Monthly Archives: June 2020

I’m Feeling Petty (or is it Petit?)

The Supreme Court of the United States grapples with many important issues and “hands down” their rulings. “Handing down” is meant to imply something like dealing with the gods on Mount Olympus.

However, I do wonder why, when nine of the greatest(?) legal minds are put together, why do they disagree so often? Why are so many decisions 5-4?

Oh.

Silly me.

Politics.

When I took business law in college, the professor advised us never to confuse justice with fairness. The judicial system, he explained, was not fair and was merely a mechanism to resolve disagreements without resorting to duels, trial by combat, or shootouts in the street at high noon.

A pity, as resolving disputes would be far more interesting with those methods. A good shootout would be interesting to watch. The Supreme Court? Not so much.

In any case, today the Supreme Court ruled that adding “.com” to any word makes that word+”.com” copyrightable. Therefore, I’m putting all of you on notice.

Be aware that sfnowak.com is copyrighted. Don’t try to steal it. It’s illegal to do so. The Supreme Court says so. Neener neener neener!

Besides, why in the world would you want to?

Pandemic

As you may recall, I rely on data* for decision making whenever possible. For some decisions, there are little or no data, but for many others there are an abundance of data. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic provides significant data.

I don’t have the fancy models that the experts use, but once upon a time I seem to recall taking some statistics classes in college and other courses that included statistics. I’ve been tracking the number of new cases of COVIDS-19 and deaths from the disease using Worldometers. Under the principle of KISS–keep it simple, stupid–I use only a linear progression and a 5-day moving average.

Deaths, thank God, continue to decline. Apparently, the medical professionals have figured out how to reduce, if not eliminate, its harshest outcome.

New cases, on the other hand, not only continue to climb, but have recently accelerated. I don’t have sufficient data to guesstimate the reasons; I have my opinions, but there are too many opinion driven events already.

Here are my results:

* Data is plural for datum, although is is often used both as singular or plural.

He Deserves a Statue!

Although many statues representing the Civil War are rightfully being removed,  the most significant individual of that time lacks a statue.

Ladies and gentlemen! May I present Wilmer McLean!

Haven’t heard of him? And you call yourself a history buff?

Wilmer McLean was a green grocer in Manassas, Virginia who, in his younger days, had served as an officer of the Virginia militia. Confederate General Beauregard was using McLean’s home as his headquarters when the first shots of the Civil War–the battle the North calls the first Battle of Bull Run while the South calls it +the first Battle of Manassas–occurred at McLean’s farm.

His home was bombarded by union shells. One cannonball dropped down the chimney, destroying the dinner that was being prepared for McLean and the general.

Shortly after the battle, for a variety of reasons, including business, McLean decided to move to Southern Virginia. However, his karma seemed to be in overdrive. A few years later, in 1865, General Ulysses S. Grant sent a messenger to find a suitable location for Grant to meet with Robert E. Lee to discuss surrender. The messenger found a house that might do, knocked on the door , and Wilmer McLean grudgingly agreed.

So, the Civil War started at McLean’s home, he moved, only to have the Civil War end at his new home.

Thanks to Guy D. McCardle, Jr. for jostling my memory on this fascinating Civil War fact.

Success

When I was growing up, it was still possible—and often expected—that a young man would finish high school and get a factory job with one of the automotive companies in the area. Grandpa had worked there, Dad still did, and Junior would carry on the family tradition.

Success was having a decent wage, benefits, and a pension. It was expected that there were certain trade-offs, such as losing the occasional finger to a punch press or periodically taken from work to the hospital for stitches. The work was mind-numbingly repetitious, but that was just part and parcel of the process. It was okay, though, until manufacturing moved overseas or was automated.

For other people, the self-imposed standard is higher. People study music or art, practice their chosen mode of expression throwing themselves into it, heart and soul. Imagine, after years of study and dedication:

  • The musician finds that the culmination of his talent and effort provides music for telephone callers who are placed on hold.
  • The artist, skilled in a variety of visual techniques, from oil painting to sculpting, ends up producing billboard illustrations.
  • The young model who has posed for a variety of photographs, finds that one of them shows her face on the internet with the captions “All cheaters have one thing in common.”
  • The actor, after years of stage plays in high school, college, and off-off-Broadway finally makes it as a movie only to find that most of his time is spent repeat the same lame line over and over to allow for different camera angles, the reaction of other actors, etc.

I’m grateful for what life has given me, even though (especially?) I’m not in the spotlight.

Juneteenth

The South’s “Peculiar Institution”of slavery allowed wealthy property owners to have millions of laborers work without pay. Not only was this free labor valuable, but selling the children of slaves was profitable as well.

The American Civil War was initially fought by the North to preserve the Union. This was after years of conflict, both in the legislature and elsewhere, regarding slavery, especially regarding which new states endorsed their citizens to buy and sell human beings.

The Civil War began on 12 April 1861. Under his war powers, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in all states engaged in armed conflict with the Union on 1 January 1863. Any slave who reached Union territory or if Union military lines reached them, they were, by law, free.

The South ignored the Emancipation Proclamation, even when the war ended. In Galveston, Texas, African Americans who had legally been free since 1863 only found out on Juneteenth, 19 June 1865, when Union Army General Gordon Granger read the federal orders that all slaves in Texas were free.

That is why Juneteenth is such an important day and should soon be a national holiday. How could we not honor and celebrate it?

 

Southern History

Although I was born, grew up, and was educated all the way through graduate school in the North, I have lived in the South—on and off—for several decades. I’ve worked with people whose ancestors fought against the Union during the Civil War. Some were members of “The Sons of the Confederacy” and had a whole different perspective on the Civil War than the one with which I was raised.

I love history, so I listened to their viewpoint with as unbiased a mind as possible. After all, it is normal for history to be adjusted as additional facts are uncovered. Recently, I did a little research and here are some interesting facts and figures from credible sources.

DISCLAIMER: Some of my ancestors may have been heroes, villains, or just plain folks trying to get by. I cannot control my ancestors, but I can maintain my own set of values and accept or reject their actions. I do not hold others responsible for their ancestors’ actions, only their own. In that frame of reference, here are some of the data that I found.

  • Records indicate that 1,082,119 men served in the Confederate Army, throughout the Civil War, although not all at the same time.

I tried to determine how many Confederate soldiers owned slaves. Nowhere is that number directly reported, but the following statistics are:

  • According to the 1860 US census—just before the Civil War—more than 32 percent of white families in those states which would secede from the Union owned slaves.
  • There were approximately 2,880,000 slave owners when the Southern population was about 9 million people.
  • There were estimated to be more than 3½ million slaves in the South. (For full disclosure, there were also 432,586 in the border states—those states that did allow slavery but did not secede from the union.)
  • Some slaveholders in the South did not actually own the slaves who worked for them, but instead rented them from slaveowners.

I suspect that the numbers reported in the 1860 census were reasonably accurate, since each slave counted as 3/5 of a citizen toward the number of Congressional representatives, Electoral College votes, etc. (Isn’t it ironic that there has recently been pressure to count only citizens? The founding fathers from the South wanted ALL people counted since it benefited them.)

Based on the data I acquired:

  • There were more than 3 times as many slaves in the South as there were soldiers who fought for the Confederacy.
  • If the total population reported in the census included slaves at the 3/5 ratio, then the white population of the South was closer to 6.8 million. In which case one-third of the actual population of the South would have been enslaved persons.

In addition:

  • After the Civil War, many slaves were not told that they were free. In fact, by virtue of the Emancipation Proclamation, those enslaved people in the Confederate States had been freed on 1 January 1862.
  • Juneteenth celebrates 19 June 1865 when Union General Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston, Texas—one of the most remote locations—the first news those slaves had that they were free.
  • The border states either freed their slaves by state law or else by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in December 1865.

A couple of thoughts.

  • For several centuries—in the Land of the Free—some people believed it was good business to have a workforce that was not paid, had no rights, and could be beaten, bought, and sold at will.
  • For more than a century after that, there have been some people who seem to be wishing for a return to those days.
  • If you ask many of those waving the red flags with the “X” what they are, they will probably misidentify it as “the flag of the Confederate States of America.” It’s not—it’s a battle flag. The Confederacy went through a number of national flags.
  • If you really want to have fun, ask them which former US President became a Confederate legislator. (John Tyler)

One final trivia item – Many people talk about freedmen (former slaves) owning slaves themselves. There is truth to this, but most of these freedmen owned one or a small number of slaves. Why? Historians believe that once a man or a woman was freed, they would purchase their spouse and, if possible, their children. If so, this was not slavery, it was a family struggling against all odds to be together.

 

Thanks to:
https://www.history.com/
American Battlefield Trust

Monuments?

In order for the nation to figure out its future, it must first figure out its past–in particular, the appropriateness of monuments to the Confederacy.

Let’s start with one authoritative source, Robert E. Lee. Lee, a top graduate of West Point who had served in the US Army for 32 years. As a commissioned officer, he had taken an oath to the US Constitution. He chose–albeit difficultly–to disregard his oath, choosing Virginia, his state, over the United States of America, his country.

After the war, “He swore allegiance to the Union and publicly decried southern separatism, whether militant or symbolic.”

“I think it wiser,” the retired military leader wrote about a proposed Gettysburg memorial in 1869, “…not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”

As regards the erection of such a monument as is contemplated,” Lee wrote of an 1866 proposal, “my conviction is, that however grateful it would be to the feelings of the South, the attempt in the present condition of the Country, would have the effect of retarding, instead of accelerating its accomplishment; [and] of continuing, if not adding to, the difficulties under which the Southern people labour.”

Many of the Confederate monuments were not erected until the late 1800s and early 1900s. While the stated purpose was to honor those who fought, many–including myself–believe that it was a blatant trumpeting of white supremacy.

Why are the number of people who today condemn the monuments increasing? The list of reasons is long and growing, but let’s look at one–just one–reason.

Treason.

In law, treason is criminal disloyalty, typically to the state. It is a crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one’s nation or sovereign. This usually includes things such as participating in a war against one’s native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor.[1]

The Southern states took up arms and engaged in war against their own nation. The individuals involved were traitors–Lee, Jackson, Bragg, and all the others. They may have been brilliant, but they were still traitors. In other times or countries, such as England, traitors were subjected to the horrors of being drawn, hanged until they were almost–but not quite–dead, eviscerated while still alive, decapitated and their bodies divided into quarters.

Such is not the American way. Instead, the Southerners were welcomed back, if they chose–like Lee–to once again honor their nation.

However, there is no good, logical, rationale reason to build monuments to traitors.

(Thanks to PBS and Wikipedia for much of this material. Links are embedded for your convenience.)

 

 

Black Lives Matter

I am totally unqualified to write this. If I am wrong, please correct me.

I’ve never been pulled over for driving because of my color. I’ve never had to have “the talk” with my sons. I’ve never been watched suspiciously while shopping.

I am not black. If I were, I wouldn’t be able to say the things I wrote above.

To me, “Black Lives Matter” is an attempt to make the first very tiny step to address 400 years of inequality, oppression, and cruelty.

It’s about damn time,.

 

 

A Solemn Oath

An oath is defined by Merriam Webster as:

(1) : a solemn usually formal calling upon God or a god to witness to the truth of what one says or to witness that one sincerely intends to do what one says

(2) : a solemn attestation of the truth or inviolability of one’s words – The witness took an oath to tell the truth in court.

An oath is a sacred promise. While this might not carry as much weight today as it once did, it does for most of those who take an oath. It is a commitment that not only defines what a person agrees to do, but also defines who that person is.

Oaths are used for major offices, including members of Congress, judges, and other elected officials. For example, Presidents swear the following oath at their inauguration:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.[

Commissioned and warrant officers in the United States uniformed services swear the following oath:

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.[1]

Each person enlisting in an armed force swears to the following oath:

I, (state name of enlistee), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. (So help me God).”

Those in the National Guard take similar oaths, adding their obligations to their state or territory.

The common factor is that the core of each oath is the commitment to the US Constitution. Those in the military are pledging their lives. I’ve seen enough inverted rifles, boots, helmets, and dog tags to know that those in uniform really mean it.

That’s what makes the US what it is.