Monday, December 29, 2008

Post No. 72: Country Seeking New Year Resolutions

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We look forward to your input.

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

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Thursday, December 25, 2008

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

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

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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Post No. 71: Our Responsibility as Citizens

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

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

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

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

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

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

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

And each time that we remained silent and acquiesced.

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

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

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

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

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

We need more engineers.

We need more scientists.

We need more inventors.

We need more entrepreneurs.

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

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

(a) To provoke thought;

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time for a whole new collective approach.

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

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Friday, December 19, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 13, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* *

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

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

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

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

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

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

What think and say thee readers?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

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

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We don’t guarantee results in America.

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

Don’t you think?

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

"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"™