Saturday, July 31, 2010

Volunteer Charity: More Poems from the Front Lines

Yesterday, I posted the first three poems written by The Bug in 1986, when she volunteered at a charity organization. Together they make quite a statement. The reason I separated them into two posts, however, is to feature each one a little better, hopefully for a cumulative effect.

“Shut that baby up!”
And the child cries on.
Mary Justevich sings
her raucous song of life
& the child cries.
“The next time you come,
you leave that baby at home.”
And in the wounded eyes 
of the mother, I see
her cry:

There’s no one there
no one there
no one.

They sit as if they’re
used to waiting.
Staring off into space
thinking their own
Waiting. Waiting.
And I am angry.
I watch the waiting
from behind the desk
and I know.
My heart hardens
against the saints
as they talk
and wander about
ignoring the waiting.
thoughtless passages
of time.


And in the “real” world
I see that I’ve changed.
The lights have gone gaudy –
I’ve seen the war
behind the glitter.
There will always be
dark, empty buildings
and Al & Fifi, &
even Buddy fighting
for a way of life
fighting for life
The homes of the rich
frustrated me –
repugnant desire
of my fickle heart.
I will be gentry one day.
Will I forget
the other side of town?

The Bug posted one of these poems last week, and another post explaining what it was about and what she thinks now. This is what I think they are about: the humane, giving heart. But also, the world of humiliation that seems to go along with poverty and assistance. The humiliation of having your best impulses rebuffed--maybe because you've misjudged the scene or don't have the right thing to offer, or even that there is no right thing for someone in distress. She also writes how people on both sides shut down their best impulses, become indifferent. But there's also hope in these observations. She plunged into the work: recorded it, one poem per day. She Saw. And she knows things now that the rest of us can use. Very much so.

Thanks again, dear Bug, for an invaluable chance to gain some insights.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mysterious Flowers, Again

Okay, these shots will never win me the Pulitzer. But I have never before seen this flower or its like. Nobody seems to know what they are. So these shots are without perspective, just trying to get as much information as possible. The stem branches out in umbrella-spokes, and this branch is covered by tiny leaves, almost like scales, and then topped by the flower corolla.

Those five-part leaves you see below this fairy-head are the leaves below the branch-out. Totally weird! And gorgeous.

More significant post below--food for thought as well as wonders for the eye.  Have a great weekend!

Volunteer Charity: Poems from the Point of Contact, part I

My friend and regular reader The Bug worked as a volunteer for a church group and charity in the Midwest in January, 1986. She was, as she puts it, "young and idealistic, and didn't know what was going on", but that's quite wrong. She was new to the experience, but that didn't stop her from observing everything carefully.
She wrote a little more about it in yesterday's post.

She mentioned some poems. I asked to see them, and she sent me six. They are very illustrative of the challenges of modern poverty eradication. But they are far more personal than that. They are also very lovely. I took the liberty of numbering them, just so you can more easily see where a new one begins.
Three today; three tomorrow. I want to thank Dana for sharing them. They are a primer on where any of us would start, inside and out.

The war is very real here.
Will you come with me
to my warm home
and partake of my bounty?
I want to draw you near,
to catch the wind
away from you,
to open my heart
(who cares if you
break the locks?).
But I don’t know
how to give
you don’t know
how to accept.

“You’re here for clothing?”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
And I felt like a
savior –oh these poor
people. I was going to
clothe them. I felt so
big – so clean & sacrificing.
After lunch I picked
blouses off a filthy floor
& hung them on filthy
hangers. Castoffs from
faraway people. Dusty,
dirty & tired, I felt small,
very small, a
shopkeeper ashamed of
the selection for my clientele.

Shame is a funny word.
It’s not the aggressive
mothers struggling to
feed their children. 
It’s not feisty
elders proclaiming
to all who want to hear,
“Life is shit!”
It’s not the children with
soulful, confused eyes.
Shame is the man who said, “Yes,
I’m married. I
have three children &
we’d like some food.”
Shame is the young
man bringing his
bride – “here are all
our papers. Please
help us.” And “I have
no income. No income.”

Shame burns deep 
in the eyes of a man
who can’t provide 
for his own.

The Bug blogs at "The Bug's Eye View", and is also featured on my blogroll. She's a talented writer, a member of her choir, a former sojourner to Africa, a photographer, and a great neighbor!

Tomorrow, the next three poems. Thanks to The Bug for sharing her personal experiences.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Hotbed of Zombie Professionalism

This message from Tuesday's Meeting of the Board!
--Zombies Continue to make Shambles--

One of the Zombies on Staff happens to do maintenance:

He went up to a known trouble-making woman's unit,
who was not getting air conditioning. But she's leaving her blinds up, and her windows face south.
Temps are three-digit and the humidity, high.
(You're Daddy's rich, and your Ma is good-looking)

And he told her:
That the reason her a/c convector didn't work is because the convector capacity is too small for the unit.

Our board hired engineering consultants to make recommendations before requiring everyone in the building to buy updated convectors. They chose exactly that capacity for fifteen hundred bucks about five years ago.

So, there is nothing wrong with her convector capacity. It worked just great last year. But now she is convinced that the Board has screwed her over to the tune of fifteen hundred, when the right answers to her problem are
a. Close your blinds and
b. Buy a fan and
c. Stop drinking so much whiskey in the afternoon.

(So hush, little baby, don't you cry)

Coincidentally, at this same meeting, another owner is angry about convector units.  A year ago, Zombie Maintenance Guy tore their convector apart to clean it. He did this without obtaining authorization for major work, and charged one hundred fifty bucks. Also coincidentally, I am the board member that this same Zombie once told  "It is impossible to clean a convector unit." Therefore,  I "should not have either cats or potted plants."

Someday, all lies catch up to you. Before that, they catch everybody else.

And I have not even told you about the bedbugs. We will spend thousands to make sure we are not completely infested. From six units to two-hundred and fifty, unless we hire the exterminators with the trained beagle dogs that sniff them out. No! I do not have bed bugs! I don't want them either!

Zombies are more than enough for me.

photo from dot common sense blog
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Guest Post at Raindog Blue

RainDogBlue is a great blog about police work through the mediums of poetry, photography, and sometimes sound bites. He writes frequently in a verse style which sounds like everyday speech, only more concentrated. That means he can distill very moving life accounts to minimal posts with maximum punch.

He also teaches a little about police work by interspersing lexicon entries of procedural terminology.

In late May, RD asked me if I would contribute a post during his July hiatus. I was very flattered to be asked!
I wrote a poem about a photograph I took. They are both up here

Please go take a look, if only to see some of RainDogBlue's usual posts throughout the year. I'm guessing you'll go back again and again.

Public Assistance in Singapore

CPF BuildingImage via Wikipedia
CPF Building, Singapore
There will be a million reasons why the public assistance model in East Asia is not applicable, unworkable, ridiculous, impossible, or politically dead in the water for the United States. I do not care. Their system is worth a look: a successful model, surely imperfect, but worth describing. 

The argument along economic lines will be circular: Singapore has a growing economy, low unemployment--they can afford to have less expenditures in public assistance. Yet the cost of U.S. public assistance and two wars (let's don't leave that out; however you may feel about them, they are expensive) has caused the U.S. to swim in debt. We are a sluggish, water-logged ship on turbulent economic waters. Let's see what Singapore does for Welfare. Maybe they know something we don't.

Most of my info and quotes come from:

David Seth Jones (June, 2002)
Welfare and Public Management in Singapore: A Study of State and Voluntary Sector Partnership. Asian Journal of Public Administration, 24:1, pp. 57-85. HERE. (Download; pdf)

Jones states that East Asia follows a Confucianist model of public assistance rather than a Western model. As such, it privileges "correct behavior" in regard to public assistance rather than what I think we do, which is "redress of wrongs, forgiveness, and mercy, to apathy and despair". The "correct behavior" applies to every individual in society, on public assistance or not. Those who have money have duties; those who accept assistance also have requirements. The level of conformity is high.

The following comes from one long paragraph that I separated for easier reading. All emphases are mine:
"Although the classic model of state welfarism has been eschewed, the Singapore government has sought to ensure that certain basic needs are met. This has been done in three ways.
The first is by subsidization.  Services such as education and health care are provided by the state with the consumer required to pay a proportion, sometimes a quite small proportion, of the cost. In this way the consumer assumes a shared responsibility in financing the services from which he or she benefits.
The second is through state-administered asset acquisition. The cornerstone of this is the Central Provident Fund scheme. Under the scheme, each employee is required to set aside 20% of his or her income every month, with 16% contributed by the employer. This amount of money is lodged in the employee's own personal account in the CPF--essentially a form of compulory savings. The employee can invest ...a certain proportion of the savings, or may use it to purchase a residence or to pay for costly medical treatment. The primary objective of the scheme, though, is to provide finance for retirement.
The third way by which social needs are met is by voluntary involvement. This relates to welfare provision and personal social services for the most needy and vulnerable in the community, which will be discussed below. (pp.61-62)
Jones says (p. 62) "At the heart of the model is the primary role of the volunatary sector and the community--welfare organizations, community associations, charities, religious bodies and even businesses, as well as the family--in the management and delivery of welfare services. The government is considered essentially a regulator and a facilitator, rather than a deliverer."

1. So Singapore does have public health care. They also require a co-pay.
2. Singapore has public education. That also requires a co-pay, and probably other steps such as entrance exams.

3. Singapore has a kind of Social Security, a little more direct than our Social Security. They have an Ordinary Account, a Medisave Account, and in some years a Special Account was also used. The government allocates, say 24% to the Ordinary and 6% to the Medisave. In times of economic downturn, they lower percentages in order to stimulate the economy. (Vandine, p.2).

II. Voluntary Welfare Organizations
Paraphrasing Jones: VWO's include: charitable organizations, community associations, ethnic self-help groups, religious groups (Christian, Taoist, Buddhist, and Muslim).  The volunteer aspect is that a (church) might agree to fill a particular need and become a VWO. Volunteerism comes from their membership, although a lot of people do seem to get paid. It's subcontracting with citizen participation. The government pays about 25% of the Total spending on Public Assistance.

As a group, VWOs do the following:
1. provide care for elderly and disabled
2. individual and family counseling (either in need or under stress)
3. accommodations and 'support in kind' for the destitute
4. assistance to needy families.
5. preschool education
6. supervising children before and/or after school
7. child and adolescent counseling
8. therapy and rehab for drug addicts
9. home health care
10. their version of "Meals on Wheels"
11. operate residential institutions for addicts in rehab, abused children or children 'out of control'; elderly; disabled, and destitute.

In many of these activities, day-care centers for children provide the locus also for child or adolescent counseling; other centers will do elder counseling, socializing, or care during the day.

Jones does not specify what number of these people are paid. I suspect  most of them. But they are hired through a VWO organization, not civil service. The VWO might also seek informal, free consultancy: a food kitchen might benefit from a (ethic association member's) grocery store acumen, or "Meals on Wheels" might get its restaurant layout looked at by a (neighborhood association member) who owns a restaurant. This help would be graciously accepted but is also part of one's civic duty.

III. Funding
Singapore's citizens may donate directly to a VWO or to Singapore's state-run Community Chest, which allocates funds for VWOs. This is also voluntary giving, frequently through regular paycheck donation. The donated C.C. funds are apportioned according to governmental criteria by the National Council of Social Service. This Council is quasi-governmental and works closely with the Ministry of Community Development and Sports. There is also a fund for Corporate Giving. Corporations can choose broad areas of concern, or specific charities, or the general welfare. Then the NCSS takes that into account.
Last of all, the Government of Singapore also chips in, up to 50% of of what it considers an appropriate operating cost for an approved VWO. Many times this is done on a per-capita basis (by number of people served).

IV: The Government of Singapore Generally Pays for: 
1. Start-up grant, for first months of investment.
2. Building/remodelling costs for facilities (including furniture, transportation, all initial costs), up to 90%, based upon a budget submitted by the VWO and approved/checked beforehand. Therefore, the VWO is kicking in 10% or more of the cash, plus the sweat equity.
They also pay 'hidden costs':
3. Rents are high in Singapore. Part of the government funding is to arrange low rent in federal property, and then pay that rent. The lease generally must be renewed every year or some agreed period of time. It is not automatic.
4. Auto licenses are expensive in Singapore. The government pays that.
5. If there are many voluntary donors for a particular Local project, sometimes the government matches funds. In that case, locals get a little more say in what is put into their area. Otherwise it follows the federal formula. In other words, citizens have to put their $$ where their commitment or perceived need is, not wait for a Congressman to pork it up for them.

V. The Ministry of Community Development and Sports is responsible for:
1. Training and advising paid staff of volunteers, occupational therapists, aides, etc.
2. Training in motivation, administrative, and career skills for VWO managers.
3. Consulting for continual training and advisement.
4. Manuals and guidelines to set standard best practice. Every VWO operates from a standing government-determined framework. Frequently there are targets and quotas.
5. Expects quarterly reports from each VWO
6. Expects conformation with guidelines/manuals--everything from how much space to staff/service ratios, hygiene, safety
7. Measures performance and holds VWOs accountable for government guidelines.

Thus Singapore has a public/private partnership that "avoids dependency on direct state welfare". The government supplies funding, regulations, guidelines, and limits duplicate efforts in the same region. The private sector is the partner who delivers the care. It is perhaps paternalistic--it requires conformation to societal norms by all parties--and it requires a significant amount of private donations.

Okay, So--?
What do you think? Consider my first example, a "disadvantaged youth in trouble."  He would go to school, be supervised before and after, his parents would be counseled or he would be housed in a charity arrangement. The difference is perhaps that he might be expected to conform against inner inclinations (to violence, good; but to a certain profession, maybe that's un-American?).  The standard set before him would be the only one to attain. On the other hand, encouragement and attention would be given when he made those steps.

or take my second example, the temporary food stamps. A person in crisis might have gotten a little financial counseling, or, a follow-up to be sure they no longer required assistance. That follow-up may have been an appointment that I would be duty-bound to make.  They also may have been making sure I DID spend those food stamps on staples or canned goods, rather than Kool-Aid or candy bars.

That's what I'm seeing, though I could be wrong in details. I don't think one paper is enough to know how Singapore and East Asia's social contract works--but I do think this gives us plenty to think about.

Another question: are we too corrupt/special-interest driven to implement this system fairly?
Is our land-mass too widespread to implement a standard system?
Another question: despite our opinion of ourselves, the U.S. is not by per capita measure or % of GDP the most charitable nation in the world. Could we get into the culture of giving?

Further References:
Government of Singapore, Central Provident Fund Web site. in English
Vandine, Comparing U.S. Social Security to Singapore's Central Provident Fund
Wikipedia, Central Provident Fund, linked above.
Hat tip to Inspector Gadget at Police Inspector blog. He wrote that Blair was interested in Singapore for UK welfare reform, and then never reformed UK public assistance. That got me started.
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Public Assistance Mind-set, part 2

Yesterday I wrote that I did not consider myself a "Disadvantaged Youth in Trouble". However, that was not true the next year. I had medical problems: abdominal pain that never went away. I will spare you the details.

Suffice to say, I was spending a good portion of my paycheck on weekly or bi-weekly doctor visits. At that time, I took home about $330 every two weeks--about $5.00 an hour for a 40-hour week. I took every overtime possible. A doctor's appointment was $40.00 plus prescriptions, shots, and extra procedures. The doctor had me on a different antibiotic every week. The pain just got worse and worse. Pretty much I was working, worrying, and sleeping the rest of the week. It was a drag and I was uninsured. There was then, just as now, no credit at the doctor's office: I paid cash on the barrelhead.

This went on for months, until I passed out in the storeroom of the 7-11 on my way to use the head. I woke up with a lump on my forehead and the floor exhaust from the back-room freezer blowing on my skin. That was some scorching hot air in a very hot room, but I was shivering cold under the draft and all the sweat. Never fainted in my life before. Never have again.

I dragged my butt up and finished the shift. And I determined to get a second medical opinion. This doctor was a specialist. When I showed up with my empty pill bottles, and he saw the number of things already tried, he admitted me to the hospital the next day for surgery. Did I say I had no insurance? I was three weeks short of the entry for insurance at my employer.

After abdominal surgery, you are not allowed to lift anything heavier than five pounds for six weeks. I don't know if you've thought about this, but at 7-11 you lift things all the time. Milk crates. Beer cases. Shipments. This meant I could not work. Plus I had medical bills out the Whaz.

7-11 kicked in my insurance early, but that was months later. In the mean time, I had no idea they would be so good to me. I also had no income and I soon had no food. Every time I stood up I felt like the shit had been kicked out of me. Finally an older friend, at whose house I was eating dinner twice a week (but no more, to save my pride you see) advised me to go get Public Assistance. It took her a week to convince me. Finally she said, "I'd a hell of a lot rather have you getting my tax money than some deadbeat."

That partially bolstered my sore pride, and I went down. I qualified for Food Stamps, people! Unbelievable. The Social Worker was a nice lady. She said I was able to get $45.00 worth of food stamps, but they wouldn't ship for 30 days. Unless I said it was an emergency.

Okay, I said (kick me now) "No, no, it's not an emergency. I just need a little help."
"Are you sure?" she asked.
"Yes, yes, thank you. Not an emergency." I could not wait to get out of there.

If I had been more amenable to public assistance, I would have survived a little better in the short-term, don't you think? Or perhaps it was just denial, even at that stage of the situation. I can tell you that not eating has a way of prolonging your weakness and slowing your recovery.

As it was, I nearly became homeless. In six weeks I returned to work, still feeling like crap but medically cleared. When those food stamps came in, I was sure I was rich. I made a list and bought $45.00 worth of staple groceries which I then kept under the bed, in case of future emergencies. There was a beer box with flour, sugar, dried beans and macaroni, all carefully sealed up with wax paper and Scotch tape. I forget what else: I think canned goods and oil. But you talk about a near thing. Perhaps at that stage, I should have returned the Stamps. But no, I spent them. I was too afraid that I might get stuck again. Starvation was no longer an abstract idea.

To deal with temporary situations is as much work as constant ones for Social Services, maybe more. For one thing, the administration can't forecast its workload very well. And yet what we are wishing for is a system for self-help people getting assistance for acute situations. To get public assistance where we want it to be, it must encourage that "get up and get with it" that fortunately I had--and that S.S. reinforced by giving me a "temporary need" status.

In the previous post, I showed (faintly) how public assistance diminishes the capacity of those who use it. In this post, I show (faintly) how NOT having it can diminish capacity for individuals in society. I don't think I'm a representative case. But I do think I have had experiences that illustrate some part of the dilemma.

At this point, I remind you that I was single, childless, and had a correctable illness. For many, it would not be a one-time slump or confluence of situations. How can we afford to pay for twelve new S.S. hearings a year, for monthly food stamps, on a family perennially down on their luck? If we saw this family twelve times a year, what opportunity for training and counseling would we have? Budget counseling, for one. Reinforcing good behaviors. Yet it's cheaper (up to a point) and less government just to send the damn checks in the mail or (nowadays) credit the food stamp PlastiCard by computer.

But it's worth a thought when trying to divine a new solution. How many more S.S. personnel would we need? Do we want to pay for that instead--and unfortunately--in addition, at least for awhile?

The system is broken. For sure. But what will we do to change it? I offer my tiny examples as a starting point for new ideas. Otherwise, I would never tell you that once I accepted public assistance.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

A Public Assistance Mind-set, part 1

Today and Tomorrow: Two Anecdotal Reports on Public Assistance, with Two Different Viewpoints:

I don't know if I blogged about this before or not. It's a little bit about political correctness I suppose and a little about me. My main point will be, though, that public assistance comes with an attitude. When that attitude is pervasive in your life, I think it is deadening.

A long time ago, I worked for 7-11. At that time, companies such as this were eligible for supplements from the government for hiring people that fit a job-training criteria. Therefore, all of the employees in my district were sent, with pay, to the local Social Services for an interview to see if we were part of 7-11's job-training contribution to American society.

Now this program probably had the intention of rewarding companies that taught job skills, and making it easier for small businesses to hire people who didn't have those skills in the first place. At the same time, it seemed ridiculous to me. This company was nation-wide, and was doing okay. Why give money to a corporation when there were so many people walking around with real problems?

I didn't get it. It was about teaching people how to fish, instead of standing in line for the Dole.

My appointment (although I didn't realize it at the time) took up time for local S.S. (social services, not storm troopers). Multiply that by every clerk in every convenience store in town. We all know that S.S. workload is huge and heartbreaking. Conversely, it is a system dominated by a civil service mentality. So long as Some progress is made, then it's progress, so do your work steadily, slowly, and avoid burnout.  I am sure that my appointment looked like a huge waste of time to the S.S. that interviewed me.

At the end of my interview, she told me that "Yes, I did look like a disadvantaged youth in trouble" to her and so would be eligible for the program. I couldn't believe she said that to me. Was that what I was interviewing for, the position of "Disadvantaged" and "In Trouble"? How could you call a person like me disadvantaged? What about all the amazing steps I was taking, to pay my own rent, get to my own job, fix my own car for the first time in life? I had a royal blue phone and the bill was paid on time. What was so damn wrong with me?

I cried all the way to work. Shouldn't have been driving, really. My boss was flabbergasted.

"They called me a disadvantaged youth, like I have nothing going for me at all," I sobbed.

This (the same guy who told me to use napkins on a bleeding-to-death shooting victim, because they were not on inventory) got mad. "Those Assholes!" he stormed. "You're perfectly good just as you are. I'm calling the f*ing District Manager! None of my people are going to go through this. I'm telling him."

I would like to think that he supported me, but nowadays I wonder about the extra hours he was putting in while we all went to be interviewed. That may have been a major part of his ire.

My main point is this: the language of classification in Social Services is not empowering. It is a language that documents our weaknesses and not our strengths. How could it be otherwise, if they are addressing  social gaps? We aren't planning to give assistance to the able-bodied that don't need it (except, well, 7-11?). The only way to avoid this weakening language is to use number categories, which are even more dehumanizing, and--always come with a verbal explanation anyway.

Somehow I fit that description, and though I was insulted by it, it wasn't wrong. If major disaster had struck (as it did, a year after) I had no cushion.  Yet I found the process demeaning, dismissive of my humanity, and onerous. If a "disadvantaged youth's" parents learn to operate under this demeaning, dismissive, and onerous categorization, what does he or she learn? They are more disadvantaged than me, have more to overcome. We talk about generations of people on Welfare, but we don't see how the system itself can be weakening to its participants from the get. And yet starvation and joblessness are far more weakening still.

There must be a way to involve the language and actions of strength in the public assistance process. If we can do that, we can probably get people out of the bottom of the barrel and into a better world. By doing this, we strengthen our citizenry, and our efforts are more likely to gain us a win-win outcome.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679 ) from Leviathan (1651)

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)Image via Wikipedia

Thomas Hobbes explains the reasons for nations, governments, and war, and even police departments (which did not show up for another two hundred years) in Leviathan, Part I: Of Man. Chapter 13: Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery, pp. 73-74. You can read it in full in Google books, in his own language and spelling. (It's not hard, but it's not a beach read, either.) It won't cut and paste, worse luck. I am going to type parts of it in modernized form.

It is so relevant.
In the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First, competition: secondly, diffidence: thirdly, glory. 
The first, maketh men invade for gain: the second, for safety: and the third, for reputation. The first use violence, to make themselves masters of other men's persons, wives, chilcren, and cattle; the second, to defend them; the third, for trifles, as a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other sign of undervalue, either direct in their persons, or by reflection in their kindred, their friends, their nation, their profession, or their name.
In the next paragraph, Hobbes notes that WAR is a period of both violence and potential violence. One can live in a state of war even when they are not being robbed, invaded, killed, or beaten--if they know it could happen any minute. His example is weather. It doesn't have to be raining twenty-four hours to be a rainy day. It's a matter of environment, and what one must do to survive it (carry an umbrella, go out only in armed company, stay under the awning or inside the fort. THEN he writes (I have divided the paragraph):
Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. 
This is Hobbes' famous "war of all against all" or anarchy. It is Road Warrior the movie (no old people or young ones, only predators and prey), only ten times worse; infighting and genocide between the Serbs and Croats and why gangs spring up in part. A strong man with good luck can live long enough to do--what? Steal and sneak and kill to gain what's needed in life, or to keep the bone he's got.
In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no culture of earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; 
and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.
Hobbes goes on to say that Kings (read: warlords, band Chieftains, or hey, our own government)  have these same qualities: a military for gain, or for defense, or stuck in pride and invasive for that reason.  But what a government does is displace this anarchic war of "All against All" to the limits of territory. Thus farmers may "till the soil" and builders may "build cities". Trade may take place under the protection of the state (flagships, caravans, trains, etc). The "movement of large things" might be Treasuries or even a load of lumber, impossible when people are hanging onto every part of it to make it booty or spoils of war.

It's not that Hobbes didn't lock his door or hide his money. However, once he did that, he could sleep at night, and wake up to study and write his famous work. Band chieftans and kings also held their own territory with domestic troops--if for no other reason than to execute murderers and gather tax money. But without a King or Chieftan or Police Force, in Hobbes words, there is no justice. Nor is their injustice. Because anything goes. Any strong person or lucky person can do whatever they want, and everybody else either has to kill him or suck it up.

Our police force did not give us life, or air, or buy our food. They are the facilitators of our own ability to "know the face of the earth" or at least our part of it; to "plan our time" and expect that the plan will be fulfilled; to enjoy arts, letters, society and contribute to them in our own way..

Right now, many cities are giving up their police forces--contracting city services to the county sheriff as a cost-saving measure. In so doing, they may very well be contributing through economic choice to a more streamlined effort in county-wide protection. They have also given up their first reason to be a government, the only reason they are a government. Therefore, they are not really a government at all.

If you can, read some of Hobbes. The link and pages are above.
Last comment: isn't it funny that Hobbes also links politics to having an economy? I'm telling you, political economy is the way to know government the best. There will be another post on an economist this week.

In the meantime, appreciate your police force! They make it happen for you.
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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bright Foliage

In the 101-degree heat, but shining bravely on:
Four total shots of the same plant, because that's what I do. Three are after the jump.

Skeeters and Glass Houses

You might remember the urban swamp I wrote about? And before that, the Idiots & Mice. Well, I will tell you: this is the same building. I called the city and I griped to the Store Manager. Underlying my words, of course, is the sense that this person doesn't even want to help himself . . .

I guess those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Anyway, he is avoiding calling his home office Real Estate Hotline about his problems. As long as there is a bag of food trash down the stairwell, the rodents have something to eat. As long as the drains are clogged, the water won't leave. If the drain(s) have to be Roto-Rootered (what is the real verb for that?)  the landlord has to pay. Not the SM, so why is it so tough to make this call? I don't understand it at all.

So I complained to him again Wednesday. Actually pulled him from a meeting. I was told he was in conference with the District Manager--Hey! Golden Opportunity! But the DM wouldn't come out of the office, and so the Manager lied and said he wasn't there. If there is a species on earth that I don't care for? Besides mosquitoes and rats? The DM. Best buck-passers ever.

Anyway, to shut me up the SM agreed to clean it up. At his expense? I can't disagree--those months of trash could have been solved by one ten-minute pull of the can months ago. On the other hand, what is so bad about calling the landlord, or giving me the landlord's name?

I must be ferocious. Anyway, it does look better down there. My one concern is that the underlying problem, the rodents, have safe haven in the empty building. We still aren't calling the landlord. And wouldn't I just.

In the tranquil night scene you see above, it's clean. The bucket is gone, one major mosquito vector. If the drain was blocked only by leaves, then we're set. When it rains, though, the ash tray and can will fill with water and we will have some mosquito vector left. Not to the same threat though.

I did this for me. Mosquitoes love me far too much. A block or so away from my house? Trouble.

In the meantime, at home, I have a ton of stuff to do. If I can do as well as I expect from others, I will be in a better place. Of course, I have neither rats nor mosquitoes. The cats did chew a hole in my window screen Thursday night.

Behind, again! Best get to it.

Oh, and this Zemanta Thing? Sometimes it's silly, but here's a Science article saying 
Mosquitoes Should Die.
Something we non-scientists have suspected all along. Malaria, heartworms, bug bites! 
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Sidewalk Cafes

Have a great weekend, everybody! From Ann T.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rita Dove: David Walker, 1785-1830


Free to travel, he still couldn't be shown how lucky
he was. They strip and drag and beat us about
like rattlesnakes. Home on Brattle Street, he took in the sign
on the door of the slop shop. All day at the counter--
white caps, ale-stained pea coats. compass: needles
eloquent as tuning forks, shivered, pointing north.
Evenings, the ceiling fan sputtered, like a second pulse.
Oh Heaven! I am full!! I can hardly move my pen!

On the faith of an eye-wink, pamphlets were stuffed
into trouser pockets. pamphlets were transported
in the coat-linings of itinerant seamen, jackets
ringwormed with salt traded drunkenly to pursers
in the Carolinas, pamphlets ripped out, read aloud:
Men of color, who are also of sense.
Outrage. Incredulity. Uproar in state legislatures.

We are the most wretched, degraded, and abject set
of beings that ever lived since the world began.
The jewelled canaries in the lecture hall tittered
pressed his dark hand between their gloves.
Every half-step was no step at all.
Every morning, the man on the corner strung a fresh
bunch of boots from his shoulders. "I'm happy!" he said.
"I never want to live any better or happier than
when I can get a-plenty of boots and shoes to clean!"

In this poem, Rita Dove writes about a somewhat less-than-famous (but historically well-known) abolitionist named David Walker. Here are some basics to help with the poem:

Mr. Walker was "free to walk" because he was born free to a free mother and a slave father.
He travelled, gradually moving to Boston and opening a used clothing store that catered to black sailors.
The sailors smuggled his abolitionist pamphlets to parts of the South--the most famous of these including an appeal to violent revolution. These were discovered, and as you see in the poem, uproar ensued. Many black sailors were then forbidden to leave their ship when berthed in the Port of Charleston or similar. The italicized parts are of course excerpts from that pamphlet.

He also was on the abolitionist's speaker's circuit. The jewelled canaries refers to the audience. Both men and women wore gloves in evening entertainments (of which improving lectures was one such, just as History Channel is today).

I actually did not intend this as part of the Lincoln series. The poem has been reminding me of itself prior to that, but I could not find my copy. The verse that was "sticking" in my mind was:

Every half-step was no step at all.

for other reasons.

Yet these are the half-steps I find here:
1. David Walker's freedom did not free him from being concerned with the slavery of his race. Their status affected him too.
2. Writing about abolition is not the same as accomplishing it.
3. The compass might have been better help than a pamphlet to a slave that can't read.
4. The pamphlets never made it anyway.
5. The more adamant he became, the less his lecture circuit understood him-was that a nervous titter?
6. The glove still separates human hands. The glove on one shows a status that the not-gloved don't share.
7. The man on the corner is free and happy. Or is he free? What horizon does he have?

Anyway, are there more? One thing I did not explore is the quotes. Also, their seem to be a lot of circles in this poem, and I don't know why: fan movement, ringworms of salt, compasses . . .
Whatever you see is well worth sharing.
And another question: what do you think Rita Dove is saying about Walker? I don't think she fully admires him, but I can't quite make up my mind.
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Company to Keep: Fifty Criminal Justice Blogs of Note

 For readers who enjoy the law enforcement blogroll at Ann T. Hathaway,

A number of them are honored as the "Top Fifty Criminal Justice Blogs" by the Criminal Justice Degree Schools site.

Of those fifty, twenty-nine are written by or for law enforcement officers.

It may be that this site is just trying to add luster to themselves, which only makes them smart. Indeed, I hope for the same. The authors on my blogroll write well. They are full of a fine and generous spirit. Or a rowdy and cantankerous one.

But specific congratulations are in order to:

Cop in the Hood
If you got stopped . . . you deserve it, aka Motorcop
Officer Smith
Second City Cop
Sgt Says

Congratulations to all the notables!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Right in Front of Me, Allegedly

Last month I had an exciting hour allegedly waiting for the bus. I allegedly was watching alleged drug deals from across the alleged street. It was allegedly unbelievable. The three jokesters were on a major street, in a high traffic shopping area, with what appeared to be, allegedly, Road Construction both ways.

This was why I was waiting so long for that darn bus. But it was not a waste of time. Oh, I was positively nostalgic over my alleged years in the allegedly crack-drenched neighborhood in RiverTown.

Top-Down versus Bottom-Up
The area is also a target of city-initiated (top-down) rather than owner-driven (bottom-up) gentrification. Therefore, new apartments and condos sit side-by-side with better quality assisted housing (but still projects).  The shopping center is supposed to keep this gentrification from being a doomed enterprise. And it's a good idea. It's hard to live in a neighborhood with no services like dry cleaners, groceries, or a hardware store.

The big-box stores and food franchises have gone in, but there are No Local Businesses Interested--as in, the dry cleaners or hardware. They can't afford the losses, or the efforts for loss-prevention. This despite the city subsidy. A grocery store chain will be moving in, though--one of the final pieces on local services. That's what I hear.

Let's Make a Deal!
Because of the mixed, slow traffic and exceedingly public venue, it seemed like the stupidest place on earth to allegedly undertake illegal transactions. However, I think it was another two-step arrangement, where the money is separated from delivery of the product. So the slow movement of heavy traffic actually aided them. They would allegedly catch the pedestrian clientele on the way-social interaction. Drivers would allegedly pull over for a chat, in the still-extant parking lane, and then move on. All the uninvolved drivers were just trying to figure out how to make the light, so they paid no attention.  Good thing we were all in such an allegedly good mood.

My pictures do not bear out any of my allegations. Perhaps this is a different scene altogether? Maybe these gentlemen are just taking in the sun and talking to pretty girls when possible. Could be the only rule they are breaking is the 'no loitering' sign that I allege was there, although not pictured.

My favorite part was watching when they had no alleged business to conduct. Laughing, pulling out their money in a way I would never do, counting it and laughing again, then shoving it back in their pockets.  I would have paid the price of whatever just to hear what they were saying.

Of course the neighbors know. I scanned the building's balconies: they were family-style. Nice, in other words, with plants, furniture, tricycles.

So I started thinking what architecture had to do with the tipping point for crime in this building.

Straight, Narrow Hallways--Limited Exit
Drug syndicates on this low-level do have some kind of loyalty to each other, and physical strength, but mostly they have numbers. Loyalty sometimes breaks down under outside scrutiny or pressure. But I don't believe it breaks down inside the building. Between the connections, the annoyance of living next door to somebody who will be angry for years, and the fear factor, it doesn't take much to intimidate the entire building.

An elevator is a trap, and so is a staircase. A balcony could be. And there's maximum three exits. You can cover those with six to nine guys. Or three guys and two spotters. Piece of cake to control the whole building.

So wouldn't be an accident of placement for these guys to be at the Front Entrance. It seems stupidly obvious to traffick there, and yet it shows 'ownership'. It keeps the neighbors in line, and the neighbors must be kept in line. Heck, even I was toeing the line. I had no wish to be allegedly shot while allegedly taking pictures, or causing the bystander with an allegedly broken foot standing next to me to be in some allegedly unequal cross-fire.

This is a nice building with recent renovation.
I know that tearing down projects exports crime to wherever these residents go. The business alliance can remain, transfer, and even extend with this movement of people. I know that some of the most gang-riddled areas are neighborhoods full of single family residences.

I am left in a quandary, of course, when looking for a solution. In the meantime, those three guys are still allegedly counting their alleged rolls of soft and allegedly planning their next big party with the alleged profits.

My bus came. I managed to take a couple pictures from the window, when it seemed safe for me and everybody else to take them. I'm kind of relieved they are such bad shots. They're certainly not evidence of anything. Three guys, taking the air in front of their building. It is more in the way of an alleged memento.

Besides architecture, I thought about labor hours. You know there is a sense, from Freakonomics and elsewhere, that drug dealing is not profitable as an hourly wage. But the demands on the time are not the same as they are at a fast-food job. Freakonomics authors Stephen Levitt and Paul Dubner may have missed part of the point (see short funny lecture in previous post).

What do I learn from this?  How does it advance a solution or formulate a strategy? I am still thinking that through. Because it's possible that city planners have done the best-faith effort here possible. And yet, allegedly, here we are, with low-wage crime and terrified or complicit neighbors.

Steven D. Levitt on Gang Economics

I'm kicking off a World Economics Series, with lectures and maybe even book reviews of the economists that have important things to say, or in some cases, who are influencing our view of politics and economy and world affairs.

I'll start with a funny one, that provokes thought about local economics. It is also a study of gang economics, previously posted at Ann T. Hathaway.
This is Steven Levitt,  author of Freakonomics and Super-Freakonomics. He talks about the local aspect of international drug trade. By explaining it as a business, he also shows us just exactly what barriers we face. He also maybe missed a few.
The video, like many I am contemplating, is produced by I hope you enjoy.

I am not always a fan of the Freakonomics blog, but other times I think they have a great thing going.
Mr. Levitt and Mr. Dubner also have a Freakonomics Web site, with Study Guides to their books.
The Freakonomics books are readily available.

Sudhir Ventakesh is the graduate student Mr. Levitt refers to as doing the field work. He has also written extensively, and I will feature him in another post.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lincoln, the Domestic Diplomat

In the three posts about "Lincoln's Political Economy," I tried to show that Foreign Powers were constrained from acknowledging the CSA. First, they did not want to back the wrong side. Second, in the community of nations, sovereignty counts. To assist in a domestic insurrection is the same as waging war on the legitimate government of that country. For this reason among many, Lincoln did not acknowledge, and could not afford to acknowledge, the new nation of the Confederate States of America.
To Lincoln, the federal government retained authority over all thirty-plus states were under his jurisdiction. By holding to the belief of a rightful Union, he continued to exercise some level of authority over all them, even if it was only blockade south of the Mason-Dixon line.

More than once he corrected General Henry Halleck for using phraseology that did not conform to a usage of  a United States: "You know I did not like the phrase, in Orders, No. 68 I believe, "Drive the invaders from our soil." (Letter, July 6, 1863). They were not invaders--they were fellow citizens of the U.S.

The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Maryland, April 1861 to 1862, is an early exercise in Lincoln's assumption of that authority, backed up by force. But Lincoln also had to practice diplomacy within his community of individual states: they were turning on each other. And governors frequently wrote Lincoln, telling him exactly how little support they would give for [x] or how much support they needed for [y].

Even More Complicated 
In most formulations of Civil War America, the U.S. map is divided into three useful categories: North, South, and border states. The border states were mostly slave-holding states that held with the Union.

The question of slavery was united with many other issues, red herrings or not. Popular sovereignty and states' rights was a rallying cry in pockets of nearly every state of the Union. The Democratic party was a major party in every state, not just Southern ones; they might decry any Republican measure. Some were anti-war, or at least, anti-Civil War: the Peace Democrats, and more flagrantly in opposition, the "Copperheads". The famous habeas corpus Valladigham Case was in Ohio, a Union state with Clement Valladigham potentially a Copperhead governor. Ultimately, Lincoln declined to hold Mr. Valladigham. Instead, he was allowed to go South, into sympathetic territory.

Local Terrain and Cooperation
With the blue states and the light blue ones above, Lincoln had to work with the Governors and officials that would let him, and make war on those who would not. He needed political and military forecasts, a way to bolster pro-Union officials and to cajole or contain those who would let Union break to pieces.  For every suspension of habeas corpus, there were hundreds, even thousands of efforts to  hold Union together without playing hardball--or, by granting exceptions to hard rules in the name of decency, mercy, or even expediency. 

An Early Diplomacy: Stay on Point. Do Not Speculate.
During the 1859 presidential election, Lincoln wrote constantly to delegates and campaigners about staying 'on message'. The message without variation was contentious enough. He also stayed aloof from personal attacks, devising tactics for countering smear campaigns that left him carefully above. Post-election, the calls for further explanation of his policies continued. Lincoln stayed low-key in Illinois, generally providing only references to his previous record. Along with this demand for explanations, he had to field the calls of patronage. On December 15, 1860, he partly broke his silence to answer a letter containing rumors about "stacking the deck" using patronage:
"As to the use of patronage in the slave states, where there are few or no Republicans, I do not expect to inquire for the politics of the appointee, or whether he does or not own slaves. I intend in that matter to accommodate the people in the several localities, if they themselves will allow me to accommodate them."
This letter came before the second wave of secession or even before Lincoln's inauguration ceremony. He was already attempting to hold onto everyone who would stay. As reported in a  previous post, the attack on Fort Sumter caused Lincoln to break his silence. By calling for militia to defend the Union, he may have precipitated the second wave of secession. Such perilous outcomes only made Lincoln more determined to hang on to what he could. Another look at the map's light-blue states shows you how much strategic territory he was trying to hold.

Under Suspension of Habeas Corpus: Limiting Military Rule
This letter to General John M. Schofield, local commander of Union forces in St. Louis, Missouri
July 13, 1863
I regret to learn of the arrest of the Democrat editor. I fear this loses you the middle position I desired you to occupy.  . . .  Please spare me the trouble this is likely to bring   [.]
A translation: you stupid jerk. Let him go. Another one, a few months later, to the same man:
October 1, 1863
"Your immediate duty, in regard to Missouri, now is to advance the efficiency of that establishment, and to so use it, as far as practicable, to compel the excited people there to leave one another alone."
In other words, Schofield was to let the state take the lead whenever possible in local police matters. Not that there was a police. There was only military and home guard. Lincoln's instructions are explicitly to keep the peace:
 ". . . you will only arrest individuals, and suppress assemblies, or newspapers, when they may be working palpable injury to the Military in your charge; and in no other case will you interfere with the expression of opinion in any form, or allow it to be interfered with violently by others."
This instruction shows that Lincoln did not want to deny Missourians their civil rights, even under the suspension of the writ.  Also important to Lincoln's concerns, however, is a strong with not to alienate state voters used to considering liberty their birthright. Lincoln was constantly on watch to make sure that his local militaries were secure. The civil rights were to be left alone--unless necessary for military security. It also shows that his military, then as ever, were expected to be, partly, diplomats.

There are hundreds of letter where Lincoln listens to personal appeals from the parents of deserters, the wives of fallen Confederate heroes, mothers in poverty whose sons are in stockade for some infraction were not paid, former Senator's sons in Federal prison, et cetera. Each one of these letters, whether giving way or not, is calculated to offer a mercy when it did not interfere with a rational military principle.

These are efforts at diplomacy, to right wrongs and keep state officials happy, newspapers a little more quiet, and citizens calm. But the best example of Lincoln's domestic diplomacy especially concerning the Border States brings us where we started.

The Emancipation Proclamation
My first post on Lincoln was about this important document. There, above, and elsewhere, I said Lincoln did insist he had jurisdiction over all states. With the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln paid the secessionist states an economic ultimatum for a political one. For the border states, it is different. It required diplomacy, or, not giving the first ultimatum that would get him an answering one back. Insisting on emancipation there would lose him whatever shred of political or military support he had.

Though Lincoln wrote some adamant letters to Tennessee's governor, and allowed some punitive regimes in Kentucky, et cetera, he was nevertheless at least partly sympathetic to their plight. Missouri's, Tennessee's and Kentucky 's economies were closely tied to other slave states, particularly in regard to shipping their cash crops downriver via the Mississippi. Their existing commerce was essentially ruined by staying in the Union. To take away the last prop of their economy, however heinous that prop might be, would be to lose them forever--and maybe the war.

All states paid heavily in the Civil War. Lincoln's soft-pedal on slavery in the border States via the Emancipation Proclamation acknowledges their particular economic hardship, their uneasy (and sometimes enforced) yet ultimate loyalty. These border states took the brunt in most of the battles of the Civil War: militarily, politically, and economically.

Today, Lincoln's detractors have revived old tired arguments against this great, beleaguered, and frequently unpopular leader. They have counted on our failure to examine Lincoln's historical context in full.  But Lincoln's words reveal the great care he took in his leadership, in both big and small matters. His milieu was one of cantankerous states used to deciding for themselves. The Union was ripping at every seam.  Lincoln had a stiff spine but also a compassionate view. His letters and speeches reveal his profound understanding of lasting and humane principles, military leadership, economic necessity, diplomacy, and the context of his age.

I hope you have enjoyed this (12 part) series, which was originally intended to be three posts. :-)
Thanks to Slamdunk for suggesting it! What an adventure!  And especially thank you to all who commented along the way. You kept me going, through many lamps of midnight oil.

Abraham Lincoln, Speeches and Writings, 1859-1865. The Library of America. Available.
The American Civil War: Habeas Corpus, at etym online, especially useful and linked above, here
Shelby Foote, The Civil War, Volume I. Random House. Available.
A fine paper written by C.R. Smith, posted here.
US Government Info at, with Lincoln's 1862 Proclamation suspending the writ of habeus corpus, here. This is short.
Wikipedia, Border States. From that Wikipedia page you can access pages such as "Kentucky in the Civil War" that give more details to what I have quickly glossed. Kentucky is particularly interesting in that it was under a very tough general and under conditions of guerilla war.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

To the Queen of SoFla, Softball, Dogs, and Laughter

A friend of mine is having surgery today. Eight a.m.!

This is the herb boneset. It is used for joints as well as bones. It is also an early Spring flower.
It's here to wish you healing and an early bloom post-surgery.

I realize it is not showy, though, so here you go. Back to the ocean and everything you enjoy. And, Freaking Fast. Muy Rapido. Zim Zam.

I realize a Tomcat is a strange plane for the Queen of the Dogs, though, so  . . . a chameleon for your back porch. Good-bye trouble of a certain sort.
And last,
A hollyhock, from my flower pictures.

Thinking of you! Get well soon peedee!!!!

An Impoverished Army

This is from my favorite fiction account of the Civil War. It is written from the South's point of view, in a humanistic and somewhat stream-of-consciousness style: The Black Flower. The author, Howard Bahr, lives in Oxford Mississippi. For a time, he ran William Faulkner's home and museum. He has been acquainted Shelby Foote and other Southern writers and historians of note.  None of that is important compared to how well he describes the near-end of the Confederate effort, through the medium of one man and one woman.

In the book, a single woman, Anna Hereford, has lost two Confederate suitors already to war. She befriends an exhausted and mildly-wounded Confederate soldier in Tennessee in 1864. The plantation house is surrounded by troops about to go into battle. In true Southern style, the Confederate leader brings his compliments, and asks if the house may be used as an infirmary. Thus it is filled with soldiers: exhausted, dragging, hungry.  Some are bent on rape and pillage; others, decent men with no luck at all.

For instance, Bushrod Carter's mild wound is not mild for long.
Bushrod's body was white, hairless, frail, etched with grime . . .  Anna wondered dully how such a slight frame could be a soldier's.
The surgeon offered only a glance at Bushrod's arm. 'It has to come off," he said.
"No!" said Anna.
The surgeon shrugged. "Then he will die. You can see that for yourself."
Anna could, indeed, see that for herself. The arm was beginning to turn the color of blackberries. It was swelling too, and the red streaks coursed through the puffy flesh from the hand to the elbow. It was already beginning to smell.
"It came so fast,' said Anna. 'It was just . . . . . so fast!"
"It is how it happens," said the surgeon, gentler now. "These boys--they live on parched corn and bacon and coffee, they never sleep, never quit, and when somethin happens to em they got nothin to prop em up. It is a wonder any of em can still put one foot in front of another."
The black flower is a bullet wound, and perhaps a symbol of other things. Every page in this book gives some idea of what the culture of the Confederacy wrought, how it withered, and what remained: then, for years after, and into the present day.

I did not enjoy Bahr's sequel quite as much. But I would pick this first novel over Cold Mountain, although with some regrets; I would quickly choose it over Shaara's fictional Killer Angels. Michael Shaara presumes too much into the mind of Lee to please me, and I think he thereby trivialized Lee's intellect and strategy. But that is just another opinion. . . on yet another book.

The Black Flower. Howard Bahr. Available.

Picture below: Dead soldier, near Fredericksburg.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Was Probably Reading A Book

We had an earthquake, 3.6 on the Richter. I didn't feel a thing.
It would have been far more interesting if George Clooney had knocked on my door.

"Varnish is Injurious to Leather"

One of the prizes in my book collection is the "Revised U.S. Army Regulations, 1861". It is somewhat damaged; I can't access the title page and publication information without ruining them. I do know it was published sometime after July 25, 1861. It is available online, too!

I doubt many field copies survived. The book is heavy; stuff such as 'close-order drill', so carefully explained, was useless in the war; each man knew what he was supposed to do; and the pages are a soft newsprint type, excellent for use as toilet paper.

1. ALL inferiors are required to obey strictly, and to execute with alacrity and good faith, the lawful orders of the superiors appointed over them.
2. Military authority is to be exercised with firmness, but with kindness and justice to inferiors. Punishments shall be strictly conformable to military law.
3. Superiors of every grade are forbidden to injure those under them by tyrannical or capricious conduct, or by abusive language.

On page 24, Sections 128-130, it specifies that four laundresses are to be attached to each company; how on pay-day, the laundress would receive monies owed to her by individual soldiers (immediately collected) as well as pay for her company duties.  Other pages detail the number of nurses for camps and hospitals, and the forms required for furlough, recruiting, subsistence, and quartermaster requests.

There is a section on how to handle insane soldiers (send them to Washington!). An order that soldiers be vaccinated (against smallpox, presumably, and a good idea). The book lists the instruments required for amputating limbs, how many for each outfit (Twelve needles per surgeon). How much the sutlers, (supply-entrepreneurs to the common soldier) would be taxed (ten percent).  On page 226, Form No. 46, I see that a Major-General made  $96.00 for fuel allowance plus $120.00 per month. A Brigadier-General only received $30.00 for fuel and $80.00 salary.(p.226).

The title of this post refers to Article XIII, "Companies", where (p. 22):
104. Cartridge-boxes and bayonet scabbards will be polished with blacking; varnish is injurious to the leather, and will not be used."

On page 499, we come to the Appendix; The Articles of War [Approved July 25, 1861].

Art. 7. Any officer or soldier who shall  begin, excite, cause, or join in, any mutiny or sedition, in any troop or company in the service of the United States, or in any party, post, detachment or guard, shall suffer death, or such other punishment as by a court-martial shall be inflicted.
Art. 8. Any officer, non-commissioned officer, or soldier, who being present at any mutiny or sedition, does not use his utmost endeavour to suppress the same, or coming to the knowledge of any intended mutiny, does not, without delay, give information thereof to his commanding officer, shall be punished . . . (etc).

I am sure these articles have been standard in any military handbook through the ages. But they seem to have special meaning, and early placement, in the Articles of War of 1861.

The real value to me, however, is in learning what was considered standard or desirable. For instance,
117. The bread must be thoroughly baked, and not eaten until it is cold. The soup must be boiled at least five hours, and the vegetables always cooked sufficiently to be perfectly soft and digestible.
It might make you laugh, but in two sentences, the regulations have partially destroyed the corrupt preference of working in the camp kitchen (no snitching hot biscuits, everybody gets the same) and in essence ordered the cooks to plan ahead and work with resolution (soup to boil long enough). This last also tended, like the vaccinations, to quell sickness in a time when germ theory was not known. If only they had done that with their surgical instruments.

The phrase "varnish is injurious to leather" applies greatly to Union soldiers in the field. They lived in mud or grit and steamed or froze at Nature's whim; could not wait around for cold bread or digestible soup, or got no food at all. Officers of cavalry with raised swords at the charge were routinely shot first by the enemy, and were, to the rest of the soldiers on both sides of the war, considered pathologically stupid.

The varnish stripped off. The leather was blackened, and then the blacking wore away. The war dragged on, with tools scavenged, repaired, and stripped to bare leather.
Picture below: Online Little Rock, of a sutler's tent on the Potomac. Do you think they sold whiskey? You bet they did.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lincoln, the Constitution, and Habeus Corpus, part 2

The suspension of habeas corpus was an untested measure in Constitutional history. As such, Lincoln had to decide how, in the division of powers, he could ease through the Constitutional question.  This involved either soothing, or ignoring, calls to account from the legislative and judicial branches of government.

Lincoln's circumstances might justly be called an emergency, and I think fit the definition of the stakes required for suspending habeas corpus. His response to the emergency waited neither for Congress nor the federal courts in a. calling for militia without a declaration of war from Congress, and b. the suspension of habeas corpus. Lincoln made them both an Executive function, but not without dissent.

On the same day that Lincoln called for militia, he called for special session:

Congress Convenes its Special Session, July 4, 1861
Lincoln's Special Message to Congress is long. (Sixteen pages worth in my book, too long to summarize in full.) In it, Lincoln refers to the extraordinary measures he has taken, explaining his reasoning and asking for their approval. In today's parlance, we might say he presented it to them as a colleague, alone on watch, who had done what he thought they would do.

As to habeas corpus specifically, and the stretching of Executive Powers in general, he first gives his reasoning for taking that power as President. Then he asks:
  . . .. are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?
In Lincoln's mind, the answer was no. His purpose then, as always, was preservation of the Union in full.
"Our popular government has often been called an experiment. Two points in it, our people have already settled--the successful establishing, and the successful administering of it. One still remains--its successful maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it.
Then he gives assurances:
"Lest there be some uneasiness in the minds of candid men as to what is to be the course of the government, towards Southern states, after the rebellion shall have been suppressed, the Executive deems it proper to say, it will be his purpose then, as ever,  to be guided by the Constitution . . . 
But the Courts did not see it this way. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that judges were individuals, with individual opinions as to the question of slavery, secession, and executive power. Any one of those three might garner opposition to Lincoln's assumption of authority.

Ex parte Merryman
What followed, most famously, was Lincoln's complete and total disregard of judicial orders to free prisoners, a legal suit called ex parte Merryman. In this suit, Judge Taney ordered that Mr. Merryman, a Baltimore citizen taken up by General Winfield Scott, be released. This was on the grounds that Congress was the proper party to issue writs of suspension of habeas corpus. Taney was afraid of military rule:
"I can only say that if the authority under which the constitution has confided to the judicial department and judicial officers, may thus, upon any pretext or under any circumstances, be usurped by the military power, at its discretion, the people of the United States are no longer living under a government of laws but every citizen holds life, liberty and property at the will and pleasure of the army officer in whose military district he may happen to be found."

In a letter (June 12, 1861)  48 days after Lincoln bestowed this power on Scott,  Taney wrote: 
"The paroxism of passion into which the country has suddenly been thrown -- appears to me to amount almost to delirium. I hope that it is too violent to last long -- and that calmer and more sober thoughts will soon take its place -- and that the north as well as the south will see that a peaceful separation with free institutions in each section -- is far better -- than the union of all the present states under a military government & a reign of terror -- preceded too by a civil war with all its horror & which[,] end as it may[,] will prove ruinous to the victors as well as the vanquished."

Lincoln ignored Taney's order. All of this was, in insurrectionist circles and to Jefferson Davis' government, a rallying cry against that monster in the White House. 

Finally, in November 1862, Congress passed a law indemnifying Lincoln in the matter. It passed both houses in early 1863. With the legislative body giving Lincoln permission, it tended to take the Constitutional question of who could issue such a writ, off the table. Lincoln lifted the suspension and granted amnesty on February 12, 1862.

But on and off, Lincoln would suspend the writ of habeas corpus in the war, when things were going badly in particular areas. He had promised Congress a limited application of suspension, and a fidelity to the Constitutional measure: rebellion, insurrection, and public safety. Nevertheless, to constitutional scholars or those who remained concerned over human rights, this on-and-off application was still a measure of grave concern.  Lincoln may have been a stickler to the criteria, but he, and military officers, were the ones to decide. It lends itself to the charge of capricious measures. And we were hell-bent to avoid capricious dictators when we made this country.

The Valladigham Case
Clement Valladigham was running for the office of  Ohio governor. He had outsized Southern sympathies, and his campaign could be a huge rally for anti-Union activity. He was incarcerated. Upon applying for a writ of habeas corpus, the local judge declined, saying that he was not empowered to overthrow decisions made by military tribunals.

On June 12, 1863, Lincoln wrote to a Committee of Unionists who decried the suspension of civil liberties, especially in regard to Valladigham. The letter is another long one, (almost ten pages in my book). I think Lincoln wished to carefully explain, and make them realize, every point at which he was beset. He could not trust a jury, with possible confederate sympathizers, for one thing. Moreover:
. . .in [the insurgent's] own unrestricted efforts to destroy Union, Constitution, and law, all together, the Government would, in great degree, be restrained by the same Constitution and law from  arresting their progress. Their sympathizers pervaded all departments of the Government and nearly all communities of the people. From this material, under cover of "liberty of speech" "liberty of the press", and "habeus corpus", they hoped to keep on foot among us a most efficient corps of spies, informers, suppliers, and aiders and abettors of their cause in a thousand ways. (p. 456).
He also wrote:
"Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wily agitator who induces him to desert? . . . I think that in such a case, to silence the agitator, and save the boy, is not only constitutional, but, withal, a great mercy."
First Conclusion 
Suspending habeas corpus interfered with freedom of speech and freedom of association, freedom of movement--and maybe even who had the right to bear arms. Where on this list of priorities comes national security? Lincoln said it came first: would you have every other law broken save this one? 

He did not make this opinion from nothing. Thomas Hobbes wrote, early in the philosophy of political science, that the function of a state is to create security within, displacing anarchy to its borders. Before that, Thucydides wrote in the Melian Dialogue that loss and occupation are the miserable fates for nations that do not defend themselves. Lincoln was already aware that the confederacy was seeking outside help. In a worst-case scenario, the United States could have been rent to pieces, not just by inside agitation but interference by foreign powers. The first defense against this was organized force against insurrection and interference.

It is important to view Lincoln's circumstances, and his thinking, before passing judgement one way or the other. I believe Lincoln considered this measure as one specialized power among those he had to preserve the Union. This means he was careful but not reluctant. I do think he was a stickler for applying the Constitutional imperative. So caprice does not apply, nor does dictatorship. He built his reasoning on philosophical antecedents, Constitutional prescription, and practical concern, and he made those part of public record.

Letters such as these may have changed nothing about the Constitutional question. They did tend to reinforce that Lincoln was a careful man, thoughtful but adamant. Such a letter would have been, very quickly, a public property, an open letter to the public. By explaining his reasoning, he made what you might call a personal guarantee that dictatorship was not about to ensue. 

Next I am going to take on how habeas corpus was a weapon for diplomacy and moderation in Lincoln's consistent and agonizing diplomacy with individual states.