Saturday, April 30, 2016

Plastic Bag Pollution: No Excuses

Garbage the size of Texas: Click on Image

You can question global warming, if you want to be perverse and you can believe President Obama was born in Kenya and raised on Mars, but it is hard to deny the persistent pestilence of plastic bags and bottles in the oceans of the planet, or, if you don't want to believe photos of the ocean, which, it must be admitted might have been photo shopped in the same studio where they faked all those moon landings, but you can simply walk around New York City and even Hampton, and see plastic bags in the trees, and on the beaches.

It is true, plastic bags and detritus on Hampton beaches are relatively minimal scourges compared to beaches in places like Barbados and other places where currents concentrate the garbage.

But, the thing is, with  minimal effort even someone as unorganized as I can manage to keep a few cloth bags in my car to be used at Market Basket and Hannafords and Walgreens and Home Depot. I can do it.  How much effort does it take to take a small step to save the planet and some struggling fish and sea turtles?
Jacques Cousteau saw it first

The article in this week's New Yorker about Jennie Romer, the New York City lawyer who is trying to get a law passed to impose a 5 cent charge for plastic bags at all New York City stores is a reminder we, each of us, can do more to save the planet. 
Jennie Romer, Esq

It turns out plastic bags are simply not recyclable, in the real world. They are not put through machines except in a very few places, like San Francisco. They break down into deadly blobs and float around the ocean. Or they wash up on beaches. Their fellow travelers are plastic bottles, which are even more obnoxious, if less numerous. 

In Hannaford's today, I saw the ubiquitous plastic bags at every cash register, as they are at every other store, from Walgreens to the Dollar Store.  It seems counter intuitive that by simply adding a 5 cent charge for the bag could possibly undo all this plastic bag infrastructure, but, apparently, it's worked in San Francisco. But the other thing is San Francisco has invested in the hardware to actually destroy the plastic bags. Hard to imagine New Hampshire being willing to spend money on this. 

In Italy, I saw women walking home from the markets carrying food in net bags--no automobiles, no plastic bags, in Italy.  

We always brag about how superior we are here in the United States of America. Why can't we do what the Italians do, every day, to be less destructive of our planet?
Sea Otters

Having written this screed, I began to notice just how ubiquitous plastic is, starting with my refrigerator. Everything from milk, to yogurt, to water is contained by plastic throw aways. Clothes from the laundry is wrapped in plastic. Every tool in the hardware store comes wrapped in plastic, as do all electric devices from ear phones to I pods.  Even if we eliminated plastic bags, we would be awash in plastic. Of course, the bags are particularly nasty because they are so light, they blow in the wind into trees and lakes and oceans, but it strikes me, we ought to really be talking about doing what San Francisco has done--invested in the big machines which really do melt this stuff down into some less toxic form.  Solutions likely will prove more complicated, but expense should not be a problem--the people who made glass bottles once had to pay for the collection of these items. No reason the people who make plastic things should not bear the cost of disposing of them.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The So Called War on Drugs

It must be frustrating to be Kurt Schmoke.  The man was born and raised in Baltimore, led his high school football teams to state championships and got sucked up by Yale, from which he graduated to a Rhodes scholarship, then to Harvard Law and then Mayor of Baltimore.  All that glitzy resume stuff and  still nobody listens to him.

Today, the New York Times editors have run an editorial suggesting that maybe we ought to do something different in the war on drugs. 

Mr. Schmoke must have read this and said, "You think?"

It took "The Wire" to actually lay out in detail why the current approach to criminalization of drug sales is worse than useless. In that fictional paragon, the implications of Mayor Schmoke's idea of legalization are spelled out, as a rogue police major, Howard Colvin, walls off a part of the city where drug sales and use is legal. The impact on the rest of the city is immediate and dramatic, as neighborhoods ravaged by violence surrounding the trade emerge as if from a bombing siege.  
Howard Colvin

 But the reality in the zone, called "Hamsterdam" by the druggies, is unpleasant.  Deaths from overdoses ensue, and the sidewalks and streets are filled with drugged out, staggering addicts. What has been happening under ground, out of sight, is now visible to genteel eyes. The rodents have emerged into the sunlight.

Of course, it's the politicians and police who run for cover.  Doing the right thing is unbearable. As T.S. Eliot remarked:  "Humankind cannot bear too much reality."

Humankind could not bear watching "The Wire." Can you imagine what humankind would do when confronted with the reality of drug legalization?  

People whose disease caused them to hide underground would now emerge for upright citizens to gaze upon. 

Heroin dispensed at the corner drug store along with clean needles.  Cocaine, too. There will, presumably, always be some drugs which are just too combustible to be made available, but take those two out of the mix and stop jailing people for marijuana and the economy and the culture of the inner city would change radically. 

There will still be crime, but at least we would have wrested a public health problem from the underground and lanced one abscess.
Kurt Schmoke

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Freedom to Wander

Ken Ilgunas

Staying on point is something I've never been good at.  One of the great efforts I learned I had to make when writing anything is to stay on the topic and not to digress or wander off into interesting but unrelated topics.

Which is why Ken Ilgunas's lovely article in today's New York Times struck such a chord with me.  At first glance, I thought it was an article about the Keystone XL pipeline.  It carried a picture of the pipeline from its origin in Alberta to the terminus in Port Arthur, Texas, but it turned out to be not so much about the pipeline, or a description of the lands and vistas it would cross as it is an article about the adventure and rewards of actually trying to walk the entire length of the thing, which took Ilgunas 136 days.   The whole journey brought him face to face with the strictures in America which thwart those who love to go a wandering.

The real subject of the article, if it can be said to have a single subject, is the idea that in the United States you cannot just wander, by foot along much of the continent because so much of our land is owned as private property.  When Woody Guthrie sang, "This Land is Your Land. This Land is My Land," he could not have been speaking of America, because this land is apt to belong to someone else.

The only public land in America is, most often, the roads. 

For years, I practiced medicine in Washington, D.C. and my practice had a high proportion of Europeans and I always asked them what they found different about living in America and, almost to a man or woman they replied, "You Americans, you DRIVE everywhere. Go to the 7-11 down the block, half a kilometer away: You drive!"

The other thing they noticed is how fat Americans are.  

One thing I noticed was how thin Americans returning from extended stays in Europe had become. One twenty something returned to Washington after 3 years posted to a news outlet in Italy,  and I hardly recognized him. He had lost 30 pounds. In Italy! How had he done this?  "Well," he said. "I wasn't trying to lose weight. It just happened. For one thing, you eat only fresh food, but mostly I just walked a lot."

In Sweden and Scotland and many other European countries, you can walk across private land and that right is guaranteed by "freedom to roam" laws.  You do not have to stay on roads, as you do in the USA.  Of course, as Ilgunas notes, if we tried to pass such laws here, allowing people to roam across your lawn or fields, we'd run up against the Fifth Amendment, which forbids government taking of private property.  While "eminent domain" has been invoked for the building of highways or other such use, we are pretty skittish about allowing the government to trespass or to allow the public to trespass on private property.

Except, when we are not.

We are not so skittish, it turns out, in some places in America, namely New Hampshire, if that trespass involves a person carrying a gun.  

One day I was entering the Urban Forest in Portsmouth, and as I did a stream of rather panicky looking parents and children and dogs came at me along the path from the woods, making a bee line for the parking lot behind me.  Behind them I could hear thunderclaps and I thought, "Oh, a local squall." But no, one of the mothers told me, "Somebody's shooting out there."

I proceeded onward along and was joined by  an off duty policeman, who was there with his dog, and we followed the sound of the gunshots to the water's edge. The Urban Forest runs down to salt marshes which run under Route 1 and out to the sea.  About thirty yards off shore two men with shot guns were shooting toward the sky at some birds.

"They may be within their rights," the off duty cop said, but he still phoned the police department to come out and investigate. 

It turned out the hunters were hunting legally, within the city limits, within spitting distance of Route 1 and within the Urban Forest. 

I wrote the Mayor of Portsmouth, who replied with a copy of the applicable law enclosed in the envelop.  It turned out two separate legal protections covered these hunters.  The first was in the will which bequeathed the land for the Urban Forest to Portsmouth, guaranteeing that hunting would be allowed there. 

The second was a law, which was more interesting.  In the State of New Hampshire it turns out:
1. It is legal to shoot your gun while hunting beyond 300 feet (the length of a football field) of an occupied building, within 15 feet of a road and within 1,000 feet of a school. (Think about that next time your kid goes out for dodge ball at recess.)
2. It is illegal to walk across private property UNLESS you are carrying a gun, hunting, unless the owner has clearly posted "No Hunting" signs. So, the acre of woods behind my house is open to anyone with a gun, unless I nail the signs to trees.  Furthermore, it is legal to shoot at a deer across any road in New Hampshire with 9 exceptions, and those exceptions spell out Route 95, Route 101, Rte 93,  and a bunch of other multi lane highways which it is hard to imagine anyone in his right mind would try to shoot across.

Such is the respect for hunting in New Hampshire. Hunting trumps private property rights. This is still, in parts, a rural state, or was once. Only 1.3 million people live here and most are concentrated along the Western border with Massachusetts, in Manchester or along the 18 mile Seacoast.  Most of the territory is still farmland or forest or mountain or lake. Loons live here, which says something.

When I was in high school, I read Thoreau.  He spent a week on the Concord and Merrimack rivers and it sounded idyllic.  But I now cross the Merrimack 12 times a week commuting to work across the bridges which traverse it as it meanders past Methuen and Haverhill, Massachusetts. Long ago, the shoe factories polluted the Merrimack thoroughly, and although efforts to clean it up are longstanding, the muddy bottom still stores chemicals from that legacy.

Today, I'll go out on my bicycle along the road from Hampton through Kingston to Exeter, New Hampshire.  Those are public roads and automobiles roar past me, some trucks pull trailers carrying mowers and tractors behind, and those are the vehicles I fear most because they veer and swerve behind the trucks towing them.  It would be nice to be able to walk through the woods and fields along the road, but this is America, not Europe.  Of course, this is New Hampshire, so if I carried a AK-15 assault rifle, I'd be perfectly within my rights to walk across that privately owned land.

During the Fall hunting season, one of the best times to walk through town and state parks, I have to wrap my yellow lab in an orange vest and I wear an orange hat, because you can hear the deep throated rumble of gun fire from unseen places off in the woods.  We live free up here, and, occasionally, owing to hunting accidents, we do die.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Boston Globe: If This Be Elite, What is Mediocre?

Jeff Jacoby

Don't you just wonder why sometimes?  I know I wonder why the Boston Globe, one of the two big circulation papers in that Athens of America, Boston, carries as a columnist this guy, Jeff Jacoby.

It's not as though even the Globe should print only columnists with the insight of Walter Lippmann or the zippy zing of George F. Will or the curiosity of David Brooks or the sheer exuberance and satiric power of Gail Collins, but you would think the Globe would have some...standards.  Like Fox News.
Serious Journalism in America Today

We have stopped having the paper version of  New York Times or the Globe home delivered--save the trees and all the reclycing-- and truth be told, it's just fine reading a daily paper on line. 

But on Sundays, we get the paper and lug it home and the Globe sits around all week and eventually I get around to reading the opinion pages and there he is, that lumpen concentration of confident mediocrity, Jeff Jacoby.

April 17th's piece "analyzing" President Obama's "disaster" which he calls the "Obama Doctrine," is a case in point. 

Here it is, boiled down: 
Re: Libya:  "America in effect washed its hands of responsibility for the country's fate. Not surprisingly, that fate has been ghastly."  
Now, I'm just a humble citizen living in a New Hampshire shire, but, excuse me, did I miss something?  Since when did America have the power to control the fate of Libya, or any nation engaged in a sectarian civil war? As if!

"It may seen astonishing that Obama, who so harshly condemned his predecessor's blunders in Iraq, would wind up repeating the gravest of those blunders in Libya--namely not being ready for the instability and insurgency that would follow."

Actually, it does not astonish me one bit.  Having seen the stupidity of sending American troops into a quagmire, President Obama decided to not repeat that mistake by sending troops into Libya. How could he or any President or any Western head of state have been "ready" to deal with the instability which followed?
Perhaps Mr. Jacoby would have had Mr. Obama supply Mr. Netanyahu with an aircraft carrier and a few American divisions to invade Libya?

"The lesson he takes away from the Iraq war was that the United States has no business intervening militarily in the Middle East--an that the greater the intervention, the greater the resulting fiasco. The facts haven't borne out that conclusion."

Uh, actually, I would have drawn that very conclusion myself, although I have no way of knowing if President Obama has drawn that conclusion. Perhaps Mr. Jacoby has sat around with a few beers and the President and he knows the President's mind, but I suspect Mr. Jacoby has simply been listening to too many talking heads on TV, most especially, Fox News.
Oh, we had Al Qaeda on the Ropes, but who are these guys?

Mr. Jacoby suggests we had AlQaeda "crippled, attacks were down 90 percent and Iraq was being governed by democratically elected politicians."  Well, now that is news, known only by Mr. Jacoby and perhaps a few Fox News analysts who had a direct line to Iraq.  From the distance of the East Coast of the United States, it looked to me as if AlQaeda was beside the point. AlQaeda goes down and some other band of crazies, e.g. the Islamic State,  pops up out of the Middle Eastern deserts like whack a moles.  And as for Iraq qualifying as  a thriving democracy--in what alternative universe does Mr. Jacoby spend most of his time?

Nor did Mr. Obama "heed warnings that the swift disappearance of tens of thousands of American peacekeepers would leave a catastrophic vacuum that the regions deadliest forces would rush to exploit."  Oh, those poor American soldiers with the targets painted on their backs were "peacekeepers?"  And how long would any American army be able to keep the peace?  Just as soon as they were withdrawn, everything was destined to collapse, don't you think?  So there we are with the John McCain insight--we have to keep American armies in the field over there for 100 years. Pax Americana.
Now this guy knew how to use military might

"Yet even now, Obama cannot see that a doctrine premised on avoiding American involvement in the world's conflicts is bound to fail."

Uh, actually, from the peep hole in New Hampshire, what looks bound to fail is sending boys and girls from New Hampshire and Iowa and California humping around the Arabian peninsula, trying to figure out those fractious people, and everyone with improvised explosive devices, grenade launchers and other implements of death, not to mention suicide belts.

This is the sort of blather which one would have thought has long since been dismissed.  Listening to Bernie Sanders during the last debate, one finally heard some fresh thinking:  We cannot simply do what we have always done in the Middle East. Whatever we've done has not worked.  And when we do decide to say something, we have to be Americans first, not Jews first, not Republicans or Democrats first, but citizens of these United States. And if it looks as if Israel over reacted in Gaza, we have to say that.  And if we think we know enough to say that Israel digging in more settlements in areas where Palestinians are apt to take offense, then we might at least be willing to ask, "Is this a good idea, if you are really trying to achieve peace?"

But the big question I have to ask is this:  The Globe has only so many printed pages. It gives the podium, the microphone and the spotlight to only a handful of people. Would you not think the powers that be at the Globe would want to pick somebody who is capable of thinking critically, of fresh insight, of new ideas?  Why put this latter day Archie Bunker on stage?  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Trump and Bathroom Politics

The Donald has weighed in, quite sensibly, on the North Carolina bathroom law. He said, in essence, this is a solution looking for a problem. There hasn't been a problem with sexual predators masquerading as trans sexuals so why have a law?

Mad Dog has exasperated his twenty five readers by bringing up this issue repeatedly, but it has legs in Mad Dog's eyes for several reasons:

1/ It is a prime example of reflexive response on the part of well meaning people of the liberal persuasion and it does demonstrate that some of what the Right says about "political correctness" on the part of "knee jerk liberals" has some basis in fact. The problem being that those who expostulate against this law have:

A/ Never actually read the law, but are fulminating against what they think or have been told is in the law without actually examining the facts and they have flown off the handle without actually taking the time to examine the details.

B/ Conflated the real harm done to homosexuals by intolerant individuals  with the actual effects of this law.  
Some of this confusion can be forgiven and attributed to the bone headed comments by some of its supporters who were Republican state legislators who claimed they were voting for it to protect children in bathrooms against those vile, transgender predators who would surely be skulking about just hoping to get their hands on children. 

C/ Never actually met or have had any experience with a trans sexual or a transgender (not exactly the same thing) individual and believe any attempts to treat this class of person differently is of the same cloth as prejudice against homosexuals.

As Mad Dog has labored to point out:  Gay men and lesbian women are not transgenders or trans sexuals and transgenders are not typically gay.  Listening to reporters and lawyers from the ACLU talking about this on TV has frustrated Mad Dog because you have "experts" who clearly have no idea what they are talking about.  The confusion is compounded by the alliance under the LGBT banner: We have very different types of people coalescing under a single banner because they all feel threatened, demeaned and harmed by intolerance aimed at  their own sexual choices and preferences, but in this case in trying to offer comfort to trans sexuals some gays have ceased to be able to listen to the other side, which is not entirely composed of homophobic haters and intolerant right wingers. 

Here's what the law actually says:

1. Does the new bill limit or prohibit private sector companies from adopting their own nondiscrimination policies or practices?
  • Answer: No. Businesses are not limited by this bill. Private individuals, companies and universities can adopt new or keep existing nondiscrimination policies.
2. Does this bill take away existing protections for individuals in North Carolina?
  • Answer: No. In fact, for the first time in state history, this law establishes a statewide anti-discrimination policy in North Carolina which is tougher than the federal government’s. This also means that the law in North Carolina is not different when you go city to city.
3. Can businesses and private facilities still offer reasonable accommodations for transgender people, like single occupancy bathrooms for instance?
  • Answer: Yes. This bill allows and does nothing to prevent businesses, and public or private facilities from providing single use bathrooms.
4. Can private businesses, if they choose, continue to allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom, locker room or other facilities of the gender they identify with, or provide other accommodations? 
  • Answer: Yes. That is the prerogative of private businesses under this new law. For instance, if a privately-owned sporting facility wants allow attendees of sporting events to use the restroom of their choice, or install unisex bathrooms, they can. The law neither requires nor prohibits them from doing so.
5. Does this law prohibit towns, cities or counties in North Carolina from setting their own nondiscrimination policies in employment that go beyond state law?
  • Answer: No. Town, cities and counties in North Carolina are still allowed to set stricter non-discrimination policies for their own employees if they choose.
6. Does this bill mean transgender people will always have to use the restroom of the sex of their birth, even if they have undergone a sex change? 
  • Answer: No. This law simply says people must use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate. Anyone who has undergone a sex change can change their sex on their birth certificate.
7. I’m worried about how this new law affects transgender children or students in North Carolina. Does this bill allow bullying against transgender children in schools?
  • Answer: Absolutely not. North Carolina law specifically prohibits bullying and harassing behavior against children on the basis of sexual identity.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bernie's Endgame

AS i see yesterday's New York primary,  Hillary thoroughly trounced Bernie.

Despite the massive rallies of 30,000, despite what appeared to me to be a devastating debate, where Bernie looked better on Israel, looked to be effective in impugning Hillary on her relationship with the banks and Wall Street, despite what looked like a whupping in the debates and on the campaign trail, Hillary prevailed.

Which means, either people are not paying attention to the things I pay attention to, or they are smarter and more critical than I am.

They look at those Wall Street speeches and shrug it off. The lady was just doing what famous people do:  They cash in on fame, and Wall Street throws money around; doesn't mean they own you.

As for the Israel exchange, Bernie said Israel over reacted by causing 10,000 casualties in Gaza and Hillary said, that happened because Hamas was hiding behind the skirts of a civilian population, not Israel's fault. I thought that comment got swallowed up by the applause for Bernie's initial statement, but maybe people actually heard that and agreed.

I don't know. Maybe they just really love Hillary in New York.

Whatever it is, this was, had to be, a meaningful win.  Of course, there are other states and no one primary this far from the convention is determinate, but it looks as if Hillary is getting through to voters.  

Personally, I cannot be unhappy about this.  I have been worried that Bernie will be the stronger candidate, the more likely to defeat Trump or Cruz or Paul Ryan, but if Hillary can do this well in New York, that's reassuring.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Does the New Hampshire Primary Really Matter?

Remember that crucial primary in a small, White, state called "New Hampshire?" That was so CRUCIAL. All the news organizations were up in the Granite State, Fox, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Bloomberg. They wanted to know what the guy in his plaid shirt and his suspenders and Elmer Fudd hat thought of Hillary and Bernie and the Donald and Chris Christie.

Everyone was using his most portentous tone of voice, telling us this was the pivotal moment, the game changer, the most important thing going on in the world. 

Until the next primary. 

Today, it's New York.  

If Bernie wins today, well, that could be a game changer, but it would still not be end game. It would just make Hillary less inevitable.

The thing about Hillary is, she just doesn't get it.  

She needs to answer the question about getting paid all that money from Goldman Sacks. 

The wonder is, she hasn't done it. What could she be thinking?

Just in case you're reading, Hill, here's the answer:

"Yup, I took the money.  I wasn't in office. I wasn't even running for office. But they wanted to pay me for a grip and grin and speech. They wanted to put photos of me shaking their hands on their brag walls.  

But it's not like I slept with anyone. 

There, I said it. Bernie and Donald and many others have suggested for me to take that much money I must have done something immoral.  

But no, all I had to do was show up and smile and tell them how important banks are to the American financial system, which, in case you haven't noticed, is true today, was true yesterday and will be true tomorrow.

In a capitalist system like ours, if someone offers you money and you don't have to do anything immoral, you take it. You would, too.  If you didn't, I'd say you ought to have your head examined. 

Sure, Bernie never took their money. They wouldn't have offered it to him, but even if they had, I believe him, he wouldn't take it. He doesn't need it to run his campaign. I envy him that.

But I needed the money. I was broke when we left the White House and I'm proud to say, I'm rich now. If people want to throw easy money at me, I'll take it.

Now, it's different. I need money for my campaign and I'm not doing speeches for dollars. I'm doing speeches for free because the people I care about don't have a lot of money. But they have something more important: Votes.

So, there it is. Stop playing all high and mightY and holier than thou.
I'm in this for the little guy and if the big guys think they've got me because I was an expensive date once, well, they'll learn soon enough."

Cut us some slack, Madame Secretary. Talk like a real person. Enough of that lawyer garbage. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Bernie Revolution Really Isn't

James M. McPherson

"And sometimes the old, against all the warnings of better judgment, wait with the young and hopeful, their tired, winter eyes turned heavenward to seek."
--Grace Metalious

Revolution is an emotive word.  At it's heart is the notion of the new and, ordinarily, but not always, change.

When the South seceded from the union, that was revolution aimed at resisting change, at standing solidly in a past of slavery and "states' rights."

When Abraham Lincoln resisted that revolution by the Southern states, he launched what James M. McPherson aptly described as "The Second American Revolution," a profound change in this nation, which is evident in the change in the very way people thought of this nation: They stopped saying "The United States are..." and forever more said, "The United States is."

I often wondered, as a child, why "union" was such an important "cause."  The idea of keeping the union together seemed like a nice idea, but hardly an idea which would cause so many men to be willing to lay down their lives. After all, all the South was asking for was a divorce, and if people in a union decide it's not working, how can that union be forced upon the unwilling?

Old Man

Lincoln, of course, was motivated by what he saw in Europe, the constant warring of nation states, and he was determined the United States would not dissolve into that condition, that this nation would be one united continental nation, not a bunch of warring nations. 

Later of course, Lincoln recognized that events controlled him rather than his controlling events, and the liberation of the slaves, the powerful cause of emancipation had become even more important than the cause of union, so he was unwilling to accept union without emancipation.  As he so precisely and elegantly said in his second Inaugural address, nobody wanted war, nobody anticipated the war would become as huge and terrible as it became, but, ultimately, it arose and was sustained by the issue of slavery. 

So the war became a revolution against that peculiar institution, that status quo, which could only be sustained by ongoing racism, hate, cruelty and injustice, that system which allowed the fruits of labor to be wrung out of the efforts on one race to the benefit, not of the worker doing the labor but of the master exploiting that labor. 
He couldn't wait for incremental change

Now comes Bernie Sanders who is urging what he claims is a third American revolution, which proposes the fruits of labor belong to those who do the work, not to those who manipulate the workers, who game the system and who sit in their 21st century gated communities, separated from the workers in the field, much as the plantation owners were separated, looking out over the fields of Tara where the slaves bent down to pick cotton, singing "Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot."

Sometimes, we need the perspective of history to see what is happening in front of us today, to gain an eagle eye's view (or maybe a drone eye's view) from the eye in the sky.  
Suffragette who refused to wait for the vote

McPherson in his last paragraph of his wonderful 2008 book, "Tried by War" about Lincoln as commander in chief, writes:
"The crisis of the 1860's represented a far greater threat to the survival of the United States than did World War I, World War II, Communism in the 1950's, or terrorism today. Yet compared with the draconian enforcement of espionage and sedition laws in World War I, the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940's McCarthyism in the 1950's, or the National Security State of our own time, the infringement of civil liberties from 1861 to 1865 seems mild indeed. And the problem of Reconstruction after the Civil War was not that the federal government exercised too much power bu that it did not exercise enough."
Older than Lincoln was when elected President

Today, Bernie Sanders urges a stronger role for the federal government, providing a government option for Medicare for All for those who want it, breaking up the too big to fail banks, providing free college as we once provided free high school education.  That is called socialism and revolution and denounced as fantasy by the New York Times and the Daily News. 

Because he has not issued detailed plans for academics like Paul Krugman to read, judge and contain, he is denounced as a demagogue who panders to class animosities. 

It is true, the President must have command of the details of the working of government and Lincoln made many compromises along the way, but on critical issues, Lincoln was every bit as intransigent as Sanders. Lincoln was offered the release of prisoners of war moldering in Andersonville and other Southern prison camps but he refused because the South refused to release negro Union soldiers who they considered slaves. Lincoln refused to accept peace offers in 1864 because it would have meant slavery would have not been abolished.  He had, finally, identified the big issue and refused to compromise on that.

Many had argued, and Lincoln himself once believed, slavery would eventually wilt and die on the vine of incremental change. By 1940, Lincoln believed, there would be no more slaves in the South because of economic forces and technological innovation.  But Lincoln eventually appreciated, as Martin Luther King did later, the fierce urgency of now. 

Secretary Clinton argues for working within the system, accomplishing step by step, little by little, what can be accomplished. 
Not a fan of incrementalism

That was the same approach wise men urged upon LBJ in approaching Civil Rights.  But, ultimately, LBJ was persuaded to push for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts and that cost the Democrats the South, as the entire South left the Democratic Party and become Republicans almost overnight. Was that not a revolution?

I have been counseled by wise men, all of them over 60 years of age, to be smarter than those 20 somethings who are been so aroused by Bernie Sanders. To look at what is possible and to consider the way Barny Frank and Paul Krugman and other progressives have dismissed Bernie as as demagogue and a fantasist. 

An old guy, semi revolutionary

But sometimes change has to be led by old men, who can remember how real change happens in the real world.  Sometimes it is the old, who turned their tired, weather beaten eyes to the sky and though they should know better, hope with the young for a new, impossible Spring.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

When Hillary Met Bernie (in Brooklyn)

Brooklyn may not be like the rest of America, but watching the debate tonight Mad Dog had a strong premonition of things to come: Mad Dog's fearless forecast is that Bernie Sanders will be and should be the Democratic nominee and he will be elected President and he will become the Democrats' Ronald Reagan, garnering support from "Bernie Republicans" just as Reagan got "Reagan Democrats."

Listening to Bernie respond to the question about whether he owed an apology to the parents of Sandy Hook for his opposition to laws that would hold gun sellers and gun manufacturers liable for the use of guns in killings, he said, no, he owed no apology.  If a gun shop owner sells a gun to a crazy person, having got all the clearances and followed the law, he should not be responsible for seeing what nobody could predict, the buyer was a lunatic.  Simple, direct and fundamentally correct.

When Sanders is asked about his statement that the Israeli response to rocket attacks from Gaza was disproportionate, does he not think that Israel has the right to defend itself, he says, of course Israel has that right, but that is not the question. The question is when Israel launches an attack which causes 10,000 casualties and 1,500 deaths among Palestinians in the Gaza strip, that is disproportionate. And if we really want to be a friend to Israel, sometimes we have to tell them what they don't want to hear, namely that Palestinians are suffering too. You got to love Bernie.  You have the feeling he is capable of saying more than the proper thing.
When Bernie speaks, and says something which will be received poorly in some quarters he is unapologetic: He is saying. I believe we cannot be afraid to criticize Israel. If that offends you, tough, that's the truth. And you have to respect that candor.

Hillary sounds with each answer as if she is trying to find the one sentence which contains the applause line, the one safe thing to say. She uses lawyers' words, "revisit"  and "take into account."  She sounds as if she is trying to speak in a way which nobody can find fault with. That's not the role of a leader. Offend some, but let everyone know where you stand and what you think right is.

And, after all this time, she has not come up with an answer to those $250,000 Goldman Sacks speeches and she still refuses to release the transcripts "until everyone else does." And Bernie has the perfect response: "I'll release every transcript of every speech I made on Wall Street behind closed doors--because there are none."

Hillary stands there, mouth open, with nothing to say, other than she does not like the insinuation, which Wolf Blitzer spells out in the question, "That you are in the pocket of Wall Street." She insists nobody can show that all the money meant to buy her vote ever actually succeeded in buying her vote. Oh, they can give me the money, but they can't count on me voting their way. But that's not the point. The point is, you have participated in this way of doing politics: You took the money. 

And now you expect us to believe they were paying you to spend the night with them, but you never actually went to bed with them. You did business from the brothel, but you never actually prostituted yourself.

Oh, poor Hillary. She has done everything right, her whole life. She has learned the rules, played the game by the rules, passed every course with flying colors and now she expects to be handed the prize.  

This, the ninth debate revealed all her weaknesses and vulnerabilities and very little of her strengths.  After 90 minutes, with the debate still raging on, I had to turn it off. I like Hillary enough, I just could not watch it any more.