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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Back to the Present

After two columns mentally exploring Africa in 1932, I'm back to today.  Congress is in session again, and the pace is picking up, especially on impeachment investigations.  As I've said before, I don't want that too soon and be stuck with Mike Pence as an incumbent at this time next year.  That would be doing a real favor for Mitch McConnell and other Republicans, so let's calm down, slow dance, and follow Nancy's Pelosi's pace.  Instead of jumping off too soon, we should keep on keeping on for most of another year, giving Trump plenty of rope to hang himself.  Let's defeat him and his congressional enablers fair and square at the polls, and then there will be endless time for the courts and the many corruption cases.


I've not said much about the race for the Democratic nomination lately, so I want to share an interesting poll from Daily Kos.  It is a progressive online news source that I read every day and features stories from dozens of people who care enough to donate their time.  They and their readers will be the primary voters in the 2020 primaries, and they have been polling readers since May.  Elizabeth Warren continues to solidify her lead, while Bernie and Joe continue to fade.  Back in May, she tallied just 19%, but now has 43%.  Bernie was in first place in last spring with 34%, and he has plunged to 15%.  Joe has lost exactly half of his support:  then he came in at 18% and now has 9%. 


This site is more likely than most to have die-hard Bernie supporters, but I think that even they think it's time for both Bernie and Joe to get off the stage.  The two been there for too long.  Joe should content himself with having been vice-president, and Bernie should stay in the Senate, where his ideas are valuable.  Hubby, who was one of Bernie's first admirers back in the 1970s, agrees – and we both are very impressed by Elizabeth Warren's truly grassroots approach.  To pose for selfies with 20,000 people at a rally – no one ever has done something like that!  When asked when she was going to cut off the line, she said, "When I've talked with the last person."




Despite being impressed by Elizabeth, I've been sending a tiny monthly contribution to Senator Amy Klobucher because I would like to have a woman from the Heartland.  Although Amy doesn't seem to be rising much in the polls, I'll wait until the Iowa caucuses and trust that her Minnesota constituents will have some influence with their next-door neighbors.  In addition to being from the Midwest, where Democrats lost the 2016 election, she never has lost an election in her long career as a prosecutor.  When she first ran for the Senate, her Republican opponent managed a mere 38% of the vote. 


So let's talk about electability, which seems to be the main talking point of Biden supporters.  Here's a fact I've noted before, but it bears repeating:  No white male ever has hit 65 million popular votes – but a black man (Barack Obama) and a white woman (Hillary Clinton) have made that mark.  The only reason that Hillary is not president today is the Electoral College, an anachronism that should be changed.  I'm glad that the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is offering an alternative, and you should google it.  I doubt if there's any chance that Florida's Republican legislators will join this democratic cause, but we nonetheless should try.


People indeed can force politicians to have a change of heart, and that is best illustrated by what we did in 1913.  Until then, when the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution was adopted, the US Senate was elected by our state legislators, not by us.  In other words, the guys in Tallahassee chose the guys we sent to Washington.  You can well imagine that this method not only was undemocratic, but also likely to be corrupt. 


To change it took a constitutional amendment, which requires adoption by 2/3 of both houses of Congress and ¾ of state legislatures, both chambers in each.  Yet we the people managed to insist that enough congressmen and state legislators voted to change the process of how US senators were elected.  We can promote such change again with the presidency and the outdated Electoral College.  Please keep keeping on.




I missed this in the news, so I'm glad that my friend Amy Scherzer forwarded it to me.  It seems that Hasbro – the giant of toys and games, especially board games -- has released a new version of Monopoly aimed at girls.  According to an article in the Washington Post, the new version "starts female players off with more money than men and pays them more for passing go."  The board's design also "celebrates women trailblazers" and "spotlights women who have challenged the status quo."


The article by Antonia Noori Farzan, however, focuses on the fact that America's most popular board game was invented by a woman.  Elizabeth Magie, called "Lizzie," was a stenographer and typist in Washington, DC back when those skills were new.  Also active in the arts, especially drama, she was an intellectual who was much taken by the theories of economist Henry George.  He proposed that public utilities – railroads, electricity, etc. – should be owned by the public and that land should be held in common. 


Magie agreed and invented what she called "The Landlords Game," which she intended to demonstrate capitalism's randomness and inequities.  "Landlord" conveyed the unequal status of owner and tenant -- a principle that you understand if you ever had a Monopoly opponent who bought up all the valuable real estate, while you repeatedly landed on the place that says "go directly to jail." Her point was to emphasize the randomness of life; that misfortunes can befell the best of us; and that allowing some people to get incredibly rich while others go bankrupt is not a sound policy plan.


She patented the game in 1904, and it became popular, especially among leftists.  Versions were made with local names for streets, railroads, hotels, etc.; indeed, we have old Harvard version in our game closet.  Although Harvard folks of the 1930s would have seen the game as horrifyingly socialistic, by the Great Depression many other people were playing one version or another.  In 1935, an unemployed wannbe capitalist named Charles Darrow tweaked it and presented it to Parkers Brothers – then the monopolist of games – as his own idea. 


When that proved untrue, Parkers Brothers paid Lizzie Magie $500 for her patent and promised to produce other games she had invented.  She accepted, hoping that her anti-monopoly message would reach a larger audience.  The audience for Monopoly certainly happened, but not the message; instead the message of greed and discrimination against women was reinforced.  The corporation never developed her other ideas, and she got no royalties from the immensely popular game.  Lizzie Magie died in poverty in 1948.




Another friend, Dr. Susan Dellinger, forwarded a link to a video that was the best internet treat I've had in a long time.  It featured interactions of people and animals, and after watching it multiple times, I'm still smiling.  Two featured bears, with one jumping (beyond the glass that separated them) in response to a boy jumping; the other was a bear who clearly understood that his human was sad.  The big bear walked up to the pensive man, stood tall on his hind legs, put his bear claw around the guy's shoulder, and hugged him.


Two elephant ones also were favorites.  One featured an elephant who threw a man from his trunk; the guy did a somersault in the air and landed on the elephant's cushioned back.  Even more delightful was one of a guy playing a keyboard in his backyard, while an elephant stood behind him and banged on the piano keys with his trunk.  That animals like music was the point of others.  I especially enjoyed a hound watching a guy dance on a rug; the dog moved on to the rug, made similar foot movements, and then looked up as if to say, "Am I doing this right?"


Then there was the one with a small, turquoise bird on the shoulder of a woman at a computer; the bird's insistence and competence at peek-a-boo would have been highly distracting.  Another woman's voice could be heard saying "what, what" to a goat, and the goat's response was almost indistinguishable from hers.  My very favorite, however, was a woman playing a violin to a donkey.  His (or her) attempts to bray along with the tune were just hilarious, yet very sincere. 


The second line of Bobby Darin's song about talking to animals is "chatting up a chimpanzee," and probably the most important image in terms of behavioral science was that of a chimp being shown photos on someone's camera phone -- and rejecting the images of himself (or herself) that he/she didn't like.  Doesn't that have all the hallmarks of a new and wonderful culture?  Yet how often do we remark about these remarkable things?  I love living in a world where people have time and talent to play with animals and to send the images off to millions of others around the globe.  It really is astonishing.   





The video made me think of Dr. Charlie Jones.  Charlie was a woman, and lord knows what institution gave her a PhD in psychology.  She taught my introductory course, and one of the many "facts" that she insisted we memorize was that animals cannot reason; they only act on instinct.  Most of her students had grown up on farms and knew from experience that is not true, but there was no arguing with Dr. Jones.  She had a grading system unlike any other I've ever experienced:  It was possible to make well over 100% on her tests if you answered questions she didn't ask, and it was also possible to fail if she saw you as failing to give her proper respect. 

So I agreed that animals can't reason or learn or teach their young, which I knew was absurd.  I understood that this pretense was essential to getting an A – and also very important to her in terms of religious belief.  She assumed that we all aspired to be part of a Christian civilization, and she thought it was essential to draw a firm line between humans and animals.  Presumably God created them both, but Genesis does say that he puts us in charge, and from that reasoning, I guess, animals can't reason.


But a more important thought:  The way we think about animals is one of the greatest philosophical shifts in my lifetime.  To the extent that philosophers and theologians thought about them at all in the past, most seemed to agree with Charlie – that animals are here for human use and abuse.  The first time I heard the phrase "animal rights" was in the early 1980s, when I was running a phone bank for the late Representative George Sheldon, and someone asked his position on the issue.  As you know, things have evolved since then as humans show more and more concern about other living beings.  It's more evidence of our real progress as people, and that is a very good thing.



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