Saturday, March 26, 2022

Post No. 202: On Whose Team (or Side) Are You; Should It Make a Difference?


© 2022, the Institute for Applied Common Sense


This is a post I generated a year ago, but never published - partly because I wanted to ensure that my position was clear, even though out of the mainstream.   


Around that time, I promised myself that I would never write anything again about being a black man in America.  Why? Because it doesn’t really accomplish anything in terms of advancing any meaningful societal interests.  Either one already recognizes the complexities associated with the race issue, or one doesn’t.  Either one feels that America is a racist country; or one doesn’t.  I’m not sure that the conversation really matters, unless one believes that they can sway the sentiment amongst the “undecided.”


Unfortunately, I’ve always tried to find solutions to problems, and not just repeatedly complain about them. (It’s the engineer in me.) Thus, I prefer to talk about human issues (and widgets), and the commonality of interests facing all widgets, and not just black widgets.


So about two years ago, I started a Facebook group page entitled, Black Baby Boomers Who Remember – namely segregation.  I later changed the name to Black Baby Boomers Who Seek a BetterFuture for All, seeking to attract more Chinese followers. (Seriously!  During the early days of this blog, I tried every imaginable tactic to reach Chinese students. Silly me, once again.) I’ve been amazed, quite frankly, with the nature of the discourse on the Black Baby Boomers page, which I expected to become “self – executing,” and take on a momentum of its own.


Then this black guy, who was a member only briefly and supported most things Trump, accused me of assembling a bunch of Trump haters and feeding them raw meat, which led to this: Just so that there is no confusion, or a claim that the goals of this group page have been misrepresented, I started this group page with no particular political agenda in mind, either explicit or implied. Additionally, I welcome, and encourage, people of all ideological views to participate. I do not belong to either major political party. I am unaffiliated. This page is focused on the potential reversal of civil rights laws as it affects minorities.”

Then, shortly thereafter, a different black guy (as far I could tell, although he might have been a Russian operative) asked me to expel him from the group, because he could not figure out how to do so himself.  He was offended by my intellectual dishonesty for including the word “Black” in the name of the group, which had white members.


All of this reminded me of a time when I had a 4 or 5 hour layover in Mexico City, and decided to walk through some neighborhoods to get a “real feel” for the city, but chose to walk down the middle of the street to avoid being attacked from either side. It actually worked.


Consistent as is my wont to entertain the views of all humans I encounter, and learn “something” from them, I thought about something often said by one of the most despicable (and devoid of socially redeeming values) childhood friends of mine, "Take the names and faces off of the individuals involved, and then analyze the conduct."


In theory, and in principle, doing the right thing and having integrity and principles SHOULD NOT CHANGE FROM SITUATION TO SITUATION or event to event, no matter which team you find yourself associated. There’s a phrase which I have been uttering to folks for the past year, and I believe that there is a modicum of truth to it:  “There’s no need to take a side, unless you have a dog in the fight.”  And if we find ourselves rooting for one dog over another, we should consider the nature and consequences of the fight, and whether it is a good fight. 


I am still amazed to this day about two things in history pertaining to the Roman Catholic Church – the first being the Doctrine of Discovery, justifying the exploration and colonization of lands not inhabited by Christians - hhmm, hhhmmmm..., and if that wasn’t deep enough, the second, the Church cozying up to the Hitler and the Nazis (reminiscent of Trump cozying up to Putin).


I’m done for tonight.  I can’t make sense of any of this, despite spending an entire year thinking about it.  On whose team or side are you; and should it make a difference?  That is the question.


Saturday, March 19, 2022

Post No. 201: Oh What a Difference Ethno – Cultural Experience Can Make

© 2022, the Institute for Applied Common Sense


When I am with some of my Japanese friends, I often mention that when I was a Hispanic kid growing up in North Carolina during the 50s / 60s, if I saw a Caucasian woman on the street, I immediately crossed to the other side. They often appear confused, not sure whether to laugh, cry, or even comment.  


As of 5:35 am Monday, March 21, I will have been back in Southern California 4 weeks.  Since my arrival (excluding time spent in the train station and walking through homeless camps on Los Angeles County Superior Court and United States District Court property, I've seen roughly 8,372 people.  Only 28 – ½ of them have been Negro, black, or perhaps, African –American.


I encountered 4 fellow black folks in my 3 week stay in Oceanside, and another 24 – ½ in Carlsbad Village, where I arrived on Monday. During a conversation with a Nashville friend, she asked what I thought of the numbers.  I told her that I wasn’t sure, but imagined there might be at least 27 possible explanations, not one about which I felt confident.


During a period some years ago, which some might call, “Open Season on Young Black Men,” I generated a post, Exist with Caution: You May Not Be Who You Think You Are; Or Be Seen the Way You Want.  Having had all of this preparation over 70 years for people seeing me with different Ray - Bans, I developed a response while visiting Dollar Tree stores, when cashiers asked me whether I wanted a receipt.  “A black man should always have a receipt,” and perhaps a few old ones in his pocket, just in case.


Despite this pro – active approach, I actually found myself unprepared last week.  I bought a bumper case and screen protector for my smartphone at 8:38 am at a local Walmart, and was concerned about having it properly matched to my phone.  The sales clerk provided a few hints, but was not allowed to assist me.  She suggested that a manufacturer’s rep would arrive at 10 am, and that I could avail myself of their services.


I proceeded to my Taco Office, which did not open until 9:00 am, and waited a few minutes to take care of “bizness.”  During my wait, I filled out the onlineWalmart survey (expressing my sincere satisfaction with rude sales associates who never appear in Walmart ads), thinking a $1,000 gift card would be right on the money right then.  I carelessly threw the crumpled receipt in the trash, and it was only after I crossed half of the parking lot separating the two, that I realized it.  Walking ¾ mile back to Taco Bell, I was unable to find it.  Undeterred, I returned to the electronics department at 10:22 am, thinking that the manufacturer’s rep had surely arrived. 


Silly me.  Now, not only had he not arrived, but there was an elderly lady in line ahead of me.  I walked around the store and returned at 11:15 am, only to see the elderly lady depart, and no rep.  I figured that I could apply the screen protector myself, or have the fellow at the Metro PCS store, who had switched my service the day before, apply it.


As I was preparing to leave the store, a friendly Walmart sales associate requested my receipt.  And there I stood trying to simply explain how I managed to come from the rear of the store with two still packaged items, and no receipt.  She had that look of having heard my explanation before. Fortunately, I was able to resurrect mycorporate business voice, and it only took me 45 minutes to be gone.


So, fast forward to this afternoon, when I was in a Marshalls with no black folks in sight for miles around.  As is my wont, I left packages from other stores close to the entrance, to avoid walking around with open bags.  I was immediately approached by a security lady who advised me against it, suggesting that someone might take my previously purchased items, and that Marshalls would not be responsible.  I explained that I preferred not to walk around the store with open packages out of concern for… well, you know.  Not having any appreciation of my issue, she insisted, and said, “You have nothing to worry about, Sir. “


As I put on my newly purchased Ray Bans, and left the store, I realized: There are many situations where a black dude walking through a white anything would be regarded as suspect.  I guess that it just depends on… “Whatever.”




Post No. 200: So Who Are These People ?

© 2022, the Institute for Applied Common Sense


Throughout my life, I have been humbled by people with whom I studied and worked, and had the opportunity to brush shoulders.  I was always the least sophisticated, least intelligent, individual in the room – not to mention the most naive. 


Those around me always seemed to have a “game plan” for their lives; and to view the world with such clarity and simplicity.  I love people who say, “When I was in college, I decided to….”  Others speak with such confidence, and with such certainty about issues.   As for me, I long ago concluded that I’m not certain about much in life, except those things which I mucked up in the past.  I’ve always been curious - trying to make sense of things, and as time has moved on, I’ve become less certain about more things.


I started writing in 2008, under the title, The View from Outside My Tiny Window. When I meet strangers and suggest they read my stuff, I mention the title.  What’s interesting is the difference between folks who instantly comprehend the meaning (repeating it back to me with nary a mistake), and those who struggle, generating some contorted version 4 or 5 times. 


I frequently relieve them of the pain, by using a visual descriptor:  Imagine you have a globe before you, and you are on the outside trying to look in and make sense of the world, through a very tiny window – my window.  And thus, The View from Outside My Tiny Window.


I’ll be the first to admit that I am having extreme difficulty understanding the Trump phenomenon, on multiple levels (not to mention the fact that it is global).  He simply does not strike me as one with much in the way of socially redeeming values.  Yet who he is and what he tries to accomplish, however contrary to my core values, should NOT be the end of the analysis.


 In anticipation of the upcoming presidential election, I started a Facebook group page in August of 2020, Black Baby Boomers Who Remember.  I wanted those of us who lived in segregation to share our memories with young folks, and encourage them to register, get to the polls, and assist others in doing so. Not wanting to simply limit participation to just black folks, I decided to change the name to Black Baby Boomers Who Seek a Better Future for All.


I tried to avoid the use of the names of the two political parties.  Although I have always considered myself an independent, there have been phases in my life when I was more closely aligned with “Republican” values, and on other occasions, the balance tilted the other way.  As I observed the discourse between the members of the group, and the opinions expressed by Trump supporters and adherents, I came up with two other, admittedly less than satisfactory descriptors:  the authoritarian governance faction, and the anti – authoritarian governance faction.


Silly me - none of this seems to really work.  First, calling Trump supporters “racist” is intellectually dishonest, and insufficiently supported by the facts.  Second, they are not just a fringe element, consisting of extremists – there are too many of them constituting 47 – 49 % of the voting public.  Third, attaching simplistic labels to them and summarily dismissing them as “something” which we do not like, gets us absolutely nowhere – with no interests advanced except perhaps on a personal level.


However, there is a more significant reason the labels don’t work.  They are people who I care about, who care about me, who I’ve had in my home over the years, and who have invited me into their homes to watch their kids grow.  There’s a buddy with whom I have been friends since 1979, and another business associate who has been one of my biggest fans since 2002.  Followed by the nurse who used to travel miles to attend to my ailing Father, on Saturdays, when she was technically off work. 


As I talk to people and describe this blog, we seem to agree about one thing – there ought to be a better way for common, ordinary, everyday citizens to find the commonality of interests which binds us, rather than focus on the forces that divide us.  I say, get rid of ALL the politicians, and the money out of politics.  But then again, I am just one, not particularly smart, unsophisticated, naïve guy. Silly me.




Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Post No. 199: Son, Everything is going to be Alright

© 2022, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Six hours ago, I returned to my temporary home of Carlsbad, California, fresh from a productive day dealing with my 3 week transition. I had become a resident of the Golden State, once again. When I woke up at 4:30 am, Pacific, I was consumed with the notion of cyberterrorism, prompted by Putin's desire to accomplish "something," although elusive it may have been from my personal perspective.  (I will not comment on our former President's emotional support). Despite the relative youth of the day, I found myself shelling out cash for VPN software (free being deemed inadequate), and sharing my internet concerns with many a friend, and a thousand or so strangers.



As the day wore on, despite an absence of CNN input, I became increasingly concerned about the future of humanity. As the day wore further on, I realized that I had transformed myself into an itinerant preacher, proselytizing far and wide about how we citizens might collectively seek a better future for all. I must have struck a chord since, much to my surprise (and perhaps dismay), roughly 99% of people who I engaged took the time to listen.



Of course, the more prudent side of this tradition - based Negro suggested I exercise care to avoid being labelled paranoid, over reactive, out of sync with the prevailing mood, or what was perhaps, trending. I managed to get home on the last bus, using a new route, at 9:38 pm (having inattentively missed the preceding 3). I soon found myself 1/4 of a mile from the vast Pacific, while waves beat peacefully against the shore. I breathed a sigh of relief. Although the shore itself was hauntingly quiet, I heard youngsters partying at the local bars, having a good time, perhaps as they should have been. As I walked the remaining 3/4 of a mile to my temporary home, I thought how this time it might be different, and how the giant moats called oceans, just might not be enough to protect us.



I crossed the street to my old reliable haunt (which I had not visited during my 14 years back in North Carolina), the local 7 – 11.  It was my place of refuge following the Northridge earthquake of 1994, at 4:30:55 am. I remembered how I was thrown out of my bed onto the floor, stepped on my glasses trying to stand up, and that lights disappeared all over Southern California. I spent 37 minutes perusing bottles of red wine (which I had not consumed in the preceding 18 months), cost be damned.  I grabbed some bacon jerky strips (which I had never previously consumed), before approaching the clerk, who exhibited a strained smile, wondering whether I was Michael Brown and this was Ferguson, Missouri.



And this I said, without the least bit of hesitation, and no introduction or segue following the usual transactional conversation: "I'm 70 years of age, and will soon turn 71 in a few months, and this s _ _ _ is serious.  THIS is the most unsettling time of my entire life after having endured a 3 – ½ day Amtrak journey across the country just three weeks ago, today."  I suggested that we all might consider discontinuing doing business as usual, and start getting prepared.



He looked at me with a responsive demeanor and degree of seriousness which suggested that he knew exactly what I was talking about, and implicitly appreciated that I had not even opened the bottle of wine. Any smile or even grimace, which he might have possibly entertained, suddenly disappeared.



As I exited my refuge, which had comforted me during many an earthquake during my 30 years in Los Angeles, I wondered, "How many other people are as afraid on a basic, visceral level as I am?" I'm frigging scared. You can call me a weakling if you want. I prefer honesty and being a realist.



And then I recalled one of the most comforting conversations I ever had with my Father, a World War II veteran, D - Day plus 6, and a great man, and not just because he was my Father. Prior to that time, I could not ever recall him discussing his experiences in the war. He called me a few hours later during that morning, and said that everything was going to be alright. He imagined that the earthquake was similar to when he was in London, when Hitler was tossing V - 1 rockets (not even close to those of the Francis Scott Key variety) across the Channel. He said the percussive nature of the bombs made the buildings shake in a way that he had never envisioned. Although he was terrified, he said that he got through it, and that I would also.



Here's hoping that my Dad is right this time around, although he is no longer with us....


Sunday, August 2, 2020

Post No. 198: There Has to be Something Bigger than One's Self

© 2020, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

My last blog post was on June 4, 2016.  It has been a complex 4 years. Shortly before that date, my good friend, mentor, and Founding Member of the Institute for Applied Common Sense, Willy Hopkins (a/k/a The Laughingman), left, as he would characterize it, “…this mortal coil.”  My father, who I consider to have been a great man (and not just because he was my father), passed a couple of weeks short of his 97th birthday. He had that indomitable spirit and positive influence on me to the end. Finally, one of the most in-depth thinkers and a calming influence in my life, Darryl Jackson (a/k/a The Optimizer of the Institute), passed far too early in life when he had so much more value to bestow on the young people who he taught.

So here I stand, the only surviving member of the Institute for Applied Common Sense (2 weeks shy of the tender age of 69 and before I start the 2nd half of my life), trying to figure out what to say in 750 words or less, which pays tribute to these men in life, and yet encapsulates all my thoughts for the past 4 years.  In September of last year, while observing the Senate hearings on Brett Kavanaugh, I decided on the title of this piece, but did not get around to writing it until today, when the memorial service for civil rights icon, John Lewis, took place.  I listened to all of the speakers at his service, and there appeared to be a common theme, and thus the title of this piece.

Recently, I have been concerned about the extent to which many people think that, “it’s all about them, and what they want.”   My dad was a caring, humble, relatively quiet man, who did wonders for his community.  He won several community service awards from the NAACP and never mentioned them to me while I was living in California.  But then again, he never had to be concerned about being re-elected.

I first started gathering my thoughts about this life principle when Bill Clinton was facing impeachment.  It just seemed to me that the office and institution of the presidency, and the goals which he sought to accomplish, were more important than Bill Clinton, the individual, remaining in that position. He was not the only individual who could advance those goals.  Additionally, his credibility and effectiveness were severely affected by his indiscretions.  My position is that he should have immediately resigned, and allowed his vice – president, Al Gore, to carry on the mission (which Clinton did not personally own).  

I felt the same way during the hearings with respect to prospective Supreme Court Associate Justice, Brett Cavanaugh.  Even if he felt that the allegations of sexual misconduct had no validity whatsoever, I felt that he should have removed his name from consideration and fought the allegations outside of the context of the hearings.  Once again, it seemed to me that the seat and institution of the Supreme Court justice, and the goals which his party and supporters sought to accomplish, were more important than Brett Cavanagh, the individual, putting up a fight to acquire that position. He was not the only individual who could advance those goals. 

Additionally, his credibility and effectiveness, and respect for the Court would be, arguably, negatively impacted by his getting the seat.  Why would someone want that to satisfy one’s personal desires?  Interestingly, right after Mr. Kavanagh was successful in fending off the challenges, and confirmed by the Senate, President Trump congratulated Mr. Kavanagh for putting up the vigorous fight, and alluded to former Senator Al Franken, as having “folded like a wet rag.”

So, what is my message to college students, who are my target audience?  It seems to me that personal responsibility includes thinking beyond one’s self and one’s personal goals.  Though the Laughingman and the Optimizer are gone, I still reach out to others to expand my thinking about the concepts and issues about which I write.  The Laughingman introduced me to someone who often provides kernels of thought.  During an exchange with him earlier this year, he suggested that I pose two questions to the readers of this piece.

The first was, “What would your grandfather or grandmother have done confronted with your current situation?”

The second was, “While you may presently be strapped for money because of being ‘sheltered in place’, you now have a lot of free time.  What can you do with this free time to make a difference in the quality of someone else’s life?”  He suggests that thinking about improving someone else’s life can help you improve your own....

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Post No. 197c: Muhammad Ali

© 2009 and 2016, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Muhammad Ali died yesterday, on June 3, 2016. Today, the airways are full of documentaries and special programs discussing The Champ's life. Back in 2009, I generated two posts about Ali, "Who is This Muhammad Ali, and Why are So Many Still Saying Things about Him," and "More Things People Have to Say about Muhammad Ali." I decided to re-post them today. (You can access the first article through a link in the second.)

I, like many people, always had a special affinity toward Ali, despite the fact that my Mother so intensely disliked him. My good friend, Willy Hopkins aka the Laughingman, who grew up in Louisville at the same time, often spoke of him as his personal hero. No matter where you stood or stand on his contributions to the Universe, you would have to agree that he made a difference, and that has to be a "good thing." I hope that you enjoy reflecting....

Earlier this week, we posted a piece on how Muhammad Ali still commands the world’s attention, even though his boxing days are behind him, and Father Time has been in his opponent’s corner in recent years. By writing it, we gained a better appreciation of the man, and what sets him apart.

For decades, many have asked why so many admired him, warts and all. He never claimed that he was perfect, just that he was pretty.

Our readers from all across the philosophical and ideological spectrum, even at its extremes, shared their admiration. Something about his appeal is obviously universal.

Simply put, Ali is the quintessential “Fighter.” He has always stood up for what he believed in, even if society did not always believe in it with him. For all of us who do not stand up for ourselves on occasion, he represents the possibility.

During his recent trip to Ireland, much was written about Ali’s legacy. Sports Illustrated and PBS commentator Frank Deford, in a poignant piece, A Fading Champ, But a Champ Still, claims that, “… a great many people find it as upsetting as it is sad that the old champ continues to make personal appearances.”

But, as one of our readers noted, “They don’t really understand who Ali is.” His eternally youthful attitude, humor, and quick wit have served him well, and counter the ravages of time.

One of our friends loves The Champ – always has; always will. Ali made 3 personal appearances in his life, although the first was not exactly face-to-face, and perhaps apocryphal in nature. They reflect certain aspects of who Ali is.

In 1978, on his way to a wedding, our friend visited a friend in St. Joseph, Michigan on the shore of Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the St. Joseph River. At the time, The Champ maintained a training camp in nearby Berrien Springs.

After getting off the train in a torrential down pour, he took a cab along the winding road alongside the river, and noted people sitting on its banks in the dark of the night, with giant lanterns. He inquired as to what they were doing out in the rain, in the dark.

The cabbie said they were illegally fishing. The area was known for its salmon, and fish are attracted to light emitted by the lanterns. The poachers simply extended their nets from banks, catching salmon as they sprang into the air.

The cabbie told of how The Champ was once on a boat fishing with a local resident, when a group of salmon sprang into the air, and surprised him. Without hesitation, he instinctively turned and punched one of them in mid-air, with his eyes wide open.

The second meeting took place in Universal City in the offices of MCA Music. Our friend maintained his office in the same building. One of his associates had just traveled up the elevator with Ali and his confidante, Bundini Brown. She burst into our friend’s office and yelled that one of his idols was in the house.

He ran back and forth through the halls of the 2nd floor to find Ali, and found him in the dark gray, glass, Italian motif, minimalist lobby of MCA Music. There he stood panting from his run, alone with The Champ and Bundini. Even the receptionist had left her desk to get the person Ali was to meet.

He nervously approached this massive man, and said, “Champ, I’ve waited a long time for this opportunity.”

Ali flicked his head, clinched his teeth, shot out his left fist stopping just short of our friend. In that characteristic Ali tone, he said, “Whew! Bundini. He’d better be glad that I’m so fast. He look like Joe Frazier. I thought that you were Joe Frazier! I was about to kill him Bundini!” His face reflected that special Ali “join me in the joke” smile.

The third meeting was even more personal. During the 80s and 90s, our friend ran the Los Angeles Marathon, and The Champ frequently shot the starter pistol for the race. It was necessary to arrive early, in order to park, store one’s sweat suit, get a massage, and then stretch.

While warming up one year, he encountered The Champ wandering alone among the trees and grass outside of the Los Angeles Coliseum, and once again shook The Champ’s hand. However, by this time, The Champ was more distant, already suffering from the condition which makes him tremble, and appear dazed. Additionally, the one-time, rapid-fire “loudmouth,” as proclaimed by our friend’s Mother, was more subdued and mumbling slightly.

But he still had that twinkle in his eyes, and that smirky smile. He wished our friend a good race.

He was, and still is The Champ.

It made us consider what many have learned from this man, with very little formal education?

1. Backing up your promises is generally viewed as a positive attribute.

2. Cheating on your spouse is not.

3. There is some value to recognizing that there are some issues bigger than your short-term personal issues.

4. There is tremendous value to being open to associating with people of all backgrounds, faiths, social position, classes, races, and such, and not judging them.

5. Society admires people who just keep going like the Energizer Bunny.

6. A Father must ensure that he takes care of and is involved in the lives of his children.

7. Saying that you are sorry and admitting that you messed up goes a long way.

8. Society will always admire someone with a twinkle in his eye.

9. Your legacy is enduring and long-lasting, and doesn’t die with you.

There’s only one Champ in our book.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Post No. 197b: Now That Cruz and Kasich are Contenders of the Past

© 2012 and 2016, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Yesterday, Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz dropped out of the race. Rumors are swirling today that John Kasich will do the same. That will leave Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee for the election for President. We revisited an earlier post to see how much has really changed since November 7, 2012, the day that this post was originally posted after Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama. By the way, a prominent political operative noted roughly 100 years ago, that, "In the realm of politics, passion and prejudice will kick the ass of reason and principle on any given day."

We constantly re-visit posts to see if our views change. Although we occasionally find grammatical mistakes, the underlying thought process generally remains the same.

There is one post we never re-visited, and we are not going to do so now. It’s irrelevant. That post, The Morning After, was written hours after Obama was elected the first time.

On the other hand, there is an article we re-visit far more than others. It accurately outlined what we expected Obama to face in the event he was elected in 2008. Why I am Concerned that Obama Might Win (October 25, 2008), noted that the global economy was in bad shape, predicted it would continue for years, and that Obama would be blamed for not pulling the U.S. out of the economic doldrums quickly enough.

That was a no-brainer, but we re-posted that fluff piece 28 times, and each time a bunch of people exclaimed, “Amazing!”

Politicians, like lawyers on corporate payrolls, are necessary evils and part of our current governance model. But politicians have a significant problem apart from trying to act like money does not influence their decisions. In the real world, to solve problems it is far more efficient and effective if one’s analysis in addressing them is a thing apart from one’s values. Just imagine an ER doctor taking into consideration whether the patient was at fault before providing treatment, or how much money he or she will make if the patient lives or dies. Unfortunately, politicians have the dual, often conflicting, goals of defining what they stand for (depending on who they’re talking to), and ultimately getting re-elected.

Many Republicans are already heading down the wrong road today as they emerge from last night's limousine, caravan pile-up. They claim their message and mission are still on point; implicitly suggesting they were “right” all along, but that they picked the wrong driver for their vehicle.

Actually, Romney could have been the right man, and probably would have been in an earlier version of the Party. Our sense is that he is a good and decent man, with nothing but the best interests of our country at heart. Additionally, America could really use a business-oriented technocrat right now.

However, truth be told, the man never was as extreme or angry as the loudest elements of his Party wanted him to be. The most vocal and angry members of his Party out-shouted the thinking members.

This is a preview of our common sense presentation to the RNC on where the Republicans went wrong, and what they need to do to get back on track:

(1) You threw everything in the kitchen sink plus all of the crap in the outhouse at Obama. By doing so, you lost credibility with sensible folks, and your message became, per Marvin Hagler, “odiferous.” (College students simply held their noses.) If your positions on a few key issues were really that strong, you didn’t need all of the other stuff, or the Donald Trumps of the world.

Last week, someone sent us a chart outlining “Almost Every Obama Conspiracy Theory Ever.” The visual representation overwhelms you. It did not matter whether every single allegation was true. The President is an Incompetent, Dangerous, Treasonous Retard Side Show ™ was simply “over the top,” suggested something kooky was going on, and more importantly, unnecessary.

(2) The relatively small, extreme, fringe elements of your Party high-jacked the larger Party, in much the same way as the relatively small, extreme, fringe elements of Islam have high-jacked their religion. The Democrats also have such folks, but they shut the muck up. Your problem was that heretofore sensible, thinking members of your Party joined the fringe chorus, because they thought it was their ticket to Disney World. As the Laughingman often says, “If you think that hitchhikers you pick up are going to pay for all of your gas, you’ll probably never reach your destination.”

The Party needs to expel the kooks and extremists. Right now, there is no other club where they can hang out. Take some of that Koch Brothers / Super PAC money and build a third club house, where the bigots and narrow-minded can go party. They are pulling you down, in very much the same way Islamic terrorists are hurting their religion.

Deep down inside, your Party as presently constituted scares not all, but many, thinking people.

(3) The leadership of your Party abdicated responsibility and went on the road with The Fringe Circus. That suggests you don’t really have any leaders. It looked more like a revolutionary movement. Someone needed to take control, show some non-kooky qualities, and get the ship out of the rough seas. No one did that. The Good Governor didn’t want to do that. That’s not who he is.

(4) Our last point is the same one we made in October 2008. Economists predict another 5 – 7 years of economic sluggishness, GLOBALLY. Your Party asked us to believe that one man was supposed to turn around this giant ship in the middle of the ocean after both Parties had charted the same route for 30 or so years, AND you expected us to ignore all of the past trips where you collected bounty.

In 2016, you need to clearly articulate that your solutions will yield (not would have yielded) better results than those achieved during the preceding 8 year period, without making it seem as though you are the Virgil Starkwells of the economic world, who want to Take the Money and Run.

Quite frankly, the middle class never really believed that you cared about them.

You just looked greedy and disingenuous.

This is not to suggest that Democrats do not have significant comparable problems; just that they proved to be the lesser of the 2 evils this time around.

To the RNC Chair-Person [?], you need some new image consultants for the next round. We here at the Institute will gladly assist you, at a rate 1/1000th of what you were paid by your largest campaign contributor. Give the Koch Brothers our telephone number.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Post No. 197a: What Would Dr. King Say?

© 2011 and 2016, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We considered calling this piece, What Would Dr. King Do?, or What Would Dr. King Think?

Frankly, none of them would be really appropriate, since none of us has any first hand knowledge of his thought process, or even a comprehensive appreciation of his view of the world.

For example, most think that Dr. King adopted Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy on his own. Yet, many involved in the movement contend that it was actually Bayard Rustin who counseled Dr. King to adopt non-violence as his MO.

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that after having his home and family threatened, Dr. King grabbed a rifle on his way to confront his attackers on the front lawn.

Rustin supposedly stopped Dr. King in mid-stride and suggested how to get the upper hand on his attackers, that being to take the higher moral ground - less subject to attack.

Per Rustin, resorting to a tactic that placed the good doctor in the same violence stratum as his attackers only served to hurt the cause, and made it less likely that others would side with him (defense of his castle be justified or not).

On this past MLK Day, those of you fortunate enough not to have become infected with that virus commonly known as Twitter [which should be changed to “Twitcher”], would have been amazed at the volume of thought-provoking MLK quotes posted by “kids” of every imaginable color, age, country, and station in life.

But two situations or events, both featuring the NAACP, kept bothering us.

Why the NAACP? [That’s exactly what we asked.] Because, in theory, one might think that their positions and the interests advocated by Dr. King would bear some resemblance to one another. In both instances, we’re just not sure what was going on. [Plus, we recognize that only certain racial groups are monolithic.]

The first involved something seemingly innocuous as school snow make-up days.

In many districts around the country, schools are required to end their year by a certain date. Most states also require that a school year consist of a certain number of days. Because of severe snow storms, many districts found themselves trying to discover make-up days on the calendar.

Some announced that they were “considering” having their charges attend school on MLK Day. The NAACP, in virtually every region where such a plan was “considered,” shifted into Sharpton-Jackson mode. [Where is a Michael Steele or an Alan Keyes when you need one?]

We need not even explore the substance of their arguments. Many prominent in the black community even suggested that parents keep their kids home. [That’ll show them.]

But it occurred to us, what better day to spend the time in school, reflecting on all that Dr. King represented, and all that he valued?

What better opportunity for black folks to consider the importance of, or show the outside world how much they value, that education thang?

What better day to suggest and support the extension of the school week to Saturdays, or the school year into the summer?

What would Dr. King have said, or done?

The second situation involved the Governor of Maine. This maverick of a politician was invited to participate in an NAACP celebration in memory of Dr. King, and he declined. [Uh, oh…!]

When questioned further about it, he simply said that there are only so many special interest events that one man can attend in a 24 hour day.

He further suggested that if someone thought that his declination was racially motivated, they could “kiss his butt.” [At least he has the balls to tell some group to kiss his rear end.] He finally alluded to the fact that all one needed to do was examine his family portrait, and they would find that he has a black [adopted] son.

Once again, the local NAACP went ballistic, and suggested that whether he had a black son was irrelevant. [Any of those NAACP folks have any white sons?]

Once again, we asked what would Dr. King have said, or done?

Of course, we don’t know. But we have a guess.

As great as all of the quotes posted on Twitter were, there was one missing that may reflect how he might have reacted.

On Monday night, we watched a tape of one of Dr. King’s speeches at the close of an MSNBC segment. During it, he said:

“We must conduct our struggle on the high plain of dignity and discipline.”

Did the NAACP heed his word?

You be the judge.

P.S. Yeah, we know. This was not a very dignified post.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Post No. 197: Have We Arrived at the Point Where We Should Consider Toy Gun Control?

© 2015, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

I do not know the source or provider of the toy gun being “wielded” by 12 year old Tamir Rice, who was killed by Cleveland police officers arriving on the scene. However, who provided the kid with the toy weapon is something which has bothered me since I first heard the story.

I also recognize that “kids” today are taller, larger, and in some instances, appear to be more mature in appearance, than in years past. (We might also consider addressing the distribution of human growth hormone to adults who might share it with their underage children to boost their Little League performance. But that’s a story for another day.)

Yet, I had toy guns when I was a kid, and never had to worry about police showing up in response to a call (or human growth hormones for that matter).

Knowing what I know today, and taking into consideration the intense media coverage and public debate surrounding officer involved shootings, if I were a black parent, or perhaps a grandparent, I would not buy any member of my family under the age of majority, any toy weapon which resembles a real weapon. If I were a white individual, even though I might not have the same level of concern, I would not let any of my kids play with such a weapon. Toy guns arguably rise to the level of illicit, street drugs, with respect to their danger potential, depending on your neighborhood. They can lead to your death, or that of your minor loved one.

The same arguably applies to extended family members, and friends and neighbors of the affected family, whether they be black, white, or polka dot (referring to the purchasing adults not the kids).

Several questions come to mind, assuming a kid is killed by police while wielding a toy gun. For purposes of this discussion, although I speak of toy guns, it is my intent to include any type of toy weapon, including toy knives, which, now that I think about it, I had as a kid, and which I could affix as a bayonet to my military style toy rifle):

1. Should adults (including parents) providing toy weapons to kids, killed by police who mistakenly think that the weapons are real, be responsible for the deaths?

2. Should those adults be civilly liable or perhaps have their other kids taken from them?

3. Should those adults be criminally liable, perhaps for child endangerment? (Or, should parents be charged with child endangerment when they inadequately prepare their kids for the dangers and complexities outside of the home before they reach the age of majority?)

4. Does an adult who is merely a passerby or who sees a kid with a weapon prior to the arrival of the police, and who thinks or knows that it is a toy, have any personal, ethical, moral, community, or societal responsibility to disarm the kid, or notify the parents, because a dangerous confrontation might develop once someone calls the police?

5. Does the adult making the call to the police bear any responsibility to determine whether the weapon is real?

5. Do the manufacturers of toy weapons bear any responsibility for making toys look so realistic that it is difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not, or as some would argue, for making any toy weapons at all?

6. Should manufacturers of toy weapons bear civil legal responsibility?

7. Should manufacturers of toy weapons bear criminal legal responsibility?

My blog’s target audience is college students, and my goal is to raise some personal responsibility issues (ahead of time) so that when stuff happens, at least they will have mulled the issues and considerations over, instead of trying come up with solutions on the spot. After all, There are More Than 2 or 3 Ways to View Any Issue; There are at Least 27. ™

Processing those 27 or more possible explanations for the kid having the weapon as the sirens blare and the force rolls up is a tad complicated for even the best trained and well-intentioned officers. So it arguably behooves us to think about this stuff before the call to 911, since the “talking heads” offer no solutions. But then again, perhaps we do not want law enforcement first responders considering the other 26 reasons if the goal is efficiency.

Would we, as a society, having answered or addressed any of the questions enumerated above, reduce the number of instances where kids are killed by police arriving on the scene after being informed that “someone” is carrying a “weapon.”

The cynic in me says no.

However, as we begin this New Year, in a nation where there is such a level of fear of others and we are seemingly incapable of addressing the number of officer involved shootings of adults (including those who have committed minor infractions but paid the ultimate penalty), I sure as hell hope that we adults at least figure out a way to deal with this kids with toy weapons issue.

I didn’t have to worry about carrying my toy weapons in the 1950s. Perhaps it was an expectation on my part that my adult parents and others in the community would protect me, as naïve as that may have been.

However, today, I can’t help but think that we purportedly responsible adults ought to be able to figure out something. After all, we are capable of sending a man [and now a woman] to the moon. We ought to be able to figure out how to keep our kids safe and allow them the freedom to play… and simply be kids.

The really is that we can't change how police perceive threats, and who they consider to be threats primarily driven by DNA. So the question is, "Have we arrived at the point where we should consider toy gun control," or leave it to free-market economic, private enterprise entities to police themselves?

Happy New Year

Friday, December 18, 2015

Post No. 196: Why (I Suspect) DNA Trumps Everything in Determining Which Side of the Fence One Sits on Banning Muslims (Temporarily?)

© 2015, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

I am fascinated by people who take sides on an issue. In my view, taking a side means that you think that (1) you are right, (2) you have something to gain; (3) your position is the better or preferred position, or, perhaps (4) your God told you to do it. Even in the physical science realm, it is becoming far more difficult to be certain about one’s chosen position.

I admit that I do not possess the skills or wisdom of Samuel Clemens, but we are kindred spirits in terms of our attitudes about politicians. No group of citizens distresses me more. Not only are they absolutely certain about their positions, and that their positions should dictate the conduct and lives of all over whom they exercise dominion, but the logic they use and positions they take are so patently goal- determinant.

On those issues which affected my business, I was a staunch Republican, while with respect to issues which now affect me in my retirement, I am a Democrat. It is with this background that one of my buddies recently sent me a Washington Post article entitled, What Social Science Tells Us about Racism in the Republican Party.

After reading the article, I suggested to him the issue is far more complex than discussed in the article. He is aware of my position on racism, namely that although it is problematic, it has a pragmatic and utilitarian function, driven by DNA.

As for how we respond to the terrorist threat from certain factions of the Islamic faith, I think that where one stands is related to, and also derives from, our DNA. To a significant extent, it determines what we are fearful of, or paranoid about, and the whole fight or flight syndrome bears on our short-term concerns about our longer-term evolutionary survival.

Take for example the issue of guns. I used weapons while serving stateside in the Army, and appreciate what they can do. However, despite traveling in some very dangerous neighborhoods (in the U.S., and Mexico City, Rio, Caracas, Marseille, and Naples), I've never felt the need to have a gun on me or that a gun would make a difference. Yet, I respect those who feels differently.

It’s not that I see myself as Cordell Walker, Texas Ranger. It’s just that I don’t feel the need for a gun. Additionally, I could care less about the government coming to take away the gun I don’t have.

I am convinced that so much is emotion-driven (primarily dependent on our particular electro-chemical formula along with some environmental factors), and not logically driven. It should come as no surprise that so many support Trump's view of the world; they are on Trump’s side of the electro-chemical brain determinative fence, with respect to what we should fear and loath. It’s functional; it works for them, and the options in their toolbox which eliminate fears and threats (and thus makes them feel more secure) are those which decisively accomplish their immediate goal.

We here in America, in my humble opinion, waste far too much time, energy, and resources discussing race, prejudice, and discrimination. People are going to feel what they feel.

Right now, the more interesting issue to me is why so few have really challenged Trump on what he would practically be able to do as the Chief Executive of only 1 branch of government, within the confines of the Constitution. After all, he is not a dictator. The Constitution did not establish a monarchy. But that doesn't really matter, does it, if the reality is in the mind of the beholder? After all, arguably only the intellectual elite care about the legalities of what one elected leader can or cannot legitimately do.

Trump is perhaps the best thing to happen to America in a long time; he's laid bare our visceral concerns, taken off the intellectual veneer and fine clothes, and he's revealed us to be who many in our society really are. I want to know the true feelings and motivations of those who potentially pose a danger to me so that I can figure out what to do; not have a bunch of actors and actresses playing roles suggesting co-existence.

The reason America will have a difficult time winning the war on terror is because we want people to think that we will take the high philosophical road motivated by some higher moral authority. However, unfortunately that doesn't win wars, and we are not generally inclined to bomb civilians. A recent program on WW II suggests things really began to turn around when the Allies started bombing civilian areas occupied by Germans.

Ask the typical person whether, given the choice, they would rather be the noble loser, or the unethical winner. Check out nature shows about how dominant animals / predators handle themselves. We're just animals with larger brains.

For those of you who feel that I pulled this straight out of my rear orifice where the sun doesn’t shine, you are absolutely correct. However, there is a modicum of scientific proof, to support my position, upon examining the work of Robert Sapolsky. But then again, neither he, nor I, would ever considering running for political office.

"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"™