Choosing a President: Reconsidered

Exactly one year ago, I wrote about choosing a president for our country. In that piece, I described seven personal qualities of an effective president with the most important being Integrity followed by wisdom, principles, compassion, courage, eloquence, and humility.

IMG_0628That seems like a long time ago, and only two of the 20 candidates in the race at that time remain for our consideration. A handful of other candidates will appear on ballots in some states, districts, and territories of the USA. These additional candidates cannot win, but as certainly happened in 1992 and other years, they could affect the outcome of the election.

Over the course of the campaign, neither of the final two major party candidates earned my respect. Using the personal qualities outlined in my earlier piece as criteria for evaluation, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton represent the least satisfactory of those seeking the office.  It’s almost a sure thing that one of them will take the Oath of Office as President of the United States next January. There is something terribly wrong with the way we nominate and elect a president.

It’s a quandary, a predicament. The Republican candidate is essentially clueless, undisciplined, self-centered or even narcissistic, and seemingly unprepared to be President. The Democrat candidate is dishonest, manipulative, corrupt, incompetent, and in the words of the Director of the FBI, “extremely careless”. I would add, she embraces positions on important issues that are antithetical to our Constitution and to a government of the people. Either way, tomorrow we elect a president considered unsatisfactory by most Americans.

I have close friends, and family that I love deeply, that support or at least intend to vote for each of these imperfect candidates. Those of us who differ on this decision, mostly avoid political discussions. Our strong bonds will continue no matter the outcome of this election, but I’m worried about our nation and its future. It is obvious to me there is anger and even hatred across the country. As we have often seen, some of this finds expression in destructive even murderous behavior.  I lay some of the blame for this at the feet of national leadership, or the lack of it.  Each of us also shares responsibility.

Which outcome will be worse for our country; the media’s predicted Clinton victory or an epic Trump surprise?

On this day before the election, I’m unsure of the outcome, because I’ve grown to distrust just about anyone who reports, writes, or comments for one of the major news organizations. The fact that 50 top newspapers endorsed Mrs. Clinton tells me that Mr. Trump might have a small chance, because apparently only seven percent of us respect journalists and the media’s talking heads. The public opinion polls have their problems as well, and there are too many of them. Averaging their erroneous results only obfuscates the analysis. My skeptical and perhaps cynical side tells me that some of them are pure propaganda and just plain malicious with their distortions.

Like many Floridians, I voted early. So how did I vote? For a time, I considered a write-in for Evan McMullin, but quickly realized, his only possibility of winning would be hindered by my vote for him. McMullin’s opportunity to become our 45th President arises from a tie between Clinton and Trump or neither reaching 270 votes in the electoral college with McMullin winning in Utah. In this scenario, the U.S. House of Representatives would select the next President, and the Senate would choose the Vice President. In Florida, any vote not for Trump reduces McMullin’s nanoparticle of chance for this unimaginable outcome.  But that’s not how I decided on my vote.

It was not a difficult decision for me. The Presidency is much bigger than the person in the office. There is a platform of policy initiatives to pursue, there are thousands of people involved. There is the Congress and the Judiciary to consider. We might elect HRC or DJT to the office, but we get much more. That makes the decision easier, because it’s the resulting executive administration that offers the best outcomes for our future that should earn our votes. Which one will work best with the other branches of government to bring about necessary reforms? Which one will appoint competent people to the judiciary; judges and justices that understand our Constitution and the important rights it is designed to protect? Which one will appoint talented advisors and cabinet officials who believe in a limited federal government and embrace subsidiarity; the idea that the best government is that which is closest to the people it serves? Which Presidency will understand the importance of a strong military and national security?

From my perspective, a Republican Presidency offers the best long-term answers to these questions, and it isn’t even a close call. I voted for Donald Trump, and I have no misgivings.

On the other hand, electing Hillary Clinton would turn the executive branch of our government over to a corrupt Democrat Party. Goodbye Supreme Court! Goodbye affordable and accessible energy! Goodbye 1st and 2nd Amendments as we know them! Goodbye private health care! Goodbye strong military! Goodbye immigration controls! Goodbye right to work laws! Goodbye economy! Goodbye corporate America! Hello socialism! Hello international tensions! Hello high taxes! Hello racial tensions! Hello pay equity! Hello unaffordable minimum wages! Hello hyper-regulations! Hello pay-to-play corruption! Hello chaos!  Hello bimbo eruptions! . . .

Nothing requires me to say that a Trump Presidency is acceptable, just our best choice. Others will disagree, but that’s life.

As a postscript, allow me to offer this message to President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Democrat Party officials, and their media enablers. Republicans are not racist; we are not homophobic; we are not sexists; and we are not stupid. Your extreme demonization of this entire 40 percent of the adult population of our country is more a reflection of your attitudes and ambitions. If you ever want our support, I suggest you might get to know us a little better.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

North to Alaska and Earth’s Wild Journey Through Space and Time

The always effervescent one and I just returned from a memorable trip to Alaska via British Columbia and the Inside Passage. We traveled by plane, train, and automobile, but also by cruise ship, over a period of 19 days seeing many amazing and overwhelming sights. It will require some considerable time and certain discipline to absorb and appreciate all that we experienced, and to recover completely.  Shedding the extra pounds from cruise ship gluttony represents, perhaps, the greatest challenge.


We enjoyed this journey of a lifetime for sure, and we met fascinating naturalists and guides with obvious expertise in so many fields. They told us of human history, they explained changes in the natural environment, and they described the flora and fauna with obvious delight and fascination. These were dedicated professionals and it was a pleasure to hear their stories.

nls_9403We also enjoyed meeting fellow travelers, although I must admit that Nana is more the gregarious one.  I tend toward more solitary introversion, preferring to indulge in hyper-analysis of experiential minutiae. To illustrate this point, I spent much of my time thinking about what I was hearing and seeing.  I especially tried to comprehend the journey of our planet through time and space. I listened carefully to the explanations of the many experts we encountered, but I also tried to understand their perspectives, as well as their motivations. They were good people, every one of them. I only wished that I could engage with them in more depth, but usually surrounded by dozens of fellow travelers, that was not possible.

As those of you who read my offerings on this website know, I believe that our planet is dynamic, always changing as a result of natural forces and as a result of our civilizing activities. You also realize that I am humbled by what I don’t know, and by what science cannot yet discern. I completely reject the idea that humans are the primary cause of changes in our climate that have occurred in my lifetime. In fact, I believe that we render a potentially dangerous natural world much safer as a result of our efforts.

Without exception, the guides who shared their expertise with us on this journey, assume that humans are the primary and only important cause of dangerous changes on our planet. The important word here is “assume” for they don’t appear to know this from extensive study. I would argue that most have not given it much consideration. They read and absorb the common notions, perpetuated by the media and many political leaders, of a “consensus” that does not truly exist, and even if it did, would be meaningless. History is full of consensus-thinking that was wholly ignorant and unencumbered by the facts. They also suffer from confirmation bias, choosing to focus on observations that seem to confirm their assumptions while ignoring other possibilities, turning a blind-eye to contrary observations.

img_3296It is obvious that a majority of the glaciers in Northwest Canada and Alaska are receding while a relative few are advancing. This is not something new. We were handed a brochure illustrating the positions of the glaciers going back to the first records from the Eighteenth Century. We could see the positions of these glaciers in 1750, 1845, 1907, and many other years between and on to the present. It is obvious that the glaciers in this part of the world have been moving back since before the industrial age and before significant contemporary human impact. The present glacial retreat is not accelerating at an unusual rate, and not all glaciers demonstrate the same rates of change. The indigenous peoples who settled in Glacier Bay many hundreds of years ago, for example, experienced both advancing and receding glaciers at rates even greater than seen in modern times.

For context, we must realize that we live in an ice age, named by scientists as the Pleistocene, which is characterized by periods of extensive and perpetual glaciation over the continents. In all of Earth’s history, there have been probably four or five such great ice ages, and each one is unique. The Pleistocene ice age goes back about 2.5 million years. The accepted age of the planet is 4.6 billion years, so the Pleistocene is but a small fraction of the age of the Earth. To understand the expanse of time involved, imagine that the age of the Earth could be described as one year, then the Pleistocene would represent about four hours of that year.

During the Pleistocene there have been numerous periods in which the glaciers advanced, interspersed with time periods known as interglacials during which the Earth’s glaciers generally receded and covered less of the continents. All of these time periods, the ice ages as well as the glacial and interglacial periods, have been shown to relate to changes in the position and motions of the Earth in the solar system and relative to the galactic plane.  Many other factors act on longer time scales such as plate tectonics, changes affecting the positions and extent of continental land masses and oceanic basins.

Human flourishing and the resulting migrations out of Africa track back several hundred thousand years, during interglacials as well as in times of a glacial maxima when mile-thick ice sheets covered most of the continents in the Northern Hemisphere. All of human civilization has come into existence during the current interglacial, known as the Holocene, which scientists mark as beginning about 12,000 years ago.

All through the Holocene, glaciers have generally receded, ice sheets have melted, and sea level has risen by several hundred feet. At the same time, land that had been covered by massive ice sheets continues to undergo isostatic rebound at measurable rates, measured in inches per year in some places like around the Great Lakes in North America. The Holocene has also brought changes in the atmosphere including a steady rise in carbon dioxide.  The rate of change has not accelerated in recent times. Much of this carbon dioxide seems to come from the oceans which have been generally warming for at least 12 thousand years. Remember that the oceans cover more than seventy percent of the surface of our planet. There are active rift zones, 40 thousand miles of them, and hot spots on the ocean floor releasing enormous quantities of carbon dioxide, other gases, and heat into the oceans.

During the Holocene, the Earth has been warmer than present, and other times when it has been relatively cooler. The warmer times include the Minoan, Roman, and Medieval Warm Periods, all of which were warmer than the so-called Modern Warm Period. Since around 1750 to 1800 the Earth has been warming, coming out of the coolest episode of the Holocene, commonly known as the “Little Ice Age”.

Greenland Ice Core Temperature and CO2 11000 BP

All over the Earth, there are hundreds of thousands of glaciers, some advancing, some retreating, but most do both over time. There are many reasons why this happens, and temperature is only one of many causes. Changes in precipitation, amount and type, make a huge difference, and these changes more likely result when prevailing wind patterns shift coupled with quasi-cyclic ocean currents. This is definitely the case in Alaska and this part of the world.

Glacier Bay, College Fiord, and Portage Lake are beautiful places in Alaska filled with ice and water that shaped and will continue to shape the landscape over the coming centuries and millennia. The magnitude of the landscape is incomprehensible. We could see and hear the thunderous calving of the oddly blue glaciers. I separate “see” and “hear” because they reach our eyes and ears at different times. We observed these enormous rivers of ice from a safe distance. I was so in awe of this whole experience, that I snapped over 2,500 digital images trying to capture the incomprehensible.


nls_9277Toward the end of our journey, on our last excursion, our naturalist guide announced to our group of travelers, as he probably announced to hundreds or even thousands of other similar groups during his career, that Alaska has experienced a seven-degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature over the past 30 years as a result of global warming.  He joked, somewhat seriously, that this was caused by our driving of SUV’s and other vehicles. Ironically, this was on a bus trip to Denali, one of the wildest and least impacted places in the world. At the next scenic stop, I took him aside and showed him the official Alaska temperature record from NOAA which I had saved on my iPhone. He looked somewhat bewildered and muttered something to himself that sounded like, “I’ll have to look into that.”

Yes, he should. You see, over the past century, there is no measurable increase in the average temperature of Alaska as recorded and documented by scientists. There is tremendous variation in temperature and precipitation from year to year.  Surprisingly, the coldest year on record in Alaska was 2012.img_0893

Temperature change is not the reason the glaciers are receding in this beautiful place, it is snowing and raining less at this time in history, but this too shall pass. This well-meaning naturalist was just repeating the talking points he had learned from his teachers, who had learned it from others. This is how ignorance is spread, and this is how nations and their leaders go blindly forward like lemmings over a cliff.

Just as my life partner of 40 years and I enjoyed this unique journey, so it is also true that the Earth, our home in this universe, is on a journey of discovery, an ever-changing trip through time and space. It is a wild journey difficult if not impossible for us to understand or even appreciate.

My message is simple, be humble in all that you know. Nothing is more dangerous and threatening to our future than the marriage of ignorance and arrogance.


Posted in Climate Science, Human Behavior, Media, Musings, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Excellent Book: “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels”

Alex Epstein is the founder of the Center for Industrial Progress. In 2014 he published a New York Times Bestseller titled The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. He is a featured speaker at many colleges and universities, and appears regularly on television and radio talking about his book and his organization. He also hosts a regularly available podcast, The Power Hour, on which he interviews experts from a wide range of social, economic, and scientific disciplines.

Moral Case for Fossil Fuels - Book Cover ImageI found his book enlightening and well worth my time.  It is well documented and readable, regardless of your background or expertise.

This past April, he testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.  His interchange with Senator Barbara Boxer is noteworthy, and quite entertaining, if you are not a fan of the California Senator.

In a recent podcast he mentioned that he had written a two-page synopsis of his book, and he asked that it be shared widely in the hope that many others could understand its thesis. It is presented below in its entirety, but with some modifications to formatting. Additional information can be found on the Website of the Center for Industrial Progress.

The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels — What it is and why it matters

By Alex Epstein, founder, Center for Industrial Progress

How to think about our energy future

Is humanity’s continuing—and expanding—use of fossil fuels a moral choice or an immoral choice? To answer this question, we need to be clear on our standard of value—our metric of good and bad—in energy and environmental issues.

At the Center for Industrial Progress, we reject the common standard of minimizing human impact. Our standard of value is: maximizing human flourishing.

To discover what will maximize human flourishing we must think full context—we must carefully look at the benefits, risks, and side effects of all our alternatives. We reject the common method of thinking out-of-context.

Thus, when we consider fossil fuels, we do not write them off as bad because they cause some man-made CO2 and some man-made warming. We look carefully at the full context of their potential impacts on human flourishing now and in the future.

Fossil fuels & human flourishing: the benefits

The unmet need for cheap, plentiful, reliable energy:

  • There are 7 billion people in the world who need cheap, plentiful, reliable energy to flourish. Some 3 billion have virtually no energy by our standards, which means we need vastly more energy.
  • It is extremely difficult to produce cheap, plentiful, reliable energy. In the entire history of humanity, only three industries have achieved this on any scale: the hydrocarbon (fossil fuel) industry, the nuclear industry, and the hydroelectric power industry.

The unique ability of the fossil fuel industry to meet our energy needs:

  • The fossil fuel industry produces over 80% of the world’s power because it is the only industry that has figured out how to produce cheap, plentiful, reliable energy for electricity, transportation, and heating on a scale of billions.
  • Since the energy industry is the industry that powers every other industry, the fossil fuel industry increases productivity and prosperity in every area of life, from agriculture (diesel-powered farm equipment) to hospitals (24/7 electricity).
  • The only industries that can meaningfully supplement fossil fuel energy are the nuclear and hydroelectric industries, which are widely opposed by environmentalists. Even without this opposition fossil fuels would still be irreplaceable for decades to come. Hydro is limited by lack of suitable locations. Nuclear has the long-term potential to expand greatly, but is many decades away from scaling to the level of billions.
  • For these reasons, any restriction on fossil fuel use would do devastating damage. This must be factored into all policy debates over restricting fossil fuels to reduce CO2 or other byproducts.

Fossil fuels & human flourishing: environmental concerns

The number one environmental concern: climate impacts.

To assess the climate-related impacts of fossil fuel use, we have to carefully assess the consequences to human flourishing of 1) the warming impact of CO2, 2) the fertilizing effect of CO2, 3) the protecting effect of affordable energy for all climate danger.

The warming impact of CO2 is mild and quite possibly positive–in no way does it justify restricting fossil fuel use whatsoever.

  • It is a proven but little-known fact that the greenhouse effect of CO2 is a diminishing, logarithmic effect; each molecule of CO2 warms less than the last.
  • The belief that increases in CO2 will cause runaway warming are based on speculative climate dynamics represented in models that have utterly failed to predict climate.
  • Global average temperatures and CO2 levels are near all-time lows from a geological perspective; today’s CO2 levels are an estimated 1/20th their all-time high (a highly fertile period).
  • Warming is almost universally desired among civilizations, with cold-related deaths dramatically greater than heat-related deaths. In general, life thrives under warmer conditions.

The widely-ignored fertilizing effect of CO2 is significant and positive, yet ignored; a proper energy and environmental discussion must take it into account.

  • Increasing CO2 levels is a proven driver of plant growth, which is why greenhouses contain 3 times as much CO2 as our atmosphere.
  • Satellite data show dramatic increases in plant growth in uninhabited locations as CO2 levels have increased over the past several decades.
  • Increased CO2 has also contributed significantly to crop yields and helped millions avoid malnutrition or starvation.

The widely-ignored protecting effect of fossil fuels is spectacularly positive; it has helped us take the inherently dangerous climate and make it far safer than it has ever been.

  • While the climate debate treats the global climate system as naturally stable and safe, it is in fact naturally volatile and vicious. Climate safety requires climate protection through development and technology–both of which are fueled by affordable energy.
  • The international disaster database, which tracks climate-related deaths–including deaths from flood, droughts, extreme heat, extreme cold, storms, and wildfires–shows a 98% decrease in the rate of climate-related deaths since significant CO2 emissions began 80 years ago.
  • Fossil fuel use doesn’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous, it takes a dangerous climate and makes it safe.

For a full analysis of the environmental impacts of fossil fuels, including air, water, and resource impacts, see the book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.

Help change the conversation

If we truly look at fossil fuel energy by the standard of human flourishing, we discover that it is not an immoral product we need to restrict but a moral product we need to liberate, just as we need to liberate other persecuted sources of energy such as nuclear power and hydroelectric power. Our society’s lack of a clear, pro-human, full-context framework for thinking about energy is leading to disastrous, anti-fossil-fuel, antinuclear, anti-hydro policy decisions that are already harming millions and will harm billions.

A fast, easy way to make an impact is to share this document with your friends, family, coworkers, favorite commentators, and elected officials. Go to to get a PDF to share with others.

About the author: Alex Epstein, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress, is a humanist philosopher who seeks to identify the full context of industrial and environmental controversies. His New York Times bestseller The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels has been widely praised as the most persuasive argument ever made against climate catastrophism, and led The McLaughlin Group to name Epstein the most original thinker of 2014.

Posted in Climate Science, Energy, Human Behavior, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Greatest Crisis Facing Humankind?

img_0352.jpgIn less than two weeks 40,000 alarmed world leaders, scientists, journalists, and apprehensive observers gather in Paris to deal with the greatest crisis facing humankind, perhaps the most significant challenge since the dawn of civilization some ten millennia in our past.  The almost seven billion of us not attending this United Nations conference can only watch with concerned anticipation as these wise and courageous world leaders forge an international agreement to combat . . . climate change?

A conference attended by so many people is a big deal. And they want to combat . . . climate change, not relatively minor irritants such as ISIS, world poverty, and oppression. They want to stop the climate from changing. After all, if the climate stops changing, ISIS will go away and leave us alone, no more storms and severe weather, no floods, no droughts, the Arctic ice will thankfully persist saving the polar bears, and all our other catastrophes and calamities will magically disappear or at least diminish forever.

They promise a fascinating agreement. It will stop the oceans from rising, freeze the earth’s tectonic plates in position, and nudge our orbit into a perfect circle instead of its current problematic oblonginess.  The anticipated plan will offer much relief from the consequences of a terribly tilted axis causing our wonderful planet to wobble unrelentingly as it rotates causing ocean currents to act chaotically and without remorse. And then they will tackle the sun, our variable star, whose light and heat seems so unpredictable. Some summers are too hot and some winters are too cold, there is too much snow, not enough ice, and all the springs are below average.

Of course the real culprit is “carbon pollution” and it will be mercilessly eliminated, or at least contained. And we’re not talking about ordinary harmless soot. These dedicated public servants promise to halt the rising threat of carbon dioxide, a poison unfathomable as a danger to modern civilization. Something must be done about this horrific gas. It was only 50 years ago that we began to monitor its increasing concentration in our otherwise pristine atmosphere.   To our horror, we discovered the incredible harm we were doing by burning dung, wood, coal, oil, and gas all these years, not realizing that we were adding this ghastly pollution to our atmosphere. Not realizing that Miami Beach might face tragic erosion and eventual submersion if something isn’t done and soon. What a calamity!

Rest easy citizens of the world. These faithful public servants promise a world safe from these sins and impulses of man and nature. They will save us from ourselves. Only they possess the wisdom to combat . . . climate change.

Posted in Climate Science, Education, Human Behavior, Media, Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Assessing the Presidential Debates, and the Candidates

White HouseEach of us forms our own notions about these Democrat and Republican presidential debates. Frankly, I don’t spend any time thinking about which debate, CNN, CNBC, FBN, FOX, or others to come, is best. That is a subjective question that has no right or wrong answer. We can argue about that for hours, because there are no determinate metrics.

Chris Cillizza in his Washington Post column today, offered his assessment decrying the recent Fox Business News, FBN, debate. In his article he stated two purposes for these debates: to learn something new and to put the candidates out of their comfort zone. He then added a third, to see how they think.  Because in his opinion the candidates were rarely put on the spot, he criticized the debate as unsuccessful.  Obviously, he wants to see Republican candidates “put on the spot.”

Most of us, including most professional journalists, are vulnerable to confirmation bias. According to an article published in the Washington Times on November 8, 2015, an amazing 93 percent of journalists within the Washington Beltway and also in New York City are Democrats.  When they donate to political campaigns, they contribute exclusively to the Democrat party and its candidates.

We all tend to see and affirm what we want to see and affirm, but we often ignore or at least discount that which runs counter to our previous judgments.  Remember this when you consider the opinions of these pundits.

Many of the reporters, editorial writers, and talking heads of the national newspapers, magazines, and networks criticize candidates for not offering detailed policy proposals.  Again, is this important for voters to know, or for the pundits as fodder for them to chew and digest, only to be regurgitated when strategically advantageous?

I decide who I’m supporting based upon each candidate’s demonstrated and apparent principles and which policy initiatives are a priority.  The details of those policies are unimportant to me during a campaign, precisely because an effective president is going to listen to the people, and then work with Congress, important stakeholders, and knowledgeable experts in order to forge appropriate legislative proposals.  Developing detailed policy statements during a campaign demonstrates a certain authoritarian impulse derived from arrogance.  There is a danger these politically motivated prescriptions might commit a president to act incorrectly once in office, following through on a campaign commitment in order to avoid criticism and to appear consistent, even if detrimental to the country.

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.  [Proverbs 16:18 King James Version (KJV)]

Do these candidates believe they can bypass Congress, just because what they propose in a campaign might be popular with their supporters?  Don’t they realize that a President serves the entire nation, not just those who support them with their votes?

Most importantly, how well a candidate performs in a debate tells us very little about their potential to be an excellent President of the United States.  Sure, it tells us something, but not nearly enough. I’m looking at the candidates and trying to judge their integrity and wisdom. I want to know if they have principles and the courage of their convictions. Are they compassionate and eloquent? Finally, I want a president who has some humility. This is an obvious indicator of their tendency to listen to the voices of the people, as well as their advisors. It is an indication of their tendency to weigh their options carefully, without the arrogance that often hides ignorance. To the extent that presidential debates allow me to discover these qualities, they are helpful, but definitely not sufficient.

Posted in Media, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kim Davis, the Kentucky Clerk and Marriage v. Marriage

Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk, is confused. No wonder! The Supreme Court confused the entire country with their recent marriage ruling. As I wrote one year ago in Marriage v. Marriage, the institution we call marriage is two different things. The government now defines marriage as a legal relationship of two individuals regardless of their gender which affords them certain government and commercial entitlements. On the other hand, various religions define marriage according to their faith and scripture. A couple married in a church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or some other facility by an official of that religion is subject to the benefits and restrictions of their particular faith. Marriage authorized by a government is not the same as marriage authorized by a religious entity. Unfortunately, we now use the same word for both.  Traditionally, most marriages were of both kinds: we get a license from our county, and then we get married in a manner sanctioned by our faith.

The Kentucky clerk apparently believes that her office authorizes marriages that fit the religious definition in accordance with her own particular religious beliefs. She is sadly mistaken. When she signs or allows her name to appear on a county marriage license, all she is doing is certifying that the two individuals, regardless of their gender, meet the legal qualifications for that license. She is doing this so they can enjoy a legal and secular status that accrues various government benefits and limitations. The couple’s private life together is absolutely none of her business and definitely not the concern of any government. The couple’s religious beliefs should not trouble her.  She is a government official whose authority is prescribed by statute, not by the Bible.  She is not responsible for their behavior or lifestyle, and her actions neither condone nor sanction their future relationship.

It will be interesting when two people, perhaps two women or two men, apply for a marriage license in order to file a joint tax return or set up a home together for financial reasons. They know that being married entitles them to certain benefits otherwise unavailable. The marriage license authorized by the county and state has nothing to do with their sexual behavior or any possible romantic connection, whatsoever. Under the ruling of the Supreme Court, they may get married. No county clerk is going to ask them what kind of physical or emotional relationship they have or intend to have in the future. That is not the business of government.  I’m sure there are marriages of convenience between men and women that have nothing to do with romance or sex. We don’t ask these people to certify their intended private sex lives before we give them a county issued marriage license.

Kim Davis is acting as if she were authorizing a religious marriage. She is not!  As an elected representative of the people, she should comply with the responsibilities of her office, and those responsibilities do not conflict with her religion in anyway.  If a couple who receives a marriage license from her subsequently behaves in a manner that she would not approve, it is none of her business, and it is definitely not her fault.  She is confused about her role.

Although, the media and the LGBT community celebrated the Supreme Court ruling as a victory for homosexuals, in fact it allows any two people to get married and married (duplication intended) regardless of their relationship or lifestyle.  There are many pragmatic reasons why two people may choose to be married under the government’s authority.

Posted in Human Behavior, Musings, Politics, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Choosing a President of the United States of America

At last count, twenty individuals have formally declared their intentions to seek the office of President of the United States of America.  Each of these men and women is stating a case to the people of our great country.  Each candidate is demonstrating to us why we should support his or her candidacy by casting our precious vote in the 2016 election.


This will be the fourteenth presidential election in which I have been eligible to vote. I am proud to say that I’ve voted in each of the previous thirteen. I’ve voted for the winner seven times, and the loser six times. In other words, I’ve been with the plurality 54 percent of the time.

Each of the two major political parties is now beginning the process of selecting a nominee. A series of primary election contests leads up to formal nominating conventions of the Democrats and Republicans held in the summer of 2016 at which time party officials will decide who they believe will be the best person to represent their interests. We the people have been invited to participate in this nomination process and in the general election that follows.

What qualities or personal character traits do we consider when choosing a President?

To be frank, the election process is totally subjective and somewhat irrational. So much so that I’m amazed that our country has survived and even prospered since George Washington assumed the office 226 years ago. Fortunately, the Founders recognized their own limitations, as well as the inability of ordinary people to objectively decide for whom they should cast their vote. They created a durable system of governance in which no single person or group could gain enough power for long enough to do great harm. We are truly a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and the selection of a person to lead the executive branch of this government results from our collective decision, as crazy as it may seem.

The irrational nature of the process is demonstrated in the absurd assumption that our collective ignorance averages out as an intelligent choice. Think of that for a moment. In the most recent presidential election, approximately 136 million votes were cast. How informed were these voters? What information did they have? How objective was that information? Where did they get their information? How did they decide? See what I mean?

How do people decide how to cast their vote? Some vote out of loyalty to a particular political party. Others follow the advice of various special interest groups to which they belong such as unions, churches, and countless organizations and associations. Many voters pay attention to the advice of so-called experts, including newspaper editorials, radio talk show hosts, and partisan spokespersons. I’ve observed that some listen to a close friend or family member they trust or not, and decide how to vote, or how not to vote.   I’m sure there are people who just flip a coin, or decide when they stare at the names on the ballot without any consideration beyond what name they like best, or which one is listed first or last on the ballot. Of course, many people do not vote which is their right. Why should someone vote if they don’t know the candidates? Why should we want these people to vote?

Even politically focused junkies who follow the nomination process very closely will make different decisions. No one knows the absolute best candidate, because no one can predict the future, or the circumstances that will challenge and possibly overwhelm our next president. Nevertheless, I’ve identified seven qualities that I believe we should consider. These have nothing to do with political party affiliation or policy positions. These are personal character traits that would make a great world leader and a remarkable President for our country.  They follow in order of increasing importance.

Humility – It is important to know oneself, to understand one’s own limitations, and to appreciate the extraordinary potential of other voices and ideas. Effective leaders surround themselves with excellent people, and they are good listeners. They readily give credit when it is deserved. They deflect attention away from themselves recognizing the value of teamwork, everyone having something important to contribute.

Eloquence – Presidents who have the ability to communicate their ideas are more likely to earn our respect and our commitment. They possess the wonderful ability to explain the challenges facing the nation in a way that gets our attention and ensures our collective understanding. We may not always agree, but at least we understand. That understanding encourages meaningful and constructive dialogue. We know the President’s thinking on the great issues we face. Sometimes there are no good choices, and an excellent leader helps us to know what needs to be done, what is the best course of action.

Courage – Effective leaders exhibit the courage of their convictions. They consider the voices of the people, they consider the recommendations from their advisors, but they decide what is right and in the best interest of the country for the long-term. They reject populist impulses, just to be popular. If the right course of action is unpopular, they explain their reasoning. They are not afraid of pressure groups and they recognize the people elected them to be leaders, not followers of popular opinion or political expedience.

Compassion – Strong leaders care about people from all walks of life. They genuinely strive to find solutions that will resolve difficult problems and improve the lives of all people. They do this without regard for political benefits that might accrue to themselves or others in their immediate circle. They are focused on the important issues of the day, and are genuinely troubled by our failings to mitigate society’s calamities. They are tireless in their efforts to streamline government’s response, to render more effective aid and comfort to those in need or turmoil.

Principles – We want a President who has an ideological framework, a moral compass, and a thorough commitment to the heritage and founding principles of the United States of America. We want a President who understands the underlying philosophy behind the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is important that the President guarantee the continuing development of our nation and the prosperity of the people.

Wisdom – Intelligence is essential in an effective leader and a President, but wisdom is the ability to use those gifts to make good decisions. Wise leaders anticipate the future and they anticipate the consequences of their decisions and actions.  They consider alternatives and use rational methods to ascertain their relative viability. Wise leaders are not swayed by false prophets nor by populist purveyors. They understand people and the infinite complexity of social systems. They take appropriate action when time demands it. They are decisive and thoughtful.  They do what is right and smart.

Integrity – The most important quality of a President is integrity. This is beyond honesty for truth rises above human discourse. Integrity is in the heart and soul.  It guides them, it gives them strength and conviction. We want a President who tells us what they believe, without concern for political correctness. Presidents with integrity are absolutely immune to conflicts of interest. They place the rights of the people foremost in their thinking, and they never attack others for purposes of self-aggrandizement. Integrity is the foremost quality. Never vote for a candidate for President who does not tell the truth and who is morally insecure and vulnerable. Nothing surpasses integrity as a quality we should expect from the leader of our nation and the leader of the free world.

Posted in Human Behavior, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Dangerous Ignoratti

While walking the dog this morning, my rather undisciplined mind stumbled over a surprising insight. It came to me, out of the blue so to speak, that there are really two definitions of ignorance: 1) lack of knowledge and 2) refusal to learn. We can be truly ignorant if we refuse to open our minds to possibilities, no matter how much we think we know. I’ve written before about the unfortunate marriage of arrogance and ignorance illustrated by so-called experts dripping with condescension as they discount, deride, and ridicule anyone who dares to challenge their authority.

So there are two dimensions of ignorance, one measured by how much knowledge we possess, and the other measured by whether we are open or closed-minded. This leads to four possible categories of people. I will choose to use these categories and their labels in the future when it is helpful. Yes, I’m retaliating against those who drip or hose their condescension on others. I’m tired of being bullied by the know-it-alls who really do not know enough.

On almost any subject each of us possess some knowledge. We fall somewhere along a continuum from uninformed to informed. For the sake of argument, let’s arbitrarily divide the world into those who are knowledgeable on a subject and those who are not. Likewise, each of us might be described as open or closed-minded to some degree about almost any idea. Someone who is open to other ideas might be considered as humble, in that they appreciate their own fallibility. On the other hand, someone who refuses to listen to any alternatives might be considered to be rather arrogant.  Using these definitions, we arrive at four kinds of people: knowledgeable and open-minded, knowledgeable but closed-minded, not knowledgeable but open-minded, and not knowledgeable and closed-minded.

Arrogance and Ignorance Matrix

Most of us fall into the normal quadrant. We do not consider ourselves to be experts on most subjects, but we are willing to learn and appreciate new understanding. We recognize and respect intelligent people who seem to know a great deal and who we recognize for their knowledge. I believe they earn that status by their open-mindedness and their humility. No matter how much they know, they are very aware of how much they still have to learn.

Unfortunately, there are some in any society who are uninformed and unwilling to learn. They hold onto superstitions and false notions with a very tight grip. They do not listen, they do not read, they go through life without appreciating the many possibilities that exist. I cannot think of a kind word for those who fit this description, so I reluctantly call them stupid. I have some hope for these people because they can be salvaged through enlightened education. They just don’t know better. Perhaps they have not had many opportunities in their lives.

I’ve saved the worst kind of person for last. I call them the ignoratti. They are usually well-educated and often considered as experts. Unfortunately, their arrogance hides their true limitations, in their own fields as well as other fields of knowledge well beyond their expertise. They are the insufferable fools. They use ad hominem attacks toward anyone who disagrees with them. They are condescending and derisive, discounting anyone who dares to challenge them. They may possess advanced degrees from the finest institutions of higher learning, they may have studied and published copiously, but they just don’t accept the proposition that they might be wrong. These are the most dangerous people in any society.

Posted in Human Behavior, Musings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

God and Science

img_0352.jpgThroughout my life, I’ve engaged in considerable thought about God. Admittedly, more thought than careful study. I have no formal theological preparation, unless you count 72 years as a baptized and confirmed, fairly regular church-attending member of several Episcopal Churches, having taught Sunday school and serving as senior warden of the vestry.   With due humility, I don’t consider this life experience to be a formal preparation for any learned discussion of religion. I am no religious scholar, not even close.

Like many of my friends and family, I do delight in certain passages in the Bible, but if asked to quote them, I’d struggle to paraphrase, having never made much of an effort to commit them to memory. My offerings would spring from at least three different translations of the Good Book mixed with my own unencumbered interpretation. For this reason, I usually avoid quoting scripture.

In the Old Testament, I marvel at the wisdom in the Proverbs and the Psalms. Having been raised in a Christian home, the teachings of Jesus Christ provide an essential framework for my own faith and for my life. Here is my favorite lesson carefully copied word for word from the King James Version.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.  Matthew 22:37-40.

It doesn’t matter what religion claims your allegiance, or if you don’t belong to any. It doesn’t even matter if you are an atheist who devoutly denies the existence of any divinity. This beautiful sentiment, expressing an infinite love and trust in a greater good combined with a deeply felt respect and love for every human being, including yourself, represents an inspired teaching we should all strive to follow. It further directs us to use all of our heart, soul, and mind. In other words to embrace new understanding, new knowledge, new discoveries, and greater wisdom.

Another favorite passage is also from Matthew as written in the King James Version.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16.

We are told to let our light shine, in other words to seek greater wisdom and use it. Wisdom comes from greater knowledge and good works usually result from such enlightenment.   I interpret this passage as our license to seek to understand the natural universe and to teach others what we have learned. I see this passage as divine authority for science and for lifelong learning. These passages are directing us, all of us regardless of our religious faith or tradition, to seek greater understanding of our natural universe, our humanity, our history, our technology, and even our ability to learn.  I believe that God intends us to learn as we live our lives, and to pass on what we learn to succeeding generations.  In this manner, humanity grows more enlightened and more prosperous.

My formal education focused on the sciences, although I would never consider myself a scientist. I am an educator, although now retired from that profession. Perhaps this website is proof that I’m still engaged in teaching and learning. My feathers ruffle whenever I detect unchallenged ignorance, especially when it is used maliciously or dishonestly. I’m profoundly embarrassed when I see it in a mirror, figuratively.

My love of God grows stronger, the more I learn about life and the cosmos. Early in my studies, I realized there was no end to knowledge. No matter how much we know, we are no closer to knowing everything. In truth, that false objective moves further away with each epiphany. Knowledge of our natural universe is an infinite realm, but with no restriction to its access but our curiosity and our imagination.

There is no conflict between God and science. God gives us free-will. With that comes inspiration and joy but also great dangers and even death. It is this gift of wisdom that helps us pursue the former and the courage to face the latter. We should never fear learning wherever our curiosity and our responsibilities lead us. Science is just one human endeavor that helps us better understand our existence. It is using all of our minds to allow our light to shine wherever it may enlighten us or others in our lives.

Those who attempt to use the methods of science or the knowledge gained from its practice to prove or even to disprove the existence of God are making a serious mistake. They place science above God. Natural laws appear to govern our physical reality, but where do they come from? What is beyond our universe? We have no idea! Our laws of nature and the universe do not apply in such a realm. Even such cosmological notions as the Big Bang prove this point. Our two great scientific frameworks come into irreconcilable conflict as this idea is conceived. In fact, time itself fails to exist at the instant we describe as the Big Bang. To ask what comes before it, is to ask what comes before time itself, a meaningless question.

What if God is life? What if God is Love? What if God is the perfect good? Or all of these and more? These questions exist in our minds, but they are not answered by scientific exploration. What if God is present in all times and in all places? Again, such an idea is beyond our comprehension, for we are not present in all times and in all places. I’m not saying that science should not try to understand life, love, and a perfect good, but Science is not capable of finding God by its limited methods. God’s realm is beyond the experience of mere mortals and of their science.

Truly religious people should not fear science, although they should remain wary of scientists who believe they are greater than God. And all of us should be equally concerned about religious people who refuse to learn or accept new knowledge, for they are not obeying the commandments of the God they say they love and trust.

As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In my opinion, happiness is most enjoyed when we are learning, and when we are free to learn. This includes our pursuit of greater scientific understanding of our natural universe. Thank God for science and for our ability to comprehend its glorious discoveries.

Posted in Biographical, Education, Musings, Religion | Tagged | Leave a comment

Dr. Ben Carson is the Actual Winner of Recent Quinnipiac Poll

Earlier this week, Quinnipiac University released its latest poll of the Republicans seeking the nomination for President of the United States. There are many ways to look at this or any poll, but this one was interesting because of a second question in the survey that asked who would definitely not be supported. Donald Trump was the winner in the first question but the biggest loser in the second. In other words, he enjoys the most support as the favorite candidate, but also carries the most baggage as the candidate who is least likely to be supported as the nominee.

Unfortunately, this seemingly paradoxical result merited little comment from the various political analysts who weighed in on this most recent national poll. Looking at the numbers in another way, you arrive at the conclusion that Dr. Ben Carson is actually the most preferred candidate in the field with the least baggage at this early stage of the election.

The media generally focused on the percent of those polled who preferred each candidate. Donald Trump easily led with 28 percent, followed by Dr. Ben Carson with 12 percent, followed by Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio rounding out the top five with 7 percent each. But Donald Trump also led with 26 percent saying they would definitely not support him as the nominee of the party. In other words, only 74 percent would support him. By contrast, all the other candidates were more acceptable with Dr. Carson enjoying the support of 95 percent of those who responded to this question.

I decided to look at the poll results in three ways. How does each candidate rank as the first choice? How does each candidate rank on the support question? How does each candidate rank when the percentages of preference and support are combined?

By combining the results of these three questions, I developed a Support Preference Index (SPI) which is a measure of how close a candidate is to being ranked first using all three calculations.  The top five candidates (rankings in parentheses) using this analysis are:

  1. Dr. Ben Carson (2, 1, 1)
  2. Mr. Marco Rubio (4, 3, 3)
  3. Mr. Scott Walker (6, 3, 5)
  4. Mr. Ted Cruz (4, 6, 5)
  5. Ms. Carly Fiorina (7, 3, 6)


As stated, there are many ways to manipulate numbers, but if you are interested in who enjoys the most support and has the least baggage among the seventeen candidates, this is one way of answering the question.  Its early in the nomination process.  I wonder how this will change over the next year.

Update 8/28/2015:

Here is the spreadsheet to show the calculations used in this analysis.

Spreadsheet - Poll Rankings Combined - 20150828

Posted in Media, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment