Article V Convention

In Article V, the United States Constitution provides two methods for amendment:  the first method, and the one used for every single amendment thus far, requires that a proposed amendment be passed by two thirds of each house, and then be ratified by three quarters of the states.  This method ensures that any change to the fundamental law of our land is accepted by a super-majority of the country.  There is just one problem:  why would Congress ever propose an amendment that would curtail its power?

The Founders thus provided a second method of amendments, one that circumvents Congress and goes directly to the States and the people.  The relevant clause reads:   “Congress … on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments…”.  The language is unambiguous.  Once two thirds of the several states have applied, Congress is to call a convention.

What exactly constitutes an application?  Some hold that any application has to state the proposed amendments, and that all applications from states proposing a certain amendment must be in substantial agreement, before they are counted toward the two thirds requirement.  This is the current position of the Congress.

Is this what the Founders intended?  After all, the language of Article V is fairly clear:  the convention, once called, is where the amendments are proposed.  Look at the language: “… Call a convention for proposing amendments…”.

One can look at how the First Congress handled such applications.  Immediately after the ratification of the Constitution, several states submitted applications to Congress requesting an Article V convention.  What did the founding Congress do?  It held that under Article V, the only role it had was hold applications until the total reached two thirds of the states, and then call the convention.  It had no power under the Constitution to determine if a “valid” application had been submitted; if a sovereign state said it submitted an application, the application was valid.  The First Congress also held that it had no power to determine or dictate any method or requirement for an application.  Their only role was to count the applications and call an amendment convention.

The Founders themselves held this view.  Hamilton wrote in Federalist 85 that “…the Congress will be obliged ‘on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the States [which at present amount to nine], to call a convention for proposing amendments, which shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the States, or by conventions in three fourths thereof.’  The words of this article are peremptory. The Congress ‘shall call a convention.’  Nothing in this particular is left to the discretion of that body.”   So we know how the Founders and the First Congress intended Article V to work, as far as an amendment convention is concerned.  Why haven’t the states ever called for such a convention?

Ah, but they have.  Congress just refuses to call the convention.  That is a topic for another post.

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The waiting

We wait for the SCOTUS to decide Obamacare.  They’ve already denied that we have sovereign states; anyone feel secure that they will hold the individual to be sovereign?  I hope they throw the whole thing out, but I think there’s a decent chance they will uphold the abomination.

But I’m a pessimist; I think there’s a better than decent chance Emperor Obama will win re-election, and win it easily.

Please tell me I’m wrong!

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Cinco de What Now?

I am at a loss to understand why we celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the United States.Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday.  We do not live in Mexico, neither are most of us Mexicans.  In Mexico, they do not celebrate Presidents’ Day (whoops, I mean Washington’s Birthday), nor do they celebrate the Fourth of July.

I suspect this is simply a result of cynical marketing by food and beer companies.  Mexican food is fairly popular in the United States, so why not import a minor holiday from Mexico and use it to sell some more Mexican food, beer, tequila, what have you.

When they start celebrating Thanksgiving in Mexico, complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, compiled, and plenty of bourbon, I’ll be more than happy to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

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In Praise of Dragon NaturallySpeaking

I created the previous two posts on this blog using Dragon NaturallySpeaking.  While there are some "teething pains", I have found it to be fairly accurate and fairly easy to use.  The hardest part for me is composing while I dictate.  I can compose well when I type, but I find it harder right now to get the exact phrasing I want as I dictate.  I expect this will become easier as i use software more and more.

I decided to use speech recognition software because I'm beginning to get arthritis in my hands. I hope that this is a good solution to help minimize pain and stiffness in my hands especially towards the end of the day. So far, I'm very impressed.

Kudos to Nuance.

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Running Hunger Man Games

At the insistence of my wife and family, I've begun reading The Hunger Games.  I've made it through the section on "the reaping".  I detect an echo of "The Lottery", though without the surprise punch that's at the end of "The Lottery".  (This is understandable, since The Hunger Games is a novel, while "The Lottery" is a short story.)  I still think that this is very similar to Stephen King's novel The Running Man.  Both novels have a fascist and dictatorial government; both have innocent people or minor criminals engage in ritual combat for the entertainment of the masses.  The difference so far is that in The Hunger Games, the combatants are children.

Stephanie Collins' writing does keep me engaged, so I'm going to continue reading the novel.  I will try not to compare it to the running game or any other novels or stories I've read. I want to give it a chance to stand on its own.  I will report back as I read more.

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I’m Somewhat Flabbergasted

Last Tuesday I attended an awards ceremony at my daughter's high school. The nature of the awards isn't important; what is important, at least to me, are some of the things that I saw during the ceremony.

I arrived to the ceremony late, and there was a gentleman speaking. He was talking to the students about the importance of setting goals and quoted an impressive number of statistics that seemed to illustrate the importance of setting concrete goals. He talked about a seminar he was holding in March for juniors and seniors, recited a quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, and cited the example of Jeremy Lin. I'm not sure that Gandhi actually said what the gentleman claimed he did, nor did he get the details of Jeremy Lin's story correct (he said that Lin tried out for number of teams and didn't make it when he was actually traded; he said that Lin was sleeping on a teammate's sofa, it was actually his older brother's, etc.).

It turns out that the speaker was actually an English teacher from Forest Hills High School. I could not understand why he was speaking at an assembly at school clear across the county, instead of teaching his classes.  Even worse in my opinion, is that he was allowed to plug his book and seminars. Is this what my tax dollars are going for?  Perhaps the gentleman should concentrate on teaching his students rather than trying to sell his seminars and his books; only 64% of Forest Hills students taking the English end of course test performed at or above grade level in his school (see for yourself).

After the speech was done, the assistant principal called the students up one by one. She requested that everyone hold their applause until the end, because "each student deserves to hear their name called". Look at that quote. "Each student deserves to hear their names called". The assistant principal has a Master's degree in education. She spent 18 years in school, and still can't quite grasp the concept that a singular noun takes a singular pronoun. "Each student" is singular; the phrase refers to one student. The proper possessive pronoun should be "his" or "her". So what she should have said was "each student deserves to hear his or her name called".

(I hear this formulation more and more. I think that students are taught to avoid using the pronoun "his" as a default pronoun. When I was a student, the assistant principal would have said "each student deserves to hear his name called". Nowadays it is considered sexist, for some reason, to use "his" to refer to any person. This is same impulse that compels people to use the word "humankind" instead of "mankind". These people are ignorant.)

Finally, despite the warnings of the assistant principal, some people applauded and hooted when their child's name was called. The assistant principals simply repeated her previous warning. If she actually meant what she said, she would have had the first person who applauded or hooted removed from the auditorium. That  would have ut an end to the interruptions. Since she didn't, the interruptions continued.  Again, when I was a student, such interruptions would not been tolerated.

I was somewhat flabbergasted by everything I saw that the ceremony. I suppose it just shows how out of touch I am with modern educational practices and procedures. Somehow, I can't see this as progress.

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On a Pending Un-enfranchisement

On May 5, I'm going to vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primary North Carolina.  I am then going to change my registration from GOP to unaffiliated.

I've been a Republican my entire adult life. My first vote ever was for Ronald Reagan for president in 1980. I voted for the Republican candidate for president in every election since. I generally vote the straight Republican ticket. I've never voted for Democrat my entire life.

To me the Republican Party has stood for limited government and individual liberty. But now it seems to me that the Republican Party as well as the Democratic Party both believe in big government. They just believe in different aspects of big government. The Democrats want to use big government to achieve their view of equality throughout the society. The Republicans want to use big government to enrich their favored corporations. Should be noted that in this they are no different than Democrats; the parties just choose different corporations to receive their favors. The Democrats buy votes of the poor and working class by taking money from the productive citizens and redistributing it to those people. The Republicans by votes of the corporations and the rich by favoring their companies. Neither party is interested in individual liberty. Both parties see the federal government as creating and overseeing the states and the people rather than the other way around.

I for one will no longer be a voluntary participant in my own enslavement. I will not vote for any candidate in any federal election.(this assumes that there'll only be two candidates for any federal office Democrat or Republican.) I will vote for candidates and state elections and local elections. However, the Republican Party no longer has my automatic vote nor will I give financial support to any of their candidates.

The biggest issue facing the United States is our national debt and how it's growing. But except for Ron Paul none of the candidates has any plan to reduce the debt. The plan put up by Paul Ryan, hailed as the answer to our problems, increases the national debt by $6 trillion over 20 years. These are not serious people. This is not a serious party. There is no federal electoral solution to our problems. I fear the only real solution is disunion.

I understand that some will say I will no longer have any right to complain about the government. But as a citizen of the so-called Republic, I still have the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. The Constitution does not put any qualification on that right. It does not say "as long as you participate in elections, you may petition the government." The right to petition the government for redress of grievances is unqualified and absolute for any citizen of this Republic.

"If at first you don't secede, try try again."

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Old Ways

About two months ago, I started listening to classical music.  It was not a conscious decision, in that I said to myself “Self, you need to listen to classical music and improve yourself.”  It more of an “I can’t find anything decent to listen to on [a whole bunch of Sirius Stations].  Let me try the classical channel.”

Now, I did not know that much about classical music.  I knew the basics (e.g., the Three Bs), and knew that I had long ago listened to Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony and enjoyed it.  Oh, and Handel’s Messiah.  So I tuned to “Symphony Hall” with no great expectation that I would enjoy what I heard.  I was quite surprised that not only did I like the music; I was listening to it more closely than I did the rock stations.  I now regularly listen to both “Symphony Hall” and “SiriusXM Pops”, as well as the local classical radio station (WDAV).  I have also started listening more to what SiriusXM calls the “Sinatra” channel. 


So, am I putting on airs?  I do not think so.  I think I am experiencing on a small, personal scale what Tom Wolfe called a “Great Relearning”.  I am finding out that maybe, just maybe, some of the old things and old ways really were better.  Certainly not everything older was better.  But maybe my Dad knew something when he told us that Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and other artists of that era made some terrific music that would outlast the pop and rock we kids were listening to.  He was no classical music aficionado, but he could appreciate a good symphony or concerto.

Another small example or two might help clarify what I am groping at.  I head Dennis Prager on a podcast I listen to each week.  He was talking about classical music, and one of the hosts said something like “you sound like a man who writes with a fountain pen.”  Now when I was younger (and I mean around 4th or 5th grade), I used a cheap fountain pen.  (I think it was a Schaeffer.) Whether out of enjoyment or affectation I can’t remember now, and it probably does not matter.  I do know that the comment piqued my interest and I did what any one would do nowadays:  I Googled “fountain pen.”  I found a variety of sites proving that interest in this has not faded; indeed, it appears that many people still use fountain pens regularly.  I found out that there is even a disposable fountain pen.  I picked up a couple of them, and I enjoy using them for taking notes at work, writing in my journal (which I have also re-started), etc.  I am also learning about better stationary, notebooks, and so on.

One site that popped up was “The Art of Manliness”.  I checked it out (it was there that I learned about the disposable fountain pen).  I wasn’t sure if the site was meant to be ironic, or if it was intended to provoke discussion and recovery of “manly” skills and virtues.  One article concerned “How to Shave Like Your Grandfather”.  It discussed the benefits of traditional shaving techniques and tools over those used today.  For example, a double-edged safety razor actually provides a better, more comfortable shave for far less money than the four or five bladed cartridges most men use.  This is especially true if one prepares the beard in the correct way:  use hot water and a good shaving brush and shaving soap to really help the blade glide over the skin.  As luck would have it, I had a particularly painful shave that day (it probably didn’t help that the Fusion cartridge I was using was on its fourth week of service, but at $17 for four cartridges, I push them as long as I can take it).  I started looking into what some call “wet shaving”, and I decided to try it out.  I bought an inexpensive (not cheap!) brush and some traditional shaving cream.  So far, it has made my shaving more comfortable and pleasurable.  I plan to get a safety razor and see how that works.  I suspect that it will work just fine.

Now, my father used a safety razor.  But when I started shaving, there was no way I was going to use that “old geezer stuff”.  Nope, it was Trac II, etc., for me!  I did like Old Spice and English Leather though (still do).  Again, he knew something we didn’t, and I have to re-learn it now.

And I think that’s my point: newer isn’t necessarily better.  The old ways have value.  I have lost that somehow in the rush of modern life, chasing the new and “exciting”.  My dad has not been with us for over 30 years, but I know he’ll smile when I say “Dad, I am sorry.  You were right!”

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Susan Clyne R.I.P.

Val saved a segment from the View yesterday for me.  They were talking to the children of a woman from Marsh & McLennan, and she thought I might have known her.

They showed pictures of her in the background, and I did know her. Susan Clyne.  Her desk was adjacent to mine.  She was a fine person and colleague, and her children were her pride and joy.  I remember her talking to them several times a day.  She was killed in Tower 1 on the World Trade Center on September 11.

I couldn't make it through more than 20 seconds of the segment.

Bastards.

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And the Fourth “C” Is For….

Here in Union County NC, the school system believes it needs to integrate “globalization” into the curriculum.  I haven’t really found anything that explains what exactly they mean by this, though I have searched the UCPS website.  So I was pleased to see that Rob Jackson, principal of Cuthbertson High and the current NC State Principal of the Year, posted “The Three C’s of Global Education” on his blog.  I decided to ignore his use of the possessive case in the post title and see what pearls of wisdom he could impart.

His post is full of platitudes, generalizations, jargon, and not much else.  Let’s examine his so-called thoughts:

He begins by stating “Our high school has a focus on global education as evidenced by the globe centered on our school crest.”  Really?  The evidence of “global education” at Cuthbertson is the fact that the school’s crest has a globe?  He can’t cite exchange programs, immersive language courses, international business courses, or other instructional efforts?

He then makes some noises concerning the BRIC countries, and talks about how things were when he was in high school.  He states that competition from foreigners wasn’t a real concern.   But now:

“Our students have to be very aware of all of the players in our interconnected world. Their peers around the globe directly compete with them for lucrative positions that are geographically indifferent as long as the employee has the necessary skills and a reliable connection to the Internet. They compete for limited spots in the freshmen classes of the best universities. Competition is the first “C.” for our students to be successful they must be fully prepared to compete against their international counterparts.”

I have no real beef with this, other that to say that Mr. Jackson is way off base if he thinks this is a new phenomenon.  He and I are about the same age; in fact, he may be a bit younger than me.  When I went to college, there were students and professors from India, Taiwan, Korea, Russia, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and many other countries.  To say that students now have to compete against students from around the globe shows that he and UCPS haven’t been paying attention over the past thirty years.

His next point is:

“Our students must be able to collaborate with others regardless of cultural differences. As businesses recruit talent around the world, our students must be able to demonstrate an ability to work on multicultural teams. Collaboration is an equally important “C.””

This is really an empty platitude, and he doesn’t say what he is doing at CHS to make this happen. 

And just for the record, there’s no such thing as a “multicultural team”.  There are teams of people from different culture, who ought to be working toward the same goal.  I’ve worked on team with Indians, Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Russians, Ukranians, Israelis, and so on.  At no time did I think I needed to understand or have an in-depth knowledge of the various cultures to work successfully.  What I DID need to do was to treat each team member with respect and dignity.

His third “C” is:

“…Communication. Students need to be able to communicate using 21st century tools, leveraging social media and Web 2.0 tools to share their messages in a variety of mediums. An understanding of the power of a well-crafted message between a skilled sender and receiver will allow them to become a vital cog in industries that span the globe, yet depend on well-timed communication between teammates to keep the work going forward.”

Dear God, where to begin?  I’m actually stunned that so much nonsense is packed into so few sentences.  First “21st Century tools”, social media and the like have NOTHING to do with the ability to communicate clearly.  It is a command of the English language that gives this ability.  Second, the plural of “medium” is “media”.  Third, if one has “an understanding of the power of a well-crafted message”, it does NOT follow that one is ABLE to craft such a message.  Fourth, do we really dream of our children becoming “vital cogs”?  Is that really the goal of education?  I won’t even waste time taking apart the rest of this paragraph; it’s just boilerplate.

I hoped to find out what Mr. Jackson and his team do at CHS to promote “globalization”.  I wanted to see EXACTLY what programs and curricula they use, and EXACTLY how these help the students gain a “global education”  Instead, all I got was the fourth “C”:

Crap.

Mr. Jackson, this isn’t brain surgery.  Here’s some triple-chrome-plated wisdom I’ve gained from 25 years in the private sector:  If you want your students to successfully compete in, say, math and science, teach them math and science.  If you want them to effectively communicate, teach them English, and enforce its proper use.  If you want them to know how to collaborate, teach them to respect others.  Work on the fundamentals.  Everything else will follow.

You’re welcome.

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