Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Intense T-Storm

Seeing lightning
With closed eyes
The thunder frightening
Mother Nature cries.

Emerging from a dream
With nowhere to hide
Thankfully the stream
Remained outside.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Will We Begin To Hear Mea Culpa?

In a morality play
You've got to pay
When the piper eventually comes.

Yet it's hard to count
The precise amount
Since it's herculean sums.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Prevarication By Another Name

The non-denial denial
Is back on trial
Providing much to revile
We'll be at it for a while.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

If Only Wishing Would Change The Past

While living inside your head
Memories get retread
Mistakes you made
Are then replayed
Upon reflection you come out ahead.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

A Hype Dream

Innovation and its subsequent diffusion
First a sensation then confusion
For what is it that is truly new
And about it why make such a big to-do?

Monday, June 20, 2022

The Uncle Joe Model

When moving slow
Is as fast as you go

And you may hardly care
About getting there

Yet merely in moving
One can be grooving

Then one finds that motion
Is its own magic potion.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Best Location For Textual Creation

The place where you do your writing
Should be boring rather than exciting
Though to be fair
A comfortable chair
Prevents the prose from becoming overly biting.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Timing Is Everything

Sometimes it's good to take a chance
With setting the publishing date in advance
Then when you're on the road
If your laptop is a load
Leave it at home and at your phone only glance.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Crying For Attention

When your favorite flowers are forget-me-nots
And your loyal blog readers prove to be bots
Then it's unclear how you should behave
For it's a real audience that you crave.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Taking Our Cues From Mollusks and Reptiles

The snail and the tortoise
Don't have rigor mortis
They just move kind of slow
These days it's the way to go.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The Duchy of Grand Fenwick Is Back on the Map

The mouse that unexpectedly roared
Tried hard after that to remain ignored
Yet it was getting more and more attention
The bulk of which were favorable mentions.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Playing It Forward Through Backward Induction

This post is about thinking through the possible consequences of the hearing by the House Committee on the January 6, 2021 events.  My premonitions about this have caused me considerable anxiety. I'm going to try to put those aside in this post and do the type of analysis that blends knowledge about how people learn, on the one hand, with economics/game theory, on the other.  

The first speaks to the question of how Trump supporters will react to the evidence that is provided during the hearings (and the evidence that has already been provided).  Yesterday, while overhearing what was being aired on MSNBC while my wife was watching TV, the following argument was made more than once.  In a situation where people hear evidence that counters their prior held view, who the messenger is matters.  The House Committee has been careful to present the evidence from Republicans in Trump's corner.  Specifically, much was made of the testimony given by former Attorney General William Barr.  If this argument holds sway, then by the time the hearings have concluded most Americans will conclude that the election wasn't stolen and that claiming otherwise was a diversion created by President Trump for his own personal and political benefit. 

But there is a quite different possibility entirely.  The following paragraph is taken from a post I wrote about a decade ago called: Is reasoning taking a beating?  I think the entire post is relevant for understanding our current politics, but the particular paragraph is especially relevant while not being about politics at all. 

In the book, What the Best College Teachers Do, Ken Bain teaches us that students don't know what to do when they confront evidence that contradicts their prior held world view.  Perhaps it is surprising to learn that the initial student reaction is to deny the evidence.  The world view has sanctity and deep down the student wants to preserve it.  The excellent teacher understands the tension the student is under.  With patience and persistence, the instructor nudges the student to reconsider his position.  It would be good for that position to account for the evidence that is observed.  Of course, in this case Bain is referring to an academic matter.  When looking at circular motion the students are apt to have an Aristotelian view.  A Newtonian perspective appears unnatural.  There is a getting used to period necessary to take on the new perspective.  There is leadership in helping students make the transition.

This paragraph suggests that people might very well retain their prior world view in spite of evidence to the contrary.  Further, in regard to the events of January 6, 2021, there is obviously a question of whether people watch the hearings directly and in full or if, instead, they watch the hearings as they've been filtered through their favorite news outlet, which cherry picks segments and excludes much of the rest.  There is no doubt that viewers of Fox News are getting a different story than viewers of MSNBC. 

Thus, it seems more than possible that one of two different scenarios will prevail.   In the first scenario, the vast majority of Americans converge in the belief that the 2020 election was not stolen.  There may still be substantial disagreement about how to manage the situation given such beliefs, which I would summarize as either punish severely or largely forgive and forget.  But in this first scenario we'd be coming at these managing-the-situation questions with a general consensus of what had occurred.  In the second scenario, there is no such consensus.  We remain a divided nation about whether the 2020 election was stolen.  And members of each side in this hold contempt for members of the other side. 

Now, let's complicate this admittedly simple characterization some.  This is about the intensity of the belief as measured by the perceived consequences assuming the belief is true.  For Democrats, especially the ones who are regular watchers of MSNBC, the nation is in crisis and is under grave risk that we will become a fascist state.  But, for example, consider those swing voters who voted for Obama but then switched to vote for Trump.  Many of them may be upset at the Democrats now because of the high inflation they are seeing as well as the shortages of goods (notably baby formula).  These voters may vote Republican in November, even if they believe the election was not stolen in 2020.  

Thus, we now have two dimensions to consider.  The first is whether the hearings are persuasive in convincing Americans that there was no steal.  The second is in regards to which party controls the House after the elections in November.   To this one might further complicate things by considering the behavior of Congressional Republicans between now and the November elections.  Will the House Republicans led by Kevin McCarthy stick with their current line, that the hearings are a sham?  Or, in the event that the hearings do appear to be broadly persuasive, might these House Republicans change their tune and then help to achieve consensus?   And, surely, there can be further dimensions to complicate the picture even more.  But I see no reason in doing so now for the purpose of the analysis. 

We've reached the point where we can perform the backward induction.  In the economics/game theory approach, one solves for the equilibrium in the future first, or solves for all the possible equilibria in the future when the future is not uniquely determined, and then, given that future to fix expectations, one solves for equilibrium (or equilibria) in the present.  What seems evident now is that the January 6, 2021 House Committee members have a strong preference for the outcome where the hearings are broadly persuasive, while the House Republicans under McCarthy have the opposite preference.  If most Americans now line up with one side or the other at present, what will they do if their side wins and what will they do if their side loses?

Those questions seem straightforward enough and yet they are too difficult for me to respond to with straightforward answers.  Instead, I will give some unknowns for me.  Are the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers far out there and thus unlike most Trump supporters who believe the election was stolen?  Or is there a continuum of sorts here?  In other words, I would certainly predict there would be more violence in the event that the hearings are broadly persuasive, more so if the Democrats retain the House, but it's very hard to have a sense of the scale of that violence.  Would it be a fringe activity or the beginning of a civil war?  A further unknown is how the police, in particular, but really all law enforcement, respond to the threat of such violence.  And here the complications may be more obvious.  If these fringe Trump supporters are in possession of large amount of assault weapons, as seems likely to me, law enforcement and warfare will seem to blend.  Will the police get strong support from the rest of America, even if events in the last couple of years have challenged such support?  

Now lets consider the other possibility, where the hearings are only mildly persuasive to those who supported Trump and there remains a large following of Trump supporters who believe the 2020 election was stolen, even after the hearings conclude.  How will Democrats react in this case?  I will answer this one from my own perspective.  There seems to be way too much trust in the system to warrant it and I have concluded some time ago that the system is broken and requires a strong response.  Jamelle Bouie's column today asserts that this is a generational thing, where younger Democrats agree that the system is broken but older ones cling to current beliefs as if it were the past where the system did function reasonably well (the Vietnam War and Watergate notwithstanding).  If the system is broken and your side seems to be losing in the current political conflict, what then?  Is there a sensible alternative to resorting to violence at this point?  Or, if we would be heading to fascism under this scenario, would any non-violent alternative amount to appeasement?

Suppose you answered yes to that last question, but you recognized that Democrats, who are largely anti gun, are terribly unprepared for a violent alternative that might escalate into a civil war.  What would you do then?  On a personal note, I get a large number of solicitations from Democrats for funding their campaigns, both by email and by snail mail.  I have donated in the past on occasion.  This, I suppose, is how the system works now.  But I have not received any communications about preparing for the possible contingency that is described in the first sentence of this paragraph.  Indeed, I don't think that elected officials of either party want to openly talk about a broken system.  If that's right, leadership on this will have to come from elsewhere.  I would like to see evidence of such leadership.  I would then give my support to their effort. 

These days I write a piece like this essay largely to get the ideas out of my system, if I can.  In the past I've found that when I put in the effort to write up my ideas, I can move onto something else in my thinking.  If I don't write in this way, I'll just keep stewing about it over and over again   I'm hoping to get past my fixation with this piece.  

I learned when I was a campus administrator that while writing this blog and discussing controversial issues I should put forward arguments which were less advocacy for a particular approach and more inquiry into the issues at hand.  Style-wise, that's what I've tried for in this piece.  If you are one of the rare few who have reached this point in the reading, I hope it has piqued your interest in getting at answers to these questions, and thanks for your attention.

When You Don't Have It Made In The Shade

There’s farmer Lan
Now sporting a tan
Not part of the plan
But you do what you can.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Very Hot Indeed

So the heatwave begins
Atonement for our sins
Of which there have been many
And good deeds, have there been any?

Sunday, June 12, 2022

How Do Each Of Us React To The Recent News?

Trying to understand
The attraction of the sand
And if there is something instead
Of merely burying my head.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

It's No Longer Couth To Utter The Truth

From Liberal bias in the press
Murdoch made a great big mess
So now we have different versions of news
Not to elucidate, mainly to confuse.

Friday, June 10, 2022

How do you persuade somebody that they've been brainwashed?

I have been spending much of the day trying to reconcile last night's hearing with this long opinion piece from the NY Times, particularly this paragraph.  

The right’s new culture war represents the worldview of people the sociologist Donald Warren called “Middle American radicals,” or M.A.Rs. This demographic, which makes up the heart of Mr. Trump’s electoral base, is composed primarily of non-college-educated middle- and lower-middle-class white people, and it is characterized by a populist hostility to elite pieties that often converges with the old social conservatism. But M.A.Rs do not share the same religious moral commitments as their devoutly Christian counterparts, both in their political views and in their lifestyles. As Ross Douthat noted, nonchurchgoing Trump voters are “less likely to be married and more likely to be divorced” than those who regularly attend religious services. No coincidence, then, that a 2021 Gallup poll showed 55 percent of Republicans now support gay marriage — up from just 28 percent in 2011.

The core question is this: how will the M.A.Rs react to the House Committee investigation of the events on January 6, 2021.  Will they treat it as a witch hunt and nothing more? They surely will be getting a filtered version of the hearings and what was said and shown there.  Somewhere, I can't remember the source now, I heard that Fox Business aired the hearings but Fox News did not.  Do M.A.Rs rely primarily and perhaps exclusively on Fox News for staying up to date?  If you presume that's true and you presume as well that Fox News will treat the investigation as part of the new culture war, then there would seem to be no way for the American people as a whole to reach the same conclusion about the events on January 6, 2021.  What would be the consequences of that?

It seems to me then the election in November can't work with the vast majority of people accepting the results, but now we're talking about elections on a state level and a Congressional district level.  There will be chaos.  Can such chaos resolve itself in short order?  I don't see how it can.  

If the election is left unresolved, the instability will lead to violence.  Indeed, there may be threatened violence to intimidate voters on Election Day.  There could very well be a tit-for-tat that would then escalate.  That's my fear. 

Those who are trusting of the normal electoral process, more Democrats then Republicans at this point, probably expect that the police and possibly the military would be brought in to squelch the violence.  So, part of what I've been scratching my head about is this.  If you did a political polling of the police and the military, what fraction of them are M.A.Rs?  Would those who are take sides in the aftermath of the election rather than perform their duty?

There is too much I don't know here to think this through fully.  But it certainly has me worried. 

Thursday, June 09, 2022

The Chips Are In

Chocolate chocolate chip
Or regular chocolate chip?

I would gladly play hookie
To have a good cookie.

Monday, June 06, 2022

It's All A Blur

Thinking while your glasses are smudged
There's a tendency for your ideas to fudge
In your mind you see
With uncertainty
Finding your way takes quite a long trudge.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

Say It Five Times Fast

Twisting your tongue
Among the young
Is a form of play

But when adults misspeak
More than once a week
We question what they say.

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Packaging Versus What's In The Box

When the title is compelling
But the column is boring
We're done in by the selling
Which we should be ignoring.

Friday, June 03, 2022

The Innocence of Youth

When a little boy stomps in a puddle
There is no accompanying intellectual muddle
It's just the thing to do
With his foot in his shoe
Later in bed his Teddy he will cuddle.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Right As Rain

The recent weather forecasts have been off
But who am I to scoff
For when economists predict
It is surely an edict
That some doubting Thomas will cough.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Take A Deep Breath

When plan A has gone off the rails
And all else that's been tried also fails
Then it's time for a smile
And to wait a good while
Reconsidering goals helps to exhale.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The French Open

Tennis when played on clay
Groundstrokes should win the day
But there are always curves
Which amount to nerves
And determination will have its say.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Oh What A Beautiful Morning

Conjuring up the powers to beguile
With the simple aim to make you smile
As the day begins it's very sunny
That should be paired with a bit of funny.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Kids Do Grow Up.....Eventually

When the children become adults
The thing about the results
They want happy p's
So aim to please
And even enjoy the technology consults!

Saturday, May 28, 2022

We Are Descending Beyond A Happy Ending

When the Beast
Has lost his yeast
And Beauty is no more

Then the game
Becomes assigning blame
And pining for Elsinore.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Junk Food Makes ForJunk Ideas

The irrelevant elephant
Made an argument
That was elegant

While the bandito mosquito
Made a chomp
With a Cheeto.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Related and Obligated

The siblings
Began their quibbling
Because there was no appetizer for nibbling.

While the cousins
Of whom there were dozens
Hope the long email simply wasn't.


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

A Simple Way To Enjoy The Day

Starting the day with a treat
A way to keep the disposition sweet
Then a bad joke or two
Before bidding adieu
And you too will feel complete.