Category Archives: History

Why Vote for Democrats?

Legislation

1935
Social Security Act
-Passed the House 372-33
-Passed the Senate 77-6
-Signed into law by FDR

House
-Dem: Yes — 284 of 319 (89%)
-Rep: Yes — 81 of 102 (79%)

Senate
-Dem: Yes — 60 of 69 (87%)
-Rep: Yes — 16 of 25 (64%)

Source

* * *

1938
Fair Labor Standards Act
-Established minimum wage, 40-hour workweek, and restrictions on child labor
-Passed the House 291-89
-Passed the Senate by voice vote
-Signed into law by FDR

House
-Dem: Yes — 252 of 293 (86%)
-Rep: Yes — 30 of 78 (38%)

Senate
Passed the Senate by voice vote.

Source

* * *

1941
Prohibition of Discrimination in the Defense Industry
-Executive Order 8802
-Banned discriminatory employment practices by Federal agencies and all unions and companies engaged in war-related work
-Established the Fair Employment Practices Commission to enforce the new policy
-Signed by FDR

Source

* * *

1948
Desegregation of Armed Forces
-Executive Order 9981
-Established the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, committing the government to integrating the segregated military
-Signed by Truman

Source

* * *

1963
Clean Air Act
-Passed the House 276 to 112
-Passed the Senate by voice vote
-Signed into law by LBJ

House
-Dem: Yes — 204 of 256 (80%)
-Rep: Yes — 69 of 178 (39%)

Senate
Passed the Senate by voice vote.

Source

* * *

1964
Civil Rights Act
-Passed the House 290-130
-Passed the Senate 73-27
-Signed into law by LBJ

House
-Dem: Yes — 152 of 248 (61%)
-Rep: Yes — 138 of 172 (80%)

Senate
-Dem: Yes — 46 of 67 (69%)
-Rep: Yes — 27 of 33 (82%)

Source

Note: This vote was an important moment in the history of the Republican and Democratic parties and was the major catalyst leading to the transition of Southern Democrats to the Republican Party.*

* * *

1965
Medicare (Social Security Act Amendments)
-Passed the House 307-116
-Passed the Senate 70-24
-Signed into law by LBJ

House
-Dem: Yes — 237 of 293 (81%)
-Rep: Yes — 70 of 140 (50%)*

Senate
-Dem: Yes — 57 of 67 (85%)
-Rep: Yes — 13 of 32 (41%)*

* * *

1972
Clean Water Act
-Passed the House 366-11
-Passed the Senate 74-0
-Vetoed by Nixon
-Nixon’s veto was overridden by Congress

House Override
-Dem: Yes — 151 of 161 (94%) (92 abstained)
-Rep: Yes — 96 of 109 (88%) (68 abstained)*

Senate Override
-Dem: Yes — 34 of 37 (92%) (17 abstained)
-Rep: Yes — 17 of 25 (68%) (19 abstained)*


The Economy

Most economists lean Democratic:


From a 2003 survey of 264 economists
Source


From a 2010 survey of 299 economists
Source


Climate Change

The earth’s climate is extremely important, both economically and biologically. Most Democrats agree with the vast majority of climate scientists that humans have caused all or nearly all of earth’s rapid warming over the past 5-6 decades.* As of 2017, 78% of Democrats agreed that human activity is causing the warming while only 24% of Republicans agree* with the extremely strong scientific consensus.

But, isn’t there still a lot of uncertainty about what’s causing global warming? No. Climate scientists are roughly as certain that humans are causing the rapid warming of the earth’s atmosphere as they are in the basic science of plate tectonics.*

But, is scientific consensus really important? Maybe. One way to look at it is to consider artificial intelligence. Imagine if we looked at research papers of artificial intelligence researchers and polled them and found that 5% of them are warning that there is a high probability of robots taking over the world in the near future. That might be slightly alarming, right? However, if we look at that same information and talk to the same people and find that 97% of those papers and scientists are warning of a robot takeover, governments all over the world would be acting immediately to prevent this.

The Supposed Deterioration of English

“The common language is disappearing. It is slowly being crushed to death under the weight of verbal conglomerate, a pseudospeech at once both pretentious and feeble, that is created daily by millions of blunders and inaccuracies in grammar, syntax, idiom, metaphor, logic, and common sense …. In the history of modern English there is no period in which such victory over thought-in-speech has been so widespread. Nor in the past has the general idiom, on which we depend for our very understanding of vital matters, been so seriously distorted.”
—A. Tibbets and C. Tibbets, What’s Happening to American English?, 1978


“Recent graduates, including those with university degrees, seem to have no mastery of the language at all. They cannot construct a simple declarative sentence, either orally or in writing. They cannot spell common, everyday words. Punctuation is apparently no longer taught. Grammar is a complete mystery to almost all recent graduates.”
—J. Mersand, Attitudes toward English Teaching, 1961


“From every college in the country goes up the cry, ‘Our freshmen can’t spell, can’t punctuate.’ Every high school is in disrepair because its pupils are so ignorant of the merest rudiments.”
—C. H. Ward, 1917


“The vocabularies of the majority of high-school pupils are amazingly small. I always try to use simple English, and yet I have talked to classes when quite a minority of the pupils did not comprehend more than half of what I said.”
—M. W. Smith, “Methods of Study in English,” 1889


Unless the present progress of change [is] arrested … there can be no doubt that, in another century, the dialect of the Americans will become utterly unintelligible to an Englishman ….
—Captain Thomas Hamilton, 1833


Our language is degenerating very fast.
—James Beattie, 1785

The Big Dipper and Ursa Major Across Time and Cultures


On a given night



With stars labelled
Image by Ken Christison



North American interpretation



Shang-di, aka, the Jade Emperor
Stone carving from the Wuliang Shrine, ca. 150 CE



Starry Plough flag of the Irish Citizen Army, 1914



From Abdul Rahman bin Omar al-Sufi’s Pictures of the forty-eight planets, ca. 950 CE



Egypt, from the tomb of Seti I at the Valley of the Kings, ca. 1280 BCE
Photograph by M. Sanz de Lara



Charles’s Wain, aka Charles’s Wagon, Europe, ca. 1500s CE


From Gaylord Johnson’s The Star People, 1921



As part of Ursa Major, described by Ptolemy ca. 150 CE


From Johann Bayer’s Uranometria, 1603

Quotation Quiz

The folks at goodreads love to pollute the Internet with dubiously-sourced quotes from various people. I looked into 21 of their top quotes to see if the person the quote is ascribed to actually said it or was the first to say it. Click below to see if you know who said what and when.

Lincoln

Continue reading Quotation Quiz

Sagan, 22, “Peddling Without a License”

The fall of 1956 temporarily separated Lynn and Carl. Sagan began work at the University of Chicago’s astronomy school in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. This is the home of the Yerkes Observatory. Completed in 1897, the forty-inch Yerkes refractor was housed in a brick-and-terra-cotta domed building. It was by then a storied relic.

Williams Bay had a population of barely 1,000. For city-bred Sagan, it presented a culture shock. For the first time in his life, Sagan encountered anti-Semitism. He also ran into trouble with the law. He attempted to raise funds for the Democratic Party, asking householders for a dollar each. As Sagan told it,

I spent all morning going door to door. And I got the most amazing responses: “The what party?” or “Shh! the master will hear!” or “Wait right here, young fellow, and I’ll get my shotgun.” Finally I was arrested by the sheriff, who had had innumerable complaints, on the grounds of peddling without a license. They figured I was peddling receipts at a dollar each. And I was remanded to the custody of the observatory director, who I don’t think understood anything about it, but just said to me, “Be a good boy.”

—From the bio Carl Sagan, 1999, by William Poundstone

Ona Judge

http://www.history.com/news/george-washington-and-the-slave-who-got-away

As America’s most beloved founding father, George Washington has long been credited with having a relatively enlightened outlook on the issue of slavery. Most famously, when he died in 1799, the former president freed all 123 slaves he owned in his will. But Washington notably did not free the 153 slaves owned by his wife, all of whom remained the property of her inheritors when she died. Three years earlier, one of Martha Washington’s slaves, Ona Judge, had liberated herself, slipping out of the Executive Mansion in Philadelphia and onto a ship bound for Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Though Washington soon tracked her down and tried to get her back, Judge eluded his efforts, and would live out the rest of her days in freedom. She is featured in a new exhibition at Washington’s Virginia estate, Mount Vernon, and is the subject of a new biography published this week.

US Holocaust Museum Poster Gets Patron “Shook”


I’ve been seeing this post floating around a lot lately. I was curious about the origins, so I called the Holocaust Museum. I got transferred to a guy named Luke who I think was in “exhibitions.” I asked if this was still on exhibit. He said it was never on exhibit, but that it was available in the gift shop. He then said that it was no longer being sold in the gift shop. I hadn’t realized the price tag on some of the images. Of course, there it is!

Turns out the list comes from a gentleperson named Laurence W. Britt who fleshed out these points in a March 2003 issue of Free Inquiry magazine. The full text appears to be included here. Britt is referred to there as a political scientist, but there doesn’t appear to be anything available on the web to suggest that he’s more than an aficionado.

He wrote the op-ed in the context of the Bush administration. Here’s the conclusion of an interview he gave to a Rochester paper in December 2004 (worth a read, I’d say):

City: Looking at the world right now, do you consider the US a fascist state?

Britt: No. By definition it’s a democracy. My article is a cautionary tale. This is what I’ve researched; this is what I’ve seen; this is what’s happened in the past. You can draw your own conclusions: No, this has nothing to do with the United States; or, there are some disquieting trends here that we certainly have to be aware of, and the powers that be exhibit many of these characteristics, and we’d better damn well be careful.

One thing I’d add is that most of these attributes would probably be ascribed to the other side by people of any political persuasion who felt disenfranchised to some degree.

Ultimately, I think US politics wastes far too much energy on political maneuvering and expends far too little on governance. If you’re devoting any energy whatsoever to trying to personally discredit an opponent by whatever means available, then you’re wasting energy that should be used on trying to make the city, state, country, and world better.

I think the answer is to let AI run things. We’ve trusted humans with government for far, far too long. Experts from relevant fields should reach a consensus on various policies and these policies should be implemented by computers. The computers should be overseen by other computers. Those computers should be overseen by technicians who have no idea what the computers do so that they cannot consciously or unconsciously influence their functioning.

Humans simply should not be allowed anywhere near the government. We can’t handle it. Maybe in a world where every person undergoes at least two decades of rigorous critical thinking education humans stood a chance. This isn’t that world.

Excerpt of Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr

Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty & singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, & the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand shake off all the fears & servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

You will naturally examine first the religion of your own country. Read the Bible, then, as you would read Livy or Tacitus. The facts which are within the ordinary course of nature you will believe on the authority of the writer, as you do those of the same kind in Livy & Tacitus. The testimony of the writer weighs in their favor in one scale, and their not being against the laws of nature does not weigh against them. But those facts in the Bible which contradict the laws of nature, must be examined with more care, and under a variety of faces. Here you must recur to the pretensions of the writer to inspiration from God. Examine upon what evidence his pretensions are founded, and whether that evidence is so strong as that its falsehood would be more improbable than a change in the laws of nature in the case he relates. For example in the book of Joshua we are told, the sun stood still several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, &c.

But it is said that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine therefore candidly what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry, because millions believe it. On the other hand you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature that a body revolving on its axis as the earth does, should have stopped, should not by that sudden stoppage have prostrated animals, trees, buildings, and should after a certain time gave resumed its revolution, & that without a second general prostration. Is this arrest of the earth’s motion, or the evidence which affirms it, most within the law of probabilities?

You will next read the new testament. It is the history of a personage called Jesus. Keep in your eye the opposite pretensions 1. of those who say he was begotten by god, born of a virgin, suspended & reversed the laws of nature at will, & ascended bodily into heaven: and 2. of those who say he was a man of illegitimate birth, of a benevolent heart, enthusiastic mind, who set out without pretensions to divinity, ended in believing them, and was punished capitally for sedition by being gibbeted according to the Roman law which punished the first commission of that offence by whipping, & the second by exile or death in furcâ. […]

These questions are examined in the books I have mentioned under the head of religion, & several others. They will assist you in your inquiries, but keep your reason firmly on the watch in reading them all. Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no god you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort & pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe there is a god, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, & that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement; if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a god, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love.

In fine, I repeat you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, & neither believe nor reject anything because any other persons, or description of persons have rejected or believed it. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven, and you are answerable not for the rightness but uprightness of the decision.

I forgot to observe when speaking of the new testament that you should read all the histories of Christ, as well of those whom a council of ecclesiastics have decided for us to be Pseudo-evangelists, as those they named Evangelists. Because these Pseudo-evangelists pretended to inspiration as much as the others, and you are to judge their pretensions by your own reason, & not by the reason of those ecclesiastics. Most of these are lost. There are some however still extant, collected by Fabricius which I will endeavor to get & send you.

[]

Jefferson, T. (1787, August 10). Letter to Peter Carr. Retrieved from teachingamericanhistory.org September 9, 2015.

Best Scriptures for Academic Study

Judeo-Christian Bible

Quran

  • Recommended by Given of Missouri State University.*
  • Called the “best translation available” by Ehrman.*
  • Recommended by Ward in his History of Islam course syllabus.*
  • Assigned by Ostebo in his Introduction to Islam course at the University of Florida.*

  • The most popular, highly-rated version on Amazon on March 7, 2015.