Thursday, April 15, 2021

Editores magna

Believe it or not I am making good progress on the book.  This week I got comments back from my editor (more on her below).   For some reason I had an odd idea that an editor was a ghost writer - NOPE - this one is a coach.  In our first conversation last Spring she commented "After all you are the author here."

The original design included three sections - One on my namesake (Jonathan Archer) and then a series of reflections on family.  A second section dealt with several ideas that have been important to me over my lifetime.  (That one exchanged photos for footnotes!).  And then a third section of questions that were generated by either Storyworth (which my daughter gifted me for Christmas a couple of years ago) or things which interested me but were allegedly on the theme of the book.

Early in the year at the suggestion of a friend in the Dominican Republic I hired an editor to take a deep dive into the project.  It turns out she lives in Sacramento.   At the same time I identified a designer who could help put the book into a form which publishers will accept.  He lives in Denver.  Both of those things were focused on improving both the readability of this book and the look and feel.   In the world of somewhat DIY publishing there are a lot of details.

Book publishing  has changed a lot in the last decade.  A year ago I got a feeler from an unnamed company (who had two Ss in their name) who said they would read my manuscript for a fee of about $2000 and if they thought it publish worthy they would send me back part of the fee and agree to publish the book. If they did not like it they would keep most of my fee.   I thought that was a silly deal, but it did show me some of the things which companies we call publishers now have to think about.   There are tons of new titles every year and as Tracy Kidder said in his 1995 Book Good Prose - which is a series of reflections on writing good non-fiction - the number of books each year exceeds the populations Pomona and Escondido (Combined!) so the expectations of both authors and publishers have changed.  Some of the most entertaining books I've read in the last few years were DIY efforts.  But as Kidder suggested content and design are still critical.  Hence some outside and professional assistance was merited.

This week I got 10 pages of evaluation from my editor. She recommended reorganizing the book into five sections from the three- Family and Childhood; Education and Work Life; There's More to Life than Work; Mexico; and Ideas and Values 2020 and Beyond.  It was what one of my professors used to call an "Aha" experience.   It allowed me to focus some underlying thoughts I had on my own.  In addition to the structural comments she made a series of suggestions which will materially improve the flow of the text.

So what are the next steps?   Well, first of all, I am going to work through the comments.   Second, I will begin the process of reorganizing and rewriting.   We agreed to have her a copy of the manuscript by September which would then get the book into final form in late Q3 or Q4.

When our daughter Emily first suggested this project, she argued it was a good way to keep me off the streets.   It now looks like her original plan will continue a bit longer.  Thomas Sowell quoted Benjamin Disraeli who suggested that many of us create a genre of writing called "anecdotage" when we are later in life.  That was a good term for a memoir.

Two other footnotes.   One of the questions I was trying to answer in writing this book was why the ancestor I was named after chose to undertake the arduous trip around the horn in 1849 to seek his fortune while his younger brother chose to stay in New York.   The younger brother, Oliver Hazard Perry Archer, became very successful and according to family lore was a buddy of Jay Gould.  Research dispelled that story.  It turns out that OHPA was part of the group that ousted Gould from the Erie in the mid-1870s.   Although Jonathan lived only a year in California, succumbing to either Cholera or a burst appendix, he seems to have come with the same entrepreneurial spirit that his younger brother had in New York.  But as Paul Harvey used to say, if you want the rest of the story, you will need to tune in later in the year.

 

 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

 LLOYDS of LIFE 


One of my favorite Yogi Berra quotes is ““It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” But for the last 40 years I have worked a lot to understand just how tough that is.  This week in our local market a sign set me off and got me to think about how we as a society handle risk.  You don't usually get inspired in your local market - but then these are inspired times.


What is the hell is an “over abundance of caution?”  And more importantly is that a good thing?  COVID has taught us to be careful.   But what are the appropriate limits of caution?  From my perspective many of the policies we so easily accepted to “keep us safe” were nuts.  Later in this post I will offer some examples - but first let me explain how I got interested in understanding risk.


Near the completion of my doctoral work I began a strange tangent into insurance.   That came about as a result of several things.   First, the insurance markets, especially for liability coverage and more specifically for Directors and Officers policies, began to constrict.   Fashion played a part in that debacle because a group young financial analysts in several companies speculated that the high interest rates in the late 1970s and early 1980s would last forever.  So they convinced their bosses to ignore normal standards of underwriting and to simply pursue a strategy that any unprofitable business could be made up by returns on the bond portfolio.   That was foolish. When the inevitable losses appeared several of the companies that followed that advice began to restrict coverages and raise rates to compensate for all those losses that happened after interest rates went into more normal territory.


By the time the folly of cash flow underwriting had become a crisis many of the colleges and universities in the Association were having problems in finding reasonably priced insurance.  I brought together a group in the Association and we spoke with four or five major insurance experts to see if we could form a risk pool. The Association I worked for had done a remarkable job in pooling risk for workers compensation coverage; in that case a pool limited to California worked; in liability coverage it did not.  I became involved in a group of institutions nationwide and we soon formed a company called United Educators RRG, which to this day is recognized as a leader in providing a range of coverages for non-profits.  I became the founding chair of the board.


A few years later I was asked to join the board of a reciprocal company (which is like a mutual insurance company) that offered casualty insurance for educators, nurses and cops.   I served on that board for fifteen years.   In 2018 and 2019 that company faced some huge losses as a result of the California fires.


A second precipitating event for my interest in insurance was created after following some advice from one of my professors at USC. He urged doctoral students to send copies of their papers (at least the good ones) to living scholars that they wrote about.   I wrote the two founders of the field of Public Choice Economics after I had written a paper about one line of their theories.  And damned if they didn’t write back and we kept up a sporadic correspondence for a couple of years.   They were both very generous with their time.  Lo and behold about two years after I finished my dissertation one of those two was awarded the equivalent of the Nobel in Economics. (Technically the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences).  


I also sent paper to UC Professor Aaron Wildavsky.   I had read one of his books as an undergraduate (The Politics of the Budgetary Process) and had come across an article on an issue that I was thinking about and wrote him some of my thoughts.   Wildavsky sent me back some handwritten comments but then within about a year he began sending me manuscripts of book drafts (he was a prolific author).   The first was on tax and expenditure theory (a book with audacious title of A History of Taxation and Expenditure in the Western World).  A couple of years after my dissertation a manuscript arrived, which I continue to treasure, called Searching for Safety in the same early formIn both cases I was so flattered by the attention of such an academic notable that I actually spent a fair amount of time researching and commenting on the manuscript.  One of my SC professors told me that was how Aaron wrote.   He would throw together a manuscript in an area - send it out widely, then cull all those comments do a bit more research and write the definitive book in the field.   Searching for Safety evolved into a second book on risk theory.  This time he coauthored with a colleague named Mary Douglas in which they explored the cultural theory of risk.   Both books argued that our approaches to risk were in part cultural and political.


Insurance is a strange topic. In its simplest form we are trying to predict the future.   Its founding is often credited to Lloyds of London which was created in the 17th century in a coffee house in London. The members of the syndicate would be given the chance to underwrite potential losses from maritime activities.  So if ship were bound to India, the owners might go to Lloyds and see if they could get a group from the syndicate to, for a fee based on risk, indemnify the losses if the ship were lost at sea.   Each of the members of the syndicate would bid on the cost of providing coverage and often the market functioned from a series of bids from individual members who ultimately agreed to take down all or part of the risk.   In a very pure sense that is how much of insurance still functions, especially the reinsurance market - where companies seek to hedge their risks for extraordinary losses.   


Two concepts are important here frequency and severity.   Betting on the future requires two judgments.  First, how often do losses happen?  Some insurance is relatively predictable - for example car accidents.  Based on lots of data, it is relatively simple to predict how often someone will have an accident.   Second, how much will it cost to cover the loss?  So for example, car accidents, as things go, are mostly inexpensive to fix.   But some big events don’t happen very often.  So if you are trying to indemnify losses for something like a flood the costs when the losses are paid out episodically but when the losses occur they can be huge.   For the years that I owned stock in Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffett’s annual reports gave a superb tutorial in the economics of insurance (BH owns Geico as well as a series of companies that offer reinsurance and high cap coverages).


In San Miguel last Spring the municipal government deployed a series of measures, including one which made me giggle.  One morning while I was out (properly masked and socially distanced) I encountered a city employee with a hazmat suit on.   He had a reservoir on his back attached to a hand pump sprayer and he and his colleagues, which looked to me like a group of Pillsbury Doughboys, would go out a couple of days a week and spray down the cement with some mysterious fluid. Was that an example of an overabundance of caution?  


In the US, from my view, we have allowed the teacher’s unions to get away with keeping the schools closed too long.   Our governor in a sign of “health theater” has commented several times that he sympathizes with all the parents who are concerned that their kids are losing educational time.  Needless to say he has not mentioned that his darlings attend a private school which has remained open.   Kids sporting events have been cancelled, in my mind, without rationale or reason.  I can see limitations on some contact sports and on some crowd events but it made no sense to cancel events like kids soccer.   Our son has been a leader in the “let them play” movement - which seems finally to be making progress in reopening things, under reasonable standards.   In both schools and sports - the chances for “super-spreader” events are remote.  (Who invented the term “super-spreader” is still a mystery to me.)


But it seems to me that Wildavsky and Douglas were right about cultural and political approaches to risk.   In the 2012 Democratic convention there was a short video, called “the story of Julia” about a woman who got cradle to grave services from the government.   The vision of what government could do successfully and more importantly what government should do was robust.   As I watched that message, I kept wondering whether it made a good argument for shielding Julia and her counterparts from the visisitudes of life.   Obviously there is a balance here.  Even such conservative icons of conservatism like Frederick Hayek and Adam Smith recognized an appropriate role for government in providing a “safety net.”  But the question of whether there are inappropriate trade offs from making all those decisions for society is never addressed by the left.


There is in my mind a second set of issues here.  Once something is authorized for government to assume more risk there are always what economists call “moral hazards.”   The formal definition of that term suggests that when risk is protected by some form of insurance that people are less likely to be vigilant in assessing their own risks.   The classic example in the literature is seat belt usage.  Many writers suggest that mandatory laws may encourage drivers to be a bit more risky in their driving habits.   But would anyone really like to go back to the era when seatbelts were not used?


A good example of the absurdity of nanny statism is contained in Proposition 65 warnings.   We recently switched internet providers and as a consequence had a new router installed.  The provider, as required by Proposition 65, informed us that the router, I assume if we decided to consume it, had the potential for causing cancer.   Just how does that help protect me from getting cancer?


About a decade ago Cass Sunstien and Richard Thaler produced a book in 2008 called Nudge. The novel argument suggested what some reviewers called “Nanny State Paternalism.”   It proposed that by setting decision structures in the right way you can get individuals to make the “right” set of decisions.   An example might be by simply resetting a default choice.  So for example, in retirement programs a company might reset a decision so that employees need to opt out of investing in their retirement program rather than making an affirmative choice to pay into the program.  I can see the rationale for making that change.  But I simply disagree with it.  An even more pernicious example is called age based investing which some financial advisors sear by.  In its simplest form as you age your portfolio commitment to stocks diminishes as you age (for example at 25 your commitment to stocks should be 75%/ at age 50 it should drop to 50%).   Look at any long term investing strategy and the age based approach is a good example of an over abundance of caution.  I am all for educating employees about the benefits of saving for retirement and for providing information about the consequences of various options; but I think even this small choice has larger effects on society.   That is the crux of my quibble with the sign.


What the writers of the sign don’t seem to realize is that the over abundance of caution can produce the same kinds of distortions as reckless behavior.  But then you wouldn’t be surprised that a baseline for most of my philosophy is to encourage individuals to take responsibility for their actions.


The state of the book - Of Course It’s True, Except for a Couple of Lies, is with an editor.  And I am fast learning about the dizzying range of options in the DIY world.  Here are some of the issues I am trying to think about.   First, I want an Ebook format as well as a soft bound.   It will be published on Apple Books and one other site for the ebook.  I am looking at options.   Second, a good part of my research for this book is a series of photos, especially in the first section of the book.   Two examples are a photo of the original passage receipt for my namesake to come to California and a photo of my great grandfather in front of his telegraph office.  But putting images in a book creates some other issues.   I’ve thought of creating a website which would be referenced in the manuscript and logged by chapter.  A niece did that for her book on computer security and it allowed her to add updates.  If I chose to do that it would require some rewrites.



Sunday, January 10, 2021

A CONSERVATIVE RESPONSE TO THE EVENTS OF THE LAST WEEK

I should say at the outset I did not vote for Trump either time.   In 2016, on a prior blog I wondered whether the nation was ready for someone who had been a former star on World Wide Wrestling.  In spite of that pretty clear position I have had to endure my virtue signaling friends from the left every time defended those things in the Trump Administration which I thought were positive.  And in spite of those scolds, there were several at least six-  
    • Economic Growth PRE COVID - As a result of the tax bill in 2017 and conscientious efforts to dethatch our regulatory environment, which had grown quite thick over the last several administrations we had real economic growth for a couple of years.   That was after several prominent economists claimed GDP growth was over. The numbers were impressive and NO they were not a continuation of the very slow growth (the slowest recovery in the nation’s history) coming out of 2009.   One of the most important parts of that growth was that for the first time in several decades those at the lowest income ranges experienced real growth in wages.  That improved the GINI coefficient materially.
    • The Tax Bill - while I don’t think 2017 was as good as 1986, it did some important things.  It reduced corporate taxes to a level more closely approaching taxes in other developed countries.  That helped to repatriate some capital back to US shores.  It simplified taxes so that only a tiny portion of the taxpaying public need fill out the long form.  For me, one of the things which annoyed many governors was the reduction of the state and local tax deduction which offered HUGE subsidies to the VERY WEALTHY in HIGH TAX STATES. (Emphasis added!).  Ideally this should be eliminated entirely to improve tax equity.  But at least that was a start.
    • The revocation of net neutrality (a last minute attempt by the Obama administration to redefine the Internet as a public utility and apply 19th Century regulatory rules) helped lower costs for all of us and actually improve speeds right at the time that we were learning ZOOM skills.
    • His mideast policies materially improved the prospects for reduced tensions in the Middle East - with the recognition by several Arab nations that conceded Israel’s right to exist.  I believe, although I understand that many on the left disagree, that moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem was a positive step.
    • Getting COVID Vaccine in Place - In spite of the nattering of his critics he was able to mobilize a real effort to get a vaccine for COVID into production in record time.  His critics claimed it would not be done and they were wrong.
    • JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS He made a series of very good judicial appointments including three members of SCOTUS and a bunch throughout the judiciary.  

That is not to ignore the numerous negative parts of his administration.   On Thursday I had a conversation with my Spanish tutor and she commented that the President was like a singer - (in Spanish it is not as funny as in English) because he was always singing “Me,me, me, me, me.”   Trump showed himself remarkably unable to rise above the personal and the petty.  Whether his critics were also unable to do that is not relevant.  We should expect that our president can operate at a higher level than even his antagonists.   Politics has been debased, not just because of Trump - but it certainly was not uplifted by his example.


We had a couple of politicians who rose to the occasion this week.  Mitch McConnell's speech on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday was one example.  So was the Vice President's letter explaining why he would not countenance ignoring the limited role of accepting the electoral college ballots from the states.


Beginning on Saturday and continuing to Wednesday things went downhill.   In two very stupid moves, Trump destroyed his legacy.   Let me address each separately.   On Saturday he hectored the Georgia Secretary of State in a phone call which only an idiot would assume would not be made public.  Trump won in part in 2016 because his opponent made comments about “deplorables” in what she thought was a private meeting.  Why would he not understand that his call would immediately become viral?   As Important is the notion that election results can be changed by fiat.   For me, the elections I cared about, including three ballot initiatives in California; reducing the democratic majority in the House which included the election of some very good and thoughtful conservatives including several women to counter the “squad”; and the election of a county supervisor in our home district played out well.


I believe there were irregularities in the 2020 election.  We rushed into electronic and vote by mail without serious consideration of how to do it well.  That being said, I do not believe that the sum total of those irregularities resulted in a defective result.  Biden won.  If there were ever any energy to think more carefully about improvements to election procedures, Trump’s phone call and his actions on Wednesday doomed any serious discussion about those issues.   Quinlan and I voted from Mexico using a federal procedure which requires verification processes but then is pretty simple.  Insuring the integrity of the electoral process is critical to confidence in government and Trump’s actions assures that the country won’t spend much time before the next election trying to improve the process. 


The call on Saturday materially affected the results on Tuesday in Georgia.   Mind you that I did not have high regard for either GOP candidate, but I do admire the legislative skills of McConnell over those of Schumer.   Ossoff is a near perfect exemplar of George Bernard Shaw’s quote on political figures ““He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.”   And while Perdue was not significantly better he would have contributed to a restraining force on excesses that are now going to be less restrained.


Perdue and Loeffler did themselves no favor by pandering to Trump by expressing support for the $2000 stimulus boondoggle and by pledging to take the extraordinary step of voting to make the certification process more than it is intended in the Constitution.


But then came Wednesday.   I believe very deeply in the First Amendment and in the provisions for the Right of Assembly and although I don’t accept the premise of a rigged election, I would have fully supported the right of my fellow citizens to Assemble to express their views.  What I don’t agree with is the right to anarchy.  


In the same vein I reject the nonsense perpetrated by the left to defend the anarchy in cities like Seattle and Portland and the wanton destruction of property and the pathetic notions of “defunding the police”.   If there is reason to look at police powers and to modify them to current conditions, then do it in an orderly manner.   Contrary to the bizarre statements of the Mayor of Seattle, the takeover of a major portion of the city, was not part of a “summer of love.”


The President’s remarks were close to incendiary.   Those by Rudy Guiliani went significantly more over the line.   The call to combat should be prosecuted.  


So how to we get to reconciliation as the President elect has promised.   For me there are a couple of quick steps that Biden could take which would point us in the right direction.   First, the President Elect should announce that he will drop his Twitter account.  The NYT on Sunday morning had an article detailing how much Trump relied on Twitter - during the last four years he tweeted more than 11,000 times a day. In recent weeks he has tweeted more than 200 times a week.   That is absurd.  It is not as if the president does not have access to news outlets, even if the claim that Trump faced a barrage of hostile lefty journalist (which I think for the most part is true).  But don’t we hire a President to do more important things?


The last job I had in DC was working for Bill Simon.  One Saturday afternoon, we scheduled a press conference to announce something we were doing to respond to the Arab Oil embargo.    I had the duty to write Simon’s opening statement, and as a joke I did a single sheet which said, “We actually don’t have anything to announce but we just wanted to see if you would show up!”  Luckily Simon thought that was funny and I also wrote a real announcement about our news.  But the WSJ reporter on our beat showed up in Tennis Whites.  There is nothing to suggest that things have changed; a president commands attention.  I grew quite tired of the self righteous “journalists” in the White House press room who believed that their role was to make the news.   But even with those challenges the President has what TR called the “bully pulpit” to shape the news cycle and it should not be in 240 character tweets.


A corollary to the first suggestion is that we need to take down the mini-Rasputin who parades as a CEO of Twitter.  He and the head of Facebook are entirely too full of themselves as protectors of our system instead of grubby jerks trying to make a. Bucks without regard for the long term consequences.  If you have not seen the excellent NETFLIX documentary called the Social Dilemma, you should.  The best way to negate their profound attempts to control our lives is to simply use them left.  A good friend on the left, about a month before the election said she was considering dropping out of Facebook.  That sounds like a good idea to me, although I have not yet followed her lead.  Did you ever wonder why the root word for Rasputin’s “service” is twit?


Second, many politicians could benefit from re-learning the “pottery barn maxim” of politics - if you break it you bought it.  Trump and many Governors around the country should have relearned this in the year of COVID.   There are times when an elected official can bring stability to an uncertain situation.   And there are also times when respected experts need to be brought back down to earth because they try to express opinions as expertise.  But the stream of consciousness briefings that Trump and his fellow executives offered was oftentimes laughable.   Especially, when their actions and their pronouncements did not mesh.   Too many politicians thought “do as I say not as I do is acceptable.”  It is not.  From my perspective the ham handed interventions by elected officials actually allowed experts to quash discussion of alternatives to the prevailing orthodoxy.


Finally,  I am not sure how it should be accomplished but Mr. Trump should not be allowed to complete his term.   From my perspective, the best alternative is to have the Vice President invoke the 25th Amendment.   A rehash of the absurd impeachment process that we experienced from sanctimonious politicians like Adam Schiff and Gerald Nadler would not help toward reconciliation and would reinforce the concerns that a good portion of our population holds against the earlier process.  But the country needs to respond vigorously to the incitement to anarchy and it needs to happen before inauguration day. 


UPDATE ON THE BOOK 


I have retained an editor to work through the manuscript.  As a looked at the current version it is a bit too long.  So I spent the two weeks at the end of the year doing some more revisions.   A couple of friends have read chapters and made some good suggestions.   There are two questions that I have been thinking about.  First, adding photos to the book adds complexity.   I have thought of putting up a set of webpages that would be referenced in the Print and E-Book format which would point the reader to the photos by chapter.   


Those changes will delay getting Of Course It's True Except for a Couple of Lies into print until later in 2021.  But from my perspective it will be a much better book because of the changes.   

Sunday, December 13, 2020

The ELECTION IN FIVE EASY POINTS

CAUTION - The picture does not reflect my thoughts here.

A friend wrote on one of my Facebook posts unrelated to the actual post - “Without meaning to disrupt your tour of our favorite Other country,  I do have 2 questions: who really won the US election, and what “should” the outcome be? I am, as you well know, asking this respectfully, mi amigo.”  Well thanks, amigo.


I think my friend thought this question might cause me discomfort.  If he did, he was wrong.  Elections in the US have many levels.   Let me offer five propositions about the recently concluded election, before the final vote is cast tomorrow (December 14) in the Presidential race.  But this election was not just about who lives in the White House.


#1 - Biden won the Presidency


From my perspective, a lot of the electorate was tired of Trump’s histrionics.  I believe he sealed his fate with the first debate performance.  It was horrid.   Who really lost in this election were the pundits and pollsters.  Both groups look increasingly like buffoons.  At the beginning of the cycle many of those dopes were predicting a big blue wave.  They were off by more than a scooch.  The GOP picked up 13 seats making Pelosi’s Speakership held there by a mere 9 seats.  In the Senate, the GOP lost two seats in Arizona and Colorado, while the Dems lost one in Alabama.  Worst case for the GOP is a 50-50 split.


That is not to diminish the positive things that the Trump administration did.  In spite of claims to the contrary, economic growth after the tax and regulatory changes adopted by the Administration were tangible.  Two statistics bear repeating - first, for the first time in a couple of decades, at the beginning of 2020 the number of jobs available exceeded the number of job seekers, that led to a real (after inflation) growth in incomes for the lowest paid workers.  His results in getting several players in the Middle East to regularize relations with Israel are positive.  I believe the ultimate result in the Presidential contest was not a strong positive reaction to Biden's Harding-like basement campaign but a desire to try to return to at least a bit more civility. 


#2 - There were some shenanigans in the election


There is plenty of evidence that there were irregularities in the election, but let me say at the outset, I do not believe they were determinative of the final presidential result.   We moved into a new election regime without a great deal of thought about how to assure electoral integrity.  So while that horrible example from 2018 of ballot “harvesting” seems to have been stopped, I believe that the new system was not without some things which reasonable people could help to improve in the next cycle.   But there were also benefits, a large group of voters decided to participate - turnout was amazing.  I think they were motivated.  Ideally, after we get through with the quibbles about this or that, thoughtful people should think carefully about electoral security.  We might well have transitioned into a new era with electronic voting.  But we did not think carefully enough about issues like when each state can begin and end the election and when counting can begin and end.   Some states prohibited counting until after election day - that seems like a silly rule.   Some states were looser than I think they should have been in accepting ballots long after the election.  In one agonizingly close congressional race in New York they even found a dozen votes in a drawer a couple of weeks after the election - that is simply wrong.   


We might also think about adopting the system for domestic voters that expats used in this election.  At the beginning of the cycle, realizing that we would be in Mexico, we tried to figure out how to vote.  There was a Federal site which required one to verify registration and then hooked us up with our local county registrar.   We faxed our completed ballots to the registrar and they confirmed we had voted. They confirmed back that they had received our ballots.


As noted earlier, I don’t believe the irregularities influenced the outcomes to a material level.  But get ready for tons of conspiracy narratives.   I am not a fan of Biden on many levels (Neither of us voted for President) but I hope he is smart enough to resist buying into the lunacy of the BC coalition (Bernie and AOC).  If he does buy the BC approaches, 2022 will look a lot like 2010.


While I think it is appropriate to make sure votes are counted correctly, I think Trump's continued unwillingness to accept the result looks a lot like nullification movements in the mid-part of the nineteenth century.  For those who have either a pathological dislike of Trump or an unrelenting support for him, we need to stop both.


I have a Spanish tutor in SMA who is excellent.  On Friday we talked about the perspective of time in politics.   There are two phrases which we spent a good deal of time on the tendencies of politicians to ignore long term consequences (a largo (or corto) plazo).   One of the priorities that all of us in what PJ O'Rourke calls the "Far Middle" is to begin to think about how to restore civil discourse.  The problem seems to be imbedded in most of the democracies around the world.


#3 - The voters made were pretty sophisticated in their choices.


Nancy Pelosi’s majority in the House was diminished by 13 seats, included in that list were four seats in California.  And based on the results in the legislative races across the country, the dems failed to win one legislative house.   One democrat commentator suggested “There’s a significant difference between a referendum on a clown show, which is what we had at the top of the ticket, and embracing the values of the Democratic ticket,” said Nichole Remmert, Ms. Skopov’s campaign manager. “People bought into Joe Biden to stop the insanity in the White House. They did not suddenly become Democrats.”


For my money, on the initiative front, Californians scored a trifecta.  They voted down by a narrow margin (sorry it was not higher) the idiotic proposal to create a split roll for commercial and industrial property.  Businesses are already fleeing the California environment and this nonsense would have exacerbated that trend.   The proponents argued that the multibillion tax increase would have no effect on our already lousy business climate and the voters saw through that bunk.   An attempt to reinstate affirmative action was rebuffed by a higher margin than the original proposition that passed the ban. (Prop 209).  Finally, the attempt to move Gig industries back to 1930s style labor law (an unabashed attempt by the SEIU to organize UBER drivers and others) was REJECTED by a huge margin.   Let's hope that the author of this nonsense does not come back with a variation (small chance).  


Then there was the attempt by the SEIU to buy a Sacramento Board of Supervisor’s seat in our home district.  The victorious candidate has been a resident of the district for his entire life. We supported him after hearing him in a candidate’s forum in the Spring. He seems remarkably untied to ideological extremes.  He had some good ideas about how to deal with homelessness  (which is a much smaller problem than in the camping area formerly known as the Bay Area) and infrastructure and even some thoughts on economic development.  His opponent took a series of positions which would satisfy AOC.  The former newspaper called the Sacramento Bee rode his candidacy like a racehorse.  But the good guy won.


#4 - The MAGA brand may be shifting


Dan Henninger, the astute deputy editorial page editor for the WSJ, noticed that rejection of the "do as I say not as I do" authoritarian policies of governors like Cuomo, Newsome, and Whitmer are on increasingly tenuous ground.  They should be.   But the people who are rejecting the arbitrary exercises of authority are not traditional Magaistas. A good poster child is the owner of a restaurant in LA who spent a lot of her own dough to construct a safe outside site for her patrons only to be closed down by  Mayor Garcetti's order for closure of all restaurants. Somehow the Mayor thought the ban should not apply to a production crew to set up a commissary next to her closed restaurant.


For a good part of this pandemic we’ve heard a “one best way” approach to the pandemic. No alternative views were acceptable.   So for example, Anthony Berenson, detailed examples of suppression of alternative points of view.   The media suppressed a Danish peer review study on the efficacy of masks.  Amazon refused to allow a KDP monograph from Berenson that questioned whether some policies we’ve adopted, almost without question, were efficacious.  While the Great Barrington Declaration (by three distinguished epidemiologists) did not get the coverage it should have, holes have begun to appear in the orthodoxy of both the media and the medical/political establishment.  Science is a process not an unalterable set of models.


Does that mean we should drop all safety strategies?  Of course not.  Should we support the loons on the right who support conspiracy theories of all flavors?  Nope.  Where we are going was seems to have been explained in the SCOTUS decision released on Thanksgiving Eve - ROMAN CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF BROOKLYN, NEW YORK v. ANDREW M. CUOMO, GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK.  The decision said the state of New York could not discriminate between bars and churches.   It carefully did not accede to claims of some of the evangelicals that the First Amendment expression clause allowed unlimited gatherings. While the decision was remanded to a lower level I it did provide guidance by arguing that if you can have 50 people in a bar you should also be able to have a similar number in a church or synagogue.  The only disappointment here was that the Chief Justice for some reason sided with the minority.   Justice Gorsuch made the right argument about as clearly as possible - “Government is not free to disregard the First Amendment in times of crisis. At a minimum, that Amendment prohibits government officials from treating religious exercises worse than comparable secular activities, unless they are pursuing a compelling interest and using the least restrictive means available.”  Roberts’ tortured dissent bought the BS that Cuomo has used more than once.   “There is simply no need to do so. After the Diocese and Agudath Israel filed their applications, the Governor revised the designations of the affected areas. None of the houses of worship identified in the applications is now subject to any fixed numerical restrictions.”   That sounds to me like a license for officials like Cuomo to reach for the stars and then to pull back when their ploy looks like it will be rejected. It is not as if he has not tried this approach before.  Specious is too kind to describe the Chief’s logic.  I am not sure who the Chief thought he was playing to but it certainly was not to the Constitution.


#5 - Who knows what will happen on January 5?


The 2020 election has two important elections to be decided before the inauguration of Biden.  Both are in Georgia.   There is tons of money descending into the state.  I watched part of the Loeffler-Warnock debate and was not impressed with the incumbent.   And while I think the debate format in these times is not helpful to understanding candidate positions, I think it was a mistake for Perdue to reject another debate with Osler.


So the final result for 2020’s election will have to wait until January 5 and 6 (the day of the specials in Georgia and then the Congressional confirmation of the Electoral College vote).   But as a response to my friend - who won the election?/ And what should be the outcome?   My response is "aren’t both answers obvious?"  The more we can frustrate the political class - the more I’m satisfied.


AN UPDATE ON THE BOOK 


This week I talked to an editor about working on "Of Course It's True, Except for a Couple of Lies".   I did a work count of the manuscript and it is almost 180,000 words.  I was impressed with the editor and thus will cycle the manuscript into her workflow perhaps in February.   Not being a fan of War and Peace I will spend the next couple of months refining the three sections.


We also discussed options on publishing.  At this point we are planning two editions - a traditional paperback and an Ebook.   As I have investigated options there are multiple options in publishing both versions.   As this progresses I will keep you informed.

 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

 BOOK COVERS AND HAVING CHILDREN

This is the third set of comments which proceeded the book and also a chance to weigh in on possible book covers.   The point of these recent posts is to give you an idea of what might be in the book.

This post describes my feelings about becoming a father, first with our daughter and then with our son.   I remain intrigued about how different our kids have become.   What I appreciate about both are two qualities they hold in common.  Both have built strong marriages and are devoted to their children.  At the same time both understand the need to be active in their communities; Emily with her work in Eagle Rock Elementary and Peter in sports both football and little league.


NOTE - The original draft for these posts is in response to a series of questions that my daughter asked me in 2019.  Thus, the references are to her (as in Before you were born)  

First things first.  Presented on either side are two alternative covers for the book.  I actually like both.   If you have a preference, shoot me a note.

But now back to the blog -  This week are comments about what it was like to become a father to Emily and Peter.   One initial comment, I think it can be said, without hesitation that becoming a grandfather is much easier.


4) Describe what it felt like to become a father? What do you remember from my birth or infancy? 

There are a jumble of thoughts.  Before you were born, we were in LA visiting Albert and he gave me a book called “How to Raise an Independent Daughter” - it was a compilation of psychobabble with some Zen like phrases thrown in. I was polite but thought the way you raise independent children is to give them responsibility and love. I read at least part of the book.  In the end it was thoroughly forgettable new age crap.  I understood the intention (which was a goal I shared) but thoroughly useless.  The night before you were born Jerry and Suzy Cook visited and Suzy laughed at mom (in a nice way) because mom was huge - by that time she was wearing my sandals because those were the only shoes that fit. 


The day you were born was a busy time in the end of the legislative session.   Mom gave me a pager (Those times are called BC - Before Cellular).   On that morning I was walking up to testify on a bill by Joe Montoya in the Senate Education Committee.   The pager went off and Senator Rodda said from his chair’s position, “Mr. Brown, I think you have more important things to do than testifying on Mr. Montoya’s bill. “  Montoya gratuitously added, “Yeah and your testimony probably would not have made much of a difference.”  I walked out of the hearing and into Assemblywoman Teresa Hughes office to see what was going on - for a couple of years after that we celebrated your birthday in her office.   When Mom was ready to go into the delivery room - I waited.  I have a negative reaction to the stuff the scrubbed down the operating rooms and at that time a C-section prevented the dad from being present.  I was able to hold you first in the recovery room.   In some ways that was exhilarating but in others I realized that even more than mom I had a responsibility for the rest of my life.


That night, mom had to stay in the hospital for one night, I went to a Buffalo Chips run and then called Mom pretty blitzed and told her how excited I was.


Dawn came to help out a couple of days after you were born to help out.  


When Peter was born it was a planned C-Section - so everything was very orderly. We played backgammon while waiting, although your mom claimed she was distracted, I still collected on our bet.   


I went into the recovery room and started to talk to the nurse about how she had learned her technique. She was marvelous – professional and yet caring.  I asked her about her training and then we talked about an issue I was working on in the legislature (the use of pound animals as models) and I actually recruited her to testify against the “Dog Bill”.  Finally, mom looked up and said, Who is the patient here?”


Your mom had never had a brother and I was unfamiliar with how to deal with sisters.  (Nancy was old enough so I never dealt with her as a peer until I was an adult.). So in one sense you were unique.  That paid off later because my mother, who had all male grandchildren, kept getting you dresses made by Florence Eisman.  Many of those were velvet with appliqu├ęs which made them quite impractical for even a toddler.  But mom did not seem to care.


I wrote a simple song for Emily when she was about 1 -


Emily Bemily Booglie Brown, she’s the funniest (prettiest, sunniest) lady in town

She laughs and she giggles and she makes her sound;

That’s Emily Bemily Booglie Brown


I did a song about Peter when he was about the same age - but I cannot for the life of me remember either the fetching tune or the words.  Such is the case of second children - I should know I was fourth!  But Peter’s assertion of having a birth announcement done on the back of a napkin, is totally false.   And after a lot of effort I have found visual proof (in the book).


For both you and Pete we tried to read to you both each night at bedtime - your two favorite books were Green Eggs and Ham and A Chocolate Moose for Dinner.   Both of you liked to listen to banjo music which I played almost every night.  You heard a lot of traditional bluegrass - but the constant song you heard was John Henry.  In one sense I have always liked the message in the song because John Henry strives.  His boss says you can’t beat the machine and yet he does.


Before Pete was born we were at a summer meeting in Victoria BC.   We were going to Butchart Gardens with a bunch of nuns and you told the “bunny farts” joke. (What is invisible and smells like carrots?) Luckily the nuns thought it was charming. That night we got back and you threw a fit right before we were going to a very fancy restaurant - we should have given you a nap.   I finally, in great frustration, sat you down on the bed and said “Young lady, this behavior is unacceptable.  If you make one peep out of order at dinner I will immediately bring you back to the room, find a baby sitter and you will stay in the room.”   We then got you into your Florence Eisman dress (mom kept buying these expensive dresses that were velvet and lovely but not practical - after all you were her only grand-daughter) and we went to dinner.   Your comportment at dinner was exceptional.   When the waiter came for dessert I looked at you and said “What would you like?”   You said “What do they have?”  The waiter then described the choices including Cherries Jubilee - you asked what was that - and when he finished his description - you said “that would be wonderful and I think my father would like that too.”


When Pete was born my mother came - she was very excited because he was the first grandchild where she had a chance to care for the mom.


We also started a tradition called the “God Dammit Mile.”   When we would go on a trip with both kids, one would eventually start to frack off.  (Note the distribution of fracks was about equal!)  Because I believe in incentives, I began to offer an incentive for potty training - it was a trip to Disneyland.   When we were driving to the Magic Kingdom for Peter’s reward, you guys started yammering before we had left Sacramento.  I stopped the car on the side of the freeway and brought both of you to the side.  I said “If I hear one more peep out of either of you before we get to LA I will turn around and we will not go to Disneyland.”  I then asked “Do you understand what I have said?”   Emily sort of blubbered “Yes.”  I then added “Do you have any questions?”  She said “No”  I looked at Peter and asked him.  He waited a minute and said something like “Yes I do.  Why did the chicken cross the road?” (Or some similar non sequitur)  I nearly bit through my lip but the rest of the trip was less fracky. 


When you were about 2 I decided to take you on a business trip to Denver with me.  About 30 minutes into the flight you decided to throw a fit.   Every woman near me wanted to comfort you - you were passed around a lot.  I was proud to bring you along.  Mom took care of you during the day and when we flew back your behavior was perfect.


Pete was more likely, especially with his friend Kyle, to get into mischief than you were, at least as I knew about it.


When Emily was ready for kindergarten we spent a fair amount of time thinking about alternatives.  The local public school was a mess, although several families in the neighborhood said we should support it.   We finally decided with Emily that she would go to the Sacrament equivalent of what Quinlan went to for her entire K-12 experience, Sacramento Country Day School.   It was a stretch to support but we thought that of all the things you can buy a child, this is one of the few things that cannot be taken away.


Both kids had some excellent teachers at SCDS.   I served on the board for six years.  Peter was definitely a less diligent student - that may have been in part because the SCDS model for all its talk about meeting the individual needs of the student, seemed to be unable to deal with alternative learning styles.  When Peter was in Kindergarten we went to one back to school night and kids exhibited self portraits.  Peter’s was all blue.  Quinlan asked Peter about his painting and he said, “It is a self portrait.  It is in a pool and I am under the water.”


When Peter was in fourth grade he had a particular inept teacher.   On one assignment he chose to work very hard.  When he brought it in the teacher questioned whether he had done his own work.  I called the director of the lower school and said I wanted a meeting.   We went in and I vented my frustrations and argued that this was a chance to encourage Peter because he had worked so hard on this particular project.   The director of the lower school said to me (in classic eduspeak “Jon I can hear your anger”. At that I broke up and said “This is not an auditory test, I am sure you can hear my words but are you actually going to doing something about this problem?”


Two high school stories about Emily.  When she was a senior she was late in getting acceptance offers to college.  One of her teachers, who thought a lot of himself, kidded her about it.  He thought of himself highly, always touting his Stanford degree (he got in through the Menlo option because he did not qualify as a first year student!).   So Emily and I talked about it and created a fictitious acceptance letter from the Joe Bob School of Automotive Design - we designed a logo and all.  (The teacher also thought he was a real gearhead.).  It said


Dear Emily,


We are pleased to offer you admission  to the Joe Bob School of Automotive Design. We are especially excited because you came highly recommended from one of our most prominent graduates, who graduated with honors with a certificate in advanced tuck and roll. XXX XXXXXXX claims he actually went to Stanford, but we know better. We also are glad to admit you because it will mean we will have two babes in the entering class.


Emily brought it into his class and the guy did not even realize he was being made the butt of a joke.  In Emily’s senior year each student had to obtain an internship.  She got one with a State Senator, completely without my help.   The same teacher monitored the internships and made two inappropriate comments.  He first said when Emily described her experience “Isn’t it nice that Dads can help their kids get these opportunities.   He then asked each if they had experienced sexual harassment.   When I heard about that exchange, I called the teacher and bawled him out for about 30 minutes.  I then called the headmaster and spent another 30 minutes with him.  That night was a potluck for the seniors and their families.  I soon noticed something fun.  Every time I entered a room where the teacher was he would scurry out.   I got Emily and demonstrated the principle.  We both laughed.


Evaluating the value of private K-12 schools is hard.  In the case of SCDS they did a lot of extra things for kids who fit their model.  But they were also woefully bereft of recognition that every kid has unique educational needs. In Peter’s case we did not recognize that soon enough.   In Emily’s case even the college counseling function was inadequate.   The counselor who doubled as an English teacher and college counselor knew Emily was interested in a smaller selective college. But the counselor, when Emily expressed at least preliminary interest in a place in the South recommended that she look at UNC.  


Pete left Country Day at Eighth grade - their methods were not matched well to boys who were a bit less compliant.  He wanted to play football and so went to Christian Brothers.  Unfortunately, in one of his games he nailed a knee.   We had been on a short trip and when we came back he was lying on our couch with a blanket.   When we came in he exposed the brace he had on his leg.  It was one of those special moments.


I am especially proud that both of our kids have taken an active role in helping to shape the school experience for their kids.  They also seem to work better than we did in sharing responsibilities for raising kids.  Quinlan and I had much more traditional roles.


Finally, I should offer some comments on our kids parenting skills. Between Emily and Michael and Peter and Jessica they have very different assumptions about raising kids; both from the way we did it and the way that each works with their own children.  But the proof of parenthood is not in whether they follow our methods but in whether each of our five grandchildren are growing up to be independent contributing members of their communities.  All five have distinct personalities.  But each has developed a good sense of values.


The next post is about my involvement with running and Loma Prieta (Not related topics)

Saturday, October 17, 2020

 

This is the second of nine glimpses of the types of themes in the forth coming Of Course It’s True, Except for a Couple of Lies - due in late 2020 or early 2021.   This one deals with two issues - Why I decided to get married and something about Vietnam.  The original questions came from my daughter Emily.

2) Why did you decide to marry mom?


Simply because I loved her - her sense of humor, and because I could not imagine being without her.  She was quick.  We had fun together.   I only had three serious girl friends - two in high school and your mom.  Mom was different - when I first met her she was in academic trouble and I think I helped her stay at Pacific.  


NOTE - The comments about Quinlan are a lot more detailed - how I met her (at Pacific - in fixing her guitar); how we have made decisions over the last 50+ years (we both have always had bank accounts and made lots of decisions independently; what intrigued me about her (sense of humor was big); how she is often the most fascinating person in the room even after 50 years.  Etc.


3) What was your experience of Dan or your peers going to Vietnam? What did you feel about the war? Did you think the US should be there? What should they have down instead? Not what you think now but I’m curious what you felt then.


NOTE - This set of stories is not a part of the final manuscript.   Vietnam was something that everyone in my generation experienced.   It was perhaps the one time, when I listened to Bill Clinton’s stories about the draft, that I felt an affinity with him. Although as noted in a chapter on famous people I have met - when I met him as President - he was the best extemporaneous speaker I think I ever heard.   In the book I do comment on why I thought our involvement in Vietnam was poorly managed, especially based on the Hubris of Robert McNamara.  As you will read in the chapter on Experts v. Crowds in the final version of the book I have a lot of faith in the expertise of people as a group over narrowly constituted experts.   There was a great quote from a British labor politician in Britain after WWII - who said “The gentleman in Whitehall really does know better, what is good for the people than the people know themselves.”  I believe that logic is consistently false.  It is a big part of what I believe about how we should organize ourselves in common purpose.  The philosophy chapters in the middle of the book argue that individuals often have specialized knowledge that is always better than the experts.  We need to know how and when to use that.   A recent book (Wake Up Call by John Mickelthwait and Adrian Wooldridge - well worth the read by the way) argues that governments in the West made a series of absurd decisions about how to deal with the pandemic of COVID.    For me at least the two big government initiatives in the Johnson Administration were serious examples of the hubris of advocates of big government.  Guns and Butter was something that LBJ thought was possible.   As you will read in the book the democrats are not the only ones who believe that anything is possible - the only differences between many of our leaders in the last half century was what they defined as guns and butter.   Non est talis res ut liberum prandium (there is no such thing as a free lunch) is still true. An odd saying indeed for someone who spent 40+ years on both sides of lobbying! 


Government to be successful needs to decide what it is trying to accomplish.   From my perspective that should be a short list - but once we figure out what we want to do we need to think about how to pay for it.  In recent years, because of something Mancur Olson observed (in the Logic of Collective Action) we haven’t bothered to have serious discussions of either what we want to accomplish or how to pay for it.   For me Vietnam and the Great Society came at a time in life when I was trying to figure out key questions about government - throughout my life I have kept coming back to those basics.   So below are comments that won’t be in the book - but the book does have some discussions about the other side (the butter).   I had one brother who served and several friends, including a friend who was a ranger and another to who flew Hueys.  So here are my thoughts on Vietnam, contradictory as they were then and now. 


Vietnam is perhaps the most complex event in my generation’s history.   We eased into it in part because of anti-communism of Ike and JFK but also because of the hubris of LBJ and the absolute incompetence of Robert McNamara.  LBJ thought, because of his Senate experience that you could stage manage anything.   A good part of our problems today in the US were created by LBJs attempts with the Great Society - a set of programs where we have spent trillions of dollars to end poverty with few positive results and a large set of problems which produced societal pathologies that we still live with.


I had mixed feelings about the war - I thought we should either commit ourselves to go after the enemy or not be there.   When we did fight back (as in Tet - where we clearly won) that worked. Even with that the press completely misrepresented the outcome.  McNamara (who had been a car executive and the lead General (Westmorland) made our policy inconsistent.  According to most reports Johnson actually spent a lot of time in the Situation Room - discussing strategy and the idiots in the Armed Forces accepted that.  McNamara was a numbers guy (Scientific management) so the bureaucrats down the line created numbers which were phony.


My brother Dan spent several tours in Vietnam on a small ship which patrolled the Mekong river.  He enlisted in the Navy at the end of my Senior Year in High School.  His stories about his deployments are interesting.  Peter at one point had a long talk with him about those experiences.


I did two contradictory things.  I disliked the draft intensely - If you know me at all you know my distrust of bureaucracies - and yet I tried twice to enlist in the Air Force. I failed the draft physicals and the Air Force physicals (but because of sinuses not blood pressure).  In 1967, the Congress reauthorized the draft so that those of us with student classifications were forced to double the time of our eligibility for the draft.   I studied up on the draft and the new law and was so incensed that I wrote an impassioned letter of a 21 year old to my local draft board telling them I they were neither Selective, did not perform a Service and certainly were not a system.  I am convinced that put a red letter on my file.


The rules of the Selective Service allowed one physical and one re-check.  I was marginally hypertensive (high blood pressure).   In the end they sent me six notices for a physical.   In the last one I was mildly above - so they put me in a green room - I was so mad when I came out my BP actually went up.   


When I got to graduate school in DC I did two contradictory things.  First, I tried twice to enlist in the Air Force either to be a pilot (where my sinuses knocked me out) or in intelligence.  In those two physicals I passed except for sinuses.  But at the same time I worked to make sure I would not be drafted.


When the sixth notice arrived I went to a law office of a guy who specialized in Selective Service cases.  He wrote a letter which I signed which officially retained him as my attorney of record.  I got a 4-F in 7 days.  That certainly was an exceptional response, I am not sure how that happened.


Should we have been there?  Hard question.  Our role evolved so that by the time JFK was assassinated we had only a couple of hundred troops there.  But then came the Gulf of Tonkin resolution - which was a doctored up crisis to get us into war.  After that the number of troops escalated quickly.


The Intellectuals turned against the war as soon as it became real.   When the Tet offensive happened Walter Cronkite began to change his opinion - it was the first time that I noticed that the news establishment could be biased.   By the time 1968 rolled around it was clear that LBJ could not get re-elected.   He had this idiotic speech on March 31 where he stated “If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve.”  I had written my Honors Thesis on the James McGregor Burns theory of presidential invincibility - where I argued Burns was wrong.  I got the paper back two days before the speech.  After the speech I went over to my professor’s house - and he laughed (he thought Burns was right) and said “I will not change the grade.”


A couple of my fraternity brothers enlisted into the National Guard.  For some reason I did not even try.


Oddly, one of the biggest supporters of the Volunteer Army was my boss in the Senate - Winston Prouty.


The draft was wrong on several levels.  The local boards could be arbitrary and the exclusions got seemingly healthy but relatively wealthy young men out of serving.  In the last physical I took, for some reason I was asked to take a second IQ test. (Go figure but for those of you who did not go through a draft physical see the scenes from  Alice’s Restaurant mixed with One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The Air Force physicals were almost pleasant.   In the last draft physical I took there was a group of perhaps 60 guys in a class room and a short Napoleonic NCO came in trying to look tough and claiming that if any of us intentionally failed the test, we would immediately be sent to Vietnam.  There was a huge Black guy from Baltimore behind me - it was clear he would eventually end up as a draftee, he was angry.  He started ask all of the guys in the back to give him their pencils.  As the NCO was about to finish his harangue, the big guy stood up with about 30 pencils in his hand assembled like a bundle of twigs, broke them in half and then said “Hey Honkie, we need some more pencils here.”  The NCO looked like he was going to faint but quickly handed the guy a new set of pencils.  The draft physicals were bureaucratic in the extreme.   


Opponents of the volunteer army consistently argued that everyone owes a debt to their society and the draft was a great equalizer.  The problem was it was not a good way to do that - young men with resources found all sorts of ways to avoid the draft from the national guard to medical claims.  And yet I remain opposed to the idea of universal basic service.  BUS presents all sorts of problems in my mind - the conception of a common culture when I was growing up depended on a series of activities including flag salutes and all sorts of opportunities to understand the unique nature of our American system.  We lost those things in part because of cynicism.   From my view that came from a common understanding of the over-reach of the supporters of expansions of government and a concurrent absurd reading of the thinkers like Adam Smith.   


The next post describes my feelings about becoming a father.