Category Archives: Politics

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?

 

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.

George Floyd – Different Approaches, Different Results

If someone knelt on a dog’s neck for nine minutes in public, they’d most likely be arrested.

Kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until he died was wrong. Period. There should be no argument about that.

Floyd’s death, and the circumstances leading to it upset many people. Admit it, such a reaction is normal and to be expected.

What is surprising is that some people are not upset. Are they oblivious? Do they believe that this action should be accepted? Even with extensive videos of the incident and with the mayor of Minneapolis condemning it and firing the individuals responsible?

It is not rational to expect people to respond by writing a letter to the editor or calling their city officials. Floyd’s murder was a blatant disregard of human life, by an individual who apparently had a long history of abusing his authority–15 complaints in 18 years–and no telling how many unreported incidents of abuse.

The response in many cities has been to send in police wearing bulletproof vests, armed with M-16 rifles, in addition to their usual 9 mm sidearm, Taser, pepper spray, baton, blackjack, etc..

There is a reason that the Posse Comitatus law does not allow the US Military to engage in law enforcement, except for specific, and rare, situations. Unfortunately, city/county/state officials choose to militarize their police forces.

Based on observation of the results, heavily armed police do not seem to result in a peaceful resolution. In fact, so far, it hasn’t resulted in any resolution.

In Norfolk, VA, a peaceful demonstration was planned to block a road for nine minutes–the amount of time that the knee(s) were on Mr Floyd’s neck. They also peacefully assembled outside the Norfolk Police Department building.

Police Chief Larry Boone took a different course of action than his counterparts in other cities–he joined the protesters, holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign. He gets it. He’s employing communication instead of confrontation. Will this result in a peaceful resolution in the days or weeks ahead? No one knows, but there are a wider range of options available to the City of Norfolk than for most of the other cities.

Why did he do this? I don’t know his exact thoughts, but I suspect it was because he saw Mr. Floyd’s death as wrong. Dead wrong. Period.

I Told You So!

Back in my healthcare days, there was a general practice physician who delivered babies, which back then was still quite common. This was long before ultrasound could provide an image of sufficient clarity to determine sex, so the reveal didn’t occur until the baby was born.

Naturally, soon-to-be parents back then were as interested in knowing as much about their child as parents are today. This physician’s solution was to tell the mother during a routine prenatal visit that her baby was a boy. At the same time, he’d write in her chart “girl.”

After the birth, if it was a boy, he’d say, “I told you so.” If it was a girl, he’d show her the entry in the chart.

[If I had a clever segue, it would go here.]

I have been trying to avoid most of the alleged news–and that refers to every single outlet, from ABC to Zee in India because my blood pressure is high enough already, thank you. The news reports are:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic will be around for years if not centuries.
  • We’ll have a vaccination in a few months and COVID-19 will be obliterated.
  • Mail-in ballots suffer from voter fraud.
  • Some states have been using mail-in ballots with no problems; the President and his Press Secretary vote by mail and have done so for years..
  • The economy is great–look at the stock market.
  • The economy is terrible–look at unemployment.

Like that old doctor, I think the only thing to believe is the news media is positioning itself to be able to say, “I told you so.”

It Will Never Be a Movie

If the Coronavirus COVID-19 were a movie treatment, it probably never would get made. Look at the plot elements:

  1. A deadly disease begins in a faraway city known for both selling live exotic animals for food and for having a secret government lab.
  2. The disease is viral. Viruses, unlike bacteria, do not respond to antibiotics. Since a virus is not actually alive, it cannot be killed, only neutralized.
  3. The disease preferentially attacks the poor, minorities, the aged, females, and people with pre-existing medical problems.
  4. Some who are infected by the disease show no symptoms, but are carriers of the disease and can transmit it to others.
  5. Some of those infected exhibit flu-like symptoms, are misdiagnosed. The defining symptom, death, follows soon thereafter.
  6. Some adult patients show no obvious symptoms, except upon examination, it is discovered that their oxygen levels are dangerously low, which can lead to death.
  7. Children, at first were believed to be asymptomatic, later many develop a whole host of symptoms that are completely different from those experienced by adults.
  8. Politicians, faith healers, scammers, etc. seize the opportunity to amass wealth and/or power.
  9. Much of the protective equipment, drugs, and medical supplies needed to handle the disease are produced in the country from which the disease originated. Many US companies had moved manufacturing offshore to save money; there is insufficient manufacturing capacity in the US.
  10. Scientific experts advice is ignored while the Internet and other sources promote a variety of alleged cures, treatments, and religious talismans–none of which seem successful.
  11. There is insufficient capacity to test all suspected cases, so the number of people affected are likely under reported. Some cases are only diagnosed after death, when an autopsy is performed.
  12. State and local governments discourage people from engaging in activities that spread the disease, encourage the use of masks to protect others, and maintaining a six foot buffer between people.
  13. With workers unable to do their jobs, the economy suffers. People are laid off or lose their jobs.
  14. The number of confirmed cases in the US approaches 1.5 million confirmed cases, with nearly 90,000 deaths. These numbers only include patients who were tested or otherwise diagnosed.
  15. Some claim the disease is caused by a new cellular telephone system; others call it a hoax; still others see it as a conspiracy to restrict constitutional rights.
  16. Armed dissidents, encouraged by a variety of sources, protest the social distancing, stay-at-home orders at the state capitals, clustering in large groups, usually without masks.
  17. In the meantime, the country from which the disease arose and several of its allies launch cyberattacks on the US to steal medical secrets relating to healing or preventing the disease–and anything else they come across, once they get inside a computer.
  18. As US cases seem to slow their rate of growth, state and local governments relax social separation. People immediately return to pre-pandemic behaviors and the dissidents declare victory.

The screenplay ends here. The audience is left in limbo, unsure whether the disease is indeed winding down, or preparing for a second wave. Unsure as to the future of the economy.

As I said at the beginning, no studio would ever consider wasting time on a script for this scenario.

I Think So

I love to think–it makes me feel like I might even be smart. Recently, I came across this:

On this past International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I reread a bit of Bertrand Russell. In 1933, dismayed at the Nazification of Germany, the philosopher wrote “The Triumph of Stupidity,” attributing the rise of Adolf Hitler to the organized fervor of stupid and brutal people—two qualities, he noted, that “usually go together.” He went on to make one of his most famous observations, that the “fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”[Link]

That got me thinking, “Why are the intelligent full of doubt?”

The intelligent understand that additional data is likely to become available which will either reinforce their beliefs or challenge them. Further, they challenge apparent facts that are outrageous, such as the growth of the Nazi party and the persecution of Jews, the Roma, homosexuals, and anyone else who hadn’t been exemplary sycophants.

In the 1930’s, the intelligent continued to grow mentally. The stupid were unable to deal with changes in reality.

Make Me Laugh

We’re all getting a bit squirrely being stuck at home–especially if you have kids–trying to telework, and being bombarded by  the continuing banter of the various experts predicting the future. It’s difficult to find humor in the situation, but I’ll try.

Maintaining social distance—-“I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Turning to the groom, he continued, “You may now wave at your wife who is an appropriate six-feet away.”

If restaurants reopen, wait staff will have to wear masks and use disposable menus—–“Who was that masked waiter?”
“I don’t know, but he left this silver tip tray.”

A politician, an elected official, and a cable news personality walked into a bar. The bartender looked at them and asked, “Is this a joke?”
One of them replied, “Nope, just business as usual.”

 

Rules, Golden and Otherwise

Many organized religions have a common rule; even those who are not religious have a similar rule–The Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

So simple, so logical, so easy to understand. Why, then, does it seem like one segment of the population takes it to heart. The other? “I’ve got mine and don’t you touch it!”

HEADLINES!

The RMS Titanic and it's passengers | Just another ...

In newspapers, major event headlines were spread across the front page with large type. Day to day major-ish events had headlines in large–but not-so-large–type placed approximately mid-page to the right margin. Lesser events that either deserved front page coverage, or, on a slow news day were better than nothing, went to the left with (yawn) somewhat large type, but so what?

Notice the above. Major margin-to-margin headline, with sub-headlines for supporting stories below, on the right. The left? “Police Order Dorr’s Arrest.” I know the Titanic, but who the heck is Dorr? I Googled Dorr, but unless that Door was an attorney, I struck out.

So, to recap:
Across the Top=IMPORTANT.
Center to right side=Sort of, kind of important.
Left side=Not so much, but we want you to read it anyways.

However, now, in the marvelous 21st century, online news sites place their major stories on the left.

I guess we can claim that as progress.