Category Archives: History

Is the new left like the old new right?

I’m still catching up with all the newspapers I missed while overseas. One very interesting New York Times article that I’ve just read by Sam Tanenhaus, suggests that today’s blogging lefties are the equivelent of Bill Buckley and the conservatives that swept aside moderate Republicans while championing Goldwater and Reagan. I’m not sure what to make of Tanenhaus’s claim that today’s lefties are less extreme but they may indeed be a harbinger of things to come.

The GOP and making good money

An article today caught my eye and on a topic I’ve been licking my lips to expound on. The GOP and its new ethos that confuses the making of money with the strengthening of the economy.

It seems that the US military which pays starvation wages to its enlisted personnel wants to crack down on Payday loan establishments that prey on servicemen. In the story today one soldier took a $255 dollar advance on a $300 guaranteed pay check. This used to be called usury and most states used to have laws against it. That fee is comparable to a 459% interest rate. Compare that with the going rate for a home mortgage loan and you can see how soldiers are being taken.

But the military sees its servicemen being bled dry by these Republican sanctioned outfits. The military wants to protect its troops from these predators but everyone should be protected from them. The growth of the once non existent car “title loans” is the same thing. Poor people hand over their car titles for emergency money and lose their only means of transportation for loans that are in the neighborhood of 100 % or more.

Rather than protect the vulnerable poor (even servicemen) Republicans insist that the poor are entitled to ruin themselves and have only themselves to blame. Too many of these modern Era Republicans never saw anything wrong with any way to make a buck (other than selling drugs).

Just look at gambling. Once strongly anti-gaming the Republican Party now pushes gaming everywhere despite it socially destructive consequences. The Republicans, hate to tax wealthy people even when the wealth is acquired more through legislation than enterprise. But with reduced tax revenues, socially destructive gambling has become an acceptable new source for revenue. Except for Indian gaming……That’s why Republicans in state’s like Minnesota have tried to break into the Indian gaming industry and why they rail against Indian sovereignty. Why are we letting all these poor Indians keep all this money? It would be better if we just let them sell cigarettes and set up title loans on the Rez.

TR a disaster?

This lively and severe critique of Teddy Roosevelt by one of the CATO institutes conservatives is very interesting. I always had reservations about Roosevelt’s comicly pro anglo-saxon rantings. His gallop to war against the Spanish and later against the Filipinos was not particularly commendable. And there’s no doubt that some of his anti free market legislation did have unanticipated results. But for my money the creation of the Federal Income tax was not a tragedy. Its hard to imagine how we could have bested the Nazi’s without it.

Cuba libre

Castro may be dead or dying and the Cubans of Miami have been out banging pots and pans to celebrate.

Castro represents a long standing bone headedness in America’s foreign policy. I wasn’t yet ten years old when Fidel marched into America’s worst fears. I’ve watched ten US Presidents try to make life hard for him. They’ve only succeeded in making life hard for Cubans while making Fidel more popular at home.

The latest of our Presidents St. George the Lesser is only the latest to fall into the trap of mining votes from Cuban ex pats by putting the screws to Fidel. Maybe one of our presidents will finally outlast Castro. If so, it would put a merciful end to our futile attempt to force feed goodness to the Cubans.  

Bush and company have only succeeded in making our best confection, “democracy,” taste like castor oil to the people he wants to rescue.

Gerald Heaney Retires

Gerald Heaney was interviewed by MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill for Voices of Minnesota. Heaney has an laudatory past but he’s also a key figure in the story I’m writing about the destruction of Don Boyd.

When I first moved to Duluth 33 years ago Republicans in particulary spoke of him in hushed tones. He was their nemesis and they regarded him as the power behind the area’s political scene. Its not surprising that he figures into the Boyd scandal when his old friend Senator Hubert Humphrey was in a position to be badly embarrassed.

Blog Metamorphosis

As of today loyal readers, whoever you are, this blog has undergone a change from caterpillar to butterfly or, depending on your point-of-view, vice versa. For the past four months I’ve posted things that interested me but which were heavily drawn from other sources. I will not give up on this entirely but as the last week has demonstrated getting wrapped up a consuming project really distracts a blogger from scanning the internet for newsy items, insightful opinion and my favorite – hoots. I’ve started a mad four-month dash to the November election and I won’t have time to vacuum the news. I’ll still be blogging but lincolndemocrat will turn into more of a campaign diary than a political blog.

As long ago as 1976 when I was a 26-year-old kid running for the state legislature I imagined myself writing a regular column about what I saw daily as a legislator. Although I kept running for office I didn’t finally get elected to anything until 1995 almost twenty years later. By then I realized that no newspaper would print one elected official’s daily observations. But then a wonderful invention became available – the World Wide Web with a whole assortment of new communication tools. Long before blogs people began experimenting with public diaries. When I finally got a dial-up connection and discovered this I was halfway through my school board experience. I realized immediately how I could make that ambition from my youth possible and I began my “school board diary.” I was a faithful diarist for a year but, for a variety of reasons, I quit. Short lived political diaries of one sort or another succeeded the first but they too winked out.

Apparently, I’ve been drifting slowly to a new ambition to replace politics – writing. I’m still drawn to politics but more so as a writer than a practitioner. I want people to have the chance to see the political world from the inside. I’ve gotten 200 pages into Caro’s fabulous 1,000-page book about LBJ’s Senate years. What I wouldn’t give to write something like that. Well, its too late for that. Caro has already devoted thirty years to the LBJ story and he still has one book left to go. Anything I do will be much more modest – like my school board diary.

An elected bodies are more mysterious to people than what happens to their children during junior high. That’s because everyone has been in junior high and can imagine what their children are experiencing. Elected bodies, which seem to pull decisions out of thin air after a series of posturing speech”…well that really is mysterious. Fortunately or unfortunately the speeches are usually so anesthetizing that people stop watching and rely on the next day’s headlines to sort out what happened.

Well, this is just a long-winded way of saying that I’m going to devote the lion’s share of this blog to my Congressional campaign. I’ve been planning to run since before I wrote a snarky column about Jim Oberstar last November. To my surprise that column led me to Don Boyd and Don Boyd led me to a historical research project that I can’t really do justice to as a candidate for public office. In fact, because the project seems to involve the fellow I’m trying to unseat my motives must be questioned. But I can’t help myself. I think I’ve stumbled onto a story about how Minnesota’s politics of the late 1960’s and 1970’s was riddled with corrupt practices. This is history which should be investigated by a writer who is not contaminated with political ambition. For the next few weeks the story has to be put on hold. I have ten days to get 1,000 signatures on a petition to put me on the ballot. I also need to start alerting voters to a very interesting 3-way race for Congress. I intend to win if it is at all possible.

As time permits I will continue writing more about Don Boyd’s ruination at the hands of a political machine whose brightest leaders aspired to great nobility. In Watergate’s dark aftermath this machine successfully covered their own misbehavior when threatened with exposure. They did this by sacrificing an innocent scapegoat to federal prison. This at least is what I am beginning to believe took place. Its a story that should be told by someone else but for now I’m the only story teller that Don Boyd has.

Thirty years ago he was smeared so badly that no one, not his friends and probably not even his family, could imagine that he was completely innocent. It is hard to believe but that is what I’m coming to believe. If this is true then I’m deeply offended by this miscarriage of justice. In an odd way this story is a terrible distraction from my Congressional campaign but at the same time its given me a tremendous motivation. Nothing animates me so as a hunt for the truth.

Master of the Senate

One thing I like about air travel is that it gives me a good excuse to read. Today, on the way home from DC, I got three more chapters of Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate read. I’ve only got through 130 pages but already i can see why it got the Pulitizer just like the first book in Caro’s series.

I’d highly recommend the very short introduction to anyone who doesn’t know what Jim Crow America was all about. The first three chapters are a wonderful history of the United State’s Senate. Its far better than anything I’ve ever read about the Congress to explain how it works in theory and in practice. I may not get a good chance to continue reading it again until I jet off to our family’s California reunion a month from now.

Hard to believe that such a crude man as Lyndon Johnson would be the person who through force of will and ambition would be the principal architect in helping the nation finally live up to its original ideals.

How badly did HHH want to be President?

As I write this book its been important to put the times in context. Governor Rudy Perpich was a generation past Humphrey and not particularly in awe of him. I’d always assumed the opposite. A lot of people didn’t take Humphrey seriously at the time. His nickname, “the Happy Warrior” is both fond and dismissive. Certainly he didn’t have LBJ’s famous streak of cruelty. But as this article points out HHH would do what he had to hold his place in line for the Presidency:

“Historians later wrote that Johnson told Hubert Humphrey to “crush the rebellion” and get the MFDP off the front pages, or Humphrey could give up on the idea of ever becoming vice-president. Humphrey instructed fellow Minnesotan and future Vice President Walter Mondale to “suppress the MFDP by any means necessary” and this was accomplished through secret meetings, and false statements, and by using information on the MFDP’s strategy gathered from FBI informants.

Johnson, Humphrey, and Mondale finally offered MFDP to seat two at-large delegates to be selected by Johnson (to ensure Humphrey that Hamer would not be selected). MFDP delegates refused the compromise. Humphrey reportedly pleaded with Hamer (whom he reportedly found “distasteful” because she was poor and uneducated) to accept the compromise so he could become vice president and push civil rights.

Mississippian Rev. Ed King, also a delegate, years later told how Hamer expressed no sympathy for Humphrey’s dilemma:

‘Senator Humphrey. I know lots of people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs for trying to register to vote. I had to leave the plantation where I worked in Sunflower County. Now if you lose this job of vice president because you do what is right, because you help the MFDP, everything will be all right. God will take care of you. But if you take it this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you talk about.'”

Perhaps, as Fannie Lou Hamer predicted, it was just this kind of pusillanimousness that cost HHH the Presidency. He also stuck with LBJ on Vietnam like glue and lost his race with Nixon in 1968. In the process he lost the loyalty of Minnesota Democrats like Rudy Perpich. Further, his better than decade-long ambition for the presidency may also explain much about the events which I’ll be writing about.

The Lying Machine

I just caught the last half of a speech NYTime’s reporter David Halberstram gave at the Kennedy Center a few months ago. It was an excellent history about the military men in Vietnam who were not allowed to tell the truth. Halberstram called it the “lying machine” and it came into existance because domestic politics wouldn’t permit the truth to be told. That’s just what I thought when I was twenty year old and it sounds very familiar today.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the speech was his explanation of how the Red Scare got its legs. He said it  began when the unpopular Truman beat Dewey in 1949 because Dewey had run a civilized campaign. After their the long suffering since the blow out of 1932 Republicans were desperate for some red meat. The 1949 fall of China, the Alger Hiss trials and Stalin’s capture of our Atom Bomb technology were the sparks and they served Republicans very well. As a result both political parties had to out hawk each other to avoid getting trounced. That meant calling the various post-colonial revolutions in the third world a paart of a monolithic communist threat.

Maybe I shouldn’t take monolithic Islam quite so seriously. Most people don’t really like cutting off heads even if they really don’t want you to station your soldiers in their country.

I could almost see becoming a historian

Other than my mile swim I devoted my entire day to reading though old books and newspaper clippings. Seeing them all together through the lens of Don Boyd is almost enough to turn me into a cynic.

I read through a little of Governor Elmer L. Anderson’s autobiography. Elmer was a venerable old Republican and by today’s standards a liberal. He wrote about his smearing by Hubert Humphrey in the phony I35 scandal. It cost him relection to the Governor’s office by about 90 votes in 1966. He saw HHH as a weak man who was too intent on becoming President for his own good. It reminded me of a short column I ran accross a few years ago that quoted Fannie Lou Hamer to the same affect.

Rereading an old Minnesota political history by G. Theodore Mitau, who took Humphrey’s place at Macalester College, I rediscovered a scandal that was first bubbling over when I first moved to Minnesota. Because it threatened my father’s pension plan and involved the Minnesota State Insurance Commissioner I remember it well. My Dad used to investigate insurance companies for the Kansas State Insurance Commissioner and he ended up with a very low opinion of Minnesota’s insurance regulation. Jack Abramoff doesn’t have anything on yesterday’s DFL.

What’s Sauce for the Goose

Regarding my post on Rush Limbaugh a friend emailed me this comment:

Harry…part of your presentation…causes me to think of a possible parallel presentation that would include a picture of Teddy Kennedy, the corpse of Mary Jo Kopechne, the bridge at Chappaquiddick, and a bottle of booze; with the captions, This is your DFL brain, and This is your DFL brain on drugs.  One of my dad’s sayings was that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  However, I prefer total abstention from inappropriate comment, so that there would be no motivation for retaliation in kind.”

I don’t disagree. Nothing infuriated Republicans more during the Chappaquiddik Bridge incident than the absolute unwillingness of Massachusetts Democrats to abandon Teddy Kennedy after his craven act of cowardice. That kind of blind support reminds me of the similar support of “Dittoheads” for Limbaugh and. What’s more, Limbaugh didn’t cause anyone’s death.  Part of the price Kennedy has paid for Chappaquiddick is never being permitted to carry on the Kennedy legacy beyond the Senate. Ironically, he has been a serious Senator since that scandal perhaps to atone for fecklessly throwing away his reputation and Mary Jo’s life. The Democrats have also paid a price. Whenever they wanted to point to Republicans as being anti-women Republicans had only to point to Kennedy and Mary Jo to demonstrate their hypocrisy. Ditto for Clinton and his intern. 

 

 

Bush vs Roosevelt

Newsweek had a great comparison between these two blueblood presidents.

I was a little put off to see that Newsweek’s columnist Jonathon Alter was able to use their space to promote his new book about FDR but the two pages were a good read. Alter’s book maintains what I was told back in highschool forty years ago: that Roosevelt saved both democracy and capitalism.

The article compares how the flexible Roosevelt confronted his crisis and the inflexible Bush confronted his. I appreciated Alter’s insights on how Bush’s kicking alcohol and FDR’s recovering from polio made them very different men.

I’ll have to put his book on the growing list of Presidential bio’s circling my runway.