C is for Constitution of the US

There are Constitutional scholars who believe that not only must Donald Trump take his salary, but that it is appropriate so that he knows he’s being paid by the people of the United States.

The Constitution

If you’re ever looking at the Constitution of the United States, make sure you look at one that is footnoted, such as this one. It gives the reader a better sense of the trial and error that is the American experience.

For instance, Article I, Section 2, paragraph 3: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other Persons.”

“All others” were slaves, who were three-fifths of a person. The matter was altered by Amendment 13.

Article II, Section 1, paragraph 3: “The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President.”

This became unworkable in the election of 1800 when Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr each received 73 electoral votes, and dealing made TJ the Prez and Burr the Veep. The process has been superseded by Amendment 12, with separate ballots for President and Vice-President. This was referred to in the musical Hamilton.

The first 10 amendments are called the Bill of Rights. Amendment 1 is probably best known: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Some legal scholars feel Amendment 4 is particularly under attack: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The post-Bill of Rights amendments often deal with expanding the vote. 15 – regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” 19- regardless of “sex.” 24 – regardless of “failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.” 26- allows 18-year-olds to vote, when the age had been 21, generally. Amendment 17 allows for the direct election of US Senators, rather than them being selected by state legislatures.

Two Amendments canceled each other out. The 18th permitted prohibition of alcohol, but the 21st scrubbed the social experiment.

One section I had not noted until recently is Article II, Section 1, paragraph 7: “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”

This has been an issue for a few reasons. The new president, Donald J. Trump, has indicated that he would not take a salary for being President. There are Constitutional scholars who believe that not only must he take the payment, but that it is appropriate so that he knows he’s being paid by the people of the United States. George Washington tried to avoid being paid, but was talked out of it.

Also, the Trump organization owns buildings for which the US government is paying rent. This could be considered “other emolument,” and could cause a Constitutional crisis early in his administration.

Amending the Constitution of the United States is very difficult. There has been only one amendment passed since 1971, and that was in the hopper for more than two centuries.

ABC Wednesday – Round 20

November rambling #2: Book two of the trilogy

Albany by Roger Whitaker

1941 Dr Seuss cartoon illustrating the U.S. stance denying Jews safe haven from the Nazis.
1941 Dr. Seuss cartoon illustrating the U.S. stance denying Jews safe haven from the Nazis.

From The Weekly Sift, November 21, 2016:

Like most people I know, I’ve been suffering occasional attacks of rage or depression. But it’s also oddly energizing sometimes. If you ever had fantasies of being a hero, well, gear up; the villains are taking the field. It feels like we’re in a trilogy, somewhere around the end of Book Two. Ancient evils have jumped out of history books and grainy newsreels, and are appearing on live TV. Their words and ideas are coming out of the mouths of our neighbors.

Who thought we’d have to deal with this in our lifetimes?

For some while now, everything that you can think to do about the situation is going to seem hopelessly inadequate. But it’s important that you do it anyway. That’s how it is at the end of Book Two.

You’re a hobbit with all of Mordor in front of you, or an Ewok facing a galactic empire. The idea that you’re going to turn things around is laughable. And a lot of the stuff that people think to do will come to nothing, just like it seems. But some of it won’t, and if anybody can say for sure which is which, I haven’t met them yet.

So anyway, today I plan to type a bunch of words onto a screen. It’s what I can think to do. You think that seems hopelessly inadequate? Tell me about it.

[I do SO relate!]

Also from the Weekly Sift: The Trump Administration: What I’m watching for and Should I Have White Pride?

Donald Trump and the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, explained

Farewell, America

Trump summons a monster he can’t control – “White supremacists are acting as if they’ve hit the swastika sweepstakes.” cf Why I Left White Nationalism

“Sore winner” syndrome: Why are Donald Trump’s supporters still so angry?

Through a Looking Glass, Darkly

Donald Trump — the Boy King

America first, Trump second

Donald Trump: Anyone who burns American flag should be jailed or lose citizenship

Welcome to the Trump kleptocracy, plus kakistocracy

Potential Conflicts Around the Globe for Trump, the Businessman President

More Weekly Sift, especially the section on corruption

An ethical double standard for Trump — and the GOP?

Professor predicts impeachment

Mike Pence’s top seven most homophobic moments (out of many)

79-Year-Old Trump Supporter Arrested for Allegedly Vandalizing Children’s Mural

Confederate States of America currency?

Rapp On This: As a Matter of Fact, the Sky Is Falling

TV News and Its Long Dark Night of the Soul, though, finally, The Associated Press has defined ‘alt-right’


Atlético Nacional, the Colombian team, asks that its opponent, Chapecoense of Brazil, be awarded the Copa Sudamericana soccer tournament title, after the plane crash which killed nearly all of Chapecoense’s players and coaches

The Kind of Christian I Refuse To Be

Aboard an overloaded ship carrying more than 500 refugees, a young woman becomes an unlikely hero

That disruption at a performance of Hamilton

The Bubble – SNL

They may well be sincere in what they say but they may just be buttering you up

Fidel Castro dead at 90;

Florence Henderson passed away – I never saw a single episode of the Brady Bunch during its original run but caught it in syndication occasionally. She played Florence Henderson at least a couple of times in later shows, but my favorite role of hers was as the wife in Amish Paradise by Weird Al.

The GREAT character Fritz Weaver died at the age of 90. Some know him for a few appearances in the original Twilight Zone, but he had a massive body of work

I know I liked Harris on Barney Miller because I didn’t often see the black intellectual on TV – RIP, Ron Glass

American comedy vs. British comedy

Internet Wading – Looking and listening

An interesting blog on family photo copyrights

Why can’t you go out and buy cashews in the shell?

Two Point Conversion Chart (football)

8 Memorable Comics Screw-Ups

Now I Know: The Spaceship Graveyard and A Def Vacation

“Hipster” nativity scene for the holidays

The Strange History of Microfilm, Which Will Be With Us for Centuries

Accidentally Closing Browser Window With 23 Tabs Open Presents Rare Chance At New Life


Beethoven’s 7th

Tchaikovsky’s “fantasy overture” Romeo and Juliet

100 Days, 100 Nights – Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Albany songs, plus Albany by Roger Whitaker, lyrics here

Elvis at the Wheel

Spirit of the ’60s albums


The Leonard Cohen song that saved Roger Ebert’s life

A Temptations musical?


Why do we have the Electoral College?

We have had but one new constitutional amendment since 1971.


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Julie, who I known for a number of years, asked:
Do you think the US will ever get rid of the electoral college and go to something different? Why is it still done this way?

The second question is easier than the first, so let’s start with that. The original reason for the EC, like so much of the Constitution, was a compromise. As this article shows, “One idea was to have the Congress choose the president.” But that was rejected, for good reason. Even then, they didn’t trust Congress to do the right thing. Also, many felt that “arrangement would upset the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.”

Another thought was “to have the State legislatures select the president.” This idea, too, was wisely rejected out of fear that “a president so beholden to the State legislatures might permit them to erode federal authority and thus undermine the whole idea of a federation.” As you may know, the state legislatures used to pick US Senators in their states until the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913, and there are some folks that want to return to the old system; it won’t happen.

Naturally, electing President elected by a direct popular vote was considered but ultimately rejected. It was “not because the Framers of the Constitution doubted public intelligence,” though many have suggested that. Rather, the Founders “feared that without sufficient information about candidates from outside their State, people would naturally vote for a ‘favorite son’ from their own State or region.” You may laugh, given the overwhelming information now available, but 18th century Internet was the local newspapers and pamphlets.

“At worst, no president would emerge with a popular majority sufficient to govern the whole country. At best, the choice of president would always be decided by the largest, most populous States with little regard for the smaller ones.” Four of the first five Presidents were from Virginia, one of the largest states of the day.

Finally, they came up with the College of Electors to choose the President. “The original idea was for the most knowledgeable and informed individuals from each State to select the president based solely on merit and without regard to State of the origin or political party.” The intent has been largely altered by the law requiring electors to vote for the candidate with the most votes in their states. Read this article from the Federalist (not to be confused with Federalist Papers), titled, “The Electoral College Still Makes Sense Because We’re Not A Democracy.”

As for the problem of “Will it change?” the answer is maybe. On one hand, we have had but one new constitutional amendment since 1971, when the 26th Amendment allowed 18-year olds to vote. The 27th Amendment, which was initiated in 1789 but not ratified until 1992: “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” So it’s difficult to change the Constitution.

The recent technological attacks against the United States have pointed out the vulnerabilities of our electoral process, with a number of states with no paper backup. I think this issue needs to be addressed very soon because, in the case of a close election, it’ll make EC reform easier to accept.

There are groups that support the popular vote initiative. National Popular Vote is keeping track of the progress of bills in the various state legislatures. Check out their YouTube videos. If you want this amendment to be in effect in 2020, you and your friends need to be bugging your members of Congress AND your state legislators. NOW.
The election will NOT be ‘rigged’

EDIT: While it IS true we don’t need a Constitutional amendment to “fix” the Electoral College, we also didn’t NEED one to allow states to allow women to vote. States were doing this on their own. I find amendment, rather than laws that can be more easily changed more reassuring.


What is required of the electorate to vote?

“The days of the social contract, in which citizens have obligations as well as rights, seem to be over.”

womenvoteThe arc of American history had always been to make voting available to more people. The 15th Amendment (1870) prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude, though it required The Voting Rights Act of 1965, nearly a century later, to enforce it.

The 19th Amendment (1920) prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on sex. The 24th (1964) prohibits the revocation of voting rights due to the non-payment of a poll tax or any other tax. And the 26th (1971) allowed eighteen-year-olds (like me, that year!) to vote, and you better believe that I did.

One could make the case that the 17th Amendment (1913), which provided direct election of United States Senators by popular vote, and the 23rd, which granted the District of Columbia the right to participate in the Electoral College, also fall in this category.

Thus, the move to limit voting I find antithetical to this democracy. I’m told by proponents that voter ID is “easy” to come by. Yet it has proven to be anything but.

Look at Wisconsin Is Systematically Failing to Provide the Photo IDs Required to Vote in November, with the subhead, “New recordings from the DMV show how the state is continuing to disenfranchise black voters.” The state police raided a registration program in Indiana that was assisting potential black voters. There is also disenfranchisement in Florida, and a FAKE meme in Pennsylvania suggesting that voters can text in their votes.

While voter fraud is negligible, voter suppression is widespread and could alter the results of the election.

Here’s something I did not know until recently. Forty-six states have laws that allow private citizens to challenge the eligibility of prospective voters, “either on or before Election Day. Although these laws are more than a century old, they have drawn increased public scrutiny in recent years as the number of citizen poll-watchers and challengers in elections continues to grow.” And that was written before the 2012 election.

I’m disturbed by this apparently popular article after the second Clinton-Trump rock em sock em event: 24 Hours After Last Night’s Debate, Mike Rowe Makes A Huge Confession On What He Sees Wrong With This Election. It says, basically, that unless you’re well-informed you shouldn’t be cajoled by some celebrity to go out and vote. I agree with the celebrity part – heck, I think THEY’D agree with that – but not the conclusion he makes.

He says, “Develop a worldview that you can articulate as well as defend. Test your theory with people who disagree with you. Debate. Argue. Adjust your philosophy as necessary. Then, when the next election comes around, cast a vote for the candidate whose worldview seems most in line with your own.”

I dare say that almost all the Trump, and most of the Clinton, supporters have a worldview they can defend. I’ve spent the better part of the last three months trying (and mostly failing, to tell the truth) to understand the mind of a Trump voter.

And I believe that debating and arguing, especially online, that has made us more fractured as a nation, not more understanding. There was an article in the New York Post?, of all places. I don’t buy the conclusion, but I do believe this:

…this election has channeled a narcissism and intolerance that our country has been incubating for years.

In fact, many Americans believe they’re entitled to their intolerance — believe it’s their patriotic duty to react fanatically or with bigotry to anyone who doesn’t share their views…

Who among us doesn’t have Facebook friends who believe they’re entitled to “go nuclear” when expressing their political views on other people’s pages, especially when opposing someone else’s post?

We’re growing more racially, culturally and economically separated from each other every day…

We engage in very little healthy discourse, because we don’t have to — which robs us of the grace to manage diversity… “We are too segregated on so many levels — it’s not just race, it’s everything — and that resentment and entitlement and bigotry on both sides have fed into this populism.”

Did politics create this state, rather than society? “Hell, yes.”

“Part of the problem is that government and, in turn, politics no longer asks anything of voters…”

“Instead, we just constantly poll and survey voters to find out what they want.”

As a consequence, Americans feel entitled to demand whatever they want because our government and politicians are always asking us to tell them, promising that if they win they will deliver.

And when politicians get our votes, rise to power, but then don’t deliver exactly everything they promised, we feel frustrated.

“The problem is not just entitlement, it’s narcissism…”

Entitlement mostly comes from affluence and from the remarkably high standard of living in today’s America, something likely unavoidable when there is so much progress and material bounty…

“But narcissism is a collapse of democratic values, where every American now thinks he or she is the most important person who has ever lived, instead of being one of many voters in a system based on compromise and moderation.”

The days of the social contract, in which citizens have obligations as well as rights, seem to be over.

“Imagine John F. Kennedy today saying ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country…’ He’d be hooted off the stage as just another Northeastern, Ivy League elitist talking down to the people.”

That’s how far we’ve come — or, more precisely, how far we’ve fallen.

So I WANT those people who aren’t as invested as I am -I’m very invested- to participate in the democratic process as well. Sure, I want an informed electorate, even as it may make decisions I HATE, from time to time. But it has been the trend of this democracy to break down the barriers. Voting isn’t just for the white male landowners, or just the men, it’s for everyone.

I find the Rowe essay patronizingly snobbish. The notion that one should read Hegel before voting I found irritating, and I wasn’t sure why. But I later realized it reminded me of the literacy tests that were promulgated, disproportionally on black people in the South in the 1950s and ’60s, that was declared illegal.

Also, the comparison with gun ownership I found to be a stretch. Society will operate if most of us do not own a gun but could collapse if most of us don’t vote. And especially, we need young adults, who are part of the disillusioned seed corn of democracy to be involved.

I vote EVERY year; the fifth time in 2016 will be in November. John Lewis, whose book March, Book 3 was nominated for the National Book Award, knows people who DIED to get the right to vote, in MY lifetime. Now, the supporters of one candidate (guess which one?) have threatened to intimidate nonwhite voters on Election Day. Now, those threats against voters are illegal. What year IS this?

I vote, not just in the Presidential years, but every year, for city council, and state representative, where my vote really has power, largely because other people do not cast their ballots in off-year elections.

If, after your investigation, you find NONE of the Candidates for President acceptable – John Oliver thinks voters are crazy for supporting Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, but Stein supporters vehemently disagree – you could choose to vote for NO ONE on that line. You could consider it your protest. But vote!

Also, there are lots of other issues on the ballot, including who will be your members of Congress. Did you Bernie folks know that if the Democrats regain control of the Senate, Bernie Sanders will chair the powerful Senate budget committee? Not going to the polls doesn’t show dissatisfaction; it can easily be perceived as laziness.

M is for Magna Carta

How did a failed treaty between medieval combatants, the Magna Carta, come to be seen as the foundation of liberty in the Anglo-Saxon world?

magna_cartaThe Magna Carta turned 800 in June 2015, signed by King John “Lackland” Plantagenet in 1215, though, in fact, it was not dubbed as the “great charter” until a couple of years, and some changes, later. It was violated quickly and reinstated in an altered form a number of times.

From the British Library:

The Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law…

Most of the 63 clauses granted by King John dealt with specific grievances relating to his rule. However, buried within them were a number of fundamental values that both challenged the autocracy of the king and proved highly adaptable in future centuries. Most famously, the 39th clause gave all ‘free men’ the right to justice and a fair trial.

Some of Magna Carta’s core principles are echoed in the United States Bill of Rights (1791) and in many other constitutional documents around the world, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).

Incidentally, it has been proven that every President of the United States, save for one, is related to King John. Do you know which one was not?

Here’s the English translation of the Magna Carta. One element still in effect: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.” It inspired those colonists who believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen.

Read this contrarian view of the document’s import. But see also this article that asks how a failed treaty between medieval combatants came to be seen as the foundation of liberty in the Anglo-Saxon world.

Oh, that outlier President, not related to King John, was the 8th President, Martin Van Buren, who was Dutch.

abc 17 (1)
ABC Wednesday – Round 17