Tag Archives: Presidential

#213: Political Fragmentation

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #213, on the subject of Political Fragmentation.

I have long been writing about political division, fragmentation, and polarization.  Quite a few years back I explained how our United States of America coalition government is created by people coming together into coalition-based parties, groups who do not agree entirely with each other but who agree to support each others’ important policies, and why the Republican dilemma (or the Democratic dilemma) is not solved by focusing on a single issue.  I’ve also written about the polarization developing as both parties are being more and more dominated by their extremists, and moderates no longer have a home anywhere.

Now I find a survey from the Pew Research Center which shows just how fragmented we are.  Well, I think that might be an exaggeration; I think we are probably more fragmented than the survey shows, but I’ll get to that.

You might want to begin by taking the quiz, a set of A/B choices (if memory serves, seventeen) on everything from immigration to taxation to social services by which they will place you in one of nine groups they have identified.  It will also, separately, place you on a rough scale from liberal to conservative.  I took it, and not surprisingly landed right of center (that is, the conservative direction) in the middle third.  However, the results apparently do not give us a bell curve.  As the attached image shows, the extreme groups, both conservative and liberal, are not only the largest within the general public, they are even more so the most active in politics.

I admit to not yet having read the full fourteen-page Pew Research Center article on its survey; I got through the first page and left the remainder for a time when I had more time.  You might find it easier, although less informative, to read the briefer article in the Detroit Free Press, although that is less about the groups and more about the fragmentation, the fact that were we to have the much-suggested second civil war most of us would be very uncertain on which side we should be fighting.  We just don’t have enough agreement on any specific issues.

That is perhaps why I think we are more fragmented than the survey analysis really shows.  My quiz results placed me in the category denoted “Country First Conservatives”, the smallest group on the chart but one which includes people ranging from barely left of center to fairly far to the right who have agreement on some issues.  What strikes me about this is I disagreed with the majority of people in this group on all questions of foreign policy (there were three) and government performance (there were two), and I would think those would be the defining issues of the group.  That is, were we to create a conservative party called “Country First”, we would expect that foreign policy would be at the top of its platform–but I would not support that platform, because I disagree with that policy.  That doesn’t mean that the analysis placing me in the moderately conservative group is wrong; it means that even these groups are more fragmented than the simplified results the survey demonstrates.

What it clearly does demonstrate is that “liberal” and “conservative” is not a simple scale but a generalization of scales on multiple issues, that both sides of the divide are built of people who really don’t agree on any one issue but work together toward similar goals, and that the people who are most active in politics, the large minorities on the extremes, seem very much unaware of the majority of more moderate people in the middle.

It also suggests that a moderate candidate on either side could probably defeat an extremist candidate on the other, simply because the people in the middle from both parties are more likely to identify with someone near the middle.

On the other hand there’s something to what Doc Brown said (paraphrasing):  when you can hold an entire television studio in the palm of your hand, it’s no wonder your President has to be an actor.  At least sometimes, style beats substance.

#203: Electoral College End Run

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #203, on the subject of Electoral College End Run.

A bad idea which we mentioned in passing some years ago is apparently gaining ground, thanks in large part to Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 Presidential bid.

The idea, which we mentioned in Why We Have an Electoral College (in the page Coalition Government), is to nullify the original Constitutional intent, that the President be selected by the States as States, by having states pass a law assigning their electors to vote for whichever candidate wins the majority of the national popular vote.  Even some Democrats recognize that the current popularity of this idea is because the losing party are sore losers, and the fact that Hillary Clinton has added her voice to the chorus only underscores that sense–but as the map provided by the idea’s promoters shows, in green, eleven states have already passed the necessary legislation.

(In fairness to Hillary, sort of, she spoke out for the elimination of the Electoral College the last time the Democrats lost the Presidency in a close race.)

That legislation is designed to prevent states from being obligated until there is what they consider a consensus, that is, the legislation passed by each state specifically states that it becomes effective when, and only when, similar legislation is passed by states representing enough Electoral College votes to constitute a majority of the College, 270 votes, that is, one half of the 538 electors plus one.  At that point, whoever receives the majority of the national popular vote would, by dint of this legislation, receive at least two-hundred seventy votes and win the election.

There is a flaw in the reasoning.  Let us suppose that the total is not reached by 2020, and thus it does not impact the 2020 election; but it might be reached in 2021.  However, 2020 is a census year, and the primary reason the Constitution mandates that we have a census every ten years is to adjust the representation of each State in the House of Representatives.  Following the 2010 census New Jersey lost a seat, and there is every likelihood that some States will lose and others gain seats before 2024.  That matters because the number of electoral votes each state gets is determined by the sum of its Representatives plus its Senators, and it might well be that in 2021 the states having passed the law provide sufficient votes to cause it to be enacted, but by 2024 there would not be quite as many.  This might be unlikely, but it is not impossible–New Jersey, which has passed the law and has been shrinking proportionately, might lose another seat, and Texas and Florida, which have showed no interest in passing the law, have been growing and might gain another seat or two each.

However, that is not really the significant point here.

Some years ago a young liberal actress got in serious public relations trouble when she suggested carpet bombing all the conservative states in the central United States because they were impeding the progress that the liberals dominating the coastal states were pushing.  That is an extreme example, but the fact is that several of the big states are coastal states, and tend to be liberal–California, New York, Pennsylvania.  That means on some level we’re talking about the big states trying to take over.

California is an important example.  It tends to be liberal, but is short-changed in the Electoral College because it is short-changed in the House of Representatives:  there is a cap on the number of Representatives any state can have, and California’s population would give it quite a few more seats were it not for the cap.  Let’s face it, though:  California is a large piece of real estate with several very large population centers within it.  It could plausibly dictate law and policy for the entire country just by flexing its popular vote.

That, though, is exactly why the Constitution is designed the way it is.  When the big kids tell the little kids what to do, we call it bullying, and we look for ways to punish and control it.  The Electoral College is designed to try to keep the big states from bullying the little states.

The proposed law disenfranchises the little states.  In doing so it disenfranchises the voters in those states.  There is good reason for the states to vote for the President chosen by the majority of their own citizens, and not the majority of the citizens of every other State in the Union.

We would ask our New Jersey legislators, and those of the ten other states which have already passed such legislation, to repeal it.  It is bad law.  It is also, as one author already cited has observed, probably unconstitutional–it is an effort to end run the Constitutionally-mandated process.

If not, voters in New Jersey and elsewhere should prepare to file suit against the legislature.  The law disenfranchises the voters of this state, taking from us our constitutional right to choose the candidate of our own choice, not that of the rest of the country.

#172: Why Not Democracy?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #172, on the subject of Why Not Democracy?.

As I was writing the previous web log entry, #171:  The President (of the Seventh Day Baptist Convention), I was reminded that we, in the United States of America, do not live in a democracy.  We live in a representative republic.

That fact was brought home to a lot of people in the recent Presidential election, some of whom are still reeling from it.  I have heard many complaints, mostly from young people, that our elected President did not win the majority of the voters, and therefore does not represent the majority of the people.  (It is at least worth mentioning that the actual vote totals will never be certain:  the vote count was never completed in quite a few voting districts because the total would not have changed the Electoral College outcome in those states.)  We should, they insist, change to a more democratic system, in which every vote counts the same.

We could do that.  Things are a bit more like that in other countries, particularly Israel where everyone votes for whatever parliamentary representatives they want and the entire country is treated as a single district.  Even England’s system is more democratic than ours.  However, note that in these countries the voters do not vote for their chief executive–they vote for their legislative representatives, and these in turn choose the chief executive.  Sure, British Prime Minister Theresa May campaigns for the position, but she does so by touring the country telling voters to support their local Conservative Party candidates for Members of Parliament, who in turn vote her into the Downing Street office.  It is still not strictly democratic, although by taking the vote for head of government away from the people and giving it to their elected representatives it actually becomes a bit closer to it.  However, it still can produce the outcome that the party in power, and thus the chief executive, did not actually have the majority of the votes.  It is a flaw of representative government, but representative government is the only way to avoid having every citizen in the country vote on every law.

The electoral map of the 1824 Presidential election, in which Andrew Jackson took the clear plurality of both the popular and the electoral vote but not the majority of either, throwing the decision to the House of Representatives, who selected John Quincy Adams to serve.
The electoral map of the 1824 Presidential election, in which Andrew Jackson took the clear plurality of both the popular and the electoral vote but not the majority of either, throwing the decision to the House of Representatives, who selected John Quincy Adams to serve.

There are, of course, other ways to achieve a more democratic election of the President of the United States.  People have been complaining about it since at least the 1824 election, when the failure of Andrew Jackson to gain fifty percent in the Electoral College resulted in John Quincy Adams, with less than a third of the vote, being selected for the office by the House of Representatives (the only time in history where no candidate obtained fifty percent of the Electoral College vote).  Some years ago when we were examining the Electoral College in detail in connection with Coalition Government, we noted one suggestion, that each state allocate its electoral votes based on the percentage of voters supporting each candidate–and why that would never be enacted.  More recently, someone proposed that states begin changing their system for apportioning electoral votes such that the votes within the state were irrelevant, that each state would give all its electoral votes to whomever won the popular vote nationally.  That would achieve the desired “democratic” outcome.  It would prevent situations like that of the recent election.  The question is, do we want that?

The first point that should be recognized here is that the majority always wants the democratic system.  That’s because in a democratic system, the majority can always impose its will on the minority.

Of course, that often happens anyway–but many great strides forward in these United States have happened precisely because minorities were empowered.  Certainly it is sometimes the case that majorities become entrenched, resisting necessary change until overwhelmed as public opinion shifts, but it has also been the case that minorities have used the system to gain a voice within the process.  There is something called the tyranny of the majority, when minority voices and positions are overwhelmed and trampled by majority opinions.  Our system was designed in part to prevent that.  There is also a tyranny of the minority, when a small group prevents the majority from doing what it deems right through legal intervention, and our system is supposed to prevent that, as well.  Our system produces gradual change by trying to keep everyone somewhat satisfied.  Younger people are less patient, wanting rapid change.  Older people have usually learned that not all change is for the better, but all change has unintended consequences.  Our country advances a bit, then eases back, then advances again, feeling the path carefully.

Meeting of the Electoral College in Ohio, 2012.
Meeting of the Electoral College in Ohio, 2012.

Many other countries have suffered from what we might call “rapid cycling”.  Because they are so controlled by the majority, and because the majority is mostly in the middle shifting a bit to one side and then to the other but the politicians tend to be at the extremes, it is common for one party to be voted into office, make major changes to everything, upset the bulk of their constituents who only wanted things to change a little and don’t like the unanticipated parts, and so be voted out of office and replaced by an opposing party which proceeds to repeal everything the first party did and pass its own extremist programs, leading to its failure at the polls and the return of the original party, or often yet another party, whose agenda then dominates.  Remember, as we have often mentioned in connection with coalition government, we are not in our chosen parties because everyone in those parties agrees with us on every point; we are there because we have agreed to support each other on those points each of us think important.  That means some of the things you want your party to do other members of your party strongly oppose–the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party wants open borders, but the Labor wing definitely does not; the universal healthcare driven through by the Democratic Progressives has gone very badly for labor unions, whose members lost much of their superior healthcare benefits under the program.  Majority opinion is more fickle than a twelve-year-old girl’s crushes.  Democracy leads to such rapid changes.  People think they want one thing, but when they start to see where that leads, they change their minds and want something else.

Our system does not always give us stability.  In recent years the fracturing of political opinion has led to some very unstable situations.  However, rapid change is always unstable, and we have seen much rapid change over those years.  The system is working to slow the change, to keep things at a pace people can accept.

A more democratic system would not be a better one.

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#171: The President (of the Seventh Day Baptist Convention)

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #171, on the subject of The President (of the Seventh Day Baptist Convention).

One subject that intrigues me is what is called church polity, that is, the way various churches and denominations organize and operate themselves both locally and globally.  We call our various subdivisions synods, presbyteries, conferences, and quite a few other names.  Among the Baptists, a highly democratic and congregationalist group (“congregationalist” polity means that the church is run entirely from the bottom up, as church members decide what the denomination believes and does, and anyone who disagrees either goes along for the sake of unity or leaves the group), divide themselves into “conventions”, gatherings that attempt to agree on what is important to them.  Each convention elects a president, who sets the agenda for his term; they also hire staff to provide services for the member churches, such as publications.  I am not an expert on church polity, with only passing familiarity with a half dozen or so denominations, but my mind was caught particularly by the practice of one denomination, the Seventh Day Baptist Convention, and I thought it might have lessons for non-religious people immersed in the secular political world.

Seventh Day Baptist Churchof Plainfield, New Jersey
Seventh Day Baptist Church
of Plainfield, New Jersey

For those who care about such things, the Seventh Day Baptists were founded in England and are the oldest denomination in America to observe a Saturday Sabbath.  Some are perhaps a bit legalistic about that while others are more relaxed–much as found in Sunday-observing churches.  (I have written On Sabbath elsewhere.)  They are otherwise like most Baptist churches.  Once a year–in the United States, it happens in August–they hold a major meeting of the convention, Conference, hundreds of members getting together somewhere for a week of meetings and services and discussions.  (The week prior to this, they have a major gathering for the youth of the denomination in the same location, many of whom then stay for the convention itself.)  It is at this conference that they elect a president.

The interesting aspect is that the president does not at that moment take office.  He is elected to replace the current president, but it is expected that he will take time to tour the denomination, talk to the churches, and develop his “vision” for the denomination during his term.  He remains effectively “president-elect” during this time–an entire year, as the following year at conference he will step into the role, introduce his vision for the year ahead, and oversee the election of the person who will replace him as president elect.  He now has a year to serve as president of the denomination, to make his vision a reality, before the new president takes the office at the next annual conference.

There are a lot of interesting aspects to that.  For one thing, I don’t believe anyone has ever served two consecutive terms, but in the several centuries of history (our local congregation was established before the American Revolutionary War) I could not say whether anyone has filled the position more than once.  It is a small denomination, the sort in which ordinary members all over the country know each other, partly because in addition to this annual meeting they have another annual business meeting one weekend to which everyone is invited, hosted by one of the member churches, and several smaller multi-church gatherings.  So the fact that I know a father and a son who both held the position (many years apart) does not suggest nepotism as much as tradition.  It also means that no one runs on his record–you are not going to be elected to serve two consecutive terms.  Interestingly, you are not really elected based on what you promise to do; you are elected based on the belief of the electorate that you will do something that needs to be done, something that will be good for the denomination.  You are elected, in essence, because people trust you to discover the needs in the church and address them.

Ultimately, too, the system reminds us that all leaders are temporary.  In a democratic system such as a representative federation, almost all leaders serve terms of office which end after a few years.  (Our federal judiciary is appointed for life, but even that ends eventually.)  Some can be re-elected, but many have term limits, and re-election is never guaranteed.  The people we have picked to be our leaders were picked because a large number of us from a very large area of the country thought they would do what needed to be done.  It was not exacty because we liked their policies, although that is part of it and in truth it was also partly because many of us feared the policies of the alternative.  It was, rather, because we perceived these as people who would try to do what America needed to have done.  It might not be exactly what they intended to do initially, and they might not succeed in their objectives, but we needed to change the course of the Ship of State, and this crew seemed to be the best chance to do so.  We know that we are committed to this choice for the short term, and if we are unhappy with it there will be a chance to change in the not too distant future (already serious politicians are working on their twenty twenty presidential campaigns).

Every once in a while I find myself trying to reconstruct the sequence of Presidents and Vice Presidents who have served during my lifetime.  They are all important, and they all have done things that mattered at the time.  Some have also done things with long-term consequences, but despite their importance at the time there are few who can tell you what significant actions were taken by the Eisenhauer administration, or that of Johnson, or Ford, or Carter, or even Clinton.  We remember the scandals, but what Presidents do is rarely remembered outside history books.

So stop worrying about it.  A Presidential term is really a rather short moment in history, even in the course of your life.  There will be other Presidents, some better and some worse than the present one.  Let’s see what this one does, and build from there.

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#160: For All In Authority

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #160, on the subject of For All In Authority.

O.K., show of hands:  how many of you have been praying for our new president?

I see that hand.

img0160Trump

No, I appreciate this.  I have never been much of one for canned uninformed “pray for the President/pray for the leaders”–I never know what to pray, and I’ve been a political writer for several years, and still don’t know what to pray.  Part of the difficulty I face is that we are told to give thanks for the answers to our petitions, but for most of what I can imagine asking I have no reason to expect to see how God has answered–I am not privy to cabinet meetings nor to the thoughts of men.  Part of the problem is that it is very easy to want God to move our leaders to my political opinion, and God does not generally do that, or at least not that I’ve recognized in others.

But I am upset about the people who have been protesting, and particularly because I know that at least some of them would take the name “Christian”.  I do not mean that Christians should never protest.  I am not even saying that Christians should never be involved in overthrowing governments–that’s simply more than I know.  However, the call we were given was to pray, not to condemn.  In a modern democracy, the proper function of protest is to communicate our opinions to our leaders, not to condemn them for theirs.  Communicate, certainly; do not condemn.

One of those who taught me along the way made the statement God gives you the person that you need, not necessarily the person that you may want.  I do not even now remember to what exact situation he was applying that, but I have recognized it in connection with spouses, pastors, and particularly governments.  (I suspect it applies as well to parents, although I was out of the house and married before I heard it; I wonder to what degree it applies to children.)  Proverbs has a verse which in the original speaks of a lot falling in a lap, an archaic concept among archaic concepts for which the Christian Gamers Guild has found a modern translation, “We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines where they fall.”  Benjamin Franklin noted that if sparrows do not fall without God’s notice, nations certainly do not rise without His aid–and that would undoubtedly apply as well to governments.  At this point we know, incontrovertibly, that God chose to make Donald Trump President of these United States.  We may debate whether that is upon us a blessing or a curse, a reward or a punishment, a path forward or an impediment to truth, but whatever it is, it is what God decided we needed.  This is God’s gift to us, what He has given.

And every gift God gives is good.

Don’t choke on that.  Understand, as I know I have said previously and elsewhere, that when the Bible says that God’s gifts are good, it does not mean necessarily that we will like them.  All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose it says in Romans 8, but it does not mean that everything that happens to us will be pleasant.  Eat your spinach, it’s good for you–this is the kind of good Paul meant there, that whatever comes to us benefits us, whether we enjoy it or not.  Suffering produces endurance.  When Jesus says that God gives both sun and rain to the good and the bad, the righteous and the unrighteous, He did not mean that we all get good things and bad things–he meant that we get the good that is the sun and the good that is the rain.  I do not yet know whether this presidency will be steak or Brussels sprouts–the good I will enjoy or the good I need to endure–but I know that it has been given to us and it is good.

In the early days of the church, nearly all Christians lived in or near Jerusalem.  Then a terrible thing happened.  A Christian named Steven was lynched by a mob.  Instead of the rioters being brought to justice, the local ruler arrested one of the top people in the church, a man named James, and had him executed.  The persecution of believers had begun.  Many, including some of the leaders themselves, fled Jerusalem, left the province known as Judea, and sought homes elsewhere in the Roman Empire.  It was undoubtedly something they would have prayed to end, despite the fact that Jesus told them it would happen–and we see in hindsight that these fleeing believers carried the message with them into places it would not have reached nearly as quickly otherwise, so the church spread and grew as others heard the gospel and believed.  Christians had been told to take the message into the whole world, but were rather complacently sitting in the one small town (and face it, as capital cities of the time went, Jerusalem was a small one) sharing the message mostly with people who had already heard it or knew where to hear it if they were interested.  We needed that trouble to move us in the right direction.

Therefore I know what to pray.  I pray that God will give wisdom to this man and his advisors, so that they will accomplish the task God has given them in the best way possible.  I do not know what that task might be, nor do I know to what degree the answer to my prayer will involve God clearing the path for what the man wants to do and to what degree it involves God impeding that path so that only part of the human program will be accomplished.  I do know that God will accomplish His purpose, one way or another, and the current presidency is part of that.  We are instructed to pray, and not given much understanding of what to pray, but this is enough.  One way or another, this should move us in the right direction.  We might not know what the right direction is (and for those first century Christians it seems to have been every direction as long as it was motion), but we know that God is moving somewhere and will bring us where He wants us to be.

So let us pray.

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#150: 2016 Retrospective

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #150, on the subject of 2016 Retrospective.

Periodically I try to look back over some period of time and review what I have published, and the end of the year is a good time to do this.  Thus before the new year begins I am offering you a reminder of articles you might have seen–or might have missed–over the past twelve months.  I am not going to recall them all.  For one thing, that would be far too many, and it in some cases will be easier to point to another location where certain categories of articles are indexed (which will appear more obvious as we progress).  For another, although we did this a year ago in web log post #34:  Happy Old Year, we also did it late in March in #70:  Writing Backwards and Forwards, when we had finished posting Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel.  So we will begin with the last third of March, and will reference some articles through indices and other sources.

I have divided articles into the categories which I thought most appropriate to them.  Many of these articles are reasonably in two or more categories–articles related to music often relate to writing, or Bible and theology; Bible and politics articles sometimes are nearly interchangeable.  I, of course, think it is all worth reading; I hope you think it at least worth considering reading.

I should also explain those odd six-digit numbers for anyone for whom they are not obvious, because they are at least non-standard.  They are YYMMDD, that is, year, month, and day of the date of publication of each article, each represented by two digits.  Thus the first one which appears, 160325, represents this year 2016, the third month March, and the twenty-fifth day.

img0150calendar

Let’s start with writings about writing.

There is quite a bit that should be in this category.  After all, that previous retrospective post appeared as we finished posting that first novel, and we have since posted the second, all one hundred sixty-two chapters of which are indexed in their own website section, Old Verses New.  If you’ve not read the novels, you have some catching up to do.  I also published one more behind-the-writings post on that first novel, #71:  Footnotes on Verse Three, Chapter One 160325, to cover notes unearthed in an old file on the hard drive.

Concurrent with the release of those second novel chapters there were again behind-the-writings posts, this time each covering nine consecutive chapters and hitting the web log every two weeks.  Although they are all linked from that table-of-contents page, since they are web log posts I am listing them here:  #74:  Another Novel 160421; #78:  Novel Fears 160506; #82:  Novel Developments 160519; #86:  Novel Conflicts 160602; #89:  Novel Confrontations 160623; #91:  Novel Mysteries 160707; #94:  Novel Meetings 160721; #100:  Novel Settling 160804; #104:  Novel Learning 160818; #110:  Character Redirects 160901;
#113:  Character Movements 160916;
#116:  Character Missions 160929;
#119:  Character Projects 161013;
#122:  Character Partings 161027; #128:  Character Gatherings 161110; #134:  Versers in Space 161124; #142:  Characters Unite 161208; and #148:  Characters Succeed 161222.

I have also added a Novel Support Section which at this point contains character sheets for several of the characters in the first novel and one in the second; also, if you have enjoyed reading the novels and have not seen #149:  Toward the Third Novel 161223, it is a must-read.

Also on the subject of writing, I discussed what was required for someone to be identified as an “author” in, appropriately, #72:  Being an Author 160410.  I addressed #118:  Dry Spells 161012 and how to deal with them, and gave some advice on #132:  Writing Horror 161116.  There was also one fun Multiverser story which had been at Dice Tales years ago which I revived here, #146:  Chris and the Teleporting Spaceships 161220

I struggled with where on this list to put #120:  Giving Offense 161014.  It deals with political issues of sexuality and involves a bit of theological perspective, but ultimately is about the concept of tolerance and how we handle disagreements.

It should be mentioned that not everything I write is here at M. J. Young Net; I write a bit about writing in my Goodreads book reviews.

Of course, I also wrote a fair amount of Bible and Theology material.

Part of it was apologetic, that is, discussing the reasons for belief and answers to the arguments against it.  In this category we have #73:  Authenticity of the New Testament Accounts 160413, #76:  Intelligent Simulation 160424 (specifically addressing an incongruity between denying the possibility of “Intelligent Design” while accepting that the universe might be the equivalent of a computer program), and #84:  Man-made Religion 160527 (addressing the charge that the fact all religions are different proves none are true).

Other pages are more Bible or theology questions, such as #88:  Sheep and Goats 160617, #90:  Footnotes on Guidance 160625, #121:  The Christian and the Law 161022, and #133:  Your Sunday Best 161117 (on why people dress up for church).

#114:  St. Teresa, Pedophile Priests, and Miracles 160917 is probably a bit of both, as it is a response to a criticism of Christian faith (specifically the Roman Catholic Church, but impacting all of us).

There was also a short miniseries of posts about the first chapter of Romans, the sin and punishment it presents, and how we as believers should respond.  It appeared in four parts:  #138:  The Sin of Romans I 161204, #139:  Immorality in Romans I 161205, #140:  Societal Implications of Romans I 161206, and #141:  The Solution to the Romans I Problem 161207.

Again, not everything I wrote is here.  The Faith and Gaming series and related materials including some from The Way, the Truth, and the Dice are being republished at the Christian Gamers Guild; to date, twenty-six such articles have appeared, but more are on the way including one written recently (a rules set for what I think might be a Christian game) which I debated posting here but decided to give to them as fresh content.  Meanwhile, the Chaplain’s Bible Study continues, having completed I & II Peter and now entering the last chapter of I John.

Again, some posts which are listed below as political are closely connected to principles of faith; after all, freedom of speech and freedom of religion are inextricably connected.  Also, quite a few of the music posts are also Bible or theology posts, since I have been involved in Christian music for decades.

So Music will be the next subject.

Since it is something people ask musicians, I decided to give some thought and put some words to #75:  Musical Influences 160423, the artists who have impacted my composing, arranging, and performances.

I also reached into my memories of being in radio, how it applies to being a musician and to being a writer, in #77:  Radio Activity 160427.

I wrote a miniseries about ministry and music, what it means to be a minister and how different kinds of ministries integrate music.  It began by saying not all Christian musicians are necessarily ministers in #95:  Music Ministry Disconnect 160724, and then continued with #97:  Ministry Calling 160728, #98:  What Is a Minister? 160730, #99:  Music Ministry of an Apostle 160803, #101:  Prophetic Music Ministry 160808, #102:  Music and the Evangelist Ministry 160812, #103:  Music Ministry of the Pastor 160814, #106:  The Teacher Music Ministry 160821, and
#107:  Miscellaneous Music Ministries 160824.  As something of an addendum, I posted #109:  Simple Songs 160827, a discussion of why so many currently popular songs seem to be musically very basic, and why given their purpose that is an essential feature.

In related areas, I offered #111:  A Partial History of the Audio Recording Industry 160903 explaining why recored companies are failing, #129:  Eulogy for the Record Album 161111 discussing why this is becoming a lost art form, and #147:  Traditional versus Contemporary Music 161221 on the perennial argument in churches about what kinds of songs are appropriate.

The lyrics to my song Free 161017 were added to the site, because it was referenced in one of the articles and I thought the readers should be able to find them if they wished.

There were quite a few articles about Law and Politics, although despite the fact that this was an “election year” (of course, there are elections every year, but this one was special), most of them were not really about that.  By March the Presidential race had devolved into such utter nonsense that there was little chance of making sense of it, so I stopped writing about it after talking about Ridiculous Republicans and Dizzying Democrats.

Some were, of course.  These included the self-explanatory titles #123:  The 2016 Election in New Jersey 161104, #124:  The 2016 New Jersey Public Questions 161105, #125:  My Presidential Fears 161106, and #127:  New Jersey 2016 Election Results 161109, and a few others including #126:  Equity and Religion 161107 about an argument in Missouri concerning whether it should be legal to give state money to child care and preschool services affiliated with religious groups, and #131:  The Fat Lady Sings 161114, #136:  Recounting Nonsense 161128, and #143:  A Geographical Look at the Election 161217, considering the aftermath of the election and the cries to change the outcome.

We had a number of pages connected to the new sexual revolution, including #79:  Normal Promiscuity 160507, #83:  Help!  I’m a Lesbian Trapped in a Man’s Body! 160521, and #115:  Disregarding Facts About Sexual Preference 160926.

Other topics loosely under discrimination include #87:  Spanish Ice Cream 160616 (about whether a well-known shop can refuse to take orders in languages other than English), #130:  Economics and Racism 161112 (about how and why unemployment stimulates racist attitudes), and #135:  What Racism Is 161127 (explaining why it is possible for blacks to have racist attitudes toward whites).  Several with connections to law and economics include #105:  Forced Philanthropy 160820 (taxing those with more to give to those with less), #108:  The Value of Ostentation 160826 (arguing that the purchase of expensive baubles by the rich is good for the poor), #137:  Conservative Penny-pinching 161023 (discussing spending cuts), and #145:  The New Internet Tax Law 161219 (about how Colorado has gotten around the problem of charging sales tax on Internet purchases).

A few other topics were hit, including one on freedom of speech and religion called #144:  Shutting Off the Jukebox 161218, one on scare tactics used to promote policy entitled #80:  Environmental Blackmail 160508, and one in which court decisions in recent immigration cases seem likely to impact the future of legalized marijuana, called #96:  Federal Non-enforcement 160727.

Of course Temporal Anomalies is a popular subject among the readers; the budget has been constraining of late, so we have not done the number of analyses we would like, but we did post a full analysis of Time Lapse 160402.  We also reported on #85:  Time Travel Coming on Television 160528, and tackled two related issues, #81:  The Grandfather Paradox Problem 160515 and #117:  The Prime Universe 160930.

We have a number of other posts that we’re categorizing as Logic/Miscellany, mostly because they otherwise defy categorization (or, perhaps, become categories with single items within them).  #92:  Electronic Tyranny 060708 is a response to someone’s suggestion that we need to break away from social media to get our lives back.  #93:  What Is a Friend? 060720 presents two concepts of the word, and my own preference on that.  #112:  Isn’t It Obvious? 160904 is really just a couple of real life problems with logical solutions.  I also did a product review of an old washing machine that was once new, Notes on a Maytag Centennial Washing Machine 160424.

Although it does not involve much writing, with tongue planted firmly in cheek I offer Gazebos in the Wild, a Pinterest board which posts photographs with taxonomies attempting to capture and identify these dangerous wild creatures in their natural habitats.  You would have to have heard the story of Eric and the Gazebo for that to be funny, I think.

Of course, I post on social media, but the interesting ones are on Patreon, and mostly because I include notes on projects still ahead and life issues impeding them.  As 2017 arrives, I expect to continue writing and posting–I already have two drafts, one on music and the other on breaking bad habits.  I invite your feedback.

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#143: A Geographical Look at the Election

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #143, on the subject of A Geographical Look at the Election.

For most of my life, I remember presidential races which ended sometime late on the night of Election Day when one of the candidates took the stage, conceded the election, and congratulated the opponent; then the other candidate took a different stage, thanked his supporters, said a few respectful words about his opponent, and started working toward his term in office.  Politics was still something of a “gentleman’s game”, and the losers lost gracefully and the winners won graciously.

This time, the losers refuse to accept their loss.  It is one of those elections–not for the first time–that majority of voters supported the losing candidate, and so there has been blame cast on the Electoral College system, and calls for recounts, and most recently suggestions that the Russians hacked the election process.  With the Wisconsin recount actually increasing the margin by which Trump took the state, the Michigan recount discovering massive fraud in many of the precincts won by Clinton, and the courts blocking the vital Pennsylvania recount, they are getting desperate.

For myself, I am worried that the polarization of America is going to lead to some sort of civil war.  I look not so much at the population but at the geography of the matter, and have reason to worry.

This electoral results map of Illinois, copied from Politico, is typical of "blue" states taken by Clinton:  a few patches of "blue" in the populous areas within a sea of mostly red.
This electoral results map of Illinois, copied from Politico, is typical of “blue” states taken by Clinton:  a few patches of “blue” in the populous areas within a sea of mostly red.
  • In Alabama, Trump took fifty-four of sixty-seven counties–over eighty percent–leaving just thirteen for Clinton.  Perhaps more significantly, he had over seventy-five percent of the vote in twenty-three of them–Clinton successfully doing so in only two.  Of course, Alabama was a strong win for Trump overall, with 62.9% of the vote to Clinton’s 34.6%.
  • Alaska was not so strong a victory for Trump, with only 52.9% of the vote, but a lot of voters went to third-party candidates there leaving Clinton a paltry 37.7%.  The state apparently has only one county, so while the state is not massively for Trump, it does seem to be massively against Clinton.
  • Arizona was a close one, with only 49.5% of the vote going to Trump and a strong 45.4% going to Clinton.  Eleven of fifteen counties went to Trump there.
  • Arkansas was another strong Trump win; of seventy-four counties, Clinton took only eight–under eleven percent–leaving sixty-six for Trump, along with 60.4% of the vote to her 33.8%.  He also took more than seventy-five percent of the vote in nine counties–more counties than she took total–with her best about sixty-two percent in one county.
  • California of course went strongly for Clinton, with 61.6% of the vote to Trump’s 32.8%.  However, of fifty-eight counties, Trump actually took the majority of the votes in twenty-five–about forty-three percent, leaving thirty-three for Clinton.
  • Colorado was a close win for Clinton, with 47.2% of the vote to Trump’s 44.4%.  However, Trump had majorities in forty-one of sixty-four counties, almost two-thirds, leaving Clinton only twenty-three.  Further, in eleven of those counties Trump took at least seventy-five percent of the vote, a feat Clinton only achieved in one of them.
  • Connecticut was a bit better for Clinton–she took 54.5% of the vote to Trump’s 41.2%.  She even took most of the small state geographically–six out of eight counties.  She did not get as much sixty percent of the vote in any one of them, though.
  • Delaware also went to Clinton, with 53.4% of the vote to Trump’s 41.9%.  However, only one of the three counties went for Clinton, the other two supporting Trump, one of them very strongly.
  • The District of Columbia is not a state and has no congressional representation, but it does get three electoral votes; 92.8% of its tiny population went for Clinton, 4.1% for Trump.  Obviously it does not have counties, so like Alaska it is a single unit.
  • Trump took a slight edge in Florida, with 49.1% to Clinton’s 47.8%; I’m surprised Jill Stein didn’t call for a recount there, but that might be a politically sensitive issue there.  However, the geographical disproportionality is tremendous there:  Of sixty-seven counties, Clinton took only nine–a little more than one eighth–leaving fifty-eight for Trump.  Further, he took better than seventy-five percent in eleven counties, and she did not approach that level in any.
  • Georgia was Trump, at 51.3% to Clinton’s 45.6%.  Again, though, the geography is overwhelming:  Clinton had thirty of one hundred fifty-nine counties, giving one hundred twenty-nine–over eighty percent–to Trump.  In forty of those–a quarter of all the counties in the state–he took over seventy-five percent of the vote; Clinton reached that mark in only two counties.
  • 62.3% of Hawaiian voters went for Clinton, and only 30.1% for Trump.  Here Clinton had a strong showing, taking majorities in all four counties, all between sixty and sixty-five percent against Trump’s twenty-five to thirty-five percent.
  • Idaho was 59.2% for Trump, 27.6% for Clinton, but it is even worse than that.  Clinton only placed first in two of forty-four counties, and there were seven counties in which she placed third behind an independent candidate popular in the western states named Evan McMullin, coming out of the Republican party and thus reducing Trump’s support.
  • Clinton took Illinois with 55.4% of the vote to Trump’s 39.4%, but the geography again is against her:  of one hundred two counties, she took only eleven, giving ninety-one–almost ninety percent–to Trump.  He took nineteen of those with better than seventy-five percent of the vote; Clinton’s best showing was just shy of that.
  • Indiana went to Trump with 57.2% of the vote to Clinton’s 37.9%.  On top of that, only four counties favored Clinton, the other eighty-eighty going to Trump, and her best showing was not quite sixty percent, while again Trump took more than three quarters of the vote in nine counties.
  • Iowa has ninety-nine counties, of which ninety-three went to Trump, only six to Clinton.  He took the state with 51.8% of the vote to her 42.2%.  It was a more moderate victory–he took three quarters of the vote or more in only four counties.
  • Trump not only took Kansas with 57.2% of the vote to Clinton’s 36.2%, he took one hundred two of its one hundred four counties, fifty-three of them–more than half–by at least three quarters of the vote.
  • Kentucky has one hundred twenty counties, and Clinton took the majority of votes in two.  She did take 42.7% of the total vote, losing to Trump’s 62.7%; he took more than three-quarters of the vote in fifty-seven counties.
  • Trump had another strong win in Louisiana, with 58.1% of the vote to Clinton’s 38.4%.  Louisiana doesn’t actually have “counties” because it calls them “parishes”, a throwback to the fact that it was originally organized as a French territory, but they serve the same function, and Trump took fifty-four of sixty-four, leaving ten for Clinton.  He took thirteen of those with seventy-five percent or more of the vote; Clinton took one of hers at that margin.
  • Maine is one of the two states that apportions its electoral votes according to the percent of voters, and so Clinton’s 47.9% of the vote got her three of those votes, Trump’s 45.2% garnishing him the remaining one.  Although the map looks a lot “redder” than “blue”, it’s because the seven coastal counties Clinton took are a lot smaller, geographically, than the nine much larger inland counties that when to Trump.  All of these were close.
  • Maryland strongly favored Clinton, with 60.5% of the vote going to her, 35.3% to Trump.  The map, though, shows that Clinton’s support was localized to the suburbs of Baltimore and of Washington, D. C.–she took six of twenty-three counties plus Baltimore City (counted separately from Baltimore County, which she also took), leaving seventy percent of the counties for Trump.  She had strong victories in two of her counties, taking at least three quarters of the vote, but he did as well in one of his.
  • Massachusetts is entirely blue–Clinton took every one of fourteen counties.  She got three quarters of the vote in one of them, and state-wide took 60.8% to Trump’s 33.5%.
  • As we noted, the recount in Michigan has uncovered massive voter fraud in many districts taken by the Democrats.  However, the numbers before the recount gave Trump 47.6% of the vote to Clinton’s 47.3%, and despite the claim that it is supposed to be a “blue” state, the map is mostly red–seventy-five of eighty-three counties went to Trump, leaving Clinton with eight.
  • Clinton squeaked out a victory in Minnesota, with 46.9% of the vote to Trump’s 45.4%–but again the blue state looks very red.  Of eighty-seven counties, only nine went to Clinton, seventy-eight to Trump.
  • The geography is not quite so lopsided in Mississippi, where Clinton took twenty-four of eighty-two counties, not quite a third, four of them with better than three quarters of the vote; but Trump took the other fifty-eight counties, seventeen of them with at least three quarters of the vote, and took the state with 58.3% to her 39.7%.
  • Show me Missouri, and I see a solid Trump win with 57.1% of the vote to Clinton’s 38.0%.  Geographically I see an even stronger showing, as Trump took majorities in one hundred twelve of one hundred fifteen counties, leaving Clinton to claim only three, plus St. Louis City (counted separately from St. Louis County, which she also took).  Trump took at least three quarters of the vote in sixty-six of those counties, more than half; Clinton did so well only in St. Louis City itself.
  • Montana also went to Trump, 56.5% to 36.0%, and again even more dramatically looked at geographically.  Clinton took only five of fifty-five counties, about nine percent against Trump’s ninety-one percent, fifty counties.  He took eighteen of those by at least seventy-five percent of the vote, one of them by over ninety percent.  In two of the five Clinton won she actually took less than fifty percent of the vote, but beat Trump due to strong showings by Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
  • In Nebraska, Clinton took majorities in only two of ninety-three counties, and in both she had less than fifty percent of the vote, Libertarian Gary Johnson making a strong showing.  She took only 34% of the vote to Trump’s 60.3%, and he sixty-three counties by at least seventy-five percent of the vote, four of them by over ninety percent.
  • Clinton took Nevada, 47.9% to 45.5%, but she only took two of the seventeen counties in Nevada, the other fifteen going to Trump–and she didn’t actually have a majority of the voters in one of the counties she took, while Trump had at least three quarters of the votes in four of his counties.

    Are you noticing a pattern here?

  • Our “new” states start, alphabetically, with New Hampshire, where Clinton took 47.6% to Trump’s 47.2%.  Although it is a lot closer, again geographically Trump is favored, taking six of ten counties.  All of them were close.
  • New Jersey was 55.0% for Clinton, 41.8% for Trump, and for once she got the slim majority of counties–twelve of twenty-one, leaving nine for Trump.  Most counties were close; in none did either candidate take three quarters of the vote.
  • In New Mexico, the vote went for Clinton, 48.3% to 40.0%, but the geography slightly favored Trump.  He took the majority in nineteen counties, Clinton in fourteen.
  • New York, where Clinton was once Senator, went for her by 58.8% to 37.5% for Trump, who considers it his home state.  Still, of sixty-two counties, Clinton took majorities in only sixteen, leaving Trump forty-six counties, less than one percent shy of three quarters of them.  She took three quarters of the vote in four of those counties, all of them containing parts of New York City.
  • By the population, Trump edged out Clinton in North Carolina with 50.5% of the vote to her 46.7%.  She did better here geographically, taking twenty-four of the one hundred counties, not quite a quarter.  Trump took at least three-quarters of the vote in nine counties; Clinton did so in only one.
  • Further north we have North Dakota, which Trump took with 64.1% of the vote to Clinton’s 27.8%.  Trump also took all but two of fifty-three counties, twenty-one of them with at least three quarters of the vote.
  • In Ohio, Clinton took only seven of eighty-eight counties, and 43.5% of the vote against Trump’s 52.1%.  In a dozen of his eighty-one counties Trump took at least three-quarters of the vote.
  • Where the wind comes whistling down the plane in Olklahoma, it blew solidly to Trump, with 65.3% of the vote to Clinton’s 28.9, and every one of seventy-eight counties, and in more than half–forty-three of them–he took more than three quarters of the vote.
  • Clinton took Oregon, 51.7% to 41.1%, but again the map is mostly red–she took eight of thirty-six counties, two ninths, less than a quarter.  Clinton took at least three-quarters of the vote in one county, Trump in three.
  • Pennsylvania looks very close by the numbers, with Trump’s 48.8% squeaking past Clinton’s 47.6%, and a court ruling preventing a recount, but again geographically it does not look close at all.  Of sixty-seven counties, Clinton took only eleven, leaving fifty-six for Trump.  Clinton took one of those counties by better than three-quarters of the vote; Trump did so in seven.
  • Rhode Island, the smallest state geographically, where Clinton won with 55.4% of the vote to Trump’s 39.8, has only five counties; Trump took only one.
  • The geography is also better for Clinton in South Carolina, although still there she took only fifteen of forty-six counties, and only 40.8% of the vote to Trump’s 54.9%.  Clinton took better than seventy-five percent of the vote in one county.
  • Not so far south in South Dakota, sixty-one of sixty-six counties went to Trump, five to Clinton, as he took the state with 61.5% of the vote to her 31.7%.  He took sixteen of those counties with three quarters or more of the vote–more than three times as many at that rate than she took at all, although she did take three quarters of the vote in one of her counties–and one of his he took by better than nine out of ten votes cast.
  • Three of Tennessee’s ninety-five counties did not go to Trump, who took 61.1% of the vote in that state to Clinton’s 34.9%.  He took forty-eight of those by at least seventy-five percent of the vote.
  • It sounds good to say that in the next state Clinton took the majority in twenty-five counties, and with at least three-quarters of the vote in three of them–until you say that the state is Texas, and of its two hundred fifty-four counties that’s slightly less than ten percent, leaving two hundred twenty-nine for Trummp.  He took one hundred thirty-eight of those with at least seventy-five percent of the vote, eight of them with at least ninety percent.  He took the state with 52.6% of the vote to her 43.4%.
  • To say that Clinton placed first in only three of Utah’s twenty-nine counties is to understate how poorly she did there.  In only one of those three did she get more than half the votes, and that barely, and in fourteen of the twenty-six Trump won she placed third, behind that previously mentioned independent candidate popular in the western states, Evan McMullin, who also did well in Idaho, and who also tied her in a fifteenth second-place position here.  Despite this three-way race, Trump took five counties by at least seventy-five percent of the vote, and took 45.9% of the total against her 27.8%.
  • Clinton did manage very nearly to sweep the small state of Vermont, taking 61.1% of the vote to Trump’s 32.6% and holding a majority in all but one of its fourteen counties.
  • She also took 49.9% of the vote in Virginia, where Trump got 45.0%.  Virginia counts most of its cities separately from the counties in which they are situated.  She took twelve of the ninety-four counties and twenty-eight of the thirty-nine cities–generally small blue dots on a largely red map.  That’s ninety-three voting districts going to Trump, forty to Clinton, and he took sixteen of his counties by at least three-quarters of the votes, which she accomplished in five of her cities.
  • In Washington, they stopped counting after just over ninety percent of the precincts had reported; only seven of the thirty-eight counties were complete, of which Trump took six.  If we include all the counties, unfinished, Clinton took about twelve, Trump about twenty-six.  (One county, counted as for Clinton, is close enough that the uncounted votes may be about sixty times as many as the difference between Clinton and Trump there, so it is being generous to say she took that county.)  Of the votes counted, 54.4% went to Clinton, 38.2% to Trump, so although almost nine percent of the state remains unreported, it would not be sufficient to reverse the state outcome–only the national total.
  • West Virginia went strongly for Trump, 68.7% to Clinton’s 26.5%.  It is not surprising that he took majorities in every one of its fifty-five counties, twenty-two of them with at least three-quarters of the vote.
  • The recount in Wisconsin, as mentioned, reportedly found a few more votes for Trump; the originally reported totals gave him 47.9% against Clinton’s 46.9%.  Clinton’s strength gives her only thirteen of the state’s seventy-two counties, fifty-nine going to Trump.  She did take better than three-quarters of the vote in one of the counties on her list.
  • The last state on an alphabetical list, Wyoming, is also the one in which Trump had the best showing at 70.1% to Clinton’s 22.5%.  He did not take every one of the twenty-three counties–only twenty-two, leaving one for Clinton.  He did take fifteen of them with at least three-fourths of the votes.

So what’s the point of all this?  If you did the math (of course you didn’t, that’s my job), you noticed that if we count by reporting counties/cities, Trump took two thousand six hundred twenty eight, to Clinton’s four hundred eighty-three–84% of all the places in the country where voting was counted.  You might also note that if we average the percentage of votes each took in each state, Trump took 48.97% to Clinton’s 45.24%–that is, a greater percentage of people counted state by state preferred Trump.  He clearly is favored geographically.

So who cares?  Why should it matter if more places want Trump to be President, if we live in a democracy, and more people want Clinton?

And that is exactly what the Democratic party wants you to think:  all those people in all those places which are mostly outside the cities don’t matter and should not really be considered in how we, the urbane people from the urban centers, want to run the country.

They are actually counting on this for the future of their party:  the demographics say that people who live in these high-population-density areas tend to vote Democratic, and they are increasing in numbers faster than those in the more sparsely populated Republican areas, and so using the fact that we are a democracy they can bully the outnumbered rural and light suburban people into their plans.  As one of my rural friends commented, “How rude”.

But the fact is that we are not a democracy.  We are a federated republic–and the difference is important.  This is not you, me, and some maybe one hundred fifty million other voters deciding how to run our country.  We are not, first and foremost, a union of individuals, but a union of states, of political entities comprised of individuals.  This is about New Jersey and Utah, California and Colorado, Florida and New York, about three thousand counties in fifty states and one political district, coming together to agree as to how they, as separate political entities, will govern themselves collectively.  It says, inherently, that the people in the boondocks will be heard, will have a say in how they are governed.

Yet the people who want to cancel the Trump victory want to disenfranchise these people in the name of “democracy”.  These are the same people who complain that the country has tried to disenfranchise blacks, women, and other minorities.  Their entire political strategy is based on disenfranchising those with whom they disagree–despite the fact that these are the people who, in the main, provide our corn and our beef, our potatoes and our milk, our national petroleum, even to a large degree our fresh water.  Do you really want to tell these people that you don’t care about them, that they should not have a say in how their country is run?

The rural people won this time; they’ve lost a few over the past decade, and that’s the way the system works, passing the lead back and forth between the progressives and the reactionaries for a while, eventually (usually) settling to a middle ground which is more progressive than we were and not as progressive as the radicals wanted us to be.  But if you take this victory away from them, it’s going to hurt in ways that are likely to come back–not, perhaps, a civil war, but certainly a change in the way the producers of our necessities regard the massed consumers who are living in the urban areas and pretending that the people on whom their lives depend are inconsequential.

I don’t think that it will happen, that Trump’s victory will be overturned, but I thought all of those calling for it should give some consideration to what they are really saying.

The statistics in this article were compiled by hand from Politico; I apologize if there are any mistakes.

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#135: What Racism Is

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #135, on the subject of What Racism Is.

This began as a Facebook thread, but found its way here for several reasons.  One is that the issue is important, and in the hierarchy of ephemera that comprises the Internet a web log post has a longer life than a Facebook thread, and so reaches more people over a longer period of time.  Another is that most (not all) of those participating in the Facebook thread disagreed; either I failed to communicate the essential point adequately, or there is a fundamental disagreement about the nature and definition of “racism”.

President Clinton's Initiative on Race
President Clinton’s Initiative on Race

An “ism”, generally, is a set of beliefs or sometimes attitudes expressing itself as a world view and thus impacting the actions of the “ist”, that is, the one embracing the “ism”, or tending toward “ist” actions, those which express the “ism”.  There are many–Marxism, socialism, and Nazism; legalism, Gnosticism, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Taoism.  The one perhaps nearest in kind to racism is sexism, and they share some similar features.  Both involve using a biological category as a basis for distinctions that are generalizations about the group applied to individuals within it.  Sexism is the belief or attitude that one sex is better at some things than the other, when those specific supposed advantages are not specifically linked to the essential elements that are the basis for the distinction between the two sexes.  The statement that only women are designed to carry and deliver offspring is not in itself sexist because that is part of the definition of what it is to be female, in humans; the assertion that they therefore should stay home and have babies is sexist, because it places a different obligation on women than on men which is separate from that biological distinction.  (It is different in sea horses and some other aquatic life, in which once the female has handled the fertilization of the eggs she provided, she passes them to the male for safekeeping until birth.)  It is sexist to assert that men are smarter than women, in part because that is not one of the defining distinctions but in larger part because it is simply not true–men are better on average at certain cognitive tasks (especially space relations), women at others (especially linguistic abilities), and overall intellect is about equal at both the means and the extremes.  More difficult is the assertion that men have greater upper body strength–a statement that is true at the means and the extremes, that the male torso is built slightly differently than the female with upper body strength in view, but which is not true in every individual case.  So sexism is the attitude that one sex is better than the other in specific ways which are not actually linked to sexual differences, and it can point either direction–the statement that men are terrible at relationships and commitments is sexist not because it isn’t true as a generalization that women are better at such things than men, but because it is not universally true either that all men are bad at these nor that all women are good.  A misandrist is just as much a sexist as a misogynist.

Thus a racist is someone who thinks in racial categories and believes that everyone who shares a common racial ancestry automatically has specific traits universal to that group which are not part of the defining traits of that group.  Obviously it is true that there are some genetic factors that unify individual races; it is equally true that the pure genome of every race is vanishing from the world (blue eyes have become more rare as a percentage of the population than ever before).  It is not sexist to state that blacks all have high quantities of melanin in their skin, hair, and eyes, because that is part of the biological definition of negroid anatomy.  It is racist to say that all blacks have great rhythm and musical ability, even if it is intended in a complimentary or admiring sense, because it is an untrue generalization based on race.

There is, however, an attitude or notion that only whites can be racist, and that all whites are.  Part of my point is that this attitude is itself racist:  it generalizes about a group based on racial distinctions to assert that some defect is true about all individual members of the group, and further asserts that it is not true about anyone who is not a member of that group.  Racism is seen as a specifically and universally white characteristic.  That is not true.  Ask any Mexican in the United States whether there are racist blacks.  Hispanic subgroups–Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans–are often racist toward each other.  There has long been racism between various white racial subgroups.  The grandmother of a college friend of mine was known to have said, “Ya, but vat is a Svede but a Norvegian vith his brains knocked out?”  All those Italian jokes we heard as kids are racist; the obstacles they and other immigrant groups such as the Irish faced in employment were expressions of racism against whites–and to the black radio commentator who once opined that all they needed to do was change their names, even those who at that time were not racist could identify ethnic backgrounds by everything from idiolect to pigmentation.  The racism against Jews seemingly knows no racial barriers, as they are stereotyped by people of every national and ethnic background, often to the point of violent persecution–and in the main, Jews are white.

In Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, in the chapter in which Lauren Hastings meets Joe Kondor, when he opines that the reason she failed to notice that the bird people populating their new world were segregated based on the colors of their feathers is that she is white, it surprises her that he would think it discriminatory of her not to have noticed such a connection, but not to have thought it discriminatory to suggest that it was because she was white.  That was because she was not racist–racial categories do not matter to her at all–and he is, but does not recognize it about himself.

When Barrack Obama was elected President of the United States, many thought this marked the end of racism in this country, because a black man had been elected President.  Unfortunately, that assessment is itself, once again, racist:  if it were true that racism had ended, no one would have observed that the man was black.  My children were not at all racist, and my wife and I often found it difficult to elicit from them whether their schoolteachers or classmates were white or black without asking directly, because it was not a category by which they identified people; they offered height, weight, age, hair and eye color, but not race.  Not being racist means that in your own mind race is not more than a category of biology which is irrelevant outside of a few mostly medical matters (for example, sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder specifically linked to the black genome).  Yet after his election racism continued, even demonstrated by his own family.  We have previously observed how Michelle Obama’s Target story demonstrates her own racism, that she believes a short white woman would have asked her to get something off the top shelf not because she, at five foot eleven inches, is tall, but because she is black.  The assumption was, once again, that the woman was racist because she was white, when any child would have recognized that the only racism here comes from that assumption, not from a short person asking a tall person for help.

All of which brings us to the West Virginia story which started this.

I am old enough to remember that it was fairly common, at least in my part of the country, to refer to someone as a “big ape” to mean that he was large and physically awkward or clumsy–lacking physical grace would be a polite way to say it.  That’s what the expression means to me, and if I were to call someone an ape–which is, frankly, just plain rude to call anybody anything insulting–that would be my intent.  I don’t think that were I to use that particular insult, I would make any distinction based on race, because the expression does not mean that to me and never did.

I am educated enough to know that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was generally believed, even by many abolitionists, that Negroes were not human, but were the most advanced primates to come out of Africa, eminently trainable and even able to understand and mimic speech.  It was as it were an article of faith among the slavery faction, to the point that one Civil War Confederate general wrote in his journal that were it to be demonstrated that blacks could fight in the armies of either side, the South would lose on principle, as that would prove they were in fact human, not domesticated animals, and that it therefore was morally wrong to enslave them.  I know that the epithet of being an “ape” or a “monkey” was still in use in the early twentieth century to convey the belief that blacks were sub-human.  I have never in my now somewhat longish life actually heard anyone so use it.  I would not first think of that meaning were I to hear someone call someone an “ape”, because in my experience the other meaning is still in common use and this one is not, any more than were I to hear someone identified as a “bitch” I would take that in its early meaning of a profligate woman instead of the modern sense of a nasty one.

It might, I suppose, matter that I have lived much of my life north of the Mason-Dixon Line–but only because the men who drew the line had it turn south from the southern edge of Pennsylvania along the western border of Delaware, and so placed New Jersey on the northern side completely.  The line along the southern edge of Pennsylvania, if continued eastward, would pass through our state; we are in that sense on the border, and there are enough “rednecks” in the southern reaches of the state that the Confederate flag is not completely absent from personal displays.

Yet it should equally be noted that that same line follows along the northern edge of West Virginia–it, too, is a border state, albeit a southern one, and part of it extends north of that line as defined by the southern edge of Pennsylvania.  Where I live in New Jersey today is south of a substantial portion of West Virginia.  Historically West Virginia was a slave state and New Jersey a free state, but that was over one and a half centuries ago.  West Virginia is not “deep south” like Alabama, and New Jersey is not “remote north” like Vermont and Massachusetts.  An expression that is common or uncommon here is probably similarly used as near here as West Virginia.  There might still be people in the country using the derogation “ape” to refer to someone as sub-human, but it is the less likely usage.

From this, it appears to me to be at least plausible that the woman in West Virginia who described First Lady Michelle Obama as “an ape in heels” did not mean it in a racial sense, but only in the sense that the nearly six foot tall basketball-playing woman lacks the sort of grace we had in Jacqueline Kennedy or Nancy Reagan or Betty Ford.  I can imagine that after she said it via Twitter an electronic gasp passed through the audience and she thought, as many who accidentally say things they did not realize had sexual implications until after the words were out of their mouths, “What did I say?”  Maybe someone had to call her attention to the racial meaning of that slur, which was not in her thoughts at all.  Then, realizing how people would take what she said, she blushed brilliantly and retracted it.

I could be entirely wrong.  People who know this woman might be aware of facts unknown to us, perhaps that she is terribly racist and probably would call a black woman an “ape” in the sense of “sub-human primate”.  They might as easily know that she is not at all racist and would have said something like that completely oblivious to its racial implications.  We cannot know whether this white woman made a comment she knew was a racial slur, or whether she meant something differently insulting about a first lady who is perhaps athletic but not graceful.

Which brings the second half of the point.  Most readers, and indeed the media generally, leapt to the conclusion that because this was said by a white woman about a black woman, it must have been a racial slur.  That, though, requires thinking about the situation in racial categories–that is, judging it from a racist perspective.  If the comment had been made by a black woman, would we not conclude that she meant awkward?  If it had been made about a white man, would we be shouting that calling him an “ape” was clearly a racist attack on his status as a human being?  In point of fact, to reach the conclusion that this comment “must have been” racist, you must work from the assumption that because it was said by a white person living south of the Mason-Dixon Line (as it was actually drawn) about a black person, the white person is by default racist and intended it as a racial slur.  However, the statement “all whites are racist” is the attribution of a negative characteristic to all members of a class defined by race–and thus a racist statement by definition–and you do not cause it to cease to be racist by limiting it to “all whites living south of the Mason-Dixon Line”.

So I do not know whether the woman who stated that Michelle Obama was “an ape in heels” is racist–but I do know that all the people who, knowing no more than that a white woman in West Virginia made such a statement are insisting that it must have been intended as a racial slur because of who said it, certainly are.  If they were not, it would not have occurred to them that the race of the speaker in any way impacted the intent of the statement.

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#131: The Fat Lady Sings

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #131, on the subject of The Fat Lady Sings.

The votes are in, the polls are closed, the counting has nearly been completed, and it is clear that political outsider Republican Donald Trump has received more than enough electoral votes to become the next President of the United States.  It’s over.

The losers are sore; they don’t want it to be over.  Consummate politician and Washington insider Democrat Hillary Clinton received slightly more of the popular vote (less than one half of one percent, six hundred thirty thousand eight hundred seventy-seven (630,877) more votes than Trump out of one hundred twenty-seven million five hundred ninety-two thousand one hundred seventy-six (127,592,176) cast).  There are a lot of people who think that this means she should be the next President.  Some of them are petitioning for Electors pledged to Trump to “jump ship” and vote for Clinton instead, even if they are required by state law to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged.  Break the law, they say; pay the fine and save the country from this despicable Republican.  However, a lot of voters want this “despicable Republican” to be President, and there is a degree to which his victory is a vindication for one of the principle concepts of the Electoral College.

img0131trump

We’ve discussed the Electoral College before, in Coalition Government, and to a lesser degree before that in The Birth Certificate:  Ballot Requirements; it is that system by which we the people do not vote for the President but for the Electors who will vote for the President.  Ironically, it appears that the Framers of the Constitution wanted it to be a system that usually failed–the way the text is written, if several people are running for President it is unlikely that one of them would receive a majority of Electors, which means that the Legislature would get to pick who it wanted for its Executive (that is, “the person who executes the directives of the legislature”) from the shortlist provided by the College giving us the sort of “executive does what the ruling party wants” streamlined government typical of the Parliament/Prime Minister structures of other countries.  It rarely happens that way, because very early we learned that a two-party system results in one of the candidates usually getting fifty-percent-plus-one of the votes in the College, and so most people vote for one of the two major parties and the President generally is chosen in the first vote.

Yet this underscores another important point:  The President of the United States was never intended to be primarily a representative of the People of the United States.  The office is established in such a way that he represents the States, the electors being chosen by the States according to such permissible methods as each State chooses.  Most States choose to vote as blocs:  whichever candidate gets the majority of voter support within the state, that’s the candidate for which the state votes.  The point is not for the voters to vote for the President; the point is for the voters to tell their individual States whom the State should support for President.  The States then appoint the person wanted by the majority of the States, weighted by population.

And that is what happened here.

James Nolt wrote an excellent article in The Street (Pundits Just Don’t Get It:  Here Is the Real Reason Why Trump Won), in which he observes that the “rust belt” states went to Trump.  These are the homes of the manufacturing unions–steel workers, automotive workers–and they have seen their jobs vanish overseas.  Trump promised to do something about it.  These are the homes of struggling farm laborers, displaced by immigrant farm workers.  Trump promised to do something about that.  His plans sound radical–cutting back on the immigration of low-wage immigrants, placing high import duties on foreign manufactured goods–but they are plans that go against the status quo, that oppose the progressivist universalist concept of a world market where workers who have to pay American-level prices have to compete with workers willing to take third-world-level wages.  Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, West Virginia, the Dakotas–these states all want someone in Washington who will change the rules of the economy game so that ordinary working class people once again stand a chance.

I suppose that Bernie Sanders might have appealed to them with his socialist views.  He was not an option.  Trump was the only candidate in the race that supported policies that gave hope to those workers, and whether or not those policies are practical, whether or not they can be implemented, whether or not they would work, workers wanted to give him that chance.

What it means is that the Democratic Coalition is cracking:  labor no longer believes the Democrats have their best interests in view.  Support for more immigration is not in the interests of labor.  Support for free trade agreements is not in the interests of labor.  Republicans may have worked to break union strangleholds on jobs in some states, but Democrats have taken the union vote for granted while ignoring labor concerns, and now they’re losing it.

States where people want economic change, and not the more-of-the-same promised by the Democrats, voted for Trump.  And the President of the United States is chosen by the States, the clear majority of whom (of fifty-one (which includes the District of Columbia) twenty-eight certain, one more still counting but probable, one of four votes from Maine) supported him.  (Clinton took twenty certain, one more probable but still counting, and the other three votes from Maine.)  Those States were heard.  Trump is now President-elect, and we can hope that whatever he does will bring jobs back to America.

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#127: New Jersey 2016 Election Results

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #127, on the subject of New Jersey 2016 Election Results.

We provided some advance explanation of the two Public Questions which were on the ballot, and did a quick rundown of the major candidates in the twelve congressional districts, and now we’re following up with the election results.  After all, with a lot of these events there is a great deal of coverage in anticipation of the moment, and then if you blink, you miss the outcome.  That shouldn’t be.

In the Presidential race, New Jersey consigned its fourteen electoral votes to the loser, Democrat Hillary Clinton, as Republican Donald Trump won comfortably.

Map of New Jersey's Electoral College vote, from Google, 3:00 Wednesday morning.
Map of New Jersey’s Electoral College vote, from Google, 3:00 Wednesday morning.

Public Question #1:  Constitutional Amendment to permit casino gambling in two counties other than Atlantic County, went down hard, about four to one against.  That means for the present casino gambling will be confined to Atlantic City, and the city will have to figure out how better to manage what it has.

Public Question #2:  Constitutional Amendment to dedicate additional revenues to state transportation system, ran very close, but sometime after midnight had clearly passed by a narrow margin, under fifty-five percent of the vote favoring it.  That means the state government will be forced to put the gasoline tax revenue into a dedicated account strictly for use by the Department of Transportation, which was the justification for the tax originally.

In the House of Representatives, all the incumbents were re-elected easily except in Congressional District 5, where Republican incumbent Scott Garrett was hurt by Libertarian Claudio Belusic in his race against Democrat Josh Gottheimer.  The Libertarian’s two-point-two percent of the vote was the best of any Libertarian candidate in the state (Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson took two percent of the vote in the state, the best showing of any third-party candidate), but even apart from that Gottheimer would have edged out a victory, with fifty-point-five percent of the vote in his favor.

This tips the balance of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, which for the past several years has been evenly split with six Republicans and six Democrats; with Gottheimer replacing Garrett we will be sending seven Democrats and only five Republicans to Washington.  Nationally the Republicans still hold the House, with two hundred thirty-six seats, a few lost from their current majority.  In the Senate, Republicans also lost one seat (in Illinois), but still hold a bare majority at fifty-one.

Here are the incoming United States Congressmen from New Jersey by district:

  1. Donald Norcross, Democrat, Incumbent.
  2. Frank Lobiondo, Republican, Incumbent.
  3. Tom MacArthur, Republican, Incumbent.
  4. Chris Smith, Republican, Incumbent.
  5. Josh Gottheimer, Democrat, Newcomer.
  6. Frank Pallone, Democrat, Incumbent.
  7. Leonard Lance, Republican, Incumbent.
  8. Albio Sires, Democrat, Incumbent.
  9. Bill Pascrell, Democrat, Incumbent.
  10. Donald Payne, Jr., Democrat, Incumbent.
  11. Rodney Frelinghuysen, Republican, Incumbent.
  12. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Democrat, Incumbent.

That gives us the shape of our Federal Government for the next two years.

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