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Over two years ago is when it all started. Why? ... because the water lines coming into Fort Myers Beach were giving up.

Monthly and sometimes weekly one would burst in our neighborhood and we would be without water, then came the boil water notices. When the lines coming in were working well, something would break in the ones going out....

So naturally the whole island was ecstatic when we found out the water lines, in and out were getting replaced! which brings us back to the beginning of this article, that was over two years ago and the first leg of the work is just now finishing up.

The top layer of asphalt was just ‘finished’ this past week and the lines are even painted on Estero Blvd.

I say finishing up because the connection to all the side streets are still awaiting their top layer.

Two years in the making and I’m not sure if they have completed a whole mile yet from Times Square, I was thinking of pacing it off the other day but it was about 90 degrees out so that was out of the question, but I know that the Neptune Inn is about a half mile from the bridge so saying it’s a mile is being generous to say the least.

I keep reminding myself of all the bursting pipes of yesteryear and I know it is a necessary evil, but if you talk to any of the evil it has been.

Al DiPasquale

Thursday, 11 May 2017 20:23

FBI Director Comey "YOU'RE FIRED"

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement that Mr Comey has been "terminated and removed from office." Mr Trump was said to have acted on "clear recommendations" from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in a move that has shocked Washington. Reports the website. A few months ago, most Democrats in Washington were demanding his removal, Chuck Schumer recently stated recently, 'I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer." and now they all have done a 180 degree reversal.

Just like good soldiers doing what they are told, the mainstream media is once again doing the lockstep. Everywhere you look on the web, all the talking points are being shared over and over..... the move was "Nixonian" Comey 'found out from TV' a 'Loss for the bureau and nation', almost all the news you read and hear is prepared propaganda.

Personally, The news that President Donald Trump has fired FBI Director James Comey comes as no surprise.

Comey deserved to be replaced, probably should have been long ago when the Dems were screaming for it, unfortunately that is not how Trump works, he doesn't like to be told what to do.

Not only did Comey make a horribly bad decision when he announced 11 days before the presidential election, that the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails had been reopened, and in doing so, possibly affecting the outcome of that election. He undermined the integrity and the independence of the agency he led in his overwhelming occupation with himself, he spent more time trying to clear himself than he did reporting the facts. In his lack of preparation for testifying before the Senate, He wrote his own pink slip.

Not all lawmakers were opposed the dismissal. "When you look at the bipartisan nature that should welcome this you have Sen. Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton all calling for or acknowledging the lack of confidence they had in the FBI director over the last several months," Spicer said. "This is an action taken by the president upon the recommendation of deputy attorney general, the attorney general that I think should be greeted with strong bipartisan support.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Trump called her Tuesday afternoon to inform her of his decision.
"The next FBI director must be strong and independent and will receive a fair hearing in the Judiciary Committee," she said in a statement.

"Given the recent controversies surrounding the director, I believe a fresh start will serve the FBI and the nation well, . I encourage the President to select the most qualified professional available who will serve our nation’s interests, " said Republican Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, chairman of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee investigating the Russian campaign interference.

Mr. Comey was three years into a 10-year term, Congress established the long term to insulate the director from political pressure. Though the president has the authority to fire the F.B.I. director for any reason, and has been done now by both political parties. Mr. Comey is only the second director to be fired in bureau history. President Bill Clinton fired William S. Sessions in 1993.

Patsy Berlliner

Leading scholars and thought leaders will discuss the future of the Fourth Amendment in the digital age, reflect on the challenges that new technologies pose to privacy, and discuss how best to balance privacy and security in the 21st century.

The event will also serve to launch the National Constitution Center’s new white paper series on privacy and the Constitution in the digital age — A Twenty-First Century Framework for Digital Privacy — to be hosted on the National Constitution Center’s website.

The discussion and white papers will examine the challenges that new technologies pose to the existing legal framework and propose solutions.

The program will be moderated by Thomas Donnelly, National Constitution Center Senior Fellow for Constitutional Studies, and will include a keynote speech entitled “What Would Brandeis Do in the Digital Age?” by Jeffrey Rosen, National Constitution Center President and CEO.

This initiative was made possible by the generous support of Microsoft.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 10, 2017 6:30 – 8 p.m.

WHERE: National Constitution Center F.M. Kirby Auditorium 525 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19106

but.... The program will be streamed live at

“So many people contend with so many bad laws because they do not take the initiative to change them. Yet they have the power if they choose to — to pass better laws.” (Chris McCandes)

Much has been said about our founders when they embarked on their journey to form a union of states. Our great nation was not an accident. It was created like a well oiled machine and it took months to perfect it.

It took courage and myopic historical research to conjure up a government of the people controlled by the people and not a gang of dictatorial hooligans. The best and brightest studied efficacious governing from past regimes to amalgamate the elements of one nation under God with liberty and justice for all!

“America is great because God made her so!” (Bishop Sheen)

Our democratic republic was a growth out of necessity rather than an idea that had come to mind. The founders chose to give us a republic for many reasons. This enabled them to maintain limited central control and guaranteed the states local autonomy over their own turf.

But since in a republic voters do not govern directly and select representatives to speak for them that has become a major problem. Thomas Paine saw the writing on the cobblestone walls and expressed this before the convention. Because of that very one reason he was locked out at the front door.

“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.” (Thomas Paine)

From the moment our republic was proposed representatives were not bound to slavishly uphold the wishes of constituents, but to exercise their judgment. To conciliate the colonies, they put in periodic reviews of these assemblymen every few years. Voters could remove them from office and elect others who would manage the people’s government better.

This was developed with good intentions but it started decaying when Hamilton and Jefferson formed political parties. That gave birth to the party machine. Then the lobbyists and special interest groups entered the tabernacles of congress which gave us a cocktail ripe for aversion and umbrage to American voters.

“Too often government responds to the whispers of lobbyists before the cries of the people.” (Andrew Cuomo)

The founders did not believe in direct democracy but in a republic which is a different creature than a democracy. They saw problems with giving too much abolition to the people and felt delegates with honor and integrity could do a better job governing. They feared passion could arouse the public, and our nation would be held hostage to passion over reason. They wanted control over most national policy. They expected these men to be impervious to corruption.

But political parties made this a pipedream! And today few representatives work for the people which is not republican.

“Today politics is such a disgrace; good people don’t go into government.” (Donald Trump)

One man can’t change the culture of corruption in DC. We have gone in the wrong direction too long. We must turn back the hands of time. If we reflect on the governments of the past, and the work of Periclies of Athens, the grandfather of democracy, we can see government of the people, by the people impacts all important decisions made that directly influence most laws passed by Congress.

Instead of kicking back and watching the world go by as career politicians do their dirty work, it is time all Americans commit to the principles birthed by Periclies in 451 BC.

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” (Periclies)

Although our founders believed the people were incapable of self-rule that was before party politics corrupted the more perfect union they fabricated for us. For over two centuries career politicians made decisions for us; yet this is a government of the people?

It is time Americans seize a rebirth of republicanism and make law not an army of patricians. Our new chief of staff is chastised by the progressive press daily for being American. Many in Congress and naive voters play “follow the lead” of the press.

We’ve never had a better chance to be lawmakers instead of law talkers. No longer is it “To the victor go the spoils.” President Trump reminded us government belongs to us.

“Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.” (Periclies)

Periclies told us, “If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences. If a man is able to serve the state; he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition.” He believed that the freedom we enjoy in our government extends to all ordinary people and they have the responsibility to assume an active role in government to protect that.

He told the people of Athens there is no body of men who have the authority to entertain direct surveillance over the legislative process which belongs to the people. He claimed the values of equality and openness in governing does not belong to any select group and everyone should have a voice in the process of making all law since they are the ones who must abide by them and they are fair judges of public matter.

“It is more of a disgrace to be robbed of what one has than to fail in some new undertaking.” (Periclies)

Although we do not have direct democracy in our republic, we have it in over 50 percent of our states. It is time for us to use it to protect our states rights and set an example for Congress. We must show them ordinary people can make better law than them.

There is no doubt they will get the message and we have a president that will remind them of this. Once citizens manifest their ability to write and pass constitutional law that improves their lives rather than limits their liberty, with the blessing of our new leader they will come around or lose their jobs next election.

“Make up your minds that happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.” (Periclies)

The conundrum about our government is since political parties were born Congress has become a circus than a body of respected lawmakers. It is up to us to right the ship before it sinks like the Titanic. How do you fix an unhealthily democracy? Get involved.

Propose legislation and send it to your elected officials then hound them for an answer. This applies to all levels of government in our country. Remind them there is an election coming up and their seat is up for grabs. We have the power to replace them each election. Call, email and write them and admonish them. They work for you in your house. It is not theirs. Make them aware of this each election. There is nothing more sacred to a career politician than his seat in Congress or on the county commission. Just ask former president Obama.

“Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won.” (Pres. Obama)

There’s no better way to make lawmakers pass laws you want than to form a movement of patriots who feel the same as you. The more people who join you, the more noise they can make, and the more things you can accomplish just like Dr. Martin Luther King. A team is harder to beat than one individual that is playing for himself alone. Ask any Tennessean how they ended forced annexation.

“When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.” (Ronald Reagan)

If you can read the Constitution, you can write a law. You don’t need to be a legal beagle to tender changing something that needs to be fixed for the common good of all. Write your proposal clearly so they can understand it. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish by demonstrating to them if they won’t do it, the citizens will.

“Let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far we disapprove of monarchy, that in America the law is king!” (Thomas Paine)

William Haupt III

Wednesday, 03 May 2017 19:21

Increasingly Social Media is Anti-Social

With such horrific incidents proliferating, what has happened to us as a people? Is this really who we Americans have become?

Over the past few weeks, Facebook has become a window to the macabre.

In early January, four people in Chicago, who were black, were arrested for kidnapping an 18-year-old mentally ill white man and beating and torturing him in an anti-Trump fit while streaming it over Facebook Live. Police labeled the beatdown a hate crime.

Later in January, Nakia Venant, a 14-year-old from Miami who had been in and out of foster care, streamed her own suicide (via hanging) over Facebook Live.

Two months after that, back in Chicago, a gang of teen-aged thugs kidnapped and raped a 15-year-old girl, which was streamed over Facebook Live. Police say at least 40 people watched as it occurred but reported nothing.

On Sunday, 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr. was collecting aluminum cans in Cleveland when Steve W. Stephens, 37, approached him, asked him to repeat a woman's name and then shot him in cold blood after Godwin did so. Stephens recorded the incident and posted it to Facebook, and then logged onto Facebook Live to recount his attack. A nationwide manhunt for Stephens ended Tuesday when he killed himself in Pennsylvania.

Facebook has become a portal for some gruesome behavior where three distinctly American cultural traits converge: our historic tendency for violent behavior, our highly evolved media technology, and our promotion of exhibitionism and celebrity that causes narcissism to run rampant.

With such horrific incidents proliferating, what has happened to us as a people? Is this really who we Americans have become? Has the tool that, in one respect, was supposed to inform, entertain and perhaps unite us by expanding the reach of virtual community failed to maintain boundaries of decency, law-abiding behavior and respect for human dignity?

It would seem so. The Godwin case was likely inevitable in our current culture, and it makes one wonder what demented or ultraviolent, self-aggrandizing creep is lurking in the shadows to pull off something more demonic, more sensational.

Not so long ago, the print news media adhered to self-imposed restrictions on the reporting of suicides except in rare cases, so as to not induce copycats, or the publishing of images of dead bodies, in order to not shock or tantalize. With the advent and growth of social media, those days seem so innocent and quaint -- and gone forever.

We hope we as a society are better than this, and that these cases are outliers, and not models to be followed. Yet for some among us right now, the urge to be instantaneously famous, or infamous, on social media through criminal behavior seems a potent draw, and will remain so until the "better angels of our nature," as Abraham Lincoln said in his first inaugural address, overcome the wickedness residing in the hearts of some.

Monday, 01 May 2017 07:43

Is Macron the EU's Last Best Hope?

For the French establishment, Sunday's presidential election came close to a near-death experience. As the Duke of Wellington said of Waterloo, it was a "damn near-run thing."

Neither candidate of the two major parties that have ruled France since Charles De Gaulle even made it into the runoff, an astonishing repudiation of France's national elite.

Marine Le Pen of the National Front ran second with 21.5 percent of the vote. Emmanuel Macron of the new party En Marche! won 23.8 percent.

Macron is a heavy favorite on May 7. The Republicans' Francois Fillon, who got 20 percent, and the Socialists' Benoit Hamon, who got less than 7 percent, both have urged their supporters to save France by backing Macron.

Ominously for U.S. ties, 61 percent of French voters chose Le Pen, Fillon or radical Socialist Jean-Luc Melenchon. All favor looser ties to America and repairing relations with Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Le Pen has a mountain to climb to win, but she is clearly the favorite of the president of Russia, and perhaps of the president of the United States. Last week, Donald Trump volunteered:

"She's the strongest on borders, and she's the strongest on what's been going on in France. ... Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election."

As an indicator of historic trends in France, Le Pen seems likely to win twice the 18 percent her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, won in 2002, when he lost in the runoff to Jacques Chirac.
The campaign between now and May 7, however, could make the Trump-Clinton race look like an altarpiece of democratic decorum.

Not only are the differences between the candidates stark, Le Pen has every incentive to attack to solidify her base and lay down a predicate for the future failure of a Macron government.

And Macron is vulnerable. He won because he is fresh, young, 39, and appealed to French youth as the anti-Le Pen. A personification of Robert Redford in "The Candidate."
But he has no established party behind him to take over the government, and he is an ex-Rothschild banker in a populist environment where bankers are as welcome as hedge-fund managers at a Bernie Sanders rally.

He is a pro-EU, open-borders transnationalist who welcomes new immigrants and suggests that acts of Islamist terrorism may be the price France must pay for a multiethnic and multicultural society.

Macron was for a year economic minister to President Francois Hollande who has presided over a 10 percent unemployment rate and a growth rate that is among the most anemic in the entire European Union.

He is offering corporate tax cuts and a reduction in the size of a government that consumes 56 percent of GDP, and presents himself as the "president of patriots to face the threat of nationalists."

His campaign is as much "us vs. them" as Le Pen's.
And elite enthusiasm for Macron seems less rooted in any anticipation of future greatness than in the desperate hope he can save the French establishment from the dreaded prospect of Marine.

But if Macron is the present, who owns the future?

Across Europe, as in France, center-left and center-right parties that have been on the scene since World War II appear to be emptying out like dying churches. The enthusiasm and energy seem to be in the new parties of left and right, of secessionism and nationalism.

The problem for those who believe the populist movements of Europe have passed their apogee, with losses in Holland, Austria and, soon, France, that the fever has broken, is that the causes of the discontent that spawned these parties are growing stronger.

What are those causes?

A growing desire by peoples everywhere to reclaim their national sovereignty and identity, and remain who they are. And the threats to ethnic and national identity are not receding, but growing.
The tide of refugees from the Middle East and Africa has not abated. Weekly, we read of hundreds drowning in sunken boats that tried to reach Europe. Thousands make it. But the assimilation of Third World peoples in Europe is not proceeding. It seems to have halted.

Second-generation Muslims who have lived all their lives in Europe are turning up among the suicide bombers and terrorists.

Fifteen years ago, al-Qaida seemed confined to Afghanistan. Now it is all over the Middle East, as is ISIS, and calls for Islamists in Europe to murder Europeans inundate social media.

As the numbers of native-born Europeans begin to fall, with their anemic fertility rates, will the aging Europeans become more magnanimous toward destitute newcomers who do not speak the national language or assimilate into the national culture, but consume its benefits?

If a referendum were held across Europe today, asking whether the mass migrations from the former colonies of Africa and the Middle East have on balance made Europe a happier and better place to live in recent decades, what would that secret ballot reveal?

Does Macron really represent the future of France, or is he perhaps one of the last men of yesterday?

Patrick J. Buchanan

Monday, 01 May 2017 07:30

The Amazon 1-Star System

I'm not dumb enough to believe that all the reviews you read on various sites are authentic. I know that if a product no one has ever heard of has thousands of five-star reviews, something is amiss. Real customers aren't claiming a skin cream "takes years away in just minutes!" The only thing that does that is plastic surgery.

I know that companies pay not only to have good reviews posted but also to have bad ones removed. And I know that these "reviews" are not done by Consumer Reports (which seems like a careful and legitimate business).

I could only laugh when one site contacted me to tell me that the only one-star review I had ever written was not being posted because "it failed to adequately describe (my) experience." Really. There are many things I don't do well, but explaining an experience in plain and clear language is simply not one of them. My clients pay me a small fortune to explain their experiences -- in motions and briefs to the highest courts in the land. "If you want your review to get posted," my son told me, "select two stars, and then explain why you really think they deserve one."

But I never expected to have my name given to a seller on Amazon to whom I gave one star -- especially because all my "privacy settings" are set to protect me against just that.
Some background: My stomach hurts from a botched surgery (peritonitis and sepsis from perforating my colon and nicking my spleen) two years ago. And my back hurts from a more recent surgery, which was successful but still major. So, unable to sleep on my side, and still having severe stomach pain from the surgery two years ago, I looked on Amazon for help. And there it was: a pillow originally targeted to pregnant women but said to be a miracle for back pain, stomach pain -- a miracle for me. And it had hundreds of five-star reviews.

Originally priced at nearly $200, it was "marked down" to around $50 (I later discovered it's available on Alibaba for $3). Even better, because Amazon fulfilled the orders, it would arrive sooner than similar products. One click and it was on its way.

Calling this pillow "junk" would be putting it gently. From the minute I opened the box, I knew it would be going back. The zipper was broken. The cover felt like horsehair. The pillow was hard as a rock. Sleeping with it was impossible.

I did what I have never done before on Amazon. I gave it one star. But it wasn't "Susan R. Estrich" who wrote the review. I used a pseudonym for privacy, a combination of my two grandmothers' names. Almost every other rating I've given has been five stars -- written simply to support people who are working hard and writing good books or selling good products at fair prices. This was none of the above.

But then what's not supposed to happen happened. Within an hour, the seller emailed me, telling me they had already given me a full refund, that I could keep the pillow (it now occupies the space in my garage for things I can't give away because no one wants them) and to please take down my one-star review.

I wrote right back to the seller. I had only one question: "How did you find out my real name?"

They answered: "Amazon gave us your name."

Amazon gave you my name. And Google will tell you where I live, what I do, how many children I have and how to find me. I took down the review.

Write to Jeff Bezos, my son told me. I did. That got me to the "Executive Consumer Support Communities," to a customer-support representative named Amanda, who offered me $50 credit and said she was just "stumped" by what happened. She said she would have to investigate, and she gave me a phone number to call. No one answered the phone. That was weeks ago. I wrote and wrote. I asked over and over how it was that my privacy settings were completely ignored. They were "stumped"; they were investigating; they didn't understand. I called and called, and no one called back. A month later, they are still working on it.

And a month later, I'm telling you: Buyer beware. It's not just money that you risk losing. It's your privacy.

Susan Estrich

Of course Donald Trump over-promised for his first 100 days. What presidential candidate hasn't?

During last year's campaign, Trump spoke frequently of all the things he would do almost immediately upon entering the Oval Office. He'd repeal Obamacare, reform the tax code, destroy ISIS, build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, fix the nation's roads and bridges, take care of veterans, deport criminal illegal immigrants, and much, much more.

By the last weeks of the campaign, Trump actually dialed back some of his promises. On October 22, he traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to announce his "Contract with the American Voter," which formalized his pledges for the first 100 days.
The "Contract" was a single piece of paper. The front listed 18 actions Trump would take under his executive authority as president, and the back listed ten pieces of legislation he would introduce in Congress.

Now, three months into the Trump administration, the front and the back of the Contract are two very different stories.

On the executive action front, Trump has kept a significant number of his promises:
-- Candidate Trump promised to "begin the process" of selecting a Supreme Court Justice to replace Antonin Scalia. As president, Trump did just that, and Neil Gorsuch is now on the Court.
-- Candidate Trump promised to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. As president, he did it.
-- Candidate Trump promised to require that "for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated." As president, he did it.
-- Candidate Trump promised to "lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks" on the Keystone Pipeline and other infrastructure projects. As president, he did it.
-- Candidate Trump promised to "begin removing the more than two million criminal illegal immigrants" in the U.S. As president, he did it.

On other issues, Trump has kept front-page promises, but with decidedly mixed results. The most significant of those is his pledge to "suspend immigration from terror-prone regions." Trump has done it -- twice -- only to see his executive orders tied up in the courts. His first try was botched, while the second try will likely survive judicial scrutiny.

Trump also promised to "cancel all federal funding" for so-called sanctuary cities. He has begun to do so -- the Justice Department is beginning to threaten to withdraw some grant money -- but the promise was overbroad and will likely never be fully kept.

In addition, Trump promised to impose a "five-year ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service." He kept the pledge for White House officials but does not have the authority to tell Congress what to do -- so again, a partially kept, but originally overbroad promise.

Some promises Trump has openly chosen to break. He promised to "direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator." Now, he says he will not do so if China is helping the U.S. solve the so-far-intractable North Korea problem.

The net result of Trump's promises involving executive authority is that he has done well when it comes to keeping the Contract. Indeed, the two biggest successes of Trump's first 100 days are on the front page of the Contract: the Gorsuch nomination and Trump's immigration executive order tightening controls at the Mexico border. "We've seen a dramatic reduction in illegal migration across the southwest border," Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Friday. "In fact, March apprehensions were 30 percent lower than February apprehensions -- and 64 percent lower than the same time next year."

That is a solid success by any measure.
But the back page of the Contract is a different story. Unlike many of his speeches, Trump was careful not to promise legislative success. "I will work with Congress to introduce the following broader legislative measures and fight for their passage with the first 100 days of my administration," he said in the Contract.

But Trump has not even introduced promised legislation like the American Energy and Infrastructure Act, or the School Choice and Education Opportunity Act, or the Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act, or others on the 10-point list.

The president, mostly following the lead of House Republicans, has taken a shot -- and failed -- at repealing and replacing Obamacare. To the extent that work continues -- a vote in the House could be just a few weeks away -- he can be said to be working on keeping that promise. And Trump has pledged to bring out some sort of tax proposal this week -- not an actual tax reform bill, but movement closer to the goal of reforming the tax code. So on the two biggest items on the back page of the Contract, by the time the actual 100-day mark arrives next Saturday, Trump will be able to say he's making progress.

But the fact is, on the whole, Trump failed to keep the back page promises of the Contract in his first 100 days.

On the other hand, the president has been a crucial part of a determined effort by Capitol Hill Republicans to use the Congressional Review Act to abolish rules put in place by the Obama administration. Trump has signed 12 such bills into law voiding Obama rules on energy, firearms, federal labor contracts, local control of education, and other topics.

The bottom line is that Trump has been a 100-day success when it comes to exercising the executive powers of the presidency. He has done a great deal of what he said he would do, and promises to do more.

Byron York

Friday, 28 April 2017 21:24

Trump Won't Toast With Reporters

All week, we will hear about President Donald Trump's first 100 days, which culminates Saturday.

Media have developed a pack narrative that says the first 100 days have been a display of dysfunction in which President Trump has barely achieved anything worthwhile.

Intelligent minds can agree to disagree about Trump's performance, but one accomplishment will defy dispute.

Trump finally put the White House correspondents' dinner in its rightful place. He will not attend and instead will hold a rally in Pennsylvania.

The dinners began in 1921, and 15 presidents have attended at least one since Calvin Coolidge showed up in 1924. No president has skipped a dinner since President Ronald Reagan, who could not attend while recovering from a gunshot wound in 1981.

The dinner has long been an embarrassment to much of the journalism profession. White House reporters show up in black tie to schmooze with a president they are supposed to cover with adversarial skepticism. They are to keep presidents in check, which becomes difficult after an evening of whooping it up.

Sprinkled among journalists are Hollywood celebrities. During the Obama years, the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian competed with starstruck reporters to get their pictures taken with the president.

Correspondents' dinners with Obama were love fests. It was so out of control in 2016 that CNN radio's Bob Garfield called it "repulsive."

"These are supposed to be the watchdogs, watchdogging those in power," Garfield said. "And they're sitting there passing one another dinner rolls with zero possibility of any journalism breaking out. It's a sham. If I'm gonna dine with a high official, my tape recorder is going to be switched on and my notebook is gonna be open."

The New York Post quoted a late-night TV news veteran saying: "It's too chummy there. The press and the people it covers shouldn't be hanging out after hours and rubbing shoulders."

Imagine the awkward nature of a dinner in which celebrities and reporters tried chumming it up with Trump. Hollywood and the majority of White House reporters despise Trump and have made this no secret. The Media Research Center, which surveys and tallies news coverage, found TV networks produced mostly positive coverage of Obama during his first 80 days.

Trump received coverage deemed a whopping 89 percent "negative."

"As President Trump approaches the end of his first 100 days in office, he has received by far the most hostile press treatment of any incoming American president," wrote the survey's analysts, Rich Noyes and Mike Ciandella. Let's hope Trump's decision starts a new tradition in which presidents don't party with reporters. Presidents and reporters should respect one another and not take to the public stage to act like friends.

Friday, 28 April 2017 21:16

The Brief Origins of May Day

Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers' Day of May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don't realize that May Day has its origins here in this country and is as "American" as baseball and apple pie, and stemmed from the pre-Christian holiday of Beltane, a celebration of rebirth and fertility.

In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and Jack London's The Iron Heel. As early as the 1860's, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn't until the late 1880's that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class.

At this time, socialism was a new and attractive idea to working people, many of whom were drawn to its ideology of working class control over the production and distribution of all goods and services. Workers had seen first-hand that Capitalism benefited only their bosses, trading workers' lives for profit. Thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the workplace, with life expectancy as low as their early twenties in some industries, and little hope but death of rising out of their destitution. Socialism offered another option.

A variety of socialist organizations sprung up throughout the later half of the 19th century, ranging from political parties to choir groups. In fact, many socialists were elected into governmental office by their constituency. But again, many of these socialists were ham-strung by the political process which was so evidently controlled by big business and the bi-partisan political machine. Tens of thousands of socialists broke ranks from their parties, rebuffed the entire political process, which was seen as nothing more than protection for the wealthy, and created anarchist groups throughout the country. Literally thousands of working people embraced the ideals of anarchism, which sought to put an end to all hierarchical structures (including government), emphasized worker controlled industry, and valued direct action over the bureaucratic political process. It is inaccurate to say that labor unions were "taken over" by anarchists and socialists, but rather anarchists and socialist made up the labor unions.

At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labor from and after May 1, 1886." The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike "at the root of the evil." A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that "whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave."

Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that "the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction." With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8-hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond the more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic structure of capitalism.


In a proclamation printed just before May 1, 1886, one publisher appealed to working people with this plea:
•Workingmen to Arms!
•War to the Palace, Peace to the Cottage, and Death to LUXURIOUS IDLENESS.
•The wage system is the only cause of the World's misery. It is supported by the rich classes, and to destroy it, they must be either made to work or DIE.
•One pound of DYNAMITE is better than a bushel of BALLOTS!
•MAKE YOUR DEMAND FOR EIGHT HOURS with weapons in your hands to meet the capitalistic bloodhounds, police, and militia in proper manner.


Not surprisingly the entire city was prepared for mass bloodshed, reminiscent of the railroad strike a decade earlier when police and soldiers gunned down hundreds of striking workers. On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day agitators, 40,000 went out on strike with the anarchists in the forefront of the public's eye. With their fiery speeches and revolutionary ideology of direct action, anarchists and anarchism became respected and embraced by the working people and despised by the capitalists.

The names of many - Albert Parsons, Johann Most, August Spies and Louis Lingg - became household words in Chicago and throughout the country. Parades, bands and tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets exemplified the workers' strength and unity, yet didn't become violent as the newspapers and authorities predicted.

More and more workers continued to walk off their jobs until the numbers swelled to nearly 100,000, yet peace prevailed. It was not until two days later, May 3, 1886, that violence broke out at the McCormick Reaper Works between police and strikers.

For six months, armed Pinkerton agents and the police harassed and beat locked-out steelworkers as they picketed. Most of these workers belonged to the "anarchist-dominated" Metal Workers' Union. During a speech near the McCormick plant, some two hundred demonstrators joined the steelworkers on the picket line. Beatings with police clubs escalated into rock throwing by the strikers which the police responded to with gunfire. At least two strikers were killed and an unknown number were wounded.

Full of rage, a public meeting was called by some of the anarchists for the following day in Haymarket Square to discuss the police brutality. Due to bad weather and short notice, only about 3000 of the tens of thousands of people showed up from the day before. This affair included families with children and the mayor of Chicago himself. Later, the mayor would testify that the crowd remained calm and orderly and that speaker August Spies made "no suggestion... for immediate use of force or violence toward any person..."

As the speech wound down, two detectives rushed to the main body of police, reporting that a speaker was using inflammatory language, inciting the police to march on the speakers' wagon. As the police began to disperse the already thinning crowd, a bomb was thrown into the police ranks. No one knows who threw the bomb, but speculations varied from blaming any one of the anarchists, to an agent provocateur working for the police.

Enraged, the police fired into the crowd. The exact number of civilians killed or wounded was never determined, but an estimated seven or eight civilians died, and up to forty were wounded. One officer died immediately and another seven died in the following weeks. Later evidence indicated that only one of the police deaths could be attributed to the bomb and that all the other police fatalities had or could have had been due to their own indiscriminate gun fire. Aside from the bomb thrower, who was never identified, it was the police, not the anarchists, who perpetrated the violence.

Eight anarchists - Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Adolph Fischer and Louis Lingg - were arrested and convicted of murder, though only three were even present at Haymarket and those three were in full view of all when the bombing occurred. The jury in their trial was comprised of business leaders in a gross mockery of justice similar to the Sacco-Vanzetti case thirty years later, or the trials of AIM and Black Panther members in the seventies. The entire world watched as these eight organizers were convicted, not for their actions, of which all of were innocent, but for their political and social beliefs. On November 11, 1887, after many failed appeals, Parsons, Spies, Engel and Fisher were hung to death. Louis Lingg, in his final protest of the state's claim of authority and punishment, took his own life the night before with an explosive device in his mouth.

The remaining organizers, Fielden, Neebe and Schwab, were pardoned six years later by Governor Altgeld, who publicly lambasted the judge on a travesty of justice. Immediately after the Haymarket Massacre, big business and government conducted what some say was the very first "Red Scare" in this country. Spun by mainstream media, anarchism became synonymous with bomb throwing and socialism became un-American. The common image of an anarchist became a bearded, eastern European immigrant with a bomb in one hand and a dagger in the other.

Today we see tens of thousands of activists embracing the ideals of the Haymarket Martyrs and those who established May Day as an International Workers' Day. Ironically, May Day is an official holiday in 66 countries and unofficially celebrated in many more, but rarely is it recognized in this country where it began.

Over one hundred years have passed since that first May Day. In the earlier part of the 20th century, the US government tried to curb the celebration and further wipe it from the public's memory by establishing "Law and Order Day" on May 1. We can draw many parallels between the events of 1886 and today. We still have locked out steelworkers struggling for justice.

We still have voices of freedom behind bars as in the cases of Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier. We still had the ability to mobilize tens of thousands of people in the streets of a major city to proclaim "THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!" at the WTO and FTAA demonstrations.

Words stronger than any I could write are engraved on the Haymarket Monument:

Truly, history has a lot to teach us about the roots of our radicalism. When we remember that people were shot so we could have the 8-hour day; if we acknowledge that homes with families in them were burned to the ground so we could have Saturday as part of the weekend; when we recall 8-year old victims of industrial accidents who marched in the streets protesting working conditions and child labor only to be beat down by the police and company thugs, we understand that our current condition cannot be taken for granted - people fought for the rights and dignities we enjoy today, and there is still a lot more to fight for. The sacrifices of so many people can not be forgotten or we'll end up fighting for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day.

Eric Chase
Industrial Workers of the World