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Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds



Textbooks and Teamwork


Last week members of the Fayette County School Board - Wendell Wainwright, Sally Spencer, Tom Fleps, and interim Director Dr. Connie Smith - came to the West Fayette Republican Club meeting to share updates on progress made in the county schools.  It was a good meeting, and the club members got rarely seen insights regarding progress made in our schools.  It was good news that referred to several ratings that now put the Fayette County Schools in upper ranks of public schools in several national - not just state - categories.


After these issues were addressed, the discussion turned to the things that are actually being presented to the students in the textbooks.  Members of the club who have studied many of the texts, primarily in the subjects of history and government, shared troubling issues with texts that publishers have promoted to Tennessee, and the state Department of Education has adopted.  The hard work that has brought the successes described has diverted attention from some of the subject material resources.


Club members were in general agreement with the perception that much of the turmoil in America today stems from horrid misrepresentation of our history, the essentials of economics, and the actual nature of our Constitution. 


The texts deliver low-key twists to the lessons, consistently persuading the students that America is not such a great place. For example, the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt text “The Americans,” that tells students, in the lesson on how our revolution began, that ““Minutemen ... quietly stockpiled firearms and gunpowder...”  and that the British sent their troops from Boston to Concord, Massachusetts, “to seize illegal arms,” which is when colonists attacked the troops, beginning our revolution. 


The possession of arms for the citizen militia was openly required as a policy that protected the communities throughout the colonies from perils such as the recently concluded French and Indian War.  Thus, the arms were clearly neither “quietly stockpiled” nor “illegal.”  This anti-gun misinformation is clearly chosen as one of many ploys to persuade young students that gun control was the historic norm, and that American colonists were simply lawbreakers.


Another Houghton text, “American Government and Politics Today,” tells the kids that the national debt is no problem because “As long as the U.S. government can borrow money ... to make the interest payments, there is no need to pay off the entire debt.”  The Prentice Hall text “World History” has an illustration showing “Muslim scholars studying with the Greek philosopher Aristotle.”  But - Aristotle had lived 800+ years before Muhammed was born.  Why would this contrived association be put before our students?


Other errors are simply negligent or uninformed mistakes by the publishers and writers.  For instance, in the McGraw Hill “World History and Geography” offered to Tennessee in 2018, one lesson teaches that the great rivers of China flow from east to west.  But, if they are going in that direction, they are flowing uphill from the Pacific Ocean.  The same text mentions Sir Isaac Newton, the British scientist, mentioning his “three laws of motion.  The most important is the law of gravitation.”  But - Newton’s laws of motion describe inertia, force, and reaction.  The law of gravitation is a separate concept.


The resources used in our schools are also, increasingly, not the actual textbooks, but “on line” offerings.  That is an even greater concern, as such errors cannot be easily discovered by parents and others in the community.  The club members and the School Board guests shared these concerns.  We are looking forward to opportunities to work as a team to fix such resource problems as our school officials continue their work to provide a better education.

Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds


The DC State


There is a move on to grant statehood to the District of Columbia, “Washington, D.C.”  This effort exposes two really big problems with today’s political environment.


The first of these problems is that people who make choices in their affairs demand sympathy and changes to the rules when they don’t like the consequences of their decisions.  We seem to be obligated to listen, sympathize, and change our rules, regardless that they had every opportunity to know before they made the decisions, what would result.


The other big problem is education.  Schools do not teach what is in our Constitution, and the reasons for those contents.  The Constitution is simply not understood by most of the people teaching the subject.  How can we expect, generations into this failure of our education system, things to work?  The things we complain about in how we are governed do not lie within the Constitution; they arise from ignorant and defiant violations of the provisions of the Constitution itself.


So - what is wrong with making the District of Columbia a state?  Why not give the people who chose to reside in that District representation in Congress, like the people who live in all the real states?


The simple and direct answer is that the founders recognized that the seat of government of the new nation had to be independent of all the states.  In order to achieve this freedom from political pressure that would result from residing in any state, The Constitution was made with Article I, §8, Clause 17, which gives Congress the power

“To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States...”


Each state has sovereignty - total control - over every governing power that was not transferred to the federal government when the Constitution was adopted.  They make all the local laws regarding zoning, criminal justice, noise levels, parking, etc., within their borders.  That is their job - and it forces them to have varying political interests.  The federal government does not have this power within any state, and it should not, leaving each actual state to govern its own affairs. 


The federal government has these local-focus powers only within the District of Columbia.  This insulates the district from suffering under rules a state might make that would impede or influence the governing of the nation.  We don’t want the nation’s seat of government to have to answer to the powers of one state,  simply because that state is the federal government’s landlord.  “Exclusive legislation” in the district comes from Congress, not a state.  Would it be smart to change that, where a representative from Tennessee would be subject to rules made by a state that resents Tennessee’s politics, while he or she was representing Tennessee within the borders of that host state?  Imagine the proposed state of D.C. making and enforcing rules regarding parking and fines, around Congress or the White House?


The representatives we send to Washington from our state, and those from all the other states, need to have a refuge from the pressures that would be imposed, bluntly or sneakily, if they had to do their governing within another state.


Every person who chooses to make their permanent residence there knows, or should, that they waived the right to have a Congressman when they made that choice.  Whining about this result is not justification to restructure our whole nation in that one, critical, way.

Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds



Thoughts About China


Hong Kong is daily in the news.  The people are rebelling against the growing insistence by Communist China that Hong Kong must submit to communist control.   We need to learn more about China, because of its growing demands of submission over ever widening territories.


China is an ancient civilization, of course.  Their beautifully detailed arts, inventions like gunpowder, noodles, and porcelain have enriched world culture.  It began when the Silk Road crossed the Himalayas centuries ago.  Marco Polo expanded Europe’s view and interest in China in the 1200’s.  The Silk Road connected China and Europe, until the Muslim Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople in 1453.  The end of that trade is why Columbus sailed - to find a route to China.  Genghis Khan, the Hun invasions, and epidemics, like the Black Plague in the 1300’s, the Influenza repeatedly since 1743, and other interesting things have originated in China. 


The era of European colonialism began in the 1500’s, and Holland established a colony in Macau.  About 300 years later, British merchants gained use of land across the bay, which we now know as Hong Kong.  Increasing their presence, the British colony blossomed, and, with civil conflict on the mainland, Chinese found Hong Kong, with stable and prosperous British governing policies, a safe haven.  Hong Kong was a model of British colonial governance, and became one of the most prosperous places in history.  At the edge of the South China Sea, Hong Kong has a little over half as much land area as Fayette County - and 7 million inhabitants. 


China wraps around Hong Kong like a cat that has cornered a mouse.  The British “lease” of Hong Kong ended in 1997, and the Brits conceded sovereignty to China, on the condition that the Communist government would protect the benefits that the people had enjoyed under British protection.


Communist China, however, stems from a completely different set of values.  My Grandfather was sent to China by the YMCA in 1917, to set up a YMCA in Changsha.  As a result, my father was born there in 1921.  The rebellions that began to drive out foreigners in the 1920’s forced them to find refuge in Shanghai, where my aunt was born.  A night march evacuating the family was among my father’s earliest memories.   In the 1930’s, Japan began their conquest of Asia, and China suffered epic slaughters.  American volunteers helped resist the invasion, making history as the “Flying Tigers.”


Shanghai fell early on - but my family had already moved to Poland.  I once had a boss, Roy Webb, whose family didn’t make it out of Shanghai, and spent the war as captives.  Roy told me of his childhood memories, watching American planes raiding a Japanese installation within sight of his compound.


After the war, in 1947, my grandfather flew across the Pacific to assess the opportunities for reviving the YMCA.  I have his report, but it came to nothing, as Mao Tse-Tung’s conquest in 1949 established the communist regime that killed millions of Chinese, while Hong Kong prospered under British governance.  One of my best friends in Junior High school, George Huang, was among the Chinese who escaped the communists, and found refuge and opportunity in America.  In metal shop he showed me how to forge a large nail into a throwing knife.


In the 1970’s, Nixon worked to reopen diplomacy and commerce with China.  Their government has used it like a siphon, sucking our industries and money, stealing patent rights, and spying to gain our technology (I was at part of a trial of one spy, and it was ominously fascinating.)  They are suppressing and intimidating Tibet, India, and other neighbors on their west, and, to their east, taking islands in seas that belong to the Philippines.  You can see the construction of one island military site on Google maps.


The sucking sound of their siphon can be heard in every Wal-Mart, which once promoted their support of American products - but now seems to be China’s own “factory outlet.”


And now, with Trump harried from behind, America’s credibility is too weak to help the people of Hong Kong resist the force of oppression that China’s communist regime feels ready to complete.

Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds



Lists and Adjectives


America is in turmoil, and we don’t even demand using our language properly and precisely to find our way to unity.  Most of today’s discourse, I believe, is intended to create excitable misunderstanding.  Today’s failure to teach English usage has become a tool in “transforming” our society. 


Here’s one English lesson that I have not seen stressed.  It built the most critical element of our Constitution, the part that protects each person’s liberty.  It limits the power of our federal government. 


Tyranny is built on allowing unlimited power to your government.  The tyrant can make and enforce whatever laws he deems useful.  In a democracy, it allows the majority to make a law to control anything they are excited about.


How can we prevent unlimited power?  Our Constitution does it by simply listing the powers that the government is allowed to use.  Really.  A list - the most powerful tool for limiting anything you want to deal with.  In the Constitution the list is known as “enumerated powers.”  Article I, § 8, lists the things Congress can make laws about.  The list specifies a power to impose certain taxes, a power to coin money, a power to regulate commerce (but only when it crosses state or national borders), a power to arrange for our defense, and a few others.  Congress can make laws for these things. 


Before that list, there was no power allowed to them at all.  And here is the value of a list:  Once you make a list, everything you leave off the list is excluded from whatever the list is supposed to do.  I like to call it “The Toy Box” rule.  If you have a box full of toys.  You tell little Johnny: “You can play with the Tigger doll, the Legos, and the wind-up race car.”  Now he can take those toys out of the box and play with them.  But the list did not mention the beach ball, the darts and dart board, or the bugle.  Because they are not on the list, Johnny is denied permission to use them.


And, without a listed power to do something - say, make laws criminalizing murder or theft - the Constitution does not authorize Congress to make laws controlling those problem areas.  That is why each state has its own laws regarding murder and theft.  (We could spend years discussing how Congress has exceeded their listed powers, but not now.)


There is another way to use English, using the “Toy Box” rule, to distort the usual meaning of a word.  That is by using an adjective to modify a noun.  This is one of the most insidious tools filling the rhetoric of today’s politics.  The adjective creates a one-item list; and limits the noun to conform to that item’s meaning.


Are you motivated to support efforts to stem “gun crime?”  Why not “knife crime,” or “blunt force” crime?  Because, if you are going to use “gun” as an adjective, and use it to limit the crime you are working against, you have made “gun” into a one-item list.  It creates a class of “crime,” and limits your attention to that class - guns.  Maybe you actually are interested in solving all sorts of crimes.  But, when you use the word “gun” to modify “crime,” whether you like it or not, you have shifted the focus away from “crime,” and aimed it, like a laser, on “guns.”  Which, of course, is the real intent of the wording we have been pounded with for several decades.  Lots of focus on guns, which are just a tool, and less on actual causes of crime.  How about “social justice?”  This diverts the focus away from real, impartial justice, and divides justice into different classes, with different rules, for judging what constitutes “justice” for the each social class.  No longer can we just judge actions and consequences; no, we have to make rules that treat members of each class differently.  It is no longer “justice,” it is social engineering.


Then, we get into “Black Lives Matter.”  That, too, is a one-item list:  Black Lives.  Regardless of how proponents hedge or what they assert when challenged, they made the list, and the way English works, their only focus is on the words that limit what matters.

Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds



Was the Declaration of Independence “Legal?”


Perhaps today’s riots raise the necessity to review that question, because they are clearly aimed at removing how we are governed.  In 2011 the “Temple American Inn of Court” hosted a debate between British barristers and American lawyers in Philadelphia to test the arguments on either side.


The Brit’s, of course, argued that our forebears broke the law.  They denied that rebellion - or secession - is the proper way to settle internal disputes.  To make their point, they proposed, for an example, that Texas might choose to secede.  They argued that Lincoln proved, by victory over the South, that secession was illegal.


For most of human history, that argument worked - the law was any set of rules that a ruler deemed useful to maintain his power - if he was able to maintain it by force.  If there was a dispute severe enough to spawn an armed conflict, the winner was the “legal” governing authority.  When King William’s Normans (from France) defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, he subdued England, and imposed the laws that have evolved in England ever since.  That conquest - and all the others in history - replaced what had been “legal” with a new set of laws.


That foundation for law didn’t really change in England as the centuries rolled on.  But a new twist began after King James II was thrown out of office in 1688.  The monarchy had been losing power to Parliament for that 600 years, and James goofed by taking too much back - raising a “standing army,” imposing taxes, and such, on his own authority. 


So, Parliament, when choosing William & Mary to fill the empty throne, made a new law.  It is known as the British “Bill of Rights.”  It limited the royal power, and solidified new rules, such as the right of citizens to bear arms (except for Catholics) and for certain classes to vote.  The “common law,” (the previous rulings of courts), became the rightful law of the land, and was increasingly stabilized by precedent. 


This was the basis of law that England’s colonists trusted to protect their rights.  Then the writings of John Locke, Algernon Sidney, and others began to convince many - particularly the colonists who’d built their communities without much governing from London - that their rights did not come from government at all, but from “their Creator.”  They concluded rights stem from “Natural Law,” superior to any law invented by men.


When Parliament began to impose new laws and taxes on the colonies, sending troops to enforce them, colonists sensed that their natural rights, which should be protected, were being violated by the law-protectors themselves.  They believed that “legal” meant governing was rightful only with the “consent of the governed.”  They hadn’t consented to the new rules.  So, convinced “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government …” they seceded by declaring independence.  It could have been peaceful, if Parliament hadn’t had a hissy fit over it.  But, like Lincoln, they chose to use force to stop it.  Given the rough nature of history, I think we were lucky in both cases.  But, it was force that finally determined what was “legal.”


Our Constitution came out of that, and we can only hope it will prevail today.  As Hamilton defined the question: “that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”  That question has risen, once again, on our own streets.


Will “legal” return to whoever wins by force, or by relying on “reflection and choice” under the Constitution?

Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds

June 20, 2020


Federalism - An Obituary?


Yesterday the headlines began with announcements like the following, from Fox News: “Pressure Mounts on Lawmakers to Pass Police Reform.”  The controversies over police conduct are obvious - some cops do bad things, and these are broadcast relentlessly whenever the media can construct political pressure to support their objectives, which are almost invariably leftist.  But, just like your trip to the grocery, the good things that dominate police activity do not make the news.  If the reports were balanced, a few Americans would be waiting for the George Floyd killing to be fairly adjudicated, and maybe a byline would eventually be seen noting the verdict.


But, offering their worshipful oblation of obedience to the media, our politicians are scrambling to “do something.”  They argue the false question of which party’s plan should win, so they can take credit - in the media. 


The real problem is that they are ignoring the more fundamental question:  Do the members of Congress have any Constitutional power to regulate the local police forces of the states?  The answer is actually simple:  They don’t.


Once again, we have to remember the so-easily-forgotten fundamental nature of our Constitution.  It created a federal government limited to “enumerated powers.”  The only affairs Congress is authorized to address are found in Article I, §8.  Regulating local police forces is not there, nor is any other provision that can be reasonably twisted to evade that lack of authority.  When a power is not listed, the federal government is not permitted to tinker with it. Without this separation of powers, we would be governed by an all-powerful central government, and not a federation of states.  In our federation, the plan is for each state to have its separate powers and unique governing choices.  The people who were deciding whether to adopt the original Constitution worried that it was not sufficiently clear on this critical issue, and so they added the 10th Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution ... are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”


In order to persuade the people to accept the Constitution, James Madison stressed in Federalist #45 that: “The powers delegated ... to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce .... The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people ... of the State.” 


That is why the states define and enforce the daily problems of crime, property rights, education, and so on, and the federal government does not. 


But the federal government has a long history of “doing something” when crises arise.  So, the plan to limit power by dividing it, the plan that has protected our liberty, has been eaten away, almost to the death of the original plan.


How do we recognize when another improper power grab is made?  One way is to look at how Congress intrudes while avoiding the Supreme Court having to tell them “Stop!”  Instead of taking over local policing, for instance, the law will withhold federal funds from states or cities that refuse to do what they are told.  Whether it is for education, such as “Common Core” or “Race To The Top,” which awarded funding for educational choices; or for the soon-to-come “Police Reform” bill, the federal monster doesn’t command obedience directly.  Instead, they define ways their funds and grants can be used.


And the states cannot resist grabbing some by adopting the conditions.  It is wrong.  But the mouse never questions why the cheese is free...

Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds


From Shay to Today


This week’s news shines the light of attention former Secretary of Defense James Mattis.  He condemns President Trump for announcing that it may be necessary to activate military forces to suppress the riots (deflated to “protests” by the media) that are being coordinated across the country, destroying property and stimulating civil violence.  Mattis says that he swore to support the Constitution (as all government employees are required to do) and that what Trump is doing violates that.


Really?  Maybe Mattis needs to review the Constitution he swore to uphold. 


First of all, why did we need to dump the Articles of Confederation that had been our original governing plan?  One shattering failure under that plan was “Shay’s Rebellion.”  Veterans of the Revolution, during the postwar recession were not getting their pensions as they had been promised, were going broke and threatened with imprisonment for bankruptcy.  Led by Daniel Shay, they rose up in Massachusetts in 1786, shutting down courts and threatening the state government.


The governor issued a proclamation condemning the disorders - but did nothing forceful.  The disorders spread.  The Confederation government had no authority to call up troops to help Massachusetts.  The state finally outmaneuvered the rioters and shut down the rebellion, but it was a close call. 


The next year, 1787, the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia.  The records of that convention reveal the discussions regarding what powers and duties must be given to the new government.  One, in the July 18th session, was resolution number 16: ”That a republican constitution and its existing laws ought to be guaranteed to each state by the united states.”


This topic did not raise much dispute.  Delegate Wilson (Pennsylvania) pointed out that the object of this Resolution was ”merely to secure the states against dangerous commotions, insurrections and rebellions.” Randolph and Mason, from Virginia agreed.  Ghorum, of Massachusetts, had more to say: If “a rebellion should be known to exist … and the general government should be restrained from interposing to subdue it … an enterprising citizen might erect the standard of monarchy in a particular state, might extend his views from state to state, and threaten to establish a tyranny over the whole and the general government be compelled to remain an inactive witness of its own destruction. With regard to different parties in a state; as long as they confine their disputes to words they will be harmless to the general government and to each other. If they appeal to the sword it will then be necessary for the general government, however difficult it may be to decide on the merits of their contest, to interpose and put an end to it.”


At the end of the discussion, it was agreed to unanimously, and the final edit became Article 4, §4 of our Constitution.  The Insurrection Act of 1807 made it a law that could be enforced, and, used many times through our history, it authorizes Trump to use troops to suppress civil violence that is not quelled by state authorities.


We all need to be wary of any tendency to use military troops - or militarized local police forces - to enforce the laws within any state.  The laws that we rely on in our states - murder, robbery, marriage, property rights, and such - are local issues.  We need to keep those close to us, and State and local legislation and policing are designed for this.


But, when widespread riots begin to destroy property, injure people, and disrupt social order, when they are coordinated in multiple states, when the state governments fail to promptly quash them; that is the mark of insurrection.  It is no longer a mere crime.  It is what the Insurrection Act, and Article 4, §4 of the Constitution are designed to address. 

Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds


The Mask


The masking of America has become the trademark of our new submission to “experts” and their partially sincere effort to keep us “safe.” 


But the masking has taken on a character of superstitious idolatry rather than understanding of the simple technology that is supposed to filter harmful things from the air that we breathe.  Indulge me as I attempt to sort out some elements of the technology versus the fad.


The masks I have seen most frequently fall into three design classes:  The simplest is the pressed-form white mask with a single elastic band that goes around the back of your head.  (I’ll call this design 1.)  Next up is a pair of designs that uses two elastic bands, one on each side, that goes around each ear.  One style uses a pressed-form, usually white, mask body (design 2a); the other is made up of a rectangle of folded fabric that partially unfolds when yo wear it, to fit over your mouth and nose. (2b)  The third is the “N95” style, which uses an upper and a lower elastic band each of which goes around your head. (design 3/ N95)


Mask design 1 only provides some protection for relatively coarse dust and debris filtering through the formed-paper-filter when you inhale.  It is great if you are mowing the yard, and not wearing glasses.  When you inhale, the suction pulls the mask to your face, and that partially keeps stuff from coming in around the edges.  That’s good.  But when you exhale, the single band doesn’t hold the edges of the mask to your face, and much - perhaps most - of what you exhale goes out around the edges.  And your glasses fog up.  It is useless if you intend to keep any germs you exhale from wafting into an area where you want to avoid infecting others.


Design 2 gives a slightly better upper- and lower-edge tension distribution, but your ears are not as secure a mounting, so this kind of mask is pretty much no better than design 1.  2b is particularly questionable.  The folds that allow your face to cup the mask outward are fabric, and I don’t know of any woven fabric that filters fine biological stuff like the microscopic virus that we are supposedly fighting.  This is the kind that I most frequently see worn so that the nose is completely uncovered, with the nostrils resting above the upper edge of the masking material.  This is more comfortable, of course, because the way the mask takes its cup shape is by pressing on your face, and that’s uncomfortable when your nose won’t lie flat for it.  But exposing your nostrils makes the mask entirely useless.  (I guess, if your question is 2b or not 2b, my advice is “not.”)


Finally, the N95 design filter is made of a multi-layered material that is has a self-supporting cup shape that actually keeps from pressing on your face, except around the edges, which avoids the problem with the other styles.  It has better filtering material, and traps tiny stuff, including much potentially infectious matter.  This design also uses inserts to close the valley between your nose and cheek, so, when you exhale, the air is forced through the mask material rather than around it. Your glasses shouldn’t fog up.  So, the N95 actually does offer some protection for others in case you are a source of infection.


Which brings up the other problem with any mask.  When you exhale without a mask, your CO2 and other gases disperse freely into the air.  When you wear a mask, a bunch of this stuff remains within the mask, and you breathe it back in before the freshly filtered air gets to your lungs.  That is not good.  The N95 mask is the design that traps the most.  There is even a warning on the N95s that you don’t see on the other designs: “Read and follow all instructions.  Misuse can result in serious personal injury or death…”


A mask is not a magical charm that will protect you like a rabbit’s foot.  If you use one, think about what your purpose is, and choose accordingly.   I choose to wear my masks when I think they will actually serve a purpose.  Mostly, that is when I am in my shop, not when I am out and about.

Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds



“Science, Not Politics” - Really?


Rick Bright is today’s media favorite.  He is being portrayed as a “whistleblower,” because he opposed budgetary choices imposed on his agency, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. (BARDA)   BARDA is an important part of the search for a vaccine to save us from the “covid19” epidemic.  Bright was head of BARDA.  He claims that his removal “was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit.” 


The House of Representatives, noting Bright’s opposition to Trump, quickly scheduled a hearing to give him a platform for his criticism.  Central to what I heard him say in the televised presentation was that: “science – not politics or cronyism – has to lead the way.” 


“Science” is a word that is uttered these days as if it had magical powers; that it is a body of proven facts that cannot be argued.


But, science is not a result, it is a process.  The “Scientific Method” has proven its usefulness by giving us the world we live in - airplanes, cars, electricity, chemistry, - and medicine.


The “Scientific Method” is expressed in a variety of ways, and the variables can become complex, but it is essentially quite simple.  The method begins by asking a question about something - how it works, why it is there, how to solve a problem, and so on.  That initiates the observation step - look at what is happening, what others may have observed, in order to identify the interaction of things that seem related to the question.  Then you form a guess as to how these things interact to cause a result - this is the “hypothesis.”  Then the hypothesis has to be tested.  Once the test is designed and executed, the result is compared to the result that was expected.  If these agree, then the hypothesis can be used as a working theory.  There are usually degrees of agreement and failure, and the next step is to adjust the original hypothesis, or devise a different one, based on your guess as to what caused the variations between what was expected and what actually happened.


This process never really ends.  By 1742, using hand-made telescopes and mechanical clocks, Europeans calculated the speed of light by timing the orbits of Jupiter’s moons.  They came up with 180,000 miles per second.  Beginning in 1887, physicists Michelson and Morely experimented with artificial light and spinning mirrors between distant mountains in California, refining that to 186,000 MPS. 


But, that is not the hypothesis they were initially trying to test.  They were looking for proof that the universe is filled with an invisible “aether,” that affects the speed of light going in different directions. 


Science - the process - is really productive that way.  What you discover is often not what you were looking for and is something you never would have expected.  About the same time as the later Michelson-Morley experiments, Alexander Fleming, a biologist in England, had been sorting out bacteria to learn about the diseases they were causing.  He noticed that one petri dish had accidently been contaminated with a mold growth.  Then, he noticed that the bacteria around the mold had vanished.  And this was the beginning of the invention of penicillin, that has saved millions of lives.


Bright testified that he had been fired because “Specifically, and contrary to misguided directives, I limited the broad use of chloroquine … which clearly lack scientific merit.”  


If he was refusing to test the hypothesis offered by the chloroquine advocates, how can he argue that his decision was “scientific?”  He chose based on his political need to steer the vaccine development funds away from people who disagreed with him.

Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds



Postal Voting


Do you appreciate your right to vote for those who will represent you when our governments - local, state and federal - make and execute the laws? 


Despite hearing of “democracy” all the time, that is not what we really have.  America’s founders, better educated than we regarding history, saw the danger:  As James Madison pointed out, in Federalist #10, “democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”  He explained that the Constitution invented a republic, “a government in which the scheme of representation takes place …  it varies from pure democracy … [by refining and enlarging] the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country…”


Your vote is the power you have - and the duty - to study and select the “citizens” with the “wisdom” to temper passions and choose the best path to preserve your liberties first, and avoid the hazards of emotions that lead to hasty, inadequately considered, actions.  From our beginning, voting has been designed to enable us to choose without undue pressure, and to assure us that what we have chosen is fairly counted.   We must rely on those who manage our voting system to do it right.


That is why the voting booth has so many precautions - advocates who wave signs and call out to support their candidate are kept 100 feet away from the polling place.  No signs are inside to pressure you when you vote.  You must bring your I.D., which is compared with the voter rolls, to insure that the person voting really is you, that you do live in the district where you are voting, and that you are actually alive.  Then you get to be alone, and  have a shroud around you, as you vote.  Poll workers to keep others away from you so your vote can be free of prying eyes.  Your ballot - electronic or real - is immediately secured and kept from anyone but those who run the counting process.  No system is perfect - but these things are designed to protect you from those who want to make you vote their way instead of your own.


There is, however, another way to beat your vote - fraudulent voting.  Some jurisdictions keep voters on their rolls long after they have moved - or died.  There are federal laws that require updating such negligence, but, as of January this year, Judicial Watch, has identified this abuse in California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Colorado and Virginia, where there are 2.5 million more voters registered than there are people of voting age.  For example, San Diego has 117 registered voters for every 100 actual citizens of voting age.  There is also the practice of “granny farming”; where activists collect old folks in assisted living centers, get them to the polls, and “help” them with the voting machines.


How could it get worse?  “Mail-in voting.”  Imagine a system that sends a ballot to every “registered” voter, and counts it, when returned, as a legitimate vote.  Where is the privacy, the freedom from pressure in making your decision, the security between filling out your ballot and having it counted - after passing through the postal system with an obvious identifying address showing that it is a ballot?  What happens to ballots sent to addresses where the once-registered voter no longer lives? 


The pressure to convert to mail-in voting has revived lately.  States where Democrats prevail have been demanding it.  Then, in the glow of attention they are getting in the “coronavirus” age, the Center for Disease Control has recommended that we all stay home, and do mail-in voting.  For our “safety.” 


There was a postal service from the beginning of our country - but they did not do mail-in ballots.  Have we forgotten why?

Observations By A Citizen

Hal Rounds



The “Unprecedented” Pandemic


One of the main purposes of education is to inform our children of the things we in earlier generations have learned, so they can absorb and benefit from our successes and avoid repeating our mistakes.  We don’t do that well, because we don’t really pay attention to our own history.  Today, much schooling is a denial of what has worked, inventing supposedly new “rigorous” methods, like “Common Core.”  How surprising that they have not worked?


Our history teaching presents a disparaging view of our ancestors and the lessons we could learn from them.  The media and politicians repeat this pattern as they “inform” us about the perils of this supposedly “unprecedented” coronavirus pandemic.  Physicians and politicians clamor for emergency supplies, demand powers to shut businesses and control the daily activities of healthy citizens:  Their message is that this kind of thing never happened before, and they alone can protect us.


Really?  Let’s take a look back.  I offer the example below, from the April 1743 edition of "Gentleman’s Magazine.". ("Gentleman" in that age of enlightenment signified a person of honor, refinement, and intelligence; the magazine presented news, politics, science and the arts.)  Here is their report:


“… Rome informs us that a sort of plague has broke out there, which destroys abundance of their people, and they call it the Influenza. As this Distemper has almost infected every individual, the holy Pontiffe has determined to cause a Land Quarantine to be proclaimed to prevent its progress: they cannot find any Specifick against this malady, and therefore leave it to wear away of itself. In another article from Paris they tell us, that a Distemper rages there, somewhat of the same sort as the Roman Influenza, as it appears by the symptoms, and they call it the Grippings which makes dreadful Havock too: Those who, in both countries, are touch’d with this Contagion, tho’ immediately before in full and florid Health, fall into a ling’ring Hectic, and are emaciated by Degrees: They have sent, it seems, from Rome and Paris to every Court in Europe, and particularly to England, for the Advice and Assistance of the learned Leeches; but it is not a little surprising that the People of Rome or Paris should be so ignorant of our Affairs as to send to us for a Cure of the Distemper called the Influenza in particular; Have they not heard that this very distemper has raged here, almost epidemically, for many Years, and no Specifick has yet been found to cure it? Almost every human Creature here has more or less been tainted with it … There were lately among us a set of bold Doctors, who declared they would eradicate this Poison: They watched the Symptoms, prescribed a low Diet, and took great Pains to make their Patients, the People, believe they were their Friends, and would free them from this devouring Evil: but alas, when the grand Crisis came, these Doctors proved errant Charletans, the Disease gained upon them, and the People to their Amazement and Confusion, saw the Leeches themselves were more violently, than any, infected with the Influenza …”


The May edition offers an update:


“…  we find, that the late epidemical Distemper, which had in the last two Months visited almost every Family in this City; so that the Surgeons had full Employment … was also felt in most other places of this Island, generally carrying off old People.… It is said to have begun so long ago as September … thence made its progress to … Venice (where a land quarantine was ordered)… to Rome… and in February, no less than 80,000 were sick of it and 500 buried in one day…”


Uncanny, right?  Not only did a flu rage 277 years ago, but it started before they were aware of it, it became a disaster after the first of the year, it had a concentration point in Italy, it hit old folks hardest, and many got sick, while a much smaller, but still tragic, number died.  Quarantines were employed, but no cure was successful.  And they came to the English, who were also afflicted, for help.  So, when we are told something is "unprecedented," be wary.  The only thing new is that we have tried to stop normal life, because we accept the physicians’ - and politicians’ - concern for our “safety.” 

Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds



“Waters of The United States”


When I was a student at the University of California, in Santa Barbara (“UCSB”), with 2 miles of beach on campus, it was inviting to start your tan as early as possible each spring.  One sunny day in March, 1964, I headed to the beach.  It was abandoned, except for me, and I soon realized why - the crisp sea breeze was way too cold for comfort.  But, while I was making up my mind to leave, I noticed an unusual vessel a few miles off shore.  What caught my attention was that every so often, as it cruised slowly along, big spouts of water would jump out of the ocean closely behind this vessel, clearly blasted out of the sea by big explosions.


5 years later, in 1969, my brother was a student at UCSB.  He had probably the best dormitory room on campus, with a window that looked out on the beach.  Such a good view - he had a telescope to check out girls in the sun.  But on a late January morning, as he prepared for class, he saw something wrong.  A few Grebes (aquatic birds with long necks) struggled on the shore.  He hurried down for a closer look.  The beach was coated with thick oil, and the black mess had covered the Grebes as well.  He grabbed four of them by the neck and hurried back to the dorm, trying to figure out how to save them.  Late, out of ideas, and in a hurry to get to class, he closed them into his closet.  When he returned, he found the dormitory maid had been shocked when she opened his closet.  Then he found a way to get them to one of the hastily set up bird rescue stations.


It was the day of the immediately sensational “Santa Barbara Oil Spill,” the largest that had ever happened in the USA at that time.  Miles of beach and wildlife were mired in the deadly goo.


The vessel I’d watched that morning in 1964 was a scientific exploration vessel.  The explosions were part of a seismic survey that used the blast echoes to map the underwater geology - and find oil.  They did, and, in early 1969, one of the offshore platforms that was setting up pierced a reservoir that was under intense pressure.  It blew out, gushing 80,000 or more barrels of thick black crude oil across the waters, the nearby beaches - and the wildlife.


Everyone knew the California coast was rich in oil.  Often, when we left after a day on the beach, we’d have to clean our feet.  Using gasoline, we dissolved and scrubbed off wads of black tar - small globs of it hid in the beach sand.  The oiliness was first recorded around 1600, when Spanish sailors explored the California coast and noticed thin blotches of rainbow colors on the ocean surface. 


Coastal oil production began way before 1969.  A Japanese submarine surfaced in February, 1942, making the first World War II attack on our west coast, just two months after Pearl Harbor, using its deck gun to shell the important Ellwood oil field facilities along the beach near where UCSB would open 2 years later. 


As the protests raged against our defense of Viet Nam in 1969, the oil spill became another opportunity to oppose what was going on in America.  Congress reacted, passing new laws regulating oil and drilling, and set up the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.


The EPA is the agency that, late in the Obama administration, stretched its authority to regulate under the “Clean Water Act”, redefining “Waters of the United States.”  Now, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the EPA’s regulations have stretched the “WOTUS” to include “federal government regulatory control over virtually any waters – and many land areas that only temporarily hold water … in ways that make it impossible for farmers and ranchers to know whether the specific ditches, ephemeral drains or low areas on their land will be deemed “waters of the U.S.” 


Today, the UCSB beaches are as clean and inviting as ever.  But America bends under a much bigger government.  As Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, famously said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”  Will we ever really learn what that means?



Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds



Chicken Little May Be Right


Remember the story about the little chicken who, snoozing beneath a tree, was hit on her head by a falling acorn?  She rushed to warn the king, gathering increasingly concerned neighbors on the way, that the sky was falling.  It’s a story intended to warn children about the foolishness of panicky thinking.


But - what if the acorn is not the only thing that is soon to come falling out of the sky?


Well, stay tuned, folks.  Have you ever stood outside just after sunset to look for the International Space Station (ISS)?  It’s kind of neat to watch, a tiny speck of light that moves pretty quickly through the sunlight up there, 250 miles high, until it suddenly disappears when it passes into the dark of the earth’s shadow.  The ISS is in “Low Earth Orbit” (LEO.) 


There are three levels of well-used earth orbit:  Your GPS uses a “constellation” of 31 satellites that orbit about 12,600 miles up, so they can circle the earth exactly twice per day.  They are in “Medium Earth Orbit,” which includes a wide range of altitudes.  Then there is “Geostationary Orbit.”  This is 23,000 miles up, which keeps each geostationary satellite exactly above one location along the equator.  This is where your satellite TV and other communications satellites stay.  “Stay” is relative - they are actually moving around the earth at about 6,800 miles per hour (MPH).  They orbit the earth once every 24 hours; this matches the spinning earth, so you don’t have to adjust your satellite dish from moment to moment.  This is slow compared to the Medium Earth Orbit satellites, like the GPS ones that are going about 8,700 MPH.  These orbits are fairly busy.  For example, the GPS constellation of the U.S. shares the medium orbit range with similar systems of Russia, China, the European Union and others.


But there is a really big problem growing in the LEO range.


This is where there are hundreds of active and dead satellites, and thousands of pieces of junk cast off after satellites are launched into orbit.  LEO touches the thin upper layers of our atmosphere, so that puts a tiny drag on those satellites that eventually - after many years - pulls them into the thicker atmosphere, where they mostly burn up on their way to crashing into earth. 


That is a problem, but it gets worse:  Satellites in the now crowded low orbit range are increasingly in danger of collisions.  Their speeds, in the 17,000 MPH range, rush them around earth every 90 minutes, and these orbits often cross.  Collisions are increasing.  In 1997, the Hubble Space Telescope was hit by a tiny piece of debris.  It made a hole about the size of a bullet in the antenna dish.  In 2009 a shut down Russian spy satellite hit an active communications satellite as they crossed paths over Siberia.  The violent smash scattered over 2,000 pieces of debris into the LEO highways.  This January, two big defunct U.S. satellites passed within 60 feet of each other (at 17,000 MPH each, remember) 560 miles above Pittsburgh. 


These were all accidents.  But satellites have important military roles, so they have to be considered as targets.  Target-shooting takes practice.  In 2007 China began by shooting a missile and destroying one of its defunct satellites.  The U.S. did one in 2008, and India shot down one of its old satellites last year.  Well, “shot,” but not “down.”


At the present time, ground radar systems are tracking 23,000 orbiting objects larger than 4 inches in size.  Estimates calculate that there are over a half million man-made objects the size of a bullet or larger zooming around, at 17,000 MPH, a few hundred miles above our heads.


There are plans for far more:  Amazon, for instance, has applied for licenses to put its new constellation of over 6,000 satellites in various LEOs. 


As the collisions multiply, the concern is that each crash creates even more debris, and LEO becomes ever more dangerous.


So - should we still laugh at Chicken Little?



Observations by a Citizen

Hal Rounds



Makin Ships Names


There is a formal Navy procedure for naming ships.  Each class – aircraft carrier, cruiser, destroyer, submarine, etc. – gets some class of sources for naming the ships.  For example, Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines are named after states.  Our greatest combat ships now entering service are the large aircraft carriers.  They are supposed to be named after presidents.  The first ship in the current class is the U.S.S. Gerald Ford.


Why Ford?  He was the only President never elected to a nationwide office.  A Congressman routinely re-elected to represent his district in Michigan, he was, for the final 9 of his 25 years in Congress, the House Minority Leader.  When Richard Nixon’s Vice President, Spiro Agnew, resigned in fall of 1973 in a corruption scandal, Nixon appointed Ford to be Vice President.  Months later, Nixon resigned and, like the proverbial “deer in the headlights,” Ford found himself the unelected President of the leading nation in the world.  He probably did the best he could, but it was not a successful presidency, and Carter defeated Ford in the 1976 election.


To be fair, Ford had, in fact, served honorably in the Navy in World War II.  He was a junior officer serving on an aircraft carrier.  One of the actions Ford saw was the re-taking of Makin Island from the Japanese in November, 1943.


There was another sailor serving on another small aircraft carrier off the shore of tiny Makin in that 4-day battle.  And the next “Gerald Ford” aircraft carrier to be built is to be named after this sailor: Doris Miller. 


Doris Miller??  Who’s that, we can expect most folks to ask.  Well, Doris Miller obviously wasn’t a president.  Just an African American cook who served in our Navy.  Well, not “just.” 


Doris Miller was a guy – the midwife at his birth in Waco, Texas in 1919 predicted that this child would be a girl, and they chose the name, before birth proved her error.  He grew up in an ordinary life for the next 20 years, playing football, squirrel hunting, and such normal activities.  He joined the Navy in 1939, becoming a cook.


2 years later, Dorie (his nickname) was assigned to the battleship West Virginia.  He was collecting laundry after having helped serve breakfast one morning, when fate changed the rules.  It was December 7, 1941, and the West Virginia, at anchor in Pearl Harbor, was slammed by torpedoes from Japanese attack planes.  Suddenly, and without warning, Dorie, like the rest of America, was in World War II.


He rushed to his assigned combat position to man a gun – but the position had already been destroyed.  Then he went to help remove the dying captain from the command bridge.  Dorie, at 6 foot 3, was the right choice for that.  The attack continued, the West Virginia, shuddered with more hits.   Another sailor led Dorie to a machine gun position that needed someone to load the ammunition.  He left Dorie to load it and went to get an adjoining gun manned.  Behind him, Dorie, the cook, finished loading, and began to shoot at the attacking Japanese planes. 


And, in one of those odd moments that happen in battle, there was total silence from all the guns, it seemed, in Pearl Harbor.  Except the gun Dorie was firing - and everyone could see the practice Dorie had from his childhood squirrel hunts paid off.  The plane he targeted went down, the tracers he was firing clearly penetrating the doomed Japanese attacker.


For his heroic actions that day, Seaman Doris Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, pinned on his chest just a few months later by the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet.


Nearly two years later, Dorie was serving on the small aircraft carrier Liscome Bay, not far from Ford’s ship, on the final day of our attack on Makin Island.   A Japanese submarine torpedoed the Liscome Bay, which exploded and sank in minutes.  Doris Miller was one of over 600 sailors killed. 


Two of the most powerful warships ever to sail are being named after a pair of Americans who battled off the shores of Makin, a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean.  One gave all.  I’d say Doris Miller is a good choice for naming one of our grand carriers.



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