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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – August 12, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Lisbon, Portugal 2016 – photo by Wrongo

Wrongo has written many times about vote suppression, including earlier this week. We now see that the GOP in Indiana (who control the place) are disenfranchising Democratic precincts, but not the Republican ones. IndyStar, a local paper in Indianapolis, reported:

From 2008 to 2016, GOP officials expanded early voting stations in Republican dominated Hamilton County…and decreased them in the state’s biggest Democratic hotbed, Marion County.

Maybe now that GOP JeffBo is our Attorney General, Republicans feel they no longer even have to be subtle about voter suppression. More from the IndyStar:

That made voting more convenient in GOP areas for people…And the results were immediate.

Most telling, Hamilton County saw a 63% increase in absentee voting from 2008 to 2016, while Marion County saw a 26% decline. Absentee ballots are used at early voting stations.

The paper acknowledges that population growth may have played a role, but Hamilton County Clerk Kathy Richardson, a Republican, told IndyStar the rise in absentee voting in Hamilton County was largely a result of the addition of two early voting stations, which brought the total to three.

More from IndyStar:

Other Central Indiana Republican strongholds, including Boone, Johnson and Hendricks counties, also have added early voting sites — and enjoyed corresponding increases in absentee voter turnout. But not Marion County, which tends to vote Democratic, and has a large African-American population.

During that same 2008-16 period, the number of early voting stations declined from three to one in Marion County, as Republican officials blocked expansion.

Indiana voted for Obama in 2008, and apparently, that was enough for the GOP.

More early voting stations for Republican precincts in suburban white Republican counties, fewer early voting stations for Democratic precincts in urban black counties. So is this willful rigging that Republican officials are engaging in? Seems like it’s a plan.

Fewer opportunities for early voting disproportionately affects those who don’t get the early voting opportunity.

The real message here is that Indiana is showing us another level of rigging of the voting system by GOP operatives. With gerrymandering and restrictive voting practices across this country, voter suppression is the real threat to our democracy, not the very few cases of voter fraud. The question is: How do we correct this, and build a system with accountability?

We have previously reported on voter suppression here, here, here and here.

This is yet another Wrongologist column for those people who say “both parties are the same, it doesn’t matter who you vote for”. Do you get it yet?

Timeout.  Let’s go somewhere to escape from the noise and the madness of the week.

Wrongo recommends Bluetooth over the ear headphones, and a VERY generous pour of Bushmills 21-year old Irish, matured in a mixture of Oloroso Sherry and Bourbon casks, before a two year marrying period spent in Madeira casks.

For those who cannot abide alcohol, just the headphones for you.

Now, listen to the Casta Diva prayer from the opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini, performed by Anna Netrebko in 2007 with the Symphony Orchestra of Baden-Baden und Freiburg. This opera is regarded as a leading example of the bel canto genre. The soprano prayer Casta diva occurs in Act I:

The most prolific Norma was Maria Callas, who gave 89 stage performances of the opera.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email sent by the execrable Feedburner, can view the video here.

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The DOJ Wants Infrequent Voters Off The Voting Rolls

The Daily Escape:

Bryce Canyon, 2001  – photo by Wrongo

From Mother Jones:

The Justice Department released an amicus brief in the case, currently before the Supreme Court, over whether Ohio can continue to remove “infrequent voters” who fail to cast a ballot over a six-year period. One of those voters, Larry Harmon, is a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit brought by Demos and the ACLU of Ohio. The 60-year-old software engineer and Navy veteran voted in 2008 and then returned to the polls for a local referendum in 2015, only to find that he was no longer registered, even though he hadn’t moved or done anything else to change his status.

Ohio has purged about 2 million voters from its rolls, including 1.2 million for infrequent voting. From the WaPo:

In a court filing late Monday, Justice Department attorneys took the opposite position from the Obama administration in a case that involves Ohio’s removal last year of tens of thousands of inactive voters from its voting rolls.

In their brief, government lawyers say they reconsidered the Ohio vote-purging issue after the “change in Administrations,” and they argue that the state’s actions are legal under federal law.

Ohio allows the purging process to begin when voters have not cast a ballot in two years. The person is sent a notice asking them to confirm their registration. If the voter does not respond and does not cast a ballot over the next four years, they are removed from the rolls.

But a federal appeals court ruled that Ohio had violated the National Voter Registration Act, a 1993 law that made it easier to register at the DMV and other public agencies and stipulated that voter-roll maintenance: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

…shall not result in the removal of the name of any person from the official list of voters registered to vote in an election for Federal office by reason of the person’s failure to vote.

Trump’s DOJ has decided that “use it or lose it” applies to your right to vote.

We are witnessing a steady erosion of voter rights that started with the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. The Court struck down Section 4(b) of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). That Section required states with a history of voting discrimination to get pre-approval from the Justice Department for any changes to voting qualifications or procedures.

Since the Shelby ruling, many states, including some that were formerly covered under the VRA, have instituted stricter voter identification laws and instituted voter roll purges. Ari Berman lists examples from the 2016 election — the first election without full protection of the VRA:

  • There were 868 fewer polling places in states with long histories of voting discrimination, such as Arizona, Texas and North Carolina.
  • In Wisconsin, 300,000 registered voters lacked strict forms of voter ID, and voter turnout was at its lowest levels in 20 years. This was particularly apparent in Milwaukee, where voting was down13%, where 70% of the state’s African-American population lives.
  • In North Carolina, black turnout decreased 16% during the first week of early voting because in 40 heavily black counties, there were 158 fewer early polling places.

The plan is this: First, make voting as complicated and inconvenient as possible and then, when people basically give up on voting, you drop them from the rolls for non-participation.

What harm is there in keeping a non-voter or irregular voter on the rolls? Voter impersonation happens about as often as winning the Power Ball lottery, so why not leave a name on the rolls until removal is substantiated? When you move from one state to another, and register to vote, no one has committed voter fraud. No one took Wrongo’s parents off the Florida voter rolls after they died. That wasn’t voter fraud either.

The false concern about voter fraud is a cloak for a determined effort to gut every improvement the country has made on voting rights in the past 50 years.

On to music. Glenn Campbell had an outsized influence on American music. His free and fluid mix of country, pop and light rock left a big mark in Nashville. Here is Campbell doing “Classical Gas”:

Few who knew Campbell only as the singer of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman” also knew that he was a very accomplished guitarist.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Hackers Break Into Our Voting Machines

The Daily Escape:

London, England

Nobody knows whether the Russians hacked the 2016 presidential election. One thing on which there seems to be broad agreement is that no foreign power was able to change the actual vote totals, since we have 192,480 precincts in the US. And we use so many different vote collection and vote processing technologies throughout the country, hacking would be very difficult.

Over the weekend at Def Con, a convention of hackers held in Las Vegas, hackers managed to break into many different US electronic voting systems, taking control of some of them in less than 90 minutes. The hackers successfully broke in through the voting system hardware, or through wireless communication. From The Hill:

…[the hackers] at the annual DEF CON in Las Vegas were given physical voting machines and remote access…[and] within minutes, hackers exposed glaring physical and software vulnerabilities across multiple US voting machine companies’ products. Some devices were found to have physical ports that could be used to attach devices containing malicious software. Others had insecure Wi-Fi connections, or were running outdated software with security vulnerabilities like Windows XP.

By the end of the weekend, every one of the 30 machines, including those used to tabulate votes and to check voters in when they go to the polls, had been hacked. The Telegraph reported that:

They purchased 30 different election machines from a US Government auction…

Who knew you can buy these voting machines at a US government auction? Is there a legitimate purpose for them after they’ve been decommissioned? Isn’t this a way for hackers to study the weaknesses in these machines, and maybe figure out a way to hack ones that are currently in use?

The idea that electronic voting machines could be hacked has been around for a while. Computer programmer Harri Hursti, hacked into Diebold voting machines in 2005. That hack is now known as the “Hursti Hack”. Electronic voting machines require regular software security updates. Updates lead to a  re-do of each state’s voter machine certification process, which can cost over $1 million to complete.

Gizmodo reports that even though the most recent election security standards were released in 2015, most state’s machines are only compliant with standards from 2002 because of the costs of updates. That cost breaks down to about $30-$40 per voter, and most states just don’t have the money.

OTOH, a hack of the last presidential election would have only needed to change the votes in three states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) to be successful in changing the result. And the absolute margin of victory in each of those states was small enough that it could have been accomplished without accessing all polling places. Still, no credible group is saying hacking on that scale occurred in 2016.

It is glib to suggest that the answer is to use paper ballots. With upwards of 150 million votes to count, that would require a huge number of volunteers. It begs the question of what method of “auditing” the count will be used, and who will perform it.

If we persist in electronic voting, those states would need to adopt a comprehensive sampling methodology for the machines before results can be certified. This would mean that we simply can’t accept using machines that don’t provide a paper trail, or a way to audit their vote tally.

We need to remember that we call the winners based on initial uncertified vote tallies. Before we know it, someone has conceded while we’re still counting votes. Hillary Clinton’s popular vote margin grew for about a month after the 2016 election as more and more votes were counted, even though it had no bearing on the Electoral College.

For the presidency, the federal government could specify that states that can’t certify their results up to a pre-set federal standard of accuracy, using a pre-set methodology, wouldn’t be allowed to cast votes in the Electoral College. This would pressure the states to put in better protections against hacking.

Finally, the federal government should pay for any required upgrades.

Continuing Wrongo’s tour of music by old guys, here is “Why Worry” from a 1986 PBS recording by Chet Atkins, the Everly Brothers, Mark Knopfler, and Michael McDonald. This song was written by Mark Knopfler for The Everly Brothers, and it beautifully demonstrates their unique harmony:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 24, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Toronto Canada – photo by Carlos D. Ramirez

We sometimes forget what the Amendments to the Constitution are about. We remember the 1st Amendment and these days, with several in the Trump administration about to testify before Congress, we have renewed interest in the 5th, but who knows anything about the 17th Amendment?

It provides that Senators are directly elected by citizens.

The idea that we directly elect our senators seems uncontroversial, but the Tea Party and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), want to change that. ALEC has proposed new “model legislation” to do away with an elected Senate.

The idea of reversing 104 years of representative democracy and returning to the days when senators were chosen via backroom deals, is not new. The John Birch Society peddled the proposal decades ago. But with the rise of the Tea Party, the notion moved into the conservative mainstream.

In 2010, the Tea Party called for revision or repeal of three Constitutional amendments: the 14th (which is the basis for federal protection of civil rights), the 16th (the income tax) and the 17th. Some Tea Partiers even linked evangelical Christianity and Libertarian economics to argue that the original 1789 Constitution and the Bill of Rights were divinely inspired, but all subsequent amendments were of human origin and the 14th, 16th and 17th in particular had been Satanic perversions of the divine plan.

From The Nation:

Let’s focus on the 32 legislatures where Republicans have control: If Republicans were to maintain their current advantage, and if they were empowered to replace all sitting Democratic senators at the end of their current terms, they could shape a Senate with at least 64 Republican members.

There is already a political imbalance in states with large urban populations. In 2016, for instance, 51,496,682 Americans cast ballots for Democratic Senate candidates, while 40,402,790 cast Republican ballots, yet the Republicans took 22 seats to 12 for the Democrats.

If the resolution is approved by ALEC’s members, it will become part of ALEC’s agenda for the states—advanced in each by legislators who have a long-established pattern of rubber-stamping ALEC’s “model legislation.”

But, it is a long distance from model legislation to an amendment to the Constitution. ALEC controls some states, but it doesn’t control 38 states to the extent that they are capable of repealing one of the nation’s core political reforms. OTOH, if they were successful, it would reverse one of the great strides toward democracy in American history: the 1913 decision to end the corrupt practice of letting state legislators barter off Senate seats in backroom deals with campaign donors and lobbyists.

People in the 19th century knew that votes for state representatives were proxy votes for electing their Senators. The Lincoln-Douglass debates involved two Senate candidates trying to sway the elections of state legislators in order to get one of them elected to the Senate.

But, in 2017, returning the nation to direct election of Senators by state legislators is just one of the many ideas Republicans have for revamping the American system into a one-party state, including extreme gerrymandering of Congressional and state legislative districts, restrictive voter-ID laws, ending early voting, and other tricks designed to make sure that people unlikely to vote Republican have difficulty voting at all.

It’s amazing, and downright scary that the American Right looks at the structure and apportionment of the Senate and decides it’s not yet tilted enough in their favor. The Senate is already an undemocratic, unrepresentative institution that overweights small states at the expense of large ones.

The idea of a 17th amendment repeal is a classic example of “we had a serious problem, and then we fixed it, but so much time has passed, people have forgotten what the problem was”.

They want to undo the fix without bothering to check history.

America! It’s time to wake up and learn your history. It’s crucially important to you, your kids and grandkids. We don’t want to repeat past mistakes. To help you wake up, here is “Non-Stop” from the play “Hamilton”. It reprises the time of writing The Federalist papers, and the establishment of our Constitution, in hip-hop format:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Our Election System Is Under Threat

The Daily Escape:

The Dark Hedges near Ballymoney, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. (Featured in the Game of Thrones as the King’s Road) – photo by Colin Park

America is also walking down a dark path. We need to work on the integrity of our election process. From the WSJ:

To understand the scale of the hacking attempts against election systems in the 2016 presidential election, consider South Carolina. On Election Day alone, there were nearly 150,000 attempts to penetrate the state’s voter-registration system, according to a postelection report by the South Carolina State Election Commission.

If hackers were that persistent against a state that President Donald Trump won with 54.9% of the vote, what did they try to do in the states that were in play? Quite a bit, it turns out. More from the WSJ: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

In harder-fought Illinois, for instance, hackers were hitting the State Board of Elections “5 times per second, 24 hours per day” from late June until Aug. 12, 2016, when the attacks ceased for unknown reasons, according to an Aug. 26, 2016, report by the state’s computer staff. Hackers ultimately accessed approximately 90,000 voter records, the State Board of Elections said.

The next day, Illinois temporarily took its voter-registration database and public-facing website offline. No records were altered, according to the state, and the issue was resolved before Election Day. The hackers haven’t been identified.

Many hackers, including state-sponsored ones, use automated programs to target hundreds or even thousands of computers to check for vulnerabilities. All of this is done by bots. This happens to ALL websites, (including Wrongo’s) not just to election systems. Confirming intrusions can be difficult, even if intrusion detection technology is deployed. But many municipalities and counties have not deployed it, since it can be very expensive.

Time Magazine reported that the number of actual successful intrusions in the 2016 election cycle, where hackers gained sufficient access to attempt to alter, delete or download any information, was “fewer than a dozen”.

The tally of hacking (or attempted hacking) into state election databases was widespread in the 2016 election. Jeanette Manfra, acting deputy undersecretary for cyber-security and communications at the Department of Homeland Security, said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last month:

There is evidence that 21 states were targeted by hackers

From the NYT:

By 2020, cyberattacks could try to alter or erase voter registration databases…or do something else to interfere with actual voting on Election Day…public confidence in the fairness of our electoral process could decrease further, even if the hacks are unsuccessful, as incendiary and unsupported claims about voter fraud, cheating and altered vote totals spread via social media.

America needs to start from the premise that one state’s (any state’s) insufficient protections against hacking in presidential elections affects us all. Protecting government databases is critical and needs to be done yesterday. From Wrongo’s experience as a former provider of outsourced services to both state and federal governments, it is clear that the IT staff at many government agencies lack the expertise or budgets to harden the electoral system against attacks.

We have been discussing the hacking of the voter databases, not vote results. These databases have little to do with the actual vote tallies in a given election. But if the US developed one giant database that recorded everyone’s votes along with names, addresses, and SSNs, people’s identities could be stolen.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity plans to build. Nearly all states have said that they will not comply with the commission’s request for voter data. When the winners of one election cycle try to pick the rules, referees and judges for the next cycle, it’s clearly a system at risk of shutting out true democratic input.

The story of possible Russian hacking in our 2016 election, and the possible Trump family involvement in the Russian efforts diverts our attention from the real story, which is that cyber security in the US is a gaping vulnerability.

It threatens our security, our economy and our democracy.

We need a musical break. Over the weekend, there was a two-day Rock concert at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles called “Classic West”. Many old groups performed over two days. Here, we focus on the Eagles, who played with the son of the late Eagle, Glenn Frey. His 23 year-old son Deacon Frey stood in for his legend of a father, in front of 50k fans, who accepted him as part of the family. It was a fitting tribute. The Eagles also added Vince Gill, who sang “Take It to the Limit”, and “Lyin’ Eyes”. But here is Deacon Frey delivering an emotional moment on “Take It Easy”:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Parsing the “Russia Hacked Our Democracy” Meme

The Daily Escape:

Kangaroos in a vineyard in Barossa Valley Australia, June 2017 – photo by David Gray

People can’t stop talking about the Donny/Vlad meeting in Hamburg, and the idea that Trump’s position regarding the potential Russian involvement in the 2016 election is: “Let’s move on”. Then, we learned that our new Syria strategy is driven by Russia and its plan for a cease fire.

But, Russia is the story of the Trump presidency. We learned over the weekend that Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump Jr. met with Russian lawyers back in June of 2016. But, despite the continued news about meetings with the Russians, appearances don’t make the Trumps guilty. Mueller and his team will examine and understand the full extent of what the Russians did, and what they attempted to do. Only then will we determine if the Russians efforts had any effect.

There are two broad areas of potential Russian involvement to consider:

Interference in the electoral process: Russians attempt to manipulate domestic politics of many countries, including the US. We do the same. How serious is the threat? Political candidates already use a full array of tools and technologies to persuade voters toward specific social and political agendas. This persuasion effort is as old as humanity itself.

Whether tech-centric forms of propaganda, employing social media, fake news and data-mining techniques are effective remains to be proven. America has been engaged in exactly this sort of exercise in foreign lands for a long time, without significant (or lasting) success.

These technologies can only support ideas and feelings that are already out there. So, what was out there? Consider these:

  • Hillary’s emails threatening national security!
  • Dispensing contradictory, or conflicting, information like “Hillary Clinton is very sick”.
  • Using social connections to generate, or modify, beliefs, like “Trump is a successful executive who can fix the government”.

This type of information warfare is a lot like managing a stock portfolio. Hackers write small, diverse news stories and then wait to see what pays off. It is unclear that hackers were the tipping point in the election, and it is far from clear that the Russians were the sole party behind them. We don’t talk about the many countries that tried to influence our elections, including Saudi Arabia, China, Israel, and Ukraine. Is it more acceptable that the Saudi’s did it the “right” way, by donating massive amounts to their candidate’s campaign?

It is highly unlikely that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians regarding interference in the 2016 election.

Hacking into political databases: the “Russian hacking” stories are not just that Russians hacked the computers of US political operations including the DNC, but that the Russians have somehow delivered the election to Trump. Thus, the story morphed from “Russians infiltrated DNC computers,” to “Russians hacked our democracy.”

The first is both possible and probable, but the second is just wrong.

Hacking our democracy requires changing or destroying votes for one side in the presidential election, or suppressing voter turnout. Not even the Russians have the resources to pull off that feat. They may have preferred that Trump win, they may have done a few things, and Trump won, but that isn’t “hacked our democracy”.

Wrongo thinks it is probable that “Russian hacking” occurred. It is a serious story, but it needs to be placed in context. Yes, Russia has a political agenda. Yes, they use dirty tricks to influence political outcomes. Yes, this needs to be taken seriously. The problem is that once that is taken out of context, everything is reduced to political talking points. We are asked to choose between two absurd choices: Either Trump is a Russian stooge, or accusations against Trump are a baseless pack of lies.

The likely “truth” is that Russians were doing something, but what they did wasn’t material to the (relatively) close outcome of this election. This has been crowded out of serious discussion.

And who hacked us is still not definitively attributed: there are too many suspects with a motive, means, and opportunity. We can’t yet discount the possibility of domestic operatives (or disgruntled campaign workers) or political plants within campaigns doing mischief.

Sooner or later, we will figure out the definitive attribution for the hacks. And 2018 will bring new tools and techniques.

Who falls short may depend more on message, and less on technology.

Time for a tune. Here is Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit doing “Hope the High Road” (leads you home again):

Takeaway Lyric:

I know you’re tired
And you ain’t sleeping well
Uninspired
And likely mad as hell
But wherever you are
I hope the high road leads you home again
To a world you want to live in

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – February 12, 2017

Another week of the Trump administration is in the bag, just 205 weeks to go! No worries, they’ll make great progress in destroying the country while hurting our most vulnerable. Here is this week’s example:

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) wants kids to learn early in life that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. To make sure they absorb that lesson, he’s proposing that low-income children do some manual labor in exchange for their subsidized meals.

He’s remembering fellow Georgian Congressman Newt Gingrich who suggested in 2011 that poor kids work in schools replacing janitors:

Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools…

As Atrios said, many people think being born in the lucky sperm club makes you a better human being, and those who weren’t need to learn just how horrible and inferior they are because their parents are poor.

Who doesn’t want to see kids well-nourished? Republicans. Before Reagan, charitable works were a good thing, but now we know that helping folks out just makes them weak, and unable to contribute to society.

On to cartoons. Leave it to the GOP. We now need three cans for recycling:

Nordstrom’s decides on a new spring line:

Ivanka’s dad tries to measure up:

New Education Secretary Betsy DeVos loves vouchers:

Dems adopt Tea Party tactics by shouting down Congress Critters at Town Halls:

Trump says that busloads of fraudulent voters were the difference in NH Senate race:

Trump narrowly lost New Hampshire to Hillary Clinton. On Thursday he told a group of senators that he lost because of the “thousands” of people “brought in on buses” from Massachusetts to “illegally vote” in New Hampshire. Former NH Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, who lost in November was there.

It was reported by Politico that there was an “uncomfortable silence” in the room, and here’s why: If thousands means at least 3,000, and if a bus holds 50 people, that would be 60 buses rolling up US 93 or US 91 from Massachusetts to NH that nobody noticed.

Then came the cherry on top of Trump’s crumb cake: He told Democrats in the room (Chris Coons, Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp and Jon Tester) that he was glad “Pocahontas”, his nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was “becoming the face of the Democrats.”

That’s sure to win friends among the Dems that he needs to help confirm Neil Gorsuch as a SCOTUS Justice.

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GOP Plans to Gerrymander the Electoral College

Donald Trump was the fifth candidate in our history to win sufficient votes in the Electoral College (EC) to become president after losing the popular vote. Now, Republicans are making an effort at the state level to change how electoral votes are apportioned to presidential candidates, from winner take all, to being allocated to the winner of each congressional district.

Republicans call this a modest tweak to the EC process. But it will make gerrymandering of congressional districts even more important to electing the president than it is to electing Members of Congress today.

How today’s system works:

In 48 states, (all except Maine and Nebraska) the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in their state receives all of that state’s electoral votes. A state’s number of electors equals its number of US Representatives and Senators.

Although ballots list the names of the presidential candidates, when voters within the 50 states and Washington, DC vote for President and Vice President, they’re actually choosing electors proposed by the Parties in their state. These presidential electors then cast electoral votes for those two offices, so the EC elects the President or Vice President, not the popular vote.

Despite what you might think, the Constitution reserves the power to appoint electors to the states. Here is Article 2, Section 1; Clause 2:

Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.

So it is clear that each state has the exclusive right to determine how their state electors are selected.

The proposed Republican “tweak”:

The Republican tweak apportions electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the vote in each congressional district. The two remaining electors would go to whomever wins the statewide vote. States considering moving to allocating electoral votes to the candidate winning in each congressional district include Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia – all have legislatures controlled by Republicans. Two, Virginia and Minnesota, currently have Democratic governors, so at this point, they could veto the proposed legislation.

After the 2010 census, 55% of all congressional districts were redrawn to favor Republicans, while just 10% were redrawn to benefit Democrats. In 2016, Trump carried 230 districts to just 205 for Hillary Clinton, even though Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes nationally. So if every state awarded electoral votes by congressional district, Trump would have still prevailed. And guess what? Mitt Romney would also have won in 2012, and George W. Bush would have won in 2000.

The tweak takes voting power away from cities and puts more in suburban and rural areas, making it more likely that a candidate with fewer votes over all could routinely win a larger share of electoral votes. And thanks in part to recent poor performance by Democrats, 32 States now have Republican-controlled legislatures.

Should we be talking about this at all? Debating whether to pass bills to reduce the value of an urban vote to a fraction of the value of other voters?

Sounds like a Republican paradise.

An advantage of the EC is that it tends to improve the winner’s margin of victory and thus the presidential mandate at the beginning of his/her term in office. Also, it ensures that candidates actually campaign in more states, rather than in fewer. Would anyone campaign in NH when they could garner many times more popular votes in a couple of counties in California? They do it today because NH’s four electoral votes can make a difference.

The president doesn’t represent congressional districts. The president represents all the people, which is why the ONLY reasonable reform to the EC is a nationwide popular vote.

The fact remains that Republicans have the ability to make this happen. Allowing statehouses to decide presidential elections will have undemocratic consequences. Keeping politicians from making the Electoral College subject to gerrymander is crucial.

To help us pause and reflect on this threat, here is Leonard Cohen with “Democracy” from his 1992 album, “The Future”, here performed in 2008 live in London:

Cohen said this about the song:

It’s a song of deep intimacy and affirmation of the experiment of democracy in this country. That this is really where the experiment is unfolding. This is really where the races confront one another, where the classes, where the genders, where even the sexual orientations confront one another. This is the real laboratory of democracy.

Let’s hope the experiment doesn’t fail.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Sample lyrics:
I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can’t stand the scene.
And I’m neither left or right
I’m just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I’m junk but I’m still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 29, 2017

“All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies.”Kurt Vonnegut.

Quoting from Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” seems to catch the Trump zeitgeist. It was hard to focus on what the GOP and Trump were doing between the tweetstorms. So you could be forgiven for not noticing that Trump’s ban on immigration includes Green Card holders from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. And Homeland Security says that’s really the policy. Legal residents holding the wrong passport who happened to be outside the US are now stranded. This includes students, business executives, and even a few US business owners. You can leave, but you cannot come back is the message of the day. Christians will be allowed in though, so here’s the best idea yet:

Trump builds a wall to keep Speedy out:

This is from Italy’s Matteo Bertelli. You can bet that in his next panel, Speedy jumps up on Trump’s head, and The Donald grabs a hammer…

Voter fraud is a yuuge problem only in the Orange Ahab’s mind:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voter fraud? Or, voted for a fraud?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump wants at least one Chinese import:

Trump keeps his focus on the real enemies:

 

 

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Saturday Soother – January 28, 2017

We’ve made it to Saturday, all the while trying to sort through the blizzard of executive orders issued by our Orange Overlord. As we cruise into the weekend, we need to reflect on Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. The Senate Judiciary Committee will probably vote on the nomination on Tuesday, after which it will go to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Wrongo agrees with Charlie Pierce:

At a moment like this one, it simply will not do to have someone in the attorney general’s office who was deemed too racist to be a federal judge 30 years ago. It will not do to have someone in the attorney general’s office who launched a dirty-tricks prosecution of voting-rights activists when he was a U.S. Attorney in Alabama. It will not do to have someone in the attorney general’s office who greeted the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 by noting that it was “good for the South.”

Pierce says that no (zero) Democrats should vote for Sessions:

There is no room for compromise or horse-trading. The Democratic Party should stand for the expansion of the franchise and for a greater ease in exercising it.

Voting rights will be at risk if Sessions is confirmed. The AG will follow Trump’s lead and focus on a “voter fraud” investigation in the big liberal states and urban areas that do not vote Republican. This is something the right wing has been doing for years. From what Trump said this week to David Muir on ABC, he believes that the problem exists only in places he didn’t win. He told Muir that every one of the alleged 2 million to 3 million illegal votes went to Hillary Clinton.

If it isn’t clear by now, this is a powerful new national campaign of voter suppression coming down the road to a polling place near you. We don’t know at this point who will be heading Trump’s “investigation,” or what form it’s likely to take, but Jeff Sessions is just the man for the job.

We could also tell our Senators that they should not vote to confirm Betsy DeVos and Tom Price, but both will probably get a few Dem votes. Wrongo isn’t arguing for complete resistance as the only response to Trump, but we can’t appoint Sessions.

Will even a single Republican Senator have the backbone to vote against the president’s hand-picked bigot? The prospects are not heartening.

Glad that’s off of Wrongo’s chest. Time to grab a cup of Bengal Spice Chai tea, and mellow out with the Saturday Soother. Today we are going acapella with the University of North Carolina Clef Hangers. They have been around for 35 years, and have released 17 studio-produced albums. Here are the Clef Hangers doing “You Never Need Nobody”, a song by the Brooklyn NY-based The Lone Bellow:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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