High Court Hazing

Becoming a US Supreme Court justice is the highest honor in American law.

Justice Elena Kagan is passing the torch, three unique responsibilities, to Neil Gorsuch, now the lowest person on the totem pole, who will keep it until the next justice is appointed.

One responsibility the Honorable Neil Gorsuch will take on is cafeteria duties, going over the monthly cafeteria agenda which may include finding a good recipe for chocolate chip cookies.

Another responsibility is to open the door to the conference room, their inner sanctum.  Kagan explains, “If I’m like in the middle of a sentence—let’s say it’s my turn to speak or something—and there’s a knock on the door, everybody will just stare at me, waiting for me to open the door,” Kagan said. “It’s like a form of hazing. So, that’s what I do, I open the door. Pronto”

The Supreme Court is a place of seniority. When they meet, the chief justice speaks first, and the rest speak in order of longevity. The most junior justice speaks last and is responsible to take notes of the proceedings.


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Accurate Land Size​ Maps

Studying the Mercator map, the one on display in most U.S. classrooms, one of my students might exclaim, “Wow! Greenland is huge.” Or, “India is so small. Must be crowded.” Their predictable comments met with my well-rehearsed explanation that maps are two-dimensional while the Earth is three-dimensional. I’d  have them peel an orange that is close to the shape of our Earth, then ask them to flatten it and discuss what happened and the implication for our world map.

Below is the map that you’ve grown up with, right?

Mercator Projection Map

Take a close look at the map. North America (Mexico, U.S., and Canada) looks larger than Africa, and Scandinavia looks larger than India (below China). Greenland is huge, big enough to rival Africa.

All our maps, even Google maps, are wrong. Flynn Mercator, a European cartographer, created his map with Europe at the center, with its size generously inflated. Sixteenth century Europe was on the rise with Spanish explorers opening trade across the Pacific Ocean, linking the Americas with Asia. It’s easy to understand why Flynn saw Europe as the center of the world. I doubt that political correctness was much on European’s minds as they rushed around to conquer the wealth of the world. Fact checking came much later.

Boston Public Schools has decided to replace the Mercator maps in their classrooms with Peters projection maps that more accurately portray the sizes of the Earth’s continents. The Peters projection map distorts shapes, but visually, the scale, position, and proportion of the areas on the Earth are correct.

Peter Projection Map

Of all the land distortions on Mercator’s map, the elephant in the room is Africa. On the map, Africa looks smaller than North America, where in fact, it is three times larger. If you use Africa (white outline on map) as the base for a world puzzle and all pieces are correct to size, you can fit in the USA, India, Europe, and China, and still have space for Liberia and have room to squeeze Japan in as well. Wouldn’t my African-American students have found that empowering?

Africa map

Maps are made from different perspectives. Why is north always up? Up makes it more important somehow. North is up to the heavens and south is “below.” Let’s switch this around, have south reach up to the sky—sort of.  Europe and the U.S. don’t look as important.

South on Top

Our social and political biases come through our work, maps and writings. What I would tell my students today is that our world and lives are more beautiful than any one person’s perspective. I would tell them to “go and find your own beautiful life for yourself.”

Compare landmasses.

Watch the West Wing as it learns the true size of the Earth. Humor.

Government Over-Spending

The Horse and the Jockey, published on March 5, 2017, in my Sunday Newsletter for Women focused on excessive regulation.


The pie graph below shows that over-spending is not the hallmark of Democrats or Republicans. Both parties hold oars in the spending boat.

The numbers come from the website. Keep in mind, although the percentages seem small, they are NOT.  One percent may represent one billion, this depends on the size of the budget for that year. In 1977, Jimmy Carter (and Congress) had a deficit of 2.6%. In dollar terms, they overspent by $155 Billion.

Democrat   Jimmy Carter          (1977; -2.6%)  (1978; -2.6%)  (1979; -1.6%)  (1980; -2.6%)

Republican Ronald Reagan       (1981; -2.5%)   (1982; -3.9%)   (1983; 5.9%)   (1984; -4.7%)

Republican Ronald Reagan        (1985; -5%)      (1986; -4.9%)   (1987; -3.1%) (1988; -3%)

Republican George H. W. Bush  (1989; -2.7%)  (1990; -3.7%)   (1991; -4.4%) (1992; -4.5%)

Democrat Bill Clinton                 (1993; -3.8%)   (1994; -2.8%)  (1995; -2.2%) (1996; -1.2%)


As of 2015, 6% of the Budget went to pay interest on Debts. That’s the same as what money is allocated for Transportation and Education (The Federal Government represents about 10% of what is spent on Education. The rest of the money comes from the States.)

Democrat Bill Clinton                   (1997; -0.3%)   (1998; -0.8%) (1999; -1.3%)  (2000; -2.3%)

Republican George W. Bush         (2001; -1.2%)   (2002; -1.5%) (2003; -3.3%)   (2004; -3.4%)

Republican  George W. Bush        (2005; -2.5%)  (2006; -1.8%)  (2007; -1.1%)   (2008; -3.1%)

Democrat Barack Obama              (2009; -9.8%)   (2010; -8.7%)  (2011; -8.5%)   (2012; -6.8%)

Democrat Barack Obama               (2013; -4.1%)   (2014; -2.8%)   (2015; -2.5%)   (2016; -3.3%)

U.S. Presidents’ Take on Social Security

In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen wrote, “people always live for ever when there is an annuity to be paid them.”

Rachel Maddow said, “Social security isn’t a ponzi scheme. It’s not bankrupting us. It’s not an outrage. It is working.”

Fact or fiction, after writing a “history lesson of Social Security” for my Sunday Newsletter, I set out to learn the views our past Presidents. The following come from the official Social Security website, starting with the earliest Presidents and working our way up to, but not including, Obama.  

Franklin Delano Roosevelt:  “This law represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means completed–a structure intended to lessen the force of possible future depressions, to act as a protection to future administrations of the Government against the necessity of going deeply into debt to furnish relief to the needy–a law to flatten out the peaks and valleys of deflation and of inflation–in other words, a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.” -August 14, 1935

Harry S. Truman: “It has long been recognized as an inescapable obligation of a democratic society to provide for every individual some measure of basic protection from hardship and want caused by factors beyond his control. In our own country, the obligation of the Federal Government in this respect has been recognized by the establishment of our Social Security system. . . . The passage of the Social Security Act in 1935 marked a great advance in our concept of the means by which our citizens, through their Government, can provide against common economic risks. . .” -May 24, 1948

Dwight David Eisenhower: “The system is not intended as a substitute for private savings, pension plans, and insurance protection. It is, rather, intended as the foundation upon which these other forms of protection can be soundly built. Thus, the individual’s own work, his planning and his thrift will bring him a higher standard of living upon his retirement, or his family a higher standard of living in the event of his death, than would otherwise be the case. Hence the system both encourages thrift and self-reliance, and helps to prevent destitution in our national life.” -January 14, 1954

Lyndon Baines Johnson: “Thirty years ago, the American people made a basic decision that the later years of life should not be years of despondency and drift. The result was enactment of our Social Security program. . . . Since World War II, there has been increasing awareness of the fact that the full value of Social Security would not be realized unless provision were made to deal with the problem of costs of illnesses among our older citizens. . . . Compassion and reason dictate that this logical extension of our proven Social Security system will supply the prudent, feasible, and dignified way to free the aged from the fear of financial hardship in the event of illness.”
-January 7, 1965

Richard Milhous Nixon: “This Nation must not break faith with those Americans who have a right to expect that Social Security payments will protect them and their families. . . . In the 34 years since the Social Security program was first established, it has become a central part of life for a growing number of Americans. . . . Almost all Americans have a stake in the soundness of the Social Security system.” -September 25, 1969

Gerald Rudolph Ford: “The fortieth anniversary of the Social Security Act celebrates an important milestone in responsible public service. I continue to be impressed by the steady responsiveness of the Social Security program to the changing needs of our people. . . . I warmly commend the employees of the Social Security Administration whose efforts are such a positive influence on the lives of countless fellow citizens.” -August 9, 1975

Jimmy Carter: “The Social Security program is a pact between workers and their employers that they will contribute to a common fund to ensure that those who are no longer part of the work force will have a basic income on which to live. It represents our commitment as a society to the belief that workers should not live in dread that a disability, death, or old age could leave them or their families destitute.” – December 20, 1977

Ronald Wilson Reagan: “The changes in this legislation will allow Social Security to age as gracefully as all of us hope to do ourselves, without becoming an overwhelming burden on generations still to come. . . . Our elderly need no longer fear that the checks they depend on will be stopped or reduced. These amendments protect them. Americans of middle age need no longer worry whether their career-long investment will pay off. These amendments guarantee it. And younger people can feel confident that Social Security will still be around when they need it to cushion their retirement.” – April 20, 1982

Geroge H. W. Bush: “And there’s one thing I hope we will all be able to agree on. It’s about our commitments. I’m talking about Social Security. To every American out there on Social Security, to every American supporting that system today, and to everyone counting on it when they retire, we made a promise to you, and we are going to keep it.” – January 31, 1990

William Jefferson Clinton: “Today, I want to talk about Social Security and how all of us can ensure that one of the greatest achievements of this century continues to serve our people well into the next. . . . For 60 years, Social Security has meant more than an ID number on a tax form; more than a monthly check in the mail. It reflects our deepest values — our respect for our parents and our belief that all Americans deserve to retire with dignity.” — March 21, 1998

George W.Bush: “We will reform Social Security and Medicare, sparing our children from struggles we have the power to prevent.” – January 20, 2001