Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Speeches From The Past

What does the Democratic party stand for?

In a recent New York Times, Paul Krugman reminds us that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spelled it out pretty well in a speech of 78 years ago here.

The speech, delivered at Madison Square Garden in October, 1936, would need only minor edits to apply today. Here are some excerpts:

"Tonight I call the roll—the roll of honor of those who stood with us in 1932 and still stand with us today.
Written on it are the names of millions who never had a chance—men at starvation wages, women in sweatshops, children at looms. Written on it are the names of those who despaired, young men and young women for whom opportunity had become a will-o'-the-wisp.

"Written on it are the names of farmers whose acres yielded only bitterness, business men whose books were portents of disaster, home owners who were faced with eviction, frugal citizens whose savings were insecure.
Written there in large letters are the names of countless other Americans of all parties and all faiths, Americans who had eyes to see and hearts to understand, whose consciences were burdened because too many of their fellows were burdened, who looked on these things four years ago and said, "This can be changed. We will change it...."

"For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent....

"We had to struggle with the old enemies—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

"Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today," President Roosevelt said. "They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred...."

" there is only one entrance to the White House—by the front door. Since March 4, 1933, there has been only one pass-key to the White House. I have carried that key in my pocket. It is there tonight. So long as I am President, it will remain in my pocket....Those who used to have pass-keys are not happy...." 

"The very employers and politicians and publishers who talk most loudly of class antagonism and the destruction of the American system now undermine that system by this attempt to coerce the votes of the wage earners of this country. It is the 1936 version of the old threat to close down the factory or the office if a particular candidate does not win. It is an old strategy of tyrants to delude their victims into fighting their battles for them....

"This is our answer to those who, silent about their own plans, ask us to state our objectives.
Of course we will continue to seek to improve working conditions for the workers of America—to reduce hours over-long, to increase wages that spell starvation, to end the labor of children, to wipe out sweatshops. Of course we will continue every effort to end monopoly in business, to support collective bargaining, to stop unfair competition, to abolish dishonorable trade practices. For all these we have only just begun to fight.
Of course we will continue to work for cheaper electricity in the homes and on the farms of America, for better and cheaper transportation, for low interest rates, for sounder home financing, for better banking, for the regulation of security issues, for reciprocal trade among nations, for the wiping out of slums. For all these we have only just begun to fight....

"Of course we will continue our efforts in behalf of the farmers of America. With their continued cooperation we will do all in our power to end the piling up of huge surpluses which spelled ruinous prices for their crops. We will persist in successful action for better land use, for reforestation, for the conservation of water all the way from its source to the sea, for drought and flood control, for better marketing facilities for farm commodities, for a definite reduction of farm tenancy, for encouragement of farmer cooperatives, for crop insurance and a stable food supply. For all these we have only just begun to fight....

"Of course we will provide useful work for the needy unemployed....

"Here and now I want to make myself clear about those who disparage their fellow citizens on the relief rolls. They say that those on relief are not merely jobless—that they are worthless. Their solution for the relief problem is to end relief—to purge the rolls by starvation. To use the language of the stock broker, our needy unemployed would be cared for when, as, and if some fairy godmother should happen on the scene.
You and I will continue to refuse to accept that estimate of our unemployed fellow Americans. Your Government is still on the same side of the street with the Good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side....

"Again—what of our objectives?
Of course we will continue our efforts for young men and women so that they may obtain an education and an opportunity to put it to use. Of course we will continue our help for the crippled, for the blind, for the mothers, our insurance for the unemployed, our security for the aged. Of course we will continue to protect the consumer against unnecessary price spreads, against the costs that are added by monopoly and speculation. We will continue our successful efforts to increase his purchasing power and to keep it constant.
For these things, too, and for a multitude of others like them, we have only just begun to fight...."

"We have need of that [faith] today....which makes it possible for government to persuade those who are mentally prepared to fight each other to go on instead, to work for and to sacrifice for each other. That is why we need to say with the Prophet: "What doth the Lord require of thee—but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God."


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Where Have All The Singers Gone? - Long Time Passing

Learned with sadness of Pete Seeger's passing. I miss the gentle passion of the folk singers like Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez and others who used song to remind Americans of our better angels. Good article in today's New York Times.

I was pleased recently to learn of the new Woody Guthrie museum in my home town, Tulsa, Oklahoma. As I read the lyrics of Guthrie's songs, I hear the voice of the ordinary people of rural Oklahoma from my childhood.

We need to recapture such voices and bring them forward to our own times.

Pete Seeger's was a giant voice in that tradition. We are fortunate to have lived in his time.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cox v. Town of Oriental - South Avenue Suit

For those following my suit against the Town: last week the Town requested a 30-day extension of time to reply to my filing with the Court of Appeals. So we are now looking at March to complete the filings with the Court of Appeals. I'll keep you informed.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Elections In America: New Report By Presidential Commission

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration, a bipartisan commission co-chaired by Robert Bauer (democrat) and Benjamin L. Ginsburg (republican) has just issued its 112-page report:

Anyone experienced in the vagaries of elections and election law in the United States should read the report. The problems of election administration in this country are well summarized in the introduction:

"The United States runs its elections unlike any other country in the world. Responsi-
bility for elections is entrusted to local officials in approximately 8,000 different juris-
dictions. In turn, they are subject to general oversight by officials most often chosen
through a partisan appointment or election process. The point of contact for voters in
the polling place is usually a temporary employee who has volunteered for one-day duty
and has received only a few hours of training. These defining features of our electoral
system, combined with the fact that Americans vote more frequently on more issues
and offices than citizens anywhere else, present unique challenges for the effective ad-
ministration of elections that voters throughout the country expect and deserve."

That's the problem in a nutshell.

Problems were even worse before the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act. There have been significant recent improvements in administration of Uniformed and Overseas Civilian voting.

The report sets forth many recommendations and best practices to improve the administration of elections for the benefit of voters. I have taken a quick look at the report. Up until last year, North Carolina election procedures stood up very well to the suggested recommendations and best practices. In Pamlico County, we have had very well run elections administered by very conscientious polling officials, many with long years of experience and training.

Unfortunately, in my view, the General Assembly has passed legislation introducing new and totally unnecessary obstacles to voting.

I'll have more to say about this in future posts.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

January 21 County Commissioners' Meeting - Oriental Commissioners Lose

There's an old rule of thumb in politics as well as other areas of human endeavor - if you are in a hole, stop digging!

At least two of the three-member delegation from the Town of Oriental to the County Commission need refresher training on that point.

Mayor Bill Sage, accompanied by Commissioner Summers and Commissioner White represented the Town in an effort to obtain support from the County Commission for a proposed local bill from the state legislature to extend Town jurisdiction over adjacent waters to a distance of 200 yards. After complimenting the previous speaker (who reported results of the annual audit) for a succinct presentation, Mayor Sage proceeded to give a convoluted and lengthy presentation. So far as I could tell, he provided no visual aids except the text of a proposed bill. At one point, he mentioned "public trust waters."

When commissioners asked some fairly direct questions (was there a public hearing? did the Town Board approve the text of the proposed bill?, etc.), he avoided direct answers. The questions grew increasingly skeptical, if not downright hostile. Discussion about "public trust waters" was mostly in opposition to the Town's scheme.

County Commissioner Kenny Heath made a motion to the effect that the commissioners not only don't support the draft bill, but will not support it unless there is a county-wide public hearing. The motion passed unanimously.

Commissioner Summers asked to speak during public comment period.

Bad idea.

When you're in a hole, stop digging.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today we honor the memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I can't put it better than Keith Crisco of Ashboro and Oriental, former North Carolina Secretary of Commerce:

"Though Dr. King’s life ended far too early, his legacy of non-violent protest carried on to future generations and inspired others in the struggle for equality. Here in North Carolina, the Greensboro Four staged non-violent sit-ins in an effort to integrate department store lunch counters. That work by four courageous North Carolina A&T State University students helped lead a wave of change across this state and the nation."

I like what Keith Crisco has to say, because it highlights that the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr. were not just the work of a charismatic, eloquent and thoughtful leader - they were the accomplishments of a generation of leaders working together for a better America.

We should also not forget that, while protest demonstrations were non-violent, the reaction of the other side was not. Many brave Americans gave their lives so we could achieve a more perfect union. The names of those who fell in the cause of a more inclusive, a freer America, included black and white Americans; protestant, catholic and jewish Americans; unbelievers as well as believers; women as well as men; children as well as adults. In this respect, the forces of hate did not discriminate.

A few years ago my wife and I visited the Martin Luther King Jr. museum in Atlanta. In the bookstore was a well-illustrated book on the civil rights movement. On the cover, a headline declared that Martin Luther King Jr. had worked to insure freedom for African Americans. I disagree. He worked to achieve freedom for all Americans.

And the work is not yet finished.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

On Religion

“True religion invites us to become better people. False religion tells us that this has already occurred.” (Abdal-Hakim Murad)

Who Are The Rebels - Who Are The Anarchists?

“The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.” (G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday)

G. K. Chesterton may have a point here.  At least, the part about the rich objecting to being governed at all. As for the aristocrats being anarchists, they are one-way anarchists at best. Before letting anarchism loose, they do their very best to load the dice in their own favor. Both tendencies are at work among Tea-Party activists and Libertarians. Old-fashioned Conservatives, not so much, but there don't seem to be many of those around any more.

Today, not many of the rich would go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The natives are too restless and their own country (which many rich do in fact despise) lacks the power to rescue them if (when) things go awry. Instead, they are happy to fly away to Switzerland or some tax haven in the Caribbean.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Thoughts Of John Paul Jones

Generations of Naval Academy Midshipmen were forced to memorize the thoughts of John Paul Jones on the attributes of a naval officer:

“It is by no means enough that an officer of the navy should be a capable mariner. He must be that, of course, but also a great deal more. He should be as well a gentleman of liberal education, refined manners, punctilious courtesy, and the nicest sense of personal honor. He should be the soul of tact, patience, justice, firmness, and charity. No meritorious act of a subordinate should escape his attention or be left to pass without its reward, even if the reward is only a word of approval. Conversely, he should not be blind to a single fault in any subordinate, though, at the same time, he should be quick and unfailing to distinguish error from malice, thoughtlessness from incompetency, and well-meant shortcoming from heedless or stupid blunder. In one word, every commander should keep constantly before him the great truth, that to be well obeyed, he must be perfectly esteemed.”

"To be well obeyed, he must be perfectly esteemed!"

In fact, the quoted passage reflects the thoughts of Augustus C. Buell, in his 1900 biography of John Paul Jones, who thought it represented what Jones would have said on the subject.

It doesn't matter. The quote represents sound advice on leadership in any walk of life.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Invisible Hand And Kinky Indifference Maps

Someone long ago decided that economics is "the dismal science."

It therefore may come as a shock to learn that economists (at least the salt water variety) sometimes exhibit a keen sense of humor.

There is, for example, the economics professor/writer known to the world as Adam Smith. No, not the Adam Smith of 1776 who wrote Wealth of Nations. Rather the Adam Smith (pen name) who in 1976 received the "Invisible Hand" award.

Rather than attempt to describe the scene myself, I'll let Adam Smith himself (The late Jerry Goodman) tell the tale here.

And we can all join in a rousing chorus of "Wealth of Nations- Writ for me!"

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Why I Am A Democrat

I have heard people ask, in apparent confusion: "Just what does the Democratic Party stand for?"

There should be no confusion. Here is what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said about it in 1932:

"There are two ways of viewing the Government's duty in matters affecting economic and social life. The first sees to it that a favored few are helped and hopes that some of their prosperity will leak through, sift through, to labor, to the farmer, to the small business man. That theory belongs to the party of Toryism, and I had hoped that most of the Tories left this country in 1776
But it is not and never will be the theory of the Democratic Party."

Here is what presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan said about it in 1896:

"There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it."

From Thomas Jefferson to the present day, the central idea of the Democratic Party has been to achieve "the greatest good to the greatest number of our citizens."

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Wheels Of Justice

Some say the wheels of justice grind exceeding slow. As a case in point, I filed my complaint against the Town of Oriental August 2, 2012. After a lot of preliminaries, My attorney has just today filed a brief with the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The Town has thirty days to file its brief. So it will be at least mid to late February before the Court begins to process the case.

Patience is a virtue in such circumstances.