TeeJaw Blog

Romney’s Extensive Business Experience is Said to Make Him Highly Qualified to be President

Posted in Government and Politics by TeeJaw on Tuesday, January 10, 2012, 2: 51 PM

You’ve heard it said that Mitt Romney has great business experience and that is just what we need in a president.  Perhaps Obama’s zero business experience is the catalyst for that thinking.  You may think it yourself, may have even said it yourself.  So let’s look at the presidents with not just some or a little business experience, but at those with quite a lot of it.

Truman owned a haberdashery with a partner for a time, until they went broke.  That bit of business experience was the sum of it and in itself didn’t make him a good or even better president, but how he handled the failure of that business did reveal the character of the man. Except for the mortgage held by the Continental Nation Bank, he personally repaid all of the creditors out of later earnings which had nothing to do with the business.  He could have declared bankruptcy, but he didn’t consider it to be honorable.  The creditors had loaned their money and sold him inventory on credit in reliance on his word that he would pay them back.  He wasn’t going to let them down.  Truman was a good president but that was due to his core principles as a man, not because of his business experience.

Abraham Lincoln clerked in a general store for a while.  It was in that endeavor that he walked 10 miles in the snow to return ten cents to a woman he had mistakenly overcharged.  He was also a good railsplitter.  He won arm wrestling contests with bigger and seemingly stronger men in the railsplitting line of work.  Lincoln’s business experience, such as it was, showed him to be a man of honor and principle.  But  again, it was his core principles and personal moral code that made him a great president.

In fact, while there may have been several presidents with some, usually very little, business experience, there have been only three presidents with extensive business experience and which they and their supporters hailed as their main qualification to be president.  So we should look at those three and ask what sort of presidents they were.

The three were:  Jimmie Carter, Herbert Hoover and Warren G. Harding.  None of them were presidents of any acclaim, except Harding, and his main claim to greatness is that when the Panic of 1921 set in he was too drunk and too busy with his mistress to get involved in trying to end it.  As a result of him staying the course (with his mistress and his bottle) the Panic of 1921 soon found its own cure, and the Roaring Twenties began.  So while Harding did well on that score, that was about the only good thing he did and that was by default.  As for Jimmie Carter and Herbert Hoover, both were unmitigated disasters.

Obama, with no business experience whatsoever, is also a disaster.  The lesson seems to be that unlike knowledge, a little business experience is good but a lot doesn’t correlate much at all with competence in the White House.  Those who tout Romney’s business experience to mean he’ll be a great president need to think that through a little.


Eric Cantor Cancels Speech At University of Pennsylvania Fearing Disruption — It’s Just as Well

Posted in Government and Politics by TeeJaw on Saturday, October 22, 2011, 9: 03 AM

The “Occupy Philadelphia” crowd losses an opportunity to shout and disrupt a speech and they’re feeling put upon by that loss. Free speech is not the right of speakers to speak, or protesters to shout and disrupt, but rather it is the right is other people to hear that speech, or the protestations against it.  So, it’s the students who would have been in Cantor’s audience who have a grievance, not the mobsters of the Occupy Philadelphia movement.

That said, Eric Cantor doesn’t seem to have much worthwhile to say anyway.  Here is an excerpt of what he was going to say, which is exactly what he said on the Sunday talk shows last Sunday:

We must ensure that those who abuse the rules are punished. We must ensure that the solution to wealth disparity is wealth mobility. We must give everyone the chance to move up. Stability plus mobility equals agility. In an agile economy and an agile society, people are climbing and succeeding.

This is not the principled conservatism that Republicans need to practice and learn if they ever going to avoid becoming a permanent minority party.  This sort of language is not what you’d expect from a man of conviction and principle, this is the way a man who thinks he has to pander to his enemies will talk.  The left relies on mindless slogans to convey a message that appeals to the emotional side of our brain but is devoid of intelligent content.  Conservatives should not try to emulate the sloganeering of the left with pithy new phrases such as “wealth mobility.”  What does that mean?  Cantor may mean it to signify the sort of economic opportunity for all that has always existed in America and forms the basis of what we call American Exceptionalism. But it could just as well be the words used to support Obama’s dreams of wealth redistribution.  As a conservative Cantor should be using his time at the podium to teach the principles and rewards for all  of conservatism, not trying to show his audience that he’s just as liberal as the Democrats.

The trouble with Republicans is that they have lost the ability to use the English language to their benefit.  They might take a lesson from another politician who, destined to become a Republican after it later arose as a party, made a public statement against slavery in 1837.

As a Whig that man believed in American Exceptionalism, that America uniquely in the world offered opportunity for all men. He praised the American system of economic opportunity in which the “man who labored for another last year, this year labors for himself, and next year he will hire others to labor for him.” Slavery was the opposite of opportunity, and that man was dead set against it’s spread to the new territories.  The Republican party later became a natural home for that former Whig because it was founded on that great principle of American Exceptionalism.

Eric Cantor and his cohorts in the present-day Republican establishment should first convince themselves of the goodness and political effectiveness of the ideals upon which their party was founded.  They will otherwise have no success convincing others, especially young college students who have been indoctrinated with liberal slogans all their lives.

The complete works of Abraham Lincoln, just about everything he wrote and every speech he gave, are available on Kindle for almost nothing, less than ten bucks I think.  What a bargain.  Since it’s on Kindle it’s all searchable.  It can all be transferred to one’s computer from the Kindle.  Heck, it all been available on the internet for years.  Republicans such a Eric Cantor should put it on Kindle and carry it with them every where they go.  They should read Lincoln as studiously as Lincoln read Shakespeare. Then maybe they’ll learn how to talk.   Maybe they’ll learn how to convey the message to today’s young people that Republicans are not just Democrat light, that Republicans are conservatives who will lead the way to a new birth of economic freedom if given the chance, and that the Democrats’ demonic ideas about wealth redistribution are the opposite of opportunity for all, as slavery was.

Lincoln’s Birthday Today-Also Darwin’s

Posted in History by TeeJaw on Friday, February 12, 2010, 11: 45 AM

Today is Lincoln’s birthday, and it is also Charles Darwin’s birthday. These two men not only share the same calendar day birthday, they were also born on the same day in history, February 12, 1809. They are both 201 today.

Lincoln and Darwin never met. Lincoln may have known about Darwin since The Origin of Species was published in 1859 and Lincoln can be expected. This book explores other parallels in the lives of these two great men:

rebel giants

The author draws parallels in the life of Lincoln and Darwin because both introduced paradigm shifts in how people think about the world and human existence. Slavery had been a universal institution around the world for a thousands of years. As Lincoln rightly saw, it was unthinkable that the U.S. Constitution could have abolished slavery in 1789. But he also understood that Slavery in America violated our founding principal, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among those are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That was denied to slaves and it was a stain that Lincoln sought to remove.

Before Darwin, with minor exception, the prevailing view of the creation of life on earth was the book of Genesis in the Bible. While some version of that remains true today for a great majority of humanity, Darwin made it impossible for the religious myth of creation to totally dominate the field of thinking. Now there is a scientific approach and the enlightenment it brings is refreshing and unavoidable.

At first glance Lincoln and Darwin are very different: the former from a frontier family who had little formal education; the latter, from a wealthy family, graduated from Cambridge. Yet they both lost their mothers at an early age; both struggled with doubts about religion, were ambitious and had quick minds.

Here is what a reader review at Amazon said about this book:

I’ve often amused (or irritated) people with little known trivia and one of my favorites was the fact of Lincoln and Darwin having been born on the same day. It may not be mere trivia from now on.

Darwin and Lincoln have long been favorites of mine so when I saw this book I was immediately drawn to it. I have been nicely rewarded as this book is terrific. It is packed with detailed knowledge of these two great men of the 19th century and told in a delightful and accessible manner. Mr. Contosta is obviously sympathetic to both men, and why wouldn’t he be? Their stories are compelling. The intriguing similarities in their lives go beyond their shared birth date, and many are quite astounding.

The author’s method of telling the story of Lincoln and Darwin by comparison of the details of their lives is a neat trick and I think it worked well.

Mr. Contosta is an historian who knows a bit of science history as well. His description of Darwin’s theory of natural selection and of the state of natural science in the 19th century seem impeccable. Few people outside of the life sciences today are aware of the mountain of evidence that Darwin collected, analyzed and tested before publishing The Origin of Species, nor of the personal conflicts with which he struggled. Those who today disparage Darwinian evolution as “just a theory,” as if it were no more than an educated guess, will be disabused of that notion and will come to a better understanding of the scientific method. If you delight in new knowledge and information you will revel in the pages of this book.

The Publishers Weekly description above calls Mr. Contosta’s effort “thin” and “sophomoric.” I think it is Publishers Weekly that is thin and sophomoric.

Sounds right to me. Well, why wouldn’t it, it was my review.

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What Darwin Never Knew

Posted in Culture, History by TeeJaw on Monday, January 4, 2010, 10: 23 PM


In the year just past the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin was “celebrated.” I put that in scare quotes because as a conservative I’ve taken a lot of heat for my devotion to Darwin the man and to his scientific theory of evolution. Some conservatives embrace those doctrines that go by the name of “Creationism” or “Intelligent Design,” both of which I consider flapdoodle nonsense that are neither good science nor good religion.

Some smart people whom I admire in other respects seem to believe that Darwin was an evil man, or at least his theory is evil. Some blame the rise of Nazism on Darwin and his theory of evolution, or on its wayward step-sister Social Darwinism, a philosophy that was devised by others and not by Darwin himself. Social Darwinism postulates that the theory of natural selection in biology can be applied by analogy to social development. It heavily relied upon the concept of “survival of the fittest,” a term coined by Herbert Spencer in 1877 and which appears nowhere in any of Darwin’s writings. Social Darwinism is a theory I would place in about the same category of claptrap as Creationism or Intelligent Design.

Even those who credit Darwin with the discovery of one of the greatest ideas ever conceived must concede that subsequent research was required to explain the mechanisms of evolution. Genetics, for example, was unknown during Darwin’s life, since even though Gregor Mendel’s experiments in the cultivation of pea plants were conducted between 1856 and 1863, his work was ignored until it was rediscovered in the early 20th Century. Count me as one who believes that Darwin is one of the most important men in history, even though he was not alone in the discovery of evolutionary theory, and rushed the Origin of Species into publication in 1859 after sitting on his data for almost two decades because in 1858 he received an essay from Alfred Russel Wallace which described the same idea.

A familiar criticism of Darwin is that the theory of natural selection is “just a theory.” That’s true, but it is probably the longest lived and most successful theory in science. These critics also conflate theory in the scientific sense with something that someone simply imagined or fancied, and then offered forth. That might be true of what is called “Social Darwinism” which is a doctrine devised by others and has nothing to do with Darwin’s theory. But in science a theory must be based upon data collected from actual observation of natural phenomena. See my previous post, The Scientific Method. A scientific theory must be capable of being disproved, i.e., there must be something that if shown to be true would disprove the theory.

A week ago, on December 29th, PBS made a contribution to the debate over Darwin and evolution with a two-hour NOVA production called What Darwin Never Knew. Larry Arnhart calls it one of the best television documentaries on evolutionary science he has ever seen. If you missed it you can watch the entire two hours in HD at the PBS Website. A DVD will be available in early March. The documentary is stunningly beautiful and concentrates on research in the fascinating and relatively new field of Evo Devo.

Darwin was born on February 12, 1809. When I was a child all school children knew that Abraham Lincoln just happened to be born that same day. Since Darwin and Lincoln pretty much make up the field of my heros, the friends I have most liked to spend time with, I was truly eager to read Rebel Giants-The Revolutionary Lives of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin when it was published in the fall of 2008. At first I was skeptical that any one person was likely to know the biography of both men well enough to write such a book but was happily surprised when I read it and saw that author David Contosta did an admirable job of it. It’s a great book.

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