The Election of 2022 Was Against Things and People, Not For Them

I’m watching the election returns (and still watching them). One thing I keep hearing is surprise that the predicted “red wave” did not materialize. I think the fact that the pundits expected one is a result of poor polling.

Specifically, I think political polls are too cut-and-dried, too black-or-white, without enough shades of gray. But none of us are so one-dimensional. I answered one phone call this election season which was a poll, and I tried to give them my thoughts. But the poll wasn’t robust enough to properly record them. The first question was “which is the most important issue for you when you’re voting this November.” The problem is, I’m not a one-issue voter, and I’ve a hunch most of us aren’t. But every poll which focused on “the economy/inflation” as the one issue voters would find most important missed the nuances.

Certainly, the economy is one of the issues I considered. But it’s not the only one. I also considered crime, and health care, and national defense, and voters’ rights, and the intrusion of the nanny state, and the environment, and appointments to the federal judiciary, and… well, you get the point. I think about all the ways the government can affect my life (for good or ill), and then I consider the candidates, and I choose those who I think will do the most good and the least bad. Asking me which one issue matters, and then which candidate I’ll vote for to serve that issue, means you’re gathering data that doesn’t reflect reality.

Another failing I saw in this year’s polling was the focus on President Biden’s approval rating, which is indeed quite low. But the polls only considered that, historically, a president with a low approval rating saw the other party win most of the seats in Congress. They didn’t consider that we can think poorly of Joe Biden’s job performance, while at the same time not wanting the Trumpian party candidates to win election and lend any more credence to that grifter.

Unfortunately, that’s the pity of most of our recent elections: very few of us are voting for the candidates; we’re voting against their opponents. I’m going to write directly to both Governor Hochul and Attorney General James, to tell them that my votes for them were not part of any mandate they might consider their elections to be. Rather my votes were against their opponents (well, in the case of James, I do favor certain of her ongoing cases that I fear would have been dropped had her opponent won).

I think that may be the big story no one is telling about the current election cycle: not many of us are truly happy with any of our choices. We’re voting to preserve what we have and improve our lives despite our representatives, not through them.

Can We Survive the Bite of the Gerrymander?

800px-The_Gerry-Mander_EditThe current state of political strife in the United States is something we should all fear. It is dangerous to our continued mutual welfare and well-being, as well as dangerous to our hoped-for future.

But it is not something that simply arose, not a natural outgrowth of our thinking and feeling. It is a result, carefully built, that points to an incredibly successful, decades-long campaign. It is something from which we can recover, but that will take a lot of effort.

When I was in college, in the 1980s, one of my political science professors described the political spectra here and in the European parliamentary systems. Here, he said, the difference between the liberals and the conservatives is that the liberals want to set Social Security at $3.00, while the conservatives want to set it at $2.00. In Europe, the difference is that the liberals want to set Social Security at $5.00, while the conservatives want to set it at zero. He was teaching us that, though (at the time) we saw vast gulfs of difference between our liberals and conservatives, in comparison to the rest of the world, our extreme wings were so close to the middle of the road as made no real difference.

The reason for that very narrow, very central political spectrum was our electoral system. In the parliaments—and he was thinking more of countries such as Israel and the Netherlands, where members are elected at large from the whole country—a political party only needs to win two or three percent of the vote to earn a seat in the governing body. People can vote for a party that aligns precisely with their views, knowing that they can be represented, even if only by a small party. And in the no-party-with-a-majority outcomes of those elections, even the smallest parties have a chance to be important in the formation of a coalition government.

In the US system, however, our governmental representatives are elected by small geographic districts, each one a winner-take-all election. In such a system, if you don’t get the plurality of the votes, you don’t get a seat in the government. Such a system will naturally and instantaneously devolve into a two-party system. Each election, one wins and one loses. And the way to win elections in such a system is to get as close to the middle as possible. A candidate knows he has the support of the extreme wing of his party, because there’s no chance they’d ever vote for the other party, so he doesn’t have to convince them to vote for him. The votes that are up for grabs are the independents, the undecideds, the middle-of-the-road voters who see some good in each party. In that system, being extreme is a losing strategy. And so, for many years, we had a mostly middle-of-the-road government: perhaps not awe-inspiring, but comfortable.

But there was a snake in that grass: gerrymandering. In the early days of gerrymandering—the first decades of the 1800s—it was a blunt instrument, used to separate towns and communities, or group them together. But in the last two decades, with the growth of ever more powerful computing capabilities and incredibly precise polling data, the people redrawing voting district lines can map them to include and exclude specific houses. And the political parties have taken that ability so far beyond the bounds of reason. A phrase that’s been thrown around the news of late is “the politicians picking their voters, rather than the other way around,” and that really is what’s happening. In a district that is drawn to be “safe” for one party, the general election is a formality, a waste of time. In my own district, for instance, the closest election the incumbent Democrat has fought was in 2020, when she took only 83.1% of the vote. In the past 30 years in my district, there were only two other elections in which the incumbent got less than 90% of the vote. There is no point in a Republican even running in my district, though they usually put up a token sacrificial lamb for appearances’ sake. But that means my Representative doesn’t have to do anything to win except be a loyal Democrat.

U.S. congressional districts covering Travis County, Texas (outlined in red) in 2002, left, and 2004, right. In 2003, the majority of Republicans in the Texas legislature redistricted the state, diluting the voting power of the heavily Democratic county by parceling its residents out to more Republican districts. In 2004 the orange district 25 was intended to elect a Democrat while the yellow and pink district 21 and district 10 were intended to elect Republicans. District 25 was redrawn as the result of a 2006 Supreme Court decision. In the 2011 redistricting, Republicans divided Travis County between five districts, only one of which, extending to San Antonio, elects a Democrat.

TravisCountyDistricts
U.S. congressional districts covering Travis County, Texas (outlined in red) in 2002, left, and 2004, right. In 2003, the majority of Republicans in the Texas legislature redistricted the state, diluting the voting power of the heavily Democratic county by parceling its residents out to more Republican districts. In 2004 the orange district 25 was intended to elect a Democrat while the yellow and pink district 21 and district 10 were intended to elect Republicans. District 25 was redrawn as the result of a 2006 Supreme Court decision. In the 2011 redistricting, Republicans divided Travis County between five districts, only one of which, extending to San Antonio, elects a Democrat.

It also means that the real election—if there ever is one (which doesn’t happen in my district)—is the primary election, when the Democratic party decides who is going to be their candidate. That’s what we had last year when New York City elected a new mayor. There was no discussion of the general election; everyone knew the Democratic primary was choosing the next mayor; Republicans need not apply.

But this shift means that the electorate a candidate has to convince is no longer the middle-of-the-road, could-vote-Democratic-or-Republican independent voters; they don’t matter, because the stalwart party members are the majority of the district. That means the middle-of-the-road, I-welcome-everyone type of candidate is an automatic loser. Because when the primary is the election, the way to win the primary is to appeal to the most ardent, strident, non-centrist members of the party. The candidate has to convince them that he will represent only their views, and screw the other party. When it’s the primary that matters, running to the extreme is a winning strategy. Because whatever level the election is (primary or general), money talks. And those most willing to donate to a campaign are always the farthest-out fringe members, because they see not just bad ideas, but actual evil in the other party.

In the days when it was the general election that mattered, party leaders were smart enough to know that the way to win was to run to the middle. But now that the general election doesn’t matter, because the party leaders have already rigged the districts to be “safe” for the party, the way to win is to run to the outermost edges to get the funding to win the primary.

And that results in a Congress full of politicians who aren’t working for the common good, but for the party’s good. That’s what gives us a Mitch McConnell, who won’t allow a Supreme Court nominee to be considered because it’s an election year (2016), but will rush through a Supreme Court nominee because it’s an election year (2020), based solely on who put forth the nomination. And that’s what gives us an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who won’t vote for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill because it does everything she wants, but she also wants Build Back Better right now at the same time, because she wants what she wants and she wants it all right now. It’s what gives us a country in which the continued health of our democratic republic truly is in jeopardy. It turns a deliberative, thoughtful body of legislators into a raucous madhouse of children trying to score points with “the folks back home” by being as nasty and uncooperative with their fellow members as possible.

I lay these problems squarely at the foot of gerrymandering. But we’ve gerrymandered ourselves into such a deep hole, and the two parties that won have so entrenched themselves in the system, that I fear we’ll never be able to get out of it. Ballotpedia, for instance, shows that in the election of 2020, only 41 of the 435 House districts were “battlegrounds.” That is, 394 of the Representatives knew they were winners as soon as the primary was over, and only 41 had to bother with the general election. (See https://ballotpedia.org/U.S._House_battlegrounds,_2020)

So how do we get out of our gerrymandered quagmire? It’ll take a true statesman. Actually, we’ll need two. Because to get out of it, each of the parties will have to say (of their own polities) “we currently have the majority, and we can redraw the districts to ensure that we always have the majority, but that would be bad. So we’re going to redraw the districts to ensure competition, for the good of the country.” If only one party does it, the other will swoop in and kill them as quickly as possible. Both parties have to do it, and they have to do it together.

And we’re all stuck in it like insects in a pitcher plant, because it feels good to be winning, to be on top, to be a supporter of the candidate and the party that wins. But we have to put aside that good feeling, and adopt a longer-term view that, though we feel good about winning today, if we break the system, we sure won’t feel good in the future.

The Democrats are Threatening Suicide, Again

What kind of morons are our Congressional representatives who claim to be Democrats? They’re the majority party (however slim a majority, it is a majority). They can actually adopt important, far-ranging, necessary legislation.

But every sub-group of Democrats in the Congress is doing its level best to kill the party, to make themselves look like the gang who only wants to shoot themselves.

And the Trumpians (the former Republican party) are keeping out of it all, laughing themselves back into the majority at the next election.

The little kids in Congress, the progressives, are quite emphatic that they want want want what they want and they want it all; most is just not good enough for them. Apparently they never bothered to learn negotiation or compromise. They’re continuing to flaunt the Democrats’ Achilles Heel of demanding absolute purity of their members, absolute fealty to their ideals because they seem to think getting most of the way there is unacceptable (but apparently they don’t have a problem with losing everything). And anyone who shows the least bit of fallible humanity is worse to them than the opposing party. If they’d stop being road blocks for five minutes, they could pass one major bill—which would be the first domino in an incredibly long and important chain—and then focus their energies on the next, rather than holding up one because they have to have everything right this minute, all or nothing!

And then we have their two senators, Manchin and Sinema, who early in these negotiations decided to set themselves up as the most powerful people in Washington. They’ve got it. We’re listening to them. No one has heard Chuck Schumer’s name in weeks. So what are they waiting for? What more do they think they can wring from their own party? Or do they think the Trumpians are going to give them more if they kill this legislation, and with it, the Democratic majority? It’s time for them to get their asses off the bench and vote for the damned bills, or else admit that they really are Trumpians in sheep’s clothing, and give the Senate back to Mitch McConnell and his twisted views of how the government should operate.

The Trumpians are laughing all the way back into power, and the Democrats’ loss will be squarely on the shoulders of the House Progressives and Manchin and Sinema. This has been the latest lesson in “how to throw away an insurmountable lead.”

Ranked Choice Voting gives us more votes, but not better candidates

vote1In New York City today, the big news is that we’re using Ranked Choice Voting for Primary Election Day (of which, more anon). Ranked Choice Voting: every media outlet, every government official, and 90% of the television and radio commercials, have been harping on it for the last two months, reminding voters that we can rank our top five choices. The problem with Ranked Choice Voting is that we still have the same mediocre candidates. It doesn’t improve the candidate pool, and doesn’t give our votes any more power: it just means that, if the first mediocre candidate I choose has no other support, my second mediocre choice might have a shot, and so on down to my fifth choice. Meh.

As a test of the new Ranked Choice Voting system, perhaps today makes sense. But as a primary election day, it is becoming increasingly absurd to waste taxpayer money on this “election.” A primary, as we all know, is simply a means for a club (in this case, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party) to determine which of its members it is going to support in the election (which comes in November). In voting as it used to be—one person, one vote; a plurality takes the election—I could (sort of) justify the parties’ need to have a primary, because multiple candidates from one party might cannibalize each others’ votes, and possibly give the election to a different party with only one candidate on the ballot. But with Ranked Choice Voting, that’s not an issue. There is no reason I, as a voter who doesn’t belong to those political clubs, shouldn’t have my choice of all the candidates on today’s ballot in the November election. But the parties want to be able to spend all their money and effort supporting only one candidate, so they have once again conspired with each other to make all of us—whether we’re part of the club or not—pay for their internal decision process, and that I do not like. There would be nothing wrong with forcing the Democratic Party to pay for its own primary election (or however else it chooses to select one candidate from its members). They’re going to be pumping millions of dollars into advertising later this year for their chosen candidate, so obviously they have the financial wherewithal to fund this primary. But instead, I’m forced to help pay for this opportunity to limit my choices in November.

And then there was my personal experience just now, going to the polling place (with my parents, who are registered members of one of those parties). I walked in with my bar-coded voter ID card (bar-coded, so it’s touch-less; nevertheless, the clueless poll worker insisted on taking the card from each voter to scan it and hand it back. So much for the antiseptic nature of “touch-less”). My parents each checked in and received their ballots. Then she scanned my card, and was confused. The screen quite clearly said “No election” or some words to that effect, which meant “don’t give this one a ballot.” But apparently my district is so heavily Democratic that she was ready to hand me a provisional ballot simply because I was there. She couldn’t conceive of the possibility that I might not be a member of her Democratic Party. I was pleased that the system was properly programmed: it recognized me as a registered voter, and also recognized I was not part of a political party. But that’s my problem: it shouldn’t be our public voting system running and paying for this private, club-members-only primary.

My parents completed their ballots and scanned them, and it was fairly efficient. And there were only four or five poll-workers (of the 25 in the room) who were wearing their chin straps (really?! After fifteen months of pandemic, these morons still don’t know how to wear a face mask?). Now we have to wait a month or two to learn the results of today’s exercise. The computer system really ought to be able to process all the ballots in less than a day, but apparently we have to wait for all the mail-in ballots to arrive up to a week from now, and there has to be time to “cure” the ballots that are questionable, so the Board of Elections doesn’t anticipate having all of the ballots before the middle of July. Well, at least that may mean a respite from the relentless spate of campaign ads (silver lining).

HR842, the Pro Act

I’ve just sent the following letter to my Congressional representatives, expressing concern over a portion of this bill, which has already passed the House, and is currently in the Senate (if you’re interested in reading the bill for yourself, see this link):

I’m writing because I’m concerned about H.R. 842, titled “An act to amend the National Labor Relations Act, the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, and for other purposes.”

I’m especially concerned about one of the definitions. It is in Title I, Section 101 Definitions, subsection (b) Employee, specification (B), which says “[an individual… shall be considered an employee… and not an independent contractor, unless] the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer…”

This concerns me both as a freelance writer and as the owner of a small publishing company. As a writer, I write stories and articles for which I am paid as a freelancer and which appear in magazines and books. The companies which publish my work are in the business of publishing content like that which I write, which certainly sounds like “the usual course of the business.”

As a publisher, I hire freelance cover designers and freelance editors to help craft the books that I publish. Putting the books into publishable form is the usual course of my business (and of course, the writers themselves are not my employees). None of those writers, editors, or cover artists are tied only to my company: they can and do use their talents for many companies, which is as they and I want it.

This clause may not apply to me, but it’s not a stretch to read it as applying emphatically and specifically to my various endeavors. Can you please see about rewriting it or otherwise emphatically noting that those of us in the freelance writing, editing, and publishing fields will be explicitly exempted from any such burdens? Thank you.

Tough Trivia, 4/26/21

Today’s Tough Trivia question: There are 24 active aircraft carriers in the world (of the horizontal take-off and landing type, not counting those which are strictly vertical take-off, or helicopter carriers). Five countries have one (France, India, Russia, Spain, and Thailand [though the fighter wing was retired from service in 2006]), four countries have two (Australia [though they don’t have any carrier-based fixed-wing aircraft], China, Italy, and the UK), and the United States has eleven. Name the active US aircraft carriers… in the order they were commissioned.

***

18869-3Friday’s question was: Currently, the US Mint produces and circulates six coin denominations: cent, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, and dollar. But those aren’t the only denominations the US has minted: in past years, there were several other denominations. How many others can you name? Bonus points if you know which years they circulated.

The answer is:

Half cent, 1793–1857.
Two cents, 1863–1873.
Three cents, 1865–1889.
Half dime (worth five cents, but considered a different denomination than the nickel), 1792–1873 (the nickel entered circulation in 1866).
s-l1000Twenty cents, 1875–1878.
Gold dollar, 1849–1889.
Quarter eagle ($2.50), 1849–1889.
Three dollars, 1854–1889.
Half eagle ($5.00), 1795–1929.
Eagle ($10.00) ,1795–1933.
Double eagle ($20.00), 1849–1933.

***

Ian’s Tough Trivia is a daily feature of this blog. Each day, I post a tough question, as well as the answer to the previous day’s question. At some point, I’ll offer a prize for whoever has the most correct answers, and another for whoever participates most often (I’ll take into account people coming in after the start: regular participation starting later is just as good as regular participation starting earlier). There may also be a prize for the funniest or most amusing wrong answer. Simply comment on this post with your answer. I’ll approve the comments after the next question is posted. Sure, you can probably find the answers by searching the web, but what’s the fun in that?

Financial support in the form of tips is very much appreciated: paypal.me/ianrandalstrock

Tough Trivia, 4/23/21

Pierre_de_Coubertin_Anefo2
Pierre de Coubertin

Yesterday’s question was: Baron Pierre de Coubertin (1863–1937) founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894, which lead to the first modern Games in Athens, Greece, in 1896. The Games were held every four years, and were only cancelled during the World Wars, in 1916, 1940, and 1944, and postponed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 1924, the number of sports in competition expanded with the commencement of the winter Olympics (first held in Chamonix, France). The years of the winter and summer games were split following 1992, with the then-next winter Olympics held in 1994. So, the questions are: Which five countries hosted the most Olympic games? And how many different countries have hosted the Olympics? Bonus: which years were the Olympics held in the United States?

The answer is:

1. With eight already in the books and one planned, far and away the most popular country to host the Olympics is the USA. The summer games were held in St. Louis in 1904, Los Angeles in 1932 and 1984 (and planned for LA in 2028), Atlanta in 2002. The winter games were in Lake Placid in 1932 and 1980, Squaw Valley in 1960, and Salt Lake City in 2002.

2. France has hosted the games five times, with another one planned: Paris in 1900 and 1924 (and planned again for 2024), and winter games in Chamonix (1924), Grenoble (1968), and Albertville (1992).

3. Three countries are tied, hosting the Olympics four times. Germany in Berlin in 1916 and 1936, Munich (West Germany, during the Cold War) in 1972, and winter games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936.
Italy has hosted three times, with one more planned: Rome in 1960, and winter games in Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1956, Turin in 2006, and Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo planned for 2026.
Japan has hosted three times, with one coming up soon: Tokyo in 1964, winter games in Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in 1998, and the 2020 Summer Olympics planned for Tokyo have been postponed due to the pandemic.

Twenty-three different countries have hosted Olympics: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany (and West Germany), Greece, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Russia (and the USSR), South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the USA.

***

Today’s question is:

Currently, the US Mint produces and circulates six coin denominations: cent, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, and dollar. But those aren’t the only denominations the US has minted: in past years, there were several other denominations. How many others can you name? Bonus points if you know which years they circulated. (Remember, Tough Trivia takes the weekend off, so the answer will be posted Monday.)

***

Ian’s Tough Trivia is a daily feature of this blog. Each day, I post a tough question, as well as the answer to the previous day’s question. At some point, I’ll offer a prize for whoever has the most correct answers, and another for whoever participates most often (I’ll take into account people coming in after the start: regular participation starting later is just as good as regular participation starting earlier). There may also be a prize for the funniest or most amusing wrong answer. Simply comment on this post with your answer. I’ll approve the comments after the next question is posted. Sure, you can probably find the answers by searching the web, but what’s the fun in that?

Financial support in the form of tips is very much appreciated: paypal.me/ianrandalstrock

 

Tough Trivia, 4/20/21

Yesterday’s question was: Only one US President has also served as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Who was it? Similarly, only one US President has also served on the Supreme Court. Who was that?

The answer is:

11polk
James Knox Polk

James Knox Polk (1795–1849) represented Tennessee in the House of Representatives from 1825 to 1839, and served as the 13th Speaker from December 7, 1835 to March 3, 1839. He did not seek re-election in 1838, and instead was elected Governor of Tennessee, serving one two-year term (1839–41). He lost the election of 1841.

When the 1844 campaign season opened, Polk hoped to win the Democratic nomination for Vice President under former President Martin Van Buren. Former President Andrew Jackson, however, had a break with his former protégé Van Buren, and supported Polk for the top slot. On the ninth ballot, Polk won the nomination, and in the election, Polk took 49.5% of the popular vote, and 170 of the 275 electoral votes. He was, however, the first president to win the election while losing his state of residence (Tennessee) and his birth state (North Carolina). Polk kept his campaign promise, and served only one term as president. He died in June 1845, a scant three months after leaving office.

27taft
William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on September 15, 1857. His father, Alphonso, served as the 31st Secretary of War (March 8–May 22, 1876), the 34th Attorney General (May 22, 1876–March 4, 1877), the US Minister to Austria-Hungary (1882–1884), and the US Minister to Russia (1884–1885). William attended Yale and then practiced law. In 1887, at the age of 29, he was appointed to a judgeship on the Superior Court of Cincinnati, and then later elected to a full five-year term on the court. His professional goal was always a seat on the Supreme Court, and in 1889, Ohio Governor Foraker suggested Taft for the vacancy on the Supreme Court (he was 32). President Benjamin Harrison chose someone else, and in 1890, appointed Taft Solicitor General of the United States. In 1892, he resigned when he was appointed to a newly created judgeship on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1900, President William McKinley asked Taft to resign, in order to head the commission to organize a civilian government in the Philippines, which he did. In July 1901, Taft became the civilian governor of the Philippines. In late 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt offered Taft a seat on the Supreme Court, but Taft refused, saying his work as governor was not yet done. In January 1904, Roosevelt appointed Taft the 42nd Secretary of War. Roosevelt offered Taft Supreme Court appointments in 1905 and 1906, but by this time, Taft had come to terms with the likelihood he would be the next Republican nominee for President (a position both Roosevelt and Taft’s wife Helen had been pushing him toward). Taft did indeed win the nomination, and handily won the election.

During his one term as President, his policies diverged from those of his friend and mentor, Theodore Roosevelt, and when Roosevelt returned to the United States, he challenged Taft for the nomination. Taft was renominated, so Roosevelt formed his own party to run for the presidency, split the Republican vote, and Taft became the only incumbent President to place third in his bid for re-election. After his presidency, Taft returned to Yale as a professor.

Chief Justice Douglass White died on May 19, 1921, and President Warren Harding considered several others to replace him before finally settling on Taft, who had told him months earlier that he wanted the position. On June 30, 1921, Harding officially nominated Taft, and the Senate confirmed his appointment the same day, by a vote of 61–4, without any committee hearings and only a brief debate in executive session. Taft was sworn in on July 11, the only person to serve as both President and Chief Justice. In failing health, he resigned February 3, 1930, and died on March 8.

***

Today’s question is: Colors in fireworks are usually generated by pyrotechnic stars. Pyrotechnic stars are pellets of which may contain metal powders, salts, or other compounds that, when ignited, burn a certain color or make a certain spark effect. Burning the proper metal can produce any of the colors of the rainbow. Which metals produce which colors?

***

Ian’s Tough Trivia is a daily feature of this blog. Each day, I post a tough question, as well as the answer to the previous day’s question. At some point, I’ll offer a prize for whoever has the most correct answers, and another for whoever participates most often (I’ll take into account people coming in after the start: regular participation starting later is just as good as regular participation starting earlier). There may also be a prize for the funniest or most amusing wrong answer. Simply comment on this post with your answer. I’ll approve the comments after the next question is posted. Sure, you can probably find the answers by searching the web, but what’s the fun in that?

Financial support in the form of tips is very much appreciated: paypal.me/ianrandalstrock

Tough Trivia, 4/19/21

Friday’s question was: Cent, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, and dollar. The US has six circulating coin denominations. List them in order of the longevity of the current design. Bonus points if you can name whose face is on each obverse, and what design is on the corresponding reverses.

The answer is:

proofset2017Dime, 1946. The year after he died, the Mercury dime was phased out in honor of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with a new torch, oak branch, and olive branch design on the reverse.

Half dollar, 1964. John Kennedy was assassinated in late 1963. In 1964, he bumped Benjamin Franklin off the half dollar, appearing with the seal of the President on the reverse. In 1976, the seal was replaced with an image of Independence Hall for the Bicentennial, but then the seal returned in 1977.

Nickel, 2006. In 1938, Thomas Jefferson’s portrait first appeared on the nickel, paired with his home, Monticello, on the reverse. In 2004 and 2005, there were four special designs honoring the bicentennial of Lewis & Clark’s expedition. In 2006, Monticello returned to the reverse with a new portrait of Jefferson on the obverse.

Cent, 2010. Abraham Lincoln’s portrait was placed on the obverse in 1909, with a wheat stalk reverse design. In 1959, the reverse was changed to an image of the Lincoln Memorial. In 2009, there were special reverse designs honoring Lincoln’s bicentennial. And in 2010, the current shield design first appeared on the reverse.

Quarter, less than three months ago. In 1932, George Washington first appeared on the obverse of the quarter, with a heraldic eagle on the reverse. In 1976, the quarter (and half dollar and dollar coins) had a special Bicentennial reverse design: a colonial military drummer. The eagle returned in 1977. In 1999, the State Quarter Series debuted, with a redesigned obverse, and five different reverses minted during the year, representing each of the states. After ten years, the Mint realized the changing designs were popular, and continued, covering DC and the territories in 2009, and then representing national parks and landmarks starting in 2010 (still, with five new designs each year).

Dollar, 2009 (sort of). In 2000, the smaller-than-a-half dollar sized, silver colored dollar coin with Susan B. Anthony’s portrait was replaced by the same-sized, gold colored dollar coin with Sacagawea on the obverse and a bald eagle in flight on the reverse. Starting in 2009, the reverse was changed to several different Native American themes. Since 2012, the Mint has only produced these coins for collector sets and stockpiles, because of their unpopularity. At the same time (2007–2016, plus more coming), the Mint produced Presidential dollar coins, with images of deceased Presidents on them. Again, for circulation, but since 2012, newly minted coins have not been released into circulation because of a lack of demand. Finally, beginning in 2018, the Mint began producing American Innovation dollars, with the State of Liberty on the obverse, and four different images (representing four different states) on the reverse. The Mint claims these are coins for circulation, but the lack of demand keeps them from entering circulation as normal.

***

Today’s question is: Only one US President has also served as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Who was it? Similarly, only one US President has also served on the Supreme Court. Who was that?

***

Ian’s Tough Trivia is a daily feature of this blog. Each day, I post a tough question, as well as the answer to the previous day’s question. At some point, I’ll offer a prize for whoever has the most correct answers, and another for whoever participates most often (I’ll take into account people coming in after the start: regular participation starting later is just as good as regular participation starting earlier). There may also be a prize for the funniest or most amusing wrong answer. Simply comment on this post with your answer. I’ll approve the comments after the next question is posted. Sure, you can probably find the answers by searching the web, but what’s the fun in that?

Financial support in the form of tips is very much appreciated: paypal.me/ianrandalstrock

Tough Trivia, 4/16/21

Yesterday’s question was: “Name the US Space Shuttles. How many missions into space did each Space Shuttle fly? Which Shuttle is now at which museum?”

IMG_5251The answer is:

  • Columbia (OV-102), first flew on April 12, 1981. Completed 27 missions, and disintegrated during re-entry on its 28th mission, on February 1, 2003.
  • Challenger (OV-099), first flew April 4, 1983. Completed nine missions, and exploded 73 seconds after launch on its 10th mission, on January 28, 1986.
  • Discovery (OV-103), first flew on August 30, 1984. Completed 39 missions, landing for the final time on March 9, 2011. Discovery is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum at Dulles International Airport, Fairfax County, Virginia.
  • Atlantis (OV-104), first flew on October 3, 1985. Completed 33 missions, landing for the final time on July 21, 2011. Atlantis is on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Merritt Island, Florida.
  • Endeavour (OV-105), first flew May 7, 1992. Completed 25 missions, landing for the final time on June 1, 2011. Endeavour is on display at the California Science Center, Los Angeles, California.
  • Enterprise (OV-101) was built as a test vehicle, without engines or a functional heat shield, and thus, not capable of spaceflight. It flew in the atmosphere after, being released from its Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, five times between August 12 and October 26, 1977. Enterprise is on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, New York, New York.
  • Pathfinder (unofficially known as OV-098) is a Space Shuttle test simulator made of steel and wood. Constructed in 1977 as an unnamed facilities test article, it was used to check roadway clearances, crane capabilities, and so on. After the Space Shuttle program no longer needed it, it was sold to the America-Japan Society, which displayed it in the Great Space Shuttle Exhibition in Tokyo from 1983 to 1984. Then it returned to the US, and is on display at the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

***

Today’s question is: Cent, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, and dollar. The US has six circulating coin denominations. List them in order of the longevity of the current design. Bonus points if you can name whose face is on each obverse, and what design is on the corresponding reverses.

***

Ian’s Tough Trivia is a daily feature of this blog. Each day, I post a tough question, as well as the answer to the previous day’s question. At some point, I’ll offer a prize for whoever has the most correct answers, and another for whoever participates most often (I’ll take into account people coming in after the start: regular participation starting later is just as good as regular participation starting earlier). There may also be a prize for the funniest or most amusing wrong answer. Simply comment on this post with your answer. I’ll approve the comments after the next question is posted. Sure, you can probably find the answers by searching the web, but what’s the fun in that?

Financial support in the form of tips is very much appreciated: paypal.me/ianrandalstrock