Thursday, October 17, 2013

Obama's Priorities During the Shutdown Reveal His True Character

In case there was any remaining doubt regarding the low regard President Obama has toward us ordinary Americans, his conduct during the government shutdown should clarify it once and for all.

During the shutdown all national parks and monuments closed. We all have heard the stories of World War Two veterans turned away at the World War Two Memorial. Obama sent his goons out to erect barricades to keep the vets out and threaten them if they tried to see the open-air, largely unguarded memorial. Yes, Obama spent more money to close the memorial than it costs to keep it open. So much for any pretense that the closing of parks and monuments had anything to with saving money. By the way, in the two government shutdowns 17 years ago, the memorials were open, so, again, we see Obama's lies when he says that he has no choice in the matter.

As if Obama's crackdown on the men and women who saved out nation in World War Two isn't enough to display his deep animosity to loyal, law-abiding Americans, his next action displayed his true hatred of us, the dirty common folk he feels himself so superior to. The National Mall is closed, read the signs at the Mall, and there are police there to stop you if you try to enter. That is unless you are one of Obama's favored, nay, privileged classes of person. You and I risk arrest if we set foot on the grass of the National Mall, but Obama okayed a rally on the Mall in favor of illegal immigration during the shutdown.

Had enough? Oh, wait, there's more.

If you one are of our brave men and women in uniform protecting our nation at one of our military bases at home or abroad and you happen to be a Catholic, Obama has ruled that it is illegal for a priest to celebrate any of the sacraments. No, I did not make that up or get it from some questionable source! John Schlageter, General Counsel of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, in an October 3rd press release stated: "With the government shutdown, many ... priests who minister to Catholics on military bases worldwide are not permitted to work -- not even to volunteer. During the shutdown, it is illegal for them to minister on base and they risk being arrested if they attempt to do so."

Again, it is not a matter of money. It never is, with Obama, a matter of money, it is always about Obama and his need to control people. His administration has threatened to arrest priests who say Mass or hear confessions on a military base even if they volunteer and are not paid.

Our nation will survive the final three years of Obama. He has weakened and abused us and will continue to do so, but we will survive. In the meantime, let's pray God, bless America, and save us from that wicked man in the White House.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Charlie (or Mike) on the MTA

When Walter A. O'Brien, Jr. (December 19, 1914 - July 1998) ran for mayor of Boston in 1949, he could not have foreseen that his campaign song would, a decade later, reach #15 on the Billboard chart, in a recording by the Kingston Trio.

I've long thought it would be swell if the tradition of campaign songs were to be resurrected. Many politicians today have a "theme" song associated with the campaign -- think of how the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign employed, to good effect, the Fleetwood Mac song "Don't Stop." In the 2012 presidential race Messrs. Obama and Romney each had a "play-list" of popular songs to set the mood at campaign rallies and sell the candidate. What Clinton's, Obama's, and Romney's uses of music as a motivational tool have in common is that they all turned to hit songs, not a campaign song, written by a local person and with local references relevant to the race. The lyrics, "Charlie on the MTA," were written by O'Brien supporters Jackie Steiner and Bess Hawes, and have become so emblematic of the MTA (now MBTA) that our fare cards are, even officially, called "CharlieCards." The music dates back the 1865 song "The Ship that Never Returned," by Henry Clay Work.

As an MBTA rider (I haven't owned a car since I moved to Boston nearly a quarter century ago, a move prompted, in part, by Boston's good subway, trolley, and bus system) I am pleased to see that mayoral candidate Mike Ross has pledged to be "A Strong Voice for Improving the MBTA"

I'm still undecided in the mayoral race, and I don't want this to became an endorsement of Mr. Ross, so I'll just quote three bullet points from his website:

  • Fight for full funding of the MBTA through regional partnerships

  • Bring back late-night MBTA service

  • Modernize zoning of transit-oriented development to promote T ridership

The MBTA is vital to Boston's successful future. In a recent conversation with another candidate, John Connolly, I learned that the majority of Bostonians are not originally from Boston. That is a good sign for our city and region. We are attracting and retaining bright, innovating people from all over the world to live and work in the Hub. One selling point Boston has over Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, or just about any American city is that here it is no necessary to spend an inordinate amount of time in your car driving to and from work. And if you balk at spending more money on the MBTA, just think what we are paying to maintain all those roads, plus the cost of maintaining a private automobiles.

Late night service? No brainer! The bars close at 2:00 a.m. and the MBTA shuts down an hour-and-a-half before that. That is ridiculous.

Modernization? Yes! In my time in Boston I've seen the MTBA decay. We deserve better.

Will Mike Ross resurrect Walter A. O'Brien's 1949 campaign song? Perhaps not. Perhaps he might think it "jinxed." O'Brien came in dead last in a five-man race, with 1.2 percent of the vote.

Now, citizens of Boston, don't you think it is a scandal
That the people have to pay and pay?
Join Walter A. O'Brien and fight the fare increase
Get poor Charlie off that MTA!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Mayoral Candidate from the North End?

So many candidates for mayor -- I don't know whom to vote for. I don't even know all the names! A few weeks ago I took a phone call from someone polling regarding the mayoral race. The voice on the end of the wire had some sort of accent, and it certainly was not Bostonian! The woman read out the name of each candidate and asked if I had heard of the candidate and if I have an opinion. Well, as I said, there are several women and men running and some names I had barely heard before. But when she got to the name "John Cannoli" I said, "Now you're just making up names!" So she spelled it out for me. "C-O-N-N-O-L-L-Y." The joke in our home now is that John Connolly must be the candidate from the North End, and we're singing "When Irish Eyes Are Italian."

No offense to Mr. Connolly intended. He appears to be qualified for the office and has some good ideas for the city. But this out-of-state pollster's mispronunciation got me thinking about one of the problems with electoral politics as now practiced in Boston. Aside from the question of how anyone could get a simple name like Connolly wrong, it shows what happens when politics is practiced "wholesale" rather than "retail." By retail we mean the candidate meeting voters face to face. "Wholesale" politics is the use of TV, radio, internet, telephone, and other means of manipulating public opinion, rather than persuading individual voters.

Surely there are local polling companies, employing local people who would know how to pronounce an Irish name. I don't know who commissioned this poll -- presumably not Mr. Connolly, as one would hope that the people working for you can at least pronounce your name! But, whoever it was, some candidate went with a company from out-of-state, or, which "farms out" its call center to some other, lower-cost region. All candidates make grand pronouncements about good jobs at good wages for Bostonians, but at least one chose to economize by using lower-paid out-of-state workers to make polling calls.

Between now and the election the voters of Boston will be deluged with phone calls on behalf of the candidates. I know, from having, in the 1990s, run for office myself, in Cambridge, that you have to have a "phone bank" to be a competitive candidate. Still, it's so impersonal. Paid out-of-state callers, or even worse, recorded announcements, have, to too much a degree, taken the place of individual Bostonians calling to recommend a candidate or remind a friend to vote.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Failure of Detroit, and Why It Won't Happen Here

A story is told that one day in the 1950s the Mayor of Detroit, the Governor of Michigan, and heads of the "big three" automobile manufacturing companies, and the President of the United Automobile Workers union, sat around a table in Detroit -- rather like the "board room" scene in the 1972 motion picture, "The Godfather" -- and decided how everything would run in the "Motor City." The story is apocryphal, but more about it later.

So what about the Detroit bankruptcy? Many conservative and Republican friends are indulging in schadenfreude over the failure of the experiment in liberalism that has been Detroit under the seven mayors, all Democrats, who have governed since 1962. Personally, I think it is in extremely poor taste to rejoice over the prospect that workers may lose their pensions, creditors will go unpaid, and basic public safety services are largely suspended in a city of a 700,000 souls. Furthermore, the facts do not support that narrative.

Boston, at 625,000 is, in population, nearly the same size as Detroit. We've had Democratic Mayor since 1930. Our political climate is at least as liberal as Detroit's. Ah, but the difference is Detroit was dependent on one industry and when it declined, so did the city. But if that were the explanation, what about Pittsburgh. Like Boston and Detroit the city government is of the "strong mayor" type, and since 1934 those mayors have been Democrats. At 300,000 residents it's smaller, but, like Detroit, it was, for many years dependent largely on one industry, steel. When steel production declined, so did the city. However, Pittsburgh is recovering, due to private industry and government investment in the core city.

Three things differentiate Boston from Detroit.

1. Race. Whites were leaving Detroit for the suburbs starting with the post-World War II suburban boom. After the Black riots in the summer of 1967 White-flight accelerated. After 1967 much of the White population of Michigan was afraid to cross Eight Mile Road, the division between Detroit and the northern, White suburbs. By the 1980 U.S. Census, the population of Detroit was just 34 percent White. If White Michiganders had any interest in returning to Detroit, Mayor Coleman Young's response to the census numbers made it clear they were not wanted. He declared White-flight a good thing, saying something to the effect that they rest should leave too, because Detroit is Black city. Whites heeded the Mayor's advice. Detroit is now 11 percent White.

2. Sprawl. Boston has nearly the same population as Detroit, but Detroit is half-again as large, in terms of square miles, 143 square miles compared to 90. Even when Detroit, in 1950, had a population of 1.8 million, many of the residents lived in houses set on large lots that you'd expect to see in the suburbs. It was ever thus. I recall, in the 1980s, reading a book about the history of Detroit that mentioned that, even before the city boomed with the automobile industry, earlier, nineteenth century visitors commented that everything was so spread out in Detroit, compared to other towns.

3. Big, big, big. Even if the story that begins this essay isn't the literal truth, it explains much of the problem of Detroit. One big industry dominated. The Chairmen of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, along with the President of union, and a strong Mayor decided everything. That means that when mistakes were made they were colossal, and difficult to remedy. From the 1970s on there was talk of, but no significant action on, diversifying the economy. As educated people left the city the remaining population elected worse and worse Mayors.

Put those three factors together and it was just a matter of time before Detroit failed.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lessons Learned, or Not.

I write in the morning, having awakened to find, not surprisingly, that Representative Ed Markey, the Democrat, defeated Gabriel E. Gomez, the Republican, 55% to 45%. It was a special election, held on a stifling hot day in June with 27% turnout. That means that 15% of registered voters cast a ballot for Senator-elect Markey, and 73% of the registered voters didn't bother with the election. Nevertheless, a win is a win.

It would be interesting to poll registered voters who did not participate in the election and try to determine why they were not interested. Were they just two uninspiring candidates? I can't speak for the rest of the Commonwealth, but in my neighborhood I witnessed very little interest in either man, outside of few persons who are passionate about every election. Was there in sufficient difference between the candidates on issues that matter to voters that nearly three-quarters simply didn't care which one won. Or did large numbers of registered voters accept the conventional wisdom that Markey was going to win anyway, so there was not much point in bother to vote? We'll probably never know which answer, or combination of answers is correct. I have one bit of advise for my Republican friends: Don't believe anyone who claims to have THE answer to why Gomez lost. All you are getting today and for the next several days is people's speculation.

In that spirit, let me offer my speculation, carefully worded to sound like brilliant insight, yet consisting of little more than my personal bias.

1. The more experience man, Mr. Markey, who had run for and won a seat in the state legislature, followed by a seat in the national legislature, continued in a career he had been following with success for decades and has been elected to the U.S. Senate. A man who had never run, let alone won, any office before, tried, and failed, in his attempt at one of the highest offices in the land on this first time out. Lesson: Politics is not for amateurs. Sure, there are some "super stars" who pop in and win a Senate seat on their first attempt at public office (Hillary Clinton, Al Franken, for example). But who other than his own mother had heard of Mr. Gomez before he ran for Senate?

2. The vast majority of the Hispanic vote would have gone Democratic in this election no matter who the GOP ran, so having a first-generation Colombian-America candidate was not going to help the GOP this time. For years Republicans, overall, have treated the Hispanic vote in three ways --

(1) Ignore the Hispanic vote. They won't vote for us anyway, so why bother.

(2) Vilify the Hispanic vote. Call them illegal aliens, welfare frauds, and criminals.

(3) Condescended to the Hispanic vote. Don't you realize that you, a Catholic with strong family values, "should" be Republican (as if to say you are too stupid to know your own mind).

That said, the GOP can appeal to Hispanics if we persist and give reasons for at least considering our party. I fear the brain trust that runs the GOP will say: "Tried that, it didn't work, see what happened with Gomez." It took decades for the Black vote to realign from 90% Republican to 90% Democrat, but too many on our side think if we can't re-align the Hispanic vote in a single election, it's not worth trying.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Party On, IRS!

Res Publica
Party On!
by David Trumbull -- June 14, 2013

Revisiting the 1992 motion picture Wayne's World on television the other night it struck me that there are adults, 21-year-olds, alive today who were not even born when Mike Myers' and Dana Carvey's homage to adolescent concupiscence first played on the big screens of movie houses. After a hard day at work it was pleasant to relax with a silly movie about people who party on, doing outrageous and stupid things, with no consequences -- you know, people like the employees of the Internal Revenue Service.

The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration last week release a report that IRS spent $4.1 million on a conference in Anaheim, California in 2010 that included questionable expenses for planning trips, outside speakers, video productions, and promotional items and gifts for IRS employees.

Examples of the management control weaknesses and questionable spending identified at the Anaheim Conference include:

  • IRS management did not use available internal personnel to assist in searching for the most cost-effective location as required by IRS policy. Instead, they relied on outside event planners who had no incentive to negotiate a favorable room rate for the IRS. Instead, the three hotels paid the event planners an estimated $133,000 commission based on the cost of rooms paid for by the IRS.

  • The IRS reported that it expended $50,187 on videos for the conference, but was unable to provide any details supporting this cost.

  • IRS management contracted with 15 outside speakers for presentations at a total cost of $135,350. Costs for outside speakers included a $17,000 fee for a keynote speaker whose presentation included creating six paintings of famous people to reinforce his message of finding creative solutions to challenges. Two of the paintings were given away at the conference, three were donated to charity, and one was lost, according to IRS management. Another keynote speaker was paid $27,500, which included a $2,500 fee authorized for first class airfare.

  • IRS employees made three planning trips at a cost of approximately $35,800 prior to the conference.

  • The IRS also paid over $30,000 for 45 IRS employees who reside in the local area to stay at the hotels and incur per diem expenses while at the conference.

  • Numerous gifts/promotional items were provided to attendees at an estimated cost of more than $64,000.

According to information on the IRS website, the mission of the IRS is to "Provide America's taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all" -- NOT!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Story of Taps

POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica
The Story of Taps
by David Trumbull -- May 24, 2013

This Memorial Day we remember and honor the men and women who died to preserve our freedom. Even as we enjoy kicking off summer however we chose this weekend, that is itself a testimony to their sacrifices, for we enjoy the cookouts, trips to the beach, and so forth because they made it possible. We especially honor those who died for our country when we decorate their graves or participant in patriotic parades and ceremonies this weekend.

At those solemn memorial events in our towns and cities, in our churches and synagogues, and in the halls of our veterans or other lodges, a familiar, haunting melody will mark the day --

The familiar bugle call "Taps" is generally believed to be based on a traditional French call to curfew (from Middle English "curfeu," from Old French "cuevrefeu," meaning cover the fire and turn in for the night).

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs the version of those 24 melancholy notes that we know from military funerals was crafted during America's Civil War by Union General Daniel Adams Butterfield, heading a brigade camped at Harrison Landing, Va., near Richmond. This music was made the official Army bugle call after the war, but not given the name "taps" until 1874.

The same Veterans Affair internet resource,, states that: "The first time taps was played at a military funeral may also have been in Virginia soon after Butterfield composed it. Union Capt. John Tidball, head of an artillery battery, ordered it played for the burial of a cannoneer killed in action. Not wanting to reveal the battery’s position in the woods to the enemy nearby, Tidball substituted taps for the traditional three rifle volleys fired over the grave. Taps was played at the funeral of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson 10 months after it was composed. Army infantry regulations by 1891 required taps to be played at military funeral ceremonies."

Taps now is played by the military at burial and memorial services, to accompany the lowering of the flag, and to signal the "lights out" command at day's end.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy." --Daniel Webster, 1819

Tuesday, the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration ("TIGTA") released its report on the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"). The following is a report summary compiled by the Senate Finance Committee Republican staff.


  • IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of other objective criteria.

  • Ineffective management allowed the following to occur:

  • Inappropriate criteria was developed that stayed in place for more than 18 months.

  • About 1/3 of the applications subjected to additional processing included Tea Party, Patriots or 9/12 in their names.

  • Resulted in substantial delays in processing certain applications.

  • All applications that included the inappropriate criteria experienced substantial delays in processing.

  • The majority of the impacted applications sat without any work done on them for 13 months.

  • 28 applications were withdrawn given the length of time taken to process.

  • 160 out of the 196 applications reviewed by TIGTA were open from 206 to 1138 calendar days which crossed two election cycles and spanned 3 years.

  • Allowed unnecessary information requests to be issued and then later informed some of those groups that they did not need to provide the information which was previously requested.

  • TIGTA determined that the additional information requests sent out to 98 of 170 (58 percent) organizations that received those requests were unnecessary.

The surprise is not that Obama's IRS tried to shut down Tea Party protesters. The surprise is that even the Lame Stream Media is reporting the story. Perhaps, after realizing that they had been totally played by the Administration regarding the Benghazi affair, the propaganda office of the White House, i.e., ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC, have suddenly awoken to realize that No, he doesn't respect them in the morning. And now, with the revelation that the Obama Administration has been reading the phone records of Associated Press reporters the way an overly-protective father might peak into his teenage daughter's diary, perhaps they see that, as they say, It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

Over twenty years ago P.J. O'Rourke summed up the problem with Washington best when he said, "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Today is Straw Hat Day

May 15th is Straw Hat Day the beginning of the season when men may wear their straw boaters and Panamas rather than the fur felt fedoras, porkpies, homburgs, and bowlers that we wear (You do wear a hat, don't you?) the rest of the year. For more information see Straw hats may be worn until Felt Hat Day which is September 15th.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Beware the Ides of March

Res Publica
Beware the Ides of March
by David Trumbull -- March 15, 2013

Beware indeed! As we all know, Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Senate House on the Ides of March of 44 B.C.  

Of the number and names of all the assassins we cannot be certain. Plutarch, and other ancient writers record the following: 

Publius Servilius Casca. "Vile Casca" who made the first cut.  

Caius Cassius Longinus. That Cassius of the "lean and hungry look" who recruited Brutus to the conspiracy.  

Marcus Junius Brutus. A descendant of that ancient Brutus who drove out the last of the Roman kings about 465 years earlier. Brutus was as a son to Caesar; his was "the most unkindest cut of them all." Brutus and Cassius both fell at their own hands after the battle of Philippi in 42 B.C. According to some ancient account each did himself in with the very dagger he used to slay Caesar.  

Decimus Junius Brutus also called Albinus, he was a distant relative of the other Brutus.  

Caius Trebonius. As was true of many of the conspirators, he had been a beneficiary of the kindnesses of Caesar. It was Trebonius and Decimus Brutus who detained Marc Antony in conversation so that Caesar was without his principal bodyguard when he entered the senate house.  

Lucius Tillius Cimber, called Metellus Cimber in the Shakespeare play, he was the one who gave the signal to commence the slaughter.  

Cinna. We must be careful not to confuse the conspirator Cinna with Caesar's loyal friend the poet Cinna. The angry mob in Rome that Ides of March made that very confusion and, meeting Cinna the poet in the street, tore to pieces the wrong man.  

Within a very few years Marc Antony and Octavian Caesar, the adopted son of Julius Caesar tracked down and killed the assassins.  

The conspirators thought to restore the Republic. However, they lacked any cohesive plan for governing; mismanaged events in the days immediately following the assassination; and ended up plunging Rome into a disastrous civil war. Peace, but not the Republic, was finally restored when, in 31 B.C., following the defeat of Antony at the battle of Actium, Caesar Octavian emerged as sole leader --the Emperor Augustus.

The founders of our Republic knew well the story of the Roman Republic's failure, with resulting Imperial Rule. They left us a system of popular government with regular elections. Our Republic has endured, under our Constitution, for about two and a quarter centuries. The Roman Republic endured nearly five centuries. It's up to us ordinary American voters to determine whether we can match that record.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rendering unto Caesar and unto God.

Res Publica
Rendering unto Caesar and unto God.
by David Trumbull -- March 8, 2013

The United States Commission on Civil Rights has announced that it will hold a briefing, in Washington, Friday, March 22nd, to examine recent legal developments concerning the intersection of non-discrimination principles with those of civil liberties.

Two topics will serve as starting points for a discussion involving religious liberties and non-discrimination rules and their broader implications for civil liberties: the Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC case and student group non-discrimination policies, including the Christian Legal Society v. Martinez case. Also at issue are religious liberty claims under First Amendment provisions other than the Religion Clauses.

There will be two panels at the briefing. The first panel will be composed of scholars involved in the Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC or Christian Legal Society v. Martinez litigation: Kimberlee Colby, Senior Counsel at the Christian Legal Society, Ayesha Khan, Senior Litigation Counsel, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Daniel Mach, Director, American Civil Liberties Union Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief and Lori Windham, Senior Counsel, Becket Fund.

The second panel will consist of experts who will discuss the broader conflict between anti-discrimination norms and civil liberties. Experts scheduled to appear on the second panel include Alan Brownstein, Professor, University of California at Davis Law School, Marc DeGirolami, Associate Professor, St. John's University School of Law, Leslie Griffin, Professor, University of Nevada Las Vegas Law School, Marci Hamilton, Professor, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Michael Helfand, Associate Professor, Pepperdine University School of Law, and Edward Whelan, President, Ethics and Public Policy Center.

If you are concerned about current domestic threats to religious liberty, including the Obama Administration's attack on Catholic schools, hospitals, and charities, this is your opportunity to comment. Public comments are being accepted until April 21st. Lawyers and professors of law may dominate the Washington briefing later this month, but the public comment period is open to anyone who is distressed that our First Amendment Right to Free Exercise of Religion is being attacked by the very federal officials who took oaths to defend the Constitution.

Comments may be submitted to, or send written correspondence to:
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
1331 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 1150
Washington, DC 20425

"We need to render unto Caesar those things that bear his image. But we need to render ourselves unto God -- generously, zealously, holding nothing back. To the extent we let God transform us into his own image, we will – by the example of our lives – fulfill our duty as citizens of the United States, but much more importantly, as disciples of Jesus Christ." --Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Legacy of President Washington

Res Publica
The Legacy of President Washington
by David Trumbull -- February 15, 2013
I "am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire."
-- George Washington, in 1796, announcing his intention to retire after two terms as President.

Monday is WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY, a federal and state holiday to honor the hero of the Revolutionary War, the Father of His Country, and the first President of the United States. Much has been said and written about Washington's character, and his influence, for the good, on the founding, and maintaining in its first years, of our Republic. In particular, it has been noted that Washington's decision to step down voluntarily, rather than serve as President for Life, revealed not merely his personal humility, but his deep trust in our Republican form of government. Washington was persuaded that our Constitution, which he calls "sacredly obligatory upon all," would always guarantee that we'd be a free people. And so shall we be, so long as the people hold our officials bound to their oaths to uphold the Constitution.

Of the 43 men to serve as chief executive of the Union, only Washington is so singled out for honor with a federal holiday. That many persons now call the third Monday in February "Presidents Day" is an indicator of our lack of discrimination and devaluing of true accomplishment and fame. To put it in perspective, Catholics believe that each of the 265 popes was the Vicar of Christ on Earth, infallible in matters of faith and morals, and yet fewer than 80 have been added to the calendar of saints. No less erudite writer than Dante Alighieri placed some of the popes in Hell. "He who made the great refusal" in Canto 3 of Dante Inferno is general considered to be Pope Celestine V. Celestine's abdication of the Throne of Peter in 1294 was, in the view of Dante, an abdication of his responsibility to the Church and shirking of his duty to God. It lead to the election of Pope Boniface VIII, in Dante's opinion, a very bad Pope.

Washington's refusal to continue in office was anything but a shirking of duty. He knew that under our Constitution the President may change, but the People always are sovereign. He fulfilled his responsibility to the People, first by his conduct as President, and, finally, with his Farewell Address. It is his treatise on how to maintain the free popular government we enjoy as Americans. Every America should read and reflect on Washington's sage advice in that speech.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Happy Holidays!"

Res Publica
"Happy Holidays!"
by David Trumbull -- February 8, 2013

No, this column is not two months late. Nor will you find in it a word against the heartily shouted greetings of "Merry Christmas," "Happy Chanukah," or even "Saturnalia optima" that fill, or ought to fill, the air during the twelfth month of the year. Yes, December may be queen among the months as regards holidays, but February makes up for its lack of days with an abundance of festive occasions.

This year February brings, beginning on the 13th, that most unfestive of seasons, lent. But that comes after rowdy carnival time, culminating in Shrove Tuesday. And mid-month Valentine's Day reminds us, in the words of Irving Berlin, to "Be Careful, It's My Heart." That song is one of the many delightful Berlin confections in the 1942 talking picture, Holiday Inn. The picture plays on television every December showcasing the "mega-hit" White Christmas" as introduced by Bing Crosby. And well it should. But it merits a viewing any season, not the least for three big production numbers set in February.

In addition to the charming Valentine's Day offering previously mentioned, the film gives us Berlin's "Abraham," and heart-felt song-and-dance salute to the Great Emancipator (February 12th). "Der Bingle" in blackface rightly offends our politically correct sensibilities today. But at the time the picture was made, when African Americans were, by law, treated as inferior citizens in many of our States and even in our armed services, having major white stars celebrating the end of Negro slavery was quite enlightened. It reminds us that the quest for freedom and equality for all Americans has taken many years and continues as we learn to value each person for his unique worth.

February, and the movie Holiday Inn, have yet another treat for us. The witty, if just a bit precious, Washington's Birthday (February 22nd) number follows the theme of young George's fabled honesty --as recorded (invented?) by Parson Weems. The Berlin song is: "I Can't Tell a Lie."

Berlin, a Russian Jew who arrived as boy in America practically penniless, went on to be the most successful, and most American, of song-writers. He loved America for the unprecedented freedom she affords to every American, native-born or naturalized. And he understood the power of music both to admonish people to love what is good about our country and to move them to work to improve whatever is lacking in our national character.

Next weekend as you enjoy the long Washington's Birthday (or Presidents Day) weekend, take time to reflect on our history, on our current greatness, and consider how you will contribute to making our future even better.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The King's Good Servant, but God's First

Res Publica
The King's Good Servant, but God's First
by David Trumbull -- January 25, 2013

I did not watch the ceremonies attendant on President Obama's swearing-in as chief executive for a second term. It was not because I disagree with just about every policy of his and believe he is harming the Republic and is a danger to the liberty of every citizen, including the ones most lauding him. No, I'm just not that into it.

For his true "inaugural," that is his first taking of office, I attended a festive event here in Boston with great satisfaction in living to see the first African-America president, even though I knew then that his policies would be severely misguided. I attended, in Washington, the inaugural of his predecessor, George W. Bush, but I took little notice of the official commencement of his second term. So I'm an equal opportunity second "inauguration" snubber.

I missed the whole thing. The comments, in print and on radio and television, regarding his speech have warned me away from reading it for fear of elevating my blood pressure. I missed news coverage of the various gala balls, so I don't even know what the First Lady wore, which is probably just as well, as her past selections have been under whelming, or worse. From what I have seen, after the event, of commentary, the only note-worthy fashion statement came from a highly improbable source, United State Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Justice Scalia has set cyberspace atwitter with his selection of headgear for last Monday's inauguration ceremony. He wore a black hat, a replica of the hat depicted in Hans Holbein's well-known portrait of St. Thomas More. The hat was custom-made and was a gift, in 2010, from the St. Thomas More Society of Richmond, Virginia.

Thomas More, familiar to many from his depiction in Robert Bolt's play (and movie) A Man for All Seasons, was martyred by the tyrant Henry VIII of England when he stood against the King's pretended supremacy over the church.

As Matthew Schmitz, Deputy Editor of First Things wrote: "Wearing the cap of a statesman who defended liberty of church and integrity of Christian conscience to the inauguration of a president whose policies have imperiled both: Make of it what you will."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lincoln and King: Freedom and Equality

POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica
Lincoln and King: Freedom and Equality
by David Trumbull -- January 18, 2013

With 12 Oscar nominations, Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" has been nominated for more Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards than any other motion picture of 2012. The picture is a dramatization of the rounding up of votes, in the United States House of Representatives, to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment passed by the necessary two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate and was on its way to ratification by the necessary three-quarters of the States when Lincoln was assassinated on Good Friday, 1865.

Getting the amendment through the House (it had passed easily in the Senate) was a major effort, told in an engaging manner in the movie. Permanently ending slavery in the U.S. by means of Constitutional Amendment was, for Lincoln, an imperative. His Emancipation Proclamation, issued 150 years ago this month, did not free all slaves, being restricted to those in rebellious areas not under the effective control of the United States. Furthermore, as a proclamation based on Lincoln's wartime powers as Commander in Chief, it was uncertain how, or even if, it would have force once peace was concluded.

Limited as it was, the Emancipation Proclamation was the first step in what became an irreversible path toward, first freedom, and later equality, for Americans of African ancestry. In August of 1863 Giuseppe Garibaldi wrote from Italy to President Lincoln, declaring: "Posterity will call you the great emancipator, a more enviable title than any crown could be, and greater than any merely mundane treasure."

The Thirteenth Amendment made African-Americans free. The subsequent Fourteen (application of the civil rights of U.S. citizens to the States) and Fifteenth (right of African-Americans to vote) promised to settled the question of equality. In reality, they marked merely the beginning of the quest for equality of all Americans. It would not be until the civil rights movement of the middle twentieth century that the rights guaranteed by the 14th and 15th Amendments would be effective in every State.

Monday we honor the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose advocacy for nonviolence was essential to the success of the civil rights movement. Like Lincoln, King was assassinated (April 4, 1968) and, like Lincoln, King continues after death to inspire others to carry on the quest for freedom and equality.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Break it so You Can Fix it.

Res Publica
Break it so You Can Fix it.
by David Trumbull -- January 11, 2012

A Hundred years ago we amended the Constitution to provide for direct election of senators and the filling of vacancies in the senate. We're still fiddling with the second part of that, and that is just one of the reasons the Seventeenth Amendment has been harmful to our Republic.

When Senator John Kerry is confirmed as the 68th Secretary of State of the United States, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick will promptly appoint a temporary Senator so that the Commonwealth's equal representation in the U.S. Senate is preserved. That appointee will serve until a special election is held in about four or five months. Many observers think former Senator Scott Brown will likely run, and likely win, the special election and some Democrats have suggested that the law be changed to allow the governor's appointee to serve until the senator chosen by the people in the regularly scheduled November 2014 election is sworn in.

Governor Patrick has been quoted as saying that other states do it that way (appointment until the next regular election, with no special election in between) and that he wishes it were that way here. In fact, it was that way here until the Democratically-controlled legislature changed the law in 2004 to strip Republican Governor Mitt Romney of the power to appoint a temporary senator. Democrats were content to leave the seat vacant, thus forfeiting our equal representation in the senate, rather than risk having a Republican represent us. The Democrats changed the law again in 2009 to give Governor Patrick power to appoint a Democrat until the special election was scheduled. Having rigged the law not once but twice to favor the Democrats, rigging it yet a third time, solely for the purpose of preventing Mr. Brown from getting back into the senate by way of a special election, is too corrupt a proposal even for Massachusetts, which is saying alot!

This is, or course, precisely why the rules should be set in advance and left alone. Otherwise you get exactly what we have in the Bay State, public loss of confidence in the integrity of a system that is constantly being tweaked to put the fix in for one party. The grand irony is just how often attempts to rig the system backfire. Scott Brown would never have been elected had the Democrats not tried to the rig the results with their 2009 special election law fix. As they say, be careful what you wish for.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Disabled Persons Will Need to be Recertified for the RIDE under New MBTA Rules

Res Publica
Disabled Persons Will Need to be Recertified for the RIDE under New MBTA Rules
by David Trumbull -- January 4, 2012

According to the FAQs (frequently asked questions) posted on the website of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, disabled persons using the MBTA's RIDE service will need to be recertified under new procedures. All existing RIDE customs will be notified and recertified within three years. Certification will be done via an in-person assessment conducted by trained mobility coordinators.

Here are some things that disabled RIDE customers should be aware of --

  • A diagnosis of disability from your physicians will not be enough to get you certified. According to the MBTA, many medical practitioners are ill-equipped to make a determination that is based on functional ability to use the MBTA fixed route transit system. In addition, MBTA says it cannot rely on an applicant′s doctor to always be fully objective in making this determination, given that they may well be motivated to secure as many services for their patient as possible.
  • The MBTA estimates the 95-99% of current RIDE customer who apply under the new system will be found conditionally or fully eligible for THE RIDE.
  • However, they also estimate that a significant percent (perhaps 15-25%) of current RIDE customers will choose not to apply for certification under the new system. If 15 to 25 of current RIDE customers drop off, as expected, because they don't want to go through the new certification procedure, this represents a significant cost savings to the MTBA.
  • While the MBTA recognizes that there are many different certification processes that people with disabilities complete already in order to receive benefits or services, the MBTA maintains that those certifications do not specifically pertain to the individual's ability to ride transit.

We all, I am sure, want to see THE RIDE and other services for the disabled go to those truly in need of such services, and the MBTA appears to have done a thorough job of identifying weaknesses in the current certification that may have let some questionable cases slip through. However, I suspect I am not the only one concerned that this new requirement for an in-person interview with an MTBA mobility coordinator, may intimidate some truly needed disabled persons and may discourage them from seeking recertification for the vital RIDE service. I am pleased to see that you may bring a family member, companion, or translator to the interview. I hope that the senior and disability advocates in the area will actively reach out to RIDE customers and help them understand their rights so they can go through this recertification as smoothly as possible. No one should be denied needed service just to save money for the MBTA or because they are intimidated by the recertification process.