Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

It is truly fitting that the students at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School should be leading a movement for gun safety.  Ms.Douglas, who died in in 1998 at age 108, was largely responsible for stopping a jetport in the Everglades and preserving the park.  Her book The Everglades:  River of Grass, published in 1947, helped to raise public awareness in favor of Everglades conservation.

The Everglades was not declared a national park until 1947, and it remains under threat from water diversions, chemical laden agricultural runoff, and invasive species.  Douglas knew that Everglades preservation was a tough fight, but she said:  “I know I’ve got my enemies and I feel fine about it, thank you.”


Those kids who are fighting for gun safety laws also have their enemies.  They are the N.R.A. and all the bought and paid for politicians, including Trump.  It will be a tough fight, but I hope they take their school’s namesake as an inspiration.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Lackawanna County Prison scandal

Seven guards have been charged with sexually abusing female prisoners at the Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton.  This behavior went on for years, and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro is now looking at whether Lackawanna County officials ignored the abuse.

What is wrong with Pennsylvania?  Luzerne County, south of Lackawanna, a few years ago was home to the “kids for cash” scandal whereby judges sent kids to private jails in return for kickbacks.  


And then we have the mayor of Allentown, on trial for corruption in city contracts.  I have met Mr. Palowski and liked him, but even if he is found not guilty, I believe unethical behavior took place.  Some states have a culture of absolute honesty, like Minnesota or Oregon.  Some have a culture of payoffs and kickbacks, like Louisiana and Illinois.  Unfortunately, Pennsylvania appears to be in the second group.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The government of Wakanda

I see movies from the perspective of a political scientist.  I can’t help it.  It’s who I am.  So what I can’t figure out in “Black Panther” is why Wakanda, with its high-speed rail system, its medical breakthroughs, its gender equality, and its fantastic weaponry, still picks its rulers by hand-to-hand combat among royal families members.

Wouldn’t they have some sort of democratic method of picking their leaders?  Even a technocratic or academic system of ruler selection would be better than two guys duking it out in knee-deep water above a falls.  


I foresee a sequel, “Black Panther II,” in which the common ordinary people of Wakanda perform acts of civil disobedience, demanding the right to organize and participate in free elections.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

James Buchanan moves up one rung

Many historians rank our 15th president, and the only president from Pennsylvania, as the worst President in U.S. history.  Today we had a President’s Day party at the Democratic Information Center in Lehighton to celebrate the great news that Buchanan had moved up one rung.  He is no longer the nation’s worst president.

I’ll admit he was not a very good president, supporting the Dred Scott decision, not recognizing that the country was headed toward civil war, and blaming abolitionists for the war when it came.  On the other hand, 
– he never used his office for personal financial gain;
– he did not take advantage of a foreign hostile power to win office;
– he did not suppress votes;
– he did not attack the press;
– he did not abuse or belittle women;
– he did oppose the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant Know Nothing party;
– he did not threaten war with foreign powers; 
– he did read books; and 
– he did not bring the office of the Presidency into disrepute.


He may have been bad, but he is definitely no longer our worst.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Prayers and condolences

1.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump
2.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump
3.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump
4.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump
5.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump.
6.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump
7.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump
8.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump
9.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump
10.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump
11.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump
12.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump
13.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump
14.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump.
15.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump
16.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump

17.  “We offer our prayers and condolences.”  President Trump

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Harbingers of spring

Yesterday we had four red-wing blackbirds and two grackles at our back yard feeder.  They are the first sign that spring is on the way.  


The blackbirds and grackles have moved up their arrival time; when I was a kid they arrived in March.  This is one more sign of global warming.  I always wonder if people who deny it ever look outside.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Czechoslovakia under Soviet domination

Vaclav Havel, playwright, poet, and the first President of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003, said of Czechoslovakia under Soviet rule that it was “a world of appearances trying to pass for reality.”

When I heard that today, I had to pull over beside the road and write it down.  It is a description of present-day United States.  We keep hearing about our democracy, but we know that a few oligarchs like the Koch Brothers can swing elections, we know that U.S. Senators like Toomey don’t care a fig about democratic values, we know that although a majority of people support gun safety legislation, the NRA keeps Congress in fear. 


Yesterday our intelligence agencies warned us that the Russians, flush from their success in skewing the 2016 elections, are planning to do it all over again in the midterms.  Instead of worrying about that, many legislators are doing their best to suppress votes, gerrymander districts, and cater to lobbyists.  We live in a world of appearances trying to pass for reality.