Our Third President – Did You Know?

Note: all of the following is based on or taken from “Thomas Jefferson – The Art of Power,” Jon Meacham, 2012, Random House (Pulitzer Prize Winner).

You know the third president of the United States was Thomas Jefferson, but did you know:

That he was elected president by the House of Representatives on the thirty-sixth vote?

That the House consisted of sixteen delegates (nine votes needed to win), and chose the president because Jefferson and Aaron Burr finished with the same number of electoral votes?

That Jefferson was a Republican even though he would have been a Democrat today, and that the other party was called Federalist even though they became today’s Republicans?

That the Republicans, who became Democrats, wanted no part of any monarchy, and that many of the Federalists wanted to reinstall the King of England?

That the first rumblings of secession were from Federalists in the northern states (former colonies)?  And that those first rumblings of secession from up north were in evidence several times during the early 1800’s?

Pages 96-97:  That Jefferson was requested by Congress to serve on a committee “…to Ascertain Unfinished Business Before Congress….” and in his 1775 draft report he wrote that “…gathering intelligence of the condition and design of the enemy….” was “crucial”?

Page 130: That “Like many legislators, Jefferson was ambivalent about executive power until he bore executive responsibility.”

Page 404: That Aaron Burr, who was Jefferson’s Vice President during his first term, shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel and later advised the British Foreign Minister that he (Burr) wanted to “effect a separation of the western part of the United States from that which lies between the Atlantic and the mountains….”?

Page 406: That Jefferson believed in a limited government, except when he thought the nation was best served by a more expansive one”?

Page 417:  That Jefferson was the first president to recommend federal funding for public works: “…education, roads, canals, and other projects”?

If books such as these were used when I studied American History I would have enjoyed those classes much more.

I close with two quotes:

Page 416: “It was easy to speak theoretically and idealistically about politics when one is seeking power.  The demands of exercising power once it is won, however, are so complex and fluid that ideological certitude is often among the first casualties of actual governing.”  Thomas Jefferson

And finally, a well-known quote from President Kennedy at a White House dinner honoring Nobel Prize Winners in 1962:

“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”


Stuff I Save a While Before Throwing It Away

Every 4th Thursday I go through the pile of stuff I keep on my desk for a month before throwing it away.

I’m retired, but I recall doing the same thing when I had a desk in an office.  The work stuff was higher class; for example, an announcement about an upcoming seminar on a subject I needed to learn more about.  But I recall doing the same thing with my work pile that I do with the current monthly pile; that is, into the trash.

This month my pile includes, but is not limited to, the following:

–  3 coupons for cleaning the air vents in our home

–  4 offers for discounted food from restaurants

–  2 coupons for plumbing services

–  3 coupons for tires or auto repairs of some sort

–  Several reduced cost massage offers

–  Various magazine subscription offers

–  Publishers Clearing House (need I write more?)

–  Several home security systems – free!

–  LifeLock ID theft services (might do this one)

–  3 offers for investment services

–  Pressure washing and painting services – discounted

–  Insurance flyers of all sort – life, health, auto, homeowners

–  Sales on mattresses

–  Cable TV offers – 200 channels I don’t have time to watch even though retired

–  Tools at huge discounts

–  Clothing and shoe sales from everybody who sells them

–  Hearing aid equipment – huh?

–  4 retirement/assisted living brochures, each one more than tempting

(especially the ones that include meals and golf)

–  Local publications I like when I first see them but never read them

(what am I missing?)

I do not exaggerate; I kid you not.  The list is roughly the same every month.

Once a quarter or so I try to take somebody up on an offer, an effort that usually results in calls that are not returned, small print I couldn’t read even if I knew it was there, or astonished sales clerks telling me that deal was cut off 2 months ago.

Had a guy from one of the air vent cleaning establishments a while back say: “We didn’t mean all the air vents.”

And that’s a fitting end for this edition.

Leaks put U.S. at risk

A short item in today’s Raleigh News & Observer from the Wahington Post informs us that the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman (Mike Rogers, R-Mich.) and ranking member (C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. have a classified Pentagon report that concludes that the theft of 1.7 million intelligence files from U.S. agencies by former National Security Agency contrctor Edward Snowden has “…tipped off adversaries to U.S. intelligence sources and methods, and could ‘gravely impact’ U.S. national security….”

What to do?  If, heaven forbid, another successful terrorist attack were to take place on U.S. soil, we may be certain that some of our citizens that are worrying about NSA listening to their phone calls and reading their emails will want to know why our intelligence agencies failed to protect us.

And I’m willing to bet not many would favor clemency if an attack were to happen and the success of such an attack could be laid at the feet of Mr. Snowden.

Brief Review of “Big Lies,” by Joe Conason

“If your workplace is safe; if your children go to school rather than being forced into labor if you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a forty-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights – you can thank liberals.  If your food is not poisoned and your water is drinkable – you can thank liberals; if your parents are eligible for Medicare and Social Security, so they can grow old in dignity without bankrupting your family – you can thank liberals.  If our rivers are getting cleaner and our air isn’t black with pollution; if our wilderness is protected and our countryside is still green – you can thank liberals.  If people of all races can share the same public facilities; if everyone has the right to vote; if couples fall in love and marry regardless of race; if we have finally begun to transcend a segregated society – you can thank liberals.  Progressive innovations like those and so many others were achieved by long, difficult struggles against entrenched power.  What defined conservatism, and conservatives, was their opposition to every one on these advances.  The country we know and love today was built by those victories for liberalism – with the support of the American people.”

The above quote is from Big Lies – The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth, Joe Conason, St. Martin’s Press, 2003.

This book was presented to me in 2013, fully ten years after its publication, by a friend who I believe is aware that I consider myself a “yellow dog Democrat,” i.e., someone who would rather vote for a yellow dog than a Republican (even though I have on several occasions voted for Republicans I thought were better candidates).

In any event, it’s worth a read by anyone interested in politics, whether Federalist (think John Marshall, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) or anti-Federalist (think Thomas Jefferson,  who, despite his anti-Federalism, increased the national debt with the Louisiana Purchase, among other achievements one might think of as Federalist-leaning).

Lying, demonizing one’s opponents, spinning the story, vicious personal attacks, twisting the facts, pouncing on words and actions taken out of context, etc. – these are not new tactics for those who seek to win elections.  However, in the last sixty years or so, with the dizzying advances made in the distribution of “information,” (think TV, cell phones, internet, watching the British Open live, etc.), the opportunities for mischief are so numerous we just can’t keep up any more.

To paraphrase another section of Mr. Conason’s introduction to his book:

Liberals are not unpatriotic, do not despise the work ethic, and have, by the numbers, been the best stewards of the nation’s economy for seventy years.  Liberals defend the Bill of Rights and are just as likely as conservatives to uphold the “family values” that conservatives like to reference so often.

Without setting out that all liberals are saints or accusing all conservatives as spiteful, bigoted, greedy, or stupid, the author nevertheless sets out in great detail how the right-wing propaganda machine is making intelligent, friendly discourse between those with differing views nearly impossible.

He believes the right-wing propaganda is equivalent to bullying, and calls for liberals to do more in the way of fighting back.  “The classic American hero is the underdog who wins respect by fighting back….  Occasionally, the underdog and the bully become best friends.”

Again, bear in mind that this book was published ten years ago.

I can’t help wondering how much more Mr. Conason would about what has transpired in Washington since 2003, especially with our present day leadership – executive and legislative.

I’m going on the Amazon site to see if he’s written more.

“The insufferable whistleblower”

Anybody besides me sick of hearing about Edward Snowden?  I was until I read “The insufferable whistleblower” by Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post Writers Group.


“Not for Snowden any anxiety about the implications for national security of his theft of government secrets, any regrets about his violations of a duty of secrecy.”

“Insufferable is the first adjective evoked by Snowden’s recent interview with Barton Gellman in the Washington Post, but it has numerous cousins: smug, self-righteous, egotistical, disingenuous, megalomaniacal, overwrought.”

In the Barton interview Snowden claimed that “The system failed comprehensively, and at each level of oversight….”

“Thankfully, at least as Snowden sees it, he was there to pick up the slack.”

More samples:

“…if Snowden is such a believer in the Constitution, why not stick around to test the system that the Constitution created and deal with the consequences of his actions rather than offer to trade stolen secrets to the best asylum bidder?”

“…the theft was massive.  The injury to intelligence gathering is of equal magnitude.  ‘I am still working for the NSA right now,’ Snowden announced.  ‘They are the only ones who don’t realize it.’”

“Orwell might have called that double-think.”

I hope our country’s intelligence community will still be effective despite all the hoopla about making our intelligence gathering “transparent.”

Does anyone truly believe we can do without information about what other nations and terrorist groups might be planning?  Or that our methods should be made public?

There is always room and reason for evaluating government programs, but I think most Americans demand that the people to whom we have entrusted our security can do their job and keep us safe.