Thursday, August 18, 2016

Marcos Redux

But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he.
— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,

The Wreck of the Hesperus

We interrupt election news just long enough to bring you breaking news of Ferdinand Marcos, deceased. As corpses’ sojourns go, his has been one of the most enduring, due in large part to the devoted attention of his wife, Imelda. To long time readers of this column, apologies are in order since some of what is described today was reported ten years ago in this very space.

Ferdinand moved to Hawaii in 1986, having been overthrown as president of the Philippines in a People Power Revolution. His move was assisted by President Ronald Reagan who arranged for the United States Air Force to provide two U.S. Air Force C-141s to carry the Marcos family, its retainers and belongings to Hawaii. Sadly, Mr. Marcos’s sojourn there was cut short by his death on September 28, 1989. His death marked the end of one adventure but the beginning of another, an adventure that will end on September 18, 2016, when he will come to rest in the Heroes Cemetery in Manila.

The question that was presented to the family, following Ferdie’s death in 1989, was what to do with his corpse. Imelda wanted him buried in the Philippines, but the government there would not permit the family or the corpse to return to the country. Barred from returning Ferdie to the Philippines, Imelda bought a refrigerated casket into which he was placed. In order to provide him with amusement, Imelda arranged for Handel’s Messiah to be played inside the casket 24 hours a day. Ever thoughtful, in 1990, on the occasion of Ferdie’s birthday, Imelda arranged for a birthday party and Ferdie was wheeled into the party to a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” sung by the guests in attendance at the festivities. Notwithstanding the pleasant surroundings and the musical casket, Imelda wanted to return to the Philippines with Ferdie so that he could be given a proper burial. In 1990 she was permitted to return in and 1992, the frozen corpse followed her.

Once he was back in the Philippines, Imelda wanted Ferdie buried in the Heroes Cemetery in Manilla but the country’s president refused the request, saying Ferdie could only be buried in his hometown of Batac. Accordingly, Ferdie was taken to Batac, and placed in a glass coffin beneath the Seal of the Presidency in front of an eternal flame. According to reports at the time, Handel’s Messiah was replaced by an unidentified piece by Mozart, a welcome substitution, one assumes, irrespective of how fond one is of Handel’s Messiah. For the ceremony in Batac, Ferdinand was wearing a white Barong long-sleeved shirt and a rainbow colored chest sash bearing medals from World War II. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Imelda said that the burial was only temporary. When, in the future, permission was granted for a burial in the Heroes Cemetery, she, ever the optimist said: “We’ll dig him up and move him down and bury him again. We do that all the time.” Following the Batac burial, the saga continued.

In March 1997, a dispute arose between the Marcos family and the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative that was keeping Ferdie cold and providing his musical entertainment. Ilocos was upset that there were $214,500 in unpaid electric bills for cooling and Mozart. The word on the street was that without cooling, Ferdie would last at most seven days. A utility company spokesman said after that, things would become, to use his words, “messy.” The dispute over the unpaid bill was resolved before that happened.

Following the dispute over cooling the family chilled out until September 12, 2006 when it was reported that Imelda had given up trying to put Ferdie in the Heroes Cemetery in Manila and was going to place him, instead, in a plot on the family property in his hometown. That, everyone thought, was that. But Ferdie’s peregrinations were not yet over.

On August 13, 2016, it was announced that Ferdie would once again be on the move. His new final resting place is to be in the Heroes Cemetery in Manila. This came about because on July 11, 2016, Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte, said that Ferdie could be buried in the Heroes Cemetery. According to the announcement, the military is to provide “all necessary military honors that are accorded Presidents of the Philippines. . . .” The announcement further states that the Army is to provide: “vigil, bugler/drummer, firing party, military host/pall bearers, escort and transportation, and arrival and departure honors.” The “arrival and departure” honors are probably superfluous since Ferdie is, by anyone’s calculations, long gone. The rest of the ceremony, however, is certainly going to be a ceremony to behold. He will be buried in a solid bronze casket purchased from a company in the United States. Ferdie’s son expressed the hope that the burial would bring the saga of the corpse to an end. That would seem to be a reasonable thing to hope and expect. There is no better place left to send Ferdinand.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Wordsmiths

When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less.”

—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

From time to time presidential campaigns present didactic moments and this is such a time. It presents us with familiar words to which completely new meanings have been affixed by the candidates. In Mr. Trump’s case, the most recent addition to our collective vocabularies is the word “sacrifice.” In Ms. Clinton’s case, the words are “short circuit.” We begin our scholarly, if that it be, examination of the use of those words with Mr. Trump’s use of the word “sacrifice.”

Sacrifice was often used in connection with offering the life of an animal or person to a god in hopes of gaining favor of the god for whom the sacrifice was made. Another meaning is giving up something in order to help someone else. A person who gives up his life to protect someone else, for example, is commonly said to have sacrificed his life. A good example of this use was sadly offered at the Democratic National Convention when Khizr Khan spoke from the podium with his wife standing beside him. Mr. Khan was describing the heroic act of his son who acted to save the lives of men under his command. An American Muslim, and a Captain in the United States Army, he posthumously received the Bronze Star for his brave action. Mr. Khan criticized Mr. Trump for his comments about Muslims and immigrants saying: “Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United states of America. . . . You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

Understandably Mr. Trump took umbrage at the suggestion he had sacrificed nothing, and to prove his point, gave us all a new understanding of the word “sacrifice.” Mr. Trump said: “I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of job. . . built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.” Thus, the new meaning for sacrifice is being very successful in whatever you undertake.

Hillary Clinton has imparted new meaning to words that were commonly associated with things electrical. The words are “Short Circuit.” “Short circuit” first entered the lexicon in its new incarnation when Ms. Clinton was discussing her use of email while serving as Secretary of State. Although the use or misuse of her email is of no substantive importance, her attempts to consistently explain her email procedures, while serving as Secretary of State, has given the question a life of its own that far overshadows any substantive concerns over her practices.

A report in Politico describes the various things Ms. Clinton has said over the past year with respect to her e mail usage while serving as Secretary of State. It then contrasts her statements with FBI Director, James Comey’s testimony before the House Benghazi Committee in early July. Among other things, Mr. Comey contradicted Ms. Clinton’s assertion (a) that while serving as Secretary of State she used only one device (he said she used four), (b) that she returned all work-related e mails to the state department (he said thousands were not returned), and© that she did not e mail “any classified material to anyone on my email” (Comey said “there was classified material emailed.”)

When Ms. Clinton was speaking to a convention of black and Hispanic journalists in Washington on August 5 2016, the e mail question once again presented itself. Ms. Clinton asserted that she did not lie to the FBI (which no one has disputed since no one knows what she said to the FBI) but then made a convoluted explanation that introduces us to the new use of the word “short circuit.” She told the assembled journalists: “What I told the FBI-which he [Comey] said was truthful-is consistent with what I have said publicly.” That, of course, seems to be untrue when considered in the context of Mr. Comey’s testimony before the Congressional Subcommittee. Continuing her explanation to the assembled journalists she said: “I may have short circuited, and for that, I will try to clarify.” Here follows an example of how those two words can be used in common situations in which readers may, from time to time, find themselves.

Mother walks into the kitchen and her six-year-old son is standing next to a glass of spilled milk that is on the floor. When confronted by mother, son denies responsibility for the spill. Mother is very angry with son’s denial and reports it to father when father comes home from work. Father then confronts son and asks: “Did you lie to your mother?” Son, who is precocious and a young news junkie has been keeping up with the election news. He responds: “I short circuited, and for that I will try to clarify.” To that father replies: “I am greatly relieved to hear that son. I was afraid you had lied to your mother.”
Christopher Brauchli can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Voting in Kansas?

As long as I count the votes, what are you
going to do about it?

Attributed to William Marcy Tweed

Kansas is back in the news, and the purpose of this column is to reassure Kansans that although he played a vital role as a member of the Republican Party Platform Committee, their Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, has not let the affairs of Kansas languish.

Mr. Kobach’s role on the Republican Platform Committee has been significant. One of his accomplishments was getting language inserted into the platform that addresses the border wall Donald Trump has proposed. The language that he caused to be inserted states that: “The border wall must cover the entirety of the southern border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.” The Platform Committee also responded favorably to Mr. Kobach’s suggestion that the platform condemn the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court opinion legalizing gay marriage, a decision he called “obviously incorrect.” Mr. Kobach is a lawyer so he is in a good position to evaluate the correctness of decisions rendered by the country’s highest court.

Notwithstanding his involvement in convention activities, Mr. Kobach still had time to address critical issues in Kansas. The most critical issue confronting Kansans during the upcoming election season, as Kansans who follow such things know, is non-citizen-voter fraud and here, under Mr. Kobach’s guidance, is how it has been addressed.

On July 11, 2016, the Kansas Rules and Regulations Board approved a temporary regulation that pertains to Kansas citizens who register to vote at motor vehicle offices but do not bring with them proof of citizenship. The new rule is expected to impact roughly 17,000 voters who registered to vote at motor vehicle offices without providing proof of citizenship. Here is how that the new rule will work in practice.

When voters who registered to vote at motor vehicle offices without presenting proof of citizenship show up to vote, they will get the same ballot as everyone else, but it will be treated as “provisional” and, after the election, only votes on that ballot for federal races will be counted and votes for local races will not.

Mr. Kobach was not acting mindlessly in asking for this new regulation. The Kansas legislature had already enacted the Secure and Fair Elections law that imposes proof of citizenship requirements on Kansas voters who want to register to vote, but the law had already been successfully challenged in 2016 in both state and federal courts. In January, a District Court Judge in Shawnee County Kansas ruled that: “a person is either registered to vote or he or she is not. . . . [T]he right to vote, is not tied to the method of registration.”

In May, U.S District Judge, Julie Robinson, said that the Kansas Statute ran afoul of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) the aim of which is to make voter registration simple rather than difficult. She said that Kansas cannot require proof of citizenship in order for citizens to register to vote in federal elections. In her ruling, Judge Robinson observed that by having one kind of registration for federal elections and another for state elections, Kansas will have a two tiered election regime “that would create separate requirements for registering to vote for federal and state elections.” She observed that that” “is a problem of the State’s own making. If the State wishes to change its voter registration laws that directly contradict the provisions of the NVRA, it does so at its own risk. To the extent such laws are preempted by the NVRA, they may not apply to registration for federal elections.”

Although Mr. Kobach appealed both those rulings, he knew he had to do something before the 2016 elections took place since no appeal would be finally decided until after the elections. And that is why he found it necessary to persuade the Kansas Rules and Regulations Board to enact the regulations described above. The new regulations may not, however, be the panacea Mr. Kobach hoped. On July 19, 2016, the ACLU filed suit attacking the newly issued regulations claiming that they violate both state law and the state constitution. Its hope is to have the constitutionality of that regulation addressed by the court in advance of the upcoming elections.

It is easy to be critical of Mr. Kobach and attribute his persistence to a wish to suppress voter turnout. That would not be fair since his concern about non-citizens voting is not without justification. As Judge Robinson observed in her opinion, “There is evidence of only three instances where noncitizens actually voted in a federal election between 1995 and 2013” and, she further observed that during that same period about 14 non-citizens attempted to register. Only a partisan would deny that those examples justify Mr. Kobach’s attempts to protect the sanctity of the Kansas voting process by disenfranchising 17,000 Kansas citizens.