Speaker Ryan’s Decision…

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has just announced this will be his last term in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He said that he cannot remain any longer and risk being remembered only as a “weekend Dad” by his children, who are ages 16, 14 and 12.

I have blogged about Speaker Ryan before and it is no secret that I see him as among the handful of really intelligent, bright and earnest members of the House who also has a sense of humor and the ability to see self as a human with flaws and foibles.  I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to meet him personally and to sit in his presence on a couple of occasions with people who are in his District on matters involving a statewide association of which I was President at the time.

I repeat myself, I’m sure, but this man is one of the most intelligent, spooky intelligent, and eloquent men I have ever been in the presence of, and yet he was a down-home guy who always seemed to have his feet firmly planted on the ground.  His leaving the House will leave a hole that will be filled by others, but his absence will be noticed often as the House reorganizes around his absence.

So now the mad scramble begins.  The House Republicans will be cloistered repeatedly as they try to determine who ought to be his replacement in the next House.  Those who think they have the capability to sit in that seat have already begun the process.

The Democrats will also begin to lay their plans to replace him as Speaker of the House.  That jockeying will have already begun in earnest and it will be ugly for a while as those who want that honor parade their personal wares for their fellow Dems to see as they make the case to take over Ryan’s control of the House.

This opportunity will help some on both sides look more like a Speaker than ever before.  It will also expose some on both sides whose crass, egotistical positioning will further poison their personal wells.  Ryan has been unique in that he did not have to rely on threats to keep his group on board.  He was respected as an honest broker in virtually every circle.  His enemies knew they’d been in a battle but also knew that he had defeated their ideas honorably or that he had been willing to compromise.

I was surprised to learn that he is only 48 years old again this morning.  He has been around for so long, he seemed to have had to be in his sixties.  So, where does his future lay?  Will he move into commerce?  Will he turn to state politics?  We’ll all find out together as he hears from people who’d love to have him in a leadership role in their respective worlds.  I had the fleeting thought of the ABC Supply Co. that is smack-dab in the middle of his district possibly being a landing pad.  There is always the possibility of a run for Governor of Wisconsin.

Godspeed soon-to-be Mr. Ryan, at least for a time.  D.C.’s loss is Wisconsin’s gain!

Egregious Excess…

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, the former FBI Director, has been poking around trying to find enough to do away with the Trump Administration, or more specifically with Trump’s Presidency, with the man himself and all he represents.  Whatever the initial charge was that Mueller was provided as his direction, this investigation rapidly morphed into what we see today which conjured up today’s title, Egregious Excess.

This kind of appointment is the equivalent of being a small ‘G’ god amongst mere mortals.  There are no controls on this man.  He goes where he decides to go, spends whatever he decides has to be spent, provides protection for some and hardball threats for others; anything to force the target to spill his or her guts.  Then, he sifts and sorts through that information which was squeezed from some person(s) to determine if he has found anything useful…and he alone makes the decision as to the definition of “useful”. And he alone determines where this will permit him to go to continue the ‘dig’ as if this were a historic excavation meant to unearth some past artifact lost to the generations for centuries.

This all started with the suspected Russian ‘influence’ on our elections, but quickly morphed as Mueller struck new veins of ore to be followed toward the Holy Grail.  And he alone defines what that Holy Grail is or isn’t.  I have felt this started in order for Democrats to be provided with evidence of tampering in our elections that could be used by them to explain how they lost to this buffoon of a President, Donald Trump.

Imagine, if you will, that you alone have been given the power to go anywhere, do anything, and prosecute anyone you choose without the oversight of anyone or any government body.  You ALONE have the power to destroy whomever you want to see destroyed.

There are not many people in any place or position who could withstand such temptation, but try to imagine being a person accustomed to the power with which to force people to disclose information and imagine he or she suddenly being made the most feared investigator in the entire country.  The feeling of absolute power must be empowering beyond our abilities to comprehend.  There are no limits to the time we can spend on this quest.  We can have all the money we think we need to get this job done.

We have no boss.  We create the rules on-the-fly.  We intimidate at will with no recourse.  We will never be investigated so anything we do is acceptable.  The only thing unacceptable would be our failure to find and possess the Golden Fleece.  Doesn’t sound as though this would be too difficult to manage…or does it?

Any person in such a role could be dangerously close to seeing him or herself as some kind of all-powerful political deity charged with righting all the political wrongs of a lifetime.  If you’ve ever held a fly swatter and had that fly squarely in your sights, the urge to swat has to be so empowering that one couldn’t help but swing.

Now, couple that immense feeling of personal power with the seating of what you thought, no what you believed in your visceral core, was a terrible President; how difficult would it be to use the power you’ve been accorded to right the wrongs you see before you no matter your initial charge?

This is the problem created for Mueller-the-mortal.  He has been given the power of a political god, and he is empowered to use that power as he sees fit.  And he appears to be doing that job superbly.  How will this story end?  Only the Special Prosecutor can say since he has been and continues to be in the driver’s seat of this “special prosecution”.

And all this is done in secret by virtue of the political mandate that created the investigation.

What could possibly go wrong with this scenario?

Interesting Reading…

I recently read a book titled “The Righteous Mind”, Why Good People Are Divided by Politics & Religion authored By Jonathon Haidt.  His summary of this book is found below:

In Sum

People don’t adopt their ideologies at random, or by soaking up whatever ideas are around them.  People whose genes gave them brains that get a special pleasure from novelty, variety, and diversity, while simultaneously being less sensitive to signs of threat, are predisposed (but not predestined) to become liberals.  They tend to develop certain “characteristic adaptations” and “life narratives” that make them resonate – unconsciously and intuitively – with the grand narratives told by political movements on the left (such as the liberal progressive narrative).  People whose genes give them brains with opposite settings are predisposed, for the same reasons, to resonate with the grand narratives of the right (such as the Reagan narrative).

Once people join a political team, they get ensnared in its moral matrix.  They see confirmation of their grand narrative everywhere, and it’s more difficult – perhaps impossible – to convince them that they are wrong if you argue with them from outside of their matrix.  I suggested that liberals might have even more difficulty understanding conservatives than the other way around, because liberals often have difficulty understanding how the Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity foundations have anything to do with morality.  In particular, liberals often have difficulty seeing moral capital, which I defined as the resources that sustain a moral community.

I suggested that liberals and conservatives are like yin and yang – both are “necessary elements of a healthy state of political life,” as John Stuart Mill put it.  Liberals are experts in care; they are better able to see the victims of existing social arrangements, and they continually push us to update those arrangements and invent new ones.  As Robert F. Kennedy said: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why?  I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”  I showed how this moral matrix leads liberals to make two points that are (in my opinion) profoundly important for the health of a society: (1) governments can and should restrain corporate superorganisms, and (2) some big problems really can be solved by regulation.

I explained how libertarians (who sacralize liberty) and social conservatives (who sacralize certain institutions and traditions) provide a crucial counterweight to the liberal reform movements that have been so influential in America and Europe since the early twentieth century.  I said that libertarians are right that markets are miraculous (at least when their externalities and other failures can be addressed), and I said that social conservatives are right if you don’t usually help the bees by destroying the hive.

Finally, I said that the increasing Manichaesism of American political life is not something we can address by signing pledges and resolving to be nicer.  Our politics will become more civil when we find ways to change the procedures for electing politicians and the institutions and environments within which they interact.

Morality binds and blinds.  It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning the battle.  It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.

This was a good book, that required a bit of work to read and understand.  It was even-handed and frankly came as close to the non-offensive definition of liberals and conservatives as my mind’s eye laid out for me.  I suspect this might be a book that could go some distance to help keep the debate between more-liberal and more-conservative people civilized and productive.

If you have those of the opposite political persuasion with whom you discuss politics or simply things political, I would suggest you go to this book to find both sides well-represented so far as substance and logic.  There is a place for both approaches and it is nice that there is a well-written book to which to turn for this earnest discussion.

Artificial Intelligence. How Far?

AI, Artificial Intelligence, has been around for a comparatively long time now, and yet, we hear more and more about further developments in the field.  How much Artificial Intelligence is enough?  In what fields, if any, should we simply permit AI to continue to be developed, to be expanded further and further as we come to better design this thing we have named Artificial Intelligence?

We have robotic surgery, for example, that is something of the ilk of a computerized machine while human-assisted that can often do things better than a human alone except for those strange little quirks that pop up once in awhile requiring human intelligence and reasoning required to resolve the issue that has suddenly become of a different magnitude than when the task was begun.

Machines play chess against the ‘masters’, so why shouldn’t we enable machines to do more and more for us?  At the risk of grotesque over-simplification, artificial intelligence is simply the series of questions that go: “If this, then what” and “If this, then that” over and over again reaching rapidly formed conclusions with an array of mass-accumulated information.

IBM’s massive computer array has been touted as among the fastest artificial intelligence devices since the creation of the first crude computer seemed to be years ago.  Mankind has continued to experiment and work to find faster and faster means to the solution of problems.  Areas we thought would be forever the playgrounds of man have been taken over, or very drastically augmented by Artifical Intelligence.

The field of AI has not been restricted to just certain fields.  AI has become involved with almost every field one can think of, and some we cannot even begin to conjure thoughts about since they are so advanced and generally unknown except to large corporations and or the brightest people in their various areas.

We are becoming more and more aware of the use of AI in the driving of automobiles and trucks, etc.  In these situations, large bodies of information are gathered second-by-second and then processed by these supercomputers and become the artificial intelligence necessary to permit that vehicle to make its way through traffic.  The fact that the majority of vehicles are piloted by humans still today likely is slowing the total take-over of this function by AI.

We see the occasional accident or death created by a situation to which the AI didn’t react soon enough or simply was not designed to accommodate.  Given enough time, virtually all things conceivable will have been worked out.  So, do we continue down those pathways or do we limit the use of such artificial capabilities to protect ourselves and/or to protect portions of our lives that ought not to be performed for us through the use of AI?  Who is to make the decisions as to what qualifies and what doesn’t qualify?

Do we enter a world which we are ill-prepared to enter?  Are there going to be issues no one has previewed and resolved?  Of course.  We’ll ideally learn as we go, but there will be, for some time to come, those things that simply haven’t been thought of or worked out through coding so we can be certain we will see problems.

But, what happens if we make things too intelligent?  What happens if there is a rouge in the business?  Will there be bad actors that use this newly emerging technology for ill-gotten gain?  Yes, there is a decidedly different side to all this.  As this new world of artificial intelligence emerges more and more capable year over year, people with ulterior motives will certainly gravitate into this world and they’ll find the little creases where they can use this wonderful new world of technology as they desire…and not always for the better.

How far is too far for artificial intelligence?  We’ll probably not be able to discern that until after we’ve exceeded that point…as us humans are prone to do in almost any and everything we engage.    We cannot seem to find the point beyond which we ought to go in anything until we’ve managed to go too far and have to backtrack.

AI is an intriguing and inviting field.   It will attract both good people and not-so-good people.  It will attract people with the purest of motives and it will attract the opposite.  One of the single greatest dangers is those who have ill intent using this kind of technology to do bad things faster and better…if the use of that last word is at all appropriate.  As certainly as our Sun rises in the East, bad people will find ways to use AI to be better at being bad people.

 

 

Take It With a Grain of Salt…

This blog title is called an idiom and this particular idiom dates back centuries, but it seems that many have decided that almost anything that is said by President Trump needs to be taken with that ancient ‘grain of salt’.   The meanings ascribed to this phrase include: to understand that something is not completely true or right, to not take something too seriously, to accept what is said but with reservations or skepticism, or as a statement that one does not exactly believe something.

I suspect that the meaning often taken whenever our President makes a claim is the one which says that the statement is not completely true or right.  Of course, the press, at least the majority of those who make their living in that world, holds everything said by President Trump as suspect even though there may well be ample truth to the statement.  He might’ve made it sound like there was no debate over the ‘fact’ or something to that effect, therefore we are justified to essentially call/infer that our President a flat-out liar if we belong to that august group we know as “the Press”.

We can easily contrast this “hair-on-fire” press corps with that which we found in the Kennedy era or the LBJ era or the Obama era.  But that press corps, comprised of some of the very same people we see today, was eager to help us understand just how fortunate we were to have these genius politicians in the White House.  Of course, the fact they were more liberal than our current President might’ve had a bit to do with that message-massaging.

These journalistic inflections of suspicion and disbelief have quite an impact on many of us, even though we can’t quite identify what has been done to our belief system.  Bombardment for day after day makes an impact that we may not even begin to recognize.  Brainwashing comes to mind though that is a bit of a rough comparative; but, we are being subliminally trained in the subtle manner of how we are to go about taking in what President Trump says and we’re not always, if ever, aware that this is happening to us.

I would suggest that we each take virtually everything coming at us as “news” today with that proverbial ‘grain of salt’ and reserve our final positions on whatever the subject is until time has passed and the event has been more fully framed in our mind’s eye.  There used to be members of the media who would buck the trend created by the majority of their brothers and sisters, but that seems to be almost dead so far as our media today.  Even outlets we might think of as more conservative than others manage to pussyfoot around issues so as to confuse their real positions.

I guess if the media masters aren’t sure of what is being spread as fact, then obfuscation is a great way to conceal their inability to figure out what is going on and thus claim they’re on top of every nuance and subtlety.  Adding to this is the simple fact that President Trump refuses to play the games of the media; at times I wonder if he isn’t actually tweaking the media folks to see if anyone is sharp enough or brave enough to pick up on his game.  If they have, it appears an editor somewhere in that food chain has caught it and put it back the way ‘it ought to be’.

This old idiom is very important to us today.  We would be wise to take virtually everything said or printed with a large grain of salt, and to use our intellect and our time to ferret out the truth, if what we read or heard isn’t exactly the truth, and to remind our friends and relatives that there are multiple sides to everything and those sides are determined by the utterer of each.

We owe this to self and to each other.  (As originally posted this blog measured 666 words…and that is not a good number.  Now it is twenty-two words longer.)

 

Today’s Immigrants…

The Center for American Greatness provided an interesting and thought-provoking article today titled The Right of No Refusal that deals with the way the left has waged a war on Western civilization and American society simultaneously.  The language has been altered as part of this effort.  They point to the use of genders as a replacement for the two sexes.  Genders account for three types of humans: male, female and neuter.  The terms ‘immigrants’ and ‘asylum’ have been transformed, etc.

The piece then moved backward in time to our last great wave of immigration ending around 1920.  Those immigrants came with little or nothing, “worked hard, married either within or without their ethnic group, built houses, started families, moved up and out into the mainstream of American society and disappeared into history”.

This juxtapositioning is contrived to make us think today about our families of yesterday, and, ideally, to make us feel better about the people coming across our borders.  We ought to welcome the new wave of immigrants no matter whether they have skills that enable them to survive or if we have to coddle them for awhile as they get their feet on the ground.

The thrust, obviously, is that we really ought to be extremely embarrassed about the way we are resisting this newest wave of immigrants.  The very idea that we’d spend tax dollars to build a “wall” ought to make us ashamed of who we have become in just the past few decades.  Our ancestors not too distantly-removed were given opportunities, so why shouldn’t this wave of immigrants be accorded similar opportunities?  How can we possibly justify a wall or the idea that we should be insisting on controlling the rate of flow of immigrants and the manner in which they’ve equipped themselves to earn their way once here?

You get the point of their ministrations.  We are greedy.  We do not share our largess.  We deny those who are also humans the opportunities we were born with.  How can we even look ourselves in the face each morning before the bathroom mirror?  This is, frankly, another example of the left and the right in our political world.  The left is good; the right is not-so-good.  The left wants to provide for these poor people while the right doesn’t even want them to step ashore.

I am a conservative, therefore I am bad.  If you are a liberal, you must then be good.  This is a very dangerous over-simplification that I suspect is as grating on those of the liberal persuasion as it probably is on those of the conservative persuasion, if they’d just take the time to think seriously about this subject.  Nothing about these issues is so simple as some would have us believe.

Yet, all we need to do is watch our Congress for a week or two, and we see this played out on the grand national stage in virtually every debate on issues.  Democrat leaders bash Republicans for their positions and vice versa.  Then they both drape arms around each others’ shoulders and go to the local ‘watering hole’.  In the meantime, you and I are here in the homeland pondering the charges leveled by both sides at the other in these debates.

We pay our surrogate politicians quite well for waging these battles and yet we seem to get little to nothing in return for that payment.  If Democrats were getting their money’s worth, they’d have won this battle long ago…and the same is true of Republicans.  Might we both be being ‘gamed’ just a bit?  Might we simply need to divorce ourselves from the daily or at least weekly booster shots we receive from our politicians in the District?  Might we need to ‘chill’ over things political?

You and I have much in common no matter our ‘politics’.  We both have much for which to be grateful.  We likely are contributing directly or at least indirectly to those who have needs beyond our borders.  Maybe we simply need to chill a bit, not take our politics quite so seriously and seek out opportunities to help others.

Still, there must be some controls on the rate of influx of immigrants if our country is to be able to handle that influx without doing damage to the country itself.  I would hope both sides could reach agreement on that statement.  That seems not to be an issue isolated to either left or right other than for the politicians who seem to have a good idea of where those votes will go if and when these folks become legal voters.  In the meantime, there are certain economic requirements that must not be ignored.

The Enigma That is Trump…

Enigma is defined as something or someone that is puzzling or a riddle.  That seems to be about the only definition of our President Trump that fits this man.  At least he is an enigma from my perspective.

He was supposed to be nowhere near capable of serving as our President and yet he is doing a good job.  He was supposed to be simply some bombastic cartoonish character that somehow stumbled and bumbled his way into the White House. He has gone toe-to-toe with other leaders in our world and, so far at least, he seems to be able to work with any or all of them on their level.  In fact, he has brought them to his level through these invitations.

Beyond simply being able to work with them, he has demonstrated an uncanny ability to rise to the top in these relationships and to have good continuing relationships that are producing good things.  He has gone the route of inviting leaders from some of the second tier nations to the White House and has worked his magic to create allies who make things happen.

These are not the results to be expected from someone in over his head, from someone who has been given the image of a loud-mouthed buffoon.  These are solid results negotiated with other world leaders and these results have come early in his first term.

All this, of course, has been taking place while the various investigations undertaken to make him feel the need to resign from office have done nothing but make us see that he seems quite open, honest and operating above boards in all respects.

Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, is handling his office as well as most and better than some of his predecessors, and he does it with no apparent extra effort.  He is simply being himself and that is driving his opposition nuts.  The liberal Dems and the officious Republicans who haven’t quite gotten to the point of admitting he is a good fit for the Oval Office, are almost apoplectic.  And yet, they have to be able to see they were wrong and are just trying to find some way to admit that without losing face.

It is actually sort of fun to watch as these ‘unbelievers’ wiggle like worms on a fish hook.  They know they were wrong but they just can’t admit that to the rest of the world that already also knows they were wrong.  The result?  They look like the fool in this situation.  Get over it.  You were wrong and it is time for you to become the adult we all thought you were when we placed you in leadership positions in Congress.

World leaders have seen this almost from the beginning of his term in office, and that is obvious from their interactions with him and with our country.  The North Korea-China deal is but one example of what this so-called “buffoon” has been able to put together…and put together with seeming ease.

In reality, the only people who’ve not quite gotten this yet are most Dems and some reluctant Republicans who probably are simply embarrassed at their earlier opinings and are trying to find some way to overcome that without further embarrassing themselves.