Barack and Hillary: Showdown in Texas and Ohio

February 29, 2008

March 4, this coming Tuesday – will it solve anything in the race for the Democratic nomination? Primaries and caucuses are taking place in Texas and Ohio, key states because there are large numbers of delegates at stake. Neither state is a winner take all election. The allocation of delegates to the candidates will be based on percentage of the vote in the primaries. This means that unless one candidate wins an overwhelming percentage of the votes the total delegate count will still be very close. Right now in the polls, Obama and Clinton are running virtually neck and neck in both states.

Texas has 193 delegates at stake in their primary and Ohio has around 100 so you can see there is a lot at stake here in the race to reach the magic number of 2,025 needed to win the nomination. It appears that this race might have to be decided at the convention it is so close.

Clinton desparately needs a convincing win in either Texas or Ohio or she may face elimination. Obama on the other hand might be able to take an insurmountable lead should he win a large percentage in one or the other. I don’t believe that will happen, but watch closely to see if one or the other can deliver a knockout blow. Democrats need to get this race decided so they can focus on the apparent Republican nominee John McCain, instead of fighting each other.

McCain Ineligible to be President? You be the Judge.

February 28, 2008

aboutmccain_picts_1.jpgThe New York Times published an article February 28, 2008 by Carl Hulse that may throw the proverbial wrench into Republican John McCain’s bid to become President of the United States. (left: photo of Senator McCain campaigning. Taken  from his website.)

McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 to American-born parents. The Canal Zone was a Territory of the United States, not a State or even a Possession. His birthplace was a U.S. military base within the Zone.

The Constitution of the United States states that to be eligible to be President a person must be “natural born”. The exact wording is found in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution,

“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

Most Constitutional experts seem to feel that McCain would win any court challenge, but clearly a challenge could prove messy and the outcome unpredictable. If it was legally challenged before or during the election it could hurt his election chances, and a challenge after his inauguration could prove disastrous for the country. What would happen if he became president, a challenge was mounted and the Supreme Court ruled against him? He would be forced to resign the presidency or be removed from office. What a shocking development that would be.

The crux of the issue relates to the definition of “natural born Citizen” in the Constitution. This would be the clause that the legal interpretation would hinge on. Several things should be in his favor in any challenge,

1) The Panama Canal Zone was a Territory of the United States. Anyone born there would likely be considered “natural born”.

2) He was born on an America military base. Surely this would be considered American soil by the court.

3) He was born to parents who were both “natural born Citizens”, that is they were born in the contiguous fifty United States of America.

If there is no challenge, at the minimum it should be clarified at some future date simply to avoid confusion. Some interesting factoids illustrate confusion that has already occurred. Fortunately, nothing major has occurred to date. However, McCain is a formidable candidate who has a very strong chance of becoming president.

  • Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona was the Republican nominee for president in the 1964 election. He was born in 1909 in the then Arizona Territory, three years before it became a state.
  • George Romney who was a presidential candidate in 1968 was born in Mexico. Sure seems to me this wouldn’t meet the criteria, but again it wasn’t tested, likely because he didn’t become the nominee of his party.
  • FDR, Jr. who once considered running was born on Campobello Island in Canada was definitely ineligible in my opinion. 
  • President Chester Arthur, whose official birthplace was Vermont, was rumored to be Canadian born. The only official proof of his place of birth is an entry in the Arthur family bible held by the Library of Congress. In fact it is very likely he was not eligible to be president. He was challenged on the issue, but never legally. See my posting in the archives of this blog which delves into that issue.
  • Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California has aspirations to be president. He was born in Germany. He has been told he is not eligible, but what about George Romney in 1968. Why was he even eligible to run when he was born in Mexico?

If a challenge is mounted this year against McCain look for a special sitting of the Supreme Court to quickly resolve the issue one way or the other. To have a major controversy develop during this important presidential election would be untenable.

Further Reading:
Constitution of the United States of America, Article II, Section 1

New York Times, February 28, 2008, Carl Hulse

Last Men Standing: World War I Veterans

February 25, 2008


Above: Canadian soldiers following tank at Vimy Ridge. 

There are now just two North American veterans of “The Great War” or World War I left alive. Both live in the United States, but one is a veteran of the Canadian Army and the other the United States Army. There are 14 surviving veterans worldwide from The Great War.

Jack Babcock, age 107, is the last survivor of 619,636 men who served in Canada’s military during World War I. He enlisted in the Canadian Army at age 15 in 1914. Like many others he lied about his age in order to serve. The military found out about his real age and held him in reserve in England until he was old enough for battle. The war ended though before that could happen. Jack returned to Canada after the war, but within two years moved to the United States where he still lives. Canada’s Veteran Affairs Department only found out about him a few years ago when his wife made inquiries about veteran’s benefits that might help her care for him.

Frank Buckles, also age 107, is the last living U.S. soldier who served in World War I. Frank lives in Charles Town, West Virginia and remains in good health. Mr. Buckles also lied about his age and joined in 1917, shortly after he turned 16. Frank saw combat in France and Germany. Later in the Second World War he became a POW for 39 months after Japan invaded the Phillippines.

Remarkable men both of these survivors, but no more remarkable than any of those who answered the call and served their countries in this terrible “war to end all wars”. As their countries last surviving veterans they have become symbols for all ofthose who served. When they pass into the ages, Canada and the United States will hold services to honor and remember all.

One of the others who served was my grandfather, Cuthbert “Bert” Sendell from Toronto, Ontario. Bert enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1915 and served in France driving munition trucks up to the frontlines many times under enemy fire. He returned home to Toronto in 1919. Bert died in 1983. He left behind children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Total Eclipse of the Moon, Feb. 20, 2008

February 21, 2008


Above: Chart of the eclipse from NASA.  

Last evening I was treated to an incredible natural event, a total lunar eclipse.  I have seen these before, but not under the ideal conditions of last night; clear sky, no wind and an unusually bright full moon displaying itself for its admirers to gaze on.

Here in Calgary, Alberta the full moon rose in the northeast and first appeared low just above the horizon. Gradually it became higher above the horizon as total darkness fell and by this time was sparkling clear. The night sky filled with stars that shone even through the city lights. At about 6:40 pm local time (Mountain Daylight Time) the lower left edge of the moon began darkening. Over the next sixty minutes the darkness gradually veiled the full moon. By 8:00 pm the sky was completely dark and the moon was entirely obscured with the shadow of the Earth. Above the moon appeared the bright star Regulus and to the lower left Saturn shown brightly. Using high-power binoculars I was able to see the eclipse in all its magnificence. Before the moon was covered the mountains and plains of the moon were able to be seen in amazing clarity. The total eclipse lasted almost an hour.

2008-lunar-eclipse.jpgAs I continued to watch in awe, the veil slowly lifted until the full moon was shining brightly in the crystal clear sky once again. I am sure I will see more lunar eclipses in my lifetime, but this one will be hard to beat. Conditions were just perfect, even with city lights interfering to some extent. I live in the extreme northeast quadrant of my city so lights were not a major factor. (Above: NASA photo of last night’s eclipse at totality.)

Lunar eclipses occur when the moon passes into Earth’s shadow is blocked from receiving all of the sun’s rays. Because it still receives indirect sunlight through Earth’s atmosphere it doesn’t go totally black. Usually the veiled moon appears slightly reddish or brown depending on how much dust and cloud cover are in the atmosphere. Last evening it had a reddish hue from my vantage point. This was the last total lunar eclipse until 2010. In 2007 there were two, but only one was visible here and cloudy conditions prevented ideal viewing.

The other treat for stargazers was the appearance of the second brightest star in the night sky, Regulus from the constellation Leo.

This star is about 77.5 light-years from the Earth and is 33 times larger than the Sun, our star. The light my eyes saw last evening had taken that long to reach me. That is simply incredible. If that wasn’t enough Saturn appeared to the left of the moon. It too was shining brightly, but of course not blinking since it is a reflective object. Regulus being a star was blinking.

Today reflecting on this event I feel honored to have been able to see nature’s grandeur displayed for us here on Earth. Many take this for granted, but by doing so they are missing a grand show.

Africa in Turmoil: Another Country at Risk

February 20, 2008


Above: map of Chad (Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.)

Chad is another African country where democracy is at risk and genocide is lurking. Chad was until recently the poorest country in the world; however,the recent discovery of major oil reserves have meant a sudden influx of cash.

Crude oil began flowing July 15, 2003 to markets via a 665 mile pipeline to the coast through neighboring Cameroon (Chad is landlocked). Part of petroleum development was an agreement between Chad and the World Bank ensuring that a portion of oil revenues would be set aside and used for health, education and infrastructure in the country.

After a controversial election in 2007, the government is now under attack from rebels. Chad military forces have so far been able to fend them off, but the rebels are regrouping and civil war seems imminent. Ever since 1966 rebels have been sporadically fighting each other, and the central government.

Chad is a West African kingdom that is thousands of years old. Up until 1900 it consisted of many tribal districts without any central government. France took control in 1900 and it became a French colony. On August 11, 1960 it became the independent Republic of Chad. The first multi-party elections were held in 1996. In 2007 violence from the adjacent Darfur region of Sudan spilled over into Chad.

The problems in Chad are linked to ethnic and economic roots. There are two major religions, Islam (53%) and Christianity (35%). The other problem is that the Sahara desert is encroaching from the north to the south of the landscape. Only about 3% of the country is arable and that is in the south. Also as mentioned before, Chad doesn’t have direct access to the sea. The only water body is Lake Chad in the southwest and it is shared with Nigeria and Niger.

In my opinion most of the civil wars in Africa are the result of the method used to determine national boundaries. The European powers controlled these countries prior to their independence. After the Second World War independence was granted. The borders of the newly independent countries were imposed by the colonial poweres, France, Italy, Belgium, Great Britain and others, regardless of traditional tribal borders. As a result within the countries are multiple peoples, many of whom are traditional enemies of each other. They are expected to become nationalist and work side by side with their sworn enemies. This is just not working.

Chad has become strategically important because of its large oil reserves. Tribal warfare is on-going and rebels are using this as an excuse to wipe out traditional enemies. The West needs to start paying attention to countries like Chad.  Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Chad are bleeding. Does anyone care?

Barack or Hillary? Watch Ohio and Texas

February 20, 2008

It appears that the upcoming primaries in delegate-rich Ohio and Texas could determine the winner of the Democratic nomination for president. If it doesn’t then there is a strong possibility that the nominee will not be decided until the convention to be held August 25 – 28, 2008 in Denver, Colorado.

The delegate standings as of today from CNN Election Central,

Barack Obama
Pledged  –  1,140
Superdelegates – 161
Total – 1,301

Hillary Clinton
Pledged  – 1005
Superdelegates – 234
Total  –  1239

Total needed to win – 2,025

As you can see this is still very much a horse race, but they are entering the home stretch. March 4, 2008 is the date of the Ohio and Texas primaries. The results of these may be the turning point for the candidates. Both are now campaigning hard in those key states. Stay tuned to see who will be running for president against the apparent Republican nominee Senator John McCain.

First Boomer Collects Social Security

February 19, 2008

kathy1.jpgKathy Casey-Kirschling became the first U.S. baby boomer to collect Social Security on February 13, 2008. She is the vanguard of 80 million other baby boomers in the United States. Canada also has the same large group of these post-WW II babies.

The challenge will be to the health care system and the government pension plans. Will the plans be adequate to look after the needs of this large group of citizens?

Baby boomers have worked hard for the last forty years or more and now are at or nearing retirement age. I am in that group at age 58. In 2009 I will worked full-time for 40 years. I think in all that time I was unemployed involuntarily for about two weeks.

I have a message for the young people of today. Save for your retirement early, even if it is just small amounts to start. The last 40 years have flown by for me, they will for you too. We aren’t here for a long time. To have a good time including in your later years start planning early.

Co-incidently Kathy was born one second after midnight January 1, 1946 and is officially considered the first baby boomer to be born. She retired at age 60 and has been giving back to the community through volunteer work.

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