Saturday, January 7, 2017
...............My daughter had a job interview yesterday. I got to wait in the lobby, opting to sit near a vacant piano. About a half hour into my wait, this nice gentleman shows up, lifts the fallboard, flexes his fingers, sits down, and starts playing. Magic. An hour later, without a sheet of music in sight, he is still playing. I am seriously impressed and a happy witness.
Us humans tend to be complicated beings - Bobby Kennedy maybe more than most. Tye's sympathetic treatment of Bobby Kennedy focuses on RFK's growth and evolution as a human soul. Having said that, Tye does not shrink from showing Bobby at his worst. Warts and all are on full display, some of it is not very pretty. The fifteen + years that Bobby Kennedy was front and center in American politics was an impactful era in our history. I know learning of his assassination that early June morning in 1968 had an impact on the sixteen-year-old me. One thing Tye does not do is ask, "What if?" It is a question I have asked myself more than once. If you like politics and history, do read this book.
"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
-Bobby Kennedy, as excerpted from his "Ripples of Hope" speech, delivered at the University of Cape Town in 1966. Full speech is here.
Bobby believed in a social safety net - but he envisioned it as a trampoline, helping recipients bounce back to jobs that made them self-reliant rather than fostering dependency.
-Larry Tye, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon
.................of forecasting. Read the whole thing. Excerpts here:
... a wide range of prognosticators -- consultants, economists, investment advisers and others -- have turned the dark arts of foretelling the future into a lucrative profession. They have successfully developed the tools to separate those who badly want to know the unknowable from their money.
Philosophically, most people don’t like to admit the inherently random nature of life. This manifests itself in a variety of ways, but most typically it involves taking credit for successes but placing blame elsewhere for failures. Success, even though the credit for it should be attributed to coincidence or mere luck, is inevitably followed by overconfidence. Too often, what comes next are self-inflicted errors.
Believing in predictions allows people to overlook their own ignorance, discount the role of randomness and generally overestimate their own skills. If you think you (or someone you pay) can divine the future, you create the illusion of control and stability, where often there is none. Order is created out of chaos; it is a comforting illusion.
Friday, January 6, 2017
Few in Congress made better use of their full palette of tactics and strategies - from model programs to the bully pulpit - that the very junior senator from New York. Even so, liberals said he was providing an illusion of dissent, while conservatives worried he was all heart and too subversive. Neither could see at first that he was crafting a new creed - grasping at the bits of FDR and his father's New Deal collectivism that still worked, and borrowing from heroes such as Herbert Hoover and Ralph Waldo Emerson who saw the centrality of self-reliance. He was also hardheaded enough to disdain rebellion without results, which set him apart from most 1960s activists.
-Larry Tye, as excerpted from the chapter Senator Kennedy in Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon
Thursday, January 5, 2017
He was changing in deeper ways, too. Defining his own public identity meant clarifying his own beliefs, as opposed to those that had come from Jack. Few could see those critical differences even when the two were working side by side. Both men were pragmatic, but Bobby was more willing to experiment with radical solutions and spend political capital. Both talked about promoting Negro rights and battling poverty, but Bobby felt injustice on a gut level and lost sleep over it in ways that his imperturbable and cerebral brother never did. Bobby also embraced contradiction in ways neither Jack nor Teddy wanted to or could. His realism butted up against his romanticism even as the existentialist in him looked for ways to coexist with the politician. He was half ice, half fire. How, observers wondered, could someone so shy be so intimidating? Was it possible to love both Albert Camus and roughhouse football? "Robert Kennedy's motto," said the Village Voice's Jack Newfield, "could have been, 'Do not understand me too quickly.' ... His most basic characteristics were simple, intense, and in direct conflict with each other. He was constantly at war with himself."
-Larry Tye, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon
.........................................why "college students today can't write":
By 2005, Richard Fulkerson could write of composition, “in point of fact, virtually no one in contemporary composition theory assumes any epistemology other than a vaguely interactionist constructivism. We have rejected quantification and any attempts to reach Truth about our business by scientific means.”
Well, that explains a lot. Full essay from whence the quote was extracted is here. My theory is that college students today can't write (assuming that is true) because public grade schools stopped teaching cursive writing about twenty years ago. What was that about?
....................................................in today's zany world:
"There’s just something about hockey culture that calls to me. I mean, the blue lines on the ice are actually called “blue lines.” That kind of no-nonsense approach commands my respect."
-as culled from this essay about the Columbus Blue Jackets, who currently are enjoying a sixteen game winning streak, and who, since I've now posted that, are most likely jinxed. Sorry.
World affairs to Bobby, were less a global chess game than a latticework of bonds between humans, much as they had been for Ben Franklin two centuries before.
-Larry Tye, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon
Not sure I'm buying what Tye is selling here. Bonds between humans can get difficult at the most inopportune times. For instance, Franklin's experience in front of the Privy Council in 1774. Just for fun, here is a quote attributed to Franklin:
“Chess teaches foresight, by having to plan ahead; vigilance, by having to keep watch over the whole chess board; caution, by having to restrain ourselves from making hasty moves; and finally, we learn from chess the greatest maxim in life - that even when everything seems to be going badly for us we should not lose heart, but always hoping for a change for the better, steadfastly continue searching for the solutions to our problems.”
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
......................................................the New York Times was motivating people in unexpected ways:
The press relished Bobby's guessing game, and since May it had been parsing every sign that he'd jump in and every hint that he wouldn't. A strong vote in favor came from President Johnson, who delighted in the prospect of Bobby focusing on an office other than his own, ideally in a place that required a moving van to get to. But The New York Times weighed in against such a bid, editorializing in mid-May that "there is nothing illegal about the possible nomination of Robert F. Kennedy of Massachusetts as Senator from New York, but there is plenty that is cynical about it. ...If he became a candidate, he would merely be choosing New York as a convenient launching-pad for the political ambitions of himself and others." That tongue-lashing from a broadsheet he saw as anti-Catholic and anti-Kennedy made Bobby want to run even more.
-Larry Tye, Bobby Kennedy: Making of a Liberal Icon
The ups and downs of our economy have an awful lot of interaction with psychology and attitude. Doubt that at your own risk. Of course, you could also read this by the Persuasion Guru.
Jimmy himself, in a rare moment of self-awareness, offered this reflection on his long grudge match with Bobby Kennedy: "A corrupt Jimmy Hoffa is no great danger to the United States of America. There are police forces and law-enforcement agencies to take care of a Jimmy Hoffa, courts of law to try him and jails to incarcerate him, if he truly violates the laws. The real menace is a vindictive cabinet officer with power over the courts, who by threat or coercion can force weak men to do his bidding and thus make a mockery of the forces of law and order."
-Larry Tye, as excerpted from Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon. Some quick and easy background on the "blood feud" between Jimmy Hoffa and Bobby Kennedy may be found here.
................Reason #27: WildLights at the Columbus Zoo. They only put up about a gazillion lights. Not all are as special as this tree, but the whole thing is way cool.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
of all places, comes this interesting essay: How ‘Elites’ Became One of the Nastiest Epithets in American Politics. A wee excerpt:
Despite all the abuse hurled their way, some “liberal elites” have accepted at least part of their detractors’ critique, particularly on the progressive left. It was during Bill Clinton’s presidency that the social critic Christopher Lasch published “The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy,” which mourned that “upper-middle-class liberals” had turned into “petulant, self-righteous, intolerant” scolds, thoroughly out of touch with the concerns of Middle America. Since then, the torch has passed to a younger generation of writers, including MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, whose 2012 “Twilight of the Elites” called for rethinking the entire ethos of liberal “meritocracy” — a system, he argued, that tends to fuel self-congratulation and incompetence at the top while offering little but contempt and dim prospects for those at the bottom.
"The fact is, most people, when they say they want to get rid of immigration, it's not necessarily that they don't like immigrants. They're more afraid that the American way of life is changing. So you could be multicultural but still support the American way of life. This is the only nation on the planet that was an idea. It was a vision. It was a value. It was not a tribe. It think it's good that a lot of people want to make sure that it doesn't change."
-Jamie Dimon, as culled from this Bloomberg Businessweek interview
Laws are made now chiefly by regulatory agencies that combine in themselves all three powers of government. The popular or elected branches may overturn these regulations only when they unite to do so, and this is increasingly rare. So every institution in society is in principle subject to comprehensive regulation. Every employer, every school, many clubs, and family life itself are now the subject of rules too complex for the lay person to grasp. Those rules are not always enforced, nor can they be, but Americans sense that they better be looking over their shoulders, careful of what they say.
This has changed the way we live. Compliance increasingly replaces law-abidingness as the public goal. Laws, the Founders held, must be simple, few, and constant. Then we may all know what they are, live under them, and help enforce them. This makes us equal, ruler and ruled. It means that we do not quail before the forces of the law. We are the forces of the law. Compliance, by contrast, means adapting constantly to changing and complex instructions from central authorities, and it means the employment of specialists to interpret the regulations and make sure others conform. In addition to this, whole populations, and not only in the inner city, live in long-term dependence on the government. It means that the government is separate from the people, and it means that the government grows.
-Larry Arnn, as culled from this essay
Bobby had never left anything to chance as a congressional staffer or campaign manager, and he took the same scrupulous approach in preparing for the anticipated battle over his appointment. A Kennedy staffer scoured the records of all past attorneys general to see if any had entered office with less legal experience than RFK, who had never actually tried a case in a court of law. "Even though I went back to the very, very beginning, I could find no one who hadn't practiced law," recalled John Reilly, who worked on JFK's campaign and would oversee the U. S. attorneys in Bobby's Justice Department. "But we finally came up with the fact - or I finally came up with the fact - that Harry M. Daugherty, who was attorney general during the Teapot Dome scandal, had practiced law for thirty-some-odd years, so that we decided that experience wasn't much of a qualification anyway. So at the time of the hearing we planted that question with [Senator] Phil Hart.
Those preparations paid off especially with political reporters, who after eight dull years under Eisenhower took delight in the Kennedy brothers' whimsy and boldness.
-Larry Tye, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon. Excerpt dealing with RFK's nomination to be Attorney General of the U.S. of A.
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Monday, January 2, 2017
"The finest qualities of our nature, like the blooms on fruits, can only be preserved by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another this tenderly."
-Henry David Thoreau
"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."
-attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson
Always the Happy Warrior, Humphrey said he didn't mind being out-gunned or out-glamored, but he couldn't forgive the "ruthlessness and toughness" displayed by the Kennedys, and most of all Bobby. One upsetting instance was "Bob Kennedy's peddling the story that my campaign was being financed by Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa," Humphrey complained later. "Both he and Jack knew the story was untrue and could have stopped it." Equally infuriating were anonymous anti-Catholic mailings sent across the state - mainly to Catholic households - which ensured a turnout of angry Catholic Democrats along with Catholic Republicans who crossed over. The apparent culprit in both cases was Paul Corbin, a Kennedy aide famous for his whimsical and deceitful tactics. "If you have a job and you want to get it done," said campaign aide Helen Keyes, "send Paul Corbin out to do it." Corbin was sufficiently devoted that he eventually converted to Catholicism so that Bobby and Ethel could be his godparents. Bobby loved him back, above all for his outrageousness. Humphrey was right that whether or not Bobby ordered up the dirty tricks, he did nothing to stop them, and their success ensured they were a fixture of U. S. campaign culture from then on.
Jack beat Humphrey by a comfortable 12 percentage points, but it was shy of a knockout blow in the eyes of a skeptical press and an angry opponent.
-Larry Tye, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon. This excerpt concerns the Wisconsin primary leading up to the nomination of John F. Kennedy as the Democratic candidate for president in the 1960 election. The history major in me is fairly certain that dirty tricks did not originate with this election.
While surveys in West Virginia that winter had shown Jack ahead 70 to 30 percent, media reports filtering in from Wisconsin caused such hemorrhaging that Jack suddenly found himself trailing by 20 percent as the May 10 primary approached. Asked why, his advisers explained, "No one in West Virginia knew you were Catholic in December. Now they know."
It is difficult to conceive that Catholicism could have been such a stigma as recently as 1960. After all, one in four Americans was Catholic then, making it the biggest religious denomination in the country. John Kennedy was not the first Catholic nominated for president: Al Smith had been the Democrats' standard-bearer thirty-two years earlier. ... Kennedy aides in Washington advised ducking the explosive issue. Those on the ground in West Virginia said that that wasn't an option. The candidate and his brother ended up making the call, the same way Barack Obama would half a century later when race rather than religion was the target of bigots. JFK did not just affirm his faith, he remade the primary campaign and the entire election into a referendum on how tolerant Americans were.
It was a master stroke and the only option. The issue would have festered whether or not he addressed it. Rabid anti-Catholics stood ready to vote against him either way, and this strategy provided a chance to tilt wavering voters his way.
-Larry Tye, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon
Sunday, January 1, 2017
.................pretty much begin and end with the on/off button, so I may not be the best judge, but color me long-term doubtful about this one:
And with net neutrality potentially being eradicated under Trump, market forces will increasingly favor incumbents over new disruptors. The alignment of the press, the government, and the public embracing the ideals of Silicon Valley lasted just long enough for a handful of megacorporations to take control of the digital world.
-Victor Luckerson, as excerpted from this essay, The End of Tech Optimism