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
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.
Continue reading “The Tectonic Computer Shift”
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.
Continue reading “History Wars & the Future”
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
of the entire situation can be found on the Health Affairs blog.)
Continue reading “Texas vs. Us”
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
Continue reading “Heads You Win, Tails we Lose”
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.
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.”
Continue reading “Plastics, Donald, Plastics”
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.
Continue reading “The Electoral Collage”
By Mike Koetting June 26, 2019
In 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend:
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
Not surprising from Jefferson. He was a man with boundless
interest in and reverence for discovery, science and the empirical
understanding of human nature.
Continue reading “Science and Democracy”