I Bet You Didn’t Know …

Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore - Carved into the Black Hills of South Dakota

The current significance of our 23rd President. Hell, I’ll bet the majority of you don’t even know or care who the 23rd president was. Well, this one-term president, who was elected in 1888 was a Republican Senator from Indiana that served as a Colonel for the Union Army in the American Civil War. He was also the grandson of our 9th President. Is that enough clues or are you ready for me to tell you his name is Benjamin Harrison.

Now let me tell you why this is currently significant. It has to do with two of our least populated states – the Dakotas. The Enabling act of 1889, allowed North Dakota and South Dakota to form state governments and to gain admission as states of the union. (Montana and Washington were also admitted under this act.) Up until that time, Congress had been predominantly Democratic until Harrison took office, and the admission of the two Dakotas gifted the House with a Republican majority.

Even today, there is little or no other reason for this sparsely populated region to have 4 Senators and their respective electoral college votes. Combined, they would rank 40th in population of states, slightly ahead of Hawaii and behind Idaho. By comparison, the population of the two Carolina’s is tens times that of the Dakotas. More to the point, the combined Dakota’s with a population of 1.5 million inhabitants has as many Senators as does California and Texas, which has a combined population of nearly 65 million people (over 20% of the entire U.S. population). Fortunately, in recent times, the Dakota’s have split their loyalties by electing both Democratic and Republican Senators.

To be fair, I know President Benjamin Harrison at least tried to do a lot of good for this country, including works on civil rights, where in 1889, he appeared before Congress and made the following statement, “The colored people did not intrude themselves upon us; they were brought here in chains and held in communities where they are now chiefly bound by a cruel slave code…when and under what conditions is the black man to have a free ballot? When is he in fact to have those full civil rights which have so long been his in law? When is that quality of influence which our form of government was intended to secure to the electors to be restored?”. History shows however, many of his attempted measures were met with resistance and ultimately failed.

Also of interest, is when European settlers began earnestly exploring this area, due to gold being found in 1874 in the sacred “Black Hills” of the Sioux tribe, this greatly increased hostilities with the native Sioux people and in one of the great ironies of this country, “dakota” is the Sioux word for “friends” or “allies”. History of European settlers is wrought with this theme and I’d bet you thought the story line in the blockbuster movie Avatar was original? However, the Natives prevail only in Hollywood story lines. Never in reality.


The New Minimum Wage

Fast food workers and their supporters demonstrating for higher wages.

Media reports are discussing National and various Local changes to minimum wages. I thought I would throw my two cents into the discussion. Please be advised up front, you will probably not like all I have to say on this subject. But here goes.

For starters, let’s define a few terms. The true minimum wage is zero, as in unemployed, and there will never be a change to this minimum.

Secondly, minimum wage is a bad term. In my opinion, the correct term is a “living wage”, meaning what is the least a person can earn and still live beyond the specter of poverty and without any form of outside assistance – public, family, etc. If you’re working and still qualify for food stamps, etc., then the government is subsidizing the employee’s income. This is more a benefit to the company/employer than it is to the employee. Business owners and executives complain about corporate taxes, but at the same time, they are the biggest beneficiary in the masses they underpay. This may take a moment or two for you to wrap your mind around, but without the Government safety net, many employees could literally not afford these low paying jobs. (The situation is similar if your preschool child spends the day with their grandma while you’re at work.)

Seattle, Washington’s newly enacted $15 an hour minimum wages is being challenged in Federal Court. With the price of a gallon of milk at $4, $3 for a loaf of bread, and the ever fluctuating cost for gasoline, a $15 wage is not the panacea you may think it is.

A wage of $15/hour roughly equates to a gross income of $2,500 a month, with a net of $2,000 per month. According to BabyCenter.com, the average daycare cost for a single child will eat up half of this net income. After you put a roof over your head, in-which the national average is over $1,200 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, it’s quick to see that even at $15/hour a single wage earner is already in the hole with just paying for rent and childcare. A very deep hole. Of course you can find cheaper rents and cheaper forms of childcare, but the old saying you get what you pay for is often more truth than not.

Current statistics show 1 in 3 (one-third) of households are of the single parent (read single earner) variety. And to make matters worse, a disproportionate number of these earners are at the low end of the pay scale. Yes that deep hole is a also very wide because it has a lot of people in it.

Now for some counter arguments. Service sector jobs are undoubtedly where you will find low wages. These include fast food workers, call center workers, etc. Just in the past week or two I have been amazed at the incompetence I’ve faced when dealing with such employees. For example,

  • I was in a restaurant and the worker actually pulled a calculator out of their pocket to compute my change from $21.25 for a bill of $21.16.
  • On more than one occasion, what I received for my fast food orders were not what I had ordered.
  • A worker ran my debit card for $0.11 on a $20.11 order (sometimes the error is in your favor).
  • Clearly 1 out of every 4 times I call a 1-800 number I have to ask for a supervisor (higher paid worker). Often the person I’m subsequently connected to resolves the issue quickly.

    My point is I’m all for people making a wage they can live on, but I’m also all for people being competent at their jobs. If you can’t figure out in your head that 25 – 16 = 9, then you should not have a job where you handle other people’s money. I can’t totally fault the worker either, because someone at the management (or owner) level had to have interviewed and hired this individual, so there is apparently widespread incompetence at his organization.

    So in closing, my two cents says, pay the people, but people need to do their jobs as well – Nothing extraordinary, just competently.


    Miranda is NOT what you think it is

    It seems like every other drama on TV deals with law enforcement, whether it be federal, state or local. Recently, just for the heck of it, I went through the TV guide and found during a 24-hour period, there were 28 different “Law and Order” shows broadcast. I’m not sure why the TV moguls think the police so are entertaining, but alas, it is what it is.

    During any police show, we’ve all become familiar with suspects being “Mirandized”. You know, “You have the right to remain silent …”, etc., etc.

    First let’s look at the history of these “so called” rights. The concept of “Miranda rights” was enshrined in U.S. law following the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court decision, which found that the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights of Ernesto Arturo Miranda had been violated during his arrest and trial for armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape of a mentally handicapped young woman.

    The Supreme Court did not specify the exact wording to use when informing a suspect of his/her rights. However, the Court did create a set of guidelines that must be followed. The ruling states:

    The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he/she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he/she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he/she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent him/her.

    Now for the update. On June 1, 2010, in deciding the Berghuis v. Thompkins case, the United States Supreme Court declared that criminal defendants who have been read the Miranda rights (and who have indicated they understand them and have not already waived them), must explicitly state during or before an interrogation begins that they wish to be silent and not speak to police for that protection against self-incrimination to apply. If they speak to police about the incident before invoking the Miranda right to remain silent, or afterwards at any point during the interrogation or detention, the words they speak may be used against them if they have not stated they do not want to speak to police.

    So in simple terms, it is now up to you, when being questioned by authorities to specifically state that you do not want to talk to police and to keep your mouth shut. Your failure to do so, will give you an up close look at just how un-entertaining law enforcement can be.