28 November 2016

Update no.780

Update from the Heartland
21.11.16 – 27.11.16
To all,

            I trust all American citizens enjoyed a celebratory Thanksgiving holiday with their families.  We certainly did.  We have much to be grateful for in life.

            The hits just keep coming.  The fourth book in my To So Few series of historical novels has been published in print and in all digital forms.  The book is available from any brick & mortar bookstore (probably by special order) or any on-line source, like Apple’s iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, et al.
To So Few (Book IV) – The Trial
With the aerial battle exploding in its full viciousness, the leaders of Fighter Command struggle against mounting opposition with rapidly depleting resources.  Brian Drummond and his brother’s in arms rise every day with the knowledge it could be their last flight against extraordinarily long odds.  Everyone sees the obvious, the only obstacles between the British Isles and near certain domination by the highly successful and ebullient Germans were the Royal Navy and less than 1,000, young, largely untested pilots of Fighter Command.  Prime Minister Winston Churchill bears witness to the heroic feats of those few, intrepid, young aviators who stood in the breach during the summer of 1940.  Amidst the carnage of the epic battle, Charlotte Palmer – a beautiful, older, war widow – saves Brian’s life, receives the George Cross from King George VI, and becomes very special to ace Pilot Officer Brian Drummond.
            I would like to take this moment to make a special offer to subscribers to this humble forum and readers of the “Update from the Heartland” Blog.  To the first (shall we say) ten (10) requests, I will provide a print copy of The Trial along with appropriate postage to anyone who wishes to read the book in exchange for a written review of the book for Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, or any other site you choose.  I would appreciate a courtesy copy – good, bad or ugly.  Lastly, I would be most grateful for a recommendation to your family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and contacts.  Interested individuals should send me a simple message via reply, separate eMail, website contact form or any other means of your choosing with your name and postal address.  I will take care of the rest.

            With considerable sadness, I report the sudden passing of my friend, classmate, fellow Marine and frequent contributor to this humble forum Lieutenant Colonel Jan Peter Fladeboe, USMC (Ret.) [USNA 1970] – a very good man who will be sorely missed.  May God rest your immortal soul, my friend.

            The follow-up news items:
-- In the continuing debate about the viability, applicability or validity of the Electoral College, a cartoon visually summarized my concern should we pass and ratify a constitutional amendment to eliminate the Electoral College.
Credit to: Michael P. Ramirez
While the Electoral College, as defined in the Constitution does not preclude or prevent domination by the population centers, the constitutional provision at least makes an attempt to allow smaller and less populated states to be heard.  The votes are still being counted in some states and are not yet finalized or certified.  Hillary Clinton’s popular vote margin continues to grow; as of this writing, that margin has exceeded 2,000,000 votes (2%).  The popular vote reality makes the distribution and the Electoral College predicted vote count even starker.  The by-state, by-county, 2016 presidential popular vote counts, so far, are depicted in the first map.
Credit to: Washington Post
While the sea of red appears impressive, the scattered blue counties contain 2,000,000 more votes than all of the red counties combined.  Yet, it is the anticipated Electoral College vote (19.December.2016) that will officially determine the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
Credit to: RealClearPolitics.com
Further discussion of the Electoral College is offered in the Comment Section below.

            This week, we learned that Jill Stein and the Green Party have raised the funds necessary to demand a recount the votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, based on the hypothesis developed by several political science specialists.  They see consistent negative differences between districts using electronic balloting versus paper balloting, with the suggestion that the electronic results may have been manipulated (presumably by hackers, and potentially by Russia).  Then, the Clinton campaign announced they would participate, more as concerned observers rather than active players.
            Of course, the “Manhattan Mussolini” is not pleased and publicly condemned the Green Party initiative as an outright scam – interesting reaction given his incessant whining about the “rigged” system that got him elected.
            As a separate but related observation, I must say Jill Stein is a class act.  I’m just sayin’.

            President-elect Trump told the New York Times, “The law is totally on my side.  The president can’t have a conflict of interest.”  Trump’s statement sounds distinctively like a statement in the Blackstone Commentaries 1-7-237 (1765):
Original English of the day:
But it is at the fame time a maxim in thofe laws, that the king himfelf can do no wrong; fince it would be a great weaknefs and abfurdity in any fyftem of pofitive law, to define any poffible wrong, without any poffible redrefs.
Transformed to contemporary English:
But it is at the same time a maxim in those laws, that the king himself can do no wrong; since it would be a great weakness and absurdity in any system of positive law, to define any possible wrong, without any possible redress.”
Trump has given us a heads-up (like virtually everything he did and said during the campaign) that practical, traditional, reasonable ethics do NOT apply to The Donald.  Therefore, the only rules that apply to Trump are his rules – trust him, believe him, it will be the best ever.  Apparently, The Donald truly believes he is the king . . . no . . . he must believe he is better than any king, any emperor, better than any political leader, anywhere, at any time in history, or the future for that matter.  This is what a man devoid of any semblance of humility or morality looks like and acts.  We have to hang on for a very rough ride, and his tenure has not even begun, yet.

            We have all read in books or heard in movies or documentary videos the simple phrased, Heil Hitler.  The German phrase translates into, “Hail Hitler.”  The phrase became commonplace and an expected salutation of devout Nazis, and even within the military after Nacht der Langen Messer (Night of the Long Knives, 29/30.June.1934) and the requirement of each member of the military (private to field marshal) to swear allegiance to Adolf Hitler, the man, not the state or the people (2.August.1934).  From this point in history, Adolf Hitler was publicly and generally referred to as Der F├╝hrer (The Leader).
            Now, we hear a white supremacist group gathered in Washington, D.C., publicly proclaim, “Hail Trump.  Hail victory,” along with the straight arm salute so notably characteristic of Nazis in Germany.
            The reality that white supremacist, neo-Nazis, ultra-right nationalists identify with Trump, regardless of the president-elect’s personal or private affinity or lack of same is immaterial.  His words have clearly inspired these extremist groups to become more visible and public.
            Is there reason for concern?  YES!  Is there reason for vigilance and loyal opposition?  Absolutely!  This is way too close for any degree of comfort.  And, we have four (4) long years that have not even begun, yet to go.

            There are not many times I disagree with Leonard Pitts, but here is one of those times.
“I’m not in the mood for ‘unity.’ Trump’s still a bigot”
by Leonard Pitts, Jr. – Miami Herald
Wichita Eagle
Published: NOVEMBER 16, 2016; 9:12 AM
I actually agree with his assessment of the man, as I have written for 18 months.  However, this Grand Republic is bigger and more important than all of us, including the “Manhattan Mussolini,” who will soon be our official president-elect.  Apparently, unlike Leonard, I intend to do my best to look beyond his monumental character flaws to the office he shall soon occupy (at least we think he will, but perhaps he will be President from Trump Tower in Manhattan, and will never occupy the White House).  Trump’s new position does not make him a good man, but he will soon be our president.  Full stop!

            Comments and contributions from Update no.779:
Comment to the Blog:
“I agree with your correspondent about the Electoral College, but let me see if I can make it simpler and, thus, clearer. The Electoral College came about shortly after the founding of this nation due to the political and economic importance of agriculture (which was then based on slavery). I am not sure it was a good thing then, and today it still stops each vote from counting the same as all others. ‘One [woman or] man, one vote’ ought to be a guiding principle here. Why should your vote in Kansas (or someone else’s in Nevada) be more important than mine in Ohio?
“Lesser but notable: the Census Bureau does not ask immigration status because doing so would surely lead to inaccurate results in their counts. The Department of Homeland Insecurity makes professional-quality estimates, linked here: https://www.dhs.gov/immigration-statistics/population-estimates/unauthorized-resident.  Contrary to a common notion, the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. seems to be declining year-over-year. Follow the link to compare years.
“Mr. Trump’s abandonment of campaign promises is notable for his openness about it and for the speed with which it has occurred. I’ll say it again: nobody knows what a President Trump will do, including President Trump.
“This particular silly season may not be over yet, for a couple of reasons. (1) Are you aware that many states do not bind their electors to their popular vote, and others provide only minor penalties for a non-conforming vote? (2) Some resolution must be found for the number of lawsuits and the extreme level of conflicts of interest our sort-of elected President is involved in. I cannot even guess how that will play out, but so far Mr. Trump has refused to set up the kind of blind trust that all of his predecessors have used to resolve the conflicts of interest. The lawsuits are a new twist. Also, it’s not beyond belief that criminal charges could be filed on him. A friend of his has done Federal time for a child prostitution charge.”
My response to the Blog:
            Re: Electoral College.  Like so many aspects of our form of governance and indeed even the social fabric of this Grand Republic are based on respecting the rights of minorities over the weight of a willful majority.  The effect of the Electoral College on presidential elections has brought different election dynamics every time.  There are very real reasons for that variance.  Each state has its own rules regarding the conduct of electors.  There are many other potential disruptive combinations, e.g., imagine if a third party candidate won one or more states, say 20-30 electoral votes, such that no candidate won a majority (270) and the election went to the House of Representatives per the Constitution.  Some folks are actively trying to influence and alter the electoral results of the election.  We will not know until states cast their electoral votes (19.December.2016) and Congress convenes in joint session to count and validate the state electoral votes (6.January.2017).  Until this election is sealed and done by Congress, uncertainty remains and seems to be indicative of our time.
FYI side note: one of my many arguments against the strict constructionists like the late Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas is the fallacy of thinking we must judge the words of the Constitution in the context of circumferential assumptions at the time of Founding / Framing (1787).  The same concerns that created the Senate equal to the House of Representatives in the Legislative Branch also created the Electoral College.  There is no question in my mind that states’ rights (slavery) at the time and the compromises associated with finding a solution for ALL states was a major factor.  That does not diminish the wisdom of the Framers in that compromise.
            “One person, one vote” = simple popular vote.  The consequence is states have no meaning, no value.  The Framers never accepted or supported simple majority votes.  There are a host of examples to substantiate that statement.  The Framers tried mightily to ensure small states would not be drown out by large states and a willful majority could not subjugate minorities . . . whatever their original motives that was their purpose.  This is not to say we have not had failures to uphold even that ideal.  Failures do not mean we should abandon the principles.
            Re: census.  I do not have sufficient knowledge of the inner-workings and hidden mechanisms of the national census.  I know what the law says, but I suppose that does not mean much these days.
            Re: Trump.  I intend to reserve judgment until we see more of his actions.  My concerns prior to the election remain.  I hope that he rises to the challenge of his new office.  The preliminary indicators are NOT encouraging.
            Re: conflict of interest.  We do not have sufficient evidence and probably won’t have until the inauguration approaches.  Trump defied ethics norms established over generations.  I see no reason to believe he will change his conduct once he is inaugurated.  I suspect he will make no attempt to create a blind trust, and even if he tried; control in the hands of his immediate family is NOT a blind trust.  At least for the next two years (and perhaps longer), he will have a Republican controlled Congress, which means the likelihood of appropriate laws to codify ethics and conflicts of interest standards for federal office holders is quite doubtful.  The silly season was probably an excellent predictor of what we shall endure during the Trump administration (however long it may be).  Time shall tell the tale.
 . . . Round two:
“I find your paragraph on ‘one person, one vote’ entirely confusing. How does election by popular vote equate to ‘states have no meaning, no value’? That's silly. States have ample meaning. For example, they led the way on marriage equality and continue to lead on marijuana legalization and other issues. How does ignoring the geographic origin of a vote invalidate anything about the states? And what does any of this have to do with minority rights? Minority people are not distributed according to state populations. What about the right of those of us in more populated places to have our votes counted equally?
“I saw a headline this evening stating that the conflict of interest issue is covered by the Constitution, but I have not had time to check on that yet. In any case, I imagine that such conflicts are already addressed by statutes.”
 . . . to which the contributor added before I could respond to the comment above:
“The ‘emoluments clause’ of the Constitution referred to in the headline I mentioned is probably the ‘nobility clause,’ Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8. It forbids any office holder to ‘accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.’ Given Trump's foreign holdings, that could be an issue, but he is not an office holder until inauguration.
 . . . to which I responded (to both) in round two:
            I shall respond to both follow-up contributions together.
            Re: states.  We can argue whether states have “ample meaning.”  Yet, I think we can agree that simple, national, popular vote eliminates any vestige of state meaning, purpose or value, at least with respect to presidential elections.  If states did not or do not matter, the nation would be simply America, rather than the United States of America.  Of course, each state can decide how they wish to divvy up their electoral votes.  Some are winner take all.  Some by the final vote count in their respective state.  Maryland passed an Act concerning Presidential Elections – Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote (HB148 [SB634]). The law says it does not matter what the vote count is in the State of Maryland . . . only the national popular vote matters.  A candidate could literally get ZERO votes in the state, but the Maryland electoral votes in toto (10 in this case) would go to the national popular vote winner.  Thus, the residents of Maryland have ceased to be relevant {[279]; 10.April.2007}.
            Re: Electoral College.  I wrote more about the Electoral College in this week’s Update.
            Re: presidential conflict of interest.  Your recitation of Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8, is accurate, but you failed to note that Article 1 is the Legislative article.  There is no similar clause in Article 2 or Article 3.  To my knowledge, the external compensation provisions have never been tested before the Supremes.  So far, it appears the president-elect intends to challenge the emolument provision, and I suspect he intends to press the limits as far as he can.  More on the conflict of interest matters in this week’s Update, as well.
            It is my opinion the next few years will be just as crazy, if not crazier, than the obscenity of this last silly season.  This is going to be a rough ride.
 . . . Round three:
“You have given me no reason why the States, as entities, should influence Presidential elections. That is a Federal matter.”
 . . . my response to round three:
            Appropriate challenge, I must say.
            I could say something simple like historic, traditional, the incubators of social change, however, the reality is, the reason only depends upon your perspective, i.e., are you a federalist or a states’ rights citizen?
            The encroachment of federalism has been incessant and perpetual from the Founding.  This election will not alter that pressure.  Throughout our history, we have endured episodes of rebalance.  We do not always get it right, but we try nonetheless.
            As the Declaration so eloquently observes:
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
As such, I must turn this back to you.  We are discussing a process “long established” that has been repeatedly tested over many elections, many years and over several centuries.  So, I must ask you, what is the “patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government”?
            Our system of governance has never been about simple majority rule.  We have many layers of checks and balances to guard against the imposition of dicta by a willful majority and the concentration of power.  I, for one, do not see the compelling reasons to cast off our long proven processes.
            Lastly, with all the whining during the silly season from the “Manhattan Mussolini” about our election system being rigged, I fully expected him to be the one screaming for abolishment of the Electoral College.  Instead, we have the other side (that lost the election by the established process) clamoring for abolishment of the Electoral College.  Quite a twist, I must say.
 . . . Round four:
“While the Declaration of Independence is not law but apologia, you have something of a point about giving reasons. The reason for keeping this particular process is to deter a demagogue or fraud from becoming President. Plenty of people see Trump as both, but the Electoral College, as it has traditionally worked, will do nothing to prevent his Presidency. The reason for abolishing it is simple. The United States, since its inception, has continually become more and more inclusive and egalitarian. Counting each vote equally would serve that purpose.”
The contributor added in parallel the following article in a FaceBook posting:
“Electoral College must reject Trump unless he sells his business, top lawyers for Bush and Obama say – Ethics lawyers for the last two presidents are in agreement.”
by Judd Legum, Editor-In-Chief
Published: 2 days ago [27.November.2016], i.e., 25.November.2016
 . . . my response to round four in toto:
            Re: “apologia.  Oh my!  I suppose that claim could be successfully argued given the context of the Declaration’s issuance.  I do not find the term attractive, I must say.  Nonetheless, you are correct.  The Declaration is not law in any form.  However, it is a reflection of the mood and attitudes of the Founders, thus of some value in understanding the basis and foundation of this Grand Republic.
            Re: Electoral College.  Yes, that was the original intent.  However, no system is infallible, as we bear witness this year.  The Donald is the epitome of a demagogue, and I am relegated to hoping he does not take his demagoguery into violent realms as Hitler did.  I choose NOT to give him credit for winning.  Rather, I believe Hillary and her campaign team lost the election by playing a far too narrow, focused effort that missed reality in marginal states . . . to do just enough to get by . . . not too much.
            Re: counting votes.  Votes are counted equally within each state.  Each state determines how to represent the vote count within their respective state within the Electoral College.  As indicated previously, Maryland passed a law and chose to ignore the state’s vote count in deference to the national popular vote count. I think it was foolish to abdicate in that way; it just does not make sense to me.  You can work to get Ohio to do the same, if you wish.  I will not encourage you or anyone else to follow Maryland’s so far lone example.
            I shall acknowledge your FaceBook posting regarding the advocacy of some [lawyers] for electors to disregard the vote counts and the established rules within their state delegation.  I must reject their advocacy or similar actions regardless of the education or background of the advocates.  As I have consistently written since the beginning of the silly season, the rules are the rules.  If we don’t like the rules, change them legally and properly.  To my thinking, we do not have the option to reject the rules or whine about the rules because we do not like the outcome.  Rejection of Trump’s ominous conflicts of interest should properly be handled in court and eventually in the legislature, as Franklin Roosevelt’s disregard for precedence in 1940.  At worst, impeach him for his transgressions.
 . . . Round five:
“I will note that we agree that Mrs. Clinton lost the game-playing aspect of the election and add that I did not see her as worthy of my vote, given her centrist history and financial sources.
“You still have not explained why one vote should not equal any other vote nationwide.”
 . . . my response to round five:
            Well, actually, I believe I have explained my reasons.  I cannot force you to accept my explanation or reasons.

            My very best wishes to all.  Take care of yourselves and each other.
Cap                        :-)