Friday, August 31, 2012

Who said it XI?

I know that I did a Who said it? not so long ago, but I feel like another one, and it’s my blog. So, ravaging my beloved library. . . .

1)  If there be among you any man, that is not clean by reason of uncleanness that chanceth him by night, then shall he go abroad out of the camp, he shall not come within the camp: But it shall be, when evening cometh on, he shall wash himself with water: and when the sun is down, he shall come into the camp again. Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, with thou shalt go forth abroad: And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee: For the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.

a) Hammurabi: The Code of Hammurabi b) Moses: The Old Testament c) Izaak Walton: The Compleat Angler D) Woody Allen: Without Feathers

Sticking with religion but going to the other end of the spectrum:

2) So far I have seen nothing which could possibly give me the notion that cosmic force is the manifestation of a mind and will like my own infinitely magnified; a potent and purposeful consciousness which deals individually and directly with the miserable denizens of a wretched little flyspeck on the back door of a microscopic universe, and which singles this putrid excrescence out as the one spot whereto to send an onlie-begotten Son, whose mission is to redeem those accursed fly-speck-inhabiting lice which we call human beings-bah!! Pardon the “bah!” I feel several “bahs,” but out of courtesy I only say one. But it is all so very childish. I cannot help taking exception to a philosophy that would force this rubbish down my throat. “What have I against religion?” That is what I have against it!

a) J.R.R. Tolkien b) H.P. Lovecraft c) Robert Howard d) J.M. Barrie

Switch of topic. Here’s a story about Abraham Lincoln:

3) Tis said that in his younger days, he made a vow that if ever he should find a man uglier than himself, he would shoot him. One day while rambling over the hills with his rifle in his hand, in search of game, he met a man who was exceedingly ugly, immediately he cocked his gun and took aim, but upon being asked by the stranger what he was going to do, if he was going to murder him, Lincoln lowered his gun, told the stranger his vow and that he must prepare himself to meet his fate.

The stranger, after eyeing him for a while and scanning him from head to foot, exclaimed: “Well, if I am uglier than you, I don’t want to live—so just shoot.”

a) Abraham Lincoln b) Stephen Douglas c) Andrew Johnson d) Mark Twain
Let’s turn to sex, which always leads to enjoyable historical discoveries:
4) The vital thing is to ensure the right mixture of seeds for procreation, coarse harmonizing with fine and fine with coarse. Another important factor is diet: semen foods thicken the seeds in the body, others in turn thin and diminish them. A third factor of great importance is the mode in which the pleasures of intercourse are enjoyed. It is thought that women conceive more readily in the manner of four-footed beasts in a prone posture with the loins uplifted so as to give access to the seed. Certainly, wives have no need of lascivious movements. A woman makes conception more difficult by offering a mock resistance and accepting Venus with a wriggling body. She diverts the furrow from the straight course of the ploughshare and makes the seed fall wide of the plot. These tricks are employed by prostitutes for their own ends, so that they many not conceive too frequently and be laid up by pregnancy and at the same time may make intercourse more attractive to men. But obviously our wives can have no use for them.
a) Dr. Ruth Westheimer b) Sigmund Freud c) St. Augustine d) Lucretius
Now, from sex to the pastoral life:
5)  Since my last misfortunes I have led a quiet country life. I rise with the sun, and go into one of the woods for a few hours to inspect yesterday’s work; I pass some time with the woodcutters, who have always some troubles to tell me, either of their own or their neighbors’. On leaving the wood I go to a spring, and thence up to my bird-snaring enclosure, with a book under my arm-Dante, Petrarch, or one of the minor poets, such as Tibullus or Ovid. I read their amorous transports and the history of their loves, recalling my own to my mind, and time passes pleasantly in these meditations. Then I betake myself to the inn by the roadside, chat with passers-by, ask news of the places whence they come, hear various things, and note the varied tastes and diverse fancies of mankind. This carries me to the dinner hour, when, in the company of my brood, I swallow whatever fare this poor little place of mine, and my slender patrimony, can afford me. In the afternoon I go back to the inn. There I generally find the host, a butcher, a miller, and a couple of brick-makers. I mix with these boors the whole day, playing at cricca and tric trac, which games give rise to a thousand quarrels and much exchange of bad language; and we generally wrangle over farthings . . . .”
a) Job b) Thoreau c) Machiavelli d) Peter the Great
I found this one in my Portable Enlightenment Reader:
6) NEGRO, Homo pello nigra, a name given to a variety of the human species, who are entirely black, and are found in the torrid zone, especially in that part of Africa which lies within the tropics. In the complexion of negroes we meet with various shades; but they likewise differ far from other men in all the features of their face. Round cheeks, high cheek-bones, a forehead somewhat elevated, a short, broad, flat nose, thick lips, small ears, ugliness, and irregularity of shape, characterize their external appearance. The negro women have he loins greatly depressed, and very large buttocks, which give the back the shape of a saddle. Vices the most notorious seem to be the portion of this unhappy race: idleness, treachery, revenge, cruelty, impudence, stealing, lying, profanity, debauchery, nastiness and intemperance, are said to have extinguished the principles of natural law, and to have silenced the reproofs of conscience. They are strangers to every sentiment of compassion, and are an awful example of the corruption of man when left to himself.
a) Encyclopedia Britannica b) Gray’s Anatomy c) Thomas Jefferson d) St. Ambrose
And now for love:
7) Though still in bed my thoughts go out to you, Meine unsterbliche Geliebte, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us. I can live only wholly with you, or not at all-yes I am resolved to wander so long away from you until I can fly you into the land of spirits. . . . Oh God, why is it necessary to part from one whom one so loves and yet my life in W is now a wretched life-your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men-at my age I need a steady, quiet life. . . . Be calm, only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together-be calm-love me-today-yesterday-what tearful longings for you-My life-my all-farewell-Oh, continue to love me-never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved L.
Ever thine, ever mine, ever for each other.
a) Lon Chaney b) Martin Luther c) Larry Fine d) Ludwig von Beethoven
Is the next guy just fulfilled, or seriously depressed:
8) There is one reason why we cannot complain of life, it keeps no one against his will. . . . You have had veins cut for the purpose of reducing your weight. If you would pierce your heart, a gaping wound is not necessary; a lancet will open the way to freedom, and tranquility can be purchased at the cost of a pinprick. . . . Wherever you look, there is an end to troubles. Do you see that precipice?-it is a descent to liberty. Do you see that river, that cistern, that sea?-freedom is in their depths. . . . But I am running on too long. How can a man end his life it he cannot end a letter? . . . As for me, my dear . . . I have lived long enough. I have had my fill. I await death. Farewell.
a) Dr. Kervorkian b) Vincent van Gogh c) Seneca d) Adolph Hitler
Make a mistake and someone is always right there to pin the blame on you:
9) Right here, on this very spot, I took leave of him. I wished him success and honor. “You have your instructions,” I said, “from the Secretary of War. I had a strict eye to them and will add but one word-beware of a surprise!”—I repeated—“BEWARE OF A SURPRISE! You know how the Indians fight us!” He went off with that, as my last solemn warning thrown into my ears. And yet!-to suffer that army to be cut to pieces, hacked, butchered, tomahawked, by a surprise—the very thing I guarded him against! Oh, God! Oh, God, he is worse than a murderer! How can he answer it to his country? The blood of the slain is upon him—the curse of widows and orphans—the curse of heaven!
a) George Washington b) Abraham Lincoln c) Ulysses Grant d) Tecumseh
And now for something I barely know how to describe . . . or even follow: 
10) I know this—that all the famous beauties love being put into comparisons; it pays them, you see, for comparisons of the beautiful are beautiful, I think; but I will not do it with you in return. Well, if this stingray is numb itself as well as making others numb, I am like it; if not, I am not. For I am not clear-headed myself when I make others puzzled, but I am as puzzled as puzzled can be, and thus I make others puzzled too. So now, what virtue is I do not know; but you knew, perhaps, before you touched me, although now you resemble one who does not know. All the same, I wish to investigate, with your help, that we may both try to find out what it is.
a) Socrates b) Dan Quayle c) Sen. Joseph McCarthy 4) Jean-Paul Sartre

1) )  “If there be among you any man, that is not clean by reason of uncleanness . . .” You’d think it be Woody Allen’s hysterical Without Feathers, which had a field day with the Bible or any of the others except the one it is. But, I swear to you that this is from The Old Testament: Deut: Ch. 23, 10-14. And, yes, it is exactly what you think it is. thou shalt clean up after yourself. Apparently, not only could a sparrow not fall without God noticing it, but he was quite the sanitarian. 

2) “As far I have seen nothing which could possibly give me the notion that cosmic force is the manifestation of a mind . . .”  Certainly not Tolkien, who was a religious Catholic, but neither was it the creators of Peter Pan or Conan the Barbarian, Robert Howard, but, Mr. Lovecraft, the creator of a literary world where his pathetic protagonists were the victims of a panoply of pagan gods – “the Old Ones,” who I believe were really space aliens. But, I have read too little of him to be sure, and unlike Stephen King, can’t say I really liked him so much. Obviously, he didn’t believe in many or one God himself. I hate to tell you he was also quite the racist and sympathetic to fascism, which does not make him very sympathetic to us. I know J.M. Barrie was at least technically a Calvinist, and I have no idea what Howard believed, though I know Lovecraft wrote to him of his atheism. Perhaps Howard’s views are contained within their correspondence, which I hope to one day peruse, rather than read.

3) “Tis said that in his younger days, he made a vow that if ever he should find a man uglier than himself. . .” Sounds like Twain, but it is actually Lincoln himself, as reported by a local man in a newspaper article. There are too many things I admire about Lincoln to list here, but I identify with him for his love of reading, his belief-even if futile-in the power of reason by persuasion, his lack of fashion sense and his recognition that we all can’t be Brad Pitt, can we? I guess he would have said we can't all be Stephen Douglas, can we?

4) “The vital thing is to ensure the right mixture of seeds for procreation . . .  I don’t think that Dr. Ruth, entertaining as she could be, would go quite as far as this author, but the others all seem like possibilities. Augustine, I do not know of discussing sexuality so carnally, though he confessed to his own long struggle with chastity and took the view that while sexuality was evil, in was good in marriage when related to procreation, fidelity or as a sacrament. Freud, who had many typical 19th century ideas about sex, could easily have written the above, but it was actually written by Lucretius, the Epicurian peer of Cicero and Caesar, whose On Nature delight me no less in my fifties than it did in my twenties. Was any of this correct? Well, actually, his biological reading of genetics seems fairly consistent with modern times, even if he did not have the scientific tools or vocabulary we are used to, but that a child was a product of mother and father was always pretty obvious from its traits. I just did a Yahoo search and there are serious articles about food and semen, so maybe he was on to something there. But, one search is my limit on this and I did not find anything that sounded like scientific knowledge. Although I enjoy human sexuality with respect to the psychology of attraction, life is too short for me to divert myself by researching whether a woman's position or movement affects the probability of pregnancy. You do it. I am just entertained by Lucretius, right or wrong. 

5) “Since my last misfortunes I have led a quiet country life.” I threw Job in their just because of the mention of misfortunes, but among his travails was not quarreling with his friends while playing tric trac. Thoreau makes the most sense, but what the author describes would be a successful life to Thoreau, not time wasted. Peter the Great did spend some time kicking back in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, Germany and England, but he also was a man of great energy and rather spent his time learning to make ships, playing war games or acting the vandal with his drinking buddies. The answer is Machiavelli, who, suffering from the loss of his world, Florence, when it was conquered by Pope Julius II, lived at a Villa in the country for much of the rest of his life where he wrote Il principe, among other things. It was not printed until he was dead a number of years. But, still it is read today by college students and the occasional glint-eyed employer or politician who hopes to find some hint to make his own play for power. Machiavelli actually did not have a long run. When Florence was defeated he was tortured and, though he survived, lost what influence he had and much later died impoverished, quite unlike the impression so many have of him as a successful power behind the throne.

6) “NEGRO, Homo pello nigra, a name given to a variety of the human species, who are entirely black. . . .” I know you think I’m picking on Jefferson again, but, no, he did not write it. He might have read it though. It was in the first American edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1798. Gray’s Anatomy was a possibility (although not published for decades after the EB made its debut in America), but I can’t tell you why I rounded the list out with St. Ambrose, of whom I cannot tell you a thing about his feelings about Africans.

7) “Though still in bed my thoughts go out to you, Meine unsterbliche Geliebte. . . .  And the answer is . . . Martin Luther. No, kidding. Lon Chaney. No, not really. It’s actually Larry Fine of Three Stooges fame. All right, Beethoven. This is his famous My immortal beloved (translation of the German) letter. Who was she? We don’t know. But he really liked her. I guess Larry Fine could have written it. I once wrote in one of my posts, to my own astonishment and humiliation, that Beethoven went blind. Of course, it was deafness that was his problem. But, even Homer sometimes nods.

8) “There is one reason why we cannot complain of life, it keeps no one against his will. . .  I often sneak in a Hitler quote, but this is not it. It was Seneca, who, soon after at Nero’s command did do away with himself. Kervorkian helped people kill themselves. He didn’t kill himself. Don’t beat yourself up if you picked van Gogh. 

9) “Right here, on this very spot, I took leave of him. I wished him success and honor. . . .  Could have been any of them, even Tecumseh. But, Tecumseh's braves were the assailants II believe he was off scouting that day) and General Arthur St. Clair’s army his victims. In any event, the words were George Washington’s, as reported by his private secretary, Tobias Lear. GW did have a temper and perhaps this time was very justified.

10) “I know this—that all the famous beauties love being put into comparisons . . . .”  I was also going to suggest Soupy Sales. Boy is that guy puzzled. I may have cheated a little. Socrates was a real person, but, who knows if he really said it, or if what he is supposed to have said in Plato's Meno all made up. But, as the people he was writing for knew Socrates, I suspect it at least sounds much like something he said in an inimical fashion.

That’s all folks.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Top ten lists during technical difficulties

Son of a . . . my laptop has bit the dust, gone to the great digital landfill in the sky. I had a post I was writing on the death penalty on the word processor almost done, and now I can't get to it until I get a new computer and download everything I save online (well, if it works like it is supposed to I will).

Many years ago, during a televised baseball game, there was a rain delay. To kill time, the producers put on a little show, using their amazing cameras on the rain coming down. It was a little sensation at the time. I have no such capabilities with my blog (though, I'm sure some 8 year old could manage it), but I can write another of my endless top ten lists, so entertaining, you will forget all about Prince Harry and his lack of underwear. Seriously, can you believe that is a TOP news story this week. Note to the media - HE'S NOT A REAL PRINCE. IT'S MAKE BELIEVE NOW. STOP PRETENDING HE IS ANYTHING BUT A YOUNG AND VERY WEALTHY YOUNG MAN WITH A MILITARY CAREER WHO WAS HANGING OUT IN VEGAS. VEGAS . . . REMEMBER VEGAS. WHERE PERHAPS MILLIONS OF PEOPLE HAVE DONE DUMB THINGS, MANY FAR, FAR DUMBER THAN THIS. AND, SINCE WHEN IS IT A CRIME TO BE NAKED? As overblown and partisan as the attacks on Todd Akin are (for once, both in the same direction), at least he said something indefensibly stupid.

Okay, done. Anyway, in the spirit of the rain delay documentary I was talking about before I so rudely interrupted myself, here's some top ten lists, with no apologies if I am repeating any or changing any I've done before:

Top ten beginning reader's books

10) Put me in the Zoo (Can't even explain why I loved this one. Animals, I guess.)
9) The Little Engine That Could ("I think I can, I think I can . . . ")
8) One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (If you know the title, you pretty much know the book.)
7) Goodnight Moon (For pre-readers too. Something magical about it.)
6) Are you my mother? (Scary at points, for me, but a satisfying ending.)
5) Curious George (That crazy little chimp is so cute, but it did worry my tiny brain when he'd get in trouble.)
4) Harold and his Purple Crayon (This book excited my imagination like no other.)
3) Green Eggs and Ham (Why aren't there t-shirts with "I AM SAM I AM" on them?)
2) Go, Dog. Go! ("Do you like my hat?" "No, I do not like your hat." "Good-bye." "Good-bye.")
1) Horton Hatches the Egg (Includes one of my mantras. "I meant what I . . . ")

Some would, of course, put the The Cat in the Hat in there. I thought about it, then unthunk it. The Go, Dog. Go! quote is from memory, not having the book in front of me and various versions of it written by others coming up in the google search.

Top ten Greek philosophers (but not because I agree or disagree with them).

(9 & 10) Leucippus/Democritus. They were the atomists. I can't tell one from the other. Can you?
8) Pythagorus. I can't say I like his mysticism, but the mathematics he worked on is visible right down to the reason this computer is working. It might be argued that he was more the beginning of science than any other Greek.
7) Parmenides. The opposite of Heraclitus in a sense. His ideas that ideas really exist as things and that the past continues to exist seems ridiculous, but, it was developed in a like manner in the last century by Popper. I didn't really get it with him either, but my respect for him is endless.
6) Heraclitus. You can't step into the same river twice. 
5) Zeno. Technically a Phoenician, but born on Cyprus, so I'm taking him. And stoicism, honored in the breach, is still so full of potent ideas today.
4) Epicurus. Because it was about moderation, not hedonism. To bad he was so dogmatic, because he had some great ideas.
3) Diogenes. Because he was entertaining. He was more like the Buddha than a Greek philosopher, and thank goodness he had so little influence or we'd all be walking around naked recreating Rome every generation, but the stories about him are wonderful.
2) Aristotle. Another guy so learned, so brilliant, it is hard to comprehend for us mere mortals. Even if he was so wrong about almost everything, he is so important to us all. 
1) Plato and Socrates. This isn't cheating. Though we know of Socrates from other sources, we would not be talking about him without Plato. As for Plato, I abuse him as a founding father of philosophical apologists for totalitarian government, but he was so brilliant, even if almost always wrong, that writing that all Western philosophy is a footnote to Plato (Whitehead) is somewhat true.  As for Socrates, I celebrate him not for being the inspiration and perhaps mouthpiece for Plato in general, but because of his Apology, and especially because he knew he knew nothing, the first thing I remember learning about philosophy (thanks, mom) and perhaps the most important lesson of all, before he stupidly (though others would say Stoicly) accepted the death penalty. Which of it is Plato and which really Socrates I don't know, but I like to give the master credit for that which I like and the student for those things I don't.

Apologies to Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes (the three of the Milesian school, to whom, according to Popper, we owe critical analysis), Empedocles and whoever else should be stuck in here somewhere.

Top ten deisenberg, visits for the week as of 8/25
Aug 19, 2012, 2 comments
Jan 24, 2007, 2 comments
Nov 18, 2010, 4 comments
Apr 16, 2011, 5 comments
Sep 10, 2007, 1 comment
Jun 13, 2009, 9 comments
Mar 27, 2011, 8 comments

The most popular one this week is obviously because it is a new post. But, for the hell of it - numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6 are among my own all time favorites and number 7 is the actual all time champ. What percentage are spam, I have no way of telling. Certainly some.

Top ten Louis Prima pieces (check out the May 16, 2008 post for more on my Prima obsession. More interesting than you might think, if you are not already a fan.) Some of the following he wrote or co-wrote but all he performed, some in medley.

10) Somewhere over the rainbow and Robin Hood (vocal version).
9) Oh Marie - A song I often have running through my head anytime I talk to someone named Marie.
8) Brooklyn Boogie - The instrumental reprise is so arousing, I may have it too low on the list.
7) Jump, Jive An' Wail - I don't know how you can lump him with any other performer even as he re-writes whatever genre he is playing in, as he does here with a swing piece.
6) Angelina/Zooma, Zooma. About as infectious as it gets.
5) St. Louis Blue's - I've heard several versions of him doing this much covered classic and they are the best I know.
4) Bueno Sera. I've heard him do it fast and do it slow. I love 'em all.
3) I'm just a gigolo/I ain't got nobody. As good now as it ever was.
2)  I wanna be like you. He performed as the ape, King Louie, in Disney's Jungle Book, a very Prima like piece, but made it his own with his unmistakeable performance.
1) Sing, Sing, Sing. I argue in my post, the greatest jazz piece of all time.

Number ten was too painful to choose, so I cheated, as usual, and made a top 11. See my December 10, 2007 post for my take on his masterpiece, Sing, Sing, Sing.

A blessedly short post this week. I'll work on the computer because I know you can't wait.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Me and technology

During the week I occasionally get ideas about writing something for my world beating blog. Sometimes I write several or even many pages and then set it aside for weeks, months or potentially forever. Other times I just think about “stuff” and nary a word makes it to paper. The last two weeks I did a bit of driving heading to various courts and had a number of ideas in the car. Not really being able to write much while driving, I knew I would never remember them when I got around to actually drafting something and in fact now have no idea what those things might have been - just that at the time, they seemed like really good ideas. I think one had to do with the almost universal cooperation and politeness that exists in our society (and is so evident virtually every second of the day when we drive) that dwarfs the conflict and mayhem to which it seems almost all of us, and certainly those in media, dedicate most of our attention. Another had to do with the Paul Ryan and his conveniently heightened interest in the epistemology of St. Thomas over that of Ayn Rand.

The technology has long existed where I could remedy the "writing while driving" problem. Almost 20 years ago I myself would often dictate in the car into a small hand held dictating machine I could operate with the press of a few buttons after doing a deposition. I know that my pathetically simplistic cell phone (rumors that it has a hand crank were started by me) has a record function itself. But, now, the technology is so insane that you can talk to a little hand held computer and a humanlike voice will respond with information. I know, because I see it advertised on television all the time and have also seen friends use it.
The voice is clearly robotic. We have heard these voices for a while now, in the entertainment world, but more often on the telephone when we call a company that doesn’t want to spare a person to actually speak to us. There is something about the clipped syllables of the voice that tells us it is a machine we are speaking with, not a human. I suppose those days are numbered as new technology that will certainly make voices indiscernible from our own becomes available to companies in the future. Already, since we now “chat” online with tech departments, we come up with situations where we are sure the non-response responses we are getting mean we are dealing with a machine, not a person. And, I’m sure that I am not the only one who has asked a techie on the phone if they are real or a computer. In fact, from their responses, I am sure I am far from the only one. We can even easily imagine legislation requiring companies to let us know when we are speaking to a human-facsimile.

Just yesterday I was sitting with my Aunt, who is either 99 or 100, depending on who you ask, while she anxiously handled the tiny flip top cell phone my brother had given her. She had made it clear she did not want it but I could tell she was more interested than she let on. I had him call me while I sat there and showed her how to open it and put it to her ear so she could talk. Today he will program it so she can push just one button and speak to him. None of this is really any different than her use at home of what I still call a “space” phone, which only means, wireless.

New technology, as we can see, is just harder to adjust to the older you are, at least for most people. Yes, some older people gravitate towards it and enjoy it, but many older (and not so much older) people I know are resistant to it, and the older they are, the more resistant. Though I know people in their 80s who have taken to the personal computer, I also know some who have never used one and vow never to do so. Their emotions range from uninterested to angry about it.

I am only in my 50s, but have this same resistance myself, at least to a degree. Sometimes others exaggerate my resistance as they are irritated by my reluctance to play along and just go with whatever technology they want to use. My older brother, who has always loved each new gadget and was the first person I knew to have a beeper and then a cell phone, calls me a luddite. The word comes from a possibly fictional person named Ned Ludd, who reputedly smashed a couple of knitting frames (I join you in not knowing or caring what that is) back in England at the time of our revolution. Some decades later his name was evoked by a group protesting new innovations. If he ever existed, it is not clear he ever did what they claim he did, and General or King Ludd was certainly draped with semi-religious or legendary qualities he never had.

But, I am far from a luddite. Thoreau wrote that we would be foolish not to use the technology available to us and that seems right to me. But, I do move slowly into the realm and there is a method to my madness. As I have said to my evalovin’ sweetheart of almost 23 years, my cell phone is my slave; I am not its. I would extend that to most new technology. I'll get around to it when I do and use it as much as I like and not more.

We are not only foolish to avoid new technology, but really cannot avoid it very long, as it drives out old technology. If we want to function and compete in the world, there is little choice. Sure, you can refuse to listen to music on an ipod, but, while others are almost instantly downloading their music (and apparently your music as they walk by), you will be waiting for your trip to some city where you can peruse dusty records or cds in bins in the one store in your area where they are still sold. A doctor recently gave me a tape set he had with a history lecture on it. I politely took it, but I neither own a tape machine nor have I seen one in many years.  I suppose that many children today will not know what a record is, just like my own daughter and her friends were surprised when I told them that when I was growing up, we did not have personal computers (actually, the first ones became commercially available when I was in my early 20s.) One of her friends, not surprisingly, asked me, “But, what did you do?” We played at soldiers, young girl, wrestled and ran around the block a lot, was pretty much my answer.

I am more resistant to the new technology than I think all of my friends up to the age of about 75. Some think that I am deliberately being difficult, but I’m really not. If a technology is more useful than the old, reasonably priced, adds to rather than subtracts from my life and does not cause some kind of personal, social or cultural problem for me, I do it like everyone else. As I said, even when I don’t want to, I often have no choice. You can’t communicate with some companies by telephone anymore, and many charge more if you do. I can bank cheaper now doing almost everything electronically at my computer or a terminal. 90+ percent of research is now done online. I was told by a law school employee last year that they have started to phase out buying many books (hopefully, she will be retired when they, consequently, will phase her out). sells more digital books than they do print ones.

I have never had any doubt when faced with a new technology, that I will eventually use it like everyone else. I just take my time and don’t see the need to do things just because they are available if I really don’t like them.

I’ve written here before about the curious effect a certain conversation I’ve had with others involving future technology has had on them. That is, when I discuss "it" with people, I find that within weeks they repeat it back to me as if someone else had discussed it with them or they saw it on some television documentary (don’t even bother to comment that you’ve seen it on tv yourself unless you can tell me the name and date of the show). Now, of course, I’m not the only one thinks about future technology (relax - I’ll get to what “it” is in a bit), but, I do talk about this one thing a lot and don’t think it is a coincidence that when I do, they are sure that some anonymous person or documentary they can’t quite remember has also has raised it – when not a single person has ever raised the subject to me nor have I ever seen a single show on it (although there have been many sci-fi stories about it and I’m sure there must be some non-fictional writing on it). I’m amazed that I’m unable to find a single website or blog on this idea, though it is patently obvious it is going to happen soon enough, and EVERYTHING is on the internet. And not that I created or invented anything. All I’ve done is wondered out loud about "it." But, I’ve also noticed that when people repeat it to me, they evoke a fascination with the idea that they did not have when we first discussed it. I guess it needed to percolate or that things become more interesting to us when we feel that we’ve raised it ourselves.

The “it” is simply the certainty that in a generation or so, the technology enabling us to contact the internet, which we old folks had to raise with the help of discs or cds, and now go to effortlessly on machines, some of which can be held in our hands, will be placed directly in people’s heads so that they can communicate with it without using their hands. I suppose they will experiment with adults first, but eventually it will be “grown” in the nervous systems of children who will cure their own diseases and teach themselves anything they want. You could brainstorm and think about what this might bring about but you will fail in reaching all the possible applications, because it is limitless.

I note, however, that most people my age or older, even those who loooovvvveee new technology, often add when discussing it that second time, also repeat my own ultimate conclusion from when we first discussed it. "I hope I am dead when some 4 year old kid can correct me about when Abraham Lincoln was born" or the like. We old folks do not want to see such an enormous change in our lives and that will be enormous.

Because I’ve written about it before, I won’t go into details about how this technology is already here, except to say in short, it involves four things – mental manipulation of computers, computer miniaturization, bio-grafting and shielding our brains from the ill effects of electro-magnetic radiation (if it even needs it). The first three are already being done to some degree. They’ve developed technology for paraplegics who can then mentally operate computers, chips which are an atom thick (this is mind boggling, I know) and we have long been grafting machines to our body. I am not versed on the last issue, but it would be ridiculous to believe we could not shield our brains from em radiation and I’m not sure at all there is a real threat to our brains from the use of devices using it. Some of the initial scare was admittedly fraudulent and I am not aware of any real proof yet. But, maybe.

None of this is something we need to worry about now or in the very near future. When it happens, it will happen very fast though.

My own travails with technology is not very exciting. But, my take it or leave it attitude (or sometimes rejection) does seem to piss people off. I record the following examples for some future anthropologist who stumbles on my blog (with just the power of his mind, of course.)

Cell phones. As best as I can recall, my brother had a cell phone in the early 1990s. They’ve actually been commercially available in some places since the 70s, but no one I knew had one.  I distinctly remember when we were taking a hike, and he tried to cross a deep stream, I had to “a-hem,” him and remind him he had one in his pocket (along with several other devices).

They worked terribly and I could not imagine why anyone would want one. Now, I have, like you know doubt, suffered the feeling of being trapped and helpless when we realize that we’ve left our cell phone home. They still don’t work great, at least compared to land lines. They frequently drop calls, especially when people are driving in certain areas, can be staticky at times and, of course, need a power source.

I continue to use a very basic one. Last year, I, very late, added texting to my repertoire. I was speaking to a friend who wanted me to text him a telephone number. His kids reacted with laughter when I said I didn’t know how to make numbers instead of letters type out. Now, I text as often as I write and I’m aware that some younger people rarely talk at all, just text. A friend of mine was shocked a few years ago when his teenager, whose friend had died, spent hours on the phone texting back and forth with her friends about it with no desire by any of them to pick up the phone and talk.

I got my first cell in the 90s, probably a few years after my brother. The cause was being broken down in my car after fleeing the rare Long Island tornado while at the beach. I decided to get one for “emergencies.” I think you know where that leads. I hated it so much that before the contract ran out I cancelled it, preferring to pay a negotiated penalty to using it anymore. But, very soon, when I took my next job, I realized that they were taking out most of the pay phones and I really had no choice if I wanted any convenience. So, I got another one and have never been without it. It is now my only phone. I don’t just tolerate it, I love it. It enables me to kill time while driving, and dangerous as talking while driving may be, it is supposedly safer than reading, which is my other option (and the one that not surprisingly terrifies people, though I truly believe the rare times I do it, I am more safe than at any other time – that will not go over well in a trial, I’m sure.) The service is unreal now. I have literally been on mountain tops in national parks and used one, though that is still spotty.

I have resisted the smart phone, which almost everyone else I know has. My own phone is internet friendly, but I’ve never used that function and don’t want emails when I am away from home. Of course, I know that I am going to have to do it and soon. The availability of instant communication always drives the need for it dramatically. Now, you can’t just wait to talk to someone for work purposes. You are at an incredible disadvantage professionally if you can’t talk back and forth. It may just be a matter of months for me.

I’m sure I will hate it at first. I am perplexed and saddened by the great love people have for these phones. They do everything on them including take better pictures than I could with my last film camera (Rest in Peace, buddy), ask it verbally for directions, etc. But, of course, I will become as addicted to it as the rest of people that I know.

And, of course, with cell phones, there has been a cultural shock. The rudeness which people exhibit with their phones (and I know I have been occasionally guilty of), talking too loudly, ignoring the people they are with for the people they can speak to remotely and so on is troubling for a lot of people. In time, it will probably iron itself out when there are no generations that don’t see them as having always existed. I guess I will miss that when it happens.

Televisions: This one I am a little different than most people I know personally. They all have great big plasma tv's.  I just don’t like them and don’t want one. Yes, they are big and beautiful, but they are too clear. I really don’t want to see make up on actors, or their warts and veins. It’s gross to me. I don’t enjoy football games any more than when watching them than on my little portable tv. Frankly, I don’t think, for the most part, I would care if I had a black and white portable for most everything I watch, though I admit, one thing plasma is much better for are nature shows, which, left to myself, I really never watch. .

At home in Virginia I watched 95+% of my television on a 12 inch screen. It was all I needed. When offered bigger tv’s by people throwing them out I initially turned them down. But, the complaints from my daughter and friends that when they were there they had to watch it caused me to accept a couple of bigger (non-plasma) sets. The first one I put in the back room and only guests watched it. The second one though, I was forced by my insignificant other and daughter to accept and put in the living room. It also was not plasma, but 3 times larger and much more clear and colorful than my own sweet portable. I can’t imagine what advantage people think they have in watching it. I don’t see it adding to my enjoyment at all. When I moved, I left both large tv’s to my landlord. I really don’t want them (nor does anyone else, as they are not plasma.)

This is not new for me. Back in the 1970s I went to the home of family friends who had a new color television that would nowadays be considered laughable. But, even then I thought why would anyone want a television where you could see Archie Bunker’s sweat glands?

I’m not going to win this battle. No one else I know wants anything but the largest television they can find and with the most modern technology possible. One couple I know now has a 3D television (though they are fairly broke). And, the next television I buy, I probably won’t have a choice.

Cameras: Digital technology in cameras is now, and has been for several years, better, cheaper and easier than film technology. I have no problem switching next camera I buy. But, there is something about digital cameras, which have made taking pictures so much easier for everyone, that it has on the one hand greatly multiplied the beautiful pictures we can see, but also diminished photography. I haven’t made up my mind about photoshopping and the like, but my instinct is to despise it as “cheating.” I say that knowing that I often clean up the grammar on my blog posts after I’ve published. Arguably, you could say it is the same thing. Probably is. You could also say - who cares? Probably no one.

Digital cameras have ruined the careers of some people though. This is a fact, not a fault. Last year, walking around a market I came across a photographer and some of his work. I surprised myself by blurting out, “Let me guess. The digital camera has destroyed your career.” I forget exactly how he responded, but it was on the order of  “Oh, you said it, brother.” C’est la vie.

Facebook: Sorry, folks, but I can’t understand this at all. I do have a facebook account, technically anyway, but I’m told because I have no friends that I can’t even be located on it. Just as well. If I want to go on, I use my daughter’s account maybe two or three times a year. I look at some people’s pages and can’t for the life of me understand the reason people do it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that was remotely interesting even about people I know. Perhaps the novelty is wearing off now and that is why we are seeing the stock tumbling.

Obviously, I blog. There’s a big difference to me. If people I knew were writing about stuff they’ve learned or were thinking about, I’d look at (and have read friend’s and family’s blogs.) Call my stuff stupid, boring or anything you like – it is about something. I’ve asked people why they go on facebook and this is what I’ve learned - they do it to keep in touch with people (but, don’t they anyway?) They don’t really do it (most everyone in my age group and some much younger people tell me this) and, they don’t really like it. From my age group I normally hear far more complaints than good things about it.

Yes, I know there are business reasons to use it and I once used a social network to practice a language. Again, about something.

Actually, I also technically think I still have a twitter account because a few years ago I was curious about what it was. I was mortified and angry when it immediately contacted everyone on my email accounts who also had a twitter account. I signed off forever without ever trying it. Now, understanding what it is, I can only mourn the cheapening and trivializing of what people think.

Perhaps the reason I can’t understand this stuff is the same reason I prefer dealing with people one on one or at most one couple at a time. I do go to parties, and enjoy them, but never expect to have much of a real conversation there. Facebook and twitter strike me like going to a big party where the conversations will be perfunctory and banal and it never ends.

I’m not adverse to learning. Someone explain to me what it is about. I don’t get it.

GPS: Another thing I have no interest in using. Sure, it is better than a map in every way. I get it.  Right now, it has almost dissolved the ability and courage of people in following even the easiest directions. Living in Virginia, I have to admit I was happy that gps would not get you to my house but across town in a dead end.

A friend of mine who was driving with me from my home to a distant city wanted to try it out. There was no need for it to get to the city. That’s pretty easy. But cities are complicated and very easy to get lost in if you don’t know where you are going. Still, it was difficult for us to follow the directions. “This left turn or that left turn?” we asked. They will no doubt get better and better and I imagine very soon will address us by name and coach us through each turn. "Hey, stupid, I said go left there."

Readers: Another device that is just better in every way than what they replace – in this case books, but which I have no interest in using. How could it not be better? A little tablet can hold a 1000 books (or I’m sure more) instead of one book in your hand, and is much lighter, more durable, easier to use, readable in the dark and so on. Not only that, but many older books, which is primarily what I read – are free on it. Free! Don, who occasionally comments here, gave me a Nook for Christmas. I almost never exchange a gift, even if I don’t like it, but I did this time, figuring it wouldn’t hurt his feelings (it didn’t.) Took a credit and bought books from Barnes & Noble, which is what I really wanted.

I know, I’m a luddite. I’ve heard it before.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Wrong again, but at least I got what I wanted . . . or did I?

Well, almost no one saw Sarah Palin coming (though those who don't publicly state more frequently "knew," as always) and few saw Paul Ryan. He was always more visible as a potential choice than she was. As far as the media was concerned, he was more frequently discussed after it became clear Romney would be the nominee and then considered less more recently until the last few days, when rumors began to percolate.

Last week, when I considered the choices, I wrote, like many others, that Romney would most likely go with the conventional choice, Rob Portman. But, about Ryan I wrote as follows: "It would be dangerous to take a budding leader like Ryan out of congress, though he would be my choice."

I stand by that. I think it may be a mistake. Not because he can't be in congress if he loses - he can run in Wisconsin too. But, if he wins, congress loses his reasonably eloquent and very educated voice. Over the course of the last 3 1/2 years his prominence has risen because he seems to know what he is talking about. He did major in economics and political science in college, but, if you went to college, you know that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Perhaps I am too much influenced in believing this by my own lackluster college career, but, it is certainly true of many people. Nevertheless, he began working in congress for others and eventually became a congressman himself. He has both said that he was most influenced by Ayn Rand in growing up, but said that he was more influenced by Thomas Aquinas and rejected Rand's "atheist" philosopy. I usually believe Ryan believes what he says, but I can't know to what degree that switch in time was as a result of political prudence, much as I suspect John McCain's quiet switch to a Baptist church before he ran last time. But, after praising Rand for years (and my favorite libertarian writer, much more reasonable, in my mind, than Rand, Friedrich Hayek), his switch came after he was hammered by Catholics for it. Hmmm.

The reason I wrote that Ryan would be my choice is fairly simple. Though there were budget proposals that I would prefer to his own, his was, out of the ones that were acceptable to me, the most realistic in terms of getting any votes despite its savaging by liberals as pushing grandma off the cliff. He is a conservative through and through, and that usually means I will not be especially heartened by some of his social positions. Still, as Romney is more sanguine when it comes to the tripwires of conservative politics - abortion, religion and sometimes what I see as dislike of or discrimination against against gays, atheists and American Muslims than most of the other candidates, so Ryan is usually relatively quiet when it comes to these issues. His mini-bash of atheism came in the same breath as he threw Rand under the bus. It was not vehement, but moreso stating that he is a believer and dedicated to Cahtolic principles. I am aware of no statement he has made which was anti-American-Muslim but find myself opposed to his beliefs on gay rights. That's not sufficient for me to not want him to win. I am stuck, in this era, that anyone with libertarian leanings is going to likely be socially conservative, in the meaning we currently assign that.

I like the way Ryan speaks. It is moderate in tone, which is simply more pleasing to me; he concentrates on the economy, which I think is wise and, of course, we agree on many things, which is most important. If given a choice, I'd much prefer Ryan to Romney as president.

On one hand, not surprisingly since I wrote he'd be my choice, I am encouraged by the choice. It was clear Romney needed to pick someone who had good conservative credentials, but he chose the one most knowledgeable about economics and who is also the most intellectual of the group. But, I am also concerned. Campaigns are often about things that make me sick; the partisan hate-filled attacks and arguments about things that either don't matter or are just outside of a president's purview. I'm not sure how Ryan will do with those. And, they can't be avoided. One who tried was the intellectual and urbane Jack Kemp as VP candidate in 1996. Ryan reminds me a bit of Kemp, who didn't exactly catch fire and didn't do particularly well in his debate with Al Gore. Guess who one of his speechwriters was? A young man (he's still young - only 42) named Paul Ryan.

Ryan will be pared with Joe Biden, who, is often very congenial, sometimes unaccountably honest to his campaign's distresss,  occasionally whiny and often just kooky. I'd like to think that Ryan would wipe the floor with him. But, a need to be civil and the unpredicatbility of the debate forum and questions, make it far from simple. Additionally, I am not aware of how great Ryan's knowledge of foreign affairs is, and whether you agree with Biden or not, he has spent time on it. That factor will develop over time.

My biggest problem with "my choice" though, is that the VP is a well known pit from which quite credible persons never emerge. If Romney and Ryan win, then Ryan is lost to congress and quite lost to the debate for the most part. He also will have to back up and swallow the very wishy washy Romney, whose desire to please makes him almost as much of a wild card as Joe Biden.

So, I was wrong about who Romney would pick, happy that is my choice after all, and not sure I should be. You know the old saw - be careful what you wish for . . . .

Monday, August 06, 2012

Political update for August, 2012

The Race

It seems remarkable that there are only a few months left until the presidential election. I for one will not be wishing my life away. Although this should be the most exciting election in just about forever, it's deadly dull so far. Still, in the political world, hard to think about anything else. 

Frequently I rant here about the dire effect that partisanship has on us. While it is just an extension of normal arguing between people – probably no better, no worse, I do think we are capable of rising above it someday, in some general way, just as we have made strides in religious tolerance and race relations. But few people seem to even focus on the problem (my being obsessed with it, is an exception). In all cases of partisanship the center of the storm is the logical fault, argumentum ad hominem.  Not surprisingly, it increases when the stakes are highest, as in a presidential race. This year, as always, the partisanship runs rampant. The most frequent comment I get from people these days who are not virulent partisans is pain that each party is focusing too much on the life story and character of the other guy. What I want – what most people I personally know want, is a discussion of how they are actually going to get the deficit down, stop spending as much as we do, re-balance the exorbitant salaries of the federal government with the private sector and stop unfunded pensioning, reduce industry crushing regulations and while they are at it, reduce taxes too. I would not mind a debate about capitalism and socialism without the name calling at all. I don’t care about Jeremiah Wright or Bain Capital, about high school bullying or dope smoking. I don’t care if Romney ever paid his taxes or if Obama never really graduated from Harvard because he didn’t have enough credits (and I’ve heard both now argued by partisans while in the other breath complaining about the attacks on their guy). I am prepared to be very disappointed.

None of the above means you can’t love one pol or dislike another, love one policy and hate another. None of it means that character doesn’t count at all. While I don’t particularly care about whether a politician has been faithful to their spouse or made mistakes in their life (e.g., drug use), I do care if they seem to me more dishonest than politicians typically are or to deliberately make false arguments, display unbridled arrogance, contemptuousness or lack of tolerance for other's beliefs. As the easiest example, more than once I have written here and on other sites that Newt Gingrich was too arrogant, too narcissistic and too partisan to be president – and that is for a politician.

Of course, like everyone else, this is fairly subjective - my opinion. If you try to get away from that, you are on the road to partisanship. Or, at least to being a politician. Here's a quote from Darwin that just came to mind - "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science." The same applies to politics.
So, here is why I am not voting for Barack Obama. I say that instead of here is why I am voting for Romney, because I may very well cast a vote for a third party – probably Gary Johnson, if he is on the ballot where I live. None of my reasons relate to anybody the president knew or “palled around with” (what does that even mean?), his tax returns, birthplace, family, religion, grades or drug use, but his actions and words as a candidate and in office.

1) I was immediately put off by his refusing to abide by his pledge to take public financing when he realized he’d have a financial advantage by not doing so. It was a message that he was a pure politician who did not care what he pledged or said before if it meant.

2) I was disappointed by his implicit approval of his followers use of the race card against Democratic adversaries during the primaries. That includes attacks on Bill Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro.

3) His track record in the Illinois state Senate and the U.S. Senate, as well as his rhetoric while campaigning showed him to be very much, if not exceedingly, of a the tax & spend philosophy. His first term has born that out.

4) I cringed during his inaugural speech when he essentially stated that it didn’t matter how much we spend, but what we spend it on (here’s the quote from his text – “that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.) Very shortly after, he added somewhat veiled language that he was not only in favor of the welfare programs we have, but thought them not enough (The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.”)  Though these statements passed without much attention in the world and sound oh so reasonable, it pretty much told me what to expect. The philosophies are flat out wrong. If there was such thing as humans actually having the capacity to plan the economy in the way he believes possible, then great; but, in this world, as we have repeatedly seen, it is a recipe for disaster and a guarantee of the picking of winners and losers and an attempt at a planned economy. I am all in favor of safety nets. But, we have seen over and over again that the way we do it is financially ruinous, fosters dependence on government and almost begs for corruption.

5) He adopted – and had a big role in initially implementing (Bush sought the candidate’s advice and he was not, by reports, shy) the Bush program of TARP, bailout and preference which has certainly not resulted in a great economy. You can argue all you want it would have been worse without it, but to me that is not only a false argument, as attention has to be paid to the long range goad, but there is no way to tell what would have happened if government allowed the financial failure of big banks and companies who planned poorly or were simply unfortunate, that I and others (including, to some degree, Romney) thought the best course. When he took office he made another comment which chilled me – that we shouldn’t worry, because the “pointy heads” were on it. In other words, more assertion that there are people who can figure out what to do with a planned economy, when we plainly see, over and over again, they can’t.

5) The stimulus bill was an unprecedented spending bill that did not seem to do a thing to stimulate anything. Yet, the administration is talking up another. Even Obama had to acknowledge that the vaunted shovel ready projects were not shovel ready.

6) His other signature piece of legislation, sometimes called Obamacare has been, from day one, a disaster, politically, legally and on its merits. It is a rare piece of legislation that is actually unpopular (regularly a majority opposes), but, to many economists and ordinary Joes, it doesn’t work. It was laughable, if disturbing, that Congress excepted itself from its dictates. It is so deeply flawed that already hundreds of waivers have been issued to company’s that would possibly decide to do away with insurance coverage completely if there weren’t. How is it fair for one company, say a McDonalds, to get a waiver, when its competitors can’t? Its incredibly large size, so that virtually none (if any) of the legislators knew or understood what was in it – itself requiring under any rational democratic scheme must require it to be voted down – kept secret and then rushed through so that there wasn’t even a pretense of the majority of reading it – the sausage making – many would say outright bribery and favoritism -  and the insistence of some, even in the administration, that it is a debt raiser, not reducer, make it a disaster. And, I haven’t even discussed here the controversial - it’s a tax but not a tax - decision in the divided Supreme Court. But, it was not a surprise to learn that when campaigning and

Sen. Clinton was for a mandate, he was dead set against it. He has shown a strong predilection for flip flopping beyond even more famous flip floppers, like Romney and Kerry. I strongly believe, even if Obama wins, that the ACA as a whole will be short lived.

7) His attack on a sovereign nation, Libya, even if we hated its leader and even if most of the world wanted it, which has not attacked us (please, don’t say what about Lockerbie) and then his continuing without congressional authority past the war powers resolution deadline, was an obvious violation of the Constitution, and I think his only impeachable act. Let’s see what candidate Obama said in 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action. As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J.Res.23, which states in part that ‘any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.’”

However, despite some on both sides complaining, even suing over it, most in congress want the president – when he is in their party – to have this power, and did not make much of it. The limitation of the power of the president to declare war is essentially gone, and we can thank Obama for it. Because it was so easy to defeat Libya and we did not lose a plane or man, people don’t take it seriously. But, it is the disastrous precedent it sets that is the problem.

8)He promised to reduce unemployment and failed. That he had opposition in congress is not an excuse. In fact, he said that if the stimulus bill was passed, unemployment would be below 6%.

9) He promised to reduce the debt and failed. In fact, he greatly increased it. Prior to being president, he had voted against raising the debt ceiling when Bush was in office, but now calls that a mistake when he is – I am actually not against a little flip flopping when there is a good reason articulated, but the fact that it is his administration being funded is hardly a good reason. Of course, in this, he is no more hypocritical than almost every other member of congress or commentators in the partisan media world.

10) His plan now is to spend more money, raise taxes on the wealthy, and to continue raising the debt ceiling. This is a surrender in the face of the inarguable belief of almost everyone that we have an unsustainable economic situation that can be remedied and with the example of Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Spain and Italy in front of us.

11) The Civil Rights Division of his Justice Department was so biased in its activities other than to prosecute violations against blacks, that two long time employees, both Democrats, quit, rather than continue. One was forbidden to testify before congress when subpoenaed, but did so anyway. Obama seems to be unconcerned with this, though in two relatively local matters, a quarrel with a police officer and a black college professor in Massachusetts and a fatal shooting in Georgia (the Zimmerman case), he manages to jump in without even waiting for the facts to be developed, never mind a trial to occur. I did not hold the Fast & Furious controversy against him, until the White House took the problematic position of executive privilege against with respect to documents that is hard to fathom (it would have to be for national security reasons to succeed, and that seems highly unlikely).

There are probably other remarks I could make, but this seems a lot for now. I do not agree with right wing criticism of his foreign policy, other than Libya (which actually came from both parties) and what has sometimes been dubbed his “apology tour.” Overall, his foreign policies do not differ much from Bush’s or Romney’s. I actually approve of his handling of Israel, which is in the tradition of all modern presidents, and I do not see him as anti-Israeli. His positions on gay rights, which is not a major issue for most people  – don’t ask, don’t tell, and gay marriage (even if it had to “evolve”) are the right ones in my book.

Romney – oh, well

It had to be Romney. Other relatively moderate candidates who had a chance were just not running. People like Daniels, Jeb Bush, Christie just didn’t want it or knew they wouldn’t make it. Huntsman was reasonable, but he is a Dukakis type, as is Tim Pawlenty. Exciting only to those in a semi-vegetative state. Nothing either did or said was interesting and any attempt at a stemwinder of a speech by him just came out unconvincing. Ron Paul never had a real chance, and less of a chance in a general election where every single thing he said would have been caricatured and mocked. The evangelicals could have won the nominee for the tea party crowd with a few candidates, but Cain self-destructed on women (he probably would have one way or another at some point), Bachmann and Perry made themselves look ridiculous, Gingrich is too Gingrich and Santorum was only a serious contender because he was the last man standing.

Romney is relatively calm, listens to his advisors and sucks up to almost everyone unless they are a conservative enemy. Frankly, despite the fact that I prefer him to Obama because of economic policy, I have grave doubts whether he will make much of a difference or if he too will crack under the weight of needing immediate results. And, just as I saw him in 2008, when my choice for McCain was easy, I view him as a used car salesman.

I could care less how he did in business. It means nothing when it comes to being president. Only present policy and courage matters. Courage means telling congress you will veto any budget that does not significantly reduce the deficit. If the house passes a budget that the president will sign, the senate, even if still in Democratic control, will pass it.

Our foreign policy will not change a whit because of Romney getting elected.

Romney’s best chance to win is by stating that he will, unlike Obama, do a Ron Paul on the budget. It will electrify conservatives, who really don’t think much of him, and inspire more independents than it will turn off.

Romney’s Veep

If I am not too late to predict by the time this comes out, I am jumping on the super-conventional bandwagon and going with Rob Portman. Here’s why – Rubio is very charming, and though I don’t think the problem regarding when his parents came to America is going to be big, but he is very young still and doesn’t have the executive experience that conservatives claim is important. But he is still my second choice. Thune has some tea party trouble (voting for TARP and a bank bailout) and has dipped into the pork barrel, plus also has no executive experience (though a decade older than Rubio); but he is my third choice. Haley (South Carolina governor) has had a sex scandal in her past (whether true or not). Jindal (Louisiana governor) doesn’t really have any sort of national following, comes from a small state and bombed out on his biggest public speech. Christie is too much of a lightning rod and may overshadow Romney. Jeb Bush is a Bush and both he and Daniels aren’t interested. That takes care of all of those who have the supposedly important executive experience (I see it as sometimes a plus, but not necessary). It would be dangerous to take a budding leader like Ryan out of congress, though he would be my choice. That leaves Rob Portman, who fits well into the Romney steady, scandal free and not unexciting requirement, among those frequently mentioned, but, we know there can always be a surprise. Romney isn’t big with surprises, so, I’m going with the consensus. Portman also has no executive experience and tries to cover it with his time in his family’s small business and a couple of years in the White House under Bush 1.

What really matters is that the VP choice doesn’t hurt too much with your own base, because no one else is going to care much at all.

And what if?

I hate to say it, but right now, Obama is still winning. I say this because he leads in virtually every single poll in swing states, the ones that really count, and is almost tied in the one or so he isn’t winning (NC). That means he wins even if he loses the popular vote.

So what happens ifhe wins? No, I do not predict the end of western civilization, but I am hopeful that the economic turn down is significant enough so that he must change his ways, even if it means angering everyone at MSNBC except Joe Scarborough. But, also, it will mean that conservatives in the Republican part will get a chance to say – see, we went with RINOs (cough, cough), I mean moderates twice and lost. Time for a real conservative.

I disagree with them that this would be their best move, but it probably will be the result.

A Flake

There was some news recently that Sarah Palin was endorsing Rep. Jeff Flake for Arizona’s other senator. Because she means ratings and circulation, the media is more interested in her endorsement than it is in the candidates themselves. I could care less one way or the other who she endorses, and find it sad that the media still pays attention.

But, I have liked Flake for a few years now since I saw him courageously take on the leaders in his own party by attacking the seniority system and on irrational earmarks. Like me, he leans libertarian, though possibly more than I do (I always say I “lean”  libertarian, partly because I have seen Libertarian (capital “L”) conventions and . . . OMG, partly because I am still working on a credible theory on what areas should government actually intervene in and also because I just hate joining or labeling myself. Anyway, back to Flake, he has been unafraid to buck his party in big votes too, and that is something that always impresses me, even when I don’t agree with the vote. He is very anti-spending and surprisingly voted to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (though he is very socially conservative – much more so than fellow Mormon, Mitt Romney – and has, for example, voted to amend the constitution to make marriage hetero only). His immigration bill to give citizenships to foreign students who get Ph.d’s here should pass (there should always be exceptions, of course) as soon as possible.

If not for the fact that he is a Mormon, I’d say he would have been a good choice for Romney’s Veep. Maybe next time.

Peace, y’all.

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 . . . .