Category Archives: My GOP Defection

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,”

Wisconsin, a state that wasn’t in such bad shape…

…until Republican Scott Walker was elected Governor.

I asked Vic to tell me if he knew whether Governor Walker campaigned on a platform of repealing the collective bargaining rights of public employees. The answer seems to be not really or maybe just barely if you could read between the lines. Thanks for the link, Vic.

As I said in the recent post about the Middle East I believe people have a right to chart their own course in elections even stupid courses. It strikes me that in this case, candidate Walker was dishonest and didn’t give his voters the chance to choose the course he’s taking them on. Apparently he was so intent on winning an election he decided not to be honest about his plans. That’s strike one.

Strike two: What Walker is doing is attempting to bring about a fundamental change to the midwest’s political landscape by importing controversial “right to work” legislation from the states in the deep South where it has been largely confined. This is a Roe vs. Wade sort of surprise which is more power grab than anything else. Rahm Emmanuel famously said: “you never want to let a crises go to waste.” I believe the GOP was outraged when President Obama pushed his health care agenda under this theory – except that everyone knew that’s what Obama planned to do. The President didn’t deceive any voters.

Strike Three: Scott Walker is making things in Wisconsin incomporably worse to please the likes of jerks like Grover Norquist. I think these four comments from Wisconsinites disagreeing with Andrew Sullivan make a lot of sense.

By the way. I have a long standing respect for collective bargaining even as I often have little but contempt for the way it is conducted and the way some people (elected officials primarily) cave in to union demands.

BTW My Dad was on the public employee union side of the bargaining table. I was on the side of the elected officials meaning (I think) the side of the voters.

Find out what Grant drinks and send it to my other commanders

My gadfly critic, Vic, thinks Blogger Andrew Sullivan is “tendentious.”

Here’s my reply to an email Vic sent me this morning in which one of Vic’s old law school classmates disses a Sullivan blog post I sent Vic.

Vic,

I’ve read Sullivan over the same period of time. I’m unimpressed with your classmates analysis. I’ve read much the same from other “conservatives.” What you sent me the other day is one of the reasons I find Sullivan worth reading. He doesn’t join one side of a cheering section and park his brains in the locker room as though all that was at stake was bragging rights for winning a sport’s contest.

The people who read his Daily Dish regularly and find flaws in his logic and evidence get quoted on the Dish and he owns up to his errors. Show me a true “conservative” voice who does the same. Until GOP leaders dissassociate themselves from the Limbaughs, Hannitys and Becks they cannot seriously lead us anywhere as a nation. There are a few new Republicans appearing on the edges who are untainted with the GOP’s partisan dip-shittery. Mitch Daniels, Gov. Christie, the ambassador from China who’s stepping down to make a run at the Presidency. They are the hope for the GOP’s future. FOX pundits are political pornographers and the pols who refuse to disavow them are video sluts.

I do admire some GOP old timers like former Senators Rudman and Simpson. You might find Alan Simpson’s comments today on NPR interesting: http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2011/02/16/133801977/alan-simpson-cut-entitlements-defense-dont-touch-help-to-poor

Sure, Sullivan suffers from HIV but I’d paraphrase Lincoln when he commented on U.S. Grant’s alledged alcholism. If it [homosexuality] makes men like Sulivan think, then find out who he has sex with, and send them to the other pundits!”

Harry

Here’s what the law school classmate had to say:

On Wed, Feb 16, 2011 at 7:40 AM, Vic wrote:

From one of my law school classmates:

Sullivan is even more confusing for me than Arianna. Back in the 1990s he was basically a sensible person apart from the ‘gay’ situation. Someplace along the way BDS [Bush Derangement Syndrome] became even more serious for him than HIV and his world became more unreal. I can understand being critical of G.W. Bush and some of his policies but Sullivan totally ignored the obvious deficiencies in Obama.

L*****

Here’s the post in question in which Sullivan defends his previous castigation of Obama for his lousy budget plan but then defends Obama as our best hope for rationale fiscal discipline.

—– Original Message —–
From: Vic
To: L (the law school classmate)
Sent: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 1:33 AM
Subject: The Defense Of Obama’s Fiscal Cowardice – The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2011/02/the-defense-of-obamas-fiscal-cowardice.html

Vic

Smackdown

I just watched this clip from Hardball. Its gratifying when a journalist, in this case Chris Mathews, makes it clear that his know-it=not smart a** guest, in this case a GOP oriented radio talk show host, doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about.

By the way, here’s what Winston Churchill said about “appeasement.”

“The word ‘appeasement’ is not popular, but appeasement has its place in all policy,” he said in 1950. “Make sure you put it in the right place. Appease the weak, defy the strong.” He argued that “appeasement from strength is magnanimous and noble and might be the surest and perhaps the only path to world peace.” And he remarked on the painful irony: “When nations or individuals get strong they are often truculent and bullying, but when they are weak they become better-mannered. But this is the reverse of what is healthy and wise.”

I got this from the Daily Dish which got it from someone else on the blogosphere.

The Mother of all bailouts

I think I agree withRobert Reich on the latest proposed bailout.

As a Republican I’m very supportive of free enterprise and the “invisible hand.” But as a student of history and human greed I took to heart early the lessons of the unregulated Stock Market Crash of 1929. Glass Steagall gave us good protection. It was killed by Senator Phil Gramm in 1999. He’s the McCain advisor who just called American’s whiners.

If American taxpayers are going to have to pay off the bad debts of the rich then let’s make sure its taxes on the rich which pays off this most unwelcome financial burden. Barack Obama will tax them not John McCain.

This will mean that a President Obama will have a lot less money to play with but that’s the price we all have to pay for granting the wishes of the regulation-hating GOP