Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Scorpio and the Precession of the Equinox

Sun sign astrology labels me a Scorpio, which is cool. However, right now, the sun is in Virgo. 

Ephemeris for 22 October 2018
for Austin, Texas 200 meters ASL
(US Naval Observatory)
Even astronomers mark the ecliptic and note the peripoint of Aries, which was the first day of Spring about 2000 years ago when all of this was laid down in the Roman West.  (The sun was already moving into Pisces, giving rise to other myths.) Now, it is the peripoint of Aquarius. It takes about 22,500 years for the stars to come full circle, as seen from the Earth. (Relativity, known even to the Greeks, lets us talk about it that way, from our arbitrarily chosen but very convenient inertial frame of reference.). It is intriguing to suggest that the Sphinx of Egypt is really very much older than our academics tell us; and it was built when the first day of spring was in Leo. 

Claws extend into Libra
(Texas hill country scorpion flikr John Morton)

 Modern astrologers never face the problem of Libra. Before the Romans, what we call Libra was really the claws of the Scorpion. But the Romans liked 12: 12 gods of Olympus, 12 ounces the pound, 12 inches to the foot, 12 sestertii to the denarius.  (Yes, denarius means “tenth.” They had to adjust their monetary system to pay for winning all those wars.) So, they made 12 months out of the Lunar year of 13 and gave each one a Zodiac sign.  (“…. 13.37 sidereal months, but about 12.37 synodic months, occur in a Gregorian year.” saith Wikipedia.)

Gold stater of Croesus (Kroisos) of Lydia c. 550 BCE
(Harlan Berk Gemini III Auction)
Lion confronts Bull.
The symbology is variously debated
but the symbols are obvious.
Originally, the ancients of Sumer recognized three constellations along the path of the sun and the moon—the three that actually look like what they are: the Lion, the Scorpion, and the Bull. (They also knew the Giant, Orion. O-names for heroes and gods are surprisingly common across many ancient cultures. But that is another story…)

Previously on Necessary Facts

Saturday, October 13, 2018

I am not Voting in State Elections

I am proud of my voting record. I show up for primaries. I never cast a vote without an opinion: if I do not know anything about the candidates, then I do not choose among them. I always vote for the candidate, never for the party. (I also contribute money to campaigns, but that is another topic.) This time around, I am not voting in state elections. The reason why is that I am currently serving in the Texas State Guard. Although I have been in for four years, I never considered the arguments before. Now I believe that those who serve in the government should not vote. We in the Texas State Guard are permanent, part-time employees of the State of Texas. Therefore, I will not vote on state office candidates or state ballot proposals. 

As is typical for me, several lines of reasoning came together to form a truth. We have over 300 proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. The Binomial Theorem builds Pascal’s Triangle. The circumference of a circle, the area of a circle, the surface area of a sphere, and the volume of a sphere were known as synthetic truths for two thousand years before they could be derived analytically by algebra and calculus. A is A. Contradictions do not exist because contradictions cannot exist.

The first line of reasoning came from the cinematic version of Starship Troopers. There, the writers moved a scene from the closing episodes to the opening. In the book (reviewed here), Juan Rico is in officer candidate school when he is presented with a Socratic inquiry on the subject. In the movie, he gets quizzed in high school. In the film, it is short and direct: We require military service as a pre-condition for full citizenship because when you vote, you call upon the full power of the state to do your bidding; and no one should do that who does not understand the consequences. 

The corollary is not stated: as long as you are serving, you have not completed your term of service. And if war is declared, you serve for the duration without voting.
Generals Grant, Marshall, Patton, and Eisenhower
did not vote while serving.
In the real world of planet Earth, among the soldiers who did not vote while in uniform were Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Lt. Gen. George Patton, Gen. George Marshall, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gen. David Petraeus, and Gen. Martin Dempsey. That array came to me from a New York Times op-ed piece by an Army major: “I Fight for Your Right to Vote. But I Won’t do it Myself.” by M. I. Cavanaugh, New York Times, Op-Ed, October 19, 2016, available online here.  
In Good Company Among Non-Voters
 The broad argument there is that politics divides people. “One 2010 study found that over a quarter of military officers reported that another officer tried to influence their vote.”

Statistical surveys of the military show that in the enlisted ranks, Democrats, liberals, Republicans, conservatives, independents, and the uninvolved tend to reflect the American public: we are evenly split and separated by a healthy margin of non-conformists. Within the officer corps, the list to starboard is clear, but even so, about 20% of West Point cadets and about 20% of lieutenants self-identify as liberal or Democrat. The higher you go, the fewer of those you find. 

Whether it is from wisdom or differential selection is not clear. What is clear is that Republicans and conservatives tend to be more vocal in the workplace, though, ironically, less materially committed in real political life. Even so, especially now, both parties put up a military front whenever they can by using people in uniform as symbols for their platforms. Everyone in the military wants more government money spent on the military. Not everyone in uniform wants a border wall or open borders. 


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Museum Receives Texian Navy Scrip

On September 26, 2018, the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry received a gift of two pay warrants issued to sailors and marines of the Texian Navy. They are now part of the permanent collection of the Texas Military Forces Museum and will soon be on display. The pay warrants were donated by Michael E. Marotta and received by the Museum Director, Jeff Hunt

Like other Texas Republic paper money, the promissory notes quickly lost value and few were ever redeemed. These pay warrants were actually cashed in and cancelled. In April 1841, on the verbal orders of President Mirabeau Lamar, $200,000 in promissory notes were printed, signed, and handed out mostly to Texian Navy sailors at Galveston. 

However, the only money available came from $8,000 in silver coin paid to the Texian Navy by Mexican federalist rebels at Yucatan. Very few promises were honored. Most of the silver pesos from Yucatan went for much needed repairs to the ships. Also, Sam Houston was not a supporter of the Navy. As soon as he was re-elected President in December 1841, Houston repudiated the notes. Houston so distrusted the Navy that at one point in 1838 he declared them all pirates, ordering any lawful ship to arrest them and bring them to Galveston for trial. 

The notes are signed by the Comptroller, James R. Shaw, and the Treasurer, James W. Simmons. They are endorsed on the back by the men who whom they were given. Both notes are cancelled.
The $25 promise carries the endorsement of John Deziel. The $50 note was paid to a Navy Yeoman.
TMF Museum director, Jeff Hunt 
and museum supporter Mike Marotta, 
stand in front of a Texian Navy display 
with the pay warrants. 
(TMF Museum staff photo.)