Saturday, September 23, 2017

Life in a Tone-Deaf World

We have replaced journalists with opinion(ists), and we only tune into the opinion(ist) we like, as a result I expect to see the continuing rise in what Scott Adams refers to as Cognitive Dissonance, where the world does not match your expectations, so you create illusions.  Little that I say here will be new, but I’ve nothing better to do so let's recap.
For better or worse we have been set on a path where identity politics is the fashion of the day.  We’ve forsaken even the most meager attempts for balance in our discussion of the issues.  The ideas of compromise and persuasion have been replaced by blunt force use of the media and its celebrities to shove ideas forward without concern or consideration for opposing views.   
To illustrate, we can look at the idea of universal health care as a right guaranteed by the government.  The Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act in 2008, with nary a Republican supporter.  In the years since its implementation individual costs have sky rocketed, insurance exchanges have faltered, and court cases have risen to the Supreme Court where they found this was really a legal tax scheme.
After 8-years of complaints and condemnations from the Republicans, when it came time to do something they failed miserably because they never had a real vision to move to.  Of course, there is the usual finger pointing and condemnation, for it appears that is all they are capable of.
It is much the same these days with the Democratic leadership and the vilification of the President.  Rather than concentrate on the positives, finding places they can persuade the President towards their views, the voices we hear from them are shrill and self-serving. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Morning Musings (Inspired from the annals of Facebook)

1.     I wonder where they store the money for social security?  People tell me there are trillions of dollars in the account, so there is no problem with the diminishing labor force paying in, and the account will last forever.
2.    Why is the national debt limit such a big deal?  Our representatives in the Congress have no problem raising it based on political whim or will, so at what point do we declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy and just start over.
3.    A friend pointed out that many of today’s senior college professors went into the business of college during the Vietnam war as a way to avoid the draft.  When the war ended, they were all tenured and became anti-government indoctrinators of the young.  I wonder how true this is?
4.    If we believe the judicial system is rigged, who defines what justice is?  Should we return to earlier versions like trial by combat, or binding hands and feet, and casting into the moat, where if you drown you are innocent?
5.     There seems a great deal of confusion over the word “Free” as in Free Speech.  Many on the left seem to think the words “safe” and “without consequences” are somehow linked to the concept, while many on the right think it only applies to confederate statues and not political protest or bad art.  (Since I don’t live in the big cities where all the protestors like to gather for good TV coverage, or watch that good TV coverage, I remain pretty neutral in my support or condemnation of political protest, with the exception of noting most of the violence I read about seems to come from one side.)
6.    The calls for and against a “single-payer” healthcare system seem divided along income lines.  Those who don’t have a great deal of income want one, those who do, don’t.  (the exception would be our elected representatives who have a great deal of income, but would exempt themselves if they approved one).
7.     Shouldn’t bank executives who drive their bank into bankruptcy be tried by a jury of their depositors? (see points 2 and 4 for cross reference)
8.    All the people who think churches should be taxed should reread the 1st Amendment and explain how they would do that and keep the church and state separate.  Remember, when we started out we didn’t have income tax.
9.    It is easy to appear a hero to your followers when you know the President would veto anything you did, much tougher to be one when your vote counts.
10.  Where have all the cat videos gone?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Race Relationships and the Evolution of Freedom?

Image from
Tonight (9/13/17), while watching the Oakland Athletics play the Boston Red Sox on ESPN, they reported fans were removed from Fenway Park for hanging a sign on the Green Monster that read “Racism is as American as Baseball.”  In watching the video of the sign being displayed, it appeared the sign holders were young and urbane, so I am guessing they were protesting against racism, not in support of, but in today’s world it is increasingly hard to tell.

Over the past ten years we have seen an amazing transformation in the state of race relations in America.  Perhaps it is necessary and should be expected.  You cannot solve a problem unless you are willing to confront it, but the problem of racism will not go away as long as everyone chooses to make it the central issue of every aspect of our lives.  We now hyphenate our Americanism to show pride in our heritage.  Yet for some reason we set aside specific months to celebrate the culture and heritage of only select minorities like the Hispanics and Africans, casting aside the Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Russians, or Polish.

In 2008, this country elected a mixed-race President who identified as an African-American and had rejected his childhood name for his formal name, Barrack.  It appeared to many the dreams of Martin Luther King, Jr. were finally coming to fulfillment.  Granted, there would always be the hate-filled groups that would not surrender the racists views that bound them together, but for the average middle-class American, we as a nation thought we had achieved a maturity in our attempt to reach equality.

Unfortunately, President Obama and his party chose to make race the central focus of his administration.  Choosing not to bring reasonable people together, but using it for its political advantages.  Anyone and everyone who disagreed with any position the President or the left put forward was automatically given a label, racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, the list goes on.  The question I can’t answer with certainty was did this occur because of his active political decision, or was he merely floating along with the reactionary forces within his political sphere?  I tend to believe the latter because he rose so quickly on the national stage that I suspect there must be a “king-maker” in the background, and I saw very little true leadership coming directly from the President.  He was a gifted speaker when his teleprompter was working, but I sense he looked to others to make the hard choices as we see in the timing of his public positions on marriage, and sexual identity.

President Trump, who clearly breaks with the approach of the traditional parties, has been under continuous attack from the left, and regular condemnation from the moderate right since his election.  This war of identity politics has clearly escalated as those who don’t like the President now resort to physical violence to achieve their political goal.  Again, maybe this is the natural evolution of the identity politics we have used for the past 20-years?

If so, then what will be the next stage in the evolution of individual freedoms I grew up understanding, and spent my life protecting?  We see, in our young, an intolerance of opposing views, of only one right answer, coming from one source.  It seems to the casual observer that our schools have moved from education to indoctrination.  We have, under the guise of entertainment, gone to selecting nameless people and highlighting them as foolish or stupid to make the point one side or the other is clueless regarding some fresh political issue.  With each showing we erode the middle and encourage political attack, not on solid reason, but on the visceral emotions of the viewer.

Sadly, this is encouraged by the broadcast media.  As commercial enterprises, they are more interested in seeking profit, even if it comes at the sake of a common good.  We see it as well from the personalities we enrich with our viewing who have chosen their political positions and push those opinions forward as the only right answer.

Then we come to the next stage of information flow, the internet.  With the creation of social networking with billions of members on a few sites, what kind of control will go to those who guide what is and is not allowed on those sites?  I suspect the idea of a free exchange of ideas will fairly quickly be squashed in the name of safety.  Yet another of our rights cast aside, or was it only an illusion all along?

The historical view of freedom rested on the acceptance of responsibility by the individual citizen.  As more and more refuse to hold themselves accountable for the common good, and move towards their more selfish instincts, what will be the next version of freedom here in the United States?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Moving from Theology to Meology

There was an excellent homily Sunday morning at church.  The priest spoke about a sign he had seen on another church.  It said we were replacing theology with meology, and he wanted to talk about that.  It got me thinking about it, which is what a good sermon, or homily, should do.
What is Meology?  The simple definition suggests it is placing your individual desires above all else.  If theology is the study of faith, God, and God’s relationship with the world, then meology would be the study of self and how one relates to the world.  The distinction replaces a supreme being with the individual, in effect making the individual the supreme being accountable only to oneself.
This theory, along with the principle of Stare Decisis[i] form the basis for the Supreme Court of the United States decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey[ii], when Justices O’Conn0r, Kennedy and Souter writing for the court said, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
In its support and modification of Roe vs. Wade,[iii] the court sided with the right of the individual woman over the right of the fetus (and the state).  What they did not, and could not, address was the long-term affect those decisions would have on society.
As we moved from a belief in the value of life, to a belief that a woman’s right to end life if she chooses is more important, what other unifying principles are discarded?
I believe Justice O’Connor, Justice Kennedy, and Justice Souter err in their statement that at the heart of liberty is self-definition.  I believe acceptance of self-responsibility is a more critical basis upon which individual and collective liberty must rest.  For if we are not responsible for our actions, how long does it take to move from freedom to anarchy? 
Since the court took it upon itself to establish a woman’s right to abortion as a guaranteed freedom, reinforcing that position in PPSEP v Casey, we see in our politics a clearly growing polarization of opinion as those with agendas, both obvious and hidden, maneuver to pull the nation apart.  What within our moral framework calls for us to find common purpose and basis for agreement, if we are focused solely on me rather than us?

[i] Latin – Let Stand
[ii] 505 U.S. 833 (1992), page 851
[iii]410 U.S. 113 (1973)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Staring at a Blank Page.

 It is dark and breezy outside.  Just a very gentle reminder of the winds to come as Hurricane Irma makes her way north.  She is approaching the Florida Keys right now, and those to her east are dealing with heavy rain, strong winds, and tornadoes.  None of those are expected to impact my little home on the western edge of the state.
Each day starts as a blank page, it will be filled with the doodles of our lives.  It is funny how these pages turn out as we look back on them.  One of the first things I came across as I looked at social media was a post from a couple of friends regarding President Trump’s nomination for Assistant Secretary of the Navy for development and acquisition.   
It was probably 10-12 years ago when I first met James Geurts, at the time an acquisition officer in the USAF with the rank of Colonel.  He had come to United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to serve as the program executive officer for fixed wing aircraft.  In that role he, and his team were responsible for the acquisition and modernization of the majority the of aircraft flown by Air Force Special Operations Command.  As one of the people who wrote the operational requirements for these aircraft I worked closely with him and his team as they directed the necessary funding to various program offices.   During this time, he retired from the AF to become the deputy civilian leader for the acquisition arm of USSOCOM, eventually rising to be its Director.  He is a dynamic individual who both motivates and empowers his subordinates and finds ways to cut through the red tape that burdens the conventional defense department acquisition processes.  Assuming his confirmation by the Senate, it will be an interesting transition for both him and the Navy as he deals with a whole new set of institutionalized bureaucracies.  I wish him, and the Navy personnel who will experience him, good luck and a following sea.
Today will be one spent in final preparation for the winds and rain we should get tonight and tomorrow.  It shouldn’t take long as the forecast is not that dangerous, and when I’m done perhaps, if it isn’t raining, I can get in some golf.
There are always other pens and other doodles I make as I fill my page, but for now they will be my doodles.  Perhaps someday I will share one of those doodles.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Natural Disaster, Aid, Pork, and Political Agendas

Texas just experienced Harvey, and as I write this Florida is about to experience Irma.  The results will be thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands, of lives forever altered, property losses measured in the billions of dollars, and a recovery cycle likely to take a decade or so.  I expect as a nation we will get through this, we will help each other, and it is fundamental to our nature to move from the bad to the better, and hopefully toward the good.  That said, we see in this and every disaster, the evil and greed of mankind manifest within individuals, corporations and the government itself.

It is for this reason I grieve.  We condemn the companies who will seek profit over compassion when they raise prices to suck the most out of those who are living in fear and panic. As we enter the recovery phases there will be insurance companies who will nickel and dime the insured until they give up in frustration, or the unscrupulous contractors flooding into the areas promising to help the victims restore their homes, but who are only interested in taking as much from the victims as possible.  These are all horrendous examples of man’s inhumanity to their fellow men, but they pale in comparison to the graft and greed we see in our politicians.

We expect the Congress and the President to work together to provide funds to those in need.  The house votes for $8 Billion (that is billion with a B), for initial relief for Texas (and maybe FL), the Senate doubles that amount.  Those who resist are called heartless SOBs.  I wonder how many politicians will pad their retirement funds from this taxpayer largess. 

Spending other people’s money is easy as long as you can take your cut.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Random Thoughts on a Wednesday

Without reading:  Book review of Hillary Clinton’s What Happened, “It was everyone's fault, I am a victim.”  Specifically, Bernie, Donald, and every sexist man and anti-feminist woman who didn’t vote for me. (from multiple sources)
A match made in heaven:  Hillary Clinton’s pastor writes a book, CNN discovers he plagiarized from others, and his publisher stops publication and recalls it.  Seems only appropriate.
Alice through the looking glass:  Obama by-passes the Congress and issues a decree allowing illegal immigrant children to remain in the United States, while Congress does nothing.  Trump rescinds the decree, gives Congress 6-months to do something before he will start deportation hearings, and the political opposition is outraged.  Seems about right.
Two Major Hurricanes hit U.S. in one month… It’s Trump’s fault for questioning climate change causation data (credit Gino) (I don’t want to be accused of plagiarism)
I am a pawn in the game of life (Mongo in Blazing Saddles):  Science, when it becomes political, looks a lot like a badminton shuttlecock.  He says this, she said that, data proves this, data proves that, we have peer reviewed studies, peer reviewed studies don’t mean diddly, we have famous people who agree, we have famous people who don’t.   As I watch this tournament play out, I am reminded of the line from All the Presidents Men, (1976) – “Follow the money!”  The people who speak loudest, and most often, have something to gain from their position.  Know what that is and you will know why they are speaking.  Altruism is an illusion. 
We have nothing to fear, but fear itself (paraphrase FDR 1st Inaugural Address):  TV seems to center on the fear and anger invoking story lines.  Reasonable reporting and analysis shall not be tolerated at the national level.
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