Monday, September 28, 2009

Ron Paul Believes Golden Should Not Be Silenced

Ron Paul. End the Fed. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2009.

This is a book from the perspective of a free market proponent who advocates abolishing the Federal Reserve Bank, aka the Fed. There is little consideration of opposing views as this is a book defending a proposition.

The author, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, noted the Fed “creates money out of thin air in its abilities to print money, change interest rates, and change reserve ratios on how much can be lent according to how many deposits are on hand. Barack Obama noted “it’s important to understand that much of that wealth was illusory in the first place” when discussing the recent economic downturn.

Paul fears that the Federal debt is too high and interest rates too low. These are creating financial problems that will not easily be resolved. Paul believes they the debt has been mismanaged so badly that it would be better to dissolve the Fed. A central bank, which the Fed is, serves in the interests of favored economic and political interests at the expense of the middle class, Paul argues.

If the Fed no longer exists, the Federal government will lose its ability to fund as much spending as it now does. Paul sees this as a mean to reduce spending in both military and social programs.

Paul believes that abolishing the Fed will require banks to lend more cautiously as they would no longer have the Fed to support them when they develop financial problems.

Paul observes the adjusted monetary base, which is money that is circulated or deposited in the Fed, was $856 billion in April 2008 and $1,749 billion in April, 2009. This increase was not due to any matching increase in national wealth. It is almost all new printed debt.

This increase in debt may financially work so long as enough depositors do not withdraw their funds. If this happens, banks turn to other banks, and if that is enough, they turn to the Federal government. The recent government bailout has increased the factional reserve, meaning far greater loans may be held by banks than they have money on hand.

There had been support for creating the Federal Reserve Bank or something immediately after President Andrew Jackson closed the Second Bank of the U.S. in 1836 following a financial panic. A banking panic in 1907 was a leading cause for creating the Federal Reserve Bank a few years later.

Paul argues that bank failures and business failures are part of recurring business cycles. The Fed was supposed to minimize business cycles. Paul argues the Fed was acted in ways that mad the cycles worse.

Paul wants our government to own more gold. The U.S. and other Western banks are selling off gold because of their high debts. Paul argues the recent economic downturn is an economic correction to the overspending prior to the downturn.

Paul argues paper money is unconstitutional as the Constitution requires debt payments in gold or silver. The U.S. Supreme Court, though, consider paper money as “necessary and proper”.

Paul favors letting the free market set interest rates.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a socialist, and Paul together have introduced legislation to audit the Fed. He notes the call for an audit cuts across the political spectrum. In fact, Paul argues the actions of the Fed that cause the flow of wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthy should concern many.

If It Is in the Press, It Has to (Not Always) Be True

Gloria Cooper (ed.) Correct Me if I’m Wrong: Press Bloopers As Seen in the Newseum. Columbia Journalism Review, 2008.

This is a great collection of journalism mistakes. It is a hilarious book of misprints that made their way into newspapers. Many of them are ill constructed headlines with good intentions resulting in unintended double meanings, like “Marijuana issue sent to joint committee”. Politicos will howl at headlines such as “Base closings get Bush’s OK; Congress next”. Some of them are mistakes, such as “Ford, Reagan Neck in Presidential Primary” and “Rumsfeld’s pubic role is shrinking”. This book is full of many funny newspaper mistakes and is highly recommended to anyone who likes to laugh.

Back When Democrats Kept Slaves

Annette Gordon-Reed. The Hemingses of Monticello. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.m 2008.

Thomas Jefferson kept a record of his slaves’ lives. He probably thought this information held no scholarly interest or else he or his descendants probably would have destroyed it. This information, combined with letters and other writins, provide us with information on what it was like to be a slave at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

Jefferson was a consummate record keeper, saving letters and documents. Much information about slavery elsewhere was not written down or kept, as slaves were not considered consequential to many slave owners and thus few records were kept.

Sally Hemings was famous during her life. Opponents of Jefferson attacked Jefferson for their relationship as she was his mistress. The first novel published by an African American author was about a character based on Hemings.

Sally’s mother, Elizabeth, was the family matriarch with 12 to 14 children (the exact number is uncertain) and living to see four generations. About half of her children were fathered by a white and half were fathered by a Black. This mixed racial breeding continued through successive generations. Elizabeth witnesses two adult children sold to other plantations, a daughter presented as a wedding present to Thomas Jefferson’s sister, and two sons freed by Thomas Jefferson.

The Hemings women were servants and the Hemings men were butlers or artisans. The author notes that housework may have been less physically demanding than working in the fields. Yet field workers have greater abilities to talk amongst themselves and thus enjoyed a greater sense of community. Plus, they were freer from the watchful eye of their masters and mistresses amongst themselves.

Slaves then legally were property. There was no crime for raping or beating your own slave.

In the 17th century, many in the British culture considered the color black as evil or sinful. Similarly, many Africans thought Whites were ugly. Africa was the most culturally and genetically diverse continent. Yet, whites had the power and Africans were enslaved and when brought to American were considered as one race. Even the children of mixed race liaisons were considered the same as other African Americans.

John Wayles was a father of Elizabeth Heming’s children. He was an agent who brokered the sale of slaves and guaranteed payment. This created problems when tobacco farmers bought slaves on credit before their market crashed and they couldn’t afford the slaves they had ordered. Wayles became a hounding bill collected. It is noted that 400 slaves left on a ship that Wayles was involved and only 280 survived the trip.

Elizabeth Hemings was mentioned in Wayle’s will. Her last name was used. This is notable because many slave owners did not accord their slaves last name status. Many slave women were known only as Auntie and slave men as Uncle. Another slave mentioned in the same will was listed only as Jenney, one of Wayle’s daughters.

In Virginia and other Southern states, interracial marriage, but not sex, was illegal. There was no desire to provide slaves with legal claims to property. Interracial sex, though, was illegal between a white woman and Black man.

Jefferson wrote that Blacks had limited reasoning abilities and were inferior such that adding a white bloodline improved their race.

Thomas Jefferson’s wife Martha was sickly. His concern for her health was a principal reason why he declined to travel with a delegation to France with Benjamin Franklin. He seldom mentioned his wife’s illnesses and he placed her above politics. He ran for Governor, a position he was no very keen on holding, in order to be close to his wife.

When British troops captured the Governor’s mansion in Richmond, they sought to arrest Governor Jefferson. He had fled but left behind things the troops took, such as meat, wine, corn, as well as Mary Hemings and her children. There is no record as to how long the troops kept them.

Jefferson allowed tow Hemings brothers to travel as they wishes. The law required they carry a pass for traveling without their master.

Siblings Sally and James Hemings traveled with Jefferson to Paris. He did not register them, as required by French law, yet Jefferson knew the law was seldom enforced. In France, slaves were legally considered as paid servants. Slaves could request their freedom by petition to court, and almost 200 did so and received the freedom in French courts.

A slave belonging to John Jay named Abby escaped but was recaptured in Paris. Benjamin Franklin recommended to Jan that she be punished by being left in jail for twenty days, and Jay agreed with this advice. Abby became sick from the poor jail conditions and died three weeks after being released back to Jay.

James Hemings petitioned French court for his freedom without mentioning Jefferson. Jefferson feared objecting which would have required him admitted to have broken the law by not registering James. Jefferson faced a fine of 6,000 livres for having slaves in France. This was the equivalent to a year’s rent for Jefferson. The Hemings thought themselves as free. Jefferson brought them back with him to America,

Thomas Jefferson took James Hemings with him to the nation’s capital, which then was New York. The 1790 New York census lists 2,056 slaves and 1,036 free Blacks. Jefferson and Hemings moved to Philadelphia when the capital was moved to there. Members of Congress were exempt from law prohibiting having slaves in Philadelphia. James eventually was freed.

There is little written record about Elizabeth Hemings and her life at Monticello. There is some archaeological evidence showing what utensils were used and they way the grounds appeared then.

Jefferson was also rumored by opponents as being an atheist. Jefferson’s own explanation as to his religious views were “I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know”. This helped increased attacks on Jefferson’s morality, which included his putative affair with Hemings.

After Jefferson’s death, Monticello and its 130 slaves were sold by auction. Hemings and five children were freed in Jefferson’s will and two other children were freed by Jefferson’s oral wishes.

How Republicans Lost in 2008

Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson. The Battle fpr America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election. New York: Viking. A James H, Silverman Book. Penguin Group, 2009.

“I think the whole election was a novel” declared Barack Obama. This book is that nonfiction novel of the 2008 Presidential race.

The Obama campaign began its campaign against the experienced Clinton campaign. Obama Campaign manager David Plouffe recalls they didn’t have a bank account, credit card, or web site when the campaign began.

McCain’s campaign ran out of money just before the New Hampshire Primary, where McCain was expecting to do well. The McCain campaign feared ending before having the change to get underway.

Obama claims during his book tour, when he stated he was not running for President, that he truthfully was not planning to run. The public reaction to his appearances were mostly positive and the crowds were large. The press dubbed it Obamamania. As the book sold well and the idea of running for President persisted, Obama consulted fellow Illinois Seantor Dick Durbin, Ted Kennedy, and Tom Daschle. All three urge Obama to run. Kennedy in fact believed Obama would have to take controversial stances on issues while serving as Senator and that his chances at being elected President would decrease over time. Obama announced for President in January 2007.

Hillary Clinton received advice from Sen. Robert Byrd on becoming an effective Senator. She worked with Republicans on legislation. She traveled throughout her state of New York and worked on their needs.

The nation’s voters were in a mood for change. There was also a rising influence of young voters. This would be the backdrop setting the stage for Obama’s election.

The Obama campaign began with just four staffers. The office bought a phone with an Iowa area code without having an office in Iowa. In the early campaign appearances, Hillary Clinton connected with audiences while Obama left them disappointed. Obama found an advantage in being the only candidate to have voted against the war in Iraq. This made his anti-war sentiments come across as more sincere than when expressed by other Democratic candidates.

Clinton led Obama in the early polls. Obama surprisingly raised more money through contributions. Clinton had an early funding advantage due to leftover funds from previous contributors. At a debate, Hillary Clinton’s position on immigration received much negative scrutiny. Clinton thus appeared vulnerable.

John Edwards devoted much of his energies towards winning the Iowa Caucus. In debates, Clinton and John Edwards sparred with each other, which helped Obama. Clinton was stunned when she came in third and Obama on in Iowa. The Clinton campaign staff bickered and some were dismissed. Those dismissed thought they were made scapegoats.

The Clinton campaign was counting on a big victory in the multistate Super Tuesday primaries. Obama received the endorsement of Ted Kennedy, something a Kennedy aide claims Obama says was the emotionally happiest day of Obama’s life. Obama’s early wins in Iowa and South Carolina along with a strong financial base and Kennedy’s endorsement made him a major contender on Super Tuesday. Obama did will, winning almost as many Delegates as Clinton won.

Obama’s fund raising grew even stronger. Racial issues emerges over comments made by Obama’s controversial minister. Some of the fallout was minimized when Obama secured another important endorsement, this time from Gov. Bill Richardson, the Hispanic Governor of New Mexico and former Clinton Cabinet member.

Clinton had a string of primary victories. The race for the nomination tightened.

On the Republican side, Rudy Guiliani was the initial front runner in the polls. Mitt Romney began running TV ads early in the race. Giuliani’s stance on abortion, stating he favored choice but felt it would be fine to overturn Roe v. Wade made social conservatives feel Guiliani was too liberal while others were upset over his inconsistency with his previous pro-choice position. Romney moved into the lead in polls. McCain began campaigning strongly for more troops in Iraq, which helped improve his standings. Mike Huckabee won the Iowa Caucus, which slowed the Romney campaign. McCain won in New Hampshire, which revived his campaign. McCain went on to win the nomination.

McCain was going to pledge to serve just one term. He then decided that might constrain his effectiveness as President and he removed that statement from his nomination acceptance speech less than a day before he gave it.

The nation moved into a financial panic, which hurt the image of Republicans. Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin gave interviews where she did not appear well informed. Obama slipped past McCain in the polls and went on to win the election.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Here's to Your Health

Howard Dean with Igor Volsky and Faiz Shakir. Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Health Care Reform: How We Can Achieve Affordable Medical Care for Every American and Make Our Jobs Safer. White River Junction, Vt.: Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 2009.

Dean moved to Vermont as a recent medical graduate to work with the University of Vermont ambulatory care program. In 1980, he also volunteered for the Carter campaign and was elected a Delegate to the National Convention. The Democratic County Chair was ill and the State Chair asked Dean to run to take over the position. Although Dean had only been in Vermont for about two years, the State Chair found he was the only person accepted to both the Carter and Kennedy factions. Dean continued working in both medicine and politics, even practicing medicine while serving as Lt. Governor. The Republican Governor suddenly resigned and Dean found himself Governor. As Governor, he recalls the advice Governor Jim Hunt of North Carolina told him that “90% of what we do is urgent. 10% is important.” Among the important things Dean writes he achieved as Governor was expanding health insurance to 99% of Vermonter aged 17 and younger, creating dental clinics in low income schools, increasing the availability of prenatal care, and creating more community health centers.

Dean was distressed to see how often health care insurers stopped covering someone once they became ill. He notes the Congressional Budget Office calculates that, in the individual health care insurance market, that 29% of premiums pay for administrative costs. He found most insurance companies use of to half their expense on executive salaries, administrative costs, and profits to shareholders.

Dean notes 47 million do not have health care insurance. 25 million have such insurance but can’t afford their share of the costs to see a doctor. Many face either bankrupting themselves to pay for health care or doing without.

Many states have weak laws regarding health insurance, which is regulated by state laws. Many states allow premiums to increase drastically. Many allow coverage to be denied to health conditions that arise later, sometimes upon review and sometimes even more than a year after purchasing the policy. Some policies only provide minimal coverage, such as up to $50,000 in lifetime costs or $1,000 for hospitalization. It is hard for the public to understand health care insurance policies. They are deliberately written in technical language the public finds trouble understanding.

Dean notes that Canada’s national health care system attracts businesses to locate there. Establishing instead in the U.S. entails employers making large enough health care expenditures that it is cheaper for them to locate in Canada.

Health care insurance should be available to everyone, Dean writes. It should be affordable, rather than something that contributes towards half of all bankruptcies. Health care should stay with an individual and not be dropped when a person changes jobs. People should be allowed to keep their existing coverage, if they wish. A tax credit should be provided to small businesses to help them pay for their required health care insurance. Our efforts on disease prevention, health care research, and health information technologies should be increased.

A public insurance option would have lower administrative costs. It would drive private insurance to compete by lowering their expenses and their costs to customers. This system would preserve the wishes of Americans consumers to have choices.

Americans deserve informed choices. This is particularly important when it comes to the public being able to understand their choice on pharmaceuticals and how different brands of similar drugs work and what their possible side effects are.

Dean states a 5% gas tax would pay for health care insurance costs. The costs of the public insurance could by transferring excessive Medicare payments to the public insurance system.

Private insurance and business interests are fighting to protect their own interests against health care reform that would be in the public’s interest.

The U.S. spends $5,711 per capita on health care compared to $2,989 in Canada and $2,317 in Great Britain. The U.S. spends 15.2% of its GDP on health care compared to 9.9% in Canada and 7.8% in Great Britain.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Yo, Republicans Used to Rule Philadelphia

Peter McCaffery. When Bosses Ruled Philadelphia: The Emergence of the Republican Machine, 1867-1933.

Lincoln Steffens, a critic of urban corruption during his times around the beginning years of the 20th century, notes that Philadelphia had the dual problem of being, in his opinion, both the most corrupt city as well as the city where the citizens seemed to care less. Of course, such an attitude allowed bad practices to foster.

A Republican Party political machine successfully chose and elected many candidates from the post Civil War era until the Great Depression. The Gas Ring ran things in the 1870s only to give way to the much stronger Matthew Quay organization that arose in the late 1880s. The author notes these political organization may not be had the improper intentions that critics such as Lincoln Steffens attributed to them. It may have been to the advantage of challengers of machine practices to overstate their alleged evils.

There were political machine organizations, the author notes, yet they often faced truly contested elections. Further, the machines may have created continuing political electioneering organizations, and they had input into public policy making, they did not control all as much of the policy process as critics charged. The organizations in fact helped assimilate previously excluded ethnic groups into the political process and allowed the ignored groups entry into public policy and public employment.

For a few decades, following the Civil War, James McManes led the Republican machine and had it supported by gas and public building interests. The city paid an extra dollar a ton higher than market value with the excess funds allegedly paid to gas trustees. The Republican Party consisted of several factions, and eventually a faction led William Stokely ousted McManes. Factional divisions continued under Stokely. This was an era where wealthy people became less inclined to spend time, or be chosen for, public office and government operations were more apt to be led by full time professional middle class politicos. The Republican Party gained prominence quickly in Philadelphia, growing from a political power that obtained 1% of the vote in the 1856 elections and 53% of the vote in the 1865 elections. Philadelphia Republican leaders wisely allied with supporters of the Knows Nothings in 1857. It is noted that the national Republican Party platform against slavery was not a major issue within Philadelphia, especially since many Philadelphia traders were allied with Southern producers as well there being numerous anti-Black sentiments amongst Philadelphians.

Political leaders successfully sought to centralize and maintain their influence. The Republican Party became the center of Philadelphia politics and it was led by David Martin, Israel Durham, “Sunny Jim” McNichol, and William Vare. They created a political operation that would consistently defeat opponents. The key Republican issue was in favor of high tariffs that protected Philadelphia merchants and their employees. The conditions for a political machine were created.

Political influence did lead to economic influence. The Republican Party leaders extended their dominance over public utilities. In return, business leaders sought to ally with Republican politicians in return for support of their economic efforts. An opposition force to their power resulted but it was mostly ineffective in restraining the machine’s effectiveness.

The author argues a strong political machine operation resulted around 1887. The machine was strong because it was one unit that existed citywide, party discipline was strong, insubordinates were squashed, and the machine elected its candidates. Street gangs were an important component of the political machinery, especially since they were useful in keeping opponents from voting. Political patronage, awarding jobs in return for loyal political work, kept the machine strong. Political patronage had not been a major factor before then, as the Governor and Federal government had held more patronage jobs within Philadelphia than did city government.

While the machine brought ethnic groups into city government holding office, receiving patronage jobs, and participating in public policy decisions, African Americans were mostly left out of these processes. A coalition of the city’s wealthy and reformers attempted to create an anti-machine movement that won only 13,000 out of 90,000 votes in 1872. Stokely was ousted in 1881 yet the machinery was replaced by new leaders, such as Simon Cameron and Matthew Quay.

Cameron and Quay were supporters of the reform efforts of the city’s business leaders yet used these positions to garner political power for themselves. Grant, or changing contributions to businesses for their assistance, was a part of the machine’s fund raising mechanism. The Republican leaders had a new city charter enacted that shifted the city’s political power towards their organization. Quay controlled awarding Federal and state patronage jobs. Quay developed the first true political machine with political bosses. It is alleged he used public funds to supplement his income.

Republican party leaders became involved in public contracts. Leaders William Vare and Edwin Vare, who were brothers, received over $18 million for street cleaning from 1888 to 1921. Republican leader James McNichol with his brother Daniel received over $6 million in public contracts during the 1890s.

There was a counter reform movement. It won elections in 1905 and 1911 but the Republican leaders dominated the other elections. Republican machine candidates for Mayor received over 80% of the vote in 1899, 1903, 1919, and 1923. The Vare brothers were also politically aware and favored popular social reforms that made their candidates attractive to voters. Yet the machine saw that the elected leaders did little to enact social reforms, especially those that would have addressed the needs of low income social groups. Patronage jobs were allocated primarily to Republicans of English, Scottish, and German descent. In 1916, 5% of patronage jobs were held by people with Italian or Jewish surnames, and in 1932, 8% of patronage jobs were held by people with Italian or Jewish surnames. While political machines in other cities were noted for helping members of ethnic groups assimilate into public positions, the situation in Philadelphia was limited to particular groups and excluded others.

The Vares also made agreements with Democratic leaders which made them passive. The Republicans would even pay the rent on the Democratic headquarters to keep their loyal opposition operating.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Book About Republicans Lying and Cheating: How Can This Be Fiction?

Ed Uraciv. Lying, Cheating Scum (no list publishing information, CreateSpace. 2009)

A lobbyist drinks for a living, according to Dennis Best, a fictional character in this book written by Ed Uravic, a real life lobbyist and former legislative aide. Best is getting bored with a life of taking clients to strip joints. He is sought after because his wife works for the House Appropriations Committee. His new challenge is involvement in a Pennsylvania Senate campaign.

In 1994, when Newt Gingrich and the Contract for America movement would bring a Republican majority to the U.S. House, the book presents fictional U.S. Rep. Lance Mansfield. Mansfield wants to run for the U.S. Senate. Some key Congressional Republican operatives desire that Mansfield run for reelection as running for the Senate would make his House seat an open seat that a Democrat would have a shot at winning. This mission is to get Mansfield to run for reelection to help Republican gain the House majority. If Mansfield runs for the U.S. Senate, he’ll run in a primary against U.S. Rep. Rick Santorum. If not noted the real life Santorum faced a similar dilemma as Mansfield faces in this book as Santorum was elected to Congress in a district that a Democrat had held and could regain.

Incumbent Senator Harris Wofford isn’t campaigning hard and Republicans believe he is vulnerable. In reality, Santorum would defeat Wofford. In the book, a fictional Jon Monahan, a wealthy contributor, wants to buy a U.S. Senator and feels Santorum can’t win in the general election. He wants to get Mansfield elected.

David Zook, a fictional political advisor, tells how the legislature redistricted the Senate House for fellow State Senate staffer Rick Santorum to seek that House seat, only to have Santorum instead run for, and win, a race for Congress. Now the mission for Dennis and Dave is to reshape the Senate race, especially since voters would not likely support Mansfield is they knew he was a womanizer and rapist.

The author portrays Congress as a place where staffers in some office improperly are involved in campaign and personal errands. Politics is seen as a world of sex and money and power shifting intrique. Key characters are people who, the author notes, “lie like Machiavelli’s mistress.” The adventures Ed Uravic is one that lovers of political and sexual escapes will appreciate.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rod Blagojevich Presents His Case, and His Autobiography

Rod Blagojevich. The Governor: Finally, the Truth Behind the Political Scandal That Continues to Rock the Nation. Beverly Hills, Ca.: Phoenix Books, 2009.

Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested on December 9, 2008. He had no expectation it would happen. He was considering filling the U.S. Senate vacancy left by Barack Obama to become President. The FBI showed up at 6 am at his house announcing he as being arrested. His first thought was that it was a joke. He learned his phone had been taped. He believes the tapes dared the FBI to arrest him but the full tapes show the truth.

After being elected Governor in 2002, the Blagojevichs decided to continue living in their private house rather than the Governor’s Mansion. They wanted their children to have as normal lives as possible.

Blaojevich marred Patty, whose father Richard Mell, was a Chicago Democratic ward boss. His state legislator suddenly moved out of his ward. Mell quickly needed a candidate and asked Blagojevich to rum. Blagojevich asked for the freedom to take his own position of issues, to which Mell replied he didn’t care about issues. Blagojevich put all of $25,000 he had into the race. His in-laws matches it will a loan that he repaid. He defeated a candidate from U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski’s ward in the primary, winning 61% of the vote.

Blagojevich served two terms in the State House. Speaker Mike Madison’s office asked him to introduce a bill to increase the fees for firearms owner IDs. In retrospect, he thinks the bill “was stupid”. Yet he argued for it against much protest. His cause was crushed by gun owners.

Blagojevich observed that Speaker Madison ran things without challenge. He determined which bills ran, he raised the campaign funds for most of the Democratic representatives, he made all the committee appointments, and the members gave him blind loyalty. Most legislators spent their tine drinking and partying.

Blagojevich decided to run for Congress in 1996 against Republican incumbent Michael Flanagan. Flanagan two years earlier had defeated Rostenkowski who when then under investigation and later would be indicted. Mayor Daley endorsed Blagojevich in a race where his principal opponent was State Rep. Nancy Kaszak, who was supported by Emily’s Life, a major fund raising organization for female candidates. Blagojevich received 50% to 38% for Kaszak.

David Axelrod was Blagojevich’s media consultant. He would later become a key Obama advisor. Tony Rezko was a key contributor. He would later be involved in political scandal over his contributions to politicians and his business connections.

Blagojevich was the only Serbian-American member of Congress. He opposed NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia. Milosovic began ethnic cleansing, something Blagojevich feared would that his reaction to an attack would be to engage in brutality. Blagojevich believes NATO wanted to force Milosevic to so act in order to allow NATO to respond with more force. Blagojevich believes thousands died as pawns in geopolitics maneuverings. Blagojevich used his Serbian connections to arrange a meeting between Milosevic and a delegation that included Blagojevich and Re. Jesse Jackson. They discussed the release of captured American soldiers. They traveled inside a war zone where he could look out his window and see bombs dropped. Blagojevich met with the soldiers. They met with Milsevic who agreed to release the soldiers.

Blagojevich ran for Governor. Early polling had him running third in the primary. Blagojevich knew his opponents were strong in Chicago and the suburbs so he sought to win most of the downstate vote. He received over half the downstate vote and won the primary with 36% to 34% for Paul Vallas, former Chicago School CEO and 30% for former State Comptroller Roland Burris.

As Governor, Blagojevich helped extend healthcare to a million people. Illinois provided mammograms and pap smears to those without health insurance. All children were covered by the All Kids health insurance. He got these enacted over the objections of Speaker Madigan. His daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, then unsuccessfully sued to stop these programs. Blagojevich believes the Madigans opposed him because he turned down their request to contribute $400,000 to them. They threatened to make things difficult for him if he didn’t contribute. He refused.

Blagojevich feels betrayed by his father in law, Richard Mell, whose landfill business become embroiled in controversies over environmental regulations. Blagojevich sided with his state regulators and shut his father in law’s landfill down. Mell flew into a rage, turned on Blagojevich, and his rival Attorney General Madigan seized upon this and began an investigation on Mell’s allegations against Blagojevich. Mell retracted his accusations but an investigation was underway. Attorney General Madigan opened a grand jury on Blagojevich for closing the landfill. The court found the landfill operated improperly without correct permits and deserved to be closed until it cleared up material it had that it was not allowed to have.

Blagojevich notes he avoided the scandals that previous Governor George Ryan faced over awarding contracts. Blagojevich established procedures to avoid these problems.

Blagojevich admits he thought Tony Rezko was a friend he could trust. He believes he would not have been in trouble had Rezko never been a friend.

Blagojevich decided to appoint Attorney General Madigan to the U.S. Senate vacancy if House Speaker Madigan would remove a block he had on public works legislation which Blagojevich wanted passed. Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzpatrick considered this an illegal deal and indicted Blagojevich.

Atty. Gen. Madigan sued to declare Blagojevich incapacitated and removed as Governor. Blagojevich believes Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn was then was going to appoint Lisa Madigan to the U.S. Senate. The Illinois Supreme Court threw out Madigan’s lawsuit.
Every Democratic U.S. Senator signed a letter stating they would refuse to allow any Senator appointed by Blagojevich to take office. The legislature meanwhile began hearings on whether to impeach Blagojevich.

Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris to the Senate vacancy. Blagojevich saw it as his Constitutional duty to make an appointment. The Senate did not object after all and Burris was seated.

The State House impeached Burris without proving any crime, according to Blagojevich. He then refused to attend the Senate trail as he did not see the trial as proper.

Blagojevich was impeached by the legislature. He states he was not permitted to present his evidence. There are tape recordings indicating he was offering the Senate appointment as part of an illegal deal. Blagojevich claims he will be cleared if the full tapes are played. He states some of the Senators did not want the full tapes played because it would have embarrassed them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

An Author Considers Race, Racial Humor, and Racial Healing

Michael Awkward. Burying Don Imus: Anatomy of a Scapegoat. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

The author urges that African Americans become more aware of the racial history. He is very critical of elements of the hip-hop generation members who express pride in not knowing this history. The author observes that efforts of striking back at symbols of racial intolerance, such as Don Imus, do little to create racial healing. Controversies such as the Imus debate highlight the “still unresolved trauma” Blacks feel over racial progress combined with racism continuing.

Don Imus, a shock jock, described the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “that’s some nappy headed hos”. This provided evidence that racism continues. Critics made Imus a symbol of racial evil. Making Imus this symbol ignored that Imus was well known for outrageous comments, including calling Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as “war criminals”. The criticism also ignored the amount of charity work Imus did with veterans hospitals and with ill children on his own ranch.

Humor can expose deep seated anxieties. Some believe any white person telling a joke about Blacks “almost automatically” is “hate speech”. The Imus Show is known for its informal mode of conversation. Jokes about race, Rednecks, and religion were known to arise in discussions and comedy skits. The author notes there are important difference between expressing intended racial beliefs, such as racial comments by Klan members, than what are the beliefs of a person performing a comedy sketch. Should John Donald Imus, the person, be held to hold the beliefs express in a comedy bit by Imus in the Morning?

It is noted Freud claimed “jokes have a relation to the unconscious”. Some see whites joking about Blacks as their racial hatred surfacing. The author warns that believing this, in many cases, does not help heal racial wounds.

Details on New York City Operations

Kate Ascher. The Works: Anatomy of a City. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books, 2007.

New York has 11,000 miles of local streets, 7,300 miles of secondary roads, and 1,250 miles of highways. The Grid Plan adopted in 1811 set the basis for Manhattan streets. Roads were clogged so more northbound streets were created.

The number of roads increased 45% from 1983 to 2002 while the population increased 10%. Yet, rush hour traffic increased from occurring an average of 3.4 hours to 7 to 8 hours a day.

There are 11,400 traffic lights in intersections. There are 40,000 total intersections. Traffic lights mostly run on 60, 90, or 120 second intervals. For many Manhattan streets, the 60 second intervals make traveling at 30 MPH, which is the speed limit, the best cruising speed. Traffic lights are controlled at fifteen computers, handling 720 intersections a piece, at the Traffic Management Center. Traffic is monitored there with 230 cameras.

There are 1.1 million cars and trucks entering New York City daily.

There are 3,250 pedestrian push buttons. Less than 25% of them work. The city is avoiding the $400 cost per unit it takes to remove the inoperable boxes.

There are 50 red light cameras photographing license plates of traffic offenders. 1.4 million summonses have results since this program began in 1993. There has been a 40% decrease in violations where cameras exist. There are 200 locations with inoperable dummy cameras.

The average auto speed in Midtown Manhattan is 4.8 MPH eastbound and 4.2 MPH westbound.

Asphalt roads were introduced in 1872, replacing impacted steel and gravel roals, Most roads are asphalt. 36 miles of road are cobblestones.

There are 130,000 priority regulation signs, such as “stop” and “do not enter” signs. There are 333,670 street lights, costing$50 million annually in electric costs.

There are 66,000 parking meters. Most parking meters run 1 to 9 minutes per hour longer in time. This is done to minimize charges against their accuracy. A parking meters holds from $30 to $60 in coins.

There are 2.5 million trees in New York City, 500,000 of which are along streets, as opposed to parks or in backyards.

The subway has 4.5 million riders daily. It is the fifth busiest subway, behind Tokyo, Moscow, Seoul, and Mexico City. The system has about 6,200 cars, which is the most in the world. There are 842 track miles, with 660 miles for passenger service and the rest for shops and storage. Two third of the tracks are underground. During rush hour, trains run from a minimum of every three minutes on four lines to a maximum of every nine minutes on four other lines. There are nine abandoned stations.

Trains approach stations at 25 MPH.. The doors are open for at least ten seconds.

The subway uses 1.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually, making them the city’s largest user of electricity.

748 pumps from 309 pump plants pump 13 million gallons or less of water in one day from the subways.

There are 2,000 bridges and tunnels in New York. 14 of them are major bridges and tunnels.

It can take 50 people three hours to inspect a major bridge.

Car exhaust inside the Holland Tunnel goes into a tunnel ceiling duct. New air is brought in every 90 minutes.

Approximately 1,750 rail cars inter New York weekly. One car float operation exists, operation between Brooklyn and Jersey City.

Over 12,000 ships use New York harbor annually. About 40% of them are tankers carrying oil or refined products. About 45% are containers for warehouse and distribution. There are three major shipping lanes, Barnegat (from the south), Hudson (from the east), and Nantucket (from the north).

Two companies offer tug boat service. There are 20 McAllistar tug boats and 16 Moran tug boats.

The tonnage entering New York port is 12% of the nation’s total, making it the third largest port in tonnage behind Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Each year, 2.6 million tons of air cargo valued around $140 million enters New York’s three area airports. Entering in this fashion are 83% of the nation’s diamonds, 55% of the nation’s arts and antiques, and 47% of the nation’s perfumes and cosmetics. In addition, 40% of all U.S. seafood sent abroad airborne leaves through the New York region airports.

Four center generation plants produce about half of New York’s electricity. Power barges, originally designed for emergency power, are now permanent. Power comes from outside the city. Indian Point in Westchester County supplies about 20%. Power comes from New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Hydro electric power accounts for 41% and wind power accounts for 2% of New York City’s electricity.

Steam heat can peak at 12 million pounds per hour requiring 1.6 million gallons of water per hour. 100,000 homes and businesses use steam. There are seven steam generating plants, five in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn, and one in Queens.

New Yorkers are involved in 12.5 million telephone calls daily. There are 80 switching stations. Nitrogen tanks, with three day shelf lives, are kept on streets to counteract the damage moisture has on underground telephone lines.

There are 30,000 pay phones from 63 phone companies in New York City. 20% of city residents do not have their own phone service.

311 information and referral operators receive under 45,000 calls daily with an average wait to answer of seven seconds.

About 23 million pieces of mail go through New York’s 264 post offices daily. The pneumatic tube mail network handles about 95,000 letters per day. There are over 8.000 blue mail collection boxes. 44 buildings have their own zip codes.

Four reservoirs, in the Delaware system 125 miles away, supply about half the city’s water. 40% comes from the Catskill system. The rest comes from 12 reservoirs and three lakes in Westchester and Putnam Counties. There is a total of 580 billion gallons of storage capacity. New York has 18 collecting reservoirs, two storage reservoirs, and within the city, four distributing reservoirs. There are four aqueducts. Almost all water is carried through two tunnels. A third 60 mile tunnel has been under construction and is expected to cost $6 billion. It is scheduled to open in 2020. Cracks throughout the water system lose about 36 million gallons. New York uses 1.3 billion gallons daily.

New York has 6,600 miles of sewer pipes and mains and 14 wastewater treatment plants, handling 1.3 billion gallons of sewage daily. There are 145,000 storm water catch basins and 5,000 seepage basins that place water into the ground. Sewage was dumped at one ocean site 12 miles away from the coast and second 106 miles away from the coast until 1992. Sludge was then taken by train to Sierra Blanca, Texas until 2001.

New York combines storm water with waste water which is then sent to treatment plants. Rain causes overflow about half the time, meaning untreated water, about one fifth of which is raw sewage, goes into waterways. New York has 450 outflows into the harbor. 23 locations have booms or floating barriers capturing floatable, which are paper, plastics, and Styrofoam, and preventing them from going into the waer. A city owned vessel, the Cormorant, captures more floatables with nets and is able to handle 24 tons of floatables.

There are 14 sewage treatment plants and about 100 pumping stations handling wastewater. Digesters heat sludge encouraging anaerobic bacteria to grow and then remove the sludge’s organic material over 15 to 20 days. Half the bio-solids are formed into pellets at Hunt Point Plant in the Bronx. Most of these pellets are used for Florida citrus fertilizer. Others go to Virginia cornfields and grazing land as well as to Colorado and wheat fields. Some is pelletized in Arkansas for use as fertilizer, composted in Pennsylvania for topsoil blending, and lime treating in New Jersey for corn and hay fertilizer.

The Sanitation Department employs 10,000 handling 12,000 tons of resident and municipal waste daily. It is collected two to four days a week. Recyclables are collected once a week. Commercial waste is handled by private companies.

There are 2,100 collection trucks, as well as 450 mechanical street sweepers, 350 salt and sand spreaders, 280 front loading collection vehicles, 275 specialized collection vehicles, and over 2,000 support vehicles. The Central Repair Shop is the largest nonmilitary shop in the nation. Most of the garbage winds up in landfills in Pennsylvania and Virginia. For over 50 years, garbage went to Fresh Kills Landfill, which is 2,200 acres (three times Central Park’s size) and taller than the Statute of Liberty.

19% of curbside waste is recyclables.

235 street sweepers operate daily. Each covers from 6 to 20 miles in one day. Their maximum speed is 37 MPH. They control 240 gallons of water. They refill at hydrants.

410 of salt spreading trucks are used at one inch of snow. At 2 to 4 inches of snow, all spreaders are used and 380 plows are used. At 4 to 6 inches, over 700 trucks are used. At over 6 inches of snow, all 1,335 plowing trucks are used.

Rare Sighting of a Pro-Choice and Thoughtful Republican

Tom Ridge with Larry Bloom. The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege…and How We Can Be Safe Again. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2009.

As Homeland Security Secretary, Ridge observed a need for various emergency response teams to work better and perform better. He saw a need for regional offices, improving public education on terrorism, and avoiding politicizing national safety efforts.

Ridge sees this Cabinet position as a challenge. Sen. Joseph Lieberman called it “building an ark after the flood started”. Ridge also saw power plays, which are common in government office politics, continue even in homeland security matters.

Ridge was Pennsylvania Governor on September 11, 2001 when one of the planes hijacked by terrorists crashed in Shanksville, Pa. He flew by helicopter to the crash site. He was touched by the knowledge that the passengers had likely overtaken the hijackers. He believes this provides people a sense of empowerment during crises rather than feeling hopeless.

Ridge sees education is an important path to achieving empowerment. He favors more charter schools and vouchers.

Ridge is pro-choice on abortion and does not believe a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman is needed. His political service record has brought him consideration for Vice President yet these views prevent him from being offered the slot.

When Ridge was offered the Homeland Security advisory position, which led became a Cabinet department, he had to consider how it would change his family. The family would no longer live in the Governor’s mansion and have State Police to drive them wherever they go. That would all end.

Ridge accepted the position realizing that it could be one that ended his political career.

For 1,200 years, Ridge notes, Christians and Jews live din safety in countries ruled by Muslims. Al Qaeda now calls for the destruction of Western civilization. Bernard Lewis argued Muslims had a growing sense of victimhood. Samuel Huntington blamed growing feelings of darkness emerging form people obsessed with the pack of power their religious views were providing. Sayyid Qutb tortured in prison after involvement in a failed assassination attempt of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nassar, gained a following. Qutb’s devotes sought to attack Muslim leaders they felt were too attached to Western society. As Ridge notes, “the rest of torture in those Egyptians was, I think, predictable—a rage for revenge.”

Ridge realized the nation needs to improve its public health system for security reasons. Bioterrorism has emerged as something to fear that previously had been little considered as a threat.

Ridge’s first day on the job with Homeland Security began with challenges as the U.S. and U.K. began bombing targets in Afghanistan that same day.

Ridge found the CIA and FBI willing to work together. Vice President Cheney was very involved on security issues. He also noted President Bush allowed others in meetings to speak as equals.

Anthrax that was mailed killed people and created new fears. It was not clear who had mailed the anthrax or why. Investigators searched diligently. Ridge decided he needed to calm a growing panic and sought to do so.

Concerns were raised that an airplane crashing into a nuclear power plant would cause a nuclear explosion. Ridge tried to present computer models showing this would not happen, although there would be “modest” radiation released.

There were calls to create a single food inspection agency. There were fears terrorists could attack the food supply and a strong and united response would be important. The U.S. Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration, and other agencies fought this proposal.

Border issues faced Ridge. This would require a massive undertaking concerning the thousands of miles involved and large volume and goods and people crossing those borders.

The Associated Press determined that possible terrorist targets included 600,000 bridges, 2,800 power plants, 190,000 miles of natural gas pipe, 95,000 coastline miles, and 463 skyscrapers.

Local and state government agencies have to be a part of coordinate response efforts. Yet within the agencies is often found inadequate staff, training, and resources. They may not respond as the Federal government expects. Ridge wants to provide more equipment to local and state governments responding as they are the first on the scenes of most disasters.

Intelligence “is an art, not a science”, according to Ridge. Speculation that Las Vegas or Hollywood could be targets made sense as this would be striking at symbols of what terrorist groups despise. Speculation that the Golden Gate Bridge could be a target made less sense due to the difficulty such an attack would require. Ridge criticized Governor Gray Davis of California for placing National Guard soldiers and an increased number of Highway Patrol at the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Ridge thought these were not necessary and increased public worry.

Ridge wanted a system that could provide urgent warnings to the nation. Only Israel was found to have such a system. From these investigations, a color alert system was created. Under orange, pubic events would be canceled. Under red, response teams would mobilize and public and private facilities would be closed. Ridge notes that critics such as Richard Cohen believed the public would eventually ignore the flow of warnings. Ridge notes the U.S. has responded by creating increased border inspections, airport inspections, increased infrastructure inspections, more intelligence sharing, and that $100 million in terrorist assets had been frozen.

Ridge notes it should not have been a surprise there would be public concern and criticism once it was disclosed the National Security Agency had been secretly authorized to expand operations without warrants, which would have previously been required. Ridge believes this needs to be reshaped towards its original intent, noting “under no circumstances can we voluntarily surrender a Constitutionally protected right.”

Ridge notes how fellow Republican Saxby Chambliss in George defeated Max Cleland for reelection by trying to make Cleland appear unpatriotic. This was done by placing Cleland’s face over Osama bin Laden’s face in Chambliss ads. Ridge notes “it was an early and brutal example of paying the patriotism card, and set a new standard for low…The accusation that we were playing politics was something we dealt with often, and the George campaign gave those accusations a basis in fact.”

The Bush Administration decided to invade Iraq. As Ridge notes, “freeing Iraq of a dictatorial government---and doing so with no American and few Iraq casualties---was an ambitious goal…I knew that Iraq was not at that point any kind of Al Qaeda stronghold.” The war led to “fueling radicalism in the Middle East and elsewhere.”

As Governor. Ridge tripled the number of the state’s overseas trade offices. He respected the increasing globalization of commerce.

When a natural disaster hits, Ridge observes how important it is that communications be established with those affected. This was a mistake President Bush failed to take following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Ridge wanted the Homeland Security Department to work more closely with state and local governments. He wanted regional offices. He thought he had support from the Bush White House when funds were appropriated. Yet Ridge discovered that critics of his goals worked internally within the White House to undermine his work.

Ridge notes President Bush’s approval ratings increased almost 5 Percentage points every time a terror alert was announced. Ridge knew he would lose trust if politics entered homeland security matters.

On October 29, 2004, an Osama bin Laden video aired on Al Jazerra. In America, the polls had Bush and Kerry tied. Homeland Security personnel internally concluded there was nothing in the video to increase the alert level. The level was increased and Bush won the election a few days later.

The delays that security caused when entering the U.S. as well as the higher cost of traveling to the U.S. due to security costs impacted our tourism industry. From 2000 to 2007, the global overseas terrorism increased by almost 30% with 35 million new travelers worldwide. In 2000, 26 foreigners million came to the U.S. (not counting people from Mexico and Canada) while 24 million foreign came to the U.S. in 2997.

The new requirements of coastal protection were beyond the Coast Guard’s capabilities. A public-private partnership with Northrup Grumman plus Lockheed Martin was created. The program had huge cost overruns, the designs were flawed, hulls cracked, and numerous other problems resulted.

Emergency services require their own broadband. A lesson learned is that fire, police, emergency rescue, etc. need to communicate, coordinate, and provide warning to each others.

Ridge calls for a national ID system and a national energy independence policy.

How One Family Business Drives a Community

Bruce Stark and Steve Gaynes. Big Enough to Serve You, Small Enough to Know You: 150 Years of Living and Working on Hamburg Cove, Six Generations of the Reynolds Family. 2009.

Ephraim Otis Reynolds (1837-1916) began the Reynolds Family business, one that has lasted six generations in Lyme, Ct. The business began as a carriage business in 1859 on two acres. A general store was added a few years later and continues operating. The carriage business today is an auto dealership.

The carriage business produced 30 carriages in 1873. A new faction increased production to around 50 carriages and wagons annually. Reynolds recognized the changing winds of business as the Studebaker line was grabbing much of the market. Reynolds switched to carriage repair and servicing. By 1890, the carriage component was involved only in repair and service.

Ephraim Reynolds served in the Connecticut state legislature in 1893-4. His eldest son, Hayden Lord Reynolds, (1860-1945) continued the family business. His first job of painting and striping carriages paid 50 cents daily.

Hayden Reynolds opened a shooting gallery in the store basement in 1887. In 1903, summer dances began being held as well. The store became the gathering point for most of the town’s residents. Hayden bought the store from his father in 1909 and H.L. Reynolds Co. began. The store sign remains to this day. Situated near Hamburg Cover off the Connecticut River, a few miles from the Long Island Sound, allowed many good to arrive by boat. A windmill pumped water to the garage and continues working. Hayden served in the state legislature in 1918 and 1923.

Donald Reynolds (1888-1976) was the third generation in the business. Reynolds married Kathryn Harding in 1910. She died in 1949. In 1953, Donald married his late wife’s sister, Tess Harding Peck. Tess had been widowed when her husband William Peck was gored by a pet bull.

Gary Reynolds (b. 1944) now operates the garage. He is assisted by his son Tom, daughter Kathryn Reynolds Wayland, and son Gary.

The Reynolds store is in the heart of town, across from a church. In the 1800s, there were plans to build a train through Lyme with a stop near the Reynolds store in the Hamburg section of Lyme. It was never built. The population of Lyme steadily fell from 1,236 in 1860, 1,025 in 1880, 1,181 in 1900, and 546 in 1930.

In 1870, Lyme had ten businesses, including the carriage factory as well as three sawmills, two boat constructors, a cotton and wool mill, a sorghum mill, a satinet (thin satin) factory, and a blacksmith shop.

A marina and bulkhead were constructed in 1933. A boatshed followed in 1936. The business expanded into marine service in addition to auto repair. A marine railway system was built to bring boats onto dry land.

Gary Reynolds chairs the Lyme Board of Finance. His fiscal concern is recalled when a cemetery committee sought to buy a new dogwood tree to replace one, hoping to match it with a remaining dogwood tree. Gary’s response was “How much to cut the other dogwood tree down?”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Corrupt Police, Good Police, and Republican Mayors

Leonard Levitt. NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country’s Greatest Police Force. New York” St. Martin’s Press: Thomas Dunne Books, 2009.

John Guido, head of NYPD Internet Affairs for 15 years, observed that corruption has been a part of the New York police culture. Detective Frank Serpico went public with corruption which led to the Knapp Commission in 1970 that found corruption at all levels. There was a continuation of corrupt practices discovered by the Lexom Commission in the 1890s. Police were known to shake down the public and criminals. The Knapp Commission discovered officers known as “grass eaters” and “meat eaters” depending on the degree of corrupt practices in which they engaged. The police had a culture of covering up their misdoings. Reports were altered to make the police falsely appear correct. The highest uniformed officer, the Chief Inspector, admitted to receiving improper gifts from business leaders. Reports of corruption were reported to Mayor John Lindsay, who looked the other way in hopes of keeping the police ready in case of riots, which did occur.

Ironically, after the Knapp Commission, police leadership focused more on preventing policy corruption than on fighting crime. There was less managerial concern about the rising crime rate than on avoiding corrupt practices. Precinct cops and squad detectives were steered away from making drug arrests, which had led to kickbacks. Instead, arrests were made by specialized units, which resulted in decreased arrest rates. Broken police command led to tragic consequences.

The police were left to continue monitoring themselves. Yet, 33 officers were convicted of drug related charges. The Mollen Commission studied the police and concluded that officers placed loyalty to each other above the truth. Kelly slowly and reluctantly removed some senior officer alleged to be part of cover-ups. A permanent police monitoring agency was proposed but Mayor Guiliani opposed the idea.

Ray Kelly became Police Commissioner and he aggressively recruited more African American police officers with methods including speaking at Black churches. While actual recruitment efforts were not as good as expected, Kelly achieved greater goodwill from the African American community.

Ray Kelly as Police Commissioner saw the murder rate decline during his tenure. He was known for fighting police corruption. His successful tenure at lowering crime helped boost the image of Mayor Rudy Guiliani. Yet Guiliani replaced him with William Bratton.

Bratton had been Chief of New York’s Transit Police. He introduced a new philosophy of going after the most common crimes, such as fare beaters, because this would more easily reduce more serious crime. A 13% decrease in fare beating coincided with a 40% decrease in robberies, the first decrease in subway crime in about ten years.

Transit chief Bratton created wolf pack squads who would seek and arrest an entire gang of young criminals instead of arresting one person to close the case. He realized there was a 210% increase in robberies against Asians because many were illegal immigrants who did not report crimes. He created an Asian decoy squad. He also had Transit Police deliver their department’s own warrants as NYPD was reluctant to do so.

Bratton asked the Three Star Super Chiefs and all 15 Deputy Commissioners to resign. Kelly, in contrast, had kept the top police management. Bratton had NYPD increase arrest of “quality of life” crimes such as squeegee people, graffiti writers, people public urinating, shoplifters, marijuana dealers and users, etc.

Britton’s successes made him more popular than was Mayor Guiliani. Guiliani was not happy with being overshadowed.

1,000 officers, or 4% of all officers, were in the Narcotics Division. Since 30% of crime was related to drugs, Bratton decided to transfer more police into the Narcotics Division. Once again, Bratton received more praise for this than did Guiliani. Guiliani demanded the police press office be reduced from 35 to 17, one less than the 16 who composed the Mayor’s press office. Bratton objected, stating he ran the department. The head of the Press Corps refused to fire people as directed by the Mayor and resigned instead.

It is noted the New York press corps in general was kind towards Mayor Guiliani. The owners of the press had real estate holdings and city government, in turn, seemed to be helpful to those owners. Mortimer Zuckerman of the Daily News owed the city a $33.8 million forfeiture fee that the city government reduced to $17 million.

Giuliani’s office began criticizing Bratton for out of town appearances. It is against Department policy to accept outside reward for public service and it was hinted those appearances violated that. Bratton signed a book contract that received more criticism. Bratton resigned.

Howard Safir was named Police Commissioner. Giuliani swung the spotlight back to his office. Crime continued decreasing. Giuliani, in a slap at Bratton, proclaimed Safir as “the greatest Police Commissioner in the history of New York City”. Under Safir, only minimum information was released to the press. Freedom of information requests took months to be processed through the system. The press office refused to answer how large it was. The author counted 38 press employees, making it larger than it was under Bratton.

The Street Crime Unit was almost all white and its suspects were mostly Black and Hispanic. Also, some African American officers were discouraged dthat only 2 of 49 supervisors were Black. This created some public tensions. Safir increased the Unit’s size by six times to 438. Even some officers warned that some newer officers had been placed too soon into this Unit.

Several police scandals arose. An arrested man was deliberately abused physically and sexually in a police station. Safir canceled appearing before Council to instead attend the Oscars while staying two nights as the guests of George Fellows, the head of Revlon. When this was disclosed in the press, Safir reimbursed Fellows $7,100. There was also a highly controversial shooting of an unarmed Black who had committed no crime by white Streets Crime Unit officers who mistakenly thought he had a gun. Racial tensions arose. Bernard Kerik was named to replace Safir as Commissioner.

Bernard Kerik wrote his autobiography and had an affair with his publisher Judith Regan. She claims the affair was a means Kerik used to get her to publicize the book. He then ended the affair and she claims he stalked and threatened her and her children.

Kerik had been a police officer for eight years achieving the rank of Detective Third Grade. He did not have a college degree unlike all above Lieutenant rank. Kerik had been Guiliani’s bodyguard and driver during his campaign for Mayor. Guiiani swiftly promoted Kerit to leadership in Corrections and then in charge of all city prisons. Giuliani felt Kerik knew police work without having any involvement, and thus was independent, from police leadership.

While Giuliani had criticized Bratton for signing a book contract, he was silent when Kerik signed one. Police resources were used to get information for the book. Kerik used police officers to travel to Ohio for research for his book. Kerit stated the work was not during work time and he reimbursed the officers who traveled to Ohio $838.74. He though was fined $2,500 by the Conflict of Interest Board for having the officers work on his book. Kerit also used official police photograph on 9/11 that Guiliani had previously banned their use.

Kerik formed a subsidiary of Giuilani Partners called Giuliani-Kerik Security. This company received $4.3 millino to work with the Mexico City Police and several millions to assist Trinidad on murder and kidnapping cases.

Kerik was named Secretary of Homeland Security. He withdrew from consideration for the post shortly afterwards. It was disclosed he had received thousands of dollars of gifts while with Corrections and NYPD from Lawrence Ray, who allegedly had ties to organized crime. Kerik was later accused of keeping$75,000 designated for charity. Kerit left Giuliani Partners and started his own Kerik Group with $7 million for military training in Guyana and work in Jordan.

Kerik was later charged for false statements including the $75,000 he did not report and for taking $230,000 in free rent as well as lying on his Homeland Security application by not disclosing $250,000 from an Israeli.

Judith Regan was fired from HarperCollins after aggregations were made that she had stated anti-Semitic comments. Regan claimed she was fired for refusing to lie to Federal investigators about her affair with Kerik. Regan sued HarperCollins and owner Rupert Murdoch. She collected $10 million in a settlement along with a public statement from Murdoch and HarperCollins that Regan is not anti-Semitic.

Michael Bloomberg, as Mayor, administered by delegation. Giuliani, in contrast, sought to be in control. Bloomberg brought Raymond Kelly back as Commissioner. Kelly changed the Intelligence Division to hire more people fluent in Arabic, Urdu, and Pashto.

An antiwar protest in 2003 led to NYPD arresting 274 protestors. They were interrogated about their outside connections, possible security threats, and hold for long periods without food and water. A pregnant woman was among those who suffered through this. Kerry and the head of the Intelligence Division claimed to have known nothing about these procedures.

The crime rate continued decreasing. Some claimed more officers were downgrading complaints of crime to lesser offenses. The police became more transparent on public information.

The Intelligence Division held up an arriving Iranian diplomatic delegation for 40 minutes to count their guns. This was done over objections of the Security Division and others who feared retaliation against American diplomats. The Division was again criticized for arresting 1,806 protests of that 2004 Republican National Convention which did not lead to even one conviction.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Back When Republicans Liked Fresh Air

Morrison H. Heckscher. Creating Central Park. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008.

New York was governed, in the early 19th century, by a Mayor and Common Council, consisting of Aldermen. Yet the Governor and state legislature had the authority to override any city decision. In 1807, the state government approve having three commissioners determine roads and public squares for Manhattan north of Houston (then called North) Street. A survey was conducted. A plan, mostly for commerce and real estate planning, was published in 1811. It offered some open space, calling for nine new squares of open space, including a plan in the island’s center between 23rd and 32nd streets. This plan was criticized for having too much open space. In 1815, two of the proposed squares were scaled back in size.

Madison and Lexington Streets were created in 1833 to alleviate traffic. The thinking on open spaces was changing then. Foreign visitors were criticizing the lack of public squares. Some citizens wanted an area for festivities.

Land for Gramery Park was donated in 1831. Land for Stuyvesant Park was donated in 1836. The state created Tompkin Square in 1833 and Madison Square in 1837.

The press called for more open space. William Cullen Bryant, editor of the New York Evening Post, wanted park land purchased while it could still be inexpensively bought. Andrew Jackson Downing, editor of the Horticulturist, proposed landscape gardening and public parks. These became popular ideas that were adopted by political candidates, including Caleb Woodhull, who was elected Mayor in 1849. Mayor Woodhull declared a need for more breathing places. The successive Mayor, Ambrose Kingsland, elected in 1850, proposed creating a large uptown park. The state government approved the Jones’ Wood Park Act to purchase land for a park.

There was some political bickering over where this park should be located. The Journal of Commerce, among others, opposed creating any park. The Central Park Act was passed. Disputes over assessments went to the State Supreme Court. A plan to reduce the park form 59th to 72nd Street passed but was vetoed by Mayor Fernando Wood.

The park area was surveyed. Several plans were submitted and a play by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead was chosen. The plan included east-west park drives, minimum elevation, and five park sections.
Ground drainage was the first task. 400 workers placed 105,000 feet of drain tile. The four transverse roads were built. Planting and nursery efforts began. The buildings were not in the original plan but added later. Grand entry gates were later designed. Sculptures were added. The park was completed and considered a success.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Maybe Jane Goodall Can Save Liberal Republicans

Jane Goodall with Thane Maynard and Gail Hudson. Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from The Brink. New York: Grand Center Publishing, 2009.

This book presents examples of successful efforts to prevent the extinction of species. One quarter of all mammals face extinction. Much of this is caused by humans, who have reduced water supplies, created global climate changes, and other actions that disrupt nature.

There have been public policy actions in these efforts. Lead poisoning is a threat to the survival of the California condor. These birds will accidentally eat plastic, glass, bottle caps, and other trash that is harmful. Leader bullets are poisonous to condors. California passed a law outlawing lead bullets for large game hunting. Some environmentalists believe this was not strong enough. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger believes banning the bullets will force manufacturers to stop making them.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was instrumental is saving the red wolf. Captured red wolves are introduced to life in the wild within wildlife refuges and then released into the wild to increase red wolf population.

The peregrine falcon as well as other birds and insects were nearly wiped out by the pesticides containing DDT. The Environmental Protection Agency held eight months of hearings before banning DDT. The issue was challenged in courts. The U.S. Supreme Court accepted the scientific evidence of the dangers of DDT and upheld the ban. The European Union also banned DDT.

The book heralds several scientific efforts that have saved several species. It tells how these goals were accomplished. It also feels of finding new species and even discovering species previously thought to be extinct.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Here's an Idea: Whoever Gets the Most Votes Should Win

A President, like all other public offices, should be chosen by the time honored proposition that the candidate who receives the most votes wins. Once enough states join in a compact so that all the compact members states represent a majority of the Electoral College, all compact members will require their Electoral votes to be cast for the national popular vote winner. This thus will elect our President by a nationwide popular vote according to the system used most everywhere else: whoever has the most votes is elected.
One of the reasons I support this is because four times in our history a candidate failing to win the popular vote became President. In each of these cases, these four Presidents have been ones that most historians rate as failed Presidents.
A President who is elected with most of the public against his selection starts off with a distinct disadvantage. Presidents need to lead and galvanize a country. It is much harder to do this when a majority of the country did not want that President to be in office in the first place.
In addition, most of the Presidents elected without winning the popular vote achieved office under clouds of controversy. A major failure of the Electoral College is that fraud in a key state can alter the final results. This further weakens the public support for such a President. Furthermore, Congress recognizes this unpopularity. Congress thus generally sees less of a need to work with unpopular Presidents.
John Quincy Adams was the first President elected with fewer popular votes than his principal opponent, Andrew Jackson, in 1824. The selection was decided by Congress which was heavily influenced by the support House Speaker Henry Clay provided for Adams. When Adams appointed Clay as Secretary of State, there were deep suspicions there had been a trade-off between Adams and Clay.
The Adams Presidency found much opposition even from within his own Federalist Party. Adams and Clay attempted to form their own political party which collapsed soon afterwards. Jacksonian Democrats took control of Congress in the midterm elections which further doomed the ability of Adams to enact his policies. Andrew Jackson rode this dissatisfaction with the Adams Presidency to success by defeating Adams for President in the 1828 election.
Rutherford Hayes was elected President in 1876 with fewer popular votes than his opponent Samuel Tilden. The Hayes election received diminished public support due to accusations of fraud in four states that had awarded their Electoral votes to Hayes.
Hayes was so unpopular that his Presidential inauguration was held in secret. Hayes tried to mend fences by offering patronage positions to his political opponents which resulted in alienating his own party members. The Hayes Presidency was marked by its ineffectiveness in advancing its main proposals. Hayes chose not to run for reelection.
Benjamin Harrison was chosen President in the 1888 elections even though incumbent President Grover Cleveland received more popular votes. Harrison was elected with popular votes from two states where voter fraud was widely suspected. Harrison attempted to offer political compromises to Congress. They were mostly rejected by his political party as well as the opposition. Harrison created economic policies that are credited with leading to a depression. Economic recovery was achieved with the repeal of actions Harrison took. Grover Cleveland returned to the Presidency by defeating Harrison in the 1892 elections.
The fourth person to lose the popular vote yet become President was George W. Bush. Al Gore received more votes and Bush was elected after the Supreme Court awarded Florida’s Electoral votes to Bush before a vote recount could be completed. The controversies over the Bush election and the Bush Presidency are fresh enough that we recall them. Opposition to the Bush policies led to the election of Barack Obama and Democratic control of Congress. Already some historians are placing the Bush Presidency as one of the worse Presidencies in all history.
The Electoral College has not served us when a popular vote loser becomes President. There is no good reason why the Electoral College should be the system that chooses our President. It is time we move to a popular election.