Monday, April 23, 2012


     Reading of the election difficulties of two long time US Senators, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Oren Hatch of Utah renewed a nagging thought.  From where are the new "Lions" coming?  Generally, and this is a purely subjective take, the quality of upper chamber, the US Senate, has been in steep decline over the last decade.
       There was a time when men and women of conviction and deep political differences could legislate. There was a time when our Federal legislature was not mired in a morass of gridlock, petty interests, cheap hustles, and political gamesmanship above all else.  
        If you doubt that, then regard those times in our history when we recovered from war, helped Japan and Europe rebuild and re-tool, led the way in manufacturing, education, medical research, science, when the economy grew, and there was a sense of prosperity and hope.  It took an obliging, motivating, visionary Senate and even House.
       Here's a way to spend a few educational moments.
       Some of the names will recall history lessons. Others will remind you of people of skill. Here's just a few names, from our era, to say nothing of the historic Henry Clays or William Jennings Bryans, etc.
       Everett Dirksen, John Foster Dulles, Margret Chase Smith, Lyndon Johnson, Estes Kefauver, Barry Goldwater,
Mike Mansfield, Stu Symington, Alben Barkley, Clifford Case, Jacob Javits, William Promire, John Tower, Edward Kennedy, Abe Ribicoff, George McGovern, Birch Bayh, Edward Brooke,
Mark Hatfield, Harold Hughes, Robert Dole, Richard Schwieker, Robert Taft, Lowell Weicker, Hubert Humphrey, Sam Nunn, et al.
      These people were not saints, nor necessarily towering luminaries, but they were legislators, capable of working, achieving compromise and serving the interest of the Republic and the Senate.  Do you think some of the newly elected, or those circling to get in are of this calibre?  Perhaps some are unless they come in as "true believers" in an ideology over the common good of all. 

   Our unique village said good bye to one of our unique 
citizens, Red Holloway a jazz and blues legend.  Here is a 
five minute video with just a few of the highlights from
what was an extraordinary jazz and blues tribute Sunday
       I shot this with a IPhone, so you are not going to see
a master production, but it will give you a taste.
      I suggest you click the youtube icon and watch it in a larger format

     And here in less than 30 seconds is a glimpse of 
the famed Morro Rock-one of the Great Icons of the 
central coast.

See you down the trail.


  1. So many of the politicians you listed were statesmen who understood that governing is the art of the possible, and that always means compromise. Today, people get elected with an agenda, and compromise is a dirty word. These people should read their history to learn why our Capital is in the South.

  2. I have conflicting reactions regarding your commentary about the comparative quality of today's political leaders who serve our Republic. Yes, the group of true statesmen and women that you cited is impressive, as would be a similar list from any era of American political history. Yes, we would benefit from political compromise, and from leadership that transcends party affiliation. I wonder, however, if your fondness of, and respect for, these legislative lions has been tainted by selective memory and the relentless march of time.

    Tom, I know you understand better than most our propensity to glamorize and sanitize earlier times: The Gay 90s, the Roaring 20s, the Turbulent 60s, the Bland 80s. More often than not we prefer to digest history's complex cultural, political and sometimes troubling milestones in more palatable, easily swallowed servings. After all, the Native Americans, as an example, weren't "brutally coerced" into living on reservation lands, they were "naturally absorbed" by the relentless creep of Manifest Destiny.

    Consider the decade of the 1950s, lauded as a simpler, more innocent time when suburban streets were paved with gold, rivers flowed with waters of wholesomeness and the children - all living in nuclear families, of course - were (with apologies to Garrison Keillor) all above average. This is nonsense, and yet the Golden Decade label persists. Why? Because we remember what we want the way that we want, and conveniently discard the troubling, darker shadows of - in the case of the 50s - persistent racism, unacknowledged sexism and homophobia, nuclear proliferation, the Red Scare, emerging drug abuse, etc.

    A micro example of such sanitizing is the use of profanity and its introduction into everyday language in the United States. Thanks to television and the movies (and our selective memories) I suspect most people believe that crude references to bodily functions, sexuality and coarse invective were absent from America's lexicon prior to say, 1950.

    Not so.

    In his book, "Puppetmaster - The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover", Richard Hack chronicles (with historical confirmation) a conversation from the 1920s during which a highly placed government official uses today's street term for oral sex. My point? If you were to ask a hundred people if the word "c___sucker" was a common pejorative heard in Foggy Bottom during the Roaring 20s, I'd bet all would say no. This example isn't an isolated incident. Many terms used in that era to identify and humiliate homosexuals are the same ones carelessly thrown about today. And yet a majority of Americans (those who would take time for such a consideration) would be surprised, if not shocked, to learn, for example, that casual use of the "F" word is not a particularly recent phenomenon.

    I must, however, agree enthusiastically with your observation that today's political "leaders" are a clueless band of shallow egoists who are better suited for clownish entertainment than any form of statesmanship. Rick Santorum? Harry Reid?


    Sadly, those men and women best suited to assist our nation through troubling times are disinclined to enter the arena - and with good reason. Who would willingly expose themselves to the meat grinder of cable talk and social media examining Every. Thing. - a pillorying justified by "the public's right to know"? Until the excess of irresponsible "journalism" is reined in (just one of several contributing factors), the nation's political discourse will continue to suffer, and with consequences too troubling to consider. And, years from now our children, and their children, and their children's children will sanitize and selectively remember the glorious days when Newt Gingrich and George Bush and Bill Clinton and Chuck Schumer were America's true statesmen.

    1. Neal-
      Excellent and thoughtful response and analysis. While it may seem I was speaking fondly of this "lions", I am really more fond of their ability to legislate, to accomplish some forward momentum and to function as something other than shills or zealots for an ideology, political perspective or point of view. No period in our history is as
      pristine as we pretend, I understand. However of that list, the majority were able to negotiate, debate, even compromise and either authored or helped to create a
      legislative record of some accomplishment.

  3. I am disappointed in these fine senators for hanging on so long without fostering and educating their own replacements.


  4. Yes, our current crop of senators are for the most part weeds. Of course, we must remember that there was a time when senators were not publicly elected, but rather elected by their state legislatures, which the 17th Amendment to the Constitution changed (1913), resulting in the patronage elections of some pretty onerous characters. (See Mark Twain on that.) Which isn't to downplay the character of the characters in our time's senate. They are a weak lot. Only the current House members should be more ashamed with their lock-step Right-Wing voting, no matter what is best for the nation. The only cure, as I see it, is publicly funded campaigns, which should be made brief, say 6 weeks. Of course, they'd have to vote for that.