The question every society answers but no one wants to ask.

During a press conference a couple of days ago New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that if all of the sweeping expensive measures spent on the corona virus saved even one life, it would be worth it.

That’s an expected comment from a politician, but it just doesn’t make a lick of sense and everyone knows it.  The fundamental question is: “What value does society put on a human life?”  The political answer is:  “A human life is priceless; no amount of money is worth a human life.”  No one believes that, not even Cuomo.

About 35,000 Americans die each year in car and truck accidents.  If politicians honestly believed every single human life is priceless, they would enact a 10 mph maximum speed limit.   Every person in a truck or automobile would be required to wear a seat belt and a government approved crash helmet at all times.  The government would also have to spend billions of taxpayer dollars for extra police to enforce this edict.

The public would never support this economy-choking restriction for obvious reasons.  The calculus is simple; it is better to lose 35,000 lives than to grind the economy to a halt.  It appears that human lives are far from priceless.  Besides, you and I are not going to be among the 35,000 people who die.  Right?

The value of human life also depends upon the wealth and attitudes in the country that a person lives.  I was once on a flight from London to Boston.  Over the Atlantic Ocean, two hours west of London, a man on my flight suffered a heart attack.  The plane dumped fuel and diverted to Prestwick, Scotland where paramedics rushed him to the hospital.  We later learned that he had thankfully survived.  I thought about the costs of the diversion to save his life.  Jet fuel dumped into the atmosphere, crew salaries, refueling in Scotland, and the value of the time of 400 passengers who lost perhaps six hours due to the delay.  None of the passengers grumbled about the delay.  The societal consensus was confirmed; this man’s life was worth at least one million dollars.  I’m not sure that a North Korean’s life is worth anywhere near than amount.

Today we are faced with the ultimate dilemma as we weigh the benefits of short run sheltering with the costs associated with locking down the economy.  Most agree that we should shelter now so that we don’t overwhelm our health care system, but we also know that we can’t shut down the economy for much longer.  For now there is a general consensus that the health benefits of sheltering exceed the costs of choking down the economy.  In my opinion, within the next two weeks the tables will tilt toward restarting the economy.  As everyone knows, but no one wants to admit, human life is not priceless.



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Ten Ways to Remain Positive During Virus Time

These days I’m at home most of the time, in concert with recommendations regarding social distancing.  This is a depressing period for many of us, which is to be expected in these times of uncertainty.  Yours truly suffers through this “downer” time and while I’m not an expert I’ve got some ideas that work for me to minimize feelings of depression.

  1.  Work from home.  If the boss lets you work from home remember that every second spent doing work tasks at home is one second you aren’t thinking about the Corona Virus.
  2. Watch television news sparingly.  Once a day glance at the latest virus news, but not for more than 15-20 minutes.  Then, let it go until the next day.  You don’t need hourly updates; once a day is enough to remain informed.
  3. Watch (and stream) television.  If you must watch TV watch HGTV, find a nice Netflix movie or stream that 13 part series that you never got around to watching.
  4. Stay away from Facebook, twitter, and other social media.  It is depressing and is full of non-factual, stupid comments from people who think they know something.  If this isn’t bad enough, social media is also full of conspiracy theories that will make you want to jump off of a cliff if you read enough of them.  The more of this social media you read every day the more depressed you will become.
  5. Go outside and take a long walk each day.  This gives you essential exercise and plenty of fresh air.  Listen to the birds chirping and the squirrels chattering; they’re not worried about the virus!
  6. Call an old friend that you haven’t seen for a couple of years.  Talk for an hour.  Both of you will be better off.
  7. Do home repairs and spring cleaning.  You’ve got to do these things sooner or later.  If you put them off you’ll have to spend time doing these tasks when everyone else is celebrating victory over the virus.  Do em now to avoid boredom.
  8. Read a Book.  Reading is a great way to pass the time and personal enlightenment is highly underrated.
  9. Sleep longer.  Every hour of sleep is one less hour of depression.  Besides, who can’t use an extra hour of sleep!
  10. Try to smile and not worry.  It never helps you or the other guy if you’re a grinch.  Even though sometimes it is hard to be positive, you know in your soul that there’s absolutely nothing good that comes from negativity!
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Welcome Back, My Friends

After four years of absence I’ve decided to jump back on the site.  My reasons for taking a hiatus were simple; once I got out of my weekly blogging routine it became easier and easier not to blog.  I enjoy blogging, but there were so many other things to do that I just let it go.  The Sino-Virus situation has drawn me back into the game.  I plan to blog once a week, but you might see me more often than that during this viral disruption.

I’m sitting in my office at good old 420 Main Street in Winona, Minnesota.  I’m still a Professor at Winona State University, although I am on a sabbatical leave this year.

What we are going through now is unprecedented and world-wide.  In the next few days I  will comment on aspects of this crisis such as bailouts, strategic trade policy, government failure, and long term economic changes resulting from this crisis, but today I want to address uncertainty.

If there is anything in this world that will distort and disrupt personal, community, or governmental behavior, it is uncertainty.  And wow do we have uncertainty, as billions of people don’t know when their jobs will resume, when schools will open again, or when they will be able to attend sporting events, concerts or other large venues.  Uncertainty leads to panic, fear, and often results in irrational behavior.

At this point of time all of us are living lives that are vastly different than anything we have ever experienced.  Know three things:  First, humans thrive on social interaction.  Under such circumstances it is rational and normal to feel despair and depression.   Second, this is a temporary event.  This too shall pass.  Third, when it is finally over and we can take to the streets to resume our normal lives, the pent up demand will explode to deliver a rapidly recovering economy.

Below is a photo of me in the La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires in October 2019.
Be of Good Cheer…the good times will come back!

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The Worst of the Looters

stolen tools cropWhen we think of types of crime robbery is usually not considered to be as serious as violent behavior. After all, life is more important than property. Property can be replaced so if no one gets hurt or killed we should be grateful and move on. But wait a minute. What is the true relationship between property and life? Furthermore, what is to be said about a person who steals a man’s tools?   This is a story about a category of robbery that I find most repugnant and disturbing; when someone steals a man’s tools.

I have a dear friend in Chicago. He came here 20 years ago from Mexico and yes, Mr. Trump, he is a legal resident of the United States. He supports his wife and five children making his living as an independent contractor. He plies the streets of Chicago driving an old white van full of the tools of his trade including pipe threaders, impact hammers and other expensive equipment that he has worked for years to acquire. I first got to know this honest and hard working man when I hired him to do some work for me. This has evolved into a ten-year friendship with he and his family. When speaking with each other privately I refer to him as “mi hermano” (my brother).gty_roofer_130328_wmainOn January 18, 2016 in the middle of a cold Chicago night someone stole my brother’s work van containing all of his tools. He has not been able to recover either. In my opinion to steal a man’s tools is the worst type of robbery imaginable. A man has a right to his life. As a natural consequence he has the right to defend and to sustain his life. He needs the tools of his trade to do this; the farmer needs his plow, the roofer needs his ladders and so on. Using his intellect, his tools, and years of experience a man earns what I suppose is the noblest economic honor that can be bestowed on any human being, the title of “producer”.

Those who steal are the antithesis of producers. They are known as “looters”.   Looters have no skills or experience to bring to the table and are not capable of producing anything.   They choose instead to take from the producer the very tools he needs to sustain himself and his family. Thanks to these looters mi hermano will have to work for several years to reach the level of prosperity that he had once achieved, but he has already begun. Within 3 days after the robbery he started working again with a borrowed truck and some small tools that were not stored in his van. Meanwhile, the morally bankrupt looters are probably sitting around complaining about the unfairness and injustices they have “suffered” in the journey of their pathetic lives.

This is a travesty. It is not for me to judge but my dark side hopes that there is a little corner in hell for anyone who steals a man’s tools.

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140228155048-whispering-gossip-story-topSomehow somewhere academia just couldn’t leave political correctness alone; they had to take it to another level. The topic is micro aggressions, which according to UCLA is defined as “everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.” UCLA’s position is adapted from Sue, Derald Wing. Microaggressions in everyday life: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation. Wiley & Sons, 2010. Fasten your seatbelts folks, here we go!

I’m going to quote from the UCLA publication by giving you the microagression example and then telling you what the “real message” is, according to these academic geniuses.

Example I. “Where are you from?” or “Where were you born?” The real message is: “You are not a true American.”

Example II. “America is a melting pot.” The real message is: “You must assimilate to the dominant culture.”

Example III. A White man or woman clutches his/her purse or checks wallet as a Black or Latino person approaches. The real message is: “You are a criminal” or “You are dangerous.”

Example IV: “America is the land of opportunity.” The real message is: “People of color are lazy and/or incompetent and need to work harder.”

Example V: The use of the pronoun “he” to refer to all people. The real message is: “Female experience is invisible.”

Example VI: A person asks a woman her age and, upon hearing she is 31, looks quickly at her ring finger. The real message is: “Women should be married during child-bearing ages because that is their primary purpose.”

It would be one thing if the idea of microaggressions was relegated to a bookshelf containing a bunch of dusty, unread, doctoral dissertations. Unfortunately in my opinion the concept gathers more and more disciples each day, mostly in academia of course.  Mark my words; the day will come when someone will go to jail in the United States of America because he looked at another person in the “wrong” way, or asked what he thought was an innocent question. Oops…I used the “he” pronoun. Off to jail with me.



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I Like Cam

112415-Sports-Cam-NewtonCameron Jerrell Newton is the quarterback of the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League. On Sunday, February 7 he will lead his team against the Denver Broncos in the 50th Super Bowl played in Santa Clara, California. This will be Cam’s first Super Bowl; the Panthers are currently favored by the boys in Las Vegas.

Cam is an amazing athlete. At 6’5” and 250 pounds he is a powerful and formidable man, especially for a quarterback. When sacking Cam you don’t throw him to the ground; you hang on for dear life until he tumbles down. Newton has developed into a good pocket passer, but has the mobility to operate out of the pocket and can kill you when he decides to keep the ball and run. There are more accurate passers in the NFL but Cam is coming along and developing nicely in this regard.

Newton was a rascal in college and controversy remains regarding his collegiate recruitment but by all accounts he is a model NFL player. He is adored by his fans in Carolina, yet he is a polarizing figure for many gridiron fans. As a fan you either love the guy or dislike him immensely, not because of his football expertise but because of his celebratory behavior.

The consummate entertainer, when the Panthers score a touchdown Cam will go to the sidelines and raise his arms to the fans as if her were conducting an orchestra. His smile is contagious but can be irritating to opposing fans. He skips down the sideline like a little kid at times. He dances when he scores a touchdown. Cam smiles nearly all the time even when he is getting sacked. Newton does not taunt his opponents; instead he celebrates his success. When I talk to football fans I find them really divided. Many of them think he is a glory-hog that celebrates “over the top” but others really like the guy.

While I had a bit of difficulty with his celebration methods at first, I’ve come to the conclusion that Cam Newton not only genuinely likes to play football but he plays it with joy! He reminds me a lot of the exuberance of Dennis Rodman when he played for the Bulls.  Rodman just loved the game and couldn’t hide his enthusiasm. Cam is a lot like that. He’s just like a little kid playing Pop Warner football. There is an innocence in his fervor.

Cam is not your soft spoken Brady, Rogers, Manning type of quarterback of the past; he is the quarterback of the future. Keep on smiling, Cam. I’m a fan!

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After January 31 Ice Hockey Will Change Forever

kaneAt age eleven I put on a pair of old rental skates at the Ak-Sar-Ben ice arena in Omaha. After that I was hooked on hockey, but was an average player at best.  A Chicago Blackhawks season ticket holder I’ve long believed that the game could be more exciting.  Now the NHL might be on the verge of transforming its game, even though they may not realize it.

Hockey has suffered because there are too many men on a small ice surface.   This is exacerbated by blue line off-sides rules.  Doing away with red line off sides has helped open up the game a bit but not nearly enough.  Currently the offensive zone it is a mad scramble with 10  men scrumming around between the blue line and the goal line.  It is difficult to shoot and as a result most goals are scored through deflection and goalie screening.  The pure skating move or the dynamic slap shot to beat the goal tender is becoming rare.

I’ve thought for years that only the red line should remain and it should be used for icing purposes only.  There would be no blue lines and no off sides.  Under these conditions 5 on 5 hockey would be much more exciting.  Simply put, those darned blue lines “bunch up” hockey making the game less enjoyable.

This year the NHL is using 3 on 3 hockey for the 5 minute overtime period.  It is so darned exciting that I’m wishing for a tie so I can see 5 minutes of 3 on 3.  Sunday January 31 the entire NHL All Star game will be played 3 on 3.  This will be the beginning of the end for 5 on 5 NHL hockey.   Once fans get a taste of 3 on 3, with its frequent break outs and many scoring chances, they will never go back to the 5 on 5 game.

Some have told me that 3 on 3 will never catch on because fewer players are needed, but I’m not so sure.  With the furious action of 3 on 3 hockey four or five lines may be needed.  The goalies will have to work harder, making a back-up goalie even more important.

I’ve never met a hockey fan who won’t concede that 3 on 3 is more exciting than 5 on 5.
The NHL will have to comply, either by adopting 3 on 3 for the entire game or by taking out the blue lines and opening the entire ice surface to exciting freestyle 5 on 5 hockey.

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Millennial Paralysis Syndrome (MPS)

hallway studentsI have been a college Professor for 40 years. I arrive at the door of my classroom at the top of the hour, exactly when the class is scheduled to begin. When I enter the classroom the lights are on and the students are present in their seats.

Two years ago I first discovered the phenomenon of MPS.   As I walked down the hall I noticed my entire class of was standing around the classroom door. Approaching the window in the door I noticed that the lights were off and no one was inside the classroom. I reached for my keys, assuming that the facilities people had forgotten to unlock the classroom door. Much to my surprise the door was unlocked. I looked back at my students and said, “Didn’t anyone try to open the door?” They just looked back at me in silence.

This has happened 4 times in the past two years but not even once in my previous 38 years of teaching. My question is, “How do a group of people independently arrive at a classroom door and no one even attempts to open it?” Even more important is, “What are the characteristics of people who would be so paralyzed such that not even one of them attempts to turn the door handle?”

I’ve asked some of the students about this but I’m not getting any explanations that satisfy me. One student said that he was the second person to arrive but that when he noticed that the first person hadn’t gone inside he just assumed that the door was locked. Really? Couldn’t he have just tried the door to make sure? Or was he afraid to insult the first student by trying the door? One of my colleagues at the university thinks that this latest bunch of Millennials is “afraid to fail” or “afraid to look stupid” by trying the door in the presence of other students.

If this is the case we need to know why these students are so “sensitive.” Are they losing their one-on-one communication skills due to their dependence on “social media” and cell phones? Have they accepted political correctness to the extent that they won’t even question the judgment of others who are present? I don’t know. I don’t have a clue. However I am concerned about the future of this country. I’m pretty certain that we will require leaders who are at least bold enough to ask another if he has tried to open a door.

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Terrorists vs. The American Militia


Despite what Obama says the Islamic Terrorist group known as ISIS has not been contained and seems to be establishing itself as a force that can blow up airplanes, bomb restaurants and shoot hundreds of people in concerts or sporting events.  As I write this article the city of Brussels, the administrative headquarters of the European Union, is on lock-down.  ISIS has not only murdered hundreds of innocent people but has now inflicted huge economic damage in both Paris and Brussels.  What is to be done about ISIS?  What is to be done about domestic crazy people like the crazy recluse who recently shot up the clinic in Colorado.

William Lind, in a recent article in The American Conservative Magazine, titled “The Logic of a Modern Militia”, argues that our current model of citizen protection is ineffective.  Police and government intelligence agencies may have the ability to detect and stop some terrorists before they do their damage but no government agency or police force will be able to stop all attacks.  For the families of those dead in Paris there is little comfort that “after the fact” the perpetrators have been killed or brought to justice.  Government police forces, whether they be federal, state or local, are largely ineffective against well designed terrorist plots.

Ironically our founding fathers have already given us a superior solution to this problem; the American Militia.  The second amendment to the US Constitution guarantees American citizens the right to own firearms.  Most states allow us to take training courses that allow us to conceal and carry hand guns.  If ISIS or some other madman were to attempt to duplicate the Paris killing spree at a West Texas dance club the percentage of lives lost would have been greatly decreased.  Carnage would not be avoided entirely but if there had been even four or five French citizens in that theatre with concealed handguns the insanity would have stopped much sooner.  As William Lind states, “How do you stop lone wolf terror?   With every man available.”

On the television news last week a young father held his three year old son at a memorial site in Paris.  Flowers were in abundance.  He told his son that flowers and not bullets were the answer to this chaos.  The son questioned his father, wondering how bullets could be stopped with flowers.  The father was insistent that flowers were the answer.  It was a beautiful, idealistic moment but the child’s instinctive wisdom shone through.

These terrorists are heartless killers who care nothing for peace.  If we are to reduce the carnage caused by terrorists return gunfire is the only defense.  We need to stop demonizing firearms and encourage responsible American citizens to receive training and carry concealed weapons as allowed by law.  Concealed firearms in the hands of hundreds of thousands of trained, responsible citizens may well be the best defense against any kind of terrorism.  Ultimately the only answer for a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Lind’s Article:


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That Strange Game Called Baseball

Addison Russell of the Chicago Cubs

Addison Russell of the Chicago Cubs

The 2015 regular season in major league baseball is now finished.  Unfortunately the Twins did not make it to the playoffs.  The Royals are in again this year.  Madison Bumgarner won’t be ruining the Royals World Series hopes this year as the Chicago Cubs eliminated the Giants.  The Cubs earned the right to play the Pittsburgh Pirates (in Pittsburgh’s PNC park)  in a single-elimination wild card game this coming Wednesday night.  If the Cubs win they will play St. Louis in the playoffs.  Believe me, Wrigleyville is a buzz.

However, before the playoffs start let’s look at some interesing facts about baseball’s regular season.

Each major league baseball team plays 162 games during the regular season; 81 games at home and 81 games away.

During most regular seasons every team will win at least 60 games and every team will lose 60 games.  For example in this past 2015 regular season the St. Louis Cardinals, who had the best record in baseball with 100 wins, still lost 62 games.  On the other hand, the Philadelphia Phillies, who lost 99 games on their journey to the worst record in baseball, still won 63 games.

Do the math:  If each team wins at least 60 games and each team loses at least 60 games, the entire fortune of each team’s season depends on the outcome of just 42 games.

This season St Louis with 100 wins and the best record in baseball still won only 61.7 percent of their games.   This means that they lost 38.3% of their games.  Even the mighty Cardinals lost more than one of every three games they played.  The odds are against even the top teams in baseball to sweep a series, so if your team sweeps a 3 game series it is big deal!  Managers are correct when they emphasize the goal of “winning a series” because even winning two of three games is more than can be reasonably expected over an entire season.  After all, if your team won two of three games in every series for an entire season it would have a winning percentage of .666 which would mean 108 wins and only 54 losses.  This record would most certainly qualify a team for a division title.  In the modern (162 game) era of baseball only the 2001 Seattle Mariners (116-46) and the 1998 New York Yankees (114-48) have won more than 108 games.

Finally the record for the best winning percentage in the entire history of baseball (.764) is held by the 1906 Chicago Cubs, who won 116 games and lost only 36 games!  Moreover, in the 1906 World Series the Cubs were fortunate to be matched against the hapless Chicago White Sox (known as the “hitless wonders”) who had the worst team batting average in the American League!  It didn’t matter; in one of the largest upsets in the history of sports the White Sox beat the Cubs in six games!

That’s Baseball!

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