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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hopeless and Changed!


I watched the president's speech last night - at least until my blood pressure pegged and I experienced shortness of breath. I had to watch two hours of the Home Shopping Network to flush out my brain before I could go to sleep.

Best I can tell the Obaminator plans to steal from the rich and give to the poor to make this health care thing work. Wonder what happens when the rich run out of riches?

Who's going to buy all those Sham Wow's

I'm just sayin'

Tom King

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Tyranny of Multiple Choice

Over the past decade, I have watched American culture become polarized in a way unprecedented in history. It's almost Biblical in its scope. Jesus described it as a separation of sheep and goats. This ever sharpening division between Americans is not a simple right vs. left, religious vs. non-religious, urban vs. rural schism. Throughout our history, Americans have always maintained a broad culture with room for a wide range of belief sets and opinions. This so-called melting pot has never been about making us all the same, but about blending the vibrant array of "flavors" that our immigrant forebears brought with them to this land.

Think of a good soup or a salad with all those wonderful flavors, blended, and yet distinct. To continue the food metaphor, American culture is a spicy gourmet dish. It is not, however, a dish that other, more insular cultures around the world necessarily understand or appreciate. We like it though and shouldn't that be enough? Why should we worry about whether others appreciate what we have here or not? Weren't those the guys that kicked our grandmas and grandpas out in the first place? Didn't our ancestors leave those places because THEY didn't like the choices those countries and cultures offered?

And this brings me to my point.

Choices!

I notice that old cultures, long-established countries and civilizations have a tendency to eradicate choice. Democracy does not long survive the rise to power and so-called "greatness". It happened with Greece when Alexander came along. It happened to Rome under the Caesars and in France where the Revolution was followed by horror then Napoleon.

The question you have to ask is, "Has America set its feet on the downhill road to despotism?"

Can we stop it?

I think it has something to do with computers!

Stay with me. I'm not going Luddite on you. I love my computer and I think it's one of the most wonderful communication devices and the most transformative tool to come along in Earth's history, standing only behind Christianity and the plow for sheer power to change humanity for the better or worse.

Are computers evil? No. A tool is a tool. A sword can harvest grain or slaughter innocent people by the dozens. It isn't the machine itself, it's how it stores and retrieves data that is the great problem. There's an old saying that goes, "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." That applies here.

Almost single-handedly the computer has virtually eliminated the very thing we most despised about school when we were kids. There was always one sort of test that teachers gave that we dreaded worse than a trip to the dentist.

The essay test.

I taught school for 5 years. Essay tests are a pain in the butt to grade. Kids hate them. Teachers hate them. We used to give them out of a sense of duty to force kids to really think. They are hard to create and harder still to grade.

Since my teaching days, however, the computer has saved students and teachers from the dreaded essay. Because computers are very good at collecting data, storing it, crunching numbers and spitting out scores, they have seduced our education system away from the essay toward the multiple choice answer. Remember how we loved true/false tests as kids and how relieved we were to find out there wouldn't be any essay questions on the exam. True/false and multiple choice tests were great. You could guess and still get some right. An answer was simple. Right or wrong. A, B, or C. Just a matter of guessing which was the most correct answer.

I helped my granddaughter write a series of essay projects for school a couple of years ago. I was stunned watching her struggle to write. It wasn't that she didn't have the words. It seemed more that her writing was a frustrating attempt to guess the right answer using the same process by which she thought out multiple choice problems. She kept searching fruitlessly for the canned phrase that would "check off" the right box and reward her with a good score. She would string together lovely phrases and high-sounding words, but reading it, you'd find the words were more like interior decorating than like rationed thought. They look nice and make you feel good, if you didn't really think about it too hard.

In reading blogs and forum posts on the Internet, especially by younger folks, I see again and again, this searching for the phrase that's always right; that always wins the argument. You see people filling up these little comment windows on the Internet with streams of phrases they've heard somewhere as though the "comment" window were a little checkbox they can tick off and be done with it. That way they don't have to actually think. It's easier to check off a box than to think. Thinking hurts our brains. So much easier to endorse the "right" answer than to think of it ourselves. If something someone says troubles our preconceptions, then, simply pop a canned phrase into the comment box and all is well with the world.

They used to call this rigid thinking style jingoism because of the tendency of people to recite platitudes rather than think for themselves. Clever phrase makers used to come up with songs and jingles and canned stories to illustrate a point. Repeated often enough, these jingoisms became a kind of shorthand for thinking - thinking without thought if you will. It's a kind of intellectual blindness that allows others to write the platitudes; to create the check boxes for us while we go on about our business and don't have to trouble ourselves with figuring out things for ourselves.

It has been said that in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. There is some truth to that. When a culture stops thinking for itself and cedes its conscience to folks who write out our belief system in the form of multiple choice test answers, then we lose the ability to think beyond the range of choices offered.

Someone once described the proposed health care system as having "fewer, but better choices". Who says these choices are better? More regulation, fewer companies, short term solutions, bottom line thinking. All these things, I believe, are an artifact of the availability of the tremendous data analysis power of the computer.

Computers operate with a binary language at the heart of their process - either/or, on/off, black/white. It's a powerful tool and its very power has set us all up for polarization .

Computers are fast, easy to use and save you tons of work. Who doesn't want to save time? Who doesn't wish to simplify their work. You've got 30 tests to grade. Which fits into the computer better? Multiple choice, of course. So more and more our kids are given multiple choice questions. Over time they lose the ability to think outside the boxes we give them. Why do you think we have to retrain our workforce in thinking outside the box? All their lives we've been teaching our kids that life is all about the box. Tick the right one and you are rewarded. What is outside the box anyway that's worth having? That's the implied message. On a multiple choice test, you cannot choose any answer except the ones the teacher has provided. So, if the teacher doesn't supply an answer, right or wrong, then such an answer is not worth thinking about. For instance:

1. Global warming is caused by:
____ A. Man ____ B. Man's Industry ____ C. Man's Trash
____ D. Greedy Capitalist Pigs ___E. All of the Above

The test taker CANNOT think outside the parameters given. If he or she thinks, "What about fluctuations in the amount of radiation we receive from the sun?" There's no place for that answer. It's not worth anything because it won't give you a good grade to even think of such things so that thought gradually becomes unthinkable. Such a thought is not rewarded and behavior that is not rewarded is extinguished as they used to tell me in behavioral psych class.

Whether they be over-worked teachers, CEO's or presidents of countries, teachers face a huge temptation to reduce our teaching, our financial planning and our culture to a limited set of "approved" choices so everything will fit within the parameters our computers require in order to perform all that miraculous number crunching they are so good at. The computers then reward us for fitting ourselves to meet their needs by spitting out all those lovely pie charts and bar graphs that convince us that we actually understand what is going on around us, when we really don't have a clue.

Because we are narrowing our world to make our data streams more efficient, Super-Mart can tell you how much money they made between 2 pm and 5 pm last Tuesday. Many companies have fallen into the trap of adjusting their company's practices in order to keep the daily or quarterly totals as high as possible while abandoning behaviors that might adversely affect the so-called "bottom line" - behaviors like long term strategic planning. Then one day they wake up to discover their companies are obsolete, having lost their way because they were so busy looking down at their feet, that they lost sight of where they were going. I'd be willing to bet that a lot of the companies that have recently collapsed all had some pretty good numbers up until they started going bad all at once.

Don't get me wrong, I love my computer. I just think it's time we make our computers serve us and not the other way around. The current trend toward socialism makes sense to people. We've been revising our very ways of thinking for decades to accommodate the multiple choice world of spreadsheets and databases. Why not revise our way of life for the convenience of that ultimate tool for putting everything and everyone safely into a little box where they won't cause trouble - government? Socialism is basically a model of society as computer - the bureaucrats ultimate wet dream.

Do we really want to live our lives, giving up all those 'unapproved' choices in order to serve the state? In doing so, we need to realize that we are giving up the very soul of this country - the power to create something new from nothing more than a thought. In America we've come up with things no one has ever thought of before because we know how to think unapproved thoughts. Even the Internet, though computer based, is uniquely American in its unprecedented power to multiply choices, spread unapproved information freely, organize people or help them define themselves as unique individuals. There are those who find that frightening and you can bet we'll see efforts to choke off all that promiscuous sharing of information as they do in China. The state-that-will-be-served will never tolerate it for long.

And I thought that in America, the state was supposed to served us, not the other way 'round. Silly me. Probably took too many essay tests when I was a kid.

Just one man's opinion.....

Tom King

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Oh, Daddy Don't You Moan

I wrote this mournful little ditty while walking the dog tonight. It's to the tune of "Oh, Mary Don't Ya Weep.


Oh, Daddy Don't You Moan
(Tune: O' Mary Don't You Weep)
by Tom & Daisy King

1. Every day about eight o'clock
Gotta take Miss Daisy and go for a walk
Daisy's gotta stroll round town
So, Daddy don't you moan.

Chorus:
Oh, Daddy don't your gripe don't your groan
Oh, Daddy don't you pitch and moan
Daisy's gotta stroll round town
Oh, Daddy don't you moan

2. When we meet another dog I stand and watch
Fifteen minutes of sniffin' crotch
Daisy's gotta stroll round town
Oh, Daddy don't you moan

3. Standin' in park our backs to the shore
Whackin' her suitor's with a two by four
Daisy's gotta stroll round town
Oh, Daddy don't you moan

4. Took Daisy paddlin' in the old canoe
She laid in the bottom and she ate my shoe
Daisy's gotta stroll round town
Oh, Daddy don't you moan

5. Took Miss Daisy out for a sail
She jumped in my lap and overboard we fell
Daisy's gotta stroll round town
Oh, Daddy don't you moan

6. Sailboat's headed off fast and far
Daisy's headed for the nearest shore
Daisy's gotta stroll round town
Oh, Daddy don't you moan

7. I said, "Hey Daisy, how about a tow?"
I got two legs, but you got four!"
Daisy's gotta stroll round town
Oh, Daddy don't you moan

8. Daisy climbed up on my back and then
She settled down comfy while I swam us in.
Daisy's gotta stroll round town
Oh, Daddy don't you moan

9. I crawled on home I was battered and wet
But guess who got rushed off to the vet
Daisy's gotta stroll round town
Oh, Daddy don't you moan

10. I complained next night that my feet was sore
Mama said "Hon, you need to walk some more!"
Daisy's gotta stroll round town
Oh, Daddy don't you moan

11. I thought we could take a quick stroll in the park
But 4 hours later I'm stumblin' round in the dark
Cause Daisy's gotta stroll round town
So oh, Daddy don't you moan

12. YOU wanted the dog Mama's quick to chide
I swear I'm gonna get gold fish next time
Daisy's gotta stroll round town
Oh, Daddy don't you moan

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Out of the West...



Every time there's an article on Sarah Palin, a swarm of liberal commentators descend in full cry.

"Palin is less than bright."

"She's inexperienced."

"She's naive."

"She's a political lightweight with no credibility."

Okay, so if Sarah Palin is such a stupid, clueless bimbo as these clearly liberal posters would like to have us believe, why does she continue to frighten the left so badly? Why do they pour such energy into attacking her.

I think it's because, they don't want to make the same mistake twice. They ignored a certain TV cowboy actor back in 1976 and their dreams of a socialist utopia blew up in their faces. I think, Sarah scares them. She has the same self-assurance about her conservative beliefs as the equally, to them, incomprehensible Reagan. Reagan struck a chord with the American people in 1980 and successfully steam-rollered the attempt by the left to make over the government into a fully socialist state. Now almost 30 years later, they are poised again for a socialist takeover and they can't afford to have another conservative general come along and mess up their plans.

It must be so frustrating for the left to get so close to their socialist dreams and have conservatives come along and mess them up. Sarah Palin is a polarizing conservative figure like Reagan was. Her personal philosophy is crystal clear and resonates with main street Americans, at least, when she's not being filtered by John McCain's woefully inept and philosophically confused minions as she was during the election campaign.

Her greatest mistake was to play loyal sidekick to McCain. To recover, she needs 3 years of her own speeches and writings to show who she really is to conservatives. It was a tactic that worked brilliantly for the redoubtable Reagan. If Sarah can rally the conservative voting block and on-the-fence moderates, as the disastrous Democrat-led spending spree simultaneously crushes the country under the weight of debt (as it appears intended to do), Sarah will polarize the country indeed. She will not, however, divide the country according to who tests better in the marketing studies and polling data as happened in 2008.

Sarah will not be a feel-good candidate, although her followers will very likely feel very good. She will be a d0-the-right-thing candidate and for the Left that's absolutely terrifying.

Her resignation has confused her opponents. They don't understand it at all. The cardinal rule of the Left is that you NEVER let go of power, not for any reason, even for the good of the people you serve. It's better to lie to the people for their own good, destroy anyone in your way, allow the country to suffer, than it is to let go of power.

But Sarah doesn't think like that. If she's not the governor of Alaska, she effectively stops the endless bogus ethics lawsuits that her opponents on the left use to harass and cripple her administration. So, by resigning, Sarah just solved a lot of problems for Alaska and for herself. The new governor wants to do the same things Sarah did and he won't have the press dogging him. It will be good for the people of Alaska! I think that was Sarah's first consideration. It would be the last consideration for the socialist machine that opposes her.

The Republican Party hasn't had a good general in a long time. For too long they've run their campaigns like the Civil War's Union commanders, McClellan, Burnside, Hooker, Pope and the rest who practiced a sort of win and retreat approach to warfare. McClellan (a Democrat by the way), never fought a battle he didn't retreat from, even when he won.

We need a general in the Republican party who fights like Ulysses S. Grant - a general who fought and advanced. Even when Grant lost battles, he advanced relentlessly. He forced Lee to retreat time and again. Even when Lee won the battle, he had to retire from the field and withdraw to save his forces.

Ronald Reagan fought like that. When he lost the 76 nomination to country club Republicans and Gerald Ford, a lot of pundits wrote him off. But Reagan did not retreat. He took his message straight to the people through radio, television, writing and public speeches. As Jimmy Carter led the country left to disaster, Reagan hammered home his vision of a better America that stood in stark contrast to Carter's muddled socialist malaise.

I think the left senses that Sarah Palin may have the same ability to articulate that vision. That's why they are so desperate to marginalize and stigmatize her. She terrifies them. They successfully marginalized Fred Thompson, but I'm not sure they'll be able to do that with Sarah Palin.

In the meantime, it's fun to watch the growing panic in the liberal camp at the thought of Sarah unleashed. This should be very interesting.

Just one man's opinion.

Tom King

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Apparently God Wants Me to Exercise

I promise not to let this blog descend into syrupy sonnets about my new dog. Let's face it, though. Old people and dogs - it's pretty disgusting to watch! Sheila and I are turning into THOSE people who have a dog that we lavish our attention on because our children are pretty much fed up with us obsessing over them and if we don't dote over something, we'll probably melt down. Not a lot of grandkids running around here, so Daisy, our half lab, half border collie gets the full treatment.

Haven't heard this much baby talk since Meghan was born.

As I said in an earlier post, I believe Daisy was a gift from God. Apparently, God gave her to us because he wants me to exercise! In the 3 weeks since we found her, I've walked 1 to 2 miles a day EVERY day and sometimes twice a day. I've now officially lost 20 pounds, quit worrying about dieting AND had to take in my belt two notches! My fat pants are getting loose on me and I laid about 10 concrete patio flagstones today and did not have a heat stroke or coronary arrest.

My feet hurt, I've got bunions and blisters, but I can, in just 3 weeks, walk two miles at a rapid rate without falling over in the ditch to "have a little rest". A month ago, I got winded running up the stairs.

I've also found that I'm more alert, write faster and feel more "up". And no, I am not going to get all self-righteous about fitness and start pestering you guys to go exercise. After all, it took God to get me out doing road work and he gave me a coach that thinks going 2 miles instead of one when I really wanted to turn back at about half a mile is a jim dandy idea!

I'm thinking of painting sergeant stripes on the dog! I feel like I'm in boot camp with a hyperkinetic D.I. dragging my short legs up hill and over dale.

I'm going to bed now. I have to get up at 5 am and mow the lawn. My other sergeant is in charge of lawn care duty!

.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Sarah Palin

The media will never get Sarah Palin. Those who lust for power will never understand a person who simply wishes to serve the people and then go home. We are in the hands of evil people. All they care about is getting power. As Air Force Col John Boyd once told his young officers in his revolutionary fighter tactics classes, "You can choose to be someone or do something. One path will lead to power, money, promotion and good assignments and you will compromise your principles and betray your friends. The other path will lead you to controversy, poor assignments, lost promotions and resentment by people in power, but you will hold fast your principles, remain loyal to your friends and you just might do something worth doing."

This is the path Sarah Palin has chosen. The media will never understand. To them it is more important to be someone than to do something. We are in the hands of Satan's minions.

...Tom

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Spoiling the Baby - It Has Begun!


My wife got the brilliant idea to give Daisy one of her old shoes to chew on. I caught her chewing on it and fussed at the dog and then told my wife it was a very bad idea to give the dog shoes to chew and that she'd regret it.

I woke the next morning to find Daisy working her way through a whole pile of Sheila's shoes that she'd harvested from the closet.

"Bad dog!, Bad Dog!" I fussed at her.

My wife raised her head up out of the covers and told me not to fuss at Daisy.

"Bad wife!", I said, "Bad wife!"

I took the picture above of Daisy sulking. I don't have one of Sheila. She threatened to break my camera if I even thought about it!