Friday, October 13, 2006

What He Said

Time for another batch of collected quotations! As usual, these caught my eye as adjuncts to the wonderful A Word a Day:

Very few established institutions, governments and constitutions ... are ever destroyed by their enemies until they have been corrupted and weakened by their friends. -Walter Lippman, journalist (1889-1974)

History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure. -Thurgood Marshall, US Supreme Court Justice (1908-1993)

Whenever morality is based on theology, whenever right is made dependent on divine authority, the most immoral, unjust, infamous things can be justified and established. -Ludwig Feuerbach, philosopher (1804-1872)

Power always has to be kept in check; power exercised in secret, especially under the cloak of national security, is doubly dangerous. -William Proxmire, US senator, reformer (1915-2005)

No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency. -Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd US President (1882-1945)

In the small matters trust the mind, in the large ones the heart. -Sigmund Freud, neurologist, founder of psychoanalysis (1856-1939)

The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions. -James Russell Lowell, poet, editor, and diplomat (1819-1891)

Those who never retract their opinions love themselves more than they love truth. -Joseph Joubert, essayist (1754-1824)

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you. -Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)

War is so unjust and ugly that all who wage it must try to stifle the voice of conscience within themselves. -Leo Tolstoy, novelist and philosopher (1828-1910)

Fortune does not change men, it unmasks them. -Suzanne Necker, author (1739-1794)

Be civil to all, sociable to many, familiar with few, friend to one, enemy to none. -Benjamin Franklin, statesman, author, and inventor (1706-1790)

Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom. -Theodore Rubin, psychiatrist and writer (1923- )

To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest. -Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

I'm proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill. -Thomas Edison, inventor (1847-1931)

Those who know how to win are much more numerous than those who know how to make proper use of their victories. -Polybius, historian (c. 205-123 BCE)

You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered. -Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th US president (1908-1973)

The only means of strengthening one's intellect is to make up one's mind about nothing -- to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts. -John Keats, poet (1795-1821)

In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have. -Lee Iacocca, automobile executive (1924- )

The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief ... that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart. -Walter Lippman, journalist (1889-1974)

The human mind treats a new idea the same way the body treats a strange protein; it rejects it. -Peter. B. Medawar, scientist, Nobel laureate (1915-1987)

When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion. -C.P. Snow, scientist and writer (1905-1980)

The study of error is not only in the highest degree prophylactic, but it serves as a stimulating introduction to the study of truth. -Walter Lippmann, journalist (1889-1974)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Here's Your Sign, redux

I've been rethinking slightly my earlier ponderings on yard sign, following a quip I made to my wife the other night that I should look at the signs in a particular neighbor's yard so I will know whom and what to vote against. There certainly is that angle, but it also occurs to me that there might be a residual effect for lesser-known candidates whose signs are displayed alongside the better-knowns. For instance, there are a couple judicial elections on next month's ballot. Frankly, I haven't heard of any of the people running, including the incumbents. So if I see Judge X's sign in a yard full of signs for candidates and positions that I support, it seems reasonably safe to vote for Judge X. The opposite would also seem reasonable.

But only to a point: There is a fellow in our neighborhood whose social-political stands are the virtual opposite of my own, and yet, based on yard signs, I see that there is one candidate on whom we agree. (I suspect that my neighbor's sign might be there on the basis of the candidate also living in our neighborhood, and I wonder whether the sign will in fact translate into a vote...but we'll never know, will we?) Obviously, I will not be voting in synch with all the other signs in this fellow's yard. So you have to have your wits about you.

In re incumbents: My late friend Jim Carney, who was my unofficial mentor when I was a just-out-of-college magazine editor, had an interesting take. On one occasion in those days, I commented on how, if I got into the voting booth and was looking at odd slots like water commissioner or something and found that none of the candidates' names meant anything to me, I usually voted for the incumbent on the theory that he or she already knew the job and that my ignorance of his or her name meant he or she must not have been involved in any scandals or malfeasance. Jim said he did just the opposite: in that case he would vote against the incumbent, who probably would be re-elected, just so that he or she would now that there was someone out there who didn't like the job he or she was doing, just to keep 'em on their toes.

That struck me as reasonable, and I've employed that tactic ever since.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Overheard on the Campaign Trail

So I’m sitting in a folding chair on Dakota Avenue in downtown Sioux Falls, across the street from my alma mater, Washington High School (the original, now the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science), enjoying the annual Festival of Bands USA parade. Naturally, it being an election year, folks are roaming the crowd handing out political stuff. A remarkably polite couple working for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jack Billion are working the sidewalk, asking people if they’d like a “Back Jack” sticker. I took one, of course--in fact I took three, knowing my kids would each want one. The couple moves on. And then I hear behind me (in a very loud and obnoxious voice, of course): “WE DON’T BACK JACK, WE BACK JESUS.”

Although it took a Herculean effort, I did not turn to see who the loudmouth was: what would I do if I knew her?

But I did find myself wondering about the lousy campaign Jesus is running. Why, I didn't even know he was in the race! Less than a month until the election, and I haven’t seen a single billboard, yard sign, or bumper sticker, let alone a TV ad. Plenty of those "ICHTHU" fish things on the backs of people’s cars, of course, but I have always taken those to be a warning of a bad driver behind the wheel (high positive correlation between the fish emblem on the back and a questionable driver up front. Don’t take my word for it: Start paying attention and see if I’m not right) and not a campaign tool.

I must assume, then, that Jesus is running a word-of-mouth write-in campaign, and I envision his supporters dutifully penciling “Jesus…H…Christ” onto their ballots next month.

For all the good it will do. Although I consider myself a friend of Jesus, I won’t vote for him. He would probably make a good governor, but I suspect he doesn’t meet South Dakota residency requirements.