Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Post No. 180: They Really Must Think We’re Idiots; Maybe We Are

© the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Although lots of Baby Boomers participate in our forum, our primary target is college students. We write about personal responsibility. We Baby Boomers have screwed things up not only here in America, but globally, and hopefully today’s students will learn from our mistakes.

We try to expand the discussion about societal issues in a forum where there is civil discourse and an absence of personal attacks. Our hope is that the numbed youth of today will be able to develop more innovative, consensus-based solutions to societal problems, outside the OK Corral. After all, “There are more than 2 or 3 ways to view any issue; there are at least 27.™

Thirty minutes ago, we received 2 calls from campaigns. Today’s mail contained 6 pieces of campaign literature. Last week, we received 20 computer generated campaign calls (16 from the RNC and 4 from the Obama folks), and 2 live calls from Obama volunteers. We hung up on all of them, although we were hesitant to do so with the computer callers.

Back in January 2009, the Logistician and Inspector Clouseau argued that the projected $150 million price tag for Obama’s inauguration was excessive during an economic downturn. The Laughingman, however, felt that it was money well spent, and thus wrote, $150 Million Worth – On This Presidential Inauguration Day.

Last week, we were amazed to hear the campaigns of both presidential candidates were on pace to surpass $1 billion each. Days later, they announced they hit the jackpot – a combined figure of $2 billion (with a “b,” or perhaps a “B”).

We’re sorry. This has just gotten stupid, and ALL of us here agree on that.

We’ve done it to ourselves, and we do not seem able to control it. As one heavyweight contributor put it, “I do not like the role of money in our political system. However, as long as it is legal, I am going to contribute as much as I can to pursue my goals.”

Totally apart from the fact that we have two gunslingers showering each other with lead, as one WWII vet recalled in describing dead soldiers around him, “The bodies… [are] almost unrecognizable." We don’t really know who these men are, if ever we did. There are so many half-truths and lies, and distortions, and spins, and enough horse pucky to sink the land mass of North America to the center of the Earth.

And that’s not to mention we no longer know which media outlets report “the truth,” however defined, or profitably provide us with “reality-based infotainment employing the most lenient view of artistic license.”

What’s most troubling is that we buy the crap. All of us.

During the last election, CSpan aired a program where the author discussed the results of his or her research, revealing that 5-10% of Democrats, and 5-10% of Republicans, essentially debate and define the ideological constructs of each party. The vast majority of citizens in the U.S. have their lives dictated by the most active and vocal members of society, who also happen to be more privileged.

Then back in 2009, Rick Shenkman exposed us with, Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth about the American Voter.

We have long argued that we, individual citizens, got fat and lazy (Pigs Get Fat; Hogs Get Slaughtered), and less involved, and let the Fat Cats do whatever they wanted to do. We abdicated our responsibilities as President Carter tried to tell us in July 1979, and now we’re bitching and asking, "Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio?” (It’s probably appropriate that we’re looking to a sports legend.)

They’ve gone to the Bank, silly boys and girls, while skipping and laughing all the way. While we minions debate the future of America and whether we’re still a World Power, a bunch of folks don’t really care (except from a philosophical perspective), because they and their families have sufficient food and supplies in their bomb shelters, after years of trading with our most prominent Communist adversary. (Thank God, we continue to whip the pus out of those Cubans.)

$2 Billion. Not only is there the expense; there is the lack of effectiveness of the things on which the money is being spent. We’re not the only folks hanging up on the robo-calls.

And so it’s up to you, the youth of today - the leaders of tomorrow.

Be sure not to follow our lead. We’re just self-absorbed Baby Boomers. Make sure you check in with the Greatest Generation, who grew up in the Depression. Their advice would probably be pretty sound right now. The Logistician’s 91 yr old Father claims, “If someone beat me over the head for 35 years, I probably would have had an operation by now, no matter how many Band-Aids and Krispy-Kremes they offered me in the for-profit, urgent care facility.”

How do you spell, “Constitutional Convention?”

Monday, October 29, 2012

Post No. 179a: Tornadoes, Earthquakes and Hurricanes, Oh My!

We first generated this piece last year when Hurricane Irene was wreaking havoc. This week, many states will feel the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. The same points we made with respect to Irene are arguably applicable to Sandy. Additionally, a significant earthquake shook folks up in Canada, with reverberations felt in the U.S. Fortunately, there was very little damage.

FEMA currently estimates that Sandy's wind damage alone will fall in the $2.5 billion to $3 billion range. It should be noted that as of the generation of this posts, 67 people have died.

© 2011 and 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We’re not big fans of folks who let their values dictate their thought processes. It seems to us that one’s analysis of issues ought to be a thing apart from their values. How else does one solve problems?

As the Laughingman often says, “If you think that every problem is a nail, a hammer becomes the only tool in your kit.” Some problems are screws, for which you might need a screwdriver, or two.

Despite this, any reasonable, thinking person would say that God does not approve of much going on in the United States these days, or of President Obama. Seriously.

AIR Worldwide, the catastrophic modeling firm, estimates that insured losses alone, for commercial, residential, and industrial losses following the severe thunderstorm activity in the U.S. in early 2011, will amount to $3.7 billion to $5.5 billion. That storm, under Obama's watch, lasted a mere 6 days in April. Imagine the figure for the entire year, stemming from God’s displeasure with our descent into socialism.

Earlier this week, a fairly significant earthquake shook Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas, sending the government’s work force scurrying for The Ark. The President, obviously prescient, was out of town on vacation.

But now, the heavily populated northeast looks like it may be battered by Hurricane Irene, which many expect to be of a force not seen in decades. Damage estimates in the range of $10 billion are already being made. This may prove to be Obama’s Katrina, God willing. The lines down at the New York City Harbor, where The Ark is currently docked, are reportedly getting pretty long.

There’s a message here somewhere. At least according to some. And of course, all of these so-called natural events can be traced directly to the President.

We are often reminded by the Optimizer of the celebrity who, during her campaign against homosexuality, claimed that God inflicted gays with AIDS as punishment for their wicked ways. And if you thought that the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright were a distraction for then-candidate Obama, you may have missed that one of John McCain’s spiritual advisers was John Hagee.

Hagee claims that God willed Hitler to kill the Jews, so that they would eventually return to Israel, thus hastening the 2nd coming of Christ. In one of his less controversial moments, he argued that Hurricane Katrina was an act of divine retribution due to the presence of homosexuals in New Orleans.

One need not be a celebrity or a televangelist to appreciate that natural forces are somehow related to God’s displeasure. Earlier this week in this part of the Bible Belt, we heard many a person laugh shortly after the tremors were felt in Washington and New York City. In their view, the domestic infidels were getting their due. They opined that citizens in large cities on the coastal shores have led lives justifying their exposure to this impending danger.

Once again, all of this is somehow related to the current Administration and our slide into socialism.

Either fortunately or unfortunately, there is an opposing camp. Back in January, just prior to the Super Bowl, we generated a post, God, Obama, and the Green Bay Packers. After reflecting on how championship athletes claim that God resides in their locker room, we told the story of a fellow who, after dismissing the travails of the Obama Administration, claims that Obama’s opponents will be surprised during the next Presidential election. Why? Because he knows that God is on Obama’s side.

We’ve been mulling this over all week, and we’re at a loss as to what parents (without a direct line to God) should tell their kids about the athletic team, the political party, the city or region, or the ethnic group that God supports.

We suspect that we should all get down on our knees and pray to our higher power this evening, before the full brunt of Mother (or is that Father?) Nature hits our fragile east coast (and our fragile national economy), and hope that God picks our team in the fantasy game.

When President Reagan, never at a loss for words, was being wheeled into the ER after the assassination attempt by Arthur Bremer, he reportedly looked up at the operating team and quipped, “I hope you’re all Republicans.“ The lead surgeon responded with a smile, “Yes Mr. President, today we’re all Republicans.”

We could use all of the players on the field being of the same team on occasion, or perhaps all having the support of the Lord.

Finally, there is one other thought that occurred to us this week, namely the difference between for-profit corporate entities in the private sector, and governmental entities. While we watched governors and the President speak of preparations for, and warn their constituents of, the impending storm, we observed the spending of millions of tax dollars to minimize the possible damage and the criticism post-Irene.

In the corporate world, the focus would be on risk assessment and management, insurance coverage, and probabilities. We could see a corporation reasonably examining the pattern of hurricanes over the past 50 years, and betting against the forecasters, by doing nothing.

That would never do in the public sector.

But we’re still having difficulty figuring out whether God supports governmental intrusion in our lives, which might be termed socialist in nature, or whether God supports limited government, lower taxes, and the functioning of the free markets without excessive regulation.

But as Tina Turner said, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Post No. 179: Neither Republican, Democrat, nor Libertarian are We

© 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We try to stimulate thought, particularly among college students, by providing a forum where diverse ideas are discussed with a tone of civility. We hope the leaders of tomorrow will develop new ways to address societal issues. We also believe that if we individual citizens take more responsibility for our actions, societal problems will decrease in number and significance.

We try to walk down the middle of the road. We have all types of social, political, economic, and philosophical views here at the Institute. Each one of us has been a business owner with varying degrees of success. We’ve been solo, with mid-size firms, and with the big, bad bullies of industry.

Yesterday, President Obama joked that his opponent, Governor Romney, changes his position on issues for political expediency. He described the condition as “Romnesia,” and suggested the Governor has difficulty remembering past statements and positions.

While one might question a change of position over a period of weeks or even months, as business owners we understand someone changing or taking different positions over a period of years. Why? Because that’s what business owners and managers do in the economic theater – a different dance like Fred Astaire, depending on whether it is Ginger Rogers or Cyd Charisse.

On moral / religious / social issues, we understand why private citizens tend to stick to the same positions they held as grade school children, especially if there is some familial, religious, or community peer pressure.

One of the 27+ problems politicians have is trying to navigate a double black diamond slope with one economic snow ski, and one social ski, while shaking the hands of those on both sides of the Swiss-Italian border, and smiling for the camera.

Earlier this week, we heard a political ad where the candidate said he wanted the government off the backs of businesses so that they could “prosper.” We often joke that during good times, when we had numerous employees in branch offices, we were Republicans. Trying to deal with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and the California Family Leave Act, complicated making a profit.

However, during the lean times while operating with few employees and struggling to survive, we were more likely to embrace Democratic positions. But then again, we aren’t politicians.

Recently, we’ve been thinking about the extent of government regulation we embrace, if any, or whether we want the government off of our backs entirely. We concluded that it is a complicated decision, and one not taken lightly. Consider the following:

(a) The contraction of salmonella from miniature turtles by young children. It appears that the Food and Drug Administration previously banned the sale of turtles less than a certain length because they are more likely to carry bacteria;

(b) A report revealing that 97% of on-line pharmacies are illegal in the U.S., and that many sell fake products;

(c) The outbreak of meningitis and resultant deaths as a result of contaminated vials of steroids produced by a Massachusetts compounding lab; and

(d) Seats on American Airlines Boeing 757 planes, which became loose during flights because of some fastening issues.

We had a heated discussion, resulting in fisticuffs, about whether the free market should be allowed to fully operate and industries be left alone to police themselves. Some argued that the civil legal system adequately addresses problems, and others suggested that there is a deterrent in the form of potential criminal prosecution, in the case of egregious conduct.

(Shortly after we started writing this post, we heard that a 4 mile oil slick was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico, and efforts were being made to determine whether it was connected with the BP - Deep Water Horizon explosion several years ago.)

Republicans argue that “excessive” regulation discourages business investment, hurts profits, reduces jobs, and drives companies to other countries. Interestingly, non-politician CEOs throughout the U.S. claim they have jobs, but that American workers in those geographical areas where jobs are located are not qualified or properly trained.

Should government be involved in training or encouraging these prospective workers, or should the government stay out of that arena? Should government assist qualified workers in relocating, and leaving their families and homes to work in other regions where the jobs are?

Just yesterday, we heard that businesses and local community colleges are working in tandem to address staffing needs, and that billions in federal dollars are being distributed to community colleges to train workers in those regions where the businesses claim they have openings.

To what extent should government regulate or be involved in our lives? We suspect that it varies depending on the subject at hand, and the location of those affected. But there is a concept in life called a continuum.

One thing we know for sure – the amount of government regulation of businesses is not one, hard and fast, absolute position embraced by either political party.

Just imagine the captain of a ship in choppy waters being restricted in thought and action while navigating his ship across the Atlantic Ocean, with crew members criticizing his every move and decision. Yep - - That’s a boat that we want to be on….

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Post No. 178b: Article of Interest: “My Proof of Heaven”

During the early days of the maintenance of this blog, the Logistician asked our readers to suggest topics about which we could write posts. One of our Canadian friends suggested “religion,” which resulted in our May 2008 post, You Asked for Religion, You Get Religion (and Politics).

Although we have occasionally re-visited religious issues, such as in our November 2008 piece, Question to Ponder: Would Jesus Discriminate?, and in our March 2009 posts, Jesus Christ and the Democrats, and Jesus Christ and the Republicans, we do not often venture down the religious road. However, earlier this week, in the October 15, 2012 issue of Newsweek, we came across an article which we had to share with you.

In My Proof of Heaven, neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander describes the journey he took, while in a coma, to the afterlife, and the things he experienced which he never thought possible.

©2012, Newsweek Magazine

“As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. I grew up in a scientific world, the son of a neurosurgeon. I followed my father’s path and became an academic neurosurgeon, teaching at Harvard Medical School and other universities. I understand what happens to the brain when people are near death, and I had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death.”

To review the remainder of the article, simply click here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Post No. 178a: Why the Presidential Debate Last Week was a Waste of Our Time

Why a waste of time? Because the candidates debated all around the issues that matter. We will not be able to solve problems in this country until we stop doing two things: (a) politicizing discussions simply to appeal to the emotional component of voters; and (b) suggesting that our problems can be addressed by simply implementing Policy A or Policy B.

We previously generated this piece under the title, "If Tin Whistles are Made of Tin, What are Credit Default Swaps Made Of?" We believe that the neglected issues discussed previously (at the height of our financial crisis) in this piece continue to be applicable to our current situation. It's time for us to get busy folks.

© 2009 and 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

There’s a reason the Logistician likes the Laughingman. The Laughingman can reduce crap to its irreducible aroma.

We generally try to avoid taking sides in our discussions. It just doesn’t get us anywhere. No party or ideologue can legitimately lay claim to the concepts Common Sense and Personal Responsibility, both of which we try to weave into each original article posted.

Our goal is to get 95% of the heads nodding. Sometimes we get close. Others times, it’s a reach.

We recently sought topics from you, with the hope that we would all learn something new through the exchange, and take away something of value. Exasperated by all the barking about our economic situation, the Logistician posted the following comment on a number of blogs he frequents. His thoughts jived with the topic suggested by the Laughingman, and thus the title of this piece.

“We as a society, and as individuals, have to take responsibility for where we find ourselves today. By doing so, we might be able to turn this thing around.

“We have a tendency to forget the basic, big picture stuff, and then we complain when things deteriorate.

“Things on planet Earth are actually quite simple. (Gore Vidal once referred to us as the ‘United States of Amnesia.’ Perhaps we’re such a young nation, we haven’t fully learned to appreciate history.) Consider the following:

“1. Innovation and technology, leading to building and creating 'things,' determines EVERYTHING in a civilized society. (If you don't personally know a scientist or inventor in your neighborhood advancing society's interests, or some kid who WANTS TO DO SO, you have a long term problem.

“2. New technology, followed by the production of things using the technology, generates JOBS. The tax revenues derived from those technological enterprises determine what government ultimately can do. No innovation and no production of things - no tax revenues.

“3. The more hours that one works, the more one produces. (Up to a point, of course. We do not want people collapsing from exhaustion.) Exhaustion occurs way beyond 40, or even 60 hours a week for that matter. Take a break, and you run the risk of falling behind your competition.

“4. When a substantial segment of your society has to spend the vast majority of their time to cover the essentials, that segment isn’t particularly useful. It’s no different than the role played by mass agriculture in history. Food production has to be relegated to a few, so that the others can engage in the advancement of innovation and technology, and the trade and exchange of the products produced.

“5. The simplest way to reduce rising health care costs (and thus the health care component of our deficit)? Stop eating Kentucky Fried Chicken, smoking Camels, drinking Colt 45, and hit the treadmill. You'll see a dramatic improvement in health, and at a pretty low cost.

“6. Retirement (when workers still have talent and the ability to contribute) kills your society and generates other problems, especially when you shift tax revenue to people who sit on their asses for years. Capable people who work until the day they die are more productive members of society, physically and mentally. And, they feel that they have some value and stake in society.

“7. War is not a revenue generating enterprise. There are few positive ramifications. It’s a resource drain. It kills productive members of society (who could be inventing some stuff), and gets people pissed off at you.

“8. When you treat any segment of society unfairly, for whatever reason, they become less motivated, and less capable, to work in concert with you to pursue long-term societal interests. It makes more sense to have them voluntarily and emotionally 'buy into' your societal goals. They'll be more motivated .”

If one looks back in history, it’s clear that this is simply Common Sense.

A society which rationalizes its poor choices for too long a period of time is ultimately doomed. It might ride its success for a short period of time, but not for very long.

We, as a society, are ignoring all of the stuff that really matters. We're fooling ourselves while we engage in meaningless debates.

And wasting time.

It's like a boat sinking because of a leak, and the sailors are all arguing, while blowing tin whistles, about who’s responsible for the leak, and what mechanism to use to get the water out of the vessel.

If tin whistles are made of tin, what are credit default swap derivatives made of?

We’d like to know.

We also approached our current problems from a different perspective in another piece entitled, "Pigs Get Fat; Hogs Get Slaughtered." Address the issues raised in these two pieces, and we will be on our way back to fiscal and societal stability.

"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"™