Saturday, January 24, 2015

The character of Jefferson (slavery)


I am not much of a fan of Thomas Jefferson.  He is, pretty much by definition, an American icon, having his face not only on our money, but also looming high on Mount Rushmore along with three other presidents.  Actually, Jefferson's face was selected, as were the other three, by the sculptor, not the government.  But it was hardly controversial, as, other than by his political opponents and a few historians here and there, possibly only Washington, Lincoln, the Roosevelts and sometimes Benjamin Franklin have been so  revered as politicians throughout our history right up today.  And even if David McCullough did make John Adams a shining star for a few brief years, it was a bump on a long log, compared to the hero worship directed towards the Sage of Monticello.

Despite my personal dislike of Jefferson as a person, it would be foolish to suggest TJ was not one of the most important figures in the founding of the country, though I am not sure it would not have been significantly different, and perhaps better, had he not been.  I cannot think of any role he played which was critical in the revolution (please say what would have been different, if you disagree). In fact, what he was best known for after the declaration was failing to defend Virginia as governor and riding away from the British while his slaves remained behind, something that a number of other of his own peers were deeply angry at, and which, though found not at fault after investigation (and I agree), injured his reputation for a while.  Of course, it is the Declaration of Independence that he is most famous for. And I've treated this before on March 7, 2009, explaining why I think he should get some credit, but nowhere near as much as he is afforded for most famous piece of political writing in our history. Besides, someone else on the committee, like Adams or Franklin would have written the Declaration had he not.

But, undoubtedly, more so than any of these things, he was the leader of one of the two factions that became one of two great political ideologies that has existed throughout our history in one form or another (though I maintain the current popular consensus that he was the spiritual founder of the modern Democrat Party is overstated and he cannot be properly seen as the originator of either present party, however much it is believed). He was also  a major proponent if not always an applicator of enlightenment values, particularly the promotion of religious freedom and education. And, of course, he was the third president for two terms and in some senses the selector of his successors for the next four terms (so, 24 in all). He was also a formidable writer who left tons of correspondence and memoir material (albeit, most deliberately self-serving).  Of course, he can be called a "great" man in the sense of his impact on the world. However, so can his contemporary, Napoleon, and he sure had his faults. So can Cromwell.   So can others with far worse reputations.

Though he was incredibly well educated for his time, some of his achievements, as I have written about before, were  exaggerated (e.g., the Declaration) and many if not most or all of his important ideas were clearly derivative from others he read (though, that is true of most famous "thinkers").  But, it is not his achievements or failures I aim at here, but his character.  In my view, he has enjoyed a somewhat false sanctification.  In fact, his efforts at self-sanctification is one of his worst features. Rather than Sage, he should be known as the Shame of Monticello.  

It is not that his faults are not recognized by others - I personally rely on the scholarship of a number of authors over the last 100+ years in forming my opinion, but - his faults are too often smoothed over, as if they were mere foibles or minor character flaws, by his biographers. They shouldn't be. He does not deserve accolades but reproaches for many reasons.  I suspect that some of the resistance to seeing Jefferson clearly is the custom of treating reprehensible characters as being without any merit, and that would be extraordinarily difficult to do with any of the founders (though Jefferson and Hamilton did a pretty good job in tarring Burr, a far more honorable man than either of them in my opinion). Tarnishing founders can be a problem for many, but it's not necessary on their part. We can recognize a flawed character and contributions at the same time. We do it with many if not most historical persons.  

And, though a minority, there are professionals who find Jefferson as loathsome a character as I do, including those who have studied it much harder than I have.  Just as an example, as put by Paul Finkleman, a Professor at Albany University who wrote a book commenting in part on the evasions of Jefferson scholars,  “I think Thomas Jefferson is one of the most deeply creepy people in American history.”

2013 was a Jefferson year and a number of books came out which treat upon him, most notably John Meacham's The Art of Power.  Though Meacham, not a professional historian by training, wrote what I think is the best biography of Andrew Jackson that I have come across, I do not feel the same about his Jefferson, which has far greater competition.  I myself have probably read well over a dozen books on Jefferson alone (not including books on the revolution or time period). Whether we like a subject or not should have anything to do with our appreciation of a writer's work.  For example, I did not think much of Andrew Jackson as a person or president either, but still think Meacham wrote an excellent book about him.  I do find Meacham's effort on Jefferson interesting -- the phrase "a good read" comes to mind, but I have to say it was a typical Jefferson hagiography.  No doubt, hagiography is hard to avoid when dealing with celebrated  subjects like Franklin, Lincoln and Jefferson, but it is not inevitable for a good historian and not necessary at all for a great one.

 It is not that Meacham ignores any of Jefferson's most glaring faults, but, like so many other authors, he takes an understanding and sympathetic view of what in a less admired person would likely be seen as obnoxious or even terrible behavior (trying to seduce his friend's wife, whom he was asked to keep an eye on by her absent husband) or even horrific, like his keeping during his life hundreds of slaves he could have freed or treated much better, including his mistress and own children.  

For example, take Meacham's soft-pedaling of Jefferson's politics, which were probably more backstabbing and heavy handed than anyone else at the time could manage other than his arch-rival, Alexander Hamilton.  Meacham writes of Jefferson - "He was both an unflinching political warrior and an easily wounded soul. He always would be."  Awww.  In other words, maybe he was naughty sometimes, but a soft and vulnerable naughty boy, so we forgive him.  Imagine this phrase used of someone like Hitler - He was both an unflinching political warrior and an easily wounded soul. He always would be.  Hitler as examplye too rough for you? Fine, howabout someone like President Nixon.  Would that explanation justify forgetting about Watergate - that he was an easily wounded soul?  He was.

In another place Meacham writes of the Alien and Sedition acts in negative terms and details Jefferson's opposition, neglecting to mention that Jefferson as well as Adams signed the bill.  You can't, of course, put everything in a biography, and Meacham's  (or his editor's) selectivity is admirable for such a large subject.  But, how much space would that have taken?  one or two sentences? A footnote?  In just three consecutive pages he soft pedals Jefferson's typical hiding behind front men as being a "sign of good care,"  his stonewalling of his protégé, James Callendar, as not wanting to consort with a man skilled "in the dark arts of political warfare" (laughable when you consider Jefferson was virtually a Sith Lord when it comes to politics) and ignores his paying what was essentially blackmail to Callendar to save his own reputation  -- not even a  single critical comment!  

Meacham is hardly alone. Take this review of Joseph Ellis' American Sphinx,  "Though critical of Jefferson’s character, in the end Ellis decides it's his contradictions, in part, that made the third president great." Excusing Jefferson's  sins is a cottage industry.  Even one of my favorite historians, Garry Wills, who facilely writes the truth about Jefferson,  seems to almost as easily to forget or forgive the worst faults. At some point he stops to remind us how wonderful he was in the whole.  The truth is, no forgiveness is necessary.  He's dead, he's legendary (the apocryphal quotations falsely attributed to him are epic) and he was, of course, a man of his times, like all of us. Being fair about a subject does not mean excusing things that cannot be excused. But, I discuss here how much an excuse there should be. 

Not all authors treat Jefferson so gently, of course. Some, like Finkelman, have been critical. But, they are certainly fewer and  almost always get ignored or treated shabbily by publishers and commentators on their work.  Henry Wiencek's Master of the Mountain, also published last year, looks at Jefferson's slave ownership with a far more penetrating light than Meacham throws on any of Jefferson's faults, in lieu of writing just another general biography.   And, not surprisingly, he quickly found himself being attacked by some as being unfair to Jefferson. Imagine -  they are defending someone we know owned hundreds of slaves, who made certain he kept them no matter what, who freed only his offspring and not even their mother during his life, and even upon his death did not follow the example of others who freed their own, like Washington, but perpetrated slavery every chance he could.  Instead, they castigate the messenger, Wiencek, who also, actually, treads very carefully himself. He probably had to in order to get published.

Think about it. With most topics, we celebrate and are excited by iconoclastic writing. But, when the subject is Jefferson (Lincoln too and some others), it is almost always the messenger who is shot and Wiencek, though quoted by others (including Meacham), has been handled roughly.  Some of Wiencek's critics, like Finkleman, seem upset that he might be getting credit for things he readily admits he did not discover.  Others say he is exaggerating a certain Jefferson notation because there is no proof Jefferson was talking about himself and not Virginian slavery in general  (I don't know why that would even matter), and  ignores all the other evidence raised by Wiencek.  

So, why another post here bashing TJ, you ask? It's because I want to cover a certain topic often used as a Jefferson defense.  This is excusing someone by calling him a "man of his times" also known as "presentism."   Naturally, I agree that we should not blame long dead people for holding  beliefs that were commonly or almost exclusively held true at their time, at least by those in their community or culture.  

In other words, I don't want to be myself or want others to be guilty of presentism either.  For example, it is in my opinion mostly unfair to attack Columbus for the horrific treatment of native Americans.  To do so would be to charge him with knowledge and attitudes that were extremely rare in his own time - mostly the 15th century.  Similarly, it is not surprising that Lincoln held as poor an opinion of the talents of blacks as he did, despite being opposed to slavery.  Jefferson was convinced of the inferiority of blacks as Lincoln was, probably more so.  But, presentism is sometimes insufficient as an excuse and too often reached for when it is not applicable.  In Jefferson's case with respect to slavery it is wholly false or, at best, deeply exaggerated. The reason for this is that Jefferson himself, and many of his peers, held the belief that slavery was an abomination, that blacks deserved freedom, that "all men were created equal." He was also aware that he could have freed his slaves, the same way a number of his peers whom he knew well did.  Instead, he chose to live the good life, even well above his means and saddled with debts, in an opulent palace, thanks almost entirely to the efforts and suffering of his slaves.     

The moral-free businessman and aristocrat in him simply won over the enlightenment writer.  Sure, he was, of course, a man of his time, but he, highly educated, was also ahead of his time, and he wrote about the horrors of slavery himself (while at the same time describing blacks as subhuman) and let himself be portrayed as slavery's enemy.  Hardly so, of course. He was slavery's friend and protector.  I will suggest here that the "presentism" argument (using present values to criticize an historical figure) shields an undeserving ghost. His slave owning, sometimes portrayed as being unavoidable or for the benefit of the slaves, was in fact, purely selfish, exceedingly cruel and despicable.

 Jefferson, who bathed in the enlightenment authors from both England, Scotland and France -- was well aware of what he was doing, he simply wanted to live as a philosopher king.  No less is the fact that he engaged in what he thought was despicable miscegenation with Sally Hemmings.  I will not even consider here any of the unlikely arguments that it was not him, but his brother, who fathered the children (dna evidence tells us it was one of the two).  Circumstances tell us that it was him. Perhaps worse, he enslaved his and her own children, even if eventually freeing them.  Not even every slave owner kept their own children as slaves (though you do not get a gold star from me for freeing only your own). And he deplored the mixing of masters and slaves as much as any aspect of it. For Jefferson, it was not a matter of indifference to say one thing and do another. It was one of the main themes of his life. The enlightenment writers upon whom Jefferson so heavily relied for his ideas, were for the most part, very much opposed to slavery, whatever they thought of blacks, and it his peculiar devotion to it despite that, which rankles.

Of course, Jefferson's views and actions have been long debated and I can only give a snapshot here. First, let me address what Jefferson did with respect for slavery which he should get credit for, being careful also to state its limits:

1. He sought to place language on slavery in the Declaration of Independence so critical of it (blaming it on King George too, though it was no longer legal in Britain itself since even before the Revolution) which, if kept in the document, he said he believed would have made it most difficult for the new nation to maintain the institution for very long. However, that does fit a pattern of his of proposing things short of ending slavery or short of freeing slaves himself.

2. However, using a relative as a cut out, he early on sought to abolish slavery in Virginia through legislation. That he failed was no fault of his own and he may have genuinely desired that result at the time.  But, he saw the demonization inflicted on his own relative by their peers, and instead of stepping up himself and lending it his support, he stepped back into the shadows from which he best operated. And, that was the last time he tried to end slavery.

3. He is though largely responsible for legislation which permitted owners to free their slaves by deed, though there was a great deal of pressure from certain groups to permit this when he was rewriting Virginia's laws.  Note, he no longer sought to free the slaves but only to allow owners to do so (and almost never acted on the opportunity himself). His proposals were also draconic. He called, for example, for outlawing white women who bore mixed raced children and who would not leave the state (which usually means they are outside of the law's protection and can even be killed with impunity). So, this was something,  but not earthshaking.  It was not in any sense abolition. Virginia had repeatedly changed its slave laws over the centuries, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

4. He apparently (questionable, but likely to me) drafted the Northwest Ordinance of 1784, passed by the pre-Constitution congress, but which never went into effect.  It had called for the abandonment of slavery in the territories, but not immediately - only after 16 years.  Many have commented that this would merely have given slavery a foothold from which with the best of intentions, there could have been no withdrawal and virtually anyone at the time would have recognized that. There are some elements of the later Northwest Ordinance of 1787, an Act which he did not author, which was ratified by the United States Congress under the new Constitution. Perhaps Jefferson can be given some credit for having pre-figured it, but in most regards it is a summary of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 and authored by Massachusetts' men. The new ordinance actually barred slavery -- not yet established, in the new territory.  Thus, we can only say that in the early 1780s Jefferson proposed allowing slavery in the new territories for a number of years and eventually eradicating it a generation later, which provision was almost certain to fail, and later, without his help, it was banned there completely.

5.  While president, he signed into law a bill making it illegal for U.S. citizens to participate in the international slave trade. But this itself had been contemplated in the Constitution, which he himself acknowledged, and the slave trade had already been abolished in almost every state at that point.

Now, the negative, most of which I collected from Wiencek, who documents it thoroughly, but much of which is well established:

 1. He kept hundreds of slave, inherited by him or his wife, sold by him, raised by him. His son, Madison, who wrote long after TJ was dead, stated that Jefferson freed his children eventually, but did not do so for some 600 others (it's a collective number). He also noted Jefferson's affection for his white children and grandchildren but lack of any affection for his own half black children.

2. Forget your image of him as a kindly slave owner. He worked most of them at hard labor, doing things like farming or making nails even in bitter cold. Many got sick, many died. Here's an example from Wiencek: " Jefferson moved onto Monticello Mountain as a twenty-seven-year-old bachelor in November 1770. During a snowstorm on a bitterly cold day he went to observe the digging of a cellar. Wrapped in a coat, the young master watched a sixteen-year-old girl dig into frozen clay. The crew consisted of four men, two sixteen-year-old girls, and "a lad"--all slaves hired by his contractor. He wrote a description of the work, taking note of the crew's output for the day, which lasted about eight and a half hours in the frigid weather.  Half-frozen, the slaves took frequent breaks to warm up on a fire. An instinctive engineer and calculator, Jefferson measured their output, a hole about 3 feet deep and 132 feet square. He was not commenting on slavery but making engineering and labor notes, setting down for future reference how much digging could be accomplished by youthful laborers on a terrible day."   

3. He claimed he did not want slaves whipped, but, despite his complaints, never did much when overseers did so.  Some of his overseers were quite liberal with the lash and he was well aware of it when he hired them. One of his slaves who he long trusted to run his nail making business ceased being effective when he refused to whip the slaves anymore and he was taken off his job.  In fact, Jefferson was well aware of the cruelty of some of the overseers and even that children were being whipped. On occasion he would order it himself, for example, on a repeated runaway. Much of this facet about Jefferson has been deliberately hidden by some biographers and other famous biographers have relied upon fallacious accounts.

 

4. Not only were the children of slaves to remain slaves, but they were often born into indebtedness "contracted" with their parents, who of course, could not pay off their debts.  The reason for the debt - mostly buying slaves.

5.  At one time he wrote that blacks should be slaves all their life, but their children taken from them when adolescents and given training and when grown given material goods and sent to a place to be free and independent (the idea of a Liberia was a common one that even Lincoln championed).  That was about as good as it got. But, other than those who were almost certainly his children, he did not free any of his own slaves, or their children, even in his will. In fact, he believed the continuation of slavery was essential to American's survival.

 6. Unlike Washington, he did not inoculate his slaves against small pox, but blamed the failure on the British to whom he was indebted. He wrote to a manager of Monticello :

"I cannot decide to sell my lands. I have sold too much of them already, and they are the only sure

provision for my children, nor would I willingly sell the slaves as long as there remains any prospect of paying my debts with their labor." He adds that he is governed solely by their happiness, and would make their lot easier when they have paid the debts, most of which had been incurred through their purchase. Another time he wrote that   "I am miserable till I shall owe not a shilling: the moment that shall be the case I shall feel myself at liberty to do something for the comfort of my slaves."  A small minority were paid "gratuities," but the lowest workers received bare rations and clothes.

 

7. In writing to friends or those whose opinions he wanted to be favorable of him, Jefferson omitted mentioning that  Virginia permitted individual owners to free people at will. He would explain why Virginia would not emancipate slaves as other states had by claiming that it was because blacks were incompetent and it was like abandoning children.  

 8. Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a revolutionary war hero from Poland, left Jefferson as executor of his will for the purposes of using the money to free slaves. Though TJ helped him draft the will, he never acted on it and used the money to free any slaves.

 

9. His idea of protecting the slaves he rented out was to do so for only a year at a time so that he could get them back if they were treated harshly.  A year!

 

10. Despite claiming it was impossible to free them, he had many peers he knew well who did so and he was  acquainted with many who supported themselves, including a very few who worked for him.   Washington, D.C., where he resided for years, had a whole community of freed slaves who supported themselves.  One friend freed his slaves and worked beside them on the land. Another friend tried to show Jefferson how renting land would be more economical than having slaves. He ignored him.  Another brought all his slaves to Illinois and settled there with them.  Jefferson's peer, Robert Carter III, far wealthier than Jefferson, used the same provision in the law that Jefferson could have used, to free his over 450 slaves over time. Unlike Jefferson, he died living in a little house in a city, no longer living like a rich man on the sweat of others.

11. The U.S. acquired Louisiana, a huge territory, in 1803, under Jefferson's presidency.  Despite all his words claiming the evils of slavery and that he wished to end it, when the Senate debated the issue of slavery in the new territory,  Jefferson secretly instructed his floor manager through a note to insert in the bill that slaves would be admitted there.

12. He did whatever he did to prevent the equality of blacks, even, when a free black militia in Louisiana offered its services. He determined to keep them in their posts to "till a better settled state of things shall permit us to let them neglect themselves."   It was actually far harder for them than remaining in their barracks.

13. When slaves revolted in Haiti from our enemy France and begged for our help, he ignored them, despite his own supposed dedication to freedom and his role in our own revolution.

All of this is, of course, just a smattering from Wiencek's book and some other sources. Wiencek, published quite recently, is almost already forgotten, while you can easily find Meacham's book in stores. Wiencek reminds people of things they would rather not know and if they read it, to quickly forget.  It is not comfortable to have a heroic figure you were taught to treasure since childhood be brought so thoroughly down to earth. Admittedly, when I first started reading American history, I had trouble with it myself. It is easier to make excuses - such as, he was a man of his times.

Of course, it is also easy to fall back on the fact that so many of his peers were slave owners, including those who were abolitionists (even Franklin had occasionally had slaves) and so many others who did not own them, but accepted it as part of the law. But, this is used by some to pretend that Jefferson did not know any better. And, of course, he did. That's the easy part, because he repeatedly wrote so. Not only did many states end slavery during his lifetime, but Britain had freed its slaves at home even before the revolution (not throughout its empire until 1833). Not only did Jefferson write about how awful slavery was for everyone involved, but Quakers had long been shaking the tree trying to abolish it throughout America and there were many abolition societies. Many of his friends and correspondents freed their slaves, encouraged him to do so and were puzzled at his continuing it. They shouldn't have been that surprised. The horrors at Monticello were disguised but visible enough to those who wanted to see. As one visitor to Monticello who knew Jefferson commented - "[H]e considered them to be far inferior to the rest of mankind as the mule is to the horse, and as made to carry burthens."  

Of course, he hid it well, being a master of deceit like few others. He designed Monticello so much of the seemlier side of slavery was out of sight for visitors and his other lands had even worse conditions for the slaves.

Of course, here, I only examine his slave-holding, not his other character flaws. There are many other reasons to disapprove of Jefferson's character and I will get to these another day.  The Sage of Monticello was very much so the fraud and in my view a bad man, despite his many accomplishments. "Creepy" is a good word for him. But, when breaking icons, you have to take a break sometimes. So, finito.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Worst President? V


I continue with my award winning series (yes, my award, so what?) on why President Obama is the worst president in my lifetime. I refer you to the first post on this topic for the overview, and the previous posts under this title ("The Worst President?") in the archives, starting July 2, 2014:

 

Now, still counting down, we cover -

 

No. 5) The closed society.

This administration claimed it would have unprecedented openness and the most transparent administration in history. That, of course, includes freedom of the press, and the ability of the public and press to access information. And not that many congress's and presidents don't routinely claim this type of thing and then fail mightily. But, as with the other failures I've charged him with, he manages to surpass the others. And, yes, that includes Nixon - 

  • James Risen would differ with President Obama on his dedication to freedom of the press.  Risen is a New York Times reporter who was involved in a story concerning a CIA plot to disrupt Iran's nuclear program that went astray. For the past seven years he has been fighting the federal government, which seeks his testimony with respect to the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, who is a former CIA agent and is accused of leaking information of the covert activities to Risen.  Risen's quote: "He's the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation" is coming from one an employee of one of the president's greatest institutional supporters. If you don't understand the freedom of the press issue with reporters not giving up their sources, google, as I'm assuming you know.
     
    Risen is no newcomer to the CIA, having had published two books on them. In his 2006 bestseller State of War (blah, blah, blah), he wrote about a late Clinton administration CIA scheme to give Iran bad blueprints. Unfortunately (apparently - I haven't really researched this), the courier, a Russian scientist, corrected the problems in the prints and it may have aided Iran. While Risen was researching the book, his telephone conversations with Sterling were monitored by the government.
     
    The government sought Risen's testimony and he has refused. In 2006, AG Holder stated that journalists might be prosecuted for publishing leaked information. However, before leaving office, former AG Holder stated that the Justice Department would not seek Risen's imprisonment for refusing to testify. Actually, what he said was that "no reporter is going to jail as long as I'm Attorney General." Is that why he soon after resigned? That's just speculation.
     
  • A federal court has ruled that Risen must testify at the Sterling trial (which, by the way, is under the espionage law, which is rare for a leak). Just a few days ago, Risen was called to testify at a hearing preceding Sterling's trial. It is possible that without his testimony, the case will fall apart. Nevertheless, he has continued to refuse to testify. We will have to wait to see what happens.

  • Another Times' employee, David Sanger, their chief Washington correspondent states: "“this is the most closed, control freak administration I’ve ever covered." There are many others. I'm just showing enough to make the point.
  •  Another voice against the administration is Ann Compton who recently retired after 41 years working for CBS (which, come on, is a long time). She gave an interview to Brian Lamb of C-Span shortly after retiring, in which she said - Before I walked out the door on September 10, I was a strong voice for complaining that this particular administration has been more opaque than any I have covered about what the President does in the Oval Office everyday. He is far less accessible on photo-ops with meetings. Even some meetings on the record, meeting in the Roosevelt room with financial leaders from, from Wall Street or on issues with environmental groups, or with issues with environmental groups, with public opinion leaders, I think most presidents have been far more forthcoming than the second Obama term, in terms of what the President is doing every day and we almost never get photo-ops."  

  • One would not normally call CBS an enemy of the president either. Nor is the Washington Post. A former executive editor there, Len Downie, who now teaches at Arizona State said:"This is the most restrictive and most message-controlling, most manipulative, and often hostile administration that I've seen since the Nixon administration."  There's that Nixon. Ouch.
     
  • Apparently in an attempt to investigate the leak of information concerning a terror plot in 2012, the Justice Department seized records for 20 different telephone lines of the Associated Press and reporters, possibly revealing sources of over 100 reporters who use the lines about, of course, for reasons that can have nothing to do with the investigation.  The complaint from the AP was not that an investigation was made, but that the collection of information far exceeded any possible investigation.
     
  • The AP itself has found the Obama administration increasingly opaque with respect to Freedom of Information Requests. It's a broad topic and you can do your own research, but, the AP relying on the governments own records show how the White House has closed the door more than ever to the press and the public. Bloomberg News' own study found that 19 of 20 departments they investigated were worse than ever and that by year 4 of Obama's term, the administration's defense of FOIA lawsuits were up 28%.
     
  • None of this should be any surprise. The White House has been even battling the normally tame White House Press Corp.  Furious at the White House acting like an editor with respect to the pool reports from reporters it is just supposed to distribute to hundreds of recipients, many of the corp. have had to find alternate ways to distribute simply to avoid the White House's blue pen. Why any White House is involved is a good question, but they have the master distribution list. The agreement is that the White House is supposed to distribute it untouched.  Hah.
     
  • This one is really scary. Sharryl Attkinson is another former CBS reporter whose stories on this administration can't please it. They include Fast and Furious, Solyndra, Benghazi and others. But, she has also pointed out she has written negative stories against the tea party and other groups on the right - she says and appears to be non-partisan in her reporting (and, seriously, how far right can she be working for CBS for many years?)   Regardless, the Justice Department issued a very suspicious denial it had tapped her home phones and broken into her home and office computers, using vague phrases like - "to our knowledge" and "without merit." Independent experts hired by CBS and also now retired Sen. Coburn of Tennessee have verified the wrongful interceptions and takings and conclude it was done with extremely sophisticated means only available to a few federal agencies.  Attkinson notes how the White House came out like a lion when Sony was hacked, but seem completely (but not surprisingly) unconcerned about her own hacking. She has begun legal proceedings. I don't know if she will get anywhere, but if she does, he will probably be gone from office or such a lame duck, no one will care.  Remember I said the worst president in my lifetime, which would include Nixon. I am far from the first to say, worse than Nixon.
     
    Sadly, given politics today and the personal preference most of the media has in the Democrat Party and progressivism (this is well documented and the polling overwhelming; so I'm not stopping to argue it), few will care and take on the administration over Attkinson or others.  This is sad, as it is an important right and their not defending each other because of politics or perceived politics will be there downfall.  Whether we get a Republican or Democrat in office next, they will try and build on the power of the president, not retreat.  As with most of these issues, you can go on and on. I'm trying to write shorter posts so that I will write more often, so I'll stop here.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Quoth the raven


Ravens, which are essentially a big black type (really several types) of crow, are among the coolest of birds. I thought I'd top-ten them, not discerning between real and fictional:

10.  Grip

I never read Dicken's Barnaby Rudge. Honestly, for the most part, Dickens bores me (A Christmas Carol, the first hundred pages of Oliver Twist and Hard Times being exceptions). In any event, Barnaby's companion is a raven, and some lines "What was that – him tapping at the door?" and "'Tis someone knocking softly at the shutter" are going to make you think of Poe's raven. No surprise. Poe reviewed the book and thought the raven should have been more prophetic (I read all this online; but, I thought it was deserving of mention). Obviously, it led to his own great poem. You might think that the inspiration for Poe would rank higher, but it was not one of Dicken's greatest works and has fallen off the radar of all but the most die hard Dickens' fans.

9. Bran

Bran was really the name of several characters or heroes in Welsh and other Celtic mythology, particularly The Mabinogion, in which Bran the Blessed is an important character, was one of my favorite if confusing collections of myths. Bran means raven in their language (or maybe crow or jackdaw, but I'm including it). Also confusing, raven is apparently the meaning of the Celtic sun god, Lugh. I wouldn't know, as some ravens know far more English than I know Celtic. As with American Indian myths, lots of stories fall into this category, but most famous is that after Bran sacrificed himself, his head continued to talk for years. It was finally buried facing France. King Arthur dug it up. Get a book if you want to know more.

8. Charlie the Raven on The Munsters

One of the Munsters' pets (not to be confused with the Addams Family's vulture), it was voiced by the greatest of all voice actors, Mel Blanc, and occasionally an actor named Bob Hastings (roles on McHale's Navy and All in the Family). Charlie lived in their cuckoo clock and would say "Nevermore" and other things, making wisecracking remarks ("3 o'clock and all is still rotten"). He was apparently referred to as Charlie only once, but good enough.

7. Roac son of Carc

The name of an ancient talking raven associated with the dwarves who lived among other ravens in Ravenhill on a peak on The Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit. They are long lived like many Tolkien creations. He played a small role in the book, letting the dwarves know when the dragon was killed and communicating between them with each other before The Battle of the Five Armies.

6. Tower Ravens

Ravens have long been associated with the London Tower. It's not clear to me how far it goes back as I've read the first reference in writing we have to them was in the mid-19th century. Whenever the tradition started, the legend is that the British Empire will not fall until the last raven leaves the tower. Unfortunately, that already happened shortly before the Empire fell after WWII and the ones they have now were a replacement made shortly after the war. I've seen the ravens there myself and they are fun to look at, whatever the history.

5. Raven from Noah's Ark (Genesis):

 "And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made. And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth."

4. Huginn and Muninn

It would be wrong to rank one of these mythological birds ahead of the other, so I doubled them up. They were the companions of the chief Norse god, Odin, whose shoulders they perched on,  giving him the name (big surprise) The Raven God. Huginn is thought and Muninn is mind or memory in Old Norse. Odin would worry that they would not return from their daily flights from which they brought him information about the world. In one source, he had given them the gift of speech.

3. The Raven in American Indian and Siberian mythology

Raven is featured in the mythology of the tribes of the pacific northwest. Probably other than coyote, the most important animal-god/totem figure in N. American Indian myth and often associated with creation myths. The stories differed tribe to tribe to tribe, but I believe mostly as part of the creation myth and as a trickster. He is, not surprisingly, a feature in Siberian mythology as well and some stories are almost identical. It probably started in the Old World and came across the straights. At least, that is the easy guess.

2. Jimmy the Raven aka Jimmy the Crow

At one time a movie star, IMDB lists 18 featured films for this odd bird. His first movie role as was the crow that landed on the Scarecrow. He also played Uncle Billy's raven in It's a Wonderful Life.  He actually is a raven, but his great talent enabled him to play either bird. Jimmy Stewart said he was the best actor on the staff. After It's a Wonderful Life, Capra put him in every film he made. His last film was made in 1954, Martin and Lewis's 3 Ring Circus. Jimmy's passing was not noted. However, his trainer, Curley Twiford, died in 1956 and he was not heard from again.

1. Poe's The Raven

The greatest of all ravens. It's such a popular and evocative poem that it out almost impossible to make make a raven reference now without evoking it in everyone's mind.

I quote only the first stanza:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more."

Honorable mention: Raven Baxter   

The lead character in the Disney tv show, That's So Raven. Okay, I never saw it, but I know it was a kid's show and that she was psychic. And . . . well, that's all I know.

Still, how can honorable mention hurt.

Did I miss anyone (anybird)? Just in case you are wondering, Heckle and Jeckle were black magpies (which can come in numerous colors), somewhat related, but not ravens.

Friday, December 26, 2014

These be my year end ruminations


They are beautiful, but . . . ?

Why are there so many beautiful young women on the NFL Network? It's not that I am complaining. After all, they are nice to look at and they are not annoying in the way Kelly Ripa, my nemesis, seems determined to be at all moments she is on air.  I am only ruminating, not criticizing. The women they employ all seem to know their football, and I haven't seen anyone make a fool of themselves. I wish I could say that of many men and women who do regular news programs, as they are often out of their depth.

Most if not all networks covering football or other sports do the same thing now - include a pretty young woman.  But, the inclusion of them is almost always done in a token way. For example, when I started this post I was watching the morning show on the NFL Network. As usual, there are two former well known football players, one relatively tiny white male host with a broadcasting background (I could ask "why?" about his type too, as the players and coaches seem to handle it all fine without on-air broadcast training, but the male "journalists" are at least allowed to show more football knowledge) and then there's the token woman.  There is never more than one and she is always outnumbered, usually three to one. In fact, they never seem to do a one on one debate with them.  She may be blonde or brunette, but she's always very young and pretty.  Rarely is there any real analysis from her. I'm not sure I've ever heard any.  Maybe a comment like, "Well, their defense has been playing better."  But, they don't have them explain the read option play or anything like that.

Is she there because female fans want to see a woman?  I don't think so. I haven't seen a study but not only have I never heard a woman say we need more women covering football, but the limited commentaries I can find online seem to indicate that, in general, women want to be able to participate in sports, but don't care who covers them. 

Do the men want her them as eye candy on these shows?  I doubt many care all that much, but there's no call for it from them.  People want to see their heroes and great athletes. The NFL Network and other football shows are "manned" by former players, many of them big stars and coaches.  Naturally, as this is football, they are male.  

I googled all women sports shows and apparently CBS has one called We Need To Talk. I've never seen it advertised or heard anyone talk about it. I've read it wasn't rated, meaning, no one is seeing how they are doing, if that is possible.  I hate to conclude this is just more politically correct nonsense, trying to prove there are no differences between men and women other than in physiology.  

Anyway, the tokenism is here to stay. It's not really important, but it's just silly.

Don't shoot.

I've written online quite a bit on this subject, commenting on articles and replying to other commenters, but I haven't written about it (at least much) on this blog.  And, it deserves its own post.  It reminds me of writing about abortion, which I once did here while feeling uncomfortable. 

Suffice for these ruminations, at least based upon what I have read so far, there is a huge difference between Eric Garner, who it appears to me died as a result of unnecessary police action, bad laws and policies, but in which I have no reason to think race played a role, and Michael Brown, who it appears to me  was very likely the primary cause of his own demise.  

I think for many white people, certainly most I have discussed it with, they have tremendous sympathy for Garner and little to none for Brown, except perhaps that it is sad he is dead and did not have a chance to turn his life around.  But, the problem is, when protesters put the two together, heads turn away.  In fact, I just read an article by the former basketball great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was arguing that this is not about the police, but racism (his father and grandfather were officers). His article made sense until he lumped Brown with Garner.

Also, when Al Sharpton appears as a leader, the protests lose all credibility. That is not to say that there is no legitimacy to the protests. There may be a problem in certain, even many places, and we should always look at policing with a thought to reform. The police, like any institution can be improved with rational changes. For one, after reading the federal court opinions, I was in agreement that NYC's stop and frisk program needed to be significantly changed.  But, the police can also be made ineffective and ruined by political and irrational policies brought about by political pressure.  I do not believe that Al Sharpton cares, however much he says that violence is inappropriate, that lives are taken if it advances his political movement (not that death threats made against him, presuming they are true, are tolerable either).  His constant drumbeat over any claimed attack or killing of a black person regardless of truth makes me think he wants to advance people he identifies with at the cost of everything and everyone else.  

The chance for rational leaders to make rational choices are lessened when protesters are complaining if the authorities release a video showing their martyr holding up a store, which some did, by their raising their hands and saying "don't shoot" as a symbol regardless of whether it really happened to Mr. Brown, or grouping Eric Garner with Brown, as if it is the same thing. And of course the looting, arson and carnage in Ferguson and some other places doesn't help the protesters either, even if the large majority wasn't involved. I wasn't there, but when Gandhi, the model for all modern civil disobedience and peaceful reform movements, was advocating independence for India, he would go on hunger fasts in order to stop the violence with his personal sacrifice. 

While I was writing this post two police officers were executed in NY by a black male who, it is reported, claimed in online posts that he was going to kill officers over Brown and Garner. The two officers he shot were of Chinese and Puerto Rican descent.  It doesn't matter that he had a history of gun violence and even shot his girlfriend earlier. He was inspired by the irrational side of these protests. At least one PBA official has laid the blood on De Blasio's doorstep for his statements regarding his own son and the police.  I feel that's fair to a degree, but certainly an overstatement.  However, De Blasio and Pres. Obama and AG Holder should back off their inflammation of racial issues and should even walk back previous inflammatory statements.  It is, of course, almost impossible for a politician to apologize or admit error unless their job is in jeopardy.

Cuba

There are essentially two positions here. One, it will never end until victory, the Castros are dead and Cuba is capitalistic. The other - enough already - we must continue the cold war and economic  warfare against Cuba despite that it has never been particularly effective and despite the hardship it creates for Cubans on the island and in this country.

It is incredibly hard if not impossible to find anything good to say about the Castros (although I did learn one tactical lesson from Fidel, if what I read is true, stemming from when he was a rebel against the Batista regime - purportedly, when he was in prison, the prisoners were required to get up at  an early hour - he had those under his sway get up an hour earlier than that - in other, words, he took the control from his jailors.)

But, Fidel is enfeebled and Raul is an aged man whose retirement can not be far away (he says, I believe 2017 or 18). Of course there powerful people behind them, and it is not possible for us to determine who will step into the breach.  But, I am one of those who believes that more interaction with us will lead to their people wanting more of what we have.  It's not a zero sum game, and of course, South and Latin America countries show us that we will not be blindly emulated by any country, but, I wonder what they would be like had we not been the example.  In any event, even Cuba is no longer Cuba, a leading exporter of terrorism and sending troops around the world. Time for all of us to move on.  We have with China and Russia, both much worse than Cuba; we even have with Vietnam, for crying out loud. I'm not recommending we trust them or reward their government, but, trade, travel, diplomacy, etc., should be freely permitted.

I already have met many people who have been there and smoke Cuban cigars. Why should there be any peril in it for Americans from their own country?

Gronk and JJ

Is Gronkowski who JJ Watt would be if a Tight End?  Is JJ Watt who Gronk would be if a defensive lineman?  They are practically matches in physical form, passion and talent.  Both seem like near irresistible forces who are as punishing to hit as to be hit by.  Of course, this is just harmless fantasy type speculation., but I like it.

QBs

It is still football season so I will indulge myself with another NFL matter. The NFL rates QBs according to a rating system that many people laugh at, but, I don't think it is all that ridiculous as it includes a lot of different factors - completions, touchdowns, yards and interceptions - divided by attempts and filtered through a formula. However, the NFL primarily rates QBs by the single statistic of yards completed, which is much more ridiculous to me. Yardage has too much to do with how often you get to throw in your teams system and how far your guys can run with the ball after they catch it to be a basis for ranking.

So, what should we use? Any system will have some faults. Much more impressive to me is the QBs touchdown to interception ratio. Touchdowns and turnovers are what win games.  Fumbles change games too but they are much more rare for QBs than interceptions. So, that is my basis.

In my chart below I also show completion averages (obviously with some minimum number of TDs and attempts in place for all these stats) because it tracks fairly well with the TD/interception ration and therefore supports my argument.  You may ask, why not start with pass completion percentage?  My reason is that I really don't thinks it is as reflective of what my common sense shows.  Brees did not have a better year than Manning.  Alex Smith did not have a better year than Luck. Tannehill did not have a better year than Brady and Wilson, Smith and Manning. Etc.

I acknowledge that both the TD/interception ration and pass completion percentage stats are influenced by other players, as a tipped ball can still be an interception and completions obviously involves having guys who can catch the ball. Nevertheless I feel that the results best comports with my common sense impressions.  I also show  the passer ratings in my chart because, as I said, it does includes multiple factors.  Not surprisingly, the top three QBs in my system this year also have the best passer ratings. But, none of these stats account for the running ability, which is, for some very few QBs, a weapon.  

In my system, Aaron Rodgers is having by far the best year of any QB, followed by Romo and Roethlisberger.  Brady might have been higher but for the first two games of the season where for some reason, his blockers should have just been called "watchers."  I'm a little surprised some few mention him in the MVP contest but, as much as I favor him, I don't think he deserves it this year. Nor Manning. Manning's passing rating is inflated by the high number of touchdowns, but his touchdown to interception rating is meh, not least because of his last game against the Bengals. But, that's football and your bad games count too.

My ranking system                                                         The NFL's ranking

                                                TD/int   Pct    Rating        

Rodgers                               7.200     65.1  111.0           Brees

Romo                                    4.000     70.3  114.4           Roethlisberger

Roethlisberger                  3.750     67.4  103.8           Luck

Brady                                    3.666     64.5    98.3           P. Manning

Wilson                                  3.333     62.8    95.7           Ryan

Smith                                    3.000     65.3    93.4           Rodgers

Manning, P.                        2.600     66.8  102.9           Stafford

Luck                                       2.375     61.7    95.4           Brady

Brees                                    2.285     69.6    99.2           Rivers

Ryan                                      2.333     66.4    96.7           Eli Manning

Tannehill                              2.166    67.0    93.2             Tannehill

Rivers                                    1.937     67.0    95.8           Flacco                   

My system, whatever its faults, is far superior to the NFL's.  I put the NFL's rankings in next to mine for comparison, to show the difference.  Rodgers, Romo and Roethlisberger (along with Tannehill, the only one the NFL has about right) have been the best QBs this year by far.  Rodgers is only number 6 on the NFL list and Romo is way down at 14. That's ridiculous. Romo is having an MVP type season so far and Eli Manning (who was much better year this than last, but see below) and Flacco are ahead of him.  So is Jay Cutler (who is not as bad as many others, but just the worst per dollar)!  And the NFL has Russell Wilson 17th. How does that make sense?  Stafford, despite Detroit's success, shouldn't even be on the list. His performance, for all the talent on the team, has not been particularly impressive other than in total yardage.  Luck and Brees, the first possibly a future hall of famer and the latter definitely so, are overrated by the NFL this year because of the sheer number of times they throw the ball in their teams' systems.

If I could just make some arbitrary changes I might put Wilson ahead of Brady and Manning at least even with him.  Manning does surpass Brady in most every category by a little bit except TD/int. ratio. Both rarely fumble (Manning has 2 so far and Brady 1).  Wilson runs so well, he is a rushing  weapon no other QB can match except perhaps Kapaernik and to a less degree Newton, both of whom had  terrible years overall and neither of whom would make my list anyway. 

I will leave my analysis off here.  As a matter of feeling based on intangibles, for any one critical game, especially at the end of the game,  I'd rather have Rodgers or Brady than anyone else in the league.  Manning may be the best ever in many regards, but I'd rather have them.

By the way, my MVP is J.J. Watts. No other player has been so important to his team. Next, though he will likely get no votes, is Odell Beckham, Jr.  He is the sole reason in my view that the Giants have recovered and won a number of games in the second half of the season. Without him, Eli Manning would have continued on his downward trajectory. He's that key.

Oil

I have long been an agnostic with respect to the climate change debate, somewhat because I don't understand the science well enough (and argue that virtually no one else does either - reading an article is different than reading a scientific study) and it's been too politicized to trust most anyone on it. Nevertheless, I think we can see two phenomena remain steady for at least 15 years, one on each side of the argument.  Manmade global warming does not seem to be happening but the local melting of glaciers and mountain peaks seem to be occurring most everywhere, but with the state of the two major ice sheets containing 3/4s of the world's fresh water - Greenland and Antarctica - still being debatable.

But, leave all this aside. There is a very good reason we should be concentrating hard to develop renewable forms of energy and carbon based alternatives to oil (like shale/natural gas) at home. Dropping oil prices is a formidable weapon against some of the bad actors in the world , Russia being one of them.  Of course, we can't say for sure that the loss of oil revenues will have an effect on the aggressiveness of countries, but, it obviously weakens their economies.

The Bolt

As much because of his infectiously joyful (although not very humble) personality as his legendary prowess, Usain Bolt of Jamaica has become the most popular athlete in the world.  I don't really care so much about his personality though but I marvel at his abilities. Though there are other fast men who are capable of beating him on a given day, he has been far and away the fastest man in the world for a considerable period of time now and many other athletes consider him the most dominant athlete in the world.

I am going to keep this short but . . .

His 9.58 seconds in 2009, running against the other fastest sprinters in the 100 meters is so fast that it is has only athletically been equaled as a sport achievement by NBA player Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in a game and getting 55 rebounds another time. 

His two hundred meter record barely eclipsed the previous almost unattainable record of someone else who was one of the most remarkable sprinters in history - Michael Johnson (the former 200 and 400 meter record holder).

He won the 100 meter and 200 meter sprints in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and in both also a gold in the 4 x 100 meter relay along with his Jamaican teammates.  No one had ever won the 100 meter and 200 meter races in two Olympics in a row (Carl Lewis just missed) and certainly not also the 4x100 meter relay along with it.

He is also the world record holder in the rarely run 150 meters race.

Nobody cares all that much about indoor records, but he holds the 100 meter record for that too, set just this year.

During the 150 meter world record he ran the fastest time ever for a flying 100 meters - 8.70 seconds, faster than any other human has ever run, over 25 miles an hour.

He is the first athlete two hold the 100 and 200 meter world records in the modern era  (1977, when automated time keeping became mandatory).

He is the all time leader in World Championship medals with 10 (8 gold, 2 silver - Carl Lewis has 8 gold, 1 silver 1 bronze).

He compares himself to Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali.  Fair enough.

Books 2014

I have commented on a couple of online articles on the best books of 2014 that there was only one book I found a must read (already read it) and there was nothing else out there that made me just mad to get it. That may say more about me than about the state of publishing, but, so it is. Fortunately, there are, for practical purposes, an endless previously published books in this world and I can never hope to read but a fraction of them.

My number one piece of advice

I admit, despite finding abhorrent the hacking of SONY emails, I also enjoyed it. So did just about everyone else who wasn't affected by them.

Here's why I think we liked them:

-We consider everyone in the movie and tv businesses celebrities and we like to talk about them and get glimpses of their real lives.

-People were caught kidding around and we are now are gleeful that they pay the price for the political correctness we at least imagine they stand for.

-People got caught telling the truth. That's always exciting.

- People got caught being arrogant. That's even more fun.

I tell every client and most of my friends (more than once), even strangers, the same advice - do not write things in emails, texts, chats, etc., that you do not other want people to see.  It is now the principle part of legal discovery and in almost every single case I deal with outside of (but sometimes) personal injury cases, emailing and texting play a major role. Each time,  almost always, someone in a case says  something they are sorry about. I know people who have lost jobs, been severely embarrassed and lost friends over emails. Don't be a dummy.

The Rape Fallacy

Rape has much been on people's lives lately and you have to applaud the desire to reduce it as much as humanly possible. But, no, not at all costs. Recently, the NY Times published several commentators on rape in a linked article. One of them took the position that the default had to be that those claiming rape must be believed regardless of the consequences to men. I was very happy to see that almost every commenter, even on the very liberal NY Times' website, were very negative in response. I wrote:

"I am greatly relieved by the overwhelming rejection of her position by commenters. Ms. Wanjuki's one size fits all approach would hurt men whose lives would be destroyed for no reason, but also women, who more and more people would disbelieve or find reason to find fault with based on gender in retaliation. The idea that only men lie about rape is just nonsense up there with past practices that placed valued testimony based on race or gender or Iran's president's claim that homosexuality doesn't exist in Iran. If we are not past that, then we are backsliding terribly. People lie, period. Sometimes for gain, sometimes for attention, and sometimes even unaccountably. A great many people lie when giving oaths or making complaints. We have seen the effects of her approach when those in the media, followed by the public, leap to conclusions. It destroys lives that do not deserve it. Those who do lie and those who don't lie are also subject to mistake, misinterpretation the conscious and unconscious bias that is part of human nature. Personally, I find her beliefs either reprehensible, if she is aware of their fallacy, or unaccountably foolish."

Having said that, many people do like that reprehensible approach and there are already some laws and policies in place which almost presume guilt. We can oppose and legislate against rape without deciding men have less rights than women.

You say tomato, I say I can't believe that worked                                                                        

Last Summer my daughter burned her forehead in the sun.  It wasn't a dangerous burn but it was bright red and it hurt her. Her boyfriend told her to put a tomato on it. I kept my opinion to myself. She sliced a tomato and popped it on her forehead.  A few minutes later there was no sign of any burn. No sign at all. Literally a few minutes.  Zero sign of a burn. Null. None. I couldn't believe it. I can't wait to burn myself on something so I can try it.

Last post of the year

I really fell down on the job this year.  I only posted 24 times including this one.  That's twice a month for those of you who have literally forgotten how to add. Mostly it is because I've just been busier at work. When I write  things like this - how I haven't posted much, I like to quote that Rodney Dangerfield joke about how unsuccessful his early career was - "At the time I quit, I was the only one who knew I quit!"

Anyway, for this year - I quit.

About Me

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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 . . . .