Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Electoral College

 
Eight years ago I wrote an article attempting to explain the form and function of the Electoral College. During every presidential election the question is raised as to why we still need the Electoral College, followed by a call for its removal. Here’s where it’s important to know U.S. History. The reason for the Electoral College when it was first instituted was to make as certain as humanly possible that every vote counted.

“The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The founding fathers established it in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens. The Electoral College process consists of the selection of the electors, the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress.” <http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/about.html>

First, let’s ask the most important question. Is it the popular vote, or the Electoral College vote that elects the president? Answer: Both. Each state has an Electoral vote for each senator (every state has two senators). Then there’s an Electoral vote for every U.S. Representative (based upon state population census –There are currently 435 Representatives). Each major political party at its convention selects electors to match the number of senators and representatives. Whichever party garners the simple majority of the popular vote wins all of the Electoral votes for that state. (There are two exceptions: Maine and Nebraska). This is why, mathematically, a candidate could conceivably win the Electoral College vote, and lose the popular vote. Largely populated states, such as California and New York, could easily swing the number of popular votes in one candidate’s favor so that when you combine all the popular votes throughout the nation, the winner of the popular vote could lose the election – case in point – George W. Bush in 2000. In truth, the candidate for the Democrat Party, then Vice-President Al Gore, won the popular vote, and lost the election. The Republican candidate, then Governor George W. Bush, won the Electoral vote, and thus he won the election.

The Founding Fathers of this great nation understood the problems associated with a straight popular vote. The first danger is like what we experienced in high school class elections – popularity. The most popular kids were elected to be president of the class; class secretary, etc. A truly charismatic personality could come along and sway the vote, winning overwhelmingly through popularity. This is even more telling today with the use of television. If a candidate is not photogenic, it will be an uphill battle. The first televised presidential debates were the Nixon-Kennedy debates in 1960. Nixon, on black and white TV, appeared tired, and unshaven, giving him a somewhat sinister look. Kennedy, on the other hand, looked youthful, and energetic. It made a difference in the minds of Americans.

The second danger is centered on sheer numbers. The most populated areas of the country could easily determine who would be elected if it were left up to a popular vote. Though not a perfect system, the Electoral College does manage to even the playing field so that less populated states (Wyoming, for example, which is the least populated state) would still have their voice heard. This is why you see candidates traveling to these states that only have 3 or 4 electoral votes. In the overall scheme, the goal of the presidential candidates is to reach the magic electoral vote count of 270. This wins the election. As of this writing, the incumbent, President Barack Obama, has a fairly solid 201 electoral votes, and the challenger, Governor Mitt Romney, has 191 electoral votes. This leaves 146 electoral votes remaining to be determined. Eleven states are in the classification known as “Swing States,” meaning the polling among the voters in that state is so close that the state could go either way – Republican or Democrat. Those eleven states are: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.

For a fair election to take place, the Founding Fathers showed the good sense to build in safeguards so that popularity would not be the sole determining factor. The Electoral College must be maintained if Americans are going to be properly represented.

So, make sure you vote, neighbor. The system works!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

To Vote or Not

 
Over the years I have heard folks say they weren’t going to vote because of this or that reason, most of the time it had to do with their disappointment in the choices between the two parties. I’m sure each believes they have very good reasons not to vote. But please allow me to offer a few thoughts on this.

First, to vote for our representatives, whether local, state, of national, is a hard-fought right which has been given to us as a gift. Our Founding Fathers knew this was a unique concept in the world. Virtually every country in the 1780s was ruled by a monarch (King or Queen), a despot, a dictator, an emperor, or a tsar. Within each of these governmental structures existed a policy of iron fisted control over the masses. It may seem an oversimplification, but these rulers did not trust the people to rule themselves. In many ways this was a correct evaluation because part of the means of control was to keep the masses ignorant and uneducated.

The United States, on the other hand, became an experiment in what could only be consider a shocking change. “We the People” were given authority through the implementation of the Constitution to select our leaders, and then to hold them accountable through an open election process. In fact, this was so unique that it became known as “The Grand Experiment.”

The following four quotations highlight the significance associated with the foundation of American Exceptionalism. These are also warnings, should “We the People” ever forget that we decide the form of government we are to have.

"The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty . . . is finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American People."
- George Washington (1732-1799)

"Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?"
- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

"No free government can stand without virtue in the people, and a lofty spirit of patriotism . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
- John Adams (1735-1826)

"Our nation was founded as an experiment in human liberty. Its institutions reflect the belief of our founders that men had their origin and destiny in God"
- John Foster Dulles (1888-1959)

The Constitution was not handed down to us on stone tablets in the manner in which Moses received the Ten Commandments. Instead, men who were intent on establishing and preserving the freedoms we enjoy today knuckled down and hammered out the greatest man-made document in the history of the world. “All through the summer [of 1787], in closed sessions, the delegates debated, and redrafted the articles of the new Constitution. Among the chief points at issue were how much power to allow the central government, how many representatives in Congress to allow each state, and how these representatives should be elected--directly by the people or by the state legislators. The work of many minds, the Constitution stands as a model of cooperative statesmanship and the art of compromise.” (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html)

Second, voting is a privilege in that it gives us a voice in the way we choose to be governed. By not voting, the individual surrenders the decision of rule to those who do vote. When I vote, my candidate does not always win, but I’m involved in the process. Someone may argue that their vote doesn’t count anyway. This is categorically untrue. There have been countless elections at all levels of government decided by a few votes. The closest election in history was in 2000 when George Bush won the state of Florida over Al Gore by 537 popular votes!

And third, there are times when I am discouraged by the whole political process. It’s at those times that I remember the men and women who laid down their lives defending our freedoms. What excuse would I make to these patriots if I did not vote? What complaint of mine would sound acceptable to those who willingly forfeited their lives so I could have a future? My candidate won’t win anyway? I’m too busy to take ten minutes out of my day and vote? I don’t like either of the candidates?

Exercise your right to vote on Tuesday, November 6. It’s the right thing to do.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Navy Birthday

       Last Saturday evening Isaura and I and our daughter Laura attended the Navy Birthday Ball. It was hosted by the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), Branch 113 of Stockton, California, and was held at the Hilton Hotel in Stockton.

For those of you unfamiliar with the FRA, the following is a statement about their organization. “The FRA is a congressionally chartered, non-profit organization that represents the interests of the Sea Service community before the U.S. Congress.  The Association is named after the Navy’s program for personnel transferring to the Fleet Reserve or Fleet Marine Corps Reserve after 20 or more years of active duty, but less than 30 years for retirement purposes and its membership is comprised of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and the Merchant Marines.”

At such an occasion as the Navy Birthday, October 13, 1775, a guest of honor, or keynote speaker is part of the evening’s activities. On this occasion, the keynote speaker was Rear Admiral (RADM) Bonnie B. Potter. She is retired from the Navy, but she was one of the groundbreakers, pushing through the “glass ceiling” back when women were still excluded from many positions within the military construct. She became the first female “Flag” medical physician in any branch of the service in 1997 when she was promoted to RDML, referring to Rear Admiral Lower Half, or a “1 Star.” Flag rank refers to any Admiral or General officer rank. RADM is the Navy acronym for Rear Admiral Upper Half, or what might be more easily referred to as a “2 Star.” Admiral Potter lives with her husband in Auburn, California where they raise alpacas.

During her speech, Admiral Potter told a story about the oldest commissioned ship in the Navy, the USS Constitution. I had heard this story before, but I so enjoyed it again that I thought you might enjoy it too. It must be noted that this story has had a number of variations.

The USS Constitution, as a combat vessel, carried 48,600 gallons of fresh water for her crew of 475 officers and men. This was sufficient to last six months of sustained operations at sea. She carried no evaporators (fresh water distillers). However, what follows is supposed to have been recorded in the ship’s logbook.

“On July 27, 1798, the USS Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of fresh water, 7,400 cannon shot, 11,600 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum.

The mission of the USS Constitution was to destroy and harass English shipping.

Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum. Then she headed for the Azores, arriving there 12 November. She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine. On 18 November, she set sail for England. In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war and captured and scuttled 12 English merchantmen, salvaging only the rum aboard each.

By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted. Nevertheless, and though unarmed, she made a night raid up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. Her landing party captured a whiskey distillery and transferred 40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch aboard by dawn.

The USS Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February 1799, with no cannon shot, no food, no powder, NO rum, NO wine, NO whiskey and 38,600 gallons of stagnant water.”

          Ah well! Such is some of the legend and lore of the United States Navy. It is a long and colorful history – all 237 years. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Washo

              Every year in late September the pastors and spouses from the Sierra Pacific Conference of the Free Methodist Church gather at Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center situated at a prominent spot overlooking Lake Tahoe. The view of the lake is stunning.

Lake Tahoe is the second largest fresh-water lake in North America with a depth of 1,645 feet. Crater Lake in Oregon is 300 feet deeper. The original inhabitants of the lake were the Washoe Indians – Washo meaning “lake.” As folks moved west in the 1800s, the lake was changed to Tahoe, only because that was how the name Washo sounded to the new settlers. The lake’s name was also called Lake Bigler in honor of California’s third governor, John Bigler. The name Lake Tahoe came into use in official maps of the United States in 1862. Both Lake Tahoe and Lake Bigler were used until 1945 when the official name became Lake Tahoe.

One of those special memories for those of us who grew up in the 1950s was the first color television program, Bonanza. Until 2004 there was still a tourist site for those who wanted to relive the times on the Ponderosa when the Cartwrights – Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe – rode into our lives each week through McFaul Creek Meadow with Mount Tallac in the background. This is all located on the Northeast side of Lake Tahoe in Nevada.  

In modern times the mere mention of Lake Tahoe, or just Tahoe, suggests a fun location where there are gambling casinos and the night-life that goes along with it. Depending on the time of year you might go to Tahoe for the water sports and other related activities, or especially in the winter, you could find any number of ski resorts. At an elevation of 6225 feet at water level, Tahoe is perfectly suited for all sorts of activities, something that was not lost on the early settlers. Tahoe City, established on the west coastline midway up Lake Tahoe, was founded in 1864 as a resort area for the silver miners from Virginia City, Nevada. As roads were built and communities began to develop, more and more people discovered the wonderful range of outdoor recreation possibilities inherent in the Tahoe Basin.

During lunch one day my wife, Isaura, said, “Let’s walk around the lake!” I knew what she meant, but it still startled me. She, of course, wanted to walk along the lake’s shoreline. Lake Tahoe is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide with a total circumference of 72 miles with about two-thirds of the shoreline in California.

All of this natural beauty and wonder of Lake Tahoe caused me to reflect on all of God’s incredible creation.

          The conference room we used for most of our sessions with our bishop was situated so we could look past the speaker and gaze upon the lake. To be perfectly honest, it was hard to concentrate on the bishop when you had the splendor of Lake Tahoe demanding that you drink in the vista.

          Several years ago when our girls were still living at home, we took a vacation in Tahoe for a few days. One of the high points of our trip was renting a power boat and cruising around Lake Tahoe. On a beautiful sunny day, with our life vests properly strapped in place, we cruised around the southern end of the lake. There was one particular spot I wanted to see that is located up the western shoreline. I had seen it previously from high atop the road that circles Lake Tahoe which only whetted my interest in seeing it up close. Fannette Island is located in the middle of Emerald Bay. On this tiny island is a tea room. We motored into the bay and leisurely circled the island all the while wondering what it must have been like to have lived on this island paradise surrounded by such immense beauty.

          I have had the privilege to travel to every continent on earth, with the exception of Antarctica. There are so many places of majestic beauty throughout the created universe that it takes your breath away. If such exquisiteness is available for our enjoyment in the here and now, then what must the glories of heaven be that God has in store for those who know and love him?

          To get an idea of what heaven will be like take a break and sit down with your Bible. In particular, read Revelation, chapters 4, 21 & 22. You’re going to love it!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Courageous

 
Recently I was teaching a class in my church on the biblical character, Joshua. You remember him – he’s the one who took over for Moses to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. God made several promises to Joshua in the opening verses of this book of the Bible named after him. Three times God instructs Joshua to “be strong and courageous.” In fact, one of those times God instructed him to be “very courageous.” The road ahead was a tough one and Joshua would need to be up to the task.

The news has been full of the attacks on our embassies throughout the Muslim world, and in particular, the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in Benghazi, Libya. However, apart from the shameful amount of disinformation willingly distributed by the Main Stream Media and the current administration, there’s a little known story of incredible bravery, heroics, and courage that should be the top story of every news agency across the fruited plain.

So what actually happened at the U.S. embassy in Libya? We are learning more about this every day. Ambassador Stevens and Foreign Service officer Sean Smith, along with administrative staff, were working out of temporary quarters due to the fact that in the spring of 2011 during the so-called Arab Spring, the United States cut ties with then president Moammar Gadhafi. Our embassy was looted and ransacked, causing it to be unusable. It is still in a state of disrepair. Security for embassies and their personnel is to be provided by the host nation. Since Libya has gone through a civil war of sorts in the past 18 months, the current government is very unstable, and therefore, unreliable

A well-organized attack by radical Muslims was planned specifically targeting the temporary U.S. embassy building. The Libyan security force that was in place to protect our people deserted their post, or joined the attacking force. Either way, our people were in a real fix. And it should be noted that Ambassador Stevens had mentioned on more than one occasion to Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, that he was quite concerned for his personal safety and the welfare of his people. It is thought that Ambassador Stevens was on a “hit list.”

A short distance from the American compound, two Americans were sleeping. They were in Libya as independent contractors working an assignment totally unrelated to our embassy. They also happened to be former Navy SEALs. When they heard the noise coming from the attack on our embassy, as you would expect from highly trained warriors, they ran to the fight. Apparently, they had no weapons, but seeing the Libyan guards dropping their guns in their haste in fleeing the scene, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty snatched up several of these discarded weapons and prepared to defend the American compound.

Not knowing exactly what was taking place, the two SEALs set up a defensive perimeter. Unfortunately Ambassador Stevens was already gravely injured, and Foreign Service officer, Sean Smith, was dead. However, due to their quick action and suppressive fire twenty administrative personnel in the embassy were able to escape to safety. Eventually, these two courageous men were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers brought against them, an enemy force numbering between 100 to 200 attackers which came in two waves. But the stunning part of the story is that Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty killed 60 of the attacking force. Once the compound was overrun, the attackers were incensed to discover that just two men had inflicted so much death and destruction on their numerically superior force.

As it became apparent to these selfless heroes, they were definitely going to lose their lives unless some reinforcements showed up in a hurry. As we know now, that was not to be. I’m fairly certain they knew they were going to die in this gun fight, but not before they took a whole lot of bad guys with them!   

Consider these tenets of the Navy SEAL Code: 1) Loyalty to Country, Team and Teammate, 2) Serve with Honor and Integrity On and Off the Battlefield, 3) Ready to Lead, Ready to Follow, Never Quit, 4) Take responsibility for your actions and the actions of your teammates, 5) Excel as Warriors through Discipline and Innovation, 6) Train for War, Fight to Win, Defeat our Nation’s Enemies, and 7) Earn your Trident every day ( http://www.navyseals.com/seal-code-warrior-creed).

Thank you, Tyrone and Glen. To the very last breath, you both lived up to the SEAL Code. You served all of us well. You were courageous in the face of certain death.

And Tyrone, even though you never got to hold your newborn son, he will grow up knowing the character and quality of his father, a man among men who sacrificed himself defending others.

God bless America!

Psalm for the Day