Saturday, May 11, 2013
© 2009 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
In the world of social commentary, there are “observers” and “critics.”
People often ask how we approach preparation of articles reflecting our observations.
Short answer? We watch C-Span, the History Channel, Tom and Jerry, and Turner Classic Movies all weekend. During that time, we absorb roughly 50 different points of view on various subjects, and give Tom’s observations more weight.
We consider them further during the week, while watching the news and Congressional hearings, in an effort to identify themes or “cross-over” principles, which arguably apply to divergent subjects. It could be sports, science, religion, and music. Like Wile E. Coyote, we keep chasing the Road Runner, seeking something.
(We also walk through book stores each week and pick up any and everything.)
So many today claim to know, with certainty, how we got here economically, why and how this or that President was flawed, and why we will fail as a nation if we do X. This banter drove the Logistician to Brazil for his sabbatical to study with the heads of the samba schools.
Before he departed, while eating his standard meal of sardines, beef tongue, and horseradish on pumpernickel, he asked, “How are these people able to come up with evidence which only supports their position?” He abhorred “goal determinant analysis.”
He then asked, “Why didn’t these people step forward to take control before things imploded?”
We seem to be dissatisfied with virtually every aspect of our lives, along with the people running most of our institutions, not to mention our significant others).
There’s no shortage of “incompetents” according to the critics: politicians, doctors, commercial banks, insurance companies, the Federal Reserve, drug companies, pedophile priests and Boy Scout leaders, automobile companies, oil companies, current and past Presidents, the housing and construction industries, the poor, the rich, CEOS, lawyers, investment bankers, immigrants (whether illegal or not), unions, doped up athletes, Hollywood, and of course, Wal-Mart. Most recently, it was the 47%.
It’s a Herculean task to find anyone or anything held in high regard, and about which at least 70% of Americans view positively. We’d settle for 60%.
Apart from all of the new input we consume, we constantly review earlier posts, to consider their continuing applicability. In Post No. 85 in February of 2009, amid rising concerns about the global economy, we generated, Why We Suspect, To Our Dismay, That “Whatever” Our Leaders Devise Will Not Work.
In Post No. 27 in July 2009, we wrote about The Inability of our Leaders to Please (or Lead) Us.
Finally, in May 2008, in Post No. 9, Recognizing the Potential of the Innovative Thought Process (We are a Better Country Than We Currently Think of Ourselves), we noted that a recent poll revealed that 81% of Americans felt the country was heading in the wrong direction.
And that was before the recession was officially announced, and blame assessed.
And before Obama was even nominated.
The sentiment crossed ideological lines. Amazingly, it was something about which the majority could agree.
Thomas Woods was recently on C-Span. He is the author of Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse.
We’ve now watched his presentation 4 times. He had so little positive to say about much of anything over the past 30 years, that it made us stop and think about the views of other commentators over the past 18 months.
Then we asked, like the Logistician, “Why aren’t these people leading us?”
Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, and some are simply Monday morning quarterbacks.
But shouldn’t we be concerned that despite the personal successes of many of our leaders and captains of industry, our country as a whole appears to be in such a precarious state?
Does our current political climate or system discourage the true best and brightest from running for public office, and seeking the helm of our major industries?
Does the public scrutiny of our leaders serve as a disincentive for the “truly qualified” to share their wisdom and insight with us for the public benefit?
Maybe a nation really does deserve the leaders that it gets.
And here the rest of us stand, growling, and fighting like Dobermans for scraps of raw meat.
During our preparation of this piece, the words of Simon and Garfunkel kept swirling in our heads:
“Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio? A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You, Woo, Woo, Woo.”
You critics, who have figured it all out, and find others to be incompetent, please step forward and participate in fixing this mess.
We need you.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
© 2011 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
We once generated a post, Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio? At the time, we felt that the nation’s lonely eyes were searching for someone like the Yankee Clipper.
If one were to believe the rants and raves of many out there, one might be hoodwinked into thinking that the solution to our leadership vacuum lies with them. They have all the solutions (although few of them are willing to assume leadership roles), and they are so sure of their positions. To them, pulling us out of economic quicksand is a simple task (not to mention getting other world leaders to go along).
We hate to throw slop on their parade, but we have concerns about their qualifications, motives, and quite frankly, thought processes. We’d rather place our faith in the young and the untested, namely the college students to whom we direct our messages about personal responsibility. We find them less extreme in their ideological leanings, more pragmatic, and in possession of more common sense.
Recently, folks have been comparing Obama to Jimmy Carter. Both rode into office with high expectations and a message of change. Many expect Obama to join the ranks of the one-term presidents, and he probably will, although even Carnac the Magnificent figured that out before Obama was elected. Anyone with any sense knew that the global economy, of which oh by the way the U.S. is a part, was not going to significantly pull out of its slump within 3 years. There was simply no precipitating, motivating factor down the pike.
Unfortunately, the President recently made a reference to American society’s malaise. He obviously did not learn anything from Carter. A leader cannot place any responsibility or blame on the American people for the condition in which they find themselves, even if it’s true.
So we’ll do it. Simply put, we Americans became fat, lazy, and greedy. The title of this post, Pigs Get Fat; Hogs Get Slaughtered is a quote from Reggie Fountain, the Richard Petty of speedboat racing.
The former multi-millionaire, having fallen on hard times leading to bankruptcy, was asked about his demise. He said he lived too high and too fast for too long, and became bloated. His summary of his experience is the title of our piece.
Part of our problem is that we can’t handle a straight shooter. We want someone to tell us what we want to hear. George Kennedy was a friend of fellow actor Jimmy Stewart. Turner Classic Movies is currently airing a mini-biography of Stewart, narrated by Kennedy. During the piece, Kennedy refers to Stewart’s “everyman” image. What is interesting is that he refers to “how Americans wanted to see ourselves,” not who we actually were.
We talk a lot about being the greatest country in the history of humankind, but there are some very common sense things we ignore which complicate that assessment.
In the world of business, when a company performs poorly, management re-examines its business model. In the world of governance, the last thing we examine is our governance model.
What we have here - is a failure to appreciate.
Appreciate that there are limitations associated with ANY governance model.
Several (well, maybe more than that) points:
1. In terms of education, we were never really as smart as we claimed to be;
2. When you allow people to live where they want, pursue whatever educational pursuit they desire, marry who they desire, pursue whatever vocational pursuit they want, and retire when they want, you are going to have difficultly managing them. We are a very conflicted people;
3. When you allow or encourage your work force to retire when they still have valuable skills, knowledge, and experience to offer, you become less efficient and you take a loss;
4. You can’t as a people take children out of the work force and continually drive down the number of hours worked from 70, to 60, to 50, to 40, and then 35, and expect your global competitors to do the same;
5. You can’t place the burden of inspiration and motivation on the shoulders of elected officials. Either individual citizens are sufficiently motivated and ambitious enough to pursue their goals, or they are not. And oh by the way, many are not;
6. Spending more than you have coming in only works for so long;
7. When it takes one 30 to 40 years to pay for something, one should re-consider whether it is worth purchasing, since it assumes that you will have 30 to 40 years of steady income;
8. Alexis de Tocqueville warned us in the 1850s that there would be long-term negative consequences associated with slavery. That we engaged in this treatment of other humans for over 200 years says much about us as a nation;
9. When people do not care enough about their personal health to eat properly, exercise, and avoiding smoking and use of certain substances, you really can’t expect them to care about other things in life;
10. It was only so long that we could continue to make millionaires out of people betting on and selling intangible and illusory products;
11. Something is seriously “something” about a country which fought communism so vigorously, abhors socialism, and yet allows the largest communist country in the world to have it by the economic balls (and we’re not referring to Cuba); and
12. Our last point came to us during us during an exchange with a friend. He said that he knew something was shaky about America when his university offered a course entitled, “The Challenge of Leisure.”
Any one of these issues would be a problem for any country. We have all of them at work.
We’ve got some work to do.
P.S. The Roman Empire lasted how long?
Friday, February 8, 2013
© 2011 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
For several weeks now, the American (and perhaps international) viewing public has been fascinated by the Jodi Arias murder trial. Although it has not generated as much buzz as the O.J. trial, and Nancy Grace is only spending 28 hours a day to cover it, every news outlet has a reporter on hand. Considering the dramatic change in her story (first that home invaders killed her boyfriend, then that she killed him in self-defense after a bizarre sexual escapade), Jodi should hope for something dramatic in order to be acquitted. We pulled this one out of the archives.
Last week, a staff member made a pound cake, and brought it into the office. Although the cake looked fine to us, she said that she became distracted while baking it, and that we might find the bottom a “little crunchy” because she baked it 20 minutes too long.
While we were transforming into Pillsbury Doughboys, Betty Crocker’s Father stopped by. He was serving as a juror on a jury trial at the courthouse down the street, and wanted a piece of his daughter’s cake. She also warned him of the potential crunchiness and the reason for it.
He appeared to enjoy the cake, but insisted that she baked it with the oven rack at the wrong level in her stove. Thinking that he did not hear her say that she baked the cake too long, she mentioned it again.
“I heard you the first time; that doesn’t matter.” he snapped, “What I’m saying is that you need to change the rack level.”
For the overly analytical ones of us here at the Institute, our thoughts instantly went to, “And this guy is serving as a juror?” We all hoped that he was serving on a civil jury, where only money was involved, and not someone’s liberty.
But there were 2 other experiences we had last week which made us further question the ability of criminal defendants to get a fair trial, apart from the efforts of the Nancy Graces of the world to convict them immediately after arrest and before booking is completed.
We previously mentioned our connections to the O.J. trial when the Institute was headquartered in Los Angeles. A friend of the Institute who knew of those connections called us shortly after “Tot Mom” Casey Anthony was acquitted in the death of her daughter, and said that it reminded her of the O.J. trial. The acquittal made her once again question our entire legal system.
She was apparently a fly in the jury room during the deliberations. Shortly thereafter, another tenant in our building asked whether we had heard of Anthony’s acquittal, and then immediately launched into how Anthony’s delay in reporting her daughter missing led her to believe that she was guilty. We suspect that there were enough stale donuts left in the jury room to support multiple flies.
These days, we aren’t quite sure how anyone receives a fair trial, with electronic media spewing sound bites at the speed of light. We seriously doubt that many take the time to digest even 1/100th of the evidence or facts involved, and yet they arrive at a conclusion.
To which they are entitled, no doubt.
We recall a friend once suggesting that because she saw photos of the mayhem inflicted on Nicole Brown Simpson’s body, she knew that O.J. was guilty. And of course, the former head of the International Monetary Fund was guilty, because the rich prey on the poor and consider themselves above the law.
We’re not quite sure whether this is what the Founding Fathers envisioned early on.
But as they often say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
For most students of the law, the line between civil and criminal offenses is fairly clear, and there is even a different burden of proof built into our system of jurisprudence. And white collar folks, whether rightly or wrongly, don’t expect to find themselves locked up in a jail cell with “common criminals.”
(We can almost guarantee you that hundreds of our readers across the globe, upon reading the preceding paragraph thought out loud, “But they should!”)
Horse manure is about to hit the fan soon, and the whole notion of innocence until proven guilty is about to be severely tested. Just continue to follow this phone hacking scandal involving News of the World. What prompted us to write this piece was an e-mail alert from the New York Times just a couple of hours ago, entitled, “An Arrest and Scotland Yard Resignation Roil Britain.” Upon reading the e-mail further, it noted that Britain’s most highly ranked police official resigned, and Rebekah Brooks, the former Chief Executive of News International, was arrested.
Over the years, there have been calls in some circles for expert or professional jurors to address some of the imperfections associated with lay jurors. But one of the principles built into the system is that one is entitled to be judged by a jury of his or her peers.
For the sake of the system, and all involved, we sure hope that neither our pound cake crunching retiree, our disillusioned friend in California, our fellow tenant in our building, nor Nancy Grace are on Ms. Brooks’ jury.
She wouldn’t have a chance in hell.
Well, but then again, it could be worse. We could only allow politicians to serve as jurors….
Hmm..., but then they would never reach a verdict.
Monday, January 28, 2013
We previously attempted to explore the issues of deceit and truthfulness in the context of the Mark McGwire steroid use story. More recently two other sports figures, a former Tour de France cycling champion and cancer survivor, and a college football star who claimed that his girlfriend (who he had never met) died from cancer, admitted that they deceived their fans and the public.
For some reason, the theoretical and practical attitudes of our readers toward cheating (which arguably is a form of deceit, of which "lying" is a subset) differed dramatically from the responses we received during our prior effort to delve into the issue of honesty. Consequently, we are re-visiting our original post on the subject to see whether athletes are held to a different standard than other members of society.
© 2009, 2010, and 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
The Laughingman and the Logistician have been friends for years. The Laughingman has laughed out of loud at some of the Logistician’s antics.
He has also expressed bewilderment following comments by the Logistician, when there were highly desirable women in the room.
He would shake his head, and ask, “What in the world made you say that?” The Logistician would reply, “It’s the truth," which one would expect people to respect.
In case you haven’t figured out who is the more practical of the two, and who usually got the gal, there’s another Logistician story of note.
He once had this girlfriend, who was stunning in every aspect imaginable. One day, she asked him whether he loved her. He replied in a perfunctory fashion, “Why yes, dear.”
But then she followed by asking, “But do you love me?”
All of his male buddies have since said that all he had to do was to simply say, “Yes.” (Coincidentally, as have his female friends.) But he didn't.
His response, after pausing no less, was, “What’s the definition of the second love which distinguishes it from the first?”
Aphrodite then replied, “You know. Do you love me?”
The Logistician never managed to provide a satisfactory answer.
To all who later questioned the wisdom of his choice, he calmly stated, “I was placed in a situation where I was asked to respond to something I did not understand. For me to have said ‘yes’ would have been a lie, without a definition being provided.”
There is a logical explanation for this madness. You see, he was screwed up way early in life. Not only did he have traditional societal, familial, and religious forces suggesting that he always tell the truth, but he also attended West Point. The Honor Code there prescribed that he, “not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those that do.”
He has tried to apply that principle (minus the toleration part) to his life, albeit not always successfully. However, he’s tried.
One of his favorite quotes is from former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura: “When you tell the truth, you don’t have to have a good recollection of what you previously said.”
And so it was with a great deal of consternation that the Logistician recently found himself in a heated conversation with a valued friend of 35 years, as to the responses one should provide to senior citizen relatives whose mental faculties are declining.
The friend argued that “a game” should be played with the relative, since that provides comfort, and the truth need not be told. He said that it was “unnecessary.”
The friend also extended this reasoning to raising young children.
The next day, the Logistician shared this exchange with another mutual friend of 35 years. She suggested that the truth can shatter someone’s delicate perception of the world, and promptly supported the position of the first friend.
It made him wonder whether there are ends sufficiently important to justify out right lying. He also wondered whether there are dangers, so “clear and present,” to support such action.
He thought about this a lot during the recent presidential campaigns: Is winning more important than telling the truth?
(Frankly, we’ve reached a point in our society where many aren’t quite sure what to believe from some purported news sources anymore.)
Back to the Logistician, he has always contended that when asked a specific question, he is required to provide a truthful response.
On occasion, he has recognized the value of silence, or momentary evasiveness, by posing, “Do you really want to ask that question?”
Many would argue that in cases of national security, it is appropriate to lie. But is it really?
Some others would also argue that when you have a confidential relationship with someone, it is appropriate to lie, to those outside of that relationship.
And then there was our former President who only lied about sex.
If there are so many instances where it is appropriate, then when is it inappropriate to lie? (Apparently one can not lie if one is using performance enhancing drugs in a competitive athletic sport.)
Back to kids, is suggesting to a child that there is a Santa Claus, the Easter Bunnie, or the Tooth Fairy, a lie?
And what about that dying parent? Are lies appropriate at the death bed? What about the case of a patient who has terminal cancer, with only a short time to live?
If Congress poses a question to a member of the CIA, is the operative required to always provide the truth? Was Oliver North justified in lying to Congress about Iran-Contra?
Or was Jack Nicholson correct in A Few Good Men, when he said that, "[We] can’t handle the truth?”
P.S. By the way, you’re right. The Logistician is not very bright, and he lied. He did not provide 27 situations.
© 2009, 2010, and 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Should you desire to examine the comments from our readers the first time that we broached this subject, click here.
Monday, January 21, 2013
© 2011 and 2013, 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.
Monday, January 14, 2013
Today, we received an e-mail from the New York Times indicating that the House of Representatives had rejected an effort to increase the federal debt limit. The article was entitled, “Pressing Obama, House Bars Rise in Debt Ceiling.”
Many welcomed the event, and argued that it was a repudiation of the President’s efforts to transform our nation into a socialist state during a period of global economic stagnation, brought on solely by his Administration’s economic policies.
Apparently the President didn’t take the message very well, since he was seen cruising various D.C. bars.
According to Tim Teetotaler, at The Speakeasy in DuPont Circle, this was not the first time that the President visited his bar late at night. Confirming rumors, he said the President is typically accompanied by a female ostrich. The bartender went on to relate his first encounter with Obama.
On that occasion, the President said, "I'll have a beer; in fact the same brand of beer that was sent to the White House for the Harvard Professor – Cambridge Cop Beer Summit last year.” The bartender then turned to the ostrich, and asked, "What about you?"
"I'll have a beer too," said the ostrich, while the Secret Service detail surveyed the room, concerned about what observers might think about the President hanging out with a bird not native to America, and other than the American Bald Eagle.
The bartender claims that he served the pair and the tab was $6.40. The President turned to his trusted military aide carrying the “Nuclear Football,” and said, “Willy, reach into the side pocket of the satchel and pull out whatever money is there.”
Pursuant to the President’s instructions, the aide retrieved all of the money, which amounted to exactly $6.40.
The bartender claims that he next saw the President and the ostrich on the night when US forces successfully located and eliminated Osama bin Laden. The President ordered Champagne this time - a glass of 2010 Armand de Brignac.
The ostrich said she would have the same. After they completed their drinks, the bill amounted to $47.83. The President once again turned to Willy, asked to him to reach into the side pocket of the satchel, and pull out all the money. Willy, according to the bartender, pulled out exactly $47.83.
After the bin Laden mission, this became a regular, nightly routine, and whenever the bartender saw the two approaching, he simply asked, "The usual?" On each occasion, Willy took care of the tab by simply reaching into the pocket. Even when the price of the Champagne increased, the aide still pulled out the exact amount needed, even though he was not informed of the increase.
According to Teetotaler, last night following the House vote, a despondent President came in, and ordered Sauza Blue Reposado.
"Same for me," said the ostrich, with a subdued tone and a Southern drawl.
"That will be $29.20," said the bartender.
Once again the aide pulled out the exact change.
The bartender thought that since the President’s guard might be down, it might be a good time to address his curiosity about the President having just enough money in the pocket to match the amount of the bill.
"Excuse me, Mr. President, but may I ask perhaps an impertinent question?” “Sure,” replied the President.
“How does your aide manage to always come up with the exact change for your bill out of the side pocket of that satchel, every single time?"
“First of all, let it be clear that although the taxpayers pick up the tab for my drinks, they do not pay for the ostrich’s. But to get to the crux of your question, several years ago I was cleaning the attic with Michelle and the girls, and found an old Middle Eastern lamp. When I rubbed it, a Genie appeared and offered me four wishes, three of which I made in a family, group setting.”
“My first wish was that I be elected President when the nation was in a perilous state, so that I could prove how effective a smart guy could really be as President.”
“My second wish was that if I, or the nation, ever needed to pay for anything, I could just put my hand in the side pocket of the satchel containing the Nuclear Football, and sufficient funds would be there."
"That's brilliant!" said the bartender. "Most people would wish for a specific amount of money, but you'll be as rich as you want for as long as you live!"
"Well, so one would think,” said the President. “Whether it was a gallon of milk, a new home in Hyde Park, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or MediCare, the exact money was always there," said the President.
"That's fantastic!" said the bartender. "It’s clear why they call you 'The Anointed One.'”
“Not so fast my friend. My third wish was that I locate and eliminate Osama bid Laden during my first term.”
The bartender said, “Sir, obviously you are on a roll. But you’ve been more than generous in sharing with me things which are obviously personal in nature; consequently I would not dare ask about the fourth wish, which you did not share with your family.”
“But there's one thing I still don't understand. What's with the ostrich?"
According to the bartender, the President replied "I was afraid that you would ask that. My fourth wish was for a chick with long legs."
The bartender commiserating with the President, and trying to switch the subject said, “I heard about your defeat in the House earlier today. Obviously that is what drove to you to order this very potent tequila.”
The President responded, “That’s the least of my concerns. The House vote suggests that Rupert Murdoch finally got to the Genie, who cancelled my unlimited funds capabilities. But that’s just a political problem, which a sharp politician can handle.”
“I’m drinking tequila because I can’t figure out how to explain the ostrich to Michelle, and Bill Clinton has been absolutely no help at all.”
© 2011 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense (Well sorta, some of this is in the public domain).
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Post No. 186: Why We’re So Anxious in America, Debate the Role of Government, and Ministers Suggest God’s Pissed
© 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
There are two things we do religiously, neither of which has anything to do with religion.
First, we watch Turner Classic Movies daily. By doing so, particularly those out of the 1920s through the 1950s, we re-visit many societal issues. (And you thought we were simply entertaining ourselves.)
Second, we read two books simultaneously. One is invariably a school textbook, circa 1960s or 1970s, and the other is a book which students were forced to read, and which might be termed classics from other eras, such as Don Quixote, Death of a Salesman, Wuthering Heights, Bulfinch’s Mythology, etc.
By engaging in these exercises, we’ve come to appreciate the meaning of the phrase, “The more things change, the more things stay the same.”
The textbook we've been reading here recently is Technology in Western Civilization. What we’ve taken away from our re-reading of this book is that the most powerful forces in society affecting individuals are forces over which individual citizens have the least control. Individuals respond to movements and do the best they can to survive.
The movie which caught our attention featured Barbara Stanwyck as a mail order bride. (Imagine that!) In The Purchase Price (1932), Stanwyck is on the run from her mobster boyfriend. She heads to North Dakota during the Depression to marry a struggling farmer. Months later, she visits a neighbor’s home to lend a helping hand, only to find the woman on the floor with a new born baby. Stanwyck takes charge of the situation.
The next couple of minutes dazzled us. Our former big city girl unleashes an arsenal of survival skills, and sets about wrapping up the delivery, cooking, sewing, milking, repairing, hammering, and doing anything necessary, followed by trekking home in a blinding snowstorm.
And then it hit us - why we’re so anxious, debate the role of government, and ministers daily suggest that we’ve pissed God off.
Except for our families, and perhaps fellow parishioners, we’re pretty much out here all alone. We don’t mean to suggest that government should do anything for its citizens other than defend our borders, and provide police, and maybe fire services. However, after reading Technology, we have a better appreciation of how government stepped in to assist people, long before the New Deal, after throngs left (by choice?), their rural, agrarian roots for major industrial cities during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Few of us can do the things that Barbara did. Instead, we “want to be like Mike.” We’ve reached a point where most of us are totally dependent on cash revenue from some source to pay others to do things for us. Also, we’re generally not that talented in basic survival skills (like sucking rattlesnake venom out of a wound), although we might be great computer people, electricians, ad execs, doctors, or truck drivers.
We all get compensated with cash for our services. According to Technology, currency was one of the great inventions of humankind. But it came with a price.
What we came to realize by the end of the movie is that we are far less capable, at least as individuals, of helping one another because we are not sure whether we can help ourselves. We’ve become dependent on employers, customers, clients, or worse yet, the government. Very few voluntarily chose the route of the 47%.
King Kong ain’t got nothin' on insecurity.
A half-way decent job in a manufacturing plant, enabling one to take care of one’s self and one’s family (and develop a little self-esteem along the way), was a big deal at one time. And then they shipped trinket making to cheaper real estate, and warned us [via Toffler’s Future Shock (1970), and The Third Wave (1980)] that we were transitioning to a service economy. But the provision of services and the assembly of information don’t amount to much if no one is willing to pay for those services.
As a wise man once said, “Something only has as much value as someone is willing to pay.” And connecting what one has to offer with someone willing to pay became far more difficult in the global economic expansion.
There’s little question that we are anxious, and even some are angry. And that debate about the extent government should be involved in our lives is a legitimate one, because there aren’t any other obvious options. And while it is true that families aren’t as large, connected, and based in the same field as they used to be, it’s not God doing it to us because he’s pissed off.
We’re doing it to ourselves. And only we individual citizens have the solutions.
And that’s only common sense.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
© 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
According to some, those of us who are Baby Boomers are far better "educated" and "more sophisticated" than our parents. However, our parents have or had far more "sumpthin’." To this day, the 92 yr old Father of one of our Fellows speaks of the importance of understanding the "times," and "timing," concepts which are lost on today’s politicians, who reduce everything to a direct, cause and effect formula.
When the Logistician was with us, he used to tell of his days handling medical products litigation where people died in hospitals or ended up as vegetables. What always fascinated him was that there was rarely just one thing that went wrong. It was more likely that 9 or 10 things went astray at the same time.
All muck-ups in life (and those of complex, dynamic organizations) are attributable to a "confluence of events or factors." The same applies to all successes. Milan Kundera, in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, refers to it as "serendipity."
Earlier today, while surfing the Twittersphere, we encountered a lady who complained about the failure of some to “follow the Constitution.” She noted that if they kept a copy in their pockets, they might do a better job of serving US interests. She kept referring to how “clear” things are in the Constitution.
Why, if they are so clear, do people continue to disagree about them? Why, if things are so clear, and attributable to one cause, can’t we as a society simply pull the magic lever and solve our problems? Are we merely arguing over who gets to pull the lever, or when? Or how?
Today, every domestic airline is accused of mismanagement. But not long ago, Pan American Airlines stood alone. Within a relatively short period of time, they bought a bunch of 747s, purchased a major piece of real estate to diversify, and the price of jet fuel went up dramatically. All 3 factors ultimately contributed to its demise. Add a 4th, the terrorist attack on Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland (which talking heads today would claim they should have foreseen), and you had a recipe for failure. Yep, sounds like mismanagement to us.
What is most troubling about the current political discourse is that our politicians choose, or are forced to explain in simplistic, one dimension terms, or address using simplistic, one dimension approaches, incredibly complex, global systems. Our ability to solve the complex problems of the future will only be hampered through this discourse.
That having been said, are we capable of identifying one umbrella under which we can place the majority of factors leading to our current status? We suspect the Greedy and Lazy umbrella will do just fine, as reflected in our Pigs Get Fat; Hogs Get Slaughtered piece.
We can't help but think that growing up during the Depression, the Dust Bowl, and WWII prepared parents of Baby Boomers to be more self-disciplined.
They, for the most part, were and are financially risk-adverse. No credit default swap derivatives for them. Our 92 yr old will use one paper napkin over and over, wrinkled to the point of non-recognition – to save a few pennies. Another friend’s Mother, a Holocaust survivor, stealthily dilutes all liquid soaps and detergents when she visits, claiming the products are too concentrated, and thus wasteful.
We Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are anything but risk-adverse, and in lots of ways, that’s been a good thing. We lived through a period of incredible, economic growth and dramatic expansion of the Middle Class. However, as Irving Kristol once noted, in the realm of human affairs there are no benefits without costs.
Brian Tracy has a new book out, The Power of Discipline. In it, he has a quote from Harry E. Fosdick, "No steam or gas drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is funneled. No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated and disciplined." The principles are also applicable to individual citizens. We simply got too comfortable, and took our eyes off the big picture.
We do not blame our political leadership in this country for our current state of affairs. We blame the individual citizens for doing it to ourselves. Where we find fault with our elected leaders might be summed up as follows. For political expediency, they want us to believe that the problems are fairly recent, and then suggest that they can be solved by employing one or two simple tactics.
That’s just horse-manure, and all of us know it. Even more troubling is that so many of us bought that snake-oil dogma, and then re-tweeted them. It’s time for us to take personal responsibility for The Disuniting of America.
Here’s hoping that the “better educated” and “more sophisticated” college students, to whom we direct our messages, will not make the same mistakes, and will be far less gullible and irresponsible.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
© 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Believe it or not, we actually drafted this piece before NBC’s Bob Costa had to do a spin move following his comments about our “freedom to bear arms,” following the murder-suicide by the professional football linebacker last weekend.
We do not really feel that freedom of the press should be eliminated. (Well, at least not this week.) We were simply trying to get your attention.
However, you have to admit that many, patriots and non-patriots alike, are concerned about these 3 things involving the news media: (a) the accuracy of reporting; (b) the role played by corporations which have a primary responsibility to shareholders to generate maximum profits; and (c) whether it is truly fair and balanced.
My News Station is Red Hot; Your News Station Ain’t Doodly Squat, addressed 28 of the 475 concerns Americans have about reporting the news.
Several Fellows, including the Laughingman and the Logistician, consider Sgt. Joe Friday of Dragnet to be their role model. They want, “Just the facts, ma’am,” with no subjective twists, turns, spins, or embellishment. The Optimizer and the Inspector argue, on the other hand, that we have families to feed, and that no honest, self-respecting, red-blooded American values truth in the news, but rather wants to confirm their worldview.
Despite our differences, all of us respect individuals who exhibit clarity of thought during difficult times. We’ve seen 2 examples recently, both reported by the Mainstream Media. However, not enough attention has been paid to the facts as interpreted by folks close to the events.
That two parents of slain African-American minors, within weeks after their deaths, had the clarity of mind to make the comments we cite below is powerful, and provides some measure of hope for the future of race relations in this country.
Before addressing their comments, a few other thoughts about how we listen to or read information. Prior to his departure, the Logistician forced us to, frequently at knife point, watch the broadcast of the BBC World News, and prior to 2003, read the International Herald Tribune. He claimed that only by following a media outlet outside of the U.S. could we get an accurate appreciation of what is going on here.
The View is fortunate to have followers from around the globe, including some from Austria, Canada, England, Germany, Greece, and Italy, most of whom worked in the US at some point.
Over the weekend one of our British followers, Sobriquet, in response to our post, Why Dumping on BP is a Bunch of BS, wrote of how it appeared to Brits that the American media coverage of the Gulf spill emphasized that it was a British company primarily at fault, with little attention focused on complicit American players.
Back to the deaths in Florida, the first is the case of George Zimmerman, who shot an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, in February. The second shooting death involved teenager Jordan Davis, shot by Michael Dunn after words were exchanged between Dunn and Davis and several teenage friends, regarding the volume of their music.
In the Martin case, while many of the race-baiters and talking heads had so much to say about everything in the Universe and its contents, Martin’s Mother, Sybrina Fuller, said something so pure (and lacking in invective) that most of us missed it. She said that in her heart, she felt that Mr. Zimmerman simply made a mistake and harbored no malice toward her son.
In the Dunn case, the Father of the slain teen earlier this week said that there was nothing which he had seen or heard to suggest that it was racially motivated. In his opinion, Mr. Davis was overtaken by anger, and had a gun readily accessible. He plans to maintain this position until facts motivate him to think otherwise.
This is powerful stuff, coming from the parents of children who predeceased them. We should all strive to be so objective and philosophical under such circumstances. According to The Logistician speculation and unfounded statements, are inherently malicious (and dishonest, even if later shown to be accurate), and should be left to those who desire to perform some societal disservice.
Speculation, as to what is in the minds and hearts of other people or what motivated them to engage in aberrant behavior, is something which, like Trayvon’s Mother and Jordan’s Father, we should keep to ourselves if we think it.
One reason we like to engage college students, is that we find them to be not as ideologically rigid, and thus more tolerant of the views of others. Such an attitude leads to creativity, innovation and new ideas. It’s just common sense that once one party attacks others, certain parties take on a defensive posture, and the exchange of ideas and the search for the truth take the route of the hibernating bear. Our hats are off to the parents of Trayvon and Jordan.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The following is taken from an article in the August 13 and 20, 2012 issue of Newsweek Magazine. It was written by Susan Cheever.
"American aristocrats were raised to ski hard and tie a mean Royal Coachman, but they were also often raised in a tradition of service - noblesse oblige it was called - that led them to give away lots of their money and to behave in ways that helped those who had less. John D. Rockefeller famously spent more time at the end of his life giving away money than earning it. It wasn't because he was so rich. At the beginning of his life, he gave away 10 percent of the $200 a year he earned as an Ohio bookkeeper's assistant."
To read the entire article, click here.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
© 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
In response to our post-election piece, Douglas commented about public perception of sitting presidents. He pointed to instances where “the media” did not treat past presidents as kindly as Obama following storm-related disasters.
While he did not actually attack the media or indicate which media outlet he preferred, we recalled that some have complained about bias in news reporting.
A few days ago, we watched Network on TCM. When released in 1976, some questioned the role of corporations in the reporting of news. A week before, TCM aired Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd, with an Andy Griffith so far removed from Mayberry, it will make you gasp. The 1957 masterpiece foresaw the growing influence of TV.
In response to Douglas we noted:
1) "The media" at the times referenced (1992, 2005, and 2012) was different due to the state of technology and the number of outlets;
2) Although "the media" has always consisted of citizens, the role of lay citizens is more pronounced than in the past when we essentially had "professional" journalists;
3) We used to think of "news" as distinct from "entertainment." That line (if ever it existed, Charlie Brown) is blurrier than ever. We have more entertainment types weighing in today, be they Eva Longoria, Chuck Norris, Al Sharpton, Rush Limbaugh, or Eevva Longorrrria;
4) There are intangibles which people feel about others, especially when bombarded with images (in this case Presidents), but can't quite, or choose not to, articulate. Bill Cosby could give money for school kids, and most would say it was a gracious gift. Oprah Winfrey could do the same, and many would swear it was a tax deduction motivated gesture;
5) Everything is about timing and context. The social, political, economic, and technological situations 6-12 months prior to each reference date should be factored into how people perceived the respective presidents;
6) We strongly suspect the vast majority of Americans visit the "media outlets" which smell the best to them, and remind them of their more idyllic youth. Douglas often reminds us that everyone has a bias. Although some work hard to reduce it, others let it all hang out. At this point in our information evolution, people legitimately do not know who or what to objectively believe, and so they believe what they want to believe;
7) We have become a nation which dissects the hourly conduct of our presidents, including trips to the bidet. Imagine watching a basketball game where the coach is rated each time a flush is made, instead of waiting until the end of the game, or the end of the season. Plus, every interest group has 27 different factors by which they evaluate the president.
Had Romney won, within 18 months folks would have been calling for his head for his failure to provide quick enough assistance to Hurricane Sandy states and revive our sluggish economy. What’s frightening is that the same folks will criticize Obama 18 months from now.
We're on an exponential path of increasingly unreasonable expectations (substantially due to communications technology). No elected president will ever be able to truly satisfy 50% of the citizens again, UNTIL (a) the global economy comes roaring back and the benefits trickle down to the common citizen (something over which the president has little control), or (b) there is a war of major consequence. That president will ride that wave of prosperity, or wave of patriotism, for which a cause and effect relationship cannot be honestly established.
Since the beginning, engineers, scientists, inventors, and new thinkers have spurred new technology. It is technology that drives prosperity. The use of that technology drives industry, and trade and industry create jobs and drive tax revenues. When all is humming, an economy is strong enough to keep enough people employed, and fewer folks bitching about basics. The have-not voices are drowned out, or there are enough crumbs for the haves to toss to convert their screams to mumbles.
8) That's what this last election should have been about: how to ignite an explosion of creativity, inventiveness, and innovation. The reality is that government action, or inaction, may encourage but does not drive that.
So here’s the deal, college students. Too many Baby Boomers (Institute Fellows included) abdicated our responsibilities and became fat and complacent as the size of the prosperous middle class grew. We developed an unrealistic expectation that things would always get better and America would continue to be No.1, without a sufficient number of us putting in the effort required to stay No. 1. (What the muck made us think the children of each succeeding generation would live better lives than their parents? Hope?)
With each passing year, we expect more of our elected officials (who are not in a position to deliver) and for government to do “something,” more or less. It’s neither the fault of government, nor our elected leaders.
It is the logical result of human societal evolution once we started removing the food generation burden from individuals, and figured out that a few could generate excess food permitting most the “luxury” to pursue other pursuits of choice. Once we created “jobs,” people became dependent on them, and on receiving currency from some source. Additionally, we failed to recognize the challenges presented by leisure time.
Only individual citizens can pull us out of this mess. We cannot rely on government or corporations (including those owning major media outlets) seeking less regulation and favorable tax treatment. They are the last folks to whom we should be listening, no matter what the nature of the message.
Neither my, nor your, news station is red hot; both of our stations are doodly squat.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
© 2010 and 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
We recently contacted the Logistician (an Institute Fellow), still on sabbatical in Brazil, just to check up on him. We asked him what he considered to be the most significant difference between Brazil and the United States.
“There is almost a total lack of fear here," he said. "The folks will do virtually anything and engage virtually anyone.”
Interestingly, we have been thinking a lot about the concept of fear over the past few months, with all of the yelling and screaming going on about where this country is headed. We’ve come to recognize it as a very powerful and potentially destructive force.
Prior to moving to the East Coast, the Institute was based in Los Angeles, just a few blocks from UCLA. During the late 1980’s, a dramatic shift, in the ethnic make-up of the student body at UCLA, began to take place.
The number of first generation immigrant students, whose education was financed by parents in another part of the world, began to grow. It was not unusual to see them walking down the streets of Westwood wearing facial masks to deal with the air pollution and whatever other airborne “diseases.”
They walked in groups of 4, 5, or 6. On occasion, upon encountering a native-born American, the group members would shift 3 or 4 feet off the sidewalk, and turn their heads 90° as if to avoid being contaminated by the approaching figure.
When we first encountered this, we were puzzled, particularly since many cities in their native countries were far more densely populated, with lots of pushing and shoving and bodies touching. Thus, we wondered about the basis for the reaction.
We also knew plenty of native born American citizens of the same ethnic origin, who did not behave similarly, and who were truly integrated and engaged members of California society.
We entertained the possibility that it was fear of strangers and the unknown, and we became concerned, since a fear of any group of people, concept, or person results in a lack of engagement.
Many are familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins. According to Wikipedia, they constitute “…a classification of the most objectionable vices that has been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning (immoral) fallen humanity’s tendency to sin." The final version of the list consists of wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
Although we here at the Institute do not claim to be learned theologians, or duly appointed disciples of Jesus, there is an argument to be made that fear, particularly the fear of engagement, should be added as the eighth deadly sin.
(Arguably, if one really has faith in God, follows the dictates of his or her religion, and legitimately considers oneself a child of God, then one should not fear anything or anyone but God.)
Tangentially, a failure to engage stemming from fear, can also lead to a failure to understand, which can lead to anger – one of the more unproductive activities in which one can engage, about which we previously expressed our thoughts.
In the view of the Logistician, there is a pragmatic, socio-technological reason to eliminate fear of others, leading to engagement – a society efficiently and effectively gets the best out of the highest proportion of its people.
The Roman Empire contributed significantly to the development of western civilization, which some consider to be the greatest contributor to humankind thus far. Through its assembly (admittedly by force in many instances) and assimilation of divergent cultures, the cross-cultural benefits were exponential in nature.
When those using a particular type of plow used in Country X, engaged those from Country Y, and then those from Country Z, the resultant plow was better at performing the task of tilling the soil, than any of the previous individual plows.
When the Institute moved to the southeast region of the country, the influences of the traditional Caucasian and African-American cultures were observable and palpable. However, the people in the region almost seemed to be in denial about the rapidly increasing Hispanic and Asian communities.
To constructively deny the existence, through lack of engagement, of a significant segment of your community, is a waste of human resources, and a missed opportunity.
And what does this have to do with Personal Responsibility about which we harp so frequently?
It seems to us that if one considers oneself to be a positive, upstanding, responsible contributor to the community, and a citizen of God’s Universe, (regardless of what Stephen Hawking might say), then part of Personal Responsibility requires us to affirmatively engage those who we do not know, do not understand, and those with whom we have philosophical, cultural, ethnic, social, and other differences.
It just seems like the responsible thing to do….
[Editorial Note: We obviously used some "artistic license" in referring to Henry David Thoreau.]
Friday, November 16, 2012
Earlier this morning, news media outlets reported that BP (aka British Petroleum) has agreed to massive fines in connection with its April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion. The resultant oil spill had a dramatic effect on those areas surrounding the Gulf of Mexico. We generated this article shortly after the accident. Criminal charges are still being pursued against various individuals associated with the human, economic, and environmental damages flowing from the incident.
© 2010 and 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Yesterday, C-Span aired Tuesday’s Senate hearings in connection with the Gulf of Mexico oil “spill,” which is still spilling.
It was interesting to watch the corporate representatives, including the CEO of BP America, perform mental and legal gymnastics in responding to the questions. The world watched as Senators, on both sides of the aisle, posed questions reflecting their incredulousness that this “disaster” even occurred.
While we were impressed with the tap dancing on the part of the spokespeople, we were more impressed with the political savvy of the Senators. President Obama was justifiably incensed at the multi-lateral finger pointing going on, but, we submit, for all the wrong reasons.
We’re willing to bet, and even invest some money in the derivative ultimately crafted, that in the years to come (be it 10, 50, or 100), (1) “accidents” of this type will continue to occur, (2) the companies involved will be no more prepared to deal with them and their consequences, and (3) Senators investigating future accidents will continue to fake their incredulousness that such “accidents” still occur.
Many things in life have less to do with people or the humans who happen to exist at any given point in time, and more to do with the structure or organization within which they function.
We here in America, for a variety of psychological, historical, legal, and systemic reasons, have a “perverted” sense of “corporate responsibility.”
First of all there really is no such thing as “corporate responsibility.” In America, if a corporation screws up, it’s generally going to pay. Being a responsible corporation or a good corporate citizen is only pursued to enhance the bottom line. The consequences of the screw-up are generally based on the particular screw up, and even punitive damages can’t be avoided by a “good corporation.”
Second, those Senators asking questions are pretty savvy. They are well aware that a corporation is a legal fiction. They also know (although you might have difficulty believing it considering the way they run the government) that in conducting business, the goal of that entity is to generate profits in order to stay afloat.
Third, and most important, every corporate decision is made in an effort to maximize profits, and is theoretically an educated and calculated guess. However, the reality is that some of the guesses are going to be wrong. Corporate management knows, and the Senators should know, this dirty little secret.
The rest of society apparently does not.
And so we dump on corporations when there is a screw-up, accuse them of mismanagement and devious, under-handed activity, and then slap our jaws and drop our mouths with our eyes all bugged (like the kid on Home Alone), when the 27th screw-up occurs.
A corporate entity does not have a mind or a conscience similar to that of a human.
Repeat: A corporate entity does not have a mind or a conscience similar to that of a human.
Even though humans run corporations, corporations are separate and apart from humans, somewhere between a human and an inanimate object.
Whereas a human will occasionally make a judgment call against his or her personal interests in pursuit of other goals (like unprotected sex with a stranger), rarely will a corporate entity do so because it is not really its money. It's not even the money of the folks managing the company, at least in the case of a publicly traded corporation.
It is the money and interests of others, the shareholders, which are at risk, not that of the decision makers.
It makes for a unique dynamic.
As a result, fines, penalties, and lawsuits (which are quantifiable and really only about money, not lives) have to be figured into the economic mix as necessary evils.
An entity may try to minimize them, or even delay them if possible, but they know that they are always just around the corner. Corporate management recognizes this for what it is.
They keep this in mind when they're engaged, and then walk away from it and try to live a human life.
Speeches, press conferences, hearings, investigations, fines, and lawsuits, are all perversions designed to distract us from really getting to the root of the matter. Talk about irresponsibility.
If you really want to know what’s going on, talk to the bean counters. It’s all about probabilities and risk management. It’s not about humans, wild life, or the environment.
It’s about time that we recognize that, and then get on with the business of trying to reduce, not eliminate, such “accidents” from happening in the future.
Corporations are not human. They can't be. It's an inherent conflict of interest.
If they don’t make enough in the way of profits, they will not have any put away for a rainy day, or be able to respond to the fickle changes in consumer tastes.
And as they pass through St. Peter’s bankruptcy gates, we’ll accuse them of mismanagement and sleeping at the switch.
And that ain’t no BS.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Post No. 182a: Adults Flying with Minor Children Should Put On Their Masks First - Something for Embattled Public Figures to Consider
During the course of the 4-1/2 years that we have maintained this blog, numerous public figures have found themselves in trouble for one reason or another. If what we have to say in our posts even remotely comes close to being common sense, and legitimately assists in formulating some standard of personal responsibility for our target audience of college students to consider, there ought to be consistent application of the principles discussed over time. Whatever we have to say should not apply to just some, and not others, to Republicans, and not Democrats, to women, and not men, and ....
This week, it is Gen. David Petraeus. Before the week is over, it may be others. Although this post was originally written with elected officials in mind, we believe that the discussion is also applicable to any prominent public figure in government.
© 2009, 2011, and 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
During recent weeks, the court of public opinion questioned the judgment of numerous prominent individuals.
In the case of several politicians, the talking heads debated whether they should resign. Most recently, many have taken a bite at Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from New York. Weiner claims that instead of resigning, he will take a leave of absence.
We asked ourselves whether there is a principle potentially applicable to all such cases when the resignation issue arises.
Some urged resignation, others “staying the course.” Some characterized it as a “personal decision,” and still others said it should be left to the voters.
Pundits will debate for years whether Bill Clinton should have resigned before commencement of impeachment proceedings, and the long-term ramifications of his decision not to do so.
Alaska’s Gov. Palin resigned before anyone suggested that she do so, and she still caught flak for that. Nevada Sen. John Ensign hung on for the ride, and only recently announced that he would not seek re-election.
In each instance, many spoke of the judgment of the politicians involved (before and after the revelations of their questioned conduct), and whether their actions bear, in any way, on their ability to make “good judgments” while in office and on behalf of those who placed faith and trust in them.
In the recent cases of Nevada Sen. John Ensign, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Gov. Sarah Palin, and now Rep. Weiner, we listened to all of the views, and still did not have a concrete position. We debated the gravity of the conduct, whether the person still had something to offer to society, and whether his or her constituency might actually be the loser should they resign.
We thought about how society defines “judgment,” or more appropriately perhaps, “good judgment.” Whether it is situational and transient in nature, or permanent, and black and white.
A couple of years ago, a friend sent us the following, purportedly a question used as part of a job application, which made us think further about “judgment:”
“You’re driving down a winding, rain-slicked road on a dangerous, stormy night. You pass a bus stop where 3 people are waiting for the bus. One is an elderly woman who appears to be very ill. The 2nd is someone you recognize as a friend who once saved your life. The 3rd is someone who you, in hindsight, recognize you should have married years before. (They later revealed that given the opportunity, they would now be open to your entreaties.)”
“You have room in your sports car for only one other person. Which one would you offer a ride?”
Before sharing the answer of the successful applicant, we have another short story which might bear on whether politicians should resign after embarrassing conduct, which calls into question their judgment.
A regular reader found herself in dire straits a couple of years ago. Most of her life, she had the very best of everything: food, wine, education, exposure, homes, travel, and friends. However, during the last several years she found herself estranged from her family and struggling to make ends meet.
During an exchange at the time, she confided that she was initially confused as to what she should do in terms of her relationship with her minor son, and then she offered this:
“I’ve been flying in private planes since the age of 7. In thinking about my predicament, I recalled something said at the beginning of every flight. ‘Adults flying with minor children should put on their oxygen masks first, before trying to assist their children.’ I realized that I had to get my personal act together first before being able to assist, or be involved with, anyone else.”
It seemed like such a simple concept, and Common Sense. The more we thought about it, the more applicable it seemed to disgraced elected officials in the court of public opinion. At least it is something they should consider.
Back to our job applicant, you could justifiably pick up the elderly lady since her condition is the most precarious. Or you could pay back the friend who saved your life. Or you could pick up your mate and live happily ever after.
Our friend claims that the successful candidate, out of 200 who applied, indicated that you should give the car keys to the old friend and let him or her take the sick woman to the hospital, while you sit with the love of your life awaiting the bus.
One of the Senior Fellows here at the Institute suggested the driver run over the elderly woman, put her out of her misery, fulfill any unrequited desires with the love of your life, and then drive off with the friend who saved your life for some strawberry margaritas at Pancho’s on the Strand.
We haven’t advanced the discussion of what constitutes “good judgment,” have we? Hmmm, we imagine that it is open to debate.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
© 2012, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
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.
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