BurtonHanson.Com Political Opinion Journal - Archives II
a) I'm moving my BurtLaw's Law and Everything Else blawg to a new hosting company, so it'll be inactive & inaccessible for a few days until the move is complete. I'm intending to resume updating that site soon (something I haven't done in over a year), and soon will be launching a new blawg/zine of interest to anyone interested in -- well, wait & see.
b) Appropriately, my beloved, that is, my car (see, infra), passed the 200,000 mile mark on Valentine's Day.
c) We're sorry to hear Sen. Mark Dayton will not run for re-election in 2006. In the opinion of this life-long liberal Republican, not since the days of Hubert H. Humphrey, Eugene J. McCarthy, and Walter Mondale has this state had a finer Senator representing it in Washington. Well, I guess I forgot to include Paul Wellstone. If there were a Republican Farmer Labor party, I'd join. That's not such a foreign idea. A friend of mine who was a close friend of HHH told me that if Harold Stassen had not been such a dominant liberal figure in the Minnesota Republican party back in the '40s, HHH might well have cast his lot with the Republicans on his return from his studies at LSU in Baton Rouge. It is interesting to speculate on the effect a Republican Humphrey might have had on 20th century American political history.
We are freed, at the end of these two dramas [Death of a Salesman and The Crucible], not because the playwright has arrived at a solution, but because he has reconciled us to the notion that there is no solution -- that it is the human lot to try and fail, and that no one is immune from self-deception. We have, through following the course of the drama, laid aside, for two hours, the delusion that we are powerful and wise, and we leave the theater better for the rest.
Stormin' Norman Coleman as GOP Kingmaker? As one who watched Norm Coleman from his earliest days in the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, I am not surprised, I am amused and I am surprised -- a) not surprised at the aggressiveness and relentlessness with which he has pursued his number one goal, personal advancement; b) amused every time he makes another move (as in going from radical long-haired leftist to Humphrey DFLer, switching parties and restyling himself as Bush-Cheney conservative, presenting himself as the grieving opposition after the death of Senator Wellstone, acting as party kingmaker in annointing Rep. Mark Kennedy as the GOP's best candidate to succeed Sen. Mark Dayton); c) surprised that Minnesotans are so easily fooled by him.
2. Can a guy love a car? Students of consumer behavior have often remarked upon the American male's love of cars. Advertisers regularly use hidden & not-so-hidden sexual images to help sell cars to guys. My dad loved cars so much he typically bought a new one every year when I was growing up in the '50s, but his bank financed car dealerships & he not only bought his cars at true cost or thereabout but was good at selling the one-year-old one for almost what he paid for it. I've only owned three cars: a 1966 aqua-velva colored Mustang hard-top, a forest-green metallic 1976 Plymouth Volare wagon, and a 1988 midnight-blue-metallic Ford Crown Victoria wagon. The wagon has been good to me and I've stuck by it. It'll hit the 200,000 mile mark in 12 miles. I'll probably replace it this spring. Here's a link to a sort of essay of love I wrote about it a few years back, titled My Best Father's Day.
3. The Benson Connection revisited -- herein of Thia Breen and Clinique Bonus Days. The day after 09.11, I made a number of entries in a section of my blawg that I titled War on Terrorism. (For other entries, see, War on Terrorism I II III and IV.) Here's one, which I update today with recent "developments," that I like to call "The Benson Connection":
My amateur forays into the history of my hometown, Benson, MN, have included reading, in a detailed way, most of the archived newspapers from the date the first paper was published until 1961, when I left town for college. At some point it dawned upon me that whenever something significant happened on the national stage, there was usually a "Benson Connection." When the Japanese kamikaze pilots flew their planes into the Battleship Arizona, sinking it in Pearl Harbor, there was a Benson connection. When the famous heavyweight boxing match occurred in Shelby, MT, there was a Benson connection. I've also observed, since graduating from Harvard Law School, that there's usually a "Harvard Law connection." An example: during the Carter-Mondale administration, I had classmates of mine from law school who served in the White House and a high school classmate of mine (a second cousin once-removed) who also served there. I suppose both "connections" are variants of the theory that any one of us is separated from anyone else in the world by no more than "six degrees of separation." Or to put it differently: we're all related, all connected.... I don't doubt that in the days ahead each of us will find that there is a "connection" [with the victims of the attacks on 09.11] similar to the connections I've described. Even if that is not so, in some real way the attacks were attacks upon each of us, upon all of us. And that is perhaps why when I walked around Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis late in the afternoon yesterday, there was an unusual quietness. There were as many walkers as usual, but they weren't talking as loudly as they usually do. Most were talking, if at all, in almost hushed tones. And when I reached Uptown, Minneapolis' version of Harvard Square, I found the mood the same. I remember that in 1953 when I was 10 years old I scoured the long lists in the Minneapolis Star of prisoners of war released from captivity in Korea. In the days ahead we'll be reading long lists of casualties. But already each of us knows deep down that the people whose names will be on those lists are people to whom we are connected, our brothers and sisters. (09.12.2001)
a) The 09.11 connections. Since I posted the above, I've come upon a number of "connections," one of them qualifying as a "Benson Connection." First, if you do a Google search for the name "Burton Hanson," you'll come upon a number of entries for a fellow named Peter Burton Hanson, who was 32 in 2001. I never knew the guy, but it turns out that he, his 35-year-old wife Sue Kim Hanson and their 3-year-old daughter Christine Lee Hanson, all of Groton, Mass., were on United Airlines Flight 175 BOS-LAX when it was hijacked and flown into the south tower of the World Trade Center. During my rather pathetic but nonetheless honorable "campaign" for Congress in 2004, I received an e-mail of encouragement from an old high school friend of mine who is a CPA. It turns out he was in a building in New Jersey across the river from the trade centers and watched the events unfold. That's what I call a "Benson Connection." There are other connections to 09.11, but enough of that.
b) The 2004 Presidential Election "Benson Connection." Here's a short piece I posted at BurtLaw's Law & Kids in 2002 about my relative and high school classmate, James A. Johnson:
Benson boy makes good. President Bush today named "a nine-member commission to spend the next seven months looking into how to ensure the long-term viability of the U.S. Postal Service despite declining mail volumes." One of the two co-chairmen is my high school classmate and relative (we're second-cousins, once-removed), James A. Johnson. Jim is, inter alia,chairman of the board at the Brookings Institution, chairman of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, former head of Fannie Mae, the federally-backed home mortgage organization, and former key aide to Sen. and later Vice-President Walter Mondale. (Washington Post 12.11.2002). I think Jim's illustrious career demonstrates interestingly how sons and daughters creatively carry on and at the same time translate their family heritage and values in the careers they choose and the things they do. Jim's mother, Adeline Rasmussen, was an outstanding public school teacher and wonderful homemaker, and his father, Alfred I. Johnson, was in the real estate business for many years, was DFL representative from Swift County to the state legislature (of which he served as Speaker for two sessions), and late in his working life, in the 1960s, was both University of Minnesota Regent and city postmaster. Jim has made significant contributions on a national scale in all the areas in which his parents made contributions on a local and statewide scale. He is a good man. I was sorta hoping President Bush would cross party lines and name him Treasury Secretary. (12.11.2002)
The update to this, of course, is that Jim is a good friend of Sen. John Kerry and was called upon by Kerry to head the process that led to the selection of Sen John Edwards as Kerry's running mate in 2004. More (CBS News 03.10.2004).
c) The Clinique-Estee Lauder "Benson Connection." A week ago I read a terrific piece of feature reporting in the online version of my hometown paper, The Swift County Monitor-News, written by Reed Anfinson (a second cousin of mine, possibly "once-removed") titled Benson native Cynthia Breen named president of Estee Lauder Cos. It's a great American success story, recounting the lessons Cynthia, who is now 54, learned while growing up in Benson and working in her family's drug store, attending Benson schools and then the University of Minnesota, working at Daytons, managing a gas station, etc., etc., all the way up the ladder. Along the way she headed the Clinique operation at Estee Lauder. That has special meaning for my daughter and me, as exemplified by this mini-essay I posted at BurtLaw on Fathers & Kids on 11.14.2002:
It's Clinique bonus time/ tar-ar-a boom-de-ay.... Each family, each relationship, develops its own traditions. One of the traditions that developed, quite unintentionally, in my relationship with my daughter, who is now a lawyer, revolves around the periodic "Clinique bonus days," when, if one makes "a Clinique purchase" exceeding a certain amount (it's $19.50 now, but used to be less), one typically gets a free cosmetics pouch loaded with samples of eight Clinique products -- eyeshadow, lipstick, soap, shampoo, blusher, lip gloss, lotion, perfume, etc. The tradition owes its genesis to the fact that when I was in law school I developed an allergy to fragrances. I stopped -- cold turkey! -- using after-shave lotion and men's cologne ("Brut" and "Aphrodisia") and scented soaps and shampoos and detergents and deodorants and began using Neutrogena fragrance-free products and, when I became aware of them, Clinique fragrance-free shampoos and clarifying lotion (as an after shave) and moisturizer. At some point when she was in grade school (I'd have to check my journals to determine precisely when), my daughter began showing an interest in cosmetics and I began getting the Clinique bonuses for her and letting her experiment with them at home. There used to be just one outlet for Clinique in the Twin Cities -- Daytons (n/k/a Marshall Fields) -- and there might be only two or three "Clinique bonus times" a year. But now Clinique is also carried by several stores at the Mall of America and at least two other department stores in downtown Minneapolis. Yesterday I ran out of Clinique gentle wash shampoo. Fearful that if I stopped using it, women would stop coming up to me in the grocery store and asking if they could run their fingers through my hair, I drove out to Nordstroms at the Mall of America, which is in the midst of a Clinique bonus days extravaganza as part of its semi-annual women's sale, and got my latest "fix" of the stuff -- and the Clinique bonus, a pink and maroon faux leather cosmetics bag with an assortment of goodies for my daughter that looks even better than normal. The tradition continues.... (11.14.2002)
Little did I expect that someday there would be a "Benson Connection" to Clinique. :-)
Up in Stearns County, you've got Catholic priests blessing snowmobiles, for crying out loud, and on the Feast Day of St. Francis the Episcopalians are bringing cats and dogs and hamsters and newts and amoeba to be blessed, so what's the harm in blessing two young guys, even if maybe they do fuss over their hair more than a person should?
Although it's been awhile since I've been inside a Lutheran church, I still think of myself as "Lutheran," of the tolerant, mildly liberal Norwegian-American variety, the kind who formed the Farmer-Labor Party and deserve total credit for making Minnesota the great state it has been at times, the kind represented by the fellow in my home town who once declared in all seriousness that "Jesus Christ was Norwegian." Indeed, I can't help believing he was. Jesus, in case you didn't know it, was crucified for his views. I merely was castigated and shunned by a few, not crucified, because during my failed 2004 GOP primary campaign as a self-declared "liberal" anti-war candidate for Congress against the Bush-loving self-defined "moderate" pro-war incumbent, Jim Ramstad, I posted a position paper in which I convinced myself that so-called same-sex civil marriage is an idea whose time has come, even if it won't come for a time. I even relied on basic Lutheran doctrine in reaching and persuading myself of the correctness of that conclusion. My views on that issue and on the war were so popular that I garnered a whopping 11% of the vote.
[W]hat the hell are we doing in Iraq? No one can explain to me in a reasonable manner that I can accept why we're there, why we went there, and why we're still there.
Mel Gibson, quoted in New York Times, 01.11.2005.
We're there, Mel, because Bush, Cheney & Co. oversold the "threat" Iraq presented to our security and because a majority of our politicial leaders, our media pundits and the public were persuaded the threat was real. (It's the same kind of over-selling Bush, Cheney & Co. are doing in support of their extreme ideologically-based far-right-wing "neo-conservative" proposals for Social Security "reform.") They were persuaded by Bush, Cheney & Co. that the threat was real and the response to the perceived threat justified because they don't know how to evaluate evidence to determine its sufficiency to support a conclusion. I learned how to do it as a quiet, ostensibly mild-mannered, self-effacing and modest behind-the-scenes aide to the justices of a prominent state supreme court over a period of nearly 30 years, including in reading thousands of trial transcripts in their entirety, often for the sole purpose of determining if in fact the state's evidence justified the findings and conclusions of the trier of fact. The evidence offered by Bush, Cheney & Co. in support of pre-emptively invading and occupying Iraq didn't even come close to justify doing so, and I said so publicly at the time. The sad thing is that so many of our leaders, including our gung-ho self-styled "moderate" GOP Congressman in Minnesota's Third District, Jim Ramstad, whom I unsuccessfully opposed in last September's primary, still not only will not admit they made a mistake but remain gung-ho in support of this unjustified and, frankly, immoral and un-Christian war. Because of their mistakes, our young men and women are dying bravely and honorably but unnecessarily in Iraq, as are thousands of Iraqi civilians. The way to end a nightmare is to wake up. We need to wake up and get out, sooner rather than later. This opinion remains unpopular and I've received criticism for it. But my parents taught me never to be afraid to take an unpopular position or to stand alone. Thus, it takes no courage whatever on my part to take an unpopular position or to conduct a political campaign that I know is doomed from the start. All it takes is merely taking seriously Justice Felix Frankfurter's dictum that "the most important office" in our democracy is the office of Citizen.
It seems to me now that Algren's pessimism about so much of earthly life was Christian. Like Christ, as we know Him from the Bible, he was enchanted by the hopeless; could not take his eyes off them, and could see little good news for them in the future, given what they had become and what Caesar was like and so on, unless beyond death there awaited something more humane.
From Kurt Vonnegut's foreword to Nelson Algren's The Man with the Golden Arm, reprinted at The Guardian.
Boy, watching Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's sorry press conference today, following his announcing that it was a suicide bomber that killed so many of our soldiers inside the big tent yesterday, reminded me of nothing so much as the sorry performances by President Johnson's shills (i.e., McNamara, Rusk & Westmoreland) in the 1960s during the Viet Nam War, when they stuttered their way through similar press conferences, repeating their tired mantras about the progress being made in that "noble cause." As I have argued from the beginning, the invasion of Iraq was unjustified, unnecessary and immoral, and as I have argued since then, the sooner we cut our losses and pull out, the better.
In 1966, a wise old conservative-minded Republican from Vermont, Senator George Aiken, suggested that we ought to "Declare victory" in Viet Nam and bring the boys home. It took nine more years, until 1975, before our leaders in effect took Aiken's advice and pulled out, not having accomplished a thing in the interim between 1966 and 1975. In all, over 58,000 Americans lost their lives in the quagmire in Viet Nam. If we had taken Senator Aiken's counsel in 1966, and the poet Robert Lowell's in 1967 and Senator Eugene McCarthy's in 1968, many, many thousands of those soldiers would not have died -- would still be with their wives and children and grandchildren, and with us.
President Bush's unjustified and unwise war and his poor planning for peace have gotten us involved in another quagmire. The death toll for American troops there passed the 1,000 mark late last summer. In "four years" or "ten or twenty years" -- which is how long some wise politicians have said we may need to remain in Iraq -- how many more will have died? As eventually happened with respect to Viet Nam, more than likely we'll eventually wind up "declaring victory" and getting out of Iraq without having accomplished anything more in the interim. Not only will we have not reduced the risk of further terrorist attacks within our country, we will have increased the risk.
But do you think the second President from Texas to lead us into a bloody quagmire will do any better at extricating us than the first?
a) Yesterday, December 7, was the birthday of my friend, the late Justice Mary Jeanne Coyne, with whom I was privileged to work closely during her tenure on the Minnesota Supreme Court, from 1982 to 1996, when she retired and was succeeded by Kathleen Blatz, now the court's chief justice. Justice Coyne, who died in 1998, was perhaps the smartest judge I worked with in my 28+ years as aide and adviser to the court. I'm not alone in this: my main mentor at the court, the late C. Donald Peterson, no slouch himself, publicly declared after his retirement that she was the smartest judge with whom he had served in his nearly 20 years on the court. It is perhaps her fate to be remembered, on the internet at least, for her statement that "A wise old woman will make decisions in about the same way as a wise old man," which is quoted frequently by Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and others. Someday I plan on writing an essay that will explain why I think she deserves to be remembered apart from & beyond her having been brilliant and having uttered a memorable quote. And, no, it won't be because she left me a $5,000 bequest in her will.
b) Today's New York Times reports that New York finally appears ready to soften its horrendously harsh and brainless Rockefeller drug laws mandating long prison terms for drug offenders, laws "that put some low-level first-time drug offenders behind bars for sentences ranging from 15 years to life." When I was a senior in high school I was quite taken with the idea that Nelson A. Rockefeller, Governor of New York (depicted at left, shaking my hand in photo, infra), should be our next President, to replace JFK. ("All the way with Nelson A!" and "Who else but Nels?"). I wrote him (i.e., his secretary), inviting him to my spring 1961 high school graduation in my small farm hometown in western Minnesota. I didn't expect him to come. What I wanted was an actual letter expressing his deep regret (ha!) that he wouldn't be able to come. "Rocky" always had a good staff and I, of course, got the letter I was looking for, thus allowing me to trumpet to classmates (to "prove" to them) that he really was deeply sorry he couldn't come. Alas, I lost respect for him when as Governor of New York he demagogically supported the drug laws that I just referred to and when he ordered the crude and ultimately bloody invasion to retake Attica prison during a prisoners' uprising. I hope that someday soon (don't bet on it), our Congress may see fit to soften the equally excessively harsh and brainless sentencing laws for federal drug offenses. If you favor repeal of mandatory minimum laws, as I do, you may want to visit the site of FAMM (Families Against Mandatory Minimums Foundation) and DRCNET, the latter of which provides a form letter you can e-mail to your Congressperson and Senators urging repeal of federal mandatory minimums.
c) We liberal Republicans used to proudly call ourselves "Rockefeller Republicans." But Governor Rockefeller's demagoguery regarding the drug laws prompted many of us to resume calling ourselves "Eisenhower Republicans," after good ol' Ike. Here's what Ike said in a speech in St. Paul on 09.16.1952 during the 1952 Presidential campaign: "All I ask is that at the end of four years in office the people will say of me, 'The fellow's fair. He is just. He is decent. He is honest. He is our friend'" (Minnesota History, Fall 2004). At the end of Ike's two four-year terms, we were able to say that. The difference between Ike, on the one hand, and so many of our current politicians and office-holders is that Ike was not one of William Blake's "scoundrel[s], hypocrite[s] and flatterer[s]." Neither was Judge Coyne.
Stormin' ("What's in it for me?") Norman Coleman, Minnesota's chameleonic (former long-haired hippie anti-war radical secular left-wing DFLer, now short-haired establishment pro-war radical religious right-wing Republican) Senator, perhaps hoping to use a Senate investigation as a means to advance his career (sort of the way Tricky Dick Nixon did), has used his position as chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations' inquiry into the U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal to gain prominence by calling for the immediate resignation of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (Kofi Annan Must Go, Wall Street Journal, 12.01.2004).
Two can play this game: I, therefore, call upon -- nay, I demand -- that Senator Coleman resign. Not later. Now. True, I don't have any hard evidence directly linking Norm to any wrongdoing. Indeed, I have no evidence -- not even the whiff of a rumor. But it's possible someone will come forward with something that looks bad. The standard should be -- I'll call it the Coleman Standard -- that the possibility, however remote, of wrongdoing, the mere appearance of wrongdoing by a public figure, creates, ipso facto, an irrebutable presumption of wrongdoing. Do the right (that is, the right-wing) thing, Norm -- step aside.
My mother, the late Beatrice Irene Herfindahl Hanson (1913-1990), raised her two children, both sons, to be respectful of authority but never subservient or toadish. My brother, the late Dr. R. Galen Hanson, Ph.D. (1939-2004), and I attended Southern Methodist University (S.M.U.) during the 1961-62 school year, I as a freshman in the undergraduate liberal arts program, he as a first-year student in the bachelor of theology program at Perkins School of Theology. To our chagrin, we learned on arrival that while Perkins had become racially integrated, the undergraduate program in which I participated was still, despite student-body disapproval, racially segregated. I resided that year in Smith Hall, one of the dormitories built for the seminary but which was used exclusively by students not enrolled in the seminary. My brother was hired as a resident counselor in that dorm. One day an administrator, acting on a tip, requested that Galen go to the dorm's lounge and ask a black seminary student, who was sitting there reading or watching T.V., to leave because the dorm was not considered part of the seminary, which was integrated. My brother, when the roll is called up yonder, can say that he refused the order. Because of that refusal and because of his refusal to enforce in Pontius Pilate-fashion certain ludicrous parietal rules on his charges, he was, let us say, allowed to leave his position and move to another dorm.
I thought of this today on reading Maureen Dowd's as usual brilliant column in the New York Times, this one titled "A Plague of Toadies," which documents both Mr. Bush's recent promotions of Texas cronies and yes-men and yes-women -- e.g., the obsequious Alberto Gonzales and the self-driven, single-minded Condoleeza Rice -- and his obsessive efforts to ensure that his second term will be marked by a unity of external voice and an absence of internal dissension, even intellectually-honest discussion. When he started his first term, it appeared that he recognized at least some of his limitations, because his cabinet played Colin Powell, on the one hand, off against the chicken-hawks like Rumsfeld and Cheney, on the other. However, it was not to be so in practice -- Colin Powell's advice on Iraq was ignored and now boys from rural Minnesota are coming home in body bags and National Guardsmen are risking and giving their lives not to guard us but to guard people who don't deserve our assistance and are incapable of sensible self-government. This time around, Bush is making no pretense of recognizing the need to listen to and benefit from various voices.
In my experience, both as a long-term adviser to judges (those politicians in robes) and as a life-long studious observer of institutions, governmental and otherwise, only dunces and/or fools (and every institution encounters them at times) take the road that Bush appears intent on taking. Fortunately, there are inherent checks on foolishness and fantasy-based ideology. Eventually the people are jolted awake from their Alice-in-Wonderland nightmare and they send the spoiled-brat Yalies back to Texas, from whence they came and where they belong.
The buds with their promise of spring are present at the very spots from which the stems of dead leaves have now fallen. Signs of rebirth of the moderate or liberal-minded base of the Minnesota Republican party include the following: a) Elmer L. Anderson, the grand old Republican who died this week, opposed President Bush's re-election this fall and wisely refused to endorse our current Governor, Tim Pawlenty, in 2002; b) as I indicated on 10.28.04 might happen, the wise voters in grand old always-Republican Edina in reality voted for Kerry over Bush; and c) the good people of Minnesota, truer than blue, rejected the demogoguery of Bush, Cheney, Coleman & Co.
Just as the so-called "Holy Roman Empire" was not holy or Roman or an empire, the so-called conservative religious right-wing fanatics who have seized control of the Republican party are not true conservatives, do not appear to have read the Gospels, and will be proven by history to have been wrong, not right. The photograph, by the way, was taken in 1960 at the faculty club at the University of Minnesota -- that's me at the right, shaking hands with Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York. Next to him is Governor Andersen, and next to me is my whiz-kid older brother, the promise of spring in his every fibre. As I said, even in the season of death, the coming spring is present, and those hard rocks we bury today will rise next April and May as daffodils and tulips.
My only sibling, my brother, Dr. R. Galen Hanson, Ph.D., who was born in 1939, died this morning in our childhood home. Although we have been estranged in recent years, I have never felt that I was anything but blessed to have him as my brother. He was a brilliant thinker, gifted teacher, extraordinarily talented public speaker, author of books, and selfless caregiver to our mother in her final years. (More)