The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Friday, March 14, 2008

Defending the Machine

A different perspective.

I've spent the past seventeen years, ever since the first issue of The Baystate Objectivist came out in November of 1991, fighting against political machines, in particular the corrupt Democrat Party machine in our Valley's largest city of Springfield. I have outlined the history and evolution of that motley crew, entitled Anatomy of the Machine which you can read by clicking here.

Therefore it should surprise no one when I say that I consider political machines, at least in their most evolved forms, to be a negative force in democracy, and I never saw much to convince me otherwise. However, lately I've been reading the autobiography of the great television newsman David Brinkley.

It's a wonderful book and an excellent modern history lesson, full of interesting, humorous and heartwarming anecdotes about the most important people and events of our time. At one point the book has this fascinating little piece about urban political machines, which is as close as I've ever come to encountering a credible defense of them:

In order to obtain and hold power a man must love it. Thus the effort to get it is not likely to be coupled with goodness, but with the opposite qualities of pride, craft and cruelty.
-Lyof N. Tolstoy, 1893.

Chicago, 1952: Jacob Arvey, formerly the Cook County, Illinois, Democratic chairman, a machine politician if there ever was one. It was he who stepped aside and turned the political power over to Mayor Richard J. Daley. I had a talk with him, and he managed to shake some of my notions about political machines and the men who run them.

"You New York liberals think the machines, as you call them, are all corrupt. A political organization, as we call them, may be corrupt in certain situations at certain times. It depends. But at their best, they are the most effective of all ways to run a city. We don't survive by being corrupt. We survive by delivering service."

The service, he said, consisted of keeping track of the voters wants, needs and problems and finding ways of helping them, or at least dealing with them somehow. He said this required an organization, an organization that the press always insisted on calling a machine.

"The press seems to have a taste for the word 'machine.' Maybe because the right word - 'organization' - is too long to fit in a headline.

"Anyway, if Mrs. Brown, one of our voters, has a problem with city hall, taxes, permits or something, we call down there and fix it. And she does not have to ride the bus to city hall and stand in line. If she has troubles in the winter, we help with her coal or oil deliveries. If her husband is out of work we tell the tax office to go easy on her and they do. We have a block captain on every block and he knows every man, woman and child on his block and they all know him and they all know where to go if they need help.

"We do all this every day and all we ask in return is Mrs. Brown's vote and we always get it. That's what you people call a machine. I call it an organization. An organization devoted to service.

"And again, I remind you, Tammany Hall, which you called a machine, did a little stealing here and there but never enough to empty the city treasury. Tammany Hall did not bankrupt New York City. The liberal reformers did."

So there you go, I felt obligated to reprint that after all the insults I've hurled at the local machines, um, I mean organizations, over the years. However I would still argue that in Springfield we got the worst of both - the corrupt organization but without delivering the services!

Someone sent me pictures of yet another Fright Night reunion! Apparently the cast of loveable has-beens has been traveling all around, making a few bucks posing for pictures and signing autographs. Here's some of the cast in their heyday.

Stephen Geoffreys, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse and Chris Sarandon

Here are some of the stars last week.

William Ragsdale (Charlie Brewster), Tom Holland (writer/director), Chris Sarandon (Jerry Dandrige) and Jonathan Stark (Billy Cole).

Of course my favorite actor in that film is Stephen Geoffreys, who later went on to have a hot gay porn career as "Sam Ritter."

Here's a picture of Geoffreys (right) posing with Holland and a fan who is holding a box with a piece of the werewolf costume Geoffreys wore in Fright Night.

So hey Fright Night fans, keep sending me your pics!

When I was in rehab I missed the annual pillow fight at Hampshire College in Amherst. Fortunately a videographer was on hand!

Somehow I also missed last year's Hampshire College Spring Jam. This video suggests it was every bit as odd as you might expect.

1 comment:

Tim said...

What do you call this "control board Tom? You were in favor of it, at least when the republicans controlled it. Now, it appears Gabrielli and his arrogant group of schemers once again are going to force a police commissioner on the citizens of Spfld. and the Mayor who has clearly stated that Fitchett is the man for the job. Didn't we learn anything from the last "outstanding" choice? I don't trust James Morton as far as I can throw him and Bud well, he's always been a spare part in someone's corrupt machine. BTW, maybe Spitzer can give Flynn a call, see if they can use another arrogant bastard in Milwaukee.