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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

43 vs. 44

There has been an awful lot of talk about or 44th President recently.  Here's the thing though, that President hasn't been elected yet, and won't be until 2012 or 2016. Barack Obama is the 43rd President.  Technically, the Obama administration is the 44th administration, but there have been 43 different men to hold the office, not 44.  

Confused? Let's explore history a little bit...

In 1884 New York Governor Grover Cleavland was elected the twenty second President of the United States.  Mr. Cleavland, the first Democrat elected after the Civil War, did so with a broad coalition of bipartisan support on a platform of reform and change.  The second youngest man to hold the office was elected despite his detractors citing his lack of political experience.  Cleavland claimed the office was about judgment, and in his sweeping rhetoric pledged to do what was right and what was hard to defeat corruption, regardless of the political consequences.  Sound familiar?

In December 1887 President Cleavland called on Congress to reduce protective tariffs, due to a budget surplus. This despite advice that he would be giving Republicans an effective issue for the 1888 campaign, he famously replied, "What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?" But Cleveland was defeated in 1888; although he won a larger percentage of the popular vote, Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison, received more electoral votes. 

The inherited surplus was used to grow the federal government, renewing rail, steamship and farm subsidies etc.  The Harrison budgets became the first to surpass a billion dollars during peace time.  Even with the surplus intact, Harrison opted to raise tariffs to a level higher than before Cleavland's cuts.  As a direct result, the cost of everything went up, strangled the economy and forced a deep depression. 

In 1892, Cleveland was back.  A series of retooled regulations and policies with a boot strap emphasis restored the economy.  Though they were largely unpopular.

The parallels of this time to our own are rather striking, but that's not why I tell this story.  Rather, my point is that due to President Harrison splitting the Cleavland terms,  Grover Cleavland is consistently cited as both our 22nd and 24th president, which means that only 43 different people have held the office.  Ergo, the 44th person to hold the office, will be the next administration.  

I have been told that this distinction is akin to the silly 2000 vs 2001 as the true millennium.  Maybe it is, but I don't think so, changing from 19 to 20 was the cool part, not the history of the date.  In this case we are being asked to miscount.  And with much smaller numbers.  I know I'm not the only member of the media with the ability to count to 43 accurately, so let's get it right.  Barack Hussein Obama, our forty third president. 

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Dr. Steven Levitt, of Freakanomics fame thinks it's time we allow people to buy and sell organs.  I think he may be onto something...

Joe Posnanski discusses the baseball Hall of Fame and it's members.  He notes that Bert Blyleven threw more shutouts in 1973 than Johan Santana has in his entire career.  It's worth noting that Blyleven threw 25 complete games that year (including 9 shutouts that year ) as part of 325 IP with a 158 ERA+ and finished 7th for the Cy Young (only one out of forty voters put him on their list).  It's easy to scratch our heads and wonder how the voters could be so remiss, and Patrick Sullivan argues that HOF voters ought to look beyond the awards.

John Hodgman has a new book out.  Everyone should read it.  Including you.

Linzette Alvarez reports that military recruiting is up.  If you're thinking of joining, talk to me before you talk to a recruiter

Is there life on Mars? KC Jones says maybe.

I've written that Governor Deval Patrick is a phenomenal politician and will be president if chooses to be.  He reminded me why at the state of the state on Thursday.

If this was in Europe, the international community would have had a solution yesterday.

Friday, January 9, 2009

No Room For Mistakes

The following was written by AskHodder contributer Andres Lorenzo Garcia

Police officers put their life on the line everyday. Underpaid, understaffed, overworked. They perform a duty most of us hardly ever think of. It's a hard job, full of stresses, I can only pretend to know, and dangers I can only imagine. Excellence demands that we hold our law enforcement officials to the HIGHEST standards. What happened on New Years Day, not but a week ago, in Oakland California was egregious if not unbelievable, and most certainly unacceptable

In our social contract we give the government, the state, the leviathan almost complete dominion over the use of force. We encharge upon it our defense from those who threaten us externally, and from those who covet our goods internally. We deny ourselves the satiating pleasure of inflicting murderous and righteous pain on those who have erred us. We do this out of a sense of justice, consistency, impartiality, and truth. We tell the gods that sit on high, in there marble temples, to adjudicate fairly, and we entrust upon them the will to use force to enact their countenance. 

We give up soooo much to the government, some argue, with much reason, too much. But we do so out of the hope, as blind as it is, that together we as a people will build a better place, than a place of chaos. Lawlessness is not an option. It is through this agreement that our property is not only protected but enhanced. We can trade goods, develop skills, establish meaningful lasting relationships, and THRIVE instead of just surviving. We give up our natural right to inflict pain on our neighbor in exchange for the GOOD LIFE. 

Such is a heavy burden that officers of the LAW and of THE PEACE, must bear with them. They're not mere referees of detached and random laws, but the sentinels of a contract, a belief. The understanding that together we can achieve SO much more than as individuals. We're not wandering in the woods fearful of bears and whatever else may hasten our extinction, but flying through space and splitting the atom. There's is the task of exemplary citizenship. Not just existing in our society, but actively working to maintain and improve it. 

It may be true, and often is, that we do not appreciate those who protect our liberty, adequately. There are soldiers who die without mention, and officers who deter crime without reward. But there's is not a glamorous life. There's is a life of duty, a life of service. They are one of the many pillars of our society, and must act accordingly. 

To murder in cold blood. To exert power without restraint. To act without reason. That is the behavior of animals, and animals we are not. 

Our grief must be tempered with purpose. Our rage must be quenched with justice. Our actions must speak louder than words. We believe in a thing called society. And to those entrusted in the protection of it, there are no room for mistakes.