Category Archives: My GOP Defection

The PBS Vietnam Series gets me thinking

I watched all the Stanley Karnow episodes in the 1990’s about Vietnam but I think Kevin Burns will bring a little more nuance at a time when it can be digested by the folks who weren’t born and didn’t live through the war. I agree with Burns that our actions during this war divided America. However, I also believe that the entire Civil Rights Era was an equal partner in this division having predated it by 200 years.

My eight loyal readers know that I put a disproportionate blame on the GOP for all our woes. That war became a sort of substitute for Civil Rights because it simply became impossible to be an avowed racist after Martin Luther King. But being a patriot – that was different. Many folks could use “America First” or “Better Red than Dead” or the “Domino Theory” in place of race baiting to hang their political hats on. Ditto the Pro-life movement. For years northerners thumbed their noses at “racist” southerners, never mind their own urban red lining and segregation, and “saving babies” gave southern Baptist types the same sense of moral superiority to throw back at northern baby killing sophisticates.

Over time the GOP, which had beat the Democrats up over catering to special interests – blacks, latinos, women’s libbers and unions, became their own assortment of special interests, patriots, pro-lifers, pro-NRA, and “small government” (code for don’t make us integrate.)

In time the GOP got so virulent about removing RINO’s like me that they perfected “primarying” by which they defeated “liberal” Republican office holders and purged a formerly pro-civil rights party of moderates. Of course, the Democrats did something similar if less rigorously.

As much as I bemoan the “demagogue” Trump I can see his allure to folks who feel neglected and I can even see that the promise of turning politics on its head might just improve our politics. His base has not yet rebelled when he’s worked out deals with Democrats. In an odd way his manner and his supporter’s devotion are acting as a rebuke to Republican stuffed shirts……the same folks who went along with the purge of liberal Republicans like me because it kept working to keep the Congress in their hands.

All those moderate Republican Presidential candidates Trump whipped for the nomination……they were the same folks who stood by as the Republican Party got more white, more angry and more self righteous. They were also the great exponents of free trade which blue collar converts to Republicanism are so fed up with.

But back to Burns and Vietnam.

I hope his ten part series can put some of the ghosts of that era to rest. My story during that Era can be summed up this way:

My family raised me to revere my Grandfather who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was both for staying out of foreign wars, which he blamed on Democrats, and for supporting our troops no matter how stupid the war was once we were stuck in one.

As a college student in the 1970’s I couldn’t reconcile the contradictions that this dual policy required. I was embarrassed for not being a part of the war as I objected to it. But the WW II generation fixed it so that future wars, like Vietnam, would be fought by poor kids while college students were exempted. Even then I saw that as grossly unfair while I was going to college with a draft number of 41, low enough to insure I’d go into the service if I quit college.

And what a hideous war it was making America complicit in evil doings that turned the stomach and the mind. Thus it always is with war. As Robert E. Lee said: “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”

If America can survive Donald Trump without succumbing to his call of “America First” maybe he will succeed in answering the hopes of his most ardent supporters to break out of the gridlock that has made our politics so lamentable in recent years. He may do it by killing the “Party of Lincoln.” That is, if the Republicans themselves haven’t already accomplished it.

Pickle relish and ketchup on my Deep State, Please?

Mother nature woke me at 4AM. The “Deep State” prevented me from going back into a deep sleep. Before I launch into my thoughts about national paranoia I’ll start with local paranoia.

I often mentioned the slogan I jokingly suggest should be our school board’s operating principle: “Just because you’re paranoid DOESN’T mean that someone isn’t out to get you!”

Just this morning I sent out an email containing this sentiment:

“The only antidote I know for this paranoia is sunshine. Put things out in the open where you can see them and you can shrug them off. If you can’t see them they become like that poisonous creature hiding in a tree stump in the Star trek movie about the castoffs marooned on a dying plant. They had to put their hands in the stump and risk a painful death.”

The “Deep State” strikes me as an invention of the real “Deep State.” The so called Deep State is not the bureaucrats and press foisting socialized medicine on a hardy, uncorrupted people. It’s the folks who don’t want to pay for socialized medicine or other civic obligations like pollution control.

The chief obstacle to getting this accomplished is our Constitution which guarantees a free press the much hated irritant of the power hungry except when they themselves use it. In Russia or China the author of “Dark Money”, Jane Mayer, would have been shot or disappeared by now. In America her biggest worry would be disinterest not death.

Before the School Board campaign and researching China got in the way I managed to get about half way through the book. It details the remnants of the John Birch Society which have rekindled into a much more potent semi-secret cabal led by the deep pockets of two of the Koch brothers. Their tentacles are everywhere – Congress, the Federal Courts, all state legislatures through ALEC, reapportionment, voter suppression, freedom to work laws, campaign finance, undermining of Federal regulation, the Trump Administration, the Tea Party and Fox News. You can’t fault Charles Koch for not putting his money where his heart is – corporate supremacy through regulatory inaction. You might argue that most of the billions he’s spent on this re engineering the American polity came from putting the public at risk by skimping on public spiritedness.

My take on the Republicans hysterics about a liberal Deep State is to think of it as Fake mongering. It has all the resonance of the grade school taunt: “I know you are but what am I?”

Maybe the real problem is overpopulation and its unruly offspring disappointed expectations of the young but the Free Press is under assault all over the world – Russia, Turkey, China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and now the United States. Our all-too-real President lies daily about “Fake News” until its obvious truth emerges. Then his lackey’s call it a “nothing burger.”

I’ll take my nothing burger with plenty of ketchup and pickle relish, thank you.

92 pages into Dark Money and a change of scenery

I am reading Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money. It is an intensely serious exploration of the unscrupulous but entirely legal attempt to subvert any trace of socialism that has accumulated in the United States over the last century. To call the billionaires who are bringing this about anarchists comes close to their objective – the rule of wealth.

This was an unplanned excursion into modern American politics because I have been busying myself reading up on the politics of my Grandfather’s youth and young adulthood. Karl Rove’s book about the McKinley/Bryan election was in the batters box. I’m sure I find it even more interesting after finishing Dark Money. One selling point for the Rove book is that the 1896 election is something of a model for 2016’s carnival. Like our most recent election 1896 was the first mega bucks presidential race. It pitted a free silver radical, Bryan, against Millionaires who thought he would bleed them dry with cheap money. This was Mark Twain’s “Gilded Age” when the gulf between rich and poor was vast as it has once again become. Since 1970 a collection of billionaires who have put their financial muscle behind a genetic re-engineering the Republican Party away from John Maynard Keynes and allied it with the ghosts of our unsavory past.

I checked the index of Dark Money to see how often Karl Rove was mentioned in it – 9 times and then took a second look at Rove’s dust jacket. It wasn’t only conservative pundits that praised his book. So did Jon Meacham author of a biography of Andrew Jackson and Doris Kearns Goodwin who has written some of my favorite books about Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and FDR. The Billionaires would love to erase all memory of the latter two presidents.

The Koch Brothers (2 of the 4) put almost a billion dollars into the 2016 election and tag teamed with Vladimir Putin to change our political landscape. Mayer says of them that they want to roll back not only Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society but FDR’s New Deal and even Teddy Roosevelt’s “Square Deal.” It was teddy who called the rich of his Era the “malefactors of wealth.” Mark Hanna, the Charles Koch of his Era and the man who elected McKinley, grimly said of Teddy after he succeeded the assassinated McKinley “Now that damned cowboy is in the White House”. Hanna’s modern day successors feel the same about the “trust buster.”

When Glenn Beck made his first appearance in the book (8 mentions) I was reminded of hearing Beck express great reservations years ago about Teddy for steering America wrong. Who the heck today doesn’t like TR? Well the Billionaires don’t and it seems Beck was one of the regulars at the secret gatherings at the Koch home. No doubt he drank deeply of the Koch’s antediluvian thinking.

BTW. Beck has been on something of a repentance tour. I was astonished to see him on Samantha Bee and even more surprised last Sunday to catch him in his confessions on Public Radio’s On Being.

I’ve run as a Republican several times although the last time in 2002 I had to beat the endorsed candidate in a primary. I think so. I can’t quite remember. Its a long time ago. Starting in 2006 I went to my first DFL precinct caucus and felt like a fish out of water although it was more tepid than the GOP waters I had been roiling in previously. That’s when I named the blog.

I was also delighted to hear Abraham Lincoln lauded at a DFL gathering. The GOP has been embarrassed by him ever since Ronald Reagan was elected President. And one of my one of my favorite political memories was attending the 2008 Seventh District convention and seeing so many other Obama supporters. I haven’t attended a DFL precinct caucus for a couple of elections. Its tough on my gills so, at best I’m a compromised Democrat but I am about to attend this weekend’s screening committee to ask Duluth DFLer’s to endorse me for the School Board race. I’ve left a message asking where and when to appear to have my credentials validated.

…………………………WeltyforSchoolBoard.com

On the day that President Trump will give his first speech to Congress…

… I was fixing old posts. One of them was this short post from JANUARY 23, 2012. Richard Nixon’s simple explanation for why America should have two political parties reaching for the center instead of the periphery demonstrates the wisdom he had and that he ignored in order to become President in 1968.

Today the Bernie Sander’s diehards are hoping to do to the Democratic Party what the Tea Party did to the Republican Party. Break it.

From that post:

In 1959, Vice-President Nixon, speaking to members of California’s Commonwealth Club, was asked if he’d like to see the parties undergo an ideological realignment, the sort that has since taken place, and he replied, “I think it would be a great tragedy . . . if we had our two major political parties divide on what we would call a conservative-liberal line.” He continued, “I think one of the attributes of our political system has been that we have avoided generally violent swings in Administrations from one extreme to the other. And the reason we have avoided that is that in both parties there has been room for a broad spectrum of opinion.” Therefore, “when your Administrations come to power, they will represent the whole people rather than just one segment of the people.”

I am voting for Dylan

No, I’m not talking about local Duluth Boy, Bob, now of Nobel Prize fame. I’m talking about Dylan Raddant the Republican candidate challenging DFL Representative Jen Schultz.

I met Dylan for a cup of coffee and a talk in June after I read about her. (I just corrected that from “him” to “her.”) I read about Dylan’s candidacy in May. The DNT story made clear that Dylan was “transitioning from male to female.” That story had some predictable sentences that went along with the surprising candidacy. Dylan explained that “she would bring a new and valuable point of view the the Legislature.” Furthermore, “Raddant aims to dispel the notion that the Republican party is somewhow exclusionary” and that “I want to bring this party into the 21st century in terms of social progress.”

Of course, when we spoke, I brought my very much excluded self to the table as a RINO kicked out because I wouldn’t shuck off my social liberalism. I don’t think I pledged my vote to Dylan at that first meeting but I gave him a contribution. I pointed out that he is very much at odds with his new party on an issue of particular interest to her – transgender bathrooms. I noted that it was Democrats supporting this and Dylan was painfully aware of just how much needs to be done to drag the GOP into the social mainstream of the 21st Century.

PLEASE NOTE, my use of the pronoun “him” in the last sentence with “her” following it. I’m in transition too. Dylan is taller than me and her name is sufficiently masculine and her transition sufficiently neutral enough that I too am caught between pronouns.

Dylan is only about 21 and comes from a less political background than I did at the same age. She’s also about five years younger than I was when I first ran for the state legislature in 1976. Her district has had Republican representatives in the past. I once challenged Jen’s predecessor Thomas Huntly for the position back in 2002 in my last campaign as a Republican. It was after that that I hung up my Republican spurs and began attending DFL conventions through four elections. Now I’m a man without a party.

If Trump sufficiently pummels the Party I might go back to it and wander around it like my Dad wandered around Hiroshima a month or two after the atom bomb was dropped on it. Its the “Party of Lincoln” damn it and its a sorry day that its leaders for the past couple decades have paid their founder so little heed. Hell, they crapped all over Reagan too and his “big tent.” With old RINO’s like me and a couple gender fluid representatives maybe we could turn it back to the center and take it away from Teddy Roosevelt’s buggaboo, the “lunitic fringe.” TR put that much better than Hillary did with her “basket of deplorables.” Although lumping Rush, Limbaugh and David Duke together in that category is OK by me.

The DNT, not surprisingly, endorsed Jen Schultz for reelection. She’s not a bad egg but I’m not impressed with the parade of benign and interchangeable letters to the editor sent in to the Editorial pages in her behalf. She will win and win handily. I bear her no ill will although she didn’t bend over as far backwards as Rep. Simonson did when Art Johnston and I brought her a proposal to kill the dumbass state law that gives a school board (and only a school board) the right to kick off a duly elected Board member they don’t want to put up with.

I’m afraid that Jen is the conformist candidate. Dylan, on the other hand, is about as much of a nonconformist as any of us tired with the status quo could hope to see elected to the legislature……..no matter how green behind the ears he may be. Oh, and his religiously conservative family is not keen on his particular brand of nonconformism. Oh, and some of Duluth’s conservative Republican poobahs have been supportive of Dylan’s political exertions. Maybe the GOP will let ole Honest Abe back in the party after a good thrashing. Abe had a funny eye that is attributed to his having a mule kick him in the head. It didn’t stop him and the party could only benefit from one now. I hope its good and hard.

Psalm 10 and Octopus Ink

In the six months since I’ve returned from Jerusalem I’ve managed to get over half way from Genesis to the last of the minor prophets – Malachi. (Those are generally all the books in both the Protestant’s Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible) Last night after the end of the Democrat’s Presidential nominating convention I read Psalm 10: As with Job before it I couldn’t help relate many of the lines to current events, to wit:

Vs. 2: In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor- (Donald Trump ripping off legions of small contractors, college students, renters, investors)

Vs. 3: For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart, those greedy for gain….:(Ditto Trump)

Vs. 5: Their ways prosper at all times: your judgments are on high, out of their sight, as for their foes, they scoff (tweet) at them.

Vs. 7: …..under their tongues are mischief and iniquity.

Vs. 8: …Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless:

The Republican evangelicals really have nominated a fifth grader’s, middle finger of a candidate. I’d say fourth grade as that is one estimate of Donald Trump’s vocabulary usage but my older grandson is going into fourth grade and I just can’t stand the idea of my grandson being in the same class with Donald Trump.

Even my first grade grandson has a superior vocabulary to the Trumpster. Yesterday after our trip to the Duluth Aquarium we were talking about Octopus ink and he said it was an “obstacle illusion.” That’s also a good description of the Big Apple, rip off artist. The fifth grader in me can’t help but think of that stock fifth grade retort, “I know you are but what am I?”, when I hear him call Clinton “Crooked Hillary.”

It turns out that about two-thirds of Americans who call themselves “evangelicals” never or rarely go to church. Consequently, they have nominated a candidate who is disinterested in religion and contemptuous of today’s thin Republican dogma. Now they are faced with a candidate, like her or not, who was locked out of her house by her Mother to face down the neighborhood’s bullies. Too bad the Republicans didn’t have any candidates with Mother’s like Hillary Clinton had.

Unto the fifth generation – Not!

My children are as allergic to today’s GOP as though it was a toxic substance. If it had not become the party of God and the vulgarian, double talker, Donald Trump, they might have become fifth generation Republicans.

Using the best examples from my family’s history I’d like to talk about the preceding four generations.

The Grand Old Party began its life a few years before my Great Grandfather entered New York harbor from Ireland in 1860 one month after Lincoln’s election and two months before his inauguration. “What’s the news?” called a passenger on his ship as they passed an outward bound vessel. “South Carolina has seceded from the Union,” was the reply. Thomas Robb was twelve years old. It would be four years of war plus seven years of Reconstruction before he could cast his first vote as a naturalized citizen.

Thomas was the son of a protestant land manager who had threats made against his life by Irish Nationalists. The men who left that threat attached to a prize bull they killed were largely Catholics in Ireland and Democrats in America. It’s not surprising then that Thomas would vote Republican.

If he had any doubts about his party’s virtues one incident sealed his thinking. Continue reading

Six Paragraphs

My return to the Reader Weekly, Duluth’s largest tabloid, was a little awkward. Although its publisher had kind words for me as he introduced five new columnists – “Harry is a terrific writer” – its hard not to wonder if that isn’t a promotion of the Reader rather than its returned writer.

My column was submitted and as far as I could tell languished unacknowledged for two weeks before publication. I got home late this afternoon and found that it was indeed in this week’s Reader if not in the Reader’s new website. A picture I’d submitted was not included. My dozen paragraphs were pared down to half that. To the extent that the breaks helped refocus my narative the elimination of them seemed to make it a little breathless. I suspect I’m in part to blame for the mis-communication about what I wanted published. I was on vacation and gloriously distracted until the last two days when I called and found out that another column was wanted forthwith. Yesterday I spent four hours in the car heading home and racing through North Dakota’s stretch of I-94 busily editing a rough draft down from 1100 words to 650 or so. when it shows up a week from now it will be titled “…illions.”

I’m exhausted from a long day and have valiently but incompetantly attempted to stick it into my old website. I’m too tired to correct the mistakes tonight. I need sleep. but for those of you who can’t wait here it is as I would have preferred it to have appeared in print. Tomorrow and henceforth I’ll put it in the proper place and this link will take you to the parent webpage.

North Dakota’s blankety blank Republicans

North Dakota’s GOP has taken the lead on fighting abortion having made it illegal from six weeks after conception.

That’s one part of their recent legislative action.

The law that really cranked my chain was the one the forbade the abortion of any fetus because of a disability. Its supposed to be a high minded Godly law, proof that the GOP cares about children. Tosh. The GOP doesn’t give a shit about children or their parents. The story I was sent about the state of Minnesota doing its best not to fund special education proves my point.

North Dakota Women carrying disabled babies must now give birth to them but can expect no help from taxpayers to help them raise or educate their disabled children. That’s the GOP today. Its a party of no-nothings, hypocrites and assholes. They’ll spend tax money like Indiana to give well-heeled parents a way to avoid public schools that are stuck teaching the disabled children that Republicans are unwilling to levy taxes to educate. Or like in Nebraska they will refuse to fund neo-natal care if there is the smallest chance some wet back from Mexico might have her fetus examined at public expense.

Don’t worry I haven’t offended by Buddy. He told me he stopped reading my blog because I was so unfair to Republicans.

If I do go to the next GOP precinct caucuses I’ll have a couple questions.

BTW. If I do run for the School Board I hope someone throws my line about no-nothings, hypocrites and assholes at me. Its just the kind of thing I would expect from an asshole.

Oh, and how can I resist mentioning the efforts of the GOP to protect children from their Gay parents. The GOP may no longer want to be tagged with that public stand but there is little doubt the protesters against gay marriage out in front of the Supreme Court today are all Republicans, Senator Portman be damned.

My Favorite Movie Pt 3 – ctd. (another unedited late night mental ramble)

Its eleven PM the night after I began the above named post. I’ve watched two more great hours of the British series The Hour. This season is every bit as engrossing as the first season. But now on to ramble and postpone sleep for another hour despite the likelihood that my grandsons will wake me early tomorrow.

I suggested that my sculpture and not movies would launch this late night ramble. Yeah, and I found more unexpected back up on the Daily Dish which I will link to before I go to bed.

I mentioned that my sculpture led to a single pro and con email. I’ve posted the pro in full. I won’t do the same with the con. I opened it the moment it came in my in box and just skimmed it. It was full of outrage which was over the top. The lead sentence gives a fair hint at its author’s appoplexy:

“Can you imagine a Duluth where a DFL mule was displayed sporting the Stars and Bars?  The city would be in an uproar. But slandering a symbol of conservatism is a cause to celebrate?  Perhaps a more appropriate sculpture would be one of the DNC Donkey sporting a swastika.”

I was delighted Continue reading

My threat to rejoin the GOP ctd.

Oh yeah, As I drove off to run my errand I remembered what else set me off on the last post – Illinois pension benefit crisis.

I’m sure I was reading about it more than a decade ago when it was only a looming disaster. Nothing was done of course, I guess the GOP was too busy warring over abortion, guns and God! Oh they probably wrung their hands over it like they currently are doing over our deficits but they have gotten into the habit of not fixing problems so they can moan over them at election time.

And just in case my old Buddy still holds his nose to open my blog to see what balderdash I’m currently writing – yup. Democrats can be just as bad.

But in the old days Republicans like Bob Dole could be counted on to fix problems. Remember Social Security once threatened to end up like Illinois Public employee pensions. Then Republicans began working with Democratic President Bill Clinton and they largely fixed the problem. Future tweaks will be necessary but a couple years ago when the GOP had Obama on the ropes he was desperate to work with them and give them about 90% of what they wanted. Ah, but Senate majority leader McConnell was quite blunt about what the top priority of the GOP was – to insure that Obama was a one term President. And we all know how well that worked out don’t we?

I’m a strong believer in two major political parties fighting for the center and working actively to solve problems instead of giving into the hyperbolic. I used to be scolded by Democrats who saw I shared many of their beliefs for sticking with the GOP. The GOP still needs folks like me for the good of the nation. We need Republicans who are Americans first and partisans second or even third.

I wonder how well a leper will be received if he hobbles back to the big tent?

Oh and PS. My Dad was a president of a public employee union. I think he’d second of my analysis.

My threat to rejoin the GOP

I’m quite serious about it. I just filed for social security yesterday so I’m not exactly an existential threat to the Grand Old Party. I’ve said so many disparaging things about the current occupants of the party that I can’t exactly expect to be met with open arms but what the heck. I seem to enjoy making a target of myself.

I suppose returning to it would be a little like a gay child returning to the family that made it clear they didn’t like queers but as they say, blood is thicker than water especially after it coagulates. Hey, scabs precede healing right?

I’ve never had a visceral distaste for Democrats. To any new readers of the blog I’ve made that comment before with the metaphor of that great old movie Best of Enemies. If I had my druthers I’d prefer to remain the best of enemies with Democrats rather than a refugee among them.

One of the things I read in the paper recently reinforced that. It was the startling figure that Minnesota had 750,000 active or retired public employees. That’s a fifth of the working population. They live on tax revenues and that includes retirement pay. Is it any wonder that the health plan alone, never mind pensions, almost brought the City of Duluth to its knees.

As much as I detest Wisconsin Governor Walker’s method of cutting off public employee unions at the knees I can understand his drive to do this. Public Employee unions with the right to strike they won fifty years ago or so are powerful. I knew it going into the Duluth School Board and endured it while there. Even now I seem to be the object of considerable antipathy by a lot of Duluth’s teachers.

I find it ironic that our teacher’s current woes in Duluth are largely of their own making. They could have had the rival Edison public schools as part of their domain, at least in part, had they not decided to destroy it. They wouldn’t be suffering in nice new schools with 35 kids in a class had they not thrown in their lot with construction unions and the Duluth Chamber of Commerce to support the Red Plan. The bond payments for that are coming out of Duluth classrooms even now. Frank Wanner, the guy who told me Senator Bob Dole was a fascist, remains the President for Life of the DFT or whatever its called now that its part of Education Minnesota. Heck, Bob Dole looks like a saint by the standards of today’s GOP, an acerbic saint to be sure but a saint none-the-less.

I think there was more that I was going to write but I have to run an emergency errand. That will have to do.

Hard Truths

I just read a very short critical essay by Simon Schama on the fabulists and mythologizers at the recent GOP National Convention:

Here’s one paragraph:

In Mitt Romney’s breathtakingly edited version of the recent past, Republicans secretly rejoiced at Obama’s election, while only reluctantly coming to the conclusion that his policies had wrecked the economy. Yet history tells us that four years ago the American financial system was hanging over the abyss by the thread of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that a Republican administration and secretary of the Treasury had put in place, and for which the hypocritical deficit chickenhawk Paul Ryan had voted, even as he strained every muscle to get his district’s share of the stimulus package that he now denounces Obama for perpetrating. And recall also that the whole near-terminal calamity was caused by the unregulated derivative market whose freedom to destroy what’s left of the American economy the likes of Ryan and Romney cannot wait to reinstate.

At the bottom of the post is an editor’s note that explains that when this was first posted it claimed that as Nixon’s Secretary of HUD (Mitt’s Father George) did his best to foster segregation in US Housing. That was corrected. It was just the opposite of the essay’s first claim.

I recommend the essay as much for its authorship as its content. The note explaining that it originally contained such a glaring mistake is just one more reason to take it seriously. Any historian who admits to passing on historical errors is offering evidence of his/her devotion to truth as opposed to a vanity for never making a mistake. Schama points to a great many historical mistakes made by speakers at the GOP convention many of which have been repeated ad nauseam by commentators since the convention. I presume loyal Republicans will be as indifferent to them as race horses wearing blinders.

Coincidentally NPR ran a very interesting story this morning on a scientific investigation into the possibility that humans can willfully forget painful or inconvenient truths. Apparently they can. (I could have told you that. The fuzziest period of time in my memory, post toddlerhood, are two miserable years of teaching in Proctor right after I graduated from college.)

As for the author of the post. I have two Schama books one on the French Revolution and one on the Dutch Tulip bulb mania. I’ve not gotten around to reading either of them yet. I well recall walking through the building on Columbia University’s that houses most of its History faculty. I was looking for historian Eric Foner’s office when I saw Schama’s name plate on a near-by door. Columbia has a serious history department and has since my Grandfather George Robb got his master’s degree from Columbia in 1915.

This summer has been lost to me for my own history writing. I’ve been preoccupied with contractors and grand children. To clear my mind I began reading history books and just finished the fourth one in two months. Three of them were by historians who have earned Pulitzer Prizes. The first was Swerve, followed by Caro’s Passage of Power, then Goodwin’s Team of Rivals on Lincoln and I just wrapped up with a short book by another noted Historian Michael Beschloss’s Presidential Courage.

I’m so smitten reading addictive histories that I’ve spent the past few days going over lists on the Internet of highly regarded histories and ordered eleven of them last night. (all at deep discounts for used books) I don’t know how I’ll read them and research my own book now that the school year has swallowed up my Grandchildren again. Even so, while I’m waiting I’ve started another book that’s been on my shelf for the past eight years: Sea of Glory. The preface and first chapters are cracker jack.

Here’s the list from Amazon:

An Army at Dawn 1st (first) edition Text Only
Rick Atkinson

Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe (P.S.)
Laurence Bergreen

Thaddeus Stevens: Nineteenth-Century Egalitarian (Civil War America)
Hans Louis Trefousse

1920: The Year of the Six Presidents
David Pietrusza

The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America
Russell Shorto

Mr. Speaker!: The Life and Times of Thomas B. Reed The Man Who Broke the Filibuster
James Grant

Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America
Walter R. Borneman

The War That Made America: A Short History of the French and Indian War
Fred Anderson

The Routledge Historical Atlas of Presidential Elections (Routledge Atlases of American History)
Yanek Mieczkowski

Batavia’s Graveyard: The True Story of the Mad Heretic Who Led History’s Bloodiest Mutiny
Dash, Mike

Black Sea
Ascherson, Neal

The Internet has simply made possible things I was reaching for with great difficulty 40 years ago. Some examples of my early efforts:

All through my college years I asked everyone I knew which professors they most enjoyed so I could take the most stimulating classes I could.

As a sophomore I was on a committee established by the Student Senate to run a massive teacher evaluation program of the entire college faculty by students. We had questionaires printed out for all students and asked them a series of questions about their teachers and then printed a thick booklet for interested students to use in signing up for classes. Coincidentally, my Dad was the president of the Teacher’s Union and told me that a lot of the faculty was worried about the possibly unfair appraisal by students who had gotten poor grades.

For a few weeks after I graduated I went to dozens of highly regarded teachers and asked them which historical books they would recommend I read to further my education (I ended up reading very few of them)

I often rationalize that my failure to be a very successful politician is due at least in part to my penchant for honesty which I hasten to add is not the same as truth. The former is riddled with prejudice but has the virtue of acknowledging the flaw. Truth is truth although just what is true is hotly debated by both honest and dishonest people.

As a junior high school kid I recall being very interested in the story of Faust and Mephistoples. Faust trades his soul to the Devil for unlimited knowledge. I was very interested in such knowledge even though I knew my puny intellectual powers could never attain it. (It turns out that Faust also gets unlimited pleasure in the bargain but I only know that from reading the link to Wikipedia that I just provided. That’s not what interested me back then although I was also giving a lot of thought to the Lotus eaters in Homer’s the Odyssey)

The books I’ve ordered are meant to fullfill two wishes. I want them to be 1. page turners and 2. a wealth of information to fill gaps in my past reading. Unlike Faust I’ll never be omniscient but at least when I kick the bucket my soul will not belong to someone else like the GOP. They wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway – they’ve been shortchanging Lincoln’s soul for ages.

Some random thoughts on Rush Limbaugh’s culture wars

Look at the graph below about teen pregnancy in the US.

I have a number of thoughts in reaction to it which I don’t have time to develop into a long blog post. Among them:

A. Teen parents are far more likely to be incompetent parents.
B. Their children are far more likely to do poorly in school and life.
C. As a result they will probably help drive America’s high costs of dealing with dysfunctional members of society while denying us more productive (high tax paying) members of society.
D. The political fight to lay the blame for our high rates of pregnancy has prevented us from adopting a successful preventative.

The liberal answer would be to follow the secular European model of offering frank sex ed., contraception, abortion and the recognition that wherever people have functioning genitals they will have babies.

OR

The conserative answer – a religiously repressive model like in many Islamic nations of strict sex segregation and severe penalties for non approved sex.

I’ll stop with D but I’m sure I could add a lot more alphabet. I’ll simply end with this question. Which political party seems better poised to deal with the fact that 95% of Americans engage in premarital sex – the “liberal” one or the “conservative” one?

Why we will go the hell

We won’t go the hell. We won’t go the hell. We won’t go the hell. We won’t go the hell. We won’t go to hell. We won’t go the hell.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! We’re in hell:

“On the one hand, much of Wall Street is insisting that the whole fight is political theater and that Congress and the White house will work something out. On the other hand, congressional Republicans are insisting that Wall Street won’t react negatively if a deal doesn’t get done. In other words, financial markets aren’t yet reacting because they think a deal is in the offing and the GOP isn’t cutting a deal because it doesn’t think Wall Street cares,”