Bloomberg’s Tarnished Candidacy

America is a special place and has to be recognized as such on a life-long basis, starting in grade school. Somebody who doesn’t live by that tenet, day by day and year by year, ought not to aspire to be President of the United States of America. Somebody like Michael Bloomberg.

We have now, unfortunately, the example of the booklet “Bloomberg’s friends and admiring colleagues compiled of his ‘wit and wisdom’ nearly 30 years ago.” It opens with the one-liner “Make the customer think he’s getting laid when he’s getting [expletive].” As soon as Bloomberg, the executive, learned of that tripe, he should have stopped it. Now, however, it’s surfaced to haunt his presidential campaigning.

“Language that might have flowed during the machismo-fueled 1990’s on Wall Street strikes a different chord during a nationwide political bid in the era of #MeToo.”

In any era, such tripe should have been squelched by an executive  worthy of being a leader. If Bloomberg couldn’t do that then, he needs to be viewed as a fatally tarnished presidential candidate now.

It simply isn’t funny.  Here’s the booklet itself.

Speaking Freely. . .and Officially

Righteousness, at least self-righteousness, doesn’t necessarily jibe with fairness. It has, however, been a hallmark of the Trump Administration in Washington.

We’ve had this in mind especially since reading an Associated Press dispatch a while ago about a Trump administration official saying that the inscription on the Statue of Liberty refers to “people coming from Europe” and that America only wants migrants “who can stand on their own two feet.”

For a refresher, courtesy of AP,  Emma Lazarus wrote her “New Colossus” poem in 1883 “one year after Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned laborers from China. The poem is best known for its line about welcoming ‘your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Beginning in the 1930s, AP added, supporters of immigration began using the poem to bolster their cause. Biographer Esther Schor said Lazarus was “deeply involved in refugee causes”.

Thus fairness involves, from the start, getting one’s facts straight and, especially if one is a government official, being well-informed and careful about even impromptu comments.

Yes, fairness is a discipline in itself, appropriate for all government officials yearning (as we assume most do) to speak truthfully and as well as officially.

(The photo above shows Karen Meja, left, fitting her mother, Leonor Chipayo, with a souvenir Statue of Liberty foam visor on a visit to Ellis Island last year in New York.) 

 

The Waste In Long Prison Sentences

Editorially, The Wall Street Journal has long been concerned about the overly long prison sentences that have become the norm in our American justice system. And in its February 9, 2019 issue, the Journal offers a piece by a state trial judge in Denver that points up the folly of “the American epidemic of overly long prison sentences.”

Judge Morris Hoffman notes that “the penitentiary wasn’t intended to be a criminal warehouse. Criminals were expected to work, pray and think about their crimes – to be penitent about them – in a kind of moral rehabilitation.”

Yet  today “America leads the Western world in average length of prison sentences, at 63 months. According to the Justice Policy Institute, Canada’s average is four months, Finland’s 10, Germany’s 12 and even rugged individualistic Australia’s is just 36.” American lawmakers seem to have become infected with a throw-away-the-key approach to criminal justice.

What occurs when inmates recognize the folly of their actions yet still have years, maybe many more years, to rue their mistakes? Very likely, an abuse of human potential, of the ability of predominately younger people (mostly men) to learn from their mistakes and start anew. Would all be so chastened if released earlier? Maybe not. But most, we’d assume, would.

America shouldn’t be known for warehousing criminals but for seeking to understand and possibly mitigate the circumstances that produce them. Is this mistaken idealism? No, it’s fairness in the face of circumstances, in many cases, that even criminals can be expected to brood about.

“Not a day passes,” Judge Hoffman writes, “that I don’t think of that young robber I sentenced so long ago. As state and federal legislators ponder their next moves after the First Step Act, they should consider lowering historically extreme sentences for some offenses, including violent ones. It would not only be sensible public policy but would also help return our criminal law to its moral roots.”

“Our prisons are groaning because of long sentences, not large numbers of short ones.”

Think about that.

Settings For Fairness, and Their Challenges

Fairness involves toleration, the ability to step back and ask, “What’s really going on here?” What may seem strange or unfamiliar, or uncalled for, from your own experience might seem fresh and entirely worthwhile to someone new to the same setting.

Retirement communities are a good example. As you become a longer term resident of one, your own perceptions and needs don’t change as much as those of newer people moving in. And the community’s management needs to respond to the expectations of its new residents, not only those who have been around for a while.

That’s not unfair, simply realistic. Not so endurable, perhaps, but a reflection of how experiences and expectations change over time. A community’s management needs to keep up with them or be left without enough new members.

It’s not a question of whether the new setting is fair or not , so long as management has planned ahead and saved up for the new building or accommodations that may be involved.  The costs deemed necessary to attract a “new generation” ought not be hung on those already on hand.

Provided that’s so, sit back, welcome and engage with the newcomers. This applies, of course, in settings beyond retirement communities. People grow up with different experiences and expectations, yet we have all to get along and be sufficiently understood to be companionable. And that, as we’ve said, involves toleration.

Transfer this principle to a national community, and seek to adapt it to the politics of those elected to run it, and the challenge becomes much more complex. We all grow up, but we don’t grow up in the same settings, or with the same advantages. We need to understand our differences as much as we embrace our similarities. And, sometimes,  differences tend to outweigh everything else.

It can get to be, almost, like running a pushcart on the street and making decisions high in the skyscraper behind it. That’s a long way to reach for accommodation, but it has to be attempted.  That’s how we’ll all get along, and the truly fair way to proceed.   Easy?  Maybe not. But necessary, yes.

We’re all human, but we all have had different experiences. That’s a truism,  but It matters.