Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A review of PBS's “The Gold Rush”



The California Gold Rush is one of those events that tends to have been heard of by the public, but is often overlooked by popular historians today for a number of reasons, among them that it is partially an economic story, and thus considered less "sexy" than the more "traditional" topics of politics and the military. Nonetheless, the Gold Rush is a monumental event in the history of America which had massive repercussions on the history of the West, causing the rapid colonization of California by White immigrants (and a handful of Chinese immigrants), and creating the ethnic mix that California is so known for today - since it is a race relations story as much as it is anything else, fraught with interest for anyone interested in American history. (But more on the particulars of that later.)


Sutter's Fort - California, 1849 (not to be confused with Sutter's Mill)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A review of Andrew Marr’s “Modern Britain” series (1901-2007)



I should preface this review with an up-front disclaimer, which is that I am not a citizen of Britain - I am an American citizen who has never been to the British Isles, and my ancestors haven't lived in Britain for more than a hundred years - although I do have ancestors from various parts of the British Isles, I should note here, who emigrated to the United States over a period of centuries (with some branches arriving at one time, and some branches at another). Thus, I have often felt rather British in my heritage; and this feeling is shared by many Americans of all ethnic origins, because of the cultural similarity between our two countries. (And I'm not just talking about our speaking the same language, although that does help - as George Bernard Shaw once joked, we are two countries "separated by a common language.")


Winston Churchill

Monday, January 9, 2017

Top 18 reasons to vote in the Congressional elections (if you so choose)




United States Capitol, the building where the Congress meets

The elections for the president have always gotten more attention than any other in this country, and it is well and good that they do so - the president has an enormous amount of power that needs to be watched, no matter who's president; and I do not wish to downplay the importance of this when I comment on American elections here.


The White House

Of equal importance, though, is what happens with the Congressional elections; because the legislature has a great deal of power entrusted to it as well; and it is well that we pay it some attention if we want to influence what happens in Washington.


Capitol Dome

In that spirit of clarifying what our Constitution says about Congressional power here, I thought I'd quote from the most relevant section to our current topic, to give you a sense of how important the Congressional elections really are to us in this country.


Constitution of the United States

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

So what exactly are the “midterm elections,” anyway?




The Constitutional Convention, 1787

The elections for the president of the United States of America have always gotten more attention than any other in this country. This is not surprising, given that the presidency is the only office that the entire country can vote on; and as Alexander Hamilton once said, any individual serving as the president, "from the entire circumstance of his being alone, [is] more narrowly watched and more readily suspected" (Source: Federalist No. 70, with an alternate version saying "from the very circumstance of his being alone"). Your typical member of Congress can put the blame for their own actions on someone else, in other words - usually their fellow members of Congress - more easily than the president can, because they are not watched as closely as a single powerful individual (like the president) is. It is thus natural that the elections for the presidency (held every four years) would be watched more closely than any other elections.


Alexander Hamilton

Nonetheless, the elections for the United States Congress are still of importance to this country - as is testified by the part of the Constitution about the powers of the Congress (Article 1, Section 8, to be specific; which has 18 clauses in it); so these elections are held more frequently than the elections for the presidency are. The Constitution actually specifies a shorter term of two years for the members of the House of Representatives at the national level. This means that for this house of Congress, in practical terms, the whole lot of them are up for re-election every two years; and not just every four years (as it is for the presidency). I should note that half of these elections for Congress are held simultaneously with the presidential elections, with the ballot being the same one used to vote for the president. The other half of them are held at the midway point between the two presidential elections (hence the popular name that they have of the "midterm elections," since they're in the middle of the four-year term of the president). The next one is in November of 2018; so if you do want a say in who your Congressman or Congresswoman is, next year is your next chance to get it.


Constitution of the United States of America

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