Thursday, June 28, 2012

What's in a Name?


“Juliet:  What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  ~ William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
The most straightforward reading of the individual mandate is that it commands individuals to purchase insurance. But, for the reasons explained, the Commerce Clause does not give Congress that power. It is therefore necessary to turn to the Government's alternative argument: that the mandate may be upheld as within Congress's power to "lay and collect Taxes." Art. I, § 8, cl. 1. In pressing its taxing power argument, the Government asks the Court to view the mandate as imposing a tax on those who do not buy that product. ~ Chief Justice Roberts, Ruling, Natl. Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius
Apparently, like Shakespeare, the SCOTUS, really doesn’t hold what the Congress says in their public statements, or what they write in the law is a true definition of Congressional intent for determining the constitutionality of its law.  As long as somewhere in the Constitution a legitimate reason can be found then the SCOTUS should uphold the law.
So for those who aren’t poor enough, or covered with company insurance, or in some other ways eligible not to be taxed I wonder what that bill will look like.  I look forward to my 2014 tax form.  It won’t affect me as I have elected to pay for insurance, and as a retired veteran have automatic coverage for life, but I think there will be a pretty sizeable pool of tax payers, mostly in the 26+ year group, with a new bill.
We probably need to unionize the Doctor’s so they can benefit from this new system by organizing to ensure they don’t have to work more than 32 hours a week, with credit for two rounds of golf to equal a 40 hour work week.  Otherwise the workload will drive them to really long days and that wouldn’t be fair now would it?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Is it Seagull Guano Philosophy? An Essay During a Rainy Weekend


A short while ago I posted this quote from Richard Bach’s, The Bridge Across Forever[1], on a social media site.  One of my friends, whose opinion I value, took issue; referring to it as “seagull guano philosophy” and challenged me to write an essay to consider the meaning of the quote.  Her belief was that under scrutiny the philosophy behind the quote would not hold up.  I’ve never viewed myself as a particularly deep thinker, but I am intrigued by the challenge.
So here I am with a task, and a problem, whether to take the affirmative or the contrarian approach to discuss the issue?
To understand the quote we must of course consider the source.  An American author, pilot and perhaps philosopher, Richard Bach writes of his love of flight in metaphysical terms, imparting meanings to joys found in the freedom of the sky, or pursuit of a passion.  Although most well known for his book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the story of an outcast seagull who learns of higher levels of awareness, achieved through the dedication to excellence and teaching, this quote comes from one of the two books he wrote describing his love affair with his second wife, Leslie Parrish.  In the course of his writings he has developed a following of those who read much into his monologues in the form of a life’s philosophy.  Those “new age” souls who discard the teachings of the past only to grasp at any writing that sounds metaphysical to find meaning in life.
According to Wikipedia,[2] The Bridge Across Forever, focused on Bach and Parrish’s relationship and his concept of soul mates.  It is a romantic notion that there are souls, separated by God, or the gods, and who must wander the earth seeking their other half.  The thought goes back to Plato[3], and emerges in modern “new age” thinking repeatedly.  The belief that God created androgynous souls, equally male and female, that were separated by God and condemned to search for their mate through eternity is, in my opinion, fundamentally flawed.  Edgar Cayce, viewed by many as a founding spiritualist for the new age movement, created a modern variation of this, and I have the same issue with his views of the universe.
Clearly, Mr. Bach ascribes to the basic principles of Theosophy[4] seeking to understand the hidden mysteries leading to enlightenment or salvation.  His writings revolve around taking the common and imbuing them with spiritual meaning.  So now, how about the quote?
On the surface I would give a C in originality as the quote, in its essence, is not original to him.  Mark Twain once wrote “There are no mistakes in life, there are only lessons to be learned.”[5]  It seems unlikely an author of his experience would not have read Twain.
In this quote, there is an underlying premise that what has gone before was essential to bringing us to where we’ve chosen to go.  If you put yourself in the mind of any military pilot, whether or not they are some great metaphysical thinker, you will find a foundation to their thinking that is based on their earliest flight training, observe, orient, decide, and act.  For a pilot to control their craft (and fate) he or she must be thinking for the machine.  The pilot must understand where they’ve been, but more importantly they must anticipate where they will be in time and space, well before they arrive.  We learn to make our decisions based on the best information available, and be prepared to alter that decision should the facts of the situation change. 
But does it also require a basic assumption; we as individuals are in complete control of the circumstances of our lives?  We are detached from the decisions of others, and that the decisions we make, while made with at least partial understanding of the others that interact with us, are made independently.  Perhaps it does.  Every pilot I’ve ever dealt with believes he is in complete control of the aircraft, and far too often this belief carries over to the other, more personal aspects of his life, if he has his hands on the controls he is in charge and is able to determine the outcome.
What about the concept of a mistake?  If we are sentient human beings with free will, and the ability to control our lives then can we not choose how we view those decisions?  Doesn’t it come down to how we view the results?  If we make a choice, and it turns out we don’t like the consequence, can’t we rationalize on the one hand we’ve made a mistake, or on the other hand it was just a choice to be made and in hindsight perhaps not the best one?  Or, is it imperative we acknowledge our mistake, we failed in that choice and must admit it was wrong before we can move on?  I think how that question is answered is foundational in how you view the world, your place in it, and how critical to you are the opinions of others.
So we come back to the question, is this quote “seagull guano philosophy?”  I think to answer this honestly requires you to understand your own belief set, what is the foundation for it and how the meanings of the quote align. 
The Christian faith, for the most part, reflects God as caring and benevolent, asking  us to admit our sins and accept Jesus as the redeemer for them.  As far as God’s direct involvement in the daily shaping of our lives, the scriptures appear to be a little thin on the details of how that is addressed.  Scripture tells us faith in God will restore us and give comfort.  For example in Psalms 23, David writes, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul:  he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake…”  
In Matthew 17 there is this story that speaks to what is possible through faith.  “When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, and said, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water.  And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.’  Jesus answered, ‘you faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you?  How much longer must I put up with you?  Bring him here to me.’  And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him and the boy was cured instantly.  The disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’  He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith.  For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, move from here to there and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
As a Christian, I accept the words of the scripture, as divinely inspired to set the moral compass for a society where we strive to be better than we were yesterday, and when we fail in those efforts we can turn to God and can be assured of his forgiveness.   We place our faith in God that it is his will we flourish as a people, but it leaves a lot of room for individual interpretations.  In my life I’ve gone through a lot of trials, my faith has grown through them, but also I’ve come to believe that I am the master of my future, while I can not redeem my soul for original sin, neither can I blame God for my bad choices, I must accept that God in his infinite forgiveness will accept me for who I am.  I seek God’s guidance but in the end it is for me to plan my course and to accept the choices I’ve made, correcting that course when necessary.
As I read the quote I see Richard Bach attempting to rationalize the choices he and his lover have made along the way to explain that those choices were okay “or necessary” for them to arrive at the points in their lives where they were.  I don’t see it as the underlying basis for a new philosophy nor do I see this as a conflict with the beliefs that I hold.  While others may view it differently it is in the end just a simple quote by a fallible human searching to explain some instant in his life.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

From the Land of Good Ideas


Your view of the world is a matter of perspective.  If you are on the top of an organizational tree you look out and survey the world around you.  If you are on the bottom of that same tree you look up to see only posteriors above you.

When you dismiss the reality of depending on other people you can lay out a fool’s plan that’s looks really good to the boss, but will fail because you discount the problems of others as irrelevant.

In any project you are responsible for three things, cost, schedule and performance.  You can only really control two of those variables.  If you want it fast and cheap you will sacrifice performance, if you want it to perform and don’t want to pay much then schedule goes out the window.  Choose wisely.

No one seems to be terribly interested in really figuring out what is causing our economy to sit like a rotting piece of carrion in the middle of the road.  The President has his ideas, based as far as I can tell on spending dollars we don’t have, to pay for things he would like to have, so people will vote for him.  The Congress doesn’t really have a clue, but thinks we should spend more dollars on things they like, and not on things the President likes, and we’ve yet to find out what the Supreme Court thinks.  Best I can figure out, the more the federal government tries to manage the economy the longer it is messed up.  For example President Franklin D. Roosevelt was actively engaged in fixing the economy from 1932 until 194o, when he was distracted by the war.  Until he put most of the male workforce in uniform fighting the Germans, Italians and Japanese the economy sat there in depression.  I may be alone here, but it kind of looks to me like that same liberal strategy is having the same affect on today’s economy.

Random question:  Why don’t baseball uniforms have collars?

Voyager has left, or is getting close to leaving, our Solar System.  Funny that NASA could build a satellite that was launched in 1977 and is still working today, but somehow finding an affordable way to space is beyond them.  

Speaking of Voyager, or as it was in Star Trek - The Motion Picture, V-ger, I hope we remembered to write down the pass code so that Admiral James Kirk can shut it off before it destroys the earth.  Good-bye Carl Sagan -- your recording travels on.  I hope whoever finds it will not have yet transitioned to IPods and MP3 players and still has a record player.

Hopefully this year’s Presidential debates will be limited to one question and 30 minutes, including commercials, so Americans don’t lose interest and fall asleep in the middle.  Or, maybe they could be staged as commercial interruptions to “American Idol, the audition episodes.”   That way we could be enthralled by some off-key tenor singing a Justin Bieber hit (if there is such a thing), see the debate, and return in time for an inspirational story of a poor little girl who has lost all her friends, but can sing the lights out and get her "ticket to Hollywood!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Things I Learn on the Internet


I’ve got to admit it.  I must be terribly, terribly out of touch with the world around me.  I try and read, at least to a level where I know there are something like 12 continents, and maybe like a hundred countries or so but each day I learn something new about America that I didn’t know; like even yesterday.
For example, I just learned that all the arguments for “States Rights” is really secret code for undoing the civil rights movement of the Martin Luther King, and that if I believe States should have rights and powers, as discussed in the Constitution, then I am a racist.  DeWayne Wickham - Disturbing the Peace
I’ve learned when NBC and MSNBC edit tapes on news stories it is always for time purposes and never-ever to bias the story or make someone look stupid, and if that happens it is just an unfortunate oversight.  If and when called on it, they should stonewall until the outcry affects ratings.  LI - Blogger exposes MSNBC Video Fraud
If maybe you’re a politician caught in a lie, you are really a victim and should never admit to the lie, but claim the left or right wing fringe elements are nut jobs and out to ruin the America you grew up in. The Boston Herald
I’ve found that while getting caught plagiarizing would disqualify you from running for President in the last century it doesn’t stop you from being elected Vice President this century.  
Then there are those comforting stories like if the National Security Agency just accidently eaves drops on your cell phone conversations it can’t report those findings to Congress because that would violate your civil rights.  Network World
If you’re the Attorney General you get to choose what laws you enforce or uphold and if part of your organization gets involved in gun running to Mexico you really don’t have to tell the Congress, even if they ask especially nice.  Fox News -- Fast and Furious
Speaking of the Department of Justice, which seems to have a heck of a lot of lawyers, they don’t seem to have a great track record on winning the critical cases before the courts these days.  They lost on two really, really, huge ones when Mr. Edwards and Mr. Clements both were found innocent.  Glad we focused on them!

I wonder whom Lance Armstrong pissed off so bad that they will never give up on trying to find he doped himself up.  Hopefully, the same team that tried Mr. Clements will get to take on this threat to American Society.  Keith Burgess-Jackson - cycling-3  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ramblings of a Father, on Father’s Day


There are no perfect fathers.  There may be great, good, fair and bad fathers, but since they are all, or now mostly all, men they can’t be perfect.
The value of a father in a child’s life depends on two things.  The first is involvement the second is consistency, children need to know you will be there and that when you say something it certain.  Without these values there is confusion.
Too many fathers fail to understand their father’s mistakes and carry them forward to their own families.
It is easy to be a father; it is tough to be a Dad.
Success is measured by achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself.  Success in life — by the impact you’ve had on those around you.
Government involvement and oversight does not make better fathers.
Being consistent and always backing your children in a conflict is not the same thing.  Odds are 50% of the time your kid is probably on the wrong side of the issue.  Sometimes you’ve got to be judge and jury.
If you are fighting with your wife (or mate), there are no really good options with the kids.  Everyone is going to pay some kind of price; hopefully the fight was worth it.
Lastly, everyone talks about equality, but no one really wants it.  Everyone wants to be in charge.  Those who argue the loudest want it the least.  Given the chance, they are the first to impose their views on the rest of society, so they really don’t want equality they want dominance.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

On Voting

     I think this speaks to the problem the average American voter is facing.  As our politicians evolve and are shaped by the society they are supposed to serve are we able to find strong leaders who can stand on principle and build consensus?  


     Is it possible to find men and women who balance the constitution and individual rights, placing those qualities before personal ambition and greed?  
    
     Are there politicians who do not always use political gain as the basis for decision, and if so, is it possible for them to be elected President?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Communication


Victor Tango two-zero, turn left heading two-eight-five degrees until intercepting the localizer for runway two-two left, maintain two-five hundred feet, altimeter is two-nine-eight-four, cleared for approach, report outer marker to tower on one-two-four decimal five. 

Victor Tango two-zero roger, two-nine-eight-four, cleared approach, report outer marker to tower one-two-four decimal five, g’day.

VT20, LT 285, Loc, 22L, 2.5’, 29.84, Clr’d aprch, rpt OM, Twr V124.5

It’s funny how communication works and when you are in a profession you develop shorthand that makes perfect sense if you know it, speeds everything up, and confuses the heck out of everyone else.  The first graduate level course I ever took focused on communication and I can remember to this day the first lesson taught.  There are three components necessary in communication.  They are the sender, the symbols, and the receiver(s).  If any one of those components is faulty communication does not happen.
For example how many of the people who read this blog understood the first three paragraphs?  I, and most of the people I work with will.  The first is a clearance from air traffic control, the second is a readback of that clearance, and the third is a way to write it down so you can remember.
As we move forward with this grand experiment called America, I find it interesting to watch how our forms of communication evolve, but I still believe the fundamental wisdom of that first class holds true.  We see basic communication problems between generations, regions, and even different groups within the same region because we don’t have, or don’t use, a clear and unambiguous set of symbols as we interact.
How often we talk past each other as we attempt to transmit and not receive, we are so interested in pushing our points, our message, or our symbols that we never take time to listen to what is coming back at us.  In this sense we are like a bad radar set.  If all we ever do is transmit, and don’t interrupt ourselves we never see what is before us.  It is only in the reflection of our energy do we see the obstacles or understand what is important. 
 How about if we don’t understand the symbols we are using, or we choose to define our symbols in ways that are nonsensical? For example, if you correlate the wealth of success with insanity you immediately stop communication with people who understand that capitalism is a successful model for how American society is built and sustained, and if you choose to think those who acquire wealth are acting contrary to society you condemn yourself to a position where communication with them fails.  In that case, who is wrong?

Monday, June 11, 2012

There are Days!

     There are days, not often, when as I wake and consider what the day holds in store for me that I want to roll over and go back to bed.  Thankfully for me, those days are few and the feeling passes quickly as I look into myself and draw on the need to meet my obligations.
     So many struggle with self-doubt and depression in today's world.  They are excused and counseled about how to improve and cope with it.  I wonder how it was a hundred years ago when depression as a diagnosis didn't exist?  Did people face the same problems and did they deal with it any better or worse than we do today?
     We see increases in suicide, and anti-depressent medications, sometimes leading to life long use.  Is the suicide rate lower or higher than it was a hundred years ago?  How do we, or really can we, help people to move from debilitating depression to happiness?  Isn't this a journey each of us must travel on our own?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Private Sector is Doing Fine!



     This has got to be my favorite line, so far, this political season.   Perhaps it is Freudian, but the entire response shows the President is a) out of touch with the average American, and b) clearly behind the idea that only Governments can create jobs through more and more spending.
     I wonder if this will catch on with the same vigor as Bill Clinton's "It's the economy stupid" line did when he defeated Bush, the elder. 
     This line captures the essence of the choice before America this fall.  Is job creation the role of the Federal, State, and Municipal governments or should their role be as unobtrusive as possible and allow private industry to create the jobs that lead to wealth?
     If you believe it is the role of government to redistribute wealth the question then becomes how much of your wealth should they redistribute?
     If you believe government should be as unobtrusive as possible then how much government is enough to "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty?"
     With his initial explanation, before his advisors could put a good spin on it, he clearly showed he believes the government must be central in the lives of all its citizens and only it can create jobs with spending dollars we don't really have.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Nobel Peace Prize, Three Years Later


Alfred Nobel made a fortune from selling explosives.  When he died he willed his estate to establish awards to recognize achievements in the sciences to better mankind.  There are awards in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, and Literature.  All are awarded by the Nobel Prize organization in Stockholm Sweden.  It is also fitting that since his developments of explosives contributed to the destruction of man that he established a fifth prize for the advancement of Peace and took the unusual step of completely separating the award from the other four, even to the point it is not awarded in Sweden but in Norway.
The first recipient, in 1901, was Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross. There have been four American Presidents who’ve won the award, starting with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, for his involvement in ending the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.  The next was President Woodrow Wilson, who received the award for 1919 in 1920, for his work on the Armistice that brought World War I to an end.  In 2002 the Norwegian’s awarded President Jimmy Carter the prize for as they said, “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights and to promote economic and social development.”  The fourth, President Barrack Obama, was awarded his prize after 10 months in office for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.  The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world free of nuclear weapons.”  At the time I wrote this short observation on the The Nobel Peace Prize.  Now, three (plus) years later, perhaps its time to see how this Nobel Laureate has furthered the cause of peace.
On the domestic side, he has called the Tea Party terrorists and the sides with OWS crowd as representative of the typical American.  He has encouraged the furtherance of class warfare and racial divide whenever there is a subject that calls for us to come together.  For example, his repeated segregation of the 1% and his condemnation for their wealth, in his statements on the Travon Martin shooting, or interference in state issues such as the union protests in Wisconsin.  As the democrats rammed home his signature piece of domestic legislation, the “Affordable Health Care Act" we certainly didn’t see him working for that peaceful solution with the opposition.  It will be interesting to see what the SCOTUS determines this summer regarding the constitutionality of this legislation.
Internationally, has he slowed the proliferation of Nuclear weapons as the Nobel Committee so hoped for?  I am not aware of any new treaties, and certainly Iran continues to move forward with its nuclear program and development of a way to deliver it to either Israel or Europe.  As someone in the Administration has leaked he personally oversees the drone strikes intended to assassinate leaders of the terrorist networks.  He has reduced the combat troops and called an end to the Iraq war, especially after they asked us to leave, but Afghanistan still continues with no clear strategy to victory, just a plan to pull back U.S. troops in 2014.  He supported the overthrow of the Egyptian and Libyan governments, while watching the Syrian regime continue its slaughter of its citizens.  In the process he has allowed over 10,000 advanced Libyan (Russian) shoulder fired surface to air missiles to go missing. It is true that in many of these issues he has followed the leadership of European countries like France, to help determine if it is in the U.S. national interest, so for at least that, some part the Nobel Committee should be happy.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Graduations and New Beginnings


This is the time of year when academic institutions traditionally allow the students held captive for the prescribed sentence to escape and enter the next phase of their lives.  Whether pre-school, kindergarten, high school, college or beyond there are people running around with caps and gowns all over the place, and posting their pictures to Facebook.  To all, I offer my congratulations and this unsolicited advice – the easy bit is over; now comes the hard stuff! 
This holds true no matter what you are graduating from or moving on to.  There are a number of clich├ęs that talk of life being a journey, and for none of us is it a simple trip down a gentle slope.  Each part of our journey through life offers bigger challenges, deeper hurts, greater joys, and larger rewards as we face and overcome them.  Along each part there will be those who succeed and others who give up to failure.  Those are the unfortunate ones.  Failure is a good teacher if we learn and move on from it.  Don’t be afraid of failing, but don’t use it as a reason to quit.  You hold the keys to the future — don’t give them away through doubt, self-pity, indifference, or addiction.
Good Luck and Good Journey!
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