Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Win, Place, and Show

Post-Gazette -- Res Publica
Win, Place, and Show
by David Trumbull -- December 30, 2011

On the elevator this morning someone asked me who I thought would win in Iowa; I responded that I don't really follow sports. Friend Sharon H. responded: "If it's a race, the handicappers must be beside themselves with the best challenge that they've ever had."

"Horse race" coverage -- who's ahead in the opinion polls, who's trailing in the polls -- is how the media reporting on the Republican presidential nomination contest is disparaged. You can just hear the typical news reporting, "They're off and it's Romney in the lead. And now they're at the first turn and Newt is pulling ahead. And now they're in the straight-away and Mitt is back in the lead again followed by Ron Paul with Perry nagging in the rear."

Actually, it is a nasty slur on the racing industry, handicappers, and the wagering public to compare, to a horse race, the national press coverage of a presidential election. You'll learn a great deal more about the condition of the entries and their history on the track by reading the Daily Racing Form than you'll ever learn about any candidate in the January 3rd Iowa caucus by reading the Boston Globe or the New York Times.

I was thinking more "roller derby" than "horse race," but perhaps friend Kevin R. nailed it when he replied: "Does it matter? The Iowa caucus looks to me like a very formal game of musical chairs." Libertarian friend, Alan C., commented: "It's a real test of endurance, following a sport where it usually seems like all the contenders are losers."

My West Coast liberal friend Dave S. pointed out that "the successful presidencies of Tom Harkin and Mike Huckabee tell us all we need to know about the caucuses." And old high school buddy Carl P. reminded me that "The Iowa caucus, another legacy of Jimmy Carter."

The latest news regarding the Republican contenders is that two entries, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich have been disqualified from the March 6th meet in Virginia for failure to satisfy rules regarding nomination signature. Virginia voters have their ballot choices limited to Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

Rick Perry, this past Tuesday, filed suit in U.S. District Court challenging, based on First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, Virginia's requirement that nomination petition circulators be eligible to vote in Virginia. The Supreme Court in the past (in a 1999 case relating to Colorado) ruled a similar rule to be in violation of the First Amendment right of free speech. So Virginia voters may yet get another choice on the ballot.

Here in Massachusetts the certifying of candidates' nomination signatures for our March 6th election has not been completed. We'll know in a few days who will be the entries in that race. Given my person history of voting for losing candidates, I'm more interested in the opening of the live racing season at Suffolk Downs in May. At least at the track I win once in a while. And even when I lose I'm down but a few dollars, which better than I can say about the administration of the current President.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

From the Daily Offices for the Week of the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Book of Divine Worship):
We beseech thee, Almighty God, to purify our consciences by thy daily visitation, that when thy Son our Lord cometh he may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Occupy Pre-School

Res Publica
Occupy Pre-School
by David Trumbull -- December 16, 2011

I don't know how I missed this when the City of Boston issued it at the end of October, but even now, after the "Occupy Boston" group has vacated Dewey Square, it is still interesting, not to mention, hilarious, to read what the Boston Public Health Commission, Inspectional Services, Police and Fire Departments really thought about the "occupiers."

I quote directly from "Public Health & Safety Tips from the City of Boston" published October 26th and addressed to "those at Dewey Square":
"Cold weather has arrived and nighttime temperatures will soon be below freezing ... Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. If clothing becomes wet, change into dry clothing as soon as possible. Wear mittens over gloves, layering works for you hands too. Wear a hat and cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs."
Now I love to hear Button Up Your Overcoat (1928; music by Ray Henderson; words by B.G. DeSylia and Lew Brown) put over by torch singer Ruth Etting or "boop-boop-a-doop girl" Helen Kane, but, as an adult, when someone suggests that I "get out of these wet clothes" I expect him to follow with "and into a dry martini." I don't expect, at least not after age nine, to need the grown-ups of the city to remind me to wear my hat and mittens. The fact that some person or persons in authority thought it necessary to inform the occupiers that a Boston winter can be cold and damp reflects badly on the intelligence of the occupiers, or the city officials, or maybe both!

Or how about this official City of Boston admonition to Occupy Boston:
"Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing or sneezing."
Now that's good advice. It was when I was taught it in kindergarten and I still stand by it, as I stand by this advice from the City of Boston to the occupiers:
"Do not engage in negative behavior, such as fighting, throwing objects, or destroying property."
Shall we add, "biting," "running with scissors," "eating paste," and "stomping your feet and yelling 'Mine' until you get your way." Actually, strike that one as that is the very essence of the occupy movement.

It's good to see that the City of Boston recognized the "99%" for what they are: spoiled kids – in some cases superannuated kids--, and rather slow ones at that.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

…Reserved to the States Respectively, or to the People.

December 15th is Bill of Rights Day in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, set aside to memorialize the entering into force, following adoption by three-fourths of the states on December 15, 1791, of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, commonly called the Bill of Rights. Incidentally, Massachusetts was not one of the ratifying states and only passed the amendments in a symbolic gesture in 1939 at the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights.

At the time it was proposed the concept of a Bill of Rights—not to mention the specifics of what would be in it—was controversial.

Some argued against the Constitution itself as defective due to lack of an enumeration of the rights of the People. Even as English colonists subject to the Crown they had enjoyed, or at least claimed, the traditional rights of Englishmen, including those set forth in the 1689 English Bill of Rights and earlier documents going back to Magna Carta of 1215. Surely as the free citizens of a republic they ought to enjoy such an enumeration of rights.

Others argued that the Constitution was intended to provide only for the arrangement of the national or central government of the States within the Union and that an enumeration of citizens’ rights was unnecessary as it was the People making the Constitution and, therefore the People retained all rights and powers not specifically granted the national government. Alexander Hamilton made this argument in Federalist No. 84.

The compromise, which was finally enacted, satisfied both by setting forth eight sets of specific rights of the people that the national government (and later, by incorporation under the 14th Amendment, the States) is bound to respect. Those amendments are followed by the Ninth clarifying that every American citizen has all the traditional rights of a free person whether or not specifically listed in amendments one through eight. Then the Tenth Amendments makes clear (although somehow not so clear to some of the Democrats and liberals in Washington today) that the national government has only those powers specifically granted by the People through the Constitution, with all other powers reserved to the States or to the People.

6% of Voters Pick Senator in Special Election, Republican and Green Party Voters Disenfranchised.

Yesterday Massachusetts Representative William Brownsberger won the special election for Senator to replace Democrat Stephen Tolman who had vacated the seat to become president of the AFL-CIO of Massachusetts. The district, Second Suffolk and Middlesex is made up of the towns of Belmont and Watertown and parts of the cities of Cambridge and Boston.

Final official results are not yet available, but thanks to two local news outlets (the Watertown TAB and the Boston Herald) which obtained unofficial results from the election officials in the four communities we can do some preliminary analysis.

Representative (soon to be Senator) Brownsberger won with about one-third of the total votes in the four-man race. Since turnout, overall, was about 18 percent, that means that about 6 percent, a little under 5,000 of the approximately 84,000 registered voters in the district voted for the man who will be their senator. Given the history in Massachusetts, where incumbent senators almost never are defeated for re-election, it is safe to say that the man that 6% voted for yesterday will be senator for as long as he wants. Yesterday's election was a Democratic Party primary and under Massachusetts law no one can vote in a party primary if registered as a member of another party. That means yesterday's decision regarding who will represent all voters in the district was restricted to voters who were Democrats or not enrolled in any party.

Republicans were effectively disenfranchised when the Republican Party failed to run any candidate. Green Party voters, likewise, were excluded due to that party's failure to run a candidate. The final election will be in January, but, by law, Mr. Brownsberger's name is the only one permitted on the ballot.

Congratulations to Mr. Brownsberger. You won in a hotly contested race and my analysis is not intended to in any way diminish the significance of your victory.

However, an election in which 5,000 voters decide for 84,000 who will be the senator and in which several thousand registered Republican or Green Party member had, effectively, no vote, points to problems with the system here in Massachusetts.

First SHAME on the Republican Party (and the Green Party) for failing to run any candidate. Why should any voter in this district choose to register in your party when you can't be bothered to run local candidates, leaving your party members with no one to vote for in the primary and the Democratic Party nominee as the only name on the ballot in the general election.

Secondly, this is not an unusual outcome in Massachusetts. The incumbent resigns, there is a special election with multiple candidates in a one party primary resulting in a winner who got a third of the vote in a contest with 20% turnout and voters of the other parties not even having a vote. This is not new in American politics. Back in the days of the "solid South" one party Democratic states of the old confederacy also had multi-candidate Democratic primaries that too frequently yielded winners who got less than half of the vote. In some cases -- I believe Georgia is one of them -- the law was changed so that if the winner got less than 50% there was a mandated run-off election between the top two vote getters. The city of Cambridge, Massachusetts for municipal office uses a system called "single transferable preference voting" which is a mouthful of a phrase that describes a type of automatic run-off. I'm not advocating any particular reform, but, when 6% of the registered voters decide, in a special election, who will likely be the senator for the next decade or more, I think we ought to start at least talking about possible reforms.

Collects for the Ember Days

Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following St. Lucy's day (December 13th) are the traditional winter Ember Days.
I. For those to be ordained
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, who of thy divine providence hast appointed various orders in thy Church: Give thy grace, we humbly beseech thee, to all who are [now] called to any office and ministry for thy people; and so fill them with the truth of thy doctrine and clothe them with holiness of life, that they may faithfully serve before thee, to the glory of thy great Name and for the benefit of thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
II. For the choice of fit persons for the ministry
O God, who didst lead thy holy apostles to ordain ministers in every place: Grant that thy Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable persons for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
III. For all Christians in their vocation
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of thy faithful people is governed and sanctified: Receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all members of thy holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve thee; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent

Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end. Amen. -- from the Anglican Use Roman Catholic Book of Divine Worship