America’s experiment in democracy

A friend mentioned the above phrase General Mad-Dog Mattis often uses in posting about the death of the badass Cryptologic Technician. This happened on Facebook and it being Facebook, it spurred a troll who completely misunderstood the phrase. He took it to mean the United States attempting nation building.

Here is an example of Mattis’ usage in a paper on the national defense strategy:

“Increasing the lethality of our troops, supported by our defense civilians, requires us to reshape our approach that managing our outstanding talent, reinvigorating our military education and honing civilian workforce expertise.

“The creativity and talent of the department is our deepest wellspring of strength, and one that warrants greater investment.

“And to those who would threaten America’s experiment in democracy, they must know: If you challenge us it will be your longest and your worst day. Work with our diplomats; you don’t want to fight the Department of Defense.”

He is using the phrase to talk about attacking the United States. Not Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, or Yemen.

Mattis, having read far more about history, the founding of the US, and Constitutional scholarship uses this phrase to indicate that the democracy we have is pretty fragile. Democracies can fail. The United States has somehow lasted over two centuries as a republic, but it is still possible for our country to fail. We have to protect it. We have to be wise in our choices. Or we might find ourselves beholden to Putin-like totalitarianism. He viewed his job as more than just protecting the country, but as protecting something special in the world that deserves to survive.

And, that is why he had to go. His loyalty was primarily to democracy, not the Commander-in-Chief who demanded personal loyalty.

Read more about how democracies fall into totalitarianism:

Independence

Thinking about independence since it is the Fourth of July.

Over the centuries it is amusing how close the United States has become with the United Kingdom (descendant of Great Britain). So much so that both the President of the United States and a candidate for the job both travel to the UK and talk about how the people should vote or have voted. People talk about what the Founding Fathers thought. Well, I wonder what they would have thought about the chumminess of the US and the UK, their enemy. But, the UK was also their parent in a way.

Teenagers need to learn to separate from the parent. To do things on their own. To be responsible for their own actions. While under the protection of the parent that is more difficult. So independence was good for us and ultimately probably good for the UK too.

Some American values, manners, and customs originate from the UK. In some cases they have moved on where we still adhere strongly to things as they were. In some cases we replaced them with other European, African, or Asian customs where Britain still adheres strongly to the things. Life in America necessitated a social evolution of sorts. No so much Social Darwinism, but in the early colonial period and westward expansion, the people who clung too strongly to how they grew up and failed to adapt to the new life often failed. Having the independence to adapt was good for their survival.

Yet, given the closeness of the US and UK and as Americans pine over the UK princes, one’s wife, and children, an interesting thought experiment is re-unification. The idea is not unprecedented. In 1707 and 1800, London’s parliament agreed to an Act of Union first with Scotland and then with Ireland to establish their representation in the national government. Given these occurred both before and after the colonial independence, it seems like this is a route which could have been taken. That both Scotland and Ireland had parliaments probably aided the unions. Melding the US government with the UK would be much more difficult.

Constitution Day

Apparently September 17th is Constitution Day. This is the day in 1787 when the document was signed. (July 4th is for the Declaration of Independence.) Schools receiving Federal funding are supposed to spend part of the day teaching about the Constitution.

I wonder how many people have a copy of it?

If you have an eBook reader, then you should be able to get a free copy of the United States Constitution. Because it is in the public domain, anyone can publish it for free. Project Gutenberg posted it back in 2003.

Invented Peoples

Apparently former House Speaker and current President candidate Newt Gingrich, made an offensive statement that Palestinians are an invented people.

Remember, there was no Palestine as a state — (it was) part of the Ottoman Empire. I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community and they had the chance to go many places.

His point is that Palestine as a state was created in the aftermath of the First World War by the British and French carving up the remains of the Ottoman Empire. Modern Iraq, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia mostly exist today where the British Arab Mandates established them. Lebanon and Syria were the French Mandates though more highly re-arranged. If Mr. Gingrich questions the legitimacy of the former state of Palestine, why not Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Syria? Also, maybe he forgot Israel as a state was created in the aftermath of the Second World War also by the British? The creation was just as artificial or invented, if you will.

Americans, as we in the United States call ourselves, are also an invented people. If Palestinians should give up their claim on the land because Israelis have a stronger historical claim despite modern treaties, then it seems to me as President Newt Gingrich should push through Congress giving up United States territory to Native American tribes who claim those lands despite modern treaties. (Yes, I know this is a Straw Man.)

There is one other thing. The Palestine Mandate established protections specifically for the Jewish people to give them a home. So it is not like Palestine was created in opposition to Jewish interests. Further, Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike were all called Palestinians. The same as Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike are called Israelis. The modern anger stems from expansionist policies by force of arms.

Mr. Gingrich had another point that it is difficult to negotiate when being attacked. The United States government would have a hard time being nice to Mexico if rockets were lobbed at our cities. The example would be more accurate to say the rockets were lobbed at our cities in response to U.S. bombs dropped and tanks invading.

These are complicated issues for which simple analogies are apt to offend someone.

For 9/11

This seemed appropropriate to re-post today, the tenth anniversary of the event which inspired its need. The problems we are to overcome seem more prevalent and prominent today.

This statement was issued by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States in December 2001 as a response to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. It first appeared as a full-page statement in The New York Times on December 21, 2001 and was subsequently reprinted in dozens of other newspapers around the country.

At this time of world turmoil, the United States Baha’i community offers a perspective on the destiny of America as the promoter of world peace.

More than a hundred years ago, Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, addressing heads of state, proclaimed that the age of maturity for the entire human race had come. The unity of humankind was now to be established as the foundation of the great peace that would mark the highest stage in humanity’s spiritual and social evolution. Revolutionary and world-shaking changes were therefore inevitable.

The Baha’i writings state:

“The world is moving on. Its events are unfolding ominously and with bewildering rapidity. The whirlwind of its passions is swift and alarmingly violent. The New World is insensibly drawn into its vortex….Dangers, undreamt of and unpredictable, threaten it both from within and from without. Its governments and peoples are being gradually enmeshed in the coils of the world’s recurrent crises and fierce controversies….The world is contracting into a neighborhood. America, willingly or unwillingly, must face and grapple with this new situation. For purposes of national security, let alone any humanitarian motive, she must assume the obligations imposed by this newly created neighborhood. Paradoxical as it may seem, her only hope of extricating herself from the perils gathering around her is to become entangled in that very web of international association which the Hand of an inscrutable Providence is weaving.”

The American nation, Baha’is believe, will evolve through tests and trials to become a land of spiritual distinction and leadership, a champion of justice and unity among all peoples and nations, and a powerful servant of the cause of everlasting peace. This is the peace promised by God in the sacred texts of the world’s religions.

Establishing peace is not simply a matter of signing treaties and protocols; it is a complex task requiring a new level of commitment to resolving issues not customarily associated with the pursuit of peace.

Universal acceptance of the spiritual principle of the oneness of humankind is essential to any successful attempt to establish world peace.

Racism, one of the most baneful and persistent evils, is a major barrier to peace.
The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality of the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged, prerequisites of peace.

The inordinate disparity between rich and poor keeps the world in a state of instability, preventing the achievement of peace.

Unbridled nationalism, as distinguished from a sane and legitimate patriotism, must give way to a wider loyalty, to the love of humanity as a whole.

Religious strife, the cause of innumerable wars and conflicts throughout history, is a major obstacle to progress. The challenge facing the world’s religious leaders is to contemplate, with hearts filled with compassion and the desire for truth, the plight of humanity, and to ask themselves whether they cannot, in humility before their God, submerge their theological differences in a great spirit of mutual forbearance that will enable them to work together for the advancement of human understanding and peace.

Baha’is pray, “May this American Democracy be the first nation to establish the foundation of international agreement. May it be the first nation to proclaim the unity of mankind. May it be the first to unfurl the standard of the Most Great Peace.”

During this hour of crisis, we affirm our abiding faith in the destiny of America. We know that the road to its destiny is long, thorny and tortuous, but we are confident that America will emerge from her trials undivided and undefeatable.

The source of the above text of The Destiny of America and the Promise of World Peace.

STEM Celebs

This interesting article on the need of more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduates in the United States to compete with other countries strikes me as the kind of thing said to Romans right before the fall. Maybe also to the English just before World War I. Of course, predictions of the future are fraught with misreading the most crucial factors.

In fact, scientists and engineers are celebrities in most countries. They’re not seen as geeks or misfits, as they too often are in the U.S., but rather as society’s leaders and innovators. In China, eight of the top nine political posts are held by engineers. In the U.S., almost no engineers or scientists are engaged in high-level politics, and there is a virtual absence of engineers in our public policy debates.

Why does this matter? Because if American students have a negative impression – or no impression at all – of science and engineering, then they’re hardly likely to choose them as professions. Already, 70% of engineers with PhD’s who graduate from U.S. universities are foreign-born. Increasingly, these talented individuals are not staying in the U.S – instead, they’re returning home, where they find greater opportunities.

Global leadership is not a birthright. Despite what many Americans believe, our nation does not possess an innate knack for greatness.  Greatness must be worked for and won by each new generation. Right now that is not happening. But we still have time. If we place the emphasis we should on education, research and innovation we can lead the world in the decades to come. But the only way to ensure we remain great tomorrow is to increase our investment in science and engineering today.

How would someone determine whether someone is a celebrity? This article did not define it other than as a leader or innovator. If one used by number of Twitter followers, then Lady Gaga is the current leader with the current president trailing at number four and with only 81% the number of followers. Well, even the President of the United States was a lawyer and not a STEM educated person.

I thought maybe the Secretary of Energy would be a good place to look for a leader with scientific credentials. It appears Chu (physcist) and Bodman (chemical engineer) were. The three prior to them were lawyers at best. The rest of the cabinet were mostly lawyers or political administrators. Chu is the only scientist on the list. The president’s science advisor is a physicist, so that is good.

Conservatives do after all say government is the worst of society not the best. They look to corporations to take the societal lead. So maybe top CEOs from the Forbes top 500 list would be a better metric? Three of the top five is pretty good.

  1. Walmart – Michael Duke – Industrial Engineering
  2. Royal Dutch Shell – Peter Voser – Business Administration
  3. Exxon Mobil – Rex Tillerson – Civil Engineering
  4. BP – Bob Dudley – Chemical Engineering
  5. Toyota – Akio Toyoda – Business Administration

Personally my favorite scientific celebrities are Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawking, Jamie Hynaman, and Adam Savage. We Americans like to see people fail. Each of these have: Neil and Pluto, Stephen lost the black hole bet, Jamie and Adam often misjudge what happens in a test. The spectacular blunders of science are reported as a discovery. Reports on the discoveries in the news usually sound as though it was the intent all along. We get the impression scientists and engineers spend every hour successfully making cool new things.

What scares me of having scientists are leaders is the over expectation of them to be better than anyone else. A smart person is only as good as the decisions they make. Even a good engineer can make mistakes. The ability to acknowledge and work towards correcting errors is not an exclusively scientific ability.

Healthcare

Lorenia posted a funny video about the United States health care system being ranked #37. I briefly looked at The world health report 2000 – Health systems: improving performance. It is a 1.73MB PDF.

I’d like to better understand both the claims that the United States has the best or 37th best health care system in the world. Unfortunately the WHO report is 200 pages and has more about car crash deaths in the United States than what they mean by responsiveness level (25% of the overall level of health). Responsiveness appears to be dependent upon expectation, so we could all just stop complaining about wait times, autonomy, and not want our own hospital rooms to improve our ranking.

Except the WHO might not produce any more reports after this first one because it was too complex compiling the first one. Charts compare  1990 through 1999, so really the United States was ranked 37th in the 90s. The age of this number bothers me. How have reforms in the United States and worldwide changed the number? Let’s assume no change, do proponents of United States health care reform really expect their favorite bills to get us a better ranking than 33rd in 2015 once this is fully implemented?

There is also the Commonwealth Fund 2006 report placing the United States dead last among 5 industrial nations regarding health care. Their donor page shows millions invested in the CF to improve health care in the United States and New York. Seems a little myopic for an organization funded to improve health care to say health care needs improving.

Does the United States have health care issues? Sure. In my opinion the real problems is all this talking without something like Baha’i consultation (everyone participates, objectivity, detachment, unity). Similar to research indicating workers without the ability to make decisions experience more stress, patients and doctors without autonomy get stressed. Instead we have explicit policies creating a incomprehensible environment where people are hurt inadvertently because systems are cold and uncaring.

Efficient Dispute Management

Have I said before that I like news from the state of Florida?

Order of the court – Jun. 7, 2006

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion to designate location of a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition (Doc. 105). Upon consideration of the Motion – the latest in a series of Gordian knots that the parties have been unable to untangle without enlisting the assistance of the federal courts – it is

ORDERED that said Motion is DENIED. Instead, the Court will fashion a new form of alternative dispute resolution, to wit: at 4:00 P.M. on Friday, June 30, 2006, counsel shall convene at a neutral site agreeable to both parties. If counsel cannot agree on a neutral site, they shall meet on the front steps of the Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse, 801 North Florida Ave., Tampa, Florida 33602. Each lawyer shall be entitled to be accompanied by one paralegal who shall act as an attendant and witness. At that time and location, counsel shall engage in one (1) game of “rock, paper, scissors.” The winner of this engagement shall be entitled to select the location for the 30(b)(6) deposition to be held somewhere in Hillsborough County during the period July 11-12, 2006. If either party disputes the outcome of this engagement, an appeal may be filed and a hearing will be held at 8:30 A.M. on Friday, July 7, 2006 before the undersigned in Courtroom 3, George C. Young United States Courthouse and Federal Building, 80 North Hughey Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32801.

DONE and ORDERED in Chambers, Orlando, Florida on June 6, 2006.