Celestial Seasonings – April 2021

By Heather Durham | March 31, 2021

Greetings folks! It’s long overdue for adding a photo or two. I found this one and thought I would add it along with this month’s only meteor shower. Enjoy! There will be more in future postings.


April 1. The Moon will be in its final quarter.

April 6. The Moon and Saturn will rise in close proximity with each other.

April 7. The Moon and Jupiter will rise tonight in close proximity of each other.

Lyrid Meteor Shower
April Lyrids Over Thanlyin (Yu Aung Thu/AFP/Getty)

April 17. Mars and the Moon, in close proximity to each other will rise tonight.

April 20. The Moon will be at first quarter.

April 22. The Lyrid meteor shower from the Constellation Hercules will be at its peak. Earth will pass through the Comet C/1861 Thatcher, causing this event. The Lyrids are the oldest recorded meteor shower, first observed in China in 690 BCE. Occasionally, the Lyrids can produce up to 100 meteors per hour even though they are generally weak.

April 26. The Moon will be full.


References:

Anonymous. (2021, February 2). Lyrids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyrids

Debczak, M. (2021, March 15). Dont Miss The Lyrid Meteor Shower Lightning Up The Evening Sky in April 2021. Retrieved from www.mentalfloss.com/article/643660/lyrid-meteor-shower-april-2021

Ford, D.F. (2021, March 20). Calendar of Astronomical Events. Retrieved from in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?month=4&year=2021&maxdiff=1#datesel

Thu, Y.A. (2018, April 17). April Lyrids Over Thanlyin [Photograph]. Retrieved from www.space.com/40303-lyrid-meteor-shower-best-photos.html

Vaughan, K.V. (2021, March 16). Heres When You Can See The Lyrid Meteor Shower in 2021. Retrieved from www.marthastewart.com/8075855/lyrid-meteor-shower-april-2021

Emancipation Pending

By Ian Aikens | March 12, 2021

Should an employee be forced to join a union and pay dues to obtain their job? That’s the basic question underlying the latest RTW (Right to Work) bill now progressing through the New Hampshire legislature. Senate Bill 61 passed the Senate and will be considered by the House, and if passed, New Hampshire would be the first state in the Northeast and the 29th state in the country to become a RTW state.

First of all, what is a collective bargaining agreement? It is a contractual agreement between an employer and a labor union that represents the interests of employees. It covers such issues as wages, hours, benefits, and working conditions. It is important to note that SB61 would not outlaw collective bargaining but only “collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union.” Thus, labor unions could and would continue to exist in the state, but without the coercion element.

The state of unions in the United States is quite interesting. Union membership has been dropping dramatically over the years from about 20.1% in 1983 to currently about 10.3% of the working population. Unionization is much higher in the forced (government) sector at 33.6% versus the voluntary (private) sector at 6.2%. The rates vary widely between the states from a high of 23.7% in Hawaii to a low of 2.7% in South Carolina. As one might expect, the top 10 states with the highest rates of unionization are not RTW states, while the 16 states with the lowest rates of unionization are all RTW states. That would explain why the union chiefs in New Hampshire and elsewhere are in a dither over the RTW movement.

So, what are the criticisms of RTW? The unions sound just like Chicken Little describing the horrors that would occur if workers were given a choice of contributing to unions or not. They cite everything from deteriorating, unsafe work conditions to declining wages and benefits to unfair terminations to free rides to (heaven forbid) union busting.

We can pretty much discount the safety argument right off the bat. OSHA and other governmental agencies already cover virtually all safety issues. In the past, there were unsafe conditions at work places, but as our society has grown richer, naturally there has been more concern with safety, and those conditions have dramatically improved. Unions offer very little real value in this area these days.

What about workers’ pay? They say that union workers’ pay is a lot higher than non-union workers’ pay. They’re right. It’s a median weekly average of $1,095 for union workers and $892 for non-union workers. However…let’s also look at cost of living, unemployment, and purchasing power where one lives to get the bigger picture. When it comes to cost of living, 8 of the 10 states with the lowest cost of living are all RTW states, while the top 10 states with the highest cost of living are all forced unionization states. So, while it may be great to make more money, if the cost of living where you live is also high, are you really any better off as far as purchasing power goes?

The unemployment figures are telling in themselves. Out of the top 5 states with the lowest unemployment (SD, UT, NE, VT, IA), 4 out of 5 are all RTW states. On the other hand, all of the top 5 states with the highest unemployment (HI, CA, NY, NM, MA) are forced unionization states. The spread in unemployment rates is significant: an average of 3.44% for the top 5 lowest states versus an average of 9.06% for the top 5 highest unemployment states. While some might argue that this is an unusual year with the pandemic, I doubt the relative position of the states would change since lockdowns, unemployment, and authoritarianism all seem to run together like a package deal.

When it comes to the availability of jobs, just one look at the automotive industry clearly illustrates the benefits of RTW over forced unionization. Heavily unionized American car manufacturers used to dominate the share of cars sold in this county, but that has been declining over the years, as foreign companies have opened up car plants throughout the country, and almost all of them are in RTW states. Alabama has been the leader in attracting foreign car makers, and now has Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai plants. Georgia now has a Kia plant. Texas has Peterbilt, International, and Toyota plants. Nissan opened its first American plant in Smyrna, Tennessee in 1983. Illinois got a crack at having Toyota and Mazda set up shop there in 2017—at a price tag of 1.3 billion and potential employment of 4,000 workers—but its forced unionization rules helped push the business to Alabama. The right of a company to operate freely and compete in a global market without the demands of unreasonable unions forever resistant to innovation and efficiency does make a difference as to where it sets up shop and employs workers.

The most ludicrous agreement against RTW is the “Free Rider” argument, which claims that RTW laws allow non-union members to secure the benefits of union representation without paying the dues. Indeed, if you look at it just from that viewpoint, it does look like those who don’t want to pay the dues are deadbeats because the law requires unions to represent everyone fairly—no discrimination.

How convenient to ignore the fact that unions almost always choose to act as exclusive bargaining representatives. This should really be called monopoly bargaining representation because the union has chosen to represent and negotiate on behalf of all employees in a company—whether all the employees want such representation or not. Are unions providing “free benefits” even to those who refuse to pay dues out of the goodness of their hearts? I think not. They choose exclusive bargaining representation because they enjoy having full monopoly power over all the employees—and their dues. The hypocrisy is striking: unions who have choice in the matter deny basic choice to individual workers, and yet they claim to be for “workers’ rights.”

The Supreme Court has ruled numerous times over the years that unions have every right to negotiate contracts for dues-paying members only, so there is no compelling reason to remain as exclusive bargaining representatives, unless they choose to. Even the more honest leaders of some unions are now finally admitting that perhaps it’s time to let go of exclusive bargaining representation.

That would be a step in the right direction for it would allow individual workers to negotiate with their employers directly over their own wages, benefits, and working conditions. It would recognize the fact that all workers are individuals and should not be lumped into one big pot. Unions by their very nature treat all workers as equally competent and hard-working since their negotiations are always based on seniority rather than merit. Of course, in the real world, competence and hard work do matter, but unions routinely protect and reward incompetence and slack production. The rubber rooms of New York City where unionized teachers who are so bad that they are not even allowed in the classroom are notorious, and no company in the voluntary sector would ever put up with such behavior, but unions protect them. Would you want to be lumped in with such colleagues? In a forced unionization state, you very well could be, and in fact such colleagues could be paid much more than you simply due to seniority.

It’s finally time to bring worker freedom to New Hampshire and let all New Hampshire workers work without paying extortion to unions. Employees should also be able to negotiate their own wages and working conditions and not be forced to accept other workers’ negotiations. If unions have something of value to offer individual employees, let them convince workers through persuasion, not force.


References:

Asbury, Neal. (2018, February 9). Right-to-Work States’ Policies Validated by Foreign Car Manufacturers. Retrieved from https://www.newsmax.com/finance/nealasbury/right-work-states-policies/2018/09/09/id/842515/

DeWitt, Ethan. (2021, February 11). New Hampshire Senate passes right to work bill, advancing Republican priority. Retrieved from New Hampshire Senate passes right to work bill, advancing Republican priority (concordmonitor.com)

Edelman, Susan. (2019, November 2). NYC pays ‘rubber room’ teacher $1.7M over 20 years after sex abuse claims. Retrieved from NYC pays ‘rubber room’ teacher six figures 20 years after sex abuse claims (nypost.com)

Fiala, Bill. (2011, November 18). Right-To-Work Laws Pay Off With Manufacturing Jobs. Retrieved from https://www.manufacturing.net/labor/article/13056365/righttowork-laws-pay-off-with-manufacturing-jobs

Greer, Stan and Brackett, Glenn. Right-to-Work Law. Retrieved from Right-to-Work Law | NH Issue Brief | Citizens Count

Rayno, Garry. (2021, January 26). Little New in Right-to-Work Debate in NH. Retrieved from Little New in Right-to-Work Debate in NH – InDepthNH.orgInDepthNH.org

Shannon, Erin. (2016, July 28). The myth of “free riders” in right-to-work states. Retrieved from https://www.washintonpolicy.org/publications/detail/the-myth-of-free-riders-in-right-to-work-states

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment Rates for States. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm

Wikipedia. Union affiliation by U.S. state. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_affiliation_by_U.S._state

Celestial Seasonings – March 2021

By Heather Durham | February 28, 2021

Daffodils by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

(Ed.: William Wordsworth would seem to have been a favorite poet of Milton’s Rev. Newell Wordsworth Whitman, who chose it for his middle name (As Walt Whitman was apparently another favorite poet)).


March 2 – Mercury will shine brightly as it moves to half phase.

March 5 – The Moon will be in its last quarter.

March 6 – Mercury will be moving away to its furthest place from the Sun.

March 9 – The Moon and Saturn will rise and travel close to each other.

March 10 – The Moon and Jupiter will rise together.

March 19 – The Moon and Mars will rise closely to one another.

March 20 – This is the first day of spring when everyone both in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres have close to equal 12 hours of daylight as well as 12 hours of night. The Sun makes it’s annual trip through the Constellations bringing it across the celestial equator.

March 21 – The Moon will be at first quarter.

March 28 – The Moon will be full. It will appear larger and brighter and will be high in the sky. There are many Moon names, but this one, whereas it is the first occurrence of a full moon following the spring equinox, may be referred to as the Egg Moon. Venus will delight us for being at its brightest.


References:

In The Sky. (December 28, 2020). Night Sky Guide. Retrieved from in-the-sky.org/data/data.php

Khurana, Simran. (2020, August 27). William Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ Poem. Retrieved from thoughtco.com/quotes-about-daffodils-2831299

Wikipedia. (2020, February 18). William Wordsworth. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wordsworth

Celestial Seasonings Special Report: Groundhog Day 2021

By Heather Durham | February 1, 2021

GROUNDHOG DAY – February 2, 2021

February 2 is the pivot point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, Groundhog Day.  The largest celebration in the U.S. is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where the folklore has it that their groundhog(woodchuck), named Punxsutawney Phil, emerges from hibernation on either a sunny day when he may be able to see his shadow or a cloudy day during which time, poor Phil won’t be able to see his shadow.  Accordingly, if Phil sees his shadow, we can expect six more weeks of winter, otherwise spring is on it’s way.

2021 brings us to the 135th year of their celebration which usually draws about 40,000 people. This year during our Covid pandemic, Punxsutawney Phil will be wearing a mask like the others in attendance. No fans will be allowed to attend and the others will be socially distant while the celebration will be held inside behind closed doors.

Regardless, you will be able to view this year’s events by clicking on the following: Groundhog Day 2021 Livestream, Punxsutawney, PA (Begins at 6:30 AM).

Groundhog Day - 2021GROUNDHOG DAY HISTORY

There are several cultures that celebrate this time of year.  Our traditions stem from the Pennsylvania Dutch who immigrated from German speaking countries of Europe. For Christians, February 2, also begins the celebration of Candlemas which is most widely known as a Catholic as well as Lutheran festival who accepted the same folklore as Groundhog Day. For the Celts, it meant looking forward to the birth of farm animals along with crop planting- time of Imbolc. There was a belief that bears and badgers came out of hibernation on this day during the Middle Ages. Many celebrations around the world occur on this date.

Victor Hugo, in “Les Misérables,” (1864) discussed the day as follows:

“…it was the second of February, that ancient Candlemas-day whose treacherous sun, the precursor of six weeks of cold, inspired Matthew Laensberg with the two lines, which have deservedly become classic: ‘Qu’il luise ou qu’il luiserne, L’ours rentre en sa caverne.’

[Let it gleam or let it glimmer, The bear goes back into his cave]” (Hugo, 1864).

At this point, you are probably wondering how Groundhog Day became so popular here, especially in Pennsylvania. Well, the city editor of a publication named Punxsutawney Spirit, Clymer H. Freas, became deeply intrigued by a group of groundhog hunters during the 1880’s. He repeated the folklore every year and embellished it to promote Punxsutawney Phil as the great long range weather forecaster.  These stories were told in other newspapers and publications to such an extent that Punxsutawney Phil and his predictions became known throughout the world.


References:

Breyer, Melissa. (2018, October 11). Punxsutawney Phil Is Correct Only 52 Percent of the Time. Retrieved from https://www.treehugger.com/punxsutawney-phil-correct-only-percent-time-4848611

Gunther, Shea. (2020, January 31). 6 Things Most People Don’t Know About Groundhog Day. Retrieved from https://www.treehugger.com/things-most-people-dont-know-about-groundhog-day-4862460

Holiday Insights. (2021). Groundhog Day 2021. Retrieved from http://www.holidayinsights.com/other/ghog.htm

Hugo, Victor. “Les Misérables.” Trans. Fahnestock and MacAfee, based on Wilbour. Signet Classics, NY, 1987. p. 725.

McLendon, Russell. (2020, January 31). Why Do We Celebrate Groundhog Day? Retrieved from https://www.treehugger.com/why-do-we-celebrate-groundhog-day-4862765

VisitPA. (2021, January 25). Groundhog Day 2021. Retrieved from https://www.visitpa.com/article/groundhog-day

VisitPA. (2021, February 2). Groundhog Day 2021 Livestream. Retrieved from https://www.visitpa.com/live-stream-phils-prediction

Wikipedia. (2021, January 29). Groundhog Day. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundhog_Day

Celestial Seasonings – February 2021

By Heather Durham | January 31, 2021

This February is not only the shortest month of this year, but astronomical events as well are few and far between this year. Be on the lookout tomorrow, for a Celestial Seasonings special post about the story of Groundhog Day. There’s more to it than that which was written for us in the poem below. It is celebrated every February 2, the midpoint between the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

Groundhog Day
By Nancy Hughes

Out of his hole, he poked his snout
and wondered what all the fuss was about.
They snatched him up and named him Phil
Then took him to a Pennsylvania hill.

He lives up there in luxury
to predict spring’s arrival for you and me.
Just once a year he’s on display.
They’ve even named it Groundhog Day!

He’s quite amazed, he must confess,
that his shadow has brought him so much success.
He’ll never retire … not ever, no way.
He has the best job in the whole USA!


February 2 – Groundhog Day

February 4 – Today, we will have the last quarter of the Moon.

February 18 – The Moon and Mars will rise together as well as close to each other, in the evening sky. The Moon will be 7 days old.

February 19 – This day will bring the first quarter of the Moon.

February 24 – Mercury will ascend to its highest point in the sky this evening.

February 27 – The Moon will be full today. Because this is the third Moon of Winter 2021, this one is known as the Lenten Moon.


References:

In The Sky. (December 28, 2020). Night Sky Guide. Retrieved from in-the-sky.org/data/data.php

Scrapbook.com. (January 29,2021), Groundhog Day. Retrieved from www.scrapbook.com/poems/doc/12880.html

Fangs and Freedom

By Ian Aikens | January 11, 2021

One of the few silver linings that has emerged from the pandemic is finally a significant number of parents are starting to take charge of their children’s education. Out of necessity more than choice, last year saw a notable drop in children “attending” government schools and an increase in homeschooling and pandemic PODs or micro-schools.

What exactly is a POD or micro-school? Actually, there are two different kinds: a self-directed POD and a learning support POD. Under a self-directed POD, parents unenroll their child from the existing traditional government school, charter school, magnet school, or private school. The parent is the teacher and is fully responsible for their child’s education and curriculum. This path is mostly associated with what folks call homeschooling. This differs from the learning support POD in that parents keep their child enrolled in their regular school but find a group of families for after-school activities and additional educational enrichment.

Like people, POD’s are as different as they come. The only thing they really have in common is that students gather together in small groups with adult supervision to learn, explore, and socialize. The parents come up with the rules and terms, which run the gamut for number of hours, fees, safety protocols, and just about everything parents can agree on for their children. They can be completely free or cost several hundred dollars per month. They offer significant flexibility to suit the parents’ and children’s needs and may gather for just 10-20 hours/week or just on certain days.

Just a little refresher here on New Hampshire homeschooling laws: school is compulsory for children aged 6-18, and parents must notify the school principal within 5 days of beginning homeschooling. There are no teacher qualifications and no immunization requirements, but state mandated subjects are science, math, language, government, history, health, reading, writing, spelling, history of the US and New Hampshire constitutions, and exposure to art and music. Parents must keep a portfolio of work samples for each student for two years and have each student evaluated annually. All things considered compared to other nanny states, intrusion is minimal in New Hampshire.

One interesting piece I read from a homeschooler demonstrates that there is no need to fear overzealous oversight by educational bureaucrats if you do your “homework” as a parent. When a new school administrator requested a list of books the parent was using for her children, the parent sent back a “Show Me” letter asking for the specific passage in the law where it states the parent must provide such a list. A few days later, the parent received a response from the school stating that she met the legal requirement to homeschool – without mentioning (wisely) the school list. Good for this parent – let the burden of proof for nonsense rest on the bureaucrats, not the taxpaying citizen.

How did we get to a point where a parent has to fear a school bureaucrat? Government schools have been around since the beginning of the country, but it might surprise you to know that such schools were mostly privately financed by fees paid by the parents – basically a user fee. True, local, county, and state governments did kick in some supplementary financing, especially for children whose parents couldn’t afford it. But, basically without being compulsory or free, almost every child was able to attend school.

Unfortunately, the busybodies weren’t content to leave well enough alone. Beginning in the 1840’s, a movement developed to make schools “free” by having parents and their neighbors pay for schools indirectly by taxes rather than directly by fees. (Just look at your most recent property tax bill and see how “free” they really are.) Tellingly, it was not the parents who led this movement but teachers and government officials. The most famous crusader was Horace Mann, the first secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, who is now heralded as “the father of American public education.” While Mann and his ilk pitched the “good public investment” argument we’ve all heard ever since then, that was a smokescreen. It was really the teachers and bureaucrats pushing for their own self-interest for a greater certainty of employment, more security for their salaries being paid, and of course more control if government paid the bills rather than parents.

As no surprise to anyone, it’s all about control, and control is all about funding. If parents pay directly themselves, they pretty much have 100% say over their children’s education, but if schools are “free” because their neighbors are forced to pay, then control is gladly taken over by administrators, boards, councils, committees, and politicians. Well, we’re hardly going back to user fees for most parents after 170 years of “free” schools, but the idea of school choice has been gaining momentum in recent years, and last year’s dismal experience with remote learning is giving it a good boost.

If your neighbors are going to be forced to pay for your children’s education, why not direct that money right to the parents and let them pick the best school for their children? The taxpayers would be no worse off since tax extractions are still tax extractions, but the children would get a break for a change because their own parents know them better and are better guardians than strangers and, worse still, bureaucrats with their own agenda.

I’ll bet even if only 80% of what all levels of government spend on each child were to be paid to parents, government schools would see a mass exodus, and a whole new crop of educational options would open up for all children, not just the children of the elite. Since private, voluntary schools have a record of stretching dollars a lot further than government schools, 80% might be more than enough for most parents, but even if they had to dig into their own pocketbooks, most parents would be willing to do it because the desire to have your children succeed in life is universal. Funding “the children” rather than schools, institutions, and school districts would be a better way to accomplish that much overused term “the public good.”

Needless to say, the educational-industrial complex industry is not about to give up its stranglehold on “the children.” The teachers’ unions, bureaucrats, and politicians have fought the very notion of school choice for decades, and they’re not going down without a fight. Even charter schools, which are still government schools, have been targeted by the teachers’ unions and politicians for years because they have more independence and flexibility in how they operate. The fierce opposition has increased lately, despite the existence of charter school lotteries because demand by parents exceeds the supply. That alone should demonstrate what the real motives are of those with vested interests.

Since the pandemic started, the supporters of continuing this educational monopoly have really gone on the warpath. Here are but a few examples from all over the country. The Oregon Department of Education opposed school re-openings because “multi-family learning groups may slow the process of returning to school by creating more opportunities for spread among students and families.” The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators lobbied to make it illegal for families to enroll in virtual charter schools during the lockdown because the school districts would be losing money. Then there was the Denver Board of Education which was “deeply concerned about POD long-term negative implication for public education and social justice.” And who can forget the teachers’ rallies in the fall with their mock body bags and signs proclaiming Not One Case? Never mind that New York City’s top health officials declared that “the public schools are among the safest public places around.”

As always, wealthier parents have turned to other alternatives like PODs, private schools, and tutors to take care of their kids while the children of parents on the lower end of the economic ladder are languishing at home with inferior online classes. Really showing their fangs this time, the unions, bureaucrats, and politicians rail about “equity,” “inclusiveness,” and “privilege,” but what alternatives have they presented? None – their hypocrisy is breath-taking. Not only do they not care what happens to the kids from poor families – they resent and oppose those who do escape their clutches. So that all will be equal, they prefer a race to the bottom.

While the funding conundrum will force many middle-class families back to the government school system after the pandemic has faded, I’m hoping a significant number will never return. Hopefully the extra money parents have to dig into their pockets for is worth the extra control they gained over their children’s education. Maybe they will have discovered that “free” wasn’t such a bargain after all.

References:

Clopton, Jennifer. (2020, August 14). Parents Turn to ‘Pods’ for School During Pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200814/parents-turn-to-pods-for-school-during-pandemic

DeAngelis, Corey. (2020, September 2). Pa must fund students, not school districts. Retrieved from https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/philadelphia-virtual-learning-school-choice-coronavirus-pandemic-20200902.html

Friedman, Milton and Friedman, Rose. (1980). Free to Choose. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

Gerstenfeld, Adam. (2019, February 7). What Is A Charter School Lottery? Retrieved from https://www.publiccharters.org/latest-news/2019/02/07/what-charter-school-lottery

Rojas Weiss, Sabrina. (2020, August 11). How to Pod: These Parents Are Going Small to Stay Safe. Retrieved from https://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/2300187/how-to-form-pods-microschools/

Seaborne, Shay. (2010, December 15). The “Show Me Letter”. Retrieved from https://www.thehomeschoolmom.com/the-show-me-letter/

Time4Learning. New Hampshire Homeschool Laws & Requirements. Retrieved from https://www.time4learning.com/homeschooling/new-hampshire/laws-requirements.html/

Tuccille, J.D. (2020, November 4). Bureaucrats Declare War on Learning Pods. They’ll Lose. Retrieved from https://reason.com/2020/11/04/bureaucrats-declare-war-on-learning-pods-theyll-lose/

Welch, Matt. (2020, November 16). NYC’s school leaders fail poor children even as they cry about ‘equity’. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2020/11/16/nycs-school-leaders-fail-poor-children-as-they-cry-about-equity/

Celestial Seasonings – January 2021

By Heather Durham | December 31, 2020

“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” – Aristotle.

January 2. The Earth will make its closest approach to the sun in its annual orbit.

January 3. Today we will have the Quadrantid meteor shower of the new year. This is from the Constellation Bootes. This named shower occurs in January and can be as rich and prolific as the Perseids or the Geminids. At times lasting for only a few hours, this will be at its peak intensity. Showers may seem faint in the night sky.

January 6. The Moon will be in its final quarter.

January 19. Today will bring another meteor shower: the y-Ursae Minorid from the Constellation Ursa Minor. This Constellation is also known as Little Bear when compared with Ursa Major.

January 20. The Moon will be at first quarter today.

January 21. Today, the Moon and Mars will rise closely with one another. Uranus will be joining the Moon and Mars. Mars is almost the smallest planet with the exception of Mercury. Uranus has 27 known moons.

January 23. Mercury will reach its greatest separation from the Sun today.

January 25. Mercury will reach its half phase today. This event may be a bit difficult to see with the naked eye.

January 26. Mercury will reach it’s highest point in the sky tonight. It is the smallest planet as well as the one closest to the Sun.

January 28. Full Moon today. Whereas it’s the second full Moon of winter, some refer to it as the Wolf Moon.


References:

In The Sky. (December 28, 2020). Night Sky Guide. Retrieved from in-the-sky.org/data/data.php

Wikipedia. (2020, November 23). Mars. Retrieved from en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars

Wikipedia. (2020, October 17). Mercury. Retrieved from en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury

Wikipedia. (2020, December 4), Quadrantid Meteor Shower. Retrieved from en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadrantid_meteor_shower

Wikipedia. (2020, November 20). Ursa Minor. Retrieved from en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Ursa_Minor

Celestial Seasonings – December 2020

By Heather Durham | November 30, 2020

December 21 brings with it the final solstice of 2020 – the Winter Solstice along with an astronomical once in a lifetime event that last happened in 1623. Here is a quote I selected to describe this solstice.

There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you … In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. – Ruth Stout.

December 5. The φ-Cassiopeid [Phi-Cassiopeid] meteor shower, from the Constellation Andromeda, will show this date. It will be prevalent throughout the night.

December 7. Today, we will have the last quarter of the Moon.

December 8. The Monocerotid meteor shower in the Constellation Monoceros, will be on display. This will remain active until dawn.

December 11. The σ-Hydrid [Sigma-Hydrid] meteor shower, from the Constellation Hydra, will put on a show. As was the case with the Monocerotid shower, this too, should be visible until dawn.

December 14. Yet another meteor shower – the Geminid, in the Constellation Gemini, will sprinkle the evening skies on this date. Yet another one with prime viewing near dawn.

December 15. The Comae Berenicid meteor shower, from the Constellation Leo, will be great today. This should be around until after dawn breaks.

December 16. The Moon and Jupiter will rise closely to one another.

December 17. The Moon along with Jupiter and Saturn will rise closely to one another.

December 19. The Leonid Minorid meteor shower, from the Constellation Leo Minor, should be prolific today. It’s best show will be at 5:00 EST.

December 21. Today is the midwinter solstice – the shortest amount of daylight. Jupiter and Saturn will rise very closely to one another [The Great Conjunction]. These two planets haven’t risen this closely since 1623. The Moon will be at first quarter.

December 22. We will be delighted with the Ursid meteor shower, from the Constellation Ursa Minor today. This will be active throughout the night.

December 23. The Moon and Mars will rise closely to one another.

December 29. This date will bring us the first full Moon of winter. It is referred to as the Old Moon.


References:

Hunt, Jeffrey L. (2020, February 20). 1623: The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. Retrieved from whenthecurveslineup.com/2020/02/20/1623-the-great-conjunction-of-jupiter-and-saturn/

In The Sky. (2020, November 28). Night Sky Guide. Retrieved from in-the-sky.org/data/data.php

Wikipedia. (2020, October 14). Coma Berenicids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coma_Berenicids

Wikipedia. (2020, November 4). Geminids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geminids

Wikipedia. (2020, November 29). Great Conjunction. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_conjunction

Wikipedia. (2020, November 26). Leonids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonids

Wikipedia. (2020, November 21). Monocerotids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monocerotids

Wikipedia. (2020, July 23). Sigma Hydrids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigma_Hydrids

Wikipedia. (2020, April 18). Ursids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ursids

Wise Old Sayings. (2020 November 27). Winter Sayings and Winter Quotes. Retrieved from www.wisesayings.com/winter-quotes/#ixzz6f1YQxqKw

Lesson in Survival

By Ian Aikens | November 25, 2020

For the quintessential American holiday of Thanksgiving that we celebrate tomorrow, it’s worth pondering if this is just another day to miss work or school, or is there something more significant to celebrate. Is there more to the tale of the Pilgrims escaping religious persecution in England, fighting starvation and the elements in the harsh New England winter with the help of local Indians, and celebrating a bountiful harvest in 1621?

It turns out the story is more complicated than the standard version we hear most often. The first clarification needed is the make-up of “the Pilgrims.” Of the 102 souls who sailed on the Mayflower, only 41 were actually Puritan Separatists, 18 were indentured servants bound as slaves for 7 years to their masters, and the other 43 were mostly Anglicans seeking economic opportunity in the New World. Another part of the standard narrative is that the colonists were hard-working, tenacious, and G_d-fearing. While there may have been some settlers who fit this description, according to William Bradford, who served as governor of the colony for 30 years, in his History of Plymouth Plantation, many of the colonists were lazy and refused to work in the fields. Stealing what little food there was became rampant, and the colony was overrun with corruption.

What caused the colonists to behave like this when their very lives depended on it? The arrangement was a joint-stock partnership named John Peirce and Associates between the colonists and a group of London merchants. It received a grant in 1620 from the South Virginia Company for a plantation in the Virginia territory. The terms of the alliance stipulated that each adult settler be granted a share in the joint-stock company, and each investment of 10 pounds receive a share. Herein lay the problem: “All settlers … were to receive their necessities out of the common stock. For seven years there was to be no individual property or trade, but the labor of the colony was to be organized according to the different capacities of the settlers. At the end of the seven years the company was to be dissolved and the whole stock divided.”

It should be noted that two concessions requested by the colonists in the original agreement might have made the arrangement in the New World workable despite its “It Takes A Village” emphasis. One was for the settlers to be granted separate plots of land near their houses, and the other was to allow them 2 days a week to cultivate their own land. The reason for requesting the two concessions was because most of the colonists had been tenant farmers in the open fields of an old manorial hunting park in Nottinghamshire, and though they had worked in the lord’s fields, they also had time to work their own individual plots for their own needs. As it turned out though, the London partners refused to grant the concessions and disaster in the New World ensued.

Per William Bradford’s account, “… that the taking away of property and bringing community would make them happy and flourishing … For this community was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the younger men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong … had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice … Upon … all being to have alike and all to do alike, they thought … one as good as another, and so … did … work diminish.” In other words, removing the profit motive caused everyone to work less. If it hadn’t been for the Indians who helped show the settlers how to plant crops native to New England, and how to fish, catch eels, and harvest oysters—not to mention another ship that arrived from England in 1621 just in the nick of time—the settlers would have all perished.

The harvests of 1621 and 1622 were also dismal due to low production, so finally in 1623 Governor Bradford established a system of privately-controlled plots of land, which allowed each family or individual to work them and keep the proceeds. In other words, he abandoned the communal arrangement and established real property rights, and the results were spectacular.

From Bradford again: “So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery … This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.” By the harvest of 1623, “the starving time” became the bountiful occasion we now celebrate as Thanksgiving. Furthermore, by 1624, so much food was produced that the colonists were now able to sell and export corn.

Was this success a coincidence? A stroke of luck? A divine message from above? I think not. The private property system that Bradford established in Plymouth was in sync with human nature and the natural instinct to take care of one’s needs and one’s family’s needs first before those of strangers. Which is not to say that charity or compassion is not part of human nature, but “starving time” does not advance generosity. Only independence and self-reliance, which come from the freedom to determine one’s goals and priorities, foster true goodwill towards others.

One final thought on the survival lesson of Thanksgiving. As poorly as the communal system in place until 1623 turned out, consider that it was a (mostly) voluntary arrangement, since each adult man and woman chose to sign on with the trip to the New World even though the two concessions regarding private property were rejected. Even voluntarily willing to take a chance on a perilous journey to a strange land—and still many starved to death. Can you imagine the guaranteed fiasco had the system been forced on them? You only need to look at the outcome when forced giving, production, and redistribution are mandated by government. History is filled with examples, but China’s Great Leap Forward is the best illustration of what happens when property rights are trampled on: at least 30 million people starved to death from 1958 to 1962. With so many voices raised these days in favor of forced collectivism, perhaps they should learn the real lesson of Thanksgiving.


References:

Carson, Kevin. (2013, November 27). No, Stossel. The Pilgrims Were Starved by a Corporation, Not by Communism. Retrieved from c4ss.org/content/22792

Ceeley, Craig. (2003, November 27). From ‘Starving Time’ to Cornucopia: The American Thanksgiving. Retrieved from www.theatlasphere.com/columns/031127_ceely_thanksgiving.php

Franc, Michael. (2005, November 22). Pilgrims Beat ‘Communism’ With Free Market. www.heritage.org/markets-and-finance/commentary/pilgrims-beat-communism-free-market

Mayberry, Richard J. (2014, November 27). The Great Thanksgiving Hoax. Retrieved from mises.org/library/great-thanksgiving-hoax-1

Miniter, Frank. (2016, November 23). Did Capitalism Really Save The Pilgrims—And Give Them A Thanksgiving To Remember? Retrieved from www.forbes.com/sites/frankminiter/2016/11/23/did-capitalism-really-save-the-pilgrims-and-give-them-a-thanksgiving-to-remember/#44147f264ffb

Pease, Harold. (2018, November 15). The Mayflower Compact Facilitated Pilgrim Starvation. Retrieved from suindependent.com/mayflower-compact-pilgrim-starvation/

Celestial Seasonings – November 2020

By Heather Durham | October 31, 2020

“The turkey. The sweet potatoes. The stuffing. The pumpkin pie. Is there anything else we all can agree so vehemently about? I don’t think so.” – Nora Ephron.


November 8. Today brings the last quarter of the Moon. Mercury will rise to half phase and will be shining brightly.

November 9. Mercury continues to rise to it’s highest point.

November 10. Mercury will be far away from the sun in its orbit.

November 12. The northern Taurid meteor shower should put on a prolific display. This is from the Constellation Taurus. The Moon and Venus will rise closely to one another this evening.

November 17. The Leonid meteor shower will be prolific this evening. This shower is from the Constellation Leo. The Pleiades open star cluster from the Constellation Taurus will rise to it’s highest point in the sky.

November 19. The Moon and Jupiter will rise close to each other as will the Moon and Saturn.

November 21. The Monocerotid meteor shower from the Constellation Canis Minor will put on an eventful display this evening. The Moon will be at first quarter.

November 25. The Moon and Mars will rise closely to one another.

November 28. The Orionid meteor shower from the Constellation Orion should produce a dazzling display.

November 30. The third full Moon of autumn known as the Oak Moon will shine brightly this evening. There will be a lunar eclipse as the Moon orbits the Earth’s shadow.


References:

Country Living. (2020, October 12). 73 Best Thanksgiving Quotes to Share With Loved Ones Near and Far. Retrieved from www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/g2059/thanksgiving-quotes/

In the Sky. (2020, October 28). Guides to the Night Sky. Retrieved from in-the-sky.org/data/data.php

Wikipedia. (2020, April 21). Alpha Monocerotids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpha_Monocerotids

Wikipedia. (2020, October 13). Leonids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonids

Wikipedia. (2020, October 1). Orionids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orionids

Wikipedia. (2020, October 10). Taurids. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taurids