A new Declaration of Independence

In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers enumerated 27 abuses by King George III against the people of the colonies. It is interesting how many of those very same transgressions can be laid at the feet of the current administration in the White House and of the Republican Party in general. The text in italics is directly from the transcript of Declaration of Independence at the web site of the National Archives.

 

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

In fairness, Trump has not yet vetoed wholesome and necessary laws, but only because the Republican Congress has not enacted any.

 

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

Republican-led grid lock is widespread in those state legislatures not under GOP control.

 

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

The GOP has been adamant that undocumented immigrants be denied any representation in local governments.

 

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

Keeping Congress in Washington during the heat and humidity of August can only be described as cruel.

 

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

Although this is not directly applicable to the current situation, the failure of the Trump administration to fill hundreds of key government positions clearly is an abuse.

 

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

Trump’s animus toward immigrants is well known.

 

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

Neil Gorsuch.

 

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

Neil Gorsuch.

 

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

Commission on Electoral Integrity, aka the Kobach Commission.

 

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

American police today dress and act like an occupying military force.

 

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

Secretary of Defense General James N. Mattis, Secretary of Homeland Security General John F. Kelly, White House Chief of Staff General H. R. McMaster.

 

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

Police routinely get away with murdering civilians, mostly in Republican-led states.

 

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

Trump opposes NAFTA, TPP, and international trade in general except, of course, when it benefits him or his family.

 

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

The perfect description of a Trump rally.

 

Maybe it is time for the citizens of these United States to declare our independence of Republican abuse of our rights and institutions for these are surely “times that try men’s souls.”

The Trumpanos

To understand the Trump White House, one needs only remember whence Mr. Trump hails. He is the quintessential New York City and New Jersey real estate mogul and casino magnate. As such, he has had a long and close relationship with organized crime. It is not surprising that he is running the government the way Tony Soprano would. Here are some facts, based in part on an article that appeared in Politico in May 2016.  

Trump’s links to organized crime date back to the early 1970s when he befriended Roy Cohn, a mob consigliere whose clients included “Fat Tony” Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, and Paul Castellano, head of the Gambinos. Both families were deeply involved in the concrete business that supplied material for Trump Tower. The indictment that led to the imprisonment of Salerno 1988 listed $8M of concrete provided for Trump Plaza, another of the Don’s projects. Before Trump Tower could be built, the old Bonwit Teller department store on the site had to be demolished. That work was done by illegal Polish immigrants working for contractors under the protection of the Genovese crime family. Eventually, Trump was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the workers and paid $325,000 under a sealed settlement.  

When Trump decided to build his first casino in New Jersey, his license application was approved in far less time than was usually the case. He denied any wrongdoing when questioned by the FBI and allegations of improprieties quietly disappeared. Trump was widely believed to have cut an under-the-table deal with then NJ Attorney General, John Degnan. Although probably unrelated, in 2014 NJ Governor Chris Christy appointed Mr. Degnan, retired chairman of the Chubb insurance company, to head the Port Authority of NY and NJ in the wake of the Ft. Lee lane closure scandal.

In the mid-1980s, Trump’s helicopter pilot, Joseph Weichselbaum, who had a record for embezzlement, was indicted for trafficking in marijuana and cocaine. Trump defended him as “a credit to the community.” After he was released from prison, Weichselbaum and his girlfriend “bought” adjacent apartments in Trump Tower for $2.4M. However, there is no evidence that any money actually changed hands raising the question of whether Trump was paying him for some services. By 2016, Trump appeared to have forgotten that he ever knew the man even though Wiechselbaum has said that he tried to convince the Don to break off his affair with Marla Maples.

This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. Read the Politico article for more details on Trump’s close association with the underworld. When you do, the fact that the Trump White House resembles the Bada Bing will make much more sense.

The great American reset

It now appears all but certain that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and may well have even altered vote counts to put Donald Trump in the White House. Perhaps even more alarming is the emerging evidence that Russian intelligence had been grooming Trump to become president since at least 2015 and quite likely some years earlier, a possibility I discussed in a post last February, Agent Trump. There is no question that Trump was aided immeasurably through the primaries and the general election by a well-fed right-wing propaganda machine. Still, for a political novice to win the nomination over a field that included three sitting Governors, six former Governors, four sitting Senators, and one former Senator is unprecedented. And for a candidate to win the election against an opponent who on the eve of the election led in national polls by three percentage point and who was judged to have an 84% chance of winning is mind-boggling. The fact that Mr. Trump won by small margins in a relatively small number of precincts he was not expected to win fuels speculation of vote-tampering. So too does the confirmed Russian hacking of election systems in 39 states. The oft-expressed claim by the GOP that those hacks only targeted voter registration records is simply ludicrous. The outlines of an illegitimate election are clear.

The wheels of American justice turn slowly, especially when the Party that controls both Houses of Congress has a vested interest in gumming up the works. And while there are mechanisms for dealing with violations of election laws and a process for removing a President guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, whatever those might be, there is no Constitutional provision for dealing with a fraudulent election. Some might suggest that the 25th Amendment could be invoked but if the election was tainted, so too is the entire chain of succession provided for in that Amendment. Rather, I propose the following:

The Democratic National Committee and other interested parties bring suit against the Federal Election Commission challenging the legitimacy of the election. The matter would go to the Supreme Court which could, if the evidence were compelling, order the results of the election voided and the Trump administration, in its entirely, removed from office. At this point, the House of Representatives could elect an interim president to serve until a new election is held. It is worth nothing that nothing in the Constitution requires a popular vote for the President. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution provides that each state choose Electors by whatever means its legislature directs. For that matter, nothing in the Constitution requires that the Electors from each state vote unanimously or that their votes reflect the results of the election. Assuming that having the interim President serve until 2021 is not desirable, that leaves several possibilities.

1)     The Electoral College empaneled in 2016 could be reconvened to elect a new president and vice president to serve out the term. This has the advantage of being quick. However, the legitimacy of Electors chosen in a fraudulent election could be in doubt.

2)     The states could be directed to appoint a new College of Electors to elect a new president and vice president to serve out the term. Again, this could be done fairly quickly. However, the direct selection of the Electoral College by the state legislatures, while Constitutional, would be unprecedented and almost certainly controversial.  

3)      A new presidential election could be scheduled for 2018. This is the option I call The Great American Reset. Henceforth presidential elections would be held on even-numbered years not divisible by four.

After that, when the disaster of the Trump election is behind us, perhaps the Congress will see fit to propose a Constitutional Amendment reforming our badly flawed system for electing presidents, a system that is far too easy for a hostile foreign power to subvert. Naturally, I have an opinion of how that system should function, but that is a different post.

Lone wolf or … ?

What makes last week’s shooting of a member of Congress in Alexandria noteworthy is that it was committed by a self-proclaimed liberal, as does its occurring just as the Trump administration is lawyering up to fight criminal charges from obstruction of justice to financial crimes to treason. As a rule, I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories but in light of the increasingly compelling evidence of Russian covert activities in the United States on behalf of Trump and his cronies one cannot dismiss out of hand the possibility that this was just such an action.

Consider the following:

1)     James Hodgkinson’s Facebook page, which I looked at before it was taken down, was plastered with photos of Bernie Sanders, to be sure, but his timeline contained no posts by anyone but him. That alone is unusual, but so is the fact that he appears to have posted only about a comment per month. Someone as rabidly anti-Trump as he is said to have been, would, it seems to me, have been far more outspoken. Does this suggest that the page is fake?

2)     He claimed to have volunteered with the Sanders campaign in Illinois, but a spokesperson for that campaign said that they had no record of him whatsoever.

3)     Then there is the matter of photos. I have seen no dated photos of him more than a couple of weeks old. How likely is a political activist to avoid any photographs during the entire campaign?

4)     Finally, he made a point of asking whether the team practicing there were Democrats or Republicans, yet he had a list of Republican members of Congress whom he would have been expected to recognize.

Granted, none of these curious circumstances prove anything. He might well have been exactly what the media are reporting him to be. Yet, there are enough questions surrounding Mr. Hodgkinson to give one pause.

Saving America

The 2016 election will certainly be remembered as unique in American history. Never before has a U.S. election been so obviously tainted by foreign interference. The actions of  Russian intelligence to help elect their favored candidate is as egregious as that of Allen Dulles’s 1950’s CIA in Iran and elsewhere. Karmic irony aside, there is much to be learned from the events leading up to the November 8th debacle. Much of what went wrong can be laid at the feet of the Founding Fathers who created a muddled electoral system that has not been updated to reflect the changing realities of the America polity. As has unfortunately become the norm, dark money sowed doubt and outright falsehood among the electorate. But the real responsibility for losing a shoo-in election to a totally unqualified autocrat belongs to the inept leadership of the Democratic Party. Although repairing the damage will take decades, the Party needs to take immediate steps to retake the country from the hands of the wealthiest 1% of us who control the current Republican junta.

Unfortunately, there is little prospect that the fundamental flaws in the U.S. electoral system will be addressed anytime soon. People in states like Wyoming, Delaware, and Alaska like having three times the votes of those living in California, Texas, and New York. And it would take a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College: a steep road indeed. The current primary system is a joke that allows Republicans in the South, through “open” primaries, to select Democratic candidates. Caucuses give extraordinary power to a very small number of voters in insignificant states. (In 2016 caucus turnout was well under 10% while primaries drew about one in three eligible voters.) And the idea that New Hampshire should be a filter for candidates is preposterous. Sadly, we are stuck with this insane, undemocratic system so we need to make the best of it.

If past elections teach us anything, it is that voter turnout is important. Since 2000, overall participation has not varied all that much: in presidential years between 55% and 62% went to the polls, in mid-term elections only around 40% did. However, there is interesting information in the demographic details. In presidential election years 1988 through 2004, turnout among blacks lagged that of whites by 4 to 14 percentage points, with the disparity decreasing over time. When Barack Obama was on the ticket in 2008 and 2012, that disparity reversed with blacks out-participating whites by five points in his first election and by six in his second. In 2016, black turnout dropped back to its historic second place but by only two points. This suggests two things: 1) voter enthusiasm matters and 2) once people start voting, they are more likely to continue to do so.

What does this mean for Democrats? In my opinion, it means stop trying to be Republican-lite. It means appealing to the diversity of voters who make up the Democratic Party. In my mind, there is little doubt that John McCain would have beaten Hillary Clinton in 2008. It is not that Ms. Clinton was a bad candidate, despite the very real right-wing conspiracy arrayed against her; it is that she did not excite the electorate. It is arguable whether Bernie Sanders would have outpolled Donald Trump, but I think it fairly certain that had Ms. Clinton chosen Julian Castro or another Latino as her running mate, she would be president today. Barack Obama was elected by the votes of people who had never seen a reason to vote before. The next Democratic president will ride a similar wave. Although Clinton was the first woman to run as the candidate of a major party, her sex was simply not enough to motivate people to go to the polls. In an ideal world, identity politics would not exist, but this is not an ideal world.

Since 1992, the Democratic Party has been drifting ever farther to the right in pursuit of the mythical “undecided voter.” If the phenomenon of Bernie Sanders says anything, it is that Democrats, especially young ones, want the Party to move back to the left and to champion the ideal of the common good. And this is not a position that has appeal only in the large coastal cities. A century ago, the bulwark of progressivism was solidly in the Midwest. It is a mistake, in my mind, for Democrats to allow evangelical Christians to define rural America. And it is a bigger mistake for us to allow the mean-spirited right wing to define what it means to be a liberal. If one were to listen to them, “liberal” means taxing white people to support lazy black people. Obviously, that is ridiculous. Yet, enough Democrats buy into that trope to shy away from identifying as liberals, preferring to call themselves progressives. Instead, we should be proud to call ourselves champions of freedom, which is what “liberal” means.

The debacle of the Trump presidency has brought the US to a crossroads. Either we liberals get our act together and take back the country from the greedy 1% or we watch our legacy of freedom and democracy crumble into autocracy and fascism. And, no, that is not an exaggeration. In order to restore sanity to the union, Democrats need to take several concrete steps:

1)     Embrace liberalism and European-style democratic socialism. Bernie Sanders proved that this is popular with a wide range of voters

2)     Develop fresh young talent from across the demographic spectrum. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Hillary Clinton, as worthy as they may be, are of my generation, the post-WW II baby boomers. Our time has passed and we need to look to new generation.

3)     Educate voters that mid-term Federal and State elections are as important, and perhaps more important, than the quadrennial presidential contest. State legislatures draw Congressional districts. Taking as many state legislative seats as possible in 2018 and 2020 will determine the balance of power for a decade. The upcoming mid-term election is particularly important because the 116th Congress will quite likely determine whether the corrupt Trump regime will be impeached and removed from office.  

4)     Nominate blacks, Latinos, Asians, and other minorities for office. In 2016, only 45% of Hispanics voted. Latinos make up more than 25% of the eligible electorate in California, Texas, and New Mexico, roughly 20% in Florida, Arizona, and Nevada, and more that 10% in New York, New Jersey, Colorado, Connecticut, and Illinois. Increasing Latino participation in the electoral process to the same level as that among whites and blacks would make Democrats unbeatable.

The big difference between us Democrats and the Republicans, is that we welcome the diversity that is modern America. We need to change our slates of candidates to reflect that. We believe that we are all a community and have a responsibility to look after one another. We must articulate that credo in the face of right wing lies and enthusiastically embrace the democratic socialism that brought the country out of the Great Depression. But most of all, we need to get off our butts and VOTE!

Trump’s coup d’etat

Much of what the Trump administration has done to date makes very little sense when judged against the normal transition from government by one party to that of the other. Unlike previous newcomers to power, they have run roughshod over outgoing political appointees as well as Civil Service professionals. They have reversed Obama initiatives no matter how insignificant and benign. Their legislative agenda are incoherent except in their zeal to roll back anything enacted under the previous administration. Accompanying this mean-spirited and childish behavior is the vicious outbreak of taunting and hate from Trump’s white, lower-class, poorly educated supporters. It is as if an alien power has taken over our country.

Aside from the reality of Russian interference in our election and apparent leverage over the Trump White House there is a more fundamental character to what is happening. The fact is that Trump and his followers do not see the last election as a peaceful Constitutional transfer of power but as a coup d’etat in which white Christian Americans have retaken their country from the clutches of a black Muslim interloper from Kenya, or Hawaii, or some such foreign place. They believe that they have saved the country from a murderous woman hell-bent on killing any who stand in her way. They gloat at having vanquished the hated “libtard snowflakes” and their fake news. The Confederacy has finally triumphed over the “librul” North.

Of course, the only coup was that of the very wealthy over ordinary Americans. The only walls that will be built will be those around Trump golf courses. The only jobs that will become available will be those of poorly paid illegal immigrants whose families are rent asunder; jobs that no American is willing to do. The hated Obamacare will be replaced by nothing but a multi-billion-dollar tax cut for the wealthy and corporations. Far from becoming “great again,” American’s slide from world preeminence, begun under Reagan, will be accelerated as the United States becomes irrelevant on the world stage. Already Trump has alienated our allies and made us the laughing stock of the world. His policies have emboldened North Korea and will almost certainly lead to Iran developing nuclear arms.

I don’t know what will happen. I may well not live to see the US recover from this debacle. I live in fear of a real coup by a military increasingly controlled by dominionist, evangelical officers. While I doubt that the US would even resort to gas ovens, I think that the prospect of concentration camps for enemies of the state is very real. But most of all, I worry about the economic collapse that Trump is so clearly driving the country toward. I fear that the American century is over and the powers of evil have overthrown our democracy. I mourn for the country whose uniform I once wore.

The slippery slope to fascism

Our esteemed State Senator, Fred Akshar, has just introduced into the New York Senate a truly frightening piece of legislation. If enacted it would make an attack on a law enforcement officer a hate crime. Not only is this entirely unnecessary, it is an affront to the US Constitution. The very basis of our polity is that we, the people, are the government. Setting police aside in a special protected class is a large step toward fascism and a police state. Furthermore, because Senator Akshar is himself a law enforcement officer himself, he has a conflict of interest and should recuse himself in any case.

For the record, I do not hate police and I believe that those who attack them should be aggressively prosecuted.

I urge everyone to contact Senator Akshar and tell him to withdraw this misguided, fascist legislation.

Déjà vu, WW I edition

This week, PBS is running a three-part series commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the United States entry into World War I. Called The Great War it is airing locally on WSKG as part of the on-going series “The American Experience.” The second episode which ran last night is particularly germane to the situation we face in the country today.

Notwithstanding his reelection campaign slogan “he kept us out of war,” President Woodrow Wilson lost no time after his second inauguration on March 4, 1917 in doing exactly the opposite, obtaining from Congress a declaration of war against Germany on April 6. There is ample evidence that the Wilson administration had been secretly ignoring Congressionally mandated US neutrality in the war since its beginning in August 1914. The British ocean liner RMS Lusitania, sunk by a German U-boat in May 1915 was carrying a concealed load of arms and ammunition which exploded leading to the ship’s rapid demise. But Wilson was faced with mobilizing a country in which the largest ethnic group was German to fight against their former homeland. He built his case on a number of incidents including the sinking of the Lusitania, in hindsight clearly allowed under the rules of war. Others included the sabotage in 1915 of a weapons depot in New Jersey called Black Tom and an explosion in the Kingsland munitions factory, also in New Jersey, in 1916. Although those responsible for the first remain unknown, an arbitration commission concluded in 1931 that the latter was not the work of any German agent. The last straw, perhaps, was the infamous Zimmerman Telegram in which the German foreign minister urged Mexico to launch a war against the US in return for which the victorious Germans would return to them much of the US Southwest. That telegram was supposedly intercepted and decrypted by the British who shared it with US. Many scholars believe that it was, in fact, a British forgery intended to push the US toward intervention, a position I support.

Having brought the US into what was a very unpopular war, Wilson established the Committee on Public Information, also known as the Creel Committee after its chairman George Creel, a former journalist who was a key player in Wilson’s 1916 reelection campaign. (It is no stretch to call him Wilson’s Stephen Bannon.) The CPI, as it was called, launched a massive propaganda campaign to drum up support for the war. Almost overnight the country was virtually papered with vicious depictions of Germans as brutes and barbarians. Needless to say, the truth was not an important part of the campaign. World War I was a particularly brutal conflict and all the combatants engaged in atrocities against civilians. Whether the Germans were worse than the French and British, or indeed the Americans, is obscured by the fact that, as German philosopher Walter Benjamin later wrote, “History is written by the victors.” (Often erroneously attributed to Winston Churchill.) In any case, anti-German hysteria reached such a fever pitch that many German-Americans, some of whose families had been here since colonial times, were forced to change their names to avoid threats and violence. Citizens were encouraged to report their neighbors if they suspected them of disloyalty, wasting food, or even of questioning the conduct of the war.

It was also during Wilson’s second term that the infamous Espionage Act and Sedition Act were passed. Enacted on June 15, 1917 and May 16, 1918, respectively, these were the most serious attacks on American civil liberties since the Civil War. Although the Sedition Act which made it illegal to speak ill of the government was repealed in 1920, the Espionage Act is still in effect and is routinely used to prosecute whistleblowers.

The legacy of World War I is complicated. The United States emerged from the conflict as a world power. The unreasonably harsh terms imposed on the losing Germans almost certainly let to the rise of Hitler. And the erosion of the basic protections of the US Constitution was established. On the other hand, Wilson’s deal with the powerful anti-war women’s lobby greatly advanced the cause of women’s suffrage which was realized by the passage of the 19th Amendment adopted in time for the 1920 election. In many ways, it was the origin of the United States we know today. Unfortunately, the Wilson administration showed how utterly fragile our civil liberties are and how easily they can be subsumed to militarism. Donald Trump, while far from being in the same class intellectually as Wilson, shows all of the latter’s disregard for those civil liberties. His irresponsible rhetoric has led to discrimination and violence against Americans of Middle Eastern and South Asian origin. His rabid supports routinely threaten and harass those they consider “libtards” disloyal to Trump. We must learn about the abuses of the Wilson administration because they are happening again.  

Consolidate and save

People in New York, especially those in the fifty or so counties called Upstate New York, love to complain about how high their taxes are. Granted, taxes in the state are among the highest in the country but that average is somewhat skewed by New York City. There are some good reasons why taxes are higher here than in southern states. Our climate makes highway maintenance much more expensive than in areas without the freeze/thaw cycles we have or the seven feet of snow most of us see every year. Our public schools are among the best in the country. And we take care of one another through various social programs. The deindustrialization of the Northeast has hit New York State particularly hard, significantly reducing the tax base, especially upstate. Some of these things we have no control over, others we choose for the greater good. But at least some of the reason our taxes are so high is that we stubbornly cling an antiquated governmental structure.

Take Broome County as an example. Situated on the Pennsylvania border about halfway between New York City and Buffalo the county is home to just under 200,000 people on a modest 716 square miles. Most of the county is rural with about three quarters of the population concentrated in the greater Binghamton area along the Susquehanna River valley. It is whiter than the country or the state: 87% vs. 70% for NY and 77% for the US. And it is poorer with 17.7% living in poverty compared to 15.4% for the state and 13.5% for the country. Only 6.3% of the population is foreign born which is much less than 22.5% of New Yorkers born abroad and the 13.2% of all Americans who were. Still, with an education level nearly the same as the national average, although a bit below that of the state as a whole, Broome County is fairly typical of Upstate NY.

One might think that Broome County would be managed by two governments: one city and one county. No, in fact we have 25 local governments: one county, one city, 16 towns, and seven villages. You might expect that Broome County’s 30,000 elementary and high school students would be accommodated by a single school district. Again, no. We have 12 public school districts plus a thirteenth that provides some shared services. But surely you say, the county needs only two local law enforcement agencies: city police and county sheriff. Hardly, we have five police departments not including the Sheriff’s Department, the Binghamton City police, or State University police. How about fire departments? Forty. Rescue squads? Twelve.

Let us look at some detailed numbers. All these data come from the Official Broome County website: gobroomecounty.com. Note that these are 2010 population numbers. Since then the population of the county has dropped by nearly 3% but, of course, the government has not shrunk.

The total number of elected and appointed officials at the county level is roughly 120. That includes the eleven county executive and legislative officers, 44 department heads, 47 judges and other officials, and 19 legislators. That comes to one county official for every 1,658 residents. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. When all the local governments are added in, there is one official for every 425 county residents.

In New York, counties are subdivided into cities and towns. Towns may incorporate villages as well. The cities and towns in Broome County, along with their populations and number of officials, are shown below. Urban areas are indicated by an asterisk.

Jurisdiction

Population

Officials

Residents/official

City of Binghamton*

47,376

44

1,077

Town of Barker

2,732

19

144

Town of Binghamton

4,942

14

353

Town of Chenango*

11,252

16

703

Town of Colesville

5,232

15

349

Town of Conklin

5,441

14

389

Town of Dickinson*

5,278

16

330

Town of Fenton

6,674

15

445

Town of Kirkwood

5,857

15

390

Town of Lisle

2,751

16

172

Town of Maine

5,377

15

358

Town of Nanticoke

1,672

16

105

Town of Sanford

2,407

15

160

Town of Triangle

2,946

12

246

Town of Union*

56,346

19

2,966

Town of Vestal*

28,043

20

1,402

Town of Windsor

6,274

17

369

County total

200,600

351

572

 

In addition to these are the seven villages in the county.

Village

Population

Officials

Residents/official

Deposit

819

15

55

Endicott

13,392

16

837

Johnson City

15,174

14

1,084

Lisle

320

5

64

Port Dickinson

1,641

12

137

Whitney Point

964

10

96

Windsor

916

7

131

Village totals

33,226

79

421

 

In a rational state, urban parts of the county would be consolidated into the City of Binghamton, bringing its population to roughly 148,000 which could be served easily by the 115 officials currently employed by the jurisdictions that it would comprise. The rural remainder of the county could surely be managed by a small fraction of the 183 officials we taxpayers are currently paying for in those areas—a total of one for every 286 residents.

Reorganizing the county to more closely resemble those in the south, which area residents point to as examples of great government, would trim more than 200 redundant positions supported by our taxes. Consolidating the school systems as well as police and fire departments would reduce the burden by another couple of dozen. Note that this does not mean closing schools or fire stations or police stations. It means eliminating unnecessary administrative overhead. County high schools would continue to compete in sports. Paid and volunteer fire departments would continue to work together. And the same number of police would be on the streets. The only thing that would change is that petty fiefdoms that have been in the same hands for generations would be cut. No one will miss them.

It is hard to tell what the actual savings would be, but they would be substantial. Maybe the people of Broome County do not mind paying a few hundred dollars a year for redundant government but at least they need to know what their quaint 18th century government really costs.

The cat

It has been said that cats domesticated themselves. They discovered that if they caught mice around human habitations they would be allowed to share the warmth of their fires. They learned that, as large as we are, we humans were not inclined to eat them. As time went on, humans developed agriculture, raising grain that attracted rodents, making cats even more useful. And those cats thrived in warm barns. A few were even invited into the humans’ homes where their duties came to include providing companionship. As people left the farms cats accompanied them, having largely abandoned the pretense of being useful as mousers.  Today, cats have come full circle and have domesticated us.

There are many reasons, I suppose, why we like cats. They do, on occasion, rid our living spaces of the odd mouse or bug…or bird. It has been suggested that their wide faces, large eyes, and physical size remind us of human newborns, triggering our parental instincts. And they do exhibit behaviors that we interpret as affection…and which might actually be such. Who can resist a cat cuddled up in one’s lap purring contentedly? Granted, they can be a bit of a nuisance in the morning when they think they will expire from starvation if we do not leap out of bed and feed them. But there is a sort of pleasure to be had from a cat walking up and down one’s body and nibbling at one’s elbow.  I even think that their bladder massages may prevent kidney stones. Anyway, who wants to waste a perfectly good morning in bed?

Cats have earned places in our literature from the ridiculous to the sublime. The Cat in Hat and Puss in Boots anthropomorphize them into children’s heroes. Alice in Wonderland makes them smile enigmatically. Poet T. S. Eliot’s practical cats became Broadway stars. Of course, some writers seem not have lived with cats. Shakespeare, for example, rhapsodized in Hamlet about man being the paragon of animals. Ok, paragon, let’s see you jump to the top of the refrigerator in one effortless bound and lick your butt. And I am quite sure that Carl Sandburg never had a cat if he could write about “fog roll[ing] in on little cat feet.” Cf, the previous paragraph about cats’ morning ritual, to say nothing of the sound of a cat galloping playfully around the house.

Nor should we forget the role of cats in technology. Would the internet exist without cat memes? Would auto-correct have been developed absent cats prancing helpfully over keyboards? Would nightlights have been invented had someone not tripped over a cat in the dark? And what purpose do vacuum cleaners serve besides picking up cat fur. I could mention tennis rackets as well, but let’s not go there.

Whether we love them, as most of us do, or hate them as do nasty cretins, cats are part of our lives. No animal has so successfully trained another to care for them. No other so perfectly blends magnanimity and disdain. But perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from our feline masters is never to act against your own self-interest. No cat would ever have voted for Trump. They are smarter than that.