SHOULD SCHOOLTEACHERS CARRY GUNS?

On March 13, 2018; Dennis Alexander, a math teacher at Seaside High School (Monterey County, California) brought his gun to class to give his students a lecture on gun safety. During his lecture, Mr. Alexander’s gun accidentally discharged, firing a bullet into the ceiling. A piece of the ceiling flew off, hitting a 17 year old male student and lodging in his neck. The student was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover. Mr. Alexander is very experienced in gun use. He is a reserve police officer and a member of the Seaside city council. He supports President Trump’s call to arm schoolteachers who, like himself, have gun training. I teach American history at Orinda Intermediate School, and my students are unanimously opposed to arming teachers (including me!)

32 MARIJUANA STORES IN BERKELEY?

I have long believed that in order to get elected to public office Berkeley, you have to have delusions of grandeur. The Berkeley city council is now considering how many marijuana stores to license. Most council mayors, including the mayor, support capping the number at 32, but that is opposed by the Berkeley Cannabis Commission, which wants a much higher number on the grounds that limiting the number of marijuana stores in Berkeley to 32 would ‘stifle innovation.” To put this into perspective, Berkeley has 1 Trader Joe’s, 2 Target stores, 3 Safeways, 6 Starbucks, 6 Walgreens, and 11 ice cream and frozen yogurt stores. All these stores added together still doesn’t get you up to 32. The idea of 32 marijuana stores in a city the size of Berkeley is insane.

Executing Drug Dealers? On the other side of drug madness, President Trump is proposing executing drug dealers, citing southeast Asian countries, where such executions are common. Trump isn’t the only politician advocating executing drug dealers, but this idea overlooks the fact that most Americans who are addicted to opiates don’t get their drugs on the black market.  In movies and TV shows, addicts usually get their drugs from sleazy criminals working for the Mafia or a Mexican drug cartel, but the reality is that most opioid addicts in the United States get their drugs at Walgreens or CVS with prescriptions. Unfortunately, there are a lot of doctors and dentists in this country who dole out prescriptions for opiates like they were Tic Tacs. I am sure that those doctors and dentists are not the people who President Trump is talking about executing. About 5% of the world’s population live in the United States, but we consume 80% of the world’s opiates. We are not going to get control over our nation’s opioid epidemic until the government makes it much, much harder for doctors to prescribe these drugs.

NEW IN MY CHOCOLATE ROOM. Chocolate Covered HYDROX COKIES.

What is a Hydrox? Hydrox was the original sandwich cookie. In 1908, the Sunshine Biscuit Company began selling Hydrox cookies, and they were an immediate success. Hydrox was so successful that in 1912 the much larger National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) starting making Oreos, a copycat of Hydrox. Oreos quickly began outselling Hydrox. In 1999, Sunshine stopped making Hydrox cookies after the company was purchased by Keebler. Hydrox cookies looked like Oreos, but they didn’t taste the same. Hydrox cookies were not as sweet as Oreos. I think that is because Hydrox cookies were made with sugar, and Oreos were and are made with corn syrup.  Hydrox cookies are back on the market, but they can be very hard to find in stores or online. Hydrox cookies are still made with real sugar and contain no corn syrup.

Jews & Hydrox. When I was a kid, Jews who kept kosher ate Hydrox cookies, never Oreos. Oreos were made with lard, and therefore, were not kosher. Hydrox cookies were always made with vegetable oil and were always kosher.  In the 1990s, American consumers began shifting away from products made with lard as part of a general interest in eating healthier food. As a result, many products, like Bisquick, replaced the lard in their products with vegetable oil. In 1997, Nabisco stopped putting lard in Oreos and replaced it with vegetable oil as well. As a result, Oreos are now kosher.

Kosher Hot Dogs. Surprisingly, the great majority of American buyers of kosher foods are Christians. A lot of people will pay extra for kosher certified processed foods because they know that if there is a kosher seal on a product, that means that it doesn’t contain pig snouts, mechanically separated cow butts, or a long list of other unappetizing animal parts and also that a rabbi is regularly inspecting the factory looking for unsanitary conditions, and inspecting it more frequently than government food inspectors. I sometimes see 1 pound packages of hot dogs at dollar stores and wonder: ‘What are all-meat hot dogs that sell for $1.00 a pound made out of?’ Perhaps it is best not to think too much about such questions. You sure can’t buy kosher hot dogs for $1.00 a pound!

Donald Trump vs. Oreos. President Trump has urged Americans to boycott products that used to be made in the U.S. but that are now made in Mexico. In 2015, Nabisco moved the production of Oreos from Chicago to Mexico. Then-candidate Trump said: “I’m never eating another Oreo again!” and told his supporters to boycott Oreos as well. Donald Trump talked about Oreos frequently during the presidential campaign. Hydrox cookies were always made in the U.S., and they still are. So what do you think?  Will eating Hydrox cookies ‘make America great again’?

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.

 

Charles de Gaulle & Donald Trump.

In October of 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy sent former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to Paris to meet with President Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle had often opposed U.S. foreign policy, and Kennedy wanted a united front against the nuclear missiles in Cuba. At their meeting at the Elysee Palace, Dean Acheson offered to show de Gaulle CIA surveillance photos of the Russian nuclear missile complexes in Cuba. Acheson said: “Here, let me show you the photos.” President de Gaulle waved off Acheson and said: “No. No. No. No. I don’t need to see the photos. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me.”

Now, I wonder – what world leader today would say the same thing about Donald Trump? “No. No. No. No. I don’t need to see any evidence. The word of President Trump is good enough for me.” Hmmm. Well, who would say that?

The Birther Issue

Donald Trump. When Barrack Obama first ran for president in 2008, Donald Trump claimed that Obama did not meet the Constitutional requirements to be President of the United States. Because that became a major issue in the election, I gave my history students a class on the Constitutional requirements for the job of president. I plan to give that class again later this month because the birther issue is back in the news. Ted Cruz was born in Canada, and because of that, a number of people (including some famous experts on Constitutional law) have questioned whether Ted Cruz is qualified to be president. Here is what I told my students in 2008.

There are 3 requirements for the job of President of the United States in the U.S. Constitution.

  1. The president must be 35 years of age.
  2. The president must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years. (The people who wrote the Constitution put in this provision because they wanted to be sure that the president was someone who understood the American people and was familiar with the country. They didn’t want someone who had spent his life in foreign countries.)
  3. The president must be a natural born citizen.

Birth Certificates. You will notice that there is no Constitutional requirement that the president has to have a birth certificate. You sometimes hear people say that the president has to have a birth certificate to prove that he was born in the United States, but that isn’t true. Although it is now standard procedure for someone to issue a birth certificate when a baby is born in a hospital in the United States, very few people prior to the 20th Century had birth certificates. Most of America’s 18th and 19th Century presidents were born at home, and on farms or on the frontier. There was nobody present when they were born to issue a birth certificate. The first U.S. president to be born in a city was Teddy Roosevelt, and he was a 20th Century president. We know that George Washington did not have a birth certificate. Neither did Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, or Abraham Lincoln. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution about birth certificates.

Natural Born Citizen. The Constitution says that in order to be a senator or congressman, you merely need to be a citizen, but in order to be president, you have to be a natural born citizen. What’s the difference? Nobody knows for sure. The Constitution does not define the term ‘natural born citizen’. Congress has never passed a law defining this term, and the Supreme Court has never made a ruling on this issue. A number of people have run for president who were born in foreign countries, but none of them won, so the Supreme Court never heard a test case about this question. Below are the names of some of the men who ran for President of the United States, but who were not born in a state. 

  • George Romney, the Governor of Michigan and father of Mitt Romney. He ran for president in 1968. George Romney was born in Mexico. His parents lived in Mexico most of their lives and were married in Chihuahua. Was George Romney a natural born citizen? (I once met George Romney. It was at the Oakland Airport Hilton while he was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.)
  • John McCain was the Republican candidate for president in 2008. He born in the Panama Canal Zone, which never part of a state. McCain came very close to getting elected. He got 48% of the popular vote.
  • Al Gore was born in Washington, D.C., which is also not a state.
  • Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona, but when Arizona was a territory, not a state.
  • Lowell Weicker, the Governor of Connecticut, ran for president in 1980. He was born in Paris, France.

Is Ted Cruz A Natural Born Citizen? If Ted Cruz is elected president, the Supreme Court will undoubtedly be immediately petitioned to decide whether he is or isn’t a natural born citizen. Ted Cruz could have a problem. The Panama Canal Zone was under the jurisdiction of U.S. law when John McCain was born there, and Washington, D.C. has always been under the jurisdiction of U.S. law. However, Canada is a foreign country and has never been under the jurisdiction of U.S. law. Also, both of Ted Cruz’s parents applied to vote in Canadian elections. That could be a big problem for Cruz. There is a long established legal principal that says that if you are a U.S. citizen and move to a foreign country and vote in their elections, that is evidence that you no longer consider yourself a U.S. citizen. Is Ted Cruz qualified to be president? A number of famous legal scholars have written articles on this subject. Some say that Ted Cruz is a natural born citizen. Others say he isn’t. If Ted Cruz is elected president, the Supreme Court will have to decide the question.