable goal has evolved into an industry that manipulates the public, instead of moving us closer to direct democracy.

In today’s political environment, polling organizations manipulate us through the manner in which the sample group is selected or defined, and the phrasing of the questions posed. Instead of forcing the respondents to (1) come up with an opinion, (2) state that they do not currently have an opinion, or (3) state that they are totally disengaged and do not anticipate having an opinion, polling organizations dictate the resultant “opinion.”

Furthermore, administrations use their press releases and conferences, and their Press Secretaries, to introduce a notion into the minds of the American people. Polling soon follows. The result is, according to Moore, the completion of a spin cycle initiated by the administration. This, concludes Moore, does a disservice to the democratic process.

We have heard with increasingly frequency, from political commentators and talking heads, who will never face voters, that the American voting public consists primarily of the uninformed and unsophisticated, and thus they need not be consulted. (It also explains why the victims of Katrina will soon be forgotten, even though their basis needs have not yet been addressed.)

Occasionally, one goes so far as to suggest that some members of the uninformed and unsophisticated class should have their right to vote taken away.

That potentially explains, apart from greed, why our elected officials apparently do not listen to common citizen, but grant large corporations, the Jack Abramoffs of the world (, and other large special interest groups, all with money, an audience.

It also potentially explains, in a sentence, why we still have the Electoral College ( system.

Arguably, not much has changed since the formation of our nation, although there have been substantial technological advances in communication. We just can’t say certain things in public, especially before a crowd. Can you imagine a candidate saying that to a crowd, “You’re uninformed and unsophisticated, and that’s why were going to do what we feel is in your best interests!” Isn’t a desire to become part of the club which runs things and therefore have a say, what motivates most newcomers to join the ranks of elected officials?

However, rarely are they of the group which Sarah Palin represents, and with whom she connects. Just last evening, John McCain was questioned as to whether Palin was the correct choice, and bolstered the ticket. During the course of his response, he suggested that she was the spokesperson for a segment of the populace long ignored, and whose voices deserved to be heard. It’s only the members of the purported educated class, whose interests she does not advance, who find Palin inappropriate.

The common person, with some degree of justification, probably feels that a commoner in charge could have lead us into the economic crisis in which we currently find ourselves. Why should faith be placed in the elite?

(At least the British are honest enough to come right out and call a segment of their population, “commoners.” And as much criticism was leveled at the caste system which existed in India for years, at least there was no delusion about the class to which one belonged.)

And thus we have polls, controlled by the elite and the ruling class, to make the masses think that they are doing the bidding of the masses, and what is in the best interests of the nation as a whole.

Moore was careful to note that both Republican and Democratic administrations have been equally guilty of misusing polls to their advantage.

Earlier this week, we realized that the Republicans want to tell people what to do with their lives and bodies, and what relationships they should accept. The Democrats want to tell people how to spend their money and their priorities, once they take your money in the form of taxes. Maybe the Libertarians have it all right.

The good news is that Moore believes that we can structure polls to actually serve a useful and honest function, and truly determine the pulse of democracy. Some bi-partisan organization needs to take the lead in that regard.

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Post No. 62: Re-Posting of Why Racism, Although Problematic, Serves a Pragmatic and Utilitarian Function

Those of you who read Post Nos. 60 and 61, concerning the long term ramifications of Obama being elected President, will appreciate why we have chosen to re-post this article.

Earlier this evening, I attended a lecture by Dr. Robert M. Sapolsky, a Stanford neurobiologist and primate researcher, and author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, and A Primate's Memoir. I asked him point blank whether racism is biologically driven, and whether some of the venom directed at Obama can be explained within that context. You'll find his response interesting, upon viewing our next post. In the mean time, let's revisit some of our earlier thoughts.

Post No. 61: Further Thoughts about the Problems Associated with an Obama Victory

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Thanks Issac and Caleb for placing comments on our blog, in response to our earlier Post No. 60, “Why I am Concerned that Obama Might Win” ( You both essentially are of the opinion that the candidate with the best credentials, regardless of gender or race, should be selected. I have chosen to respond to the two of you in the form of a new post.

I agree with you, in theory, that society should want the best person (from an objective perspective) for the job. However, that’s not the way societies do things. There are reasons why neither a woman, nor a black, has ever been elected as President of this country. The reasons go back hundreds of years. There is a substantial segment of the population that feels that no matter the woman or the black, or the Hispanic or Asian for that matter, who might be put forth to occupy that position, they are inherently unqualified and unacceptable.

If one believes that gender and racial attitudes have improved since the 1950s, then an argument can be made that the time for a woman or some other minority has arrived, and our society has evolved. On the other hand, if you believe, as I do, that racial and gender attitudes have not really changed, then one can easily come to the conclusion that America is not ready to have a woman or minority President.

What have changed over time are the visibility of integration, and the comfort level of at least some people to disclose their true feelings. Integration was effectively forced on this nation, first by the Warren Supreme Court when the Congress did not see fit to do so, and later legislatively, but with an extreme amount of reluctance.

There were clearly many bigots during the 1950s, who did not have a problem identifying themselves as such. There were probably just as many folks who were not legitimate, honest bigots, but behaved as such due to peer pressure and socialization factors. (This is the group which I suspect is comfortable having blacks as friends and colleagues today.)

Not only were many merchants, schools, clubs, public accommodations, and other entities forced to accept folks into their world against their will, but later the whole concept of affirmative action further soured the soup. There has been a lot of whispering, and under the breath statements of discomfort, over the past 60 years.

I’m not sure whether racial attitudes can change, as dramatically as we profess, over such a short period of time. Make-up can be applied, and plastic surgery performed, but the basic pragmatic and functional reasons for racism have existed, somewhere on this earth, for thousands of years. (Just think about all of the ethnic cleansing that took place over the past 30 years internationally.)

We previously addressed racism in our Post No. 2, in April 2008, entitled, “Why Racism, Although Problematic, Serves a Pragmatic and Utilitarian Function” (

I suspect that the expression of prejudicial attitudes and beliefs, and the comfort with which people feel to express them, is significantly dependent on the current economic status of the group affected. I submit that there are transient changes in generational attitudes depending on the economic status of the nation. It is unnecessary, and serves no useful function, to disclose one’s innermost prejudices, if one is doing fairly well. However, as soon as one, or the group of which the person is a member, feels that his interests are being adversely affected, and identifies, rightly or wrongly, another group as a causative factor, then civility and the exercise of self-restraint go right out the window. That we have folks at McCain / Palin rallies calling for Obama’s death should surprise no one during these economic times.

Now, getting back to the performance issue. Just for sake of argument, let’s assume that we could label the state of economic affairs in our country as poor, moderate, or good. If a substantial segment of the electorate feels that women and minorities are incapable of running the country and serving competently, and by whatever combination of forces, the country ended up with a woman or black president, I would just hope that individual would preside during a moderate or good economic period. Then at least the person would have a chance to disabuse the doubters of the inappropriateness of the selection, and the inherent inferiority of that individual’s group.

But when we thrust the first of any group into a situation which many deem perilous, he’ll either be viewed as a hero, should things turn around quickly, or an abysmal failure, should economic conditions continue to deteriorate.

I simply do not think that things are going to turn around sufficiently economically within the next 2 – 3 years, to give Obama a chance to even appear competent. I also believe that no one person, under our system of government, can quickly overcome, as George Will calls it, “the inertia that is Washington.” Furthermore, do you really have reason to believe that a Democratic controlled Congress will do a better job than what has been done over the past 20 years?

This has nothing to do with Obama. It has to do with the economy, and the apparent disinterest on the part of our elected federal officials, to place the interests of the nation, ahead of their personal interests.

I’m afraid that he will be a one term president, and we will not see another woman or minority elected for at least another 100 years thereafter.

We never allowed people to grow, respect, and value others on their own terms. We never allowed the concept of integration, fairness, and equal treatment to creep into the hearts and minds of people and evolve accordingly. Instead, we created awkward and artificial contrivances, and legal fictions, to achieve an admittedly lofty goal. However, we didn’t work on the hearts and minds of the core citizens of America. We just drove the bigots underground, and made unpopular the open expression of their views. (We also made employers financially responsible for discriminationatory acts of their employees which were developed years becoming arriving at that place of employment, as if an employer can really police the heart of an employee.) You couple those attitudes with some religious underpinnings, and nothing has really changed in the past 60 years. Their God supports their view of the world.

On the other hand, those closet liberals / potential race “minglers” who were afraid to disclose their true views during the 1950s, now feel free to do so.

The real question remains, deep down, have we really changed? If one believes that racism is primaily biologically and evolutionarily driven, and not a mere matter of choice, then it's going to take more than 60 years of artifical laws to change the DNA.

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Post No. 60: Why I am Concerned that Obama Might Win

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Earlier this evening, I had a conversation with a friend, Lawrence, about the prospect that Obama might actually pull this thing off. Lawrence, an Obama supporter, participated in a neighborhood campaign drive several weeks ago.

He turned and looked at me with a slight tinge of amazement, when I said that I hoped that Obama did not win this election.

You see, it’s not that I have anything of real substance against Obama. However, I just do not honestly think that America is ready for a black president. Plain and simple. We’re not there yet.
Same goes for a woman president. Does that mean that I feel that the battle should not be fought? Of course not.

This has nothing to do with my personal views – just my thoughts watching the battle and the soldiers on both sides. Certain more optimistic or lofty-ideal commentators have spoken about how far our country has come, and the message which it will send to the world.

Let me provide an analogy which might better explain my concern.

There are many legal organizations, which advocate certain positions, and wait for years to pursue the appropriate “test case” to advance their positions. Timing is very important. The mood of the country, the facts of the case, the strength of the plaintiff, the financial resources available, and the judges on the bench, are all factors.

Such cases are not prosecuted carelessly, without considering the big picture / long term effects.

As much of an optimist as I portray myself, there are some practical issues about which I am very concerned.

First, I think that we are in for some very difficult economic times for several years to come.

Second, to the extent that any purported damage done by the current folks in power can be addressed, it will take a long time to perform any corrective action.

Third, this war thing is not going to be resolved as quickly and easily as we might argue, no matter which side is telling it.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, we don’t have the financial resources to do much of anything.

We all know, on a practical level, that when times are bad, fault and blame are placed on the executive in charge, and the party in control of Congress.

Imagine the discourse while Obama presides over all of these complications. I can tell you how soon the criticism of his policies is going to start.

I have a fear that should he win, within 2 years, the electorate will be calling for his head. And his opponents will undoubtedly demonize him and say, “I told you so.”

Economic hardship and pain have a way of quickly erasing all memory about the good times associated with the successful candidate’s election, and the good times that he anticipates down the road.

The patience of the electorate will get short. Real short.

And it is not just Obama about whom I am theoretically concerned. I would be just as concerned about the first woman to occupy the office. Or the first Hispanic.

Quite frankly, the first of any group, after years of conspicuous absence of similar individuals, should not be remembered for bad times. I’d almost have him lose this one and win the next one, when the economy is on the upswing. But then again, there may not be another time.

And so I told Lawrence, there is only so much that a president can do, and that the problems are global and deep rooted in nature. Lawrence looked at me and said, despite that, he wanted a president who inspired hope around the world. Is that a good enough reason to want to see Obama win?

You tell me.

P.S. In the end, Hillary may have been the victor.

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Friday, October 24, 2008

Post No. 59a: As If There was a Question that Folks are "Worked Up" about this Election

You may or may not have heard about the young lady, Ashley Todd, who was purportedly attacked yesterday, and the initial reports were that she was attacked for being a McCain supporter.

Well, check this out:

Post No. 59a: Now You Tell Me That Folks aren't Worked Up about this Election

You may or may not have heard about the young lady, Ashley Todd, who was purportedly attacked yesterday, and the initial reports were that she was attacked for being a McCain supporter.

Well, check this out:

Daily Trifecta No. 3

Word of the Day:

INTELLECTUAL DISHONESTY: (1) the advocacy of a position which the advocate knows, or believes, to be false; (2) the advocacy of a position which the advocate does not know to be true, and has not performed the rigorous due diligence to insure the truthfulness of the position. Rhetoric is used to advance an agenda or to reinforce one’s deeply held beliefs in face of overwhelming contrary evidence.

If a person is aware of the evidence and agrees with the conclusion which it portends, yet advocates a contradictory view, they commit intellectual dishonesty. If the person is unaware of the evidence, their position is ignorance, even if in agreement with the scientific conclusion. If the person is knowingly aware that there may be additional evidence, but purposefully fails to check, and then acts as though the position is confirmed, this is also intellectual dishonesty.

See references and sources at:

Quote of the Day:

Intellectual Honesty is more than what’s legislated; it is inherent in the best people, those who take a broader view of their action than simply, “What’s in it for me?”Fact of the Day: Top Three Highest and Top Three Lowest 3 Yr Avg Median Income by State (2005 – 2007):

Fact of the Day:

New Jersey $65,933
Maryland $65,124
New Hampshire $63,942

Louisiana $39,461
Arkansas $39,279
Mississippi $35,971

Figures acquired from U.S. Census Bureau Statistics Web Site

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Post No. 59: Art Imitates Political Life Again

© the Institute for Applied Common Sense

As this piece is being written, I am watching an old episode of The West Wing on Bravo. The “conversation” in the episode was so close to the current “conversation” in our presidential race, that I had to find out when the series ended. ( It turned out to be 2006.

Part of The West Wing conversation had to do with courting evangelical Christians, uniting the Republican party, affiliation with shady characters from one’s past, and associations with ministers. There was also a discussion about the public’s seeming demand for expressions of religious faith from politicians. However, those issues are not the focus of this piece.

This piece is about uniting America. In the West Wing episode, Alan Alda plays a member of Congress planning to run for the presidency when Martin Sheen’s character, President Bartlett, leaves office. A Karl Rove type political consultant, played by Ron Silver, is brought in by one of Alda’s aides to counsel Alda. One gets a sense that Alda does not respect Silver. Silver even goes so far as to question Alda as to whether Alda thinks that Silver is really a spy sent by the opposition.

At some point during the exchange, Silver essentially says the following: “Look, I’ve spent 20 years driving a wedge between people. By observing what drives people apart, I also observed what brings people together. How about this? How about becoming the candidate of unity – the candidate who is capable of defining those issues and goals on which we can all agree, and the methods used to achieve them. We can highlight those ways in which people are connected and have the same basic values. We can also play to their emotions in that during these times of uncertainty, it is more important for us to be united than divided. If you do what I say, you’ll be elected as the candidate of unity.”

I found it to be of interest that Obama originally painted himself as the candidate of unity. He claimed that he was able to cross political and cultural lines. Interestingly, it was the politics of division, from within and without his party, which ultimately caused him to respond in kind.

Do we as a nation have the capability and motivation to unite and get past our individual differences? It has generally been said that such unification, and looking past our selfish interests, occurs during periods of “stress.” These might include war (at least those in which the whole country is invested), natural disaster, and common threats (such as a poor economy or the attack on the World Trade Center). Are we as a nation sufficiently in trouble (or worried) to prompt us to find some unifying principles around which we can rally?
To some extent that’s what occurred when oil prices hit the roof. We finally started a serious conversation on alternative energy sources and energy independence. (By the way, Jimmy Carter first tried to doing something about energy during his term.)

I find it a tad ironic that we are facing some very serious problems in this country, and we are still focusing on our differences. I still say that the Laughingman had it right earlier this year. If only McCain had nominated Obama as his VP, and Obama had done the same with McCain. That would have been the shot heard around the world.

I recently heard an author speak on C-Span2 Book TV. (I was unable to locate the book for purposes of this article.) However, it was someone fairly well known, since Newt Gingrich trusted him enough to provide him with his records and notes. In the records, the author located a set of amazing documents.

As most of you are aware, there was no love lost between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. Furthermore, they did not trust one another. However, at some point in Clinton’s second term, they both came to the conclusion that they both loved their country. They also both felt that partisanship was having a detrimental effect. Erskine Bowles was Clinton’s Chief of Staff (1997-1998) at the time, and fortunately, Gingrich trusted him.

The author actually found a document outlining the terms of the truce, and stating the goals of Clinton and Gingrich. The document further contained a pledge to work together. Just before it was about to go to the press, and announced to the American public, the Monica Lewinsky story broke 2 or 3 days before. Thereafter, the Congress and the President were absorbed by the Fellatio Investigation.

Can you imagine the direction in which our country might have been guided had that circus not occurred? In the grand scheme of things, was the President’s indiscretion and admittedly improper conduct of such importance as to justify the diversion?

Maybe we could use someone similar to the character played by Alda in the West Wing episode. I’m still wondering what would have happened if Obama, in his quest to be the candidate of inclusion and crossing of lines, simply ignored the questions raised about his citizenry, Jeremiah Wright, Father Flager, Bill Ayers, Lewis Farrakan, Chicago Political Machine allegations, ACORN, and his purported devotion to Islam.

Here’s my final question. Who would you admire more? An honorable and noble loser, or a down and dirty winner?

When one stops to think about it, it is we who determine the nature of the discourse, by what we pay attention to, and how we respond.

"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"™