The Tectonic Computer Shift

By Mike Koetting September 19, 2019

The idea for this post started with what I thought was a clever title about the way the way computers intrude on our lives. But, as sometimes happens with apparent cleverness, the more I thought about it, the less the title had to do with what I really think is important—that computers are accelerating changes in our lives even more profoundly than we readily recognize.

Immediate impacts are obvious. From the infestation of robo-calls to many privacy threats to the habit-forming, zombie inducing effects of many computer past-times, there is no shortage of people commenting on these issues. I actually think these are serious—well, maybe not robo-calls, although they sure are annoying. But I am not sure I have anything to add the discussion of the specific issues beyond singing “Amen!”

But what I do find interesting is the accumulated impact, which may lead to a qualitative change in the way humans live.

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History Wars & the Future

Mike Koetting September 5, 2019

During purges by various Russian Communist leaders, there was an aphorism to the effect that while the glorious future of Communism was clear, the past was much harder to discern.

From the Civil War on, America was generally marked by clarity about both its past and its future. Both were great!

In the last several decades, however, both have become less certain and more contested. Many pundits have suggested the struggles are related and our squabbles over the interpretation of history are in fact arguments about what we hope—or fear—for the future.

While I am not generally given to naïve optimism, maybe it would be easier to come to some common understandings about the future if we could come to some common understandings about the past. The past, after all, consists of facts that are known and, at some level, not debatable. Yes, some people prefer to dwell on certain facts, while others choose to emphasize different facts. But since they are all real, maybe it is possible to create a framework that accommodates all.

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Texas vs. Us

By Mike Koetting August 22, 2019

Okay. Technically the name of this litigation is Texas v U.S., but it sure seems like Texas v Us.

Texas v U.S., as some of you probably know, is the most recent Republican-inspired attempt to scuttle the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The plaintiffs are asking the court to strike down the entire ACA. The brief version of their argument is that when Congress, as part of the tax law in 2017, removed any penalty for failing to comply with the “universal mandate”, they effectively nullified the mandate. Plaintiffs then argue that the “universal mandate” was so essential to the law’s working, that the entire law should be struck down. (A somewhat more detailed, but still readable, summary of the entire situation can be found on the Health Affairs blog.)

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Heads You Win, Tails we Lose

By Mike Koetting August 8, 2019

I am not sure whether to chalk it up to the craftiness of Republicans or the naivety of the voters, but we are now witnessing one of the more feckless moments in American politics where the most extreme party in modern history seems to be getting away with painting the other party as “too extreme”.

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Plastics, Donald, Plastics

By Mike Koetting July 25

The 1968 advice of Mr. Robinson’s associate to Benjamin Braddock was all too correct. Plastics was the future. In the 50-some years since Mr. Robinson prognosticated, the world has produced more than 8 billion tons of plastic.

Source: https://www.darrinqualman.com/global-plastics-production/

Some of the consequences of this are obvious.

Less obvious on a day-to-day basis, but still receiving considerable attention, is the damage to wildlife, particularly marine wildlife. My seven-year old grandson was almost crying when he saw pictures of various creatures struggling with plastics. “It just…just isn’t fair,” he said, barely choking back tears. “It isn’t the animals’ fault.”

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The Electoral Collage

By Mike Koetting July 11, 2019

In almost everyone’s list of the reasons that Hilary Clinton is not the president of the U.S. is the Electoral College. As we all know, Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million votes (2%) but lost in the Electoral College, 304-227.  The usual argument suggests the number of low-population red states–that get disproportionate influence because of the way votes in the Electoral College are distributed–threw the election to Trump.

This argument, however, is wrong.

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Science and Democracy

By Mike Koetting June 26, 2019

In 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend:

Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched…..But I know that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered…institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.

Not surprising from Jefferson. He was a man with boundless interest in and reverence for discovery, science and the empirical understanding of human nature.

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