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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another example of how little I know

I'm an old movie buff (preferably Depression-era movies) so this past week-end I watched a double-feature of Abe Lincoln in Illinois and Tennessee Johnson (Andrew Johnson.)

I was just starting to pay attention to the world in the Watergate era so I grew up knowing that Andrew Johnson was the only president to be impeached but I never actually paid attention to why he was impeached. I just assumed he got caught doing something wrong, like Nixon. After watching the movie, I did some reading.

One of Lincoln's wisest political beliefs was that the southern states should be welcomed back into the Union when the war ended and not punished as traitors. This was at least a factor in his decision to press for Johnson as vice-president in his second term. Johnson was a former Governor of Tennessee and was the only southern Senator who did not resign his office when the south seceded. A vice-president from a Confederate state presented hope for unity and forgiveness.

Radical Republicans (a phrase used to describe a group within the Republican party which came into power in the 1866 election cycle) weren't so forgiving. They were strong supporters of freed slaves and they wanted harsh punishment for the Confederacy. Among them, were cabinet members Johnson inherited from Lincoln, including Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. (Stanton may be best known for saying "now he belongs to the ages" at Lincoln's deathbed.)

In an effort to prevent Johnson from removing Radical Republicans from his cabinet, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act which required the President to get Senate approval before firing any of his appointees whose appointment had been approved by the Senate. The act, effectively, made it impossible to Johnson to appoint his own cabinet members who might share his belief in reconciliation. Johnson vetoed the bill but it was over-ridden and became law.

Johnson suspended Stanton, in keeping with the act, but when the Senate did not approve the suspension, he defied the law and fired him anyway.
So Johnson was not the scoundrel I always believed him to be. I only have a slight understanding of Johnson's impeachment but he seemed to be a bold leader who was willing to sacrifice himself for the betterment of our country.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

And now for something completely different

Last night, I attended the first session of the FBI Citizens Academy. This is an 8 week program designed to give community members an inside look at the FBI.

This week, we covered Civil Rights and White Collar/Public Corruption crimes.

Civil Rights crimes include hate crimes and abuse of power crimes involving law enforcement, what the agent called Color of Law. (Law enforcement personnel are given powers by federal, state and local authorities to enforce laws and to provide justice. When they employ these powers, they are acting under the color of law.)

Clearly, a discussion of these types of crimes is sobering, but what surprised me was that the number of Civil Rights cases investigated last year seemed to be small – less than a 1000. The agent was clear to note that Civil Rights crime, particularly hate crimes, may be small in number they have a large impact on society and, as such, are a substantial priority.

For me, the discussion of white collar and public corruption crimes was most enjoyable. Maybe this is because I work in a white collar world and these crimes offend me on a personal level.

In my own way, I’m an expert. I’ve worked in education long enough to know the ropes and I can use this experience to help students (at least that’s always my goal.) To have expertise and to have the ability to help others is a great gift. To corrupt this gift and to misguide those who count on you, or society as a whole, is particularly deserving of punishment. It’s good to know that there are agents working to ferret out these crimes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The first step is to admit I have a problem

I’m not one for making excuses but I haven’t learned anything this week and I have an excuse. I’ve spent 90% of the past two weeks watching, listening, and reading convention coverage and I have nothing to show for it but indigestion. I am placing myself on a news fast.

Rather than watching the morning news as I get ready for work, I’ll watch Sponge Bob Square Pants – is that odd for someone who doesn’t have children?

When I might normally watch the evening news, I’ll do some chores around the house.

In the car, I’ve switched from the POTUS channel on XM to the comedy channel (at least I think I have, it’s hard to tell.)

And whenever I’m tempted to pick up my laptop just to see if there’s anything new on my news feed, I’ll play a game of solitaire.

I can’t say that I’ll regain the parts of my brain that have withered from convention-related trauma, but at least I’ll be a little less cranky and able to sleep.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The other white meat - it's what's for dessert.

Those of us who work at schools don’t have much opportunity to learn new things during the first week of the fall semester. It’s so busy, the best we can hope for is getting through each day. So, I can’t say I learned anything new but I did reaffirm a strongly held belief this week-end. Bacon makes everything taste better.

I hosted a family picnic, which in my family does involve a small amount of showing off. We all like to cook and to eat so you’d better show some effort. The meal turned out well. I was mostly pleased with my mise en place which allowed me to take the meat off the grill to rest while while I brought together three side dishes in about five minutes. Yes, bacon did make a minor appearance in two of these side-dishes but it was the dessert that reaffirmed my faith in bacon – a buttered-rum ice cream with candied bacon.

I can’t take credit for the idea so please visit David Lebovitz site for details.