Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Post No. 189: Some Observations of, and Life Lessons Gleaned from, the 2014 Super Bowl


© 2014, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Now that we’ve had some time to think about it, we’ve concluded:

1. Pundits, experts, and talking heads don’t know jack about jack;

2. Humans really are unpredictable;

3. Organizations consisting of humans are pretty unpredictable, too;

4. The weather and most things associated with Mother Nature might as well be considered unpredictable;

5. Gambling on any anticipated human behavior is stupid, but then again there’s marriage;

6. The Denver Broncos Football Team is a relatively small, government-owned and operated collection of individuals, with only 53 players, a host of highly paid coaches, and a pretty decent front office, and still could not pull off its goal within the time allotted;

7. The Seattle Seahawks Football Team is a relatively small, private enterprise . free market entity composed of individuals, with only 53 players, a host of highly paid coaches, and a pretty decent front office, and managed to pull off its goal this time, but it should be kept in mind that success is frequently transient and episodic;

8. At least players, contrary to politicians, pundits, experts, and talking heads, put their bodies and their health on the line in connection with their claims and goals;

9. Although virtually everyone who gambled on the game thought it through and perhaps legitimately thought they picked the right team and the correct spread, probably more people lost money on the game than got it right;

10. The joke about Seattle beating a dead horse was tired and old before Monday rolled around;

11. We suspect that the vast majority of people actually attending the game on Sunday had some degree of difficulty finding their parked cars after the game;

12. Almost every player on each team, with a couple of exceptions, know that running into another man at full force may result in a concussion, and in an ordinary lawsuit this knowledge would constitute either assumption of risk or contributory negligence on the part of the player, and thus deny his [or her?] claim for compensation;

13. Pete Carroll was not solely responsible for his team’s performance on Sunday;

14. There is no question in our minds that Peyton Manning was solely responsible for his team’s performance on Sunday;

15. If you want to lend legitimate support to someone, some group, or some cause you support, get in your car, or catch a plane, and be there with your slickers when the crap’s flying;

16. Once the game is over, any underlying motivations, biases, or agendas that the pundits, experts, and talking heads had before the game pretty much don’t matter, because no one cares;

17. Life and management of humans are complicated and you never know what is going to happen, much less the reason;

18. Many events in the Universe are serendipitous, when one stops to consider all of the dynamic forces in operation at any given point in time, and no one, single cause and effect factor can be singled out as being responsible for failure or success;

19. As the Logistician’s 93 yr old Father always says, “Timing is everything;”

20. If the NFL were regulated and subject to governmental intervention like most businesses, there would never be a Super Bowl Champion;

21. Lest we forget, there is a notion which many characterize as "unintended consequences," and which some contend even rises to the level of a "law;" and

21. The typical sitting President, including those who many characterize as a moron, is not solely responsible for jack, and politicians are the last folks to sit in judgment about anything, and particularly unqualified in talking about taking responsibility for one’s actions.

We'll leave the other 10 points to David Letterman.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Post No. 188f: The Anticipation (Or Perhaps Lack Thereof)



We first generated this piece in January 2011, just minutes before President Obama delivered his State of the Union Speech at that time. Upon reviewing it earlier today, we concluded that not much has changed. What do you think?

© 2011 and 2014, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

It is now 7:59 pm EST, as we begin to type this piece. President Obama delivers his State of the Union message in just 61 minutes, and it is our intention to have this article posted long before the broadcast begins.

In addition, Turner Classic Movies will air, at 8:00 pm EST, what some consider the best Laurel & Hardy movie ever made, Sons of the Desert.

Suffice it to say that we are ”under the gun.” But not nearly as much as our President, following what many have termed the shellacking he took during the mid-term elections. As he walks to the podium, he will be subject to intense scrutiny, and before the night is over, he might wish that he had walked across the Sahara under the glaring light of the equatorial sun.

This piece is not about how he will perform or be received, at least not in an objective sense, but rather how so many have already peeped into their crystal balls, and know how he will perform. For the past three days, the talking heads have told us what they expect of him this evening.

Part of the responsibility for this attitude can be laid at the foot of the President and his staff themselves. In preparation for the speech, the White House has leaked its intentions, put out press releases, and employed all manner of preemptive and public relations vehicles to gain the upper hand and capitalize on the moment.

His detractors have exerted an equal, if not greater, amount of energy preparing to do the Tonya Harding, and test his knee caps with their version of Obamacare, a lead pipe.

As ridiculous as it may seem, somehow we yearn for an era (if ever one existed), where all of us wait in anticipation to listen to what our President has to say, hoping that it will somehow inspire us, and lift us out of our doldrums.

In a recent documentary on Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, and the final days of the Civil War, a noted historian quipped, “One of the great ironies about American democracy is that we claim that control is within the power of the people, and yet we yearn for a savior to deliver us from our problems.

[Those of you reading this before the President’s speech might switch over to the Laurel & Hardy movie right now. It’s a beauty.]

A couple of posts ago, in Where Our Heads Take Us, we spoke of pre-conceived ideas and their power. At the end of the evening, we strongly suspect that the Democrats will give the President an “A,” and the Republicans will provide a grade of C-, noting that the President is a gifted orator, although he is wedded to the teleprompter.

And that can’t be good.

For any of us, and definitely not for the Nation.

And so we must confess that we are guilty of having pre-conceived notions also, because we anticipate that nothing will change, and the politicians will all return to business as usual, and all the talk about the potential for a change in tone in Washington following the Arizona shootings will be for naught.

Is that sad? Yes, especially because we consider ourselves to be idealistic optimists. We are also pragmatists.

But there’s hope out there even amongst some of our most cynical followers. Take for example Douglas, who has been with us from the very beginning. In response to our last post, Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, he commented:

“I would argue that each of us, if we are concerned about violent speech, not engage in it. Who knows? It might catch on.”

Douglas is also the guy who from experience told us that when he decided to not argue with his wife and agree with her, it didn’t work, and she continued to argue.

We’ve often told friends of the Institute that this experience (operating this blog) has been simultaneously one of the most rewarding during our lifetimes (in that we have learned so much about how others think), and one of the most frustrating (wondering whether they read the same article that we wrote).

S___ has to got to get better than this. It just has to….

Monday, January 20, 2014

Post No. 188e: What Would Dr. King Say?


© 2011, 2013, and 2014, 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 really be 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 make 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, December 23, 2013

Post No. 188d: Duck Dynasty This; Unfortunate AIDS Tweet That; My Oh My, What Shall We Do?


In theory, if thoughts we share in our articles truly constitute Common Sense, then the approaches recommended should be able to stand the test of time, and be applicable to new fact situations as they arise.

Earlier this month, the patriarch of A & E's "Duck Dynasty" family took some heat for some comments he made during a Gentlemen's Quarterly interview. Some viewed the comments as insensitive to gays and minorities, even though they were purportedly religiously based. Not too long thereafter, a PR executive tweeted a comment which some felt was insensitive to the plight of Africans suffering from AIDS.

In both instances, controversy erupted about how society (and employers and sponsors) should respond to such comments. In June of 2008, we posted the following article, which we continue to believe applicable to comments of such embattled individuals.



© 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We are all aware of the numerous instances, during the past year, where prominent individuals were severely criticized for comments that some termed “offensive,” or “inappropriate.” One of the most widely covered was the comment by Don Imus regarding the predominantly black female basketball team which won the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship.

Ironically, in that instance, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who typically argues that there are numerous ways to view situations, recommended one of the harshest forms of response, thus suggesting that there was only one “right thing to do.”

Many commentators suggested various responses to deal with the offending speakers, essentially saying that we as a society need to make a statement and ensure that folks do not regularly engage in such speech.

The ladies in question were the essence of grace. They had, after all, just brought home a national basketball championship to an academic institution that invests precious little in sports championships of any sort. Their composure and compassion under attack shamed Shock Jock Imus into a rarely observed heart felt apology.

Most reasonable folks would agree that there was virtually no explanation, or justification, for his statement that would have made any sense to us.

Following the revelations about some old comments made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Rev. John Hagee, the talking heads had much to say about how the respective candidates should have responded.

However, no one suggested that their churches be “taken away.” It is our understanding that Wright is retired, and thus there is nothing to take away, and Hagee is far too integral to his church's existence to remove him from the church which he built.

However, following the mocking, by a Catholic priest, of candidate Clinton in Chicago recently, not only did the local Archbishop chastise the priest, but so did a representative of a group of Catholic women. She said, in essence, that the priest’s comments did not reflect the Catholic faith, did not reflect the Catholic Church, scandalized them, and that he should have his church taken away from him.

Ever since she reacted in that fashion, some of us thought of this issue in free speech, legalistic terms. Of course, our most senior Fellow, the Laughingman, brought us back to reality and provided instant clarity to the whole situation.

“The worst conceivable way to silence one with whom we disagree is to stop him from talking. By doing so, you create a martyr to his similarly warped followers, and take him off the radar screen of the rest of the public.

"Had we, as a society, a bit thicker skins, we would broadcast these lunacies far and wide, with an appropriate apology to the more sensitive among us, demonstrate a little Common Sense for our fellow man, and let the fringe element drown in the laughter and public ridicule generated by their own thinking or lack thereof.

"Along with the right to free speech comes the right to make a public fool of oneself; and like the naked, fools (in the long run) have little or no influence on society.”

Yesterday, we heard a news report regarding some Minnesota high school kids who took a Confederate flag to school. The kids were banned from their graduation exercises because of their conduct.

One of them, as he sat on the back of a pick up truck, said that he was about as far away from being a racist as one could get. However, they both said that they wanted to make a statement about independence, and the freedom of one to express oneself.

Appearing on CNN yesterday morning, we're sure that they now have a following consisting of hundreds of thousands of sympathizers. It probably would have been better to simply let them attend their graduation ceremonies, assuming that no further conduct was involved which might have lead to violence or some other disruptive behavior.

We considered entitling this article, “Ignoring People – A Novel Thought,” and then we recalled that as Americans, we always have to make sure that we punish folks with whom we disagree. It, unfortunately, is built into who we are as a people.

Perhaps once we learn to ignore those making statements which we consider offensive or inappropriate, they’ll flog themselves, and we as a public will find no need to punish them.

In the immortal words of the famous Forrest Gump: “Stupid is as stupid does.”

© 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Post No. 188c: Both Sides Equally Wrong on Most Issues



We originally generated this post in 2009, when we thought that the level of political discord in this country was at its peak. At that time, we gave some consideration to using the title which appears above, but instead chose, "It All Depends on the Price of Your Ticket on the Train." We seemingly have lost the ability as a country to appreciate the views of others. We thought that re-visiting some principles from the physical universe might be helpful in that regard.


© 2009 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

There’s a good and bad side to everything.

Including conduct and relationships.

(Are you aware the largest source of violence against women is not strangers, against whom one might use a gun, but from their “loved ones,” who they know?)

The Logistician is the only guy we know who takes dangerous vacations.

Like walking the back streets of Rio amid warnings of “the Mafioso.” Or scurrying from Caracas just before riots resulted in 300 deaths. Then there was cruising in the Adriatic when the U.S. bombed Libya.

Some brave, macho guy? No. (Stupid is more likely.)

His problem? Curiosity.

About any and every thing. And open to all points of view.

He suspects that how one views the world, and what they value, depends on where they’ve been, what they know, and what they’re willing to experience.

As an engineer and a lawyer, he had to appreciate all sides of many issues. He had to find the facts, not just those which advanced his goals.

He learned that advocating a position, which was patently disingenuous or specious, detracted from the power of your advocacy, and made others question your motives, if not your professionalism.

Rightly or wrongly, he applied that principle to all things in the Universe, and thought that others did also.

But it now appears that we either live in a new environment, or the Logistician is just waking up to reality.

Many have figured out that drawing lines in the sand, making specious arguments, if not telling out right lies, and resisting the views of others, works. Especially while pushing emotional buttons.

For someone who learned to argue the merits of a position, and not their own belief system, this is proving to be a very troubling revelation.

Today it appears that if one does the Nikita, pounds the desk, speaks at a fever pitch, and exudes “passion,” one will attract attention. And perhaps even a lot of followers.

That may be good. May be bad.

We almost named this piece, “Both Sides Equally Wrong on Most Issues.”

Why? When Einstein was exploring “simultaneity,” or the simultaneous occurrence of events (and its relationship to relativity), he asked, “How do we know two events are simultaneous?”

He provided this mental example. Lightning strikes to one’s left, and a separate strike occurs the same distance to the right. To the person standing in the middle, the light from both strikes will be perceived as reaching the person at the same time.

The observer will consequently view the events as “simultaneous.”

Next, imagine a very, very fast moving train. Lighting strikes the front, and a separate strike hits the back, when an observer, standing beside the track, is in the middle of the span of the train.

Again, the observer would consider these “simultaneous.”

Then Einstein threw us a curve ball.

He asked us to imagine a woman sitting on the train, in the middle passenger car, when lightning strikes both the front and rear of the train.

From her perspective, they would no longer be simultaneous events. Moving in the direction of the front end of the train, she would perceive two, separate, and distinct strikes.

And so we thought, how we view the world, and the positions of others, depends on where we sit on the train.

When it comes to considering the behavior of others, or formulating solutions to problems, we should recognize that others are located in different cars.

And that their perceptions are equally valid.

Bill Bernbach, founder of Doyle Dane Bernbach and Father of the last meaningful creative revolution, famously kept a scrap of paper in his wallet. Upon reaching an impasse with clients about his radical approach to advertising, he would pull it out.

On same Bill had reminded himself that, “Perhaps he’s right.”

As we speed toward that stalled R.V. straddling the track down the road, we need the input and contributions of all observers, not just those in any one car.

Like Mr. Bernbach, we need to put ideology aside in favor of pragmatism, when the logical outcome of inter-railroad employee fighting and a bad decision might be a massive train wreck.

Rigid adherence to one’s position may work on a personal level.

However, it significantly complicates collaboration, and has the potential to distract us from reaching common goals to our collective benefit.

After our original post, we followed up with another post on the same subject of civil discourse or its possible absence. It was entitled, It's More Than Just the Difference in the Price of Your Ticket on the Train.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Post No. 188b: BREAKING NEWS: Possible Government Shutdown is Taking Its Toll on Obama



Prior to making some possible progress on the foreign relations front in connection with Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, and the warming of relations with Iran, many Washington insiders suggested that the President stood to have destroyed the only arguable success during his presidency, namely his signature health care legislation.

Many welcomed the Tea Party-led threat to shut down the federal government, 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.

According to anonymous sources, despite the prospects for success in Syria and Iran, the President is showing the strain of the Obamacare fight, and that he has resorted to 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 the President.

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 a couple of years ago.” 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 a week of back and forth between the House and the Senate, 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 I be re-elected for a second term.

"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. For my fourth wish, I had to decide between ensuring that Obamacare passed and was ultimately funded, or a chick with long legs."

The bartender commiserating with the President, and in an effort to change the subject said, “I'm sure that your health care initiative will ultimately be funded. You need not resort to drowning yourself with this very potent tequila.”

“That’s the least of my concerns," the President responded. “I’m getting smashed 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, September 25, 2013

Post No. 188a: A Country Has to Know Its Limitations


In one of our earliest posts back in 2008, we examined some of the issues which might potentially arise should the federal government become further involved in the healthcare of its citizens. Since then, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed. Now that it is scheduled to take effect, it is back in the news for a variety of reasons. Although some of the original proposals in 2008 did not make their way into the legislation, we thought it worthwhile to revisit some of the points we made at that time.


© 2008 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

On November 30, 2008, shortly after Sen. Obama’s election, we asked our readers whether any governmental entity should have the responsibility to provide healthcare for its citizens.

We invited our readers to provide their views on the subject, prior to our putting forth an argument as to why no government entity should have that responsibility, except perhaps in the case of veterans, or those injured during the course of service for the nation. (Since that time, we have also considered the inclusion of children below a certain age, since they have very little role in making decisions about their health until they are much closer to adulthood.)

It led to a very lively and stimulating exchange. Even a cursory examination of the comments in connection with Post No. 68d reveals the diversity and passion of opinion regarding this subject.

Is it really the government's responsibility to ensure the good health of, and the provision of health care facilities and treatment to, its citizens? Why do so many citizens feel that it is something which the government, at some level, should provide? Is there a reasonable expectation on the part of the taxpayers that health care is a "service" due them by virtue of their current level of tax contribution?


What responsibility should be placed on the citizens themselves to make the "best efforts" to maintain their health, and utilize the very latest in scientific knowledge about health risks, particularly nutrition, and the detrimental consequences associated with certain behaviors? Should citizens be required to show that they engaged, or failed to engage, in certain behaviors, prior to being extended heath care benefits by the government?

We indicated that we would generate some thoughts after entertaining those of others. Here are five arguments which can be advanced to support the notion that we should not have a national healthcare system, or perhaps that America is not yet ready to have such a system.

1. All relationships are about expectations. An argument can be made that the American public has an unreasonable expectation about what it takes to manage and operate a large organization and its accompanying bureaucracy. Most interestingly, those who have never run a large organization seem to think that they have all the answers. The criticism of the various executives, associated with the Big Three American Automakers, suggests to us that we as a nation do not fully comprehend the complexities and difficulties associated with management of a large organization in an everchanging, global environment. We are apparently “qualified” to criticize others who do not achieve the results that we expect.

2. In contemplating a national healthcare system, it appears that most proponents suggest that it provide benefits to all of our nation’s citizens, namely 300 million people. We do not have the capability to manage anything involving 300 million people. We don’t do it with respect to the other “essentials” of civilized life, food, housing, clothing, or education, which are arguably more simplistic in nature, and which at least have components around which we can wrap our arms. What makes us think that we can do it with respect to arguably the most complex of issues, namely human health? To borrow a phrase from Dirty Harry, “A country has to know its limitations.”

3. We do not have anyone, or any board or committee for that matter, with the capabilities, sophistication, and experience to manage a 300 million recipient organization. Furthermore, as noted earlier, as an organization grows in size, its sense of “reality” changes to ensure the advancement of its interests and its continued survival. We’re setting ourselves up for failure and unnecessary criticism.

4. Any system delivering services to 300 million people will undoubtedly parcel out its services in unfair and inequitable ways during the course of the execution of its policies. It’s not like an engine with simple, mechanical, moving parts. Humans do not function in accordance with the rules of physics. They’re emotional, and they have minds of their own. No one has yet discovered how to manage emotion. At least in the military, they understand what needs to be done to craft humans into fungible, interchangeable units, for management purposes, and even they have difficulties.

5. What makes us think that we can devise a system to provide benefits or services to recipients who essentially do whatever they want or desire to do, from a health perspective, and then have an expectation that the system should address the negative ramifications flowing therefrom? It doesn’t make sense. What makes us believe that we can “herd cats,” each with their own goals, motivations, and selfish interests, and deliver some nebulous, unspecified level of service resulting in what we refer to as “good health?” As a general proposition, Americans are not “sufficiently motivated” to maintain a state of good health. We don’t want it badly enough. The only proven way to get humans to adhere to a policy or approach is to force/ prod them, or have them buy into it voluntarily.

Although some ambitious and very thoughtful suggestions were put forth in your comments, no one, who responded to our challenge about reforming the health care system, really explained how they planned to address the uncertainties and complexities associated with the human side of the equation, and each individual’s responsibility to the system.

As a practical matter, it can’t be done in America, at least not under our current political philosophy. Any attempt in that regard will be regarded as socialist, or even worse, communist, in nature. As we all saw during the most recent election, we can’t have that.


This is a country built on social Darwinism or survival of the fittest. If you happen to be one of the fittest and you survive, kudos to you. If you are one of the not so fit, we leave it you to fend on your own, perhaps with the gratuitous assistance of non-profits, the religious community, and the kindness of others. Many in our country feel that if we assist the not so fit, or guarantee certain things to the masses, we play into their weaknesses and thus become enabling agents.

This is neither a culture nor governance model which has as its goal the equal treatment of its citizens or the equality of the services or opportunities available to them. It is a culture that simply guarantees that each individual citizen has a chance to pursue whatever they might so desire. That has nothing to do with results.

We don’t guarantee results in America.

Simply put, a national healthcare system does not fit within our governance model, nor does it fit within our cultural philosophy. This is not to suggest that it should not, just that it does not. It’s just that it would require a significant paradigm shift in our way of thinking about our role as citizens.

Don’t you think?

© 2008 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Post No. 188: Why Everyone Seems to be So Disappointed in Our President



© 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

“It does not matter who my Father was; it matters who I remember he was.”
- Anne Sexton

The above Sexton quote appeared while navigating a Borders Book Store, along with an overwhelming desire to chat about “zeitgeist,” which Wikipedia defines as the “spirit of the age,” or the “spirit of the time.”

Last week was a difficult week for the former United States of America. We were confronted with a daunting, complex issue revolving around how we should respond to Syria’s purported use of chemical weapons. We had difficulty figuring out who are, and to some extent remembering who we were.

To compound the problem, many suggested that the Obama administration appeared confused, and lacked the ability to articulate a coordinated plan or vision, or even some real, concrete, identifiable interests to be served by our potential military foray.

But, in our humble view, as with many things in life, this is bigger than the man who occupies the office of the President. This is more about who we are as a people at this stage in our national evolution, how we view our past, and how we view our future.

It’s about zeitgeist.

What we really fear, truth be told, is that we might not be the nation that we thought we were. Long gone are the days of the concrete and tangible, and John Wayne kicking some real ass. Even a 12 year old knows that Iron Man rules through the magic of Hollywood computer graphics and animation technology.

We realize more and more that many things are not what they seem and that to some extent we have always lived in the land of illusion.

However, with rapidly advancing technological changes, the lens through which we view the world is more fluid and capable of capturing a far bigger picture, totally apart from the real-time information stream. Our open and obvious (yet behind the scenes) transfer of our economic might to a larger communist force, our collective response to 9/11, and The Great Recession have us feeling like we are spinning out of control.

We here at the Institute didn’t want this man to be President. In our view, he was the wrong man for the wrong times. However our position was not based on anything which had to do with the man himself, but rather everything about who we are.

Some months back we generated a post, Why We’re So Anxious in America, Debate the Role of Government, and Ministers Suggest that God’s Pissed. The reality is that this is a culmination of 35+ years of excess and not taking responsibility for our actions, as we outlined in Pigs Get Fat; Hogs Get Slaughtered.

During difficult and uncertain times, people have a tendency to long for an earlier day when things were seemingly clearer and far more simplistic. And along with that comes a tendency to blame someone for our current state of affairs, and who better to blame than the current President.

Most of us can't balance our checkbooks, maintain good relations with our spouse, or manage our children, and yet we're so cock-sure about how to run this nation.

If we are going to solve problems going forward, we need to snap out of this coma, and face some realities, including one that looms large, to wit: the use of old methods to address today’s issues in a constantly changing environment won’t work. (Been There; Done That) We need innovation, forward thinking; not a reversion to the past.

Many are looking for a savior, to provide some illusion of stability. But no one man (or woman) can fill those shoes or adequately address that emotional and spiritual need.

The simplest, most effective way to address insecurities and uncertainties? Create jobs here at home.

So many of us, despite showing up some place every day, aren’t sure whether we have a real job anymore. Totally apart from what jobs can do for one’s sense of security and ability to provide for one’s family, it does wonders for self-esteem, both personally and collectively. Additionally, according to the Physicians' Desk Reference, it is the most effective drug to administer intravenously to combat paranoia.

On one level, we all need to take personal, collective responsibility for how we got here, including electing people who have their personal, selfish interests ahead of our collective interests.

The following appears in the signature of one of our friends of the Institute: "It is neither the strongest, nor the most intelligent, of the species that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Post No. 187b: Is God a Fan of President Obama?



Earlier today, we ran across an article indicating that spending on the western wildfires raging here in the U.S. had reached 1 billion dollars. It reminded us of the huge amount of money spent addressing natural disasters back in 2011, and the post we generated back then. The same issues are front and center once again, and thus we decided to re-visit whether God is really dissatisfied with President Obama's performance in office.



© 2011 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We’re not big fans of folks who let their values dictate their thought processes. It seems to us that one’s analysis of issues ought to be a thing apart from their values. How else does one solve problems?

As the Laughingman often says, “If you think that every problem is a nail, a hammer becomes the only tool in your kit.” Some problems are screws, for which you might need a screwdriver, or two.

Despite this, any reasonable, thinking person would conclude that God does not approve of much going on in the United States these days, or of President Obama. Seriously.

AIR Worldwide, the catastrophic modeling firm, estimates that insured losses alone, for commercial, residential, and industrial losses following the severe thunderstorm activity in the U.S. in early 2011, will amount to $3.7 billion to $5.5 billion. That storm, under Obama's watch, lasted a mere 6 days in April. Imagine the figure for the entire year, stemming from God’s displeasure with our descent into socialism.

Earlier this week, a fairly significant earthquake shook Washington, D.C. and surrounding areas, sending the government’s work force scurrying for The Ark. The President, obviously prescient, was out of town on vacation.

But now, the heavily populated northeast looks like it may be battered by Hurricane Irene, which many expect to be of a force not seen in decades. Damage estimates in the range of $10 billion are already being made. This may prove to be Obama’s Katrina, God willing. The lines down at the New York City Harbor, where The Ark is currently docked, are reportedly getting pretty long.

There’s a message here somewhere. At least according to some. And of course, all of these so-called natural events can be traced directly to the President.

We are often reminded by the Optimizer of the celebrity who, during her campaign against homosexuality, claimed that God inflicted gays with AIDS as punishment for their wicked ways. And if you thought that the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright were a distraction for then-candidate Obama, you may have missed that one of John McCain’s spiritual advisers was John Hagee.

Hagee claims that God willed Hitler to kill the Jews, so that they would eventually return to Israel, thus hastening the 2nd coming of Christ. In one of his less controversial moments, he argued that Hurricane Katrina was an act of divine retribution due to the presence of homosexuals in New Orleans.

One need not be a celebrity or a televangelist to appreciate that natural forces are somehow related to God’s displeasure. Earlier this week in this part of the Bible Belt, we heard many a person laugh shortly after the tremors were felt in Washington and New York City. In their view, the domestic infidels were getting their due. They opined that citizens in large cities on the coastal shores have led lives justifying their exposure to this impending danger.

Once again, all of this is somehow related to the current Administration and our slide into socialism.

Either fortunately or unfortunately, there is an opposing camp. Back in January, just prior to the Super Bowl, we generated a post, God, Obama, and the Green Bay Packers. After reflecting on how championship athletes claim that God resides in their locker room, we told the story of a fellow who, after dismissing the travails of the Obama Administration, claims that Obama’s opponents will be surprised during the next Presidential election. Why? Because he knows that God is on Obama’s side.

We’ve been mulling this over all week, and we’re at a loss as to what parents (without a direct line to God) should tell their kids about the athletic team, the political party, the city or region, or the ethnic group that God supports.

We suspect that we should all get down on our knees and pray to our higher power this evening, before the full brunt of Mother (or is that Father?) Nature hits our fragile east coast (and our fragile national economy), and hope that God picks our team in the fantasy game.

When President Reagan, never at a loss for words, was being wheeled into the ER after the assassination attempt by Arthur Bremer, he reportedly looked up at the operating team and quipped, “I hope you’re all Republicans.“ The lead surgeon responded with a smile, “Yes Mr. President, today we’re all Republicans.”

We could use all of the players on the field being of the same team on occasion, or perhaps all having the support of the Lord.

Finally, there is one other thought that occurred to us this week, namely the difference between for-profit corporate entities in the private sector, and governmental entities. While we watched governors and the President speak of preparations for, and warn their constituents of, the impending storm, we observed the spending of millions of tax dollars to minimize the possible damage and the criticism post-Irene.

In the corporate world, the focus would be on risk assessment and management, insurance coverage, and probabilities. We could see a corporation reasonably examining the pattern of hurricanes over the past 50 years, and betting against the forecasters, by doing nothing.

That would never do in the public sector.

But we’re still having difficulty figuring out whether God supports governmental intrusion in our lives, which might be termed socialist in nature, or whether God supports limited government, lower taxes, and the functioning of the free markets without excessive regulation.

But as Tina Turner said, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”




Saturday, July 27, 2013

Post No. 187a: Children of a Greater God, or Why Cary, NC is in the Bible Belt


© 2011 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

There are certain works of art which, simply by virtue of their name, implore one to examine them further. For us, two of them have always been Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill (what a great name), and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (not bad either).

There is a work about which we wondered for years, but never chose to examine until recently - Children of a Lesser God. Having been brought up in a world of monotheistic religions, we asked, “How could there be a lesser God, and who are these children so affected?” Of course, we know better than to take anything seriously, but it still got our attention. We finally decided to explore this work this month, but it was a personal experience which prompted us to do so – our encounter with Children of a Greater God.

We found the kids in Cary, a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina. Raleigh, apart from being the capital, is the heart of the Research Triangle. The “Triangle” not only contains Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University, but also serves as HQs for numerous high-tech companies. It is also the home of Bozo the Clown. Although settled in 1750, if asked during the 1960s where Cary was, few would have been able to respond.

The son of one of our friends ran in a track meet for private high school students. The event was held at the Cary Academy, the most prestigious private school in the region. Since the collective athletic prowess of the participants left much to be desired, we found ourselves taking note of other things. Upon entering the long, tree-lined, manicured entrance to the campus enveloped in lush vegetation, we got a sense that we were going to see something different.

The parkway carried us to a lot full of high-priced SUVs. The Academy buildings, in their bucolic setting, looked more like those of a private college than a grade school in the midst of a densely populated urban center. Once we entered the stands on the side of the stunning Tartan track, our attention turned to those seated around us.

There were roughly 150 of them (consisting mostly of parents and siblings of the athletes), of which 15 were African-American and 3 Asian. Despite the fact that North Carolina is generally regarded as the number 1 state in the nation in terms of percentage increase in Hispanics, no Hispanics were in sight, in any capacity. The onlookers were all fresh in appearance, healthy, clean-cut, and smartly dressed. No one was obese, and there no smell of fried chicken in the air. Although it is possible that someone had a rosebud or heart planted just above their navel or the crack in their butt, there was not a tattoo to be found.

All of the conversations around us were civil in tone, with many revolving around trips abroad. There was a noticeable lack of rowdiness and profanity, and the N word was either across the tracks, or on vacation. What was perhaps most revealing was that there was a throng of kids in the 4-6 year old range, who were permitted to roam the grounds unattended and expected to return to their parents unmolested.

While we explore lots of social policy issues on this blog, and how they relate to personal responsibility, we rarely address class issues. And socio-economic class is a big deal.

We’ve often wondered whether, if there were only one “socialist,” social policy implemented by our government, we’d be a better nation. That policy would consist of ensuring that all children get the same socio-economic start. After all, it’s not their fault who their parents are, and what their parents have, and where their parents live…. Now that’s a program we could support. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know. The parents would exploit it.)

But poverty and paucity of options run deep… and long, and at some point become institutionalized and inculcated in nature, despite the few aberrant worms who escape.

We looked up some stats on Cary, the town. The racial makeup is 71% Caucasian, 8% African-American, 13% Asian, and 7% Hispanic or Latino. With respect to education, 68% of the adult hold an associate degree or higher, and 61% possess a bachelor degree or higher. It has one of the lowest crime rates in the state for municipalities of its size, and it was judged the 4th safest of 327 large cities in the nation.

Although we wouldn’t want to live in Cary, due to its lack of filth and vice, perhaps calling those kids we met on the track that Friday afternoon “Children of a Greater God,” might not be that far a stretch. After all, the situation in which they find themselves is more than happenstance – isn’t it?

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