A snippet

I’ve got a book out to beta readers.  I’ve also got cover art lined up.  If things go well, I hope to have it out and ready to go within a few weeks.

Since Tuesday is my extra specially busy day, here’s a snippet from another WIP:


The most dangerous post in the fleet was military liaison for the Terran Embassy to the Eres.  Humans used food and drink to smooth negotiations. The Eres used hunting. The more important the topic, the more dangerous the prey and the more primitive the arms they would use to take that prey.

Sweat tickled the end of Commander Nobuta Tanaka’s nose.  He would much rather discuss the proposed treaty over tea and pastries, or in deference to the Eres, tea and steak.  But they had to do it the Eres way. At his side, Sheshak, Tanaka’s host, stooped to examine the pile of dung left in the trail beaten down in the waist high pseudo-grass.

A kashek, Sheshak had called the beast they sought.  An herbivore, to be sure, but an herbivore the size of a Terran white rhino combining the worst elements of wild boar and Cape buffalo.  To slay the beast, Tanaka carried a spear. A fifteen centimeter crosspiece was bound to the shaft with sinew half a meter behind the chipped obsidian point.  As protection, he wore nothing but sandals, a pair of neocotton shorts, and a light coating of sunscreen.

At least during the war he had had a destroyer surrounding him when he faced an Eres hunter-killer fleet.

Hunting preserves covered fully half of Chakentak, the Eres homeworld.  The Eres kept them pristine for their various ritual hunts. This region, in the equatorial area, most closely resembled the savannah of Africa.  The leaves were more blue than green, the sky more purple than blue, and the sun a harsh white dazzle in the sky with no hint of Sol’s friendly yellow.

Sheshak served as Lesser Stalker to the Great Pack Leader, a position combining duties of a Deputy Minister of State and of Defense. He set off at a slow trot following the trail of flattened grasses. Tanaka followed in his wake, grateful for the muscle booster treatments, much safer than an earlier generation’s steroids, that allowed him to keep up in the heavier gravity of Chakentak.

Stalker Sheshak was large even for an Eres, standing two and a half meters from the top of his head to the ground.  A truly lipless mouth split the ovoid head forever baring triangular teeth in a mirthless grin. A sinuous, half-meter-long neck connected that head with its powerful jaws to the forward-leaning body and its short arms and thick, stubby tail, perched on legs with backward pointing knees and heavy, clawed feet.

In moments of dark humor, Tanaka thought the Eres resembled nothing so much as a cross between a small Tyrannosaurus Rex and an ostrich.

They had been following the kreshak since picking up its trail shortly after the rising of Chakentak’s F5 sun.  Tanaka had spotted droppings that smelled like boiling cabbage. Sheshak pointed out three-toed prints spanning half a meter each in the muddy ground near a small spring. Tanaka noted furrows where the kreshak had used its tusks to root for edible tubers, furrows as neat as any autocultivator could make.  In its passing, the kreshak flattened bushes and tore strips of bark from the occasional small tree.

The sign became fresher as the sun passed zenith.  They were getting closer.

At a small stand of brush, Sheshak stopped and made several gestures in the Eres hunter’s sign language.  Tanaka ostentatiously touched tongue to upper teeth in the Eres gesture of agreement.

Sheshak drew a twenty-centimeter obsidian dagger from the belt supporting the Eres version of a loincloth and began to circle slowly to the right in an effort to get upwind of the prey and flush it toward Tanaka.

Tanaka licked his lips as he crouched in the stand of brush.  The spear seemed feeble indeed against a three-ton monster. Even that was more than Sheshak would have if the kashek chose to charge into the Eres’ scent rather than fleeing it.

Some minutes later the sound of a large body pushing through the brush told Tanaka that Sheshak’s ploy had succeeded.  A few seconds more and the beast hove into view.

Tanaka lunged from his place of concealment, driving the spear ahead of him and into the flank of the kashek.  The razor sharp point bit deep and Tanaka continued to drive it forward until the crosspiece slapped against the beast’s side.

The kreshak howled, a surprisingly high-pitched sound from such a large animal and twisted its stubby neck in an effort to reach the pain in its side.  In so doing it spotted Tanaka. The spear nearly jerked out of Tanaka’s hand as the kreshak charged. Te spear point continued to tear the monster’s insides. The kreshak was effectively dead, but that did not mean it could not kill Tanaka in the process of its dying.

Clinging to the spear shaft, Tanaka skipped backward at almost a dead run.  WEre he to lose his grip on the spear or make one misstep and he could be trampled under the beast’s feet, gored on its horns, or gutted by its tusks—so many ways to die.

Almost as the thought crossed his mind a root caught Tanaka’s ankle dumping him to the ground.  Somehow he clung to the spear as the kreshak’s attempts to reach him shoved him along the ground.  Pain lanced through his back as rocks and branches tore at his flesh.

Unable to regain his feet, Tanaka had just wrapped his legs around the spear when Sheshak appeared and leaped on the beast’s back.  Sheshak’s clawed feet dug into the kreshak’s sides, anchoring him in place. His powerful jaws gripped the back of the kreshak’s neck while he drove the obsidian dagger over and over into the beast’s throat.

The kreshak bucked in rage at the new torment, finally jerking the spear from Tanaka’s grasp.  Tanaka rolled to his feet and backed slowly way from the weakening kreshak.

The kreshak sank to the ground and shuddered in the final weakness before death took it.  Sheshak stood, blue-black blood dripping from his jaws. Sheshak drew the spear, its shaft now shattered, from the still quivering beast and drove it one more time into the kreshak’s side. The kreshak shuddered a final spasm and then was still.

Sheshak turned to Tanaka. “Your people have asked for a drawdown of forces along the border.” The stilted Terranglo came from a vocoder implanted in Sheshak’s jaw. “We will reduce our forces there by eighty percent.  For verification, you may place an observer, a proven hunter, at each of our bases within fifteen of your parsecs of the agreed border and on each of our ships of third fang class or heavier serving in that region.”

Tanaka stared at Sheshak in shock.  He had just preempted what was to be Tanaka’s own opening bid in the negotiations. “I will have to check with my government,” he said, “but I think they will agree.”

Sheshak jerked the spear from the now dead kreshak and held it out to Tanaka. “Good.”

Something was very wrong, Tanaka thought as he took the spear.  Something was very wrong indeed.

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The Constitution is 231 Years Old Today

Today marks the 231st anniversary of the ratification of the United States Constitution.  So here it is in its entirety (not including the Amendments, which came later):


We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Article. I.
Section. 1.
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section. 2.
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Section. 3.
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.

No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Section. 4.
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.

Section. 5.
Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

Section. 6.
The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

Section. 7.
All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

Section. 8.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;—And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Section. 9.
The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another: nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Section. 10.
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

Article. II.
Section. 1.
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.

The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Section. 2.
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Section. 3.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

Section. 4.
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Article III.
Section. 1.
The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

Section. 2.
The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;—to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;—to Controversies between two or more States;— between a State and Citizens of another State,—between Citizens of different States,—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

Section. 3.
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Article. IV.
Section. 1.
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Section. 2.
The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

Section. 3.
New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.

Section. 4.
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.

Article. V.
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Article. VI.
All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Article. VII.
The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the Same.

The Word, “the,” being interlined between the seventh and eighth Lines of the first Page, The Word “Thirty” being partly written on an Erazure in the fifteenth Line of the first Page, The Words “is tried” being interlined between the thirty second and thirty third Lines of the first Page and the Word “the” being interlined between the forty third and forty fourth Lines of the second Page.

Attest William Jackson Secretary

done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independance of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names,

Feeding the Active Writer: Smoked Pork Loin

This one takes a lot of time which is usually a no-no for the “active writer” part, but most of that time is sitting in the smoker with only spot checks for temperature and to see that you’re getting good smoke.  I use a charcoal smoker which has a separate firebox to the side.  All temperatures are in Fahrenheit.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs coarse ground kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs garlic powder
  • 2 Tbs onion powder
  • 4-5 lb pork loin
  • Apple wood chunks for smoke.

Get the fire going in the firebox of the smoker.  Once it’s going, adjust the vents to get a temperature of about 225 in the smoker.

Mix the first four ingredients together.  Put the loin fat side down on a platter and pour about half of the seasoning over it.  Rub the seasoning into the meat.  Turn it over and score the fat in a diamond pattern with cuts about 1/2″ apart.  Pour the rest of the seasoning over this side and rub it in.

Place the meat into the smoker.  I put it at the far end of the smoker from the fire box where the heat will be more even, turned so the larger end faces the fire box.

Add a small amount of apple wood to the fire box.  Smoke about 7 hours (it will vary depending on exact temperature and how even you keep your heat) until the internal temperature of the meat is 165.  Add apple wood to the firebox as needed to keep smoke running.  In my experience the meat temperature tends to stall at around 145 as evaporative cooling from the surface of the meat roughly matches the convective heating from the fire.  The temperature will rise only slowly until the meat forms a nice crust (bark) slowing the evaporation and allowing internal temperatures to start rising again.

When the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165 remove it from the smoker and wrap in peach butcher paper.  Return to the smoker (although it now won’t really be smoking) and continue cooking at 225 until the internal temperature reaches about 195.  Because you’re looking for a final temperature so close to your cooking temperature, this will take a long time in the range of 5-10 hours.

Let the loin rest for at least a half hour before slicing.  If everything has gone well, the results should be fall-apart tender, juicy and tasty.

Pictures of the final result later.

 

We’ve Got to Do Something!

Whenever something bad happens, or people expect it to happen, the cry goes out to “do something.”  This attitude is especially prevalent in the economic and political arena.

The problem, however, is doing the right something because the wrong something can easily make matters worse.

Let’s take a mundane example.  Some time ago I got up and started to get ready for work.  While I was getting breakfast together in the kitchen I noticed that one of the heating elements on the stove was on with a pan sitting on it.  Since I was the first up, that meant the pan had been on since the last person went to bed or maybe somebody got up during the night to fix themselves something to eat.  In either case, they’d forgotten to turn it off.

My first instinct was to get the pan off the heat. (Some of you may be seeing where this was heading now.) The pan had been there for several hours.  A few seconds wasn’t likely to make much difference.  But instinct was instinct and I grabbed the handle (no, that wasn’t the problem) and shifted the pan to an adjacent, empty spot.

There was melted, very hot, grease in the bottom of the pan.

Was.

The grease sloshed out of the pan, completely cleared the edge of the stove, and made a beeline right for my right foot.  My bare left foot.

I’ve had burns from grease spills before.  If you’re an avid cook that’s an occupational hazard.  They generally call for a rush to the sink to get cold water on them before too much damage is done.  I take one look at the sink and realize that’s not going to happen this time.  There’s no way I was going to hoik my foot up into the sink.  I’m not as limber as I used to be.  These days I can be described more “strong like willow, supple like oak.”  So I hobble to the bathroom, get my foot into the tub and start running water over it.

The upshot of all this is the initial, immediate reaction was exactly the wrong thing.  A slower, more methodical approach would have been a lot less painful. (Trust me on that one.)

Thus it is in the public arena.  In the late 1960’s was zooming. (One comedian–on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh in, I think–said “prices aren’t spiraling upward any more.  No, they’re going straight up.”) Public pressure to “do something” was high.  The Nixon administration responded with the first of several wage and price freezes.  This was a bad idea economically.  Indeed, the Administration knew it was a bad idea…economically.  Politically, it was gold and a large part of the reason for Nixon’s landslide victory in 1972.

It’s hard for a politician to resist the pressure of people demanding the government “do something” even when that something is not only useless but actively counterproductive.  There have, in the past, been many cases where the stock market would “crash”, have stock prices drop precipitously in a short period of time.  Since fairly early in the 20th century the government has been wont to “do something” in response to those drops.  But looking at the history of when the government “did something” and when it took a hands off approach it’s hard to make a case that intervention makes matters better and, indeed, generally makes matters worse. (Thomas Sowell goes into several examples in his book Basic Economics.)

Prompt, immediate action is sometimes necessary to respond to events but far more often sitting back and assessing first is far more effective. “King Log not King Stork.” “Leave them alone and they’ll come home, wagging their tails behind them.”

Remember:  he who moves the pan too fast gets burned with hot grease.

Setting Political Time Bombs

Politics is one field where an individual or group can take economically foolish actions for which they pay no price, indeed for which they can receive praise and reward, only to leave the aftermath to be blamed on someone else.

As one example.  A nationwide study of mortgage lending in 1990, reported by the Federal Reserve Board in 1991 and another study reported the following year, both showed that while the majority of applicants of black, white, Asian, and Hispanic applicants were approved.  The percentage denied ranged from 34% for blacks (1990 study) to 13% for Asian Americans (same study).  Note that the study was up front that it did not include data on net worth, employment history, credit history, etc. that go into estimating an applicant’s creditworthiness nor whether or how much those varied between the groups.  This did not stop people from immediately claiming these results as demonstrating racial discrimination by mortgage lenders.  Jesse Jackson claimed that it was “criminal activity” and that banks routinely and systematically discriminated against African Americans.

There are several problems with that, of course.  The first is that, as the study admitted, there are many factors that banks use to determine whether an applicant is a good credit risk or not and the study did not control for any of them.  Also, what about those Asian Americans?  They were approved more often even than whites.  If racial discrimination is to explain for the difference between blacks and Hispanics compared to whites, then why were Asians approved more frequently?  Do these presumably white racists they’re proposing as being the cause of the difference, actually favor Asians over other whites?

Also, consider what the result would be.  If the folk making the decisions were “grading” more harshly against blacks in rejecting more applications would that not mean that the remaining ones were actually more credit worthy on average than the white applicants?  If so, that means we would expect to see fewer defaults among mortgages issued to black borrowers (because those who remain are “really” more creditworthy thanks to more being rejected).  That’s not what we see.  Data from census data does not show a racial difference in default rates.

The Boston Federal Reserve Bank in its own study, which controlled for many of the factors used to determine creditworthiness found that blacks were rejected 17% of the time compared to 11% of the time for whites with the same criteria.  Approval rates of 83% for blacks, 89% for whites.  A six percentage point difference.  Moreover, this difference was entirely attributable to a single bank in the Boston area.  And that bank was owned by blacks.

Another factor.  Banks offering mortgages are not doing the borrowers a favor.  They are making a business transaction where the bank expects to make money.  Banks want to lend money.  The interest on those loans is how banks earn a profit.  The more loans they give to creditworthy applicants, the more money they make.  And even if they utterly despise the person they’re dealing with, once the loan is signed the only dealings they will have afterward is cashing the monthly check.  In my experience banks are far more concerned about green than they are about any possible color of skin.

But, despite the lack of evidence that the disparities in loan approval rates are a direct result of racial discrimination, politically it was popular to cite it as a reason.  Rather than address the possible causes of the differences in creditworthiness (which might stem from discrimination in other areas, or it might not, but even if it is focusing on the banks means that the actual discrimination is not being addressed) politicians and advocacy groups started putting pressure on banks to approve mortgages in a more racially balanced manner.  The banks could not conjure up more equally creditworthy applicants among blacks and hispanics–at all, let alone quickly enough to appease the mobs–they had to issue more loans to people with lesser creditworthiness.

This happened in the mid to late 90’s.   And people cheered the politicians pushing this for their “fairness”.  However, the politicians accolades did not make the higher risk of the loans being made go away.  In an attempt to mitigate those risks, particularly those of the higher risk “subprime mortgages”, banks went to the secondary market, bundling the mortgages together and selling them as bonds.

By the end of 2000 the effect of, on average, easier credit (giving credit to folk who would have been denied before) started having an effect on the housing market exacerbated by government policies encouraging home ownership among those less able to actually afford it than previously.  Supply and demand in all its splendor took off.  More people buying houses meant the demand went up, driving up prices.  And people who already owned homes started looking at this availability of credit and thinking to refinance, grab some of the extra equity (their house market value went up right along with the ones people were buying) to do all sorts of things–buy a car, go on a long dreamed vacation, make improvement, whatever.

Unfortunately this house of cards–built on a foundation of credit extended to those less able to keep up their payments–could not last.  The greater defaulting of those less credit worthy individuals started to come home to roost.  More homes were now on the market from said defaulters.  Starting in mid 2007 real estate prices started to fall.  People started finding themselves “underwater” (owing more on the house than its appraised value).  “Jingle Mail” (people mailing the keys to the mortgage company and walking away from their house) became a thing and the bubble burst.

But did this get blamed on the people who started the whole ball rolling, the ones who decided that skin color rather than creditworthiness as determined by the usual criteria should be the deciding factor in offering mortgages?  Of course not.   The “public face” of those voices was safely out of office.  It was his replacement who had to take the heat for events that he warned of in advance.  The person in office is blamed, even when the issues originated in the past under other people.

And so it is with most people’s short time horizon.  When policies are implemented politicians have little incentive to look ahead to what the longer range issues are likely to be.  It won’t be their problem.  And the people, bless their myopic little hearts, by and large have neither the inclination of the aptitude to look at the economic ramifications of their representatives policies and proposals.

And thus when the time bombs go off everybody scrambles to find someone to blame, rarely those actually responsible for the root problem, but someone ready to hand who might have some peripheral connection…maybe.

Now, take a look at current policy proposals and consider what ticking time bombs they are setting–or, hopefully, existing time bombs that are being defused.  The former is sadly much more popular than the latter since the latter involves hard choices and usually some degree of belt-tightening.  The former?  That’s usually some tasty bread and entertaining circuses.

Love Trumping Hate…

Seems to involve a lot more death wishing than I would have thought.  I saw it in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting.  I saw it after the Houston flooding.  It’s been a constant refrain throughout what passes for political discourse these days.

And I’m seeing it regarding Hurricane Florence:

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Someone’s going to have to come up with a really good explanation if you want to show that their calling us intolerant isn’t pure projection on their part.

The Bugaboo of Executive Compensation

It never fails.  Certain people will come up with executives at various companies as a reason for worker pay not being as high as it is (look how much the CEO gets!  Of course they can afford to give workers a raise) or prices or…well, whatever economic woes they’re talking about this week.

Apparently these executive compensation packages are the result of unbridled greed.  How does that work exactly?  Greed only speaks to, can only speak to, what someone wants to get.  No amount of greed is going to get someone to offer more.  What these people need to start asking is why those kind of salaries and other components of exectutive compensation are being offered.  Why is the company willing to pay that much?

Of course, it’s economics so the answer is “supply and demand”.  But that just restates the question:  why is the demand so great as to support such a price?

Well, let’s look at an example.  Walmart.  Everyone loves to snipe at Walmart.  In 2017 Walmart had a total revenue of just over $485 billion (yes, that’s a “b”) dollars.  With a gross margin of 24.7% (I looked these numbers up) that gives us a total expenses of about $365 billion.  Now, if the decisions made by an executive at Walmart affect either of those numbers by as little as 1%, that executive can save or cost the company more than 3 and a half billion dollars in a year.   Walmart can pay $22.8 million (CEO compensation at Walmart for  to get a CEO that will be on the “plus” side of that rather than the “minus” and end up making an extra 300 times as much (+1% vs -1%) than is being spent on the executive.

Someone who can add fractions of a percent to the efficiency of a company is worth billions to a company of Walmart’s size.  Getting that someone for millions is an incredible bargain.

But what about cases where companies pay millions in severance packages to executives that are failing.  What about those “golden parachutes?

Have you ever been in a relationship that went really sour?  It started as looking like a good thing, maybe it was a good thing at the time, but things changed and it turned ugly.  And instead of a clean break (maybe there are legal contracts involved.  Maybe there are kids.  Whatever.) you end up getting in argument after argument after argument?  No?  Well, not everyone has but I’ll bet you know someone who has.  And in such a situation, wouldn’t it be great to just be able to pay the other party to. go. away?

Well, that’s what we have with these golden parachutes.  Look back up and see how much going 1% the other way could be costing the company ten million dollars a day while still in place and making those decisions that aren’t even bad, just fractionally not as good as someone else could make.  If the person fights being removed, that can cost even more.  From an economic standpoint it could be simply cheaper to pay them that severance package to get them to leave now rather than after an extended fight during which the company bleeds money or more importantly the resources that money represents.

The case of Sewell Avery and Montgomery Ward is illustrative.  At the beginning of the Great Depresssion J. P. Morgan hired Jewell to run the struggling Montgomery Ward and turn it around.  He succeeded and ran it well for some years.  Then, in the post war years the market changed with, among other things, an increasing demand for durable goods and Avery failed to adapt to the changing market.  A power struggle continued for some time with Montgomery Ward sinking further and further behind rival Sears Roebuck and Co.  When Avery finally resigned in 1954, Montgomery Ward stock rose dramatically, but the company was never again regained its former position.  Had Montgomery Ward been able to get rid of Avery cleanly and, most importantly, quickly, when it became clear his position was harming the companies position, the company could well have earned millions, if not billions, that were forever lost to it.

The people making the decision have more information to decide how much they should offer an executive to work for them, how much to offer to make him go away.  A failing executive is more willing to jump, after all, if he has a nice parachute.

People sitting on the outside, just do not have enough information to second-guess the people actually making the decision with both their own money and their own responsibility to the stockholders, at stake.  But all too often people sitting on the outside, with no idea what’s involved or what’s at stake, think they’re qualified to tell those people what they should or should not do.

And we’re back to why economics is “the dismal science.”