Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Eisenhower's message to Trump

I have come to appreciate Dwight Eisenhower.  At the time he was president I thought he was terrible on civil rights, and I was so angry about the whole Hungarian Revolution fiasco.  

I thought he was too careful, too plodding, too conservative.  Kennedy was an action-oriented guy, quick to move, energetic.  Later I read a telling comparison of the two men.  It was the difference between D-Day and the Bay of Pigs.  

Eisenhower was often seen as inarticulate, but anyone who thinks that has not read his Farewell Address, often referred to as the “Military Industrial Complex speech.”  On a night when Trump is proposing a vast increase in military spending for a country that spends as much on its military as the next six countries combined, I would like to quote two paragraphs of Ike’s speech.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research -- these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs -- balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage -- balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Perez, Demo Chair

I didn’t care who the Democrats elected as Chair, as long as her or she understands the need to unite, to work together against what I regard as a real threat to American democracy and American values.

A few days ago Linda took a call from some “progressive” group that was critical of Nancy Pelosi.  Think about that.  At a time when our liberties are being eroded, when billionaires are taking over the government, when the EPA is being gutted, when our foreign policy is in a shambles, when immigrants are being deported, when women’s rights are under attack, when the President tells lies every day, these “progressives” were angry at Nancy Pelosi.

This is a time for the unity of rational and decent and reasonable people.  If we can’t unite against an enemy of democracy like Trump, we are doomed.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Democratic Information Center

Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, only a handful have a permanent Democratic headquarters.  Philadelphia and Allegheny do, of course, and I believe Centre and Erie counties also have permanent office spaces.  And Carbon.

That’s right.  Carbon, with roughly 60,000 people.  Actually, the office is not officially a party headquarters; it is funded with private donations and run by a self-appointed group called the Community Outreach Association.  

The office is open not only to Democrats, but also to other progressive, labor, and environmental groups.  We also host social events like the party held there on Saturday morning where local candidates collected signatures on their nominating petitions and attendees were treated to a potluck.  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Hell or High Water v. La La Land

We live in a divided country.  We all knew that, but what I didn’t know until today was that we are also divided in the movies we see.  For example, “Hell and High Water,” the story of two outlaws who rob small town Texas banks, did very well in Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Arizona.  I loved that film.  In fact, I saw it twice.  

On the other hand, “Manchester by the Sea” did extremely well in all the New England states, New York, and Nebraska.  Nebraska?  That doesn’t fit.  

“Fences,” the Denzel Washington/Viola Davis film, delighted people in Allegheny County (it was set in Pittsburgh), and in a string of states from Louisiana and Arkansas thorough Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas.  

“La La Land” was really popular in Utah, the West Coast, and the Northern Midwest and Northeast.  I don’t get Utah.  Maybe Mormons like musicals.

The maps showing the popularity were based on how many active Facebook users in a given county “liked” the Academy Award nominees.  You can see it in today’s Times at <https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/02/24/movies/oscars-state-by-state-movie-popularity.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0>.

Of course, since the data depends on Facebook, my tickets for “Hell and High Water” won’t even count, either time.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Jeff Sessions and Master Squeers

In his novel Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens described “Dotheboys Hall,” a for-profit home for orphaned boys located in Yorkshire.  The institution was run by a Mr. Squeers, who tried to squeeze out as much profit as he could by not heating the sleeping quarters and skimping on boys’ food.

I thought of that today when I read that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had rescinded the Obama plan to phase out federal for-profit prisons.  These prisons are more violent and save tax payers very little, if any, money.

Somebody, however, will be making a profit, and that is what the Trump kleptocracy seems to be about.  

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Trump administration supports "puppy mills"

The big changes from the Obama administration are publicized, but what is getting lost are the myriad small changes in government policy that come in under the radar.  Thanks to columnist Gail Collins for calling attention to one that is hard to believe.

The Department of Agriculture has taken down its list of violators to the Animal Welfare Act, including “puppy mills” that feature unsanitary and even dangerous conditions.  

The justification for this new policy, according to Collins, was that the list violated the privacy of people who are cruel to little dogs.

Collins suggests that the next time you go to a Town Hall meeting held by a Republican congress member, you shout out, “What about the puppies?”

I’d go a step further.  If you have friends who voted for Trump, ask them about this.  I’m curious how they will defend it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Drivers' licenses

Columnist David Brooks thinks Americans are becoming less adventurous, less innovative, less entrepreneurial.  The number of Americans who move across state lines has dropped by half since the 50s and 60s.  Statistics show Americans change jobs less than they used to as late as the 1990s.

Here’s a measure that amazed me.  in 1983 69% of 17-year-olds had a driver’s license.  Now only half of Americans get a driver’s license by age 18.  I remember in high school in the 50s kids couldn’t wait to get a license.  Maybe their are using Uber now, or sitting home playing with their phones.

It'd also just occurred to me that an 18-year-old eligible to vote may not have the picture ID necessary in some states to cast a ballot.  These Republican legislators are pretty damn smart.