Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sport lists

I don't spend a lot of time on sports in this blog because sports has not been a big part of my adult life. But, once in a while, why not? Here are some top ten lists.  I can allow people a little argument, but after a week or so I am going to make these lists official and binding on everyone in the world unless you can change my mind. The opinions are mine, but the stats, of course, I had to look up.

Top twenty NFL Quarterbacks

I'm considering retired players only to avoid dealing with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers (who I sometimes call Aaron Brown. I know, I know) and Drew Brees, all who would fit in her somewhere. My opinion here is not based on Super Bowls, though winning championships is worth something, but who was the most talented and accomplished in my opinion.

Historic (Started watching football in the mid-60s and Unitas and Starr are the first QBs I remember).

1. Steve Young - I know this will be controversial so I'll defend it a bit. First, he spent the first seven years of his career when he would have the most energy and be most uninjured wasting it in the USFL, playing in Tampa and then sitting behind Joe Montana, also one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. They should have traded one of them. If so, they might have would have won even more championships because both couldn't play at the same time and they could have gotten some great talent with a trade. I would have traded Montana and there would be no disputing my putting Young first at all. Even when he got a rare chance to step in and play in SF he could be awesome. I still remember in his first year when he came in for an injured Montana and threw 4 touchdowns like he had been starting for years. But, in the seven years that it was his show (when he was healthy) he won the Super Bowl, won the passing title 4 times (only a few others have done that), set the standard for being the highest rated quarterback - is still the highest rated of all retired QB's and still remains no. 3 overall despite the fact that it is so much easier now that no one is even allowed to frown or think mean thoughts about the QB when they tackle him.  He is also, and I think this is sometimes overlooked about him, the no. 3 rushing QB of all time (and the two ahead of him, Vick and Cunningham, cannot begin to compete with him overall). He also rushed for more TDs than any other QB. Many other records but that is for Wikipedia. He did all this despite being injured over and over including multiple concussions.  For what it is worth, though I don't factor it in, I also always thought he had a great attitude, being competitive, but keeping it in perspective.

2. Dan Marino - Just nicked by Young. He is probably even a better passer, although he could not run to save his life. His arm was incredibly quick, powerful and accurate.

3. Dan Fouts  - And if Marino wasn't the greatest passer, then it might have been Fouts. I wonder what would have happened if he played on a really good team.

4. Sonny Jurgenson - A personal favorite. He could pass, run, everything. But, passing was his forte and still at age 40, even splitting time, he won the passing title.  

5. Joe Montana - He was a great QB and I need say nothing more about him, such is his fame. I know many people think he was the best and I'm not knocking him at all by placing him 5th. I just think the other four were better.

6. Johnny Unitas - He was the greatest for many years and some would put him at the top given the rigor of the game then and his great consistency.

7. Bart Starr - Unitas' competition. He was the NFL's Russell to Unitas' Chamberlain.

8. John Elway - Some surveys rank him first. He had an amazing ability to come back and went to the Super Bowl, not always with the best team, repeatedly.

9. Brett Favre - Probably as good as Elway and maybe better. You have to make choices and I just like Elway better. But there are those who think he is the best ever.

10. Len Dawson - Take away Namath's fame because he won the first Super Bowl for the AFL and Dawson is the greater of the two. But, Dawson won the big one the next year, in the last game for the AFL. His accuracy was incredible.

11. Roger Staubach - In his time, maybe the best for a few years.

12. Jim Kelly - If he could have won just once it would have been justice.

13. Fran Tarkenton  - My favorite scrambler and yet a great passer. Reminds me of Jurgenson a lot.

14. Kurt Warner - A great story, coming out of arena football. It's possible I might have him way too low.

15. Terry Bradshaw  - Not as talented as many others here, particularly as a passer, but much better than most. His clutch play, toughness and many rings earn his entry here.

16. Troy Aikman - He seems forgotten now in the era of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but he was in their league.

17. Daryle Lamonica - Lamonica was probably my favorite quarterback, along with Dawson, back in the 60s, and not just because of the Heidi game (if you don't know what that means, look it up, as it somewhat changed television programming). He certainly had great receivers, but someone had to put the ball in their hands and great quarterbacks tend to have great receivers. He was very clutch. I always thought Oakland had a chance to win if he could get the ball.

18. Joe Theisman - Best known for what Lawrence Taylor did to his leg, but I thought a great player.

19. Joe Namath - I never liked Namath's game all that much, but you can't deny that he helped change football forever. He did not have great career stats, but did have a few outrageous years. Still, he helped make the NFL what is by winning that first Super Bowl for the AFL in 69, famously guaranteeing it before the game. I am also influenced by Bill Walsh's and Don Shula's high opinion of him because if I could have anyone advise me on drafting a QB, they'd be up there (I know Walsh is dead - leave me alone).

20. Bob Griese - The Dolphins were arguably the two greatest pro team of the 1970s and Griese was their guy except when injured.  He was there for their two great Super Bowl years, though I suppose you could argue Mrs. Griese could have successfully quarterbacked them those years.

Sorry Warren Moon.  I'm sure others. Everyone can't be on the list.

Prehistoric times

1. Otto Graham

2. Y.A. Tittle

3. Norm Van Brocklin

4. Sammy Baugh

5. Sid Luckman

Top ten NBA centers to date

This includes active players, but only one makes the list.

1. Wilt Chamberlain - I know Russell won all those championships and Chamberlain just one.  Certainly being part of a championship team, and more so, many championships, means something.  I just find it a ridiculous contention though to suggest that it is the main factor though I hear that even from renowned commentators. However, it is a factor that is randomly applied only to some players. For example, after Russell, the player who won the most championships in the NBA is Sam Jones, who won 10. Certainly he was a very good player. I don't know if you would say he was great.  I don't think that anyone would say though that he was even remotely as good as Oscar Robertson, who won only one. Some other players who won multiple championships: Robert Horry, a very good, but certainly not a great player, won 7. John Salley, also a good player, won 4. Winning championships means that someone was on the best team, and perhaps was a big part of it, but it does not necessarily mean he was better than the next guy. You can wiki Chamberlain's stats. Arguably, he was the greatest player, relative to other players at the same position and at the same time, in the history of major pro sports. No one else has approached his personal dominance. His 100 points and his 55 rebounds in games just show how far ahead of others he was.  Other than his free throw shooting problems, he could do anything. He even once just decided to lead the league in assists, unheard of for a center, and just did it.

2. Bill Russell - All that being said about winning championships being overused, Russell is number 2 because it does mean something and winning 11 can't be ignored. Though he cannot compare with Chamberlain stats, he is arguably the second greatest rebounder in history and perhaps the greatest shot blocker - they didn't keep stats for it when he played. He certainly was the first great shot blocker and I can see him in my mind's eye coming across the lane to block a shot with incredibly grace and timing. He was not a great shooter by any stretch (his career free throw percentage is barely better than Chamberlain's and his field goal percentage nowhere near as good)  and that is the great difference between him and number 1.

3. Akeen Olajuwon -  Now it gets interesting. You know Russell and Chamberlain are at the top of the list. Who is next? I'd say that Olajuwon was. Physically, he was a phenomenon.  It seemed like he could jump twice in the time it took most other centers to jump once. He had no serious weaknesses.  Like many centers he was not a great free throw shooter, he could hit more than 7 in 10, so unlike with Russell, Chamberlain and many other great centers, it could not be automatic to foul him at the end of the game. Even a great big man cannot dominate these days to the degree Chamberlain or Russell did because so many other players are near their size or bigger now, if not as talented. So, his stats don't look like theirs, but for his time, his speed, jumping ability and all around play was remarkable. For some reason he was always listed as 7'0", but commentators regularly pointed out and he acknowledged that he was actually two inches shorter and not that big for a center. It didn't stop him from being a dominant rebounder and among the greatest shot blockers ever.  He is one of 4 players ever to have a quadruple double (4 stats in double figures).  He was clutch and it always seemed to me that he won the duels between the other big men when they matched up.

4. Kareem Abdul Jabbar - No doubt that many would say that Jabbar belongs in the top three and some would even argue no. 1 or 2, so awe inspiring are his stats. I put him just below it. He played a long time and in some categories he is the all-time career leader.  Other than the usual free throw shooting problem, he had no weaknesses. But, I do not think he was as great a leader, as great a rebounder or as great a shot blocker as he could have been.  But, he was one of the greatest scorers. The sky hook made him the last and probably greatest hook shot artist in pro basketball and when he was on, it was unstoppable.

5. Nate Thurmond - You may not have heard of him, as his career ended in the 70s and he is not really celebrated outside of San Francisco.  But, famous or not, putting him 5th is not really a tough call. The NBA recognized it in celebrating its 50th anniversary, named him as one of the 50 greatest players ever. Chamberlain and Jabbar recognized it, both saying he was the toughest defender they ever faced - which is saying a lot.  He was considered, after Russell, the greatest shot blocker of the 60s and 70s and though you can't measure it, many thought he set the best picks in NBA history. He played much of his career against Russell and Chamberlain, the two greatest centers ever and held his own better than anyone else.  He was the first man ever to make the quadruple double, including blocked shots, and he did it late in his career.  I like this story he tells about when Chamberlain and he played together in San Francisco and then Chamberlain was traded. Chamberlain took him aside and said that Thurmond shouldn't think Chamberlain was being traded because Thurmond was the better player. It was, Chamberlain said, because he was making $75,000 and Thurmond only $20,000. But, he was wrong, says Thurmond. He was only making $14,000.

6. Shaquille O'Neal - Another center who could not shoot fouls. But so what. He was so dominant in his time because of his physical size and prowess that with even a decent team he was close to unstoppable in the paint. No one could handle him there. Though 325 pounds he could also run and play the fast break. He's famous enough and recent enough that I will stop there. 

7. David Robinson - Robinson is not as famous as many of these other guys but he deserves to be here. He accomplished what he did despite missing what should have been his first two years while he served in the Navy. He is the third center with Thurmond and Olajuwan to achieve a quadruple double (though it is possible, maybe even likely that Chamberlain or Russell did it before they counted blocked shots). He is one of 5 players to score more than 70 points in a game. He is the only player other player than Jabbar to lead the league in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots (again, perhaps Chamberlain and Russell could have done it if they counted blocked shots and Olajuwon just missed doing it, finishing second in scoring once). Other than Jordan, he is the only player to win MVP, defensive player of the year and rookie of the year (again, Olajuwon just misses, as he was a rookie the same year Jordan was but got the next most votes) and was the only player ever to be in the top 5 in rebounding, blocks and steals in a year (guess who just missed?). And though no threat to be the league leader in free throw percentage, he was better than any other center on this list other than Moses Malone, making nearly 3/4s of his shots.

Tie 8 & 9. Moses Malone - Moses (who started in ABA) was not dramatic. But, he was dominantly effective. He was one of the greatest rebounders, third all time after Russell and Chamberlain, though they had far less competition. He was by far the greatest offensive rebounder in NBA history since they started counting.  He was the seventh highest scorer of all time, just missing the exclusive 30,000 point club by probably a quarter of a season, and averaged over 20 points a game over 20 years. He was a very tough defensive player, stealing by far more balls than any center other than Olajuwon, and at the same time, almost never fouled out, going over 1200 games straight at one point without doing so.

9. Elvin Hayes - I couldn't choose between Malone and Hayes. It is actually eerie how close some of their stats match up. Hayes came along when Jabbar did and was overshadowed by him. But, he was a great player and excelled in almost every category.  He  is ranked 8th all time in scoring (just barely above Malone's NBA total), number 5 in rebounds (just below Malone's NBA total), 21st in block shots per game, but it has to be recognized that they did not count them his first five years when he was visibly in his prime and he was much shorter (only 6' 9") than virtually every other player ahead of him on the list.

10. Tim Duncan - This was the tough one. I had to leave out Bob Lanier, Dave Cowens, Wes Unseld, Willis Reed among a few others.  Arguably he is a center/forward, but I think that is only because he played next to Robinson for years and they had to call him something else.  I would say he is really a center. They are probably the best all time twin towers.  Some would argue that the quiet Mr. Duncan was even better than his taller teammate. He is among the all-time leaders in almost every category you would think likely for a center. Among active players, he is the no. 1 career leader and no. 2 per game leader in blocked shots;  the no. 2 leader in both career and per game rebounds, and no. 6 career and no. 10 per game leader in scoring.  Anyway, you get it, great player.

I'm going to perplex some with this, but I think George Mikan is overrated because he was the first great center.  I also was not a big Bill Walton fan. But they are in the top 15 or 20. Of course, as men my age tend to agree, Ralph Sampson could possibly have been the best of them and we were all disappointed he didn't make it. I do think it was mostly because of injuries, but, such is life.

Ten best athletes turned actors

Lots of them make the cross-over, but these were the most accomplished.

1 - O. J. Simpson - Okay, he's a murderer. Most of us think so. But, he is also one of the top running backs of all time.  I didn't say these guys were great actors. His best stuff he did, The Naked Gun series.

2 - Jim Brown - Well, maybe Jim Brown was a better running back than O. J. but he was certainly a better actor. The Dirty Dozen, 100 Rifles and Ice Station Zebra were his most famous movies, I think, but he acted in tv and film since I was a little kid right up until a few years ago.

3. Bruce Jenner -  I know, it wasn't much, but he did have a career. He even starred on CHIPS  for just a little while.

4. Chuck Norris. Chuck was the real deal (and seemingly a really nice guy).  He competed in the 60s up into the early 70s. Accurate martial arts fighting records are difficult to obtain for back then and I have read an interesting analysis indicating that he lost more than he claims in his biography, although he lost to top competitors, and that he did not win quite all the championships he claims. Nevertheless, he did win a lot of championships and several times beat Joe Lewis, probably the most famous martial artist of that era and probably everyone else worth beating at the time.  Personally, I could watch his Ranger Walker the rest of my life and loved some of his B movies. His fight scene with Bruce Lee in The Way of the Dragon is one of the greatest I have ever seen. My favorite Norris movies - Firewalker, Lone Wolf McQuade, Code of Silence ,The Hitman, Octagon, Silent Rage and An Eye for an Eye. That's quite a few.

5. Bruce Lee - I didn't know where to put him. He really didn't compete much and it is really hard to tell anything about when he did. I wrote a whole post on his incredible career and abilities (1/21/08 - The Incomparable Bruce Lee).

6. Arnold Schwarzenegger -  I know, he turned out to be a big jerk, and it is hard to call body building a sport, but, if rhythmic gymnastics is one, so is body building. I don't need to review his film career. You know it.

7. Terry Bradshaw - Oy. I hate to include him, because I have trouble calling what he does acting. But, even if it is not heavy lifting, he's been in a few things now including a few years ago, Failure to Launch, and he is not playing himself. Believe it or not, he actually has a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. Why, I ask? Why? On the other hand, he is the only one to make this blog twice today.

8 & 9 Johnny Weissmuller - You know, Tarzan.  And, while we are at it, Esther Williams - All those movies featuring her swimming. Why? Because she was an actual national swimming champion and people seemed to like it at the time. Unwatchable now, but, lots of things are.

9 &10.  I'm cheating here (it is just a stupid list) giving a tie for four football linemen.  Alex Karras. Okay, so maybe playing Webster's dad in Webster isn't great acting, but it went on for years.  Merlin Olsen. Another great lineman who had a real career, especially on Little House on the Prairie and Father Murphy.  And yet another lineman, Fred Dwyer,  starred in tv's  Hunter. Then there's Rosie Greer.  I can't think offhand of anything he acted in, but I know he did. Can't be worth looking on imdb. Why did so many linemen become actors? Maybe it's like that joke. Question - Where does an 800 lb. gorilla sit? Answer - Anywhere he likes.

Honorable mention to Chuck Connor, who was a real actor, but was also one of the few people to be an NBA (very early on and on a championship team) and Major League Baseball player (but not so good). But, mostly, he was an actor, most famously in The Rifleman. It's my list and I refuse to consider Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Jordan as actors, even if they did, kind of, sort of act. Life isn't fair.

My guys

This is a list of my favorite players in various sport and mostly when I was growing up. Most of them were the best or among the best in their sport, but they happen to be the ones I admired most:

Baseball - I was not that into baseball and once devastated by the Mets defeating the Orioles in 69, which I considered a travesty of a flash in the pan beating one of the greatest teams in sport history, I stopped watching altogether (well, after Baltimore won the next year). But, when young, I was a Hank Aaron guy more than any other. I still consider him the all time home run king, steroids having tainted that record completely. He was so well known for his hitting it was little recognized that he was an exceptional fielder as well, winning 3 Golden Glove awards. There was a time I knew all his stats.  I am not going to argue that Aaron was greater than a lot of hitters. Some of his records are related to incredible longevity. Now that, like championships, counts for something, but it has to be taken into account as well in comparing players. I was a Willie Mays fan too and probably saw him as the best all around player I ever watched, probably even better than Aaron. I preferred Willie's Giants to Aaron's Braves, but, for some reason I can't even explain, identified with Hammering Hank. Perhaps it was the nonchalance he embodied, rather than the ebullience Mays exuded. I also was a big fan of Eddie Matthews, a much less well known home run hitter who played 3d base on the same team as Aaron for a number of years, during which they hit 863 between them over 13 years - still the record for teammates. Aaron hit more, but I bet Matthews hit them further. His power was exceptional. And perhaps it was because he wasn't as revered I found myself rooting for him. That would be typical of me. And, the Robinson boys, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson were big favorites of mine. Frank's career is comparable to Aaron's in many ways, if Aaron was slightly better. But, Frank also won a triple crown, one of only three since Mantle won one in 1956. Brooks was not as great a hitter, though he was good enough, but I thought he was the best fielder I ever saw. His 1970 playoffs was the one of the great performances I've ever seen in sports, both in the field and at bat. For pitchers, three stood out for me - Juan Marichel, Fergie Jenkins and Bob Gibson. The first two were great, and they were my favorites, but Gibson was probably the greatest pitcher of the 60s (I can tell you literally nothing about Major League baseball after that other than a handful of names). His 1968 earned run average of 1.12 (that one I did not need to look up) is almost unbelievable. It was as someone had hit 85 home runs in a season.

Basketball - this was the sport I liked to watch the best and the one I felt most competent. I had a lot of favorites, so I will try and keep the list down. Among centers, no doubt I was a Nate Thurmond guy. He was an underdog whenever he faced Chamberlain or Russell and I wanted him to come out on top.  Aside from him, probably Connie Hawkins, whose autobiography Foul I think one of the very best sports biographies I ever read (not that it is really that many). I felt he was among the greatest forwards I ever saw. He played most of his career in the ABA and when the two leagues merged was still very good, but no doubt he had already played his best years. While he was being blackballed by the NBA, which later settled with him, for being mentioned during a point shaving scandal (never charged, indicted, etc.), he was the MVP of the American Basketball League, then a Harlem Globetrotter for 3 years, then the MVP of the ABA for a year, another year was injured a lot, and then finally got into the NBA. He had a great first year, another good one, then some mediocre ones. He played beautifully, sometimes it seems almost magically, in a high flying class with players like David Thompson, Dr. J and Elgin Baylor (this was all pre-Jordan). Although my memories of him are not as fond now as they are for Thurmond and Baylor, I was probably in my youth most impressed by Oscar Robertson, who I thought was the best guard in history up to that time. Arguably, ever, but no one is going to say you are crazy if you put Jerry West or Magic Johnson up there with him. But, he has some claims of his own. He once averaged a triple double for a season - points, rebounds and assists. Most players are happy if they can do that one game in their career. Not Chamberlain or West or Johnson or Bird or Jordan or Kobe or James has ever done it for a season. Nobody. Aside from being one of the top scorers ever, he is arguably the greatest assist man of all time even though Johnson and Stockton have bigger numbers (it is argued they record assists much more liberally these days). They might be better, but they definitely had much better players to pass the ball to most of their career. And, he was the greatest rebounder for a guard in the league, possibly ever, having a higher rebound per game average over his career than even the much taller Johnson. No doubt he could not win a championship until he teamed up with Jabbar for a magical year in '70-'71 when they won the Milwaukee Bucks' only title, but that was because he did not have many top players on his team. The Lakers and Celtics were loaded and won most years. For me, Robertson was basketball's Aaron - incredibly talented, if not the most talented, but something understated about him. But, that doesn't mean he wasn't intense - he was. I love this recollection by NY Knick Dick Barnett: "If you give him a 12-foot shot, he'll work on you until he's got a 10-foot shot. Give him 6, he wants 4. Give him 2 feet and you know what he wants? That's right, man, a layup." My other guys - Dave Bing (poor Dave, a very talented man, became one of Detroit's mayors) and the ever graceful James Worthy. There were much greater players. I just liked them for some reason.

Football - Gale Sayers was my guy. In my humble opinion he was the greatest running back I ever saw. If his career was not ended prematurely, many more might feel the same way. The year he suffered his first big injury, tearing ligaments, he had a 6.2 per carry average. He came back a year later a different man, but still led the league in rushing. A second major injury changed everything and though he continued to try, that was really it. He still has some records, including the highest career kickoff return average. I was not really into his biography I am third when I was young or his tragic friendship with Brian Piccolo, who died of cancer, but it says a lot about him. I was also a Don Maynard fan. I liked his long ball catching feats and his quirky personality (why do I remember he had muttonchop sideburns?) Even though passing/receiving is so much easier these days, given quarterback and receiver protection rules, Maynard still has the longest reception career average for anyone who has caught more than 600 balls. Though I was never a Jet fan, I also liked (the almost unlikeable) defensive end Mark Gastineau. I was impressed by his talent, speed and power, not his personality. I hated the sack dancing though - hated it. I still remember vividly being in a diner with Bear at 3 something in the morning with Gastineau sitting in the booth behind us, trying to defend himself to his then wife, that he wasn't cheating on her. I'm pretty sure it was both politeness and fear that kept us from laughing until they left. Ah, memories. When Lawrence Taylor became a Giant it made me want to watch them. I preferred when the other team had the ball. Steve Young, Jerry Rice and a few other running backs from my youth stir memories too - Leroy Brown, Jim Nance, Floyd Little and Mercury Morris, the last probably my favorite.

Track - I probably have too many favorites here to go through. Historically speaking, I revered Pablo Nurmi from Finland (see my 4/11/07 tribute to him - The Great Paavo Nurmi). Growing up though, I idolized a middle distance runner named Peter Snell from New Zealand and a longer distance runner from Australia named Ron Clarke. Both set a lot of records, especially Clarke who set 12 world records in less than a month and a half in 1965 and I think had 17 overall. Yet, he never won an Olympic Gold Medal. In recognition of his greatness, the legendary Emil Zapotek gave him his 1952 gold medal, writing that it wasn't because of their friendship, but because he deserved it. Snell's career was shorter and more dramatic. He won the 1960 800 meter Olympic Gold medal, then the 800 meter and 1500 meter Olympic gold in 1964, set 5 world records and then shocked everyone by retiring in 1965, saying he had other interests. He later moved to America. In 2003 he became the national (America) orienteering champion for men 65 and older. Not bad. Of sprinters, Michael Johnson (200-400) meters and Lee Evans (400 meters) were my favorites, though some would say 400 meters isn't a sprint. But, the greatest race I ever saw was the Olympic 800 meters in 1972, won by Dave Wottle. I put the video on a prior top ten list (3/25/12). Worth watching it. Keep your eye on him the race through. Wow.

Tennis - I liked Ivan Lendl, even if he could be hard to like. I disliked Connor and McEnroe, and frankly most anyone with a temper. Earlier, when Aussies dominated, I preferred Tony Roche to Rod Laver, though Laver was the best of his time. In more modern times, I preferred Pete Sampras to Andre Agassi and Roger Federer to Rafael Nadal, though I personally like Nadal better. Doesn't everyone?

Hockey - I just never liked hockey. Period. I guess Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretsky.

Boxing - I was only really interest from the 60s through the 80s. But, in those eras - of course, Muhammad Ali. Sugar Ray Leonard is probably my favorite ever. Alexis Arguello I loved for the poetry in his boxing and his gracious personality. Back in the 70s and 80s my favorites were often light heavyweights and welter/middleweights. There were a number of well matched Muslim convert light heavyweights champions - Matthew Saad Muhammad (Maxwell Loach), Eddie Mustafa Muhammad (Eddie Gregory) and Dwight Muhammad Qawi (Dwight Braxton). MSM (now a homeless man I've read) was my favorite among them, but he lost to both of the other two. He also had an incredible match against a fighter known as Yaqui Lopez. Yaqui beat the tar out of him and MSM took it. You couldn't understand how he was still standing. But all of a sudden, MSM turned it around and put together his own beating. It stuck. He actually beat Lopez twice, stopping him both times. But even more so it was the group of outstanding fighters led by Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Wilfred Benitez that were so good that every fight between them was outstanding (actually, one exception). Leonard took a championship from Benitez  by a tko in the last seconds of an outstanding fight. Duran beat Leonard once in a dramatic controversial decision (I thought Leonard won, but almost everyone else disagreed) and then a few months later Leonard demolished him in the rematch, when Duran gave up - "No mas." Unfortunately they fought again about 9 years later and Leonard won a boring decision they both got booed for. But going back to after the first No Mas fight, Leonard beat Hearns in one of the most anticipated fights ever, knocking him out in the 14th round with Hearns ahead on points. He retired and Hearns took a championship from Benitez too (Benitez would die young with severe dementia). A few years later Hearns fought Hagler and Hagler knocked him out in 3 of the most exciting rounds you can imagine. Two years later Leonard fought Hagler and beat him in a controversial decision. Though Hearns lost to Leonard and Hagler, he was an outstanding fighter who won four titles and who knocked out many of his opponents. In a sense, he was a human Alydar who had the misfortune to fight in the era of two of the greatest fighters of all time. He actually fought Leonard a second time in '89 and it was called a draw. But, much later on, Leonard admitted Hearns should have won. I don't know that it mattered with both men past their primes.

Other boxing memories. The pugilistic poetry of Alexis Arguello. His two heart breaking losses to the lesser boxer but physically superior Aaron Pryor.  One of the greatest fighters I've ever seen, a young featherweight named Salvador Sánchez knocking out another incredibly exciting fighter with the great name of Danny Little Red Lopez. Sánchez later died in an automobile accident. Too bad for general reasons, but also because he probably was also one of the all time greats. I have to put his picture here, because it looks like Richard Simmons could kick his ass.


Uh oh. Went way too long. Sorry. Old men sport memories are like that.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Who said it XI

I was sitting in my chair (well, not actually mine, but I sit on it a lot) and I realized I had to do another Who said it? - America's favorite quotation game (counting only those games found on  I have a lot of fun making these things and in truth they are really always just excuses for me to rummage among my books and notes and talk about things I find interesting.  For the first time it occurred to me that at the end of the questions I could list all the answers summarily in a row for the sake of convenience and then have a talkier discussion section to make me happy. I can't fix the spacing between the first and second questions and am tired of trying. I'd refer it to my tech department but . . . .

1.    [High official] "When will the Russians be able to build the bomb?
        Oppenheimer "I don't know."

       [High official] "I know."
       Oppenheimer "When?"
       [High official] "Never."
 a. Sen. Goldwater b. Pres. Truman c. Gen. Eisenhower d. Justice Felix Frankfurter

2.         Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

a. Steven Crane       b. C.S. Lewis       c. Samuel Coleridge       d.  Mary Shelley           

3.         For at least I know, with certainty, that a man’s work is nothing but the long journeying to recover, through the detours of art, the two or three simple and great images which first gained access to his heart.

a. Albert Camus       b. Jean Paul Sartre      c. Sigmund Freud       d. Carl Jung

4.         The title wise is, for the most part, falsely applied. How can one be a wise man, if he does not know any better how to live than other men?—if he is only more cunning and intellectually subtle? Does Wisdom work in a treadmill? Is there any such thing as wisdom not applied to life?

a. John Greenleaf Whittier  b. Jack LaLanne  c. Louisa May Alcott d. Henry David Thoreau           

5.         Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness -

a. Captain John Smith     b. Abraham      c. St. Paul        d. Captain Sir Richard Burton

6.         You will have no need to lead the opposition, for I repeat that there will be no debate, for the reason that the project which has not the fortune to meet your approval, conceived by me, negotiated by me, shall be ratified and executed by me alone, do you comprehend?--by me, who laugh at your opposition.

a. Adolf Hitler to former chancellor Franz von Papen  b. Josef Stalin to Leon Trotsky
c. Thomas Jefferson to John Marshall    d. Napoleon Bonaparte to his brother Lucien

7.         [Regarding the federal government coercing South Carolina by force] But if we possessed this power, would it be wise to exercise it under existing circumstances? The object would doubtless be to preserve the Union. War would not only present the most effectual means of destroying it, but would vanish all hope of its peaceable reconstruction. Besides, in the fraternal conflict a vast amount of blood and treasure would be expended, rendering future reconciliation between the States impossible. In the meantime, who can foretell what would be the sufferings and privations of the people during its existence?

a. James Buchanan      b. Abraham Lincoln       c. Robert E. Lee      d. Jefferson Davis

8.        The Constitution invests the President with certain important political powers, in the exercise of which he is to use his own discretion, and is accountable only to his country in his political character, and to his own conscience.      

a. Abraham Lincoln      b. Andrew Jackson      c. John Marshall      d. FDR

9.         I have announced time and time again  that I will never be guilty of any kind of action that can be interpreted as war until Congress, which has the constitutional authority, says so . . . and I am not going to order any troops into anything that can be interpreted as war until Congress directs it.

a. Harry Truman      b. Dwight Eisenhower      c. Jimmy Carter      d. Barack Obama

10.      I, too, am religious; that is, religious deep inside, and I believe that Providence weighs us human beings, and that he who is unable to pass the test of Providence but is destroyed by it has not been destined for greater things.

a. Adolph Hitler       b. Houdini       c. Joan d'Arc      d. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Here's the short answer list: 1-b, 2-b, 3-a, 4-d, 5-c, 6-d, 7-a, 8-c, 9-b, 10-a

1.         [High Official] : "When will the Russians be able to build the bomb?"

            . . . .
The answer is Truman. Timing wise it pretty much had to be. But Oppenheimer is by far the more interesting of the two on almost every level for me and I'd rather write about him. After the bomb was dropped, he told Truman that he felt he had blood on his hands. Truman was not amused and reputedly retorted that there was more on his own but that they shouldn't whine about it. He also supposedly made it clear that Oppenheimer was never to get in his office again. His intellect was legendary. He was once invited to give a lecture to a mineral society to which he had written a letter, but whose leaders had no idea until he showed up that he was still a child. He was considered by many other physicists to be one of the greatest geniuses among them in a field you pretty much had to be a genius in to succeed at all, but he was also known to be pretentious and arrogant, although not intentionally unkind. Somehow he managed to supervise the creation of the atomic bomb, never having run anything in his life before - not even his university department. He was also well known for flaws which led to his downfall, including a prediliction for troubled communist women. The character of Sheldon on the television show The Big Bang Theory is clearly at least in part drawn from him. I do think that the conventional wisdom among even scientists that he never really came up with anything new is unfair - he was a theoretician, not an experimenter - and his work in that regard was exceptional, unless the standard set for him is so high that a only revolutionary theory on the level of relativity is required for him to be deemed a success. Professionally, he seemed omni-competent, except on the political level, where he was incapable of combatting the secretive, manipulative and jealous men who destroyed him. But, all this is just scratching the surface. Not sure what it is yet I have to say about him, but that's okay. It'll come.
2.         Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

The use of the word "courage" in the quote led me to use Stephen Crane, whose Red Badge of Courage I actually read and admired when young, but cannot conceive reading again. Ironically, though not as famous for his poetry, he is one of the few poets I like. The quote is not his though. There is no reason that it couldn't have been Coleridge or Mary Shelly, I guess, but neither is particularly associated with the issue of courage. The writer was C. S. Lewis, who interests me more for his non-fiction and some generally sensible thinking than his more famous fantasy fiction to the degree that I have even considered of reading some of his religious works (never quite pulled the trigger though). He was a fierce arguer, loved to debate and some thought a bit of an intellectual bully. And, of course, it doesn't hurt my interest level that he was long a close friend of Tolkien. They did sort of fall out over what some think was a literary dispute involving Tolkien's great dislike of Lewis' Narnia creation. I don't think so.  They remained friends, if not quite the same, until Lewis' end and he was a great supporter of The Lord of the Rings. I think that he and Tolkien understood each others literary preferences and fierceness, and usually they agreed. But, I don't think it is so mysterious as all that.  Tolkien has written to others that it was due to Lewis' coming under the influence of Charles Williams many years earlier (Williams, almost forgotten today, died before either of them) and then his (Lewis') marriage to a divorcee, which disturbed the emotional Tolkien a great deal. Actually, Tolkien died nearly 40 years ago. If anyone but his most wild-eyed fans cares (though there are a lot of us), I'd be surprised.

3.         For at least I know, with certainty, that a man’s work is nothing but the long journeying to recover, through the detours of art, the two or three simple and great images which first gained access to his heart.

It is easy to see how you might think Freud or even more so, Jung, but this quote is from Camus. I loved his fiction when I was young, perhaps though in part because they were mercifully short. I read The Stranger first in high school French class. When I say "I read," I mean that the class read it and I kind of listened. I doubt I could have done so myself, poor high school French student that I was. I might like to try a shot at it now, but there's only so much time. I don't know if his statement quoted here is true for everyone, but I think it is true for me, though perhaps there are more than two or three images to consider. What those are I will save for another day, but I can't help but imagine that for Camus, they were dark ones as he seemed to me drawn to controversy and death. Sartre is the more famous and perhaps the more interesting of the two. I neither understood nor got far with Being and Nothingness but appreciated some of his fiction, particularly his novel Nausea of which I now remember absolutely NOTHING but the title and his play No Exit, of which I most remember the last line. My favorite work by him was actually a longish essay on an artist who I probably would not have otherwise thought much about by the name Tintoretto and to some degree started me on a few years interest in learning about renaissance art.  

4.         The title wise is, for the most part, falsely applied. . . . Does Wisdom work in a treadmill? Is there any such thing as wisdom not applied to life?

So, there's a clue there in the word "treadmill" - c'mon, c'mon - but it's a false clue and why would I be quoting Jack LaLanne here anyway? Here's a Lalanne quote from - "I only eat fish - no chicken, no turkey, just fish. I get all my protein from fish and egg whites." I don't think so. I do though still remember my mother quoting John Greenleaf Whittier when I was growing up - "'Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, But spare your country's flag,' she said," from his poem Barbara Frietche, recalling a moment from the Civil War which never actually happened, but seems like it should have. I actually prefer a line from Whittier's poem Maud Muller - “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.'”  I have never read Louisa May Alcott and am a little more interested in her unconventional father, Alcott, though only biographically in relation to other transcendantalists.  I've read that his own writings were chaotic, incoherent or unintelligible - something like that. The above quote though is from their friend and sometimes neighbor Thoreau, and I have spent quite a lot of time with him in my life. The older I get the more I realize how much we have in common. I have written about my thoughts on him before a few times (among them, Thoreau meet me - 7/31/08).  One post I've written on him, Death Match: Socrates v. Thoreau - 3/28/10) is the #4 most viewed post I've written, according to Google.  I can't say I really care all that much, but I admit I am curious why some few certain posts attract significantly more attention than the others. For all I know, they are just spam magnets. That would be embarrassing.

5.         Three times I was beaten with rods . . .

The choice is among four travelers, three of whom wrote about it quite a bit.  Abraham you can throw out because if he ever even existed (and I very much doubt it) he left us nothing of his own to read and the quote is in the first person.  Captain John Smith was a great adventurer and character who suffered mightily on his travels and wrote about it in detail.  Sir Richard Burton I have written a bit about here before and I think one of the great men of the 19th century. He dealt with his suffering in very stereotypical English stoical manner, once even surviving a spear through the cheek. If you aren't familiar with him but want to read about someone almost impossibly cool, creative, talented, brave, tough, learned, mischievous and unorthodox, take a look at The Amazing Richard Burton (But not the one you are thinking about) - 3/15/07. The above quote though is from St. Paul, who suffered quite a bit as well. It's from his second letter to the Corinthians and he says it is from him and "brother" Timothy, who was also later made a saint in the eastern church. Paul is so important in our western civilization history and I've spent more time than will ever possibly do me any good looking at the long standing debate over his words in his letter to the Romans on justification by faith (see Eating paninis in the 16th century - free will and justification - 4/10/13).

6.         You will have no need to lead the opposition, for I   . . .  laugh at your opposition.

I know someone somewhere is sweating it out hoping this wasn't Jefferson, but of course not. Direct confrontation and overt threats was not at all Jefferson's way as he was the master of of behind the scenes machinations and manipulations, using allies and pawns to weave his webs of deceit. It could easily have been any of the other dictators, but it was Napoleon, mocking his enraged brother who had surprised him in his bath.

7.  But if we possessed this power, would it be wise to exercise it under existing circumstances. .   . In the meantime, who can foretell what would be the sufferings and privations of the people during its existence?

Which Civil War era character was so sure that Civil War would forever break the bonds of union? He was hardly alone in making wrong predictions about whether war would come or what would be the outcome. Buchanan was not, by our lights, a very distinguished president. Though he sought compromise, he was undoubtedly on the side of the south in the great debate. And unless you are one of the few today who believe that Lincoln was a tyrant and the union was more important than slavery, that was the wrong side.

8.         The Constitution invests the President with certain important political powers, in the exercise of which he is to use his own discretion . . . .

All four of the choices were certainly were convinced of this, but the quote is from the most seminal of all seminal U.S. Supreme Court cases, Marbury v. Madison, which if nothing else had, made Marshall's reputation forever.  Ironically, he was not only the chief justice but also the person who should have been the most essential witness in the case. Even then that should have been seen as THE MOST OBVIOUS CONFLICT IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. But he never seemed to even think about it and made the decision which has steered the course of American politics as much or more than any presidential act. If  you just have to know more about it take a look at One Wacky Case - Marbury v. Madison - 10/29/10.

9.         I have announced time and time again  that I will never be guilty of any kind of action that can be interpreted as war until Congress, which has the constitutional authority, says so . . . .

Obama. No, just kidding. How could that be? Truman. Kidding again. There was that "police action"" in Korea. It was Eisenhower. But, despite this nod to congress's supremacy in the war making power, Eisenhower was no stranger to covert actions in which the CIA attempted to take down various regimes and usually succeeded. Wins were in Iran, Guatemala, The Congo and The Dominican Republic and losses in Syria and Indonesia. Certainly many people believe that presidents have inherent power much like stated in 7, above, but, nevertheless, his record makes his above statement look completely hypocritical.

10.      I, too, am religious; that is, religious deep inside, and I believe that Providence weighs us human beings. . . .

Houdini? That's just crazy, though I suppose anything is possible.  Doesn't sound like King either. That leaves Joan of Arc and Hitler, either one of whom works. For some unknown reason I like to stick a strange Hitler quote in here pretty much every time. He made many religious references in his speeches, though many probably deliberately deceitful and manipulative. Whether any of it was genuine is hard to say. I usually like to stick a Jefferson quote in these quizzes too, but not today.





Sunday, August 11, 2013

Political update for July, 2013

A Good for Government

You read so much about government that just burns you up.  I certainly don't mean the sexual peccadillos of the governors and congress, etc.  which are often nothing more than those of anyone else who we would just snicker at or leave alone or even commiserate with. Admittedly, some are worse to me, like Schwarzenegger, because it involved his keeping his children separate and not knowing they had siblings (though they knew each other) and Spitzer,  a prosecutorial bully whose zeal seems to know few bounds, but whose lack of ethics permitted him to consort with prostitutes despite laws he himself signed. But, nope, I am not talking even about them. I don't even mean the type of scandals that Obama has famously derided as phony, only one of which seems phony to me (criticism over Fast and Furious, obviously a dumb idea, seemed as much or more political than credible to me - but the rest? Please.) Nor the times  government intentionally lies, bullies, coerces, hinders and destroys no different than organized crime.   

I am  just talking about the general inability of  governments - our necessary evil -  to realize that its "help" not only does not help, but hurts, wastes our money, coerces, treats citizens unfairly and unevenly.  Government, in fact, seems best suited to proving over and over again that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I suppose I'm also talking about the general incompetence common to our species when we coalesce our resources and control to educate, insure and protect with the same prudence and blind incompetence of  Laurel and Hardy trying to get a piano upstairs in an apartment building.*  Among  governments blundering some of the worst are when innocents or victims are buried under varying applications of the police power, morality or gentrification.

*If anyone reading this does not know who Laurel and Hardy were . . . sigh.

Given all that,  it is nice to read a story like this one -

This is one thing that government should do and does do well - rescue people. Sometimes it does and even intentionally. Those who decry government in all its aspects are foolish to ignore the wonderful good it can do.  And this is one of them.

To summarize, the FBI has arrested 159 men accused of forcing teenage girls into prostitution. Even given the likelihood that there are a few innocents who will be "swept up" in the charges too, and that government will overcharge them and possibly even screw up prosecution, I got a good feeling when I read that they aren't charging the girls with anything, but seeing them as victims. It's about friggin' time they stop treating prostitutes as the bad guys. Why young women, many barely or completely uneducated, who were forced into this as children or taken to it in desperation should be abandoned by the law and seen as criminals has always been beyond  me, when the worst things about the occupation are self inflicted. But, at least it's a start. More on this another time, but I always like to give a "good for you" to Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times' who personal rescue of young prostitutes here and abroad (including purchasing them) and illumination of this horrible problem around the globe qualifies as heroic to me. I know it can be hard to believe some good could come out of a Harvard lawyer, but I guess they all don't go onto the Supreme Court.

Private Manning

Private Manning has been found guilty of espionage but acquitted of aiding the enemy. He is about to be sentenced. He could go away for most or all of his life. But, I doubt it.  I've read a lot of opinions about this case and some professional analysis (for whatever that's worth).  I also am taking my facts about his case from Wikipedia, mostly for convenience, but the article seems unencumbered by ideology and I feel comfortable using it. If you think I have a fact wrong please tell me what and why.  Here's my opinion:

There are two sets of important values  present. There often are in constitutional or public policy disputes. I find man people concentrate on one or the other in almost a zero sum game. That rarely works for me although certainly one value or issue could heavily or completely outweigh the others.  One set of values is national security/diplomatic relations, the need for government to be able to keep some secretiveness and trust its employees to do so.  The other is freedom of the press and our need to know when the government is acting despotically or just badly, which is all too frequently and must be taken as the default probability.  In the post WW-II nuclear apocalyptic world, where the presidents have all but become a Magister Populi in certain areas like warfare and intelligence - and anything he can take over using those two categories as a subterfuge, - the loyal opposition must assume his power will be abused.

There are many books challenging the constitutionality of modern presidential power and the bounds of the intelligence community.  Michael J. Hogan's, A Cross of Iron: Harry S. Truman and the Beginnings of the National Security State, 1945-1954, David C. Unger's The Emergency State: America's Pursuit of Absolute Security at any Cost, Gary Wills' The Bomb Power and many other books have covered these issues at length. They generally focus on Truman (a little unfairly, but he is where it really took off), the bomb, the cold war, the CIA's covert activities, propaganda and secrecy aimed against the American people by our own leaders and a constant state of emergency.  I do not discount their points at all, but feel that there is another side of the coin that they tend to ignore in some cases or at least dismiss out of hand, that is, the awesome responsibility of keeping America safe from real adversaries, whether communists or Islamicists. I feel most Americans, though, intuitively understand the need for a natural set of opposing values in government - openness with secrecy, liberty with order, etc.

On one hand, the Manning/Snowden leaks did not appear to be extremely harmful to the US - more embarrassing than anything else - though I'm sure it gave many a diplomat an undeserved scare, great concern and  there  may have been some actual costs. I find unsupported the idea that the leaks caused the Arab Spring and we still don't even know whether in 5, 10 or 20 years that will be seen as a good or bad thing either. Probably the small degree of damage cannot greatly mitigate his sentence, as it was not in Manning's control once he leaked it and it is justifiable for government to protect against potential danger from leaking. There is also ample evidence of Manning's mental illness and unimaginable recklessness by his superiors in giving him such access and not taking it away from him when he acted out (shades of Major Nidal Hassan). Manning's prison treatment was also abysmal and should mitigate his sentence to some degree too. There is no other way to deter this behavior. It will probably always be that most of the people punished for leaking will be guilty of leaking things that don't at all or barely deserve secrecy.

On the other hand, government secrecy was, in so far as we have submitted to this system, legitimate in this case, even if embarrassment and not national security is at stake and I do not see evidence of tyrannical behavior or secret crimes justifying his acts. We all know that war is hell, that innocents are harmed and die in it, that government often exaggerates and uses hyperbole to cover their flaws, that diplomats report critically about others, etc. I am still waiting to hear a great revelation from the leaks. There are apparently none. Shades of the Pentagon Papers.

Don't expect the government to be fair. They are blinded by rage. I read the following in an article in the New York Times on August 8th: "The witness, Cmdr. Youssef Aboul-Enein, an adviser to the Pentagon’s Joint Intelligence Task Force for Combating Terrorism, said that WikiLeaks materials showing that the United States had killed civilians, for instance, could help Al Qaeda."

Seriously - that's their lead off evidence? Did they think al Qaeda was 1) unaware that civilians have been killed 2) unwilling to fabricate it if it would help?  Did they think that the average al Qaeda potential recruit in Yemen or Iraq or Lebanon was unaware?  

Admitting I have just done a cursory review of the facts and not sought to verify them, if I had to decide on this information alone, I believe 10 years imprisonment and psychological help is appropriate. A life sentence would be too much.

No Healthy Person Left Behind

I've written in detail before about the health care debate. A summary of my present thoughts is sufficient (some would say, much more than sufficient).  Bad law. Good intentions (mostly) but too big and comprehensive, destined to cost too much money, no evidence yet it will save lives or cost them - just theories.  Some evidence it will reduce premiums where they are highest (e.g., where I live in NY), but also evidence it will greatly increase them and make it harder for insurance companies to compete. Unconstitutional in my opinion, but Justice Roberts relied on an old standby - he called it a tax (he also said it wasn't a tax in the same opinion) and that it could be done under the taxing provision of the constitution.  Still unpopular with a small majority. Very unpopular with business causing major waivers by the government (always unfair to everyone else) and the administration itself to delay a year before putting it all into effect so that there aren't major layoffs.

Conservative writer Byron York poked a little fun at those who say (like me - I didn't know anyone else used the same phrase until he mocked it) that Obamacare will fall on its own weight. He mocks it because he points out that they will delay anything that is costly as long as they can and give away as many freebie's and great deals as they can to hook people in. Even congressmen opposed to it will start to feel the pressure when so many people who are benefitting from it - either being given something at someone else's expense (no denying insureds for pre-existing injuries) or everyone's expense. He may be right.  That doesn't make it a good law, but it makes it a tough one to repeal.


This may make you snicker. I don't think you should. I remember a lot of people snickering at cell phones too.

When I was little the idea and actuality of phones upon which you could see who you were talking to in real time was already around. Nobody much wanted one. It has taken roughly 50 years for the idea to take off. But now Skype and Google something or other are staples of our modern life. My family members have attended their aunt's funeral and a wedding via the internet. I still don't want it.

Ideas take time to germinate. They are laughed at by many, scoffed at by others and engaged in fruitlessly by still others. Then, boom.

That may be true. We can't ever know by logic or history what is going to happen. But, there is no reason that an international currency cannot replace our national currencies. If you do look at history, it looks inevitable as technology continues on its march.

When money was first coined (the Lydians, neighbors of the Greeks, were first in the Western world that I know about) it was a novelty, but quickly took off.  Any city that could, coined money. Throughout the world commodity money - whether shells, beaver pelts, heads of cattle (the origins  of the words "capital" and "cattle" are closely related) or other valuable objects served.  Even in colonial days here, commodity money was used.

Slowly, when technology permitted, the colonies began issuing their own money (really bills of credit - but it is really the same as money because all money except commodity money is really a form of credit and exchange). Massachusetts Britain intervened and regulated it by law. When came the revolution, all of the now independent colonies/states began issuing in earnest and congress also issued Continental Currency.  The Brits actually counterfeited the "Continentals" to depreciate them. After the Constitution, when states were no longer allowed to coin or issue their own money, they were worth 1% of their face value.

Of course, it was replaced by the dollar (from thaler, a German word for money, derived from Joachimstaler, money from the town of Joachimstal, where there was a 16th century mint. The "-tal" in the name is the Germanic version of "dale" in English, which we still use in place names like Riverdale - Anybody else care about this?  I love this stuff).

Currencies, I'm sure you know, are traded all over the world now on exchanges. I once considered becoming a currency trader and studied up on it for a few months. I was so bored by it from the inception that I fought sleep every second I studied until I realized I would rather kill myself than do it. I love ideas, not the nitty gritty.

Friedrich Hayek, who I have written about a bunch of times here, argued towards the end of his life for international currencies competing with one another. It sounded crazy to me when I first read about it - What about sovereignty?  Other economists argue for a return to the gold standard.

I don't mean this to be a Wikipedia article on bitcoins. Read up on them yourself. I can't possibly know whether they will succeed or fail in the future, be a bubble, something you can make zillions on for a short while, or go bust, any more than currency traders can know whether the market will turn on any given day or month.

And, I know it is ridiculous to think that you can predict what is going to happen by what has happened in the past, but, of course, this is what we actually do every second of our lives, from the first time our eyes pop open in the morning (or, more realistically, groggily blink open) until we fall asleep.  Of course, knowing whether bitcoins will become huge and a bubble, or huge and the mainstay for a hundred years, etc., is a lot more complicated than just believing the floor will be there when you stand up.

But, however fruitless it may be, the trends in communication and other technology suggests that just as the world airports now work on the same systems for the sake of safety and we have international conventions for weights and measures , national boundaries, the internet and so on, so too will the world's currency come into being and take over - just as our states, fearful of giving up sovereignty, gave way to the federal government when it came to money, right at the beginning of our country's existence.

I don't know if you should buy bitcoins. If you don't, you  might see your crazy neighbor make a million in a few years and wonder why you didn't when it was so obvious. Or you might see him lose his shirt because he went for the newest fad.  But, when Goldman Sachs and Citibank buy a few trillion dollars worth it will probably be too late for the rest of us. Of course, if they fail, we all will bail them out (while claiming - "Never again!")

Whatever the name for it, whatever the route it takes, I do think new forms of currency are coming and I think they will be more digital than they have become already (arguably, most money is digital already).  Banks can trade money at the wink of an eye (as I do with others who use my bank). People love their cell phones and I expect that they will replace credit cards. In a few years the chips our children will have implanted in their nervous system that connect effortlessly with the internet - will be the conduit for their money, rather than their pants pocket (if they have pants in the future).

We will know that this has happened when government seriously intervenes.

Tea Party

I enjoy making political predictions, which can sometimes be hard, life being rather unpredictable.  Sometimes when the prediction is based on human nature I feel pretty sure of myself, but it is still gratifying to be right and not so much to be wrong. When the tea party movement was surging I always felt that eventually the voters who made put them in office would become disenchanted with them as they "went along" trying to keep their new found prestige and even desire to do what they think they must to survive in office.  With apologies to Bear who sees red when I "self reference" (I still don't understand why) I looked back and found the following comments I made about the movement-

(Jan, 2010, before their successful 2010 election) "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."

(April, 2011, following their victories at the polls) "When the tea parties swept the Republicans into power last year, I predicted they would crumble against the institutions of congress and the desire to get campaign help for re-election and spend like their predecessors. At least, it was my concern they would. Yet, so far, I am not unhappy. I would rather be wrong about that. The next six months will tell, of course, just how much will they stick to their guns."

(A few months later) ". . .  The tea party, which claims it is not a real party but a collection of people motivated by pure principle, may be little different at the end of the day, when it comes to their members who just happen also to be congresspersons or senators. Those who voted them in would happily vote them out if they are disappointed by them. Their dedication to principle is still an open question for me and the birther wars hurt them significantly in my book."

Apparently, that's pretty much what happened. Not so many days ago, on August 4th, the NY Times published this opinion piece -, the point being, having voted in their candidates, the tea partiers now want to vote them out. That's the price of expecting people, voted to positions of power and trust on an  ideology, to be immune to the seductive powers of praise, comfort and success.

Russian Olympics

The 2014 Winter Olympics will take place in Sochi, Russia. Given the news of Russian legal treatment of homosexuals, the writer Frank Bruni suggests in the NY Times opinion piece Striking Olympic Gold that Americans marching in the opening ceremony should pull out tiny rainbow flags. My own comment parroted his opening paragraph with a twist -

"At first I liked it, but . . . you have to remember that America also will host Olympic games:

Instead of Mr Bruni's first paragraph -- Imagine this: it’s the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Games in Vail, Colorado. A huge television event, watched the world over. The Russian Olympians join the proud march of nations. They’re Russia's emissaries, their exemplars. And as the television cameras zoom in on Team Russia, one of its members quietly pulls out a little flag that says "GuantanaNO!" or a picture of a drone with a line through it, no bigger than a handkerchief, and holds it up. Not ostentatiously high, but just high enough that it can’t be mistaken.

It doesn't even have to be American games. In Brazil in 2016 some on the Egyptian team could pull out flags with a picture of Morsi on them or some black Americans could reduplicate the John Carlos/Tommy Smith black power salute or someone on the Iraqi team unfolds a Kurdish flag or on the Iranian team a map of the Middle East without Israel on it or  . . . you get the picture.

It's fun when it is something you are for, but one will lead to the other. And why not?

I think a boycott is a bad idea, but there might be times and places it would be the right thing to do, even though it punishes the athletes. It is hard to say. As bad as that would be and as unfortunate for our team, I'd rather that than the politicization of the games."

Someone replied that they be delighted with a protest against Guantanamo, but that wasn't really my point. I went looking for a quote in a book but couldn't find it until the comments were closed on Bruni's article, so I'll make it here.

In 1903 a pogrom took place in Kishinev, Russia in which a few dozen Jews were murdered, hundreds of them injured and houses destroyed. My own paternal grandmother, with her own memory of pogroms, came here from Russia not too many years thereafter.  Roosevelt's secretary of state, John Hay, of Lincoln fame* was negotiating with Russia at the time over Manchuria and did not want to ruffle feathers where he thought he could do no good. When a Jewish friend chastised him for seeming indifference when Russia denied the atrocity and foreign aid, Hay replied, "There could be only two motives which would induce this Government to take any positive action in such a case; one is some advantage to itself, and the other is some advantage to the oppressed and persecuted and outraged Jews of Russia. What possible advantage would it be to the United States, and what possible advantage to the Jews of Russia, if we should make a protest against these fiendish cruelties and be told that it was none of our business." Further, he wrote, What would we do if the Government of Russia should protest against mob violence in this country, of which you can hardly open a newspaper in this country without seeing examples? I readily admit that nothing so bad as these Kisheneff horrors has ever taken place in America; but the cases would not be unlike in principle."

It's only fair to mention that Hay personally contributed to the relief fund, and though he was quite a wealthy man, the $500, the equivalent of at least $13,500 today, is still generous. He is guilty of a little historical amnesia  - not that many years earlier, for example, in 1887, a Louisianan mob killed somewhere between 35 and 300 blacks during a labor dispute. And it had happened before to blacks and Chinese.  But, leaving that aside, his point is in some senses "well taken" and in another sense, politically meek. While it was true that there was probably nothing America could do militarily against Russia that would help the Jews and not increase tension between the two countries, Hay had himself shown that even back then the United States could heavily influence other countries. In fact, Russia, desiring to complete its grip on Manchuria, for the most part cooperated in the American led Open Door policy in China without any American muscle being used to get there at all, at least for a while. And, increasingly, the opinions of other countries influenced the actions of many others, as is the case today.  The cry of the 60s - "The whole world is watching," becomes more and more true.

There's never enough time or space to write about everything I want. Next month, I guess.

 *I am still smarting over Bear having pointed out that the last time I wrote about Hay in a post I repeatedly wrote his name "Hays." Damn him and his insufferable editorial eye! On the other hand, I will probably never make that mistake again.


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 . . . .