Joe’s Journal

Winter thoughts

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 7:30am

Last week, the biting wind and slippery ice forced our early morning walking group (OFEBB - no website, no twitter or Instagram — get over it) to play hooky for two days.

Keith Carson tells us something called the polar vortex has shifted, and we can anticipate lots of cold, wind and snow. Now, polar vortex sounds like something evil, like a wraith (sorry, look it up) appearing from behind a darkened castle wall during an episode of “Game of Thrones.” But, no, it is just a cool name for the shift of our typical weather pattern to add a bit of spice to a weathercaster's often dull forecast.

Winter is here. We live in Maine. It will be cold, and it will snow.

Last week, the TV pundits were agog over the end of the federal government shutdown as they tried to figure out who won the political goat rope that laid off some 800,000 federal workers and disrupted the nation’s commerce. I don’t know who won, but I know who lost. It was the taxpayers, as usual.

The most unusual news out of Washington had to do with a senator from Colorado calling out a senator from Texas for shedding “crocodile tears” over the shutdown when he triggered one himself in 2013. He used harsh words in his take down of the Texan.

While we have seen the current occupant of the White House use “locker room” language and schoolyard insults to decry his political opponents, the Senate is different. It likes to think of itself as “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

Our political leaders like to wrap themselves in the flag and the good book as they point fingers at others, but in truth, political insults and feuds are a long-standing tradition of American politics.

I found some of the best as I make my way through Ron Chernow’s excellent biography of Alexander Hamilton.

As our political system was in its infancy, political parties were born: Hamilton and his supporters, called Federalists, and Thomas Jefferson’s supporters, called Republicans.

Both Hamilton and Jefferson used the newspapers to get their arguments and insults across. Many of them were unsigned or “leaked” to their favorite editors. Sound familiar?

Jefferson got so mad at Hamilton and his mentor, George Washington, that he boycotted the funeral of the nation’s first president.

John Adams, the second president, didn’t like Hamilton either and called him “an intriguant.” I had to look that one up, too. It means a person who engages in secret schemes.

Hamilton said Adams displayed “the unfortunate foibles of a vanity without bounds,” Chernow wrote.

Adams fired James McHenry, his Secretary of War, because he was Hamilton’s pal.

Chernow’s biography says McHenry was “unnerved by the president’s mercurial moods and capricious judgment.” Sound familiar?

Jefferson served as Adams's vice president and ran against him in 1800. When the electoral college votes were counted, Adams lost, and Republicans Jefferson and Burr were tied. The contest then was sent to the House of Representatives. On the 36th ballot, Jefferson was elected President and Burr as veep.

Hamilton and Burr later got into a political argument that led to a duel that saw the vice president shoot and kill the former Secretary of the Treasury.

Think about how CNN or FOX would report that story. Would The New York Post headline say “Veep plugs Ham?”

In 1856, after giving a speech decrying slavery and those who owned slaves, Sen. Charles Sumner (R-MA) was sitting at his desk in the Senate when Rep. Preston Brooks, (D-SC), walked up behind him and beat the tar out of him with a gold-tipped cane.

So, grasshopper, you think our national politics are worse than ever?

If you are looking to curl up with a good book to pass the time in a cold winter’s evening, pick up Chernow’s “Hamilton.” It is a fascinating book about a fascinating character, a man who rose from nothing to help invent America.

On the homefront, our leaders, both elected and self-appointed, are still squabbling over what to do with the east side of Boothbay Harbor. The latest is the assertion that self-styled citizens group Stewards of Boothbay Harbor is on a mission to raise a million or so to purchase Cap’t Fish’s Motel. If that is what they want to do, God bless them.

But we face a bigger problem. Our local school system is grappling with the dual challenge of declining enrollment and an aging physical plant.

If the harbor is developed or not, it will still be one of the most attractive spots in New England. If we don’t fix the school problems, we could lose the heartbeat of our community. Go Seahawks.

Now for the good news. Red Sox pitchers and catchers report for spring training on Tuesday, Feb. 12.