Saturday, July 30, 2011

Uncle Sam Becomes a Charity Case

Nonprofit Quarterly ran a recent article called "Weird Philanthropy: Donors Give to the National Debt"The magazine expressed its befuddlement at the spate of donations to the federal government to help reduce the national debt. The amounts are not substantial, averaging $20-30 for the most part with the "occasional six-figure contribution. The notoriously left-leaning Quarterly wondered in its article what sort of "metrics" these donors were using to judge the effectiveness of these donations and argued that the money would just "go into the general fund" anyway.

It's fascinating how liberals say they like bigger government so long as they're hauling down nice fat grants from the fed. When their own donors start giving to Uncle Sam, though, the complaining begins, because even they realize that public philanthropies don't waste money like the government. They're likely thinking, that all that money will just get flushed down the bureaucratic crapper, when it could go to a nonprofit organization where it would actually do some good.

Recently, conservative talk show hosts, pundits and politicians have challenged pro-tax liberals saying, "If you believe the government is the best manager of welfare programs and you believe you are not being taxed enough, you can always give the amount you believe you are being under-taxed directly to the government."

Apparently, some folks are taking them up on the challenge and putting, at least a bit of their money where their mouth is. It would be bad news for nonprofits in general if the trend were to spread, but the lion's share of giving to charity seems to be coming from faith-based and conservative givers. Most of these folks, many of whom give ten percent or more of their income to charities and churches, have a less rosey view of the federal government as an efficient and effective purveyor of charitable programs and funding.

The average ten percent giver is unlikely to jump on the bandwagon on this one. The gifts to Uncle Sam up to this point appear more symbolic than substantial and given the small amounts, these folk apparently don't think they are underpaying their taxes by very much.

So, next time a pro-tax liberal tells you he is under-taxed and that he does give extra to the federal government, ask him, "How much?"

Tom King

Thursday, July 28, 2011

If NASA Would Do for Space Travel, What the Military Did for the Internet

Space-X's Falcon/Dragon launch vehicle blasts off
on the way to a successful 2 orbit mission and recovery.
Back in the beginning the Internet started out as an experiment by some academics to find a way to build a durable, communication system the military could use in the event of a major war. They came up with a nifty little plan using existing communications systems, deep redundancies, easy expansion capacity and a financial incentive for the private sector to invest their own money and, voila' - the Internet rose from nothing in less than two decades to rival television, radio and every other form of communication, not by replacing them by government fiat, but by offering those media a new way to promote what they were already doing pretty well.

It's a model for effective government participation in economic development. The feds did try to "improve" the Internet a couple of times, but in every case, their "better" systems were always outdated before they could get them deployed. They were consistently out-innovated by private sector scientists and entrepeneurs working quickly, efficiently and using their own dime.

We just retired the space shuttle after more than 3 decades of service and far more than that if you count the development time. The shuttle systems were so primitive, even by the time they launched the thing the first time that soon, astronauts were taking laptops into orbit with them to supplement the stone-age technology built into the spacecraft. The shuttle flew far longer than it should have and cost lives of astronauts, arguably because NASA lacked the flexibility and systems agility to address problems. The zero-defects approach of the Apollo program soon ossified into a zero-flexibility program that ignored individual innovation and even warnings from its people about problems because the leadership came to focus on mission objectives and began to dismiss anything that got in the way.

The new systems development process became so hidebound that the agency couldn't get a replacement launch system up and running before it had to shut down the shuttle program.

Don't get me wrong.  I think the space program needed the kick start it got from NASA to get rolling. That said, I actually think we're going to do better now that they more or less have to work with the private sector.

Some writer the other day commented on private space travel saying he "...was never a big fan of the private sector." I love when people say that sort of ignorant thing. The guy's a fan of nice clothes, good food, high quality entertainment, stylish cars and the Internet, but not of the "private sector" that makes those things possible. The government has its function in doing big things that are of national interest like interstate highways, space travel and making order out of the potential chaos on the airwaves as the communications industry sprang up. The Internet is a good example of how the government did something right. They kicked off the whole thing and then got out of the way and let the free market run with it. It's a good idea for the space exploration business too.

Space-X, Elon Musk's outfit, took just four years to put together a viable cargo and manned space launch system that costs about half what the government contracted systems cost for a single launch and they are doing cargo launches this year and could do a manned launch in another year if NASA can resist the urge to get in the way. And had NASA refrained from diddling with the process and playing Kingmaker back in the 90s when they first looked at allowing private sector spacecraft development, we'd already have a system that costs half of that rate per launch.

Ironically, I believe that the more they cut NASA's budget, the faster we're going to have privately owned and funded moon bases, Mars missions, asteroid harvesting and collision protection programs. It'll actually be nice to have the capability to send some roughnecks into space to redirect an asteroid should one decide to take aim at us someday. The movie "Armageddon" while reassuring, was total fantasy. Right now, if we saw an asteroid coming there wouldn't be anything we could do about it with the hardware we have.

The Book of Revelation describes a large object falling from the sky and crashing to Earth in the sea at the end of time. I 'spect Bruce and the boys ain't gonna make it to space in time to do anything about it. Thank you NASA (and I'm being sarcastic here) for dragging your feet and helping insure that the apocalypse arrives right on time!

Tom King

Monday, July 25, 2011

How Does Track Palin's Wedding Make Sarah a Hypocrite?

Britta Hanson & Track Palin (center)
Apparently Iraq war veteran Track Palin and his high school sweetheart got ahead of themselves according to the media and the couple may have been expecting when they got married. Of course, the press is gleefully calling it a shotgun wedding and the nastier bloggers are calling Palin a hypocrite because she opposes unfettered sex education and schools handing out condoms. Sarah, they chortle, promotes abstinence and yet has two kids that apparently didn't abstain.

You know, so what that? Palin has two grandchildren out of the deal. She seems happy about it.  Her kids are taking responsibility for their mistakes. How is that bad? Protecting our kids from the consequences of their actions is what got us a generation of irresponsible kids in the first place.

The president, on the other hand, said he doesn't want to punish his girls with a baby if they make a similar mistake. Since when is a child a punishment, especially when the family is happy to have the child and the mom's willingly take responsibility for the life they have created? I think Palin's kids are admirable.

I mean either it's just sex and therefore innocuous or it's not - libs can't have it both ways. I'm pretty sure the kids knew what they needed to do to prevent a pregnancy. I've never heard Palin come out against contraceptives as is being reported. She has come out against schools providing contraceptives to kids and describing, perverse sexual practices to minors. Sarah Palin believes it should be the responsibility of families, not the government to teach our kids about sex.

In the heat of youthful passion, Sarah's kids apparently chose to take a risk. Then, they both took responsibility when they lost the bet. That's not hypocricy. That's character!  We all make mistakes. It's what we do afterward that shows who you are.

I advocate abstinence too. I think having sex is an intense and life-changing experience. I've only slept with one woman in my life and we've been together 37 years and been absolutely faithful to our vows. We trust each other completely and much of that is because we chose to treat sex as a sacred act between life partners. I think that's a valuable lesson to teach our children. People who see sex as some form of recreation do not understand why anyone would want to believe that sex should hold such a special place.  That's where the disconnect is between the two sides of the debate over sex education.

If you believe sex is a sacred thing between men and women, then it's very important for you to teach your children about that within the family circle. We want our kids to know that if they decide to engage in that act, they'd better be prepared to make a lifelong committment and take responsibility for the consequences. If you allow public opinion to lower the bar on sex for your family, you find yourself intractably at odds with your own beliefs.  I would rather have a president who is consistent in her beliefs and teaches her children that life is a sacred thing and that you must be responsible when you create life.  I'm less comfortable with one that teaches that an unborn child is something that should be prevented or killed if it's going to spoil your kid's youthful partying.

I don't buy that sex is no big deal and obviously Mrs. Palin and her family do not. I say God bless 'em. Track and his high school sweetheart were obviously committed to one another. He'd been off to war and they got ahead of themselves. It's not all that hard to understand. Can nobody be sympathetic with how they could get carried away by passion? That happens a lot in war time and for crying out loud they were planning to get married anyway - been dating forever. It's amazing how unforgiving and nasty liberals can be if the "sinner" is a Christian. No Christian claims to be perfect. Quite the contrary. Every weekend, we sit in church and listen to pastors tell us we're all sinners and that we must depend on Christ entirely for our salvation.

Because we aim at a higher standard doesn't make us hypocrites. It makes us idealists. Let me repeat. It's not so much that we make mistakes, it's what we do afterward to make it right that reveals our character.

Have the Palin kids had their troubles - yep!  Kids do that, especially preacher's kids and the children of celebrities. I think it has something to do with being in the glare of the spotlight that's on your parents. In the Bible, Solomon advises parents to, "Train up a child in the way that he shall go and when he is old he will not depart from it."  Solomon never promised that, no matter how thoroughly you trained up your children, they wouldn't gallop over Fool's Hill sometime during their teens. Teens do that. It's how they figure out who they are and why they were born. Let the parent who is sinless cast the first stone. And, if you're not a parent, you're still a child, so put down the rocks!

I wish Track and Britta all the blessings in the world. They are a lovely couple with a supportive, close-knit family. Wouldn't it be nice if every young couple had that starting out?

Tom King

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Defend a Liberal - See I Can Be Fair and Balanced!

Deborah Tannen
(c) 2011 by Tom King

I just read “Aspects of Conversational Style-Linguistic Versus Behavioral Analysis” by Genae A. Hall, Regional Center of the East Bay, Oakland, CA. Hall likes B.F. Skinner’s behavioral analysis for describing problems with conversational style over the linguistic analysis approach used by Deborah Tannen in her books That's Not What I Meant (1986) and You Just Don't Understand (1990). You might have heard of Tannen. She’s written several other New York Times bestsellers and has appeared on Oprah. She blogs on the Huffington Post and writes for Politico, so politically, I have no stake in defending her at all. Genae Hall, you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re a behavioral psychologist in California somewhere. She may lead a Tea Party group for all I know, but I have a problem with her article. This is not about anyone's politics. It’s about scientific elitism.

Hall’s paper tells you right off where she stands with regard to Tannen, using, if I may employ linguistic analysis here, prejudicial words and sentence constructions like “…the linguist Deborah Tannen purports to explain how people exhibit different ‘conversation styles’” and “Judging from the popularity of Tannen's books, conversational style is an important topic to many people and the linguistic terms and concepts used in the analysis have been at least somewhat effective in describing this subject matter.” The underlining is mine. Ironically, for a paper purporting to explain how behavioral analysis is a better method for analyzing conversational style than is linguistic analysis, the whole thing gives off a metamessage (Tannen's very useful term) reeking of disdain for Tannen’s success in helping her readers improve their conversation styles.

To many academics like Hall, popularity is the kiss of death for any serious scientist’s work. Hall apparently has produced no popular works, though her name appears on many scientific papers on behavioral analysis and in related fields. That she dislikes Tannen’s use of linguistic terms like “metamessages” and “frames” which have at least some connection to ordinary reader experience is telling. Hall prefers instead to use more esoteric behavioral psychology terms like autoclit, pure and impure tacts, mands and interverbals to describe how we communicate and miscommunicate.

Ultimately the paper serves as little more than another example of a scientist arguing in support of describing things using complex terms in a way that ordinary people will have no clue what you are talking about. While she begrudgingly admits that Tannen’s book may have actually helped some ordinary folk solve their communication problems and may even have saved some marriages, she dismisses such help as largely accidental, stating, “Although Tannen's linguistic analyses have facilitated effective practical action to a certain extent, they may have done so in spite of the terminology used, rather than because of it."

Yeah, I'm sure it would have been much better if Tannen had buried her readers in incomprehensible psychological jargon. (Note: The metamessage in that last sentence was "No it wouldn't be." using sarcasm as the linguistic frame. You recognize sarcasm for what it is and therefore know what I really mean.  And you can understand what I just said even without a graduate degree in applied behavioral science).

Hall makes a telling statement just before calling Tannen's success second-rate, stating in the article that, “When the controlling variables for behavior are clearly specified, there is a greater likelihood that those variables can be manipulated to change behavior.”  By "clearly specified", she means couched in obscure scientific terms that only really smart, educated people can understand.

Once again, the behaviorist's belief that we are but the product of our cumulative experiences and that free will is an illusion shines through. The article is a virtual pooh-poohing of the idea that the non-scientist might be able to work out his or her own communication problems by reading a book from Barnes & Noble rather than by submitting themselves to the external brain power of the Ph.D. class, who would then “manipulate” them into changing their behavior.

One has to wonder whether Hall’s argument against Tannen’s approach to fixing problems in human communication has less to do with the approach being based on linguistics than it does with the fact that Tannen sold a lot of books to people and went on Oprah. And now many of those folks who read Tannen's book may decide not to go submit themselves to a behavioral psychologist to have their behavior manipulated? (A frightening idea to someone who charges outpatients $100 an hour and has a clinic to fill up.)

Magicians always hate it when someone explains their tricks so that ordinary folk can perform them too.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Michele Bachmann Being Palinized

Well, you knew it was coming. Michele Bachman is getting the Sarah Palin treatment. In the past 24 hours, an organized attack has started on social networks like Twitter and Facebook and the leftist blogs.

One charge is that Bachman belongs to a branch of the Lutheran church that believes the Pope is the anti-christ.  This could well be. That belief comes straight from Martin Luther himself. He wrote a book on prophecies of the Bible in which he identified the papacy as the logical entity to be the anti-Christ. The Catholic church even pulled together a special group of Jesuit theologians to create an alternate interpretation of the prophecies in Revelation that would point the prophecies cited by Luther in a direction away from that of the Roman Church. Luther was pretty adamant that the papacy was the successor to the Dragon mentioned in Revelation and that dragon was pretty obviously the Roman Empire. From the Jesuit theologians came a prophetic interpretation of time prophecy that works around the problem by shuffling prophetic times around to skip past the time of the Catholic church and safely move those prophecies to the end of time where it could do no harm. Given the persecution of Protestants at the time, it's little wonder that Luther looked at the prime persecuter to find his Anti-Christ.

It's hardly a featured theological position of her church and it's not fair to be too tough on Bachmann over this. It's not anti-Catholic with relation to the rank and file Catholic anyway, though Luther's writing was critical of the Roman system. That, too, is not surprising coming from the author of the 96 theses which he nailed on a cathedral door.

It's odd that the criticism of Bachmann's church is because it finds a problem with a Christian denomination's practice, when the folk doing the criticism say some pretty hideous things about Christians and Jews themselves. Luther, himself, had some difficulty in identifying the Pope as his anti-Christ, having been a devout Catholic himself. In one quote from his work on prophecy he stated that, based on the prophecies of Revelation, the conclusion that the papacy was almost certainly the anti-Christ. He seemed quite reluctant to make that accusation, but Luther's work is still there in the archives of Lutheranism and unless the particular Lutheran branch you belong to specifically disavowed his work on the subject, it's still there lurking in the church canon of every Lutheran Church.

It's hypocritical for people who treat Christians like we are terrorists or puppy killers to jump on Bachmann because her church thinks the Pope might be the anti-Christ.

This is just the beginning. A string of attacks on Bachmann have come out just today. It's obviously a coordinated assault. They also jumped on her because a clinic she and her husband are associated with offers treatment for homosexuality. The attackers quote the American Psychological Association as saying there is no evidence that homosexuality can be treated or cured.

This is true. That is because the APA has ruthlessly suppressed any attempt to do research into the causes and treatment of homosexuality. Since the APA "cured" millions of homosexuals of mental illness with the stroke of a pen by deleting homosexuality as a legitimate diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).  Researchers are routinely ridiculed or threatened for doing any research as to a causative factor for homosexuality. Researchers who discovered that the pineal gland of homosexual males tended to be significantly smaller than normal were hooted down by the gay community with the support of the APA. Therapists have been ordered by APA to cease and desist offering treatment or therapies for homosexuality. I saw the memo when I was studying rehabilitation psychology in grad school. It was more like a statement of doctrinal belief than a scientific finding.

There will be more attacks on Ms. Bachmann and they will become ever more outlandish as the months pass.  Maybe Sarah and Michele should run together. Wouldn't that be a bloody lightning storm? I can hear the name-calling now. Don't you just love how those tolerant liberals embrace women and minority candidates like Sarah, Michele and Herman. Wanna bet they are saving the Mormon stuff for after they weed out the really dangerous folk?

So, Bachmann is being Palinized and now I'm hearing conservatives tossing her under the bus. My question is do we abandon every candidate they dogpile on?  Sarah Palin couldn't even do her job for the lawsuits, threats against her family and media assaults on her character. Now, she's characterized as a quitter. Are we going to let the liberal attack machine dictate who our candidates are going to be. That's how we wound up with McCain instead of Fred Thompson. They convinced you that the best conservative candidate in the 2008 pack didn't have the "fire in his belly". Are we that easy to sucker.  I'm asking. Tell me why we are going to give up on our best people just because the liberals pile on them. I want to understand. Do we just have a death wish for our country?


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tea Party: The Reports of Our Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.

by Tom King (c) 2011

"It's time to take it back - it's time for it to be our way." - Julie Driscoll, Chicago Liberal Examiner

And there you have it in a nutshell. Unless you agree with liberals and let them have it all their way, they will not ever be satisfied. Through this ideological paradigm, Ms Driscoll has captured a distorted view of the Tea Party. She gloats that the tea party is becoming irrelevant and chortles that , "It's about time!" Ms. Driscoll, like most liberal/progressive/socialists, gets it wrong.

The Tea Party movement is not like Students for Democratic Society or one of those other lib organizations. It's a strictly grass roots movement in every sense of the word. There are no memberships. There are no "official" membership roles. I consider myself a member and have never paid any dues to the nonexistent official organization. We don't pledge oaths to the party. We don't get regular checks from the Koch brothers, no matter what Keith Olbermann says. Hell, when we go to a rally, no one even sends a "free" bus to give us a ride. We have to buy our own gas. When we went to Washington, we paid our way. That's why so many Tea Party rallies tend to be small neighborhood get-togethers, more so than staged big-city marches and stuff like that. Shoot, my knees wouldn't hold up to a "march" if we held one. Give me something with folding chairs, fans and plenty of iced tea.

Liberals don't understand that because progressive socialism calls for high levels of organization, heavy investment in a shared ideology and hired gun community organizing. Next to the liberal wing of the Democrat party, the Tea Party is hopelessly inept at organizing and influencing policy. We are real working stiffs that just got fed up with the way things are going. We get mad, go somewhere and yell about how mad we are, then we go home and mow the grass, because it keeps growing no matter what they do in Washington.

You guys keep gloating over how poorly organized we are. What you don't seem to get is, that's the whole point. We're busy working, caring for our families, living our lives. We didn't come to this because we love politics. Most of us find politics repugnant. We cherish our way of life is all and just want the government to get out of our business.

Libs like Ms Driscoll, on the other hand, want the government to get more and more into their business (and into ours too). The political parasites that find government a useful tool for gaining wealth and power spend fortunes supporting political movements that promise to hand them ever more power (and wealth).  It's just a good investment for them. They'd donate to the devil if they could make money on the deal.

Shoot, if you go with the Tea Party, those evil corporations you liberal guys hate so much, would have the devil's own time trying to get the government to protect their profits, their markets and their fortunes at taxpayer expense. Look at the great bailouts of 2009. How may corporate fortunes were saved by the American taxpayer thanks to the good old government? Pundits like Ms. Driscoll are gloating about the very Tea Party weaknesses that I think are strengths.

So go ahead and dismiss the Tea Party movement. PLeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease! Rig the polls. Make sure the Chicago graveyards still have full voting rights. Congratulate yourselves on having whipped those stupid Tea Party rubes. If you win, it doesn't make you right and you will receive exactly what you deserve when the jackboots are marching in the street.

Enjoy the apocalypse. You're helping to make it.

I'm just sayin'

Tom King