Fiorello LaGuardia (elected mayor of New York City on the Republican AND the Liberal line...those were the days, my friend) famously said there is no Democratic way or Republican way of picking up the trash. First of all, that may no longer be true, thanks to the scourge of privatization. Second of all, let's not pretend there are NO differences between the Democrats and the Republicans -- at least their stated policies on everything from health care to immigration to climate change are different in ways that truly matter.
All that said, it may be time for new mantra for the 21st Century: There is no Democratic way or Republican way of sucking up to billionaire campaign donors and corrupting yourself. Both parties do it, and frankly, it's more painful to watch when it's Democrats because many of the worst offenders pretend to be champions of the downtrodden. Say this for the GOP -- at least when they slavishly protect the interests of the 1 Percent, they're not hypocritical.
Take New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo...
In 1963, a 17th-year-old Indiana youth named Robert J. Dowlut reportedly confessed to police -- amid a pile of evidence -- that he'd killed a local woman. The next year, a jury of his peers heard the case and found Dowlut guilty. What happened next?
A) He died in the electric chair.
B) He lived a long life and is currently the chief lawyer for the National Rifle Association.
I don't usually come back on a topic two days in a row unless there's something incredible -- but this struck me as pretty incredible. It's more from the New York Times' well-done package of the inanity of our current prohibition on marijuana.
Here's a couple of salient points:
The costs of this national obsession, in both money and time, are astonishing. Each year, enforcing laws on possession costs more than $3.6 billion, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. It can take a police officer many hours to arrest and book a suspect. That person will often spend a night or more in the local jail, and be in court multiple times to resolve the case. The public-safety payoff for all this effort is meager at best: According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report that tracked 30,000 New Yorkers with no prior convictions when they were arrested for marijuana possession, 90 percent had no subsequent felony convictions. Only 3.1 percent committed a violent offense.
They would never admit it, of course, but there seems to be a new message from the White House these days: Don't throw President Obama in the briar patch of impeachment!!!
Normally, the notion of impeaching Obama would be so ridiculous -- what are the grounds, other than issuing executive orders, which all of his predecessors did in much greater numbers (and, until a few weeks ago, was considered a routine part of the job)? -- that administration officials wouldn't dare even comment on the notion. Instead, you have White House officials saying on the record they take the threat very seriously.
This is all a sad commentary on how much politics have changed. You'll be hearing a lot on the next couple of weeks about Richard Nixon, who resigned 40 years ago next month to avoid being impeached and removed from office. What a different time. Nixon was investigated for actual high crimes and misdemeanors! And members of his own Republican Party asked tough questions of GOP White House aides and a few even voted in committee for impeachment.
When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, like a lot of kids, I wondered how the world would change in my adulthood, when the folks who were on the TV news every night -- occupying the college president's office and waving Vietcong flags -- would be old enough to run for and presumably elect one of their own as president. Because of the way (sometimes inaccurately, I later learned) this so-called "youth culture" was portrayed in the media, one thing seemed like a slam dunk: Marijuana would surely be legalized, possibly soon but certainly in my lifetime.
Heh. Turned out, a funny thing happened on the way to the first Cheech and Chong Administration. Instead, America elected a string of law-and-order presidents -- partly in response to those convulsions of the Pepsi Generation -- that created ridiculously draconian penalties for narcotics offenders (especially in "liberal" New York State), spent billions on a war on drugs that included massive new prisons from sea to shining sea, and finally none other than Nancy Reagan provided their mantra: "Just Say No." Our two presidents who attended college in the late 1960s, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, were both mortified by their own youthful drug experimentation and adverse to ending the drug war that the likes of Nixon, Rockefeller and Reagan had started.
But as a very wise man once said...what a long, strange trip it's been. After that massive detour, the folks who grew up dazed and confused in the 1970s are indeed now running the nation, including the former "choom gang" leader in the Oval Office. Talking about m-m-m-my generation, "we" also now run the editorial board of the New York Times, and today, in 2014 -- pretty much on the schedule that I imaged four decades ago! -- we're the no-longer-young-generation, and we've got something to say...
Who said this?
We ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America, you’re going to go to school, and get a job, and become American. We have 3,141 counties in this country. That would be 20 per county. They idea that we can’t assimilate these 8-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous.
The same person also said this:
...is more like this guy, actor James Garner, who passed away Sunday at the age of 86. He was a man who was not afraid -- attending the now iconic 1963 March on Washington for civil rights, where this picture of him holding hands with actress Diahann Carroll was taken, even after the FBI called up Hollywood stars and begged them not to attend ("for their safety"...right). And who was not afraid to say what he thought. Check out this interview when he published his memoirs in 2011:
"Too many actors have run for office," he writes. "There's one difference between me and them: I know I'm not qualified. In my opinion, Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn't qualified to be governor of California. Ronald Reagan wasn't qualified to be governor, let alone president. I was a vice president of the Screen Actors Guild when he was its president. My duties consisted of attending meetings and voting. The only thing I remember is that Ronnie never had an original thought and that we had to tell him what to say. That's no way to run a union, let along a state or a country."
Garner writes that he was asked to run for Congress in 1962 as a Republican, and "it didn't stop them when I told them I was a Democrat. …They just thought I could win." In 1990, Democratic leaders approached him about running for governor of California, but the discussion got to the issue of abortion and Garner says he answered, "I don't have an opinion, because that's up to the woman. It has nothing to do with me." The conversation pretty much stopped there.
UPDATE: He's baaaaaack. I'd like to think the social media uproar, of which this was a tiny drop in the ocean, had something to do with that.
Yesterday in writing about the bomb attack that killed four boys on a beach in Gaza City, I noted that a journalist had even kicked a soccer ball around with the boys, minutes before he watched their death. You might expect that witnessing such a tragic and emotional story would have been considered a reporting coup by Ayman Mohyeldin's bosses at NBC News. which of course is owned by Philadelphia-based Comcast. Instead, NBC yanked Mohyeldin from the war-torn region and had another reporter who was not there do the story on NBC Nightly News.