Showing posts with label Res Publica. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Res Publica. Show all posts

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.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Persons, not People

Res Publica

Persons, not People
July 11, 2014

My Facebook friends on the political left are, once again, in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision riled up over the Supreme Court and clamoring, again, for a constitutional amendment to say that, "Corporations are not People," thus, they believe, over-turning the 2010 Citizens United decision.

Well, of course corporations are not people! No one ever said they were. Okay, I concede, Mitt Romney did say that during the 2012 presidential campaign, but Romney never did strike me as being very bright. People, from the Latin populus, means human beings taken as a group, whether construed as a singular or plural noun. Clearly, corporations are not people, as they are not human. Liberals demanding a, "Corporations are Not People" amendment might just as well call for a, "The Moon is Not Made of Green Cheese" amendment. Corporations are, however, persons, something that, for centuries until 2010 was never doubted.

A person (from the Latin persona) in the eyes of the law, is an entity with legal standing. A person can sue and be sued, own property, enter contracts, and employ other persons. As far back as ancient Roman law and through the English Common Law that forms the basis for American law, corporations have been recognized as artificial persons. If Hobby Lobby and Citizens United were not "persons" they would have had no standing to sue, nor would the laws they were protesting have applied to them, as the law operates on persons only.

The doctrine of corporate personhood was explicitly enunciated by the Supreme Court nearly 200 years ago in the celebrated Dartmouth College. In the 1819 Dartmouth case the legislature of New Hampshire attempted a hostile takeover of the school, a private corporation, in order to treat it as a public institution and run it as the state saw fit. The brilliant Daniel Webster argued for the corporation that "...its rights stand on the same ground as those of an individual."

The Court agreed, and Associate Justice Joseph Story in his concurring opinion wrote (emphasis added): "An aggregate corporation, at common law, is a collection of individuals, united into one collective body.... It is, in short, an artificial person, existing in contemplation of law, and endowed with certain powers and franchises which, though they must be exercised through the medium of its natural members, are yet considered as subsisting in the corporation itself, as distinctly as if it were a real personage.

Law, not nature, created corporations, and the law may operate differently toward corporations than toward individuals. For example, corporations cannot vote, be drafted, or serve as public officers. The question is what rights of a natural person do we give to artificial persons. I believe the court decided correctly in the Citizens United and Hobby Lobby cases. Others, including some of the Supreme Court Justices, disagree. But the solution, if you think the court erred, is to address the specific errors, not throw what has served us well for hundreds of years -- the legal doctrine that Corporations are Persons.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Citizens, Not Subjects.

Res Publica
Citizens, Not Subjects.
July 4, 2014 -- by David Trumbull

On this date in 1776 the delegates to the Second Continental Congress declared that the people they represented were citizens of the United States and not subjects of His Britannic Majesty, George III.

The document by which this shift of allegiance and status was proclaimed is tripartite. The preamble contains a general justification of self-government. It ends with the formal declaration of severance of ties to Great Britain and the establishment of the United States of America. Between the beautiful prose of "When in the Course of human Events..." and "We hold these Truths to be self-evident…" and the precise legal statement of the resolution for independency in the final paragraph lies an enumeration of the outrages of King George III which justify this revolutionary act.

To declare that men and women are not subjects of a monarch but citizens of a republic was both revolutionary and prophetic. To quote part of a prayer for Independence Day "...The founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn..." It was also rooted in history.

The Founders looked back to the ancient democracy of Athens, the republic of Rome, and to the words of the Hebrew prophet Samuel. In Chapter 8 of the First Book of Samuel we are told that the elders of Israel came to Samuel and asked him make them a king like all the nations. Samuel relayed this request to God, and the Lord said to Samuel:

"Tell them this will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you:

"He will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest.... (1 Sam. 8:12) and

"He will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers." (1 Sam. 8:13) and

"He will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. (1 Sam. 8:14) and

"He will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. (1 Sam. 8:16)

Compare those verses to this indictment of King George III in the Declaration of Independence: "He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance."

The Declaration continues: "He has kept among us, in times of peace standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures."

Now compare that to:

"He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. (1 Sam. 8:11) and

"He will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them ... to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots." (1 Sam. 8:12)

The Declaration goes on to indict the King for: Imposing Taxes on us without our Consent."

The Lord, through Samuel, had something to say about that as well"

"He will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. (1 Sam. 8:15) and

"He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. (1 Sam. 8:17)

The passage from the Old Testament ends: "And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day." It would be many centuries before men and women would live as citizens rather than subjects. That is why we celebrate the Fourth of July.

Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day Exhibit at Museum of World War II in Natick

Res Publica
D-Day Exhibit at Museum of World War II in Natick
by David Trumbull -- June 6, 2014

On June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which "we will accept nothing less than full victory." More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day's end on June 6, the Allies gained a foot- hold in Normandy. The D-Day cost was high -more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded -- but more than 100,000 Soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler.

No description, whether in print, spoken word, live theatre, or teleplay, can fully convey what it was like to be a young solder -- perhaps just 19 years old -- weighed down with 75 pounds of gear, sea-sick and soaked from the amphibious landing, crossing a land-mine strewn beach to walk into German gunfire 70 years ago today, in the invasion of Normandy.

Each year, as we commemorate D-Day fewer and fewer of the participants are with us. The youngest D-Day veterans are about 90 years old. In a few more years the battles of World War II will, like the battles of earlier wars, be the subject only of history, not living memory. When that day comes, the closest we'll be able to get to the experience of the Normandy invasion will be by examining the artifacts and primary source documents.

We are fortunate here in Boston that one of the best places in the world to learn about that great conflict is at the Museum of World War II in Natick. Through August 30th the museum is featuring a special 70th Anniversary of D-Day exhibit.

Their D-Day collections are only rivaled, in artifacts, by the Bayeux Museum in Normandy. They have the only known complete original set of the D-Day invasion plans along with thousands of other archival documents, photographs, plans and maps. A substantial part of the holdings are from the original Omaha Beach Museum in Villeneuve, France, which sold its collection to the Natick museum in 1994, after the 50th anniversary of D-Day. All of the artifacts in the special exhibit -- including uniforms, parachutes, weapons, and much more -- were used on the day of the D-Day invasion.

Visiting the museum is a unique experience. In addition to being the most comprehensive collection of original World War II artifacts anywhere in the world, the exhibition -- nearly 7,000 pieces -- integrates the human, political and military stories. It is an intense experience made more so by the fact most artifacts are not behind or under glass. Most can be touched.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. --- George Santayana (1863 - 1952)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Massachusetts GOP Stands for Liberty and Against Oppression and Coercion

Res Publica
Massachusetts GOP Stands for Liberty and Against Oppression and Coercion
by David Trumbull - March 7, 2014

On Saturday, March 22nd, delegates to the 2014 Republican State Convention will gather in Boston to vote on candidates for public offices and adopt the Massachusetts Republican Party 2014 Platform. From the readership area of the Post-Gazette I have the names of following delegates from East Boston. Charles Veiga, Henry A. Boyd, Michael Palermo, James Loring, Vincent Gioioso, Erik Stivaletta, Joseph Steffano, Sterling Sobey and Chris Morton.

The Party Platform they will be adopting has already been written by the Massachusetts Republican State Committee. The platform is a strong statement in favor of individual liberty and against all forms of oppression and coercion. The platform "plank" on "values" deserves to be read, in whole, and I, accordingly copy it below.

"True to the spirit of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, Republicans believe that unalienable individual rights and the responsibilities that go with them are the foundation of freedom.

"Informed by the essential guarantees of the Declaration of Independence, we affirm the inherent dignity and sanctity of human life. We believe that every instance of abortion is tragic. We advocate policies that will assist a woman during a crisis pregnancy.

"We reject all forms of discrimination, intolerance and exploitation. We are opposed to modern-day slavery and human trafficking and respect the inherent dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom. We believe the institution of traditional marriage strengthens our society. There should be no infringement on the rights of the people of Massachusetts to vote on ballot initiatives.

"Our Party vocally supports religious liberty. As a Party, we support the Constitutional guarantee of individual religious freedom, and we oppose judicial and legislative attempts to eradicate faith, whether in symbol or practice, from public life.

"We affirm every citizen's right to apply religious values to public policy and we support the right of faith-based organizations to participate fully in public programs without renouncing their beliefs, symbols, or hiring practices.

"We support the First Amendment right of freedom of association for religious organizations, including the right of religious organizations to refrain from participation in public policies that violate their religious conviction."

One Party Rule in Massachusetts

Res Publica
One Party Rule in Massachusetts
by David Trumbull - March 14, 2014

With President Barack Obama's approval rating at 41%, the lowest ever, and the latest polling showing a majority of Americans favoring Republican control of congress, this November's election looks to be a good one for Republicans nationally. Add to that the latest news from Tampa. In what many considered a referendum on Obamacare, there was a special election in Florida Tuesday to fill a vacancy in the U.S. House of Representatives -- Republican David Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink. Jolly, considered the underdog throughout the race, campaigned for repeal of Obamacare, and that was enough to assure a GOP victory.

What will the 114th Congress which convenes on January 3, 2015, bring us? An increased Republican majority in the House? Certainly. Currently there are 233 Republicans and 199 Democrats. More Republicans in the Senate? Certainly. Currently 45 out of the 100 senators are Republican. A Republican majority in the Senate? Possible. Republicans need a net gain of six seats. The good news for Republicans is that many of the seats that up for election this year (every two years one-third of the senators are up for election) are in states that are somewhat more favorable to Republicans than to Democrats.

Yes, 2014 will be a good year for Republicans nationally. So what about here in Massachusetts? Is Boston Magazine correct in its headline "There's Little Hope for Republican Gains in Massachusetts?" The article is by former Boston Phoenix reporter David Bernstein, one of the best observers of Bay State politics and, his own liberal views not withstanding, one of the few members of the mainstream media in Massachusetts who actually pays attention to, and reports on, the state of the GOP.

Why is the outlook so poor for the Republican Party in Massachusetts? The answer is simple. Years -- nay, decades -- of the party establishment fighting fairly and unfairly against the party activists has left a shell of a party with no substance. There's a good donor base that pays the bills, keeps the party office open, and finances the high profile races. But behind that, there is not much of a political party. Most legislative seats go uncontested, and what candidates the party has for the legislature are, mostly inexperience, under-funded, and unsupported by the party which directs all resources toward a few favored candidates.

It is difficult to say what, if anything, the Massachusetts Republican Party stands for. One might think that the Party Platform (from which I quoted last week) would be a guide. However, Kristen Hughes, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, was quoted in the online edition of the Springfield Republican newspaper as bashing her own party's platform. Candidates Charlie Baker and Richard Tisei, often cited as the GOP's rising stars are both actively opposed to the party platform adopted by the State Committee. The Republican establishment is solidly behind Baker who, again, is running for Governor, a race he lost in 2010, and behind Tisei, who is, again, running for the congressional seat he failed to win 2012.

Yeah, Baker and Tisei, what a great idea, because, what? they that worked so well in the past. Resign yourself to more years of one-party rule in Massachusetts.

Crimea River

Res Publica
Crimea River
by David Trumbull - March 21, 2014

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldiers knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

. . . 

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

The above stanzas are two of the six that make up Alfred, Lord Tennyson's celebrated poem, "Charge of the Light Brigade," a romantic account of Britain's blunders in the Battle of Balaclava, fought 160 years ago this October, as one important encounter of British and Russian forces in the Crimean War.

Once again the West views with apprehension Russia incursion into Crimea. Once again, war, a major European land war, is a real, if remote, possibility. In the Nineteenth Century Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856) Russia lost to an alliance of France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia.

The causes of the war, and its effects on later history are too complex for this short essay. However, some things came out of the Crimean War that we live with every day.

The modern nursing profession is generally regarded as having been birthed in the Crimean War out of the efforts of Florence Nightingale (1820 - 1910), popularly known as "The Lady with the Lamp."

Russia, with heavy war debts, and doubting her ability to hold onto its North American, territory should the British seek a fight over it, sold Alaska to the United States.

To this day we keep our faces warm when skiing (or hidden when robbing banks) by wearing a knitted cap that pulls down to cover most of the face, in other words, a balaclava, from the Battle of Balaclava, topic of Tennyson's poem, and the first place they were widely used.

What will come out of the current conflict over Crimea? Well, in the words of an America general of about the same time as the Crimean War, William Tecumseh Sherman (1820 - 1891), "War is Hell." I'm sure the noble six hundred would agree.

Monday, February 10, 2014

From Slave to Legislator

Res Publica
From Slave to Legislator
by David Trumbull -- February 7, 2014

Americans of every ethnic heritage can use African-American History Month as a time to meditate on America's greatness, her failings, and her promises. "ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL," proclaims our nation's birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence, yet under our first general government, the Articles of Confederation, and under our Constitution, until the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments (ratified from 1865 to 1870) States treated part of their population as less than equal. In the case of the 14th Amendment (citizenship and equal rights) and 15th Amendment (voting rights), we know that full implementation did not take place until the 1960s and another amendment, the 24th (abolition of the poll tax) and other civil rights legislation.

For too many years, America failed to live up to the promise made in the Declaration of Independence. However, that promise, once made, set America on a course that would surely, although not swiftly, lead to true equality. Black History Month reminds us of our national failure, but also of how far we have come, and should move us all to recommit to the struggle for freedom and equality.

One example of how far we came, and how relatively quickly, in the lifetime of one man, I direct you to the life of Boston resident Lewis Hayden.

According to information on the website of the National Park Service:

"Lewis Hayden was one of Boston’s most visible and militant African American abolitionists. He was born enslaved in Lexington, Kentucky in 1812. His first wife, Esther Harvey, and a son were sold to U.S. Senator Henry Clay, who in turn sold them into the deep south. Hayden was never able to discover their ultimate whereabouts. Eventually, Hayden was remarried to a woman named Harriet Bell and they escaped with their son Joseph to Canada in 1844, and then to Detroit in 1845."

Before the American Civil War, he and his wife aided numerous fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad, often sheltering them at their Beacon Hill house. The Lewis and Harriet Hayden House has been designated a National Historic Site on the Black Heritage Trail in Boston.

A Republican, Hayden, in 1873, was elected as a representative from Boston to the Massachusetts legislature. He supported the movement to erect a statue in honor of Crispus Attucks, an American black who was the first person killed in the Boston Massacre, at the beginning of the American Revolution.

Hayden was not the first African-American elected to the Massachusetts legislature. In 1866 Charles Lewis Mitchell and Edward Garrison Walker were the first. They had been born free, as was John J. Smith, who was elected in 1868 and George Lewis Ruffin (1870). That 1873 election that put Hayden in office also saw the election of Joshua Bowen Smith.

Slavery, the condition of Hayden's birth, reminds us of America's failure, but his rise to respected Bostonian and representative of the people in the legislature proclaims America's greatness as a land that, belatedly, kept its promise of equality.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Primary Objective

Res Publica
The Primary Objective
by David Trumbull
January 10, 2014

The 2014 Republican State Convention will be held on Saturday March 22nd, at the Boston University Agannis Arena. Election of delegates and alternate delegates to the convention will take place at caucuses in cities and towns between January 11th and February 1st. Anyone who is a registered Republican as of December 1, 2013 is qualified to be a delegate. Interest in the convention has started rising with the news that Charlie Baker, Republican candidate for Governor (his second time, he ran in 2010 as well) will face an opponent for the support of the delegates. Mark Fisher, small businessman, owner of Merchant's Fabrication in Auburn and TEA Party member, announced last month that he, too, is seeking the Republican Party nomination for Governor. Assuming both men garner at least 15 percent support at the Convention and obtain the necessary 10,000 certified signatures on their nomination papers we'll have a Republican primary election to determine the party's nominee.

Already many "establishment" Republicans are calling for Fisher to back down in order to avoid a primary fight. The establishment in the party, for as long as I can remember, has preferred a hand-picked favorite rather than having a primary. They argue that a primary fight wastes resources and that by avoiding a primary the GOP's anointed one can concentrate, from the start, on running for the final, November, election. They are wrong and that kind of thinking is one of the reasons the Republican Party does so poorly in this Commonwealth.

Primaries are good for the party for several reasons.

1. The winning candidate gains the experience from the primary campaign.

2. The press will cover the race rather than using all its ink to cover the Democratic primary.

3. Independent voters who decide to vote in the Republican primary are more likely to vote for a Republican in November. If there is no GOP primary, voters may vote in the Democratic primary and then may have a tendency to stick with the candidate they supported in the primary.

4. While we cannot know who someone votes for in the primary we can know whether they voted in the GOP primary, that gives us a list of independent voters who are favorable to the GOP. The key to winning in Massachusetts is getting the independent vote. Knowing which independents (technically "unenrolled") voters lean Republican is very helpful, but expensive to find out. Here in Massachusetts the Commonwealth will tell you, for free, which unenrolled voters took a Republican ballot.

5. The primary can be a practice run for the November get-out-the-vote effort.

If the objective is to elect more Republicans, then give the voters more opportunities to vote for Republicans. Recruit more candidates for more offices. And have primaries.

Blending in with the Background

Res Publica

Blending in with the Background

by David Trumbull
January 3, 2014

On Thursday, December 26th, President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (H.R. 3304). The massive bill (500 pages in length) funds the U.S. military and makes several changes to personnel and procurement policies. Of interest to me is a policy change that mandates all branches of the services to use the same camouflage pattern.

The change had been pushed by William Enyart, Democrat from Illinois' 12th District, who says he started wondering about all those different patterns of camouflage in the service branches after reading a Washington Post story detailing how the military now has ten kinds of camouflage and spends millions on camouflage design.

Enyart's proposal had bipartisan appeal given the duplication in the military at a time of austerity in government. A Government Accountability Office September 2012 report revealed that the military had spent $300 million in 2011 to purchase new camouflage and millions more for design. Over time, the study found, service branches have designed camouflage that distinguish one service from another. In a decade, the services introduced seven new camouflage uniforms with a variety of patterns and colors — two desert, two woodland and three universal patterns.

"Camo" is big business. Just in the year 2013 Depart of Defense contracts for camouflage clothing totaled $89.1 million. Much of the production of the camouflage fabrics that go into the uniforms is done in Fall River, Massachusetts, at Duro Textiles LLC. Hundreds of jobs have stayed in Fall River, rather than being "off-shored" to low wage and less regulated parts of the world due to a law, known as the Berry Amendment (U.S.C. Title 10, Section 2533a), which goes back to 1941 and was first enacted as part of America's preparation for World War Two which requires the Dept. of Defense to give preference American made products. In the case of clothing or textiles, every stage of production from fiber, to yarn, to fabric, to finished garment that will protect our men and women in uniform, must take place in America.

Some have argued that we should scrap "Berry" and get our uniforms, tents, and parachutes from cheaper overseas sources such as China. Such thinking is very shortsighted. Think what would happen when -- after the U.S. manufacturers had been put out of business by cheap foreign competition -- we found ourselves at war and unable to clothe and shelter our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guard because we could not get the supplies from a foreign source that was unable or unwilling to ship to us?

The new Defense bill, by preserving "Berry" but also requiring a consolidation of camouflage design across the services, assures that our uniformed personnel will have a reliable source of military clothing while saving money.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Obama's Priorities During the Shutdown Reveal His True Character

In case there was any remaining doubt regarding the low regard President Obama has toward us ordinary Americans, his conduct during the government shutdown should clarify it once and for all.

During the shutdown all national parks and monuments closed. We all have heard the stories of World War Two veterans turned away at the World War Two Memorial. Obama sent his goons out to erect barricades to keep the vets out and threaten them if they tried to see the open-air, largely unguarded memorial. Yes, Obama spent more money to close the memorial than it costs to keep it open. So much for any pretense that the closing of parks and monuments had anything to with saving money. By the way, in the two government shutdowns 17 years ago, the memorials were open, so, again, we see Obama's lies when he says that he has no choice in the matter.

As if Obama's crackdown on the men and women who saved out nation in World War Two isn't enough to display his deep animosity to loyal, law-abiding Americans, his next action displayed his true hatred of us, the dirty common folk he feels himself so superior to. The National Mall is closed, read the signs at the Mall, and there are police there to stop you if you try to enter. That is unless you are one of Obama's favored, nay, privileged classes of person. You and I risk arrest if we set foot on the grass of the National Mall, but Obama okayed a rally on the Mall in favor of illegal immigration during the shutdown.

Had enough? Oh, wait, there's more.

If you one are of our brave men and women in uniform protecting our nation at one of our military bases at home or abroad and you happen to be a Catholic, Obama has ruled that it is illegal for a priest to celebrate any of the sacraments. No, I did not make that up or get it from some questionable source! John Schlageter, General Counsel of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, in an October 3rd press release stated: "With the government shutdown, many ... priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide are not permitted to work -- not even to volunteer. During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so."

Again, it is not a matter of money. It never is, with Obama, a matter of money, it is always about Obama and his need to control people. His administration has threatened to arrest priests who say Mass or hear confessions on a military base even if they volunteer and are not paid.

Our nation will survive the final three years of Obama. He has weakened and abused us and will continue to do so, but we will survive. In the meantime, let's pray God, bless America, and save us from that wicked man in the White House.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Charlie (or Mike) on the MTA

When Walter A. O'Brien, Jr. (December 19, 1914 - July 1998) ran for mayor of Boston in 1949, he could not have foreseen that his campaign song would, a decade later, reach #15 on the Billboard chart, in a recording by the Kingston Trio.

I've long thought it would be swell if the tradition of campaign songs were to be resurrected. Many politicians today have a "theme" song associated with the campaign -- think of how the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign employed, to good effect, the Fleetwood Mac song "Don't Stop." In the 2012 presidential race Messrs. Obama and Romney each had a "play-list" of popular songs to set the mood at campaign rallies and sell the candidate. What Clinton's, Obama's, and Romney's uses of music as a motivational tool have in common is that they all turned to hit songs, not a campaign song, written by a local person and with local references relevant to the race. The lyrics, "Charlie on the MTA," were written by O'Brien supporters Jackie Steiner and Bess Hawes, and have become so emblematic of the MTA (now MBTA) that our fare cards are, even officially, called "CharlieCards." The music dates back the 1865 song "The Ship that Never Returned," by Henry Clay Work.

As an MBTA rider (I haven't owned a car since I moved to Boston nearly a quarter century ago, a move prompted, in part, by Boston's good subway, trolley, and bus system) I am pleased to see that mayoral candidate Mike Ross has pledged to be "A Strong Voice for Improving the MBTA"

I'm still undecided in the mayoral race, and I don't want this to became an endorsement of Mr. Ross, so I'll just quote three bullet points from his website:

  • Fight for full funding of the MBTA through regional partnerships

  • Bring back late-night MBTA service

  • Modernize zoning of transit-oriented development to promote T ridership

The MBTA is vital to Boston's successful future. In a recent conversation with another candidate, John Connolly, I learned that the majority of Bostonians are not originally from Boston. That is a good sign for our city and region. We are attracting and retaining bright, innovating people from all over the world to live and work in the Hub. One selling point Boston has over Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, or just about any American city is that here it is no necessary to spend an inordinate amount of time in your car driving to and from work. And if you balk at spending more money on the MBTA, just think what we are paying to maintain all those roads, plus the cost of maintaining a private automobiles.

Late night service? No brainer! The bars close at 2:00 a.m. and the MBTA shuts down an hour-and-a-half before that. That is ridiculous.

Modernization? Yes! In my time in Boston I've seen the MTBA decay. We deserve better.

Will Mike Ross resurrect Walter A. O'Brien's 1949 campaign song? Perhaps not. Perhaps he might think it "jinxed." O'Brien came in dead last in a five-man race, with 1.2 percent of the vote.

Now, citizens of Boston, don't you think it is a scandal
That the people have to pay and pay?
Join Walter A. O'Brien and fight the fare increase
Get poor Charlie off that MTA!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Mayoral Candidate from the North End?

So many candidates for mayor -- I don't know whom to vote for. I don't even know all the names! A few weeks ago I took a phone call from someone polling regarding the mayoral race. The voice on the end of the wire had some sort of accent, and it certainly was not Bostonian! The woman read out the name of each candidate and asked if I had heard of the candidate and if I have an opinion. Well, as I said, there are several women and men running and some names I had barely heard before. But when she got to the name "John Cannoli" I said, "Now you're just making up names!" So she spelled it out for me. "C-O-N-N-O-L-L-Y." The joke in our home now is that John Connolly must be the candidate from the North End, and we're singing "When Irish Eyes Are Italian."

No offense to Mr. Connolly intended. He appears to be qualified for the office and has some good ideas for the city. But this out-of-state pollster's mispronunciation got me thinking about one of the problems with electoral politics as now practiced in Boston. Aside from the question of how anyone could get a simple name like Connolly wrong, it shows what happens when politics is practiced "wholesale" rather than "retail." By retail we mean the candidate meeting voters face to face. "Wholesale" politics is the use of TV, radio, internet, telephone, and other means of manipulating public opinion, rather than persuading individual voters.

Surely there are local polling companies, employing local people who would know how to pronounce an Irish name. I don't know who commissioned this poll -- presumably not Mr. Connolly, as one would hope that the people working for you can at least pronounce your name! But, whoever it was, some candidate went with a company from out-of-state, or, which "farms out" its call center to some other, lower-cost region. All candidates make grand pronouncements about good jobs at good wages for Bostonians, but at least one chose to economize by using lower-paid out-of-state workers to make polling calls.

Between now and the election the voters of Boston will be deluged with phone calls on behalf of the candidates. I know, from having, in the 1990s, run for office myself, in Cambridge, that you have to have a "phone bank" to be a competitive candidate. Still, it's so impersonal. Paid out-of-state callers, or even worse, recorded announcements, have, to too much a degree, taken the place of individual Bostonians calling to recommend a candidate or remind a friend to vote.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Failure of Detroit, and Why It Won't Happen Here

A story is told that one day in the 1950s the Mayor of Detroit, the Governor of Michigan, and heads of the "big three" automobile manufacturing companies, and the President of the United Automobile Workers union, sat around a table in Detroit -- rather like the "board room" scene in the 1972 motion picture, "The Godfather" -- and decided how everything would run in the "Motor City." The story is apocryphal, but more about it later.

So what about the Detroit bankruptcy? Many conservative and Republican friends are indulging in schadenfreude over the failure of the experiment in liberalism that has been Detroit under the seven mayors, all Democrats, who have governed since 1962. Personally, I think it is in extremely poor taste to rejoice over the prospect that workers may lose their pensions, creditors will go unpaid, and basic public safety services are largely suspended in a city of a 700,000 souls. Furthermore, the facts do not support that narrative.

Boston, at 625,000 is, in population, nearly the same size as Detroit. We've had Democratic Mayor since 1930. Our political climate is at least as liberal as Detroit's. Ah, but the difference is Detroit was dependent on one industry and when it declined, so did the city. But if that were the explanation, what about Pittsburgh. Like Boston and Detroit the city government is of the "strong mayor" type, and since 1934 those mayors have been Democrats. At 300,000 residents it's smaller, but, like Detroit, it was, for many years dependent largely on one industry, steel. When steel production declined, so did the city. However, Pittsburgh is recovering, due to private industry and government investment in the core city.

Three things differentiate Boston from Detroit.

1. Race. Whites were leaving Detroit for the suburbs starting with the post-World War II suburban boom. After the Black riots in the summer of 1967 White-flight accelerated. After 1967 much of the White population of Michigan was afraid to cross Eight Mile Road, the division between Detroit and the northern, White suburbs. By the 1980 U.S. Census, the population of Detroit was just 34 percent White. If White Michiganders had any interest in returning to Detroit, Mayor Coleman Young's response to the census numbers made it clear they were not wanted. He declared White-flight a good thing, saying something to the effect that they rest should leave too, because Detroit is Black city. Whites heeded the Mayor's advice. Detroit is now 11 percent White.

2. Sprawl. Boston has nearly the same population as Detroit, but Detroit is half-again as large, in terms of square miles, 143 square miles compared to 90. Even when Detroit, in 1950, had a population of 1.8 million, many of the residents lived in houses set on large lots that you'd expect to see in the suburbs. It was ever thus. I recall, in the 1980s, reading a book about the history of Detroit that mentioned that, even before the city boomed with the automobile industry, earlier, nineteenth century visitors commented that everything was so spread out in Detroit, compared to other towns.

3. Big, big, big. Even if the story that begins this essay isn't the literal truth, it explains much of the problem of Detroit. One big industry dominated. The Chairmen of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, along with the President of union, and a strong Mayor decided everything. That means that when mistakes were made they were colossal, and difficult to remedy. From the 1970s on there was talk of, but no significant action on, diversifying the economy. As educated people left the city the remaining population elected worse and worse Mayors.

Put those three factors together and it was just a matter of time before Detroit failed.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lessons Learned, or Not.

I write in the morning, having awakened to find, not surprisingly, that Representative Ed Markey, the Democrat, defeated Gabriel E. Gomez, the Republican, 55% to 45%. It was a special election, held on a stifling hot day in June with 27% turnout. That means that 15% of registered voters cast a ballot for Senator-elect Markey, and 73% of the registered voters didn't bother with the election. Nevertheless, a win is a win.

It would be interesting to poll registered voters who did not participate in the election and try to determine why they were not interested. Were they just two uninspiring candidates? I can't speak for the rest of the Commonwealth, but in my neighborhood I witnessed very little interest in either man, outside of few persons who are passionate about every election. Was their insufficient difference between the candidates on issues that matter to voters that nearly three-quarters simply didn't care which one won. Or did large numbers of registered voters accept the conventional wisdom that Markey was going to win anyway, so there was not much point in bother to vote? We'll probably never know which answer, or combination of answers is correct. I have one bit of advise for my Republican friends: Don't believe anyone who claims to have THE answer to why Gomez lost. All you are getting today and for the next several days is people's speculation.

In that spirit, let me offer my speculation, carefully worded to sound like brilliant insight, yet consisting of little more than my personal bias.

1. The more experience man, Mr. Markey, who had run for and won a seat in the state legislature, followed by a seat in the national legislature, continued in a career he had been following with success for decades and has been elected to the U.S. Senate. A man who had never run, let alone won, any office before, tried, and failed, in his attempt at one of the highest offices in the land on this first time out. Lesson: Politics is not for amateurs. Sure, there are some "super stars" who pop in and win a Senate seat on their first attempt at public office (Hillary Clinton, Al Franken, for example). But who other than his own mother had heard of Mr. Gomez before he ran for Senate?

2. The vast majority of the Hispanic vote would be gone Democratic in this election no matter who the GOP ran, so having a first-generation Colombian-America candidate was not going to help the GOP this time. For years Republicans, overall, have treated the Hispanic vote in three ways --

(1) Ignore the Hispanic vote. They won't vote for us anyway, so why bother.

(2) Vilify the Hispanic vote. Call them illegal aliens, welfare frauds, and criminals.

(3) Condescended to the Hispanic vote. Don't you realize that you, a Catholic with strong family values, "should" be Republican (as if to say you are too stupid to know your own mind).

That said, the GOP can appeal to Hispanics if we persist and give reasons for at least considering our party. I fear the brain trust that runs the GOP will say: "Tried that, it didn't work, see what happened with Gomez." It took decades for the Black vote to realign from 90% Republican to 90% Democrat, but too many on our side think if we can't re-align the Hispanic vote in a single election, it's not worth trying.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Party On, IRS!

Res Publica
Party On!
by David Trumbull -- June 14, 2013

Revisiting the 1992 motion picture Wayne's World on television the other night it struck me that there are adults, 21-year-olds, alive today who were not even born when Mike Myers' and Dana Carvey's homage to adolescent concupiscence first played on the big screens of movie houses. After a hard day at work it was pleasant to relax with a silly movie about people who party on, doing outrageous and stupid things, with no consequences -- you know, people like the employees of the Internal Revenue Service.

The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration last week release a report that IRS spent $4.1 million on a conference in Anaheim, California in 2010 that included questionable expenses for planning trips, outside speakers, video productions, and promotional items and gifts for IRS employees.

Examples of the management control weaknesses and questionable spending identified at the Anaheim Conference include:

  • IRS management did not use available internal personnel to assist in searching for the most cost-effective location as required by IRS policy. Instead, they relied on outside event planners who had no incentive to negotiate a favorable room rate for the IRS. Instead, the three hotels paid the event planners an estimated $133,000 commission based on the cost of rooms paid for by the IRS.

  • The IRS reported that it expended $50,187 on videos for the conference, but was unable to provide any details supporting this cost.

  • IRS management contracted with 15 outside speakers for presentations at a total cost of $135,350. Costs for outside speakers included a $17,000 fee for a keynote speaker whose presentation included creating six paintings of famous people to reinforce his message of finding creative solutions to challenges. Two of the paintings were given away at the conference, three were donated to charity, and one was lost, according to IRS management. Another keynote speaker was paid $27,500, which included a $2,500 fee authorized for first class airfare.

  • IRS employees made three planning trips at a cost of approximately $35,800 prior to the conference.

  • The IRS also paid over $30,000 for 45 IRS employees who reside in the local area to stay at the hotels and incur per diem expenses while at the conference.

  • Numerous gifts/promotional items were provided to attendees at an estimated cost of more than $64,000.

According to information on the IRS website, the mission of the IRS is to "Provide America's taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all" -- NOT!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Beware the Ides of March

Res Publica
Beware the Ides of March
by David Trumbull -- March 15, 2013

Beware indeed! As we all know, Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Senate House on the Ides of March of 44 B.C.  

Of the number and names of all the assassins we cannot be certain. Plutarch, and other ancient writers record the following: 

Publius Servilius Casca. "Vile Casca" who made the first cut.  

Caius Cassius Longinus. That Cassius of the "lean and hungry look" who recruited Brutus to the conspiracy.  

Marcus Junius Brutus. A descendant of that ancient Brutus who drove out the last of the Roman kings about 465 years earlier. Brutus was as a son to Caesar; his was "the most unkindest cut of them all." Brutus and Cassius both fell at their own hands after the battle of Philippi in 42 B.C. According to some ancient account each did himself in with the very dagger he used to slay Caesar.  

Decimus Junius Brutus also called Albinus, he was a distant relative of the other Brutus.  

Caius Trebonius. As was true of many of the conspirators, he had been a beneficiary of the kindnesses of Caesar. It was Trebonius and Decimus Brutus who detained Marc Antony in conversation so that Caesar was without his principal bodyguard when he entered the senate house.  

Lucius Tillius Cimber, called Metellus Cimber in the Shakespeare play, he was the one who gave the signal to commence the slaughter.  

Cinna. We must be careful not to confuse the conspirator Cinna with Caesar's loyal friend the poet Cinna. The angry mob in Rome that Ides of March made that very confusion and, meeting Cinna the poet in the street, tore to pieces the wrong man.  

Within a very few years Marc Antony and Octavian Caesar, the adopted son of Julius Caesar tracked down and killed the assassins.  

The conspirators thought to restore the Republic. However, they lacked any cohesive plan for governing; mismanaged events in the days immediately following the assassination; and ended up plunging Rome into a disastrous civil war. Peace, but not the Republic, was finally restored when, in 31 B.C., following the defeat of Antony at the battle of Actium, Caesar Octavian emerged as sole leader --the Emperor Augustus.

The founders of our Republic knew well the story of the Roman Republic's failure, with resulting Imperial Rule. They left us a system of popular government with regular elections. Our Republic has endured, under our Constitution, for about two and a quarter centuries. The Roman Republic endured nearly five centuries. It's up to us ordinary American voters to determine whether we can match that record.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Legacy of President Washington

Res Publica
The Legacy of President Washington
by David Trumbull -- February 15, 2013
I "am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire."
-- George Washington, in 1796, announcing his intention to retire after two terms as President.

Monday is WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY, a federal and state holiday to honor the hero of the Revolutionary War, the Father of His Country, and the first President of the United States. Much has been said and written about Washington's character, and his influence, for the good, on the founding, and maintaining in its first years, of our Republic. In particular, it has been noted that Washington's decision to step down voluntarily, rather than serve as President for Life, revealed not merely his personal humility, but his deep trust in our Republican form of government. Washington was persuaded that our Constitution, which he calls "sacredly obligatory upon all," would always guarantee that we'd be a free people. And so shall we be, so long as the people hold our officials bound to their oaths to uphold the Constitution.

Of the 43 men to serve as chief executive of the Union, only Washington is so singled out for honor with a federal holiday. That many persons now call the third Monday in February "Presidents Day" is an indicator of our lack of discrimination and devaluing of true accomplishment and fame. To put it in perspective, Catholics believe that each of the 265 popes was the Vicar of Christ on Earth, infallible in matters of faith and morals, and yet fewer than 80 have been added to the calendar of saints. No less erudite writer than Dante Alighieri placed some of the popes in Hell. "He who made the great refusal" in Canto 3 of Dante Inferno is general considered to be Pope Celestine V. Celestine's abdication of the Throne of Peter in 1294 was, in the view of Dante, an abdication of his responsibility to the Church and shirking of his duty to God. It lead to the election of Pope Boniface VIII, in Dante's opinion, a very bad Pope.

Washington's refusal to continue in office was anything but a shirking of duty. He knew that under our Constitution the President may change, but the People always are sovereign. He fulfilled his responsibility to the People, first by his conduct as President, and, finally, with his Farewell Address. It is his treatise on how to maintain the free popular government we enjoy as Americans. Every America should read and reflect on Washington's sage advice in that speech.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The King's Good Servant, but God's First

Res Publica
The King's Good Servant, but God's First
by David Trumbull -- January 25, 2013

I did not watch the ceremonies attendant on President Obama's swearing-in as chief executive for a second term. It was not because I disagree with just about every policy of his and believe he is harming the Republic and is a danger to the liberty of every citizen, including the ones most lauding him. No, I'm just not that into it.

For his true "inaugural," that is his first taking of office, I attended a festive event here in Boston with great satisfaction in living to see the first African-America president, even though I knew then that his policies would be severely misguided. I attended, in Washington, the inaugural of his predecessor, George W. Bush, but I took little notice of the official commencement of his second term. So I'm an equal opportunity second "inauguration" snubber.

I missed the whole thing. The comments, in print and on radio and television, regarding his speech have warned me away from reading it for fear of elevating my blood pressure. I missed news coverage of the various gala balls, so I don't even know what the First Lady wore, which is probably just as well, as her past selections have been under whelming, or worse. From what I have seen, after the event, of commentary, the only note-worthy fashion statement came from a highly improbable source, United State Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Justice Scalia has set cyberspace atwitter with his selection of headgear for last Monday's inauguration ceremony. He wore a black hat, a replica of the hat depicted in Hans Holbein's well-known portrait of St. Thomas More. The hat was custom-made and was a gift, in 2010, from the St. Thomas More Society of Richmond, Virginia.

Thomas More, familiar to many from his depiction in Robert Bolt's play (and movie) A Man for All Seasons, was martyred by the tyrant Henry VIII of England when he stood against the King's pretended supremacy over the church.

As Matthew Schmitz, Deputy Editor of First Things wrote: "Wearing the cap of a statesman who defended liberty of church and integrity of Christian conscience to the inauguration of a president whose policies have imperiled both: Make of it what you will."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lincoln and King: Freedom and Equality

POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica
Lincoln and King: Freedom and Equality
by David Trumbull -- January 18, 2013

With 12 Oscar nominations, Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" has been nominated for more Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards than any other motion picture of 2012. The picture is a dramatization of the rounding up of votes, in the United States House of Representatives, to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment passed by the necessary two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate and was on its way to ratification by the necessary three-quarters of the States when Lincoln was assassinated on Good Friday, 1865.

Getting the amendment through the House (it had passed easily in the Senate) was a major effort, told in an engaging manner in the movie. Permanently ending slavery in the U.S. by means of Constitutional Amendment was, for Lincoln, an imperative. His Emancipation Proclamation, issued 150 years ago this month, did not free all slaves, being restricted to those in rebellious areas not under the effective control of the United States. Furthermore, as a proclamation based on Lincoln's wartime powers as Commander in Chief, it was uncertain how, or even if, it would have force once peace was concluded.

Limited as it was, the Emancipation Proclamation was the first step in what became an irreversible path toward, first freedom, and later equality, for Americans of African ancestry. In August of 1863 Giuseppe Garibaldi wrote from Italy to President Lincoln, declaring: "Posterity will call you the great emancipator, a more enviable title than any crown could be, and greater than any merely mundane treasure."

The Thirteenth Amendment made African-Americans free. The subsequent Fourteen (application of the civil rights of U.S. citizens to the States) and Fifteenth (right of African-Americans to vote) promised to settled the question of equality. In reality, they marked merely the beginning of the quest for equality of all Americans. It would not be until the civil rights movement of the middle twentieth century that the rights guaranteed by the 14th and 15th Amendments would be effective in every State.

Monday we honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose advocacy for nonviolence was essential to the success of the civil rights movement. Like Lincoln, King was assassinated (April 4, 1968) and, like Lincoln, King continues after death to inspire others to carry on the quest for freedom and equality.