Archive for September, 2016

Our Presidential Election

Newspaper coverage of this election is, I suppose, not much different from that of previous presidential elections I have lived through. So, I suppose it is the people who are causing me problems and not just the media coverage. To begin, the Republicans presidential campaign began with about sixteen people as candidates, with Donald Trump filling out the list. No one seemed to have much of a program, except those who wanted to do away with almost everything in the Federal Government. Donald Trump simply said I want to be President, and as time went on added a few things like shipping all Mexican workers home, perhaps throwing them over the wall he would build along our border. Aside from throwing Mexicans out and not admitting Muslims, most of what he has to say is what an idiot his opponent is.

Gradually, members of the sixteen began to drop out as they collected little campaign money and few supporters. But Donald Trump rolled along gaining support as political commentators had a field day with him as a business man who seemed to be constantly shifting money around and accomplishing little. However, his simple message, you are being diddled, kept winning him delegates and finally the nomination. He flies in to most of his campaign events and flies home in the evening.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was the only Democratic candidate from the beginning. That is, until an obscure Senator, Bernie Sanders from Vermont, decided not enough attention was being paid to a couple of issues he favored and joined the Democratic race. His candidacy mushroomed and he became a full fledged candidate only to lose to Mrs Clinton.

Mrs Clinton travels the country campaigning as candidates have traditionally done: speaks at gatherings, answers questions, eats all kinds of regional food, etc. Mr Trump flies in, delivers a collection of mostly disconnected remarks, always attacking Mrs Clinton, takes few, if any questions and flies off. The news media finds what he is doing to be attractive reading and watching, and records his every move.

Regardless of what you think of Mrs Clinton, she at least understands government and what a president does. However, she does not create the media excitement and gather the attention that Trump’s free flowing bloopers do. In examining Mr Trump’s history, there is no evidence that he ever understood any venture in which he became involved, has no idea what the Federal Government does (and can’t do) and, more particularly, what a president can and cannot do.

A presidential candidate must offer more than “you are being diddled”!!  Newspapers, at least, now recognize that little more is coming, but they don’t seem to be having much effect on the polls.

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The Giants Behind Our Constitution

During and after the Revolutionary War individual colonies kept their original identities and government organizations minus royal governors and other British officials. During the War, these governments really didn’t see themselves as a unit. For example, they paid little attention to the collection of colonial representatives when that body asked for larger financial contributions; the replies went from nothing to very little. The result was that the soldiers and their officers, including George Washington, were not paid until almost the end of the war and that was very little. I tell this to illustrate that the Revolution was not considered a colonial effort until the end when pretty much every colony/state had been run over by some part of the British Army.

This leads to the attempt to establish a government following independence. The first few years, we used the legislative body that had served during the war. Its uselessness was because the representatives of each former colony, now state, still saw their state as independent. A major question for me has been why they were willing to participate in a process, the Constitutional Convention, in which their state gave up substantial powers. My recent reading has led me to see, once again, the power of individuals: Madison, Monroe, Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson. These men were leaders who not only used the power of the word, but good, old fashioned politics to secure the Constitution.

These men had the stature and persuasive power to lead the Convention to accept a new form of government. Would that we had some of their like in our current Congress.

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Change and Stability

As I begin to write this blog, it is the afternoon of Labor Day. Since leaving the Navy, this day marks the beginning of a new year for me and millions of others. The start of new classes, new students with their varied expectations, more traffic getting to work, some new colleagues and maybe a new principal or dean. This happens every year and involves both change and continuity.

For the country at large now, institutions have more change than continuity. Banks are competing for business from the general public with different kinds of institutions that take salary transfers and provide a card to customers who then use it for all their purchases. Anyone in the business of selling has to purchase machines which use the card to transfer the money. However, money, as in dollar bills and quarters don’t seem to be part of these transactions. Financial institutions of all sorts are in a state of transition and we are not sure when and what new institutions will evolve.

Physicians, at least in my area are increasingly practicing in groups and have specialties rather than general practice. Young people congregate in communities rather than pair off in marriage. Is this because there is so much change in technology and the work it creates that there is not the kind of job market there used to be? Women’s roles have changed too. Having babies and running the household is not the only role in their lives. With their education in organization and technology, they can compete for work in brand new organizations evolving out of technological change. Will secretaries continue to be a substantial job market?

For this presidential election race, the Washington Post has a chart showing in which states the two candidates are strong. The center of the country with such states as West Virginia, Indiana, Missouri are rated as solidly for Trump. These are the states in which the shift in technology and ways of earning a living has moved work to other places, and these people feel the government has not done enough to provide them with more work opportunities as with training in new work skills.

In the national election for the Democrats, the Northeast down through Maryland and maybe Virginia is strong with the rest through Florida seem a sure thing. The west coast is predicted to be solidly for Clinton. For most of this area on the east coast, a map in the Washington Post, Sept 7, shows employment to be strong down the east coast. Interestingly, the picture on the west coast is the opposite with high unemployment in shrinking occupations. Knowing as little as I know, it seems the west coast should be in the other camp.

The heating of the globe (brought on by human pumping of heat into the environment), the constant study and manipulation of the human body to combat disease and the incessant development of mechanical counterparts for the human body are taking us into territory over which we have less control. I wonder what difference the victor in our election can make?

As I look back over my life, it seems our generation has lived in what probably are the best of times. Hopefully, I am wrong and the good times for humans will continue. The basic question is will profit remain the basic driver of all our economic activities (because in our society economic activities drive everything else)?

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Having a reasonably complete set of Harper’s Weekly newspapers from 1861-65, I occasionally drag a collection off the shelf to read through an issue or two. For the issue January 5, 1861, the bulk of the paper is taken up with working its way through two novels by Charles Dickens, the latter being his Christmas Story. Stuffed in between them is the current national news which was mostly about the Southern response to Lincoln’s election. In order not to take up too much of the space in the 16 pages, the size of the type for the news Is shown below. Why, I don’t know. The ads, of course, use larger type size and their creators would be right at home in today’s world.

There was a brief abstract of an hour’s interview with Abraham Lincoln by an independent reporter in which Mr. Lincoln replies to a question about what he would say to the South by saying that they wouldn’t listen to him. Period. Given my other reading of Lincoln, this was a great example of what was to come; he almost never gave away what was to come.

                                       News type size

This particular issue concluded with part of another story and finally the Ads: Sand’s Sarsaparilla, Spasmodic Asthma, Hernia or Rupture, Throat Diseases, Nervous Sufferers, Premature Loss of Hair (we have improved on ads by having specialists who take your problem in hand). And, there was a collection other ads:  Knickerbocker Magazine, The Art Journal, The Household Journal, The Fort Edward Ledger, Musical Boxes and The American Watch Co.

As the war progressed news was reported in standard type, and fiction almost disappeared. Despite my family being on the losing side, I found the reporting to be as thorough as that I read in WWII. Later, magazines such as Life, Time, the Saturday Evening Post and a host of magazines designed for women such as Ladies Home Journal built on the example of Harper’s Weekly. Now, TV and computers have opened up a new world and magazines are coming to serve a limited audience. Even Playboy no longer shows naked women because computers have out naked them (and their literary efforts were not up to the standards of their subscribers).

What are the limits to presenting information about the world around us?

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