Friday, January 30, 2009

Post No. 79a: Article of Interest - Where are we in Terms of Electric Car Technology?

For the past couple of weeks, we have engaged in a conversation about whether the private sector or government should perform certain functions in society. We entertained all points of view, and even presented some arguments by Nobel Economics Laureate Milton Friedman, highlighting the different positions.

The following article appeared in the January 18, 2009 electronic edition of the Free Press. The article, entitled “Detroit 3 Say They’ll Need Help to Go Electric,” was written by Justin Hyde of the publication’s Washington staff. We’d like to hear from both free market advocates and government interventionists as to the factors which led to this situation, and what we might do going forward to accelerate the technological advance. Obviously just throwing money at the issue, no matter what the source, will not advance the technology overnight. Those of you with engineering or science backgrounds need not comment; this one is for the “policy” makers.

When Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker strolled into the Ford Motor Co. display last week at the Detroit auto show, Mark Fields had his pitch for electric vehicles ready.

“The Ford vice president steered Corker toward a display showing the underside of a Focus converted to all-electric power, and pressed a case that Ford and other automakers couldn’t make such models happen alone.

“’We are really going to need to partner with the government and the electric companies,’ Fields said. ‘The infrastructure is key. If you’re going from one state to another, where are you going to plug in, what are you going to charge for it?’

“It’s the kind of conversation that Detroit’s executives will have plenty of practice with in the coming years…." [Read More.]

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Post No. 79: Rethinking the Role of Government (Part 2) – or the “Real” Definition of Liberalism

Previously in our Post No. 77, we provided you with excerpts of Nobel Economics Laureate Milton Friedman’s book published in 1962, “Capitalism and Freedom.” The following additional excerpts are taken from that work. We told you that you’d be surprised about the definition of “liberalism” addressed by Friedman. With all of the talk about stimulating the economy these days, we'd be interested in where you stand after reading this. (If you did not read Post No. 77, you should do so now before reading this one.) You should enjoy this.

“Government can never duplicate the variety and diversity of individual action. At any moment in time, by imposing uniform standards in housing, or nutrition, or clothing, government could undoubtedly improve the level of living of many individuals; by imposing uniform standards in schooling, road construction, or sanitation, central government could undoubtedly improve the level of performance in many local areas, and perhaps even on the average of all communities. But in the process, government would replace progress by stagnation, it would substitute uniform mediocrity for the variety essential for that experimentation which can bring tomorrow’s laggards above today’s mean.

“This book discusses some of these great issues. Its major theme is the role of competitive capitalism – the organization of the bulk of economic activity through private enterprise operating in a free market – as a system of economic freedom and a necessary condition for political freedom. Its minor theme is the role that government should play in a society dedicated to freedom and relying primarily on the market to organize economic activity.”

* * *

“It is extremely convenient to have a label for the political and economic viewpoint elaborated in this book. The rightful and proper label is liberalism. [Emphasis added.] Unfortunately, “As a supreme, if unintended compliment, the enemies of the system of private enterprise have thought it wise to appropriate its label, [footnote omitted]” so that liberalism has, in the United States, come to have a very different meaning than it did in the nineteenth century or does today over much of the Continent of Europe.

“As it developed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the intellectual movement that went under the name of liberalism emphasized freedom as the ultimate goal and the individual as the ultimate entity in the society. It supported laissez faire at home as a means of reducing the role of the state in economic affairs and thereby enlarging the role of the individual; it supported free trade abroad as a means of linking the nations of the world together peacefully and democratically. In political matters, it supported the development of representative government and of parliamentary institutions, reduction in the arbitrary power of the state, and protection of the civil freedoms of individuals.

“Beginning in the late nineteenth century, and especially after 1930 in the United States, the term liberalism came to be associated with a very different emphasis, particularly in economic policy. It came to be associated with a readiness to rely primarily on the state rather than on private voluntary arrangements to achieve objectives regarded as desirable. The catchwords became welfare and equality rather than freedom.

[Paragraph break added.] “The nineteenth-century liberal regarded an extension of freedom as the most effective way to promote welfare and equality; the twentieth-century liberal regards welfare and equality as either prerequisites of or alternatives to freedom. In the name of welfare and equality, the twentieth-century liberal has come to favor a revival of the very policies of state intervention and paternalism against which classical liberalism fought. In the very act of turning the clock back to seventeenth-century mercantilism, he is fond of castigating true liberals as reactionary!

“The change in the meaning attached to the term liberalism is more striking in economic matters than in political. The twentieth-century liberal, like the nineteenth-century liberal, favors parliamentary institutions, representative government, civil rights, and so on. Yet even in political matters, there is a notable difference.

[Paragraph break added.] “Jealous of liberty, and hence fearful of centralized power, whether in governmental or private hands, the nineteenth-century liberal favored political decentralization. Committed to action and confident of the beneficence of power so long as it is in the hands of a government ostensibly controlled by the electorate, the twentieth-century liberal favors centralized government. He will resolve any doubt about where power should be located in favor of the state instead of the city, of the federal government instead of the state, and of a world organization instead of a national government.

“Because of the corruption of the term liberalism, the views that formerly went under that name are now often labeled conservatism. But this is not a satisfactory alternative. The nineteenth-century liberal was a radical, both in the etymological sense of going to the root of the matter, and in the political sense of favoring major changes in social institutions. So too must be his modern heir.

[Paragraph break added.] “We do not wish to conserve the state interventions that have interfered so greatly with our freedom, though, of course, we do wish to conserve those that have promoted it [.] Moreover, in practice, the term conservatism has come to cover so wide a range of views, and views so incompatible with one another, that we shall no doubt see the growth of hyphenated designations, such as libertarian-conservative and aristocratic-conservative.

“Partly because of my reluctance to surrender the term to proponents of measures that would destroy liberty, partly because I cannot find a better alternative, I shall resolve these difficulties by using the word liberalism in its original sense-as the doctrines pertaining to a free man.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Post No. 78: An Example of a Private Citizen Taking Responsibility for Her Community

Copyright 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

As most of our regular readers are aware, in late December of last year, in our Post No. 71, we spoke of the responsibility which all of us have as citizens to improve our communities.

We noted that we can not blindly sit by and leave everything to our elected officials. We further noted that there are many things that we can do on an individual level to advance the long-term positive interests of society.

In our Post No. 72, we challenged our citizen readers to develop, pragmatic, society-oriented, collaborative New Year resolutions for 2009, which they intended to pursue. We received numerous exciting suggestions and we intend to publish a Top Ten list of those resolutions before the end of January.

However, we recently became aware of an effort by an individual in Greensboro, North Carolina, which reflects the attitude and spirit which we hope others will emulate during the coming year. As our new President has often said, all of us will need to pitch in, and all of us will need to sacrifice.

Voulynne Small is the daughter of a minister, and an instructor at a local community college in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina. While on land, she teaches adults, seeking their GEDs, English and Math. In recent years, she has bounced between her community college instructor duties and serving as an instructor on U.S. Naval aircraft carriers in foreign waters, teaching psychology, math, and English to service personnel while out at sea.

Most of us would choose to permanently teach the courses on board the carrier, and travel to exotic lands around the world. However, Ms. Small has made a personal sacrifice, and chosen to form a non-profit known as B.E.S.T.

B.E.S.T. stands for Brothers Excelling with Self-Sufficiency to Thrive. Ms. Small, an African-American, believes that young, African-Americans males have been negatively impacted by many things in our society. Instead of simply complaining and waiting for government and politicians to address her many concerns, she decided late last year to "take charge" and do something about the plight of male African-American youth in her community.

B.E.S.T intends to accomplish several goals, the most important of which are: (a) the enhancement of intellectual development, (b) the instillation of a sense of positive self-esteem and responsibility; (c) the development of respect for others, through strong family and community relationships, including volunteerism; and (d) stimulating the development of a solid, stable economic foundation. All of this is done in an environment which recognizes the importance of a strong, cultural, relational, and spiritual foundation.

B.E.S.T. is about the provision of solution-oriented tools to actually attack problems, and not simply complain about them. Instead of simply dropping these young men on the door step of some local governmental agency, B.E.S.T. takes responsibility for getting things done, and not blaming past history or other institutions for the condition in which these young men, and their surrounding communities, find themselves.

We applaud B.E.S.T. and Ms. Small for their efforts. We can only hope that the rest of our readers presenting New Year resolutions will come forward with vehicles with the same substance and potential impact on society as B.E.S.T.

Further information regarding B.E.S.T. can be acquired by visiting the B.E.S.T. site.

Copyright 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Monday, January 26, 2009

Post No. 77b: Article of Interest from - Japan vs. America? Who Will Win

In recent weeks, there has been an extensive amount of discussion about whether workers, here in the United States, have become soft and complacent in their jobs. Additionally, during the coverage of the plight of the American automobile industry, much was made of the role of unions in years past.

The following article is entitled, "Workers Urged: Go Home and Multiply," and was written by CNN's Kyung Lah. It appeared today on

"TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Even before one reaches the front door of Canon's headquarters in Tokyo, one can sense the virtual stampede of employees pouring out of the building exactly at 5:30 p.m.

"In country where 12-hour workdays are common, the electronics giant has taken to letting its employees...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Post No. 77a: Sixteen Things It Took a Colleague of Ours to Reach Age 50 to Learn

The following list was sent to us by a colleague, who wishes to remain anonymous, but who in his youth was on the path to becoming a priest. Perhaps that says it all.

You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight-savings time.

You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment.

The most powerful force in the universe is gossip.

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above-average drivers.

There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age eleven.

There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.

If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be "meetings."

The main accomplishment of almost all organized protests is to annoy people who are not in them.

If there really is a God who created the entire universe with all of its glories, and He decides to deliver a message to humanity, He WILL NOT use, as His messenger, a person on cable TV with a bad hairstyle.

You should not confuse your career with your life.

A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person.

No matter what happens, somebody will find a way to take it too seriously.

When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy.

Your friends will love you anyway.

Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Post No. 77: Rethinking the Role of Government

Due to the current economic situation in which we find ourselves, many expect President Obama to have government monitor and regulate more areas of our lives, similar to the approach taken by FDR following his election. Many are concerned that this might amount to government control of various industries, and have even gone so far to label such policies as “socialist” in nature.

We here at the Institute read anything and everything. We are often reminded of a comment from a prospective colleague, to whom we considered extending an invitation to join us as a fellow. Upon informing him that we considered all works to be of equal value, and that we reviewed them all, he responded that he only examined those works which supported his views and positions, since to do otherwise would be a waste of his time, and therefore inefficient.

Needless to say, we withdrew the invitation to join us, since his view of information was inconsistent with our philosophy. Probably 10-20 times a week, we come across something that makes us re-think issues about which we have previously written. This blog, like the Constitution, constitutes a “living document.” (Snicker.)

While visiting friends last evening, we came across “Capitalism and Freedom” by Milton Friedman, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. Published in 1962, our reading of this relatively thin volume made us rethink some of the comments which we made, and those made by others, about our current economic situation. You may find the following excerpts to be of interest. Keep in mind that the book, a collection of papers presented at various lectures, was published in 1962. In a subsequent post, we will provide you with other excerpts from the book, including the original meaning of “liberalism.” You’ll be surprised.

"In a much quoted passage in his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” It is a striking sign of the temper of our times that the controversy about this passage centered on its origin and not on its content. Neither half of the statement expresses a relation [,] between the citizen and his government[,] that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society."

"[Paragraph break added.] The paternalistic “what your country can do for you” implies that government is the patron, [and] the citizen the ward, a view that is at odds with the free man’s belief in his own responsibility for his own destiny. The organismic, “what you can do for your country” implies that government is the master or the deity, the citizen, the servant or the votary. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them."

"[Paragraph break added.] He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common conditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors or gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped or served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive."

"The free man will ask neither what his country can do for him nor what he can do for his country. He will ask rather “What can I and my compatriots do through government” to help us discharge our individual responsibilities, to achieve our several goals and purposes, and above all, to protect our freedom?"

"[Paragraph break added.] And he will accompany this question with another: How can we keep the government we create from becoming a Frankenstein that will destroy the very freedom we establish it to protect? Freedom is a rare and delicate plant. Our minds tell us, and history confirms that the great threat to freedom is the concentration of power. Government is necessary to preserve our freedom, [and] it is an instrument through which we can exercise our freedom; yet by concentrating power in political hands, it is also a threat to freedom. Even though the men who wield this power initially be of good will and even though they are not corrupted by the power they exercise, the power will both attract and form men of a different stamp."

"How can we benefit from the promise of government while avoiding the threat to freedom? Two broad principles embodied in our Constitution give an answer that has preserved our freedom so far, though they have been violated repeatedly in practice while proclaimed as precept."

"First, the scope of government must be limited. Its major function must be to protect our freedom both from the enemies outside our gates and from our fellow-citizens: to preserve law and order, to enforce private contracts, [and] to foster competitive markets. Beyond this major function, government may enable us at times to accomplish jointly what we would find it more difficult or expensive to accomplish severally."

"However, any such use of government is fraught with danger. We should not and cannot avoid using government in this way. But there should be a clear and large balance of advantages before we do. By relying primarily on voluntary cooperation and private enterprise, in both economic and other activities, we can insure that the private sector is a check on the powers of the governmental sector and an effective protection of freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought."

"The second broad principle is that government power must be dispersed. If government is to exercise power, better in the county than in the state, [and] better in the state than in Washington. If I do not like what my local community does, be it in sewage disposal, or zoning, or schools, I can move to another local community, and though few may take this step, the mere possibility acts as a check. If I do not like what my state does, I can move to another. If I do not like what Washington imposes, I have few alternatives in this world of jealous nations."

"The very difficulty of avoiding the enactments of the federal government is of course the great attraction of centralization to many of its proponents. It will enable them more effectively, they believe, to legislate programs that – as they see it – are in the interest of the public, whether it be the transfer of income from the rich to the poor or from private to governmental purposes."

"[Paragraph break added.] They are in a sense right. But the coin has two sides. The power to do good is also the power to do harm; those who control the power today may not tomorrow; and more important, what one man regards as good, another may regard as harm. The great tragedy of the drive to centralization, as of the drive to extend the scope of government in general, is that it is mostly led by men of good will who will be the first to rue its consequences."

"The preservation of freedom is the protective reason for limiting and decentralizing governmental power. But there is also a constructive reason. The great advances of civilization whether in architecture or painting, in science or literature, in industry or agriculture, have never come from centralized government. Columbus did not set out to seek a new route to China in response to a majority directive of a parliament, though he was partly financed by an absolute monarch."

"[Paragraph break added.] Newton and Leibnitz; Einstein and Bohr; Shakespeare, Milton, and Pasternak; Whitney, McCormick Edison, and Ford; Jane Addams, Florence Nightingale, and Albert Schweitzer; no one of these opened new frontiers in human knowledge and understanding, in literature, in technical possibilities, or in the relief of human misery in response to governmental directives. Their achievements were the product of individual genius, of strongly held minority views, of a social climate permitting variety and diversity."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Post No. 76: The Morning After

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

I have some thoughts about this Barack Obama. However, I must first disclose that I’m not necessarily a good judge of people. I’m always confused when people say, “I’m a good judge of character.”

Hell, everyone has character. It just reveals itself in different ways and in different situations depending on the person. So what makes people think that they’ve cornered the market on evaluating others? Usually our evaluations of others have more to do with what we think about ourselves than them.

I’ve often said that I am an “All Comers Kind of Guy.” I can find something interesting, and of value, about virtually anyone. Seriously.

That may be the reason why I’ve never been married nor had a desire to have children. It would just be too confusing for people to deal with me on a regular basis. (The Laughingman claims that he finally figured this marriage problem out, after a couple of failed attempts. At the first sign of loneliness… or any baser, prurient desire… he simply walks to the Strand, finds a woman he can’t stand, and buys her a house, thus avoiding both lawyers and broken crockery.)

Now, getting to the point, throughout the day yesterday, I repeatedly asked myself, “Who is Barack Obama, and why are people saying all of these things about him?”

I have no facts upon which to base my suspicions. I have not read any of his books, and I have not spoken to any of his friends or confidantes. I don’t even know the guy. This is just a visceral, gut-level assessment, watching him evolve during the past 18 months.

We’ve often heard him called a “mystery man” and an “enigma.” I believe that it is because he does not share our “mainstream” values. By values, I am not referring to all of the rhetoric about being a socialist or leftist, about which we heard so much during the last year.

From the perspective of an outsider simply watching human interaction, in a way, Obama's interaction with his wife speaks volumes, at least to me, about where his head is at. It’s my suspicion that it is an intellectual and principle-based love, not the usual physicality and security-based “love,” to which so many of us subject ourselves. It’s not about, “You make me feel special,” but rather, “We’re special together.”

It’s the ultimate form of interpersonal respect.

Their relationship strikes me as the type of cutting-edge heterosexual relationship, where the collaborative nature of the partnership trumps each partner’s personal issues. We suspect that we will see more and more of this as humankind dives into the abyss of further complexity.

(Quite honestly, I suspect it is perhaps more akin to relationships during the day when getting killed by a beast in the wild was a more pressing issue than the possibility that your spouse slept with a neighbor, or the amount of time you spent at home versus work.)

I also get the impression that he's detached, not from the issues, but from the fray, and in a good way. He's on a mission of more significance and importance than having his personal issues addressed. He believes that it is more about the moment than about him. As I’ve often said with some degree of grammatical imperfection, “It’s bigger than you and me, and it’s bigger than the here and now.”

(In my view, Bill Clinton never appreciated that concept, especially considering the manner in which he approached his defense during the Monica Lewinsky era.)

I do not have a good enough feel for Michelle to make the same call, but I suspect that she has similar motivations. That’s, what I suspect, drew them to one another.

Additionally, their kids just look grounded – for a reason. Something tells me that their parents have addressed them as intellectual and pragmatic beings, not mini-drones to be dictated to, and through which the parents’ inadequacies are expressed.

I'm not sure that he really wanted to be President per se, like Bill Clinton. But “No Drama Obama” has been pinned to him for a reason.

Here's something else. On “Morning Joe” on MSNBC this morning, Joe Klein told a story about being on the campaign trail, when Michelle asked him whether he was going to write a book about the Obama family, referring to "Primary Colors." Barack instantly quipped, "Oh Michelle, that won’t happen. We're too boring."

The guy doesn't seem to have an ego. (Hard to believe, isn’t it?) He's relatively dismissive of unbelievable personal attacks. Somewhere in his youth, he learned to tune out all the crap which makes most of us become insecure.

He understands that the moment is really not about him, and that’s why he is so receptive to the views of others. He just happens to be here at a certain place in time in history. It’s more about synchronicity, as Jung would put it, or serendipity, as Kundera would submit.

Interestingly, last night on Tavis Smiley on PBS, Tavis aired an interview of Obama some years ago. Barack indicated that his first priority was his family, and the second addressing the needs of the people of the State of Illinois. I actually think that is the truth in this instance, as compared to most Presidents, CEOS, and financial heavyweights, who might say it and desire it, but not really believe it themselves.

Additionally, I think that he is a big, big picture guy, not a technocrat, and he flows naturally. I watched him and Michelle walk through that school on National Service Day this past Monday, and they really seemed to be interested in each and every one of the people with whom they came into contact, which is extremely unusual for politicians. On a pragmatic level, they typically can not do that. There’s no time to engage.

I do not get the sense that much about his style is contrived. To borrow a phrase from an old Dramatics song, “What you see is what you get.” He's a very cool customer. I am sure that some will consider him to be the Anti-Christ.

When he first burst on the scene, I paid absolutely no attention to him for 2 reasons. The first was that I did not believe that America was ready to elect a black President. (Even though it has done so, I still do not believe that it is ready.)

However, the second was that I did not listen to him, nor did I actually observe him. I simply assumed that he fit the mold of most politicians, and that he had a decent enough background as a Negro not to overly alarm folks, and that he had the good sense not to piss them off. (Like he cared.)

It took over a year for me to pay any attention to this young man, and listen to anything that he had to say. It’s been an evolutionary process; however, I would submit that it was I who evolved. He stayed right on message, consistently throughout.

And so you see, I think that his seemingly inexplicable popularity is based on a tone, a style, an attitude, an essence, all of which we should not consider in the selection of a national leader.

But we were obviously looking for something different, even if he did not embody experience. In a way, we said to ourselves, “Enough of the old stuff. It’s obviously not working. It’s time to find a new church.”

And here we find ourselves, in probably the worst situation most of us have ever known. We had to reach out and try to grasp something. Obviously it had to be something “different.”

To be fair, in the last 2 years, it would be hard to find an instance where President Obama screwed up anything of functional significance, and 2 years is a long time for a mere mortal to not put a foot wrong. Even his Cabinet nominations seem to be based more on talent and competence than any sort of political dogma. (Imagine that.)

It remains to be seen how, and if, he will be able to manage any of these opposing views; but he has hit the ground running faster than any other administration in recent memory.

Perhaps this is what we were all longing for - pragmatism, collaboration, and competence.

Perhaps we have had our fill of Senor Wences, and his Topo Gigio sidekicks, keeping the plates spinning in the air, while nothing else gets done. (For those of you for whom this has no significance, check with someone who remembers the old Ed Sullivan Shows.)

Perhaps political theater, outside of Shakespearian tragedies, is going the way of the dodo.

I may be all wrong. After all, I’m the guy who told you that I can generally look at a politician speaking on C-Span and immediately venture a guess as to whether they are progressive or conservative, based purely on visual factors. Consequently, you shouldn’t take me seriously. I’m just another goofball.

However, this is not outside the realm of possibilities. The reason we may not know Barack Obama is because we’re accustomed to evaluating the show, the make-up, and the results of the practice, the special effects, and the spin.

We may be seeing perhaps the first “real person” to run for presidential office in the last 200 years. (And you thought that Sarah Palin was of that species.) Not being accustomed to seeing real people, we may not be able to identify the alien that he is.

Alien or not, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could actually suck up all of our personal prejudices, and give this guy a chance?

© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Post No. 75: $150 Million Worth - On This Presidential Inauguration Day

Copyright 2009, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

First (in my memory) there was Ali... local (Louisville) kid with talent, eloquence, bravery, and a penchant for political incorrectness... who grew up to become the most admired man on the face of the planet. He was beautiful, and fearless.

Next was Richard Pryor... another kid with talent, eloquence, bravery, and a penchant for political incorrectness... who grew up to turn stand-up comedy (and political commentary) into something that attracted coliseum size audiences, and who had rock star-like appeal. He was beautiful, and also fearless.

Comes now President Obama... another kid with talent, eloquence, and bravery, standing on the shoulders of many who have gone before.... He, too, is beautiful... as is the extraordinary outpouring of joy and hope as we approach his inauguration. Based on what we've seen thus far, he also appears to be fearless.

We, as a Nation, are absolutely convinced we picked the best man for the job (and truth be told, even his detractors would confide that they are impressed)... albeit the worst job anybody has had in recent memory.

Our problems are overwhelming, and we can't wait for the chosen one to lead us out of the wilderness... unfortunately something that cannot be done with the snap of anyone's fingers.

In all probability, and through amazing technological vehicles, this will be the most watched speech in human history... it may even change the course of human events....

And despite the legitimate questions raised by my colleague, The Logistician, and others regarding the price tag for this event, money just can't buy this kind of advertising. Even at this point in economic time.

A generation of our young will grow up with President Obama's words resonating in their ears, hoping to accomplish some of what he has done.

We can only hope this massive demonstration of will, welcome, and affection doesn't lead him to lose his political incorrectness. I would hate to think that the ability to laugh at ourselves will be part of the historical baggage we must throw overboard in order to navigate the rocks ahead....

But for now and for today, Godspeed Barack Hussein Obama.

Copyright 2009, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Monday, January 19, 2009

Post No. 74: Our National Discomfort with Miscegenation

Copyright 2009, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

The exchange of comments related to this issue should be interesting, should we receive any comments at all.

We chose to use the word "miscegenation," rather than some more commonly used descriptive language, realizing that the subject is one which makes people uncomfortable.

We wanted our readers to at least get past the title.

The Institute is no stranger to controversy, and obviously does not avoid the discussion of sensitive issues, as evidenced by the pillorying that we took recently, for merely suggesting that there was a biological component to heterosexual infidelity.

Moving along, today is Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday. All this morning, we've listened to people from all walks of life talk about how far we've come in the area of race relations.

At least we've heard from those who think that it has been a positive change. (It is far more difficult to gauge the sentiments of those who deplore this transformation. Quite frankly, there might be some benefit associated with hearing directly from them, and being able to clearly identify them. It might aid in the discussion.)

Tomorrow, the first African-American President of this nation will be sworn into office. Some would say that it is indeed fortunate that he has an African-American spouse, and two similarly ethnically situated children. We should note that it has not gone unnoticed that the President-Elect is, himself, the product of miscegenation.

Just a few minutes ago, we saw a young Asian boy in a scene interacting with a young Asian girl on the ABC Family Channel. Because we do not see Asians on television with much frequency here in the U.S., it caught our attention.

We then started flipping through the channels for other instances of boy-girl, male-female interaction, that might be perceived as romantic or something else potentially more problematic in nature.

As we continued to surf, every single time, the couples essentially had the same ethnic background.

Some years ago, O.J. Simpson and Elizabeth Montgomery (the "blonde" of Bewitched fame) were paired in a made-for-television crime drama. The complaints to the sponsors might best be described as "intense."

Share with us the name of any regularly aired television show which has an interracial couple prominently featured.

We observe lots of innuendo and flirting; but rarely do we see them paired up. When was the last time that you saw a commercial for any product, where a couple, ostensibly engaged in an intimate relationship, consisted of people from different races. (It ain't "commercial" as Bobby Womack used to say.)

We're simply not comfortable with that.


This is not to mention how family members, friends, church members, business associates, and schoolmates treat others within their circle, who "stray" from the herd.

We all probably know some instances of mixing in our neighborhoods. However, we find it interesting that such images are rarely projected through our media vehicles, with the exception of "immoral pieces" disseminated by those referred to as the "out of the mainstream, degenerate liberals" in Hollywood.

So as we celebrate Dr. King's contribution to this nation, and hand over the reins of power to young Barack Obama, let's contemplate the work that remains to be done, should we feel that getting beyond this issue has an upside.

As Mikhail Gorbachev, former Premier of the U.S.S.R. once said, some things take time and must evolve gradually.

Copyright 2009, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Post No. 73: An Opportunity Lost (Well, Sorta)

Copyright 2009, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

This one is a tad tricky for us.

Then again, we should all have some degree of ambivalence about the positions we take in life.

It permits us to be open to other views, and allows us to gracefully modify our views, and change course.

And thus grow.

Quite frankly, all the hoopla about this inauguration bothers us.

Sure, this is an historic event, of which the country should be proud.

But why couldn't we, during this time of economic hardship, simply conduct this event in the office of a local mid-western justice of the peace, followed by a dinner with the President-Elect's closest friends at the local Olive Garden.

We don't have a problem with broadcasting it throughout the globe via the latest media outlets.

But why spend the money, even if it is privately funded?

Does it send the wrong message at this time?

We've never been fans of big, expensive, catered weddings. What a less productive utilization of funds and human time. Or grand graduation ceremonies.

But then again, some folks obviously think that there is some value to such staged events.

The Logistician often tells the story about how he never marched in his graduation ceremonies after high school (where he was forced to do so since his Mother rented the cap and gown), thinking them to be frivolous. Same with the graduation ring.

Following his Mother's death, he spoke to one of her close friends, who confided that his Mother was disappointed that she was not able to attend those undergraduate and graduate school ceremonies upon his graduation.

He tells of his response to the effect that he did not consider the events to be of value to him.

The response of his Mother's friend was to the effect that those events are not for the children.

But for the parents.

Sorta put a whole new light on the issue.

So what are we saying that Obama should have done here?

The events are already planned, including the elaborate balls and parties. However, we still believe that this will be a missed opportunity to send a very simple message to the citizens of this country, and the world.

Just seems to us that frugality, or something vaguely akin to it, should rule, at least for some period of time going forward.

As the President-Elect has often said, we should all plan to make some sacrifices going forward.

Copyright 2009, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Post 72c: Article of Interest from the Wall Street Journal

The following article is taken from the Friday, January 9, 2009 hard copy edition of the "Wall Street Journal." In light of all the talk about "socialism" during the presidential campaign, and our request for New Year resolutions as to what we, as individual citizens, can to do to collectively advance the long term positive interests of our nation, we found it thought-provoking.

The article was written by Stephen Moore and appeared in the Opinion section of the paper.

Some years ago when I worked at the libertarian Cato Institute, we used to label any new hire who had not yet read "Atlas Shrugged" a "virgin." Being conversant in Ayn Rand's classic novel about the economic carnage caused by big government run amok was practically a job requirement.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Post No. 72b: Book Review of Interest re Social Darwinism

We frequently allude to the concept known as "Social Darwinism" in our discussions. The United States is an interesting mix of competing social and governmental philosophies. The characterization, by his detractors, of President-Elect Obama as a "socialist," reflects the tension in our society about how we should collectively be permitted to live our lives, with or without governmental involvement. As our friend Dan Perin recently noted, we appear to be drifting toward the government taking more and more responsibility for things in our lives, while we simultaneously tell it to stay out of our lives.

In order to competently address the various problems which we face as a society (and to come up with the society-based New Year Resolutions we continue to seek:, we must fully appreciate who we are as a nation.

We ran across this book review in the Friday, January 9, 2009 hard copy edition of the Wall Street Journal. The author is Bill Kauffman, and he reviews Barry Werth's "Banquet at Delmonico's: Great Minds, the Gilded Age, and the Triumph of Evolution in America."

We think that this discussion is particularly timely in light of all of the discussions ongoing about governmental bailouts of the private sector, and the extent to which various industries should be regulated.

The review alone should make all of us think. We're going out to acquire a copy of the book.

"Herbert Spencer, the 19th Century British philosopher, is remembered today as the forbidding-almost forbidden-father of "Social Darwinism," a school of thought declaring that the fittest prosper in a free marketplace and the human race is gradually improved because only the strong survive.
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Applying Darwinian insights about evolution to political, economic and social life-though he did not himself use the term "Social Darwinism" - Spencer concluded that vigorous competition and unfettered capitalism conduced to the betterment of society.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Post No. 72a: Articles of Interest from USA Today re a Modern Day Don Rickles (and maybe a comment or two on political correctness)

The opinions expressed in the following two articles taken from the January 9, 2009 hardcopy edition of "USA Today" are not in any way reflective of the views of the Institute for Applied Common Sense or any of its employees. We just found them to be interesting in light of the ongoing debate about political correctness.

The FIRST ARTICLE is taken from “Page 3.0” written by Michael Hiestand and is entitled, “Barkley the entertainer usually gets a pass.”

“Charles Barkley’s latest and very serious mistake-an arrest for a drunken driving charge-has drawn derision appropriate for an athlete or credible analyst. said if he were “almost any other athlete we’d have burned him at the stake by now” and The Charlotte Observer said he’s “hurt his credibility.

“Except, TNT’s Barkley is neither an athlete, representing a team or league, nor particularly credible. He’s an entertainer – think Lindsay Lohan, Hugh Grant, Paris Hilton, the Saturday Night Live news desk-who began in sports. His supposed plan to run for governor of Alabama would be as meaningful as Howard Stern’s run for New York governor in 1994.

“Otherwise, Barkley wouldn’t have survived on-air after saying Dan Rather should have killed Saddam Hussein when he interviewed him. And that Olympic curling “is dusting, any woman can do that.” Or goading animal rights activists by eating a burger on-air- “I don’t care what this cow went through.” Or saying, after a Desperate Housewives actress jumped into Terrell Owens’ arms on a Monday Night Football skit, he’d like the actress “to jump on me in here one night.” By the time Barkley said The Masters has “always been racist” or, on CNN, that conservatives “are fake Christians,” who really cared? After all, Barkley long ago said he’s “not a role model” – but even that was just a scripted line in a (Nike) TV ad.

“Like Don Rickles, Barkley is best seen as a long-running act where he can say things that would be wildly inappropriate for most public figures. But that act also allows Barkley to do things on-air like kiss a donkey’s rear end.

“The Houston Rockets’ Tracy McGrady, talking on TNT, has figured it out: ‘I don’t really listen to Charles about basketball. I listen to Charles if he’s talking about calories in a cupcake.’”

The SECOND ARTICLE is taken from Sports, Section C, Page 1, written by Joe Saraceno, and is entitled, “Barkley’s test results to be released.”

“The 45-year old Hame of Fame basketball star was stopped in Scottsdale on New Year’s Eve for running a stop sign. After a police officer said he smelled alcohol, Barkley refused to give a breath test but flunked a field sobriety test and was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. The former MVP and 11-time NBA All-Star told police he was in a hurry to receive oral sex from a female passenger, according to a police report. Barkley issued an apology.”

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