Friday, December 31, 2010


                                                                                                                            Edmund Burke

The question above is unanswerable in absolute terms, for it is based on a value judgment and on values.  One part is judging the value of a life of another, from our own perspective.  The other side is about what values we will fight for and what do we value, such as freedom and/or freedom for others. 

Much of mankind has learned the value of cooperation with others.  They have formed codes of "morality" designed to preserve the communities.  Morality as an imposed value has worked more than it has not  worked.  But those who think more deeply about it find that they must harken back to asking whether the  moral value or rule is still workable and ethical. 

I know that if I am being threatened directly by armed men and am trapped, I will fight for my life.

But will I fight for another person's life?  No, I won't, unless it serves in some way my selfish purposes and saving my own life because of us all fighting together. 

Surely, I must defend against my being harmed physically.  As a people, we must fight to protect ourselves against such harm. 

But when it goes further out to the more abstract level, what is the right thing to do?

Most people will say attacking the Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan made sense.  Beyond that, there is a debate. 

Iraq was a stretch, but what were we to do once we discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction?  Were the world leaders who projected that Saddam Hussein would create weapons of mass destruction if allowed to continue  to defy the international inspectors?  Who knows.  Perhaps they were right.   People's lives were lost.  Our soldiers' lives were lost - was  it worth  it to lose those lives, which we surely valued more than a foreigner's life?  Was it worth losing Iraqi lives? 

How can the worth be measured? 

Happiness  (or reduction of misery)  is  difficult to measure.  So, in a global sense, the best measure might be lives saved that would have  been otherwise lost.  Though it is a guess, a reasonable guess will give us an answer to this.

"The result: 138 Iraqis and other Arabs killed per day, and 497 refugees created. That is what we're stopping in Iraq.", NoBody Count .  Saddam Hussein's Iraq was directly responsible for 1.26 million Iraqis and other Arabs deaths and for 4.54 million refugees.  We can't quantify the number of deaths resulting from displacement and worsening of conditions to live.  The current war has saved over 400,000 lives on an estimated basis that would have been lost due to Hussein - plus whatever other lives would have been lost due to terrorists that have been eliminated.  (The above reference was included in the comprehensive Iraq war coverage by MarkHumphrys/Iraq., in which the weird, unsound estimates have been logically addressed, with facts to back them up.)

There is clearly no doubt that the net benefit to the world of this was high. 

And, still, there is the question of whether it was worth the lives of American troops, in terms of themselves and the effect on their families.  There is no way to determine that from their viewpoint.  The world did, however, benefit and mankind did, so in terms of theoretical ethics "the greater good for the people involved" was accomplished. 

Still, I am saddened by it all.  But that is the level of our world so far.  The real question is what can we do about it that is a quantum leap forward, but without losing lives!!!!

The Rational Problem Solver

For this and related questions and discussions link into Peace And Saved Lives - What Urgency Is There?  
Whatever the conclusion is.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Healthcare Bill For 9/11 First Responders

The Republicans have set themselves up to look cruel and heartless, while they are actually behind providing special health care benefits to first responders to cover the bad effects of inhaling particles and of being on the site.  Each one who I've seen asked the specific question about what they want responds to say that they want to do the compassionate thing for those "heroes".

Yet they sound like they are on the opposite side.  They are so intent on doing the process rightly and with  the proper economics that they only talk as if they are trying to block the bill, period.

But I note that they are only asking for the opportunity to ask questions and to go through the normal process involved in creating something that works and is cost efficient.  Apparently those who have studied it are struck with its inefficiency in providing the benefits.  And they are also pointing out that the Democrats are violating their own "pay as you go" policy, as the Dems have not reduced expenses elsewhere but only raised taxes in what they refer to as "closing a tax loophole" (not actually correct, as it passes additional costs on to Americans ultimately, so it is the equivalent of an extra tax and not a spending reduction).  

The Republicans are objecting to the tendency of trying to jam through legislation without everybody understanding it, just so the Dems can "get it done."  The most prominent example of this was in Nancy Pelosi urging to just pass the big health care bill without reading, one of her most famous statements: “... we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."

The Democrats have passed some historic and beneficial bills, but they seems to have gotten so used to ramrodding it that they might have lost the "centering" and proper considering that is required to do a good job (as did the Republicans when they had power). 

But now it is time to go back to proper process - and to see that neither party is an ogre, but are just people with a different way of doing things, but with good motivation to do the right thing. 

I vote for what is the "proper" "thinking" way.  And I urge the Republicans to make it known that they care also. 

The Rational Problem Solver

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Educaton And Charter Schools

Yes, I realize that there is a strong lobby of the teacher's unions to keep the status quo at public schools.  But the public interest is in having a much better education for the students.  And, if teachers are qualified, tthey need not be protected from losing their jobs as they can work with the charter schools. 

The charter schools will take the same fees and costs that are paid for each student in the public schools and provide better education, using the efficiencies and motivation of private business to solve problems better than government. 

Other than special interests, is there any reason not to take the much better education?  Are we willing to compromise at such a great cost: the loss for a lifetime of lower quality education?

Now is the time to stop settling for mediocrity and let's get our education up there so that each student stands a better chance for a good future and so that the U.S. stays productive.  The types of jobs that will be available in the US are the high knowledge jobs - and they are the ones that provide high salaries, for they are the high-value-providing jobs.  If we don't do this on an urgent basis, we will find ourselves too far behind, with vacant high value jobs that have to be filled by foreigners.

Please choose and act with the greatest urgency and don't put up with less than high urgency action by the legislature - it is our very future as a nation and our individual prospecrity that is at stake!

The Rational Problem Solver

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Obama And The Great Tax Compromise

Obama recognized the needs to stabilize the economy, to settle uncertainty.  He also cleverly worked in some stimulative monies plus covering the unemployed for an extended period.  Though raising the amount of debt is counter to one of our key priorities, his attempt at stimulative spending seems to be wise, as it is imperative that the economy grow and stabilize, so that there is a sufficiently large pie to make things work and to pay down the debt.  Allowing the economy to go down is something we cannot afford.  Hats off to Obama for this part.

However, calling the Republicans "hostage takers" (in a victimlike manner) and saying he will "fight" causes me, using the criteria for rating on a previous post, to lower his rating, as adversarial behavior is not productive (unless in actual war). 

The Republicans, no matter how justified their position, needed to propose less than a $5 million dollar exemption for estate tax, at a 35% rate above that.   Continuing it at the current exemption in 2010 might be reasonable, but to overextend beyond that is counterproductive - and it has resulted in extreme opposition.
The Dems might consider, however, that this is a very small portion of revenue involved and definitely not worth doing harm in a bigger way overall.

Most of the Dems appear to be violating all the criteria for rating of leaders (see rating post), reacting in anger and dug in heels, offended because they weren't include earlier (ego getting in the way of the greater good) - all behavior that is counterproductive.  In caucus, they even went into a chant of "just say no" - productive adult behavior? 

It's sad.  We should be able to have a "grown up conversation" if we want to have a greater overall solution.

Is such behavior productive (which is our criteria)?  Other suggestions?  (Hopefully, all comments would be based on reasoning, facts, and productiveness and not anger and labeling or immediate prejudice and being closed.)

The Rational Problem Solver

Priority Objectives For The Government

Any person and any organization must, to run well, determine what their values are and what their priorities are.  And then they must realize there will even be conflicts among those, so they need to be clear on what is more highly prioritized than some other item.

People who are deemed "inside the organization" (including a "country") would be included to benefit from the priorities;  and we would define who is not included, and how we are to treat them based on our humanitarian and ethical values.

Let's put a set of priorities up and then discuss and modify them until we agree.  We means the "stakeholders" involved in the organization (such as the citizens of the United States).

No citizen or permitted resident shall be allowed to perish from poverty.
No stakeholder shall suffer from excessive poverty (and they shall be educated to survive on smaller income) or be deprived from adequate medical care.
The function of the government is to contribute to the well-being of its stakeholders to the extent it is affordable.
Keep adequate protection for safety and provide services that cannot be done by other than government.
Not take away rights of others, unless it does harm to too many others.
To help assure an adequate environment for individuals to be productive so that there is a larger pie for all of us to share in.
-  To have individuals be responsible for their own economic situation, but to offer assistance where needed
in terms of education and getting a job.  Able individuals will work, and those who are disabled to such an
extent they cannot provide for themselves will be adequately supported.
- To use the economies of scale of government to help education
- To assure that all people have access to education, though self responsibility should be involved for helping to cover the costs
- To not overtax to discourage what creates the bigger pie; to not steal from one for another, to use ethics without destruction; to tax in some way so that those who benefit more will pay greater taxes but not to create entitlement and lack of personal productivity.
- To adequately regulate powerful organizations so that no harm is incurred.

This is a partial list, put in some order of priority (necessary humanitarian first, in general) though you may wish to suggest a better order and to suggest added items.

The Rational Problem Solver

Setting Criteria For Our Leaders

Although I'll add to this, it would seem that we could rate our leaders based on the effectiveness of their behaviors.

Some of the criteria we would use would be based on:

Reactive behavior (anger vs. emotional intelligence)
Not using reasoning
Not willing to base decisions on what is rational
Not willing to compromise appropriately, not wise enough to play win-win
Does not base decisions upon adequate briefing or reading from expert resources
Inadequate knowledge
Inadequate experience to know what is involved and to have some wisdom

Sarah Palin, an effective communicator and a master at becoming an influential figure, would not meet these criteria at the level to become President (or Vice President).  The selection of her as a Vice Presidential candidate does not speak well of the selecters and definitely reduces any confidence in John McCain as a candidate for President.

Congressman Anthony Weiner, appearing to show high anger and reactiveness, insisted that the estate tax is justified as it is not a death tax and the owner of the estate is just dead, so why would they care; but the inheritors are getting it without working on it, so they should be taxed.  Whew!  A dangerous lack of awareness and a troublesome lack of emotional intelligence

I think, regardless of which side someone is on, that any person could see the lack of sound reasoning and. It would make no sense to vote in such a man (if based on the above criteria), unless you wanted a strong fighter (but fighting is not what works in the long run, so those who voted for him are more interesting in win-lose than in win-win, which works to create more good in total for all - and ultimately creates more for both sides.  (It is the shortsightedness and lack of long term thinking that is the enemy to progress.).

Understand, please, that I hold to no "make-wrong", as I ascribe to the "mathematical truth" of:

Everybody does the best he/she can at time, based on the limits of their current awareness.  Accordingly, the person is never the problem.   The problem is the lack of awareness and knowledge.  Therefore, the solution is to increase the knowledge and awareness of the other person.  Of course, one has to assess the worth and the benefit of attempting to effect that increase.  (In this, there is no evilizing involved, no alienation repelling people - only "let's make it work" and "how do we make progress from here."

What criteria do you think should be used?  Any other comments?

The Rational Problem Solver

Why Bother To Do This

As I see what is happening and the irrationality and malice, I am concerned.  It is true that few will read this, but I'm doing it to record what I am thinking, as an outlet and a way of "completing."

We've fallen to a lower level, I believe, of values and rational problem solving, at a great cost for all involved - which is the opposite of what we want.  We want to create the greatest good for everyone involved without doing real harm to any one person.  Yes, sometimes and perhaps fairly frequently, we must compromise, as we find we cannot just get our own way.  And I am concerned with out and out destruction, where value is destroyed forever, hurting the base off which we make progress. 

I am concerned when I see our leaders and representatives not operate with ethics and/or good reasoning based on facts and logic.  We need to agree to the basic principles and priorities and then operate toward that as best we can in a cooperative manner with respect and dignity.

I hope that we can come agreement on our priorities and our mission as a country - so that we are clear and don't spend time being ideologues losing sight of the purpose.

I may just be talking with myself, but so be it.  (At least, I know I have one listener.)

The Rational Problem Solver

I do hope that any commentors will engage in useful dialogue, although I suspect that some of the opinions I express could cause some people to create anger and then fiery dialogue - I hope that people choose to use emotional intelligence (Wikipedia - Emotional Intelligence ) and workable communication strategies (Good communication.)