Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What have we wrought?

I am not the first to say this – political correctness on campus and with our young has risen to a dangerous level. It has to be smashed. I don’t mean we should smash them, but they have to be suspended and/or thrown out of college, teachers and administrators who support it need to be fired, and parents and students who oppose them need to be praised and protected from vicious retribution. We need to stop now the crazy ideas about safe zones from speech they don’t like and micro-aggressions, which can mean anything.

Today I watched a video of a speaker at a school being interfered with by a student in the audience who kept interrupting. The topic was free speech. The student was screaming – from what I could here – something about hate speech. When she was threatened with being evicted from the auditorium she started frantically waving her arms and screaming – what I can’t say – it sounded like a baby balling. Perhaps she had been told to behave this way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANgl54duC0A.

We must educate too. Interrupting others, invading their talks, grabbing their microphones – is not free speech. It has nothing to do with free speech. It is in fact a violation of law, probably everywhere. Sadly, even politicians seem to need this. The next time I hear its free speech from a commentator, panelist or politician, I’m driving to the studio and interrupting.

Unfortunately, we can’t expect college administrators or teachers to help. In Swarthmore College, just as an example, students took over a board meeting that the board members had already agreed to be an open forum. And essentially blathered away, not letting anyone else speech. Apparently, the school feels helpless. Rather than backing down and accepting the change, the board members should have called the police.

A few students who didn’t want any part of it had to leave. There was nothing else they could do. In another recent example a student who was part of a discussion group in class about rape pointed out that a frequently cited statistic about rape was overstated and he gave his reasons. His reward for adding to the discussion was being told by the professor he could no longer participate in class discussions.

These intolerant, angry students, are not there to learn, they are there to spread their ignorance and practice to be Maoists, which might seem like a good idea to them right now. No thanks. I attended college in the ‘70s, not that far from the sixties. I saw a few rallies (really few; I despised them as I continue to despise meeting of most sorts in my middle age). But, there was nothing like this - even in the 60s there was generally more respect in a sit-in. And, honestly, they had a lot more to complain about.

Someone I know who is incredibly left leaning, and though white, identifies almost completely with any minority and group he believes is underprivileged or discriminated against, told me of going to a meeting where a Black Lives Matter representative was one of the speakers. He wouldn’t give up the mike, invited friends onstage, lectured the audience, overwhelming liberal about their racism, and was generally obnoxious. He was mortified to be lectured like that, but kept repeating that he understands why they behave that way.

Personally, I think behavior like this is incipient fascism, and I’m not surprised when violence breaks out. It is what they want. Although today I heard that Clinton had a BLM protestor thrown out, she and the other Democrat candidates have given encouragement to this behavior. As obnoxious as Trump is, and as stupid as he was to encourage violence, I preferred what he did to what the Democrats did. Frankly, it is going to get uglier and I expect more violent.

It’s not only the schools, of course. People now live in terror that someone on their Facebook or similar account might say something politically incorrect. They are afraid to joke in public. No humor is permitted where anyone might be made fun of except for white males.

The other day I called someone I know a “faggot.” He is a great person, very reasonable and I can’t think of a bad thing anyone has to say about him - ever. He’s also gay, and apparently very sensitive about the word. I was kidding him in response to a story as to how wimpy he behaved as a child. It was a reflexive remark and I wasn’t thinking about his being gay. Of course I know the derivation of the word and what it can mean, but I grew up with people calling each other faggots. I thought one day it might come out of my mouth with the wrong person and it did. I felt bad, and when he said, a little heated, that it was “not alright,” I said “I know, but it’s a phrase I’ve used for 35 years and I didn’t mean that.” I don’t know why I said 35 years. It is probably closer to 50 years. I doubt I knew about the gay meaning for a few years. Sure, I could have thought about it, but in the spur of the moment I didn't. Hopefully, I'll be more careful in the future. But, absent-mindedness is kind of built into me.

We dropped it after that. But I did tell another friend what happened, who said I should have asked if he ever called anyone a “bastard?” That has a duel meaning too. So does “idiot,” and “retard.” And so on. I’m not talking about racial slurs that have no other meaning other than to demean someone (I’ve joked about that but have never called anyone a slur). Like the “N” word or the “C” word for women. But, are we no longer to be able to use common phrases that have other meanings to us. I’ve learned many people who use the word “putz” or “schmuck” have no idea what it really means in Yiddish (hint, men have them, women don’t).

The political correctness gets worse and worse. Honestly, I try not to say words that offend people where there is no need for it, but at some point, you should be able to speak colloquially without offending anyone. I have a friend, Jewish, who is sensitive about non-Jews using the word “Jew.” I have another Jewish friend who is offended when people use a word in place of “Jew,” like “Jewish person.” There both terrific people and a lot of fun. But, sometimes you can’t win with this stuff. I'm sure I've offended both of them at least once if not more, but I don't feel bad about that. I mean, Jew is the actual word for Jews. How do you get around it? "The chosen people?"

I know I haven't reacted like this when someone called me a Jew or even repeated a stereotype. I know I don't get offended when someone points out how slow I walk (crippled). I can't see a reason to get offended. I didn't get offended when someone suggested we bring back the word "bastard" for children of unmarried parents, even though it described my daughter (of whom the speaker was quite fond). I don't like racial slurs, but that's because they are meant to be injurious and there is no other use for them. I try not to even use them in a joke, because I realize how painful they are to people (although I do laugh at racial jokes - doesn't matter the group targeted, even my own. To me the joke is on the bigot, not the target, or the outrageousness of it).

Of course, you don’t have to be a political junkie to know that many people who like Donald Trump, but many others, are so sick of this political correctness. The media, if of course, completely sold on it. Recently, John Kasich, speaking at a town hall meeting, was asked by a woman about campus rape. He made many remarks which no liberal could complain about. At the end, he added and try not to go to parties where there is a lot of drinking. That night, numerous commentators sort of fudged, admitting that there was nothing wrong with what he said, but he probably shouldn’t have. Why? Are they crazy. Every parent concerned about campus rape should be telling their young girls that. It isn’t saying rape is their fault. Its saying don’t make yourself vulnerable. Have we all gone crazy?

Of course, some people think that I’m too politically correct because I’d rather not offend people to a point. Okay. We are all going to have our limits. But, at some point, for me, it goes way past what our society thinks is reasonable, and is being driven by young (which often means stupid) people and a small group of “speech Nazis” magnified by the media.

I have no panacea for this problem. It probably has been and will be ever ongoing. But, now, they need to start in school. The establishment has to become rebellious.

I am no longer teaching as a college adjunct. Haven't for years. But, as much as I liked doing it, it’s a good thing I’m done. Because I’d probably be fired. But, in my mind, those who punish kids for ridiculous reasons need to be fired. Those who make extremely stupid rules need to be fired. Otherwise, we can only expect more of this. I'm not making a prediction this is going to happen, because it is highly unlikely. Likely, it will get worse.

What have we wrought?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Donald Trump was logical? What?

So, I have to say, Chris Matthews, who I once enjoyed for his passion, who I later reviled as a dishonest partisan hiding his biases, and then later considered just an out of the closest partisan when his network gave the go-ahead to be so, impressed me with his last interview with Trump. Maybe he’s grown (or I have) and I will give him another chance.

Though I doubt very much he would apply such zeal to a Democrat interviewee, he was joyfully relentless in his last interview/town hall meeting with Trump, whose lack of logic and thoughtfulness makes him incapable of continuous reasoned argument. So Trump, instead, relies on his aggressiveness, speaking over his questioner, moving to other issues in a single sentence in an effort to divert attention from what he doesn’t want to answer.

But, Matthews got him twice. Once, in the face of Trump's insistence that nuclear weapons aren’t off the table he had to back-up quickly upon being asked “You might use [a nuke] in Europe?” and completely contrarily added that he would be the last one to use nuclear weapons (though he is the only one who doesn’t take it off the table) and - of course not- or words to that effect.

But, his response on abortion was even more controversial. Asked by Matthews if abortion was murder, will he punish the women who have them, Trump did his usual stonewall, and tried, successively for a while, to get Matthews to talk about the Catholic position on it, I guess to show either that Matthews is hypocritical or that this was a murky topic. But, then, pressed to the point that he couldn’t convincingly stonewall anymore he said yes, women would have to be punished for it.

And the world went a little crazy. Trump backed off big time on twitter, saying that women were victims and only the providers would be punished.

Now, this means a lot of things. It shows once again that Trump knows so little about any issue that he may be the least informed major candidate ever to run for president. It shows that he is not a conservative, that he probably doesn’t even know what established conservative views on abortion are (and not that alone) and that he just talks off the top of his head.

The scary part for me is that someday, if he is elected, Trump will not have to worry about getting elected and will not care about public opinion at all. He’ll make an ill-informed guess on important matters and we will be stuck with them.

But . . . but . . . but Trump was logically right and politically wrong. That, and not a long opinion on abortion itself is my goal here. Let me digress a little.

I wrote on abortion in the past and I find it really painful to do so, not least because I am not prone to certainty about abortion and I might change my mind as I have in the past.  In summary, I can respect putting a high value on life, on the right for women to control their own bodies and also, not being a nihilist, that the state has some interest in the life of a fetus. Probably, everyone with an opinion on it agrees on these things. The reason people who agree on these things in general do not agree on what the law should be is because they balance the interests differently, particularly because as the issue of when those cells become a baby and/or when a fetus is entitled to protection. I have often said and still believe that the main determinative in when someone believes abortion is wrong is almost always when that person sees a fetus as being a baby, though I suppose the few who favor later term abortion might not care.  

In my own juggling of these factors, I have come to hate with a passion late term abortion – would be fine with it if they called it and treated it as murder – but, I am also fine with abortion being permissible for the first 5 weeks or so (and not to the first trimester as it is in Roe v. Wade), when it is, relatively speaking to its existence, long a person, having a brain and a heart.  I realize there are a lot of practical problems with this (does the woman even know she’s pregnant?) but I also believe that people’s stands on this issue, including my own, should be in the large, in accord with their moral beliefs respecting life and liberty, not the practicalities or inconveniences of it.

Now back to Trump. So, let’s take him on his initial words with respect to punishing women who have illegal abortions, before he retracted it. Is that logical or illogical? If something is illegal, then there are usually consequences for it. I feel fairly confident that most if not all of our criminal laws respecting the taking of life have penalties for the responsible person.

I also feel fairly confident that if any person makes a choice to do something without being intentionally compelled to do so, may not be described as a victim, as Trump later said when back pedaling. If a man or woman takes up prostitution because they believe it is a good way to earn money, I do not consider them a victim, regardless of how nasty they think selling their body for sex may be. If they are forced to do so, of course they are victims.

So, if a woman is drugged and the next thing she knows someone is performing an abortion, then yes, that is a victim. If she decides that she doesn’t want a baby right now after she is pregnant for any of the usual reasons, even economic, and she has one, then yes no she is not a victim. If it is illegal, and it is a criminal law, then of course she should be charged. And if it is murder, then definitively so. What other murderer (if that is what the law is) gets to say, no I’m not.

There are gray areas and I will get to them. But, right now, given the question – if abortion is murder, should the woman be punished, yes, of course, the only logical answer is the only answer. Trump answered correctly. He changed on it because initially he possibly wasn’t aware that many pro-life advocates recognize that holding women responsible makes many, perhaps most Americans, very unsympathetic to their position and often do not take it. In fact, it is likely shooting him in the foot with many pro-lifers and huge amounts of independents and Trump-Democrats.  And, of course Trump has no idea whatsoever what the usual positions on abortion are, because it has nothing to do with his personal success or self-aggrandizement.  He just shot from the hip, recognized he was hurting his brand, and reversed himself so completely, he has now called women who have abortions victims (of who – the doctors they asked to perform the abortion?), which is about as illogical as you can get.

But that is logic and what do voters care? As one of the most famous judges in history wrote in his book The Common Law – “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.” The same is true of campaigns. In the end, few care a whit for logic if it doesn’t support their favored position.
Since I’ve dipped into this difficult topic, I’ll add a few more words on the exceptions, because logically, they do not make much sense to me. The three exceptions that many pro-lifers even accept are cases of pregnancy through rape, incest and the mother’s health. The first is simply illogical, the second mostly illogical and the third not illogical, whether right or wrong.

Rape - If you are pro-life, because you believe it is wrong to kill a living being, then why should it matter that it is the product of a rape? Why is that different than being a product of a loveless relationship? A paid for relationship? Or wildly inconvenient? It’s not. The mindset of the parents has no bearing on whether a child should survive – for the logically consistent pro-lifer. If you are very pro-choice (that is, abortion on demand or something approaching that), of course, it is not relevant either.

Incest – You could apply the same analysis here as with rape – the parents’ morality doesn’t matter if you are pro-life. But, it is not that simple because there is a physiological issue – congenital conditions are more likely for close relatives, the closer – the more likely, often called a result of inbreeding. So, understandably, people do not want children to suffer as a result of their choices. But, what if it happens – is this different than a fetus which is not the product of closely related parents which happens to have a congenital condition. Again, if you are pro-life and you would not abort a child with Down syndrome, what rationale do you have to abort one who might have a congenital condition or even one you are not aware of? It is not a big jump from that to euthanasia of those deemed “defective.” It is hard not to say that for a pro-lifer, this exception is also illogical.

The last issue is the life or health of a mother. Again, I’m not arguing right and wrong, just talking about logic. There is a logical difference here. You have another person at stake, and arguably one with more rights. Whether you couch this as self-defense or simply a balancing of rights, you can make a consistent logical argument to be pro-life and accept this exception.

I recognize that other people may have different definitions of pro-life than I have used here. I’m just saying, if you believe that abortion is murder because that fetus is human, I believe you are illogical if you except rape and incest. Maybe you are right, but it’s illogical.  

And, Donald Trump was right, initially, and should have stuck to his guns and not been “politically correct.” Not that he’s not a potential disaster, but he was right the first time.

Uncomfortable topic today - sorry.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Worst President 6

I started writing the 10 reasons that President Obama is the worst president in my lifetime (and I include Nixon, who others reasonably argue might be). I gave an overview in the first post (7/2/14) and started counting down thusly:

10. The campaign (7/2/14)
9. Obamacare (7/27/14)
8. The economic crisis (7/27/14)
7. Foreign policy (8/13/14)
6. Political expediency (11/2/14)
5. Attacks on first amendment (The closed society) (1/10/15)

And then I kind of forgot about the mission as 2016 election campaign talk slowly started. But, I don’t want to leave it hanging. The “10” part of 10 reasons was admittedly arbitrary. It just feels good to use round numbers. You could divide them up many ways. But, I’ll stick with the plan. I think the next few installments might be after today’s - leadership, lawlessness and debt.

So, here’s number 4 –

The new racism

I have to preface my Obama comments with my own view on race and racism in America. I was born in 1959 and grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s. People my age or older, even Obama himself, are also well aware of how much better race relations are, how much fairer to minorities the country is and but that racism still exists. 

My own perspective on racism growing up was probably typical of a little boy raised in a white, liberal, New York family – I was puzzled and horrified by it but also very insulated from blacks and the problems they might have. Slavery was (I think every American except the pathological now agrees) an abomination, but the legal and social barriers, even outside the south, and given the preference of “races” to marry and associate among their own, there still was a great burden that minorities and more blacks than anyone else other than American Indians labored under. Many groups have a story of discrimination, but I do not think the burdens of most groups, like Asians, Jews, Europeans is comparable in severity. Though the alleviation of racist policies spanned 100 years plus, the 1950s and then even more so, the 1960s, provided a waterfall of relief. Some are still unhappy with the civil rights legislation in the ‘60s - ironically, I think on one hand strong libertarians and on the other, racists, at least to some degree. And though I agree aspects of the laws were unconstitutional, in my view (forbidding discrimination even to private businesses) I also think it was an almost necessary law, given the faults of our constitution at its outset, and that they are among the best laws ever passed.

And civil rights leaders were among my heroes, from pre-Revolution Quakers and British reformers (Britain was well ahead of us in this) and up through Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in that era. Though racism still exists, perhaps will always exist in some form, and race relations were far from perfect when Obama came into office, it has now deteriorated greatly, and though he is hardly completely at fault, he bears some fault and could have alleviated it, perhaps even led to further gains, had he taken an even-handed, color-blind, approach.

For the future generation that discovers my unsung work here (and like Bill and Ted, I am lionized in the future – they for their "excellent" music and me for my "excellent" social commentary), it may need to be said that Obama was what we now call bi-racial. White-European mother and black-African father. However, he says that he identifies as black and he plainly does in many ways. This was his first error, in my view. He could have used his own DNA to say that differences between whites and blacks should evaporate, that we are all children of two parents with their DNA in us, and that skin color and other superficial characteristics are actually of billions in variety, rather than divided into a few socially constructed "races."  But, he wanted for political and perhaps personal reasons to say that he was black. It was fashionable to say at that time if you were dark enough to get stopped for “driving while black,” then you were black, and many were proud to say he qualified. It helped him get elected more than it hurt and his world view includes a need to reorganize society so that those previously discriminated against can express their feelings of victimhood and separation, and that it give them some legal advantage to balance the scales. I say that from what I believe is his point of view, not mine.

He was careful in his campaign to make the right noises. His early statements on race were not bad. He gave one fairly well received speech on it while running, necessary at the time to differentiate himself from his bombastic and seemingly idiotic pastor of many years, Jeremiah Wright. It seemed a relatively balanced speech to me. It acknowledged the past, but including the improvement and called for us to get passed it. 

Unfortunately, though he has made similar statements since, he does not act as if he believes his own rhetoric. His campaign spokespersons were quick to call opponents racist, and he did not rein them in. They even accused other Democrats like Bill Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro, who you would have thought immune from such criticism, of racism – but for them, if you opposed him or preferred another, you were a racist. This feeling still pervades. A friend this past weekend told me that he believes Republicans hate Obama because he is black, even if he himself does not approve of his policies.

When he became president, many people were happy, even some Republicans, that a black man could be elected president in America. I would appreciate the often castigated statement of Rush Limbaugh, that he got over it real quick.  But, if nothing else, his election showed how far we had come on race relations. Or so we thought. 

One of the first signs that he would not be even-handed was his reaction to the police in Boston approaching and questioning a black Harvard professor, who had to break into his own home when locked out and was reported by a neighbor, who called 911. The professor, Henry Gates, was hardly a Cornel West type. He a literary critic specializing in black literature, has actually been attacked by other blacks for his views that did not square with their ideas of separating and glorifying only black literature. Nevertheless, he allegedly became outraged at being questioned by the police, believing he was being profiled, and the officer claimed that when Gates came outside after he had left Gates' premises, he was obstreperous, and was arrested. The officer, James Crowley, was also not the Bull Connor type. He had actually lectured on racial profiling before. Not surprisingly, their versions of the events dramatically differed. Charges against Gates were soon dropped. I leave you to study the incident if you like. I’m not picking sides here. Likely there was fault on both sides, first an overreaction by Gates and then by Crowley in arresting him, but I wasn't there. But, neither was Obama. But, although this was as local an issue as can be imagined, the president leaped into the fray, stating (from Wikipedia): "I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. But I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home, and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately." Whether he is wrong or right on any or all of his comments, without knowing the facts he plainly took sides, and that angered a lot of people, though clearly not those like Al Sharpton, who was making even more incendiary comments.

In 2010 a controversy arose that led to testimony by two federal employees in the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice that the department was frowning upon use of the Civil Rights Acts to help white victims. The debate actually also existed during the Bush administration too but not to the same degree. But, J. Christian Adams, an attorney for the division, resigned over it and gave troubling testimony at a Civil Rights Commission hearing as did another employee, Christopher Coates, an award winning civil rights lawyer. The controversy swirled around the prosecution of The New Black Panthers for voter intimidation (which one poll watcher who was there, a former civil rights lawyer himself, called the worst case of voter intimidation he had ever seen). Adams and Coates both testified to being told by superiors and others that they were not there to help whites or prosecute blacks. The DOJ fought the commission and Coates had to get whistleblower status to testify. The commission, completely frustrated by the department’s lack of cooperation, concluded in December, 2010 that the DOJ’s assurances that it did not consider race in enforcing the law did not explain away the allegations made against them and that because they would not cooperate, the commission could not properly review it. In other words, stonewalling won out again. One might say that any blame would rest would Eric Holder, then the Attorney General, and not Obama, but Obama could have dealt with the issue in a sentence to Holder, ordering cooperation and that race not be considered in the future, whether it had been in the past or not. He’s the president. He doesn’t mind the credit, he has to take the blame, not for most crimes or acts of employees outside of their guidelines, but for the policies themselves. 

Foremost in my criticism of him has been his comments made whenever a story of a white man, usually a police officer, killing a black man or woman, made the news.  The first example I recall is the Martin-Zimmerman matter. Zimmerman, not a cop but a neighborhood watcher, followed a black teenager. There was an altercation and Zimmerman eventually shot Martin, who was pounding his head in on concrete.  I watched substantially the whole trial and have little respect for anyone’s opinion who did not. Zimmerman was found innocent, and was overwhelmingly so. Even some prosecution witnesses testified favorably for him, enraging the would-be Zimmerman lynchers who threatened Zimmerman’s life and made him go into hiding. I’ve covered this in more detail before and you can put Zimmerman or Martin in the search box to read about it, but the issue here is the president. Rather than stay neutral before the trial, Obama made comments plainly judging Zimmerman a criminal and Martin a victim - "When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids . . .You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon" . . .  "All of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves" . . ."All of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how something like this has happened." The governor appointed a special prosecutor, although nothing but accusations of racism, which was non-existent, justified it. She brought the complaint herself, which she could do under Florida law, without bringing it to a grand jury.  She caused Zimmerman immeasurable grief, which I believe deranged him to a degree and left him vulnerable to every accusation in the future, despite the lack of any credible evidence against him. The federal government looked into prosecuting him for a hate crime after the acquittal, but there was no indication of racial prejudice to begin with – the prosecutors in the state case didn’t even go there.

When Officer Darren Wilson shot a thug attacking him – Michael Brown, also a teenager, but a huge man who had just manhandled a store clerk he had robbed (the video of which the federal government tried to suppress), Ferguson, Missouri exploded. It was the beginning of the Black Live Matters movement coming into the news (I believe it already existed after the Zimmerman-Martin case). Many myths were created by false witnesses and the media to demonize Wilson, who lost his career over it and to make a saint of Brown or at least sneer at his own culpability. Again, I’m not discussing the issues in detail, but speaking of Obama’s reaction. Without knowing the facts, he took a side, calling the shooting “heartbreaking” and commiserating with the family and the community. Well, any wayward teenager dying violently is sad – but where were the words of solace for the officer who was attacked? A Grand Jury found for Wilson. The federal government, hot on the track of white racism, investigated. I have to say, they did a good job and did not white-wash it. They found the witnesses who claimed Brown had his hands up incredible and found Wilson’s story valid. Too late for him, of course. Did Obama apologize to him – castigate the protesters for falsehoods? Of course not. While he and other "black" leaders pleaded for peaceful protest, their words incited, in my and many people's views.

This has happened over and over and Obama is far from the only one responsible. Sometimes it has been in reaction to gross police misbehavior or at least negligence, such as the Eric Garner matter. Al Sharpton, Obama’s leading adviser on race relations, who has visited with him many times, I believe more than anyone else not in his administration and who I find to be a leading instigator or racial tension, and others, including Obama's former Attorney General, Eric Holder, and the mayor of NYC, all have made statements inflaming racial tension and vilifying police. Some of them took a step back when two NYC officers, ironically neither a white male (at least in the modern way of designating race), were assassinated by a deranged black man.

Obama, does not directly incite violence - I believe he genuinely deplores it. But, I do believe that these statements by Obama and others, too one sided, and always involving some rush to judgment, do incite racial unrest and violence. It has also has led to a sad loss of policing, for fear of being branded a racist, and more black victims of other blacks, particularly in urban environments like Chicago and Baltimore. 

Sadly, Obama could have been a leader on this issue, to be the person who tried to lessen the hold that victimization and separationism, championed by Sharpton and others, has on many in the black community. There are other black leaders or just plain leaders in general who could have provided better advice to him. But, he chose Sharpton and his own brand of racism. I can’t imagine this is going to improve with Clinton or Trump in office, if one of them succeeds.

To be clear, those in the "black community" may have many legitimate grievances, which I believe are more local than national, but in my view many follow the wrong leaders, whether it is Sharpton or those involved in Black Lives Matter. It makes all of our lives worse, not better. But, I'm not trying to balance them here or come up with solutions. This is about Obama and the growing racial tension in our country is one of his most unfortunate legacies.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Political update for March, 2015

Trumpism

I went into my archives (yes, thanks to Google, I have archives) and looked at what I had previously written about Trump with respect to the 2012 election. I found my post-mortem right after the election where I wrote why I thought Romney lost, which I won't quote extensively, but one of my five main reasons was the impact of people like Trump, who I referred to as a "political disaster," especially his crazy birtherism. But, I see that almost a year and a half before that election I had written about Trump in some detail and thought it be interesting to look back on it (after, of course, fixing my grammatical errors):


"Trump schmump

"After wasting everyone’s time for a month or so on the birther issue, he loses and claims victory. If you know Donald Trump, no big surprise.

I don’t know when I first became aware of The Donald (not a bad nickname), but it was probably in the 1980s. He was a business man mostly in real estate development. He liked to put his name on buildings, which were ostentatious but beautiful, and I've gone in “Trump” buildings just to see them. When I became a lawyer I learned from some others who had represented him that he was ridiculously demanding and quick to fire them. Obviously, I don't know his reasons and they may be valid.

I have also read that he or his companies have gone bankrupt more than once, and been close to it other times, but I don’t care about the details. He had a rather public divorce, which mostly served to make his wife’s attorney well known, although he didn’t accomplish anything for her that I could see (they had a pre-nup, which was abided by).

In the past few years, he has also became a reality tv show star (which is one notch below serial killer). And, occasionally, he says he is thinking about running for president. No one took him too seriously until this year when he jumped on a fairly discredited idea that President Obama was born out of the country and was therefore not qualified under the constitution to be president.

Trump kept saying that he thought the president actually was born in America but that he needed to show his birth certificate to end the dispute. But, he’d also throw in his remarks that if he wasn’t born in the country it was one of the all time great scams (and, of course, it would have been, were it true). He also said he had investigators looking into it who were amazed at what they were finding (were they going to break into the two safes in the Hawaiian government’s office which housed the certificates?) He says he can call them back now that it is over (please, laugh along with me). Do you think they hadn’t heard the news themselves? Honestly, I don’t believe these people even exist. If they did exist, they were either completely incompetent or were taking him for his money. Neither scenario is too flattering to him.

He had no serious answer to the fact that a short form birth certificate had been produced, showing that a Hawaii State official had seen the birth certificate and verified its existence, and, even more persuasive, two local Hawaiian newspapers at the time of the president's birth printed notices about it. Even Sean Hannity said he thought the president was born in America. Now, if you have ever listened to Sean Hannity, you know that if he acknowledges that President Obama is right about anything, it must be true beyond any possible doubt.

Sure, even Chris Matthews, whose credibility when it comes to President Obama is as weak as anyone's on the right - just the mirror image - has asked publicly why President Obama didn’t just show the original long form birth certificate. The opposite rule applies with him as the one for Hannity - if he is critical in anyway of the president, you have to give it some credence. And, I had the same thought as him too. Why not just show it? Pride? Or, as occasional commenter Don suggested, because there was something embarrassing on it. But, wondering about the president's motivations didn't mean this still wasn't a ridiculous issue. I would say it was only less ridiculous than the popular belief on the right that he is a Muslim.

And, of course, by coming out with the original certificate, the president trumped Trump, which probably would have embarrassed someone without Trump's ego and sense of importance. Of course it didn’t stop The Donald from declaring victory in a most pompous way. “I’m very proud of myself,” he said. Why is he proud? – because he “forced” the president to do this. This is the single most embarrassing thing he has said since a week or so ago when he was going around saying how smart he was.

Which leads me to this. I don’t like to climb all over (living) politicians personally (not that The Donald is really a politician yet), call names or assassinate their characters, unless they are really heinous, and that is rare. So, I feel kind of guilty about this. But Donald Trump has always been a bit of a blowhard, someone who shoots his mouth off about how great he is, changes his mind frequently, and says whatever he feels like at the time regardless of consistency. That actually doesn’t make him a bad person, but not someone you want in your face for 4-8 years. That might seem rough, but I’m being gentle because a lot of people would say he was a major blowhard, with few equals. In fact, as arrogant as many on the hard right claim President Obama is (I'd say about average for a president), apparently a good deal of them want to elect someone who makes him look like a Jimmy Stewart character.

But, Mr. Trump not only made himself look foolish, he has made the tea parties and conservatives look foolish by bringing this all up again (to their initial great joy). I support the tea parties’ efforts to get the government to reduce spending, but I can't follow them in their questioning of the president's religion and place of birth. Even with the certificate's production, some of them are still questioning it on legal grounds. In truth, it is a decision the court has never made. Being a natural born citizen might or might not have been something that had a definitive meaning to a founder (like, as some argue, being born in America of two American citizens), but, now, it will be very difficult or probably impossible to determine what they meant over two hundred and twenty years ago. That doesn't mean the Supreme Court, or maybe a lower court won't try to define it anyway.

As for The Donald's presidential aspirations, if you consider his flip flops on issues, and that some of his previously uttered opinions were decidedly liberal - Mr. Trump is Governor Romney on steroids. If he runs, these will all be flung in his face by Romney supporters. But, I don't think the people supporting him realize what they are doing if they nominate him."


I can't say I've changed my mind at all.  I still think he is a political disaster, that he embarrasses his own party, that he is not as smart as he thinks, that he is Romney on steroids and that he is one of the reasons Romney lost. 

But, Trump is no idiot either. He saw something that either others didn't or had too much dignity or sense of shame to act upon. That the truth no longer matters. Neither Obama nor Romney worried about it too much. No one seemed to care much except their adversaries, who cancelled each other out, and some in the media. What matters is your "brand" or how you market yourself. Image, not reality, is the key. And branding is something Trump, a worldwide household name, does very well.

I'm not saying that truth shouldn't be important. But, unless and until there is a legitimate third party party with a shot at winning the White House, that will continue to be the case. Trump also knows that when you are getting shot at for your mistakes, toughing it out works better than admission of fault so long as you have a sufficient base that doesn't care.

Like almost everyone, there are a few aspects of Trump that I like. That's the usual anti-PC stuff, his supposed devotion to destroying ISIS and annoyance at the handcuffs put on our troops. But, this is dwarfed by my disgust at his arrogance, his pettiness and tendency to insult anyone who disagrees with him, his fecklessness as to policy, his just plain making up stuff, his cult of personality (and a bad personality at that), his obvious insecurities, his lack of knowledge of the economy and foreign policy, etc.

What is this nonsense anyway that good businessmen know about the economy? I know some people who have been very successful in business but couldn't even tell you what a trade deficit was or the difference between macro and micro economies. 

Trump's seeming mission to destroy the Republican Party by division has gotten so hysterical that I'm starting to engage in fantasies of him calling Hillary Clinton at 3 a.m. after his KKK gaffe and saying - "Did I do good, or what? Don't forget me when you are safely ensconced in the White House."

It has also gotten to the point where I'm starting to not sneer at comparisons to Hitler in the 1930s. It's not that I believe he is a racist, because I really don't. In fact, it makes me mad when people play that up because race baiting is one of the political tactics that infuriates me most. Nor do I think he is totalitarian. But he has built a cult of personality that is starting to seem like Fuhrerism - allegiance not to party but a particular leader. His statements at the last Republican debate that military leaders will do what he tells them even if illegal, was disturbing and reminiscent of Hitler. So is his addiction to the Big Lie. And so are his threats to get even when he is president.

A few weeks ago, I thought that Trump was going to sweep, because his opposition was so poor. But, obviously, the Republican Party, or some of them, has woken up to the impending disaster, win or lose. Ironically, Rubio, who realized, or more likely was advised, that someone had to get down in the gutter with Trump, has been diminished along with him and Cruz has been ascendant. But, the Republicans are missing their best bet.

The Case for Kasich

The Republicans only have had two candidates who were going to beat Clinton. One, is possibly Trump, if his party can get behind him. I think Trump might nuke her, inviting Monica Lewinsky to debates and asking her to admit that her husband abused women. Because, no other candidate is going to do things like that. But, it is possible that he might finally outrage enough people that it would overcome the excitement he engenders. But, the other option is staggering along in the Republican race. That's John Kasich.

I am hoping Kasich is Dave Wottle, the 1972 Olympic 800 meter track champion (still one of the greatest achievements in sport's history in my view - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LHid-nC45k), following a plan and pacing himself like Wottle did with four perfectly paced quarters of his race. I doubt it, because no one predicted Trump's rise and the effect he would have on everyone.

I will never understand how any Republican or independent/moderate can think anyone but Kasich is suitable. He has more experience than anyone in the field. He may be the most professionally qualified candidate since G. H. W. Bush to run. Neither Hillary Clinton, nor Al Gore, nor John Kerry, nor John McCain, all very experienced, have the breadth of experience that Kasich does. He's been a governor, he's been a legislator. He has worked at the federal level, he's worked at the state level. He knows budgeting, he knows the military, he knows domestic problems. Unlike Rubio, Cruz and Trump who talk about being heirs to Reagan, he actually knew and worked with Reagan (not that I think that means much myself, but many people do). He is temperamentally suited to be president. He is devoted to his principles, but respects the rule of law and knows how to compromise.

On top of that, polls show he is far more likely to beat Clinton than anyone else. Why is this not critically important to Republicans?

After Ohio we will know if he has a shot. At this point, unless someone self-destructs, this almost has to go to a convention. Of course, most predictions I've made this maddening campaign season have been wrong. I'm not alone either, but if Kasich wins, I can brag that I predicted it way back in 2015, and at the end of the day, that's what is really most important.

I will also say that he is not the greatest campaigner, but it is obvious. Many of his jokes fall flat and his banter with people in the crowd seems to be more likely to aggravate than charm them. But, sometimes people need to grow into the roll. He's gotten better already.

Clinton

Although Sanders made his run, it looks like she has it close to locked up, although a convention is possible with the Democrats too, if less likely. The big question is whether she gets indicted, or to a lesser extent, staff members close to her do. 

I don't see it happening so long as she is going to win the nomination. If there is a grand jury though, and it is not disbanded or delayed, and they come back with what is called a true bill on which she is named, then I'm wrong, of course. I just know that there are few things easier for government to manipulate than grand juries. 

I'm not even saying she should be indicted. We don't know all the facts and we don't even really know the applicable law yet. It's always more complicated than they say, and I won't make up my mind on it until I can look up the law myself (you can't count on pundits or the media) and know the established and likely facts. You can't legitimately say that just because Petraeus was charged and convicted that she should be. You can't say that because Rice and Powell had a few classified emails on their own email accounts (although a tiny fraction of her own), that she is or is not guilty of anything. 

Of course, Bryan Pagliano, the State Department staffer who set up the server, thought it important enough to ask for immunity.  Frankly, that may not mean anything except due caution. When you get involved with partisan politicians they will do whatever they think necessary to "get" the other side, even hurt innocent people - even prosecuting them. If nothing else, they try the perjury game. And when the FBI is involved, it doesn't even have to be a material lie. Any mistake they can spin as purposeful will do to prosecute you or twist your arm.

You never know, but I am giving odds of 5-1 against her being indicted and 4-1 against any  major staffer.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tattoo

Not getting one. Don’t worry. But just like my insignificant other and I sometimes make plans for a wedding that neither of us ever intends to have ("not that we are ever going to, but if we got married . . . "), it is for the sake of amusement. Now, you might say that obviously I am thinking about a tattoo, to which I’ll reply – d’uh – but I’m only thinking about what I would do if I was inclined to do so. I’m definitively not going to do it (I do have a price though, so feel free to pony up).


  I started thinking about this while speaking with a  young woman who had some Italian inked on the space below her left shoulder and above her left breast, and it was partially exposed by an open neck shirt. It didn’t repulse me, maybe because she was attractive and I'm human, maybe because it wasn’t overwhelming, maybe because it was in another language – I don’t know.

I’m 56 and when I was growing up, at least where I lived, people with tattoos usually included sailors, gang members and prisoners. Women who did so were considered slutty or molls, if that word means anything anymore. Obviously, that was then and this is now. My own sainted daughter, a goody-goody like her dad, has a small one on her back hip. Some of my friends and acquaintances do. I don’t like them, particularly on women, though once in a blue moon I think one is cute or well-done. I particularly don’t like masses of them running down someone's arm or faces on shoulders or big blocks of words. Yccch. On the other hand, there are exceptions to almost everything.

But, to engage in the fantasy, suppose someone offered me a million dollars  (who am I kidding? Somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000) to get a tattoo on my arm. What would I get?

One thought is ancient – the Sumerian cuneiform symbol for liberty (so they tell me – I can’t read it), known as ama-gi and which literally means “return to mother” (again, so they say). It was discovered in 1870 and dates back well over 4,000 years.


7479492

[BTW, I try to follow the law with these posts, and, though a lawyer for 31 years, I don't really understand when I can use an image freely available on the web or not. Sometimes they publish rules, which I also don't understand and sometimes they don't. But, where I can find them, I put the weird looking web address for you and, if for some bizarre reason you want to download them, go to the website. Admittedly, though blogging for 10 years, I haven't always done this, mostly because I didn't know I had to. And maybe I don't. But, these pictures are for looking at, not for downloading, and I don't make any money off it. So, I think it is covered by "fair use" (I hope). Anyway, I put them at the end of the post.]

Of course, I’d have to spend an awful lot of time explaining an amagi to people. Also, I’m always skeptical about the meaning of ancient words for which there is no relative certainty, and it would be embarrassing if one day some scholar said the real meaning was "the village idiot" or worse.

Another thought is stars. I never met anyone who doesn't like stars.  I mostly see these on young women, and they are unobtrusive and pleasing to the eye. Something like this:



No explanation required. Everyone understands decorative stars. But, this is just one example. If you just google "star images" you can see a larger sampling of all the creative ways they can be put together, and some of them are quite beautiful.  Another thought is the symbol for the atom.

Related image

Another one that occurs to me is the Shaolin tiger and dragon that was featured on one of my favorite shows from the 70s – Kung Fu, but for which I do not believe there is any real historical basis. Still, really cool. You put one on the inside of each forearm like the hero of the show.

 








A photograph I took myself of The James River that I use as an icon online might also work for me.




David Eisenberg
I actually like it in a circle rather than a square, which is sometimes how it appears as my icon, but somehow copying it in that form is beyond what I hypothetically call my digital skill set.

Yet another idea is the rune for Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings.  





That might also require some explanations though as most people are not going to say, "Oh, that's the rune for Gandalf." They are going to say "What the f. . . ?"


This last one is futuristic. It is a picture of the Jovian moon Europa crossing the Great Red Spot, which I found in the NY Times. Again, I’d prefer a circle or oval to a square. It just seems it would be too complex for any artist to copy and also take too long to ink on. But, I imagine soon they will be able to copy images just like we can now scan them and zap them right on to you. As I am never going to do this anyway, unless you could remove it with a click, I might as well be ambitious. But, now I really have run into my digital wall and can only give you the link for Europa and Jupiter. It's worth looking at



http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/08/25/science/space/nasa-next-mission.html?_r=0

Obviously, this is my imaginary tattoo and I will choose what I like.  You can decide for yourself.

Other Links from above - 


Amagi -  https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=imgres&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwipyfX8utbKAhVIWT4KHbh9A08QjRwICTAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fstudentsforliberty.org%2Fblog%2F2012%2F01%2F09%2Fwhat-is-that-symbol%2F&psig=AFQjCNF_dyhPREDfArS19shdokf7mz6Bgg&ust=14544


Stars -   https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjfxOHcuNbKAhXGOT4KHcw5B08QjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.heremytattoo.com%2F&psig=AFQjCNFXiuM453SNtEm9kXy9TtGExmhMSA&ust=1454411680074368


Atomic symbol -  https://www.google.com/search?q=atomic+symbol+illustration&tbm=isch&imgil=E9yrJ2UtHarBfM%253A%253BsyGGnG1-CPZRNM%253Bhttp%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.123rf.com%25252Fphoto_4407175_atomic-symbol-vector.html&source=iu&pf=m&fir=E9yrJ2UtHarBfM%253A%252CsyGGnG1-CPZRNM%252C_&biw=1745&bih=859&usg=__vgb7GwhcifHHqgF36XDHN1YNfuA%3D&ved=0ahUKEwiJq97MudbKAhWEMj4KHf4ABFAQyjcIMQ&ei=8z-vVsnlN4Tl-AH-gZCABQ#imgrc=E9yrJ2UtHarBfM%3A&usg=__vgb7GwhcifHHqgF36XDHN1YNfuA%3D


Shaolin tiger and dragon   - https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwj568u8vdbKAhWGVj4KHcuXAk4QjRwIBw&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.pinterest.com%2Ftonypetrucci%2Ftatoos%2F&psig=AFQjCNHr-6z1Cxf0NJeRfRUgJURjjuJLQQ&ust=1454413186372733


Gandalf rune   - https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwic6K_Sv9bKAhWCNj4KHUbODE8QjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Ftolkiengateway.net%2Fwiki%2FGandalf&psig=AFQjCNHAU9R6s-16253cHSABzgV9nHt9mA&ust=1454413768758224

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Luck

I was reading an article a few days ago about a women lamenting her probably fatal cancer and wondering why God didn’t help her. I commented on the article online, because I spend too much time most days doing just that. A little bit of my comment was about cancer, but most of it was about luck. Regrettably, I noticed after publishing it that the word “not” appeared in my first sentence where it was not called for, completing negating the sentence and making most of the comment nonsensical. My making an error (either through incompletely cutting and pasting, my computers’ habits of having the cursor flow wherever it likes, or just bad editing) is so common, it is hard to call it bad luck, but that’s what I want to write about today – what is luck?

I haven’t looked it up in a dictionary, but I suppose it means something like a “fortuitous or unfortunate occurrence” or “a random event,” or the like. Whatever it is, I doubt I agree. My own definition is a little longer.

Most of the time we use the word to mean something good or bad happened that we didn’t expect or think should happen, that is, either “good luck” or “bad luck.”  It isn’t a leap of genius to say that one man’s bad luck is another man’s good luck – and vice versa. There’s a reason for that. As much as it seems like a force sometimes, there’s really no such thing as “luck” outside of our minds. It is really just -

what we call remote causes which are too complicated for us to understand or are otherwise hidden from us.

Maybe Heidegger or Plato or some other philosopher would call luck a “thing” or a “form,” that exists independent of being an idea our minds but I don’t think so.  But, I’ll go further.  Everything has a causes. You can endlessly regress from an immediate cause back to what you might hope is a “first cause,” which some people use as a proof of God. But from there you can regress to ask why is there a God and where did he come from, etc. In the end, you wind up somewhere like the joke about turtle.*

* [A man asked a wise man “what does the universe rest upon?” The wise man answers “the back of a turtle.” “But what does that rest upon, oh wise man?” “The back of another turtle.” “And that one?” “The back of another tortoise.” “I don’t understand, of wise man, what is at the very bottom?” And the wise man replies, “I’m sorry, son, it’s turtles all the way down.”]

I’ll use winning the lottery as an example, because most people would say that is “lucky” (which always means “good” luck to us).  You might say “the reason I am rich is because I just won the lottery.” That’s easy enough to understand. But, why did you win? “Because the balls fell on the same numbers I picked.” Still easy. Why did the balls fall on those numbers? Perhaps someone knows the inner workings of the ball selection system, but, if the creators of the random number generator have done their job well, even they can’t tell. That’s the point where we usual say, that was lucky. There is, of cause, actually a cause for each of those balls landing on each of those numbers. But, it is too complicated for us to follow or understand. So, we call it luck or random or improbable or against the odds.

I believe this is true even at the quantum or sub-atomic level. Many scientists accept that all that can be discussed at this level is probabilities, and that seems to be true. But that doesn’t mean that each event in space time doesn’t have a cause which is too complicated for us (including physicists) to understand. Like Einstein, I believe that God doesn’t play dice with the universe, which of course is a metaphor meaning, there are laws of physics even where we don’t know it.  But, it seems like it is probability because of the limits of our perception and mind.

Of course, it is entirely a matter of opinion whether the result of these complicated causes that we can’t follow are “good” or “bad” luck. For example, if I was late to a date with a girl I really like because of a traffic jam I just missed avoiding, I might have said, what “”bad luck. But, suppose, having my date storm off, I head off to the bookstore and meet my future wife. I might say what “good” luck I got delayed (or a few years later, what “bad” luck again).

In the article I referred to above, the author mentioned Oprah, who says that nothing she did was as a result of “luck.” But, she acknowledges being “blessed.” Sorry to bash Oprah, for those who see something in her that I don’t, but this is a statement that results from a common insecurity, the desire to feel special. Some people who feel successful or that they have other people’s approval, like to think that it is because of their innate qualities, not factors out of their control. But, they are subject to what seems like random events like everyone else – that is, the cause of their perceived success or wealth ultimately comes from causes too complicated to understand. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have skill, or didn’t apply themselves, and those are extremely important too. My own view of financial or business success, is that comes from some combination of skill, effort and luck and sometimes a fourth, capital (or the means or opportunity – all forms of the same thing), all of which can have various expressions. But, even if you are super human in terms of skill, effort and capital, luck can undermine you, just as you can be lacking in all of those departments and causes too complex for us to understand, can make you wealthy.  

In fact, while none of the other factors can make someone successful by themselves, bad or good luck can make someone successful all by its lonesome, or with very little assistance from the others. Of course, just as wealthy or financially successful people are always (like Oprah) diminishing the effect of “luck” on their success, those who are poor or unhealthy or unsuccessful, are always sure that bad luck is predominant, and absent “it,” they too would be successful. Some might even give up on effort – the only factor completely in their control – because they feel it doesn’t matter. Obviously, this allows them to avoid thinking about factors that might have been in their control.

Oprah’s insistence that she is “blessed,” makes it worse. If she said luck played a role, then it would mean it wasn’t her specially-specialness that led to her success. But, to say she is blessed means that she is so extra specially-special, that God favors her and other people less. It’s both an arrogant or insecure position. I’ve always dislike it when athletes claim God gave them a victory, because that means that God chose to punish their opponents.

The last thing I will say on the subject of luck, is that Luck be a Lady Tonight, is one of my favorite musical theatre songs (Guys and Dolls) and is a tune written by one of my favorite composers, Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls, Hans Christian Anderson, Baby it’s cold outside).

Like most things I write about, I’m not sure there is any grave importance and it isn’t going to change anything for anyone, including myself. It’s just what I’m thinking about.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Travels

I’ve written a couple of travel posts before. I thought I’d write this one that mostly just reviews summarily the travels in my life.  I’ve been pretty lucky, getting to go to many places, enough to satisfy me anyway. Some people have gone on many more trips than I have, of course, and I’m not trying to compare myself to others. I have friends who don’t like to travel at all, those who want to but are afraid or think they don’t have the money, those who prefer cruises, those who don’t want to be on the water, those who prefer to go back to the same place year after year, those who go different places but many times to one place, some who love to plan trips and some who only go when others plan them, those who like touristy places and those who are less interested in them. And so on. Everyone does it differently and I couldn’t tell you who gets the most out of it, because some people go but seem to hate it, some people revel in it, some brag about them and some barely mention or remember where they've been.

I frequently ask people where they’ve gone. Not too many people ask me, even when I've asked them, so I guess it is more my interest than other people’s, but I have found that when people have asked me where I’ve been, I just say I’ve been lucky but it seems too hard to name the places. Once I tried, but got interrupted so fast, it just didn’t seem like a good idea to continue.

There was a time that travel was extremely important to me, sometime into my forties. After living in a rural community for a while, with years to kayak and hike, I found that though I still love to travel, and will again, I had lost my burning desire. That had already happened to me with things like skiing and chasing girls, so, it’s not much of a surprise. I think it is because I was able to spend so many years in a row at relative leisure, but who knows? Maybe I’m just older and don’t want to make so much of an effort to do anything anymore. Now, frankly, going to my favorite beach on the north shore of Long Island seems a lot easier and as much fun for me as going to one at a distant location. But, that’s where I am now and I don’t expect others to agree. And I’m sure I will have other trips, money and health permitting.

My bucket list is very small at this point.  New Zealand, probably with stops in the south Pacific there and back, is the big one, and I think I’d like to spend some few days by myself in Rome and Venice, mostly for the art. Anyway, here’s my list of where I’ve been. I know that many people include places they’ve driven through on the way to somewhere else or were at the airport or dock without getting to explore, but I do not. E.g., I have driven through Delaware many times more than I’ve been almost anywhere else, always on the interstate and rarely stopping except at one of those stops for gas, McDonald’s, etc. I don't count Delaware. Nor the night I spent in Memphis, where we were warned not to leave our hotel at night. I attach a few pictures, but am keeping that aspect light, mostly because it would have made this post too big. I think the pictures are clickable though.

U.S.

NY. Not including where I live on Long Island, because I’ve been to most of it over the years, obviously a lot of time in Manhattan, which I still think is the greatest city in the world. I’ve visited the estates in Westchester on a few occasions. The Washington Irving Estate (Sunnyside) and Rockefeller Estate (Kykuit) both come to mind. One major trip up to Niagara Falls, the Finger Lakes area and some spots in between, including Corning (glass factory) and Cooperstown for the baseball Hall of Fame, with which I was not impressed. Many trips kayaking, but I’ll put that under Pa. Went to summer camp in the Adirondacks for two years when I was a kid at Racquette Lake, have visited Lake George a few times (I hate the touristy part) and stayed in nearby Lake Lucerne for quite a while. Also stayed up in Schroon Lake one day when picking my daughter up from camp. Mohonk Mountain and its fantastic lodge is one of my favorite places in the world.


Mohonk Mountain House.                                       Mineola, NY, Court House.                                      

NJ. Up to the mountain country for skiing a number of times, visits with a relative and also my daughter’s family on small lakes a few times and lovely, lovely Newark (visitors there will recognize the sarcasm) and some other small cities.

Connecticut. I’ve only really spent time in Hartford on business for a couple of days and also a few days at my Uncle’s house in Greenwich. But it adds up over time.  I’ve also driven through it many times, but, only count the former occasions as having been there.

Rhode Island. Went to Providence for a weekend. Lots of mansions mostly.

Massachusetts. I’ve been to Boston three times and the environs. This time added Lexington and Concord, including a walk around Thoreau’s Walden Pond. Like Connecticut, I driven through it many times on my way to Vermont, through little towns.

Vermont. Many ski trips in the mountains, particularly at Killington, but also at least once to each of Pico, Okemo and Mount Snow, the latter a few times. There’s a beautiful little town called Woodstock I’ve spent many days in not far from skiing, but usually in bad weather. And I have visited a few college towns, like Middlebury.

Killington Ski Resort, Vermont.

New Hampshire. Two ski trips. Also climbed Mt. Washington in our car once. Scared the bejeesus out of my evalovin’ gf. She made me stop at a resting point and insisted we go back down. I wasn’t about to do that. And up we went.

Maine. A week exploring some lakes. Maybe I’ll go back to Bar Harbor someday. That is real pretty and I only had a couple of hours there. There’s a national park there that seems like it should be explored too.

Pennsylvania. Four trips to Gettysburg, which is really sublime. Please go and stay there two days if you haven’t. Spent many days, probably adding up to a couple of weeks at this point, kayaking on the Delaware River, which is actually the border of NY and Pa., but I’ll include it here. Philadelphia once to see all the touristy things, like Convention Hall.

Maryland. I’ve been to Baltimore many times under the guidance of the estimable Bear, who is a pretty good tour guide. I was not expecting much the first time we went, somewhere between 10-15 years ago, but they’ve done an amazing job gentrifying the city and it is beautiful and fun. I’ve also spent enough time driving in rural areas around Maryland that I would include this state anyway. A night in Fredericks on our way back from Gettysburg once too. Almost forgot, a weekend in Colonial Beach on the Potomac River (the river looks like the ocean there, being so wide at that spot), which was once a rip roaring place and now a quiet and less inhabited beach town, and where I stayed at the old home of Alexander Graham Bell, now a bed and breakfast.

Washington, D.C.  I have probably been there five or six times, enough to lose count, anyway. Restaurants and museums mostly, The Newseum and the Spy Museum being my favorites, visited the presidential monuments (Lincoln's choked me up), saw the cherry blossoms but not the Vietnam Memorial. Places where they list the dead make me sad. Love Georgetown. I once spent a weekend there trying not to think about a broken heart. Worked okay, actually.

Virginia. I lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains and James River Valley for four and a half years. I did too much there to state in a paragraph, but I’m sure more there than anywhere else I’ve gone in my life, particularly around Buchanan, a tiny town on the James River, where I lived. As for other places, I saw Richmond and Jefferson’s, Madison’s, Washington’s homes and Robert E. Lee’s childhood home in Charlottesville, Montpelier, Mount Vernon and Stratford, respectively. Been to Lexington, Va., many times. It is the town that led me to live in the area (although I resided in Buchanan, on the James River, a half hour south of Lexington). I spent endless hours on the Washington & Lee campus, at the cemetery (Stonewall Jackson and other Civil War figures buried there), the Jackson House, the Lee Chapel and on the Maury River. And, spent many days in Roanoke, a city of roughly 90,000, about a half hours south of my home there, and Smith Mountain Lake, an incredibly beautiful lake another 45 minutes from Roanoke, surrounded by spectacular and surprisingly cheap homes right on the water.


Peaks of Otter, Virginia.

North Carolina. I’ve been to Charlotte, where I have friends. It’s a nice city, but the suburbs are too much like Long Island to suit me. Lake Norman to the north is pretty and my evalovin’ gf says she’d like to live there some day. Also visited my brother when he lived in Raleigh. NC is not my favorite place, really, but many people I’ve met want to move there and every place has its charms.

Florida. I’ve driven through S. Carolina (or do I count the amusement park I went to once right on the NC border?) and Georgia, but never really did anything or stopped long, so I don’t count them. But I’ve been to Florida more than any other place I haven’t lived. The irony is, I’m not a fan. Too hot, too flat, too many sharks and alligators. I was two the first time I went and then the next year too. Been to Orlando, of course, and Disney, Miami, Boca Raton, Sarasota, and just recently, the very beautiful Marco Island and Key West. Boynton Beach on the east coast too. I realize that eventually many of my friends will move there, though I really would rather not.



Marco Island, Florida.

Louisiana. I was helping my friend, Peter, move from Florida to Iowa and I insisted we stop in New Orleans, where we spent one day. But, it was one heck of a day. I even had two drinks (could barely stay awake), a guy had a drink sent over to me in a bar, and there is a rumor we went to some strip clubs, which I cannot confirm or deny. Want to go back and stay longer. Not for Mardi Gras though. Too crowded and noisy for this old man.

Iowa. Yes, then Peter and I drove to Iowa. It was a really pretty state, mostly farmland, of course, but lots of rolling hills and different colors. And Des Moines was a lot of fun. My best memory - there was this pizzeria where the owner would walk around with a boxing glove on the end of a trombone slide and squirt water at everyone  some who came with umbrellas, from a selzer bottle.

Montana. Been out there twice with Don, who sometimes adds a comment here. He has a small house on a river in the middle of nowhere. Lots of stars and mountains though. Beautiful state. But everywhere I've been in the Rocky Mountains are beautiful. Almost froze to death there once, but that’s for another day. Skied a few times. Almost slid to my death doing so, but, you know, same old, same old.


Flathead Lake, Montana.

Washington. I spend a week there with my daughter’s mother once about 29 years ago. We stayed near the Puget Sound where her sister lived, but also drove to Mt. Rainer once. Some of the prettiest woods I’ve ever seen, and I have been to a few woods in my life. And Paradise, the snowiest spot on earth, was quite memorable. Walls of snow along the side of the road, much higher than the car – and it was well into Spring.

California. I’ve been twice. The first time I went by myself to south of L.A. (never been to L.A.), drove down to San Diego, then all the way up the coast to San Francisco and spent four days hiking in the Redwood Forest with a friend and his buddies. A little time in Carmel and the surrounding area. The last time, two years ago was part of a longer trip through the west. But, we stayed a few days in Huntington Beach, also south of L.A., and then up the coast again to San Francisco, where I spent four days. Some of it is so beautiful, it’s hard to believe, like this little park on the coast which we almost didn’t stop at.


Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, California.

Nevada. Been to Vegas twice. Everyone should see it once, but I have very little interest in it. The first time I went was to visit my father, who, though he lived a few minutes from the strip, had never been there. I took him to it for a while, but then said, "Dad, let's get out of here," and drove out into the desert, which, once you got past the houses, was as quite pretty. The last time my gf, daughter and her boyfriend were with me and I wanted the kids to see the hotels, which are a lot of fun to walk around. After dinner I went to my room and watched football while they went out. Once was enough. I know, I’m boring to most people, but Thursday Night Football was on.

Arizona. Been there twice too. The first time we drove all over, from Phoenix, up to Sedona (prettiest place I never heard of until I got there), to the Grand Canyon (pic - if you can go only one place in America, that’s where I am recommending), then east across the state towards Utah and New Mexico. The second time my evalovin’ gf and I went camping in the beautiful red-rocked Canyon de Chelly (remember the canyon edge Jodie Foster was sitting on at the end of Contact) and Sedona. It was incredibly beautiful, but we are too old to camp. Never again, I hope.



Grand Canyon, Arizona.

New Mexico. Spent about a week there in Santa Fe, Taos, Albuquerque and all that space between (it's a really big state). It may be the prettiest state I’ve been too, in general, even if other states have more beautiful attractions. Not a lot of water though. I once stepped over the Santa Fe River. That's not an exaggeration - right over it. About a decade ago an environmental group named it America’s most endangered river. I thought about moving there, but realized there’d be no work for me and I might get thirsty.



Distant rain storm, New Mexico.

Utah. Monument Valley (pic) is also one of the great places to see. I stayed there two days and over night in the only hotel with a view. Just magnificent.  I was also in Salt Lake City for a half day, and though the view of the mountains is beautiful, the city was too boring for words. Then, on my last trip out west, we stayed at Bryce and Zion canyons. Like the Grand Canyon, the beauty there cannot be described. Even just driving from one place to another is incredible.














Monument Valley, Utah.



Bryce Canyon, Utah.

Colorado. I’ve been to Denver twice. It is just a city to me, though I had fun. Went to Boulder, where a sister lives on the border of the Rockies (skied once at Arapahoe Basin on July 2d), went white water rafting on the Arkansas River with a group of school kids (I was in my mid-20s) and recently spent three days in the mountains at a wedding. As with Utah, just driving through the mountains is an awesome experience. Those Rockies just rear out of the ground in spots like a wall. And the continental divide is really cool.

The U.S. Virgin Islands. Been to St. Thomas twice with my evalovin’ gf. I recommend Sapphire Bay for its beautiful view and Magen’s Bay, which, however, looks even better from the air. On one of those trips we went to St. John’s Island, which I find even more beautiful. I actually have an imaginary home on St. John’s run by a wise middle-aged Japanese widow named Mrs. Livingston. You should see it. Incredible sunsets from the deck.



Magens Bay, St. Thomas.

Near the U.S.

Mexico.

Isla Mujeres (Island of Women). Spent a week on Isla Mujeres there. It can be quite dodgy in spots, but not where we stayed on a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides.

Cozumel. Also went to Cozumel (where Montezuma’s revenge took revenge on me) on the same trip. 

Cancun. We went to Cancun, but it is not for me, relatively speaking. Too touristy, too many kids. Not that it is not wonderful in its own way. Also took a day tour to Chichen Itza with its incredible pyramid (last year they let you climb it) and other archaeological sites.



Chichen Itza, Mexico.

Bahamas. I spent I believe four days down there by myself. I was on the same island, Nassau, with that famous resort owned by Merv Griffin – is it Paradise Island? But, I did not want to go there. Guess why? Too many people, too many kids. So, I called a travel agent and asked if she could find me a resort where no one went. She laughed, but she pretty much did. I think it was called Divi Divi. Had the place almost to myself. Loved it. Walked 100 yards down the beach around a curve and might has well been on a desert island. Remember reading a lot. A book about Australia’s founding, a biography of Bismarck and two others I just can’t remember. It was about 29 years ago, so, can’t blame me.

Canada

Montreal. I went to Montreal once about 28 years ago. It was okay, but the old part of town was very small. The subways are what they mostly brag about, and they were very nice, but I’ve seen just as good elsewhere.

Quebec City. I much preferred Quebec City. Old, European, more natural surroundings in the city. Would like to go again someday.



Quebec City monument, Canada.

Europe

Britain. I’ve been three times. The first was my first trip to Europe and I was there about 5 days. The next time was just for a day, giving my friend a whirlwind tour, on our way back from Greece. The other time was four days by myself to finish up the outdoor sights of London. Believe it or not, with some exceptions, I did not go inside many places in all the times I've been there, other than most of the great churches, Winchester Castle and Hampton Court. Oxford was my one out of London trip. I seem to recall that Kew Gardens, Hampton Courts, the Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, a myriad of churches and Oxford were my favorite places.

Ireland. I was sick as a dog here for two weeks and yet still had a wonderful time. It’s green, mountainous, lake filled and . . . mostly empty.


Ireland.

Denmark. Mostly just in wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen but also Kronborg (Hamlet’s) Castle. I thought Tivoli Park in Copenhagen was one of the best places I’d ever been. Not sure how I’d feel now some 30 plus years later.

Sweden. Really just spent time in one town, Helsingborg, celebrating its 900th birthday when I was there, for four days. Nice town though. Enough pretty girls for me to remember it with great fondness.

Netherlands. Amsterdam for four days and Haarlem for a day trip. Remember the canals, the canal houses, the Rijksmuseum and Rembrandt’s Night Watch best.

France. I really have not been to France proper except to fly in and out of Nice and Paris. But, I include it because I spent two weeks in Corsica (pic), which was a great experience. It's a very mountainous island. Unless you are a careful and a reasonably relaxed driver (more curves than you can count and big, big drops off ledges if you are not careful). I don’t recommend it for the faint of heart, but, it rates as one of my favorite trips. Napoleon was from there, but, it's really about the beaches and mountains. The cities, other than one day in Bonifacio on the southern tip, not that special. But on one memorable day outside of Bonifacio we walked about a half mile or so across a shallow straight to an island. 



Corsica, France. This was a waterfall for which we walked down a mountain about an hour to see. Some rock climbers were there before us.




Grotte di Bonifacio, Corsica, France.

Monaco. Tiny principality between France and Italy. Nice, if rocky, coast. Big casino there my friends went to while I waited in the car. But driving along the roads thinking about Grace Kelly was fun. Maybe creepy too.

Germany. I spent a week there in the south, Ulm, Regensburg, Munich, some walled towns on the Romantic Road like Rothenberg ob der Tauber, the Black Forest, Heidelberg, Baden Baden, etc.



Life sized wooden Last Supper carving by Tilman Riemenscheider, St. Jakob's Church, Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Germany. Circa 1500.




Heidlberg, Germany.

Austria. A couple of days in Innsbruck and Salzburg and about four days in glorious Vienna, one of my favorite cities.




Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna.

Serbia.  I crossed over the Yugoslavian border (that’s the name for this and the next two entries in ’89 when I went and still communist at that time) which was a scary experience itself. Were they going to give me my passport back? It didn't seem like it until an older and more experienced traveler advised me to go ask for it. He said they would want money but just play dumb. It worked. Scary at the time, but exciting in memory.  Belgrade is the capital and though a semi-modern big city and I only spent a day, I enjoyed it, except for the severe sunburn I got walking around.

Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is the only country that I just passed through by train that I will count, because it was most of the day and the view was spectacular - you looked out the whole time. At one point you travel on a rail suspended near the top of mountains on giant columns. The description I had read of it was "heart pounding" – and it was. I also met a Swedish couple I spent a few days traveling with on the train. Lost touch with them a few years later. My fault. Shame. Wonder what happened with them.

Croatia.  The incredible city of Dubrovnik. All limestone. There is not really a lot to do there other than walk around, go to the beach and see the Napoleonic fort, but, I was there four days and could go back for a week. You almost feel like you have stepped back in time.



Dubrovnik, Croatia - those are my long lost Swedish friends on bottom right.

Italy. I’ve spent somewhere around 5 plus weeks there on three different trips. No room to talk about it here, but just to list the places serially: Florence, Siena, many little Tuscan towns (Gimignano and Montepulciano stand out in my mind), Verona, Sirmione (basically a castle on Lake Garda,) Milan, Rimini, Genoa, Cinque Terra, San Remo, Lucca, Pisa, Sicily (Syracuse, Taormina, Gela, Agrigento, Erisa, Palermo, Cefalu [pic]) and Sardinia (mostly the southeast coastal area). And, of course, many miles of driving past ruins and through vineyards.



Cefalu, Sicily, Italy - like an old post card.




Portofino, Italy.

San Marino. Do I even count this? It’s basically a itsy bitsy republic in the middle of Italy that relies heavily on Italy for many things that are normally part of a sovereign’s normal affairs (like money, foreign policy). The entire country is basically Mt. Titano. You drive up and around and around until you get to one of the three castle filled peaks, to be faced with touristy t-shirts and kitschy items for sale. Incredible views though.

Portugal. Probably my least favorite country in Europe that I visited, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t wonderful too. Lisbon, its big city, then Sintra, filled with castles (pic) and finally the Algarve, its southern beachy coast. Most memorable were two beach towns, the castle town, Castelo (no surprise there), and a little beach town, whose name is lost in the fog of time and which I cannot even find on a map. Maybe I imagined it.



Sintra, Portugal.

Spain. Southern Spain – Seville, Granada, Cordoba, Toledo (lots of knives for sale and more art from one of my favorites painters, El Greco, than I could absorb in a day) and finally, Madrid, where, of course, the Prado, one of the world’s great museums, was closed the day we were there. Miles of olive trees and gorgeous hill towns. Most memorable moment – looking off my balcony into the gorge at Ronda and the mosque/cathedral in Cordoba.


Mosque-Cathedral, Cordoba, Spain.



From my hotel balcony in Ronda, Spain.

Greece. Three times, for about five weeks. I’ve been to Athens, but other to see the Parthenon and maybe a few other things, get out and go to the islands or the other parts of Greece. Islands: Santorini (pic) twice, Crete, particularly Matala twice, Mykynos and Kos. Nafplio, which is Greece’s old capital (much nicer than Athens and near many ancient sites and great beaches) and Delphi, on the mainland. Unforgettable. I could live on any island there I've been to.



Santorini, Greece.

Turkey. Spent about ten days going down the coast. Four days in Istanbul, Izmir (formerly Smyrna), Bodrum (formerly Halicarnassus). Best memories are in Istanbul (Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cistern - featured in From Russia With Love) and Ephesus, which has some of the most memorable ruins in the world.




Library in Ephesus, Turkey.

All of these were wonderful trips. Again, I’ve been very fortunate. Reading it over, it makes me want to go back to Europe. But, New Zealand first.

About Me

My Photo
I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .