Back in the day, the "colored problem" was considered to be purely a vicious southern phenomenon. Bull Connor vs Martin Luther King with a backdrop of snarling dogs, fire hoses, and bodies of young people hidden away in swamps. In the North, racial self congratulation came from a lack of bodies hanging from trees. Power struggles were electoral and ethnic.
The race for mayor of Newark in 1962 was seen as a political struggle between the Irish enclave of the city and the up-and-coming Italians. There were other issues at work, to be sure. Leo Carlin had become mayor in 1954, running against a corrupt political machine. Hugh Addonizio was now running 8 years later against the corrupt Carlin machine. Leo Carlin had gone from labor leader to politician. Hugh Addonizio had gone from business executive to politician.
Carlin had changed the city to a mayoral based government with a strong executive. He brought in building projects and was well respected by corporate types. Not bad for a labor background. He was amazingly popular.
Addonizio was what was considered inter-ethnic in those days. He lived in an Irish neighborhood, had an Irish wife, and had an image of a streetwise, caring politico. Pretty good for a corporate executive.
But mostly it was Irish against Italian, with a lot of know-your-place tossed in. At times, it got ugly. Carlin made overt references to Addonizio's ethnicity, warning of electing "the black hand" to office.
Carlin had the upper hand until the great giant snowstorm of 1962. As the snows approached, Carlin put qualified people in charge then went on vacation. His people performed capably but, after voters dug their way out of the drifts and the winds, they opened their Newark Evening News to see pictures of Carlin in sunglasses, relaxing next to a pool in Florida. The pure white snowbanks echoed with low level growls. When election day came, Addonizio became mayor.
As this year's snow hit New Jersey, it was hard to miss the similarities. As the storm barreled up the east coast and state crews braced themselves, the Governor took off for a fun filled couple of weeks at Disney World and handed off the state to the Lieutenant Governor. As the snow emergency was about to close the state down, the Lieutenant Governor took off for the gentle warm breezes of Mexico.
The Senate President was surprised to become acting Governor, but he acted quickly. He declared a snow emergency Sunday night, the day after Christmas, and worked with State Police, the Department of Transportation, the Office of Emergency Management, and local governments to manage the crisis. The worst was over in a day.
One of those local governments was Newark. The mayor, Cory Booker, seemed to be everywhere. He got on the internet and begged for volunteers, shoveled snow, delivered diapers, and helped with a medical emergency, aiding in delivering a baby.
Although Governor Chris Christie in Disney World and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno in Mexico are both Republicans, and the surprised Acting Governor Stephen Sweeney who managed the crisis so well is a Democrat, Sweeney has declined to take advantage. "The guy is going on vacation with his family, and I'm not going to ruin it by creating mischief." Nice touch.
In my snow filled crystal ball, I see a future Governor Cory Booker.
I'm patroling with my shovel helping dig out. Let me know if any seniors or disabled need help.
Expecting mother is in a lot of pain but OK. We are waiting on EMS. She is a courageous young woman.
- - Corey Booker, Mayor of Newark, December 27, 2010
Internet twitter messages during massive snowstorm
Back in the long, long ago days of my youth, my father was a young country preacher. It was before our more modern era, and paying ministers a comfortable salary was kind of an outlandish idea. After all, the calling was from the Lord and money should not be a motivation. My own memories of those earliest days in that first village come mostly from stories my parents shared with me.
My mother told me that we had had no indoor plumbing. Water was a bit of a distance away, and it was generally acknowledged that a well ought to be constructed near the parsonage. She only had the courage to take glances out the window, as my father held steady a large stake. Another man stood on a platform and swung a sledge hammer hard against the top, inches from my dad's head. She was mindful of the fact that this burly volunteer swinging so hard had recently been released from a mental institution.
My dad recalled a conversation with a wealthy parishioner. At most encounters, the fellow could be counted on to complain at length to my father about the burdens of wealth. In one conversation, he pointed his finger at the young, struggling preacher and ranted about taxes. "I pay more in taxes every year than your annual salary!" My dad found himself hoping for the day when he might achieve that tax rate.
About eight years ago, my dad's story of that conversation came back to me. The Wall Street Journal had run the first of a series of articles about the injustice of individuals who earn so little income, they pay nothing in federal income taxes. The Journal called them, without irony, "lucky duckies."
The argument, printed boldly enough at the time, was that a 12,000 a year earner paid only 4%, while a multi-billionaire would be forced to pay as much as 35%, unless overworked accountants took advantage of the thousands of deductions, programs, deferrals, and loopholes then available. Actually, the Wall Street Journal, having its own views to represent, did not mention the billionaire or the deductions. I threw that in. The Journal focused on the freeloaders, those so poor they pay zero in taxes. As others pointed out, this was a bit of an incomplete picture, since the 12,000 a year worker would have to pay enough in sales taxes, payroll taxes, state taxes, and local taxes to boost that percentage to about 20%.
It is very difficult today to find any of the original Wall Street Journal series. We know it exists the same way we know, apart from faith itself, that Jesus walked the earth. There are enough secondary references to form a solid conclusion. I finally gave up looking. (For the Journal series. We must never give up on Jesus.) Any reader who has the time and devotion may want to search the web long enough to find the series and let us know.
That does not mean the idea of raising taxes on the poorest of the working poor is in the dustbin, however. George Will presents the argument as he hears it (and buys it) from the Republican who is about to be placed in charge of tax rates by the incoming GOP majority in the House of Representatives, David Camp (R-MI). The problem is that poor folks, struggling to make ends meet, tend to vote for people and programs that will, well, help poor people. This, says Will, "creates moral hazard - incentives for perverse behavior: Free-riding people have scant incentive to restrain the growth of government they are not paying for with income taxes." As Camp sees it, if Republicans increase the taxes of those at the bottom of the economic scale, the working poor, it will turn them into conservatives. Oh yeah, that will work.
In the meantime, life may become very hard for those families who are down on their lucky duckiness.
It ain't peanuts, but not enough to get his or her blood boiling with tax rage.
- - Wall Street Journal, November 20,2002
On the reason lower taxes on the working poor is an outrage
Amid the memorable dialogue in Mel Brooks' 1982 movie My Favorite Year was that of the character Belle Carroca as she invited guests into her home. "Welcome to my humble chapeau!" Ha ha ha, get it?
Neither did I, until it was explained to me. She had meant to say chateau. She had welcomed folks into her humble hat. Okay, it loses some of the punch if you have to translate. It was hilarious, however, to those who not only spoke French, but looked down on those who didn't. Thinking back to the scattered titters in the otherwise silent theatre in reaction to the line, I speculated on the overlap between those who laughed that night and those who had laughed at the rustic, unsophisticated, Ronald Reagan.
Reagan's presumed weakness became his greatest strength. He could take complex issues and break them into easily understood fragments. The fragments were often wrong, but at least they were comprehensible. Far from the "cruel and stupid lizard" described by Christopher Hitchens, he came across to audiences as Andy Griffith: A down home sheriff whose folksy wisdom was just too much for those big city snobs.
Carter could not compete. He had honed his own persona as a reaction against his rural background, overcoming the image of an uneducated boob. He constructed himself as the original Renaissance Man: Peanut farmer and occasional nuclear physicist. His one feeble attempt to match Reagan's folksiness ended in ridicule. "I asked my daughter, Amy, what was the great problem we face today and she told me nuclear proliferation." Wow.
George W. Bush never quite got to Sheriff Andy Reagan's level. But Sarah Palin still stands a chance, if she does her homework without taking the Carter path. Her latest attempt at serious critique of foreign policy doesn't quite do it. She attacked the Obama administration's approach to Iran, using the recent WikiLeaks revelations, for which she got some degree of ridicule. It seems she attacked anyone reprinting those materials as guilty of treason.
As I see it, her biggest flaw was mercifully ignored, at least this time. The article, appearing in USAToday, was an erudite, well written, presentation of the standard FoxNews view. She tells us that "Iran continues to defy the international community" and that "Arab leaders in the region rightly fear a nuclear-armed Iran." And here is the problem. It is not even close to the Sarah Palin whose appeal has so often gone to snark ("How’s that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?") As she analyzes the possible international steps the administration might take, with an emphasis on shipping insurance bans, military, trade credits, with the aim of "ending Iran's ability to import refined petroleum" we wonder what has happened to the potential for Reagan simple explanations. Where is the Andy Taylor with an edge? The friendly, down home, grizzly in lipstick who snarls at all the educated phonys can't be seen.
The funniest scene in My Favorite Year was the confrontation between the Sid Caesar character, King Kaiser, and a local mob boss. As a lawyer represents the mob guy, the comedy star mimics every move of the mobster, provoking a steady increase in ire. The lawyer speaks for his client "he feels the portrayal of said character is slanderous and defamatory and done with malicious intent, therefore abrogating the 'public figure' defense and rendering it, to whit, actionable." The comedy king, unfazed, talks directly to the glowering mobster. "Did you say that, Carl? What a guy!"
Sarah Palin will do better following in the steps of Ronald Reagan. Jimmy Carter is not a good model for her, unless one of her kids starts talking about nonproliferation. She ends her article with "we should look forward to a future where the twisted ideology and aggressive will to dominate of Khomeini and his successors are consigned to history's dustbin."
Did you say that, Sarah? What a grizly!
It's a child story in that it is about a child. It is an old story. A little girl sketches with an intensity that surprises her mother. "What are you drawing?" asks the mom. The little one answers, "I'm drawing a picture of God." The mother is gently corrective of what she sees as unintentional blasphemy. "But nobody knows what God looks like." Still concentrating, without looking up, the little girl answers. "They will when I finish."
Noted conservative activist Peter LaBarbera accomplishes a lot in one recent statement. As a sympathetic Charlie Butts, relates it, LaBarbera explains God's position on gays in the military. God votes against it. LaBarbera volunteers as a proxy for the Lord in passing judgment on the President. Obama is a lost man, "a president without a biblical conscience."
"He affirms homosexuality as if he's God," charges LaBarbera, "but we know what God says and we have to stay true to that."
Mr LaBarbera can point to Leviticus to support discrimination against gay people. In fact, Leviticus 18:22 is not even the strongest passage, although calling gay practices an abomination is pretty strong. Other verses call for summary execution of gays. But the verse is most often quoted.
While some may see Mr LaBarbera as harsh, we can easily find instances of his mercy. He tempers with tolerance any urge he feels to throw out of the military those who eat shellfish, a practice Leviticus also calls an abomination. Those who, while on leave, wear polyester and cotton blend shirts are also exempted from LaBarbera's harsh judgment, for his mercy knows no bounds with the exception of sins he especially hates.
Mr. LaBarbera's mercy extends beyond the military. He does not exhort true believers to follow Deuteronomy too precisely in the raising of their children. He draws the line at public execution of adolescents who, in a fit of teenage insanity, might disobey a parent. Although Deuteronomy is pretty clear about it, LaBarbera is more understanding. Kids will be kids. Spank them all soundly and send them to bed. Lady-in-a-shoe discipline.
No, except for gays, most people are the beneficiaries of God's mercy, as bestowed by Mr LaBarbera. His focus, outside of that one area of sin, is on the positive aspects of God's laws. For example, the Bible has many instances of the golden rule: Do unto others. When LaBarbera sells his daughter into slavery according to Biblical law, he can be expected to follow God's word in assuring satisfaction. After all, if you bought a female slave and were dissatisfied with her ... uh ... services, wouldn't you want a money back guarantee, as exemplified by Exodus 21?
Selective cherry picking of scripture is a perennial temptation for those of us who follow Jesus. Harsh judgments on others is explicitly forbidden by Jesus, something red-letter Christians can tell us, but we do it anyway, don't we? The literalist practice of sifting through passages for those very special verses that support our hatreds conforms well.
But God is not to be confined by our imagination or by the collective imaginations of ancient writers. Inspired as they were by divine presence, and I and others believe they were, they were limited by their own understanding of the wisdom of the day. Literalists manage to avoid the careful reading, the prayer, the meditation, and the context required from the rest of us as we study our Bibles.
As they indulge the common human failing of laziness, a temptation many of us share, they experience additional benefits. They get to instruct the rest of us, revealing at last exactly what God looks like. And they get to condemn those of us who disagree.
Thousands of sites, including us, wrote about a bogus story making the rounds. But this one keeps coming back. Put a stake in its heart. The holiday symbolizing Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men, also brings with it a viral email, one of many.
White House will not do Christmas
Thought you might be interested in this information from the White House. This isn’t a rumor; this is a fact.
We have a friend at church who is a very talented artist. For several years she, among many others, has painted ornaments to be hung on the various White House Christmas trees. The WH usually sends out an invitation to send an ornament and informs the artists of the theme for the year.
She got her letter from the WH recently. It said that they would not be called Christmas trees this year. They will be called Holiday trees. And, to please not send any ornaments painted with a religious theme.
She was very upset at this development and sent back a reply telling them that she only painted the ornaments for Christmas trees and would not be sending any for display that left Christ out of Christmas.
Just thought you should know what the new residents in the WH plan for the future of America . If you missed his statement that "we do not consider ourselves a Christian Nation" this should confirm that he plans to take us away from our religious foundation as quickly as possible.
As it turns out, it is pretty easy to find the truth. FactCheck.org devotes itself to verifying or debunking stuff like this. They checked with the National Christmas Tree Association, looked up news reports from the Associated Press, corroborated with National Park Service, and then contacted the deputy press secretary to Michelle Obama.
Guess what? It is not a distortion or an exaggeration. It turns out to be flat out untrue, made up, what we used to call, before journalistic balance bleached out fact-checking, a lie. There is not a drop of truth to it.
There was not a letter sent out telling anyone that the National Christmas Tree would be called something else. That is because the tree will still be called a Christmas Tree. There are actually two trees, one inside, one outside, both Christmas trees.
Don't believe every bit of gossip, even what comes after church on Sunday. A pretty fair number of misguided Christians don't hesitate to "help out" the truth when they feel the Lord isn't doing enough.
John & Yoko And The Plastic Ono Band With The Harlem Community Choir
The New York City detective had gone into the city early for a court hearing. A suspect was being arraigned. He was almost back home when he heard the news on the car radio. Two planes had hit the World Trade Center. He rushed into his house and quickly got ready to dash back to ground zero. His wife, a couple of months away from giving birth, begged him not to go back.
He went on anyway, and spent three weeks in the rubble searching for survivors. He started getting sick right away, breathing in toxic smoke, but kept on going, helping, looking for those he might aid in saving.
Later, he needed medical treatment. Treatment proved hard to get. Insurance demanded proof his medical problems had something to do with the debris he had inhaled. Eventually he died. His name was James Zadroga. He was 34 years old.
Others who rushed in to rescue victims of the 9/11 attacks later suffered similar health problems, mostly respiratory ailments. It's sometimes called the pearling effect. Scar tissue forms around foreign particles. Microscopic bits of plastic, calcium phosphate, cellulose, talc, asphalt, you name it, gather in to clog up the lungs. An afflicted person struggles to breathe, and the brain signals the heart to work hard, then harder, to force blood through clogged up capillaries to get oxygen. Respiratory failure kills some, others die when their hearts give out. Survivors just suffer, struggling to breathe. Each labored heartbeat is the possible last.
These folks were hailed as heroes as they pulled nearly lifeless human beings from the wreckage. They stayed on, working exhausting hours, refusing to leave until what little hope was left finally faded away. Then they got sick. Then they got mad. We all should have gotten mad.
You would think that providing medical care for these heroes would be a no-brainer. Nearly two dozen hearings were held over two years. Pretty much everyone finally agreed these folks needed medical treatment. The Obama administration demanded, cajoled, begged for passage before more died. But sometimes partisan zeal overpowers humanity. Republicans filibustered efforts to pick up the costs of medical treatment. They said it might add to the deficit. They complained about the rush to pass the proposal. Mostly they opposed a Democratic President.
Almost every network ignored the story. Fox News mentioned the outrage, but managed to do it without using the word "Republican." The "Democratic Congress" had defeated the bill. Shep Smith on Fox, the network's sole gadfly, briefly named several Republicans, singling out Tom Coburn (R-OK) as the main culprit. Only Jon Stewart of Comedy Central beat the drum again and again. He devoted continuous coverage, in one night his entire show, to telling about denial of health coverage to 9/11 rescuers.
But in the end, the bill was brought up again, with far less help for the rescuers. The compromise attracted enough stray Republicans and it finally passed. It is called the Zadroga Bill.
Fox News credited Shep Smith for passage of the measure.
No longer will our country be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans who were forced to leave the military -– regardless of their skills, no matter their bravery or their zeal, no matter their years of exemplary performance -– because they happen to be gay.
No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie, or look over their shoulder, in order to serve the country that they love.
- - President Barack Obama, December 22, 2010
On signing the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell
There are old movies that become iconic. Cinematic lines that are so descriptive, they become part of our language. At least they ought to.
Dr. Strangelove was like that. There are so many quotes. A mad officer, a psychotic, manages to launch a thermonuclear war that is about to destroy all of humanity. His last telephone conversation with horrified superiors ends with: "God willing, we will prevail, in peace and freedom from fear, and in true health, through the purity and essence of our natural... fluids."
"Purity of Essence" turns out to be a key phrase.
I was thinking of a process out of control as I read through accounts of horror amid the bank paperwork scandals. At first the whole matter seemed like a series of "i"s undotted and "t"s uncrossed. The serious business of foreclosure and eviction was involved, to be sure. Documents were turned in to a federal bankruptcy court in Texas without being verified, although a processor had sworn in writing that the information was true and correct. Someone had taken a few shortcuts in a complex process.
Then it turned out a bit more was involved. Employees admitted signing affidavits every day, a lot of affidavits, with no knowledge at all about whether the information was true. A lot of shortcuts. Then it turned out a lot of banks were involved. Untrained people were hired off the street and told to sit down and sign papers.
Attorneys General took an interest. Now the interest is becoming more general, because the story is ... well ... interesting. It isn't about overworked eye shade wearers getting a little careless.
People going on vacations came back to find their homes ransacked and locks changed. People who had arranged loan modifications became victims. Retirees who had paid off their mortgages and owed nothing had their homes emptied out. Important notices were taken to wrong addresses, then counted as being delivered. Some mistakes were brazen. One woman lost the ashes of her departed husband when an urn was confiscated, then discarded. Oops. The most shocking stories were subject to legal recourse and the most egregiously victimized were compensated.
But it's the tip of the iceberg, it turns out. For every dramatic instance that deserves its own headline, there have been thousands of less dramatic cases. Wrong amounts were charged, changes made without notifications, payments not counted. Bewildered people are told they can't fight the giants, folks too overwhelmed in the mad, losing scramble for daily survival to devote time and resources to fighting obvious unfairness.
But here's the part I find startling. The CEO of one of the companies responsible "acknowledged that a handful of mistakes had been made. In most instances, he said, his company provided a valuable service that protected properties and neighborhoods." Wow.
It takes me back to that favorite movie about the end of the world and the explanation to an outraged President by a top general of why all the promises about safeguards failed to keep all of mankind from vanishing forever in a global ball of fire.
Well, I, uh, don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir.
Hey, get over it. Anyone can make a few mistakes.
Volume is not an excuse for violating someone’s rights.
- - Alan M. White, Valparaiso University in Indiana, December 21, 2010
Consumer Law Expert commenting on Foreclosure Scandal
During the Great Depression, companies that were to survive as markets plummeted had to find ways to slash costs. Layoffs cut costs, making the general economy worse. That is understandable. Corporations have no responsibility to maintain the general economy by increasing the risk to its own stockholders, and companies were going out of business. Personnel were not the only budget item to suffer. Inventory was reduced, office space was cut back, supplies were put off.
Most companies slashed their advertising budgets, although not all. Chrysler increased advertising of their new Plymouth. Their sales increased and they became the country's number two auto giant. Kellogg and Post, long time rivals in the retail dry cereal market, took two opposite approaches. Post cut back its advertising. After all, survival was at stake and belt tightening was necessary. Kellogg didn't simply increase advertising. They took a big gulp and doubled it. Their depression era sales not only didn't go down, they went up by more than 30%.
Advertising seems to have been one of the magic bullets for businesses during the depression years and beyond. Those corporations that`cut back suffered, those that plowed ahead advanced.
Government developed its own magic bullet. Spending tended to boost the economy, while cutting back tended to hurt. Herbert Hoover saw a depression and concluded that, just as families were cutting back, so government needed to tighten its belt. The depression became "Great" as a result. Fortunately, the country wanted recovery and put FDR into office.
The new administration cautiously increased spending. Deficits came, but so did increases in employment. Conservative shouts to tighten belts got louder and so, in 1937, FDR briefly cut back on spending, producing a sort of mini-depression. Unemployment shot up, and the economy spiraled down for a while. The administration shifted back and recovery went slowly back on track. World War II dramatically increased government spending and the depression was over by the time the war ended.
Deficits are good, very good, during times of economic distress. They are bad, very bad, during times of economic prosperity. The greatest danger is inflation. So economists pay close attention to indicators of rising prices. Right now pretty much all indicators say inflation isn't even a remote danger. So President Obama's recent tax cut compromise is significant, in part, for increasing deficit spending now, when the economy needs a boost. It also leaves the possibility of deficit reduction when that becomes possible.
Not all advertising was equally effective for businesses. Radio turned out to be the big new thing. Proctor and Gamble was especially innovative with new soap operas and became a depression success story. And not all government deficits are equally effective in promoting employment. The weakest part of Obama's tax deal is the continued tax cut for the extremely wealthy, returning only a fraction to the economy.
Still, it was jarring to listen to one interview during the debate last week. Republican Hoover-talk was not surprising, government tightening its belt just as families do. It was not a shock to hear Democratic anger at tax cuts for those whose annual incomes cannot be measured without 6 zeros. But Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) expressed skepticism that the new tax deal would produce jobs. And he spoke for many Democrats when he complained about cuts that would "saddle our children with debt and increase the deficit over the course of time..."
Doesn't anyone learn from economic history?