Sunday, December 18, 2016

In the Age of Outrage

We seem to be living in a bi-polar world.  One day the Democrats love Syria's Assad, the next they don’t.  One day the Republicans are concerned with Russia, the next not so much.  One day the left condemn the Republican candidate for his refusal to promise to support the outcome of the election, the next day they are outraged he wins and set out to overturn the outcome of the election.

For the average citizen, watching from the sidelines with little ability to directly influence the outcomes, these media driven flip-flops look a lot like a championship ping-pong game.

Of course, most of the memes I see on social media show the outrage of the left, for that is the big topic of the day, but given even the slightest pause there will be outrage from the right.  For example, should even one elector change their vote you can expect to see incredible controversy develop.  From the right, it will be the undoing of our democracy, from the left it will be disbelief that not more electors saw the danger to the Republic of electing someone not bought and paid for by the traditional sources.

I would like to believe with the coming of the new year it will be over, but it won’t.  I fully expect the party that spent the first six years of its control of the Presidency blaming the past administration will continue to challenge the legitimacy of the government in ways I cannot yet appreciate.

We often talk about a pendulum swinging one way and then another.  As our outrage grows eventually the pendulum will pass horizontal and fall off the hinge.

Just a Thought

I wonder if what scares most Democratic politicians about Mr. Trump is they realize if an ordinary, run of the mill, American billionaire can run the country without hiring middlemen then all the Democratic billionaires will realize they can run it too, and won’t need to buy politicians to do it for them.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

My $64 Question

How much of who we are is based on our genetics?  Way back in the 20th Century I had a professor, who today would be considered a racist, at the time he was not that exceptional in his opinions.  He pointed out that it was genetics that led the East African’s to be exceptional long distant runners, or that it was genetics that led to some people being seven feet tall and wonderfully coordinated.  Of course, this theory was carried on to say it was genetics that leads some races to be smarter than others.  I remember sitting in class next to a Ugandan when he said this.  I don’t think Michael really accepted the premise and although we’ve not kept in touch, I suspect he went on to prove the Professor wrong, for he was, in fact, a wonderfully intelligent student and gifted soccer player.
Clearly, genetic makeup plays a role in how our bodies form, our skeletons, organs, muscles and tissue develop and grow.  It helps define the expectations for our nerves, or senses, and our central processing unit.  It is a blue print, it establishes the basic design, it may account for unique abilities, deformities or susceptibilities, or even likelihoods for certain social outcomes, but it cannot account for all the various design modifications that occur in life.
For example, two friends grow up in the tenements of NYC, one goes on to become a surgeon, the other a drug dealer.  Why?
When my son played football in Middle and High School, he had a peer with the potential to play at Division I, and perhaps go on to a professional career.  He never reached his athletic potential due to the life choices he made.  Why did he make poor choices?
Finally, what is it about the human spirit that will drive someone to an immediate short term gain in performance at the cost of his life?  Lyle Alzado comes to mind as I write this.  Would he have developed his brain cancer if he had not taken anabolic steroids?  Lyle thought he would not when he said, “I started taking anabolic steroids in 1969 and never stopped. It was addicting, mentally addicting. Now I'm sick, and I'm scared. Ninety percent of the athletes I know are on the stuff. We're not born to be 300 lb (140 kg) or jump 30 ft (9.1 m). But all the time I was taking steroids, I knew they were making me play better. I became very violent on the field and off it. I did things only crazy people do. Once a guy sideswiped my car and I beat the hell out of him. Now look at me. My hair's gone, I wobble when I walk and have to hold on to someone for support, and I have trouble remembering things. My last wish? That no one else ever dies this way.”  Lyle Alzado died May 14, 1982 at age 43.
These questions form the basis for my next and final question, but first some background on my opinions. 
First, governments are impersonal.  True they are made up of human beings, some quite personal and carrying, others perhaps not, but they govern by the creation of rules and regulations.  Fit the square peg in the square hole, fit the round peg in the round hole.  For the most part they gain influence by providing money, so people have begun to consider them as they would any rich relative, but they are not.  We can go to the government seeking money for whatever we believe to be our need, but what happens when our individual, or minority collective desires out-pace the funds the government has available to pay?  At some point someone is disappointed and ultimately there will come a reckoning as more and more of the available funds are used to pay the interest payments for those funds we borrow to keep everyone happy.
Next, those who believe in bigger government would have you believe government creates wealth.  It does not.  It takes a share of the wealth created by enterprise and spends it on a variety of programs.  If the money is spent wisely, it protects the nation, builds a sustainable infrastructure, and advances human knowledge so more wealth is created.  Some will question the lack in this short list of social welfare, and attribute it to a lack of concern on my part.  I can assure you that is not the case.  The purpose of our government is, in the words of the founders, [to]establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”  I believe the social welfare programs, including those created in the Roosevelt era like Social Security, those created in the Johnson era like Medicare, and all the rest our Representatives and President have created fall within the ever-expanding category of infrastructure.  As noted in the link for welfare, today’s use of the term does not match the use at the time our Constitution was written.  Also, not envisioned at the time of our founding was the role of government in the sciences.  At that time, science was the purview of the individuals or their benefactors and most governments focused on the problems of today, not tomorrow.  Along the way we have come to realize as a nation the need for the government to further the advancement of mankind’s understanding of the world and universe we are a part of.
Third, governments are amoral.  They reflect the consensus of citizens, government officials (e.g. police and fire, administrators, employees), judges, and politicians.  It cannot establish a moral code for the individual, it can only enforce, through the threat or actual use of force, the whims of the state as manifest by its rules and regulations.  If one part of government chooses to ignore those rules and regulations, or apply them unevenly, it will set up a condition where the equilibrium of the state is upset and conflict in government, or between government and the individual is created.  We have seen this manifest for as long as I can remember.  First in the treatment of the minorities, escalating to a point today where the force of the government is used against political opposition.
Finally, educators may influence individual morality but they are, for the most part, inconsistent since each individual brings their personal views into play, and during early development this inconsistency is as likely as not to simply confuse the child.  Where the government creates an expectation for educators to shape the moral code of a generation we see such inconsistency playing out in confusion and loss of individual identity.
Here is my question: At the end of the day what shapes the lives of those who succeed despite adversity, or conversely, what is missing from those who settle for their lot in life and a sense there is no hope?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

10 Things I Don't Expect to Change in 2017

1.     De-legitimizing the President.  For the past eight years’ supporters of the President have decried as fiction any criticism that questioned the legitimacy of the man for the role.  For the next four years those same defenders will do everything they complained about to the new President.  The irony of this transference will be lost on most people.

2.    The current trajectory of civil conversation

3.    The size of the Federal Government

4.    The use of government departments as overt political tools

5.     An honest public-assessment of the DNC goals, objectives, and its approach to helping the lives of the poor improve to escape the oppression of poverty and achieve a sense of worth

6.    Violence in the major cities

7.     Global climate change...

8.    Government spending greater than government income

9.    Terror as a political tool in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, North and South America, Asia, the sub-continent, and Australia.  I think Antarctica may be safe.

10.  The number of human beings who've landed on the moon

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Justice is Just a Word

We are bombarded by concerns about justice, social and otherwise, but what is justice?  Apparently, it is a lot like beauty.  One man’s justice is another man’s injustice.  For a moment consider what it takes to claim to be a just and fair nation operating under the rule of law.  Then consider how far we can stray as one segment or another of society and the legal system move from a common ideal to their preferred approach.

“I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.” A declaration by President Obama he did not intend to allow the Congress to slow down his administration as he did those things he thought would strengthen his position, the position of his party, the position of his supporters, and perhaps the United States.  At the time, I remember thinking, “Boy, that is a bad idea, because he is setting a standard for his successor.”  As we enter this new era where President-elect Trump will enter the oval office we can expect a huge outcry from the left as he carries on and perhaps expands the tradition of rule by executive order.

The past eight years have seen the administration use the full scope of its executive branch to attack its political opponents.  Remember the time the IRS set out to restrict tax exempt status for conservative organizations?  How about the time the DOJ has injected itself into state investigations to make sure the President’s agenda was pushed, or the time they sold assault weapons to the cartels?  Most recently we hear a report of a “rogue” employee for Homeland Security attempting to hack into the state of Georgia’s election system.  Sorry, but that rogue employee ruse was used by the IRS so there is little credibility remaining with this administration.  All these things, once created, will remain.  We’ve already seen the President-elect’s staff ask for the names of bureaucrats and scientists who have been at the leading edge of pushing the climate change data President Obama labeled as his top agenda item.

The funny thing is there are those on the right who are comfortable with this. The same people who were uncomfortable when the Obama administration began the process are now on-board.  Just as interesting is the outrage of the left, who were completely on-board with the previous administration.  In both cases, we are moving further and further from where the rule of law holds our society together.

Let’s talk about laws for a moment.  I imagine most pre-millennials will remember the Schoolhouse Rock, series that explained in simple terms how an idea progressed into a law.  But that is only 1/3 of the equation.  For a law to be effective it must be administered fairly and judged impartially.  I am afraid we are seeing a breakdown in both the exercise of enforcement, and the impartiality of the judicial system that is charged with the administration of the law.  There are a number of possible examples, but for this purpose I will look at gun control, since it provides the most heated approach on both sides of the center.

One the one hand there are those who would want absolutely no control over the ownership and use of any kind of fire arm, on the opposite extreme there are those who would like to see all guns removed from American civil society.  I think even this extreme still sees the need for guns in the military and perhaps the police, but for everyone else gun ownership should be illegal.  Both extremes are very small percentages, but at the end of the day they seem to be the loudest heard.  Holding aside the debate regarding our right to own guns, let’s only look at would a new law make the possibility of gun violence less?

Those who favor more gun control will obviously say yes, those who oppose, no.  The problem is a law is only words on a paper.  It falls to the humans who are involved in enforcement, the politicians who control and fund them, and the judges and juries who make a determination on application for a law to have any effect.  We never hear about the complexity of making a law work all we ever hear about is “we need a new law,” or “no, we don’t need a new law.”

Over the past eight years we have seen the DOJ selectively break or enforce the laws on gun control, and then stonewall the Congress as they investigated their actions.  Individual acts aside, there has got to be an overall negative affect on the general population over the impartiality of the DOJ on this issue.  Then at the state and local levels we have seen the enforcement of the existing laws expand or contract depending on the politicians and their political affiliations.  If enforcement of the law is not uniform it can’t be effective, when this is the case no law on earth is worth the paper it is written on.

Finally, there is a judicial system that provides a non-uniform application of the law to the defendants brought before the bench.  We’ve seen much in the news about the bias of southern courts where a white defendant will receive a lesser sentence then a black, but the same holds true for northern courts as well, it is just not as well published.  Another variable is personal judicial bias.  It a judge puts their desire for social justice above the fair application of the law they are creating an uneven playing field, to the same degree as a judge who puts race ahead of the facts.

Without a fair and evenly applied enforcement arm, and trusted judicial system, justice is just a word.  As we have seen, it appears to be less important to more people each day.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

On a Cold and Wintery Night (Relatively Speaking)

Emily Litella (AKA Gilda Radner) must be looking down on us with a sly smile and the bewildered look of hers when the real issue was finally explained by Jane Curtain.  We see this week’s focus of the media is “fake news.”  I say this week because the media has been shown to be ADD when it comes to long term coverage of any issue.  For example, how long did they cover “Deepwater Horizon” after the fire was put out and the oil stopped globing up our beaches?  How much coverage have we seen of the Standing Rock fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, or the coverage of the Stein/Clinton recount efforts? 
But now, Brian Williams is going to lead the fight to insure only real honest news is approved and reported.  I have got to hand it to NBC and its affiliates, if you are pushing a meme go all in with your best faker.  Someone who knows exactly what to look for in the fake news department.
I am instilled with such confidence!  The next four years offer much in the way of stupid news broadcasting from those brilliant journalists of ABCNNBCBS, and in the print WP/NYT as they sort out which fake news to declare as real and which to condemn as really, really, fake.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Rhetorical Question

Can an atheist have a "soul crushing" experience?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

How Much is That Airplane in The Window Mister?

In yesterday’s news, the media was all aflutter about Mr. Trump’s tweet calling for the cancellation of a new Air Force One, (actually a small fleet of Boeing 747-8) one of which will have the call sign Air Force One when the President is on board.  The cost estimate he used was, I think, $4 billion dollars for the project.  Of course, Boeing shot back and said THEY were only on contract for $170 million, the implication being Mr. Trump was full of stuffing.
I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life dealing with the problems of translating operational requirements into capability, and I can assure you Mr. Trump is far closer to the actual cost than Boeing, and if I had to guess the $4 billion estimate is at least $1 billion too low when all the acquisition professionals get done with the project.
Let’s start with some historical context.  The current fleet of two VC-25 Boeing 747s were ordered during the Reagan era, and the first one flew as Air Force One in 1990.[i]  Interestingly, the fact sheet doesn’t give a cost for the aircraft as do most of the other fact sheets, but the E-4B lists the cost of a similar command and control (less plush, less VIPish) aircraft at $223 million in FY98 dollars (about $331 million today).
But what about Boeing’s claim they are only on contract for $170 million dollars? I can’t imagine they are correct or even truthful.  A run of the mill C-130 Hercules costs about $100 million when you factor in things like spare parts, support equipment and training.  The Boeing price sheet[ii] shows the list price of a stripped down 747-8 is $378.5 million, so either the US is getting one heck of a deal on this aircraft or the real costs are buried somewhere else.  Also, this is just the base cost – it does not include all the cool modifications a President, his staff, and the press people who fly along with him (or her) would need or want.
I can only imagine the field day the White House staff of the current administration had defining the best possible aircraft for the successor of President Obama.  I’m just guessing here, but I bet they thought it would be Ms. Clinton, so in their eyes, nothing was too good for the Commander in Chief, and cost was only a cursory concern.  You want rich leather unmarred by barb wire scars?  Absolutely, let me add that to the tab.  How about a Spa for those long flights home after a weekend in Europe?  No problem. 
Now I am not saying there will be a gyro stabilized dance floor like I saw being put in a Boeing 777 for some middle eastern customer, but there will certainly be sound deadening additions, communication additions, a medical suite, rich carpeting with fiber optic egress lighting, maybe an escape capsule like in the movie, and a hundred things I can’t even think of.
Then you add in the cost for all the new engineering data our government engineers will want, and Boeing's position that all that data is proprietary so we will have to pay them for the studies, the analysis, and the drawings so that Boeing contractors can maintain the aircraft with the assistance of Air Force personnel.
Next, there will be the cost for flight testing this new aircraft to make absolutely, positively sure it flies just like a commercial Boeing 747 and water doesn’t splash out of the spa.  I’m guessing here, but that would be at least a couple of hundred million dollars to upgrade the test facilities and complete the flight testing at Edwards AFB.
Finally, we have the upgrades to the maintenance complex at Andrews.  These are brand new aircraft; they deserve and demand the finest of maintenance facilities, so the hangers and offices of the current Air Force One fleet will need pretty extensive overhaul.
As I believe Everett Dirksen once said, “A billion here and a billion there, pretty soon you are talking about some real money.”

Saturday, December 3, 2016


When it comes to the night sky most see all the twinkling lights, and may be able to pick out a few features like the Moon, maybe Mars, perhaps Saturn, or Venus in the early morning or evening.  We also may know of Polaris, the North Star, and with some difficulty pick it out.  Still fewer of us will know the Constellations like Orion, Ursa Major and Minor, or Aries.  Fewer even still, will recall the formations like the Pleiades or Seven Sisters (think of the Subaru symbol). 

Before the age of radio navigation and GPS, these celestial bodies guided our exploration of the planet and beyond.  They took our explorers across the vast oceans, helping them find the Americas as they sailed from Europe and Africa, or find the tiny specks of rock scattered across the broad Pacific.  They were used by the Apollo teams to guide their path to the moon and home.  They have been there since the beginning of time and will see the end of time.

Today I am reminded of Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern sky, it is also the zenith star of the Hawaiian Islands.  The ancient Polynesian[i] called it Hōkūleʻa, the “Star of Joy.”  In this season, we remember the wise men and the shepherds led to Christ by a star.  A star that has ultimately led so many of us to a deep inner joy. 

May all who read this little note find peace in the knowledge the stars like Arcturus still guide our way.


Friday, December 2, 2016

I Can't

“I can’t” is perhaps the most damaging of expressions.  It sums up an attitude of defeat, it gives voice to inner demons that sit inside us, who pardon our best effort.  These words shackle our soul and vocalize our fears.  For too many they are words used far too often.
Throughout my life I’ve seen when someone begins with “I can’t” they have already said “I won’t succeed so why try?”  Overcoming that attitude is what separates those who give up, and those who press on despite the struggle. 
As parents, teachers, or mentors the greatest give we can give is to tell ourselves and our young charges “we can,” but at the end of the day only the individual can determine if they can or can’t. 
May this day be filled with “I can.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

It’s All About the Narrative

On Monday, November 28, 2016, there was a terror event on the campus of Ohio State University.  It involved an OSU student, a young Somali immigrant, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, attacking others with his car, and then a knife.  This attack was similar to what we’ve seen in Palestinian attacks in Israel. He was engaged and killed by an OSU police officer, Alan Horujko, who reported “shots fired” as he called for assistance.  This led the OSU emergency response team to declare an active shooter event and broadcast it via social media to all the students.  Its Twitter message read, “Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College.

It took about an hour from the first notification for the OSU administration to determine the only shooter was the police officer, and the student body should be notified of the all clear, but the twitter responses make a rather telling commentary on the thinking of the average student, others who followed the feed, as well as those who will use any such event to push their political narrative.

On the one hand, there were a significant number of individuals who could not fathom why the OSU team would advocate “fight” as one of the responses.  If someone has a gun how could you possibly fight them?  The concept of actively participating in their own defense appeared to be completely alien to them.
For the record, the advice advocating fight comes only if there are no other options.  You are trapped and about to be shot.  In this instance the advice is to be as violent as possible to disrupt the shooter and either disarm them or escape.

Then there were those who used the events of the day to talk about the need for everyone to have a gun and how OSU should not be a gun free zone.  @Tradecraft Ltd offered this great opinion, “Apparently colleges would prefer their innocent students to just be good little victims.

Finally, there were politicians and others from California, Virginia, and elsewhere around the world, who weighed in about how too many people have guns and that this never would have happened if we had better gun control laws.

Senator Tim Kaine, D-VA (Clinton VP candidate), found it necessary to weigh in before he had the facts (I assume) with “Deeply saddened by the senseless act of gun violence at Ohio State this morning. Praying for the injured and the entire Buckeye community

I am not a twitter user, and looking at the dialogues on this medium I am convinced my choice was a good one, for civility and respect don’t seem to be its forte. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

On the Art of Listening

If you watch the broadcast news or sports you will see neither the reporters nor the subjects listen to each other.  They are so eager to ask their questions, make their statements, or give their answers it becomes more of a dance than a conversation.  Perhaps this is why we are becoming so polarized.  We’ve been trained to speak, not to listen.
The world around us moves at sometimes frightening speed.  There is so much going on, we’ve set so many goals and tasks for ourselves the hours of the day do not seem sufficient to accomplish all we have to do.
The eastern philosophies and religions teach their followers to slow down and block the out the world for a time and to relax their minds and listen to themselves to find peace.  We can all benefit from this thought.  Isn’t this quiet, reflective, approach what prayer is?
My intent today is to listen to the world around me.  Not to judge, not to change, not to inform, but to absorb and reflect on what was, what is, and what can be.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

On the Eve of History

We have Thanksgiving behind us, the insanity of Christmas shopping before us, and the fate of the nation hangs in the peaceful transfer of power.  This December should be a memorable one.  Now, if only the Canadians would change their names to Visigoths and Huns the perspective would be complete.
For the record, I don’t seriously think the nation will collapse before January 20th or even in the next four years, but each challenge to the historical assumptions of peaceful transition calls into question the strength of the Republic of the future.  You’ve got to admire the spunk of the Green Party, for finding a fundraising opportunity in the disdain of the left for President (elect) Trump.  I think it is also telling of the DNC and their candidate.
As Democrats work through their stages of grief, it seems apparent fresh ideas are not coming from within but, as we see with this challenge to the election results, from others outside the party.  Kind of like Senator Sanders, an independent, as the only real challenger to the DNC’s preordained choice.
As an aside, for almost all of my adult life the educational industry has told us college for everyone was the key to a successful future.  We are now coming to realize how horribly wrong that idea is, but they have a very strong lobby so it probably won’t change anytime soon.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Experience, We Don’t Need No Stink’n Experience*

* Apologies to B. Traven and John Huston

It used to be, and perhaps still is, a given for any good and successful organization to have a mix of older people and youth.  The youth bring enthusiasm and energy, while the older members temper their energy with wisdom and experience.  The experienced would mentor (often informally) the young to help them understand the tasks before them and the ways those tasks were best handled.  They would pass along things that could never be found in the instructions, training, or classes the young might have had.

Now it seems even as the wisdom of the old is celebrated, it is pushed aside by the desire for instant change, even when instant change is not necessary.  We can look at almost any endeavor where the good-looking youth is pushed forward to be the boss, almost always at the cost of experience.

I read an article the other day on how journalists coming into the trade were previously not valued until they had 10 to 20 years of experience.  In the old model, college was not a prerequisite for journalism.  Now we expect college to replace those years of experience and we push the young graduates into the limelight as soon as they impress someone.  The alternative is to take someone who has influence in politics and thrust them into the spokesperson role for the network, again without a great deal of experience in the trade. 

I wonder, in either case, how much judgement they bring into the role?

Perhaps, if the current journalists were into self-inspection this would be a concern they would address, but I suspect self-inspection is not a strength of today's journalists.
Although not directly related, I recommend this post by Scott Adams, A Lesson in Cognitive Dissonance.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Seven Stages of Political Grief (2016 version)

1.     Shock – That instant when you realize your candidate failed to do what [choose your gender-neutral pronoun] and the media had assured you was a “done deal.”

2.    Disbelief – how could this happen? The whole world is irrevocably altered and your life, the lives of your friends, and the lives of all the people at the corner deli (kosher and organic) will never be the same.

3.    Rage – Releasing a primordial scream to let the world know how outraged you are over this injustice to humanity.  (In modern society this may take the form of incessant posts on social media of all the sins, real or supposed, of the winner and why [choose your gender and race specific pronoun] will fail)  

4.    Challenge – show how the election was unfair and did not represent the true will of the average citizen.  This may include plotting how to overturn the results.

5.     Protest (AKA Riot) – Gather together to destroy property of all those who may not agree with your political views, letting the world know you stand united in your belief in the American Dream, as long as it agrees with you; and just maybe pick up a new flat screen TV in the process.

6.    Nitpick – question every decision, every choice, every statement made by the winner, and publish those statements on every social media outlet possible.

7.     Acceptance – just kidding there are only six stages.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Curiouser and Curiouser

“The Red Queen shook her head. "You may call it 'nonsense' if you like," she said, "but I've heard nonsense, compared with which that would be as sensible as a dictionary!”
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

Seems like only a month ago the Democratic Party, its propaganda arm ABCNNBCBS, and all 60,000,000 of its voters were up in arms about candidate Trump’s assertion the election was rigged and he would not promise to accept the election results on their face.  If I recall candidate Clinton correctly she made a big deal over this reluctance, going so far as to claim it would undermine the whole Republic.

So here we are two weeks after the election and I read how her advisors are suggesting she challenge the results in three states that would swing the balance of the election to her, and if that doesn’t work how Democratic Party electors are preparing not to follow the mandates of their states popular vote and instead “vote their conscience.

So remind me again, which party believes in the legitimacy of the electoral process?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Groupthink, or How My Group Thunk.

A friend shared this article on Facebook the other day, The Real War on Science, by John Tierney, writing in the City Journal.  Mr. Tierney also writes for the New York Times.  I thought about the piece last night and again this morning.  I was tempted to relate it to other on-going things, but decided instead to give a brief synopsis and let you read his opinion on which philosophical/political side places the biggest hurdles to the advancement of scientific knowledge.  My caveat, I may be a tad guilty of confirmation bias.
The bottom line of Mr. Tierney’s piece is the conservative right (i.e. Republicans) have not had too much impact science.  He notes the role of the government, and how whoever is in power tends to make political decisions that may shift some research, but his concern is with the impact of the progressive left (i.e. Democrats) and two particular cultural aspects the shape modern social research.  They are “Confirmation Bias” and “Groupthink.”
As Mr. Tierney describes, “the first threat is confirmation bias, the well-documented tendency of people to seek out and accept information that confirms their beliefs and prejudices. In a classic study of peer review, 75 psychologists were asked to referee a paper about the mental health of left-wing student activists. Some referees saw a version of the paper showing that the student activists’ mental health was above normal; others saw different data, showing it to be below normal.  Sure enough, the more liberal referees were more likely to recommend publishing the paper favorable to the left-wing activists. When the conclusion went the other way, they quickly found problems with its methodology.”
Mr. Tierney notes researchers attempt to eliminate confirmation bias by having people with different opinions review their work.  The problem is academia is a left-leaning institution and many fields are becoming mono-cultures where this are few, if any, opposing views.  As an example, he gives the field of sociology where Democrats outnumber Republicans at a ratio of 44 to 1.  Which leads to the next problem, when everyone in your peer group thinks as you do the group tends to believe not only are they right, what they believe must be true.  He believes this Groupthink issue is becoming so wide spread that many researchers are no longer aware of their own role in it.
I found the article to be worth reading, if only for self-reflective purposes.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

And So It Goes.

Bullying is a unique dynamic.  The experts in bullying talk about the insecurities of bullies, how we need to stand up to them, confront them, and stop them from pushing around the weaker segments of society.  As I watch the beatings of our socially conscious breasts and the outrage from the “I’m with Her” crowd I am reminded of the expert opinions on bullies.

These days we have the social bullies filling the streets in mock outrage that a candidate such as President (elect) Trump would be elected, and are distraught that despite having more popular votes their beloved choice fell far short on the required electoral vote.  Of course, both sides have their cases to make, but I suspect most of those filling the street in front of Trump tower, or blocking streets in LA did not assume so much social responsibility as to register AND vote.  If you didn’t vote, sit down and shut up.  You had your chance to participate and chose not to.  Your belief in anarchy as a solution is not going to be better than the worse day with the new President.

We have the cast of Hamilton lecturing the Vice President, and of course @realDonaldTrump had to respond.  For the record, I think we need to have the common man participate in our government, and the right to speak directly to the President or Vice President should be viewed as a good thing.  But in this case their obvious hypocrisy undermines the message.  Their choice of silence as President Obama took sides on the killing of our police, his obvious bias towards portraying blacks as the universal victim, his use of drones to remotely kill innocents as well as targets in the Middle East and Africa, or recalcitrant refusal to condemn radical Islam, even as terrorists killed Christians and members of the LGBT community means they have chosen a political side and are using their stage as a political forum.  The wonderful thing about capitalism is the public can decide for themselves if there is a price to this act. 

I would say to the cast of Hamilton, if you are to take it upon yourself to speak directly to the Vice President, you owe it to your own followers not to be so flagrantly hypocritical.  If you are only interested in your own needs then whine about that in private, but if you propose to represent a group then be prepared to represent the group well, not just to people you don’t like.  Look with open eyes at the acts of those you like, because they speak far clearer than their words.

Of course, in the exchange between @realDonaldTrump and the actor, who I believe was Brandon Victor Dixon, we see the President elect condemning the speech, saying a theater should be a “safe space.”  I think he would have been far better served in his 144 letters to speak to the booing the VP received as unnecessary, but it is always refreshing to see people like Dan Rather portray him as a bully, and reflect that bullies are quick to over react when challenged and that great presidents are almost always the opposite of the qualities he says reflect those of a bully.  Mr. Rather is himself a bit of a bully, and has used his position to publicly condemn those whose political views disagree with his own, so for me this was a rather tone deaf insertion into a twitter storm.  While I don’t know who Mr. Rather views as the great Presidents I am pretty sure you will find their ability to push around their opposition was one of the keys to their success.
This link describes the new social justice bully much better than I can.  Aristo Orginos Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millenial Social Justice 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

I Think It is Safe to Assume

The US will not adopt the metric system.

 Yellowstone National Park will not blow up.

 The next four years will be filled with hate and political animosity, mostly from people who claim they are pushing for social justice and acceptance, yet appear to be a lot like social bullies, to everyone else.

 Hollywood stars will not actually keep their promises to leave, and we will continue to see them on the talk shows pushing their projects while condemning the new administration.

 The people who truly believe climate change is the number 1 threat to the nation will be disappointed as car manufacturers continue to sell more super-sized SUVs than electric cars and oil production in the US increases to keep costs to the consumer down.

 The new President will continue the tradition of the last President by claiming credit for all the good stuff, while blaming the opposition for all the bad stuff.

 The DOJ and IRS, having been turned into effective political weapons by the last administration, will continue as such -- just with a different enemies list.

 A Republican Congress will make mistakes similar to the Democratic Congress of 2009-10.

 The cost of all this will continue to raise the national debt, but the Republicans won’t spend their days complaining about it and the Democrats won’t either.

 Maybe, if we are lucky, real jobs will be created so men and women who want to work can find employment at reasonable wages.

 The religious wars, which aren’t supposed to be called religious wars, will continue.

The European Union will continue to have discord from members who see that Great Britain didn’t sink into the Atlantic as forecast.

 The Democratic National Committee and the mainstream media will pick a new, more radical approach, to condemn the Trump administration.
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