Trump Solves Climate Change

minitrue2President-Elect Trump’s transition team announces they’ve solved the Climate Change problem. Mr. Trump directed the prospective EPA chief Myron Ebell to instruct The Ministry of Truth (Minitrue) to excise all references to climate change from our vocabulary and scientific literature.

Climate change will cease to exist upon completion of their work. According to Ebell,”Go outside right now. It’s cold. See!. Science is a liberal conspiracy funded by China and our enemies throughout the world to hobble our economy and take jobs away from hard working Americans.”

Questions: Schedule a meeting at MiniLuv with O’Brien.

Sadly this isn’t exactly a joke. According to Scientific American, Trump plans to appoint climate change denier in chief Myron Ebel to head the EPA.

We are not okay

wearenotokayWe are not okay. For the first time in my life, I am truly embarrassed to be an American. Voters who have nothing in common with me and whose values I do not, nor will I ever, share gave into their baser instincts and embraced fear and loathing. We are not okay because the Democratic National Committee’s cheating forced a losing candidate on America. We are not okay because the corporate media blacked out the one candidate who actually would have helped people. We are not okay because Hillary Clinton put her ambition ahead of the good of the people. We are not okay because the FBI interfered in the election. Evidently more suffering is required. Finally, call me a sore loser but I’m not interested in debate today. This is a moment for compassion. It’s a moment for all you Trump supporters to prove you are not like the devil you just put in office.

Anti-intellectualism, declining public debate, 2016 election

The Dumbing of AmericaAnti-intellectualism, declining public debate, 2016 election, all three are starting to come up as topics of discussion among my Facebook feed.  A good friend of mine who is either a Gen-Y’er or a Millennial, I’m not sure about the cutoff, practices the Internet phenomenon of curating the news on social media to stimulate discussion (and maybe to show off how much he reads, which is an admirably considerable quantity). The post in question came from a roundtable discussion held in New York City and sponsored by Basic Books about “The Future of the public intellectual.”

He prefaces the quote about our culture’s predilection toward anti-intellectualism and the newer phenomenon the “declining complexity of public debate” by saying, “This is just stuck in my mind for some reason. I don’t even recall reading the original forum discussion [from the piece in The Nation],” (Jp Pagán, Facebook):

“I’m struck by what one wag called the herd of independent minds; by the fact that what too often passes for intellectual discussion is a process of trying to suit up everybody in a team jersey so we know just who should be cheered and who booed…,”

When we’re looking around for who should get the blame for the declining complexity of public debate… [one is the] celebration of a self that views the world solely through the prism of the self, and much of the time a pretty “icky” self at that. It’s a quivering sentimental self that gets uncomfortable very quickly, because this self has to feel good about itself all the time. Such selves do not make arguments, they validate one another.”
From: http://www.thenation.com/a…/future-public-intellectual-forum#

That got me thinking about how my generation–the baby boomers– has contributed to the current state of affairs and how those things will affect the 2016 election, as well as our chances of meaningful change.

I should warn you ahead of time, being a baby boomer, I didn’t read the original article in The Nation because, being a baby boomer, everything is about me and my considerable hoard of knowledge and learning and my quest for enlightenment–yours not mine. I’m already there, deal with it.  (Now you know why I love Jacques Derrida and deconstructionism).

Having lived through most of the baby boom journey, I’m of the opinion that selfishness and entitlement are the defining characteristics of my generation. And that it, more than anything else, has added to the U.S.’s love affair with anti-intellectualism and contributed mightily to the declining public debate about which my friend Jp was talking.

We turned on and tuned out when we were young because it felt good–that and it was also fun to tell our parents fuck you. As we turned off and tuned in, we pretended we never did drugs, forgot all the kumbaya, said greed was good, and searched in vain for our inner-children.

In the process we bankrupted the S&L industry. Crashed the stock market twice. Created junk bonds and derivatives. Deregulated the banking industry to codify usurious lending practices bad enough to make the Mafia jealous. Face it, loan sharks can only break your bones or kill you. The government can go after your heirs. We spent more than we earned. Took corporate welfare to the heights. And when it all fell apart, turnselfiesed to the government to fix the problem. Oh and let’s not forget, we started two pointless wars which cost countless billions and thousands of lives. Disengaged from our civic duties we treat the government like a provider of services rather than our responsibility. And we hire lawyers for everything to prove nothing is our fault.

So I agree that it’s impossible to have fruitful discussions when our vision is focused on our selfies as opposed to pointing the lens outward and seeing the world as it is.

Buddhists have this notion of big “I” and little “I”. Both exist and require attention but when we see our big “I”, we know our job is to act compassionately and for the benefit of others.

If only things were different. I wish we held onto the best of the ideals of the sixties and early seventies. But the whole counter-culture revolution was all about me, as in . . . I’ll take whatever drugs I want because they make ME feel good.  I’ll sleep with whom I please for the same reason. I deserve to live better than my parents so I’ll treat the equity in my home like an ATM and cry when I get nothing after the final sale.

It appears to be too late for us baby boomers. It seems we cast aside the ideals of our youth and cast the standard of social justice on the field of battle.

My message to people like my friend Jp: Your generation is next in line to run the show. The question to ask yourselves as a cohort is whether you want to follow the path laid out by us or whether you have the courage and wherewithal to do better.

fantastic4

With guys like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and that douche bag Chris Christie on once side of the aisle and the narcissistic would be queen Hillary running for president–the Fantastic 4, I wonder whether the Gen-X and Y’ers and the Millennials can withstand the gravity from the black hole we created.

You guys are on the event horizon. Whatcha gonna do?

An opinion about data driven decision making

I read a quote today attributed to W. Edwards Demming (yeah I know it’s Wikipedia, so what) which says, “Without data you’re just a person with an opinion,” to which I replied “With data, you’re just a person with an opinion on what the data means.”

That’s right. Data driven decision making obfuscates the opinions and leaves the meaning in the hands of people who almost always have an agenda and who almost always either cherry pick data or start with their answers and work backward.

But even if absolute intellectual integrity were possible, the observer effect and the unique and complicated  lenses through which each observer views the information, results in inferences rather than glimpses at absolute truth.

The policies inspired by Education research are case-in-point. If I had nickel for every time an academic or an administrator or a politician proclaimed their ideas and policies were research based, and therefore unassailable, I’d have enough to start my own school and fund it in perpetuity

Leaving aside my very dim view of the results and rigor of education research, how the hell are policy makers supposed to make sense of the research when people look at the same numbers and reach different conclusions?

Memo to blog comment spammers

No Spam Please

Attention blog comment spammers human and bots: your insipid comments have no chance of ever seeing the light of day here on It’s a Bob World, never mind convincing me or my readers to buy your bullshit knockoff products. Know I have various means at my disposal to prevent blog comment spammers from being published here. Do us both a favor and just go away. You are wasting your time and mine.

I often fantasize of developing software that creates a feedback loop to gently shock blog comment spammers when their fingers touch their keyboards; or, in my crueler moments, which deletes the data on their servers. Where’s Lizbeth Salander or Chloe O’Brien when you need them?

Ideally, the software would also remotely activate the spammer’s web cam and microphone so my readers could see them react with surprise and consternation every time they touch their keyboards and feel the gentle shocks.

To my readers, you on the other hand are cordially invited to leave comments. I know from my site analytics that there are a good number of you. It would be nice if you left feedback–regardless of your point of view.

One way conversations get lonely and beg the question if blog writer publishes his work, and no one comments, has he really published his work?

Liberal conspiracy to hijack higher education

Have you noticed that conservatives often complain about a so called liberal conspiracy to hijack higher education? One such wag recently informed me that taking over the education system was one of the Soviets’ primary goals.

When I pressed him by saying I failed to notice a liberal conspiracy when I went to college and grad school, he explained, “You fail to see the tentacles of Marxism, they are long and entwined. They are not bound by geography but by ideology. Whittaker Chambers wrote that in the ’30s the Soviets had three main objectives here in the USA: Education, Media, Government. They have succeeded in infiltrating and takeover all of those.”

Let’s hold aside the media and government for another day. Let’s even suppose the Soviet Union succeeded. Guess what? The Soviet Union no longer exists. Just ask any supporter of Ronald Regan: the commies lost the Cold War.

With the Soviet Union gone and Communism having exited the world stage, to what are these “tentacles of Marxism” attached? What sustains them? And for what purpose?

According to the aforementioned Facebook wag, they seemed to have become a self-sustaining and decentralized global entity (rather like Al Qaeda, I suppose). Evidently there is a secret international conspiracy comprised of whom? Former Soviet, Chinese, and Cuban ideologues? Apostate Westerners who long for the good old days of Stalin and Chairman Mao?

He offered as proof of their success the observation that college campuses are bastions of liberal thinking. I wonder if he has it ass backwards.

Where are these agents provocateur? How are they organized? Do they convene in grubby student apartments in college towns throughout the west? Are they gray men hiding in plain sight? Biding their time? Whispering in the ears of academia bound Ph.D. students? Are they lying in wait for the right moment in history to seize the opportunity to create a second global Communist/Socialist government? That would make for a wonderful William F. Buckley novel but otherwise strains credulity.

Maybe tolerance and compassion and liberal mindedness are the natural products of an education? After all, kids move out of their childhood homes, they meet people who are different from them and have to learn how to amicably co-exist, and they spend four years intensively acquiring knowledge and developing their minds.

Now you know why closing down universities and killing or threaten the academics are on any new repressive regime’s short list upon taking power–right after taking over the media and killing and/or jailing the officials from the previous government.

Just a thought.

Netiquette for squares

Netiquette advice usually focuses on affectations and proscriptions considered vital to your success in the digital village by well-meaning web hipsters. They offer advice like: DON’T USE ALL CAPITAL LETTERS that’s shouting. You will needlessly provoke your readers and they will RESPOND IN KIND, or like an unapologetic capital-boy I know from the great state of Missouri, become the butt of jokes and an object of derision  Do not top-post. In other words, remove the text from the previous email when you hit the reply button unless your response necessitates context. This is a practice that can keep you out of trouble when you gossip. I know of several government officials from my days as an elected official who regretted the habit. If quote you must, keep it to a minimum or risk being labeled a profligate waster of precious bandwidth. Along the lines of saving bandwidth, do use common short cuts like lol (laugh out loud) or btw (by the way) or my personal favorite WTF. Doing so also saves precious bytes of data and identifies you as a member of the cognoscenti. 😉 Do use emoticons like the one preceding this sentence, which is my way of telling you that I’m being (playfully) ironic. Emoticons are a sub-genre of common short cuts used to express nuances of tone. On-line writing is utterly bereft of non-verbal communication cues. Remember people who divide their attention into nanoseconds (millionths of a second) read it. They type faster than you too. Slip up and you’ll find yourself embroiled in a “flame-war” (a cyber-steel-cage death match). Before you know it, the world has suffered yet another catastrophic loss of bonhomie. lol, ;-), rofl, %-), etc.

The on-line world has produced a new sub-culture with its own folkways but ultimately, there are only two substantive differences between analog and electronic communications: the medium upon which the thoughts are recorded and the speed at which the message can be delivered. Beyond that, the same rules apply to both. If you don’t follow the usual rules for writing and civil conversation in the “real world,” you are extremely unlikely to find greater success in the digital village.

Writing on-line: The purpose of written communication is to convey ideas between people and the basic act is media-agnostic. Therefore, the tried and true rules apply. Failing to write clearly and succinctly invites confusion. Failing to respect your readers’ feelings and intelligence creates barriers between your words and your message. Forgetting that once you write it, readers own the meaning,will result in sloppy writing.  If you’re not careful all you end up doing is assembling a collection of words no one will read.

For me, netiquette means thinking about what I’m going to say before I say it. It means giving the same care to electronic communications that I give to something I would submit for publication or to a teacher or a boss. It means keeping it short and sweet. This is all the more so important when you consider the average person spends less than 10 seconds on a web page before hitting the back button. That reminds me of another rule, if you need to write more than three lines in an email, set up a meeting or pick up the phone. That way, there’s no permanent record of the conversation–especially if you’re a bomb thrower like me.

An observation about zoning bylaws

An observation about zoning bylaws: we all agree they’re never perfect and whether we own the property in question or not, we hope to organize the rules in ways that benefit our own ideas about where we live or our own financial needs.

Having spent over six years on the Wrentham Planning Board, I have noticed abutters and the community tend to think of zoning bylaws as a rigid set of rules for holding landowners to prescribed uses. This seems especially true of residential property owners who live near the edges of commercial land.  Property owners, developers or business owners in particular, most often think of zoning bylaws as an obstacle to maximizing a  return on their investments.

Both are true after a fashion but I’ve grown to think of zoning as something else entirely. They mark a place in a sometimes contentious, always boring conversation among the people of a community about what we were, what we are, and what we hope to become.

The stakes are high because land and buildings are money disguised as dirt, rocks, plants, and building materials. Even so, we’re fortunate to have a land use laws that strive to balance the interests of the various parties equitably.

That conversation takes place at Planning Board meetings, Zoning Board meetings, Town Meeting, in neighborhood groups, and in the local press.

There are many things I dislike about the process. People act out of fear. They seldom educate themselves sufficiently to talk about the issues intelligently. They can be blind to logic. They can be excruciatingly cruel to their neighbors and government officials. And they hold grudges.

But in places like Wrentham, MA we have the right to have the conversation and the little guy has as much chance of prevailing as the big guy.