Saturday, May 28, 2011

Post No 164c: Whose Life Is It Anyway?

© 2009 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Back in 2009, we generated two posts around graduation time, You’ve Got to Find What You Love, a speech by Apple’s Steve Jobs, and P.J. O’Rourke’s Unconventional Advice. Both were directed toward our target audience, college students. We suggested some things for them to consider looking down the road.

We try to stimulate thought amongst our young citizens, when their worldviews are still malleable. Yesterday, a couple of us participated in a brainstorming session for a non-profit organization about which we previously wrote.

B.E.S.T. addresses issues affecting at-risk young men. We highlighted the efforts of its founder as an example of how private citizens can do something meaningful for their communities and society.

Before the meeting, we bounced around ideas. We recalled that we Baby Boomers had such idealistic goals. We were going to change the world, right all wrongs, speak the truth (which would set us free), and do nothing but good, positive things in life.

In addition, we planned to transform the world, perhaps through astral projection or Transcendental Meditation, to a “kinder, gentler” place. One of us recalled pledging to become a brain surgeon following JFK’s death.

It didn’t exactly turn out that way. It’s been said that life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans. If anything, we’ve been surprised at how many Boomers have transitioned from card-carrying liberals (and committed to “living off the fatta’ the lan”, like Lennie in Of Mice and Men), to hard core conservatives. (Why have so few traveled the opposite road?)

When P.J. O’Rourke was asked about his transformation from liberal to conservative, he blamed it on his daughter. Upon realizing she was vulnerable, and a potential target of all sorts of nasty forces, he resolved to protect her, at any cost.)

We know hundreds of business people, accountants, engineers, investment bankers, lawyers, and doctors, who abandoned those dreams and principles. We lived comfortably, and did little that we can identify in pursuit of those principles, other than occasional pro bono work.

(A prominent activist in speaking to a professional group once lamented that some of the best and brightest were in the audience, and members of a profession whose primary goal was making money for themselves and their corporate clients.)

Last week, we heard a report suggesting that today’s youth are possibly skipping the self-delusion phase. Far fewer minors, when asked, expressed interest in pursuing goals which might also “give back to the community.”

We’re not sure what to do with that. Virtually every generation seems to think those succeeding will go to hell in a hand basket. After 13,000 years, we still have faith in humankind’s ability to adapt, use our bigger brains, and “be guided by the better angels of our nature.”

We heard 2 stories recently. The first involved a Sudanese woman, who is facing fairly severe punishment. She and some other women committed a crime - wearing trousers in public. Some immediately pled guilty, and only received 10 lashes.

The remaining subject chose to go to trial. She faces a possible $100 fine and 40 lashes. She’s not a professional activist, and had some UN position which would have allowed her to side-step the charges.

Instead, she chose to resign, and waive her immunity.

The other story revolved around the mayor of Kandahar, Afghanistan, one of the more violent cities on Earth. He enjoyed a comfortable, middle class existence in Washington, D.C. for 25 years, until he was motivated to return to his native country and “make a difference.”

He put himself at risk, and returned to the heart of the violence. He said we’re all going to die from something one day, be it cancer, a heart attack, or a car accident. He questioned whether there was any real difference between dying from violence doing something in which you believed, and dying from one of the other causes.

That caused us to pause.

While a 25 year old might see lots of differences, those of us 55 and beyond might reflect on what we’ve done, and whether we’ve made a ”real” contribution.

The Logistician and his best friend were sitting at a side walk cafĂ© in the Copacabana in the late 1990s, reflecting on what, if anything, they had accomplished... and whether it had been of any benefit to anyone beyond themselves. They had always hoped to able to say that they did something more than “raise a good family.”

The founder of the at-risk male youth non-profit, the Sudanese lady, and the mayor of Kandahar might be better examples of those we should hold up as role models in our society, than the folks to whom we usually direct our plaudits.

Whose life is it anyway? We might all consider making it more than just our own.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Post No. 164b: Re-Posting of "Why Men Cheat - The Definitive Explanation"

© 2008 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

The Logistician, previously with the Institute and now on sabbatical in Brazil, was effectively run out of the country because of his generation of the following article in 2008. Consequently, we do not frequently make reference to its subject matter.

However, as we have often said, if there are any “common sense” principles to be derived from our posts, they ought to have continuing relevance, no matter how applied. This week, the application applies to former California governor, and soon to be actor again, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who admitted to fathering a child with a household employee years ago. Fear of unpopularity should not dictate our delving into controversial issues.

However, keep in mind that the Logistician generated this, and not anyone currently affiliated with the Institute.

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

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

(1) opportunity;

(2) physical proximity and juxtaposition;

(3) physiological “blood flow;” and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Recognize and respect Nature for what it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2008 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

P.S. For those of you who managed to read this far, you may be interested in the follow-up posts to the original article, which were necessary to calm the storm which developed. The first is entitled, Addendum to Why Men Cheat, and the second is I Can’t Believe You Did That; Now That You Have….

Friday, May 6, 2011

Post No. 164a: Re-Posting of "Who Cares If It's Torture?"

© 2009 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Earlier this week, Osama bin Laden was killed. By mid-week, various factions started debating whether our "enhanced interrogation techniques" played a significant role in locating the terrorist mastermind. We generated the following piece back in April 2009, and thought that a re-visit might be appropriate.

On most news issues, we don’t have an opinion.

At least, not immediately. We like to think stuff through.

In the case of this “torture” or “enhanced interrogation” debate, we definitely do not have an opinion.


We don’t have enough concrete, credible evidence to competently form an opinion.

More importantly, we do not have first hand information.

Plus, it’s become difficult to decipher the “truth” from the media outlets.

At this point, affixing a label, to the purported conduct, may actually be little more than an academic exercise.

However, we do have some “observations.”

Many of our citizens feel that the methods employed were appropriate.

There is also a substantial segment which feels that they were not, at least for a civilized society.

Some apparently feel that the tactics worked, fulfilled a valuable function, and thus were “necessary,” whereas others disagree.

Yet, despite all of the dissection, few have really focused on the crux of the matter: Whether we are willing to embrace a “by any means necessary” philosophy to address a perceived threat.

This obviously is one amorphous, value-laden, context-driven, ball of Play Doh, moving like a Slinky down the Capitol steps.

There is nothing more unsettling to humans than the thought that we are capable of going to a place we consider unthinkable, although perhaps necessary. (Practice and frequency change all of that.)

It’s mentally akin to shooting a human for the 1st time, whether an intruder, or enemy soldier.

The reality is that at some point on the continuum, we’d all be willing to commit the ultimate act, or darn close to it, if we thought it “necessary,” and that the interests protected were significant enough.

Part of the problem is that it doesn’t matter whether something is actually a threat, but rather whether people think it is a threat, and reasonable people will differ on that.

All three Institute Fellows, the Optimizer, the Laughingman, and the Logistician, served in the armed forces during the Vietnam Conflict Era. Each learned to use weapons which kill, if necessary.

And efficiently.

We appreciate the concept of evil, and the concept of the “enemy.’

And yet, we’d all probably be far less likely to use torture, however defined, than 98% of you who have never served.

On the other hand, if we decided that it was necessary, we’d be at the front of the line, in the first 2%, to do it, efficiently, like Arnold, and move the freak on, with little yapping….

The History Channel and PBS recently aired programs documenting the inhuman treatment of Allied POWs in the South Pacific by the Japanese during WWII. Subsequently, we saw a discussion of the psychology of revenge.

Once it was clear that the Americans had won, and began to take Japanese POWs, our forces did some pretty despicable things. A U.S. journalist captured some of this on film. It was suppressed for years, and only recently disclosed.

We didn’t want the world to know that Americans could “go there.”

We need occasional reminding that fear can bring out the absolute freak in us.

And anger is frequently intertwined with fear.

Today, we witnessed the baptism of a young infant. Observing the congregation, we noted the serenity associated with that event.

All of us take on that glazed look when dealing with infants. We’re reminded of an era of innocence, when worries are nonexistent, and someone else has the responsibility of caring for us.

It’s a space to which many yearn to return - unrealistically.

Jack Nicholson reminded us, in “A Few Good Men,” that some force ensures that those of us on the home front, including that infant, sleep in peace and comfort through the night. (Funny that film should have taken place at Guantanamo.)

When we perceive a threat (especially one difficult to define and frame) is about to invade our zone of serenity, our willingness to “go there” becomes less objectionable.

We’re all located in different cars on the train that is the continuum as we approach that point.

That being said, perhaps we can do without labeling it torture or some other euphemism.

Perhaps no prosecutions, bloodletting, or rolling of heads.

We well understand the PR issues, and this desire to convey that America is the Mt. Everest of “high moral ground.”

However, that we live in a society capable of public introspection may be just good enough, for now, especially with other issues on our plate.

It’s what helps form the “collective conscience” that all societies need, but do not have.

The reality is that at the end of the day, all of us care.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Post No. 164: Can One Be Responsible and Irresponsible at the Same Time?

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

(Pssshh. This post is about Katie Kouric.)

Earlier today, one of our loyal followers (the Independent Cuss) inquired as to our next topic. Although we suspected that our readers had enough of the subject, we weren’t quite through whipping the dead horse of freedom of political expression (or the Koran burning Rev. Jerry Jones). Therefore we provided some other nuance of the subject to piss off some additional people.

(This post is about Katie Kouric.)

In reality, over the past week we missed our regular viewing of Tom and Jerry cartoons, and AMC did not air enough Three Stooges movie shorts to provide us with a global, historical appreciation of the world and its contents. Consequently, we were at a loss for scintillating, adult-oriented subject matter.

However, the Weather Channel came to the rescue and filled the intellectual void. When one considers that they regularly feature, “How Weather Changed History,” it makes one realize that this underdog channel deserves more of our attention.

(This post is about Katie Kouric.)

A few months back, we generated a piece entitled, As is the Case with the Truth, Personal Responsibility is Rarely Plain, and It’s Never Simple. During many of the comment threads flowing from our posts, it occurred to us that Personal Responsibility means different things to different people.

Some feel that Personal Responsibility is personal to the actor, while others feel that some standard or reference point is established through the collective eyes of a group or through the mouths of the most vocal members of a group. For some others, such as religious sorts, the concept is defined by some higher authority or power. For the liquor manufacturers, it’s about drinking just enough short of embarrassing yourself in some form or fashion.

(Yep, this post is about Katie Kouric.)

When the Institute was based in Los Angeles, on our trips back east people would frequently suggest that they could not live anywhere near the San Andreas Fault. They were concerned that the “Big One” might occur, kill them, and destroy all for which they had worked. We always responded that the “Big One” would probably be only once in a lifetime.

But as we watched the Weather Channel’s coverage of the recent string of storms which swept the southern region of the US, we asked ourselves, "How often does a threat need to appear before a region decides that the risk level is too high to live there on a continuing basis?"

We Baby Boomers can readily recall instances during our youth when residents in purported Third World countries were devastated by various natural forces, and the media always asked how they could return and rebuild year after year following natural devastation. It was a testament to human … something.

(Some have even suggested that we are rapidly approaching our goal of becoming a Third World nation, since we previously attained the status of a “Developed Nation,” and appear to be going in the other direction.)

We here in America historically felt that we were smarter than Nature and that our engineers could figure out a way to win the match. After all, we placed a man on the Moon….
That is until Hurricane Katrina delivered a wallop to the Gulf Coast, and made us look like a bunch of mere mortals. Some suggested that the “responsible thing to do” would be to abandon New Orleans and similarly affected areas.

As we watched the Weather Channel’s coverage of this week’s devastation, particularly in Alabama, it occurred to us: At what point do people, society, and government (oops, and the private sector) decide to shift their efforts to other pursuits and abandon their prior ventures?

How much time should anyone spend pursuing any goal before it becomes the “irresponsible” thing to do? If one does not invest “enough” time or effort, is that person a “quitter?” Do the times dictate or suggest how long anyone should devote their time and energy to any venture? Who decides?

There are only 2 things about which we are absolutely certain in life:

1) Many of our readers have a clear cut, black and white line in their minds as to what is “responsible” and what is “irresponsible;” and

2) This post is about Katie Kouric.

Well, maybe not.

On second thought, this post is about Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, who quit Harvard to go out and pursue his PC dream.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Post No. 163: Monkey See; Monkey Do

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Not long ago, a friend of the Institute sent us this story from a major news source:

Beverly Hills Police officers responded last evening to a collision involving a single vehicle at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Rodeo Drive. The driver and passenger were killed. As police examined the wreckage, a little monkey came out of the brush and hopped around the crashed car.

One of the officers looked at the monkey and said, "I wish you could talk."

The monkey looked up at the officer and nodded and raised his head up and down.

"You can understand what I'm saying?" asked the officer.

Again, the monkey picked his head up and down.

"Well, did you see this?"

"Yes," motioned the monkey.

"What happened?" asked the Officer.

The monkey made a gesture as if he had a can in his hand and turned it up by his mouth.

"They were drinking?" asked the officer.

The monkey’s head movements indicated another "Yes."

"What else?" said the Officer. The monkey pinched his fingers together and held them to his mouth.

"They were smoking marijuana?"

The monkey shook his head again indicating, "Yes."

"What else?"

The monkey then made a kissing motion.

"They were kissing, too?" asked the astounded officer.

The monkey again nodded affirmatively.

"Now wait, you witnessed your owners drinking, smoking, and kissing before they wrecked?"

The monkey shook his head vigorously providing another "Yes" response.

"And what were you doing all of this time?"

"Driving," motioned the monkey.

This unfortunate incident reminded us of the potential risks associated with monkeys seeing other monkeys doing dangerous things.

While Common Sense might be relatively simplistic (and capable of being appreciated by monkeys), and frequently merges with Personal Responsibility, there are times when Personal Responsibility is a far more complicated and nuanced concept, depending on the environment and the monkeys involved.

In prior posts, we spoke of the need on the part of some individuals to be right, rather than accurate. Today we shift from being right to having rights.

There’s a “rights” story out there that’s been gnawing on our peanuts for the past couple of weeks. And while many had much to say about the potential threat in the months leading up to the story, once the threat was actually consummated, there were very few American political leaders who had much to say.

Perhaps it received so little attention in the media due to other more pressing stories, such as the Japanese nuclear radiation risk, the potential shutdown of the U.S. government, and our involvement in Libya. Or maybe most regular citizens just didn’t care once the act occurred.

We’re talking about Terry Jones, the Pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, who, in 2010, threatened to burn Korans to mark the anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11.

When he initially made the threat, virtually everyone came out of the woodwork, out of fear that the ensuing fire would engulf their abodes, or real estate projects in which they had invested. But after faking us out with a song and dance alongside a organ grinder and suggesting that he had realized the folly of his ways, on March 21, 2011, the Good Reverend conducted a mock trial (consisting primarily of members of his congregation as jurors), after which he went through with the burning.

Unfortunately, the burning of the books may have been a factor in the attack shortly thereafter on a United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, which left at least 30 people dead, and as many as 150 injured, following 5 days of rioting.

No one will ever be able to prove, with any degree of certainty, whether the exercise of the Good Reverend’s right to express his views was a contributing factor to the bloodshed. But we were surprised at the paucity of coverage of the event by the media, and by how little our political leadership in this country had to say about the burning, and its possible ramifications.

Particularly those in American society who generally argue so forcefully against burning anything which they value.

(Although we do not have any empirical evidence to support this, our guess is that Kobe Bryant received more press accusing a pro basketball referee of being related to Liberace.)

Maybe we were all afraid that some other monkeys out there might repeat the show, and that others might try to imitate the original.

Or perhaps it made some of us actually realize that the exercise of our individual rights might not always be the most responsible thing to do, depending on the environment and the parties (or monkeys) involved.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Post No. 162d: Chicago School Bans Some Lunches Brought from Home

According to the Chicago Tribune, an Illinois school has banned certain lunches brought from home. According to the school head, the new policy is designed to assist students in making healthy food choices.

Is this a responsible or irresponsible approach?

Check out the article here.

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.

"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"™