Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ministering to Nazis

Tim Townsend. Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis. New York, N.Y.: William Morris, 2014.

This is a fascinating book that examines the role of the Army Chaplain ministering to the Nazis on trial at Nuremberg. Many will believe that the crimes against humanity which these people were accused and convicted of were so great that they deserved no sympathy from any source. It is noted that the Chaplain decided “God loves all human beings, including perpetrators, and as the decision was made about how to minister to the Nazis, not whether they should.”

The book presents much information about the trials and the prisoners. Readers may find this interesting, From a religious perspective, it is interesting to observe that most of the Nazis except for Albert Speer attended chapel regularly. Most asked for their sins to be forgiven, according to Chaplain Henry Gerecke. One of the hardest aspects of the Chaplain’s job was speaking with the Nazis’ children.

Hermann Goerring refused to accept Jesus. Goerring stated “I can’t do that. This Jesus you always speak of---to me, he’s just another smart Jew.: Goerring committed suicide in his jail cell. Since Georring had denied Jesus, he was not communed,  

A Great Republicans Recalls Another Great Republican…Honest, We Wouldn't Lie

Patrick Buchanan. The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority. New York, N.Y.: Crown Forum, 2014.

Nixon was elected President in 1968 with 43% of the vote. He only carried California by 224,000 votes. Had he lost California, the election would have been decided by the Democratic Congress.

Nixon was elected to Congress in 1948. While he rose as a noted anti-Communist, Nixon supported Dewey in 1948. Nixon was in favor of the Marshall Plane, NATO, and military aid to Greece and Turkey Nixon supported Eisenhower for President in 1952 over “Mr. Conservative” Senator Robert Taft.

Nixon was picked o run for Vice President. Eisenhower was about to drop Nixon off the ticket due to a fund scandal, yet Nixon’s Checkers speech kept him on the ticket. Eisenhower tried to get Nixon off the ticket in 1956 by offering him any Cabinet position except State. Nixon was deeply hurt and successfully fought to stay on the ticket.

In 1960, Nixon ran for President. Nixon flew to New York to meet with Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Nixon agreed prior to the meeting to agree to minor changes in the Republican Platform that Rockefeller and other liberal Republicans wanted. Senator Barry Goldwater called this a “sellout”.

Nixon lost to John Kennedy for President. Kennedy had been deliberately absent on the Senate vote censuring Senator Joseph McCarthy. Nixon and Kennedy had similar views on many issues.

Nixon ran for California Governor in 1963. He defeated Assembly Minority Leader Joe Shell in the primary Shell supporting keeping the John Birch Society as being of the Republican Party. Nixon disagreed. Nixon won the primary by a 2 to 1 margin

In the general election, Senator Tom Kuchel, a liberal Republican, refused to endorse Nixon. Thus, Nixon was under attack from both liberal Republicans and conservative pro-Bircher Republicans, Nixon lost the election to Governor Pat Brown.

ABC News ran a show “The Political Obituary of Richard Nixon”. The use of Alger Hiss, convicted of spying for the Soviet Union, being interviewed criticizing Nixon created a backlash that won some support for Nixon.

Nixon did not run for President in 1964. Some believe Nixon hoped for a deadlocked convention that would turn to him. Goldwater supporters, sensing this, began attacking Nixon, Nixon told Buchanan “if you ever hear of a group forming to “Stop X”, put your money on X.”

Buchanan was an editorial writer for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Nixon hired Buchanan as a speech writer in 1966. The only other full time paid staffer Nixon had then was his secretary Rose Woods. He would not hire anyone else until 1967.

Nixon observed “the trouble with the far right conservatives is that they really don’t give a damn about the people and the voters sense that. Yet any Republican candidate can’t stray too far from the right wingers.”

Nixon distrusted William F. Buckley, publisher of the “National Review” and saw “Buckleyites as a threat to the Republican Party.” The “National Review” demanded to know if Nixon had stated that. Buchanan crafted a reply that William F. Buckley, then running as the Conservative Party candidate for Mayor of New York, had “made himself a much stronger candidate and a greater threat to the Republican candidate, Representative Lindsay.” The “National Review” accepted this and printed that “if Richard Nixon is willing to give personal leadership to Republican conservatives, he will find them ready to follow him.” William F.. Buckley followed with pro-Nixon columns.

Nixon told Buchanan a rule of politics is to “give the voters 20 percent of what they want.”

Nixon in 1968, unlike in 1960, knew the Republican Eastern Establishment was no longer essential to the Republican nomination. Republican conservatives in the West and South controlled the Republican Party. Buchanan saw Ronald Reagan as Nixon’s strongest challenger.

Nixon had campaigned for Goldwater in 1964. Goldwater returned the favor and supported Nixon in 1968.

Nixon ran on a “law and order” platform in 1969. Prior, the phrase was considered a code word for racism. Buchanan agues Nixon’s “Southern strategy” was not built upon racism. Nixon denounced the Democratic establishment for refusing to denounce George and Lurleen Wallace, Lester Maddox and George Mahoney. Mahoney was an anti-open housing candidate for Maryland Governor running against Spiro Agnew.

Buchanan believes the South switched from majority Democrat to majority Republican, not because of race issues, but because of the “South’s contempt for a liberal press and hypocritical Democratic Party.”

Governor George Romney led in the 1966 polls for the 1968 Republican Presidential nomination. Nixon deliberately stayed out of politics for six months. Romney was the focus of much press criticism of his speeches and for not taking a stand on the Vietnam War, Romney’s support dropped and Nixon led the polls.

Gaylord Parkinson managed the campaign for Bob Finch (who was Nixon’s 1960 campaign manager) for Lieutenant Governor of California where Finch won by 250,00 more votes than Ronald Reagan received in winning for Governor. Parkinson was hired for Nixon’s campaign.

Parkinson or his aides gave the media information they had been told not to give them. Nixon was attempting to move closer to conservatives while Parkinson was moving in the opposite direction. Parkinson was asked to leave amicably as his wife was ill. Governor Henry Bellman served as an interim Campaign Chairan until it was decided to hire John Mitchell.

Romney stated he was brainwashed by the Administration while touring Vietnam. He urged withdrawing from the war. That statement and position among Republicans lowered Romney’s popularity. Senator Eugene McCartthy joked it was not necessary to brainwash Romney as “a light rinse would have sufficed.”

Buchanan was among those who learned in 1968 that Lt Governor Thomas Eagleton, then running for the U.S. Senate, has been hospitalized several times for mental problems.

Drew Pearson wrote of a “homosexual ring” in Governor Reagan’s office and that Reagan knew about it and waited six months to fire them and did so only because the scandal was about to become public

Nixon did not want former President Dwight Eisenhower to campaign for him. This upset Eisenhower. Mamie Eisenhower as well as Dwight Eisenhower’s physician had asked Nixon to refuse to let Eisenhower campaign as Eisenhower was in poor health.

Nixon admired Woodrow Wilson “because Wilson had dared greatly.”

H.R. Haldemann, who managed Nixon’s 1962 campaign for Governor, urged instead of having six or seven campaign evens a day to limit them to two, one for the morning papers and one for the evening papers. That way a candidate would not be tired from speaking to supporters and would have time to think and strategize.

Nixon ran as a social and fiscal conservative in 1968. Yet he knew to support Socia Security and Medicare.

Buchanan notes Nixon stated on Vietnam “I pledge to you that new leadership will end the war.” Buchanan states that Nixon never claimed to have a “secret plan” to end the war.

Drew Pearson, in his private newsletter, wrote Nelson Rockefeller was having an affair with a staffer. When Rockefeller announced he wa not running for President in 1968, Nixon concluded “it’s the girl.” Pearson later published that the rumor was false. Pearson accused Nixon’s campaign of creating the rumor. A former FBI agent later claimed the allegations began with former Senator Prescott Bush.

Spiro Agnew nominated Nixon at the Republican Convention. Agnew and Nixon’s team could not agree on the speech. Buchanan took the rejected drafts and crafted a speech Agnew agreed to deliver.

Buchanan writes there was no discussion among staff of selecting Agnew to be Nixon’s running mate. He recalls staff reaching no consensus on who it should be. When Agnew was chosen, George Romney was placed into nomination for Vice President yet was crushed by Agnew.

The first Gallup Poll, after the Republican Convention, had Nixon at 45%, Humphrey 29%, and George Wallace at 21%. Humphrey gained in the polls and nearly won.

The riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago hurt Humphrey. Buchanan believes there was truth to Hunter Thompson’s then observation that “Richard Nixon is in the White House today because of what happened that night in Chicago.”

Friday, November 21, 2014

Wonder What Would Have Happened in Unicol Agreed to Pay a Bit More

Ted Rall.After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan. New York: Hill and Wang, 2014.

The author Ted Rall notes the war against Afghanistan has led to tens if not hundreds of thousands of Afghan deaths. The book observes that the more the U.S. attacks and kills civilians, the stronger recruitment is for anti-American fighters.

In 2001, the Islamic State of Afghanistan , aka United Front or Northern Alliance, was the government recognized by the United Nations. It held about 10% of Afghanistan, Most of the country was controlled by the Taliban. The Taliban was funded by Pakistani Intelligence which itself was financed and trained by the CIA.

Union Oil of California (Unicol) sought to construct a pipeline through Afghanistan that would deliver an estimated 9 to 16 billion barrels of oil. In 1997, the Taliban and Unicol could not agree on what the transit fee should be. In 2001, the Bush Administration provided $43 million to the Taliban to destroy poppy fields. The Taliban and Unicol continued their disagreement on what pipeline transit fees should be.

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. began attacking the Taliban. 14,00 tons of bombs were dropped on Afghanistan by 2009.

U.S. Special Forces and Northern Alliance forces captured 7,500 prisoners and massacred them.

The U.S. helped install Hamid Karzai as Afghan President. His authority is mostly limited to the city of Kabul.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) of the United Nations, half of whose soldiers are from the U.S., entered Afghanistan in 2002. ISAF was supposed to rebuild Afghanistan. Yet little has been build despite several billions of U.S. funds being spent. Whatever the money was spent on is not publicly known.

President Obama sent 33,000 extra troops to Afghanistan in hopes of turning the government over to Kurzai. General Stanley McChrystal stated the Taliban was winning. Wikileaks showed Karzai’s army was ineffective. Wikileaks also showed Pakistan was supporting the neo-Taliban even though the U,S. supported Pakistan.

NATO in 2001 to 2005 paved some highways and built some schools. Afghans may generally have not been satisfied with these efforts as they expected much more.

Rall writes of reporting in Afghanistan in 2001 as “you can’t get the truth, But you can get an impression.”

Local Afghans lose every fight with U.S, troops. Yet they are winning because of civilian deaths which creates more people who join the neo-Taliban for revenge, They fight guerrilla style and they choose when they wish to fight.

Rall observes that neo-Taliban “understand the simple truth: the live there, and we don’t. Time is on their side.”

Rall nots since World War II “when the United States invades, it often fails to occupy, much less annex. When it occupied it does so with fewer soldiers than necessary to control its newly occupied territory.”

Afghan roads deteriorate rapidly due to heavy military vehicles, The U.S. Agency for International Development estimates it costs about $200 million per year to maintain these roads. The Afghan annual federal budget is $7 billion.

Rall visited Afghan cities where foreigners never visit. He found all women wear burqas, in contrast to U.S. news reports. Bribes are common and expected. There is a city with no mail delivery and no street addresses. U.S. carpet bombing has caused much destruction in many cities. The Taliban usually attack at night. There are Taliban biker gangs. The biker gangs could easily be destroyed but they are not. U.S. and NATO efforts are not designed to provide security for the Afghan people.

The Afghan central government governs Kabul and to some degree Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, and to an even less extent Kandahar. The Taliban controls the rest of the country.

The National Police are corrupt and ineffective.

Afghanistan is the longest lasting U.S. war. It costs a million dollars annually for one soldier to be there. Rall concludes “invading other countries, whether to steal their land or poach their natural resources or pressure their neighbors or exert regional influence is an enterprise with a cost-to-benefit ratio that simply doesn’t work.”

Sorry, We Republicans Only Drink Fine French Wine

Tom Shroder. Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal. New York: Blue Ridge Press (Penguin Press), 2014.

According to the author’s research, including reviews of many clinical studies involving tens of thousands of subjects as well as several case studies which are presented in this book, LSD has been shown to be useful in treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). MDMA-assisted (aka ecstasy) psychotherapy has been useful in some cases of people traumatized by sexual abuse and in helping autistic people develop better social skills.

These drugs were studied for medical purposes before social stigmas and negative cultural attachments to the recreational uses of these drugs led to their being banned. Shroder believes there should be a reevaluation of the potential medical uses of these banned drugs.

Albert Hoffman (circa 1938) combined lysergic acid with diethylamine (an ammonia derivative), of LSD. He found no immediate use for it In 1943, he tested it some more. Early studies found found it created an intoxication similar to what mescaline, produced from peyote, created. Animal testing at high levels of LSD dosage found it was not lethal.

After World War II, reviews of captured Nazi research records research into using mescaline as a useful tool in interrogations. The led the CIA to experiment, both in seeking to find a truth serum and to find something that would make someone unable to tell the truth under interrogations. The CIA tested LSD, sometimes providing it to subjects without their knowing it. One subject, Owsley Stanley, enjoyed the LSD so much he worked with a chemistry student  Melissa Cargill to create LSD. They gave out 3,600 LSD capsules in the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco in 1965. That inspired others to produce LSD. Haight-Ashbury became a symbol of a counter-cultural movement in part inspired by LSD users,

In 18 months during 1966 to 1968, in Los Angeles, at least 4,100 people sought medical help for mental or emotional reactions to LSD.

Dr. Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, both of Harvard University, conducing clinical trials on LSD. Harvard fired them both Leary continued his studies. He claimed LSA is an aphrodisiac.

LSD was studied in 1,000 clinical paper involving 40,000 patients from 1950 to 1965 LSD was found useful in treating alcoholism, childhood autism, and obsessive neurosis.

A 1960 study of 5,000 LSD subjects found there were no serious or long term negative physical effects from LSD. Dr. Sidney Cohen concluded “LSD is an astonishing safe drug.”

Senator Thomas Dodd led an effort to make LSD illegal. He believe LSD to be harmful, The only Senate voice against Dodd’s efforts was from Sen. Robert Kennedy who urged “we have lost sight of the fact it can be very, very helpful in our society if used properly.”

Numerous studies from MDMA can cure PTSD. Studies in England, Switzerland, and the Netherlands have found MDMA helps autistic people improve their social relations.

A Russian study concluded that ketamine helps overcome heroin addiction.

A Harvard study found LSD helps overcome debilitating cluster headaches.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Help People With Intellectual Disabilities? That Is Just Crazy

Solving Intellectual Disability and Drug / Alcohol Dependency Problems

What should we do with Harrisburg Hospital?

In looking back, it may have been a long term mistake to have closed it. While it serves as a symbol of failed intellectual disability (i.e. as mental health) programs, as highlighted by its depiction in the movie “Girl, Interrupted”, we have since made great improvements in intellectual disability treatments. We now know more about intellectual disabilities and how to more properly treat them. We also have developed more effective treatments and we have improve awareness of how to better counsel people with intellectual disabilities.

We need more intellectual disability facilities.

We need to apply the common sense wisdom of the past, which was hampered by a lack of knowledge, with the knowledge we have gained although we have lost the common sense wisdom.

The common sense wisdom is when someone has a problem, we should try to solve that individual’s problem. The lack of common sense is that everyone’s problems should be dealt with in the same manner (i.e. “throw them in prison and throw away the key”). We are now in that era where common sense is lacking.

There are, and have been, people who were unable to conform to societal norms to such a degree that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania places them into a state institution. A few decades ago, about 90 per cent of people institutionalized were placed into an intellectual disability facility. About 10 per cent of those placed in a state institution were placed into state prison. This is how things were when George Leader was Governor. I credit George Leader for pointing this fact out to me.

Several decades ago, many people in intellectual disability facilities were badly treated. They were abused and or neglected. These facilities, correctly, were closed. Many patients were released into society. Freed, many had difficulties adjusting to society, found poor housing from landlords who ripped them off, experienced high rates of sexual and physical abuse, wound up using drugs and/or alcohol, became homeless, and were incarcerated.

Since then, great advances have occurred in counseling, psychology, and psychiatry, There is a greater understanding of various problems and how to better treat them. Great strides have been made in knowing how to provide better treatment for drug and / or alcohol dependencies. Yet we have generally not applied these advances in services to those who need them.

Today, about 90 per cent of people institutionalized by the Commonwealth are in prison and about 10% are in intellectual disability treatment. This is a tremendous turnover from just a few decades ago when those percentages were reversed.

We as a society have decided to take away counseling for those with difficulties. We instead have decided to both imprison more people, and to keep them in prison for much longer terms. Prisons have sparse and inadequate counseling services, When released from prison, a person likely still has the same intellectual disability behavior that brought that person to prison. That difficulty has usually not been adequately addressed. Indeed, prisoners often are released from spending time with other criminals having learned how to become better criminals.

As we better know how to treat troubled people, we have deliberately chosen instead not to provide help to people in overcoming their problems. We instead have moved towards the more expensive alternative, which is increasing incarceration.

Providing counseling is the least expensive, by far, means of dealing with these problems. The sooner problems are identified, such as when a troubled person is still in school, the more likely the problems can be resolved and the person may go on to lead a more productive life with fewer difficulties.

Incarceration is the most expensive method.In recent decades. It has been one of the fastest growing costs in state budgets as few in the public have questioned these huge costs as we keep electing “anti-crime” elected officials. (As if their opponents were “pro-crime”, yet that is a separate discussion on distorted election perceptions and creating fear among voters in order to win votes. There is also a separate discussion to be had on the politics of campaign contributions and awarding contracts constructing prisons and in operating justice facilities. The “kids for cash” scandal where judges received kickbacks for ordering children to private juvenile justice facilities is a prime example.)

It is indeed ironic, on the other hand, that while voters often claim that education is a priority to them, we have turned our backs on valuable school counseling programs.  In this era of tightened school budgets, funds have been severely cut for counselors and health care professionals who should have been serving those children with problems.

 Children with developmental problems that are not resolved often fall behind academically, fail to fit in with their peers and become more socially awkward as adults. These often are the adults who may find themselves with crime as a career choice and drug / alcohol dependency as a life choice.

I recall speaking with an official at Columbine High School years ago following shootings there where several died. He spoke at a conference where it appeared nearly all attending agreed that more early intervention school counseling programs 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.

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.

Unfortunately, there is no mass movement of people with intellectual 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, then forget about it until there are more tragedies, thus repeating this fruitless cycle. We need to act in the interests of people with current and future needs as well as in our own interests as long term taxpayers and as potential victims of people with problems. When people realize they will improve so many lives, and save themselves money, there hopefully will be an outpouring of support.

Footnote: There are career criminals who are a separate category from the above discussion. Some Criminologists believe that about one half of one percent of prisoners are career criminals who have are made a decision to engage in and remain criminals. Some Psychologists have found some success with empathy treatment to get criminals to learn to identify with their victims and understand the hurt they cause.


Tuesday, November 04, 2014

We Suspect This Author is Not a New York Republican

Andrew W. Cuomo. All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life. New York: Harper. 2014.

Andrew Cuomo, son of New York Governor Mario Cuomo, ran his first political campaign at age 24. By the age of 30 he had founded and was leading the nation’s largest nonprofit organization serving the homeless. He hen became Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). At age 39, was Secretary of HUD. In 2002, he ran for New York Governor and lost the Democratic Primary to State Comptroller Carl McCall who then lost the general election to Governor George Pataki. It was Pataki who had defeated Mario Cuomo’s bid for a fourth term as Governor in 1994.

Cuomo had led McCall in the polls by 20 percentage points. Cuomo did not want to run negative ads stating the Democratic nominee should emerge strong to take on Pataki.

Andrew Cuomo notes his father regrets how his involvement in politics took away so much time from his family. His father mediated housing disputes. Cuomo notes from these he learned “both government’s pursuits and their implementation can go horribly wrong.”

Cuomo went to Albany Law School. In 1986, he formed the Housing Enterprise for the Less Privileged (HELP). He raised funds from developers, banks, and contractors to build new housing. He received $14 million in low interest bonds from the state Housing Finance Agency. Prefab panes cut costs yet brought union objections. He learned some resides also required drug detox assistance.

Cuomo married Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Senator Robert and Ethel Kennedy, in 1990. They later divorced.

Cuomo learned form his time at HELP about the “shallowness of the political debate and how hard it is to actually achieve a solution.”

Cuomo became Assistant HUD Secretary for Community Planning and Development. His office had a $10 billion budget. It was used to support local programs.

As HUD Secretary, he had to work long hours. He found many programs it supported were being mismanaged. He realigned the staffing to deal with staffing shortages. The union objected to this. He reduced HUD personnel by 3,000 and created new job descriptions. Fraud cases against landlords were brought. Congress increased HUD’s budget in 1999 after four years of denying it funding increases. 50,000 new housing vouchers were created.

Cuomo ran for Governor in 2001 because “New York state government had basically creased to function.” He lost.

Cuomo ran for Attorney General in 2006. He won the primary with 53% to 33% for Mark Green. He then defeatedd Jeanine Pirro in the general election and won with 58% to 39% for Pirro.

As Attorney General, he sued colleges for deceptive practices after accepting gifts from school loan insurers. He fought health insurers in the high rates. His office indicted and convicted State Sen. Pedro Espada for embezlement.

Cuomo ran for Governor and was elected. He sought an Emergency Fiscal Plan for resolving a $10 billion in budget deficits, sought to redesign Medicaid that involved the input of all stakeholders, and sought to reform the juvenile justice system where too many incarceration facilities that were not being used adequately were being built. He asked the teachers’ union to help in creating a teacher evaluation process. He supported gay marriage equality and lobbied the legislature to pass it. He sought a tough assault weapons ban along with other gun control measures that passed when he reached compromises with legislators. He reduced taxes.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Do Not Forget to Vote, Unless, of Course, You Don't Want To

Today is Monday, Tuesday 3, 2014. Tomorrow is Tuesday, Tuesday 4, 20104, election day.

For the first time in my life, I have never received a single mailed political advertisement for this election. I have not received a single phone call regarding this election, not even from one of those robots who call. I have not had a single party committee person or campaign volunteer ask for my vote.

I am reminded how the late U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill entitled his autobiography “All Politics is Local”. O’Neill came to that realization when he was running for Congress. After he saw someone he knew had voted, he expressed his presumption that she had just voted for him. She told him she had not voted for him. Stunned, he asked why she has not voted for him. She told him she did not vote for him because he never asked for her vote.

Politics used to involve human interaction. As much as I have criticized “machine politics” over the years, there was a low cost effective simplicity to it. Your local committee people of both parties would see you received written information about the candidates. They would speak with you and answer questions. You would go vote at the polls and your committee people would be there to greet you and answer any more questions (keeping the proper distance away from the polling entrance).Over time, if the committee people are good, you learn to trust them and their perspectives. The committee people would keep tabs on who has voted and towards the end of the day would have people run out and remind people of their political party who have not voted that it is election day and let them know how much time they have to vote.

Several studies indicated that effective committee people might improve the vote totals for their candidates by perhaps five to ten percentage points over the vote totals in similar areas where they were not effective committee people. Thus seems like a lot of work to get just a handful of extra votes. Yet those percentages are often the difference between defeat and victory.

A key to all this is, while it involved a lot of work, it did not involve a lot of money. This was low cost grass roots politics at its best.

If Tip O’Neill were to write his autobiography today, it might be titled “No Politics is Local”. There are some remnants of the human interaction type of politics, yet that is becoming rarer. I once address a local political organization about the committee people system and their response was mostly “it sounds like too much work.” I was then loudly lambasted by a state party official who told how politics now depends all on media,fund raising,and that what I had suggested was a waste of time.

That state party official correctly identified what politics has since become. Politics is virtually all media advertising. The vast majority of commercials (as verified by the Annenberg School of Communications) are negative ads. Politics is us watching the television and learning how bad the candidates are.

The Citizens United decision by the U.S Supreme Court has vastly increased campaign advertising. Their ruling that there can be no limits on how much one spends on a political campaign or issue has allowed those with wealth and access to wealth to dominate the media with campaign advertising. Again, much of it is negative advertising telling us what is wrong with a candidate.

If the press is trying to figure out why voter turn out is low tomorrow, I present my views above. People are not given as many reasons as to why they should vote for candidates. Further, at least in my part of Harrisburg, no one has not asked us to vote for them. (I do have one exception. I saw Linda Thompson and she asked me to vote for her. Otherwise, I have not seen a representative of any candidate nor received a single piece of campaign literature. Of course, there have been an avalanche of television ads.)

We need laws restraining and hopefully eventually overturning the damages Citizens United has done. We need to tell candidates to give us more reasons why we should vote for them rather than telling us why we should not vote for their opponents. It might even help that grass roots politics returns. While it will take time, I do believe some future Harrisburg political leader will figure that out. 

Sunday, November 02, 2014

This is Not a Goode Republican

Wilson Goode with Joann Stevens. In Goode Faith: Philadelphia’ First Black Mayor Tells His Story. Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press., 1992.

When Goode moved to Philadelphia from North Carolina, s share cropper’s son, he found the Philadelphia school system “damaged and nearly broke” his will by not letting him take college bound courses. God gave his courage to apply to college and to go to Morgan State where he was “nurtured and motivated”.

Goode worked for the Philadelphia Council for Community Advancement. He found it a “dying agency” that he turned around and helped secure $60 million for building housing units

Goode was appointed to the Public Utility Commission. He then became Philadelphia’s Managing Director and then its Mayor. He fought Frank Rizzo who had made Philadelphia “a police state”. He recalls the MOVE incident a one that “haunts me, sickens me. I believe the decision to let the fire burn unchecked was a travesty of justice and a blatant act of racism.”

Goode found the Holy Spirit while a student at Morgan State. He realized God guided his life. While at college, Goode was among those arrested for attempting to enter a whites-only movie theater.

Goode completed ROTC at Morgan State and was a Lieutenant at Fort Gordon. He experienced more segregation in Augusta, Ga. Goode could not follow his men, for whom he was in charge, when they went into a segregated club.

Goode refused to back up one of his fellow soldier’s false report where he denied beating up a prisoner. Goode saw it as the need for soldiers to follow the military code of conduct. Some soldiers viewed Goode as not supporting one of his fellow soldiers.

Goode was allowed to use his political science skills in defending clients appearing before military court. He studied the military laws. After winning an acquittal, Goode was removed from his post because the military assumed everyone charged was guilty.

Goode became a Probation Officer. He was told he was not a social worker. He was criticized for spending too much time with the children.

In 1996, Goode began work for he Philadelphia Council for Community Advancement. He later became its Housing Director. He discovered there is a lot of unpredictability in housing programs. When once told the organization was allowed to build condominiums but not row houses, Goode suggested submitted an application for a condominium of 24 attached houses. The houses was approved.

Goode was among those fighting a plan by State Rep, James O’Donnell to turn a folding factory site into a halfway house. Many of the residents wanted a park. Frank Rizzo, who was planning on running for Mayor, appeared and told the residents they would get their park.

Mayor Frank Rizzo’s Deputy Mayor Goldie Watson old Goode hat Rizzo would not approve any project Goode was involved in. Rizzo supported his friends and refused to help those he did not like. Goode’s name was removed from all applications. Goode notes “it was on this point that Rizzo erred more. The government doesn’t belong to any elected official. It belongs to the people. And in a democracy, you must be able to disagree, have different opinions, and still fully participate in the fruits of democracy.”

Goode earned a Masters in Governmental Administration from the Wharton School, attending classes at night.

Goode became a founding member of the Black Political Forum led by John F. White, Jr. It supported State Rep. Hardy Williams for Mayor. Williams lost the primary to Rizzo. The Black Political Forum then helped elect David Richardson to the legislature.

Goode was appointed to the Public Utility Commission (PUC). In a dispute between Helen O’Bannon and Lou Carter who both wanted to become Chair, the Governor appointed Goode as Chair,

As PUC Chair, Goode sent back $50,000 in unused funds to the general budget. He refused to allow PUC representatives attend a conference because it was in Las Vegas. Good held hearing on the Three Mile Island crisis where he found the utility executives as “shameful”.

Mayor Bill Green named Wilson Goode as Managing Director. Green gave Goode freedom to operate as he saw best.

When Goode learned no one knew how many leased vehicles the city owned, he required them to b parked at Veterans Stadium. The visual of this amazed the public

green sought a professional government. This was unlike the previous patronage government of Rizzo.

Goode learned tht my basic nature was that of an advocate of defender of the underdog.” He worked on helping homeless people.

A number of people approached Goode to challenge Mayor Green’s reelection as Mayor. Goode told Green he was running as Goode resigned as Managing Director. Green later decided not to seek reelection. In the primary, Goode received 98% of the Black vote and 22% of the white vote as he defeated Rizzo. Rizzo endorsed Goode in the general election. Goode then defeated Republican John Egan and Independent Tom Leonard in the general election.

As Mayor, Goode established the Economic Roundtable where business leaders could tell Goode o their “needs and concerns”.

Goode found Council President Joseph Coleman as a “weak leader” who allowed Councilman “David Cohen to call the shots” along with Council members John Street and Lucien Blackwell. They stopped creating a trash to steam plant in South Philadelphia. Goode gave Cohen six months to determine an alternative, which Goode later stated was a mistake on his part.

Goode created the Anti-Graffiti Network which successful turned graffiti writers into wall artists.

The MOVE fire stunned many including Goode. Goode writers, if he had known, he would never have allowed the dropping of an incendiary device on their roof.

Goode defeated Ed Rendell in his primary for reelection by 14 percentage points. Goode won 97% of the Black vote and 12% of the white vote. He defeated Rizzo, running as a Republican in the general election.

The City of Philadelphia ran into fiscal trouble. In 1991 its bonds received junk status.

Goode also found media “nitpicking” as “disheartening.”

Wy, Yes, Rich Republicans Should Spend as Much as They Can to Control Politics

Zephyr Treachout. Coruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United. Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 2014.

King Louis XVI in 1785 gave Benjamin Franklin a snuff box worth five times more than gifts given to other diplomats. Some viewed the gift as a statement of friendship, while others saw it as a bribe. According to the Constitution, Congress has to approve acceptance of all such gifts.

Corruption debates led to the 17th Amendment for the direct election of Senator instead of Senators perhaps bribing or influencing state legislator to vote for them.

Corruption debates led to the 27th Amendment that Congress can not vote itself a pay raise and that Congressional salary increases could not be effective until the next Congressional session.

In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valco invalidated a law limiting campaign spending, The Court stated doing so limited First Amendment rights of free speech.

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United struck down an individual and corporate spending limitations when influencing policies and elections. Justice Anthony Kennedy defined corruption as an exchange as a quid pro quo for something illegal. He saw speaking on issues as not being corrupt.

Treachout argues that considering only First Amendment rights on campaign spending is too narrow a focus. Candidates are often dependent on contributions from those with wealth. Our government is heading towards oligarchy.

The ban of gifts from foreign dignitaries in the Constitution did not include a clause for small tokens. As Teachout observes, “that fierce rejection of “of any kind what ever reveals a commitment to transform the political culture that persisted from the Revolutionary era  to the Constitutional era. It was a ban on a culture of gift giving.”

The founders of our nation feared people becoming members of Congress in order to get jobs. They did not foresee today’s practice of over half of former members of Congress becoming lobbyists.

A large size in the number of members of Congress was believed by Elbridge Gerry to lead to fewer possibilities for corruption as there were be more people whose actions would have to be coordinated. Alexander Hamilton believed who were shown as corruption would be defeated for reelection.

Patrick Henry in 1775 received 35 million acres of land near the Yazoo River from the Governor of Georgia. Public reaction arose against  this seeming gift to a politician. The Governor responded by insisting the land b paid for in gold or silver Henry could not make that paymet. Henry asked the Georgian legislature to sell the proposed land to his Combined Societies companies.

Each member of the Georgia legislature except one had a vested interest in the Combined Society. The first bid of $250,000 for the 35 million acres was vetoed by the Governor. A second bid of $500,000 passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor.

The public defeated the legislator who approved this deal. An anti-Yahoo legislature declared the land deal had been approved by fraud. Yazoo supporters defended the sale and argued those purchasing land should be assured their land purchases would not be taken away by legislative actions. In George, many leading anti-Yazooists owned slaves. Many prominent Northerners did not wish to help the slave owning anti-Yahooists. Anti-Yahooists were mostly Democrats-Republicans who believed a state legislature had the ability to invalidate a corrupt contract.

President Thomas Jefferson offered a compromise that Congress accepted. The Federal government bought the land at a portion of what local claimants desired to receive as payment.  Some anti-Yahooists thought this partially gave in to corruption. Some Yahooists were upset the full amounts were not paid. This created a split in the
Democratic-Republican Party.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Yahooists. The Court stated it could not consider the motivations of legislators and could not determine if their motives were corrupt.

The ruling made it harder to prevent public corruption. By courts ruling they should not introduce political activities in the legislative process, they stated they could not do not do anything about legislative corruption.

When the U.S formed, there was a law passed on bribes to judges, customs officers, and tax officers. There were no laws against bribes to other public offices such as Congress and legislators.

In 1818, U.S. Rep. Lewis Williams was charged with accepting a $500 bribe. There was a division of opinion between using “heavy handed” measures such as the British was done, versus those who saw a need to create integrity in office. The House found the person who made the allegations against Rep. Williams, John Anderson, guilty of contempt from his testimony before the Speaker. Anderson sued for false imprisonment, assault, and battery.  The U.S. Supreme Court in Anderson v. Dunn ruled that Congress had powers to create its own contempt measures but that imprisonment could not last past legislative adjournment. the U.S. Supreme Court also ruled Congress had no power to punish bribery that happened outside of legislative jurisdiction.

Several states created laws on bribery, extortion and voting buying (limited to getting a legislature to vote a certain way and not covering getting a legislator to help pass a law.)  These laws were seldom enforced then. There were different results in some cases as it was debated if a person claiming he had no “corrupt intent” could accept what otherwise looked like a bribe or extortion.

Most states made bribing legislators a crime after the 1820s.

Michigan State Rep. James Randall was determined in a Michigan Supreme Court decision to have shown no evidence of bribing other legislators by providing them with food and alcohol. Yet the Evening News newspaper could legally print articles that described these actions are corrupt.

Tammany Hall boss William Tweed was convicted of corruption as the court determined the Attorney General was allowed to make these charges even if they had rarely had similar charges before.

There were no criminal convictions of bribes in the 1797-1798 Galph Affair, no charges made against War Secretary Simon Cameron, or in the Credit Mobilier case in 1872, nor in the Grant Administration scandals. Some people resigned or left office and some continued in office.

Scandals emerged concerning bribing state legislators in electing U.S. Senators in Pennsylvania, California, Ohio, Kansas, Arkansas, and Montana. No censures resultd although ten Senators resigned.

State Sen. Robert McFarland dramatically changed his vote to one he had stated he would never cast. Bribery was charged. There was debate on what causes a bill to be passed. The Court determined it did not have the ability to determine what a corrupt legislative action was.

In the he Illinois Central court case, the Court determined that it was up to the legislature to define what legislative corruption was and how it should be punished.

The role of lobbyists came under debate. Wisconsin in 1896 defined corrupt actions by  lobbyists as personal solicitation of influence. The law allowed lobbyists to engage in  providing testimony, arguments, facts, and petitions.

Vermont required lobbying work to go to a legislative committee or to the entire legislature and not just to one legislator\

California made it a felony for a lobbyist to use bribery, intimidation, promise of rewards, or other dishonest means to influence a legislator/

A Nebraska law found lobbying as “corrupt in nature and against public policy” although it did not clearly sate what those actions. It did seem to be against paying a legislator to act in a desired manner.

Massachusetts created a lobbying registration law. Wisconsin, Maryland, and then other states followed.

The 20th century had an increase in cases charging lobbyists with bribery.

State courts began convicting public officials for accepting a bribe even if they did not intend to let the bribe influence behavior.

In the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision Buckley v. Valeo, the Court found campaign contributions limits had validity but that limiting campaign expenditures did not.

The U.S. Supreme Court in the 1999 Sun Diamond case ruled that prosecutors had to establish that giving an official a gift was in anticipation of a particular act by that official.

The 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United was that the First Amendment protected the right of speech through campaign spending an that there was no constitutional goal to be accomplished by limiting campaign ads. One may spend unlimited money on campaigns except one can not make a direct offer for an official action and any campaign contribution limits must be followed.

The author argues our democracy needs to find a concept of corruption. If it is not addressed, it will exist. There are new power dynamics resulting from the Citizens United decision. New laws should be enacted to restrain these new power influences.