Saturday, January 21, 2017

2016 Ends With Yet Another "Hottest Year" Claim

You knew that as 2016 closed out we would be met with another "hottest year ever" claim.  That, of course, prompted another round of alarmists warning that we're running out of time to save Planet Earth. And, once again, the real facts tell a different story.

The average temperature in 2016 was only .01 degrees Celsius warmer than it was in 2015. That is well within the .1 degree margin of error.   While 2015 was .17 degrees Celsius above 2014, a warmer 2015 and 2016 was undoubtedly due to the fact that they were both El Niño years.  When you go back to the end of 2014, another year claimed to be "the warmest ever," you'll find the difference was only .02 Celsius from the year before, which is well within the .1% margin of error.

Of course, you can't just stick a thermometer in the Earth and take its temperature.  Adjustments are constantly being made to how these temperature records are calculated.  It's been argued that the "adjustments" have been politically inspired to make today's temperatures look warmer while those decades earlier to look much cooler than they were.  I wouldn't rule that out. Unfortunately we've allowed science to become so politicized, including with respect to global warming..  Any scientist who dares to question the orthodoxy, i.e. that dangerous man-made global warming is dooming the planet, is ridiculed professionally and doesn't receive government grants for studies that might dare challenge this orthodoxy.

This week, EPA nominee Oklahoma Senator Scott Pruitt, a long-time critic of former President Obama's climate change policy, testified that he believed climate change was real and that man has been a contributor to that change. Some environmentalists were shocked. They shouldn't be. The climate on good old Planet Earth has been changing for 4.5 billion years so we shouldn't assume that it suddenly stopped changing under our watch. As far as man having an effect on climate, you only have to see the difference in temperature between warmer cities and the cooler rural areas surrounding those cities to know that the activity of man affects temperature readings. The debate should have always been about how much of an effect and the negatives and positives that come with living in a warmer climate. Increased CO2 levels, for example, have been tied to larger crop yields and greater drough resistance of those crops. Warmer temperatures also means a longer growing season in certain places.

The bottom line is the scientists have no way of measuring the impact man-made activity has on the climate, no way of separating it out from what could very well be a natural increase in temperatures due to endless climate change.  It has always been a guess, nothing more than that. Alarmists have also too long gotten away with the starting assumption that today's climate is the ideal and that a warmer climate, and higher CO2 levels, is a bad thing.  That assumption should be questioned.  Man has historically done better when the climate has been warmer, including warmer than today.

Now that there is new leadership in Washington, I hope we can can finally have a truly honest debate about global warming, its ties to man, the positives and negatives associated with living in a warmer climate, and a cost-benefit examination of any proposed steps to combat global warming.  Maybe something good can come out of the Trump administration, after all.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Is The Era of Championship Sports Teams Being Honored by the President at an End?

Today, the Chicago Cubs visit the White House to be honored by President Barack Obama. Championship sports teams being invited to the White House to be recognized by the President of the United States is a tradition that probably dates back to 1924, the year when the World Champion Washington Senators visited Calvin Coolidge at the White House.  Gradually the practice expanded to include other sports besides the national pastime of baseball.

One has to wonder if, with the ascension of Donald Trump to the Presidency, this nearly 93 year tradition will be coming to an end. The timing on the Cubs visit, five days before President Obama leaves office, is no accident.  In the past, teams that won the World Series have visited the White House during the regular season.   To avoid the politically dicey situation involved with a President Trump, the Cubs instead opted to have the trip early.

The winning sports teams that follow won't be able to sidestep the Trump issue simply by moving dates on a calendar. Imagine the 2017 Super Bowl and NBA Champions, teams filled with African-Americans, wrestling with the decision of whether to be honored by a President Trump, especially after his recent insult of a civil rights icon. Or a major league baseball team, stocked with Latino players, considering the same issue. Or switching gears, how about a women's team, such as the Connecticut women's basketball team, perennial champions? Do they put aside Trump's comments about women to be honored by him? Many, understandably, won't want to do that.

My guess is most teams will simply forego the trip than risk the inevitable protests and conflict.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

No, Donald Trump, CNN Didn't Report "Fake News"

Much has been made by my fellow conservatives over Donald Trump's tumultuous news conference in which he refused to take a question from a CNN reporter because supposedly that outfit reported "fake news." Of course, with so many things Trump related, his charges against CNN simply are not true.

What CNN reported is that both President Obama and President-Elect Trump were provided by intelligence agencies with a two page summary of a 35 page memo which summary indicated that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information relating to Trump. The 35 page memo, written by a British intelligence officer, had already been widely circulated among intelligence officials, members of Congress, and other government officials.

CNN did not publish the 35 page memo, like news outlet Buzzfeed did, nor did it claim the allegations contained in the summary or the memo were correct. CNN merely reported the fact that Trump and Obama had been briefed on possible compromising information held by the Russians. For CNN not to report that fact would have been the height of journalistic irresponsibility.

Of course, that didn't stop Trump from going on a tirade against "fake news" CNN and the intelligence agencies, which he claimed were the source of the leaked memo.  There is nothing to celebrate when a political leader tries to bully a free press, to try to stop journalists from doing their jobs.  Our freedom to speak freely, to question those in power, depends on a free press.

Sadly it doesn't seem to matter to my conservative friends that so much of what Trump said yesterday was flat out wrong.  They have fallen into Trump's "cult of personality" and celebrate anything he does, regardless of how off base he is.   I often feel like my friends have joined a cult.  Someday they'll wake up and realize that the cult leader is nothing but a fraud, and that they've been duped.  That day is not today, not tomorrow, but someday.

Monday, January 9, 2017

State Lawmaker To Introduce Bill To Raise Indiana's Age Of Consent From 16 To 18

Fox 59 reports on the development:
State Rep. Karlee Macer, D-Indianapolis, told our news gathering partners at the Indy Star the bill would give prosecutors and judges another tool to hold people accountable for preying on children.  
“I think what’s happening in our state with our children right now is a crisis,” she said.Macer said the bill would create a criminal offense called “indiscretion,” which
Rep. Karlee Macer (D-Indianapolis)
could be filed against someone at least 23 years old who engages in sexual conduct, fondling or touching with someone who is at least 16 but younger than 18.
 
It is already against the law in Indiana for those in positions of power, like teachers, coaches and mental health professionals, to have sex with someone under 18. But it’s not a crime for other adults to have sex with someone as young as 16.  
Most Hoosiers probably assume that in Indiana the age of consent is 18.  But Indiana's law is 16, which puts the law in line with most which have sub-18 year old consent laws.  

There is a reason why most states haven't opted for age 18 consent laws.  Laws that to try to shield 16 and 17 year olds from sexual activity are utterly doomed to selective enforcement.

I have learned to be wary whenever the argument we need to change the law to give law enforcement (police, prosecutor, judges) "another tool." The argument is always that just because law enforcement has those tools does not mean they will be used.  It is the "trust us" approach to law enforcement policy. While I do admire and appreciate their work, there are plenty examples of law enforcement officials abusing tools when they are given them.  There is no greater example than what has happened with civil forfeiture, which has turned into policing for profit.

Raise the age of consent to 18?  Bad idea.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

President-Elect Trump Slams Intelligence Community in Advance of Friday's Briefing

On Friday, the intelligence community is to brief President-Elect Donald Trump on Russian hacking of DNC emails.  In advance of that meeting, Donald Trump took to his Twitter machine to mock the "intelligence" of that community.
Although Trump suggested that they had an intelligence briefing set for Tuesday, which was delayed
until Friday, in fact there was no meeting scheduled on Tuesday.   The meeting was always to take place later in the week and Friday was the very first day it was scheduled for.

The frightening thing about Donald Trump and his legion of followers is that they believe they get to replace actual facts with their own made up ones whenever they want. Undoubtedly the Trumpkins are at this moment on social media spreading Trump's false claim about the meeting being delayed to allow the intelligence community more time to build a case.

In the very next tweet Trump's penchant for disbelieving facts if they don't fit his narrative is on full display:
If Assange said he didn't get the emails from the Russians, and that's what Trump wants to believe, then that makes it a "fact" in Trump's world.  Does anyone believe that any amount of proof put forward by the intelligence community on Friday will have any impact on Trump?   On more than one occasion during the campaign Trump was presented with video of him saying things and, quite incredibly, he still denied making the statements.

Trump was briefed about Russian hacking last fall long before the election. So it is silly to claim that this issue is simply some post-election maneuver by President Obama to discredit Trump.  It is not a new issue.  But consider this:  What if Trump's defensiveness on the Russian hacking issue is not because of disbelief but because the Trump campaign had contacts with Putin's government in which the Russians were encouraged to hack the DNC emails?

Russian officials have already admitted they were in contact with the Trump campaign before (and since) the election.  It is not really much of a stretch to consider that those discussions included the email hacking and other ways Putin could aid Trump in winning the election. That might explain Trump's man crush on Putin and his eagerness to help the Russian cause as President.

I am afraid that some time in 2017 we're going to have an Alexander Butterfield Watergate moment in which it's revealed that not only were there Trump Campaign-Russian communications about the email hack, some of those communications were recorded.   What happens then?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Driving While Caffeinated? California Prosecutor Pursues Outrageous Case

Yahoo reports on a bizarre prosecution taking place in California:
If you picked up a coffee this morning on your way to work you were driving in the same condition that Joseph Schwab was when he was pulled over and arrested for “driving under the influence.” Schwab, a California man who was pulled over by an agent of the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control department, is now fighting back.  
Guardian reports that Schwab was initially placed in custody after the Alcoholic Beverage Control agent claimed he was driving erratically. The 36-year-old blew a 0.00% on a breathalyzer but was taken to the country jail anyway. There he had his blood drawn, but that test came up negative for every illicit drug on the list as well as alcohol. Not satisfied that Schwab had already passed both tests, law enforcement sent his blood off to a lab in Pennsylvania for another scan. That test showed that the only thing in Schwab’s veins other than blood was caffeine. 
Despite all of this, Schwab was eventually charged — a full 10 months after he was initially pulled over and arrested — with a DUI. Now, Schwab’s lawyer, Stacey Barrett, is demanding that the case be thrown out. If the court decides to proceed, Schwab wants to see how a jury feels about the whole situation. 
The chief deputy district attorney for the county said the DUI charge was not due to the caffeine in his system, but as every other test has shown that Schwab was clean as a whistle, his lawyer insists that’s all it possibly could be. The deputy noted that the office was “conducting further investigation,” though failed to explain what that actually means.
Consider if this prosecution actually succeeds and a prohibition on driving while having coffee in one's system sweeps the country.  Imagine how many more traffic accidents there were be with half-asleep motorists behind the wheel.
I've often argued that Indiana gives prosecutors too much authority that allow them to pursue baseless charges and judges too little latitude to dismiss those charges.  I remember a few years ago when Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry prosecuted a charge against a young man for illegally possessing a gun because he had a picture of a gun (not him holding the gun, just a picture of a gun) on his phone.  The judge couldn't dismiss the charge which meant that the accused had to go through all the way to the end of the process, risking a criminal conviction, to escape the charge which he ultimately did when a bench trial ended in acquittal. 


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Indiana Democratic Party State Chairman John Zody to Seek Re-Election; State Democrats Should Ask "Why?"

News today is that Indiana State Democratic Chairman John Zody is seeking re-election.  He made the announcement today in a letter to his "Democratic Friends."

In the letter, Zody touts his accomplishments since taking over the helm of the state Democratic Party in 2013:
Our efforts in Communication have led to drastic increases in the Party’s presence on social media, formulation of a rapid response effort during each legislative session, helping train county party organizations on social media and driving a constructive narrative that not only supports candidates and talks about what we are “for”, but also strikes a strong contrast when
John Zody
necessary against political opponents.
 
On the fundraising front, your State Democratic Party has worked to support candidates at the local, state and federal levels. The Party created and implemented a full-time municipal election staff position during the 2015 election cycle that helped candidates primarily with campaign organization, but also worked to raise money to help in races across the state, where we had success. And, because of these efforts and that of our candidates and so many others, thousands more Hoosiers are living in cities led by Democratic Mayors. With your help, we have implemented absentee mail programs across the state and have had record success at our key annual fundraising events. In doing all of this, we continue to place a high priority on making sure that donors – big and small – see a return on the investment they make to our Party.
Missing from the Zody letter are any specifics regarding elected officials he helped get elected.  I guess he could tout the election of Joe Hogsett as Indianapolis Mayor in 2015, though I really doubt he had much to do with Hogsett's election which was a foregone conclusion long before Election Day.
After this past election, Indiana Democrats should be screaming for change.  Despite having an excellent shot at the Governor's race and the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Dan Coats, the Democrats came up woefully short and even lost a statewide incumbent, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.  Meanwhile the Republicans continue to hold supermajorities in the Indiana General Assembly and GOP candidate Donald Trump won Indiana easily despite late polls showing the possibility of a tight race.
My two cents from the right is that the Indiana Democrats need to rethink the issues they expect to win on.  Hoosier Democrats were certain that their opposition to RFRA was going to be the ticket back to power. But, perhaps not surprisingly given the conservative nature of the Hoosier electorate, favoring LGBT rights over religious freedom was not a winning message.  Being anti-RFRA scored the Democrats points with the media, but not with voters.
Indiana Democrats need to get back to issues that appeal to working men and women, not focus on social issues that excite, but does not expand, their base.  It is a lesson that the national Democrats need to learn as well.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Former Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut Passes Away

I won't be counted among his biggest fans, but former Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut certainly understand the importance of image both in scoring unprecedented political success and his tireless promotion of the city he clearly loved.  The Indianapolis Star reports on the passing of a local political icon who, more than anyone else, shaped modern day Indianapolis:
After years of battling illness, former Indianapolis Mayor William Herbert Hudnut III has died at the age of 84. 
Hudnut's family on Sunday announced that memorial services for Indianapolis’ longest-serving mayor are still being planned. Supporters will have the opportunity to attend two
public services: one in Indianapolis and one in Washington D.C. 
“On behalf of our family, I would like to thank everyone for their outpouring of love and support during this difficult time.  It was a real gift to Bill that he had an opportunity to hear how much he meant to family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors — and to the communities he served — through your notes, cards, letters, personal visits, and comments on his CaringBridge posts,” his wife, Beverly Hudnut, said in a statement. “So many wonderful people helped us in so many ways these past couple of years— and we will be eternally grateful."
In anticipation of his passing, Hudnut penned his own epitaph:
"One cannot choose how one finishes the race, only how one runs it. I would not have chosen a long, slow slide into complete heart failure, but I tried to cope with it with 'gaiety, courage and a quiet mind,' to borrow from my mother who in turn was quoting Robert Louis Stevenson .... It has often been remarked that life is a journey, not a destination. About the destination, 'I believe, Lord, help thou mine unbelief.'  I leave this earthly life at peace, with faith and trust in a future that will carry me beyond the bourne of space and time, but also with wariness of plotting the furniture of heaven or the temperature of hell. 
"There is much I cannot fathom about the afterlife. Will there be recognition? What part of me, if any, survives? Forever, or just until I am forgotten? A little reverent agnosticism seems to be in order, because 'now we see through a glass darkly.' More positively, 'we walk by faith and not by sight.'"

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Indianapolis Mayor Hogsett & Task Force Offers Refreshing New Approach to Building Justice Center

The last year of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's term was dominated by an effort to push through a proposal for a Justice Center.  The chief focus of the Ballard plan was always a "private partner" who would essentially own the $1.75 billion facility while many local government offices would rent out the facility for 35 years before owning it.   The savings up front from this private-partnership proposal would be more than offset over the course of the lease of facility.  Translation: under the Ballard proposal future taxpayers would have paid dearly for taxpayers today possibly saving a few bucks.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett

The Ballard administration fought hard to keep the details of the Justice Center proposals from the public.  But when those details inevitably emerged, it was discovered that the savings didn't add up. Shortly after the initial proposal, the Ballard administration began to cut back to save money, cuts that would have gutted much of the benefits of a new Justice Center.  Eventually the proposal was scrapped when it failed to get council approval. The failed plan still cost Indianapolis taxpayers $16.5 million for consultants and attorneys.

This month the Indianapolis Criminal Justice Reform Task Force released a 120 page report which appears to do a much better job of recognizing the needs of the criminal justice community and accepting input from  reaching out to all players who will be affected by the project.  Mayor Hogsett appears to be supportive of the Force's recommendations.

One of my initial concerns with the Ballard proposal was the separation of criminal and civil courts into different facilities miles apart.  The fact is much of the work in criminal court cases is attending frequent status conferences which might last 5 minutes, if that.  The Ballard plan would have made it extremely difficult for small firm and sole practitioners, whose chief practice is in the civil courts, to also provide representation to criminal clients.   Attending a criminal court proceeding might only take a few minutes of an attorney's day and then he or she can go back to the law office or deal with other matters in the civil court.  If attorney has to spend an hour or so on a 5 minute criminal court matter, because of the need to travel to another facility, that attorney is going to be less inclined to take on that criminal case.

The Task Force report specifically addresses this issue and emphasizes the importance of keeping the civil and criminal courts together, particularly in a location that is close to downtown which is convenient for attorneys and others in the Indianapolis legal community.  This was not a priority of the Ballard administration, which at one time strongly considered building a new Justice Center near the old Indianapolis airport on the far west side.  While Task Force report doesn't rule out the near-downtown GM Stamping Center, the site finally settled on by the Ballard administration as the location of the Justice Center, but it indicated it was unlikely choice given the owner's changed plans on selling the property.  Ultimately, the Task Force suggests the location decision should be left to those most impacted by the decision, judges, attorneys and others who will regularly use the Justice Center.  This again is a refreshing change to the Ballard administration approach of making a decision while offering only an after-the-fact dog and pony show in which the administration pretends to take public input.

The Task Force report does a good job of addressing the need for improved inmate medical care, particularly in the mental health area.   Also, the Task Force emphasizes the need for technology to be included in the plans. Many counties, for example,  employ video feeds for initial hearings that are fairly routine.  There is no such technology available in Marion County/Indianapolis, however.  If an inmate is required at a hearing in this county, he or she has to be physically transported to the courtroom, walking in the same hallways and riding the same elevators as others who might be at the City-County Building on other, non-criminal, matters..  The frequent need to transport inmates not only increases the danger to the public, it is extraordinarily labor intensive. Technology could dramatically cut back on the need for in court appearances.

The end of the report addresses financing the facility.  The Task Force starts by recognizing the significant savings from a consolidation of government offices currently scattered throughout downtown.  Various funding mechanisms are discussed, including traditional bonding and the possibility of a public-private partnership.  While the latter is offered as an option, it doesn't appear to be an approach favored by the Task Force or Mayor Hogsett.  Let's hope that doesn't change.

I'll keep my fingers crossed on Justice Hogsett's Justice Center proposal. But the initial review looks promising.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The 2016 Presidential Election: The "Landslide" That Was Anything But

When I first heard the claim, I was stunned.   According to President-elect Trump claims, he won a "massive [electoral college] landslide victory."  Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus and the Trump transition team publicly made similar claims.


It just isn't so.  Quite the opposite in fact.  The 2016 presidential race was one of the closest races in American history.

Being a political nerd, I keep a lot of electoral information at hand.  A friend had claimed awhile back
that President Obama had won in a landslide, I developed a historical table to show that friend's claim was all wet. The elections Obama won in 2008 and 2012 actually were some of the more close presidential elections we have had.

The 2016 election was even closer than those.  Donald Trump (assuming no "faithless" electors) will receive 306 electoral votes on December 19th, while Clinton is on tract to receive 232.  Turned into percents, Trump will receive 56.9% of the electoral votes while Clinton gets 43.1%.  That 15.8% difference means the 2016 election will be the 10th closest electoral college vote of all time.  In this century, only the elections in 1916, 1960, 1976, 2000 and 2004 were closer.

If you look at key states, you will see how easily that Hillary Clinton's defeat on Election Night could have turned out to be a victory.  She lost three states, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, by a total of 79,887 votes.  If just over half those votes had flipped from Trump to Clinton, Clinton would have been elected President.  Thus, the election was decided by less voters than live in Kokomo, Indiana.   Going back to percents, we are talking .031% of the 127,677,038 million cast that decided the election.

I guess the Trump "landslide" claim shouldn't come as a surprise.  Trump and his supporters tend to live in  a world in which they get to make up their own "facts."  But they are not alone.  Democrats are also making absurd claims about the "huge" popular vote victory Clinton received.  Current tallies have her leading Trump by 2.8 million votes.

I do agree that the popular vote means little in our election scheme.  I don't agree, however, with the Trumpkins claim that their candidate could have won the popular vote if he had chosen instead to campaign in highly populous, albeit heavily Democratic states like California and New York.  The fact is if the election were decided by the popular vote, Clinton also would have adjusted her strategy, which would have offset much if not all of Trump's change in tactics.

Dispensing with that argument and focusing instead on the numbers, we see that Clinton won the popular vote 48.07% to 45.99%.  That is a difference of 2.08%, making the 2016 election the 9th closest popular vote race in history.

To recap the 2016 Presidential election featured the 10th closest electoral college vote in history with the 9th closest popular vote margin.   Certainly not a "landslide."

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Russians Hacked Republican Emails Too But Chose Not to Leak Them

The New York Times reports:
WASHINGTON — American intelligence agencies have concluded with “high confidence” that Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances and promote Donald J. Trump, according to senior administration officials.
Russian President Vladimir Putin

They based that conclusion, in part, on another finding — which they say was also reached with high confidence — that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.

In the months before the election, it was largely documents from Democratic Party systems that were leaked to the public. Intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russians gave the Democrats’ documents to WikiLeaks.
...
It is possible that in hacking into the Republican committee, Russian agents were simply hedging their bets. The attack took place in the spring, the senior officials said, about the same time that a group of hackers believed to be linked to the G.R.U., Russia’s military intelligence agency, stole the emails of senior officials of the Democratic National Committee. Intelligence agencies believe that the Republican committee hack was carried out by the same Russians who penetrated the Democratic committee and other Democratic groups. 
 The finding about the Republican committee is expected to be included in a detailed report of “lessons learned” that Mr. Obama has ordered intelligence agencies to assemble before he leaves office on Jan. 20. That report is intended, in part, to create a comprehensive history of the Russian effort to influence the election, and to solidify the intelligence findings before Mr. Trump is sworn in. 
...
 The New York Times article goes on to provides details on the DNC hacking:
 Intelligence officials and private cybersecurity companies believe that the Democratic National Committee was hacked by two different Russian cyberunits. One, called “Cozy Bear” or “A.P.T. 29” by some Western security experts, is believed to have spent months inside the D.N.C. computer network, as well as other government and political institutions, but never made public any of the documents it took. (A.P.T. stands for “Advanced Persistent Threat,” which usually describes a sophisticated state-sponsored cyberintruder.)
 The other, the G.R.U.-controlled unit known as “Fancy Bear,” or “A.P.T. 28,” is believed to have created two outlets on the internet, Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, to make Democratic documents public. Many of the documents were also provided to WikiLeaks, which released them over many weeks before the Nov. 8 election.
Unfortunately, I doubt the intelligence agencies' review ordered by President Obama will include a comparison of the paper ballots in Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois versus the computer tallies in those states. Computer hackers have shown how easy it is to insert malicious code into a computer software program and flip a number of votes to change an outcome. Did it happen in 2016? Highly unlikely. But those of us concerned about the integrity of the ballot should always welcome review of the paper trail in states and localities that use computer generated tallies sans any sort of review to ensure those tallies reflect actual votes cast.

While some Republicans unbelievably welcome foreign interference with an American election to get a result - the defeat of Hillary Clinton - they wanted, several Congressional Republicans, include Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) recognize the extraordinary danger of such interference and have joined Democrats in calling for hearings into the Russian role in the 2016 election.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Zionsville School Board Approves Drug Testing of Students Involved in Extra-Curricular Activities

This story flew under the radar last week as I worked on other things.  I do not agree with the notion of a public school drug testing anyone, even children, without even a hint of drug use.  People should not have to prove themselves innocent.   Further, I do not understand why students involved in extra-curricular activities are being singled out.  If anything, it is the ones who are not involved in those activities who are more likely to be drug users.  The Indianapolis Star reports:

After years of delays, rising tensions and hours of discussion, a proposal to randomly drug-test Zionsville High School students was approved Monday night.
The Zionsville School Board voted 3-2 in favor of the new policy which requires any students who elect to participate in extra-curricular activities or park on school property to consent to random drug tests.
Students who fail a drug test will be required to enter and complete a drug counseling program.
The approved plan is a variation of one supported years ago by the Zionsville Student Rights Union. They also proposed that only students who park or participate in after-school programs be tested, but the union plan wanted students to face no consequences at school, and for positive results to only be reported to parents.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Indiana Taxpayers to Pay Dearly to Save 800 Carrier Jobs, While Company Still Sends 1300 to Mexico

Donald Trump held a rally in Indianapolis today to take a victory lap, a celebration of a deal he and Vice President-Elect and current Indiana Governor Mike Pence reached to keep Carrier from moving its operations from Indianapolis to Mexico.  Trump claims that the deal shows there will be
consequences for other companies that try to move operations overseas.  If you redefine "consequences" as large taxpayer handouts, Trump appears to have a point.  

The 10 year deal to keep Carrier in Indianapolis will cost Hoosier taxpayers $7 million.  While saving 800 jobs in Indianapolis, Carrier still plans to move 600 of those 1,400 Indianapolis jobs to Mexico.  Add to that another 700 jobs at a separate Huntington, Indiana plant that is relocating to Mexico and Indiana is still losing 1300 Carrier jobs to Mexico at the same time the company is receiving a big pile of taxpayer money.

Although Candidate Trump threatened "the stick" of a special tariff against particular companies that move operations to other countries and then sell goods back to the U.S., the fact is as President he can't legally do that.  So instead President-Elect Trump resorted to good old fashioned bribery.

There is a name for the Trump-Carrier deal.  It is called corporate welfare, i.e. crony capitalism.   Government should ever be in the business of picking winners and losers in a capitalist system. To do so is a distortion of the free market which hurts consumers and ultimately workers.  Further, the Carrier deal tells the CEO of every company that the government will give them money to stay in the United States if they threaten to outsource jobs.  The Carrier deal sets a horrible precedent that will cost American taxpayers dearly in the years to come.  It is not to be celebrated.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Trump Again Suggests Limits on Free Speech - This Time on Flag Burning

Years ago the United States Supreme Court rules (quite correctly) that the burning of the American flag was an expression of a political idea  protected by the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause. Yesterday President-Elect Trump threw water on that decision, declaring that anyone who burns the American flag should be imprisoned for up to one year.  CNN reports:
(CNN)President-elect Donald Trump proposed on Tuesday a penalty -- including possible jail time or loss of citizenship -- for burning the American flag, in spite of two US Supreme Court rulings that protect the act under the First Amendment as a form of free speech. "Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag -- if they do, there must be
consequences -- perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!"  
... 
 The Supreme Court has twice affirmed the right to desecrate the American flag as a form of free speech -- a historically contentious issue -- in cases before the high court in 1989 and 1990. In the 1989 case "Texas v. Johnson," the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that flag burning was a form of "symbolic speech" protected by the First Amendment. The ruling came after an appeal from Gregory Johnson, who had been convicted by a Texas court of violating a state law that prohibited the "desecration of a venerated object" such as the US flag. The following year, in "United states v. Eichman," the top court again affirmed the right to burn the flag when it ruled 5-4 that the Flag Protection Act of 1989 -- passed by Congress in response to the Johnson decision -- was unconstitutional.  
It's not immediately clear what prompted Trump's tweet Tuesday morning, though the national discussion of respect for the flag has been restarted in part following a flag burning November 10 on the campus of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, as part of a post-election protest. The university then decided to stop flying the American flag at the campus, which also infuriated some members of the community.  
Steve Vladeck, CNN legal analyst and professor at the University of Texas Law School, said Trump's suggestion that citizens possibly be expatriated as a penalty is also a non-starter. "In addition to ignoring the Supreme Court's clear teaching that flag burning is constitutionally protected speech, Mr. Trump's tweet also casually suggests that citizens should lose their citizenship as a 'penalty' for such acts," Vladeck said. "Even if flag burning wasn't protected, it would still be unconstitutional to deprive someone of their citizenship without some voluntary act on their part to renounce their allegiance to the United States or pledge fealty to a foreign sovereign."   
... 
Trump's opposition to the protection of flag burning puts him at odds with conservative leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Trump has praised as a "brilliant Supreme Court Justice, one of the best of all time." 
Trump is actually proposing a very dangerous idea...that speech should be disallowed because of the objectionable views contained in that speech. That is an idea that is anathema to Free Speech and suggests a President-Elect who harbors authoritarian impulses.  This comments follows a declaration by Trump during the campaign that libel protection should be changed so critics of public figures can be more easily hauled into court.  That suggestion would have a devastating effect on Americans' free speech rights.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Star Reports on New Indiana Civil Forfeiture Lawsuit

Earlier this year, the Institute for Justice filed a legal challenge to the constitutionality of Indiana's civil forfeiture law.  That lawsuit, filed in federal court, has survived a motion to dismiss and is proceeding. has a story on the filing of a second civil forfeiture lawsuit:
Today's Indianapolis Star

Criminal defense attorney Jeff Cardella wears his beliefs on his sleeve, in the form of a pair of large, pastel yellow "Don't Tread On Me" cuff links.
In between explanations of his libertarian principles, the 34-year-old Cardella  said his clients may not always be the most sympathetic individuals, but they deserve their rights, too.
Cardella filed a federal class-action lawsuit this month, on behalf of Leroy Washington, whose vehicle was taken by police in September. Washington was arrested and charged with resisting law enforcement, dealing in marijuana and obstruction of justice.
The suit argues that the Indiana law that allows police to seize property from alleged drug dealers and others, regardless of their guilt or innocence, violates criminal defendants' constitutional right to due process.
It "allows the executive branch to seize and hold the vehicle of an owner for several months without affording the owner the right to a postseizure preforfeiture hearing to challenge the seizure," according to the complaint.
It's an argument that could, if it prevails in court, have a sweeping effect on law enforcement.
...
The suit, limited specifically to vehicles in IMPD possession, does not seek monetary damages. Rather, Washington wants law enforcement to give back his vehicle, and the vehicles of countless individuals whose property was seized under Indiana's civil forfeiture laws.
Cardella also seeks a reduction in the period of time law enforcement can hold property without stating a reason for seizing it.
"It's a matter of protecting the constitutional rights of my clients," said Cardella, a professor at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law, who is vehemently opposed to "unjust government taking."
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, Mayor Joe Hogsett and IMPD Police Chief Troy Riggs are named defendants in the complaint.
Curry told IndyStar that there are a variety of reasons why the law, as it exists today, is reasonable and constitutional.
"There are protections built in the law to protect innocent people," Curry said. "An aggrieved party could ask for an emergency hearing to get their property back."
The news reporting suggests that the Cardella lawsuit is more about a challenge to the lack of due process, which is certainly a strong claim.  But ultimately the legal attack on civil forfeiture may knock out any Indiana civil forfeiture law whatsoever.   The state constitution mandates that proceeds from "all forfeitures" go to the Common School Fund which provides low cost loans to public schools.  It is not clear that any forfeiture law, that diverts money away from that fund and to law enforcement, would be permitted under Indiana's Constitution.  Unfortunately, issues related to standing have made challenging the laws on those grounds problematic.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry is quoted in the article.  Curry, a Democrat, has greatly expanded the use of civil forfeiture under his tenure.  You no longer have to be charged with a crime in Indianapolis to have your property seized and be subject to a Curry civil forfeiture lawsuit.  At least with his predecessor, Carl Brizzi, civil forfeiture was mostly limited to drug offenses and people who were being charged with a crime.  You would think liberty-minded local Democrats would be outraged by the trampling of civil liberties in the county.  Their silence on the matter is deafening.

I have written numerous times on this matter.  Here are some of those articles:

Saturday, October 24, 2015, Republicans in Michigan Lead Effort to Curb Civil Forfeiture Abuses

Tuesday, July 23, 2013, Civil Forfeiture Critic Wins Right to Proceed With Malicious Prosecution Case; Notice Pleading Still Rules in Federal Court





Wednesday, April 6, 2011, Judge Tosses Out Civil Forfeiture Lawsuit, Expresses Doubt Civil Forfeiture Law is Constitutional

Sunday, August 15, 2010, Civil Forfeiture Misdeeds; The Role of the Attorney General


Thursday, July 22, 2010, Indiana Civil Forfeiture Law - Where is the Money Going?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Computer Scientists Suggest Possible Tampering, Urge Clinton to Challenge Election Results

CNN reports:
Hillary Clinton's campaign is being urged by a number of top computer scientists to call for a recount of vote totals in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to a source with knowledge of the request. 
The computer scientists believe they have found evidence that vote totals in the three states could have been manipulated or hacked and presented their findings to top Clinton aides on a call last Thursday. 
The scientists, among them J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, told the Clinton campaign they believe there is a questionable trend of Clinton performing worse in counties that relied on electronic voting machines compared to paper ballots and optical scanners, according to the source. 
The group informed John Podesta, Clinton's campaign chairman, and Marc Elias, the campaign's general counsel, that Clinton received 7% fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic voting machines, which the group said could have been hacked. 
Their group told Podesta and Elias that while they had not found any evidence of hacking, the pattern needs to be looked at by an independent review.
    A switch of approximately 100,000 votes (a tiny fraction of the approximately 126 million votes) in those three states and Hillary Clinton would have won the electoral vote and the election.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2016

    Indianapolis Council Leaders Use Vote as "Cover" to Fully Soak Taxpayers

    Indianapolis residents pay some of the highest local taxes in the state.  Now  Indianapolis Council leaders have decided to soak working men and women even more by maxing out the council's authority to raise the transit tax.  The Indianapolis Star reports:
    Previously reticent elected officials say they fully support an income tax hike for expanded public transit now that voters approved a measure on Tuesday’s ballot.
    City-County councilors said the wide margin by which the referendum passed, 59.3 percent to 41.7 percent, lets them push for the maximum tax allowed.   
    "I'm prepared to pass it at the full amount," said Council President Maggie Lewis. "And I think that by passing by such a large margin it gives a lot of councilors cover to do so."
    The council still has the option of not approving any tax or passing one that is smaller than the 0.25 percent maximum tax, which equals $130 a year for Marion County resident earning $50,000 annually.
    Of course, fiscally responsible Republican leaders on the council opposed the maximum soaking of Indianapolis taxpayers.  Kidding.
    Republican  City-County Councilor Jeff Miller said voters made their preference known loud and clear.   
    “I would say that is a convincing enough (referendum vote) margin for the full tax,” said
    The "logic" employed by Lewis and Miller is patently absurd. How does the margin of the referendum passing, a measure in which voters were simply giving the authority to the council  to adopt a tax to help mass transit, have anything to do with how much those voters wanted the tax raised?  Maybe voters assumed that Indianapolis City-County councilors would act as responsible stewards of our tax dollars?  Of course, if they followed local politics, those voters should have known better.

    Of course it is absurd to claim that a positive vote of 59.3% to 41.7%, a margin which translates into a victory of just a few thousand votes, is a huge electoral victory.

    I have long heard Indianapolis council members argue that the State Legislature should not limit the ability of Indianapolis to raise its own taxes.  This is yet another example of why the Indiana General Assembly should never ever do that.  Indianapolis' leaders have time and time again shown that they will irresponsibly max out any taxing authority given to them.

    But at least the huge tax increase will go to making great improvements to the bus system, right? Wishful thinking at best.  Twice in the last few years, Indianapolis greatly increased the local public safety tax expressly to increase the number of Indianapolis police officers.  Yet Indianapolis has fewer police officers than they had before those tax increases.

    Unfortunately the Indianapolis Star article simply reports as true the claims regarding improvements that will be made to the bus system with the maxed out tax, all the while ignoring the fact that time and time again Indianapolis officials raise local taxes with the promise to do certain things that never ever get done.

    We know from Indianapolis' entrenched two party pay-to-play political system that only a fraction of the tax money raised will go towards improving the city's mass transit system.  Much, if not most, of those tax dollars will end up in the pockets of politically-connected contractors and others who regularly benefit from Indy's corporate welfare culture...

    If this past election teaches us anything, it should be that voters are tired of elected officials using their positions to make the elites more wealthy at the expense of hard working men and women who are continually asked to pay higher taxes.  Our council leaders should show some courage and stand up for local taxpayers and against the elites who want to soak them with ever more higher taxes.

    Friday, November 11, 2016

    Donald Trump Scores Historic Upset, Demonstrates the Power of Populism

    On Tuesday, Donald Trump scored an historic political upset winning the Presidency with 290 electoral votes.   Although Hillary Clinton narrowly won the popular vote, she could only garner 232 electoral vote.  Trump's victory included successes in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, states that were seen to be, at best, on the outskirts at being obtainable by Trump.

    But the White House wasn't the only success Republicans enjoyed on Election Night.  Republicans won competitive Senate races all over the country, netting a loss of only two in that chamber despite the enormous hurdle of defending many more seats. Republicans retain control of the Senate with a 52-48 margin.  The Republicans lost only a handful of seats in the House, retaining a  signficant majority in that body.

    Trump's victory defied the odds.  Many commentators suggest Trump's victory is the biggest upset since the 1948 Truman-Dewey contest which was won by President Truman, despite polls suggesting Dewey would win in a landslide.  But polling in 1948 was in its infancy.  Polling in 2016 is much more sophisticated and the number doing has increased substantially.  Although Trump led in some national polls, in the key state polls, the only thing that counts with our electoral college system, all polls pointed to a Clinton Electoral College win. ( Yours truly also missed the result.)  I think the Trump upset was bigger upset than the Truman victory in 1948.

    Of course, many Trumpkins insisted the polls were being "rigged."   The notion that all these independent pollsters got together to risk their reputations by putting their finger on the scale to show Clinton leading is pure silliness.  In reality, this election demonstrated the Achilles Heel of polling - turnout.  No matter how hard pollsters try to take into consideration turnout by identifying "likely voters," the methods employed have never worked very well.  In 2016, much like 1994 and 2000, Republicans went to the polls while Democrats, especially African-Americans, a key Democratic constituency, stayed home.  As a result, the polls those years, and this year, were way off.

    It is interesting that it didn't seem to matter if Republicans embraced Trump or ran away from him, they didn't pay a price at the polls.  They won nonetheless.

    Some other observations.  Trump's victory shows the power of populism.  I have long argued that the Republicans needed to stop kowtowing to big corporations and the Chamber of Commerce and start paying more attention to working men and women.  Main Street and less Wall Street. Trump showed that the populist message was shown to be extraordinarily popular.  I am hoping that filters down to the state and local level so we can knock off some of the pay-to-play corporate welfare schemes that are soaking taxpayers.

    As a Never Trumper, my problem with Trump wasn't so much his message (though his hostility to free trade and immigrants is something I will never embrace) but the messenger.  A cursory comparison of Trump's words versus his actions showed him to be a hypocrite time and time again. Although Trump complains about Hillary's dishonesty, his supporters ignored Trump's own extreme dishonesty.  During the campaign, I, accurately, called Trump a lifelong con man.   Certainly there is no doubt that Trump is a sexist and may well be every bit the sexual predator that Bill Clinton was and probably still is.  Probably the most appalling claim to swallow is that Trump who has a lengthy history of, at every opportunity stiffing his employees and the small business owners with which his companies contract, is the defender of the American worker.

    All those complaints about Trump though have to be put aside while he is given the chance to succeed that he earned Tuesday night.  That does not mean,  however, that cherished American principles should be put aside. There are non-negotiables.  During the campaign, Trump expressed a preference for authoritarian rule.  He praised dictators who kill their political opponents and repress freedom.  Trump talked about if he won using the instruments of government to go after his political enemies, most prominently jailing his opponent Hillary Clinton.   He said Americans have too much freedom of speech and that their right to criticize public officials should be sharply curtailed by changing libel laws.  Trump demonstrated he does not even have a high school civics understanding of the Constitution and cares not one bit about the constitutional limits on the power of the Presidency.   American freedom and civil liberties is non-negotiable in my book.  Trump cannot cross that line and try to become another Mussolini.  The reference to the Italian dictator is nothyperbole.  I think it quite possible that Donald Trump, who openly envies the dictators, may try to adopt dictatorial powers.

    Finally, an observation about the Democrats.  Going into the 2016 election, Democrats insisted that the Republican Party was failing and needed to reinvent itself if it was to survive  Yet, the record showed Republicans enjoying extraordinary success, especially since Obama's election in 2008.  On the evening of the 2016 election, the GOP held a record number of Governorships, state legislative chambers, and controlled both houses of Congress, the House of Representative by a margin not seen in some 80 years.  But by having the White House, the Democrats were lulled into thinking that everything was fine with their party despite an electoral record that demonstrated otherwise.  Now that the Democrats have lost the White House, and are about to lose the Supreme Court, they may finally be answering that wake up call they have been ignoring for the last several years.

    Monday, November 7, 2016

    Hillary Clinton Set to Win the White House Tomorrow Night

    This election is one of the most difficult presidential elections I have ever attempted to predict.  I don't think the outcome is in doubt - Hillary Clinton should emerge tomorrow night as victorious, a close but solid win.  But attempting to predict the outcome in individual states is difficult this time as there are so many states with polls well within the margin of error.

    My map has Hillary Clinton with 323 electoral votes, Donald Trump with 215.  I expect the map to represent very closely the 2012 Obama-Romney outcome.   Differences are I predict that Hillary Clinton wins North Carolina.  On the other side,  I expect that Trump will win Iowa and Ohio.  The latter prediction I may regret.  Given the early voting in the state, I think the Buckeye state may offer an upset, albeit a slight one, by going for Clinton.  But right now though I'm sticking with Trump.

    Florida is a tossup.  Trump has unusual popularity in the Sunshine State among Republicans.  But I think the Latino vote is going to play a major role there in pushing the state into the Democratic column again in 2012.

    I think there is an outside chance Clinton takes Georgia and Arizona.  I can't go against history though.  I'm predicting Trump will eke out a victory in that state.

    I am predicting Clinton takes New Hampshire by a few points and Nevada and Colorado by a few more.  As far as the "rust belt" states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, states that Trump counted on winning, well they won't be that close.  Trump never really had a chance in those states.

    I would cite to three factors as sinking Trump's chances tomorrow:  1) Hillary Clinton's much superior organization; 2) Heavy Latino turnout for Clinton; and 3) Republicans who never got on the Trump train.  Regarding the latter, Trump needs about 92% of Republicans to support him.  I think it will be about 82% tomorrow.   The Democrats will be more united behind their nominee

    Thursday, November 3, 2016

    RCP State Averages Show 269-269 Electoral College Deadlock

    With three weeks to go, the Hillary Clinton for President campaign has ran out of gas in the marathon race for President. Crew members are attempting to push the Clinton car over the finish line. But the Trump car appears to be closing fast.

    Every few days, I adjust my Electoral College spreadsheet based on the most recent state polls.  This morning, I moved Florida and Nevada over into the Trump column.  North Carolina, where Clinton polled ahead for weeks is now dead even according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.  You
    move NC's electoral vote over into the Trump column and the result is a staggering 269-269 tie, which means no candidate receives the necessary 270 electoral votes necessary to be elected President.  That would mean, under our Constitution,the U.S. House of Representatives decides the election with each state delegation will cast one vote for President.  The Republicans have a majority in the House, even more so when you look at majorities on a state-by-state basis.  Thus, the GOP dominated House would pick the President.

    You also have the possibility that independent Evan McMullin will win his home state of Utah and thus give him that state's 6 electoral votes.  That would make him the third candidate that the U.S. House could consider when electing the President.  Certainly McMullin would be an attractive option for a lot of Republican House members.  But those GOP House members would face tremendous pressure to vote for Trump even if many see him as unqualified to be President.

    Let's look at even more possibilities. The Electoral College is made up of real life human beings, people selected by their party to elect the President.  What if Donald Trump narrowly wins the Electoral College but some of those GOP electors see him as unfit to serve and vote for Hillary Clinton instead...or someone who is not even running?  Clinton could be elected President even though she lost on Election Night.  Or what if Hillary Clinton narrowly wins the electoral vote count on November 8th and Trump throws some cash at Democratic electors to switch their vote to him come November?  I certainly don't believe Donald Trump is above such a maneuver.

    The last time we had a close electoral college vote was in 2000, when George W. Bush finished with 271 electoral votes and then Vice President received 267.  There didn't seem to be any attempt after that election to steal the support of electors, though one Gore elector did abstain resulting in a final tally of 271-266.

    I doubt that any of this will come into play.  My guess is that the polls are understating Clinton's support and that her electoral college vote total will be closer to 300 than 270.  Still it is interesting to ponder all the scenarios.

    One thing that is clear though.  Trump and Clinton are incredibly weak candidates who probably would have no chance were they not running against each other.

    Saturday, October 29, 2016

    Electoral College Could Save Americans From Terrible Choices for President

    Much of the discussion of the Electoral College this election cycle has to do with what happens if a candidate for President falls short of 270 electoral votes.  Should that happen, our constitution provides that the U.S. House of Representatives will elect the President with each state delegation casting one vote.  The top three finishers are eligible for consideration.  Meanwhile the U.S. Senate (assuming the VP candidates also fall short of 270) pick the winner among the top two candidates.

    So the only candidates who could be elected President at this point are Trump, Clinton or a third party/independent candidate assuming that person received some electoral votes?    If you answer
    Alexander Hamilton
    "yes," you'd be wrong.

    When we cast a ballot, we're not actually voting directly for President.  We are voting for a slate of electors who has pledged to vote for a particular candidate. The number of electors people in each state elect is equal to the number of (federal) representatives and senators that state has.  In most states, the candidate who wins the popular vote statewide, gets their entire slate elected, i.e. they are electors for that state.  In December, the elected electors gather in the capitol in all 50 states and cast their vote for President.

    I get a kick out of those people (mostly conservatives) who argue that the Electoral College is operating today exactly as the Founding Fathers intended.  That could not be further from the truth. The Electoral College was expressly designed to be a deliberative body made up smart men (no women electors back then) who could better judge than the average person the qualities that a President needs. In Federalist Paper #68, Alexander Hamilton explained the reason for including the Electoral College in the Constitution:
    It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any preestablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture. 
     It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations. 
     It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place. 
    Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention....
    As a side note, that last paragraph in which Hamilton argues that the Electoral College will protect against a foreign powers getting involved in an American election to get one of their supporters elected President seems eerily applicable this year.

    The Electoral College, has never in fact operated as the deliberative body that Hamilton and other Founding Fathers intended. It quickly became a rubber stamp of each state's popular vote.  In fact, 26 states have adopted laws that purport to prohibit electors from making picking someone other than that state's winner of the popular vote.  (This is the so-called "faithless elector.")   I say "purport" because I highly doubt that such laws would survive a constitutional challenge. They appear to be an attempt by states to alter a constitutional provision and would likely suffer the same fate - a declaration of unconstitutionality - as state laws that attempt to impose term limits on their members of Congress.

    If there was ever a need for a deliberative Electoral College, and a choice of someone other than the two major parties' nominee, it is this year. The Republican nominee has proven time and time again that he is imminently unqualified and lacking the temperament to be President. Meanwhile the always ethically-challenged Democrat nominee is the subject of a criminal probe and may be under indictment in a few months.  The Republicans and Democrats had so many better candidates. But the public chose poorly in the primary stage and as a result these are the voters' only two choices realistically having a chance of winning.   But while we voters are stuck with Trump or Clinton, are those the only choices the electors have?  The Founding Fathers would resoundingly say "no."

    Hamilton in Federalist Paper #68 offers a closing pitch for a deliberative Electoral College, words that seem to make a strong case for electors rescuing the nation from the awful inevitability that Trump or Clinton will be President on January 20, 2017:
    The process of election (that Electors and not the people choose) affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.... .  

    Friday, October 28, 2016

    FBI Reopens Hillary Clinton Email Investigation Just Eleven Days Before Election

    I don't think today's bombshell news will change the winner of the election (though possibly decrease the margin of Hillary Clinton's victory), but it increases the odds that we could have an indicted President-elect before Inauguration Day.   CNN reports:
    After recommending earlier this year that the Department of Justice not press charges against the former secretary of state, Comey said in a letter to eight congressional committee chairmen that investigators are examining newly discovered emails that "appear to be pertinent" to the email probe.  
    "In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear pertinent to the investigation," Comey wrote the chairmen. "I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation." 
    Comey said he was not sure how long the additional review would take and said the FBI "cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant." 
    The Department of Justice, which followed Comey's recommendation not to charge Clinton, declined to comment Friday. Law enforcement sources say the newly discovered emails are not related to WikiLeaks or the Clinton Foundation. 
    According to a FoxNews report the new emails came to surface during an investigation relating to former Congressman Anthony Weiner's sexting scandal.  Weiner's estranged wife, Huma Abedin, is a top aide to Hillary Clinton.

    Trump: Worst Presidential Candidate or Worst Campaign Ever?

    Fareed Zakaria of the Washington Post pens a column examines the Donald Trump campaign and concludes that is the worst presidential campaign in modern political history.  This is the concluding paragraph:
    One important test for the White House is the ability to run a modern presidential campaign, a 50-state start-up that requires hundreds of millions of dollars, a clear strategy, great talent and consistent, high-quality execution — all while being scrutinized daily by hundreds of reporters. By now it is indisputable that Trump has run the most poorly resourced, undisciplined, chaotic campaign in modern political history. He has embodied the quality that he regards as the worst failing for a leader: all talk and no action.
    Remember when Trump was talking about how he was much more competent than the other GOP
    candidates? That he would hire the "best people" who would propel his campaign to an "easy" victory in the general election?   Unlike "loser" Mitt Romney who dropped the 2012 election, Trump proclaimed he would "win" in 2016 because, well, he is a "winner."

    Eleven days out, Trump is not only is polling behind in virtually every state Romney lost in 2012, he has also put formerly red states such as Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas, and Utah into play.   He will sink in the worst electoral defeat for Republicans maybe since 1996.  He quite likely will be a major factor in handing the Democrats control of the U.S. Senate as well.

    Trump losing the election is quite an accomplishment.  He is running in a year when the country is clamoring for a change.  The tone deaf Democrats instead nominated the ultimate status quo candidate, a nominee who is the second most unpopular presidential candidate in American history.  (Trump, of course, is No. 1 in that category)   Issues relating to Clinton's use of a private email server and the family foundation have exposed, again, the Clintons' secretive and corrupt nature.

    The Trumpkins (I have settled on this term to describe those who blindly and unquestionably worship all things Donald J. Trump) keep shouting about how dishonest Hillary Clinton is and how she believes she is above the law.  Yet they vigorously backed Trump, a man who is every bit as dishonest as Hillary and who also believes he is above the law that mere mortals have to follow.

    But even if Trump were a paragon of virtue, which he clearly is not, Republicans can't win an election, even against a "crook,"  with nothing and Donald Trump is much less than nothing. Even overlooking as possibly disqualifying his obvious sexism and allegedly sexual predatory behavior (is he really any different on that score than Bill Clinton?), the man has zero interest in and understanding of public policy.  Combine that with the maturity and temperament of a petulant six year old child, and you have a man who is completely unfit for the Office of the Presidency.  Don't think Americans haven't noticed. They have.  

    Trump is at his heart a con man.  By putting his name on buildings, he convinced many Americans that he is a "great businessman."  Six bankruptcies, numerous failed businesses, and a lack of cash assets at 70 years old speak otherwise.  Trump jumped into the GOP nomination contest, pretending to be a conservative, to run another con, this time on Republican voters.  People inside the campaign during its early days say Trump never expected to actually win the nomination.  Rather he ran to regain the spotlight as his TV show, the Apprentice, (one of his few ventures that was making money) was fading in popularity.  Trump never expected to win and, thus, be thrust into the position of having to run a modern American presidential political campaign.  Handed the challenge, Trump has failed...miserably.

    Come November 9th, will Donald Trump be known as the worst presidential candidate of all time or someone who ran the worst presidential campaign of all time?  My guess is both.  Nonetheless, it is clear that Donald Trump will have one label he can't escape from:  Loser.