Sunday, January 31, 2010

Political update for February, 2010

At last, a new spirit sweeps the land

You think no one is reading you except for a few reprobrate friends and insomniacs who like to play Google's blog random search feature and are incredibly unlucky. And then . . .

I think it may just be possible, a year and a bit past the election, now that the inner partisan ("he's a Muslim," "she wants raped women to be punished," etc.) of some of the more moderate citizens on both sides have had time to calm down, that perhaps a glimmer of my message that too much power in the hands of one party is not a good thing has started to enter the public minds.

Not that this very unique. Can't be. What political notion is? So, why, you reasonably ask, do I even bring it up. Well, there's a reason for that - when I watch television, read the papers and surf the blogs on the web, and more importantly, read the comments to them, I really don't find a lot of people advocating it. Actually, that's an exaggeration. Let me rephrase that. I heard Joe Scarborough say it the other day on his show. That was the first time I've seen anyone publicly discuss it or suggest it or say it was generally a good idea, and I watch and read a lot more politics than the average bear. It seems that close to everyone with a political bone in their body is just positive that their side is always right and that the others need to perish from the political arena. I say, "that big talk's worth doodly-squat." (Josey Wales fans of the world unite).

Coming back to the real universe, where my only readers are in fact a handful of reprobate friends and some unlucky insomniacs, power sharing is more often what actually happened through the history of our imperfect, but resilient democracy. Power always goes back and forth between federalists and state power advocates, between conservatives and liberals, between Democrats and Republicans, and is very often been shared. It's better when it is, because the extemists, who often control the parties, are forced to compromise. Still, the excited multitudes now and then seem to think that when their candidate wins an election, especially the presidency, it's because everyone is starting to agree with them. I don't accept that this belief as human nature; it is cultural, and we don't have to do that.

Some people think that the reason a fairly unknown Republican state senator won the "Ted Kennedy" Senate seat in liberal Massachusetts is because the people are mad at the Democrat's handling of the health care bill. there is at least some polling support for this. Howard Dean somehow thinks it was because they were protesting the failure of health care reform (so illogical, even Chris Matthews laughed at him). Others think it was national security issues (i.e., the belief that Obama is weak on national security), but I think people are so used to the seemingly endless wars that an occasional limited terrorist attack has stopped having much meaning to them. Really, when you think about it, how upset were people at the murderous rampage on an Army base in Texas? Outside of the media, not a whole lot. I bet lots of people have already forgotten about it.

Some think it's because having seen Democrats in action, people realize that they must be stopped! No doubt, there's some truth to that, but it's also true, that having seen the Republicans in control, they realized that they needed to be stopped, and that's why we have a President Obama in the first place. I'd like to stop all of them. Good luck to me.

Sure, some conservatives, filled with adrenaline and testerone now think that they are going to take over the country the way some liberals thought they were after Obama won. But, they are all wrong. Both parties, and I'm so glad to know this, are ideologically split themselves.

With the conservatives, there are those who want that ideological purity. No campaign funds unless you pass the litmus test. Many Republicans, including this time the often wacky Michael Steele (who not too long ago, I hate to admit, I thought was something special) reasonably thought it a terrible idea. Good thing for the Republicans because they would have lost much support now headed their way.

With the Democrats, there are the ideological baby step socialists (we had no choice - we had to take over the industry) and those who actually want capitalism to stick around, but think some regulation is not a bad idea.

So, why did the Massachusetts makeover occur. It's not like Virginia, which is a basically conservative state that went for Obama in reaction to Bush, but more like New Jersey. Massachusetts, after all, is probably the most liberal state in the country. It was this. People may not understand the health care bill (congress doesn't), and they may not know the law with respect to "enemy combatants," but, they saw the broad strokes of what went on with health care - it was that there was an issue critical to our country, which the majority handled by throwing their adversaries aside, and worse, tried to win by astonishing payoffs to Louisiana, Nebraska and Vermont. These were among the most openly corrupt acts of legislation ever perpetrated on the American people. It doesn't take a masters in poli-sci to see that and be repelled by what occurred. The independents and even some moderate liberals rebelled.

Plus, although I think the left misses the point on this - the "people" don't want commando fighters who come to our country to get treated like common criminals - not even common serial killers. They want them to be made military prisoners and kept until the fight is over or they are completely defanged, or tried in a military setting. I'm for a fair process to make sure that accused combatants are who we say they are, as plainly we make many mistakes, and not some poor snook in the wrong place, wrong time - particularly if they are in their own or an allied country. And, generally, we can tell the difference. After all, even a dog can tell the difference between being kicked and being stumbled over.

What really is beneficial to our country is compromise, civility and good faith, although real partisans tend to think doing that means losing everything and giving up all their values. In the end, it is not the conservatives or liberals who will win if the spirit of good faith persists. And for that point, I resort to quoting a late American judge with a wonderful name and with powers of eloquence far beyond mortal men, and who I am fond of quoting here (I think this is the third time - but I don't think people can read this enough):

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. Justice Learned Hand (1944).

And taking my tongue out of my cheek, do I really believe that people are starting to get it, to learn to question what they hear, to be cynical about their government, to figure out that just because someone says something that sounds good ("An interest rate below prime? Where do I sign."), doesn't mean it's good and sustainable.

You know what would be a better idea, Mr. President?

I find that President Obama is a likeable person. I thought GB was a likeable person. Not surprisingly, many liberals I know, personally despised Bush and many conservatives Obama. But, being likeable is almost a requirement for presidents these days, particularly when they are first campaigning. It is up there with proof of their religiosity in importance. You could make an argument that once someone passes the religion hurdle, if they aren't more likeable in their campaigns than their adversary, they aren't going to win - Carter over Ford (that one was close, but Carter was very well liked at first), the cheery Reagan over the more morose Carter and the grey Mondale, Bush I over the nerdish Dukakis, the emotive Clinton over Bush I and then Old Bob Dole, and then the congenial regular guy, Bush II over the stiff Gore and the dreary Kerry. Finally, Obama over Hillary and then McCain, the latter of whom seemed to drain himself of his natural charm and popularity once he won his party's nomination.

And, when Obama went to speak with the Republican congress last week, his likeability was in evidence. He was smiling, measured and sounded reasonable, and even in lecturing Republicans on not being partisan, would occasionally point the finger at his own side. And, while there was much I agreed with in what he said in general, there was one glaring weakness to it.

It would have been a better idea if he was lecturing his own side, as they still have the majority of power in the two more powerful branches of government. It would have been more dramatic; he would have gathered more respect from Republicans; and he could have done it on tv too. Don't lecture the adversary on the faults they share with your own team. What for? They'll be polite and then go fight their battles the same way as before. For Obama's problems has never so much been Boehner and McConnell, but Reid and Pelosi. And just so you don't think I am just following the consensus right now, I posted the following a few days after the election:

This is already the big question -- will he govern from the center or left? The real battle here is not conservative versus liberal. The conservatives will do what all parties out of power do, make nuisances of themselves as best they can. That’s to be expected. Any conservative not expecting a liberal administration can start screaming now. The real fight for Obama is between him and Pelosi and Reid.

Right now, Obama is not winning. There's only so much he can do without congress. If he isn't an ideologue as he claims; if he is a centrist, let's see him be a leader and rescue this administration, his chances for re-election, and his legacy from disaster. But, he's got to talk to his own side about it.

Citizens United v. FEC

Here we go again. Another 5-4 decision for the ideologically split Supreme Court. My interest in it started when a predominantly liberal friend emailed me last week to lambaste the court for an ideological and evil decision. Actually, I have only two quarrels with my friend. He thinks the world is 99% fraudulent, and I think it is 70% fraudulent. He thinks it is just the right and I think it is both sides.

I have some problems with the decision. As usual, when I cover a voluminous Supreme Court decision, I can't go over it in depth, because those readers who make the effort to get to the end of my absurdly lengthy posts deserve a break. But, I will make a few comments.

The plaintiff was a corporation that wanted to have the movie it made on Hillary Clinton, one of the candidates in the 2008 primaries, be available on an "on demand" basis on cable television. In other words, the customer had to ask for it. The question was, was making it available a violation of the portion of the McCain-Feingold Act which forbid most corporations (not media corporations, for example) to broadcast political commercials paid for out of its general treasury if it could be viewed by 50,000 or more people? One legal question arising out of that is whether that law violates 1st amendment rights of free speech. In other words - the corporation wanted to speak through it's movie, and the law unlawfully prevented it. Or, did it?

The majority, five conservative judges, basically held as follows as to the main issue - individual Americans have freedom of speech; they have the right to associate with each other, including in a corporation, and to exercise that right from that association; and that when you subject speech to too many regulations at their peril or force speakers to bring a lawsuit to make sure they can speak - that unlawfully chills speech. Thus, it violates the first amendment speech clause.

I have no trouble with those basic concepts - in the abstract - but I do have some problems with the decision. First, conservatives are notorious sticklers for the rule that unless the issue was raised below the Supreme Court can't rule on it. Here, the plaintiff actually waived the very argument that came up to the Supreme Court in the trial court, thinking that under current law, they had no chance to win on First Amendment grounds. After all, this very issue had already been decided in previous cases.

The majority cited that limitation, but then used a see-throughable ploy to get around it. Here it is. The court said that even if it wasn't raised below (or waived) they can still rule on the issue if the lower court "passed on" the issue in making its decision anyway. Okay, that seems to make sense. If the lower court ruled on it, certainly then it can be overruled or affirmed by a higher court.

The problem is, the lower court didn't really "pass on" the issue (unless it means "mentioned in passing") - the lower court judge just mentioned sort of in passing that he pretty much wasn't dealing with it. Justice Kennedy, who wrote the opinion for the court, noted that the lower court judge had said that couldn't rule on it because he'd have to overrule a Supreme Court case, and only they can do that. Well, that is true, but, that's not raising the issue - it's saying I CAN'T RULE ON IT - NOT MY PLACE TO DO SO. For the higher court to even take up the issue then, is a sham.

However, Justice Kennedy also said that since the plaintiff made a claim that their first American rights were violated, any argument they want to raise under that is okay. While I agree with that notion in the abstract, the plaintiff specifically waived it. Come on.

There's another issue with which I have a big problem. There is no doubt that as part of our constitutional interpretation history all of the individual rights given by the bill of rights are not to be understood as written, but are really limited to the degree that it is felt it makes governance too difficult, or the rights impact too much on other people's rights. You can argue with that all you want, but virtually all appeals court judges, right - left and otherwise, even originalists, all have given it their tacit approval by relying on precedent. For example, prisoners and children do not have full free speech rights. No one argues about this even though the text of the first amendment is by itself, unlimited. There are also a myriad of time and place restrictions. You can't say whatever you want whenever you want, for example, in a courthouse. I could go on, but you undoubtedly get the point. And, as I have written previously on this issue, most people like it this way - virtually everyone, in fact, including those who don't admit it.

McCain-Feingold actually took the free speech issue into consideration and gave the corporations an out. If they wanted to speak - as in this case, the corporation could create a political action committee (PAC) and segregate funds for the purpose. As the dissent pointed out - and Justice Stevens did an outstanding job and I thought had the better of the argument - corporations are not the same as people. They have limited liability and they may have eternal life, for two things. He also pointed out that the founders were, in various degrees, not very favorable to corporations, and severely limited them. They, he argued, would be shocked that corporations were considered to have constitutional rights.

Actually, all a PAC really is, technically, is a bank account, that is a "separate segragated fund" (SSF). That is - the corporation, pays the PAC's or SSF's costs, sets it up and controls it. It is really no different than the corporation itself (although, it could be if for some strange reason, the corporation didn't want control of it).

Thus, no corporation which simply created a PAC or already had one, would actually be prevented from speaking. At all. And, in fact, many corporations do this.

Now, Justice Kennedy differed. He said, no, the corporation and the PAC are two different things. He gave no legal authority; he just said it. That was disingenuous of him.

Here's the kicker. Plaintiff actually had a very active PAC, and would have had no problems showing the movie if it had only used it.

Precedents are, of course, made to be followed, but, also, as the dissent admitted, broken. I usually find the issue of precedents just to be a rhetorical tool, particularly when there is a constitutional issue at stake. It all depends on whose ox is getting gored. Someone who doesn't like the decision overuling precedent, usually thinks breaking that precedent is terrible; thus, a pro-choice advocate would think reversing Roe v. Wade or the Casey case that redefined it, was terrible. A conservative would think it's just erasing a terrible mistake. However, as Justice Roberts pointed out - if you don't like breaking precedent, you are saying no Brown v. Board of Education and other landmark cases where precedent was overruled. Although there is a body of law which deals with when you should or should not break precedent, it is about as vague as you can get, and which rule you follow is almost always dependent on your political position on the outcome.

Still, as Justice Stevens pointed out, it is usually conceded that there should be some reason you are overuling a case other than a change in court personnel that just says, well, we now have enough people who think that rule was wrong. And, pretty much, that is what this court did. However, how far do you take that rule - what if it was 7-2 or 8-1 or 9-0? Still don't overrule?

Moreover, Stevens pointed out, cases treating corporations differently from people go back to 1907, which is quite possibly what Obama was referring to in the state of the union address (or will say it was referring to, if you are cynical) when he said a century of case law was overturned although he was wrong about foreign corporations. However, I agree that right or wrong, he could have picked a better time to say it.

So, here's my wind up. No doubt in my mind this was a political decision. Both sides took the position which they believes favors their preferred political parties. Although often I see cases that I believe are decided on different ideologies (say, death penalty cases) as opposed to partisanship, this wasn't one of them.

In this case, though I like the abstract principal that corporate speech should be as free and open as individual speech as a first principal of constitutional law, the reality seems to me that unless you just tear up our entire form of interpreting constitutional law - which is never going to happen short of revolution or a cataclysmic event - I'd say the majority ruled incorrectly. Moreover, I believe they knew this and did so deliberately. Kennedy, who is usually the fair moderate, and thus my favorite justice, did not play fair here, and some of his points were very weak - even unsupported.

And for another thing, the whole argument doesn't make a whole lot of sense. As Justice Stevens said, no matter how many times the court said so - there was no ban on speech or censorship. There never was. All there was was a rule that it had to be done through a PAC. You might say - but why? That's too bad. The answer is because congress said so, and if it doesn't violate the constitution, they have fairly free rein. Do you want to do away with our representative government too? And, in all honesty, a corporation might have some constitutional rights, like speech, but, of course it isn't a person - it doesn't vote, does it (Justice Stevens)? It can't carry a gun, can it? Or, claim a 4th amendment right of privacy in a home. Corporations have special privileges and special duties or limitations can be put upon them if they don't go too far. Requiring it to go through a PAC is not too far (although I can't see the reason for it myself - taxes perhaps?)

I know conservatives and liberals are on their high horses about this one. I think the decision was wrong, but it makes precious little difference. Whichever corporation wanted to make commercials or movies could have acted through a PAC. Do you really think that they are going to flood the market now with tv commercials just because they can do it without a PAC. It doesn't happen that way in the majority of the states which allow it in their state elections, and I sincerely doubt it will happen in federal elections either. Moreover, the idea that no one is as smart as "us" and they will all be fooled by commercials, etc., is more than a bit condescending and silly. Just as an example, did they really think a whole lot of liberals or moderates were going to spend their time watching an anti-Clinton movie. I just don't think so.

This one should have gone to the libs. And when I started reading the decision, my gut was I'd come out the opposite.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sport's trivia week

Sports is something that I more or less let go of a long time ago. I usually watch the Super Bowl for the commercials and pick the wrong team to win (although this year I also watched the playoffs and picked the wrong team to win). But, combining sports and trivia is more fun than dunking politicians in the community pond. Unlike history trivia posts, where my rule is I have to know the trivia before I put it to you, I had to look up half of these myself. Answers below.

1. What running back of the 60s-70s was also a two time NCAA wrestling champ?

a. Jim Nance
b. Larry Csonka
c. O.J. Simpson
d. Jim Brown

2. This professional wrestling champion was also an NCAA heavyweight wrestling champ?

a. Lou Thesz
b. Jack Brisco
c. Verne Gagne
d. Ivan Koloff

3. This NFL running back was also on a world record holding 4x110 relay team.

a. Gale Sayers
b. Tony Dorsett
c. O.J. Simpson
d. Jim Brown

4. Believe it or not, he was the 1912 intercollegiate ballroom dancing champion.

a. Jim Thorpe
b. Red Grange
c. Honus Wagner
d. Christy Mathewson

5. Edson Arantes Do Nascimento is better known to us as:

a. Roberto Duran
b. Angelo Cordero
c. Oscar De La Hoya
d. Pele

6. This well known actor’s father was a Heisman Trophy winner and he also played quarterback for UCLA.

a. Cuba Gooding, Jr.
b. Mark Harmon
c. Chuck Connors
d. Carl Weathers

7. Before he was a U.S. senator, he was a three time U.S. Judo champ, a one time Pan-Am games gold medalist and captain of the American Olympic team.

a. Daniel A. Akaka
b. Ben Nighthorse Campbell
c. Daniel Inouye
d. Robert Menendez

8. This great NFL head coach was a WWII pilot, flying 30 missions, and surviving a crash landing when he ran out of gas.

a. Vince Lombardi
b. Weeb Ewbank
c. Paul Brown
d. Tom Landry

9. This brother of a famous boxing champion literally knocked Joe Louis out of the ring.

a. Buddy Baer
b. Buck Walcott
c. Frank Sharkey
d. Carmine Carnera


10. He was a professional baseball player and professional basketball player, on top teams, but more famous as an actor.

a. Bob Uecker
b. Chuck Connors
c. Jimmy Stewart
d. Burt Lancaster

11. This television star was actually a famous skateboard champion (well,in that little world) before he was an actor.

a. James van der Beek
b. Johnny Knoxville
c. Michael J. Fox
d. Jason Lee

12. This 7 footer regularly plays the giant who the hero beats up, such as in the recent Sherlock Holmes, Rocketeer, Last Man Standing, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Roadhouse and many others including continuing roles in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. But, before that, he was on the Austrian National champion basketball team for 6 years.

a. Conan Stevens
b. Tiny Ron Taylor
c. Richard Kiel
d. Ted Cassidy

13. Gymnast Svetlana Khorkina, skater Katarina Witt and swimmer Amanda Beard, all Olympic gold medalists, all have this is common:

a. Posed for Playboy
b. Same paternal great-grandparents
c. Married when underaged
d. College valedictorians

14. She had a relationship with the son of her country’s dictator, later fled the country and then married another Olympic gold medalist in her sport.

a. Olga Korbut
b. Oana Ban
c. Nadia Comaneci
d. Svetlana Boginskaya

15. This five time Olympic medalist also won Dancing with the Stars one year.

a. Skater Eric Heiden
b. Gymnast Larissa Latynina
c. Swimmer Jenny Thompson
d. Skater Apolo Ohno

16. Football’s Lyle Alzado, baseball’s Rod Carew, basketball’s Danny Schayes and hockey’s Bobby Nystrom all have this is common:

a. Jews
b. Lived most of their non-professional lives in Canada
c. Convicted of misdemeanors within two years of retirement
d. Playgirl

17. This television star’s father was an Olympic rowing champion and he was a junion national champ himself.

a. Simon Baker (The Mentalist)
b. Jon Hamm (Mad Men)
c. Graham Norton (The Graham Norton Effect)
d. Hugh Laurie (House)

18. The only president to be on a National college championship team.

a. Warren Harding
b. Dwight Eisenhower
c. Richard Nixon
d. Gerald Ford

19. This ancient king was an Olympic champion:

a. Caesar
b. Nero
c. Leonidas
d. Hannibal

20. One of the most celebrated athletes of all time, a gold medalist as a teenager, she was also a successful actress, and, other than her marriages, was reputedly the lover of boxer Joe Louis and actors Tyrone Power and Van Johnson.

a. Babe Didrikson
b. Althea Gibson
c. Sonja Henie
d. Luigina Giavotti

Answers

1. What big AFL running back of the 60s-70s was also a two time NCAA wrestling champ?

a. Jim Nance. He wasn't near as good a running back as O.J. and Brown, but he was pretty good. Nowadays, he might have become a pro-wrestler after his career was up. Speaking of which -

2. This professional wrestling champion was also an NCAA heavyweight wrestling champ?

c. Verne Gagne. Love those classic era wrestlers.

3. This NFL running back was also on a world record holding 4x110 relay team.

c. O.J. Simpson. He wasn't always a media circus, you know.

4. Believe it or not, he was the 1912 intercollegiate ballroom dancing champion.

a. Jim Thorpe. Talk about all around.

5. Edson Arantes Do Nascimento is better known to us as:

d. You didn't think his name was really Pele, did you?

6. This well known actor’s father was a Heisman Trophy winner and he himself played quarterback for UCLA.

b. Mark Harmon. I have a bit of an NCIS problem. I can't stop watching it and it's on like 20 times a week.

7. Before he was a U.S. senator, he was a three time U.S. Judo champ, a one time Pan-Am games gold medalist and captain of the American Olympic team.

b. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Better known as the first Native American senator, he learned judo in Japan.

8. This great NFL head coach was a WWII pilot, flying 30 missions, and surviving a crash landing when he ran out of gas.

d. Tom Landry. I did not know that, but it didn't surprise me.

9. This brother of a famous boxing champion literally knocked Joe Louis out of the ring.

a. Buddy Baer. In his prime too. Buddy Baer was huge, and almost became the first brother combo to win the world championship against one of the all time greats.

10. He was a professional baseball player and professional basketball player, on top teams, but not real good, and became much more famous as an actor.

b. Chuck Connors. Knew that when I was a kid. Doubt many kids today have even heard of him.

11. This television star was actually a famous skateboard champion (well, famous in that little world) before he was an actor.

d. Jason Lee. The scraggly looking fellow who plays Earl, as in My name is Earl.

12. This 7 footer regularly plays the giant who the hero beats up, such as in the recent Sherlock Holmes, Rocketeer, Last Man Standing, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Roadhouse and many others, plus continuing roles in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. But, before that, he was on the Austrian national champion basketball team for 6 years.

b. Tiny Ron Taylor, usually billed just as Tiny Ron, is an interesting person. Check out his website. And if you just saw Sherlock Holmes, that big guy with the giant sledge hammer was him.

13. Gymnast Svetlana Khorkina, skater Katarina Witt and swimmer Amanda Beard, all Olympic gold medalists, also have this is common:

a. Posed for Playboy. But, I swear, I have yet to see any of them nude.

14. She had a relationship with the son of her country’s dictator, later fled the country and then married another Olympic gold medalist in her sport.

c. Nadia Comaneci. Another easy one, I thought.

15. This Olympic multiple medalist also won Dancing with the Stars one year.

d. Skater Apolo Ohno. I'm not surprised.

16. Football’s Lyle Alzado, baseball’s Rod Carew, basketball’s Danny Schayes and hockey’s Bobby Nystrom all have this is common:

a. All Jews. Carew and Nystrom converted. I went to summer camp with Danny Schayes over 40 years ago. He was tall even then, but, at least I can say, way back when we were in single digits, I was a little better ball player than he was. He got distracted very easily back then throwing with throwing rocks and stuff like that. His father, Dolph Schayes, a basketball legend, partially owned the camp, and I was awestruck when they introduced me to him.

17. This television star’s father was an Olympic rowing champion and he was a junior national champ himself.

h. Hugh Laurie (House). Really a talented guy. I still recommend his novel The Gun Seller to all.

18. The only president to be on a National college championship team.

d. Gerald Ford. Football. Wolverines.

19. This ancient king was an Olympic champion:

b. Nero. He lost decidedly, but just had himself declared champion. The Greeks at the time, I've read, refused to acknowledge it.

20. One of the most celebrated athletes of all time, she won her first Olympic gold medal as a teenager in her second Olympics, was also a successful actress, and, other than her marriages, was reputedly the lover of boxer Joe Louis and actors Tyrone Power and Van Johnson.

c. Sonja Henie. Her brother wrote a book basically saying she was a sex addict or whatever the term was then. Family is one good reason not to become famous. She also got to know Hitler and some other Nazi's, which disturbed many people, but, she was an amazing athlete; not just a skater, at which she most excelled.

Tribute to Robert Parker - creator of Spenser and Hawk

TRIBUTE TO THE LATE ROBERT PARKER, CREATOR OF SPENSER AND HAWK.

"You worried about things you've done?"
"Nope. You?"
"No. They'll put me where they see fit and I'll try and like it."
"Got to face it - we may not end up together. We've done different things."
“They’ve tried to separate us before. Never seems to work out for them.”
“Beer’s good up here, at least.”
"Might be down there instead of up here."
"Doubt it. I’m still so cool."
"Maybe this is just the ante-chamber. I'm feeling a little warm."
"Then take off your overcoat."
"I would, but, I still have on the wife beater I wore when I fought Jersey Joe."
“That was a good day."
"Yes, it was."

. . .

"You miss her?"
"Not yet. But soon, I think."
"I was talking about the dog, you know."
"So was I."
"How about the skinny one?"
"I suppose she'll be along soon. She's no spring chicken."
"Still beautiful though."
"Course. She's with me”
“Must be why I’m still so beautiful too.”
“I'll wait for her if I have to. We always end up together."
"You know she's definately going upstairs, right?"
"Naturally. She's one of the chosen people."
"But a good person, too. That's got to mean something. What if you don't end up in the same place as her?"
"Then I'll go find her."
"Could be consequences."
"Could be. Always been like that."
"You know I'll back your play."
"You always have."
"Always will."
"Same here."
"I know."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Save the Tiger

Now I'm really mad.

So, anyway, where was I? Oh, years ago, when Trivial Pursuit was new, my brother and I decided on a World Championship match for which we were careful not to invite anyone else to play. He won the first game, and I the second. The third was for it all – bragging rights forever. And, I was getting trounced.

At some point, with me way behind and with one last chance before his last question, my sister-in-law came in the house and sat down. I told her that I was about to take over the game. And, I did get 10 questions in a row right, until I was now at the last question too – the one where my brother got to choose from which of the six subjects I would have to field a question. If I got it wrong, and he got his next question right, he would win. Naturally, he picked the one subject I was weakest in – entertainment. I don't blame him.

The question was as follows (although I have to paraphrase): What film did Jack Lemon win an Oscar for? Now, I was not a huge Jack Lemon fan. I had rarely seen him in anything. But, fortunately, I was able to say as follows (again, obviously, I paraphrase): “You know, since I was a very little boy, I have only gone once with my parents to one single movie. And the name of that movie was – Save the Tiger.”

And this is the way I won the World Championship of Trivial Pursuit. Now, leaving aside your loathing of my celebration of as inconsequential of a victory as exists, it gives me the title of this post – Save the Tiger, which has nothing to do with Trivial Pursuit, but the most famous Tiger in the world – Woods.

Which brings me to why I'm mad.

Nothing brings out the irrational cultural prejudices of people like sex. I’m not here to defend cheating spouses. Of course, it's wrong. Even people who cheat usually think so. Although, we have to face it – so many people do it (I’d say based on a lot of notoriously unreliable surveys – 15-20% at some point in their marriage – a little more men than women), that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge strangers harder than we do our own friends and relatives just because they are famous.

And I’ve already voiced here the hypocrisy of all these media types piling on him and calling him names when they don’t out their own friends and co-workers. Is his adultery somehow worse because he’s a celebrity? Why is he singled out and no one mentions David Letterman or Shaquille O’Neal or any of the many Hollywood stars who get reported on wandering every year? Are they not famous enough to up their moral requirements? You'd think so.

It’s not the sheer numbers of women he has been with (I’ve heard between 9 and 50 - who knows?) as this was a media storm since the first day when only one was suspected? The numbers just made it juicier.

I’m talking today about poor Tiger, a huge superstar probably blessed with very high testosterone, who must now pretend that his desire to have sex with various other women is a mental illness, or at least an uncontrollable behavior problem that needs to be treated at a sex addiction clinic.

No doubt, Tiger is feeling all this in his pocket book. I’m not sure how much money he actually needs to get by ridiculously comfortably – If he's not a billionaire, he's something like it – even if he gives his wife half and pays child support. But, is this the reason he is undergoing this humiliation?

Or, is this the new modern price men have to face when they cheat on their wives? Leaving aside that none of us know why he cheated – the presumption is that it is because he could and wanted to, but we’ll leave that aside too. Will wives (studies show women report they are more likely to cheat once, not multiple times, and for an emotional reason) now require husbands to accept that they are mentally unstable as an explanation? Will celebrities gravitate towards this because it’s a good excuse – “I couldn’t help it – I was compelled?”

Of course, it is all greatly enhanced when the person is a celebrity and the media needs a mea culpa and period of supposed remorsefulness, before the celebrity is let back into the good life, by many people who are just as guilty of doing the same thing he did.

Here's my open letter to Tiger:

Take heart, oh tiger of the links, and face your adversaries in the media with a fierceness becoming your namesake.

Admit you had sex with many women, and that you did it because you could, because you are Tiger Woods. Say, sure I love my wife, but I had incredible opportunities I couldn’t turn down, and many of you would or have done the same thing. Raise your hand if you deny it.

And if you have a reason for the adultery that you think is your wife’s fault and she has insisted that you are mentally ill, rather than a dog of a man, then say it out loud. Though she may be as pure as the new driven snow, maybe she’s not either. I for one, would like to know. But, not to be unfair to her, if she is blameless, and she has not engaged in any behavior that has landed you in a clinic, then remain silent about it. Your a tiger, but not a monster.

And, mock the media. Ask each inquisitor if they or anyone they know in the media world has been unfaithful, and why they haven’t outed them. Laugh at the men and tell them that even if you were wrong to do it, you know they are jealous and would have loved to have made the same mistakes, if they only could - if only they were a tiger too.

And tell them it is none of their business and snarl at them. You have enough money to pick out a few of your inquisitors and hire investigators to target their lives. Pick ten of them - political pundits are best - and I will guarantee you will find some messing around. Even if they find no unfaithfulness, they will find some people somewhere who don’t like them or think little of them, and you can publicize that. This worked for the Scientologists against the IRS and it will work for you.

None of this will do you any good with the media and the public except for those people who will appreciate your honesty and are sick of this phony bologna hypocritical and non-sensical faux-morality. I’m sure that the golfing world, in love with what you bring them – money - will want you back. If not, will not your hundreds of millions satisfy you?

You can never regain public adoration, by those who now oppress you, by caving to them. Fight. You know how to do it. You are a tiger, dammit. Roar.

Friday, January 15, 2010

John Adams pontificates

A few years ago, I think 2002, I spent sometime going letter by letter through the correspondence of Adams and Jefferson, which had long ago been collected. Frankly, I found the first half of the correspondence, from when they were friends in their diplomat days, painfully dull. Reading those letters gave me the feeling that buying wine was an important, if not the predominant, diplomatic achievement. If you ever determine to read their letters, don’t bother with the early days. Skip right to 1812, when they finally become friends at a distance again after about 16 years of political and personal enmity.

As Adams wrote far more frequently than Jefferson, and as I have written a few times about Jefferson here already, I stick with the man from Massachusetts today. Fortunately, he was a jealous and self-pitying man, who loved to be provocative and even to give Jefferson the elbow when he thought he could. It is clear to me, from reading these letters, that Jefferson was by far the superior writer, and, though I have despised his character, he was far more poised and self-controlled too. Adams wrote like a mad blogger, running every which way with his thougths, desperate to show all his knowledge on his favorite topics. Jefferson was more reserved, replying to what he thought he had to or desired, and with much more control.

But, both of them were showing off and well aware that these letters would be preserved and passed down to the generations. Thus, you have to read them with the proverbial grain of salt.

Some of his compatriots and certainly modern historians covering Adams usually point out that he was obnoxious, arrogant, sharp-tongued, jealous, and I could go on. It's really undeniable. He was also highly educated, wonderfully inquisitive, steadfast, relatively honest, fervently patriotic, loyal, a terrific husband, a dedicated parent (times were different as was child raising) and possessing many other good qualities. For all Jefferson's skill in managing appearences, behind the scenes he was underhanded, backstabbing and scheming far beyond the desire or ability of most of his peers. He was far more successful in it too. But with Adams you got pretty much what you thought you were getting, although he was quite capable of being civil to your face and thundering about you behind your back, and, despite his reputation, not always completely honest.

One thing I have tried to forgive Adams for was his acute dislike of Ben Franklin, by far my favorite founder. Franklin is lionized today, but, as famous as he was here and abroad, he had many detractors in public life when he was isolated in Britain and France as an advocate for some of the colonies or a diplomat for America, and he would rarely actively defend himself. Adams was civil, even friendly in Franklin's presence, but poisonous in his reporting about him. Just a quick search finds that he wrote to others that BF was, among other things, "[possessing of a] low cunning, and mean craft, and being "secretly conniving," as well as jealous, envious and vain. That's just for starters, but it's not what this post is about.

But here I look just at his letters to Jefferson for two very good reasons. First, many years ago I copied out all the ones that interested me, so it wasn't real hard to put this together. Second, as contrived, pompous and show-offy as some of these letters were, I enjoyed them immensely, because he was a window on the thinking of his time on a number of subjects which interested him. When he shows off, we reap the historical benefit. As with most topics I write about here, the following quotes are merely what interest me and not necessarily written with any central theme in mind:

Here’s Adams on the issue of law suits against the president. You can almost picture the cantankerous old man up in heaven thundering about the Paula Jones suit against Clinton, which, of course, the Supreme Court would not let Clinton avoid:

Good God! Is a President of U. S. to be subject to a private Action of every Individual? This will soon introduce the Axiom that a President can do no wrong; or another equally curious that a President can do no right.

Like with a lot of stuff he wrote, that was a little hard to follow logically, as the second sentence really doesn't quite follow from the first. You’ve also probably also noticed his annoying clinging to the custom of capitalizing nouns and other substantives, which rule Jefferson did not follow. I keep it here as Adams wrote it. Here he writes on philosophers and the like, that is, those who might disagree with him:

I am weary of Philosophers, Theologians, Politicians, and Historians. They are immense Masses of Absurdities, Vices and Lies. Montesquieu had sense enough to say in Jest, that all our Knowledge might be comprehended in twelve Pages in Duodecimo: and, I believe him, in earnest. I could express my Faith in shorter terms. He who loves the Workman and his Work, and does what he can to preserve and improve it, shall be accepted of him.


His own philosophy at the end sounds pretty much like the same gobbledygoop he complains about to me, but he’s entitled. Besides, he more than once stated a "summary" of his beliefs, which were not always consistent. For example, another time a few years later, he wrote: "The Ten Commandments and The Sermon on the Mount contain my Religion." Another time, he wrote on his religion "It is known to my god and myself alone." Not surprisingly, I'm sure he forgot what he had written years before.

Whatever Adams said, if you waited long enough, he might say the opposite, as with this somewhat contradictory position on philosophy:

Phylosophy is not only the love of Wisdom, but the Science of this Universe and its cause . . . Phylosophy looks with an impartial Eye on all terrestial religions.

Early on in their correspondence the two had to mend some fences with each other and often they were defensive (and lied where necessary - even Adams). One of the acts for which Adams was most discredited as president was the signing of the Alien and Sedition acts, one of the objects of which was to punish those critical of the administration with jail – something for which the party of Jefferson (then the vice president), severely criticized him, while at the same time he was egging on or financing the slanderers. Although nowadays most of us would agree with Jefferson’s party on the unconstitutionality of criminalizing the content of speech, I enjoy Adams taking this out on Jefferson’s hide many years later:

As your name is subscribed to that law, as Vice President, and mine as President, I know not why you are not as responsible for it as I am. Neither of Us were concerned in the formation of it. We were then at War with France: French Spies then swarmed in our Cities and in the Country. Some of them were, intolerably, turbulent, impudent and seditious. To check these was the design of this law. Was there ever a Government, which had not Authority to defend itself against Spies in its own Bosom? Spies of an Ennemy at War? This Law was never executed by me, in any Instance.


Well, that last line was a lie. Ben Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Bache, went to jail for material printed in his newspaper, one of almost a dozen who were convicted under the act. Moreover, even his logic is questionable. Jefferson did sign, which he [Jefferson] claims was a formality, and with some reason, as the VP had no constitutional role in legislation. And no doubt, Jefferson, the backer for some of the most over the top, slanderous material out there, was vehemently opposed to it.

Adams writes here on a topic close to us now – the whole issue of what to do with enemy combatants:

Every Government has by the Law of Nations a right to make prisoners of War, of every Subject of an Enemy. But a War with England differs not from a War with France. The Law of Nations is the same in both.

Of course, the question becomes more complicated now, when the war is not with a nation, but an non-govermental organization. Here’s an Adams' quote which would endear him to the hearts of religious conservatives today and that might pop up today, rightly or wrongly, in an argument about whether a town can put up a Christmas tree or creche:

The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the principles of Christianity and principles of American liberty.

And then later, this one:

. . . for I hold there can be no Philosophy without Religion . . .

He had his anxieties about Jefferson’s religious beliefs, as many did:

You have written largely about matter and Spirit, and have concluded, there is no human Soul.

But, he didn't take it all that seriously either:

And so far from sentencing you to Perdition, I hope to meet you soon in another Country.

He’d have to wait 13 years more for that, when they died the same day, although I’m not sure Jefferson got to go to the same “country” as Adams, if you know what I mean.

Adams wrote frequently on religion, a subject of which he had become fascinated after retiring. He certainly had his doubts as to the authenticity of what had come down to his generation as true religion. Here, having heard of a book by a German author questioning the authenticity of the ten commandments, he goes off on his own tangent about it:

Among all your researches in Hebrew History and Controversy have you ever met a book, the design of which is to prove, that the ten Commandments, as We have them in our Catechisms and hung up in our Churches, were not the Ten Commandments written by the Finger of God upon tables, delivered to Moses on mount Sinai and broken by him in a passion with Aaron for his golden calf, nor those afterwards engraved by him on Tables of Stone; but a very different Sett of Commandments? . . . When and where originated our Ten Commandments? The Tables and The Ark were lost. Authentic Copies, in few, if any hands; the ten Precepts could not be observed, and were little remembered.

In another later letter he questions whether there were any real witnesses to the gospels, which was pretty gutsy stuff to put in writing in the early 19th century, even to his friend, don’t you think? But don’t believe you can understand Adams religious beliefs from these few passages I quote as his opinions were complex, and, like much of the stuff he wrote, not always all that easy to follow - I'm trying not to say - not always that logical.

I can garner some general beliefs from his letters: He fervently believed in God, but not miracles or much of the mythology of it. He believed Jesus was the greatest philosopher who ever lived, but did not believe the miracles attributed to him in the Bible. He was also voraciously anti-Catholic, anti-Papal and anti-Jesuit, as were many Americans, but keep in mind, Catholics were few in most of America, particularly Massachusetts (although Adams lived in France for a while, he didn’t get along with them so well). France and Spain were Catholic countries and had often been America's enemy, even when they were allies during the war, as far as Adams was concerned. But, he could be anti-Catholic and pro-Christian at the same time, and obviously loved the Bible:

Phylosophy looks with an impartial Eye on all streightened means and my busy Life would allow me; and the result is, that the Bible is the best book in the World. It contains more of my little Phylosophy than all the Libraries I have seen: and such Parts of it as I cannot reconcile to my little Phylosophy I postpone for future Investigation.

Yet, unlike so many others, even now, he did not believe in the devil:

That there is such a Person as the Devil is no part of my Faith, nor that of many other Christians; nor am I sure that it was the belief of any of the christian Writers. Nor do I believe the doctrine of demoniacal possessions, whether it was believed by the sacred Writers or not; and yet my unbelief in these Articles does not affect my belief the great facts of which the Evangelists were eye and ear Witnesses. They might not be competent Judges, in the one case, tho perfectly so, with respect to the other.

There are many other quotes I could give you about religion as he wrote so often about it, but I will stick with that which he ended a long ramble on the subject in one letter:

It has been long, very long a settled opinion in my Mind that there is [not?] now, never will be, and never was but one being who can Understand the Universe. And that it is not only vain but wicked for insects to pretend to comprehend it.

Jumping to politics, Adams here describes an early situation while Washington was president and he was vice, which makes the political problems of modern politicians seem positively pleasant, and also subtly taunts Jefferson for his easier political life. Reading this, you realize how unlearned in their own history (or just nefarious) are politicians who like to say that it is worse now than ever:

You certainly never felt the Terrorism, excited by Genet, in 1793, when ten thousand People in the Streets of Philadelphia, day after day, threatened to drag Washington out of his House, and effect a Revolution in the Government, or compel it to declare War in favour of the French Revolution, and against England.

Later in the same letter, Adams puts his finger on the pulse of partisanship that is the bane of political life to this day and maybe forever:

The real terrors of both Parties have all ways been, and now are, the fear that they shall loose the Elections and consequently the Loaves and Fishes; and that their Antagonists will obtain them.

Although Adams understood the nature of partisanship and its destructiveness, he would himself bring a knife (or no weapon at all) to a gunfight (The Untouchables) and perhaps thought himself above the rough and tumble of it, which I believe led to much suffering on his part through 8 years as veep and then 4 more as president. He was correct, in my humble view, when a little more than a week after the last comment, he wrote as follows:

While all other Sciences have advanced, that of Government is at a stand; little better understood; little better practiced now then 3 or 4 thousand Years ago. What is the Reason? I say Parties and Factions will not suffer, or permit Improvements to be made. As soon as one Man hints at an Improvement his rival opposes it. No sooner has one Party discovered or invented an Amerlioration of the Condition of Man or the order of Society, than the opposite Party, belies it, misconstrues it, misrepresents it, ridicules it, insults it, and persecutes it. Records are destroyed. Histories are annihilated or interpolated, or prohibited sometimes by Popes, sometimes by Emperors, sometimes by aristocarical and sometimes by democratical Assemblies and sometimes by Mobs.

And I join him in this one:

The fund[a]mental Article of my political Creed is, that Despotism, or unlimited Sovereignty, or absolute Power is the same in the Majority of a popular Assembly, an Aristocratical Counsel, an Oligarchical Junto and a single Emperor. Equally arbitrary cruelly bloody and in every respect diabolical.

And this:

And I may be deceived as much as any of them, when I say, that Power must never be trusted without a check.

But, on the subject, I like this best:

Power always sincerely conscientiously . . . believes itself Right. Power always thinks it has a great Soul, and vast Views, beyond the Comprehension of the Weak; and that it is doing God Service, when it is violating all his Laws.

I may have to have his ghost as a guest blogger one day as, for it’s just possible that anti-partisan rhetoric from an immortal might carry more weight than my rants.

It seems to me that sulky Adams would have favored a history of the United States which began with his life in Massachusetts and ended with his single-handedly winning the war, as he seemed to be unable to stand the thought that others like Franklin, Washington and even Tom Paine, got more credit than he did. He was passionately critical of almost everyone, and handed out compliments to few (see my post on his son, John Quincy Adams, who continued the family tradition). Here, John Adams addresses his fellow congressmen who we know as founders:

In the Congress of 1774 there was not one member, except Patrick Henry, who appeared to me sensible of the Precipice or rather the Pinnacle on which he stood, and had candour and courage enough to acknowledge it. America is in total Ignorance, or under infinite deception concerning that assembly. To draw the characters of them all would require a volume and would now be considered as a caracatura print. One third Tories, another Whigs and the rest mongrels.

Whoa! Not what we were taught in grammar school or related by our ignorant and self-serving politicians.

Recently, I was whistfully discussing (not for the first time) that our youth seem not to know how to write and are not interested in books. Alas, Adams worried about this too, and, given how long ago that was, it gives me some hope that the problem is overstated now, as it was then:

Our post-revolutionary youth are born under happier stars than you and I were. They acquire all learning in their mother’s wombs, and bring it into the world ready-made. The information of books is no longer necessary; and all knolege which is not innate, is in contempt, or neglect at least.

Of all of Adams’ letters to Jefferson the following contains my favorite material, because it is just so founding father era nerdy:

I cannot be serious! I am about to write you the most frivolous letter, you ever read.

Would you back to your cradle and live over again your 70 years?


Jefferson, actually 73, who often didn’t respond to Adams’ provocations, did so with a positive answer. Perhaps Adams didn’t want to be upstaged in positive outlook because his response to Jefferson’s reply was one of his most ecstatic and pseudo-eloquent:

For what is human life? I can speak only for one. I have had more comfort than distress, more pleasure than paine, ten to one, nay if you please an hundred to one. A pretty large Dose however of Distress and Paine. But after all, what is human life? A Vapour, a Fog, a Dew, a Cloud, a Blossom a flower, a Rose a blade of Grass, a glass Bubble, A tale told by an Idiot, a Boule de Savon, Vanity of Vanities, an eternal succession of which would terrify me, almost as much as Annihilation.

If you care, a boule de savon is a soap bubble. As he got older, especially after his wife died, he became more morose in his letters, but sometimes more humble too. Yet, even in his humility, he was always Adams, as he was in this, another one of my favorite of his quotes, for what I think it reveals about him:

Oh delightful Ignorance! When I arrive at a certainty that I am ignorant, and that I always must be ignorant, while I live I am happy, for I know I can no longer be responsible.

Got to love it. For few had felt the weight of duty more heavily than John Adams during his active life, and maybe, at the end, he was just learning to let go.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The one where I make fun of the left and the right

If you look at the title of episodes of the show Friends in your television guide, you will see that they all start with "The one . . ." followed by a brief description. So, in tribute, I called this post, The one where I make fun of the left and the right. It would make more sense, of course, if that title wouldn't describe most of my political blogs.

The part where I gleefully point out how crazy the left is when it comes to white guilt

According to liberal theory, we can not ignore the fact of skin color, even where it much of the effects of it have been outlawed, even, in some cases presumed to exist from appearances, as it would then presumptively lead us to ignore fixing problems caused by color prejudice. Okay, I won’t even argue it here. But, apparently, given the fix Senator Reid finds himself in, when we talk about color, we may only say things which are definitively positive towards so called “people of color”.

Even Barak Obama has stated that color was a factor in some people’s voting. I think he was right – some voted against him because of color and others voted for him because of color. Why can’t Harry Reid say it?

His comments were not the least bit offensive. He, an Obama supporter, said that Obama would win because he was light skinned and spoke without a black dialect. It was a political observation. If he lost, would not everyone on the left have said, he lost because he was too dark (I think everyone agrees he speaks without a “black” dialect). Yet, the liberal world is acting as if Harry Reid said, that incompetent boob Obama will win because he’s black but not too black, the luck stiff.

The amount of what other’s (I believe the first book about it was by a black man) called White Guilt never fails to astonish me. One fellow I know is so guilty, the only athletes he can find to praise are black, even in tennis where there is only occasionally a top rated black man, and can find only right and no wrong with blacks, with the exception of Jesse Jackson, who he waves around as a flag as proof he doesn’t favor blacks. But, that’s just one person, of course. I use him as an example.

Yet, we see this all the time. When Joe Biden, now Obama’s vice president said essentially the same thing, he too felt the need not only to apologize to Obama, who graciously accepts (but I believe is secretly embarrassed), but then also go around and apologize to every black leader they can think of, even Al Sharpton, who, if he has fought for blacks his whole life, has never once apologized for and still defends his actions in the Tawana Brawley case (did you ever pay the judgment against you?) Sharpton, long a media darling, is so racist, that he couldn’t even pile on Tiger Woods for adultery (itself annoying beyond words) without stating that he should be ashamed of himself for not cheating with a black girl too. Yet, I’ve seen him on talk shows lately and no one asks him about that obviously racist statement. Apparently, according to Mr. Sharpton (I can’t call him Reverend) even when cheating, Mr. Woods has to show his diversity by sleeping with a white woman or he is a racist. I checked to make sure this Sharpton thing wasn’t a hoax and sad to say it’s not.

But, I digress. How is it that it is okay to say that being black might hurt you in some things, but you cannot suggest that it helps you in others? Look, if I walked onto a basketball court at the same time as a black man most people who have even the least familiarity with the sport are going to suspect that he’s going to be a better player than me, including him and me. That’s a form of prejudice because it is pre-judging based on something that is probably not a real factor. And, certainly, it’s not always true. The opposite would occur if it was hockey or swimming. That’s prejudice too, even if, in our experience, blacks dominate some sports and white’s others. We know that skin color doesn’t make you good at one thing or another, in general, but certainly, white culture and black culture has led those of different colors to concentrate on different sports. What would be bigotry, as opposed to mere prejudice, by my definition, at least, is if I was not permitted to try to compete in basketball or he in hockey because of our color, as we know used to exist. Or if the foul was called on one of us because of our skin color. That would be bigotry too.

This extreme liberal attitude towards color is inherently bigoted, even if they think it is justified by all of the racism heading the other way. No one seemed to care when Obama said that some people voted for him because of his skin color, and no one much would care if Jesse Jackson said it (except for Jesse Jackson haters). But, Geraldine Ferraro was castigated for saying that Obama had an advantage (during the Democrat primaries) because he was black, in the current climate, even though she acknowledged that she had an advantage in ’84 because she was a woman. She was not forgiven by many of her Democratic “friends,” partially because campaigning going on and the sickness that goes on during that time period is extreme and beyond the scope of this post, but also because she decided to justify, and rightly so, her remarks, rather than call Obama and apologize, and, apparently, the elite list of black politicians and media figures.

I understand that some people cannot even read what I have written above without at least their gut telling them that I am a bigot and must also be a right winger; such is the power of partisanship and white guilt. Nothing I can do about that.

Harry Reid is a formidable man, despite the anger of his political enemies towards him who cannot stand anything positive said about those they disagree with. But, he certainly understands politics, or he never could have gotten the bill passed in the senate, and has shown himself good at it. The health care legislation is his greatest moment, even if it fails because the other house refuses to play ball. He bought his victory in the Senate with what in any other setting would be considered bribes. But, that’s politics, and not too many people seem to think that there is anything wrong with it (at least, if it is their team that does it). But, if I could have my moment at a town hall meeting with him, and could ask a second question (the first would be about political bribery), it might just be, “Aren’t you embarrassed to have to suck up to bigots who believe you can’t suggest that some black might have a political advantage sometimes, just because you are white?

But, let’s face it, Reid, the cagey politician, is perfectly aware what will happen. The media will have a story. They don’t care that he didn’t say anything offensive. They will put people on the air or quote them to say that they are offended by the remarks. How many of them (excepting the right wing media who certainly won’t defend their nemesis) would likely say, “C’mon, what is wrong with what he said?” That, apparently, would ruin everything for them.

So, Reid got ahead of the story and started making phone calls, cowardly apologizing. Which is why long ago, Mark Twain wrote in a letter of congressmen, “. . . the smallest minds and the selfishest souls and the cowardliest hearts that God makes”.

It would be great if people didn’t look at color when they voted, but sometimes they do. Politicians, if they want my respect, have to stop apologizing when they haven’t said anything offensive about race, just because they have lighter skin than others, and made a political observation.

Of course, the suggestion of Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican Party, and a man I used to think something of, but now I think is a Republican liability, that Reid should step down, is also, almost humorously, absurd.

The part where I gleefully point out how crazy the right is when it comes to religion

According to conservative theory, religion has an important place in society, even government. We should all be religious and something's wrong with you if you are not. It's not like I'm comparing them to the the mullahs or the Taliban, because they are non-violent even in their rhetoric. I don't know if I've ever heard any pundit or politician ever say an aggressive word about it, although occasionally some jerk will say something a little chilling. But, as we know, the slide is not a long one – at least many of the founders and I believe so – and the First Amendment and many State constitutions protect against it – so far.

When Brit Hume, a newsman and commentator I always liked came out with his opinion last week that Tiger Woods should consider become a Christian because it offers forgiveness and Buddhism does not, he offended many people. I can’t go as far as to say I’m offended, but I am embarrassed for him. All the conservative blogs I read last week uniformly defended him as did the large number of those commenting on them. I will say I do personally know some conservatives who were embarrassed by what he said too, but they tend not to be religiously motivated Christians.

Naturally, I know there are those who couldn't read this without thinking I'm saying that he didn’t have a right to his opinion, or that Fox is somehow “wrong” for his saying it, or that something bad should happen to he or Fox because of his statement. Certainly not, and he shouldn’t even have to apologize for it.

But venue matters. Some things said in one forum are embarrassing in another. Think, for example, how offended conservative Trent Lott was, when he went to the funeral of Senator Paul Wellstone, only to listen to Wellstone’s son make a political speech assaulting conservatives. I agreed with him. Wrong place. If I speak at a funeral (which has never happened) I know to refrain, for example, from making dead baby jokes. I love dead baby jokes, but unless it’s my funeral, it’s not the right place. In fact, had Brit Hume said the same thing in many other forums, privately, or on a television show which does not have pretensions of being a news show, or in a speech he was personally invited to make, I’d likely have no problems with it at all.

But, on a news show (even if it is news commentary), to take the position that your mommy and daddy knew best (or, even if it is the minister, guru, rabbi, etc. who changed your life) and only your arational faith is best, well, sorry, but that’s just ignorant and the speaker should be embarrassed. Nor would I care if the speaker was any other religion. And, I don’t even know if Tiger Woods really is a Buddhist or takes it seriously at all. For all I know he is a Christian or an atheist. It doesn’t matter.

Here’s what many conservatives are pretending now. That Brit Hume is being accosted for stating out loud his religious faith, especially because he’s Christian. Please, our country, including the liberals, is largely Christian, who believe much like Mr. Hume believes, and most of whom celebrate Christmas. The constant whining from the right that Christianity and Christmas are being unfairly attacked is as ignoble as the left’s whining I described above. I suppose there are some people somewhere who want to attack Christianity in America, but they are very few. I do not believe going to court because you believe that governments should not be displaying Christian symbols to the exclusion of others is evidence of attacking Christianity.

But, I digress again. What exactly did I find embarrassing (for him) about his stating his personal beliefs? Now, I’m an atheist. I don’t believe that there is any being which created the universe, although I am perfectly content to say that I have no idea how it happened either. Someday, I expect that some future Einstein aided by the accumulation of human knowledge will give us some reasonable theories which we might never be able to confirm or deny, unless they can duplicate the big bang out of nothing. But, that’s for the future. Right now, no one knows the answer to these questions. Some people, I would say by far the majority of people in America, have arational faiths, that is they believe in supernatural phenomena, admitting that there is no proof one way or the other. That is often true even of those who are very certain in their faiths. I have debated many of that stripe.

For Hume to suggest on a news show, and not, say, a show about religious faith – that his religion is essentially superior way for Tiger Woods to feel better, that’s just silly. Now, he could have said “I hope he turns to whatever religion he has, as in my experience, that can really help in tough times,” or, “You know, in my faith we (blah, blah, blah) but . . . ," or, "It's for God to forgive, not me," but, he didn’t do any of this. He indirectly but certainly asserted on a news show as a news person the superiority of his faith over someone else's. Again, he has every right to his opinion, but poor judgment as to where to state it. I guess, getting older and being semi-retired, he just doesn't care.

First, call it instinct - Brit Hume doesn’t know much about Buddhism (not that I’m any expert, but at least I can say I’ve read a half dozen to dozen books about it and related religions), but like Christianity, has many sects and variety of beliefs. However, in my understanding, he is only partially correct that “forgiveness” is not a tenet of Buddhism, in the sense of a deity forgiving sins. In one of the main divisions of Buddhism, there is the destruction of negative karma through certain rituals, which I believe would be analogous to divine forgiveness.
So, there.

But, even among those Buddhists for who this is not the theology, the act of forgiveness towards others itself does play a role. In very general terms, the practitioner seeks to live and think in such a way that he becomes enlightened (bodhi or nirvana), and hopefully, will stop being reincarnated into the wheel of life, instead becoming a buddha at one with the universe. Forgive me for the brief generalization. There are actually many similarities between the theology of Christianity and Buddhism – some Buddhists entwine the two or mix Buddhism with other religions. You can Google that yourself.

Reading Ann Coulter's blog this week, I was not surprised to see her mock Buddhism by saying that practitioners try to become God. I won't even say that she is completely wrong, in a sense, if you take becoming a Buddha the same as becoming a god, but, even taking her assessment, she writes it in a way that those who don't know anything about the religion will presume some great arrogance or stupidity on the part of Buddhists for so believing. Yet, personally, I don't see why that belief would be logically any less likely than the belief of Christians that a man was the creators's son, came to earth to die for our sins, was resurrected, etc. (I think you know the story). But, Ann Coulter is not exactly famous for her fairness (although, she is one of my favorite conservative writers).

Besides all that, and not that I would ever dream of throwing Hume's own religion in his face, but, didn't Jesus say, when asked by Peter if he should forgive a transgressor seven times, that no, he should forgive him seven times seventy times (my math skills are just good enough to know that's 490 times; that's just a masochist in my book). Perhaps Hume should offer personally offer that to Woods, particularly as he is not God and has no say in who shall be forgiven.

I also suggest that Hume’s statement diminishes his own religion. He is suggesting, apparently, that as a selfish act, Woods at least pretend to be a Christian. That would certainly be a very cynical and hypocritical thing to do. I don't think it is what most theologists would approve, but, I don’t think Hume and many others would mind. I’ve always believed that people are more concerned that others accept their irrational or arational opinions, more than their rational ones. It just makes them feel better. I’m sure that Hume would say to that, “No, I meant that he should really believe it," but, sorry, I wouldn't buy it.

Last, I ask, who is Hume or anyone in the media to question Tiger Woods, knowing nothing about him or his marriage, and, keeping their own secrets as to their own and their famous and wealthy friends' pecadillos. Perhaps it is the media that should seek forgiveness.

It was as a result of those like Hume that many years ago I created the religion of "Oopsiism" (which was divinely inspired while I was reading an Archie comic book). In this religion, you did not have to fast and go to Temple to be absolved of your sins, or go to confession, or anything similar. You just had to say "Oops". Of course, we are not yet a major religion. So far, just one of us.

I will say one thing in mitigation of Hume's behavior. Sometime in the 1990s his son died, committing suicide. He has said that Christianity has become very important for him as a result of it. I can't imagine the pain of that, and, I imagine he might feel a great desire to share whatever relief it provides him. That's not justifying the remark, but maybe explaining it to some degree.

My brilliant summation where I condescendingly forgive all and say something nice about our country that often goes overlooked

Truth be told, it doesn’t make much of a difference what either Senator Reid or Mr. Hume have said in the big picture. I disagree with them, but they are not horrible things in any sense of the word. Probably it's just a slow news week. However, the motivations underlying what they said, being largely held by the opposite parties in general, is a little troubling to me or I wouldn’t have bothered writing this.

What Senator Reid and Brit Hume said trouble me for different reasons. With Senator Reid, I cannot believe that he thinks that he said anything wrong. To believe he does is so illogical as to have very little probability. With Mr. Hume, I am sure he does believe what he said, and am embarrassed for him for his ignorance and arrogance, even if it was good hearted.

Yet, in saying that, I do think how much better it is now than it has ever been before in our country concerning race and religion. For what rational person cannot say that race relations in America are not much better than they ever were and that tolerance between religious groups also is at its highest point in history. I am glad that in my little Southern town, for example, where most people are conservatives and on the average, older than most places, a black and white couple can walk hand and hand down the street and not be accosted, even if some people silently disapprove, as can a gay couple.

Think about Malaysia, where a group of Muslims have so far successfully sued a group of Christians to make them stop using the word “Allah,” which is not even native to Indonesia, but the Arabic word for “God”. Many Christians in the Middle and Far East use it exclusively for that purpose. They don't even learn the English word. This, is, of course, religious insanity, and compared to it, what either Brit Hume or Harry Reid had to say is bupkis. And, as I believe I’ve written on recently, in Jolly Old England, the high court has ruled that the government may determine who is a member of your religion if they decide you are ethnically discriminating EVEN where there doesn’t appear to be any actual ethnic discrimination.
So, thank God, says this atheist, that we live in America, which after all, is in some respects, a rational, wonderful and peaceful place.

Please write in with your comments stating how correct you believe my opinion is.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Political update for the year 2010

Just in case you needed to know what you should be thinking politically . . .

The presidency

2010 is not starting the way 2009 did.

Then, the Obama love-fest was in full swing, with even many conservatives taking note of the fact that America had elected a black man as president was an historically important development. Yes, even Rush Limbaugh described it as "wonderful" and "great" (but that he "got over it" real fast). Couldn't agree more. It means something, but is no reason to support him politically or vote for him because of his skin color.

Now, Obama is brought back to earth. His approval numbers are a little worse than Reagan's and Clinton's back when they were in the same place, and they were both pummeled worse by their adversaries than he has been. But, for Obama, that has been a tremendous fall from Grace. I think there is good reason. The rhetoric he employed that won him the Nobel Prize hasn't matched up with anything he seems to be trying to do too, certainly for the right, but also for the left.

Sad to say, I do not blame Obama for the outright lies about what he was going to do when president (my favorite being the one about doing away with capital gains for small businesses, a promise which has no real basis in reality and would be unworkable if it made sense, but always got a lot of cheers). It's sad, because I'd like to blame him for that, but the nature of politics has almost guaranteed that everyone who runs for president, or wants to be confirmed as a supreme court judge, or any other important appointment, has to lie these days if he wants to be elected or appointed. We can respect those few who tell the truth, but they generally won't get what they seek.

Anyone who thought that a partisan president in conjunction with with very partisan house and senate leaders of the same persusion, wasn't going to try and put their extreme ideas into effect hasn't been paying attention for the last couple of hundred years. The lesson, of course, is what I was emphasizing over and over again during the last campaign - even if you didn't like McCain because he was too conservative or too liberal or too moderate, depending on your perspective, it is always better to have the president a different party than at least one of the houses, if not both. It pretty much rules out the posibility of ideological extremes controllng the debate. And a paralyzed legislature is not necessarily a bad one. My complaints against Obama have been pretty much covered by the right wing press so I don't need to go into them too much, but here's the snapshot:

- Continuation and ramping up of the Bush administration's policy of trying to defeat the economic woes by massive spending, way beyond anything that has been done before except during the two World Wars. For any of you who actually believe this is all going to mean balanced budgets in the future, let me say, feh! Do you still actually believe what the government tells you?

- The continued salvation of big businesses like AIG (and I hope that is over) while small businesses and individuals go under one after another.

- Substantial attempts to nationalizing parts of the economy. Whether Obama himself sees this as a substantial move towards a quasi-socialism, I can't say. But, it is a move in that direction. Temporary moves in bureaucracies always tend to become permanent and guard must be taken against that.

- The criminalization of warfare. The decision to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a federal court, allowing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who tried to blow up an airplane a week or so ago rather than have him become a prisoner of war, the apparent "Mirandizing" of enemy fighters in warfare, all show a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the uncoventional decentralized warfare we continue to fight. Just as Bush overdid some aspects of fighting the war (except, the actual fighting part), Obama seems to want to tamp it down, as if it is all just a distraction he will get out of when it is politically expedient. If only Al Qaeda would cooperate, great plan.

Politically, the Democrats will not survive a major terrorist attack without severe loss of seats in congress. I'm not so certain that it would mean the loss of the presidency because there are too many factors (expecially, who will the Republicans put up). With the Republicans so botching the wars during Bush's terms, the Democrats have a chance to at least diminish the perception that they are the weaker of the two parties when it comes to national security. But, they are squandering their opportunity already, the same way the Republicans squandered the perception that they were superior in spending discipline. When will it be generally acknowledged that the tendency is to general incompetence?

Having mentioned the recently failed terrorist attack, I'll throw in that the shouting from the right at that Janet Napolitano must go because she said one stupid thing after the thwarted attack ("the system worked") is just nonsense, and, of course, smacks of the silliness of partisanship as it comes from those who supported Bush and Rumsfeld through every bungling move on Iraq and Afghanistan. Napolitano will make her mistakes, as will Obama, and all those he appointed, but mistakes should be substantial and repeated before we insist that they move on. That does not mean we have to agree with their policies, of course, and I have no issue with people arguing with that as much as they like. Speaking of which . . .

- Foreign policy. Humility is one thing. I'm all for humility, and I too am often embarrassed by claims of American exceptionalism in cases where it is undeserved. But, this practice of deeply bowing to the royalty of other countries, of tiptoeing around the bad acts of Iran or other American enemies, has to stop. We have known for a long time that being a "nice guy" doesn't work in foreign policy. Foreign aid to other countries doesn't get you support in the United Nations. Giving terrorists "criminal" trials doesn't stop Al Qaeda from trying again. Handing Russia or China's leaders what they want doesn't mean they will support us. In fact, the world knows that it merely has to say that - there goes that agressive America again - and Obama will have an instinct to back down. He must resist this.

- Don't ask/Don't tell. Although not of the greatest consequence, Obama had an opportunity to get rid of this ridiculous requirement. Instead, he merely said that he will urge congress to it. How is that going to work? Clinton instituted Don't ask/Don't tell by an executive order, as the military is under the president's command. Obama could do the same. The excuse that it will be more permanent if congress does it is a joke, as why not do it in the meantime if you believe it is wrong.

Having now bashed him, there are three areas for which his administration gets credit. At the very beginning of his administration there was a fear that the drug wars in Mexico would quickly explode onto American soil. There may, in fact, be a slow bleed into our country, which is an immigration problem we can lay at all of congress's doorsteps, but the crisis was dealt with and abated.

The other is his somewhat slow decision to increase the troops in Afghanistan. There is no reason for us to be undermanned. In fact, another 30,000 troops from our allies would please me greatly. If the new "humbler" America can't coax that from their friends, then what good is being humble? But, it won't. I'll be surprised if there are 5,000 new troops from all of our allies put together. In fact, a reduction wouldn't surprise me either. This becomes more and more America's war.

The decision to stop having the FBI raid medical marijuana establishments that are legal according to California law. I am no fan of drug use, but believe that possession should not be illegal, and if so, at least not punishable with incarceration. But, the federal government shouldn't be telling California what is acceptable in an area that has traditionally been for the state governments to control.

The 2010 elections

How quickly has died the boast of my liberal friends that the Republican party is over (quite similar to the opposite contention by conservatives only two years before Obama was elected). A loss of congressional seats for the ruling party is common in the first election after a new president is sworn in. Right now, most political commentators expect no less this time around. However, with elections about ten months away, it is hard to say how it will play out. Deaths, a change in the economy up or down, a terrorist attack, might all shuffle the cards. It is nothing to make a prediction that this will occur as it is so common. A prediction in the opposite direction would take much more courage. But, I will be a little more specific and make these two predictions so far in advance, I can only claim to do it because it's fun, and with no certainty. Chris Dodd in Connecticut will be out, but Harry Reid shall survive in Nevada, boosted, if for no other reason, by the best name recognition he has ever had.

I do not believe that the swing in the senate, which is most important for the Republicans, will be great. However, the Republicans need only one or two (in case a Republican or so votes with the Dems) to secure the power of the filibuster, and prevent legislation from going forward.

One might ask if the whole tea party movement will mean anything. I doubt it. Despite the popularity of it, it is a conservative movement and they vote Republican. Eventually, it will either co-exist with the Republican candidates, or ensure that they both lose to Democrats. I'm sure that isn't what they have in mind.

Health Care

One thing the health care legislation should tell us, at least those who do not already know. We are not guided by wise men and women, who carefully craft and read legislation, to then vote upon it according to their conscience. We are guided by party hacks who vote blindly, according to what they are told by their leaders, or what they can get for their states to ensure their re-election. Watching the endless debates, day after day, you realize the worthlessness of even them after the first day, when all has been discussed, usually to mostly empty seats, only to be repeated again and again to more empty seats. If more than a handful of people watched C-Span, that would make it all worthwhile. But, they don't.

I solved the main health care problem (money) last year in these pages by suggesting that the power of charitable contributions augmented by a tax credit rather than a deduction be used to fund those who cannot afford premiums. I have been politely ignored by the 300 million who do not read my words and dismissed by the handful who do. However, there are other problems.

Whether the American health care system is better or worse than others (very debatable) it is not acceptable for us to not have universal health care, at least for those who want it, when so many other countries do. However, that doesn't mean the public option is a good idea either, as in those other countries, they do not have a massive defense budget necessary for the defense of them and us, and they have done away with their free market health care system. It is preposterous to suggest that the free market system would exist in conjunction with the public option. If so, why don't they co-exist in these other countries.

I expect that the house will cave to the senate bill and send a substantially identical one back to them. Whatever quibbles there are - the Stupak amendment, the public option, the senate's give aways to a few states who needed to be bought, will all be ironed out. Without some great event changing things - or even perhaps something so simple (if not sad) as the death of Robert Byrd or his inability to vote - the bill will be sent back in acceptable form and passed. The Democrats in the house have too much invested in the passage of the bill to allow it to falter.

I will not, however, be sad to see an end to problem of not being able to get insurance or being excluded when you have a pre-existing condition or the issue of cancellation of a policy because someone is sick. I note that this does not seem to worry the insurance companies very much, and I have no doubt they have calculated the cost to them and find the benefits of the legislation to them (of which, no doubt, there are many) will more than offset it.

Of the wisdom of the bill in its totality I have my doubts. The cost is exhorbitant. As with all of our efforts now, the money does not exist. The result will, of course, in the long run, will be greatly increased taxation. I cannot see the alternative. I cannot see how anyone cannot see that.

I almost feel as I should pass up on mentioning a sub-committee hearing I watched in December, where Alan Greenspan and David Walker (former U.S. comptroller) where both of those gentlemen, no longer tied to politics, said that our fiscal system is done - over. It cannot survive. If we do not re-do the way we do business as a country, financial failure is inevitable in an uncertain amount of years. The reason is simple. You can't just keep spending money you don't have. No business, no government, can survive this way. They weren't asked, but I would infer that both would give the same answer for the world economy.

The other stuff

I do not expect this to be a year of great change, even if health care is passed, absent some unexpected events of historical importance.

Immigration reform died during the Bush administration and that was with the president behind it. There is no will in the majority party for it and both parties are too beholden to the growing Hispanic vote to risk losing them completely. Expect nothing. It will take some unfortunate tragedy to change this.

There is nothing the Americans have been able to do with respect to the Israel/Palestine question no matter what they try. The only hope will ever be the exhaustion of both sides in fighting and the decision of the rest of the Muslim world to accept some sort of compromise too. Don't expect it soon. I have little faith in Hamas to give up its hostility or in Israel to stop its unfair practices in building more settlements and refusing to tear down those it has in lands it cannot claim as its own. One thing I believe for certain. Israel's days are numbered if it cannot find a political solution. The day will come when missile attacks in the thousands will be so easy for their enemies, that a country that small simply cannot defend itself, no matter how militarily superior it might believe itself to be. I am not sure if these enemies will be detered by a nuclear threat.

International efforts at climate change legislationmay be dead. Copenhagen was a disaster for its supporters. There is only so long that it can be delayed before people start saying, wait a minute, why isn't the expected climate change happening the way they said it would? Besides, with countries looking to their own fragile or broken economies, stuff like this just will not fly.

If Obama is to show anything to us in the handling of foreign affairs, it will have to be with Iran. I cannot say whether Iran is making a bomb as so many intelligence agencies believe or are simply determined to have atomic energy according to the international treaties they have signed onto. But, having promised new powerful sanctions if Iran does not cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency by the end of this year, he will have to take strong criticism if nothing comes of it. Indeed, earlier this past year when he gave into Russia on missile defense, it was supposedly because he wanted their cooperation on Iran. If Russia blocks sanctions in the U.N., that will look as weak and foolish as many thought at the time. In fact, it might call into question his whole foreign policy.

Not much stands to change this year in the Supreme Court. As long as Kennedy mans the center and is the swing vote, great changes in the law are not likely. Although definitively a conservative, he has his limits. One issue that may see some development is the 2d amendment as cases head towards the court which might allow them to find that the individual right to bear arms found last year will apply to the states. In order to do this, the court must find that the right is "fundamental". Don't put to much weight in the theory though, as it has always been just terminology which allows the court to apply whichever of the bill of rights they'd like to see applied against the states. Ironically, of course, one thing is certain. Conservatives who have so often decried the finding of fundamental rights, will be pulling for it, and liberals, who have always liked the use of this doctrine, will be against it, once more proving that partisanship makes everyone a little crazy, not to mention, breath-takingly hypocritical. Now there's a shocker.

The decision is not so clear, although, with Kennedy joining in the holding in the last case that the federal government may not prohibit the right to bear arms, certainly those supporting the right have the advantage. However, when Scalia wrote the opinion for the court in that case, and found the 2d amendment right to belong not to the state, but individuals, his reasoning was criticized by some of the most influential conservative judges and legal commentators. It cannot be said what influence that might have on Kennedy and whether he might want to go along with changing the long accepted right of the state (as opposed to the federal government) to prohibit gun ownership. It would not be difficult to conceive that he might find that the right is "fundamental" to our system of government in the way freedom of speech or some criminal defendant rights are.

Of course, leaving aside my rantings here, Reagan and Clinton both started out with ferocious attacks from their political enemies. Despite his troubles at the outset, the economy rebounded and Reagan was easily re-elected despite obvious physical and/or mental difficulties, suffered under a great modern scandal, and then, after he was gone, became almost legendary, mostly from the right, but respected on the left. Clinton was savagely attacked from the first day in office, but was re-elected and finished up having to constantly defend himself politically, but with the most popular presidency since Eisenhower. So, what is in store for Obama in the future cannot be as easy to decipher as I make it out.

And besides all that, Happy New Year and we will see what we will see.

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 . . . .