Friday Reads: Civics Lessons and Incivility LesionsPosted: November 25, 2016
Well, 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?
Jill 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.”
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.”
The 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.
Mount 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.
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.
And 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.
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.
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?