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Eisenhower had reoriented American defense to reduced spending through reduced manpower, while extending America's lead in the quantity, delivery capacity, and sophistication and power of its nuclear arsenal. Now he set out to play poker with the Russians, and grope toward arms control. After ten years of an intensifying Cold War, and six months in which his senior military commanders had almost routinely asked for atomic attacks on China for what proved insubstantial reasons (false fears of an impending attempted invasion of Formosa), the president was prepared to try to de-escalate tensions. (From The Chief Apprentice, p. 317)
On October 18, Kennedy received the Soviet foreign minister, Andrei Gromyko, for two hours. Gromyko accused the United States of "pestering" Cuba, a little country. Kennedy, playing poker like some of his predecessors, did not mention the United States intelligence about the missiles, but reminded Gromyko of Kennedy's statement of six weeks before warning against the deployment of offensive weapons to Cuba. On October 20, Adlai Stevenson, whose resolution in a crisis Eisenhower and Nixon had questioned in 1952 and 1956, arrived from New York, where he had succeeded Lodge as Kennedy's ambassador to the United Nations, and advocated that a quarrantine of Cuba be accompanied by a promise of withdrawal of American missiles in Turkey and abandonment of the U.S. base of Guantanamo in Cuba. (From Defeat and Endurance, p. 437)
On Vietnam, Chou said China could not promise anything with the North Vietnamese and that China was bound to continue to support them. Nixon said the Democrats had tried to claim that Nixon had come to China to resolve Vietnam, in order to represent his visit afterwards as a failure. The Chinese leader rather flippantly said, "You went there by accident. Why not give this up?" Nixon instantly said, "We are not going to walk out of there without an agreement. [Otherwise] the U.S. would be a nation that would...(sic) deserve nothing but contempt before the people and nations of the world, whatever their philosophies." He did not raise the presence of the three hundred and twenty thousand non-combat Chinese armed servicemen in Hanoi, and their presence at least justified the threat of the importation of Taiwanese forces in analogous roles in South Vietnam, but Nixon judged that raising this would have blown up the discussions."
The time for playing such a card had passed. The Korean War left the American leadership with a fear of again blundering into war with China, and Nixon judged a relationship with the People's Republic more important than any marginal activity in South Vietnam. (From The Pinnacle, p. 787) (footnotes omitted)
On November 24 he sent a further cable to Kissinger that his strongest supporters in the Senate would not approve going beyond February 1 to get more for Thieu than Nixon and Kissinger had already obtained for him. Yet again in his career, Nixon, the skilled poker player, was prepared to gamble. He was going to intensify the bombing beyond any previous level, but Thieu was going to have to understand that this was the last throw of the dice. Whatever, if anything, they could get from this was all that could be had. Thieu was presumably as well informed of the drift of political events in Washington as any foreign leader, and he must have known more or less what was possible. There was no sympathy whatever for the view that the United States owed him anything more than it had already given. Kissinger considered Thieu's supplementary demands "preposterous." (This was a mild reproof, considering that he had regarded Thieu's previous terms as "verging on insanity.") (From The Precipice, p. 849) (footnotes omitted)
Nixon returned to the Vietnam poker table on December 14, and ordered the re-mining of Haiphong Harbor and the intensive bombing of Hanoi. He explicitly threatened to remove Admiral Moorer and the Joint Chiefs if they didn't carry out his orders effectively. An unprecedentedly massive air assault on North Vietnam began on December 18. (Nixon told Haldeman and Kissinger that he didn't want to start on Sunday, December 17, because he didn't want a church service in the White House while he was bombing). The United States lost three aircraft to a new anti-aircraft missile system that the Americans suspected was operated by Russians. Ziegler was told to reply to press questions, after the North Vietnamese started howling like the wounded animals through their propaganda apparatus about the bombing, that it would continue until American conditions were met securing the release of POWs and a cease-fire. (From The Precipice, p. 857)(footnotes omitted)
Greenspan - ugh! - on Tricky Dick:
A CONVERSATION WITH THE CHAIRMAN As his new memoir pulls back the curtain on the mysteries of the Fed, Alan Greenspan speaks to FORTUNE about market mayhem, housing prices, and his new critics.
The Age of Turbulence
By Alan Greenspan
You served many Presidents. Who's your favorite?
The person I liked the best was Gerald R. Ford. He was the most decent man in politics I ever had any relationship with.
Did he have the intellectual firepower to be President?
Yes, he did. He was not as smart as Nixon or Clinton, but I think there was enough to make up for that, which made him an extraordinary man.
Your relationship with both Bushes was strained at times. The elder Bush blamed you in part for his defeat.
I wouldn't cut rates sufficiently, quickly. Actually George W. Bush was very cognizant of the importance of having an independent Federal Reserve. Never did he in any way second-guess the Federal Reserve. I very much appreciated that. Where I had difficulties were on the fiscal side. We had a situation where the Republican Party had the presidency and both houses of Congress and the surplus. And I said, "Nirvana". We dissipated it. In the election of 2006 the Republicans deserved to lose, and the reason is that they had originally come to office with major policy initiatives and they went out of office solely seeking power, and in the end they achieved neither. And I find that very saddening. (-- p. 166)
... It is increasingly clear that Republicans have come to understand the Justice Department not as "the very foundation for a free society," or even as a spoils system for issues-oriented voters, but rather as a machine that utilizes "evasion, cover-up, stonewalling, and duplicity," among other techniques, to achieve the far more fundamental goal of taking and maintaining power.
... During the years of the Clinton Administration, for example, relentless "investigations," demanded by Republicans on Capitol Hill, created a series of trumped-up "-gates" - Cattlegate, Filegate, Travelgate - and Kenneth Starr, in his rambling examination of Bill Clinton's sex life, explored techniques that would inform dozens of political prosecutions under Bush. These efforts culminated not in Clinton's impeachment but rather in the 2000 election itself. On Election Day, the American people chose Al Gore over George Bush by a margin of 540, 000 votes, but in the end only the votes of the Supreme Court mattered. With the help of five out of seven Republican-appointed justices, Bush entered the White House, and it became clear that political power could be gained through the mechanics of the justice system itself.
The Republican project of the past seven years has been to build on that success, to transform the legal apparatus of the United States into an instrument of partisan force.
... Subverting an entire legal apparatus requires great effort. Laws must be circumvented, civil servants thwarted, and opposing politicans intimidated into silence. With an election redecided in the courts, though, the Bush team was quick to lock in its gains. (emphasis added)
... The Bush Justice Department labored to get around these laws (laws precluding partisan appointments in the public service) in various ways. ... the hiring shifted from the Ivies to avowedly conservative schools. Regent University Law School, founded by Pat Robertson in 1986, (ranks among the bottom tier of law schools) claims to have placed more than 150 of its graduates in positions with the Bush Administration.
... By 2006, ... career civil servants were being replaced with hacks who would put loyalty to Bush well above the traditional functions of the Justice Department.
... One of the ways the department would accomplish this (helping Republicans win elections) was by restaffing the branch primarily responsible for making sure Americans are allowed access to the ballot box - the Civil Rights Division - so that it would work actively to prevent minorities from voting. (emphasis added)
... The former political director of the Texas Republican Party, Royal Masset, actually told the Houston Chronicle in 2007 that it is an "article of religious faith that voter fraud is causing us to lose elections," but then acknowledged that such faith was unfounded. What he did believe ... was that "requiring photo IDs could cause enough of a drop-off in legitimate Democratic voting to add 3 percent jto the Republican vote."
... The American system of democracy has many defenses, and the Bush Administration overcame each of them in turn. It was not enough simply to control the bureaucracy. High officials as well had to understand that their function was not to enforce the law but rather to express the will of the president. The next step, then wouold be to discipline the U.S. attorneys.
... They are appointed by the president and by tradition serve a minimum of four years. This tradition was upended when Attorney General Gonzales, on Bush's authority, sacked seven U.S. attorneys on Dec. 7/06. No explanation was given at first, and the manoeuver itself was made possible only by an obscure provision in the 2005 reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act.
... Had (Albuquerque U.S. Attorney David) Iglesias indicted the Democrat (Patricia A. Madrid), he would have violated ethical obligations as a prosecutor and committed a felony. Instead, he held rigorously to the rules, which forbid a U.S. attorney from manipulating prosecutions in order to attempt to affect election contests. But in the Bush Administration, putting fidelity to the law ahead of the G.O.P.'s election efforts was a career-ending move.
... The other U.S. attorneys fired in December have similar stories to tell. ... Two of them - Milwaukee's Steve Biskupic and Dunnica Lampton of Jackson, Mississippi - brought politically charged corruption indictments involving Democrats during an election cycle, clearly with the intention of directly influencing the elections for the benefit the G.O.P. ... Both Biskupic and Lampton received a reprieve - they could continue serving as U.S. attorneys - thereby reminding us that it is not the terminated U.S. attorneys who should be a subject of concern as much as it is those who were kept on.
... The current situation is not unprecedented. The bitter partisan rivalries of the 1790s saw the machinery of justice put to merciless use. The Federalists felt that all levers of government could legitimately be used to advance and secure the political interests of their party. At a time when there was no real war, the Federalists fomented a public climate of wartime crisis. Their party pushed for military engagement of the side of Britain and against France and insinuated that Democratic-Republicans (as the Democrats were then known) were disloyal and possibly even treasonous on account of their well-known sympathy for French revolutionaries. At the same time, Federalists worked to incite fear of immigrants, particularly the Irish, whom they tarred as alcoholic revolutionaries. Under President John Adams, the Federalists assumed sweeping powers to lock up and deport immigrants, but perhaps their most significant attempt to turn the legal system to political advantage was the passage of the Alien and Sedition Act.
... History may view the Bush Administration's transformation of the Justice Department as an aberration the voters will set right at the next election. There is an equally good chance, however, that Bush has reverted to the historical norm, that government of the people, by the people, for the people is the exception.
... The next president can learn much, in any case, from how the Democratic-Republicans made robust use of executive power to right the wrongs they felt had been done to them. They quite reasonably had no confidence that the judiciary would undo on appeal the injustices perpetrated against Demorcatic-Republican leaders by Federalist prosecutors and trial judges. After all, most of the appellate judges were themselves still Federalists as well. So the two dozen Democratic Republican leaders who had been jailed or convicted received pardons. Congress voted many of them apologies and compensation for their mistreatment. Federal prosecutors and judges who had participated in the excesses were investigated, and most prosecutors were replaced.
... Bush's assumption of presidential authority includes assertions of exutive power at least as expansive as those put forward in the Polk, Lincoln, and Nixon presidencies. Of the three, Lincoln alone could convincingly claim as justification an existential threat against the country. Bush attempts to copy Lincoln's claim, but his efforts are unconvincing.
... As long as this new democracy prevails, little will matter beyond the will of the president. (-- pgs. 37-46)
It's that Idiotic time of year again! The MAD 20 The Dumbest People, Events and Things of 2007
2 BUSH BREAKS PRESIDENTIAL RECORD FOR TIME OFF
George Bush is zeroing in on a long-standing record even more hallowed than Hank Aaron's 755 homers: Ronald Reagan's presidential vacation mark of 436 days. Experts said it would never be broken, yet as we go to press, Dubya is on the verge of surpassing the Gipper's remarkable relaxation achievement with a year on the job still to go. Bush has taken about 70 vacations, during a war no less! If FDR took off that much time (note: he didn't, and he served FOUR terms!) you'd be reading this introduction in German while munching on strudel. It's monumentally dumb! (-- p. 15)
When Markets Beat the Polls Internet-based financial markets appear to forecast elections better than polls do. They also probe how well the next George Clooney drama will do at the box office and how bad the next flu season will be
By Gary Stix
Betting on elections was ubiguitous in the early part of the 20th century on informal exchanges and among individuals. Instead of paying off a losing bet with cash, the losers - consider these unfortunates who bet on John W. Davis instead of Calvin Coolidge in 1924 - had to sometimes perform stunts. In this instance, Davis supporters had to pull Muriel Gordon, the winner of the bet, in a hansom cab down Fifth Avenue. (Catchline under a photo, p. 43)
Off-cited statistics about election markets beating the polls have come under scrutiny from other quarters. A 2005 analysis by political scientists Robert S. Erikson of Columbia University and Christopher Wlezien of Temple University insisted that polls and election markets do not serve the same functions and so do not merit direct comparison. The authors contended that the polls identify vote preferences on the day each poll is taken, whereas the IEM market prices forecast what is to happen on the day of the election. In their analysis, they made a series of mathematical adjustments ot the polls, which they then found to be more accurate in projecting Election Day outcomes than both the IEMs vote-share and winnter-take-all markets.
Controversy again ensued. One dissenter, Justin Wolfers, an economist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who has done extensive analyses of prediction markets, criticized Erikson and Wlezien's results, saying theat their study only compared a few elections and poolls. Wolfers also objects because the 2005 analysis "adjusts polls but doesn't make a corresponding adjustment of prediction markets."
The burgeoning interest in prediction markets evokes the prepoll era of the early 20th century, when betting on election results was ubiquitous. Newspapers would routinely run stories on the odds for a particular candidate, reports that often proved to be surprisingly prescient. In that sense, prediction markets may truly hark back to the future. "My long-run prediction is that newspapers in 2020 will look like newspapers in 1920," Wharton School's Wolfers says. If that happens, the wisdom of crowds will have arrived at a juncture that truly rivals the musings of the most easoned pundits. (-- pgs. 43-45)
A big deal Poker is getting younger, cleverer, duller and much, much richer
Poker has long fascinated America's great and good, from politicians to generals to captains of industry. Presidents Roosevelt (both), Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon were all keen players. Nixon was famously good: most of the funding for his first congressional run came from poker winnings[/color]. Poker was said to have inspired cold-war tacticians. It is still a useful military motif: recall the playing cards used to represent Saddam Hussein and his most-wanted cohorts. Poker financed a sizeable chunk of Microsoft's start-up costs. Bill Gates once said he learned more about business strategy at the baize than in classrooms - though these days he apparently prefers the more stately game of bridge.
Not all famous players have made such good role models. As he partied away the declining years of his career, Errol Flynn incurred some excruciating poker losses, including, on one particularly bad night, a Caribbean island he had hoped to develop into a holiday resort. John Wayne had some shockers too, though in one memorable game he won Lassie from the canine star's desperate owner.
What Nixon, Flynn and Wayne have made of poker today? They would surely have marvelled at the transformation of "the cheater's game" into a multi-billion-dollar industry, pumping out new millionaires almost daily. Even they might have been shocked at the latest season of "High Stakes Poker," a television series in which players buy into each game for $500, 000 apiece and the winner takes home more than $5m.
They might, perhaps, have been disappointed that the game had lost some of its backroom edginess. Miss Obrestad's generation are more likely to put their excess winnings into tax-free bonds than blow them betting on a single round of gold, as Mr Brunson and his Las Vegas pals used to do in their madder moments. Still, those hoping to win over poker's skeptics will find no better example than young Annette, 15. She is stern, sober and chillingly focused on her game. She appears to be exceptionally good at it too. Either that or amazingly lucky. (-- p. 38)
Dennis Hutchinson, who also teaches courses on race and the law at Chicago, pointed out that Obama’s racial background gave him a certain advantage. “Let’s be frank,” Hutchinson, who is white, said. “If you’re black, and you are teaching a group of mostly white students about sensitive topics touching on race, then you’re controlling the class.” But like any good law professor, Obama seems not to have used his position to produce a preconceived political result. When he lectured on a pivotal affirmative-action Supreme Court case, for instance, he emphasized that white contractors who lost out to minority businesses because of racial set-asides had a legitimate grievance. Similarly, Obama allowed that there was an argument to be made for paying out reparations for slavery. The class reading — including authors like Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington — certainly bolstered the idea that some kind of atonement was warranted. But after making the theoretical case, Obama pushed his students to think about the implications of actually cutting checks to the descendants of slaves. It was possible, he pointed out, that the move would merely create resentment.
Obama kept his own thoughts on the topics he was teaching mostly to himself. Michael Turbes, a lawyer who now practices in Atlanta, learned within the first few weeks of his voting rights seminar just how inscrutable Obama could be. Turbes, who is African-American, knew Obama from outside the classroom: the two met while lifting weights in the gym and occasionally played one-on-one basketball. Despite the friendliness, Turbes is not sure exactly what transpired in early 1997, when Obama announced he wanted to change the time the voting rights class was meeting. Turbes was enrolled in another course at the suggested hour, and the window when students could make changes to their schedule had passed. He mentioned this to Obama, who said he would put the matter to a vote.
“I told him, ‘There are some things you don’t vote on,’ ” Turbes recalled.
Obama then invited the rest of the class to debate Turbes’s point and eventually asked for a show of hands. Turbes speculated that Obama regarded the impasse as a teaching moment and allowed the back-and-forth to go on because it was generating a spirited discussion. Since a majority of his classmates voted to keep the same time slot, he can’t be sure if his hunch is correct. “I’ve read that he’s good at poker, and that doesn’t surprise me,” Turbes said. “He is good at not wearing his opinions on his sleeve.”(-- p. 78)
Speculating on Truman's motives is a risky business. It attempts to apply calm hindsight to a situation that was dizzying in its complexity and that above all, found Truman trying to come up to speed on a program of which he had previously been largely unaware. Still, the decision to use atomic weapons against Japan is so significant that it is necessary to try to understand what forces produced it. Though no such inquiry can produce a single, neat answer, an investigation has much to reveal about the origins and historical implications of Truman's decision.
Proponents of dropping the bomb argue that, however vast its death toll, it seemed a swift and sure way in a bloody wartime situation to end the war with Japan and avoid greater losses. Critics range from those who accuse Truman of having acted rashly, due to his inferior foreign policy skill relative to that of his predecessor, to those who think that the vast summs spent on the Manhattan Project pressured the fledgling president to deliver on its work. This dark suspicion was fueled by Truman
s own words announcing the bombing of Hiroshima. "We have spent," Truman declared proudly, "two billion dollars ont he greatest scientific gamble in history - and won."(footnote omitted)
That Truman included this price tag in his first words of announcement implies that the cost was at least part of his calculation - that had the government gambled and lost, there would have been as much discredit to go around as there was glory for the success. The suspicion that the cost of the Manhattan Project played a role in the decision about the bombing was held not only by critics at the historical fringe but by Truman's secretary of war, Stimson and Adiral Leahy. (From The Arsenal of Democracy, pgs. 65-66)
About the book and the development of America's military industrial complex now controlling even the Executive branch:
In his now legendary 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of "the disastrous rise of misplaced power" that could result from the increasing influence of what he called the "military industrial complex." Nearly two centuries earlier, another general-turned-president George Washington, had warned that "overgrown military establishments" were antithetical to republican liberties. Today, with an exploding defense budget, millions of Americans employed in the defense sector, and more than eight hundred U.S. military bases in 130 countries, the worst fears of Washington and Eisenhower have come to pass.
Surveying a scorched landscape of America's military adventures and misadventures, Jarecki's groundbreaking account includes interviews with a "who's-who" of leading figures in the Bush administration, Congress, the military, academia, and the defense industry, including Republican presidential candidate John McCain, Colin Powell's former chief of staff Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, and long-time Pentagon reformer Franklin "Chuck" Spinney. Their insights expose the deepest roots of American war-making, revealing how the "Arsenal of Democracy" that crucially secured American victory in WWII also unleashed the tangled web of corruption America now faces. From the republic's earliest episodes of war to the use of the atom bomb against Japan to the passage of the 1947 National Security Act to the Cold War's creation of an elaborate system of military-industrial-congressional collusion, American democracy has drifted perilously from the intent of its founding. As Jarecki powerfully argues, only concerted action by the American people can, and must, compel the nation back on cours. (emphasis added) (From the jacket flaps)
Senator Obama: I read the other day that Senator John McCain likes to gamble. He likes to roll those dice, and that's OK. I enjoy - I'm making a confession here - I enjoy having a little friendly game of poker myself once in awhile.
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The New York Times Magazine
Wage Gap Divides Men Too 8th Annual Year in Ideas
By Aaron Retica
Economists have been trying for decades to understand the considerable gap in wages between men and women, but they have not paid enough attention to our psychological attitudes toward breadwinning, according to Timothy Judge and Beth Livingston, organizational psychologists at the Warrington College of Business Administration at the University of Florida. What if the real difference isn’t between men and women but between men who think women belong at home — and everyone else?
On average, according to “Is the Gap More Than Gender?” which was published in September in The Journal of Applied Psychology, men who say they believe in a traditional role for women earned a stunning $8,549 more per year than men who profess egalitarian values. Egalitarian-minded women earned $1,330 less than their male counterparts, and traditional women earned another $1,495 less.
Judge and Livingston’s study is based on data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from thousands of people as they matured between 1979 and 2004. Periodically, investigators asked questions like whether “employment of wives leads to more juvenile delinquency.” Judge and Livingston used the answers to assess where people fell on the traditional-to-egalitarian continuum. After the researchers controlled for hours worked, education, occupational segregation and an array of other factors, the effect of what they call “gender-role orientation” was stark. And it held up even for those who change their own orientations. “If you are a man and you become more egalitarian, it has a really detrimental effect on your earnings,” Judge explains.
Judge and Livingston have several theories about why the effect is as strong as it is. Perhaps egalitarian men don’t negotiate salary as strongly as traditional men because they see doing so as “thuggish, alpha-male” behavior — or perhaps employers unconsciously discriminate against “egalitarian men who don’t conform to stereotypes.” Livingston’s biggest concern about the study is that a few people have interpreted it to suggest that you should raise your boys to be chauvinists. “One radio host asked me whether he should go into the next room and call his boss a bitch,” Livingston told me, “which I would not advocate.”
Are women set up to fail — by being appointed to positions of power only in hopeless situations?
Two British academics say so, and they claim to have proved it this year. In one study, they took 83 businesspeople — roughly half of them women — and described to them two companies, one that was steadily improving in profitability and another that was steadily declining. The subjects were told to pick a new financial director for the firm and were presented with three candidates: a man and a woman who were identical in experience and a lesser-qualified male. The subjects were slightly more likely to pick a man to lead the successful firm but were far more likely to pick the woman to lead the failing one. Two other experiments with similar designs yielded the same result: When presented with men and women to lead a company that’s going down the tubes, people pick the woman.
What’s going on? In a write-up of their experiments in The Leadership Quarterly in October, the academics, Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam, called it “the glass cliff,” which they contend is an invisible form of prejudice. In other words, people will give women a position of power only when there’s a strong chance of failure. Why? “If someone has to be the scapegoat to take the fall, you’re not going to put your best man forward,” Ryan says. Women are thrust into desperate situations precisely because they’re likely to fail, generating “proof” that women can’t handle responsibility.
The theory has some historical evidence to back it up too. When the academics examined the performance of the 100 biggest firms in Britain, they found that women were disproportionately hired as C.E.O.’s only after their firms had been struggling for years. When firms were doing well, they rarely appointed women to lead.
Ryan and Haslam say the data also suggest the glass cliff applies to minorities. When you consider this year’s American presidential election, the glass-cliff theory becomes particularly tantalizing — because it might neatly explain the rise of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Perhaps it was only during extremely hard times that America would finally consider a woman and a black man for the highest office.
Goodbye, Columbus When America won its independence, what became of the slaves who fled for theirs?
By Jill Lepore
Born on the Gambia River around 1740, not far from where he would one day die, Harry Washinton (see Fleeing the Founding Father by Cassandra Pybus March 16/06) was sold into slavery sometime before 1763. Twelve years later, in November, 1775, he was grooming his master's horses in the stables at Mount Vernon when the royal governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, offered freedom to any slaves who would join His Majesty's troops in suppressing the American rebellion. That December, George Washington, commanding the Continental Army in Cambridge, received a report that Dunmore's proclamation had stirred the passions of his own slaves. "There is not a man of them but would leave us if they believed they could make the escape," a cousin of Washington's from Mount Vernon, adding bitterly, "Liberty is sweet." In August of 1776, just a month after delegates to the Continental Congress determined that in the course of human events it sometimes becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the bands that have connected them with another, Harry Washington declared his own independence by running away to fight with Dunmore's all-black British regiment, wearing a uniform embroidered with the motto, "Liberty to Slaves." Liberty may not have been as sweet as he'd hoped. For most of the war, he belonged to an unarmed company known as the Black Pioneers, who were more or less garbagemen, ordered to "Assist in Cleaning the Streets & Removing all Nuisances being thrown into the Streets." The Black Pioneers followed British troops under the command of Henry Clinton as they moved from New York to Philadelphia to Charleston, and, after the fall of Charleston, back to New York again, which is how Harry Washington came to be in the city in 1783, and keen to leave before General Washington repossessed it, and him.
No one knows how many former slaves had fled the United States by the end of the American Revolution. Not as many as wanted to, anyway. During the war, between eighty thousand and a hundred thousand (nearly one in five) left their homes, running from slavery to the freedom promised by the British, and betting on a British victory. They lost that bet. They died in battle, they died of disease, they ended up someplace else, they ended up back where they started, and worse off. (A fifteen-year-old girl captured while heading for Dunmore's regiment was greeted by her master with a whipping of eighty lashes, after which he poured hot embers into her wounds.)
... (It was at (George) Washington's insistence that the names of those who boarded British ships were recorded in the "Book of Negroes," so that owners might later file claims for compensation.) In Charleston, after the ships were full, British soldiers patrolled the wharves to keep back the black men, women, and children who were frantic to leave the country. A small number managed to duck under the redcoats' raised bayonets, jump off the wharves and swim out to the last longboats ferrying passengers to the British fleet, whose crowded ships included the aptly named Free Briton. Clinging to the sides of the longboats, they were not allowed on board but neither would they let go; in the end, their fingers were chopped off.
But those who did leave America also left American history. Or, rather, they have been left out of it... (-- pgs. 74-75)
For a man slowed by health issues, Clinton still stays up late at night chewing cigars and playing Oh, Hell, a card game Steven Spielberg taught him in 2000, recruiting Giustra, Band and anyone else he can get to play. He obsessively works the Times crossword puzzle, enlisting others to figure out clues. After getting stuck one night on “big catch of 2003” (“Hussein”), he handed me the completed puzzle the next morning.
President Bush's foreign trips seem designed to require as little contact as possible with the countries he visits. He is usually accompanied by two thousand or so Americans, as well as several airplanes, helicopters and cars. He sees little except palaces and conference rooms. His trips involve almost no effort to demonstrate respect and appreciation for the country and culture he is visiting. They also rarely involve any meetings with people outside the government - businessmen, civil society leaders, activists. Even though the president's visit must be highly programmed by definition, a broader effort to touch the people in these foreign lands would have great symbolic value.
Consider an episode involving Bill Clinton and India. In May 1998, India detonated five underground nuclear devices. The clinton administration roundly condemned New Delhi, levied sanctions, and indefinitely postponed a planned presidential visit. The sanctions proved painful, by some estimates costing India one percent of GDP growth over the next year. Eventually Clinton relented and went to India in March 2000. He spent five days in the country, visited famous sights, put on traditional clothes, and took part in dances and ceremonies. He communicated the message that he enjoyed and admired India as a country and civilization. The result was a transformation. Clinton is a rock start in India. And George W. Bush, despite being the most pro-Indian president in American history, commands none of this attention, or respect. Policy matters but so does the symbolism surrounding it. (From Chapter 7, American Purpose, pgs. 225-226)
... In other free countries, legislation, social and otherwise, gets made in a fairly straightforward manner. There is an election, in which the voters, having paid attention to the issues for six weeks or so, choose a government. The governing party or coalition then enacts its program, and the voters get a chance to render a verdict on it the next time they go to the polls. Through one or another variation of this process, the people of every other wealthy democracy on earth have obtained for themselves some form of guaranteed health insurance or universal health care.
The way we do it is, shall we say, more exciting. For us, an election is only the opening broadside in a series of protracted political battles of heavy artillery and hand-to-hand fighting. A President may fancy that he has a mandate (and, morally, he may well have one), but the two separately elected, differently constituted, independent legislatures whose acquiescence he needs are under no compulsion to agree. Within those legislatures, a system of overlapping committees dominated by powerful chairmen creates a plethora of veto points where well-organized special interests can smother or distort a bill meant to benefit a large but amorphous public. In the smaller of the two legislatures—which is even more heavily weighted toward conservative rural interests than is the larger one, and where one member may represent as little as one-seventieth as many people as the member in the next seat—an arcane and patently unconstitutional rule, the filibuster, allows a minority of members to block almost any action. The process that results is less like the Roman Senate than like the Roman Games: a sanguinary legislative Colosseum where at any moment some two-bit emperor is apt to signal the thumbs-down.
These perverse (if time-honored) institutional arrangements (and the above accounting only scratches the surface of their perversity) are the principal cause of America’s sad health-care exceptionalism. Americans, polling shows, have long been as receptive as Europeans to the principle of universal health care. Six times since 1948, we have elected Presidents committed, at least on paper, to that principle. There have been gains, small (under Clinton, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP) and not so small (under Johnson, Medicare, for the aged, and Medicaid, for the very poor). Yet forty-six million of us—a number roughly equal to the population of half the states of the Union—have no health insurance at all, and, as President Obama noted during his prime-time press conference last week, fourteen thousand more are losing theirs every day. Many millions of us have coverage that is inadequate, and almost all of us live with the well-founded fear that unemployment, a change of job, or striking out on one’s own to freelance or start a business could cost us our coverage and leave us open to medical and financial catastrophe.
Pretty much everybody who believes that health care should be a human right, not a commercial commodity, and who makes a serious study of the abstract substance of the matter, concludes that the best solution would be (to borrow Obama’s words at the press conference) “what’s called a single-payer system, in which everybody is automatically covered.” But, by the same token, pretty much everybody who believes the same thing, and who makes a serious study of the concrete politics of the matter, concludes that a change so sudden and so wrenching—and so threatening to so many powerful interests—is beyond the capacities of our ramshackle political mechanisms. The American health-care system is bloated, wasteful, and cruel. Under the health-insurance-reform package now being bludgeoned into misshapen shape on Capitol Hill, it will still be bloated, wasteful, and cruel—but markedly less so. The House bill, for example, would make basic coverage available to tens of millions who now have none. It would curb the practice of denying insurance to persons with “preëxisting conditions.” (We’re all born with a preëxisting condition: mortality.) It would make insurance coverage portable, which would be a boon for both individual careers and the wider economy. Even one of these things would be a colossal improvement on the status quo.
The most consequential opposition to the reforms now under consideration is coming from a small group of Blue Dog Democrats, who protest that the plan does too little to control costs. To the extent that their concern is genuine, and not just a reflexive deference to wealth (they vociferously oppose a modest surtax on the top one per cent, whose effective tax rates have dropped by fifteen per cent since 1979, while their after-tax incomes have more than tripled), they have a point. But it’s a minor point. The prospective reform has more cost-containment provisions than past attempts, and, thanks in part to those same Blue Dogs, it is acquiring more such elements by the day—for example, the proposal for an independent commission able to set Medicare payment rates, which Obama has also embraced.
But the Blue Dogs are playing a dangerous game of chicken. Even if they’re right that reform would do too little about costs, the alternative—which, as the President has repeatedly pointed out, is the status quo—would do nothing. Ultimately, real cost control will require a strong push away from fee-for-service medicine. In Massachusetts, which three years ago enacted its own version of near-universal health insurance, the cost of expanded coverage has created pressure for just such a push. That state’s experience suggests that the cost problem, too, will be easier to solve under a reformed system, with all its other benefits, than under the one we have now.
As for the Republican opposition to reform, most of it has been, in a word, nihilistic. William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, last week offered the same advice he did sixteen years ago, when he masterminded the death of the Clinton reform effort: “Go for the kill.” Senator Jim DeMint, of South Carolina, elaborated on the theme. “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo,” DeMint said. “It will break him.” Obama’s Presidency would survive the murder of health-care reform. But he would be greatly weakened, with dire consequences for his ability to meet many other urgent challenges. Whoever needs to be punished for morbidity, it’s not him. And not the rest of us, either. (-- pgs. 19-20)
It Came from Wasilla Despite her disastrous performance in the 2008 election, Sarah Palin is still the sexiest brand in Republican politics, with a lucrative book contract for her story. But what Alaska's charismatic governor wants the public to know abut herself doesn't always jibe with reality. As John McCain's top campaign officials talk more candidly than ever before about the meltdown of his vice-presidential pick, Todd S. Purdum tracks the signs - political and personal - that Palin was big trouble, and checks the forecast for her future.
In Alaska, there has never been a gubernatorial tradition of pardoning a turkey at Thanksgiving, but Palin decided to stage such a ceremony last November all the same, at the Triple D Farm & Hatchery, outside Wasilla. After granting the lucky bird its reprieve, she stopped to talk to a local television reporter about what she had learned in the campaign just concluded. “I don’t think it’s changed me at all,” she insisted, clutching a cup of coffee as her breath steamed into the frosty air. “You know, it’s pretty brutal, the time consumption there, and the energy that has to be spent in order to get out and about with the message on a national level, a great appreciation for other candidates who have gone through this, but also just a great appreciation for this great country. There are so many good Americans who are just desiring of their government to kind of get out of the way and allow them to grow and progress, and allow our businesses to grow and progress. So, great appreciation for those who share that value.”
As Palin spoke, a grisly scene unfolded behind her. A worker hefted one squirming white turkey after another into a metal funnel, slit its throat, and bled it out in full view of the camera. The clip was replayed tens of thousands of times on YouTube and seemed an all too apt metaphor for how Palin’s political fortunes had changed in the wake of her great national adventure, even if her personality had not. A career that thrived for years on extraordinarily good luck seems to have known nothing but trouble since November 4. In December, Bristol Palin gave birth to Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston, her son with her boyfriend, Levi Johnston, and for a time there was talk of a wedding. But by early spring the couple had split up, and their families fell to trading charges on talk shows and in the tabloids. After Levi told Tyra Banks that he had often spent the night in the Palin home, in the same room as Bristol, and assumed that the governor knew they were having sex, Palin, through her spokeswoman, released a blistering statement expressing disappointment “that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention, and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship.” On the CBS Early Show, days later, Johnston seemed resigned. “They said I didn’t live there. I ‘stayed there,”’ he said. “I was like, O.K., well, whatever you want to call it. I had my stuff there.” Although Bristol initially told Greta Van Susteren that teen abstinence is “not realistic at all,” by springtime she had signed up as an ambassador for the Candie’s Foundation to promote abstinence as the way to avoid teen pregnancy.
Meantime, Levi’s mother, Sherry, agreed to plead guilty to a felony count of possessing OxyContin with intent to sell it, in exchange for the state’s agreement to drop five other drug-related charges against her. Her lawyer has conceded that she will draw an automatic jail sentence, but hopes to minimize the time she spends behind bars, because she suffers from chronic pain. In April, Todd Palin’s half-sister Diana was arrested on charges of twice breaking into a house in Wasilla to steal money from a bedroom cabinet, under circumstances that remain unexplained. ...
The ever shifting sands of Palin’s sensibility were also on display after former senator Ted Stevens’s conviction on corruption charges was set aside, in April. Palin’s old nemesis, the Alaska Republican Party chair Randy Ruedrich, called on Stevens’s Democratic successor, Mark Begich, who had defeated Stevens just days after the original conviction last fall, to step down and allow a new election. Palin told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in an e-mail, “I absolutely agree.” Days later, at a news conference, Palin insisted she had never called on Begich to step down.
Perhaps nothing has caused a bigger stir than Palin’s nomination of Wayne Anthony Ross to be Alaska’s attorney general. Ross is a two-time gubernatorial candidate and a board member of the National Rifle Association. He had sown controversy over the years by referring to gays and lesbians as “degenerates” (he later sought to downplay the remark, saying his aversion to homosexuals was no different from his aversion to lima beans) and for staunchly opposing subsistence-hunting preferences for native Alaskans. A flamboyant divorce lawyer who drives a big red Hummer with the vanity license plate war, Ross is a good old boy of pithy expression and considerable charm. (“In Alaska,” Ross told me, “a liberal is someone who carries a .357 or smaller.”) The final vote against Ross—with the Republican leaders of both chambers joining to defeat him—came just as Palin was speaking in Evansville. It was the first time in Alaska history that a cabinet nominee was rejected. “If I wince a little, it’s from the arrows in my back,” Ross told me a few weeks later. “I think there were a number of people who were trying to show her who the boss was.” (-- p. 142)
So no chance we'll see her again in 2012, right?
(Republican presidential candidate John) McCain has delivered his own postmortem on Palin with the patented brand of winking-and-nodding ironic detachment that he usually reserves for painful political questions, an approach that simultaneously seeks to confess his sin and presume absolution for it. In November, he told Jay Leno he was proud of Palin and did not blame her for his defeat, but by April, when Leno asked him about who was running the Republican Party, McCain declined to mention Palin: “We have, I’m happy to say, a lot of choices out there: Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, Huntsman, Romney, Charlie Crist—there’s a lot of governors out there who are young and dynamic.” McCain went on, “There’s a lot of good people out there, and I’ve left out somebody’s name and I’m going to hear about it.” ... (-- p. 143)
This notion of voting as a consumer transaction (the voter "pays" with his or her vote to obtain the ear of his or her professional politician, or his or her "leader," or by logical extension his or her "superior") might seem a spiritless social contract, although not - if it actually delivered on the deal - an intrinsically unworkable one. But of course the contract does not deliver: only sentimentally does "the vote" give "the voter" an empathetic listener in the political class, let alone any leverage on the workings of that class. When the chairman of Michael Dukakis's 1988 New York Finance Council stood barefoot on a table at the Atlanta Hyatt during that summer's Democratic convention (see page 48) and said "I've been around this process a while and one thing I've noticed, it's the people who write the checks who get treated as if they have a certain amount of power," she had a clear enough understanding of how the contract worked and did not work. When the only prominent Democrat on the west side of Los Angeles to raise money in 1988 for Jesse Jackson (see page 55) said "When I want something, I'll have a hard time getting people to pick up the phone, I recognize that, I made the choice," he had a clear enough understanding of how the contract worked and did not work.
When the same Democrat, Stanley Sheinbaum, said, in 1992 (see page 151), "I mean it's no longer a thousand dollars, to get into the act now you've got to give a hundred thousand," he had a clear enough understanding of how the contract worked and did not work. When Jerry Brown, who after eight years as governor of California had become the state party chairman who significantly raised the bar for Democratic convention in Madison Square Garden (see page 120) that the time had arrived to listen to "the people who fight our wars but never come to our receptions," he had a clear enough understanding of how the contract worked and did not work. When one of George W. Bush's lawyers told The Los Angeles Times in December 2000 that "if you were in this game, you had to be in Florida," he too had a clear enough understanding of how the contract worked and did not work. "Almost every lobbyist, political organizer, ocnsulting group with ties to the Republicans was represented," a Republican official was quoted by Robert B. Reich, writing on the op-ed page of The New York Times, as having said to the same point, "If you were or wanted to be a Republican, you were down there. ...
This "civics lesson" aspect of the thirty-six days that followed the election was much stressed, yet what those days actually demonstrated, from the morning on Day One when the candidate whose brother happened to be governor of Florida lined up the critical Tallahassee law firms until the evening on Day Thirty-five when the Supreme Court decided Bush v. Gore for the same candidate, was the immateriality of the voter against the raw power of being inside the process. ... (From A Foreward, pgs. 12-15)
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