John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Male Brain

I recently read this book. It’s titled The Maie Brain. And is a science-based based, well researched book on the inner workings of the male brain.

I’m a guy so, you know, I was hoping to find out some pretty encouraging stuff about the we guys think.

But it was more like a personality test you take in the back of a magazine that tells you, after spending 45 minutes finishing it, that you really aren’t very interesting after all.
Except with this book, you can’t go back and change your answers to make yourself more interesting.

Actually, the image that kept coming to me as I approached the last few chapters will date me.

It was Geraldo Rivera’s infamous opening on live TV of Al Capone’s secret vault. The event was hyped for weeks. And all Geraldo found when opened was a stop sign and two lunch pales.

At least Geraldo didn’t write a book about it.

When Muhammad Ali Converted to Judaism

Shortly before Ali’s conversion, a future musing RP lays down the Hebrew Hammer

As a natural followup to my piece earlier this morning in which I named Muhammad Ali one of Kentucky history’s most influential political figures, here’s the seminal interview by Tomorrow’s Tom Snyder, in which the Greatest of All Time announced his conversion to Judaism.

OK, it was Harry Shearer as Snyder and Billy Crystal as the Champ, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  Enjoy (h/t to my Uncle Harvey):

The RP: KY’s Rich Political History…In 400 Words




A few weeks ago, I received an interesting assignment from my hometown newspaper, the Lexington Herald-Leader:  For a special section that would highlight what was especially special about Central Kentucky — “Go Big Bluegrass” — I was asked to prepare an essay on the state’s rich political history…in 400 words or less.

Here’s an excerpt from my piece:

Despite its modest size and a location that’s remote from the centers of power, Kentucky has exercised considerable political influence since nearly the beginning of the republic.

Much of our early prominence stemmed from Lexingtonian Henry Clay, arguably the most influential politician of the early 19th century. Though he’d famously “rather be right than be president” — and proved it by losing several presidential bids — Clay occupied many other important national offices, from speaker of the House to secretary of state.

Most significantly, “The Great Compromiser’s” scrupulous and diligent statesmanship helped delay civil war for several decades. Clay’s greatest triumph, however, may have been in inspiring into public service the very rail-splitter who led us through that bloody conflict.

While Abraham Lincoln spent his formative years in Illinois, his iconic log cabin birthplace is in Hodgenville; he married into a prominent Lexington family; and as president, he clearly recognized the strategic value of his home state: “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky,” he said.

Click here to read the full piece.

And then let me know how I did:  Whom did unfairly omit? How did I err, exaggerate or evade?

And best of all — if you can do it better, leave your 400 word attempt in the comments section below.  Or send me an email to

John Y. Brown, III: Mitt’s “Father Jeremiah” Moment

More secretly taped video from the controversial Mitt Romney fundraiser.
These surreptitiously obtained videos are really dirty pool late in the campaign season. They aren’t fair and can easily get misinterpreted or taken out of context.

But I’m afraid this latest clip will only do more damage to Mr Romney as he is caught again in a candid moment talking tough (singing, in this instance) to his supporters earlier that same day. A prelude to the milder 47 percent reference.


Mitt’s Father Jeremiah moment?


That’s what I think the secretly taped “47%” comment amounts to for candidate Mitt Romney. Which is to say, it’s a political and electoral non-event event.

What do I mean by that?

Remember the public outcry last election cycle when Barack Obama’s pastor, Father Jeremiah Wright, had videotapes of him released online saying absurd things about America?

It was supposed to be the political scandal that would sink candidate Barack Obama’s campaign. But didn’t.

Was it a politically significant event for Barack Obama? Yes, in my view. But not because it caused his supporters to bolt. It didn’t.

What it did do is give a concrete event on which those who already had a vague unease about voting for Barack Obama —and weren’t going to vote for him anyway —something to point to and hang their hat on as the reason for not voting for him.

Yes, they were uncertain about Barack Obama—his politics, his origins, his qualifications for president and even his name. But those things weren’t as tangible or easy to talk about as the Father Jeremiah video which was disturbing and could explain why someone would not want to vote for Barack Obama.

Read the rest of…
John Y. Brown, III: Mitt’s “Father Jeremiah” Moment

Why Iran Matters

Really important read by Rabbi David Wolpe on why Iran’s potential acquisition of nuclear weapons has made him a one-issue voter. [TIME]

Pick Up Today’s Herald-Leader for The RP’s Political Insights

If you live in Central Kentucky, be sure to pick up today’s print version of the Lexington Herald-Leader.

A special section “Go Big Bluegrass” features a guide to everything that’s worth celebrating about the Bluegrass region.

Even better, a certain “recovering politician” has summarized 200 years of Kentucky political history in 400 words.

What did The RP forget to include?  What did he mess up?  You can only play if you pick up today’s Herald-Leader!


(And for those of you unlucky enough to live somewhere else, we will provide an online link when it is available next week.)

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: John Jay Hooker

We do a good job of honoring the winners in life. A less good job of honoring those who “might have been” but who due to bad timing, poor circumstances or an odd twist of fate didn’t get to ascend as high as they could have. It’s often little more than a trivial and unexpected incident that enables some to “break through” and others to “stay back.”

John J. Hooker of Tennessee was one who had many things go right for him in life– except in political races. He is probably the Volunteer state’s most gifted politician never to have won a race. And maybe for a few surrounding states too.

Ironically, John J. and his then wife, Tish, served as the serendipitous force in another person’s life.

During John J’s campaign for governor the charismatic couple visited a Nashville church where Tish met a little girl and her family and took the time to talk to her and tell her she was “cute as a speckled pup.” Trivial words occurring in an unexpected incident that changed that little girl’s life. Years later Oprah Winfrey had Tish on her show to thank her and tell her how important that moment was.

I saw John J Hooker speak at an event in Louisville when I was a teenager. I left thinking that he was the most riveting and entertaining speaker I’d ever heard.

He is now in his early 80s and recently was honored by the Tennessee legislature for his life work in public service.

I commend the TN Senate for taking the time to honor a man who was once a great lion in the political world—a great dreamer and crusader, who was more idealistic than practical and more passionate than calculating. But who mattered in TN politics–and still has something to say worthy of younger citizens and public office holders not only to listen to– but to honor.
He came withing a whisker of becoming governor–and if he had won–almost certainly would have turned up as a colorful but unsuccessful Southern state candidate for president. Over time he became marginalized but never ignored.

This impromptu speech to the state senate at age 80 gives a glimpse of both this man’s once great promise–and the now battle scarred but undaunted persona that hasn’t forgotten what might have been:

Tweeting Your Sins on the High Holidays

Love this piece about how an institution that was critical to my spiritual identity — Harvard’s Hillel — is encouraging a new approach to High Holiday confessions: tweeting your sins. [The Harvard Crimson]

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of The Screen

The Politics of The Screen

Warner Brothers has given a release date for “The Great Gatsby”… again. The film was originally scheduled to be released at Christmas, but the studio canceled that release date to take the film back into production for some spicier special effects. Now, Gatsby fans will just have to wait until next May. [LA Times]

Tim Burton, the mastermind moviemaker behind “Beetlejuice” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” opened up to the New York Times‘s Dave Itzkoff. [NYT]

After the kerfuffle over the departure of Ann Curry from TODAY, the show’s Matt Lauer’s likability rating has fallen 25 percent. [New York Daily News]

The News also reports the show’s executive producer, Jim Bell, may be up for a big promotion. [New York Daily News]

Jason Atkinson: Why the Klamath Matters

Today we go public: Why the Klamath Matters

I want to share the story of an historic water-sharing agreement which will restore salmon, clean water and – most importantly – peace and prosperity, to one of the most beautiful regions in America.

The Klamath River has been a passion of mine, for my entire life.

Here in western America, where farmers are pitted against fish, states’ rights are bogged in years of lawsuits, native tribes struggle for existence and fish issues are considered partisan, the Klamath River story is unique…because for the first time a win/win, human and ecosystem solution, in the form of a historic water-sharing agreement is what’s at stake.

Recently a remarkable pact has been signed, calling for the largest dam removal project in the world, a path forward to end one of the most bitter resource struggles in our history. Years of negotiations between federal officials, tribes, irrigators, power corporations and conservation groups will lead to restoration that supports and enhances fishing, farming, and ranching…the backbone of Klamath’s economy and the heart of the Klamath Basin.

As a 4th generation steelheader raised on the middle river in California, the waters of the once-wild Klamath feed my dreams and sustain my soul. My grandparents – Grandma, a Reagan hating liberal, and Big Tom, an Eisenhower Republican – gave me the mantel to restore this river.

Now I’m turning to you to help make restoration of the Klamath a reality. Together, we will bring the story to the big screen, inspiring others to follow our path forward towards a world in balance.

Here’s an introductory video:

Our plan is simple: raise 10% of our budget from our friends grassroots style, start shooting this fall, show our grassroots support to our first funder (yet to be landed, a lot of interested groups) to get thefirst $150k in, then our second funder (already ready for $80-100K) and then our finish funder (real solid interest from friends in philanthropy), then distribute nationally, (Nat Geo, PBS, History- lots of interest here) then change the world of conservation. Today we launch, and you can help in three ways:

1. Go to our site, and make a contribution of any size.

2. Send the link to anyone you know and help generate buzz.

3. If you can it would greatly help if: you have suggestions, can make introductions, or other thoughts regarding the above plan.

Read the rest of…
Jason Atkinson: Why the Klamath Matters

The Recovering Politician Bookstore


The RP on The Daily Show