The Presidents and the Press – a Contentious Relationship

By Hank Boerner

The relationship between the President of the United States of America and the free press of our nation is very often a contentious one. Print me good news, and spare me the bad is often the wish of the nation’s leader (and we should include this as views of corporate CEOs and others not sitting at the Resolute Desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue).

As the Founding Fathers debated the future government of our country, and shaped our Constitution and Bill of Rights, the man who would become POTUS #3 — Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, observed: “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the People, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter…”

Of course, even President Jefferson (serving 1801-1809) had his issues with the press of his day. And that has been a constant tone for most-if-not-all of our heads of states for yea, these many decades back to the time of our Founding Fathers and Mothers.

The man credited with creating the modern presidency, President Theodore Roosevelt (#25, serving 1901-1909) was a writer himself, a prodigious book author and magazine contributor, and he used the technology of the day (the printed press) to get his points across to friends, allies and enemies.

Behold, The Muckrakers!

Five years into his presidency, and beginning the second year of his second term, the Crusader-in-Chief (fiercely battling monopolies, Big Business, fraudulent food and drugs, and more) delivered a speech in which he targeted the media of the nation.

This was April 1906, as “TR” celebrated the setting of the cornerstone of the Cannon Office Building up on Capitol Hill. President Roosevelt famously termed his position as the nation’s highest office holder as having possession of the “Bully Pulpit” — bully at the time meaning something of celebration and victory rather than today’s popular meaning as a bully picking on the vulnerable.

And so from the Bully Pulpit, TR held forth, targeting the media of the day who (he charged) made up stories and dug and dug for “dirt.” These, he said, were the “muckers with rakes,” a takeoff of the description in the Pilgrim’s Progress (a late-1600s Christian allegory by English author John Bunyan). The allegorical “muckrakers” were (men) who looked down at the bottom of the bay, rake in hand, tackling the muck at the bottom.

Sounding eerily reminiscent of January 2016 and the lively dialogue going on about the President and The Press and their relationship: These men (TR charged) were selling newspapers and attacking mean and women and society should not flinch from seeing what is vile and debasing. Wow!

The journalists of the day were mostly delighted by this! They began to call themselves muckrakers (the term comes down to us today) and their ranks grew as these investigative writers poured out magazine articles and books.

You may know some of their names and certainly know of their works: Ida Tarbell, and her crusades that led to the breakup of the monopolistic Standard Oil (the Rockefeller interests); Lincoln Steffens (also taking on Big Oil interests); Jacob Riis (a Danish immigrant and chronicler of the fate of poor immigrants in New York City); S.S. McClure (an immigrant), publisher of the populist magazine of the day, McClure’s. And, Ray Stannard Baker, Edith Wharton, Finley Peter Dooley. Later came such muckrakers as the legendary I.F. Stone, the nemesis of president-after-president.

And even later (more recent, that is) successors to their legacy include the CBS team of “60 Minutes“‘ the writers at Mother Jones; at The Nation; at The Progressive; of Rolling Stone (like Matt Taibbi).

Master of The Media – Especially The Radio

One of the Masters-of-the-Media residing in the White House was the sixth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, the four-term President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945).

There’s an important point to make here: the media covering the White House has leveraged the technology of the day to communicate the news (and opinion) to the masses. And so have presidents.

President Donald Trump’s expert use of social media (call it “citizen publishing” to be correct) is a parallel to the expert use of “The Radio” by #33, President Franklin Roosevelt.

Upon taking office, FDR delivered his first “Fireside Chat” from the White House (the media applied the name soon after).

On March 12, 1933 he spoke to the nation on :”the Radio,” — the nation was deep into the crisis of the Great Depression (with one-of-four households having no income). He began….”My friends, I want to talk for a few minutes with the People of the United States about banking…” (He was declaring a “bank holiday,” a wonderful phrase about shutting every bank in the US to determine which ones could open later with solid finances to protect customers.)

Keeping the Words Flowing from the Chief

FDR would deliver some 30 chats (the number is disputed with some saying 27 or 28 is more accurate). He spoke to the nation during war time, when his administration was taking steps to address this or that crisis of the day, such as why we had to be the Arsenal of Democracy to save democracy around the world, and more. Commercial radio was created in 1924, so “The Radio” was as new to FDR as Twitter is to President Trump.

And press conferences — FDR would gather “the boys” around his desk to chat about this and that. Some 337 press conferences in his first term and more in the second term.

Earlier in the 20th Century, President Teddy Roosevelt used the media of his day — especially mass readership magazines. (He himself often wrote for “Century,” the influential thought leadership mag of the day.)

Press Freedoms – Guaranteed

It’s January 23rd today (in the glorious year 2017, approaching 229 years since that day in June 1788 when our beloved and very durable U.S. Constitution went into effect with the vote of the ninth state, New Hampshire).

The very first Amendment, we all have to remember, was this: Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…

And so, these many years on since the first president assumed the office (George Washington, April 1789 in New York City, then the capital), the to-and-fro of the media-White House relationship continues in time-honored tradition of each party!

And so back to President Thomas Jefferson, who long after leaving office observed publicly: “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”

And privately he complained to a successor, President James Monroe (#5): “”From forty years’ experience of the wretched guess-work of the newspapers of what is not done in open daylight, and of their falsehood even as to that, I rarely think them worth reading, and almost never worth notice…”

In composing this, I thought about the communicators-in-chief and their origins. New York is considered to be the Media Capital of the nation. And Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and now President Donald J. Trump — all New Yorkers. Maybe it’s something in the water here….

Let that be the last word for today!

# # #

If you want to hear a magnificent orator addressing the nation, tune in to President Franklin Roosevelt’s radio speeches, courtesy of his library at Hyde Park, New York. Link: http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/archives/collections/utterancesfdr.html

FDR’s “Chats” are here: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/fireside.php

Teddy Roosevelt’s famous speech launching the Muckrakers movement is interesting: The Man With the Muck Rake: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/tr-muckrake/

 

 

Jan 2017 – As We Await the Arrival of the New President…

by Hank Boerner

As we await the arrival of our new president and vice president, cabinet members, and  welcome the new members of House and Senate in the 115th Congress …

All eyes will on this nation’s capital on Friday, January 20th as a new President of the United States is sworn into office in the peaceful transfer of power that marks one of remarkable and unique qualities of this great nation. #46 in the long line of Chief Executives and Commander-in-Chiefs will be Donald J. Trump of New York.

We’ll say our (temporary) goodbye’s to President Barack H. Obama and depending on our point-of-view, this will be in the spirit of “thank you and well done” with tears in our eyes — or something quite different!

There was great excitement and expectation when Barack Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009. His was expected to be a transformative presidency for many reasons. The nation was reeling from a series of interconnected critical issues that seriously impact many, many of our citizens. Some of those issues remain to be addressed and resolved (if at all possible).

And so back in November 2008, soon after the election results were clear and we could think about what was ahead under the new administration, and a new (Democrat-controlled) U.S. Congress, I thought about the promise of an earlier age, with a new president at the helm, and the progressive movement that was coming into full flower. At that time, a Republican was in the White House.

With discussions about our country being left/right, liberal/conservative, a 50/50 divide in America and so on, it’s worth looking again here in January 2017 at the past for lessons for the future — looking again at the Progressive Movement and the many benefits that we all derived from that era.

Here (below) is my original commentary back in 2008 just after that November election and the results were known: A “transformational” chief executive officer was coming to the White House in January 2009.

Ah, I’m thinking today, and so here we are again, with another tumultuous presidential election behind us and another transformational head-of-state coming in January 2017.

What kind of chief executive officer will President-elect Donald J. Trump be? What kind of transformation might he bring about? What can we expect from the 115th Congress, now convened and announcing bold moves? Will we move left or right — progressive or regressive? Backward, forward, in progress terms?

What lessons should we take forward from the past, in the Progressive Era for application in this 21st Century — if not to be taking literally, then as wonderful inspiration for doing the right thing for all Americans!

* * * * * * * *

WHO WERE THE PROGRESSIVES – WHAT CAUSES DID THEY ADVOCATE? AND, ABOUT THEIR ENDURING, POSITIVE IMPACT ON THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE…
originally posted November 14, 2008 by Hank Boerner

During the 2008 primary campaign season at one point U.S. Senator Hillary Clintonwas asked about her political leanings — wasn’t she a true liberal as charged by the Right?. Her reply resonated with a number of people: I am a Modern Progressive, she told the interviewer.

That got me thinking – so what’s wrong with being a progressive…isn’t it the fundamental drive of the American Dream to make “progress” and be all that we can be, to borrow from the great US Army marketing slogan…as a society…and as individuals?

As we consider how (liberal) or (left-leaning) or (middle-of the road) the incoming [Obama Administration] and factions of the new (114th) Congress might be, I’d like to put the question in the context of my belief that we are likely at the moment of dramatic societal change.

This is shaping up to be one of the fundamental, once-in-a-generation shift of American politics and culture – from the dominance of right-leaning (more conservative) politics of the 1980s (and things cultural) to the center-left … and maybe even more left than that.

The perilous state of the economy has a lot to with this – consider the several millions of manufacturing and related industrial jobs lost in the US in recent years; the ongoing chaos in the capital markets.

The seizing up of banking and business, government and commercial credit markets; the consequences of our military affairs (wars in Iraq and Afghanistan going on longer than the years this nation fought in all of WW II).

The erosion of all-white dominance of institutions; the increase in the nation’s non-white populations; the foreclosures that are mounting month-over-month in too many neighborhoods (10,000 US homes-per-day are now being foreclosed!).

The growing wealth and income gaps as the middle and lower economic rungs become ever more slippery for American families …as the wealthy get wealthier-still…and more issues than that to address!

Where does Modern Progressivism fit into these issues?

The era’s “Robber Barons” — wealthy interests and strong men who monopolized and controlled the railroads, Wall Street institutions, banking, large corporate enterprises, and numerous monopolies, a/k/a the “Trusts” — were under fire for their practices and ways of doing business.

At many levels of society there was growing displeasure about business monopolies, price-fixing and other practices of the big businesses of the era.
Common factory workplace conditions for many Americans were about the same as [those] social investors today criticize certain US companies for condoning far off in their overseas supply chain.

When one of the era’s Robber Barons’ companies took a strike in Homestead, Pennsylvania, owner Andrew Carnegie took a trip to the British Isles while his hired strikebreakers, the Pinkertons — who with the looking away of local and state officials, savagely attacked the workers, injuring many and killing nine.

Union leaders were charged with murder and treason. The company broke the back of the movement workers to organize and the early concept of collective bargaining. Such was the state of labor-management (or “owner”) relations as the new Progressive Movement began.

This was the ending of the “Gilded Age” (described by author Mark Twain in his book of that name), delightful times for the elites and the wealthy and super-wealthy. (And as he penned this, Mark Twain was living an era full of business and political corruption. For many in big business firms, working conditions were more like those in Charles Dickens’ novels, such as Ebenezer Scrooge (the owner) and Bob Cratchit (his employee), in the scene from that Christmas Eve in “A Christmas Carol.”

TR: Enter the President as Chief Crusader

As the progressive thinkers in the American society reacted to conditions that they believed had to be changed for the nation to fulfill its promise of social and economic equality, in the White House, an [seemingly] unlikely champion took center stage to dramatically change the way things were: Ambitious, young, action-oriented, and very bright, Teddy Roosevelt had been governor of New York, and was elected William McKinley’s VP in 1900, mostly to get him out of the way of the Republican big bosses.

He had too many radical thoughts about upsetting the system that benefit the wealthy ownership class. Upon the assassination of President McKinley, “TR” became President of the United States (September 14, 1901). Throughout most of his presidency he was a dogged, committed crusader — especially against corruption in both the public sector and the private sector.

In the era of giant corporate enterprises rapidly (and rapaciously) consolidating power and influence on a scale never seen before, President Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement provided a very effective counterbalance.

Seeing threats to the American Democracy and the unique capitalistic system of the USA if things weren’t changed, TR took action and the progressive movement grew to support the concepts advanced.

He was an unlikely leader of reform of the system because Teddy was born into the wealthy class and easily could have been an elitist leader. He used what he called “the Bully Pulpit” of his presidency to rally support for change. (“Bully” in those days was a cheering call — bully for you!)

Through the pressure building – especially from the population below, and broadening media coverage – eventually blew the lid off the American Society, and the reforms flowed forth over two decades:

Consumer Protection – advocates drove adoption of the landmark Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 (resulting in today’s FDA protections; many of today’s food supply protections; regulation of medicines, and more).

Protection of Workers – workers got the right to organize; the 8-hour workday became the norm; there was protection of worker health (such as in the coal industry where many suffered from black lung disease); unsafe factory conditions began to be eliminated.

Child Labor was controlled – eliminating tiny children working alongside adults in industrial facilities.

Urban Residents began to be protected – reforms of the day began eliminating crowded tenement housing, which often led to sickness, including widespread tuberculosis; water supplies were regulated and protected, probably the greatest single factor in health advances in the early 20th Century.

Education – Progressives encouraged wider access to education for children, especially in the cities, to eliminate crime and the cycle of poverty, and to begin to build a larger, more educated middle class. Citizens were to be broadly educated in public school systems.

Political Corruption Battles – included direct election of member of the US Senate; encouraging closed (secret) ballot elections; addressing the power of political bosses in the big cities; addressing voter fraud.

Progressives addressed the root causes of poverty – especially urban poverty, with millions of immigrants flowing to port cities, and then crowding in to work in the steadily expanding universe of factories. The plight of immigrants were top-of-mind for progressives, including encouraging immigrants to move out of over-crowded cities, and address their health, job, education, and other social needs.

The Progressives’ work protected your parents, grandparents, even great-grandparents!

Protecting the Nation’s Natural Resources – President Teddy Roosevelt was in the lead here, setting aside about 100,000 acres a day for the future generations throughout his two terms! He created sanctuaries and reserves of various kinds by executive order. (The National Park System would come about a few years after he left office, in one of the Progressive Movement’s finest moments.)

Treatment of the Nation’s Veterans – encouraging health care for veterans, and pensions for military retirees

Encouraging Fair TaxationSpreading the Burden – the adoption of a progressive / fair tax system (the personal income tax came during the Progressive Era; before that, the primary means of support the federal government included tariffs on goods.)

Encouraging Social and Economic Justice – addressing the situations of Native Americans, and tens of millions of immigrants pouring into the USA – your ancestors and mine!

Regulating Industry – curbing the runaway power of large corporations; curbing large business monopolies in key sectors; first President Roosevelt and then successor William Howard Taft led the battle to break up large industrial trusts, such as the Sugar Trust, Steel Trust, Beef Trust, and the Oil Trust (the Rockefellers’ sprawling Standard Oil Empire was broken into individual operating companies — today’s Exxon, Mobil etc..)

Progressivism – A Broad Societal Movement

Note that what we’re describing here was in ways a political movement, yes, but the progressives were not necessarily organized only as a political party movement (such as “the Democratic Platform”).

This was a society-wide, mostly national social movement at many levels of the culture working to make America a better place…a kinder and more caring society…and more inclusive society…yes, a society which encouraged the spreading of wealth beyond the handful of powerful elites who commanded the apportioning of capital, the means of industrial production, and the transport and distribution systems necessary for truly national commerce.

* * * * * * * *

A combination of forces brought progressivism to the center of American life: as author A.J. Scopino, Jr. writes:
“…Historians agree that in the first two decades of the 20th Century [reformers] employed a scientific approach when addressing social problems, No longer content to accept and explain the miseries of life through fatalism or sheer luck, progressives were eager to utilize new tools, strategies, methods, and discoveries of new academic disciplines (especially sociology), to correct social maladjustment.

“Examining workers’ wages, living expenses, housing conditions, family size, working conditions, diets, and other data, progressive reformers studied, analyzed, and then offered measures to correct inequity and insure social justice…

“As firm believers in the American democratic process and in American institutions, reformers called on the government to legislate against political, social and economic wrong doing…”

* * * * * * * *
And the Progressives wielded mighty clubs – the era’s hot new media such as mass circulation magazines, as well as daily newspapers (New York City had a half dozen or more dailies) were their communication outlets.

This was the time of the muckrakers – whose words were eagerly awaited as the uncovered corruption in business and government. Today’s “60 Minutes” on the CBS Network  continues the tradition begun a century ago by Ida Tarbell (nemesis of Standard Oil), Upton Sinclair (whose novel about big oil was recently made into the movie, “There Will Be Blood,” starring Daniel Day Lewis), writer Lincoln Steffens, and others.

The progressives brought about a better country with their reforms. Their work was instrumental, I believe, in creating the conditions that led to the rise of the middle class – the engine of our GDP (2/3 of the US economy). Millions of Americans were the beneficiaries of the progressive thinking of 100 years ago.

* * * * * * * *

Of course, conditions are different in 2008 and 2009, aren’t they? OK, let’s admit we’ve made tremendous progress as a society since the early 1900s. Thank the progressives for that.

The problems and challenges and issues of our age will be addressed in different ways, it appears, after January 20, 2009.

The early 20th Century progressives were united by a number of forces. Based on what I have been seeing in recent months – one example was the Barack Obama campaign fervor – this Millennium Generation, approaching positions of influence and power – may revive the spirit of the early Progressive Movement, especially if they unite to bring about important changes.

Stay Tuned to the shift taking place in public opinion, the shift from right-to-center or even center-left, and the drive for a better quality of life in this great nation. We may be on the verge of something really exciting – with expanding (not contracting) opportunity for most Americans! The best that our nation can be…may be just ahead of us.

Your thoughts?

(for more details on the Progressive Movement, read “The Progressive Movement, 1900-1917,” by A.J. Scopino, Jr; 1996m Discovery Enterprises Ltd.)

Photo: Crowded cities: The original Progressive Movement came together more than a century ago.  Under conditions that include several sounding a bit familiar in 2008.  Immigrants were flooding into the US (the late-1800’s waves came from Italy, Eastern Europe, Russia, and other lands) and many of the recent arrivals were living in terrible conditions as they landed and remained in the crowding cities.

Think of the U.S. Navy’s Aircraft Carriers – Protecting the Peace

by Hank Boerner

December 27, 2016…75 Years On…Ceremonies at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

Yesterday, the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Japan met at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to deliver messages of condolence and remembrance of the 2,400 U.S. service members lost in the attack on the U.S. Naval base in that long ago December morning (it’s 75 years on since the Empire of Japan launched an attack on the United States of America at Hawaii, then a U.S. territory).

The important lessons learned in the attacks on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor, during WW II, and in all the years since: it is clear to policy makers and should be clear to all of us that the U.S. aircraft carriers are key to our nation’s safety and well-being. As well as the safety of many of our allies around the world.

On that December 7th morning 75 years ago, a Japanese naval strike force sailed close to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, our major U.S. Navy facility at midpoint in the Pacific between the U.S. coastline and the Japan home islands. The attacking force consisted of six aircraft carriers with 400-plus aircraft (attack and defense); two battleships; three cruisers; nine destroyers; eight fuel tankers; two dozen submarines; and a handful of “midget” subs.

The original plan as tensions between the U.S. and Japan escalated was for the Empire of Japan to lure the powerful U.S. fleet into Pacific waters accessible from the Japanese homeland, to be attacked and defeated. This would enable the Japanese military to attack and conquer Pacific nations and territories (which they did as the Pearl Harbor attack was underway and in the days after).

The bombs began to fall from enemy aircraft overhead at 07:48 a.m. on Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941. It was 75 years ago this month that America thus entered World War II after the attack that President Franklin Roosevelt described as on a date “…that will live in infamy…”

Beneath the shiny metal wings of the Japanese attack planes lay the bulk of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet — battleships, cruisers, light cruisers, destroyers, and more. The military forces of the Empire of Japan launched this stealth attack on the fleet, launching planes from heaving carrier decks in the rough seas of the North Pacific Ocean…in minutes they were overhead thus shattering the “isolationist” mood of the United States of America that had prevailed since the late-1920s and into the 1930s.

At anchor that quiet Sunday morning lay the Navy’s capital ships (battleships) USS Arizona; USS Pennsylvania; USS Nevada; USS Oklahoma; USS Tennessee; USS California; USS Maryland; USS West Virginia. Heavy cruisers USS New Orleans and USS San Francisco. And on and on: light cruisers; destroyers; submarines; coastal minesweepers; gunboats; support craft; ammunition ships; hospital ship USS Solace; ocean-going tugs; PT boats.

But — most important — not at the harbor that day were these important vessels with squadrons of aircraft on board and their accompanying support task force vessels: America’s relatively small but powerful fleet of aircraft carriers (designated “CVs” then). The targeted U.S. carriers were not to be found by searching attack aircraft.

The USS Lexington (CV-2), newly commissioned, was on a cruise to Midway Island (leaving Pearl Harbor on 28 November) to deliver Grumman F4F “Wildcat” aircraft to the U.S. Marines. (Sister ship USS Saratoga was at home port, San Diego, California harbor, picking up more aircraft for Pacific service and due to head into the Pacific.) The USS Enterprise had delivered fighter aircraft to the U.S. Marines at Wake Island and was en route back to Pearl but was delayed one day by bad weather.

Of other carriers, USS Ranger was in the British West Indies. USS Yorktown (CV-5) was at Norfolk, Virginia. USS Wasp was at Bermuda. USS Hornet was on training exercises in the Atlantic Ocean.

And one more: a source of pride here in our home region, the USS Long Island — a smaller “jeep” carrier — was in Norfolk, Virginia.

These capital ships — plus five more “Essex” class carriers then under construction — would carry the war to Japan in the Pacific. The five new ships were: USS Essex – CV-9; USS Yorktown, the second to carry the name, renamed Bon Homme Richard ; USS Lexington/Cabot; USS Bunker Hill; and, USS Intrepid, now a major tourist attraction in New York City. The USS Lexington/Cabot is now a floating museum in Corpus Christi, Texas. USS Yorktown (II) is a museum at Patriots Point, South Carolina.

The Japanese carrier-based aircraft in attacking Pearl Harbor and not finding the carrier task force groups at anchor was important: only a few months later (May 1942), in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the U.S. carriers would help send portions of the Japanese Empire’s fleet to the bottom of the sea. That set up the bigger victory for the U.S. Navy shortly after in the Battle of Midway. These were the first battles between aircraft carriers and their respective aircraft — where the combatant ships involved could not see each other.

While not in action on December 7 at Pearl, the USS Yorktown and USS Lexington aircraft squadrons began repaying the Japanese Imperial Navy for their deeds on December 7th, 1941 — that is, in only a few months’ time. And the damage done to Japan’s fleet was significant.

The point of all this is that aircraft carriers have been the main method of projecting U.S. military, diplomatic and other “power” in American waters, and in far-flung nations in situations that are of “strategic interest” to the United States of America for most of the 20th Century and into this volatile 21st Century. The U.S. Navy aircraft carriers are among the most potent weapons of war ever to be deployed, in both offense and defense.

During the many years of the Cold War, the U.S. Navy deployed carrier task forces to the important maritime “choke points” to assure freedom of the seas and peaceful trade, the movement of fuel, for protecting waterways needed for military protection, and more. These included the Caribbean Basin and the Panama Canal; the Mediterranean Sea; the coastal waters around Japan; the North Sea passages; the Persian Gulf regional waters; and the U.S. coastlines (the carrier bases are along Atlantic and Pacific harbors).

In times of war, the carriers have been on station offshore projecting power into the theater of war — both recent wars in Iraq; in the Viet Nam conflict; off the Korean Peninsula in the 1950s war; in the Caribbean Sea.

The carrier fleet (the “Carrier Strike Group“) today could consist of the huge carrier and its aircraft; a guided missile cruiser; accompanying guided missile destroyers; an attack submarine; a replenishment/support ship with combined ammunition, oil and supplies. Other ships could be added as needed — cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and so on.

The modern air wing consists of four strike group squadrons (up to 40 fighters each); an electronic attack squadron (five aircraft); an early warning squadron (four aircraft); a helicopter sea combat squadron (eight a/c); a helicopter maritime strike squadron (up to a dozen a/c); and other support aircraft. The Navy’s air wings are made up of 1,500 personnel and just shy of 80 aircraft; there are nine of these stationed at key locations (NAS Jacksonville, NAS Cherry Point, in Japan, etc.) and the crews and aircraft rotate on carrier duty.

Today, there are 10 U.S. aircraft carriers in active service. They are:

• CVN-68 – USS Nimitz: Now at home port, Bremerton, Washington State.
• CVN-69 – USS Dwight D. Eisenhower: operating in the Atlantic Ocean waters (having recently left station in the Persian Gulf).
• CVN-70 – USS Carl Vinson: Now at home port, San Diego.
• CVN-71 – USS Theodore Roosevelt: Now at home port, San Diego.
• CVN-72 – USS Abraham Lincoln: ship is being completed at Newport News, Virginia
• CVN-73 – USS George Washington: being qualified in the Atlantic; home port, Norfolk.
• CVN-74 – USS John C. Stennis; was at Pearl Harbor for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day events in December; at home base, Bremerton, WA.
• CVN-75 – USS Harry S Truman: at Norfolk for servicing until 2017.
• CVN-76 – USS Ronald Reagan: based at home port of Yokosuka, Japan; has been operating off the Korean Peninsula coast line, with a stop in South Korea.
• CVN-77 – USS George H.W. Bush: home port Norfolk; has been on training exercises in the Atlantic.

These advanced design carriers are under construction:

• CVN-78 – USS Gerald R. Ford: due for initial operational test in 2017 to enter service (a $14 billion investment for our defense).
• CVN-79 – USS John F. Kennedy: scheduled for launch in 2018-19.
• CVN-80 – USS Enterprise: construction underway for launch in 2023, to replace the USS Nimitz (CVN-68).

And there our “retired” carriers still afloat:

• CV-63 – USS Kitty Hawk: stored at facility in Bremerton, WA.
• CV-64 – USS Constellation: “mothballed” at Bremerton, WA.
• CVN-65 – USS Enterprise: stored at Newport News, Virginia.
• CV-67 – USS John F. Kennedy: based at the “inactive ships maintenance facility” in Philadelphia.

So as we hear about a carrier task force entering the very narrow Straight of Hormuz to patrol the Persian Gulf waters (the vital waterway between Saudi Arabia and Iran), or entering the South China Sea to project power and protect shipping lanes, or off the coast of Korea as the madman ruler in the North escalates his threats against other nations, we should keep in mind the lessons learned over the past 75 years. The carriers are our sovereign territories afloat, guarding the nation, protecting allies, projecting American power.

I was reminded of all this as I watched President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday paying their respects to the 2,400 U.S. military personnel who lost their lives in the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack.

Irony: Seventy-five years on, it is an American carrier task force now protecting Japan operating out of its home port of Yokosuka. This is the largest U.S. naval base in the Pacific region located at the entrance to Tokyo Bay. The USS Ronald Reagan and Carrier Strike Group Five (12 ships and submarines/up to 75 aircraft ) are regularly there as part of the mighty Seventh Fleet, which is commanded from Singapore, with a total force of 50-to-70 ships; 140 aircraft; 20,000 sailors, notes the U.S. Navy.

I am tuning in to the events in the South China Sea, and the expansion of China’s military forces there, keeping the power of the U.S. Seventh Fleet in mind. You see, this forward-deployed force operates in 120 million square kilometers, stretching from the International Date Line to the India / Pakistan border, from the Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South, with 36 maritime countries and half of the world’s population in the operation territory. Having the fleet there saves more than two weeks’ sailing time from the U.S. mainland.

The world’s largest navies operate in this region: China, Russia, India, North Korea, South Korea. And the Seventh Fleet protects our mutual defense allies: the Philippines, Australia, Republic of Korea, Thailand, and of course Japan’s home islands.

Best wishes to the U.S. Navy and its carrier strike forces for 2017 — the men and the women of the carriers, accompanying vessels and the many aircraft are helping to keep us safe. “CAVU” to you in the coming days.

naval ships

Update:  April 9, 2017 – via The Washington Post

The U.S. Navy has a carrier strike group moving toward the Western Pacific water near the Korean coastline to “provide a physical presence near the Korean Peninsula.”  The carrier group includes the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and a number of missile launch destroyer and missile cruiser escorts.

The ships are deployed from home port San Diego to the western Pacific Ocean water since January 5th, and has been maneuvering with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and the Republic Korea Navy, in the South China Sea, say the Associated Press report.

This as the North Korean government continues to rattle swords, in testing ballistic missile launches and developing nuclear weapons.  The USS Carl Vinson in the American show of force and projection of considerable power through its air fleet and shipboard missiles.

UPDATE:  July 11, 2017 — Where Are The U.S. Carriers Today?

On station:

The USS Nimitz:  Off coast of India, for exercises with the Indian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force; was in the South China Sea, enforcing open navigation of the region’s waters.

The USS Ronald Reagan:  off coast of Australia, Coral Sea; exercises (Talisman Saber 2017). Earlier, participated with Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force. Home port:  Yokosuka, Japan.

The USS George H.W. Bush:  with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, was off coast of Israel a week ago.

Source:  www.gonavy.jp/CVLocation.html

Update:  September 8, 2017 — Tensions rising in Asia and Persian Gulf regions.

The USS Nimitz — In the Persian Gulf.

The USS Ronald Reagan – was near Australia, then off coast of Japan; now in home port of Yokosuka, Japan.

 

 

 

America – The Great Melting Pot – The Crucible

America – The Great Melting Pot – the “Crucible” of Humankind

A commentary by Hank Boerner

At least until recently, many of us took pride in the idea that our great United States of America was “a melting pot,” where immigrants from many nations, of varying religious and ethnic backgrounds, could figuratively “come ashore” as many of our ancestors did via Ellis Island in New York Harbor.

Lately, listening to the presidential and congressional campaigns and now the post-campaign rhetoric, the “Golden Door” of America (as attributed by numerous writers to the essence of our Statue of Liberty astride the gateway) is in danger of being sealed up and replaced by the promised wall along the 2,000-mile border between Mexico and the U.S.A.  (As one author told us of the door, “…it is the entrance into liberty and freedom from oppression that is the promise of America, a land, a people, a way of life…”

You might recall the words of poet Emma Lazarus, firmly inscribed on the base of the statue:  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” (“The New Colossus,” 1883.)

I grew up in New York, and have lived and worked here most of my life, with brief interludes in Washington, D.C. and Florida.  Riding on the city subway system most days, it is clear that at least in this bustling urban center, we here are still an example of the melting pot.

Where did this concept come from?  “The Melting Pot” was the title of a 1908 play by Israel Zangwill; it depicts the life of a Jewish-Russian immigrant family that survived an early-1900s pogrom in the Old Country and escaped to safety in America. The play was staged in Washington, D.C., and then-President Teddy Roosevelt (#26, a Republican) was in the White House and attended the debut performance.  (TR was born in New York City and lived most of his life in the Empire State.)

From this stage drama came the familiar phrase, “Melting Pot” to describe America…the “glory of America, where all races and nations come to labour and look forward…”  In the play, author Zangwill has his hero, David, write a musical symphony, “The Crucible,” with the dream of ethnicity disappearing in America.

In the early-1900s theatrical work, the phrase “Melting Pot” quickly gained in popularity to describe the American immigrant experience.

Thinking about this recently, I consulted the National Geographic (NG) magazine, mid-1914 issue, published just as the Old World (Europe, Near East) plunged into the worst armed conflict ever — the Great War, now known to many of us as World War One (which began in summer 1914).  One consequence of WW I for America would be that immigration to our shores would slow to a trickle.  That was a dramatic societal change when we consider what preceded the war.

In 1914, NG reported, one-in-seven people in the U.S.A. were born outside of our borders (13-and-a half-million), equal to the population of Belgium and The Netherlands combined, or Norway/Sweden/Denmark/Switzerland combined. (Of course, all of those nations were the former homelands of millions of new Americans.)

The magazine writers tantalized the readers with lively descriptions:  We had more Germans than the City of Berlin; enough Irish to populate four Dublins; enough Italians to populate three Romes.

Immigration Pushing Westward

The American civil war between the north and south states involved 23 slavery-free states and five border states supporting the Union and 11 states of the south forming the Confederacy.  That five-year long war that killed 600,000 Americans ended in April 1865.  In May of that same year, the transcontinental railroad was completed, linking America’s east and west coasts, and cementing our notion of “Manifest Destiny.”

Europeans (primarily) poured into these once again-United States of America — some staying in coastal cities, many more flowing westward.  The Erie Canal helped to move goods and people westward through the Great Lakes.  Railroads began to criss-cross states, old and new.  Vast agricultural lands were settled (Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, and on and on).

As the swelling American population began moving from farm-to-city to work in the factories of the new Industrial Age, many more immigrants poured into the cities.  Five million-plus arrived on our shores between 1900 and 1910 (when Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House).  Actually, eight-and-a-half million arrived, but three million-plus turned around and returned to their home country.

The American Dream was sought by those “huddled masses” from: Germany, Russia, Ireland, Italy, Canada, Austria, England, Sweden, Hungary, Norway, Scotland, Mexico, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Netherlands, France, Greece, Wales, Japan, Turkey-in-Asia, Portugal, China, Belgium, the Atlantic Islands, Cuba, Bulgaria, Australia, the many nations in South America, Montenegro, Newfoundland, India, Serbia, all of Africa, Luxemburg, Pacific Islands, and Central American nations.  In that descending order of origins — the German-born in the lead.  Perhaps your ancestors are included in the tidal wave of people that reached our shores before WW I.

But even in the early-1900s there was a slowing of certain nationalities — notably, Germans and Irish.  But those earlier waves of immigrants were having families, and so by 1914 there were 19 million people whose parent or parents were foreign born.  And so an astounding 32 million of our citizens — one third of the total population — was either foreign-born or children of first generation immigrants who were foreign-born.

Stats Tell a Story

The earliest reliable statistics tracking immigrants to the U.S. are from 1820 forward.  In 1887, there were almost 500,000 new arrivees.  As the 19th Century turned to the 20th, the one million mark was reached (in 1905); heading toward 1914, the flow had reached 1.2 million — and then dramatically declined to 100,000 by 1918. The Great Migration to our shores was ending.

In 2016 we are a nation of three-plus times the population of those years (100 million then / 324 million today).

And the migration of the legally-admitted today is …. still about one million (2014 data).

What About The Un-Documented Among Us

The issue that irks many Americans, as evidenced in the political campaigns, is the presence of the “illegal or undocumented or illegally-admitted ” non-US citizens” among us.  That could be as many as 11 million (but dropping), according to The Washington Post  story earlier this year, citing the data of the Center for Migration Studies (of course, it’s a New York-based think tank.)  Trending Down: illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America with sharper declines from South America and Europe.

Today’s Immigrant Population

With changes in American law, “immigrants” today include such classifications as those who are lawful residents; tourists, students and workers admitted on a temporary basis; those who apply for asylum or refugee status; and the “naturalized” of the foreign-born.

The Immigration and Naturalization Act governs immigration policy.  There is a limit  set of 675,000 permanent immigrants allowed per year (with some allowance for close family members).  Non-citizens are also allowed on a temporary basis.

Our public policy accommodates family-based immigration; employment -based immigration; and, permanent immigration. There are country ceilings (limits).  And allowance for certain refugees and asylees, and vulnerable populations (think: today’s Syrians, Iraqis, etc.) The latter totals just 85,000 per year.

There is a Diversity Visa Program. Remember the German and Irish and Italian flows more than a century ago? They are not coming in such numbers now, so the Immigration Act of 1990 created a system of allowing immigrants from low-number countries to immigrate to the U.S. — about 55,000 persons per year.

Remember the excitement about President Obama’sDreamers,” a program designed for immigrants who might become eligible for citizenship? There are about 1.8 million eligible, including many who are between 15 and 30 years of age.  The Dreamers are mostly young, of various ages up to 30 and are those brought here as children by their parents entering the country without permission (“illegally” here in popular rhetoric). Half of the Dreamers live in California and Texas; New York has 89,000; Florida, 106,000.  About half are female.  Seven-out-of-10 came from Mexico.  They anxiously await the changes that may take place in public policy when President Obama leaves office.

As We Await the Trump Administration

All of this is interesting to say the least for us to think about, as we await the Trump Administration and the 115th Congress coming to Washington — with immigration reform high on the agenda.

One element of the running conversation on immigration is that of the Muslim population. Should those applying to come here who are of the Muslim faith be denied admittance if they come from certain majority-Muslim nations?  Should Muslim citizens (and non-citizens) among us be required to register and a special database kept (their whereabouts, activities, and so on to be tracked and charted)?

We had somewhat of the same question raised a century ago, back in that 1914 era, when people of German origins comprised a very large part of the American population. (Donald J. Trump’s grandfather among them).  If America went to war with the Kaiser’s Germany, the discussion of the day was, would the German-Americans / or / American-Germans be trusted in the U.S. military?  Would they fight their cousins on European battle fields?

 Loyalty of New Citizens

This was an important question.  The American ambassador to Germany at the time, James W. Gerard, delivered a speech on the subject in April 1918 – a few months before we went to war with Germany.

The German-Americans embraced their new nation’s cause unconditionally, he told the German leadership. And he warned them of what would happen to any German-American who betrayed America.  The German foreign minister had told the ambassador that [Germany] had 500,000 “German reservists” in America who would rise in arms against the United States if our country made any move against Germany.

So, the ambassador said in his comments:  America would have 500,001 lampposts in where the “reservists” would be hanging the day after they tried to rise.  And if there were any German-Americans who were so ungrateful for the benefits they received that they are still for the Kaiser (the German leader) there is only one thing to do.  Give them back their wooden shoes and the rags they landed in, and ship them back to the Fatherland.

And for good measure he added:  “I have traveled over all the United States — through the Alleghenies, the Catskills, the Rockies (etc.).  And in all these mountains, there is no animal that bites and kicks and squeals and scratches, that would bite and squeal and scratch equal to a  German-American, if you commenced to tie him up and told him that he was on his way back to the Kaiser [and the former homeland].”

The Question Arose Again in 1941-42

The question was again raised in 1941 as the military-led Empire of Japan attacked the U.S. military bases in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and declared war on the U.S. (and we immediately declared war on Japan).  In what is now acknowledged by many to be a shameful period in American history, Japanese-Americans (“Nisei”) were rounded up and sent to internment camps — up to 120,000 men, women and children.

But the young men joined the military to fight for their country, the United States of America. More than 30,000 Nisei served in the U.S. Army, a good number fighting bravely as members of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, one of the most decorated units in all of U.S. military history.  While they fought in Italy, the young Boy Scouts back in the internment camps in the U.S. conducted memorial services for the fallen.

The Nisei were Americans first in the 1940s, as were the German-Americans before them in the early 1900s.  Oh, and the Nisei soldiers were among those liberating Jews at the Nazi slave camps, including Dachau.  Wonder what they were thinking as they remembered the fate of their families back home in western U.S. internment camps.

About America, the Melting Pot, America, the Crucible

The originator of the “Melting Pot” and “The Crucible,” Israel Zangwill was a British-born teacher, author and playwright (1864-1926) who was an ardent supporter of 19th Century “Zionism.”  While championing a Jewish homeland, he had strong thoughts about America.  Look at the words his character says in the famous play:

“America is God’s crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and reforming!  Here you stand, good folk, think I, when I see them at Ellis Island, here you stand in your 50 groups with your 50 languages and histories, and your 50 blood hatreds and rivalries.

“But you won’t be like that, brothers, for these are the fires of God you’ve come to — these are the fires of God.  A fig for your feuds and vendettas!  Germans and Frenchmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, Jews and Russians. Into the Crucible with you all!  God is making the American.

“The real American has not yet arrived.  He is only in the Crucible, I tell you.  He will be the fusion of all races, the common superman.”

 Lessons for 2017

What are the lessons of all of this for we Americans in the last weeks of the year 2016 — and looking into what might happen in 2017?   When the first European explorers reached the North American shores, the land was sparsely settled — estimates range from 7 to 18 million indigenous peoples were here.  America as we know it is an immigrant nation.

Of course, every nation must be able to secure its boundaries, its borders.  We are a nation of laws, based on our wonderful Constitution and Bill of Rights as foundation, and it is not unreasonable to expect that people arriving here will do so within the framework of the law — “legally,” if you please.

The questions to be addressed going forward are:  (1) what should our legal immigration policies be? (2) What do we do — humanely — about those that did not follow the rules but now live among us?  (3)  What do we do about asylees and refugees who want to come to our country?  (4)  What do we do about citizens born here, and protected by our Constitution, if their parents came without permission when they were children?  (5) What should our conversation be about immigrants and immigration and so on, so that those we welcome here….feel welcomed!

Stay Tuned — the answers should be coming in early-2017.

* * * * * * * *

Check out The Washington Post story about illegal immigration at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/federal-eye/wp/2016/01/20/u-s-illegal-immigrant-population-falls-below-11-million-continuing-nearly-decade-long-decline-report-says/

About author Israel Zangwill:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Zangwill

More background on “The Crucible” and playwright: “American Crucible:  Race and Nation in the 20th Century” by Gary Gerstle (published by Princeton University Press, 2001).

I’ve commented in this blog about immigration and the wonder of our Immigrant Nation — see my Thanksgiving 2014 post:  http://www.hankboerner.com/staytuned/happy-thanksgiving-tomorrow-yes-it-will-be-heres-my-why/

Personal Remembrances of September 11th — From the Year 2001

by Hank Boerner

My Internal Memo of Monday September 17, 2001

I offer my thoughts on the past week — recapping and thinking things through while events are still fresh in my mind

By Hank Boerner

Introduction: Fifteen years ago, as our nation slowly began the recovery after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, I wrote down my thoughts of the past days…”some thoughts on the past week,” for my family, friends and business colleagues. I share them here today on the 15th anniversary of the deadly attacks on the United States of America, a day when we lost so many innocent men, women and children because of the actions of fanatics bent on harming us.

And so I observed…

This is a sad time for humanity…thousands of innocent people are dead or missing in New York City and in the rest of America tonight because fanatics and madmen have declared war on civilization. Families are without fathers or mothers, sisters and brothers; our children just starting their careers were cut down where they sat in the offices where they were so pleased to be invited in; other loved ones are missing and we all presume the worst now.

Hundreds of brave firefighters and police officers are missing, or dead, or injured. Life seems so unfair at times like these. Why? What did these innocent people do to invite such tragedy into their lives? Why must family members be missing from our homes?

And yet, even as we grieve, we must go on. For them, for our children. Our striving for a return “to life,” to whatever circumstances and conditions will pass for normalcy in the months ahead, is a basic human instinct.

We are becoming focused now on getting on with our lives – but pledging to do things better, and living a more exemplary life with care and concern for others. This attitude will be a memorial for those who lost their lives. We grieve; but we must also go on for the sake of our children and those who must put things back in order after the terrible events in downtown New York. We will be OK…right?

Our instinct is to feel rage and to call for retaliation; our heart and religious upbringing tells us that we must temper our response so that more innocent people do not die. The fanatics and madmen must not succeed in making us less civilized, and more like them. Blessed be the peacemakers; let our nation’s response be appropriate and limited to the wrongdoers who committed this evil.

We are all OK in our family, thanks to all who inquired, but all around us we have people we know who are suffering. Our daughter, Heather, began her grad studies at NYU but was not scheduled to be in class on Tuesday. Still, like many her age, including her close friends who live in Manhattan, she is anxious about the future…will this mean a world war….what is a world war…what will happen to us?

She works with small children as a speech teacher and therapist; above all, she needs confidence in herself and the world around her to help her young charges cope. Have we failed our children in some way?

In our Long Island, New York communities, were hear of the missing – 40 in this town, 75 in that. The churches are filled this week. As we reconnect with friends and family, the stories increase dramatically: those who are still missing; those who had narrow escapes; still more who turned left instead of right and survived that day; who was on the road and away from the towers, and so on.

Throughout September 11th, from within the hour of the first airplane crashes, our team was in place assisting our client, American Airlines, in responding to rapidly changing events. For five straight days we assisted in every way we could, especially at the New York area airports. We have been standing down since late Saturday, after midnight.

Sunday was a day of letting ourselves “feel” again, and of examining what happened and examining the awful impact of it all. Tears came during a church service; oh, the enormity of it all. What can we do? That, too, is a basic human instinct – to do the right thing, to help, to feel what we should without shame.

My Diary: Where was I when the events occurred? On the way from Long Island to New York City for three meetings during the day, last Tuesday (the 11th). As our train reached the first location where we could see the downtown Manhattan skyline, on this clear and sunlit morning we saw thick black smoke coming out of one of the towers – that was the North Tower, struck by American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston at 8:46 a.m.

Of course, many people on the train remember the terrorist attack on the towers in 1993, so they grabbed their cell phones and called home and office. The word was passed around the car – a small plane apparently hit the tower. Was this a plane off course? A demented pilot at the controls?

We slowly moved on and then came to the high point in Central Queens where the downtown towers were again just becoming visible (before we entered the tunnels under the East River to Penn Station). Now, a huge cloud of smoke arose from the South Tower, struck by United Flight 175 at 9:30 a.m. As the train moved on, we very briefly saw the area engulfed in flames and with black smoke pouring out – never will I forget that sight. Words fail to describe the horror of knowing what was happening to the people in those two buildings, on the aircraft, and in the surrounding areas of the downtown neighborhood.

As a longtime crisis manager, I am trained to make fast decisions, right or wrong. My decision was to return at once to my Mineola, Long Island command center and be ready to respond as needed. I dashed upstairs to look at the monitor in Penn Station — the two towers had smoke streaming out, and then I raced down to a train just departing for my Mineola station (the office was a block away). The car was jammed with people, many crying, others anxiously dialing the outside world. Ours was one of the last trains out of Manhattan that day. And it was one of the longest rides I have ever experienced …minutes stretched on the short ride to Nassau County (18 miles distant)..

When I reached the office, there were numerous emails calling for assistance for our airline client, mostly from Dallas, the HQs office of American Airlines (my client).

This was surreal; I was an American Airlines communications manager early in my career, and here my crisis training and experience of those years past would come into play. (I had worked with other airline clients over the years since, including in many crisis situations around the world.)

All phone lines and cellulars to Manhattan and Queens were not working; our link to the world at ground zero and environs and the airports was the Internet. Our crisis teams in New York and Northern Virginia dispersed at once to airports, where we supported our client for the next five or six days.

On September 11 and over the next days, I moved by auto from LaGuardia to Kennedy International to Newark International and back again, over and over, for early mornings, late night conferences, always moving to support operating staffs. My concentration was on the duties at hand.

As I drove over the Verrazano Bridge spanning the New York harbor en route to Newark, I could see the horrible black smoke pouring out of the heart of the financial district. I drove through the low-hanging cloud, which choked the throat and smelled awful – the smell of death and destruction. No one who ever experienced that smell will ever forget it.

Oh, how helpless I felt…who would do this awful thing? Why is there such evil in the world? In the New York region, emergency vehicles were everywhere…rescue teams with search dogs; volunteer firefighters from the suburbs; ambulances; fire trucks; portable power units on trucks; police, police and more police. Ambulances. Caregivers in white coats stood by near the towers. Where the people inside the towers alive? On their way to a hospital? I hoped so.

The airport security forces were anxious; the airline staff at each airport knew those who perished, or felt deep concern for the souls on board the four flights. This was not supposed to happen to travelers departing with hope in their hearts.

The mood saw somber inside the American Airlines operations tower and offices; folks here struggling to keep things going knew the men and women who were pilots and flight attendants on those crashed airliners.

Only on that Saturday night (well after midnight) could I stand down as airports and flights became more stabilized. Duty set aside, I became more the observer.

This morning, at 9:30, the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange was sounded. this became surreal again. This was my old environs (I worked at NYSE early in my career). I teared up again, with sadness and with pride. America is getting it together to move on. People are functioning near ground zero. Though almost everyone on The Street has lost someone they know or love, many came to work through the obstacles to get our machinery functioning again.

My old friend and colleague Dick Grasso (NYSE chairman), a man from a working class family from Queens, spoke eloquently and fervently when he declared the Exchange open with the governor, the mayor, a firefighter and police officer at his side.

One TV channel calls this time “America Rising.” I hope so. Today I continued to reach out to family, friends and colleagues to find out how they were, and most of the stories were encouraging. The losses were sad stories…our friend next door in the law office lost her 21 year old stepson, who watched the first plane hit and called home from the adjacent tower. They evacuated his office; for him, probably not fast enough; he is among the missing.

We are becoming overwhelmed by all the media coverage, but it is also comforting. We are not alone in our fears, tears, concerns, love, caring, response. The picture of President George W. Bush and the retired firefighter atop the barricades sent cheers throughout our town. “We hear you,” the president proclaimed to America. “And the people who did this will hear from us.”

Today we regroup and go on, those of us who can. Tonight is a special time for Jews around the world, who gather in their homes for the high holy days and start of the new year while troubles intrude. We wish all those who begin their observation of Rosh HoShanna tonight peace and love and comfort in the faith and traditions of the millennia.

Before long, we will all be celebrating our American Thanksgiving, which will be a day of both hope and great sadness, depending on the circumstances of each family. Christians will celebrate Christmas and we pray that at year-end all of our families are intact, none missing family members because of more such tragic events.

We owe a special thanksgiving – tonight as well as in November – for the fire fighters, police, volunteer workers, and those public servants on duty in lower Manhattan as they pry the wreckage away. They are redefining the American Spirit…one life, God, we pray, at least one life should be saved tonight as a result of their heroic efforts. We need that victory over evil to inspire us to go on.

Life does go on. Civilization must survive. Evil must not prevail. Our examples of doing the right thing will be memorials to those who have gone on “across the river,” as the Good Book says. God Bless Us all in the days ahead.

# # #

We would love to hear from you, and to know that all is well with you and your family, and friends and colleagues. Good news is so much needed today!

Hank Boerner – Mineola, New York

Days We Will Never Forget. Nor Should We. They Are Burned Deep in Memory…

by Hank Boerner

There are days that we should hever forget. The President of the United States said that after the awful tragedies of September 11, 2001, when thousands of Americans and visitors died and thousands more were injured in the direct attacks against American targets by foreign interests far, far away. And yet, so close.  The attackers were living amongst us, for a time, preparing for the day they would inflict great damage on our nation.

There are four or maybe even five generations of Americans alive at this moment, going back to some who are of the Greatest Generation, the men and women who survived the Great Depression of the 1930s and fought the good fight for democracy from 1941 to 1945 —WW II.  Many are still with us.  They remember “Pearl Harbor Day,” each December 7th.

December 7, 1941, a “date that will live in infamy,” said President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the U.S. Congress and by radio to the nation. That day — December 7, 1941, the naval forces of the Empire of Japan attacked the U.S. military forces at Pearl Harbor in the U.S. territory of Hawaii. Almost 3,000 young men and women died in that attack.  All of my young days I was reminded that it was “Pearl Harbor Day” today.

Another day that many of younger ages — the Baby Boomers — will recall was the funeral train that carried the body of U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, slain by an assassin in California in 1968. I remember this because I stood in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City as his coffin was carried out…and put on a train that slowly wound its way from New York through Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore, and on to Washington, D.C. I had done work with the good senator, borther of the slain president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

This was reminiscent, broadcaster noted, of the final train ride for President Abraham Lincoln, assassinated in 1865, carrying his body to burial in Illinois — many miles, along parts of the same route.  Tens of thousands of people lined the route on both occasions.

There is another tragic day to remember for those alive in 1963. Who can forget where they were when the news came on November 22, 1963 that the dynamic young president was shot to death in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas.  John F. Kennedy was in office just about 1,000 days — not even completing his first term.

As with other events, everyone would remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the leader of the “New Frontier” for America was assassinated in Dealey Plaza, Dallas. I remember watching the most well-known newsman in America, Walter Cronkite on CBS Network announcing the president’s death.

Today, September 11 — Let Us Remember

And so it is today, for many Americans, as we stop what we are doing to remember the frightful, awful, tragic events of September 11th. Four giant airliners were hijacked, from their take off points in the New York region, Boston and Virginia, and flown by fanatic, deranged men into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, into the Pentagon in Northern Virginia, and what would have been either the White House or the Capitol Building on the highest point in Washington, DC — except for the brave actions of passengers  on United Flight 93 over rural Pennsylvania.

How unbelievable, how frightening to consider even today, 15 years — some 5,500 days — later.

For those not born yet, or too young to remember the events of the day:  American Airlines Flight 11 — Boston to Los Angeles — departing Boston at 7:59 a.m. and then crashing into the WTC (#1) North Tower at 8:46 a.m.

Then United Air Lines Flight #175, departing from Boston at 8:14 a.m. — flying from Boston to LAX — hitting the WTC South Tower (#2) at 9:03 a.m. .  Then American Airlines Flight #77, leaving Dulles International (Virginia) at 8:30 a.m. — heading for Los Angeles,, flying into the Pentagon at 9:30 a.m.

And then the report of the “missing” United Air Lines Flight #93, flying out of Newark at 8:42 a.m. en route from New Jersey to San Francisco — reported down on the ground in Shanksville, PA at 10:03 a.m.  Even today, all of this is very difficult to comprehend.

These were massive passenger jets, with a combined almost 300 passengers and crew members on board, loaded with many tons of volatile jet fuel, carrying innocent passengers (including children) en route to a  happy destination.

It was a bright, sunny morning, you may recall, all along the Atlantic coastline of our continent.  Summer weather was still with us.  New York region schools, schools in Boston, Washington area schools, Pennsylvania schools were open as the new school year was beginning.  The summer break was over (Labor Day was the prior week); and literally thousands upon thousands of men and women streamed into the giant twin towers of the World Trade Center, which dominated the New York City skyline in Lower Manhattan, and other nearby complexes in the financial district.  These towers of the WTC stretched 100 stories into the blue skies.  Giant elevators whished tenants and visitors to the highest levels.

And then, in a few terrible minutes, two giant passenger jets flew directly into the buildings. It is hard even today to divine what was on the minds of the histrackers as those in the cockpit aimed the acricraft into the building.  And even harder to think about the fear on the part of passengers —  “souls” in airline parlance — in the last moments of their lives.

And what of the thousands of people at work as the rush hour was ending, high atop the bedrock of Manhattan Island — what were their thoughts as they heard the crash into their building?  Smelled the smoke?  Understood the threat to their lives?

At 9:59 a.m. unbelievably, the South Tower would fall to the ground, killing those inside and many on the ground, and spread deadly dust (asbestos) throughout the downtown. Throughout the heart of this nation’s vital financial center. At 10:28 a.m. the other tower would collapse. Chaos reigned.

And I think today with tears in my eyes of the brave responders.  Firemanic forces — proud members of NYFD — running to the danger.  343 New York City firefighters would give their lives to save others.  Police officers would die that morning, more than 70, members of NYPD (“New York’s Finest”), the Port Authority of NY & NJ Police Department; and some of the Federal agency officers on duty that day.

Thousands more responders — uniformed and volunteers — would be sickened, and many would die, as they were first responders working on the “pile” to find survivors and pull them to safety. And then, when there were no more, they would work on the pile to clear debris and look for human remains.

And so, today, I stop to pray for the souls of those who lost their lives on Setpember 11, 2001, and for those who we lost in the days and weeks and months after.  I will think about the brave actions of the passengers on Flight 93 who fought the thugs who stole their plane and prevented a huge tragedy in our nation’s capital city.  I will pray for those who lost their lives in the bastion of the nation’s military, the Pentagon complex just across the Potomac River from Washington.

This is personal.  In my hometown here just outside the city, we lost three dozen people.  This morning in Patriot’s Park, they are being remembered.  Across our region we lost hundreds of men and women.  And the bells still ring in churches as brave responders succumb to their illnesses.  My long-time friend, Rep Peter King ascended to the chair of the Homeland Security Committee of the House, and I take pride in the good work that he and many others in government have been doing since 2001 to keep us safe. He is there with head bowed this morning at “Ground Zero.”  His is a police family.

But this is a New Normal for America and especially for the young men and women who grew up after September 11, 2001. It is a different world for them — will any of them — or us — ever feel safe again?

Today, please say your prayers for those who lost their lives on that awful day and in the days thereafter. Including our men and women in uniform taking the September 11 fight to our enemies around the world who did these awful things to us.

May God bless America. And long may the Stars & Stripes wave overhead, a proud beacon to us all. The flags at Ground Zero in NYC, at the Pentagon, in the Pennsylvania field — all have very special meaning to Americans.

Separately today in this space I will share my notes of September 11, 2001, when I was the American Airlines responder in New York City.

Did You Celebrate American Labor — on Labor Day 2016?

by Hank Boerner

Monday, September 5th is Labor Day, 2016. Did you celebrate American labor today? The American worker built this great nation and the day is set aside to remember the men and women of past and present and their contributions to the Making of America.

The origins of the national holiday go back to the 1800s and the beginning of industrialization of the United States economy. The first celebration was in September 1882, organized by labor unions — in New York City.

Cities, then states began to adopt Labor Day legislation. New York State was apparently the first state to consider such a rule; Oregon has the honor of being the first state to adopt the official holiday. After 23 states adopted the holiday, the Federal government declared the first Monday of September to be Labor Day in 1894.

As a young person, I can recall parades of workers — and especially union members, men and women — marching with banners proclaiming their organizations (locals, etc.). No more. We are apparently too jaded for that kind of celebration. And unions are under fire these days; membership is way down from historic levels.

But did you stop today at all to remember — to celebrate – the American working men and women? (That’s pretty much all of us, isn’t it!).

We’ve lost many jobs to outsourcing, downsizing, movement of plants to foreign shores, and more. But we are a resilient people — and American labor is still the most productive in the world, according to some expert sources.

Hope you did.  And now it’s back to work!

Our Flag – the Pledge – Our Beloved Star Spangled Banner – Symbol of Civil Rights Protest or Devotion to Country?

By Hank Boerner

Our Flag – the Pledge – Our Beloved Star Spangled Banner…
Symbol of Civil Rights Protest — or Devotion to Country?

The dust up over the stand/don’t stand situation in the National Football League — when the U.S. National Anthem is played — is disturbing to a lot of people.

Is this about “protesting” the life & death friction between a handful of police officers and African-Americas? About First Amendment-guaranteed free speech rights being exercised? About using a very visible public arena — football is “America’s game” after all — to bring attention to serious social / societal issues? All of these? And more — what about this being a case of disrespecting the treasured American flag (the stars and stripes, which the national anthem honors)?

Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light…is our flag still there….

And for you, dear reader — how many times have you said these words – probably thousands and thousands, depending on your age: I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.

This Pledge – of Allegiance – is to the Flag, symbol of our nation, beloved by our American People.

The flag’s symbolism is powerful.

When I think of the American flag, I try to imagine the conditions under which Francis Scott Key penned his poem (in 1814). He was holed up in Baltimore harbor as British war ships pounded Fort McHenry (his poem was “Defense of Ft McHenry”). In 1931 this poem was  set to music by Stafford Smith and was adopted as our National Anthem. Most of us have probably never read the full four paragraphs (the three beyond the first, which we regularly sing along with).

The British cannons raked the fort. In the morning dawn, the tattered flag is visible. (The original was restored and is on display in the nation’s capital.) Writes Key:

“Tis the Start-spangled Banner: O, long may it wave,
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave…”

For me, another battle, another flag, is closer in time (at least for me) in understanding the conditions under which this symbol of the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave was seared into memory. For people who were there, fighting and dying, and for those of us who have since looked on at their sacrifice.

Consider: February, 1945 – on the tiny Pacific island of Iwo Jima: members of the United States Marine Corps are locked in a life & death battle with the entrenched forces of the military of the Empire of Japan. On the tallest peak, on this small, extinct volcano, a group of Marines raise a small flag on top of Mount Suribachi. Cheers go up. The American fighting men are encouraged by the sight.

Later, another group of Leathernecks goes up and photograph Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press takes the photo that has been reproduced millions of times ever since. You can see that act memorialized in a notable structure – erected by private donations – overlooking the City of Washington, D.C.

The Marine Corps War Memorial, also called the Iwo Jima Memorial, is a military memorial statue outside the walls of the Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Va. The memorial is dedicated to all personnel of the United States Marine Corps who have died in the defense of their country since 1775.

Photo:  United States Marine Corps, Quantico, VA

This brave act, carrying up and raising a larger more visible 48-star American flag taken from an amphibious LST landing craft back on the beach, was in reality the act of “…six ordinary Americans, half of the them doomed to become casualties on Iwo…”

Consider the sacrifice under the banner raised atop the hill on Iwo Jima: “Thousands of foxholes, draped with ponchos and shelter halves, pocked the island…chilled by sudden rain, harassed by heavy surf, the support and service units doggedly performed their tasks under the constant threat of artillery. On Iwo, every place seemed like the front…”

“…the exhausted Marine divisions slowly eliminated resistance…on March 16 the island was declared secure…” “ Japanese Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi’s 21,000 man garrison died in place as ordered, many in caves providing protection against American forces. In the process, the Japanese inflicted 26,000 Marine casualties, 2,798 [U.S. Navy personnel] and 37 [U.S. Army].

Marines stand at attention when composer and bandmaster John Philip Sousa’s Marine Corps Hymn is played, and of course when the ode to the Star Spangled Banner is sung – our National Anthem. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardie’s – all are at attention and saluting when the grand song of our Republic is played.

My Iwo Jima source: Semper Fidelis, The History of the United States Marine Corps,” by Allan R. Millett, published 1991 by The Free Press/McMillan, Inc.

The National Anthem and American Sports

In civilian life, especially in professional sports, the singing of the national anthem and display of the flag are very much integrated in the many symbolisms and activities of the National Football League, The American and National Leagues of baseball, and most other sports activities – professional and amateur.

Who will ever forget the powerful performance of the late Whitney Houston signing the national anthem in January 1991 in Tampa at the start of the Super Bowl XXV? Link here to watch if you have not seen it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_lCmBvYMRs

And so these days there are powerful emotions attached to the actions of San Francisco 49ers (NFL) Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit down when the national anthem is sung. His first act of protest was at the start of the August 26 pre-season match with the Green Bay Packers; he repeated the gesture shortly after in the pre-season game with the 49ers and San Diego Chargers. Note that was the Chargers’ annual “Salute to the Military” celebration in San Diego, a big US Navy and US Marine Corps base.

Explaining why he “sat” during the song, he explained: “I am not going to stand up [to show pride in a flag] for a country that suppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. there are bodies in the streets and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder. ” (Source: NFL Media.)

The NFL also said: “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.” Just to be clear about that.

In response the Santa Clara Police Union said it would boycott 49ers games. It might not provide protection at the team’s games.

Reflecting the division on the issue, a #VetsForKaepernick Twitter dialogue.

The team was circumspect in its response (remember, this is San Francisco, by political standards a liberal, even immigrant-protective “sanctuary” city): “The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on our great liberties we are afforded as citizens/ Om respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.”

Speaking from China and the meeting of the G20 nations, President Barack Obama weighed in with the comments: “I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that need to be talked about.” President Obama said when it comes to the flag, and the national anthem, and the meaning that that holds for our men and women in uniform and for those who fought for us, that is a tough thing for them to get past [and to hear] what his deeper concerns are…”  (Source: Politico web site.)

I call this column “Stay Tuned” — and so we will, to his controversy, which has inflamed so many people’s views about our flag, our anthem, our display of love of country. There is certainly more to come in all of this during the now=accelerating presidential campaigning.  What are your thoughts on all of this?

The 21st Century Company — What Can We Expect?

by Hank Boerner

When my partner Lou Coppola and I were discussing concepts for a conference with Chris Skroupa and the Skytop Strategies team last year, we talked about the fascination that we all seem to “have with decades and centuries.” And even “Millennia” — we are now in the Third as the calendar changed from “1900s” to “2000s.” . And of course we talked our fascination with “looking ahead” to divine the future.

The musings led to the wonderful event that we had in May 2016 at Baruch College / CUNY, our gracious hosts for the “21st Century Company” conference. I’d like to share my opening comments for that conference with you.

In “decades” we talk about the Roaring 20’s, the 1960’s social and cultural revolution, In centuries we think about traditions of the Victorian Age — taking up most of the 1800s.

Time magazine publisher Henry Luce dubbed the 20th, “The American Century.” And it was, in so many dimensions: economic, cultural, militarily, industrially, financially, and so on.

Remember the discussion about when exactly the 21st Century would begin – in year 2000 or 2001? And how the world’s IT network was about to melt down because we had only two digits for dates in old software? An estimated $100 Billion dollars were invested in “Y2K” programs by business 1995-2001

Y2K was a good example of progress made in the new century based on technology and scientific advances in the prior century. We saw that throughout the 20th Century — tinkerers building on 19th and 18th and even 17th Century advances.

“Tinkerers” create by leveraging the old for the new — and that’s how we advance in our society — how we create value – create new industries — create new wealth for the many. (And, of course, for the fortunate few, the 1%, as well.)

In the 1760s – the 18th Century – Scotsman James Watt tinkered with steam power.
He experimented with stethoscope tubing and tin cans — building on advances earlier in the century.

Watt’s tinkering led to harnessing the power of steam In the 19th Century, tinkerers put the steam engine on a wagon, and pulled carriages behind. The vehicles were “in train,” so they called it “a train” pulled by the steam-powered locomotive. Many of us got here this morning “by train.”

Soon railroads were everywhere, carrying people and freight. The great American prairies of the Midwest and Southwest stretches of flat land (like Oklahoma and Texas) were settled and a mighty agriculture empire arose mid-continent.

The farmland output — the harvested crops — would concentrate in factories and the nation would have packaged foods – think of cereals – as well as abundant pork, beef, buffalo and other meat products.

A tinkerer in the 19th Century – Samuel Morse – put electric stimulation through wires to convey messages. He gave us the telegraph. Recently some observers called the telegraph the “Victorian Internet.” At this point in my presentation at Baruch I held up glass standoff — it’s silicon in nature. The standoff should be familiar to you — you will see it atop the crossbar along railroad tracks; it insulated the telegraphy and later telephone wires.

Silicon was fundamental to 20th Century electronic technology. In the last century there would be a valley named for Silicon because of the importance of the simple “sand” element. Silicon is found in radios, cameras, phones, computers.

The telegraph concept’s success led us on to telephony, radio broadcasts, television, and the global Internet with its wondrous World Wide Web (www.”whatever” you like).  Tinkerer Tim Berners-Lee created the Web – and made it available to all of us with no strings attached.

At the end of the 19th and into the 20th Century, tinkerer Thomas Edison brought forth amazing devices – spawning giant industries! Think of the electric utilities – built on the genius of Edison.

He experimented with 6,000 plant materials to find a light bulb filament that worked and would last for the consumer. Carbonized bamboo was one solution. If you drive around the City of Fort Myers, Florida, you’ll see bamboo plants here and there. And the Edison and (Henry] Ford Winter Estates features family gardens and a research lab. When Thomas Edison bought his property he found bamboo growing there and experimented with that plant for his light bulb filaments. Henry Ford played around with plants to grow a domestic source of rubber (latex) for his auto’s tires. Such in the fascination with the wonders of nature for tinkerers!

Edison’s great insight was that a central generating system — the dynamo — with wires running to homes and business would create a new category of business services.

At the time of his death in 1931 the still expanding electric utility business was a $75 billion business in current dollars!

His tinkering gave us moving pictures (“movies”), the phonograph and other machines that would change our business and personal lives.

Remember James Watt of Scotland and the primitive steam engine? Steam power was soon everywhere — powering railroads, providing power for factories and globe-roaming steam ships, telegraph, electric power to change night-to-day – all marvelous inventions in the 19th Century.

So: How to build on that in the 20th?

Enter tinkerer Henry Ford. He worked in an Edison electric plant in Detroit. He tinkered and developed practical “automobiles” and put Americans on the road and changed our way of life.

Ford built on the legacy and foundation of the prior centuries. On earlier advances in metals, rubber, instrumentation, wiring, steel making.

Henry Ford’s Model T was everywhere. He also revolutionized the workplace, bringing the work to the worker on the assembly line.

His workers had the opportunity to earn $5 per day – two times what other industrial workers earned. This was an important 20th Century economic insight – that way they could buy the cars they made!

Sometimes progress comes slowly.

Here’s a fascinating story: Car and Driver magazine staged “The Race of the Century, Ford Model T vs. Tesla Model S” last year. This was a contest pitting a 1915 “T” Ford against a 2013 Tesla. Guess who won? The route was Detroit to Shoreham, Long Island, just under 700 miles.

The restored Model T had to take all non-expressway roads while the Tesla zoomed along at 68 mph on the interstates. But down time for re charging meant the actual speed over the route was in the 30s for the Tesla.

That was less than the 100-year old Model T — it hit 40’s regularly and even 68 MPH doing down hills. The Ford had numerous pit stops and its battery actually blew up from overuse. The drivers had the windshield down – imagine driving all that distance with wind in your face and no cover (roof) or surrounding windows as you zipped along.

Battery charging stations had to be set up with volunteers along the route for the Tesla Access to 100-AMP service was needed for the Tesla – thank you, Thomas Edison for electric power everywhere!

The Tesla won by a very slim margin.

The final destination was the Tesla memorial, honoring Nikola Tesla, the competitor to Thomas Edison, who built a giant electrical testing tower in Shoreham, New York. (Organizers are trying to create a museum there to honor Tesla and his experiments.)

We can look to 21xt Century “tinkerer” advances in battery power and rapid recharging stations — that will address these immediate challenges.

Tinkerer Henry Ford, meet tinkerer-extraordinaire  Elon Musk!

Tinkerers innovate – new products, new services, new technologies, new approaches – on the foundations of prior advances.

The move from tinkerer’s garage to giant publicly-traded enterprise can be rapid – look at Apple, in relatively quick time attaining the largest market cap in history.

There are challenges: As the innovative product or service grows, how is the venture to be managed? Financed? What will the relationship of company and society be? Relationship of investor and board and management?

For a time, owners – tinkerer owners-cum-capitalists John Rockefeller,  Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford — were virtual rulers. The growth of the capital markets shifted power to the provider of capital.

“Management,” a 20th Century term, over time became more important than “owner.”

Here we are in second decade of the 21st Century – typically, the large corporation is globalized, automated, complex, a dominant force in our society.

The tinker=-owners are replaced by professional managers and the enterprise owned by “atomized” owners — their holdings are 1% or less of the total (and hence, “like atoms” in the words of authors Adolf Berle and Gardiner Means in the 1930s in their work, “The Modern Corporation and Private Property“).

What will be the defining characteristics of the 21st Century company in terms of Company and society relations? Organizations will be flatter — less layers of management, more dispersed responsibility, less command-and-control in the 20th Century sense. There’ll be more automation, more technology replacing people. (More robots / less human hands on control knobs, levers or control sticks of machinery.) More machine-talking-to-machine. that’s happening in industrial settings now, with numerous devices sending data to central databases for analysis and sharing to lead to better best practices at dispersed industrial locations.

In this 21st Century we are in an era of great expectations – stockholders (the atomized owner interests) and stakeholders (the new keys to success for the large enterprise) expect the 21st Century company management to be more sustainable, socially responsible, “good citizens,” Open and transparent. Accountable to stakeholders.

Companies today are in so many ways are viewed to be “citizens” of the nation and world – what does that mean? What are “good corporate citizens?” How will we be defining “corporate citizenship?{ Stay Tuned!

We explored all of that and more in our Skytop-Governance & Accountability Institute co-presented conference at Baruch College.

There’s more information at: . https://skytopstrategies.com/21st-century-company/

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Just The Facts, Ma’am, Said Detective Joe Friday. The Dragnet Cop Should Be Around Today…

by Hank Boerner – August 11, 2016

The brilliant presidential advisors and later, U.S. Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, said it best: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.”

As I watch the current presidential campaign, the good Senator’s comments come to mind. So do the comments of Detective Sergeant Joe Friday on Dragnet (radio and TV) about “facts.” (“Just the facts, ma’am,” he would say.)

Too often, it seems, facts and fiction became intertwined and inseparable in the running commentary of the 2016 presidential election.

Let’s look at some economic facts in the hope that he American voting public can be better informed when watching the television news reports or attending a political rally.

Let’s start with these exciting facts for investors: Today as I write this (August 11) the three major stock market indexes all reached all-time highs, simultaneously. The last time that happened was 1999 – 17 years ago.

Today the most followed market stock market indexes stand at:

  • Dow Jones Industrial: 18,613
    S&P 500: 2,185
    NASDAQ: 5,228

Where were we on January 20, 2009, as the new president was being sworn in? (Recall that was the time of the financial markets meltdown and investment portfolios were heading to 40% losses.)

  • Dow Jones Industrial: 7,949
    S&P 500: 805
    NASDAQ: 1,140

This week’s market news is pretty encouraging for 401-k and IRA owners, eh?

Let’s look briefly at national unemployment rates:

  • July 2016: 4.9 per cent
    January 2009: 7.8% (would rise to 9.9% by December)

The web platform Politifact (published by the Tampa Bay Times in Florida) provided a scoreboard of the economy under President Barack Obama in June 2012 as he neared the end of his first term.

Fact: Overall inflation was 4.3% in 2008 / “Zero” was at in 2009

In the months leading up to the start of the Obama Presidency in January 2009, layoffs were peaking and the number of jobs lost — according to the U.S. Department of Labor — exceeded an estimated 7 million jobs…going, going gone as the Great Recession took the national economy into the abyss.

In December 2008 the U.S. Department of Labor described the situation this way: “…unemployment rose to 7.2% (from 6.8% the prior month); employment [fell that month] by 524,000; 1.9 million jobs were lost in the last four months of 2008; job losses were large and widespread across major industry sectors.”

There were 2.6 million jobs lost just in the year 2008 alone (fact source is CNN Money). The job losses in the U.S.A. were astronomical as the stock market cratered in 2008 and into 2009.

Consider: In September 2008: some 400,000-plus jobs were gone. In November 2008: 800,000 jobs lost. Layoffs continued into 2009, into the early months of the new administration in Washington (April 2009: almost 700,000 jobs disappeared).

Think of the ripple effect — if one industrial job was lost, economists’ rule of thumb was that three or four or more other jobs were disappearing, too.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported on August 10, 2016: Employers have added nearly 200,000 jobs each month since early 2010. (Remember: early in 2009 Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.)

After going deep into non-growth GDP territory in 2008, 2009 and toward 2010, we moved back into positive growth in 2010 and pretty much stayed there until today.

Check out the interesting charts at: http://www.cbpp.org/research/economy/chart-book-the-legacy-of-the-great-recession.

Last month — July 2016 — the country added 255,000 jobs.

Whether you believe the White House records or not, in March 2016 that was the source for this set of data:  The private sector had added 14.4 million jobs over 73 straight months of job growth.

There was not all good news of course, and you can check out the full report with its data and charts here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/04/01/employment-situation-march

Look at the job gains as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor this year (2016) alone:

January:168,000
February: 233,00
March: 186,000
April: 144,000
May: 234,000
June almost 300,000
July: 255,000

And let’s not remove from our memory the preservation of an important industry employing hundreds of thousands of men and women in this country: vehicle manufacturing and marketing. Politifact noted (September 2012) that employment for car makers and their suppliers was up 250,000 jobs from 2009, with sales rising for Ford (13%), Chrysler (14%) and General Motors (10%) in 2011.

That’s a long way from 2008: GM out of cash to pay bills, Chrysler reeling as well; Ford in better shape financially having mortgaged literally all of its assets just before the financial meltdown on Wall Street. (The New York Times, November 27, 2006 — USD$19 billion as factories, equipment, offices, patents, trademarks, ownership in Volvo and other businesses were mortgaged.)

The rescue of the auto industry began under the presidency of George W. Bush, using TARP funds in his last months in office (fact), and continued under the presidency of Barack Obama. The heart of U.S. industrial power, the auto & truck manufacturing industry, was rescued by the Federal government with U.S. taxpayer money — which has been paid back for the most part. And jobs were protected.

“Make America Great Again,” the apparently trademarked slogan for the 2016 campaign (should we put a “TM” or “patent pending” or “R” here?), does have a certain resonance. In economic reality terms, however, it does not reflect the true condition of the economy after eight years of the current occupant of the White House. (He-whose-name-may-not-be-mentioned-in-certain-circles. OK, it’s Barack Obama.)

We as voters are entitled to the facts – -not fear mongering, not the offering up of misleading “facts” or the rhetoric of provocateurs. Having facts we can make better informed decisions as part of our civic responsibility — that is, when we enter the voting booth.

This probably comes across as a partisan commentary, favoring one side or the other. My intention is to present facts — the word descending down to our time from the ancient Latin, meaning “…the thing that is done, the thing known to be true…” vs. factitious, descending as well from Latin “…imagined, made up, artificial, not real or genuine…”

As fictional detective Joe Friday used to say on the popular television series “Dragnet”: “…just the facts, ma’am, just the facts…”

Or in the expression of this era…just sayin’.