Archive for August, 2020


Sunday Morning Sidewalk

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – It’s Sunday. Did you go to church today? Or do you put yourself in the SBNA column, that is, Spiritual But Not Affiliated? “Organized religion” has been on a worldwide downtrend in recent years; reasons are not crystal-clear, perhaps there is simply more poll-taking. Freedom of Religion, and its first cousin, Freedom of Speech, are the Top-Valued basics we brag about most here in the US of A. When Kayla and Sam and I visited the National Archives on our recent NDI RTW, one of the things we saw in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom was The Bill of Rights, adopted December 15, 1791. And the very FIRST Amendment on that list reads like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Forty-five words that pack a heck of a lot of power. The first thing I get from that part about “religion” is simple: I can choose which religion I want and I can choose not to practice a religion at all if that is my wish. And from the part about “speech,” I understand that I can say, or not say, whatever I please, except, that has been amended a bit to say “don’t tell lies about other people and don’t use filthy language that distresses other people.” Which, of course, has led to many other amendments and arguments about just what “filthy language” IS, and what distresses others. A can of worms there. And sometimes, NOT saying something is considered a real faux pas.

I was thinking about that this morning when I read the story that came out of the Democratic Convention last week about the Pledge of Allegiance. The Democrats were accused of leaving “under God” out of the Pledge. And then  AP Fact Check came forward to explain: The Central Programming of the Convention featured the entire Pledge, complete with “under God.” However, the Muslim Delegates and Allies Assembly and the LGBTQ Caucus meeting on Tuesday chose not to include those words. That was not part of the prime-time broadcast.

That’s a good example of a nitpick. Because the truth of the matter is – we have the right to speak, or not; and we have the right to be religious (whatever that means) or not, but we will be judged on our choices. Yes, I can be a Wiccan or an atheist or a born-again Christian, but along with that choice comes a passel of attitudes that will be formed about me, depending on whether or not the other fellow is a Wiccan, or an atheist, or a born-again Christian (or Jew, or Muslim, or SBNA…..)

It’s the way our minds work. We categorize!  And in fact, the choices people make DO speak to who they are, and how they think,  unless they’re just  sheep following the most popular shepherd. No doubt the revelation that VP Candidate Kamala Harris attended both a black Baptist church and a Hindu temple growing up, and is now married to a Jewish man, will cause some heads to spin. Labels will be stuck to her forehead! And golly gee, look at VP Candidate Mike Pence – he grew up in a Catholic home, then in college he became a born-again Christian and joined a mega-church. So he now identifies as a born-again Catholic, who adheres to the Billy Graham belief that men and women who are not married should not be alone together. And he’s on the ticket with a man who, well, you know that story.

Will our current tickets have a broad enough appeal to pull in almost EVERYBODY? Protestants & Catholics & People Who Once Were Catholics & Jews & SBNAs? Others? Will that get the vote up from the lousy 56% in the 2016 election?

Here are the answers people gave in a 2014 national survey when asked what their “religious preferences” are. There’s a map at the end.  (No Religion includes the SBNAs)

United States Percent of Population Religious Practice

  • Protestant 46.5%
  • Catholic 20.8%
  • Mormon 1.6%
  • Non-Christian Religion (Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, other) 5.9%
  • No Religion 22.8%

Then I broke it down into the top 5 states in each of those categories for a sense of “lay of the land” in case you are campaigning.


  • Alabama 78%
  • Mississippi 77%
  • Tennessee 73%
  • West Virginia 70%
  • Arkansas 70%


  • Rhode Island 42%
  • New Mexico 34%
  • New Jersey 34%
  • Massachusetts 34%
  • Connecticut 33%


  • Utah 55%
  • Idaho 19%
  • Wyoming 9%
  • Arizona 5%
  • Alaska 5%

Non Christian Religion (Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, other)

  • New Jersey 14%
  • New York 12%
  • Hawaii 10%
  • District of Columbia 9%
  • California 9%
  • Massachusetts 9%

No Religion

  • Vermont 37%
  • New Hampshire 36%
  • Washington 32%
  • Massachusetts 32%
  • Alaska 31%
  • Oregon 31%
  • Maine 31%

Are you surprised?


The Better To Hear?

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – I got curious, and went on a search. When, I wondered, did the Democrats and Republicans begin using donkeys and elephants as party symbols? And more puzzling, WHY? A donkey, aka, JACKASS, with an annoying bray? And a big lumbering elephant who would surely eat you out of house and home if you let it in?

Turns out the story actually does begin with somebody calling somebody a jackass. Andrew Jackson, back in the election of 1828, was depicted as being “stubborn as a jackass” and Andrew just flat turned it around and, with a donkey as a mascot, beat out John Quincy Adams! Remember, Adams became president in 1824, though Jackson had won the popular vote. But Jackson tried it again, and whupped Adams you-know-what. It was a landslide.

The “mascot” idea didn’t really catch on until the mid-1800’s however, and I found some interesting examples of political cartoons. The first I’ll share, with full credit to American Antiquarian, explains what “seeing the elephant” generally referred to. Citation: “Jeff. Sees the Elephant,” The News Media and the Making of America, 1730-1865,

Jeff. Sees the Elephant

This color lithograph published by E. B. & E. C. Kellogg of Hartford, Connecticut, and George Whiting of New York City dates from 1861 or 1862. It is believed to be the first time that the elephant and donkey appear together depicting the Republican and Democratic parties. The phrase “to see the elephant” was a common expression in the mid-nineteenth century and often appears in descriptions of both the gold rush and the Civil War. It is thought to originate with the circus. The large mammals such as lions and elephants were the climax of the circus experience and always appeared toward the end of the performances. When one had “seen the elephant” then one had seen the entire show. The term then gradually became synonymous with experiencing or” seeing it all.”

In this image the elephant bedecked in formal attire with accessories festooned with stars and stripes and the U.S. Constitution in his pocket represents the Union. The cannon barrels protruding from his waistcoat, and the multitude of even more cannon and cannon balls behind him, represent the great military prowess of the Northern states. Eventually Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) took on the elephant as his mascot. By his reelection campaign in 1864, trunks and tusks were used in his campaign materials and “the elephant is coming” became his slogan. Republicans have been associated with elephants ever since.

This humorous image also contains Jefferson Davis (1808-89) as a donkey, peering through a monocle at the elephant and his enormous quantity of arms and armaments. Behind him is an army of “jackasses” carrying pitchforks, rakes, brooms, and scythes, which are clearly no match for the North’s cannon. The gallows in the center background of the image portends a bleak future for the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis was a lifelong Democrat, having served as a U. S. representative and senator before becoming president of the Confederacy after the South seceded.

A fellow named Thomas Nast (1840 – 1902), a German-born American caricaturist, is considered the “Father of American Political Cartoons.” He was associated with Harper’s Weekly, and popularized the donkey-elephant symbols in his work. In general, his political cartoons supported American Indians and Chinese Americans. He advocated the abolition of slavery, opposed racial segregation, and deplored the violence of the Ku Klux Klan. Harper’s Weekly, and Nast, played an important role in the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1864, and Ulysses S Grant in 1868 and 1872.

Clifford Berryman (1869 – 1949) was another influential political cartoonist; he worked with both the Washington Post and Washington Star. He drew thousands of cartoons commenting on American presidents, lampooning both of the Roosevelts and Harry Truman. A Pulitzer Prize winner, his cartoons are in the National Archives, and the Library of Congress today.

I found hundreds of donkey-elephant images during my search – they seem to be handy critters for “poking fun” or making serious accusations in a clever, right-to-the-point manner. The DEFINITION of each animal didn’t go far in explaining how they keep winding up on bumper stickers every four years though:

  • Donkey: a domesticated hoofed mammal of the horse family with long ears and a braying call, used as a beast of burden; an ass.
  • Elephant: a heavy plant-eating mammal with a prehensile trunk, long curved ivory tusks, and large ears, native to Africa and southern Asia; the largest living land animal.

Then I thought of PETA

PETA had been thinking about it too, and published a piece about it. In a showdown, which real animal would win? PETA called it a tie.

  • Physical prowess: Elephants are active for 18 hours a day and can travel up to 30 miles a day. Donkeys can run up to 30 miles per hour and are sure-footed on rocky mountain crags.
  • Compassion: Elephants will pitch in to help a mother elephant rescue her drowning baby. Donkeys are affectionate and patient with children.
  • Beauty: Standing up to 13 feet tall with trunks that can reach for 7 feet, elephants make a majestic sight. Donkeys are beautiful with soft coats of fawn, chocolate, red, or black fur and a graceful gait.
  • Intelligence: Elephants figured out a shortcut researchers hadn’t thought of in an experiment to see if they could work together, both pulling opposite ends of a rope, in order to move food close to them. Donkeys are smart too; companion donkeys answer to their names, go for walks off leash, and can even learn to pull carts through obstacle courses.
  • Enjoying leisure time: Elephants like to cool off by using their trunks to spray water all over their bodies. Donkeys like to roll on their backs in the grass or dirt and love receiving treats and ear rubs.

One thing is clear. Both animals have big ears. The better to hear you with?


Who Counts?

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – Interesting, isn’t it, that women fought so long and hard to be allowed to vote, but still must live in the right state for their vote to count. That’s true for men too! If you favor a Democrat, but live in a state full of Republicans, your vote isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. And vice versa. In fact, you don’t actually vote for a CANDIDATE at all, though political campaigns are designed to appeal directly to the individual, coddling us with love and promises, if we vote for THEM.

Once our vote is cast, however, it actually starts a ride through the maze known as the Electoral College, and if you recollect, five times since 1788 a candidate has won the popular vote but lost the election.

  • Andrew Jackson in 1824 had 38,149 more votes than John Quincy Adams, but lost.
  • Samuel Tilden (Dem) in 1876 had 254,235 more votes than Rutherford B Hayes (Rep), but lost.
  • Grover Cleveland (Dem) in 1888 had 90,596 more votes than Benjamin Harrison (Rep), but lost.
  • Al Gore (Dem) in 2000 had 543,895 more votes than George W Bush (Rep), but lost.
  • Hillary Clinton (Dem) in 2016 had 2,868,686 more votes than Donald J Trump (Rep), but lost.

The Electoral College

I’m sure you’ve got this memorized from Civics 101 in 6th grade, but just in case the details have gotten fuzzy, here is where your vote goes. Established in Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution, the Electoral College is the formal body that elects the President and Vice President of the United States. Each state has as many “electors” in the Electoral College as it has Representatives and Senators in the United States Congress, and the District of Columbia has three electors. When voters go to the polls in a Presidential election, they actually are voting for the slate of electors vowing to cast their ballots for that ticket in the Electoral College.

Got that? You are voting for Electors.

Most states require that all electoral votes go to the candidate who receives the plurality in that state. After state election officials certify the popular vote of each state, the winning slate of electors meet in the state capital and cast two ballots—one for Vice President and one for President. Electors cannot vote for a Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate who both hail from an elector’s home state.

But not every state is the same.

Maine and Nebraska employ a “district system” in which two at-large electors vote for the state’s popular plurality and one elector votes for each congressional district’s popular plurality. In the November 2, 2004 election, Colorado voters rejected a “proportional system” in which electors would vote proportionally based on the state’s popular vote.

The District of Columbia and 26 states “bind” their electors to vote for their promised candidate, via a number of methods including oaths and fines. Though still rare, electors more commonly changed their vote in the 19th century—particularly on the vote for Vice President. Such “faithless electors” have never decided a Presidency however.

There has been one faithless elector in each of the following elections: 1948, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1988. A blank ballot was cast in 2000. In 2016, seven electors broke with their state on the presidential ballot and six did so on the vice presidential ballot.

Faithless Electors! But to continue – A Job You Wouldn’t Want

Since the mid-20th century, on January 6 at 1:00 pm before a Joint Session of Congress, the Vice President opens the votes from each state in alphabetical order. He passes the votes to four tellers—two from the House and two from the Senate—who announce the results. House tellers include one Representative from each party and are appointed by the Speaker. At the end of the count, the Vice President then declares the name of the next President. With the ratification of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution (and starting with the 75th Congress in 1937), the electoral votes are counted before the newly sworn-in Congress, elected the previous November. Sitting Vice Presidents John C. Breckinridge (1861), Richard Nixon (1961), Hubert Humphrey (1969), and Al Gore (2001) all had to announce that they had lost their own bid for the Presidency.

There have been a total of 165 instances of elector faithlessness as of 2016. The United States Constitution does not specify a notion of pledging; no federal law or constitutional statute binds an elector’s vote to anything. All pledging laws originate at the state level. In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Chiafalo v. Washington that states are free to enforce laws that bind electors to voting for the winner of the popular vote in their state.

Supporters of the Electoral College argue that it is fundamental to American federalism, that it requires candidates to appeal to voters outside large cities, increases the political influence of small states, preserves the two-party system, and makes the electoral outcome appear more legitimate.

Non-supporters would argue that the Electoral College places powers governing a national election within state boundaries and removes the ability of the individual to select their leader.


Voting, and the Virus

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – As of August 20, the World Health Organization reports 22,536,278 cases of COVID-19 in the world. Of that, 5,511,793 cases are in the United States, a number which amounts to one quarter, that is 25% of the worldwide total. In case you’re wondering, the population of the United States is 5% of the world population. Just saying.

I find it difficult to keep up with the current hoopla about “who is doing what when” with regard to decisions about managing a pandemic on local ground; and even more hoopla about “how to have a secure vote” with regard to the upcoming presidential election. So the recent announcement about New Zealand’s decision to postpone a national election due to an upsurge in COVID-19 cases really caught my eye.

Action in New Zealand

On Monday, August 17 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand announced that the September national election would be delayed by four weeks as new virus cases spread across Auckland, making it difficult to campaign. Prime Minister Ardern, who has the sole authority to determine when people cast ballots, said she had consulted with all the major parties before delaying the vote, originally scheduled for September 19, to October 17. Ms Ardern called the decision a compromise that “provides sufficient time for parties to plan around the range of circumstances we could be campaigning under, for the electoral commission to prepare, and for voters to feel assured of a safe, accessible and critical election.”

The shift keeps Election Day within the time frame allowed under the law — the latest possible date is November 21 — but it also highlights the national concern as a cluster of at least 58 new cases frustrates investigators, clears the streets of Auckland and suspends scheduled campaign events. Pressure on Ms Ardern and her Labour Party to change the date had been building over several days. A poll taken over the weekend showed that 60 percent of New Zealanders favored a delay. The leaders of other major parties also argued that the Level 3 lockdown in Auckland, the country’s largest city, prevented campaigning and would have made a free and fair election impossible on the original date.

I noted earlier, when on my NDI RTW visit to New Zealand, that their voting process is quite different from the US, where campaigning begins early and the media races to outdo itself by predicting, and announcing, results “before midnight.” I still recall my frustration in Seattle one year when I headed for the polls after work, only to hear “the winner declared” on the car radio. With our current Cell Phone Mentality, it’s a second-by-second race to get ahead of the game. I call it blather. Just saying.

From the New Zealand Electoral Commission webpage, I see today’s schedule for their 2020 General Election.

  • Monday 17 August: Prime Minister announces new dates for the 2020 General Election
  • Tuesday 18 August: Regulated period for election advertising expenses begins
  • Sunday 6 September: Parliament dissolves
  • Sunday 13 September: Writ Day – the Governor General formally directs us to hold the Election
  • Thursday 17 September noon: Deadline for party secretaries to get their bulk nomination schedules and the party lists to us
  • Friday 18 September noon: Deadline for electorate candidates to get their individual nomination forms to us
  • Wednesday 30 September: Overseas voting starts
  • Saturday 3 October: Advance voting starts
  • Friday 16 October: Advance voting ends
  • Friday 16 October midnight: The regulated period ends. All election and referendum advertising must end. Signs must be taken down by midnight.
  • Saturday 17 October: Election day. Voters can vote from 9am to 7pm
  • We’ll start releasing preliminary election results from 7pm on
  • We won’t count referendum votes on election night
  • Friday 30 October: We release the preliminary results for the referendums
  • Friday 6 November: We declare the official results for the general election and referendums
  • Thursday 12 November: Last day for the return of the writ

Easy peasy. Sit back and have a cup of tea. So, what will Ms Arden and the New Zealand government DO during this “delayed election” time? They will focus primarily on the virus. Health officials in New Zealand are scrambling to test thousands of workers at airports and other points of entry, along with quarantine facilities and a frozen food warehouse, to try to determine how the virus re-emerged last week.

New Zealand’s election is far from the first to be postponed because of the pandemic. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems reports as of  08/20/2020 that 64 countries and eight territories have postponed a total of 109 election events due to COVID-19, ranging from local municipal elections to parliamentary and national events. The idea of delaying the US general election was floated by President Donald Trump, but it was shut down by members of Congress and his own party.

Everything you need to know about voting in New Zealand

Everything you need to know about voting in United States


Women, And Politics

August 19, 2020, Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – Iceland, a parliamentary representative democracy at the northern end of the globe, was the first country to have a female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, elected in 1980. It also has the world’s first female and openly gay head of government, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who was elected prime minister in 2009. Iceland has had a woman as either president or prime minister for 20 of the last 36 years. In the 2016 parliamentary election covering 63 seats, 30 women were elected.

New Zealand, a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government at the southern end of the globe, was the first country in the world in which all the highest offices were occupied by women, between March 2005 and August 2006: the Sovereign Queen Elizabeth II, Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, Prime Minister Helen Clark, Speaker of the House Margaret Wilson, and Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias. Currently Queen Elizabeth II continues as Head of State, Governor-General is Dame Patsy Reddy, Prime Minister is Jacinda Arden and Chief Justice is Dame Helen Winkelmann.

There has never been a female President or Vice-President in the United States, a federal democratic republic. There has been one female major party presidential nominee in US history: Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. She was the first woman nominated for president by a major party, the first woman to participate in a presidential debate, and the first to carry a state in a general election. She won the popular vote in 2016, receiving nearly 66 million votes to Donald Trump’s 63 million.

There have been three female major party vice presidential nominees: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, on the ticket with Walter Mondale; Republican Sarah Palin in 2008, on the ticket with John McCain; and Democrat Kamala Harris in 2020, on the ticket with Joe Biden.


Both Iceland and New Zealand rank in the World List of Voter Participation Top 10 , each averaging about 76% turnout. Others in the TOP 10 are Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, South Korea, Netherlands, Israel, and Finland. The United States ranks in the World List of Voter Participation Bottom 10, with 56% in the 2016 presidential election. Others in the BOTTOM 10 are Estonia, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Chile, Japan, Latvia, Poland, Mexico, and Switzerland.

August 26, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of The Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote in the United States after 72 years of the largest civil rights movement in the history of the world.

THE WOMAN SUFFRAGE TIMELINE as complied in the LIZ LIBRARY is available for your review; read of the events that have transpired since 1776, when Abigail Adams first spoke up for “the ladies.”

I offer only a few highlights regarding women’s efforts to be ALLOWED to vote.


  • 1776 Abigail Adams writes to her husband, John Adams, asking him to “remember the ladies” in the new code of laws. Adams replies the men will fight the “despotism of the petticoat.”
  • 1787 U.S. Constitutional Convention places voting qualifications in the hands of the states. Women in all states except New Jersey lose the right to vote.


  • 1848 First Women’s Rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Equal suffrage proposed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. After debate of so radical a notion, it is adopted.
  • 1867 Fourteenth Amendment passes Congress, defining citizens as “male;” this is the first use of the word male in the Constitution. Kansas campaign for black and woman suffrage: both lose. Susan B. Anthony forms Equal Rights Association, working for universal suffrage. Suffrage Movement Divides Over Black v. Woman Suffrage.
  • 1868 Fourteenth amendment ratified. Fifteenth Amendment passes Congress, giving the vote to black men. Women petition to be included but are turned down. Formation of New England Woman Suffrage Association. In New Jersey, 172 women attempt to vote; their ballots are ignored.
  • 1870 Fifteenth Amendment ratified. The Grimke sisters and 42 other women attempt to vote in Massachusetts, their ballots are cast but ignored. Utah territory grants woman suffrage.
  • 1878 Woman suffrage amendment first introduced in U.S. Congress.
  • 1894 Despite 600,000 signatures, a petition for woman suffrage is ignored in New York.


  • 1910 Washington (state) grants woman suffrage.
  • 1911 California grants woman suffrage. In New York City, 3,000 march for suffrage.
  • 1912 Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive Party includes woman suffrage in their platform. Oregon, Arizona, and Kansas grant woman suffrage.
  • 1913 Women’s Suffrage parade on the eve of Wilson’s inauguration is attacked by a mob. Alaskan Territory grants suffrage. Illinois grants municipal and presidential but not state suffrage to women.
  • 1917 Beginning in January, NWP posts silent “Sentinels of Liberty” at the White House. In June, the arrests begin. Nearly 500 women are arrested, 168 women serve jail time, some are brutalized by their jailers. North Dakota, Indiana, Nebraska, and Michigan grant presidential suffrage; Arkansas grants primary suffrage. New York, South Dakota, and Oklahoma state constitutions grant suffrage.
  • 1918 The jailed suffragists released from prison. Appellate court rules all the arrests were illegal. President Wilson declares support for suffrage. Suffrage Amendment passes U.S. House with exactly a two-thirds vote but loses by two votes in the Senate.
  • 1919 In January, the NWP lights and guards a “Watchfire for Freedom.” It is maintained until the Suffrage Amendment passes U.S. Senate on June 4. The battle for ratification by at least 36 states begins.

And that battle ENDED in Tennessee on August 18, 1920, 100 years and 1 day ago. The story told by the guide when I toured the Nashville capitol was that young Harry T Burn from Niota gets credit for what happened that fateful day. At least, his mother does. The resolution had passed the Tennessee State Senate, but the vote in the House was close, in fact, on first vote it did not pass. Harry’s mother, Febb Ensminger Burn, a prominent businesswoman, sent her son a note. After lunch, he changed his vote, then HID from the angry crowds, but that one vote was all it took. Tennessee was the 36th and final state needed for ratification and the 19th Amendment became law August 26, 1920.

Women, and Politics. Interesting.


Potato Potatoe

August 18, 2020, Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – There is a political convention going on today, sort of a TV event. Watchers will get doused with speeches about issues, and positions, and planks and platforms and worthiness. When a person runs for political office, they wind up smack in the middle of the bullseye; everything they’ve ever done, or haven’t,  is attacked, or praised, or tangled up with spin control and one-jump-ahead-itis. One must filter wisely.  Lots of buzz about a female VP on the Democratic ticket. Lots of buzz about AGE too. Something I notice myself, being 81. I did a little research, on that matter, and others.

AGE. Assuming Joe Biden and Kamala Harris get through the convention as The Democratic Candidates for 2020, and assuming that Donald Trump and Mike Pence get through next week’s convention as The Republican Candidates for 2020, here are their birthdates and how their ages stack up, oldest to youngest. See how old they will be on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021 and again in 2025.

  • 1942, November 11 – Joe Biden 78-82
  • 1946, June 14 – Donald Trump 74-78
  • 1959, June 7 – Mike Pence 61-65
  • 1964, October 20 – Kamala Harris 56-60

That means an average age of 67 for the Democrats, and 67.5 for the Republicans on Inauguration Day, for those who are concerned about AGE. Don’t forget – lifestyle is as much a part of aging as years out of the womb. The youngest elected president was John Kennedy who was 43 when he took office; Teddy Roosevelt was 42 when he took office after McKinley’s assassination.  Nine vice presidents have become president unexpectedly – John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson through a president’s death and Gerald Ford through a president’s resignation. The oldest elected president was Donald Trump, who was 70 when he moved into the White House.

There is also a lot of talk about APPEARANCE. Who has the prettiest hair, and the most of it? Who has the nicest smile? This counted for a LOT during the Nixon-Kennedy debates. Remember that? We’ve had some really FAT presidents and really TALL presidents and some BALD presidents. What should POTUS look like? Dignified? Commanding? Trustworthy?

Do you believe EDUCATION is important? Where a person went to school, and what they studied. You’d think grades might be important, but those records are closed, for some of the candidates. Here’s what I found about college, alphabetically.

  • BA Hanover College & JD Indiana University – Mike Pence
  • BA Howard University & JD University of California, Hastings – Kamala Harris
  • BA University of Delaware & JD Syracuse – Joe Biden
  • BS Wharton School – Donald Trump

RELIGION. Does that make a difference to you? That also factored large in the Kennedy-Nixon campaign. Kennedy was a CATHOLIC and non-Catholics had great fear that the Vatican would rule the US with a Catholic president. But remember, Kennedy was good looking enough to overcome that. Here’s the religious preferences the four claim.

  • American Baptist; grew up attending Black Baptist Church and Hindu Temple, husband is Jewish – Kamala Harris
  • Catholic, attends mass regularly with wife Jill – Joe Biden
  • Evangelical Catholic; grew up Catholic, switched to Grace Evangelical megachurch – Mike Pence
  • Presbyterian, doesn’t attend; wife Melania Catholic – Donald Trump

FAMILY. Spouse, kids? Some good stories here, as the years have gone by.

  • 1966 – Joe Biden married Neilia Hunter, they had three children, Hunter, Beau and Naomi
  • 1972 – Joe Biden was widowed when Neilia was killed in an automobile accident; daughter Naomi, age 1, died too
  • 1977 – Donald Trump married Ivana Zelníčková, they had three children, Donald Jr, Ivanka, Eric
  • 1977 – Joe Biden married Jill Jacobs, they had a daughter, Ashley
  • 1985 – Mike Pence married Karen Batten, they had three children, Michael, Charlotte, Audrey
  • 1992 – Donald Trump and Ivana Zelníčková divorced
  • 1993 – Donald Trump married Marla Maples, they had a daughter, Tiffany
  • 1999 – Donald Trump and Marla Maples divorced
  • 2005 – Donald Trump married Melania Knauss, they had a son, Barron
  • 2014 – Kamala Harris married Douglas Emhoff, he has two children, Cole and Ella, who call Kamala “Momala” rather than stepmom

BIRTHPLACE. This has been a topic of note in previous campaigns. Where were they born? Where did they grow up? How many in their family? Which state can claim them?

  • California, Oakland. Kamala Harris was born here, grew up in Berkeley with one sister Maya; mother, Indian, was a biologist in cancer research; father, Jamaican, a professor of economics at Stanford.
  • Indiana, Columbus. Mike Pence was born and raised here, along with five siblings; mother Irish ancestry, father, Irish/German descent, operated a group of service stations.
  • New York, NYC Queens. Donald Trump was born and raised here with four siblings; mother born in Scotland, father German descent, real estate businessman.
  • Pennsylvania, Scranton. Joe Biden was born here, grew up here and in Delaware with three siblings; mother Irish descent; father Irish, French, English, a used-car salesman.

POLITICAL OFFICE. Also bandied about – how many times has a candidate been ELECTED and SERVED in public office?

  • 10 Joe Biden: 1 Delaware Councilman, 7 US Senator, 2 Vice President
  • 5 Kamala Harris: 2 District Attorney, 2 State Attorney General, 1 US Senator
  • 4 Mike Pence: 2 US Representative, 1 State Governor, 1 Vice President
  • 1 Donald Trump: 1 President

NAME. What’s in a name? Names are good for name-calling, nick-naming, and campaign buttons, such as I Like Ike. Or Honest Abe. What is their actual spelled out name their Mama gave them? And what chemical reactions, or memories, or associations pop into your head when you see the words?

  • Donald John Trump
  • Joseph Robinette Biden
  • Kamala Devi Harris
  • Michael Richard Pence

I didn’t get any info on their favorite TV shows. That is a telling qualification too. Favorite foods…pets…hobbies…where they go on vacation…if they do. Knowledge of geography. Spelling skills.


Buy More Buckets

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – I’m stealing a line from Ellen Degeneres. I wish I had thought of it myself. In her book “Seriously…I’m Kidding,” Chapter Bucket List, #1 is “Buy More Buckets.” I laughed, out loud, but then I thought – what a really great idea! Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson kept adding to their list (in that movie); it was just a wadded piece of paper with scribbles, but it got them skydiving. And focused on something other than their ailments. They actually DID things, rather than being stuck in their predicament. But first they STATED things they wanted to do, they put them in WRITING, and tried to figure out HOW to do them. Ellen’s idea takes it even one step further. Buy more buckets! Come up with so many things you REALLY want to do that it takes more than one sheet of paper to write them all down.

It’s a neat concept, unless you prefer whining, moping, drinking and popping pills to get through your day. And the best thing about Bucket Lists is that they are Very Personal. They are yours and yours alone. Imagine lists and lists of your very own preferences, bucketloads of just what you want to do. Not what you SHOULD do, or what you think is appropriate for someone your age, gender, color, physical capabilities, or pocketbook. It’s what’s inside YOUR head, Magic Wand stuff. Because everything begins with an idea. Like “the wheel,” or “automobiles” or the computer or cell phone on which you are reading this post.

Which is why, of course, my current Bucket List has so many things that might appear unattainable, or unreasonable, for an 81-year-old woman living on a small retirement income with a really bum arthritic knee and  too much scar tissue from a mastectomy. Walking is slow, lifting heavy things is difficult, and I hate flying. I don’t have a lot of money and I don’t like crowds and I don’t like leaving little blue-eyed Katy cat.

But I also don’t want to die without walking on all seven continents, (don’t ask me why, it’s MY Bucket List) and cruising the longest river on every one of those continents. Already ticked off the list of impossibilities (or improbabilities): Living in all 50 US capital cities! Seeing the sun NOT set on the first day of summer within the Arctic Circle and the Antarctic Circle in the same year. Visiting the northernmost city in North America and the southernmost city in South America. Crossing the Andes in a taxi. Standing at the westernmost point on the EuroAsia land mass. Watching the sun set behind the Sahara dunes. And that’s just some of the TRAVEL wishes fulfilled. The FULL LIFE list is even more awesome to me. Having sons! Having grandchildren! Writing books! Planting trees! Learning to water ski! Getting meringue to peak!

Now back to the NDI RTW I’ve been writing about. It WAS a real trip, as it began. All my sons and my working grandchildren were invited to join me at any point along the way in a country they might want to visit; the two youngest just graduating high school accepted my invitation to join me in Iceland. All the hotels were booked, and the flights as far as New Zealand, when the bomb dropped. On February 29 I learned of the first COVID-19 case in the US. We kept watching progression, and hoping for a miracle. But as “stay at home” became the norm, and borders were closed, reality sank in. And when the US State Department Global Health Advisory – Level 4 Do Not Travel email arrived on March 19, I called a halt.

But the thing about Bucket Lists is – they are adaptable. I couldn’t actually leave on July 7, as planned, but I COULD imagine it. It’s been fun writing about all the places I still want to visit, and imagining myself doing all the things on my List. It has kept me happy, and upbeat. I can see the crowd at the airport as we trudged wearily off the plane and down the walkway last night (well, maybe I’d have asked for a wheelchair, they ARE handy and much faster than my arthritic walk). And ALL of my family would have been there to greet me; friends too, in fact, so many people waving signs and banners welcomed us back that other passengers gathered round too, and cheered. Strangers I’ll never meet have photos of Kayla and Sam and me, all frazzled and travel stinky, in their cell phone storage now, because, What Was That? An Old Woman and Two Teens just did something awesome, apparently.

Watch for my plane leaving Clinton National as soon as travel becomes feasible once again, and “seeing the world” is safe. My foot is going to wade in that Indian Ocean. And I’m going to cruise the Yangtze River, and the Volga. And the Amazon. I know, because I have them on my Bucket List.

Meanwhile I’m headed for Lowe’s today (mask on, of course) to buy more buckets.


Final Glide

Linda Lou Burton posting about Washington, DC from Little Rock, Arkansas – This is it. Today is the end of the NDI RTW. Tonight, I sleep in my own bed after 40 days of almost non-stop travel. I wonder if Katy cat will even remember me. But this morning I woke up in Washington, DC with two of my grandchildren, and this reality: our flight to Little Rock, the only DIRECT flight available (and I couldn’t bear going through Atlanta) didn’t depart until 6 PM. And the three of us were burnt out on DC sightseeing. So what could be better than a nice calm boat ride on the Potomac River to Mt Vernon? We were in agreement, up and packed and checked out by 8; at the Water Taxi dock in time to leave at 9.

The trip was a pleasant ride, the Washington skyline, a stop in Alexandria, and then ashore by 10 at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. “You just added Virginia to your state count,’” I told Kayla and Sam. We had four hours of our own time to wander; George and Martha’s home, their tomb, the farm and farm animals, a gristmill and distillery, the Mount Vernon Inn for lunch. Though there are a few museums there, we went to something called Be Washington, an interactive movie theater. “Step into Washington’s shoes. What would YOU do? Your daring plan of crossing the Delaware River paid off with great military victories. As Commander In Chief, are you willing to do it again and risk your men’s lives? The Battle of Second Trenton, The Newburgh Conspiracy, The Genet Affair, The Whiskey Rebellion – all tests of your “presidential decision-making capacity.” That was entertaining!

Back at the DC dock at 3:30; a taxi to Reagan Airport, and now we’re flying. Will everything happen that we’re expecting? Kayla’s Dad Rick has been at my house all week, cat-sitting Katy and, I hope, spiffing things up and laying groceries in; that was part of the deal. Sam’s Dad Scott flew in yesterday; my oldest son Mike, and Brenda, picked him up at the airport as they arrived by car from Colorado, so the four of them have had an evening together. Did they make banners? Did they buy balloons? I just trekked around the world at age 81. I want adulation, and cheers! At the least a hand sparkler or two.

I think we’re over Tennessee now. Sam and Kayla have nodded off. We are all exhausted.

I’m ready to be home.


Then Let’s Do That

Linda Lou Burton posting about Washington, DC from Little Rock, Arkansas – It has been said there are so many museums in DC you’d need to live here and visit one a day for a year to see them all. We didn’t have a year, and to tell you the truth, our bodies were beginning to feel the effects of walking, standing, and getting jostled in crowds. Not to mention brain overload! Particularly MINE, I’ve been “on the move” since July 7. When reviewing the possibilities this morning, we all sighed. Nobody wanted to do the Hop On Hop Off bus, and Fodor’s list of Top 25 Sights didn’t excite us a bit. Yes, we want to do it all. But not today.

“Just throw a dart,” Sam said. Kayla had a suggestion too, “You’ve been here so many times GMom, what do you think we’d like best?” I gave a qualified answer, “I can tell you what impressed me the most, and what sticks in my mind even though I saw it years ago.” “Then let’s do THAT,” they both said, before I even told them what it was.

The National Archives,

I chose the National Archives first because it is the repository of “US History” like nothing else. If you want to go straight to the horse’s mouth – it is HERE. In one room, in one building, you can see the original founding documents of the United States. The room is the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, and it is the permanent home of three documents that are instrumental to the founding and philosophy of the United States.

  • The Declaration of Independence, written in 1776, announces a complete break with Britain and expresses the ideals on which the United States was founded: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
  • The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. These four large sheets of parchment define the framework and powers of the Federal Government. Written in 1787, the Constitution established an ingenious practical system of government that derives its power from “We the People of the United States” and promotes the welfare of all its citizens.
  • The Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly, among many other rights. The document on permanent display in the Rotunda is the enrolled original Joint Resolution passed by Congress in 1789, proposing 12 amendments to the Constitution. The 10 that were ratified became known as the Bill of Rights.

The documents are sealed in the most scientifically advanced housing that preservation technology can provide; the windowless Rotunda is carefully cooled; no sunshine and no photography allowed. Elsewhere in the building are many other important American historical items, including the Articles of Confederation, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, the Emancipation Proclamation, and collections of photography and other historically and culturally significant American artifacts. Seeing all those original signatures excited us the most.

The National Gallery of Art,

The National Gallery of Art is just across the street from the Archives, and houses more than 150,000 paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photographs, prints, and drawings spanning the history of Western art. It was my second choice for two reasons – when Sam and Kayla were small, we visited many art museums in Seattle and they always left “sparkly-eyed” and smiling. They talked about what they had seen, and usually got the crayons out as soon as they got home. The second reason for my choice was selfish; I wanted to be there again. I remember clearly my stop in front of a particularly magnificent Rembrandt in 1998, it left me breathless. The reds were so vivid; the depth of the painting so astonishing, I just kept looking. I knew, without question, that we’d be happier after visiting there today. Plus it is so well organized, the displays can be enjoyed without jostling. And we needed that.

The Gallery’s Sculpture Garden was really fun, odd and wonderful sights, Kayla kept snapping photos, and Sam, who has learned welding, was fascinated by all the metal pieces, such as Halegua’s, America, 1970, a 25-ft steel construction. I didn’t think I’d get them to leave, but they finally got hungry. Lunch at the Pavilion Café, overlooking the gardens and grounds; in the winter, there’s an ice rink!

We hopped on the free shuttle and rode the few blocks to the Washington Monument. I wanted pictures of them standing beneath, with the White House in view across the Ellipse. I have a picture of their Dads standing there together, all jacketed up; it was the Christmas holidays and there were reindeer on the Mall, and a Christmas tree from every state. Not a single barricade, as there are today.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing

I kept my third choice a surprise; they didn’t know where we were headed until I told our taxi driver. I chose the “Money Factory” for two reasons also. On a summer visit to DC when their Dads were very young, we toured this money-making facility and they still talk about it today. I thought Sam and Kayla would be equally fascinated – the process is actually quite interesting, and involved. PLUS, most young-people-just-entering-the-workforce are obsessed with money; how to get it, spend it, and keep it.

“Have you ever paid attention to what a dollar bill LOOKS like?” I asked. “It’s a pretty intricate design.” They looked at me. Hmmm. Well now they know. We got to see millions of dollars being printed; the tour overlooks the production floor. And they learned these facts about a dollar bill:

  • The first $1 notes called “Legal Tenders” were issued by the federal government in 1862 and featured a portrait of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase (1861-1864).
  • The first use of George Washington’s portrait on the $1 note was on Series 1869 United States Notes.
  • The first $1 Federal Reserve notes were issued in 1963. The design, featuring George Washington on the face and the Great Seal on the back, has not changed.
  • Because the $1 note is infrequently counterfeited, the government has no plans to redesign this note. In addition, there is a recurring provision in Section 116 of the annual Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act that prohibits the redesign of the $1 note.
  • Of all the notes printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the $1 note makes up about 45% of currency production.
  • The Fiscal Year 2018 Yearly Currency Order contains 2.2 billion $1 notes.
  • If you had 10 billion $1 notes and spent one every second of every day, it would require 317 years for you to go broke.

Imagine that! Last choice of the day I also kept as a surprise. We picked up some items from the Market in our hotel and grabbed a bite to eat in our room before One Last Thing. I wanted them to see the monuments after dark.

The Monuments At Night From a Red Roadster

This was just about the cutest thing ever, a small 5-passenger electric RED ROADSTER, driving us all around the city after dark. The route covered everything we still wanted to see (and some we’ve seen twice); but no crowds to contend with, just us and our guide.

First a drive through the entire Smithsonian complex, getting the story of each of the museums; then past the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. We stopped at the FDR and MLK Memorials, and got a chance to walk along the Tidal Basin. Then past the WWI and WWII Memorials to the Lincoln Memorial; great views there of the Potomac River and the National Mall, sparkling in the dark. Throughout the trip the guide gave us stories of the city’s history; then past the White House, and on to Capitol Hill, really something to see at night.

Of course, this is a fictionalized version of what we COULD have done in a COVID-free world; in reality, DC is mostly closed, or masked with limited opportunities. But this is my NDI RTW;  imagining makes anything possible. Then let’s do that.



Linda Lou Burton posting about Washington, DC from Little Rock, Arkansas – Early morning planning by the window again, pulling together ideas for today. It’s a rainy Saturday, so the Hop On Hop Off bus might work best. Yesterday turned out great, it was a TAXI day with “first things first.” The Embassy of Iceland is only open on weekdays, so that had to be a Friday thing. It is way over on K Street NW, and opened at 9; we got a taxi right after breakfast. Taxis are everywhere in DC, hovering near hotels, just waiting. We had a decent tour of the city on our first morning ride – down New York Avenue, onto Massachusetts, around the circle where New Hampshire and Connecticut cross. I asked our driver to keep going on Embassy Row so Kayla and Sam could see the other countries nestled here: Haiti, Korea, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Cameroon, Marshall Islands, Chad, Slovenia, Japan, India, Turkey, Oman, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Iran, Britian, Finland; it was dizzying, we could barely keep up. We circled the US Naval Observatory before heading south through Georgetown towards the Potomac, and the Embassy of Iceland. It’s in the House of Sweden, and represents Iceland vis-a-vis the United States, as well as Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay. “Here we are, back on Iceland soil again today, nice.” We let them know just how much we enjoyed visiting their country and signed the guestbook.

Taxi! Next stop Nationals Park. Our drive along the Potomac passed the Watergate, and the Kennedy Center; across the river was Arlington Cemetery, and Kennedy’s grave. Turning east we passed directly by the Lincoln Memorial; the Pentagon was to our right, across the river, the World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument on our left as we crossed over the Tidal Basin. Our driver kept up a running dialog but there was so much to see our pictures will be blurred. We turned south again and there was the Park.

Nationals Park is the home ballpark for the Washington Nationals, a National League East division team that’s been here since 2005. “They were the Montreal Expos before that,” Sam explained. This is a new park, opened in 2008; it seats over 41,000 and is the first LEED-certified green major professional sports stadium in the United States; it cost $784 million to build. (That we got from our tour materials.) In 2018 the Major League All-Star Game was played here; then last year it hosted games 3, 4, and 5 of the World Series, the first in DC since 1933! Games 6 and 7 were back in Houston, and the Nationals won all 7 games, defeating the favored Astros and securing their first title in franchise history. Yes, the team and Manager Dave Martinez were honored at the White House. The Park sits beside the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard neighborhood; the Washington Monument and the Capitol are visible from the upper decks on the first base side of the field. No games while we’re in town, but the tour was fun.

Taxi! Two miles to the Air and Space Museum. Last year 6.2 million visitors stopped in; it was the fifth most visited museum in the world, and the second in the United States. So wow! It’s all about aviation, spaceflight, planetary science, terrestrial geology, and geophysics. There are 23 galleries in the main museum; on display are 61 aircraft, 51 large space artifacts, and over 2,000 smaller items. Name dropping – the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, the Friendship 7 capsule flown by John Glenn, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the Bell X-1 which broke the sound barrier, the model of the starship Enterprise used in the television show Star Trek, and the Wright brothers’ Wright Flyer airplane. The Wright Brothers papers are in the Museum of Flight in Seattle (they outbid the Smithsonian!). Sam’s Dad (Kayla’s Uncle) is affiliated with the production of Boeing planes at the big plant just north of where they both live; interesting to see the many Boeing exhibits here. The space craft was mind boggling in size; a lot of gazing up, plus IMAX® films on a five-story screen, and a quick cafeteria lunch.

Taxi! Tours of the Capitol begin in the Visitor’s Center on the east side now; I remembered that from my 2013 visit. Tours are free but you need an advance reservation, ours was for 3 PM. First a 13-minute intro film, then stops in the Rotunda. The Dome is encircled by murals, and the fresco on the eye of the ceiling is called The Apotheosis of Washington. The walls of the Rotunda have large paintings depicting significant events in American history such as The Signing of the Declaration of Independence. Other stops include the Crypt, National Statuary Hall, and connecting corridors of the Capitol, where there are statues representing every state. We got pictures beside the Washington and Arkansas statues. The Arkansas statues are of James Paul Clark and Uriah Milton Rose, both lawyers and politicians; the Washington two are Mother Joseph and Marcus Whitman. I visited their duplicates in the Olympia capitol with Kayla in 2012. I’ve visited two state capitols with Kayla, the other was in Honolulu; and two with Sam; Juneau, Alaska and Jackson, Mississippi. Both have been to the Little Rock capitol with me, and now the US Capitol! Our guided tour didn’t include the Senate and House galleries, but we were able to make a quick walk-through to see where our state representatives and senators meet to conduct business. And debate. Live streaming is available when in session.

Taxi! Our hotel for a rest before deciding on dinner. I was hoping the “roller skating waiters” French restaurant was still open; not so, it closed years ago. But Martin’s Tavern is still open, with this enticing blurb: A GEORGETOWN TRADITION. For almost nine decades, visiting guests, future presidents, senators, staffers, and stars have called Martin’s Tavern their home away from home. It’s where JFK proposed to Jackie, and where baseball greats including Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, and Yogi Berra dined in the “Dugout Room.” Every president from Harry S Truman to George W Bush has come to dine, discuss, and relax while shaping the nation’s history.

While we enjoyed our salads and all manner of good solid American food we watched for any presidents since George W Bush to pop in. And shaped our own history, NDI RTW style.