Thinking Magazine #18 02-01-93

I Had to See It

I just got back from the inauguration. I had to actually see it happen for myself. If you were watching it on TV, I might have been one of those dots in the crowd.

Actually, we all caught a cold out there and spent much of the inauguration in bed in a hotel room. That's where we were during the actual moment Clinton became president. We only had standing room tickets anyhow and the standing room was about a half mile away. We figured we'd see more on TV than being there. Being in Washington it was slightly more realistic to watch it on TV than at home. When they fired the 21 guns the hotel windows rattled.

We did get to go to one of the balls. Not that we were invited, but that we had connections to get tickets. Having never been to any fancy events like this before we didn't know what to expect. In an article in USA Today the described these parties as not being as exciting as you might expect and did a great deal to lower expectations.

Well, they are right. Having paid $125 each for 3 tickets the most that I can say for the experience is that I was there. It was a "black tie" affair, and I guess that means you should wear one. I put on a suit which for me was a compromise in itself. Not that I have a moral problem with suits, it's just that I prefer to dress comfortably and it takes a good reason to get me to wear one. Usually that good reason has to involve making money. But sometimes peer pressure works.

The way I see it is that I'm not real good looking in the first place and have become comfortable with being on the low side of ordinary. Dressing me up is, in my opinion, not much above dressing a chimp, except a chimp is usually more cooperative. But, I did put on my Star Trek pin to symbolize the need for long-term solutions.

We took the princess with us. The princess is our 15-year-old daughter. I want her to feel comfortable talking to Congressmen and Senators about what she wants to see happen for her future. I warned her to watch out for Ted Kennedy and not to ride in strange limos. I also said that if anyone asked her if she was wearing any protection that she should say, "Yes, I have a knife in my boot!"

Anyhow, we got there and it was shoulder to shoulder rich people who were all trying to breathe. There was no food and it was 2 bucks for a Sprite, 4 bucks for a beer. It was hot, smoky, and the music was too loud. After about 2 hours Vicki and I left. The princess wanted to party on. If I had it to do again I would skip the balls.

Being In Washington

This was my first trip to DC. I had never been there before. Among the things that I did find interesting was the Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings. What I realized, when looking down on the Congressional floors was that these guys sit behind wooden desks. If I were a representative I would want a fully operational computer and communication station.

The way I see it is that there is one way to turn the economy around and that is for America to fully embrace technology. Rather than the floor of Congress looking like a museum, it should look like the bridge of the starship Enterprise. These guys should be tied in live to their offices with EMail and research capability so that information can be made available as they need it.

In the congressional offices I saw a lot of computers. Most were running NetWare. They also had an ethernet backbone network which allowed for interoffice EMail for those who are connected. I made some contacts in House Information Systems and talked to them about hanging an EMail gateway on the backbone to link Congress to the real world with Internet, MHS, or through Compuserve. That way we computer nerds can communicate with Congress in the manner in which we are accustomed.

There are a lot of application servers that could be put on the congressional backbone besides EMail. They should have an electronic scheduling system so that congressmen could access each others schedules and plan meetings and avoid conflicts. A scheduling system could also be used to allocate resources like committee rooms.

They could add a reference library that ties the congressional offices into the Library of Congress so that congressional staffs can get on-line access to everything that is in the Library of Congress. This would put more information in the hand of our elected leaders and in theory, help them make better decisions.

Clinton's First Week

Well, so how's the new president doing? Real well I think. I have a very different view than most of the media. They all think he's not doing so well. Well, I'm right and they are wrong, here's why:

Clinton hit the ground running. The "gag rule" is history. RU486 can now be imported. Fetal tissue research is back. Dan Quayle's "Council on Competitiveness" bites the dust. Thus in the first few days Clinton accomplished more than Bush did in 4 years as president. Not bad in my book.

Clinton's first snag was the Zoe Baird nomination. I went back and forth on this issue several times. Had Zoe been a Reagan/Bush nomination, she would have been the cleanest Attorney General yet. But Clinton set a higher standard and she was tainted by her hiring of illegal aliens and pocketing the social security withholding taxes.

The question came to mind, "Is this a minor infraction or is it serious enough to cost her this job?" Having never had servants myself I didn't have anything to relate to. But, it was pointed out that if she had applied for a job as an employee of the INS, (Immigration and Naturalization Service), that she would have been disqualified. It seems to me that you shouldn't be in control of an organization that you can't qualify to work for. Therefore Zoe had to go.

Everyone makes mistakes and Clinton made one with this nomination. But what is different is that Clinton admitted his mistake, took full responsibility, and moved on to look for someone else. This is the opposite of Bush who, in the case of the John Tower nomination, kept pushing the turkey through until Congress had to finally reject him.

The other obstacle Clinton ran into was the "Gays in the Military" issue. This is an issue where he is right, but it is on of those hot button issues. For those of you who aren't paying attention, Clinton won that issue. Heifted most of the restrictions and has set a 6 month deadline for lifting the rest of them. For all practical purposes the restrictions are gone.

If Clinton were to have pushed it further he would have cut into his political capital. But now that he has turned the issue over to Congressional hearings, Congress now is in the position of having to spend it's political capital to try to justify why the ban on gays is right. If Congress fails to find a good reason why Clinton is wrong then Clinton wins by default.

I'm not exactly a fan of gays, but I don't see any reason to either discriminate against gays or promote it. I think gays should be treated like everyone else, no better, no worse. If a gay is a competent person and being gay doesn't interfere with their job then there isn't any basis for exclusion.

In spite of what you hear in the news, Clinton is actually spending most of his time working with Congress on the economy. He had several meetings this week and made a very strong impression on them. Clinton was so impressive that even partisan Republicans like Newt Gingridge was saying that Clinton was "very smart" and may well end up being one of the best presidents of our century.

As a result of these meetings with Clinton a new atmosphere of cooperation is being created on capital hill. I was watching C-Span and they had this committee to get rid of committees and it was amazing to watch. There were Democrats and Republicans sitting there talking about how to make Congress more efficient and they were working together and agreeing with each other. They talked about cutting back from 300 committees to 50 and ideas like having a 2 year budget so that at least every other year they could get other things done. I attribute this new spirit of cooperation to Clinton's style of management.

Clinton's Bad Idea

There is one idea that the Clinton team is floating around that's a bad idea, the gas tax. The gas tax is a middle tax increase which is the opposite of the middle tax cut that Clinton promised. The economy is in bad shape and the fact that gas is cheap is one of the factors that's keeping things from getting worse faster than they are already.

Every dollar that we raise in taxes is a dollar that isn't spent in the private sector and another dollar wasted. Last time when Bush and Congress agreed to the second biggest tax increase in history, look what happened to the debt, it jumped. This was supposed to reduce the debt, but in reality tax increases increase the debt.

Here's how it really works. When the tax increases more money is taken out of the economy. More businesses fail and unemployment goes up. The government gets a bigger slice of a shrinking pie. The "extra income" ends up paying for higher unemployment. The real solution is grow the pie, shrink the slice.

This argument that an energy tax will preserve the environment is bull. If you want to cut consumption then pass laws requiring the auto industry to build cars that get 50 miles per gallon. Use the weapons research money to develop new energy sources. Taxing gas doesn't save gas, it just makes gas more expensive. If I'm going to pay more I would rather buy a more expensive car that gets better mileage. That way I get my money back in lower operating costs and a cleaner environment and energy savings. All the tax gets me is more unemployment and less money to spend for other things.

If you want to save energy then may I suggest tax incentives? How about a tax credit for turning in the old gas guzzler? Let's replace our energy hog refrigerators with new efficient ones. Let's have tax credits to insulate our homes. Tax credits to install programmable thermostats would be another good idea. This saves money, saves energy, cleans the environment, and gives me more money to spend at Sears so Sears can show a profit and pay more taxes.

Welfare for the Rich

There is a lot of talk about cutting entitlements. Much of our federal budget goes to sending checks to people who are well off and don't need the money. I don't want to begrudge poor old people out of their social security check but I don't think we should pay it to rich old people.

"But Marc", you might say, "These people paid in Social Security. Don't they deserve to get that money back?" Sure, but on the average they get back all the money they paid in plus interest in the first three years. After three years they are ripping off my generation and all generations to come.

When Social Security started the average American life span was 59 years. Thus, paying someone when they turned 65 was cheap. Now people are living to 75 and with new medical technology that is increasing. Thus a bigger and bigger percentage of the population is living off the rest of us.

So if Bill Clinton wants to be fair and show some balls here's what he needs to do. Cut off Social Security benefits to those who don't need it and raise the age where social security starts to 70. This would shave several hundred billion off the deficit and it is fair.

Coming Out of the Back Room

We've all heard the expression about gays being "in the closet" and "coming out of the closet." There's another expression about the "nerds that we keep locked in the back room" that refers to people who are geniuses. The concept is that these people have not mastered the art of playing stupid and are therefore socially unacceptable.

Well, I think it's time for the nerds to come out of the back room. The way I see it is that America has big problems. Who is most likely to solve these big problems? Smart people! But in this society smart people are oppressed and that's why we as a society are falling behind.

The future of mankind depends on the development of technology. All serious future industries that can reverse this spiral of debt depends on the nerds of America taking back the lead. If we don't liberate the nerds then the planet is doomed!

"Planet is doomed? Marc, aren't we getting a little carried away here?" Not at all. Here's the picture. America is the last superpower. We control "the button". We have the biggest arsenal on the planet. And, we have a collapsing economy. If our economy fails then we will be in a position where we are likely to use our military to take the resources that we decide we need. It would be rather easy to justify that Japan and Germany "owes us" and we want it back. Thus, economic recovery is imperative.

Now, the way I see it is the only real way to turn around the economy is to create an economic growth rate of at least 10-15% per year. Spending cuts and tax increases are not going to do it although I think there is about 200-300 billion in waste that can be cut. And the only way to get this growth rate and these cuts is to bring in the nerds and let's come up with real solutions.

You know what's really frustrating is that I know exactly what to do to turn the nations economy around and I can't get anyone to listen to me. You can't believe how incredibly frustrating it is to know what I know and not be able to do anything about it. And all I have to do is get the right people to hear what I have to say. And I'm sure that there are a whole lot of other nerds out there who feel as frustrated as I do.

Innovative Thinking

What is it about an inventor that is different than the average person? Is it that he is just smarter? No. What's different about an inventor is that he has learned the art of innovative thinking.

Innonvative thinking is the ability to come up with new ideas or new solutions to common problems. You're building a road and you run into a mountain. What are you going to do? Well, you can go to the left of the mountain, to the right of the mountain, or over the top of the mountain. That's conventional thinking. The innovative thinker says we can go through the mountain.

Now we are all familiar with tunnels so you might not think this is so grand an idea. But there was a time in history where there weren't any tunnels and someone somewhere was the first one to go through the mountain. Thus, a problem that used to have three solutions now has four.

Humans are basically herd animals. We learn how things are done and we do them without questioning why or if there is a better way. Much of what we do makes no sense whatsoever, by we do it anyway because that's the way things are. We learned to be a certain way and we do what everyone else does.

But the innovative thinker quickly realizes that much of human behavior is the herd instinct. Let me give you an example of how this works and you have probably all seen this. I'm stopped at a red light at the intersection of two 4-lane roads. No traffic is coming the other way. If I decide to run the red light you can bet that at least one other car will run the light too. If they don't run it they will at least move the car forward because they think its all right to run it because I ran it.

Here's another example of the herd instinct. Why do men where ties? Because the herd expects them to. In reality, a tie performs no useful function, is generally uncomfortable, and is a safety hazard around equipment. Why do women wear high heals? Because we are herd animals. High heels makes no sense whatsoever. The are painful and unhealthy.

In my business I have a different dress code for employees, dress comfortably. I want my people to concentrate on their work rather than on how their feet feel. So we wear comfortable shoes, sweat pants, T-Shirts, and sandals.

The problem with being a herd animal is that it doesn't lead to innovative thinking. And it's innovative thinking that allows us to get ahead. Those of us in society who are put down for being "different" are the type of people who are building our future. We shouldn't limit ourselves to choosing from the options that are on the table now, we need to add more options to choose from.

Breaking Free of the Herd

Innovative thinking is something that you can learn. It will turn you from a follower into a leader and allow you to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and become more than you ever imagined you could be. You to can be one of the chosen few who make great contributions to society and all you have to do is dare to be rare.

"But Marc", you say, "Are you saying that even I can learn innovative thinking? I'm just another mindless sheep following the herd." Yes you can! And don't you want to know how its done? Well stay with me as Thinking Magazine unlocks the secrets of the ages and shows you that it's easier than you think.

The trick to innovative thinking is learning new behavior patterns that break you out of the herd mode. In order to break out of herd mode you need to start being weird and different. Don't do what everyone else does, do something different. Question everything and do the unconventional.

The idea is to start out slow and I'm going to give you a few examples that are exercises in being strange. These exercises are a good place to start and they won't get you in any serious trouble. What we are going to do is to start developing a new way of being and a new way of thinking of ourselves in relation to the rest of the world.

The first thing to realize is that "I control what I want to do and I don't care if I'm different or what the rest of the herd thinks. I do what I want to do. It is a blessing to be different." It is important that you understand this concept because this is what will keep you focused on developing this new ability.

Now, open up your sock drawer. Society requires that you wear socks that match. Why? There are a lot of combinations of different socks that look more attractive that wearing two of the same color every day. The first exercise in innovating thinking is don't wear socks that match.

"Well, what do I do when someone comes up to me and says,"Hey, stupid! Your socks don't match!"" Just say, "Yes, I know." Then they might say, "Your wearing different color socks on purpose? Why?" "I like them this way. Don't you find the combination attractive?" "Yes, but your not supposed to wear socks that don't match!" "Why?" "Because, it just isn't done!" "Well, I'm doing it, therefore it is done." "But what are people going to think of you when the see you wearing socks that don't match?" "Different people will have different reactions but many people will consider me to be an "interesting" person." "Dude, you are really strange!" And at that point you reply, "Thank you!"

Another exercise. Next time you're in a fast food restaurant where they allow you to fill up your own pop, fill it up with a mixture of different flavors. One of my favorites is two thirds Mountain Dew and one third Orange. Or try half Coke and half Dr Pepper.

By doing these strange things your mind learns new ways of thinking and creates new neural pathways in your brain that leads to innovative thinking. This allow you to rise above the herd and experience life from a broader perspective. Once you break out of the herd, there isn't very much that you can't do.

The Cellular Phone Safety Debate

There is a media frenzy about the safety of cellular phones. Do they cause cancer? The answer is simply no. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest any relationship between low power radio waves and brain cancer. Not only that, there are no theories in physics that would explain how such a relationship is possible.

What is really happening here is we have a case where someone has lost a wife to brain cancer and is looking to use the courts as a way to cash in. Many people are using the court system as if it were some kind of lottery. Here's how it works.

You start a law suit. The legal system is so expensive that in many cases a company will settle a lawsuit because it is cheaper to just pay you off than it is to win. In other words, if you sue me and I'm in the right, but it's going to cost me a million bucks to prove I'm right, then it would be cheaper for me to give you a half million to call off the lawsuit. But then I have to hope that the next guy doesn't do the same thing.

These kind of law suits costs us a lot. When you buy a cellular phone you are paying for this law suit where this guy in Florida is trying to cash in on his wife's brain cancer. You are paying for lawsuits in every product you buy. If not the law suit itself then it's for insurance to protect you from law suits.

This is especially true of the medical industry. When it comes to medical expenses you can figure that two thirds of the money you spend goes into the pockets of lawyers, insurance companies, and the cost of administration.

I'm sorry this guy lost his wife to brain cancer, but in reality this lawsuit is bull and he is no better than a common thief.

My 1993 Predictions

Well, I'm getting off to a late start being that January is over already. But better late than never. Like my predictions last year I'm going to lean more towards interesting than accuracy. This is for entertainment and it isn't any fun unless I go out on a limb a little and go for the predictions that the rest of them didn't think of. The theory is that it isn't how many fish you catch, it's the size of the biggest one. So I'll go for a few big fish.

Since tomorrow is Ground Hogs Day I'll start out by predicting that the ground hog will see his shadow and that there will be 6 more weeks of winter. (Being that winter officially ends on March 21st I consider this a fairly safe prediction.)

IBM lost 5 billion dollars last year. I predict that they will deal with the red ink in a non-innovative big dumb business sort of way. I'm predicting IBM will cut over 50,000 jobs and sell off divisions that aren't making money. One of those divisions will be OS/2.

Novell is in the process of purchasing Unix Systems Lab from AT&T. I predict that within a month after the purchase takes place that Novell drops the price of Univell to $149.95 from $495 where it is today.

I predict that the FTC will come down hard on Microsoft and that federal pressures will eventually break up the company into separate divisions.

On the political front, I predict that Clinton will emerge as one of the greatest and most respected presidents in this century. I predict that the news at the end of the year will be about how much was accomplished. I think you will see a higher amount of cooperation between the Republican and Democratic parties than anyone (but me) thought was possible.

I predict that I will win my lawsuit to vote in the primary elections of both the Democratic and Republican parties. I predict that as a result of this that a new perspective on political strategy will become popular as states scramble to deal with weirdos like me. I predict that you will see me interviewed on Larry King Live and Nightline.

I predict that the family leave bill will pass and the right to an abortion will become law. I predict that Clinton will replace a retiring Supreme Court justice with a known certified liberal.

I predict that the idea of the gas tax will be killed and Clinton will lose more political capital over the issue of a middle class tax cut than any other issue.

I predict that Clinton will eventually pardon George Bush and kill the Iran Contra investigation. I think he will do this in exchange for various unnamed concessions and cooperation from Republican leaders.

I think that Iran will not be very eventful this year as far as active battle goes. Saddam will find Clinton to have as much resolve as Bush but not give him the benefit of the war of words to keep him pissed off. Therefore Saddam will be more cooperative.

On foreign affairs I'm predicting Clinton will lead a world movement to welcome the former Soviet republics into the family of nations stressing that it is imperative that the conversion from Communism to Capitalism be successful.

I predict that California will repeat it's budget woes and issue IOUs again for at least 30 days.

A friend of mine, Phil Case, is predicting that this is the year that California is going to get "The Big One". He's predicting an earthquake in the Bay area that will be at least as big at the 1906 quake.

I predict that Star Trek TNG will be cancelled and that this season will be it's last season. I think the new Star Trek series, Deep Space 9 will run only one season and be cancelled.

Well, that's it for this year. Some of these predictions are bolder than the ones I predicted last year. By all rights I should predict that I will get more wrong this year than last year, but I won't make that prediction.


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