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30.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The impossible is possible Permalink to this item

Searching for news on some other topic, any other topic, the headline that Austria’s Far Right Sees a Prize Within Reach: The Presidency catches the eye, if not the fancy. Still politics, but something new to me, the rising fortunes of the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, aka FPÖ, aka Freedom Party of Austria. Founded and led by former Nazis in the 1950s, led by Jörg Haider in the 80s and 90s to "an ideological turn towards right-wing populism," which, you can see where this is heading. The history is complicated, and besides, it's history. Now, the 45-year old front man Norbert Hofer insists that he hates the past as much as the next guy, and was born in 1971. He prefers "center-right" to "extreme-right."

What most of the country thinks of as center left and center right "governed for most of the past 30 years in ever-duller grand coalitions" according to Alison Smale's earlier report of the May election, apparently a narrow loss, conceded by Hofer. Then the country's highest court ordered a new vote for October, later pushed to early next month "because of faulty glue on postal ballots."

The ever-duller grand coalitions appear about to come unglued themselves, on the verge of what would be the first far-right head of state in post-World War II Europe.

Excerpt of Heinz-Peter Bader's image for Reuters, for commentary

The 72-year-old former economics professor and ex-leader of the Greens party, Alexander Van der Bellen, may not be able to edge out the youngster this time. "Populism," we're calling it now, is rising, and events in the U.S. have "eroded any lingering inhibitions that Austrians may have had about openly supporting [Hofer's] candidacy."

Heinz-Peter Bader's image for Reuters, a street scene in Vienna grabs attention, featuring Hofer's campaign posters "with Heart and Soul" and God's help, in your mind, decide, and a bit of post-production editing.

Not to put too fine a point on it.

At a Nov. 18 gathering in Vienna, Heinz-Christian Strache, the trained dental technician who leads the Freedom Party, was quite clear about the inspiration provided by Mr. Trump. “On Dec. 4, the impossible is possible,” Mr. Strache told hundreds of supporters. “We’ve seen it in the U.S., we can do it in Austria. We’re a little cautious here, it’s our style. But if the Americans can do it, we can do it.”

So wahr mit Gott helfe.

29.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Wears down the rock Permalink to this item

Thanks to a friend with a musical ear for good writing, a link to Ursula K. LeGuin's blog, which I see is sensibly organized by year. As in, one page for the year. She has a cat that looks somewhat like ours. And like us, she has lived through 2016 (so far), with growing incredulity. The newest thing at the moment, with wisdom from an even older friend: "The Election, Lao Tzu, a Cup of Water."

"The weakest, most yielding thing in the world, as he calls it, water chooses the lowest path, not the high road. It gives way to anything harder than itself, offers no resistance, flows around obstacles, accepts whatever comes to it, lets itself be used and divided and defiled, yet continues to be itself and to go always in the direction it must go. The tides of the oceans obey the moon while the great currents of the open sea keep on their ways beneath. Water deeply at rest is yet always in motion; the stillest lake is constantly, invisibly transformed into vapor, rising in the air. A river can be dammed and diverted, yet its water is incompressible: it will not go where there is not room for it. A river can be so drained for human uses that it never reaches the sea, yet in all those bypaths and usages its water remains itself and pursues its course, flowing down and on, above ground or underground, breathing itself out into the air in evaporation, rising in mist, fog, cloud, returning to earth as rain, refilling the sea. Water doesn’t have only one way. ...

Don't feed the troll Permalink to this item

The seven deadly sins come to mind every so often, especially with pride at the front of the list. We take pride in our accomplishments, generally, is that a problem? Perhaps not if taken in moderation, same as "all things," according to FF BF, he of quotable virtues sometimes honored in the breach.

The most amazing troll

Pride is of course what goeth before the fall. And greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth lubricate the slippery ledge. It seems a minority of voters (with a sufficient plurality in just the right places) have elevated an exemplar of at least six of the seven not-to-do list. He doesn't seem slothful, at least, even though we can imagine him working his tweeter with three tiny fingers. (This morning's you-didn't-see-this-coming troll is about flag-burning, that great cancer on the republic. "Perhaps loss of citizenship" should be the penalty.)

We all know virtue is harder than vice. (The list is twice as long.)

Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

As Wikipedia reminds us, "Franklin did not try to work on them all at once," but "believed the attempt made him a better man."

Let's keep our eye on the ball. Consitutional virtues of free speech, freedom of the press, freedom from corruption and bribery at every level of government, freedom from the whims of a king, dictator, buffoon, or other sorts of charlatans.

Help us Obi-wan Senate Republicans. You're our only hope. You knew this was a con; you said as much. “Delusional narcissist,” you said. “Utterly amoral.” “A pathological liar.” Don't give in to the dark side. There is a lot more than inflammatory protest at stake. Medicare. Social Security. Whether or not we'll work to keep the planet habitable.

28.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The people's Sheriff Permalink to this item

How would this be for your résumé when you apply to be head of the Department of Homeland Security? You're a Sheriff, and four people have died in your jail since April. That's better than the headline about one of the deaths, though, in the Milwaukee, Wis. Journal Sentinel: Baby died after staff ignored labor, inmate says. She's suing for $8.5 million in damages.

Whereas the man in charge, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. is just the blustering sort of bully that Donald Trump is likely to admire. All the better to get tough on terror. Quoted from Mother Jones (which has the audio from the full episode if you can handle it):

December 2015 segment of his show, The People's Sheriff, on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze radio network, Clarke suggested that any person who posts pro-terrorist sentiments on social media be arrested, deprived of the constitutional protection against unlawful imprisonment (known as habeas corpus), and sent to Guantanamo Bay indefinitely. He estimated the number of people who could be imprisoned under his proposal could reach 1 million. Presumably, this would include American citizens. ...

"I suggest that our commander in chief ought to utilize Article I, Section 9 and take all of these individuals that are suspected, these ones on the internet spewing jihadi rhetoric… to scoop them up, charge them with treason and, under habeas corpus, detain them indefinitely at Gitmo," Clarke said.

Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution allows the president to suspend the writ of habeas corpus only "when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." Clarke added that locking up suspected terrorists in American prisons and jails would turn those facilities into "terrorist recruitment camps." That's why these people would have to be packed off to Guantanamo.

"We have no idea how many people out there have pledged allegiance or are supporting ISIS, giving aid and comfort, but I would suggest hundreds of thousands, I would suggest maybe a million," Clarke said. "It’s just a guess. And then you take the known terrorists that are here, and you think we’re going to arrest all these people and put them in jails and then sentence them to prison? It’s idiotic. [Take them to] Gitmo and hold them indefinitely under a suspension of habeas corpus. We’re at war. This is a time of war. Bold and aggressive action is needed."

27.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Through the looking glass Permalink to this item

Not sure which role to cast our president-apparently-elect in, but two things are crystal clear: (1) flattery will get you everywhere in Trumpworld, and (2) "thin-skinned" doesn't begin to describe this guy. The current nationwide tally shows 2 million+ more people voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump. You don't need me to tell you the electoral vote didn't turn out quite the same, and thanks to narrower wins in a handful of key states, Trump appears poised to win the majority of votes in the body that actually decides who to make president, the Electoral College.

But wait, there's more! Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who you wouldn't think really had a dog in the hunt (otherwise, why did she even muddy the water by running?) has raised millions of dollars to get a recount started in Wisconsin, and plans to do likewise in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Trump's edge is 27,000-some in Wisconsin, 64,000 in Pennsylvania, and less than 12,000 votes out of 4.7 million in Michigan. Slim margins, not likely to be all three overturned, let alone decisively overturned with solid evidence.

The smart thing for Trump to do would be to keep the right people in his organization involved in the process to make sure nothing fishy happens, and to keep his attention on the important job of staffing his administration. But the idea that he lost the popular vote by a wide margin rankles something fierce. And now this recount business. In a petulant storm of tweets (!), Trump has now tossed off that if the popular vote mattered, he could have won that "even more easily" by campaigning in "3 or 4 states instead of the 15" he visited. He was looking out for the little guy states.

The capper is fake news to rival the imaginary mobs in New Jersey cheering the fall of the World Trade Center. "If you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally," Trump tweeted, he would have won the popular vote, too.

With no evidence. Just make stuff up. Hey, why not? It worked for Roger Ailes' infotainment! And so far, it's been working for Donald Trump. His M.O. when the conversation moves somewhere he doesn't like: the hateful xenophobia he expressed to kick off his campaign, the unstinting (and fully justified) criticism his primary rivals leveled at him, the indecent exposure of his misogyny and on down the line, his response has been to say something even more outrageous.

This is not normal. It is not presidential. And it is very, very dangerous.

Christiane Amanpour tells us journalism is facing an existential crisis. "[P]ostcard from the world: This is how it goes with authoritarians like Sisi, Erdoğan, Putin, the Ayatollahs, Duterte, et al." It isn't an exaggeration to say that democracy faces the same crisis; we can't have one without the other.

Update: When the next crazy tweet-storm rains down, ask yourself, what's the diversion about? It's a target-rich environment. Today's leading contender could be the New York Times' front-page feature on the world of potential conflict for the Trump family business operations in the U.S. and 20 other countries, with a 2-½ page spread after the jump. How much of the campaign crazy was to distract attention from the tax returns he's never released, along the same lines of concealing his core interests? The NYT gives him the last word, which sounds about as bonkers as his tweeting:

“In theory, I can be president of the United States and run my business 100 percent, sign checks on my business,” Mr. Trump said, before later adding, “but I am phasing that out now, and handing that to Eric Trump and Don Trump and Ivanka Trump for the most part, and some of my executives, so that’s happening right now.”

Black Friday Permanent URL to this day's entry

Second thoughts Permalink to this item

Lawrence Lessig suggests the Electoral College could—and should—give the People's Choice award to Clinton.

People who want to work within the system are clamoring for recounts to see if they can tip the right states to an old-fashioned win. Green Party candidate Jill Stein raised $4.5 million for the effort! We're no strangers to "voting anomalies," pretty much none of which resemble the pre-election bogeyman of dead people (or whomever) voting multiple times. Just old-fashioned gerrymandering, and limiting access to dissuade the dissuadable. “We deserve elections we can trust,” Stein said, and we'd like to think so. Politicians we can trust, too? Tall order.

There doesn't seem a need to look at the little man (or woman) behind the voting booth curtains when the ingredients of a hacked election were in plain sight. A Republican-controlled Congress obsessed with emails and blind to proven corruption. The Russian hacking, scanning and probing. But the Joint Statement from the Department Of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security, issued a month and a day before Election Day, when the fellow who has apparently ended up losing the popular vote by a wide margin was talking about "rigged" elections in pre-emptive strikes.

Nothing to see here, people, "it would be extremely difficult for someone, including a nation-state actor, to alter actual ballot counts or election results by cyber attack or intrusion." They told us.

"Nevertheless, DHS continues to urge state and local election officials to be vigilant and seek cybersecurity assistance from DHS. A number of states have already done so. DHS is providing several services to state and local election officials to assist in their cybersecurity. These services include cyber “hygiene” scans of Internet-facing systems, risk and vulnerability assessments, information sharing about cyber incidents, and best practices for securing voter registration databases and addressing potential cyber threats."

And now after the election, regardless of whether the E.C. stands our world on its head or not, shouldn't we want to do a world-class post-mortem on how things actually turned out, and fix the myriad problems such an investigation would certainly uncover?

Sounds like hard work. With no upside for the winners. When Bush v. Gored, we went so far as the Help America Vote Act to stick a fork in punchcards. (Idaho used those back in the day, but chads never left us hanging on election nights.)

An end-to-end auditable voting system is not a trivial thing. The people who manage things the Same Old Way right up to the moment they're forced to change for some reason are not going to make that happen on their own.

Misundereducated Permalink to this item

News was about "diversity" in the new administration, rising star Nikki Haley tapped for U.N. Ambassador, seems like an OK pick, although a step down from Governor of South Carolina, maybe, and Amway heiress-in-law billionaire Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. Women! Perhaps Mitt Romney shared his binder in that brief meeting with the president-apparently-elect.

The first two announcements of women appointees—perhaps this is just a coincidence—were to organizations long held in contempt by many on the right. The John Birch Society wanted the U.S. out of the U.N. from the get-go and they have never given up the torch. We can save that for another post, though.

Writing for the anti-government FeedomWorks ("originally founded as Citizens for a Sound Economy in 1984," no less), Julie Borowski reminded us five years ago that Ronald Reagan campaigned on abolishing the Department of Education back when it was brand new, and in 1996, the GOP platform declared that “the Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the Department of Education, end federal meddling in our schools, and promote family choice at all levels of learning.” Will the party find its way again, and rejoin the "few notable exceptions such as Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul" who still want to gut the department?

Or just settle for subversion. DeVos has "[spent] millions of dollars in a successful push to expand voucher programs that give families taxpayer dollars to pay for private and religious schools," and by Emma Brown's assessment for the Washington Post is "poised to spread her preference for vouchers nationwide."

The new elements of "diversity" that DeVos brings to the table: no professional experience in schools, nor teaching; a supporter of Trump's primary opponents Bush, Fiorina, and Rubio, by turns, before they fizzled by the wayside; and (unlike the man to be at the top) quite a bit of experience giving away money. What could be more diverse than a Secretary of Education who has never worked in public education, and sent her own children to private Christian schools?

Steering public money into private schools remains a relatively tiny enterprise; fewer than half a million children are going to private schools with the help of public dollars, according to the advocacy group EdChoice (f.k.a. the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation). Maybe that's small enough that oversight doesn't matter. Chalkbeat tells us (my emphasis)

"The DeVos influence is one reason that Michigan’s charter sector is among the least regulated in the country. Roughly 80 percent of charters in Michigan are run by private companies, far more than in any other state. And state authorities have done little up to now to ensure that charter schools are effectively serving students, eliciting concern from current federal authorities."

As in private, for-profit companies. Maybe it's in the water; that link to the June feature-length piece in the NYT notes that Detroit has "a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the United States." And in current coverage:

"Last spring, the DeVos-backed group was the chief force behind the defeat of legislation that would have established standards for identifying and closing failing schools, both charter and public, in Detroit, where a flood of charter schools in the past decade has created what even charter school supporters call chaos."

Idaho Fiscal Facts 2016

Even ruby-red Idaho enshrined public education in its state Constitution— because "the stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people." For FY2016, just over a third of the state's $7 billion budget went toward education. (Coincidentally, on the source side, federal funding for the state's budget is a near-identical fraction.) Public schools seem a more attractive option than coercing support to madrassas, of whatever denomination, let alone unregulated, for-profit businesses.

As the old saying goes, if you think education is expensive, try ignorance. And incarceration. Idaho made a go of prison-for-profit, until the question of what could possibly go wrong was well and truly answered (in a mere 15 years). I'd guess our Republican-run state government would prefer to privatize education, by degrees, if not all at once. It's a bigger prize: appropriatons for adult and juvenile corrections (part of the "public safety" slice) will exceed $300 million in FY2017, up more than 50% in the last decade, but still just one-tenth of the education budget.

If our president-apparently-elect were sincere in his desire to improve the lives of working family, he would be gung-ho to join forces with the labor movement, and public education. His "billionaires know best" pick seems more about cynicism. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers

"Improving the lives of working families is the chief aim of the labor movement. A true test of Trump’s willingness to help America’s families is whether he will work with unions, not try to destroy us—as many Republican governors have done, further eroding wages in states like Wisconsin. While Trump’s populist positions seem to have resonated with some, where the rubber meets the road will be with issues that are key to real economic populism, like the right to a voice at work and collective bargaining, a living wage, retirement security, and an end to austerity and bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. ...

"[The American] dream rests on four key foundations:

1) The economy must create and maintain well-paying jobs and a ladder of opportunity for all, not just those at the top or who currently benefit from the political and economic system.

2) Our public education system—from pre-K through college—must keep children safe and be strong and supported, not privatized or defunded, so it can help them develop skills and knowledge, to maximize their opportunities and foster respect and understanding.

3) Our democratic values, including a free press, an independent judiciary and a thriving labor movement, are rooted in pluralism and equality, and we must stand up against any threat to them.

4) Finally, every person deserves dignity and respect, and freedom from discrimination, bigotry and bullying."

23.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

They know if you've been bad or good Permalink to this item

While you were click-wrapping your way to a never-better presence in marketing databases in the wild circus of the 2016 election, you might have overlooked ProPublica's report on Google quietly dropping the ban on personally identifiable web tracking. I saw the story on Facebook, naturally, with their screenshot of the Christmas-themed markup, "literally crossing out the lines in its privacy policy." That is, We will not combine DoubleClick cookie information with personally identifiable information unless we have your opt-in consent. You can see for yourself, still, or here:

Screenshot from Google Privacy policy dated 2016-06-28

The ProPublica story had a link to your Facebook Ads profile settings, and I took the trouble to turn off "Ads based on my use of websites and apps" ("you'll still see the same number of ads, but they may be less relevant to you. You may also see ads based on things you do on Facebook") and "Ads on apps and websites off of the Facebook Companies" which is to say all those sites in the "Audience Network" with Facebook wiring, which I would guess is anything and everything in any way commercial, news, entertainment, or politics.

I already had set that no one can see my "social actions paired with ads." And then there are the "Ads based on my preferences." My lifestyle and culture milieu (dare I confess this in public?), include the following, in the order Facebook presents:

Mountain Range

But wait, there's more! Some of it spooky, some of it as obvious as my interest in WiFi connections ("Photo uploaders"), some of it wrong (Returned from trip 1 week ago, and Returned from trip 2 weeks ago, unless they're talking about a trip to the grocery store). And that's just one category. There's also "Business and industry" with an even odder collection (with or without the category heading):

My unique personal signature, a dossier for data mining. It's almost heart-warming that the algorithms care so much about me.

Tipping points Permalink to this item

The CHQ daily news is always a freaky grab-bag of weird headlines. Today's conundra include "should Donald Trump keep his promise to throw Hillary in jail?" (alt-headline: Should We Move To Banana Republic System of Justice?) and the one about the "Real Goal of the Anti-Trump Riots" being to eliminate the Electoral College (and the Constitution).

"The great mistake Electoral College opponents make is to believe the President was supposed to be elected by the people. It was never the plan."

Yes, we've been discussing how the real goal of the Electoral College was to make sure that slaveholders had enough juice to preserve their institution. But ok, this is a nice fairy tale version, featuring the rights and "regional differences" of small States. "Small" has to do with population, rather than geography, a fact which the national map embedded in our awareness makes so difficult to keep in mind. Also embedded in our cultural nostalgia, "the voice of the ranchers and farmers of the Mid and Far West" that DeWeese features in his wind-up. (Now trying to visualize how Donald Trump is the man of the ranchers and farmers. Interesting.) Slavery did not get mentioned, but "the values and virtues of the South," what a sweet euphemism. "It would also mean the end of the Tenth Amendment and state sovereignty."

Just a wee stretch to go from the hallowed sovereignty of States to the recognition of the occasional narrow majority being heard (and having Presidents Al Gore and Hillary Clinton) destroying the Republic. (The author's DeWeeseReport specializes in "Agenda 21, property rights, the climate change fraud, and back-to-basics education," so go figure.) If this imagined conspiracy of the "hard Left" were to come to pass...

"Allow that to happen now and the great silent majority of middle America in this nation will never again have a fair say in who is elected our president. And that is the true goal of today’s unrest."

Nov. 2016 photo

Considering our bicoastal hegemony, I see the left side tallies up 72 electoral votes from Washington down to California, more than the Great Basin and Great Plains together if we exclude Texas. Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma have 68 votes. It hardly seems fair if your unit of measure is States, does it? Three greater than 13 (and with all that gas and oil underground)?

But if indeed, this particular concoction is what preserves the voice of the great silent "majority" of middle America even when it is not in the majority, it's been a swimming success for the Republican Party. If the College holds faith (and the possibly rigged elections in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania aren't adjudicated into Clinton's favor at warp speed), we'll have the second party representative put into office by a minority of the popular vote in just the last five contests, joining a House majority well-entrenched by party-controlled gerrymandering, and the "all States are created equal" Senate. Let's just say that "the tyranny giving control of the government to the massive population centers of the nation’s Northeastern sector, along with the area around Los Angeles" is not nigh at hand. Wyoming's citizens, whether they be rancher, farmer, or coal miner, get 67 times the representation of California's in the U.S. Senate.)

What does seem a lot more likely than the supposed hard-Left rioting convincing the lame duck Congress to consider an outgoing California Senator's bill to end the Electoral College: should the College come up with a different result than the one the media announced at dark-thirty after Election Day (through any of multiple, perfectly legal scenarios, less remarkable than Bush v. Gore), the rioting of the hard-Right would put the puny vandalism of the hard-Left to shame and we could well be facing an existential crisis.

Just like candidate Trump tweeted (before it look poised to give him the win):

The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012

Update: Our political history is an egg-laying woolly milk-pig; there's something for every taste and interpretation. Peter Beinart's got a good one, for The Atlantic: The Electoral College was meant to stop men like Trump from being President. Somehow. It would be something if the real election for POTUS—on December 19—turns out differently than November 8th's apparent result.

We're reminded that the original Constitution and its writers entrusted the final say to a group of men selected by the States in whatever fashion they deemed fit (and with slaves credited to their masters as three-fifths of a person, to uphold the values and virtues of the South), and so to provide that “the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications,” as Alexander Hamilton put it.

"As Michael Signer explains, the framers were particularly afraid of the people choosing a demagogue. The electors, Hamilton believed, would prevent someone with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” from becoming president. And they would combat “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” They would prevent America’s adversaries from meddling in its elections. The founders created the Electoral College, in other words, in part to prevent the election of someone like Donald Trump."

It's a fascinating read, considering whether "the danger posed by electing Trump [exceeds] the enormous danger posed by stopping him." If Trump is paying attention, he'll flip-flop his way into some halfway intelligent compromise position that walks back the "climate change is a hoax" thing (Myron Ebell's confirmation hearing to head the EPA left to the far future), along with the possibility of using nuclear weapons, having a registry for Muslims, loosening libel laws, and so on, to reassure the Electors and convince them to stay the course, and play by our familiar family board game rules, rather than the ones that came in the instruction booklet.

22.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The business of America is crooked business Permalink to this item

Donald Trump, the man who won't show you his tax returns, and who just settled a $40 million lawsuit for one of his fraudulent businesses (artfully dealt down to a 37.5% discount), on his Twitter machine last night, just after his YouTube address to the American people:

Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world.Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2016

Our president-elect knows a thing or two about crooked business, right? (And crooked media: Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon were instrumental to his success.) Just as there was no shortage of takers for Trump U., I'm sure there are millions of Americans willing to sign up for a new swindle if they can imagine they'll get a piece of the action. We are all getting a piece of it already, though:

Donald Trump became president to loot the American people, who have been paying his taxes for 20 years.

— LOLGOP (@LOLGOP) November 22, 2016

The $400,000 salary Trump says he won't even take will be really tiny chump change down payment in starting to make that right. (New York City is going to be a big loser, though: somehow they're stuck with a bill for a $million a day to look after the extended Trump clan?!) People have been calling the House Oversight Committee (202-225-5074) and its chairman's DC office (Jason Chaffetz, 202-225-7751), asking for a bipartisan review of Trump's financials and conflicts of interest, such that both voicemailboxes are often overflowing, as they were this morning. Trump is tweeting and laughing through the "I'm not actually president yet" loophole all the way to Deutsche Bank.

Even after he's president, there aren't as many laws about this sort of thing as would apply to rank and file federal employees. Our founding fathers were not completely fresh off the boat, however. They did write into our Constitution that Congress had to approve presents and stuff from kings, princes and foreign states. (That could keep Jason Chaffetz and his committee pretty busy.) Oh, and Bribery is specific grounds for impeachment.

As David Frum points out, this little nation of ours has gone from a tenuous experiment in democracy to the most powerful nation-state in the history of the planet, and we have progressed from the possibility of petty bribes to outright extortion. This from the New York Times:

LONDON — When President-elect Donald J. Trump met with the British politician Nigel Farage in recent days, he encouraged Mr. Farage and his entourage to oppose the kind of offshore wind farms that Mr. Trump believes will mar the pristine view from one of his two Scottish golf courses, according to one person present.

Bouncing back and forth between Twitter and real media, the meeting with the NYT that Trump said he cancelled at 6:16 AM EST ("when the terms and condidtions were changed"), is declared back on at 10:40 AM, for a midday "session with reporters, editors and the publisher." It's not easy to keep up. But this much, at least: Sydney Ember's report for the newspaper shows that our president-elect is not much burdened by the truth in his tweeting. Also, yesterday's "off-the-record" petulant beat-down from the Donald is not the last time we'll hear about that act. "Off the record." It's brilliant; the (genuine) media bind themselves by their agreements, so no one will speak for attribution. Trump knows no bounds. We get the summary from his mouthpiece, Kellyanne Conway, lying with a sneering smile: “It was very cordial, very productive, very congenial. It was also very candid and very honest.”

21.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Fire and ice Permalink to this item

DataGraphic from Climate Reanalzyer, Nov. 21, 2016

Meanwhile, as the U.S. burns (figuratively, and literally, in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, the Carolinas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia), California tallies a hundred million dead trees, and as the latest in the civil war against the native population escalates to water cannons used in sub-freezing temperatures, rubber bullets, tear gas, mace and mace canisters, add "zany" and "totally off" to the list of adjectives that include "extraordinary" as the new normal for the weather report. Also "pretty crazy." No pun intended to connect facts on the ground with Trump's older white male picked to head the E.P.A., a non-scientist, climate change denier, sound-bite artist and oil-industry mouthpiece cum "policy analyst," Myron Ebell. Shades of James G. Watt as Secretary of the Interior for the older members of my audience.

I hadn't heard of the Climate Reanalyzer or Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine before the Washington Post picked up the story four days ago and headlined it that the North Pole is an insane 36°F warmer than normal. The atmosphere keeps moving, and today, that colder air mass has pushed down through Siberia and across western China. Plus and minus 36° makes a 76°F range in the temperature anomaly plots, from the 1979-2000 baseline. The temperature view shows that "normal" for China's high desert is around freezing, 0°C, and they're getting 30 and 40 below.

Incontinental congress Permalink to this item

CHQ Editor George Rasley's piddling effort to discredit the waning days of Obama's two terms provided the service of highlighting a kerfuffle that might have flown under the radar, as it sent us to the dictionary to see what "retromincturation" means. The actual word he was looking to mash-up was micturition, "the desire to urinate," tapping into the latest rage of high-class vulgarity. We don't have a $5 word for it, but his missing the mark brings to mind the unfortunate splash-back problem being studied by four wizz-kids at BYU. Rasley thus manages to combine fake and foul in one swooping reverse hook, quoting extensively from the Washington Post story, verbatim, without bothering to mark it as such. (CHQ editorial incompetence starts at the top.)

From the original, regarding the recommendation from the heads of the Pentagon and the national intelligence community that the current director of the NSA, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, be removed:

"The news comes as Rogers is being considered by President-elect Donald Trump to be his nominee for director of national intelligence to replace Clapper as the official who oversees all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. In a move apparently unprecedented for a military officer, Rogers, without notifying superiors, traveled to New York to meet with Trump on Thursday at Trump Tower. That caused consternation at senior levels of the administration, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal personnel matters."

In spite of friends in high places, including Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and former Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss, and in spite of Sen. John McCain's meddling with the Obama administration's initiative to reorganize the agency and ease Rogers out rather than have a "public firing," the news story explained what justifies Rogers' sacking clearly enough. He was hired in April 2014 after Edward Snowden's disclosures blew things up, and given the charge to "[make] sure another insider breach never happened again."

Nov. 2014 photo

"Instead, in the past year and a half, officials have discovered two major compromises of sensitive hacking tools by personnel working at the NSA’s premier hacking unit: the Tailored Access Operations (TAO). One involved a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor, Harold T. Martin III, who is accused of carrying out the largest theft of classified government material. Although some of his activity took place before Rogers arrived and at other agencies, some of it — including the breach of some of the most sensitive tools — continued on Rogers’s watch, the officials said.

"Martin’s alleged theft was discovered when some of the tools he is accused of stealing were mysteriously released online in August. They included computer code based on obscure software flaws that could be used to take control of firewalls and networks — what one former TAO operator called “the keys to the kingdom.”

"Martin, who moved from the NSA to a job in a Defense Department acquisitions agency last year, was arrested in August. The news broke last month."

That would have been plenty, but the story goes on to describe what we know of a "second, previously undisclosed breach of cybertools, discovered in the summer of 2015."

The nut of Rasley's indignation over the administration's security effort is that they failed to work with Congress the way they should have.

Savor that fine bouquet for a moment.

Along with the fumble-fingered go at the medical dictionary, "connecting dots" includes (you hardly need me to spell this out, do you?) "the cover-up of Hillary Clinton’s role in what went on in Benghazi." All that's missing is something about emails. Rasley's purpose is to cement the "discredited administration" meme, but if the Admiral's shortcomings are about to be rewarded with a promotion, as it seems, this piss-poor hatchet job is not doing him any favors. Given that Clinton won the popular vote, CHQ will be working to keep discrediting her for some time to come.

Mr. Universe pageant Permalink to this item

Trailing edge of the election coverage on the gray lady has the whole story in the headline: Trump Turns Staid Process Into Spectacle as Aspirants Parade to His Door. How could it be anything other than a spectacle? And it's good for business, I'm sure. The Trump National Golf Club isn't giving things away. Perhaps it's too soon to start charging U.S. taxpayers, but campaign donors then can be filling the till at the G.C. And here's not a surprise: despite the "appearance of diversity" including a woman Democrat (Michelle A. Rhee, whose self-assessment of success is grander than others') and a billionaire scientist doctor with a funny-looking name (黄馨祥),

"Mr. Trump’s choices so far for national security posts seem to show a preference for older white men with similar hard-line views on immigration, the military and terrorism. Most of the leading candidates for other jobs appear to be white men, as well, including Mr. Giuliani ..."

Props to freelance photojournalist Hilary Swift for her contribution to the story, three images for the online version, cropped and vignetted to narrow focus to (1) the handshake, the flag, the (hand of the) doorman; (2) Chris Christie approaching from a distance; (3) suitable-for-framing Giuliani-as-right-hand-man while Trump continues to leave him hanging for his prize. All with dark edges.

The NYT LENS "Turning Point" feature with Swift in summer of 2015, when she was an intern is also worth a look.

From Russia with love Permalink to this item

An eon ago, Sunday, November 6, when the conventional wisdom was still measuring how large the size of Clinton's win would be, NYT Public Editor Liz Spayd noted in passing that maybe the alarm bell over Russian election hacking was a bit more muted than it deserved to be. What with "an act of foreign interference in an American election on a scale we’ve never seen" (before) and all. There was a lot to talk about back then. Hillary Clinton's private email server, for example, and data mining the trove of Russian election hacking work product.

That never did amount to much in the end, other than the moment when we revisted James Comey's July pique at the last moment, and before his final pre-election word, "never mind." JK. It fed nicely into the whole untrustworthy/irresponsible/secretly murdering all her enemies theme in our post-factual milieu. Innuendo is a much richer vein than plain fact. What Spayd said: "What was missing is a sense that this coverage is actually important."

You could go back to the middle of June (nearly pre-history) to have another look at David Sanger's and Nick Corasaniti's reporting after the Washington Post broke the story, and judge for yourself. And for the ancient historical context, this was right about the time Vlad Putin was making it clear that Trump was his pick for next POTUS. And oh, Donald Trump's appreciation of flattery. “When people call you brilliant, it’s always good, especially when the person heads up Russia.” Back in that day, the Guardian worked to parse Putin's praise. Trump heard that he was called "brilliant," from a word Google Translate matches to "bright."

Tom von Alten photo, 1999

Asked about the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Putin again described Trump as a “flamboyant” or “colorful” man, using a Russian word – “яркий” – that can be translated with ambiguous connotations, from gaudy to striking to dazzling.

Which is spot-on, n'est-ce pas?

A month and a half further into last summer, and we forget if it was before or after his Ukrainian connection, Paul Manafort, had been shunted aside, Trump confidentally predicted that Putin is "not going into Ukraine OK, just so you understand. He's not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want." (Deutsche Bank?) Two years after Russia had annexed Crimea.

Russia vetoed a UN resolution to stop the bombing of Aleppo, and then stepped it up. The civilian death toll continues to mount. 61 more in yesterdays' news.

Once upon a time, George W. Bush looked Putin in the eye and "was able to get a sense of his soul." A "very straightforward and trustworthy" fellow.

20.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

$25 MILLION FOR PHONY TRUMP U Permalink to this item

Just when things were scheduled to get interesting, president-elect Donald Trump settled lawsuits in New York and California, bigly. Up to $1 million of the settlement will be for penalties to the State of New York for violating state education laws. From the CBS News report, quoting one plaintiff with mixed feelings:

“He conned and swindled me and now six years later he is willing to settle because he is taking office on January 20th? Don’t get me wrong, this $20,000 loss has been a big hardship on me. But I don’t want you to use my name because I’m afraid someone will see that I fell for [Trump University] and will think I am stupid.”

Misery will have ample company for a while when it comes to cons and swindles. But at least 7,000 customers of Trump University will get something out the dispute that has been dragged out for more than six years. From the L.A. Daily News:

"The thousands of former students covered by the San Diego lawsuits will be eligible to receive at least half and possibly all their money back, as much as $35,000, Forge said. The plaintiffs’ attorneys waived their fees.

"Schneiderman called the agreement a “stunning reversal” for the president-elect, saying Trump “fought us every step of the way, filing baseless charges and fruitless appeals and refusing to settle for even modest amounts of compensation for the victims of his phony university. Today, that all changes.”

A couple days after saying he'll separate his old business from his new one (with a preposterous notion that shunting it to a supposedly "blind trust" run by his children would actually do that), here he is meeting with three Indian business partners, but "not a formal meeting of any kind," we're told. While we wait for any sign whatsoever of a meaningful separation between Trump's government and business operations.

U. of Minnesota law professor and one-time chief ethics counsel to President George W. Bush (ok, it's a mixed set of credentials) explains that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under” the United States “shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state,” according to the Constitution. That's looking to be a heavy lift for the 5th Avenue tower set.

19.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Look over here Permalink to this item

Having just been taken in (previous post), this, from a friend who elicted the comment "Yeah, he's pretty good at that 'look over here' trick."

"Its time for those on the left to acknowledge Trump's ability to lead us and the media around by our collective noses. The latest outrage dominating social and traditional media is his tweet about Pence being disrespected at a Broadway show and demanding an apology. Yeah, it's hypocritical, but it's hardly a major scandal. Manipulating our government and his office to enrich the Trump empire is far more significant and egregious. We have been and continue to be manipulated by a master. Our worst mistake is underestimating him again."

Exterior of Old Post Office, Washington D.C., 1910

Just one exhibit, that backup plan Trump had to get to Pennsylvania Ave., the fixer-upper Old Post Office building, remodeling funded by Deutsche Bank, and maybe with some help from federal tax credits, and free publicity carved out of the campaign to cut some ribbons. The other Paul Ryan, Paul S. Ryan, V.P. of policy and litigation at Common Cause: Trump must divest himself of all business holdings. (Legally? Because if it's just doing the right thing, that quaint business of ethics, don't hold your breath. Nevertheless, it needs to be said.) With my emphasis:

“The American people voted Mr. Trump into office on his promise that he would change the way business is done in Washington. To succeed in that goal, he must permanently sever all ties to his many business interests around the globe. If Mr. Trump does not place his business assets into a genuine blind trust, the conflicts of interest will become so extensive that they will undermine not only the credibility of his Administration but of the United States. Turning your businesses over to your children is what leaders of Banana Republics do. Americans expect and deserve better from the Trump Administration."

And from the open letter, signed by Gary D. Bass; Campaign for Accountability; Campaign Legal Center; Center for American Progress; Center for Media and Democracy; Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); Common Cause; Democracy 21; Ambassador (ret.) Norm Eisen, chief White House ethics lawyer; 2009-2011; Essential Information; Issue One; Thomas E. Mann; OpentheGovernment.Org; Norman Ornstein; Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer, 2005-2007; People for the American Way; Project on Government Oversight; Public Citizen; and the Sunlight Foundation.

"In the absence of a full separation from the Trump Organization businesses, the sources of conflict from your overriding duties to the American public are legion. For example, every time any private party sees an opening for litigation against a Trump business entity, that person, perhaps in collusion with your political opponents, could file suit, perhaps even against you personally, embroiling the presidency in litigation.

"Mr. Trump, you were elected to the presidency with a promise to eliminate improper business influence in Washington, to break the stranglehold that commercial interests impose on government. There is no way to square your campaign commitments to the American people – and your even higher, ethical duties as their president – with the rampant, inescapable conflicts that will engulf your presidency if you maintain connections with the Trump Organization, including by maintaining ownership with control transferred to your children."

Trumplethinskin Permalink to this item

The idea of pitting supplicants against each other made for great drama, a hit "reality" TV show, and brought Donald J. Trump front and center to the mainstream of popular attention. Whether it was the greatest con of all time, profound brilliance or just more lucky timing in a lucky life, he's turned that into the top position in the country. There are more than a few of us who doubt that his abilities extend beyond acting the part of bully boss to the managerial demands of leading the executive branch of our government, but we're about to find out.

Nov. 2016 photo from the backyard

In the meantime, and during the waning days of the year, the Obama administration, and perhaps the American experiment in democracy, it's a hell of a show. Last night, as I'm sure you've heard by now, Veep-elect Mike Pence dropped by the Richard Rodgers Theatre to attend the performance of "Hamilton." His fellow theatre-goers and the cast and crew would surely be aware of the celebrity apprentice in the house, and Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor playing Aaron Burr, stepped up to the opportunity at the curtain call.

In 2016 America, the theater plays you.

A public declaration and imploring at the end of the show is certainly less uncomfortable than the reception the theater has given some Republican politicians of yore. The statement was not as piercing as it might have been, given all of went down in the recent campaign. As quoted in the Washington Post (Arts and Entertainment section, naturally), Dixon said:

“We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you truly for (sharing) this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”

Sounds fair to me. The smash hit show has a record. 11 Tonys, and turning our grand American success story into a grand arts and entertainment success story. Mike Pence has a record (outlined in the linked piece), and there's no denying that he and his running mate have given at least half of the country some cause for alarm and anxiety. Consider the courage that Dixon showed to compose that short statement and deliver it in front of a live audience.


As if on cue, Entertainer-in-chief-elect Donald Trump responded on Twitter, challenging Dixon's inalienable right to free speech. On the one hand, it's comedic; on the other, it is the edge of darkness.

The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016

The man who will be president demanding an apology for a heartfelt, personal opinion delivered from the stage of a play about American history and democracy, that is quite a thing. (Not least because "The cast of Hamilton couldn't have been more respectful. They welcomed Pence, they addressed him seriously, urged crowd not to boo" as Alex Parker pointed out.)

There will be So. Much. Apologizing. in the next four years. No small amount of it flowing through Twitter, we can assume. Especially if no one in the Trump administration can find the temerity to take Donald's machine away and get him to focus on his job, which is no longer entertainment. It's leadership. Something very new, perhaps unexpected. #MakeTheBestOfIt

A vision of Trump the Tyrant days to come: in demanding apology from @HamiltonMusical he plays little dictator. Democracy pushes back!

— Timothy Egan (@nytegan) November 19, 2016

18.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Friendly suggestion Permalink to this item

Says here, at the bottom of the story about Ivanka Trump sitting in on the meet and greet with Shinzo Abe (we don't need no stinkin' security clearance) that the Wall Street Journal's editorial board suggests (discreetly, behind their paywall) that Donald Trump should "sell off all his hotels, golf courses and other assets, and then take that cash and turn it over to a blind trust, as that would be the only way to avoid all possible conflicts." Quoted snippet in The Week: "If Mr. Trump doesn't liquidate, he will be accused of a pecuniary motive any time he takes a policy position."

Bet a gold bangle bracelet to a donut there will be plenty of pecuniary motives in our near future. And, you don't learn that much from tax returns as long as they're kept secret.

Honey Badger Permalink to this item

Rocky Barker does a good job of providing the background and links to the nature of fake news enterprise Breitbart News and the former chief provocateur who succeeded its founder, then moved on to promoting Donald Trump's candidacy so well that he's slated to be "chief counselor," a position that conveniently doesn't require Senate confirmation: Breitbart’s Chobani coverage is a reminder of Idaho’s experience with the alt-right. The (much) shorter version is that Breitbart News went after the founder of a successful business for being an immigrant, and encouraging hiring refugees, and trying to connect him to a wholly unrelated sexual assault case with the popular islamophobia hysteria meme. I happened to put the first comment under the story:

Thank you for highlighting this, Rocky. Bannon's presence in the pre-Trump administration sends a signal... that should outrage decent people. Senators Risch and Crapo, Congressmen Labrador and Simpson, will you stand up for the people of Idaho?

My comment has 42 likes, and a stack of subsequent comments below it, with the usual sample of trolling, name calling and Breitbart-ish behavior that passes as online discourse these days. No matter that the election is behind us, there is a lot of unspent derision for Clinton, captured ever so subtly by one of the first responders.

Notice the language jui-jitsu? If you are pro- Trump, you aren't decent people? But if you were willing to endorse and vote for a documented criminal, influence peddler, classified material peddler, and bribe offering candidate, you're OK?

Notice the language manglement and gaslighting? Read on through the swamp to find that it's not the alt-right, it's the alt-left. It's not Trump's right-hand man's well-documented record of presiding over smears and fakery and feeding off white supremacists, it's you people. "Your bigotted liberal hogwash," "a 2 year run of fictitious reporting by virtually every liberal media source to influence the election," "straw man smearing is the lefts specialty." The Statesman has no standing, because they announced they're "supporters of the far left liberal faction as demonstrated by their endorsement of Hillary Clinton."

One troll saw a commenter had his current employer showing in his Facebook tagline (note: bad idea) and "Does the boss know of your tieing [the company] with radical leftist race baiting?" On the one hand, it's at the 2nd grade I'M GOING TO TELL YOUR MOM level, and on the other, doesn't somebody have Terms of Service that need to be applied here? On down to this:

"I'm not surprised the ultra Liberal California Owned Statesman spends their time publishing anti-GOP articles. What does surprise me is the hypocrisy! The Idaho Statesman publishes very fake & misleading stories for the Alt-Left every day. To act surprised that either side is spinning stories just baffles me."

The Executive Editor weighed in to respond to that one: "We do not publish fake stories. Absolutely not true." Things you think would go without saying.

Anyway, quite a number of people have been ringing Senator Crapo's phone off the hook to ask him the same question I posed about standing up for Idaho and against Bannon. Crapo told the Magic Valley Times-News he would “carefully evaluate” Bannon. The Senator's spokesman said but gosh, what could Crapo do, anyhow? It's not like there will be a confirmation hearing or anything, and nobody in the Republican Party seems prepared to offer any sort of resistance to the Trump juggernaut.

Even House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., whom Breitbart has frequently attacked because of his more moderate views on immigration, declined to criticize Bannon when asked about the appointment. The site once published an article critical of Ryan for sending his children to Catholic school, casting it as hypocritical because Ryan supports letting Muslims enter the United States; another attacked him for building a fence around his home because he didn’t include funding for a Mexican border fence in a spending bill.

“Look, I would just simply say that the president is going to be judged on his results,” Ryan told reporters at a press conference Tuesday. “I’m not looking backwards, I’m looking forward.”

Looking forward, we see that those precious moments of presidential acting and quiet moderation for a 60 Minutes interview may not carry over to signs of moderation in the transition team. Senator Crapo (and our junior Senator) will have a chance to speak their minds about some of the nominees should they find the backbone.

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama for Attorney General: "universally respected across party lines in the United States Senate” in the estimate of a Trump transition spokesman's declaration, but maybe not all the way over to the other side of the Capitol, from whence Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) wrote

“If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man. No senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants and people of color than Senator Sessions.”

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich had this to say, on his Facebook page:

"Sessions is a virulent conservative who as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee has opposed immigration reform and refused to cut mandatory minimum prison sentences. He was rejected for a federal judgeship because of racist comments and actions by a Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee in the Reagan administration, and has disparaged the Voting Rights Act.

"This is a horrendous pick, proving – as if anyone needed further proof – the Trump administration will be the most dangerous since Richard Nixon’s, or perhaps ever."

For national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn has the brass and the winning edge that he was a supporter of Trump during the campaign when so many others were saying Trump was "utterly unfitted to the office." Nothing will succeed in the Trump administration as well as sycophancy, never mind that Flynn was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (by Obama! So it's a badge of honor), "has hazy business ties to Middle Eastern countries and has appeared to lobby for the Turkish government," or "took a paid speaking engagement last year with Russia Today, a television network funded by the Kremlin, and attended the network’s lavish anniversary party in Moscow, where he sat at Mr. Putin’s elbow."

Those two picks are less risible than experienced Benghazi witch-hunter Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, as director of the C.I.A. Reich:

"Pompeo was elected to Congress in 2010 as a Tea Partier, with strong financial backing of the Kochs. He opposes abortion even under conditions of rape or incest, and rejects the scientific consensus on climate change.

"On international matters, Pompeo supports the National Security Agency's surveillance programs and believes all remaining impediments to surveillance of American citizens should be removed. He has called for Edward Snowden to get the death sentence. He says Muslim leaders who fail to denounce acts of terrorism done in the name of Islam are "potentially complicit" in those attacks. He opposes closing Guantánamo Bay detention camp. (After a visit to the prison, Pompeo said the prisoners who were on hunger strike, 'looked to me like a lot of them had put on weight.') And he’s a fierce critic of the Obama Administration’s nuclear deal with Iran."

17.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Real news about fake news Permalink to this item

Unlike Steve Bannon's, Paul Horner's fake-news empire was not intended to get Donald Trump elected, but maybe it did? He's not happy with the thought.

"Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it."

Trail of tears Permalink to this item

Dave Johnson figures “Today’s Broken Trump Promise” is certain to be a regular feature, but it that good news or bad? Given the range of truly horrid things Trump said on the campaign trail, it's good to know he didn't mean most of it, just the Art of the Con, working well enough to inch him over the tipping states for the Electoral College, even while losing the popular vote.

Petitioning for a blanket exclusion of all the campaign speeches, tweets, statements by campaign surrogates, other litigation, comments about the Trump U. fraud case, tax issues, and statements at debates (because... those were all "post-truth"), was totally self-serving (and denied), same as the cockamamie "rouine audit" excuse for not releasing his tax returns. You can't spell cockamamie with "OK"!

Back to our future: you can't spell Blind Trust when your business is putting your name on things, and said name is in giant gold letters, now can you? The only blind trust we're left with is that of Trump's supporters, imagining that he's in it to win it for them, or at least that there'll be so much winning that some of it just has to trickle down.

ThinkProgress: the Trumpocracy begins. And in today's news, son-in-law Jared Kushner is now thinking, you know what, being in the White House seems cooler than going back to private business. Maybe forgoing a salary and by putting his investment fund, his newspaper and his real estate holdings into a blind trust, he could work around federal anti-nepotism rules? Under federal statute, the NYT reporters tell us, the president cannot accept voluntary services that are not permitted by law, and a separate statute bars public officials from employing family members in any capacity.

As for restrictions on the man at the top, the Congress seems to have largely overlooked the possibility that a real estate tycoon with business interests (and debt) spread around the world would become president and need statutory constraint. It seems a safe bet that the opinion of "ethics groups" will not carry any day.

All those who believe Trump will heed the current and next-most-current presidents' ethics lawyers and "transfer control of all of his businesses assets and investments to an independent trustee who would sell them and not disclose how the proceeds are invested," please form an orderly queue for the LIMITED TIME OFFER for your choice of the Brooklyn and Golden Gate bridges.

We are in new territory, #NotNormal.

We are also the recipients of the success of Steve Bannon's smashing success in a "years-long plan" to take down Hillary Clinton, as Bloomberg BusinessWeek senior national correspondent Joshua Green tells it to Fresh Air's Dave Davies.

Good news from Moscow Permalink to this item

Capitol Christmas tree in Boise, Nov. 7, 2016

While I'm happy to count the University of Idaho among my alma maters, it was never about the football. I guess they were ok once, but then—and in rival Boise State University's glory days—they were not. This year... yay! E-news from the athletic director:

"As most of you know, our football team achieved bowl eligibility last week with its victory at Texas State. What this means is we are in line to participate in one of the five Sun Belt bowls - New Orleans Bowl, Orlando Cure Bowl, Montgomery Camellia Bowl, Mobile Dollar General Bowl, or the Tucson Nova Home Loans Bowl."

Talk about your college education: who knew there were "five Sun Belt bowls," most of them providing weird advertising for businesses I'm not prepared to patronize? ("New Orleans" though, I'd give that a try.)

While I usually count athletics newsletters as low-hanging fruit for easy deletion, I'm glad I opened this one long enough to see the next item down, apropos of nothing athletic, DID YOU KNOW? that a Vandal—from Japan, no less—is behind the Starbucks green cup design? I'm guessing not, but even if you did, check out this beautiful feature about the artist, Shogo Ota, and his work. The two minute video is completely heartwarming, a tonic for this mid-November. Turns out, he and I came to the U of I for the same college, Art and Architecture. (I went off to greener pastures after just a year in it, though.)

16.Nov.16 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Also, post-reporting Permalink to this item

Just called a Republican congressional office I deal with often and was told the press relations staff is no longer speaking to reporters.

— Patricia Zengerle (@ReutersZengerle) November 15, 2016

Signs of the times Permalink to this item

The Oxford Dictionaries declare "post-truth" the word of the year. (It beat out "alt-right," among others.) This may come as a bit of a shock, but just because you saw it on the internet, doesn't mean it's true. Also, if you heard it cross the lips of a politician. On the plus side, a Danish word for "cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being" was in the running, and shorter (shorter words live longer, they tell us) than Gemutlichkeit. ("Hygge", with no pronunciation help from the Beeb there.)

Apropos of nothing in particular, but trying to follow a link to WSJ coverage of something or other, I got this error message: 500. Error Ambitiously. (Their 404 error is more what you'd expect; I was thinking it might be 404. We have no idea.)

If Trump's transition team follies haven't made you think of a new season of The Apprentice yet, there's this tweet from the top of the heap:

Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions. I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2016

Yes, that's right "I am the only one." "Finalists." He's going to have the best organization. Really great. Then back to early morning tweets about "the failing @nytimes." Chris Christie, you're fired, maybe by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and maybe because it's payback time. Beebulous:

"Mr Christie was New Jersey attorney general when Mr Kushner's father was tried and jailed in the state for tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions and witness tampering in 2004."

Speaking of post-truthiness, it's only a matter of time before imagination becomes real. (There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home....)

Looking at my notes, just came across an all-time Trumpism from the campaign, 11/23/15, Ohio - on rooftop Arab-American 9/11 celebrations:

— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) November 16, 2016

And from Trump's ghostwriter, on what to expect next:

One thing I fully expect w/Trump: complete chaos setting up & running govt. Used to making every decision himself. Impossible now.

— Tony Schwartz (@tonyschwartz) November 15, 2016

The BBC mentions that the fellow who was handling national security for the transition, former Congressman and House intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers, is leaving. Trump alone knows who the finalists for national security will be, remember. Best of luck to all of us.

Just Security says it's "an online forum for the rigorous analysis of U.S. national security law and policy. We aim to promote principled and pragmatic solutions to national security problems that decision-makers face." Sounds useful. David Luban, University Professor in Law and Philosophy at Georgetown makes The Case Against Serving in it. I was a bit too young to make sense of Hannah Arendt's writing when it was first published, but it's time to follow the link he provides to her essay, Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship. (And manage the bad rotation of the scan... and all that blasted underlining, some idiot's defacement preserved for history, sadly apt. That beats "only available in Persian" though. Hmm. The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities at Bard College has this essay about Arendt's essay in readable form.)

Remember Burma-Shave? Probably not, but they made do with messages longer than their medium by slicing it up, for our motoring entertainment. Now you can push more than 140 characters through Twitter piecewise. (You can also just tweet a picture of text, less suspensefully.) Paul Krugman, reassembled:

"So, who could have seen this coming? The man who refused to release his tax returns—getting almost no heat from the media 1/ is now making it clear that he won't separate himself from his business interests. His transition team is basically all lobbyists 2/ and his infrastructure plan, such as it is, sounds as if it's going to be largely about privatizing public assets 3/ In short, we're almost surely looking at all-out kleptocracy, along the lines of what happened in Russia or Ukraine. Strange, isn't it? 4/ After all, it's not as if we've just empowered the same people who stole all those assets abroad. Oh, wait 5/"

Kleptocracy will be in the running for word of the year 2017, et al. An oldie but goodie. In that vein, there's also the prequel, captured by Beppe Severgnini's op-ed, What a Trump America Can Learn from a Berlusconi Italy. It's not quite Godwinning the thread when it's your own country.

"The plaudits in the news media, and on social media, betray a disagreeable longing for authoritarianism, a Mussolini-style nostalgia for a macho leader who’s always right, and a yearning for the (verbal) stick to be taken to anyone who dares criticize the boss. In other words, Berlusconism is alive and well in Italy, even when it means looking abroad for a strongman."

And while the U.S. votes aren't all counted (Michigan still not decided, a week after the morning after), this other tweetstream from Krugman:

"A quick thought on the popular vote, which Clinton won—quite possibly by 2 points. Why does it matter? The rules are the rules, right? 1/ But here's the thing: Trump clearly intends to break many of the rules, from personal accountability on up. And one justification 2/ will be that critics have no right to complain, because the American people chose Trump. That would be a bad argument in any case 3/ but it's especially bad because the people did make a choice last week -- and it was Hillary Clinton. 4/"

But anyway, such as it is, rigged with gerrymandered Congressional districts, two Senators per state no matter how small the population, the Voting Rights Act gutted by the reactionary wing of the Supreme Court because of how post-racial we are now, and the "conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect," that specific effect is now our president-elect.

(That's not one of those fake news stories or clickbait you're reading about. That quote is verbatim from the Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), and Chief of the Central Security Service as the Director of the NSA, Admiral Michael S. Rogers, talking to the Wall Street Journal CEO Council yesterday, and saying less than all he knows.)

This is not normal.

15.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Good for the bond market? Permalink to this item

Speaking of credit cards and interest rates, it sounds like the horror of the burgeoning federal debt is about to be overcome. Ben Wyl, in Politico: "Trump campaigned heartily on a spending splurge and nothing he’s said since his shocking election suggests he will reverse course." Or that he has some other business genius than using other people's money and letting businesses go bankrupt as need be.

Look no further than the soon to be simultaneous repeal and replace of Obamacare, for which pre-existing conditions will still be covered, but that inconvenient and costly mandate to actually buy insurance if you don't need it right now will go away. Also, “we are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals.” Our infrastructure will be second to none. Maybe we could line the water pipes in Flint, Michigan with gold.

And tax cuts. There should be tax cuts, big league.

Maybe we can save some money by eliminating Medicare and believing Paul Ryan's bold-faced lying. You might not remember what "health underwriting" was, but you may be about to have your memory refreshed.

Rundown Permalink to this item

There's going to be a lot to keep track of in the coming weeks and months. Let's get started.

USA Today affiliate IndyStar is wondering what's Mike Pence hiding in his emails?

Our next president's alt-right hand man, Steve Bannon, will ride shotgun on the trail of revenge on the arrogance of the elites. He's been a big league fan of Sarah Palin. I will part ways with the NYT editorial board, however when they say, about Bannon's Breitbart News, "if you don’t find the headlines alarming, check the reader comments." Do not check the reader comments.

Report from Mother Jones on our new foreign policy direction: Yesterday, Trump and Putin discussed Syria. Today, Russia's bombing the hell out of Aleppo.

Not sure why Tim Mak is so intent on pinning this on Obama, but we all own the trend that was set in motion a long time before 2009: the Imperial Presidency will now be Trump’s. Whether Trump can outdo the last 16 years of prosecuting whistleblowers, secret surveillance, wars, drone campaigns, wall-building and deportation will be a test.

If you're thinking that if only you could buy health insurance across state lines, your premiums would go down and unicorns would fly over rainbows, check the return address and interest rate on your latest credit cards and think different:

As industry expert Richard Mayhew observed early this year, if a law was passed granting a national license to any insurer in any state, “the state with the weakest and most easily bought regulatory structure would have 98% of the viable insurance companies headquartered there within nine months.”

Post-election check-in on Tom Engelhardt is predictably bleak: Through the Gates of Hell. "Back in September 2002, Amr Moussa, then head of the Arab League, offered a warning I’ve never forgotten. The Bush administration’s intention to invade Iraq and topple its ruler, Saddam Hussein, was already obvious. Were they to take such a step, Moussa insisted, it would “open the gates of hell.” His prediction turned out to be anything but hyperbole -- and those gates have never again closed."

Englehardt traces back further, all the way to Jimmy Carter's national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski's desire to "to give the Soviets a bloody nose, or to be more precise, a taste of America’s Vietnam experience, to trap the Red Army in an Afghan quagmire."

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Got a rocket in your pocket Permalink to this item

It doesn't sound like either of our phones would have had this lovely feature, but who knows? Secret Backdoor in Some U.S. Phones Sent Data to China, Analysts Say. It was "preinstalled software in some Android phones that monitors where users go, whom they talk to and what they write in text messages," and... sends everything to China every 72 hours.

Because Adups has not published a list of affected phones, it is not clear how users can determine whether their phones are vulnerable. “People who have some technical skills could,” Mr. Karygiannis, the Kryptowire vice president, said. “But the average consumer? No.”

Hey, I've got some technical skills! I've even written some code that'll run on the Android o/s, but haven't actually looked under the hood, even a little. Where's the hood release button, anyway?

Kryptowire doesn't seem to be in the line of retail business to answer my questions, but their press release today is technically descriptive. "[D]evices were available through major US-based online retailers (Amazon, BestBuy, for example) and included popular smartphones such as the BLU R1 HD."

"These devices actively transmitted user and device information including the full-body of text messages, contact lists, call history with full telephone numbers, unique device identifiers including the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) and the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI). The firmware could target specific users and text messages matching remotely defined keywords. The firmware also collected and transmitted information about the use of applications installed on the monitored device, bypassed the Android permission model, executed remote commands with escalated (system) privileges, and was able to remotely reprogram the devices...

"Our findings are based on both code and network analysis of the firmware. The user and device information was collected automatically and transmitted periodically without the users' consent or knowledge. The collected information was encrypted with multiple layers of encryption and then transmitted over secure web protocols to a server located in Shanghai. This software and behavior bypasses the detection of mobile anti-virus tools because they assume that software that ships with the device is not malware and thus, it is white-listed."

The first time I stumbled into a dark alley on Jeanette's phone, I think I managed to back out safely, and when I asked somebody at Verizon about antivirus tools, they said something really stupid to the effect that phones don't have viruses so they don't need any of that. The most recent time (again on her phone, mine seems to have better software), there was a modal splashover telling me I should install something, and the only affordance was a "confirm" text button. Seeing no other way out, I tapped it... and was told that some security level above it had prevented installation of something from an unknown source.

Connect the dots: the "average consumer" now has a cellphone, close at hand most every waking hour (and sleeping ones too), with various sensors, communication ability and software that is pretty much inscrutable and out of the end user's control.

What could possibly go wrong?

14.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Creatures from the black lagoon Permalink to this item

John Cassidy is covering Donald Trump's great bait and switch for The New Yorker, extracting choice nuggets from the Wall Street Journal (otherwise protected by a paywall, perfectly) and others, including the theme that came up in the 60 Minutes interview: why are all those lobbyists swarming around all of a sudden?

Cassidy deems this "quote of the week" in an interview with the New York Times’ Eric Lipton, and who can argue:

“Trump has pledged to change things in Washington—about draining the swamp,” [former Senator and now lobbyist extraordinaire Trent] Lott said. “He is going to need some people to help guide him through the swamp—how do you get in and how you get out? We are prepared to help do that.”

One thing for sure: it's easier to get in than it is to get out. This:

What’s really going on, an unnamed Republican operative told Politico, is something akin to the Oklahoma land grab of 1889, with various factions of the Trump campaign, the Republican Party, and the business lobby fighting over the spoils of the election victory. “It’s gonna get vicious the next seventy days as people try to place their people where they want them,” the source said.

And the Trump clan is top of the heap, with Papa forgoing his six-figure salary out of pure generosity, while Donald, Jr., Eric, Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner plan to run the Trump family business and the transition team's executive committee.

Follow the dark money that Jane Mayer describes to enrich the picture of the bonanza at hand, with Koch Industries, coal, oil and gas, and a host of others very well-represented. I'll go way out on a limb and predict that the Clean Up Corruption In Washington Act will not make the final director's cut when the story of the first (and second, third) hundred days gets to the box office.

Designers and users personality Permalink to this item

I've been paying attention to Jakob Nielsen for a long time, and had some sort of notion of the sound of his voice in my mind, even though I'd never heard him speak. Just a portrait and lots of web pages, and my one-time intemperate response to his penchant to pronounce things as if on high. The latest of his AlertBox teasers had one to a video, and I took the jump, to this: a 2 minute, 12 second micro-essay on the observation that designers are not users. Good point. Interesting face, and accent, and not belaboring the point too much, and I like him a little better than I did before. If I'd seen him sooner, I might never have imagined he was insufferable? A sidebar lesson, perhaps, in giving people the benefit of the doubt.

The longer lesson for the day (in print), on the same theme of you are not the user is that the distribution of users’ computer skills is worse than you think. That's true for me: I was surprised to see that a quarter of adults in 33 industrialized were unable to use a computer. 14% more with almost no ability, and 29% with skills suitable for solving problems with "few steps and a minimal number of operators," and a simple goal. More than two-thirds at that level and below.

Moonstruck Permalink to this item

Annual sunrise/sunset/full moon datagraphic

My calendrical view of the penultimate full moon, round about today, doesn't have any means to show how perigee-syzygy differs from plain old. "Appears up to 14 percent bigger" than apogee sounds a bit more likely in that NPR story than what I saw pre-correction on the NYT over the weekend, "14 times larger." That would be something. Didn't get out last night or first thing this morning, but I understand it was a bit cloudy, and also we already have a lot of really, really better pictures of the moon than I'll ever take.

It was full about the time we rolled out of bed, 6:52 MST, and perigee two hours before that. The claim for syzygy is a bit dodgy, though. Our celestial bodies line up twice a (lunar) month, more or less, but not quite. There's an eclipse when they're really in a line, and we did not have a "supermoon" eclipse. The good doctor gives us a broader perspective on the excitement you may or may not have experienced:

Tonite's SuperMoon is Super versus October's FullMoon only if you think 16.05inch pizzas are Super relative to 16inch pizzas

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 14, 2016

Staffing Permalink to this item

We haven't heard how ex-campaign manager and later CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski will end up after another spin of the revolving door, but consummate GOP operative Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff and "campaign CEO" Stephen K. Bannon are tapped for "chief strategist and senior counselor to the president" in the next adminstration. Two "highly qualified leaders" in the new boss' estimation, neither of which require the Senate's OK, conveniently.

Think of Bannon as the new Karl Rove, by Jose DelReal's take for WaPo. And watch for amusing tiptoes around what his last media/business venture, Breitbart News, trafficked in. "Racially insensitive rhetoric" seems slightly precious. The #WhiteLivesMatter cheering the appointment is a bit more direct. As is Oregon's Senator Jeff Merkley: "Donald Trump just invited a white nationalist into the highest reaches of the government." Being a media mogul seems good preparation for this new job? And like any mogul, he made some enemies along the way. One former Breitbart editor:

"Many former employees of Breitbart News are afraid of Steve Bannon. He is a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies."

Back in the day, a couple of the people involved in the Biosphere project that Bannon was hired to turn around had issues, too, that ended up with a lawsuit and a settlement in their favor, net half a million bucks. But hey, decades ago. Coincidentally, right around the time the Republicans going after Bill Clinton established the precedent that a sitting President was not immune from this sort of thing. Dealing with lawsuits will require some strategizing and counseling in the new adminstration: more than six dozen suits against Trump are still open, with claims of penny-ante cheating, the sham Trump University, defamation and so on. The USA Today report from their investigation of more than 4,000 lawsuits involving Trump noted that

"One Trump case, over non-payment of tips to caterers at Trump SoHo Hotel in New York City, is scheduled to go to trial a week before Election Day."

The Wikipedia page on Trump SoHo is not keeping up; its fraud lawsuit entry is about the one condo buyers filed 5 years ago, and for which the plaintiffs recovered 90% of their deposits. With the usual no admission of guilt or liability. The New York Post reported that Ivanka Trump, who manages the hotel, said, “Business is so strong that we’re delighted to get the units back. It’s a great settlement for everyone.”

Regarding the current judicial backlog, the general counsel for Trump and his business interests said it's only about 30 "significant" cases open. Business as usual. (And remember those quaint false equivalences? "Clinton has her own share of litigation heading toward Election Day." Emails!) Will the newfound generosity of spirit change the practice of legal bludgeoning, and "refus[ing] to pay people and small businesses for their work, forcing them to spend time and legal fees if they want to recover their losses"?

Or will the time and expense of trying to recover anything from Trump become insurmountable? Contact Mr. Priebus to see if we can schedule you in.

13.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

First family-elect Permalink to this item

The Trump family on 60 Minutes was interesting and I guess about as reassuring as it could have been. There were some odd things about it. "I won easily," Trump said, for one.

About the mass deportation, those Mexicans he called rapists and drug dealers to kick off his campaign? After jailing or deporting the 2 or 3 million he figures are criminals, the rest of them are "terrific people; they're terrific people." We'll see what's next, after things are "normalized."

What's up with his transtition team full of lobbyists? They're "the only people you have down there." But he's going to "phase that out." Somehow. He's "pro-life" and couldn't finish the topic of making a Supreme Court nominee without adding that he's "pro Second Amendment."

He would tell the people protesting (the ones who aren't "professional protesters" at least), "don't be afraid." On the subject of blacks, latinos and gays being harrassed, he was "very surprised" to hear of it. "I would say don't do it... I am so saddened to hear that, and I say 'stop it'."

All that incendiary rhetoric on the campaign trail, that was just "fighting hard," and hey, no hard feelings. JK. A special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton? He's going to "think about it," but really, wants to focus on other things. "I don't want to hurt them. They're good people."

Leslie Stahl kept talking about "the enormity," unaware that the word has a connotation she did not intend.

What about releasing those tax returns? "Obviously the public didn't care, because I won the election very easily."

Does he still think the electoral college is a disaster for democracy? "Yes." (But now, he "does respect the system.")


He's not going to take the $400,000 salary.

Marriage equality is "settled law, it's done."

The president-elect isn't giving away any secrets on how he'll "knock out" ISIS. It's military strategy, people.

Trump: "We have great generals."

Stahl: "You said you know more than the generals about ISIS!"

Trump: "Well, I'll be honest with you, I probably do, because look at the job they've done. Ok, look at the job they've done. They haven't done the job. Maybe it's leadership, maybe it's something else, who knows. All I can tell you is we're going to get rid of ISIS."

Repealing and replacing Obamacare? A gap between "repeal" and "replace"? No, simultaneous repeal and replace, and it'll be "great health care for less money."

Donald Jr. assures us that any fears anyone might have are "unfounded."

New world order Permalink to this item

Most of the commentariat I follow were assuming a Clinton victory last Tuesday, informed, such as we were, by the polling and modeling of FiveThirtyEight et al. The question (and/or hope) on people's minds was whether it would be a narrow victory, or a resounding one, and what those two possibilities would augur for the aftermath. Trump had already signaled potential chaos following a narrow victory: the system (as if it were a single thing) was pre-declared "rigged," foreshadowing something far worse than Bush v. Gore in Florida, 2000. But whether (and how) he accepted defeat, the disintegration of the Republican Party would surely still be pending business.

Nov. 2016 photo

Thus, last Sunday's opinions had ample cause for hedged guesses, including the outside possibility that Trump might, somehow, eke out a win. Our decision-making palette has but two colors: red, and blue. (The gray and green of third party spoilage is a footnote, an asterisk, an anomaly.) We use purple for the forecasting before the box is opened, when we find out whether Schrödinger's cat sleeping peacefully, or dead, and so how to color it in.

Wisconsin's 1.0% margin (and 106,442 voter—3.6%—punched out for Gary "What's a leppo?" Johnson) is the same flaming red as Wyoming's 70% for Trump, and the vagaries of geography and political divisions and population density and gerrymandering make it appear that our county is red with blue fringe, or blue measles (at the county level), erasing the inconvenient truth that once again, the loser at the top of the ticket received more votes than the winner. 60,966,953 votes (47.8%) for Clinton, 60,328,203 votes (47.3%) for Trump, give or take hundreds or thousands in the margin of error for miscast or miscounted, or lost in a dead letter basket. It does not matter that Michigan and New Hampshire haven't figured which "winner" will take their all.

Peter Wehner's pre-election wondering about life after Trump considered both possible outcomes, although he was concerned about (his) Republican Party's future more than the Democrats', and the "three destructive trends that have emerged over the last decade": anti-intellectualism, recklessness, and its appealing to nativism and xenophobia.

"It is not as if the trends cited above were unknown to responsible Republicans and conservatives before the advent of Mr. Trump. They were, and some party loyalists challenged them at the time. Those efforts clearly failed, and Republicans have to come to terms with the fact that the rot was far more advanced than we understood. ...

"In a post-Trump world, Republicans need to ask themselves if their party will be characterized by its aspirations or its resentments. Can it make its own inner peace with living in an increasingly diverse and nonwhite America? Does it conceive of its role as tamping down or inflaming ugly passions? Does it believe in a just social order or not?"

With the win, no matter how narrow or fractured, "Trumpism" is "the new norm of the party that Lincoln helped create," and a lot of people will have to decide whether to "continue to be a part of a political institution defined by Donald Trump, by and Ann Coulter" as the country faces its moment of reckoning.

12.November.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

E pluribus unum Permalink to this item

This bounced between a Facebook comment, a private journal entry, and a blog post, so here's part of it. A cousin of mine casually decried the violence of demonstrators after this election, as compared to when "the half of us that didn't vote for [Obama]" didn't "riot in the streets in 2008 and 2012." He suggested we "stay classy" in the not so funny way that isn't at all. I am personally not itching for a fight, and would rather try to heal divisions than exacerbate them, but I'm not willing to be silent. We'll see how it goes.

Before it was done and dusted, another Facebook share from a liberal friend who said she was "not protesting this election, no matter how disappointed I am in the outcome," but... six vintage protest signs from back in the day, more awful than I care to even recite. A short memory can be a good thing, or not so good.

[And updated: David Neiwert recaps the outpouring of hate in when Obama was elected in 2008 more specifically.]

Considering the enormity of what just happened, and without the benefit of actually being in any of the street scenes (although I hear our tiny blue gem in the reddest of states had a demonstration yesterday), I'm thinking we're still in the midst of what qualifies as a peaceful transition. The president and president-elect met this week and by all accounts had a polite and useful discourse, with Trump starting to act presidential after all.

Nov. 2016 photo

And starting to hedge some of the many promises he's made or implied. We really have no idea what the hell is about to come at us. Having lived through Reagan's team of foxes taking over our federal chicken coops is not preparation for the parade of homies apparently being considered for the Trump-Pence adminstration's dream team. (Mercifully, USA Today did not mention Sarah Palin there.)

My cousin got an "Amen" from one of his friends, and this thoughtful response from another:

"People never felt marginalized by Obama's words the way they do by Trump's. You also didn't see protests like this during any of the modern presidential elections, Republican or Democrat. When you run on the divisive ideas that Trump has which are bad for many groups of people, is it any surprise that the end result is this divided? Not to mention how we've been slowly marching further apart politically, to the point where a lot of people don't even recognize the basic humanity of the other side."

After thinking about the comparison to accounts I've read, and more run of the mill violence such as celebrations or mayhem following a big college football game, I had occasion to reflect on the fact that my immediate family and I will survive whatever is coming just fine. As troubling as it seems, we'll be ok.

But I have friends—and family!—not far away who are not as white, straight, male, economically secure, and I'm listening to their truth, trying to appreciate it. An in-law from Ethiopia was accosted on our street the one time she came to Boise, many years ago; I don't suppose she remembers that particular incident standing out from her life in America, but it sure sticks in my mind. Just because she's black? Really? How could anyone be that ignorant and hateful to someone simply walking down the street?

The choir I'm in sang this recently, and it comes to mind again:

Draw the circle, draw the circle wide
Draw the circle, draw the circle wide
No one stands alone, we'll stand side by side,
Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.

The election was won, and lost, by polarizing a divided country to an extreme beyond what I've known in my lifetime. For the second time in just 16 years, the electoral college will almost certainly affirm a result distorted by narrow margins in particular parts of the country far from my own, contradicting the expressed preference of a plurality of those who voted. It is not a coincidence that this distorted system we have was born out of the interests of slaveholders.

We can survive a lot of discord, and a divided government, and politicians who put their party or themselves ahead of the rest of us, but we don't seem to be making progress toward unity.

I value civility, decency, the rule of law, fairness, community, working together, respect for the inherent worth and dignity of each person, forgiveness, mercy, and justice.

Maybe we can decide that we value unity ahead of winning at the expense of others. Maybe we can provide for our security and defense without visiting unnecessary mayhem on other parts of the world. Maybe we can pretend that our industrial civilization isn't changing the planet in ways that make it less habitable for our species. Maybe Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich can morph from snarling partisans to elder statesmen, and maybe Donald Trump can become a different person than he has been his whole life. If not, maybe our system of government is strong enough and resilient enough to try something new, survive another round of corruption and extremism, and continue to prosper, finding a way to arrest the forces that divide us economically, religiously, politically. It'll start with each one of us.

Veterans Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Protest frivolity Permalink to this item

Who knew that in 1998, Congress prohibited the IRS from labeling individuals “illegal tax protesters,” apparently because they liked the idea of protests? Or something. There's still "frivolous," not in a good way, and the next category over, "fraudulent." Which I guess is where this fellow Richard Thomas Grant, 63, of Point Richmond, California ended up, found guilty by a jury of his peers on three counts of tax evasion. In 2001, he was fed up with filing returns and paying taxes, and gave those up for Lent, and the rest of the year.

He did join Freedom Law School and paid thousands of dollars in yearly membership fees for that... out of his half a million a year in annual partnership income from 2005-2009. More wonderful stuff about "warehouse banks" and hiding transactions with money orders and cashier's checks, yours and my tax dollars being burned up as Grant and Freedom Law School's founder used "multiple lawsuits to tie up the IRS in multiple courts." The only thing he seemed to be missing was an Idaho address.

Speaking of interesting business models, I see the Forbes' "contributor" just added a little color around the edges of the DOJ's press release, Tax Defier and Member of Freedom Law School Sentenced to Prison for Tax Evasion. (Top of the DOJ news feed has another gem, and a bigger fish: A federal jury in the Southern District of Texas convicted a Houston-based home-health agency owner for her role in a $13 million Medicare fraud scheme and money laundering.)

Bad marketing junk Permalink to this item

A few years back, my occasional business with Staples reached the point where they decided I was a Valued Target and they've been practicing all sorts of weird (and too frequent) pitches on my ever since. I might have something to buy from them once every 3 or 6 months, but they're pushing "Daily Deals" with ever-breathless subject lines such as todays' 🔴 CONFIRMED: You've received ink savings! (The black blob to kick that off is an interesting thing.) Mostly, I just delete, delete, delete, and don't take the trouble to opt out. Some of the approaches are so bad they're actually interesting, and sometimes with a hook that draws me in.

Staples ad

The home electronics dogpile, for example, barks at my mind upon seeing this "Recycle your tech" pitch. A $10 coupon is not alluring, certainly not when it's a time-limited offer, $10 off $20 for use in December, with Exclusions apply, meh. Who knew "America Recycles Day is November 15"?

I might be just as tempted to take them some of our e-junk for free as for a coupon. It's either that or open a museum.

Very unfair, come together, be proud Permalink to this item

Best line of the morning in my Facebook feed: "All I ask of Democrats, is to work with Trump, the same as Republicans worked with Obama."

The political divide in the country hasn't moved very much in the last couple of decades. Being so close to right smack down the middle, with torrents of wealth seeking power, the erosion has been considerable, however. Grant Park in Chicago 8 years ago looked like the mountaintop for some of us, and (I imagine) the end of the world for others.

Now this new view of an abyss.

POTUS and FLOTUS met with their elect successors yesterday, and news reports of the event made it look decent and gracious. A moment to savor, perhaps, with what's ahead. Last night, anti-Trump protesting in Portland, Oregon turned destructive and was declared a "riot." Something more than smashed windows, a dumpster on fire, "objects" thrown at police, firecrackers and "a larger bonfire set with a molotov cocktail near the elk statue downtown"? The police used "less lethal munitions" such as pepper spray and rubber projectiles. One report of "widespread" damage talked about "a small group of anarchists" responsible.

The RNC could say some things about how a few well-positioned anarchists can cause a lot of trouble. Or maybe the Bundy brothers or Raúl Labrador or Heather Scott or Matt Shea could opine. I'm not a regular reader of the Portland Mercury, but this seems sort of Portlandia-precious:

Explaining the [Portland Police Bureau]'s light touch in the face of all that vandalism, spokesperson Sgt. Pete Simpson told KGW something he said last night: That with as large a group as has been showing up for the anti-Trump protests, it was too difficult to effectively handle the protest.

"We’re looking at: is it property or is it people that’s being damaged," Simpson said. "Sometimes you're darned if you do and darned if you don't."

As for Portland: We made the news!

Another tweet saying "it's a warzone" after some flash grenades were used by the police. I don't have firsthand experience, but given how many actual warzones we have right now, I think those who do might beg to differ. Those in the zone whose voices manage to get heard (just about none of them) say things like "stop killing us" or "my god, the hospital?" rather than posting a list of demands such as what Portland Resistance organizer Gregor McKelvey did, with "Safe streets" and "Get Nestle out of the gorge" and "Well funded schools for ALL our children (No lead in the water!)" and "Transparency in city government."

Meanwhile, with mission accomplished, Donald J. Trump's handlers have given him back his sur-@realDonaldTrump Twitter machine, and we're prepared to watch it bounce between Nasty

Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2016

and Nice.

Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2016

The gray lady's coverage of the transition is underway, and I'm predicting Facebook's WOW button will be broken before January 20th. Mr. Bridge-to-nowhere, Chris Christie is leading, and Peter Thiel, "the Silicon Valley libertarian who secretly funded a lawsuit against the website Gawker" has a spot, the "precise role not immediately clear." But something.

Council Springs Cr emergency access road

Call it a "bonanza for Washington lobbyists, and looky there, Trent Lott isn't "back," he never went away. His phone is "buzzing nonstop" as he gets his "dozens of corporate clients" to line up orderly.

With Republicans poised to control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, Mr. Lott said he had not seen such a chance to help clients since he left the Senate in 2007 — whether by making changes to the federal tax code for Amazon or increasing military spending on new ships for Huntington Ingalls Industries.

“Trump has pledged to change things in Washington — about draining the swamp,” said Mr. Lott, who now works at Squire Patton Boggs, a law and lobbying firm. “He is going to need some people to help guide him through the swamp — how do you get in and how you get out? We are prepared to help do that.”

Lobbyists fêted and the swamp more fetid than ever. K Street reviving Mad Men and Portland anarchists smashing stuff. Yeah, we're making America Great Again, right out of the chute.

I tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and wave at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

10.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

With history as our guide Permalink to this item

I'm all for benefit of the doubt and giving the new guy a chance to prove his mettle. Miracles could happen. As for being gracious, we should aim higher than Sur-@realDonaldTrump did in November 2012, on Twitter. His tweets are still online. Here are four:

We can't let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012

The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012

This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012

Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012

Scorched earth Permalink to this item

No, not what you're thinking, this is about conventional scorched earth, the old-fashioned kind, the fire that comes and goes and comes back again, fed by fuel, oxygen, heat. We have all those in profusion. Idaho Fish & Game has been organizing and leading volunteers to work on rehabilitation of two of this year's fires, the Mile Marker 14 and Table Rock. Looking for something to link to for the latter, I see Boise Public Radio had a short snippet on Monday, highlighting the City of Boise's work, and with a suitably burned-out view, a couple of lonely volunteers planting sagebrush and bitterbrush seedlings.

Closer to the event, in late June, just after a literal flaming idiot started the fire that blackened 2,500 acres—four square miles—by playing with fireworks in the foothills, Leo Geis and his Airships, Inc. captured the scene, in the context of the city. (Click through to the see the full version he's offering for free, 1920 x 571px, out of a 12M x 3.5Mpx original.) The infrared image down the page shows what didn't burn in white; there isn't much within the boundary.

The crew I signed up for was originally scheduled for last week, but was postponed until yesterday, the day after the election. It was a beautiful morning to get out of the house, listen to the classical music radio station on the way to the MK Nature Center, no news, no politics to discuss as we gathered under a sweet gum tree and a blue sky and waited for everyone to arrive to shuttle to the site. Around Warm Springs Mesa and through the maze of development on what used to be the sprawling Harris Ranch to the east and a pretty straight shot up the Boise River, then up the short spur of Council Spring Road, a short way into the foothills to Council Springs Creek.

We parked the rigs where we could along a new, paved access road to a subdivision in the works, too new to be on any of the maps I checked (Ridge to Rivers 2015, Google Maps, the Ada Co. Asessor's PropSys), and too far up into flammable territory to make a lick of sense. We carried shovels and rock bars and potted willows, and rolled a cart full of more plants up a branch drainage, and proceeded to dig holes as deep as we were willing and able in the rocky till of the drainage, and plant 75 willows in about 4 hours with a break for lunch.

Today, I went for a bike ride to see more of it, from the Homestead trail, which happens to skirt the edge of the burn, and up to where it connects to the Lucky Peak trail. It was a warm afternoon here in the middle of November, and I was dripping sweat for a two mile climb, even with lots of stops to take pictures. I took some nice pictures of the willow planting, but this afternoon had better light, and better vantage points, so here, starting with the new subdivision scraping, right in the burned area:

Nov. 2016 photo in the Boise foothills, Homestead trail

Table Rock (center distance), the burn, the top of the subdivision, at left: Nov. 2016 photo in the Boise foothills, Table Rock burn

Above the Homestead trail, unburned Nov. 2016 photo in the Boise foothills, Homestead trail

9.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Permalink to this item

Before enlightenment: Chop wood, carry water

After a year and a half, after the circus acts, after the fundraising, and fundraising, and fundraising, after the comedy act we couldn't look away from, the derision, insults, nastiness, racism, xenophobia, narcissism, threats, one or two fauxpologies, after the summer conventions, after the decades-long smear campaign, after the Benghazi fishing expedition found the emails! and after Jim Comey was mad as hell in July but not recommending indictment, and after his October surprise "wait a minute," and November "never mind," after the Cubs won the World Series at least.

After the best efforts of Vladimir Putin and his trolls, and Julian Assange, and after we never saw the tax returns, except the ones from back when he "lost" a freaking billion dollars, but kept his million-dollar allowance, after the pussy grabbing, before the rape trial (still pending) and 75 other lawsuits (still pending) and after the lies, so many lies, so very many lies, and after none of us, least of all the press could look away, even as he called so many of us stupid, losers, liars, crooked, especially the media that were feeding him the attention he craves every waking moment, and after they took his Twitter account away, and after we saw too much of Boris Epshteyn and Kellyanne Conway and Roger Ailes' work, and after the pollsters apparently could not reach the shy yes we are going to be voters voted.

After the jobs and the steel and the autos and the auto parts and the tools and dies and the manufacturing went offshore, to Mexico and China and Malaysia and India and to Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat, after the Arab Spring and after the endless bombing has not ended and the chemical warfare and the rise of Daesh and the fall of Syria and Libya and after the oil stayed cheap, after the Great Real Estate Bubble turned into the Great Recession and the slow, slow recovery, after the market recovered ahead of the rest of us and ran and ran and then tanked at the FBI's electioneering, and then rallied at "never mind" we got this.

After 2.2% of Florida and 2.4% of Pennsylvania and 3.6% of Wisconsin said fuck the world, I'm voting for Gary Johnson, and 49.1% of the rest of Florida said "whatever!" and just over half of North Carolina said it, and the heartland was called early for Trump, Trump, Trump, and after 51.6% in Oregon and 56.4% in Washington and 58.7% in New York, and 61.4% in California and 93% of voters in Washington D.C. voted for Hillary, and before Pennsylvania and Ohio and Wisconsin went one way and then the other, and were too close to call and after polls closed everywhere and now while Michigan and Arizona are still too close to call, after the markets around the world were roiled, the peso and the dollar plummeting, the Nikkei down most of 7%, after two of my grandchildren voted in their first ever presidential election, after the new day came across the Rocky Mountains and the sun is rising in a clear, blue sky, and the U.S. market came to its senses for a moment, let's not go crazy here.

It's over.

After enlightenment: Chop wood, carry water

Election Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Something in the air tonight Permalink to this item

Wow, one last push from the NRCC, with an Idaho garnish?! The "Regional Political Director here in Idaho" writes to me:

"Early reports from my field directors are indicating extremely heavy liberal turnout in Idaho, and I’m concerned we may not have the resources to keep up with the Democrats’ vaunted ground game."

Also, subject "This is BAD. We could lose" with an emergency alert that the GOP turnout in Idaho is underwhelming. Huh. Send money, rly, how's that going to help?

But anyway, thanks for the "news."

Inconvenient truth Permalink to this item

Scott Walker, and your Republican friends in Wisconsin, the nation looks at you with embarassment and shame. That is all.

This is Ruby, 80, from Madison. Born in Jim Crow Arkansas. Took 2 trips to DMV & court order for her to get credential to vote in WI today

— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) November 8, 2016

And this:

99 year old man had to make 2 trips to polls & 1 to DMV today b/c of Wisconsin voter ID law. This is shameful

— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) November 8, 2016

Winding down Permalink to this item

The Brits had a timely occasion for lighting up the torches over the weekend. (I didn't see any pitchforks, though.) Guy Fawkes Night, Nov. 5, also known as Bonfire Night, with festivities secretly organized by seven Bonfire Societies included a guest appearance by one of our presidential candidates this year.

From NYT video of Guy Fawkes Night, 2016

That was a treat on TimeVideo this morning, after One Election in Two Minutes (2:17 all-in, actually). And the New York Times is offering free access for the day, all the news and infotainment you can stomach. That could include the Editorial Board's take on what 2016 has taught us, starting with,

Hate sells. Racism, bigotry and misogyny, Donald Trump has proved, can energize a national campaign. Mr. Trump has shown it is feasible to recruit the alt-right, conspiracy theorists, white supremacists and anti-Semites as ferocious allies without alienating reliable Republican voters.

Also, the media enable extreme candidates and the parties are too fragile to stop them. ("Mr. Trump used his media savvy and entertainment value—often in the form of insults—to keep all eyes on him. Imagine how much further a more disciplined demagogue might go applying a similar formula.") But the media's enabling would be for nought without the audience we provide them.

As the campaign comes, at last, to its conclusion, the candidates mirrored the essence of their messages: optimism from Clinton, and darkness from Trump, who told a rally in Sarasota, Florida that "No, no, no, no. I don’t want any credit if we lose." Funny thing to say for a guy who deserves all the credit, on one hand, and who's built his yuuge brand on pretty much nothing but credit. (We'd know more fully about that if only he'd released his tax returns.) Hillary had Jay Z, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Bruce Springsteen campaigning for her, and Donald had a letter from Bill Belichick (for which "a spokesman for the Patriots said he could not confirm or deny the letter’s authenticity Monday night"). And speaking of deflationary spirals, is the Patriots' Tom Brady done with his suspension for cheating yet?

"As a final flourish, Mr. Trump claimed that Tom Brady, the team’s quarterback and a hero across New England, had cast a vote for him.

"In a radio interview on Monday, however, Mr. Brady said he had not yet voted."

If you're planning to obsess hour-by-hour this evening, the FiveThirtyEight Election Night Guide.

7.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

And you tell me, over and over and over again, my friend Permalink to this item

Trey Gowdy's name always makes me think of Curt Gowdy, and ABC Wild World of Sports or wherever he did his thing. Especially with an email subject "On TV," what's up with that? But I know what this is, the fundraising pitches still coming hot and heavy. If you like that sort of thing, Team Ryan, a joint fundraising committee authorized by and composed of Ryan for Congress, Inc., Prosperity Action, Inc., and the NRCC is a gift that keeps giving, and giving, and giving.

Gowdy leads with "As a former prosecutor, I tell it as it is. That’s why when I tell you that this is serious -- I mean it."

As opposed to when he didn't mean it? Anyway, it's not news to me that Election Day is tomorrow, and reading that we are falling behind in television ad spending by $25 million is at worst good news. What does it mean?

If left uncorrected, this gap in advertising will cost us dearly on Election Day.

Alrighty then.

Just yesterday I was thinking that the phatic style of "to be perfectly honest" and the like aren't in Donald Trump's bludgeonary lexicon. He prefers the imperative, "Believe me," over and over again, the mantra of the con man.

The art and science of the bullshitter is not a new topic. Stanton Peele had a look at "Bullshitting: Lessons from the Masters" for Psychology Today back in 2009, using "peak bullshitting performers" Bernei Madoff, "alleged fellow Ponzi schemer Sir R. Allen Stanford ... and - God bless him - Donald Trump*." The asterisk in the original jumped to a CYA legal disclaimer that "This post most assuredly does not claim that Donald Trump has ever committed fraud—only that he is America's premier bullshitter."

And then with intentional irony, I hope, the first of his five precepts was "Always remember - people are afraid to challenge you." And so on:

2. Point to your legitimate successes or bona fides.
3. Act arrogant - keep it up.
4. Claim esoteric knowledge or techniques.
5. Always delay the day of reckoning.

The last point makes he wonder just when—if ever—Trump will concede defeat. It won't be tomorrow, I don't imagine, and Wednesday seems unlikely as well. Dec. 19 when the Electoral College votes?

Harry G. Frankfurt's 30-year old essay, expanded to the slim but best-selling 2005 On Bullshit is top of mind just now. Jason Kottke brought it up in June. The essential point is that this is not about fact or falsity, it's more like truth or dare. Or, "I'm so pissed off I just want to start breaking things."

"Liars attempt to conceal the truth by substituting something for the truth that isn’t true. Bullshit is not a matter of trying to conceal the truth, it is a matter of trying to manipulate the listener, and if the truth will do, then that’s fine and if the truth won’t do, that’s also fine. The bullshitter is indifferent to the truth in a way in which the liar is not. He’s playing a different game."

Kottke boils it down to "The truth is not the antidote for bullshit," without offering an alternative treatment. Stanford professor Jeff Hancock reiterated the point for CNN Money last month, with a set of clips from the greatest hits of presidential lies going back to the 50s, and an analysis of the qualitative differences between Hillary Clinton's "classic human lying, protective deception," and the no-connection-to-reality spew from the man currently leading the GOP on a wild goose chase. He uses Frankfort's insight, which coincidentally reached its peak of popularity about the time Trump was bragging about his manly bravado to Billy Bush on that bus.

After writing most of this, what occurred to me for the title was the top of the chorus from a song whose title is at the bottom; I didn't remember that it was Barry McGuire's song, or that it dates all the way back to 1964. Part of the powerful soundtrack of my youth. Fifty years on, reassuring messages from wise people seem more credible than a protest song. Chances are, we'll survive. A political party falling apart is not the end of the world. We hope.

5.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Not such good news Permalink to this item

From a friend's FB share: "Judicial originalism, meaning black people in particular shouldn't be able to vote. That's your conservative court." In The Nation: There Are 868 Fewer Places to Vote in 2016 Because the Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act. "Nearly half of counties that previously approved voting changes with the federal government have cut polling places this election."

It's only recently that one of our leading party candidates made "rigged elections" a mainstay of his campaign, with a preemptive claim to heads he wins, tails we lose. The closest election of my lifetime, decided in part by the Supreme Court and a rabble of lawyers converging in Florida, couldn't hold a candle to Donald Trump. That was conceded quickly (too quickly?) and graciously (too graciously?) by the candidate who won the popular vote by half a million votes, and lost the electoral college 271-266 (one abstention!), a margin that was a small fraction of Florida's 25 electors, for whom the adjudicated difference of just 537 votes—a small fraction of the margin of error in the voting technology, and of the documented widespread voter disenfranchisement—determined the result for the whole country.

A decade later, control of the majority of state legislatures and a deliberate strategy to gerrymander districts has been "an unprecedented success" for the Republican Party, which succeeded in maintaining its 33 seat majority in the House in 2012 with 1.4 million fewer votes than their Democratic opponents. That is how you rig elections. And this:

"In advance of the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the nation has been subject to a resurgence of state and local measures to disenfranchise voters of color. It has been three years since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its shameful ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which made Section 5 of the VRA inoperable and opened the door to racial discrimination at every juncture of the electoral process."

From The Leadership Conference Education Fund, 'The Great Poll Closure'

All good news Permalink to this item

Sunchoke, 2016

A friend just delivered her new baby into this beautiful world. Every day, over at the park, there are children exploring the playground, swinging on the swings, climbing the big steps, calling into the red tube and listening for an answer. We've got a great niece whose 9-month cancer check-up scan came back clean.

You can listen to KBSU Saturday mornings, Tamara Shapiro's Open Range Radio and Carl Scheider's Private Idaho and you might here some sweet young gal singing "You can dance in a hurricane, only if you're standing in the eye."

There's a virtual taste of revitalized Native American food culture on NPR, with a look at the Standing Rock camp kitchen that Navajo chef Brian Yazzie of "The Sioux Chef" is running. Consider vegan three-bean soup, a second soup of bison and blue hominy, some rutabaga, parsnips, carrots, roasted sunchokes, and pumpkin sautéed with quinoa and sunflower seeds drizzled with maple syrup. Fresh melon from the new tribal garden on the Navajo Nation for dessert.

"Daylight savings" time is about done. 49 hours between today and tomorrow. That'll be nice. "When you wake up it's a new morning."

Our First Lady on the campaign trail is a wonderful thing, if you ask me. Says there she's got "soaring approval ratings that cut across party lines." Also, we are very, very close to the end of a campaign that has run far, far too long.

Figure 1 in the DOI report

Our Department of the Interior has released a new plan to restore and conserve the half a million square miles of sagebrush steppe habitat across western North America.

"The science plan identifies 37 priority science needs that address knowledge gaps in five topic areas: fire, invasive plants, restoration, sagebrush and greater sage-grouse, and climate and weather. Led jointly by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Forest Service, the plan is a critical step forward in the implementation of Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell’s 2015 Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy."

And you don't have to spill a drop of ink or fuse a lick of toner to skim, skip or peruse the 139 "page" Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy Actionable Science Plan; it's free for the downloading.

4.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Restraining deplorables Permalink to this item

The Ohio Democratic Party sued the Ohio Republican Party Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., Roger J. Stone, Jr. and Stop the Steal, Inc., and asked for a temporary restraining order to keep them "from conspiring to intimidate, threaten, harass, or coerce voters on Election Day." The U.S. District Court Judge agreed and issued said Order.

The Trump campaign appealed the ruling to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In order to... be allowed to hinder or delay voters from reaching or leaving polling places; engage in unauthorized 'poll watching,' including challenging or questioning voters or prospective voters about their eligibility to vote; and interrogating, admonishing, interfering with, or verbally harassing voters or prospective voters inside or around polling places, and training, organizing, or directing others to do the same?

Or maybe just to clear their good name.

At the bottom of the Huffington Post's coverage of the story, this Editor's note:

Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

Good news and bad news Permalink to this item

Our early voting ends today, at 5pm, and then the weekend, and Monday, and Election Day and then it'll be over. Hopefully. And then... well, we'll just have to wait and see. But for the moment, these headlines:

My picture taken in line

Last pre-election jobs report shows healthy growth and higher wages, an economy that is basically healthy. Oh, and how economic data is kept politics-free, as if it could possibly be so. One side wants bad news, and the other good, and there are enough data to confirm whatever bias you like.

Voters express disgust over U.S. politics in a new poll, there's a shocker. Chinese mogul buys Dick Clark Productions, whaa? Mosul battle rages into the suburbs, Jordan shooting kills two US military trainers at an air base, car bomb in Turkey kills 8.

And the "Bundy Militia" is not backing down after the federal government's legal team failed to obtain convictions at trial for seven of them. (There have been 11 guilty pleas, and seven more defendants are scheduled to go to trial in February.) Turned the community of Burns, Oregon upside down, wasted millions of dollars for damage caused and policing, screwed up resource management on a National Wildlife Refuge for absolutely no useful purpose, and are emboldened to keep promoting their Willard Cleon Skousen cartoon history of the Yoonited States. Just a bit of color from that 2010 New Yorker piece, "Confounding Fathers":

"Skousen taught for years in the speech and religion departments at Brigham Young University, interrupted by a stint, from 1956 to 1960, as the police chief of Salt Lake City. His time in office was contentious, and after he raided a friendly card game attended by the city’s right-wing mayor, J. Bracken Lee, he was promptly fired. Lee called Skousen “a master of half truths” and said that he ran the police department “like a Gestapo”; Skousen’s supporters placed burning crosses on the Mayor’s lawn."

It goes on, touching upon another topic become timely again, "The Manchurian Candidate," but perhaps I digress. Back to our present day, and what is yet to come from these "ranks of the furthest-right Mormons":

"Western law experts ... say if what people like the Bundys really want is more control of public land, they need to go to Congress. After all, there's nothing in the Constitution that prevents Congress from transferring federal land to states."

We have sent some "people like the Bundys" to Congress, actually, Idaho's Raúl Labrador is up for another term just now. But the cowboy clown show would not go over as well in Foggy Bottom as it did in eastern Oregon, I'm guessing. And the 2014 southern Nevada episode is still hanging on a cliff, with brothers Ammon, Ryan and Papa Bundy cooling their heels at the crossbar hotel.

Karina Brown takes a longer look at the hard lessons for the Feds in the Bundy Case for Courthouse News Service, the likelihood that the last 7 defendants will have charges dropped, and how the Bunkerville trials will play out.

3.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Self-serving phony Permalink to this item

Politicians have always been "flexible" with the truth, but Donald Trump has set the bar subterranean. Russ Buettner reports for the NYT under a no-suprise headline that Donald Trump’s Income Isn’t Always What He Says It Is. But still, the contrast between his claims and what scant facts can be dug up against his steadfast resistance to honest disclosure does continue to amaze and astound. The golf club in Florida where he paraded out those employees to say how much they love him, from which he reported $50 million income in 2014? That was gross income. Net income (he claims, when it's time to dispute a property tax bill) was minus $2.4 million.

There are his tax returns he won't disclose, there are the federal disclosure forms he has to fill out (but that allow gross exaggeration), and then there are the figures "certified by a public accountant and sworn to by Mr. Trump, under penalty of prosecution if he intentionally misstated them." Those are the ones that magically show he has hardly any net income, so shouldn't have to pay hardly any taxes.

"At the Trump International Hotel and Tower, on Columbus Circle in Manhattan, Mr. Trump owns a parking garage and the restaurant space occupied by Jean Georges. On his disclosure forms, Mr. Trump listed his income from the garage and the restaurant space as between $1 million and $5 million.

"On the income and expense statements that he filed in a property tax appeal for 2015, Mr. Trump showed gross income of $1.6 million on the spaces. But after he paid operating expenses and mortgage payments, only $43,000 was left for the year. His company did collect a $50,000 management fee on the two spaces."

Lambs to slaughter Permalink to this item

One episode (or maybe it was a recurring theme?) of the original Star Trek has been coming to mind lately, and of course you can look this sort of thing up now, and as in perhaps every case of ST:TOS (as it's known), there's a Wikipedia page for it: A Taste of Armageddon. First season, episode #23, broadcast 50 years ago next February for the first time. (Stop here if you haven't kept up but plan to watch, and don't want a spoiler.)

Civilization has advanced on Eminiar VII to the point where the Federation of Planets is prepared to establish diplomatic relations, in spite of that interplanetary war they have going on, and the rather suspicious circumstances surrounding the last visit from a Federation starship, the USS Valiant, "mysteriously disappeared" after it ventured into the Eminiar/Vendikar system.

Almost enough to have you tread carefully on the way in. And then a message comes in warning them not to approach under any circumstances, but the Ambassador orders Captain Kirk to press on, and trouble ensues, thanks to computer systems on the two planets that are carrying out a simulation of war, and depending on the results, making lists of casualties who must dutifully report to disintegration chambers. They didn't solve the "war" problem, but they made it tidier; presumably there were no bodily fluids leaking out of the dispatch machines. (One critic criticized the premise that had "a few too many holes to sustain its attempts at profundity," but praised the ambition of the story.)

ST:TOS has nothing on the 2016 race for "classic, allegorically powerful, common sense implausible scenarios." What could be more implausible than our own Grand Old Party taken over by a raging misogynist and racist bully, making promises that would make Mussolini blush? The Republican machine remains on autopilot, in spite of a lucky few donning the handfull of parachutes tucked in the overheads and bailing out. Casualties of the battle are being toted up and instructed to report to the disintegration chambers. Paul Ryan had cold feet, then was cold all the way up to his neck after the Billy Bush Has a Hot Mic on the Bus incident, and now... as Seth Myers reports, Ryan has been disintegrated:

Broke the most basic rule Permalink to this item

There are some subjects for which one should Never. Read. The. Comments. Here I was, still reveling in the remarkable story of a 17-year-old defending the family home from an armed intruder, with one well placed gut-shot with his shotgun, and I made the mistake.

Still, there's usually something to make comments worthwhile if you can avoid stepping in the heaps of dung, and this fellow Lee Halper salvaged the experience for me, responding to two name-calling (but nameless, here) trolls who were ranting pointlessly about the Idaho endangered species, "Liberals":

"Some people call me a liberal even though I'm a registered Republican and recently testified in favor of a permit for a firearms training facility that already trains cops and millitary and civilians. They call me liberal because I'm in favor of background checks wherever guns are sold legally as this criminal may not have been able to get his gun in the first place. Criminals looking for guns on the black market are going to find it's harder to do so and more expensive as well. And for [you two] to be spewing out labels is nothing more than open bigotry based on ignorance and does nothing to solve the problem of protecting our 2nd amendment while reducing the number of gun using idiots who create the scenario that threatens our 2nd amendment."

Two sample ballots Permalink to this item

The Idaho Statesman used to publish election information; I'm sure they still do, but we stopped subscribing when the price was headed straight north, and "features" included "no more vacation holds, we charge you no matter what." But they still offer access to an interactive voters guide, through a 3rd party, hosted on If you want to see candidates' answers to questions and what-not (which "have not been edited except for libel," they note), and have some time to spend clicking through a zillion screens, you might like that. You can "make your selections" on your reference document, and if you make it all the way to the end, print and/or save it (I assume). (You can also not make selections, I expect; that used to be the case.) Good luck with that. I got as far as temporarily enabling all the scripting involved, but didn't want to step through dozens of page views to get there.

Snippet of precinct 1613-G sample ballot

Alternately, Ada County's GIS and web technology has matured nicely to include an interactive polling place locator, which will show you your polling place (duh) and a sample ballot in a PDF, in one fell swoop. I enter someone else's address in my neighborhood, not that I'm paranoid or anything; but trained by that Statesman thing that wanted to collect my selections, with or without assurances of protecting my privacy. (Suggestion to the county for next enhancement: let us just click our precinct on the map, rather than having to enter a street address. Also, do not include the ironic page that says "This page intentionally left blank.")

We're still debating early voting; maybe today's the day. But no later than Tuesday, Nov. 8, for sure. What there is for us to decide:

What there is not for us to decide is State Representative position "B" for District 16, a County Commissioner for a 2-year term, County Sheriff, County Prosecuting Attorney, and three candidates for CWI Trustee; the candidates for all of those are unopposed.

1.Nov.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A stitch in time Permalink to this item

Phone pic

This gem from the obit for W. Dudley Johnson, Heart Bypass Surgery Pioneer who died a week ago in my hometown, at 86.

Dr. Johnson was a reluctant surgeon — early on, he once recalled, “I disliked surgeons and their pompous attitudes” — but he applied the crocheting skills he had learned from his mother, who was a home economics teacher, and the needlecraft he was taught in a seventh-grade sewing class (he got an A), to perform more than 8,500 heart bypass operations over four decades.

“He received patients who had three alternatives from other doctors who wouldn’t tackle their condition,” Dr. Gordon Lang, his friend and colleague, said in an interview. “One was, ‘Go home and get your affairs in order.’ The other was, ‘Put your name on a cardiac transplant list.’ And the third was, ‘Go to Milwaukee and see Dr. Dudley Johnson.’”

No pun intended Permalink to this item

"The emails will be reviewed by the same counterintelligence team in Washington that handled the Clinton investigation from the beginning."

Counterintelligence team.

The latest in the slo-mo developing not-scandal: the Justice Department obtained a warrant to review all those emails on Anthony Weiner's whatever, which may or may not be from, to, or about Hillary Clinton, and may or may not have already been seen and analyzed.

We just don't know what the hell.

In unrelated news, I went through some of the heap of emails in my own inbox today, dating back to January, 2014, thousands left marked unread (although I do keep up much better than that with a front-end scan before they get to Outlook), and disposed of... several hundred, at least. God help the FBI if they ever need to investigate me.

"Officials cautioned that there was no evidence to date that changed the Justice Department’s conclusion that neither Mrs. Clinton nor her aides should be charged. They said it was possible that the review would turn up nothing, but said investigators felt obligated to check."

What the story does tell us is that it was the we-don't-need-a-search-warrant-for-your-stinking-metadata headers—the To and From lists—that made them seem possibly relevant to the endless fishing expedition into Clinton's email history. Maybe Weiner had some emails to or from Clinton's aide Huma Abedin, to whom he was married. You think?

And the counterintelligence team could be busy right up to and past Election Day. Say... four years of investigation? That's what Jason Chaffetz is planning, if voters in his district are happy to keep sending him back to Congress for the D.C. Witch Trials.

And yes, there is the more than a little "disturbing double standard" that's kept the investigation into Russian meddling in American elections on the down low, because gosh, it's so close to the election. ICYMI, David Corn, in Mother Jones, on "an extraordinary situation," about which A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump.

Let's take a step back with 40+ years of perspective and consider what someone with personal experience in the realm of political scandals has to say, John W. Dean. Contrary to what you might think if your only source of news was sur-@realDonaldTrump's Twitter feed, the cocked-up (um, literally, now that Anthony Weiner's email is part of the story) "Emailgate" "scandal" is not only not worse than Watergate, there is no comparison whatsoever.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007