Friday, March 16, 2018


The universe is a vast and mysterious place.  The many views of it are found in the multitude of theologies and among the various parts of the science of physics that make up the field of cosmology.  Funny how close cosmology is to cosmetology.  One seeks the answer to the questions of the universe.  The other the answer to the questions of the perfect hairdo.  Both are formidable mysteries that are unlikely to be solved in our time.
But that is not really what I wanted to write about today.
This week I had the recently mandated Medicare “wellness interview” with a Nurse Practitioner named Brandie.  She was a fine girl and undoubtedly a good wife.  (Sorry, my mind is stuck in the 70’s.)  Well anyway, we spent about half the interview talking about how old people tend to fall down, and she wanted to make sure I was aware that I was an old person and likely to fall down if I didn’t have hand grips on my shower and someone to hold me erect as I went out to play golf.
So, what is the big news this week?  Why HRC of course.  She is over in India falling down all over the place as she condemns the stupid middle class of America for picking someone less Democrat than her.  Is this coincidence or karma?  You decide.
For me, I think we need to send nurse Brandie over to talk with Ms. Clinton right now.  I believe her advice would be invaluable, although if history is any indication it would be ignored, and she would have an unfortunate accident, commit suicide, or be gunned down in the street shortly afterward.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Few Thoughts on Easy Versus Hard (conclusion)

So, let’s wrap this up.

Obviously, I’ve not even scratched the surface on all the potential issues on why we see the apparent increase in violent mass murder of school children in this country.  For example, other than the potential impact of violent first person shooting games, I’ve not talked about how mental illness is diagnosed or treated, nor have I addressed, beyond a superficial level, the role of parents and teachers in guiding young minds towards a level of self-esteem, which is so vital for our maturation.  On the other hand, I have attempted to lay out the simple and I believe inescapable truth this is a much larger problem than the buying, owning and using of guns, and by insisting that is all it is we are unlikely to ever seek out, address, and fix the true root causes.  For debating  those issues require's society to reexamine individual standards and behaviors.

What I do believe is we don’t have a clue with regard to the second order effects of the political choices we have made over the past 75 years or so, and those secondary issues are now rising to the surface in ways we find unpleasant.  
 The young, who are being organized to push a fixed political agenda, have neither the experience nor understanding of the human condition to provide anything more than the emotional appeal they are being exploited for.  The people who are truly behind their involvement are using them for that purpose alone.  The rest of society has been conditioned by the media to accept their sincerity as proof of the “rightness” of their cause.

Today is March 14th 2018, the day the behind the scenes leadership of the anti-gun movement has chosen as walk out day for high schoolers across the country to show their support that guns should be banned.  It seems the opportune time to point out that a fresh young face, with little experience is always the ideal leader for a movement controlled by some unseen force.  This movement has that, but I wonder how far beyond the symbolic rants it will really go?  They don’t seem to have the focus of say the anti-war movement of the 1960s where there was a real self-interest on the part of the radical leadership to stop a war they may be forced to fight in.

Well enough about this… now on to something else, like maybe cat videos.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Few Thoughts on Easy Versus Hard (part 6)

Life is finite, precious, and disposable.
We’ve become a society that no longer places a measurable value on life, except when it serves a political agenda.  We can “coo” and “ah” over babies and small children, at the same time that we call for their destruction.
As I noted earlier in this series we’ve become a consumer society where we throw away the broken to get the newest and neatest thing to replace it.  Why are we surprised when people treat life with exactly the same approach? 
Under the guise of choice, we have made the killing of the unborn a woman’s right.  The women and men who support this right now argue they should have an uncontested and government funded ability to destroy the unwanted up to the moment of birth, but why should it stop there?  For that matter, why should it be only a woman’s choice?  In a society where the moral value of life is relative, what imperative says we must keep alive someone who successfully emerges from the womb and takes their first breath?  I am told there are a number of late term abortions where the fetus emerges alive and is killed, so why should we limit woman’s choice once the child is “born?”
Those who support abortion cite the evils of the world a disadvantaged or unwanted child will face and how it is far better for all concerned if the woman makes a choice that is right for her and the life she carries, preferably without interference from third parties.  After all what does a fetus know, and how can they make an “informed” decision on their own life. 
We have become conditioned to be outraged at the loss of life, but only when the media makes a big deal about it.  Activists have created movements suggesting some lives matter more than others to help us become outraged at the loss of life, but again -- only when the media makes a big deal about it.  We are supposed to come together to condemn violence and death, but only when the media highlights it for ratings.  All other times we are told to ignore the man behind the curtain.
Within our major metropolitan centers, we see hundreds of killings a year, yet where is the national outrage against gang violence?  As I noted in the last post about this – it really and truly is about the theater the political media can create to further their agenda and financial interests, it has little to do with a true moral standard that we as a society can agree to. 
One side would have us believe because we have a constitutional right to own a gun we are a terrible nation killing each other with them, the other side suggests if it weren’t for the decay within major cities we wouldn’t have any gun deaths.  Each of these statements are demonstrably false but reflect the fact those who have deep emotions regarding the issue of guns (both against and for) choose emotional points rather than logical and supportable arguments, because logic doesn’t stir the masses to the same degree.
When we began our nation, we had a relatively homogenous Judeo-Christian morality that served as the basis for our laws.  What we see today is a widening rejection of that morality and in turn the rejection of our law.  I believe it is an unfortunate consequence of a widening belief suggesting we each get to choose what is morally acceptable and therefore we get to choose what laws we like, and what laws we reject.  This latter statement is clearly supported by the political polarization of the left in their establishment of “sanctuary cities” springing up in opposition to the deportation of immigrants who’ve entered this country illegally.
When rejection of some laws becomes a widely accepted practice, how long will it be before we question the validity of all laws?  Those who would suggest there is no such thing as a “slippery slope” argue that one small change does not mean we are forsaking all societal standards.  Their support for this assertion is almost always to point to other societies as proof, but we are vastly different from the societies they point to.  In fact, those societies are becoming more like us and are beginning to see the same issues we’ve faced for years.  The “slippery slope” argument almost always comes up when they argue courts have the right to ignore/overturn laws they disagree with, rather than reach agreement those laws should be repealed through the legislative processes of our Republic. 
As we see in the mass shootings and other violent activity – the criminals involved are unconstrained by the law, and perhaps any moral standard.  Does this mean they are mentally ill?  If they have an individual moral compass, and we as a society argue that is okay, what then should restrain them and why should we condemn their actions?
(to be continued)

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Few Thoughts on Easy Versus Hard (Part 5)

It is All Theater
The social media, including all the over the air broadcasts, internet sites, and print mediums are ablaze with celebrity condemnation of the violence we see in the world around us, well kind of ablaze, if you overlook the obvious disparity in approach.
The “Big Stars” in the film industry are happy to jump on the band wagon to condemn gun violence, yet when it comes time to put their money where their mouths are what do we see?  I took a quick look at movies that are in theaters now (including new ones released this week) to see what kind of social commentary the industry is pushing forward to create the utopian world we all desire.  Not surprisingly they seem to directly contradict the moral outrage we hear coming from their lips.  Roughly 47% of the films have guns used in violent situations, 29% have strong, violent, or abusive sexual content, and only 18% seem to be guns or violence free.  That remaining 6% is a movie about an heiress haunted by how her ancestor’s gun killed people and I wasn’t sure how to characterize that one, but it was the only one I saw that seemed to support the industry’s public narrative.
I will be the first to admit I am a cynic, but the last person I ever listen to is someone who tells me how I should believe when it is obvious they don’t have the courage of their own convictions.
In my life-time the movie industry must have fired a trillion fake rounds of ammunition to tell the stories of humanity, teach the moral lessons they thought would be profitable, condemn the violence of the real world, or just because they thought it would be entertaining.  The number of rounds fired does not include all the phaser, laser, or proton cannon shots taken in distant worlds or even in defense of future earths.  In all this fake shooting how many real deaths have occurred that are just chalked up as the cost of doing business?
It is reported that at tonight’s self-congratulatory celebration the big names will be wearing an orange American flag to signal their superiority in the moral battle over gun violence.  In the que for “Movie of the Year” is a tale about the seduction of a minor, the dramatization of the near end of England, the salvation of the British Army, a kind of remake of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” a standard about a California girl who wants to go to an Eastern College for its culture, an old man meets a young girl, a newspaper publisher’s heroic effort to destroy a President, a mute janitor discovers a nefarious government plot, and finally a woman fights a sheriff over the rape and death of her daughter.  Sadly, guns, violence and seduction of minors seem to play in a fair number of the great films of last year.  Tales of utopia, not so much, but I digress.
Clearly, virtue signaling can make up for so much in an industry that thrives on the glamorization of violence.  I will leave the speculation on whether there is a cumulative effect on young men who spend hours in violent video games up to you.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Sometimes I Can Only Laugh Out Loud.

When I was a young lad I could hunt with my own gun at 16, drink and be drafted at 18, and vote at 21.

Then things changed.

We had a war. Politicians and their experts said if young men can die for their country they should vote – and with the 26th amendment the voting was changed to 18 years of age

Then politicians and their experts looked at alcohol-related traffic accident rates and said "golly young people aren't ready to drink until they are 21” so the minimum age for drinking was raised by the National Minimum Age for Drinking Act in 1984. (BTW the Center for Disease Control says 4,300 deaths/year still occur from underage drinking)

Today we have the on-going debate as to when young men are mature enough to own a gun and reasonably be expected not to shoot up a school. 

The politicians and their experts now say 21 years old is the age when that occurs.  Even though we can arm 18-year olds with rifles, fully automatic weapons, grenades and grenade launchers, guided and unguided rockets, and tanks with 50-caliber and 120mm weapons (if they have adult supervision). 

I find this amusing since recent history suggests if age is the true variable it should probably be over 64 if we want to account for the violence of people like Stephen Paddock.

Since it seems unlikely we will ever have enough agreement to amend the constitution again how can we ever decide when a whole population is mature enough to do something?  Maybe we should have a test?  Like a driving test or “common sense” test where if the candidate fails he or she receives a “not mature enough” stamp that remains until they are retested at 40.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Few Thoughts on Easy Versus Hard (Part 4)

Dude, Who Doesn’t Like Technology
I’m so old I can remember when computers were special.  They were massive machines used for the most complex tasks.  Growing up in the Hudson Valley, the home of International Business Machines, we had their offices and factories all over the place.  When we took a class trip to a local bank they showed us their new IBM computer that kept track of everyone’s money it filled an entire 10’x10’ room.  When I went to Columbia University for a Science trip they showed us their computer center with its massive tape fed machines, and the punch cards that fed the routine and the tasks into it.  I am told all that computational power now rests inside my IPhone.
Clearly, in the past 40-years, the science of computing has made quantum leaps in processing as we moved from the analog age into the digital.  But this change has come with what appears to be a pretty significant social cost, so let’s think about that for a moment or two.
Computing is great, but until now it has required human decision making on what is of value and what is the desired end state of the computations.  That is slowly changing as we expand the science of artificial intelligence or machine-based decision priorities.  Occasionally, despite all the best efforts of the computer we humans still find ways to screw things up.  For example, even rocket scientists can make mistakes – like the one that cost the loss of the $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter back in the late 1990s.[1]  One group of scientists were using metric, another group wasn’t.  I guess this goes to show the “Climate Orbiter Science” wasn’t settled back then.  (That’s science humor.)
So, what are the social costs of all this new technology?  I believe we see two really significant issues.  First, we see an isolation in the human interaction where, under the guise of global communication, we as individuals are actually more isolated from each other than when we only communicated within small social groups or communities but did so on a personal basis and had to physically travel to meet with others.  Now we can sit back and give into our base emotions as we criticize or complain about those we disagree with.  We do so without the immediate feedback of our choices from those we care about.  We can condemn or praise, vilify or worship, mock or support almost anyone on the globe all from the comfort of your chair.  We can delude ourselves that we are anonymous by creating false personas, or we are famous for buying false followers, all with a few simple clicks of the cursor.
Along with this isolation, we see almost exponential growth in the violent video game industry where our appetite for death and destruction is met.  At this time, it appears to be principally aimed at young men, although it seems only a matter of time before women are drawn in as well.  For every study suggesting there are negative consequences in this, there are opposing studies saying we need not worry.  It is almost as if the industry funds favorable studies to keep itself profitable.  A rich and profitable industry would never do that, would they?  No, of course, they wouldn’t (this is sarcasm).
What could possibly be wrong in setting young people in front of video games for hours of isolation, where lives are lost, heads cut off, bodies dismembered or cities destroyed?  I’ve got to believe we fuel the idea that violence is an acceptable social interaction, even if real people you know suggest it is not.  When people play this out, as it appears to be the case with the Parkland shooter and police and child welfare representatives visit without real consequence then why wouldn’t the belief violence is was okay -- evolve to the point of action?
Isaac Newton, the noted 17th-century English scientist developed a set of theories for gradational effects on objects.  These laws have withstood the test of time (at least within the Earth’s gravitational field) and remarkably seem to have some correlation with human behavior.    His first law says “a body remains at rest or continues to maintain a constant velocity and direction unless acted upon by a force.”  Video gaming has become the de facto “babysitter” for thousands (and perhaps hundreds of thousands) children in the U.S. and maybe around the world.  When this occurs what is the moral consequence?  What guides the path of the child towards the socially acceptable norms of the day?  Is it his/her parents (who seem to be involved in their own struggles), the school system with its rules and changing social expectations, other government agencies with their infrequent contacts, or is it his or her peers?   If you are caught up in this world of gratuitous violence, who are your peers?  Are they the kids in your class, or the people (young and old) you interact with during the game?
My next question is a simple one, are the behaviors learned in the gaming world reinforced by the public media in the shows, movies, and news reporting that fills our world on a 24/7/365 basis?
(to be continued)

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Note to a Friend

--> I found this while cleaning out for an upcoming move and figured it might seem funny to some who were involved in these events.  It comes from a letter written just after Desert Storm and deals with what was then the 39th Special Operations Wing (now 352nd SOW).
“Dear Mike,

I hope this letter finds all the XXXX’s in the very best of health.  I know it has been quite a while since I’ve written but the past nine months have been a very busy time for the Townsends.

As you are aware, in January I got to go to Incirlik to take part in the CNN special “Desert Storm the Renovation of a City.”  Well right after we came home George called and asked if we could head back to resupply the Kurds.  It seems they took us at our word and attempted to overthrow Saddam.

Operation Provide Comfort evolved into a three-phase program.

Phase I: “FIND A KURD.”  During this stage aircraft loaded with MREs, bottled water, and toilet paper (for dysentery), flew into northern Iraq looking for population centers (i.e. refugee camps), and dropping supplies to them.  After a few Kurds tried to catch the 16,000-pound bundles we moved into phase II.

Phase II: “ADOPT A KURD.”  In this stage, the aircrews were assigned specific areas to fly.  The theory being the aircrews and Kurds would get used to each other’s quirks (like an aircrew who always drops into the center of the camp).  Just about this time the Kurds threatened to report us to the UN as inhuman for providing so many MREs.  So, we moved into phase III.

Phase III: “HERD A KURD.”  Here American ingenuity really came into play.  The diplomats figured out it would be nice to establish large refugee camps in major Iraqi cities like Zakho.  To get the Kurds out of the mountains we staged a two-part campaign.  First, we dropped large quantities of MREs to the camps (ensuring an end to all dysentery in our lifetime, and at the same time chasing the refugees out of the shelters) … as an aside I don’t think the pork patty was a favorite!  After we had moved the refugees from the tops of the mountains, we started dropping real food just a little beit in front of them as they began their migration towards the cities.

After 45-days of this fun, I redeployed home to continue planning for the wing’s move from Frankfurt to England.    Well enough about me… how have you been?"
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