Well, here we are in March and in many ways the world has been turned asunder. I need to find better words to describe events in Ukraine. I started to write that the invasion is a cancer on the soul of humanity – but that wording makes both the disease and those who are made to suffer from it seem much too vague. There is really nothing unspecific about what is going on there. There is only one cause – Putin/Russia. The people who will be maimed and killed are clearly identified. They are the people of Ukraine – soldiers and civilians, young and old alike -- and the Russian families whose sons are being lost in greater numbers than anyone imagined.
It would be marvelous – indeed, a miracle – if heroism could overcome numbers, equipment, and weapons. Perhaps with luck and outside assistance the miraculous will happen, but there is an equal or greater possibility that the Russian army will conduct the war in Ukraine in much the same way it did in Chechnya and in more recent years as they propped up a strongman leader in Syria. (Apparently at least some of the same generals are in charge in Ukraine.) When confronted with opposition in or near a major city, they surrounded it, then simply destroyed it, savagely and in a way that terrorized the inhabitants -- either killing them or forcing them to flee – before moving in to occupy what was left with armor and massive numbers.
It seems from the photographs that are appearing in the western press that at least some of the bombing and shelling is indiscriminate – hospitals, schools, family dwellings –and other non-military targets. That, of course, is a violation of international law. Not that it seems to matter. It also seems likely from some overhead views that at least on a couple of occasions cluster bombs may have been used against civilians in a metropolitan area. Also a violation of international law.
It is too soon to speculate on what the outcome might be. I certainly don’t have access to any sources that would provide special insight. There is, though, one possibility that I think has been a bit overlooked. That is, if Putin continues the war and succeeds in occupying the country, he may be in for a long and difficult struggle. There are two reasons for that possibility. The first is that Ukraine is a large country – it is the size of France – so there is a lot of space to control. The second – and perhaps more important reason – is that the Ukrainians have an impressive history in fighting an insurgency-type conflict. When the Germans invaded the country in WW II, the Ukrainians waged a horrific guerilla war against them. It is doubtful they have forgotten those lessons.
Our daughter Laura was in Kyiv in 2019 on her trip to Chernobyl. She has fond memories of a beautiful city – Saint Sophia Cathedral, Friendship Arch and so much more – and the many nice people she met there.
Now, to turn to some writing-related news. In some ways, the subject I’ve been spending some time researching is almost as confusing as the international situation. I’ve been piddling around with a story line that involves a third party candidate and an election outcome in which no party achieves a majority in the Electoral College. Boys and girls, I’m here to tell you that if that ever happens, things could get really squirrely.
There are two paths to the presidency. The first is through the Electoral College. (They must not have much of a football team… I seldom see them mentioned in the sports page.) The magic number is 270 electoral votes. Some states are particularly heavy hitters: California, Texas, New York, and Florida especially, with Illinois and Pennsylvania not far behind. Those six alone could account for 191 of the needed 270. At the opposite end of the spectrum, 33 states have 10 or less votes. Seven states (plus the District of Columbia) have only three apiece. (These figures may change slightly after reapportionment.)
Popular vote determines the whole thing. All but two states award their entire block of electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes in the general election. Those two – Maine and Nebraska – assign theirs by congressional district.
If no candidate receives a majority in the Electoral College, the second path to the White House is through Congress. The vote for president occurs in the House of Representatives. Each state has one vote, so 26 is the magic number to win. The vote is awarded based on the decision made within the state’s delegation. It is, by the way, the newly elected Congress (usually sworn in on or about January 3 with members chosen based on results from the election held the previous November) that makes the call. An interesting thing is that seven states have only one representative. So, for example, Wyoming’s one delegate counts the same as California’s 53. Five states have only two delegates and three states have only three.
So … the House of Representatives chooses the president. The Constitution then induces an interesting twist: it is the Senate that chooses the vice president. Each Senator gets one vote. There are 100 Senators, so 51 votes constitute a majority. A further piece of intrigue: the Senate and the House vote independently so no legal impediment would prohibit the selection of a president and vice president from opposing parties. That possibility would, of course, become more likely if different parties held the majority in each chamber.
A further potential twist: the House chooses one of three electoral vote winners as president. The Senate chooses one of two electoral vote winners as vice-president.
The 270 electoral votes, the 26 states in the House of Representatives, the 51 votes in the Senate are absolute majorities, so deadlocked delegations, abstentions, and absences essentially serve as ‘no’ votes and thus might inhibit the attainment of the needed majority.
Imagine for a moment, if you will, the wheeling and dealing that would likely be part of this process. I have, and it has given me a headache. It time to stop and turn to a subject much more important.
TRULY AWFUL PUNS
I always say mucho when I’m around my Spanish friends.
It means a lot to them.
A ship carrying red paint collided with a ship carrying blue paint.
Both crews were marooned.
Best wishes to all.