Thursday, May 5, 2016

Troop Deaths in the Middle East, Quiz Answers and our Undemocratic Heritage


Quiz Answers for the Well-Informed
Last time around we asked a few questions regarding how well-informed people are.  One Blog follower to whom I’ve spoken to knew all of the answers but one.  How well  did  you do?  More importantly, however, is how most Americans would do on a quiz like this, and remember, they will be voting in November.  Here are the answers:

The UK Prime Minister is David Cameron.

El Nino and La Nina are world-wide weather systems based on the water temperature way out in the Pacific Ocean.  Warm temperatures there (El Nino) produce winds which keep hurricanes from the United States’ east coast.  Cooler Pacific waters (La Nina) are more likely to allow those Summer Atlantic storms to reach our coasts. 

Brazil is on track to impeach its President, Dilma Rousseff.

There are nine seats on the U.S. Supreme Court, although that number is not constitutionally mandated.

Jefferson is on the $2 bill and Hamilton is on the $10 bill.

Prince was from Minnesota.

The capital of Afghanistan is Kabul.

Jack Lippman

A Quick Laugh at Thomas Jefferson's Expense

And speaking of two-dollar bills, here is an interesting item from the internet about what happened to a guy who wanted to pay for his fast food order with one of them.  Check it out for a laugh and some insight into the limited knowledge of many of the folks out there ...  who once again I remind you, vote to elect our leaders.


Troop Deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan 

Barack Obama's approach to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been to minimalize the chances of Americans being killed, encouraging the Iraqis and Afghans to battle insurgencies with their own armies, which we are glad to train and advise.  Note the following graph, seeing what has happened since Obama's election in 2008.  One thing you cannot criticize the President for is his concern for the lives of American troops.  Who would want it any other way?



Our Undemocratic Heritage, a Blessing  in 2016

Back in 1789 when the Founding Fathers were writing the Constitution, they were not ready to establish a democracy in the new nation.  Democracy means rule by the people and the likes of wealthy Virginian planters like Washington, Jefferson and Madison didn’t intend to turn the fate of the United States over to a crew of motley working folks and farmers, many of whom were barely literate.  They saw what was happening across the Atlantic in France, where a democratic revolution

Not-so-nice things were happening in France

had turned into a bloodbath, one that took years to resolve itself into the dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte.  No way were they to open the gates of government to the masses here.  Even Alexander Hamilton looked for us to establish some sort of monarchy (a President for life?) to keep the nation from being taken over by “the people.”  This kind of thinking persisted for another 38 years until Andrew Jackson was elected President!  It was accomplished by keeping power in the hands of that day’s “establishment” by some of the following mechanisms:

 (1) Only the House of Representatives (the “peoples” house) was directly elected, with each member supposedly representing a roughly equal number of voters. 

 (2)  Senators were chosen by the legislatures of the thirteen states, and an outsider had no chance of attaining a seat in the Senate.  The famous 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates were not part of a campaign to elect one of them as Senator, but to elect state legislators who would vote to send one of them to Washington as a Senator. This undemocratic procedure actually persisted until 1913 when the 17th Amendment was passed, providing for direct election of Senators.  
Lincoln and Douglas debated throughout Illinois, campaigning for legislators who would support them for a Senate seat.

 (3) Important posts such as Ambassadorships and Court appointments, including Supreme Court Justices, have to be confirmed by the Senate, the only democratic aspect of which was that the state legislatures who originally selected Senators were themselves elected by the people.   Nevertheless, even since 1913, the Senate still remains a far less democratic body than is the House because of its giving each state an equal voice, regardless of its population.

 (4) The Presidency itself was, and still is, elected by a group of electors who initially either were selected by the same state legislators who selected Senators or by a popular vote in some states.  Eventually, the selection of a state's electors drifted into the hands of the political parties running Presidential candidates, through state party conventions or state party central committee votes.  Although electors almost always vote for their party's candidate, should he or she win in their state, they are not always legally bound to do so.  In 24 states, they are free to vote for whomever they want, which on rare occasions actually does happen.  The voters, usually ignorant of this, believe they are actually voting for Presidential candidates.  The absence of detailed Constitutional provisions regarding electors leaves room for problems to arise.  On more than one occasion, the electoral college has produced a President who had fewer votes, nation-wide, than the loser!  (Bush vs. Gore in 2000John Quincy Adams vs. Jackson in 1824)   And if no candidate has a majority of electoral votes (which can happen if there are third party candidates), the decision is left to the House of Representatives, with each state, regardless of population, having one vote, with California's one vote carrying no more weight than far less populous Wyoming's does!  So much for democracy, even in the “peoples” house!

So we see that the Founding Fathers, afraid of the havoc which opening up the nation to real democracy might cause, opted for a republic which featured layers of insulation between the nation’s voters and the government which the people supposedly “elected.”  They were men of great vision and foresight, and established a nation which would be well insulated against events like the tumultuous Presidential election we expect in 2016, an occasion where "populism" might play a significant role.


A more democratic nation would not be so well protected against the dangers which can come out of the voting booths on Election Day, 2016.




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Jack Lippman 

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