Friday, December 28, 2012

The Year In Books

I finished a Willie Mays biography last night; am still just half way through the book on Reconstruction.  So, here's this year's list:

2012        Book  List

John Adams, David McCullough

LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay
Warren Kozak

Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Aspergers
John Elder Robison

A Dog’s Purpose, W. Bruce Cameron

Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 – the Present
Michael B. Oren

The Last Campaign: Robert F Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America
Thurston Clarke

Woodrow Wilson: A Biography, John Milton Cooper, Jr.

Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Robert Wright

Thirteen Moons, Charles Frazier

America’s Quarterback: Bart Starr and the Rise of the
National Football League
Keith Dunnavant

Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous and Inspiring
Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of The Bible
David Plotz

Willie Mays:  The Life, The Legend,  James S. Hirsch

Friday, December 14, 2012


I guess if Obama really does want to 'take all the guns away,' now would be the time to try.  Think he will?

Friday, November 30, 2012

New Letter

Upon reading several recent letters I feel compelled to defend the idea of freedom FROM religion, as it is a crucial component of freedom OF religion.  No one drives past a church  and feels 'offended' and decides that churches are an affront to his freedom from religion.  Churches are part of freedom of religion. 

What everyone does believe is that s/he has the right to not have someone else's religion imposed upon him/her.  Whatever it is.  Because s/he has his/her own. You can't have freedom of religion if I'm constantly trying to impose MINE on you. 

Does that help?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What About This?

Mandatory school attendance for adults collecting rent assistance or food stamps.  Accommodations to be made if someone has parenting responsibilities.  Classes tailored to fit what's needed by the individual in question.  High school level classes for people without diplomas.  Job skills classes for grads having trouble becoming or staying employed. 

This would also employ thousands of new teachers and support personnel.  And possibly get some people to shuddup about 'too many people on welfare.'

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Is It Too Early?

I predict that in 2016 the Democratic candidate will defeat the Republican candidate by an even wider margin than last night's result.  Why?  My guess is that they will blame Romney's loss on his not being a 'true conservative.'  And their A list of candidates is composed of those, so they will run one of them.  Probably Marco Rubio. And he will be shellacked because he will either not attempt to move toward the center, figuring that's what cost Romney, or his attempt to do so will be unconvincing.  In my opinion Romney lost because of his move to the extreme right to win the nomination.  His 'bounce' came when he moved hard toward the middle.  It was just too little, too late.  Which doesn't bode well for future Republican candidates.  Unless they actually do learn from last night.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Am I One Of Those?

Once upon a time in America, especially in 'the South,' there was a term used that we no longer hear much.  It seems to have finally fallen away.  Progress, I guess.  But it lived for a good hundred years after Emancipation and died a slow, bitter death, if indeed it really is dead.  The term was "nigger lover" and it was the harshest imprecation one (usually southern) white man could hurl at another.  "Nigger lover!"

Think about it.  What does one say back to something like that?  To deny it is to acknowledge that it's a valid term, and that it's a bad thing.  "Nigger lover!"  It's the word that caused Ty Cobb to snap, in the 19 teens.  After ignoring verbal abuse from a deranged fan for six innings one day, Cobb 'snapped' and leaped into the seats and pummeled a paraplegic (as it turned out) after he heard "Nigger lover!".  How dare that guy?

What did it even mean?  In the minds of the dimwits who would use such a term there were two kinds of people.  White people and "niggers."  Remember the 'n word' was used quite casually by a large segment of the population for that hundred years.  And "niggers" needed to 'know their place.'  (Hence the term 'uppity' for the ones that  didn't.)  A "nigger lover" was anybody that wasn't sufficiently 'down' with the idea of White Supremacy.  "Nigger lover!"

I've never been called that and I don't remember ever reading or hearing the term except historically.  But there's a new term I'm seeing and hearing a lot, just lately, one that I HAVE been called.  The term is "Obama worshiper."  It apparently means someone who is not sufficiently 'down' with the idea that President Obama is an America-hating, reverse-racist, terrorist-sympathizing, America-apologist, secret Muslim, intent on turning the U.S. into a Marxist-Socialist-Islamo-Fascist state, with gay marriage and abortion on demand for all.  Which makes me one, I guess, since I don't accept any of those things as being grounded in reality, much less even remotely true. 

Kind of weird, too, since the idea of actually 'worshiping' seems to me like some relic from our dark and distant past.  It seems to me that any being actually worthy of being worshiped would not want to be (It would lack the requisite vanity) and any being that demanded it would not merit it (but only want it for its own ego-gratification.)

Obama worshiper!  And I'm hearing this from otherwise normal people too, who work and play and eat and sleep and live and love just like you and me.  They just have this one blind spot.  Somehow they can't see, can't even allow for the possibility, that the rest of us see a man trying to do a very difficult job in a very difficult, even hostile environment and doing a pretty fair job of it.  Nothing more.  No worship.  No 'Lord Barry.'  Just a president that looks different from the previous forty-two who isn't pursuing a right-wing agenda (as we knew he wouldn't). 

I was asked in the summer of '08 if I thought America was really ready for a black president.  I said, of course.  Why not?  Was I wrong?     

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Question: Has Obama kept all his campaign promises? 

Answer: No.  (Has anybody, ever?  Also no.)  Has he kept some?  Yes.  Which ones has he not kept that he should have? One that gets mentioned frequently is that he promised to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and then didn't.  True enough.  Should he have?  Maybe.  I'd like to see us cede that territory back to Cuba.  We basically stole it, didn't we?  But whether we keep the territory or not I've never liked the idea of secret prisons.  I have no say in what Cuba does, or China, or Russia.  I do get to comment on what the U.S. does, though, and vote based on what the candidates say when they run for office.  Maybe Romney should promise to close Gitmo.  He could always back off it tomorrow ...

Question: Has Obama disappointed me, a 2008 and likely 2012 supporter? 
Answer: Yes.  Right from day one when he had Rick Warren at the inauguration to invoke the blessing of an almost certainly imaginary super being.  Not  that I don't understand it.  Even if he thought it was a bad idea he'd have likely done it.  Though he could have chosen somebody less 'controversial.' 

I also have been very disappointed with his administrations continued prosecution of the 'War On Drugs.'  They've even stepped it up and gone after dispensers of 'medical' marijuana in states which permit such dispensaries.  Grade: F

Question: Would I like a better candidate to vote for?

Answer: yes.  Anybody know of one?  That's actually running?  (I won't vote for Romney.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Book

I'm starting Eric Foner's Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863 - 1877.

This is the last paragraph of the author's preface:

Over a century ago, prodded by the demands of four million men and women just emerging from slavery, Americans made their first attempt to live up to the noble professions of their political creed -- something few societies have ever done.  The effort produced a sweeping redefinition of the nation's public life and a violent reaction that ultimately destroyed much, but by no means all, of what had been accomplished.  From the enforcement of the rights of citizens to the stubborn problems of economic and racial justice, the issues central to Reconstruction are as old as the American republic, and as contemporary as the inequalities that still afflict our society.

Should be good ...  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

God and Money

Darrell over at The Yellow Fringe mentioned that Candidate Romney has promised to leave In God We Trust on our money.  As if (wink, wink) that Godless heathen Obama with his 'War On Religion' has threatened to have it removed.  Which he of course has NOT. 

Fortunately for me I don't expect any better from our presidential candidates.  I don't need them to campaign, really.  No matter how many disappointments I can list regarding Obama, and there are several, there isn't a chance in hell I will be voting for anybody that today's Republican Party is going to be nominating anytime soon.  Romney actually had potential, as did McCain, in my opinion, but they are/were both so damned determined to pander to the far right that they might as well be Herman Cain, or Donald Trump.  They both (Romney and McCain) willingly threw away their credibility as normal, rational, free-thinking politicians to court the narrow-minded low information voter. 

McCain probably had no chance of winning anyway, 2008 was going to be a 'switch to the other party' year.  But 2012 was shaping up to be another one, already.  The old, moderate Romney would have had a decent chance of winning.  But of course he never would have gotten the Republican nomination.  Aye, there's the rub!

But anyway, I meant to write about God and Money.  Here's a question.  How many of you actually give a shit if it says In God We Trust on our money, or not?  In fact, how many of you would even notice, if it was quietly gone tomorrow?  Not a whole lot, I bet. 

And does anybody think 'God' could possibly care?  About a slogan on our money

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I'm Back!

Figured out my log in issues and want to make some NFL predictions.  I'll keep it very brief.

In the NFC I see the Packers at the 49ers in the NFC championship game. 

In the AFC I'll take Houston at New England. 

I'll predict the winners of those two games the night before they happen.  ;  )

Monday, August 27, 2012

Latest Reads

So I've finished four books just lately.  I mentioned the Wilson one a while back.  Finished it about two weeks ago.  I recommend it if you want to learn a great deal about our 28th president.  It also gave me a somewhat new perspective on WWI.

Most recently (last night) I finished a biography of Bart Starr.  It was very engaging, written by a guy who argues that Bart Starr is the greatest NFL quarterback of all time, but about half way through I started to count the factual errors in the text and became increasingly annoyed by them.  Mike Ditka was not a linebacker, he was a tight end.  'Acid' and LSD refer to the same substance.  About a dozen like that, eventually.  Plus, the whole thing lacked depth.  I would have loved this book when I was 13.

Friday night I finished Thirteen Moons, by Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain).  I read this when it was new, back in the summer of '07.  Just felt like reading it again.  Frazier is a master of historical fiction.  In Thirteen Moons Will Cooper, orphaned at a young age, is sent by the adults who had been caring for him to the frontier, at the age of twelve, to mind a store and 'earn his keep.'  He is adopted by the Cherokee and lives with them for the rest of his rather long life. 

In between Wilson and Frazier I finished Robert Wright's Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny.  I had previously read his The Evolution of God, and while this one is a bit more of a slog it was worth finishing (I put it back on the shelf once but resumed it a week later).  Wright examines an age old question: is there a point to all this?  He argues that there is, and further that there needn't be a 'God' in the equation.  Why?  I'm not sure.  Likely because he has decided that we're never going to know whether or not there is a 'God' but he thinks it would be 'nice' if we can still have some of the things that we usually attribute to God.  Such as a purpose, one that reaches beyond our own, brief, lives, even. 

The gist of his argument is the idea of Nonzero (it's in the title), a concept he takes from game theory.  Zero sum games promote conflict, he argues (successfully, in my opinion) and inhibit cultural progress almost always.  When humans recognize the value of cooperation, looking at 'nonzerosumness,' culture advances.  Leading to the development of language, writing, science, art, etc.  And also allowing for the proliferation of the species.

Then he takes it to another level and shows how non-sentient life behaves in the same way.  When we study evolutionary theory we see a 'direction.'  God would be the director if we accept the notion of God, but he makes a strong (convincing, for my money) case for nature pushing everything forward.  God could still be there but He has covered His tracks, if He is. 

I'd recommend any one of these books except the Starr bio.  Unless you like books like that.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Latest Letter

Contrary to the opinion expressed in a Saturday letter, the purpose of sensible gun regulation isn't to "disarm the good."  It is to keep guns out of the hands of mentally/emotionally unstable individuals and to limit the firepower that any one person can bring to bear in a given situation.  Background checks won't catch every person with stability issues, but they'll help.  A ban on assault-type weapons and extended magazines won't keep everyone from obtaining them, but it will make it harder, and will allow intervention by law enforcement before these weapons are used, at time of purchase or upon discovery.

The problem with more people carrying more guns as a solution is that most people don't want to carry.  Even in the 'old west' most people didn't.  What we'd rather have is fewer chances for unstable people to easily act on their homicidal impulses.  If a responsible citizen wants to arm himself for personal protection he still has that right.  We just want him to demonstrate that he IS responsible.  And if he can't protect himself with a nine shot semi-automatic pistol (or less) then maybe he should make some life-style changes.  Is that too much to ask?
Sent about five minutes ago.

Friday, August 17, 2012


I've recently been informed that many people who go to college have their heads "filled with mush" by the professors, while there.  Here's the actual statement:

"i find the ones how go to school really dont really have the answers they domt evan have any commen scents.but they can read spell and look good on paper.but there are some how go and really do learn they do not go and let there professor fell there head with mush. That is where you get the term droids.

I'm pretty sure that's NOT where we get the term 'droids, actually.  But I digress.  Here's another quote:

(Professor Suri, History 102) "It's great to learn about history.  It's a fascinating field that tells us much about how humans interact.  But the primary reason that you're here, in this room right now and at this school, is to develop your critical thinking skills.  That is the primary purpose of higher education."

Ever hear that from the pulpit?  Or on right wing talk radio?  (Me either.)

Here's some more.  Sign displayed in Professor Allen's lecture hall, Botany 240: Plants and Man:

"The greatest impediment to education is in admitting that one doesn't know something."

Professor Graham, Botany 100:  "There is no certainty in scientific knowledge.  Just degrees of likelihood."

I'll add more as I remember them (said the droid).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why Don't I Go To Church?

I have been asked, several times over the years, why I don't go to church.  I have a standard answer.  I say, think about why you DO go to church and then turn that around.  Many people go to church to 'set an example' for their kids.  I have no kids.  Or because they think they're supposed to.  I don't think that.  Or because they truly want to 'worship God.'  I do not.  I don't think there IS a 'God.'  Some people like the 'fellowship', being a part of the community.  I get that in other ways.  Some people think it 'feeds the spirit.'  I don't believe in spirits.

These are all good reasons for other people, I think.  Just not good reasons for me.  Most people accept my answer.  Once in a while someone will try to sway me with some argument or another but generally they quickly realize that I really have heard all the arguments for it and they really don't work for me.

I do actually go to church, sometimes.  Weddings, baptisms and funerals about cover it.  So, once or twice a year, generally.  And of course I went a lot when I was young.  Catholic, even.  So I'm familiar with what goes on there.  I went for a baptism back in December.  It was at a local Lutheran church.  I don't think I had ever been to a Lutheran church before; if I had it was for a wedding and I didn't really listen for any differences between what they say and do and what the Catholics do.  This last time I listened.  Very similar.  Extremely so, even.  And therein lies the rub.  ;  )

The biggest reason I don't go is that I don't accept their main premise; that humans are stained by Original Sin and that Jesus Christ died for us so we could have our sins forgiven and achieve everlasting life in 'heaven.'  And I don't accept that premise in just about every way possible. 

First, that whole 'Original Sin' story is absolutely contingent upon accepting the Creation Story in the Book of Genesis.  I do not.  How can I?  It makes a great story but was it even meant to be taken literally?  I have my doubts.  Every culture has its 'lore,' its mythology.  Every other culture understands that the old stories are just that: old stories.

To accept the story I have to believe that there is an all-powerful super-being, and I do mean ALL-POWERFUL.  Powerful enough to create the entire universe, every molecule in it, by simply willing it.  I don't believe that.  It's just too preposterous for me to even entertain the notion for very long.  But of course there's more.  This all-powerful super-being, 'God,' created this whole universe so humans would have a place to reside.  He created humans, apparently, 'out of love.'  How love existed in a universe that didn't exist yet I've never heard.  Or maybe loneliness would be a better explanation.  God was lonely.  Well who wouldn't be, after an eternity or so of being all alone?  But I digress.

After doing all this creating, (in six days, not all at once, not over millions of years) including a Garden of Paradise, God decides to 'test' his favored creatures.  Basically, he tells them not to do something, then sends a talking snake to deceive them.  One of them, anyway.  Naturally, being children, more or less, they fall into the trap, as God must have known they would.  And so God decides, almost literally, to Hell with them!  They are turned out of Paradise and begin to lead lives of suffering.  Sounds to me like God has anger issues.  But he loves us, he's all about love and forgiveness.  Just not right away.

Apparently God eventually 'calms down,' figures maybe (maybe?) he has been a little (a little?) rash.  (This is after he kills the entire human race save for one family in a world-wide flood.)   He concocts a plan to appease himself.  He impregnates a virgin, waits thirty-three years, then watches as these humans that he has such disdain for (but still loves) kill this 'son' of his in the most grisly, painful way they can conceive and lo and behold, all is forgiven.  (Or can be.)  A fresh start for everybody, forgiveness of sins, original and otherwise, IF they/we/I accept that Jesus (the aforementioned son) did this FOR them/us/me.  Somehow it 'takes away the sins of the world.'  Why this impressed God so much has always been unclear to me since he orchestrated the whole thing Himself but I'm told if I just believe it I can have eternal life.  Hunh. 

Well, sorry, I don't.  I can't.  Feel free to yourself though.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that said:

Believe In America

And I thought, yeah Mitt, how about it?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Since I'm Not a Socialist ...

... what am I?  I've been asked that, recently.  In the context of (someone) telling me that he sees me as a Socialist.  Well ...

For me, it all starts with Plato, and The Republic.  All modern western liberal political thought traces back to Plato's Republic.  The thread disappears for a while, it's true, Empire gets another good long turn, but eventually guys like Locke and Rousseau, and Paine and Jefferson start pushing those same ideas out there. 

Today's the 4th of July so we look at Jefferson, and the Declaration of Independence.  Right after the line that everyone quotes, the one that begins "We hold these truths to be self-evident," is another, equally important line.  "That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the Governed ...  "  That goes straight back to Plato, the idea that the people deserve the best possible form of government and those same people are the ones who get to decide what form that government should take.

In The Republic, the character Socrates (modeled on Plato's real-life teacher) is pulled into a discussion on 'justice.'  What is justice?  What do we mean by the word?  How do we know it if we find it, or think we do?  Who decides? 

Socrates first asks the other men present to answer the question.  One by one they try, and he shoots them down, shows them the errors in their thinking.  Eventually they insist that HE answer the question (all right, Mr. Know-It-All, YOU answer the question).  So he begins.

He asks them to consider a city, and compare it to a man.  Each has a 'soul.'  Each soul seeks perfection.  In each case, Justice is the desired end, the achievement of perfection.  The city must first have the most perfect system of government that is possible, the one that always seeks the overall good of the whole group.  But what IS that? 

Athens was the first Democracy so he begins with Democracy.  Is Democracy perfect, or nearly so?  Well, according to Socrates, no.  The people aren't equipped to know what's best for the whole.  Most of them are only semi-literate and not overly bright.  And on top of that, they're much too self-interested, as in the individual self (rather than the 'common good').  This would lead inevitably to mob rule and anarchy.

OK, an Aristocracy then.  Rule by 'the best.'  Plato presents a class system with a ruling class, a soldier class and a peasant class.  To sell it to the people he comes up with the 'noble lie'; people are endowed by the gods with gold, silver or bronze souls, corresponding with the three classes, and each must accept his place in society.  But that still won't work either, he decides.  The ruling class will soon enough 'forget' on whose behalf they are supposed to be ruling and they will corrupt the government for their own ends, and tyranny will ensue.  Plus, the aristocratic class is really not wise enough to know what is best for the group anyway.

So who DOES know what's best for the group?  Only the Philosopher, who devotes his life to the acquisition of wisdom.  Will the people consent to be ruled by the Philosophers?  NO!  Plato gives us the 'Allegory of the Cave.'  Men are kept in a cave and showed only 'shadows' of the real world.  Eventually one is released out into the world where he is at first overwhelmed.  All that light!  Eventually his eyes adjust and for the first time he sees the world as it really is.  Then he is sent back in to tell his fellow cave dwellers.  But they don't believe him!  Liar!, they say.  We see the shadows.  The shadows are real.  When he persists, telling them that they are being deceived, that he speaks the truth, they have him killed (this actually happened to the real Socrates).  

So WHAT then?  Who can rule with the wisdom of the Philosopher, and get the people to buy in.  Only a King would have the power to rule.  Only the  Philosopher knows best.  A King being advised by the Philosopher?  But will the King continue to listen, or will he begin to push his own ideas?  Better to have a Philosopher/King.   (Plato eventually 'produced' Alexander the Great, the Philosopher/King who eventually ruled the (known) world.  And then died, exposing the flaw in that system.)

But real world, democracy is what they had.  Even Plato conceded that for all its flaws, democracy was the best government that anyone had been able to put into practice; maybe always would be.  The individual pursuing perfection , trying to live for something bigger than himself.  Very close to the 'Christian' ethic, if you think about it.  'Don't be selfish, put others first.'  Think of the overall good.

Does any of this make sense?    Is there a connection between then and now?  From the preamble: "We, the People, of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, TO ESTABLISH JUSTICE, to ensure domestic tranquility, to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."  WE decide what Justice is, WE decide how to bring it about, WE decide how to protect it once we find it.  WE THE PEOPLE!

That's my political philosophy.  We just need to get our representative government focused back onto the task.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Two Perspectives

These two guest columns ran in today's Wisconsin State Journal.  I read this one first:

Now that the recall is over, can we look forward to some relief from the vitriol that has characterized Wisconsin politics?
Both Gov. Scott Walker and Mayor Tom Barrett have expressed a desire to heal rifts. Let me offer some thoughts on how we might do this. The key? Stop undermining the legitimacy of the electoral process just because you lost.
And lest anyone think I'm picking on the Democrats, I'll respond by saying what parents have said to squabbling siblings for thousands of years: "Knock it off. Both of you. I don't care who started it!"
Let me elaborate.
Democrats: You lost the recall because your guy got fewer votes than the other guy. It doesn't matter how much you loathed Walker, or how hard you worked, or that you considered this the most important election since, well, the last election that was the most important ever.
You lost. Nobody expects you to be happy about it. But you get another chance in a few months.

Stop blaming the American Legislative Exchange Council, or Super PACS, or the Koch Brothers, or Citizens United. Stop insisting that the only reason you lost was you were outspent 3-to-1, or 5-to-1, or 10-to-1, or that democracy has ended because billionaires can buy elections.
Arguing that you lost because people were too stupid to see the brilliance of your position is not a good way to get more people to conclude that your position is brilliant.
And by the way, stop comparing Walker to Hitler. It's insulting in so many ways, and it's not clever, and it's not funny. Oh, and that mailer listing the voting activity of our neighbors? Really creepy. Don't do it again.
To Republicans: Stop gloating, and enough with the jokes about how delicious the tears of Democrats are. You'll get your turn in the barrel eventually.
And while we're at it, you need to stop the absurd claims that the only reason Democrats can win elections is vote fraud. I saw a dozen blog posts about buses full of union folks coming from Michigan or Illinois to cast fraudulent votes. Reince Priebus said Republicans have to win an extra 1 or 2 percentage points just to overcome vote fraud.
Not only is this preposterous, it is also enormously damaging to the legitimacy of the process (and it's particularly absurd because, well, you won; where are those claims now?). I know lots of you know someone who knows someone who once saw 10,000 people cast fraudulent votes, most of whom were dead besides. But yelling the same thing over and over doesn't make it true.
Stop saying the only way you can lose is because of fraud. It's a phantom.

To both Democrats and Republicans: Stop insisting the other side is stupid, evil, corrupt or wants people dying in the streets. People disagree about politics. Always have. If you doubt this, read The Federalist, or the Magna Carta, or Aristotle. Not every political dispute can be resolved your way just because you think you're right.
Moreover, "Shut Up!" is not a very attractive rhetorical tactic.
And if you have a better way of resolving political disputes than by elections, which I doubt, let's hear it — as long as it's not "do what I want."
In short, everyone needs to calm down and stop thinking of elections in life or death terms. You win and lose elections because you get more (or fewer) votes than the other side. Screaming that there is no way you could lose except that you were outspent, or outfrauded, or outlied is silly because it's wrong and totally unhelpful. Harmful, in fact.
Show that you can win with class, and lose with grace. And do it before you know the results, OK? It's not like this is the last election we'll ever hold.
So cut it out. I'll give you both timeouts. I will.

Kenneth R. Mayer is a professor in the UW-Madison Department of Political Science.

Next up was this one:

There has been no shortage of attempts to spin what the results of Tuesday's recall election mean. One unquestionable takeaway is that in this election, money mattered. A lot.
Gov. Scott Walker's billionaire backers, along with outside spending from corporate-funded special interest groups such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Republican Governors Association and shadowy groups such as the "Coalition for American Values" outspent Democratic challenger Tom Barrett and groups supporting him 8-to-1, according to Mother Jones.
Don't think that makes a difference? Then consider just one example of what that kind of spending advantage means.
In a 30-minute evening television news program, the place from which most people get their information, you'd barely notice the one or two Barrett ads sandwiched between five, six, seven or eight Walker ads.
How did Gov. Walker rack up such an astounding cash advantage?
In addition to having a lot of really wealthy "friends," Walker exploited campaign finance laws to play by different rules than his opponent as he mounted his unprecedented $30 million cross-country cash grab.
In a regular election cycle, both a sitting governor and the opponent are limited to accepting an aggregate maximum in donations of $10,000 per individual. However, Walker was not, and in some cases is still not, limited to this contribution amount.
The result? Walker raked in twice as much from $10,000 plus mega-donors alone than his election opponent Tom Barrett raised in total for his campaign.

Based on One Wisconsin Now's analysis of Walker's campaign finance reports, he raised over $7.3 million in campaign contributions from just 167 individuals exceeding the $10,000 per election cycle limit.
And we haven't even touched on the role the foundation controlled by Gov. Walker's campaign chair played in trying to drive public opinion, such as using columnists whose paychecks depend on foundation grants to dutifully pass along talking points spoon-fed to them by the campaign — but that's a column all its own.
Debate away about the meaning of the election results.
But cutting funding by $1.6 billion for K-12 public schools while giving corporations and the wealthy $2.3 billion in tax cuts is no more popular today than it was last November when recall petitions began circulating.
Can you really argue Tuesday's election results were an endorsement of policies that make it more difficult for women and armed service veterans to fight workplace discrimination? Or think that Gov. Walker won a mandate for more tax increases on seniors and working families and even higher tuition for University of Wisconsin students?
The inescapable, bottom line fact is Walker and his wealthy, right-wing allies bought a win.

Mike Browne is Deputy Director of One Wisconsin Now, which advocates for progressive causes. 

What do you think?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Something I Just Read

Looking at current affairs, he expounded on the need for party realignment in order to come to grips with such pressing issues as the tariff and monetary standards, and he claimed that "the difference between democracy and socialism is not an essential difference, but only a practice difference."  In using government to address social and economic problems, socialists rushed in where democrats trod warily, but with the growth of huge corporations, he asked, "(M)ust not government lay aside all timid scruple and boldly make itself an agency for social reform as well as for political control?"  He went further in his lectures at Johns Hopkins in 1888: "Government does not stop with the protection of life, liberty, and property, as some have suggested; it goes on to serve every convenience of society ...    The state is not a body corporate,---it is a body politic; and rules of good business are not always rules of good politics ... Businesslike the administration of government should be---but it is not business.  It is organic life."

Anybody want to guess whose biography I'm reading?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Thirty Days

It's been slightly more than thirty days since my last letter to the editor, which means that they can print one again.  So I sent them this:

It has been quite interesting lately reading various people's thoughts on what the Bible says regarding marriage, same sex and otherwise, and what Jesus did or didn't say about it, but I do have one question: public policy-wise, does it even matter?

As with every other issue, anyone can find something in 'the Bible' that at least apparently supports his or her position. Maybe this is why the founding fathers drafted a Constitution rather than just telling everybody to 'read your Bible.'  And why they make no references to 'God' or Jesus (or the Bible) in that Constitution.

We live in a constitutional democracy folks, and the U.S. and Wisconsin constitutions both state that all citizens are to be treated as equals by their governments.  We don't have different sets of rights for different subsets of the citizenry.  So can we please keep that in mind as we discuss same-sex marriage and how to live up to our lofty ideals?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Power, Faith, and Fantasy

I intend to write more on this book, I finished it Tuesday night; for now I will just say that there is a hidden, central character in this book.  And that character is ... Middle Eastern oil. 


The central theme, as implied by the title, is that America has always had a prevailing fantasy about the Middle East, largely drawn from works of fiction, such as 1,001 Arabian Nights.  Americans then came to believe, based on 'faith', that with a little guidance the Middle East could be modernized and remade in America's image (with a little exoticism thrown in).  They continually were stymied, however, by the 'facts on the ground' and American economic and military power had to be added to make any 'progress' regarding modernizing the region. 

And right from the start there were successes.   But for some reason the Middle Easterners resisted conversion to Christianity or having western culture thrust upon them.  Sometimes violently so.  Which led to conflict, naturally.

Nevertheless, for about 130 years America was widely seen in the Middle East as being the champion of Arab rights, at least when compared to England and France.

Then came the internal combustion engine.  Suddenly (OK, a little bit gradually) American ideals had to be balanced with 'strategic interests.'  Meaning, largely, if there is oil beneath your sand we want you on our side.  No matter your governing philosophy or with (or against) whom you are aligned.  A tricky balancing act began.  Then, along came the State of Israel ...

More to come.  

Monday, May 14, 2012

America and the Middle East

For about a month now I've been reading Michael Oren's Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.  The first half or so of the book is quite illuminating regarding the first almost 150 years of America and its dealings with the 'Barbary States,' and with the old Ottoman Empire.  Maybe I'll write about some of that, too, but right now I want to share part of what I read last night.

From page 527:  The 1967 war, the reverberations of which continue to convulse the region, was a primary juncture in the making of the modern Middle East.  Arab nationalism, a largely secular ideology, suffered a set-back from which it would never recover and which accelerated the rise of its rival, Islamic extremism.  Zionism was conversely reinforced by Israel's victory and, through the Jewish people's reunion with their spiritual homeland in Jerusalem and the West Bank, galvanized by a new religious zealotry.  The war was also pivotal for America's relations with the region.  For the millions of evangelical Americans who had always valued Israel as the fulfillment of biblical prophecies, the Six-Day War was an act of divine intervention designed to hasten the coming of the messianic age.  But the victory also persuaded American policymakers, many of whom had previously advised against maintaining close relations with the Jewish state, to view Israel as America's small but muscular cohort in the Cold War.

Is he overstating the importance of that war?  Yes and no?  His first conclusion is that it was a death blow to Arab nationalism.  How?  Egypt and Syria got their asses handed to them so radical Islam was born?  Sentiment in other Middle Eastern countries that would have found expression in nationalist movements was turned instead to radical Islam?  The people would rather punish the Jews and/or seek to eradicate the State of Israel than seize the reins of political power in their own countries?  I don't know, eventually all of those countries broke away from colonial rule and some of them have declared the obliteration of Israel to be their number one goal.  Is this really a 'radical Islam' issue or more of an ethnic enmity issue.  "We hate them because they exist!  And besides, they hate us!" 

I think he's onto something with his final conclusion though.  Once Israel kicked some ass and the U.S. could have them as an ally rather than a client state it was "welcome aboard"!     

I'm just up to the part, tonight, where he's about to tear into Carter (I think) over Iran.  I'll be back ...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Going To The Dogs?

There's a popular picture on facebook, I've seen it a few times, of a dog, a Pit Bull maybe, and a caption something like, 'there are no bad dogs, just  bad dog owners.'  People tend to agree with the sentiment and 'like' it. 

What if it was, 'there are no bad boys, just bad parents'?  That one not so much, right? 

Why, exactly?  Because boys can make conscious, willful decisions, right?  And dogs can't?

OK, true.  But still.  Parenting is a crucial element of character-building, right?  And if a boy gets extremely poor parenting, how much more likely is it that he will become well-acquainted with the criminal justice system?

So what am I saying?  Well, two things.  What we do with those boys as they become a problem is critically important, not just for them (cuz it's 'their own fault, right? so too bad), but for society. 

And it is in society's best interest to try to reduce (toward zero) the population of these boys.  First, by reducing/eliminating unwanted pregnancies.  Then by intervening early in these boys' lives, which is a giant can of worms on libertarian grounds so the first part is critical. 

In my opinion we could even waste money at the front end (though let's not) as long as we accomplish our objective of keeping the number of 'bad boys' to near zero.  Compared to if we do nothing at the front end and refuse to commit any resources to the issue until there's a criminal justice problem. 

So, we incorporate into the public school curriculum (state participation to be encouraged with funding), 'adult ed' classes.  Starting about sixth grade.  Keep them age-appropriate, of course.  Though by sixth grade they need to know for sure where babies come from, and how you can get pregnant even if you aren't trying to.  And stuff.  And sixth grade is a good time to be hearing a strong abstinence message.  But we have to be realistic about all possibilities too, so birth control information needs to be available.

Of course there's a lot more to cover in adult ed class than where babies come from.  Various scenarios should be 'gamed,' so kids can start to learn 'first hand' what usually happens to the guy who doesn't finish high school, or guys that smoke and drink at an early age, or guys that figure they shouldn't have to work, or guys that become daddies at a young age, (and girls too, of course).

I would love to see after school programs fully funded so all kids have safe and constructive places to go after school.  In fact, the logical extension of the idea that society should feel ultimately responsible for child development would be to offer 'after school' programs 24/7.  But this would become very expensive, no matter how much we think we'll save not waiting until we're using the d.o.j. to finally deal with it.  So the emphasis on 'adult ed' and reducing/eliminating unwanted pregnancies is paramount.

Once we do find the need to incarcerate, at a greatly reduced rate if we're smart enough, we start on them again, for the first time maybe in some cases.  Adult ed, academic classes, substance abuse counseling, whatever is needed.  Only this time they're locked in.  And we have the key.  And the sentences work for us.  "You can do the whole ten, or you could probably be out in three if you do everything we ask ... "

Will we ever do this?  Doubtful.  Why not?  I think mostly because, even if we could get wide-spread agreement that it would be cost-effective, most Americans would think it's just way too big a role for government to take.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

American History

I finished another lecture series recently, this one on The History of the United States.  84 half hour lectures.  You might think it would be hard to watch/listen to 42 hours of professors lecturing on history but I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.  I've also read three different histories of the United States, from Columbus to the present (Paul Johnson, Howard Zinn and Tindall & Shi).  What can I say?  It's a story I never get tired of.

This series uses three professors.  Allen Guelzo takes us from the age of ocean-going explorers up to the 'great compromise' in the run-up to the Civil War.  Gary Gallagher takes us through the war and the post-war 'reconstruction' period and southern 'redemption.'  Patrick Allitt takes us the rest of the way, beginning with Industrialization and finishing with Clinton's America and the Millennium. 

In the final lecture, Reflections, Allitt lists four basic 'truths' that make the story of America unique.  First is American Exceptionalism; Allitt believes that this 'belief', which goes all the way back to the beginning, plays a role in everything that followed.

Second, "A combination of cultural and environmental circumstances enabled America to become the richest nation in the history of the world." 

Third, "America's political institutions nurtured and protected vital freedoms."

And finally, "America has welcomed and assimilated more varied immigrant groups than any other nation."

I intend to explore some of these themes in the weeks to come.  Tonight I begin with a question.  In his 'reflections' Professor Allitt states that America has consistently fallen short of its ideals but also has consistently performed 'better' than any other country.  Does he have that about right?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Book Of Genesis

I finished a DVD lecture series (24 half hour lectures) on the book of Genesis last night.  It was interesting but at times quite sleep-inducing.  If I was at all sleepy it literally forced my eyes shut and my brain to sleep.  So I only watched when I was wide awake. 

Professor Rendsburg "holds the Blanche and Irving Laurie chair in Jewish History in the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University.  An expert in the history of ancient Israel and the literature of the Bible, he has spent decades immersed in the study and exploration of Qumran and other ancient sites in Israel,
Egypt and Jordan."  He is also fluent in the ancient languages of the Old Testament (mostly Hebrew) and doesn't need to rely on someone else's translation.

The thing that struck me the most watching these lectures is Rendsburg's approach; at no time does he suggest that the author (he believes in a single author for  the whole book of Genesis) was in any way 'inspired by God.'  He talks about a gifted literary craftsman recording the oral/aural lore of the region.  Over and over he shows us how the author uses various literary devices (alliteration, rhyme, etc.) to tell his story.  Consequently the series never takes a position regarding the 'truth' of the stories.  He does attempt to place them in a historical time-frame, e.g. when did Abraham live, and cites the evidence for his conclusions.

The two creation stories (yes, two) are treated as just that, two stories.  Clearly allegorical in nature and not historical.  Ditto  the flood story, which he suggests was borrowed from the Epic of Gilgamesh only with a local guy as hero. He also shows us the several themes that run throughout, such as the 'second son' theme.  Isaac was Abraham's second son, Jacob was Isaac's second son, etc., and suggests some possible lessons that can be drawn from these recurrent themes. 

I tried reading Genesis last fall but threw it in about half-way through.  I now feel like I have some understanding of what the point of the damn book is, how it fits in with the rest of The Bible and the other literature of its time and place.  What still puzzles me is how so many people insist on taking everything in it as literally true when it so clearly is a literary work and not an historical one.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I'm At It Again

This was sent to the Wisconsin State Journal just minutes ago!  Not all that deep, just something I had to get off my chest.

Jonah Goldberg begins a recent column (Wednesday's WSJ), "President Obama's re-election largely hinges on his ability to play young voters for suckers--again-- ... "

Do young voters think they got 'played'?  I was a 49 year old 'sophomore' at the UW in November 2008.  Yes they were excited about a candidate who spoke their language, who saw the importance of 'green energy.'  Passé?  Hardly.  After four years of no progress 'green energy' is more of an issue than ever.  These 'kids' are going to be around for sixty more years; they aren't interested in kicking the can down the road for the next generation to solve.  They ARE the next generation.  Goldberg and Romney's only hope is that they will blame Obama for the lack of progress rather than seeing it as his opponents doing just what they promised: oppose him at every turn, for political reasons.  Sure they might turn their backs on the whole system, but don't bet on it.  I was pleasantly amazed at how engaged and perceptive they are already.  And this year there'll be four more years worth of them. 

Suckers they are not!

Monday, April 2, 2012


It has occurred to me recently that people who feel that government infringes on their liberty should think about how the 'Indians' must have felt.

Do they think, some of them anyway, 'you know what, the Indians had it about right'?  Because they didn't have much government.  Of course, they didn't need much.  Few people, lots of space, even the biggest nations were  homogeneous enough to make Hitler drool.  Who needs government in those circumstances?

But then, along came the Europeans, with their organized society and their government and their Army, infringing on the Indians' rights, in a pretty big way.  What do the Libertarians think about that?  

I'm pretty sure there's no going back, though, is there?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mad Bomber?

Well I finished the LeMay book a week ago, or so.  Pretty good read, I had very little knowledge of the man prior to this.

As you might guess, war is a central theme of the book.  I don't believe there is an official 'LeMay Doctrine,' but if there were, it would be something like, Do not go lightly into a war.  Think long and hard.  Once in, WIN!  And that means doing whatever it takes.

"Whatever it takes" might sound a bit harsh but in LeMay's view the men in charge of prosecuting the war owe it to the people of both sides (but especially his side, of course) to bring about a swift end to hostilities and get back to normal.  If this meant bombing cities then so be it.  In WWII, especially the last six months of the war against Japan, it meant exactly that.

What it would NOT mean would be 'anything goes.'  What's the difference between 'whatever it takes' and 'anything goes'?  Efficacy.  You might do some pretty horrible things, but you only do them for the positive end of shortening the war.  If it takes dropping an Atomic Bomb, or two, you do it.  (This is LeMay talking yet.)  You do NOT do things that don't promote that end, such as abusing prisoners or allowing your soldiers to 'take liberties' with the other sides' civilians or property.  LeMay wasn't actually on the policy side, he was a strategist, but he would NOT have agreed with the Bush/Cheney 'enhanced interrogation' program.  Unless he would have been convinced that the program would produce valuable information.  Which it never did, nor would he have been so deluded, in my opinion. 

The Vietnam War frustrated LeMay in a big way.  He could not see any sense in fighting a 'limited war.'  Either fight it or don't, he thought, and if you're going to fight it, go all in.  There were reasons why the U.S. wouldn't/couldn't do that, in Vietnam and that drove LeMay crazy.  Similarly I believe he would be appalled at our Afghanistan policy, or lack thereof.  'Figure out want you want to accomplish, then go about it in the most efficient manner possible.'   Anybody think we're doing that?

Next up (already on page 70):  Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.  See you in a month.  ;  )

Monday, March 19, 2012


I'm closing in on the end of the LeMay book.  Nine more pages to the end of WWII.  I believe I have gained new insight into Sarge's appreciation for and almost celebration of Operation Linebacker II, etc.  While I still don't agree that Linebacker II was necessary or justified the case for bombing Japan was/is a good bit more cut and dried.  I'm learning much about the obstacles to massive bombing campaigns, obstacles that led directly to the loss of planes and, more importantly, their crews. 

LeMay was instrumental in the success of the Allied bombing of Germany until mid-1944 when he was transferred to the Pacific theater.  The B-17 was the bomber used in Europe; the B-29 had been designed specifically for the Japanese assault.  It could fly higher, faster, carry more bombs and was dubbed the Super Fortress.  But there were design flaws and some logistical mountains to overcome.  If you can believe this, in late 1944 they were encountering the 'jet stream' for the first time and it was messing them up (no plane had flown so high before).  Fuel consumption greatly exceeded expectations and having to carry more fuel and fewer bombs made the early missions barely worth anything.  But LeMay reconceived they way they would attack and soon they were pummeling Japan with incendiary bombs.  I'll write more on this subject once I've finished the book.

All in all this is a definite worthwhile read. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I'm already about half way through a biography of Curtis LeMay.  It's only about half as many pages as the Adams book and the pages are less than half as full.  I think I needed a quick read like this.

So far LeMay is a very uncomplicated character.  It's July 1943.  We'll see what happens next.  ;  ) 

On tap are a couple that I ordered from Amazon last night, about the making of the modern middle east.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

John Adams

So I finally finished a John Adams biography last night.  I don't think I've ever read such a good book more slowly.  I really don't know what took me so long.  I guess I just wasn't in any rush to finish.  It's not like I had a deadline, or anything.

Going in I knew very little abut Adams.  He was the first vice-president and the second president.  He was a 'founding father.'  His wife's name was Abigail and John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, was their son.  And he lived in Massachusetts.  Mostly, anyway (as it turns out).

David McCullough, the book's author, relies heavily on letters written by Adams and others.  Throughout his life Adams corresponded with many people, most notably Abigail (his wife) and Thomas Jefferson.  Also Benjamin Rush, a physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Quincy, Benjamin Franklin and others.  McCullough also referenced letters written to Jefferson from Abigail and vice versa, as well as letters between other characters.  Everybody was writing letters, which sometimes took up to six months to reach their addressee.  I guess nobody had facebook yet.

Adams grew up in Braintree, Massachusetts.  Abigail was from neighboring Quincy (named for her Mother's family).  He graduated from Harvard and subsequently acquired a law degree.  He practiced law for a few years, including as attorney for the defense for the British soldiers who were tried for their part in the 'Boston Massacre.'  But politics was to be his career.  He was chosen to be a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, in late 1775, in Philadelphia, a group charged with determining what to do about the growing 'British problem.'  The colonies, you may remember, were fairly autonomous right from the start.  England, though, had decided to address its huge Seven Years War debt by imposing new taxes on them.  The Second Continental Congress set out to decide on a course of action.  Adams and Jefferson helped convince that body that independence was the way to go and the Declaration was produced.

Adams had hopes that his work was done as he returned to Braintree.  He hated being away from Abigail and their growing family.  However he was soon asked to sail to France as part of a commission to gain recognition of the United States of America, and French aid in the war.  Adams went back and forth twice and also served in The Netherlands and, once the war was over, England.  Adams was crucial in securing credit from the French and the Dutch, without which the war effort would have been severely hampered. 

Once he finally was able to return home, in 1788, he was soon mentioned as a likely candidate for high office, under the new Constitution.  Maybe even the presidency, though most agreed that George Washington would be the best choice.  Adams wound up with the second most votes and was named vice-president, a position that had no actual duties (except to break ties in the Senate). 

The second half of the book is largely about the differences between the Federalists, led by Washington and Adams, and the 'Republicans,' led by Jefferson.  There were two schools of thought regarding the Constitution, which led to the Federalist Papers, written by Hamilton, Madison and John Jay; and what some historians call the Anti-Federalist Papers, largely written pseudonymously by 'Cato' or 'Brutus.'   (Most of the Federalist papers were written under pseudonyms too, though we now attribute them to their actual writers).  The principal point of contention between the two sides went to how strong the 'central government' should be.  The Federalists favored stronger, the Republicans weaker.  The purpose of the Constitution had been to replace the Articles of Confederation, which hadn't established much of a role for a Federal government (and established no executive branch).  Adams and his fellow Federalists assumed that once they had won the ratification debate that the matter was settled (in favor of a strong central government).  Jefferson, et al., did not see it that way and set themselves up as an 'opposition party,' despite there having been near unanimous agreement that party politics would be detrimental to the over all good of the new nation.

Adams and Jefferson became political 'enemies,' a situation made extremely interesting when Adams was elected to succeed Washington as president and Jefferson was elected as vice-president.  Eventually Jefferson succeeded Adams, who was finally able to retire from public life, and learned, as President, to see things with a new appreciation for a strong role for the executive.  After both men had been out of office for a while they again began to correspond and renewed their friendship.  They died within hours of each other, on the fourth of July, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the document that was authored by Jefferson and that Adams had played such a crucial role in getting approved.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sent to the Wiscnsin State Journal

"It's freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion!"  You've heard that, right?  Actually it's both.

The only constitutional reference to either is right at the beginning of the Bill of Rights.  "Congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of religion (freedom from) nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof (freedom of).  So simple.  You can have yours and I can have mine.  And neither of us can impose his on the other, nor can the government impose any on either of us.

Regarding contraception, then.  If your religion teaches you that using artificial contraception is 'wrong,' you are free to not use it.  But you are NOT free to insist that I don't.  Nor may the government do so, at least, not on religious grounds.  See the first amendment.  (Freedom from.)

If the issue is funding then let's work that out.  If contraception is to be part of comprehensive health care plans (yes please) and you're worried that some of your money is going toward funding it, through premiums or taxes, then do what the rest of us do when tax money gets used to fund something with which we disagree.  Something, even, that we see as morally wrong, like 'preventive' war.  Tell yourself that YOUR money isn't going toward that.  YOUR money is going to fund things that you whole-heartedly support. 

And smile.  ;  )

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Giants Win!

Expect to see this headline on Monday.  At least in New York.  In the Boston area it will likely be something like, Patriots Lose!

Of course, I could be wrong.  ;  )

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why Don't They Like Obama?

Well it's been three years now and approximately half of all voters just can't stand Obama.  Maybe that's a little high, I'm including lots of rational people who just don't like any Democrat or who have specific policy disagreements in mind.  But there is still a huge number of people who 'hate' our 44th president.  And for three years I've been trying to figure out why.

We saw (and still see) racist posters of Obama as a 'witch doctor' at 'Tea Party' rallies during the health care reform debate.  But racism isn't really the issue, I don't believe.  These same tea partiers went gaga over Herman Cain.  There, I guess, we would be looking at Cain as 'the right kind' of black man (accepting of the status quo and pliable in the hands of 'big money') and Obama as the 'wrong kind' (uppity).  So there is an element of racism but it isn't the primary driver of this backlash.

That's actually what it comes down to, I think: backlash.  (With a touch of 'uppity.')  Candidate Obama  ran against the status quo, against the Republican ideology that Reagan first made popular; the idea that if we just take care of the rich , with special exceptions and favorable tax policy, they will take care of us.  How dare he?!  'Hope' and 'Change' were his buzz words; 'Yes We Can' his rallying cry.  I believe John Boehner put into words what many of them thought throughout the campaign and into the Obama presidency: "Hell no you can't!" 

What the hell did he mean, change?  Change what?  Who the hell does he think he is?  How the hell does he figure he has the right to change anything?  (Forgetting, I guess, that he pulled more votes than any U.S. presidential candidate ever.)  So they set out to oppose him at every turn.  Obvious, common sense proposals were ridiculed and denounced, even proposals that had been initially floated by Republicans in the recent past.  An ambitious economic stimulus program aimed at combating the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression was compromised, whittled away at and weakened to the point of near ineffectualness, not so much on ideological grounds but to make sure that it wouldn't work, lest Obama 'succeed.' 

But the biggest thing that they 'hate' is that he inspired so many people.  Young, old, and in between; first time voters and long time abstainers; people who had become quite cynical by our broken political system; all came alive and turned out for the guy who appealed to the 'better angels of our nature.'  Let's work together, he said.  Let's change the way Washington works, and the way elections are done (remember how much money he raised from small-time donors).  Let's stop the 'selfishness is a virtue' dogma, right here and now and put America back on the path to realizing its full potential. 

Why was all of this so bad?  Because, I suggest, that all those 'haters' have lost faith in the American dream.  They have become cynical as a result of thirty years of pursuing Republican policies and thirty years of right wing talk radio and TV, telling them that the reason they're hurting economically is all the free-riders in American society.  Don't look at the correlation between the Reagan tax cuts and the suddenly ballooning federal deficit.  Forget about how the Bush tax cuts took a balanced budget (the first one in decades) and again started running huge deficits.  Don't even think about how a series of 'free trade agreements' and tax code changes caused a massive exodus of manufacturing jobs to foreign countries where the workers are literally paid pennies an hour.  Blame the people at the bottom!  Not the people at the top, the policy makers and tax-cutters.  And, above all, think only of yourself!  Make sure you 'get yours'!  Social Security is a scam!  It'll be gone by the time you want to retire!  Unless you let us 'privatize' it!  And whatever you do, DO NOT TRUST THE GOVERNMENT!  Not even us!  Government is the enemy! 

So Obama's message of 'change,' of collective action to get America moving forward again, is the last thing they want to hear.  They just can't believe that WE fell for it.  So they call him all sorts of nasty names like 'socialist' and 'secret Muslim' and tell us he isn't even a legitimate president, born in Kenya or wherever.  He sure isn't one of us!  Anything to break the spell which he must have us under. 

The really sad thing is if, somehow, Reagan could make one last speech, from beyond the grave, and tell us/them that what we need to do now is to come together and move America forward again they would cheer wildly.  40 million uninsured Americans is an atrocity, Reagan might say (with the benefit of his new viewpoint); we must use our collective power as a free and compassionate people to create a national policy that works for everyone!  Government isn't your enemy, it is YOU, the collective will of the people brought to life.  Let us come together and WIN THE FUTURE!

If only.  ;  )

Sunday, January 22, 2012

One More Try

I really can't decide but I'm going to force myself to predict the winners of the conference championship games.  Here goes.

NFC.  I want to take the Giants, I guess because if the Packers lose to the eventual Super Bowl champions it seems less lame.  But I'm taking the 49ers based on their better balance, home field and the fact that they're probably better suited for rain.  Still, if it turns out the Giants can run the ball and/or stop the Niners running game I think the Giants would win.  Eli should give them the edge at QB.  Both team's defenses look good right now.  49ers, 19-17. 

AFC.  The Ravens tend to be over-rated on Defense.  They're certainly better than the Patriots D, but the Patriots Offense is approximately one light year ahead of the Ravens O.  We'll see.  I'll say Patriots, 27-16.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Well, it's January 14th and the NFL season is nearly over.  What are there, seven games left?  Time for me to make some picks.

Saints at 49ers.

I'm very impressed with the job Jim Harbaugh did with the 49ers, including getting some production out of Alex Smith.  But I think they're over-matched today.  If both teams play their games; the Saints moving the ball smartly down the field and scoring touchdowns, the 49ers holding the ball for a while and either punting it inside the twenty or kicking field goals; then the Saints win.  IF the 49ers can force the Saints to punt many more times than they usually have to, or force several turnovers, they can win.  But my pick is the Saints, something like 31 - 16.

Tonight we have the Broncos at the Patriots.  Tebow vs. Brady.  Need I say much more?  The Broncos could win but they would have to play a nearly perfect game AND hope for some mistakes from the Patriots.  Close for a while but the Patriots gradually pull away.  Maybe a Tebow pick or two in the second half as he is compelled to throw more than once every 6 plays while playing from behind.  Patriots win, 38 - 16.

Tomorrow I'm picking the Texans to upset the Ravens, partly because I've never liked the Ravens.  But I also think the Texans are a better team than the Ravens.  Baltimore has the home field and the experienced quarterback but I've never been impressed with Flacco, especially in January.  If Yates comes through at all the Texans win.  I'll say 20 - 16.

Then, finally, we have the Giants at the Packers.  The Giants' pass rush scares me even more than their new-found running game.  Plus the Packers offensive coordinator buried his 21 year old son on Friday and the Packers have had a distracted week.  Still, sometimes teams rally around adversity.  And Rodgers and Company are the real deal.  If the defense steps up, like I think they will, the Packers should win.  I'll say 34 - 27.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

About Time

I have to confess that I don't know all the nuances of 'Venture Capitalism' or whether or not 'Private Equity Companies' do more harm than good.  But I will say that it appears we are beginning a national discussion which is long overdue, that being the value of selfishness to a free society.   And that, I will say, IS good.

I realize that the line 'Greed Is Good' is from a movie but the question I ask is was that art imitating life or did life subsequently imitate art?  Because that little speech by Gordon Gecko/Michael Douglas perfectly sums up 'free market capitalism.'  Do what is in your own, selfish best interest and America will be better for it. 

But really?  The argument is that without the incentive of personal gain, nobody will give his best effort.  But, here's the problem: nobody disputes that.  The actual other side of the argument is that it is possible to harness the 'profit motive' for the overall good of society.  Not, however, through unrestrained selfishness but with restrained selfishness.  People should pursue their own self interest; they not only have that right but they need to.  It's what keeps us alive.  But if there is to be any benefit to society somebody has to look at the overall effect.
A government of the people, by the people, for the people seeks to govern in a manner that promotes the overall good.  Self-interest is fine but we don't allow people to steal or kill to promote their own interests.  We the people created a government to protect us from people's selfishness and greed.  To establish justice.  To promote the general welfare.  Nobody disagrees with this, right?  Yet when it comes to 'the economy' we believe that 'the government' should get out of the way and let people be as selfish as they desire?

The role of the government then, in the economic realm, is to incentivize profit-seeking behavior that benefits society and disincentivize profit-seeking behavior that debilitates.  They do this through regulation and through tax policy (the two things that Republicans, and some Democrats, have demonized and chopped away at for thirty years now).   Regulations that say, go ahead, pursue self-interest, within this framework.  And a tax structure that says, go ahead, seek profit.  Make profit.  But expect to pay taxes on your income and above a certain point expect to pay more tax on your income.  Or, maybe, defer some of that profit, don't take it as personal income; instead reinvest it in your business, share some with the work force (bonuses: not just for the Chief), avoid that highest tax rate.

If selfishness is really 'good,' then what's with all this allegiance to the flag pledging and national anthem singing?  Shouldn't I pledge allegiance only to myself?

I pledge allegiance,
to myself,
to my own, selfish interest.

And to whatever it takes,
to advance my interests,
there is no 'nation,'
there is no 'God'
and justice, for ME! 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Year in Literature

2011 Book List

War In A Time Of Peace: Bush, Clinton and the Generals,
David Halberstam

1968 In America: Music, Politics, Chaos,
Counterculture, and the Shaping of a Generation,
Charles Kaiser

Pro Passer, Clyde Grosscup

Newton and the Culture of Newtonianism
Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs and Margaret C. Jacob

How To Win Friends and Influence People
Dale Carnegie

Throw the Bomb, Clyde Grosscup

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era,
James M. McPherson

The Summer Game, Roger Angell

The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien

The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood,
Jane Leavy

Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America,
Rick Perlstein

Before The Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus
Rick Perlstein

I recommend the Perlstein books, especially Nixonland, the Halberstam and the Tim O'Brien.  And the Mickey Mantle bio. 

Oh yeah, the Civil War book, McPherson, is superb.