Category Archives: Culture

How Will History Treat 2020?

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody | Fall, Book ...
This is historically accurate and funny as hell.

I continue to wonder how the year 2020 AD (or 2020 CE, if you’re politically correct) will be recorded in the history books. This may be far more complex than you might imagine.

The reason–most history books are about the same size. No matter how much history there is, it has to fit into a standard book.

Part of this is due to the fact that many history books are intended to be used as textbooks and there’s only so much that can be taught in a semester. There are exceptions, such as the 10 volume Abraham Lincoln: A History written by John Nicolay and John Hay, his secretaries during his presidency, but such exceptions are rare.

My history book collection includes A History of the United States Navy by John R. Spears, published in 1908. It predates both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars but is about the standard one and a half inches thick and 334 pages. A lot of what is prominent in that book, such as the details of the Spanish American War or the importance of the Dahlgren gun is either absent or barely mentioned in modern history books.

So how will 2020 be covered in the future? The COVID-19 pandemic, like the Spanish Influenza of 1918 may get a paragraph, if covered at all. Today’s political scandals will likely be treated as briefly as the Teapot Dome Scandal or Boss Tweed. Donald Trump may be as obscure a president as Millard Filmore or John Tyler.

It’s probably just as well.

Background Check

Mo Brooks et al. that are talking to each other: Representative Mo Brooks is not the first lawmaker to try to use the tallying process to challenge the results of a bitter election loss.
Huey Long statue, center, with Congressman Mo Brooks.

Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt wrote in the New York Times about Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama. Without any evidence and following the president’s lead, he claims that election results in five states were illegitimate and proposes challenging the results.

I’ll leave the legal issues to others, but I found it hilarious that the photo-op was staged so that it prominently featured Louisiana politician Huey P. Long. Long was hardly the image of an honest politician. He was, to put it nicely, a flim-flam man, although he did so in such a way that Louisiana benefited and everyone was entertained by his performance.

In the definitive biography Huey Long by T. Harry Williams, Chapter 1 begins:

The story seems to good to be true–but people who should know swear it is true. The first time that Huey P. Long campaigned in rural, Latin, Catholic south Louisiana, the local boss who had him in charge said at the beginning of the tour: “Huey, you ought to remember one thing in your speeches today. You’re from North Louisiana, but now you’re in South Louisiana. And we got a lot of Catholic voters down here.” “I know,” Huey answered. And throughout the day in every small town Long would begin by saying: “When I was a boy, I would get up at six o’clock in the morning on Sunday, and I would hitch our old horse up to the buggy and I would take my Catholic grandparents to mass. I would bring them home, and at ten o’clock I would hitch the old horse up again and I would take my Baptist grandparents to church.” The effect of the anecdote on the audience was obvious, and on the way back to Baton Rouge that night the local leader said admiringly: “Why, Huey, you’ve been holding out on us. I didn’t know you had any Catholic grandparents.” “Don’t be a damn fool,” replied Huey. “We didn’t even have a horse.”

Explain the Mask Thing to Me

As of today, 15,805,055 Americans have been infected with the coronavirus and 296,481 have died.

I choose to wear a mask, wash my hands, avoid going out and when I do, I maintain social distance. Based on the clinical trials and the upcoming FDA approval, I will get vaccinated.

Other people have different responses. I could list them with the most common counterargument to each, but that would be pointless. Bottom Line–none of us likes someone else telling us what to do.

What I don’t understand is how or why masks are seen as a political statement–whether you’re for them or against them. What does any politician or political party gain if people do or don’t choose to wear masks?

Perception > Reality

People in Marketing know that perception is more important than reality. Because of this phenomenon, people will prefer one brand over the others even when there is no perceptible difference between them. For example, a classic case was when a company test marketed three detergents, one in a yellow box, one in an orange box, and one in a red box. Customers reported that the detergent in the yellow box didn’t adequately clean their clothes. The red was too harsh and ruined their clothes. However, the detergent in the orange box cleaned their clothes without ruining them.

As you’ve probably guessed, all three boxes contained the same detergent.

Perception is very important. Marie Antoinette may have been clueless and lived in luxury, but she never said that if the peasants had no bread, “let them eat cake.” In fact, on the platform of the guillotine, she stepped on the executioner’s foot and apologized, saying, “I am sorry sir, I did not mean to put it there.” The real quotation does not get anywhere near the mileage of the cake story.

Politicians, celebrities, and other highly visible people who are in the spotlight try to avoid perception problems. Many have aides who try to steer them clear of statements and actions that are bad optics.

Only time will tell whether a recent event will become another “let them eat cake” legend. I’m speaking, of course, of the new White House Tennis Pavilion.

The White House, has had movie theaters, swimming pools, running tracks, bowling alleys, and–yes–tennis courts, so this is not something new. However the timing is a problem. With well over 15 million COVID-19 cases in the US, 293,931 ending in death, and 12 percent unemployment, the perception might well be a problem.

If you’re young enough, check the history books in 40 years to see how it turns out.

Frustration.com

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been playing with computers since 1969. In those 50+ years, the technology grew fast. Given that I have not focused totally on computers, my understanding of them is less today than it was some years ago.

These days, I’m less concerned about the hardware and software, but totally befuddled by the content.

17 Best images about Harry potter characters on Pinterest ...

Social media is totally out of control. News sites reports are almost as bad, even if (especially if?) they are accurately reporting what’s going on. There are claims and counterclaims, or are they hoaxes and counterhoaxes? In any cases, it’s painful.

I recently saw a news video with Rudy Giuliani. I swear that he was sitting next to Rita Skeeter from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

So I find myself trying to find something online that doesn’t make me twitch. So far, especially since I don’t follow sports, the only safe sites I’ve found are:

  • The National Weather Service
  • Wunderground (also weather)
  • Ebay
  • Amazon

I’m sure many other people who are staying home to avoid the pandemic are similarly affected. In fact, many people are probably Christmas shopping online.

Some of the people who are prominently featured in the current brouhaha are reported to dislike Amazon. I wonder if they realize how much Amazon is benefiting from the situation.

The Other Thanksgiving Thing

Thanksgiving. The day in which we spend three hours preparing for dinner, twenty minutes for everybody to eat, and then three hours to clean up.

But wait, as they say on television, there’s more.

In my house, after Thanksgiving dinner is over and the guests (we always used to have guests) have left, the other tradition to kick off the Holiday Season is observed.

When no one is looking, I go down into the basement, to the far corner which was once the fruit cellar. Many of you may never seen a traditional fruit cellar. There are shelves, which originally held the Mason jars of home-canned fruits and vegetables. Underneath, is a small section where no concrete floor exists. Instead, there is a 3′ x 3′ patch of soil that was once used to store home-grown potatoes and carrots in the fall so they would remain fresh over the winter.

No one ever thinks to reach behind the patch of soil, which is just as well, because it is a perfect hiding place. I get down on my knees and prop the flashlight just right so I can see under the shelf. In the very back, where no one ever looks, is the target of my search.

I reach back and wrap my fingers around it and pull it out into the light. I unwrap the multiple layers of ancient cloth, then tin foil (Yes, tin, not modern aluminum) until its multicolored splendor is visible.

It is THE fruitcake that my family has been passing from one to another for generations untold. When my great grandmother gave it to me, she pulled me and whispered that her grandmother swore that it dates back to the days of King Arthur. If looking at it doesn’t convince you, the smell should, even though all fruitcakes smell the same.

I turn it over in my hands and ponder, “To whom should I gift it to this Christmas?”

COVID-19 Update 10/31/2020

Food Safety and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) | FDA

Whether it’s the second wave of the first surge or a second wave, the number of COVID cases has begun to increase significantly.

First the (sort of) good news. Deaths have more or less stabilized at average of just under 900 per day. There are exceptions, such as the 27-29th of October when there were over 1,000 deaths each day.

I cannot comfortably say that this trend will continue. The medical community has learned a lot and become more effective, but this stability in death rates cannot be expected to be maintained as the number of new cases increases. Once the number of cases that require intensive care exceed the available ICU beds, it can be expected that the number of deaths will increase. Reports are that this is already the case in El Paso, Texas where adult patients with non-COVID medical issues are being sent to a pediatric hospital to make beds available for pandemic patients.

DAILY DEATHS

Now for the bad news. The number of new cases per day has begun to significantly increase. Yesterday, new cases exceeded 101,000–a record number.

NEW CASES

Because the data now include over 150 entries, a sudden change over a short period of time tends not immediately impact the trend line. However, if the increase that began in late September continues, the trend will follow.

Other factors to consider include:

  • Preliminary data do not indicate permanent or long term immunity for those who have been infected.
  • Treatment options from hydroxychloroquine to Remdesvir do not seem to cure the disease. The best they have been able to do is to mitigate some of the symptoms. While recovery time was shorter when Remdesvir was administered, death rates among patients treated with Remdesvir were statistically similar to patients treated with a placebo. [Link]
  • COVID-19 outcomes are not limited to death or recovery. So called long-haul patients experience a number of long term–and possibly permanent–changes that impact the quality of life, in some cases severely.

My personal interpretation:

  • New cases will continue to increase until either an effective vaccine or a cure is discovered.
  • Given that a segment of the population chooses to ignore prophylactic measures, such as social distancing and wearing masks, numbers can be expected to continue to rise.
  • Family interaction during the holidays will increase infection rates as some people who are normally careful relax their safety measures due to the overarching importance of families.

I fear that many future holidays may be remembered in terms of the death of a loved one due to COVID. I have racked my brain trying to identify even a tiny new idea as to how to deal with the pandemic without success. The best I can offer is: 1) wear a mask; 2) maintain social distancing; and 3) practice frequent and thorough handwashing.

Too Much Star Wars?

I confess, there is a lot of science fiction I enjoy–to the point where I refuse to pick either Star Wars or Star Trek as a favorite. When Star Wars first came out, I saw it a number of times in the theater and had the movie on VHS cassette as soon as it was possible. (Kids, ask your parents to explain VHS.)

And, yes, I wish George Lucas had left well enough alone and not made all those changes to the movie. The original theater release did not need improving.

My older son and I watched it numerous times together. When my younger son was a baby and teething, colicky, or otherwise unhappy at night, I’d tell my wife that he wanted to watch Star Wars. She thought that was crazy, but when I took him into the living room, at the first chords of John Williams’s Star Wars theme music he halted his fussing. He’d snuggle into a comfortable position and was soon asleep.

Having provided my Star Wars bona fides, there are some things I see as beyond normal. I periodically get science fiction stories pushed to me on the Internet. Most recently, I ran across “Star Wars: 10 Things You Never Knew About X-Wings.”

The article (post?) goes into detail, such as:

Focusing on the main three X-Wings, the T-65B sits at 13.4m long, 11.76m wide, and 2.4m deep, weighing ten metric tons and going at a max acceleration of 3,700 G (G-force, the force acting on a body of gravity) a max atmospheric speed of 1,050 kph, and one hundred MGLT (Megalight per hour, the relative sunlight speed in realspace).

The T-70 has the same width but a shorter length and depth/height of 12.49m and 1.92m compared to the T-65B. It goes 50 more kph, 10 more MGLT, and with 100 more G-force. Upgrading one more, the T-85 is by far the biggest, at 15.68m long, 13.65m wide, and 2.7m deep. The T-85’s speed is again, by far, the most impressive at 3,800 G, 120 MGLT, and 1,300 kph max atmospheric speed. All of this information is available in the Rebel Starfighters Owners’ Workshop Manual. 

I’ve seen records of archeological digs that were less specific.

Sometimes, even science fiction has TMI (too much information).

Strict Interpretation of the US Constitution

There’s been a lot of talk, lately, as to whether the law, particularly the US Constitution should be interpreted to reflect exactly what was written or whether the law adapts with the times. I am an analyst, so I am cursed with need to make sense—to the best of my ability—of issues of importance that are presented to the masses. I do not claim superior intelligence nor do I do believe I have extraordinary understanding of legal subtleties or political intrigues. I do however view myself as a responsible American voter trying to prepare for the time I will spend in the voting booth. I ask questions when I do not know the answers. However, sometimes the best way to find the answers is to ask the right questions. In fact, the questions are often more important than the answers.

Just for the record, I have sworn an oath to protect and defend the US Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic. I will continue to honor that oath for as long as I live. I take the US Constitution seriously, just as it deserves.

There is a mad dash to nominate and approve a new Supreme Court Associate Justice in the weeks before the next presidential election. The primary goal is stated as to appoint an associate justice who will interpret the constitution so as to reflect the exact intention of the those who wrote and signed the original US Constitution in 1787. The founding fathers were responsible for creating the Great American Experiment, which is both wonderful and yet remains an experiment.

A story, which is generally accepted as true tells us: Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone shouted out, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” To which Franklin supposedly responded, with a rejoinder at once witty and ominous: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

I believe we may be facing just that question.

The founding fathers planted the seed; for the past 230 years, those of us who love America have tried to nurture that seedling and the plant as it has grown. In my opinion, some parts of the republic have done well, while others need more tending, including some weeding and pruning, even today.

The thoughts and ideals of the founding fathers were based on their times and their norms, which is why many people today believe that the Constitution should be interpreted based on today’s norms. This is not necessarily a new idea. In fact, Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and the third US President wrote to James Madison, the fourth US President and who is considered the Father of the Constitution.

Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right (Emphasis added). It may be said, that the succeeding generation exercising, in fact, the power of repeal, this leaves them as free as if the constitution or law had been expressly limited to nineteen years only. In the first place, this objection admits the right, in proposing an equivalent. But the power of repeal is not an equivalent. It might be, indeed, if every form of government were so perfectly contrived, that the will of the majority could always be obtained, fairly and without impediment. But this is true of no form. The people cannot assemble themselves; their representation is unequal and vicious. Various checks are opposed to every legislative proposition. Factions get possession of the public councils, bribery corrupts them, personal interests lead them astray from the general interests of their constituents; and other impediments arise, so as to prove to every practical man, that a law of limited duration is much more manageable than one which needs a repeal.”

Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:459, Papers 15:396

Inasmuch as Jefferson’s suggestion was never implemented, we have kept the US Constitution, more or less as written. It’s true that there have been 27 amendments, although the 18th amendment (Liquor Abolished) was negated by the 21st Amendment (Amendment 18 Repealed).  Therefore, there have actually been 25 changes to the US Constitution since 1787.

The first 10 amendments, commonly referred to as the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791, only four years after the main body of the Constitution, and given that they were primarily the work of James Madison, I propose that it is fair to include and accept that they, too, accurately reflect the will of the founding Fathers.

Before we consider some specific passages of the Constitution, let’s first mentally adjust our perspective to social norms of the Founding Fathers in the mid eighteenth century:

  • Only gentlemen could exert significant power. A gentleman was first and foremost a landowner. In many cases the land that they held had been granted by the British Crown before the War of Independence.
  • A gentleman was invariably white.
  • Every signatory of the US Constitution was a male.
  • Every signature on the Declaration of Independence also belonged to a man.
    • The closest was Mary Katharine Goddard, who was Baltimore’s Postmaster and an important journalist. She was charged with publishing the Declaration, so at the bottom of the broadside, issued in January 1777, the following appeared, “Baltimore, in Maryland: Printed by Mary Katharine Goddard.”
  • Suffice to say, women could not vote. I find no record of female judges until Esther Hobart Morris served as a Justice of the Peace in 1870.
  • At the time of the Founding Fathers, women were considered chattel (property).

Given these conditions and how they conflict with our norms and mores today (Thank, God) I have a difficult time accepting that strict interpretation is the best approach for the Twenty-first century.

The primary responsibility of the Supreme Court is to review legal decisions to ensure that they agree with the US Constitution. A strict constructionist sees the gold standard as the writings of the Founding Fathers. The Constitution, for example does not address issues concerning communication beyond the printed page. The telegraph, radio, television, internet, and smartphones are outside the instructions left by the Founding Fathers. While the Founding Fathers were well familiar with issues of property and the navigation of the seas, they had no concept of vessels that operate below the seas, in the air above the land, most assuredly of people and equipment that exist and operate above the Earth, on the Moon or on other planets.

Given that, let’s examine some original sections of the US Constitution. The following sections of the original Constitution may have been amended, but the original statement, and therefore strict interpretation best reflects the Founding Fathers’ intention.

  • Section 2, third paragraph: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”
    • Women counted in the census, although they could not vote.
    • Native Americans were excluded from both being counted and voting.
    • “Other Persons”—in other words slaves—counted as 3/5th of a person, giving states with slaveowners more clout than other states. The more slaves in a particular state, the more representatives that state would have. At the time of the Revolution, the population of the United States is believed to be somewhere between 2.5 million and 4 million. There were about 450,000 enslaved “other persons,” although I cannot determine how they were enumerated in the total.
  • Further down in Section 2, third paragraph, “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative.”
    • The 450,000 “other persons” is believed to include an estimated 400,000 slaves brought from Africa to the Colonies plus another 50,000 who had been born in the Colonies.
      • Americans in all 50 states owned slaves at that time.
      • The “breeding stock” aspect of slavery was a profitable business
    • The effect of the headcount of both freemen and the 3/5th count of slaves on representation was not trivial. In 1790, New York had 6 representatives, Pennsylvania had 8, while Virginia had 10. The number of slaves tipped the balance in Virginia’s favor.
    • Based on the original verbiage of the US Constitution—“The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each Shall have at least one Representative.” The forefathers were looking at a small number of people in a huge landmass, but today, it’s different. Based on strict interpretation, today, we would be entitled to 11,013 members of the House of Representatives.
  • Section 8, paragraph 7 points out that the Congress shall have the Power “To establish Post Offices and Post Roads.” A strict interpretation expected Congress to establish, operate, and maintain a Post Office. Back then, there were not necessarily roads in existence to provide postal communication. The Post Office needed to build and maintain those roads. Nowhere does it say that Congress can abdicate their postal responsibilities onto a pseudo-governmentally-owned-corporation or hand it over to a political sponsor to disenfranchise voters.
  • Section 8, paragraph 12 states that Congress has the authority “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a Term longer than two Years.” The Founding Fathers did not want a standing Army because of the mischief that standing armies in Europe had caused.
  • “To provide and maintain a Navy.” The United States was and is a maritime country. In the time of the Founding Fathers, we were separated from European powers by the ocean, yet we needed to free travel through the ocean in order to maintain trade and commerce.
  • “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel invasions
    “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” During the Civil War, for example, the armies of both the North and the South primarily consisted of state militias.
  • Besides slavery being legally recognized, the Constitution in Article IV, Section 2, runaway slaves were to be returned to their owners. This was superseded by the 13th Amendment, which was passed in 1865—well after the Founding Fathers had passed into history.
  • Since the Bill of Rights was written by the Founding Fathers and reflects their views, the 9th and10th Amendments are especially important:
    • Amendment 9 – Construction of the Constitution: The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
    • Amendment 10 – Powers of the States and the People: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

The Federal Government has expanded its authority into areas and in ways that would have shocked the Constitution’s signatories. This has resulted in rights of the individual and the state being impacted–sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

To interpret the Constitution as the Founding Fathers intended is not possible. In college, when a question on an exam asked what an author meant by a particular passage, I would answer in two parts:

  1. No one knows except the original author.
  2. Having established that, the interpretation that you taught is—and I’d regurgitate whatever the textbook or lecture opined.

If, on the other hand, we consider the Constitution to be a more current document, we would have to include the following conditions added by those who were NOT the Founding Fathers. These are not all-inclusive, but do reflect the most significant changes after the Founding Fathers passed on. A strict constructionist should, by rights, ignore every one of these since they are not from the Founding Fathers.

  • The abolition of slavery
  • All persons born in America or born anywhere to at least one American parent are citizens.
  • Voting cannot be denied or abridged on the basis of sex, race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
  • Congress can lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived.
  • Attempts to legislate morality, such as Prohibition, have not succeeded.

I recommend that we admit that we’re no longer an 18th century agrarian society and act accordingly.

COVID-19 Update

I continue to track coronavirus cases, as I have since 24 May 2020. My simple linear progression is no longer adequate for anything more than broad statements. I defer to the experts and their more complex models.

However, as any analyst will tell you, there is still a lot that can be learned from the data, even if the search for future activity is taken off the table. Here are some findings and postulations that I find interesting:

There are a fair number of footnotes to the data. Some states try to backdate cases or events for a variety of reasons. It could be plain old human error, processes that are not robust enough to handle the large numbers of cases, or even an attempt to have better optics.

The daily data always decreases over the weekend. I don’t think fewer people get sick or die on weekends, but I can see the paperwork not being filed until the regular workweek.

The rate of increase for new cases has slowed, but not flattened or showing a decline. It is still showing an increase between now and the end of the year. Similarly, the number of deaths continues to rise, but not as steeply as before, hopefully indicating the benefit of experience by healthcare workers. In other words, they are more effective using the tools they’ve had, rather than a miracle drug, although Remdesivir shows promise.

Remdesivir is expensive—$3,100 for a course of treatment in the US but only $2,340 in other developed countries. The rub here is that US taxpayers reportedly invested $99 million for Gilead Pharmaceuticals to develop the drug.

As of Saturday 10 October 2020, the United States has had 7,945,505 cases of COVID-19 resulting in 219,282 deaths. Another 5,089,842 patients recovered, which means there are still 2,636,381 active cases.  These patients may never recover, but may suffer from COVID-19’s various symptoms for the rest of their lives.

Testing is still an area that is somewhat vague. It is reported that 117,601,422 tests have been administered, but there are many anecdotal tales of people having difficulty getting tested. Reports indicate that elites, whether sports stars or politicians, are tested on a regular basis, while regular citizens are reportedly refused.

I wonder what is considered a COVID-19 test. The most definitive test involves inserting a long swab into the nasopharynx, which is quite unpleasant. I can’t see the elites tolerating this on a daily or weekly basis, so maybe they’re using a less accurate but more tolerable test.

Sadly, I believe we’ve got a long way to go before we can relegate COVID-19 to the history books.

Russki TV – “Better Than Us”

Better Than Us | Drama Quarterly

I confess! I’ve been watching a science fiction series on Netflix that was produced in Russia. The tempo–at least for the beginning was slower than I’m used to–but it still was worth watching. Apparently, it was originally called Better than Human, but some other show had copyrighted that name, so it was re-titled as Better Than Us.

In a nutshell, a bot (android) by the name of Arissa has transcended the usual robotic norms, including Asimov’s rules. She has gained a sense of right and wrong, although sometimes, the way she expresses them is a bit oblique. Why? Because she has a sense of self and a sense of morality.

As Winston Churchill noted, Russia–including (in my opinion) Russian entertainment–is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

As I said, the tempo is a bit different than American TV, but interesting and worth watching nevertheless.

Oh, be aware–the closed captions do not match the translated speech, but, hey–what the hell.

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

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?

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?