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Senator McCain, CEO Tim Cook, Apple, Fashion, and God

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Yesterday I caught some of the Senate hearings on Apple avoiding paying taxes.  The issue of taxes aside, something that Senator McCain said gives great insight into his personality and perhaps a generation.

Senator McCain to the Apple CEO, Tim Cook:

Sir, there’s only one thing I really wanted to ask you today. Why do I keep on having to update all the apps on my iPhone? Can’t you guys fix that already?

Can’t you fix it?
Once and for all…
So I don’t have to get these updates…

Tim Cook replied that  McCain’s iPhone got updates because Apple is making things better all the time.

The Static, Finished Universe

John McCain, like many, thinks in terms of a “static universe”.  Things  should work in a certain way and then stay that way forever.  Change is bad; I am satisfied what with I have; why change it?

Perhaps such an idea is generational.  McCain is of the generation who have one career, work at one place their entire life, and defend the status quo at all costs no matter what.  I meet these people all the time in just about every organization.

Pre-rational belief systems

Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right”

The idea is that your attitude has a direct effect on outcomes.  If you think the World is static then it is; if you think it’s not then it’s not.  These sorts of decisions are pre-rational.  The outcome will be what your pre-conceived ideas make it.  You make your own Reality.

God’s perfection

Perhaps we have been influenced too much by the traditional Christian theological position of the perfection of God.  The idea that God, in his/her perfection is “changeless”.  This is pure metaphysics.  Why should “changelessness” be perfection?  In the 13th century St Thomas Aquinas brought Aristotle’s metaphysics into the Catholic tradition.  That’s the long and short of it.

A different idea

If you saw the movie The Social Network about Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook then perhaps you remember this scene in the movie.  Someone asks Zuckerberg this question, “When will Facebook be finished?”

Zuckerberg replies, “Facebook is like fashion, it will never be finished.”

It’s matter of perspective – and it makes all the difference in the world.

Like fashion, nothing should be finished.  No idea, no concept, no product, no innovation, no organization,, and even your career – should never be finished.  There is no life when one is finished.

The Take

McCain is probably not alone.  Fix this software and be done with it.  To change something implies that it’s broken.

Fashion is not  broken.  Innovation is only broken when it stops changing.

Traditional Theology got a shock in the 20th century by Process Theology.  That movement in theology in the 1950’s “outted” traditional theological debt to Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas in the notion that “changless” is some sort of perfection.

Shocking as it might seem, the Process Theologians held that “God’s future is open”.  God is not static and not finished.

As the McCain and Cook short exchange demonstrates, just about every organization, every government, and every social context is a collision between those who want to stop the world and those who want to change the world.  Exchanges like McCain-Cook demonstrate how people differentiate themselves in thier pre-rational belief systems about change and what it implies.

There are insights every day about how people think, if you know where to look. Hopefully, McCain and Cook learned something interesting about themselves and their view of the world in this exchange.  And now you know it too.

White House Easter Egg Roll: Thinking deeply, or not

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135 Years of Fun

On Monday April 1, 2013, the First Family will host the 135th annual White House Easter Egg Roll. This year, more than 35,000 people from all 50 states will be joining us on the South Lawn for games, stories, and, of course, the traditional egg roll.

In addition to all the fun and games, the day’s activities — which will include sports courts and cooking demonstrations — will help educate families on smart ways to incorporate healthy eating and exercise choices into their daily routines, which are key pillars of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative.

Every year since 1878 the White House has held an Easter egg roll.

People don’t think too much about it.  That is, they don’t think too deeply about it.

Of course the White House can’t associate a Christian significance to the Easter Holiday… separation of church and State and all that.

So, there will be no (Christian) crosses or talk about death and resurrection.

But, there will be eggs and perhaps an Easter Bunny or two.

No cross but eggs.

If we know that the cross, death, and resurrection is out the picture then why are eggs and bunnies in the picture?

Does anyone ask what the significance of eggs are?  In a sense, the egg is as much religiously charged as is the cross.

The Take

Here are a several observations.

  1. Our holidays are being wrenched free of any historical context or significance – Christian, Pagan, or otherwise.  Too dangerous.  Easter means what Easter means in this moment – this year, today.  What Easter will mean next year will wait until what is needed is discovered.  Easter is a “movable” feast in time and meaning.
  2. People don’t ask what these holidays/rituals/celebrations mean in historical context.  Should they know?  Or, is ignorance bliss?
  3. People, seemingly, aren’t equipped to ask questions.  It does not occur to them to ask questions.  Good or bad?  Short term or long-term?  Locally or in the context of America’s global competitiveness?  Perhaps thinking critically and framing the right questions is more valuable than having the correct answers to the wrong questions.

So, this year, “Easter” will be pressed into service of promoting Obama’s agenda of healthy eating and exercise.  The menu will also include a side order of Yoga free from any fatty and unhealthy references to Hindu Philosophy.

If someone wants to manipulate a society, culture, or group the inability of the target to think deeply and ask questions is the manipulators best advantage.

It comes down to an issue of education and society.  How educated do you want your society to be?  Sometimes, the less the better.

How about adding “education’ to the list of White House Easter activities and including some sessions on the historical origins of Easter?  Probably not  a popular idea – with the White House.  They would need to talk about fertility rites, goddesses, myths, and all that stuff.  Oh, and the Christian significance as well.  Part of that session would also have to include the derivative  insight that every political generation over millennium  has used such holidays to re/interpret according to their needs.  Messy business to bring all this up on Easter.

No, its more fun to search for wooden eggs… just do it… don’t ask too many questions.  Be Happy.  And, “Lets Move!” this Easter.

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When Nudge comes to push and shove

Written by frrl

March 31, 2013 at 5:48 pm

“Friend Me”: What would Aristotle say?

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For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods; even rich men and those in possession of office and of dominating power are thought to need friends most of all; for what is the use of such prosperity without the opportunity of beneficence, which is exercised chiefly and in its most laudable form towards friends?      —   Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics – 384-322 BCE

One might wonder, after a period of 2,000+ years, has there been any (what is called) “progress”.

Surely we can distinguish between “progress” in the area of technology and progress in other areas such as culture and society.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) lived more than 2000 years ago .  Surely, if Aristotle were transported from ancient Greece to the modern world he would find the progress in science and technology absolutely astounding.  But, if he were to look at our social relationships 2000 years distant from his own time what would he discover?  Would Aristotle say that, after two millennium, we have made any progress in human relationships?

Perhaps he would say we have taken several steps back from the “golden age” of Greek culture.

Aristotle on Friendship

Aristotle wrote about friendship in Nicomachean Ethics.  He divided friendship into three categories.

Pleasure Friendship

Friendship of young people seems to aim at pleasure; for they live under the guidance of emotion, and pursue above all what is pleasant to themselves and what is immediately before them.

Utility Friendship

Those who pursue utility . . . sometimes . . . do not even find each other pleasant; therefore they do not need such companionship unless they are useful to each other; for they are pleasant to each other only in so far as they rouse in each other hopes of something good to come.

What’s in it for me?

According to Aristotle, Pleasure and Utility friendship is partly motivated by a  “what’s in it for me” attititude.  The friendship exists only insofar as there is some benefit – pleasure or utility – that can be derived from the relationship.  When the benefit erodes, so does the friendship

Therefore those who love for the sake of utility love for the sake of what is good for themselves, and those who love for the sake of pleasure do so for the sake of what is pleasant to themselves, and not in so far as the other is the person loved but in so far as he is useful or pleasant.

And thus these friendships are only incidental; for it is not as being the man he is that the loved person is loved, but as providing some good or pleasure. Such friendships, then, are easily dissolved, if the parties do not remain like themselves; for if the one party is no longer pleasant or useful the other ceases to love him.

Perfect (or True) Friendship

Finally, Aristotle defines Perfect Friendship:

Perfect friendship is the friendship… [of those] …who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good-and goodness is an enduring thing. And each is good without qualification and to his friend, for the good are both good without qualification and useful to each other.

Here is how Philosophy Professor Dean A. Kowaalski sums it up:

So, for Aristotle, the highest form of friendship occurs between persons of equally good moral character (virtue), which is enhanced due to their interactions. Such friendships are admittedly rare; when they do obtain, it is because the friends spend a great deal of time together, developing a secure mutual trust. Their relationship is fostered by participating in joint ventures and engaging in activities that exercise their own virtues for the betterment of the other and the friendship. All of this is done primarily for the sake of the other person (and not for selfish purposes), even though their interests have grown so close together that it is difficult to separate them. Consequently, complete friendship results in a sort of second self, a true partner.

The Take

There may be a Myth of Progress.  In some contexts, progress seems obvious perhaps because of the selection or limitation of what one considers.  Surely, “progress” is an in-your-face fact when one looks only at technology and our understanding of how the world works – science in general and physics in particular.

But has there been any progress in social relationships?  Or perhaps there been a degradation brought about by the progress in technology.  Perhaps the more technology we have the greater distance we can put between ourselves and other people and still call them “friends”… to the point that they are no friends at all… merely markers or counts on a Facebook page or the number of  Twitter followers.

Technology is “enabling”.  Enabling to make True Friends as Aristotle would define it?  Technology may simply enable those who have a “what’s in it for me” motive of  finding merely pleasure or utility in others.  “Friends for pleasure” is now easy to find on the Internet.  Friends to scam and friends for transactional relationships are easy to find as well.  Have your “friended” or “liked” Starbucks or other organization or business?  Why are they your friends?

So, if Aristotle were to step into the 21’st century world of technology there would not be much he would understand.  We have made fantastic progress.  And, I think he would agree based on his writings of Universal Physics, Human Physics, Animal Physics, and Metaphysics of this time.  But Politics and (Nicomachean) Ethics where the above quotes on friendship came from?  Any progress here in two millennium?

What Aristotle wrote 2,000+ years ago about friendships being only for utility and only for pleasure and easily dissolved is as relevant for today as it was in ancient Greece.

It might be a revelation to you if you examine your friendships within Aristotle’s framework – friends of pleasure; friends of utility; and perfect friends.

How many perfect friendships do you really have?  Has technology been a benefit or a liability?  And have we made any progress in two millennium  in answering Aristotle’s basic question, “how should men best live”?

Read more

Read about Dunbar’s number – If You’ve Got More Than 150 Facebook Friends, They’re No Friends at All

Alone Together.  Why we expect more from technology and less from each other

Written by frrl

March 25, 2013 at 1:40 am

Trends for society through technology: What Jay-Z knows

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Mary Meeker from venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins recently gave a presentation at Stanford University on the the state of the web.  The slide deck is filled with industry trends and statistical data to back it up.

So, I went through the deck and if you’re paying attention to the world we live in, nothing in the deck should be a surprise to you.  Every presentation of this kind is backward-looking.  That is, it describes trends that everyone can observe.  These sorts of presentations do not “look around corners” nor do they speculate on a discontinuous or non-linear future.  Of course, these latter events in history represent the significant opportunities for society and culture.

All that being said, there is interesting trend data and statistics in Mary Meeker’s deck.

The linear societal doom

It was going good until I looked at the last few slides in the deck.  One slide shows US spending on entitlements and debt as percent of GDP.  Another slide shows the distribution of taxes among entitlements, defense, interest and other.  The US spends 57% of taxes on entitlements.  A third slide shows that entitlement and interest expense will exceed GDP by 2025.

What Jay-Z knows

We were kids without fathers… so we found our fathers on wax and on the streets and in history.  We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves.  – Jay-Z

What Jay-Z knows is about peer groups.  Pick your peer group, don’t let it fall to chance.

Everyone who walks on the face of the earth encounters peer groups.  Each peer group has it’s own culture and set of standards.  Whether you are going to be successful in life (a sort of difficult self-referential idea inside the group) depends on what peer group you hang with.

We could probably all agree that being part of the entitlement system which represents 57% of tax revenue spending is, in a sense, making one group of people pay for the existence of another group of people.  If this entitlement peer group continues to grow then a well-functioning economy is unsustainable.  When entitlements and debt exceed GDP (Gross Domestic Product) then that will be the end of the “late great USA”.

Pick who will inspire you…

Reading the slide deck its easy to see that the folks who consume these sorts of decks believe that “the future has unlimited possibilities”.  And, as Jay-Z says, “we pick and choose… [those] who would inspire the world we are going to make for ourselves.”

But what about the other peer group?  What about the people who consume 57% of the taxes that other people pay?

There are people everywhere where the temptation of having someone else pay your way is too strong to resist.  I encounter these people from time to time.  They have little regret or embarrassment for their situation.  They would rather spend their time “working the system” to try to get benefits than spend their time positioning themselves to be productive members of society.

The Take

Read the Jay-Z quote again and then page through the slide deck linked below.

Who will you pick to inspire the world that we collectively will make?  Are you the “Meekers’s” or a recipient of the 57% of tax revenue?

Mary Meeker 2012 Internet Trends Year-End Update – Business Insider

Read some related postings

The Future of Digital… is not in a rear-view mirror

How do organizations deal with changes in the external environment?

ARRL: Does the ARRL need a Strategic Plan?

NASA: What to do after “Mission Accomplished”




Written by frrl

March 2, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Relating to working class people

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I listened to the first two debates between Obama and Romney.  Both of these folks could be considered “elites”.  They went to ivy-league colleges, hung around with very successful people, and have the drive and motivation to run for President of the United States.  If you mostly hang around with the highly successful how hard is it to identify with “regular people”?

Who are the “regular people”?

I watch some of the current spate of reality TV programs.  Are these “real people”?

Storage Wars.  A group of people bid on abandoned storage lockers.  They buy and sell in resale shops.

American Pickers.  A couple of guys who go through barns of junk and look for items to resell at a profit.

American Restoration.  Fix-up junk for resale.

Pawn Stars.  Resale of items for a profit.

Hard-core Pawn.  A pawn shop in Detroit for those who have few choices to get immediate cash.

Shipping Wars.  A group of people bid to move items across the country.

Swamp People.  Shoot alligators and sell them

Iceberg Hunters.  Pick the droppings from icebergs and sell them to a water company.

Repo shows.  Repossess cars from people who can’t make their vehicle payments

Market Wars.  Try to find deals at flea markets and resell at a profit.

All of the shows above are small business.  They at least provide some value to others in the process of carrying out the business.

There is a show that is unique – Gold Rush.  In Gold Rush there is an exchange of pure labor for Gold.  No one else benefits from this enterprise other than the people performing the labor.  In short, the Gold Rush folks do it for money.  There is another show like this: Bering Sea Gold.  There are more “Gold Rush” type shows planned.  The point is that these enterprises are unique in that there is no customer, product, or service to be delivered to someone else.  Gold Rush is a direct exchange of labor for Gold.

Change-the-World type people

What elites might find amazing is none of the jobs represented by these popular reality shows are really “Change the World” type endeavors.  Regular people seem to be satisfied with “only” earning a living – an exchange of labor for a pay check.  In the extreme case, with Gold Rush, one see’s the extreme case of direct exchange of labor for money – the world, society, or even a segment of customers do not benefit from the labor through a product or service.

It is so extraordinarily rare that you can find people who really want to make a difference.  The majority of people are satisfied to simply “get by”.  What is the purpose of these people’s lives?  To just “get by”?

So all these plans of the Presidential candidates to create innovation, new products, and new businesses to jump-start the economy.  How can this happen?

How can this happen if the “regular people” (the mass of people in America) are: buying and selling used items, fixing up junk, taking advantage of poor people, shooting alligators, picking up ice cubes, digging for Gold, and repossessing goods that people buy but can’t afford?   And those who are not actively doing the above “regular jobs” are watching these reality shows or finding other ways to entertain themselves into a stupor.

The new standard for accomplishment?

I wonder if these Reality TV shows are setting the standard of what is acceptable work in America.

Surely, if the jobs depicted in these Reality shows are understood by the American people as what is successful accomplishment in America then these presidential candidates hawking (and expecting) innovation, creativity, and a renewed building Americas great corporations – they are going to be in for a surprise.

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo – if this is what engages America then we’re all in trouble.

Utopian Masterminds: Ameritopia

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A few days ago I got my hands on Mark Levin’s new book – Ameritopia.

This is an excellent book for those who want to brush up on the history of political philosophy as it relates to those writers who set out to define the nature of man and the arrangement of government in the ideal society. If you’ve read Plato’s Republic, Thomas More’s Utopia, Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Charles de Montesquieu, and/or Alex de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America then this is a refresher as to the nature of the utopian society that each of theses thinkers believe is the best for man.  If you never read these books then Levin’s book is a tight version of “cliff notes” for these thinkers and works.

The real value and crux of Levin’s book is how the framers of the Constitution of the United States were influenced by these thinkers and why the framers embraced one set of ideas on governance  and rejected another in the development of the US Constitution. For those who think that the US Constitution sprang “from nothing” from the framers minds they will find the necessary historical linkage in Levin’s book.

The unmaking of America

The subtitle of Levin’s book is: the unmaking of America. The structure of the book  is excellent to make this point. The latter part of Ameritopia describes the current state of the American political system and demonstrates that it is exactly the set of ideas and principles about man, society, and governance  that the framers of the Constitution rejected.  The first part of the book provides the necessary historical background to demonstrate this point. 

Ameritopia from Mark Levin is highly recommended.  The historical works cited above are in the public domain available for almost any e-book reader.  Levin’s book is available in paper and e-book formats.  Take a read and seee if Levin has the correct analysis against the current context of over-reach of the Federal govenment. 

(Read more: The New American Dream ; When Nudge comes to push and shove ; Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin at the Food Court: the Concept of Libertarian Paternalism )

Read the reviews of Ameritopia here –

A short summary from one reviewer

If there is one statement that defines Mark R. Levin’s work, it is that America’s success is based in liberty and that we must not allow ourselves to fall into tyranny. Of course, no one supports tyranny blatantly and so defending liberty is thought to be easy. But the people who support tyranny don’t always do so blatantly. In this book, Levin shows how people throughout the ages have supported tyranny through an ideology called utopianism, and thus ushered in tyranny through “intellectual bankruptcy and dishonesty.”

In the first part of AMERITOPIA, Levin examines the work of four historical figures, Plato, Thomas More, Hobbes, and Marx. In this treatment, Levin shows how each one promoted what was considered an ideal society and how each one of these ideals is no more than tyranny. In each case, the ideal society contains a highly centralized government which controls the masses through various means–persuasion, deceit, coercion, eugenics, euthanasia–and therefore tears apart the family, community, and faith.

In the second part, Levin counters this with a survey of three thinkers that helped introduce liberty to the Western mindset and establish what he calls Americanism–John Locke, Charles de Montesquieu, and Alexis de Tocqueville. Levin shows how each one viewed human beings as autonomous individuals with God-given abilities and rights. With lawyerly precision, Levin details the many examples of how both Locke and Montesquieu influenced the founders of the United States and how Tocqueville spread Americanism to the European culture of the 19th century.

Finally, Levin explains how the America built upon Locke, Montesquieu, and Tocqueville is at risk of being taken over by the utopian ideology in the 21st century, showing how the various modern movements of liberalism and modern socialism disseminate their intellectual bankruptcy and dishonesty.

The argument is powerful and Levin’s penetrating commentary is grounded well by quotes from the original texts. If there is a flaw in the work, it is in the unforgiving denunciation of the utopian literary genre. While it is clear that most of the works technically classed utopia did include tyrannical elements, I cannot deny the fact that some elements of pro-liberty and American texts include visions of the perfect society. Everyone has a vision of what would be ideal–some are made of tyranny, and others can be seen as the “shining city on the hill” and are made of freedom. If utopias are promotions of the ideal society, then it must be said that all active minds engage in the exercise.

Altogether, however, the point of this book is absolutely correct. America’s success is based on liberty and allowing ourselves to fall into tyranny would be catastrophic for humanity. Everyone who is interested in this very important theme and is compelled to do something about it should also consider the excellent Juggernaut: Why the System Crushes the Only People Who Can Save It by Eric Robert Morse.

Written by frrl

February 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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The New American Dream

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Updated on February 10, 2012 with links to government assistance programs.  See if YOU qualify for other people’s money and/or how you can arrange things to qualify for selected government assistance programs

About a week ago, Mitt Romney got in trouble for this

I’m not concerned about the very poor; we have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling, and I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.

Romney is rightly concerned with the middle class – those are the people who create small businesses.  Small business accounts for about 70% of the jobs in the US (read).  If you can’t help the middle class – as the first priority – then who will create the jobs to employ the poor?

The question is, “Do people who are out of work really want to work?”  If the “safety net” is too good then many people might get the idea that it’s easier to not work than to work.  People will do a calculation – Can I lower my standard of living to the point that I can live “comfortably” on the entitlement system?  It seems, that from some recent studies, the answer is increasingly, “Yes”.

We might be entering a new phase in American History when the old idea of the “American Dream” (get an education, have ambition, get a job, work hard, create wealth, own a home, have a family, make a positive contribution to society, leave a legacy) has given way to the “American Dream” as a life of dependency.

Check out these stats and articles to get an idea of what is “trending now” in the re/interpretation of the American Dream

Dependence on Government at All-Time High

The 2012 Index of Dependence on Government

Guest Blog: The Danger of A Nation of Dependents

  • One in five Americans—the highest in the nation’s history—relies on the federal government for everything from housing, health care, and food stamps to college tuition and retirement assistance. That’s more than 67.3 million Americans who receive subsidies from Washington.
  • Government dependency jumped 8.1 percent in the past year, with the most assistance going toward housing, health and welfare, and retirement.
  • The federal government spent more taxpayer dollars than ever before in 2011 to subsidize Americans. The average individual who relies on Washington could receive benefits valued at $32,748, more than the nation’s average disposable personal income ($32,446).
  • At the same time, nearly half of the U.S. population (49.5 percent) does not pay any federal income taxes.
  • In the next 25 years, more than 77 million baby boomers will retire. They will begin collecting checks from Social Security, drawing benefits from Medicare, and relying on Medicaid for long-term care.
  • As of now, 70 percent of the federal government’s budget goes to individual assistance programs, up dramatically in just the past few years. However, research shows that private, community, and charitable aid helps individuals rise from their difficulties with better success than federal government handouts. Plus, local and private aid is often more effectively distributed

A voice from serval hundred years ago… and perhaps a prediction

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government.  It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse [gifts] from the public treasury.  From that moment on, the majority only votes for candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship — Alexandar Fraser Tytler (1747-1813)


See how much “free” (money from the public treasury) you can get from government programs

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

February 9, 2012 at 7:12 pm

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