Archive for July, 2016

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?

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.”?