Sunday, August 31, 2008

Post No. 39: I Can't Believe You Did That - Now That You Have

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

By Guest Author, The Laughingman

To my colleague, The Logistician, in response to your earlier post about “Why Men Cheat” (, and the much needed Addendum (, both of which were generated in the wake of the John Edwards scandal:

You are either a very brave man, or a man full of that substance that makes us all better drivers, to take this subject on. Blissful monogamy is a man-made myth, based on an economic system idea that went comatose just about the time we started fighting "World Wars."

When I first read your piece, the first thing that came to mind was that “everybody does everything with somebody sometime.” How we respond to questions in the public arena is a different thing. We are animals, and genetically hard wired to respond, sexually, to some pretty strange stuff. Promiscuity protects our gene pool from annihilation from any particularly pesky, gene targeted bug. Sex itself evolved as a defense against such nasty little beasties.

With the boy and the girl of our species now approaching parity in their ability to provide for their off spring, and with the help of a plethora of misanthropic government programs, the male is fast being relegated to freelancer status.

Remember Murphy Brown?

Unfortunately, public policy having now nearly eliminated the demand for cheap menial labor, we are stuck with a welfare system that fosters the increased production of such, and comes close to prohibiting the creation of low income, two parent, households.

Don't take my word for it...spend a couple of afternoons watching the pathetic representatives of our "lower middle class," taking each other to court over cell phone bills and utility sharing agreements, in order to reap their revenge publicly, and simultaneously collect their 15 minutes of fame on day-time TV.

Even worse, many of the participants see this public pageant of promiscuity as a modern day dating game.

I include Donald and Ivana Trump as examples of all the above.

And all of these people vote...although I'm not sure about Ivana.

Monogamy is no God given right. It is the product of a functional partnership, which can only exist in an atmosphere of genuine trust...the popularity of same being inversely proportional to the demand for lawyers.

Oddly enough, in this era of damn near universal visual surveillance, most of us still think we can get away with damn near anything, without getting caught.

Not. That a show such as “Cheaters” exists, and these purported “partners” continue to frolic and cavort, tells you something.

And when the bell tolls, men honestly defend all this as a harmless following of preternatural instincts.

Women see it as a betrayal of a basic (and financial) trust.

But on day-time TV, roughly half the woman can't accurately identify the father of their children.

And it is nobody's fault - but our own.

Since very few readers of your tome appeared to get your point, I’ll make it for you, my friend. If we spent a little more time talking to our partners about what we considered a partnership; if we better appreciated the breadth of the dynamics involved; if we were just a little more honest while talking; or even considered inviting one's spouse along, when an extramarital sexual opportunity presents itself, we could cut the divorce rate in half.

(Not likely to happen...we are also genetically hard wired to keep our own genes safe...and well fed...which is why Bears and Lions kill the cubs in their proximity they know are not their own.)

Unfortunately, we might also cut the marriage (and the progeny production rate as well) in half...too.

But, we are going to have to change something, and the genetic drive that spurs us on to survive as a species may not be the best place to start.Your piece certainly got the conversation going.


© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Post No. 38: There is a Battle Waging between Conservatives and Liberals in the World of Photography – Why?

By Guest Author Paul Charette

I was recently invited to serve as a Guest Author here after my photography-related blog was discovered by those at “The View from Outside My Tiny Window.” Because my blog revolves around photography, I thought that I would write something related. That being said, here we go!

Though the title could possibly imply it, this post has nothing to do with politics; instead, when I say conservative, I am referring to the so-called “purist” photographers, who shoot (that is, take pictures) film or digital photographs, and who then refuse to edit their photos in any way, with the mindset that it is wrong, or in some way cheating. On the other side of the spectrum, the liberal photographers are those (likely digital) who have no problem whatsoever with loading up their photos into a wide array of computer programs (though likely an Adobe product) and editing to their heart’s content.

Quite often, the conservative photographers will choose to scoff at an image that they believe has been edited to appear in its final form (even if it may not have been), perhaps thinking that the liberal photographer lacks the necessary skill to complete their vision in-camera. The liberal photographers may even scoff at the conservatives for what may be seen as a lack of vision or creativity. I ask, however, why are both sides scoffing at and looking down on each other?

Excluding photojournalistic photographers, whose duty it is to record things as they are, are we not just trying to create a form of art, something that appeals to the mind’s eye, for any number of reasons? Photography is about painting with light. We record light, and the absence of it. While manipulating it afterwards, with the help of a computer, may indeed alter the captured light, why does this result in resentment in some? The final product, generated by a liberal photographer, is just as much a piece of art or the capture of a special moment in time, as that of the conservative photographer.

Could the conservatives not learn from the liberals, and the liberals from the conservatives? We are not dealing in the political arena here, or any arena where there potentially might be adverse consequences as viewed by those standing on the outside looking in – the outcome of our work is an image that hangs on a wall, or appears in a magazine, on a website, or maybe only in a family photo album.

What could be underlying this rift between the conservatives and the liberals? Perhaps some conservatives are technology challenged, or simply resistant to change. Perhaps some liberals do not understand the methods, skills, and sense of history embodied in the conservatives, and feel threatened in some way.

Let’s all forget about how it was created or edited (or not); why not collaborate and learn from each other. Let’s just make some nice pictures.

While not a topic that is in the mainstream news, I was invited to write about anything I chose. Though I chose photography, the counter-productive and unnecessary squabbling that is happening here can also be seen in many other areas of life. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Paul Charette

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Post No. 37a: Addendum to "Why Men Cheat"

Many of you interpreted our analysis in “Why Men Cheat,” to suggest that a man can simply blame his behavior on biology. That is far, far, far from what we hoped to accomplish. The goal of our blog is to encourage personal responsibility by encouraging people to take 100% responsibility for all of their actions. To the extent that we poorly communicated our message, please accept our apologies. We realized that it was lengthy; however, we also consider infidelity to be a complex issues with many components.

Our point is simply this. Cheating is not as simple as someone saying, “I want to be selfish and cheat.” All decisions and everything processed through the brain is electrochemical in nature and there biological. However, there are lots of events that occur prior to the actual cheating event. Our goal was to identify and discuss those earlier events, and help folk recognize them, so that decisions and actions to avoid infidelity could take place at an earlier stage in the process, before the strong biological urge is at its peak. Our basic point is that all people, regardless of their sex, should take responsibility, at Stage 1, before finding themselves in a compromising situation at Stage 10.

Additionally, we were trying to develop a new construct by which couples might have conversations about things in the Universe far more important than sex, which we consider to be of very little significance in the grand scheme of our potential positive influence on the planet. There is no real reason to have sex at all, if people choose not to do so. If there is no biological component to the choice to have sex, then all of us can simply stop doing so. However, once we choose to do so, or are biologically driven to do so, depending on your view, there are potential negative and positive consequences. We were simply trying to reduce the negative ones by encouraging a dialogue before any sex occurs. Additionally, society makes no progress by simply doing the same thing, the same way, over and over.

To simply label the conduct as “selfish” does not advance any societal interests, if our conduct and the response thereto simply continue. How about having couples focus their energy and efforts on something beyond themselves and beyond their personal, selfish needs, so that the time spent on the sex issue is reduced, and the time spent on advancing larger more significant interests, like finding a cure for cancer, reducing violence, inventing a process for the inexpensive purification of water, etc. are increased. We apologize for so poorly stating our goal. How about one of you coming up with a suggestion or construct for reducing the incidence of marital infidelity other than simply calling it “selfishness.” Even assuming that it is simply “selfishness,” how do we reduce that, whatever it’s source. So many out there obviously think that there is no biological component. Contribute something affirmatively positive to this discussion, other than simply attack a suggested approach.

Post No. 37: Why Men Cheat – The Definitive Explanation (or At Least One Man’s Explanation)

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

As a general proposition, we are not in the business of justifying or condemning any type of human behavior. More particularly, we are not apologists for philandering men. We are more focused on the avoidance of destructive and detrimental conduct in relationships by better understanding the dynamics in operation.

There are four significant factors that come into play when a man cheats sexually on his female significant other, those being:

(1) opportunity;

(2) physical proximity and juxtaposition;

(3) physiological “blood flow;” and

(4) relative absence of significant offending characteristics and presence.

We shall address each one separately. Later in this piece, we will also discuss:

(5) the basic underlying problems with heterosexual relationships in modern, post-industrial societies; and

(6) what responsible couples can do to minimize the probability of being traumatized by a sexual affair hiccup.

Opportunity: There are some simple mathematical and probabilistic principles in operation here. The more access to and contact with other people one has, the more opportunities for straying there will be. The larger the town or community, the higher the probability that the man will meet women to whom he will be attracted in some form or fashion.

Locking him up in a cage and smothering him is not the answer. Understanding what is at play is. One needs to understand the “inner game of relationships.”

There is a long time friend of ours who used to say, upon hearing initial news reports, that to determine whether a public figure actually strayed, all one had to do was to “look at the babe.” From his perspective, he simply needed to see a picture or video of the alleged co-conspirator.

Many of us have had the experience of meeting what might be termed as “professional babes,” capable of accomplishing anything to which they put their minds. In big cities like Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, Rio, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, they are found in abundance. However, the probability of finding them next door in a town of 5,000 residents is very low. Anyone fitting that bill has already found their way to Los Angeles, New York, or some other big city where opportunities abound.

You see them on television and the big screen every day. (We acknowledge that Sen. Edwards’ co-conspirator was not exactly Hollywood talent, but it's not all about talent.)

Some of their detractors will refer to them as “gold diggers.” They are a force with which to be reckoned. There is nothing of the female persuasion more potentially seductive than a bright, beautiful, and physically attractive woman who leaves her native country, starts traveling around the world alone during her teens, learns to speak different tongues as she progresses, and who then educates herself and gains a patina of sophistication and a sharp wit.

What she puts out is no different that the venom that many an animal secretes to paralyze its prey. This is not to say that women are predators who pursue men; however, there is interplay at work here folks. Many a woman has communicated a message in a non-verbal fashion to the effect, “Hey, check out some of this,” and many a man has responded upon being wounded, “She ought to be illegal.”

This is not to suggest that every woman has similar motivations; it is just to explain that such a turbo-charged force operating on all 24 cylinders can generally win the race, especially against tortoises. In a heterosexual context, you juxtapose one of these women beside a mere mortal man, and you’ve got a problem, especially if the man has money, power, or worse yet, both.

By the way, a woman with lots of talent in other areas, and who may not be particularly beautiful, can compensate for the alleged deficiencies in the beauty arena. As one of our friends once said, “You’ve got to see the ‘show’ before you are truly able to criticize the ‘cost’ and risks associated with the transaction.”

There are other circumstantial factors that come into play, such as the probability of getting noticed, the number of other co-workers in the vicinity, the attention being paid to the potentially wayward couple by others in the vicinity, the opportunity to sneak away from the crowd unnoticed, and on and on.

One must also consider the fact that powerful men, once they become powerful and especially when they become rich, attract and draw an exponentially expanding crowd of female admirers. As they begin to appreciate their newfound power, more opportunities are realized. Former President William Jefferson Clinton was once asked why he did what he did with Monica Lewinsky. His answer was about as honest as they come, “Because I could.”

Proximity: All other forces being equal, the closer, and closer, and closer an attractive, appealing woman gets to a man, the higher the probability of straying. A man needs to take responsibility and learn how to avoid looking at an attractive woman, avoid traveling through her department, avoid going out to lunch with her alone, avoid having her in his office alone, and most importantly, avoid closing the door once she enters his office or work place alone.

Have you ever noticed how when two people gradually start closing the spatial gap between them, the sexual tension level rises and they stop talking coherently and logically?

It’s about proximity. You place the right dress, hair style, attitude, perfume, and such together, and things start happening. Milan Kundera (, the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being ( might refer to it as “serendipity,” whereas Jung ( might refer to it as “synchronicity.” The suggestion that one woman is able to access and enhance her resources in terms of drawing a man to her, and that no other woman can accomplish a similar feat, is sheer science fiction.

Proximity also explains why a seemingly unattractive woman can end up in sexual relationship with a man who seemingly “could do better.” Once again, proximity rules, as does our next factor.

Blood Flow: There is another item of science fiction, or what might be more appropriately termed “sheer folly,” which often comes into play when people misunderstand and underestimate this sex thing. It’s called Nature. Nature rules, and ultimately over the long haul.

Predicting or stopping a tsunami or earthquake? Yeah…. We as humans believe that we can conquer Nature, and on occasion we manage to do so - temporarily. However, at the end of the day, Nature rules. It is fair wiser for us as humans to figure out how to step aside and avoid Nature’s wrath, or simply avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For men, sex is about blood flow. No blood flow, no sex. That’s what all of this prescription male enhancement junk is about. Quite frankly, any man being straight with you will tell you that having an erection longer than seven minutes is problematic, and presents all sorts of potentially negative ramifications.

Men are hard wired to be aroused, and momentarily distracted by women. Every aspect of our physical being is determined by hard-wiring, accompanied by some electro-chemical impulse. Everything. We often advise her female friends who are mothers of teenage boys that it is all about “blood flow.”

Women can not imagine how a man can have an instantaneous erection due to blood flow, upon observing a desirable woman. You can’t explain this to someone who is not similarly physically hard-wired. Men also can not explain the indiscriminate nature of that force upon being stimulated.

It has nothing to do with logic. It has nothing to do with religion. It has nothing to do with character. It’s bigger than men are.

That does not mean that there are no ways to prevent a distraction. It just means that once all of the forces are in operation, and the circumstances are “conducive,” there is a very high probability that the event will occur. We can virtually guarantee that, given the proper circumstances, any of the “professional, gold digging babes,” to whom we previously referred, could sway the vast majority of bright, successful, responsible, and even religious men to stray.

References to the little brain taking over from the big brain are a little off base. What takes over is that portion of the big brain that drives the little brain below. Take the time to look at any of the science or nature programs dealing with the human brain, and the portions of the brain which come into play during certain activity, especially when survival is necessary.

Sex is about survival of the species. Sex is about procreation. Sex is about perpetuation of the species. It’s not about “I love you, and you love me.” That’s just pure hogwash, and if you believe that, you’re playing a game with yourself. Sex and the sex drive existed long before religion and moral authority decided to categorize it and define it.

(By the way, penetration is highly overrated. In theory, what a man is biologically hard-wired to do is to find a female to allow him to transmit his sperm, deliver that sperm effectively and efficiently, and then back off and move on to more important and logical pursuits. It’s the nature of the beast.)

When a man is one nanosecond away from insertion, he’s not thinking about his wife, loved one, or significant other. He may have been fifteen or twenty minutes prior thereto. But if all of the intervening hurdles have been negotiated, the probability of distraction increases exponentially. (By the way, the Discovery Channel periodically airs a beautiful piece on the Biology of Sex. It is well worth viewing.)

Have you ever noticed the absence of any academicians and scientists discussing marital infidelity on the news shows? Sure, you might occasionally see one dealing with the aftermath, and the negative ramifications, of which there are many. However, how can one solve or address a problem without fully recognizing the underlying causes?

One can not deny the influence of the human brain on human conduct. Check out history and see what happens to humans when they get desperate and are trying to survive. The portion of the brain that makes them behave like animals kicks in. Laura Schaefer is the author of Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor: The Best and the Worst of Personal Ads of All Time(,M1). Although a comedic look at relationships, she does include some scientific evidence in her work to support her position that the male brain is a man’s largest sex organ:

“In males of several species, including humans, the preoptic area hypothalamus is greater in volume, in cross-sectional area and in the number of cells. In men, this area is more than two times larger than in women, and it contains twice as many cells. And what, say you, does this have to do with the horizontal mambo? Plenty. This area of the hypothalamus is in charge of mating behavior….This small structure connects to the pituitary gland, which releases sex hormones. So if your [boyfriend] wants to get intimate all the time and you feel like Ms. Low Desire, remember: You’re just experiencing normal, brain-based differences.”

Relative Absence of Offending Characteristics, and Presence: This too is all about hard-wiring. Every single human sense comes into play in the sexual act. It’s visual, tactile, auditory, olfactory, and on and on. It’s everything at play all at the same time. That’s why no one factor necessarily cuts the event short, unless it is overwhelming or acting in concert with another offensive factor. It’s like a coalition breakdown in the Israeli Knesset (

The human body, controlled by the brain, is an amazing mechanism. We are hard-wired to avoid things that are dangerous, whether it be the heat of a fire, or the incredible stench of rotting tissue. The body naturally reacts. As a woman approaches, if the man continues to engage her in the approach, and if no offending characteristic or characteristics are so significant to make him come to his senses quickly, he is done for. If she repulses him, and even a beautiful woman can do this, the event is short-circuited, and the man shakes his head and returns to his senses.

As a general proposition, what men want in life is peace and comfort from a partner, not physical stimulation and intensity. They want to be backed up, not worked up. Support and team work are the keys.

A wise man once said that a man should never marry the woman with whom he has the best sex, or who he thinks is the most beautiful. Simply put, he won’t get anything done in life. He won’t be able to get out of the bed and go to work the next day. Come Monday morning, he’ll show up late and all sorts of negative crap will flow therefrom.

(By the way, this is barbershop confession material. Barbershops did a disservice to men when they started allowing female barbers to practice their trade in the same space. In the interest of equal treatment, perhaps there should be two sections in barbershops, one co-educational, and the other just for men.)

Basic Underlying Problems with Heterosexual Relationships in Modern Post-Industrial Societies

For a broader discussion of the how men and women fail to note the ways in which hard-wiring affects their interaction with one another, you are invited to re-examine an earlier article, Post No. 11 entitled, “The Human Hard Wiring Conundrum (Are We Truly a Higher Form of Animal)” ( ). The bottom line is that modern day men and women hook up for too many selfish and personal reasons, and forget the evolutionary and historical issues centered on survival. Heterosexual relationships are supposed to be about teamwork, and the exponential matrix of capabilities flowing from the pairing of two beings with different skills and ways of viewing the world to enhance the probability of survival, not dancing through the clouds in pretty clothes to pretty music.

That’s not to say that we haven’t done our fair share of dancing…. However, it’s a little difficult to bitch about one’s current state of affairs, if one does not take responsibility for one’s choices in life.

Probably the best line about love which we have heard is that “love is not two people staring into the eyes of one another, but rather both of them staring in the same direction together at the same time focused on the same goal.” To further complicate matters, if a relationship is primarily sexually based, the decrease in the stimulation and intensity will occur about as quickly as the increase, if not faster.

When men and women in modern post-industrial society finally realize that there are issues in society larger and more significant than themselves, their children, and the physical structures in which they live (and of relevance to the subject of this article, where a man places his weenie), then we will have made some progress as a society.

When couples feel that their relationship is about to disintegrate, they should consider jointly volunteering their time to an organization such as the AIDS Foundation, or a non-profit searching for the cure for Alzheimer’s disease. That’ll place things into perspective.

What Responsible Couples Can Do to Minimize the Probability of Being Traumatized by a Sexual Affair Hiccup

A man is not a dog, or a creep, or a jerk at the point of penetration alone. The disappointment felt by the woman, and the negative ramifications associated with the conduct are the result of a totality of conduct, each upon being viewed separately, might be considered small and perhaps even benign, but potentially problematic when taken together, especially in rapid succession.

So how does the Institute for Applied Common Sense, a body which advocates taking full and complete responsibility for one’s conduct, suggest that couple approach this potentially debilitating event? There’s a story which we often tell during our seminars which sets up the stage.

It’s Riverside, California several years ago. The clubs are closed and two teenage girls have been out partying. One of the girls has difficulty raising her cousin, and consequently calls 911. The authorities arrive to find the other teenager slumped in a stupor behind the wheel of the car after 2 am, but with a weapon in her lap.

At some point, there is some movement which suggests to the officers that their lives might be threatened. Shortly thereafter, in excess of 42 bullets have been spent shooting at the little girl. Of course, all of the civil rights advocates immediately starting yelling excessive force and police brutality.

However, we viewed the situation differently. We asked, “What were you doing there in that condition in the first place.” One committing an irresponsible act can’t exactly control the response of his loved ones, or expect the response to be one acceptable to the actor. So what you do, as Barney Fife would say, is to “nip it in the bud” early on in the sequence of events. Here’s what we suggest.

1. Do some reading in scientific and biological journals about human conduct and the brain. Watch the Discovery Channel, or National Geographic, or the Learning Channel for shows which explore such subject matter. Read some books discussing the latest research on the brain garnered from recent advances in brain scan research.

2. Recognize and respect Nature for what it is.

3. Immediately after you have that intense, passionate, out of control sexual experience early on in your relationship, have a conversation with your partner about the realm of possibilities as reflected in this article. Although we seriously doubt the conversation will take place prior to rolling on the kitchen floor, freaking out after the man has had the affair with the other woman is a tad bit untimely. So this is a compromise.

4. Perhaps most significantly, center your lives and the relationship, before kids are conceived or at least born, on something or some purpose that is bigger than you, your children, the physical home in which you live, and your personal possessions. When we discussed the generation of this article, The Laughingman responded as follows:

“While I admit that his wife’s cancer status is a complicating factor, on the larger issue, Mr. Edwards did nothing more than what Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Martin Luther King did some years ago, and I suspect for the same reason. What’s interesting is how so many people denigrate their wives for doing the Tammy Wynette, and standing by their men. There is actually something to admire about these heroic women who share the ideals of their spouses, and put aside their natural inclination to seek revenge, which would amount to throwing the babies out with the bath water. Here, here to those who can endure personal disappointment and embarrassment in the public eye, in the pursuit of bigger goals.”

5. Women should recognize that men primarily want peace. Men should recognize that women primarily want a sense of security, including knowing that they are special and number one.

6. Women should recognize that there is always another woman out there with comparable, even though qualitatively different, sexual and physical “talent.” In the same way that a woman manages to attract her husband, another woman can do the same. Consequently, there needs to be something unique and which makes a woman a keeper other than pure sex, as great as that may be perceived in the short term.

7. Continue to engage and stimulate each other intellectually - every single day. (There is perhaps nothing more depressing than to see a couple sitting at a table and not engaging in any type of conversation. We take that back, there is: when the non-communication is taking place in front of their children.)

8. Reduce sex, and particularly penetration, to the lowest point possible on your relationship priority scale. (Well, maybe during the week on school nights.)

We hope this helps. We realize that there is a lot of thinking required to absorb this. However, we can guarantee that there is very little thinking going on when the man is about to betray his woman’s trust and enter the twilight zone.

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Monday, August 25, 2008

Post No. 36e: Article of Interest from New York

The following article appeared in the Wednesday, August 20, 2008 electronic edition of the New York Times. With all of the chatter last week about the Olympics, missing little girls, the tail end of the John Edwards infidelity story, the conflict between the Russian Federation and the State of Georgia, and the selection vice-presidential running mates, how did we manage to miss this one?

August 20, 2008

Taliban Escalate Fighting With Assault on U.S. Base


BAMIYAN, AfghanistanTaliban insurgents mounted their most serious attacks in six years of fighting in Afghanistan over the last two days, including a coordinated assault by at least 10 suicide bombers against one of the largest American military bases in the country, and another by about 100 insurgents who killed 10 elite French paratroopers.

The attack on the French, in a district near Kabul, added to the sense of siege around the capital and was the deadliest single loss for foreign troops in a ground battle since the United States-led invasion chased the Taliban from power in 2001.

Taken together, the attacks were part of a sharp escalation in fighting as insurgents have seized a window of opportunity to press their campaign this summer — taking advantage of a wavering NATO commitment, an outgoing American administration, a flailing Afghan government and a Pakistani government in deep disarray that has given the militants freer rein across the border.

As a result, this year is on pace to be the deadliest in the Afghan war so far, as the insurgent attacks show rising zeal and sophistication. The insurgents are employing not only a growing number of suicide and roadside bombs, but are also waging increasingly well-organized and complex operations using multiple attackers with different types of weapons, NATO officials say.

NATO and American military officials place blame for much of the increased insurgent activity on the greater freedom of movement the militants have in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the Afghan border. The turmoil in the Pakistani government, with the resignation of President Pervez Musharraf on Monday, has added to the sense of a vacuum of authority there.

But at least as important, the officials say, is the fact that Pakistan’s military has agreed to a series of peace deals with the militants under which it stopped large-scale operations in the tribal areas in February, allowing the insurgents greater freedom to train, recruit and carry out attacks into Afghanistan.

More foreign fighters are entering Afghanistan this summer than in previous years, NATO officials say, an indication that Al Qaeda and allied groups have been able to gather more foreigners in their tribal redoubts.

The push by the insurgents has taken a rising toll. Before the attack on Monday, 173 foreign soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan this year, including 99 Americans. In all of 2007, 232 foreign troops were killed, the highest number since the war began in 2001.

The attack with multiple suicide bombers, which struck Camp Salerno in the eastern province of Khost, wounded three American soldiers and six members of the Afghan Special Forces, Afghan officials said. It was one of the most complex attacks yet in Afghanistan, and included a backup fighting force that tried to breach defenses to the airport at the base.

The assault followed a suicide car bombing at the outer entrance to the same base on Monday morning, which killed 12 Afghan workers lining up to enter the base, and another attempted bombing that was thwarted later.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahed, reached by telephone at an unknown location, said the attack was carried out by 15 suicide bombers, each equipped with machine guns and explosives vests, and backed by 30 more militants.

He also claimed that some of the bombers had breached the walls of the base and had killed a number of American soldiers and destroyed equipment and helicopters. This last claim was denied by Gen. Zaher Azimi of the Afghan military.

The insurgents began attacking with rockets and mortars at 11 p.m. Monday, and a group of militants began to move toward the airport side of the base, the Afghan military said. An Afghan commando unit encircled them, killing 13 militants, including 10 who were wearing suicide vests, General Azimi said.

A fierce battle raged through much of the night, until 7 a.m. Tuesday, said Arsala Jamal, the governor of Khost. American helicopter strikes against the militants, who were moving through a cornfield around the base, also struck a house in a village, killing two children and wounding two women and two men, the provincial police chief, Abdul Qayum Baqizoy, said.

The attack on the French also began late Monday and continued into Tuesday, after they were ambushed by an unusually large insurgent force while on a joint reconnaissance mission with the Afghan Army in the district of Sarobi, 30 miles east of Kabul, according to a NATO statement.

The French soldiers, part of an elite paratrooper unit, had only recently taken over from American forces in the area as part of the expanded French deployment in Afghanistan under President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In addition to the 10 French soldiers killed, 21 were wounded, the NATO statement said. It was the deadliest attack on French troops since a 1983 assault in Beirut killed 58 French paratroopers serving in a United Nations force.

The latest casualties bring to 24 the number of French troops killed in Afghanistan since they were first sent there in 2002.

The Taliban have seemingly made it part of their strategy to attack newly arriving forces, as well as those of NATO countries whose commitment to the war has appeared to waver, in an effort to influence public opinion in Europe. NATO countries have been under increasing pressure from the United States to increase their troop commitments to Afghanistan, which many have been hesitant to do.

The Taliban’s surge in attacks also comes at a delicate moment in American political life, as the departing Bush administration will have to hand over control of the war to a new president, whose administration will need time to get up to speed.

But Mr. Sarkozy, who has been a strong supporter of the United States, made it clear that the French would be undeterred.

“In its struggle against terrorism, France has just been hard hit,” Mr. Sarkozy said in a statement. He arrived in Kabul on Wednesday, according to Reuters, a trip he made to reassure French troops that “France is at their side.”

But Mr. Sarkozy said France would not be deterred from its Afghan mission, where 3,000 troops are serving in a NATO force of more than 40,000 soldiers from nearly 40 nations.

“My determination is intact,” he said. “France is committed to pursuing the struggle against terrorism, for democracy and for freedom. This is a just cause; it is an honor for France and for its army to defend it.”

The Sarobi District has been the scene of a growing number of insurgent attacks in recent months, most thought to be instigated by fighters loyal to the renegade mujahedeen leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is allied with the Taliban but not formally part of the movement.

Mr. Hekmatyar, who NATO officials say is based in Pakistan, has increased his militant activity in northeast Afghanistan and around Kabul, while the Taliban, foreign fighters and Al Qaeda have accelerated their attacks in the east, southeast and south.

The increase in insurgent activity northeast of Kabul is part of an attempt by the insurgents to encircle the capital and put pressure on the Afghan government and the foreign forces, some NATO and Afghan officials say.

Insurgent activity has also increased sharply in recent months in Logar and Wardak Provinces, south of the capital, sometimes making the main roads impassable.

The deployment of elite French troops to the area was intended to reinforce the Afghan Army and help keep the insurgent threat to the capital at bay. General Azimi, the Afghan military spokesman, said two companies of Afghan Army soldiers were sent in at dawn to assist the French.

In all, about 27 Taliban were believed to have been killed in the clash in the Sarobi District, around Uzbin, he said. Thirteen insurgents were later found dead on the battlefield, including a Pakistani fighter, he said.

Carlotta Gall reported from Bamiyan, and Sangar Rahimi from Kabul, Afghanistan. Steven Erlanger contributed reporting from Paris.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Post 36d: Comic Relief from P.J. O'Rourke

On occasion, we need to stop taking ourselves so seriously, and have a laugh. It is in that spirit that we offer the following, from one of the best.
Fairness, Idealism and Other Atrocities: Commencement Advice You're Unlikely to Hear Elsewhere.
By P.J. O'Rourke
May 4, 2008

Well, here you are at your college graduation. And I know what you're
thinking: "Gimme the sheepskin and get me outta here!" But not so fast. First you have to listen to a commencement speech.

Don't moan. I'm not going to "pass the wisdom of one generation down to the next." I'm a member of the 1960s generation. We didn't have any wisdom.

We were the moron generation. We were the generation that believed we could stop the Vietnam War by growing our hair long and dressing like circus clowns. We believed drugs would change everything -- which they did, for John Belushi. We believed in free love. Yes, the love was free, but we paid a high price for the sex.

My generation spoiled everything for you. It has always been the special prerogative of young people to look and act weird and shock grown-ups. But my generation exhausted the Earth's resources of the weird. Weird clothes -- we wore them. Weird beards -- we grew them. Weird words and phrases -- we said them. So, when it came your turn to be original and look and act weird, all you had left was to tattoo your faces and pierce your tongues. Ouch. That must have hurt. I apologize.

So now, it's my job to give you advice. But I'm thinking: You're finishing 16 years of education, and you've heard all the conventional good advice you can stand. So, let me offer some relief:

1. Go out and make a bunch of money!

Here we are living in the world's most prosperous country, surrounded by all the comforts, conveniences and security that money can provide. Yet no American political, intellectual or cultural leader ever says to young people, "Go out and make a bunch of money." Instead, they tell you that money can't buy happiness. Maybe, but money can rent it.

There's nothing the matter with honest moneymaking. Wealth is not a pizza, where if I have too many slices you have to eat the Domino's box. In a free society, with the rule of law and property rights, no one loses when someone else gets rich.

2. Don't be an idealist!

Don't chain yourself to a redwood tree. Instead, be a corporate lawyer and make $500,000 a year. No matter how much you cheat the IRS, you'll still end up paying $100,000 in property, sales and excise taxes. That's $100,000 to schools, sewers, roads, firefighters and police. You'll be doing good for society. Does chaining yourself to a redwood tree do society $100,000 worth of good?

Idealists are also bullies. The idealist says, "I care more about the redwood trees than you do. I care so much I can't eat. I can't sleep. It broke up my marriage. And because I care more than you do, I'm a better person. And because I'm the better person, I have the right to boss you around."

Get a pair of bolt cutters and liberate that tree.

Who does more for the redwoods and society anyway -- the guy chained to a tree or the guy who founds the "Green Travel Redwood Tree-Hug Tour Company" and makes a million by turning redwoods into a tourist destination, a valuable resource that people will pay just to go look at?

So make your contribution by getting rich. Don't be an idealist.

3. Get politically uninvolved!

All politics stink. Even democracy stinks. Imagine if our clothes were selected by the majority of shoppers, which would be teenage girls. I'd be standing here with my bellybutton exposed. Imagine deciding the dinner menu by family secret ballot. I've got three kids and three dogs in my family. We'd be eating Froot Loops and rotten meat.

But let me make a distinction between politics and politicians. Some people are under the misapprehension that all politicians stink. Impeach George W. Bush, and everything will be fine. Nab Ted Kennedy on a DUI, and the nation's problems will be solved.

But the problem isn't politicians -- it's politics. Politics won't allow for the truth. And we can't blame the politicians for that. Imagine what even a little truth would sound like on today's campaign trail:

"No, I can't fix public education. The problem isn't the teachers unions or a lack of funding for salaries, vouchers or more computer equipment The problem is your kids!"

4. Forget about fairness!

We all get confused about the contradictory messages that life and politics send.

Life sends the message, "I'd better not be poor. I'd better get rich. I'd better make more money than other people." Meanwhile, politics sends us the message, "Some people make more money than others. Some are rich while others are poor. We'd better close that 'income disparity gap.' It's not fair!"

Well, I am here to advocate for unfairness. I've got a 10-year-old at home. She's always saying, "That's not fair." When she says this, I say, "Honey, you're cute. That's not fair. Your family is pretty well off. That's not fair. You were born in America. That's not fair. Darling, you had better pray to God that things don't start getting fair for you." What we need is more income, even if it means a bigger income disparity gap.

5. Be a religious extremist!

So, avoid politics if you can. But if you absolutely cannot resist, read the Bible for political advice -- even if you're a Buddhist, atheist or whatever. Don't get me wrong, I am not one of those people who believes that God is involved in politics. On the contrary. Observe politics in this country. Observe politics around the world. Observe politics through history. Does it look like God's involved?

The Bible is very clear about one thing: Using politics to create fairness is a sin. Observe the Tenth Commandment. The first nine commandments concern theological principles and social law: Thou shalt not make graven images, steal, kill, et cetera. Fair enough. But then there's the tenth: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's."
Here are God's basic rules about how we should live, a brief list of sacred obligations and solemn moral precepts. And, right at the end of it we read, "Don't envy your buddy because he has an ox or a donkey." Why did that make the top 10? Why would God, with just 10 things to tell Moses, include jealousy about livestock?

Well, think about how important this commandment is to a community, to a nation, to a democracy. If you want a mule, if you want a pot roast, if you want a cleaning lady, don't whine about what the people across the street have. Get rich and get your own.

Now, one last thing:

6. Don't listen to your elders!

After all, if the old person standing up here actually knew anything worth telling, he'd be charging you for it.

P.J. O'Rourke, a correspondent for the Weekly Standard and the Atlantic, is the author, most recently, of "On The Wealth of Nations." A longer version of this article appears in Change magazine, which reports on trends and issues in higher education.

Post No. 36c: Re-Visiting Post No. 18 Now That The Democratic Vice-Presidential Running Mate Has Been Chosen

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

The following article was originally posted as No. 18 on this blog, and entitled, "How Radical Action Could be a Good Thing Right Now." Now that Sen. Obama has selected Sen. Joseph Biden as his Democratic running mate, we felt re-visiting some of the thoughts that we had prior to the selection might be generate further food for thought.

There are two primary purposes for this blog. The first is to stimulate thought, in general. Not only has our society evolved to a point where visual and audio sound bites are the norm, but also where “think bites” are far too prevalent. I, in conjunction with the other members of the It’s Your Turn™ Team, the Laughingman and the Optimizer, feel that getting people to think through issues, particularly college students, can only yield better decisions about how to address issues. If you do not recognize the underlying root causes of a problem, and only respond to emotional stimuli and superficial symptoms, you will not effectively, if at all, address the problem. We also feel that our society needs to be far more receptive to new, fresh, and creative ideas to solve our ills, and not just rely on the status quo.

Every day, the members of the It’s Your Turn™ Team collaborate to determine alternate, more effective, ways to address issues in society, through the application of our version of common sense. Common sense is always bigger than one’s personal, short-term, emotional or selfish interests. Sometimes our collaboration generates a short “write bite” of our own. In other instances, we escort you through a much longer, perhaps wandering, thought-process, occasionally traversing a complex environment, where we are not quite sure where we are going ourselves. But at least we’re thinking, and not just reacting.

The second purpose for this blog is also to stimulate thought. However, the focus is more on how our thinking about issues bears on personal responsibility. The fewer your perceived options, the less likely you will craft an appropriate, effective course of action. Less information and less consideration rarely produce a good result.

Due diligence is always preferable. The more one knows about the various competing factors, and his or her options, the less likely one is to shift blame to others. Due diligence is part of personal responsibility, and responsibility is never just personal. The decisions we make ultimately affect many others in many different ways. With respect to the election of our representatives and leaders in government, we have a responsibility to ensure that they continue to serve our interests, and not just the interests of a select few, or the most powerful. When we let our leaders get out of control, get sidetracked, or abuse power that we have bestowed upon them, we, as a people, have abdicated our responsibility.

This is the teaser e-mail that I sent out earlier concerning this article:

“Let’s assume that instead of Sen. Obama meeting in private with Sen. Clinton during the week, he had met with Sen. McCain. What course of action, although “radical” and “unconventional,” upon which the two of them could have agreed, would have sent a positive message to our country and the world, that “things are about to change?” Hint: They still can do it now – it’s not too late.”

Typically, when we think of something “radical” in our society, we have a tendency to also think of something negative. When the Jewish War Veterans tried to stamp out the American Nazi Movement, they used violence to do so. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when Mark Rudd and the Weather Underground sought changes in American society, for the benefit of the common man, and an end to the War in Vietnam, they engaged in criminal activity. There are also animal rights groups which break into laboratories and research facilities to free animals used in experiments. In each instance, the negative public reaction associated with the conduct compromises the message or cause of the group, and thus we have a tendency to reject the message and the group.

For years, I have complained that because of structural factors in our governmental systems, we only produce band-aid solutions to problems, and that the band-aids are typically applied too slowly. I have often argued that we need some radical solutions to problems which are also viewed as good for society. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs are often cited as an example, although many might argue that they resulted in an expansion of governmental intrusion in our lives. My colleague, the Laughingman, has proposed a radical move on the part of our two presidential candidates, which could send a very powerful message. According to the Laughingman:

“For the first time in my memory, we have two non-institutional candidates for President of The United States. It would be hard to see how we as a country could lose electing either of these mavericks. Should they name each other as their vice presidential preferences, the political machines would go crazy, but getting things done would all of a sudden take preference to getting the best public relations. And then maybe, just maybe, we would create a collaborative force, and stop making such far-reaching mistakes. It would be the ‘new shot heard around the world.’ It also wouldn’t hurt that Hunter Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut would be delighted.”

Although they are not exactly Beltway Boys, I am concerned about both candidates once one of them takes office. I was a big fan of Sen. McCain at earlier stages in his career. He truly struck me as an independent thinker, interested in the long term, and not beholden to any special interests. Unfortunately, here recently, he has begun to look more like a clone of our current President. My hope, gut, and optimism about life tell me that he has only morphed himself temporarily, pursuant to the instructions of his handlers, to get elected, and that he will return to the old John McCain should he succeed. My sense is that he’s not going to blow this chance to bring about some real change, particularly because it is late in his life. Remember, this guy dealt with personal torture for years. That required some mental toughness.

As for Senator Obama, I do not have as good a sense as to who he really is, due to his short time in office. However, my sense is that he is sincere and actually interested in the long term health of this Nation. I have a different concern about how he will govern should he be elected. One radio commentator said that during his first week in office, some senior advisors will sit him down and effectively say, “Now that you’ve gotten here, let us explain to you how it is really done.” Furthermore, George Will, in speaking with Charlie Rose last week, indicated that the machine, that is Washington, D.C., is huge, entrenched, and has its own inertia. However, as is the case with Sen. McCain, my hope, gut, and optimism about life tell me that he is all about something other than doing business as usual. His mere presence on the stage epitomizes change. He will not blow the opportunity. This guy was the President of Harvard Law School’s Law Review, and then worked for a public interest research group and with community organizations, when he could have gone for the big bucks.

Getting back to the Laughingman’s “radical” suggestion that both McCain and Obama name the other as their vice-presidential preferences, I can actually envision some “good,” that would flow from the move. It would tell their respective parties that they have become too rigid and inflexible, like dinosaurs. It would tell their respective parties that there are many different views in the world, and that we are not ready for “group think” just yet. It would tell their respective parties that purpose, getting things done, and vision trump inertia and the bureaucracy that is institutionalization, every time. It would tell the world that the United States is really a force to be reckoned with, and that the “smoke and mirrors show” is over.

And that’s how radical action could be a “good” thing right now. As the Laughingman has often said, “Doing the right [or good] thing is not rocket science.” Just think about it, for your sake and mine.

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Post 36b: Suggested Reading: "The Rise and Fall of Great Powers

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

We have a tendency to read the latest books on the New York Times Best Seller List, or the classics. We sometimes forget about important works from just a few years ago. In 1987, Paul Kennedy published The Rise and Fall of Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 ( For years, it was mentioned by academicians, leaders of industry, and politicians alike in discussing America’s place in the world, and its prospects. However, it appears that it is not mentioned with much frequency these days. We feel that the message contained therein needs a re-examination. Additionally, a number of you have requested that we reference this work again so that you might acquire it.

The following is taken from an earlier post, No. 9, entitled, "Recognizing the Potential of the Innovative Thought Process (We are a Better Country than We Currently Think of Ourselves)" (

“In his significant work, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000… Yale professor Paul Kennedy discusses and analyzes patterns that exist during the ascent to power, and those associated with the power’s subsequent decline. Originally published in 1987, and after receiving rave reviews at the time, I am simply amazed that so little reference is made to it in the current discussion of where we are as a Nation. Anyone examining the book will immediately note that Kennedy did his homework, in that it is replete with economic data, which actually makes it somewhat difficult to digest. Be that as it may, he concludes that there are three main factors that appear to repeatedly contribute to the decline of a world power. Two of them are of relevance to the United States at this point in time.

Kennedy submits that one factor is that the power is overextended militarily throughout the world, which leads to a depletion of its coffers, and a drain on its economy and energy. The second involves technology. As a general proposition, the country which possesses the highest level of technology, which also translates to the most sophisticated and effective weapons, stays in power. It generally has spent a considerable period of time, and a significant component of its resources, on research and development associated with that technology. When such a power exports its technology and that technology is easily and quickly duplicated by others without the attendant investment in its development, other emerging economic powers can then adopt it and overtake the inventing country. Not only is the technology exported in such a transition, but the scientific knowledge base is also adversely affected, along with the technology workforce.”

Here’s hoping that the United States does not have to experience the decline during our lifetimes, or that of our children, or their children, or their….

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Post 36a: Guess Which Country is the "Saudi Arabia of Solar Energy"

We encourage our readers to direct us to articles of interest, appearing in other publications, which prompt us to think, and stimulate us toward collaborative action. The following copyrighted article appeared in the August 22, 2008 electronic edition of

Alternative Energy

The Saudi Arabia Of Solar Energy

William Pentland 08.22.08, 6:00 AM ET

In the wake of the first Gulf War, the U.S. Army assessed Saudi Arabia's solar energy resource potential in a classified effort to determine how oil fires had affected the region.

The results were clear and surprising. In addition to being a vast petroleum repository, the desert nation was also the heart of the most potentially productive region on the planet for harvesting power from the sun. In other words, Saudi Arabia was the Saudi Arabia of solar energy.

Sitting in the center of the so-called Sun Belt, the country is part of a vast, rainless region reaching from the western edge of North Africa to the eastern edge of Central Asia that boasts the best solar energy resources on Earth. With the cost of oil skyrocketing, this belt is attracting the attention of a growing number of European leaders, who are embracing an ambitious proposal to harvest this solar energy for their nations.

The irony is inescapable and the story a familiar one, as the developed world again turns to the less developed countries in hopes of powering their economies. More important, it highlights an unappreciated implication of a solar-powered economy: The end of the oil age will not necessarily bring an end to the ugly geopolitics, resource wars and national rivalries that oil created.

The Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation, or TREC, is the brainchild of a consortium led by the controversial Club of Rome and includes influential members like the German Aerospace Bureau and several universities in Europe and the Middle East.

TREC is spearheading a political initiative to build a so-called transmission supergrid by concentrating solar thermal power plants, wind turbines and long distance power lines to supply energy to Europe. The proposed power plants would simultaneously provide energy to seawater desalination plants in the Middle East and North Africa.

While the wild-eyed scheme might seem better suited for conspiracy theories than reality, it has attracted a growing number of impressive and powerful backers. In 2007, Prince El Hassan of Jordan, who has called for implementing the plan with an Apollo-like program, presented the plan during a European Union parliamentary session. Nicolas Sarkozy, the recently elected President of France, and U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown have both publicly endorsed the supergrid project in recent weeks.

In July, Sarkozy hosted the inaugural meeting of the "Union for the Mediterranean" in Paris. The Union, which seeks to promote relations between North Africa, the Middle East and Europe, considers TREC's solar energy proposal one of its top priorities. Meanwhile, the escalating conflict in Georgia, which has exposed the extent of Europe's energy insecurity, has undoubtedly increased the TREC plan's appeal.

While TREC's plan is nowhere near becoming a reality, it seems inevitable that, in one form or another, someone will try to capitalize on the vast solar energy resources available in the sun-soaked countries of the Sun Belt.

While it is technically possible to convert sunlight into electricity anywhere, it costs far less to do so in areas that receive the most powerful forms of sunlight--sunlight that loses the least amount of radiant energy while moving from space to earth. The Sun Belt receives the lion's share of this energy-rich sunlight.

While speaking at the Euroscience Open Forum in Barcelona, Spain, in July, Arnulf Jaeger-Walden, one of Europe's leading energy authorities, said that less than 0.4% of the solar energy that falls on the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East would satisfy all of Europe's energy needs.

The opportunity isn't lost on Sun Belt countries. In March, Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali al-Nuaimi, said the country hopes to become as expert with solar energy as it is with oil. While Saudi Arabia has long toyed with solar power for small projects, such as a 1980s "Solar Village" program to develop the use of the technology in remote regions, its aspirations appear to be growing.

"For a country like Saudi Arabia .... one of the most important sources of energy to look at and to develop is solar energy," al-Nuaimi told the French oil newsletter Petrostrategies. "One of the research efforts that we are going to undertake is to see how we make Saudi Arabia a center for solar energy research, and hopefully over the next 30 to 50 years we will be a major megawatt exporter."

In Hassi R'mel, Algeria, 260 miles south of Algiers, construction has begun on a new power plant using a combination of solar and natural gas. The hope is to generate 150 megawatts of electricity by 2010, with 25 megawatts from a solar array stretching nearly 2 million square feet. The long-term goal is to export more than 6,000 megawatts of solar-generated power to Europe by 2020.

"Our potential in thermal solar power is four times the world's energy consumption, so you can have all the ambitions you want with that," Tewfik Hasni, managing director of New Energy Algeria, or NEAL, a company created by the Algerian government in 2002 to develop renewable energy, told the Associated Press last year.

This is why, barring a major technological breakthrough, the economics of solar energy may someday look much like the economics of fossil fuels. Energy security ultimately means more than access to energy; it means access to cheap energy. And like it or not, the Sun Belt has the cheapest solar energy in the world in vast quantities.

"In the same way we are an oil exporter," said Saudi Arabia's Ali al-Nuaimi, "we can also be an exporter of power."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Post No. 36: Silly Me – How So Little About the World I Really Understand

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

The generation of this piece took roughly fifteen minutes. It is in response to something that I saw on television yesterday, but more significantly in response to something I just saw on C-Span some twenty minutes ago. As previously indicated in our Post No. 10 (, I am an information junkie.

There is a saying which many of us have often heard repeated, to the effect that the more experiences that one has, and the more knowledge that one acquires, the more one realizes just how little he or she really knows. I have always felt that notion applied to me; however, it apparently does not apply to most people. It seems to me that virtually everyone else in society has certain things figured out, while I’m still sitting here looking dumbfounded, or a as buddy of mine often notes, “like a monkey with a football.”

Yesterday, I saw a television show where popular radio talk show host Laura Ingraham was filling in for the regular host. There were several talk show talking heads accompanying her, discussing the performances of our presidential candidates at the “Faith Debate,” conducted this past weekend, during which the candidates discussed their positions on a wide range of faith and religious related topics. The commentators generally agreed that Sen. McCain provided nice, crisp, succinct, and spontaneous responses to the questions, while Sen. Obama appeared to be less crisp. In fact, they noted that he appeared as though he was struggling with some of his responses. Interestingly, one head, referred to as an Obama supporter, suggested that Sen. Obama appeared to be “thinking” about his responses, which made them longer and less spontaneous in nature.

What I found most interesting was the concluding comment by Ms. Ingraham, suggesting that she would have hoped that an adult of Sen. Obama’s age, and particularly a presidential candidate, would have figured out his position on a subject as significant as the “meaning of life” prior to that debate. (God forbid that we might have a leader actually thinking about that kind of stuff.) That comment gave me pause, particularly in light of my admitted confusion with respect to religion, as reflected in our Post No. 7 (

Getting back to the C-Span presentation earlier this morning, William Cohen, the former Defense Secretary in the Clinton Administration (, was on a panel discussing race in America. He told a story about how he was watching the news one day, and viewed a video of eleven police officers surrounding a man with a hunting knife. The police officers at some point opened fire and killed the man. He gave the officers the benefit of the doubt and concluded that the officers obviously felt that they might be harmed by the knife-wielding man. However, he questioned why they could not have shot the man in the arm or leg, or disable him in some other fashion. (I should note that no mention was made as the whether the man was already convicted, if that is of significance to any of you.)

Cohen did not think about the knife incident much further until roughly two weeks later. He was watching another news broadcast about a wild moose which had created some havoc in a town. The authorities were called, and this time they used a tranquilizer to disable the moose, had a helicopter lift the drowsy moose, and return it to the wild. The combination of these two events made him ponder our handling of a human and our handling of a wild animal. I’ve been thinking about this issue the entire time that I have been typing this piece, and from an analytical perspective, I’ve haven’t been able to reconcile the disparate treatment in my mind. However, I’m just a silly boy - I’m sure that you can.

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Post No. 35b: The Pakistani Issue About Which We All Should Be Concerned

The following article appeared in the August 19, 2008 electronic version of the New York Times, and is an example of what results when a nation tries to have its cake and eat it too, as discussed in Post No. 29. Tough decisions, although unpopular, should be made early, and not when your back is up against the wall:

In Musharraf’s Wake, U.S. Faces Political Disarray


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Facing imminent impeachment charges, President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation on Monday, after months of belated recognition by American officials that he had become a waning asset in the campaign against terrorism.

The decision removes from Pakistan’s political stage the leader who for nearly nine years served as one of the United States’ most important — and ultimately unreliable — allies. And it now leaves American officials to deal with a new, elected coalition that has so far proved itself to be unwilling or unable to confront an expanding Taliban insurgency determined to topple the government.

“Whether I win or lose the impeachment, the nation will lose,” Mr. Musharraf said, explaining his decision in an emotional televised speech lasting more than an hour. He will stay in Pakistan and will not be put on trial, government officials said.

The question of who will succeed Mr. Musharraf is certain to unleash intense wrangling between the rival political parties that form the governing coalition and to add a new layer of turbulence to an already unstable nuclear-armed nation of 165 million people.

“We’ve said for years that Musharraf is our best bet, and my fear is that we are about to discover how true that was,” one senior Bush administration official said, acknowledging that the United States had stuck with Mr. Musharraf for too long and developed few other relationships in Pakistan to fall back on.

Administration officials will now have to find allies within the fractious civilian government, which has so far shown scant interest in taking on militants from the Taliban and Al Qaeda who have roosted in Pakistan’s badlands along the border with Afghanistan.

At the same time, suspicions between the American and Pakistani intelligence agencies and their militaries are deepening, and relations between the countries are at their lowest point since Mr. Musharraf pledged to ally Pakistan with the United States after the 9/11 attacks.

Among the greatest concerns, senior American officials say, is the durability of new controls over Pakistan’s nuclear program. Though Pakistan has been through far more abrupt political transitions than this one — through assassinations, a mysterious plane crash and coups — this is the first since it amassed a large nuclear arsenal.

Another central concern is the war in Afghanistan, which has been fueled by Taliban and Qaeda fighters who have used Pakistan as a rear base to carry out increasingly lethal and sophisticated attacks across the border.

After years in which Mr. Musharraf proved unable or unwilling to rein in militants in Pakistan, American officials say they are now more skeptical than ever that they can count on cooperation from Pakistan’s military leaders, even including Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, a former head of Pakistan’s spy agency, who replaced Mr. Musharraf as military chief last November.

The coalition government had “no comprehension” of the insurgency, said a former interior minister, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, whose parliamentary constituency adjoins the tribal areas. “They have one policy for domestic consumption: ‘Have peace, don’t use the army,’ ” he said. “Then for the foreigners they say, ‘We will fight.’ ”

A main challenge for Washington now will be to fix the attention of the two leaders of the coalition parties, Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, on the raging Taliban insurgency that not only threatens American soldiers in Afghanistan but also threatens to destabilize Pakistan itself.

The campaign against the militants is unpopular here in Pakistan because it is seen as an American conflict foisted on the country. Washington would like the new government to explain to the public that the effort to quell the Taliban is in Pakistan’s interests as well.

So far, the coalition, distracted by internal machinations, has failed to make that case, even as the military has taken on the insurgents with new vigor in the last 10 days. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought on Monday to emphasize continuity with the new leaders of Pakistan, saying the United States would keep pressing the Pakistani government to battle extremism within its borders.

President Bush, at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., made no statement about Mr. Musharraf’s resignation. A White House spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, said, “President Bush appreciates President Musharraf’s efforts in the democratic transition of Pakistan as well as his commitment to fighting Al Qaeda and extremist groups.”

The muted reaction from American officials was partly a result of the Bush administration’s having come to terms months ago with the expectation that it would have to pursue its strategy in Pakistan without Mr. Musharraf.

Mr. Musharraf’s political demise was nearly inevitable after he shed his military role last year and since his party was soundly defeated in parliamentary elections in February.

Since then, the White House has been grappling with a new political reality, where the civilian leaders seem to have tenuous control over Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment.

Some inside the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon believe that Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency has used the democratic transition in Islamabad to strengthen its ties to militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas who are carrying out operations into Afghanistan.

Uncertainty over who is actually in charge in Pakistan has heightened concerns over the country’s nuclear arsenal, which is today variously estimated at 50 to 100 weapons.

While American officials say publicly that they are confident it is secure, in private they have long harbored worries about what would happen when Mr. Musharraf no longer stood atop the country’s nuclear command structure, which has always been a creation of Mr. Musharraf himself. How robust it will prove without him, they say, is a worrisome unknown.

Perhaps the greatest concern is what one senior Bush administration official recently termed “steadfast efforts” by the extremist groups to infiltrate Pakistan’s nuclear laboratories, the heart of a vast infrastructure that employs tens of thousands of people. Some of the efforts, officials said, are believed to have involved Pakistani scientists trained abroad.

Pakistan’s weapons themselves are considered less of a concern — thanks in part to a secret program initiated by the Bush administration, with Mr. Musharraf’s consent, to help train Pakistani security forces to keep the weapons safe.

But American officials say they do not know the details of how much money was spent, and they have been barred from reviewing crucial aspects of the security procedures.

In announcing his resignation, from his presidential office here in Islamabad at 1 p.m., Mr. Musharraf said that he was putting national interest above “personal bravado,” adding that he was not prepared to put the office of the presidency through the impeachment process.

Mr. Musharraf said the governing coalition, which was pushing for impeachment, had tried to “turn lies into truths,” and finished his speech by raising his clenched fists chest high and declaring, “Long live Pakistan!”

Mr. Musharraf decided to resign after the coalition mounted a campaign over 10 days to impeach him and said it would file charges based on gross violations of the Constitution. For the new government, elected with a big majority in February, his departure represented a vindication of democracy in a country that has been ruled for more than half its 61-year existence by the military.

By 5 p.m., Mr. Musharraf had been granted a ceremonial departure composed of a military guard of honor, and he left the presidential building for the last time. He headed to an army house in Rawalpindi, a city adjacent to Islamabad, where he has lived as president.

He will stay there for the next few days before moving elsewhere in Islamabad, perhaps to a house he is building in an exclusive enclave on the outskirts of the city.

The chairman of the Senate, Muhammad Mian Soomro, who had served as caretaker prime minister this year, was named acting president. He will keep the office until a new president is chosen by Parliament and four provincial assemblies within 30 days.

Mr. Zardari, the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and now the head of the Pakistan Peoples Party, which she led before her assassination, is known to want the job. But he remains something of a controversial figure, having faced multiple counts of corruption in the past, though he was never convicted and says the charges were politically motivated. They were dropped when Mr. Zardari returned to Pakistan this year.

A senior American official who deals with Pakistan said last week that the notion of Mr. Zardari as president was not appealing, but neither were the alternatives.

One of the other candidates mentioned is Aftab Shahban Mirani, a former defense minister and a longtime stalwart of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

Whoever emerges, the talks are likely to be long and contentious. Mr. Sharif, who has a past checkered by corruption allegations, maintains a barely civil relationship with Mr. Zardari, and is said to be strongly opposed to the elevation of Mr. Zardari.

A colleague of Mr. Sharif’s said the Pakistan Muslim League-N, the party Mr. Sharif leads, might agree to Mr. Zardari in the post if it was stripped of its current powers, including the power to dissolve Parliament and to choose the army chief.

Salman Masood contributed reporting from Islamabad, Mark Mazzetti from Washington, and David E. Sanger from Vermont.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Post 35a: ADULT CONTENT WARNING - Upcoming Article re John Edwards

Within the next 12 to 24 hours, we will provide a very simplistic and realistic explanation of why men have extramarital affairs, no matter what the profession or status of the purported offenders. We are advising you ahead of time to carefully consider whether you want to read Post No. 36, which shall be posted shortly. You may choose to deny access to our site to anyone under 21. Additionally, we are deleting the e-mail addresses of those of you whose work addresses appear on our distribution list. We do not want you to suffer any negative employment law ramifications.

We’re simply sick and tired of everyone talking about this subject year, after year, after year, when they don’t have a clue about which they speak. Even Masters and Johnson knew not about which they spoke. Look for the definitive discussion on the subject. Someone has to have the guts to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Shhhhhhhhooooo… Extramarital sex, get real!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Post No. 35: Why Smacking Someone Around Periodically Might Be a Good Thing

by Guest Author, The Laughingman

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Crew is a particularly interesting and Ivy League sport.

Next to the Army Forest Rangers, or the Navy Seals, there is no other activity on the planet that requires a higher level of conditioning, precision, training, or team interdependence.

The "boat" weighs just a little more than a single rower. The oars, on the other hand, weigh considerably more than the boat. For leverage, these forward motivation devices are mounted on outriggers a couple of feet from the rails of this odd racing device.

Eight human power plants, selected for their strength, endurance, and technique, power the craft... all sitting backward to the direction in which they are heading... with virtually no idea of where they are going... just a passing view of where they have just been.

Steering and speed are left in the hands of the lightest person available... and, as far as I was able to tell, weight was the only qualification.

The "function" of this light weight freeloader, or coxswain, seated at the stern (the rear end of the boat) was to call cadence for the rowers...and steer us to victory.

In practice, the "Stroke," the oarsman facing the "Coxin" and next closest to the stern, was responsible for setting the stroke rate and cadence (or rhythm)... the other rowers' job was to match his speed and power... exactly... or the boat would just wander all over the river.

(If you got out of sync with the stroke, you would eventually miss a catch, where the oar blade is placed in the water, or release, where the oar blade is removed from the water, and be tossed several yards from the boat into the water. This was not a good thing...your life depended on how quickly the coach's boat got to you... no exhausted, anti-cold weather equipped rower was going to stay above the surface more than 90 seconds.... parent-oriented pamphlets notwithstanding.)

In college competition... at least at Columbia... the training season lasts 11 months.

When it became too dangerous to send the boats out on the river... never did find out what that tipping point was... we pulled against dead water in the tanks located below Low Library. There is no human activity less enjoyable than pulling against dead water in a boat fixed to the bottom of the tank in the basement of the senior administration building; whose residents complained daily about the smell of vomit floating up through the ventilation... “Can't we cut the ventilation off down there?” one senior administrative assistant asked... weekly.

But the most...memorable...experience you could have as a member of a varsity crew team was when the "Coxin" got fancy...steered too close to one of the George Washington Bridge supports, and clipped the concrete with the port or starboard oars... tossing all four port or starboard oarsmen into the Hudson. Your feet are tied to the boat... your oar is mounted to develop the maximum mechanical leverage possible... your hands are so thoroughly cramped about your rowing device, you couldn't let go even if you knew what was about to happen.

Nobody, including the Army, and the Army's spinal training hospital, has ever frightened me as much as that five yard arc into the Hudson River.

Bill Glover, a fraternity brother and ROTC member, took this... mistake... by our Coxin, Fast Ed Rosen, personally. Bill got the stroke job because he was clearly the strongest rower... and seemed to have no sense of pain.

For the rest of the season, Bill would release his right hand between the release and the next catch, and use it to smack Ed's head mounted megaphone in a 360 degree circle around his head.

Ed quit at the end of the season... according to rumors, because he was afraid he would have no more ears left after another season coxing for Bill.

I quit half way through the nest season to go catch passes for Marty... seemed a safer sport... and Marty was more fun.

Bill went to Vietnam to command a river boat... and continued to knock the voice megaphones around his senior officers until they suggested he might be of more value to the country as a civilian.

As the Senior Fellow at the Institute for Applied Common Sense, my responsibilities include ensuring that we acknowledge history, honing perspective (aka wisdom) that comes with advancing years, and telling stories of my youth.

My point, and I do have one, is that from Wall Street to Washington, we might be better off if our best people... the ones who care about the people they are responsible for.... occasionally spun a megaphone around the ears of the people who are charged with telling us what is happening...and routinely get it wrong, or worse yet, make it up.

Half our rowers are already in the water...I don't think we can afford to clip another bridge....

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Post No. 34: Opportunity to Serve as Guest Author – It’s Your Turn to Express Yourself

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Since we started this blog in April of 2008, numerous readers have asked us about the blogging experience, and how they might start their own blogs. It took us almost two years to actually do so, and we regret not having done so earlier.

A blog opens up a whole new world to you, and allows interaction with folks all over the world, about all sorts of subjects. The blogosphere is truly a global virtual community.

(For those interested, a major blogging convention is scheduled for Greensboro, NC on Thursday and Friday, October 16 and 17, 2008 ( On Saturday, October 18, 2008 BlogHer (, a community for women who blog, visits the city as part of its traveling tour.)

We’re going to provide you with an opportunity to post an article or articles on our blog, as Guest Authors, consistent with the goals and principles of the Institute for Applied Common Sense.

There is no need to repeat our philosophy here; it appears stated in the right column of the blog. However, before getting to the Guest Author opportunity, we thought that we should share with you a profile of our readership.

There are many widgets and tracking devices which can be installed on a blog, to provide information about the visiting traffic. We are particularly enthralled with . Even their free service provides valuable information, as will be reflected below.

The vast majority of the readers of this blog appear to be non-bloggers. We frequently receive direct e-mails containing comments as opposed to comments on the blog. Roughly 15-20% of the readers are located in countries outside of the United States. We have regular readers from Australia, Finland, France, the Palestinian Territories in Gaza, Germany, Iceland, India, Israel, Jordan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom.

Thus far, we can not recall any readers from China. Far more newcomers (individuals not associated with any of the members of the “It’s Your Turn™” Team) read our blog than friends of the “It’s Your Turn™” Team. The newcomers also have a tendency to read more articles and to stay on the blog reading them longer.

It appears that most of our foreign readers live in smaller cities, and we have noticed that they spend more time reading more articles than any other group.

We employ the “next blog” button feature of the Navigation Bar at the top of our blog to “blog surf” and visit other blogs. The vast majority of the other blogs which we visit are based in Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, and Brazil. We are actually surprised at the large number of Brazilian blogs.

Most blogs are uniquely personal. A large number display photos taken by the blogger, chronicle the lives and experiences of children or newlyweds, or display the artistic work of artists of every imaginable variety. We tend to randomly surf to other blogs and when we find one of interest, we stop and comment.

Although we are sure that there are many blogs dealing with political or societal issues, we rarely run across them. (That may be explained by the fact that we use Google’s free blogging platform,, and those interested in professional blogging tend to buy other software for blogging.)

We joined a number of Google Groups (or discussion groups), most with some type of political theme. The bulk of our traffic is referred to us through Google Groups, following our leaving comments on the group discussion boards. We stumble through blogs written in French, Portuguese, and Spanish, and leave comments using a combination of English and our broken language in question. Most interestingly, it is the Brazilians who most frequently respond.

The readers who consider the articles, or the ideas expressed in them, to be radical or dangerous are generally Americans. We never sense any reluctance to go to another place intellectually on the part of our foreign visitors.

We have no real sense of the age demographic of our readers. We suspect that we have far more women readers than men, based on the comments.

In the U.S., our readers have a tendency to be from the West Coast, Southwest, and the Eastern Seaboard. Mid-Western readers hail from Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. In the South, we get visitors from Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia; there are virtually no readers from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, or Tennessee. There are also very few readers from the Rocky Mountain States and the Plains States.

Our blog informs readers that the “It’s Your Turn™"Team will soon embark on a nationwide tour of college campuses to engage students in a conversation about personal responsibility and making difficult decisions. In response thereto, we have received numerous comments which generally might fall into two categories: (a) those which inquire as to where we were when they were in college; and (b) to inform them when the tour is scheduled to be in their vicinity.

The blog has evolved over time. It morphed from simply posing rhetorical questions in admittedly lengthy essays. It went through a period when we suggested theoretical constructs which might be utilized to analyze certain situations. Our original goal, which remains today, was to simply get people to think and avoid rushing to judgments and decisions.

One of our favorite stories revolves around Senator Barry Goldwater, the ultimate conservative. Just prior to his death, he was asked to identify one thing he appreciated as a senior citizen, which he did not appreciate in his youth. He replied that in his youth, he thought there were only two sides to every issue. In hindsight, he understood that there were at least three.

Our view is that there are at least 27 different ways to view everything. Not all of them are good, productive, or positive at any given particular time, and their importance definitely changes depending on the context or circumstances. However, we should be aware of them.

Another goal of this blog has always been to encourage people to “dig deeper” in trying to understand the underlying causes of problems, instead of being distracted by the superficial, and typically emotional, symptoms.

If at times you’ve been confused about the purpose and focus of this blog, you are pretty perceptive. We essentially conducted a virtual focus group during the first few months of the blog’s existence. We’re still experimenting with different approaches.

Amazingly, we have not received one, single, nasty, off the chart, emotional rant, and for that we modestly take some credit. It was not our intention to get folks worked up, but rather to get them to say, “Hmm, let me think about that.” The most frequent comment which we received was, “I hadn’t thought or looked at it that way.” We view getting folks to pause during the thought process as a good thing.

We mentioned earlier that we are inviting our readers to serve as Guest Authors. We have a few guidelines to ensure that we maintain the spirit of the blog. We’re interested in civilized, respectful discourse, between participants with open minds. We believe that reasonable people can differ about how to approach a problem. Please observe the following guidelines:

1. Please limit your article to 750 words maximum;

2. Discuss any issue in the news or societal issue that you desire;

3. Avoid just criticizing or taking a side, and instead think in terms of suggesting a solution to the issue, or at a minimum offer some reasoned alternatives;

4. Try to be as objective as possible and set aside your personal biases;

5. Pose rhetorical questions to challenge the reader to consider various options, and innovative ways to analyze the issue;

6. Avoid the use of invective and judgmental statements, which might prompt emotional responses;

7. Avoid taking sides, or the positions of the liberals, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, etc. Your piece should cause all sides to ponder; and

8. Be sure to “dig deeper” to reach the underlying causes.

Send your articles to with an urgent flag. As long as they are generated in good faith and generally within our guidelines, they will be published “as is,” without further editing. Be sure to tell your friends and contacts to read your articles once they are published. This should be fun.

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

"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"™