Citizenship, Free Society

The Electoral College – essential and relevant

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

As we look at the polls, the argument over the Electoral College raises its head again. My wife mentioned this to me the other evening and stated the argument succinctly. The Electoral College is a remnant of a time when we did not have an informed democracy. That “our Democracy” has advanced beyond those days and there is no reason to have the EC.

There is the argument, pure and simple. I was informed that just because the founders felt this way is no reason to stick with that system. I replied that there was a reason for my position and I can explain it. It does not matter which candidate wins the popular or electoral vote. And I am not driven by democracy as such—the dictatorship of fifty percent plus one is still a dictatorship.

Benjamin Franklin, who apparently slept through much of the Constitutional Convention occasionally awaking to make a pithy remark, is reported to have had an encounter in which a woman asked whether the Convention had produced a monarchy or a democracy. His reply: “A republic, madame, if you can keep it.”

There were several proposals regarding the selection of the Executive. One was selection by the legislative branch, another by popular vote, another by the Governors. And the compromise was the electoral college. The idea was to balance population with representation of the States, from whom the united States derived its existence and powers. By giving each state a vote in the electoral college equal to its number of Senators and Representatives, the small states were not neglected.

Those favoring the idea of a national democracy rather than a federal constitutional republic see the states as irrelevant—or at best a laboratory for national policy. Those from the District of Columbia complain that their votes count less than those in Wyoming—I did not ever vote on giving electoral votes to DC and would not be upset if they were repealed. The fact is, that with both the popular vote and the electoral vote the current president was elected by those residing in less than ten percent of the landmass of the United States.

It is a token of the Republic that we still have an electoral college, that we still make a distinction of states. As long as we can do this, there is hope that we may recapture the Republic and our basic rights.

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Compleat Idler, Humor

Compleat idler – the Mississippi connection

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

 

Back in 1945 my Aunt Evangeline, an Episcopalian from Boston, decided she would marry and civilize Boudreau Beauregard Laporte, Jr, who may or may not have been Cajun but had proposed to translate Longfellow’s Evangeline into le francais d’acadie. The result was my cousin Beau who went by BB Laporte, III. Beau married Victoria Mary McDonald, which is how I came to meet her family. These adventures should be understood for what they are.

My “shirttail cousin” Bubba McDonald who practices divorce law in Mississippi (the only state with a silent syllable) called me last may after he decided to withdraw from electoral politics. (Like it did any good—he ran in a district he has a vacation home in that has never elected a Republican to the Legislature. As in not ever. Not even during Reconstruction.) So the family political legacy fell to the twins Bragg and Buford—all the boys were named after Confederate generals though the family had moved down from Ohio in the 1920s, but “Gramps” McDonald had political aspirations not realizing that there were long memories. Long memories included that rascal Crockett coming down from Tennessee to promote the National Bank in 1829—and escaping with no tar. The county was posted “No Whigs.”

Bubba had an idea that it might be better to go statewide so he made a speech in Oxford in favor of gay marriage—offending both the Tea Party and the Republican establishment. He was promptly put forward to the Board of the “Family Law Group.” This is an association of divorce lawyers who believe every person has the right to have his/her property divided by a judge.

At any rate he relayed to me the following email.

Sorry to hear about your hand and the humidity down here. Am out of politics for the time being, but Bragg filed for the legislature.

And when I walked into Newt’s Waffle House, all the discussion was on the scandal of 75 which caused Bragg to quit his job with the Ag Dept and go back to gunsmithing which he does better than entomology anyhow.

Seems that back that year Buford was having problems with the cotton crop. My suggestion had been to dredge out the blockage between the field and the bayou (and I do not mean that bar in Oxford where you and Beau Laporte are personae non gratae) and farm catfish, shrimp and crawdads. But Bragg said he would rent Buford a couple boll weevils from the batch he was experimenting on. Said they should produce a big enough infestation to get a $60,000 eradication grant. Problem was, the were both male and you know Buford. What Buford knows, everybody in Ma’s Roadhouse knows which means everybody in three counties knows.

The NRA will back Bragg if Old Man Carson does not seek reelection. And since everybody remembers 75 (hell, they remember the War of 1812 like it was yesterday and we have lived here long enough that Cap’n Jack McDonald had a Company of Militia at New Orleans) he is using the slogan, “The lessor of the weevils.”

Take care of yourself up in Yankeeland and get down here when you can. We’ll get Beau’s skiff and a case of Dixie and go after the big cats.

Regards,

 

Pete

 

Pierre GTB (Bubba) McDonald, Esq

Divorce and Personal Injury

I was not sure what (if any) reply would be appropriate.

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Citizenship

Debates – if you have nothing better to do

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

Thinking about debates I have always regarded them as roughly less interesting than going in a spare room and measuring how much the wallpaper has peeled since the last go round.

Some thoughts regarding debates and polls.

Explaining the shift in polls after the first debate indicates that the debate gave an nation a side by side look at the candidates showed that a) people were waiting to see how strong Romney could come off, or b) some people were waiting to see Obama as less than invincible (therefor inevitable), or…

The big OR. Or the electorate is highly fluid. If the tables turn in the next couple debates—or shift with each one—the electorate is also extremely volatile and the demagogue who gets the last shot may win.

Do not worry about prevarication. Lies about economic plans are relative. Paul Krugman, who will not debate an Austrian school economist, is not an expert worth listening to. Romney ignores the fact that we have not had real capitalism in this country since before the passage of anti-trust in 1890, and certainly before the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. Obama, who snagged the name of a defunct CPUSA publication as a campaign slogan, lives in a fantasy world of centrally planned economy. His one venture into relevance was his reference to Lincoln—in those days Presidents did not propose or advocate legislation and the one of the three that required expenditure of funds was the Transcontinental Railroad in which he had a vested personal financial interest.

And I have a question for those who place great stock in the debates. Who cares or even remembers Quemoy and Matsu?

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Compleat Idler, Education, photo art

Compleat Idler – the f/ stops here part I

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

Back in the sixties, photography took over my life. I remarked when I was selling photo gear and finishing on what digital photography would have done for my social life—no more hanging out in the lab until three in the morning, smelling like chemicals or having stains on my clothing that bleach would not touch. I could have gone over to a friend’s pad and had beer while I loaded images onto a laptop and sent them anywhere in the world. Today the job would be done before the teams got back to their locker rooms.

But back then it was use a mechanical camera preset for the average light, push the Tri-X to 1600 or greater speed. Larry Dressler has a method for going to equivalent iso of 12800 at http://www.digitaltruth.com/articles/pushing-tri-x.php This is wilder than anything I did or even had the patience for. I would use developers called Acufine or Diafine which supposedly used different areas of the emulsion to do the magic—which worked most, well better than 50 percent, of the time. I used a lot of high contrast paper in those days.

While I was learning a lot about photochemistry and emulsions I was also setting my body up for problems later on—by the fall of 1975, the professor in a graduate course barred me from the lab for exposure in excess of that recommended. He said I could keep using my home lab for black and white as long as I improved my ventilation. There is nothing unique about this experience. Several people, who, like myself, did their own black and white survived for years. So why worry.

The mechanical cameras were upgraded over the years and the apex was the Nikon F2 or Canon F1 in the early seventies. So these were discussions over beer and pool—as far as I was concerned these were discussions because my budget and business plan did not have room for a new camera and I picked up used Nikon Fs for $100 or less. By the time I got an F2, it had been replaced by the electronic F3—the apex of electronic non-autofocus SLRs—an the F4, a poorly performing autofocus SLR that was rushed into production after another company seized the initiative. So the discussions have continued over the years.

My friend Johnny ran a photofinishing and used camera store in a rough neighborhood. As the neighborhood got rougher I spent time there after I got off work so there would be two of us when we closed and two of us when we caravaned to the bank. The local thugs knew the guy in the truck had a Mossberg 500 and steered clear. We argued technology for years as I would occasionally look up some of the non-proprietary lenses. And it is always a crapshoot when you buy off brand optics—some are better than others.

A hint for film photographers: The cheapest of the major non-proprietary lenses resolves more lines than Kodachrome 25 which was the philosopher’s stone of transparency film. If you want to see an artistic approximation of the K25 and K64, visit an art museum and find a work by William-Adolphe Bougereau (1825-1905). The temperature and delicacy of the light—the colors and fineness of detail—seem to have inspired the film. In modern film, Fuji Provia 100 comes close in resolution. To go from transparency to the printed page resolution is lost in each stage. So the finest optical glass and a midrange optical glass will produce similar final results.

Johnny was a traditionalist and had been a portrait and glamour photographer. He did catalogs and some photofinishing. I had done some advertising and public relations as well as newspaper and magazine work. By the time I was hanging out at the shop I was doing landscapes and some raptors. I saw the lighter weight of composite lenses as a positive. So we disagreed. When I was laid off from my full-time sales gig, I spent a C-note and got a 2.3mp, autofocus point and shoot. He pooh-poohed it by saying he would shoot negatives and have them give him jpegs on a CD.

I have not worked in the lab since 1993 or thereabouts. Hint: If you have negatives, do not store them in a filebox on the basement floor. Thirty years of black and white work went down the tubes in about 20 minutes during the flood. I do not remember whether I sat down and cried then but I do remember the pit in my stomach. Having culled my transparencies and and stored them high, I still have that record and plan to get a scanner and a pile of CDs to back up my Seagate. Otherwise, they will not survive.

Perspective time again. With a 4×5 view and 6x6TLR I have carefully set up pictures in black and white using the finest grain film and zone exposure. I have done bare domes, broad fields and stands of aspen, but I am not one of the greats. When I was at the University of Denver, I studied at the Denver Public Library which was on my bus route. The table I liked was beneath a painting titled Estes Park by Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902). I bought a large poster in the museum shop at Rocky Mountain National Park and paid for a serious frame. There is no way that painting could be replicated in a single photograph because of the difference in light. I do not have the time to do it. And when one vacations with family, one does not have the time to set up and wait for light.

A few months before Johnny died, I sprung for a Nikon D60. A new SLR! He told me that he could get as good from his F and get CDs. And I have discovered much here about the various options now available such as lenses that compensate for camera shake, and the wide range of options. They finally discontinued Kodachrome 64. It was a matter of time and the fact that National Geographic now uses digital images—I see no degradation in the quality, but I am functionally blind in one eye.

Do I see another SLR in my future? Sure. If I win the lottery and have the physical ability to travel in the west, a pair of Nikon D4s will do nicely.

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Citizenship, Free Society

RINO, DINO, who really cares?

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us! — Robert Burns

As I sit here watching the political infighting among Republicans I can see why they remain a minority party. One of the key words I here is RINO. The concept is that the individual is a Republican for the purpose of getting elected. It is a matter of perspective. Bob Dole mused that when he was deciding to run for County Attorney he weighed the number of Republican voters as opposed to Democratic voters in Russell County.

Now I would point out that in 1956, George Docking, a lifelong Republican, having been previously rebuffed for the Republican nomination for Governor of Kansas, registered and filed as a Democrat. The term DINO was not used. He won and his son Bob also won as a Democrat. Back then the lines were not drawn as sharply as in the national parties.

Jim Pearson, whose Republican credentials no one questions, switched from the Democratic Party to be appointed and thereafter elected as a United States Senator from Kansas.

Joan Finney, a Republican County Commissioner in Shawnee County, became upset when her mentor Frank Carlson did not support her for Second District Representative. She became a Democrat and ran for State Treasurer. She was elected and reelected and eventually elected Governor.

For a good deal of my life the major parties have been non-ideological. I identify as a Goldwater, conservative and see individual liberty, not populist family values, as defining my philosophy. What that may mean is that I will be at odds with those in power—and I have been a Republican longer than many of them have been alive.

The problem I see is that some of the Republicans calling others RINO are basically Populists in the guise of conservatives. Those who know history know that the Populists, with the aid of the Secretary of State, took control of the legislature until the Kansas Supreme Court certified the results of the County Clerks (whose authority is not subordinate to that of the Secretary of State) and the Republicans, aided by Winchester Arms, took the Statehouse back.

Now that Romney has been nominated he has become the “conservative” answer to Obama. That is not what the “conservatives” were saying at the time of the primaries and the caucuses. So what we have is a “center left” Romney as opposed to a “hard left” Obama, both of whom would have fewer problems with a Democratic Congress than a Republican one.

To find a conservative candidate we need to go back to 1964. No, Ronald Reagan was not a conservative, he was a Teddy Roosevelt progressive with conservative—even some libertarian—tendencies. Look at the record. Call him RINO. No, nor would anyone call Teddy Roosevelt who had plans to amend the Constitution to centralize power in the executive a RINO. They are part of the Pantheon.

And the question is: what happened to the “big tent” after it let in southern populists? And are Republicans going to get elected by trashing other Republicans?

 

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Economy

Unemployment drops – Are you impressed?

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

So the unemployment rate dropped below 8 percent. October surprise? We will not know whether this is a sign of recovery for another six to twelve months. This is, of course, a figure that both parties will spend time spinning this figure. (How many campaign spinners will be out of work on 7Nov?) But how much does the figure really mean.

The unemployment rate is based on the number of individuals in the Civilian Work Force unemployed as opposed the total number of persons in the Civilian Work Force. This latter figure is the number of persons ages 16 through 64 minus undocumented aliens, military and naval personnel, the incarcerated, full time students, those committed to mental institutions, those working part time, the disabled (under SS guidelines), those who have ceased seeking employment and those whose unemployment benefits have expired.

I have heard estimates that the “actual” unemployment rate stands anywhere from 11 to 28 percent. Without actual figures there is no way to state an actual percentage and the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers are, however flawed, what we have to work with. The interesting thing is that both the right and left actually defend or attack BLS depending on who is in office. I have been told by Republicans that 4.9 percent figure was actually too high because it ignored those on unemployment who were “scamming” the system. I was also told by members of the other party that the same figure is too low because it ignores “underemployment.”

Sorry. I know there are scammers. They show up for interviews and get their card stamped, but deliberately offend the hiring authority and get another week by showing that they were “looking.” Near the end of their eligibility they obtain employment which they keep long enough to have worked in two quarters and then be discharged for less than competent work. The number of these folks is not large but they do exist. They will take advantage of any system—the system just needs to figure them out.

Sorry. I do not buy the “underemployment” argument any more than I buy the “overqualified” argument in denying someone employment.

So we are dealing with the numbers BLS uses. But what, statistically, is the difference between 7.8 percent and 8.2 percent? In terms of who is work and who is not, you have to look at factors of economic activity as well. Are factory orders increasing? Is output increasing?

Does the American manufacturing sector show an increase or are these jobs based on the fluctuation of the retail system or the increase of freelance companies wherein the self employed have decided to go it without the capital base they need because there are no other options? And if so, how much of this is going to last? I had a discussion with my late father-in-law back in the late 80s about the surge of service sector jobs without an agricultural or manufacturing base to support them.

Right now, through the Quantitative Easing, the Fed is creating money without wealth. The created money will possibly create some employment in the financial sector—until the next bubble bursts. Without real wealth creation, reduction of unemployment is temporary at best.

To butcher a saying from Abraham Lincoln, “You cannot fool all the people all the time, but you can possibly fool a plurality through election day.”

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Citizenship, Education, Free Society

Debate – Lincoln’s “investments”

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

The debate coach watched the Debate while I, knowing that it would upset me—as in the past—refrained. I did catch a brief answer by the President speaking about government involvement in which he praised Lincoln for establishing the National Academy of Science, subsidizing the transcontinental railroad and establishing Land Grant Colleges.

OBAMA: But as Abraham Lincoln understood, there are also some things we do better together. So, in the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said, let’s help to finance the Transcontinental Railroad, let’s start the National Academy of Sciences, let’s start land grant colleges, because we want to give these gateways of opportunity for all Americans, because if all Americans are getting opportunity, we’re all going to be better off.
The Academy (National Academy of Sciences) was chartered by Congress in 1863. Lincoln signed the charter on March 3 and the Academy was organized on April 22 of that year. (Note here that Earth Day was proclaimed on April 22, 1970.) The NAS in a private organization that holds a charter—much like the Boy Scouts—but does not receive federal funds.

The transcontinental railroad had no greater lobbyist than Abraham Lincoln who had drawn a line on a map with Grenville Dodge in 1858 to mark the route. (The War Department had surveyed four possible routes and recommended one from New Orleans to Los Angeles. The State Department had made the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 to facilitate this route which would have been built in far less time. Lincoln and Dodge drew a line on a map.) Lincoln had also purchased land in Council Bluffs, Iowa, as an investment. The Pacific Railroad Acts of 1862 and 1864 established a funding mechanism of 30 year bonds and extensive land grants.

They federal government “owned” millions of acres from the Louisiana Purchase aka “Bonaparte’s Big Flip.” These lands were, in 1862, surplus and therefore expendable. The companies sold much of the land to acquire capital. The railroads were required to reimburse the government for the bonds and there was some default. The bonds and land grants paid about two-thirds of the costs and it was still necessary to raise private investment. (Note: Brigham Young was a serious investor of Union Pacific.)

Lincoln did have a setback in that his Illinois-Central railroad was not chosen, but rather Congress created the Union Pacific and Central Pacific.

One of the ideas that gave rise to the use of land grants was the Morrill Act. The Illinois Legislature had passed a resolution trying to get federal assistance for states to promote agricultural and mechanical education. Sen Lyman Trumbull recruited Rep Justin Smith Morrill to introduce the act which was vetoed by James Buchanan. In 1861 the act was re-introduced with the addition of training in military tactics. Added to the fact that this act and the Homestead Act were necessary to passage of the Transcontinental Railroad Act of 1862, Lincoln signed the Morrill Act.

The funding mechanism is that the States would sell the lands and use the funds to finance the schools. Again, like the National Academy of Sciences, no expenditure was made of federal funds.

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