Monday, March 13, 2006

Pat Robertson: Regular Like Prune Juice

The man is a force of nature and can be counted on come hell or high water. By Jove, Pat Robertson's going to say a kooky thing to get into the news just about every 50 days.

Today, Pat Robertson announced his opinion that radical Muslims are satanic.

67 days ago, Pat Robertson announced that Ariel Sharon's recent stroke could be God's punishment for Israel ceding Gaza to the Palestinians.

122 days ago, he warned voters in Dover, PA that the Almighty might send a disaster their way — since he thinks God's a big ID supporter.

154 days ago, he announced that an increased frequency of hurricanes – coupled with some knockout earthquakes – is probably evidence of the 2nd coming of Christ.

202 days ago, he asked the US government to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The man is no less than the Energizer Bunny of Kookiness.

Illinois Senate Bill 2724: An Irrelevant Electoral College? (Part II)

(Crossposted from the American Constitution Society :: Columbia Law School)

(For Part I of this story and Andy's personal beef with the electoral college system, click here.)

Instead of personally characterizing Illinois Senate Bill 2724, I'll leave that task to Hendrik Hertzberg, who wrote about the bill for the New Yorker:

Here's how the plan would work. One by one, legislature by legislature, state law by state law, individual states would pledge themselves to an interstate compact under which they would agree to award their electoral votes to the nationwide winner of the popular vote. The compact would take effect only when enough states had joined it to elect a President — that is, enough to cast a majority of the five hundred and thirty-eight electoral votes. (Theoretically, as few as eleven states could do the trick.) And then, presto! All of a sudden, the people of all fifty states plus the District of Columbia are empowered to elect their President the same way they elect their governors, mayors, senators, and congressmen. We still have the Electoral College, with its colorful eighteenth-century rituals, but it can no longer do any damage. It becomes a tourist attraction, like the British monarchy.
The effort is called National Popular Election, and it has the support of The Center for Voting & Democracy, the leader in US election reform.

As the Per Curiam opinion in Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000), notes, "the State legislature's power to select the manner for appointing electors is plenary; it may, if it so chooses, select the electors itself, which indeed was the manner used by State legislatures in several States for many years after the Framing of our Constitution." If this 6-year old statement even remotely reflects the current sentiment on SCOTUS, the National Popular Election effort would easily withstand constitutional scrutiny.

Here's hoping that enough states exercise this plenary power in such manner as to give voice to the will of the national electorate. The Illinois bill is currently in committee. Keep your fingers crossed. Your vote for the President may count soon enough.

Illinois Senate Bill 2724: An Irrelevant Electoral College? (Part I)

(Crossposted from the American Constitution Society :: Columbia Law School)

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.
Article II § 1.2
Growing up the son of two Democrats in the blood red state of Nebraska, I quickly developed a disdain for our electoral college system. Since Nebraska's electoral college votes have gone to the Republican candidate in every presidential election since Nixon in 1968, my parents' Democratic votes have never actually contributed to a winning candidate's total (never, except for my father's inexplicable 1972 Nixon vote, a ballot that will forever live in family infamy).

High school civics course arguments in support of the oft-criticized electoral college system generally cite the need to prevent the more populous states from luring Presidential campaign attention entirely away from less peopled states. (A final Nebraska anecdote: No system can prevent a state from falling off the map of a sitting President. Having previously visited the other 49 states, Nebraska was the last state visited by Bill Clinton during his presidency. Even then, he had to be lured into the state through the erection of one of the nation's sillier museums.)

But does this argument hold water? Hendrik Hertzberg points out in the New Yorker that the Presidential game (if ever fought in the small states) has moved to the battleground "purple" states:
In 2004, there were thirteen such states, accounting for twenty-eight per cent of the population (and thirty-two per cent of the ultimate vote, since turnout increases with the uncertainty of the outcome). In the final month, the candidates spent $237 million on advertising, $229 million of it in those thirteen states. (In twenty-three states, they didn’t spend a dime.) At the same time, President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, Senator Kerry, and Senator Edwards attended a total of two hundred and ninety-one campaign events. Two hundred and sixty-eight of them were in the lucky thirteen.
Even if arguments in favor of maintaining the electoral college status quo are less than compelling, the strongest argument that the electoral college system is here to stay has always been the difficulty in changing our system of electors. Amending the US Constitution to enable the direct election of the President would require a 2/3rd vote of both houses of Congress and then ratification by "three fourths of the several States."

As power shifts from party to party, neither side could be relied on to provide support consistent enough to clear this high hurdle for reform. As the New Yorker article notes, Bush may have been a big fan of the electoral college in 2000, when he became the first person since Benjamin Harrison to win the Presidency and lose the popular vote; however, he probably held the electoral college in considerably less esteem in 2004, when despite his clear margin in the popular vote, he nearly lost to John Kerry but for 60,000 votes in Ohio.

Of course, all of the above is old news to you.

The new news is that a bill was introduced in the Illinois Senate on January 20th that could all but render the electoral college moot. The bill's chances of passage look strong, it appears constitutional, and it eliminates the electoral college's anti-democratic nature without requiring an amendment.

If Illinois Senate Bill 2724 is passed, and if companion bills pass in 10 other states (CA, TX, NY, FL, PA, OH, MI, GA, NJ, NC), then – without possibility of exception – the winner of the popular vote will be the winner of the presidential election.

(Read Part II of this story to learn about Illinois Senate Bill 2724)

Have Bat Will Travel: Un Américain Chez Les Lions!

What do you do when you've decided to hang up your investment banking spikes? Clearly, you go play professional baseball in France.

Well, at least that's what my friend Ev has done.

Last week, Ev left for Paris, where he'll play and coach for Les Lions de Savigny Sur Orge [tranlated], a Parisian pro baseball team. You can learn more about his trip by reading his interview on the team website [translated] or by checking out Ev's blog, Have Bat Will Travel, where he is chronicling his experience.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Mel Gibson Appears in Apocalypto Trailer for a Single Frame about 1:45 into the trailer available at the movie website.

Yes, Mel probably still thinks his wife might go to hell. And, yes, Mel's father is probably still pretty sure that the Holocaust was kinda made up.