Posted on

Election 2016

BLOG #50, SERIES 7
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
ELECTION 2016
December 14, 2016

What a relief: the long almost unbelievably contentious election is finally over! For most of us, it couldn’t come soon enough. Reason being: now, at long last, normal life can resume again. At long last, friendships can be reestablished—hopefully—between all the millions who have been estranged by the decision to vote differently from the other friend, family member, or spouse. Then, for a time, we can forget that America is split right down the middle where party affiliation is concerned.

election-2016-scan

What an enduring miracle democracy is, as has so often been said: “the worst form of government—except for all the others.”

And the cycle tends to endlessly repeat itself.

One party defeats the other amidst much rancor. Members of the winning party are jubilant and members of the losing party are despondent. If one party pulls off a trifecta (presidency, Senate, and House of Representatives), the winning party tends to be ecstatic, and the losing party broken-hearted.

The interesting thing is: When a trifecta occurs, almost invariably, the winning party over-reaches and becomes arrogant and dictatorial, thus planting the seeds of its own destruction. First thing you know, the mood is, Let’s throw the rascals out! – and they do. And the cycle continues.

So let’s all remember that nothing ever keeps going up and nothing ever keeps going down. Sooner or later, there will be a course correction.

Having said that, “Long live the United States of America!”

Posted on

DR. BEN CARSON, A LIFE OF SELFLESS SERVICE

BLOG #9, SERIES 4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. BEN CARSON
A LIFE OF SELFLESS SERVICE
February 27, 2013

I am bridging from Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods to a refreshing example of a man who represents, to untold thousands, a prototype we can all admire, look up to: Dr. Ben Carson, famed Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon and humanitarian.

I referenced him at the conclusion of last week’s blog, for he had just wowed the media by his insightful keynote at the National Prayer Breakfast. And not just the media, but the nation as a whole.

I’ve been an admirer of his for over a quarter of a century. During those years, Dr. Carson has written several very insightful books—such as his Gifted Hands. I’ve listened to a number of in-depth radio and TV interviews and have yet to find anything creating daylight between his talk and his walk.

During a recent hour-long interview on Fox News, Dr. Carson was asked if he was interested in running for president. He answered that he had no plans to do so—he only wanted to serve.

I’ve been privileged to speak one-on-one at length with him only once. Some years ago, traveling to a speaking engagement with my wife Connie, we were stranded by a blizzard in an airport; Dr. Carson, it turned out, was returning to Baltimore, with his wife, from a speaking engagement, and happened to be stranded in the same airport. So, with nothing else to do, we talked. And talked.

Dr. Carson is very understated in his speech (soft-spoken, another way to describe him). He is also refreshingly humble—and deeply spiritual. And caring. His patients have known that for decades, long before the country at large did.

As for his possibly running for the presidency, I’m not at all sure it would be good for him and his family: just the thought of this principled man having to face unsubstantiated attack ads, each geared to finding something in his past they could twist, distort, ridicule, disparage—sends chills up my spine. On the other hand, we’ve never needed a voice like his more than we do now.

It is enough for me to say, Thank God America is still producing men like him!

Posted on

DR. BEN CARSON, A LIFE OF SELFLESS SERVICE

BLOG #9, SERIES 4
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. BEN CARSON
A LIFE OF SELFLESS SERVICE
February 27, 2013

I am bridging from Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods to a refreshing example of a man who represents, to untold thousands, a prototype we can all admire, look up to: Dr. Ben Carson, famed Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon and humanitarian.

I referenced him at the conclusion of last week’s blog, for he had just wowed the media by his insightful keynote at the National Prayer Breakfast. And not just the media, but the nation as a whole.

I’ve been an admirer of his for over a quarter of a century. During those years, Dr. Carson has written several very insightful books—such as his Gifted Hands. I’ve listened to a number of in-depth radio and TV interviews and have yet to find anything creating daylight between his talk and his walk.

During a recent hour-long interview on Fox News, Dr. Carson was asked if he was interested in running for president. He answered that he had no plans to do so—he only wanted to serve.

I’ve been privileged to speak one-on-one at length with him only once. Some years ago, traveling to a speaking engagement with my wife Connie, we were stranded by a blizzard in an airport; Dr. Carson, it turned out, was returning to Baltimore, with his wife, from a speaking engagement, and happened to be stranded in the same airport. So, with nothing else to do, we talked. And talked.

Dr. Carson is very understated in his speech (soft-spoken, another way to describe him). He is also refreshingly humble—and deeply spiritual. And caring. His patients have known that for decades, long before the country at large did.

As for his possibly running for the presidency, I’m not at all sure it would be good for him and his family: just the thought of this principled man having to face unsubstantiated attack ads, each geared to finding something in his past they could twist, distort, ridicule, disparage—sends chills up my spine. On the other hand, we’ve never needed a voice like his more than we do now.

It is enough for me to say, Thank God America is still producing men like him!

Posted on

PAC MONEY AND ATTACK ADS

BLOG #47, SERIES #3
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
PAC MONEY AND ATTACK ADS
November 21, 2012

In all my life, I’ve never seen or heard anywhere near this level of post-election disillusion and borderline despair, the general feeling that America—that hope of the world—has reached the tipping point, and that the next steps may prove unreversible.

The catalyst, of course, was the entire unbelievably vicious and below-the-belt attack ads, paid for mostly with PAC funds conveniently hiding the identity of the attackers in walls of anonymity. Neither party came out of the fray with clean hands, but in retrospect, what is likely to leave the longest and bitterest legacy has to do with the early-in-the-campaign poisoning of the well, when Romney, who had exhausted his funding during the hotly contested primaries, found himself up the proverbial creek without a paddle, unable to fund a counterattack to the blizzard of attack ads geared not only to discredit his achievements but to utterly destroy his character. They worked: Romney was never able to fully recover.

The Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to the scorched-earth-leave-no-survivors blitzkrieg of unsubstantiated anonymous attack ads might very well be perceived by future historians as the beginning of the decline of the world’s greatest democracy. In Colorado (one of the so-called Nine Swing States), for month after month, we have had to endure such a blizzard of attack ads, from both sides, that, at the end we were left numb and nauseous. It was a veritable nightmare!

The logical result of all this would be to scare off, in the future, America’s best and brightest from even considering a career in politics. Why would any sane person subject his/her family to such vicious character assassination? Children and young people had to emerge from this mud bath with feelings of revulsion: If all politicians are unethical, unprincipled, unpatriotic, unempathetic, and uncaring, then why even vote at all? For the first time since I can remember, what a politician actually stood for or believed in, or had either achieved or hoped to achieve, was buried in layer after layer of sizzling hot verbal lava that left no reputation untarred.

Nor is the entire swing-state scenario a pleasant one to consider. Have we indeed reached the level where only nine states really matter? And the other 41 do not?

One thing I wish to make clear: I am not claiming one party can justifiably lay claim to the higher ground here. What I am hoping to accomplish by this blog is to add my frail voice to what needs to become a national movement to restore civility, not just to elections but to the periods in-between, when no one reaches across the aisle to the other side, and polarization and the annihilation of the moderates who once served as agents of synapse, has all but brought government to a standstill.

It is terrifying people I’ve interacted with, on all sides, to be reduced to near hopelessness in terms of their perception of America’s future.

But, as one near despondent Kiwanian said last week, “In all this, friends, please don’t despair: God is still in His Heaven.”

Posted on

PLAGIARISM—WHY AMERICANS CANNOT NOT CHEAT

Colorado GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis is but the latest reminder that, in the Internet Age, one can run but cannot hide from one’s words: Plagiarism is getting increasingly difficult to hide—as McInnis has discovered to his chagrin. Former University of Colorado regent Jim Martin, in his “Dishonesty in the Internet Age” (The Denver Post, July 15, 2010), notes that “A story several years ago on NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’ profiled a University of Virginia professor’s new innovation to catch Internet cheaters—a search engine that can locate patterns of phrasing and match them to other works. The device has already turned up a number of cheaters not only in academia, but also in other areas of our lives.”

As a long-time English and writing professor I can testify that it is incredibly easy to spot cheating in term papers, for once I get a feel for an individual’s style of writing (in controlled writing assignments in classrooms), any significant stylistic deviance from the norm jumps out at me. The difficulty heretofore has been to track down the source the student copied from. No longer: my teaching colleagues tell me that it’s amazing how quickly they can track down an original source thanks to Google et al.

Which brings us to the core issue: Why do we cheat?

Increasingly, we cheat because we cannot not cheat. Permit me to explain why. Before I wrote my book, Remote Controlled (Review and Herald Publishing, 1993), I first researched the subject of the impact of television on the American people for over 30 years. One of the key resulting epiphanies of that research was this: the ability to think, write, and create is not a given; it is extremely difficult to achieve because it can only come into being by having an inquiring mind; a sense of wonder; by questions that never stop; by voracious reading in books, magazines, and newspapers; by daily journaling. Where writing is concerned, we are all works in progress—we never arrive, because knowledge is increasing by the nanosecond. That’s why the Chinese have a proverb: “If you haven’t read in three days, you aren’t worth listening to.” Staying in tune with the Zeitgeist has never been more difficult than it is today.

Nor is it easy to be a researcher (the job Scott McInnis was paid $300,000 for). I tell my students, “It’s not easy to write a good term paper. Unless you so immerse yourself into reading about your chosen subject, and writing notes from all those sources, you’ll never experience that mysterious breakthrough marathon runners talk about: when you literally break through a mental or physical barrier into a new dimension—you’ll know you’re there when you start dreaming about it. When that happens, you can write your paper in your own style. Otherwise, you’ll only be capable of a String of Pearls term paper: one quotation followed by insipid words leading to another quotation—on and on and on. Because the subject never became part of you.”

And that’s the tragedy of our age. We encourage our children to follow the path of least resistance—they faithfully follow our suggestion. How? By staring zombie-like into electronic screens hour after hour. But virtually none of that imagery can ever be their own: it was all created by someone else, and thus it was blasted straight into their mental archives without any involvement of the receiver’s brain. That’s why, when I tell a class of Freshman Composition students to take out a sheet of paper and begin to write, the reader (having many stylistic templates to draw from) can hardly wait to begin writing; the non-reader, however, can only stare at the piece of paper, being incapable of writing a coherent sentence or paragraph.

That’s why millions who grow up plagiarizing cannot not cheat: because of years of mental laziness, there is nothing original (unique to them alone) in their brains to draw from. So they have only two alternatives: fail the course—or cheat.

But when they grow up and enter the workaday world, sooner or later there will come a day of reckoning, when the boss will discover that this particular employee is incapable of original thought. Fortune 500 CEOs have developed a test for prospective employees that involves a series of interlocking steps leading to a solution. When the prospects take the test, they discover that a step was left out (such as A, B, D, E); the reader, having developed a part of the brain scholars call “the library,” where the brain talks to itself, is able to bridge the gulf, or synapse, en route to a solution. The non-reader can only stare at the gulf till Doomsday, unable to move on.

Which brings us back to Jim Martin, who concludes his insightful commentary with these sober words:

Our age of instant information offers in nearly every aspect of business, academia and media the temptation to exalt outcome over process, to value doing something quickly over doing it effectively and honestly.

Somehow, our citizens have come to believe that money or pride matters more than integrity. And we have allowed this to happen.

Our lessons about achieving excellence, getting into the “best” schools and colleges, getting elected to public office and the general opulence and promise offered of e-business have sent a dangerous message to our citizens people: you can have it all and have it now.

Maybe public exposure will put an end to this character defect, but I doubt it. In the long run, society at large will have to re-establish the values of effort and process, rather than simply holding up too high the rewards of success, power, being elected, or money.

All in all, this will be a difficult task, but the message must go out loud and clear—that there is no such thing as instantaneous writing, and that those shortcuts shortchange.

That message may sound old and familiar, but that’s because it is lifted from the familiar lessons of life, not some site on the Internet.

SPECIAL NOTE

Next week, we begin a four-month series of blogs on our historic national park lodges in the Northwest (we just returned from visiting each one).