What is integrity? To me, it means being one thing. It means being authentic and truthful in one’s dealings. Honesty means not lying. Integrity can keep you out of situations where you have to tell an outright and debasing lie.
Elected officials can afford to flail about. They can say one thing for years and then do a 180 and say the opposite thing when it suits them. Most don’t actually run anything. They wave. However, it’s understood that our governments are built around a core of professionals and managers who make things run. This is the theory of the civil service. Theoretically.
Not everyone was thrilled when, in the summer of 1964, Attorney General Robert Kennedy decided to establish a residence in Glen Cove and run for the U.S. Senate from New York. RFK was an international celebrity, but it took a lot of talking and maneuvering by Nassau Democratic Chairman Jack English, state coordinator of the Draft Kennedy movement, to assure Mayor Robert Wagner and others that RFK was an asset and not a threat to them. Within a few weeks, nearly the entire Democratic Party establishment was in line for Kennedy.
Congressman Otis Pike of the First Congressional District in Suffolk County went his own way. Always. Pike stuck with Schenectady Congressman Sam Stratton. At the state nominating convention, Pike and Stratton tried to block the delegates from granting the “Wilson-Pakula” authorization allowing Kennedy, not an enrolled New York Democrat, to run. Pike personally nominated Stratton, attacking any nomination of Kennedy as a blunder doomed to fail.
Details about the Target security breach fiasco are slowly dripping out, and the news gets worse and worse. Nieman Marcus has also announced a similar hacking of consumer card data, and more incidents may be announced. Stolen card data has appeared for sale on the cybercrime black market, and it’s from this point on that we’ll have an idea of what kind of damage may have been done to Long Island consumers and small businesses.
And already, the whole thing has devolved into a gigantic misdirection of attention away from those most responsible. Target is hardly blameless, but the large banks and other credit card issuers could have been issuing Americans the significantly safer cards that are standard around the world and have slashed data theft in other countries. The card issuers don’t want to pay several dollars per card to do it.
At first glance, it’s just another unsolicited email from an elected official. Most do not contain anything worth reading to the last line. Many public officials are issued taxpayer-funded mobile devices now, and it’s possible they’ve never learned about “data charges” or how much they’re annoying voters using mobile devices.
As a legislative and political operative, many moons ago, I quickly understood that Lists Are Gold and assiduously collected, organized and cross-referenced all kinds. But I didn’t cull constituent files for propaganda purposes. An official has the privilege of proving worthiness through service. Every constituent request or complaint is a more effective opportunity to shine than any lame “reminder” mailing about how wonderful a job my principal is doing.
Hopkinton is a high-income suburb of Boston. It is best known as the starting point for the annual Boston Marathon. In Hopkinton, residents can take a photo on a smartphone of any problem on their street, from uncollected trash to broken sidewalks, and send it to the town government. The photo and GPS data allow the town to assess exactly what is wrong and instantly pinpoint where it is. The underlying code for this “app” (little programs that run on handheld devices) was actually developed by Boston, which has passed it along to more than 40 municipalities in Eastern Massachusetts, all developing their own local versions.
The same stories are being told from Louisville to London to Lakewood, Ohio. Many cities didn’t spend money on developing their apps.
The very first function ever assigned to our local governments was to take care of those who were least able to take care of themselves. The Dutch laid it down as a condition to stop chasing away the English who kept popping up in what is now Nassau County. More than 150 years before there was a public school system, there were official systems in place for keeping widows, orphaned children, the injured, the insane and the drunk from starvation.
Since the very year that Abraham Lincoln became a lawyer, the Town of Oyster Bay, North Hempstead and later the City of Glen Cove have been served by an institution that was once unique in this state and possibly in the United States. The Jones Fund still exists today, and many readers remember that until 1973, its trustees were nominated by the political parties and elected on the same tickets as town officials.
Five. That’s how many degrees Fahrenheit warmer the average water temperature in the Gulf of Maine has been running over the past 10 years compared to the 100-year average. Scientists believe this is the most likely explanation for the complete collapse of the sweet, bite-sized Northern shrimp stock, which used to yield 25 million pounds in some years. The shrimp themselves are fairly hardy animals, but the warm water can’t support the tiny zooplankton on which the shrimp feed. The annual state survey hasn’t found a juvenile shrimp in three years. The 2014 Maine shrimping season has been cancelled.
129. In 2013, Australia set the record for the warmest summer, which ends in February there, and the warmest spring, which ends in November. January temperatures were so far above historic averages, the Australian Meteorological Bureau had to add new colors to its official maps, which now top off at 129ºF. That’s purple. The new government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott is making good on its campaign promises to dismantle Australia’s renewable energy and carbon emissions programs.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos showed Charlie Rose a prototype delivery copter, and the world went wild over it.
Sure. Unleash tens of thousands of delivery drones into the cities and suburbs of America and let fly a million fingers of curious toddlers! Revel in the biological wonder of mulched doggies and kitty cats who thought they’d take a closer look. Even the military’s GPS systems can’t account for small inaccuracies caused by atmospheric effects, signal reflection and clocking errors. On Elm Street, “small inaccuracies” mean the difference between a safe landing on the lawn and taking out the front window, and Grandma.
Cutting taxes on those whose dreams have already come true does not create good jobs. Growing a healthy economy creates good jobs, and you cannot have a healthy economy in which a vast majority are losing ground or are barely holding on, or are just worrying about next month.
Biologists and naturalists conduct experiments in resource scarcity and competition using yeast, paramecium, flour beetles and other little animals. Behaviors change, relationships change, levels of ferocity change. A series of recently published surveys show that one third or less of Americans trust their fellow citizens in everyday interactions. As social trust deteriorates, so does a willingness to work for a common good. I am hopeful that Americans will handle things better than the flour beetle, but we need to hold it together and keep our perspective.
“It used to be, if you were having a heart attack, you called your doctor and he met you at the hospital,” a respected physician told me recently. “The primary physician determined what was wrong with you and sent you to a specialist to fix it. Today, the primary’s main job is to funnel patients into the system’s network of specialists.”
Some physicians must now make a special effort even to look patients in the face, because they spend so much of the time-limited appointments clicking boxes on a computer screen.
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Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org