WHEN DID RELIGIOUS MINORITIES GET THE RIGHT TO VOTE?

It is a widely-held myth that America was founded on the principle of religious freedom for all. That isn’t true. 8 of the 13 British colonies in America had an official state church. Everyone who lived in those colonies had to pay taxes to support it, but people who did not belong to the official church could not hold public office or vote. Another myth is that the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to vote to everyone, regardless of his religion, but that isn’t true either. Neither the Constitution nor the First Amendment say anything about the right to vote. The Constitution allowed every state to decide for itself who was eligible to vote. Some states had laws prohibiting Roman Catholics from voting unless they renounced their religion or signed a statement rejecting papal authority. Some states required voters to promise that they would fight in future wars to prevent Quakers from voting. Some states banned Mennonites, Baptists, Jews, and others from voting. Between 1800 and 1828, all state laws restricting the right to vote based on religion were repealed.

MARYLAND. Maryland was the last state to stop discriminating against unpopular religious minorities. (Yes, once again I am trashing my home state.) In 1828, Maryland became the last state to get rid of religious restrictions on voting when the state legislature passed a law allowing Jews to vote. The Maryland state constitution still contains a provision that says that only Christians can hold public office or practice law in the state, but the U.S. Supreme Court no longer allows Maryland to enforce this provision. However, it is still in the Maryland state constitution. The Maryland state constitution also prohibits atheists from holding public office, serving as jurors, or testifying in court as witnesses, even in their own defense. Maryland enforced this provision until 1961. In 1960, Governor Tawes appointed Roy Torcaso a Notary Public. When Mr. Torcsao refused to sign a declaration saying that he believed in God, his appointment was immediately revoked. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Maryland law was unconstitutional. The court’s ruling applied to a number of other states that had similar laws. As a result, an atheist can now become a Notary Public, a bail bondsman, a coroner, a sheriff, or a juror in Maryland.

MARYLAND, MY MARYLAND. The worst state song in the U.S.

‘Maryland, My Maryland’ is the official state song of Maryland. The tune is that of ‘O Tannenbaum’ (O Christmas Tree). The lyrics are just nasty Confederate propaganda. The song was written in 1861 by a Maryland native serving in the Confederate navy. Maryland was a border state, that is, a slave state that stayed in the Union. Maryland never joined the Confederacy. The majority of people in Maryland were Unionists. About 75% of Marylanders who fought in the Civil War fought for the North. The other 25% fought for the South. When I was a kid growing up in Baltimore, I was sometimes required to sing “Maryland, My Maryland”, but I never liked it. I was never sympathetic to the Confederacy. Most people in Maryland have never actually read or thought about the words to this song, but they should! ‘Maryland, My Maryland’ refers to Abraham Lincoln as a despot, a tyrant, and ‘the vandal’, which seemed odd to me since Maryland was a Union state.  However, the nastiest line in this song refers to the United States Army as ‘Northern scum.’ Northern scum. Really? Northern scum? The United States Army is just Northern scum? I don’t think a line like that belongs in any state’s official state song. It’s an insult to everyone who has ever served in the United States Army. There have been many efforts to revise or replace this song, but all efforts have failed. In 2016, some Maryland state legislators tried to get just the words ‘Northern scum’ removed from the official version of ‘Maryland, My Maryland’, but that too was voted down. In 2017, the University of Maryland marching band announced that they will no longer play ‘Maryland, My Maryland’, something that I think was long, long overdue.

The official state song of California is ‘I Love You, California.’  I don’t think that even 1 in a 1,000 Californians has ever heard it sung, including me. Every state has an official state song except New Jersey. Many state songs have nothing to do specifically with that state and do not mention the state in their state song. For example, the official state song of Connecticut is ‘Yankee Doodle’ and in Kansas, it is ‘Home On The Range.’ My personal favorite official state song is ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’, the state song of West Virginia, written and sung by John Denver.

THE TOUGHEST LANDLORD IN MARYLAND

Many states have strange landlord-tenant laws. For example, in Maine it is a crime to bite your landlord. This law just criminalizes biting your landlord, not kicking, stabbing, or punching him. (I wonder what incident led to the passage of this law.) In every state in the U.S., a landlord can evict a tenant for non-payment of rent. A landlord can also sue a former tenant for unpaid rent after the tenant has moved out. However, in my home state of Maryland and a few other states, landlords and real estate investors can also have former tenants arrested and sent to prison for non-payment of rent. (Sounds medieval, doesn’t it?)

As Robert Reich recently wrote: “Jared Kushner’s real estate company uses arrest warrants to collect debts owed by low-income tenants. In recent years, the firm has sought 105 warrants for former tenants in Maryland, more than any other landlord in the state, according to the Baltimore Sun. The debts average less than $5,000, but Kushner tacks on thousands of dollars in legal fees. In some cases, people aren’t even aware they owe Kushner money because his company purchased the debt from a previous owner. When a tenant fails to pay, the company seeks an arrest warrant in a process known as ‘body attachment.’ This predatory practice can result in jail time. Kushner owns 9,000 properties in Maryland, which turn a $30 million annual profit. Since 2015, the company also received $6.1 million in rental subsidies from the federal government.”

Baltimore Sun Article on Kushner.  Donald Trump also uses this same practice in his business, having people arrested and sent to jail for non-payment of rent.

The penalties for non-payment of rent have been much harsher at various times in history. For example, in ancient Rome, a landlord could have a tenant sold into slavery to recover unpaid rent. Incredibly, there are some places in Asia where this practice is still going on. In medieval England, if a serf’s house burned down, he was still obligated to pay his landlord the same amount of rent, and if he refused to pay the rent or ran away, he could be hanged. Now just in case you were wondering….In California, you cannot be arrested, sent to jail, hanged, or sold into slavery for non-payment of rent. However, you can go to jail in California for biting your landlord. That’s assault.

 

Greek Restaurants

SOUVLAKI GREEK.

souvlakiIf you are looking for a meal that is a somewhat cheaper than Chez Panisse, try Souvlaki Greek Traditional Foods at 2518 Durant (between Telegraph and Bowdich) near Sproul Plaza. They have the best Greek roasted chicken anywhere. The chicken is encrusted with Mediterranean herbs and then flame roasted until the skin of the chicken and the herbs are almost black. It is the best Greek roasted chicken anywhere. I get the 1/4 chicken plate, which is enough for me. They use large chickens. It comes with lemon sauce, salad, and french fries. The meal is very underpriced at just $4.00. I don’t know how they stay in business. The 1/2 chicken plate is $6.99. The lamb gyro plate is also very good. If you want dessert or a lighter meal, try the Greek yogurt, which comes with fresh strawberries, raspberries, and honey. My only complaint with this restaurant is the uncomfortable, flimsy seating. Souvlaki Greek doesn’t have a web site, but you can see their menu on their Facebook page at Souvlaki Greek.

GREEK RESTAURANTS IN BALTIMORE.

I ate a lot of Greek food when I was a kid growing up in Baltimore. My grandparents came to America from Odessa over 100 years ago. Odessa is on the Black Sea, and there is a strong Greek influence in the food and culture of the city. Tarses is a common name in northern Greece. My father used to take me and my sister Judy to Greek restaurants all the time. There were a lot of small, family-run Greek restaurants in downtown Baltimore in those days. Unfortunately, the sanitary conditions at these restaurants was often substandard. My father and I were willing to overlook that if the food was good, but my sister was not. She complained constantly about the unsanitary conditions at these greasy-spoon restaurants. Judy would say things like: ‘This table is sticky and smells bad’, ‘There are rat traps in the bathroom’,  and ‘I don’t want to eat at restaurants where you have to shoo away the flies while you’re eating.’ Eventually, my father wound up leaving Judy at home when he and I went to restaurants that we both knew she would complain about. My sister still won’t eat at restaurants with rat traps in them, and now, neither will I.

How I Paid For College.

Quite often, tenants ask me for advice on how to make money in college. There is no one answer that is right for everybody, but the story below may give you some ideas.

When I first arrived at the University of Maryland, I had no idea how I was going to pay for college. My father gave me no money at all. He was a nice guy but not a great father. I had a little money of my own, but it wasn’t even enough to get me through the first year, and in those days, student loans were not as easy to get as they are today. Then a small incident occurred that gave me the idea that paid for college.

One day, I was in my dorm’s recreation room. There was a small kitchen in the back of the room where a guy was trying to make mashed potatoes. He had peeled several potatoes and was trying to mash them, but without success. Every time he pressed down on a potato, it slid out from under the masher. One potato shot across the counter and hit the wall. He tried again and again, but the same thing kept happening. I laughed. He said: “Why are you laughing? Do you know what I’m doing wrong?” I said: “Are you kidding? You mean you really don’t know?” He shook his head ‘No’, so I told him: “You don’t mash potatoes and then cook them. You cook the potatoes first and then mash them.” A light went on in his face. You could see that this idea had not occurred to him before.

After the mashed potato incident, a lot of guys in my dorm started coming to me for advice on cooking, mostly simple things like how to boil an egg. I realized that I had a big advantage over these guys because I already knew how to cook before I went to college. My mother died when I was 10 years old, and my father worked long hours, so I frequently had to make my own meals. Out of necessity, I learned how to cook at an early age.

The mashed potato incident gave me an idea. I started making and selling submarine sandwiches in my dorm’s rec room at night. Ultimately, I made enough money selling sandwiches to pay for college. Fortunately for me, the food at the University of Maryland dining halls was just awful. The worst thing they made was their infamous ‘surf cake,’ an imitation Maryland crab cake. Real crabmeat was too expensive for dorm dining halls, so they made ‘surf cakes’ out of a combination of dried fish and bread crumbs. I sold a lot of sandwiches on ‘surf cake’ night.

There are far more opportunities today for a college student to make money from his dorm room than were when I went to college, mainly because of the internet. Here is an example – I had a tenant who had a girlfriend at UCLA. She ran a very profitable business from her dorm room selling Disney character jewelry to ‘Disneyana’ collectors around the world. She went to Disneyland every Sunday and bought things at the stores around the park. She had a season pass, so she didn’t have to pay daily admission. She bought pins, bracelets, and figurines at Disneyland and then resold the stuff on E-Bay. Most of the jewelry they sell at Disneyland is made just for sale at Disney theme parks and is sold nowhere else, so she had pricing power. She made over $2,000 a month while she was in college, and when she graduated, she married my tenant, and they continued running the business together.

There are a lot of opportunities out there to make money – but you have to find them for yourself. Unfortunately, opportunities don’t usually come to you.