Where Can You Find Beauty?

Of course the answer to this question is that beauty is all around us.  However, some things seem more beautiful than others and they are either worth being noted or worth being found.  (And yes, I realize Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that is a cliché.  Some things are indeed universally beautiful.)  If noted, they are somehow singled out for special attention.  They may become landmarks or tourist attractions like: Niagara Falls, The Grand Canyon or Carlsbad Caverns.  If you have ever visited any of these places, you know that you can stare and stare and stare at them for days.  You want to somehow drink or absorb their beauty.  You can walk around them and from different vantage points they provide a different panorama of beauty.  I am sure you can add many places or items to the list that I call “Noted” beauty.  By the way, “noted” beauty may include people, place, things or even ideas.  Someone noted that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was beautiful in its simplicity.  Matthew R. Crawford in his blog “Albert Einstein on Beauty, Science and God” believes that:

“what drove Einstein to his scientific conclusions was a conviction that nature displayed a beauty that was discernible, and that a characteristic feature of this beauty was simplicity.”

There are many lists of “beautiful men and women.  Every few years, the list of notable women beauties includes such familiar celebrities as:  Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amanda Seyfried and Halle Berry.  These are just a few of the many notable beauties who get nominated each year for the “most beautiful woman in the world list.”  I keep waiting to get nominated for most beautiful man in the world but alas to date, my name has not appeared on any lists.  They keep picking guys that would be low on my list like:  Matthew McConaughey, Brad Kroenig and Josh Harnett.  So there is no accounting for taste which is why some people say “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”   However, I have already stated that this is a lie.  Some beauty is universal.  The beauty of a rose or a humming bird or a newborn baby can be put on a list of things that are universally admired.

Then there are the items that I will put in the “unnoted” beauty list.  Unnoted beauty is beauty that surrounds us or that is often hidden to our eyes either because we take it for granted or because for some reason it has not become popular.  Many “beautiful” items become fashionable and then are assumed to be beautiful.  The “notable” beauty list is full of such items.  These items have the weight of public opinion on their side.  For instance, the Mona Lisa is considered to be one of the most beautiful pictures in the world and no trip to Paris is said to be complete without a visit to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa.  Right?  Well, sorry but I don’t agree.  Not only would I say it was not worth the effort, (Go to the Louvre anyway, you will not be disappointed) but I did not think it was such a great picture and NO, the eyes did not follow me.  I am not sure where that bit about the eyes comes from but I think many viewers must have been sucked up into a form of mass hysteria if they really believe the eyes followed them anywhere.

“Unnoted” beauty surrounds us as well and unlike notable beauty, unnoted beauty is most often free.  You have only to open your eyes and you can find unnoted in everything that encompasses you. Sometimes unnoted beauty is found in the least likely places.  On our trip back to Wisconsin from Arizona, Karen and I stopped for two days in Bisbee, Arizona to see some sights.  We went to the art shops, clothes shops, and antique stores and spend a day in Tombstone watching reenactments of the “Old West.”  One night we went out for a walk (We stayed at the Bisbee Grand Hotel which I highly recommend).  Prices, food, service, rooms were all incredible.  For $65 dollars a night we had a wonderful room and a great hot full breakfast each morning.  The view from the balcony which we ate out on was spectacular and in the saloon next door on a Tuesday night we were able to hear a great live Klezmer band called the The Underscore Orkestra which played for three hours a variety of jazz, Balkan and swing music.  They were staying in our hotel and traveling around the world performing.  You can find their schedule at their website.  If you enjoy some eclectic music you will really enjoy the Underscore Orkestra.  If you see them say hi to Jorge and Joshua and Willo for me.  They were fun to listen to and talk to as well.

To return to our walk, we decided to journey up hill, Bisbee seems to have two parts, uphill and downhill.  We had already toured downhill so we decided to visit uphill.  As we walked by a number of shops we came to an area where there was a large town hall and some municipal buildings.  Right behind the buildings was a large church.   We always enjoy looking in churches to see how they are decorated.  Most churches would not be on any list of notable beauty but you can often find some very beautiful artifacts in them that are not on any tourist list or brochure.  Unfortunately, today most churches now are locked except during service hours.  Since it was nearly 7 PM, we did not expect the church to be open.

stpat6Remaining an optimist, I walked up the steps to the church and pulled on the door.  Sadly, it was locked. As I started to walk down the steps, I heard a voice call out “Would you like to go inside.”

I saw a young man in a pickup truck starting to climb out and approach me.  I did not want to importune him but since he offered, I said “sure, thanks,” He told us his name was Jesus and then opened the doors and turned the lights on for Karen and I.  When he did, we were astonished.  As the Millennium generation like to say, it was awesome.  Before us, were the most beautiful stained glass windows I have ever seen in my life!   I don’t want to brag, but I have been in many churches and cathedrals including the Vatican, Notre Dame and St. Patrick’s in New York.  Never in any place in my entire life, have I seen a more beautiful set of stained glass windows.  There were two large ones at the front and two at the back of the church, a ceiling window and stained glass windows along each side of the church.  Karen and I just looked and looked. We did not have our camera.  Finally, while we did not want to leave, we decided we should probably let Jesus go home.  I had introduced myself to the man that let us in and he told us a little about the church and we exchanged names and thanked him profusely for letting us in.

On this special evening in Bisbee, Arizona “unnoted beauty” was displayed before us in two ways.  The first is obvious. We saw some beautiful art that was not on any tourist list I have yet seen.  I should mention, we went back the next day and the church was open so we went in again and this time we took some pictures.  I was also so impressed that on the morning we left, I rose early and went to a 7:30 AM mass they held at the church.   Jesus was there as were about 7 or 8 other parishioners.  I found out that the name of the church was St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church.  A subsequent web search revealed the following facts about the church.  I should note that none of these facts were evident at the church or in any local tourist literature that I saw while in Bisbee.  Hence, I still proclaim this to be an “unnoted” treasure and beauty.

Perched 200 feet above the floor of Tombstone Canyon in historic Bisbee, Arizona, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church stands as a monument to the exuberant determination of the town’s early residents to transform a primitive mining camp into one of the largest commercial centers in early Arizona.

bisbee

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Gothic Revival church is a copy of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the Irish district of Whitehaven, England.

St. Patrick’s 41 stained glass windows were designed and produced by Emil Frei, whose work is recognized as an unsurpassed example of Victorian-style stained glass.

The Bavarian-born Frei (1869-1942) studied at the Munich Academy of Art before immigrating to the United States in the late 1800s. In 1900 he opened the Emil Frei Art Glass Company in St. Louis, Missouri.

Now for the second example of beauty that day, it is not as obvious as the windows but it is even more beautiful than the wonders of the church.  Think about this for a minute.  It is 7 PM at night, you have been doing construction work all day and it is time to return home to your family and a hot meal.  Just as you are getting ready to start your car and head home, two yahoo tourists walk up to your church and appear to be trying to gain entry.  You are not a tour guide or the pastor and you do not earn one cent by abandoning your original plans to go home and letting them in.  Furthermore, you have no idea how long they will remain or whether or not other tourists will suddenly emerge who want to come in.  What would the average store clerk do? What would the average store owner do? And bear in mind, store clerks are potentially making some money off of visitors.

Jesus had nothing to gain and yet he took the time to let us in, talk to us and tell us some brief facts about the church.  So what was this “unnoted” beauty of which I speak?  I am talking about “beauty of the spirit” and that night in Bisbee, Jesus showed us what a beautiful spirit really was and how it gave to others with no thought of reward or privilege gained.   Jesus was not the parish priest and he had no responsibility at all in the area of perhaps talking to potential parishioners.  What Jesus did was done simply out of the beauty of the man’s heart.

“The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle.”  – Albert Einstein.

“Of life’s two chief prizes, beauty and truth, I found the first in a loving heart and the second in a laborer’s hand.” – Kahil Gibran

Time for Questions:

Do you look for beauty in unexpected places?  Do you find that beauty can lie in ideas and spirit and not just in things and glamour?  Do you raise your children to see the beauty of life and not just accomplishments or rewards?  How do you find beauty?  Do you have enough beauty in your life?  Can you still find beauty despite growing old and more infirm?  Can you help others by sharing your beauty with them?

Life is just beginning.

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” — Ashley Smith

 

Thinking about Immigration, Part 2: Pros and Cons of a Fair Immigration Policy!

The questions I raised last week on immigration can be summarized very succinctly into one overarching question.  Do immigrants benefit or hurt the USA in today’s global world?  If you believe that they absolutely do no good for our country or our economy than you are anti-immigration.  This is an honest position and a sensible one if your opponents cannot show that immigration on balance does more good than harm for our country.   If you believe that under certain conditions and within certain constraints, it may do some good or perhaps a great amount of good for our country than you are for a fair immigration policy.  There is no in-between on this issue.

history of anti immigrationThere is a big difference between anti-immigration and fair immigration.  Many of the arguments and positions advanced today are anti-immigration.  People like Donald Trump are exploiting fears of terrorism and crime to convince the American public that immigrants are evil and should be kept out of the country.  However, those who are for a fair immigration policy must create a balanced win-win for our nation and for those immigrants who are seeking to become a part of it.  If you are for a fair immigration policy, then you must educate yourself on this issue and demand that those who lead us do all that they can to create such an equitable immigration policy.  To demand any less, is to damage the fabric of this country.  Assuming of course, that you see the benefits immigration can have.

Now some of you may be thinking, well “what about illegal immigration,” where does this fit in.  I think this question needs a blog of its own and next week I will try to address this issue.  Suffice it to say for now, that I am not for allowing anyone to enter this country illegally. However there is a still a big chasm between an anti-immigration policy and a fair immigration policy.   Let’s look at some past comments from anti-immigration people.  This position is not new to the political landscape.  There have been anti-immigration perspectives since this country began.

nativism“The mighty tides of immigration bring to us not only different languages, opinions, customs and principles, but hostile races, religions and interests, and the traditional prejudices of generations with a large amount of turbulence, disorganizing theories, pauperism and demoralization…I freely acknowledge that among such masses of immigrants there are men of noble intellect.  But the number is lamentably small.”  – Garrett Davis

“The real objection to immigration lies in the changed conditions that have come about in the United States themselves. These conditions now dominate and control the tendencies that immigration manifests.  At the present time they are giving to the country a surplus of cheap labor – a greater supply than our industries and manufacturing enterprises need.”– Frank Julian Warne

anti-immigrant“It is an incontrovertible truth that the civil institutions of the United States of America have been seriously affected, and that they now stand in imminent peril from the rapid and enormous increase of the body of residents of foreign birth, imbued with foreign feelings, and of an ignorant and immoral character, who receive under the present lax and unreasonable laws of naturalization, the elective franchise and the right of eligibility to political office.”  Declaration of the Native American National Convention.

I confess I was having a hard time sorting out the arguments for and against immigration until I came upon a series of articles comprising debates for and against immigration that were written in the 1800’s.  Suddenly, I could see the same arguments (in slightly more modern language) that were being used by those against immigration today.  The difference is that we now have the advantage of hindsight to see how much validity they had.  The comment by Santayana that “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it” keeps ringing in my mind.”   Let me make this clear.  Take the first quote above.  This is from an article by Garrett Davis “America Should Discourage Immigration” written in 1849.  Garrett was appalled by the number of Germans and Irish that were coming over and sought to persuade the government that we needed to strongly discourage such immigration.  Everyone knew that the Germans and Irish were “mixed up with a large amount of idleness, moral degradation and crime.”  It is not too hard to find people today who still argue that new immigrants from new countries are also prone to such problems.

Close the bordersThe second quote is from Frank Warne and was excerpted from the Immigration Invasion, written by Warne in 1913.  Franks main concern was that all the Italian, Greek and Slavic immigrants coming over would lower wage rates and prevent America from developing the technology it needed to compete globally.  Warne said:  “Immigration tends to retard the invention and introduction of machinery which would otherwise do this rough labor for us.”  Looking back over the period from 1913 to 1990 can anyone find any validity in this argument?  The USA was arguably the most productive nation in the world from at least the early 1900’s to the late 1900’s.

the-hypocrisy-of-anti-immigration-marty-two-bullsThe third quote is from a prominent anti-immigration group and was written in 1845.  According to this group, the USA would decay from within as the new residents would not adjust to the American Way of life.  I think it can be said that from the early Pilgrims right up until the present time, we have not seen the American Way of Life yet corrupted by any successive wave of immigration regardless of what nation they were from.  There is a saying in organization development which goes “put a good person in a bad system and the system will win every time.”  I think the reverse of this saying is also true and it explains the greatness of our nation.

No bordersPut a “bad” or at least a new person in a good system and the system will also win every time.  New immigrants become creative honest hardworking and hard driving Americans. Proud of their new nation and willing to work even harder than the old generation of immigrants which now take their privileges and luxuries for granted.  Can anyone doubt the power of democracy and our constitution?  This leads me to note one fallacy which I think is argued by the liberal-immigration forces.  I regard the liberals as those who would just let everyone in and do not see the need for a fair and equitable immigration policy.  In their naiveté, they think that just leaving things alone or doing nothing will produce such a policy.

The liberal-immigration groups will often argue that the best, brightest and hardest working leave their country to come to America and the rest stay home.  The ones that do not come to our shores are either too lazy or stupid to leave.  This concept is an example of social Darwinism and it is advanced as an argument in favor of immigration and more liberal policies towards it.  However, I see no evidence that the people who stay home are any different from those who come to our shores.  People are people.  The first settlers to come to America were from a wide range of social and economic conditions.  Many in Europe were glad to get rid of them.  We would probably regard many of these first settlers as illiterate, radical and dangerous.  Nevertheless, they built the nation we now call home.  To argue that we should allow more immigration only if they are the best and brightest is self-serving and short sighted.  Short sighted in that it overlooks the power of our nation’s values and ideals to assimilate all who enter this nation.  Self-serving since it suggests that we forsake the downtrodden and oppressed in favor of only those who appear to fit our elite definitions of the “best and brightest.”

New CitizensLet’s all work towards a fair immigration policy.  Let’s give up any anti-immigration rhetoric as incompatible with our American ideals.  Forevermore, history has clearly shown that immigration has helped to make our nation great.  Let’s work together to create a plan to help our nation remain a beacon of light to those who are down trodden and oppressed.  We need a fair immigration policy that becomes further evidence to the world of the Great American Experiment.

Time for Questions:

Can you help create a fair immigration policy?  Can you fight against the prejudice of others to keep our shores open to those in need?  Can you add your voice to those who want a fair immigration policy?

Life is Just Beginning.

“America was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. That part of America which had encouraged them most had advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture and the arts.” — James Madison

Social Legacy Systems: How They Block Change and Prevent Progress: Part 2- The Legal Correctional System

Responsible_Prison_Reform-e1373996928213No set of institutions in America are more in need of reform than our legal correctional systems. No systems in America cost the taxpayer more money with less return or value to the taxpayer than our prisons and correctional related systems. No institutions in American cause more misery and heartache than our courts, legal system and correctional institutions. Together, our courts, legal systems and correctional systems cost the American taxpayer well over $100 billion dollars a year. The Economics of the American Prison System”  (Listen to Wake Up Dead Man) as you read my blog today. 

And what do we get for this “investment?”

  • Within three years of being released, 67% of ex-prisoners re-offend.
  • Within three years of being released 52% are re-incarcerated
  • The rate of recidivism is so high in the United States that most inmates who enter the system are likely to reenter within a year of their release.
  • In 2008, one of every 48 working-age men (2.1 percent of all working-age men) was in prison or jail.
  • In 2008, the U.S. correctional system held over 2.3 million inmates, about two-thirds in prison and about one-third in jail. 450px-Incarceration_rates_worldwide
  • Non-violent offenders make up over 60 percent of the prison and jail population. Non-violent drug offenders now account for about one-fourth of all offenders behind bars, up from less than 10 percent in 1980.
  • The total number of violent crimes was only about three percent higher in 2008 than it was in 1980, while the total number of property crimes was about 20 percent lower. Over the same period, the U.S. population increased about 33 percent and the prison and jail population increased by more than 350 percent.
  • Crime can explain only a small portion of the rise in incarceration between 1980 and the early 1990s, and none of the increase in incarceration since then. If incarceration rates had tracked violent crime rates, for example, the incarceration rate would have peaked at 317 per 100,000 in 1992, and fallen to 227 per 100,000 by 2008 – less than one third of the actual 2008 level and about the same level as in 1980.

These facts are from “The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration” by Schmidt, Warner and Gupta, 2010

US_criminal_justice_cost_timeline

These facts have not gone unnoticed by state legislatures and politicians.

“In 2013, 35 states passed at least 85 bills to change some aspect of how their criminal justice systems address sentencing and corrections. In reviewing this legislative activity, the Vera Institute of Justice found that policy changes have focused mainly on the following five areas: reducing prison populations and costs; expanding or strengthening community-based corrections; implementing risk and needs assessments; supporting offender reentry into the community; and making better informed criminal justice policy through data-driven research and analysis. By providing concise summaries of representative legislation in each area, this report aims to be a practical guide for policymakers in other states and the federal government looking to enact similar changes in criminal justice policy.” Vera Institute of Justice     US_incarceration_timeline-clean.svg

I have written about this problem before. See my blogs (The Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or “How did our drug laws get so crazy?” It is not a new problem and in the years since I published my first article on it, it has only gotten worse. I published my first article on this issue back in 1995. In it, I applied the concepts of process and quality improvement to the criminal justice System. My article was published in a journal of pro’s and con’s on the justice system. Subsequently, I was asked to speak at a correctional conference in Minnesota and to explain the concepts that I had outlined in my paper.

The conference was attended by hard Right and hard Left people: Correctional Officers, Wardens, Prison Reform Advocates, and Relatives of both victims and prisoners. The Right wanted stronger sentencing guidelines and tougher police policies. The Left wanted more humane treatment for prisoners and more focus on rehabilitation. Each group had read my paper and each group thought I was “on their side.” The fact of the matter was, each side was wrong. I was not on either side. Tougher sentencing (which seems to have won out) has only resulted in prison reasonshigher levels of incarceration, less feeling of safety in society, higher costs and no appreciable decrease in drug usage or correctional costs. The Left may have lost in terms of policy but their solutions would not have fixed the system either. You do not get a better system by fixing defects after they are created. Process improvement focuses on going upstream and preventing defects, not warehousing and reworking them. It became clear as I tried to explain concepts of process control, six sigma system capability, rework, redesign and systems analysis, that I was speaking Greek to the participants, both Left and Right. Neither side had a clue as to what I was talking about. I suspect each side was disappointed that they had not found a new advocate.

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” ― Max Planck,

People in the old paradigm cannot see the new paradigm. Both sides might as well have been deaf and mute while I was speaking since the concepts I introduced were so foreign to them. I noted that the Correctional System needs reform. This was an understatement. The Correctional and Legal systems in America need nothing less than a major paradigm shift. Or to put it another way, we need a revolution in thinking about crime, incarceration and justice. Einstein noted that: “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” We need new thinking and new ideas. We need creative inspired leaders who are willing to break with conventions and boldly go “Where no one has gone before.” This kind of courage is sadly lacking in our political leaders today.

If I had to give my talk over again today, I would not talk about process control or process improvement. I would simply talk about the need for a paradigm shift. I would try with all my might to get the fish to see the water, to get the birds to smell the air and to get the people there to see the failure of the present paradigm. I do not need to recite the facts again. They have been repeated ad nausea. The problem is getting people to open their eyes. More prisons do not mean more safety. Longer sentences do not mean less crime. Tougher policing does not mean less violence on the streets. Witness the wave of protests rocking America today following the Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III shootings by police. Every one of these names represents a killing by a police officer of an unarmed Black man or Black child. To date, not one killing has resulted in the indictment of a single police officer. The apparent message this sends is that: “Black men are guilty until proven innocent and that that they are so dangerous that they need to be shot first and asked questions of later.”

Bill James in his book “Popular Crime” provides the following observation:

“What we are doing, in a sense, is making ourselves constantly more aware of the threats and dangers around us, and then erecting security walls as if these threats were closing in on us, when in reality, we are pushing them further and further away.” P-96

James consistently provides evidence that we are safer and crime is lower than it has ever been in the history of this country. A point I made in my blog Are We Living in More Dangerous Times?  , see Part 1 and Part 2 with numerous statistics from the FBI and other agencies. Nevertheless, as the media treats us to a steady crescendo of violence and terror on the news, radio and TV, it is hard for anyone to feel like they are really safer or that they are less likely to be murdered in their sleep. Gun sales, concealed carry weapons and ammunitions sales have increased dramatically in the US in the past ten years. Smith and Wesson’s stock price has gone from 1.65 per share in 2004 to over $9 per share in 2014.

“The “Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States” report from the Crime Prevention Research Center released Wednesday (July 10, 2014) analyzed parallels between a 22 percent drop in the overall violent crime rate in the same time period in which the percentage of the adult population with concealed carry permits soared by 130 percent.

The report finds that 11.1 million Americans now have permits to carry concealed weapons, which are up from 4.5 million in 2007. This 146 percent increase parallels a nearly one-quarter (22 percent) drop in both murder and violent crime rates during the same time period.” —  Number of Permits Surges as Crime Rate Drops

Citizens, police, homeowners, retired people, elderly, minorities and even children are walking the streets with their weapons in Condition O. That is cocked and ready to fire. Only the slightest provocation is needed to shoot. A dark figure lurking in a hallway, a man running towards us down the street, someone knocking on our front door late at night and the response is “shoot, shoot and shoot.” The reaction is even more rapid when the “allegorical” assailant is a minority or a stranger.

We need a paradigm shift. We are going in the wrong direction. We are safer and more secure than ever before, but we are walling everyone away who pose even the most minimal threat to our security. We are walling ourselves away behind security fences, gated communities, threat detection systems, private police forces, concealed weapons and reduction of liberty and spontaneity. We don’t feel safer and we are more suspicious of outsiders and strangers. We resent immigrants and foreigners and anyone who is different from us. Send them all back. The hell with sanctuary or diversity! America for people that look like me, act like me and think like me.

Build more prisons!  Invoke the three strike rule!  Make it a two strike rule!  Get tough on crime!  Platitudes like these get voters on the side of security and restraint. No new taxes does not apply to building new prisons. The contradiction between liberty and safety is ignored. Fear drives irrational behavior. Everyone develops blinders as the police go about harassing would be criminals or even suspected criminals or anyone who even looks suspicious.  “Thank God, once we lock them away, we can throw away the key and not have to deal with them anymore!  If only we could put all the “suspects” away, we good people could go about our lives feeling safe and free from the possibility of crime and violence.”

“By age 23, almost a third of Americans have been arrested for a crime, according to a new study that researchers say is a measure of growing exposure to the criminal justice system in everyday life.” — http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/us/nearly-a-third-of-americans-are-arrested-by-23-study-says.html?_r=0

Time for Questions:

How safe do you feel: On the street, in your home, late at night, at a movie concert? What makes you feel safe? Have you ever been arrested? Do you know anyone in jail? Can you think of a way that prisons could be eliminated? Do you know how many people are in prison for non-violent crimes? What if they were doing public service instead? What can you do to help bring about prison reform? Are you happy with the present system?

Life is just beginning.

“A moment’s beginning ends in a moment” ― Munia Khan

 

%d bloggers like this: