Category Archives: Politics

Minimum Wage

I was never cut out to be an economist. I took undergraduate economics in the early 1970s. When I took economics in graduate school in the late 1980s, many economic theories had swung 180 degrees. Up was down and down was up, but that’s not too surprising since they’re all theories, not facts.

One of the theories of economics is that as the economy improves, it helps everybody–“a rising tide raises all boats.” This would be great if true, but to this non-economist, it does not seem to be so. The current discussion of minimum wage is one such example. It’s complex, since people who work for minimum wage include entry level workers, such as high school students who have a part time, after-school job, as well as adults. When I pick something up at a fast food restaurant I usually see a number of adults. Although I can’t say that they are working at minimum wage, I doubt that they are at the median US income of $68,400.00. Median, as you recall, is a number that reflects the point where half of the population is above that number and half below.

Adults at minimum wage may include those without the skills for better employment. However, the pandemic has thrown so many people out of work that those with advanced education or skills may work at a minimum wage job since that is all that’s available.

Below is a chart of non-farm productivity. In the United States, the productivity of nonfarm workers is measured as the output of goods and services per hour worked. Labor productivity is calculated by dividing an index of real output by an index of hours worked of all persons, including employees, proprietors, and unpaid family workers.

United States Nonfarm Labour Productivity

Productivity has obviously increased significantly over the past 10 years, but productivity is measured as a percentage. To find out how much money this reflects, we can look at a different measure. Gross domestic product (GDP) is a monetary measure of the market value of all the final goods and services produced in a specific time period. (The following chart is in billions of dollars.)

Both charts reflect the same period of time and show an increase in both productivity and GDP, yet for the same period, minimum wage has remained at $7.25 per hour.

To this non-economist it appears that the rising tide missed at least one boat.

If Not You, Then Who?

See the source image

There’s a huge difference between identifying a problem and solving it. Sometimes, it’s lack of confidence or fear that keeps people from doing what they know they should. It’s easier to walk away and see it as someone else’s responsibility.

We admire–we need–people who do the right thing when it is seemingly impossible. We call them heroes. That’s why we enjoy hearing about Captain Sullenburger landing the airliner in the Hudson River with no passengers lost. That’s why we cheer for Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins.

On the other hand, those who enrich themselves at the expense of others are called villains. The most despised villains are those who, when confronted with their actions, deny or excuse themselves and tell us it wasn’t their fault.

Today we need heroes, but unfortunately, they are apparently an endangered species. More’s the pity.

I read a news item today, entitled, “Senate Republicans say Trump should be held accountable for riot — but not by them.”

Who do they think should hold people accountable?

COVID-19 Sucks

No, I don’t normally have a beard or wear hospital gowns.

It would have been nice if the pandemic deniers were right, as it would have saved me a lot of pain and frustration. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is very, very real. I got it and I still haven’t recovered. There is no guarantee that I will ever be back to normal.

Since March 2020, I have teleworked and almost never left the house except for medical appointments. I did everything I could to avoid getting sick–handwashing, masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer, etc. Unfortunately, the virus must have hitched a ride on a a grocery delivery or something, after which it kicked me to the curb.

On Friday, December 18, I began to experience a cough, sore throat, chills, and an overall mental fog, which was enough to concern me but not enough to convince me that I had COVID-19. I certainly didn’t think it was bad enough to go to the hospital, so I waited over the weekend and on Monday the 21st, I called my doctor. I had a video appointment that same day, during which she made a clinical diagnosis of COVID. I was sent for a nasal swab COVID test, which came back positive, indicating that I was infected with the virus. The doctor had already prescribed steroids, which seemed to help a bit.

I isolated from the rest of the family to the best of my ability, primarily staying in my home office, in which I set up an old-fashioned cot. I slept a lot, coughed a lot and just felt terrible. Christmas was a bust and after Christmas, things did not get better. I didn’t exhibit a significant fever, but my oxygen saturation levels fell well below normal. My wife urged me to go to the hospital, but I had seen all the reports about hospitals being overwhelmed and wasn’t convinced that that was the best choice. I was worried they were full and couldn’t accommodate me.

Finally, on the afternoon of December 30, my wife put her foot down. Since everyone in the family had at least minor symptoms, she called 911 and I was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The hospital was as busy as I feared, so I spent about 18 hours in the Emergency Department before they had a bed available for me on the floor. If I remember correctly, they had converted three hospital wings to COVID wards.

My continuing mental fogginess may interfere with my ability to report an accurate chain of events, so I apologize. I do remember being on oxygen for most of my hospital stay. I remember, receiving plasma with antibodies, although that memory is kind of jumbled. I know they gave me a five-day course of Remdesivir, as well as steroids, etc.

The absolute worst was early in my stay when I was not able to breathe. The respiratory therapists were pumping as much oxygen into me as they could, but I still couldn’t breathe. One side of my brain said to keep the oxygen mask on, while the other was trying to rip the mask off so I could catch my breath. This was scarier than anything else I’ve ever encountered.

They transferred me to ICU where they monitored my vital signs and continued the Remdesivir, steroids, and whatever else. Even while receiving oxygen around the clock, my oxygen saturation levels were below normal. Lab results indicated that blood clots were forming in at least one leg, so anticoagulants were added to the medical potpourri. A Doppler ultrasound demonstrated no clots; they followed this up with a CT scan of the lungs–COVID creates a “broken glass” appearance in the lungs. I was like Harry Potter under the Sorting Hat–“Not broken glass! Not broken glass!”

As you may have heard from others, nights are the worst. Mine have been filled with nightmares and flashbacks to my time in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course, sleeping on a cot such as I used while deployed probably didn’t help. Even now, I still wake up every hour, so sleep is anything but restful. In the hospital I could pretend it was due to the staff taking vital signs, drawing blood, etc., but it’s just part of the syndrome.

My wife set up the master bedroom for me after I got out of the hospital so I had a place to sleep, a bathroom, and a door to separate me from everybody else. It works better than the office, but I still spend the majority of my time sleeping. Sleep, as they say, is the great healer.

That pretty much describes my experience. Please take this disease seriously and take every precaution.

Background Check

Mo Brooks et al. that are talking to each other: Representative Mo Brooks is not the first lawmaker to try to use the tallying process to challenge the results of a bitter election loss.
Huey Long statue, center, with Congressman Mo Brooks.

Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt wrote in the New York Times about Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama. Without any evidence and following the president’s lead, he claims that election results in five states were illegitimate and proposes challenging the results.

I’ll leave the legal issues to others, but I found it hilarious that the photo-op was staged so that it prominently featured Louisiana politician Huey P. Long. Long was hardly the image of an honest politician. He was, to put it nicely, a flim-flam man, although he did so in such a way that Louisiana benefited and everyone was entertained by his performance.

In the definitive biography Huey Long by T. Harry Williams, Chapter 1 begins:

The story seems to good to be true–but people who should know swear it is true. The first time that Huey P. Long campaigned in rural, Latin, Catholic south Louisiana, the local boss who had him in charge said at the beginning of the tour: “Huey, you ought to remember one thing in your speeches today. You’re from North Louisiana, but now you’re in South Louisiana. And we got a lot of Catholic voters down here.” “I know,” Huey answered. And throughout the day in every small town Long would begin by saying: “When I was a boy, I would get up at six o’clock in the morning on Sunday, and I would hitch our old horse up to the buggy and I would take my Catholic grandparents to mass. I would bring them home, and at ten o’clock I would hitch the old horse up again and I would take my Baptist grandparents to church.” The effect of the anecdote on the audience was obvious, and on the way back to Baton Rouge that night the local leader said admiringly: “Why, Huey, you’ve been holding out on us. I didn’t know you had any Catholic grandparents.” “Don’t be a damn fool,” replied Huey. “We didn’t even have a horse.”

Explain the Mask Thing to Me

As of today, 15,805,055 Americans have been infected with the coronavirus and 296,481 have died.

I choose to wear a mask, wash my hands, avoid going out and when I do, I maintain social distance. Based on the clinical trials and the upcoming FDA approval, I will get vaccinated.

Other people have different responses. I could list them with the most common counterargument to each, but that would be pointless. Bottom Line–none of us likes someone else telling us what to do.

What I don’t understand is how or why masks are seen as a political statement–whether you’re for them or against them. What does any politician or political party gain if people do or don’t choose to wear masks?

Separated at Birth

Sometimes when I watch a movie, I wonder what other roles a particular actor has performed. On rare occasions, a character may go on to other roles–think Leroy Jethro Gibbs on JAG and its spinoff NCIS (The producers must have had a thing for initials).

One such recurrent character is Reeter Skeeter, the reporter from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The character was particularly obnoxious, which is saying something given that the series included Lord Voldemort, Severus Snape, and Delores Umbridge.

According to the Harry Potter Wiki, “Rita Skeeter (b. 1951) was a British witch and journalist who specialised in writing poison-pen stories. These stories tended to be based on false information and misreported interviews while she worked for the Daily Prophet, as well authoring a few tell-all biographies. Skeeter preferred writing for the sake of publicity and wrote what she thought people would “like to read” rather than what they “ought to read” and which was the truth.”

Miranda Richardson, who played Rita Skeeter, has done a number of roles since Rita, both as an actor and as a voice actor for animated features. However, I was totally surprised to find that a Rita Skeeter impersonator has successfully performed in what might be called a “short.” In an apparent effort to be true to the Skeeter persona, the new Rita Skeeter’s stories also tend to be based on false information.

https://images.ctfassets.net/bxd3o8b291gf/60IUoEiki4U2SkGK0AAOek/4a21ae9245c1b333512e2a02d274c638/RitaSkeeter_WB_F4_RitaSkeeterMidshot_Promo_080615_Port.jpg

Although she dresses less flashy, is coiffed differently, and lacks the magic quill, the similarities seem to outweigh the differences.

Giuliani's witness draws audible laughter during testimony ...

According to Huffpost, “Mellissa Carone, aka Mellissa Wright, [the NEW Rita Skeeter*] was until recently on probation after reaching a plea deal in a case in which she made false allegations,” which makes it sound like a bad thing. Rita would be proud.

I hope Rita is not offended by this comparison.

* Added

Frustration.com

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been playing with computers since 1969. In those 50+ years, the technology grew fast. Given that I have not focused totally on computers, my understanding of them is less today than it was some years ago.

These days, I’m less concerned about the hardware and software, but totally befuddled by the content.

17 Best images about Harry potter characters on Pinterest ...

Social media is totally out of control. News sites reports are almost as bad, even if (especially if?) they are accurately reporting what’s going on. There are claims and counterclaims, or are they hoaxes and counterhoaxes? In any cases, it’s painful.

I recently saw a news video with Rudy Giuliani. I swear that he was sitting next to Rita Skeeter from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

So I find myself trying to find something online that doesn’t make me twitch. So far, especially since I don’t follow sports, the only safe sites I’ve found are:

  • The National Weather Service
  • Wunderground (also weather)
  • Ebay
  • Amazon

I’m sure many other people who are staying home to avoid the pandemic are similarly affected. In fact, many people are probably Christmas shopping online.

Some of the people who are prominently featured in the current brouhaha are reported to dislike Amazon. I wonder if they realize how much Amazon is benefiting from the situation.

Supreme Court 5-4 Ruling

I’ve been pondering the recent ruling by the US Supreme Court siding with religious groups’ desire to bypass the COVID-19 restrictions and allow people to attend church rather than to maintain social distancing.

I’m a church goer, although for some time now I’ve been attending Mass via a video since I’m at high risk for COVID infection. Therefore, in fairness, I admit to somewhat of a bias. Not a significant one, but a bias nevertheless. Therefore, accept these as my personal opinions.

First, from a constitutional standpoint, I look to the preamble:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I personally believe that a rampant pandemic is a real and present danger to domestic Tranquility and the general Welfare. Infecting 100,000 people and killing 1,000 people every day does not seem to help secure our Posterity. Finally, a common defence is necessary for any danger, such as a pandemic, not merely military threats. I believe the founding fathers wrote what they meant.

Incidentally, the oft-spoken of separation of church and state is somewhat different than many believe. The First Amendment to the US Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This places a restriction on Congress. Given that America fought for independence from Great Britain, which had the Church of England as its official religion, the founders did not want the same situation here. In this situation, I don’t see Congress as having had any involvement.

From a religious standpoint, I have at least three problems:

  1. Jesus was a healer. His disciples became healers. During the Antonine Plague of 165-180 AD, early Christians, who cared for their ill, had a higher survival rate than non-Christians who did not.
  2. Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were amazed at Him.” (Mark 12:17)
  3. Gathering for prayer is important, but there are other ways to pray. Jesus taught, “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6: 6)

I do not claim to be an expert on either Scripture or the law, but I do know how to think, and these are my thoughts.

I Feel Like a Number

Numbers - Dr. Odd

I read a couple of things recently that made me feel like a number. The shorter of the two was “The Master’s Tools” by Arielle Pardes, which appeared in Wired 28.18. (I’ve been reading Wired for years and just realized that they don’t use months to mark their issues.) The other is the book Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America by Christopher Wylie.

Both detail how the seemingly innocent trail of Internet data we leave behind can be used by politicians to aim targeted messages at the most receptive audiences.

In a nutshell, the political message to a white, Catholic gunowner who lives on a farm is most effective if it is crafted differently from the one for a black professional who lives in a city. Facebook is one of the prime sources for the data that allows politicians–and other businesses–to slice and dice people and tell them what they want to hear.

Even if the message is not blatantly misleading, there’s something wrong with the inability to tell every voter the same thing.

I avoid Facebook and many other social media platforms because I do not want all kinds of information collected about me and sold to people who want to sell me something. I don’t like being a target.

Back in 1978, Bob Seger wrote the song, “I Feel Like a Number.” I thought I understood it then. I really understand it now. [Link to lyrics and audio]

Thanks for the warning, Bob.

Strict Interpretation of the US Constitution

There’s been a lot of talk, lately, as to whether the law, particularly the US Constitution should be interpreted to reflect exactly what was written or whether the law adapts with the times. I am an analyst, so I am cursed with need to make sense—to the best of my ability—of issues of importance that are presented to the masses. I do not claim superior intelligence nor do I do believe I have extraordinary understanding of legal subtleties or political intrigues. I do however view myself as a responsible American voter trying to prepare for the time I will spend in the voting booth. I ask questions when I do not know the answers. However, sometimes the best way to find the answers is to ask the right questions. In fact, the questions are often more important than the answers.

Just for the record, I have sworn an oath to protect and defend the US Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic. I will continue to honor that oath for as long as I live. I take the US Constitution seriously, just as it deserves.

There is a mad dash to nominate and approve a new Supreme Court Associate Justice in the weeks before the next presidential election. The primary goal is stated as to appoint an associate justice who will interpret the constitution so as to reflect the exact intention of the those who wrote and signed the original US Constitution in 1787. The founding fathers were responsible for creating the Great American Experiment, which is both wonderful and yet remains an experiment.

A story, which is generally accepted as true tells us: Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone shouted out, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” To which Franklin supposedly responded, with a rejoinder at once witty and ominous: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

I believe we may be facing just that question.

The founding fathers planted the seed; for the past 230 years, those of us who love America have tried to nurture that seedling and the plant as it has grown. In my opinion, some parts of the republic have done well, while others need more tending, including some weeding and pruning, even today.

The thoughts and ideals of the founding fathers were based on their times and their norms, which is why many people today believe that the Constitution should be interpreted based on today’s norms. This is not necessarily a new idea. In fact, Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and the third US President wrote to James Madison, the fourth US President and who is considered the Father of the Constitution.

Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right (Emphasis added). It may be said, that the succeeding generation exercising, in fact, the power of repeal, this leaves them as free as if the constitution or law had been expressly limited to nineteen years only. In the first place, this objection admits the right, in proposing an equivalent. But the power of repeal is not an equivalent. It might be, indeed, if every form of government were so perfectly contrived, that the will of the majority could always be obtained, fairly and without impediment. But this is true of no form. The people cannot assemble themselves; their representation is unequal and vicious. Various checks are opposed to every legislative proposition. Factions get possession of the public councils, bribery corrupts them, personal interests lead them astray from the general interests of their constituents; and other impediments arise, so as to prove to every practical man, that a law of limited duration is much more manageable than one which needs a repeal.”

Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:459, Papers 15:396

Inasmuch as Jefferson’s suggestion was never implemented, we have kept the US Constitution, more or less as written. It’s true that there have been 27 amendments, although the 18th amendment (Liquor Abolished) was negated by the 21st Amendment (Amendment 18 Repealed).  Therefore, there have actually been 25 changes to the US Constitution since 1787.

The first 10 amendments, commonly referred to as the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791, only four years after the main body of the Constitution, and given that they were primarily the work of James Madison, I propose that it is fair to include and accept that they, too, accurately reflect the will of the founding Fathers.

Before we consider some specific passages of the Constitution, let’s first mentally adjust our perspective to social norms of the Founding Fathers in the mid eighteenth century:

  • Only gentlemen could exert significant power. A gentleman was first and foremost a landowner. In many cases the land that they held had been granted by the British Crown before the War of Independence.
  • A gentleman was invariably white.
  • Every signatory of the US Constitution was a male.
  • Every signature on the Declaration of Independence also belonged to a man.
    • The closest was Mary Katharine Goddard, who was Baltimore’s Postmaster and an important journalist. She was charged with publishing the Declaration, so at the bottom of the broadside, issued in January 1777, the following appeared, “Baltimore, in Maryland: Printed by Mary Katharine Goddard.”
  • Suffice to say, women could not vote. I find no record of female judges until Esther Hobart Morris served as a Justice of the Peace in 1870.
  • At the time of the Founding Fathers, women were considered chattel (property).

Given these conditions and how they conflict with our norms and mores today (Thank, God) I have a difficult time accepting that strict interpretation is the best approach for the Twenty-first century.

The primary responsibility of the Supreme Court is to review legal decisions to ensure that they agree with the US Constitution. A strict constructionist sees the gold standard as the writings of the Founding Fathers. The Constitution, for example does not address issues concerning communication beyond the printed page. The telegraph, radio, television, internet, and smartphones are outside the instructions left by the Founding Fathers. While the Founding Fathers were well familiar with issues of property and the navigation of the seas, they had no concept of vessels that operate below the seas, in the air above the land, most assuredly of people and equipment that exist and operate above the Earth, on the Moon or on other planets.

Given that, let’s examine some original sections of the US Constitution. The following sections of the original Constitution may have been amended, but the original statement, and therefore strict interpretation best reflects the Founding Fathers’ intention.

  • Section 2, third paragraph: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”
    • Women counted in the census, although they could not vote.
    • Native Americans were excluded from both being counted and voting.
    • “Other Persons”—in other words slaves—counted as 3/5th of a person, giving states with slaveowners more clout than other states. The more slaves in a particular state, the more representatives that state would have. At the time of the Revolution, the population of the United States is believed to be somewhere between 2.5 million and 4 million. There were about 450,000 enslaved “other persons,” although I cannot determine how they were enumerated in the total.
  • Further down in Section 2, third paragraph, “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative.”
    • The 450,000 “other persons” is believed to include an estimated 400,000 slaves brought from Africa to the Colonies plus another 50,000 who had been born in the Colonies.
      • Americans in all 50 states owned slaves at that time.
      • The “breeding stock” aspect of slavery was a profitable business
    • The effect of the headcount of both freemen and the 3/5th count of slaves on representation was not trivial. In 1790, New York had 6 representatives, Pennsylvania had 8, while Virginia had 10. The number of slaves tipped the balance in Virginia’s favor.
    • Based on the original verbiage of the US Constitution—“The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each Shall have at least one Representative.” The forefathers were looking at a small number of people in a huge landmass, but today, it’s different. Based on strict interpretation, today, we would be entitled to 11,013 members of the House of Representatives.
  • Section 8, paragraph 7 points out that the Congress shall have the Power “To establish Post Offices and Post Roads.” A strict interpretation expected Congress to establish, operate, and maintain a Post Office. Back then, there were not necessarily roads in existence to provide postal communication. The Post Office needed to build and maintain those roads. Nowhere does it say that Congress can abdicate their postal responsibilities onto a pseudo-governmentally-owned-corporation or hand it over to a political sponsor to disenfranchise voters.
  • Section 8, paragraph 12 states that Congress has the authority “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a Term longer than two Years.” The Founding Fathers did not want a standing Army because of the mischief that standing armies in Europe had caused.
  • “To provide and maintain a Navy.” The United States was and is a maritime country. In the time of the Founding Fathers, we were separated from European powers by the ocean, yet we needed to free travel through the ocean in order to maintain trade and commerce.
  • “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel invasions
    “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” During the Civil War, for example, the armies of both the North and the South primarily consisted of state militias.
  • Besides slavery being legally recognized, the Constitution in Article IV, Section 2, runaway slaves were to be returned to their owners. This was superseded by the 13th Amendment, which was passed in 1865—well after the Founding Fathers had passed into history.
  • Since the Bill of Rights was written by the Founding Fathers and reflects their views, the 9th and10th Amendments are especially important:
    • Amendment 9 – Construction of the Constitution: The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
    • Amendment 10 – Powers of the States and the People: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

The Federal Government has expanded its authority into areas and in ways that would have shocked the Constitution’s signatories. This has resulted in rights of the individual and the state being impacted–sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

To interpret the Constitution as the Founding Fathers intended is not possible. In college, when a question on an exam asked what an author meant by a particular passage, I would answer in two parts:

  1. No one knows except the original author.
  2. Having established that, the interpretation that you taught is—and I’d regurgitate whatever the textbook or lecture opined.

If, on the other hand, we consider the Constitution to be a more current document, we would have to include the following conditions added by those who were NOT the Founding Fathers. These are not all-inclusive, but do reflect the most significant changes after the Founding Fathers passed on. A strict constructionist should, by rights, ignore every one of these since they are not from the Founding Fathers.

  • The abolition of slavery
  • All persons born in America or born anywhere to at least one American parent are citizens.
  • Voting cannot be denied or abridged on the basis of sex, race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
  • Congress can lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived.
  • Attempts to legislate morality, such as Prohibition, have not succeeded.

I recommend that we admit that we’re no longer an 18th century agrarian society and act accordingly.

Tyler’s Grandson Dies

News sources have reported that John Tyler’s grandson died on September 26, 2020 [Link to CNN]. I mean no disrespect to Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr., the grandson, but the media did leave out a few significantly interesting details. Many of us see (and dread) history as boring collection of names and dates, dry as toast, and impossible to make interesting. Just as the devil is in the details, so too are the exciting–and sometimes lurid–details of history.

John Tyler was not elected president, but was vice president to William Henry Harrison. You may remember their famous campaign slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” Harrison’s victory against Tecumseh at Tippecanoe earned him the nickname.* When sworn in as president, Harrison only served 31 days before dying; the cause of death was from a disease, although exactly which disease is still debated.

This was the first time a president had died while in office, so there was little guidance as to how to handle it. Harrison’s cabinet wanted Tyler to be referred to as “Acting President,” but before they could make that official, Tyler announced that he was president. Period. However, he was often referred to as “His Accidency,” but most likely behind his back.

After his term expired, Tyler initially worked as a representative of Virginia on a commission to avoid a civil war. He eventually saw it as insurmountable. In 1861, Tyler voted for the secession of the slave-holding states and volunteered for appointment to the Congress of the Confederacy. Later, when elections were held, he was elected to its House of Representatives, but died before its first session.

Tyler was the only president to be buried under a flag other than the United States Flag. He was also the only president to be considered a traitor and an enemy of the state.

I told you history was interesting.

*It always strikes me as odd that so many American “heroes” main accomplishment were push Native Americans from their own land. Put another way, they coveted their neighbors’ land and commited murder to obtain it.

Survival of the Republic

Is progress really beneficial? I’ve been contemplating that–seriously–and I’m not sure.

George Washington was unanimously elected by the Electoral College. The initial idea was to avoid political parties. The candidate with the most votes became president, and the second place became Vice President. Therefore, George Washington became President and John Adams the Vice President.

After Washington served two terms, John Adams was elected the president, with Thomas Jefferson in second place and therefore the Vice President. The next election, Jefferson opposed Adams, won, and became president. Voila, the effort to avoid political parties died.

John Adams, who was one of the driving forces for independency, as it was called at the time, was described by others as “obnoxious and disliked.” His personality was matched by a short, rotund body, with few teeth. He might have been brilliant, but was not, in any way, attractive.

If Adams made a harsh comment, in those days, it would have merited little notice. Newspapers of the time were small and printed weekly or less. President Adams pronouncements would have been little noticed outside of Washington, DC.

Today, every comment, statement, quote, burp, or fart is immediately broadcast across the world with video of the incident, commentary, point and counterpoint within minutes.

Washington might survive today’s news cycle. Adams and his successor, Thomas Jefferson, probably wouldn’t.

Think about that. Think about the republic without Adams and Jefferson because of 24/7 cable news. I’m not saying it’s better or worse–I’m just asking you to think about it.

Are we better off today?

Is the Electoral College Leftover from Slavery?

I read a lot. I read all kinds of material, because it makes me think. I prefer not to rely on “echo chambers” that only reflect the ideas I already have.

I’d always been taught that the purpose was to ensure that smaller states were not drowned out by the larger states. It’s a clumsy system that has resulted in a number of elections in which the winner did not receive the most votes. Nevertheless, I’ve tried to accept that the electoral college was an effort to ensure fairness.

Now however, I’ve read a few things that challenge that belief.

Electoral votes for each state are based on the states total representation in Congress–senators and representatives. Each state gets two senators, but the number of representatives is based on population. However, for roughly the first century of the country, slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person.

Slaves could not vote, of course, but they counted toward representatives and therefore to the number of electors. In essence, slave states ended up with a disproportionate amount of influence in choosing presidents.

Was this coincidental?

Is anything in politics coincidental?

Absentee vs Mail-In Voting

I have heard people postulate that in the upcoming election, foreign countries will flood America with “millions of phony ballots.”

When I vote in person, the poll workers compare my name and address with the voter registration printout. If I didn’t register, I don’t get to vote. If my information isn’t an exact match, I don’t get to vote. It doesn’t matter how many pieces of identification I present. If all the pieces don’t match, I don’t get to vote.

When I was deployed, I voted by absentee ballot, which was mailed from a foreign country. The return address was a vague APO AE  military post office that gave no hint as to the country from which I mailed it. There wasn’t even a stamp with a postmark on it because it was franked–my signature and unit, which gave very little actual information, took the place of a stamp.

When my absentee ballot arrived, the registrar’s office compared my information to what was on their records to make sure it matched the voters’ rolls. Only then was my vote counted.

On the other hand, if I vote by mail, there is an outer envelope for mailing, an inner envelope, and the ballot. The outer envelope indicates that my ballot came from the street, house number, city, and state where I live. The postmark gives some validation to that information. The inner envelope contains a bar code, a control number, my signature, and other identifying data. If–and only if–everything checks out, is the ballot removed from the envelope and counted.

However, if foreign governments DID flood the US with “millions of phony ballots,” they couldn’t use foreign postage stamps. So, if there were 10 million phony ballots in envelopes with US postage stamps at 55 cents each, that would be an additional $5.5 million in revenues for the United States Postal Service, all without making any difference in the US election.

Heroes Wear Masks

In the midst of the COVID-19, where are our inspirational influencers?

  • Batman wears a mask.
  • Black Panther wears a mask.
  • Spiderman wears a mask.
  • The Green Lantern wears a mask.
  • Ironman wears a mask.
  • Captain America wears a mask.
  • The Lone Ranger wears a mask.
  • Medical and Surgical teams wear masks.
  • Dr. Fauci wears a mask.

On the other hand, who are the trend setters in the other direction?

  • The Joker does not wear a mask.
  • Jabba the Hutt does not wear a mask.
  • Lex Luthor does not wear a mask.
  • Lord Voldemort does not wear a mask.
  • Captain Hook does not wear a mask.
  • Snidely Whiplash does not wear a mask.
  • Neither Boris nor Natasha wear a mask.
  • [Fill in your anti-mask politician here]

 

 

The New Normal

By limiting my exposure to the news, I’m beginning to feel much better.

When I see something, instead of letting it upset me, I merely ask myself, “Is this fundamentally different than it was yesterday/last week/last month?” Most often, the answer is, “No.”

I guess I’m just adapting to the new normal.

Becoming a Luddite

I have always appreciated technology. I had one of the very first home computers (RCA Cosmac 1802 processor with 256 BYTES–yes, bytes–of memory and a hexadecimal keypad). At last count, I have five computers running in the house. That does not count smartphones, iPads, Kindles, or any devices belonging to other family members.

Every time I turn on the television, the radio, or check online news I get frustrated. It doesn’t matter your political views or whether you like masks or not. It doesn’t matter as to your religious views or lack thereof. The world has raised stupidity to an art form.

If I touch a hot stove, I immediately remove my hand and avoid the heated element. If I taste something nasty, I spit it out and don’t consume any more. If the news disgusts me . . . .

So, don’t expect me to be writing a lot. If I do, it will be written using a real fountain pen in my renowned, mostly illegible, chicken scratch.

Trump Property Deals

In August 2019, it was widely reported that Donald Trump had floated the idea of buying Greenland. Greenland is a self-governing overseas administrative division of The Kingdom of Denmark. The Danish Prime Minister called the idea “absurd.”

In 2017, after Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, Donald Trump floated the idea of selling it, according to former acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke. Puerto Rico is a US territory whose people are US citizens.

There is NO truth to rumors that Trump is currently attempting to sell California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and other Democratic leaning states.

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?

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?