Category Archives: Boston Globe

Attacking the past for failing to live up to our contemporary notions of virtue.

How much should we hold onto the past? How much should we try to forget the past? And how much should we try to make those pasts that we’re not happy with disappear?

It’s common to frame discussions of societal transitions by focusing on the new skills… [new statues… the new becoming essential]. But instead of looking at [the new}… perhaps we should consider the obverse: what becomes safe to forget?
Gene Tracy, Aeon, 2019

Protesters gathered in Emancipation Park Saturday morning, August 12, 2017 in anticipation of a noon rally to be held by “Unite the Right” in protest of the projected removal of a statue from Lee Park honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Members of Unite the Right, by and large white nationalists, are met by a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 12, 2017.
Joshua Roberts / Reuter

Later on the same day, a car driven by a member of the alt-right plowed into a group of counter-protesters. A 32-year-old woman crossing at an intersection was struck and killed, and the suspected driver was arrested.

Instead of coming to blows the  question that the marchers and counter-marchers ought to have been addressing, without violence, was should the statue of Lee be removed?  And how should the past, in the form of monuments, and yes ideas, and in this instance statues, be protected and preserved?

Some of you may remember reading George Orwell’s book, 1984  (first published in June of 1949). In that book Orwell, while describing the conditions in 1984, wrote that, every book had been rewritten, every picture had been repainted, every statue and street and building had been renamed, every date had been altered. And that the process of redoing and actively forgetting was continuing day by day and minute by minute, with the result that history had been stopped.”

I’m pretty sure that Orwell’s words were not at all in the minds of the counter-protesters, the Antifa or anti-fascists, or in the minds of the white supremacist members of Unite the Right, those who were defending the Lee statue.

While the counter protesters may have been looking to clean house in the South, doing away with some of the worst parts of our history, in particular slavery and the monuments to the murderous war between the states, they were certainly not looking to do away with the past, they couldn’t, only some parts of that past.

But when you think about it, about cleansing the past of some of the terrible things some of us really don’t want to remember, there is really no end to the process. Once you start it’s likely that the process won’t be stopped. Might it not be better to keep the past, in this instance the statue of Robert E. Lee in Lee Park in Charlottesville?

For who among us do not have things that we would rather make disappear, such as in this case when the Antifa would make the statue of Robert E Lee disappear? Yes the South was mistaken and has been and is still being corrected. But who among us has not made mistakes, terrible mistakes in some instances, but the mistakes of the ones are not the mistakes of the others, and by allowing the statues, memorials for many of us to an ugly past, to remain aren’t we doing what we should be doing, allowing the past to remain and history to be?

Without the defending the white supremacists, and without defending the Antifa or anti-fascists there is, it seems to me, a legitimate difference of opinion in respect to what should be done, if anything,  with General Lee’s statue in the Robert E Lee Park in Jacksonville, Virginia, also the home of the Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia.

Probably what should have happened is something other than what happened in Orwell’s 1984, and is still happening in today’s world where ISIS members are gleefully destroying the antiquities of past civilizations that they no longer accept let alone believe in.

But in both instances, in the antebellum South and in Dur Sharrukin, a former capital of the Assyrian empire in Nineveh that dates back to the 8th century BC, the pasts are real, involved thousands of people. Shouldn’t both pasts be preserved, and no matter how terrible they may have been for the lives of many who were there and lived through them shouldn’t we remember them, not forget they ever occurred?

What we choose to remember, and not to remember, demands a certain kind of wisdom that we no longer seem to have in great abundance. And if there had been wisdom present that day on August 12 in Charlottesville, what did happen may never have happened.

So as with so many things that are happening today we need wise leadership, and instead we have Donald Trump who about Charlottesville, did say there was blame and there were good people on both sides. Regarding what of the past should be defended, what should be if not treasured held on to, he had nothing to say. So without presidential leadership Charlottesville has become whatever the various opposing sides what it to be.

 

And it continues, the attempt to have the past live up to our notions of virtue. Read this from the Boston Globe this morning: –Parents and supporters of children lost to opioid epidemic urge Harvard to change name of Sackler museum.  Early Friday morning they marched in front of the Arthur M. Sackler Museum and the Fogg Museum early Friday afternoon, holding photos of their children.CAMBRIDGE, MA - 04/12/2019 Nancy Tobin, far right, walks ahead of national advocacy groups made up of parents who have lost a child to opioid overdose as they march outside of the Arthur M Sackler Museum at a protest to demand removal of the Sackler name from any public space. Tobin lost her 22-year-old son, Scott, to an overdose in 2017. (Erin Clark for The Boston Globe)

 

Trump declares ‘country is full,’ says US can no longer accept illegal immigrants.

Screen Shot 2019-04-10 at 4.41.01 PM

“The system is full and we can’t take you anymore…Our country is full, so turn around, and go home. That’s the way it is.’

But is it full? NOT SO!!When was the last time you traveled from New York to California, by train or by car and must have remarked the emptiness of our country?

“The United States is not remotely close to being full. Far from running out of room for more people, most of this immense country is wide open and empty. [While] nearly two-thirds of the US population live in cities — those cities take up just 3.5 percent of the nation’s land area. Add in all the other places where Americans live — villages, islands, farms — and the land area still amounts to a mere sliver of US territory… some 7 percent of the total. The country, in other words, isn’t 100 percent full, it is 93 percent empty.
….
The nation’s most populous city, of course, is Trump’s hometown of New York, with 8.5 million residents and a population density of 28,000 people per square mile. Life in the Big Apple may not be for everyone, but countless Americans wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else. Suppose, says Abbamonte, that all Americans lived at the same population density that New Yorkers do. He did the math: At 28,000 people per square mile, the nation’s entire population would “fit comfortably in the combined area of Delaware and Maryland.” At the even greater population density of Manhattan alone — 72,000 people per square mile — “the entire population of the United States, Puerto Rico, and other US territories could reside in the tiny State of Connecticut….Too many people? In many parts of this country, the problem is exactly the opposite. Population growth in the United States is at its lowest level since the 1930s, … America isn’t overloaded with too many people; if anything, it needs a lot more of them.
The overpopulation bugaboo is a superstition. [One more of Trump’s lies.] More Americans will mean more growth, more wealth, more power, more innovation, more influence. The way to make America great again is not to turn newcomers away, but to welcome them with open arms and no resentment. For if there’s one thing America has, it is plenty of room.”

Wasn’t it Angela Merkel who wanted to open Germany’s doors to more than a million refugees, thereby defining her legacy, a landmark moment in her career. Would that there were among our own leaders just one with that kind of humanity and courage. Instead we have a slew, most of them Republicans, of self-seeking and servile flatterers of Donald Trump.

Jeff is not at alone in his analysis and recommendations. Neil Irwin and Emily Badger say much the same thing in an article from the  NYTimes:

Trump Says the U.S. Is ‘Full.’ Much of the Nation Has the Opposite Problem. An aging population and a declining birthrate among our own native-born population mean a shrinking work force alone….”

Now the people we need are right here, at the Southern border, coming here by the thousands (that which frightens the white supremacist Donald Trump and his whisperer, Stephen Miller). They’re  coming to us for asylum having fled for excellent reasons the lawless countries of the Northern Triangle, Hondurus, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

They say they want to come in. That they want to join us. We ought to be opening our borders and welcoming them to our country. We’ve got plenty of room for their thousands and more.

 

 The Administrative State and the End of History

Francis Fukuyama just has to be wrong. Not about the end of history, for we are at history’s end (history being up until now the very imperfect record of how man has governed himself during some 50,000 or more years) but about the nature of the organizational structure of the last state.

The last state is/was not, of course, communist as Marx, Lenin, Mao and their followers would have it, nor was it the fascist state tried by Hitler and others, and still being tried by reactionaries today, but, and this a big but, neither was the last state liberal and democratic as described by Fukuyama.

The last state marking history’s end just has to be the administrative state. Not the fake autocratic democracies of present day Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Venezuela nor the real autocracies of China, Syria, Egypt and Cuba.

The administrative state is, or will be in most places, the last one standing because it is the only governing political structure that takes into account the huge differences there are among people. And that has to be the biggest discovery of the modern world, that people are different, and not because of the color of their skin. For much too long political leaders of all stripes have been devising governing structures that would attempt, unsuccessfully of course, to make people all the same, perhaps wrongly assuming they were. They’re not.

People are different. And our differences are now more than ever in view, if not in all instances thriving. And only the administrative state, among the world’s governing structures, tries to recognize and contain the differences among us while not just placing them within, but making then an integral part of, the constantly evolving, fluid and what seems to be the unwieldy and formless state structure encompassing them.

However, we’re not there yet. In fact it does still seem all too often  that we can’t yet govern ourselves, that our leaders, such as they are, are themselves most often at a loss what to do. So as I say it’s messy, life’s messy, but what we have come up with, the more and more global administrative state, is par for the course, probably the best we can do at present.

As crazy as this may seem, as crazy as it seems to me, there are those who would bring down the administrative state: —Steve Bannon, for example, but also the recent Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, an originalist, or one who would always go back to our founding documents as if they were no less relevant today than at their origin (if then).

These people and others, mostly of conservative, nationalist, and nativist views, many among the close advisors of President Trump, while trying to correct what they may see as the failures of present day societies, only make things worse by favoring this group or that group, their groupings based on ethnic, racial, sexual or other superficial divisions, never on the fundamental and individual differences among us, these being the only ones that really count. The real failures of our society including economic inequalities, family breakdowns, true believers turning into fanatical Islamic terrorists, the country’s lacking a moral center, the frequent and ubiquitous manifestations  of untruth and unreason) remain pretty much untouched.

The differences between us now coming out mean that we have to constantly confront an endless stream of issues and problems, and it’s only the administrative state that seems to be up to the task of handling them.  Here are two examples of the typical situations that we face all the time.

The first follows from the sale of recreational marijuana being allowed in Massachusetts. In November of last year 1.8 million residents went to the ballot boxes to vote to legalize recreational marijuana. The result was that growing, buying, possessing, and using limited quantities of the drug became legal in Massachusetts. How will the sale and use of the drug be regulated and controlled?

The second situation follows from the fact of the sale and distribution of foods taking place in public on the streets of Bangkok, Thailand. The streets in the example, and in the pictures below are in Bangkok, but they might have been in lower Manhattan or New Orleans.

Both situations will mean, of course, that new regulations will be necessary, probably a lot of regulations (and who would want it otherwise?) on top of whatever codes and regulations already existed for this sort of thing. The bureaucratic state with all its red tape is here to stay. There are thousands, hundreds of thousands of situations like these just in our own country’s history.

By the way we may be “great” now. But history, if nothing else, makes it clear that at no time in the past were we great. (History of course being one of the subjects of which our President is almost without any knowledge, that is ignorant.)

World wide there are millions, hundreds of millions of situations springing up where new regulations  are needed and necessary. And when the people who are living together are all different, as is the case now and has always been, it makes it even more difficult and complicated to resolve the problems arising from such situations. But we have to do it, and we have to do it by means of the last state standing.


In Massachusetts State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg is the top recreational marijuana regulator, with unilateral power to hire and fire the officials who will oversee the new billion-dollar industry. But things will probably not remain that simple. The State Legislature wants some of the action, and appears likely to strip Goldberg of her authority, perhaps creating an independent marijuana oversight commission instead.

Also Representative Mark J. Cusack, House chairman of the committee overhauling the voter-passed pot law, floated the possibility that a “new regulatory structure, such as an independent commission,” might work better for Massachusetts than the current plan. It’s worth reading the article from the Boston Globe, Lawmakers may strip treasurer of pot authority, as a fine example of the rapid growth, in this case, of state agencies. No end in sight?

From the Globe article: “…Advocates expressed worry that taking authority away from Goldberg would push the opening of retail shops further into the future. The treasurer’s office is the appropriate place for the Cannabis Control Commission because both this treasurer, and past treasurers, have shown a very high level of regulatory ability with the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, which is the most analogous agency. Our fear is that moving the Cannabis Control Commission now, after considerable work has taken place in the treasurer’s office, will result in additional delays,,…”

The other article,

The World Capital of Street Food Is Banning Street Food,

is from the magazine Foreign Policy.

Bangkok’s bustling, roadside food stands are legendary. But with the Thai government’s new decree to shut down street food — in an attempt to improve safety and cleanliness — outrage is growing.

Below I’ve posted a few of the pictures from the streets of Bangkok. After looking at them imagine it your job to determine the amount and kinds of rules and regulations that would be necessary to be sure that people there in the streets were not at risk from the products they were buying. I’m sure you’ll agree that regulations (and a lot of them) will be necessary.

These two articles almost by themselves ought to make us, if we’re not already, believers in the Administrative State. For me it was like realizing where I had been living all my life, just as M. Jourdain in the Molière play realized he had been speaking prose all his life.

Link to Foreign Policy


Neil Gorsuch on the Administrative State

Just heard that Neil Gorsuch has been confirmed by the Senate to the ninth seat on the Supreme Court.

Will the new Justice undermine the administrative state, what I’ve called our “speaking mostly in prose?” And will he try to return us to the poetry of the past, to the Constitution, as he seeks to promote his own originalist position?

Scalia and Gorsuch

We are told that Gorsuch in respect to the Constitution is an originalist much like Antonin Scalia whom he greatly admired and whom he is replacing. The two men would do nothing that was not allowed by the historical moment, time, and spirit of the Constitution. In a more conservative court Scalia would not have permitted abortion, same sex marriage, probably not assisted suicide. Will Gorsuch be with him with similar positions?

Emily Bazelon and Eric Posner have written (see The Government Gorsuch Wants to Undo) that Gorsuch’s being on the court would be bad not only for the administrative state but even worse for the country.

“Judge Gorsuch,” they write, “embraces a judicial philosophy that would do nothing less than undermine the structure of modern government — including the rules that keep our water clean, regulate the financial markets and protect workers and consumers.”

Their words are a clear statement that the rules and regulations that we are obliged to live with, and while mostly complaining about, see them as more important than, say the much ballyhooed separation of powers, for our country’s well being. Think clean air and water, previous existing medical conditions, the safety of the work place, not to mention the rights of minorities whose presence was not even acknowledged in the Constitution or in the earlier history of the country.

In other words Gorsuch would strongly oppose the administrative state, placing himself “smack” in the company of Steve Bannon, who has called any number of times  for its “deconstruction.”

Trump of course didn’t understand what he was doing by choosing Gorsuch. And as for Gorsuch himself, one might ask if he, for all his otherwise brilliance and readiness to serve on the court, really understands the weakness of the originalist position, his own and the one he so much admired in his predecessor Antonin Scalia. In a world, our world, where change is everywhere and where evolutionary science is to be looked to for guidance, more so than tradition and yes more so than religion, stuck no less than tradition in the past, and needing desperately (think priests in the  Catholic church and terrorists in ISIS) to change.

As Judge Gorsuch himself put it in a speech last year (Summer, 2016) the Legacy of Justice Scalia, the administrative state “poses a grave threat to our values of personal liberty.” It would seem therefore that Gorsuch would go along with the House bills that would undo so many of the rules we have come to live with, rules that in most instances do not take away our personal freedoms but enable us to better enjoy them. Think environmental protection, rules of the road, the rules of our games, both road and games entirely dependent on rules and referees, as so much else in our lives. And all that has been a good thing.

Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, agreeing with Bazelon and Posner, has written  (see, Adam Liptak,  in a Times article,1/2017, In Judge Neil Gorsuch, an Echo of Scalia in Philosophy and Style,) that Judge Gorsuch’s stance on federal regulation was “extremely problematic” and “even more radical than that of Antonin Scalia —

“Not requiring courts to defer to agency expertise when an act of Congress is ambiguous,” she said, “will make it much harder for federal agencies to effectively address a wide variety of critical matters, including labor rights, consumer and financial protections, and environmental law.”

Scalia

Judge Gorsuch’s writing does differ, perhaps, from Justice Scalia’s in one major way: His tone is consistently courteous and mild, while some of Justice Scalia’s dissents were caustic and wounding. (See above, Adam Liptak.) This difference was what probably got Gorsuch through the confirmation process and the questioning by the Senators so easily.

Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation probably means that for the time being the court will return to a familiar dynamic, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a moderate conservative, holding the decisive vote in many closely divided cases (again Adam Liptak). But most important Gorsuch’s confirmation will give added life to the originalist positions of the conservative Justices now on the Court, threatening what the more liberal and progressive courts have achieved up until now, especially if Trump goes on to choose still another originalist for a new SCOTUS vacancy.



Administrative State 2

Over the past 100 years, our government has been transformed from a limited, constitutional, federal republic to a centralized administrative state…

that which for the most part exists outside the structure of the Constitution and wields nearly unlimited power. This administrative state has been constructed as a result of a massive expansion of the national government’s power.

When the Founders created our Constitution, they entrusted only limited powers to the national government and specifically enumerated those powers in the Constitution itself. A government that only had to carry out a limited number of functions could do so through the institutions and procedures established by the Constitution.

But as the national government expanded and began to focus more and more on every aspect of citizens’ lives, the need for a new kind of government—one focused on regulating the numerous activities of citizens rather than on protecting their individual rights—became apparent. In the United States, this new form of government is the administrative state.

As the modern administrative state has grown and metastasized over the past decades, it has taken many forms, to the point of becoming the primary method of politics and policymaking. The myriad agencies and departments that make up this administrative state operate as a“fourth branch” of government that typically combines the powers of the other three and makes policy with little regard for the rights and views of citizens. In terms of actual policy, most of the action is located in administrative agencies and departments, not in the Congress and the President as is commonly thought. Unelected bureaucrats—not elected representatives—are running the show.

Joseph Postrell, The Heritage Foundation, Special Report,
December 7, 2012

You might say that the Administrative State is now us, all of us, speaking prose. Our poetry we longer speak, the poetry of our beginning, left behind, as it were,  imprisoned in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.      pbw

Administrative State 1

Forget about the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and yes, the Founding Fathers.  All of these subjects really belong, and that’s where they will usually be found, in the classroom. They have little to say about the United States of 2017. For example we are not now, and most likely never were, a Republic, or state or a country governed by elected representatives including an elected leader (such as a president).

For what we are now, and find as I learn more about our history, that we have always been, is an administrative state, or one where a literally unknown number of Federal Agencies have completely replaced the “separation of powers” model of home rule that was drilled into us in our youth.

Amazing right!? We don’t live in the country so beautifully described by Jay, Jefferson, and Madison in the Federalist when trying to convince a relatively few white land owners of the rightness of their vision for the young country but rather in an administrative state, one that Donald Trump and company would now like to break up, although of course he can’t. For Trump, as well as the rest of us, are just small change within the entire administrative structure that is now our country.


And then I thought of the French 17th. c playwright, Molière, and  compared myself to the main character in his play Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Just as Jourdain suddenly learned that he had been speaking prose all his life I suddenly realized that I had been living all my life in an administrative state. Allow me to introduce you to Jourdain as he makes his discovery in scene 4, act 2 of the play.

le B G

I take this brief summary from Wikipedia.:

The play takes place at Mr. Jourdain’s house in Paris. Jourdain is a middle-aged “bourgeois” whose father grew rich as a cloth merchant. The foolish Jourdain now has one aim in life, which is to rise above this middle-class background and be accepted as an aristocrat. To this end, he orders splendid new clothes and is very happy when the tailor’s boy mockingly addresses him as “my Lord”. He applies himself to learning the gentlemanly arts of fencing, dancing, music and philosophy, despite his age; in doing so he continually manages to make a fool of himself, to the disgust of his hired teachers. His philosophy lesson becomes a basic lesson on language in which he is surprised and delighted to learn that he has been speaking prose all his life without knowing it.

Here is the actual exchange between the Philosophy teacher and M. Jourdain. If you don’t read the French go to  Google Translate.

MAÎTRE DE PHILOSOPHIE.- Sans doute. Sont-ce des vers que vous lui voulez écrire ?
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN.- Non, non, point de vers.
MAÎTRE DE PHILOSOPHIE.- Vous ne voulez que de la prose ?
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN.- Non, je ne veux ni prose, ni vers.
MAÎTRE DE PHILOSOPHIE.- Il faut bien que ce soit l’un, ou l’autre.
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN.- Pourquoi ?
MAÎTRE DE PHILOSOPHIE.- Par la raison, Monsieur, qu’il n’y a pour s’exprimer, que la prose, ou les vers.
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN.- Il n’y a que la prose, ou les vers ?
MAÎTRE DE PHILOSOPHIE.- Non, Monsieur : tout ce qui n’est point prose, est vers ; et tout ce qui n’est point vers, est prose.
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN.- Et comme l’on parle, qu’est-ce que c’est donc que cela ?
MAÎTRE DE PHILOSOPHIE.- De la prose.
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN.- Quoi, quand je dis : “Nicole, apportez-moi mes pantoufles, et me donnez mon bonnet de nuit [16] “, c’est de la prose ?
MAÎTRE DE PHILOSOPHIE.- Oui, Monsieur.
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN.- Par ma foi, il y a plus de quarante ans que je dis de la prose, sans que j’en susse rien ; et je vous suis le plus obligé du monde, de m’avoir appris cela.

M. Jourdain suddenly learns that while he didn’t know what prose was he has been speaking prose all his life, even when, for example, he tells his servant to bring him his slippers and “bonnet de nuit.”

Well just the other day I had my own revelation. While not having read much about the “administrative state,” I quickly came while reading on the subject (in order to better understand Bannon et al.) to the realization that I had been living in an administrative state all my life, even when doing the most mundane things such as going to the corner store to buy bread and milk, not to mention loving my wife and raising my children and starting a school.

I had heard Steve Bannon when he said, on several occasions, but very early on in Trump’s presidency, that one of his own major goals was the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” At the time I didn’t think much about it, not really knowing what he meant, other than somehow undoing our system of taxes, regulations, trade pacts etc. that all together according to Bannon were stymieing economic growth.

My realization only came about later when I began to read about the administrative state online and I read that Jefferson’s Declaration that all men were created equal, as well as the founding fathers’ Constitution, that had created the separation of powers, or a government divided into legislature, executive, and judiciary branches, had all but been replaced by the now indeterminate, vast and mostly misunderstood and frightening administrative state.



Well, right now I have very much the feeling that I’ve just got started with this huge subject, and that I will need to go on, and continue to write, and will do so in a later blog.

For the moment  let me just say that I fully agree with Bowdoin College’s Professor Jean Yarbrough who writes:

We need an updated online primer in American government and political thought. We all learn about the separation of powers and federalism, but don’t understand that these restraints do not operate in the administrative universe. Indeed, the administrative state was designed to overcome these obstacles. Our mission should be to educate Americans on the real effects of this turn toward administrative regulations and rules.


She is correct to say that the separation of powers and all the rest do not operate in the administrative universe, and that the American public very much needs to become aware of what this now means for them.


Two Visions, One America?

January 20. 1993


clinton_02My fellow citizens, today we celebrate the mystery of American renewal. This ceremony is held in the depth of winter, but by the words we speak and the faces we show the world, we force the spring, a spring reborn in the world’s oldest democracy that brings forth the vision and courage to reinvent America. When our Founders boldly declared America’s independence to the world and our purposes to the Almighty, they knew that America, to endure, would have to change; not change for change’s sake but change to preserve America’s ideals: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Though we marched to the music of our time, our mission is timeless. Each generation of Americans must define what it means to be an American.
On behalf of our Nation, I salute my predecessor, President Bush, for his half-century of service to America. And I thank the millions of men and women whose steadfastness and sacrifice triumphed over depression, fascism, and communism.
Today, a generation raised in the shadows of the cold war assumes new responsibilities in a world warmed by the sunshine of freedom but threatened still by ancient hatreds and new plagues. Raised in unrivaled prosperity, we inherit an economy that is still the world’s strongest but is weakened by business failures, stagnant wages, increasing inequality, and deep divisions among our own people.
When George Washington first took the oath I have just sworn to uphold, news traveled slowly across the land by horseback and across the ocean by boat. Now, the sights and sounds of this ceremony are broadcast instantaneously to billions around the world. Communications and commerce are global. Investment is mobile. Technology is almost magical. And ambition for a better life is now universal.
We earn our livelihood in America today in peaceful competition with people all across the Earth. Profound and powerful forces are shaking and remaking our world. And the urgent question of our time is whether we can make change our friend and not our enemy. This new world has already enriched the lives of millions of Americans who are able to compete and win in it.

But when most people are working harder for less; when others cannot work at all; when the cost of health care devastates families and threatens to bankrupt our enterprises, great and small; when the fear of crime robs law-abiding citizens of their freedom; and when millions of poor children cannot even imagine the lives we are calling them to lead, we have not made change our friend.
We know we have to face hard truths and take strong steps, but we have not done so; instead, we have drifted.

And that drifting has eroded our resources, fractured our economy, and shaken our confidence. Though our challenges are fearsome, so are our strengths. Americans have ever been a restless, questing, hopeful people. And we must bring to our task today the vision and will of those who came before us. From our Revolution to the Civil War, to the Great Depression, to the civil rights movement, our people have always mustered the determination to construct from these crises the pillars of our history. Thomas Jefferson believed that to preserve the very foundations of our Nation, we would need dramatic change from time to time. Well, my fellow Americans, this is our time. Let us embrace it.
Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. And so today we pledge an end to the era of deadlock and drift, and a new season of American renewal has begun.
To renew America, we must be bold. We must do what no generation has had to do before. We must invest more in our own people, in their jobs, and in their future, and at the same time cut our massive debt. And we must do so in a world in which we must compete for every opportunity. It will not be easy. It will require sacrifice, but it can be done and done fairly, not choosing sacrifice for its own sake but for our own sake. We must provide for our Nation the way a family provides for its children.
Our Founders saw themselves in the light of posterity. We can do no less. Anyone who has ever watched a child’s eyes wander into sleep knows what posterity is. Posterity is the world to come: the world for whom we hold our ideals, from whom we have borrowed our planet, and to whom we bear sacred responsibility. We must do what America does best: offer more opportunity to all and demand more responsibility from all. It is time to break the bad habit of expecting something for nothing from our Government or from each other. Let us all take more responsibility not only for ourselves and our families but for our communities and our country.
To renew America, we must revitalize our democracy. This beautiful Capital, like every capital since the dawn of civilization, is often a place of intrigue and calculation. Powerful people maneuver for position and worry endlessly about who is in and who is out, who is up and who is down, forgetting those people whose toil and sweat sends us here and pays our way. Americans deserve better. And in this city today there are people who want to do better. And so I say to all of you here: Let us resolve to reform our politics so that power and privilege no longer shout down the voice of the people. Let us put aside personal advantage so that we can feel the pain and see the promise of America. Let us resolve to make our Government a place for what Franklin Roosevelt called bold, persistent experimentation, a Government for our tomorrows, not our yesterdays.

Let us give this Capital back to the people to whom it belongs.

To renew America, we must meet challenges abroad as well as at home. There is no longer a clear division between what is foreign and what is domestic. The world economy, the world environment, the world AIDS crisis, the world arms race: they affect us all. Today, as an older order passes, the new world is more free but less stable. Communism’s collapse has called forth old animosities and new dangers. Clearly, America must continue to lead the world we did so much to make.
While America rebuilds at home, we will not shrink from the challenges nor fail to seize the opportunities of this new world. Together with our friends and allies, we will work to shape change, lest it engulf us. When our vital interests are challenged or the will and conscience of the international community is defied, we will act, with peaceful diplomacy whenever possible, with force when necessary. The brave Americans serving our Nation today in the Persian Gulf, in Somalia, and wherever else they stand are testament to our resolve. But our greatest strength is the power of our ideas, which are still new in many lands. Across the world we see them embraced, and we rejoice. Our hopes, our hearts, our hands are with those on every continent who are building democracy and freedom. Their cause is America’s cause.
The American people have summoned the change we celebrate today. You have raised your voices in an unmistakable chorus. You have cast your votes in historic numbers. And you have changed the face of Congress, the Presidency, and the political process itself. Yes, you, my fellow Americans, have forced the spring. Now we must do the work the season demands. To that work I now turn with all the authority of my office. I ask the Congress to join with me. But no President, no Congress, no Government can undertake this mission alone.
My fellow Americans, you, too, must play your part in our renewal. I challenge a new generation of young Americans to a season of service: to act on your idealism by helping troubled children, keeping company with those in need, reconnecting our torn communities. There is so much to be done; enough, indeed, for millions of others who are still young in spirit to give of themselves in service, too. In serving, we recognize a simple but powerful truth: We need each other, and we must care for one another.
Today we do more than celebrate America. We rededicate ourselves to the very idea of America, an idea born in revolution and renewed through two centuries of challenge; an idea tempered by the knowledge that, but for fate, we, the fortunate, and the unfortunate might have been each other; an idea ennobled by the faith that our Nation can summon from its myriad diversity the deepest measure of unity; an idea infused with the conviction that America’s long, heroic journey must go forever upward.

And so, my fellow Americans, as we stand at the edge of the 21st century, let us begin anew with energy and hope, with faith and discipline. And let us work until our work is done. The Scripture says, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” From this joyful mountaintop of celebration we hear a call to service in the valley. We have heard the trumpets. We have changed the guard. And now, each in our own way and with God’s help, we must answer the call. Thank you, and God bless you all.


January 20, 2017


tr-2-fistsChief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama,
fellow Americans, and people of the world: Thank you.
We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people.
Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.
We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.
Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent.
Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another —

but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed.
The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.
That all change— starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country.
What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.
January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
Everyone is listening to you now.
You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.
Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation— and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.
The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.
For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.
We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.
One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.
The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.
But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future. We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.
I will fight for you with every breath in my body — and I will never, ever let you down.
America will start winning again, winning like never before.
We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.
We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.
We will get our people off of welfare and back to work — rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.
We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.
We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.
We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.
We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”
We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.
When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.
There should be no fear — we are protected, and we will always be protected.
We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.
Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger.
In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.
We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action — constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.
The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.
Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America.
We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.
We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.
A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.
It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.

So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:
You will never be ignored again.
Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.
Together, We will make America strong again.
We will make wealthy again.
We will make America proud again.
We will make America safe again.
And yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.


My Agenda for the United States, 1993

Moving books and papers around in my office, is not something I do very often. On the contrary, unlike my wife my usual stance is to let things be, let them lie, yes accumulate dust in cat hairs, no longer even know what’s there, in and at the bottom of the piles. Anyway, this time my moving of books and papers turned up a few pages of my January 1993 journal, the time of Bill Clinton’s first inaugural address, that which I preceded to read and now post below:

Journal, 1/18/1993, An Agenda for the United States.
(From the date you will note that this was just two days prior to Bill Clinton’s first inaugural address on January 20, perhaps while writing my own agenda of to do stuff I was thinking ahead to Clinton’s address.)

  • Compel (encourage strongly) the allies to start carrying their own weight. (As I reread that I wondered if the Donald had hacked my journal!)
  • Withdraw support from Israel until that country  agrees to sit down with the PLO and negotiate a real sharing of power based on the relative sizes of the Israeli and Palestinian populations. (This one, I’m sure Donald skimmed right over.)
  • Withdraw support from Kuwait until that country sets about establishing an open and democratic society, and from Egypt until that country starts addressing the plight of their large poor and jobless population.
  • Invite the Serbian leaders and their Russian friends to the U.S. for talks.
  • Invite the leaders of the fundamentalist Islamic parties and countries to a conference in New York. (Now in 2017 we’re even further from doing this!)
  • Negotiate directly with Saddam Hussein and all the other “evil” rulers in the world, seeking to influence them by bringing to light mutual advantages, as well as devising actions from which both we and they could profit. (We didn’t negotiate with Saddam, and instead drove him out of office, and with Bashar al-Assad we tried unsuccessfully to follow our own example and failed.)
  • Assume that enemies are most often people like ourselves although with different opinions and different beliefs. (Makes me realize just how far apart we, Donald and I, are.)
  • Use the “bully pulpit” to promote those things the world’s peoples have in common, —shouldn’t be hard, our being one species living on the one and the same earth and sharing similar family, community, and religious values. (Donald does like the “bully pulpit,” those gatherings he calls “rallies,” but he doesn’t have a clue as to what we all, not just his personal twitter followers, have in common.)

Now this agenda was from January of 1993 and things of course have changed much from then. But as always many more things are much the same, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Here’s a snapshot of some of the things that were happening 21 years ago:

War in Abkhazia. (09-27-1993)

US and Russia sign the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. (01-03-1993)
Czechoslovakia dissolved into Czech and Slovakia. (01-01-1993)
European eliminates trade barriers and becomes a single market. (01-01-1993)

And if I were to do a similar agenda for today, January 23, 2017, I would have little to add other than a few changes to proper names, Bashar al-Assad instead of Saddam Hussein, Iran in place of Serbia, and the big guy of course, China, not even mentioned in my 93 agenda.

But as always in a kind of excruciating, painful detail things are never really the same. Up close they are different, as we are from ourselves of an earlier time, and perhaps the biggest change from then to now is that between the Russia of Boris Yeltsin, and the Russia of Vladimir Putin, the one struggling in the nineties to make Russia a more open, Western oriented democracy, and the other apparently succeeding in turning Russia back once again into an authoritarian and closed society, resembling more the USSR than the democracies of Europe and the West. And that change didn’t need to have happened. Without a doubt our world would have been a much happier place without it. Why if Boris Yeltsin hadn’t done himself in by drinking on top of a weak heart things today between our two countries might have been altogether different. Oh Boris, you didn’t know!

In office less than nine years, (I take this from from the NYTimes of April 24, 2007), beginning in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and plagued throughout by severe health problems and an excessive fondness for alcohol, Boris Yeltsin added a final chapter to his historical record when, in 1999, he stunned Russians and the world by announcing his resignation, becoming the first Russian leader to give up power on his own in accordance with constitutional processes. At that moment, on New Year’s Eve 1999, he turned over the reins of office to Mr. Putin and after that fell out of the public eye.

Thankyou, Boris!! There are perhaps those in Russia who miss the Soviet Union and say that. Not me.


But now what I’d like to do is to compare side by side the first inaugural addresses, of Bill Clinton on Jan 20, 1993, and of Donald Trump on Jan 20, 2017 (whose address was, according to George Will, without a doubt “the most dreadful inaugural address in history”).

But not now in this post. Here is the link:


Trump’s bad idea, America First!

I’m often asked what do I think of Trump,

the question really asking what do I think of him as President. There was never any doubt in my mind that as a man and presidential candidate he was terrible. But rather than just assuming this terribly bad man and candidate would be a terrible president, I preferred not to answer the question, saying along with many others, that I’d wait and see. Probably because en mon for intérieur I so wanted him to be someone, anyone else, someone better.

Also our country has been so long with mediocre leaders, without having in the same man, president, or presidential candidate a few essential and great qualities, including knowledge, intelligence, courage, and goodness.

Might they be there in Trump, the man who was mostly unknown, buried far down, hidden, and needing only in this instance the successful completion of the presidential campaign to allow them to come out? As difficult as that may be to imagine, given all the crazy statements that Trump had made during the past year or so, I did imagine it and didn’t drop Trump entirely until yesterday, Inauguration Day.trump-swearing-in

Have we ever seen a president in the modern era with all four of the qualities I mention? Well there have been a number of them with knowledge and intelligence (FDR, Kennedy, Nixon, Clinton and Obama), perhaps a few with courage (Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan), probably only one, Jimmy Carter, with goodness. For me Inauguration Day would be Donald Trump’s coming out party, and I looked forward to seeing the man as he came out and revealed for the first time what he really was.


trumpinauguration-speech

And what happened when he came out yesterday? Well already in the days leading up to the Inauguration we had clearly seen (and again I overlooked them) in his tweets to Meryl Streep and John Lewis for example, that there was little or no goodness in the man. Then in the new President’s inauguration speech, as President following the swearing-in ceremony, I saw revealed in all its ignominy his total ignorance of the history of the country, in itself enough to condemn his presidency to irrelevance and eventual failure.

The country he spoke about was never there. While Trump may be intelligent his ignorance of the country he would govern makes that intelligence irrelevant. What’s it supposed to act on? The wrong information? And courage? Does he have it? I don’t know. I haven’t yet seen it. But if he did have courage that alone someday during the next four years might at least permit a change to his thinking to take place and keep his otherwise destined to sink presidency afloat to the very end. But I doubt it.

If Trump had known anything at all about the country’s history he could never have held up his fist and said, “America First.” In his speech that’s what most of all embarrassed me. Think about it, what if the boy in the playground held up his fist shouting to playmates, “me first.”

trump-with-fistHe would have been laughed off the yard (or at least he should have been). And then what if he had said at home in the presence of his neighbors, “my family first.” Laughed at again. He would have been laughed at all the way up to his saying what?

Would there ever come a time when he could have said my whatever first? Trump thinks there is, that the exclusive allegiance to one’s country is that time, and that time is now, not to lesser entities, to oneself, or one’s neighborhood, one’s state, or one’s business, but to one’s country, to America.

I would like to ask him what would be wrong with saying “the world first”? There is nothing wrong with that of course, but Trump because of his ignorance of the world’s history doesn’t understand how this could ever be. He doesn’t understand that this is how in fact the world is, how things are. Instead Trump would impose on all of us while waving his fist in the air a complete misunderstanding of man’s history. The country’s borders he so loves were a very late arrival on the scene and have been the cause of most of the world’s suffering. Would Trump continue this sort of thing?

Then there is the realization that most of us come from other countries, countries with other borders. Does it mean that by coming here we have agreed to protect the new invisible border lines that we encounter when here? Is that then a kind of patriotism, among the very highest of a country’s ideals? Is that what Trump is for, worship the new borders?

And then those borders that according to Trump make us a country, make America, or “America First,” weren’t they all established by wars of aggression? Why in many cases don’t we reject them? That’s history, and does that count for nothing?

And what about the native Americans. Weren’t their lands, lands that they valued no less than we ours, mostly without borders? One crossed freely into and out of them. Would there even have been an America if the natives had been at all able to defend their lands? But they weren’t. And why, because they weren’t patriots? No for the most part they were better than that.


Supply and Demand

I’m told my blog posts are much too long, or too wordy, and that’s the principal reason they’re not read. I don’t believe that, but I’ll accept it as being true.

(I think my blogs are not read for two reasons, one being that no one is being directed to go there, and two, if they do get there they will quickly see that I have nothing original to say.)

But for those who see my blog as too long, here’s a short one as a quick fix, at least in this one instance. I take my question from FEE, the Foundation of Economic Education, the question being:
“Which is More Accurate, Say’s Law or Keynes’s Law? And to help you with an answer,

Say’s Law: “Supply creates demand.”
Keynes’s Law: “Demand creates supply.”

supply-and-demand

Then given enough answers we’ll tally the results.