Mike Kueber's Blog

July 31, 2012

Mayor Julian Castro in Primetime

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:07 pm
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The Democratic Party announced today that San Antonio mayor Julian Castro would be their convention keynote speaker, and the internet is full of stories introducing him to America.  I have blogged my city’s mayor for a couple of years, including the following entries:

  1. My analysis, titled “The Next Great Hispanic Hope,” of an in-depth profile on Castro in the New York Times Magazine. 
  2. My criticism, titled “Julian Castro and San Antonio’s Not Ready For Primetime Players,” of the City Council’s motion to condemn the Arizona immigration law. 
  3. My report, titled “Immigration and the State Bar of Texas,” on a talk on illegal immigration that Castro gave to a small group at the State Bar Convention. 

Politico.com put out a photo gallery today with “10 key facts about Julian Castro.”   One of those facts is that he has an identical twin brother, Joaquin, who is a state rep currently running for the 20th congressional district seat that is being vacated by Charles Gonzalez.  If you want to know about Joaquin and his golden-boy status in San Antonio, you could read my blog entry titled, “Joaquin Castro, an obviously flawed profile on as ostensibly unflawed candidate.”   

President Obama knows the power of being the keynote speaker, having once occupied that role himself.  And the Democrats surely wouldn’t have anointed Castro if he couldn’t deliver a stem-winding speech.  But having heard Castro speak on several occasions, I will be surprised if he delivers for Obama and the Democrats.  Castro seems to admit his weakness, according to #10 of Politico’s key facts about Castro:

  • He likens speeches to boxing, saying, “If always looking for a one-punch knockout, you get knocked out yourself.”

Castro, who has a bookish demeanor, should stay away from the sports metaphors or he will end up looking as silly as Michael Dukakis in a tank.

Romney’s most excellent overseas adventure and Murphy’s Law

Filed under: Issues,Media,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 3:40 pm
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Romney’s three-day overseas adventure resulted in three international incidents.  According to USA Today, “Romney insulted the British with his critique of their readiness for the Olympics and angered Palestinians with comments comparing their economy with that of Israelis. His press aide lost his cool today and cursed at reporters during a visit to Poland’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”  More specifically, the incidents were as follows:

  • Disconcerted.  Romney said he was disconcerted by some of the British preparations for security at the London Olympics.
  • Cultural differences.  Romney credited Israel’s culture for its thriving economy that contrasted starkly with that of the lagging economy of its neighbor Palestine.
  • Kiss my ass.  Romney’s spokesman told a reporter who complained that Romney was not providing the traveling reporters with enough access. 

According to advice books on running for elective office, a campaign should never assume that the so-called free media is going to advance your fundamental, substantive themes.  Instead the media is going to advance its storyline, with an emphasis on trashy and superficial stories before finally sinking into the horse-race analogy of who is winning; sort of a Murphy’s Law for campaigns.

The Romney trip is a perfect example of that.  The trip was smartly designed to highlight Romney’s economic and political philosophy by traveling to nations with kindred spirits.  As Romney said near the end of the trip:

  • It’s been a trip to three places far apart on the map.  But for an American, you can’t get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country than you can in these places.  Our nations belong to the great fellowship of democracies.  We speak the same language of freedom and justice. We uphold the right of every person to live in peace.”

With respect to Poland, Romney certainly found a kindred spirit when “a Polish leader told him during his visit that his country’s economic philosophy is, ‘You don’t borrow what you can’t pay back.’”  Romney responded: 

  • Rather than heeding the false promise of a government-dominated economy, Poland sought to stimulate innovation, attract investment, expand trade and live within its means.  Your success today is a reminder that the principles of free enterprise can propel an economy and transform a society.” 

But the media isn’t interested in presenting Romney’s campaign theme.  They would rather report that the British, Palestinians, and traveling reporters are in a snit over various comments.  They might even try to elevate the significance and dignity of their snits by asserting that the insignificant incidents reveal a significant fact – namely, Romney is not ready for prime time.

I don’t blame the media for their bad reporting, just as I don’t blame the politicians for their bad voting.  We get the media and the politicians that we deserve.  We will get good reporting when choose to watch it, just as we will get good politicians when we choose to vote for them.

Media bias, however, does occasionally play a role when there is a golden-boy candidate.  When I ran for Congress in 2010, the local media went out of its way to advance the candidacy of its golden-boy candidate, and he almost won.  In 2008, most of the media loved Obama’s candidacy and helped his campaign advance its storyline. 

Exceptions that prove the rule, in my opinion.

July 30, 2012

The slippery slope from same-sex marriages to plural marriages

Filed under: Culture,Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 7:07 pm
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During his presidential run earlier this year, Rick Santorum argued that legalizing same-sex marriages would make it difficult to deny the plural marriages that are sometimes found in Mormon or Muslim communities.  At the time, many pundits pooh-poohed Santorum’s warning and declared that his slippery-slope argument was actually a fallacy.  Instead of arguing principle, however, the pundits hypocritically argued that same-sex marriages were no longer deviant in the American mainstream, whereas plural marriages (and incest and bestiality) remained totally unacceptable to the vast majority of Americans.    

This week, however, we learned that perhaps there is a slippery slope.  The latest edition of Time magazine includes an extensive article on the growing movement in America in favor of plural marriage and its cousin polyamory (having multiple lovers be mutual agreement).  And there is nothing in the Time article or any other on-line articles that provides a persuasive justification for legalizing same-sex marriage, while criminalizing plural marriage. 

If you can justify the distinction, I would love to hear it.  

 

 

Sunday Book Review #80 – The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Filed under: Book reviews,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 1:18 pm
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One of my resolutions this year is to be less philistine and more appreciative of culture, and if reading The Prophet is an indication, I am making progress.

Several years ago, a girlfriend gave me The Prophet, a book by Kahlil Gibran.  It is considered to be prose poetry – i.e., poetry “written in prose instead of using verse, but preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery and emotional effects.” When I first received The Prophet I was unable to read it because the poetry was too abstract to make much sense to me.  I am happy to report that I have since evolved to the point that, not only is The Prophet readable, but the reading is now so enjoyable that I am able to savor it.   

Gibran was a Catholic-educated Lebanese who immigrated to America in 1895 and The Prophet, which was published in 1923, is considered to be his masterpiece.  The book is about a philosopher who has lived in a fictional foreign country for twelve years and is preparing to return to his home country.  Before going, however, the local yokels ask him to leave them with his version of truth and wisdom on a variety of subjects:

  • Love
  • Marriage
  • Children
  • Giving
  • Eating and Drinking
  • Work
  • Joy and Sorrow
  • Houses
  • Clothes
  • Buying and Selling
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Laws
  • Freedom
  • Reason and Passion
  • Pain
  • Self-knowledge
  • Teaching
  • Friendship
  • Talking
  • Time
  • Good and Evil
  • Prayer
  • Pleasure
  • Beauty
  • Religion
  • Death

Gibran, through this philosopher, is able to provide cogent, succinct wisdom on each of these subjects in 2 to 4 pages.  The most memorable are as follows:

  • Love.   “When love beckons to you, follow him.  Though his ways are hard and steep.  And when his wings enfold you yield to him.  Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you….  For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.  Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning….  Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.  Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love.”  Gibran says go for the gusto
  • Marriage.  “Love one another, but make not a bond of love:  Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls….  Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.  For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.  And stand together yet not too near together:  For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”  Gibran, who incidentally was never married, will not be defined by marriage.
  • Children.  “Your children are not your children.  They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.  They come through you but not from you.  And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.  You may give them your love but not your thoughts.  For they have their own thoughts.”  Gibran will not live through the children he never had.
  • Giving.  “You give put little when you give of your possessions.  It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.  For what are your possessions but things that you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow.  And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the overprudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand….  There are those who give little of the much which they have – and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwelcome….  It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding….  Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors.  You would often say, ‘I would give, but only to the deserving….  Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worth of all else from you….’  And you receivers – and you all are receivers – assume no weight of gratitude lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him who receives.”  Gibran reveals his socialistic, Catholic tendencies.
  • Joy and sorrow.  “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked….  The deeper that your sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain….  Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep with you upon your bed.”  The ying and the yang mark much of Gibran’s philosophy.
  • Clothes.  “Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.”
  • Buying and selling.  “It is in exchanging the gifts of the earth that you shall find abundance and be satisfied.  Yet unless the exchange be in love and kindly justice, it will but lead some to greed and others to hunger.”  Socialism again rears its ugly head. 
  • Crime and punishment.  “Oftentimes I have heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and intruder into your world.  But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each of you, So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.”  Gibran is extremely nonjudgmental (a kindred spirit).
  • Laws.  “You delight in laying down laws, Yet you delight more in breaking them.”  Reminds me of Shakespeare’s admonition about lawyers.
  • Reason and passion.  “Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.  If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas….  I would have you consider your judgment and your appetite even as you would two loved guest in your house.  Surely you would not honour one guest above the other; for he who is more mindful of one loses the love and the faith of both.”  More ying and yang.
  • Teaching.  “No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowledge.  The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and lovingness.  If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.”  The ultimate liberal.
  • Friendship.  “When you part from your friend, you grieve not;  For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.  And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.  For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its mystery is not love but a net cast forth; and only the unprofitable is caught.”  The essence of Gibran’s philosophy.
  • Talking.  “And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.”  Ironically, the bulk of this book consists of Gibran talking
  • Good and evil.  “You are good when you strive to give of yourself.  Yet you are not evil when you seek gain for yourself.  For when you strive to gain you are but a root that clings to the earth and sucks at her breast.  Surely the fruit cannot say to the root, ‘Be like me, ripe and full and ever giving of your abundance.’  For the fruit giving is a need, as receiving is a need for the root.”  Again, nonjudgmental to an extreme.
  • Prayer.  “You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.”
  • Pleasure.  “And you ask in your heart, ‘How shall we distinguish that which is good in pleasure from that which is not good?’  Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower.  But is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.  For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life, And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love, And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.”  Sounds idyllic to me.

The Prophet concluded his soliloquy by asserting that the adage you are as strong as your weakest link was a half-truth – “You are also as strong as your strongest link.  To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of the ocean by the frailty of its foam.”

The Prophet also questioned the strength of words – “I only speak to you in words of that which you yourselves know in thought.  And what is word knowledge but a shadow of wordless knowledge?” 

I was struck by The Prophet’s recognition that he was a loner – “And some of you have called me aloof, and drunk with my own aloneness, And you have said, ‘He holds council with the trees of the forest, but not with men.  He sits alone on hill-tops and looks down upon our city.’  True it is that I have climbed the hills and walked in remote places.  How could I have seen you save from a great height or a great distance?”

The Prophet gave his final good-bye with a suggestion of reincarnation – “Forget not that I shall come back to you.  A little while, and my longing shall gather dust and foam for another body.  A little while, a moment of rest upon the wind, and another woman shall bear me.”     

My ex-girlfriend who gave me The Prophet was especially moved by one of its 26 poetic essays.  Unfortunately, I failed to mark that essay, and despite reading twice this slim volume (96 pages), I have been unable identify the essay.  (I’m leaning toward the essay on Friendship.)  Maybe someday I will have an epiphany.

Eliminating poverty in America

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 4:45 am
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The cover of  Time magazine this week was titled, “How Guns Won.”  Obviously Time was lamenting the fact that the gun-control fanatics did not win.

Similarly, an op-ed piece in the NY Times today lamented the fact that America seems unable to end poverty.  The Times piece began, “Ronald Reagan famously said, ‘We fought a war on poverty and poverty won.’ With 46 million Americans — 15 percent of the population — now counted as poor, it’s tempting to think he may have been right.” 

Implicit in the Time’s op-ed piece is that it is America’s obligation to end poverty.  I disagree.  America should endeavor to provide opportunity for every American to avoid poverty, but all Americans should have the right to live in poverty if they choose to ignore the opportunities that they have. 

The author of the op-ed piece, Peter Edelman, seems to think that poverty can be eliminated through the ballot – i.e., income redistribution.  That approach seems short-sighted because it might produce short-term numbers but long-term dependency on government.

July 29, 2012

Retirement investing in the age of Romney

Filed under: Investing,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:47 pm
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My investing for retirement benefited from lucky timing – I worked when there was an overlap of the pension age and the 401(k) age. 

When I entered America’s fulltime workforce in November of 1979, many employers, including my three employers from 1979 to 2006, provided pensions to their employees.  In 1978, however, a small seed was planted that eventually grew into something so big that it overshadowed pensions in my lifetime.  That seed is called 401(k), a provision in the Internal Revenue code that allows employees to invest deferred income and to avoid paying taxes until the income is eventually claimed during their retirement. 

The 401(k) started small, with few people recognizing its potential.  When I started with State Farm Insurance in 1981, I think they called it their Incentive & Thrift plan, with annual limits of about $300 ($25 a month), which the company would match if it had been profitable that year.  When I arrived at USAA in 1987, I think their plan was called Savings & Investment Plan (SIP).  At some point, the name 401(k) was adopted as the generic title for all these plans.  In fact, Wikipedia reports that the term 401(k) is even used in other countries to describe their plans even though their enabling laws  are not enumerated 401(k).  The amount that can be deferred is currently capped at $17,000 per year.          

In 1998, the federal government created some competition for the 401(k) by creating a Roth IRA.  The Roth doesn’t defer income, but rather it allows an employee (a) to invest money that has already been taxed and (b) to not pay taxes on any capital gains.  Although most investing experts equivocated on their analysis, there was a slight consensus that the Roth IRA was probably preferable to the 401(k).  A major drawback for the Roth IRA was that its cap, currently $5,000 a year, was much less than the 401(k).  In 2006, however, this drawback was eliminated by the creation of the Roth 401(k).

The comparison of Roth to non-Roth accounts might be further complicated if Mitt Romney becomes president in 2012.  According to MittRomney.com, Romney proposes to eliminate taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains on taxpayers who earn less than $200k a year.  .  Inexplicably, this fascinating proposal has received little coverage or analysis.  Obviously, it would encourage non-wealthy taxpayers to save and invest.  I wonder, however, how it would affect the Roth v. non-Roth analysis. 

One of the major advantages of Roth investments is that taxpayers don’t have to pay taxes on their capital gains, as compared to the 25%-35% rate on gains under a 401(k).  Well, under Romney’s proposal, non-wealthy taxpayers would never have to worry about capital gains, so the Roth vehicle would become superfluous.  And if Roth is better than the non-Roth, then the non-Roth would be less than superfluous.

There are, however, two advantages of the Roth and non-Roth plans, that promise to keep them in play:

  1. Most employees don’t have the necessary discipline to save and invest independent of a formal company structure.
  2. Most employers provide employees incentives to participate in a company plan by matching contributions.

For taxpayers with discipline, the enactment of the Romney proposal might generate the sort of energy that capitalism thrives on.

July 28, 2012

Saturday Night at the Movies #39 – The Help, The Science of Sex Appeal, Act of Valor, and The Last of the Mohicans

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 10:08 pm
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The Help, a Best Picture nominee earlier this year, is a drama that examines the treatment of household workers in Jackson, MS in the early 60s.  Emma Stone stars as a recent Ole Miss grad who returns home to learn the family maid who raised her has been summarily dismissed by her parents.  Prompted by this injustice, Stone decides to write a book about the abuse and mistreatment of maids, but the maids are reluctant to cooperate because of fear for their safety.  Initially, Stone is able to enlist the support co-stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer until eventually there is a groundswell of support from another dozen maids.

The racism depicted in The Help is not hardcore violence, but rather the type that has civilized whites treating blacks as second-class people.  The white people seem so consistently devoid of morality that it is hard to imagine that society producing someone like the enlightened Stone.  I’ve always had a special aversion to the use of servants, so this exploitation of maids was particularly odious to me.  In the end, the story is inspirational and reminds us that the Civil War didn’t really free the slaves.  Rather, they were exploited for another 100 years.  The Rotten Tomato critics gave The Help only 76%, while its audience gave it 90%.  That doesn’t surprise me because the movie is a bit hokey, but I liked it like the audience did – I give it three and a half stars out of four.

The Science of Sex Appeal is a 2009 documentary that has not been reviewed by the Rotten Tomato critics, but is audience has given it a score of 64%.  One of its leading contributors is Douglas Kenrick, and I have previously blogged about his studies on evolutionary psychology.  Essentially, the thesis of Kenrick and the movie is that humans are greatly influenced by their DNA to find a mate who will best enable them to produce offspring. 

  • According to Kenrick, this has nothing to do with age.  Rather, men are looking for looking for fertility and health (younger women), and women are looking for men with significant resources (older men).  This has been confirmed over multiple times and cultures.”
  • “Conspicuous consumption is not a result of capitalism or consumerism, but rather of masculine urge to wins sexual favors from females by impressing them – like the peacocks.  Women are similarly attracted to dominant men.   Interestingly, dominance in a woman makes her neither more nor less attractive, and conspicuous consumption by women is primarily limited to things that make them more attractive.

Book generally are considered to have more depth and be more informative than documentaries, but The Science of Sex Appeal delivers information in a more efficient manner than several books that I have read on the subject.  Thus, for someone with limited time (i.e., all of us), I suggest they watch this movie instead of poring through several books.  As a movie, I give it three stars out of four.

Act of Valor is a 2012 action movie that glorifies the Navy SEALs.  It was released in February, just in time to capitalize on the bin Laden assassination in May of 2011.  I have never seen critics and audiences disagree more about a movie – critics hated it (25%), while audiences loved it (76%).  The major criticisms faulted the story and the acting.  Personally, I found the storyline more plausible than in most action movies and the acting was serviceable, not distracting. 

Act of Valor is a satisfying movie, not only because the work of the Seals is inspirational, but also because it shows the importance of what President Kennedy’s strategy of “flexible response.”  America has to be prepared to fight global bad guys on a variety of levels – strategic, tactical, and conventional – and the SEALs exemplify its ability to fight on a tactical level.  Not only do they take on jihadists, but they also show how America can deal with Mexico’s drug cartel.  As Jack Nicholson said in A Few Good Men, we can sleep easy because Navy SEALs are on the wall.  I give the movie three out of four stars.

The Last of the Mohicans is a 1992 epic based on James Fennimore Cooper’s novel of the same name.  Its setting is the French and Indian War in 1757.  Our hero, Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis), is a frontiersman raised by the Indians, and he finds himself caught in the middle of the warring British, French, and multiple Indian tribes.  His role is to fall in love with and save a British commander’s daughter, Madeleine Stowe.  Neither this love affair nor the other characters nor the warring situation are interesting.  Inexplicably, the Rotten Tomato critics scored the movie 97% (34 out of 35 reviews).  Even the audience score of 84% is too high.  I give it two out of four stars.

My new investing strategy

Filed under: Investing,Retirement — Mike Kueber @ 6:05 pm
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As someone who is fascinated by investment strategies, I have read about a variety of techniques to minimize risk and maximize returns – e.g., dollar-cost averaging, ladder purchases, re-balancing of assets, and numerous diversifying techniques, including indexed mutual funds.  Because I believe the ups and downs of the stock market can’t be timed, I generally don’t focus on trying to buy low and sell high.  Instead, I’m a confirmed buy-and-hold guy.  And, as a young guy, I’m 100% in the market.

Last week, however, with the stock market returning to a relatively high level (and with me not being as young as I used to be), I decided to implement a strategy for moving some of my nest egg out of the market.  This strategy, which I invented, takes advantage of market swings, akin to the dollar-cost averaging strategy.  (Although I am claiming to be the inventor, I’m sure thousands or millions of other people have thought the same thing).   

My plan is to take 5% out of my stock-market nest egg and move it to cash.  Then whenever the market recoups that 5% withdrawal (on average, twice a year), I will take out 5% more.  Thus, I will be forever selling stock on an upswing, and my stock-market nest egg will stay at the same level, less inflation.  A $100k nest egg would periodically generate $5k into cash, and a $1 million nest egg (which seems to be the target for many white-collar workers) would periodically generate $50k into cash.     

The only weakness with this strategy that I can detect is if the market drops and doesn’t return to the earlier level for several years.  If such an event occurs, I hope that I will have pocketed enough earlier withdrawals to avoid selling during a downturn.  But if I have to sell during a downturn, I will be especially motivated to keep the withdrawal to the smallest amount necessary (less than 5%).

A lot of investment advice must be tailored to an investor’s comfort level with risk.  In the past, I was comfortable with all of my savings in the stock market.  Whether the market went up or down, I knew that it had almost no effect on my lifestyle.  My co-workers and I called it paper loss (or paper gain).  Now that I have retired and am spending my savings, the ups and downs of the market are real, not abstract. 

When I sell 5% of my stock on Monday and move it to cash, I am going to feel a lot better knowing that I have cash to live on for a long time and won’t have to sell any additional stocks unless the market continues its upward march (in which case, I will have another 5% cash to live on for a long time times two).  The ups-and-downs of the market will once again be relatively abstract.

Because of my skin in the game, I have been rooting for President Obama’s success for the past three and a half years.  That is also one of several reasons why I am rooting for Mitt Romney to win in November.

July 27, 2012

“Just win, baby,” says Michelle Obama in London

Filed under: Culture,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 11:05 pm
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Actually, “Just win, baby” was spoken many years ago by an NFL renegade, the late great Al Davis.  What Michelle Obama said to the American Olympians in London was, “Try to have fun.  Try to breathe a little bit.  But also win, right?”  Same thing.    

Although her husband is reluctant to endorse American exceptionalism, it is nice to see that Michelle has American competitiveness coursing through her blood.  The Modern Olympic Creed may say, “The most important thing … is not winning but taking part (in the Games).”  But the American Creed, as articulated by Vince Lombardi is, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

Having grown up in the 60s and 70s, I observed America lose its love of competition.  In fact, in my salutatorian address at my 1971 high-school graduation, I spoke of the need for less competition and more cooperation between individuals, institutions, and countries.  Although that sentiment may be true, I think it fails to acknowledge that competition can be a healthy thing that motivates and inspires individuals, institutions, and countries to achieve. 

Thanks for reminding us, Michelle, to celebrate healthy competition.

A small “l” liberal

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Philosophy,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:19 pm
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I recently posted a blog entry stating that President Obama was not acting like a small “l” liberal when he implied that people of principle could not oppose same-sex marriage.  My statement was based on the hypocrisy inherent in fact that until his announcement President Obama himself had opposed same-sex marriage.  I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed someone take fuller advantage of Thoreau’s admonition about too much consistency:

  • A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do….  Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.” 

A friend who read my blog entry responded on my Facebook wall with an argument in favor of same-sex marriage as a civil right, akin to women’s and minorities’ rights.  She also suggested that opponents of same-sex marriage were descendants of those who practiced discrimination against women and minorities. 

As someone who thinks same-sex marriage should be legalized, I am reluctant to argue with someone who agrees with me.  And as I noted about Don Imus’s position in favor of same-sex marriage, I understand how that position gets hardened over time.  But my blog entry was critical of President Obama because he, as much as anyone, should realize that reasonable minds can disagree.  Surely, he should have remembered that the day before his switcheroo his world-class mind was in “transition” on the subject of same-sex marriage and a mere three years earlier he had run for president in opposition to same-sex marriage.

As mentioned above, my Facebook friend began her posting by asking me what a small “l” liberal was, implying that President Obama was one.  The following is my answer, derived from the font of all knowledge (Wikipedia):

  • A small “l” liberal is someone whose values and philosophy flow from the Enlightenment or Age of Reason – which according to Wikipedia was an 18th century movement “to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted science and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition, intolerance, and abuses by church and state.”
  • “Liberalism is a political ideology or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality.  Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally liberals support ideas such as capitalism (either regulated or not), constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights and the free exercise of religion.

Based on this guidance, I agree that, notwithstanding  liberalism’s penchant for tolerance and intellectual interchange, true small “l” liberals should be working toward the equality of same-sex marriage.

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