Am I That Smart?

Posted: July 30, 2016 in Education, Religion

~ Sweet Old Bob
I must precede my perspective with an attempt at self evaluation. Now, this can be a slippery slope to madness, as in “he’s beside himself” being a description of someone who is trying to self-analyze. But, I believe I have moments of clarity. One that I recently drew an agreement, was saying “you can’t disregard religion or science as explanations for what’s going on in the world.”
As I related this to someone I included a reflection on my days as a high school junior. I started out the year taking physics for my science course. I was working part time as a dish washer at the time. For some reason I decided to quit my job. To fill in the extra time I decided to add another course. It was chemistry. In one of the classes I was supposed to explain how a battery works. There are two explanations. One is in the discipline of chemistry, the other in physics. I wrote a paragraph that included elements of both because I had read them as I studied both. The teacher who taught both courses, in my opinion, should have graded me down for not sticking to the course I was writing for. She didn’t. I just believe there are more than one way to explain a phenomenon. A religious explanation of anything shouldn’t be excluded from the conversation just because it doesn’t toe the mark in a religious one.
In a series on evolution, one episode was called “What about Religion?” It did a pretty decent job of presenting evolution to a class in a religious college. The fact that scholars who teach religion do their best to explode the myth that evolution teaches that we descended from monkeys. Evolution does not teach that we evolved from monkeys. The fact that we and certain primates share 99% of the same gene pool should be offered as evidence that we and these primates do share something in the physical world. Would this scientific fact make religious explanations false?

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Political Corruption

Posted: July 30, 2016 in history, Leadership

All you have to do is get into the lowest level of elected office to find out there are land-mines in your efforts to be active. I found that out years ago. I was thrust onto the executive board of a local political party’s organization at the legislative district level. I am a precinct committee officer, the lowest level elected office in Washington state. I was asked to replace an elected executive board member, by him, because he had decided to pursue other priorities. I accepted, and was elected the next election.
I was also elected several times without an opponent. Get this clear: precinct committee officer and executive board member are two separate and distinct positions. I ran into problems trying to fulfill my obligations as a PCO. It was the second election caucus, in 2008, which had generated a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm. The results of that was an attendance by my precinct of about 10 times the normal turn-out. Without any real training, just being handed the instructions, I tried to get the job done. To say it didn’t turn out so well is an understatement. I let myself get distracted by a person who was promoting his candidate, and engaged me in a conversation as the caucus got underway. I did some things right, but I also didn’t do some critical things that, in a more formal environment, would have disenfranchised my attendees. Fortunately, the shortcomings were overlooked and I believe our pick for candidate was recorded. The next caucus, for some reason (I can’t remember why) our precinct was conducted by another, more qualified, individual. The last caucus would have been conducted flawlessly because of our very capable county political organization’s chair conducting multiple training sessions. The problem is near the end of another really greatly attended caucus, I became deathly ill and had to leave. One of the participants had been trained, took over, and finished the job. As far as anybody could tell, I had just taken off without a good reason.
Where I really dropped the ball was at a meeting of the legislative district executive board meeting. It was campaign season and campaign buttons were in the offing. I suggested my daughter’s business would be a good choice beings her prices were much better than any other company’s. The board decided to go with the party’s lady’s group’s doing the job with their newly purchased button machine. What I did not think about is the conflict of interest I was guilty of promoting a family member’s business with the party. That’s a no no.It is the way so many politicians have gotten into trouble.
Why this is a very important lesson is in today’s Presidential election where one of the candidates is being roundly criticized by a practice that had been in place by two previous office holders. The practice was ultimately not determined to be a criminal offense, but the head of the investigating body chastised the candidate for sloppy job performance, giving the opponents a big reason to drive this into the ground right up to the election.

Wednesday, May 09; Thursday, May 10; and Sunday, May 13, 2012
I have used this copout for many years to partially explain why I left college in the middle of my junior year: with all the cheating going on around me just what value is a college degree? It seemed to me that degrees awarded to those who cheated their way through college devalued every degree awarded. The practical value of a degree for getting a job wasn’t a factor. The emphasis on the word “cheating” is to slightly altar the meaning of the word from that which is commonly understood. I think I believed that corroboration outside the classroom sullied one’s efforts, and made the product – a finished homework assignment – not one’s own. Copying someone else’s test paper in class is certainly cheating in the traditional meaning. But, to what extent is one’s homework understood by the professor to be the sole effort of the student who turned it in? Could gaining cooperative skills be valued in the process; thus making corroboration not important as an argument against the value of the homework? I can remember incidents of students being chastised and flunked by teachers who determined their work was not their own because the teacher knew who’s typical work was represented on the papers. Of course if more than one paper is the same then collusion – versus corroboration – was evident.
I am forced to resolve the idea that gay marriage cheapens the traditional idea of marriage (i. e. the spiritual and physical union of a man and a woman). It is so easy to adapt either the conservative or liberal view without much thought. But, that is intellectual laziness. The very arguments, for and against gay marriage, should be considered; at least on an academic level. Can we ignore the effect of society’s accepting gay marriages be considered when thinking whether they are ok or not?
If I revisit my long-held opinion that the cheating that was going on around me rendered the results of my undergraduate studies worth less than in a pristine (non-cheating) environment, then maybe I would think that maybe my copout was just a copout. On a pragmatic level, who really cares?
When a certain Fr. Toner called me at my rooming house to forward the offer of an anonymous donor to pay for my next semester’s tuition, my opinion regarding the actual value of the degree may have clouded my thinking. I can imagine an extended conversation with Fr. Toner. I might have added my thoughts about how those who cheat their ways through college debased the degree I would have gotten if I had broken my commitment with the Navy and continued my university studies.
He might have argued that my degree would be as valuable as what I had actually acquired in the process. Seeing that, I might have re-thought my decision.
As for the marriage issue the same argument might be advanced separating heterosexual from homosexual marriages. The heterosexual marriage is only as valuable as the effort expended in making, and preserving it.
Sunday, May 13, 2012:
In today’s edition of the Kitsap Sun print edition, page 11A – below the fold, column’s 1 through 4 – is a column by Cal Thomas. It starts off with a typical conservative’s slant on President Obama’s evolved thinking on same sex marriage. He is not accurate in his opinion of Obama’s reason for delaying and finally arriving to the conclusion that we ought to allow gay marriage. It only reveals his cynicism. His opinion about why the conservative Christian’s stand can’t carry the day because of their inability to adhere to the teachings of the gospel as it teaches about the nature of marriage, that of not allowing divorce.
Garrison Keillor has a wonderful spoof of the proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. It proposes a constitutional amendment defining marriage the way it was in ancient times, and still is in some societies. The strongest argument against the new real proposed amendment is in the part of the spoof about a man doesn’t need to be a virgin but a woman does. This is great stuff.

I Am Not Cynical, But…

Posted: July 30, 2016 in Politics, Religion

I just got through dealing with my city’s billing department. They have adopted a really aggressive billing.
That is a paraphrase of Mose Alison’s song, “Gettin’ There “, in which he says he’s “not down-hearted, but I’m gettin’ there”.
I have a friend who lives just outside the city limits, who said if this city decides to annex his neighborhood, he will put his house up for sale. I don’t know what his beef is, but I certainly do understand his sentiment. Right now, if I had the resources, I would move outside the boundaries of this city in a heartbeat.
That would only solve the immediate problem. Expanding on that one issue, I feel that my elected representatives adopt (in their mind, certainly not to my face) that I am in the word of our most cynical Presidential candidate, a loser. I don’t know if I prefaced my remark with his infamous put-down, I would get real sympathy from my elected representatives, but it is worth a try.
My concerns were recently addressed in an article in the local newspaper about the percentage of local people who are struggling financially. I believe this is not just local and contributes to candidates who prey on their negative views of the system. To believe there is a mythical Siren song that causes disaffected voters to vote for the less qualified, but emotionally appealing candidate, much as the Siren’s song lead sailors to disaster. This character is emblematic of the political rhetoric that they don’t really understand but appeals to their emotions.
Logical intelligent arguments go right over the head of those whose minds are made up and do not listen. They offer no rebuttal but repeat their original opinion. Dale Carnegie included this unattributed quote in his book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People”: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”. As I remember, the author follows up with the idea that people can only be convinced if you appeal to their “better angels”. This is my translation, probably not verbatim from the book itself.
Googling the quotation leads to Dale Carnegie’s book and tries to trace the origins of it. It1 cites the famous British writer, Mary Wollstonecraft, who used the phrase “Convince a man against his will, He’s of the same opinion still.” in the notes to Chapter 5 of her 1792 treatise, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. This adage is placed in quotes, denoting that it wasn’t original text, but without reference to the source. So either she didn’t know the origin of this saying or she assumed that it was so popularly known that citing the source was unnecessary. My opinion is this compares to the “dead metaphor”.
Footnotes
1. CliffNotes Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Dr. Schneider, 
I seem to remember your promoting front page editorials in one of your classes when I was an undergraduate. Now, there is a very prominent front page editorial in the news. It is from yesterday’s edition of the Sioux City Journal. I had to google the subject because I heard an item on NPR’s All Things Considered this afternoon. Even the name of the paper escaped me (my memory is just too full of information to remember any one item… at least “That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to It”). So, I googled another paper that was mentioned in another item… still on NPR’s ATC. That paper mentioned the other paper’s story only after I added the word “bullying” to the search phrase. Interestingly, the story I was looking for is in the Christian Science Monitor about the other paper’s front page editorial. (Was it you that told us that the Christian Science Monitor was one of the most respected news sources in the world?)
The story from the Christian Science Monitor is available at this link:
http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/2012/0423/Iowa-teen-s-suicide-prompts-strong-anti-bullying-statement.
Do you remember any of this? It is just one more example of why you were my absolute favorite teacher at G. U. Your influence lives to this day in me.
I intend to forward this link to a member of the local school board and ask him/her how Bremerton School District’s policy against bullying if faring these days. One never knows what a little shake-of-the-cage might do in our society. In past generations there was just too little political involvement. It is how the only way for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing is so important in any society. I know you mentioned how you were out on the firing line demonstrating against the Iraq invasion-occupation (a k a the Iraq war).
As always I am waiting with great anticipation for your response and perspective regarding this. If I have to I will phone you about this if I don’t “hear” (dead metaphor) from you. But, I will undoubtedly ask you to read this from your e-mail message if you haven’t already.
I intend to forward that link to a member of the local school board and ask him/her how Bremerton School District’s policy against bullying if faring these days. One never knows what a little shake-of-the-cage might do in our society. In past generations there was just too little political involvement. It is how the only way for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing is so important in any society. I know you mentioned how you were out on the firing line demonstrating against the Iraq invasion-occupation (a k a the Iraq war).
As always I am waiting with great anticipation for your response and perspective regarding this. If I have to I will phone you about this if I don’t “hear” (dead metaphor) from you. But, I will undoubtedly ask you to read this from your e-mail message if you haven’t already.

Modern Patriotism

Posted: July 4, 2016 in News and politics

It’s been awhile since I’ve been inspired to write at length about anything. Yesterday’s Kitsap Sun Opinion page included a column somebody decided to headline “Patriotism as it is now”.
Robert Reich seeks to distinguish “exclusive patriotism” from “inclusive patriotism”. As he describes the “traditional” patriotism has “… ideals we share in common: democracy, equal opportunity, freedom, tolerance and generosity” i. e. “inclusive patriotism.

He goes on to expand on these ideals, then he presents “By contrast, we’re now hearing a strident, exclusive patriotism. It asserts a unique and superior `Americanism’ that’s determined to exclude others beyond our borders.”

Robert then gives us the supreme example of the most famous proponent of exclusive patriotism, Donald Trump. His idea is to keep certain ethnic and religious groups out.

While I agree that our best “traditional” ideals are inclusive, tolerant, free, generous, I see this as a continuous struggle with the evil opposites that creep up from the corrosive alternative.

In an attempt to understand the meaning of liberal and conservative, I am often challenged to distinguish one from the other. These kinds of patriotism fall into one of the other classifications, liberal or conservative. But, if Mr. Reich’s description of traditional values falls into a conservative ideal, and the “new” patriotism fits into a “progressive” (dare I call it “liberal”) then isn’t he giving credence to allowing conservatives to be the rudder (in my “Ship of State for the 21st Century”) and the progressive be the propeller (“screw” in maritime terminology) needing the guidance of the “rudder”?

Many years ago there was a semi-political cartoon series “Pogo Possum”. Probably the most famous utterance by the subject is “We have met the enemy and he is us”. Doesn’t that apply very well to Mr. Reich’s observation that “Exclusive patriotism tells us to fear foreign terrorists in our midst – even though almost every terrorist attack since 9/11 has been perpetrated by American citizens or holders of green cards living here for a decade or more.”?

We were witnessing a particularly humorous event on the news this evening. John Boehner was excoriating the Senate Democrats, imploring them to “get off their asses” and vote for the homeland security funding bill. What’s humorous is: six months ago the Senate Republicans were a part of the “party of `no’”. Extreme partisans can vilify John by saying what he is doing is “evil”. Six months ago Harry Reid would be declared spot on for saying the same thing about Senate Republicans.

Of course the tables are turned. The R’s “control” both House and Senate. (Putting control in quotations is understanding that this “control” is limited, because the other side has certain procedural controls in the game.

So, let’s take a sport – I like baseball, but this could be applied to just about any team sport. The offensive team has one main member, the batter. His job is to hit the ball, that is hurled at the strike zone by the pitcher, and get on base or run the bases. Let’s compare the curve ball to the political “lie”. Oh my, that pitcher “lied” to the batter by pitching a curve ball. He lied to the batter! The ball was supposed to go high, but it went low. Do we say the pitcher was evil for “lying” to the batter by throwing a curve? There are many more strategies used in baseball by the defense to overcome strategies by the offense.

At this point I have to interject the inadvisability of lying with impunity. The liar is not trusted when his lies are detected. The latest scandal of Brian Wilson, the NBC reporter who was released by NBC news for his lying about an event in the middle east. Will Brian ever be trusted again? There is a certain moral code regarding journalists that injects a credibility into the reporting of the news. But, if we simply limit the comparison between politics and sports, we can come to accept deception as a necessary element in doing the job. Once we understand that some people make things up (lie) we can coexist by not trusting what they say. We either accept or not their lying. We shun or socialize with them. Socializing with them removes the stigma in the interest of trying not to achieve teaching them a lesson (which won’t work with the pathological liar). If we shun them we close off any chance of reaching them and avoiding the tendency of evil to fester in the soul of the liar, and result in some catastrophic evil. But, this social commentary is digressing from the subject of politics as a sport. How do we know the politician is lying? No, not when his lips are moving. Try Factcheck.org. While I think the staff sometimes nitpicks, it is a good source to determine the validity of politician’s utterances.

Of course there is the element of cheating. Some people believe that cheating is only bad if the cheater either gets caught or doesn’t, you pick – one is the cynical approach and the other is the realistic. It is pretty much in the court of public opinion whether the cheater is punished, even though there is a system to detect and punish the cheater.

Yesterday, May 1, 2014, a Seattle mayor’s committee approved a phased in $15 an hour minimum wage for all workers in Seattle. The details are complicated by a compromise that included input from businesses and workers’ groups.

The one proposal offered by a business owner is a lower training wage, usually paid for a determinate period of time. The way this is wrong is too many businesses just fire workers at the end of the training period because it is so easy to train new people and take advantage of the lower wage. Sears, which is following Montgomery Wards into oblivion, is famous for doing that to escape paying health benefits in Washington State.
I will grant that any job with a modicum of complexity that takes a good period of time to learn won’t fall prey to this scam. So anyone who isn’t cleaver enough to learn the more complicated job would just have to live with the training wage. Fortunately, this is not a part of the proposal in Seattle and, with vigilance, activists can keep it from happening.

Here is the challenge for activist groups. Don’t waste time trying to get a $15 an hour now. Keep your eyes on the sparrow, and make sure the proposal doesn’t get messed up with bad parts.

As I’ve long believed, companies whose workers are unionized thrive; while those who don’t don’t. Case in point: I once worked for Airborne Express. A coworker proudly announced, “We aren’t unionized. Airborne couldn’t survive if we were.” Not being particularly astute to the workers’ rights I didn’t have a response. Sometimes I feel like the “watcher” in the series “Highlander”. The “watcher” character didn’t have an active roll but did offer counsel to the main immortals. I don’t even try to offer unsolicited counsel. I prefer to follow Dale Carnegie’s idea that “you can’t tell anybody anything. You can only seek to inspire…” At least that’s a paraphrase of what he said. But I digress. The point is: there are two other thriving shippers, Fed Ex and United Parcel Service. And, guess what: they both thrive and are union. And where is Airborne Express these days? It was bought out by another multinational and you don’t see their (DHL) delivery trucks around here any more. So, today I see an article in a side-bar on page A8 of today’s Seattle Times, “Strike vs. Amazon” that the Amazon.com workers in Germany (unionized) are striking for more wages. That would seem to indicate that unions are somewhat strong in Germany (I’d have to check that one out) and, guess what is the strongest economy in Europe? You guessed it: Germany. I googled “unions in Germany” and, boy did I get an education… just by reading the citation headings. One could do a study on the subject by following the links. Another article in today’s Seattle Times tells of the newly elected Seattle City Counsel who proudly proclaims she is a socialist! She addressed a union gathering and advanced an idea she has had for quite a while that the government should use eminent domain and take Boeing and sell it to the workers…

Reading a column in the  July 26, 2011 edition of the Kitsap Sun headlines “The New Party of Ronald Reagan” I am filled with a new introspection of an issue of economics that has been formulating in me for years.

I am reflecting on a short conversation I had with a certain bus driver many years ago at the outdoor part of the then Cafe Destino. She made the point that the good or bad that occurs during an administration’s years are the results of policies of the previous administration. If she is right, then logic would seem to dictate that the economic meltdown during George Bush’s administration might be the result of policies of Bill Clinton’s administration. One of the bragging points that Bill often talks about is his balancing the budget. So, did balancing the budget result in the economic woes that came about in the next administration?

We can have some measure of certainty that the current economic woes are brought about by how Dubya mishandled the economy in his administration. I often remember the political cartoon published early in Dubya’s administration showing a relay race. The runner who is finishing his part of the race hands off a sputtering torch named “economy” to the next runner. Of course the finishing runner was Bill Clinton and the new runner was Dubya. Sometimes I think political cartoons are dead on, in terms of accuracy… especially years later after the ensuing turns of events.

I hope I can see the bus driver sometime in the future to exchange reflections.