Category Archives: Government

European Overpasses


Good morning Everyone!

Belgian Countryside

Belgian Countryside

One hundred years ago, Europe was enjoying one of the most splendid summers it had ever seen. None of the countries then in Europe could have imagined that in less than four months, they would be involved in the bloodiest slaughter of men ever up until that time, the First World War. Of course, since no-one gave these countries a memo in advance about World War II, at the time they called the war “The Great World War” or “The War to End All Wars.” The Great War began with Germany invading neutral Belgium in order to reach France under what was called the Schlieffen Plan. Because tiny Belgium had the gall to resist this infringement on its sovereignty (and even to hold back the German army for a small period of time), Germany exacted a heavy price from it both during the battle for and the occupation of Belgium. Another country, Poland – which did not then exist, having been apportioned between the Powers That Be – became the main land over which the Eastern Front of the Great War was fought. It too suffered terribly during the war.

Schlieffen Plan

Schlieffen Plan
(Public Domain)

On September 1, 1939, a scant 20 to 21 years after the end of the Great World War, World War II began with Hitler’s Germany’s unprovoked invasion of Poland.  Once again, German occupation caused Poland and its citizens great suffering. On May 10, 1940, tiny Belgium, which in 1936 had officially declared itself neutral in the event of a second general European war, was again overrun by Germany. It was forced to surrender in 18 days. As before, it suffered great loss of life and economic prosperity, and had hundreds of thousands of its citizens drafted into forced labor in Germany.

Polish Cavalry Fighting the Battle of Bzura in World War II (Public Domain)

Polish Cavalry Fighting the Battle of Bzura in World War II (Public Domain)

Now Russia under Putin has started to ease its toe into the waters of expansionism and radical nationalism, starting with Ukraine and possibly Georgia (remember the argument over natural gas/oil no one showed up for?). If I were Poland and Belgium, I’d hire every road builder in the United States and Europe and build a huge overpass across the length of my country suitable for armies to travel over without harming the country below. If the third general war ever breaks out, and against all probability it stays conventional, that’s their best bet for minimal harm.

Overpass

Overpass
by chuyu@123rf.com

And on that uncharacteristic note, I still hope that each of you have a good day!

Nancy

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Presidential Graduates of the Electoral College


Good morning Everyone!

(Any mistakes in the following post are to be prefaced by the following mantra:  “Mr. Moon taught me but I forgot.”)

Today we return to the travel diaries of the famous world traveler, Hester Ugg of Bowling Green, Kentucky.  After her stop in ?istan, where we last saw her visiting with her friends, Ahmed and Vladimir, (See, 51 Governments and Then Some), she traveled to Turkey, Greece , Cyprus and Crete, then returned back to ?istan to visit with her friends once more before returning to Kentucky for college football season.  (Many travel plans and family events in the South are scheduled around football season.)

As they sat down for tea (a habit Hester picked up from her travels through the former territories of the British empire), Vladimir and Ahmed greeted her warmly.  Then the conversation turned to current events.

Ahmed, wisely:  I see where the election in the United States has started.

Hester, recalling a “Ron Paul for 2016” banner she saw at a rally two months ago:  Sometimes I don’t think the election ever stops!

Vladimir:  I thought your elections were once every four years?

Hester:  Oh Vladimir, it’s really too hot today to discuss politics, if you don’t mind. 

Vladimir:  I understand, dear lady.  I will instead congratulate your country on having such well-educated presidents.

Hester, confused:  I beg your pardon?

Vladimir, graciously:  I understand from some of my readings that each of your presidents must graduate from a college before they can be president.

Hester:  Well, our presidents, especially modern ones, do generally tend to have college degrees, but the last time I checked, they definitely don’t have to have one.

Vladimir, proud that he knows something about the United States that Hester doesn’t:  Ah-ha!  If that is so, then why does each president have to graduate from an electoral college before they become president?

Hester, mentally cursing the Russian language’s omission of definite articles such as “the”:  They don’t.  They have to be elected by the Electoral College before they become president. 

Ahmed:  I thought the United States was a democracy?

Hester, resigned to yet another grammatical and political tangle:  Technically, it is a federalist republic. 

Vladimir:  Is there a difference?

Hester:  Yes.  In a democracy, everything is voted on by all of the people together.  Each person has one vote.  So, for example, if a new law about basket-weaving is needed, the law is proposed and sent out to all of the population to be voted upon.

Ahmed, confused:  Why would anyone make a law about basket-weaving?

Hester:  It’s just an example, Ahmed. 

Vladimir:  And a republic?

Hester:  In a republic, each person has the right to vote for people who will represent him or her  in a legislative or executive capacity.  Large areas are broken down into smaller areas, each of those smaller areas are assigned a representative, and then the people in that area vote to chose the person that will be the representative.  That representative then goes to vote or work for the people in his or her area. 

Ahmed:  Ah, but the president is the leader of your entire country, so that would mean that everyone votes for the president at once? 

Hester:  Not exactly.  That’s where Vladimir’s Electoral College comes in.  Each person votes for an elector from his or her area that is pledged to vote for a particular candidate.  The electors then vote for the president. 

Vladimir:  Shouldn’t the results be the same between the two methods?  If everyone votes for president through electors, then the person who gets the most votes will win, regardless?

Hester:  Not always.

Ahmed:  Then the United States can’t be a democracy!

Hester, annoyed:  Ahmed, I already told you we are a republic.  There’s a difference!

Vladimir:  Why have a method of voting that would allow a person with less votes than another to win? 

Hester:  Well, there are people in the United States that agree with you Vladimir, and think we should do away with the Electoral College and simply go with a simple majority vote for president. 

Ahmed, curious:  What about you?

Hester:  I’ve thought about it a lot, and I disagree with them.  The current way in which we elect presidents ensures protections not only for the majority of people, but for minorities as well. 

Vladimir:  Do you really want to tackle civil rights today?

Hester:  No, I’m not talking about discrimination, but providing protections for the rights of rural as well as municipal areas. 

Ahmed:  That’s about as clear as mud.

Hester:  When the Constitution was created, there were thirteen states.  The states with less people in it were concerned that the states with more people in them would simply be able to ride rough shod over them if protections were not provided.  A great deal of the unique and great aspects of the United States Constitution come from the compromises that solved the small state/large state dilemma. 

Ahmed:  Wasn’t Benjamin Franklin involved in that somehow?

Vladimir:  Of course.  Benjamin Franklin was involved in everything. 

Hester, ignoring the non-sequiturs:  One of the compromises involved establishing two parts of Congress, the Senate and the House.  Each state is allowed two, and only two, senators.  In the House of Representatives, though, the number of representatives a state has is decided by the population of that state.

Vladimir, politely:  Gesundheit.

Ahmed:  I don’t think he understood.

Hester:  For example, the state with the most people in it is California.  The state with the fewest number of people in it is Wyoming.  Both  California, with its approximately 53 million people, and Wyoming, with its less than 800,000 people, have two senators each.  However, California has 53 Congressmen, while Wyoming has one Congressman.

Ahmed:  I understand all that, but what on earth does that have to do with the Electoral College?

Hester:  Well, the number of electors a state has is also based upon population.  California in 2004 and 2008 had 55 electors and Wyoming in 2004 and 2008 had 3 electors.  When people go to elect the president, their vote is tallied district by district, so Wyoming’s district 1 can vote for candidate 1, while Wyoming’s district 2 will vote for candidate 2.  In all but two states, Maine and Nebraska, the candidate with the most districts gets all of the electoral votes of that state.  So, for example if candidate 1 has 26 of California’s districts, and candidate 2 has 25 of California’s districts, then candidate 1 gets all 55 of California’s electoral votes.

Vladimir:  Then what I said is true  – the person with the most votes will still win the election. 

Hester:  Most of the time that is true, but not always.  If a candidate takes, for example, 20 districts with smaller populations in a state, while the other candidate takes 19 districts from cities, then the candidate with 20 districts wins all of the votes for that state, even though his or her popular vote in that state is less.  It’s happened four times in the history of the United States – 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000.

Ahmed, confused:  And you think that is a good thing?

Hester:  Well, as I said, there are people who disagree, but as it stands, the system prevents a large urban majority from trampling upon the rights of smaller areas.  This means that a presidential candidate cannot really expect to be elected by promising areas with large populations everything they want at the expense of the smaller populations.  The candidate has to appeal to at least some of the smaller communities. 

Ahmed, thoughtfully:  I see your point, but I can see why some people would not agree. 

Hester, taking a sip of her tea, which has had enough time to cool:  Anyway, Vladimir, do you understand what I am trying to tell you?

Vladimir, firmly:  Yes.  Every president of the United States must graduate from THE Electoral College, not AN electoral college.

Hester, defeated:  I knew it was too hot for politics today.

Have a great day everyone!

Nancy

“Somewhere Safe”


Good morning Everyone!

Pens

I have long known that someday I will open a closet door, and in a manner akin to Fibber McGee’s closet, every pen I have ever lost will come cascading out of it onto my head, at which time I will have the fortunate opportunity to practice self-restraint by NOT swearing, but rather observing , “Behold, my head hath just been struck by one thousand three hundred seventy-eight pens in less than five seconds.”

Fibber McGee's Closer

Fibber McGee’s Closet

What I have recently discovered is that the contents of the closet will not only include pens but all of the items that I have stored “somewhere safe” over the years, only to discover when I needed an item that “somewhere safe” was so safe that it even protected the item from me.

The frustrating thing about “somewhere safe” is that once I start looking for a particular item that resides there, I see the item in my mind’s eye, and have the nagging feeling that if I just thought a little bit harder I could find its secure hiding place.

Safe

Somewhere safe?

The latest in a long list of items that I can’t seem to put my hands on is the card reader which will read Mark’s Nikon camera card.  When I was searching for the download cable, which I never found, I ran across it, and I could have sworn (another feature of “somewhere safe”) that I placed it with the other download cables that didn’t work.  It’s not there now, though.

Alien, Remote

Alien with his sinister experiment remote control

I do wonder where the pens and other stuff are being hidden until that grand glorious day when they all shower themselves upon me from Fibber McGee’s closet’s first cousin – Shangri-La, where a couple of bored monks are making life merry by watching me hunt for items they have “borrowed” through a hidden camera?  Maybe they are being stored in a secret vault buried deep in a missile silo in Nebraska or Montana as part of a secret government conspiracy.  Maybe they are being abducted by aliens as part of a sinister experiment with purpose unknown.   (Exactly how many ways can you use a plethora of pens and papers, sprinkled through with loose screws, a card reader, several books, twelve magazines and at least three chew toys?)  Maybe they are being stolen and stored by a doomsayer anxious to survive the days after the apocalypse with enough pens to see him or her through.  All I know for sure is that they can’t possibly be disappearing because I simply lose them.

Until the answers are revealed, if they ever are, open your closets with care.  I’d hate it if you got injured opening my “safe” storage cabinet by mistake.

Have a great day!

Nancy

51 Governments, and then some: Part I


Good morning Everyone!

I was talking last week to someone who recently had the chance to visit Armenia and some of the “stans” to the South of Russia, which used to be part of the Soviet Union but are now their own countries.  She had the chance to meet many individuals from those countries, and one day met an individual who felt great outrage at the decision of one Congressman to introduce a resolution supporting independence for a province in one of the countries in the region.  She had a very difficult time trying to get him to understand that, in this country, a Congressman really doesn’t need the approval of anyone else to introduce a resolution.  It was even harder for him to understand that one, non-voted upon resolution does not make a statement regarding the official foreign policy of the United States.  Apparently, at least in the country she was in, no bill is introduced unless “the party” (and I don’t exactly know what “the party” meant since I don’t remember the country in which this discussion occurred ) approves it first and expects it to become law.

My friend tried to explain to her friend that in the U.S., legislators can introduce anything they want, provided they follow the correct steps, and then the legislative body (in this case Congress) votes on whether it will become official.  Even then, it is not really an official foreign policy statement until the President, through the State Department, says it is.  That concept simply didn’t compute with her friend.

I was kind of glad that the conversation stopped there; just imagine the further confusion that would have resulted had the same resolution been introduced in one of the state legislatures.  FN.

To understand why, we are going to eavesdrop on a conversation between the great modern-day explorer and adventurer, Hester Ugg of Bowling Green, Kentucky and two acquaintances from various countries in the fertile crescent.

Ahmed:  I see where your country has decided to turn its back on ?istan after everything it did for you.

Hester, ignoring the fact that how much ?istan did or didn’t do for the U.S. remained to be determined:  What do you mean?

Vladimir, glowering:  Joe “Mint Julep” Smith introduced a resolution in the legislature that recognizes the independence movement in -istan’s province 3 be officially recognized.

Hester, knowing that there was no individual in the United States legislature named Joe “Mint Julep” Smith:  What are you talking about?

Ahmed shoves the paper in front of her, saying:  It says so right here.

Hester smothering a laugh as she reads the article:  Um, Ahmed, that’s not Congress, just a state legislature.

Ahmed:  What do you mean?  It’s the government, right?

Hester:  Yes, and no.  Technically, it is only the government for one state.  The state legislatures can’t speak for the United States.

Ahmed, sarcastically:  And how many governments do you have, then? 

Vladimir, interrupting:  Of course it can.  That’s what this article says!

Hester, apologetically:  Well, really, Vladimir, that article must have been written by someone who doesn’t know our government works. 

Ahmed, to himself:  I’m not even sure the Americans understand the way their government works.

Hester:  I heard that!

Vladimir:  How does it work, then?

Hester:  We have a federal government that speaks for the whole country, and state governments that speak for each of the individual states. 

Ahmed:  Your states are in the country, aren’t they?

Hester:  Yes, of course they are.

Vladimir:  The federal government, you say, speaks for the whole country, yes? 

Hester:  Yes.

Ahmed:  So why do you need any other governments?

Hester:  Because in my country, the federal government can only speak about some things, not all things, and those things that aren’t the federal government’s business are decided by the states.

Vladimir and Ahmed stare blankly at her.

Hester sighed.  Apparently, this was going to take some time…..

TO BE CONTINUED…..

Have a great day and weekend everyone!

Nancy

FN. (Constitutional purists out there, please ignore for a minute the fact that foreign policy is a federal function and just go along with me here; besides I am quite sure that some legislator in the great state of Alabama is capable of introducing a non-binding resolution urging Congress to consider some kind of statement supporting independence somewhere.)