Friday Reads: Civics Lessons and Incivility Lesions

15181396_10154223074153512_5973622696062594233_nWell, it just keeps getting stranger and stranger …

It does feel like we’ve fallen down a rabbit hole of sorts.  Let me sort out some of the stranger headlines for you.

Lawrence Lessig–one of the most brilliant legal minds we have today–suggests we let the electoral college actually choose the winner of the Presidential election.  He argues that this is what Hamilton had in mind when he and other framers of the US Constitution designed the Electoral College.  Will any of the Electors listen?

Conventional wisdom tells us that the electoral college requires that the person who lost the popular vote this year must nonetheless become our president. That view is an insult to our framers. It is compelled by nothing in our Constitution. It should be rejected by anyone with any understanding of our democratic traditions  — most important, the electors themselves.

The framers believed, as Alexander Hamilton put it, that “the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the [president].” But no nation had ever tried that idea before. So the framers created a safety valve on the people’s choice. Like a judge reviewing a jury verdict, where the people voted, the electoral college was intended to confirm — or not — the people’s choice. Electors were to apply, in Hamilton’s words, “a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice” — and then decide. The Constitution says nothing about “winner take all.” It says nothing to suggest that electors’ freedom should be constrained in any way. Instead, their wisdom — about whether to overrule “the people” or not — was to be free of political control yet guided by democratic values. They were to be citizens exercising judgment,  not cogs turning a wheel.

Many think we should abolish the electoral college. I’m not convinced that we should. Properly understood, the electors can serve an important function. What if the people elect a Manchurian candidate? Or a child rapist? What if evidence of massive fraud pervades a close election? It is a useful thing to have a body confirm the results of a democratic election — so long as that body exercises its power reflectively and conservatively. Rarely — if ever — should it veto the people’s choice. And if it does, it needs a very good reason.

So, do the electors in 2016 have such a reason?

57b768688eaf3_thumb900Jill Stein continues her fundraising and path to recount and challenge three key swing states with a variety of statistical anomalies in a year where it was obvious the Russians wanted to hack and influence the results.  Stein has raised over $4.5 million dollars. 

Jill Stein, the Green party’s presidential candidate, is preparing to request recounts of the election result in several key battleground states.

Stein launched an online fundraising page seeking donations toward a multimillion-dollar fund she said was needed to request reviews of the results in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The fundraising page said it expected to need around $6m-7m to challenge the results in all three states.

Stein said she was acting due to “compelling evidence of voting anomalies” and that data analysis had indicated “significant discrepancies in vote totals” that were released by state authorities.

“These concerns need to be investigated before the 2016 presidential election is certified,” she said in a statement. “We deserve elections we can trust.”

Stein’s move came amid growing calls for recounts or audits of the election results by groups of academics and activists concerned that foreign hackers may have interfered with election systems. The concerned groups have been urging Hillary Clinton, the defeated Democratic nominee, to join their cause.

Donald Trump won unexpected and narrow victories against Clinton in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin earlier this month and may yet win Michigan, where a final result has not yet been declared.

I am hoping but not hopeful.  There’s evidence that “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.”wdblair02

The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem with facebook conversions of all sorts.

There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders. The tactics included penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.

“They want to essentially erode faith in the U.S. government or U.S. government interests,” said Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who along with two other researchers has tracked Russian propaganda since 2014. “This was their standard mode during the Cold War. The problem is that this was hard to do before social media.”

images-1The Trumpanzee Center for Orwellian Cabinet appointments demands an apology from Mitt Romney. Criticizing the Orange Apeman is simply not allowed.

Fox News is reporting that Donald Trump’s transition team wants Mitt Romney to publicly apologize for railing against the president-elect during the campaign.

A transition official told Fox’s Ed Henry that some in Trump’s inner circle want the former Massachusetts governor to apologize in order to be seriously considered for the secretary of State.

Trump is reportedly considering whether to pick Romney or former New York City Mayor Rudy Giulianifor the coveted cabinet position.

Giuliani is the preferred choice of Trump’s loyalists and grassroots supporters, while Romney is a favorite of establishment conservatives.

downloadMount Doom is about to become the White House if we can’t stop the Orange Apeman from taking the oath of office.  It will cost us millions and millions of dollars …  It also means that Federal Taxpayer money will go directly to the Trump Family Kleptocracy.

The Secret Service is in negotiations with the Trump Organization to take over two vacant floors in the gilded 68-story Fifth Avenue tower, law enforcement sources told The Post.

The federal agency and the NYPD plan to run a 24/7 command post out of the space that would be housed at least 40 floors below Trump’s $90 million penthouse triplex, where wife Melania and their 10-year-old son Barron will continue to reside at least through the spring, sources said.

The first 26 floors of the glass-clad skyscraper are commercial tenants while the remaining levels are luxury apartments.

But several commercial floors are currently vacant, sources said. The Secret Service is eyeing two contiguous floors for over 250 agents and cops, sources said.

The Secret Service must protect the president and his family wherever they go, including visits back to their permanent homes.

Meanwhile in the furtherance of destroying public education, we have Cruella DeVile being put up as Secretary of Education.  Betsy DeVile is best known as a full fledged member of the American Extremist Christoban Terrorist cult.f7e1920068be37a817b03b9e0b85c3af

The DeVoses are top contributors to the Republican Party and have provided the funding for major Religious Right organizations. And they spent millions of their own fortune promoting the failed voucher initiative in Michigan in 2000, dramatically outspending their opposition. Sixty-eight percent of Michigan voters rejected the voucher scheme. Following this defeat, the DeVoses altered their strategy.

Instead of taking the issue directly to voters, they would support bills for vouchers in state legislatures. In 2002 Dick DeVos gave a speech on school choice at the Heritage Foundation. After an introduction by former Reagan Secretary of Education William Bennett, DeVos described a system of “rewards and consequences” to pressure state politicians to support vouchers. “That has got to be the battle. It will not be as visible,” stated DeVos. He described how his wife Betsy was putting these ideas into practice in their home state of Michigan and claimed this effort has reduced the number of anti-school choice Republicans from six to two. The millions raised from the wealthy pro-privatization contributors would be used to finance campaigns of voucher supporters and purchase ads attacking opposing candidates.

15109483_10209112500944357_4788014655250467682_nAnd the kleptocracy continues as “Steve Bannon’s data firm in talks for lucrative White House contracts:  Cambridge Analytica is backed by Robert Mercer, whose daughter is on the Trump transition team, while Trump’s soon-to-be chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is on the board”. Republicans aren’t so found of balanced budgets know that the funds are streaming into their billionaire donors’ nasty pocketses.

The data company that helped push Donald Trump to victory is now hoping it will win two lucrative contracts to boost White House policy messaging and to expand sales for the Trump Organization.

Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm that uses personality profiling, claims Steve Bannon as a board member, who will soon officially be Mr Trump’s chief strategist.

The firm is backed by billionaire investor Robert Mercer, whose daughter Rebekah sits on the 16-person Trump transition team.

The news casts further shade over the president-elect’s potential conflicts of interest, after a group of Indian businessmen came to Trump Tower this week and the revelation that Mr Trump’s children, who have sat in on meetings with world leaders, would run his “blind trust”. He has faced increasing calls to divest from his business assets to avoid further conflicts.

The Republican National Committee would have to approve any deals with Cambridge Analytica as it normally pays for White House communication consultants.

Yes folks, the Trump Kleptocracy is resplendent with obvious conflicts of interest.gollum-the-hobbit

In a blatant conflict of interest, President-elect Donald Trump’s new Washington, D.C. hotel is marketing rooms to foreign diplomats looking to curry favor with his incoming administration.

The Washington Post reports that the Trump International Hotel — in the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue that the president-elect’s company leases from the federal government — staged a reception for the diplomatic community on Tuesday, one week after the election.

Several diplomats who attended the reception told the Post that spending money at the hotel is “an easy, friendly gesture to the new president.”

“Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’” one Asian diplomat said. “Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’”

The arrangement violates no ethics laws because the president is exempt from rules barring federal employees from profiting from their positions.

He’s basically going to be impeachable from DAY ONE.542385435ebe363f9eef4016a0f3f197

But he said that the answer would be different if a foreign government sought to make a payment to a sitting president. In a footnote, Mr. Barron added, “Corporations owned or controlled by a foreign government are presumptively foreign states under the Emoluments Clause.”

Mr. Trump’s companies do business with entities controlled by foreign governments and people with ties to them. The ventures include multimillion-dollar real estate arrangements — with Mr. Trump’s companies either as a full owner or a “branding” partner — in Ireland and Uruguay. The Bank of China is a tenant in Trump Tower and a lender for another building in Midtown Manhattan where Mr. Trump has a significant partnership interest.

Experts in legal ethics say those kinds of arrangements could easily run afoul of the Emoluments Clause if they continue after Mr. Trump takes office. “The founders very clearly intended that officers of the United States, including the president, not accept presents from foreign sovereigns,” said Norman Eisen, who was the chief White House ethics lawyer for Mr. Obama from 2009 to 2011.

We’re so completely fucked that there will never be enough lubricant to help us.

I continue to be despondent here in the land of swamps.  Enjoy the last days of the Republic.  We’ll be struggling to keep it from here on out.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

65 Comments on “Friday Reads: Civics Lessons and Incivility Lesions”

  1. dakinikat says:

    If you’re on the Twitter, search #Trumpinauguralbands
    Trust me.

  2. dakinikat says:

    and hmmmm ….

  3. ANonOMouse says:

    And the nutcases have been freed from their cages

  4. Minkoff Minx says:

    Every day some new horror.

    Didn’t we write about DeVos here on the blog back in the day….like…way back?

  5. Beata says:

    I think “Swing Time” is my favorite Fred and Ginger movie. It’s perfection. I want to live in it forever.

  6. roofingbird says:

    Can it really true that Carson is the new HUD leader?

    • roofingbird says:

      Yep, just saw that, what do you know! WI will still have to agree to it, won’t they? I don’t know how this works.

    • purplefinn says:

      I remain hopeful about recounts. Ever since the Gore/Bush contest I have been concerned about the viability of our democracy.

      From the website: “In 2004, the Cobb/LaMarche campaign demanded a recount in Ohio. Because of their efforts, an election administrator went to jail. We also exposed the profound problems with DRE machines, which helped launch an election integrity movement. That provoked California to engage in a “top to bottom” review of their voting system, which culminated in the abolition of DRE machines.

      The Green Party Platform calls for “publicly-owned, open source voting equipment and deploy it across the nation to ensure high national standards, performance, transparency and accountability; use verifiable paper ballots; and institute mandatory automatic random precinct recounts to ensure a high level of accuracy in election results.”

      I don’t expect a change in the overall results from this. Exposing error and fraud is important.

  7. janicen says:

    Yesterday I spent Thanksgiving in the Blue Ridge Mountains with people whom one would assume by looking at them, were Trump supporters. None of them were. There may have been one, but he politely kept his head down. I had decided I would not discuss the election but after a couple glasses of wine, it was inevitable. Hubby’s stepmother and I got into it because she was defending Bernie and saying that the Dems need to make adjustments to accommodate the WWC. As you can imagine, I was having none of that. People pretty much left the room until our hostess’s sister came in and asked us to change the subject. She explained that her fifth grade grandson, who was at the party, had been having nightmares and was coming to sleep with his parents since the election. They were going to get him professional counseling. She said, “Look, I get it. I’m upset too. My daughter is gay and all of my kids are insured through Obamacare. We are all devastated.” Another guest, who is a fifth grade teacher in NC said they were having a terrible time calming the kids down at the elementary school. One fourth grader said he would going to go home and drink bleach. He was serious. They had to get him counseling.

    Driving home, we saw a couple Confederate flags, that’s the kind of rural Virginia area we were in and yet here was a house full of people who were sick about the election. I’ve read a number of stories on the internet about traumatized kids and upset people about the election but I’ve taken each story with a grain of salt because hey, it’s the internet. But I met them, I heard their stories, and I believe them. People are terrified about what’s to come.

    • Beata says:

      Trust me, absolute terror about the future is very real and widespread. It’s going to get worse because a lot of people are still in shock and denial.

    • contrask says:

      I am in shock about the Confederate flags. The Trump people were carrying them at the rally I went to on Sun. We have outlawed the confederate flag at our school. My principal has never said who he voted for, but he is opposed to inflammatory symbols like that. I know the majority of the community at my school are Trump supporters. That is awful about 9 & 10 year old kids being that stressed. I am so afraid for us and our nation right now.

      • janicen says:

        You see them on occasion in rural areas. Especially since Obama was elected. These people know exactly what they mean although they try to pretend it’s about history or heritage or some other BS.

  8. dakinikat says:

    • purplefinn says:


      • purplefinn says:

        David GreenwaldVerified account @davidegreenwald · 6h6 hours ago

        That leaves another 3,800+ phantom votes and counting, in multiple counties, with nearly all of the errors falling to one candidate.

    • purplefinn says:

      Wisconsin automatic audits are not designed to identify hacking.

      Smith points out that in Wisconsin, for instance, audit rules require 100 voting places to have their votes checked for errors in any election. But that check is meant to identify reliability problems in the voting machines, not wholesale hacking. Even if widespread errors were found, the audit wouldn’t be expanded to a larger sample of the machines. And ultimately the only recourse of the auditors, no matter how many erroneously counted ballots they find, is to suspend future purchases of voting machines from that equipment vendor. “It’s almost as if it’s designed to not find out if there’s anything wrong, or if there is, not do anything about it,” Smith says.

      • dakinikat says:

        Good to know …

      • Enheduanna says:

        I’m less skeptical of Russian attempts at hacking than I am of Republican elections officials doing things like throwing out provisional ballots, etc. The media keeps pretending this is all about Russian hacking. For me it’s more about shining sunlight on our own process. Hard right ideologues don’t care about the means – only the end result. And on the state level – the hard right ideologues are the ones “counting” the votes.

        Of course the media is useless. Earlier tonight I heard some pundit (OK I can’t help myself am watching cable) telling Joy Reid exit polls don’t matter. And they keep saying it won’t change the outcome – why bother?

  9. Enheduanna says:

    In more funny if it weren’t true news:

    MAGA hat Xmas ornament – avail on Amazon. The “reviews” are hysterical.

  10. William says:

    Dakinikat, you are certainly right that the idea of the Electoral College was to allow “wiser heads” to possibly reverse the will of the populace. The Framers were concerned about a too-powerful head of state, and they were also concerned about possible mob rule. There would be no other reason for the EC to exist; it would have been completely silly and redundant, otherwise. Of ccurse, the Electors of today are not the educated and sophisticated people envisioned by the framers. And admittedly, we would ordinarily not want Electors subsituting their ideas for the majority vote. This is the kind of thing that would more likely than not go against us, as with this one idiotic Bernie man in WA, who said before the election that he would never cast his vote for Hillary.

    However, this is obviously a more than unique time. We have a candidate with three million more popular votes. We have the other candidate with already palpable constitutional unfitness, with his emoluments and conflicts of interest. And we may just have evidence of hacked votes. If it can be shown that even one of these three, WI, had a machine count which was far off the actual votes, this should give any reasonable Elector pause. We must hope that all three states mentioned are recounted, with alertness to hacking done. There is obviously very limited time for this. I would assume that the Electors would be too frightened of personal consequences to actually switch the outcome, but it as the overused joke g oes, there is at least a chance.

    • dakinikat says:

      Hoping but not hopeful …

    • Beata says:

      A better way going forward? The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact ( NPVIC ) bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It has been enacted into law in 11 states possessing 165 electoral votes ( NJ, IL, NY, CA, MD, MA, WA, RI, VT, HI ) and DC. It has passed at least one legislative chamber in 12 other states possessing an additional 96 electoral votes. The NPVIC has the support of Common Cause and other democracy reform organizations.

      From the National Popular Vote website:

      “The shortcomings of the current system of electing the President stem from state winner-take-all statutes (i.e., state laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each separate state).

      Because of these state winner-take-all statutes, presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the issues of concern to voters in states where the statewide outcome is a foregone conclusion. Two-thirds of the 2012 general-election campaign events (176 of 253) were in just 4 states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa). Thirty-eight states were ignored.

      State winner-take-all statutes adversely affect governance. “Battleground” states receive 7% more federal grants than “spectator” states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more Superfund enforcement exemptions, and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions.

      Also, state winner-take-all statutes have allowed candidates to win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide in four of our 57 presidential elections—1 in 14 times. A shift of 59,393 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have elected John Kerry despite President Bush’s nationwide lead of over 3,000,000 votes. A shift of 214,393 votes in 2012 would have elected Mitt Romney despite President Obama’s nationwide lead of almost 5,000,000 votes.

      The U.S. Constitution (Article II, Section 1) gives the states exclusive control over awarding their electoral votes: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….” The winner-take-all rule was used by only three states in 1789.

      The National Popular Vote interstate compact would not take effect until enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). Under the compact, the winner would be the candidate who received the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) on Election Day. When the Electoral College meets in mid-December, the national popular vote winner would receive all of the electoral votes of the enacting states.

      The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.

      The National Popular Vote bill preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections.”