Two major Virginia natural resource action proposals received national attention in recent years: offshore oil and gas drilling, and a proposal for uranium mining. Both initiatives involved resource and policy issues of large magnitude. Both were objects of detailed reports by Virginia’s legislature. Each became controversial and sank out of sight without the Virginia general public really understanding the issues.

This report takes a detailed look at the uranium mining issue. Regardless of whether one starts with a negative or positive attitude toward uranium mining, the recent events showed that Virginia’s current political structure is incapable of providing credible professional assessment, useful public information, or coordinated management of major natural resource recovery operations. A key reason is that the state government structure is not designed to deal with significant but sensitive resource issues. Even with positive intent, politicization of the existing system fails to provide responsive and independent evaluation and oversight that could gain wide public trust.

Virginia could improve a condition that is frustrating to both environmentally concerned people as well as officials and enterprises concerned with developing Virginia’s natural resources.  Suggested first steps offered in this report would involve structural reform of the office of the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, with emphasis on gaining operational independence and integrity for the office. No laws, regulations, or technical procedures can substitute for the latter.



In 2007 interest in lifting a 30-year-old moratorium on mining uranium in Virginia arose. The stakes were big. The Coles Hill area in south-central Virginia has the largest undeveloped uranium deposits in the nation. It could supply a significant proportion of the uranium needed for the U.S. nuclear energy industry – 92% of which is now imported.  But a final report delivered by the Governor’s Uranium Working Group in 2012 only increased mounting opposition to mining. It became clear that Virginia’s system for handling natural resource initiatives associated with environmental sensitivities was inadequate. A legislative proposal to remove the 30-year-old moratorium on uranium mining was withdrawn.

Uranium mining ran into trouble because 1) the responsibility to advise on action was given to elected politicians and their appointees who, without prejudice to their efforts, lacked relevant professional expertise and ability to render independent judgment; 2) the advisory reports offered voluminous detail on potential operations and problems but left practical questions and issues of prime concern to the public and environmental groups unresolved. This paper respectfully recommends to Governor-elect McAuliffe that he initiate bipartisan exploration of fundamental changes that could promote citizen confidence in and more effective management of Virginia’s natural resources, not limited to uranium.

The key recommendation is that the current office of Secretary of Natural Resources be transformed from a position appointed by and answering to the Governor to an independent professional office. It would have responsibilities and missions decided by the legislature and governor but be insulated from outside pressures in performing scientific evaluations and other functions by having civil service status. It should be authorized to recommend and initiate cooperative agreements with federal science and technology agencies where this would serve Virginia interests.

Virginia’s uranium resources

The Coles Hill area in Pittsylvania County holds the largest undeveloped uranium deposit in the U.S., with approximately 120 million pounds of estimated reserves having a gross value of around $6 billion at current uranium oxide (U3O8) prices (~$50/lb.). The U.S. may be the only advanced nation in the world that would allow such a large resource to stay under moratorium for 30 years while the nation imports 92% of uranium needed by its nuclear power industry. A breakthrough in mining operations and oversight achieved in such a way as to gain public confidence would also help lift the existing depressed state of mining in the United States – a desirable and necessary activity for a nation like the U.S. Advanced mining and associated technologies have important spinoff benefits for handling waste materials, cleanup of brownfields, and other activities leadership in which has moved abroad.

In 2007 exploration at Coles Hill resumed under license from the Virginia Dept. of Mines, Minerals, and Energy. Local owners formed Virginia Uranium, Inc. in cooperation with a Canadian mining company. The Uranium Subcommittee of the Virginia Legislature’s Commission on Coal and Energy requested a report from the National Academy of Science and explored lifting the moratorium.

Environmental concerns

Uranium has a low level of radioactivity. For short exposure, it has about the same toxicity as lead. The main concern lies in solid radioactive daughter products, primarily radium (226Ra) and radium’s gaseous decay product, radon (222Rn) that build up over time in tailings deposits and associated pore waters. These radionuclides are alpha emitters that are hazardous (cancer risk) if breathed or ingested.

The Town of Virginia Beach gets water supplies from reservoirs that could be affected by radioactive daughter products of uranium, should there be leakage from mine tailings disposal sites (see location map). The Town commissioned or otherwise received a series of reports that provide an overview of uranium mining and regional data for Virginia. These reports include slide shows providing useful background for the general public.

For a map showing previous uranium leases in the Coles Hill area and waterways in south central – western Virginia and northern North Carolina, see the website from Town of Virginia Beach online documents:

The Governor and the Virginia legislature’s actions

The legislature earlier created a Uranium Subcommittee of the Commission on Coal and Energy. The subcommittee requested a report from the National Academy of Sciences, which was published in 2011, along with a consulting expert’s report. On January 18, 2012, Governor Robert McDonnell appointed an additional Uranium Working Group made up of staff of the Departments of Public Health, Mines, Minerals, and Energy, and Environmental Quality, three of the six agencies under the Secretary of Natural Resources, and citizens. The UWG was authorized to get outside assistance for its report, and two RFPs were released.

The two Virginia working groups chose consultant groups that included individuals familiar with Canadian uranium mining and regulatory procedures. Advisory group members visited Saskatchewan uranium mining areas to get hands–on exposure to mining, waste disposal, hazard, and other issues. The final report of the UWG produced a large amount of background research in a short time. Consultant reports included state and U.S. federal regulatory systems and policies in considerable detail. The 345‐page National Academy of Sciences report confirmed the commercial viability of the Coles Hill deposits and provided an exhaustive overview of radioactivity–related and other potential problems associated with mining. But it did not get into operational or organizational detail applied to the Virginia case.


The state advisory bodies’ reports contained voluminous data. However, groups and people continued to join opposition led by the Piedmont Environmental Council, the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Southern Environmental Law Center. That things were not going well was brought home by the fact that Governor McDonald’s election partner, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, and business groups also registered opposition to lifting the moratorium. Ultimately, Senator John Watkins, a Vice Chair of the Uranium Subcommittee and initiator of a proposal that would have lifted the moratorium, withdrew it.

Virginia is left with the 30 year–old moratorium that says, in effect: We are scared of uranium. We don’t trust our state system to evaluate proposals that involve hazards. We prefer to shut everything down until a new law details procedures to manage uranium mining safely.


The Dept. of Mines, Minerals, and Energy licenses traditional mining and other natural resource activities. It does so in cooperation with other agencies under the Secretary of Natural Resources. However, large, controversial initiatives such as offshore drilling and the uranium mining proposal have been handled by legislative committees and commissions, supplemented by advisory bodies appointed by the Governor.

Advisory bodies were asked to provide policy guidance for the General Assembly. The Uranium Working Group said that detailed regulations would have to be developed by the Departments of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (DMME), and Environmental Quality. As mentioned previously, the Subcommittee on Uranium obtained a study by the National Academy of Science on the uranium mining issue. But the report did not provide practical guidance on the questions facing Virginia. Nor would recommendations of the Uranium Working Group – had been allowed and willing to make them – have gained public trust.

A major problem was that the advisory bodies were composed of elected political officials, their appointees, and state employees from agencies whose leaders serve at the pleasure of the governor. They lacked formal expertise or experience with the complex problems involved in mining uranium. To their credit, they showed discretion in the choice of consultants and labored diligently, but the whole process was moribund from the beginning. It had no chance to gain public confidence.

The advisory bodies’ “start from scratch” approach was unrealistic and left priority questions unresolved.

The advisory groups were not authorized to make definitive recommendations about mining. What the reports delivered was an array of complex background data, descriptions of potential hazards, state and federal permitting, and regulatory procedures. They offered no pathway for action by the General Assembly. The provision in the existing moratorium that a new law prescribing regulatory guidelines would be needed prior to the initiation of mining was also left to future resolution. An earlier draft bill was left untouched. There was an air of unreality about state advisory bodies embarking on a “start-from” scratch address to the mining of a commodity for which the federal government and private industry had a sixty-year operational and regulatory history.

The capabilities of the operating company were not established

A prime concern is the disposal of uranium‐enriched tailings under Virginia’s conditions of rainfall, groundwater, and occasional floods. This contrasts with the arid western environments of mining areas. One might have expected Virginia Uranium Inc. to list its expertise and describe approaches for dealing with uranium in Virginia’s unconventional setting. But the company merely cited the state advisory documents and indicated that it would develop operating strategies in the future. []. Since the company provided no technical detail advisory group consultants had to use hypothetical operational procedures for predictive models.

Failure to consider public reception of the reports

The public is not equipped to interpret detail about uranium mining, hazards, legal and regulatory procedures, or reports of hearings in documents like those in the thousands of pages in the UWG report and cited references. It and especially environmental organizations predictably gave little credence to plans that failed to provide information on state management systems, lines of authority, and the professional competence to oversee mining in Virginia’s environment, should it take place.


[updated since original message, March 4, 2023]

That Virginia’s current system is not equipped to consider potential uranium mining was decisively demonstrated. Hypothetically, an effective state natural resource agency would have had the professional skills and public trust to seek assistance from relevant federal agencies like the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy and work out cooperative agreements to evaluate potentials. Realistically, however, starting new uranium mines under current conditions in the U.S. would be challenging under ideal circumstances. The public has a special sensitivity to concerns involving radioactivity and powerful environmental NGOs like the Sierra Club and the National Resources Defense Council oppose nuclear energy. They would mobilize members and formidable legal resources to vigorously oppose any mining of uranium.

However, the current administrative and legal framework in which the Office of Natural Resources operates is not well suited to deal with any major initiatives with controversial elements, because it is linked to partisan politics. The town of Virginia Beach offered more intelligible and useful background data and summaries of the pros and cons of uranium mining than did the state of Virginia and its agencies.

An impartial, scientifically and professionally qualified oversight system for natural resource issues has major potential for Virginia. To recruit and retain agency leaders with competence, experience, and integrity, who can exercise scientific and operational judgment freed from external pressures, the office of Secretary of Natural Resources needs independent civil service status. Gaining stable operational status across political administrations, the office would be better equipped to make assessments, explain and justify balanced policies, make positive recommendations, and deal forthrightly with legitimate concerns or exaggerated claims.

The newly-organized agency should not share in revenues from activities that it oversees in order to avoid conflict of interest. But it should be able to seek funding for research, cooperation, and supporting activities from federal sources. Where issues beyond state expertise are involved, the agency should be able to seek assistance from federal agencies and cooperate with other states. Beyond technical qualifications, the agency head would need balance and integrity. Persons with such qualities need to be sought and properly remunerated. Virginia should be attractive to qualifying individuals.

People will ask: could we really trust an independent agency? The answer is yes. Prior to the major federal environmental laws of the 1970s, states including Texas (Texas Railroad Commission), Kansas (Kansas Geological Survey), and Illinois and Wisconsin environmental protection agencies exercised effective and respected oversight over natural resource and environmental activities. This would not have been possible had their leadership changed with political administrations.

.   Final conclusions

Virginia is a state with a tradition of effective management except in the case of major natural resource projects. The governor, given the current narrow balance between political parties, has the opportunity and incentives to set in motion planning for a modernized natural resource management structure. A competent system that inspires trust could help inform and guide proposers or framers of new or modified legislation. It would help the state evaluate and make proactive and prudent decisions about future activities and operations, moving them from outcomes determined by lobbying or defeat through opposition campaigns to open analysis and consensual decision-making. Success in achieving such goals could make Virginian laboratory for leadership at a time of paralysis and gridlock in environmental and resource policy.  


Christopher, Peter A., Geological and Engineering Consultant:  Technical Report on the Coles Hill Uranium Deposits,

Home page,  Virginia Uranium Mining, Inc.,

“Summary of concerns by the Southern Environmental Law Center”, taken from the report of the National Academy of Science, Uranium Mining In Virginia (2012):

Town of Virginia Beach. Uranium Mining Impact Study, 2011.; Includes an appendix of 16 relevant studies Report of the Uranium Working Group,  Commonwealth Of Virginia, 2012,

Economy Industry Uncategorized

Infrastructure then and now: why our projects are so complex, delayed, and expensive

Consider the Chrysler Building on Manhattan’s east side. With 77 floors and

standing 1047 feet high, it was the world’s tallest building when it was completed in 1930. Designed by architect William van Alen for Walter P. Chrysler, it is widely considered the best example of the Art Deco style. It remains a jewel in the Manhattan skyline, especially at night when its spire is illuminated by special lighting systems. Established as a National Historic Landmark in 1976, in 2007 it was ranked ninth among favorite buildings by the American Institute of Architects. An ironic note: as of 2008 it became 90% owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Fund.

[Figure:  Photograph by David Shankbone, in Chrysler Building, Wikipedia, 2016.]

The efficiency of the construction of the Chrysler Building is worth noting. Construction began on September 19, 1928 and was completed on May 27, 1930, a little over 20 months, without

loss of a single worker. Both it and The Empire State Building involved major technical

challenges and required close coordination with city authorities, but were completed in less

than two years and remain objects of pride in New York City.

Besides the ability to build monumental constructions quickly, the effectiveness of urban

infrastructure maintenance prior to mid-century is illustrated by the fact that the cost of a

subway or bus ride in New York City remained a nickel between 1904 and 1944, during which

time the subways were systematically extended (Markowitz 2003). The magnificent Chrysler

and Empire State buildings in New York City could be constructed efficiently before 1932 in

part because there was a unitary permitting pathway through city authorities. These offices

were generally occupied by managers with engineering expertise. The engineering profession

had a high status in the U.S. from the 19th Century through mid-twentieth century [see

chapter on engineering in (Manheim 2009). Engineers’ training included business and finance as well as rigorous science in order in order to enable them to prepare cost estimates and integrate construction projects into societal operations. Engineers were known for their esprit and pride in their profession. They served in manufacturing and construction but were also

sought after in administrative and management functions in cities.

A new system came into being in the 1970s. The U.S. reached a peak of

productivity and also pollution in the 1960s. After a national environmental crisis

in 1969 manufacturing and industry were perceived as the primary sources of

risk to the environment and public health. In addition to a series of

groundbreaking federal environmental laws in the 1970s (Manheim, 2009),

multiple local permitting authorities were considered desirable to provide

constraints on the power of economic forces.

The downside of the well-meaning transformations has been displayed since the

1980s with a steam tunnel explosion in Manhattan, the collapse of the I 35 bridge

in Minneapolis and Boston’s Big Dig. First planned in 1982, the Big Dig

was conceived and pushed by Governor Michael Dukasis’s brilliant Secretary of

Transportation, Fred Salvucci, who had two engineering degrees from MIT and a

passion to solve Boston’s horrific traffic impasses.

However, the Big Dig required nine years just to gain local, state, and federal permits, and

was not completed until 2007, with its estimated ultimate cost of $22 billion

representing a 3.6-fold cost overrun from initial estimates. It involved tunnel leaks

and a collapse, causing death of a motorist, and the massive scandals involving fraud

And waste, including some $450 million awarded by courts in restitution funds.

Much blame was placed on the construction coalition of the Bechtel Corporation

with Parsons-Brinkerhoff. However, when one examines the proliferation of private

and public interests that had to be placated or bribed, the endless delays incurred

by new demands by influential constituencies, and the high-level politics involved

in securing federal funding, it seems clear that Bechtel’s design and construction

operations were severely constrained by politics.

The in-depth research report on the Big Dig by Nicole Gelinas (Gelinas 2007)

noted rules involving overtime for police officers required to watch over all

construction. Union workers, minority groups and women were promised quotas

for jobs. Mitigation of impacts promised by the state eventually accounted for a

third of the cost e.g. “North End apartments were outfitted with air conditioning,

soundproof windows, and firm mattresses as residents settled in for a decade of

construction”. More than $1 billion was needed to upgrade a bridge that business

leaders, residents, and the nearby city of Cambridge considered ugly.

Environmentalists won promise to preserve three quarters of the land made

available by demolishing the former artery, and an island in Boston Harbor was

converted from a former waste disposal area to a beachfront park. Archeologists

were paid to catalog artifacts back to colonial days, and an aggressive rodent

control project was launched. In short, the Big Dig became a milch cow for

stakeholders that had permitting authority or influence.

Local residents felt assured they would pay for the cost with “ten cent dollars”

because both Massachusetts and the Congress were dominated by Democrats

ready to tap the federal government for funding. Majority leader and future

Speaker of the House of Representative Thomas “Tip” O’Neill had inserted

“placeholder funds” for the Big Dig into a blueprint for completion of the Interstate

Highway System in 1976. In 1987 President Reagan vetoed a highway bill that

contained the Big Dig’s first major funding, but O’Neill and Ted Kennedy garnered

enough political support to override Reagan’s veto. They did this by approving

many other states’ goodies.

Next, let’s consider the more recent extension of Washington DC’s Metro system.

A superior tunnel proposal to Dulles Airport in Fairfax County was sidelined in

favor of a cheaper aboveground system in order to gain federal subsidies. Only

after the decision was made did information about potential cost savings using a

Spanish tunnel boring machine come to light.The DC-area project is now well over budget

and behind schedule. Had it been followed efficiently, the costs of the tunnel option might

have been no greater than the present operations while leaving room for greater use of

valuable land in Tyson’s Corner and other affected areas of Fairfax County Virginia.

Projects or outlays funded through Boston’s Big Dig project may have been

desirable considered independently. But they were not included in the original

plans and cost estimates. The fragmented permitting system that took shape in

the wake of the environmental regulatory revolution of the 1970s, soon led to

slowing down or paralysis of infrastructural development throughout the U.S.

This illustrates the problem potentially introduced by the lure of federal

funding. Federal support is obviously desirable and can potentially

stimulate needed local development. However, in practice it opens the

pathway to decision to a widened and more complicated political process

including the potential of influence peddling. That pathway almost

invariably increases the cost of projects.

The U.S. is now faced with a national infrastructure crisis recognized by both

parties and which will potentially cost $ trillions. The pathway from the Chrysler

building to the Big Dig needs to be revisited as the nation plans overdue

upgrading of infrastructure.


Gelinas, N. (2007). Lessons of Boston’s Big Dig. City Journal, available from

Manheim, Frank T. (2009). The Conflict Over Environmental Regulation In the

United States: Origins, Outcomes, and Comparisons with the EU; Springer

Publishers, 321 p.

Markowitz, Michael (2003, April 28, 2003). New York City Subway Token, 1953-2003.

available from


Personal Straight Story Uncategorized


Report for the 65th reunion of the Harvard class of 1952, with comparative and historical notes

 Frank Manheim and Howard King, editors



The Class of 1952 grew up as children of the Great Depression (1930-1941) that descended like a gray curtain on the “roaring 20s”. Throughout much of American history issues of one kind or another created domestic conflict. From 1932 the Roosevelt administration and American industry had an antagonistic relationship that intensified in the second FDR administration (1937-1941).

December 7, 1941, changed everything. On that day 353 carrier-based Japanese fighter, bomber, and torpedo aircraft carried out a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor in two waves. The following day President Roosevelt described the attack in a speech to Congress, broadcast nationwide on radio, as “A day that will live in infamy”.  Roosevelt immediately dropped all domestic antagonism, as did industry leaders. A keen judge of talent, Roosevelt appointed industry leaders to head the war production effort. The result was the greatest spurt in productivity in American history.

On December 8, 1941, Harvard President, James Bryant Conant, called a university-wide meeting at 8 PM in Sanders Theater. With loudspeakers transmitting his speech to overflow crowds, he addressed a turnout estimated at more than 6,000:

Members of Harvard University: faculty, students, and staff: The United States is now at war. . . never before in the history of this republic has the United States entered a war with such unanimity of feeling. For never before has the case been so clear that we must resist with full vigor an unprovoked and treacherous attack. We are here tonight to testify that each one of us stands ready to do his part in ensuring that a speedy and complete victory is ours. To this end, I pledge all the resources of Harvard University”.

Conant predicted accurately. Never in American history was there such national unity in the United States. Government, business and industry, labor, scientists and engineers, the military, and the public all joined in unified effort in World War II. Notwithstanding foreign conflicts and domestic problems, a basic sense of community and optimism continued for a decade after the war. Members of the Class of 1952 attended Harvard during what was arguably the most harmonious period in United States history. The dramatic contrast with the decade of the 1960s is sketched in Part I.

“Positive” or “harmonious” is relative and doesn’t mean that the laws of human nature were revoked. However, a brief but eloquent evocation of how our times and Harvard shaped classmates’ attitudes can be interpreted from a classmate’s contribution to this reunion book. 

 The world is tough, and we realize we are not going to change it. Not enough time. We hope there is sunlight for kids and grandkids. I cherish my Harvard classmate friends.

  The writer realistically recognizes troubles in America and the world. But he is not cynical. “If there were more time . . “ implies a belief that solutions are possible, an attitude accepted as “American” in his formative years. He hopes for the best for his kids and grandkids. Finally, he expresses warm feelings for his classmate friends.

Though many classmates who submitted reports for the 65th Reunion continued significant activities long after retirement the greatest impact on the editors was not career and other achievements, impressive as these were, but human qualities like the heartfelt love for partners in marriages of 60 years and more. Another noteworthy feature was the commitment to service to the community and to the nation.

These characteristics paralleled observations by Alumni Office coordinator for the 65th Reunion volume, Diane MacDonald, whose job enabled her to gain familiarity with Harvard reunion classes of various vintages. She observed that 1940s classes (“The Greatest Generation”) and many from the 1950s showed special qualities including loyalty and literate expression.

Reports of classmates stimulated Frank Manheim to explore the origin of educational systems and principles under which the Class of 1952 studied. This revealed critical roles for President Charles William Eliot (1869-1909) and our President, James Bryant Conant (1933-1953). Conant shared with Eliot the principle that higher education should focus on merit and serve the nation as well as the student. Both had a wider influence on American education. A less well-known Harvard educational leader, Francis Keppel, had a profound influence on American educational development from the 60s, in a direction different from Eliot and Conant. These men’s lives and activities are summarized in Part V.

This special overview was stimulated by the awareness that special characteristics of the Class of 1952 and other classes in the 1950s deserved examination in greater depth. It was made possible by the support of the 65th Reunion Committee, chaired by Laurence Leonard, and especially by the encouragement and cooperation of Kailey Walsh and Diane McDonald of the Harvard Alumni Office. The critical assistance of Barbara Meloni at the Harvard Archives is gratefully acknowledged.



 Foreign events: Cold War with the Communist bloc.  German Federal Republic and NATO established; Apartheid established in South Africa; Chiang Kai-shek flees to Formosa as Chinese Communists take over. In 1950 70,000 North Korean troops stream into South Korea (1950), triggering Korean War.

Domestic events: Harry S. Truman defeats Thomas Dewey for full term as President (1948). Senator Joseph McCarthy claims State Dept. is riddled with Communists and Communist sympathizers. Julius & Ethel Rosenberg sentenced to death for espionage. The Draft is instituted in response to Korean War. Thurgood Marshall & NAACP initiate first Brown v. Board of Education suit (1951) in Topeka KS.

Harvard affairs: Congress rejects Conant’s Universal Military Service plan that would not permit college deferments but would shorten curriculum for vets.  Harvard and Radcliffe students attend classes together under WWII “joint instruction” policy (“not coeducation”). Gen Ed becomes required curriculum (1951). Intense football rivalries with Princeton and Yale lead to riots in Harvard Square; Parietal rules allow women in rooms till 7PM.

Arts & culture. First color TV, LP record. Leroy Anderson (Harvard Class of 1925) composition “Blue Tango” (1951) is first classical piece to sell 1 million records [his son Kurt Anderson conducted 35-member ’52 alumni band in the 50th reunion concert]. Existentialism (Sartre, Camus) flourishes.  Books: “Catcher in the Rye”, “Diary of Anne Frank”; “The Greatest Story Ever told”; “Old Man and the Sea”. Popular films: “The African Queen”, “High Noon”, “All the King’s Men”, “An American Paris”. Popular songs “Mona Lisa”, “Hello Young Lovers”, “Kisses Sweeter than Wine”, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” Rock n Roll begins; long list of hit singers: Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Patti Page, Frankie Laine, Johnny Ray, Perry Como, Joni James, Andrews Sisters,

The U.S. had always been fertile ground for urgent radical voices. However radical movements were mainly taken in stride in the Harvard of President Conant. The John Reed Club was named for an American former Harvard student (Class of 1910), lionized in the Soviet Union for his enthusiastic book about the Bolshevik Revolution, Ten Days that Shook the World.  It sponsored two lectures by Gerhard Eisler. Eisler, described by Newsweek Magazine as the No.1 Red agent in America, gave his last lecture in 1949, just before he escaped law enforcement by leaving the U.S. on a Polish ship.  He eventually ended up head of East German radio. Massive turnout at Sanders Theater for Eisler’s lectures was overwhelmingly due to curiosity, not affinity to socialism.

The Harvard Liberal Union expelled the more radical American Youth for Democracy (Later the SDS) because it felt it gave liberals a bad name. President Conant was quoted by the Harvard Crimson (Anonymous 1951) as follows:

A professor’s political views are of no concern to the University; nor are his activities within the law as a private citizen.”

 Neither did Senator Joseph McCarthy’s demagogic attacks affect most students. Their attitudes could be summed up as “I agree with his concerns but don’t approve of his methods”. A poem about McCarthy appeared in the Crimson on September 30, 1952.

“We’ve known a lot of anti-Commie guys,

An’ most of ’em knew how to take a punch;

They could face the Kremlin smears, the Lib’ral lies-

But McCarthy was the gamest of the bunch.

Now in that scrap he had with Lattimore,

They counted nine on Joe, but never ten;

He got up bloodied–but he thrives on gore-

An’ Owen’s never been the same again”


Foreign events:  In Six-day War; Israel occupies Arab lands. Red China announces hydrogen bomb. Czechoslovakia invaded by Soviet troops. U.S. sends increasing troops to Vietnam troops; Tet Offensive, My Lai.

Domestic events:  Race riots in Watts (Los Angeles 1965) leave 35 dead, 4,000 arrested, extensive property damage. Malcolm X assassinated (1965). Power systems in Northeast fail in Great Blackout 1965; new immigration law replaces 1921 Act. Supreme Court Miranda decision. Affective reforms transform U.S. K-12 educational policy. Apollo astronauts killed in spacecraft launch. Thurgood Marshall first black Supreme Court Justice. Assassination of Martin Luther King (1968) leads to riots in cities. Robert Kennedy assassinated. President Johnson announces he will not seek renomination. Richard Nixon defeats Hubert Humphrey. Santa Barbara offshore oil spill triggers environmental crisis & groundbreaking environmental laws.

Harvard affairs. In 1968, 200 students imprison Dow Chemical recruiter in Mallinckrodt Hall; 400 students take over University Hall to protest ROTC, University investment policy and other grievances; President Nathan Pusey calls the police. Sen. Eugene McCarthy starts presidential campaign at Harvard. Secretary McNamara car is blocked, he is heckled; 442 Harvard undergrads sign refusal to serve in armed forces while U.S. is in Vietnam. The Shah of Iran is commencement speaker. Controversy erupts over Afro-American Studies.

 Arts & culture. Books:  “Cold Blood”, “The Master and Margarita”, “Quotations from Chairman Mao”, “The Thousand Days”, “Valley of the Dolls”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”, “The Double Helix”, “Couples”, “The Population Bomb”, “Soul on Ice”; Popular films: The Thomas Crown Affair”, “Funny Girl”, “The Odd Couple”, 2001: “A Space Odyssey”, “Lion in Winter”, “Oliver”, “In Cold Blood”. Popular music: Beatles, Elvis Presley, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Jimi Hendrix: A Hard Day’s Night”, “Born Free”, “Ballad of Green Beret”, “Stoned Soul Picnic”.

An extraordinary volume of candid information about Harvard of the Class of 1969 is compiled in a detailed book about the Harvard Strike of 1968, including takeover of University Hall, ROTC facilities, and manhandling of African American Dean Archie Epps. It was written by four members of the student staff of the award-winning Harvard Radio Station (WHRB) (Eichel et al. 1970). The book makes it clear that Harvard in 1968 was not stable, deeply rewarding, place  described by ’52 members. They report that  (unlike faculty 10 years earlier)

“Faculty members are encouraged to pursue their own research often at the expense of teaching. Similarly, professors offer courses in the areas in which they are most interested, regardless of the overall needs of the university. In 1968 the English Department offered no undergraduate courses in either American or twentieth-century literature.”

While most students did not approve of the takeover and other violent acts, they tended to be against calling the police and were said to have a measure of sympathy for the radical element. In the commencement of 1968, President Pusey allowed an SDS student to speak – he subsequently led a noisy contingent of students out of the commencement. Among other things, Eichel et al. reports that parietal rules for women in dorms were first eased to 12 AM and by 1968 were no longer enforced at all.


Data sources: (Newby and French 1954); Harvard Annual Report, 1948-49 and 2020; other data from Harvard Archives.

Admissions comparisons. Table 1 shows that while matriculation for the Class of 2020 was only about 25% higher than for 1952, applications rose 13-fold. Getting accepted at Harvard is now vastly more difficult and subject to selection criteria. The 1339 students matriculated in 1948-9 were 20% greater than anticipated, because more “boys” (sic) were anticipated to go in the armed services. 56% were from public schools and 44% from private schools. Thirty-one percent made Dean’s list. Progress for 19% was “unsatisfactory”, and 4.3% were “severed”.  There were 1066 degree recipients by June 1953.

Table 1.  Comparisons of various characteristics of 1952 freshmen and comparisons with Class of 2020. For major subjects Class of 1952 reflects data aggregated from (Chutter 1952)

Admissions Class of 1952Class of 2020 Geographic originClass of 1952 Class of 2020    
Applicants3,08339,041 New England41.216.5 
Admitted1,8172,106 Middle Atlantic27.022.6 
Matriculated1,3391,667 South5.517.9 
Acceptance %58.95.4 Central4.02.1 
Ethnicity 1952 2020 Pacific5.716.8 
White99.149 Territories0.50.3 
African American0.213.7 International1.511.4 

In our time practically all sons of Harvard graduates were admitted. In 1969,  Harvard was admitting 20% of applicants, and made room for 40% of sons of grads (Kahn 1969). One 1952 classmate lamented that his children were not admitted.

Major and planned career occupations. Table 2 shows top eight majors for ’52 seniors (Chutter 1952). Major data for Class of 2020 is for freshmen (Harvard 2017). Table 3 shows breakdown of top eight planned occupations for Class of 1952.  The top five planned fields for graduate study (%) were: English 12.0, History 11.0, Physics, 10.5 . Engineering 8.5, and International and Regional studies 7.0.

Table 2  Major, Senior poll Class of 1952; freshman poll, Class of 2020. Sources: Chutter (1952); (Harvard 2017).  

Major % Class of 1952Class of 2020 
Social Science20.122.3   
Bio Science6.718.8   
Physical Science19.67.2   

Table 3   Planned occupations for Class of 1952  

Professional (top 8) %Nonprofessional %
Medicine30.3Mfg. and production34.0
Law24.0Various business23.7
Teaching & education18.9Government service15.2
Scientific research10.7Banking and finance11.0
Engineering4.7Writing and journalism8.7

One-year follow-up survey June, 1953 (Newby and French 1953)

In the summer of 1953, a questionnaire of members of the Class of 1952 received 876 responses. 761 of these had received Harvard A.B. degrees. Of the latter number, the breakdowns were: graduate school 52.2%, military service 32.8%, and occupations 15.0%.  The top occupations were business, manufacturing, banking and finance, engineering, and science.


Space limitations for this contribution to the Reunion book offer limited us to arbitrarily selected quotes to give a flavor of the rich diversity – but often remarkably consistent features of classmate reports. These excerpts should not be regarded as “bests” because there are incalculably many “bests”, and modest statements are a critical part of balance.

Business, industry and government

Sidney Knafel has been a significant donor to Harvard University, the first being donation of $14 million to the Center for Government and International Studies. He reports:

“Over the past 65 years I have used the preceding editions of this five-year reporting journal to comment on . . . my own paths into the world of commerce, and eventually into the world of selective, not-for-profit entities. But for this report I should like to give a far different observation – concerning what has happened since we received our ‘AB degrees.“ [see a capsule summary of Knafel’s conclusions under Philosophy …] 

In the early 1950s manufacturing and marketing of products offered diverse opportunities for career growth.

Doug Kinney chose the assembly line at General Motors in Flint Michigan, becoming a youthful foreman in 1956. By 1967 he had become director of manufacturing at Intermatic Inc., moving to merchant banking with  Lehmann Brothers in Chicago. He remains active in finance, reporting a Trek Bicycle startup and alternative energy projects, and is Trustee Chairman of the Tropical Botanical Gardens in Kauai, Hawaii.

Paul Landry said “the best part of my checkered career was forming a corporation”. Son Paul is guiding construction of high tech airport terminals in Atlanta, Abu Dhabi, and Salt Lake City. Sydney Miller also takes pride in his son’s excellent job as president of the family business. He finds greatest pleasure in watching seven grandchildren grow up, each “finding success in their own fields, some of which didn’t even exist when we were graduates”.

One of the Class of 52’s best known politicians was John Ashbrook, who died prematurely at age 53. He was a conservative Congressman from Illinois, of whom the Almanac of American Politics said “His career was a continual triumph of idealism over practicality, of principle over effectiveness.”

Service in government finds David Ashenden a former geologist with the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority, and Herbert Levin,  retired to Manhattan after a 35-year career in Foreign Service. Frank Manheim moved to policy research after 35 years with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Harvard affairs

It’s  excruciating to leave unspoken the wealth of many classmates’ comments on Harvard.

 John Bardis reminds us that the Class of 1952 elected three class marshals, Chase Peterson, Red Lewis, and Walter Carrington to the Permanent Class Committee  – “.They served for six decades through the Reunion of 2012.” “Carrington is the only one surviving to lead”.

  After an MD at Harvard, Peterson, a Mormon, set up medical practice in Salt Lake City, but returned to Harvard as Dean of Admissions. He later was a Vice President of Harvard and President of the University of Utah. Through all this, he served as a class marshal and in fundraising for the Class’s contributions. Without diminishing credit to Lewis and Carrington, one can cite the parable In Matthew: 23,25, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

 A prevailing theme by classmates is offered by Allan Lichtenberg

“I still look fondly at my undergraduate time at Harvard, where much of my philosophical outlook was formed.  The outer world seems chaotic, perilous, and sad in many places” [but this has not affected him at the core.]

 Paul Mohling comments:

“It gives me pleasure and gratification to look back and recall the heaven that was Harvard . . . Discovering a love of books and learning were dividends that have kept on paying .“

 Referring  rhetorically to the hand dealt him in life,  he adds:

“I’m content with the Royal Flush I hold consisting of my family, health, and sufficient blessings of this world’s goods.”

 William Lindamood offers an observation echoed in other reports:

“Although I dearly love my Alma Mater, it is not the well-rounded liberal arts college that it once was. I look forward to the time when opposing viewpoints are not stifled by political correctness.”


A surprising proportion of octogenarian classmates report good health. This contrasts with current media reports that for the first time in history the longevity of American men declined in 2016 rather than increased as in all other advanced nations.

 Donald Silberger, writes

“The present is the happiest period of my life. At eighty-six and a half years, I retain good health and (I am told) cognitive function, an ability to walk, albeit slowly, but without mechanical assistance, and the presence of uniformly loving and healthy family and friends.”

 Mark Hansen

 “acquired much new hardware, repairing a variety of extremity fractures. It is perhaps of interest to classmates that the hardware was largely introduced in this country by my roommate, our classmate, and my wife’s brother-in-law,  [the late] John Border, ’52 MD.”

Lawrence Holland:

 “Last July my aviation-medical examiner renewed my second-class certificate so I could keep on doing flight instruction for hire. The doctor said, “The good news is that at your age you cannot die prematurely.”

Loss and aging

Class members share moving stories of response to loss

 Although she was in poor health and in a wheelchair for several years, I was not prepared for the grief and loneliness when [my wife] died. Mary Alice was my best friend, a loving wife, and mother, preschool teacher, social worker, teacher of college courses, and my working field partner for twenty-seven summer field seasons of geologic research . . .. Our life together is recorded in a paperback book ‘Listening to the Rocks–a Geologist’s Life with Mary Alice’, available on I try to remember, don’t cry it ended, smile it happened.

“Robin and I use more and more of the facilities of the CCRC where we live as we suffer the common losses that come with aging. However, our family is extremely supportive and we are able to keep each other going. I feel blessed.”

This long goodbye . . was both a very loving and difficult time – as she progressed through stages of not speaking, eating only chopped food.  . only food fed to her and finally no food. So how do I approach all of this? First, Judy is still part of me and will always be so. Family next and then longtime friends . . I am very engaged in this retirement community, with the Democratic Party in DC . . and most promising, I am writing about my life experiences. Judy superbly taught about this.”

 Needless to say, the saddest time, with sadness that continues, was her passing . . . Her last 6 months, with aggressive breast cancer, were lived to the fullest.


The editors independently reported profound impact from declarations of love for spouses to whom classmates had been married for 60 and more years. Marriages of up to 65 years indicate that many classmates married soon after graduation – different from contemporary patterns. Divorces were rare. Warm relations with successful children and grandchildren are characteristic, often cited as compensation for the loss of spouses.

“Life’s been good starting 65 years ago when I married my sweetheart, Helen, who is still the girl of my dreams.”; “What’s most satisfying in later life is family. Suzanne and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary last August. She is everything to me.”; “The Lord has been good to me and blessed me with 58 years of marriage to Sondra, her love, and love from daughters and grandchildren.”; “My dear wife, Rhea (Rosemarie) passed away 22 years ago; the grief of her passing has been eased by my four children, Lisa, Jeff, Brian and Stephen, their accomplishments and their children; Each of the children has 3 children, always two boys and girl, 12 grandchildren in all.”  

Finally, we cite the limerick poet who supplied the poem at the end of this report:

“In my Harvard days, in an attempt to woo my lady fair, I would write her limericks and I guess she liked it. “Oh, Bill, it was beautiful, and I have it pasted on my door!” 60 years later I have my lady fair and still write poetry that she puts on her door.”


Music was a strength in the Class of 1952. It was said to provide up to 60 players in the 150-member Football Marching Band. The 50th Reunion full-length concert organized by Frank Manheim closed with a 35-member alumni band (with a few undergrad ringers) led by Kurt Anderson, a son of composer Leroy Anderson (Harvard Class of 1925). For the first time in history, the President of the Harvard Glee Club was an African American, Jim Harkless (’52). He reports that about 30 members of the Glee Club were members of the Class of 1952.

 Alfred Crosby recollects that  

 “As a seventeen-year old freshman, I went to Aaron Copland [the noted American composer] during his office hours and held forth to him about jazz. He listened patiently and on one occasion asked me if I would like an ice cream cone. . . In my own academic career, I have had the opportunity to offer graduate seminars on the history of jazz at the ,

John Grover reports

  “I played trombone in the Band, and Philippa and I both remember those triumphant marches through the Square after a Harvard football victory! I resumed playing my horn after my retirement from obstetrics and gynecology, playing with a Dixieland band in Arlington Heights before this last move . . .Philippa and I feel blessed by the lives we have shared, and remember the experiences and adventures during those Harvard years more joyfully than anything else.”

 Lawrence Leonard, Chairman of the Reunion Committee, reports that

 “I am still singing with my fifty-man barbershop chorus in Florida.” And Clint Nangle says that “If you hear a song called ‘Nights are Always Darkest’, it was written by Colman Mockler and me 65 years ago in Cronin’s.”

So far as we are aware, Richard Sogg performed on piano in every Reunion musical offering and reports that he continues to perform in solo and chamber music.

Philosophy, history, law

Picking a few samples from the richness and diversity of comments is an excruciating challenge. It offers encouragement to everyone to read the whole reunion report.

 Sidney Knafel concludes that

“Wendell Willkie’s One World directed our mind to reject isolationism, address mutual needs with cooperative attitudes; This gave us optimism. Since then [we have had] huge economic growth and prosperity enjoyed on all continents, strides in technology:  now these are suddenly threatened; there are exotic monetary devices, barriers to products; optimism has disappeared; I beseech all of us to find ways to regain optimism.”

Paul Altrocchi offers unconventional, fascinating studies and conclusions about Shakespeare’s authenticity.

 Inspired by George Washington’s letter to a Hebrew congregation in Rhode Island cited below, John Loeb formed the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom (GWIRF

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens. . . May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

“I worry about our great-grandchildren’s future. This is not why I went to Selma so many years ago. Or is it? I wanted everyone to have a voice, a vote, so I must accept that a majority vote would “trump” my personal wishes” 

 Here is a sample of Mark Hansen’s succinct review of life in America since our graduation:

We also benefited greatly from the years of relative stability and growth which followed. Most of us were not very aware of the “others” who struggled and fell behind, but we did work hard at the important and useful careers and life plans we were able to choose. We lived through and survived the start of the nuclear age and the Cold War, only to be confronted now with those continuing threats, and the incredibly difficult and dangerous consequences of our national hubris”

 Norman Kline  follows suggestions of the ancient Greeks:

“If fulfilling one’s inborn capacities and talents to the greatest degree and engaging in a life of intellectual challenge that characterizes a profession in the law plus creating a family constitutes happiness, as the ancient Greek philosophers would have it, then I have been truly happy. Robert Browning’s Poem, Rabbi ben Ezra: ‘Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be, the last of life for which the first was made: Our times are in His hand; Who saith ‘A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God; see all, nor be afraid.’”


The below plaint expresses the puzzlement of classmates over today’s politics. They grew up in a time when the U.S., the victor in World War II, conducted itself in a way that made defeated Germany and Japan America’s best friends for decades after.

“I continue to be very disappointed in our politicians and pretty much with the full media spectrum, including television. In a country of over three hundred million, one wonders why common sense, intelligent leaders have not come to the fore. …”

 With similar questions in mind, Frank Manheim returned to academia after retiring as a federal ocean and earth scientist. He wanted to track the origin of problems he was exposed to in his professional career. His report finds current problems traceable to repeated overreaction since the 1960s. The famous French student of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, already observed American tendencies for impulsivity in national politics 170 years ago. He concludes that we grew up in a time of relatively sensible public affairs.

 In spite of revulsion for the election campaign of 2016, a classmate retains his sense of community with voters who have opinions different from his:

  “My fondest hope is that the outcome of next Tuesday’s election and not endanger – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for my grandchildren and their descendants. . ..  I do leave room for acknowledging the sanity of most of those who may disagree with my politics.”

Almost all reports were submitted before the presidential election in November 2016. Many comments were negative to Donald Trump, elegantly so in this comment:

My insistence on bidding three no trump in bridge lies in the perverse pleasure to say “no trump, no trump, no Donald Trump.”….

Others seem soured on the election and national political dysfunction more generally.

“I am very concerned by our national plight as the 2016 election approaches. It appears that we are dealing with the evil of two lessers.”

Science,  medicine, and engineering

Part I documents that the greatest number of classmates in professional fields went into medicine followed by law. They often served or continue to serve as clinical leaders in their specialty areas in hospitals, as professors in medical schools, writers of professional articles and textbooks. There are numerous scientists and fewer engineers.

 Howard King received an award in 2017 from the American Academy of Pediatrics for 50 years of work integrating mental health concepts with pediatric care. He shares that field with Christopher Hodgman, professor of psychiatry and clinical pediatrics at the University of Rochester. Howie has served the class for 32 years as hospitality chairman.

Basil Pruitt, U. Texas Medical Center, is a world authority on burn surgery and is  

“. . concerned by the seeming emphasis on personal comfort rather than patient wellbeing, and the ready acceptance of unfounded conclusions of flawed studies, some of which have even appeared in high impact journals.”

 Charles Breslow’s achievements as a professor of chemistry were recognized by membership in the U.S. National Academy of Science at the age of 35; he is also a member of the Royal Society and recipient of 75 medals; two students have received Nobel prizes. He has a new drug approved for use in the U.S., Canada, and Japan, and continues to teach a course with material not yet in textbooks.

Born in Slovenia and displaced with family during the Communist takeover, Robert Grasselli received a scholarship to Harvard. He became a research chemist at SOHIO, rising to Director of Catalysis, helping develop breakthroughs in plastics and synthetic rubber. After early retirement, Grasselli became Director of Chemistry at the Office of Naval Research. After other activities, he remains a professor at the Center for Catalytic Science and Technology, University of Delaware.  Over his career, Grasselli was awarded 175 U.S patents, holds international awards and was inducted into the U.S. National Hall of Fame for Engineering Science and Technology. He closes a 4.5-page report with

“You, dear classmates, gave me a second lease on life, and I want you to know that your efforts were not in vain . . . I thank you from all my heart!”


Besides the 60-year service of our original three marshals, appointed in 1953, Class Secretary Bill Bliss has served for decades.

The perspective of service offered below by Peter Fleming is an eloquent statement of a theme that echoes observations about classes in this period by alumni reunion coordinator, Diane McDonald.

“One looks back and hopes one has taken fair advantage of one’s single lifetime and given back in civic and community service at least partial recompense for what our society and communities have so richly given us.“

 Service can range from a former communications satellite engineer expressing joy in serving as a humble math aide in a charter high school, to writing state statutes or helping save New York City’s Grand Central Station.

Roland Giddis reported:

  “Tutoring math at learning centers and in public high schools wherever my wife Jackie and I lived. I joined the staff of Six Rivers Charter High School in Areata as a Math Aide. It has been the joy of my life. I am proud of the intellectual and emotional growth of students, and hope that I am helping a few along their way to maturity.”

Frank Gilbert

worked on the development of a historic preservation program in New York City, including the saving of Grand Central Station. At the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I provided assistance to more than 100 cities.”

In addition to his work as a lawyer, Peter Gossels served the Town of Wayland as a member of the finance committee, as town counsel, and as moderator for thirty years.

“Among my contributions to the town were the codification of the rules for town meetings and the institution of electronic voting  (Wayland was the first town in the nation to institute this form of voting). My contributions in the Commonwealth include my work on the statute, which brought condominiums to Massachusetts, and the statute that created the first no-fault system of auto insurance, based in part on the concept developed by Jeffrey O’Connell ’54 and Professor Robert E. Keaton of the Law School.

Reluctantly curtailing further examples of services, we end this topic with Nathaniel Harris and Christopher Hodgman’s description of their retirement.

“When I am not mowing the lawn or going to the dentist, I try to use my spare time wisely. I donate time to the local land trust, either on a couple of committees or inspecting properties.” ; “ . . giving up my medical license (professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical School), my principal volunteer job is for the Cornell Agricultural Extension as a Master Gardener.”


The distinguished Princeton historian, Daniel T. Rogers, says in a book published in 2012 that we now live in an “Age of Fracture”. Many groups in society have stopped looking for common ground. Civics, mandatory when we were in high school, was abandoned in the 1960s. History, the field believed by the founders to be critical for statecraft and general culture, was popular at Harvard in our time but has been fragmented or abandoned by leading American universities. A female undergraduate who last year called in support of the College fund drive was asked whether there was a history requirement at Harvard. “Yes”, she said, “I’m meeting mine with a course in the history of foods”(!)

Charles Eliot (1834-1926). The importance of Harvard president Eliot for the educational principles under which we studied was rediscovered in research for this report. Charles William Eliot served as president of Harvard for a record-setting 40 years, from 1869 to 1909. Graduating from Harvard University in 1853, he was appointed Tutor in Mathematics in 1854 and Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Chemistry in 1858. He had been born in a prominent Boston family which, however, lost all it money by this time. In 1863 he traveled to Europe to study its educational institutions and systems.

Eliot didn’t just look at famous universities. He explored every aspect of education, not excluding janitorial services and finance. He took a special interest in the relationship of education to societal activities. Never was there such a bold and content-rich inauguration speech as that given by the youthful Eliot (35 years of age) at his investiture as President of Harvard University in 1869. Historian Morison reported, “The delivery lasted an hour and three-quarters, during which one might have heard a pin drop”. He began:

“The endless controversies whether language, philosophy, mathematics, or science supplies the best mental training, whether general education should be chiefly literary or chiefly scientific, have no practical lesson for us today . . . We would have them all, and at their best.”

 Eliot declared that

“The poorest and the richest students are equally welcome here, provided that with their poverty or their wealth they bring capacity, ambition, and purity. (Warner and others 1918).”

Eliot implemented most of his proposals during his long tenure and is credited with transforming Harvard from a provincial college to the preeminent research university in America.

Among the many developments were the Graduate School, Radcliffe College, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the largest and most comprehensive medical school complex in America, and the appointment of C. C. Langdell, who as Dean turned the struggling Law School into the leading law institution in the nation.

Eliot broke with existing practice in allowing undergraduates to choose three-quarters of their courses. This bold innovation was soon emulated by other universities. Citing historian Samuel Morison (Morison 1936), the Wikipedia article on Eliot cites:

“One after the other, the greater universities of the country followed the reforms that Harvard had adopted. the Harvard of Eliot [. . .] had set new standards for higher education in America (Wikipedia 2016).

 Eliot’s influence was not limited to universities. Responding to a commission from the National Educational Association, he convened the “Committee of Ten” that oversaw development of the “classical high school curriculum model” (Committee-of-Ten 1894). It was designed to not only prepare students for higher education but to also be taken by those not going on to college, equipping them with skills that would serve their working life and make them informed citizens. This reflected Eliot’s concern to avoid educational stratification in the America. Despite repeated efforts of progressive reformers after 1918, variants of the model dominated most U.S. high schools until the “affective reforms” of the  Johnson Administration. Most of the Class of 1952 probably studied in high school under updated versions of the “classical model”.

James Bryant Conant (1893-1978). Graduating from Harvard College in 1913, Conant gained his PhD in three years with a dual dissertation in physical and organic chemistry. After serving in the Army’s poison gas laboratory during World War I Conant joined the  Harvard faculty as a professor of chemistry from 1919 to 1933 when he became president. Without taking formal leave from Harvard University, in 1940 he became Chairman of the National Defense Research Committee, helping guide developments like radar, the atom bomb, and synthetic rubber. After World War II he served until 1953, when he became U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, subsequently taking a strong interest in American secondary education, arguing that all students should have grounding in the sciences.

 Like Eliot, Conant believed that universities had responsibilities both to the student and the nation. His predecessor, Abbott Lawrence Lowell (1856-1943), was a distinguished intellectual who greatly expanded Harvard’s facilities, student body and endowment; he introduced the House system to Harvard. Lowell was a progressive in many respects but sought to restrict Jewish enrollment and ban African Americans in the freshman halls (in both cases overruled by the Harvard Board of Governors) (Wikipedia 2017).

Conant was an egalitarian, opened all classes to Radcliffe women, initiated National Scholarships and other efforts to expand the geographic distribution of Harvard students beyond New England, and introduced the Gen Ed plan for a common core of liberal education including humanities, social and natural science for all students. Probably based on his meritocratic principles, Conant did not make special efforts to expand the participation of African Americans or other ethnic groups. Conant wrote an autobiography (Conant 1970).

Francis Keppel (1916-1990). Through an unconventional career route Keppel was appointed by President Conant to fill the vacancy for Dean of the Harvard School of Education in 1948, the year our class arrived at Harvard. He was to have a fateful but currently little-known influence on education in America.

Keppel was raised in New York City in a family concerned with social reform (Rury 2017). His father, Frederick P. Keppel, was a Dean at Columbia University and later became President of the Carnegie Foundation.

Keppel gained a B.A. in English Literature at Harvard in 1938, along with admission to Phi Beta Kappa. He first sought a career as a sculptor at the American Academy in Rome, Italy, but after a year returned to Harvard where he took a position as Assistant Dean of Admissions. After serving as an officer in World War II, Keppel returned to Harvard as an assistant to the Provost. His dynamic personality captured the attention of President Conant, who selected him to fill the vacant post of Dean of the Harvard School of Education – though he had only a B.A. degree. In 14 years as Dean, the school expanded in size and increased enrollment tenfold. Keppel was especially interested in testing reform ideas and innovations.

 “He also promoted experiments in team teaching, programmed learning, curricular reform, and educational television . . forged ties to other departments in the social sciences and humanities at Harvard. He was a widely respected leader nationally as well, serving on a number of important committees, task forces, and councils.” (Rury 2017)

 In 1962 President John F. Kennedy (Harvard Class of 1940) appointed Keppel Commissioner of Education, a post in which Keppel’s leadership skills and social sensibilities made him highly influential. When the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was created in 1965 Keppel became Assistant Secretary for Education.  He was an aggressive advocate for civil rights and is regarded as the principal architect of the Elementary and Secondary School Act of 1964 (ESEA). Title I of this act is devoted to providing funds for schools teaching poor or disadvantaged children. In consequence of a controversy in Chicago, Keppel resigned in 1966 and was replaced by Harold Howe II.

ESEA greatly expanded federal influence on education. While its motives were praiseworthy, its transformations, supported by private foundations and progressive reformers in leading schools of education, had a negative effect on school performance. The National Commission on Excellence in Education in 1983 found that SAT scores declined every year for 14 years from 1964, and that “nearly 40 percent of 17-year olds could not draw inferences from written materials.” (Gardner 1983).

The continuing influence of the 60s reforms on public literacy can be gauged by a 2016 report released by the Annenberg Center for Public Policy (University of Pennsylvania). It found that only one American in 4 could name all three branches of the federal government. Thirty-one percent could not name one – e.g. Congress.


Anonymous. 1951. Conant Says Red Teachers Should Be Refused Post. Harvard Crimson,

Chutter, Harriett E. 1952. Occupational Plans of Harvard Seniors, 1951-52. Office of Student Placement.

Committee-of-Ten. 1894. Report of the Committee of Ten on Secondary School Studies: With the Reports of the Conferences Arranged by the Committee. Washington D.C. : National Educational Association Original edition, 24 chapters

Conant, James Bryant. 1970. My Several Lives: Memoirs of a Social Inventor (New York, 1970).

Eichel, Lawrence, Kenneth W.  Jost, Robert D.  Luskin, and Richard E.  Neustadt. 1970. The Harvard Strike: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Gardner, David P. et al. 1983. A Nation at Risk. Report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education.

Kahn, E.J. 1969. Harvard: Through Change and Through Storm: W.W. Norton.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. 1936. Three Centuries of Harvard: Harvard University Press.

Newby, Louis L., and Wendell L. French. 1954. Harvard University Office of Student Placement.

Rury, John L. 2017. “Francis C. Keppel (1916–1990).”

Vaillant, George. 2015. Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Belknap Press, Harvard.

Waldinger, Robert. 2015. What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness: Ted Talk.

Warner, C.D., and others. 1918. Inaugural Address as President of Harvard College by Charles William Eliot (1834–1926). In The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.

Wikipedia. 2016. “Charles William Eliot.” Wikipedia.

Wikipedia. 2017. “Abbott Lawrence Lowell “. Wikipedia


How to know a class  

Going through a Reunion yearbook usually disperses impressions with heterogeneous detail and names of classmates who did not provide reports. As important and valuable as these periodic Reunion volumes (and the dedicated process of compiling them) are, most people will not be able to gain a coherent picture of the people listed within the covers.

Younger Harvard alumni and other people might understandably assume that 65th Reunion reports of classmates aged 85-to early 90s would dwell on nostalgia, inevitable losses with age, travel, family life and avocational activities of retired folks separated from realities of the world of today.

However, when we placed messages extracted from Class member reports into relevant life categories, a rich trove of insights emerged. Besides expected positive career and avocational achievements, some continuing late in life, and interesting hobby, travel and cultural engagements, there were observations of societal developments with unusual philosophical depth. There were poems both original and artfully selected, like Robert Browning’s “Rabbi Ben Ezra”:

 Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be, the last of life for which the first was made: our times are in His hand; Who saith “A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God; see all, nor be afraid.

 There was quirky humor with bite:

Some things have grown obvious over the last 5 years; why they put arms on chairs, the increased anxiety of tripping over the dog, drug store glasses no longer work, headlights cause more trouble than help and dropping civics from high school curriculum is now proving to be America’s downfall.

There were also reports of quiet, modest lives with enjoyment of contact with classmate friends.

Greatest impact:  love and service

The greatest surprise and emotional impact came from expressions of heartfelt love for partners of 50 to 60 and more years of marriage. One classmate reported that he was in his “sixty-fifth year of marriage, preceded by 10 years of courtship”. It must have begun when he was eleven or twelve! Many classmates married soon after graduation. Virtually all those devoted partners reported warm relations with successful children and grandchildren – and great grandchildren. It supports the findings of the Grant Study that followed Harvard undergraduates for three decades. It is eloquent testimony to the positive impact of harmonious parents on successive generations – even though  children are now growing up in times when national divorce statistics are around 50%.

Another strong impression came from accounts of service, mentioned as a normal or expected activity in return for what had been given to classmates by Harvard and society. Some classmates continued sustained service positions after retirement longer than the period of their career employment period.

What accounts for this sense of service? Potential contributors to the service motivation include the sense of national community engendered in Americans during World War II and continuing for a decade thereafter, and mandatory civics courses in high school. The Great Depression may be a factor. It caused Aaron Copland to stop writing avant-garde music for intellectual elites and think more about larger audiences. His compositions from 1933 to 1950, like “Rodeo”, and “Appalachian Spring” comprise most of the music for which he is now remembered.

Don’t underrate the Hays Production Code for Hollywood films, introduced in 1930. Censorship is widely disapproved of today and the Hays code has been described as  prudish and repressive. But instead of today’s movies that feature sleaze, violence , and dystopian relationships, the code helped create an environment in which popular films like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” emphasized civic virtue.

Health, losses, and social developments

A surprising number of classmates reported good health, some looking confidently forward to the 70th Reunion.  There were candid descriptions of illness and moving descriptions of losses and grief, but the latter feelings were usually assuaged by love and support by children and grandchildren.

A substantial number of classmates express disappointment or anger about political or social developments in the United States in recent years, especially the election campaign of 2016, which had not yet taken place when most reports were submitted.

Competence, tempered realism, and happiness

Most classmates have done well in their lifetimes, whatever their field of activity. Classic Greek ideas were mentioned: that happiness is achieved by working to ones’ potential along the lines of excellence. But the overwhelming lesson from this class, as well as the continuing “Harvard Study of Adult Development” (Waldinger 2015, Vaillant 2015)that began in 1938, is that good relationships not only make us happy, they protect our bodies and our brain. A remarkably succinct capsule that touches on this theme was cited earlier:

“The world is tough, and we realize we are not going to change it. Not enough time. We hope there is sunlight for kids and grandkids. I cherish my Harvard classmate friends.”

American education then and now

President Eliot made groundbreaking contributions to both American university and pre-university education.  Our president, James Bryant Conant, embraced Eliot’s concept that university education should serve the individual and the nation. He expanded effort to increase the geographical representation of Harvard students, but was not a good fundraiser.

The 50s have an unjustified bad image for some people – who tend to associated it with  racial segregation and the glass ceiling for women.  What this obscures is that the stain of legal segregation of African Americans was finally lifted by the vanguard of a generation of gifted black leaders. Their brilliant and courageous activities led to the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs Board of Education decision that reversed Plessy vs Ferguson (1896). It was a far safer nation with a fifth of today’s crime rates. The great majority of both black and white families grew up in nuclear families and the lowest income groups had faster growth in income than high income groups. People were confident about the future.

The America of our student days is not the America of today. Some things have improved, but a report by the Annenberg Center on Public Policy in 2016 and historical SAT scores show that one of the most significant negative developments today compared with the 1950s is the major decline in public literacy. Historical review for this report revealed that Francis Keppel, Dean of the School of Education while we were at Harvard, was a magnetic and creative personality who dramatically increased the enrollment and influence of the School of Education. But in his later position as Commissioner of Education in the Johnson Administration, he was influential in promoting experimental policies that ended the more rigorous “classical high school model” initiated under the leadership of President Eliot. It served us and the United States well.

Closing note

We end our report with a quote dedicated to our class

“Tuition eats up what he’s earning,

While the holes in his pocket keep burning.

When Daddy cried “Stop!”

They replied, “Sorry, Pop,

Old ’52 never stops learning.”

This poem is my acknowledgement of a class without equal,

held high in the hands of the greatest university on earth.

William Foster Mitchell


The U.S. Imbalance in Manufacturing

The U.S.’s entrepreneurial tradition continues – but not where we need it most 

The U.S. has a long tradition for entrepreneurialism and breakthroughs in business and industry. It was the manufacturing powerhouse of the world into the 1960s. However, in the 1970s the U.S. suffered disproportional deindustrialization compared with other advanced nations. In the last 40 years, American breakthroughs have been largely limited to information technology like the Internet, Google, Facebook, and Twitter; marketing like Amazon, Ebay, and fast foods like McDonalds; and military equipment. Except for Elon Musk’s enterprises (electric cars, battery manufacture, space vehicles), and pharmaceutical products, the U.S. has had no commercial manufacturing breakthroughs in decades. Apple products are largely manufactured in China. Weakness in the U.S. manufacturing sector is reflected in our massive trade deficit of $859 billion in 2021, compared with surpluses for advanced nations like Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, and Scandinavian nations.

Manufacturing isn’t just the past; it’s critical today. Manufacturing raised millions of blue-collar workers to middle class through wages and job stability provided by high value-added/labor ratios in manufacturing jobs. Loss of industry led to loss of working-class income and increased income inequality. Manufacturing jobs are not just for the assembly line. Manufacturing involves engineers, buyers, marketing, accounting, environmental, and administrative functions; it has the ability to launch new products lines that will be essential to counter the potential impact of artificial intelligence on loss of jobs.

Claims that manufacturing has maintained stable contributions to U.S. GDP can be supported by statistical indicators. However, arguments that downplay fundamental imbalances overlook the fact that U.S. durable goods manufacturing is concentrated in limited sectors, with productivity gains overwhelmingly concentrated in computers and electronics. Manufacturing, with only 8% of the workforce, makes up 0.53% of U.S. research & development, and this represents a steep decline from the past decades. U.S. manufacturing deficits impede the U.S.’s ability to mobilize an effective national campaign to transform energy use. Pervasive deficits in U.S. manufacturing can be seen throughout the economy:

Maryland’s new commuter rail cars will be manufactured by a Japanese firm and assembled locally; Google‘s book scanners and Boston’s sewage treatment system are German; our advanced hearing aids are German, Austrian, or Swiss (cheap ones are Chinese); C-pap machines are made in the Netherlands; sophisticated medical equipment like MRI’s and X-ray machines are increasingly dominated by German, Japanese, and Korean products; in 2020 the U.S. was just behind Italy in machine tool production, essential for manufacturing; Finland and Italy build those gorgeous cruise liners. In 1955 “U.S. shipyards built most foreign fleets”, but essentially stopped construction of commercial vessels by 1990; solar energy panels are imported from China, and wind turbines for planned offshore wind installations are built in Denmark. Our deficits include U.S. imports of processed minerals that are required for renewable energy technology.

The underrecognized roots of the imbalance. In the 1960s pollution endangered U.S. public health and wildlife. The U.S. responded by creating a uniquely labyrinthine regulatory and permitting system to protect the environment. Manufacturing and industry, major sources of pollution and health hazards, were impacted by adversarial provisions of the 1970s environmental laws. The results led to loss of manufacturing, economic decline, and antagonism between environmentalists and industry. Conflict over environmental regulations ultimately led to political polarization and Congressional gridlock.  40-year old environmental management systems became frozen into place.

A 2014 study found that government regulations for all business types cost companies with less than 50 employees $11,724 per employee per year. However, for manufacturing companies, the cost was $34,671. The disincentive for manufacturing startups is obvious. Timeframes averaging 4.5 years are required to gain permits for major infrastructure projects. Regulations and NIMBY inhibit innovation in renewable energy: 5500 wind turbines operate in European waters while we have 7 in the highest wind-energy corridor along the Atlantic coast. Congressional gridlock prevents reform of tax policies that let companies provide huge executive compensation packages that incentivize short-term corporate profit goals. Contrarily, gridlock blocks needed increases in salary levels for key federal agency leaders.

Conflict between environmentalists and industry is not a formula for progress.  Environmental NGOs have campaigned to shut down pipelines, stop LNG terminals, and export of fuel products based on the assumption that curbing “dirty” fossil fuel production and transportation will force replacement by renewable energy. This campaign has not produced progress in desired directions. It has produced antagonism and defensive policies on the part of industry – which must do the heavy lifting for green energy transformation. We need more flexible approaches to encourage industry to use its financial resources and technology to accelerate the transition to advanced renewable energies, as can be seen in Europe. Examples are a recent report observing that technology developed for fracking operations shows promise in tapping clean geothermal energy, and Dominion Energy’s ongoing completion of the first industry-initiated offshore wind turbine field in the U.S..

From environment or industry to partnership. The 1970s environmental laws that form the basis of current regulatory policy had exclusive focus on controlling environmental pollution. The framers of the groundbreaking  Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970 looked back on a peak in U.S. industrial productivity and assumed lt they framers assumed inexhaustible resilience on the part of industry to accommodate stringent new operating conditions. President Biden has recognized the importance of revitalizing U.S. industry for energy transformation. The U.S. can no longer afford arbitrary limits on its ability to produce commercially viable and state-of-the-art manufactured products. If the administration takes the controversial step of acknowledging the role of outdated regulatory systems, it would not only support energy transformation, but also move toward overcoming political polarization.

Environmental policy Policy and Politics Politics Uncategorized

From Leader to Laggard in Environment

How conflict over environmental regulations led to U.S. polarization and political paralysis

 A 2020 poll on voter views about climate change by the Pew Trust found that “88% of Democratic-registered voters said stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost. A 61% majority of GOP voters said such environmental laws cost too many jobs and hurt the economy”. The quote reflects both the split in the parties and the widespread assumption in the U.S. that efforts against global climate change require more rigorous regulations. Recent research observes that the U.S.’s labyrinthine regulatory system is an anomaly among advanced nations and has not led to an effective policy against climate change; it lies at the root of the U.S.’s current status as an environmental laggard in the campaign against climate change.

In the early 1970s, the U.S. had no conflict over environmental policy. The Clean Air and Clean Water Act Amendments of 1970 and 1972  were approved unanimously in the Senate en route to overwhelming passage in Congress. They and the NEPA Act of 1969 made rapid progress against pollution. The U.S. became the world leader in environmental policy. However, the revolutionary new laws contained seeds of future problems. The following list offers a troubling picture about subsequent progress in environmental management.

  • World Bank data show that in 2018 Sweden was the world leader with 52% renewable to total energy use. The U.S. was at 10%, near the bottom of European nations.
  • The U.S. landfills 50% of municipal waste, Sweden landfills 1%.
  • The U.S. recycles a third of glass bottles; advanced European nations recycle 90%
  • Power plants use about a third of produced energy for electricity. Over 11% of European power plants, but only around 1% of U.S. power plants employ cogeneration.
  • The U.S.‘s uniquely labyrinthine regulatory/permitting system requires an average of 4.5 years for permitting major infrastructure projects; delays and cost overruns are typical for federally-assisted initiatives.
  • Regulatory-associated NIMBY shackles innovative renewable energy developments. For example, 5,341 wind turbines operated in European waters in 2020. The U.S. has seven turbines in our highest wind-energy corridor along the Atlantic coast.
  • The U.S. is dependent on foreign suppliers for renewable energy equipment and minerals critical for renewable energy development.
  • Federal agencies are inhibited from employing proactive management techniques to minimize wildfires; carbon dioxide from millions of acres of burned national forests goes unnecessarily into the atmosphere.
  • The U.S. has thousands of brownfields and many Superfund sites that could be remediated with advanced techniques. The Bureau of Mines was leading cleanup research when it was abolished in the 1990s. Charged with managing the sites, EPA is overburdened by mandated tasks and operates under constraints that offer little scope for entrepreneurship.

What happened to U.S. environmental effectiveness? A major answer is polarization over environmental regulations. The drastic impact of 1970s environmental laws on the economy aroused antagonism in the business community. Conflict over environmental policy widened to political polarization between environmentalists and U.S. industry and their respective political supporters in the 1980s. Global climate change concern subsequently intensified conflict. A prominent environmental scientist’s 2021 book is titled The New Climate War and openly labels corporations as the enemy. While not monolithic, much of industry and political supporters quietly reciprocate environmentalist hostility. This condition is incompatible with progress. Industry (not academic activists or their political supporters) builds electrical grids – a point noted by Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Radicalization has led each side in the conflict to automatically oppose the goals of the other.  As a result, neither side achieves its goals. Over 50% of Republicans in Congress were recently claimed to be climate deniers. The strategy of leading environmental organizations like the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council has been to shut down fossil fuel production or transportation wherever possible under the assumption that this will speed  transformation to boutique renewables – solar and wind energy. They oppose backup nuclear power, biomass energy, and even hydropower – which together dominate current U.S. renewable energy production. They are skeptical of carbon sequestration (geological burial of CO2) because it could encourage continuation of fossil fuel production. Besides stoking counterhostility, the campaign against “dirty” energy industries that will remain critical to society well into the future diverts progressive younger talent from seeking leadership positions in fossil fuel and related industries.

Risks of overzealous campaigns. Besides the European fuel crisis created by Russia’s attack on Ukraine, if shutdowns like the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, lawsuits like those challenging national maintenance of oil and gas pipelines, and blockage of LNG terminals continue to exceed progress in replacing fossil fuels, they could lead to stranded financial and technical resources, supply interruption, and major resumption of fuel imports. Steep price rises could sour public opinion against proactive environmental measures. They would risk future ENRONs, companies playing the environmental game with less than admirable motives.

 Outdated U.S. regulatory and permitting systems vs. European policies. The U.S.’s revolutionary environmental statutes date from 1969 through the 1970s. Polarization and Congressional gridlock have frozen in place policies designed for earlier times and conditions. U.S. policies contrast with cooperative environmental policies adopted by European nations in the early 1990s. Europeans are now world leaders, whereas the U.S. is a laggard in environmental policy and performance.

Germany’s ingenious feed-in tariff, initiated by the Green Party, exponentially increased renewable energy development without front-end government investments. Denmark took an aggressive approach to wind energy development, exploiting the country’s flatness and high wind energies. It became the world leader in wind turbine production. Once alternative energy capacity was sufficiently developed, DONG (Danish Oil and Natural Gas Company) divested itself of oil and gas interests and transitioned entirely into offshore wind energy development. The new entity, Ørsted, is the primary contractor for proposed new offshore wind developments off the U.S. Northeast coast.

A better approach. Complex environmental regulatory/permitting systems introduced in the 1970s were effective in controlling environmental pollution. However, they subsequently proved equally effective in inhibiting infrastructure projects and renewable energy development. Rather than applying stricter regulations or seeking to weaken enforcement of existing laws,  the U.S. could benefit by considering the superior performance of  European environmental policies and revisiting the U.S.’s 40-year-old environmental management system.


A Look At American Television News – And Other News

As a policy researcher, I spend work time digging into the background and history of special political issues. I get mainstream media news from The Washington Post and sometimes The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. I subscribed for a time to The Washington Times to get  conservative perspectives, but was disappointed by the predictable nature and lack of depth in The Times‘ reports. I am a regular watcher of the BBC News and The News Hour and Washington Week on PBS channel 26 in the National Capital area. BBC America provides highlights from the UK, Europe, and other areas as well as America. Expert critics rate the BBC program as the gold standard for network news – although it is arguably far below the quality of US TV news coverage decades ago, with special emphasis on early TV news in the Edward R. Murrow era.

According to The Pew Trust, a respected source of information about social conditions and opinion in the U.S., the most important frequent sources of news for Americans are: smartphone, computer, or tablet (60%), TV (40%), radio (16%), and print (newspapers) 10%. Adding sometime use, the respective total numbers for the above media are 86%, 68%, 50%, and 32% (Pew Trust surveys in August and September 2020).

We only get antenna TV stations at home in Fairfax, Virginia. So, on a trip to Fort Myers, Florida I sampled daytime cable news coverage on the 58 channels available on our hotel TV. Other than ABC Business news (Channel 25), several sports channels, and Fox News 4 (channel 19 – mainly local news), continuous national news was available on 3 networks. They were MSNBC (Channel 29), Fox News (Channel 30), and CNN (Channel 47). On October 22, 2021, I compared 15-minute segments from the three national news stations. Side-by-side comparisons are a favorite device for me – differences readily stand out, as we can see below.

MSNBC news topics

  • Democrats call for scrapping the Senate filibuster. Coverage included clips from Democratic spokesmen as well as a brief sound bite from Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader of the Senate. Urgency was expressed about getting rid of the filibuster in order to let Democrats act on multiple issues. The programming included a warning from Axios, an online news site, and information that President Biden was ready to make changes to the filibuster system that would limit its use.
  • Texas governor Abbott’s racially divisive policies.

 Ads:  A health clinic, Cosentryx (medication), Wayfair Furniture, Hylands medication, NBA Basketball, Xfinity

Notes: MSNBC features a limited number of liberal/progressive political topics pursued at length by commenters and flashbacks. The filibuster issue was covered with perspectives from President Biden, discussion of Republican obstruction, and issues including voting rights and police reform.

FOX NEWS news topics

  • Vaccine mandates cause market backups
  • The Administration’s rigidity in everything
  • Supply chain problems
  • 5 million people have returned from the virus epidemic; 3 million have quit more recently
  • Markets are rising as virus diminishes (Barrons roundtable)
  • Chicago is experiencing an epidemic of shoplifting; shops are reluctant to stop theft
  • US Chamber of Commerce executive, Neil Bradley, reports that brazen shoplifting is causing businesses to close.
  • Baldwin’s accidental shootings on Hollywood movie set

Ads:  Mercedes, Empire, Medicare help 2021, Safelite Auto Glass, Singers Eye Care, Schwab, Walmart, Balance of Nature supplements, Tepezza (FDA-approved eye medication)

Notes: Fox features multiple topics with main focus on conservative and business-friendly issues. It is faster-moving than CNN and MSNBC, with personal exchanges between hosts. A hefty Black host presented most of the news. Like MSNBC and CNN, ads have a significant proportion related to medication and health.

CNN news topics

  •  Alec Baldwin accidentally shoots and kills movie director and wounds other set member with a prop gun
  • Costly water supply owing to toxic lead levels in Michigan city, Benton Harbor (pop. 10,000). Extensive detail is offered, e.g. that water exceeds EPA lead limit of 15 ppb.
  • Follow the Money: regular CNN feature, e.g. follows money behind January 6 riot

Ads:   Humira (rheumatoid arthritis medication), Aetna insurance, Xiidra eye care, Panera, Life Magazine feature, NBA Basketball, Personal Injury lawyers Morgan and Morgan, Medicare Advantage

Notes:  Like MSNBC, CNN features hot news items covered at length; it leans somewhat to the left but has the most balanced coverage among the three networks. Like Fox News and MSNBC, CNN has a significant proportion of medication and health care ads, suggesting older populations who have the time to watch daytime programs and.


Ted Turner’s CNN was the first network to broadcast news 24 hours a day, beginning in 1980. By 1989 CNN was available in 65 nations. Fox and MSNBC joined in much later. A book by Victoria O’Donnell, Television Criticism, 2016 ( provided the above information and is an indispensable source of data on TV programming and history. It cites the first Washington editor of CNN, Stuart Loory, on why CNN lost viewership to Fox News. “It dropped its original format based on hard news by reporters in favor of anchors and discussion of stories by experts, analysts, and consultants. It sometimes abandons news of the day to dwell on one story only”.

Ironically, Fox News is now closer to CNN’s original programming model in offering a broader list of news topics, although it is oriented toward conservative politics and business news. Fox news reports (not during my sample period) are frequently Trump-friendly and critical of the Biden administration, though Fox did not accept the Trump claim that the 2020 election was gained by fraud.

Seeing CNN on TV screens in YMCAs and medical clinics with scheduled patients on rehab machines, I have assumed that CNN focused especially on people in establishments where they are exposed to the TV coverage for short times, or otherwise watch only briefly. CNN’s format allows people to at least get the top story or stories of the day, regardless of when they access it. That formula wouldn’t work as well for MSNBC because its liberal tilt makes it less suited to business establishments.  Media reports suggest that MSNBC is focusing heavily on digital streaming aimed toward younger audiences rather than live TV that appeals to older groups.

Nightly TV news programs have more content than daytime news, but I find that current programming tends to concentrate on human interest, sensation, and horse-race journalism (especially political election coverage) – including the PBS News Hour and Washington Week. We have to go to radio talk shows like NPR All Things Considered to get snippets about science, medicine, environment, industry, and other areas of society.  A Wikipedia site lists around 145 websites for various political interests; that doesn’t include the Social Science Research Network, which provides free access to over 800,000 scholarly papers in dozens of specific fields. I have 16 papers in that medium.

I know of no current Walter Cronkite,  anchorman for CBS Evening News for 19 years, or David Broder, Washington Post senior journalist who served the paper for 40 years. Those individuals as well as others enjoyed national reputations for balanced reviews of news developments. In the current age of intense opinions, polarization, and competition for readers/viewers, balanced observers get little attention compared with those like Tucker Carlson or Rachel Maddow with strong points of view. I find it takes hard work to get really in-depth, balanced perspectives on social and political issues;  serendipitous sources of insight are often important.

Comments welcomed at

Politics Uncategorized

Is The Police Chief’s Role in the Floyd Case Underrated?

Minneapolis Police Department Chief, Medaria Arradondo, has gotten neutral or favorable treatment in the media. This may be in part because he was the first African American to serve as chief, and because of his willingness to testify against Derek Chauvin, recently tried for the death of George Floyd. I offer observations that Arradondo may have a greater role in problems at the Minneapolis Police Department than might be apparent.

The Minneapolis Police Department website

 Police department websites reflect police leadership policies and are the main information interface between police and the public. In 2018 a federal work-study project under my leadership at George Mason University used police websites among criteria to rank over 50 Virginia counties and municipalities for quality of public safety and policing. [].

Out of curiosity, after the death of Floyd, I applied our criteria to rate the Minneapolis Police Department’s website. I was startled to find that it would have ranked at the bottom of all Virginia police websites. Instead of making it easy for the public to use the site, I had to solve visual puzzles to even enter the site, and more puzzles got In the way of opening sections within it. This implies astonishing insensitivity to the purpose and use of police websites.

The current department website is changed from that after Floyd’s death. It emphasizes the chief’s personal background and accomplishments but lacks information useful to the general public, like readily accessible telephone numbers to relevant services, important news, and information on community outreach programs. Crime statistics, another type of data of interest to the public, are offered in quirky detail without simple yearly totals that are common to most departments as well as the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report tables. The death of Floyd is listed only by date without mentioning Floyd’s name, among other events, in a partly buried data set:  “Frequently requested public information”.  It lists only a Fire Department report along with that of the Hennepin County medical examiner.

Arbitrary firings of Chauvin and accompanying officers

Within hours after Floyd’s death, Chief Arradondo fired Chauvin and the 3 officers present.

Whatever the actions of the officers, there should have been procedures for proper evaluation of the circumstances as well as respect for the rights of the individuals. Arradondo’s abrupt action could be considered unprofessional and even self-serving, possibly taken to distance himself from association with the appalling treatment of Floyd. The Chief’s subsequent testimony against Chauvin logically follows from his earlier actions. Arradondo’s public comments following the death of Floyd did not strike me as measured and appropriate under the circumstances. Rather, his management gave the impression of being arbitrary and erratic.

Minneapolis Police Department history

An article by an award-winning journalist, who covered police activities in Minneapolis,  Todd Baer, notes that Minneapolis police had a history of brutality and coverups during the past five years. This was true before Arradondo became chief, but there is no evidence that he brought significant change, nor that the mayor, who has the authority over the appointment of the chief in Minneapolis, took appropriate action. In short, isolated positive actions by the chief do not adequately counter evidence suggesting that he is self-focused, erratic, and showed obliviousness to problems associated with his department – which could extend to the behaviors of members of his force.

The importance of top police leadership was dramatically illustrated when two commissioners of police for  New York City, Raymond Kelly and William Bratton, made comprehensive changes in police policies, rapidly bringing violent crime in what was previously the murder capital of America down to among the lowest murder rates for big cities in America (see below figure).

Source: “Crime in New York City”, Wikipedia, 2021


Police leadership deserves more attention in the Minneapolis case as well as in other cities experiencing excessive force on the part of police against African Americans.


Baier, Todd.  2020.  “The Minneapolis police department has a long history of brutality: I know because as a local reporter I covered it for five years and discovered the lengths it would go to conceal it.”  Al Jazeera

American history Civil War Economy Environmental policy Industry Journalism Policy and Politics Politics Science and education Uncategorized

The Coronavirus signals need for reform of U.S. policies for approval of vaccines and advanced cures

I sent a message similar to this essay to Robyn Dixon, author of an article on Russian science and vaccine development in the Washington Post yesterday, February 9. 2021. The Dixon article cited scientist and journalist, Irina Yakutenko, saying that “you should do everything according to the protocols. It takes a long, long time. It takes a lot of money”. That has been true for U.S. policies that have required ten years to release new vaccines*. But the “miraculous” speed of vaccine development in 2020 tells us that those medical policies are grievously outdated and need to change. I copied this message to Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, encouraging them to explore reforms with Senate colleagues and NIH Director Francis Collins. Republicans would likely agree about the importance of reform.

The length of time needed for vaccine development is due to the extreme rigor of U.S requirements for them and other critical cures. This in turn is attributable to concern to minimize adverse effects. The positive potential of a new vaccine can be confirmed in a dozen cases, but to rule out 1:1000 adverse effects may require years and trials with 6000 persons. The FDA operates in the world’s most litigious nation and is risk-averse. We saw what happened in 2020 when excess cautions were swept aside because of the emergency created by the coronavirus. The speed of the approval was startling for our system, but other nations produced vaccines in the same time frame. Sixty-three coronavirus vaccines have been reported in clinical development. Because of the U.S.’s overwhelming dominance in research funding and the rigor and reputation of the National Institute of Health, the sponsor of federally supported trials, our protocols are widely adopted in Germany and other EU nations.

A new vaccine can cost $500 million to $2 billion. This leads to exorbitant treatment costs and a lack of attention to rarer diseases that could be cured. An example is my wife, Lucy, who has a rare “SCA 8” ataxia that could be readily cured by gene editing – but it can’t get attention.

A sleeper factor also holds back treatment in America. The Washington Post article mentions scientific publication as being desirable for Russian medical development. To the extent that they report new knowledge and advances, scientific publications play critical roles.  But the U.S. suffers from a flood of excess clinical publications. Reports offer many promising new treatments “for the future” while there is a dearth of new treatment opportunities today. The reason is that it is more advantageous for medical researchers to apply for research funding and get their names in print or in the news for promising developments than to take the risks of moving to formal treatment. The latter receives little public recognition while it incurs major risks for lawsuits over new procedures. Risk adverseness operates on clinics as well as clinicians.

In 2016 I became personally familiar with a pioneering Austrian heart surgeon who saved the life of an American composer who had a heart attack while attending a concert in Vienna. Dr. Werner Mohl** developed a procedure for restoring heart tissue damaged in heart attacks. The American would probably have died in the U.S. because the procedure would not have been authorized until clinical trials proved its efficacy.

*Vaccines, 5th Ed., Philadelphia, Saunders 2008.



Patronage Policies And Federal Agencies’ Performance


The administration of President Donald Trump culminated in partisan antagonism of an intensity not seen since the Civil War. The president’s appointees in federal agencies were subject to exceptional demands for loyalty to the executive. While in the latter part of his term Trump engaged in unprecedentedly crude behaviors and practices, including abrupt dismissal of high-ranking officials, his administration’s appointments and relationships with federal agencies didn’t necessarily plow new ground. They only extended to extreme levels a cyclic trend for presidential patronage policies that began after World War II. This paper offers historical insights on why incoming President Biden will have inducements to revise laws and restore balanced, independent functioning of federal executive agencies.

Federal government appointments and operations to 1970

 The first six presidents of the United States largely followed George Washington’s precedent in appointing government employees based on competence. Except for cause, government positions other than top cabinet officials were expected to be permanent. Holding that the existing appointment system was elitist, President Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) introduced the patronage (“spoils”) system which created turnover over in both federal administrative positions and lower jobs after changes in presidential administrations. The new policy politicized government operations and inhibited the development of stable administrative structures, reaching a peak of corruption in the “Gilded Age” after the Civil War

The reputation of President Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) suffered because his actions formally ended Reconstruction. However, Hayes was the first president to initiate governmental reform in the post-Civil War era. Major achievements of his administration included competency-based cabinet and policymaking appointments, reform of the scandal-ridden Interior Department, and commissioning of a comprehensive plan for a merit-based civil service system. This fundamental reform hung fire until public furor over the assassination of President James Garfield by a disgruntled office-seeker led to its enactment into law as the Pendleton Act of 1883. 

By Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential administrations (1901-1909) civil service and other reforms increased public and Congressional trust in federal agencies to the point that Congressional laws  could bec0me short. Congress designated missions, goals, and approved funding, but gave agency leaders discretion to develop operating policies. Expert agency staff assisted Congress in preparing and modifying legislation, a practice currently followed by ministries in advanced European nations.

Transformation of lawmaking in the 1970a achieved rapid progress against pollution – but led to economic impacts

 The above lawmaking conventions continued until 1970 when an environmental crisis and skepticism about federal stewardship of the environment led Congress to pass a series of groundbreaking laws in the 1970s. Up to this time, federal science agencies were respected for competence and fairness, but their regulatory powers were limited. The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970 extended the Environmental Protection Agency’s enforcement authority nationwide while including unprecedented operational detail. Provisions in the law included tough punitive measures like fines of $25,000 per day and imprisonment for violations. The CAA and subsequent laws achieved rapid progress against pollution. However, their adversarial provisions, especially focused on manufacturing and industry, led to unanticipated economic decline and antagonism on the part of the business community.

 The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 increased presidential control over agencies and indirectly exacerbated partisanship and political conflict

The often-overlooked Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 was promoted by President Jimmy Carter to gain greater presidential influence on federal agency operations. Its new Senior Executive Service (SES) provisions allowed the president to appoint 10% of SES personnel as temporary administrators under top agency appointees. Carter lost the election of 1980 to Ronald Reagan. Upset over regulations, President Reagan appointed firebrand administrators who used the new CSRA provisions to “clean house” in EPA and the Department of Interior and roll back regulatory enforcement. The actions triggered Congressional backlash. EPA Administrator Ann Gorsuch and Secretary of Interior, James Watt, resigned, but conflict over environmental regulation widened to political polarization. Democrats became the party of the environment, and Republicans became the party of industry.

Lawmaking paralysis has consequences

Partisan polarization and Congressional gridlock after the 1980s led presidents to increasingly bypass normal procedures in order to achieve their policy goals. President George W. Bush set records for “signing statements” on Congressional bills. President Obama used his “telephone and pen” and with his Attorney General declared that the Congressional law on marriage (DOMA) was unconstitutional – declining to enforce it.  While the Supreme Court did subsequently rule that DOMA violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, it was not the prerogative of the President and Attorney to refuse to enforce valid Congressional Law. A 2700-page law on health care (the ACA) was pushed through without a single Republican vote. In the ensuing Trump administration, Republicans likewise enacted massive tax cuts by party-line vote. President Trump rescinded some 150 of Obama’s Executive Orders, including the U.S.’s membership in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and pursued directions opposite to that of Obama.  In his first days in office incoming President Biden, in turn, rescinded many Trump Executive Orders and issued new Orders. In short, federal government agencies prior to World War II served presidential,  Congressional goals and the public. However,  their leaders took independent leadership in  operating policy planning for the future and the agencies were generally respected for their ethics and effectiveness. In recent years agencies have tended to become appendages of presidential policy.

Reform of agency operations, Congressional lawmaking, and the regulatory/permitting labyrinth

 The new Biden administration announced the imperative of revitalizing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and undertaking a massive green energy program to fight global climate change by replacing fossil fuel use with renewable and non-carbon energy sources. These require revitalizing American manufacturing to support jobs and economic growth instead of relying on foreign imports.  Effective operation of federal operating agencies is an obvious necessity if the vast proposed expenditures are to be used effectively and complex goals are to be met. Formidable obstacles faced by large-scale infrastructure development are labyrinthine regulatory and permitting requirements and opportunities for litigation that became part of the nation’s legal framework in the 1970s.

There are ironies in our current situation. A series of powerful environmental laws were passed in the 1970s to control environmental problems that arose in the post World War II economic boom.  These measures were especially designed to control manufacturing and industry, the prime sources of environmental pollution and health hazards. However, their adversarial features helped cause massive loss of U.S. manufacturing as business leaders outsourced production and moved to banking and finance, real estate, and other economic areas less affected by costs, constraints, and threats of litigation.

Now a superior environmental threat – global climate change – requires a transformation of the U.S. energy system. But the manufacturing infrastructure and raw material supplies needed to achieve the change are now heavily dependent on imports. Further, the labyrinthine regulatory and permitting systems earlier created to control industry have proved highly effective in stopping new renewable energy initiatives. A prime example is that 5500 wind turbines operate in European waters, whereas we have only seven in the most wind energy-rich corridor along the U.S. Atlantic coast. Permits for major infrastructure initiatives involving federal support take 4 to 10 years or longer. Without change in the system new presidential initiatives might not even get permits. But such changes face polarization ultimately stimulated by antagonism over environmental policy.

The future

The famous student of American Democracy. Alexis De Tocqueville, observed 180 years ago that Americans are prone to flawed policies through strong opinions and excess zeal. However, he also noted that once problems were recognized, they were quicker than in other nations to correct them.  The question is how serious the problems need to be to overcome partisan animosities and polarization and trigger fundamental changes in attitudes.

Policy and Politics Politics Uncategorized


Donald Trump’s lack of regard for truth during his presidential tenure, with (more than 20,000 documented lies and prevarications (Kessler et al, 2020), and behaviors that violated norms of democratic governance, are acknowledged even by his most articulate supporter, Victor Davis Hanson  (Hanson, 2019). Given Trump’s crudities and claims that he doesn’t read (e.g. Graham, 2018), it is understandable that people regard Trump as ignorant – including ignorance of the history and traditions of the nation he celebrates.  A Google Scholar query on the phrase “Trump ignorant”* in Nov. 2020 brought up more than 19,200 hits.

The above image is misleading. It poses the riddle of how a supposedly ignorant businessman who never held public office could manage the political and organizational feat of gaining the highest office in the United States – an achievement that has been denied to highly qualified and influential individuals of both parties. I suggest that there is good evidence that Trump was not stupid and was not poorly informed about subjects of interest to him until something like 2019. At that point successes and a gigantic ego evidently overrode over what was earlier a degree of caution and willingness to listen to people with diverse views.  He began firing appointees who showed differences from his views.

“It takes a lot of smarts to play dumb – (Trump, 2008)”

An ignorant image for Trump is fundamentally misleading because Trump wanted people to believe it. In the book, Trump Never Give Up  (Trump & McIver 2008, p 167 ) Trump states:  “. . .  it takes a lot of smarts to play dumb. Keep them off balance. Knowledge is power, so keep as much of it as you can to yourself as possible”. Appearing to show ignorance or crudity encouraged opponents and media pundits to overlook his strategies and tactics. Of especial importance, it also served to distinguish Trump from the academic, political, and media establishment in appealing to a disillusioned base.

So let’s take a factual look at Trump’s background. In the foregoing book (Trump & McIver, 2008), Trump cites a kindergarten teacher who referred to him as her most curious and questioning student. Increasing ungovernable behaviors in elementary school led father Fred Trump to move Donald to the New York Military Academy. During his five years of attendance there Trump came to thrive under imposed discipline, graduating as a cadet captain, the highest rank. It is clear that sports were his main interest. The school records show him as a star in baseball and football but also involved in soccer, bowling, and wrestling (Blair, 2005). However, he would have gained a solid secondary education including science, math,  and history or he would have not been promoted to the highest rank.  Following NYMA, Trump attended two years at Fordham University, a Jesuit institution where in the early 1960s, history including classics was a core requirement. While wires may have been pulled in getting him into the University of Pennsylvania’s distinguished Wharton School of Finance (Byrne, 2019), Trump would have gained a background in economics and finance, without which he would hardly have been able to gain prominence as a real estate mogul in New York City, or could seriously consider launching bids for the presidency.

Figure 1. Trump as cadet captain at New York Military Academy. Source: 1964 NYMA yearbook.

In another book (Think Like a Champion, Trump & McIver 2009) Trump cites a list of authors ranging from Pythagoras, Machiavelli, Thoreau, and Albert Schweitzer, to Bill Gates and Billy Jean King. His favorite book is the classical Chinese text, The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, which emphasizes the importance of surprise. Trump’s choices of quotations have a pattern. They tend to focus on achieving success.

The final argument against Trump being dumb is that he went from 3% in polls before he announced his candidacy for president on June 2015, to leading 16 credentialed Republican candidates one month later. His campaign operatives spanned the spectrum of Republican politics from assistants to Robert Dole to Tea Party activists. Though permanently tarnished by actions in the last two years of his presidency and brazen attempts to claim fraud in the election results of 2020, Trump is not an adversary to underrate.


Blair, G. (2005). Donald Trump, Master Apprentice (2nd ed.): Simon & Schuster

Byrne, J. A. (2019, July 8). Trump Admitted To Wharton With Help From A Family Friend. Retrieved from

Graham, D. A. (2018, Jan. 5). The President Who Doesn’t Read: Trump’s allergy to the written word and his reliance on oral communication have proven liabilities in office. Atlantic Magazine, Retrieved from

Hanson, V. D. (2019). The Case for Trump: Basic Books.

Kessler, G., Rizzo, S., & Kelly, M. (2020). Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth: The President’s Falseholds, Misleading Claims, and Flat-Out Lies: Washington Post.

Kranish, M., & Fisher, M. (2016). Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power: Scribner Book Company.Trump, D. J., & McIver, M. (2008 ).

Trump, D.J., & McIver. (2008). Trump Never Give Up: John Wiley & Sons 

Trump, D. J., & McIver, M. (2009). Think Like a Champion: Vanguard Press.