Sunday, March 28, 2010

Obama and Transparency-

The most obvious fault of the Obama administration is the failure to follow through on the campaign promise of trasparency. The failure has been obvious enough that it mars his greatest accomplishment, pushing through universal health care reform. The failure to keep the promise of transparency has  been obvious enough that a song has been written and produced mocking that particular failure.

I voted for Obama. I did not vote for him because of his promises, and certainly not for his promise of transparency. The philosophy of transparency is impossible in the environment of politics. I voted for him with the hope that someone new at the rudder would change the course of our nation.

I wanted to see the end of two expensive and stupid wars. Afghanistan was necessary in response to a direct attack by an enemy residing there. However, once the enemy had been driven into another sovereign state our mission should have ended. I have blogged elsewhere as to how the mission should have been completed. We should no longer be in Afghanistan.

As to Iraq, I don't think that the war was ever a good idea. Oh, a surgical strike to remove Hussein and destabilize that particular government might have been a good idea, but where do you stop with that? North Korea and a lot of Africa could stand the same treatment. It would probably never end.

Of course, the Bush administration never promised transparency. I never expected it from them. I did not expect it from the Bush-clone the Republicans ran for the 2008 election. Nor did I expect it from Obama, though he made the promise.

Transparency in government and flying pigs have a lot in common. Both are most likely impossible, and if they were possible they still don't seem like a good idea.

As to the universal health care thing, I don't expect much from that flying pig, either. It is an admirable ideal, and it is clear that the current system is driving toward catastrophy, but the government has a poor track record for managing much of anything.

Humans have a great capacity to muddle through just about anything. Though it will be inefficient and expensive and probably miss the target, we will muddle through universal health care just like we have everything else that has come before. We survived other administrations, and we will survive this one.

As to Obama's transparency, he may not truly be so. However, I suspect we won't be able to see him in the White House come the next Presidential election.

Watch out for flying pigs.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Challenge of Transparency-

When I was around twenty two years of age I embraced my whole self. I decided that from that point forward I would fully accept the consequences of my beliefs, opinions, and actions. Whatever I said or did, I would claim as my own both in my heart and publicly.

It is my belief that on that day I became a man.

I also adopted a philosophy of transparency. I did not wish to live a secret life, with the real me behind a facade. I intended to be true to myself, and present that self to the world.

For the most part I have found this a livable philosophy. However, it has not always been easy for others. It leaves me with no option but truth. I can either speak the truth always, or remain silent. Even silence feels like a compromise, a hidden lie, but to speak the truth always is not always possible in society.

People depend on small lies, and they often live in delicately fabricated worlds. Truth speakers can disrupt these realms of delusion, and actually hurt other people. Some people live so deeply in delusion that the threat of truth causes them to become dangerously defensive.

My desire to live as myself and embrace truth did not give me license to destroy the delusions of others. Yet in the dance we call society the truth speaker is often out of step. Success in society, advancement in work, placement in social orders is not determined by truth alone. Often it is not determined by truth at all.

Even success in such an intimate relationship as marriage is challenged by too much truth. It is doable, as my wife and I have been married over three decades. Fortunately, she does not depend on deep delusions to maintain her world. She even challenges me when I stray from my own chosen path.

I have gravitated most often toward people and sub-cultures that embrace or at least tollerate transparency. I have learned to avoid people and orders which are deeply delusional and dangerous to truth speakers. I have accepted that my philosophy is not popular and that it is not common.

Then again, perhaps transparency is simply my own delusion.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Draft Our Leaders-

I have a standing personal joke regarding the President and Presidential elections. I suspect it is not funny. Which, of course, challenges its classification as a joke. I will leave all of that up to you. I intend it as a joke, so at least consider it as such even if it is really just a bit of jetsam from my mind.

"The President should be drafted." I would say. "A person who has run a Mom and Pop store somewhere on the South Side of Chicago for the past twenty years would be ideal." Of course, I don't know anything about the South Side of Chicago. I am assuming that it is a tough place to run a Mom and Pop store, and that in doing so both Mom and Pop exhibit qualities of tenacity, toughness and a very fundamental practicality.

Let's just forget the whole joke thing. What I am saying is that we need people like that running our country. I don't care if it is Mom or Pop. For that matter, in the case of President they will both be going to the White House. Let them work as a team. They already have demonstrated that they work well together. Running a store on the South Side of Chicago just doesn't sound easy.

My point is that the ongoing popularity contest that is our electoral system fails on that particular point of popularity. The politicians have to pander to diverse individuals and groups and please the populace rather than commit themselves to doing something that more than appears to be the right thing. It is expensive to try and appeal to the multitudes. It is time consuming.

A draft would be cheaper, and not take so long.

The initial selection could be quite random. Just one big national lottery, selecting a pool of candidates. It would probably be best that they be selected to represent their own districts, since the vested interest would compel them to seek what is best for their own friends and neighbors.

The initial pool could be thinned by eliminating persons with extensive recent criminal histories, any obvious mental illnesses that cannot be adequately managed with proper medication, persons too young or too old to handle the responsibilities and pressures. I would imagine that some kind of test of general knowledge would also help. It would not do for leaders to be unable to find the United States on a map, or look up and be able to read information needed to answer some simple questions.

So, now we have a smaller pool of suitable candidates from which to select the next person to sit in a particular seat of government. I would say that they should meet with the incumbent, who will relate the nature of the job and select three individuals who demonstrate some aptitude for the job. To motivate the incumbent to select well would be the stipulation that they would be brought back to the job if their selection lost a vote of confidence after a year of service.

From the final three the next person to assume any open seat of government would be selected. How? They could roll dice, or play Monopoly, or arm wrestle. At this point the final selection is reducing the best three to one, with  a roll-off for second choice. Kind of a back-up in case of untimely death or some form of madness.

The lucky draftee now will serve ten years. Seats can be filled on a staggered schedule to maintain continuity. The ten year term is also for continuity, to allow for a period of training and a longer period of service. Each drafted public servant will be submitted annually to a vote of confidence by the other members of their particular governing body, and continue to serve for the next year should the pass that vote.

Draftees shall, of course, be permitted to refuse their term of office. They will then serve ten years in a high quality and nicely managed prison, processing government surplus cheese and the like. Public servants who fail to pass their annual vote of confidence will serve the balance of their ten year term in that same prison. It wouldn't be much of a draft unless the alternative was less pleasant than service.

Upon completion of their term in office the public servant shall receive some suitable tokens of gratitude. I would suggest a free home in the poorest and most crime-ridden area under their jurisdiction, and a pension equal to the average salary earned by working people living in that same jurisdiction. They would also receive lifetime health care equal in quality to the average afforded by constituents. That average would include in the calculation the persons who simply cannot afford health care and necessarily do without.

Just to keep things fare and equal in the event that the government initiates any war, the offspring of our public servants who are of service age shall be immediately drafted into military service and fast-tracked to the field of combat. Veterans of the military with combat service or who served a total of ten years in the military shall be excluded from the public service draft.

To provide some motivation to take good care of constituents, the public servant will receive as an annual salary the average salary of a working person in their jurisdiction. Their benefits package and perks will also be similarly defined and calculated. If they want to drive around the capitol in something other than a 1958 International Harvester pick-up with custom rust exterior, it will be necessary to do things to insure that the average Joe back home has a better option as well.

Keep your eyes on the mail for you public service draft notice. You may be the next President.

Monday, March 8, 2010


In order to interact with our world, it is necessary to believe certain things. Some fundamental beliefs need not be formally structured or even articulated. Other living things interact with the world around them, exhibiting the "belief" that those things experienced in the world are real and significant. Again, not necessarily articulated.

A flea does not necessarily think about being a flea. It simply is a flea and acts accordingly.

In higher level animals there are behaviors that can easily be considered thinking. Creatures facing alternative choices do seem to ruminate. Unfortunately, none of these creatures can articulate their particular thoughts, so we are not privy to the process. None seem to doubt their own existence, however. They always behave as if their actions are in the context of a real world, and have a real outcome.

Humans have a capacity to think about and articulate their choices. This capacity seems to vary considerably from human to human, but they do have this capacity and act on it to varying degrees. Temperament can be a factor in defining presuppositions, and experiences can define and redefine presuppositions for many humans. It is a necessarily complex process in a relatively complex creature.

Presupposing one's actual existence seems intuitive and necessary. How that existence is perceived and how that perception develops over time is less intuitive and less necessary. We must accordingly absorb from our primary care givers certain assumptions about reality. This is by example, and also in the form of intentional instruction such as the telling of stories.

Children are deeply dependent upon their care givers. Structures of family, tribe and nation are presupposed by dependents such as children to be reliable sources of things needed. Not just physical necessities, but emotional and intellectual necessities as well. They do not consciously adopt these early presuppositions, but do so necessarily. An undeveloped and inexperienced human simply has no other choice.

For more advanced thinking and interaction it is often crucial to assume a presupposition or set of presuppositions prior to contemplation and discussion. For example, a student enters an institution of learning adopts the presupposition that the institution and its agents hold knowledge and shall transfer that knowledge to the student. This presupposition is more intuitive to small children and more intentional in students entering into higher levels of education.

Some institutions of learning require the assumption or adoption of prescribed presuppositions prior to gaining entry into the institution. This can be as informal as simply requiring some evidence of prior instruction in a similar institution. It can be as formal as signing a declaration of certain beliefs. Some institutions even require a prescribed garb or uniform to make the identification with prescribed presuppositions more obvious, and to reinforce the submission of the individual.

Some people may presuppose the fundamental nature of a set of interpretive rules. It can simply be the fabled rules set established by "common sense," or something more formal. The acceptance of this rules set as a sufficient foundation for observing and interpreting the world can be a personal world view, but is often entered into in concert with others.

Experientially, adopted presuppositions and their consequent observations can be so consistent as to appear self-evident. Hence, the individual and their associates perceiving the world through a similar set of experiences and adopting similar presuppositions may easily place themselves in judgement over other individuals with different world views. Everyone in the province recognizes these rules without even thinking. Any other way of thinking is wrong and probably evil.

Humans with a broader set of experiences will often adjust their presuppositions away from such a provincial attitude, becoming more accepting of people operating from different rules of interpretation. They are more "worldly." Not all humans have the same capacity to adapt, and many conflicts between people can be attributed to clashing presuppositions.

Presuppositions are the foundation of any world view, and editing them is frightening and often difficult. Conflict between any individual's world view and the new and expanded reality they might come to experience can be traumatic and even catastrophic. A defensive response is natural, and getting past such a response requires an act of the will. It is a matter of choosing  presuppositions from which to operate.

Provincial thinking is easier. It does not require any degree of examining existing presuppositions. Existing presuppositions are obviously the only rules of interpretation,  and any other way of thinking is simply wrong. Wrong, and dangerous. Sometimes sufficiently dangerous to demand fleeing or fighting.

Strong emotions can be attached to presuppositions. Fear and anger can easily surface when presuppositions are challenged, either by changes in the environment or challenges in thinking. Strong emotions do not generally contribute to objective thought, and so a reasoned adjustment of presuppositions is a rare instance. Most changes are inherently traumatic and often the consequence of trauma.

Consider your own presuppositions. What do you believe to be fundamentally true? How did you adopt this set of rules? Have you ever experienced a radical shift in your fundamental beliefs, your presuppositions? What changes did you make in your way of thinking, and why?

Wouldn't the answers to some of these questions make great material for a blog?

I look forward to reading yours. ;-)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Temperament Observed-

The various classification systems relating to temperament are often useful, but hardly exhausting. Most of them have four or five major classifications, and subclasses established by combining two major classes into dominant/secondary pairs. These serve well enough, but are not exclusive as categories that may be observed.

Two types of people I have observed in my career in corrections have been the Regulators and the Enforcers. We tend to have an abundance of both in the law enforcement field, probably due to the many opportunities to practice these proclivities.

Regulators like to regulate, control, or manage things. I suspect they find their way into law making careers, or in another career field find their way into the regulatory branch. They really like rules, and at least from my own perspective they like rules for the sake of having rules. Considering the huge number of laws on the books in the State of California, there is no end to this need to regulate.

In our particular jail setting we have behavior management rules to aid the inmates in knowing how to behave, and to provide a reference for those charged with enforcing the rules. Time and time again I saw an augmented rule created by an officer eventually being enforced as if it were a sanctioned rule, even though that rule was never formally adopted.

Regulators do not like to give up any rules once they have been established and adopted. Over time conditions change and the purpose of a rule or set of rules no longer applies to the new state of things, yet it is nearly impossible to bring about a review of rules, much less practical changes. Rather than being focused on the purpose of our rules our temperamental Regulators simply want to hang onto those rules as rules.

Sometimes the perspective is as if dealing with a sacred thing, these little jail rules. I am sure that readers can find other examples from their own experiences.

Then there are temperamental Enforcers. There is some kind of deep and emotional satisfaction experienced by an Enforcer when he can apply a rule and set up a violator for punishment. I will grant that rules and the enforcement of rules are necessary for maintaining the order in a social order. The Enforcer goes beyond that. Each act of enforcement becomes a personal victory. Engaging such emotion can unbalance the system.

Most temperamental Enforcers love having lots of rules, and enforce even the least reasonable rules with a tremendous zeal. For them the purpose of the rule was less relevant than the existence of the rule and the need being met by enforcing that rule. Many Enforcers working in the jail would establish personal "rules" to serve over the course of their own shifts, and too many of those rules became so entrenched as to be enforced as if sanctioned.

On a larger scale, our State of California has a phenomenal number of laws. Again, Regulators and Enforcers naturally gravitate to positions of power within our social order, and the zeal for acting out their predilections can at least on occasion create laws that are truly counter-productive.

My thoughts tend to go from this point in a lot of different directions. Many examples come to mind, but most are more properly a new thread to the discussion. This hound finds many tempting cotton tails vanishing into the scrub, and so I think that it is time to move toward a conclusion.

 Perhaps the one conclusion I can take from these ruminations is to examine my attitudes and actions to determine if I am acting from a reasoned position, or if I am simply reacting from my own temperament. Such reaction from temperament might not always be bad, but a failure to examine both the temperament and the action for reasonableness and applicability would leave me incomplete and unbalanced.

This conclusion certainly reveals my presupposition that reason has a higher value in choosing actions than instinct or temperament. That, I think, should be approached in another blog.