Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Post No. 177a: Re-Posting of "We Wonder Sometimes Why He Went to Brazil"

Prior to his departure to Brazil to commence his sabbatical, the Logistician generated this post on October 25, 2008, roughly four years ago. It outlined his concerns on the off chance that candidate Obama won the presidential election.

Looking back on it, we sometimes wonder whether he headed to Brazil for a reason other than getting some much needed rest and relaxation.

Check it out.

© 2008, 2010, and 2012 the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Earlier this evening, I had a conversation with a friend, Lawrence, about the prospect that Obama might actually pull this thing off. Lawrence, an Obama supporter, participated in a neighborhood campaign drive several weeks ago.

He turned and looked at me with a slight tinge of amazement, when I said that I hoped that Obama did not win this election.

You see, it’s not that I have anything of real substance against Obama. However, I just do not honestly think that America is ready for a black president. Plain and simple.

We’re not there yet.

Same goes for a woman president. Does that mean that I feel that the battle should not be fought? Of course not.

This has nothing to do with my personal views – just my thoughts watching the battle and the soldiers on both sides. Certain more optimistic or lofty-ideal commentators have spoken about how far our country has come, and the message which it will send to the world.

Let me provide an analogy which might better explain my concern.

There are many legal organizations, which advocate certain positions, and wait for years to pursue the appropriate “test case” to advance their positions. Timing is very important. The mood of the country, the facts of the case, the strength of the plaintiff, the financial resources available, and the judges on the bench, are all factors.

Such cases are not prosecuted carelessly, without considering the big picture / long term effects.

As much of an optimist as I portray myself, there are some practical issues about which I am very concerned.

First, I think that we are in for some very difficult economic times for several years to come.

Second, to the extent that any purported damage done by the current folks in power can be addressed, it will take a long time to perform any corrective action.

Third, this war thing is not going to be resolved as quickly and easily as we might argue, no matter which side is telling it.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, we don’t have the financial resources to do much of anything.

We all know, on a practical level, that when times are bad, fault and blame are placed on the executive in charge, and the party in control of Congress.

Imagine the discourse while Obama presides over all of these complications. I can tell you how soon the criticism of his policies is going to start.

I have a fear that should he win, within 2 years, the electorate will be calling for his head. And his opponents will undoubtedly demonize him and say, “I told you so.”

Economic hardship and pain have a way of quickly erasing all memory about the good times associated with the successful candidate’s election, and the good times that he anticipates down the road.

The patience of the electorate will get short. Real short.

And it is not just Obama about whom I am theoretically concerned. I would be just as concerned about the first woman to occupy the office. Or the first Hispanic.

Quite frankly, the first of any group, after years of conspicuous absence of similar individuals, should not be remembered for bad times. I’d almost have him lose this one and win the next one, when the economy is on the upswing. But then again, there may not be another time.

And so I told Lawrence, there is only so much that a president can do, and that the problems are global and deep rooted in nature. Lawrence looked at me and said, despite that, he wanted a president who inspired hope around the world. Is that a good enough reason to want to see Obama win?

You tell me.

P.S. In the end, Hillary may have been the victor.

© 2008, 2010, and 2012 the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Friday, December 16, 2011

Post No. 177: Life Imitates Art Again (Why All Politicians are Liars)

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Recently we took a trip into the little box to experience a movie starring Jeffrey Donovan, more popularly known as Michael Weston on USA’s Burn Notice. In Changeling, he plays a Los Angeles police captain in charge of a kidnapping case. When we entered the story, Donovan was ecstatic since he had returned the missing 9 year old boy to his Mother (Angelina Jolie).

While not trying to rain on the Good Captain’s parade during a press conference, Jolie’s character does not share the same level of enthusiasm – because she does not recognize the kid as hers.

To placate the captain, she takes the kid home and entertains the possibility that he underwent a major transformation during his 5 month absence. But once she checks his “manhood” to determine whether it was circumcised, she is absolutely certain. However, when she returns to the Captain the next day, he questions her sanity. Not long thereafter, he has her involuntarily committed.

To achieve box office success, a film can either flirt delicately with the implausible, or charge head-on into fantasy land. It cannot occupy the middle. We asked ourselves how the director of Changeling could spend so much time and energy on a film with such a ludicrous story line. We later found out that it was based on real-life events in 1928.

We live in an era where we are not quite sure what to believe. A large number of citizens have met success through bold face lies. We once heard a fellow say that if his wife ever found him in bed with another woman, he would simply respond, “What woman?”

Politicians have joined the ranks of policemen, priests, used-car salesmen, assistant coaches, and philandering spouses. They have figured out that they can lie to the public about job creation and people will believe them.

A few peanut gallery thoughts:

1. While a direct cause and effect relationship can be relatively easily proven in the physical universe involving physical objects, it is far more difficult (if not impossible) to prove such a relationship in the human / emotional universe. In the realm of human / emotional concepts, of which "job creation" and “job pursuits” are subsets, we distance ourselves from potential solutions, and complicate the search, when we politicize the discussion.

2. The history of technology is a relatively recent concept. A professor at Georgia Tech during the 1970s and 1980s, Melvin Kranzberg, Ph.D., was known as the "Father of the History of Technology." It is a subject taught in the "social science" arena.

3. Job creation is about technology. Technology is about creativity, innovation, and invention. Inventors do not stop to think one minute about any of the factors mentioned by politicians. They innovate and invent because that's who they are and that's what drives them spiritually and emotionally, sometimes to the exclusion of other things that drive other folks.

4. When you have a society where a sufficient number (critical mass) of your citizens are inventors, scientists, and engineers, new technologies result. New technologies create new businesses, and new businesses create jobs. Check out the number of scientists and engineers being produced by our universities as compared to past years.

5. Most good, profitable businesses have savvy people at their helm who figure out a way to make more money, no matter what the environment in which they find themselves. They also work 80-90 hours per week, not 40. They are not of the mindset that they let the crap spewed by politicians influence their pursuit of profit.

6. Technology waves occur in cycles. Non-politicians in the technology arena claim that "what the world needs now" is another earth-shattering, significant invention which advances the interests of all humankind, no matter the socio-economic status or geographic location: things along the order of the automobile, the airplane, the locomotive, the computer, the personal computer, the Internet. We have not had something of this magnitude in a very long time.

7. We are obsessed with sound-bites, the superficial, athletes, entertainers, and media talking heads. Some months ago, we published Does Any One Have a Real Job in America Any More. In our transition from a manufacturing to a service economy, the product (i.e. inventions and technology) production was shifted off shore for profit reasons (which some deem treasonous), and we were left with ad men, salespeople, fast food dispensers, and folks to collect your money.

8. We need more scientists, engineers and inventors to start the process of creating jobs. The cover story on Newsweek some weeks ago recounted some of our earlier successes, and noted how we are killing ourselves from a scientific perspective.

9. The Chinese are producing kids eager to pursue scientific and engineering careers (in massive numbers). We're about to get our butts kicked by the sheer numbers alone, unless we wake up and stop the partisan bickering over non-issues.

10. We need someone to admit to Angelina that the kid is not hers.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Post No. 176d: Article of Interest: Tiger Woods BEFORE His Win Yesterday

Yesterday, golf and sex legend Tiger Woods won his first match in almost 2 years. The following article authored by Tiger himself appeared in the "My Turn" section of the November 29, 2010 issue of "Newsweek" Magazine. We thought that you might find it to be of interest, on many different levels.

"Last November, Everything I thought that I knew about myself changed abruptly, and what others perceived about me shifted, too. I had been conducting my personal life in an artificial way - as if detached from the values my upbringing had taught, and that I should have embraced.

"The physical pain from the car accident has long healed. But the pain in my soul is more complex and unsettling...."

To view the remainder of the article, click here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Post No. 176c: Re-Posting of "Our Responsibility as Citizens"

The following post was first published in 2008. (Since then the Logistician departed to conduct his sabbatical in Brazil and he was replaced by Inspector Closeau.) All organizations should occasionally suspend operations, take stock, examine their mission and the reasons for their existence, and determine whether they are still on track. Additionally, all organizations should occasionally explain their goals to those outside of the organization to ensure that the message is clear.

© 2008 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

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

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

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

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

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

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

And each time that we remained silent and acquiesced.

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

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

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

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

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

We need more engineers.

We need more scientists.

We need more inventors.

We need more entrepreneurs.

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

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

(a) To provoke thought;

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s time for a whole new collective approach.

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

© 2008 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Friday, November 18, 2011

Post No. 176b: What All of Us Should Do at This Point in Time Regarding the Penn State Football Scandal

When the Penn State football child molestation scandal first broke a couple of weeks ago, the Logistician called us from Brazil and lamented that "Happy Valley" would no longer be happy. However, as a result of his legal training, he suggested the following: (a) that we not pre-judge the situation; (b) that we allow the facts to emerge slowly (particularly because the events took place over a period longer than a decade); and (c) that we refrain from arriving at any conclusions too quickly. He noted that based on his 30 years of experience investing factual matters, there is ALWAYS another side, angle, motivation, or "something."

However, in our travels on the streets of America, we found just the opposite attitude. Conclusions (and mental convictions) are already being made. As despicable and unfortunate the alleged conduct of former Defensive Coordinator Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky may theoretically be, under our system of jurisprudence, we here in America adhere to a concept which is designed to counter the lynch mob mentality of humans: innocence until guilt is proven.

We previously generated the following piece about those outside of the investigative agencies and the courtroom making judgments about criminal defendants. We thought it appropriate to re-visit some of our earlier thoughts.

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Last week, a staff member made a pound cake, and brought it into the office. Although the cake looked fine to us, she said that she became distracted while baking it, and that we might find the bottom a “little crunchy” because she baked it 20 minutes too long.

While we were transforming into Pillsbury Doughboys, Betty Crocker’s Father stopped by. He was serving as a juror on a jury trial at the courthouse down the street, and wanted a piece of his daughter’s cake. She also warned him of the potential crunchiness and the reason for it.

He appeared to enjoy the cake, but insisted that she baked it with the oven rack at the wrong level in her stove. Thinking that he did not hear her say that she baked the cake too long, she mentioned it again.

“I heard you the first time; that doesn’t matter.” he snapped, “What I’m saying is that you need to change the rack level.”

For the overly analytical ones of us here at the Institute, our thoughts instantly went to, “And this guy is serving as a juror?” We all hoped that he was serving on a civil jury, where only money was involved, and not someone’s liberty.

But there were 2 other experiences we had last week which made us further question the ability of criminal defendants to get a fair trial, apart from the efforts of the Nancy Graces of the world to convict them immediately after arrest and before booking is completed.

We previously mentioned our connections to the O.J. trial when the Institute was headquartered in Los Angeles. A friend of the Institute who knew of those connections called us shortly after “Tot Mom” Casey Anthony was acquitted in the death of her daughter, and said that it reminded her of the O.J. trial. The acquittal made her once again question our entire legal system.

She was apparently a fly in the jury room during the deliberations. Shortly thereafter, another tenant in our building asked whether we had heard of Anthony’s acquittal, and then immediately launched into how Anthony’s delay in reporting her daughter missing led her to believe that she was guilty. We suspect that there were enough stale donuts left in the jury room to support multiple flies.

These days, we aren’t quite sure how anyone receives a fair trial, with electronic media spewing sound bites at the speed of light. We seriously doubt that many take the time to digest even 1/100th of the evidence or facts involved, and yet they arrive at a conclusion.

To which they are entitled, no doubt.

We recall a friend once suggesting that because she saw photos of the mayhem inflicted on Nicole Brown Simpson’s body, she knew that O.J. was guilty. And of course, the former head of the International Monetary Fund was guilty, because the rich prey on the poor and consider themselves above the law.

We’re not quite sure whether this is what the Founding Fathers envisioned early on.

But as they often say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

For most students of the law, the line between civil and criminal offenses is fairly clear, and there is even a different burden of proof built into our system of jurisprudence. And white collar folks, whether rightly or wrongly, don’t expect to find themselves locked up in a jail cell with “common criminals.”

(We can almost guarantee you that hundreds of our readers across the globe, upon reading the preceding paragraph thought out loud, “But they should!”)

Horse manure is about to hit the fan soon, and the whole notion of innocence until proven guilty is about to be severely tested. Just continue to follow this phone hacking scandal involving News of the World. What prompted us to write this piece was an e-mail alert from the New York Times just a couple of hours ago, entitled, “An Arrest and Scotland Yard Resignation Roil Britain.” Upon reading the e-mail further, it noted that Britain’s most highly ranked police official resigned, and Rebekah Brooks, the former Chief Executive of News International, was arrested.

Over the years, there have been calls in some circles for expert or professional jurors to address some of the imperfections associated with lay jurors. But one of the principles built into the system is that one is entitled to be judged by a jury of his or her peers.

For the sake of the system, and all involved, we sure hope that neither our pound cake crunching retiree, our disillusioned friend in California, our fellow tenant in our building, nor Nancy Grace are on Ms. Brooks’ jury.

She wouldn’t have a chance in hell.

Well, but then again, it could be worse. We could only allow politicians to serve as jurors….

Hmm..., but then they would never reach a verdict.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Post No. 176a: Re-Posting of "Lest We Forget Who the Real Parties in Interest Are"

Today is Veteran's Day, formerly known as Armistice Day. Many may not be aware that the major fighting of World War I formally ended at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, during the 11th month of November in 1918.

We originally generated the following post two years ago during this same month. Earlier today on MSNBC's Morning Joe, journalist Lisa Ling, and documentary film maker Ken Burns discussed a new documentary exploring Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome experienced by our soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly after serving multiple tours. With two years behind us, we thought it appropriate to re-visit some the issues raised in our original piece.

Additionally, the History Channel is currently airing a series, Vietnam in HD. Although all of the Fellows of the Institute served in the military during the Vietnam Era Conflict, we are continually amazed about how little we knew and appreciated about "the whole situation" at the time. Should you decide to view the series, pay particular attention to the comments of our soldiers about who they were and what they endured, both in Vietnam and here at home.

© 2009 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

“Mother, mother, there’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, hey”

“Father, father, we don’t need to escalate
War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, hey”

-- Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, recorded June 1, 1970

The History Channel recently aired a documentary about the Woodstock Festival held on August 15 – 18, 1969, originally billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music.”

The anti-war sentiment in this country concerning Vietnam was at a fever pitch.

A significant portion of the population was affected in some manner by our involvement in that “conflict.”

College campuses served as battlegrounds and stages on many levels. Whether due to the draft, the protests, the status of ROTC units, or the interrupted lives, every college student was affected in some way.

And so were their relatives, and neighbors, and church members, and co-workers, and friends….

However, on college campuses today, there is far less concern about our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, one way or the other. (Some would suggest that is the way it should be; like a building super, when things are going well and he is doing the dirty work, one never sees him, nor has the need to contact him - personally.)

Plus, there is little concern about having one’s education interrupted to visit a foreign land.

My, how times have changed.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is a noted presidential historian who appears regularly on TV. Earlier this week, she and her twenty-something son, Joey, spoke with Charlie Rose, about Joey’s two tours, one in Afghanistan, and one in Iraq.

Fortunately, he returned in one piece and was remarkably philosophical about the experience. As for his Mom, it was clear that she breathed one massive sigh of relief upon his return.

All of us living during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, knew someone personally affected. Now, primarily because of our volunteer military and the use of sophisticated technological weapons, we have transitioned to a place where relatively few of us personally know someone involved, or even personally affected, for that matter.

And that may not be a good thing, no matter where one stands on the wars.

While in a grocery store recently, we observed a very sharp, well-groomed young man speaking to a customer. His name tag revealed that he was the Store Manager.

We inquired as to how long he had been with the chain, to which he responded a surprising 7 months. He laughed and explained that he had previously been with the chain for a number of years, and that he had over 15 years of retail experience.

He also mentioned that he had served in Iraq.

But he was a stranger in a grocery store with whom a random conversation was held.

And although a human being, not a parent, or a child, or a neighbor, or a church member, or a co-worker, or a personal friend of ours.

My, how things have changed. What should concern us all are the consequences associated with this change or multiple changes.

Our nation’s involvement in the Vietnam conflict profoundly influenced the worldview of millions of American college students for almost two decades.

One obvious change is in America’s view of the military. During Vietnam, returning soldiers were frequently held in contempt, as if they were responsible for the conflict. A frightening number of them found themselves on the streets.

Today, we view the returning troops as akin to heroes, having purportedly protected us from another terrorist attack on our home soil. Interestingly, very few of them, thus far, appear to have wound up on the streets – at least not yet.

That we as a society have not fully examined, with any degree of real seriousness, the long-term ramifications of placing the burden of this battle, whether justified or not, on so few shoulders and so unevenly distributed, should cause us to pause.

When things get personal, issues take on a whole different complexion and complexity. When it’s some other guy’s issue, who we really don’t know, it’s far easier for us to ….

Is there any lesson to be learned from Vietnam? Kearns Goodwin suggests there may be. If a pullout is dramatic, it may signal weakness and be perceived as a loss of the investment of the lives lost thus far. If an increase in resources and equipment is dramatic, more lives will be expended and the definition of success will become murkier.

What Kearns Goodwin regards as potentially problematic is the route taken by then President Lyndon Johnson - the intermediate approach.

Our fear is that without that personal connection, neither side will be prompted to make the real difficult decisions.

With a volunteer fighting force, it is even more important to constantly remind ourselves who the real players are.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Post No. 176: A Peek into the Affirmative Action Trial of the Century

© 2009 and 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Today marked the first day of trial in a landmark class action lawsuit in Los Angeles in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

The plaintiffs, representing all African-American citizens who failed to receive the benefits of affirmative action programs and policies commenced in 1961, allege that the defendants, who were direct beneficiaries of such policies, kept all financial and other benefits, and failed to share them with the African-American population at large.

Federal Judge Lance Ito, having been roundly criticized for allowing the press and media into the courtroom during the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, chose to deny access to all press and media outlets. Last week, the media sought a writ of mandamus to force Judge Ito to permit them into the courtroom. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals out of San Francisco summarily denied the petition this past Friday.

However, certain friends of the Institute have acquired information, from sources who wish to remain anonymous, which provides us with some insight into this ground-breaking litigation.

The plaintiffs, led by black descendants of former Senator Strom Thurmond, claim that following the implementation of affirmative action policies, only a small percentage of African-American individuals benefited from set-asides and government contracts, preferential hiring, and admissions to institutions of higher learning.

They further argue that the policies and programs were designed to address centuries of slavery and disparate treatment under Jim Crow laws, and thus were to benefit the African-American community at large and not just certain individuals who fortuitously were in the right place at the right time.

Elliott Spitzer, counsel for the plaintiffs, met with reporters outside of the federal courthouse this morning before testimony began. “We plan to show two things. First, that the beneficiaries of the policies and programs at issue were overwhelmingly individuals who were already doing fairly well in the black community, and were primarily from the black middle and upper classes.

“Second, we plan to show that once these beneficiaries of affirmative action entered the workplace, established their respective businesses, entered Corporate America, or otherwise benefited from these programs, they failed to share the financial and societal benefits with those less educated and less fortunate. The poor state of the black community and the high incidence of poverty and crime are evidence of their failure to pass on the benefits.”

Spitzer called as his first witness (on a hostile basis), former Republican National Committee Chairperson Michael Steele. He traced Steele’s financial history since completing law school, and questioned him intensely about what Steele had given back to the African-American community, both financially and otherwise.

Spitzer elicited testimony from Steele to the effect that when Steele was in college and law school, he and his fellow black students reveled in black pride, and the need to empower the black community. Spitzer was able to show that once Steele graduated from school, he began his rapid ascent professionally, including moving to a predominantly Caucasian suburb, removed from the problems of inner-city blacks.

“Do you feel that you have any responsibility to Dr. King and other civil-rights leaders, to pass on your wealth and good fortune to those in the black community less fortunate, and at a minimum, live amongst poor blacks?”

The question drew long stares from the predominantly Hispanic jury, while they awaited Steele’s response. The Judge adjourned the trial for the day before Steele could answer.

In speaking with Rod Blagojevich, counsel for the defendant beneficiaries of the programs and policies, he noted, “There is no legal basis upon which this suit can be brought. There is no legal requirement that the beneficiaries of affirmative action share their good fortune with other members of the black community, or engage in conduct beneficial to the community.”

Spitzer concedes that there is no legal precedent for his position, but argues that that there is an equitable and moral basis for his clients’ suit. He contends that the legal doctrine of quantum meruit is applicable, in that the defendants have been unjustly enriched.

Spitzer further claims that since Jim Crow was not outlawed until 1962, it is too soon for those fortunate enough to have received the benefits of remedial programs and policies to pursue their selfish desires and needs. He suggests that perhaps 150 years should pass before the beneficiaries are relieved of their ethical and moral responsibilities to the other members of the black population who were not fortunate enough to receive the benefits.

Judge Ito’s prior rulings in unrelated cases may provide some insight as to his leanings. He previously expressed that in his opinion, both Jim Crow laws, which established segregation by law, and the Civil Rights cases and legislation, which established integration by law, were inappropriate exercises of governmental power, despite strained legal arguments to the contrary. His position appears to be that the decision to associate, or not associate with, others should be a personal decision, no matter what the environment, and that enforcing or addressing segregation or integration in any manner should be left to the hearts and minds of individual citizens, and are not the province of governmental entities, no matter the branch.

Furthermore, he contends that governmental interference in any way actually hurts race relations.

The Justice Department, under the Obama Administration, has chosen not to file briefs in support of, or in opposition against either position. According to a Justice spokesperson, the President has not contacted Justice regarding his position. Observers note that during the Presidential campaign then-candidate Obama (as well as the First Lady) were referred to as affirmative-action beneficiaries who lacked the academic skills and sophistication warranting their admission into the high-caliber educational institutions where they matriculated.

The trial is expected to last 2 years, longer than the O.J. Simpson trial over which Judge Ito presided.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Post No. 175: Congressman Ron Paul - the Rodney Dangerfield of Presidential Candidates

© 2011, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

“Most of the arguments to which I am a party fall somewhat short of being impressive, owing to the fact that neither I nor my opponent know what we are talking about.”
-- Rodney Dangerfield

It is our contention that Los Angeles is the new face of the world. With its multiple seaports, access to the Pacific Rim, world-class universities, and 6,743 cultures residing there, it is a microcosm of the globe. When the Institute was located there, we had both the detriment and benefit of coming into contact with every imaginable character.

One of the more memorable was a fellow we met on a train, who was trying to sell his movie concept. The movie was to be based on the quotes of Rodney Dangerfield, the comedian who claimed he never got any respect in life. He showed us a notebook containing every single 15 second joke by the King of Succinct.

We thought about Dangerfield last week while watching a CNN newscast after the Republican Presidential Candidate Debate. One commentator said that any prospect for success, which Ron Paul of Texas may have had, suddenly disappeared when he “suggested” that the Islamic world’s antipathy toward the U. S. was in some part due to our policies in the Middle East. The anchor on the show expressed surprise at the use of the word “suggested,” and said that Paul came right out and said it. This, according to them, was the death nail in his coffin.

For anyone to suggest that the U.S. bears absolutely no responsibility for the Islamic world’s attitude toward us is sheer idiocy, and yet any ultimately successful candidate cannot acknowledge any responsibility on our part. Paul was actually booed during his comments.

We once wrote a piece entitled, 27 Situations Where People We Respect Claim That Lying is Appropriate, and we weren’t referring to politicians. Some contend that it is the magic show that matters, not the reality, and that voters are more interested in being told what they want to hear, consistent with their belief systems.

A straight talker might get elected, with some other attributes working in his or her favor. But a straight shooter has absolutely no chance at all, and will not receive any respect. The candidate may get some notice, from the media in particular, who will label him or her either a fool or an idiot. They will euphemistically refer to it as a lack of “political sophistication,” and blame the candidate’s handlers.

(Presidential elections are also about media appeal, and a little bit of glamour. Another reason Ron Paul will not be elected is because he does not look “presidential.”)

In our view, a “straight talker” is different than a “straight shooter,” and while straight talk may be emotionally appealing, it does not necessarily contain much truth. Both qualities can theoretically be found in the same person, but rarely are both found in a politician.

A couple of years ago, between President Obama’s election and his inauguration, George Will appeared on Charlie Rose. He said that all of Obama’s idealism and lofty thinking might have gotten him elected, but that on the first day on the job, someone would take him aside, expose the realities to him, and tell him, “This is what you need to do,” essentially because the public can’t handle the truth.

Earlier this month, one of the nation’s governors claimed that his administration was trying to create a stable business environment. We immediately had 2 thoughts.

First, any real businessperson will tell you that there is no such thing as a stable business environment. The environment is unpredictable and changes daily. Business owners must stay on their toes like Isadora Duncan, dance like Fred Astaire, and jump through hoops like Siegfried and Roy tigers. And all of this with their eyes and ears wide open, while conducting research on the market and their competitors.

Like an animal in the jungle living to survive, one cannot rest, either to catch one’s breadth, or upon one’s laurels. As we noted in an earlier post, Pigs Get Fat; Hogs Get Slaughtered.

Second, the typical horse pukey spewed by politicians is salesman-type, smoke and mirrors stuff, which is the realm of snake oil, used-car, and cosmetic counter salespeople. For some reason, that appeals to voters, as long as there is a little music in the background.

During the entire time that Congressman Paul has been in politics, he has been nothing but a straight shooter. Try to find something, directly attributable to him, which might be termed “kooky.”

And yet, no one has taken him seriously, or given him any respect.

Unfortunately, presidential races are popularity contests based on images and sound bites, not on reason.

Imagine picking a doctor based on his or her popularity, bedside manner, and oratory skills, as opposed to their skill at addressing medical problems. Further imagine a doctor (which Paul happens to be) telling an obese patient, “No, you don’t have obesity, and you don’t need to change your dietary or exercise habits. It’s those family members of yours who keep telling you that you are fat. They are the problem.”

And then we voters complain about the elected officials we get. Is it any surprise that they don’t respect us once they get elected?

Plus, when a society (through its leaders) can not openly accept responsibility for your conduct, you're dun' fur'.

This nation might be better served by putting some technocrats in charge right now, instead of salespeople, hawkers, and those with media appeal.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Post No. 174a: Answer Us This Regarding Job Creation

It has been a while since we simply posed a question, and we thought that this might be a good time to do so again.

President Obama recently unveiled his job creation proposal. It was roundly criticized in a number of circles from various angles. The private sector "job creators" essentially took many of the jobs previously held by Americans and transferred them to China, India, and other countries where they could find workers willing to work for far less than most Americans. An argument has been made that the regulatory and tax environment here in the United States is what drove them to transfer the jobs elsewhere.

While listening to the criticism of the President's proposal, several questions occurred to us:

1. Assuming no change in regulations and the reduction of corporate and capital gain taxes here in the United States, will they create new jobs here or bring those jobs back here to the United States?

2. Assuming regulations are eliminated, but taxes remain the same, will they create new jobs here or bring those jobs back here to the United States?

3. Assuming regulations are eliminated, AND taxes are reduced or eliminated, do you think that the private sector "job creators" will create new jobs here or bring the jobs back home?

The ultimate question is whether we have a guarantee from the private sector "job creators" that if the government gives in to their requests, it will inure to the benefit of middle-class American workers.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Post No. 174: Tornadoes, Earthquakes, and Hurricanes, Oh My!

© 2011, 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 John Hinckley, Jr., 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?”

"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"™