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Unintended Consequences

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the July 27th, 2014

Always a favorite mine; where do they originate?

Recently I refreshed myself on the difference between Greek philosophical thought patterns and Eastern, or Confucius thought patterns. Greek is primarily straight line logic; Eastern is more circular, and more situation – or matrix – related. Greek, or Western logic patterns, I believe, are more prone to unintended consequences because they are straight line and more tunnel vision; they work best in such as scientific logic.

So what of unintended consequences? They result because a decision did not take into consideration possible consequences. Ok, sometime those consequences are random, rare and unreasonable to anticipate: The crash of a meteor into the Capitol building, for example; and even if that were remotely considered a possibility, could it have been anticipated? And if it were would it have been feasible to consider, in light of the cost, to deter it or guard against it? Probably not. So it is impossible to preclude all consequences that were not considered.

But those are not the ones that are of concern; many just weren’t thought of. Why not? Impatience on reaching a decision. That same tunnel vision is another; those considering it were sufficiently tunnel-visioned to not see negative consequences. Sometimes decision makers don’t want to think about it because it is inconvenient, for any number of reasons.

But after beginning repair for minor brain damage from a concussion, I have learned more. The training vehicle, and yes, I am advertising for them, is a website named Lumosity (lumosity.com) that exercises the mind. The experience has been illuminating.

We have a tendency to see what we are looking for and to not be aware of other. We also focus, in an object rich environment, and miss other objects because of that focus. We additionally have difficulty in multi-tasking. All this contributes to unintended consequences in making a decision.

The place where this is most prevalent is in governing and making laws. The intent is to address a problem or challenge and either preclude it from happening again or causing it to channel correctly. The solution here is to run what-if exercises; if we pass this law or create this regulation, what might ensue other than what is intended? Probably the most dramatic consequence of this recently has been our proliferation of welfare programs, and such as Medicare, and even Social Security. If such benefits are available for those who need or who have earned them, what will those that do not need or are not deserving likely to do? And what can be done to preclude that? These should not have been consequences not intended, but consequences anticipated and provided for; human nature could have assured us that it was coming; and the development of interactive electronic access made it inevitable. One could call that unanticipated ingenuity of human beings seeking opportunity. There are many others, and one can see them every day, as they occur in the lawmaking arena, and elsewhere as well.

I thought of this today as I was contemplating domestic animals such as dogs and cats; but almost any animal would do. What do dogs and cats do when they are fed and taken care of? But one can see the same with a certain group of humans. They let themselves be taken care of, and in fact insist that they continue to be taken care of and provided for. We and not only in the United States have a large number of them.

What can happen when doors are left unlocked? does this not offer opportunity for some who seek a least challenging opportunity? Of course there are many others, and this brings us back to where we started: when we built highways why didn’t we build them much wider to preclude the traffic jams we see today? That’s easy; when we built the highways the traffic was not foreseeable in the reasonable future, and there was inadequate funding to build that which was not reasonably foreseeable and realistically fundable, at the time. The Internet is comparable, but the foreseeable traffic crunch was much closer. Of course commercial companies that manage the Internet are responding as they must, and handling traffic reasonably well; responding to security requirements is also trying to keep up. Government response is generally slower; does that come as any surprise?

I didn’t start out with this in mind, but it brings to mind another factor that should be obvious, but often is not, due to, in my opinion, myopic ignorance, that is, overlooking the potential unintended consequences that could ensue: motivation. So much of what occurs or does not occur, for that matter, depends on the motivation of those affected to want to do something about it. If there is motivation, it is likely to be considered, and profit, whether legal or illegal, is a very valid motivation. The motivation of government is of a different kind than that based on profit, which is not to say that legislators and administrators are not motivated, but it is different.

Unintended consequences will never disappear, but closer attention and more what-if exercises, and looking beyond immediate goals and consequences, can make a difference. We must broaden our outlook, and see more than what is in the tunnel if we are to discover unintended consequences before they begin to occur. That sounds reasonable, so why isn’t it done more often? Because motivation for uncovering them is not adequately strong to cause an effort to be made.

Carelessness is the simple answer, but there is usually more to it than that, and it is situational; each has it’s own causes, and some, maybe many, can be dealt with up front, with the proper motivation. Perhaps we should devote more attention to them when they occur and trace them to cause – and do something about the process. But that would take the courage to accept responsibility – and the courage to confront both the unintended result and the cause; in other words motivation.

Feng Shui

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the July 26th, 2014

A friend of mine has become interested in feng shui as it is currently being addressed in the United States: as primarily dealing with clutter. But historically, in China, and it has a long history (check Wikipedia), it has broader meaning, and initially was more oriented toward location of important buildings, with regard to optimal location – but also (and Wikipedia didn’t mention this) to making sure buildings were not located on the heads of dragons.

I am, however, proposing a wider interpretation of the concept of feng shui, that of organization of life. It has long been written that the primary concern for people is order, and such as rights and privileges cannot exist without order. How that order comes about has many variations, some less than desirable, nonetheless, order is important. But order of what? Order of everything.

Everything; not only the house and the yard, but the mind, and all of life for that matter. It takes a great deal of attention and effort to achieve, or even approach. After a recent concussion I was referred to a neurologist testing organization that in turn recommended a Website at the Inrnet address lumosity.com. I would contend, although they do not call it so, that Lumosity trains in mental feng shui: concentration, memory, awareness, speed and in particular ability to see beyond the immediate and include background environment. A bird and a number suddenly appear, and then disappear; I was to zap the bird and select the number; I got so that I could get the bird, but often found that I had not even noted what the number was: concentration, but wide angled concentration; multi-tasking, if you will.

I contend that such feng shui applies to relationships as well, demanding concentration on other than self, and in particular taking into consideration situation, or as I often have insisted, empathy.

There is more, much more, and probably as much as one would want to consider, for life is broad and full. To have an ordered life necessitates keeping clutter to a minimum, but then one man’s clutter may be another’s store of knowledge, and vise versa for that matter; everything, after all is relative. And pressing one’s accepted clutter upon another who rejects such clutter is another consideration that seems akin to locating where to build one’s home.

It gets rather complex when you think about it: feng shui of life.

Selfishness, Responsibility, Process

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the July 26th, 2014

I must begin today with some background, should I hope to cover this subject as I wish to do. The background has to do with process, which is family. The only things we REALLY know, are those which we have experienced, so I have to share some of mine to get to the point I wish to pursue.

As far back as I can personally know are my grandparents. Neither of my grandfathers had the benefit of a college education and my paternal grandfather worked as a bookkeeper for a successful restaurant in New York going into the depression; the restaurant didn’t survive, and my grandfather, not having the advantage many expect today of wall to wall government largesse, had to make it on his own; he did, going back to Long Island and building his own home, mostly through his own labor. My maternal grandfather was a Scottish immigrant, who came to Canada in search of opportunity, and made his way across the border to the United States, probably illegally, where he met my grandmother in Minnesota. She was a quiet person, very strong and totally dedicated to “Poppy” (he grew poppies in the back yard of his home) and to her family. My other grandmother was a schoolteacher, and let you know it.

My father had two brothers, and the family situation made it clear that college education as it is expected today was out of the question. So his older brother earned an appointment to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, through no influence, as our family had none. My father did the same, but to the Military Academy at West Point; the third son, having come of age at the beginning of WW II joined the Army and served in both Army and Navy during the war. Afterwards he opened his own heating and air conditioning business. When I came along I followed in my father’s footsteps, and after retiring was fortunate enough to find employment in industrial management and consulting. My career was not particularly distinguished, and I achieved neither fame nor fortune – nor for that matter, a lucrative lifestyle such as is the common expectation today. However, I had much more. But this is not about me, but the process.

Selfishness is a characteristic of humans, all animals in fact, as it must be, living in a world in which they must survive on their own within the food chain, food chains being somewhat different among humans, but similar. And by and large that demanded a considerable amount of responsibility before big government felt the need to take over. But responsibility has never been an automatic thing; in fact, although not rare, it requires a measure of effort to achieve. That effort I am referring to as process. But be aware it is not solely individual process but the cooperative process of family, experience, relationships, and of course effort. Process is the way in which that all comes together, and that’s why I began with a bit of my family background. I have the great good fortune of having been exposed to a magnificent process, beginning with that family, for whose deep and dedicated nurturing I shall be eternally grateful.

I’ll not belabor with detail; one should be able to envisage what it was like if one is familiar with the times; being somewhat more difficult times than later years, particularly since the boom time that occurred after the war. It was a more difficult time because we all had less, at least when I was starting out, but what we had was so much more valuable and sustaining; needless to say what we did not have was the proliferation of electronic entertainment we have today, but I have talked of that enough in the past. The Military Academies are a unique experience for many reasons, but particularly for their imposition or moral turpitude, discipline and dedication to service, particularly national service. I’ll not belabor that either.

But that was the process for me, or at least the beginning of it. We all begin selfish; it is the nature of children. Family and my unique education, added and abetted by firm but reasonable Christian guidance, were the foundation of that process. There was, of course, more; relationships are always important, but the direction of those relationship often are shaped by the foundation, mine was, and the relationships I was fortunate to have been able to form, helped build the process.

This, however, as I said, is not about me; I am only using my experience, as I must, to try to explain how it works. The goal, my opinion of course, is responsibility, not that I am any paragon, but I have been formed with that objective in mind, and at least some of it took, again, for which I am eternally grateful. Whatever level I have achieved I certainly would not have achieved on my own, without the process – and processors – that worked to form it.

And that is the point of this diatribe: the process that yields responsibility. It is multifaceted, and perilous, with many pitfalls waiting to waylay along the way, but it’s foundation is protection from the many dangers that will inevitably crop up. Protection from, is never enough, but foundation builds on development of personal protection as well; in other words it helps provide the ability to learn to protect self.

So what is responsibility? Is it enough to suggest that it is protection of self? No, that is not enough; protecting self is not enough; there has to be more. And the more is what fleshes out responsibility. But allow me to stop there: the fleshing out of responsibility; it is a critical aspect of what I consider to be successful living. I have taken a crack at it before, probably inadequately; it is a complex and highly personal trait that each of us must discover for him/her self. it takes many forms, as everything in life must, and it evolves differently for each of us. But it is essential for effective result, if we are to hold what we have created to date in our country and our culture.

I suggest that it has weakened, which is part of why I address it here; we need work to strengthen it again, and we can, for the foundation is still there. I have tried to explain what that foundation is, and where it starts and how it processes. Think about it; it matters.

Philosophy and Propaganda

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the July 24th, 2014

Philosophy? Why would anyone want to talk about philosophy in these modern times when even the Constitution is considered an outdated anachronism? For the same reason I defend the Constitution.

Philosophy, since I am wallowing in definitions, is (Oxford) the use of reason and argument in seeking truth and knowledge of reality, especially the causes and nature of things and the principles governing existence, etc. I have a preferred simpler meaning that I shall get to presently.

Philosophy is an academic subject, primarily taught as study of what the great philosophers of history have come up with and expounded, and is worthy of study (my opinion) for that reason – to know what they came up with; much of it is still relevant, as is our Constitution. Such is worth learning, and worth knowing – and worth comparing and thinking about, because it is not necessarily consistent. One might even say that their utterings are opinion, albeit reasoned opinion, and even opinion that has endured the test of time. But some is even no longer relevant, and some might not even be accepted any longer.

I have a problem with the study of philosophy, however, at the beginning of the college education process, preferring it more, as it’s appearance at the other end of the process: a doctor of philosophy degree. The reason I have that preference is that I believe most beginning level university students lack the life understanding to appreciate philosophy other than to absorb the compendium of statements by dead old white men. To appreciate what they said and wrote benefits from a greater depth of life experience. At that point, the degree of doctor of philosophy is rather a capstone designed to consolidate that experience into an integrated whole. In many ways philosophy is the basis of scientific process: hypothesis, test, revision and test some more, and I believe that is what it should be on a personal and individual basis, as one gathers knowledge, tests it, each piece against another, and determines how it applies, personally, to our own lives.

Now propaganda, (Also Oxford): an organized program of publicity, selected information, etc, used to propagate a doctrine, practice, etc. Propaganda is another word that we tend to misconstrue, thinking of all propaganda as lies; there are all kinds of propaganda from blatant lies to absolute truth and much in between; advertising is propaganda; selected information for dissemination for a designated purpose. A simpler way of putting is that it is partial information, as is most of the information we receive and attempt to digest, if, that is, we attempt to digest it.

Which is where thinking and the personal come in: we have to decide what to believe – what to digest – and integrate it into what we already think we know, changing, if necessary, what we then think we know. The difference between the two are obvious, and propaganda, being one way of absorbing information is a valid input that cannot be ignored; but not the ONLY input. And not without the thinking that allows it to be tested – by us – before becoming personal philosophy.

Which brings me to my definition of philosophy: reading, listening, experiencing, observing and thinking about it. A lot simpler, yes? And to me both more profound and more meaningful, personally. You see, I believe in a personal philosophy and feel everyone should have one, and it should evolve continually as one matures, learns and thinks, as, of course, I think everyone SHOULD mature. The fact that many don’t: don’t mature, don’t do much thinking; and avail themselves of little of the rest of it is another problem, but one we just have to live with, leaving the burden upon those that do: the burden of not only carrying but also the burden of encouraging others to take on more; it can be done and can bear results. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that they allow so many other things to take priority, and in the process allow themselves to allow propaganda to substitute for the personal philosophy that is required.

There is the challenge.

Prejudice and Opinion

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the July 24th, 2014

An interesting word; many words are interesting, as their meanings tend to vary, or if not exactly vary, wander.
Yup, prejudice takes maybe one sixth of a page in Oxford, but much of that is trying to cite examples.

A preconceived opinion. Bias or partiality. Intolerance or of or discrimination against a person or group, especially on account of race religion or gender. Harm or injury that may result from some action or judgment. Sounds simple enough.

But what causes prejudice? Education might, that is, gain of information that predisposes in a certain direction. Is that bad? Is that not what education attempts to do? But prejudice is bad; everyone knows that. But think of the quotation, from many directions I think: people believe what they want to believe. Does that make it prejudice?

How about experience? If I learn to drive a nail correctly, and it works, is that prejudice? Of course not!

How about nurturing of small children? Is teaching them that truth and honesty are the best way, prejudicing them? Well, it should; is that bad? But that’s not what we mean! What we mean is prejudicing them in a wrong way. Right and wrong; how about honest opinion? A well written and persuasive piece that convinces people of one thing or another, causes them to have a preconceived opinion, if they internalize it. Ah but then the second meaning suggests harm and injury; is that inclusive? What if a person dies through being honest? In that case is it prejudicial?

Some things that were learned as fact, turned out not to be; so were people who believed those facts taught to be prejudiced? Were they prejudiced by believing them. But we know what we MEAN, believing things that are unfair. If one has a bad feeling about unrepentant criminals prejudiced? Are people who observe what we now euphemistically refer to as ghetto behavior prejudiced? Then where is the line between honest opinion and prejudice? Ahh, surely the line is truth. Is it really that simple? But ghetto; does that encroach upon race? It shouldn’t; it should be based on culture and choice.

I thought about this as I was reading essays in a book entitled Asian Islam in the 21st Century, as I waded through the factions, diversity and animosity. I thought about it again as I read an article in The Federalist (an line website – 23 July 2014) Entitled The Perils of Kleptocricy, by John Hayward, whose thesis was that just because someone pursues power and wealth through governing does not make him/her morally superior to one who does so through free enterprise (I liked that one so much I posted it in my previous blog). Prejudice, preconceived opinion is a slippery slope; how do we know if our opinion is prejudiced? What if it is prejudiced positively?

What I am really getting at is opinion. So let’s check that: belief or assessment based on grounds short of Proof. View held as probable. And so forth. Are not all opinions prejudiced by something? And the connotation that we have attached to it as harmful; maybe that’s the real difference. So what if we hold an opinion that is harmful to someone, even if it turns out to be true: prejudice? Is that not the bind we have placed ourselves in: prejudicial opinion? Suddenly any opinion that is harmful to someone is prejudicial, and ballyhooed as such, and believed as such, at least by those who so want to believe it.

I am not saying that opinion with no basis of fact can be defended. But how much proof does it take to move it from prejudice to honest opinion? Fact? Proof? How many with opinions today can truly justify them with proof? And what really are facts in today’s complicated world? Ok, deliberate overlooking lack of any proof to make a point is not right, and in certain instances it becomes what we have in mind as the meaning of prejudice; but it really is a slippery slope, and it is being used today to blur the difference between opinion and prejudice; in fact much opinion today IS prejudice because spouters too seldom have proof to support their opinion, if it even exists. We all know where I am coming from, but we assume that it is a unique situation; essentially all different groups of people harbor prejudice against each other if that is the way they have been brought up or educated to believe – even if they are of the same race or sex. One can probably say atheism is prejudice; so then is religious belief? We use the word prejudice too loosely for personal gain.

Then what of opinion? We use opinion too loosely, period. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all pursued open minded discussion to gain knowledge. It ain’t gonna happen; we are not built like that, and even open discussion is going to lead to disagreement, often hostile, because we have different frames of reference, ingrained in us through what we have learned, seen and experienced. That does not in any way suggest that we shouldn’t all try; but that just ain’t gonna happen either. So we do our best and live with the results, some better than other.

Ever heard someone say I hate politics? The art and science of government. Government: the act or manner of governing; dealing with people and their differences. Life is politics, and politics is dealing with opinion, and opinion is prejudiced by learning and experience – and habit, for that matter.

People are different, because we have different experiences, learning being only one of them; that will never change. Differences must be dealt with, however difficult and repugnant it might be. So what can be done if someone is just plain ignorant, doesn’t know what he/she is talking about, but insists on pushing it, aggressively, even violently? Welcome to the real world, the world of reality. We deal with it as best we can.

Wish us luck; we’ll need all we can get. But wisdom will help, or my preference, the capability to gather bits of wisdom; so will patience, respect, motivation to understand and be tolerant. That is the challenge of life and if we think it is going to go away we need to give that line of thought some real consideration, and then recognize that the best we can do in the long run is to agree to disagree, and find a way to live together.

Big challenge. This is my 600th blog, so I shall celebrate; no particular reason, it’s just a number; but we celebrate things like that. I have learned a lot doing them though, as I learned a lot by writing a book entitled Avoiding Armageddon – Preserving Our Culture, available once again through Booklocker.com. I read it again the other day and found how little my thinking has changed. Proof? no I cannot say that it is proven, and certainly I can not cite it as truth, but I think it is supported opinion, but even that is opinion. And you might even say, with validity, that it is prejudicial, since it all came from experience of one kind or another, either mine or those whose ideas I internalized. That is life, and that is the challenge of life: to keep an open mind and continue learning, and dealing with others whose learning is either different or non existent, and sometimes proudly and arrgantly so.

The Perils of Kleptocracy

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the July 23rd, 2014

Whether one disagrees or not with this article by John Hayward in the 23 July edition of The Federalist it is something I had to post here; and something, I believe, that warrants some thought.

Since it fits rather well with my preconceived, I tend to rather think it not far off.

And he does admit that there are some small group of selfless people, whom are of course (I suppose) considered suckers or fools by the rest. Not all the rest, of course, but…………….?

Of course, of course, nothing is everything, and black and white is limiting, so there is much in between the extremes. What of those who “think they are selfless”? Nah, couldn’t be anyone like THAT, could there? Or those that justify, whatever it takes? Hmmmmmm what other kinds might there be, in that vast in between the extremes of selfless and kleptocrat?

Best not even think about such sedition…………,yet?

The Perils Of Kleptocracy

Using government force to take what you want from others leads to conflict

By John Hayward

July 23, 2014

Pick a global crisis today, and the odds are good that it either began, or was exacerbated, by a political elite bent on looting the national treasury. Vladimir Putin’s man in the Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, got bounced for a number of reasons, one of was his sticky fingers. Upon his departure, the new Ukrainian government learned its people had been fleeced to provide luxuries that included a private zoo at Yanukovich’s estate.

Putin himself presides over an oligarchy with hearts of ice. The biggest threat to his power is that the murderous blunder of arming the terrorists who shot down Flight MH17 might choke off the cash flow into all those well-connected pockets.

The “Arab Spring” wouldn’t have been much to talk about if Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his pals hadn’t spent the preceeding decades lining their pockets, making the whack-job Muslim Brotherhood look good to people who would come to regret their decision. Now that the Brotherhood is out of power in Egypt, their pals in Hamas are being meticulously stripped of the weapons and terror-tunnel network they built with money that should have been spent on essential government services for the residents of Gaza. Diplomatic and humanitarian aid that doesn’t pay for guns and bombs has a way of ending up in numbered overseas accounts.

Show me an outspoken socialist strongman, and I’ll show you the palatial estate where this selfless Hero of the People sits on a mountain of treasure, blowing millions on such luxuries as imported Western pop singers to entertain at his parties.

And let’s not be smug here in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, because our Ruling Class has been showing itself a pretty good time on our confiscated nickels. Washington, D.C. has become one of the richest zip codes in the nation. High officials enjoy royal perks, including personal retinues and motorcades that would make the actual remaining monarchs of the world blush. A bit further down the bureaucratic food chain, one of the great scandals of our day involved officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs falsifying paperwork – and leaving veterans to die – so their reports would look good, and they could grab plumb bonus checks.

The Western world has for too long been afflicted with the delusion of the Selfless Bureaucrat, the caring super-government that only wants to help people, unlike the greedy private sector, where fortunes are built by robbing the Little Guy. Certainly there are hard-working and selfless people to be found working for every level of government…. but the notion that government is generally and inherently less selfish and more compassionate than the private sector is bunk.

The scandals of the Obama years make that painfully obvious, but it shouldn’t have taken massive scandals to make us understand that government, like any large private organization, is interested in expanding its power and wealth. It is staffed with people who want the same things anyone laboring in corporate America wants: career advancement, personal recognition, and money.

The Western world has for too long been afflicted with the delusion of the Selfless Bureaucrat, the caring super-government that only wants to help people, unlike the greedy private sector, where fortunes are built by robbing the Little Guy.

There are a few big differences between selfish government and selfish industry, and once we’ve dispensed with the popular mythology that government is intrinsically wiser and more noble than any private operation, we can see most of the differences aren’t good. The biggest one is that government is largely insulated from the consequences of selfishness. In general, the people who profit from Big Government, and offer it ideological support, don’t think it can ever go “bankrupt.” The enterprise itself can never fail. It has no smaller, leaner competitors who can undercut its bids when greed causes it to become bloated and inefficient. Its “customers” cannot easily abandon it.

On an individual level, the difficulty of terminating government employees is a matter of legend. Your fingers are a sufficiently powerful instrument for counting the number of people who have actually lost their jobs due to Obama’s scandals. One of the few things that would get a high official in really hot water would be reporting that his agency’s mission had been completely accomplished, and come in under budget to boot. That’s just about the only way an organ of the State actually loses financial weight.

Another problem with greedy government is that it doesn’t have a murder of regulators circling in the sky overhead, waiting for it to make a false move so they can swoop in for the kill. Who watches the watchmen, when they’re out of control?

Greedy government races into the arms of greedy Big Business like two lovers rushing to embrace across a field of daffodils in an old movie. It’s the combination of the two that causes real problems for the hard-working American people. Billions of tax dollars disappear into crony arrangements that never seem to provide real value to the chumps who paid the taxes. Greedy special interests are eager to purchase government power to squash competition; politicians make a mint rushing to meet that demand.

Everything greedy government does is cloaked in a thick layer of sanctimony, which curdles into rage and hatred when things go wrong, and politicians need to divert blame. For all the populist-Left rhetoric about business tycoons robbing the Little Guy, the fact is that tycoons need help from their government partners to pull off the really big heists. Otherwise, the Little Guy is free to stop doing business with a company he feels is ripping him off.

And if a private enterprise builds a fortune by selling valuable goods and services people voluntarily buy, in a competitive environment… what’s the problem? Look around whatever room you’re currently sitting in, and you’ll easily see a number of items that were products of corporate self-interest which have improved your life beyond measure, including whatever electronic device you are using to read this. The daydream of purging self-interest from society is both foolish and dangerous. A successful society harnesses self-interest in just and constructive ways. Everyone – from the entry-level worker, to the captain of industry, to the employees of the U.S. government – wants to do better for themselves and their families. They all want to be part of something that succeeds.

The key to running a successful society is to channel these ambitions in productive directions. Using government force to take what you want from others is not productive. It also tends to make average citizens into the pawns of those who are really good at using power to take what they want. As the ambitions of the powerful broaden, and the conditions of the people grow worse, that arrangement stops looking like arrogant and inefficient government, and becomes outright kleptocracy. It’s not comforting to wonder if the VA official who puts veterans on secret death lists to collect a performance bonus is better than the deposed strongman who built a private zoo behind his estate… or whether the system that permits one is really all that much better than the system which enables the other.

None of this is intended as a “hate the government” screed. That’s the point. It’s not hateful to observe that people and institutions do not acquire a magical aura of righteousness and nobility just because they enter the public sector. Respect for the truly demanding forms of public service can be paid without blinding us to the essential truth that only a small percentage of the population is truly selfless. There aren’t nearly enough of them to staff a tiny, streamlined government, let alone the modern Leviathan State.

The system they work for is not inherently noble, either. That’s why we have laws that (should) restrict its behavior and limit its powers. “If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” James Madison observed in the Federalist Papers. “If angels were to government men, no external or internal controls on government would be necessary.” Why do we keep forgetting that simple admonition? Simple: because the non-angels who govern us need us to keep forgetting it.

Our Political Drift?

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the July 22nd, 2014

I read an interesting article today by Corbin and Parks in The Federalist; they are engaging professors who write on political matters. The article got me to thinking, and anyone who has bothered to visit my renderings should know the direction that takes.

One thing I took from that article, and others I have read yesterday, suggest that the millennials hold the key to the future, and this makes sense to me, as they were complicit in electing our current president, and with the aging of older generations, they are the coming voting majority. Millennial: who are they?

Roughly, I think, they are those who have come to age of maturity in this millennium, or at least the last two decades.

They are the generation most affected by television, computers and various social media.

They are our most propagandized generation ever since they were brought up in this environment.

They seem predisposed to accept bigger government with stronger central control.

They are comfortable with increased regulation aimed at “fairness”, which means to me more regulated egalitarianism.

They are prone to fantasy, due to their environmental influences, and that means – to me – most disposed to accept propaganda, pretty much at face value; that is, with minimal questioning.

They accept bigness of most everything, or at least do not oppose it: big business, big marketing, big entertainment, big information (particularly media), and big money influence. Big legal environment too, meaning lots of law suits.

The big money influence is interesting, as they seem to oppose the wealth gap that is so strongly decried these days; but they are less concerned with the influence of money that it generates. That opposition of a wealth gap seems egalitarian oriented, and that is also indicated by their apparent influence of what they see as the need for fairness in social issues, fairness as perceived by them based on their social views. They see the flaws that are apparent in the American system and our history, but they are less prone to see its strengths, perhaps because they do not understand them – or care, except as they support them.

What all this, and other things I have observed, means is that they are poorly aware of culture and what it entails, and the differences in culture throughout the world, seeing our flaws but not those of others, of which they are mostly unaware, or indifferent. To me this means they are rather naive, and lack an understanding of the reality of the world, the people in it, and the historical relationships among nations, cultures and economic systems.

From discussions I have had with many people, this has a tendency to be somewhat age related, particularly during what we generally refer to as modernity; many have told me “when I was that age I wasn’t much interested in affairs of the world either.

Education is interesting too. What does it mean to them? It seems that primarily it is associated with a ticket to the good life, without much consideration for what the attending process, e.g. education to good life, entails. Some of this is probably due to the propagandist nature of what education has become: a ticket rather than a process; but some of it comes from the supply/demand nature of free enterprise, of which “education” is one element. But even then education is seen narrowly, and experience seems to be a matter of less important concern, and less respect.

The result of that seems to be a general feeling that one can gain the tickets to a good life without a great deal of effort, pursuing pretty much anything as long as it results in a degree, and so those tickets are necessarily strongly identified with a college education and somewhat deprecatory of what we are prone to refer to as skilled labor. As the complexity of our world has increased, along with such as electronics and finance, but also international relations and economics, there is merit to believing, even to preaching, that life success is more and more tied to the sophistication that college education can provide; even the skills of labor tend to be more demanding than they once were. I don’t deny, but I think we have oversold it rather unrealistically and, to a great extent in terms of customer (student) demand: what he/she wants; rather than economic demand for the services he/she can provide: what the economy needs and can accommodate. There is a disconnect, and I see that as something more or less inherent in millennial thinking: supply and demand is a systemic approach to reality as opposed to a personal approach to what should be; that is, if I demand it, supply should be there.

To me this all ties together into an unreality that is not healthy, or a belief that the world can be how we want it to be and not how it is, merely because we want it that way. I have regularly called this human nature, and I know there are those that deny there is any thing or that we can change human nature. If we can, we apparently haven’t found the formula yet to do so. Religion was supposed to, and made important strides, but imperfectly, and now many are denying the value even of religious principles because they are out of date and unrealistic.

But then our Constitution is accused of being the same: principles that are out of date. In fact even principles have been misconstrued and confused with rights and entitlement, so principles are out of date?

I see a pattern here, and it is a worrisome pattern. What if this line of thinking becomes predominant, as the older generation phases out and the new phases in? This has been a long trend that has only picked up steam with the electronic communication explosion that has occurred and consumed Millennials; is it permanent? If it is, what does this mean for the future of our nation? of our world, for that matter? Where are we going?”

This does not mean that all millennials are bad, it means they tend to be different, and see things differently, and often unrealistically. That, and what it might entail for our nation is something to which we should all give serious thought and consideration.

Ignorance and Propaganda

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the July 20th, 2014

Ignorance creates a potentially productive field for propaganda, in fact the latter is dependent on the former.

It is interesting to study the differences between Eastern thought and Western thought; both have advantages. In a nutshell Western thought tends to be straight line; we refer to it as logical, and logic is the necessary basis of scientific method; it tends toward black and white and either/or. In scientific method that is required to get to the next step: if tested wrong (the hypothesis), what does it take to make it right? Eastern thought, concentrating on relationships in context as opposed to indiviuality, takes a more balanced view, a more nothing is either all wrong or all right view, making scientific progress more difficult and less likely to succeed, since nothing tends to be either right or wrong. But it also moves away from the unipolar singularity of your way or my way (and my way or the highway) and nothing in between.

So which is best? It is subjective. In scientific endeavor, where something either works or doesn’t, straight line logic is essential; in areas such as politics or foreign relations, where people are involved, a more balanced approach accepts that there is often no single cause for a given situation and often realizes that multiple causes, often with different intensity, are not only more likely but more realistic. So which is better? Aside from subjectivity, generally a balance is better than either, and essential to not only cause, but to understanding a complex, non-linear problem. To wit, we should have broad enough processing capability to think either scientifically or relatively – or a combination, for that matter – depending on the problem or situation being addressed.

This should be particularly informative to Western linear thinkers in light of the polarity that has developed over recent decades. Political right and left are particularly evident: conservative and liberal; but the I am right and you are wrong way of it has much to do with the growing evidence of social contention that has become so prevalent, or at least so obvious.
Specifically, there is a tendency to latch onto a single idea or argument and proceed closed minded from there, with utter and antagonistic intensity and disregard for alternative views.

Let me morph that into several favorite subjects of mine: interpersonal relationships, complacency and the foundation of today’s propaganda environment. I have to start with our favored means of propaganda; electronic (preferably visual) communication; first television, then social networks, where short sound bite arguments are popular and easily propagated. It is so easy to know one is right when facts are limited and details are neither known nor understood – nor is there felt to be any need nor desire to know or understand (complacency). I have been more and more turned off by the confrontational but shallow format of panel debate on television, but the focused, and usually simplistic, put down expressed in many forwarded emails is almost as bad. And the automatic and agressively know it all comments to intelligent discussion presented in knowledgeable internet articles? Oh my. The justification for this is that that is what the public wants.

And therein lies a serious problem: ignorance exacerbated emotionally and aggressively by propaganda in popular format, feeding us what we want to hear; Is there any wonder that we have contention? The professional providers are convinced that we like it, the customer is always right, and we need to provide the customer whatever he/she wants – in order to make money through viewership, readership and advertising (which is yet more propaganda). Supply and demand is not necessarily the best format for educating or conveying information.

The success of our form of government is based upon an informed electorate and understanding of the need to compromise across widely different views and opinion. Simple answers and generalizations are not the way to get there, and our favored propaganda environment – along with our straight line logical approach to thinking – don’t lead there; nor do they lead to understanding a complex problem where there is no single cause, but a bevy of them, usually extending over a period of time. On the other hand our proclivity to be complacent just adds fuel to that fire: I don’t want to hear about it. No wonder the media wants to keep it simple and avoid multiplicity of variable intensity causes.

And interpersonal relationships? don’t they suffer from the same set of problems? Does not one just reinforce the others? or at least preclude anything be done to effectively address them? I read an article today discussing the reason for failure of American cities over the past 100 years, and was taken with how it fits right in with this line of thought. What is THE cause? THE cause? give me a break. I was also exposed to a discussion that sounded more like an empassioned lecture on subjects where opposition was met with rancor and higher decibel denial; that is not the kind of discussion that leads to greater understanding, but seems more and more common these days.

This challenge runs through much of our social relationship, which needs to be expanded from the simplistic to accommodate greater complexity, more exchange, and deeper thinking, which does not mean we need to throw out our way of thinking that has yielded such success – just expand it to make it applicable to all the additional social problems we are facing that have such increased and increasing complexity.

The fact that it is increasingly rare to find such an approach is revealing, and concerning, with the ignorance it spawns encouraging propaganda, which is almost always simplistic and focused. Blending an Eastern and Western approach in complex multi cause problems would be better handled.

Relationships

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the July 18th, 2014

A recent joke: women are crazy – because men are stupid.

Over-simplistic, of course, but that’s how jokes tend to be. However, there is a grain of truth in it, particularly in relationships. Men and women, of course, are different, and that difference is based, among other things on their biological roles in life.

Women, biologically, are designed to bear children and that has an effect; but they also bear children, and that has an even greater effect. Much in between, and lots of variation in experience, but that does have an effect on relationships. Specifically, most women have an attachment to their children that men do not have, which does not mean that men don’t care for their children, but that the attachment is different. How so?

Well, childbirth and child raising demands, and if it is addressed conscientiously, it develop responsibility. So men are irresponsible in raising children? Not at all, or at least not necessarily; but their responsibility tends to be differently constructed, based on their different and usually less personal roles as related to the children. For whatever reason, it would appear that responsibility among women occurs (generally, if it occurs) earlier. Child bearing and rearing then are an intrinsic part of a woman’s nature. So there are exceptions; bear with me.

Because of that; and now I am speculating, and generalizing; a woman’s approach to a relationship, not only with children, but with men, begins and progresses with a relationship focus that is different than with men, whose responsibility focus is more likely to be on vocation and/or taking care of family. I know, generalization, but I am generalizing.

So when I woman gets to treating her man in a manner not unlike the way she treats her children I would suggest it more normal than unusual. And that is only exacerbated when the man is either irresponsible or late maturing. Of course that treatment, that focusing, can be myopic and destructive But the man’s can be equally, say, broad, or even indifferent in outlook. That form of relationship, once entered, can continue unabated throughout life. Sometimes it can be accepted, more often it is resented; but in most cases it has a clear effect on how closely and interactively the relationship develops and endures.

It needn’t, of course, and lives are full of other influences, including experiences, education and other relationships, and different people assimilate those differently and with different intensities. However, I would submit that there is a tendency for the biological roles to endure. And often that comes out as women being crazy and men being stupid because that is the way it often can seem, and appear.

So what? Responsibility in a relationship – mutual responsibility – is key to its success and has to be grown and nurtured; women tend to have a head start. It is distressing that today the growth and nurturing seems to be less actively pursued than in the past, for many reasons, by both parties, and that, in my opinion, is contributory to family dissolution, though only contributory. Much else is involved as well, but that’s a deeper subject that I shall not address here. The point, of course, is the importance of responsibility, and an important facet of that is understanding what is happening, why, and being able to discuss it and deal with it – with an open mind, responsibly. More difficult than it might seem; but with proper motivation it is achievable.

Motivation and responsibility; how about that? Who’d a’thunk it? And question of why relationships, even beyond matrimonial ones seem to be fraying more often today?

Give it some thought: responsibility and the difference it takes due to the different roles. And motivation to make it work.

Lauding Our Heroes

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the July 15th, 2014

Recently it has become popular to laud our heroes, particularly the returning warriors from the difficult wars with terrorists thoughtout the world. On top of that came the flood of adulation over induction of medal of honor winners and recent monuments.

This is a wonderful thing in this our world of criticism and put down; thank you for your service. May I express a bit of skepticism? It is my thing, you know, or if you don’t, be aware that it is my thing: I used to call it cynicism but now prefer skepticism. And as to medal of honor winners, it’s about time, but maybe the second or third time around?

Do not get me wrong; our returning warriors have made great sacrifice and are to be lauded. And winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor performed in a manner that can only be described as awesome. But I doubt sincerity of many; it appears to me to be so much propagandist lip service to too many. Do they really appreciate? Do they even understand the sacrifice and its importance to our country? I often doubt it.

First hero, and this fits in with the medal of honor; those men, and pardon me, I believe they were all men, were true heros in the classical definition of that word. They met challenge with incredible valour and dedication; no one can deny them and all should have greatest admiration for them; they are special men – or were. But all warriors are not confronted with a situation that would allow them the challenge to qualify for hero; it takes prolonged and continual selfless confrontation of sacrifice for others to which most of us would not or could not stand up. That’s why it is so remarkable.

So to call all returning warriors heros is frankly an insult to those who truly were heros, and those, incidentally were not all medal of honor winners; there are lessor awards that still qualify as heroism. But all who make the sacrifice of serving their country in a combat environment are not even directly involved in combat, even though all might, through action of the enemy. There are combatant warriors and there are those that support. I had the honor of performing both, and my Infantry experience did not occur when our nation was at war and my support experience in Vietnam did not entail direct face to face combat experience. Thats just the way it was.

So back to heroes – or even warriors. What is it we are lauding? Should it not be sacrifice in the service of our nation? That after all is what it is, and what we should be lauding, and being thankful for. Additionally I also must admit to greater respect for those who actually risked their lives in combat; but then it’s all relative, I suppose. And I can say that as one who didn’t, through no choice of my own.

But there is one more thing I would like to adress and that has to do with the preparation of those who are thrust into that role – all voluntarily, I might add, since we no longer employ a draft, and don’t because we have enough volunteers. Now is that not impressive? It should be.

We, however, in my opinion, have far too little respect and admiration for a key group who deserve it perhaps more than any; Rudyard Kipling put it as the non-commissioned man is the backbone or the army; it is true. These are the men, and women today, who start at the bottom, study, train and serve – teach and lead. Infantry officer platoon leaders are assigned platoon sergeants, partly to assist with their experience, but partly to help train that officer with that same experience; I still remember the name of mine to this day: Billy Hayes jumped into Normandy and Market Garden, and was a hell of a non-com. Being one is a weighty responsibility and requires acquired skill and exceptional dedication. Those men, and now women, are truly the backbone of the army, and we should afford them more, much more respect; they deserve every bit of it.

We could not do it without them, nor will we ever be able to.

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