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How Should We Elect the President


When the founders found our county were devising our system of government one of the problems they faced was to decide how the president’s should be elected. They saw themselves as a group of individual states coming together to form a central government.  A election of the president by a direct vote of the people was not their choice. The small states thought that would give to much power to the large states.  Since they wanted each branch of government to be separate they discarded the idea  of having congress elect the president. So that left them with the idea that each state should send delegates to meet and elect the president. The selection of the electors would be separate and distinct from the selection of congressman.  They wanted each state to chose its own delegates up preserve the idea that the county was a union of independents states  with each state retaining its identity.

This a 2019 and the national election is not until November, 2020, but the campaigns have already started.  That should give give everyone time to get name recognition, to get their opinions explained, and to get their character examined by the voters.

A lot of people are saying they would like to see the president elected by direct popular vote.  This group includes several presidential candidates, democratic candidates.  I believe that  will require a constitutional amendment. And that is not likely to happen.   Some state votes would be required to pass the amendment and small states will not agree to that.  They like having more power than they would have if the election were by popular vote. That is why the election is set up the way it is now. The large states needed the votes of the small states to get the constitution passed. And the small states wanted protection from the large states

The states by population were Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland,  North Carolina, Connecticut, New York, South Carolina, New  Jersey, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Delaware and Georgia.

Virginia, with with largest population  had 447,016 and Georgia with the smallest at  just over 23,000.  None of the bottom four states had a population of  more than 65,000.

Even with such a vast discrepancy in population, Virginia had ten votes in the electoral college. Georgia had five. With about twenty times as many people Virginia had only twice as many votes. Pennsylvania with a population of nearly 250,000 had ten votes, the same as Virginia.

The election of the president has never been a democratic process with everyone having an equal vote.  Neither has the senate with everyone having equal representation.  The founders knew that the systems in those respects was not fair.  But that was the best agreement they could get to have the constitution passed and to create a union.  They left it to future generations to make it more fair, Democratic and just.  Is it time to start thinking about dealing with those issues, and making change they knew should be made but were unable to make the change they wanted.

In order to get enough small population states to vote to pass the amendment, there will have to be some incentive for them to vote to pass it.  The founders could not find any such incentive. Maybe now someone will think of something.










Thoughts on a Summer Day

I was glad to see that the dire predictions of what New Orleans may have been in for over the weekend did not come true.  Barry hit west of the city and rainfall over New Orleans was light. There were a few overflows on levees but no repeat of Katrina.  About fifty per cent or more of New Orleans is below sea level, and is sinking more each year. At the same time sea levels are rising. Trends like that don’t bode well for the future. One community has asked that the federal government raise the height of the levees to protect against future flooding. That does not sound like the right approach.  How high should they be built and how do we permanently protect areas below sea level. I don’t see that we can.  Predictions about the future of weather and height of sea level by 2050 are disturbing and rule out protection by building levees. The future for the next fifty years does not look good.

On another subject Biden is holding his lead over the other Democratic Party candidates.  Most states have the nominee chosen in a winner take all election, even if the leader gets less  than fifty per cent of the votes. Biden could win enough delegates with thirty or thirty five per cent of the votes. The question then will be if the far left of the party will get behind Biden. Bernie’s supporters did not get behind Hillary.  It well may work out the same  again. Biden running on the center without the support he needs from the left.

It is hot, humid and muggy here in Atlanta. And may be for the next two months. But fall is on the way and fall is beautiful here with crisp dry days and cool nights, and maybe a World Series this year. Something to look forward to.





Emory Class of 1964 A College Story

Emory Class of 1964 A College Story by Ernest Harben

Available on Amazon or Kindle

A story of Michael, a college freshman in 1960, and his classmates as they make their way through four years of college. Some have their childhood beliefs and plans come into conflict with reality.  Lyndon Johnson, and Martin Luther King, Jr. come to Atlanta for speeches.  The civil rights movement is taking shape in Atlanta. The Bay of Pigs, Cuban missile crisis, beginnings of War in Vietnam, President Kennedy’s election, term of office and assassination all take place in those four years. The class has to deal with all these events, as well as deciding on their careers and plans for their lives. They have adventures, changes and discoveries in their personal lives as well.  They find out life is not quite what they thought when they left home for college.





Ripples on the Etowah

Appalachian Tales Ripples on the  Etowah

By Ernest Harben

Available on Amazon and Kindle as paperback or eBook

The book is set in the early sixties, it is about Ben, in the days between his high school graduation and leaving for college in September.  It was time for him to say goodbye to one life and start another. And not just for him, the life around him was changing to something new, and affecting all those around him.  A lot can happen in just over three months in Southern Appalachia.  All of it affected by the history of his family and of the county located in the Blue Ridge mountains. Things change slowly there, until they change quickly, causing ripples, that spread in waves, until they disappear quietly.

Ernest Harben











Government Shutdown, 2019

As we all know, we are in another government shutdown. They have been occurring regularly since Regan was president. Not fully shutdown, of course. Excepted (formerly called essential) government employees are still working, with pay postponed. They are promised pay at some later date, just not now when they need it to buy gas to come to work, pay for lunch, parking, rent , car payments and a few other things that people need to go about their daily business. There are limits to how long employees can come to work with no money coming in.

After twenty eight years and ten shutdowns the laws should have been changed so that this does not happen.  The shutdowns can be prevented congrees passing an amendment to the Antideficiency Act. The amendment would provide that payments to federal employees would continue under an existing budget even after its expiration date until a new budget bill is in place.  Non -payment of federal employees is inexcusable and a failure of congress and our structure of government.

All the past shutdowns ended when congress passed a budget that the president was willing to sign. That is the obvious way that shutdowns end.  And that is how this shutdown will end. The question is when. And what will have to happen for that to occur. How bad do things have to get before congress and the president work together to end the shutdown?








George H. W. Bush

I was surprised to learn that President Bush died a few days ago. I should not have been but I was. The dealth of anyone is always a surprise even if the person is old and you have been expecting it. The dealth and finality of it is always a shock.

Bush was elected president in 1988. I voted for him. I also voted for him in 1992. I did that even though I was against the Gulf War. I thought he was a decent man.

History will judge Bush as it does all presidents and he will be ranked among the others. I don’t know ehere he will be ranked but believe he will be above average.  Historians will like his handling of the end of the cold war, and will like the way he handled the end of the Gulf War, ending it without going north into Bagdad. His goal was to remove Iraq from Kuwait and  when that was accomplished the war ended and the troops came home.

In my opinion, he should not have gone to war at all. There was no national security interest of the United States at risk. It has been reported that Bush saw Iraq as a threat to Saudia Arabia and thought that we had to protect them from Iraq. I don’t believe that would have happened. But other people thought differently and Bush listened to them.

Bush was a man of his time. He was a product of the era in which he grew up. He was rich and privileged and his life reflected that. He acted bravely and did what he believed was right. He dealt with issues that he was interested in. His was the world of business, power, rules, duty, country, and family. That was where he lived and those were the things he thought about and valued. He did what he thought he had to do to defend and protect those things that he valued.

The country has moved on since Bush’s day and time.  He was part of the greatest generation. One of the last.

The Pet Lion

I always liked pets. But dog pets. I had a Collie Shepherd that was too big for me when I was small. Then two beagle pups when I was ten. I loved playing with them as they grew up. I thought that was it with me for pets. I was definitely a dog man.

Then when I was a junior in college the president of the fraternity I belonged to wanted to try something for rush week which took place the first week of fall quarter. He suggested we buy a lion cub he had seen at a zoo near where he lived. At our first chapter meeting of the quarter we voted to buy it. The president was happy. Some of us were unsure. I believe the lion weighted about ten pounds and was about six weeks old when we got him. I am not sure about the weight and age but he was a small cub. We got him just before rush started. We thought it would be good for rush  and would attract attention and interest. During sessions with rushees a brother would carry him around or walk him on a leash around the living room. It worked. The rushees talked about us in the freshman dorms while considering the different fraternities. We recruited a good pledge class.

Then rush ended and we had a small lion on our hands. A fast growing small lion. We had to figure out what to do with him. We had never gotten permission from the school to buy him. Our president had gone to see the dean before rush and told him we were thinking about buying a lion. The dean was a gruff, taciturn man.

“ You are thinking about buying a what?” was the response.

”A lion.”

”I will think about it?” the dean replied.

While he was thinking we went ahead with the purchase.

One of our brothers volunteered to be in charge of caring for him. A few brothers agreed to help. During the fall afternoons the lion and the brother were to be found in our yard on the grass under some pine trees. The brother reading his assignments for the next day’ classes. The lion by his side on a leash tied to a long chain which was tied to one of the pine trees. It was a great way to spend fall afternoons. Fraternity men walking by with their dates would stop by to look at the lion. They were all curious and had lots of questions about where we got him, what he ate and where he slept. Both the lion and the brother liked the attention. It was a lot of fun.

Cliff, which was what we decided to name him, was very playful. He was like a little puppy.  He liked to lay on his back and have his stomach rubbed. This was when he was small.

The news of the cub spread. A local television station called. They wanted to use the lion in a commercial. I drove to the station one sunny afternoon with a car full of brothers, and Cliff and his keeper in the back seat. The window was down and Cliff rode with his head part way out the window. He apparently liked the view and the breeze against his face. By then he was nearing forty pounds. Cliff grew fast.

As he grew problems developed. He became too heavy and strong for one person to control. We stared to worry about what were going to do with him. He started stalking people as they walked across the yard. That happened  to me one afternoon. I was walking in front of the house and suddenly felt a strange, eerie feeling. I stopped walking and looked around. Cliff was on the front patio about forty feet away and securely tied by his chain. He was crouched down, staring at me and stalking. I was an experience I have not forgotten. The stalking was understandable. I was wearing a camel colored sweater. Just the color of something in the wild that lions would chase. And catch. It was unnerving. A few days latter he lunged at a coed who was admiring him too closely. The keeper was quick and pulled Cliff back with the leash and no harm was done. The next week some brothers took Cliff to some open space on campus to let Cliff get some exercise. A off duty campus security heard was there with his two young daughters. Cliff started chasing the girls. It took two brothers to hold him back and control him.

The next day the dean called. He said it was time to get rid of the lion. We started trying to figure out how to to that. You can’t take a lion to a animal shelter and leave him off like an unwanted dog.  A few days later a football player from a nearby college came by and wanted to buy him. We quickly agreed. The player had been drafted by Miami to play in the NFL. He kelp Cliff in his apartment in Miami until Cliff started chewing up his furniture. Then he gave him to a zoo. We never heard any more of Cliff. We hoped he had a happy life.  He made a good pet, for about two months.



Partly taken from Emory Class of 1964 A College Story by Ernest Harben