Friday, January 25, 2013

Even a Democrat Can Write a Decent Book

Tom Daschle and Charles Robbin. The U.S. Senate. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2013.

This book explains that Congress is designed to represent the public yet doing so in a manner that sustains democracy while allowing for the correction of errors (i.e. McCarthyism).. “Congress was created by geniuses so it could be run by idiots” is a Congressional saying. Partisanship and gridlock have long been part of its history yet thought its complex system, laws emerge.

As Pennsylvania was the first state to elect its Senators, that made its Senators Robert Morris and William Maclay the first and second Senators. As of 2013, there have been 1,941 Senators. Daschle was the 1,776th Senator.

The philosophical differences between the two political parties are not by famous statements of Presidents from both parties. Democrat Franklin Roosevelt noted his fellow Democrats believe “as new conditions and problems arise beyond the power of men and women to meet as individuals, it becomes the duty of government to find new remedies with which to meet them.” Republican Ronald Reagan evoked his the Republican Party’s philosophy that “government is the problem, not the solution.”

In the 1970s and prior, Senators in both parties worked and compromised on legislation.  Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirkson stated “I live by my principles, and one of my principles is flexibility.” Today, the Senate is more partisan. Partisanship can be good when strong principles are defended. It can stifle legislative progress.

George Washington explained explained the creation of a second Congressional chamber as a means to cool legislation that may have been hotly and improperly passed by one chamber. Washington remarked that “we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.”

The House Rules Committee establishes debate and amendment rules. The Senate mostly allows open debate unlike the House that places time limits. At times the Senate appears to be a place where somebody stands up to speak, nobody listens, and then everybody disagrees.”

The Vice President, from John Adams under Washington to Richard Nixon under Eisenhower, primarily presided over the Senate, rarely spoke on the Senate floor, and seldom attended Cabinet and Executive meetings. Vice President Lyndon Johnson moved the Vice President’s office from the Capitol to the White House. Every subsequent Vice President has taken a White House office.

80% of current Senate correspondence is by email.

The Senate has 20 committees, 68 subcommittees, and 4 joint committees with each Senator having 12 or less committee assignments. The author advise making committees “small and manageable.”

The Senate had only several Select committees until 1816 when its 11 Select committees were made permanent. The Senate Appropriations Committee began in 1867 by separating out its duties from the Finance Committee.

Senate debate is kept formal to try to keep discussions rational and orderly. Majority Leader Alben Barkley once advised “if you think a colleague is stupid, refer to him as ‘the able, learned, and distinguished Senator’, but if you now he is stupid, refer to him as ‘the very able, learned, and distinguished Senator.”

A “routine quorum call” is usually a procedure to buy time without adjourning or recessing and can be rescinded by unanimous consent. A “live quorum call” is to hve Senators report to the Senate floor. Attendance can be compelled. The Sergeant at Arms once had Senator Robert Packwood carried to the floor.

A Senator placing a hold on a bill is threatening to filibuster it.Holds do not exist under formal Senate rules yet are informally provided to Leaders. Daschle believes the Senator placing a hold should be publicly named, unlike current practice.

A cloture motion seeks to limit debate. The number of cloture motions has vastly increased in the last five years compared to the past. This reflects the large increase in the number of holds.

The authors observe “government is always better when its leaders hear as many points of view as possible, and gather ideas from the widest possible range of people who will be affected by their decisions.”

Legislation is often passed by building bipartisan coalitions, compromises, defending principles, and having a strong message. Senators may agree to support a bill in return for support for another bill, called “logrolling”. Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson often used  non-legislative favors, such as appointments to boost a Senator’s home state popularity,

A Majority Leader may bypass the committee system and place a bill directly before the Senate on the Calendar of General Orders. This risks attracting amendments that could have been considered in committee and having opponents claim the bill is being shoved through without due consideration. Legislative can be dual-tracked.

A Majority Leader can preclude amendments from other Senators by using the right of first recognition to file all amendments under agreed to rules, an action known as to “fill the amendment tree”. This could be met with a filibuster.

A Conference Report is a committee appointed from both chambers to resolves differences on legislation between the two chambers, The bill offered by the Conference Committee cannot be amended and can only be voted upon as is. In recent years, Conference Reports have deleted sections to which both chambers had previously agreed and attached new language. This is a “violate scope” procedure which has become more common. Such actions are reducing the use of Conference Committees.

Debate on reconciliation bills is limited to 24 hours. They often have non-spending items attached to them.

There is less socialization amongst Senators since airplanes allowed Senators to commute from their home states. Campaigns have become more costly, causing Senators to spend ore time fund raising and less time on Senate work, including socialization with other Senators. House seats have tended to be draw to protect incumbents causing members of Congress to be ore inclined to support their base of supporters then seeking legislative compromises. News reporting has become more slanted, from Fox News slanting right to MSNBC slanting left.

Daschle observes that personal relationships between Senators used to overcome partisan barriers It is feared that more Senators today are more fueled by ambition and less by a desire for legislative accomplishment. The authors observe “keeping our republic always requires two things: fighting for ti and working at it. With the right enlightened approach, our best days truly do lie ahead of us.”

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Issue Resolved by a Great Republican President

Frederick Law Olmsted (author). Arthur M. Schlesinger (editor). The Cotton Kingdom. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1970.(originally published in book form in 1860)

This book is an important resource as of one of the few journalistic observations of slavery conducted and written before the Civil War. While descriptions of slavery in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” swept the nation, it described life on one slave farm. These writings were an effort to provide a broader observation of numerous farms in several Southern states.

Readers find interviews and descriptions of farms, slaves, slave owners, and farmers using labor methods other than slavery in Southern states. These bring forth many compelling details of 1850s Southern farm lives, without knowledge of the impending war and its outcome that slavery would be abolished. While the descriptions are provided with journalistic integrity, the results helped enrage readers against slavery. While there are slaves expressing varying degrees of satisfaction and misery, and there were slave owners who cared more about their slaves than others (most often in the smaller farms), the brutalities reported about cruel masters and overseers shocked sensibilities. Even Olmsted broke observation neutrality in reporting a debate with a slave owner who noted the law then permitted him to beat both his wife and his slave, so he sees no difference, to which Olmsted felt compelled to reply that the law will act to protect the abused wife but no Southern laws then acted to protect the abused slaves.

Olmsted delivered an an mathematically descriptive analysis that slavery was not economically efficient. Paying slave labor low incomes for life produced workers little motivated to work hard. Using violence as a motivation only produced workers who worked at levels just enough to avoid punishment. Slaves farms were further inefficient as owners provided housing and care to slaves for life meant that only a portion of the slave population was economically productive. One farm, rather than risk their life investment in slaves, hired Irish itinerant workers for dangerous work, The author provided examples and data showing that farms that had higher paid non-slave workers were far more productive and more profitable. In addition, the existence of a large number of low income employees was a damper on the Southern economy as they had little purchasing power to purchase goods.

The book editor Arthur Schlesinger notes Olmsted hoped the Southern states would recognize the inefficiency of their slave system and end it on their own accord. He observes some abolitionists denounced these writings for not taking a moral stance against slavery. These were meant as depictions as to what was observed without commentary. They remain as a great collection of slave life descriptions published before the Civil War.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Biography of a Man Who Fought Tammany Democrats Among Other Things

Justin Martin.Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted. Cambridge, Ma.: Da Capa Press, 2011.

Olmsted was a New York Daily Times writes won in the 1850s toured Southern states and wrote articles on slavery. Olmstead was hired to write about the South after a five minute interview where he pledged to write only his observations. The Times had increased from four to eight pages, raised its price, and lost circulation from 25,000 to 18,000. The Times needed to fill more pages and attract more readers. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was popular then, and had been written by Harriett Beecher Stowe based on her knowledge of one slave state. Olmsted was to view a great span of the South.

Olmsted was shocked by the slavery he saw. He also found well treated slaves who loved their masters who were trusted to have guns for their own hunting. Olmstead found many plantations where about a third of slaves worked. Many were found by a nurse to be unable to work yet still received food and clothing from the masters

Olsted found slaves who had worked on farms in both Southern and Northern states. These slaves advise that slave farms were less efficient than hired labor. Olmstead calcuated slave farms produced were half as efficient as a farm he had worked on in Staten Island.

Omsted met with German farmers in Texas. 150 German families bought land from a speculator who tricked them. Olmsted visited New Braunfelds, Texas, a community of 3,000, nearly all German. They did not use slave labor. These farms operated very efficiently.

In sum, Olmsted’s articles informed the public that slavery was economically inefficient.

Olmsted  found railroads in the South were very slow which further harmed efficiency in slowly moving goods and in travel.

The balanced and insightful interviews Olmsted wrote about from slaves and slave owners created greater concern among Northern readers about slavery. His book “The Cotton Kingdom” about slavery was successful in England and helped generate British sympathy for the North against the South.

Olmstead happened to meet Charles Elliott at an inn in Morris Cove, Ct. Elliott informed Omsted of a search for a Superintendent for Manhattan’s Central Park. Olmsted’s book, while notable, had not earned much money. Olmsted applied for the position. He was hired in 1857 at $1,500 a year, Olmsted was in charge of cleaning the park for a future undecided park plan.

Manhattan then had 165 acres of parkland in 17 parks, most of which were neighborhood squares. In 1850, both of New York’s candidates for Mayor had pledge creating a large park. A 150 acre Jones Wood was considered yet the owner didn’t want to sell it. The legislature voted to buy the land by eminent doman yet the owner kept the sale frustrated in lengthy litigation.

An inferior site of Central Park was then considered. Andrew Jackson Downing was to have created a design for Central Park. Downing drowned attempted to save a woman following a boat fire.

Olmsted supervised 700 laborers. His first big projects were demolishing hundreds of abandoned structures and having swamps drained.

Calvert Vaux had continued work he had down with Downing and developed a plan for Central Park. It included Gothic architecture that was then popular.

A plan by Egbert Viele was the official plan for Central Park. The Central Park Board believed the plans had design flaws. It was decided to have an open competition for producing a design plan.

Vaux and Olmsted worked together on a plan submission. Olmted had read about landscaping since a child As a farmer and journalist visiting farms, he further saw landscaping.

Olmsted was also a social reformer who wanted to create a tranquil place for urban residents. It would be available to all regardless of income level and social status. Their plan, unlike their competitors’, did not completely follow the competition guidelines. That did not prevent their winning the competition. The guidelines called for planning for a prospect tower. Vaux and Omsted did not include one and one was never built.

After Vaux and Olmsted won the competition, two Board members, both conservative Democrats, objected. They called for 17 amendments to the plan, including rejecting sunken transverses, creating horse paths, and creating a grand promenade across the park. They sought to change Vaux’s and Olmstead’s plan for a rural park. Olmsted presented his case with a tour of the park to the publisher of the New York Courier and Enquirer Richard Grant White. White was convinced and wrote supportingly of the plan. Omsted’s plan won over the amended plan.

Olmsted was hired as Architecture Chief at $2,500 per year even though he had no architecture training. Vaux was hired as Omsted’s assistance at $5 per day. Viele was dismissed.

The plan was opened in stages. Ice skating was created by winter. 1,000 were hired for what became the city’s largest public works unit/ Many rocks was blasted.250 tons of gunpowder was used, more than what would later be used in the Gettysburg battle. Land was drained.

 Ice skating proved popular. It was one of four places young men and women could be together unsupervised by chaperones. Many couples met ice skating.

While the amendment for more horseback riding had been defeated, the Park Board later demanded more access for horseback riding. Olmsted and Vaux created trails far apart from pedestrian traffic.

The Olmsted-Vaux plan led to creating 34 bridges and archways from 1859 to 1865.

Olmsted and Vaux received work on other projects. They designed cemetery grounds in Middletown, N.Y. and figured the grid for uptown Manhattan north of 155th Street. Olmsted designed grounds for some mental institutions where he designed large meadow lands to create or calm feelings.

Central Park cost five times more ethan initially estimated. This drew critics. Olmsted resigned yet the Board persuaded him to return.

During the Civil War, the U.S. Sanitary Commission (USSC) kept military conditions sanitary. Omsted was a notable member of this Commission, This was important as 97% of solider deaths were from insanity conditions and diseases rather than from battle.

Olmsted discovered that medical skills and medicine was lacking among soldiers. He found their diets lacked fruit or vegetables. Olmsted advice on improvements that were mostly ignored as the military focused on battle preparations instead. Olmsted developed empirical studies indicating that a third of the time 10 of 29 regiments collapsed exhausted even before fighting. The exhaustion was due to lack of food, water, and/or sleep. soliders would travel 44 miles on battle days. Unpaid and disgruntled soldiers who had to sleep on the ground were more apt to break rans under fire. Omsted’s report was met with derision, was stamped “confidential” and filed away.

The Medical Bureau led by the Surgeon General was understaffed at 26 surgeons and 80 assistants. Olmsted recommended soldiers receive quinine for malaria as well as vaccines. The Surgeon General, who preferred traditional treatments and distrusted new procedures, disagreed. Olmsted met with President Lincoln yet Lincoln supported the Surgeon General.

Olmsted proposed creating plantations of free slaves in Port Royal Ct Sen. Lafayette Foster introduced a bill Olmsted wrote to do this. The bill passed. The experiment did not work as Olmsted hoped yet it prevented many from becoming paupers in Port Royal.

Olmstead and the USSC were understaffed for the overwhelming number of ill soldiers. The Medical Bureau focused on those injured in battle.

The South believed England would aid the Confederacy to preserve their cotton market. Olmsted’s book presenting the evils of slavery were among the reasons England ultimately did not recognize the Confederacy and provide to aid to the South.

Olmsted went to work for a mining company. He lowered the miners’ wages causing them to strike. Olmsted enticed Chinese immigrants to serve as replacement workers at even lower wages, He later discovered the company he worked for was run by swindlers.

Olmsted reunited with Vaux to design a park in Brooklyn. Brooklyn was then a separate city, as then the nations third largest city, wanted something similar to Central Park. Prospect Park was the result. A tree moving machine had been invented by John Culyer. This machine was used to move many trees in Prospect Park.

Chicago sought more green spaces. Its population had tripled from 100,000 in 1860 to 300,000 in 1868, making it the nation’s fifth most populous city. Buffalo similarly sought more green land. Both cities hired Olmsted, Vaux, and Company. They worked on Chicago’s Riverside project first. They then worked on creating three separate parks for Buffalo with a natural looking human constructed lake.

Olmsted and Vaux designed a park system similar to Chicago for Buffalo. They were brought back for landscaping around the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane.

New York’s Democratic Party boss William Marcy Tweed put his political operative Peter Sweeney into the office as President of the Public Parks Department. Sweeney thus was in charge of Central Park. Olstead and Vaux were listed as consulting architects yet their advice was never sought. A choice park spot was converted into a zoo. A horse trotting course was constructed. A building where mothers received untainted milk was transformed into a restaurant. Olmsted and Vaux argued against these action to no avail.

Olmsted and Vaux often argued professionally and personally. They dissolved their business partnership in 1872.

Olmsted designed the grounds around the Capitol. Viele reemerged as a critic. Viele was a member of the U.S. Congress yet served only one term and was defeated for reelection. Olmsted’s plans went through.

Montreal Olmsted to design parks. As before, Olmsted sought to create a therapeutic park that would be socially beneficial and open to all.

Boston wanted to turn a swamp where sewage was dumped into a park. This was the nation’s first restoration of wetlands. Back Bay Fens was created.

Niagara Falls was the most popular 19th century tourist stop. The best views were from commercial sites, thus commercializing the attraction. Olmsted wrote a report on the situation that helped prod the New York legislature to act to preserve Niagara Falls. Yet Governor Alonzo Cornell opposed spending on the project, stating “the water will run over the falls all the same.” The Niagara Commission voted 4 to 1 to hire Olmsted to develop a plan for Niagara Fals. The dissenting vote was an old Olmsted critic who wanted to hire Vaux, Olmsted offered to work with Vaux. Vaux feared falling into poverty and Olmsted sought to help him.

Olmsted and Vaum sought to make Niagara Falls open to al. They commenced building a large tourist building next to the train station, to where tourists could drive, use facilities, and store things. Information signs, which did not exist, were created, Benches were placed facing views. Railing was created that did not distract from the views.

Olmsted worked on Vanderbilt and Biltmore estates, Olmsted’s health began declining He did no work in his final years and he died in 1903.

Thank You for Supporting the Tobacco Industry

Sidhartha Mukherjee. The Emperor of Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. New York: Scribner, 2010.

This detailed book examining the history of our awareness of cancer and how it is treated contains areas of interest to public policy readers.

The Surgeon General Luther Terry report linking cigarettes to cancer wakened the public to the dangers of cigarettes. Millions responded by quitting smoking. this was not without controversy. The tobacco industry was politically strong as an employer of many voters in several states and as a lobbying force. The Food and Drug Administration was persuaded not to declare cigarettes as a drug, The Federal Trade Commission did act to restrict cigarette advertising and required health warnings posted on cigarettes. Congress was persuaded by the tobacco industry to tone down the warnings to not include that they can cause cancer.

Anti-tobacco activists was spurred into action by the weakened Congressional action. Mary Lasker led a group, along with others, to lobby Congress. She was aided by Senators Lister Hill and Edward Kennedy. Hill retired and scandal diminished Kennedy’s effectiveness.

A government panel issued in 1970 called for a great national investment in cancer research, A lesser program was eventually approved by Congress and President Nixon.

Aren't Oceans and Gulfs Meant to Be Where Companies Dump Whatever They Want?

Joel Achenbach. A Hole at the Bottom of the Sea: The Face to Kill the BP Oil Gusher. New York: Simon and Shuster, 2011.

A 2010 explosion at a Gulf of Mexico oil rig killed 11 people. Several fail safe procedures designed to prevent oil from escaping into the water did not work A massive environmental disaster resulted while increased while experts determined how to stop the oil from continuing gushing out.

For readers interested in public policy, this book shows how the Obama Administration tried to handle both public relations to show the President was on top of the situation as well as engaging in a frantic search for ideas to stop the leaking oil while the crisis remained unresolved.

The Coast Guard is praised for acting as needed. They responded to their duties without concern for public relations nor possible political fallout.

The author observes this was a problem of modern engineering. We need to better comparably assess risks with benefits. We used to be better prepared to know how to act when risks occur and crises result. We need to guarantee that back-up plans will work.

When a crisis occurs, accept what the true damage is. Avoiding the truth won’t change reality. Keep “fixers” such as engineers away from the politicians, media, and public relations aspects and let them do their jobs. The author advises to use the Coast Guard’s “Thad Allen Rule: under-promise and over-deliver.” The author advises seeking critical thinking on complex technological problems from various sources As Achenbach writes, “call in the nerds as well as the cowboys.”

We Have No Idea How a Democrat Can Be Elected in Romney's Massachusetts

Deval Patrick. A Reason to Believe: Lessons From an Improbably Life. New Hork: Broadway 2011.

The author expresses his appreciation for people who help others “not because they  had to but because they simply could.” These are values that molded him and that he hopes others share. The author served as Assistant U.S. Attorney General for Civil Rights before being elected Massachusetts’s Governor.

Patrick was from a poor family growing up in Chicago. He graduated from Harvard. He received a Michael Clark Rockefeller Traveling Fellowship where he worked in Sudan doing field work regarding construction projects. He graduated from Harvard Law and then clerked for a Federal District Appeals Judge and then worked for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Patrick ran for Governor. He was attacked in radio ads, based on his having been a defense attorney, that stated “while lawyers have a right to defend admitted cop killers, do we really want one as Governor?” Patrick learned that politics can hurt oneself and one’s family. He was attacked because 13 years prior his brother in law pled guilty to sexually attacking his sister, even though they had since reconciled and were still together. Patrick, who worked for Coca Coa, was accused of being “involved with coke.”

The job of First Lady proved stressful for his wife She had only a Chief of Staff and was attacked for having that, even though First Ladies in most other states and territories had multiple staff members. She was treated for exhaustion and depression. His wife was encouraged by the volume of support people expressed afterwards.

Patrick sees public service as an important  calling for public good and improving future generations. He believes Obama has helped bring a bold idealism to politics. This has renewed his faith in politics.

What Happens When You Get a Democrat as President

Kristine Miller. Ellen and Edith: Woodrow Wilson’s First Ladies. Lawrence, Ky. University of Kansas Press, 2010.

Woodrow Wilson was the only President to have two wives while President. Ellen Axson Wilson was First Lady for 18 months before dying. 15 months after Edith’s death, Wilson married Edith Bolling Gait.

Wilson told Ellen upfront while dating her that he enjoyed being with other women. Still they married, Wilson became a noted scholar and national speaker. Ellen was very religious. Her faith was shattered when her brother, his wife, and their child drowned when a horse on a carriage was spooked and took their carriage off a ferry. Woodrow tried to revive Ellen’s spirits by having her do landscape painting with an impressionist painters artists colony in Old Lyme, Ct.

Wilson’s public speaking led some newspapers to suggest Wilson run for President. Wilson was President of Princeton University.

Wilson started a relationship with Mary Peck. He feel in love with her. Ellen went back to Old Lyme and painted as she recognized Woodrow’s “eternal love for Mary. Ellen and her daughters stayed at Florence Griswold’s boarding house. Ellen studied art from Frank DuMond.

Woodrow ran for Governor of New Jersey. Ellen agreed to support him. Woodrow with to Old Lyme with Ellen and daily carried her stood and easel for her. Woodrow thought wrote almost daily to Mary. He complained the boarding house required the boarding house required both sexes to dine together to minimize embarrassment of the painters having paint on them. Ellen wanted to travel overseas but Woodrow felt Old Lyme “was good enough for him”. Woodrow probably wanted to remain close to New Jersey political advisors and to Mary in New York.

Woodrow received the Democratic Convention’s nomination for Governor. He ran as a progressive.

Ellen was a capable New Jersey First Lady. She attended many events with Woodrow and was well liked Wilson had the House pass some reform bills by persuading the Republican majority in the State Senate to approve them.

Ellen went to Old Lyme for summer art school. Woodrow went on another speaking tour in Western states. He visited Mary in New York and visit Ellen twice.

Woodrow was mentioned for President. A burglar robbed Woodrow and took only a suitcase of letters including love letters from Mary. The letters were never made public and Woodrow insisted they weren’t damaging.

The Old Lyme impressionist artists had varying views on Ellen’s paintings. She was pleased when she won a New York exhibition under a pseudonym, so her name had no influence. William Chadwick, a noted painted, felt “she was not really good.”

Wilson was nominated for President on the 46th ballot. At one point he thought he had no chance and almost released his delegated until he was persuaded otherwise. Woodrow assured Mary this had not changed his feelings for her.

Ellen learned how to deal with reporters and their coverage of her life, including how much she spent on clothing and how se disliked women smoking.

Woodrow was elected President. Ellen became an advisor and they discussed the pros and cons of offering a Cabinet position to William Jennings Bryan before making him Secretary of State.

The Wilsons were not wealthy and they had to borrow money to move to Washington. Ellen continued her art in the White House.

The Wilson Administration kept only two African Americans from the Taft Administration. Government officers were racially segregated, Ellen once wrote the whites were superior. Woodrow mocked the Negro dialect in telling jokes.

Ellen fell ill with kidney disease and died. Wilson felt guilty that his career may have troubled her.

It is believed by some that Edith Galt sought out the widower President. Wilson was depressed and had always needed female attention. Edith became close to Woodrow. Politically, Edith favored helping the Allied nations and did not like the pacifist views of William Jennings Bryan. He told Wilson she was glad when Bryan resigned and suggested getting rid of all pacifists.

Woodrow and Edith became engaged Some advisors wanted the wedding delayed until after the reelection campaign. They feared the wedding would cost Wilson votes. Wilson’s son in law Gibbs McAdoo came up with a scheme. He falsely told Woodrow that someone anonymously claimed Mary was showing her private letters from Woodrow. Woodrow instead decided to tell Edith about Mary. When it was revealed the story was false, the White House aides who knew of the scheme was their powers diminish while Edith’s influence increased.

The U.S. went to war. Edith volunteered with the Red Cross. She had the job of renaming captured German ships that were now in American ports. She also demonstrated wartime frugality.

Edith joined Woodrow as he toured Europe advocating his proposal for a League of Nations. Woodrow began feeling ill yet pressed on.

Several Senators expressed increasing concerns with Wilson’s League of Nations proposal. Woodrow felt head pains that worsened and made him nauseous. Wilson’s left side then went numb from a stroke.

Edith decided to hide Woodrow’s illness. She took control of Presidential papers. She attempted to decide what Woodrow would do and then did it. An exception to this was the League of Nations issue where Edith chose loyalty to Woodrow’s long term plan over any likelihood he might have compromised to get it enacted.

Edith had the White House physician stated Woodrow had nervous exhaustion. Sen. George Moses correctly charged that Woodrow had a cerebral lesion.

Edith claimed Woodrow made dictations and issued orders. Woodrow though could function for a few moments. Edith adopted Woodrow’s style of responding to requests. Routine speeches were drafted by staff.

Members of Congress and others demanded to see Woodrow. Edith arranged a staged visit with Woodrow sitting in the dark and avoiding shaking hands to fool people into thinking he was not seriously ill.

Woodrow’s health improved and Edith was relieved to not take on so much of his duties. The Senate failed to ratify his League of National proposal. This depressed Woodrow.

Woodrow wanted a third term. Yet the Democrats nominated James Cox instead. Woodrow became angry and then depressed when he learned this.

Despite Edith’s involvement in White House affairs, she showed little interest in politics after Woodrow died. She declined an offer to be on the Democratic Party’s Women’s Advisory Committee. She did give a speech in favor of Al Smith for President. She later accepted being Honorary President of the Women’s National Democratic Club, yet resigned that after three years over the commercialism of their charity ball. President Franklin Roosevelt convinced her to endorse his National Recovery Administration, and she agreed by noting that this economic plan was similar to what Wilson had done in 1917. She published her autobiography.

Woodrow Wilson was unpopular when he left office. Yet his controversial ideas gained popularity over time. Edith Wilson’s popularity increased over time as well.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Ramifications From the Death of a Republican President

James L. Swanson. Bloody Crimes: The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln and the Chase for Jefferson Davis. New York: Harper Perrenniel. 2010.

During Lincoln’s second inaugural address, he foresaw more bloodshed over the slavery issue. His own blood was shed when he was assassinated. There were numerous Northerners who believed that Confederate President Jefferson Davis and others of the Confederacy had committed various “blood crimes”, including conspiring in the Lincoln assassination.

The Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., less than 100 miles form Washington, D.C., was one of the last Confederate cities to fall. General Robert E. Lee warned the Confederate leaders that Union troops were approaching Richmond, that he would not be able to stop them, and he advised the Confederate government leaders to flee Richmond. Davis told his Cabinet that fleeing Richmond did not mean surrender.

There was much Union debate over what to do with the defeated Confederates. Lincoln stated he wanted the Confederate soldiers to return to their homes and work. While he did not say so directly, Lincoln indicated he wanted Davis to flee the country. Others were revenge and wanted Davis hung. Lincoln seemed more concerned on working towards reconciliation.

Lee was perturbed when Davis telegraphed that Davis was concerned about losing valuables. Lee’s men were fighting to protect Richmond as best they could. Lee felt he had given sufficient warning to evacuate while the Confederate leader seemed more concerned about his possessions.

Thieves reigned over Richmond in the hours between the Confederate fleeing and Union troops arrival. African Americans gleefully heralded the Union troops as they entered.

The Confederates burned supplies to keep them out of Union hands. After they fled, the fires spread out of control.

Davis and his Cabinet fled on a train. The Confederate rail system had deteriorated so badly it took 18 hours for the train to reach Danville, 140 miles away.

Davis had bee a war wounded Colonel during the Mexican War who served in Congress. He had refused to leave military service after being wounded. He served as President Franklin Pierce’s Secretary of War, when he argued for the U.S. conquering  the continent. He was then elected to the Senate. Davis believed in white racial supremacy. Throughout the 1850s he opposed the South succeeding from the Union David stayed in the Senate until his state of Alabama voted to succeed His farewell speech was notable and helped the Confederacy decide to elect Davis as President by acclamation.

On April 4, 1865, Lincoln advised that the Union “let ‘em up easy” in dealing with Southerners. Davis called for “a fresh defiance.”

Lincoln used the Confederate White House that Davis just fled to negotiate peace with Richmond residents.

Lee had only a few thousand soldiers remaining, was outnumbered 5 to 1, and faced dwindling supplies. His troops were surrounded. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses Grant. Grant allowed Lee’s soldiers to return home with their horses. None were taken prisoner nor charged with treason.

Learning of the surrender of Lee, Davis fled Danville. Davis declined to take advice that he flee the nation. He continued seeking a means to continue fighting. He moved to Greensboro and then fled there. He did so unaware the Lincoln had been assassinated Davis did not know of the plot even though many theorized he was behind the murder.

A 1,600 mile train route of carrying Lincoln’s body in an open coffin was planned.

Davis arrived in Charlotte and met with with little enthusiasm. North Carolina had sent the second largest number of soldiers behind Virginia to the Confederate cause. Many had died Only one person allowed Davis to go inside her house. Davis learned of Lincoln’s death. It was feared this would intensity Northern hostilities towards the Confederacy. It was also believed Lincoln would have treated Southern states better than would President Andrew Johnson.

Lincoln’s funeral train was met along the route with many spontaneous public displays of grief. Former Rep. Job Stevenson gave a memorial address in Columbus where he called for vengeance against the South.

Anti-Confederacy sentiment rose among many Northerners. Hundreds of people were beaten or killed for making anti-Lincoln or pro-Confederate statements. Hundreds were arrested for many types of suspicion of being involved in Lincoln;s death, including the owners of the Ford Theatre where Lincoln was shot. The Lincoln Funeral Train was met, though,with a majority speaking of reconciliation.

President Johnson announced a reward for the arrests of Confederate leaders. The reward for arresting Davis was $100,000.

Lincoln had considered capturing Davis to be of little significance. The capturing of Davis became important and a large hunt for Davis begun. After an initial hunt for assassin John Wilkes Booth ended with Booth’s death, attention was focused on finding Davis Davis was captured in Irwinsville, Ga.

War Secretary Edward Stanton refused to allow the clothing that Davis wore when captured be put on display. Stanton wanted to not dispel a popular rumor that Davis was trying to escape dressed as a woman.

Davis was shackled in prison, a process he resisted. News of this leaked to the press. Stanton ordered the shackles removed.

National sympathy was against mistreating Davis in prison. There were fears executing Davis would turn him into a martyr. Davis was released on $100,000 bail, with much of it paid for by abolitionists and Union supporters.

Davis refused to reenter politics, for to do so would require his signing a loyalty oath and make an admission his cause had been wrong. He became President of the Carolina Life Insurance Company at $12,000 annual pay, half what he earned as Confederate President. Davis wrote defensively of the Confederate cause in articles and a two volume book. He died in 1893. A funeral train took his body from New Orleans to Richmond. Sympathizers gathered along the train’s route.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Republicans Like Children (just keep them off our lawns)

We need to move from a general policy of incarcerating and detaining people with difficulties adjusting to society to one of providing assistance to people with problems. This should not be that difficult, for it was not so long ago that this was our overall philosophy.  It was former Pennsylvania Governor George Leader who made me aware of this when he cited that, when he was Governor, over 90% of people in a state institution when he was Governor were then in mental health facilities and less then 10% were incarcerated. Today, over 90% of people in state institutions are in prison or jail and less than 10% are in mental health treatment. This does not mean mental health institutionalization is the best option. Indeed, many used to be poorly run.  Progress has provided us with a range of counseling and  mental health services. Sadly, though, these services have been cut while incarceration has risen sharply.

These numbers take on greater significance when realizing that a larger proportion of the population today is in some form of state institution. This shift has happened in a matter of a few decades. This is turning out to be a mistake both in term of lives ruined and in taxpayer costs. The lessening of counseling, mental health services, and drug and alcohol dependency services means that people with difficulties adjusting in society are more prone to enter government services in the most costly of services as that as an inmate.

It is far better to identify people with mental health difficulties, drug and alcohol dependencies, and intellectual difficulties earlier in their lives and to provide them treatment, counseling, or the appropriate programs to enable them to overcome their problems and improve their lives. This will help them and help the lives of people they affect, from their families to strangers who may otherwise be victimized by their untreated behavioral problems.

Our failing to provide this assistance costs us financially. One of the largest increases in state government spending has been on corrections and juvenile detention. These incarcerations cost many more times than the costs of treatment programs and counseling. Unfortunately, government budgeting personnel think in terms of annual budgets and not in reducing long term costs. The trend has been to reduce spending on treatment and counseling programs to help balance annual budgets. Yet we now see these savings are creating far more costs now than what they saved in the past. This trend must be reversed before these costs spiral out of control.

I recall speaking with an official at Columbine High School years ago following shootings where several died. He spoke at a conference where it appeared nearly all attending agreed that more early intervention school counseling that could prevent further similar tragedies. Most teachers, school nurses, and school psychologists can identify around fifth grade which students are having problems adjusting. This does not mean each such student will become a murderer. Yet by providing appropriate counseling and treatment these troubled students can learn to adjust, improve their grades, and have better futures. This will include those who in the future may otherwise act out aggressively.

With each successive tragedy, I see scholars, academicians, and others getting together and each time they arrive at similar conclusions. We need to get more children into counseling and treatment programs earlier in life, Yet, nothing is done in achieving what needs to be done. It is time we finally stop talking about obvious solutions and create these solutions.

We have seen cutbacks in school psychologists, school nurses, and treatment programs for at risk children. School budget officials often find it hard to even consider funding such operations when they are having difficulties funding basic school offerings. It is time, though, that we insist that these programs be restored and properly expanded. It will save lots more money in the long run. It will save a lot of children from future difficulties.

A few decades ago, I worked on legislation helping people with physical difficulties. Opponents incorrectly warned that passing laws making places more accessible would bankrupt us all. A large number of advocates joined in successfully fighting to see these proposals passed. The fears of bankruptcies did not occur. Instead, we now live in a nation where people have greater access to places to enjoy life and, which has made some prior cynics happy, spend more money. The lives of millions of people with physical disabilities have been improved.

Unfortunately, there is no mass movement of people with mental difficulties and dependencies organizing to obtain support of programs supporting them. We need to advocate for those who can not help themselves or do not yet know they will need these services. We need to speak for those who can not speak for themselves. We do not need more tragedies where we agree something needs to be done and then forget about it until there are more tragedies yet to only repeat this fruitless cycle. We need to act in the interests of people in current and future need as well as in our own interests as long term taxpayers and potential people in harm for people with difficulties. We must act, and we must act now. When people realize they will improve so many lives, and save themselves money, there hopefully will be an outpouring of support.