Catriel Lev's Blog: VeHaShalom VeHaEmmet

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Catriel Lev
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Nov 11, 2016

Thoughts about the Electoral College of the USA

As posted to TheTimes of Israel Blogs, and to FaceBook.

We have just completed the process of electing a new President of the USA, and, as occurs every four years, the Electoral College of the USA has again come under scrutiny.

As my friend Stuart Schnee has queried on FaceBook: Is there a good reason to keep the electoral college now?

Like Stuart I am conservative about changing things in the political structure of a reasonably successful democracy (actually, a Republic - as James Madison says [“A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place” …] in Federalist No. 10 of "The Federalist Papers").
However, I have been hearing about this and thinking about it for at least fifty years now (political awareness begins early in my family), so I have some thoughts to share on the topic.
It DOES seem to me that that there is no longer a rationale for keeping the US Electoral College (and I say this without any relation to the present Presidential elections, in which I understand that Hillary Clinton has actually won the popular vote, though having lost the Presidency – after all, four other Presidential elections have gone that way over the years as well).
Looking over the Federalist Papers, I see a host of explanations for having an Electoral College of which few, if any, seem to have any applicability today.

The electors aren't even people whom we, the voters, know, anymore. We are much more likely to have in depth information about the candidates than to know anything about the electors (even their names) - the opposite of the situation which pertained when the US Constitution was written.
There is no reasonable, democratic way to guarantee that at least one of the houses of Congress be dominated by a different party than the President's - which seems to me the best way to guarantee against "the tyranny of the majority" which so many of the USA's Founding Fathers were fearful of - but, I assume that this why we also have the Judicial Branch of the USA Government.
Therefore, it seems to me that the Electoral College has "run its course" and should be abolished, and that the President might just as well be elected by direct popular vote - the other checks and balances of the American system should protect against the gross abuses that many feared, and wanted the Electoral College to protect against, in the late 18th century.
However, this change will only come to pass when enough of the USA electorate and legislators actually invest enough of their time on this issue to come to an informed opinion about it (and even then, there may be a majority who, nevertheless, want to remain with the traditional Electoral College), and I, personally, am not particularly concerned about this.

After all, the system is NOT UNFAIR to the CANDIDATES for President, since they all know how it operates and all plan their campaign strategies in order to win a majority of the electors – it is just silly, in the age of instantaneous electronic communication, to continue with a system constructed largely based upon the constraints of a period when one could not communicate between one end of the (much smaller) USA and the other in less than a few days of travel by horse or boat!

Since altering the Constitution is a serious matter the Founding Fathers made approving an amendment a rather involved process, though it is possible and has been done several times when enough public interest was raised on a topic.
Therefore, whenever there is enough popular pressure (from citizen actions groups, or whatever – if this ever actually occurs), the houses of Congress, or the legislatures of the states (each option is possible), can, by a two-thirds majority, cause the initiation of the process which can, if ratified by three-fourths of the states, alter the situation to something less silly.
Or maybe not enough people are really interested enough for this process to occur with regard to the Electoral College, and most people are willing to live with this silly institution even in this day and age?

Aug 6, 2015

Shtikipedia 0001 - Internet Encyclopedia Parody

This is an entry on my blog solely for the purpose of use for the "Shtikipedia" internet encyclopedia parody:

This an official Shtikipedia entry, which is ABSOLUTELY TRUE (since it says it is!  ;-) ), verifying that:
1. Pittsburgh, when written on a birth certificate from the State of Pennsylvania, really means Zimbabwe!
2. Ally County, when written on a birth certificate from the State of Pennsylvania, really means Africa!

Jul 3, 2015

The Confederate Flag Revisited

This is an article of mine which appeared in the Times of Israel.

Now that in my previous post I noted that display of the Confederate flag (clearly an anti-USA symbol, though an historical artifact) is totally inappropriate in official government buildings, I find that an exaggerated version of the thoughts I expressed has led to the cessation of selling Confederate flag artifacts by many retailers. This appears absolutely ridiculous to me; I think it is time to come to grips with the Confederate flag in a sensible manner.
To put it simply: The Confederate flag is an artifact like any other; though it is inappropriate for a place in any official government setting, the freedoms guaranteed in the USA demand that it be available to the public. It DOES belong in museums, as I noted in my previous post - and also in private collections, universities where historical periods are studied, and the like.
I do not see why any reasonable freedom-loving American would want it to be otherwise. Like many historical artifacts, it has many unpleasant associations (many of which are opposed to the ideals which the USA holds sacred), but that is no different from historical artifacts relating to Czarist Russia, to give one example.
As I always understood it, the fact that an object has objectionable associations does not justify banning it in a free society. It does justify speaking out and noting those objectionable associations, and of course it makes such an object totally inappropriate for display in any official government setting (which would be like validating the objectionable ideals of which the object is a symbol). However, it does NOT justify making the object unavailable to those who wish to study it for historical purposes or to own it for whatever purposes they may have (such as collectors, or those who see positive things from the southern heritage in the Confederate flag).

Legitimate problems (like the display of the Confederate flag in state legislatures, etc.) should not drag us into extreme and exaggerated responses. Let’s just remove the Confederate flag from official government settings without getting hysterical over it!

Jun 28, 2015

Deliberations on the Confederate Flag

This is an article of mine which appeared in the Times of Israel:

With all of the discussion of the Confederate flag that I see on the internet, I would like to point out a few things:

1. I think that the most cogent comment about the Confederate Flag issue that I have heard was, surprisingly, made by a politician! It was when Jeb Bush said that in Florida the Confederate Flag had been taken out of government buildings quite a few years ago, and put in "a museum where it belonged."

2. While I agree that dealing with the Confederate flag appropriately may hurt the feelings of certain people who have their own private legitimate interpretations of that flag that are not racist or desirous of the disintegration of the United States of America or the like, and I want to be considerate of those people and to be tolerant of their right to such interpretations, one must be cognizant that the historical entity (the Confederacy) represented by the symbol of the Confederate flag is NOT in accordance with such interpretations, and pretending otherwise is just another form of Political Correctness!

3. Not being a fan of Political Correctness, and not identifying politically as either left-wing or right-wing (I like to think of myself, humorously, as sort of "middle of the bird", as comedian Pat Paulsen used to put it), I want to encourage people to abandon this particular form of Political Correctness (which is more identified with the right-wing) as well as other forms of Political Correctness (more often than not, identified with the left-wing).

4. Let us be frank with ourselves, the Confederate flag is, objectively, and historically, a symbol of at least acquiescence in the disintegration of that great union of territory and people called "The United States of America", as well as a symbol of the legitimization of slavery.
The information to prove this is available to anyone who wants it.
If the Confederacy had remained, it is quite likely that Texas (and possibly other states) would have broken off to form its own independent country (see: here, and here, among others), and that the threats to world freedom which the United States helped fight would have been much more difficult to defeat.
As far as slavery goes, from the mention of "an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery" in the South Carolina Declaration of Secession (the very first such declaration - see: here) as a major part of the justification for leaving the Union, to the secession declarations of other states such as Mississippi (see: here), and Georgia (see: here), among others, which relate to their attitude toward slavery (that it must be preserved) as a major reason for secession, one can see that upholding slavery was a major aim of the Confederacy.

5. The above, it seems quite clear to me, demonstrates quite definitively that the Confederate flag does NOT belong in any USA federal, state, or municipal government edifice. The symbolism of that flag intended by the founders of the Confederacy makes it an object which does NOT honor any government edifice in which it might be placed.
Of course, private people are free to do as they please (including inventing new interpretations of the Confederate flag that do not support racism, etc.), but I see no room for governments in the USA to display this symbol, and every reason for them to reject its display.

In summary, I think that Jeb Bush put it quite well, and that the Confederate flag should be put in museums where it belongs.

Sep 2, 2012

Clint Eastwood’s Speech at the Republican National Convention, Summer, 2012

After hearing so much about it, I just viewed the video of Clint Eastwood’s speech at the Republican National Convention:

Since most left-wingers had expressed harsh criticism of Eastwood’s speech and most right-wingers had expressed strong support for the speech, I had strongly suspected that opinions expressed about the speech were more influenced by one’s political persuasion than by the quality of the speech! Being a “middle of the bird” man, myself, I have decided to present my opinion about the speech in the hope that it is a more balanced and objective opinion than those which I mentioned above.

Indeed, in my opinion, it was definitely NOT Clint Eastwood’s greatest speech ever! Eastwood is an 82 year old actor-director whose true “glory days” were 30 to 50 years ago, and he speaks slowly and sometimes appears to lose track of what he wants to say next. I am also definitely NOT a fan of foul language (like the “f-word” which was hinted at a few times in Eastwood’s speech), especially when it does not add anything, as, in my opinion, it did not add anything to the satiric speech that Eastwood was giving; but, of course, an actor in modern times using foul language is hardly unusual, and Eastwood didn’t even actually state the words, he just hinted (very strongly) at them. So, on the whole, the speech definitely did not “make my day”.

On the other hand, for an 82 year old, he presented a remarkably coherent satire of Barack Obama and his policies. Even when he stumbled, as he did several times, Clint Eastwood got back on track reasonably well and continued in a comprehensible manner! His speech definitely did not appear to me to be a “disgrace”, spoken by a sad and pathetic old-timer who has “lost it”, as those who oppose his political views seemed to think.

I  am certain that someone else could have put together a better satire, but that is true about almost every satire, or speech (or anything else in the world): someone else with a little more intelligence, a bit cleverer humor, or a little more pizzazz, could have done it better!

Regarding the complaints about Clint Eastwood’s use of an empty chair to represent Barack Obama, I found them kind of amusing. The empty chair, like Doonesbury comic strip’s use of an empty cowboy hat to represent George W. Bush, was simply a satiric method of emphasizing how little actual content there is to the “satiree” (i.e., the person being satirized)! You can agree or disagree with that assessment of the “satiree”, but it is certainly not an illegitimate or crazy manner of making that point. Indeed, I would not be surprised if the person who prepared Eastwood’s “right-wing” speech got the idea from the Doonesbury “left-wing” comic strip.

So, all in all, I found Clint Eastwood’s speech to be a reasonable effort satirizing Barack Obama, and indicating his support for Mitt Romney, even though it was not really to my taste.

And, once again, with regard to the extreme criticism (and some of the extreme praise) of Eastwood’s speech, it seems we have an example of commentators’ political views affecting their assessment of the quality of someone’s performance.

Jun 18, 2012

Great Video about All of Am Yisrael Singing Hatikvah

Here is a link to a great video about all of Am Yisrael singing Hatikvah, with a beautiful surprise ending, which I saw on my friend Rafi's blogsite:

Rafi's blogsite address is:

May 21, 2012