Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Great Unhistoric Blizzard of 2015

The Wikipedia page for the storm was up 12 hours before the snow started and the forecasters were touting it as a historic 30-incher. The New Yorkers, who only got 10 or 11 inches, are now calling it the Snor'easter. Here in Massachusetts, the snow came in light and fluffy which was much better than the prediction of heavy wet snow that would bring down trees and power lines, but we did get the inches forecast.

A hundred some years ago, some Harvard Professor dredged up an inscription for the New York City Post Office: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Who knows how many U.S. postmen suffered unnecessarily for that creed. But here in New England, at least, we've gotten wise to the fact that people don't want to dig a path for the postman in the middle of a blizzard.

Scene from the window Tuesday morning.

Scene from the back porch. You can see how fine and dry the snow was to filter through the slits in the porch floor.

The main roads were clear with only snow plows for traffic due to a state-ordered and probably unnecessary travel ban. There was nowhere to go.

An afternoon walk found some kids sledding and the neighborhood market and pizza place closed.

Snow fell through the day and the wind blew it around, so digging out didn't begin until mid-afternoon.

Scene on the neighborhood street early this evening.

Mini Cooper or snow drift?

The aerodynamic design of the newest models is also conducive to drifting.

All the cool people point their wipers skyward before a big snowstorm. That's supposed to protect the wipers from the weight of snow sliding down the windshield, if they don't get blown off in the wind.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

State of Barack Obama's Pesidential Legacy

Watching the State of the Union speech last night, I couldn't help wondering, how does the President measure up? It was that kind of speech. How do you measure a President's legacy? It's not just how many years you hold the office. Passing your legislative agenda requires your party to control the House and Senate, or at least one of them. Supreme Court appointments cast a shadow after you leave office.

I've created a point system. One point for each year in office, for each year of party control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and for each Supreme Court appointment:

President Presidency House Senate Supremes Points
Harry Truman 7.8 5.8 5.8 4.0 23.4
George W. Bush 8.0 6.0 6.0 2.0 22.0
Barack Obama 8.0 2.0 6.0 2.0 18.0
Ronald Reagan 8.0 0.0 6.0 4.0 18.0
Lyndon Johnson 5.2 5.2 5.2 2.0 17.6
Dwight Eisenhower 8.0 2.0 2.0 5.0 17.0
Bill Clinton 8.0 2.0 2.0 2.0 14.0
Jimmy Carter 4.0 4.0 4.0 0.0 12.0
John Kennedy 2.8 2.8 2.8 2.0 10.4
Richard Nixon 5.5 0.0 0.0 4.0 9.5
George H.W. Bush 4.0 0.0 0.0 2.0 6.0
Gerald Ford 2.5 0.0 0.0 1.0 3.5

This isn't the final scorecard. Barry could get several more Supreme Court appointments and catch W. although that seems unlikely. He could still break the tie with Ronnie. Nor is this a judgment as to whether the legacy is good, Read My Lips H.W. and Pardon Me Jerry are there at the bottom, but really weren't so bad. Jimmy will be glad to know he nudges out Johnny and is just a notch below Billy.

Monday, January 19, 2015

MLK, LBJ, and the Fellow Driving the Tractor

I haven't been to Selma yet but I did listen to this very interesting conversation between LBJ and MLK on January 15, 1965. Here's how LBJ told MLK to sell the Voting Rights Act of 1965:
President Johnson: --that if you just take a simple thing and repeat it often enough, even if it wasn't true, why, people accept it. Well, now, this is true, and if you can find the worst condition that you run into in Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana, or South Carolina, where--well, I think one of the worst I ever heard of is the president of the school at Tuskegee or the head of the government department there or something being denied the right to a cast a vote. And if you just take that one illustration and get it on radio and get it on television and get it in the pulpits, get it in the meetings, get it every place you can, pretty soon the fellow that didn't do anything but follow--drive a tractor, he's say, "Well, that's not right. That's not fair."
My grandfather was a farmer, a fellow driving a tractor, and here's something that he wrote as part of a family history in October 1967:
I am greatly concerned about the future of our country right now. We have had labor problems off and on ever since the coal miners struck during World War II under John L. Lewis (that's a story in itself). They keep striking for more wages and more services, etc. so labor has gotten so high that things we have to buy are so high and it makes a hardship on everyone.

Then the negroes are a terrific problem. 100 years after they were supposedly freed from slavery, they are still slaves in many ways. They have organized and are demanding equal rights. Of course people say that they have equal rights and in many cases they do - but in many cases they do not. As of this moment there are uprisings nearly every day and I'm afraid it may get worse before it gets better. During the last two years there have been two extremely large negro riots - one in Los Angeles and one in Detroit where many stores were burned and looted.

At present we are having an undeclared war in Viet Nam. 46% of the people in the United States are against it (according to the polls) and there are many Freedom Marches against the war - especially in colleges and the college kids will be our leaders in about 20 years. The students in the colleges do not want to abide with college rules. Their thinking is that they are adults and if they were on a job there would not be rules as far as their personal lives are concerned. In other words, our nation seems terribly at unrest now. I really think part of it is that we have had quite a bit of prosperity. Some say it is Communists working. At any rate it is serious.
I suppose some explanation is needed lest a contemporary reader get the wrong idea about my grandfather. He grew up and lived his entire life in a rural farming community in Southwest Iowa. Negro was the politically correct term in 1967, it seems odd to read it today. He had an African-American (to use today's politically correct term) friend from his high school class that he stayed in touch with through the years. He always said his friend didn't know he was black until he joined the army. That was in the 1930s.

Grandpa's use of the word "uprisings" gives more dignity to what was happening in the 1960s than "riots". You can see that he was conflicted. He did hope that things would get better. A daughter-in-law's (my mother) family was from Detroit. A niece's husband was in the FBI and sent to Watts during the Los Angeles riots to gather intelligence. He has always said the informers reported the root cause was price-gouging by merchants, which may very well have been a symptom of the hardship of high prices my grandfather talks about. One problem leads to another.

What has our country has done on these problems in the last 50 years? Not as much as we would like to think. On the labor cost problem, we outsourced a great many of our big factories to other countries and now you can get the cheap goods and not just at Walmart. Attempts to reign in the college kids continue, now under the fighting rape culture banner. It was 25 years from 1967 until the 1960s college student Bill Clinton became our country's leader, 40 years until Barack Obama.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Not My New Year's Resolutions for 2015

Alaska is on my bucket list. Maybe Hawaii. North Dakota is the gateway to Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I've heard great things about North Carolina. The Keys could draw me to Florida. Atlanta, Georgia was fun, but I did feel an urge to march to the sea. Is my point too subtle, as for the remaining three?

Yes, I suppose there's bigotry involved. There's undoubtedly never been a better time to visit or live in South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi. Maybe I will go see Selma.