Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Big Bertha: The Housekeeping Mayor


(Above) Bertha Landes shakes hands with dentist-turned-mayor “Doc” Brown, whom she defeated in 1926.

(Editor’s note: Thanks to yesterday’s election in Seattle, the largest city in Washington state will soon have a woman—a lesbian, no less—installed in its mayor’s chair. Although there are still ballots yet to be counted, The Seattle Times reported last night that 59-year-old Democrat and former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan leads with 61 percent of the vote, on her way to becoming the burg’s 56th mayor. If her margin of victory holds against challenger Cary Moon, an activist with little political experience, Durkan will be the second woman ever to lead Seattle, her only predecessor being Bertha Knight Landes, who was chosen as America’s first big-city woman mayor 91 years ago, in 1926. Those are big shoes for Durkan fill, as I explain in the following excerpt from my 2003 book, Eccentric Seattle: Pillars and Pariahs Who Made the City Not Such a Boring Place After All [Washington State University Press]. Let’s hope she’s up to the task.)

When they remark at all upon the political career of Bertha Knight Landes, modern historians generally concentrate their attention around her call for strengthened law enforcement in Prohibition-era Seattle, her efforts to improve city planning and management of the municipal power company, and her demand that professional standards replace cronyism in hiring civic administrators. Those annalists observe how “peaceful” and “quiet” Landes’ two-year mayoral stint was when compared with those of her more colorful but often less ethical predecessors. And they go on at some length about her conviction that a city should be run under the same standards of efficiency, decency, and morality that would pertain in a home.

But Landes wasn’t yet recognized for most of these things in the early 1920s. Back then, she was known more widely as the woman who’d tweaked Seattle’s patriarchal establishment in a bloodless and brief coup that won her not only the powers of the mayor, but those of the police chief, as well.

The story is rather comical. It seems that in the summer of 1924, Landes was serving her first term on the city council and had recently been elected to its presidency. Edwin J. “Doc” Brown, a flamboyant former “painless” dentist and Seattle’s latest “tolerance mayor,” had decided to attend the Democratic National Convention in New York City. During his absence, council president Landes automatically became acting chief exec. (The deputy mayor’s office didn’t yet exist.) Newspapers played up Landes’ precedent-setting temporary assignment, but nobody really expected her to do much while Brown was off whooping it up at Madison Square Garden.

However, on June 23, 1924, Landes summoned Police Chief William B. Severyns into her office. She handed him a letter explaining how disturbed she was by repeated violations of local bootlegging and gambling laws and by the youthful chief’s recent intimation to the press that probably 100 men on his force were too corrupt to perform their jobs properly. If that’s true, her letter read, “then it must follow as a logical conclusion that one hundred men should be removed.” Landes wanted Severyns to act within 24 hours. When he balked, complaining that Landes was merely trying to score political points at his expense, the acting mayor dismissed him in favor of Joseph Mason, his top lieutenant. Mason also refused to carry out her order, so Landes canned him, as well. Then, exercising an obscure provision of the city charter, she declared Seattle in a state of emergency and appointed herself as its new top cop.

A palsy of shock passed briefly over the town as people realized that, for the first time in its history, the positions of mayor, police chief, and city council president all belonged to the same person—and that person was a woman! But Landes didn’t break pace. She dispatched bluecoats to close the town’s most reprehensible speakeasies and gambling joints. Other violators shut down voluntarily to avoid Her Honor’s righteous wrath. A special detail was assigned to investigate beat officers and boot out any who’d benefited from graft or bribes.

Incensed Brown supporters and threatened vice operators blizzarded the mayor in Manhattan with telegrams, begging him to immediately begin his three-day train journey home. Meanwhile, Doc’s staff supposedly plotted an early end to Landes’ reformist reign. With Brown still a day out from Puget Sound, his secretary had a pair of the mayor’s suitcases dropped off at one of his favorite breakfast haunts, and then instructed Brown’s chauffeur to retrieve them before picking Landes up for work. Bertha naturally inquired about the luggage, but the equally duped driver could say only, “It appears that the mayor is back in town.” This impression was reinforced by what Landes found in Brown’s office: another suitcase lying open with a pair of the mayor’s shoes inside; some current-edition New York newspapers; and a lighted cigar reclining beside Brown’s prized autographed photo of perennial presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Convinced that Doc Brown had indeed returned, Landes cooled her plans to shake up more city agencies.

Mayor Brown soon set about undoing Landes’ accomplishments. But not before the national press could applaud her audacious 10-day rule. “Men in the past have been wont to talk patronizingly of ‘women’s instinct’ as opposed to ‘man's reason,’” editorialized the Los Angeles Times. “Seattle seems to prove that an instinct for getting things done is far more useful in the world than an intellect that only talks about them.”

Not all local media were pleased, however. As the Seattle Argus groused, Landes “proved conclusively that woman’s sphere is in the home or at any rate that hers is not at the head of the city government.”

Two years more, and the Argus would be eating those words.

* * *

As the first woman mayor of a major American city, Bertha Landes helped pave the way for all women in politics. Yet she was hardly your classic feminist. “In fact,” explained one of her longtime friends, “she was decidedly opposed to the women’s suffrage movement when it was launched, believing that a woman’s place was in her home, with her children.”

Landes’ own upbringing had been very traditional. She was born Bertha Ethel Knight at Ware, Massachusetts, on October 19, 1868. Her family’s pious American roots wound all the way back to the 17th-century Massachusetts Bay Colony. The youngest among nine children, she watched at least two of her siblings find their way into circles of fame. Her brother Austin entered the navy and eventually became commander in chief of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet. Sister Jessie married David Starr Jordan, an ichthyologist and president of Indiana University, who later headed Stanford University. As a woman in the 19th century, it seemed unlikely that Bertha could attain renown except through marriage. Still, she was too filled with intelligence and dynamism to wait quietly until some ambitious gent swooned before her perennial smile, alert dark eyes, and olive skin.

In 1888 Bertha went to live with the Jordans in Bloomington, Indiana, and enrolled at her brother-in-law’s university. After only three years, she’d earned a degree in history. She had also developed an abiding interest in politics. This was during the rise of Progressivism, a movement largely among middle-class, educated, and urban Americans who believed in trust busting, public welfare reforms, and a graduated income tax—all intended to restrain the corrupting power of the nation’s wealthy minority. President Theodore Roosevelt was Progressivism’s poster child, and he incorporated the movement’s liberal precepts (at least temporarily) into the Republican agenda. David Starr Jordan was a great fan of Roosevelt’s and helped inculcate Bertha with progressive ideals. As a result, she thereafter labeled herself a Republican, though even before her mayoral election the GOP was already turning more conservative, away from egalitarian activism.

One other thing her college experience provided Bertha was an introduction to geology student Henry Landes. Despite conventional wisdom of their era, which libeled highly educated women as “unfit” for matrimony, he appreciated her strength and individuality. The pair were wed in January 1894 and the next year moved to Seattle, a town that by then had already survived fire and fiscal disaster and seemed stubbornly on its way to success. Henry joined the faculty at the University of Washington, recently moved from downtown to a single building (Denny Hall) on the north shore of Union Bay. Bertha slipped comfortably into motherhood. She bore three children, the two oldest of whom died early, and then adopted a 9-year-old girl. The family built a two-story University District home, at the corner of Northeast 45th Street and Brooklyn Avenue (a site now occupied by a hotel), where they fended away cows loping up from the Green Lake farmlands and engaged impoverished students in debate over copious helpings of Bertha’s Boston baked beans. (She later joked that her beans won her a good thousand votes from appreciative UW alumni in the city.)

(Left) Henry Landes

Careerwise, Henry rode a fast track, being named dean of the new College of Science and very nearly the UW’s president. His wife had family duties to think about, but as their children grew, Bertha indulged other interests. “[S]he had to keep busy,” her adopted daughter, Viola, told an interviewer in 1965. “She wasn’t aggressive, but if she wasn’t engaged in planning something or other, she was bored to tears.” The future mayor volunteered for work at the University Congregational Church and the Red Cross, and she seemed ubiquitous in women’s clubs.

Today, clubwork seems a quaint avocation. But for middle-class ladies of Bertha Landes’ time, it offered unique chances to discuss community and world issues, as well as a friendly forum in which they could amass the self-confidence necessary to secure more influential roles in male-dominated society. It was through her leadership of several clubs that Landes first attracted the favorable notice of local business and government archons. In 1921, after she’d organized a major three-day exhibit of the latest home-related products, Mayor Hugh Caldwell gave her his personal stamp of approval by tapping her as the only woman member of an ad hoc commission charged with suggesting remedies for the city’s intractable unemployment problems.

* * *

More important than what this commission accomplished (very little) was that it broadened Bertha Landes’ name familiarity. By 1922, women’s organizations—and even a few men who’d come to respect her management abilities—urged her to try for a city council seat, along with another woman, boardinghouse operator Kathryn Miracle.

The odds weighed heavily against Bertha. Washington women had earned the right to vote in 1910 (a full decade before enfranchisement was extended nationwide), but many of them continued to eschew the polls. Although a female school teacher had been elected to the Kirkland City Council in 1911, Seattle’s Republican plutocracy believed that women in public office would be unacceptably bad for business. Candidate Landes had to present herself in such a way as to not threaten men (who might be offended by political ambition and anti-vice zealotry in a woman) or offend more traditional women (who saw their place in the home, not on the stump). Yet she also had to prove she was decisive and knowledgeable enough to fully represent the moral and welfare concerns of Seattle’s distaff element (40 percent of the population). The contradictions involved made many of her speeches sound like apologies for running. But thanks to the passionate assistance of clubwomen in her campaign, when votes were tallied in May 1922, Bertha Landes had won a landslide victory and pulled Kathryn Miracle onto the council aboard her coattails.

At just over five feet tall, Bertha Landes was not physically intimidating. Nor was she a fiery orator. Police Chief Severyns once joked that “Compared with Mrs. Landes, ‘Silent’ Cal Coolidge is a circus spieler.” However, she possessed what the New York World described as “calm tenacity.” Marshalling this alongside her probity and felicitous demeanor, the new councilwoman was unexpectedly able to get things done. In her four years on the council, she could take principal credit for establishing a city planning commission, supporting public utilities, and stiffening regulations on allegedly salacious dance halls.


Downtown Seattle in the mid-1920s

If anything blocked more systemic change, Landes believed, it was Mayor Brown. He preferred a laissez-faire approach to governance, especially when it came to taming prostitution, drinking, and Seattle’s other vivid vices. While Landes “realizes that a seaport cannot be run like a Sunday school,” as one pro-labor newspaper phrased it, she and Brown often butted heads over matters of “civic decency.” On most occasions he prevailed; but she notched up her triumphs, too, including her legendary 1924 reform spree as acting mayor.

Landes finally pulled out her heavy guns against Doc Brown when she proposed eliminating the office of mayor altogether. As other metropolises had done, she pushed to substitute a professional city manager in Seattle, someone beholden to the council who would run the town like a big business. It was a bold proposition, too bold for many voters. But Bertha refused to abandon it—even if it meant she would have to run for mayor herself in 1926 and defeat Brown in order to blunt his opposition to the plan.

“I filed for Mayor much against my own personal inclinations,” Landes would insist repeatedly. She didn’t, though, do so without careful calculation. By her figuring, she could win Doc Brown’s seat and at the same time convince voters to sign off on the city manager plan. Although this would mean she’d never actually assume the mayor’s mantle, as president of the city council she’d still have gained the power necessary to overhaul municipal government. Furthermore, Landes told the newspapers (most of which eventually endorsed her candidacy) that if the city manager proposal lost but she unseated Brown, she would run the mayor’s office “as nearly like a city manager as the laws will permit.”

It was a hard-fought campaign. Doc’s backers spread rumors that, as mayor, “bluenose Bertha” would curtail Seattleites’ personal liberties. Bertha struck back with allegations that under Brown, “general police and criminal conditions here are intolerable.” This seemed to be confirmed by the phenomenal success of local rumrunner Roy Olmstead, whose trial for violating the Prohibition Act was concurrent with the Landes-Brown race. Bertha didn’t have to run as the women’s candidate for mayor, the way she had for the council. Instead, she cast herself as an anti-politician, someone free from the ties of finance and favor that held Mayor Brown in check.

The city manager idea earned a resounding “no” from voters. But 57-year-old Landes triumphed, if by fewer than 6,000 votes. And one of her first official acts was to fire William Severyns—the police chief Brown had reinstated after Bertha’s 10-day coup.

* * *

“Big Bertha,” as Seattle’s criminal contingent came to call her—with equal measures of derision and respect—began her days at 9 a.m., when a chauffeur picked her up at the Wilsonian Apartments on University Avenue (where she and Henry Landes had moved to enjoy their maturity), and they usually continued into a nighttime schedule of speechmaking. She proved to be a chief exec with an uncommonly strong social conscience and popular ideals. “Play the game fairly,” she once declared. “Meet life honestly—never whine and play the coward, but take life as it comes. ... Don’t be a shirker but do be a worker. Above all, so conduct yourself that you can look your own soul in the face. You cannot be true to yourself without being true to everyone else.”

Almost from the hour of her inauguration, there was speculation that she might be the woman man enough to become governor of Washington or even take control of the White House. Male observers periodically remarked how her mind worked more like a man’s than like a woman’s. “Was that a compliment, or was it not?” Landes once mused. “I never did decide one way or the other.”

Bertha pursued her goals with a diligence and effectiveness that was often referred to as “civic housekeeping.” She worked to keep down Lake Washington pollution and to put up a new public hospital. She made wide-ranging improvements in City Light, expanded the parks system, installed qualified pros at the helm of Seattle’s public works departments, saved the street railway system from immediate financial collapse, and was way ahead of the curve in advocating a merger of city and King County governments. She settled petty disputes between local law-enforcement agencies in order to win their unified support in curbing bootlegging and reducing traffic accidents. (By 1930, Seattle had one car for every four residents and more than its share of roadway mishaps.) Aside from the ruckuses she caused by trying to lower the wages of older city workers and enlist “stool pigeons” to augment police protections, her administration was remarkably without scandal.

As the late newspaper columnist Emmett Watson put it in his book Once Upon a Time in Seattle, Landes “had no agenda beyond being the best mayor Seattle ever had.”

(Right) Frank Edwards

Yet only two years after she entered city hall, Seattle voters booted her out in favor of Frank Edwards, a poseur Progressive and the shady proprietor of several second-rate movie houses. “Old boy” politics was partly to blame. Edwards had twice as much money as Bertha in his campaign war chest, much of it collected from businesses that feared Bertha’s civic-minded intrusions into their affairs. Rather than debate Landes in public, he ran a steadily negative media campaign, during which he convinced Seattleites—against all the facts—that their city had suffered under Landes. Edwards even used Bertha’s storied legislative acumen and snowdrift of newspaper endorsements against her, painting her as too mired in “the system” to recognize its failures. And he wasn’t above shaming Seattle for obeisance to “petticoat politics.” “Elect Frank Edwards,” read his pointedly sexist campaign slogan, “the Man You’ll Be Proud to Call Mayor.” (After Landes lost, the Portland Oregonian ridiculed Seattle for wanting to be a “he-man’s town” and suggested that, at Edwards’ inauguration, a pair of masculine breeches might fittingly be flown from the city hall flagpole.)

But Bertha had to bear some credit for her defeat. She’d offended civil service employees by encouraging her departments to lay off workers based on their efficiency, rather than just seniority. She had failed in six years of elected service to reach out sufficiently to the working class, and still left the impression of being a well-to-do bluenose. As Sandra Haarsager stated in a recent biography, Bertha Knight Landes of Seattle: Big City Mayor, Her Honor may also have erred by currying favor with business rather than continuing to capitalize on her identity as “the woman’s candidate.” At age 59, her career as an elected official was over. Landes relocated to the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she died in 1943—12 years after voters recalled Frank Edwards from office for refusing to enforce anti-vice laws.

Ironically, Bertha’s success as a manager may ultimately have doomed her as a lawmaker. For a city accustomed to at least half-venal mayors, men such as Hiram Gill and Doc Brown, she may simply have charted too even and sane a course. As The Nation noted after her 1928 defeat, “in American cities today good-housekeeping is not good politics, shameful as it is to admit it.”

READ MORE:7 Facts About Bertha Knight Landes, First Female Mayor of a Major American City,” by Jocelyn Sears (Mental Floss); “Seattle’s Female Mayors Have More in Common Than You’d Think,”
by Knute Berger (Crosscut).

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Can You Spot the Pattern Here?


Ben Jennings, The Guardian


“Blowhard,” by David Plunkert—The New Yorker,
August 28, 2017



The Economist, August 19-25, 2017


Der Spiegel, August 19, 2017

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Yes, They Went There!

The New York Daily News is mocking Trump in a very big way for his support of right-wing congressional legislation that calls for cutting legal immigration in half, by accepting applicants only on a merit-based system for their job skills, education, and ability to speak English.



READ MORE:Trump Supports Plan to Cut Legal Immigration by Half,” by Peter Baker (The New York Times).

Thursday, June 22, 2017

GOP Plans Would Make Lives Worse, Says Obama

Former President Barack Obama issued a statement earlier today, via Facebook, in response to the Senate Republicans’ newly announced scheme to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) and replace it with a regressive, financially unsustainable, and hastily assembled (in secret!) plan that has the potential to steal health care insurance away from more than 20 million Americans, while giving yet another tax break to the wealthy minority among us.

As the ever-astute Steve Benen remarks in The Maddow Blog, “The Democrat’s 1,000-word statement is worth reading in its entirety, and it clearly has more than one audience in mind. Part of Obama’s message clearly intends to encourage health care advocates and their allies to remain engaged and fight to prevent the nation from falling backwards. But the other part of the message appears to be a challenge to Republican policymakers to do the right thing.”

Here is Mr. Obama’s message in its entirety:
Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.

We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain—we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones—a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition—we made that a thing of the past.

We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts—and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.


I hope our Senators ask themselves—what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain—while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return—that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible—if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country—who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.
(The boldfacing is mine, for emphasis.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dead of Summer



Today is the first full day of summer 2017—a perfect occasion to revisit Killer Covers’ extensive selection of vintage crime-fiction fronts linked to this season. Artists represented include Barye Phillips, Robert Bonfils, Robert McGinnis, Paul Rader, Mitchell Hooks, Charles Copeland, J. Oval, George Ziel, Harry Barton, and Charles Binger.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

“The End of a Once-Great Era” of U.S. Leadership

MSNBC political blogger Steve Benen, remarking on Donald
Trump’s decision today
to pull the United States out of the two-year-old Paris Agreement on global climate change:
When the Paris accords were reached, the world looked to the United States to help lead the way, and the Obama administration was eager to carry the mantle. We vowed to work cooperatively with international partners, and in the process, we persuaded developing nations – many of which have economic incentives to pollute more, not less – to do the right thing. So many countries signed on to the agreement precisely because they saw American leadership at work.

Today, Trump told the world that ours is a country that won’t honor its commitments, won’t make decisions based on reason or evidence, and won’t even try to serve as a global leader anymore.

Let’s say Americans tire of Trump’s ridiculousness and elect a new president in 2020. It’s easy to imagine, in early 2021, that new president turning to the global community with fresh and heartfelt assurances. “Don’t worry, Trump is gone,” he or she will say. “You can trust the United States once more.”

But at that point, many around the world will choose not to listen – in part because they’ll have just seen an ignorant American president who thumbed his nose at 195 countries, deliberately abandoning our unique responsibilities, and in part because they’ll have no way of knowing when the American electorate might again elect someone of Trump’s ilk.

We’ve taken great pride in the modern era of our president being the Leader of the Free World, and today effectively marked the end of a once-great era. Donald J. Trump has managed to betray the climate, the world, America’s standing, and his own legacy in one fell swoop.

History will not be kind.
READ MORE:The World Is Better Off If We Leave the Paris
Agreement
,” by Susan Matthews (Slate); “Everything Conservatives Said About the Paris Climate Agreement Is Already Wrong,” by Jonathan Chait (New York).

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thank You So Much, Mr. President!



READ MORE:The Most Successful Democrat Since FDR,” by David Leonhardt (The New York Times); “The ‘Most Successful’ Dem President Since FDR Ends on a High Note,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “The Time Has Come to Say Goodbye to Obama. ‘Godspeed, Brother. You Did Us Proud,’” by Leonard Pitts Jr. (Miami Herald); “Thanks for Everything, President Obama. We’re Going to Miss You,” by Kevin Drum (Mother Jones); “Missing Barack Obama Already,” by Nicholas Kristof (The New York Times); “A Presidential Giant Exits the Stage,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “How the Presidency Changed Obama,” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis (The New York Times); “How the Presidency Changed Obama,” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis (The New York Times); “My President Was Black,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic); “To Obama with Love, and Hate, and Desperation,” by Jeanne Marie Laskas (The New York Times Magazine); “Lessons Taught: Obama’s Legacy as a Historian,” by Jennifer Schuessler (The New York Times); “Pete Souza’s Intimate Portraits of the Barack Obama Years,” by William Boot (The Daily Beast); “Goodbye to All That: What We’ve Learned from Obama’s Presidency,” by Julie Azari (Vox); “The Challenge Posed by Obama’s Calm, Dignified Competency,” by Nancy LeTourneau (Washington Monthly); “The Literary Dividing Line Between Trump and Obama,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “Every Book Barack Obama Has Recommended During His Presidency,” by Ruth Kinane (Entertainment Weekly); “Obama to the Press: ‘America Needs You,’” by James Warren (Poynter); “Obama Granted Clemency Unlike Any Other President in History,” by Charlie Smart (FiveThirtyEight); “Obama Has Now Granted 212 Pardons, and More Commutations Than Any President in U.S. History,” by Jen Kirby (New York); “Saying Goodbye: President Obama, Michelle Obama Thank America in Farewell Posts,” by Matthew Rozsa (Salon).

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year, Everybody!


The New Yorker, December 31, 1938, with art by Rea Irvin.

Let’s hope 2017 brings better luck to all of us than American and international observers have been predicting. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Too Late Already

I, for one, am tired of hearing people say we should give Trump a chance as president. Sorry, but ... no. I don’t base my opposition to Trump merely on the fact that I believe he will be a lousy, corrupt politician. I base it on the fact that he’s already proven himself to be a poor excuse for a man. He’s bigoted, homophobic, misogynistic, and a serial sex predator; he’s a greedy, bullying would-be autocrat with a narcissist complex; he’s a congenital liar, a con man, and he thinks Americans are too stupid to realize that he’s pulling the wool over their eyes, that he has no intention of doing anything he promises. I wouldn’t want Trump in MY house, much less the White House. So, no, I won’t give him a chance. In my book, he’s already shown himself unworthy of one.

Friday, November 25, 2016

What Every Trump Voter Should Hear

“I tried to be polite, but now I just don’t give a damn. Because let’s be honest, we don’t live in polite America anymore. We live in grab-’em-by-the-pussy America now. So thank you for that.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Responsibility

I keep hearing that people who voted Trump into office shouldn’t be universally denigrated, because many of them supported him for reasons other than the hatred and arrogant disregard for others that he demonstrated. OK, I can have sympathy for them.

But while all of that may be true, it’s also true that every one of those people who voted for him now OWNS what Trump will do next, whether it’s stealing health care coverage away from 20 million Americans, forcibly deporting millions of undocumented immigrants from our shores, working to undermine and then destroy Medicare and Social Security, banning abortion, undermining efforts necessary to rein in climate change, abrogating international treaties and leaving the United States with fewer and fewer allies it may need in case of attack, or ignoring the Constitution in his efforts to curb press freedoms and limit free speech. Some voters may have somehow succeeded in ignoring or dismissing the clear and present danger bigoted billionaire Trump represented, but that does not absolve them of blame for the damage he and his fellow Republicans intend to do to America’s future.

READ MORE:Screw Your Feelings, Trump Voters,” by Aleksandar Hemon (Slate).

Disaster in the Making

This word will be much in use over the next four years:

kakistocracy

PRONUNCIATION:
(kak-i-STOK-ruh-see, kah-ki-)

MEANING:
noun: Government by the least qualified or worst persons.