December 22, 2013
Jerome Grossman funeral
A LOVE AFFAIR WITH POLITICS AND ISSUES
Jerry Grossman’s love affair with politics and issues almost matched his love affair with his wife.
His marriage to Roslyn Grossman lasted an amazing 69 years, longer than many of us hope to live.
Her death two years ago was a major blow to Jerry.
But Jerry’s love affair with politics and issues predated Ros and post-dated her as well.
Jerry began his book, appropriately entitled “Relentless Liberal,” with the declaration:
Yes. I am a liberal, a relentless liberal, without reservation, without apologies, a product of my times, but rooted in values that can be found throughout history.
Note, he used the word “liberal,” not the fuzzier “progressive” that many use because liberalism is not as much in vogue as it once was.
Born in 1917, his parents émigrés from Russia, his first political hero was Franklin Roosevelt, who took office in 1933.
For many in my generation, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was one of those seminal moments in history where so many of us remember where they were when they heard the news.
For Jerry, however, the April 12, 1945 death of Franklin Roosevelt was a similar moment.
He was so overcome when driving home from work that day that he had to pull over to the side of the road to recover.
Franklin Roosevelt was Jerry’s hero, and his policies were those that Jerry fought for for the rest of his life.
Jerry writes in his book that his father Max had strong opinions on every subject and loved to argue.
Hmm, the acorn did not fall far from that tree.
He went into the family business at Massachusetts Envelope Company immediately after college to help his father.
His temporary stay lasted for 37 years
Jerry prided himself for being on the left edge of politics.
He read “The Nation” regularly at an early age when others may have been reading Jules Verne or today, using Play Station 4.
He supported Henry Wallace for President in 1948 against Harry Truman.
For Jerry, Truman’s policies appeared to be too militaristic, too confrontational.
Besides, Truman seemed a pale imitation of Jerry’s hero Franklin Roosevelt.
In 1962, Jerry served as campaign manager of H. Stuart Hughes for Senate, the grandson of a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and presidential candidate, against a callow youth named Ted Kennedy in Kennedy’s first run for office.
The main campaign issue for Hughes was dealing with the threat of nuclear war and during the campaign Jerry called President John F. Kennedy a “cold warrior.”
Now, as an aside, we have a dictum at Council for a Livable World.
If we support a candidate in his or her first major political contest, he or she will always remember who was with them at the beginning.
That has been true with such political figures – (he says modestly) – as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden.
Or former Maine Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.
They remember who was with them when they launched their political careers.
And that's why it was so nice to see a tweet from Vice President Biden after Jerry's death: "He was a good friend who worked tirelessly to advance U.S. security through nuclear arms control.”
I am not sure that Jerry knew what a tweet was, but he sure would have appreciated the sentiment.
But for Ted Kennedy’s first race, Jerry was on the opposing side.
To Kennedy’s credit – and to Jerry’s – both men overlooked that original sin and became friends and allies for the rest of Ted’s career.
Jerry was in politics, not for power, but for issues.
And while he was fanatic about civil liberties and affirmative action, and hired the first African Americans and women as printing pressmen (press people?) in the 1940’s, his attention gradually turned to foreign policy and national security issues.
He combined his passion for sports with his passion for politics
In his book, he pointed out that the great boxer Mohammed Ali’s refusal to fight the Vietnam War helped to crystallize Jerry’s opposition to the war.
Because Jerry loved the Boston Red Sox, in 1964, he picketed outside Fenway Park at a Goldwater rally.
He also loved the Boston Celtics.
In 1990, when a potential Boston Celtics basketball player, looking for a home in Wellesley, was surrounded by police officers in Wellesley and forced to lie on the ground in a case of mistaken identity – and racial politics ==
== Jerry organized a letter signed by hundreds of Wellesley residents to apologize to the player, who did buy a home in Wellesley.
Jerry turned to the Eugene McCarthy campaign in 1968 to stop the Vietnam War.
Again, politics to advance issues, not to gain power.
Eugene McCarthy failed in 1968, so Jerry looked for a campaign to advance the anti-Vietnam war message.
And the campaign of pro-war Representative Philip Philbin fit the bill.
Jerry always delighted in his role in steering Father Robert Drinan from the monastery into politics – although how much “steering” the Dean of Boston College Law School needed could be questioned.
Drinan’s upset victory against the then-incumbent helped persuade Tip O’Neill, eventually Speaker of the House, to oppose the war, and helped turn the tide of the war in the country against the war.
Politics to make a point.
But it was the nuclear arms race that beckoned.
In 1978, he joined the board of directors of Council for a Livable World, the year I began working at the organization.
When the organization encountered difficult times, he became executive director in 1980.
I reviewed his book “Relentless Liberal,” which says that he doubled my salary at the time.
Somehow I don’t recall that.
Did I tell you that Jerry was very careful with money, his, his company’s and his organization’s.
Did I tell you he was cheap?
When his personal stationery had an error on it, Jerry did not order new paper, he just crossed out the offending part and used the old stationery.
But we established a great partnership that has lasted decades, stilled only by death.
It was a political marriage that had only one major disagreement in all the years together, and I can’t even remember the topic.
Speaking of personal traits, I am here to tell you that Jerry Grossman seamlessly passed very rapidly from the age of the quill pen to the fountain pen to the ball point pen to the manual typewriter to the electric typewriter to the computer.
Except he skipped the last three stages.
That is, he continued using his pen for all his writing and editing.
Machines, even answering machines, were not close friends.
Fortunately, as we passed drafts back and for the next 25 years, I could read his handwriting.
He did master the telephone, but in the hundreds of times he phoned me, he also insisted on telling me when I picked up the phone, “This is Jerry Grossman.”
Just in case I could not remember his name or recognize his voice.
But while he never tweeted, he blogged almost to the end -- although I do believe he has secret help from Dan with the typing and the uploading.
At the Council, Jerry engaged in the process of trying to move Congress in the right direction on nuclear weapons issues.
Congress at the time was not so hopelessly deadlocked as it is today.
Jerry loved to travel to Washington, D.C. to talk about issues – and a little sports and politics at the same time.
There was one meeting with former Senator Wendell Ford of Kentucky.
Kentucky, you may recall, is home to the most famous American horse race.
And by the way, I believe that Jerry played the ponies from time to time.
So we went into Ford’s office, and Jerry and the Senator talked about the Kentucky Derby for the first 10 minutes or so.
When the Senator finally said, you aren’t here to talk about horse races are you, Jerry mentioned the B-1 bomber, a highly expensive airplane carrying nuclear weapons that we did not need.
Ford turned to an aide, who gave him a nod, and the Senator told Jerry, you have my vote.
Jerry was shrewd about the way to highlight an issue.
At a meeting with Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, Jerry made his case on our issues to the Senator.
As we were leaving, the Senator asked Jerry about the Israeli-Palestinian question.
As you may know, Jerry had strong opinions on the Middle East.
Did I mention he had strong opinions on everything?
But Jerry declined to venture an opinion, changing the subject.
When asked after the meeting why he was so demure, Jerry replied, the Senator would only remember my answer on the Middle East, and not the issue that I came in for.
When Jerry came to Washington, he was indefatigable.
He left others in his lobbying groups breathless and he raced around for two or three days.
Members of Congress loved Jerry, with his big personality and his infectious persona.
Jerry sometimes told others how he firmly gave Senators and Representatives a strong piece of his mind on his issue.
But don’t believe that.
He was a teddy bear; he made his points but he was not rude or obnoxious as he pressed his point home.
One of the most memorable lobbying days came when his grandson Noah, then about 11 years old, visited Washington with him.
Jerry provided a quick lobbying training session to Noah and when we went into meetings, it is Noah who made the pitch.
Although I am not sure Noah ever registered as a lobbyist.
But enough stories.
Jerry Grossman was truly dedicated to his issues, to making the world a better place, to his wife, and to his family:
Marilyn Grossman Jackson
Jessie Ellen Grossman
Samuel Maxwell Grossman
Noah Jackson, the putative lobbyist
We have lost a passionate, caring and wonderful person.
He has left the world a better place for his 96 years.
And I have lost a partner in the fight against nuclear weapons and nuclear war.
Political turmoil at home has undercut a plan by the United States to focus more on Asia as a growing and dynamic factor in world affairs. White House energies and strategies had “pivoted” in preparation for world power shifts away from the traditional pre-occupations with Europe and the Middle East to the faster growing Pacific Basin.
Doubts about US policies are fed by American preoccupations with relatively unimportant nations like Syria and Israel absorbing US attention and energies. Asian allies of the US worry about US absence in their affairs: will the US help them when they are under pressure from China? Will the US retreat from its desire to act as a superpower in the Pacific area? Will it get its fiscal house in order to maintain its hegemony in the world?
As President Obama made apologetic calls to Asia to cancel his long planned trip to the region, China's leader, Xi-JinPing was the substitute star in many of the same countries, offering commercial and military deals for closer relationships and billions of dollars in trade.
China's trade with those countries has grown so quickly that many now regard China as its leading trading partner. Obama’s “pivot” strategy involves organizing Asiatic nations but not China (a must noteworthy exception) for joint commercial, aesthetic and military programs. We must continue to support such activities all over the Pacific for commercial, military and aesthetic reasons. Where is Obama, the China leader might answer, “Busy with Syria and the Republicans.”
Under no circumstances can the Democrats or President Obama cave in to Republican demands to undo or delay Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Republican politicians and their media supporters endlessly misrepresent the objective accurate facts that Obamacare will increase the percentage of Americans who have access to health insurance at a reasonable and affordable price.
Obamacare goes a long way towards making sickness and health crises affordable financially for the American citizen staving off bankruptcies in health emergencies.
Obamacare will reduce the number of deaths caused by an ineffective health system.
Obamacare has been approved by the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Supreme Court and is currently successfully and efficiently operating in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, endorsed by millions of doctors and medical specialists around the world.
The Republicans have a reckless obsession with destroying health reform and wounding President Obama. The public is angry over this unnecessary crisis that will damage a long overdue medical reform to install Obamacare immediately to improve America's health. Generations after generation of Americans have wrestled with this problem. Let us do it now for a better America. Better late than never.
By Jerome Grossman
The Wall Street Journal reports in its survey of popular opinion polls that Americans across the board think the US is doing too much abroad, a shift from eight years ago. On the question of a strike on Syria, majorities of Republicans, independents and even men all say military action is not in the national interest.
Even the elites of both parties, who tend to favor an assertive American role abroad because of investment opportunities, now say they favor focus on problems and investment at home. Republican Senator John McCain calls attention to the battle between the “non-interventionist wing of the party and the traditional internationalists who have carried American power into every world sector.
Gallup and other pollsters find that the public has turned skeptical of wars, resents the casualties and the enormous cost to taxpayers. No longer can support be generated by playing the Star-Spangled Banner or putting the President on television.
The steady stream of wars and the threats that precede them has fostered a certain weariness that has seeped across the US. A new kind of anti-intervention alliance has taken root. That hardly means Americans won't support military action at all, but it does mean that this President and probably his successor will find the case harder to make even though this new reality is not fundamentally partisan in nature.
Obviously, politicians must consider these changes in public opinion. Yet, in the Syria crisis, President Obama asked the US Senate and House of Representatives for authorization to attack Syria, a power he did not receive. Given the public opinion numbers, Obama's difficulties were predictable - a surprising failure of political judgment and national unity, this time for peace for a war weary people.
President Barack Obama's handling of the Syria crisis had little resonance with his primary audiences. His Arab audiences puzzled over his focus on death by chemical weapons much more than the deaths and suffering of countless others. Moreover, they contrasted the quick reaction to rebellion in Syria to the chaos in Egypt and the Middle East.
Obama asked the US Congress to authorize what then Senator John Kerry called an “unbelievably small strike” alienating Republicans and Democrats alike and left Israel rubbing their eyes in disbelief.
The Obama administration then took two steps back from its push for an immediate attack on Syria allowing weeks to slip by without the diplomacy that should have been the first choice for pressure on Syria.
Obama and his team even lost the public-relations battle to the Russians who initiated proposals that defused the crisis and made it possible to initiate diplomacy and to defer military action. As Winston Churchill said famously and repeatedly,” talk talk is better than war war”. The world was impressed and mighty surprised that Vladimir Putin of Moscow and the KGB would turn out to be a better politician than Barack Obama of Chicago, satisfying his own constituency impressing the world with his ability to develop and implement solutions to intractable problems without the use of force.
In an earlier crisis in the Middle East, Harvard professor and diplomat John Kenneth Galbraith wrote, “Let’s be slow to war”, urging support for diplomatic solution in the similar crisis of 1990. Among his supporters in 1990 was Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts who also pressed for diplomacy and negotiations. Until the military face-off ends, we cannot be sure that the horrors of war will not be visited on our troops, the opposing troops, and the region's inhabitants.
Diplomacy took over.
Inside the White House, confusion reigned as US policy changed on Syria and chemical weapons. On the same day, a potential breakthrough via a diplomatic opening provided by Russia, the Obama administration sent a memo to Congress highlighting why Russia should not be trusted on Syria. Through mixed messages, miscalculations and an eleventh hour break; the US stumbled on the solution, emerging from the brink of war to making a deal with its biggest adversary.
A World Without Work
By Jerome Grossman
Our society may soon be rich enough that fewer and fewer people will need to work, where leisure becomes universally accessible, where part time jobs replace the regimented work week and where living standards keep rising even though more people have left the work-force altogether.
If such a utopia were possible, one would expect that it would be achieved first among the upper classes, then the middle class and finally even high school dropouts would be able to sleep late, take four-day weekends for their adventures.
The decline of available work is a basic reality of American life that promises to continue. This decline isn't unemployment in the usual sense where people look for work and can't find it. It's a kind of post-employment in which people drop out of the workforce and find ways to live, more or less permanently without a steady job, so instead of spreading leisure time, wanted or unwanted is expanding from the bottom up. Leisure time, wanted or unwanted is expanding from the bottom up. Long hours are increasingly the province of the rich.
The decline in blue-collar work is often portrayed as a failure to supply good- paying jobs as well as a failure of the American work ethic But even disappointing growth rates are likely to leave more American generations much richer then today.
Those riches will probably find paths to subsidize blue-collar workers as well as governmental and private assistance. However it is unstable to give up on unemployment, altogether. Remember, the right not to have a boss is actually the hardest won of modern freedoms.
The decline of work carries social costs as well as a price tag, providing every day structure for people who live alone and a place for socialization and friendship. In many ways, human flourishing and fulfillment is threatened by the slow decline of work, of workers, and the social institutions that bind us.
Fifty years ago some investment bonds were less a piece of clever financial engineering than elaborate tax dodges. The increasing movement of money into speculative trading activities by the big banks, and the cost of decreasing traditional business activity that support higher levels of employment are troubling. Some call the trend a gambling device more easily manipulated than investment in production of goods and services.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has introduced legislation that seeks to return the financial industry, particularly the big banks, to a time when there was a strict divide between traditional conservative banking based on industrial needs instead of speculative activities looking for manipulated big hits.
Warren’s liberal bill is also sponsored by Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona and other conservatives to protect the vast sums guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), that would minimize the real cost of bank bailouts.
For about 70 years, similar legislation, the Glass-Steagall Bill, managed to keep the riskier aspects of Wall Street operations away from the historic traditional form of business financing. Glass-Steagall, passed by the New Deal, operated with good and fair results until it was repealed in 1999 at the urging of President Bill Clinton.
The Warren bill would force deposit-taking banks to cease most of their derivative trading and other risky financial activities. The new bill would not stop all questionable financial instruments but it would go a long way in reestablishing diminished public confidence
US intervention in the civil war in Syria has been promoted by a propaganda campaign between the Russians and the USA accusing dictator Assad of using poison gas against the rebels. The accusation has been effective in developing support for the rebels in the US and Europe. Now Russia, Assad’s primary ally has responded with a scientific analysis indicating rebel use of Saran nerve gas. These deaths and casualties have become a focal point in the Civil War. Both sides are using these repellent arms as evidence of their special brutality on the sick and the young. These insidious weapons are beyond the pale of civilized warfare, if such a description actually fits the horrors of contemporary war. Whichever side is proven to use poison gas should lose all political credibility as well as weapons and other material support. Both sides should open their arsenals to complete inspection and whatever side proves guilty of using such weapons should face the full vengeance of society. The United Nations has estimated that at least 93,000 people have been killed and millions dispatched or displaced in Syria. A food and medical crisis exists in Syria and its neighbors. This crisis threatens our civilization and the question of who rules Syria is insufficient to gamble the future of our precious civilization for the prospect of military advantage. Chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction must be eliminated. Who will take the steps to avoid the ultimate catastrophe? A last chance awaits to save ourselves and our grand civilization
International security in the post-Cold War era is driven by the deadly mix of nuclear proliferation, rogue states, and international terrorists. The second concern the potentially disruptive impact that China will have if it emerges as a peer competitor to the United States, challenging the international order established during the era of US dominance. While China remains relatively weak, the greatest danger in Chinese American relations is the possibility that the two countries will find themselves in a crisis that could escalate to open military conflict, based on debatable claims about the intentions of the two countries and uncertain forecasts about big shifts in their normal capabilities, the danger of mutual instability in a war threatening crisis and it's escalation to catastrophic consequences.
Disputes in the East and South China Sea suggest the danger of a military confrontation in the Western Pacific may be on the rise, involving a serious threat to vital national interests. A short time for resolution would sharply increase the risk of war.
Stability is greatest when both sides strongly prefer to continue bargaining, instability is greatest when they are tempted to resort to the use of military force. The dangers of conflict are not likely to be based on the status of Taiwan. That tension has diminished as Chinese relations have improved with commercial and political ties. More important have become American operations in territories claimed by China. The fundamental disagreements are about rights of passage through maritime areas.
Pressures are increasing on President Barack Obama to intervene militarily in the Civil War in Syria, a war that seeks to topple the dynasty that has ruled Syria for generations with brutal and undemocratic procedures.
The risks that are holding back Obama on Syria are similar to those faced by the United States in its failed interventions in other Arab countries, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan where billions of dollars and thousands of lives were wasted in American attempts to conquer and reform nations with values and practices quite different from American values.
American interventions in the affairs of such states have generally been failures except for the access to raw materials and the profits accruing to oil businesses. Sectarian violence spreading from Syria and similar countries threaten to swamp the region and spread international horrors like the murders of September 11.
Some in Washington are pushing for arming the opposition to reigning dictators. The US has the power to step in to help those revolting overthrow the local dictatorships. It looks easy given US military superiority.
However, in strategic planning, administration officials cite three big problems that have given President Obama pause.
• As a superpower, in fact the prime superpower, the US can't afford to go into battle small, that is, without a complete commitment. If America exerts force it has to be enough to be decisive for a total and complete victory in the shortest span of time. If this is not possible, the US risks appearing to be an inadequate superpower, incapable of accomplishing its objectives and other conflicts like Iran or North Korea, affecting its ability to win wars and to carry out its threats.
• If the US goes in big as it should, it will end up arming some disreputable elements who will involve the US in the formation of the successor government. The US will have the uneasy problem of picking and choosing the next leadership.
• When you go in big as a super power, you own the problem indefinitely, if not forever. Other nations who have been part of the attacking coalition will tend to pull back their contributions of men and materials and leave final resolution to Washington.
The US will surely learn from its difficult experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan that intervention in the affairs of other countries can be, perhaps always will be a risky affair at home and abroad. The results are usually unpredictable in the intervened countries and in the domestic political effects on the intervenor. Even when it is the all powerful USA.