Facebook's damage to our democracy and civic life

Linked here is the best piece I've read about the the huge damage that Facebook has done to our democracy and overall civic life. Yes, this link is on Facebook, too, because it's a virtual monopoly, which hypocritical  CEO Mark Zuckerberg's lobbyists in Washington  assiduously protect. Likewise Google's lobbyists for that virtual monopoly. Where is the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Justice Department?

-- Robert Whitcomb



From mall to medical center

Medical providers are moving into some of the vast mall space left vacant by bricks-and-mortar retailers that are shrinking because of competition from online sales.

Med City News, picking up from a Wall Street Journal story, cites Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute as a prime example. Dana-Farber is converting the Atrium Mall, in Chestnut Hill, Mass. into a wellness and medical operation called Life Time Center, where Dana-Farber is a tenant.

The institute is leasing two floors of the former mall for  clinical trials, exams, infusions and support services for adult cancer patients. It plans to open by the end of 2019.

For example,  Med City reports,  UCLA Health provides primary care  out of the Village at Westfield Topanga, in Woodland Hills, Calif.; Southeastern Regional Medical Center is renting at  Lumberton, North Carolina’s Biggs Park Mall, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center runs Vanderbilt Health out of One Hundred Oaks Mall, in Nashville.

Med City reports that Eric Johnson, national director of healthcare at Transwestern Commercial Services, a real estate firm, said, in Med City’s paraphrase “malls provide the structural support to house the heavy medical equipment health systems use. On top of that, a mall’s location alone — often near a highway or busy road — can be helpful in drawing attention to a medical center.

To read the Med City piece, please hit this link.

To read The Wall Street Journal’s story upon which it’s based, please hit this link. (Subscription needed to read the article beyond the top).

Vermont's nostalgia problem

In Vermont's Green Mountains. -- Photo by Joe Calzarette

In Vermont's Green Mountains.

-- Photo by Joe Calzarette

"Where I live, in Vermont, there's this thing that women know about men, which is this disease: their childhood was so idyllic that nothing in the rest of their life can ever be satisfying. It's almost a plague.''

-- Colin Trevorrow, film director and screenwriter who lives in Vermont


'Heaven unexpected came'

A something in a summer’s day,

As slow her flambeaux burn away,

Which solemnizes me.


A something in a summer’s noon,—

An azure depth, a wordless tune,      

Transcending ecstasy.


And still within a summer’s night

A something so transporting bright,

I clap my hands to see;


Then veil my too inspecting face,       

Lest such a subtle, shimmering grace

Flutter too far for me.


The wizard-fingers never rest,

The purple brook within the breast

Still chafes its narrow bed;       


Still rears the East her amber flag,

Guides still the sun along the crag

His caravan of red,


Like flowers that heard the tale of dews,

But never deemed the dripping prize       

Awaited their low brows;


Or bees, that thought the summer’s name

Some rumor of delirium

No summer could for them;


Or Arctic creature, dimly stirred        

By tropic hint —some travelled bird

Imported to the wood;


Or wind’s bright signal to the ear,

Making that homely and severe,

Contented, known, before        


The heaven unexpected came,

To lives that thought their worshipping

A too presumptuous psalm.


-  Untitled, by Emily Dickinson

Llewellyn King: Covering the White House from twilight to darkness

In the White House press briefing room.

In the White House press briefing room.


Freedom of the press, in my view, has two parts. First there is the freedom to publish, to criticize and to petition. Then there is the critical issue of the freedom to gather the news – not just to report it, but also to gather it.

Without the freedom to gather the news, the freedom to print it, broadcast it or comment on it becomes pyrrhic. The official line predominates.

Right now, the freedom to report the news at the White House is under attack and the public’s right know is being impinged. What you get: All the news that can be leaked.

Covering the news at the White House has gotten progressively harder since the days of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, the first administrations I covered.

The Trump administration has attacked the press, ridiculed it and is starving it of critical access. Now there is talk of doing away with the daily press briefing, honored and needed. It is where the government is asked what it is doing and ideally tells the people. It is America’s answer to the much admired “Question Time” in Britain's House of Commons.

It has never been easy to cover the White House, and history is littered with the ways in which presidents sought to affect the way in which they were covered. Jack Kennedy, a darling to some reporters, so hated the coverage he was getting from The New York Herald Tribune that for a while he forbade it in the White House.

Lyndon Johnson worked over the press corps the way he worked over members of Congress: punishment and reward.

At The Washington Daily News, Wahillau La Hay worried aloud -- often in my presence -- that the file from the Scripps-Howard Washington bureau (it was an afternoon newspaper owned by Scripps-Howard) would make it hard for her to cover the social side of the White House, her assignment.

Richard Nixon believed that the press was out to get him and his famous enemies list was real. Yet he ran a surprisingly open White House, as had Johnson.

Compared to what was to follow, it was wide open. Once a reporter got through the gate you were a free agent to roam much of the grounds and to visit the West Wing, if you had someone to see. More important, you got one-on-one interviews with principles without some minder from the press office sitting in and acting as a double agent, reporting back on both the journalist and the interviewee.

After your interview, you were sometimes invited into the office of another staffer. As often as not, they wanted to know what you knew as much as you wanted to know what they knew, even during Watergate.

The best information is the information you get face-to-face, one-on-one. That has become very difficult as time has rolled on. Personally, I found George H.W. Bush open enough. I remember going over to see his chief of staff, John Sununu, without a  problem. I phoned him, got a time and went over. No press office involvement. Once, he asked me if I would like to write a speech for the president. I demurred.

Excessive leaking is a symptom, a cry from within the belly of the beast that all is not well. At this point the leakers are patriots, not criminals.

In recent administrations, the only way for White House reporters to get into conversations with White House staffers has been to travel with the president overseas: a very expensive stab in the dark. A European trip can cost more than $20,000, and few news outlets can afford the gamble. Even if you are in the pool and sitting on Air Force One, nothing is guaranteed.

If, as has been suggested, the daily briefings stop, more leaks are inevitable. If you cannot seek the information directly, you have to try and get it otherwise. If the front door is closed, a ladder up to the window is the next step. At the same time, relationships become more devious. Like an illicit love affair, no public acknowledgment in public places.

If the right to gather the news is abridged, the whole concept of a free press is diminished. The diminishment is underway.

Government in the dark is the government of authoritarians; not the kind of government one expects from a nation which prohibits the “abridging” of the press in its Constitution. Shame.

Llewellyn King (llewellynking1@gmail.com) is executive producer and host  of White House Chronicle, on PBS.  Based in Washington, D.C., and Rhode Island, he's a frequent contributor to New England Diary. This essay first ran in Inside Sources.

Frank Carini: Algae bloom forces town to dose pond with sulfate

This aerial photo was taken in August 2015 by Halifax Police Chief Ted Broderick. A thick mat of blue-green algae covers much of West Monponsett Pond.

This aerial photo was taken in August 2015 by Halifax Police Chief Ted Broderick. A thick mat of blue-green algae covers much of West Monponsett Pond.


Via ecoRI News (ecori.org)


For more than a decade, blue-green algae blooms in West Monponsett Pond have often ended summer fun early and rendered the boat ramp useless. Local residents are regularly cautioned about using the pond, because of harmful health effects linked to cyanobacteria. The  Halifax Fire Department routinely receives calls about gas odors. The stink is inevitably traced to an abundance of algae triggered by nutrient overloading.

For the past eight years the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has been regularly testing West Monponsett Pond’s summer water quality, but the situation was recognized long before that. The problems and fixes are complicated.

A July 1987 report found increasing aquatic-weed growth, nutrient pollution from septic-system leachate, siltation from solids carried in by storm drains and fecal contamination in both East and West Monponsett ponds. The ponds, part of the Taunton River watershed, are separated by Route 58, a 30-mile, south-north highway in southeastern Massachusetts.

Three decades later, the same problems — failed septic systems, stormwater runoff carrying lawn and agricultural fertilizers and animal waste, and phosphorous from bog operations — are causing water-quality impairment and leading to destructive algae blooms. The problem also has been exacerbated by increased development around both ponds during the past 30 years.

The pumping of Silver Lake and other area waterbodies to meet Brockton’s water needs is also impacting the water quality of these two ponds.

Significant levels of these pollutants continue to cause algal blooms that have closed beaches and caused fish kills. Algal blooms with results as high as 1,900,000 cells per milliliter have been discovered; a threshold of 70,000 is enough to close a beach.

Cyanobacteria advisories for West Monponsett Pond have become the norm. These outbreaks are even obvious to untrained eyes, as thick mats of algae choke the pond and color the water pea-soup green.

Since 2008 the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has issued multiple public-health advisories for the pond, forcing the town to close the beaches to swimming and boating. In 2013, the Monponsett Ponds held the record of longest consecutive beach closures in state history, according to a 2016 report.

“The stagnant waters in the ponds combined with the warm water temperatures and high nutrient content make them very susceptible to cyanobacteria toxin blooms,” according to the report titled “West Monponsett Pond Nutrient Management Project.” “Cyanobacteria blooms in the pond have resulted in multiple beach closures and serious health concerns.”

Swallowing water contaminated by blue-green algae guarantees major digestive discomfort. Children can become ill, and pets can die from ingesting it. Cyanobacteria also can cause skin rashes, hives and blisters, and inhaling droplets of it can cause sore throats, sinus and ear infections.

Earlier this month, the town of Halifax hired SOLitude Lake Management to dose West Monponsett Pond with a solution of aluminum sulfate. Aluminum sulfate binds with phosphorous, one of the nutrients, along with nitrogen, that helps algae to thrive. By making the phosphorous unavailable as a nutrient, algae growth is reduced.

Local officials had long wanted to treat the stressed pond with aluminum sulfate, but the presence of an endangered mussel and dragonfly larvae delayed that route until the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program approved the plan.

This month’s treatment was done to improve the pond’s water quality with the hope that it will be open for more days this spring and summer for recreational uses including boating, swimming and fishing, according to Halifax town Administrator Charlie Seelig. The treatment program ended June 14.

Frank Carini is editor of ecoRI News.

Chris Powell: Of "lockboxes,'' tolls and illegals at courthouses

The Connecticut Turnpike (Route 95) in Stamford. Soon to again be a toll road?

The Connecticut Turnpike (Route 95) in Stamford. Soon to again be a toll road?

When it goes to the polls in the state election of November 2018, Connecticutwill be asked to vote on a state constitutional amendment supposedly to ensurethat revenue from taxes levied in the name of transportation is spent only fortransportation purposes.

But the amendment is as much a fraud as the "spending cap" amendment adopted in1992 following enactment of the state income tax. As a practical matter, peoplevoting for the transportation "lockbox" amendment next year will be voting onlyto put tolls back on state highways.  

The "spending cap" amendment was a fraud because to become effective it requiredthe General Assembly and governor to enact certain statutory definitions, whichthey never did. So the amendment never has had any effect.   

The transportation "lockbox" amendment is a fraud because it would apply totransportation-related tax revenue only once the revenue was actually depositedin the state transportation fund. But ordinary legislation could divert suchrevenue to the general fund before it was deposited inthe transportation fund. Ordinary legislation also could define any  expenses as transportation expenses. 

The "lockbox" amendment was proposed and approved by the legislature becauseGov. Dannel Malloy and certain legislators did not want to support reimposing tollswhile the public seemed fairly aware of state government's long history ofdiverting supposedly dedicated funds. The governor and these legislators saidthey could support tolls only if their revenue was guaranteed to be spent fortransportation purposes.

The "lockbox" is to pose as that guarantee long enoughto get tolls enacted, and then the lock can be picked whenever it becomesconvenient for whoever is in charge of state government.    Some Democratic legislators, such as House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, of Berlin, andRep. Tony Guerrera, of Rocky Hill, House chairman of the TransportationCommittee, say tolls are "inevitable" because fuel tax revenue is declining asinfrastructure needs increase.   

But every increase in state government revenue, whether from tolls or taxes,  makes inevitable only that state employees will keep getting paid to stay homeon Columbus Day, that University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst will keepgetting paid nearly a million dollars a year, and that Hartford city governmentwill keep getting bailed out no matter how corrupt and inept it becomes. For theDemocrats who control state government will let every road be devoured bypotholes and every bridge collapse from rust before they start managingstate government in the public interest.


Hunting illegals at courthouses


Connecticut Chief Justice Chase Rogers hasurged the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to avoid makingapprehensions of immigration-law violators at the state's courthouses, just asICE strives to avoid making apprehensions at other "sensitive" places, such aschurches. Such apprehensions, the chief justice says, "may cause litigants,  witnesses and interested parties to view our courthouses as places to avoidrather than as institutions of fair and impartial justice."   

But courthouses are where people go when they are in trouble with the law, andif immigration agents are to give deportation priority to criminal illegalimmigrants rather than otherwise unoffending ones, courthouses may be the bestplace to look for them.   

Further, of course, immigration law enforcement is part of justice too and isappropriate wherever the law is being violated.    Besides, courthouses already are "places to avoid" quite apart from anyimmigration-law enforcement there. Nobody, not even judges, goes to a courthouseto have a good time.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.


Pulsing summer city

"Hot weather opens the skull of a city, exposing its white brain, and its heart of nerves, which sizzle like the wires inside a lightbulb. And there exudes a sour extra-human smell that makes the very stone seem flesh-alive, webbed and pulsing."

―Truman Capote, "Summer Crossing''

Typewriters redux

"Do I Dare to Eat a Peach #2'' (encaustic), by Nancy Whitcomb.

"Do I Dare to Eat a Peach #2'' (encaustic), by Nancy Whitcomb.

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

The Boston Guardian reports that Uber is cutting into the valet parking business in downtown Boston.  Lots of people like Uber services (if not the sleazy management of the company) because, for among other reasons, it makes it safer to drink in the evening. Will valet parking soon be a thing of the past?

But one old thing is making a tiny comeback: typewriters. Lots of people like their tactile quality as they see letters move from their fingers to a sheet of paper. It gives a nice feeling of making something physical.

Of course I suspect that there are very few typewriter makers left, and very few repair people. But there may soon be more of the latter. Interest has been building for a decade at least.

Richard Polt, an Xavier University (in Cincinnati) philosophy professor, has written a book called The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist's Companion for the 21st Century.

I love the promotional copy:

“What do thousands of kids, makers, poets, artists, steampunks, hipsters, activists, and musicians have in common? They love typewriters―the magical, mechanical contraptions that are enjoying a surprising second life in the 21st century, striking a blow for self-reliance, privacy, and coherence against dependency, surveillance, and disintegration.’’ Get away from those Twitter alerts!

As the Internet becomes even more toxic,  and digital burnout intensifies, the fondness for typewriters may grow enough so that somebody starts making them again.

There’s even a new documentary coming out called California Typewriter.  In the film, its director, Doug Nichol, interviews actor Tom Hanks, who says he uses a typewriter almost every day. Mr. Hanks is said to own about 270 typewriters.

"I hate getting email thank-yous from folks," Mr. Hanks says in the film. "Now, if they take 70 seconds to type me out something on a piece of paper and send to me, well, I'll keep that forever. I'll just delete that email."

I’d love to be able to work again on that huge old office Royal typewriter on which I used to pound out stories at the old Boston Herald Traveler in 1970-71. It took immense abuse in that smoky, caffeinated, high-pressure newsroom. I’d even like to get back the tiny, tinny Olivetti portable I used for writing papers in college. Real things – not pixels.




High fiber in Falmouth

"Craters of the Moon'' (flame-treated stainless-steel mesh, brass wire, pins and silicone.), by Lanny Bergner, in the show "Interwoven: Art Meets Nature,'' at Highfield Hall and Gardens, Falmouth, Mass. The show features more than 45 pieces of art by 21 fiber artists. The gallery says Mr. Bergner's art  works have a "futuristic tone that would make them seem at home in a sky filled with flying cards.''

"Craters of the Moon'' (flame-treated stainless-steel mesh, brass wire, pins and silicone.), by Lanny Bergner, in the show "Interwoven: Art Meets Nature,'' at Highfield Hall and Gardens, Falmouth, Mass. The show features more than 45 pieces of art by 21 fiber artists. The gallery says Mr. Bergner's art  works have a "futuristic tone that would make them seem at home in a sky filled with flying cards.''

Moralism and ward politics

"'All politics is local,' Massachusetts {U.S.} Representative and House Speaker Tip O'Neil famously announced. In much of the region, traditional New England moralism merged with competitive ethnic ward politics to shape regional political culture, an often fragile synthesis that went asunder, for instance, when Senator Ted Kennedy was spat upon in South Boston during the busing turmoil of the early 1970s.

"Perhaps the sustained immigration of recent decades and the current revival of interest in the study of regionalism will encourage advocates of a new regional studies to revise standard narratives of New England's distinctive past....We need a new narrative of how New England developed not only as a Puritan-Yankee city on a hill but also as an ethnic city by the mill.''

-- From Imagining New England: Explorations of Regional Identity From the Pilgrims to the Mid-Twentieth Century, by Joseph A. Conforti.




Summer slowdown and speed

Rangley Lake, in Maine.

Rangley Lake, in Maine.

Adapted from Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' column in GoLocal24.com

The other morning in southeastern New England, in its calm, cool, green beauty, was the sort of setting we dream of in February.

As we move deeper into real summer, we set out many plans – people to see, places to go and books to read and so on. We probably won’t do most of them but if we’re lucky enough to retain some of our childhood sense of spacious time we’ll get a start. The summer is certainly high season for bucket lists, especially in a place with a climate like New England’s.

We’re so fortunate to have so much to look at in this little corner of North America. From mountains that go above the tree line, spectacularly varied coastlines, from the sandy south, with its surprisingly warm summer water, to the dramatically rocky Maine Coast, with its frigid sea, to gorgeous small towns and haunting old and gritty mill towns, to several dynamic cities,  including one truly world city -- Boston.  The best way to see it is to go off the Interstate and take your time as you wander through lush countryside, towns with surprising, even bizarre mixes of architecture, from colonial to hyper-modern, patronize small-town diners and stock up on local tourist kitsch.

Get to it. Labor Day will be here in a flash and we’ll think summer is over. (Actually, the best weather is in September.) Indeed, some of us start thinking summer is about over when we start hearing the cicadas and crickets.

One of the most poignant essays I’ve read about the speed of summer,  and of life  in general, is E.B. White’s “Once More to the Lake,’’ about being with his young son at the same Maine lake where Mr. White’s father had taken the author years before. You won’t forget the essay’s chilling end.

May this summer be your good old days.

Sam Pizzigati: Other than making mountains of money for themselves, what do America's CEOs make these days?


Via OtherWords.org

Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric since 2001, is retiring. The 61-year-old will be making a well-compensated exit.

Fortune magazine estimates that Immelt will walk off with nearly $211 million, on top of his regular annual pay. Immelt’s annual pay hasn’t been too shabby either. He pulled down $21.3 million last year, after $37.25 million in 2014.

But Immelt’s millions don’t come close to matching the haul that his  immediate predecessor, Jack Welch, collected. Welch’s annual compensation topped $144 million in 2000. He stepped down the next year with a retirement package valued at $417 million.

What did Immelt and Welch actually do to merit their super-sized rewards? What did they add to a GE hall of fame that already included such breakthroughs as the first high-altitude jet engine (1949) and the first laser lights (1962)?

In simple truth, not much at all.

“We bring good things to life,” the GE ad slogan used to proudly pronounce. Not lately.

And not surprisingly either. Mature business enterprises, we’ve learned over recent decades, either make breakthroughs for consumers or grand fortunes for their top execs. They don’t do both.

Why not? Making breakthroughs, for starters, takes time. Enterprises have to invest in research, training, and nurturing high-performance teams.

Years can go by before any of these investments bear fruit. By that time, the executives who made the original investments might not even be around.

Grand fortunes, by contrast, can come quick. CEOs can downsize here, cut a merger there, then sit back and watch short-term quarterly earnings — and the value of their stock options — soar.

If those don’t do the trick, CEOs can always just slash worker pensions or R&D and put the resulting “savings” into dividends and “buybacks,” two slick corporate maneuvers that jack up company share prices and inflate executive paychecks.

On any CEO slickness scale, Jack Welch would have to rank right near the top. In 1981, his first year as the GE chief, Welch quickly realized he was never going to get fabulously rich making toasters and irons.

So Welch started selling off GE’s manufacturing assets. In his first two years, analyst Jeff Madrick notes, Welch “gutted or sold” businesses that employed 20 percent of GE’s workforce.

By 2000, Welch himself was making about 3,500 times the income of a typical American family.

By contrast, in 1975, Welch’s predecessor, Reginald Jones, took home merely 36 times that year’s typical American family.

As Welch’s successor, Jeffrey Immelt would give an apology of sorts in a 2009 address at West Point. Corporate America, he told the corps of cadets, had wrongfully “tilted toward the quicker profits of financial services” at the expense of manufacturing and R&D, leaving America’s poorest 25 percent “poorer than they were 25 years ago.”

“Rewards became perverted,” Immelt went on. “The richest people made the most mistakes with the least accountability.”

Unfortunately, and sadly, Immelt never took his own analysis to heart. As a rich CEO in his own right, he continued to make mistakes and suffer no particular consequences.

One example: After the Great Recession, Immelt froze the GE worker pension system and offered workers a riskier, less generous 401(k). Within five years, notes the Institute for Policy Studies, the GE pension deficit widened from $18 billion to $23 billion — even as Immelt’s personal GE retirement assets were nearly doubling to $92 million.

“If we want to slow — or better yet, reverse — accelerating income inequality,” the Harvard business historian Nancy Koehn noted a few years ago, “the most powerful lever we have to pull is that of outrageous executive compensation.”

How many more outrageously compensated executives will retire off into lush sunsets, the Jeff Immelt story virtually begs us to ask, before we start yanking that lever?

Sam Pizzigati, an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow, co-edits Inequality.org. His latest book is The Rich Don’t Always Win. 

'Summer was drunken'

"Peacefield,'' the  former grand house of the Adamses in Quincy, Mass. It's now a museum.

"Peacefield,'' the  former grand house of the Adamses in Quincy, Mass. It's now a museum.

Boys are wild animals, rich in the treasures of sense, but the New England boy had a wider range of emotions than boys of more equable climates. He felt his nature crudely, as it was meant. To the boy Henry Adams, summer was drunken. Among senses, smell was the strongest: smell of hot pinewoods and sweet fern in the scorching summer noon; of new-mown hay; of plowed earth; of box hedges; of peaches, lilacs, syringas; of stables, barns, cow yards; of salt water and low tide on the marshes; nothing came amiss.

Next to smell came taste, and the children knew the taste of everything they saw or touched, from pennyroyal and flag root to the shell of a pignut and the letters of a spelling book: the taste of A-B, AB, suddenly revived on the boy’s tongue sixty years afterward. Light, line, and color as sensual pleasures came later and were as crude as the rest. The New England light is glare, and the atmosphere harshens color. The boy was a full man before he ever knew what was meant by atmosphere; his idea of pleasure in light was the blaze of a New England sun. His idea of color was a peony with the dew of early morning on its petals. The intense blue of the sea, as he saw it a mile or two away, from the Quincy hills; the cumuli in a June afternoon sky; the strong reds and greens and purples of colored prints and children’s picture books, as the American colors then ran; these were ideals. The opposites or antipathies were the cold grays of November evenings and the thick, muddy thaws of Boston winter. With such standards, the Bostonian could not but develop a double nature. Life was a double thing. After a January blizzard, the boy who could look with pleasure into the violent snow glare of the cold white sunshine, with its intense light and shade, scarcely knew what was meant by tone. He could reach it only by education.

Winter and summer, then, were two hostile lives, and bred two separate natures. Winter was always the effort to live; summer was tropical license. Whether the children rolled in the grass, or waded in the brook, or swam in the salt ocean, or sailed in the bay, or fished for smelt in the creeks, or netted minnows in the salt marshes, or took to the pinewoods and the granite quarries, or chased muskrats and hunted snapping turtles in the swamps or mushrooms or nuts on the autumn hills, summer and country were always sensual living, while winter was always compulsory learning. Summer was the multiplicity of nature; winter was school.

The bearing of the two seasons on the education of Henry Adams was no fancy; it was the most decisive force he ever knew; it ran though life and made the division between its perplexing, warring, irreconcilable problems, irreducible opposites, with growing emphasis to the last year of study. From earliest childhood the boy was accustomed to feel that, for him, life was double. Winter and summer, town and country, law and liberty were hostile, and the man who pretended they were not was in his eyes a schoolmaster—that is, a man employed to tell lies to little boys. Though Quincy was but two hours’ walk from Beacon Hill, it belonged in a different world. For two hundred years, every Adams, from father to son, had lived within sight of State Street, and sometimes had lived in it, yet none had ever taken kindly to the town, or been taken kindly by it. The boy inherited his double nature. He knew as yet nothing about his great-grandfather, who had died a dozen years before his own birth; he took for granted that any great-grandfather of his must have always been good, and his enemies wicked; but he divined his great-grandfather’s character from his own. Never for a moment did he connect the two ideas of Boston and John Adams; they were separate and antagonistic; the idea of John Adams went with Quincy. He knew his grandfather John Quincy Adams only as an old man of seventy-five or eighty who was friendly and gentle with him, but except that he heard his grandfather always called “the President,” and his grandmother “the Madam,” he had no reason to suppose that his Adams grandfather differed in character from his Brooks grandfather, who was equally kind and benevolent. He liked the Adams side best, but for no other reason than that it reminded him of the country, the summer, and the absence of restraint. Yet he felt also that Quincy was in a way inferior to Boston, and that socially Boston looked down on Quincy. The reason was clear enough even to a five-year-old child. Quincy had no Boston style. Little enough style had either; a simpler manner of life and thought could hardly exist, short of cave dwelling. The flint and steel with which his grandfather Adams used to light his own fires in the early morning was still on the mantelpiece of his study. The idea of a livery or even a dress for servants, or of an evening toilette, was next to blasphemy. Bathrooms, water supplies, lighting, heating, and the whole array of domestic comforts, were unknown at Quincy. Boston had already a bathroom, a water supply, a furnace, and gas. The superiority of Boston was evident, but a child liked it no better for that.

The attachment to Quincy was not altogether sentimental or wholly sympathetic. Quincy was not a bed of thornless roses. Even there the curse of Cain set its mark. There as elsewhere a cruel universe combined to crush a child. As though three or four vigorous brothers and sisters, with the best will, were not enough to crush any child, everyone else conspired toward an education which he hated. From cradle to grave this problem of running order through chaos, direction through space, discipline through freedom, unity through multiplicity has always been, and must always be, the task of education, as it is the moral of religion, philosophy, science, art, politics, and economy; but a boy’s will is his life, and he dies when it is broken, as the colt dies in harness, taking a new nature in becoming tame. Rarely has the boy felt kindly toward his tamers. Between him and his master has always been war. Henry Adams never knew a boy of his generation to like a master, and the task of remaining on friendly terms with one’s own family, in such a relation, was never easy.

All the more singular it seemed afterward to him that his first serious contact with the President should have been a struggle of will, in which the old man almost necessarily defeated the boy, but instead of leaving, as usual in such defeats, a lifelong sting, left rather an impression of as fair treatment as could be expected from a natural enemy. The boy met seldom with such restraint. He could not have been much more than six years old at the time—seven at the utmost—and his mother had taken him to Quincy for a long stay with the President during the summer. What became of the rest of the family he quite forgot, but he distinctly remembered standing at the house door one summer morning in a passionate outburst of rebellion against going to school. Naturally his mother was the immediate victim of his rage—that is what mothers are for, and boys also—but in this case the boy had his mother at an unfair disadvantage, for she was a guest, and had no means of enforcing obedience. Henry showed a certain tactical ability by refusing to start, and he met all efforts at compulsion by successful, though too vehement protest. He was in fair way to win, and was holding his own, with sufficient energy, at the bottom of the long staircase which led up to the door of the President’s library, when the door opened, and the old man slowly came down. Putting on his hat, he took the boy’s hand without a word, and walked with him, paralyzed by awe, up the road to the town. After the first moments of consternation at this interference in a domestic dispute, the boy reflected that an old gentleman close on eighty would never trouble himself to walk near a mile on a hot summer morning over a shadeless road to take a boy to school, and that it would be strange if a lad imbued with the passion of freedom could not find a corner to dodge around somewhere before reaching the school door. Then and always, the boy insisted that this reasoning justified his apparent submission, but the old man did not stop, and the boy saw all his strategical points turned, one after another, until he found himself seated inside the school, and obviously the center of curious if not malevolent criticism. Not till then did the President release his hand and depart. . 

The point was that this act, contrary to the inalienable rights of boys, and nullifying the social compact, ought to have made him dislike his grandfather for life. He could not recall that it had this effect even for a moment. With a certain maturity of mind, the child must have recognized that the President, though a tool of tyranny, had done his disreputable work with a certain intelligence. He had shown no temper, no irritation, no personal feeling, and had made no display of force. Above all, he had held his tongue. During their long walk he had said nothing; he had uttered no syllable of revolting cant about the duty of obedience and the wickedness of resistance to law; he had shown no concern in the matter; hardly even a consciousness of the boy’s existence. Probably his mind at that moment was actually troubling itself little about his grandson’s iniquities, and much about the iniquities of President Polk, but the boy could scarcely at that age feel the whole satisfaction of thinking that President Polk was to be the vicarious victim of his own sins, and he gave his grandfather credit for intelligent silence. For this forbearance he felt instinctive respect. He admitted force as a form of right; he admitted even temper, under protest, but the seeds of a moral education would at that moment have fallen on the stoniest soil in Quincy, which is, as everyone knows, the stoniest glacial and tidal drift known in any Puritan land.

From The Education of Henry Adams (an autobiography). He lived from 1838 to 1918.

Money made them much more equal

"The Breakers,'' built by the Vanderbilts in Newport in the Gilded Age.

"The Breakers,'' built by the Vanderbilts in Newport in the Gilded Age.

”One hundred years after the declaration that all men are created equal, there began to gather in Newport a colony of the rich, determined to show that some Americans were conspicuously more equal than others.”


--  From the late Alistair Cooke,  English-born journalist, book author and broadcaster.

Tim Faulkner: Will hurricanes imperil wind turbines off the Northeast?


Via ecoRI.org

As new offshore wind farms are built off the Northeast coast, a new report suggests that the current models of wind turbines may not withstand the most powerful of hurricanes. The study, by the University of Colorado Boulder, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the U.S. Department of Energy, is intended to help the budding offshore wind industry as it expands into hurricane-prone regions, such as the East Coast.

“We wanted to understand the worst-case scenario for offshore wind turbines, and for hurricanes, that’s a Category 5,” said Rochelle Worsnop, lead author and a graduate researcher in the University of Colorado's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (ATOC).

Current design standards require offshore wind turbines be built to withstand 112-mph winds. Using computer-generated simulations, researchers found that portions of Category 5 hurricanes can reach up to 200 mph. Turbine blades also can be stressed by sudden and powerful shifts in wind direction, called veer.

Offshore wind turbines are typically larger than land-based turbines because components can be shipped over water instead of along size-restrictive railways and roads. The structures are therefore exposed to greater harm over their 20- to 30-year life, according to the report.

“Success could mean either building turbines that can survive these extreme conditions, or by understanding the overall risk so that risks can be mitigated, perhaps with financial instruments like insurance,” said Julie Lundquist, a co-author of the study and a professor at ATOC and the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute.

A subsequent study by the same group will look at the long-term effects of hurricanes on offshore wind farms built off the Atlantic Coast.

Rhode Island holds the honor of building the country’s first offshore wind farm, with the completion of the Block Island Wind Farm last November. The developer of the five-turbine, 30-megawatt wind farm, Providence-based Deepwater Wind, says the University of Colorado study is more relevant to the Southeast, where hurricane are more common and more powerful.

“Current offshore wind turbine designs are suitable for the wind conditions expected in the Northeast, where the strongest hurricane to make landfall in recorded history was a Category 3," Deepwater Wind spokeswoman Meaghan Wims said.

The most recent Category 3 hurricane to make landfall in New England was Hurricane Carol on Aug. 31, 1954. The storm had a sustained wind of 110 mph.

Deepwater Wind designs its turbines to withstand a 100-year storm, which has top wind speeds of 134 mph.

In the coming the decades, the company is planning to erect wind farms in the waters between Maryland and Maine.

“We don’t expect offshore wind energy to be deployed in the Southeast in the near term for other reasons — namely, a lower offshore wind resource than the Northeast,” Wims said.

Deepwater Wind and other developers have proposed multiple projects off of the wind-rich Northeast coast. Deepwater Wind is advancing a 15-turbine project, called South Fork Wind Farm, off eastern Long Island. Its Deepwater ONE project is slated for thousands of acres of federal waters between Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Vineyard Wind and DONG Energy, both based in Denmark, are also planning projects in the region. Bay State Wind, owned by DONG and Eversource Energy, intends to build several wind farms in the region.

But it’s only a matter of time before these wind turbines are tested by hurricanes. A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists says climate change, and warming oceans in particular, are making coastal storms more intense. Since the 1970s, the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled. Category 5 hurricanes have winds exceeding 157 mph; Category 4 winds blow between 130 and 156 mph; Category 3 winds are between 111 and 129 mph.

Tim Faulkner writes for ecoRI News.

Chris Powell: The Alex Jones controversy: Too much deference to Sandy Hook families

Deference to the families of the schoolchildren and educators murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012 has gone much too far.

The latest manifestation of this deference was the decision of Connecticut's only NBC television affiliate, WVIT-TV30 in West Hartford, not to broadcast Megyn Kelly's Sunday night interview with Alex Jones, provocateur of Infowars and promoter of the brazen lie that the school massacre was a hoax. The families of the victims had urged both NBC and WVIT to cancel the broadcast, and according to an internal memorandum obtained by other news organizations, the station chose not to air the interview because "the wounds" of the massacre "have yet to heal."

But wounds so profound never heal. It would be something else if the TV station decided not to broadcast the interview because Jones is just a huckster and, in interviewing him, Kelly became just a huckster, too, or because publicizing Jones even to debunk him would only glorify him with the perpetually deluded.

But instead the station decided that the Sandy Hook families should hold a veto on journalism and political discourse in Connecticut, or that the station should give them such a veto rather than risk criticism for offending them. Of course, nobody had to watch the interview, but the station denied most of Connecticut any choice. Canceling the broadcast, the station essentially decided that the school massacre was and remains proprietary, the exclusive property of the relatives of the victims.

But the massacre was and is not proprietary at all. To the contrary, it was the worst thing that has happened in Connecticut since the Hartford circus fire, in 1944, or, since the fire was an accident rather than a deliberate act, maybe the worst thing that has happened in Connecticut since the massacre of the Pequot tribe in Groton in 1637. The school massacre horrified and pained everyone in the state, and still pains everyone, even if no one can be pained as much as those who lost a loved one by it.

But no amount of pain necessarily vindicates the politics of the pained, and the politics of the Sandy Hook families has often been questionable. They persuaded the General Assembly and Gov. Dannel Malloy to weaken Connecticut's freedom-of-information law by obstructing access to official photos and videos of homicide victims, thereby facilitating official mistakes and misconduct and enabling hoaxers like Jones.

The litigation  that the families have brought to hold firearms manufacturers responsible for abuse of their products contradicts federal law and would nullify the right to bear arms. Now they want the appropriateness of journalism to be determined by hurt feelings, and a weak-kneed news organization has capitulated. Where does that end? 

Use 'a well-regulated militia'

Maybe something good apart from more civil political discourse will come from the shootings at the Republican congressional baseball team's practice in Alexandria, Va. For the incident demonstrated the shortcomings of even the most compelling gun-control proposals, such as requiring background checks for all gun purchases and exchanges, proposals that would have had no bearing on what happened in Alexandria.

So what policy response would be relevant here when guns are so pervasive in society and likely to remain so? How about that "well-regulated militia" cited by the Second Amendment -- trained and tested civilians to be armed in their everyday life and prepared to defend the innocent just as the Capitol Police officers on duty in Alexandria were?

 Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.