Thursday, January 18, 2018

Constitutional Ignorance, of Contempt?

Hillary Clinton blamed the Electoral College for her stunning defeat in the 2016 presidential election in her latest memoirs, "What Happened?" Some have claimed that the Electoral College is one of the most dangerous institutions in American politics. Why? They say the Electoral College system, as opposed to a simple majority vote, distorts the one-person, one-vote principle of democracy because electoral votes are not distributed according to population.
To back up their claim, they point out that the Electoral College gives, for example, Wyoming citizens disproportionate weight in a presidential election. Put another way, Wyoming, a state with a population of about 600,000, has one member in the U.S. House of Representatives and two members in the U.S. Senate, which gives the citizens of Wyoming three electoral votes, or one electoral vote per 200,000 people. California, our most populous state, has more than 39 million people and 55 electoral votes, or approximately one vote per 715,000 people. Comparatively, individuals in Wyoming have nearly four times the power in the Electoral College as Californians.
Many people whine that using the Electoral College instead of the popular vote and majority rule is undemocratic. I'd say that they are absolutely right. Not deciding who will be the president by majority rule is not democracy. But the Founding Fathers went to great lengths to ensure that we were a republic and not a democracy. In fact, the word democracy does not appear in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution or any other of our founding documents.
How about a few quotations expressed by the Founders about democracy? In Federalist Paper No. 10, James Madison wanted to prevent rule by majority faction, saying, "Measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority." John Adams warned in a letter, "Remember Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a Democracy Yet, that did not commit suicide." Edmund Randolph said, "That in tracing these evils to their origin, every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy." Then-Chief Justice John Marshall observed, "Between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos."
The Founders expressed contempt for the tyranny of majority rule, and throughout our Constitution, they placed impediments to that tyranny. Two houses of Congress pose one obstacle to majority rule. That is, 51 senators can block the wishes of 435 representatives and 49 senators. The president can veto the wishes of 535 members of Congress. It takes two-thirds of both houses of Congress to override a presidential veto. To change the Constitution requires not a majority but a two-thirds vote of both houses, and if an amendment is approved, it requires ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures. Finally, the Electoral College is yet another measure that thwarts majority rule. It makes sure that the highly populated states -- today, mainly 12 on the East and West coasts, cannot run roughshod over the rest of the nation. That forces a presidential candidate to take into consideration the wishes of the other 38 states.
Those Americans obsessed with rule by popular majorities might want to get rid of the U.S. Senate, where states, regardless of population, have two senators. Should we change representation in the House of Representatives to a system of proportional representation and eliminate the guarantee that each state gets at least one representative? Currently, seven states with populations of 1 million or fewer have one representative, thus giving them disproportionate influence in Congress. While we're at it, should we make all congressional acts be majority rule? When we're finished with establishing majority rule in Congress, should we then move to change our court system, which requires unanimity in jury decisions, to a simple majority rule?
My question is: Is it ignorance of or contempt for our Constitution that fuels the movement to abolish the Electoral College?

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Problem: TOO MUCH SPENDING!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Thursday, December 7, 2017

By Walter Williams

Independence Hypocrisy

Officials in Catalonia, Spain's richest and most highly industrialized region, whose capital is Barcelona, recently held a referendum in which there was a 92 percent vote in favor of independence from Spain. The Spanish authorities opposed the referendum and claimed that independence is illegal. Catalans are not the only Europeans seeking independence. Some Bavarian people are demanding independence from Germany, while others demand greater autonomy. Germany's Federal Constitutional Court ruled: "In the Federal Republic of Germany ... states are not 'masters of the constitution.' ... Therefore, there is no room under the constitution for individual states to attempt to secede. This violates the constitutional order."
Germany has done in Bavaria what Spain and Italy, in its Veneto region, have done; it has upheld the integrity of state borders. There is an excellent article written by Joseph E. Fallon, a research associate at the UK Defence Forum, titled "The Catalan Referendum, regional pressures, the EU, and the 'Ghosts' of Eastern Europe." Fallon writes that by doing what it's doing in Bavaria, "Berlin is violating international law on national self-determination. It denies to Bavaria what it granted to the 19 states that seceded from Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. In fact, Germany rushed to be first to recognize the independence of Slovenia and Croatia." It did that, according to Beverly Crawford, an expert on Europe at the University of California, Berkeley, "in open disregard of (a European Community) agreement to recognize the two states under EC conditionality requirements."
The secessionist movements in Spain, Germany, and Italy have encountered resistance and threats from the central governments, and in Catalonia's case, secessionist leaders have been jailed. The central governments of Spain, Germany, and Italy have resisted independence despite the fact that they are signatories to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which holds that "all peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."
Fallon notes the hypocrisy of Spain, Germany, and Italy, as well as the entire European Union. Back in 1991, the EC -- the precursor to the EU -- "issued its conditions for recognizing the unilateral declarations of independence by states seceding from Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union." Fallon argues that these same guidelines should be applied to the states of Catalonia, Bavaria, and Veneto. Isn't it double talk for members of the EU to condemn independence movements today, given that they welcomed and supported independence movements for states that were members of the communist bloc?
Catalonia, Bavaria, and Veneto are relatively prosperous jurisdictions in their countries. They feel that what they get from the central governments is not worth the taxes they pay. Each wants the central government off its back. They think they could be far more prosperous on their own. That should sound familiar. Some of the motivation for secessionist movements in Europe is similar to the motivation found in the Confederacy's independence movement of the early 1860s.
Throughout most of our nation's history, the only sources of federal revenue were excise taxes and tariffs. In the 1830s, the North used its power in Congress to push through massive tariffs to fund the government. During the 1850s, tariffs amounted to 90 percent of federal revenue. The Southern states were primarily producers of agricultural products, which they exported to Europe. In return, they imported manufactured goods. These tariffs fell much harder upon the export-dependent South than they did upon the more insular North. In 1859, Southern ports paid 75 percent of federal tariff revenue. However, the majority of the tariff revenue generated was spent on projects that benefited the North.
Tariffs being a contributing cause of the Civil War is hardly ever mentioned. Using the abolition of slavery as an excuse for a war that took the lives of 620,000 Americans confers greater moral standing for the Union.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Black Self Sabotage

The educational achievement of white youngsters is nothing to write home about, but that achieved by blacks is nothing less than disgraceful. Let's look at a recent example of an educational outcome all too common. In 2016, in 13 of Baltimore's 39 high schools, not a single student scored proficient on the state's mathematics exam. In six other high schools, only one percent tested proficient in math. In raw numbers, 3,804 Baltimore students took the state's math test, and 14 tested proficient. Citywide, only 15 percent of Baltimore students passed the state's English test.
Last spring, graduation exercises were held at one Baltimore high school, 90 percent of whose students received the lowest possible math score. Just one student came even close to being proficient. Parents and family members applauded the conferring of diplomas. Some of the students won achievement awards and college scholarships. Baltimore is by no means unique. It's a small part of the ongoing education disaster for black students across the nation. Baltimore schools are not underfunded. Of the nation's 100 largest school systems, Baltimore schools rank third in spending per pupil.
Baltimore's black students receive diplomas that attest that they can function at a 12th-grade level when in fact they may not be able to do so at a seventh- or eighth-grade level. These students and their families have little reason to suspect that their diplomas are fraudulent. Thus, if they cannot land a good job, cannot pass a civil service exam, get poor grades in college and flunk out of college, they will attribute their plight to racism. After all, they have a high school diploma, just as a white person has a high school diploma. In their minds, the only explanation for being treated differently is racism.
Let's look at math. If one graduates from high school without a minimum proficiency in algebra and geometry, he is likely to find whole fields and professions hermetically sealed off to him for life. In many fields and professions, a minimum level of math proficiency is taken for granted.
Let's look at just one endeavor -- being a fighter jet pilot. There are relatively few black fighter jet pilots. There are stringent physical, character and mental requirements that many blacks can meet. But fighter pilots must also have a strong knowledge of air navigation, aircraft operating procedures, flight theory, fluid mechanics and meteorology. The college majors that help prepare undergraduates for a career as a fighter pilot include mathematics, physical science and engineering.
What's the NAACP response to educational fraud? At a 2016 meeting, the NAACP's board of directors ratified a resolution that called for a moratorium on charter schools. Among the NAACP's reasons for this were that it wanted charter schools to refrain from "expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate" and "cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious." Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys is a charter school. In 2016, 9 percent of its students scored proficient on the state's math test. This year, over 14 percent did so. It's in the interest of black people for more of our youngsters to attend better schools. However, it's in the interest of the education establishment -- and its handmaidens at the NAACP -- to keep black youngsters in failing public schools.
Few people bother to ask whether there's a connection between what goes on at predominantly black high schools and observed outcomes. Violence at many predominantly black schools is so routine that security guards are hired to patrol the hallways. The violence includes assaults on teachers. Some have been knocked out, had their jaws broken and required treatment by psychologists for post-traumatic stress disorder. On top of the violence is gross disorder and disrespect for authority.
The puzzling question for me is: How long will black people accept the educational destruction of black youngsters -- something that only benefits the education establishment?
Column Education Higher Education Liberals & Democrats Race Issues Racism Walter Williams NAACP
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Sunday, November 19, 2017

From New York Post, by Salena Zito

Glen Dale, W. Va. — Bad news travels fast. Good news, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to travel at all.
Last weekend in Beijing, as part of his 12-day trip to Asia, President Trump announced that the US and China had signed an $83.7 billion deal to create a number of petrochemical projects in West Virginia over the next 20 years.
If the agreement holds tight, it is an economic game changer for the state.
And yet, speaking to the locals here, you wouldn’t even know it had happened.
“I am surprised I heard nothing about it on the national news, nor in my local paper and newscasts,” said Jerald Stephens, 67, a West Virginia native and union rep, who has been a keen observer of local politics for as long as he can remember.
The BBC and CNN covered the news in their business sections, while The New York Times picked up a short story by The Associated Press on the deal. The stories’ headlines were muted; their placement low-key.
“One would have suspected that the prospect of an investment this large — nearly three times the total annual budget for the department of energy — would have been front-page news,” said Paul Sracic, political-science professor at nearby Youngstown State University.
Part of this is the fault of the president himself. He never once tweeted about his deal to his 42.8 million followers, but instead used Twitter to attack old foes on his trip, including the media (“While in the Philippines I was forced to watch @CNN, which I have not done in months, and again realized how bad, and FAKE, it is. Loser!”) and the leader of North Korea (“Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’ Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend — and maybe someday that will happen!”).
His fighting talk was covered hungrily by a hostile mainstream media, while his more constructive work got buried.
So far, the details about how China Energy will invest nearly $84 billion in West Virginia — the biggest of several deals totaling $250 billion signed by Trump in China — are scant. The first stage is reportedly scheduled to begin in the next six to eight months with the building of at least two natural gas-fired power plants likely located in Brooke and Harrison counties, both of which have suffered substantial job and population losses, as well as wage stagnation, over the past 30 years.
I suspect he will likely get little credit for [this] in the national news
It’s significant that this solid-red state, which Trump doesn’t need to woo for reelection in 2020, will benefit.
West Virginia and the areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio that border the state represent our coal and natural-gas country. But while voters in all three places matter, they matter a lot more in the swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania where Electoral College votes can decide an entire election.
“We really have no influence or power here, so that is interesting to me that he still kept his promise to us, something I suspect he will likely get little credit for in the national news,” said Stephens, who voted for Trump.
Joe Manchin, the Democratic US senator from West Virginia, said he has yet to be briefed on the terms of the deal, but he is both thrilled about its possibilities while remaining cautious about its execution. He wants to ensure that the state doesn’t sell off its assets and properties to China as part of the agreement, which could enable the communist country to own part of our power grid. “We have to make sure it is good for the economy of our state, that the workers of our state get the benefits of the jobs, and that the nation is secure,” he told The Post.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has insisted that the state hasn’t offered any sweetheart deals to China Energy in return for its investment, nor have any tax breaks been extended to date. Those in West Virginia who end up getting hired, meanwhile, are not going to complain about working for an Asian superpower.
The media has often mocked Trump’s promise of jobs to the Heartland as empty campaign rhetoric. How, they asked, will his voters react when they find out he can’t deliver?
This deal suggests that Trump hasn’t forgotten what really matters to his base, but few are giving him props for it.
Stephens finds the lack of coverage telling. “I can guarantee you if anyone not named Trump had made this kind of deal for West Virginia, it would have at least been a panel discussion or two on a cable news channel.”
Once again, the media is missing a story that matters to the American people outside the liberal echo chamber. But it would have helped if Trump had shouted about his own success.
He did it last year when he brought jobs back to the Carrier plant in Indianapolis even before he was president and tweeted out his victory, leading to blanket media coverage. This time, he failed to celebrate a win and the news was happily ignored. Trump needs to remember that his megaphone isn’t just for the haters, but for the voters who are desperate to finally see real change.