Tag Archives: United States

I Don’t Know Left From Right

The Republican, Left, Conservative Party Logo.

I’ve known for a while that I have trouble remembering left from right.  For example, when I was taking my driver’s test at 16, the driving tester told me to “take a right up here, ” and I turned left.  He then told me to take a right at this next intersection, and I turned left again.  I was nervous after all.  I’m sure the Wyoming Highway Patrol officer that was giving the test had seen everything, but when he approached the next intersection, he said, “Do what I told you to do at the last two intersections.”  I turned right.  I was certain I was going to fail my first attempt at getting my driver’s license so I started up a conversation about how flying an airplane was easier than driving a car.

“You don’t say,” he said.  

I had actually handled the controls of a Mooney single-prop when I was 15.  Seemed easy enough, although truth be told, I don’t think Bernie Weber, my boss, who was in the flying club that owned the plane, actually took his feet off the rudder.  He did lift his hands off the yoke and say something like “take the controls boy.”  I made the plane turn and go down slightly and back up.  For all I know, Bernie put his hands back on the yoke because I was too busy watching the flight instruments, keeping the plane in the horizon as I was told.  It seemed like I was in control, and so that’s what I was telling the Highway Patrol officer.  I got the free airplane ride because I spent my Saturday waxing the plane with only the promise of a ride.  The officer giving the test told me to turn right, and I did, and at the same moment realized what I had done the other times.

This right, left problem has continued throughout my life.  I know I’m right-handed so that helps.  But when someone says to me that they are a left-leaning Democrat, I have no idea what they mean.  Right-wing of the Republican Party, same thing.  So I decided to figure it all out.  You might find it interesting that this goes back to the National Assembly in France  in 1789-1791.  Those that were radical, reformist, or socialist are considered left.  The conservatives and reactionaries are on the right.  The commoners sat on the left side of the president, and the nobles, who believed in centralized power sat on the president’s right.  That really doesn’t help all that much.

The Democratic, Right, Liberal Party Logo. It makes sense that it faces left, and the elephant faces right.

In the U.S., the Republican Party is considered more conservative, and the Democratic Party is more liberal.  I think I get this, but there’s that word “more.”  So now you add “right-wing” to the mix and can you say that a Conservative Republican is right-wing?  A right-wing philosophy tends to be extreme, like, in this case leaning towards fascism.  How could a conservative republican favor fascism?  If they are left-wing, they would lean toward communism.  Or would they?  A left-wing conservative favors communism?  I’m digging myself a hole.

Here’s something you hear a lot, the “Liberal Press.”  Biased reporting favoring the Democratic Party, the more liberal view.    What exactly are Liberals?  Well, they believe that it is the government and it’s actions that achieve equal opportunity and equality for everyone.  It is the government that should alleviate social ills and protect all those things like civil rights and liberties.  Liberals believe that bigger government is better and should guarantee that no one is in need.  The government needs to solve the problems.  Good luck with that.

Conservative views are in limiting government.  Empowerment by the government to allow individuals to solve societal problems.  You are responsible, not the government.  Free markets.  Necessary freedom to pursue your own goals.  I can ascribe to this easily.  I think you might find that all of the founding fathers were on this side as well, and, wait for it, would probably turn over in their graves if they saw how involved government is in the lives of its citizens today.

So I safely know I’m a Conservative, I must be a Republican, but wait, I could be a Conservative Democrat.  What is that?  Well, it’s the same, pretty much, as a Liberal Republican.  They’re leaning a little or a lot to the right, but they come from the left.  The conservative view of how the government should be, with some exceptions, like Social Security and obvious liberal government program.

So here’s what I’ve decided.  We get labeled.  We’re really not liberals or conservatives, at all.  There’s this sliding scale with left on the left side of the center, and right on the right side, and a donkey and an elephant to make it easy to remember.  Here’s some current issues and how what we think about them will label us.

Stem-Cell Research.  If we believe in it, liberal, if we don’t, conservative.

Abortion.  If we believe in right to choose, liberal, if we believe in life at conception, conservative.

Death Penalty.  If we believe in it as a fair and just punishment, conservative, abolish it, liberal.

Energy.  If we think the planet is running out of oil, then we need alternative sources and we are liberal.  If we believe that we need to drill, drill, drill, then we are conservative.

Gun Control.  If we’re for it, we’re liberal, if we believe in the Second Amendment, conservative.

Here’s a good one:  Health Care.  If we believe that everyone should have free healthcare, liberal, if we think a free market can produce affordable health care for everyone, conservative.

Now you can take it one step further and replace conservative, with left, and liberal with right.  Get it?  And if you’re a Democrat, but believe that life begins at conception, for example, then you are a left-leaning Democrat, but maybe only on that issue.  But you will be labeled a Conservative Democrat in most probability for just that one left-leaning opinion.

It’s no wonder I still don’t know my left from my right.








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The King of the United States

Sure, we’d like to think that we didn’t or don’t have a Royal Family on this side of the pond.  There is surely not a monarchy here.  Or is there?

Let’s take a look at some of the blood lines of United States presidents.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, everyone’s favorite war-time president, has these cousins and distant cousins:  Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George Bush, George W. Bush, Eleanor Roosevelt, his wife, and Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister (Maybe why they got along so splendidly.)  We’ve had two sets of father-son presidents, and one grandfather-grandson combination.  Sounds like the presidency runs in the family.  I think that’s pretty amazing.  They are on each other’s family tree.  George Washington is related in some way to every other president.  You can work it out to see that Barack Obama is his 9th cousin six times removed.

In all fairness, if you run a family out that far with tree limbs, there is obviously going to be a lot of commonality.  Most of our ancestors came here from someplace, except the Native American population I would argue.

Here’s another thing I find interesting.  Did you know, for example, that George Washington had three brothers, two sisters, two half-brothers and two half-sisters, a total of nine siblings.  James Buchanan had 10 siblings, four brothers and six sisters.  Benjamin Harrison had six brothers, three sisters, and two half-sisters.  Jimmy Carter had one brother and two sisters.  We heard a lot about brother Billy and his beer, but you really don’t think about all those other presidential siblings.  What happened to them.  You’d think they would have accomplished something.  Why is there little or no historical record about all those famous siblings?

He wasn't that bad looking.

Did you know that James Buchanan was the only president who never married?  I didn’t either.  Maybe it’s not important, but might come in handy in a trivia game.

The average age of presidents of the United states is roughly 54.  The youngest was Herbert Hoover and the oldest was, come on now, you know this one…Ronald Reagan.  He was 69 going on, very shortly, 70.  The oldest living former president is George H. Bush, not “dubya,” who was born in 1924.  And the president who lived the longest was Gerald R. Ford, the guy who pardoned Richard M. Nixon.  He was 93.

So, where was I going with this?  Don’t know really, just thought is was fascinating, and it’s that time again when winter, spring, summer and fall is filled with conventions, television ads, fund-raising, debates, and finding out how little we have to work with when it comes to presidential contenders.  Barack Obama raised more money in a few days on the West Coast than all the other Republican candidates to date, combined.  Is $34 million a lot of money in a few days, and who’s counting that?

I have always understood that you as an individual can’t donate more than $2,500 to a primary candidate’s campaign fund.  (Not that I have ever donated even 25 cents to a presidential campaign and I do check “no” on my 1040.)  Once they are the party nominee and accept public funding, (That little box you check or don’t check on your tax return) they can no longer accept contributions to further their election.  You can donate up to $2,500 to their compliance fund, however, which is maintained to pay only for legal and accounting expenses incurred trying to comply with the campaign finance laws which are so complex that the number of loop-holes must be astounding.   I’m going to take a wild stab here and guess that most modern candidates don’t accept public funding and add up the millions by private donations.  I’m not even going to bother to look it up.

Okay, sit back and enjoy all the mudslinging, name calling, exposure of illicit affairs, and other tidbits of information about your favorite candidate you didn’t know or don’t care about.  It’s an election year, and the monarchy is mobilizing for a new king to ascend the throne or keep an old one for another four years.  And, in case you didn’t know, presidents weren’t limited to two terms until the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951.  That’s why FDR won re-election to a third and fourth term.  Every other president only served a maximum of two, but that was by George Washington’s example.  Now if we could just get that passed in the House and the Senate.  WTF 




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We Weren’t One Nation, Under God, Until 1954.

It’s nice to know that I still had over 30 daily hits on “What The Fluffy” without writing anything for several days.  Which then makes me wonder if I’ve created a self-sustaining blog and it would continue on without me writing any more.  But that was the reason I started the blog in the first place, to write something every day.  How easy it is to get out of the habit in just a few days of inactivity with the keyboard.  I still say there is no such thing as “writer’s block” by the way.  Just start writing, nothing is blocking you.

Pledge of Allegiance 1899

I figure I need to write something patriotic since it’s the day after the Fourth of July.  Did you know that we weren’t one nation, under God, until 1954?  That’s right, the Pledge of Allegiance didn’t contain the words “under God” following, “one nation” until President Eisenhower signed it into law on June 14, 1954.  So what were we?  “One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  That’s it.  No God as a the defining deity.

The pledge of allegiance was written by a Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy, in 1892.  That a “god” is not mentioned in the writing is even more interesting given Francis’ occupation.   He was a Socialist and was forced to leave the pulpit in Boston because of his socialist-leaning sermons.  As chairman of a state committee of education superintendents in the National Education Association, he was tasked with preparing a flag raising program for the public schools to celebrate the quadricentennial celebration of Columbus Day.  (Doing the math, quadricentennial must mean the 400th anniversary.)

His program included his short “Pledge of Allegiance”.  He also left out “equality” in his pledge because it opened up the pandora’s box of blacks and women not having “it” in 1892.

The founders of our country left out God references in the constitution because they believed in the separation of church and state, and they did everything to protect it.  The only mention of religion in the constitution is to allow that belief in God…or not, isn’t a condition to hold public office.  But during the “Red Scare” in Washington in the 1950s, politicians were outdoing themselves trying to prove that they were God-fearing, pious capitalists with no ties to Communist beliefs or organizations that were truly Godless.  Congress passed the bill adding the two little words to our official Pledge of Allegiance, and Ike signed it.  The next year we added “In God We Trust” to all paper money.  So, something we all figure went back a long way in our history, goes back about 57 years in the history of a country that is 236 years old.  The pledge itself has only been the national pledge since 1942.  And check out the picture below.

Students pledging allegiance to the American flag with the Bellamy salute.

Look a little familiar?  This would be the reason the flag code was changed in 1942 by Franklin Roosevelt, to place your hand over your heart.


Pledge of Allegiance 1942

So after all the hassle we gave Michael Newdow, an atheist that had a bit of a problem with his daughter having to claim she lived in a nation under God, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in 2002, ruled the phrase unconstitutional when promoted in public schools.  So there you have it.  No more starting the school day, as most of us did, with our hand over our hearts, facing the flag, and pledging our allegiance, a word most of us didn’t know the meaning of, to a nation under God, that gave all of us [sic] invisible rights to liberty and justice.

 My lawn looks like a cornfield, “knee-high by the Fourth of July,” so I better make some time to mow it.  Half a strip at a time to keep the mower from choking and stalling every few minutes.  Really looking forward to it.  Expected to be 99 for the high today.


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How Dumb Is We Getting?

Pat Buchanan, “…senior adviser to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000”, wrote a scathing editorial titled “The Dumbing-Down of America.”  It appeared today on Yahoo.com with a dateline of “Tue Jun 21, 3:00 am ET.”  Mr Buchanan claims, while taking a shot at past President George W. Bush, that the education level of America’s students has declined steadily especially in the subject of American History.

He states that “only 20 percent of fourth-graders attained even a ‘proficient’ score in the test.  By eighth grade, only 17 percent were judged proficient.  By 12th, 12 percent.  Only a tiny fraction was graded ‘advanced,’ indicating a superior knowledge of American History.”  (Shouldn’t it be “…tiny fraction were graded..” since he’s using the word to refer to students?”)  He is citing data from the recently released “The Nation’s Report Card” from the National Assessment of Education Progress.  

I’m not attacking Pat Buchanan, although that’s easy to do, what I’m trying to point out, is that people believe this unbalanced, sifting of the facts as though it were the truth.  We have got to be careful.  Buchanan is talking about a future society where all the white people (and Asians) are going to be paying for the blacks and Hispanics because they are all going to be under-educated blue-collar workers. “If the racial gap in academic achievement persists”, he writes, “for the next 40 years, as it has for the last 40, virtually all of the superior positions in the New Economy and knowledge-based professions will be held by Asians and whites, with blacks and Hispanics largely relegated to the service sector.”  This was alarming to me, so I did what 99.9% of the probably few readers of that “opinion” didn’t do, I checked the NAEP results.

This is what the report card really says, “At all grades, the average U.S. history scores in 2010 were higher than the scores in 1994, and the score for eighth-graders was also higher than in 2006.”  Puts a different slant on the issue doesn’t it?  Sounds like pretty good news doesn’t it?  Which is why it wasn’t anywhere in Pat’s assessment of the situation.  The report also states that, “at grades 4 and 8, the percentages of students at or above Proficient in 2010 were higher than the percentages in the first assessment in 1994, but over the same time period the percentage of twelfth-graders at or above Proficient was not significantly different.”  But Pat dug in there and pulled out some percentages that don’t look so good when not compared to any past results.  

Is education in America the best it can be, or even close?  Hell no, but there have been gains for all the trillions of dollars that have been spent by our tax dollars on education over the last decade.  I think it would be better to argue that we don’t have accurate methods to measure it’s success or failure.  Do you think it is important for a future business leader, or a future doctor, or even a future lawyer to be able to identify who the AXIS powers were in 1940 on a high-school history test?  I’m going with no.  It would be nice, but not critical.

And lets not forget that 99.9% of statistics are made up.  Like the last two I just gave you.  It just makes me sound more like I know what I’m talking about.  Nothing prevents you from using any statistical number you want to prove your point.  There’s no “law” against it.  Might hurt your credibility some, just like I just hurt mine by telling you I make up statistics, but not always, just sometimes when I’m in a hurry.  

How about taking into account how “serious” these students were when taking this achievement test.  It’s a multiple choice test.  Think some uninterested students might have just picked a, b, c, or d?  Of course, maybe they didn’t feel well, or have trouble taking tests, or just lazy and didn’t feel like it.  It can make a mockery out of those percentages.

So stop letting the Pat Buchanan’s of the world panic you with one-sided statistical evidence.  Glance at the deviation from the survey once in a while.  See how many people they actually polled.  If they say something is true because they interviewed a thousand people on the phone and 51% said it was true, and the deviation is plus/minus 10%, the assumption really means nothing.

I’m trying to remember who the AXIS Powers were in World War II based on a 1940 era poster, a question from the test.  Let’s see, in 1940 it was Japan, Italy, Russia, and Germany.  I’d look for a “multiple guess” question with those four.  Remember it said, 1940 era, so Russia had signed a nonaggression pact with Germany until Germany turned around and invaded them on June 22, 1941.  The Russian leaders should have read “Mein Kampf” I guess.  I’m pretty sure I would have missed the question because they wouldn’t have listed Russia.  Just so you know, I suck at Math, but I know my American History.

Oh, and go to the NAEP website and take the practice tests.  Start with the 4th grade so you don’t end of feeling like your educational experience was a waste.  WTF


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