FUD

I spent almost a decade working for a major medical equipment manufacturer. that made and sold products like CT and MRI scanners. These came with price tags in the millions of dollars, so competition was fierce, and customers wanted to make the best possible decision as to the best product.

Our most significant competitor was General Electric whose products were very good. Picker International, the company I worked for, would often be the first to introduce new technology. We used to joke that sometimes that the leading edge was actually the “bleeding edge.” GE might have lagged behind, but by doing so, they were able to observe and then develop a competitive, yet more mature product.

One of the sales tactics we often faced was referred to as FUD–Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Competitors would ask customers if they were sure that the new technology would work. What if this or what if that? Our biggest competitor could end their sales pitch with the following statement:

No one ever got fired for buying GE.

The statement was true. However, I don’t know of any case in which someone got fired for buying a GE competitor. Nevertheless, this the argument carried a lot of weight and was difficult to counter because it is impossible to prove or disprove a negative.

FUD is a powerful persuader that is not dependent on specific, proven facts.

Now that you know what FUD is, look for it in today’s political rhetoric

The US Constitution

Yesterday was Constitution Day, which marks the signing of the US Constitution on 17 September 1787. With all of the turmoil in our society, I struggled to figure out how to write about it without throwing gasoline on anybody’s fire. This is the best I can do.

The constitution is a marvelous document both imperfect and the product of its time. Twenty-five times it has been amended (There are 27 amendments, but the 18th [Prohibition] and the 21st [repeal of Prohibition] cancel one another).

While much of the constitution describes the mechanisms of government, but to me the very soul of the Constitution is its preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, 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.

These days I read about people demanding their constitutional rights—a just and reasonable demand. However, without making a judgement about their position, I wonder how many of these people have actually read the Constitution. [Related story]

Sadly, it seems there are too few who acknowledge their responsibilities, as well as their rights. Members of the military and elected officials swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution from foreign and domestic threats. I have experience with the military, and believe most are, in fact, committed to that oath, to the extent that they are willing to give their lives to do so. I do not have a similar personal familiarity with elected officials. However, I do not believe death is a significant risk for them. As near as I can tell, their risk seems to be limited to not being re-elected.

I suggest that one of the responsibilities we share is to have some familiarity with this marvelous document. I urge everyone to read the US Constitution.

Better yet, make it a habit to read it once a year—on Constitution Day.

Anti-Social Media

In the early days of the Internet, its primary users were academics who saw it as a forum for the free exchange of ideas. As such, it was afforded some legal protection by Section 230, which says:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

That’s Section 230 in its entirety—short, sweet, straightforward. However, as we know, no good deed goes unpunished. Today, much of the internet is used as to present falsehoods, launch attacks, conduct illegal transactions, etc. all while remaining anonymous.

Why? Section 230 treats “interactive computer services” as conduits, like telephone companies. The phone company (supposedly) neither knows nor cares about what you say on the phone. On the other hand, newspapers, radio, and television must adhere to certain guidelines. For example, they cannot broadcast the tone used by the National Weather Service for emergencies unless it’s either an emergency or a clearly identified test. Likewise, certain language is prohibited.

The infamous website Backpage, protected by Section 230 until it was shut down, acted as a link for sex—including sex with minors. How many of these “sex workers” were, in fact, victims of human trafficking?

So, what’s the difference between communication and content providers? I see at least two major differences:

  • Telephone conversations are between two people or, in the case of a conference call, to a group of people who choose to participate. In any case, the audience is limited in some manner.
  • Mass media, like newspapers, radio, and television are intended to be available to anyone.

To my mind, social media are, today, more like mass media. In fact, I don’t see a fundamental difference. So why aren’t they regulated like other mass media?

Money.

The owners of social media have made so much money that I believe it is unlikely, if not impossible, for any control to be imposed.

When I write a blog, even when I’m aggressively challenging someone’s position, I endeavor to write factually, civilly, and coherently. I hope someday, this will be the norm. With Section 230 in place, this is unlikely.

How About a Little Reality?

(Typing one-handed–sorry)

A million years ago, when I was in uniform, if there was a threat, I expected immediate notification of whatever was 1) known, and 2) expected. My Sailors knew, far better than me, what was important. Their experience and expertise allowed me to coordinate efforts to support them. They were better at their jobs, thank God, than I was.

When a unit is being fired upon, when a squad is pinned down by a sniper, or a ship is taking on water, the facts–however ugly–are important. If the troops at a certain position are under attack, it doesn’t matter if they are calm. Reality is reality. If they have a reasonable view of the operational environment, they will do everything to succeed.

Some politicians worry about how events make people feel. I recommend that they worry more about giving people the information to make rational decisions. Adults who feel badly, unless personally affected, will be fine.

Being upset is better than being dead.

75th Anniversary WW II

Seventy-five years ago, the Second World War ended.

That was my parent’s war. The Greatest Generation’s war. At that time, every American was, in one way or another, invested in it. It was a very different time with very different values.

In a small gesture, I’ve been watching Band of Brothers–the story of one company of the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army during World War II. The first time I saw any of this series was at the Pat Tillman USO in Afghanistan. I didn’t see much of it, as I was waiting for transportation to a FOB (forward operating base) or something. Nevertheless, the small exposure piqued my interest. Years later, my family gave me the set of DVDs.

The movie portrays the essence of the soldiers’ experiences. if not every precise detail. The movie is too intense for some, so the first time I watched it was with my son, Adam, when everybody else was away on a trip. Even for me, it was intense–as well it should be.

Today, when people view the history of warfare, some say, “I don’t get it, what was in it for them?” They’re right they don’t get it,” and it’s sad that they have passed through this life without  experiencing honor, courage, commitment, and camaraderie.

Survival of the Republic

Is progress really beneficial? I’ve been contemplating that–seriously–and I’m not sure.

George Washington was unanimously elected by the Electoral College. The initial idea was to avoid political parties. The candidate with the most votes became president, and the second place became Vice President. Therefore, George Washington became President and John Adams the Vice President.

After Washington served two terms, John Adams was elected the president, with Thomas Jefferson in second place and therefore the Vice President. The next election, Jefferson opposed Adams, won, and became president. Voila, the effort to avoid political parties died.

John Adams, who was one of the driving forces for independency, as it was called at the time, was described by others as “obnoxious and disliked.” His personality was matched by a short, rotund body, with few teeth. He might have been brilliant, but was not, in any way, attractive.

If Adams made a harsh comment, in those days, it would have merited little notice. Newspapers of the time were small and printed weekly or less. President Adams pronouncements would have been little noticed outside of Washington, DC.

Today, every comment, statement, quote, burp, or fart is immediately broadcast across the world with video of the incident, commentary, point and counterpoint within minutes.

Washington might survive today’s news cycle. Adams and his successor, Thomas Jefferson, probably wouldn’t.

Think about that. Think about the republic without Adams and Jefferson because of 24/7 cable news. I’m not saying it’s better or worse–I’m just asking you to think about it.

Are we better off today?

Virtual Flying

NOTE: I recently had shoulder surgery so I’ll be typing one handed for a while and may not blog as frequently.

I love flying–not riding in an airliner, but actually being pilot in command. However, as I’ve gotten older, it’s no longer practical. I was originally licensed as “private pilot, single-engine land.” I still qualify to fly as ‘recreational pilot,” but it would make my family nervous. Not to mention that renting an aircraft is about five times as expensive as it was when I first flew. Ouch!

The big issues over the years is that when I had spare time, I didn’t have spare money and vice-versa. Actually I’ve never really had either spare time or spare money. Sigh!

Nevertheless, in my lifetime I did learn how to fly and will be a licensed pilot for the rest of my life. Ta-da!

A few years ago, my family gave me a flight simulator as a gift, including the yoke, pedals, and throttle/lever assembly as well as the Microsoft Flight Simulator program. Wow!

Shortly thereafter, Microsoft stopped selling or supporting their flight software. Bummer!

Recently, Microsoft released a 2020 version of Flight Simulator. Yay!

I tried loading into my new lap top (circa February 2020), only to be informed that my computer wasn’t fast enough. Awww!

So, yes, I broke down and bought a real gaming computer. Ka-Ching!

My son hooked it up and I was ready to play. Hoorah!

So far, all the program seems to do is to tell me to wait while it downloads another update. Booo!

I’ll update you when I can, but this one handed typing wears me out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Can I Do?

The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc on most people who are not in the ultra-rich 1 percent. Businesses are closing. People have lost jobs. Some will soon leave their homes.

5,909,970 Americans have contracted COVID-19.

180,965 Americans who have lost their lives.

2,707,783 Americans have contracted the disease and have not recovered. Some will die. Some never will recover, experiencing life-altering effects that will diminish their ability to live and work as they did before.

I haven’t seen any definitive studies, but I’d love to know how many wouldn’t have been infected if everyone had accepted that the disease is real and taken appropriate precautions–social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks. Unfortunately, some think it is a hoax.

However, it is very, very real to 5,909,970 of our fellow citizens–so far.

Take the appropriate precautions.

Guns

I generally try  to stay away from politics, but sometimes I just need to say something.

I enjoy guns. The wall of my office is a collection of antique firearms–most too old to safely fire, but interesting pieces nevertheless. I have other firearms I enjoy taking to the shooting range at a nearby USMC Base to blow holes in paper targets.

In the past, when deployed, I’ve carried a .45 caliber M1911, a 9mm Beretta, and an M-16. In each case, I was in a combat zone.

Nevertheless, there are rules relating to firearms and they are basic and sensible rules. These are true whether in combat, when you hear a noise in the middle of the night, and any other context.

  1. Treat every gun as loaded
  2. Never point a gun at anything you don’t intend to kill.
  3. Identify your target.
  4. Always be aware of where the muzzle of the weapon is pointed (see above).
  5. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

Here is the most important one:

  • You only fire your weapon when there is no other option. Unless you’re in combat in a legal war zone, this means that you can only fire when your life is in danger and you have no other option. That means that your back is to the wall.
  • Someone running away is not a threat to your life.

As I said, I have been armed with an M-16. However, to all the people who insist that they need an AR-15 (the civilian version of an M-16), I have the following advice.

  • If you need a high capacity magazine, you must be planning on killing many people.
  • If not, it means you’re a truly lousy shot who needs 30 rounds to ensure that you hit the broad side of a barn.

Either way, you should not have an assault rifle with a high capacity magazine.

Growing Up in the 21st Century

Most the world is moving from analog to digital. It’s no longer “A bit before 8 o’clock,” it’s now “7:58.” On the other hand, raising kids has gone the other way.

It used to be:

  • Birth to age 3        Infant
  • Age 3 – 6                Toddler
  • Age 6 – 13              Grade/Middle School Student
  • Age 13 – 18             High School Student
  • Age 18 – 23             College Student (Away at school)
  • Age 23 – 35             Young Adult (Moving out and on their own)

Now, it’s a bit different:

  • Birth to ~ age 3        Infant
  • Age ~ 3 – 6                Toddler
  • Age ~ 6 – 13              Home Schooled / Online education
  • Age ~ 18 – 23            Distance Learning College (Living at home)
  • Age ~ 23 – 35            Living at home looking for a job

What used to be distinct stages have become a continuum, with blurred lines. It’s common for our children who are now mature, educated, and desperate to be employed and independent. They’ve done everything right, but it hasn’t turned out the way they–and we–had planned.

It’s no reflection on our kids, it’s just the way things are today. I don’t know how I would have reacted to the current situation, but I suspect I would more-or-less hate it. Just like our kids.

Sorry, kids.

 

 

 

Is the Electoral College Leftover from Slavery?

I read a lot. I read all kinds of material, because it makes me think. I prefer not to rely on “echo chambers” that only reflect the ideas I already have.

I’d always been taught that the purpose was to ensure that smaller states were not drowned out by the larger states. It’s a clumsy system that has resulted in a number of elections in which the winner did not receive the most votes. Nevertheless, I’ve tried to accept that the electoral college was an effort to ensure fairness.

Now however, I’ve read a few things that challenge that belief.

Electoral votes for each state are based on the states total representation in Congress–senators and representatives. Each state gets two senators, but the number of representatives is based on population. However, for roughly the first century of the country, slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person.

Slaves could not vote, of course, but they counted toward representatives and therefore to the number of electors. In essence, slave states ended up with a disproportionate amount of influence in choosing presidents.

Was this coincidental?

Is anything in politics coincidental?

COVID-19 Update

I’ve blogged in the past about my simplistic projection for the COVID-19 disease. So far, I haven’t been too far off, meaning my projections and actual cases have been reasonably close. I’m moderately surprised. Nevertheless, I’m continuing my project.

I now have about 2 1/2 months of data for new cases per day and new deaths per day. I extended the trend line projections out through the end of the year. Here’s what I’m seeing. The graph above shows the number of deaths per day. For a while it actually appeared to be trending downward, but in the past few weeks, it has dramatically increased. The massive swings from day to day, I believe, are not completely accurate. My theory is that this reflects when the paperwork was actually recorded–not necessarily when the deaths occurred. It may also reflect the delay after the death when an autopsy or other method is necessary to determine the actual cause of death.

In any case, if there is any accuracy to this projection, it’s discouraging that we might soon see more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 per day, every day. It’s worse to think that the number of deaths may, in fact, increase.

The number of cases per day is the second graph (above). It sort of looks like the curve is turning downward, but the math indicates that overall, it is expected to increase. We’ll have to wait and see how the numbers turn out. I’d prefer it would decrease, but I don’t feel comfortable saying that cases will decrease. (Let’s all cross our fingers!)

Unfortunately, in the media it seems that after a person suffers from COVID-19, the only two outcomes are–1) Death, or 2) Everything returns to normal. Unfortunately, it appears that there are other outcomes.

Some COVID-19 survivors suffer long term effects. Lungs can be damaged to the point that normal life will never again be possible. Some people have suffered from multiple organ failures. Others have experienced vascular problems requiring the amputation of limbs. I do not have access to the data specific to these outcomes, so they may be unusual or they may be common. I just hope it isn’t me.

I hope that the trend reverses. Unfortunately, it is dependent on people religiously committing to wearing masks, maintaining social distances, hand washing, etc.

I’m not optimistic.

 

Values? What Values?

For many years, in discussions with others I would propose a litmus test to guide them as to whether a behavior was appropriate or not. My test was, “If 60 Minutes was filming you doing this, or if your mother were watching, would you do it?” It seemed like a reasonable benchmark.

Today, however, neither would halt people from charging ahead with inappropriate activities. They would not feel bad and many would proudly post their shameful activities on Facebook. Facebook would get a couple of million clicks and laugh all the way to the bank.

Well, actually, they’d laugh while the electronic money transfers went to some tax haven.

What the hell happened to us? Do we all believe that we’ll never face the consequences of our choices?

I don’t believe that is true. So act as if your mother is watching.

Absentee vs Mail-In Voting

I have heard people postulate that in the upcoming election, foreign countries will flood America with “millions of phony ballots.”

When I vote in person, the poll workers compare my name and address with the voter registration printout. If I didn’t register, I don’t get to vote. If my information isn’t an exact match, I don’t get to vote. It doesn’t matter how many pieces of identification I present. If all the pieces don’t match, I don’t get to vote.

When I was deployed, I voted by absentee ballot, which was mailed from a foreign country. The return address was a vague APO AE  military post office that gave no hint as to the country from which I mailed it. There wasn’t even a stamp with a postmark on it because it was franked–my signature and unit, which gave very little actual information, took the place of a stamp.

When my absentee ballot arrived, the registrar’s office compared my information to what was on their records to make sure it matched the voters’ rolls. Only then was my vote counted.

On the other hand, if I vote by mail, there is an outer envelope for mailing, an inner envelope, and the ballot. The outer envelope indicates that my ballot came from the street, house number, city, and state where I live. The postmark gives some validation to that information. The inner envelope contains a bar code, a control number, my signature, and other identifying data. If–and only if–everything checks out, is the ballot removed from the envelope and counted.

However, if foreign governments DID flood the US with “millions of phony ballots,” they couldn’t use foreign postage stamps. So, if there were 10 million phony ballots in envelopes with US postage stamps at 55 cents each, that would be an additional $5.5 million in revenues for the United States Postal Service, all without making any difference in the US election.

Space – A Great Frontier

Echo 1 was a Mylar balloon satellite launched in 1960 that was visible from the earth. At night, we’d rush outside at the time printed in the paper and watch it go by.

During the Mercury launches 1961-1963, we sat in the classroom clustered around a transistor radio.

For Gemini launches in 1965 1nd 1966, someone brought a 45 pound “portable” black and white television into the classroom.

For the Apollo Missions, especially Apollo 11, we watched from home on console TVs with a 17 inch color cathode ray tube screen.

I lived in Florida for a portion of the shuttle era, I walked down my driveway, turned tight, and saw it live. For most people, there would be a brief mention with a few seconds of video on the evening news.

Today, I watch the Space-X Crew Dragon return to earth, with live video from inside the craft and the recovery boats on my iPad.

Cool.

LT (j.g.) Madeline Swegle, We’re Proud of You!

a man holding a sign posing for the camera: ecgspwvwoaipfmv.jpg

I guess it’s easy to let expectations exceed reality.

I spent many years serving in the Navy Reserve and the active duty Navy. During that time, I saw many things progress. I saw female officers command ships. I served with and under a number of female officers.

I was surprised to find out that it has taken the Navy until now to have its first Black female fighter pilot.

I have three things to say:

  1. LT (j.g.) Madeline Swegle – Bravo Zulu! You, and you alone, earned this. Feel free to be proud of yourself.
  2. The next generation of tactical pilots will look to you for inspiration.
  3. And to my beloved Navy–it’s about damn time.

Change comes far too slow far too often. However, when positive change finally occurs, it’s a wonderful thing.

 

Heroes Wear Masks

In the midst of the COVID-19, where are our inspirational influencers?

  • Batman wears a mask.
  • Black Panther wears a mask.
  • Spiderman wears a mask.
  • The Green Lantern wears a mask.
  • Ironman wears a mask.
  • Captain America wears a mask.
  • The Lone Ranger wears a mask.
  • Medical and Surgical teams wear masks.
  • Dr. Fauci wears a mask.

On the other hand, who are the trend setters in the other direction?

  • The Joker does not wear a mask.
  • Jabba the Hutt does not wear a mask.
  • Lex Luthor does not wear a mask.
  • Lord Voldemort does not wear a mask.
  • Captain Hook does not wear a mask.
  • Snidely Whiplash does not wear a mask.
  • Neither Boris nor Natasha wear a mask.
  • [Fill in your anti-mask politician here]

 

 

Satire on the Loose!

For many years, I wrote a satire column for a medical journal. No, really, I did.

I’ve decided that I am going to return to my roots. You can expect more satirical humor in this blog. It will be sophomoric in line with National Lampoon, Mad Magazine, Second City TV, and the first five years of Saturday Night Live.

Anyone wishing to contribute ideas or whatever, feel free to let me know.

– – – – – BEGIN SATIRE – – – –

(Intergalactic Press 30 July 2020) Intelligence services from more than 20 western nations have reported today that Russia is indeed involved in paying the Taliban to attack US military personnel. It is not true that the Russians want American service members killed. However, using sophisticated Russian weapons technology, any targeted American soldier will immediately develop heel spurs, making that soldier totally unsuitable for any military duties.

Senate Mitch McConnell’s office declined to comment due to his entire staff being preoccupied with an all-out search for his chin.

– – – – – END SATIRE – – – –

I promised sophomoric and delivered sophomoric.

Making Sense of Life

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”                                                          Hosea 6:6 King James Bible

As I’ve gone through life, this has been a major factor driving me. I’ve erred on the side of mercy and at times it was inconvenient for my career–at that particular moment. Nevertheless, I continued to progress professionally beyond my wildest aspirations.

 

Oath to the U.S. Constitution

I served as an officer in the United States Navy.

I am currently a federal civilian employee.

I took the following oath to the United States Constitution:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Not only did I take the oath “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion” but I took it with pride.

I am bound by that oath and will be for the rest of my life.

Please note that there is nothing in the oath requiring me to blindly obey any and every order. There’s a reason for this–I am expected to refuse any illegal order.

After World War Two, many Nazis attempted to defend their brutality by claiming that they were only following orders. That defense is insulting.

Why am I writing this? I read “Illegal Order” and the linked news story dated 26 July 2020 on https://diogenestoday.com/