TT#184 - More Super Tuesday

I am very tired from work and redoing my office, so this will be more of a time capsule entry than any real analysis. For more analysis watch this weeks ORLYRADIO show # 101.

At the time of this writing:

Republicans: Kasich predictably took Ohio, Trump won Florida, making Rubio quit the race. Trump is also favored in Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina. If Ted gets any winnings they will be scraps from the billionaire's plate.  This does leave the GOP with the unenviable task of choosing a... how can I put this to where it is the most historically accurate... Fascist Andy Kaufman impression and a dominionist apocalyptic Eddie Munster son of a preacher man who is perfectly fine watching the world burn if it means the world gets to have Jesus back. I weep for the future. Oh... And there is the voice of reason, Kasich, who can't possibly win, because he may actually be sane. 

Democrats: Clinton has had a strong showing and is predicted to take all the states but not all the delegates. The Democrats like to award partials rather than a winner take all approach that the GOP favors. The tally at midnight could be different as it is being called early based on exit polls, but so far, this is pretty decisive for Clinton based on the earned delegates. She has added approximately 150 delegates to her lead on Sanders. Sanders needs California and New York, and needs them big, to compete with the media and majesty of the lady in waiting. Still a chance, but it is growing slimmer by the day.

There were a whole lot of Cruz and Trump signs in my precinct and around the state as I was driving today. This is why I am having a drink and hoping it was all a bad dream.

TT#181 - Obstructions

I was fully intending to discuss the unlikely juxtaposition between South Carolina and Nevada in having alternating parties doing their electioneering events today as it is the Republican Caucus in Nevada and we already saw some action on that front, but instead I bust my butt removing a cabinet and installing electric and gas lines for a new to me range.

So I am tired. I'm a little tired of the minutia of the electioneering and the caucuses in particular. They are the most antiquated and backwards thing about the presidential election that it makes me want to scream. It is obvious that the system is like a stacked deck of cards where the house gets to guide the public to the winner of their choice. They have said as much. I find the counting of Super Delegates to be terribly disingenuous since they can change their mind. their vote is not cast. All it does is put a foot on the scale where they want it. It's so obvious! I wish they would just lie better. It's insulting to have their disregard of the system flaunted so. Today the Judicial Subcommittee came out of a closed door meeting declaring they would not even bother with reviewing any nominee that the president puts forward for the open SCOTUS chair. Again... I feel insulted. At least waste money like you do on trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Hear out the nominee, grill them, then drag your feet until the President's term is up and there is someone new in the high office to put new names in the hat. But no... Couldn't play the game, instead you show everyone you don't even intend to play by the rules and put forth any effort to work with the opposition. Nope. Just obstruct and stonewall, and let everyone know about it too. I hope it hurts their chances for re-election but sadly there are many in their constituency that would just applaud the move. No action is at least not the wrong action they would say. Sure... That can be true, but the spirit of the system that we work within is broken by such petulance. There is no desire of the elected officials to do their job, and I sincerely hope they have to find a new job come November.

Okay, I'm done ranting and we will be back to the elections next week for Super Tuesday! Hopefully we will have some results by the time I post.

TT#180 - The Supreme Court, Man Down

Saturday, February 13th, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia, "Nino" to his friends, died at the age of 79, at home, in his sleep. The Supreme Court Justice served since his appointment by Ronald Reagan September 26th 1986. He was born in Trenton NJ, March 11th 1936. He is survived by his wife Maureen McCarthy Scalia, and their 9 children. Antonin Scalia was one of the Roman Catholics on the bench and also a Republican. He was cantankerous and had some lively opinions and reviled remarks throughout his career. I enjoyed reading some of his dissenting opinions, mostly for his use of language rather than his salient reasoning, which he did have on numerous occasions.

His untimely demise has left the country in a tizzy instead of mourning. See, this leaves a 9 person team short one. This also leaves the Supreme Court a bit too even for most people's taste. Not only can you stalemate 4 to 4, but you are more likely to do so since it is now more or less even politically as well. A new justice needs to be appointed and the sooner the better, unless you are the Republican party.

Throughout President Obama's tenure in office, the GOP (Grand Old Party) has tried to obstruct him at every turn. I do not say that lightly, it is obvious and has even been admitted to by party leaders. Now they want to prevent him from nominating a Supreme Court Justice. They have gone so far as to lie about it being a tradition for a lame duck president to not nominate. It's just flatly wrong.

Appointments are rare, since it is a lifetime position, if desired. To have a position vacant during the last year of a presidents career is even more rare, but not unheard of.

In 1912, Taft nominated Mahlon Pitney. Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis Brandeis and John Clarke in 1916 (both confirmed by the way). Herbert Hoover nominated Benjamin Cardozo in 1932. FDR nominated Frank Murphy in 1940. LBJ nominated Homer Thornberry and Abe Fortas in 1968, however neither was confirmed. Richard Nixon nominated Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist (whom Scalia succeeded) in 1971. Gerald Ford nominated John Paul Stevens in 1975. Ronald Reagan, the poster pin up for the GOP, nominated Anthony Kennedy in 1988.

The constitution is a bit light on requirements to fill a Supreme Court Justice seat. "The President shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges of the supreme Court." It certainly doesn't say anything about election years or the last year of a presidency or any number of other false charges being leveled. It's the Presidents job to select a nominee, and then it is the Senate that confirms them.

Obama had this to say today on the issue:
I understand the stakes. I understand the pressure that Republican senators are undoubtedly under. I mean, the fact of the matter is that what the issue here is that the court is now divided on many issues this would be a deciding vote. And there are a lot of Republican senators who are going to be under a lot of pressure from various special interests and various constituencies and many of their voters to not let any nominee go through. No matter who I nominate. But that's not how the system is supposed to work. That's not how our democracy is supposed to work.

So... Let's get on with it. Our courts are backed up enough. All I know is that this has become another facet of the most exciting election year I have ever heard of. As to Nino, may he be justly rewarded in whatever finds him after this life, for good or ill, is not up to me.

 

TT#179 - Election 2016: New Hampshire Primaries

Unlike the nail bitter affair that the 2016 Iowa Caucuses turned out to be, New Hampshire, in the words of a dear friend, "This will not be the clusterf*ck that was witnessed in Iowa. New Hampshire is efficient. New Hampshire is precise. New Hampshire will provide zero confusion at the end of this evening. Elections are a religion here."

As he properly prognosticated, New Hampshire was quick to come to the conclusions that have remained at the time of my writing. Bernie Sanders took the lead by double digit margins over Hillary Clinton becoming the first Jew to ever win a primary. The Jewish part of that is just one of those side factoids that may be interesting in trivial pursuit later. Their numbers are stunning. Sanders with 60.7% and Hillary with 38.2%

On the other side of the aisle, the republican contestants were measured for their worthiness. Donald Trump too the lead with a very surprising John Kasich bringing in the second place position. At the time of this, Trump 34.6%, Kasich 16%, Cruz 11.7% Jeb! 11.3% and Rubio coming in with 10.7%. Yes there are others but they aren't worth the type.

So what does this mean?

(DNC TL:DR is that right now Bernie gets 15 of the 24 total delegates and Hillary gets 9. This makes Bernie the leader in Delegate count at this time.) http://www.thegreenpapers.com/P16/NH-D

(RNC TL:DR 23 delegates up for grabs, Trump wins 11, Kasich 3, Cruz 2, Bush 2, Rubio 2) http://www.thegreenpapers.com/P16/NH-R

I will let this article at the DailyKos explain the mechanics of the Democratic Primary Process, as it's kind of cumbersome and I would not do it any better justice than it is here. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/2/3/1479118/-New-Hampshire-Delegate-Mathematics

For the Democrats, New Hampshire has 24 DNC delegates. State party has opted for simple, 8-8-8 split between 2 congressional districts and statewide allocation.
At certain percentage levels of primary votes, various thresholds for number of delegates acquired triggers. Thereby it changes the delegate split between the candidates. The table below shows the minimum relative percentages votes required to acquire a delegate out of 8 available.
Delegate allocation is not just simply calculate percentages. The trigger points generated by the formula for fair apportionment means that there is a substantial range of vote share which results in no change in delegate allocation. Any thresholds crossed will result in an even number of delegate advantage, simply because there are even number of delegates available. The difference between delegates awarded to each candidate will be an even number.
Any vote share between 43.8% and 56.3% will result in a 4-4 delegate split. In order to get that two extra delegate advantage by crossing the threshold of support level, the larger vote share needs to be 56.3% or higher for a 5-3 split. Next stage of change in delegates (6-2split) happens at 68.8% share of votes. For the next level up (7-1split) 81.3% of votes are needed. We have to account for each of the congressional districts and statewide share of votes separately. Calculate their delegate allocations independently and then add them up.
Given the current level of polling, we can probably safely say that sanders is unlikely to grab 81.3% share of votes anywhere, District wide or statewide.  So most of the battle will be for crossing those   56.3% (5-3Split) and the 68.8% (6-2split) threshold for Sanders. If Clinton can reduce the sanders vote share to below 56.3% then she still manages a tie on delegates with 4-4 split.
For example, CD1 is a bit more liberal and favorable to Sanders. Sanders is most likely to cross the 56.3% marker and achieve a 5-3 split.  Congressional District 2 is slightly more favorable to Clinton, a bit more republicans (not meant to be a judgement from me). So holding sanders advantage under 56.3% is a possibility for Clinton. CD2 has Nashua and Concord main population centers which are already being visited by Clintons. Most likely also to have Clinton surrogates making heavy effort there just like they did in Polk County in IOWA.  Every extra delegate matters. Where and how you decide to focus your efforts based on the trigger thresholds and a campaigns own internal polling data will be a tactical game. Clinton we seem to assume is better at this (Again, this is not a judgement. No idea why we think so, is it because we think she is a calculating, plotting, planning person?)
So even with a big boost for Sanders in places like Manchester (CD1) the overall outcome, unless there is a last minute massive groundswell that crosses the daunting 68.8% barrier giving 6-2 split, overall delegate numbers will be disappointment to some and a relief to others.
CD1 — 5-3, CD2 4-4 Statewide 5-3
Most results will be within the ranges of 4-4 or 5-3 (Sanders Advantage). There are only a handful of combinations of these in the three delegate allocation elements.
1. CD1 5-3, CD 2 5-3, State 5-3total 15-9 Sanders advantage.
2. CD1 5-3, CD2 4-4, State 5-3   total 14-10 Sanders advantage
3. CD1 5-3, CD2 4-4, State 4-4   total 13-11 Sanders advantage
4. CD1 4-4, CD2 4-4, State 4-4   total 12-12 Sanders advantage.
(Preemptive answer to what is likely to be asked: I have not included CD1 5-3, CD2 5-3, Statewide 4-4 split, because if you get enough votes for 5-3 in CD1 and CD2, then you automatically have enough for 5-3 in Statewide.  Also CD2, CD1 numbers switching also results in same scenario as number 2 above)
Goal for Sanders will be to achieve an across the board 5-3 splits in each CD and also statewide. Goal for Clinton will be to drag as many as possible into 4-4 range.
If we spot any Clinton events in CD1, then we can assume that Clinton campaigns own numbers are indicating that CD1 is hovering around the threshold of 56.3% Sanders advantage and Clinton Campaign thinks it can drag that under to make a 4-4 split.
There will not be an all sweeping and grabbing of delegates by Sanders without soundly achieve 68.8% across the board and individually in each CD. That is cross the 68.8% for each congressional district without taking into account what is happening in other district. And even with that kind of revolution it gives 18-6 split. Which is pretty awesome but not death dealing and unlikely. Those thresholds will be crossed in Vermont itself I expect.

Completely clear, right? After a while it gets to be clear. But it is still messy. Not as messy as Iowa, but bad on its own.

the republican process can be found here: https://www.gop.com/the-official-guide-to-the-2016-republican-nominating-process/

Each state’s delegate allotment is set by national party rules and includes at-large delegates, congressional district delegates, and national party representatives. Apart from the states, the District of Columbia and the five territories are awarded a specified number of at-large delegates. There are three types of delegates: At-Large Delegates (AL), Congressional District Delegates (CD), and Republican National Committee Members.

  • At-Large Delegates (AL) are statewide delegates who are residents of that state and are selected at large. Each state receives 10 AL delegates plus additional AL delegates based on the state’s past Republican electoral successes.
    (10 delegates + bonus)
  •  Congressional District (CD) Delegates must be residents of and selected by the congressional district they represent. Each state gets three CD delegates per district.
    (3 delegates per district)
  • RNC Members are automatically national convention delegates and include the state’s national committeeman, national committeewoman, and state chair.
    (3 delegates)

New Hampshire has 23 delegates, 14 At-Large Delegates, 6 Congressional District Delegates, and 3 Republican National Committee Members.

This was all the data I could find... I know there is more and I will come back and fill it in.

TT#178 - Election 2016: What's a Delegate? What's a Super Delegate?

Today is Groundhog's Day in the United States. This is pretty much completely irrelevant. I do feel bemused that we still wait for seasonal weather predictions from a giant rodent and we have about half the country that doesn't trust science enough to say climate change is a real thing... Or that evolution is a thing too. Anyway, the rat known as Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, and in this universe that means an early spring. And the 12 year old boy in me giggles that this arcane farce is under taken by a bunch of men in top hats from the Groundhog Club at "Gobbler's Knob". Phil is the most famous but there are several other divining rodents, all of whom concurred with the no shadow pronouncement. 

Today is also the day after the first major event in the run to the White House. The Iowa caucuses concluded last night with some interesting results, to say the least. The republicans went with a closed vote process this year and that left Ted Cruz as the winner of the Iowa event.  You can see the results here https://www.iagopcaucuses.com/#/state

The democrats had a much closer race. The difference between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was .2% Yeah, point 2 percent. you can see the results here https://www.idpcaucuses.com/#/state For all intents and purposes it was a tie. reports are that 6 precincts had to assign their odd number delegate by coin flip, and Hillary Clinton's camp managed to win all 6. Yes, it is quite a streak, but statistics and probability do not make it any better than 50/50 each time. It does, however, highlight the oddities of the Caucus system. I'm pretty sold on not liking it and wanting it to go the way of the dodo. 

Ok, you have come this far, so let's get to the actual subject, the delegate. By the dictionary definition, a delegate is an authorized representative of someone or a group. In electioneering the delegates are sent to their state political convention to cast a vote among other delegates from other areas in the state. It's pretty simple when you realize they are the middle men, the messenger to the central committee of your location's preferences. The number of delegates that are available are based on population. In places like Iowa, there are multiple caucuses where the delegates that were awarded then are narrowed further until at last we know which candidate has been chosen by the state's political power structure.  

To be completely honest, the system is a bit farcical and purposely difficult to understand to game the system to give the party more control over who is nominated and who will win the election. Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based nonpartisan organization, says the delegate system is so complex because after most elections, "the respective national parties go back and look at their rules and their system and try to make adjustments that they believe will give their party an advantage."

So, basically, delegates are a buffer between your choice and the result. It would be classed like so much of our system as a representative democracy. One thing we have going for us is that the delegates are typically bound by law (check your state codes) to vote for the choice that you the voter told them to. But not all delegates are created equal, in the Democratic Party.

What is a Super Delegate? No, not a delegate that was bitten by a radioactive spider... That would be a better story. In this case, the Super Delegates are chosen by the party outside of the way the other delegates are chosen (which is an entire other post...). They are typically old guard power players in the party. Super Delegates may even be former presidents. Okay, big deal right? Well here's the deal, about 20% of the delegates at the convention are Super Delegates, and they are not bound to the same rules as a regular Delegate; they can vote for whomever they please. The Democratic nomination process was altered to include Super Delegates in 1984. That year, former Vice President Walter Mondale won the Democratic nomination with strong support from party stalwarts. Some experts say Democratic candidate George McGovern's landslide 1972 loss to Richard Nixon influenced the party's introduction of Super Delegates. "There was a view that the Democratic party had allowed the grass roots to become too empowered and that in too many instances, people whose job it was to get Democrats elected were being shut out of the process," says McGehee.

Republicans do not have Super Delegates.

The Republicans, to settle things the way the party elite would desire is though a brokered convention, which is also available but not favored by the Democratic Party.. Delegates at a convention could have more difficulty in reaching a clear majority of support for any one candidate. A brokering process then takes place, with multiple ballots a possibility. Though a brokered convention has not occurred in either party since 1952 when Adlai Stevenson won the Democratic nomination. 

Clear as mud right? Tune in to the ORLYRADIO podcast to get more analysis and banter on politics and current events. 

 

TT#177 - Election 2016: What's a Caucus?

What's a Caucus, and why is it happening in Iowa, and why is it a big deal, I thought we were doing the primaries, whatever those are...

Yeah. That's the question of the moment. We are about to determine who the nominations will go to for both the Republican National Convention, RNC, and the Democratic National Convention, DNC. There is a cast of characters on both sides trying to get the approval of their party's constituents, but why the weird name for what is basically a preliminary state election?

First, a little trivia. The election of the president and how that is supposed to happen is not in the Constitution, it was created over time by the political parties. Some states only hold primary elections, some only hold caucuses, and others use a combination of both. These primaries and caucuses are staggered generally between January and June before the general election in November. The primary elections are run by state and local governments, while caucuses are private events that are directly run by the political parties themselves. A state's primary election or caucus is usually an indirect election: instead of voters directly selecting a particular person running for President, they determine how many delegates each party's national convention will receive from their respective state. These delegates then in turn select their party's presidential nominee. Also, just a little note, most election laws do not normally apply to caucuses.
The process is a controversial one. Voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other small states which traditionally hold their primaries and caucuses first usually have a major impact on the races, while voters in California and other large states which traditionally hold their primaries last in June generally end up having no say because the races are usually over by then. As a result, more states vie for earlier primaries to claim a greater influence in the process.

According to Wikipedia, "A caucus is a meeting of supporters or members of a specific political party or movement. The term originated in the United States, but has spread to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and Nepal. As the use of the term has been expanded, the exact definition has come to vary among political cultures."  As with so many things, no one can really agree as to the whens and whys and hows of a ye olde tradition. In this case, Caucas (not a misspelling I assure you) with it's modern usage was seen in the diary of John Adams (the 2nd president of the USA) in February 1763. The way he describes it, it's a select group of power players determining, in a gathering like a cocktail party, who shall be the ones that will be elected, before the general election.

There they drink Phlip I suppose, and there they choose a Moderator, who puts Questions to the Vote regularly, and select Men, Assessors, Collectors, Wardens, Fire Wards, and Representatives are Regularly chosen before they are chosen in the Town...

Further in history in an article in Great Leaders and National Issues in 1896, a popular etymology is posited.

"..as to the origin of the "caucus." In the early part of the eighteenth century a number of caulkers connected with the shipping business in the North End of Boston held a meeting for consultation. That meeting was the germ of the political caucuses which have formed so prominent a feature of our government ever since its organization."

Okay... So... It basically started as a way to see who would be electable. Alright. That's easy enough to digest.

Now... What's the process we are about to see in the first of the choosings, Iowa?

"...residents of the U.S. state of Iowa meet in precinct caucuses in all of Iowa's 1,681/1,682 precincts and elect delegates to the corresponding county conventions. There are 99 counties in Iowa, and thus there are 99 conventions. These county conventions then select delegates for both Iowa's Congressional District Convention and the State Convention, which eventually choose the delegates for the presidential nominating conventions."

Here is where it get's weird, unless you are from Iowa and have done this your whole life.

The Iowa Caucus operates very differently from the more common primary election used by most other states......The caucuses are generally defined as "gatherings of neighbors." Rather than going to polls and casting ballots, Iowans gather at a set location in each of Iowa's 1,681/1,682 precincts. .......The caucuses are held every two years but only the presidential years get national attention..... In addition to the voting and the presidential preference choices, caucus-goers begin the process of writing their parties’ platforms by introducing resolutions.

huh... so the party platform starts to take shape here. I hadn't seen what the party platform was this year, so I see there is method to that process as well, since a candidate may represent a very different outlook than another. Another thing to look at is the results of this process, since it is different for each party.

The Republicans and Democrats each hold their own set of caucuses.
Recent changes to the Republican Party of Iowa's bylaws now make the caucus results binding on Iowa's delegates to the national convention. In June 2015 the party announced that the Straw Poll would no longer take place. This used to be the determining factor for them. Starting in 2016, the caucus site voting that was previously a non-binding poll becomes the binding method of selecting delegates.[5] Acting in accordance with a mandate from the Republican National Committee, the delegates are bound to vote for candidates in proportion to the votes cast for each candidate at the caucus sites.

The process used by the Democrats is more complex than the Republican Party caucus process. Each precinct divides its delegate seats among the candidates in proportion to caucus goers' votes. Participants indicate their support for a particular candidate by standing in a designated area of the caucus site (forming a preference group). An area may also be designated for undecided participants. Then, for roughly 30 minutes, participants try to convince their neighbors to support their candidates. After 30 minutes, the electioneering is temporarily halted and the supporters for each candidate are counted. At this point, the caucus officials determine which candidates are viable.  To be viable, he or she must have the support of at least the percentage of participants required by the viability threshold, in this case 15%. Once viability is determined, then the delegates have 30 minutes to realign the supporters of the in-viable candidates.
Here is a major distinction: This realignment is a crucial distinction of caucuses in that (unlike a primary) being a voter's second candidate of choice can help a candidate.
When the voting is closed, a final head count is conducted, and each precinct apportions delegates to the county convention. These numbers are reported to the state party, which counts the total number of delegates for each candidate and reports the results to the media.

There is more, but it is largely irrelevant. There is no ballot for the Democrats given their unique structure set above but we are down to 4 candidates to choose from, yeah, 4. Debate groupings will choose delegates to county conventions supporting:

Republican Caucusers will be faced with a blank piece of paper as the ballot, and the candidates that voters may vote for in the binding preference poll include:

In the future I will cover what a Delegate and a Super Delegate is. That should be fun!

Topic Tuesday #165 2015/09/15 "If You Can't Say Anything Nice..."

Topic Tuesday #165 2015/09/15 "If You Can't Say Anything Nice..."

You've heard it. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. I am typically against this line of thought, but when I have not nice things to say, I try to have the discussion  warranted rather than just shout into the open. Sometimes that is possible. Somethings it is not your choice to make. Other times, life happens. 

There's always room for jello.

There's always room for jello.

I am reminded this day that no matter how clearly you consider your statements., no matter how clear and erudite your arguments, someone will not understand. Someone will be offended. Something can always go wrong, because communication is a remarkably complex thing among humans. I can say, "lemon jello" and most of you will actually think of the jello in your mouth, the taste of the lemon, the texture of it. Some of you will be happy, others will be disgusted. How would I know? If it my fault if you were disgusted by my statement of "lemon jello?" Should I care?

I don't think I should care, at least not deeply. If you are offended by something I say, and it was not specifically about you by name, that is not my problem. That is your interpretation of the words I have said representing the thoughts in my head.  If you think the thoughts in my head should change, then you too can use your words to put ideas into my head and change them. It is a marketplace of ideas, and I hope the best idea wins, even if it is not my idea.

Topic Tuesday #160 2015/08/11 "First Day Of School"

Topic Tuesday #160 2015/08/11 "First Day Of School"

It is that time again. Back to school. My oldest will be going into second grade tomorrow and her little sister will be going in Thursday for an evaluation and starts kindergarten next Monday. I have spent the last several hours gathering and labeling and sorting school supplies for each of them. It was a lot of stuff! I'll have to drop some of it off with the teachers personally so they don't have to lug reams of paper and other sundry goods. See, the school board, no matter what school you are a part of, doesn't buy enough supplies for the teachers. Invariably they will be forced to dip into their own pockets to provide for the children. This is terrible and we should feel ashamed that we don't treat our teachers better. They are crucial to the kind of people we grow up to be. They empower us with knowledge. They love us. In return we don't pay them enough and treat them like they are glorified babysitters that ask the children to do too much homework and ask the parents to subsidize the education by sending in supplied for the whole class! Whoop ti do... 

Parents, Get over it and support your teachers. If you are strapped for cash and barely have enough to keep the youngster with a roof over their head, swallow your pride and tell the teacher what your situation is. It will help them understand the child and better respond to what is needed, and they will understand if you simply can't help more. Communication is key. 

Teachers, send home those progress notes. Let us know how they are doing and what you need from us to help. Email us, call us, whatever you have time for. There are parents that care about how things are going and want to know. You will never know if you don't reach out. It could mean a lot. 

Enough of all this, I have to pack some tissue for when I send my babies back to school.  

Topic Tuesday #156 2015/07/14 "Pictures of Pluto!"

Topic Tuesday #156 2015/07/14 "Pictures of Pluto!"

With the blue Atlantic Ocean as backdrop, smoke and steam fill the launch pad, at right, as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft roars into the sky aboard an Atlas V rocket. (NASA)

New Horizons launched January 19th, 2006 at 14:00 hours atop a Lockheed Martin Atlas V from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Space Launch Complex 41, after being manufactured in Maryland. It is roughly the size and shape of a baby grand piano weighing half a ton. Its mission was to complete the initial human survey of the solar system’s planets. There are 7 scientific instruments on-board (See Below), a nuclear decay power generator, the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh who discovered Pluto in 1930, a CD ROM with 434,000 names, another CD ROM with pictures of the New Horizons Team, a chunk of Space Ship One, 2 state quarters, 2 little American flags, and a US postage stamp from 1991, that says "Pluto Not Yet Explored" (29 cents).

The instruments, because I know you are curious:

  1.  Ralph: Visible and infrared imager/spectrometer; provides color, composition and thermal maps.
  2. Alice: Ultraviolet imaging spectrometer; analyzes composition and structure of Pluto's atmosphere and looks for atmospheres around Charon and Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).
  3. REX: (Radio Science EXperiment) Measures atmospheric composition and temperature; passive radiometer.
  4. LORRI: (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) telescopic camera; obtains encounter data at long distances, maps Pluto's farside and provides high resolution geologic data.
  5. SWAP: (Solar Wind Around Pluto) Solar wind and plasma spectrometer; measures atmospheric "escape rate" and observes Pluto's interaction with solar wind.
  6. PEPSSI: (Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation) Energetic particle spectrometer; measures the composition and density of plasma (ions) escaping from Pluto's atmosphere.
  7. SDC: (Student Dust Counter) Built and operated by students; measures the space dust peppering New Horizons during its voyage across the solar system.

Today, New Horizons made it! The spacecraft did a fly by, 7,800 miles from Pluto, at 30,817 mph, to take the best pictures we have every had of the dwarf planet, before heading for the next phase of its mission, the exploration of the Kuiper Belt.

Pluto is 3,000,000,000 (3 billion) miles from Earth (at this time in it's elliptical 248 year orbit around the Sun.

That's Pluto and Charon nestled to scale between Earth and our Moon. (Copyright Walter Myers)

It takes radio signals (traveling at the speed of light) a little over 4 and half hours to reach us, at a staggeringly slow 1 kilobit per second. At that data rate, the images take almost an hour to download on a 200 foot dish antenna. 

Pluto, Hubble Image, 2010, NASA

Previous to this mission the best image we had was the second round of pictures from Hubble, seen here.

Yesterday, 7/13/2015, New Horizons gave us this image from its LORRI instrument.

More even higher resolution images and readings will be downloaded over the next days and weeks. I can't wait!!!

Pluto, New Horizons (LORRI), taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. (NASA)

To sum up how far we have come, the fine folks at VOX lined up these images, the one on the left is the earliest photo from Hubble, maybe before it got its glasses. 

We have now visited all the planets of the Sol System.  But there is much work still left to do. Stephen Hawking commented on this latest historic mission  and his words say it all. 

"The revelations of New Horizons may help us to understand better how our solar system was formed," Prof Hawking said. "We explore because we are human, and we want to know. I hope that Pluto will help us on that journey. I will be watching closely, and I hope you will, too."

In case you were curious, These are the years we did reconnaissance on our planetary neighbors. 

  • Mercury - 1974
  • Venus - 1979
  • Mars - 1962 Soviet, 1965 Mariner 4
  • Jupiter - 1979
  • Saturn - 1980
  • Uranus - 1986
  • Neptune - 1989
  • Pluto/Charon 2015

Take a moment, Think about the task and really applaud the team of scientists and engineers that made this happen. Remember, Space is hard. #Penny4NASA

Topic Tuesday #155 2015/07/07 "Run up the flag pole"

Topic Tuesday #155 2015/07/07 "Run up the flag pole"

Flags have been in the news quite a bit lately. You can't peruse the news without stumbling over a veritable plethora of people weighing in on South Carolina and the Confederate Battle Flag. Since that has been covered to death, (TL:DR-The flag still represents slavery and continued oppression, not Southern Pride, deal with it and put the flag in a museum next to the Nazi Party flag from WWII.)  I'm not here to talk about the Confederacy or racism or the politics behind mandating the flag be mounted at the top of a 30' pole for all time (hopefully changing soon).

No, today it is about a North Carolina Pastor who has decided to show his distaste for the progressive direction the country has taken by flying the Christian Flag (yes it is a thing) above the United States Flag, Old Glory Herself.

The Christian flag flies above the American flag at a NC church (WJZY/screen grab)

The Christian flag flies above the American flag at a NC church (WJZY/screen grab)

This story was brought to me by RawStory, and you can view it's contents here. http://www.rawstory.com/2015/07/anti-gay-nc-pastor-launches-movement-to-fly-christian-flag-above-the-american-flag/

The narrative goes that Pastor Rit Varriale, long-time anti-gay activist of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, NC is claiming this action as part of his own "God Before Government" group. On Sunday he unveiled that he had the pole installed specifically to run this up and see who saluted.

He has been met with criticism from unexpected sources such as Fox and Friends and even the Baptist Press, who reported, "Varriale is among an increasing number of pastors who believe government is trying to coerce Christians to live in ways that violate Scripture." To editor K. Allan Blume's credit, the The Baptist Press writer was rather good about just reporting and not taking a side. http://www.bpnews.net/45089/pastors-plan-to-raise-the-christian-flag Varriale knows he is against proper defined flag etiquette, something taught in grade school and to every scout I have ever encountered. If you need to see what it is, Wikipedia has an outstanding rundown of the United States Flag Code (Yes, there is such a thing) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Flag_Code

He said "...from a Christian perspective, our flag etiquette is completely improper, ...we should be flying the Christian flag above the American flag." Varriale is an Army veteran as a Ranger and officer with the 82nd Airborne Division and graduate of The Citadel, Campbell University Divinity School, Duke Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary. He certainly has his credentials in order and is at least walking the walk and talking the talk.

I have one rebuttal to him - Romans 13: 1-10 (New American Standard Bible Translation)

  1. Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
  2. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.
  3. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;
  4. for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
  5. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.
  6. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.
  7. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
  8. Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
  9. For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."
  10. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

I am for free speech. I am not into nationalism at all and think such is as destructive as religious division. I count this among those that would burn the US flag in protest. I don't have to like it, but I do respect the free speech and holding to your values in spite of how much of a jerk it will make you appear. At the end of the day, the public court of opinion will settle this one out, as is being done with the Confederate flag.  It makes me wonder what the opinion would be is the local Mosque decided to do the same with the Islamic flag. Food for thought.

Topic Tuesday #154 2015/06/30 "Leap Second"

Topic Tuesday #154 2015/06/30 "Leap Second"

Long ago, I wrote about the origins of the calendar. #24 http://www.orlyradio.com/canwefixitorg/2013/01/topic-tuesday-24-20130101-happy-new-year.html

But what I didn't discuss was corrections to timekeeping.
See the calendar that we eventually landed on is not perfect, by a long shot. This is why every 4 years we add a day (24 hours) to February. This keeps the calendar in sync with the planet's seasons. Today, June 30th, the last minute of the day has 61 seconds as we add a leap second in order to keep the time of day close to the mean solar time, or UT1. Without such a correction, time reckoned by Earth's rotation drifts away from atomic time because of irregularities in the Earth's rotation. Since this system of correction was implemented in 1972, 26 leap seconds have been inserted, including today's. Ideal implementation adds a positive leap second between "second 23:59:59" of a chosen UTC calendar date (the last day of a month, usually June 30 or December 31) and "second 00:00:00" of the following date. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leap_second

Peter Whibberley, senior research scientist at the UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL), said: "Because they depend on measurements of the Earth's rotation, which varies unpredictably, leap seconds occur at irregular intervals. Leap seconds are announced only six months in advance. This means computers and software cannot be supplied with leap seconds programmed in, and they must be inserted manually," he explained. "Getting leap seconds wrong can cause loss of synchronisation in communication networks, financial systems and many other applications which rely on precise timing. Whenever a leap second occurs, some computer systems encounter problems due to glitches in the code written to handle them. The consequences are particularly severe in the Asia-Pacific region, where leap seconds occur during normal working hours."

Due to these complications many would like to do away with the practice of adding leap seconds. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is set to discuss the topic at the World Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva this November.

There was some jargon in there, like "Mean Solar Day" and "UT1". Let me do the work for you and tell you what those are.

The duration of daylight varies during the year but the length of a mean solar day is nearly constant, unlike that of an apparent solar day. An apparent solar day can be 20 seconds shorter or 30 seconds longer than a mean solar day.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mean_solar_day

UT1 is the principal form of Universal Time. While conceptually it is mean solar time at 0° longitude, precise measurements of the Sun are difficult. Hence, it is computed from observations of distant quasars using long baseline interferometry, laser ranging of the Moon and artificial satellites, as well as the determination of GPS satellite orbits. UT1 is the same everywhere on Earth, and is proportional to the rotation angle of the Earth with respect to distant quasars, specifically, the International Celestial Reference Frame (ICRF), neglecting some small adjustments. The observations allow the determination of a measure of the Earth's angle with respect to the ICRF, called the Earth Rotation Angle (ERA, which serves as a modern replacement for Greenwich Mean Sidereal Time). UT1 is required to follow the relationship
ERA = 2π(0.7790572732640 + 1.00273781191135448Tu) radians
where Tu = (Julian UT1 date - 2451545.0)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UT1

Around the world, we try to use UTC, (oddly acronymed for Coordinated Universal Time, because French.)
UTC is an atomic timescale that approximates UT1. It is the international standard on which civil time is based. It ticks SI seconds, in step with TAI. It usually has 86,400 SI seconds per day but is kept within 0.9 seconds of UT1 by the introduction of occasional intercalary leap seconds. As of 2015, these leaps have always been positive (the days which contained a leap second were 86,401 seconds long). Whenever a level of accuracy better than one second is not required, UTC can be used as an approximation of UT1. The difference between UT1 and UTC is known as UT1. 
For most purposes, UTC is considered interchangeable with GMT, but GMT is no longer precisely defined by the scientific community. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coordinated_Universal_Time

Topic Tuesday #153 2015/06/23 "A Climate for Writing"

Topic Tuesday #153 2015/06/23 "A Climate for Writing"

Ladies and Gentlemen of my readership, we have had quite the week since I have conversed with you on topical matters. The news has been rather heavy, week over week and it has taken its eventual toll on me, thus I am unable to fully articulate the gravity of the activity on the world stage. I am not silent on it, as you can tell by my other posts and the continued activities of the ORly Radio Podcast. The news has hurt me and has moved me to alternative action. In as much as we have seen through time - adversity, even if it seems tangential to this writer, fosters creativity. This last week it was not the news of the Charleston murders that hit me the hardest. Though they are certainly shocking and deplorable, I have been desensitized to the bigotry and violence to those of color by those with a far paler character. No, what has moved me to some sort of action and kept me awake is the future.

I would consider myself a rational person and a man of facts and perspective. I have grown to trust the scientists that work in their chosen fields and have come to know many of them. They value the same things I do. Facts and the truths that they describe. The recent news that the figures were wrong and corrected on the so called pause in global warming was a hammer blow. I didn’t expect it to be so, as I had a feeling that this sign of climate change was not up for taking a vacation, but still, I had hoped that nature had a trick or two that would explain it and it would not be a miscalculation. Sadly, the results indicate that we were incorrect with initial findings and that the world may have warmed much more than was anticipated in other models and it was not getting any better.

Credit: NASA.

Credit: NASA.

The data that they used to make these statements came from a big data project, NASA Earth Exchange (NEX). It’s data is available to the public. http://climate.nasa.gov/news/2293/

“The NASA climate projections provide a detailed view of future temperature and precipitation patterns around the world at a 15.5 mile (25 kilometer) resolution, covering the time period from 1950 to 2100. The 11-terabyte dataset provides daily estimates of maximum and minimum temperatures and precipitation over the entire globe.”

I have concerns. I am a future minded person and they are painting a rather hot picture of the future, a future that if I am not a part of, surely my offspring will be. So I have to prepare them for the reality of climate change, rising oceans, hotter summers, colder winters, floods and droughts, and the people that deny it could happen. This is the tall order that keeps me up at night, and I figure if I am going to be kept up, I might as well be creative and productive with it.
This is the inspiration for a story I am going to write. It may be horrible and completely un-entertaining and worthless to some, but I will learn a lot along the way about how to write and communicate a narrative of discovery and adventure - one of surviving a changing world.
National Novel Writing Month is approaching you know.

Time to get to it. Let me know what you think.

Topic Tuesday #146 2015/05/05 "Cinco de Mayo"

Topic Tuesday #146 2015/05/05 "Cinco de Mayo"

After "May the 4th be with you" is "Revenge of the 5th," more commonly known as Cinco de Mayo. As I like to do with Topic Tuesdays is to examine a holiday that falls on or near the Tuesday posting. So today being the auspicious day of the 5th of May, the When, What, Where, Why, and How - will be examined.

11146564_10153379909694388_1472130804009550047_n.jpg

When: Obviously the 5th of May, but it commemorates a battle fought in 1862.

Because American's don't know any better.

Because American's don't know any better.

What: It is the celebration of an unlikely victory over French forces by the Mexican army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín. Regionally in Mexico, primarily in the state of Puebla the celebration is called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (English: Battle of Puebla Day). IN the USA it is an immensely popular celebration of Mexican culture, and has little or nothing to do with the origin of the holiday.

Where: 19°02′N 98°11′W The battle occurred near enough to Puebla to garner its namesake. Puebla is located southeast of Mexico City and west of Mexico's main Atlantic port, Veracruz, on the main route between the two in Central Mexico.

Why: In short, a little thing called the French intervention in Mexico. After a new president was elected in 1861 after a civil war, which you can look up under the name The Reform War. The civil war had caused sever debt to the nation. The new president opted to suspend payment of the debt to Spain, France, and Britain. They were displeased and formed the Tripartite Alliance, with the main purpose of launching an allied invasion of Mexico, forcing the Mexican government to negotiate terms for repaying its debts and for reparations for alleged harm to foreign citizens in Mexico. The Tripartite Alliance fell apart by early April 1862, when it became clear the French had grander ambitions than simple debt repayment. The British and Spanish withdrew, leaving the French to march alone on Mexico City.

How: The Battle of Puebla delayed the French forces from making their way to Mexico City. The French expeditionary force was led by General Charles de Lorencez. Lorencez was led to believe that the people of Puebla were friendly to the French, and that the Mexican Republican garrison which kept the people in line would be overrun by the population once he made a show of force. This would prove to be a serious miscalculation on Lorencez's part.

Mexican Commander General, Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín, had earlier retreated to Puebla which was heavily fortified – it had been held by the Mexican government since the Reform War. To its north stood the forts Loreto and Guadalupe on opposite hilltops. Zaragoza had a trench dug to join the forts via the saddle.

Lorencez decided to attack Puebla from the north. However, he started his attack a little too late in the day, using his artillery just before noon and by noon advancing his infantry. By the third attack the French required the full engagement of all their reserves. The French artillery had run out of ammunition, so the third infantry attack went unsupported. The Mexican forces and the Republican garrison both put up a stout defense and even took to the field to defend the positions between the hilltop forts.

As the French retreated from their final assault, Zaragoza had his cavalry attack them from the right and left while troops concealed along the road pivoted out to flank them. By 3 p.m. the daily rains had started, making a slippery quagmire of the battlefield. Lorencez withdrew to distant positions, counting 462 of his men killed against only 83 of the Mexicans. He waited a couple of days for Zaragoza to attack again, but Zaragoza held his ground. Lorencez then completely withdrew to Orizaba.

Slowed by their loss at Puebla, the French forces retreated and regrouped, and the invasion continued after Napoleon III determinedly sent additional troops to Mexico. The French were eventually victorious, winning the Second Battle of Puebla on 17 May 1863 and pushing on to Mexico City. When the capital fell, Juárez's government was forced into exile in the remote north. With the backing of France, the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian became Emperor of Mexico in the short-lived Second Mexican Empire. - But that is a story for another day.

On 9 May 1862, President Juárez declared that the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla would be a national holiday, regarded as "Battle of Puebla Day" or "Battle of Cinco de Mayo". Although today it is recognized in some countries as a day of Mexican heritage celebration, it is not a federal holiday in Mexico.

Topic Tuesday #145 2015/04/28 "Pressure Cooker Satire"

Topic Tuesday #145 2015/04/28 "Pressure Cooker Satire"

I was going to talk about the SCOTUS and the opening arguments in what may end up as the key to full marriage equality for those that are not hetrosexual, but I was so enraged but the dialog and the logical fallacies in use, the worst of which was the slippery slope argument to incest posed by one of the conservative justices... No, I can't address that right now, no matter how much booze is sat in front of me, so rather I have another concept that I want to address before it flees my brainpan. 

Satire.

Satire is a valuable element of free cultures around the world. It has been employed for all of recorded history, and therefore into prehistory. Satire, allows up to poke the bear without the bear tearing us to shreds; to provide commentary without the authority to do so. I value all free speech and satire closely. However, there is an affect that was only brought to my attention today that is disturbing.

Anyone that had cooked or been a student and heard the phrase, will know what letting off some steam means. A pressure cooker is the best example. If the regulator doesn't let off some steam, the cooking vessel will explode like a bomb, releasing all of it at once. If you let that steam off, and keep the heat on, the contents cook quite quickly. 

Satire is that pressure release valve to society. Take what has been happening in the United States around racial violence with the police force. Ferguson and the very recent Baltimore riots come to mind as pressure cookers. 
These "pots" have been on a low flame for a very long time. The populace has been brought to a boil time and again, but could it be that occasional humorous outcries of satire, the pressure was released and they didn't explode earlier?
Could we be so manipulated; sated by the heartfelt and frustrated humor that a comedian can deliver? Could the Daily Show not only deliver news, but as it is delivering it, defuse the bomb of the message?

It is a philosophical question, that may have some scientific merit to it, though I have not found a study on it. If you find one, please bring it to my attention.

Until then, stay reasonable.

Topic Tuesday #142 2015/04/07 "Lemon Sherbert"

Topic Tuesday #142 2015/04/07 "Lemon Sherbert"

In last weeks ORly Radio Podcast, our one year anniversary show, we examined the Lemon Test and the Sherbert Test. Since they are so similar, form, function, method, I have grouped them as The Lemon Sherbert Test for "excessive entanglement" between government and religion.

The recent hubbub about the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that the individual states are hoisting upon the citizenry got me thinking what the deal was. The original RFRA (1993) was brought about primarily (or under the guise) of supporting indigenous American religious rites, including land use and the use of illicit substances in the practice of their religion. Drugs, kids, I'm talking about Peyote (mescaline). The new state laws extend the law to individual citizens and it works out that it is very possible to use these laws to promote religious discrimination, looking a lot like bigotry ala segregation but for GLBT and other unprotected classes. So... How can you tell that the government has stepped in the doo doo? A fairly simple test, that in true government fashion was invented twice. 

The Sherbert Test  came about in Sherbert v. Verner in 1963. It works as follows:

For the individual, the court must determine:

  • whether the person has a claim involving a sincere religious belief, and

  • whether the government action is a substantial burden on the person’s ability to act on that belief. Expanded: If government confronts an individual with a choice that pressures the individual to forego a religious practice, whether by imposing a penalty or withholding a benefit, then the government has burdened the individual's free exercise of religion.

If these two elements are established, then the government must prove

  • Interest Prong: that it is acting in furtherance of a “compelling state interest,” and

  • Narrowly-Tailored Prong: that it has pursued that interest in the manner least restrictive, or least burdensome, to religion.

The Lemon Test  similarly came from Lemon v. Kurtzman in 1971. It breaks down like this:

The requirements for legislation concerning religion, is threefold:

  1. Entanglement Prong - The statute must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religious affairs.

  2. Effect Prong - The statute must not advance nor inhibit religious practice

  3. Purpose Prong - The statute must have a secular legislative purpose.

If any of these prongs are violated, the government's action is deemed unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Now, let's break this into the Lemon Sherbert Test.

Three seems to be a magic number, so let's keep with three "prongs".

  1. Entanglement Determination Prong: Does an established religious practice run against a government interest? Then the Government cannot advance nor inhibit the free exercise of religion with its secular (religion neutral legislative) purpose.
  2. Narrowly-Tailored Interest Prong: In the event that the least burdensome government action to religion is still in conflict with a practice for furtherance of a “compelling state interest", the state interest will overrule the free exercise of religion. (National Security Loophole, which I estimate why the Sherbert test is prefered in RFRA legal challenges.)
  3. Purpose Prong: The government's purpose/actions must adhere to the constitution and be in the best interest to the citizenry without endorsing a religious belief.

But to be even clearer:

Government, may not endorse or burden a religion. Government must work around religion without interfering in, or endorsing, the practice thereof - unless a compelling state interest makes compromise infeasible for greater national interests within the bounds of the constitution.

There... Now, hopefully, you understand how to determine if there is a violation of a religious interest by government action. Typically, what we see is a misunderstanding of the rights of the religious versus the abilities of the government to govern. Religions do not exist in a vacuum and must deal with the laws of the land. Even Jesus said, "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Mark 12:17


Topic Tuesday #139 2015/03/17 "Being Orange on St. Patrick's Day"

Topic Tuesday #139 2015/03/17 "Being Orange on St. Patrick's Day"

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Unless you are from the area of Ireland commonly referred to as Belfast. 
Green is the color of being Irish, or so all the stores would have you believe with the shamrock shakes, shirts, hats, beer, shots, cups, hair, entire rivers and so on. Green is also the color of Catholic Ireland. 

Thanks to the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 the sovereign  Kingdom of Ireland was established with with Henry VIII as the King of Ireland. Henry had broken ties with the Holy Roman Catholic Church over a little dispute in doctrine to secure an annulment from his wife in the 1530s. So with a new sovereignty came the King's religion in a consolidated and rebranded Church of England. This did not go over very well with the Irish, however they were weary from war and had acquiesced for the time being. 

As time marched on, so the throne changed hands. July of 1553 saw the reign of Mary the First. You may know her by another moniker, that of Bloody Mary. The reason you know that name is because of what she was responsible for. She was a Catholic following after her mother Catherine whom Henry broke ties with the Catholic Church to divorce, as she didn't bear him a son. She eventually succeeded her half brother, Edward VI, when he died in 1553, there was a kerfuffle about succession as she was Catholic and that was bad for Church of England branding. As Royal disputes over lineage go, it was violent. Mary had her first cousin, Lady Jane Grey deposed and then beheaded for being made queen before her. This may have been the first blood on her hands, but far from the last. During her five year reign as the first queen regent of England and queen consort of Habsburg Spain, she had more that 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake. When Mary died in 1558 so did her resurrection of Roman Catholicism. Her younger half sister, Elizabeth I took the throne and returned Church of England and protestantism to the realm.  

Fast forward to the 1700's and we see more formalization of the unification of Great Britain with Scotland and England burying the kaber, becoming the United Kingdom of Great Britain; then in 1714 with the death of Queen Anne and the Act of Settlement they were joined further with Ireland but it wasn't until the Act of Union 1800, the Kingdom of Ireland merged with the Kingdom of Great Britain, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Things go dicey in 1922 and continued to fall apart until the constituent parts were renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1927, five years after the establishment of the Irish Free State. In 1953 the newly formed Republic of Ireland had formed and Ireland  had left the British Commonwealth.  There have been troubles in Northern Ireland ever since. 

Orange Order  Flag .

Where does the orange come in? you may be wondering. Actually, it already did. The Loyal Orange Institution, or Orange Order, was founded as a Protestant fraternal order in Northern Ireland in 1795 when there was significant conflict between the majority Roman Catholic population and the decidedly smaller, but sanctioned under the crown, Anglican Protestants. The order derived it's name from William of Orange, a Protestant king who defeated a Catholic army at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. They wore orange sashes and were called "Orangemen". The order has been a symbol of an ever present rift between Catholics and Protestants; the green and the orange.  "The Orange and the Green" or "The Biggest Mix-Up" is an Irish folk song about a man whose father was a Protestant (Orange) and whose mother was a Catholic (Green). These stories and the violence and animosity have permeated the area for centuries, and continue with the Order making marches and with interfaith marriages being shied away from if they can.

So, when you wear green on St. Patrick's Day, you might want to add a dash of orange, or avoid those wish sashes of orange and an angry look in their eye. Here in the states, you can pretty much count everyone as Irish today, so to your health! Have a green beer for me.

Topic Tuesday #130 2015/01/06 - "The Knights Templar"

Topic Tuesday #130 2015/01/06 - "The Knights Templar"

Seal of the Knights Templar

Seal of the Knights Templar

On this day in 1128, Pope Honorius II granted papal sanction to the military order known as the Knights Templar, declaring it to be an army of God.

The organization was founded by Frenchman Hughes de Payens in 1118 to protect Christian pilgrims on their pilgrimage to the holy land during the crusades. For those that are unaware, the crusades were a series of conflicts with the aim of defeating Muslims in Palestine. More on that, next week. 

Temple Mount, Jerusalem

Temple Mount, Jerusalem

The Templars took their name for the location of their headquarters at Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Early on, it was a small organization owing its ranks to severe restrictions and vows. One typically had to be rich, powerful, and then vow poverty, obedience, and chastity.  Slowly their numbers grew, as did the wealth of the organization. 

The crusades lasted until the early 14th century, as was ultimately unsuccessful. The Templars wealth was a source of avarice from both mother church and the more secular powers of the day. In 1307, King Philip IV (France) and Pope Clement V combined forces to take down the Knights Templar. Grand Master Jacques de Molay, the head of the Templars, was arrested on charges of heresy, sacrilege, and Satanism. Later he confessed under torture, like many of his compatriots. They were burned at the stake. 

Those rushes look a bit flammable.

Those rushes look a bit flammable.

The Knights Templar was dissolved by the Pope Clement in 1312 and all of their assets (not claimed by the kings of France and England, were assigned to the Knights Hospitalers. The Templars were banned in France and England (and anywhere the Catholic Church exerted authority) as a matter of course.  Some likely fled to other territories, such as excommunicated Scotland or to Switzerland. Templar organisations in Portugal changed their name from Knights Templar to Knights of Christ. At its peak, there may have been as many as 20,000 members of the Knights Templar, about 10% of which were actually knights. 

The Catholic Church has admitted that these actions were unjustified and claim Pope Clement was being pressured by secular rulers... Though last I checked, Kings were not secular rulers.

Topic Tuesday #129 2015/01/06 - "The Magna Carta, 800 years later"

Topic Tuesday #129 2015/01/06 - "The Magna Carta, 800 years later"

In the year 1215 a document was drafted to make peace. A monk wrote in the Melrose Chronicle, "A new state of things begun in England; such a strange affair as had never before been heard; for the body wishes to rule the head, and the people desired to be masters over the king ..."  It made many promises. Protection of church rights, against illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations to how much was to be paid to the King John in feudal payments. At the time, it was a nice gesture... and was null and void after a couple months as the barons and the king went to war.

That was not the end for the "the great charter". King john died and his son tried to reissue the Magna Carta in 1216. When war was done in 1217, the Magna Carta formed part of the peace treaty. It was issued again in 1225 and in 1297, when it was made part of England's statute law.  It essentially remained as a political promise from the monarch until the Parliament passed more and more laws that made those promises, more or less, law. Read more at Wikipedia, wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta

The basic tenants of the Magna Carta, protection of fundamental liberties, continued through the ages as good ideas often do. The crafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights were obviously aware of the documents tone as well as its content.  Below, I have a highres picture of the document with a translation below it. 

Copy of the original thanks to Archive.ORG

Magna Carta Translation

[Preamble] Edward by the grace of God King of England, lord of Ireland and duke of Aquitaine sends greetings to all to whom the present letters come. We have inspected the great charter of the lord Henry, late King of England, our father, concerning the liberties of England in these words:

Henry by the grace of God King of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and count of Anjou sends greetings to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, sheriffs, reeves, ministers and all his bailiffs and faithful men inspecting the present charter. Know that we, at the prompting of God and for the health of our soul and the souls of our ancestors and successors, for the glory of holy Church and the improvement of our realm, freely and out of our good will have given and granted to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons and all of our realm these liberties written below to hold in our realm of England in perpetuity.

[1] In the first place we grant to God and confirm by this our present charter for ourselves and our heirs in perpetuity that the English Church is to be free and to have all its rights fully and its liberties entirely. We furthermore grant and give to all the freemen of our realm for ourselves and our heirs in perpetuity the liberties written below to have and to hold to them and their heirs from us and our heirs in perpetuity.

[2] If any of our earls or barons, or anyone else holding from us in chief by military service should die, and should his heir be of full age and owe relief, the heir is to have his inheritance for the ancient relief, namely the heir or heirs of an earl for a whole county £100, the heir or heirs of a baron for a whole barony 100 marks, the heir or heirs of a knight for a whole knight’s fee 100 shillings at most, and he who owes less will give less, according to the ancient custom of (knights’) fees.

[3] If, however, the heir of such a person is under age, his lord is not to have custody of him and his land until he has taken homage from the heir, and after such an heir has been in custody, when he comes of age, namely at twenty-one years old, he is to have his inheritance without relief and without fine, saving that if, whilst under age, he is made a knight, his land will nonetheless remain in the custody of his lords until the aforesaid term.

[4] The keeper of the land of such an heir who is under age is only to take reasonable receipts from the heir’s land and reasonable customs and reasonable services, and this without destruction or waste of men or things. And if we assign custody of any such land to a sheriff or to anyone else who should answer to us for the issues, and such a person should commit destruction or waste, we will take recompense from him and the land will be assigned to two law-worthy and discreet men of that fee who will answer to us or to the person to whom we assign such land for the land’s issues. And if we give or sell to anyone custody of any such land and that person commits destruction or waste, he is to lose custody and the land is to be assigned to two law-worthy and discreet men of that fee who similarly will answer to us as is aforesaid.

[5] The keeper, for as long as he has the custody of the land of such (an heir), is to maintain the houses, parks, fishponds, ponds, mills and other things pertaining to that land from the issues of the same land, and he will restore to the heir, when the heir comes to full age, all his land stocked with ploughs and all other things in at least the same condition as when he received it. All these things are to be observed in the custodies of archbishoprics, bishoprics, abbeys, priories, churches and vacant offices which pertain to us, save that such custodies ought not to be sold.

[6] Heirs are to be married without disparagement.

[7] A widow, after the death of her husband, is immediately and without any difficulty to have her marriage portion and her inheritance, nor is she to pay anything for her dower or her marriage portion or for her inheritance which her husband and she held on the day of her husband’s death, and she shall remain in the chief dwelling place of her husband for forty days after her husband’s death, within which time dower will be assigned her if it has not already been assigned, unless that house is a castle, and if it is a castle which she leaves, then a suitable house will immediately be provided for her in which she may properly dwell until her dower is assigned to her in accordance with what is aforesaid, and in the meantime she is to have her reasonable necessities (estoverium) from the common property. As dower she will be assigned the third part of all the lands of her husband which were his during his lifetime, save when she was dowered with less at the church door. No widow shall be distrained to marry for so long as she wishes to live without a husband, provided that she gives surety that she will not marry without our assent if she holds of us, or without the assent of her lord, if she holds of another.

[8] Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize any land or rent for any debt, as long as the existing chattels of the debtor suffice for the payment of the debt and as long as the debtor is ready to pay the debt, nor will the debtor’s guarantors be distrained for so long as the principal debtor is able to pay the debt; and should the principal debtor default in his payment of the debt, not having the means to repay it, or should he refuse to pay it despite being able to do so, the guarantors will answer for the debt and, if they wish, they are to have the lands and rents of the debtor until they are repaid the debt that previously they paid on behalf of the debtor, unless the principal debtor can show that he is quit in respect to these guarantors.

[9] The city of London is to have all its ancient liberties and customs. Moreover we wish and grant that all other cities and boroughs and vills and the barons of the Cinque Ports and all ports are to have all their liberties and free customs.

[10] No-one is to be distrained to do more service for a knight’s fee or for any other free tenement than is due from it.

[11] Common pleas are not to follow our court but are to be held in a certain fixed place.

[12] Recognisances of novel disseisin and of mort d’ancestor are not to be taken save in their particular counties and in the following way. We or, should we be outside the realm, our chief justiciar, will send our justices once a year to each county, so that, together with the knights of the counties, that may take the aforesaid assizes in the counties; and those assizes which cannot be completed in that visitation of the county by our aforesaid justices assigned to take the said assizes are to be completed elsewhere by the justices in their visitation; and those which cannot be completed by them on account of the difficulty of various articles (of law) are to be referred to our justices of the Bench and completed there.

[13] Assizes of darrein presentment are always to be taken before our justices of the Bench and are to be completed there.

[14] A freeman is not to be amerced for a small offence save in accordance with the manner of the offence, and for a major offence according to its magnitude, saving his sufficiency (salvo contenemento suo), and a merchant likewise, saving his merchandise, and any villain other than one of our own is to be amerced in the same way, saving his necessity (salvo waynagio) should he fall into our mercy, and none of the aforesaid amercements is to be imposed save by the oath of honest and law-worthy men of the neighbourhood. Earls and barons are not to be amerced save by their peers and only in accordance with the manner of their offence.

[15] No town or free man is to be distrained to make bridges or bank works save for those that ought to do so of old and by right.

[16] No bank works of any sort are to be kept up save for those that were in defense in the time of King H(enry II) our grandfather and in the same places and on the same terms as was customary in his time.

[17] No sheriff, constable, coroner or any other of our bailiffs is to hold pleas of our crown.

[18] If anyone holding a lay fee from us should die, and our sheriff or bailiff shows our letters patent containing our summons for a debt that the dead man owed us, our sheriff or bailiff is permitted to attach and enroll all the goods and chattels of the dead man found in lay fee, to the value of the said debt, by view of law-worthy men, so that nothing is to be removed thence until the debt that remains is paid to us, and the remainder is to be released to the executors to discharge the will of the dead man, and if nothing is owed to us from such a person, all the chattels are to pass to the (use of) the dead man, saving to the dead man’s wife and children their reasonable portion.

[19] No constable or his bailiff is to take corn or other chattels from anyone who not themselves of a vill where a castle is built, unless the constable or his bailiff immediately offers money in payment of obtains a respite by the wish of the seller. If the person whose corn or chattels are taken is of such a vill, then the constable or his bailiff is to pay the purchase price within forty days.

[20] No constable is to distrain any knight to give money for castle guard if the knight is willing to do such guard in person or by proxy of any other honest man, should the knight be prevented from doing so by just cause. And if we take or send such a knight into the army, he is to be quit of (castle) guard in accordance with the length of time the we have him in the army for the fee for which he has done service in the army.

[21] No sheriff or bailiff of ours or of anyone else is to take anyone’s horses or carts to make carriage, unless he renders the payment customarily due, namely for a two-horse cart ten pence per day, and for a three-horse cart fourteen pence per day. No demesne cart belonging to any churchman or knight or any other lady (sic) is to be taken by our bailiffs, nor will we or our bailiffs or anyone else take someone else’s timber for a castle or any other of our business save by the will of he to whom the timber belongs.

[22] We shall not hold the lands of those convicted of felony save for a year and a day, whereafter such land is to be restored to the lords of the fees.

[23] All fish weirs (kidelli) on the Thames and the Medway and throughout England are to be entirely dismantled, save on the sea coast.

[24] The writ called ‘praecipe’ is not to be issued to anyone in respect to any free tenement in such a way that a free man might lose his court.

[25] There is to be a single measure for wine throughout our realm, and a single measure for ale, and a single measure for Corn, that is to say the London quarter, and a single breadth for dyed cloth, russets, and haberjects, that is to say two yards within the lists. And it shall be the same for weights as for measures.

[26] Henceforth there is to be nothing given for a writ of inquest from the person seeking an inquest of life or member, but such a writ is to be given freely and is not to be denied.

[27] If any persons hold from us at fee farm or in socage or burgage, and hold land from another by knight service, we are not, by virtue of such a fee farm or socage or burgage, to have custody of the heir or their land which pertains to another’s fee, nor are we to have custody of such a fee farm or socage or burgage unless this fee farm owes knight service. We are not to have the custody of an heir or of any land which is held from another by knight service on the pretext of some small serjeanty held from us by service of rendering us knives or arrows or suchlike things.

[28] No bailiff is henceforth to put any man on his open law or on oath simply by virtue of his spoken word, without reliable witnesses being produced for the same.

[29] No freeman is to be taken or imprisoned or disseised of his free tenement or of his liberties or free customs, or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go against such a man or send against him save by lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land. To no-one will we sell or deny of delay right or justice.

[30] All merchants, unless they have been previously and publicly forbidden, are to have safe and secure conduct in leaving and coming to England and in staying and going through England both by land and by water to buy and to sell, without any evil exactions, according to the ancient and right customs, save in time of war, and if they should be from a land at war against us and be found in our land at the beginning of the war, they are to be attached without damage to their bodies or goods until it is established by us or our chief justiciar in what way the merchants of our land are treated who at such a time are found in the land that is at war with us, and if our merchants are safe there, the other merchants are to be safe in our land.

[31] If anyone dies holding of any escheat such as the honour of Wallingford, Boulogne, Nottingham, Lancaster or of other escheats which are in our hands and which are baronies, his heir is not to give any other relief or render any other service to us that would not have been rendered to the baron if the barony were still held by a baron, and we shall hold such things in the same way as the baron held them, nor, on account of such a barony or escheat, are we to have the escheat or custody of any of our men unless the man who held the barony or the escheat held elsewhere from us in chief.

[32] No free man is henceforth to give or sell any more of his land to anyone, unless the residue of his land is sufficient to render due service to the lord of the fee as pertains to that fee.

[33] All patrons of abbeys which have charters of the kings of England over advowson or ancient tenure or possession are to have the custody of such abbeys when they fall vacant just as they ought to have and as is declared above.

[34] No-one is to be taken or imprisoned on the appeal of woman for the death of anyone save for the death of that woman’s husband.

[35] No county court is to be held save from month to month, and where the greater term used to be held, so will it be in future, nor will any sheriff or his bailiff make his tourn through the hundred save for twice a year and only in the place that is due and customary, namely once after Easter and again after Michaelmas, and the view of frankpledge is to be taken at the Michaelmas term without exception, in such a way that every man is to have his liberties which he had or used to have in the time of King H(enry II) my grandfather or which he has acquired since. The view of frankpledge is to be taken so that our peace be held and so that the tithing is to be held entire as it used to be, and so that the sheriff does not seek exceptions but remains content with that which the sheriff used to have in taking the view in the time of King H(enry) our grandfather.

[36] Nor is it permitted to anyone to give his land to a religious house in such a way that he receives it back from such a house to hold, nor is it permitted to any religious house to accept the land of anyone in such way that the land is restored to the person from whom it was received to hold. If anyone henceforth gives his land in such a way to any religious house and is convicted of the same, the gift is to be entirely quashed and such land is to revert to the lord of that fee.

[37] Scutage furthermore is to be taken as it used to be in the time of King H(enry) our grandfather, and all liberties and free customs shall be preserved to archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, Templars, Hospitallers, earls, barons and all others, both ecclesiastical and secular persons, just as they formerly had.

All these aforesaid customs and liberties which we have granted to be held in our realm in so far as pertains to us are to be observed by all of our realm, both clergy and laity, in so far as pertains to them in respect to their own men. For this gift and grant of these liberties and of others contained in our charter over the liberties of the forest, the archbishops, bishops, abbots, priors, earls, barons, knights, fee holders and all of our realm have given us a fifteenth part of all their movable goods. Moreover we grant to them for us and our heirs that neither we nor our heirs will seek anything by which the liberties contained in this charter might be infringed or damaged, and should anything be obtained from anyone against this it is to count for nothing and to be held as nothing. With these witnesses: the lord S(tephen) archbishop of Canterbury, E(ustace) bishop of London, J(ocelin) bishop of Bath, P(eter) bishop of Winchester, H(ugh) bishop of Lincoln, R(ichard) bishop of Salisbury, W. bishop of Rochester, W(illiam) bishop of Worcester, J(ohn) bishop of Ely, H(ugh) bishop of Hereford, R(anulf) bishop of Chichester, W(illiam) bishop of Exeter, the abbot of (Bury) St Edmunds, the abbot of St Albans, the abbot of Battle, the abbot of St Augustine’s Canterbury, the abbot of Evesham, the abbot of Westminster, the abbot of Peterborough, the abbot of Reading, the abbot of Abingdon, the abbot of Malmesbury, the abbot of Winchcombe, the abbot of Hyde (Winchester), the abbot of Chertsey, the abbot of Sherborne, the abbot of Cerne, the abbot of Abbotsbury, the abbot of Milton (Abbas), the abbot of Selby, the abbot of Cirencester, H(ubert) de Burgh the justiciar, H. earl of Chester and Lincoln, W(illiam) earl of Salisbury, W(illiam) earl Warenne, G. de Clare earl of Gloucester and Hertford, W(illiam) de Ferrers earl of Derby, W(illiam) de Mandeville earl of Essex, H(ugh) Bigod earl of Norfolk, W(illiam) earl Aumale, H(umphrey) earl of Hereford, J(ohn) constable of Chester, R(obert) de Ros, R(obert) fitz Walter, R(obert) de Vieuxpont, W(illiam) Brewer, R(ichard) de Montfiquet, P(eter) fitz Herbert, W(illiam) de Aubigné, G. Gresley, F. de Braose, J(ohn) of Monmouth, J(ohn) fitz Alan, H(ugh) de Mortemer, W(illiam) de Beauchamp, W(illiam) de St John, P(eter) de Maulay, Brian de Lisle, Th(omas) of Moulton, R(ichard) de Argentan, G(eoffrey) de Neville, W(illiam) Mauduit, J(ohn) de Baalon and others. Given at Westminster on the eleventh day of February in the ninth year of our reign.

We, holding these aforesaid gifts and grants to be right and welcome, conceed and confirm them for ourselves and our heirs and by the terms of the present (letters) renew them, wishing and granting for ourselves and our heirs that the aforesaid charter is to be firmly and inviably observed in all and each of its articles in perpetuity, including any articles contained in the same charter which by chance have not to date been observed. In testimony of which we have had made these our letters patent. Witnessed by Edward our son, at Westminster on the twelfth day of October in the twenty-fifth year of our reign. (Chancery warranty by John of) Stowe.

Translation by Professor Nicholas Vincent, Copyright Sotheby's Inc. 2007