Robert Whitcomb: Open woods; the aim is merely fame; Art Deco challenge

A version of this first ran in the Digital Diary feature on

The other week, as I drove through miles of woodsin inland southern New England where caterpillars had consumed the leaves of so many trees, I thanked God that no one has suggested spraying to kill the creatures. You hear enough about massive spraying campaigns to kill mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.

The trouble with these campaigns is that they kill a lot more than the targeted culprits. They kill, for example, bees, which we need for pollination of our crops,  as well as birds, fish and many other creatures.

The trees will come back without chemical bombing. For now, we can enjoy the eerie sight of midsummer woods looking like November’s.


In picking Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate, Donald Trump has shown yet again that he really doesn’t have any “policies.’’ His only real apparent interest is maintaining himself as a “winner’’ and Mr. Pence might help.

Mr. Pence’s support for “free-trade’’ agreements that have helped kill jobs and lower wages in the U.S.; his backing for open immigration (which also cuts U.S. wages), and his evangelical  Christian views don’t jibe with Mr.  Trump’s rhetoric or behavior.

Mr. Trump has two main issues:  Crack down on “free trade’’ and on immigration. On the latter, he wants to kick out 11 million illegals, build a “wall’’ on the Mexican border and make it tough for Muslims to enter America. Operational details to come.


The governor has also been a loyal servant of the Koch Brothers and other very rich  people.  For a time, Mr. Trump made  vague populist noises about the need to reduce the power of  Wall Street big shots and Washington lobbyists but that has gone away as he realizes the Republican reality. The public has less and less patience with details anyway, and citizens rarely remember what a candidate said a few months back.

Judging by how he has conducted his business and much of his personal life, The Donald would rank high up on most metrics of, to be polite, ‘’amorality’’.

But that matters little in the Reality TV and Twitter age, even to the Boy Scouty Mr. Pence, who has decided to try to ride the Trumpmobile back to Washington, where he was an ineffective, if pleasant, congressman promoting the usual collection of Tea Party and supply-side nostrums that,  although having been tried for much of the past few decades, do not seem to have ushered in a golden age for the middle class.

Anyway, the aim is fame. Isuspect that Donald Trump originally ran for president  simply to keep himself and his businesses in the news. He may have been surprised that his incoherent, virtually detail-freebut entertainingly demagogic primary campaign did as well as it did. And this pathological liar and con man will get a lot of votes in November from people who won’t admit their choice to their neighbors. As for Mike Pence,  he knows that there’s a good chance that a vice president can become president.


People tend not to like Hillary Clinton because she has told some self-protective lies; because she has a reputation for extreme secretiveness; because she seems to feel herself privileged to make her own rules (but not as much as Donald Trump), and because she and her husband have made a fortune by mingling/cross-self-promoting government work, “nonprofit’’ work and for-profit work (especially by being paid vast sums to speak to companies and other special-interest groups).  And, as unfair as it is, a lot of people find her voice grating.

Not surprisingly, she generally avoids press conferences. But she could do herself a big favor by holding a long press conference in which she takes any questions. She could, for example, elaborate more on why she used a private server to conduct top-secret discussions by email and  also explain the mysterious workings of the Clinton Foundation. Such a forum might help lance the boil of public distrust, if not dislike.


David Sweetser, whose High Rock Development owns the Industrial Trust Building,  in downtown Providence, is smart to have arranged for public tours of the Art Deco skyscraper to be offered over the next couple of months to, he hopes, get people excited/intrigued enough to rent there (or buy the whole place).

It’s a gorgeous structure, although, of course, fading. The model in New England of how to retrofit such a stepped-back Art Deco building is the gold-topped United Shoe Machinery Building, on Federal Street in downtown Boston, which is now fixed up and full. But it’s  usually a lot cheaper to tear down an old building and put in a cheap utilitarian replacement than to save it.  And there’s much more money in Boston than in Providence. But hang in there, Mr. Sweetser!

Robert Whitcomb is the overseer of New England Diary.