Sunday, April 9, 2017

Engineer and Public Speaker (Me) - and the value of listening

A nice story was published in The Villages Daily Sun today. I wish my parents were alive to see it (my Dad would be proud and my Mom would believe it!).

THANKS to the excellent reporter, Frank Ross, and to Greggory Cieslak of the Science and Technology Club who recommended my story to Frank. Also to my good friends David Dingee (a fellow Parkinsonian, resident of Freedom Pointe, and Philosophy Club leader) and Jay Kaplan (of the Humanists and Philosophy Clubs) for their kind words. Thanks also to the other friends whose names I provided to Frank, but who were not quoted in the final story.

Special thanks to my good bicycling buddies who trike with me, Jerry Bauer, Lorin Slauson, and Charlie Coelho (who took the photo).

Ira Glickstein

The newspaper story mentions that I have some Blogs. Click the ">>>" for each item below to access some of my online activities:

  • >>>The Virtual Philosophy Club - Courteous Discussion of Serious Topics
  • >>>Visual Ira - Visualize Science and Technology With Ira
  • >>>"2052 - The Hawking Plan" (Free online Novel) Amore, amorality and Stephanie Goldenrod's mission to save civilization for an infinite future.
  • >>>Life, Liberty, and Technology - My predictions for the next several decades (companion site to my novel)
  • >>>Curb Your Enthusiasm - Fantasy Episode
  • >>>My YouTube Videos
  • >>>My "What is Time?" Video
  • >>>I'm a Guest Contributor to the World's Most Popular Climate Website, Watts Up With That?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

On Being Stubborn - House Freedom Caucus

[From Bill Lifka - Graphic by Ira]


I knew a sergeant at The Artillery School who’d served from before WWII when horse drawn artillery still existed. He’d served in a mountain battery that used mules to carry the small howitzers in two pieces. The tube was placed on the back of one mule and the carriage with wheels on another mule. The ammunition and other battery equipment were also carried by mules. Mules were chosen over horses because they were stronger, had staying power and were sure-footed on mountainous terrain.

On the negative side, some mules are downright stubborn and unwilling to do their jobs if doing so doesn’t suit their fancy at the moment. In Sgt. Clancy’s battery, one of the mules, Max, was noted for being most stubborn of all. His habit was to rear up on his hind legs when the job or situation wasn’t to his liking. 

On or around Fort Sill there are no mountains but there is rolling terrain. One fairly big hill, called Signal Mountain, rises 1200 feet or so over its base at an increasingly higher slope near its top. A punishment hike or two up the hill was a regular Saturday event for me when I attended OCS. (Actually performed at a “paratroop shuffle”.) 

For the mountain artillery, Signal Mountain was the only way to keep its mules in shape. On one fateful day, Sgt. Clancy’s battery was on its way up the mountain. Max was having one of his more ornery days and had been kicking and rearing from the moment he’d been led from the corral. His handlers couldn’t let him get away with bad behavior on this occasion or he’d be worse the next time.

Eventually, Max settled down sufficiently so a carriage could be loaded on and he fell in the line of mules heading out on the trail. As I know from personal experience, the trail up Signal Mountain is narrow and falls off sharply to one side. There’s not much room for error, which mules seem to know instinctively. With the exception of Max, all the mules settled into the climb at a steady pace, placing their hoofs with practiced care. 

Max knew better but he continued to show his dissatisfaction by skittering around and tossing his head. Finally he reared up on his hind quarters, a tremendous feat considering the load he was carrying. Unfortunately, he rose past the point where he exceeded the center of gravity (his and his load), fell backward and rolled down the mountain upside down atop the carriage wheels accompanied by the cheers of his handlers. Max was stubborn to his end.


There’s a difference between persevering and being stubborn. When one keeps trying to attain a goal using other than previously failed actions, one’s persistence is considered to be strength. When one keeps trying the same failing action, it’s called stubbornness and stupidity. 

That brings me to my subject which is current historic levels of stubbornness and stupidity in Congress, as opposed to the usual stubbornness and stupidity that’s a hallmark of those hallowed chambers.

It might have been better if the Republican-led House had practiced with a few easier initiatives before introducing a bill that began changing Obamacare. I use the word “began” because the plan of the Speaker and his associates was to effect a change in three stages. It was quite certain Democrats in the Senate would vote 100% against any Republican sponsored health bill out of the House because Democrats in Congress and those not yet removed from Executive Branch departments have been waging a fierce war against all Republican initiatives since the election. 

It makes no difference that the country needs adult leadership right now desperately; the main goal for Democratic officeholders is to let their constituents know they are bent on revenge for having lost the White House and the sweetest revenges for most Democrats are preventing any changes to Obamacare and preventing the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Last week the Democrats succeeded in the first of these and next week they hope to succeed in the second. 

Actually, it wasn’t Democrats who defeated Obamacare replacement. It was 25+/- Republican congressmen who call themselves the “Freedom Caucus.” They consider themselves to be “true” Conservatives and, therefore, are “real” Republicans who take Party principles seriously. 

As far as I can figure out, I share all the major beliefs of these guys but I want you to know I think they were stubborn and stupid on this occasion as they were back when the previous Speaker gave up and retired rather than fight them as well as a President (Obama) out to destroy the Republican Party. 

In my view, Ryan had a correct strategic plan that addressed the Senate process and the bare majority held by Republicans in that house. It was Freedom Caucus Republicans who would not follow the leadership again because they didn’t think their plan went far enough.  

I had the opportunity to talk to my Congressman just after the fiasco. I told him he was wrong and needed to change his ways. He has a great name, an impressive appearance and a pat answer, as I had expected. He is a stereotypical politician: 18 years in the Florida House, 10 years in the Florida Senate, 6 years (so far) in the U.S. House. In each of these offices he ran from two different districts because of redistricting; he likes the job. I rated his reason for blocking Ryan’s bill as unadulterated BS, although he argued well. He denied he’s a member of the “Freedom Caucus”. (That caucus ran him as a candidate for speaker against Boehner.) He argued the Ryan bill didn’t go far enough and denied Freedom Caucus changes would prevent Senate passage. 

He was wrong or betting I wouldn’t know. He said maybe it was good Obamacare would continue since it would fail and that would force Americans to embrace a truly great replacement. When I mentioned “party loyalty”, he denied that was important. He was wrong again. I know some really smart Conservatives who think like my (new) Congressman. I just don’t get why they like what I think is all bad. 

Any improvement in Obamacare would be better but still bad because any federal government involvement in health care will cause it to be ineffective. To let Obamacare fail (as it will) is just plain irresponsible and Republicans will get the blame. 

Democrats in the Senate are as bad as the wrong-headed Republicans in the House. They have acted like idiots in their questioning Neil Gorsuch, who has been rated as an ideal candidate for the Supreme Court by legal organizations ranging from Liberal to Conservative. His extensive service as a federal judge provides unwavering testimony to his fairness in upholding the law and not making the law, as Liberals expect of them. Senate Democratic leaders rant and rave in their frenzied attempt to defeat him. (Or anyone Trump might name.) The basis of every argument against Gorsuch is that Democrats expect judges to make decisions on ideological grounds not on the law as written. They are too stupid to realize that would bite them in the ass in due time.

The problem of the Freedom Caucus is the same as that of the Democratic Caucus in the Senate. Although they are directly opposed on all political issues they share a monumental stubbornness and lack even the barest smidgen of modesty in their belief they are 100% right and any opposition is 100% wrong. I wonder if there’s a steep hill near Washington DC on which we could gather these folks together and tie wheels on their backs. 

Bill Lifka