1973: the class trip to DC

New Paltz Democratic Club

I intend to finish my 1973 diary recollections by the end of 2023.  Though I found nothing I wanted to share in the first two months, the class trip to DC was particularly noteworthy.

Wed, Mar 7: I was famished that evening and was going to eat. But the Okie said she was going to bring food. Then my parents and my sisters arrived, surprising me near or on my birthday for the second year in a row.

We were about to leave when a car with a little girl barreled down the street in reverse. Dad tried to stop it, but he couldn’t. It rammed into another vehicle. The girl was okay. She was trying to adjust the radio station and released the brake. My family went to a Chinese restaurant called Great Wall.

Tues, Apr 10: I attended, not for the first time, a New Paltz Democratic Club meeting. Ralph Kulseng nominated me to be the acting recording secretary. Someone whispered, “Who’s Roger Green?” I whispered, “I’m Roger Green!”

[I joined the Club after I was allowed to register to vote in the town. The law in New York State at the time was that no one would gain or lose the right to vote by attending college. The Republican registrar was going to deny me the chance to vote there. But the Democrat, noting that the Okie was already registered in Ulster County and that it would be silly for a married couple to have to be registered in different counties.]

I won the election and was given postcards, the membership list, etc.

Sat, Apr 14: I was back in Binghamton. I met a legislative assistant of my Congressman Howard Robison at the Federal Building about war, Watergate, and other issues.

District of Columbia

Sun, May 13: My classmates (Sid, Andi, Ivy, Gary, Jay, Mitch, Stu, Charles, Jerry, Tom, and Linda ) and I drove down to DC for a trip arranged by our professor, Ron Steinberg.  We ate at the Mayflower Diner. Nixon arrived at the Washington Monument grounds by helicopter, causing chaos. We stayed at a hostel.

Mon, May 14: After breakfast at a greasy spoon, we take a bus to the Supreme Court. They ruled 8-1, Rehnquist dissenting, that a servicewoman could claim her husband for benefits as easily as a serviceman could claim his wife. (As I read the case now, it was a bit more nuanced than that.) We talked with chief clerk Rodak, a real PR man, about court caseloads.

At the Justice Department, we talked with Phil Locavara, deputy solicitor general, who was very candid, even about Watergate.

The last day in DC

Tues, May 15: We had a meeting at the EPA with a guy named Stuart, who was very interesting and informative. I got lost going to the Common Cause meeting, seeing an Ethiopian parade en route. Later, the FCC PR man gave us terse, frustratingly evasive answers.

Wed, May 16: Took a bus to the New Senate Office Building. I hated carrying around my duffel bag, which was searched every time I entered there or the Supreme Court. Ron, Sid, and I ate at the NSOB cafeteria. We got Senate passes from the office of Senator James Buckley (C-NY). I went to the Senate on the subway, but only four Senators were on the floor.

We went to the Old Senate Office Building for a meeting with a subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary with two of the staff on Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC).

Then we went to see former Chief Justice Earl Warren. Ron made only an introductory statement and asked the last question over an hour later. )I wrote about this here.)

We all drove back to New Paltz, very tired.

Making the case against creating term limits

lobbyist domination

As a political science major and political junkie, I’ve long been interested in the issue of creating term limits for politicians. I read a piece recently in the Boston Globe restating that.

Jeff Jacoby’s January 12 opinion piece, “The case for term limits is as strong as ever,” says, “The case for term limits is straightforward: Men and women cannot be trusted for too long with too much power.

“That is why presidents may be elected to a maximum of two terms, why the governors of 36 states are term-limited, why 15 states impose term limits on legislators, and why nine of the ten largest cities, including New York and Los Angeles, apply term limits to their mayors and (in most cases) city councilors. Power not only tends to corrupt; it tends to do so fairly quickly. Term limits are a check on that corruption.”

I cannot disagree with this, although it’s been my observation that most politicians who are term-limited end up either running for a different office or are appointed to another post. Indeed, 47 current US  Senators had previous House service.

On the other hand…

Still, I was interested in the pushback to the column, most of which I also agree with. One writes, “readers of the recent Neal Gabler book ‘Against the Wind: Edward Kennedy and the Rise of Conservatism, 1976-2009’ would probably disagree.

“If Jacoby had his way, term limits would have deprived the people of the Commonwealth of the decades of excellent public service that we enjoyed thanks to the labors of long-term officeholders such as Senator Kennedy, Senator John Kerry, and House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill.” And, might I add, Nancy Pelosi, whose experience allowed her to be an effective Speaker of the House.

“Experience matters in mastering the intricacies of most fields, including government. Cookie-cutter solutions such as term limits may seem superficially appealing, but they fail to address the problem of persuading good people to go to and stay in Congress.” Yes, it usually takes a while to figure out what the job is. Institutional memory has value.

Another says, “Jacoby looks to term limits to resolve his concerns over the advantages of incumbency rather than to campaign financing laws and to the end of gerrymandering.” Those, the reader suggests, are the real villains, not incumbency per se.

I came across this report by the Congressional Research Service.  “The average length of service for Representatives at the beginning of the 117th Congress was 8.9 years (4.5 House terms); for Senators, 11.0 years (1.8 Senate terms). ” Yes, there are indeed people who have stayed too long –  Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), for one.

Beware the lobbyists

This comment most resonated with me:  “Imposing term limits is also a recipe for lobbyist domination. Since lobbyists don’t have term limits, and they gain expertise at their jobs, they’d be even better at outmaneuvering legislators than they are now.” Also, the lobbyist pool sometimes comes from previously elected officials.

“It’s been said that we already have term limits; they’re called elections. What we need is better, fairer elections: ranked-choice voting, public campaign financing, a repeal of the Citizens United decision so that we can limit money in elections, and so on.

“There are plenty of ways to improve our democracy. Kicking out the folks who know how to make it work isn’t one of them.”

However, I’m willing to be convinced that creating term limits will be the panacea that will create a more robust democracy. And, if there were something less than lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court, I could get behind that.

Lydster: Learning from my daughter


Maxwell Frost
Maxwell Frost

There are always things I’m learning from my daughter.

She has been following online Maxwell Frost, the newly-elected member of Congress from Florida. I knew who he was because I had been getting contribution requests from his campaign.

He was supposed to be sworn in on January 3. So he wrote about that the day before. But as the drama over selecting a Speaker of the House of Representatives dragged on, no one could be sworn in. So Frost reposted  that January 2 post, followed by the word “SIKE!”

Quickly, he was scolded by some folks who thought a Member of Congress should know how to spell Psych! But, as my daughter noted, people of her generation have been spelling it as SIKE forever.

Did I mention that Frost is the first  Gen Z Congressperson? “At 25, [he] will be the youngest member of Congress. He’s also in debt after maxing out credit cards to win Florida’s 10th Congressional District seat.”


My daughter told me that Andrew Tate was arrested. I said, “Who’s that?” “He’s a former kickboxer and TikTok influencer.” I muttered, “I don’t care about some social media influencer.”

But a couple of days later, after I read about him on Reuters and other mainstream sources,  I knew WAY more about him than I wanted. He is a brutal misogynist. The  Romanian anti-organized crime agency DIICOT alleges he created with his brother and others “an organized crime group in early 2021 ‘with the purpose of recruiting, housing, and exploiting women by forcing them to create pornographic content meant to be seen on specialized websites for a cost.'”

His feud with Greta Thunberg revealed that he was in Romania when a box from Jerry’s Pizza, a Romanian chain, was in his video response to her, which facilitated his arrest.

So my daughter, once again, was ahead of my curve.

Dick Wolf

During her winter break, my daughter watched a bit of television. Two shows were in the Dick Wolf franchise, Chicago Fire and FBI International. She seems to like to watch and dissect them.

In the one episode I watched, Chicago Fire had characters lying for no good reason. For instance, one firefighter tells a pregnant woman married to another firefighter that she’s “fine” seconds before she is rushed to the hospital. In another scene, the woman in a couple avoids telling her Significant Other she’s buying a door with another firefighter, which becomes obvious two scenes later.

The FBI scene involves the officers coming up to a suspect and saying, from ten feet away, “FBI.” The suspect runs away and eludes capture. Now I know what “hate-watching” is because my daughter does it.

I love learning how my daughter’s mind works.

Two years of Joe Biden

“Who dares to mock Dark Brandon now?”

joebidenAfter two years of Joe Biden as President, a few things are rather clear.

His accomplishments will be underestimated and probably underreported. As Salon noted, “Who dares to mock Dark Brandon now? Joe Biden keeps rolling up the wins.” Moreover, “Republicans badly underestimated [him] — and in his first two years in the White House, he’s driven them nuts.”

From gun control to the CHIPS Act to respecting marriage, he’s getting things done. Under Biden, more jobs were created than the last three GOP Presidents Combined. He signed a bill to end profiteering from prisoners’ calls to loved ones. If his infrastructure bill is insufficient, it’s because Presidents and Congresses have kicked the issue down the road for decades.

January 6

I’m pleased that he marked “the second anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol by awarding the Presidential Citizens Medal to 12 individuals associated with that day and the 2020 presidential election.” This signals he takes the assault on our democracy seriously, unlike others.

The medals were given to seven affiliated with the Capitol Police or D.C. Police departments: Harry Dunn, Caroline Edwards, Aquilino Gonell, Eugene Goodman, Michael Fanone, Daniel Hodges, and the late Brian Sicknick.

Politicians who “refused to buckle to pressure to overturn the presidential election results in their states” were Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, departing Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, and Al Schmidt, former city commissioner on the Philadelphia County Board of Elections.

“The final two recipients, Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss, were election workers in Fulton County, Georgia, who reportedly endured threats and harassment after the election. Freeman and Moss have been accused by former President Donald Trump and some of his allies of election fraud by including fake ballots in Georgia’s election total. All of the recipients were mentioned in the final report by the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol riot.

The House GOP

The Republicans in the House of Representatives will try to make his life miserable. For instance, “the powerful Oversight Committee Chairman is pushing a baseless narrative that Biden is ‘compromised.’”

U.S. Rep. James Comer of Kentucky “has promoted the false theory of fraud in the 2020 election, blaming alleged “troubling reports of irregularities and improprieties” on Democrats,” for which he has been regularly criticized. If it’s not Joe’s fault, it’s his son Hunter’s doing.

When Jim Jordan tried to jump the gun on oversight requests, the Biden White House rightly told him to wait his turn. Expect retaliation for that.

Even when Joe Biden errs, he’s measured by a different standard.  The AP conducted a side-by-side look at the Trump and Biden classified documents issue. Yet many Republicans, starting with former Veep Mike Pence, make a false equivalence.

Add to that the narrative of him as a “bumbler” – the rightwing media is rife with it. They also mislead. 

Will anything happen this year?

Joe Biden’s disapproval rate will be high, in part because progressives want him to do MORE in the areas of housing, healthcare, tax reform, criminal-justice reform, prison reform, and most notably, climate change mitigation.  Of course, politics is the art of the possible, and I don’t know what will be possible with the clown car in the House.

There’s a lot of conversation about whether Joe Biden will run again for President. Here’s my thought: I don’t care yet. Moreover, if he’s NOT running, as soon as he announces that, he becomes a lame duck. I realize the 2024 election cycle has begun already, but he could wait until May Day to decide, and the earth will not fall off its axis.

Chaos as Civics Lessons


I’ve been trying to reframe the last few years. Maybe we should embrace the chaos as civics lessons.
ITEM: There were discussions about whether the previous guy in the White House was profiting off the office. “Generally, these anti-corruption provisions, the so-called Emoluments Clauses, prohibit the president from receiving any profit, gain, or advantage from any foreign or domestic government. Impeachment, as outlined by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 65, is a political remedy (though not the only remedy) for a president’s egregious violations of these prohibitions.”
Alas, in January 2021, the justices of the Supreme Court “dismissed two cases about then-President Trump’s alleged violations of the Emoluments Clauses… In doing so, the Court forfeited a golden opportunity to clarify just what these mandates mean for future presidents. And its refusal to rule one way or another may inadvertently encourage another president to brazenly leverage his or her power for profit.”
I dare say most readers had never heard of the word “emoluments” before 2017. So the citizenry is better informed, right?
Counting the electoral votes
ITEM: Did you know that Congress meets on the 6th of January after the Presidential election to count the electoral votes? Well, since 2021, NOW you do. It’s right there in 3 U.S. Code § 15.
As an old poli sci major, I was aware of it, but I never paid any attention until 2001, when there was some noise about challenging the Bush victory, but it was all bluster. I did follow it in 2009 because I couldn’t believe, in a good way, that Barack Obama was going to become President. But I all but forgot in 2005 and 2013, after W and Obama were reelected.
I noted it in 2017 because I couldn’t believe, in a not-so-good way, that djt was going to become President. Then I heard him, in his idolatry, say that Mike Pence could overturn the 2020 election results.
Still, the 2021 event was supposed to be largely ceremonial, with Pence, Nancy Pelosi, and others bringing their families to watch the beginning of the peaceful transfer of power. That didn’t work out as well as it might have.
And the US has exported political chaos to Brazil as  Bolsonaro backers stormed government buildings in a January 6-style attempted coup. The country’s President, Congress, and its top court have jointly said the actions were terrorist acts. Last I checked,  Bolsonaro had taken refuge in Florida.
Picking the Speaker
ITEM: Electing a Speaker of the House is usually a pretty straightforward process, though some horsetrading takes place. For instance, when Nancy Pelosi was up for the job in early 2019, she agreed to limit her tenure to two two-year terms. (I remembered that, but I also read it in a right-wing publication trying disingenuously to show that Kevin McCarthy’s difficulties weren’t all that uncommon.)
Well, a 15th ballot is rather unusual.
I knew one did not need to be a member of the House of Representatives to be the Speaker, though I believe it’s always been a Congressperson. So when Matt Gaetz nominated djt, there was no specific prohibition against that.
What ARE the legal requirements?

“Constitutionally, a current member of the Executive branch is prohibited from simultaneously holding office in the Legislative Branch. The Ineligibility Clause (Article 1, Section 6, Clause 2 states:

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

But I could find nothing SPECIFICALLY that indicates whether the Speaker must be a certain age; members of the House have to be 25. I suppose someone too young to vote could be selected.
Incidentally, during the first week in January, C-SPAN Was America’s Hottest TV Drama.
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