Tuesday, November 27, 2012

One Lump or Two?

Paul Revere may be known as the herald of the Colonies' war with England, but a tea tax was the underlying economic trigger.  By the end of the 18th Century tea was no longer solely the drink of the aristocratic and wealthy.  Powerful trading monopolies with fast new sailing ships brought tea from China to Britain and Holland at a price that soon made it available throughout the population.  The tax levied on tea supplied to the colonies symbolized their strained relationship as the American economy prospered.  Colonists boycotted tea and prevented the cargo from coming ashore. And then the Boston Tea Party. Hundreds of crates tossed overboard.  Followed by the War of Independence.  The world order changed, but tea did not.  We drink today the same varieties enjoyed Since Chinese Emperor San Nong, in 2737 BC found tea leaves by chance in his boiled drinking water. 

Tea comes from the tropical plant Camellia sinensis. Today tea bushes cover about 6 million acres of the earth. All styles of tea come from the same bush.  The geography and timing of the harvest along with the method of processing yield the variations we know as Black, Oolong, Green and White tea.  For your tea drinking pleasure, visit the web pages of Mark T. Wendell, Tea Company tea purveyor since 1904.  Order their Hu-Kwa Tea.  Enjoy

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Meet Rep. Thomas Tudor Tucker, SC

Representative Tucker was born in Bermuda, received his medical education in Scotland, and settled in Charleston, SC.  He served as a surgeon in the Army and after the war was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives.  He ran successfully for Congress and served two terms.  He subsequently served as Treasurer of the United States under four consecutive Presidents.  In his first term, during a floor debate he expressed concern that a proposed action would exceed Congressional authority as specifically established in the Constitution.  The year was 1789.  The action under consideration was a resolution to be proposed to the President that a national day of thanksgiving be declared.  Representative Tucker said this: " Why should the President direct the people to do what, perhaps, they have no mind to do?  If a day of thanksgiving must take place, let it be done by the authority of the several States."  As I read his words today, and think of the actions proposed by the Federal Government that I have no mind to do, I say Amen.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Believe the Warnings

Railroad crossings are marked to let drivers know that a train is coming.  A train cannot stop when it sees an object in the crossing.  A fast moving train requires a mile or more to stop.  Rail transport is efficient and effective at moving large loads - not at negotiating in close traffic.  I have ridden in the engine of a train.  I have listened to train crews recall incidents in which they could not stop.  Incidents in which they watched helplessly as the train plowed into a object on the track.  With emergency brakes on, with whistle blowing all they can do is slow the impact.  In Texas last week a train  hit a flatbed truck which had pulled onto the crossing even as the warning lights began to flash.  The truck was decorated as a float carrying wounded soldiers to a parade.  As the news spread of the incident in Texas sympathy was expressed widely for those on the float, especially the injured.  I express my sympathy for those on the train crew who saw the event unfold but were helpless to stop it.  The moral to this story is obvious - be cautious approaching and entering a train crossing.  Believe the warnings.  Take responsibility.

PS Perhaps you know the song about Casey Jones, an engineer on the Illinois Central Railroad at the end of the 19th century.  Jones lost his life in a train wreck - an event made legendary by the popular song.

Read the incident report filed a month after the crash to learn what really happened. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More From the News

Yesterday I called attention to ubiquitous pressure on the public purse.  Today I add this note.  Rita Crundwell served for over twenty years as comptroller of the small city of Dixon, Illinois (population 15,700).  She has plead guilty to stealing more than $53 million over the course of her career.  $53 million.  $2,650,000 average in each of 20 years.  As a taxpayer, I ask "How can the loss of such an enormous sum not be noticed?"  Politicians all promise to fight fraud, waste and abuse.  They count on such a campaign as a source of funds to spend elsewhere.  But somehow, it doesn't happen.  Ms. Crundwell may stand out as a particularly aggressive fraud, but she is just the tip of the iceberg.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In the News Today

Here is a sampling of the stories in the first few pages of our local paper. The Senators who represent states hard hit by "superstorm" Sandy are asking the President to add more relief aid to his next budget proposal.  Wind energy advocates, including Governors and industry executives, are demanding a continuation of the federal subsidies supporting the production of wind electricity.  The President will hold a series of campaign-style events after Thanksgiving which will build on over 100 rallies organized by labor unions urging Congress to avoid cuts to entitlement programs. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff argued against the demotion of four star General William Ward despite a finding of lavish personal use of federal funds.

Everyone has a hand out these days.  Even a 100% increase on income over $250,000 will not help - not even raise enough to save the wind energy subsidy.  Before we reach agreement on the best solution to our budget deficit, I believe we need to reach agreement on some basic civics principles.  Civics - the study and science of the privileges and obligations of citizens.  It used to be taught in high school.  I wonder if it still is.