I disagree with Hightower.

What you will find here is: a centrist's view of current events;
a collection of thoughts, arguments, and observations
that I have found appealing and/or amusing over the years;
and, if you choose, your civil contributions which will make it into a conversation.

He not busy bein' born, is busy dyin'. - Bob Dylan

Please refer to participants only by their designated identities.

suggestion for US citizens: When a form asks for your race, write in: -- American

Friday, November 29, 2013

Race 4

At the end of Race 2 I listed four things that should be considered about the national anti racism policies of the last half century.   In future posts I will offer my thoughts on each of them.  Today III.

From Race 2.   I believe that the argument for special treatment because of prior oppression is valid and sufficient, because I see no other way to overcome the results of the prior treatment. 

.....  III.   a.  Will there be special interest groups that grow up around the protected classes?     
        b.  If so, how will you deal with them?

I would say that the answer is yes there will be.  How will it happen?  The NAACP and established membership organizations elect representatives who have a right to be considered as leaders of the protected groups from which their membership comes.  Their significance should be based on the number of members in the organization.  However much you may support the purpose of such organizations there is one simple fact that ought to be kept in mind.   Their purpose is to promote the interests of their protected group.  Considering the advantages that come from being a protected group it should be obvious that the group will attempt at all cost to maintain the existence of protected groups in general and, in particular, of the protected status of their group. They will then have a vested interest in maintaining the view that we are a racist society.  Any claim that we have made progress on that problem will be met with vigorous disagreement.

Another way the leadership of those protected classes is designated is by other forces.  For example, who elected Al Sharpton as a leader of the black community?  or Jesse Jackson for that matter?  The answer is that the media did. These folks could, and some say that they do, pick a business or organization and warn them of racism in their organization and solicit donations to their special racism fighting organizations.  The business can then prove their lack of racism by contributing to the charity.  This, if it exists, is extortion and should be treated as such.

What can be done about this?
Again, at some point, replace advantages that are based on  race with advantages that are based on poverty. If the current protected class is still being oppressed, then it should show up in high poverty figures group and they will still be helped.

What is the point in time at which we could do this?  Maybe now.

However, we should for sure say now that there will be a time when this will end.  That we will not, on a long term basis, be a nation whose operations are based on race.

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."  Chief Justice John Roberts, 2007

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Return of History and the End of Dreams

In his book The End of History and the Last Man (1992), Francis Fukuyama argued that “the worldwide spread of liberal democracies and free market capitalism of the West and its lifestyle may signal the end point of humanity's sociocultural evolution and become the final form of human government.” (Wikipedia)

In the The Return of History and the End of Dreams Robert Kagan (Alfred A Knoph, 2008, 105 pp) argues that the desire for hegemonic power, whether regional or global, is unabated; that the intervening quarter century has demonstrated the world has not turned into a collection of liberal democracies; and that international competition is still a long way from being limited to peaceful economic version. He argues that the democracies should exert more effort toward controlling the development of the new world order.

I thought it was very good.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A New World Chess Champion

Magnus Carlsen, the 22-year-old Norwegian who has been the most dominant chess player since 2010, finally broke through on Friday to win the game’s most important title, the world championship, for the first time.

Carlson 6.5 Anand 3.5

Race 3

At the end of Race 2 I listed four things that should be considered about the national anti racism policies of the last half century.   In future posts I will offer my thoughts on each of them.  Today I and II.

From Race 2  I believe that the argument for special treatment because of prior oppression is valid and sufficient, because I see no other way to overcome the results of the prior treatment. However, there are some concomitant questions that ought to be answered.  Such as:
I.  How much?
II.  For how long?
III.   a.  Will there be special interest groups that grow up around the protected classes?      b.  If so, how will you deal with them?
IV  How do you deal with rogues among the protected classes?

I.  How much?
I think affirmative action is fine if the action is:
a)   “Prefer the protected class person if they are at equally (or better) qualified for a job than the white male.” 
Not so fine if the action is:
b)  “Prefer the protected class person for a job if they meet minimum qualifications regardless of their comparison with other applicants.” 
The latter format should be used only if the organization has a proven record of discrimination.
c)  “Prefer the protected class person for admission to universities with restrictive requirements even if they otherwise have qualifications less than other applicants.” 
This doesn’t bother me too much, but there are two issues about it:
            1.  The school should provide assistance to the student if he doesn’t meet their normal standards for admission.
            2.  It seems like there is a risk that the student will be unsuccessful at the higher ranked school even though he might have been very successful at a school for which he could have met the requirements.

II  For how long?  First of all it should have been stated early and frequently that racial preferences are a temporary expedient and will eventually come to an end.
a)  One answer is “As long as slavery lasted.”  I disagree with that because there is really no reason to link the two times together and
b) If it takes more than a couple generations then maybe it is not working.
c) I think it has accomplished a lot and perhaps it is time to say that disparate opportunity is today more likely to be a result of simple poverty than race.  One could grant these preferences (in an effort to “level the playing field”) based on family poverty.  If you did that, then,
1.  as long as the race was a factor in poverty you would still be working on the race aspect,
2.  if race ceases to be a factor in poverty, then what is the rationale for race based preferences?

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."  Chief Justice John Roberts, 2007

Friday, November 22, 2013

Debra Burgess - teacher


Members of the seventh class of the Gov. Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame have been selected.
The three chosen by the statewide selection committee are Golda Pensol WalbertDebra Burgess and Cynthia S. Wooden. The 2014 induction ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 6 at the State Capitol in Frankfort.
The Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame was created in 2000 through a gift by former Gov. Nunn, who hoped to recognize the vital role that primary and secondary teachers in Kentucky play in the education of young people and the positive impact education has on the state’s economy. WKU was selected as the home of the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame because of its more than 100-year history in teacher education


E J Dionne began an article yesterday about what we lost on Nov 22, 1963 with the following:  

"Whenever we reflect on the horror of Nov. 22, 1963, we mourn not only the murder of a graceful and inspiring leader but also a steady ebbing in the years thereafter of our faith in what we could achieve through public life and common endeavor."

I think that this is the kind of claptrap that comes out a very naive version of modern liberalism.  It is a liberalism that believes that, not only is man perfectable, but that it can be done in the short run.  They end up letting the perfect make them condemn the good.

Consider the main aspects of "the good life":

1.  Material - I think that most people in this country and certainly in the world who make a living in activity X are better off now than they were in 1963. 

2.  Health care - The same is true.  The "30 million" uninsured is 10% of the population. The percentage was higher in 63 since medicare did not even exist.

3.  Opportunity and Social Justice – Were at that time denied to a good majority (minorities and women) of the population.

Dionne and others unlike him are unhappy that “then” we felt that government could do great things and now we don’t.  What happened?

Well I say that what happened is:
a) that we undertook to actually do some of those things that he thinks needed doing,
b) we have made a lot of progress in all of them, particularly 2 and 3 and
c) those things are very hard.  (Find another country as racially diverse as this one that has even attempted to achieve social justice.)

So we have had a little dose of reality about what government can do and maybe some of what it cannot do.

It is called maturity and it is not a bad thing.
(minor modifications at 7:40 AM same day)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

(not) off topic

I know we generally stick to politics here at YA, but I wrote a little piece for my university newspaper and thought I'd share...in case anyone has a contrary opinion. I'd love to hear it! Thanks for reading.

We are a football nation by now, right? Baseball occupies a special place in our national identity and we find time for basketball, but as Stephen Hayes pointed out in a recent appearance on Fox News, game one of the 2013 World Series got “basically the same [television] ratings” as the—apparently terrible—Monday Night Football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants. My personal beef with the sport of football is not aimed at the NFL, but the observation by Mr. Hayes helps to set up an important point: we sure do love our football.

What I have come to wonder though, is why exactly football is a part of our higher education system? I’m a full-time student with an eye on a career in academia, but the whole spectacle of college football doesn’t strike me as very pertinent to what I think universities are supposed to be about: academics.

I’m not the first to wonder this, nor did I invent my opposition out of thin air. I owe most of my considerations to Malcolm Gladwell and Buzz Bissinger who first got me thinking about college football in a critical way. Indeed, they explain their opposition much more eloquently than I am about to do.

To start, I call my anti-college football views “mostly principled” because I don’t mind admitting that, although I played and watched football as a child, at some point the sport simply started to bore me—I’d rather watch paint dry!

In many cases, athletic competition goes a long way to inspire us to take care of our bodies. In the case of football though, there is a good deal of evidence pointing to the real damage done to player’s brains due to the repeated blows to the head sustained during each and every play. Seeing a player get knocked out on the field is a powerful image, but there is research showing that the real damage goes unnoticed throughout the course of a game. Constant hits and collisions have lasting neurological consequences that are physically hurting the young people that play the game. It is bad for their brains. Universities ostensibly exist for the purpose of shaping and enhancing young minds; does football contribute to this goal?

After having this conversation with a friend the other day, it occurred to me that my university’s mission statement might shed some light on exactly where college football fits into the picture. Easily accessible via the University of Louisville’s website, the mission statement of U of L states, “The University of Louisville shall be a premier, nationally recognized metropolitan research university with a commitment to the liberal arts and sciences and to the intellectual, cultural, and economic development of our diverse communities and citizens…” It goes on to list five focuses of the U of L community that include things like “educational experience” and “research, creative, and scholarly activity.” I don’t see much room in a statement like this for an activity that is inherently violent and hurts people.

I understand that by taking this position I sound a lot like The Fun Police. After all, I’m just a young, artsy-fartsy, liberal, ivory tower aspirant who is casting aspersions on something that a lot of people love. My goal, however, is not to be The Fun Police or to convince everyone to stop playing football. My objection is with football’s close ties to the university institution. I admit that I’m not interested in the NFL either, but I see that as a very different issue. If Peyton Manning wants to sell his labor to the Denver Broncos in the form of quarterbacking his team and getting pummeled while doing it, he can do it! That’s capitalism! We have a market for the sport and people are filling the market. As a commercial enterprise, the NFL is great at what it does and I wish it the best.

College football, though, is tougher for me to be okay with. The University of Louisville is a great school that has a strong tradition of academic excellence, but I’m not convinced that football helps us get there. Instead, it creates a show out of 22 young athletes doing long-term damage to their brains, and occasionally breaking an arm or a leg. That being said, my stance is entirely non-dogmatic. Maybe it would be worthwhile to hear Teddy Bridgewater, Coach Charlie Strong, or even President James Ramsey himself give a strong defense for football in the university arena.

Historical note: The Gettysburg Address

Some things bear repeating:

At the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863 a hundred and seventy thousand men launched themselves at each other and suffered almost 50,000 casualties. Lee was repelled and returned to Virginia. At the site on this day, later that year, the noted orator, Edward Everett, held forth for over two hours on this momentous occasion. 

Abraham Lincoln was there too, and before the photographers had finished setting up for him, he had completed the following remarks. In C-span fashion we note that his remarks lasted for about two minutes.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate - we cannot consecrate - we cannot hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln - November 19, 1863

Monday, November 18, 2013

Race 2

I described in race I, my understanding of how powerful the American version of racism was and that the reason for its power was because it involved the bringing together of race, slavery, and dehumanization.   After two centuries the nation paid a heavy price in blood and treasure to formally abolish slavery.  But it was replaced (in the South) by a share-cropping economic structure married to a segregated social structure that amounted to an American apartheid.  This lasted another century.

Then toward the end of that third century the nation set about to finally deal with its race problem.  In the words of Martin Luther King, “…to live out the true meaning of its creed, that all men are created equal.” That story is well known.  The end of segregation, the expansion of voting rights, and access to opportunity came to the forefront of the American agenda.  But it was not going to be easy.  

I expect that now we have come to the end of the general agreement about how we got where we were in 1965.

Fighting the very strong American racism would take very strong measures.  Affirmative action – use discrimination to fight the effects of previous discrimination.  Laws against racial discrimination in the workplace that were strong enough to actually achieve their purpose.  If the victim was being discriminated against by an institution or a large group of people within an institution, then it would be very hard to prove it.  Since the group was stronger than the individual, we shifted the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused.  It is now true that even appearing to be a racist is one of the worst things that can happen to you in this society.

Why do I call them very strong?  Because following them takes you outside of normal American jurisprudence.  You have created a protected class of people.  How do you prove that your hiring practices are fair?  Show that the relevant demographic of your hiring comports with that of the general population.  Some call it “quotas”.  Some don’t.  But did you notice how easily you passed over the sentence:  “How do you prove that your hiring practices are fair?”  How easily we accept the idea that the accused has to prove their innocence rather than that the state has to prove their guilt?

How can you justify such special treatment?  My friend Tom Brieske, from South Carolina by way of Wisconsin, used to offer the following metaphor for why 300 years of oppression might justify a bit of special treatment.  He imagined two guys X and Y who were going to get into a fight.  X had a large gang with him who grabbed Y and held him down for several minutes and beat the hell out of him.  After they were through, X then offered Y the opportunity to have that “fair” fight.

I believe that the argument for special treatment because of prior oppression is valid and sufficient, because I see no other way to overcome the results of the prior treatment.

However, there are some concomitant questions that ought to be answered.  Such as:
1.  How much?
2.  For how long?
3.   a.  Will there be special interest groups that grow up around the protected classes?
      b.  If so, how will you deal with them?
4.  How do you deal with rogues among the protected classes?

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."  Chief Justice John Roberts, 2007

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Race 1

I think that the place to begin a discussion about race, if you are an American, is to clearly acknowledge how bad the American version of racism was and why.  The short answer is slavery.  Racism is not just an American problem and slavery existed in many other societies.  But in America they came together in a particularly destructive form.  Those who were enslaved in this country were of course denied the freedom to choose the type of labor they would do, the fruits of their labor, and the opportunity to rise above their original position in life. 

But it was much worse than that. 

The people who held the slaves knew that what they were doing was contradictory to what they claimed to believe in.  In England during the revolutionary war some people ridiculed the Patrick Henrys of America as being slaveholders who prattled on and on about freedom and unalienable rights.  Thomas Jefferson said that slavery was, “A wolf that we are holding by the ears and don’t know how to release.” 

If you are economically locked into human slavery and philosophically devoted to inalienable human rights, then you have a limited number of options about how to sleep at night.  Where they went on this made use of the fact the slaves were quite different in appearance.  They “realized” that the black Africans were "not quite human".  In the terminology of the modern era they “blamed the victim.”  This meant that it was not just their labor that was taken from black slaves.  It was their inherent humanity.  Their right to reproduce as they chose; to live where they want; to love whom they chose; to love and protect their families; to strive to build something; and the opportunity, at the end of their lives, to reflect on and enjoy the satisfactions that are available to a person  who has made good choices.  They were, in short, dehumanized.

This was the original sin in the American Garden of Eden.  It predated the American Republic which was begun in 1787.  If slavery could have been abolished at that point, then perhaps our American racism would not have been so bad. I do not think that that was possible.  They did not choose between a union with slavery and a union without slavery. They chose between a union which could eventually abolish slavery and no union at all.  Eighty years later slavery was officially abolished.

But by then two centuries of conflating slave, black, and not fully human had gotten all intertwined into a deep seated and peculiarly American kind of racism.  It was one that would not be easily rectified.

"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."  Chief Justice John Roberts, 2007

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Conversation About Race

Americans are repeatedly exhorted to have a “conversation about race”.  Many of us have been reluctant to participate in such a conversation.  One concern is that some of those who want this conversation the most will be more than willing to label anyone who disagrees with them as a – racist!

But this is not new.  A friend of mine once told me that you really shouldn’t consider yourself to be a good liberal unless you had been called a communist.  I think most of my conservative friends have been called fascist a time or two.  It goes even beyond that.  I find a lot of folks seem to be quite unable to accept the idea that someone is a centrist.  They want to know: “What is the centrist’s doctrine?”  It reminds me of Bertrand Russell’s incarceration in 1918 for opposing WWI.  At check in he was asked his religion and when he responded ‘agnostic’ the lady said, “Well, there are so many new religions these days, but I suppose they all worship the same God.” 

So with some fear and trepidation I will begin my part of the conversation. 


"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."  Chief Justice John Roberts, 2007

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ratification - The People Debate The Constitution

This book by Pauline Maier is delightful if you among those of us who can't get enough of exactly how they pulled off the creation of the American nation.  You can follow the year long debate about the Constitution as it moves from state to state and marvel at the flukes that may have been critical.  For example,  in Virginia the formidable orator Patrick Henry was opposed because he thought the new government would free the slaves.  The issue was crucial both with respect to timing and Virginia's importance  and it was very close.  When the debate came to New York almost all of the major players in the state were opposed.  The convention was two to one against ratification.  If NY had come earlier it might have all been different or at least a lot harder.  But there were already 10 states in the union by then, so the question was no longer whether to have a union but whether to join it.

I very much enjoyed the book.

It is 588 pages (of which 100 are notes) by Simon and Schuster, 2010.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Free speech

Patrick Maines writes in USA Today of the new idea of the meaning of free speech.

" The latest example is the recent shoutdown of NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who was invited to speak at Brown University about the city's "stop and frisk" policy. After he was met with protesters who wouldn't allow him to speak, the university pulled the plug.
As reported in the Huffington Post, one of the students who helped organize the protest, Jenny Li, said that when the university declined to cancel the lecture, "we decided to cancel it for them." It was, this Li said, "a powerful demonstration of free speech."

He also reports on some voices from the left who are condemning this kind of thing.  So there is hope.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Minimum Wage

The President has proposed a federal minimum wage of $10/hr.  I have never been in favor of a legislated minimum wage because I perceive it and its results as follows.

1.       It is inflationary by definition.

2.       It has a temporary negative impact on commerce, especially the food service industry.

3.       The increase in purchasing power for those who get a raise as a result are muted because the increased  salary cost  will be reflected in the cost of goods and service which they too buy.

4.       The benefit to those who get a raise is temporary because once the increased salary expenses flush through the system (6 mo. – 2 years) their net purchasing power will be the same as before.

5.       It is a thinly veiled redistribution of wealth scheme.

6.       The politicians clearly understand the above and are simply pandering for votes.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

book recommendations

For quite some time now, I have been reading non-fiction almost exclusively.  Most of it is history.  Recently, I have been thinking of posting brief commentaries on the books I have liked best because I think many of them would be of interest to the readers of this blog.  So here we go:

    AWAKENING OF A NATION.  By Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff,  pub. 2006.  
     Won the Pulitzer Prize.

This is one of the very best books I have ever read.  The sub-title is an accurate summary  of its contents. The early chapters describe the valiant efforts of the black press to trace and document the violence against blacks which was occurring in the south during the earlier part of the century.   By and large their reports of white riots and lynchings went unnoticed by white America.  The rest of the book is about the civil rights movement people of my age are familiar with.

The pivot between these two eras is Emmett Till and his mother.  Till was fourteen years old when he was abducted, tortured, and murdered in Money, Mississippi, in 1955.  His mother was determined that this atrocity would not be ignored.  She handled his funeral in such a way that the white press was compelled to pay attention.  That white press would go to Money for the trial of two men who, after their acquittal by a jury which required just shortly over one hour to determine their innocence, would not merely admit to but boast of the crime they had committed.

From then on the national media was on the story.