George Washington’s farewell address (abridged and in modern English)

Yesterday, I shared George Washington’s farewell address from 19 September 1796. In it, he warned Americans against devolving into political parties and he encouraged them to remain neutral when it comes to international politics.

I really, really like his speech, and I wish more people would read it. But it’s long (6000 words) and while the language isn’t too convoluted, it does get boggy in spots. So, I spent some time attempting to “translate” Washington’s farewell address into modern English. At the same time, I trimmed it from 6000 words to 1000 words.

I’ll grant that I could very well have made some errors here, both in interpretation and in translation. If you spot a mistake, please tell me so that I can fix it.

With that out of the way, here’s my attempt to convert George Washington’s farewell address from 1796 to 2021… Continue reading

George Washington’s farewell address (from 1796)

Last July, my friend Miranda and I had a long conversation about politics in the U.S. I expressed (once again) my frustration with this country’s political parties. I think our current two-party system creates many of our woes and I hate it. It’s the reason that — until 2020 — I’ve always voted for the strongest third-party candidate for President.

Miranda told me something I’d never known: Our first President, George Washington, was also wary of political parties. “He made a point of warning against parties in his farewell adress,” Miranda told me. “Have you read it?”

I had not. But I have now! And today, I’m going to reprint George Washington’s farewell address in full for you folks to read. If this seems like all too much (it’s 6000 words, so I get that it’s overwhelming), I’ll publish an abridged version tomorrow with translations into “modern English”. The language in Washington’s farewell isn’t too intimidating, but it does indeed get boggy here and there.

Anyhow, here’s George Washington writing in 1796, warning the new country about the dangers of partisanship and advocating neutrality with other nations. Continue reading

American Dharma

Last weekend, I watched American Dharma, the 2019 Errol Morris documentary that profiles political strategist Steve Bannon. Here’s the trailer.

This preview does an admirable job of encapsulating the film in just 2-1/2 minutes. Like all Morris documentaries, American Dharma is fascinating.

Because I deliberately try to steer clear of the news, I didn’t know much about Bannon. Hardly anything. I knew he was somehow related to the Trump presidency, but that’s it.

And because my political views are decidedly non-traditional — I’m a non-partisan small-i independent and/or small-l libertarian — I’m usually willing to give almost anyone the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t like Trump. I think he’s easily one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. But that’s not because he’s Republican. Some Republican presidents are good. Some are bad. Some Democrat presidents are good, some are bad. To my eyes, Trump is an awful president who just happens to be Republican.

All the same, I’m not one of those who believes “all Trump voters are racist”. I know that sometimes you have to make compromises. Sometimes you have to vote for somebody you don’t like simply because you like them a little better than the other option.

So, I went into American Dharma not knowing what to expect. I found it interesting.

Morris profiles Bannon’s rise to power, tracking his move from aspiring film-maker to chairman of Breitbart News to mastermind behind Trump’s 2016 campaign. Morris doesn’t badger Bannon. In fact, they have a reasonably open exchange, even though they clearly disagree with one another.

I actually found Bannon a somewhat sympathetic character. I don’t agree with his views, but I now understand more about the reasoning behind them. And I think he makes a compelling case when he argues that there’s a vast swath of people in the United States who feel abandoned, who feel as if the government does not represent them — and hasn’t for a long time.

To Bannon, Trump’s election was inevitable. To these disenfranchised voters — the farmers and mechanics and cafeteria servers of Middle America — Trump represents a voice who will speak for them. They don’t care that he often doesn’t make sense. And they don’t care that his aims are often what would once have been called un-American. They have somebody on their side.

By the end of the film, Bannon has made the case that there will literally be a violent revolution in this country if the political elite continues to ignore the vast middle. And I can’t remember whether this is explicit in Bannon’s statements or merely implied, but when you have a violent revolution, the previous rule of law no longer applies. The revolution is meant to overturn the established order, after all.

Bannon seems to believe that the U.S. Constitution is not sacred in any way. If it needs to be discarded in order for a “better” nation to emerge, then so be it. (Better as defined by Bannon and those who believe like him, obviously.)

It’s become very clear over the past few months that Donald Trump believes something similar. Trump doesn’t give a flying fuck about the Constitution. He’s doing what he was elected to do: serve his those who voted him into office. The Constitution is a nuisance to him rather than a guiding document.

And today, as his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, it was very clear that they don’t give a flying fuck about the U.S. Constitution or the rule of law either.

I have no idea what happens next. I suspect that calm will be restored, Biden will assume the presidency, and Trump will fade to oblivion, forever remembered as one of the country’s worst presidents. But I could very well be wrong.

Whatever happens, I wish people on all sides would take the time to listen to each other. The Right speaks and the Left doesn’t listen. The Left talks and the Right has deaf ears. They talk past each other. They use inflammatory jargon that serves to foster disagreement rather find consensus. It’s baffling.

Find somebody who disagrees with you. Sit down with them. Have a rational conversation. You’ll learn they’re not an idiot. They’re not evil. They’re simply another human being trying to find their way through life. And they happen to disagree with you a bit on how that might best be accomplished.

U.S. Population by race and gender

For better or worse — I’m not going to argue this point right now — the United States has become a country in which racial and gender “quotas” are important. By that I mean that people pay a lot of attention to the demographics of any particular group, show, or organization.

I’m frequently curious about the actual demographic composition of the country. Seriously, this is something I try to figure out a couple of times each year. I’ve never had any success at finding actual numbers, though. I’m sure they exist somewhere (likely the U.S. Census site) but I haven’t been able to find them.

This morning, however, I found two pieces of info that can help us extrapolate some numbers. These won’t be precise measures of U.S. demographics, but they’ll be close.

In this post, I want to break out the U.S. population by race and gender. This is meant purely for informational purposes. I’m not trying to make any political point here.

First, let’s look at gender.

According to this November 5th report from Statista, gender distribution has remained steady in the U.S. for years. Women make up 51.1% of the U.S. population; men are thus 48.9% of the country.

Next, let’s look at race. For these numbers, I’m using data from the Kaiser Family Foundation (which, in turn, bases its numbers on the American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau).

In 2019:

  • 60.1% of the U.S. population was white.
  • 12.2% of the U.S. population was black.
  • 18.5% of the U.S. population was hispanic.
  • 5.6% of the U.S. population was Asian.
  • 0.7% of the U.S. population was American Indian.

As a sidenote here, I hate the term “latinx” as an alternative to latino or hispanic. It’s a linguistic horror. Hispanics and latinos hate the term too, but some people continue to use it anyhow. This article from Pew Research contains a terrific discussion (and stats) regarding the use of “latinx”.

Because gender distribution is fairly stable across time and across other demographics, we can extrapolate the following numbers:

  • White women make up 30.7% of the U.S. population and are the largest gender/ethnic bloc. White men represent 29.4% of the U.S. population.
  • Black women make up 6.2% of the country. Black men are 6.0% of the population.
  • About 9.5% of the U.S. are hispanic women. Hispanic men are 9.0% of the nation.
  • Asian woman are 2.9% of the nation’s population, and Asian men are 2.7%.

While we’re looking at gender and race, let’s take a quick look at the current demographics of sexual orientation.

In the U.S., 4.5% of the country’s population identifies as LGBT. But the numbers are strikingly different by generation. Millennials (defined as those born between 1980 and 1999) have the highest queer population at 8.2%. Every other generation has a queer population of 3.5% or lower.

In the past, estimates put the transgender population in the U.S. at about two or three people per thousand. In recent years, however, that rate has doubled. The current widely-accepted estimate is that 0.58% of the U.S. is transgender. So, out of every 1000 people, roughly six are “trans” and 994 are ”cis”.

Again, I’m offering these numbers purely for informational purposes. It’s been tricky for me to find these stats in the past, and I want to have place I can grab them, when needed.

Why would I possibly need to know these ratios in every day life? Because, unfortunately, we live in a world where people are quick to judge (and condemn) if you even appear to exhibit bias that deviates from statistical norms. (Here’s an example of what I mean.)

But, more importantly, I really do try to be representative in my work and writing. Knowing what representative actually means in the Real World helps me to do that.

Anyhow, I thought these numbers might be useful and/or interesting to others too. Enjoy!

Jared Loughner’s Insane YouTube Videos

So, I’m just as worried as everyone else that Jared Loughner, the man who attacked a political gathering in Arizona today, is some sort of politically-motivated rightwing nutjob. However, after a little research, I’m not convinced that’s actually the case.

Jared Loughner may have spouted conservative anti-government rhetoric, but if you watch his YouTube videos, the guy’s flat-out insane. I don’t mean in a figurative sense; I mean this literally. Just as John Hinckley didn’t represent liberal Democrats when he tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan, Loughner doesn’t represent conservative Republicans in this case. Both men are just nuts.

Don’t believe me? Take a gander at Loughner’s non-sensical YouTube tirades. Here they are, in chronological order:

How To: Your New Currency! (from 22 Nov 2010)

The Student at Pima Community College: An Unconstitutional Crime! (from 30 Nov 2010)

How To: Mind Controller (from 06 Dec 2010

Introduction: Jared Louhgner (from 15 Dec 2010)

Hello (from 15 Dec 2010)

Again, this doesn’t seem to be a Tea Party thing. It seems to be a mentally insane thing. This guy reminds me of the nutjobs I’ve mocked in the past, like the Time Cube guy, or the guy who posted a classified ad in the Salem paper about being forced to play basketball at the mental hospital.

So, please, just as you wouldn’t want conservatives to rush to judmgent about somebody who shot a Republican congressman, don’t do the same when it’s a Democratic congresswoman who has been shot. It may be that Loughner is a Tea Party crank — or he could just be somebody who is mentally ill.