Saturday, February 23, 2019

Dogs Bark…and The Caravan Moves On

Jussie Smollett made news. Way too much news in my opinion. So here I am adding more words to the already worn out story.

Although he denies that he orchestrated a hoax to gain publicity and portray himself as the victim of an attack by racist, homophobic, MAGA-cap-wearing Trumpers; the body of evidence would say otherwise. A few of his supporters are even claiming a conspiracy and cover-up by the Chicago Police Department. He is certainly innocent until proven guilty, but it sure doesn’t look good for Jussie.

What’s really interesting to me is the commentary swirling around those on “The Left” who were so quick in “rushing to judgment” when the news of this incident first broke. Those on “The Right” are having great fun replaying clips and showing tweets from those politicians, journalists and entertainers who were quick to condemn the assault and use it as another example of how awful life is in this country for victim groups, i.e. people of color, LGBTs, women, the poor, …etc.

So why do those on “The Left” always assume the worst and “rush to judgment” when one of their own claims to have been victimized by someone or something associated with “The Right”. Why not take a deep breath and allow just a little time for facts and evidence to be brought forth? It’s real simple, they cannot afford to wait. If you want to lose your preferred seating in the entertainment world, mainstream media or progressive political movement; just stay silent when something like the Jussie Smollett story breaks.

It really comes down to risk vs. reward. If you are a high profile progressive, or want to become one, you must speak out immediately and get on the record condemning any event with even a hint of being a “hate crime”. Sure, if it turns out to be bogus, you are going to take some shots from the those on “The Right”. But, you’ll get very little criticism from your progressive brothers and sisters. However, if you don’t speak out loudly and early on and, in fact, it really does turn out to be a true hate crime event, you are very much at risk of losing your progressive “cred”.

So those who immediately jumped on the Jussie hate crime victim bandwagon acted quite rationally and will do the same thing the next time something happens that just might turn out to be a hate crime (or not). And if it turns out to be a hoax, those on The Right, will do exactly what they are expected to do. They will drag out another “progressives rush to judgment ” horse and beat it to death. Both sides will do what they are expected to do (and paid to do). And we will watch and listen. Now that might just qualify as being irrational.

“The Democrats planned to fiddle while Rome burned. The Republicans were going to burn Rome, then fiddle.” – P.J O’Rourke

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Life Is Not Fair...and The Earth Is Not Flat

“If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it” - Ronald Reagan

In the aftermath of Amazon’s decision to pull the plug on their plans to locate HQ2 in Long Island City, NY; we find ourselves once again debating the pros and cons of government subsidies to business and industry. Progressives are getting the blame (or the credit, depending on your opinion of such deals) for opposing, threatening and finally convincing Amazon that the best business decision would be to just walk away.

Frankly, in my opinion the Long Island City decision never made sense for Amazon from the get go. Subsidies notwithstanding, because Amazon was going to get all sorts of concessions and financial incentives no matter where they ended up; my gut tells me that the Long Island City choice was not all that popular with Amazon’s senior leadership, but was a Bezos big splash move. The devil is always in the details and when one of those devils turned out to be major opposition from “The Left”, it gave Amazon an easy out. I expect they were toasting each other in Seattle and heaving great sighs of relief over the bullet they just dodged. Trying to pull something like this off in the NYC metro area was a really bad idea. What were they thinking?

But, all that said, it still leaves the question around these huge subsidies local and state governments dole out to lure businesses. In the Amazon case, it really was go big or go home and this was a big deal. Most of the “subsidies” were contingent upon job creation. But there was a substantial amount of upfront money going to Amazon. The Left, occupying the moral high ground, demanded that these funds be used to make immediate improvements and upgrades to subway systems and community services for the benefit of those who live there now. Not for rich people who didn’t need it and would, in all likelihood, ultimately end up driving the poor and oppressed out of the area all together with their high paying jobs and the inevitable gentrification of surrounding neighborhoods.

The business community along with most of the mainstream politicians (both Democrats and Republicans), looked at the big picture and the long-term economic impact. Frankly, it is a no brainer. This was a great deal for NYC and would be a great deal for any place. Is it going to cause disruption? Yes. Will there be winners and losers? Yes. Will those who have money to invest or skills and talents that are in high demand mostly win? Yes. Will those who have little money or limited skills and talent mostly lose? Maybe.

And this brings us to the cultural battle that is raging in this country. One side wants not only equal opportunity, but equal outcomes. And if one group is doing better than another group, it is just not fair. Someone is being oppressed. Someone else has an unfair advantage or privilege. The “have-nots” are such, not by their choice or by chance, but because there was a “thumb on the scales” in favor of the “haves”. This injustice must be corrected.

The other side says it’s not about groups, but about individuals. While all are created equal, all are not equal when it comes to ability, ambition and energy. People are different. And life is not fair. Some people start out with more advantages than others. The playing field is not level. The earth is not flat. Get over it and get on with your life. No one owes you anything, but most people will help you if you are willing to help yourself.

If we want more jobs and more wealth for more people, and ultimately more tax revenue, then maybe, sometimes, it makes sense to subsidize a business. But if all you do is tax it, you will get less and less over the long run.

Thus, David slew Goliath on the banks of the East River in the year Two Thousand and Nineteen. And the rich and privileged fled, leaving the land to the oppressed who served the god of social justice and equitable redistribution of wealth to which they were entitled. Can I get an Amen?

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Madness of Being (Part 3)

“If you're capable of despising your own behavior, you might just love yourself.”
― Criss Jami

So what does one do with this information? First, and most importantly, be honest with oneself. Especially when it comes to those traits and characteristics that put one on the extreme ends of the distribution. These are the danger zones, where one thing leads to another and not in a good way.

The danger zones for me on the “High” end are Openness, Industriousness, Assertiveness and Volatility. On the “Low” end there are Orderliness, Enthusiasm and Agreeableness. When you combine these extremes the behavioral outcomes can be very good or very bad. It’s the bad ones that hurt and haunt you forever.

The key for me has been learning to identify when I am headed for a “bad one”. Where am I likely to cross the line from being appropriately assertive to being over-bearing? If my volatility kicks in what sort of damage is likely to result? I have to be careful. Back off, take a deep breath and ask myself is this really worth it?

When does my creativity and intellectual curiosity combine with my low level of orderliness and get me off track? And since I’m very industrious, I can end up working very hard and very inefficiently on stuff I don’t need to be working on just because I find the work that needs to be done too mundane and boring. Life is mostly boring, mundane stuff. One best learn to deal with it and, for the most part, I have. But it doesn’t come naturally.

And when I am tired or very busy, my low level of agreeableness can really take over. I am not inclined to say please and thank you….just DO IT or get the hell out of my way. Mix in some assertiveness and volatility and you better damn well stay in the wagon Mr. Chicken. That chicken still haunts me.

Then there is the low level of enthusiasm. I prefer my own company, tend to be pessimistic and don’t much get excited about the things other people get excited about. Stir in low agreeableness and you do not end up with Mr. Rogers. It can also lead toward depression. I have to constantly guard against pessimism, negativity and depression. Knowing how one is wired helps a lot.

You see, I know that there are devils on my shoulder. My portion of original sin, passed down from the beginning and in my genes. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly evident in my parents and grandparents; now part of me…twisted by experience and life and choices, mine as well as those of others.

It’s this realization that brought me back to Christianity. As I see it, it’s the only pathway to salvation for someone like me. Life has humbled me. I don’t judge others because I know how easy and natural it is for me to say and do terrible things. I’m not OK and you’re not OK. None of us are. But, perhaps the more we know about ourselves, and with a little help from above; we might just start moving in the right direction.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
- 1 Corinthians 13:12

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Madness of Being (Part 2)

There is no such thing as an average person. They really are guidelines for people to grapple with the unknown, and we can always surprise expectations.- Daniel Tammet

The Big 5 assessment I took is available for a small fee at As noted in Part 1, this assessment goes a bit deeper into each of the Big 5 traits. And what it told me was that I am pretty much who I thought I was, only more so. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing. So here we go.

Openness to Experience

I expected to be above average on this one. But according to the assessment I am very high on this trait, 92 percentile. That means I am more “Open “ to new ideas and experiences than 92% of the population. The Openness trait is measured on two dimensions, Intellect and Creative Openness, and I am high on both of them. Intellect in this sense does not mean IQ, it reflects interest in abstract ideas. That would be me. That I also ranked so high on the Creative aspect of Openness was a surprise. I love books and music, but have never been particularly taken with art or the classics.

The most disturbing part of this high openness rating is that it tends to be more common in liberals than conservatives. I am liberal on some things, but overall fairly conservative. There must be some other stuff going on inside my head that counterbalances this disturbing left-wing openness trait I seem to possess.


The overall score here was a surprise and I was glad there were two dimensions to the trait. I scored only moderate on Conscientiousness, in the 45% percentile. That means 55% of people are more conscientious than me. That was a shock. I always considered myself above average, in fact, way above average when it comes to being conscientious.

But, this assessment measures conscientiousness in two ways: Orderliness and Industriousness. Turns out that I am way low on orderliness, 16th percentile; but high on Industriousness 77%. On those terms, it makes sense. I am a mess with a filing system that is mostly piles of paper and random folders on my computer. I spend a good deal of time looking for things. My closet is a mess and I only clean the garage once a year. I don’t mind chaos and working hard to keep things orderly just seems like a waste of time. (Exactly what an high Openness person would think). But I make up for it by being Industrious. According to the assessment, we “value work highly and typically want to be doing something useful…frequently figuring out how to accomplish more in less time, with fewer resources…having focus” (Just not when it comes to orderliness apparently, at least not in my case.)


Another somewhat surprising total score, but with almost polar opposite scores on the two dimensions of Extraversion. Overall I am in the 57th percentile, meaning I am more extraverted than 57% of the population. At first I thought maybe EXTRAversion was totally different than EXTROversion…but it’s the same thing. Psychology still uses EXTRA while the general population has migrated to EXTRO. I typically score more on the Introverted side. Not to the extreme but definitely not an extravert or extrovert, whichever you prefer.

But when I considered the dimensional scores, it made more sense. This assessment looks at Enthusiasm and Assertiveness as the key dimensions of Extraversion. I am extremely LOW when it comes to enthusiasm. 6 low. That means 94 percent of people are more enthusiastic than me. But when the assessment described what this means, it makes perfect sense. Those of us on the low end of enthusiasm are “very hard to get to know”, “prefer solitude and find it difficult to enjoy themselves around other people”, “private people”, “loners”. Sounds like an introvert.
But on the other dimension of Extraversion, Assertiveness, I am extremely high, in the 95th percentile. We “take charge”, put our “own opinions forward uncommonly strongly, and tend to dominate and control social situations.” We are “people of action”.

Combine this with my Industriousness and things get done. But I am apparently a person of extremes..either kicking ass and taking names or sitting alone by myself reading a book. That actually sounds about right.


I knew this one would be a problem. I am way, way low on Agreeableness…13th percentile. This trait is measured on two dimension, Compassion and Politeness. I’m actually a little better on Compassion, 36th percentile, but really low on Politeness, 4th percentile. The assessment comments how that “People with low levels of agreeableness are seen by others as competitive, colder, tougher and less empathic. They are less likely to look for the best in others, and are not particularly tolerant. People find them straightforward, even blunt.” Guilty as charged.

An interesting side note in terms of political leanings and agreeableness. Liberals tend to score high on compassion and low of politeness. Conservatives are just the opposite. Since I’m low on both, I’m guessing that makes me either an Independent or a Libertarian. I’m picking Independent.


I wasn’t real sure what this meant, but I was hoping my score wasn’t bad. It was, or at least moderately bad. I’m in the 69th percentile of Neuroticism. That means I am more Neurotic than 69% of the population. That would be cause for concern.

The assessment measures Neuroticism on two dimensions, Withdrawal and Volatility. Withdrawal is really about “anticipatory anxiety” and is associated with brain activity that regulates passive avoidance. Worry, doubts and certain phobias can are associated with Withdrawal. Fortunately, I am only slightly above average on this dimension. And this component of Neuroticism isn’t the big problem for me.

Volatility is the challenge. I am in the 77th percentile. That means I tend toward moodiness and being more easily irritated and frustrated. I am more likely to lash out verbally or even physically. (Remember in Part 1, the chicken and the wagon story?)

Next time, we’ll wrap this up with Part 3…and answer the big question…So What?