'A child's imagination'

"The Beast and Me," the current show at the Chandler Gallery, in Cambridge, is, the gallery says, ““replete with scenes of a child's imagination. In their execution, the sculptures and drawings by Leslie Schomp, Andrea Scofield Olmstead and Mary Kenny feel lifelike, but their subjects are touched with the whimsy, curiosity and tenderness common in childhood fantasies.   ”In one sculpture, a woman in a white gown wraps her arms around the waist of a large brown bear, his claws hovering tentatively over her shoulders; it's an embrace or slow dance frozen in time. In another, a small lion rests gently on a boy's head as he closes his eyes. His expression is so tranquil that he seems lost in a dream. ‘‘

"The Beast and Me," the current show at the Chandler Gallery, in Cambridge, is, the gallery says, ““replete with scenes of a child's imagination. In their execution, the sculptures and drawings by Leslie Schomp, Andrea Scofield Olmstead and Mary Kenny feel lifelike, but their subjects are touched with the whimsy, curiosity and tenderness common in childhood fantasies.

”In one sculpture, a woman in a white gown wraps her arms around the waist of a large brown bear, his claws hovering tentatively over her shoulders; it's an embrace or slow dance frozen in time. In another, a small lion rests gently on a boy's head as he closes his eyes. His expression is so tranquil that he seems lost in a dream. ‘‘

'Try Common Sense'

— Graphic by Olga Generozova

— Graphic by Olga Generozova

Commentary has begun on Philip K. Howard’s new book, Try Common Sense, available Jan. 29.

TIME highlights it as a "Book to Read": "As the rhetoric between American political parties grows more tense, Philip K. Howard offers a solution based in practicality."

Reason.com says the book "offers up concrete proposals not just to reform government but to route around it and get on with our lives." Listen to the recent Reason Podcast interview with Philip here.

Leading thinkers such as Jonathan Haidt, Former Sen. Alan Simpson, Mary Ann Glendon and George Gilder have strongly endorsed the book.

On the other hand...a review by Mark Green in this Sunday's New York Times attacks the book, asking: "Is now really the best time for a jeremiad against 'regulation'?" Because the book attacks left-wing ideologies (as well as those on the right), it's perhaps not surprising that Green, a prominent left-wing partisan, doesn't deal with the actual themes of the book - including how to make regulation practical. 
More to come soon...

On Jan. 30, Philip will be discussing Try Common Sense at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public.

On Feb. 19, Common Good and The Center on Capitalism and Society at Columbia University will host a morning forum, Bureaucracy vs. Democracy, discussing the need to reboot legacy bureaucracies. Details will follow, but you can RSVP now by emailing rmgiverin@commongood.org.

Tim Faulkner: Trump still pushing for offshore seismic surveying for oil and gas


Via ecoRI News (ecori.org)

Despite the government shutdown, federal agencies are moving forward with permitting for seismic airgun surveying and the offshore drilling for natural gas and oil that may follow.

Press liaisons are furloughed, so it’s difficult to know the status of pending permits before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Department of Interior.

Nevertheless, the five exploration companies approved for sonic airgun blasting are still expected to hear from the Department of Interior this month, after which they can immediately begin surveying.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) is processing paperwork, as more than half of the agency’s 803 employees remain on the job, paid by “non-lapsing funds,” according to BSEE.

“During the shut-down BSEE will continue critical permitting and oversight activities associated with energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf, so as to allow the bureau to continue to support the sustained exploration and development of the Outer Continental Shelf during the shut-down,” according to a Dec. 17, 2018 BSEE statement.

Blasts from seismic airguns disrupt many aquatic ecosystems and harm sea mammals such as North Atlantic right whales, dolphins, and sea turtles, according to research. During surveys, ships fire underwater sonic blasts for hours and even days, sending sonic booms with 100,000 times the intensity of a jet engine thousands of miles through the ocean. The noise disrupts feeding, mating, and echolocation used by marine mammals. A 2017 study found that the sonic booms decimate vital sea life such as zooplankton.

Shortly before President Trump took office, in January 2017, BOEM denied the same airgun activity because of potential harm to marine life. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reversed the decisions months later, saying that sea animals can recover from any harm.

Several environmental groups are suing NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service for allowing fossil-fuel exploration companies to conduct the seismic airgun activities and thereby violate protections like the Endangered Species Act.

In Rhode Island, members of the General Assembly joined elected officials from seven other states by sponsoring legislation that bans offshore drilling. Sen. Dawn Euer, D-Newport, and Rep. Lauren Carson, D-Newport, are expected to introduce matching bills in the Senate and House.

“The state and our institutions have invested incredible resources on forward-thinking coastal policy initiatives. Opening up coastal waters to offshore drilling is short-sighted and puts our economy at great risk,” Euer wrote in a press statement.

The legislation would prohibit oil drilling within state waters, which extends 3 nautical miles offshore. The bill would also ban the construction of oil platforms and port terminals and the installation of any equipment related to oil production within the state. In 2018, the same bill died in committee in both the House and Senate.

Similar legislation is being filed in Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Oregon.

Massachusetts Rep. Dylan Fernandez, D-Woods Hole, filed a bill that bans oil and gas drilling off the coast of the Bay State.

In Washington, D.C., bipartisan steps were recently taken to stymie Trump’s plans for offshore exploration and drilling. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., introduced a bill that prohibits the Department of the Interior from issuing leases for the exploration, development, or production of oil or natural gas off the New England coast. Other representatives introduced bills protecting the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and the Arctic.

“We’re not going to sit by and watch as President Trump plunders our oceans for his friends in the big oil companies,” Cicilline said.

Tim Faulkner is an ecoRI News journalist.

Don Pesci: Hartford is the canary in the Conn. mineshaft

Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum, one of America’s oldest and best museums. The financially and sociologically stressed city still has many impressive cultural institutions, mostly dating back to its long economic heyday as a manufacturing center and “The Insurance Capital of the World,’’ when it had a large comfortable middle class and quite a few rich folks, too. Mark Twain probably was its most famous resident.

Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum, one of America’s oldest and best museums. The financially and sociologically stressed city still has many impressive cultural institutions, mostly dating back to its long economic heyday as a manufacturing center and “The Insurance Capital of the World,’’ when it had a large comfortable middle class and quite a few rich folks, too. Mark Twain probably was its most famous resident.

According to a story in a Hartford paper, the city’s mayor, Luke Bronin, a rising star in state politics, “declined to comment on the dispute” between Hartford teachers and their nominal patron, the Hartford Board of Education. The dispute is about contracts and the inability of the people of Hartford to finance years of overspending.

A few months ago, Bronin, unable to meet his contractual obligations, sought a bailout from state taxpayers. Bronin leapt from the Malloy administration frying pan, where he served as then Gov. Dannel Malloy’s chief counsel, directly into the fire as mayor of a city teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and his former boss was only too happy to bail out his protege by flooding the city with state tax balm.

The Hartford school board is seeking concession from teacher union representatives, and the concessions will, if ever they bear fruit, make future state bailouts less burdensome to an all-Democrat political hegemon that may, under the enlightened administration of newly elected Gov. Ned Lamont, be less inclined to bail out Connecticut cities teetering precariously on the edge of bankruptcy.

The concessions that the Hartford Board of Education wishes to wrest from its teachers' unions are curative, which is to say they will help in overcoming crippling future deficits, while state bailouts are palliative; they simply put off an effective remedy until a more favorable moment – which, of course, never arrives. “Among the concessions sought by the school board,” we are told, “is a reduction in sick days from 20 to 15, two years of pay freezes, followed by a one percent increase in the third year, and a switch from a preferred provider medical plan to a health savings account.” In addition, “the board suggested eliminating a higher tier of pay for workers who have earned a master’s degree plus 60 additional credits, and reducing the number of union officers who are detached, with pay, from day to day district work from three to one.”

All these remedies reduce the municipal cost of labor, and it is the cost of labor that has made beggars of our state’s larger cities.

The state itself should take a lesson from this moment. The cost of labor in state government also produces the same set of seemingly intractable problems. Connecticut’s recurring deficits cannot be traced to an insufficiency of taxes, which have tripled in the course of four governors.

The crunch is coming, and it may arrive on Lamont’s lap during his first term. He would be wise not to pet the tiger. There was plenty of petting during Lamont’s first speech as governor: “I am a strong believer in labor, and now is the time to show that collective bargaining works in tough times, as well as good times. As our liabilities continue to grow faster than our assets, together we have to make the changes necessary to ensure that retirement security is a reality for our younger, as well as our older, state employees, and do that without breaking the bank.”

There are more curves in those few sentences than there are in the usual Connecticut cow path. Will Lamont present in his budget a straight path to prosperity – or not. The price of government in Connecticut has become too costly; how will Lamont reduce it so that the expenditures of the father will not be visited upon the sons, “yea even to the third and fourth generation.”

Executive director of AFSCME Council 4 Jody Barr and other labor leaders met with Lamont at the governor’s mansion a week after he had been sworn in as governor, and how did that go? Barr emerged from the meeting hopeful, according to an account by Christine Stuart of CTNewJunkie, “Barr said the governor has invited labor to be part of the process… his members have participated in the transition and are offering up ideas on how to improve state government… He said they will be at the table, but that it won’t a table where they negotiate more concessions… We’re all hopeful he’s going to bridge this fiscal thing,” Barr said. “It gives us hope we can get through it.”

One cannot drive a straight line through such oracular pronouncements.

Sometime in mid-February, Lamont will be presenting his budget to the General Assembly. If the governor’s bargaining session with union heads over contract negotiations were to be concluded BEFORE that date, the twists and turns in Lamont’s pre-contractual pronouncements will have been straightened out before the legislature decides to sign off on a budget document that very well may visit the expenditures of the fathers and mothers upon the sons and daughters of Connecticut, yea even to the third and fourth generation.

It’s perfectly reasonable for a state to give a low approval rating to a governor who deals in such budget necromancy. Dannel Malloy’s approval rating on his retirement from office, we now know, was 20 percent, the second lowest in the nation. Lamont tells us that he doesn't to wish to lose his shot. If so, he'd better shoot straight.

Don Pesci is a Vernon, Conn.-based essayist.


Before the snowblowers

“Winter Blues,’’ by Nancy Spears Whitcomb

“Winter Blues,’’ by Nancy Spears Whitcomb

“Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, 
Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields, 
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air 
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven, 
And veils the farm-house at the garden’s end. 
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier’s feet 
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit 
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed 
In a tumultuous privacy of Storm.” 

— From Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “The Snow Storm’’

“Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyll,’’ by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

“The sun that brief December day 

Rose cheerless over hills of gray, 

And, darkly circled, gave at noon 

A sadder light than waning moon. 

Slow tracing down the thickening sky 

Its mute and ominous prophecy, 

A portent seeming less than threat, 

It sank from sight before it set. 

A chill no coat, however stout, 

Of homespun stuff could quite shut out, 

A hard, dull bitterness of cold, 

That checked, mid-vein, the circling race 

Of life-blood in the sharpened face, 

The coming of the snow-storm told. 

The wind blew east; we heard the roar 

Of Ocean on his wintry shore, 

And felt the strong pulse throbbing there 

Beat with low rhythm our inland air. 

Meanwhile we did our nightly chores,— 

Brought in the wood from out of doors, 

Littered the stalls, and from the mows 

Raked down the herd’s-grass for the cows; 

Heard the horse whinnying for his corn; 

And, sharply clashing horn on horn, 

Impatient down the stanchion rows 

The cattle shake their walnut bows; 

While, peering from his early perch 

Upon the scaffold’s pole of birch, 

The cock his crested helmet bent 

And down his querulous challenge sent. 

Unwarmed by any sunset light 

The gray day darkened into night, 

A night made hoary with the swarm 

And whirl-dance of the blinding storm, 

As zigzag, wavering to and fro, 

Crossed and recrossed the wingëd snow: 

And ere the early bedtime came 

The white drift piled the window-frame, 

And through the glass the clothes-line posts 

Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts. 

So all night long the storm roared on: 

The morning broke without a sun; 

In tiny spherule traced with lines 

Of Nature’s geometric signs, 

In starry flake, and pellicle, 

All day the hoary meteor fell; 

And, when the second morning shone, 

We looked upon a world unknown, 

On nothing we could call our own. 

Around the glistening wonder bent 

The blue walls of the firmament, 

No cloud above, no earth below,— 

A universe of sky and snow! 

The old familiar sights of ours 

Took marvellous shapes; strange domes and towers 

Rose up where sty or corn-crib stood, 

Or garden-wall, or belt of wood; 

A smooth white mound the brush-pile showed, 

A fenceless drift what once was road; 

The bridle-post an old man sat 

With loose-flung coat and high cocked hat; 

The well-curb had a Chinese roof; 

And even the long sweep, high aloof, 

In its slant splendor, seemed to tell 

Of Pisa’s leaning miracle. 

A prompt, decisive man, no breath 

Our father wasted: “Boys, a path!” 

Well pleased, (for when did farmer boy 

Count such a summons less than joy?) 

Our buskins on our feet we drew; 

With mittened hands, and caps drawn low, 

To guard our necks and ears from snow, 

We cut the solid whiteness through. 

And, where the drift was deepest, made 

A tunnel walled and overlaid 

With dazzling crystal: we had read 

Of rare Aladdin’s wondrous cave, 

And to our own his name we gave, 

With many a wish the luck were ours 

To test his lamp’s supernal powers. 

We reached the barn with merry din, 

And roused the prisoned brutes within. 

The old horse thrust his long head out, 

And grave with wonder gazed about; 

The cock his lusty greeting said, 

And forth his speckled harem led; 

The oxen lashed their tails, and hooked, 

And mild reproach of hunger looked; 

The hornëd patriarch of the sheep, 

Like Egypt’s Amun roused from sleep, 

Shook his sage head with gesture mute, 

And emphasized with stamp of foot. 

All day the gusty north-wind bore 

The loosening drift its breath before; 

Low circling round its southern zone, 

The sun through dazzling snow-mist shone. 

No church-bell lent its Christian tone 

To the savage air, no social smoke 

Curled over woods of snow-hung oak. 

A solitude made more intense 

By dreary-voicëd elements, 

The shrieking of the mindless wind, 

The moaning tree-boughs swaying blind, 

And on the glass the unmeaning beat 

Of ghostly finger-tips of sleet. 

Beyond the circle of our hearth 

No welcome sound of toil or mirth 

Unbound the spell, and testified 

Of human life and thought outside. 

We minded that the sharpest ear 

The buried brooklet could not hear, 

The music of whose liquid lip 

Had been to us companionship, 

And, in our lonely life, had grown 

To have an almost human tone. 

As night drew on, and, from the crest 

Of wooded knolls that ridged the west, 

The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank 

From sight beneath the smothering bank, 

We piled, with care, our nightly stack 

Of wood against the chimney-back,— 

The oaken log, green, huge, and thick, 

And on its top the stout back-stick; 

The knotty forestick laid apart, 

And filled between with curious art 

The ragged brush; then, hovering near, 

We watched the first red blaze appear, 

Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam 

On whitewashed wall and sagging beam, 

Until the old, rude-furnished room 

Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom; 

While radiant with a mimic flame 

Outside the sparkling drift became, 

And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree 

Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free. 

The crane and pendent trammels showed, 

The Turks’ heads on the andirons glowed; 

While childish fancy, prompt to tell 

The meaning of the miracle, 

Whispered the old rhyme: “Under the tree, 

When fire outdoors burns merrily, 

There the witches are making tea.” 

The moon above the eastern wood 

Shone at its full; the hill-range stood 

Transfigured in the silver flood, 

Its blown snows flashing cold and keen, 

Dead white, save where some sharp ravine 

Took shadow, or the sombre green 

Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black 

Against the whiteness at their back. 

For such a world and such a night 

Most fitting that unwarming light, 

Which only seemed where’er it fell 

To make the coldness visible. 

Shut in from all the world without, 

We sat the clean-winged hearth about, 

Content to let the north-wind roar 

In baffled rage at pane and door, 

While the red logs before us beat 

The frost-line back with tropic heat; 

And ever, when a louder blast 

Shook beam and rafter as it passed, 

The merrier up its roaring draught 

The great throat of the chimney laughed; 

The house-dog on his paws outspread 

Laid to the fire his drowsy head, 

The cat’s dark silhouette on the wall 

A couchant tiger’s seemed to fall; 

And, for the winter fireside meet, 

Between the andirons’ straddling feet, 

The mug of cider simmered slow, 

The apples sputtered in a row, 

And, close at hand, the basket stood 

With nuts from brown October’s wood. 

What matter how the night behaved? 

What matter how the north-wind raved? 

Blow high, blow low, not all its snow 

Could quench our hearth-fire’s ruddy glow. 

O Time and Change!—with hair as gray 

As was my sire’s that winter day, 

How strange it seems, with so much gone 

Of life and love, to still live on! 

Ah, brother! only I and thou 

Are left of all that circle now,— 

The dear home faces whereupon 

That fitful firelight paled and shone. 

Henceforward, listen as we will, 

The voices of that hearth are still; 

Look where we may, the wide earth o’er, 

Those lighted faces smile no more. 

We tread the paths their feet have worn, 

      We sit beneath their orchard trees, 

      We hear, like them, the hum of bees 

And rustle of the bladed corn; 

We turn the pages that they read, 

      Their written words we linger o’er, 

But in the sun they cast no shade, 

No voice is heard, no sign is made, 

      No step is on the conscious floor! 

Yet Love will dream, and Faith will trust, 

(Since He who knows our need is just,) 

That somehow, somewhere, meet we must. 

Alas for him who never sees 

The stars shine through his cypress-trees! 

Who, hopeless, lays his dead away, 

Nor looks to see the breaking day 

Across the mournful marbles play! 

Who hath not learned, in hours of faith, 

      The truth to flesh and sense unknown, 

That Life is ever lord of Death, 

      And Love can never lose its own! 

We sped the time with stories old, 

Wrought puzzles out, and riddles told, 

Or stammered from our school-book lore 

“The Chief of Gambia’s golden shore.” 

How often since, when all the land 

Was clay in Slavery’s shaping hand, 

As if a far-blown trumpet stirred 

The languorous sin-sick air, I heard: 

Does not the voice of reason cry, 

Claim the first right which Nature gave, 

From the red scourge of bondage to fly, 

Nor deign to live a burdened slave!“ 

Our father rode again his ride 

On Memphremagog’s wooded side; 

Sat down again to moose and samp 

In trapper’s hut and Indian camp; 

Lived o’er the old idyllic ease 

Beneath St. François’ hemlock-trees; 

Again for him the moonlight shone 

On Norman cap and bodiced zone; 

Again he heard the violin play 

Which led the village dance away. 

And mingled in its merry whirl 

The grandam and the laughing girl. 

Or, nearer home, our steps he led 

Where Salisbury’s level marshes spread 

      Mile-wide as flies the laden bee; 

Where merry mowers, hale and strong, 

Swept, scythe on scythe, their swaths along 

      The low green prairies of the sea. 

We shared the fishing off Boar’s Head, 

      And round the rocky Isles of Shoals 

      The hake-broil on the drift-wood coals; 

The chowder on the sand-beach made, 

Dipped by the hungry, steaming hot, 

With spoons of clam-shell from the pot. 

We heard the tales of witchcraft old, 

And dream and sign and marvel told 

To sleepy listeners as they lay 

Stretched idly on the salted hay, 

Adrift along the winding shores, 

When favoring breezes deigned to blow 

The square sail of the gundelow 

And idle lay the useless oars. 

Our mother, while she turned her wheel 

Or run the new-knit stocking-heel, 

Told how the Indian hordes came down 

At midnight on Concheco town, 

And how her own great-uncle bore 

His cruel scalp-mark to fourscore. 

Recalling, in her fitting phrase, 

      So rich and picturesque and free 

      (The common unrhymed poetry 

Of simple life and country ways,) 

The story of her early days,— 

She made us welcome to her home; 

Old hearths grew wide to give us room; 

We stole with her a frightened look 

At the gray wizard’s conjuring-book, 

The fame whereof went far and wide 

Through all the simple country side; 

We heard the hawks at twilight play, 

The boat-horn on Piscataqua, 

The loon’s weird laughter far away; 

We fished her little trout-brook, knew 

What flowers in wood and meadow grew, 

What sunny hillsides autumn-brown 

She climbed to shake the ripe nuts down, 

Saw where in sheltered cove and bay, 

The ducks’ black squadron anchored lay, 

And heard the wild-geese calling loud 

Beneath the gray November cloud. 

Then, haply, with a look more grave, 

And soberer tone, some tale she gave 

From painful Sewel’s ancient tome, 

Beloved in every Quaker home, 

Of faith fire-winged by martyrdom, 

Or Chalkley’s Journal, old and quaint,— 

Gentlest of skippers, rare sea-saint!— 

Who, when the dreary calms prevailed, 

And water-butt and bread-cask failed, 

And cruel, hungry eyes pursued 

His portly presence mad for food, 

With dark hints muttered under breath 

Of casting lots for life or death, 

Offered, if Heaven withheld supplies, 

To be himself the sacrifice. 

Then, suddenly, as if to save 

The good man from his living grave, 

A ripple on the water grew, 

A school of porpoise flashed in view. 

“Take, eat,” he said, “and be content; 

These fishes in my stead are sent 

By Him who gave the tangled ram 

To spare the child of Abraham.” 

Our uncle, innocent of books, 

Was rich in lore of fields and brooks, 

The ancient teachers never dumb 

Of Nature’s unhoused lyceum. 

In moons and tides and weather wise, 

He read the clouds as prophecies, 

And foul or fair could well divine, 

By many an occult hint and sign, 

Holding the cunning-warded keys 

To all the woodcraft mysteries; 

Himself to Nature’s heart so near 

That all her voices in his ear 

Of beast or bird had meanings clear, 

Like Apollonius of old, 

Who knew the tales the sparrows told, 

Or Hermes, who interpreted 

What the sage cranes of Nilus said; 

A simple, guileless, childlike man, 

Content to live where life began; 

Strong only on his native grounds, 

The little world of sights and sounds 

Whose girdle was the parish bounds, 

Whereof his fondly partial pride 

The common features magnified, 

As Surrey hills to mountains grew 

In White of Selborne’s loving view,— 

He told how teal and loon he shot, 

And how the eagle’s eggs he got, 

The feats on pond and river done, 

The prodigies of rod and gun; 

Till, warming with the tales he told, 

Forgotten was the outside cold, 

The bitter wind unheeded blew, 

From ripening corn the pigeons flew, 

The partridge drummed i’ the wood, the mink 

Went fishing down the river-brink. 

In fields with bean or clover gay, 

The woodchuck, like a hermit gray, 

      Peered from the doorway of his cell; 

The muskrat plied the mason’s trade, 

And tier by tier his mud-walls laid; 

And from the shagbark overhead 

      The grizzled squirrel dropped his shell. 

Next, the dear aunt, whose smile of cheer 

And voice in dreams I see and hear,— 

The sweetest woman ever Fate 

Perverse denied a household mate, 

Who, lonely, homeless, not the less 

Found peace in love’s unselfishness, 

And welcome wheresoe’er she went, 

A calm and gracious element, 

Whose presence seemed the sweet income 

And womanly atmosphere of home,— 

Called up her girlhood memories, 

The huskings and the apple-bees, 

The sleigh-rides and the summer sails, 

Weaving through all the poor details 

And homespun warp of circumstance 

A golden woof-thread of romance. 

For well she kept her genial mood 

And simple faith of maidenhood; 

Before her still a cloud-land lay, 

The mirage loomed across her way; 

The morning dew, that dries so soon 

With others, glistened at her noon; 

Through years of toil and soil and care, 

From glossy tress to thin gray hair, 

All unprofaned she held apart 

The virgin fancies of the heart. 

Be shame to him of woman born 

Who hath for such but thought of scorn. 

There, too, our elder sister plied 

Her evening task the stand beside; 

A full, rich nature, free to trust, 

Truthful and almost sternly just, 

Impulsive, earnest, prompt to act, 

And make her generous thought a fact, 

Keeping with many a light disguise 

The secret of self-sacrifice. 

O heart sore-tried! thou hast the best 

That Heaven itself could give thee,—rest, 

Rest from all bitter thoughts and things! 

      How many a poor one’s blessing went 

      With thee beneath the low green tent 

Whose curtain never outward swings! 

As one who held herself a part 

Of all she saw, and let her heart 

      Against the household bosom lean, 

Upon the motley-braided mat 

Our youngest and our dearest sat, 

Lifting her large, sweet, asking eyes, 

   Now bathed in the unfading green 

And holy peace of Paradise. 

Oh, looking from some heavenly hill, 

      Or from the shade of saintly palms, 

      Or silver reach of river calms, 

Do those large eyes behold me still? 

With me one little year ago:— 

The chill weight of the winter snow 

      For months upon her grave has lain; 

And now, when summer south-winds blow 

      And brier and harebell bloom again, 

I tread the pleasant paths we trod, 

I see the violet-sprinkled sod 

Whereon she leaned, too frail and weak 

The hillside flowers she loved to seek, 

Yet following me where’er I went 

With dark eyes full of love’s content. 

The birds are glad; the brier-rose fills 

The air with sweetness; all the hills 

Stretch green to June’s unclouded sky; 

But still I wait with ear and eye 

For something gone which should be nigh, 

A loss in all familiar things, 

In flower that blooms, and bird that sings. 

And yet, dear heart! remembering thee, 

      Am I not richer than of old? 

Safe in thy immortality, 

      What change can reach the wealth I hold? 

      What chance can mar the pearl and gold 

Thy love hath left in trust with me? 

And while in life’s late afternoon, 

      Where cool and long the shadows grow, 

I walk to meet the night that soon 

      Shall shape and shadow overflow, 

I cannot feel that thou art far, 

Since near at need the angels are; 

And when the sunset gates unbar, 

      Shall I not see thee waiting stand, 

And, white against the evening star, 

      The welcome of thy beckoning hand? 

Brisk wielder of the birch and rule, 

The master of the district school 

Held at the fire his favored place, 

Its warm glow lit a laughing face 

Fresh-hued and fair, where scarce appeared 

The uncertain prophecy of beard. 

He teased the mitten-blinded cat, 

Played cross-pins on my uncle’s hat, 

Sang songs, and told us what befalls 

In classic Dartmouth’s college halls. 

Born the wild Northern hills among, 

From whence his yeoman father wrung 

By patient toil subsistence scant, 

Not competence and yet not want, 

He early gained the power to pay 

His cheerful, self-reliant way; 

Could doff at ease his scholar’s gown 

To peddle wares from town to town; 

Or through the long vacation’s reach 

In lonely lowland districts teach, 

Where all the droll experience found 

At stranger hearths in boarding round, 

The moonlit skater’s keen delight, 

The sleigh-drive through the frosty night, 

The rustic party, with its rough 

Accompaniment of blind-man’s-buff, 

And whirling-plate, and forfeits paid, 

His winter task a pastime made. 

Happy the snow-locked homes wherein 

He tuned his merry violin, 

Or played the athlete in the barn, 

Or held the good dame’s winding-yarn, 

Or mirth-provoking versions told 

Of classic legends rare and old, 

Wherein the scenes of Greece and Rome 

Had all the commonplace of home, 

And little seemed at best the odds 

’Twixt Yankee pedlers and old gods; 

Where Pindus-born Arachthus took 

The guise of any grist-mill brook, 

And dread Olympus at his will 

Became a huckleberry hill. 

A careless boy that night he seemed; 

      But at his desk he had the look 

And air of one who wisely schemed, 

      And hostage from the future took 

      In trainëd thought and lore of book. 

Large-brained, clear-eyed, of such as he 

Shall Freedom’s young apostles be, 

Who, following in War’s bloody trail, 

Shall every lingering wrong assail; 

All chains from limb and spirit strike, 

Uplift the black and white alike; 

Scatter before their swift advance 

The darkness and the ignorance, 

The pride, the lust, the squalid sloth, 

Which nurtured Treason’s monstrous growth, 

Made murder pastime, and the hell 

Of prison-torture possible; 

The cruel lie of caste refute, 

Old forms remould, and substitute 

For Slavery’s lash the freeman’s will, 

For blind routine, wise-handed skill; 

A school-house plant on every hill, 

Stretching in radiate nerve-lines thence 

The quick wires of intelligence; 

Till North and South together brought 

Shall own the same electric thought, 

In peace a common flag salute, 

And, side by side in labor’s free 

And unresentful rivalry, 

Harvest the fields wherein they fought. 

Another guest that winter night 

Flashed back from lustrous eyes the light. 

Unmarked by time, and yet not young, 

The honeyed music of her tongue 

And words of meekness scarcely told 

A nature passionate and bold, 

Strong, self-concentred, spurning guide, 

Its milder features dwarfed beside 

Her unbent will’s majestic pride. 

She sat among us, at the best, 

A not unfeared, half-welcome guest, 

Rebuking with her cultured phrase 

Our homeliness of words and ways. 

A certain pard-like, treacherous grace 

Swayed the lithe limbs and drooped the lash, 

Lent the white teeth their dazzling flash; 

And under low brows, black with night, 

Rayed out at times a dangerous light; 

The sharp heat-lightnings of her face 

Presaging ill to him whom Fate 

Condemned to share her love or hate. 

A woman tropical, intense 

In thought and act, in soul and sense, 

She blended in a like degree 

The vixen and the devotee, 

Revealing with each freak or feint 

      The temper of Petruchio’s Kate, 

The raptures of Siena’s saint. 

Her tapering hand and rounded wrist 

Had facile power to form a fist; 

The warm, dark languish of her eyes 

Was never safe from wrath’s surprise. 

Brows saintly calm and lips devout 

Knew every change of scowl and pout; 

And the sweet voice had notes more high 

And shrill for social battle-cry. 

Since then what old cathedral town 

Has missed her pilgrim staff and gown, 

What convent-gate has held its lock 

Against the challenge of her knock! 

Through Smyrna’s plague-hushed thoroughfares, 

Up sea-set Malta’s rocky stairs, 

Gray olive slopes of hills that hem 

Thy tombs and shrines, Jerusalem, 

Or startling on her desert throne 

The crazy Queen of Lebanon 

With claims fantastic as her own, 

Her tireless feet have held their way; 

And still, unrestful, bowed, and gray, 

She watches under Eastern skies, 

      With hope each day renewed and fresh, 

      The Lord’s quick coming in the flesh, 

Whereof she dreams and prophesies! 

Where’er her troubled path may be, 

      The Lord’s sweet pity with her go! 

The outward wayward life we see, 

      The hidden springs we may not know. 

Nor is it given us to discern 

      What threads the fatal sisters spun, 

      Through what ancestral years has run 

The sorrow with the woman born, 

What forged her cruel chain of moods, 

What set her feet in solitudes, 

And held the love within her mute, 

What mingled madness in the blood, 

      A life-long discord and annoy, 

      Water of tears with oil of joy, 

And hid within the folded bud 

      Perversities of flower and fruit. 

It is not ours to separate 

The tangled skein of will and fate, 

To show what metes and bounds should stand 

Upon the soul’s debatable land, 

And between choice and Providence 

Divide the circle of events; 

But He who knows our frame is just, 

Merciful and compassionate, 

And full of sweet assurances 

And hope for all the language is, 

That He remembereth we are dust! 

At last the great logs, crumbling low, 

Sent out a dull and duller glow, 

The bull’s-eye watch that hung in view, 

Ticking its weary circuit through, 

Pointed with mutely warning sign 

Its black hand to the hour of nine. 

That sign the pleasant circle broke: 

My uncle ceased his pipe to smoke, 

Knocked from its bowl the refuse gray, 

And laid it tenderly away; 

Then roused himself to safely cover 

The dull red brands with ashes over. 

And while, with care, our mother laid 

The work aside, her steps she stayed 

One moment, seeking to express 

Her grateful sense of happiness 

For food and shelter, warmth and health, 

And love’s contentment more than wealth, 

With simple wishes (not the weak, 

Vain prayers which no fulfilment seek, 

But such as warm the generous heart, 

O’er-prompt to do with Heaven its part) 

That none might lack, that bitter night, 

For bread and clothing, warmth and light. 

Within our beds awhile we heard 

The wind that round the gables roared, 

With now and then a ruder shock, 

Which made our very bedsteads rock. 

We heard the loosened clapboards tost, 

The board-nails snapping in the frost; 

And on us, through the unplastered wall, 

Felt the light sifted snow-flakes fall. 

But sleep stole on, as sleep will do 

When hearts are light and life is new; 

Faint and more faint the murmurs grew, 

Till in the summer-land of dreams 

They softened to the sound of streams, 

Low stir of leaves, and dip of oars, 

And lapsing waves on quiet shores. 

Next morn we wakened with the shout 

Of merry voices high and clear; 

And saw the teamsters drawing near 

To break the drifted highways out. 

Down the long hillside treading slow 

We saw the half-buried oxen go, 

Shaking the snow from heads uptost, 

Their straining nostrils white with frost. 

Before our door the straggling train 

Drew up, an added team to gain. 

The elders threshed their hands a-cold, 

      Passed, with the cider-mug, their jokes 

      From lip to lip; the younger folks 

Down the loose snow-banks, wrestling, rolled, 

Then toiled again the cavalcade 

      O’er windy hill, through clogged ravine, 

      And woodland paths that wound between 

Low drooping pine-boughs winter-weighed. 

From every barn a team afoot, 

At every house a new recruit, 

Where, drawn by Nature’s subtlest law, 

Haply the watchful young men saw 

Sweet doorway pictures of the curls 

And curious eyes of merry girls, 

Lifting their hands in mock defence 

Against the snow-ball’s compliments, 

And reading in each missive tost 

The charm with Eden never lost. 

We heard once more the sleigh-bells’ sound; 

      And, following where the teamsters led, 

The wise old Doctor went his round, 

Just pausing at our door to say, 

In the brief autocratic way 

Of one who, prompt at Duty’s call, 

Was free to urge her claim on all, 

      That some poor neighbor sick abed 

At night our mother’s aid would need. 

For, one in generous thought and deed, 

      What mattered in the sufferer’s sight 

      The Quaker matron’s inward light, 

The Doctor’s mail of Calvin’s creed? 

All hearts confess the saints elect 

      Who, twain in faith, in love agree, 

And melt not in an acid sect 

      The Christian pearl of charity! 

So days went on: a week had passed 

Since the great world was heard from last. 

The Almanac we studied o’er, 

Read and reread our little store 

Of books and pamphlets, scarce a score; 

One harmless novel, mostly hid 

From younger eyes, a book forbid, 

And poetry, (or good or bad, 

A single book was all we had,) 

Where Ellwood’s meek, drab-skirted Muse, 

      A stranger to the heathen Nine, 

      Sang, with a somewhat nasal whine, 

The wars of David and the Jews. 

At last the floundering carrier bore 

The village paper to our door. 

Lo! broadening outward as we read, 

To warmer zones the horizon spread 

In panoramic length unrolled 

We saw the marvels that it told. 

Before us passed the painted Creeks, 

      And daft McGregor on his raids 

      In Costa Rica’s everglades. 

And up Taygetos winding slow 

Rode Ypsilanti’s Mainote Greeks, 

A Turk’s head at each saddle-bow! 

Welcome to us its week-old news, 

Its corner for the rustic Muse, 

      Its monthly gauge of snow and rain, 

Its record, mingling in a breath 

The wedding bell and dirge of death: 

Jest, anecdote, and love-lorn tale, 

The latest culprit sent to jail; 

Its hue and cry of stolen and lost, 

Its vendue sales and goods at cost, 

      And traffic calling loud for gain. 

We felt the stir of hall and street, 

The pulse of life that round us beat; 

The chill embargo of the snow 

Was melted in the genial glow; 

Wide swung again our ice-locked door, 

And all the world was ours once more! 

Clasp, Angel of the backword look 

      And folded wings of ashen gray 

      And voice of echoes far away, 

The brazen covers of thy book; 

The weird palimpsest old and vast, 

Wherein thou hid’st the spectral past; 

Where, closely mingling, pale and glow 

The characters of joy and woe; 

The monographs of outlived years, 

Or smile-illumed or dim with tears, 

      Green hills of life that slope to death, 

And haunts of home, whose vistaed trees 

Shade off to mournful cypresses 

      With the white amaranths underneath. 

Even while I look, I can but heed 

      The restless sands’ incessant fall, 

Importunate hours that hours succeed, 

Each clamorous with its own sharp need, 

      And duty keeping pace with all. 

Shut down and clasp with heavy lids; 

I hear again the voice that bids 

The dreamer leave his dream midway 

For larger hopes and graver fears: 

Life greatens in these later years, 

The century’s aloe flowers to-day! 

Yet, haply, in some lull of life, 

Some Truce of God which breaks its strife, 

The worldling’s eyes shall gather dew, 

      Dreaming in throngful city ways 

Of winter joys his boyhood knew; 

And dear and early friends—the few 

Who yet remain—shall pause to view 

      These Flemish pictures of old days; 

Sit with me by the homestead hearth, 

And stretch the hands of memory forth 

      To warm them at the wood-fire’s blaze! 

And thanks untraced to lips unknown 

Shall greet me like the odors blown 

From unseen meadows newly mown, 

Or lilies floating in some pond, 

Wood-fringed, the wayside gaze beyond; 

The traveller owns the grateful sense 

Of sweetness near, he knows not whence, 

And, pausing, takes with forehead bare 

The benediction of the air.’’

The great TV news show expensive-pill push


From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association discusses an all-too-little noted reason for America’s bad but expensive health-care “system’’.

The research, by two Dartmouth professors of medicine, reports that marketing by drug makers and other health-care companies rose to almost $30 billion a year in 2016 (and is presumably higher now). It’s obvious that the plan was/is to steer ever-more patients and physicians toward treatments that are brand-new or at least still under patent and much more expensive and sometimes less effective, and indeed riskier, than long-established treatments, including generic drugs.

We all end up paying for this directly or indirectly, in co-pays, insurance premiums and taxes (for Medicare and Medicaid). Unfortunately, given how Washington is run, there’s no imminent cure for the greed of the health industry, and, to be fair, their many direct or indirect (pension funds) investors.

Perhaps the best place to see this often misleading marketing is during the nightly broadcast news shows, with their older and generally well-insured viewers. One ad after another for expensive new drugs! Many viewers are persuaded by the advertising to press their physicians to prescribe the new stuff for them immediately, which many doctors are more than happy to do to keep them satisfied.

To read the article, please hit this link.

Make it easier to get to Hollywood

Terminal lobby at T.F. Green Airport, which serves southeastern New England.

Terminal lobby at T.F. Green Airport, which serves southeastern New England.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

Greater Providence has long been hurt by the absence of direct flights to the West Coast from T.F. Green Airport (although there are a few direct flights to Europe). That is especially true for sectors connected with media and tech. Consider Pawtucket-based Hasbro, which has long since become an entertainment business rather than just a toy company. So its creative and executive people need to go back and forth a lot to Los Angeles. L.A. and New York are the media and entertainment capitals. No wonder that Hasbro is reportedly considering moving its headquarters to one of those two cities. Or it might settle for downtown Providence, especially because the Rhode Island School of Design is there.

The Providence area has many animators, filmmakers, illustrators, graphic designers and so on. Many have work that may take them often to and from the West Coast.

And many southern New England companies need to keep connected with the tech hubs of Silicon Valley, in the San Jose/San Francisco area, and Seattle.

Now that T.F. Green Airport’s main runway has been extended, non-stop service to the West Coast is feasible, offering a way to avoid the frustrating congestion you must go through to get to and from Boston’s Logan Airport.

Some see Sun Country Airlines’ announcement that it will start service this spring from Green to Nashville and Minneapolis-St. Paul as an interim step toward those direct flights. The airline has numerous flights from its Minnesota base to the West Coast. Let’s hope that Hasbro, etc., persuades the airline to start non-stop flights from Rhode Island to the West Coast as soon as possible.


“Creative types’’ want to be near creative types. Thus it’s not surprising that the growing Alex and Ani jewelry company is moving from Cranston to downtown Providence, not coincidentally next to the Rhode Island School of Design (which has produced many jewelry designers) and in a neighborhood crowded with Millennials. Sort of like Amazon setting up new headquarters in New York City and Arlington, Va., right across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.

Alex and Ani is opening new stores on the West Coast, which should encourage the company to join Hasbro, et al., in lobbying for nonstop flights from Green to the West Coast.

Llewellyn King: The real crises facing America -- stubborn belly fat, cellulite, crepey skin


A review of television advertising turns up keys to what is really bothering Americans -- making them grouchy, despairing and causing them to vote in strange ways.

It is nothing short of a pandemic. There has been no word yet from the Republican or Democratic leadership on this debilitating national crisis that is causing more than half of us to act strangely and to seek to alleviate or conceal our affliction.

It is, of course, stubborn belly fat (SBF). We carry around, collectively, millions of pounds of it.

If you are gasping, it is because you know what I mean. You know the misery of that roll below the navel that will not go away despite extreme measures like jogging or eating African berries as recommended by Dr. Oz, who is one of the few men of his age who does not have SBF. Of course, he looks as though he has been in a Turkish prison all his life and has never had enough square meals to get the dreaded SBF.

My own research shows that SBF is followed on the Misery Index by cellulite and, growing in severity but still far behind SBF, crepey skin. Ugh! Happily, cellulite does not have to be shown: Avoid beaches and pools and if you are unsure, undress in the dark. There are myriad creams that offer to banish crepey skin. They may be mildly effective but the surefire fix, never patented, is long sleeves. Hide it.

Sadly you cannot hide that roll around the belly, just below the belly button and above the recreation area. It wobbles in your bathing suit, bulges in pants and dresses when you sit. There are various rubberized garments which will pull it in for as long as you can stand the constriction, but those only flatten: maximum discomfort for minimum concealment.

SBF is pernicious: It is like a tattoo, there for all time.

Now there are those who say that diet and exercise will banish it. Diet and exercise, those two imposters that are prescribed for everything from a broken heart to bankruptcy. The medical profession has an answer: diet and exercise. Lies! Americans have been running since the 1970s, have joined health clubs in the millions and have eschewed everything that tastes good. You know what? SBF is spreading.

Eat only lettuce and you will die of malnutrition, emaciated – except for that ring around the tummy, belly fat. Believe me, it will go with you to the grave, jiggling. The hips may shrink, the thighs contract, the chest disappear inside the rib cage but look down and – Oh, horror! -- it is there wobbling, mocking, and taunting, keeping you from love, happiness at the beach or pool, a job promotion and defying the best tailors and dressmakers to wall it in.

It is even a sore political subject.

Former President Obama did not seem to have any, which depressed his approval ratings. It made it hard for some to trust him. Another former president, Bill Clinton, who is a shadow of his former self and a vegan, knows all about it. I bet that skinny as he is now, compared with his time of serial hamburger intake, below his belt line, there is a strip of protruding fat that harkens back to days of indulgence: the irremovable scar of eating a lot.

As for President Trump, with that front-facing bay window, you know there is a sack of SBF. I know how that feels. Mine wants a doughnut right now.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS. His email is llewellynking1@gmail.com. He’s based in Washington, D.C., and Rhode Island.

In the 'Eastern Woodlands'

Pequot Museum    exhibit showing a version of a Mashantucket Pequot warrior at the Pequots’ vast Foxwoods casino.

Pequot Museum exhibit showing a version of a Mashantucket Pequot warrior at the Pequots’ vast Foxwoods casino.

I grew up in the unlikely place of Connecticut. The Eastern Woodlands. It was semi-rural where I grew up. I was fascinated by the Pequot and the Mohegan Indians of that area.

— John Fusco, screenwriter and producer. He was born in Prospect, Conn.

Somewhat bucolic Prospect, Conn., where the “Eastern Woodlands’’ have been turned into exurbia/suburbia.

Somewhat bucolic Prospect, Conn., where the “Eastern Woodlands’’ have been turned into exurbia/suburbia.

Keolis to resume MBTA weekend fare program

MBTA Commuter Rail locomotive at South Station.

MBTA Commuter Rail locomotive at South Station.

This is from The New England Council:

“Keolis North America, a New England Council member, has announced that beginning this month it will resume the $10 Commuter Rail weekend fare pilot program in partnership with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Keolis is contracted to operate the MBTA’s Commuter Rail system, which provides rail service throughout Greater Boston and into Rhode Island.

This program was first piloted during the summer of 2018, with the goal of increasing Commuter Rail ridership and revenue on the weekends. This initiative resulted in more than 180,000 tickets being sold, and very positive feedback from passengers. Like before, this special fare will cover the first train on Saturday to the last train on Sunday, and will apply across all zones and lines.

David Scorey, general manager and CEO of Keolis, said, “The MBTA’s reduced weekend fare initiative gives passengers a convenient and affordable option to visit a number of great destinations across the greater Boston area. We’re pleased to partner with the MBTA to continue this initiative that encourages new passengers to try Commuter Rail, helps to grow ridership, and promotes an environmentally friendly transit option.”

Chris Powell: Mourn literacy, not Shakespeare theater

The American Shakespeare Theater building, in Stratford, Conn., in 1955, in its heyday. The building burned to the ground last weekend.

The American Shakespeare Theater building, in Stratford, Conn., in 1955, in its heyday. The building burned to the ground last weekend.

Mark Twain famously said that a "classic" is a book that everybody praises but nobody reads. That may help explain the fiery demise of the American Shakespeare Theater building, in Stratford, Conn. , on Jan. 13.

Thousands of older Connecticut residents may remember getting a day off from junior high or high school in the 1950s, ‘60s and '70s to ride a bus to Stratford to sit through a matinee of a Shakespearian drama they couldn't quite follow or a comedy whose humor had dissipated a couple of centuries ago. The theater was a lovely idea, painstakingly fulfilled by civic and charitable work, modeled on Shakespeare's own Globe Theater in London in the early 1600s. But the theater was never profitable and operated for less than three decades before exhausting its benefactors.

In 1983 state government bought the theater and its adjoining 14 acres along the Housatonic River, declaring the area a state park. But the state couldn't figure out how to get the theater operating regularly. In 2005 Stratford took the property on the premise that it could do better with it but still nothing happened. Amid government's puzzlement and indifference the theater fell into disrepair. After decades of neglect, this week's fire was inevitable.

But it's unlikely that anyone ever could have made the theater work, for it probably was doomed first by its location -- chosen in part because the town shared the name of Shakespeare's hometown -- and then by the decline of interest in Shakespeare and the decline of literacy itself. The site along the river is lovely and should be preserved for public use, but it is the wrong place for a theater, far from any lively downtown filled with restaurants, taverns and hotels and served by mass transit. Stratford's virtues are different.

With the help of Yale University, New Haven might have been able to sustain the theater, keeping its Shakespearian orientation while incorporating other theatrical, musical, and comedy events -- maybe even some wrestling. (People are entitled to like what they like.) After all, Yale somehow sustains its Center for British Art, which can be almost as musty as Pericles, Prince of Tyre, and these days in New Haven nearly any screamer with an electric guitar and a reputation for drug abuse can fill a hall on a Saturday night.

Connecticut may remain more intellectual and literate than most states, but the Bard just doesn't pack them in as he used to. If he did, the theater wouldn't have burned down. For 30 years Connecticut had no use for it and pretty much forgot about it. Mourning for it is just a polite pose. Mourn for literacy and literature instead.


Hartford HealthCare, which operates eight Connecticut hospitals as well as a dozen other medical facilities in the state, is thumping its chest about its decision to raise its minimum wage to the fabled level of $15 per hour, which will benefit about 12 percent its 20,000 employees.

This should not be mistaken as an easy maneuver for Connecticut's private sector. For the hospital business is consolidating as much as the medical-insurance business is, and together they are destroying competition even as the income for both increasingly comes from government, which seldom cares much about costs.

As a result medical costs are much more easily passed along to customers than costs in the rest of the private sector. So hold your applause for the raises at Hartford HealthCare until you see your next hospital or insurance bill.

Hartford HealthCare, which operates eight Connecticut hospitals as well as a dozen other medical facilities in the state, is thumping its chest about its decision to raise its minimum wage to the fabled level of $15 per hour, which will benefit about 12 percent its 20,000 employees.

This should not be mistaken as an easy maneuver for Connecticut's private sector. For the hospital business is consolidating as much as the medical insurance business is, and together they are destroying competition even as the income for both increasingly comes from government, which seldom cares much about costs.

As a result medical costs are much more easily passed along to customers than costs in the rest of the private sector. So hold your applause for the raises at Hartford HealthCare until you see your next hospital or medical insurance bill.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Jim Hightower: You'll have to give self-driving cars the right of way

Inside a Tesla self-driving car.

Inside a Tesla self-driving car.

Via OtherWords.org

With chaos in the White House, worsening climate disasters, more wars than we can count, and a wobbling economy here at home, the last thing we need is another big challenge. But — look out! — here comes a doozy!

It’s AI — artificial intelligence — the fast-evolving science of autonomous machines that can think, learn and even reproduce themselves.

Consider self-driving vehicles. Once the stuff of science fiction, the future is suddenly upon us, with Google, Daimler, and GM rolling out driverless taxis, commercial trucks, and even cars with no steering wheel or gas and brake pedals.

An army of corporate lobbyists is rushing to legislative halls, literally changing the rules of the road to allow full deployment of these vehicles.

What about the hundreds of thousands of professional drivers who’ll lose their jobs? Not our problem, say the financiers and AI barons who’d profit from a mass bot-mobile conversion. Besides, as AI champion David Autor coldly asserts, those drivers get sick, take vacations, etc. “People are messy,” he notes; “machines are straightforward.”

Indeed, so straightforward that these two-ton, non-sentient “drivers” will be driving straight at a world of defenseless pedestrians. Already, one of Uber’s experimental cars killed an Arizona pedestrian last year.

We can fix that, says Andrew Ng, a prominent AI investor: They just have to be reprogrammed.

By “they,” Ng doesn’t mean the self-driving machines — he means pedestrians! “Please be lawful,” he scolds, “and please be considerate” of the computer-driven vehicles. Give right-of-way to the new technology!

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker.

Taking dying malls by eminent domain


From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

Swansea, Mass., Selectman Christopher Carreiro wants the town to establish a Redevelopment Authority that could take the likes of the dying Swansea Mall  (Macy’s  has just announced that it’s pulling out) by eminent domain and use it for other purposes. Housing? Recreational centers? Schools, private and public? And develop the vast parking lots for solar- and wind-energy installations? And green space? Or maybe tear down the mall buildings and use all the property for renewable energy? There may be some new property-tax revenue in this redevelopment.

We’ll be seeing more and more such actions across America as the Internet continues to eat away at big physical stores.

Chuck Collins: Trump's shutdown putting many more people underwater

“The Drowned ,’’  1867 painting by Vasily Perov.

“The Drowned,’’ 1867 painting by Vasily Perov.

From OtherWords.org

As the government shutdown drags on, the image of federal workers lining up at food pantries has dramatized just how many workers live financially close to the edge.

By one estimate, almost 80 percent of U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck. Miss one check and you’re taking a second look at what’s in the back of the pantry cupboard.

From federal prison guards in small towns to airline safety inspectors in major cities, the partial government shutdown has forced 800,000 federal workers — and many contractors, too — to survive without a paycheck.

The shutdown is a Trump-made disaster, with an estimated 420,000 “essential workers” required to show up for work without a paycheck. They have full-time responsibilities, which makes finding another part-time job nearly impossible.

Another 380,000 federal workers have been furloughed, including Coast Guard employees that are being encouraged to take on babysitting gigs and organize garage sales. They saw their last paycheck on Dec. 22 and are scrambling to pay rent, mortgages, alimony, and credit card bills, let alone the groceries.

The average federal employee isn’t wealthy, taking home a weekly paycheck of $500, according to American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing affected workers.

The vulnerability they feel isn’t unusual. A majority of the U.S. population is living with very little by way of a savings cushion.

One troubling indicator is the rising ranks of “underwater nation,” households with zero or negative wealth. These families have no savings reserves — they owe more than they own.

The percentage of U.S. households that are “underwater” increased from percent in 1983 to 21.2 percent today. This experience cuts across race, but is more frequent in black and Latino households — including over 32 percent of Latino families and 37 percent of black families.

The next 20 percent of all U.S. households have positive net worth, but not much. Four in ten families couldn’t come up with $400 cash if they needed it for an emergency, according to the Federal Reserve.

Black families are especially vulnerable to economic downturns or delayed paychecks.

Since 1983, the median wealth for a U.S. family has gone down 3 percent, adjusting for inflation. Over the same period, the median wealth for a black family declined a devastating 50 percent, according to “Dreams Deferred,’’ a new study I co-authored for the Institute for Policy Studies. (Meanwhile, the number of households with $10 million or more skyrocketed by 856 percent.)

Unemployment may be low, but it masks a precarious and insecure population. At the root of the problem is growing inequality.

Wages for half the population have been stagnant for over four decades, while expenses such as health care, housing, and other basic necessities have risen. Many families still haven’t fully recovered from the economic meltdown a decade ago.

After going up steadily since World War II, homeownership rates have been falling since 2004. And as with income, homeownership is also heavily skewed towards white families. While the national homeownership rate has virtually remained unchanged between 1983 and 2016, 72 percent of white families owned their home, compared to just 44 percent of black families.

Latino homeownership increased by nearly 40 percent over that time, but it still remains far below the rate for whites, at just 45 percent.

If the partial government shutdown continues for “months or years,” as President Trump threatens, there will be even more stress and hardship on our nation’s most vulnerable families. The bigger challenge is how to ensure our economy enables more people to save and build wealth.

Make no mistake: parts of our economy were on “shutdown” long before the government.

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Boston restaurants of a certain age

You can still get your aphrodisiac fix at the Union Oyster House.

You can still get your aphrodisiac fix at the Union Oyster House.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

Durgin-Park, the Boston restaurant founded in 1827 (!) and famous for heavy “New England cuisine’’ and by turns rude (and often large) waitresses, is closing, to the gnashing of teeth of habitues, or, to be more accurate, mostly former habitues. It has always amused me that so many people who demand that a “beloved institution’’ stay open either have never been there or have long since stopped patronizing the joint.

And so another famous restaurant will join Locke-Ober and many other famous Boston eateries that haven’t been able to keep up with patrons’ changing tastes, demographics and daily schedules. Yankee pot roast and Indian pudding just don’t have the allure that they had 50 years ago. Boston is a big and rich city; there are more than enough prosperous people to keep the likes of Durgin-Park open – if restaurant romantics wanted to eat there. But it seems that many who did now just want to wax nostalgic or have shuffled off to the great dining room in the sky.

I’m hoping that an even older place, the Union Oyster House, started as a restaurant in 1826 but in a structure believed to have been built in 1704, will survive. I go there sometimes with a French friend. (Weird fact: Louis Philippe, the king of France in 1830-1848, lived in exile in that building in 1796, paying his expenses by teaching French to young women. But perhaps that’s not as weird as that the late Vietnamese dictator Ho Chi Minh had worked in the Parker House hotel.)

The Union Oyster House still has at least one big thing going for it: As the great oyster-eating scene in the movie Tom Jones demonstrates, oysters are a lot sexier than roast beef.


The Durgin-Park closing reminded me of another sign of the passing of generations and changing tastes. An old friend who teaches at a certain elite college invited her class to dinner and a showing of the classic movie Casablanca, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1943.

While you might think that the movie, with its suspense, witty lines, bittersweet romance and evocative music might be well-known across age groups, you’d be wrong. The kids had small reaction to the film and demonstrated little knowledge of its historical context of World War II. It seemed dead to most of them.

So they come and they go.

One bit of dialogue from the movie, with the French police Captain Renault (played by Claude Raines) and café owner Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart, seems appropriate:

Renault: '’Why can't you go back to America? Why Casablanca?'’

Rick: “I came here for the waters?'’

'’The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.'’

‘'I was misinformed.'’

Chris Powell: Collusion not uncommon -- impeach for shutdown; forget Conn. school-funding formula


Unseemly as the associations between President Trump's 2016 campaign and Russian operatives are, there is no federal crime called "collusion" and no one can be indicted for it.

Besides, American politicians long have colluded with foreign powers to advance their political objectives.

During the Vietnam War President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, suspended bombing of North Vietnam and colluded with its Communist government to start peace negotiations to boost the campaign of his vice president, Hubert Humphrey. Meanwhile Humphrey's Republican opponent, Richard Nixon, colluded with the South Vietnamese government to stall negotiations, promising that a Republican administration would get South Vietnam better terms.

During his 2012 campaign for re-election President Obama, a Democrat, was caught on tape assuring Russia's prime minister that he would have "more flexibility" on weapons control if the Russians would just postpone the issue until after November. That was collusion too, but while it was promptly reported, few politicians or news organizations made anything of it.

The people aiming to impeach Trump are overlooking the compelling reason right in front of them: the shutdown of the federal government engineered by the president to bully Congress into appropriating billions to build a wall on the Mexican border.

Border security is important and a wall would help but it is not more important than the work of the rest of the federal government, and by incapacitating so much of the government to extort Congress on one issue, Trump is violating the Constitution.

For Article II, Section 3, prescribes that the president "shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

In two years the Russia stuff has gone nowhere and can go nowhere. But the incapacitation of the government is right now.

To see impact on some Coast Guard families in Connecticut, please hit this link.


High on the agenda for the new session of the Connecticut General Assembly is rewriting the formula for state financial aid to municipal school systems. It will be a big waste of time.

Connecticut has been rewriting its school aid formula almost every year since the state Supreme Court's decision in the school financing case of Horton v. Meskill in 1977, with little result except greater expense. State payments to school systems with poor populations and weak property-tax bases have been greatly increased but student performance has not improved.

So either the state still has not yet developed the right formula or student performance does not correlate much with school spending.

The state Education Department acknowledges it cannot show that school spending correlates with student performance. Indeed, defending the department in court against the most recent school financing lawsuit two years ago, the attorney general's office called an economics professor who had studied school spending in Connecticut and testified that there is no correlation.

Of course there must be a very limited correlation, since if there were no schools, it's unlikely that most children would learn on their own. But after four decades pouring money into struggling schools and accomplishing little, the legislature should either give up on formulizing or look elsewhere for correlations with student performance.

When most children in poor cities lack parents and perform poorly in school, while most children in suburbs have two parents and perform fairly well, there may be decisive correlations quite apart from school spending even if they can't be discussed in polite company.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.

Suffolk Construction to help employees pay off student loans

This is from The New England Council (newenglandcouncil.com)

“Suffolk Construction, of Boston, introduced a new benefits program this month that allows eligible employees to receive monthly contributions toward outstanding student loans. This effort is aimed at not only reducing the financial stress felt by employees, but also at helping them focus on long-term career growth.

In 2017, college seniors in the U.S. owed on average $28,650 in student loans, with 65 percent of them having received loans. Under Suffolk Construction’s new program, employees who are paying federal or private loans from a U.S. lender, borrowed for the financing of higher-education at an accredited institution, will receive a $100 per month contribution toward their loan payments. Suffolk Construction will make this possible by working with a Boston-based student loan repayment company,

Suffolk President and CEO John Fish stated “I’m a big believer in education – it means everything to me. But the truth is, more and more people are finding education to be a financial burden rather than a ticket to a successful life. My hope is that people see this student loan repayment benefit as an opportunity to focus less on the cost of education and more on the exciting future that education, and our industry, can offer.”

The New England Council commends Suffolk Construction, a NEC member, for its innovative approach in addressing the student debt crisis and its commitment to enhancing employee welfare.’’