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Herb Van Fleet

Herb Van Fleet has written 30 posts for The Absurdity Index

Pondering Pogo’s Enemy

Pondering Pogo’s Enemy – One Op-Ed at a Time NOW AVAILABLE   If you are interested in Essays, Commentary, Current Events, Social Issues, Political Issues, Democracy, Governance, National Security, Environmental Issues, Economics, Military, or History, this book may be of interest to you. Available for order online and from local bookstores in print and eBook … Continue reading

The Paradox of Robotic Labor

Amid the shrill and irritating noise of politics these days, there have been a few news stories reporting on the progress of robotics; especially robotic cars. Robots are just one of the engineering outgrowths that are part of Artificial Intelligence and high tech automation systems. Besides cars, their applications run the gamut from the military, … Continue reading

A Couple of Problems with Wannabe President Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s Narcissism In the American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” narcissism is defined as a personality disorder. The Mayo Clinic provides a list of symptoms indicating that those with this disorder may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious, that they often monopolize conversations, that they belittle or look down … Continue reading

You Can Only Get Something From Nothing If Nothing Is Something*

“Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson   Notwithstanding a few creationists out there, I think we can all agree that the universe existed long before we humans arrived on the scene and that it will continue to exist long after we’re gone. This … Continue reading

Why Supreme Court Opinions need a Supermajority

  . “Law is reason, free from passion.” – Aristotle . And then there were eight. The passing of Justice Scalia in February 2016, left the Supreme Court in something of a dilemma. There are four left leaning Justices and four right leaning. Therefore, the chances of tie votes, an equal split in opinions, would … Continue reading

When “Give ‘em Hell” Truman Actually Gave ‘em Hell

“The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold. If they do not now accept our terms they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” – President Harry S. Truman, Excerpt from public statement, … Continue reading

About Marriage: Gay and Straight

“There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.” — Homer Rumor has it that right after the Supreme Count issued its ruling on gay marriage, Justice Antonin Scalia went outside the Supreme Court building … Continue reading

The Tragedy of Self-Interest

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages.”– Adam Smith – Back in … Continue reading

Torturing America’s Values

  “The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example.” – George W. Bush   Although I am loath to use “Senate” and “intelligence” in the same sentence, nonetheless, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report a few months ago on the use of torture … Continue reading

Searching for the Least Worst Decision

“‎The greatest danger of a terrorist’s bomb is in the explosion of stupidity that it provokes.” ― Octave Mirbeau A few weeks ago, most of the world recoiled in shock at a video showing the decapitation of American journalist James Foley by a terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, … Continue reading

Thoughts on the Fourth of July

Another Forth of July is behind us. The speeches are now fading memories, the patriotic music is quiet, the hotdog eating contests are over (thank god), and the fireworks displays have fizzled out Everybody knows (or should know) that the Forth of July is the day of the year when we celebrate the signing of … Continue reading

So Long Democracy, We Knew Ye Well. R.I.P.

  Well, it’s is now official. Liberal democracy as we knew it is no more. Or, as Nietzsche might put it, democracy is dead. And how do I know this, you ask? I know because of an April 9 report by Princeton University’s Martin Gilens, and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page, “Testing Theories of American Politics: … Continue reading

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Health Care

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,during a period of philosophic thought called the Enlightenment, the idea of “natural rights” was all the rage. With few exceptions, the philosophers of the day felt that human beings were born with certain immutable rights and that the protection of these rights must be a condition of the establishment … Continue reading

Predicting is Hard, Especially About the Future

The great poet and philosopher Yogi Berra once astutely observed that “predicting is hard, especially about the future.” Well, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it look easy. In its latest report, “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis,” issued March 31, the IPCC says in so many words (covering 1,552 pages) that the … Continue reading

How to Save a Drowning Man

I recently recalled an old joke about how to tell a Republican from a Democrat. It goes like this: There is a drowning man 100 feet off shore. The Republican would throw the man 50 feet of rope and make him swim half way to safety. But the Democrat would throw the man 200 feet … Continue reading

Time to Quit Digging

“When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” — Benjamin Franklin I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but we, meaning we the nation, have already fallen off the proverbial fiscal cliff. We are like Wiley Coyote who, standing in midair about 10 feet … Continue reading

No Place to Hide

“The [National Security Agency’s] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.”  – Senator Frank Church. Senator Church made that statement in 1975, … Continue reading

From Russia With . . . Irony?

The Syrian dilemma, at least as far as chemical weapons are concerned, has seemed to resolve itself. Russian President Vladimir Putin came riding in on a white horse, shirtless of course, leaving President Obama and Secretary Kerry in a dust cloud of indecision while neatly getting the Syrian regime to turn over its stockpile of … Continue reading

Some Thoughts on the George Zimmerman Affair

“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will  not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.     Well, the trial of George Zimmerman is over. Kind of. It lingers on, especially … Continue reading

The 800 Pound Gorilla in the Room

“With Congress, every time they make a joke it’s a law, and every time they make a law it’s a joke.” – Will Rogers Here we go again through the quadrennial exercise of electing a President. Every four years, we voters have to endure a mix of ad homonyms, magical thinking, mendacity, hyperbole, hypocrisy, and … Continue reading

Planning Seven Generations Ahead

A recent poll shows the approval rating of Congress at a miserable and embarrassing 8.0%. This, together with recent demonstrations from the Tea Party folks and the Occupy (fill in the blank) groups, exemplify a growing discontent with the direction this country is headed. Indeed, there are many challenges to be dealt now and over … Continue reading

A New Star Chamber?

“We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation’s citizens.” – Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 2004 Some of you might remember the 1983 motion picture “Star Chamber” starring Michael Douglas and Hal Holbrook. … Continue reading

Response to the “Angry New Jersey Housewife”

(As an homage for the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11, here is an essay I wrote on September 30, 2007.) Some time ago, I received, along with who knows how many other people on the internet, an e-mail, the subject of which was simply, “Angry New Jersey Housewife.” I don’t know where it originated, or how … Continue reading

Second Amendment? What Second Amendment?

“When the sword is once drawn, the passions of men observe no bounds of moderation” — Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #16 I don’t understand all the fuss about the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. A simple reading of the Amendment in its historical context and using eighteenth century semantics, reveals pretty clearly that … Continue reading

What is the Power of We The People?

The Globe’s editorial “People Power” (Dec. 28, 2011), touched on a number of issues that have bothered me for some time. Although I’m neither a Constitutional lawyer nor scholar, I have researched some of the questions raised there as well as many others that have concerned me over the years. First, you might be surprised … Continue reading

Blaming Henry Ford

I blame Henry Ford. Everybody’s blaming somebody for all the messes we’re in these days. So, I blame Henry Ford. Ford’s introduction of the affordable Model T in 1908, which was manufactured using an “assembly line,” became the springboard for numerous other industries that, with a few hiccups along the way, have produced the greatest … Continue reading

Tribalism, Pluralism and Geronimo

As workmen were attaching the plaque with Emma Lazarus’s poem to the pedestal of the new Statue of Liberty – the one that reads, in part, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” – Americans were celebrating the end of the Indian wars. The lone holdouts, lead by the … Continue reading

Oskar and Huck

When Steven Spielberg was approached by NBC to broadcast his masterpiece film, Schindler’s List, he had two conditions. First, no commercial interruptions during the entire three and one-half hour running time. Second, the movie must be uncut, not one frame left out or altered. NBC agreed and the show aired on Feb. 23rd, 1997. Even … Continue reading

Respecting the Constitution

James Madison wrote in Federalist 57: “The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous … Continue reading

1984 Revisited

First we had the shoe bomber. So then we had to start taking our shoes off. But now we have the underpants bomber. Before it’s over, we’ll probably all be required to have a colonoscopy just before we board a plane. Well, better safe than sorry, right? Most of us know what the founding fathers … Continue reading