Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The president-elect is a Twitter troll, and other shattershots

-- In this post-truth environment we're now living in, it helps to find something to keep you grounded and centered.  Even if that happens to be, you know, a bottle of Scotch.  I have to limit myself personally to about one or two drinks weekly because of my sundry health conditions, but drinking to forget how the world is changing for the worse, and so rapidly, is not something I'm going to criticize anyone over.  I tend to look for solutions to problems as a first reaction to their presenting themselves, and this sounds like a good one to me.

This week, in a volley of angry tweets, Donald Trump ridiculed the “badly defeated ... Dems,” claimed he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” and said anyone who burned the American flag should lose their citizenship or spend a year in jail. Trump’s outbursts set off alarms. How could he believe such nonsense about voter fraud? Why would a man who had just been elected president gloat, threaten protesters, and insult half the country? What’s going on in his messed-up head?

To understand Trump, you have to set aside the scripted speeches he gave before his election and the canned videos he has released since. You also have to set aside the caricature of him as a Klan-loving, Nazi-sympathizing woman hater who will deport every immigrant he can find. Instead, look at the four interviews he has given since his election: to the Wall Street Journal, 60 Minutes, the New York Times, and a group of TV anchors and executives. In these exchanges, all of them conducted outside the behavior-warping context of the campaign, you’ll see how squishy he is. Trump did run a despicable campaign, and he’s a menace to the country and the world. But it’s not because he’s a strongman. It’s because he’s a weakling.

Mwahahahaha.  Will Saletan, a writer I've enjoyed for decades, goes on to list twelve shadetree-psychology points to make when influencing the f'n new guy in the White House.

That’s how you move Trump. You don’t talk about ethics. You play the toughness card. You appeal to the art of the deal. You make him feel smart, powerful, and loved. You don’t forget how unmoored and volatile he is, but you set aside your fear and your anger. You thank God that you’re dealing with a narcissist, not a cold-blooded killer. And until you can get him safely out of the White House, you work with what you have. People in other countries have dealt with presidents like Trump for a long time. Can we handle it?
Yes, we can.

There will be ample time for protests that make a difference over the next four years -- such as turning Dump Tower into a living hell and thus forcing his neighbors to sell at below-market and move out -- but for now, don't give up your Twitter account, no matter how cesspoolish it may get.

-- There's differing opinions as to whether Trump is indeed an infantile narcissist who should be ignored every time he cries out for attention, or whether he should be taken deadly seriously (this is the "normalizing' quarrel).  I believe he is conducting a distraction for the most part, especially when it burps out on Twitter at 4:30 in the morning, like a colicky baby might.  But as to which avenue of pushback to choose: pick one and get going.  (There's nothing that limits you to one of those directions permanently, either.)

For example, today's "ha ha, look what Twitter says" is about Trump's having Mitt Romney over for dinner last night, despite the fact that Kellyanne Cryptkeeper went public last Sunday with the 'Bagger base's irritation over Romney being considered for anything beyond the main course of the meal.  This distraction has been going on for a week already.

-- The corporate media is still addicted to fake news.  Liberals still love it, too.  (The critique at the Slate link of Jill Stein and #Recount2016 hopefully can mollify my pal Gadfly, as he is just a bit too angry about ... well, everything it seems, regarding the recount.)

-- This is a good explainer about whether, and how, Medicare lives or dies over the next two and maybe four years.  I was reminded as I read it that that the Affordable Care Act was birthed the very same way, with the Republicans and Democrats having traded places.

Put me down for an early bet that Medicare survives much as it currently exists due to the shifting and shiftless nature of our fascist overlords.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

#Recount2016: The latest *Updates below

A technician prepares voting machines to be used in the presidential election 
in Philadelphia. Courtesy AP/

Pennsylvania will have to be sued in order to recount their votes, and the situation is something more than a little complicated.

“Petitioners have grave concerns about the integrity of electronic voting machines used in their districts,” the suit stated.

Though Monday’s petition was filed by 100 Pennsylvania voters, as required by the state’s election law, it is part of Stein’s effort to challenge results in three states that were critical to deciding the presidential election.

Stein’s camp filed a recount petition last week in Wisconsin, and is expected to do so this week Michigan. Clinton lost each of the state by fewer than 100,000 votes. She lost Pennsylvania by about 71,300 votes.


(Pennsylvania), where Mr. Trump holds a lead of 70,638 votes, or 1.1 percent, allows any three voters to petition to recount their local precinct. But despite a call on Sunday from Ms. Stein on Facebook for thousands of Pennsylvanians to file the paperwork, in many cases the deadlines have come and gone, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

There are more than 9,000 voting precincts in Pennsylvania. Wanda Murren, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said she was aware of petitions in only a handful of the state’s 67 counties.

The Stein campaign said that as of Monday, voters had filed recount petitions in 120 precincts, including more than 70 in Philadelphia, where the county has not yet certified the vote and petitions can still be accepted, according to Ilann Maazel, a lawyer for the campaign.

The Wolverine State seems a little cleaner ...

In Michigan, a candidate can request a recount by citing fraud or errors, said Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for the Michigan secretary of state. But other candidates, like Mr. Trump, could potentially object to such a request by appealing to the Board of State Canvassers.

At a meeting on Monday, where the canvassers certified the election results, a representative for Ms. Stein said her campaign planned to request a complete hand recount by a deadline on Wednesday. The campaign would need to pay estimated costs of $800,000, and a recount could start as early as Friday.

... and the Badger State proceeds apace.

To begin the recount in Wisconsin, the state must receive payment of $3.5 million by Tuesday afternoon to cover the estimated costs, the Wisconsin Elections Commission said on Monday. The commission approved a schedule, which includes county clerks and canvass members being briefed on procedures on Wednesday morning, with the recount beginning Thursday and being completed by Dec. 12 and certified on Dec. 13. The Electoral College votes on Dec. 19.

Ms. Stein asked that the recount of ballots be done entirely by hand, but the elections commission rejected that request. It instead allowed counties to determine whether the ballots should be counted manually or with tabulating equipment. Ms. Stein said on Monday that she would sue to demand the hand count.

Rather then mention Trump's false and inflammatory Tweet, which as usual got more media attention that it deserved -- though thankfully most called it what it is: a lie -- let me point out that the recount effort has produced its own divisions in the Green Party, starting with this statement by Stein's running mate, Ajamu Baraka.

I believe that Dr. Stein sincerely believed that she had an obligation, grounded in her commitment to the principle of election integrity, to mount a challenge to the results in those three states. And while I don’t share that position for reasons that I am not going to try and elaborate on here on Facebook, the notion that her decision was made for any other reason than that is a position that I cannot support. There are many in and outside of the Green Party who support the campaign’s decision to call for a recount. But there are also many Green Party activists and supporters who are opposed to that decision.

It is unfortunate that after waging a courageous campaign to build an independent, principled political opposition to the two racist, capitalist/imperialist parties, the recount effort has resulted in serious questions regarding the motivations of the recount that threatens to damage the standing and reputation of the Green party, its supporters, and activists.

A statement released by several long-time Greens also objected to the recount.  A portion:

There are significant electoral reforms needed to make elections more democratic and more representative of the people. While we support electoral reforms, including how the vote is counted, we do not support the current recount being undertaken by Jill Stein.

The decision to pursue a recount was not made in a democratic or a strategic way, nor did it respect the established decision making processes and structures of the Green Party of the United States (GPUS).  The recount has created confusion about the relationship between the Green and Democratic parties because the states chosen for the recount are only states in which Hillary Clinton lost. There were close races in other states such as New Hampshire and Minnesota where Clinton won, but which were not part of the recount. And this recount does not address the disenfranchisement of voters; it recounts votes that were already counted rather than restoring the suffrage of voters who were prevented from voting.

As a candidate, Dr. Stein has the right to call for a recount. However, we urge the GPUS to distance itself from any appearance of support for either Democrats or Republicans. We are well aware of the undemocratic actions taken during the primaries by the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Greens cannot be perceived to be allied with such a party.

Signatories included Chris Hedges, Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney, Rosa Clemente, and even Stein's field director for her 2016 campaign, Adrian Boutureira Sansberro.

So to be clear, Stein (and David Cobb, her campaign manager and 2004 presidential nominee, along with other GP leaders like Ben Manski) took the initiative -- in defiance of a GPUS steering committee vote that went against them -- to pursue the recount, beginning with its stunningly successful fundraising appeal.  What all this means for Green unity going forward is an open question, particularly if Stein pursues elective office again, and a story likely to be reported almost exclusively in this space.

More from Brad Friedman's podcast yesterday and his interview with Richard Hayes Phillips, an author and election fraud investigator of long-standing repute.  Here's an excerpt:

... (Hayes Phillips' detailed report concerns) the unusually large apparent voter turnout numbers in many rural WI municipalities and the difficulty citizens have in verifying and overseeing those numbers. As Phillips explains, there are horrible public reporting requirements for both results and for same-day voter registration provisions in the state.

"At a minimum, the problem is a lack of transparency ... We have no way of knowing how many registered voters there are [in WI]. If you don't know how many registered voters there are, you don't know if too many ballots were cast." His report finds that, based on the latest state-reported voter registration numbers, there were "193 towns with turnout of 90% or better, 25 towns with turnout of 95% or better, and 7 towns with turnout of 100% or better." Those exceedingly high turnout numbers are likely lower in reality, due to same-day registration in WI, but the lack of reporting requirements for those numbers is "unacceptable".

"This is the period of time during which we must analyze those numbers to decide whether or not to challenge the election, and we don't have reliable numbers to use!" Philips, who personally examined tens of thousands of ballots and poll books and much more in Ohio after the disputed 2004 election there, resulting in his book Witness to a Crime: A Citizens' Audit of an American Election, says WI's turnout numbers remind him of a number of counties where he found fraud in Ohio, where there was some 80% turnout reported.

(Hayes Phillips observes) that there are almost no ballots to actually count in PA. "The five biggest cities in Pennsylvania that have no paper record of anybody's vote, except for absentee ballots, which only amount to 1 or 2% of the ballots," he says. "My God, if Wisconsin and Michigan which are very close were to actually flip and fall to Hillary Clinton's column, we will face a constitutional crisis, because this whole election will come down to Pennsylvania and the vote cannot be verified. I want America to know this."

Also hearkening back to Ohio in 2004, Phillips notes that there are tens of thousands of ballots with no vote at all for President in MI --- even near Detroit --- according to the state's unverified optical-scan tabulators. It's impossible to know how people voted, unless paper ballots are actually counted by human beings, he confirms. "Who knows who these ballots are actually marked for?"

"I'm not a shill for Hillary Clinton. I didn't even vote for her. But I want everyone's vote to count," he argues. "I want the winner to win and the loser to lose."

I'm not a purist, and I have no interest in seeing Hillary Clinton prevail, and I don't think she will.  Simply put, the integrity of our elections must be able to withstand scrutiny, or the United States is just another banana republic.  Or Christian caliphate, if you prefer.

Update (11/30): More from Bradblog.  And Rocky de La Fuente has paid for a small sample recount in Nevada.  If that sampling shows some inaccuracies, then the state will order a full recount.  And here's a more recent interview with Bonifaz detailing the mechanics of the recount.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is more familiar with the word "emolument" than ever before as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at statewide judicial race results by State Rep district in Harris County.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos agrees with Donald Trump. The election is rigged. On his behalf. Thanks to the Electoral College. Why I refuse to sit down, shut up and get over it.

Ted at jobsanger also joins the cacophony of whining about the EC.

Socratic Gadfly takes a critical look at Jill Stein's vote recount push, and while noting it's noble, finds a number of problems, mainly with the likely Clinton-loving professor who pushed for it in the first place.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is appalled that Henry Cuellar is one of 18 Democrats in the US House refusing to denounce Stephen Bannon, the white nationalist who is Trump's pick for chief strategist.

Texas Vox invites everyone to the ninth annual Austin Green Holiday Party, sponsored by 17 environmental groups, on December 8 at Barr Mansion.

The Lewisville High School theatre department will present "The Laramie Project", a retelling of the life and death of Matthew Shepard, December 1-3, according to the Texan-Journal.

The death of Fidel Castro was the latest of seminal 2016 moments, but no more so than for Mrs. Diddie, whose stories of leaving Cuba in the arms of her parents in 1962 were retold for another generation by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value went to Galveston on Thanksgiving Day and posted a nice picture of the beach. APHV is part of


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Kevin Diaz at the SAEN, via Sayfie Review Texas, reports that US Rep. Kevin Brady will be Congress' and the Trump administration's point man in replacing the Affordable Care Act.

The Rivard Report calls our attention to a few more education bills filed in the Texas Senate for next year's legislative session.

Space City Weather remembers the November 1992 tornado outbreak in Southeast Texas.

The Bloggess explains her strategy for surviving family get-togethers.

The Texas Election Law Blog reviews the case for a presidential recount.

Grits for Breakfast marvels anew at the way some members of our Court of Criminal Appeals operate.

The TSTA Blog calls the A-F campus grading system "shameful".

In her first-ever concert in Texas, CultureMap Houston heard Barbra Streisand mix in some thoughts on barbecue and politics between songs.

And returning after a year-long hiatus, Fascist Dyke Motors reveals that she shot William Burroughs.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro, 1926-2016

Bicho malo está muerto por fin.

Fidel Castro has died at the age of 90, Cuban state television has announced, ending an era for the country and Latin America.

The revolutionary icon, one of the world’s best-known and most controversial leaders, survived countless US assassination attempts and premature obituaries, but in the end proved mortal and died late on Friday night after suffering a long battle with illness.

The announcement of Castro’s death on Friday was long expected, given the former president’s age and health problems, but when it came it was still a shock: the comandante – a figurehead for armed struggle across the developing world – was no more. It was news that friends and foes had long dreaded and yearned for respectively.

Castro’s younger brother Raul, who assumed the presidency of Cuba in 2006 after Fidel suffered a near-fatal intestinal ailment, announced the revolutionary leader’s death on television.
“The commander-in-chief of the Cuban revolution died at 10.29pm tonight.”

He survived long enough to see Raul negotiate an opening with the outgoing US president, Barack Obama, in December 2014, when Washington and Havana announced they would move to restore diplomatic ties for the first time since they were severed in 1961.

After outlasting nine occupants of the White House, he cautiously blessed the historic deal with his lifelong enemy in a letter published after a month-long silence.

The thaw in relations was crowned when Obama visted the island earlier this year. Castro did not meet Obama and days later wrote a scathing column condemning the US president’s “honey-coated” words and reminding Cubans of the many Americanefforts to overthrow and weaken the Communist government.

As in life, Castro was deeply divisive in death. The announcement of his death was greeted by thousands online with celebration and condemnation of the “cruel dictator” and his repressive regime.
Others mourned the passing of “a fighter of US imperialism” and a “charismatic icon”.

In Miami, home to the largest diaspora of expatriate Cubans, people took to the streets celebrating his death, singing, dancing, and waving Cuban flags.

The Communist party and state apparatus has prepared for this moment since July 2006 when Castro underwent emergency intestinal surgery and ceded power to his brother, Raúl, who remains in charge.

More, and photos, from the exhaustive New York Times obituary.  I have written previously about mi Cubana loca's personal journey from the island nation in 1962 as Fidel came into full control there and her parents fled for the US, with not much more than her and a bag of diapers in their arms.  I'll ask her to add some thoughts to this post later today.

Friday, November 25, 2016

#AuditTheVote: The latest

$4.7 million as of the time stamp on this post.

Jill Stein has raised more than $4 million in just over 24 hours -- all through donations to her website.
“Our goal is to create a voting system that we can believe in,” Stein says.

Stein is questioning results in Pennsylvania, where Trump won by roughly 68,000 votes; Wisconsin, where his margin of victory was a little over 27,000 votes; and Michigan which is still too close to call.

“Let me be very clear: We do not have evidence of fraud,” Stein says. “We do not have smoking guns. What we do have is an election that was surrounded by hacking.”

She points to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, and the hacks into the voter registration lists in Arizona and Illinois - hacks which some U.S. investigators have linked to Russia. She says it all raises questions of fraud with electronic voting machines and demonstrate the need for a count of the actual paper ballots.

One of the guys that started all this is John Bonifaz.

The Washington Post notes that it has never been proven that voting machines can be hacked from afar, and a recount of paper ballots wouldn’t show any evidence of such hacking anyway.

None of this has stopped the donations coming in. Voting rights attorney John Bonifaz, who is helping drive the recount campaign, says the American people “deserve public confidence in the integrity of our process.”

“If we don’t ever look at the ballots, we don’t ever verify the vote, why should we expect that public trust?” Bonifaz says. 

This is the primary reason I support this effort (but to be clear, won't be donating to it).

Bonifaz says he approached Clinton first about recounts, but with no decision made, he approached Stein instead. The only comment from President-elect Donald Trump’s team has been a tweet from spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway, saying, “look who can’t accept the election results,” referring to Clinton supporters.

I am a big fan of Stein's, have been since at least 2012, and think this fundraising effort has been a stunningly successful example of demonstrating the integrity she has regarding our elections and politics.  (As an aside to my very cynical friend Gadfly, I didn't criticize the diversity of her investments because as a financial planner, I understand more clearly than most that it's damned near impossible to put your money where your activism is and have a satisfactory ROI.  That may be different one day soon -- such as with the advancement of solar and wind -- but it's barely changed over the past fifteen years of my career.  If you want to be able to retire before you're 70 and not have to eat Fancy Feast a few times a week, then you need to go where the money already is.  YMMV, but IMO rising healthcare expenses combined with historically low interest rates all but compels retirement planning with one goal: maximizing returns.)

What this effort is truly about is re-establishing confidence in the system.

[What the report by Gabriel Sherman in New York magazine showed was that this] ... is exactly the sort of result we would expect to see if there had been some sort of voting machine hack. There are many different types of voting machines, and attacks against one type would not work against the others. So a voting anomaly correlated to machine type could be a red flag, although Trump did better across the entire Midwest than pre-election polls expected, and there are also some correlations between voting machine type and the demographics of the various precincts. Even (Bonifax collaborator J. Alex) Halderman wrote early Wednesday morning that “the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked.”

What the allegations, and the ripples they’re causing on social media, really show is how fundamentally untrustworthy our hodgepodge election system is.

Accountability is a major problem for U.S. elections. The candidates are the ones required to petition for recounts, and we throw the matter into the courts when we can’t figure it out. This all happens after an election, and because the battle lines have already been drawn, the process is intensely political. Unlike many other countries, we don’t have an independent body empowered to investigate these matters. There is no government agency empowered to verify these researchers’ claims, even if it would be merely to reassure voters that the election count was accurate.

Instead, we have a patchwork of voting systems: different rules, different machines, different standards. I’ve seen arguments that there is security in this setup — an attacker can’t broadly attack the entire country — but the downsides of this system are much more critical. National standards would significantly improve our voting process.

The federal government is going to have to pass a HAVA 2.016 version, and provide funding that secures our elections -- and rebuild the electorate's trust in them -- and it shouldn't be expensive if we move away from voting machines and toward paper ballots.

Although winning those three states would flip the election, I predict Clinton will do nothing (her campaign, after all, has reportedly been aware of the researchers’ work for nearly a week). Not because she does not believe the researchers — although she might not — but because she doesn’t want to throw the post-election process into turmoil by starting a highly politicized process whose eventual outcome will have little to do with computer forensics and a lot to do with which party has more power in the three states.

But we only have two years until the next national elections, and it’s time to start fixing things if we don’t want to be wondering the same things about hackers in 2018. The risks are real: Electronic voting machines that don’t use a paper ballot are vulnerable to hacking.

Clinton supporters are seizing on this story as their last lifeline of hope. I sympathize with them. When I wrote about vote-hacking the day after the election, I said: “Elections serve two purposes. First, and most obvious, they are how we choose a winner. But second, and equally important, they convince the loser — and all the supporters — that he or she lost.” If the election system fails to do the second, we risk undermining the legitimacy of our democratic process. Clinton’s supporters deserve to know whether this apparent statistical anomaly is the result of a hack against our election system or a spurious correlation. They deserve an election that is demonstrably fair and accurate. Our patchwork, ad hoc system means they may never feel confident in the outcome. And that will further erode the trust we have in our election systems.

If Clinton supporters -- who seem to be having a fresh, positive moment about Jill Stein -- are apparently the folks primarily funding the recount, then I applaud that.  The Republicans and Trump supporters should forthrightly do the same, since it was their man who questioned the integrity of the election to begin with, and they continue to do so in the North Carolina governor's race.

So Jill Stein's raised the money for the recounts; let's see how events proceed from here before we cast aspersions about her perceived motivations.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Turkey Day Toons

Jill Stein's recount funding hits $2.5 million goal

As of this posting.  The latest, at about 3:45 a.m. CST ...

Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein has received $2.5 million in donations to push for election recounts in three swing states — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Stein, who launched her crowdfunding campaign on Wednesday morning, hit her first requested total inside of 24 hours, securing more than $2 million by midnight ET, and reaching $2.5 million by 3AM ET.

More from Jezebel (typically obnoxious) and Vox (even-handed).  Brad Friedman had Stein on his podcast last evening to speak about the effort.

There's a lot of opinions, judgement, and what-not, not to mention much more to develop, that I will cogitate -- and withhold posting about -- until after today's holiday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


While I have long thought (scroll to the bottom) that our elections were, to use the adverb of the cycle, 'rigged', particularly in the Democratic primary to the disadvantage of Bernie Sanders by the DNC, and have long considered our voting machines to lack proper transparency and should be dispensed with in favor of a paper ballot that can be verified by both voter and auditor ... it seems to me like this won't be going anywhere, as with Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.

 You've probably noticed the story and the Tweeting and all by now.  Emphasis in bold is mine.

Hillary Clinton is being urged by a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers to call for a recount in three swing states won by Donald Trump, New York has learned. The group, which includes voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, believes they’ve found persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked. The group is so far not speaking on the record about their findings and is focused on lobbying the Clinton team in private.

Last Thursday, the activists held a conference call with Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and campaign general counsel Marc Elias to make their case, according to a source briefed on the call. The academics presented findings showing that in Wisconsin, Clinton received 7 percent fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic-voting machines compared with counties that used optical scanners and paper ballots. Based on this statistical analysis, Clinton may have been denied as many as 30,000 votes; she lost Wisconsin by 27,000. While it’s important to note the group has not found proof of hacking or manipulation, they are arguing to the campaign that the suspicious pattern merits an independent review — especially in light of the fact that the Obama White House has accused the Russian government of hacking the Democratic National Committee.

Couple of things to note before we continue: it's been a week and this is just now leaking out, the deadlines for recounting are fast approaching, and ... you know ... the Russians.

The Clinton camp is running out of time to challenge the election. According to one of the activists, the deadline in Wisconsin to file for a recount is Friday; in Pennsylvania, it’s Monday; and Michigan is next Wednesday. Whether Clinton will call for a recount remains unclear. The academics so far have only a circumstantial case that would require not just a recount but a forensic audit of voting machines. Also complicating matters, a senior Clinton adviser said, is that the White House, focused on a smooth transfer of power, does not want Clinton to challenge the election result. Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri did not respond to a request for comment. But some Clinton allies are intent on pushing the issue. This afternoon, Huma Abedin’s sister Heba encouraged her Facebook followers to lobby the Justice Department to audit the 2016 vote. “Call the DOJ…and tell them you want the votes audited,” she wrote. “Even if it’s busy, keep calling.”

A circumstantial case.  The White House is not encouraging -- indeed may be quietly discouraging -- the effort.  And the highest authority on the record so far is Huma Abedin's sister

Rick Hasen explains the situation and the nuances best, but if you like conspiracy theories, this guy -- who claims to dislike them himself (that has an "I'm not a racist, but" ring to it) -- is there for you.  I'm more of an Occam's Razor man myself: the polls screwed the pooch.  Don't expect the Department of Justice to respond to your phone calls urging an audit of the election, either.

Before the election, the department promulgated extensive, real information on the topic and asked those with complaints to report them. They would investigate voter intimidation, election practices that discriminated or other violations of federal law, and would still do so.

But they would do it based on actual evidence of violations, rather than intensity of griping over the result.

I suspicion we'll have all moved on by this time next week.  And don't forget that there are a lot of bars open on Thanksgiving.

Update: Vox and Pajiba are both likewise skeptimistic. And Gadfly in the comments points to Philip Bump, who closes the case.

Update II: (Thanksgiving morning, about 3:43 a.m. CST): Well, I'll be goddamned.  Looks like we will be talking about this next week.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

'Mad Dogs' and Argentinians

-- I'll lightly gloss over the latest media-talking-about-the-media spanking from President Hair Furor yesterday.  No More Mister Nice Blog thinks Trump's people are the 'anonymous sources speaking off the record', and as I posted yesterday, you have to be careful about being distracted by Trump while Trump is doing something he doesn't want the media to actually focus on.

Like this.  It's one more example of how important it will be to read media outside the US over the next four years in order to get the real news.

-- Nothing like having a Mad Dog running your War Department.

The saying is “Once a Marine, always a Marine,” and if President-elect Donald Trump picks retired Gen. James Mattis for secretary of defense, he is still too much a Marine in the eyes of the law.

Mattis retired in 2013, leaving him four years short of the requisite seven years after active duty before commissioned officers may serve as secretary of defense.

Experts say the reason for the mandatory break between active service and heading the Defense Department is to ensure that any incoming secretary has had time to adjust to being a civilian leader rather than a military officer.

“That’s an important principle in democratic politics just because sometimes the military itself is not the best judge of American foreign policy,” said David E. Lewis, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.

Trump met with Mattis on Saturday at the president-elect's estate in New Jersey and on Sunday tweeted that he was considering the retired Marine Corps general for the top defense post.

The law?!  What conservative ever let a quibble with the law stop him?

Update: This is good news, from the perspective of its potential of convincing Trump that torture does not work, and presumably muzzling CIA-designate Steve Pompeo (although the spooks report to DNI and not SecDef).

-- Keep an eye out for wherever it is that Kris Kobach -- who inadvertently showed his own papers before his meeting with Trump over the weekend -- lands in the new administration.  In addition to his extensive propaganda ministry work, he is also the father of Crosscheck, the system used by almost half of the states to disenfranchise millions of their right to vote this year.  (As an aside, it remains a mystery to me why Greg Palast's long history of exposing this kind of election fraud goes completely unnoticed by the mainstream media.)

-- And keep an eye peeled for this guy, who keeps an extraordinarily low profile for an American billionaire, but like Trump, lets his daughter do all the hard work.  Robert and Rebekah Mercer are, together, one of the true powers behind this throne.

Monday, November 21, 2016

'Hamilton' is a distraction. Mitt Romney is, too.

One of the ways Trump has worked the media via Twitter is to throw them off the real story, as with his settling of the Trump U lawsuits.  He used the smoke and mirrors to appoint a torture advocate as head of the CIA.

President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, an open aficionado of torture practices used in the “war on terror,” to be CIA director shows that Trump was serious when he said he would support “waterboarding and much worse.”

Earlier there had been a sliver of hope that that while on the campaign trail Trump was simply playing to the basest instincts of many Americans who have been brainwashed – by media, politicians, and the CIA itself – into believing that torture “works.” The hope was that the person whom Trump would appoint to head the agency would disabuse him regarding both the efficacy and the legality of torture.

But such advice is not likely from Pompeo, who has spoken out against the closing of CIA’s “black sites” used for torture and has criticized the requirement that interrogators adhere to anti-torture laws. He has also opposed closing the prison at Guantanamo, which has become infamous for torture and even murder.

After visiting Guantanamo three years ago, where many prisoners were on a hunger strike, Pompeo commented, “It looked to me like a lot of them had put on weight.”

Almost twelve years ago, when the first reports began to filter out of an Iraqi prison named Abu Ghraib, I believed that America had shredded whatever remained of our national morality as a result of the 'collateral damage' that occurs as unintended consequence when you use false pretenses to start a war on the wrong country in your search of revenge for 9/11.  And because the Obama administration abdicated serving justice to the war criminals, we somehow managed to lose even more.  And despite former chief spook Michael Hayden declaring that no CIA agent would ever again carry out an order to torture someone ... it appears we're back at square one.

Congressman Pompeo is living proof that you can get all A’s at West Point, graduate first in your class, and still flunk the Constitution with its quaint Eighth Amendment prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.” Not knowing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights apparently makes you a good pick to head the CIA.

As member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), Pompeo also was protective of the National Security Agency’s systematic abuse of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against illegal searches and seizures.

The selection of Pompeo came a few days after Vice President-elect Mike Pence told ABC that he would model his handling of the job after former Vice President Dick Cheney under President George W. Bush.

All that stands between us and ethical oblivion now is Sen. John McCain.  The bad news is that a large majority of 'Muricans believe torture is a good idea.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans asked in March about their views on torture said they believe the practice can be justified to extract information from those suspected of terrorism, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. That level of support is on par with Nigeria and other countries where attacks are common ...

Please use caution when opening the overhead bins, as some items may have shifted during flight.

The Turkey-Elect Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a happy Thanksgiving as it brings you this week's blog post roundup.

Off the Kuff analyzes Hillary Clinton's performance in Harris County and why we should be careful about using her numbers to project forward.

Socratic Gadfly offers a state and national Green Party post-mortem along with suggestions for the future.

President Trump's first cabinet picks are shaping up as unexpected and unconventional, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme proudly stands against the tyranny of Trump rule. He does NOT have permission...

Neil at All People Have Value noted that the organizers of an anti-Trump march in downtown Houston this past week were two college students. The work of opposing Trump is going to be up to each of us. APHV is part of

jobsanger conjures the ghost of George McGovern in suggesting the Democratic Party resist pressure to move to the left.  (Ted's still not seeing things too clearly in the wake of Hillary Clinton's upset loss.)

Texas Vox asks what's next for Waste Control Specialists, the company that holds a permit for storing low-level nuclear waste in Andrews County, which has applied for a license to store high-level waste while negotiating a merger with its rival, EnergySolutions.

After some voting machine errors and a co-mingling of counted paper ballots with uncounted ones, Denton County finally completed its recount of Election Day's results, reports the Lewisville Texan Journal.

And Texas Leftist posted regarding Houston's new police and fire chiefs that were tapped last week by Mayor Sylvester Turner.


More great blog posts from around Texas!

The Texas Observer attended a rally at the Presidio-Ojinaga international bridge, where West Texans and Mexicans joined hands in solidarity and declared "Viva la Frontera!"

Somervell County Salon has the second part of "Post-mortem reflections on the 2016 election: "Who'd you vote for?"

The WAWG Blog offers a guideline on understanding your authoritarian right-wing neighbors.

The Texas Moratorium Network wrote about two Texas lawmakers, Reps. Terry Canales and Harold Dutton, who have filed bills to abolish the death penalty, to be considered in the coming legislative session.

Grits for Breakfast wonders what new Houston police chief Art Acevedo, formerly of the Austin PD, thinks about body cams and transparency.

Daniel Williams sounds the alarm about a dangerous bill for LGBT youth.

Paradise in Hell looks at some pot-related legislation.

Priscilla Dominguez urges everyone to push back against Donald Trump's hate speech.

Scott Braddock says that we may now finally find out what Greg Abbott's agenda for governing is.

And Very, Very Urban illustrates the mood for the next four years.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Michael Flynn, Trump's new NSA

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was fired from his last job in the military, sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin after giving a paid speech in Moscow, called for Hillary Clinton to be imprisoned, and said President Obama was a “liar” with no plan for defeating ISIS.

As of Thursday, there’s something new to say about him: Flynn will be moving into the West Wing as President-elect Donald Trump’s national security adviser.

This fellow's ethics aren't situational; they're non-existent.

(Flynn) began receiving classified national security briefings last summer while he was also running a private consulting firm that offered “all-source intelligence support” to international clients.

Flynn’s relationship with his overseas clients is coming in for new scrutiny amid recent disclosures that two months ago, during the height of the presidential campaign, his consulting firm, the Flynn Intel Group, registered to lobby for a Dutch company owned by a wealthy Turkish businessman close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

More from the link embedded in the graf above:

... Kamil Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman with real estate, aerospace, and consulting interests, told The Intercept on Thursday that one of his companies, Inovo BV, paid Flynn’s company “tens of thousands of dollars” for analysis on world affairs. On election day, Flynn published an opinion piece for The Hill urging U.S. support for Turkey’s controversial strongman president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and pushing for the extradition of Erdogan’s political rival, Fethullah Gülen, who now resides in Pennsylvania. “From Turkey’s point of view, Washington is harboring Turkey’s Osama bin Laden,” Flynn wrote, on Nov. 8.

This is what draining the swamp looks like.  At least we might not get into a war with Russia (beyond our current proxy one in Syria, that is), but the drone bombing and assassinations will continue until morale improves, despite Flynn's stated opposition.  He has said in the past that the they create more terrorists than they eliminate (shockingly, Flynn is correct about that).

So Trump’s almost inevitable string of drone murders will be conducted under the guidance of a man who knows they produce terrorism rather than reducing it, that they endanger the United States rather than protecting it. In that assessment, he agrees with the vast majority of Americans who believe that the wars of the past 15 years have made the United States less safe, which is the view of numerous other experts as well.

Flynn also advocates for torture and indefinite detention but is conflicted about its 'productivity'.  There are certain inconvenient truths about what Flynn gets right -- in blind hog/acorn fashion -- and what he gets wildly wrong.  Colin Powell did not mince words about Flynn in a leaked DNC email (aren't we glad now we have those?).

“I spoke at DIA last month,” the former secretary of state wrote in a hacked email released this summer. “Flynn got fired as head of DIA. His replacement is a black Marine 3-star. I asked why Flynn got fired. Abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy, bad management, etc. He has been and was right-wing nutty every [sic] since.”

Flynn could have been vice-president, you may recall, but he's in a position to do much greater damage now.  The only thing he seems to lack is a family connection, like Jared Kushner.  There's a reason why James Clapper pulled the chain yesterday.

In 2014, two years into what was supposed to be a three-year term, Flynn was summoned to the Pentagon by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers and told that he was being removed from his post.

Vickers was a central character in the book and film Charlie Wilson's War, you might remember.

According to the Washington Post, Flynn tried to salvage his job by sidestepping his superior officers and making a direct appeal to the vice chief of the Army. When Clapper found out, he warned Flynn that he would fire him on the spot if Flynn made another attempt to do an end-run around his bosses, according to the newspaper.

Clapper, arguably Flynn’s biggest bureaucratic adversary, announced his resignation Thursday, just hours before Flynn’s appointment.

Your seat backs and tray tables need to be locked in the upright position.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Scattershooting the Greens, the US Senate, and the TXGOP

-- Both DBC and Gadfly have analyzed the 'what went right/wrong' for the US Greens and the Texas Greens, which beats the hell out of Kuff's theory of numbers or whatever he's deep into a spreadsheet about this week.

This isn't brain surgery: the Greens will take a quantum leap of sorts if/when a number of prominent Democrats give up on a Revolution from within, bolt that party, and take over the GP, bringing professional infrastructure with them.  I wished hard for it to be Bernie Sanders almost two years ago, but as you may recall it was Tad Devine that convinced him, against his inclination, to run for president as a Democrat.

So there must be some collective and public exodus of elected officials and their operatives, not just a few political scientists like Dr. Cornel West.  A prominent name at the top of the ticket, like Ralph Nader was in 2000, is critical.  As we blog today, there simply aren't enough Donkeys who believe that it's anything but a pipe dream to build something viable outside the two-party box, and that's because the media exposure won't be there for them, and because the presidential debates are run by a cabal of duopolists.  Those two things have to change before the GP can take the next step.  Media exposure will come if the name is big enough; the CPD must be made obsolete by replacing it with something else first.

Update: As a reminder for those such as Dan Savage who don't really get what the Green Party represents beyond Jill Stein, Politics of Courage supplies a list of all Greens who ran for Congress, state, and local offices in 2016 and the vote percentages they earned.  It's also worth noting that Laredo city council member George Altgelt, first elected with Green Party support and just re-elected in that city's non-partisan municipal contests, endorsed Gary Johnson for president.

-- For those Democrats still transitioning from denial and anger toward acceptance ... this isn't going to make you feel better.  Charles Schumer was the wrong guy at the wrong time to lead this charge, but you're stuck with him now.

Senate Democrats are the last line of defense against Trump's agenda because of the chamber's supermajority hurdle. They're expected to oppose any attempt to repeal Obamacare and slash tax rates, among other policies. At the same time, they want to work with him to pass a massive infrastructure package and crack down on Chinese currency manipulation.

On top of that, Democrats must defend 25 Senate seats in 2018, including five in deeply conservative states and another five in traditional battlegrounds that Trump won.

It's going to get worse in 2018 before it gets better in 2020.  Hopefully.

Update: Twenty-twenty is the big enchilada, with an imperative to turn Trump out of office and electing a slew of Democrats in the statehouses, as the census is performed and redistricting moves to the top of the priorities list.

Speaking of going from bad to worse...

-- The Texas Legislature is readying for next year's session with a conservative agenda that makes Trump's look liberal.  Dan Patrick is going in for the kill.

Patrick's top two priorities are passing a balanced budget — which is required by state law — and reforming the state's property tax system, which he said is "taxing people out of their homes and hampering business growth." The rest of the list is filled with ideas that will be stringently opposed by Democrats and, in some cases, moderate Republicans, including limiting which bathrooms transgender people could use; imposing more restrictions on abortion; strengthening the state's voter ID law, and allowing parents more choice in the schools that their children attend.


The rest of his list included plans to ban local governments from refusing to cooperate with immigration agents or enforce immigration laws; prevent student-teacher relationships; cap increases in state spending, and rein in insurance lawsuits after hailstorms. 

No mention of addressing, much less fixing, the state's funding for its public school system.  Nothing about improving the healthcare of Texans.  And as in Washington, there's nothing on the horizon that suggests 2018 will be anything but another red wave at the statehouse again.  The Castro brothers aren't stupid enough to run for anything in two years.  (They were not the attack dogs that Wendy Davis could have benefited from in 2014 and they won't be of much use to anybody who dares to run in 2018.  Their precious political capital is invested in non-liquid assets.)

Texas Republicans may be the absolute shittiest in the country, but it's Texas Democrats who keep losing to them.  Who will be the sacrificial lambs Democrats proffer for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and so on down the list of statewide executive offices?  Could they at least find someone to challenge Sid "C-word" Miller, for crine out loud?  Or will it be another assembly of no-name stooges that can manage 38% or so on the basis of straight-ticket voting, like Jim Hogan or Grady Yarbrough or Betsy "Combat Boots" Johnson?

Who wants to run against Ted Cruz?  Besides Michael McCaul, I mean.


-- Rick Perry for Department of Oops.  Only Donald Trump would consider our illustrious, longest-serving governor in history to run a Washington bureau that was on his list to eliminate, but which he could not remember the name of.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Scattershooting Trump's first week as president-elect

-- It's been a bumpy ride for everybody.  Those on the Train and not.

Via Mother JonesNYT:

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition was in disarray on Tuesday, marked by firings, infighting and revelations that American allies were blindly dialing in to Trump Tower to try to reach the soon-to-be-leader of the free world.

One week after Trump scored an upset victory that took him by surprise, his team was improvising the most basic traditions of assuming power. That included working without official State Department briefing materials in his first conversations with foreign leaders.

Two officials who had been handling national security for the transition, former Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan and Matthew Freedman, a lobbyist who consults with corporations and foreign governments, were fired. Both were part of what officials described as a purge orchestrated by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser.

The dismissals followed the abrupt firing on Friday of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was replaced as chief of the transition by Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Kushner, a transition official said, was systematically dismissing people like Rogers who had ties with Christie. As a federal prosecutor, Christie had sent Kushner’s father to jail.

Prominent American allies were in the meantime scrambling to figure out how and when to contact Trump. At times, they have been patched through to him in his luxury office tower with little warning, according to a Western diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations.

Amateur hour all day yesterday.  In the evening, Trump ditched his media contingent to go out to dinner with his family.  Their top-secret security clearances have been requested.  Though not officially, apparently.  'Conflicts of interest' being what they are.

Make sure your seat belts are securely fastened.

-- I wrote the day before the election that North Carolina was going to be pivotal, but as the returns came in solid red for Trump and Sen. Richard Burr, it just seemed like another prediction I missed.  Today, the outcomes there have regained importance.  For one thing, it looks like the incumbent Republican shitheel governor, Pat McCrory, has lost but still isn't conceding.  So that election may not be decided until after Turkey Day.

Early (morning one week ago), North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) declared victory over Gov. Pat McCrory (R), the embattled incumbent who has signed into law some of the most retrograde legislation in the country since his term began in 2013.

But McCrory refused to concede, saying the race was too close to call. Cooper was leading by slightly more than 4,300 votes on Wednesday. As of Friday, the state attorney general was ahead by more than 4,900 votes.

McCrory initially said the outcome of the race wouldn’t be clear until Nov. 18, once provisional and absentee ballots had been counted. But now it seems an answer might not be available until after Thanksgiving.

58,000 provisional and absentee ballots have yet to be counted. But most of the provisional ballots were cast in Democratic-leaning counties. Cooper won eight of the 10 counties with the most provisional ballots. McCrory was favored in two of those counties, and in several others not in the top 10, according to The News & Observer.

If the race is within 10,000 votes once all of the state’s ballots are tallied, then McCrory or Cooper can ask for a recount ― a procedure that likely wouldn’t happen until after Thanksgiving.

McCrory followed the Texas model during his one term in office.

Shortly after he took office in 2013, McCrory repealed the Racial Justice Act of 2009, which allowed inmates on death row to appeal death sentences that were sought or imposed on the basis of race. He reasoned that it “created a judicial loophole to avoid the death penalty and not a path to justice.” That July, McCrory ended unemployment benefits for tens of thousands of people and signed a bill mandating that abortion clinics meet the same standards as surgical centers.

McCrory signed one of the nation’s strictest voter ID requirements into law in August 2013. The law was struck down by a federal appeals court in July after three judges determined that GOP lawmakers had chosen to implement specific ID requirements ― as well as to reduce the number of early voting days and to change registration procedures ― in order to keep black voters from the polls.

In March, McCrory signed HB 2. The law prevented local governments from passing any anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people, and mandated that individuals can only use restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates. The bill, which is one of the most far-reaching in the country, has caused the state to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Weeks later, McCrory signed an executive order widening the law to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. The order did not reverse the bathroom portion of the bill.

McCrory also signed a bill in July that removed police camera footage from the public record

There's bound to be a place for McCrory in the Trump administration.  Two more things; first, North Carolina's legislature has a plan to subvert the will of the voters and maintain a conservative majority on the state's Supreme Court.

Even as Donald Trump won the state, North Carolina voters chose last week to elect a new liberal majority to the state supreme court. The new North Carolina Supreme Court would provide a check on the power of the GOP’s veto-proof super-majority in the state legislature. But the legislature has come up with a scheme that would add two seats to the court and allow Gov. Pat McCrory (R) to appoint two justices — maintaining the conservative majority.

And second: "Hi, America.  NC here.  We know what you're about to go through."

-- Hey Donkeys: here's another wake-up call.  Wrap up the pity party and get back to work.

Democrats have one final shot to flip a Senate seat -- but in order to pull off an upset, they need to quickly rally around the Louisiana candidate whose victory could be a bright spot in an otherwise dismal year. Public Service Commissioner – and jovial cattle farmer – Foster Campbell will face off against Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy, a twice-failed Senate candidate, in a Dec. 10 runoff.

On the surface, it might seem like a lost cause: A Democrat running a statewide campaign in Louisiana in the Year of Trump. On the contrary, though, Campbell has a legitimate shot to upset his opponent the same way Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards did in 2015. Yes, Louisiana has a Democratic governor. He's busy at the moment cleaning up the fiscal mess left by his predecessor, failed presidential candidate and Kenneth-the-Page avatar Bobby Jindal.

Edwards pulled off an upset in part because of Jindal's failures, and in part because he ran against David Vitter, a less-than-charismatic politician tainted by a bygone prostitution scandal. But Edwards prevailed not only as an anti-Jindal and anti-Vitter. As an Army veteran with family law enforcement ties and a calm demeanor, he was a strong candidate in his own right.

Campbell, too, is a good bet; he has a wicked sense of humor and speaks plainly. During a recent debate, he rebutted false allegations of ties to ex-KKK leader David Duke, saying, "I have nothing in common with David Duke other than we're probably breathing."


Electing Foster Campbell is the most immediate way to rebuke President-elect Trump. A Campbell victory would mean a 51-49 split in the Senate. This is the last best way to make a difference in 2016.
Campbell is a fighter. During his career, he's fought for ethics reform, lower energy rates for rural consumers, and for victims of domestic violence. Guided by a love of family and a deep-seated faith, he fights for the little man -- and woman.

Campbell is a man of the people; Kennedy is counting on the elite. This year alone, he was the beneficiary of $400,000 from a political action committee funded by one Chicago family.

With a Campbell upset, fifty-one to forty-nine means almost the same thing as it meant in 2001, when Jim Jeffords switched parties.  That could be a real earthquake once more if, say, Susan Collins of Maine were to be persuaded to cross over.  And/or maybe Rand Paul as an indy?