Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My Devotional

I have been doing a bad job of collecting inspirational sayings since the early 1980s, usually writing them down in a notebook which I would then proceed to lose. Every once in a while I would redo it. It is a lot easier now on the internet where we can just cut and paste, so I recently recreated an earlier collection since gone to the dustbin. Some of these words still get me misty eyed (I know, big baby) but most are just inspirational. I wish I could say I have lived up to these fine words, but probably the best most of us can say is that they represent what we aspire to be.

Let’s start with this one which gets me wiping my eyes every January. You probably just heard it or at least part of it. And I ask you, when is the last time you heard an entire speech so moving, so perfectly delivered, since this one? Usually, these days, when we say that someone made a great speech, we mean we liked one, two or three lines from it. This one was as close to perfect as you can get in its entirety, as much a poem as a speech, and, unfortunately, way too long to print the whole thing here, so I’ll skip to the very end where I get misty eyed.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Martin Luther King, Jr., from the I Have a Dream speech, Washington, D.C., 1964.

This next one is, to me, the apogee of inspirational words and one of the few poems not a limerick, that I can actually understand. Its advice may be too hard to live by, but what if we could?

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Learned Hand is probably the most respected judge in America who never sat on the Supreme Court of the United States. He did, however, serve for a long time on the United States Court of Appeals in New York. He may have written better than any judge before or after him, as is demonstrated in a speech made during World War II. I wish congress would read it every morning instead of opening with a prayer.

What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws, and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few; as we have learned to our sorrow.

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest. And now in that spirit, that spirit of an America which has never been, and which may never be; nay, which never will be except as the conscience and courage of Americans create it; yet in the spirit of that America which lies hidden in some form in the aspirations of us all; in the spirit of that America for which our young men are at this moment fighting and dying; in that spirit of liberty and of America I ask you to rise and with me pledge our faith in the glorious destiny of our beloved country. P. 190-191, The Spirit of Liberty (1944).

Or, maybe on every other day, congress could read these words from my all time favorite American, in a speech made just before the constitutional convention was going to vote up or down on the proposal before them. I can't think of a greater or wiser man.

Mr. President
I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error.

. . . . I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good.

. . . . On the whole, Sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.

At some point in my life I realized that most of my heroes were not known for dressing well; in fact, some were known for the opposite. I can’t say if I am attracted to them because of that, or if it just means we think alike. This one is perhaps more defensive on my part than inspirational, but here I go quoting Jesus.

And why are you anxious about what to wear? Consider the
lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they
spin. And yet I say to you, that even Solomon in all his glory
is not arrayed like one of these.

- Jesus Christ according to Matthew 6:28-29

The following speech inspired millions of fighting men and has been seen on this site before. He and MLK are alone in this century as great speech makers.

"We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and the oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Winston S.Churchill in the darkest hours of World War II

Clint Eastwood put a similar thought much shorter in one of my all time favorite movies, The Outlaw Josey Wales – 1975.

Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. 'Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That's just the way it is.

It’s not all about winning though. Sometimes it is about having the wisdom to say “No mas”. This next speech is, it turns out, possibly apocryphal and from the mind of a reporter who put them in the words of an Indian chief who, along with his tribe, had lost a frantic and deadly race to safety in 1877. I dont think it matters much who said it.

I am tired of fighting.
Our chiefs are killed.
Looking Glass is dead.
Toohulhulsote is dead.
The old men are all dead.
It is the young men who say no and yes.
He who led the young men is dead.
It is cold and we have no blankets.
The little children are freezing to death.
My people, some of them,
Have run away to the hills
And have no blankets, no food.
No one know where they are-
Perhaps they are freezing to death.
I want to have time to look for my children
And see how many of them I can find.
Maybe I shall find them among the dead.
Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired.
My heart is sad and sick.
From where the sun now stands
I will fight no more forever.

Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierce Indian tribe

This following statement, not really a speech, was quite brief, but means a lot to me right now, as I prepare to leave the island and state that has been my home for nearly a half century. I have never had to to suffer the inflictions Lincoln did and will face none of the trials he would in the future. Unlike him, I expect to return here many times in the future. Despite that, he still manages to convey a melancholy feeling that I completely understand.

My friends, no one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

These next two are by Mark Twain and are swiped from the gazillion wise and funny things he wrote. I will start with my favorite, the one I would take as a motto, if we did such things these days.

Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world - and it never will.

- - -

Spirit has fifty times the strength and staying-power of brawn and muscle.

I think I will leave off with words from a great American cartoonists, who understood that both inspiration and defeat must be shrugged off with a little humor. I believe that I used this as my favorite quote in my college year book (1981) and I love it still.

Speak softly, and carry a beagle.

Charles Schultz

Feel free to chime in with your own favorite.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The incomparable Bruce Lee

It may be difficult for anyone but men my age to truly appreciate martial artist Bruce Lee, but we’ve yet to see the likes of him again. The closest approximations may be Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard in boxing, Nadia Comanenci in gymnastics, Michael Jordan in basketball and Greg Louganis in diving. That is, a mastery of not just the fundamentals of their chosen sport, but the physical ability and grace to transcend it as no one else can, coupled with a fluidity of motion and genius for entertainment that others seek, but cannot find. However, none of these great stars I mention above, can seriously rival Bruce Lee, although, in truth, he was not a competitive athlete like they are, but was somehow above it, as well as a great entertainer.

Although he made his living as a film star, being, at one time, the highest drawing actor in the world, he may have some claim to being the greatest martial artist in memory. This is a difficult thing to say, of course, but my opinion, formed by watching him on film, is bolstered by actual martial artists who knew him. Lee did not really compete in tournaments as an adult, although he had a number of legendary street fights, perhaps more legend than fact. What we don’t know we don’t know.

There are some surprising facts about him. Although he had to suffer from his Chinese ethnicity in America, he was actually a quarter German on his mother’s side. It’s amusing to learn that he was a Hong Kong cha cha champion in 1958. He was also, possibly, a Hong Kong Interschool boxing champ (I think – it’s not clear and I can’t find confirmation). An eyewitness to a legendary boxing match with another very tough high school boy named Gary Elms (a friend of the witness) claims that his friend could not lay even one punch on Bruce in three rounds. To Elms’ credit, Bruce couldn’t knock Gary out (although he repeatedly knocked him down) like he knocked out the last three opponents he had faced, each in the first round.

That fight, not in the street, was the only one for which I could find an eyewitness who could describe it in detail. The others were purportedly against masters who were insulted by Lee’s iconoclastic attitude or martial artist/actors who challenged him on set. We are told that he defeated them all in rapid fashion. There are no films of these fights.

Seeing Bruce Lee in action made you a believer. His body was something out of a super hero comic book. Although he was not a big man, perhaps 5’ 7”, his latissimus dorsi fanned out like wings. When he posed with muscle flexed, he looked like he was made out of knotted steel springs. There are, of course, many highly developed athlete actors, including the huge body builders like Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno (the Hulk) but nobody quite looked like Bruce Lee.

His speed was something literally unbelievable. It is often reported that directors had to change the speed of cameras in order to avoid his onscreen moves appearing as a blur. I can’t say whether that is true. His jumping ability and agility was demonstrated by his kicking out a light bulb directly over his head -- in the ceiling. That much has been captured on film. One trick of Bruce’s that has been repeatedly told is a variation on the “kung fu” move where he would grab a coin out of someone’s hand. The difference was, when Bruce did it, he would leave a different coin in the bewildered person’s fist. As he explained, it was a trick, but a trick based on speed.

His power was not completely a product of his speed. There are videos of Bruce at demonstrations knocking a volunteer down with what was called his one inch punch, with his fist starting already next to someone’s mid-section.

Of course, Bruce could not do the superhuman stunts he did in the movies, leaping into trees or beating 20 or 50 other guys single handedly, anymore than Michael Jordan can dunk from half court. But Jordan could dunk from the foul lane, and so Lee could do awesome things with his disciplined body.

Is Bruce Lee’s reputation puffed for the movie industry? I don’t think so. Chuck Norris, a martial arts legend in his own right and six time middleweight karate champion in the ‘60s, occasionally worked out with Lee, and made it plain that Bruce was the greater of the two. Many other martial artists and entertainers whom he trained (he did not train Norris) also raved about his abilities, even found them uncanny.

Watching Bruce Lee handle nunchucks, the twin sticks attached by a thin rope or wire, is to experience a virtuoso performance which does not seem to be a product of film technology. You are not likely ever to see anyone else perform with such speed and coordination (I’ve looked). Google Bruce Lee for video and judge for yourself. Some of the demonstrations he put on are also available on line. Watch him do two finger push-ups, then try and do them yourself. Watch him sidekick a heavy bag which jerks around like a man more than twice his size is punching it.

Had he not died as a young man, Bruce would only be 67 now, and I suspect, still a film star if not a director or producer. He was only 1 when he started his career in a now lost film. He made numerous films in Hong Kong, but was not a name when he came to the United States to conquer Hollywood. He was the owner of a couple of martial art studios when he got his break in 1966, playing Kato, side kick and chauffeur for the Green Hornet, in three episodes of Batman.

According to Burt Ward, when Bruce learned he was supposed to lose his fight to Burt’s character, Robin, he flipped out and started looking for the young actor to teach him a lesson (I never heard Bruce’s version of this, but it doesn’t sound plausible; if so, it’s wasn't very rational). Burt was himself a black belt in karate, but he wasn’t crazy and recognized the difference between the two of them. He avoided Lee until they changed the script to make the fight a draw.

Soon, Bruce had his own vehicle as Kato in the Green Hornet’s own show, on which he repeatedly stole the limelight, gathering virtually all the fan interest. Unfortunately, the show lasted only a year. If you catch the repeats on tv land, you’ll understand why. From there, Bruce got some appearances on shows like Ironside, Blondie (no kidding), Here Comes the Brides, Marlowe, in which he breaks up James Garner’s office, and then, most famously, Longstreet, in which he was the martial arts master to the blind detective.

Bruce also wrote a television screenplay called The Silent Flute. It involved a Chinese Shaolin priest who escaped China, where he was a wanted man, and made his way through the wild West, helping out those in need. Sound familiar? It was turned down because the studios did not believe an Asian could carry the show. Bruce went back to Hong Kong to make movies.

Imagine his surprise, and anger, when he learned that they had changed the lead to a half Chinese man, and gave David Carradine (who is not at all Asian) the lead in Kung Fu. Personally, I have no complaints, as Kung Fu is up there on my list of all time favorite shows. I am not sure Bruce’s personality would have been right for it. But Bruce had every right to be furious and probably should have sued. It was a different era.

Bruce made only a handful of Kung Fu movies, starting with Fists of Fury (1971), The Chinese Connection and Return of the Dragon (1972). In Return of the Dragon (which I seem to remember that America saw after the more successful Enter the Dragon), fledgling actor and Bruce Lee buddy, Chuck Norris got his start. The fight scene ending the movie between the two martial artists was everything a fourteen year old boy could dream about. Just watching Bruce flex his muscles before the fight made you want to scream Kiyaa!

The next year he made another Hong Kong film which I have never seen, and I am not sure was ever released in the West. All I know is that Bruce’s name was in the title. But that same year he got his shot at Hollywood and hit a home run with Enter the Dragon, cementing his status in America. If you have never seen the movie, Bruce is a martial artist who goes undercover on an island controlled by a wealthy Mandarin running a drug business, by entering himself in the island’s martial arts contest. There are great fight scenes all the way through, including one by John Saxon, more actor than martial artist, and another with Jim Kelly, more martial artist, than actor.

Enter the Dragon also featured one of Bruce’s students, a hulking body builder (ten times Mr. Hong Kong) who played the Mandarin’s enforcer, but was offed in the film by John Saxon’s character, not Bruce (Bruce finished off the evil Mandarin, also a master killer with a false arm he could use as multiple attached weapons, in an artistic scene in a room filled with mirrors). Bolo Leung, who is now 69 or 70, is actually still active in the movie business, though much less so, and fifteen years later, but looking the same, he also played the heavy in Bloodsport, getting beaten at the end of the film by then new martial arts phenom, Jean-Claude Van Damme. He even had brief lead role stardom in Chinese Hercules in 1973, the same year as Enter the Dragon, and the heyday of the martial arts in film.

These few films made in just a few years left Bruce by far the world’s top box office draw. He had also developed his own style of Kung Fu known as Jeet Kune Do, the “way of the intercepting fist”. Its basic premise was that “style” got in the way, and that fighting, like every other art, was an expression of the individual. As much a philosophy as a martial art, it incorporated Asian techniques that were very direct in their approach (no fancy fingered stuff that looks so cool on the screen) but also boxing and wrestling from the West. Whatever worked was the premise. Possibly because there are no individuals like Bruce, it has not really prospered, although it has survived. Bruce’s own son, Brandon, was taught by Bruce’s most advanced student, Dan Inosanto.

Bruce’s last film was Game of Death, in which he has a final battle with another one of his own students, basketball great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It was eventually released, although never really completed, as Bruce died during the filming in strange circumstances while at the home of an actress friend.

He apparently died of brain edema (swelling). Possibly he had an allergic reaction to an analgesic she gave him to help with a headache. Claims that his death may have been related to cannabis found in his stomach always sounded silly, but there may be some truth to it, based on an allergy, not the inherent quality of pot. At least some doctors have thought so.

The weird thing is that according to a 1993 movie celebrating Bruce’s life (Dragon: The Bruce Lee story) Bruce’s life was supposedly always in danger from spirits as a result of a family curse. Hence his early death. According to the movie, his son, Brandon, was in danger for the same reason. Brandon actually turned down the lead role in the film (although his sister had a cameo appearance). In a rather strange coincidence, soon after Dragon came out, Brandon, then a martial arts star in his own right (pretty good, although, like everyone else, not his dad), was killed in a freak accident on the set by a bullet fragment from a stunt gun. He was only 28. The irony was such that many people believed it was a publicity stunt, as the film was about a man who came back from the dead, and that Brandon was still alive. It was no stunt. But it was eerie.

I remember being devastated when Bruce died in ’73 upon seeing the story in a small column in the New York Times, which unfortunately also contained a lot of misinformation (I reread it for this post, to make sure). I was also discouraged that a bigger deal was not made of his death by everyone else. Admittedly, I may have overreacted, but, I was only 14, and he was Bruce Lee. There was no one like him. I have no doubt that a lot of other men my age feel the same way.

I have always liked to imagine what great historical figures would be doing now in Heaven if they were here. No doubt, Bruce is up there teaching Hercules Jeet Kune Do and impressing everyone by flying at speeds beyond the dreams of angels.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Political Update -- January, 2008

I can’t remember if I took time to crow here about my prediction that Hillary would win New Hampshire. Not bad, and it put me in very select company. Frankly, I didn’t hear any of the pundits make the same prediction, hypnotized by the polls they like to pretend they distain. Well, by election night, even I thought it was a bonehead prediction, but stubbornly sat with it. Somehow, Bill (her husband, but he has to say he thinks she'll win) and I were right and she won.

My general prediction that McCain would come back and win it all is also looking better right now too. At least, if he doesn’t, he has the lead for now, and I won’t look like a total idiot, which is what I’m really worried about, truth be known.

We all know, if we have lived through any campaigns, that everything could change on one day, by a bad moment in a debate (Dukakis; Gore) or a unguarded moment campaigning (Dean) or by giving a witty one liner (Reagan) which was probably written weeks earlier.

Was McCain reading this blog which gave an imaginary speech on his behalf (9/3/07). He seems to (please note: I’m kidding) in that he has come to realize that Americans want the border closed first before they consider any other immigration fixes and now says so. Although I am not one who believes the compromise immigration bill was amnesty (if so, we need a new word for actual amnesty; I would call the bill permissive rehabilitation, but politically, amnesty worked so well) it was a political compromise and had nothing to do with congress representing the people.

I think I have given Clinton this advice before. I’ll be nice and say it one more time. Stop raising your voice. Don’t lead chants. Don’t even say “Thank you, good night” to your audience too loudly. You are one of those people who shriek when they are trying to inspire. And, though your followers may forgive it, the general undecided public will notice it in a general election and talk radio will play it over and over again.

My preferences haven’t changed. I prefer McCain on the right and I have no preference on the left. The Republican candidates are busy encouraging their base’s religious fervor (yccchh) and the Democratic candidates are proposing give aways by the dozens (as if we can pay for them).

One thing we can be sure of, of course, none of the candidates are going to be able to do what they say if they win because they have to work with congress. But we will go on pretending that this is why we are voting for this one or that one. As I’ve said before, the politician whose views are closest to mine is Giuliani, who is also the one candidate I most hope loses. I too well remember his tyrannical ways as New York City Mayor (see earlier post -- “America’s Mayor” 2/21/07) and he hasn’t convinced me he has changed inside, although he has learned to give a speech like he’s having a conversation.

I have my wish list. I wish the Republicans would stop talking about Reagan like he was Jesus Christ. Or, if they are going to, they should just try and out shout each other more directly by carrying on like four year olds: “I’m Ronald Reagan”. “No, I’m Ronald Reagan and you’re a card carrying ACLU liberal”. Oh, shut up the bunch of you.

Bill Kristol wrote in his Weekly Standard a line I liked (the article is dated 1/28/08, but I don’t think he comes from the future or he would just tell us who won): “The normal American president is a politician, with semicoherent ideological views, who sometimes becomes a vehicle for an ideological movement.”

I wish the Democrats would stop telling us they are going to outlaw being poor, being foreclosed upon, low wages, etc. We can not spend our way out of the economic problems we face. The problems are due to pie in the sky thinking (I know -- I'm guilty of it myself). I wish that the Republicans would stop acting like the Democrat candidates actually hate America. They don’t. They hate the conservative vision of America.

I wish all of them would stop telling us how wonderful we are. It’s a relative thing. Sometimes we are wonderful; much of the time we “suck” and how much depends on to whom or what you are comparing us. It would be nice if there was a way to tally who panders the most and least. It might be a good way to vote. At least we’d have a better shot of getting someone honest in there.

I wish the Republican candidates would stop talking about Iraq like it is a great victory. It’s just better than earlier this year. It has still drained untold billions from our resources for a very uncertain future. And I wish the Democrat candidates would stop acting like they are really getting out of Iraq fast. They aren’t going to. They may actually be lying about this. I give some credit to Hillary for giving the reasons we can’t just leave. But even if one of the other two win, we aren’t going anywhere fast.

My favorite line in all of the debates (which are getting better as they get smaller) so far goes to Ron Paul, who, as part of his retort to being asked if he less electable as a “Republican” than the other candidates on the stage, said:

“Let me see if I get this right. We need to borrow $10 billion from China, and then we give it to Musharraf, who is a military dictator, who overthrew an elected government. And then we go to war, we lose all these lives promoting democracy in Iraq. I mean, what's going on here?”

Holy flim flam, Batman. I think he may be onto something. Consistent we are not.

Paul is an interesting phenomena. Although he gets few votes because he is just not considered electable, I actually believe that if he really had the support of the conservatives (who act like their favored candidate, Thompson, is the only conservative among the bunch), he would be the most electable in a general election of all of them after McCain and Giuliani (imho). Independents dig him, man. Even some Democrats. And, although, I think it is partly because they do not know him well, it is the perceived purity of his “constitutionalism” that entices so many people. People who never read a word of the constitution like the idea that we actually follow it occasionally. Of course, they have no idea how that might destroy their way of life (e.g., I have never bought that the federal constitution authorized some of the civil rights laws although they were probably the most beneficial and important laws to be passed in the history of our country).

Did Giuliani wait too long before taking his shot in Florida. I'm going to guess yes. He is not going to come in first. If he doesn't, his chances on super Tuesday becomes severely impaired.

I didn’t make any big predictions for the Nevada and South Carolina races because they seem so close between McCain/Huckabee in S.C. and Romney/McCain in Nevada and there is no way to tell who is going to show to the polls.

However, it should be obvious (so, I’ll point it out) that if McCain wins both that really bolsters his campaign going into Florida, while not destroying either of the other top contenders, but if he loses both, it will really cut into his momentum, and may even signal that he peaked too soon. Thus, today might be bigger for McCain than many realize.

A word to John Edwards. Please, after February 5th. Go back home. One, I predicted it and you'll make me look good. Two, you lost. Start a hedge fund or sue someone rich. You never had a chance and would also lose any general election. This may shock you because you were so successful in court and try and be so sunny and nice all the time, but most people don’t really like you that much. You are too rich without really impressing us with your qualities. You are a little too effeminate for most people. And you are too, too liberal to get elected. Even most Democrats realize that now. You make the other two look like right wingers.

Lastly, thank goodness for Dennis Kucinich, who has all the chances of winning as I do of making my first million before I’m 50. But he’s so much fun. Did you really demand a recall in New Hampshire after losing by one zillion points? You crazy card, you. You have to love that.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Boo, Jefferson.

I was down in Virginia this week and passed a sign for the Natural Arch, an usual rock formation popularized by Thomas Jefferson. It started me thinking about Jefferson, and when I get thinking about Jefferson, I start sneering.

A few weeks ago I made a comment on someone else's blog (Balkinization)on the topic of Jefferson and slavery. I was reacting to the suggestion that Jefferson had no choice but to keep his slaves and the notion that we must forgive the founders for slave holding because that’s a modern concept:

“By 1807, Jefferson, who had long promoted the idea of ‘strict construction,’ had also long abandoned it as a practice during his presidential terms to the consternation of some in his own party. Lip service to principals was a Jefferson specialty.

Jefferson is often given way to much credit for combating slavery. His own ownership, his passing his slaves down to his heirs, his refusal to support the Haitian revolution, and other acts leads me to the conclusion that he may have been among, and probably was "the" most hypocritical of presidents. The argument that this is pressing modern views upon 19th century leaders carries no weight, as can be seen by reading Jefferson himself as well as other forefathers. They knew slavery to be an abomination, but made every excuse to continue its existence and with it the Southern slave power.

Boo, Jefferson.”

Another writer commented, in what I would call, typical Jeffersonian defensiveness:

“Jefferson didn't have much choice in his slave ownership. Before 1782, it wasn't legal for him to manumit his slaves; after 1782, he was in debt and couldn't legally do so. “

This led to still another writer chiming in that Jefferson did not try and get rid of his debts hard enough. That wasn’t good enough for me, so I continued the debate (although I’ll own that I fixed my spelling errors here). As far as I am concerned, Jefferson’s allegiance to law was a matter of convenience. I wrote:

“But . . . that is precisely the type of rationalization we always apply to Jefferson, and would never apply to a Himmler or Napoleon.

Jefferson oversaw the annexation of the entire Louisiana Purchase although he was convinced it was not constitutional. He made it clear during his term in office that the law would get in the way of doing what he thought needed to be done during the embargo.

What was less legal than the American Revolution (which Jefferson himself understood)? Slavery was an abomination, recognized as so by him and many others, which he could have, probably uniquely, save Washington, taken a great hand in ending, particularly during his tenancy as president. Perhaps he would have sacrificed his popularity with many Southerners, but that perhaps would have made him the great man who deserves his place on Mt. Rushmore.

Would not it have been easier for slavery to have been ended by the efforts of a popular Southern president, than by the Northern President who eventually did it decades later (and gave Jefferson too much credit, in my book)? It would have avoided a horrific war with its 600,000 dead, and saved unknown thousands of slaves from horrific servitude. At least Patrick Henry, also recognizing the injustice of slavery, had the courage to acknowledge he participated in it as a matter of his personal convenience.

Jefferson hid behind laws that did not stop others from manumission, cravenly asserting that he could not free his slaves, in part, for their own benefit.

No, I can't see Jefferson, fully aware of what he was doing, and always singing the song of liberty, as enjoying the reputation he does, when he alone had a unique opportunity to change the world, even if by example, and free his slaves. If the man could go into debt buying wine and property, he could have done so paying his slaves for the labor they performed, at the very least.

Last, I would argue with you that slavery is a far greater natural crime than any of those that King George imposed on America that Jefferson listed for us as causes for the revolution and its abolition far outweighed any petty legal niceties that can be raised to justify Jefferson's behavior. There may have been a time when the wrongness was not recognized by man in general, but it was not the 19th century in America.”

I love banging on Jefferson, the most overrated of the forefathers (IMHO), for his faults. I will spare my friend, Bear, from zapping me on this subject and simply refer you to his own recent pro-Jefferson blog post at incorrect-bear.blogspot.com. Nevertheless, Jefferson’s description of slavery as a “great political and moral evil” leaves me cold in light of what he actually did compared to what he said.

The famed Sage of Monticello was full of excuses. Looking out for the slaves’ best interests; it’s not the right time; and, my favorite, it would have diluted his anti-slavery message to have kept repeating it (fortunately, Lincoln did not feel the same way).

One man who freed his slaves knew Jefferson well; Robert Carter, lost in history and only recently brought back to life by Andrew Levy in The First Emancipator. Carter, a fabulously wealthy man, freed over 400 slaves in 1791. Jefferson kept his the rest of his life and still didn't free them. Washington kept his too. So did virtually everyone else. Carter actually freed more (all of his) than the two presidents even owned.

Admittedly, Carter was exceptional. Nevertheless, he did not challenge the lawfulness of slavery; in fact, he did it all with no fanfare at all, by filing a deed of manumission as Virginian law permitted. No American ever freed more of his own slaves than he did. He also continued to support and care for them, trying to make the transition to freedom easier.

One wonders what Jefferson thought of Carter’s selfless act when he was making his excuses as to why he couldn’t free his own. Actually, he freed a couple during his lifetime and a handful more in his will, all relatives of Sally Hemmings, including two of her children who some think were Jefferson’s own (I won’t weigh in here on whether Sally was TJ’s mistress; certainly DNA evidence tells us that either Jefferson or a relative fathered at least one of her children, but there is just no way to ever know for certain if it was TJ) but that is out of the couple of hundred of slaves that he owned. Ironically, Carter freed his slaves by deed pursuant to a law which Jefferson helped engender.

For some, Jefferson’s passionate opposition to slavery in his Notes is a point in his favor. To me, it is more the reason to despise him for it. For example, he wrote:

"The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. . .The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. And with what execration should the statesman be loaded, who, permitting one half the citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other, transforms those into despots, and these into enemies, destroys the morals of the one part, and the amor patriae of the other."

Although most of the early presidents had slaves, not every forefather was pro-slavery. Thomas Paine never owned a slave (he had enough trouble keeping himself out of jail). He wrote: “How can Americans complain so loudly of attempts to enslave them while they hold so many hundred in slavery”. Of course, “many hundred” was a gross understatement.

Alexander Hamilton was anti-slavery and active in an anti-slavery association. His wife, however, was a slave owner, which tarnishes his reputation with respect to abolition for me a little; he could have forbid it. Same with the overly maligned Aaron Burr, a member of the same association, who also owned slaves. Like a number of famous men, he was well known to be good to his slaves. That doesn’t cut it for me. Would we give someone credit for being good to their kidnap or murder victim? Franklin owned slaves, but when he got older became anti-slavery and actively promoted abolition.

But John Adams never owned a slave. He was not quite the rabid abolitionist though. He wrote Jefferson late in life that he would comment to Southern legislators “I cannot comprehend [slavery]; I must leave it to you. I will vote for forceing [sic] no measure against your judgements [sic]." Some might say he was merely a good republican in respecting Southern states’ rights. I say not good enough. He deserves more praise than Jefferson but did not rise to the level of courageousness that his own son did much later in opposing the peculiar institution wherever it was found.

I give Washington little credit for freeing his slaves in his will, but only after his wife’s death. Knowing it was wrong, Washington kept them slaves while convenient for Martha and himself.

Britain, for all of its horrifying treatment of indigenous people in their colonies (including genocide), ended slavery completely there before our revolution and set about to stop the slave trade while Jefferson was still president. During the same presidency, Haitian slaves freed themselves in an insurrection from their masters, the French. Jefferson never lifted a finger to help them, though they acted in the same cause of liberty as he did.

I am not unaware of the anti-slavery statements Jefferson made, nor am I unaware that he tried to end slavery in the territories (but only well into the future. He also was largely responsible for the law prohibiting importation of slaves as soon as it was constitutionally possible (1808 while president) and made efforts to end it in Virginia. But when he had the opportunity to “restate” Virginia’s own laws, he did nothing about slavery (although he was creative with other laws), nor did he ever provide any moral support or aid to abolitionists who sure could have used it.

Besides, it can’t be said enough – he owned slaves and lots of them. He benefitted his whole adult life by their labor while knowing and saying it made one depraved. How can we look at our country’s history and consider slavery a stain, and yet so easily forgive a slave holder like Jefferson who could have gone at least some long ways to ending it?

I would not harp on this if writers would stop making excuses for him. He did know better. In fact, thanks to his own pen, if there is one person we know knew it to be completely wrong, it was Jefferson.

Eventually, I will get around to writing how overrated his writing the Declaration of Independence was (not an original thought to me – Adams probably said it first), how sneaky and underhanded he was as secretary of state under Washington and vice president under Adams, how hypocritical, destructive and ineffective he often was when president himself, and how otherwise selfish he could be in his personal life.

Someday I might even write about the things I admire about him. But not today.

Boo, Jefferson, boo.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

An American Olympian

The 1912 Olympics were held in Stockholm, Sweden. It was the Jim Thorpe Olympics.

Thorpe may be the most amazing athlete of all time. Although this post really is not about him, I can’t resist writing just a little bit about him, as he was an inspiration when I was young (me and 50 million men in my generation). Thorpe was born in 1888 of the Sac and Fox Indian tribe. His Indian name, which I only know because I looked it up, was Wa-Tho-Huk (“Shining Path”). His official name was Jacobus Franciscus Thorpe.

He was never really involved in sports until he was at Carlisle Indian Industrial College in Pennsylvania. The story goes that he was passing by the high jumpers and asked if he could try. He beat them all. Although he started out with track and field events, he mainly considered himself a football player and eventually led Carlisle to the National Championship in 1912 under the legendary coach, Pop Warner. I cannot emphasize what an achievement that was for the little Indian school, competing with such powerhouses at the time (certainly not now) as Harvard and West Point. It was as if your local community college beat Notre Dame or Ohio State University to win the Rose Bowl today.

As amazing an achievement as that was for Thorpe and the school, it paled in comparison to his Olympic victory that same year, for which he received everlasting fame. Competing in the five event pentathlon and the ten event decathlon, he won both on the same day.

Both are combinations of track and field events. He won four of the five pentathlon events, only finishing third in the javelin, which he had just taken up.

He set a record in the decathlon that lasted some twenty years. In ten events he finished not less than fourth, winning four. As is well known, Thorpe, who died in poverty, had his medals stripped when it was learned that he had briefly played professional baseball (for a couple a dollars a game) prior to the Olympics, which were supposedly for amateurs only at that time; in fact, that was true until recently. Posthumously, the medals were returned to him and there is actually a national holiday for him on his birthday.

He has been ranked the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century and third for the century. As great as Babe Ruth (#1) and Michael Jordan (#2) were, no athlete was even remotely as versatile as Thorpe, who went on to play professional baseball with the New York Giants and other teams, was a huge professional football star with the Canton Bulldogs, where he won three championships, as well as being the first president of the league that eventually became the NFL. It was also recently learned by Thorpe researchers that he barnstormed with an all Indian professional basketball team in the ‘20s. When Michael Jordan tried to play one other sport, baseball, he couldn’t get out of the minor leagues.

Thorpe was the ultimate athlete, but like I said, this post isn’t about him. Nor is it about speedster Ralph Craig who won the 100 and 200 meter events that year or the amazing Hannes Kolehmainen (Finland) who won gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter and cross-country events, plus a silver medal with his team in a cross-country relay (then eight years later the Olympic marathon). Nor is it about Ted Meredith, selected while a high school student, who won the 800 meters and another gold in the 4 x 400 meter relay.

It’s about an American competitor in what is known as the modern pentathlon (a different event from the track and field pentathlon that Thorpe won). In this five event competition, the athlete, then always a military man, swam (300 meters), rode a horse (5,000 meter steeplechase), shot a pistol (25 meters), fenced and, for a finale, ran a 4,000 meters cross country course. Its interesting that Thorpe was disqualified for playing a few baseball games as a professional in a different sport for a pittance, yet all the modern pentathletes were not only professionals in their actual event, but were required to be so.

The modern pentathlon was invented by the Baron de Coubertain, also the founder of the modern Olympic Games, who conceived of the sport as a fantasy mission an officer would undergo wherein he would have to ride a horse, fight duels with a pistol and a sword, swim a river and then run cross country. There is no other Olympic sport based upon a fantasy.

The host team, Sweden, dominated the event in 1912, which was the year the modern pentathlon was first held. In fact, they won all three medals, as well as fourth, sixth and seventh places that summer. Although Sweden is not a Summer Olympics power now, it was then, beating the U.S. out for first place overall that year, 65 medals to 63. Because of its victories in 1912, Sweden is today tied with Hungary for most Olympic medals in the modern pentathlon ever.

Our American hero came from a wealthy family with a long military tradition. After graduation he was stationed at prestigious Fort Myers in Washington D.C., where his horsemanship won him the friendship of the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson.

He had no thought of participating in the Olympics but, given his skills, was really the only choice. He was an excellent horseback rider and fencer, an expert rifleman, a long distance swimmer (which he hated) and a record holding hurdler at West Point. Yet, he was appointed to the team only about two months before the games, and although in good shape, had not been running or swimming for quite a long time. He was actually not a natural athlete and had to train like a maniac to prepare himself.

Our hero was the only American who competed in the event, against twelve host Swedish officers (among whom he became a virtual mascot, no doubt by his natural feisty competitiveness) as well as officers from many nations.

The competition started with pistol shooting. Most of the competitors used a .22 but we are told that our hero thought the heavier .38 caliber was more suitable. Unfortunately, it also made a bigger hole. Supposedly (I say that because the story is always related in a fashion that makes it uncertain whether or not it is true) one of his bullets could not be accounted for. His friends, the Swedes, argued on his behalf that it must have passed through one of the previous holes he made (sounds a little too much like the Robin Hood story to be true). But, as the bullet could not be found it was marked as a miss and he finished twenty-first of forty three combatants. Arguably, his missing the target entirely did not seem likely as he had nearly a perfect score in the practice round the day before. Yet, it probably was true, as he did not miss the target just once, but twice. More likely, he did not perform well because he had barely slept the night before. He was already in a hole and seemingly without any chance of a strong finish.

The next day, the 38 remaining contestants swam and he did much better, finishing sixth. He had given it everything he had and was too tired to even leave the pool under his own power. You don’t really see that. In fact, it was a remarkable performance. The Swedes had trained for nearly three quarters of a year. His only training for the event was in a makeshift pool on the deck of the ship to Europe with a rope tied around his waist for resistance. He was now tied for eleventh place.

Fencing occupied the next two days, as each man had to duel each other twenty eight remaining combatants. Here, against the odds, he excelled. Although never having had the type of expert instruction the European officers underwent, the American defeated twenty of his twenty nine opponents, including gave the winner his only defeat. He was now in eighth place. His style was straight ahead and frenetic, foretelling his later exploits.

The second to last event was the steeplechase, and again he excelled. He had a perfect score (as did two Swedes) and finished third based on time. He was in sixth place now. Everyone ahead of him was Swedish.

The last event was the 4,000 meter cross-country race. If not for the poor shooting marks (which should have been his best event after the steeplechase) he almost certainly would have medaled. Pacing oneself was not a well known tactic at the time. It was not suitable for his personality either. Today, it may seem strange that he was legally given a shot of opium before the event, which may or may not have helped. He ran as hard as he could without concern for finishing or his health.

Yet, the passionate American officer entered the arena first followed by a Swede. But he had almost literally run himself to death. He slowed and eventually walked the last 50 meters, finishing third. When he crossed the finish line, he keeled over. So did three others, one of whom died.

Our hero believes he had been unconscious for several hours. He was given more opium, which was not a very good idea, but he managed to live in spite of it. Good thing for America.

He finished fifth overall. With little time to train and without enjoying the home field advantage, the American’s achievement was an incredible feat of determination. Keep in mind that except for our hero’s fifth place, the Swedes won the first seven positions, eight of the first ten and nine of the first fourteen.

Jim Thorpe came home to public acclaim. Yet today, despite his fame, he is probably not the most famous American who competed in Stockholm that summer. That honor probably goes to that highly aggressive, pearl handle pistol toting, poor spelling, loud swearing, subordinate slapping, U.S. Army General, George S. Patton – America’s first Olympic pentathlete. He would fight in World War II the same way he competed in the Olympics. All out, with little thought of the consequences or sacrifice, and leaving nothing in reserve when the fighting was done.

Not something you learned about in the movie, is it?

Friday, January 04, 2008

From Iowa to New Hampshire

This really isn't supposed to be a purely political blog, but it's hard not to be one this month, as it will later this election year. Next week we get back to normal. In the meantime --

The Iowa caucuses actually followed the polls relatively closely. My predictions were all wrong. I called Romney for the Republicans and he only took second. I called Clinton for the Democrats, who lost out on second place by a half percentage point to Edwards. The best I can say is neither were land slides.

Having seen the polls for the caucuses so far off in the past, I thought that a strong machine on the ground (as Romney showed he had in the straw poll this summer and the Clintons always seem to have) would be the key. The voters surprised me. Although neither Obama’s or Huckabee's victory was not overwhelming for a caucus, they both were national underdogs who won their first true battle.

A New York Times poll showed that the very large turnout was made up of a majority of first time caucus goers. This may be attributable to Obama’s and Huckabee’s somewhat sunny messages. The poll also showed that the voters were much more interested in change than in experience by a large measure. This too may not be a result of anything Obama or Huckabee did, but dissatisfaction with the current administration.

Traditionally, Iowa winners get a bump up in NH polls which dissipate in a few weeks. But there are only five days between Iowa and NH this year. So, arguably, at least Obama may go in to the primary leading, although he trails Clinton right now. Huckabee seems too far behind McCain and Romney to take the lead.

However, given the irrational game of exceeding expectations voters and the media seem to play, McCain’s relatively strong finish in Iowa (13%) exceeded expectations even though he was way behind Romney (27%). Thus, he is probably right to look at it as added momentum going into N.H.

Edwards beating out Clinton by a heart beat in Iowa for second place does not mean much to me. I still think he will be gone after the Feb. 5 super primary. He will not win in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina. What worked for him in Iowa, practically making it his home state for the last few years, is not going to give him the same benefit in South Carolina where he polls less than half than Clinton and Obama do (they are virtually in a dead heat) or in New Hampshire where he is far behind Obama who is himself substantially, although not catastrophically, behind Clinton (which, again, may change with the Iowa victory boost).

Speaking of S. Carolina (Jan. 19 Republican primary), it is often given short shrift by the media although it proved quite lethal to McCain in the 2000 Republican primary. There Huckabee, a Southerner, leads in the polls over Romney with Thompson, McCain and Giuliani grouped closely together far behind them. South Carolina may become a rubber match for Obama and Clinton, although none of it may matter on Feb. 5. I have never predicted certain nomination for Clinton, although she is so far ahead in the national polls that this victory in Iowa is Obama’s big and probably only chance to steamroll.

We have to wait and see what happens this week, but I am thinking McCain and Clinton in New Hampshire. Despite her loss in Iowa, I suspect she may also be on her way to the nomination, but haven’t made up my mind. I have not changed my position at all as to vice presidential hopefuls.

I am hopeful that Giuliani’s strategy of waiting out the early small states for Florida on Jan. 29th, and New York and California on 2/5 will be a mistake. It might already be too late for him as the national polls show that his strong lead has evaporated. Ironically, while the right wing media was trumpeting Hillary’s fall in the polls, they seem to haved missed Giuliani’s more significant tumble. Could it be that the right wing doesn’t like the Clintons? Nah.

Can I say something about Mike Huckabee? I saw him over a year ago talking to a small group in New Hampshire. He is as warm and folksy now as he was then. I can think about voting for him. Plus, I admit, I am part of that middle aged male Chuck Norris worhipping group that watches Walker Texas Ranger at 3 in the morning. I wouldn’t vote for Huck because Chuck Norris campaigns for him, but I will watch his rallies because of it. Chuck is my Oprah. But do we really want another president who is learning foreign policy on the job? It didn’t seem to go well this last time round.

Can I say a little more about John McCain? Here are the results of the latest McCain v. Clinton head to head polls and then Giuliani v. Clinton (source Real Clear Politics – winner in bold):

Rasmussen 12/19-20 McCain 49 Clinton 43
FOX News 12/18-19 McCain 47 Clinton 42
Zogby 12/12-14 McCain 49 Clinton 42
CNN 12/06-09 McCain 50 Clinton 48

Rasmussen 12/17-18 Giuliani 45 Clinton 44
NBC/WSJ 12/14-17 Giuliani 43 Clinton 46
USA/Gallup 12/14-16 Giuliani 48 Clinton 49
Zogby 12/12-14 Giuliani 46 Clinton 42
Battlegrnd 12/9-12 Giuliani 44 Clinton 50
CNN 12/06-09 Giuliani 45 Clinton 51

Doesn’t that tell the Republican voters all they need to know. Additionally, the McCain v. Obama polls are dead even but Giuliani has lost in every head to head poll to Obama this month.

Get it, Republicans?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


I was just thinking that I never made my Iowa predictions. Memories of how off the pundits were in the last go round (just Democrats) are strong. But with iron determination and a jaunty Hiyo Silver, I proclaim:

Romney will win among the Republican candidates in Iowa. Two reasons. First, we are about to see his organizational skills at work. Getting people to the caucuses is what it is all about. Second, though it's all sound and fury signifying nothing, Huckabee has looked a little disorganized, even occasionally buffoonish, the last week to ten days. Huck would have been better off if his momentum was surging now, and even a second place finish would made him look like the man. Remember, in politics, it is only the smoke and mirrors that count.

Hillary will win among the Democratic candidates in Iowa. Why? Just a feeling. One that could evaporate with watching five minutes of Fox or CNN or surfing onto Real Clear Politics. Sort of like the kind of feeling I get as to who will win the Super Bowl each year. Unfortunately, I'm virtually always wrong about that.

The three Democratic candidates are virtually even, such that a hair's breadth victory by any of them tomorrow means only what the spin rooms generate. Winning in politics is a Humpty Dumptyish word -- it means what each spinner chooses it to mean. Nothing more. Nothing less. Each will declare the victory, the comeback factor, and the big mo.

What matters to this pseudo-pundit is how Mr. McCain does, and I predict a third place finish, better than everyone expected, and with considerably less effort than some of the other folks. Just enough to give him the momentum he needs to waltz into New Hampshire, turn the tables on Romney there and then jet into the first super-primary on Feb. five on all cylinders. I'm out of metaphors.

Of course, Giuliani is patiently choosing to wait these two small states out, taking his time until he can count on New York, California and co. a little more than a month from now. By then, the question will be, did he choose wisely or poorly?

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 . . . .