Monday, November 28, 2016

Cruising the Web

It has been unsurprising, yet disappointing, how many on the left celebrate the life of Fidel Castro. It seems to be a mixture of admiration for his revolutionary success and his communism combined with a delight at his ability to thwart American presidents. The fact that he was a tyrant who cruelly punished, even executed, his political foes while denying the freedoms we take for granted seem to be of minor importance to his admirers. The condolences of national leaders seem to ignore his decades of tyranny and are more prepared to celebrate his life while leaving any discussion of his legacy to history. How many other world leaders die and other leaders equivocate on their historical legacy?

Andrew Stuttaford reminds us of how Castro had recommended to Nikita Khrushchev that the Soviets carry out a preemptive
first strike against the United States. Here is what Khrushchev wrote in reply.
In your cable of October 27 you proposed that we be the first to carry out a nuclear strike against the enemy’s territory. Naturally you understand where that would lead us. It would not be a simple strike, but the start of a thermonuclear world war.

Dear Comrade Fidel Castro, I find your proposal to be wrong, even though I understand your reasons.

We have lived through a very grave moment, a global thermonuclear war could have broken out. Of course the United States would have suffered enormous losses, but the Soviet Union and the whole socialist bloc would have also suffered greatly. It is even difficult to say how things would have ended for the Cuban people. First of all, Cuba would have burned in the fires of war. Without a doubt the Cuban people would have fought courageously but, also without a doubt, the Cuban people would have perished heroically. We struggle against imperialism, not in order to die, but to draw on all of our potential, to lose as little as possible, and later to win more, so as to be a victor and make communism triumph.
Think of that. Castro was willing to initiate a thermonuclear war even if his own people were to die in the ensuing calamity. And that great hero of the left Che Guevara endorsed that suggestion.
Here is the electrifying example of a people prepared to suffer nuclear immolation so that its ashes may serve as a foundation for new societies. When an agreement was reached by which the atomic missiles were removed, without asking our people, we were not relieved or thankful…
I remember when the left castigated the United States for endangering the world through nuclear war. Remember how they responded to Reagan's putting missiles in Europe. But Castro and Che get a free pass.

In the Miami Herald's obituary, Glenn Garvin reminds us of what Castro's regime meant for Cuba.
He ended American domination of the island’s economy, swept away the old political system and the traditional army, nationalized large and small land holdings and brought reforms in education and healthcare.

He also was a ruthless dictator, the Maximum Leader who reneged on his promise of free elections, executed thousands of opponents, imprisoned tens of thousands, installed a Communist regime and made his island a pawn in the Cold War. His alliance with the Soviet Union brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962.

He created a repressive state that rigidly controlled the arts, the press, the airwaves. An efficient secret police force was aided by neighborhood spies and pro-government mobs that attacked those who dared to call for democratic change. Cultural enemies were vulnerable, too; well into the 1970s, Castro was imprisoning gays and long-haired young people in work camps.
Leftists who are outraged if a baker refuses to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage don't seem bothered by Castro's imprisoning gays. And remember his regime's attacks on those who dared to try to escape the island, particularly after the fall of the Soviet Union cut off the spigot of aid.
By 1994, Castro’s government was in its most perilous state since the days of the Bay of Pigs. Several small riots erupted, and thousands of Cubans hurled themselves lemming-like into the sea on flimsy rafts of plywood and inner tubes, praying to catch a lucky current to Miami.

When Cuban government ships spotted a tugboat full of refugees headed for Florida on July 13, 1994, they blasted it to pieces with high-pressure fire hoses. “Our tugboat started taking on water,” recounted one of the survivors, María Victoria García. “We shouted to the crewmen on the boat, ‘Look at the children! You’re going to kill them!’ And they said, ‘Let them die! Let them die!’ ” Forty-one of the refugees did.
And those who praised the socialist country as a paradise with free health care ignored the true economic situation.
The dream of a Marxist society without social or economic distinctions was gone. In its place was a rigid class system: those with dollars and those without. Doctors, lawyers and even nuclear engineers were abandoning their professions in droves to drive taxis or work as tour guides, anything to get their hands on dollars instead of nearly worthless Cuban pesos.

Tenants in Havana’s low-cost colonial tenements watched fearfully as their neighbors were evicted and their buildings torn down to make room for quaint new tourist hotels and restaurants. And the Internet bristled with endorsements of Havana as one of the world’s top sex-tourism spots, with thousands of pretty women available for the price of a cheap dinner.
And while Hollywood stars and popes might visit, civil liberties were still denied.
Roundups of dissidents continued regularly through the final years of Castro’s rule. He might ease the pressure occasionally for public-relations purposes — several hundred prisoners were released in advance of Pope John Paul II’s visit to the island in January 1998 — but inevitably resume when the spotlight moved elsewhere.

“Cuba remains a Latin American anomaly: an undemocratic government that represses nearly all forms of political dissent,” the independent group Human Rights Watch observed in 2008. “Cubans are systematically denied basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement, and due process of law.”
For those who praise his country for its advances in education and health care, I'd ask whether they truly believe that such advances were only achievable by establishing a tyrannical dictatorship. Plenty of other countries have advance since 1959 without similar behavior.
His revolution made undeniable gains in education and health care, raising literacy and slashing infant mortality. But his critics note that other Latin American nations like Costa Rica made improvements, too, without sacrificing their economies or their civil liberties.
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As the WSJ writes,
The Cuba that Castro inherited was developing but relatively prosperous. It ranked third in Latin America in doctors and dentists and daily calorie consumption per capita. Its infant-mortality rate was the lowest in the region and the 13th lowest in the world. Cubans were among the most literate Latins and had a vibrant civic life with private professional, commercial, religious and charitable organizations.

Castro destroyed all that. He ruined agriculture by imposing collective farms, making Cuba dependent first on the Soviets and later on oil from Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela. In the past half century Cuba’s export growth has been less than Haiti’s, and now even doctors are scarce because so many are sent abroad to earn foreign currency. Hospitals lack sheets and aspirin. The average monthly income is $20 and government food rations are inadequate.

All the while Fidel and his brother Raúl sought to spread their Communist revolution throughout the world, especially in Latin America. They backed the FARC in Colombia, the Shining Path in Peru and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Their propaganda about peasant egalitarian movements beguiled thousands of Westerners, from celebrities like Sean Penn and Danny Glover to Secretary of State John Kerry, who on a visit to Havana called the U.S. and Cuba “prisoners of history.” The prisoners are in Cuban jails.

On this score, President Obama’s morally antiseptic statement Saturday on Castro is an insult to his victims....

Mr. Obama’s 2014 decision to normalize U.S.-Cuba relations has provided new business opportunities for the regime but has yielded nothing in additional freedom. Americans can now travel and make limited investment in Cuba but hard-currency wages for workers are confiscated by the government in return for nearly worthless pesos. In 2006 Forbes estimated Fidel’s net worth, based on his control of “a web of state-owned companies,” at $900 million.

The hope of millions of Cubans, exiled and still on the island, has been that Fidel’s death might finally lead to change, but unwinding nearly six decades of Castro rule will be difficult. The illusions of Communism have given way to a military state that still arrests and beats women on their way to church. China and Russia both allow more economic freedom. The regime fears that easing up on dissent, entrepreneurship or even access to the internet would lead to its inevitable demise.
But what did President Obama care about the reality of what happened after his decision to normalize relations with Cuba. As with his Iran deal, Obama's claims about the results transcend the reality of the results.

George Will reviews the swooning that leftists such as Jean Paul Sartre indulged in over Fidel Castro's tyranny.
With the end of Fidel Castro’s nasty life Friday night, we can hope, if not reasonably expect, to have seen the last of charismatic totalitarians worshiped by political pilgrims from open societies. Experience suggests there will always be tyranny tourists in flight from what they consider the boring banality of bourgeois society and eager for the excitement of sojourns in “progressive” despotisms that they are free to admire and then leave.

During the 1930s, there were many apologists for Josef Stalin’s brutalities, which he committed in the name of building a workers’ paradise fit for an improved humanity. The apologists complacently said, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.” To which George Orwell acidly replied: “Where’s the omelet?”

David French reflects on leftist academics who admired Fidel Castro.
I didn’t realize how many Americans actually hate their own country until I talked about Fidel Castro at Harvard Law School. I had no idea how many Americans despise democracy and have no problem with tyranny – so long as they’re in charge – until I talked about Castro in Manhattan. And I had no clue how many Americans believed that sins committed in the name of socialism weren’t sins at all until I talked about Castro in Ithaca, New York.

Indeed, these early conversations about Castro – and his mass murdering friend, Che Guevara – helped teach my younger self that there was indeed a difference between “liberals” and the radical Left. Liberals are people a lot like me. We broadly share many of the same goals, including a shared interest in greater American prosperity and power. We love this country. During the Cold War, we shared opposition to the Soviet Union. Our policy disagreements are important, but we still share a common bond.

There was no political bond with the radicals I met in law school. They liked Castro because he was a communist. They loved him for his opposition to American power. They were completely indifferent to the suffering he inflicted on dissidents. These people, after all, were likely American spies and dupes, to be treated with all the contempt they deserved....

For years Castro served as a form of ideological Rorschach Test. Loving or even liking him immediately placed a person in a very particular political community, one that likely as not believed the entire left-wing indictment of American history and culture. Showing respect for Castro indicated the degree to which the radicals could hijack even reasonable people. Our own president’s ambiguous statement after Castro’s death shows the reach of the Castro apologetic.

Carlos Eire writes in the Washington Post about how so man on the left accepted Castro's fantasies about the wonderful things he was doing for his country.
Because deceit was one of Fidel Castro’s greatest talents, and gullibility is one of the world’s greatest frailties. A genius at myth-making, Castro relied on the human thirst for myths and heroes. His lies were beautiful, and so appealing. According to Castro and to his propagandists, the so-called revolution was not about creating a repressive totalitarian state and securing his rule as an absolute monarch, but rather about eliminating illiteracy, poverty, racism, class differences and every other ill known to humankind. This bold lie became believable, thanks largely to Castro’s incessant boasting about free schools and medical care, which made his myth of the benevolent utopian revolution irresistible to many of the world’s poor.

Many intellectuals, journalists and educated people in the First World fell for this myth, too — though they would have been among the first to be jailed or killed by Castro in his own realm — and their assumptions acquired an intensity similar to that of religious convictions. Pointing out to such believers that Castro imprisoned, tortured and murdered thousands more of his own people than any other Latin American dictator was usually futile. His well-documented cruelty made little difference, even when acknowledged, for he was judged according to some aberrant ethical code that defied logic.

This Kafkaesque moral disequilibrium had a touch of magical realism, for sure, as outrageously implausible as anything that Castro’s close friend Gabriel García Márquez could dream up. For instance, in 1998, around the same time that Chile’s ruler Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London for his crimes against humanity, Cuba’s self-anointed “maximum leader” visited Spain with ample fanfare, unmolested, even though his human rights abuses dwarfed those of Pinochet.

Even worse, whenever Castro traveled abroad, many swooned in his presence. In 1995, when he came to New York to speak at the United Nations, many of the leading lights of that city jostled so intently for a chance to meet with him at media mogul Mort Zuckerman’s triplex penthouse on Fifth Avenue that Time magazine declared “Fidel Takes Manhattan!” Not to be outdone, Newsweek called Castro “The Hottest Ticket in Manhattan.” None of the American elites who hobnobbed with Castro that day seemed to care that he had put nuclear weapons to their heads in 1962.
Eire then goes on to provide 13 facts that should be etched on Castro's tombstone. It is a list well worth reading and remembering among the mealy-mouthed statements being issued upon his death.

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Timothy Carney gives one example
of how damaging Trump's conflicts of interest can be.
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China is the largest bank in the world. Its majority owner is the Communist government of China. ICBC's New York address is 725 5th Avenue — also known as Trump Tower.

In two months, that means, the president of the United States will be pocketing rent checks from a state-run megabank owned by the United States' largest military and economic rival.

This is a plain conflict of interest. Trump's personal finances may not depend on it, but they will hinged to continued good relations with, and the economic success of, ICBC. You don't need to posit the most corrupt circumstance — such as the Chinese regime currying favor or extorting policies from Trump through payment or withholding of payment — to imagine circumstances where his personal financial interests will clash with the national interest.

For instance, the U.S. is currently pushing Asian nations to dismantle and shrink their state-owned enterprises. If Trump pushes China too hard to close its largest state-owned bank, he will actually be antagonizing a tenant.

ICBC has also been the foreign counterparty in U.S. subsidy deals. For instance, the bank's aircraft leasing arm buys American-made jets with the help of U.S.-taxpayer financing via the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. These subsidy deals are supposed to serve the interests of American businesses. But would Trump have an attachment to one particular foreign buyer or lender if it were his business partner?

With a little imagination, you could foresee a thousand potential conflicts springing from his arrangement with ICBC. Then recall that Trump has hundreds of similar connections with hundreds of domestic and foreign companies.
And that is just one connection. He has hundreds such connections with other countries. And that isn't all that should be concerning us.
With Trump, there's another reason to worry: He judges other people and determines how to treat them based on how they treat him. When asked to assess various public figures, Trump consistently uses this measure: I like him, he treated me well in a business deal. I dislike her, she lost me money.

So if a foreign leader wants to curry favor with the President could he pull it off by cutting a good deal with some Trump business? Forget about a bribe or a quid pro quo, President Trump may just say, That Erdogan has a bad rap, but I know he's a good guy because he treated my hotel well.

A student that I had last year and remembered reading an excerpt from George Washington Plunkitt about honest graft sent me this article from The Atlantic.
Yoni Appelbaum writes that Trump's seeming obliviousness to the conflicts of interest regarding his business is similar to Plunkitt's definition of "honest graft."
I thought of Plunkitt—a leader of New York’s Democratic political machine, Tammany Hall, in the late 19th century—as I read the transcript of Trump’s fascinating, rambling conversation with the Times. Trump seemed not just unconcerned about the potential for conflicts, but actually mystified by the notion that his conduct might be problematic. His questioners seemed equally baffled by his lack of concern. And that disconnect suggests that they’re not just arguing about specific acts, but about two very different theories of government, in ways that recall the politics of Plunkitt’s day.

To its critics, Tammany Hall was a metonym for the rank corruption of urban machine politics, an organization that leveraged ethnic solidarity, racial hostility, street-level violence, and favors for its constituents to win elections, squander public funds—and line the pockets of its leaders. To its defenders, it was a means to ensure that government tended the interests of the white working classes, providing patronage jobs, public services, protection, and patriotic pageantry that sneering elites would have otherwise denied them. Tammany Hall persistently found itself beset by scandal—and persistently won elections, to the chagrin of its critics. In crucial ways, it’s the same split that’s unfolding today. And back then, no defender made his case more memorably than Plunkitt.

“Nobody thinks of drawin’ the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft,” Plunkitt said. “There’s all the difference in the world between the two.” He had no patience, of course, for dishonest graft—the embezzlement of public funds, the abuse of power for blackmail—which pitted politicians against the interests of the people. But that, he insisted, was the opposite of the honest graft he practiced, which helped guarantee of good government and the smooth functioning of American democracy. A politician who is loyal to his friends, serves the public, and profits from his service as a result? His interests, Plunkitt argued, are perfectly aligned—unlike those of politicians who advance only their own self-interest, or are loyal to lofty ideals, with little regard for others.
Plunkitt's frank discussion of what he called "honest graft" always amuses my students. You might be familiar with his characterization of his actions as “I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.” Trump may or may not be seeking to make money out of his presidency, but he doesn't seem to have any idea of why people are upset at what he has been doing.
It’s difficult not to form the impression that if Trump is unconcerned with the criticism that he faces conflicts, it’s because he simply doesn’t see these interests as conflicting. If his experience in Scotland convinced him of the dangers of wind farms, wouldn’t it be wrong not to apply that lesson more broadly? If his businesses thrive in India, doesn’t that strengthen his reputation and relationships with a key ally? If he’s polite to his partners, and loyal to his friends, isn’t that what Americans expect of their leaders? Isn’t everyone better off, when the incentives all align?

Then there was Trump’s discussion of his new hotel just down the street from the White House. “They’ll say I have a conflict because we just opened a beautiful hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue,” he complained, “so every time somebody stays at that hotel, if they stay because I’m president, I guess you could say it’s a conflict of interest.” But for Trump, who insisted that he won’t be running the business anyway, such critiques are beside the point. “The brand is certainly a hotter brand than it was before,” he said, “I can’t help that, but I don’t care … Because it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters to me is running our country.”

He’s pursuing the public interest; if he does it well, his brand will be a hotter brand than it was before. And if his hotel has hired a director of diplomatic sales, and if foreign governments are booking rooms to curry favor, how can he help that? George Washington Plunkitt would’ve approved.
It's one more sign that Trump eit. her doesn't have anyone that will tell him what he doesn't want to hear or he simply ignores what he's told. That's not how a good leader acts. Successful leaders are like Don Corleone; they insist on hearing bad news immediately.

Ilya Somin analyzes the possibility that Trump could cut off federal funding from cities that refuse to alter their sanctuary policies regarding illegal immigrants. According to Supreme Court precedents, there are limitations on what the federal government can do regarding federal grants to states and cities.
Trump’s threat is not as formidable as it might seem.

Few if any federal grants to state and local governments are conditioned on cooperation with federal deportation efforts. The Supreme Court has long ruled that conditions on federal grants to state and local governments are not enforceable unless they are “unambiguously” stated in the text of the law “so that the States can knowingly decide whether or not to accept those funds.” In ambiguous cases, courts must assume that state and local governments are not required to meet the condition in question. In sum, the Trump administration can’t cut off any federal grants to sanctuary cities unless it can show that those grants were clearly conditioned on cooperation with federal deportation policies.

However, Thomas Lifson links to another analysis that says it will be relatively easy to cut off funds to sanctuary cities. Texas Congressman John Culberson claims that he got Attorney General Loretta Lynch to already certify that the top ten sanctuary cities as being non-compliant with federal law.
CULBERSON: Attorney General Lynch has already notified every city and state in the country that unless they cooperate 100 percent of the time with requests for immigration information about criminal aliens in local custody, then those local jurisdictions lose all their federal law enforcement money. That’s already up on the Department of Justice website. It has been official policy since July seventh. I just didn’t make any noise about it because the purpose of this election — America wants us to get it done, to get the job done, so I’ve taken care of it the job is done and President Trump can now cut off their money at noon on January 20th because it’s been policy.
He did this by using Congress's power of the purse and threatening the DOJ's budget if they didn't require those cities receiving grants that they are in compliance with federal law or will lose those federal grants.
Citing his committee’s power over the DOJ’s budget, Culberson stated in February:

Any refusal by the Department to comply with these reasonable and timely requests will factor heavily in my consideration of their 2017 budget requests, and whether or not I will include language in the fiscal year 2017 CJS appropriations bill prohibiting the award of law enforcement grants to jurisdictions that harbor illegal aliens. I will include language in this year’s bill requiring the DOJ to amend the application process for Byrne JAG, COPS, and SCAAP grants so that grantees must certify under oath that they are in compliance with section 1373 of title 8 of the United States Code.
So, from this it sounds as if the objections that Ilya Somin raised as to whether or not Trump could withdraw that federal money has already been taken care of. I expect we'll be hearing a lot more about this.

Eugene Volokh discusses
whether or not a business may refuse to serve or employ Trump supporters based on what the boss of a New Mexico business, 1st in SEO, has posted on his website asserting that it will no longer do business with "any person that is a registered Republican or supports Donald Trump".
If you are a Republican, voted for Donald Trump or support Donald Trump, in any manner, you are not welcome at 1st In SEO and we ask you to leave our firm.
Like so much in the law figuring out if this is legal depends. Different states and localities have different laws. There is no federal law banning discrimination based on political affiliation so it ends up being a matter for the states and localities. So, aside from the few places that do ban such discrimination, it seems that a business could decide not to serve customers who are Trump supporters. It would be up to the courts in these places, such as New Mexico, that have already ruled that a business can't refuse to provide services at a same-sex wedding, whether their anti-discrimination laws would also ban discrimination on the basis of political choices.

However, there are more laws protecting employees from retaliation for their political affiliation. Volokh's post is quite illuminating especially as he compares what this CEO has stated regarding politics to making the same statement and just inserting certain religions. I woynstitutional lawyer on call, reading The Volokh Conspiracy is the next best thing.

David Marcus describes
what happened in a market in Brooklyn when Lynyrd Skynyrd's song "Sweet Home Alabama" came on over the loudspeakers. There are, apparently, some songs that just can't be played in Brooklyn after Trump's election.
That’s when it started. I suppose there had been music playing in the store, but I hadn’t noticed until a familiar guitar lick pierced the air and a soft voice said, “Turn it up.”

Libby and I both stopped and looked at each other. “Seriously?” said my wife, a very disappointed Clinton supporter. She started gripping her soft Tomme Crayeuse a little too hard. By the time Ronnie Van Zant’s drawl started in with “Big wheels keep on turnin’,” everyone in the store was standing in shock. Brows were furrowed, people mumbled to each other. The song seemed to get louder as one of those New York moments happened, when everyone was thinking the exact the same thing.

A woman in her fifties, wearing a Love Trump Hates button, turned to her Brooklyn-bearded husband and said loudly, “This is unbelievable!” She found the nearest store clerk, a young woman in a green apron who was staring up at the ceiling, looking for the invisible speakers blaring this message from the other America. “This is so inappropriate,” the woman said. “Can we turn this off?”

....When the angry older woman with the anti-Trump button asked the clerk to turn off the song, the younger woman looked at her sympathetically and said, “I don’t know how.” In that moment, something seemed to click.

Of course, this woman thought that “Sweet Home Alabama” could just be turned off. After all, we can block out things we disagree with. We can unfriend people on Facebook, block them on Twitter, and decide not to let their negativity be a part of lives. For many progressives, this is the key to wellness.

But turning off Skynyrd doesn’t make it go away. Somewhere in the land where the stars still shine, it plays on, whether you hear it or not. The shock and despair in Brooklyn over Hillary Clinton’s unfathomable defeat comes in no small part because her denizens refused to hear the rumblings of an America they chose to ignore.

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I can barely keep up with all the arguments suddenly sprouting up about whether or not we should throw out the Electoral College and use the popular vote instead. It's not going to happen because it would require a constitutional amendment and the smaller states, which benefit from the system, just as they do from the structure of the Senate, would refuse. However, we do see other proposals. Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig argued recently that electors should vote for whichever candidate won the popular vote and ignore the vote of their particular state. That might appeal to Clinton supporters, but it also is never going to happen. The electors are chosen by the parties and are partisan loyalists. Lessig isn't going to get enough such electors to switch their votes. Orin Kerr also points out the logical fallacies behind Lessig's argument. Lessig argued that the Founders wanted the electors to exercise their independent judgment because they didn't trust the popular masses to choose the president. But then he goes on to argue that the national popular vote should determine the winner since using the Electoral College violates the principle of "one person, one vote" since the structure of the ELectoral College rewards smaller states with a disproportionate number of electors since each state gets at least three (the sum of the number of representatives and senators).
I’m not sure these two ideas can be coherently merged. The original design of the electoral college seems incompatible with the version of “one person, one vote” that Lessig offers. It’s true, at least as I understand it, that the original design of the electoral college was for electors to exercise their independent judgment about who would be the best president. But if that’s right, it’s hard to see how electors would be exercising their independent judgment by deferring to the popular vote. That’s especially so because they would be deferring to the popular vote in other states that didn’t even vote for them as electors.

Similarly, if electors should follow “one person, one vote” at a national level, I don’t see why they should ignore that principle if they think “the people [went] crazy.” It’s hard to have electors follow an ancient principle that gives them independent judgment and yet simultaneously follow a newer principle that takes their judgment away. The two ideas don’t readily mix.

More broadly, I would think that any proposal for how electors should vote should be settled before an election rather than offered to resolve an election that already occurred. No voting system is perfect. But whatever the system is, its rules should be announced beforehand so the candidates can try to win under the understood rules.
I would also argue that, since the Electoral College is already in the Constitution, it cannot be said to violate a constitutional principle such as "one person, one vote" which was just detected by the Supreme Court in the 1960s regarding redistricting practices. Something that is in the Constitution is, by definition, constitutional.

Suddenly those who were rather quiet regarding President Obama's use of executive power in the war on terror are now worried about Donald Trump exercising those same powers.
Tech and civil liberties advocates are imploring the Obama administration to rein in the government’s massive surveillance apparatus before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, fearful he will carry out his campaign promises to register Muslims, spy on mosques and punish companies that offer Americans unbreakable encryption.

But many national security experts and former administration officials say the effort is almost certainly doomed to fail. “I don’t know how you tie the king's hands in just the weeks going out,” said Michael McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama.

And some civil libertarians blame Democrats for being too content to allow President Barack Obama to wield the sweeping, post-Sept. 11 surveillance powers he inherited from George W. Bush, rather than rolling them back so that no future president could use them.

“We shouldn’t be relying on the benevolence of the leaders put in power after an election to ensure that people's privacy and civil liberties are protected,” said Neema Singh Guliani, a legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Gee, haven't conservatives been arguing the same point regarding Obama's use of executive authority for the past seven years?