And the Adventure Begins

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A few days after Christmas, Rich and I began our two-week adventure, touring France and Spain. Having never traveled overseas, we didn’t know what to expect, and were a bit tenuous about the lengthy flights from Seattle to Reykjavik, Iceland, and then onto Paris an hour later.

Our bags packed, pet-sitter squared away with instructions and key to our Mount Vernon house, mail stopped, plane and train tickets safely stowed, and storm shutters closed at our Coupeville house, we headed to the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. With INRIX open on my phone, and Google Maps on Rich’s we plotted out the fastest, least trafficked route, and in spite of a few snarls, we made it to airport parking within two hours.

Before getting into the airport shuttle, I asked Rich ten times if he locked the car, and had everything he needed. The answer was consistently “yes.”

His reassurance, however, didn’t calm my apprehensions about having too little food for the long fights, and the realization I’d packed WAY TOO much stuff, making my suitcase extremely heavy and unwieldy. I also had a large gym pack with a pair of socks and underwear for each day, two sets of pajamas, assorted other undergarments, a plastic puzzle, deck of cards from Scruples (to be used in Mallorca), travel books, magazines, and two 1-gallon Ziploc bags of toiletries and every conceivable pill, ointment, fizzy tablet, and potion I could possible need for two weeks.

Cursing at my overloaded suitcase – with my gym bag on top, which kept toppling over — we made our way up the escalators to the Icelandair ticket window. Much to my delight, the agent asked if we wanted to check any bag.

“Heck yes,” was my immediate thought. Not only did we get to check our over-loaded suitcases, but Rich secured exit-row seats. “We were ready to rock,” I mused.

The next necessity, at least in my mind, was to secure food. Rich disagreed, arguing we had a splendid assortment of pretzels, tangerines, Triscuits, granola bars, 4 cheese sticks, and candy from Christmas for the duration of our 7-hour flight. He reasoned we could always buy food on the plane or when we reached Iceland.

Grumble.

We then headed through security – always fun to remove half your clothes, unpack the contents of your carry-one for security personnel to scrutinize, and then undergo a full-body scan, only to be patted down because your hair barrette has a sliver of metal.

Rich tends to have a more challenging time of getting through security with his cell phone case threaded through his belt – with a buckle on the end – a wallet, money clip, loose change, and wristwatch. Adding to his assemblage of potentially questionable stuff was his new-fangled, waist bag with his credit cards, encased RFID-blocking protective cases.

Through security, and resigned to having “snacks” for dinner, I pulled out my smartphone for a bit of entertainment. A few minute later, an older, pot-bellied gentleman with gray hair and matching beard, walked over and started a conversation. It was obvious he was highly educated, having held a position of authority by the manner of his speech, and the way he held himself.

He was very familiar with Seattle, having commanded a Lake Union-based NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) ship for many years. He currently resides in a retirement community in Pennsylvania, and for the past week, was visiting a lady-friend in Seattle who was evidentially smitten with him, and wanted to sell her Seattle condo to join him in Pennsylvania.

He didn’t share her same level of admiration, having lost his wife three years earlier, and not feeling the need to enter another relationship. Nevertheless, the two of them, along with several other retiree, were heading for Iceland to celebrate the New Year under the aurora borealis.

I just wanted to eat more than tangerines, cheese sticks, and handful of Triscuits for dinner.

With thoughts of subtenant food wafting through my mind, I observed others in the international terminal. A dark-skinned man in a long, beige trench coat was absorbed in a cell phone conversation. His two children, a young boy and girl, maybe in their early teens, nibbled on fast food. They were both extremely tall, slender, and elegant with fine facial features. The girls was adorable and reminded me of a Bratz doll, her thin, chocolate brown legs barely filling her bright red boots.

Rich commented on the children’s height, and I remarked, “Wait until the father stands up.” He was easily 6 foot, 6 inches, walking with graceful strides to check on the status of their flight.

A short time later, we boarded the plane, and were pleased no one was sitting by us. We had plenty of room to stretch out, plus Icelandair provides free entertainment, dozens of movies, TV programs, music, and educational clips about Iceland, which stream onto the built-in screens in the seats. Fortunately, I packed two sets of headsets so Rich could also enjoy a movie.

We both watched Birdman, and then spent the rest of the flight reading, and trying to sleep. Outside of being too stressed (and hungry) to sleep, the flight was pleasant with a representation of the Northern Lights illuminating the cabin.

As we prepared to land, Rich said we’d get something to eat at the airport. The flight attendant had mentioned the airport is very small… evidentially too small to allow more than a handful of aircrafts to pull up to the terminal. Instead, you descend down a ladder into jarringly icy cold air, complete with a hefty wind, onto the tarmac, and then scramble into the terminal. Happily, we zoomed through Iceland customs, and were on the way to food within fifteen minutes…

A glance at the display with the arrivals and departures, however, indicated, we had less than 45 minutes to make it to our gate. Not only were there hordes of people making their way through the terminal (some very slowly), the walls were lined with travelers waiting to board flights, making it challenging to move much faster than a crawl. With the minutes ticking away, there was no time to dillydally. We zigzagged through the terminal, past the food court to our gate. If felt like a high school where all the classes had just let out, and every student and teacher in the entire institution, carrying large backpacks, were trying to make their way to their next class.

Craziness!

When we arrived at our gate, we lined up in front of an agent, donning a heavy parka. Why? Behind the agent was a sloped hallway onto the tarmac with the door wide open. We stood in the line, shivering for about twenty minutes, until we were “released” to go down the hallway, and board a bus, which was even colder with the doors wide open. We stood in the bus for another twenty minutes, chilled to the bone, until it closed the doors, and proceeded to the plane.

I calmed myself, thinking “It’ll be warmer on the plane.” However, the plane was equally cold, having no doubt sat on the tarmac all night. This time, we were in the cattle car section of the plane with Rich’s legs squished against the seat in front. At 5 foot, 2 inches, I rarely have this issue.

Another twenty or so minutes later, with all the cattle seat-belted in, we were ready for the 4.5 hour flight to Paris. As the plane took off, and was significantly warmer, it occurred to me that I’d packed my scarf, two pairs of gloves, and a warm hat in my carry-on bag, along with a lightweight parka. I’d shivered in vain when I could have been warm!

Yes, there is food aboard Icelandair flights. It’s expensive, and in my opinion not particularly appealing. On our subsequent flight during this trip, we did an exceptional job of purchasing food in advance, and eating like kings. In fact, the most memorably meal of the trip, was a crisp, thin, whole grain baguette, spread with sweet butter, with thick slices of brie and tomatoes, and mini greens lettuce, which I enjoyed on the flight from Paris to Barcelona.

In spite of our need for sleep with the a 9-hour time difference between Iceland and Seattle, we were fidgety, intermittently watching movies, listening to music, looking out the window, trying to sleep, and growling at each other throughout the flight to Paris.

Paris Exceeded Expectations

We were relieved when we finally landed at Charles de Gualle Airport, and were able to walk through a causeway into the terminal. Because France and Iceland are in the European Union, we didn’t have to go through customs again!

We followed the signs to the baggage area, riding up-and-down people movers through corridors, and a plastic enclosed tube through the middle of the circular terminal. Above and below were other, seemingly random tubes. It was fun and futuristic!

We had no problem getting our baggage. What stood out was an Oriental girl, sitting on a small pink suitcase with wheels, noisily pushing herself around the baggage area, as if she was in a playground, and not an area, scrutinized by security personnel.

While waiting for our bags, I tried to discern where to purchase tickets for the metro (RER). While I thought I’d created good notes, complete with photos of the airport, information about which train to take, and maps of Paris and how to get to our apartment, they were confusing and contradictory. Or maybe I was too tired figure them out.

At any rate, after some heated discussion, Rich and I made it to the metro station, purchased tickets, and crossed our fingers that we were on the correct train. Adding to the confusion was the train was going the opposite direction of the instructions I’d written out, and I hadn’t realized Charles De Gualle was nearly an hour from where we needed to get off, the Latin Quarter of Paris!

Fortunately, the train wasn’t crowded, and we were able to spread out maps, over our two suitcases and two carry-on bags as we debated what we needed to do, including contact the property owner for the apartment we were renting.

For whatever bizarre reason, when booking a place to stay in Paris, I inadvertently chose Residence Sorbonne, an apartment, similar to Airbnb. The instructions said we needed to call for an appointment to meet once we arrived, and if we missed our appointment, we’d have to wait for another time slot. Once we got on the train, I dialed the number, but couldn’t figure out what numbers to dial since I hadn’t made an international call in ages. At work, I used Skype to dial from my PC. And while trying to call, a busker was in the next car, loudly playing a violin so I couldn’t hear the message on my phone when I finally correctly dialed the number. Plus, the message was in French.

“I’m calm. No, I’m not!”

I left a message, then sent an instant message, hoping we could meet when we arrived.

After getting off the metro, and lugging our suitcase through several turnstiles and up several flights of stairs, I was at a complete loss as to what direction to walk, and it didn’t help that we couldn’t use the maps on our smartphone because we hadn’t signed up for international data. Upset, impatient, hungry, and tired, I took off running with carry-on bag slung over my shoulder, and suitcase dragged behind.

… cut to the chase…

We went the wrong direction, and only the kindness of two women, in two different locations, got us on the right path. Here’s the hysterical part. Our apartment was across the street from the Sorbonne (Paris University), and two blocks from the Pantheon. Theoretically, all we had to do was ask any yahoo on the street, “Point us towards the Sorbonne or the Pantheon,” and we would have been within spitting range of the apartment.

Half an hour of walking in circles, we say the property manager in the middle of the street, waving at us. We were given instructions of how to access the property’s courtyard, then use the key to get into the building. He then lead us to an itty-bitty elevator, crammed us and our luggage into the elevator, and pushing the “up” button. Five minutes later, the door opened to a pitch black corridor.

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Rich, who was completely feed up with me, walked into the hallway, and found the light switch. A moment later, the property manager arrived, having climbed the stairs to the fourth-floor apartment. We were lead into a petite apartment with a small kitchen, complete with a two-burner stove, camper-sized refrigerator, small sink, microwave, a cupboard of dishes and utensils, and something beneath the stove, which was obviously a washing machine, and maybe also a dryer.

The next “area” was a table for two with a small round table and two metal chairs. The rest of the room consisted of a large red chair, brown hide-a-bed, coffee table, and two small cabinets, one with a small TV on top. The bathroom was nicely tiled with a tub/shower, sink, and toilet. Next to the table was a small balcony that looked out onto the courtyard.

Rich assured me it would be “fine,” and sure enough it was a great place to stay!

After ironing out a few details with the property manager, we were ready to see Paris. By then it was around 3:00 in the afternoon, and while my first priority was food, Rich was more intent on getting his bearing and finding a map.

It should also be noted that it was very cold… and we’d rushed out of the apartment with insufficient clothing.

An hour of darting in-and-out of the street, snapping a few pictures, and seemingly getting nowhere ended happily with our finally agreeing on a place to eat, La Creperie, a small café by the Pantheon. We were seated by a window, and fortuitously by another couple from the “states” who answered many of our “tourist” questions.

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Not fully comprehending the entire menu consisted of crepes, Rich ordered the “calzone,” and I ordered the menu item with chicken, broccoli, and cheese. We also ordered hot chocolate and coffee au lait. We were thrilled with our meal! We each received a large buckwheat crepe, filled with tasty ingredients, along with a small bowl of mixed greens. The drinks were topped with peaks of whipped cream, and two small packets of sugar. We were definitely in France!

Our tummies happy, we headed to a small neighborhood grocery store to purchase fresh baked bread, a jar of berry preserves, brown eggs, fruit, and instant coffee. We then returned to our apartment to sketch out our strategy for our first full-day in Paris.

Within the hour, we’d undone the hide-away bed, and curled under the thick duvet, for a long night’s sleep.

Cats of Mallorca

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Cats are a mysterious kind of folk. There is more
passing in their minds than we are aware of.”

Sir Walter Scott

It seems fitting to start my series of post about Rich’s and my recent European trip with the cats of Mallorca, Spain. Unlike tourist spots, routinely shared in books and online, they cats were unexpected delights from cats with ordinary coats to those who were all white or part Siamese.

The capital and largest town on Mallorca is Palma. The remainder of the island is primarily dotted with quaint small towns and fishing villages, citrus, almond, and olive groves, and historical and geological attractions intertwined in the dramatic landscape.

Wild and somewhat domesticated cats — perhaps because of their tenacity at taming rodent populations — roamed freely wherever we went. One of the first cats we saw was at Sa Calobra, a small seaside village on the northwest coast of the island. It was late in the day, and we went into a cafeteria, one of the few places open during the winter. We split plates of seafood paella, meatballs and potatoes, bread, olives allioli, baked ribs, and a large mug of fresh-squeezed orange juice.

The restaurant smelled heavenly, a mix of cooked food, and smoke from a wood stove, used to heat the dining room. A light-colored cat with a white chest and paws lounged in front of the stove, happy to be admired and caressed by visitors.

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After eating, we took a walk along the coast, spotting several other cats, darting between the few buildings and narrow streets. Two young, all white cats played in a planter box, scarcely taking notice of Rich and I who spent several minutes trying to catch their attention.

A few days later, we ambled between the towns of Sollar, Fornalutx, and Biniaraix. At the start of our walk, we encountered a beautiful, part Siamese cat with blue eyes that followed us like a dog hopping onto the stone walls, zigzagging between our legs, and meowing when we pet its head. After ten or fifteen minutes, she decided to stay behind as we journeyed along the stone pathways and cobblestone streets through orchards, farmsteads, and the towns.

Along with seeing an occasional goat and numerous sheep – the bells around their necks complementing the lovely ambience – we saw many cats, lounging on balconies, darting into doorways, and watching passersby from the safety of a planter box or stairwell. It was challenging photographing because they weren’t tame or at least, interested in our affections.

A day later, we visited the Coves De Campanet, a magnificent cave that is accessible through a carved passage on top of a hill. In front of the cave is restaurant with a beautiful terrace, overlooking the valley, orchards, and small farms below. The establishment has 16 cats, many of whom were stretched out, enjoying the afternoon sun, including a majestic, long-haired red cat, which welcomed the attention and was proud to flaunt its beauty.

Check out the many cats of Mallorca, above, along with a couple of pigeons in an picturesque window.

Comment Leads to Constitutional Research

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An acquaintance recently wrote on Facebook, “The independent states were originally united by the U.S. Constitution, which has been systematically dismantled,”

I inquired “What’s been dismantled?”

He wrote back, “The Constitution, as drafted by the authors, via erroneous interpretation.”

I retorted that the founding fathers couldn’t have visualized today’s modern world, and therefore a document written hundreds of years ago, would have to be open to interpretation to be relevant to today’s technologies, issues, and human needs. The U.S. Constitution is essentially a framework.

He wrote back a missive of gibberish and nonsense citing the Revolutionary War, Lexington and Concord (Civil War), Nazi Germany, and Russia, and how “the Constitution was drafted by geniuses so the county could be run by idiots if they just stick to the script.” It was obvious that he was simply repeating what he’d heard from a conservative pundit or pseudo constitutionalist.

To be honest, prior to our exchange, I barely knew anything about the U.S. Constitution, let alone why there seems to be a perpetual controversy surrounding its meaning.

I went online to do some investigating (and learning).

In 1787, there were approximately 4 million people living in the original 13 American colonies. They were governed under the Articles of Confederation, which lacked the mechanisms to fund the federal government through taxation, and likewise persuade delinquent states to pay their share of expenses, like the Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783). In addition, the Articles didn’t provide a means to adjudicate issues between the states, such as boundaries and tolls on road that crossed multiple states.

Originally conceived to revise the Articles of Confederation, the Constitutional Convention took place from May 25 to September 17, 1787. Because travel in colonial times was challenging, it took several months before representatives from twelve states arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, establishing a quorum. Seventy-four delegates were invited, but only 55 attended, with 39 eventually signed the Constitution. It took nearly three years for all thirteen states to ratify.us_constitution

The writing of the U.S. Constitution wasn’t a slam-dunk. It was a compromise between several mindsets with disputes and debates centered on how “proportional representation” would be defined. The final wording in Section 2, third paragraph of the U.S. Constitution is ”Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

While slavery no longer exists in America, making those living in the United States, “free,” if you were to literally apply what’s written in the U.S. Constitution then Native Americas who don’t pay any taxes aren’t counted when determining the number of representatives per state. In 2015, the Tax Policy Center estimated the percentage of households who don’t pay federal income taxed to be 45.3%. If Native America’s mirror this statistic, does that mean that 45% of them don’t count?

And what about the “three fifths of all other Persons” statement? Does that consist of people with green cards? Illegal immigrants? U.S. citizen who live outside the country?

Section 2, paragraph three of the U.S. Constitution further states, “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to choose three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

If the U.S. Constitution names only thirteen states, is it also relevant to the other 39, plus a couple of territories like Puerto Rico? After all, the “number of representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand,” which today is the size of small American town, not a huge metropolitan area like Los Angeles with over 4.03 million people.

The point being, the U.S. Constitution must be interpreted in context to today’s world. To bounce up-and-down saying politicians and pundits are straying away from the tenants of the Constitution is preposterous because a document written over two hundred years ago can’t possibly be rigidly followed unless you abandoned progress. It’s like treating cancer by applying leeches.

Sections 3 through 6 of the Constitution spells out the election, responsibilities, behavior, and compensation of members of the Senate, House of Representatives, and President. Section 7 discusses the creation and passage of bills.

Section 8, from a viability point-on-view is one of the most important once because it states, “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” It continues, defining how monies can be used including for posts offices, roads, support armies and militia, borrowing on credit, commerce with “foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes,” progress of science and useful arts, and much more.

Section 9 deals with migration and “importation” of “Persons,” along with the authority to apply a “Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.” Read that again. Once again, if the Constitution were to be followed by the law, and not interpreted, it sounds like people can be imported for just $10 per head.

This section also prohibited states from levying taxes and duties on exported articles, granting titles of nobility, and privileges of the Writ of Habeas Corpus (bring a person before a court to determine if the person’s imprisonment or detention is lawful).

The remainder of the Constitution continues in a similar manner, detailing the design, checks and balances, and responsibility of the government and its officials – as envisions by the representatives of the Constitution Congress in 1787.

Bill of Rights: The other half of the Constitution

One of the more contentious debates surrounding the writing of the Constitution was how slaves or other property was defined. After being drafted, this issue bubbled to the top when the states were asked to ratify the document. States and critics argued the Constitution lacked a bill of rights, which protected citizens’ rights.

Two states – North Carolina and Rhode Island – refused to ratify until the Bill of Rights was proposed in Congress in 1789. Even so, Rhode Island only ratified, by two votes, when threated with the possibly of being treated as a foreign government.

The Bill of Rights consists of ten amendments. As you read them, consider which ones are being “systematically dismantled.”

Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII: In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Were the Signers of the Constitution Geniuses

James Madison, who became the fourth President of the United States, is considered the “Father of the Constitution” for his pivotal role in drafting and promoting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He was born into privilege, the oldest of 12 children, to a Virginia tobacco planter and the daughter of tobacco planter. The Madison family was the largest landowners in the area with hundreds of slaves on a Montpelier, VA plantation.

Madison had private tutors, and attended the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University. He studied and mastered a breadth of subject, becoming a Virginia State Legislator 1776, where he initially met Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson later sent Madison crates of books from France on various forms of government. These learnings were central in Madison’s viewpoints when drafting the Constitution, and driving compromise and consensus.

One delegate wrote, he’s “the best informed Man of any point in debate.” Madison wasn’t just wise, but understood human foibles, writing “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

The first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton was the consummate statesman, leading the Annapolis Convention, playing a pivot role in composing the Constitution, writing 41 of the 85 installations of The Federalist Papers, and adjudicating in many federal issues. He was also born out of wedlock in Charlestown, British West Indies to a mother whose ancestry was African, British, and French. His father was from Scotland.

In 1804, Aaron Burr was defeated as the governor of New York. He felt that Hamilton’s support of his opponent, Morgan Lewis, and the contents in a letter written by Hamilton, attacked his honor. While attempts were made to reconcile their differences, a duel was arranged between the two men. Hamilton, feeling obliged to his family, and wanting to continue playing a role in politics, resolved to throw his fire, meaning to abort a conflict by allowing one’s opponent to fire first. It’s unknown whether Hamilton fired after being struck by Burr’s bullet or if they fire simultaneously, but the shot to Hamilton was fatal.

It’s easy to assume all of the signers of the Constitution were outstanding individuals, however, like modern-day politicians they had their flaws or at least, a tendency to resolve conflicts through gun fire.

Richard Dobbs Spaight signed the Constitution when he was only 29 years, having previously been a delegate to the Confederation Congress and served in the North Carolina House of Commons. When he was 44, like Alexander Hamilton, he was died from injuries sustained in a duel.

A member of the North Carolina delegation at the Constitutional Convention, William Blount and his brothers gradually acquired 2.5 millions of acres in Tennessee and the trans-Appalachian west, which left him deeply in debt. He then hatched a scheme to increase the value of his lands by working with Great British to seize Spanish-controlled Louisiana and Florida, and then give American merchants free access to New Orleans, and the Mississippi River. When his duplicity was discovered, he was expelled from the Senate, and become the first U.S. public official to face impeachment.

Timothy Pickering, who was also a signer of the U.S. Constitution, and involved in impeaching William Blount, served as Secretary of State under Presidents George Washington and John Adam, and was also a Massachusetts Senator.

In 1810, he challenged Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act by holding several conferences with special British envoy George Rose in hope of creating a pro-British party in New England. Passed in 1807, the Embargo Act supporting U.S. neutrality during the Napoleonic Wars, and imposed embargos on Great Britain and France. At the time, the British Royal Navy was forcing thousands of American seaman to serve on their war ships.

Pickering’s insolence in wanting to form a party sympathetic to Britain was in violation of the Logan Act, which forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments who conflicted with U.S. interests. In addition, Pickering read confidential documents in open Senate sessions before an injunction of secrecy had been removed. By a majority vote of 20-7, Pickering was censured by the Senate on January 2, 1811.

Born in County Carlow, Ireland, and one of the largest slaveholders in the United States, Pierce Butler represented South Carolina when he signed the Constitution. Recognizing human dignity, he introduced the Fugitive Slave Clause to the Constitution. Throughout his life, he lobbied for better treatment of slaves, but continued to support the institution because of its importance to the southern economy.

Considered “eccentric” and an “enigma,” he summarized his view of government as “Our System is little better than [a] matter of Experiment…. much must depend on the morals and manners of the people at large.”

Final Thoughts

The Constitution has withheld the test of time. But it’s important to keep in mind, it was created through compromise with aspects of the final version drawn from five different points-of-view, the Virginia Plan, New Jersey Plan, Hamilton Plan, Pinckney Plan, and Connecticut Compromise. There was heated discussions and modifications that continued for several months with some of the signers reluctantly adding their signatures, and sixteen refusing to sign.

More than half of the delegates were trained as lawyers with others being merchants, manufacturers, shippers, land speculators, bankers or financiers, physicians, a minister, and several small farmers. Twenty-five owned slaves.

Once signed, the next challenge was to get the 13 states to ratify, and adhere to its premises. To nudge reluctant states to sign the Federalist Papers – a collection of 85 articles and essays – were published under the pseudonym Publius. Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay the papers are interpretations of what’s contained in the Constitution and were envisioned to speed up the ratification.

If the signers of the Constitution found it necessary to help state legislatures and citizens better understand the idiosyncrasies of the Constitution by writing the Federalist Papers, then it’s not unreasonable to continue interpreting the document as it applies to modern-day issues. Sure enough, the Federalist Papers are often referred to by judges in applying the laws-of-the-land.

One aspect of the Constitution, which is coming under scrutiny, is the Electoral College. In Federalist [Paper] No. 39, James Madison argued the Constitution was designed to be a mixture of state-based and population-based government. Federalist [Paper] No. 68, written by Alexander Hamilton presents the advantages of the Electoral College, focusing on elections taking place among states so they can’t taint “the great body of the people.” He also commented Electoral College delegates – none of whom can be a U.S. officeholder – have information that might be unavailable to the general public.

Unfortunately, recent history has twice elected a president for whom didn’t receive the population vote, which begs the question, is it time to re-interpret this aspect of the Constitution to elect a president who is chosen by the majority of people?

 

Grow Another Me

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The following essay was written by my grandmother, Rose Ridnor. I found it humorous because I’m often precariously balanced on a ladder, in the middle of summer, trimming the dead flowers off our two lilacs in Mount Vernon, WA. And while I have the clippers, the nearby apple trees also gets a trimming.

The lilac tree was long overdue for pruning. This particular morning, after spending almost two hours pulling weeds, cutting, and cleaning up the front and side of the house, I was finally ready to begin trimming the lilac. When I as more than half done, I found I was getting terribly tired.

The burning sun had followed me all morning, making my face flush and sticky with sweat. My legs ached from leaning against the runs of the ladder, my hands were stiff from wielding the clippers. I just had to finish. Stop now and who knows when I could get back to it. So I pushed harder with the clipping and snipping to finish faster.

I was concentrating hard on lopping off a heavy branch, my mind as blank as it could get, when out of the blue, a line of words popped into my head. It was odd. I eased off a second to repeat it to myself, “I can always plant another tree, but I can never grow another me.”

Quickly, I fathomed its meaning, and for a moment was tempted to heed its message. But no, I couldn’t stop now. I had to finish.

But it kept bugging me. Why am I pushing myself? What am I out to prove? I have just so much energy, exhaust it, and I’m finished. The tree doesn’t give a darn whether I cut off its dead flowers or crowded limbs. It will just go on doing what it has to do: Grow and produce more flowers that will die, and I’ll have to cut off.

I set the clippers down, stepped off the ladder, went into the den, and plopped into a chair. I could feel the tiredness ease out of my body.

Ten minutes later, quite refreshed, I went out, put away the ladder and tools, left the sweeping to Morris [husband], and that was that! I didn’t hear one word of protest from the lilac tree.

Life is a constant weighing of the importance of one’s own self in relation to everyone, and everything else.