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How healthy is this world for other living creatures by Julie Peller Ph.D. —

Green Junction How healthy is this world for other living creatures, those living on land, in the seas? The extinction rate of species on earth may be over 1000 times greater than the natural or background extinction rate. Last year, a team of researchers reported the loss of nearly 3 billion birds since 1970 (30% […]

How healthy is this world for other living creatures by Julie Peller Ph.D. —

Voting Trends, Conservative, Liberal Choices

In the election the national vote was almost evenly divided as it has been for the last several elections. The last landslide was by Reagan in 1984. Since then the elections have been close. Trying to divide all votes between liberal and conservative is difficult because of the presence on the ticket of more than two parties. People vote for third parties for various reasons. Putting them in a liberal or conservative camp is not easy. Some libertarians think of themselves as on the liberal side and some think they are conservatives. I think of them generally as conservatives. Both liberals and conservatives make up about half of the population of the United States now, at least that is the conclusion to be reached by looking at the number of votes in the last few elections. Liberal votes were about seventy five million, and more than seventy million people voted on the conservative side of the ticket. More than that if you count the conservatives that voted for a third party candidate. That is a pretty substantial number of people. Too many to simply dismiss and discount. Better to look at those voters to try to determine why they voted the way they did. Liberals say conservatives are unintelligent and incapable of thinking in complicated abstraction terms, don’t understand the issues, and are backward and unthinking. That does’t sound right. There is no evidence to show that conservative voters are less intelligent than liberal voters. Brain scans show that brains of liberals and conservatives are different. They could be right, but why are the groups located in geographic areas, and why do some voters switch back and forth. More research needs to be done. One of the best ways to determine the voting trends of the country is to look at the makeup of the House of Representatives. The members of the house are elected based on districts of equal populations. Looking at the electoral college and the House districts indicates that the big divide is between rural and urban. The swing states have almost equal numbers of rural and urban voters. There are several reasons that people in rural areas vote for conservative candidates. First, rural voters are independent, self sufficient, and believe in liberty and freedom. They want government that favors business and the economy. Most are self employed or work for small businesses or family owned businesses, and they want as few regulations in business as they can get. They believe in capitalism, free enterprise and private property. They see a lot of corruption and waste in government and want that reduced. They favor a large military but do not want to see money and lives lost in interventions in foreign countries. Conservatives are concerned with work that keeps the economy going providing food and goods. Their responsibility is to provide for their families. That means supporting business and the economy Their most important issue is the economy. Urban voters want to see more government spending on welfare programs. They need more infrastructure and more government services. They want more funds for unemployment and welfare for low income families. Liberals are more interested in intervention in foreign countries. They favor more government controls, business regulation, and government support than rural voters want. As our demographics continue to change and our living conditions change it remains to be seen which direction the political views of a majority of our voters will take. If we continue to become more urban it appears our population may become more liberal. But predictions on the future are difficult to make.

Liberal, Conservative,and Other Political Terms

The meanings of terms is in constant change over time, and terms mean different things when used by different people. It is hard to have a meaningful discussion when the parties don’t agree on the definitions of the terms used without realizing it, and without some attempt to define and agree on the meaning of the terms used. The first part if a discussion should be to define the terms that are being used, but that does not always happen. The result is that the people in the discussion are talking past each other, with neither side really understanding what ideas the other side is attempting to express. The term liberal is an example.. The meaning of the term varies significantly when used by someone who identifies as a liberal and when used by someone who identifies as a conservative or a moderate. When I was growing up in the fifties, the term liberal was very clear. Liberals were people who were in favor of ending segregation. That was what the term meant in general use in everyday speech and everyday usw. In my class in United States history our instructor said liberals were in favor of big government. I knew that liberals were opposed to oppressive governments and wanted freedom. That meant less restrictive governments, not bigger governments. I also learned that liberal meant a willingness to move away from traditional and accepted norms of behavior, experiment, try new things, and not be bound by restrictions, prescribed forms of behavior and strict rules and regulations. That did not sound like big, restrictive government. Another current definition in use is that liberals believe that everyone is equal. In college I learned that people have different abilities, talents, tastes, values, energy levels and interests based on their DNA, and each person’s DNA is unique. That did not seem to fit with the belief in equality.. The term cobservative also has very dufferent meanings depending on who is using the term. The term meant someone someone who believes in liberty and freedom. Other people say conservatives believe in oppression. Then there us the term libertarian. It has numerous definitions depending on who is using the term. New terms emerge constantly to define some new theory or belief or combinations of theories and beliefs. Meanings of terms and labels change fast. Staying current is not easy. All terms of description are somewhat misleading and subject to misinterpretation. They should be used with care

Mental Illness Safety Nets

We have a rich economy and a high living standard. But everyone does not enjoy it. In the midst of wealth there are people in the United Stated who are homeless because of mental illness. Cold weather has started and the homeless really suffer. There have been a few deaths from cold reported last week and it is only early December. The homeless sleep on the streets, under bridges, in doorways, any other place that may offer some shelter. Many mentally ill now make up our prison populations. It does not have to be like this. Mentally ill people have brain orders that prevent them from being able to hold jobs, organize their life and maintain a place to live. There was a time in the past when people with mental illness were housed in large state institutions. Those were closed beginning fifty or so years ago. The idea was to treat the mentally ill on the local level instead of in a central location. The local level treatment plans were never implemented. Most of the people who lived in the large institutions were left without help or a place to go for treatment. More mentally ill people are housed in prisons than anywhere else. Prisons have become our institutions for housing our mentally ill. It is more accurate to use the term brain disorders or brain disease than mental illness because the problem is a disorder or disease of the brain, but no matter what term is used to describe them, the people should not sleep or spend nights without shelter. We need to find a way to house people. Local or state governments should get more involved owning and operating shelters. The federal government programs for providing low cost housing needs support and more funding. Charitable snd private organizations should be encouraged and supported. Homelessness should not be a way of life for mentally ill in the United States. We should have safety nets. If we decide that prisons should continue to be places for our homeless than they should be designed and to provide proper care for these individuals. With winter approaching, the homeless from mental illness need help.

How the Electoral College Works

We just had an election and call it a presidential election. That is not true. What we just had was an election to chose the electors. In December the electors meet in each state capital and cast their votes for president.. They have sworn to vote for certain candidates if they were elected, but that is only an oath. In a few states it is a crime to vote for someone other then the person they swore to vote for, but the penalties are not severe, a small fine which they can easily afford to pay. Electors in some states can be replaced if they try to vote for someone other then the candidate they pledged to vote for.. Depending on state law, a new group of electors can be selected by the state legislature and they can vote for someone other than the candidate who received the most votes, or received any votes at all. Under the constitution it is all up to the state legislature. The votes totals are then sealed in envelopes and sent to congress. In early January congress will meet in joint session, open the envelopes and count the votes. One year three states sent in two sets of ballots. Congress appointed a committee to decide which ballots to count. After some deliberation and deal making one candidate withdrew and the other was elected. That was in 1876. Congress had time to deliberate because the inauguration was not until March. Now the inauguration is in January and there is not time for deliberation if the electoral ballots are in question or if there is litigation taking place. There is also very little time for transition if the president is not chosen until January. Officially, the president elect is not decided until congress opens the electoral ballots, counts and certifies the votes and declared the winner.

What we have in effect is a three part process with three elections. The first, in November is a non-binding public vote to show the voters preference and to elect the electors. The second is in December when the electors cast their ballots. The third is in January when the congress counts and certifies electoral ballots after determing they are valid. If no candidate gets a majority of electorale ballots then the House of Representatives choses between the three people getting the most votes, with each state getting one vote. The procedure of congress counting the ballots takes place about a week before the inauguration. If there is a conflict, a surprise or a dispute that does not allow much time for a transition. It is time to amend the constitution to creat a procedure that is more direct and efficient. And one that is easier to understand. No other country has a procedure so complicated and protracted.

Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity Plea

When a defendant uses the insanity defense the jury decides whether or not the evidence established that the defendant was insane at the time he committed the act. The problem with the defense is that there is no way to define insanity and to determine the state of mind of the defendant at a particular time. There will be testimony by experts for both sides. The first argument for abolishment of the defense is that statements of experts is not reliable. A better argument is that if a person commits a crime, that is evidence that the person should be removed from society, for the protection of others for a period of time. If the defendant has murdered someone that fact itself shows that the person should be removed from society. Too much is unknown about sanity and insanity and human behavior to do otherwise. Under present rules, if at anytime after the trial, which includes immediately after trial, it is determined that the defendant is sane then he is free to return to society. Considering the disagreement among experts in the field as to what constitutes insanity, it would be better to hold the person for a minimum period of time to make that determination. The better system would be for the jury to first decide whether or not the defendant committed the act he is accused of committing. If they decide he did, they should return a guilty verdict. The jury then should decide what the sentence should be. Once a sentence is pronounced, the defendant should be turned over to the prison system to serve out the sentence. The prison system should decide where the defendant should held and how he is treated. Among the things to consider is whether the person needs medical treatment, psychiatric treatment, counseling, education or job training. The goal should be to get the person ready to return to society safely after the sentence is completed.

Forces that Hold the United States Together

There is a real question as to whether or not the United States is in a civil war or if a breaking apart has already started. There is a valid argument that both are true and are already occurring. For a country to stay together and at peace, the people have to have a common ground or bond and want to stay together. That means having similar cultures, values and ideas about the nature of both the society and government. They have to agree on how they want to live and how they treat each other, both by personal interaction and by governmental function. They have to agree on basic rules of conduct. A common language helps hold the county together. There can be dissent by groups and some dissatisfaction, there always is and will be dissent and dissatisfaction. The problem occurs when dissatisfaction reaches an unsustainable level and substantial groups lose their loyalty to the existing concept of the country. We have always some internal conflicts. These conflicts have different causes. Most often the cause is driven by inequality between groups, ethnic, regional, or class dividions. We are reaching inequalities that may not be sustainable. We also have divisions by values. We are divided geographically by different ethnic groups and regional differences. A federal system such as we gave is designed to reduce those tensions. Each state had freedom to differ within limits from the other states in the federation. We are now seeing those limits strained. Breakup will occur if the differences become greater than the limits will allow. We are beginning to see stresses increase and cracks begin to appear. The country will stay together and at peace as long as it can find a way to reduce these stresses, and as long as the bonds that hold the people of the United States remain stronger than the differences that pull it apart.

Life in 1700’s

I enjoy doing research in genealogy and reading the stories about the lives my ancestors. There is one ancestor who I find interesting. He was born on 1729 in Delaware. His name was Isaac. He married young and he and his first wife had eight children before she died young. He then married Elizabeth, a young woman and they had my ancestor, a girl named Sarah, and six other children . Elizabeth died from childbirth. Sarah was two years old. Isaac was a farmer and a preacher, and now a forty one year old single dad with fifteen children who needed a wife. A young couple in the county had both died in 1767 leaving eight children. They had been born and married in Germany and had moved to Delaware to find a better life. One of their children was a girl named Mary who was twelve when her parents died. She married my grandfather Isaac when she was seventeen and he was forty two. They had twelve children. The family moved to North Carolina and then to South Carolina, with Isaac buying and selling farms. As he aged dementia set in and the church in South Carolina fired him. He died at age 75. In his will he left his farm and his other property to Mary and her children. The will was contested by a lawsuit. After the lawsuit was settled, the farm sold and my great grandmother Sarah received $25 as her share of the estate. Mary lived to be 89 years old. She did not marry again.

That to me is an informative and enlightening story about how people used to live and survive. What led Mary to marry someone so much older with fifteen children. Her parents were not wealthy and died in their mid thirties leaving eight children. Her choices may have been limited. What was Isaac driven by to have three wives and twenty five children, preaching and buying and selling farms. It is hard for me to contemplate what they thought and how they lived. I don’t think that family story was unusual at that time. Back then life was hard, childbirth was dangerous and early death from disease a part of ordinary life.

How Would a Direct Popular Vote for the President Work

For almost four years we gave been hearing calls for a direct popular vote to elect the president, but we have heard very little on how that would work. Before we start making changes we should look at the mechanics of a direct vote.

The simplest way to have a direct vote would be to hold a non partisan election with the winner being the candidate getting the most votes. That is called a first past the post election. Seems simple enough. The problem I see with that is in a large field if candidates, the winner may win with only twenty or thirty per cent of the vote. I don’t see this as very fair or democratic. A winner by a small plurality does not represent the will of the people or the voice of the people, but would only represent the voice of a small minority of the people.

An improvement over that would be to have a run off between two candidates who got the most votes, with no write in votes counted. If write in votes were allowed, the winner would likely still have only a minority of the votes – still no choice if the majority of the people. The winner of a run off with no write in votes allowed would have a majority of the votes counted, but would only be the choice of a minority if the people choosing between two candidates representing a minority of the people.

I like having a popular vote with a run off between the top two. That us the system we use in Georgia to elect the governor, with the provision that if neither candidate neither candidate gets a majority in the run off because of write in votes, the election goes to the legislature to vote between the top two candidates. In a presidential election in case no candidate gets a majority in s run off, , I believe the House if Representatives should choose between the two candidates getting the most votes.

Replace Cars by Lifestyle Changes

We hear about climate change and the need to stop using petroleum to fuel our cars. The word is that we must change to electric battery operated vehicles. The prediction is that in the future we will all be driving electric. I have to disagree. The solution will have to be to abandon the use of vehicles for commute and travel as we know it today. A major change in the way we live and think about living will occur, either by choice or it will be forced on us by conditions themselves. The amount of energy needed to continue our present way of life is not sustainable. That is true whether we continue to use gas and coal or switch to electricity. The electricity has to be produced through the use of energy and transported and stored until it is used. Unsustainable by any method. It is time to move toward thinking about living without our present transportation system to a new way of life. We are already seeing movement in that direction. That movement should be encouraged and our imagination, problem solving skills, engineering ability, and intelligence pointed in that direction. In the end, we don’t have any choice.