Saturday, March 30, 2013

North Carolina Municipal Elections

Although North Carolina Municipal elections are not held until November, candidates seeking to be on the ballot for municipal elections must file in July. Candidates must file no sooner than noon on the first Friday in July (July 5 this year) and no later than noon on July 9.

Seventy Years Ago: Wartime Rationing

I have written before about rationing. It pervaded our lives during World War II and it involved an enormous organization to plan and control the economy to insure a successful war effort. The "magic of the marketplace" wasn't up to the task.

Economist Brad DeLong provides a link to a detailed explanation of how it worked. World War II truly mobilized all of our national assets.

Was this trip necessary? Yes it was.

On a personal note, I was ten years old before I learned to ride a bicycle. They weren't available during the war. When bicycles came back on the market in 1947, my grandfather bought one and drove 125 miles from Tulsa to Oklahoma City to deliver it on my tenth birthday.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

No, The Judge's Ruling in Cox v. Town of Oriental Hasn't Been Entered

Those of you who checked today to see what the Town's agenda is for next week may be wondering. Has the Judge in the case of Cox v. Town of Oriental entered his order? Not yet.

After he enters the order, the plaintiff has a window of 30 days to file a notice of appeal. That sets in motion a process that could last 10 months or more.

What about the "exchange" the Town plans?

Who knows? That might cause a second suit.

Seventy Years Ago: Battle Of Komandorski Islands

Did you ever hear about the Battle of Komandorski Islands? In brief, March 26 1943, RADM "Sock" McMorris took his task group out west of the Aleutian Islands to intercept a Japanese force enroute to reinforce the Japanese garrison on the island of Attu. It turned out the Japanese force was about twice as strong as McMorris' force.

The Americans got their noses bloodied, but they held off the Japanese force, who returned home without reinforcing Attu.

Here's a more complete account.

Just imagine fighting a battle that close to the Arctic.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Senate Bill 58 - Boat Registration Fees

A few days ago I posted an item on Senate Bill 58, cosponsored by State Senator Norm Sanderson. The bill will vastly increase boat registration fees in North Carolina.

The bill raises questions about just what is meant by representation in a democracy. In a different context, Senator Sanderson has explained that he "represents all of the people of North Carolina." I think that constitutes a misunderstanding of "representation." It may be true that Sanderson is paid by the people of North Carolina. In that sense, he works for them. But he represents the voters of his senate district, who elected him to this office, whether they voted for him or against him.

Oriental resident Jim Barton has published an eloquent letter to Senator Sanderson raising a number of good questions about Senate Bill 58. Captain Barton, who has also spoken in opposition to ferry tolls for our commuter ferries, is a Republican who voted for Sanderson. But his comment is pointed: "We want a State Senator who, in fact, represents our interests and communicates with his constituency." He urges the Senator to communicate more clearly with his constituents.

What's Happening In The States?

A good article in today's New York Times by columnist Bill Keller examines how it comes about that there is such a wide variation in laws passed recently by state legislatures. Equally puzzling is the national gridlock in the Congress.

Keller describes a number of alternate explanations offered by political scientists. I find one explanation is probably the most accurate: political outcomes are determined by an activist elite of about 15 percent of the populace, combined with a largely indifferent public. Or maybe it isn't that the public is indifferent. Maybe it is that they are confused and ill-informed.

How to address that may be the greatest challenge to democracy in today's world.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Affordable Care Act: How Is It Doing So Far?

Good summary in today's New York Times of the accomplishments to date of the Affordable Care Act. Even though the complete law doesn't go into effect until January 1, 2014, many elements have already taken effect.

What has ACA (aka Obamacare) accomplished to date:

1.  Nearly 7 million children have stayed on their parents' insurance, more than 3 million previously uninsured;
2.  71 million Americans already received free preventive care (no co-pay or deductibles);
3.  34 million additional Americans on Medicare received free preventive care;
4.  17 million children with pre-existing conditions now insured;
5.  107,000 adults with pre-existing conditions now in federal plan;
6.  Community health centers serving 3 million additional Americans;
7.  19 million Americans with reduced premiums or cost sharing;
8.  In 2012 insurers paid $ 1.1 billion in rebates because they didn't spend enough revenue on claims or quality improvements;
9.  Lower rate increases by insurers;
10. $ 6.1 billion saved on prescription drugs;
11. Sharp declines in annual growth in health care spending;
12. Medicare Advantage premiums down 10% and enrollment up by 28%.

That's just the beginning. Readmissions are down and followup care improved. More improvements are in the offing.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Small Wars In US History

Current media attention is focused on the war the United States started with Iraq a decade ago.

I'm reading an interesting book I picked up a couple of weeks ago at the Marine Corps Exchange at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station: Just and Unjust Wars by Michel Walzer. The book's subtitle is "A Moral Argument With Historical Illustrations."

Just war theory focuses on two aspects of warfare: 1) was there a just cause (as in, was it justified or moral to initiate military action or respond with military action) and: 2) was the war conducted in a just manner.

I would say there is another aspect of war that does not strictly fall under just war theory, but it relates: was the war wise?

In the United States we have a fourth recurring question: was the war constitutional? Specifically, critics of particular wars often claim that the war is not legitimate, because Congress did not declare war as specified in the Constitution.

On this latter point, I recommend reading a really interesting military manual: Small Wars Manual United States Marine Corps 1940. The manual is available here. It is a clearly written guide to planning and conducting small wars in all of their variety.

Just read the introduction and it will be clear that what I have written elsewhere is true. Up to the time of World War II, most of our military interventions were conducted by the Department of the Navy. That included some very substantial military undertakings, including our Quasi-War with France during John Adams' administration. In no case was there ever a declaration of war when the conflict involved only the Navy Department.

Only when the War Department was involved in the conflict did the United States ever declare war. That has happened only five times in our history.

The fine line between conflicts involving only the Navy Department and categorized as "small wars" and the more substantial conflicts involving the War Department disappeared with passage in 1947 of the Armed Forces Unification Act.

That act created a constitutional muddle that we have never resolved.

We would be better off to return to a time when the Navy/Marine Corps team did small wars. They knew how to do it. A number of our military interventions would have been more competently planned and conducted if they had followed the 1940 Small Wars Manual of the Marine Corps.

It would save a lot of money, too.   

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pope Francis' Family

New information in today's on line edition of The Telegraph (UK).

Information provided by Mrs. Berdoglio, Francis' sole surviving sibling, who lives in Buenos Aires, is that their parents immigrated from Italy to Argentina to escape the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini. Mrs. Bergoglio, a divorced mother of two adult sons, emphasized that stories suggesting her brother's complicity in actions by the Argentine military junta are wide of the mark. Such complicity, she emphasizes, would have been a betrayal of their father's lessons to the family.

The father, Mario Bergoglio, had been a railroad worker in Northern Italy in the Piedmont region before emigrating to Argentina in the 1920's.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pamlico County Commissioners March 18, 2013

Last night's County Commissioner meeting dealt mostly with the County Planning Board's draft ordinance covering possible wind farms. They scheduled a public hearing April 1 by a vote of 4-1 (Chris Mele against) with two absentees (Pat Prescott and Carl Ollison).

The draft ordinance has not yet been posted on line.

How Cyprus Affects Europe

Here's a pretty straight report on what's wrong with Europe's approach to Cyprus.

Bottom line: the European Central Bank and IMF are practically inviting a run on European banks.

It may take awhile to develop, but it will be hard to turn around. Then what will happen to the Europe project?

Monday, March 18, 2013

1968: Perfidy In DC

Lyndon Johnson had the goods on Richard Nixon. But he couldn't use it.

The Democratic Party convention in Chicago was a disaster. Johnson even considered appearing at the last minute and putting his name forward for nomination.

Bad idea.

Peace talks were going on in Paris, and North Vietnam had made a promising offer.

Richard Nixon feared that prospects for peace would scuttle his campaign. He sent Anna Chennault as his intermediary with the South Vietnamese ambassador, pleading with them to put off negotiations and wait for a better deal after the election.

The FBI bugged Chennault and the National Security Agency monitored the Ambassador's communications with Saigon.

Johnson knew what was going on. In private he called it treason. But he couldn't make it public without revealing the monitoring. It's generally considered bad form to bug embassies and read ambassadorial communications - and to reveal it in public.

Of course, it's even worse form not to monitor and to get caught flat footed.

So Johnson kept his mouth shut in public.

Nixon won by less than 1%. Had Nixon's perfidy become public, he may well have lost by a landslide.

Here is the story. All captured on Lyndon Johnson's White House tapes.

It wouldn't be the last time a presidential candidate meddled in international negotiations to the detriment of national interests. It may well have been the last time such actions were so clearly documented.

Bank Heist In Cyprus Threatens Eurozone

Over the weekend, IMF, ECB and Cyprus banking officials agreed to a plan to swipe depositor's funds to pay for a bailout. Small depositors rush to get their funds out of banks. The mattress looks safer. Will this trigger a run on banks in other European countries?

More evidence that the Eurozone is a flawed monetary union.

What can they be thinking.

Germany remains confident in austerity.

One view of the decision:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

World Wide Shortages: Wisdom, Compassion, Humanity

"Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

Axel Oxenstierna, Chancellor of Sweden to his son (1648).

I reflect on this quote from time to time and conclude that nothing has changed since 1648. That was about two decades before my first European ancestor arrived in Virginia.

I would like to believe that the American Experience has added to the world's stock of wisdom, but the more I study our own history, the less my confidence in that hope.

Still, I think it is at least a mixed bag. Some wisdom, some foolishness, some downright selfishness and inhumanity.

Today's Washington Post  has a very illuminating article on the SNAP program (formerly known as Food Stamps) in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. The article is worth reading for a number of reasons. First, it illuminates the amount of work that poor families have to go through to take advantage of SNAP. more importantly, it makes it clear that SNAP is much more than a program assisting individuals and families. It keeps whole communities alive.

Without safety net programs like SNAP, even more small businesses would have closed and small towns across the land would have become ghost towns. As the article explains:

"At precisely one second after midnight, on March 1, Woonsocket would experience its monthly financial windfall — nearly $2 million from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Federal money would be electronically transferred to the broke residents of a nearly bankrupt town, where it would flow first into grocery stores and then on to food companies, employees and banks, beginning the monthly cycle that has helped Woonsocket survive."

More importantly, programs like SNAP, Unemployment compensation, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security help us avoid persistent regions of deep poverty and hunger that once existed across Appalachia and other rural areas of the country.

But if you read the article, be sure to also read and reflect on the many mean-spirited comments made by Washington Post readers.

And ask yourselves the question: "What kind of country do we want to be when we grow up?"

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ten Years Ago: Freedom Fries

I failed to note an anniversary last week. On March 11, 2003, Congressman Walter B. Jones and Congressman Bob Ney announced that henceforth menu items in the Congressional cafeteria would be renamed: "French Fries" would henceforth be listed as "Freedom Fries," and "French Toast" would be renamed "Freedom Toast."

This episode of international silliness started because France refused to join the United States in the invasion of Iraq.

Quickly forgotten by most Americans was that on September 12, 2001, NATO (including France) invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, declaring that if it was shown that the September 11 attack was coordinated from abroad, the Alliance viewed the attack on the United States as an attack on all members.

Early on in the effort to retaliate against Afghanistan, European members of NATO offered to contribute more military forces than the United States was willing to accept.

The Bush Administration sought special assistance from French Intelligence sources. France had by far the most complete intelligence in the Western world on Islamic extremism. They willingly shared this information with the United States. In fact, it is fair to say that French intelligence was essential to the early progress of the investigation.

When the United States turned its attention from Afghanistan to Iraq, France was not the only NATO member unwilling to support the invasion of Iraq. Turkey also refused to allow US forces to invade Iraq across the Turkish-Iraqi border.

Both Turkey and France were quite certain that Iraq had nothing to do the 9/11 attack on the US, and were equally certain that Saddam Hussein had not collaborated with Al-Qaida.

When asked much later about the "Freedom Fries" episode, Congressman Jones admitted he "wished it had never happened."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Right Of Way Decision

Residents keep asking me what I plan to do about Judge Alford's dismissal of my complaint against the Town.

All I can say is, I don't know. I haven't seen the draft of the Judge's order. So, although I know what I heard during the hearing, I don't know what the written order will say.

So I'm holding off on a decision until I read the order.

I'll let everyone know as soon as the order is entered.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

NC: Remove All Ferry Tolls

Local resident Greg Piner, who used the Minnesott ferry for decades to commute to work at the Marine Corps Air Station, has a creative and rational idea about ferry tolls.

Piner, who has argued against adding tolls to the previously free ferries used mostly by Pamlico County workers, has figured out that North Carolina would be better off without ferry tolls.  He disclosed his idea here on Town

Local Real Estate Developer Larry Gwaltney has expressed similar ideas on his Facebook page:

"I fear that our economy will be impacted as day trippers who travel and shop at our businesses and eat in our restaurants will be less likely to take the ferry. The ferries have been a drawing card for tourists for many years. Baby boo...mers, looking for a retirement destination, will not be as likely to see the beauty of coastal NC and will elect to choose homes and properties in other destinations.

Most of all, our infrastructure that provides the working people a reasonable route to work, will be impacted. The expense of a pass will again burden the family trying to make ends meet in an already troubled economy. Perhaps, we need to take a closer look
to see how Virginia and Texas continue to operate their state maintained ferry systems with no tolls."
 Maybe reason will out.

Is The Pope Italian?

It is by now an old joke. For much of my life, a response to an obvious question (one to which the answer might be: "duh?") would be, instead, "is the Pope Catholic?" The joke was modified after the first Polish Pope, to: "Is the Pope Italian?" To which, of course, the right answer was no longer "yes!" That continued to be the case after Cardinal Ratzinger was elected to the Papacy.

Now things are a bit more complicated. Pope Francis I (nee Bergoglio) is the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina. In at least the sense of ethnicity, the Pope is Italian.

More worthy of concern is that the Pope is Argentine. Remember the "disappeared" and Argentina's "dirty war" of kidnapping, torture and murder of leftists? There has long been information that the hands of Argentina's Catholic hierarchy were not clean in this matter. How about Bergoglio?

Today, Pope Francis I is being described as more concerned than many of his predecessors about poverty and injustice. Let us hope this is so.

The brutal Argentine military dictatorship ended thirty years ago. Many Argentine institutions were compromised by their actions during that period, not least the Argentine Navy. Maybe Francis I can lead Argentines in a final refutation of that period. That would be a good thing.

Here are a few links to articles about Argentine Catholics, including Bergoglio, during the dictatorship:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NOVA - Earth From Space

Just spent two illuminating hours watching a PBS video: "Earth From Space." The graphics and the explanations are spectacular and illuminating.

Not many of us have enough knowledge of the earth sciences to carry this information around in our heads. The program needs to be seen again and again.

And we all need to know what an explosion of knowledge about earth has resulted from our space programs.

Europe - Not Looking Good

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, has brought the Eurozone back from the brink. He accomplished this by measures not unlike quantitative easing. Countries with troubled economies are at least not under so much pressure right now over sovereign debt.

But levels of unemployment in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal are much too high (on the order of 25%) and the economies of other Eurozone countries, including the Netherlands aren't much better. The economic distress is leading to a rise of extremist political parties.

Brussels Eurocrats and German bankers seem oblivious to the consequences of their obsession with financial austerity. To date, the result of all this austerity is larger deficits. Which leads to predictable calls by the masters of the system for even more austerity. Which will lead to even larger deficits.

I fear we know where this story leads. It all depends on whether Europe makes good use of the time Draghi won for them. Right now, that doesn't appear likely.

Meanwhile, next door in Hungary, an authoritarian government is grabbing even more power.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

New Schedule Of Boat Registration Fees

Our State Senator, Norman Sanderson, is sponsoring a bill to increase boat registration fees. If the bill passes, the new fee schedule will be as follows:

(a1)      Fees. – The fees for certificates of number are as set out in this subsection:
(1)        The fee for a certificate of number for a one‑year period is:
a.         Fifteen dollars ($15.00) for a vessel that is less than 14 feet in length.
b.         Twenty‑five dollars ($25.00) for a vessel that is 14 feet or more in length but less than 20 feet in length.
c.         Fifty dollars ($50.00) for a vessel that is 20 feet or more in length but less than 26 feet in length.
d.         One hundred dollars ($100.00) for a vessel that is 26 feet or more in length but less than 40 feet in length.
e.         One hundred fifty dollars ($150.00) for a vessel that is more than 40 feet in length.
(2)        The fee for a certificate of number for a three‑year period is:
a.         Forty‑five dollars ($45.00) for a vessel that is less than 14 feet in length.
b.         Seventy‑five dollars ($75.00) for a vessel that is 14 feet or more in length but less than 20 feet in length.
c.         One hundred fifty dollars ($150.00) for a vessel that is 20 feet or more in length but less than 26 feet in length.
d.         Three hundred dollars ($300.00) for a vessel that is 26 feet or more in length but less than 40 feet in length.
e.         Four hundred fifty dollars ($450.00) for a vessel that is more than 40 feet in length.
(b)        Reciprocity. – The owner of any vessel already covered by a number in full force and effect pursuant to federal law or a federally approved numbering system of another state shall record the identification number prior to operating the vessel on the waters of this State in excess of the 90‑day reciprocity period provided for in G.S. 75A‑7(a)(1). The recordation shall be made pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, except that no additional or substitute identification number shall be issued.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Languages Other Than English Spoken At Home

The Washington Post has an interesting article and link to a revealing map showing, county by county, where in the US languages other than English are spoken in the home.

One interesting revelation is that Spanish is spoken at home in almost every county in the United States. Other prevalent languages are German and French.

Screen shot 2013-03-07 at 2.10.14 PM

In all of the hullabaloo over immigrants learning English, we often forget about some of our history. A century ago, there was a thriving trade in newspapers printed for immigrants in foreign languages. There were newspapers and magazines printed in German, Yiddish, Spanish, Polish, Czech, Chinese, Russian, Cherokee and others. Headstones in Bethlehem and Lebanon, Pennsylvania and in Wythe County Virginia and Frederick County, Maryland are carved in German. The language of instruction in elementary school in Fredericksburg, Texas was German until about 1920. My high school Spanish teacher was raised in a German-speaking community in Wisconsin and spoke only German until she started in first grade. When Colorado achieved statehood, the record of state legislative proceedings was published in both Spanish and English. Новое русское слово (Novoye Russkoye Slovo or "New Russian Word") has been published in New York City since about 1920. It is still published.

We are a far more polyglot nation than most of us think.

Oriental Town Board Meeting For March

Town Dock has posted a very complete report of this month's Town Board meeting here. For those who were unable to attend, reading this report is a good way to keep up with what the Town is doing.

I don't know what the explanation is, but I have noticed the last two meetings were conducted in a businesslike fashion and were over pretty quickly. Not much more than an hour. This is good.

I did note that, once again, the board acted on a "non-agenda" item brought up after the published agenda was completed. I think that is a bad procedure. To be sure, there may be occasions when some urgent matter arises in the five days between the agenda meeting and the business meeting. These occasions should be rare. I think the Board should never act on a matter brought up by a commissioner at the end of the meeting that is not on the agenda. I would suggest that at the beginning of the meeting commissioners be asked if they have additional agenda items and that such items be formally added to the agenda by unanimous vote or to be tabled until the next meeting.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Employment Report - Better But Not Yet Good

Today's employment report showed more new jobs in February than many observers expected. But don't break out the champagne and confetti just yet. There are drags on the economy - continued decline in government employment at all levels, for example. Economic decline in Europe.

A new high in the Dow Jones doesn't put money in the pockets of people who work for a living, no matter what color collar they may wear. The unemployment rate is down to its lowest level in years. But that measure can be really misleading. It doesn't count workers who are too discouraged to seek employment as in the labor force.

And the sequester won't help.

By the way, we don't have a fiscal problem. We have a jobs problem. Put citizens back to work and the deficit mostly (but not entirely) goes away.

I prefer the broader measure of percentage of working-age citizens who are employed. Here is that measure:

Screenshot 3 8 13 8 01 AM 2

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Disappointed But Not Discouraged

A little after 10:00 this morning, I received Judge Alford's decision in the case of Cox v. Town of Oriental. Here is what the judge said:

"Defendants' Motions to Dismiss the Action For Declaratory Judgment and their Motion For Judgment On The Pleadings are allowed. I would ask Mr. Wright (counsel for Defendants) to draft the Orders, share them with the plaintiff and email them to me as a Word Document for printing, signing and return.

My best to all.

Benjamin G. Alford
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge
3B Judicial District"

I am now reading the NC Rules of Appellate Procedure. Should I decide to appeal, I have 30 days after the Judge's order is entered to file a Notice of Appeal.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wealth Distribution In America

A friend recently shared a link to a video exploring how wealth is distributed in America. There are a lot of different ways of presenting the same information or related information. We can look at income inequality. Over time, income inequality becomes wealth inequality.

Just this week, the stock market reached a new high. That has increased the wealth of some Americans at the top of the economic scale. Meanwhile, middle-class income has stagnated for forty years.

Here is a video examining wealth.

I will look for one that reveals income inequality and post the best one I find.

Then there is the issue of economic mobility.

We're number one, right?

As it turns out, countries in Western Europe and Northern Europe have more equal distribution of wealth, greater economic mobility and even higher levels of creation of small business than does the U.S.

Not to mention less expensive health care with better outcomes.

Americans need to get out more. Visit other countries. Keep an open mind. Might learn something.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pamlico County Superior Court March 4

Just a quick report. Both sides in my complaint against the Town of Oriental presented their arguments. The Town argued for dismissal. I argued against dismissal. The judge remained pretty impassive and promised a decision later this week.

I thought the Town made some valid points, but also made some very specious arguments.

What really counts is what the judge thought.

We'll know later.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Seventy Years Ago: New Guinea And Bismarck Sea

They called it "The Battle Of Bismarck Sea," but it wasn't much of a battle.

Map of eastern New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and the Solomon Islands. Guadalcanal is at the lower right, Rabaul in the upper center, and Port Moresby, Buna, and Gona in the lower left.

Following the loss of Guadalcanal, Japan shifted their focus to New Guinea. The plan was to reinforce their airbases at Salamaua and Lae.

A Japanese convoy of eight destroyers and eight troop transports with an escort of approximately 100 aircraft – assembled and departed from Simpson Harbour in Rabaul 28 February. They planned a route along the north coast, to avoid Allied air cover. Allied air attacks on the convoy at this point would have to fly over New Britain, allowing easy interception from Japanese air bases. But the final leg ran the gauntlet of the Vitiaz Strait.

Allied cryptanalysts decrypted Japanese communications revealing the plan. More than 6,000 Japanese troops were on their way to reinforce Lae. General MacArthur, concerned that the reinforcements would make it impossible for the Allies to advance in New Guinea, ordered General Kenney, Commander of the Fifth Air Force, to attack the convoys.

Beginning March 2, 1943, Allied Air Forces began attacking the Japanese convoy with a mix of light, heavy and medium bombers specially converted and trained to attack shipping, accompanied by 54 fighters.

By end of the day March 4, the Allies had sunk 8 transports and five destroyers, destroyed twenty Japanese aircraft and prevented all but 1200 Japanese soldiers from reaching Lae.

Many of the attacking aircraft flew over the Owen Stanley range from Port Moresby. My father, serving at Port Moresby in the 27th Air Depot group, was subjected to nightly air raids by Japanese aircraft flying from Lae and Salamaua. During the day he put US aircraft back together for new missions.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Going To Court

Last minute preps for tomorrow's hearing at Pamlico Court House. Town has filed three motions to dismiss.

I'm trying to protect the public's interest but the issues seem complicated to them. Why am I doing it? I'm not sure.

Maybe it's like climbing the mountain because it's there.

Right now it feels more like Sisyphus rolling the stone up the hill.

I'll know more tomorrow.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Oriental Land Swap - Or Is It?

Anyone curious about what I have been up to lately can get a good idea by reading today's article in Town Dock. I think it's a fair summary of the whole issue, starting several years ago.

My role in the Town's lawsuit against a local landowner was actually modest. The Town decided in 2002, nearly four years before I moved here, to file the suit. Much of the information in the Town's complaint was researched by Grace Evans, a local citizen and former member of the Town Board and many other boards, who uncovered records in the Town minutes and actually caused those minutes to be preserved.

The case goes before Judge Alford at the Pamlico County courthouse Monday morning, March 4th, to hear motions by the Town to dismiss my complaint and an amendment thereto. The court will open at 10:00 to hear motions.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Congressional District Size

Awhile back, I suggested we could improve the responsiveness of Congress by increasing the size of the House of Representatives to the same ratio of Representatives to population as existed when we arrived at the present size of 435.

There is an unratified amendment, the first of the original twelve submitted in 1789, of which the first ten became the Bill of Rights. The eleventh to be adopted became the 27th Amendment, adopted in 1992. The sole remaining amendment is muddled because of a scrivener's error when the amendment was engrossed. As intended by the Congress, it would require a House of Representatives of 6,000 members today. As printed and sent to the states, it would if adopted have no effect on the size of the House.

This comes to mind in light of Nate Silver's recent post on the Electoral College.

The number of citizens represented by each member of the House was a big issue in 1787.There was a widespread belief that the number represented by each member should be no more than 50,000.

Having large districts with long terms of office was thought to be a way to favor the interests of "property" and "respectable" citizens. A smaller number of citizens per representative with shorter terms was thought to favor the common people.

Here's how James Madison explained it:

Should Experience or public opinion require an equal and universal suffrage for each branch of the Government such as prevails generally in the U.S., (then) a resource favorable to the rights of landed and other property, when its possessors become the Minority, may be found in the enlargement of the Election Districts for one branch of the Legislature and a prolongation of its period of service. Large districts are manifestly favorable to the election of persons of general respectability, and of probable attachment to the rights of property, over competitors depending on the personal solicitations practicable on a contracted theater. And although an ambitious candidate, of personal distinction, might occasionally recommend himself to popular choice by espousing a popular though unjust object, it might rarely happen to many districts at the same time. The tendency of a longer period of service would be, to render the Body more stable in its policy, and more capable of stemming popular currents taking a wrong direction, till reason and justice could regain their ascendancy. Should even such a modification as the last be deemed inadmissible, and universal suffrage and very short periods of elections within contracted spheres be required for each branch of the Government, the security for the holders of property when the minority, can only be derived from the ordinary influence possessed by property, and the superior information incident to its holders; from the popular sense of justice enlarged and by a diffusive education; and from the difficulty of combining and effectuating unjust purposes throughout an extensive country; a difficulty essentially distinguishing the U.S. and even most of the individual States, from the small communities where a mistaken interest or contagious passion, could readily unite a majority of the whole under a factious leader in trampling on the rights of the Minor party.