The Inequity of the Senate

There is much concern expressed about the Electoral College and the inequity versus the popular vote in selecting the president and vice president. This seems a minor issue compared to the fact that the most obvious failure of the election process to accurately reflect the “will of the voters” is the Senate. The United States Senate does not represent the voters; it represents the states. The number of Senators is always two, regardless of the voting population in a state. Wyoming with a little more than half a million citizens has two Senators, the same number as California with almost forty million. The twenty least populous states have a total population that is less than the population of California, 37,253,956 people as of the 2010 census, and therefore together have those twenty states have 40 Senators compared to only 2 for the same population in California. The 601,723 citizens living in Washington D. C. have no Senator at all. The inequity here is obvious.

Posted in History, Politics, senate | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Story of Joe

Born: 1815?
Died: unknown

Joe was an African slave, purchased by Coronel William Travis, commander of the Texans at the Battle at the Alamo during the Texas War of Independence. I could find no verifiable record of Joe before this although there are accounts of possible family and previous positions of servitude. He was probably brought to Texas from one of the Southern slave states. Texas was part of Mexico at the time, and slavery was illegal in Mexico, so Joe was technically a free man. There is no record of a last name, although sometimes he is referred to as Joe Travis, as was the custom at the time. In some accounts, he is said to have fought the Mexicans during the battle alongside the other Texans, but that is unclear. When the Mexicans overran the mission turned fortress, he hid himself in the barracks. When he heard a Mexican officer speaking English he came out of hiding. He was shot at by one of the Mexican soldiers, and stab superficially by another’s bayonet. The officer intervened however and took him to General Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna, the Mexican commander and the Mexican president, more commonly referred to as Santa Anna. Joe was bilingual, so he could talk to the General directly. Santa Anna conversed with him and then “freed” him and released him in keeping with Mexican law because he had been a slave. He may also have assisted in identifying some of the bodies.
Texas went on to win its independence at the battle of San Jacinto and as a result, Joe became a slave again. A year later he escaped and left Texas possibly going to Alabama or to Mexico, I have seen both suggested. Mexico may have made more sense since he spoke Spanish. He also had a $50 bounty offered for his return and slavery was illegal in Mexico but legal in Alabama. Texas became a state, the Civil War was fought, slavery was abolished and somehow Joe returned and was reported to be living near Austin, Texas in the 1870s.
There are further details offered in some accounts, but little beyond what I present here is verifiable. This account comes from Mike Cox. (JOE The man who witnessed Travis’ death at the Alamo. “Texas Tales” April 21, 2004 Syndicated Column).
I have always found history to be fascinating, even the uncomfortable parts of it. We can study and learn, or ignore or rewrite and wait for it to repeat itself. That no one recorded the recollections of Joe, possibly the only available Texan to survive one of the most famous battles in history, particularly in Texas history, is an unforgivable omission; probably the result of the color of Joe’s skin. That he was not honored during his lifetime is equally appalling.

Posted in Black History, History, military, Texas | 2 Comments

Some Thoughts On the Pardoning of Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony recently received a presidential pardon. More accurately: she was offered a pardon. A pardon need not be accepted however. The Supreme Court was asked to rule on this in 1833: United States vs. Wilson. George Wilson was convicted of robbing the US Mail and sentenced to death. President Andrew Jackson pardoned Wilson, but he refused the pardon since it would require that he acknowledge his guilt, and the Supreme Court ruled that he could refuse the pardon. I could not find any information as to whether he was ultimately put to death. The court has also ruled that the pardon could not affect civil cases or state and local cases either. Susan B. Anthony technically violated a state law prohibiting woman from voting, not yet a federal or Constitutional statute. She was tried in a Federal Court for breaking a state law. I think it is clear that she did not agree that she had committed a crime by attempting to vote and therefore would not accept this offered pardon. She never paid the hundred dollar fine the court demanded of her.

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When Our Past Becomes Our Future

In 2011 the most talked about book was titled Fifty Shades of Grey. It was critically acclaimed and became adapted to the screen being a hit there as well. It was, in my opinion, the story a young woman abused by a powerful and wealthy man. Many of my friends, some of whom are woman, argued that it was at last dealing with sex honestly. Role acting was natural. She knew how to please her man. Now, almost ten years later, we read almost daily about woman who have been treated as Anesthesia was treated by men of wealth and power. It is called rape and abuse now, because that is what it is, and that is what it was.
About the same time the hit on television was a show titled The Big Bang Theory. It centered on intelligent, scientifically accomplished people, who were … well nerds. The characters, particularly Sheldon, reminded me of Stepin Fetchit, the famous black actor in the 1930s who played the stereotype wide eyed, mouth open African American. Big bang taught us to laugh at scientists just as Stepin let us laugh at African Americans. Sheldon may be solving string theory, but he is portrayed as a buffoon that we should laugh at. Now we face a pandemic and are being told daily that the scientists, like Sheldon or Dr. Anthony Fauci, are “error prone” alarmist, and politicians know the real facts and answers. We should distrust the nerds; laugh at them.
I will become seriously concerned when Game of Thrones starts being acted out on our political stage; … or maybe it already is.

Posted in History, medicine, philosophy, physics, Politics | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Some thoughts On the Death of Lady Red Couture

A few days ago Lady Red Couture died. They were talented and enjoyable to hear. Their passing has given me reason to wonder about how far we have come … and in what direction we have traveled.
Shakespeare was talented too, but few realize how truly “modern” he was. During his life, the theater was dominated by religion, Catholicism disappearing and Anglicanism, The Church of England, emerging. Both forbad woman from performing on stage. That’s right, the “actor” who took the starring role of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, was male, probably young, in drag.
Billy Shakespeare was one who had a sense of irony, however. Woman of his time were denied access to other professions, among them the law. This in spite of the fact that Elizabeth I was queen and the era would be names for her: Elizabethan England. In Billy’s plays there are woman who dress as men to enter situations otherwise denied to them. Portia is truly the “hero” of The Merchant of Venice, delivering its best lines “The quality of mercy is not strained … “, and then saving the hapless men from having to surrender a pound of their flesh. Viola in Twelfth Night performs similarly and does as well. So we have men in drag playing women who then dress as men to outdo the men dressed as men. Mr. Shakespeare must be still laughing at this twist of plot.

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The Confederate Battle Flag

The use of the Confederate Battle Flag is currently the subject of controversy. A brief note on this subject may be helpful. The Confederate States had several flags, most of which are retired. The Bonney Blue Flag, a solid blue flag with a single star was popular and even had a song written about it (The Bonny Blue Flag). The Stars and Bars is the battle flag of the Confederate States of America.
The origin of the design was made to fulfill the needs in battle: identifying the friends and enemies. In The first Battle of Bull Run, Confederate troops fought under a flag with three strips: red, white, red with a blue field in the upper inner corner with a circle of white stars, similar to the original flag of the United States which was carried into battle by Washington’s Continental Army. There was some confusion during the battle about identifying troops as a result since the flags were similar. The uniforms were not of much help in this regard either.
Much is made of the Blue and Grey uniforms, but this is not an accurate representation of the troops. Union forces were generally clad in blue. But the uniforms were not replaced often and so became dirty blue or faded. In addition, a group of French Zouaves had toured the United States before the war with their blue jackets and baggy red pants and many union regiments were dressed to match. If you must go to war, be fashionably dressed at least.
Confederate troops did wear grey, but were always short of material and so often picked up blue uniforms from raided arsenals or from the battle field. In the western theater they often wore homespun brown uniforms termed butternut. Even with combat ranges of a few hundred yards it was difficult to identify which side the troops were on by their uniform.
The Confederates therefore finally chose a flag that would not be confused with the United States flag, the Stars and Strips. Their flag had the same colors, red, white, and blue; but rearranged. There were several variations of the flag with three strips and a blue field in the corner with white stars arranged in a circle. The number of stars varied. This flag was similar to the “stars and stripes”, so it was not used in battle field situations later in the war where the identifying of troops was critical. The Stars and Bars design was preferred and became the battle flag for both the army and navy.
The arrangement of the stars was the only further refinement. A flag with seven stars for the first seven states was not tried on the battle flag but was used for other flags. The second wave of succession, after Lincoln’s inauguration, brought the total Confederate states to eleven. The battle flag, however, has thirteen stars.
There are a few explanations for the thirteen stars. The Confederate States of America fancied themselves to be true to the original nation, established by the article of Confederation, hence their name: Confederate States of America. That nation had thirteen states. This seems rather weak to me, but recall that many other Confederate flags were modeled after the Continental flag.
Another explanation offered is the flag could not be symmetrical with eleven stars. The bars would have had three stars on one side and two on the other. A totally different design would have been necessary.
The standard explanation is that two states did, or attempted to, secede and join the Confederacy; Missouri and Kentucky. This allowed for a symmetric flag with one star in the middle, with three stars radiating out along the four bars for a total of thirteen. This is the standard accepted explanation but I wonder if the first two explanations mentioned did not influence the number of stars included as well.
So where are the other Confederate flags? Following their defeat, the former Confederate states began an “adjustment” of the Civil War; a rewriting of their history. Secession and the war were no longer about African slavery, but were a “Lost Cause”. It became the story of heroic people fighting a noble war to preserve their culture against the tyranny of an oppressive government. A struggle fought for the same cause as had the War of Independence. Obviously the new image could not be represented by a flag that so closely resembled the flag of the tyrannical government of the United States. The equally obvious choice for that image was the battle flag carried into battle by those heroic and noble … well, you get the picture.
The history of the Confederacy should be studied as should the history of their battle flag, but it should not be given a place of honor in “the land of the free”.

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The Right to Vote

One hundred years ago on August 18, 1920, Amendment XIX was ratified and I quote it here:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

It was and is a momentous accomplishment testifying to what persistence can achieve. It was not uniformly celebrated at the time, but the doubling of the voting population was of great and genuine benefit just as adding to the available talent in our workforce has advanced and will continue to advance our nation.

Thomas Marshall was vice president when the amendment was ratified and expressed reservations about it, but did acknowledge the wisdom of the majority over the few on the issue. I quote here from his autobiography:

Well, it’s all over. The amendment has been adopted as a part of the organic law of the land, and woman has now her rights. It is to be hoped that she will realize that having obtained this right there is a duty superimposed upon it, the duty to maintain not only the old-fashioned government in America but the great ideals upon which that government was founded: The duty to make a home, from out whose portals there will pass strong and courageous men and brave women, who will dare to stand for the right regardless of mere personal advantage. It is to be hoped that she will take a greater interest in informing herself about public questions than the average man has done; but, above all, it is to be hoped that this amendment will remain a question of suffrage and not a question of sex; that the ballot will sweeten rather than sour the mothers of our land,

Recollections, a Hoosier Salad. by Thomas Marshall, p 237

Yes, a bit chauvinistic, I grant, but still not entirely without merit or sound advice,

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This Is the Way the Mall Will Die

There is a problem with the mass shootings that goes beyond the human tragedy of destroyed lives and families. Inherent in these events is the loss of any feeling of security. Our government is refusing to take any action that would offer to protect its citizen while the public venues, stores, malls, churches, concerts and so on, are increasingly becoming unsafe. I have said before that if one wished to destroy Christmas, set off a bomb in a mall. It appears that a gun will do just as well. We are told that the department store and the mall are being threatened by the internet and shopping is being done increasingly from home. Part of this is that home is safer than the stores or the mall. If one wants to destroy the social fabric of our country try shooting people in a store or a mall.

Not With a Bang, But a Whimper

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President Trump and the Impending Betrayal of Israel

If Mr. Trump has to choose between Israel and Russia, he will clearly choose Russia. He has never taken a serious stand against Russia. He has abandoned treaties and alliances on a whim. Europe and South Korea are only the most glaring examples. Russia may become the dominant force in Europe and China is already poised to dominate Asia. North Korea has been given a free hand with the retreat of the United States’ commitment to protect South Korea and the reunification of Korea under North Korean domination seems inevitable.

Likewise Russia is becoming the dominant force in the Mideast with the retreat of the United States from that region. Mr. Putin knows that Mr. Trump will not challenge him because among other issues, it would require that Mr. Trump admit that he made a mistake in trusting his “friend” Vladimir. There is also the persistent rumor that Putin “has something on Trump”.

Let me speculate a bit at this point. There are two people who could destroy the Trump presidency with a single statement. First: Melania Trump. Consider the consequences if she were to make a statement that she knew that Donald had had multiple affairs, some incestuous perhaps, maybe abusive. She is more popular than he is and enjoys a great deal of credibility. She would not have to offer proof because the statement need not be true, and it still would be devastating even if she offered no proof at all.

The second person, of course, is Vladimir Putin. His relationship with Trump has received many comments and much is speculated. While it has been suggested that Putin has “dirt” on Trump, perhaps tapes of prostitutes entertaining Donald or some such thing, nothing has emerged. This proposal does not stand close consideration. Sex scandals are swirling around this president and few seem to care. But consider for a moment the impact a simple statement by Putin that he did meddle in the 2016 election, did personally provide information to Trump (read “collusion” here), and did so in exchange for assurances from Mr. Trump that Russia would benefit when he became president. This need not be true, but again such a statement would be believed even without any proof being offered.

Is either statement likely? Probably not, but Mr. Trump is exceedingly vulnerable here. More vulnerable than any recent president and much of it is his own doing. He has few friends left and the list of enemies just waiting for such an opportunity is growing daily.

So now we return to the predicament that faces Israel. The United States is putting “America first” in a very real way. Review North Korea, which is being told to take its time denuclearizing; NATO, which is being told it is no longer to expect backing from the United States; and then consider the treatment of our allies such as Canada, Mexico, and on the list goes. Can Israel expect anything different? This administration is showing no inclination to seriously interfere with Russian attacks in Syria, no interference beyond statements that Mr. Putin is ignoring. Such statements appear to be merely political posturing. I fear that soon the United States will have no commitments in the area and Israel will be left to deal with Putin and his allies, Iran and Syria, alone. Putin has not been particularly friendly toward Israel in the past.

Addendum: I posted this less than 24 hours ago stating that Israel should be cautious because Mr. Trump is preparing to betray this country as he has done with other US allies  It was reported today that President Trump stated, in a conference with President Netanyahu, that Israel had to “do something that will be good for the other side … I took probably the biggest chip off the table,” Trump said. “Deals have to be good for both parties … Israel got the first chip and it’s a big one.” What he is saying of course is that Israel will have to make a “big” sacrifice.

Posted in Politics, Putin, Trump | 1 Comment

The New York Times Op-ed Author

There is much speculation about who wrote the anonymous op-ed published in The New York Times suggesting that there is an ongoing conspiracy within the administration to prevent Mr. Trump from making huge and dangerous mistakes. That this may be necessary is widely discussed by many. That it is taking place seems almost certain. The open confrontations bear witness. Simply consider Jeff Sessions among so many others. But who would write this op-ed and who would have enough “seniority” to convince The New York Times to publish it anonymously.

I have been wrong before and I have been surprised before so I’m not afraid of either one, hence I will present my guess and my reasons: Michael Pence: or someone closely associated with him.

Why Pence? First: He is senior enough to convince the Times to go out on a very long limb. He is also the one person, apart from Mr. Trump himself, who has relatively solid job security. He can’t be fired. He was elected to the vice presidency and can be removed only through impeachment and conviction of high crimes and misdemeanors. Second: He is the person most likely to benefit from removing Mr. Trump from the presidency; he would become president. It seems to me that the op-ed author has placed a thinly, very thinly, vailed appeal to congressional republicans to remove Mr. Trump. He states that he believes in the agenda and that he wants it to be carried out (by whom? The vice president obviously). Finally it is worth looking at the relationship between these two. Mr. Pence is very likely to view Mr. Trump with personal repugnance. It has been said that Mr. Pence will not meet alone with a woman, not without his wife present. That is clearly not the case for Mr. Trump, and Michael is not foolish enough to believe the denials. Michael is a Born Again Christian, and Donald plays golf on Sunday mornings.

Whoever authored the op-ed, the purpose is clear. The president is to be jettisoned but the agenda is to be preserved under better management, and for this there is only one reasonable option: Michael Pence.

One more piece to bear in mind: the author clearly states there is a conspiracy at work to save the nation from an erratic impulsive president. This op-ed should be viewed as part of that effort, not as a personal act. More than one person may be, probably is, a party to this publication and the intended effect is part of the effort disclosed.

Posted in Pence, Politics, Trump | 1 Comment