03 May 2018

Transgenders & Discipline

The military runs on discipline. Transgender people have demonstrated their unwillingness to accept determination of their gender by the most final of rulers—fate (God). That alone is enough to make them unfit for military service.

Data Ethics

When I first was introduced to the techniques of data analysis, I wondered at the possibilities and prospects of using those tools to learn about the world around me.   Of course, by now, fifty or more years later, I realize that I completely ignored the opportunity that the collection of data offered to manipulate people, either politically or commercially.  Is that a reason not to collect data or not to allow the collection of it? 

For example, census data is collected, supposedly, anonymously, in order to prevent its being used for personally harmful purposes; but, of course, it can still be used for geographically discriminatory purposes.  FaceBook and other social media perhaps never anticipated how willing people would be to use those apps to share very personal information with each other.  Apparently it took manipulators little time to realize that hacking that data offered them a wonderful and rich resource. 

Much if not all of this data could be discovered through the use of traditional polling techniques and statistical analysis, although probably at a higher cost.  Nevertheless, those in charge of the social media do bear responsibility for notifying their naïve users that their personal data could and probably would be used for purposes other than communication with their intended correspondents.  By now, users all may be aware of that risk.  However, it is not clear that either the purveyors of social media or the manipulators of their collected personal data committed a crime by taking advantage of the modern wish for contact among isolated individuals.  Perhaps it won’t be so easy in the future, although some will believe stiffer protection of data privacy to be a net loss to social cohesiveness.

30 April 2018

Price for Trump’s Accomplishments Is Too High

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has added his voice to those clamoring that Donald Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for defusing tensions on his peninsula.  It may be true that counter-blustering at Moon’s rival, President Kim Jong Un, has contributed to the latter’s apparent change of heart regarding threats to bilateral and international relations.  However, the cost of this possible dividend is nearly total abandonment of self-respect by American citizens.

Not only does the U.S. have to put up with a Chief of State who is contemptuous of intellectual honesty; but one who is even more determined than members of his Cabinet to undermine the government he was elected to lead

1)      by failing to fully staff it,

2)      by contradicting those working for him who have the nerve to make reasonable decisions based on proven facts,

3)      by disregarding the judgment of legitimate leaders of the rest of the world in self-delusional reliance on the presumably unchallengeable global predominance of his country.

In guaranteeing the country’s stability, the Constitution of the United States of America makes it difficult for its citizens to recognize and correct their errors.  Sadly, a determined minority of states and people did rebel in frustration over their inability to convince the rest of the country that their immorality was justified by commercial advantage.  It took a very costly Civil War to settle that dispute.  Americans ought to be too wise to let a clown like Donald Trump lead them into virtual self-destruction.  Most of them may have deluded themselves as well into believing that the U.S. has a government of institutions that are so strong that it will not tolerate foolish myopia.

Foolishness is not an impeachable offense.  However, can it be an effective election campaign theme? Defeating short-sightedness could inspire the stiffening of a spineless Congress at the end of 2018; pursuing the same goal can lead to the election of a national pride restoring President in 2020. 

14 March 2018

One-way Collusion Not Possible 

One-way Collusion Not Possible

The Trump Administration has been masterful in characterizing the Mueller investigation as a search for collusion between it and Russia to influence its 2016 Election campaign against its opponent, Hillary Clinton.  It has known that it could show that the Mueller investigation has been a failure at that, for Trump’s campaign managers realize that if they benefited from Russian interference, they were unwitting beneficiaries.  They had nothing to do with it.  They did not collude with the Russians; therefore, there was no collusion.  Of course, it takes two to collude.

Mueller’s real objective will turn out to be to demonstrate that Russia did illegally interfere in the U.S. election process, and to show how it did so.  There may be individual facilitators who can be prosecuted for criminal conspiracy, and there surely will be lessons to be learned in order to prevent such distortion of our democratic system in the future.  The main harm the Mueller investigation will do to the Trump Administration will be to weaken the legitimacy of its claim on the U.S. presidency.  That is something that a swell-head like Donald Trump will never be able to swallow. 

26 February 2018

Stopping School Shootings
Preventing school shootings in the U.S., like Parkland, will take a lot more than reducing mentally disturbed persons’ access to firearms.  That might make it more difficult for potential mass killers to carry out their awful schemes; but it won’t alter their desire to resolve personal issues by resorting to extreme antisocial behavior.  Simplifying the American problem with violence to ready access to firearms is our way of disguising our basic societal flaw of protecting individual liberty at the cost of disregarding responsible communal boundaries.  This is a weakness in the American system that must be addressed with a painstaking effort by concerned citizens to correct it even though it would mean admitting that American exceptionalism has a detestable aspect too.
Is there anything unusual about American society’s vulnerability to violent outbursts like school shootings?  Other wealthy nations do not seem to suffer the same weakness.  It is not only easy access to firearms that distinguishes America.  I would argue that the principle of individual freedom to rebel  against the perceived unmerited third-party imposition of control over personal behavior leads us to encourage breakages of communal standards that cause some of us to ignore traffic rules, evade income tax regulations, and even to extinguish innocent children’s lives.
Banning bump-stock or automatic weapons sales won’t prevent the unwarranted mass killings--banning matches won’t reduce arson; like a traffic barrier, it will only make their execution more challenging.  What is needed is a difficult, persistent and imaginative campaign to change our expectation that life’s frustrations and outrages can equally be resolved by simple measures.   Preventing blazes of violence  will require constant investment in vigilance and treatment of possible perpetrators.

19 February 2018

Why I Read About The14th Century

I don’t learn anything to remember from Barbara Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror.”  It merely distracts me from my daily chores and compelling business pursuits.  It submits me to a delusion of participating in another time, six hundred years earlier when kings and princes were endowed by their subjects with wealth apparently earned by their toil and paid unquestioningly as their tribute to a class of rulers installed over them by the Almighty.  No one—not the peasants nor the nobility—even suspected there was any other way of life.  Not until the Enlightenment was the idea believed that people had any right to determine how they were governed or what they owned.

04 January 2018

The Mary Mind

John Mark Lucas’ and Rev. Elizabeth Forest’s book interpreting the parables of Jesus as lessons for living according to His teachings of Peace and Love focuses on the individual’s personal relationship with his God.  This is the same mistake that my Catholic instruction as a child made.  It seems to ignore a person’s relationship with his fellow man.  Isn’t that the most important standard according to which a person’s moral life ought to be set?  Even if the book‘s editing were to be improved, that weakness alone discounts the validity of its message. 

The Mary Mind’s Introduction defines the Peace that Jesus taught as a State of Mind.   I agree that His lessons included that Peace is a goal that people should strive to attain; however, that Peace is a state of existence for the entire community of mankind.  The combined message of the Gospel, therefore, is to live a life that helps all humans relieve their troubles and that thereby perfects a personal condition of holiness.

22 November 2017

Trump's Delusion 

Trump’s Delusion

Donald Trump acts as if he had assumed the office of the Presidency by Divine Right.  To him, popular election awarded the White House to him by the kind of lucky stroke that birth performed on behalf of Richard II.  Trump shouldn’t be expected to act any differently than he has all his life, as the heir to a successful real estate developer’s fortune and power. 

“The Donald” couldn’t help himself avoid accepting the mantle of the Presidency; therefore he is not responsible for living up to any standard of behavior.  What we see is what we got.

The dilemma for the country is that we cannot count on the future’s assuring favorable conditions for what we dedicate our lives to now.  We will have to trust in luck that without principles of behavior for our leadership the world will welcome the fruits of our efforts and our progeny in the future.  A scary prospect!  Fortunately, we can at least hope that the rest of the liberal democratic world will now bear the burden of keeping the international system in functioning order.

The Trump era may spell the end of America ‘s post WWII dominance.

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