I’m Finding this Fascinating

I think every now and then when I get captivated learning something new, or relearning something in a deeper way, I’m going to share it.

I’m in lesson 6 of Hillsdale College’s course on the US Congress and it’s enthralling. I really think this is a must-see for any US citizen and for anyone curious about how our government works.

Now I got an average or maybe above average education on US government in high school as was and still is required, but I didn’t learn about how congress changed through the centuries, about how administrative laws proliferated and how the government had to figure out, through trial and error how new regulations should be made and how the agencies should approve them. I didn’t learn about the powerful Speakers of the House Thomas Brackett Reed or his successor Joseph Gurney Cannon, of whom it could be argued was more powerful than either of the presidents he served.

The professor also shares how the U.K. Parliament’s Question Hour influenced American legislators and others who wanted this sort of give and take. I’ve seen snippets of the Prime Minister’s Questions, but now that I’ve found the Parliament’s YouTube Channel, I’m sure to watch more often.

I urge you to check out Hillsdale’s online courses. They’re free.

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Victoria, Season 3, A Show of Unity

When her carriage is unsuccessfully attacked by Irish rebels, Victoria learns that the Irish want their freedom. Thus the queen takes her entourage to visit the Emerald Isle.

Albert gets Bertie a new tutor from his visit to Cambridge. Victoria’s not amused because she wasn’t consulted. That’s understandable. Albert continues to have trouble with his role, which he sees as second-fiddle, and Victoria’s mourning Skerrett and impatient that no one realizes this. All these emotions add to the marital conflict between the Queen and the Prince.

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The real Feodora

Like Cinderella or Jane Eyre, Feodora’s left at home to look after the children. She stews and pouts and is clueless about the new tutor, whom the servants suspect is up to something.

In Ireland, the royal retinue stay at Lord Palmerston’s estate. We meet Lady Palmerston. I expected a long suffering woman trapped in a loveless, arranged marriage. I was off base. Lady Palmerston is a busy beekeeper and happy with her open marriage.

Victoria’s blown away with the open marriage concept. She shares this arrangement with Albert, not that it’s something either of them want to try, but she’s amazed she’s met a woman who’s okay with this.

Love is also in the air between Sophie, the duchess with the churlish husband, and the new footman, Joseph. It’s a perilous relationship, that’s consummated and joyous. The duchess and the footman frolic in at the beach and aren’t as secretive as they should be. Rather jealous, Lord Palmerston notices and warns Sophie that she’s playing with fire. She doesn’t heed his advice and I suspect will be found out next week (or soon).

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Sophie, the duchess who’s playing with fire

Victoria is a big diplomatic success at the ceremony in Dublin where she says just the right things and shows the Irish she cares. This doesn’t solve everything, but she was the first British monarch to visit Ireland since the Middle Ages, so I think she’s due some credit.

Back home, Albert quarrels with Victoria. He also is proud as can be that Bertie’s making great progress with his studies. His math and French have taken off.

However, Victoria’s new maid eventually mentions that the servants suspect the tutor of child abuse. The queen immediately races to the children’s room and catches the tutor in the act. He’s thrown out. I would have like to have seen him thrown in jail and put on trial. Poor Bertie! I found this storyline the most heart-breaking of the week. (Sophie should know her affair will be found out and that to cuckold a duke with a hot temper will not go unpunished. I fell sorry for her but she’s an adult.)

As usual, the hour sped by. The program is packed with drama, gorgeous costumes, and splendid scenery. This week we were also treated to some fine Irish-inspired music.

Victoria, Season 3, Ep. 1

The premier of Victoria starring Jenna Coleman delivered great historical drama.
The series opens in Paris with yet another uprising in 1848. The barbarians are storming the gate and the King Louis-Phillipe flees for is life. Cut to a dignified, pregnant Victoria knighting a noble. Soon word reaches Victoria about her French counterpart.

Next Feodora, Victoria’s half sister, washes up on the shores and heads to the castle. Feodora, who seems to have a plotting and dramatic nature, seeks refuge with her younger sister the Queen. She’s seeking the high life as well as refuge, but is disappointed. When she hints around that she needs new clothes Victoria’s offer to let her wear her old dresses with some alterations was quite a bitter pill.

In Parliament another new character Lord Palmerston, the supercilious Foreign Minister, is stirring up trouble. Without consulting anyone, Lord P. wrote to the rebels in France. Neither Victoria nor Albert took this news well. In addition to being a political maverick, Lord Palmerston is coming off as a philanderer. Victoria’s new Lady of Robes had best be careful so she doesn’t get in trouble with her husband or the Queen.

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At home, there’s a bit of trouble in the nursery. Albert and Victoria now have five children. The oldest son Bertie, now 7, has no clue about the line of succession. He believes in England only queens rule. Throughout the episode he’s making comments about how women rule in England and how he doesn’t want to be a king. When Louis-Phillipe arrives and the children perform for him, Bertie dramatically refuses to play the king. Inadvertently, this pours salt in the wound for Albert, who’s never liked the role of Prince. Victoria seems very concerned though she does realize Bertie’s just a little boy.

Downstairs a new footman and maid arrive. The footman’s quite robust and Mr. Penge warns the women that he’s a known ladies man. He soon proves Mr. Penge right with his flirtation. Skerrett and the pastry chef are betrothed but haven’t set a wedding date. As the Queen’s right hand maid, Skerrett realizes life will be quite different as a married commoner. We see she’s got cold feet. I’m doubtful that we’ll see her marry this season.

The maid who is hired is a Chartist, so she’s part of the lower class activist movement that is protesting for workers’ rights. It’s 1848 and with Marxism getting popular and the French King getting deposed and begging to stay with the Queen, Victoria is quite worried. By the last scene of the episode, we see she’s right to be concerned.

The first episode had a brisk pace and lots of new characters, most of whom spell trouble. Lots of tension and uncertainty along with the gorgeous gowns and luxurious settings. We’re in for a good season.

Politics & Gerrymandering in Illinois

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The problem in Illinois is that Mike Madigan, the head honcho of the Illinois Assembly, has held power for 49 years. This evil mastermind figured out that the way to wield power forever and to make millions is to win elections in a state district. All he has to do is win a small state district and through his Machiavellian tactics he can control whoever we elect as governor. He can also probably control the mayor of the biggest city in the state. Moreover, he can see to it that his party dominates in congressional winners for Illinois.

By determining the congressional districts’ boundaries Madigan controls who wins in congressional. Take a look at District 4. This should be the image used in any dictionary defining Gerrymandering. The green area is the oddest designation of a district. The communities it covers are oddly situated so that no rational person would consider them a unit, but they insure that Madigan can get the winner he wants.

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Compare Illinois’ and Iowa’s congressional voting districts. Iowa’s makes sense to anyone. Illinois’ is an image that shouts corruption, a trait many of us are sick of.

Iowa v IL Map

Gerrymandering isn’t Madigan’s only sin. He’s created rules of governing that give him as Speaker of the State House imperial power over what laws get voted on. It’s impossible for a law that isn’t approved by Madigan to even get a chance at getting passed. Furthermore, Madigan has complete control over which committees a representative can be on. There are no checks or balances in Illinois’ politics.

Yesterday the citizens of Illinois had a terrible choice for governor: either a billionaire who never held a job and was taped by the FBI as he trashed African Americans in conversation with an imprisoned ex-governor or the incumbent billionaire who couldn’t get a budget approved in two years and scoffed at his base with bills against their values. We elected the former, J.B. Pritzker who certainly has no character to win against Madigan, the real power of the state. It’s a pity that J.B. wanted the job, because his sister, who worked for the Obama Administration is probably truly qualified.

Election Judge, 2018

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Monday night I met my team of election judges when we set up the polling place. I was lucky to get a good team of congenial organized peers. Of the five, four of us had experience and the one newbie was cooperative and on the ball. Some polling places had no one with experience. That’s tough because there are details not covered in training that help things move along smoothly. For example, since we have to account for every ballot, used and not, one judge knew to tell us to count the ballots in each package we opened. There should be 50, but often there were 49 or 48. At the end of the night if you thought there were 50, your count would be off.

Getting up at 4 am is never my idea of fun, but all the judges do so. Some if they live far from their assigned location was up earlier. Forgive me for tooting my own horn, but thousands of citizens do so so others can vote before work. In Illinois polls open at 6 and it takes an hour to do the Election Day prep.

There’s a lot of clerical work to get right and I’d say we did a fine job. It was satisfying to get all the thank you’s we received. Americans, by and large, are a grateful people. It sure helps to hear that “Thank you” when you’re trying to do your work or putting a bandage on your fifth paper cut.

I enjoy seeing all the people who bring their kids to the polls to show toddlers or teens how the system works. One woman brought the ten kids in her at-home day care to the polls. At that time we had about 5 other kids under age 5 in the cosy field house that served as a polling place. That was a surprise. It worked and no one complained about the squealing kids so I have to say our voters are able to do their civic duty without complaining about noise that just comes with sharing a public space.

I was happy about the many first time voters. Usually, they weren’t young, but were just compelled by a family member to do their part.

We’ll get more analysis, perhaps too much, in the days ahead. Some races you’re probably happy with and others you aren’t but I’m happy that we get to go through this process. That’s not to say, I don’t welcome a respite from campaign ads, I suppose we all are.