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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Early Mormon Leaders on the "Evils" of Wealth (Warning: Glenn Beck's Head is About to Explode)

The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (1875) 

THE EXPERIENCE OF MANKIND has shown that the people of communities and nations among whom wealth is the most equally distributed, enjoy the largest degree of liberty, are the least exposed to tyranny and oppression and suffer the least from luxurious habits which beget vice. Under such a system, carefully maintained there could be no great aggregations of either real or personal property in the hands of a few; especially so while the laws, forbidding the taking of usury or interest for money or property loaned, continued in force. 

ONE OF THE GREAT EVILS with which our own nation is menaced at the present time is the wonderful growth of wealth in the hands of a comparatively few individuals. The very liberties for which our fathers contended so steadfastly and courageously, and which they bequeathed to us as a priceless legacy, are endangered by the monstrous power which this accumulation of wealth gives to a few individuals and a few powerful corporations. By its seductive influence results are accomplished which, were it more equally distributed, would be impossible under our form of government. It threatens to give shape to the legislation, both State, and National, of the entire country. If this evil should not be checked, and measures not taken to prevent the continued enormous growth of riches among the class already rich, and the painful increase of destitution and want among the poor, the nation is likely to be overtaken by disaster; for, according to history, such a tendency among nations once powerful was the sure precursor of ruin. 

YEARS AGO IT WAS PERCEIVED that we Latter-day Saints were open to the same dangers as those which beset the rest of the world. A condition of affairs existed among us which was favorable to the growth of riches in the hands of a few at the expense of many. A wealthy class was being rapidly formed in our midst whose interests in the course of time, were likely to be diverse from those of the rest of the community. The growth of such a class was dangerous to our union; and, of all people, we stand most in need of union and to have our interests identical. Then it was that the Saints were counseled to enter into co-operation. In the absence of the necessary faith to enter upon a more perfect order revealed by the Lord unto the Church, this was felt to be the best means of drawing us together and making us one. 

A UNION OF INTERESTS was sought to be attained. At the time co-operation was entered upon the Latter-day Saints were acting in utter disregard of the principles of self-preservation. They were encouraging the growth of evils in their own midst which they condemned as the worst features of the systems from which they had been gathered. Large profits were being consecrated in comparatively few hands, instead of being generally distributed among the people. As a consequence, the community was being rapidly divided into classes, and the hateful and unhappy distinctions which the possession and lack of wealth give rise to, were becoming painfully apparent. When the proposition to organize Zion's Co-operative Mercantile Institution was broached, it was hoped that the community at large would become stockholders; for if a few individuals only were to own its stock, the advantages to the community would be limited. The people, therefore, were urged to take shares, and large numbers responded to the appeal. As we have shown, the business proved to be as successful as its most sanguine friends anticipated. But the distribution of profits among the community was not the only benefit conferred by the organization of co-operation among us. 

CO-OPERATION has submitted in silence to a great many attacks. Its friends have been content to let it endure the ordeal. But it is now time to speak. The Latter-day Saints should understand that it is our duty to sustain co-operation and to do all in our power to make it a success. The local co-operative stores should have the cordial support of the Latter-day Saints. Does not all our history impress upon us the great truth that in union is strength? Without it, what power would the Latter-day Saints have? But it is not our doctrines alone that we should be united, but in practice and especially in our business affairs. 

Your Brethren: 

Brigham Young, Daniel H. Wells, Wilford Woodruff, Orson Pratt, Lorenzo Snow, Franklin D. Richards, Brigham Young Jr., George A. Smith, John taylor, Orson Hyde, Charles C,. Rich, Erastus Snow, George Q. Cannon, Albert Carrington 1875

Source: Edward W. Tullidge, History of Salt Lake City [1886], pp. 728-732.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Predictions for the 2012-13 NBA Season

The 2012-13 NBA season opens up this Tuesday, and I for one couldn't be more excited, even if my team (The Bulls) will likely struggle until D-Rose returns to save the day.  There have been a number of changes to "The Association" in the off season, making for a dramatic and exciting shakeup in the league's balance of power  Here are my predictions for how the season is going to play out.

1.) Miami Heat
The Heat are EASILY the best team in the East (probably the league), and are likely even better than last year.  With the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, this team is deeper than it has ever been.  And LeBron has awakened to his true potential.  Miami sails to the top seed in the conference.
2.) Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers are my surprise team in the East.  Andrew Bynum is the second best offensive big man in the league (next to Blake Griffin) and Evan Turner is an emerging stud.  Mark my words, this guy is gonna be special.  That's why they were more than willing to part with Iguodala (a great player in his own right).  The 76ers have depth, size and speed.
3.) Indiana Pacers
I love the Pacers.  This team has the complete package.  Add a star scorer to the mix (maybe Rudy Gay?) and they could go all the way at some point.
4.) Boston Celtics
Everyone knows that the Celtics are old as dirt, but they still have a good roster.  Moving Garnett to center doesn't make a lot of sense by I can see why they did it.  The Celtics do have some young talent on their bench and eventually I see Fab Melo working his way into the starting rotation.  They're still good enough to make some noise in the East.
5.) Chicago Bulls
There is no team in the NBA that depends more on one guy than the Chicago Bulls depend on Derrick Rose.  Without him the Bulls are barely a playoff team.  Rose has it all: he can score, pass, defend, has speed, leadership, and all the intangibles you want in a team leader.  But since he's still out for at least a while, the Bulls will fall to #5 in the conference (and it PAINS me to say that, since they are my team).
6.) Brooklyn Nets
Everyone is talking about how great the Nets will be, and I am sure they will be better.  I, however, am not sold all the way.  This was a pathetic team who couldn't even get out of the cellar last year.  Yes, Brook Lopez is back, and Joe Johnson is a stud, but I don't see that being enough to launch this team into the top eschelon in the East.  But they do have a KILLER new stadium.
7.) New York Knicks
The Knicks are in trouble and they know it.  Amare may not be what he was ever again, and Carmello isn't going to fill the gap.  Felton will be solid (for a fat PG), starting in front of old fart Jason Kidd, but this team doesn't have much bite behind their bark.  A lot of names but no real game.
8.) Washington Wizards
This is the year that the Washington Wizards emerge.  John Wall is for real and I expect big things from him this year.  They are also a big team with Okafur and Nene starting in the post.  The Wizards should be exciting to watch this year.
1.) Los Angeles Lakers
"Showtime" is always a media favorite, and this year the Lakers look to have (at least on paper) what it takes to get back to the big dance.  The ageless Steve Nash, along with Dwight Howard will greatly improve this team.  I think that the Lakers are good enough to go all the way, and certainly good enough to win the West.
2.) OKC Thunder
The Thunder may have done the DUMBEST thing they could do in trading away James Harden.  I know he sucked in the Finals but this guy was a critical component to what OKC had going.  In basketball, chemistry is so very important, and Harden was a key ingredient.  Still, OKC isn't going to suck.  Durant is easily one of the top 5 players in the world, and Westbrook keeps getting better.  They are still very much contenders. 
3.) Los Angeles Clippers
Is there a deeper or more physical team than the Clippers?!?  These guys quietly had a FANTASTIC off season, adding Lamar Odom (who will be his old self now that he's back in L.A.), Grant Hill and Jamal Crawford.  And once Billups is fully healed, this team has not one but two stud field generals (Chris Paul).  Add in the best offensive big man in Griffin and one of the biggest up and coming centers in the league (DeAndre Jordan) and you have a mean roster.  Oh, and don't forget Turiaf and Bledsoe who will be awesome off the bench.  Folks, the Clippers are deep, tough, fast and exciting.  When was the last time somebody ever said that?!?
4.) San Antonio Spurs
They're old but they're always consistent...at least in the regular season.  The Spurs still have the depth, speed and experience to make at least their typical impact.  But this team isn't doing squat in the playoffs.  I think this is the final curtain call for the Spurs.
5.) Denver Nuggets
Adding Andre Igoudala was a brilliant move!  This guy is the second coming of Scottie Pippen. The Nuggets will be much better this year, even if they don't have a lot of size.  They should also be better defensively this year (which they deseperately needed).  I see them advancing at least one round in the playoffs.
6.) Memphis Grizzlies
Ok, so this is a team in turmoil, and I predict that Rudy Gay could be gone by mid-season.  But still, The Grizzlies are solid enough to make the playoffs in the west.
7.) Houston Rockets
Jeremy Lin isn't their biggest addition now; that label goes to James Harden.  The Rockets just got a lot better.  Still not good enough to really do anything, but they are a playoff team now.
8.) Minnesota Timberwolves
So normally I think the Timberwolves could go as high as #4, but with injuries to Rubio and Love, this team is only barely going to make the playoffs.  But mark my words; the Timberwolves are for real.  Once healthy, and with one more year under their belts, this team could be a contender.  Adding Brandon Roy (who was amazing in Portland before early retirement) was a stroke of genius.  The T-Wolves are going to be a force to reckon with for years to come in the West.  But this year they only barely make it due to injuries.
MVP: Kevin Durant
This is the year that Durant finally gets some hardware.  Everyone knows what a scoring machine he is.  Now with Harden gone, he's gonna have to do even more, and he will deliver.  Plus, he is due to win.
Defensive Player of the Year: LeBron James
Most people probably don't realize this, but LeBron has finished in second place for two years for Defensive POY.  We all know how good he is with the ball, but LeBron is just as good on defense.  I think he gets the deserved recognition this year.
Rookie of the Year: Anthony Davis
He's already looking tough in the pre-season, and he held his own during the Olympics.  Davis is going to be a solid pro.  He's a future 20 and 10 guy. 
6th Man: Grant Hill
Now that he's coming off the bench for the first time ever, I think Hill will have more spring in his step and will likely contribute more than ever.  Hill can play a number of positions and has the experience and (still) the athleticism to be a big contributor in L.A.
Most Improved: Evan Turner
I said it earlier, Evan Turner is an emerging stud in Philly.  He may even be a future all star.  Watch this kid. He's for real.
Coach of the Year: Doug Collins
The 76ers are going to contend (as much as anyone can against the Heat) in the East.  They are much improved and Collins is a big reason why.  He got a lot out of this team last year and I expect the same this year.
Comeback player: Derrick Rose
He's got it all, and once he comes back, everyone will see just how important D-Rose is to the Bulls.  The best PG in the game today.
Eastern Conference Playoffs, Round 1:
Miami sweeps Washington 4-0
Philadelphia over the Knicks 4-1
Indiana downs Brooklyn 4-2
DA BULLS upset the Celtics 4-2
Second Round:
Miami over Chicago 4-2
Philadelphia defeats Indiana 4-3
Eastern Conference Finals:
Miami over Philly 4-1

Western Conference Playoffs, Round 1:
Lakers over Timberwolves 4-1
OKC sweeps the Rockets 4-0
Clippers over the Grizzlies 4-1
Denver upsets the geriatric Spurs 4-2
Second Round:
Lakers down the Nuggets 4-2
Clippers upset the Thunder 4-3
Western Conference Finals:
Clippers stun the Lakers and win the series 4-2...all games taking place at the Staples Center.  This marks the turning of the guard as the Clippers officially become the best team in L.A.

NBA Finals:
Miami repeats by downing the up and coming Clippers 4-1

There you have it!  Let the games begin.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Wisdom and the "Heavenly Goddess/Mother" Legends

As anyone who is bilingual/multilingual will tell you, the work of translating from one language to another can, at times, be a bit of a mess.  For example:


Fortunately for America, this simple and innocent faux pas on the part of Secretary Clinton ended with little more than a chuckle for both parties.  Other translation errors, however, have had much more serious repercussions. 

When translating the Bible into English, for example, a number of mistakes were made in the process.  Whether confusing the words "camel" with "rope" or "eunuch" with "believer," it is clear that at least some honest mistakes could not be entirely avoided.  And while some translation errors resulted in incorrect words or phrases being published to the world, there were other errors which proved to be more subtle but every bit as critical to capturing the original meanings behind these ancient texts. 

One possible example of this fact rests with the word "wisdom," or in Hebrew, חוכמה (not that I have any clue what that means but it looks cool). According to Webster's Dictionary, wisdom is: "the quality of being wise; knowledgeable, and the capacity to make due use of it; knowledge of the best ends and the best means."  This seems to be as solid a definition as any for the word, "wisdom."

The Bible is literally saturated with beautiful references to wisdom and the importance that God places on our obtaining and cultivating this all-important attribute.  For it was by wisdom that God created the earth and established the heavens (Prov. 3: 19).  Wisdom was the gift that Solomon wanted more than any other (1 Kings 4: 29).  It was with the temptation of greater wisdom that the serpent was able to get Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3: 5).  And as every good Mormon knows, it was the quest for greater wisdom that compelled a young Joseph Smith to seek God in prayer (James 1: 5).  And it was an appeal to God's natural wisdom that inspired Poet William Wordsworth to write:
Books! ’tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There’s more of wisdom in it
Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.
Yes, it is safe to say that wisdom is one of humanity's basic instinctual cravings. 

But is there more to the word "wisdom" than meets the eye?  As mentioned above, translation errors can, at times, distort the original meanings to certain words, or even negate what was originally an important concept that ancient writers wanted to convey. How does this all apply to the word "wisdom?"

In the Hebrew language, the word "wisdom" is feminine, as is the case in many other languages.  Of course, this isn't particularly noteworthy for us today, since most nouns are, at least in most languages, assigned masculine or feminine pronouns.  But wisdom was unique to the ancients because it not only served as an embodiment of special knowledge but also because it embodied deity itself.

Throughout the ancient tradition, wisdom was regularly personified as an exalted female figure, crying out to her lost children with loving petitions to correct their wayward behavior:
Wisdom crieth without; SHE uttereth HER voice in the streets: SHE crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city SHE uttereth HER words, saying: how long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? (Proverbs 1: 20-22).
Whether in Hebrew, Aramaic or other ancient languages, the personification of wisdom with feminine deity was an important and common practice.  Many of the earliest Goddesses of the ancient world were exalted primarily for their wisdom and loving kindness towards mankind.  In the Celtic world, the Goddess Danu was known as the "Beloved wise one" and "Mother of heroes."  For earlier Egyptians, the Goddess Hathor was one of the most important and popular deities throughout the history of Ancient Egypt.  It was her "wise guidance and counsel" to other gods within the Egyptian pantheon that earned her the title "Mother Goddess."  And then there's the case of the other "Mother Goddess" of the Semitic world, Asherah, whose wisdom and kindness to mankind earned her the title of "Queen of Heaven" and "Goddess and consort of Yahweh who is worshipped in Heaven." 

This union between wisdom and female deity may seem like little more than simple polytheism to most, but such a label oversimplifies and downplays the importance that the ancients placed on this wisdom/Mother Goddess dichotomy.  For most ancients, wisdom WAS the Mother Goddess. As historian William Denver makes clear in his work, Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel:
The rediscovery of the Goddess and of women's popular cults in ancient Israel redresses the balance. It helps to correct the andocentric bias of the biblical writers. It "fleshes out" the concept of God, brings the divine mystery closer to the heart of human experience, and yes, to the mystery of human sexual love. We humans are engendered; if we are to think and speak about God at all, it must be in a way that combines all that is best in males and all that is best in females. Even the androcentric biblical writers sometimes employed female imagery. Yahweh "gave birth" to Israel (Deut. 32:18); he has a "womb" (Job 32:29).
Whether or not we of the modern world esteem this ancient folk tradition of wisdom and the Mother Goddess as nonsense is irrelevant, for its presence can be found throughout ancient scripture.  For example:
Happy is the man that findeth WISDOM, and the man that getteth understanding.  SHE is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto HER. Length of days is in HER right hand; and in HER left hand ariches and honour. HER ways are ways of pleasantness, and all HER paths are peace. SHE is a tree of alife to them that lay hold upon HER: and happy is every one that retaineth HER.
And here's the really cool final verse:
The Lord BY WISDOM HATH FOUNDED THE EARTH; by understanding hath he established the heavens (Proverbs 3: 13, 15-19).
Was a "Mother Goddess" (a.k.a. "Wisdom") involved with the creation? 

But that's not all:
The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But WISDOM is justified of HER children (Matthew 11: 19).
For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it. I WISDOM dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions (Proverbs 8: 11-12).  [Interesting to note the first person reference here!]
From the Book of Wisdom:
Now with you is WISDOM, who knows your works and was present when you made the world; Who understands what is pleasing in your eyes and what is conformable with your commands. Send HER forth from your holy heavens and from your glorious throne dispatch HER that she may be with me and work with me, that I may know what is your pleasure (NAB Wis 9: 1,6,9-10 ). [Note that Wisdom is female, and with God at creation. She is coeternal with the Father.]
And from, of all places, The Book of Mormon:
O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth he suffer with his people; yea, and how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men; for they will not seek WISDOM, neither do they desire that SHE should rule over them! (Mosiah 8: 20).
Now, by no means am I suggesting that every single reference to wisdom in scripture is somehow referring to a female goddess.  I wouldn't feel comfortable making the claim that any of the aforementioned verses prove such an assertion.  However, I do think it is abundantly clear that the ancients esteemed wisdom and the "Mother Goddess" tradition as being one in the same.  As the great Hebrew scholar Raphael Patai points out in his excellent book, The Hebrew Goddess:
In the Book of Job, Wisdom is described as a personage whose way is understood and place is known only by God himself, while the Book of Proverbs asserts that Wisdom was the earliest of God's creations and that ever since the primeval days she (Wisdom) has been God's playmate.

In the Apocrypha, this role of Wisdom is even more emphasized. A passage in the Wisdom of Solomon states that "She [Wisdom] proclaims her noble birth in that it is given to her to live with God and the Sovereign Lord of all loved her."  It was observed by Gershom Scholem that the term appears again in the same chapter in the sense of marital connubium, and that it is therefore clear that Wisdom here is regarded as God's wife. Philo states quite unequivically that God is the husband of Wisdom.

Wisdom played a particularly important role among the Jewish Gnostics. References to the role of Wisdom in the primodial days of the world seem to indicate the existance of a Gnostic Hokhma-myth which originated in Jewish circles and was hypothetically reconstructed as follows:

Out of the primeval chaos, God created the seven archons through the intermediacy of his Wisdom, which was identical with the "dew of light."  Wisdom now cast her eidolon, or shadow-image upon the primeval waters of the Tohu wa-Bohu, whereupon the archons formed the world and the body of man.  Man crawled about upon the earth like a worm, until Wisdom endowed him with spirit. Satan, in the shape of a serpant, had intercourse with Eve who thereupon bore Cain and Abel.  Thus sexuality became the original sin. After the fall, the sons of Seth fought the sons of Cain.  When the daughters of Cain seduced the sons of Seth, Wisdom brought the flood upon the earth (Pp. 97-98).
There is perhaps no better example of this wisdom/Mother Goddess relationship than that of Sophia.  For the Hellenized Greek world, Sophia (which in Greek actually means "wisdom") was the literal philosophical personification of wisdom.  In later Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity, Sophia was an expression of understanding of the Holy Spirit. It was (for many of these early Greek Christians) Sophia who caused Mary to become pregnant with Jesus.  In addition, it was Sophia who descended upon Jesus as a dove at his baptism. 

One important thing to remember here is that Sophia was never a member of the traditional gods of Greek mythology.  She was a later and separate goddess who came to embody wisdom itself.  For Plato, Sophia was best understood as philo-Sophia, literally meaning the love of wisdom (or what we call philosophy today).  In fact, it was Socrates, who, when standing before the Oracle of Delphi and questioned, "Of all the Greeks who is the wisest?" responded, "Why none more so than the Mother Sophia."  Socrates then went on to make his famous declaration, "I know one thing: that I know nothing," but then went on to explain that true wisdom came from accepting this all-important fact of life.   Is it any wonder why the earliest Christians chose to name the most magnificent architectural achievement of the Medieval era the "Hagia Sophia?" (which means "Holy Wisdom").

With this concept of wisdom/Mother Goddess fully infused into much of the ancient world, we of the modern day can gain a different and newer perspective on what these ancient writers were trying to say.  There can be little doubt that the wisdom/Mother Goddess dichotomy was, for many ancients, as real as the Trinity is for many orthodox Christians.  To separate the two words from what appears to be, at least in some cases, a duel meaning would be like separating peanut butter from jelly.  Why on earth would anyone want to separate that which seems meant for the other?  And if there is to be a "Mother Goddess" theology, I can think of no better attribute for her to possess than that of wisdom.  Wisdom rules heaven together with God, and the two are peanut butter and jelly!  Or as the Muslim proverb put it, "Heaven rests at the feet of wisdom."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A New Burial (and Birth) for Richard III

To even the causal fan of Shakespeare, tales of the pale, abusive and foolish English King Richard III ring quite familiar.   As the final king of the Plantagenet line, Richard's legacy has become synonymous with the epitome of Machiavellian deceit and malevolent cunning.  British historians have, for centuries, marked the end of the Middle Ages with his death, while men like Shakespeare have esteemed Richard as little more than a petty, cruel and repulsive hooligan:
"And thus I clothe my naked villainy With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ,And seem a saint when most I play the devil.
I shall despair.  There is no creature loves me; And if I die, no soul will pity me:Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myselfFind in myself no pity to myself?"
And though it is true that Richard III was a relatively ineffective and perverse figure (Richard suffered from scoliosis and other physical deformities that seemed to add further credence to his abhorrent reputation), Shakespeare (and others) was wrong to label him as arguably the most vile figure to ever sit upon the English throne.  Surely much of the negativity surrounding Richard's legacy can be attributed to the propagandist efforts of the Tudor dynasty, which supplanted Richard in 1485.  True, Richard was an inept, oblivious and cocky leader but he was far from being the devil incarnate.  In many ways, Richard simply died in the wrong place and at the wrong time; an unfortunate casualty of history.  No wonder why Shakespeare chose to portray Richard as one of his most vile of anti-heroes.

With that being said, it looks like Richard may catch a bit of a break.  Over the past month, archaeologists with the University of Leicester have been excavating lands in and around Bosworth Field, the location where Richard was killed in battle.  Shortly into their excavations, archaeologists were astonished when they discovered human remains that appear to be those of Richard himself.  DNA and other scientific tests are still needed to confirm the findings but all early accounts seem to suggest that Richard III's final resting place has been unearthed.

Needless to say, this discovery has set off a firestorm of excitement within the historical and archaeological community.  Many have seen this moment as an opportunity to reevaluate the legacy of Richard by rescuing him from the rhetoric of generations past.  As Robert McCrum aptly states:
Richard was the last English king to fight and die on the battlefield. The end of both the Wars of the Roses and the Plantagenet dynasty was a turning point in English history. For these reasons alone, Richard III has a special place in the national myth. What follows, however, was sheer propaganda. Contrary to popular opinion, this came not from Shakespeare but from the pen of the saintly Thomas More.
The History of King Richard III was a hatchet job designed to explore the nature of power, leading to tyranny, and the sin that made such despotism possible. In More's account, Richard is accursed and unnatural, a parricide who broke all ties of kinship, like the figure of Vice in a morality play. An avuncular protector who was not a protector, a plotter and a killer, More's Richard contrives the murder of his nephews (Edward V and Richard of York), the princes in the tower. More, a loyal Tudor servant, had no interest in an impartial history. He wanted to present a narrative of evil with the hunchback king as a secular Satan.
I couldn't agree more.  It is rare when a historical figure is granted a "rebirth" 527 years after their final act.  This is a wonderful opportunity for not only the British people but the world to recognize the profundity of this discovery.  Already different organizations in Britain have been arguing over where Richard III's remains should ultimately rest.  Most historians agree that Richard intended to be buried in York, but others insist on giving Richard a full royal and state-sponsored funeral, with internment at Westminster Abby.

No matter how this story plays out, there is little doubt that Richard III is about to become a whole lot more popular now than ever before.  And even though all the DNA tests and royal processions will ultimately end with Richard's bones still ending up in a crypt, a new legacy is likely to be born.  Again, from Robert McCrum:
So this, perhaps, is the redemptive archetypal version that might be available to the British people soon: "The Return of the King" - his bones triumphantly verified and acknowledged, a new tomb...and another royal shrine for the British tourist trade.  As in the best dramas, we're now held in suspense, awaiting the closing act...The king's bones may yet become a secular relic, an object of national veneration.  Shakespeare, for one, would relish the irony.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A 269-269 Electoral Tie?!?

So ONCE AGAIN I have fallen off the blogging wagon and allowed yet another month to pass without posting any material.  To my millions (or perhaps 3-4) of readers I apologize.  Sometimes life gets a little busy.

With September's twilight and the dawn of Fall upon us, Americans all across this nation prepare for yet another election season that is sure to bring all of the drama, suspense and intrigue of elections past.  As predicted, we are beginning to see the polls tighten up in the various battleground states that are still in play. Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin and even my beloved homes state of Colorado are all still very much in the cross hairs of both President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, who are making their final pleas to those few remaining undecided voters.  And since each of these states carry with them the few remaining and very precious Electoral College votes that may send their respective campaigns over the top, it is no wonder why both candidates are spending so much time and resources to win those votes.  Both parties know that each and every electoral vote counts, hence the haste in trying to acquire as many as possible in order to attain the magic number of 270.  The first one to the top of that mountain gets the White House!

But what happens if the election ends in an Electoral College tie? What happens if neither candidate reaches 270 but instead we have a 269-269 Electoral College tie?

Most Americans incorrectly assume that the popular vote would somehow determine the outcome, or that a second election would be held.  Makes sense, right?


The reality is that a 269-269 Electoral College tie could end up causing one helluva mess. 

It is the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that provides us with much of the script to this drama.  But instead of regurgitating the words of this amendment (which are somewhat confusing), let us instead take a look at the 2012 election and how a 269-269 tie might play out.

If on November 6th, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney end in an Electoral College stalemate, the first course of action will be to ensure the votes of the various state electorates.  This is a bit confusing so let me explain.  In the Electoral College system, each state is assigned a certain number of "electors" based on the state's population (Colorado, for example, has 9).  Each elector is essentially one vote out of a total possible 538.  In order to become president, a candidate must secure 270 electoral votes (the majority).  In most states, the winner of the popular vote wins the state's assigned electors.  So, if on November 6th Mitt Romney were to win Colorado's popular vote, he would be assigned all of Colorado's 9 Electoral College votes.  Seems simple enough, right?

Not quite.  The problem is that some states have laws that allow their electors to vote for whomever they choose, regardless of the popular vote.  Most states have created laws that prohibit an elector from changing his//her vote from the will of the people, but not all states.  In 1968, for example, one North Carolinian elector changed his vote from Richard Nixon to George Wallace, though the change had zero outcome on that election.  But if an election were to end in a tie (like we are assuming here with Obama and Romney) it is at least possible that one single electorate (one person) from a state without these laws could determine the presidency.  Crazy: yes.  Unlikely: yes.  Impossible: Nope.

With that said, it is highly doubtful that one elector would determine the outcome of the entire election.  What is more likely is that the 12th Amendment would come into play.  What the 12th Amendment states, in the event of an Electoral College tie, is that the new House of Representatives would convene on January 6th to cast their votes for the next President, while the Senate would determine the next vice President.  Now, most political analysts believe that the Republicans will maintain control of the House in 2012, while the Democrats will maintain the Senate.  For the sake of argument I am going to assume that both of these outcomes will take place on election day.  In consequence, it is therefore likely for us to assume that the House of Representatives would elect Mitt Romney as the next President, while the Senate would elect Joe Biden as vice President.  Simple partisan politics would determine the election, and we would be left with a Romney/Biden White House.

Except there is one small wrench in this whole equation.  In a normal situation, voting in the House of Representatives is done by giving each state representative one vote.  In the event of a 269-269 Electoral College tie, however, the voting is not representative-based but state-based.  In other words, California (which has 55 electoral votes, meaning 53 seats in the House) would not have 53 votes for the next president but rather 1 vote.  Let's put this into a practical example so it makes more sense:

If Obama and Romney end in a tie and the House ends up voting for the new president, all of California's 53 representatives would vote on who the state of California would support for President.  And since most of California's representatives are Democrats, it is logical to conclude that California would go for Obama.  With that said, Wyoming, which only has 1 representative in the House (a Republican), would also vote (likely Republican) and would have just as much say as California.  The size and representation of a state means nothing in this process.  One state: one vote. 

But here's the REALLY messy part:

Let us assume that Iowa goes for Mitt Romney in the General Election.  Iowa's representation in the House consists of 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans.  If Iowa's representatives had to vote in this scenario, would they go with the will of their people who had elected Romney?  Or would they stay loyal to their party and elect Obama, since they have the majority (3 Democrats)?  This type of scenario is present in at least 6 other states.

In addition, it is important to note here that if a state has an equal number of representatives, and their voting results in a tie, that state forfeits its vote on the next president.   

One more tidbit: if the vote in the House of Representatives ends in a tie (or gridlock), the 12th Amendment stipulates that the Senate would then elect an interim, two-year president from their V.P. selection.  And since it is likely that the Democrats will maintain control of the Senate, we can logically say that in this scenario, Joe Biden would become the two-year interim President. 

But what if the Senate vote ended in a tie?  Well, as we all remember from Civics, 101, there is only one person who can cast the deciding vote in the event of a Senatorial tie: the vice President.  In other words, Joe Biden himself (the current V.P.) could, theoretically, vote for himself to become the next V.P. or (if it came to that) the next (and first) interim President of the United States.  That's right; Joe Biden (and an outside possibility of Paul Ryan) could, theoretically, become President of the United States if we have an Electoral College tie.  Think this is all a bit crazy or that maybe I am making it up? It is ALL in the 12th Amendment, people.  Read it and weep. 

So how did we end up with a ridiculous system like this in the first place? We have our beloved Founding Fathers to thank for this nightmare. 

In the Presidential Election of 1800, incumbent John Adams squared off against his one-time friend turned foe, Thomas Jefferson. Back then there was no such thing as a presidential "ticket," which meant that the candidate receiving the second most electoral votes became the V.P. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson was able to barely edge out John Adams by winning 73 electoral votes to Adams' 65.  The problem, however, was that electors in those days had 2 votes instead of one.  As a result, the 73 electors for Jefferson also casted a second vote for party ally Aaron Burr, who also received 73 votes.  Originally Burr was propped up to become Jefferson's V.P. selection, and one of the electors was to withhold his vote from Burr, thereby giving Jefferson the win.  This did not happen, and Jefferson was forced into an unforeseen and uncomfortable standoff with his would-be vice President, Aaron Burr. 

Long story short, Jefferson's election to the presidency was eventually determined in the House but not without a long fight from Burr, who tried to take advantage of his accidental nomination.  It was only after months of  political negotiation that Jefferson supporters, championed by one Alexander Hamilton (who, strangely enough, disliked Jefferson but detested Burr even more), were able to garner enough votes to secure the nomination for Jefferson.  And to prevent such catastrophes from happening again, our wise Founding Fathers gave is the very messed up smorgasbord that is the 12th Amendment.  Hamilton and Burr went on to add further fuel to their already hot feud, which eventually culminated in their now infamous and, for Hamilton, deadly duel.  Jefferson went on to comple two terms and became immortalized as one of this nation's greatest presidents and statesmen. 

But none of that solves the current potential predicament that we face with each future presidential election.  The looming possibility of a 269-269 Electoral College tie brings with it the horrors of what would undoubtedly be the most bitter, divisive and ugly political dialogue since the Civil War.  Why we aren't proactive and choose to find a better solution is beyond me.  But, as a fan of uber-ridiculous political drama, I also must concede that a 269-269 tie would make for some great must see T.V.  The 12th Amendment helped to calm the political tensions of the late 18th/early 19th century.  Only time will tell if it ends up creating a new mess for us in the 21st century.