Thursday, March 31, 2011

Post No. 162c: Should Law Abiding Citizens Be Allowed to Carry their Guns to the Park or Restaurant?

According to the Triangle Business Journal, on Wednesday, March 30, 2011, the North Carolina House voted 74 - 42 in favor of expanding the places where citizens, with concealed weapons permits, can carry a gun. The Bill now goes to the North Carolina Senate.

Tell us what you think.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Post No. 162b: 27 Situations Where People We Respect Claim that "Lying" is Appropriate

Home Run King Barry Bonds is in the news again; however, this time, he may go to jail for lying about his use of steroids. For some reason, the theoretical and practical attitudes of our readers toward cheating (which arguably is a form of deceit, of which "lying" is a subset) differed dramatically from the responses we received during our prior effort to delve into the issue of honesty. Consequently, we are re-visiting our original post on the subject to see what happens when we separate the issue of honesty from the issue of steroid use.

© 2009, 2010, and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

The Laughingman and the Logistician have been friends for years. The Laughingman has laughed out of loud at some of the Logistician’s antics. He has also expressed bewilderment following comments by the Logistician, when there were highly desirable women in the room.

He would shake his head, and ask, “What in the world made you say that?” The Logistician would reply, “It’s the truth," which one would expect people to respect.

In case you haven’t figured out who is the more practical of the two, and who usually got the gal, there’s another Logistician story of note. He once had this girlfriend, who was stunning in every aspect imaginable. One day, she asked him whether he loved her. He replied in a perfunctory fashion, “Why yes, dear.”

But then she followed by asking, “But do you love me?”




All of his male buddies have since said that all he had to do was to simply say, “Yes.” (Coincidentally, as have his female friends.) But he didn't.

His response, after pausing no less, was, “What’s the definition of the second love which distinguishes it from the first?”

Aphrodite then replied, “You know. Do you love me?”

The Logistician never managed to provide a satisfactory answer.

To all who later questioned the wisdom of his choice, he calmly stated, “I was placed in a situation where I was asked to respond to something I did not understand. For me to have said ‘yes’ would have been a lie, without a definition being provided.”

There is a logical explanation for this madness. You see, he was screwed up way early in life. Not only did he have traditional societal, familial, and religious forces suggesting that he always tell the truth, but he also attended West Point. The Honor Code there prescribed that he, “not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those that do.”

He has tried to apply that principle (minus the toleration part) to his life, albeit not always successfully. However, he’s tried. One of his favorite quotes is from former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura: “When you tell the truth, you don’t have to have a good recollection of what you previously said.”

And so it was with a great deal of consternation that the Logistician recently found himself in a heated conversation with a valued friend of 35 years, as to the responses one should provide to senior citizen relatives whose mental faculties are declining.

The friend argued that “a game” should be played with the relative, since that provides comfort, and the truth need not be told. He said that it was “unnecessary.” The friend also extended this reasoning to raising young children.

The next day, the Logistician shared this exchange with another mutual friend of 35 years. She suggested that the truth can shatter someone’s delicate perception of the world, and promptly supported the position of the first friend.

It made him wonder whether there are ends sufficiently important to justify out right lying. He also wondered whether there are dangers, so “clear and present,” to support such action. He thought about this a lot during the recent presidential campaigns: Is winning more important than telling the truth?

(Frankly, we’ve reached a point in our society where many aren’t quite sure what to believe from some purported news sources anymore.)

Back to the Logistician, he has always contended that when asked a specific question, he is required to provide a truthful response.

On occasion, he has recognized the value of silence, or momentary evasiveness, by posing, “Do you really want to ask that question?”

Many would argue that in cases of national security, it is appropriate to lie. But is it really? Some others would also argue that when you have a confidential relationship with someone, it is appropriate to lie, to those outside of that relationship.

And then there was our former President who only lied about sex.

If there are so many instances where it is appropriate, then when is it inappropriate to lie? (Apparently one can not lie if one is using performance enhancing drugs in a competitive athletic sport.)

Back to kids, is suggesting to a child that there is a Santa Claus, the Easter Bunnie, or the Tooth Fairy, a lie?

And what about that dying parent? Are lies appropriate at the death bed? What about the case of a patient who has terminal cancer, with only a short time to live?

If Congress poses a question to a member of the CIA, is the operative required to always provide the truth? Was Oliver North justified in lying to Congress about Iran-Contra?

Or was Jack Nicholson correct in A Few Good Men, when he said that, "[We] can’t handle the truth?”

P.S. By the way, you’re right. The Logistician is not very bright, and he lied. He did not provide 27 situations.

© 2009 and 2010, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Should you desire to examine the comments from our readers the first time that we broached this subject, click here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Post No. 162a: Article of Interest: Do You Have Free Will? Yes, It's the Only Choice

The following article is taken from the electronic edition of the New York Times:

Published: March 21, 2011

"Suppose that Mark and Bill live in a deterministic universe. Everything that happens this morning — like Mark’s decision to wear a blue shirt, or Bill’s latest attempt to comb over his bald spot — is completely caused by whatever happened before it.

"If you recreated this universe starting with the Big Bang and let all events proceed exactly the same way until this same morning, then the blue shirt is as inevitable as the comb-over.

"Now for questions from experimental philosophers:

"1) In this deterministic universe, is it possible for a person to be fully morally responsible for his actions?

"2) This year, as he has often done in the past, Mark arranges to cheat on his taxes. Is he fully morally responsible for his actions?

"3) Bill falls in love with his secretary, and he decides that the only way to be with her is to murder his wife and three children. Before leaving on a trip, he arranges for them to be killed while he is away. Is Bill fully morally responsible for his actions?

"To a classic philosopher, these are just three versions of the same question about free will. But to the new breed of philosophers who test people’s responses to concepts like determinism, there are crucial differences, as Shaun Nichols explains in the current issue of Science....

To view the remainder of the article, click here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Post No. 162: An Ass-Whupping Wuz ‘Bout da Take Place

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We’ve been spending quite a bit of time on the bus recently. Apart from saving money, being green, and finding time to read the newspaper, we have the opportunity to examine a microcosm of America. During a prior transit adventure, we gained some insight into problems encountered by children in their homes, which spill over into the public schools. Later, we learned what is wrong with the American male, or at least a large number of them, from the perspective of many women.

During our most recent trip, we saw a riot in the making, which may reflect some of the tension and stress the American public is feeling during these difficult economic times.

On certain days of the week, and at certain times of the month, there are more people using the bus system than is normally the case. With more passengers and more frequent stops come incremental delays which build up over the course of a route.

When we boarded the bus, and saw it packed with 40 plus passengers, we knew there was going to be trouble. At our stop, the bus normally has roughly 16 minutes to make it to the Central Depot, and connect with other outbound buses. But on this day, it only had 9 minutes to spare, for a trip which could take 8 minutes under ideal conditions.

Actually, the bus driver did a pretty good job of making the lights while traveling within the speed limit. Unfortunately, he arrived at the entrance to the Depot 1 minute before the other buses were scheduled to depart. Those of you unfamiliar with the bus system might think that this was good enough, and that everyone would be happy since the connections could be made.

But regular riders know, or at least they should, that if an arriving bus is not fully into the Depot 2 minutes before the scheduled departure time, it must wait at a safety line at the entrance to the Depot, until given further instructions.

The reason for the rule is fairly obvious. The operators of the system do not want passengers jumping off incoming buses, running in between other buses about to depart, and banging on windows to get the attention of departing drivers.

And thus, they made our bus wait. Fifty yards back, but with the other buses, not yet departed, within our view. To make it worse, the other buses did not take off at the scheduled time.

Things began to get testy. First a few passengers yelled, “What are we waiting for?” Then a few more bellowed, “The other buses haven’t even left!” “I’m going to miss my connection.” With each passing 10 seconds, the tension thickened. The bus began to rock as the passengers began to stand up and demand that they be let out at the safety line and be provided the opportunity to run across the paths of the departing buses in anticipation of a lucrative lawsuit.

“This is why the Transit Authority is crap!”

Some even suggested that they had been let out at the safety line on previous occasions, in obvious violation of Authority policy.

Amazingly, the African born immigrant driver sat politely in his seat, as only a citizen of a Commonwealth nation could, and said nothing at first, and later that he was only complying with Transit Authority policy. Of course, no one came to his defense.

Once all of the other buses in front of us departed, and the Depot was cleared, permission was given to our driver to proceed forward, as the African-Americans taunted him and suggested that he return to the country of his origin, in not quite so polite terms. Once the bus came to a stop amongst the empty stalls, both the front and rear doors of the bus opened. The insults reached a level where we were sure that someone was going to punch the driver as the crowd exited, and when it would have been difficult to determine the assailant.

Our driver managed to avoid an altercation this time. Something tells us that might not be the case in the very near future.

As we left by the rear door, we heard someone say,” An ass-whupping wuz ‘bout da take place.”

We guess it was a good thing that the bus was full of otherwise law-abiding citizens. We can’t imagine what an irresponsible group of citizens might have done.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Post No. 161: Back in the Day When a Man was Worth Something

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

For years we thought that we learned more by talking more. However, after much pain and deliberation, we have concluded that some people learn more through listening to others, and we might be members of that group.

Despite some of the drawbacks of riding public mass transit, one has the opportunity to listen to the conversations of others; and learn something.

During a prior adventure on the bus, we learned what is wrong with the American education system. During our most recent trip, we learned what is wrong with the American male, or at least a large number of them.

We previously examined the types of friends college students should consider making in Hanging Out with the Right Crowd, and Hanging Out with the Left Crowd. We also discussed young couples getting past giddiness, tingling, and increased blood flow in There Has to be Something More. Today, we explore some Common Sense thoughts which young women should consider in evaluating their man.

There are times, when the Personal Responsibility Freaks of the Universe (including the Members of this Institute), take this responsibility notion too far. We all have to recognize that personal responsibility is a goal to which we should aspire, not a mechanical device on sale at Wal-Mart. But many environments in which we operate, frequently called “systems,” are more mechanical in nature.

The lady on the bus commenting about men of an earlier time was responding to a man alluding to the kind of relationship where the woman wakes up at 5 am to prepare breakfast for her man, before he heads to work. She suggested that she did not have a problem getting up at that hour, if the man had a job to which he planned to go.

But what if the man doesn’t? And what if the disparity between the wages paid a woman and those paid a man for the same task motivate an employer to hire women instead of men?

At one point in our nation’s history, when we were primarily an agriculture-based economy, a man and a woman might stake a piece of land, and try to make something of it. At a minimum, they generated food sufficient to put on the table, or produced enough offspring to increase that probability. Even if the crops were unsuccessful, at least the man had the opportunity to wake up every day, head to the fields, and try to generate something, along with the illusion that he was a man of some value.

But humankind’s greatest invention, cities, changed all that, initially for the better. When industry was everywhere, and jobs aplenty, men could at least fake some self-esteem, pride, and the ability to take care of their families. But as pointed out in Does Anyone in America Have a Real Job Anymore?, as we transitioned into a service economy, finding those clearly recognizable jobs became more difficult.

There used to be a day when a man with a 2nd or 3rd grade education could still respectfully provide for his family. That’s more problematic today. In many inner cities, the transportation and distribution of drugs have become the local economy, on which many young men depend.

Just last week, we saw one of the most powerful pieces ever produced by CBS’ 60 Minutes. It was the story of the dramatic increase in the number of children below the poverty line in recent years. At this point in our history, roughly 25% of children in America live in families whose incomes fall below the poverty line.

Scott Pelly interviewed the parents and their children, and it was apparent that these people enjoyed a middle class existence for years. Now they live in cheap motels in dangerous neighborhoods. You could see the anguish on Pelly’s face as he interviewed the articulate parents and their bright children.

Were the parents the slackers of the world? Drug addicts and other criminals? Entitlement seekers living off the government? Worthless minorities? Absolutely not. These folks were just like you and the Members of this Institute. Just regular, hard-working, law abiding citizens.

The children were obviously most acutely affected by their change in status. Many of them were ashamed of their fathers. “How could you have let this happen to us?”

So who or what is at fault when a woman perceives that her man, or any man, is no longer a man of value?

And has no worth?

Maybe, just maybe, finding someone with a stable job and prospects for the future might be more important than being in love. Maybe that’s the Personal Responsibility message.

But we as a nation need to figure out how to better deal with this issue, which has long-ranging ramifications.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Post No. 160a: Why God Created West Virginia

God was missing for six days. Eventually, Michael, the archangel, found him, resting on the seventh day.

He inquired, "Where have you been?"

God smiled broadly and proudly pointed downward through the clouds, "Look, Michael. Look what I've made."

Archangel Michael looked puzzled, and said, "What is it?"

"It's a planet," replied God, and I've put life on it… I'm going to call it Earth and it's going to be a place to test the concepts of Balance and Common Sense."

"Balance?" inquired Michael, "I'm still confused."

God explained, pointing to different parts of Earth. "For example, northern Europe will, for a period of time, be a place of great opportunity and wealth, while southern Europe is going to be poor. Over here I've placed a continent of white people, and over there is a continent of black people. Balance in all things.

God continued pointing to different countries. "This one will be extremely hot, while that one will be very cold and covered in ice."

The Archangel, impressed by God's work, then pointed to an area of land not previously mentioned by God and asked, "What's that one?"

"That's West Virginia," said God, "the most glorious place on earth. There are beautiful mountains, rivers and streams, lakes, forests, hills, and plains. The people from West Virginia are going to be handsome, modest, intelligent, and humorous, and they are going to travel the world. They will be extremely sociable, hardworking, high achieving, carriers of peace, and producers of good things."

Michael gasped in wonder and admiration, but then asked, "But what about balance, God? You said there would be balance."

God smiled, and while pointing downward said, "Right next to West Virginia is Washington, D.C. Wait till you see the idiots I intend to put there."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Post No. 160: We Finally Figured Out What’s Wrong with the American Education System

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Over the years when attending conferences, the Logistician chastised us for renting cars. He claimed that public transportation was the way to go, since one gets a real feel for the people of a region.

After hearing him rail for many years, we finally relented, and became regular public transportation users, both at, and away from, home. Earlier today, we saw an example of “getting a real feel,” in action.

After boarding our bus, since it was 28ºF outside, we headed to the rear, which although noisy, is generally warm. We sat in the side-facing seats on the right side, and noticed to our left, 3 heavily clothed and hooded kids, ages 10, 9, and 6. They seemed an energetic bunch, bursting with promise and curiosity.

Initially, we did not notice the absence of their Mother.

The middle, wide-eyed 9 year old made some eye contact, and seemed receptive to chatter. Since it was 10:15am on a weekday, our first question was whether they were in school. All three nodded affirmatively. We then posed the question, “Do you like school?”

The 6 year old, huddled up in her pink hood, did not respond. The grinning 10 year old shook his head, and the 9 year old energetically nodded her head. There was a middle-aged man seated closest to us, in the rear shotgun seat and to the left of the 10 year old, wearing sun shades and listening to his iPod. He turned toward the kids, quietly removed his earplugs, and directed his attention to our 3 interviewees, as if he wanted to hear their responses.

Next we asked the 9 year old what her favorite subject was, to which she replied, “Science.” The 10 year old identified math as the bane of his existence . The Mother returned from the front of the bus, and sat to our left and to the right of the 6 year old. She initially appeared to be pleased that we were talking to her kids about school. Speaking to the clean-cut 10 year old, who took off his hood revealing a close haircut, we suggested that he consult with his 9 year old female friend to his side, since math is an integral part of most science.

Our 9 year old forcefully threw her hood back, informed us that “she” was a “he,” and revealed a full head of beautiful, medium brown, 7 inch locks. He was clearly irritated as our misidentification. We tried to lighten up things, by “relating” to our new found 9 year friend, by revealing that in the 1970s, we had people mistake us for members of the opposite sex also.

We continued to glance over to the right toward the Mother, who by now was simply staring outside her window, absorbed by her own thoughts. She looked familiar, although we could not exactly recall the circumstances. She no longer appeared to be interested in our conversation.

We thought that we would take the risk and continue with the 10 year old, not wanting give up on him. We asked whether there was any subject which he enjoyed, to which we thought he replied, “Spanish.” Now we were making some progress, so we thought, so we posed a few Habla Espanols, which appeared to bewilder him. Not making any connection, we assumed that he probably meant geography and the nation of Spain.

Once again, we were wrong. He finally spit out, “Spinach.” “Like the food, the green, leafy vegetable?” Without even looking our way, and detecting our confusion, the Mother screamed, “Shut your mouth boy, talking that foolishness! I get a headache just listening to you.”

Our trio of young Musketeers instantly became bumps on a log. We then recognized the Mother.

Just last week, we saw her slap the 9 year old back into the 20th Century, when the munchkin made the mistake of trying to walk across the bus aisle while the bus was negotiating a curve. Shortly after the slap came a line we’ll never forget.

“Keep it up. I’ll turn you in to the authorities and you’ll soon be just a memory on my wall.” We considered writing a post right after that incident, and got sidetracked.

A couple of weeks ago, a regular reader, CorfuBob, started off a comment with the sentence, “You and I, Inspector, were born with privileges denied most people.” We asked CorfuBob to elaborate and provide us with some insight into why he thought that the Inspector was so “privileged.”

He never responded.

Apparently he felt that he didn’t need to do so.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Post No. 159: Are You Tired of Your Bathroom?

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Potential college grads do not need experts to tell them that they have some difficult choices to make this spring. We Baby Boomers have pretty much screwed up things for them. We managed to give the rich, particularly the nouveau riche, virtually all of our marbles and a bunch of our lunch money just to get safe passage to school.

Several days ago, we ran across an article where the author subscribed to the notion that either the solution to, or the root of a, problem can be found in the asking of the question.

Just minutes ago, we heard a radio commercial for a bathroom remodeling company, which may provide a practical example of the concept. (Shortly after, we heard an economist say that consumer spending in the U.S. needs a spark, since it constitutes 70% of the nation’s economy.)

When we heard, “Are you tired of your bathroom,” we laughed out loud. That consumers would seek out the services of any company (or anyone) simply because they are tired of how something feels, looks, smells, tastes, or sounds grabbed us. (Are there such companies to find new spouses?) Our parents born in the Depression were comfortable with conspicuous subsistence, while storing cash in the coffee can planted in the back yard.

It occurred to us that this change in attitude amongst the Boomers might explain much about the American consumer, or even the American psyche, at this point in our economic evolution.

Back in the late 1970s, several of our Fellows worked for a large firm. All employees received one month’s pay as a Christmas bonus. Right in the middle of the double-dipped recession of 1980 - 1982, the most ambitious partners left, carrying a bunch of business (and accompanying staff members), to form a new firm, which had different ideas about the future.

But times were tough, and come Christmas talk was about whether we would get paid, not whether we would receive a bonus. Instead of looking for the icing on the cake, we wondered whether we would get any beans.

Recently, we heard a comment by a caller during a C-Span program. China was the topic, and the point at which it would overtake America as the dominant economic force was the issue. (Last month, China supplanted Japan as the No. 2 global power.) “1.4 billion people seeking what we have is a powerful force.” He further suggested that it can’t be stopped.

Hunger is a powerful force. So is the resultant increase in the ranks and spending power of the Chinese middle class.

Yesterday, a taxi cab driver remarked that the area where the Institute is located was just woods 50 years ago, although there was an occasional shack with an outhouse. Those of you who have never used an outhouse might find it odd that someone might get tired of one.

According to the Wikipedia:

“In 1929, consumer spending was 75% of the nation's economy. This grew to 83% in 1932, when business spending dropped. Consumer spending dropped to about 50% during World War II due to large expenditures by the government and lack of consumer products. It has risen since 1983 to about 70%, as the result of relaxed consumer credit. Spending dropped in 2008 as the result of consumer fears about the economy. Consumers saved instead of spending.”

So all we middle-class consumers need to do is start spending.

But what’s the source of income for ordinary consumers? Many are having difficulty finding jobs, and just putting food on the table.

Then it hit us. All of a sudden we understood why some contend that tax cuts to the rich will aid the economy. Someone recently sent us an economic chart reflecting how the economic status of the middle class has not improved over the last 25 years.

It also reflected a 33% increase for wealthy Americans.

Common Sense suggests, at this point in our economic evolution, that it’s the rich folks who aren’t spending, or investing, or hiring, or much of anything else to benefit those of us at the bottom of the heap. And that’s who we Baby Boomers are going to have to wait on.

But upcoming college graduates can learn from our mistakes, and not be so foolish about their personal economies.

Just the other day, we ran across a company, Get It Together, which describes itself as a leader in independent financial and legal education. They provide workshops and mentor programs on financial and legal planning, coupled with credit management. What group is their primary target audience?

College students.

Better late than never.

Now, are you tired of your bathroom?

P.S. The Logistician always contended, while working 3,000 hour years, that he could have realized more dollars on an hourly basis being a plumber.

"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"™