Wednesday, August 5, 2015

From Hiroshima to Tehran

Seventy years ago tomorrow, on August 6,1945, the U.S. Army Air Forces detonated an atomic bomb, code named "Little Boy," over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, on 9 August, the U.S. Army Air Forces detonated a second atom bomb, code named "Fat Man," over the Japanese city of Nagasaki.

Seven decades later the strategic value and the morality of dropping atomic bombs on Japan continue to be subjects of debate, with strong opinions on both sides. In a sense, the decision to use the A-bomb was perhaps the logical outcome of another controversial decision made by the Allies. At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, President Roosevelt said that the Allies' goal was unconditional surrender of Germany and Japan. The Conference adopted that goal, thus assuring that victory would be complete, but also messy, as no terms of surrender would be entertained.

After defeating Germany (Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 8, 1945, the Allied occupation began, and the final peace treaty was not signed until September 12, 1990) the Allies met at the Cecilienhof palace in Potsdam (not far from Berlin, today it is an historic site well worth visiting). The Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945, stated:

"We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces, and to provide proper and adequate assurances of their good faith in such action. The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction."

Eleven days later we dropped the first atom bomb. On May 8 the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and on May 9 we dropped the second bomb. Even after the events of the 8th and 9th, Japan was still seeking surrender under certain conditions. After days of internal dissension within the government of Japan, including an attempted coup d'état, the Japanese authorities reluctantly accepted the reality that the Allies would accept nothing short of unconditional surrender.

On August 15th, the Empire of Japan surrendered unconditionally to the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and the other Allies. Victory Over Japan was widely celebrated throughout the U.S. until 1975. Rhode Island only retains that holiday, renamed "Victory Day," moved to the second Monday in August.

Nuclear weapons are back in the news, now in the context of President Obama "deal" with Iran that will result in that deadly regime joining the nuclear club. Had the U.S. not used the atom bomb in 1945, some other nation probably would have used it in some other conflict. As horrific as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were, at least they showed the world that this is something we don't want to have to do again. I'm not so confident at Iran can be trusted to exercise the restraint that the over nuclear powers have.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Not Machiavellian At All

Res Publica
Not Machiavellian At All
by David Trumbull -- May 15, 2015

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (May 3, 1469 – June, 21 1527) was an Italian historian, politician, diplomat and philosopher. He was a high official in the government of the Republic of Florence during the times when the Medici family governed the republic.

He wrote several books and it is from the content of one of his books, The Prince, that we get the adjective Machiavellian, which describes as "characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty." For example --

In Chapter 5, he advises the conquering prince that a conquered republic must be utterly reduced, because history shows that more clement treatment fails to hold the territory.

In Chapter 7, rather than condemning, he cites the notorious Cesare Borgia as one to be imitated.

In Chapter 8 he says that a prince who rises through wickedness may, nevertheless, hold his principality securely if injuries are inflicted all together and not spread out over time.

In Chapter 15 Machiavelli advices the prince to follow vice if so doing brings security and virtue would bring ruin.

In Chapter 17 he says it is better to be clement than cruel, however, some cruelty is necessary and justified to maintain order and to withstand the violence that will break forth when there is not firm leadership.

In Chapter 20 he says that sometimes it's a good idea to pick a fight with another prince, just so you can look good when you defeat him.

If the only thing from Machiavelli you read is The Prince, then you might well conclude that his political philosophy is diabolical. That would be unfortunate, for Machiavelli's writings in support of republics and of freedom are much more extensive than his one, thin volume on how a prince may conquer and hold territory.

The key to understanding Machiavelli's The Prince is in the final chapter. It's a call for a reunited Italy, free of oppression by foreign occupiers. Italy was cut up into several city-states that were constantly at war with each other. The French and the Spaniards seeing opportunity invaded and ruled extensive tracks of the peninsula. Machiavelli dedicated the book to Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici (September 12, 1492 – May 4, 1519) the ruler of Florence, and exhorted Lorenzo to raise an army, drive out the foreigners, even if that meant crushing some of the independent republics and principalities. To Machiavelli, the choice was clear, either the nominally independent states would be forever in peril from each other and from foreign invaders, or they could lose their independence but gain freedom. Lorenzo did not take up Machiavelli's cause of a united Italy, and Italian reunification had to wait until the 19th century.

Charter of Liberty

Res Publica
Charter of Liberty
by David Trumbull -- May 8, 2015

"We hold here that the right to a speedy trial is as fundamental as any of the rights secured by the Sixth Amendment. That right has its roots at the very foundation of our English law heritage. Its first articulation in modern jurisprudence appears to have been made in Magna Carta..." -- Chief Justice Earl Warren delivering the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court in the matter of Klopper v. North Carolina, March 13, 1967.

Magna Carta (or, in English, "the Great Charter") was signed by King John (best remembered in the popular mind as "Bad King John" of the Robin Hood tales) on June 15, 1215. The document, which marks its 800th anniversary next month, is, in important ways, the foundation of the liberties of English and American law. The origin was a dispute between the king and the barons, and neither was wholly satisfied with the compromises contained in the Charter. At the request of John, Pope Innocent III annulled it. But the genie of liberty was out of the bottle and the Charter was amended and reaffirmed through the next few yeas and, in 1225, took the final form that makes it a foundational document in the English system of government and in every nation whose legal system owes something to English law.

Magna Carta did not create trial by jury, but it did enshrine it as a right, as well as the concept of due process.

"No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land."

Even though England, to this day, has a State Church, Magna Carta laid down the law that even the king must respect certain ancient liberties of the Church. In America this became the religious establishment and free exercise clauses of the Constitution.

"The English Church shall be free, and that men in our kingdom shall have and keep all these liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably in their fullness and entirety for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all things and all places for ever."

President Ronald Reagan summed it up well in his April 16, 1986, Law Day Proclamation --

"The foundations of freedom upon which our Nation was built included the Magna Carta of 1215, English common law, the Mayflower Compact, the Act of Parliament abolishing the Court of the Star Chamber, and numerous colonial charters."

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Martha Coakley Has No Problem with Non-Citizens Voting

Res Publica
Martha Coakley Has No Problem with Non-Citizens Voting
by David Trumbull -- October 31, 2014

Recently Martha Coakley said she believes that allowing non-citizens to vote in local town and city elections should be an option for municipalities to choose for themselves, showing, once again, how out of touch she is with the citizens of Massachusetts.

She has been roundly denounced. Some have even suggested that our Attorney General needs a refresher course in constitutional law because, they say, such a proposal is contrary to the U.S. Constitution. Here I must part with my fellow conservatives, for, no matter had bad the idea of aliens voting in our elections may be, it is, nevertheless, perfectly constitutional.

The U.S. Constitution, as it went into force in 1787 said absolutely nothing about qualifications for voters, leaving it entirely in the hands of the states. At the time no state prohibited non-citizens from voting. There were other restrictions. In Massachusetts the electoral franchise was restricted to male inhabitants (not limited to citizens), 21 years of age and older, and owning a certain amount of property. Most states had similar requirements. Southern states further restricted the franchise to Whites only.

Some states limited voting to citizens starting after the War of 1812, which generated an enhanced sense of patriotism. More banned it in the 1840s and 1850s. Two notable things were happening around then-- (1) the 1848 revolutions in Europe caused many Americans to regard foreigners with suspicion and (2) the beginning of the flood of Irish Catholic immigrants who threatened the political supremacy of English, Scots, and Scots-Irish Protestants. But the big wave of states banning voting by non-citizens was in the early twentieth century. Then a new wave of immigrants from Italy, the rest of Southern Europe, and Eastern Europe, again awaked nativist fears about "inferior races" and Catholics and Jews. It was not until the election of 1928 that all states had limited voting to citizens only.

The Constitution has seven times been amended to regulate voting.

(1) The 14th Amendment, ratified February 3, 1870, said that states could not deny the vote to African-Americans. In Massachusetts American-Americans had the vote since the 1780s.

(2) The 17th Amendment, ratified April 8, 1913, provided for the direct election of U.S. Senators. The amendment stipulated that, "The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures," again, recognizing that qualification of voters is a state, not national, right.

(3) The 19th Amendment, ratified August 18, 1920, said that states could not deny the vote to women. In Massachusetts women had been able to vote since 1879, but only for school committee, not for any other offices.

(4) The 22nd Amendment, ratified, February 27, 1951, limited the President to two terms.

(5) The 23rd Amendment, ratified March 29, 1961, gave the District of Columbia votes for President and Vice President. It did not specify whether D.C. voters had to be citizens.

(6) The 24th Amendment, ratified January 23, 1964, said that states could no longer assess a "poll tax" for voting.

(7) The 26th Amendment, ratified July 1, 1971, said that states could not limit voting based on age in the case of citizens who are 18 years of age or older. Interesting, there is nothing in the Constitution hindering states from choosing a lower age. In Maine 17-year-olds can vote in a primary election, as long at they will be 18 by the time of the general election. Maine is not the only state to allow voting by 17-year-olds.

Clearly, nothing in the Constitution prohibits voting by non-citizens. In New York City non-citizens voted in elections for school board until 2002 (when the board was made an appointed rather than elected body). The reasoning behind this is that many non-citizens have children in the public schools and are taxed to support the schools. A few, very few, other municipalities allow non-citizens to vote in at least some local elections.

Currently it is illegal for aliens to vote for President, Vice President, U.S. Senator, and U.S. Representative. That restriction is found not in the Constitution, but in a law [18 U.S.C. §611]. It was passed as a part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Given that the Constitution gives to the states, not Congress, the power to regulate qualifications for voting (except that the states cannot disenfranchise specific classes of voters under the provisions of the 14th, 19th, 24th and 26th amendments) I question whether the federal prohibition on aliens voting in national elections is itself constitutional. Derek T. Muller, Associate Professor of Law, Pepperdine School of Law, also questions the constitutionality of 18 U.S.C. §611.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Suffolk Downs, 1935 - 2014

Res Publica
Suffolk Downs, 1935 - 2014
By David Trumbull, September 19, 2014

"We are extraordinarily disappointed as this action is likely to cost the Commonwealth thousands of jobs, small business and family farms. We will be meeting with employees and horsemen over the next several days to talk about how we wind down racing operations as a 79-year legacy of thoroughbred racing in Massachusetts will be coming to an end, resulting in unemployment and uncertainty for many hard-working people." -- Chip Tuttle, Chief Operating Officer, Suffolk Downs.

Mary and I are so sad, remembering fun times at the track on Saturday afternoons. Friends would join us. Mary's father loved going to the track with us. On Kentucky Derby Day we'd dress in our finest -- with Mary taking special care to pick out a fabulous hat -- and bring along sugar and fresh mint to mix with the Bourbon we bought at the track -- voilà, hand-crafted mint juleps!

In the early 2000s I attended a small Anglican church that met in Cambridge in the Swedenborgian chapel across from Harvard Yard. Our priest, Bowen Woodruff, was also an unpaid chaplain to the jockeys at Suffolk Downs. The jockey's job is demanding and dangerous. Jockeys can be injured, even killed, in a race. Many are not locals, in fact many are natives of South America. They are engaged in a difficult occupation, thousands of miles from home and family. They move from track to track, following the racing season and seeking to advance their careers. They have little opportunity to attend regular church services. They truly appreciated having Fr. Woodruff hold a Bible study with them on Wednesdays at the track. On Saturdays several of us from the church would go to the track, accompanied by Fr. Woodruff in his clerical "dog collar." The arrangement was that he would bless our bets, with the understanding that we would tithe on the winnings. He never bet himself as he feared that people might mistake his familiarity with the jockeys for some sort of "inside information."

The closing of Suffolk is not just about the people who work at the track -- the jockeys, the workers at the restaurants and concession stands, and others. There are the trainers, and all the people who work at the farms -- often family farms -- where the horses are raised, and all the vendors who supply those farms and the track. If, as I hope, the voters of the Commonwealth approve casino gambling this November, some of those jobs will be retained at a new casino in Everett. But we will have lost one of the things that made Boston a wonderful city to live in. No longer can I, for the cost of a short Blue Line trip, sit outside on a perfect summer day, enjoy a hotdog and cold beer, while watching magnificent horses, loving cared for and trained, compete in one of the most thrilling sporting exhibitions.

Friday, August 29, 2014

United We Stand with Arthur T.

Res Publica

United We Stand with Arthur T.

September 5, 2014

In is fitting that the Market Basket workers' strike, which began as a protest rally at the Chelsea store on June 24th, ended on August 28th, the Thursday before the long Labor Day Weekend. Labor Day honors every workingman and woman in America, but we all know that its origin lies in the recognition of the advances in employer-employee laws and practices wrought by organized labor, that is to say, labor unions. And, therein, lies two ironies.

The summer of 2014 witnessed a successful organized labor action on a scale we haven't seen in decades. Organized? Yes. Unionized? No.

Striking Market Basket employees took on the board of directors and won. The board of the company, which was owned in majority by allies of rival cousin Arthur S. Demoulas, was forced to back down, give in, and make the deal to bring back Arthur T. The workers were greatly helped by thousands of customers, and even some vendors, who joined in a boycott. But what they did not have was a union. A union would have provided institutional memory of past labor strife, professional staff to organize workers and confront management, and reserves of funds to assist striking workers and their families.

With their livelihoods at stake, how, went conventional wisdom, could semi-skilled workers have any chance of prevailing over management without a union? But the Market Basket employees did prevail. Throughout the protests employees were quoted in the press saying, We don't need a union, we have something stronger, we are a family. It's truly an inspiring story. But, also, an unusual, almost unique, story. Who needs a union when you have a boss, Arthur T., who gives you better pay, benefits, and sense of being stakeholders in the company than you are likely to get under a union contract?

Furthermore, don't discount how past union activity benefited the Market Basket employees. When the employees walked off, the new management threatened to fire them. Now, from a practical standpoint the board would have been sore pressed, even in this weak labor market, to quickly find qualified replacements for the entire workforce, nevertheless, the threat of losing you job would surely have forced many protesting workers back to the job, one would expect. But they did not return. Why? Because you cannot fire workers for striking. Its a federal law, The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (commonly called the "Wagner Act"), that guarantees the right to unionize and to strike without retaliation. When management threatened to fire the workers, they filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, using that pro-union law for protection.

The Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (commonly known as the Taft-Hartley Act) modified the Wagner Act. Specifically it placed some restrictions striking, among other things, requiring an 80-day notice period before a union strike. Perhaps because in 1947 the terms organized labor and unionized labor were, functionally equivalent Taft-Hartley placed no such restriction on non-unionized workforces. Therein lies the second irony. These non-unionized workers successfully used a pro-union law, but had they been unionized the strike, at least as it was conducted, would have been illegal.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Customer May Not Always be Right, but He is the Customer

Res Publica
The Customer May Not Always be Right, but He is the Customer
By David Trumbull -- July 25, 2014

Last week I wrote about Uber and Lyft, two relatively new car services that are making a big dent in the taxi business. The services are wildly popular with riders who, for years, have been stuck with not much alternative to broken down wreck taxis, driven by surly drivers who refuse to put on the air conditioning in the summer, pad the bill, refuse to accept credit cards, and are so engaged in their loud mobile phone conversations in foreign languages that they don't pay attention to the road and put the passengers at risk of serious injury.

Passengers see Uber and Lyft as the solution to poor quality taxi service. Local governments see Uber and Lyft as the problem. The Peoples Republik of Cambridge has tried repeatedly to ban Uber and Lyft. Cambridge is not alone in opposing giving riders the options they want. But, in city after city, the politicians have had to back down. They are learning that they cannot stand athwart history yelling STOP. The people want Uber and Lyft and will not tolerate elected and appointed officials abusing their offices to come to the aid of the old taxi monopoly.

It is, for me, exciting to watch a supposedly immovable object, the taxi company/municipal government symbiotic relationship, get pushed aside by the irresistible force that is People Power. People Power is being asserted elsewhere, in the current struggle over the future of the Market Basket chain of food stores.

The Greek drama that is the quarter-of-century-old Demoulas family feud over control of the business that Athanasios and Efrosini Demoulas started in Lowell in 1916 is worthy of a made-for-TV miniseries. The family lawsuit in the early 1990s over ownership nearly destroyed the business, but it survived, and indeed thrived.

Market Basket customers love the store. We love the low prices. We love that although it is a chain, the selections in store are tailored to the local community -- the Methuen store abounds in Italian delicacies, the North Andover store serves the Syrian community, the Chelsea store is a little Latin America. The employees are extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and cheerful, making marketing a pleasant experience. As for the employees, they are well paid and treated with respect by management. Who needs a union when your boss makes you feel like a family? This model of low prices, great selections, and a happy staff has worked, making the Demoulas family one of the richest in the Boston area.

By now you have seen the news -- massive walkouts of Market Basket employees, a widespread customer boycott, and rallies across the state demanding the re-instatement of Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO. How will it end? I don't know. But however it ends, the board of this closely held, family-owned business will be forced to act in response to a spontaneous outburst of People Power.

I have not seen anything in America quite like it in some time. Next year will mark the 30-year anniversary of the Coca-Cola Company's disastrous launch of New Coke. Then, too, a corporate board learnt the lesson that there is someone more powerful than the stockholder; that is the Customer.