Did Steve Jobs Reincarnate to Make America Great Again?

According to the New York Times, the first thing Donald Trump did after becoming President was to gather legislators to inform them that millions of illegal immigrants voted against him in the election. Fellow narcissist Steve Jobs said this kind of nonsense so often that it became known as his Reality Distortion Field:

A term coined by Bud Tribble at Apple Computer in 1981, to describe company co-founder Steve Jobs’s charisma and its effects on the developers working on the Macintosh project. Tribble said that the term came from Star Trek. In the Menagerie episode, it was used to describe how the aliens created their own new world through mental force.

The RDF was said by Andy Hertzfeld to be Steve Jobs’s ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence. RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible. Jobs could also use the RDF to appropriate other’s ideas as his own, sometimes proposing an idea to its originator after dismissing it the week before.

The term is also used by Apple’s competitors when they criticize Apple. On Research In Motion’s official BlackBerry blog, Jim Balsillie introduced a blog post by saying “For those of us who live outside of Apple’s distortion field”.

Jobs’s reality distortion field was parodied in Dilbert: Dilbert built a functioning reality distortion field emitter, which is used during Dogbert’s keynote speech, while previous strips parodied iPhone flaws. In chapter three of the 2011 biography of Steve Jobs, titled Steve Jobs, biographer Walter Isaacson states that around 1972, while Jobs was attending Reed College, Robert Friedland “…taught Steve the reality distortion field…”

The term has extended in industry to other managers and leaders who try to convince their employees to become passionately committed to projects without regard to the overall product or to competitive forces in the market. It also has been used with regard to hype for products that are not necessarily connected with any one person. Bill Clinton’s charisma has been called a reality distortion field. The chess champion Bobby Fischer was said to have a “Fischer aura” surrounding him that disoriented Boris Spassky and other opponents. The term has associated with Donald Trump’s approach to running his 2016 campaign for United States President.

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Why is Regulating What People Say Wrong?

One of my favorite musicians, Loudon Wainwright, sings about our future under President Trump.

Wainwright worries that Trump is fond of locking up demonstrators even though Trump agreed under oath when assuming the Presidency to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution including the part that says that “Congress shall make no law” regulating what people say. Trump gave a long inauguration speech where he neglected to mention the Constitution and he rarely, if ever, mentioned it when he ran for President. One thing he should’ve mentioned is that President Obama has been sending government agents to meetings to intimidate people who give speeches to doctors. “Congress shall make no law” allows no exceptions because it is intended to protect despised minorities such as Ku Klux Klan members, corporate executives, and people who speak to doctors.

Why shouldn’t the government prevent the Ku Klux Klan from spreading hate? The reason is that the best response to bigots is to say things reflecting tolerance. The Klan can even join an Adopt-A-Highway litter removal program run by a state government, advertising themselves on a sign seen by thousands of passing motorists.

Why shouldn’t the government prevent corporate executives from telling their friends and relatives of important company news before the public? The reason is that the corporation owners can insert a provision in the employment contracts of the company managers prohibiting them from giving insider information to their friends, preventing them to make a killing in the stock market at the expense of other shareholders. If you buy stock in a corporation where the previous owners have omitted such a provision, you’ve agreed that you’re not annoyed if the executives treat you poorly relative to their friends.

Why shouldn’t the government prevent drug company representatives from saying things to doctors that might persuade them to unwisely buy drugs? The reason is that doctors rely on patients believing that they understand the human body and will not be deceived by drug companies. Doctors who fail will lose patients and be run out of the business if it happens repeatedly. Incompetence doesn’t survive for long in a free market.

Humans are chimps that walk upright and sing and speak like dolphins and orcas. The less we say, the less we prosper. The United States will stagnate under Trump as it did under Obama because the citizens don’t value their rights and it would’ve made no difference if Hillary Clinton had been elected. Freedom is too frightening for them to try.

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How Did Bobby Kennedy Become Interested in Vaccines and Autism?

I asked Google but it only understands keywords. I ask because they’re working on artificial neural networks with products like TensorFlow but are from being able to answer simple questions.

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Does the 49ers Quarterback Know More Than Clinton and Trump Supporters?

Reason magazine discussed an athlete’s view of the election.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who gained prominence in the pre-season after refusing to stand for the national anthem as part of a protest against police abuse and conditions for African-Americans in the country, says he didn’t vote in the presidential election.

In one of his earliest public statements, Kaepernick talked about how the election plays into his view of the problems for marginalized people in America. He called Trump an “openly racist” candidate but was more specific in his criticism of Hillary Clinton.

“I mean, we have a presidential candidate who deleted emails and done things illegally and is a presidential candidate,” Kaepernick noted. “That doesn’t make sense to me. Cuz if that was any other person you’d be in prison, so what is this country really standing for?”

… Kaepernick defended his decision to vote from a sports media that largely believed was a hypocritical decision that hurt his credibility. “You know, I think it would be hypocritical of me to vote,” Kaepernick said. “I said from the beginning I was against oppression, I was against the system of oppression. I’m not going to show support for that system. And to me, the oppressor isn’t going to allow you to vote your way out of your oppression.”

It doesn’t matter much to me which lying oppressive Manhattan island thief is President. I suppose you could argue that Trump is better because he is not a criminal but it’s still an absurd choice. I wish more people would boycott the election like Colin Kaepernick. If you voted, you have no right to complain that Trump will be the new President.

If you live in California and prefer Clinton to Trump, like the majority, you can blame Obama and the Democrats in the central government for failing to advance the secession of California from the union. There is no good reason why California should be ruled by Republicans 3000 miles away. The only effective way to vote is with your feet. Democrats should relocate to California while Republicans should live in Republican states.

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College is a Poor Investment

If you’re considering sending your son or daughter to a college, it’s worthwhile to read, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, by Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. I’ve included excerpts below describing campus tyranny and why you’re wasting your money.

The dramatic expansion of the administrative class on campus may be the most important factor in the growth of campus intrusions into free speech and thought. While FIRE has long been concerned about the harmful results of swelling campus bureaucracy, Professor Benjamin Ginsberg of Johns Hopkins University made the case in detail in his stinging 2011 book, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters. Ginsberg exposed the dizzying growth of the administrative class at universities, the usurpation of powers that once belonged strictly to the faculty, the surprising lack of qualifications of many administrators, the unseemly rise in the salaries of administrators (especially university presidents), and how a burgeoning bureaucracy jacks up costs while diluting educational quality. This ever-expanding bureaucracy creates and enforces an environment of censorship on campus….

Students are not paying for an exponential increase in the quality of their education, but rather for a massive increase in campus bureaucracy. This includes an expansion in the number of residence life officials (who are in charge of dormitories), student judicial affairs personnel (who administer campus discipline), and university attorneys. The administrative class is largely responsible for the hyperregulation of students’ lives, the lowering of due process standards for students accused of offenses, the extension of administrative jurisdiction far off campus, the proliferation of speech codes, and outright attempts to impose ideological conformity (like the ones you will see in Chapter 5). Parents and students are paying tens—even hundreds—of thousands of dollars for the privilege of being censored!

….As Alan Charles Kors has pointed out, one of the great ironies of contemporary censorship on campus is that it constitutes a “great generational swindle”: the same baby boomers who fought so hard for free speech on campus under the banner of “Question Authority” turned around and imposed speech codes and free speech zones when it was their turn to be in charge of the academy. This change can be seen in the excesses of campus police, some of which have been caught on video and circulated around the planet. Whether it’s the infamous “Don’t tase me, bro!” incident at the University of Florida in 2007 or the more recent video of campus security officers at UC Davis casually spraying a dozen or more peacefully protesting students in the face with an industrial-sized can of pepper spray, the public is becoming aware that universities are getting increasingly aggressive with students who get out of line….

Universities are afraid of being sued even for frivolous claims of harassment and discrimination by students or employees. Currently, the logic seems to be that a free speech lawsuit is comparatively rare and will not cost much in court, while lawsuits for harassment and discrimination are far more common and costly. Therefore, university attorneys conclude that it is best to have broad speech-restrictive policies that you can point to during litigation to show you were proactive against “offensive speech,” and that protecting speech must be secondary. Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus examined universities’ fear of liability and the link between legal fees and out-of-control tuition in their book Higher Education? (2010). They concluded that “[a] big slice of the tuition pie ends up with lawyers and their clients. After hospitals, colleges may be our society’s most sued institutions.” While some legal threats to universities are valid (say, a lawsuit for the denial of free speech), many others contribute to an overly cautious, overly regulated atmosphere that’s hostile to free speech….

Freshmen arriving at Harvard in the fall of 2011 made history: For the first time in Harvard’s multicentury existence, students were asked to sign a pledge to specific ideological values. They were asked to pledge “to sustain a community characterized by inclusiveness and civility” and to affirm that “the exercise of kindness holds a place on a par with intellectual attainment.” Who could possibly object to such a warm and fuzzy pledge? Well, for starters, Harvard’s former dean Harry Lewis.

In an eloquent blog post on August 30, 2011, Lewis explained why pressuring students to sign loyalty oaths to seemingly unobjectionable values goes completely against what Harvard has always represented. He argued that “Harvard should not condone the sacrifice of rights to speech and thought simply because they can be inconvenient in a residential college.” He also debunked the claim that the pledge was voluntary in any meaningful sense: freshmen were approached by resident advisors with disciplinary powers when they first arrived on campus and were “encouraged” to sign the pledge, and if they did so, their names were added to a list of signatories that was posted on dormitory entryways. Students not signing the agreement were therefore subject to “public shaming.” Lewis went on to add, “Few students, in their first week at Harvard, would have the courage to refuse this invitation. I am not sure I would advise any student to do so.” Still, students and some commentators didn’t see what the fuss was all about, or what made the pledge so objectionable.

The title of my September 7, 2011 Huffington Post article about the pledge effectively sums up the heart of my objection: “Does Harvard Want Bold Thinkers or Good Little Boys and Girls?” To me, nothing better exemplifies the problem of cultivating in students a mindless certainty about serious issues than such an oath. The comparative merits of civility, kindness, industry, etc. versus intellectual attainment is a great topic for debate, but here Harvard basically said, “Oh screw it, it’s much too hard to actually discuss the relative merits of all these competing values. Just sign this damn pledge.” This is intellectual laziness, and it teaches terrible lessons about the way an intellectual community is supposed to work, as it places conformity above deep and meaningful questioning. It’s as if Harvard suddenly came to believe, after hundreds of years of existence, that it could take a shortcut to solving profound questions of ethics and moral philosophy. Trying to sidestep the ethical questions and simply inject a set of qualities through a piece of paper is a glowing path to groupthink. As John Stuart Mill well knew, those in power often invoke civility to punish speech they dislike, but overlook the equally acid-tongued statements that are in agreement with their own assumptions.

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Summer 2016 Videos and Pictures

The videos below are of Mary performing “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” at Twigs Restaurant in Rochester, MN; several scenes from Steamboat Springs; and the gymnastics of the herd of deer in our backyard, including one buck who always looks both ways before crossing the street.

Mary riding her bike in Laramie, Wyoming.

Mary riding her bike in Laramie, Wyoming.

Mark climbing a wall at Breckenridge.

Mark climbing a wall at Breckenridge.









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A Trip to Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming, and Minnesota

I enjoyed a 3 week driving vacation in 4 states in June and July and here are some things I saw.





Pedestrian bridge across the Missouri River connecting Omaha, Nebraska to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Pedestrian bridge across the Missouri River connecting Omaha, Nebraska to Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Pedestrian and biker view of bridge named after the politician who got the federal earmark money used for its construction.

Pedestrian and biker view of bridge named after the politician who got the federal earmark money used for its construction.

Sculpture in downtown Omaha, a spiffy place worth visiting.

Sculpture in downtown Omaha, a spiffy place worth visiting.

Bench at Lake Mac, western Nebraska, halfway between Omaha and Denver. It is congested in summer but clears out after Labor Day.

Bench at Lake Mac, western Nebraska, halfway between Omaha and Denver. It is congested in summer but clears out after Labor Day.

Sculpture at a new park in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Sculpture at a new park in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Pyramid house in Clear Lake, Iowa, the last town Buddy Holly played in before he died. The ballroom is still there and still plays live music.

Pyramid house in Clear Lake, Iowa, the last town Buddy Holly played in before he died. The ballroom is still there and still plays live music.

The Iowa Capital building where Mary worked as a teenager.

The Iowa Capital building where Mary worked as a teenager.

Chet and his new dog.

Chet and his new dog.

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National Geographic Discusses Dead Chilean Fish

National Geographic wrote about the Chilean seafood industry, excerpted below.

Images of death have been arriving from southern Chile for weeks, each one seemingly more apocalyptic than the last. First there were thousands of dead salmon in aquaculture cages. Then there were rafts of dead sardines floating along the coast. Next, beached clams covered miles of shoreline. Then there were die-offs of jellyfish, birds, and even mammals.

So much death has sown panic among the public. Worried that their livelihoods are at risk, fishermen have taken to the streets, blocking roads and sowing unrest.

“People don’t dare to eat our fish because they’re afraid it is contaminated, so we are all affected on the island,” says Marcos Salas, president of the Fishermen’s Union of Quellón, one of the main towns on the Chilean island of Chiloé….

Globally, microalgae blooms have been more prevalent this year, with scientists pointing to warmer waters from El Niño as a likely culprit. In fact, this year’s cycle has been so powerful that some have dubbed it Niño Godzilla….

From February to March this year, one of these blooms killed 25 million salmon in 45 farming centers in Chile. What happened next would prove to be controversial.

About thirty percent of the dead fish were taken to landfills. But the rest were thrown into the sea, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) from Chiloé island. That operation was authorized by the Chilean Navy and the fisheries managers.

A few weeks later, a wave of more dead sealife washed up on Chiloé. While the government has blamed El Niño, many on the island suspect the dumping of the dead salmon might have had something to do with it. It’s one more example of the lax regulations of the country’s aquaculture industry, they say, which has exploded since the 1970s, making Chile the world’s second largest exporter of salmon.

Environmentalists have complained for years that Chile’s aquaculture industry has polluted the water through feces and unfinished food, which may build up on the seafloor.

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Why Are Governments Regulating Bathrooms?

I thought Donald Trump was the silliest man in politics but I was wrong as Roy Cordato explains in We Need Separation of Bathroom and State:

In late February the Charlotte, North Carolina, city council passed an “antidiscrimination” law, scheduled to go into effect on April 1. It was aimed at protecting what, in the view of the city council, are the rights of those in the gay, lesbian, and transgender community. The centerpiece of this law was a provision that prohibits businesses providing bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers from segregating usage of those facilities by gender, biologically defined. Biological males or females must be allowed to use the facilities of the opposite sex if they claim that that is the sex they identify with psychologically….

While religious liberty is an important concern, the issue is much broader. This ordinance was an assault on the rights of private property owners and economic freedom, regardless of one’s religious beliefs.

The primary targets of the Charlotte ordinance were privately owned businesses that offer bathrooms, changing rooms, showers, etc., for their customer’s convenience. The decision of how to structure access to these facilities may, for some, be based on their religious beliefs but for many others it is a secular business decision. Their goal is customer satisfaction driven by the desire to make a profit and earn a living. The property that they use is privately owned, the investments that they make come from private funds, and those who reap the rewards or suffer the losses are private entrepreneurs. The bathrooms in their establishments are part of the product that they provide.

In a free society based on property rights and free markets, as all free societies must be, a privately owned business would have the right to decide whether or not it wants separate bathrooms strictly for men and women biologically defined, bathrooms for men and women subjectively or psychologically defined, completely gender neutral bathrooms with no labels on the doors, or no bathrooms at all.

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The History of Food, 1850-present

One of the best business books Mary and I have read in the past few years is, The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America. There have been huge improvements in food production and distribution during the last 150 years, chronicled well in this book. A&P was a much larger company than Wal-Mart 50 years ago. I excerpted two passages.

Canned goods, like cardboard boxes, were an old idea that became economical only in the 1880s. Canned goods were first used to feed Napoleon’s army in 1795, and the first U.S. canning plant was established in 1819. But cans were expensive: each was made of tin pieces individually cut with shears and then soldered together, with a skilled can maker turning out a hundred cans per day. The industry got a boost from military orders during the Civil War and the start of salmon canning on the Pacific coast in 1864, and by 1870 the United States had over a hundred plants canning fruits, vegetables, fish, and oysters. The key inventions came in 1874, when two Baltimore men, A. K. Shriver and John Fisher, found alternative ways of controlling temperature to avoid explosions during the canning process. A new machine to cap cans was introduced in the mid-1880s, reducing the need for skilled cappers, and the first successful labeling machine was invented in 1893. Automation made canning cheap: one man could cook five thousand cans of tomatoes a day in 1865 but four times that many in 1894, at a lower daily wage. More than a thousand canneries were operating in 1890, and expansion was so rapid that by 1900 food processing accounted for one-fifth of all manufacturing in the United States. Cheap canning provided grocers a wide assortment of branded merchandise to sell.

Like many successful companies, A&P was constantly harassed by the government.

The cold financial details revealed in days of such testimony presented a compelling yet simple story. Firm orders from a retailer with the size and national scale of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company enabled grocery manufacturers to lower their production costs and promote their products in ways that would otherwise have been impossible, and in return the chain expected a share of the manufacturers’ gains. But while business school professors saw such testimony as evidence of economic rationality, the anti-chain forces read it precisely the opposite way. A&P’s prices were “close to 10 percent” below his own, testified the grocer Harry Wadsworth of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, “and if I had their discounts and allowances, I could meet them easily.”

In any event, evidence about efficiency would never address the underlying concerns of Wright Patman and millions of others, who feared the demise of a society in which personal relationships were all-important and hardworking men had the opportunity to rise through their own efforts. Where experts pointed to scientific management and consumer benefits, Patman saw “the huge chain stores sapping the civic life of local communities with an absentee overlordship, draining off their earnings to his coffers, and reducing their independent business men to employees or to idleness.” The disagreement concerned worldview far more than economics, and it could not be bridged with explanations about the cost of advertising yeast.

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