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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 12, 2020

It was supposed to be all over by Easter. But this weekend, the time that we were supposed to get back to work, brings us 2000 COVID-19 deaths on a single day, and a mass grave on NYC’s Hart Island. One thing we’ve learned is that Trump isn’t a clairvoyant:

When you leave late, you get there late:

It takes a team:

Wearing a red hat doesn’t make America great. What DOES make our country great is the dedication and drive to serve that’s demonstrated by so many of us. The American spirit doesn’t require fondling the flag, or bloviating in front of the media. Our first responders and our service workers make us proud to be Americans.

Vote by mail should be the answer:

In Washington State when you vote by mail, you retain a paper copy. The state can call the voter and ask them what their vote was, if necessary. You get a few weeks to decide on the issues and which candidate you prefer.

It’s not socialism if it helps you. If your check was passed by Republicans, it’s a STIMULUS:

Real life has become a scary movie:

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Supreme Court Voting Remotely, Denies Wisconsin Voters the Right to Vote Remotely

The Daily Escape:

Super moon, Crested Butte, CO – 2020 photo by itsaberglund

First, here are the latest national pandemic numbers from The COVID Tracking Project: (as of 4/7):

  • The good news is that the daily rate of increase in new infections is now in single digits (see green above).
  • Deaths have again spiked, and the percentage of deaths to total cases is rising steadily.
  • Daily testing has stalled (again) at about 150,000/day. Growth in testing is again lagging growth in new infections.

Next: The Wisconsin primary debacle: Wisconsin held its presidential primary on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination. Unifying the Party will be much easier than in 2016. The stakes are different, the mood is different, and Bernie seems to like Biden more than he liked Hillary.

But that was far from the most surprising thing about the Wisconsin primary. The big Wisconsin news was that the US Supreme Court decided a case called “Republican National Committee v. Democratic National Committee along political lines. The symbolism is glaring.

The issue before the Court was whether to stay a lower court’s decision that would have extended absentee balloting for a week due to the Coronavirus. And the most notable race wasn’t the Democrat’s primary. It was a conservative Republican’s battle to keep his seat on Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court. From the WaPo: (brackets by Wrongo)

“The scant, 10-page opinion issued Monday night highlighted the [US Supreme] court’s ideological and partisan divide. The justices’ inability to speak with one voice on matters as serious as the coronavirus pandemic and voting rights raised concerns about the legal battles bound to proliferate before the fall elections.”

The great irony in the SCOTUS decision is that the justices didn’t meet together. They are practicing social distancing, because of the Coronavirus, conducting their business via teleconferences. They have also suspended all public Court proceedings for the current term, because, you know, public safety.

But the Supreme Court’s Republican majority felt it was proper to insist that Wisconsin’s normal rules about elections be followed, and hold the primary as if there was no pandemic, no public health threat.

The best comment on the ideological divide in America today came from Tom Sullivan’s column, where he quotes a 2018 observation about conservatism by Frank Wilhoit: (emphasis in the original)

“Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect….So this tells us what anti-conservatism must be: the proposition that the law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone, and cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone.”

More on Wisconsin from Sullivan:

“This morning’s online headline at the Washington Post reads, ‘The coronavirus is infecting and killing black Americans at an alarmingly high rate.’ Wisconsin Republicans on Tuesday made them stand on line in Milwaukee for hours to vote during a deadly pandemic. That will show them.”

And this tweet from Sen. Cory Booker underlines the evil intent:

“Milwaukee is home to the largest African-American community in Wisconsin. Don’t tell me that forcing people to choose between their health and their right to vote today is anything but an appalling act of voter suppression. https://t.co/4Leq1CtMHZ

— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) April 7, 2020

Chief Justice Roberts may claim that he is only calling balls and strikes, but he’s using a different strike zone for his friends.

Finally, let’s spend a moment remembering that both John Prine and Bill Withers died this week, Prine from the Coronavirus.

Both released their debut albums in 1971. Both were among the true greats. Here’s a Prine song that shows his social consciousness. Written in 2005, it was prescient. He wrote about the kinds of people who would eventually lead the nation in 2020 in his “Some Humans Ain’t Human”:

Sample Lyric:

Have you ever noticed When you’re feeling really good There’s always a pigeon  That’ll come shit on your hood Or you’re feeling your freedom And the world’s off your back  Some cowboy from Texas Starts his own war in Iraq

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

And this Withers song about Vietnam has always hit Wrongo hard. “I Can’t Write Left-Handed”:

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

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Facebook Could Destroy Democracy

The Daily Escape:

Pond, Greenville County SC – February 2020 photo by Ninjiteex. It’s rare to see snow in SC

On Facebook, Wrongo mostly reads the posts of friends who are involved in showing dogs at AKC events. People who show dogs skew older and female, and thus, so do Wrongo’s Facebook friends. Many share a constant amount of pro-Trump (dis)information.

So, Wrongo tried a week-long experiment, letting some of those posters know that their posts were factually incorrect. Let’s focus on one, a picture of a very young Bernie Sanders being hauled away by police:

The photo’s caption says:

“In 1963 Bernie Sanders was arrested for throwing eggs at black civil rights protestors. This is the side of Bernie that CNN and the fake news media don’t want you to know”

The picture is real, the caption is false. Sanders was actually protesting police brutality and segregation, and was arrested for “resisting arrest”. Facebook has now taken down the post, but it was up for over a week.

When Wrongo told friends that their posts were false, everyone deflected, and minimized their intent. One, a fervent Trumper, said, “I just wanted to post a picture of him when he was young”. Never mind that this photo is available all over the internet with the simplest of searches, all with the correct reference.

Despite a week’s worth of trying, no one was willing to delete a false post. Many of these people post disinformation six or more times a day, so it was an exercise in futility to try and make these “friends” admit the truth about their posts, much less show any awareness about their biases.

This is a small example of what McKay Coppins wrote in his Atlantic article, “The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President.” As an experiment, Coppins signed up at many pro-Trump social media sites, and soon was deluged with alternative facts: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“What I was seeing was a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratizing power of social media for their own purposes—jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise.”

All of this is helped by Facebook’s excellent micro-targeting tools. They allow an advertiser to slice the electorate into narrow and distinct niches and then reach them with precisely tailored digital messages. More from Coppins:

“An ad that calls for defunding Planned Parenthood might get a mixed response from a large national audience, but serve it directly via Facebook to 800 Roman Catholic women in Dubuque, Iowa, and its reception will be much more positive.”

The results can be overwhelming. The Trump campaign runs hundreds of iterations of ads. In the 10 weeks after the House of Representatives began its impeachment inquiry, the Trump campaign ran roughly 14,000 different ads containing the word impeachment.

No one has the bandwidth to sift through all of them, and then call them out.

It gets worse. Coppins says that the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have compiled an average of 3,000 data points on every voter in America. They have spent years experimenting with ways to tweak their messages based not just on gender and geography, but on whether the recipient owns a dog or, a gun.

Raw Story quotes former Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) saying that Donald Trump intentionally wants America to be anxious: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“I had a colleague that was in a meeting in the Roosevelt Room and….he heard Trump say, ‘Have you ever seen the nation so divided?’ My colleagues and others said, ‘No, we haven’t.’ Trump said, ‘I love it that way.’’

He thinks this how he’ll be re-elected!

Last Sunday, Walter Schaub, former director of the US Office of Government Ethics had a remarkable tweet thread on this, saying: (emphasis and brackets by Wrongo)

“…we’re in a dangerous new phase of Trump’s war on democracy. What do we do now?

….the greatest threat we face is despondency. The enemies of democracy…want you drowning in hopelessness. A hopeless populace is a helpless one. To that end, a hostile foreign power set up an infrastructure to weaponize social media against you.

Compounding the assault on your senses, he [Trump] also wields a corrupted government, which follows his lead in disseminating lies to sow confusion…

In the face of this psychological warfare, our most urgent mission—our civic duty—is to reject despondency. Everyone has a bad day, so we may need to take turns leading the charge. But our job as citizens is to resist the temptation to spread defeatism on social media.”

You said it, Walter!

We gotta keep hope alive.

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IOWA = AWOL

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Mt. Hood, OR – 2020 photo by JustinPoe

AWOL means “Absent Without Official Leave”. What’s really AWOL is the Iowa vote tallying on Monday night. Yves Smith:

“The Democrats have lurched from their self-inflicted wound of the botched impeachment effort to the self-inflicted wound of the embarrassing fail of Iowa caucus result-tallying, thanks not just to the use of a newly-created app that failed in prime time, but also the lack of any sort of fallbacks.”

On Tuesday night, Iowa released a partial result:

Buttigieg: 26.9%

Sanders:  25.1%

Warren:  18.3%

Biden:     15.6%

Based on 62% of the votes, these are the viable candidates. It’s useful to point out that Klobuchar was next at 12.6% of the delegates. In Wrongo’s review of counties that had yet to fully report, but where Klobuchar was in first or second place, she will not gain enough votes to make the 15% cutoff for delegates. Maybe, by the time you are reading this, all the votes will have been counted.

How can it take more than 18 hours to tabulate 105,400 votes? That implies that, when fully counted, the total vote will be about 170,000. That’s about as many total voters as a mayoral election in a medium-sized city. Iowa has said since Monday night that every vote had a paper trail. If so, how can they still not have a final count?

Don’t you think that football’s San Francisco ‘49’ers wish that the Super Bowl ended when it was 62% complete? This is absurd.

Is it wrong to point out that the Dems also botched the software roll-out for the Affordable Care Act?

Some random thoughts:

  • The Iowa caucus was administered by the Iowa Democratic Party. Luckily for Iowans, the November election will be administered by state and local election officials.
  • Nevada Democrats also had plans to use the same mobile reporting app for their caucuses set for Feb. 22, but now they say they won’t be using it. The NY Daily News reports that Nevada won’t gamble on the vote results app that derailed the Iowa caucuses: (brackets by Wrongo)

‘What happened in the Iowa caucus last night will not happen in Nevada,’ William McCurdy, the [Nevada] state party chairman, said in a statement. ‘We will not be employing the same app or vendor used in the Iowa caucus.’”

  • In Iowa politics, maybe like politics everywhere, the six degrees of Kevin Bacon works perfectly. Shadow is the software firm that botched the vote tally. It is owned by Acronym. The Iowa Democratic Party paid Shadow $60,000 in November and December 2019. Gerard Niemira and Krista Davis, who both worked for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, co-founded Shadow. Shadow collected $153,768 in 2019 from Iowa, Nevada and seven different Democratic campaigns, mostly for technology, software and subscription services like text messaging. Among them were the presidential campaigns of Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg. Tara McGowan is CEO of Shadow’s parent company, Acronym. Her husband is a Buttigieg campaign strategist. Her brother-in-law is the Buttigieg Iowa state communications director.

If this happened in Venezuela, or Greece, or Indonesia, there would be worldwide mockery along with comments like, “well, what did you expect?”

This goes beyond satire. The only question is whether it’s staggering incompetence, or something deliberately orchestrated. Wrongo votes for the former, because the people running the Democratic Party are too inept to do something like this on purpose. Never attribute to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence.

Sabotage is the least likely explanation.

In California, it can take weeks to process election results and they often turn out to be different than the estimates on election night. Better to get it right, than end up with what happened in Florida in 2000.

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Important Lessons About the Youth Vote in Iowa

The Daily Escape:

Left Mitten, Monument Valley NP, AZ – photo by Enigma Fotos

The Iowa caucuses are just around the corner. On February 3, Iowans will kick off the primary season. With so many candidates still running, it may only take 40,000 votes to “win” the caucus. Vox quotes Norm Zterzenbach, former Iowa Democratic Party official:

“Maybe the top candidate ends up with 20%, because you’ve got six strong candidates going into caucus night….that’s only 40,000-50,000 votes.”

538 says that it’s likely that Sanders finishes first in Iowa. It’s a little complicated, since Iowa has 41 delegates, of which 14 are decided by the state-wide vote, and 27 by the vote in each Congressional district. Here’s 538’s forecasted vote tally:

Sanders:   13.0

Biden:       12.4

Buttigieg:   8.0

Warren:     5.4

All other:   2.2

An important factor affecting the outcome could be Iowa’s youth vote. Tufts University reports:

“Young people are poised for a potentially historic turnout in the upcoming Iowa caucuses, and young Democrats prefer Sen. Bernie Sanders…”

This is based on a poll by Tufts and Suffolk University who surveyed 500 young Iowa residents ages 18-29, who are eligible to vote, regardless of their voter registration status. The survey was conducted between Jan. 15 and Jan. 20, by telephone. The margin of error is +/-4.4%.

The key findings were:

  • More than a third (35%) of young Iowans (ages 18-29) surveyed say they are “extremely likely” to caucus on Feb. 3, 2020
  • That would represent a 300% increase over youth voter participation in 2016, when 11% participated
  • Moreover, the last two times that only one party had an active nominating contest, youth turnout in the Iowa caucuses was only 4%
  • 39% of young Iowans polled intend to caucus for Sanders, followed by 19% for Warren, and 14% for Buttigieg
  • Among young Iowans, Yang was favored by 9% while Biden only had 7%
  • Among all Iowa youth polled (Democrats, Republicans, and independents), 41% support, and 49% don’t support Trump’s impeachment and removal
  • On the issues, those polled said the following issues were most important: health care (18%), the environment (12%), taxes, (mostly mentioned by young Republicans) at 12%, and international relations (9%)

The youth vote played a decisive role in the 2008 caucuses when 57% of young caucus goers supported then-Senator Obama, helping propel him to a win in Iowa. In 2016, according to the exit polls, 84% of Iowa youth supported Bernie Sanders at the Democratic caucuses, giving Sanders a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton (who won 49.9% to 49.6%) and kicking off a trend of national youth support for Sanders throughout the 2016 Democratic primaries.

Winning any election depends on turnout, and Iowa is no exception. In the Tufts poll, 72% of Iowa youth said they have been personally contacted and asked to support a specific candidate or party. That included 82% of young Democrats, and 75% of those who are Independent or unaffiliated.

One-fifth (21%) of all in the poll said that they want to register to vote, but didn’t know how. Tellingly, more than half (55%) didn’t know that they have to register with a party in order to participate.

Can anything be more depressing than learning that 55% of kids over 18 in Iowa don’t have a basic understanding of civics? Wrongo suspects that this is true in most states. Insuring that all people are registered to vote should be every politician’s job #1. The best way to achieve this is automatic voter registration (AVR).

Oregon was the first state to implement an AVR system in 2015. And in 2016, it saw 44% of automatically registered voters cast a ballot. Since Oregon, fifteen more states, and DC, have followed suit.

In general, states that have implemented AVR have higher voter turnout rates.

There are two main types of AVR implementation: front-end and back-end. In a back-end system like Oregon’s, eligible voters are automatically added to the voter rolls when they interact with a government agency. They are given the chance to opt out via mail afterward.

In a front-end system, like California’s or Colorado’s, individuals are required to decide whether they want to register to vote, or indicate if they want to update their address while interacting with an agency. While there are advantages to each approach, front-end systems do not register as many people as back end systems. Maybe people hate spending more time at the DMV.

Nothing is more sacred to our democracy than the right to vote, but, our national electoral system is broken by gerrymandering and partisan purging of the voter rolls.

If voter rolls are missing certain groups (such as low-income voters, rural voters, and young voters) those people will not be canvassed, or mobilized, and will not turn out to vote at election time.

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Can Dems Beat Trump In The 2020 Battleground States?

The Daily Escape:

Buttermilk Falls, Ithaca, NY – October 2019 photo by mattmacphersonphoto

Some news was made by pollsters yesterday. The NYT and Siena College are out with a poll of 2020 battleground states that shows Trump is highly competitive in head-to-head matchups with the top Democratic candidates. Even though Trump is by far the most unpopular president in American history, these polls indicate that he could get re-elected.

Here are the top line results. Among registered voters, Biden narrowly leads Trump in four of them, Sanders in three, Warren in one:

These states were the key contests in 2016 between Hillary and Trump. Trump’s approval ratings have long been in the high 30s to low 40s, and he trails Biden by almost nine points in an average of national polls. But as the 2016 race showed, the story in the battleground states can be quite different. Mr. Trump won these six states even while losing the national vote by two percentage points.

In this poll, Trump trails Biden by an average of two points, but that result is within the margin of error in the individual states. And we know how erroneous the polls were in November 2016. You can look at the current poll’s cross-tabs here.

Hate to pour cold water on Democrats, but Trump could lose the 2020 popular vote by upwards of ten million, and still win in the Electoral College.

This is reality – it will come down to six states. This is why people get so disengaged from presidential politics. Then, by not voting in election years, the Congress, state houses, and state assemblies stay with the Republicans.

Ten years from now, the demographics will be different. Consider Texas, where Latinos will outnumber non-Hispanic whites by 2022. OTOH, we have a census next year, and some states are deploying multimillion-dollar efforts to ensure their population gets counted correctly. But in the South, only three states have allocated state funding for census outreach, with just eight months to go.

It may take time, but much of the South will again come back into play. Maybe people won’t feel like they’re overlooked if presidential campaigns actually required the votes of people in most states in order to win.

Just six states. That should infuriate everyone. We remain at the mercy of the Electoral College.

But there’s more. Nate Cohn says in the Times article:

“Nearly two-thirds of the Trump voters who said they voted for Democratic congressional candidates in 2018 say that they’ll back the president against all three named opponents.”

The crossover by Republicans to vote for a Democrat in 2018 was a factor in taking back the House. So, losing two-thirds of them sounds terrible for Dems, until you realize that it means 1/3 of Trump’s 2016 voters in those states say they’ll stay with the Dems in 2020. And Trump’s margin in PA, MI, and WI was just 80,000 in 2016

We’re at a point where the Democratic field is narrowing. Four candidates have moved clear of the field, Biden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg. Biden and Buttigieg represent middle-of-the-road liberalism, while Warren and Sanders represent a more liberal, anti-corporate philosophy. Only Buttigieg is under 70, but that doesn’t matter if the opponent is over 70 himself. The rest of the field barely polls at 2%.

It’s likely that the Dem nominee will be one of these four, but it’s way too early to be concerned about how they perform vs. Trump’s relative strength in the battleground states he won in 2016.

It’s smart for Democrats to fight as though every poll has them way behind. And the figures on advertising dollars spent per campaign show that Trump is currently spending as much money as all the Democrats combined.

A year from now, we’ll be entering a different world. But since we can’t know the future, it could be either wonderful news, or more of the brain-melting hell in which we currently reside.

To make sure it’s a new world, we have to do everything we can to ensure that someone new is elected, someone who will oppose with every vote, every fiber of their being, the policies and hate spewed by Trump and his GOP fellow-travelers.

This means we have to work to turn them out not only from the presidency, but from every other elected office, from county commissioner to the House and Senate.

How?  There are a lot of ways, from donating money, to donating time at the local Party office; to writing letters to the editor, or making your voice heard through whatever means you can.

The How is important, but the Why is what should energize every one of us.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – November 3, 2019

(Sorry for going dark, but we lost internet here at the Mansion of Wrong for two days. It’s back, but since it is supplied by Spectrum, it’s very slow, despite Wrongo paying for a premium pile of megabits.)

The WaPo reports:

“Smuggling gangs in Mexico have repeatedly sawed through new sections of President Trump’s border wall in recent months by using commercially available power tools, opening gaps large enough for people and drug loads to pass through…”

Apparently, they’re using a battery-powered Sawzall, like this one that you can order from Home Depot:

It can cut through the bars of steel and concrete in a few minutes, if equipped with specialty blades made with diamond grit. The blades sell for less than $15. The Trump administration has so far completed 76 miles of the new barriers that are now being breached by Mexican smugglers. These are the sections of wall that Trump boasts are “virtually impenetrable”. He has called them the “Rolls-Royce” of walls that border-crossers cannot get over, under or through.

Who knew that for $100, and a few $15 blades, you could defeat the wall that will eventually cost us $10 billion?? On to cartoons.

Al-Baghdadi was killed. Trump said he died like a dog:

Republicans are now trying to smear a military hero to protect a draft dodger. Trump equates dogs with cowards, while an actual military dog served heroically, without claiming Paw Spurs.

Trump says he’s moving from NY to FL. New Yorkers cheer:

Dems are placing way too much faith in the process:

It is looking like the Boeing 737 MAX should never fly again:

Signs of the season won’t go away:

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Partisan Gerrymandering Overturned in North Carolina

Daily Escape:

Colchuk Lake in the Enchantments, part of the Cascade Mountains, WA – August 2019 photo by atgctgtt

This summer, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 in the case Rucho v. Common Cause that federal courts could not invalidate maps based on partisan gerrymandering, although states might still do so.

At the time, Wrongo snarked about the decision:

“Wrongo’s shorter John Roberts: The federal government can’t do anything about your state stripping you of representation. You have to go back to the people who stripped you of representation and ask them.”

Despite Wrongo’s skepticism, on Tuesday, the North Carolina (NC) state Supreme Court put an end to eight years of Republican partisan gerrymandering when it ruled against NC Republicans who had installed it in 2011. From the Daily Kos (DK):

“On Tuesday, a three-judge panel delivered a major blow against Republican gerrymandering when it struck down North Carolina’s state Senate and state House districts for violating the rights of Democratic voters.”

More:

“The state court ruled that these maps, designed to entrench Republican rule, ran afoul of the state constitution’s guarantee of free and fair elections. These illegal districts were so extreme that they helped Republicans to maintain their legislative majorities in 2018’s elections even though Democratic candidates won more votes statewide. If fairer districts are implemented for 2020, they could put Democrats in striking distance of a majority in one or both chambers.”

NC’s current state-district maps had to be redrawn again in 2017, after the US Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s ruling that they constituted an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

Now, NC’s voters will be voting in new state election districts for the third time since 2011.

This decision is similar to one in PA in 2018, where a state court ruled that PA’s congressional map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered. It also relied on the PA state constitution, so its decision was not reviewable by the US Supreme Court.

When SCOTUS decided not to rule on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering, it said quite clearly that state courts could rule on the question based on the individual state constitutions. NC now joins PA as states in which this strategy has succeeded.

The NC and PA decisions are reminders that we can challenge bad laws under state constitutions. States are free to recognize more rights than those enumerated in the US Constitution, they just can’t recognize fewer rights. This is the sort of “federalism” that conservatives hope you never learn about.

More from DK:

“While this case only concerns the maps in one state, every state constitution has provisions similar to North Carolina’s that could be used to challenge partisan gerrymanders so long as there’s a receptive and fair-minded state Supreme Court majority to hear such a case. This ruling therefore underscores the importance of Supreme Court elections in key swing states next year, including Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Progressive victories in these races would go a long way toward blocking the GOP’s lopsided control over redistricting as we head into the next round of redistricting following the 2020 census.”

The NC court decision was 345 pages long. The opinion really makes it clear how there’s just no possible defense for what the GOP was doing in NC. In addition, the opinion might as well have had “John Roberts is an embarrassing hack” stamped on every page.

This doesn’t mean that Democrats can relax between here and 2020. Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin are states where 2020 state Supreme Court elections could either give Democrats a majority, or set them up to gain one in subsequent elections. That will be crucial in the next decade, since the Census will also take place in 2020. There will be new voters to count, or to disenfranchise, depending on your Party’s ideology.

This war must be won in the trenches, not by the national candidates.  Wisconsin gave us a bad example in April. Although Democrats in Wisconsin won the popular vote in 2018, they didn’t work hard enough to get their state Supreme Court nominee over the finish line in 2019, despite having a progressive plurality.

Democrats have to realize that they won’t win if they think only certain elections are important enough to get out and vote.

These battles are local, not national, and now that the US Supreme Court will be sitting on its hands for a decade or more, these are fights we must win.

Democrats can’t afford not to contest local judicial elections.

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Saturday Soother – August 24, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Ground Swell – 1939 painting by Edward Hopper

In news you most assuredly haven’t seen, the 10th District US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that “Faithless Electors”, people who do not cast their votes in the Electoral College for the winner of their state’s presidential election, are now free to vote for anyone they want.

This Colorado case came about because in 2016, one elector refused to vote for the state’s winner, Hillary Clinton, and instead, voted for John Kasich. The Colorado Secretary of State ordered him to cast his vote for Clinton, or be replaced. He refused and was subsequently replaced with an elector who voted for Clinton.

The faithless elector sued, and the 10th Circuit decided in his favor, saying that the Constitution provides:

“…Presidential electors the right to cast a vote for president and vice president with discretion. And the state does not possess countervailing authority to remove an elector and to cancel his vote in response to the exercise of that Constitutional right.”

The court traced the history of faithless electors back to 1796, when Samuel Miles voted for Thomas Jefferson instead of John Adams. Congress counted his vote. In the 2016 election, there were 13 anomalous votes from three states, and Congress also counted those votes.

This decision could have major ramifications for future presidential elections. The attorney for the faithless elector, Jason Wesoky, said the Court’s ruling essentially makes the laws requiring electors to vote for the state’s winner unenforceable. That impacts 16 states today.

It is even more significant, since a growing number of states are rethinking their Electoral College systems in response to the 2016 election. The 16 states that have passed laws that award all of their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, currently equal 196 electoral votes.

If states representing another 74 electoral votes pass it, the so-called National Popular Vote bill will control the majority of votes in the Electoral College. The bill has passed at least one chamber in 8 additional states with 75 additional electoral votes.

This Appeals Court’s decision means that yet another crucial issue to  the future of our democracy will be in the hands of the Supreme Court, once the appeal gets to them.

Enough of news you won’t ever use, it’s time for your Saturday Soother!

Start by brewing up a mug of Honduras Marcala coffee ($19/12oz.) from Santa Barbara’s Handlebar Coffee Roasters. The founders are professional cyclists who met while riding in the Amgen Tour of California, America’s best bike race.

Now, settle back and listen to something very different, a guitar band from Mali called Tinariwen. They are Tuareg musicians from northern Mali. They play rolling melodic lines and loping rhythms that evoke the desert sands of the Sahara. The band’s name literally means “deserts” in their language, Tamasheq. Here they are playing “Kel Tinawen” from their upcoming album “Amadjar”, available on September 6th:

The video is of a road trip along Africa’s Atlantic coast as the band and crew cross the Western Sahara. They will be touring the US in September. For an early date in Winston-Salem, NC, some locals on social media are leveling violent, racist attacks against the musicians. Welcome to America!

Here is a translation of the lyrics:

Evil tongues – you can keep talking.

The uprising will be impossible to suppress.

The treachery of your evil words has sold out your brothers for your own interests.

You’ve locked them up in a prison, every last one of them.

You fine talkers, tell us what road you plan to take to avoid us if we remain rooted.

You’ve forgotten the suffering of our parents,

The suffering they have experienced since birth,

Unable to find water, unless they dig wells with their own hands.

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

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Trump Still Wants His Citizenship Question

The Daily Escape:

Sandia Mountains, New Mexico – 2019 photo by cameforthegames

On June 27, the Supreme Court held that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s March 2018 order directing the Census Bureau to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census questionnaire could not go forward. At the time, we all thought that there would be no such question on the census.

Now, that’s no longer true.

“President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr began working to find a way to place a citizenship question on the 2020 census just after the Supreme Court blocked its inclusion last month, Mr. Barr said on Monday, adding that he believes that the administration can find a legal path to incorporating the question.”

More from Barr:

“I felt the Supreme Court decision was wrong, but it also made clear that the question was a perfectly legal question to ask, but the record had to be clarified…”

The ruling left open the possibility that the citizenship question could be added to the census if the administration came up with a better rationale for it.

Here’s a way to look at what the Administration means: The Supreme Court said we couldn’t do this. Our reasoning was stupid and insulting. So now, we have to come up with something better. Yeah, we said it was too late for that, but we’re working on a brilliant new reason.

And you shouldn’t make anything of the fact that the lawyers the DOJ had working on it just quit:

“Barr also acknowledged that the career Justice Department lawyers who had worked on the census question had little appetite to continue on the case after Mr. Trump inserted himself into the process…. The Justice Department announced a day earlier that it was replacing them, a nearly unheard-of move.”

On Monday, the plaintiffs in the case asked a NY judge to block the DOJ lawyers’ withdrawal because they did not demonstrate “satisfactory reasons” for the change. On Tuesday, the judge denied the request, except for two DOJ attorneys.

Barr also said that the Trump administration would soon reveal how it plans to add the question, but he wouldn’t detail exactly how it would be justified.

On Monday, Speaker Pelosi announced that she intended to schedule a full House vote “soon” to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for defying subpoenas for documents related to the census question. This had been recommended last month by the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

If Barr goes forward, the question will be provisionally added, and a new time clock for the case starts again.

But, Trump may have screwed the pooch. He admitted that the whole point was to favor Republican redistricting, which was exactly what his lawyers have said is not the case, because that’s unconstitutional. Trump said we need the census citizenship question for many reasons:

“Number one, you need it for Congress — you need it for Congress for redistricting,” he said Friday. “You need it for appropriations — where are the funds going? How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons.”

Trump apparently doesn’t realize that America bases redistricting on the population of the district, not the citizens in the district. Yet, there’s still a strong possibility that his question will be part of the census.

In the case mentioned above, four Supreme Court justices said they would vote for literally any position the administration takes on the issue. And a fifth vote (Chief Justice Roberts) searched in vain for any possible fig leaf that would allow him to join them. When he couldn’t, he sided with the liberals.

Americans should be outraged that the Trump administration willingly engaged in an illegal action, and then lied about it in federal court. They should be outraged that four members of the Supreme Court thought that was just fine. The Chief Justice thought it could have been fine, had they come up with a less blatant pretext, which he invited them to provide. Any Chief Justice worthy of the title would have simply ruled that the process couldn’t be salvaged.

The big story here isn’t the census question. It’s the DOJ’s legal team refusing to continue working on the case. This is unprecedented, and a really big deal.

The most plausible explanation for their quitting is that they told the Supreme Court it had to decide by June 30th, or the question couldn’t be included. If they now have to go back to SCOTUS, they would have to admit that was a lie.

We have to hope that the administration’s malevolence will be ruined by their incompetence.

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