Territorial Voting

I watched the following video and laughed several times. (Language warning: there are a few curse words bleeped out and one off color reference after the America’s Got Talent clip). This John Oliver guy has some funny stuff. I agreed with some of the things he was saying, but there’s one glaring error in his main argument (that Americans living in Puerto Rico, Guam, etc should be allowed to vote and be represented in Congress). The problem with his argument is found in the United States Constitution, which is the supreme law of our country.

Let me quote the relevant passages from the Constitution, with some emphasis added:

Article 1 section 2: “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several STATES…”

Article 1 section 3: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each STATE,”

Article 1 section 4: “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each STATE by the Legislature thereof…”

Article 2 section 1: “Each STATE shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the STATE may be entitled in the Congress…”

Article 4 section 2: “The Citizens of each STATE shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”

Article 5: “…and that no STATE, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate”

12th amendment: “The Electors shall meet in their respective STATES, and vote by ballot for President …”

14th amendment section 2: “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several STATES according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each STATE, excluding Indians not taxed.”

16th amendment: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each STATE”

Did you notice anything? Only STATES get to vote for President. Only STATES get represented in Congress. Well, there’s one exception to this: Washington DC, which has its own amendment (the 23rd) providing for this very thing.

So no, Puerto Ricans don’t get to vote for President of the United States. People in Saipan don’t get to vote in the Senate or the House of Representatives. Why? Because they aren’t citizens of a STATE.

You know what other Americans didn’t get to vote for President? Americans living in territories that weren’t states yet, like the “Oklahoma territory,” “Iowa Territory,” Louisiana Territory.” They didn’t get to vote until they became states. That’s why “statehood” was such a big deal to the people in these territories. If these territories become states, then they get to vote. It’s that simple. In the 1844 Presidential election, not one Iowan vote was counted. Iowa became a state December 28, 1846. In the 1848 Presidential election, Iowan votes counted, because Iowa was now a state. There are people now in the United States territories that would like their homeland to become a state in the United States, but it hasn’t happened because they can’t get a majority of their neighbors to agree with them.

Guam? There is a registry of native inhabitants of Guam that requires 70% participation from the qualified inhabitants (I’m assuming they get the total number of native inhabitants from a census) before a change in their political status (from territory to state) can even be considered. As of July of last year (the most recent information I could find), they have just over 9,000 people on the registry. They need over 35,000 to hit 70%. Right now they’re at 17%. To conclude Guam’s story, the people of Guam have the means to become a state, but they are actively choosing NOT to participate in the process whereby they could even consider becoming a state

Puerto Rico? The residents of PR were given a referendum in 1998 (which means every citizen of PR got one vote) which had five options:
1. Statehood
2. Limited self-government
3. Free association
4. Sovereignty
5. None of the above.
Guess which one won. Yep, “None of the above” got 50.5% of the vote. So a majority of voting citizens of PR want everything to stay just like it is. Granted, 46.6% voted for statehood, but that’s not enough.

They held another referendum in 2012 in which the people were asked two questions:
1. Should PR continue its current territorial status?
2. Which non-territorial option do you prefer: statehood, free association, or independence?

The people of PR voted with 54% of the vote on question one being “no,” and 61.16% on question 2 being “Statehood.” So it appears they finally have a majority. I think removing the “none of the above” probably helped. I have said in the past that I believe “none of the above” should be automatically included in all elections, and if “none of the above” wins, hold a new election, with totally different candidates. Repeat until you get a good one.

But will Puerto Rico become the 51st state? Evidently there is still political fighting going on between those who want statehood and those who don’t. And do we really want the 51st state to be a state where half the citizens don’t want to be part of the United States? Why invite trouble like that? If the people of Puerto Rico had an overwhelming majority of “yes to statehood” votes (like, say over 66%), then I would be all for welcoming them into the United States, which would give them a vote in the Presidential elections, representation in Congress, and two senators.

Until that day, no vote for you!

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My Civil War Connection

I’ve never had much of an interest in the American Civil War.  But recently I’ve done some research into my ancestry and found out that two of my ancestors fought in it, so the history is suddenly more interesting.

My great-great-great-grandfather Solomon Cunningham served in the Union army. For those of you in my family, this would be my great-grandpa Bernie’s grandfather.

Solomon Cunningham joined the 16th regiment of the Iowa volunteer infantry January 5th,1862 when he was 39 years old. His 23 year old brother Maximillian had joined Dec 23rd, 1861. They were both Privates in Company D, and fought in the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862 as part of the Army of the Tennessee under Ulysses S. Grant. Then the Union army moved a few miles south to take the railhead at Corinth, Mississippi, and that’s where they died, in the Siege of Corinth (First Battle of Corinth), Maximillian on May 16th and Solomon on the 17th. According to an article in the Muscatine Journal, both men were wounded, but died of malaria.

The sad part about Solomon’s death (other than the obvious) was that he left his 29-year old widow Agnes with a 9 year old son, a 7 year old son, a 5 year old daughter, and a 2 year old daughter.  What’s more was that Agnes was pregnant.  Her fifth child George was born September 21st, and died a month later.   If George was born around his due date, then he was conceived somewhere around Christmas.  Solomon didn’t muster (join the troops) until January 28th, 1862, and it’s likely they didn’t find out Agnes was pregnant until after he had joined.  How horrible for Agnes to get the news that her husband had died when she was five months pregnant.  I’m sure there were many stories like that during our nation’s bloodiest war, but this one was from my family. My great-great-grandfather Robert was the 5 year old.   Agnes never remarried, and died at the age of 65.

Agnes Cunningham

Agnes Cunningham

Here is an interesting passage I read about Solomon’s first battle (The Battle of Shiloh) in “Roster and Record of Iowa Troops In the Rebellion, Vol. 2” By Guy E. Logan:

The experience gained by the regiment in this great battle was invaluable. In the numerous battles in which it was subsequently engaged it had the advantage of the training and drill which it had not received before the battle of Shiloh, but it was never afterwards placed in a position in which the bravery and fortitude of the officers and men received a more thorough test. It was the common experience of all soldiers that their first battle, no matter how favorable the conditions under which it was fought, was the severest test to their courage. At Shiloh the conditions under which the Sixteenth Iowa went into action were most unfavorable. The impression its men received, the moment they left the boat and formed in line of battle, was that the enemy was successful on every part of the battlefield; and this impression was sustained as they marched to the front and met large numbers of wounded being taken to the rear, also many demoralized and panic-stricken soldiers who had not been wounded but had deserted their regiments in the face of the enemy and sought safety in flight. The fact that the men of this new and untried regiment did not become infected with the feeling of panic, but marched steadily forward and went into that hell of battle with the coolness of veterans, fought until the only alternative was retreat or surrender, and afterwards rallied to their colors and rendered important service until the close of the battle, entitles them to a place in the front rank as heroic soldiers. In its subsequent history the record made at Shiloh was fully maintained but, in the judgment of the compiler, never surpassed.

Now I want to learn more about the Battles of Shiloh and Corinth.

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Amazon Returns

I moved a few months ago, and I’m not as young as I’m used to.  We didn’t get much help moving this time, so I ended up doing the majority of it by myself.  I did too much.  My elbows have been hurting ever since.  I finally went to the doctor’s office the first week of January, and was told I have lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) in both arms.  Fun.

So the nurse practitioner told me to buy a “counter brace” for each arm.  I went to CVS, and the guy said they didn’t carry them.  I went to Amazon.com and ordered a set of braces for $16 each from “The Therapy Connection.”  Meanwhile, I went to another pharmacy and found a cheap set for $8 each to use while I waited for the good ones to arrive.

Fast forward a week.  The “good ones” arrived, and when I pulled them out of the box they were just about the same as the ones I had been wearing.  So I decided I would return them.  Having not used them, I put them back in the display boxes they came in, and stuck them in a shipping box to send back.  I got credited back for my return yesterday.  They gave me $23 back.

Now I’m no math genius, but I paid $32 for them, and then paid about $6 to ship them back.  I had no problem paying the shipping, because it was my choice to return them. But why did they short me  $9?  I contacted Amazon, who graciously told me they didn’t know either, so they decided to give me a courtesy credit of $9, which was nice of them.  They put me in touch with the company who sent me the braces.  I received my answer.

They said that the $9 is a total stemming from two points. The first was their claim that I ordered the braces with a shipping promotion.  Yes, I did.  I used my Amazon Prime free shipping that I get with my Amazon Prime account.  They say the promotion required that I spend over a certain level in order to qualify for free shipping.  Since my order was over that level, I qualified for free shipping.  But since I returned “something”, my order fell below the “free shipping” threshold, and so I was retroactively charged for the shipping.  What they failed to realize is that I returned the entire order so there was nothing to charge me shipping FOR.  But they decided to charge me anyway.

The second thing they charged me for was a “twenty percent restocking fee.”  Really?  You needed to charge me over six dollars so that you could accept the two braces back at your warehouse and have someone walk them over to a shelf?  Considering that this action would most likely take about five minutes at most (let’s say it’s a really big warehouse), then I want to work at your warehouse where your mail clerks make $60 an hour, assuming they restock two braces every five minutes.

But seriously, I understand restocking fees for physically large items, for expensive items, and for dangerous items (chemicals and whatnot), but I don’t understand charging me over $6 for restocking two nylon straps that weigh less than an ounce a piece and are worth $16 (but are obtainable elsewhere for half the cost).   They aren’t charging me because they need to.  They are punishing me for returning merchandise.  And so I say to you, “The Therapy Connection“, I will not buy anything else from you.  You can keep your overpriced products in that warehouse, and I can keep my money, thanks to Amazon.com.

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Racism at the Oscars

So evidently Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and a few other black actors feel like they need to boycott the Academy Awards because no black actors were nominated this year for individual Oscars.

Excuse me while I go get my blankie.

“Begging for acknowledgement or even asking [to be nominated] diminishes dignity,” Mrs. Pinkett-Smith said, while begging for acknowledgement.

Actor Chris Rock, who is hosting this year’s awards show, tweeted the following, “The #Oscars. The White BET Awards.”   The irony of calling the Oscars racist for not featuring any black actors when the BET Awards don’t feature any white actors was lost on Mr. Rock.

So how do I feel about this?  I think it’s silly that this is a news story the day after we celebrate the man who said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  But what are Smith, Lee, Rock, and other people doing?  They are judging people by the color of their skin.  They are saying that in a country that is 72% white, it’s not possible that among the five people nominated in each category, none of them are black.   Is it possible that, somehow all the best actors were white last year?  Nope.  According to them, it MUST be racism.

It’s not enough that we have a black President.  It’s not enough that one of the richest women in America is Oprah Winfrey.  It’s not enough that there were black people nominated last year. It’s not enough that the Best Picture Award last year went to a movie about the evils of black slavery (12 Years A Slave).  It’s not enough.

So, famous black people, my question to you is this:  what exactly is it going to take for you to quit accusing us of racism?  I think I know the answer.

Whining because you didn’t get your way is not the answer. Accusing people of unfairness because things didn’t go the way you thought they should is not the answer.  Boycotting the Oscars because white actors are actually good at acting is not the answer.

Grow up already.

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Market Research

I had a job in market research when I was 20 years old.  I would call people and ask them to complete surveys of varying lengths.  Some were only a few minutes long, and others took almost an hour. I think the longest one was a survey where we asked farmers about their usage of a certain herbicide and whether or not it helped their crop yields.

Since I have a history with it, I always say yes when they ask me if I will do a survey. I received a phone call tonight from Bellwether Research.  They wanted to ask me questions about the upcoming referendum in my school district. Unfortunately the young man conducting the survey talked so fast I could hardly understand him, even though I asked him to slow down a few times. Also, he kept pronouncing “referendum” as “Ree-FUR-dumb,” as in ,”Would you support a local ree-FUR-dumb to raise property taxes in your area so the schools can hire more teachers?”  I said “referendum” a few times, bu he never caught on.

At the end of the call his supervisor came on to verify he had actually completed the survey (as opposed to padding his numbers by lying, which happens).  I verified that he did his job, and then mentioned to her that he needs to learn how to pronounce “referendum” as well as the fact that he needs to slow down so people can understand him.  Maybe I was his first ever survey. Hopefully he improves.

Oh, and one of the questions said there was a property tax ballot measure that passed back in 2009 giving more money to the schools. The question asked if I wanted to keep the tax going, increase it a little or increase it a lot.  There was no option to quit being taxed for that percentage.  Hmmm.

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What Say You?

Imagine if you will, that you wake up in a jail cell. A guard opens the door and lets you out. He leads you to a long line. When you get to the front of the line, you find yourself on a stage looking out at a vast audience. You are told that you have approximately one hour to do whatever you want on that stage. You can play music, read a book, exercise, watch TV, or whatever you want. During your hour on the stage, you hear people telling you that this is no game. They tell you that, no matter what else you do on the stage, everything comes down to one thing: during your hour on the stage, at some point, you must say the words, “I love my father. ”

If, during your hour you say those words, then when your hour is over, you may exit the stage door and be reunited with your family. If, however, during your hour on the stage, you do not say those words, then you will exit the stage door and will be physically, emotionally, and mentally tortured for weeks as punishment for your crimes.

What do you do?

Some of you will deny that there is anything on the other side of the stage door.
Some of you will postpone saying the words as long as you can, even though there’s a risk that you will either forget to say the words, or that your time will be cut short before you can say them.
Some of you will not say the words because you think your crimes are not bad enough to justify the punishment.
Some of you will say the words and then spend the rest of your time trying to get the people waiting in line to understand the need for them to say the words as well.

We don’t know what choice you make. But what we do know is that when your hour is done, you WILL walk through that stage door. What is waiting for you on the other side is determined by how you respond during your hour.

So what say you?

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The Martian

The MartianI just saw The Martian starring Matt Damon.  It was one of the highest tension movies I’ve seen in a long time. If you enjoy sitting on the edge of your seat, I highly recommend it.  Be advised, however, there is some minor swearing throughout, a few uses of the “F-bomb”, and one scene in which an emaciated man walks away from the camera naked, so you see his scrawny rear end.  This didn’t bother me as a nurse, because I’ve seen lots of butts, but if that offends you, be aware going in.

That being said, my favorite movie is Apollo 13, which is a movie about a mission to space that goes horribly wrong and the efforts of the astronauts and the people on earth to get the astronauts back on earth alive.  This movie operates on the same theme, as anybody who has seen the trailer could tell you.  There is a good sprinkling of humor throughout, and I laughed out loud several times.  I don’t want to give anything away, but the trailer shows Matt Damon’s character growing food, and I have to tell you that figuring out how he could keep from starving to death makes up a big section of the movie.  I say that to say this: I actually felt bad sitting there munching my popcorn as he rationed out his food.

The soundtrack features many songs from the 70’s, and there were many characters that were enjoyable to watch interact.

Oh, and Sean Bean doesn’t die.

So a good movie overall.  If they had taken out the F bombs and the partial nudity (which wasn’t even necessary), I would have given it five stars.

On a sidenote, I saw something the other day that made me chuckle.  Someone sat down and figured out how much money has been spent saving Matt Damon in all his movies where he needs rescued. Here’s the link, but the answer is approximately “900 billion plus change”

If this movie doesn’t win several Oscars, I’ll eat my hat, metaphorically speaking.

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