Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, this week wrote about wealthy Americans who are saying they are more than willing to pay their fair share of taxes, and a little more if needed. Read her column in The Washington Post here, and get The Nation if you want more. I picked this up from the aggregator site realclearpolitics.com
By the fall of 1864, Union commander Ulysses Grant had concluded that the surest way to end the Civil War was to decisively defeat the Confederate army of Robert E. Lee and the surest way to do that was to continue to drive on Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. Grant maneuvered his forces around to the south of Richmond and attempted to seize Petersburg, a key railroad junction that controlled the flow of supplies into the capital. Lee’s forces dug in (something that was done regularly by that point in the Civil War) and the Union began a six month siege that was an unfortunate preview of the devastating trench warfare of World War One.
Finally in April of 1865, Grant broke through at Petersburg, Lee attempted to escape to the west (he was pursued, attacked and surrendered a few days later at Appomattox), and the Confederates abandoned Richmond. Just prior to this final attack, President Abraham Lincoln had travelled to the battlefield to consult with Generals Grant and Sherman on post-war policy and the president remained in the vicinity during the attack. When news came of Richmond’s fall, Lincoln ordered the US Navy ship on which he was embarked to take him to the city. Landing at the dock on the James River, Lincoln walked into the city, accompanied only by his young son and a handful of sailors. Lincoln made his way to the Confederate White House and sat at the desk of Jefferson Davis before returning to his ship.
During April school vacation five or six years ago, my family visited Richmond, Petersburg and Appomattox. The main National Park Service installation in Richmond is known as Tredegar Iron Works, the one place in the Confederacy where cannon could be produced. At Tredegar, we were surprised to find the statue of Abraham Lincoln and his son that’s shown above. Imagine, right in the capital of the Confederacy, a monument to the president who freed the slaves.
Moving on to Petersburg, we met up with a National Park ranger who had formerly been assigned to Lowell and had agreed to give us a personalized tour of that battlefield. Along the way, we remarked how refreshing it had been to see the Lincoln statue in Richmond. A strange look appeared on the face of the Ranger – partly amused, partly troubled. He said “When that statue was unveiled last year, every SWAT team in the region was deployed there to protect us from all the protesters.” read more »
John Edward, a resident of Chelmsford who earned his master’s degree at UMass Lowell and is an adjunct professor of economics at Bentley University, contributes the following column which deserves to be read by everyone.
Where ignorance is bliss, ‘Tis folly to be wise
If ignorance is bliss, does that mean politicians are a perfect match for their job? To the contrary, lawmakers would craft better economic policy if they learned to be more ignorant.
The federal budget deficit was front and center during the 2010 elections. Many pundits interpreted the national results as a repudiation of excessive government spending. Regardless of how accurate that reading might be, do not expect much to change. Congress knows too much to allow that to happen.
Our elected representatives are responsible for setting the rules of the game. Lawmakers, and the voters who put them in office, form opinions based on what they know. The life we experience drives what we know. We take for granted how much our experience is based on the initial hand we are dealt in life.
John Rawls, an influential 20th century philosopher, suggested we set the rules of the game based on a “veil of ignorance.” He was not advocating ignorance of the facts when adopting public policy positions. Rather, we should ignore our own position in society and how policy will affect us personally. If we applied Rawls’ philosophy today, the result would be a better tomorrow for society as a whole.
Lawmakers respond to special interests. That is wrong, no matter who the interest is, or how special they are.
Applying the veil of ignorance, we would not sacrifice sound public policy at the altar of special-interest politics. Legislators would pass laws as if they did not know what social standing, market power, or health status we start out with.
Take health care for example. Insurers work hard to protect their profits. People who already get government-subsidized health insurance through their employer do not want to spend money subsidizing the uninsured. Others resent being forced into getting insurance because they happen to be healthy. Members of Congress get excellent coverage and may not be able to relate to what it is like to get sick with poor coverage or none at all. read more »
This poem dates from December 1977 and was reprinted in my recent book What Is the City? At the time I wrote this I was trying different forms for my poems and pushing myself to write in a more open way with lots of unusual images and unexpected language. The original published version of the poem has three times as many lines. This is a kind of chant, maybe even prayer, poem. I think I was in my poet-as-medicine man phase. What can I say? It happens when you’re 23. I had a part-time job and was devoted to writing. After all these years, I think the poem holds up. I hope you agree. It’s meant to be read out loud to a crowd.—PM
We are love-soaked
We are full empty boats
We are alert for touch
We are orange bars of dawn
We are music in tribal horns
We are imperial conch
We are resurrection
We are contemplation
We are willow sticks
We are beginner’s feet
We are desire that beats
We are the stork
We are big medicine
We are the apricot wren
We are fish on the blocks
We are naked captains
We are ray-fed billions
We are vines that clutch
We are valiant barrels
We are muddy heralds
We are double-helix match
We are new geranium
We are rooster children
We are the latest batch
We are huckaback fabric
We are leather jacket
We are glory bound to hatch
We are street song
We are come-along
We are the cosmic stitch
—Paul Marion (c) 1977, from What Is the City? (2006)
WikiLeaks communications dump: embarrassing uncomfortable, but, we hope, not irreparable by Marjorie Arons-Barron
The following entry is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.
The news that WikiLeaks is making public over 250,000 secret State Department communications is shocking. But, while many of the diplomats who wrote (or were written about in) the messages may be angry, embarrassed or having to do damage control with their colleagues and others here and abroad, we all have a better understanding of how U.S. diplomacy is conducted in very challenging times.
The potential outcomes are mixed. What was particularly fascinating in the New York Times analysis was a look into some of the deals the Obama Administration has to make in its efforts to reduce the Iranian nuclear capability, a threat of equal concern to others but which nations like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and others are loath to express publicly. The question now is whether and to what extent the Saudis now have to become more hostile publicly and privately to ward off criticism in the Arab world that it is too close to the United States. (The Saudis, for their part, were willing to guarantee oil to China if, in supporting Iranian sanctions, Iran cut off oil to China.)
The Times laid out its rationale for publishing the State Department communiqués. The paper said it withholds information that would expose confidential sources to reprisals or that would reveal operational intelligence that could benefit our adversaries. The Times, which gave the White House an opportunity to redact still further the material it was going to publish, says it would not hold back material simply because it would embarrass officials here or there.
But in what category do we put the revelation that President Ali Abdullah Saleh took the responsibility for strikes on Al Qaeda strongholds in Yemen even when it was the United States who had carried out the attacks? And how will making that public affect our skittish allies in that country, or others? Sometimes simple embarrassment does have far-reaching policy implications.
The arrogance of WikiLeaks is breathtaking. Does the public have a right to know everything? All too often governments keep secret information years beyond any reasonable national security defense. Timing is important. Does the public have a right to know the disclosures now, when it can affect the course of events, or later, when it is history? And how do we discern what down the road we will wish we had known contemporaneously to avert disaster or improve the prospects for conflict resolution.
Jonathan Schneer, in his tome The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, lays out the details of the duplicity of the shifting alliances leading up to the 1917 British declaration that the Jews had a right to a homeland in Palestine. Along the way, the British had been negotiating with the Zionists, the French (who laid claim to Syria), the Arabs (whom the British were encourage to revolt against the Turks in a larger effort to break up the Ottoman Empire) and the Turks themselves (whom the British were trying to break out of their alliance with Germany during WWI.) Simultaneously, then, the British were promising certain land to the Jews, the Arabs, the French, and reassuring the Turks that their flag would fly over Palestine. Would knowing that this was going on at that time have provided greater clarity in the enduring Arab-Israeli conflict? Perhaps. Certainly people today are still paying the price of the now-century-old pattern of diplomatic deception.
What unsavory deals, ripe with unintended consequences, are being made today, albeit with righteous intentions?
The State Department bears some of the blame for this controversy. Now, belatedly, it is reportedly limiting the ability of its computer messages to be downloaded to a portable device and is reducing the number of employees with access to the thousands of messages. A little like locking the stable door after the horse is gone.
But what should the media do when institutional barriers to diplomatic secrecy are breached and newspaper or electronic media receive sensitive information? Even media critic Dan Kennedy in his MediaNation blog reflects the ambivalence that both journalists and the general public rightly feel about this WikiLeaks event. This is not an easy call. It’s one thing to understand the implications of that secrecy after the fact; it’s another to alter the course of events, for good or for bad, by knowing the information up front.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
More views of the Francis Gate by Tony Sampas.
From the 1934 Celebration – Authentic Souvenir Pin - 200th Anniversary of the Town of Tewksbury
The town of Tewksbury – once a part of the town of Billerica – celebrates the 276th anniversary of it charter on December 4. Under the auspices of the Tewksbury Historical Society, Charter Day festivities will be held at the Tewksbury Public Library staring at 1:00pm.
The more traditional celebration of Charter Day on Dec. 4 will have an exhibit of wooden tools and furniture, a Power Point presentation on “Historic Trees” given by Historical Society President Dave Marcus, 1:30-2:30 p.m. The Powwow Oak (my bold) will be featured in this presentation along with Sycamore Hall, the Oaks, Pattenville, Pigeonville, and what a “windfall” meant in Colonial America. The Society Store will offer historic educational books, pictures of Tewksbury’s past, and an assortment of gifts perfect for stocking stuffers.
The public is invited to attend the afternoon festivities and a free piece of birthday cake will be given out as long as the supplies last.
For more information about the town of Tewksbury – including the history, maps, historical documents, postcards, images and vintage photographs, videos, newspaper articles and more - check out the website of the Tewksbury Historical Society here: http://www.tewksburyhistoricalsociety.org/.
Note that a discussion of PowWow Oak located on Clark Road in what is now Lowell is part of the December 4th presentation on “Historic Trees.” For more information on the activities to save PowWow Oak check this Face Book page – “Save the PowWow Oak at Wamesit.”
One of our regular readers, Allegra Williams, is the city’s neighborhood planner and was the manager of last June’s Innovative Cities Conference. She attended a conference on cities in Brazil earlier this year and heard urban specialist Jaime Lerner (architect, urban planner, former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, and a former state governor in Brazil) speak about his vision for cities. Allegra sent along this link to the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) website with a video of Jaime Lerner speaking about city design and singing about sustainability. The clip is about 15 minutes, and the singing is at the end.
This is the TED mission:
We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. This site, launched April 2007, is an ever-evolving work in progress, and you’re an important part of it. Have an idea? We want to hear from you.