Sunday, October 7, 2012

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


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

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



© 2009 and 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And wasting time.

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

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

We’d like to know.

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Post No. 178: 7 Seconds is not a Huge Chunk out of Your Day


© 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

While we typically eat in at our desks, yesterday proved to be such a spectacular day we decided to take a walk to a Mexican taco truck.

Shortly after starting our walk and as we turned the corner, a woman approached us. She was walking very briskly, with an upbeat, energetic attitude, apart from being rather attractive. Her opening salvo was simply, “Gentlemen, would you care to take one of my cards? I am a two – time cancer survivor.”

Despite her use of the salutation "gentlemen," we quickly concluded that she was speaking to us, since there were no other males in the immediate vicinity. Inspector Clouseau took the card and held it up so that we all could read it. On the front appeared the letters BBN, a radio dial number, and an invitation to listen to ALL CHRISTIAN RADIO. We promptly thanked her and kept walking anticipating the consumption of some barbacoa tacos. Our entire exchange lasted only 7 seconds.

However, within the next 7 seconds and while we were still reading the card, a businessman in his mid-40s overtook us. Although he had a brisk stride, he did not appear to be in a hurry. Our cancer survivor approached him and asked whether he would take a card, and before she could say anything further, he passed her saying, “No thanks. I’m not interested.”

The Inspector, having completed his exam of the card, stopped, turned around, and addressed our new friend with, “Young lady!” Several members of our group reminded him that we had a client coming in shortly, and that the taco truck might run out of tacos. “This won’t take long,” he said.

During the ensuing 25 minute conversation, we learned quite a bit about Eva, and her survival despite going through two marriages and having cancer. She went on to expound about how materially and spiritually blessed she was now.

While we watched the Inspector with a slight bit of irritation, he began by saying what struck him was that the man had neither the time nor the interest to even take the card. Eva did not ask for money, or additional time. More importantly, she did not proselytize. The Inspector reminded us all that she simply asked if we would take a card. Right after he said, “It occurred to me that...” she completed his sentence for him noting, “...by not taking the card, he might have missed out on something life-changing, or an opportunity of a life-time." The Inspector went on, “Who knows. He might have cancer one day and may benefit from a 7 second exchange with you.”

Eva matter-of-factly noted that she was 66 years of age, and had done some amazing things in her life. By now, the Laughingman and other members of our staff were more interested in what this lady had to say than the Inspector. One receptionist whispered under her breadth that Eva's hair, skin, and eyes looked so healthy, and that she was so vibrant and energetic, despite having dealt with cancer - twice.

Meanwhile, the Inspector asked the Optimizer to look at the flip side of her card. It read, “If I die tonight my soul will be in H_________ tomorrow morning.” The message on the card suggested that if the reader was unsure as to how to fill in the blank, they tune into the radio station. BBN stands for Bible Broadcasting Network.

The Optimizer went on to note that the businessman’s resistance to the mere receipt of Eva’s card was “unfortunate” and perhaps short-sighted since he stood to lose nothing, and potentially gain something. It reminded him of folks who discourage solicitors, purported junk mail, or ask to take their names off e-mail distribution lists. He exclaimed, “What if you get an extra e-mail here or there? Is it such a big imposition to simply delete it if you’re not interested?!”

The Inspector opined that on another level, it reminded him of the point he tried to make in civic organization meetings here in the South, about the reluctance of blacks and whites to actively and affirmatively engage their new Hispanic and Asian citizens, along with any other ethnic or cultural newcomers. “Or anyone who has a different point of view,” chimed in the Optimizer.

As we walked toward the taco truck, we saw Eva dash to engage another passerby. A member of our staff remarked that we just had an inspirational experience and met a remarkable woman. Someone observed that despite what appeared on the card, there was no mention of Jesus or God, and definitely no proselytization.

It’s amazing what can result from 7 seconds of engagement.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Post No. 177f: Re-Posting of "Does Anyone Have a Real Job Anymore?"


© 2011 and 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Maybe we exaggerate, a little.

But as we watched the coverage of the slowly evolving Egyptian Revolution, we found everyone second guessing everyone else.

The President of the U.S. should do this. President Mubarak should do X. The prior administration should have done that. The monolithic student movement is doing Y, and the older citizens - this and that.

Finally, the neighboring Arab countries should do Z, T, U, M and B.

This cacophony prompted us to surf the media outlets to identify a consensus regarding what should be done and what is going to happen.

We had some difficulty.

At last count, we found 7,493 options available to the various factions and interested parties. This gives us some appreciation of the complexity of it all.

However, something else occurred to us, just with respect to the American talking heads.

First of all, with few exceptions, few of us (the Fellows of the Institute included) have even a modicum of understanding of the culture in that part of the world, and yet so many of us have become experts over night.

Second, somehow we think that we can influence the actions of President Mubarak, despite having so much difficulty just getting Osama bin Laden to answer our phone calls.

Third, the situation in Egypt is so fluid that even the great engineering firm of da Vinci, Newton, and Bernoulli would have difficulty keeping track of it.

Just a few minutes ago, we received a breaking news e-mail from the Washington Post claiming that the Obama Administration is on the defensive because of President Mubarak’s defiance, and refusal to take a permanent trip to France.

(BTW, what’s with Baby Doc returning to Haiti? Anyone having visited Grasse, France, will tell you that it is Nirvana, not to mention close to the beaches of Cannes.)

Perhaps it would be helpful for us to realize that we do not know how to solve every problem in the Universe, and that there are some issues beyond our control as a nation.

But something else bothered us last evening. When we examined the 4,678 talking heads expressing the 7,493 different options, we noted that only 3 of them had real jobs, and they weren’t talking.

Well, maybe another exaggeration. But here’s our point.

If we had more things to do (namely, real jobs) in our country, we wouldn’t have as much time to weigh in on the problems of other countries, nor would we have what seems to be a virtual, 24 hour army of talking heads.

As soon as the great prognosticators started talking about our economy transitioning into a service economy from a manufacturing economy, we began to get concerned.

Call us Neanderthals, but in our view, servicing others only lasts as long as the people or entities we service have a desire to purchase our services, and more importantly, money to pay us.

Just take a look at all the free services provided in our economy. Many of the incredibly innovative web sites on the Internet are provided at no cost, while the owners have to beg for advertising revenue.

Our food is increasingly being grown in other countries. The Chinese are no longer leasing natural resource real estate in Third World countries, but buying the property outright. And we don’t need to talk about American manufacturing prowess.

It has gotten to the point when one asks an American what he or she does for work, after they provide their job title, one has to follow up with 27 questions to really figure out what they do – on a part-time basis.

The Logistician, still working on his doctorate at a samba school in Rio, once got in trouble while running the orientation of community college students in the Southeast. He gratuitously noted that too many black folks spend their time performing landscaping and fixing other black folks’ hair.

His point was that the segment of the population needing landscaping and hair care services was not growing, and that too many people entering the field would lead to a glut of workers. He was simply encouraging the potential students to think ahead, about jobs that might be in higher demand, and require more technical expertise.

Needless to say, there was one very vocal young lady in the room who flipped on him. He later discovered that it was her life long goal to be a cosmetologist. He now realizes that he should have encouraged her to become a news commentator on Fox News, or MSNBC.

Because that’s where the opportunities are; at least in America.

Inventing stuff, finding cures for diseases, and making stuff is way too labor intensive.

We’ve somehow figured out that we should outsource that to the Chinese.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Post No. 177e: Re-Posting of "The Dangers Associated with Being Peculiar"

© 2008 and 2012, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Several years ago, I attended a conference sponsored by a professional association at a high end resort in Florida. An incredible buffet dinner was scheduled for one evening, to which everyone was looking forward.

I arrived just as the food was being taken away.

Upon my arrival, everyone inquired as to why I was so late. When I informed them that I felt compelled to watch two episodes of the Andy Griffith Show, they all howled with laughter.

Their laughter grew even louder when I mentioned that, in my opinion, one could learn more about life from that show than perhaps any other show on television. (Interestingly, my Father tells me that it was also the favorite show of my Mother, who passed away at a relatively early age.)

I saw an episode of the show yesterday, which reminded me of the manner in which this simple show, about life in small town America, has provoked many a thought throughout my lifetime.

It was the story of Ed Sawyer, a clean-cut, well-groomed stranger who arrives in Mayberry. Throughout the episode, Ed is always dressed in a conservative business suit, articulate, respectful, polite, and there is nothing visually alarming about him. In fact, he could be the poster boy for virtually any All-American organization or movement.

The first scene in the episode unfolds as Ed enters Floyd’s barbershop, where Barney Fife is in the chair getting a shave. Several other citizens, including Andy, are also present.

Ed engages them all in a pleasant, upbeat conversation, calls them each by name, and exhibits a degree of familiarity which causes the shop’s occupants to become uncomfortable. As he leaves the shop, all heads turn to follow him down the street, and they all exit to watch his next move. Almost immediately, there is a suggestion by Barney that Andy commence an investigation of this suspicious and “peculiar” stranger.

As Ed proceeds down the sidewalk, he encounters a double baby stroller parked in front of a store, where the mother is looking through the shop window. Ed greets the two twins, their mother, and then poses questions which suggest that he can distinguish between the two boys at this early stage in their development. The suspicions grow.

Ed next proceeds to the local rooming house, and when offered one room, he declines because of an incident which had occurred in the room, arguably about which few would have known. Although he has never stayed at the rooming house, he then proceeds to request a specific room, by number, which although green in color, has a cheerier d├ęcor.

At this point, Barney is beside himself, and inquires whether Ed speaks German. Fortunately, Andy, the voice of reason, intervenes and initiates a conversation more normally associated with welcoming a visitor to one’s town. At the same time, Andy poses a number of questions in an effort to get to know this fellow better, since he is also experiencing some degree of discomfort, although unarticulated.

Later that afternoon, Ed approaches Andy and seeks his advice and assistance. It appears that the local gas station is up for sale, and Ed is considering buying it. Andy suggests that perhaps Ed might be moving a tad too quickly, and that he should take the time to get to know the townspeople a little better.

He further suggests that the town’s citizens might regard Ed’s sudden emergence on the scene as “peculiar,” without some “warming up.” (By the way, I learned the word “peculiar” from this show, which was used with some frequency on episodes airing in the 1960’s.)

Ed then segues into how much in love he is with Lucy Matthews, who he has never seen. However, he is familiar with all of her physical attributes, and he inquires of Andy as to why she does not answer his calls and knocks on her door. Lucy soon walks in to lodge a complaint, to which Ed responds that she is just as pretty as he suspected. It is at this point that Andy feels, as the town’s sheriff, he must get to the bottom of this behavior, since it threatens to disturb the town’s peace.

Ed admits that his behavior might strike some as odd, but provides a very plausible, if not immediately obvious, explanation. Ed explains that Joe Larson, a long-time resident of Mayberry, was an Army buddy. While serving together, Joe received the local Mayberry newspaper, and Ed found himself reading the paper on a daily basis.

As time moved on, he began to feel that he “knew” the citizens about whom the articles were written. He further explains that over time, he began to envy Joe, because Joe was from Mayberry, a place that Ed admired, and Ed was from, well, “Nowhere.”

Ed further explains that over time, he began to wish that Mayberry was his hometown, and he eventually convinced himself that it was. When he saw the ad in the paper that the service station was up for sale, he regarded it as an opportunity to fulfill a dream.

After Ed leaves the courthouse / jail, Barney rushes in and proclaims that Ed has finally “overplayed his hand.” When Andy inquires as to what Barney is referring, Barney states that Ed has been hanging around Lucy Matthews’ house and actually crossed the line by ringing her bell.

Andy suggests that insufficient grounds exist to justify an arrest, to which Barney replies that he pulled in three 12 year olds the preceding Halloween for ringing doorbells unnecessarily.

He further exclaims that Ed doesn’t even have the excuse of being out for trick or treat. Deputy Fife then inquires as to whether Ed speaks Spanish.

Of course, Ed’s efforts to integrate himself into the community go terribly wrong. That’s even after Andy makes everyone feel pretty small and provincial after facetiously suggesting that they all were justified in their prejudicial attitudes toward this stranger, just because he was an unknown, peculiar, and somewhat different.

Ed realizes that this really isn’t the place for him, and leaves. And the town lost a potentially energizing and illuminating individual.

This 40 plus year old episode of the Andy Griffith Show made me think of several things this weekend. First, the power of the visual media came to mind, along with its potential to expand the minds of its viewers, particularly young viewers, as well as its power to narrow.

Second, it reminded me of the 30 year period when I lived in Southern California, and I interacted with all sorts of people of different races from different parts of the world. Virtually everyone was a stranger. Upon returning to North Carolina, despite the fact that North Carolina is the number one state in terms of percentage increase of Hispanics, I noticed the lack of interaction between whites and blacks on the one hand, and Hispanics on the other. Asians operate many mom and pop businesses in the black parts of town, but the social interaction ends there.

At several public meetings in my hometown, I have mentioned that despite what one may think of our immigration policies, many immigrants are here, and we need to engage them and integrate them into our society, with the goal of deriving the best that we can from their involvement. Each time I have broached the subject, many citizens in the room have lowered their heads and looked at the floor without responding.

In recent months, I have tried something different. Every time I have encountered Hispanics, I have taken the initiative to walk up to them and start a conversation. Each time, without fail, they have been pleasant folks and almost ecstatic that someone outside of their group took the risk to engage them. It has always been a rewarding experience, although guarded it may have started.

Third, this episode also struck a chord when I learned of Senator’s Obama’s reference earlier this week to the efforts of his opponents to label him as different, and thus necessarily something that we should fear.

Our fear of the unknown, caution, and prejudice, even that racially based, appear to be hard wired to ensure survival and ease of negotiation in a complex world. But we also have a bigger brain which should enable us to think and reason beyond our biggest primal fears.

Some criticism has been leveled against the Andy Griffith Show over the years because of its conspicuous absence of blacks in a show based in a southern city. However, Andy Griffith himself sure made up for that during the airing of his Matlock series.

Be that as it may, my hat is off to the Andy Griffith Show, and particularly its writers, particularly considering the era in which the show was first viewed. Perhaps more of you will have the opportunity to view the Ed Sawyer episode before the upcoming presidential election.

© 2008 and 2012, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Friday, September 14, 2012

Post 177d: Re-Posting of "Great Expectations or Low Expectations"


We originally generated this piece roughly 19 months ago, at the time of the Arab Spring "revolutions" in the Middle East. In light of recent events in Libya, Yemen, and Egypt following the online distribution of a film critical of the Prophet Mohammed, we thought that a review of our earlier thoughts might be appropriate. © 2011 and 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We, here at the Institute for Applied Common Sense, don’t claim to be the sharpest knives in the drawer.

But as the Laughingman often reminds us, “Doing the right thing is not rocket science™,” which is typically followed by, “Common sense ought to be a way of life™.”

In our last post, What the U.S. Deserves, we argued that the individual citizens of any nation might consider taking more personal responsibility for the state of their nation, and place less responsibility and blame on those who they consider to be their “leaders,” elected or not.

Also, in light of the current turmoil in Egypt, we suggested that Egyptians might learn something from America’s experience with that great experiment, still ongoing, called democracy.

Apparently we did a poor job of making our points, since a number of you questioned what we thought the Egyptians might learn from us. Some even felt that it was presumptuous on our part, if not downright condescending, to suggest that a culture of more than 5,000 years could learn anything from one around less than 1/10 of that time.

But in the same way as parents can learn from their children, the current version of this ancient culture, however defined, can still learn something from Michael Jackson and the New Kids on the Block.

There are many, including some prominent historians, who consider Chicago to be the optimal American city. Although not without its warts, it is frequently said that “Chicago gets things done,” and has many things about which to be proud.

Those historians placing the Windy City at the top of their lists claim that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow should be considered one of the great Founding Fathers of this modern city.

By kicking the lantern in his owner’s barn on October 8, 1871, he provided the citizens of Chicago with an opportunity to rebuild, and start afresh. In many instances, the old, the questionable, and the undesirable were instantly destroyed (admittedly not by choice), and in their place the citizens (and many outside of the city) pursued cutting edge, idealistic projects.

These included not only physical structures embodying the latest engineering and architectural thinking, but also grand sociological and artistic experiments in pursuit of Utopian society.

And thus our first point, although poorly stated, was that this presents the Egyptian people with an opportunity to rebuild. And, in the event that the end result of this human revolution is some form of “democracy,” perhaps they can avoid some of the mistakes that America has made during its democratic life.

Democracy comes in many forms, and based on our experience, it can be quite messy. To quote David Letterman, “It is nothing if not constantly evolving.”

Our second point, also admittedly poorly stated, was that perhaps instead of 1,573 leaders emerging from the ashes of this event, the Egyptians might strive to have at least 157,300 of them.

A friend once shared with us that while in high school, he was forced to read two books which would have an impact on his view of the world. The first was Charles DickensGreat Expectations, a novel about growth and personal development, including the themes of class and ambition.

The second, much more modern and much less known, was Jonathan Kozol’s Death at an Early Age. As compelling as some might find the title, the subtitle is even more revealing – The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools.

Death is the story of how low expectations of the black kids, on the part of the teachers and administrators in the school system, became self-fulfilling prophesies.

When one expects little, one generally gets little.

When one expects more, one generally gets more.

It’s just as simple as that. Just plain old common sense.

And that’s not only applicable to what we expect of others, but also to what we expect of ourselves. It’s been said that one of the great problems in the Middle East is that so many of the youth, who constitute such a large percentage of the population, are not only unemployed, but have no sense of the future being better than the present.

We, the inarticulate minions here at the Institute, hope that this cauldron will result in a nation with a much higher percentage of its citizens constituting the Creative Class and taking responsibility for its fate, than has been the case here in America in recent years.

P.S. We’re not through with this subject yet.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Post No. 177c: Re-Posting of "Monkey See; Monkey Do"


In light of the attacks on United States' embassies and consultates in Northern Africa within the past 24 hours, we thought that we would re-post the following piece. Readers might also recall the furor generated several years ago following the publication of a cartoon in a Danish publication depicting Mohammed which many in the Muslim world considered disrespectful. © 2011 and 2012, 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.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Post No. 177b: Re-Posting of "Our Dissatisfaction with 'Something'"


© 2011 and 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

These days, virtually all we hear is noise – people complaining about this and that. While we appreciate the many factors contributing to their discomfort, and their concerns about the future, as one of our former Fellows used to say, “Bitching gets no one anywhere fast.”

Crafting solutions to problems requires a constructive mindset. We recently saw a movie on Turner Classic Movies which reminded us that (a) sometimes we have to let go of those things important to us individually to advance the interests of those around us; and (b) we need not feel like Communists when doing so.

The movie is The Yearling (1946), starring Jane Wyman and Gregory Peck. It’s the story of a young boy who adopts a wild fawn as a pet, and falls in love with it. Because the family lives in the woods and has little contact with people, the parents permit the relationship to evolve, despite the fact that the fawn threatens to destroy their crops as it gets older and hungrier. Over time, the family employs all sorts of approaches in their effort to keep the fawn, and their farm. At some point, the boy has to make a decision so that the farm survives. He comes to learn that time and emotions change, and people have to make adjustments.

In the mindset ether, we all might consider the following:

1) The concepts of “freedom” (particularly its link to “pursuit of happiness”) and “governance” are contradictory. Governance is about managing (euphemistically) or controlling (no B.S.) people. In theory, we hope that our government achieves the optimal balance. However, that is an educated crap shoot every day, there are hundreds of thousands of factors which go into the equation, and reasonable people will differ as to what they want and what they are willing to accept;

2) The United States is particularly complicated by virtue of its 50 different states and cultures. At one time, that complexity appeared to be a good thing; but nothing in life remains the same for very long, and now the benefits of complexity are not so clear. However, stop and think about what would happen if we divided the States, and allowed each one to function as a separate nation. In the short term, each new nation might rejoice; but in the long term, each would develop a better appreciation of cooperation, unity of purpose, and how every segment of society has a valuable contribution to make;

3) When citizens generally speak of correcting problems in this nation, the conversation always gets muddled because it’s based in emotion, and each faction cites examples of things that work and don’t work, tailored to support their particular arguments. Rarely is the discussion about the entire system or the big picture and how it affects us all;

4) Money (or something of value) is always going to be needed to do anything in the Universe. Because some segment in society is disappointed with the results they see does not mean that we should stop doing something. Although permanently outlawing marriage outright, thereby eliminating all of the negative consequences which flow from it, might not be a bad idea; 

5) In our view, the real issue is how the funds are used, and when they are used. When one buys into the democratic, free market, representative leadership governance model (which we refer to as the “herding cats” model), one should realize that society will not implement pro-active policies, but rather after-the-fact, too late and far more costly, band-aid policies. Additionally, society and government rarely do what we advise individuals to do, namely plan for the future. We’d rather see social program dollars spent on kids ages 0-3, than the problematic citizens ages 21 onward. We’d venture to guess that dollars spent early (like tune-ups and oil changes on automobiles) lead to less dollars (costs) on the back end. A society does not have to spend more. Just take those dollars spent on the back end and transfer them to the front. Talk about reducing the debt;

6) Everyone dislikes something about America. That “something” is magnified in significance when economic times are bad, and people ignore or diminish the significance of that “something” when economic times are good. However, in reality, the problems were there all along;

7) Victims be victims; if you think you’re insignificant, you will be; and every day Jerry makes a fool out of Tom. People change when they are sufficiently motivated to change. We’re going through a period of insufficient motivation right now. We, as a people, are not even motivated to stay healthy, and yet everyone bitches about the opposition’s approach to health care. Imagine a “three-peat,” world champion team getting old, not bringing in new talent, not practicing as much, putting on more weight, and then losing the championship the following year and bitching at the coach, the opposition, and expansion teams;

8) If the complainants in American society really want to do something, invent something, be creative, figure out a way to become sufficiently motivated to kick some Chinese economic ass. As Donny Deutsch recently told Pat Buchanan on “Morning Joe,” bitching about the corporations taking jobs offshore ain’t working;

9) If you are a member of the school of thought that one President, one political party, one act or event, or one policy created the economic conditions extant in the U.S., you are an idiot. This economic evolution has been going on at least 35, and perhaps 50 years, if not longer, and all of us contributed to it and are responsible for it; and

10) Where we find ourselves today is global in nature, if not Universal.

For those who aren’t fans of movies, there are two books of note, the first being Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: 1500-2000, and the other, From Third World to First, by the Prime Minister of Singapore who marshaled Singapore’s emergence as a world player.

To pervert a line from our former Fellow, “[This] bitching [will get] no one anywhere fast.” And that’s just plain Common Sense.

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.

"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"™