Thursday, January 26, 2017

“Voter Fraud” Is A Fraud Itself

From the New York Times:

President Trump intends to move forward with a major investigation of voter fraud that he says cost him the popular vote, White House officials said Wednesday, despite bipartisan condemnation of his allegations and the conclusion of Mr. Trump’s own lawyers that the election was “not tainted.”

In his first days in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump has renewed his complaint that millions of people voted illegally, depriving him of a popular-vote majority. In two Twitter posts early Wednesday morning, the president vowed to open an inquiry to reveal people who are registered to vote in multiple states or who remain on voting rolls long after they have died.

“We have to understand where the problem exists, how deep it goes, and then suggest some remedies to it,” said Sean Spicer, the president’s press secretary. He said the White House would reveal more details this week.

There’s a difference between fraudulent voter registration and actual voter fraud. The registered election rolls can have lots of mistakes such as dead people still listed, people who moved away, or people who jokingly registered their cat. It requires a lot of work to keep those rolls up-to-date. (Would that they were as good as the development offices at certain schools, colleges, and universities about tracking down alumni who move without telling them…) But when it comes to actually voting, as in showing up at the polls to cast a ballot, that’s what matters. I have voted in every major election since 1972 and I have yet to vote where I wasn’t asked to confirm my name, my address and my signature. So Trump is exploiting the ignorance of the people who think registration is the same as voting.

Not only that, but if “millions of illegals” voted, it would have required a massive secret effort on the part of the fraudsters to pull it off involving thousands of poll workers in every state and in every precinct.  They would have to have been either sworn to secrecy under dire threats or bought off on such a massive scale as to boggle the mind.

Finally, you’d think that if there was this vast conspiracy to get millions of “illegals” to vote, they’d at least have done it in states where it would have changed the Electoral College vote. So the conspirators were crafty enough to pull this off without anyone noticing it on Election Day, but too stupid to figure out where to do it? Erm…

In short, claims of voter fraud on a massive scale are bullshit.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sunday Reading

Clear and Present Danger — Ari Berman in The Nation on how voter suppression is just the start.

Donald Trump’s tweets yesterday about “the millions of people who voted illegally in 2016” and “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California” cannot be dismissed as just another Twitter meltdown from the president-elect. (It goes without saying that Trump’s claims are categorically false.)

His conspiracy theories about rigged elections during the presidential race were meant to delegitimize the possibility of Hillary Clinton’s election. But now that he’s won the election we have to take his words far more seriously. He will appoint the next attorney general, at least one Supreme Court justice and thousands of positions in the federal government. His lies about the prevalence of voter fraud are a prelude to the massive voter suppression Trump and his allies in the GOP are about to unleash.

Unlike his Democratic and Republican predecessors, Trump has little respect for the institutions that preserve American democracy, whether it’s freedom of the press or the right to vote. As I wrote in The Nation recently:

Trump undermined the basic tenets of democracy in ways unseen by any previous presidential nominee. He said he might refuse to accept the outcome of the election if things didn’t go his way; his supporters explicitly called for “racial profiling” at the polls; and his campaign openly boasted that “we have three major voter-suppression operations under way” to reduce turnout among African Americans, young women, and liberals.

We can already glimpse how a Trump administration will undermine voting rights, based on the people he nominated to top positions, those he has advising him, and his own statements.

His pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, wrongly prosecuted black civil-rights activists for voter fraud in Alabama in the 1980s, called the Voting Rights Act “a piece of intrusive legislation,” and praised the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, saying that “if you go to Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, people aren’t being denied the vote because of the color of their skin.”

Trump’s Justice Department could limit voting rights in a number of critical ways, as I wrote in The New York Times last week:

It could choose not to vigorously enforce the Voting Rights Act, instead pressing states to take more aggressive action to combat alleged voter fraud. This could include purging voter rolls and starting investigations into voter-registration organizations.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a front-runner to head Trump’s Department of Homeland Security, has called for precisely this. During a meeting with Trump last week, Kobach brought a “strategic plan” for DHS that advocated purging voter rolls and drafting amendments to the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, presumably to require proof of citizenship, like a passport or birth certificate, to register to vote, which prevented tens of thousands of eligible voters from being able to register in Kansas. It’s chilling that a top Trump adviser like Kobach views voting rights as a threat to homeland security.

Trump’s chief adviser, Steve Bannon, has even more radical views. According toThe New York Times, he “once suggested to a colleague that perhaps only property owners should be allowed to vote.” A co-writer of his on a Reagan documentary told the paper:

“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’ I said, ‘But what about Wendy?’” referring to Mr. Bannon’s executive assistant. “He said, ‘She’s different. She’s family.’”

Trump himself said, after courts struck down voter-ID laws in states like North Carolina, that “the voter-ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development. We may have people vote 10 times.” Ironically, one of the only documented instances of voter fraud in 2016 was committed by a Trump supporter who voted twice in Iowa—and was caught in a state without a voter-ID law.

If you want a better idea of the lengths a Trump administration might go to suppress voting rights, take a look at what Republicans are doing in North Carolina right now. A month after the Supreme Court ruled that states with a long history of discrimination no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government, North Carolina Republicans passed a “monster” voter-suppression law that required strict photo ID, cut early voting, and eliminated same-day registration and pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Like in so many-GOP controlled states, Republicans in North Carolina justified the voting restrictions by spreading false claims about voter fraud. (Such fraud was in fact exceedingly rare: There were only two cases of voter impersonation in North Carolina from 2002 to 2012 out of 35 million votes cast.)

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found that North Carolina’s law targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision.” But even after the court restored a week of early voting, GOP-controlled county election boards limited early voting hours and polling locations. The executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party called on Republicans to make “party line changes to early voting” that included opposing polling sites on college campuses and prohibiting early voting on Sundays, when black churches held “Souls to the Polls” voter-mobilization drives. The North Carolina GOP bragged before Election Day that “African American Early Voting is down 8.5% from this time in 2012. Caucasian voters early voting is up 22.5% from this time in 2012.”

Things got even crazier after the election. After Republican Pat McCrory lost the governor’s race to Democrat Roy Cooper by 9,000 votes, his campaign began filing bogus complaints about voter fraud in an attempt to overturn the election result or have the North Carolina legislature reinstall him as governor. Those challenged by the McCrory campaign include a 101-year-old World War II veteran in Greensboro wrongly accused of double voting.

That wasn’t all. After a black Democrat, Mike Morgan, won a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court, giving Democrats a 4-3 majority, Republicans have proposed expanding the size of the court by two justices, who could be appointed by McCrory in his last weeks in office, allowing Republicans to retain control. This would be an outrageous rebuke to the will of the voters and the rule of law, but you can’t put anything past the North Carolina GOP these days.

North Carolina is a case study for how Republicans have institutionalized voter suppression at every level of government and made it the new normal within the GOP. The same thing could soon happen in Washington when Trump takes power.

Hello, Taiwan — David A. Graham in The Atlantic on the background of our relationship with Taiwan.

It’s hardly remembered now, having been overshadowed a few months later on September 11, but the George W. Bush administration’s first foreign-policy crisis came in the South China Sea. On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy surveillance plane collided with a Chinese jet near Hainan Island. The pilot of the Chinese jet was killed, and the American plane was forced to land and its crew was held hostage for 11 days, until a diplomatic agreement was worked out. Sino-American relations remained tense for some time.Unlike Bush, Donald Trump didn’t need to wait to be inaugurated to set off a crisis in the relationship. He managed that on Friday, with a phone call to the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen. It’s a sharp breach with protocol, but it’s also just the sort that underscores how weird and incomprehensible some important protocols are.

Trump’s call was first reported by the Financial Times, but the Trump campaign soon confirmed it and issued a readout of the conversation:

President-elect Trump spoke with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, who offered her congratulations. During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties exists between Taiwan and the United States. President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year.

Why would Trump not speak with Tsai? Here’s where the strangeness starts. The U.S. maintains a strong “unofficial” relationship with Taiwan, including providing it with “defensive” weapons, while also refusing to recognize its independence and pressuring Taiwanese leaders not to upset a fragile but functional status quo. It’s the sort of fiction that is obvious to all involved, but on which diplomacy is built: All parties agree to believe in the fiction for the sake of getting along.

The roots of this particular fiction date to 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Republic of China was routed by Mao Zedong and the Communists, and Chiang fled to Taiwan. The U.S., in Cold War mode, continued to recognize the ROC in Taiwan as China’s rightful government, and so did the United Nations. But in 1971, the UN changed course, recognizing the People’s Republic of China—or as it was often called then, Red China—as the legitimate government. In 1979, the United States followed suit. Crucially, the communiqué proclaiming that recognition noted, “The Government of the United States of America acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.”Officially, this has also been the policy of Taiwan for almost a quarter century. Under the 1992 Consensus, another artful diplomatic fiction, both Taipei and Beijing agreed that there was only one China and agreed to disagree on which was legitimate, as well as maintaining two separate systems. During the Bush years, the U.S. said it would defend Taiwan in an attack, but Bush also pushed back on Taiwanese moves toward independence.

Despite recognizing the PRC, the U.S. has kept close ties with Taiwan since 1979. The State Department notes that “Taiwan is the United States’ ninth largest trading partner, and the United States is Taiwan’s second largest trading partner.” More importantly, the U.S. has sold some $46 billion in arms to Taiwan since 1990, which are intended as defensive. Last December, the Obama administration sold $1.8 billion in anti-tank missiles, warships, and other materiel to Taipei. Of course, the “defensive” purpose to all of this is against China, the most plausible aggressor against Taiwan. Naturally, the arms sales have consistently annoyed the Chinese. (Recently, China has been on a campaign of land-grabbing and saber-rattling across the South China Sea, trying to assert greater control and influence.)

Though the triangle between the U.S., China, and Taiwan sometimes flares up, the general goal of all three has been to maintain the fragile status quo. By speaking to President Tsai, and praising U.S. relations with Taiwan, Trump threatens to upset that delicate balance. Reaction to the call was immediate and, for the most part, aghast.

“The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,” Evan Medeiros, former Asia director at the White House National Security Council, told the FT. “Regardless if it was deliberate or accidental, this phone call will fundamentally change China’s perceptions of Trump’s strategic intentions for the negative. With this kind of move, Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition for U.S.-China relations.”Ari Fleischer, Bush’s first White House press secretary, noted that he wasn’t even allowed to refer to a Taiwanese government. My colleague James Fallows, not generally a man given to overreaction or caps-lock, was blunter: “WHAT THE HELL????” he tweeted.

As is typically the case with Trump, it’s hard to tell whether this blithe overturning of protocol is intentional or simply a result of not knowing, or caring, better.

There are various reasons Trump might be intentionally poking China. Trump spoke harshly about China throughout his presidential campaign, accusing Beijing of currency manipulation, land-grabbing, and taking advantage of the United States. He also showed a willingness, if not an eagerness, to slaughter nearly every sacred cow of American foreign policy.

Some Trump confidants have suggested existing policy on Taiwan should become one of them. John Bolton, who served as Bush’s ambassador to the UN, has been advising Trump, and Bolton has been a very public advocate of the U.S. cozying up to Taiwan in order to show strength against China.

Even if the provocation is intentional, that doesn’t mean Trump has acted wisely. “I would guess that President-elect Trump does not really comprehend how sensitive Beijing is about this issue,” Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Hill.Some observers suggested that the call fits with the pattern of Trump intertwining his business and political interests, pointing out that he’s currently seeking to open luxury hotels in Taiwan.

But it’s also possible that Trump just stumbled into the matter, Being There-style. Trump tweeted Friday evening that Tsai had called him, presenting himself as just the guy who picked up the handset. It’s unclear how studied the decision to take it was, or whether it was studied at all. Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, assailed Trump for not taking it seriously. “Foreign policy consistency is a means, not an end. It’s not sacred. Thus, it’s Trump’s right to shift policy, alliances, strategy,” Murphy said in a pair of tweets. “What has happened in the last 48 hours is not a shift. These are major pivots in foreign policy w/out any plan. That’s how wars start.”

It’s also hard to know how big a deal Trump’s call is. China did not immediately comment. A White House official told The New York Times that the administration was only informed of the call after the fact, and said the fallout could be significant. There were other questions. Wouldn’t Beijing see that what Trump did was a blunder, but not a major shift in policy? Isn’t the Chinese government sophisticated enough not to take Trump at face value?

Trump’s previous conversations might provide hints on whether foreign governments will take Trump seriously. As Uri Friedman wrote today, Trump’s conversation with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already had repercussions. The Pakistani government put out a readout that read suspiciously like a near-verbatim transcript of Trump’s words, capturing the tone the president-elect uses. His promise to “play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems” might sound to an American who just observed the election as so much Trumpian space-filling, but it made headlines in Pakistan, where some interpreted it as a nod to Pakistan’s conflict with India in Kashmir. Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, told the Times it appeared Pakistani officials had taken Trump’s words too seriously.China is perhaps a more sophisticated foreign-policy player than Pakistan; it’s certainly a more important one. But as Fallows points out, a China that sees Trump as buffoon probably isn’t good for American interests either.

For the time being, the most important thing to watch is probably for Beijing’s announcement. That will be the first clue as to whether Trump’s phone call will set in motion a huge realignment of American policy and relationships with China and Taiwan—or if it will be another Hainan Island incident, barely remembered 15 years on.

Beware of Bribery — Andy Borowitz’s humor.

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—President-elect Donald J. Trump drew a line in the sand on Friday as he warned that U.S. companies planning to ship jobs overseas will be slapped with enormous bribes.

“If you think you’re going to get away with sending jobs out of the U.S., think again,” Trump said. “You are about to be bribed, big league.”

He raised the cautionary example of Carrier Corporation, which this week decided to keep a few hundred jobs in the U.S. in exchange for a seven-million-dollar government incentive. “I warned those boys at Carrier: we can do this the easy way, or the hard way, where you get seven million dollars,” he said. “They backed down so fast—it was terrific.”

The President-elect said that the Carrier story should strike fear into the hearts of all American businesses that might be contemplating shipping jobs overseas. “Do you really want to wind up like Carrier, with seven million dollars in your pockets?” he asked. “I don’t think so.”

In a parting shot, Trump warned companies that he was prepared to back up his tough rhetoric with even tougher action. “I will bribe you so hard, your grandchildren will get paid,” he threatened.

Doonesbury — Colorful language.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

This Is It

I’ve got nothing more to say about the campaign.  Now it’s your turn.

There are only two requirements:

  1. You must be registered.
  2. You must go to vote at your correct location.

If you’re not registered, check and see if your state allows same-day registration.  If not, then go back to bed.  If you are registered but not sure where to vote, check here.

I honestly don’t care who you vote for.  I mean it.  All that really matters is that you vote.  If you don’t, then I will expect you to keep your mouth shut for the next four years if things don’t go the way you wanted.  You forfeited that right when you stayed home.  So go.

And if you already did, either by absentee or early voting, thank you.  Sit back, relax and wait with the rest of us.

i-voted-08-30-16

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday Reading

John Roberts and the Voting Rights Act — Stephanie Mencimer in Mother Jones and the Chief Justice’s antipathy for the law.

In 2013, when Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. issued the most far-reaching Supreme Court decision on voting rights in the 21st century, he finally succeeded in gutting a civil rights law he has been fighting his entire career. For three decades, Roberts has argued that the United States has become colorblind to the point where aggressive federal intervention on behalf of voters of color is no longer necessary—and this case, Shelby County v. Holder, was the pinnacle of that crusade.

Roberts honed his views on race and voting as a clerk for Justice William Rehnquist, a man who as a court clerk himself had written a memo endorsing Plessy v. Ferguson, the “separate but equal” doctrine upholding segregated schools. On the high court, Rehnquist helped redefine opposition to civil rights laws as a commitment to color blindness, and he used this theory to undermine the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Roberts took a similar outlook in the Reagan Justice Department, where he worked after finishing his Rehnquist clerkship. Gerry Hebert, now executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, was also at the DOJ. He recalls that Roberts “had it in for the Voting Rights Act,” which Roberts thought should cover only intentional discrimination, not discriminatory results or effects of state voting regulations. But proving intentional discrimination is virtually impossible—and besides, Hebert says, judges “don’t want to find that somebody was a racist.” They’d rather focus on the discriminatory impact of a law. “I don’t think John Roberts ever got that.”

Echoing Rehnquist, Roberts has long insisted the United States has achieved a postracial, colorblind society, a point he emphasized in his 2013 majority opinion in Shelby County v. Holder. That 5-4 decision eviscerated a critical component of the Voting Rights Act: the requirement that jurisdictions with a long history of voting discrimination submit any changes in voting procedures to the DOJ for “preclearance,” to ensure those changes didn’t have a discriminatory impact. Preclearance blocked more than 700 discriminatory voting changes between 1982 and 2006 alone. But in the Shelby opinion, Roberts asserted that “history did not end in 1965” and such protections were no longer warranted. Federal oversight of the jurisdictions in question, mostly states in the Deep South, along with Texas, Alaska, and Arizona, was outdated and unjustified, he said.

“The speed with which formerly covered states passed laws making it harder for people of color to register and vote shows that Roberts was engaged in little more than wishful thinking.”

In a scathing dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg laid out evidence that those states have not grown colorblind—by any stretch. She recounted how federal investigators had secretly recorded Alabama officials referring to African Americans as “Aborigines” and openly plotting to block a ballot initiative they thought would increase African American turnout, as “every black, every illiterate,” would be “bused [to the polls] on HUD financed buses.”

“These conversations occurred not in the 1870’s, or even in the 1960’s, they took place in 2010,” she wrote, indicating why preclearance “remains vital to protect minority voting rights and prevent backsliding.”

Ginsburg proved prescient. After the 5-4 Shelby decision, states passed a torrent of new voting restrictions that overwhelmingly affected minorities. On the day the decision was handed down, Texas announced that the only two forms of state voter identification it would accept were a driver’s license or a gun license—a measure the DOJ had previously blocked. Georgia moved some municipal elections in predominantly minority areas from November to May, depressing turnout by nearly 20 percent in one instance. Alabama implemented a strict voter ID law—and then shut down driver’s license offices in every county where more than 75 percent of voters were African American. Perhaps the most blatant was North Carolina’s omnibus voting law. Passed shortly after the Shelby decision, the law imposed strict ID requirements, limited the registration window, and dramatically cut early voting during times traditionally used by African Americans.

“The speed with which formerly covered states passed laws making it harder for people of color to register and vote shows that Roberts was engaged in little more than wishful thinking,” says Richard Hasen, a University of California-Irvine law professor who specializes in election law.

The undoing of the Voting Rights Act may be one of Roberts’ most lasting legacies. But “there’s a lot of resistance among some lower-court judges to Roberts’ views of the state of race relations and voting…and it is reflected in some of their decisions,” Hasen says. In July the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of North Carolina’s voting law, saying its provisions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” In the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Roberts no longer had enough votes on the Supreme Court to prevent that ruling from taking effect before the election.

Lower-court decisions rejecting the Roberts orthodoxy haven’t fallen along ideological lines, either. The very conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Texas’ harsh voter ID law. A George W. Bush appointee wrote the majority opinion. “The lower courts are coalescing around a broad view of the Voting Rights Act’s prohibitions on discriminatory results,” says David Gans, a civil rights expert at the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.

Will any of these developments prompt Roberts to rethink his Shelby opinion? Probably not. In the August order the Supreme Court issued that blocked North Carolina’s draconian voting law, Roberts wrote that he personally would have allowed most of the law to take effect. And despite the lower-court rulings, in November 14 states will have new voting restrictions that didn’t exist in 2012. “He probably still believes he is right, because he likely sees what is going on as simple partisan politics,” says Hasen. “But for many of us, we see a world in which it is once again getting harder, not easier, for people—especially people of color—to cast a ballot which will count.”

Outside the Norm — Jane Mayer in The New Yorker on FBI Director Comey’s decision to drop a dime to Congress.

On Friday, James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, acting independently of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, sent a letter to Congress saying that the F.B.I. had discovered e-mails that were potentially relevant to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private server. Coming less than two weeks before the Presidential election, Comey’s decision to make public new evidence that may raise additional legal questions about Clinton was contrary to the views of the Attorney General, according to a well-informed Administration official. Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.

Comey’s decision is a striking break with the policies of the Department of Justice, according to current and former federal legal officials. Comey, who is a Republican appointee of President Obama, has a reputation for integrity and independence, but his latest action is stirring an extraordinary level of concern among legal authorities, who see it as potentially affecting the outcome of the Presidential and congressional elections.

“You don’t do this,” one former senior Justice Department official exclaimed. “It’s aberrational. It violates decades of practice.” The reason, according to the former official, who asked not to be identified because of ongoing cases involving the department, “is because it impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there’s no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment.”

Traditionally, the Justice Department has advised prosecutors and law enforcement to avoid any appearance of meddling in the outcome of elections, even if it means holding off on pressing cases. One former senior official recalled that Janet Reno, the Attorney General under Bill Clinton, “completely shut down” the prosecution of a politically sensitive criminal target prior to an election. “She was adamant—anything that could influence the election had to go dark,” the former official said.

Four years ago, then Attorney General Eric Holder formalized this practice in a memo to all Justice Department employees. The memo warned that, when handling political cases, officials “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” To guard against unfair conduct, Holder wrote, employees facing questions about “the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election” should consult with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division.

The F.B.I. director is an employee of the Justice Department, and is covered by its policies. But when asked whether Comey had followed these guidelines and consulted with the Public Integrity Section, or with any other department officials, Kevin Lewis, a deputy director of public affairs for the Justice Department, said, “We have no comment on the matter.”

According to the Administration official, Lynch asked Comey to follow Justice Department policies, but he said that he was obliged to break with them because he had promised to inform members of Congress if there were further developments in the case. He also felt that the impending election created a compelling need to inform the public, despite the tradition of acting with added discretion around elections. The Administration official said that Lynch and Justice Department officials are studying the situation, which he called unprecedented.

Matthew Miller, a Democrat who served as the public-affairs director at the Justice Department under Holder, recalled that, in one case, the department waited until after an election to send out subpoenas. “They didn’t want to influence the election—even though the subpoenas weren’t public,” he said. “People may think that the public needs to have this information before voting, but the thing is the public doesn’t really get the information. What it gets is an impression that may be false, because they have no way to evaluate it. The public always assumes when it hears that the F.B.I. is investigating that there must be something amiss. But there may be nothing here at all. That’s why you don’t do this.”

“Comey is an outstanding law-enforcement officer,” Miller said, “but he mistakenly thinks that the rules don’t apply to him. But there are a host of reasons for these rules.”

As Miller sees it, Comey’s “original sin” was the press conference he held in July regarding the Clinton e-mail investigation. At that press conference, Comey stated that the F.B.I. had found no reason to bring criminal charges against Clinton for using a private e-mail server to handle much of her State Department business, but that Clinton and her staff had been “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, extremely classified information.” Comey made clear that he had decided to make this comment without any sign-off from the Justice Department. Ordinarily, when no charges are brought, such matters are not exposed to public view, let alone addressed at press conferences.

Comey’s supporters argue that he had to act independently, and publicly, because Lynch had compromised herself by having an impromptu visit with Bill Clinton late in the investigation. In the ensuing uproar, Lynch promised to accept Comey’s recommendation on whether to bring charges against Clinton. But, as Miller notes, Comey’s press conference triggered a series of other events, including congressional hearings where Comey was forced to defend his decision not to recommend prosecution. Comey’s letter to Congress on Friday updated his earlier statements that the Clinton e-mail investigation had ended.

In a letter to F.B.I. employees sent soon after the letter to Congress, Comey tried to explain his unusual decisions. In the letter, which was obtained by the Washington Post, he acknowledged, “Of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record. At the same time, however, given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.  In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season,” he noted, “there is significant risk of being misunderstood.”

“I don’t really blame Comey,” another former Justice Department official said. “But it’s troubling.” This official thought that Comey “didn’t want to look tainted. This new information comes to him, and he’s afraid if he doesn’t make it public until after the election he’ll be impeached. People will say he lied to Congress. But in the end he did the self-protective thing. Was it the right thing? Put it this way: it isn’t what previous Administrations have done.”

What Others Said — James Fallows on how previous candidates dealt with an uphill climb shortly before the election.

Donald Trump was of course “joking” when he said [Thursday] in Toledo, Ohio, that “we should just cancel the election and just give it to Trump, right? What are we even having it for?”

In [this] clip, you can see what we’ve come to recognize as a classic Trump-rally two-track message. It’s a mixture of claims that would be outrageous if taken seriously, with a half-joking affect that lets Trump suggest that he’s not being serious at all. As a result, he can have it both ways. People who want to, can take this as something Trump is really supporting. (This is a variation of, “A lot of people are saying….”) But if anyone gets huffy and calls Trump on it, he can say, “What kind of dummy are you? Of course that was a joke!”

So, it’s a joke. But it’s a joke that connects with other non-joke Trump statements deeply at odds with the very process of democratic transfer of power. For instance, “I alone” can save us (a refrain from the convention onward). Or, “It’s rigged, folks, rigged” (of recent months). Or “I’ll keep you in suspense” (at the final debate, about accepting the vote outcome.)

Why do all of these deserve notice? Because other nominees just do not say things like this. Really, this is new—and different, and dangerous, and worth recording as it happens to remember when this election has passed.

***

Even when under pressure, even when telling themselves that the deck is unfairly stacked, other American public figures have been careful to pay public homage to the electoral process and the need to accept its outcome. Please consider these two examples:

John McCain, 2008. Trump’s remarks were in Toledo yesterday, October 27. Eight years ago on that same date, on October 27, 2008, McCain was also in western Ohio, in Dayton—swing states are swing states. Like Trump right now, McCain was far enough behind in enough polls in enough states to know that he was likely to lose. But here is the way he talked about the election and its outcome on his October 27:

Friday, October 28, 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

There’s That Word Again

The word is “consent.”  In recent weeks it’s been in the news because a number of women have come forward to claim that Donald Trump touched them, ogled them, or just plain creeped them out without their consent.  Mr. Trump either denied it completely or implied that they really didn’t mean it; who could resist his charms?  Ick.

But now “consent” is back, but this time in another way and with a meaning and force of law that could have a real impact on the election.

In a dramatic escalation of a long legal battle between the national Democratic and Republican parties – and in what is arguably a fitting culmination to the year of Donald Trump – the Democratic National Committee is asking a federal court to hold the Republican National Committee in contempt of court for allegedly violating a decades-old consent decree limiting so-called “ballot security” activities at poll places.

The Democrats’ filing Wednesday, among other things, ask that the consent decree — which is set to expire Dec. 17 — be extended for another eight years. The DNC is also asking the court to block any coordination between Trump and the RNC as it relates to Election Day poll monitoring activities that many fear will amount to voter intimidation.

The legal move by the DNC comes in response to Donald Trump’s calls for vigilante “poll watchers” to come out in force nationwide on Election Day. The RNC had hoped to be freed from the consent decree as soon as next year, and Trump’s actions now threaten to hobble the GOP for nearly another decade, if Democrats have their way.

As Trump has amped up his rhetoric claiming a “rigged elections” and urged his supporters “go over and watch” voting sites in “certain areas, the RNC has tried desperately to distance itself from the campaign’s poll monitors efforts, given the consent decree. But Trump campaign hasn’t made that easy. Wednesday’s filing cites comments made by Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN), Trump’s running mate, at a town hall event and by Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, to the Washington Post suggesting collaboration with the RNC on anti-voter fraud activities.

The court is going to have to rule very quickly; we’re coming down to eleven days to go before the polls open on Election Day.

The overarching fact is that the Republicans know full well that there are more Democrats in the country than there are Republicans.  That means they either have to convince the electorate that their candidate is better than the Democrats’ or that they have to find some way to deprive certain members of the opposition of the vote.  This year especially they have a hard time with the first method, so they have to use the second.

In other words, if you can’t win fair and square, cheat.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Who’s In Charge In Texas?

All of a sudden Texas is worried about voter “fraud.”

The spectre of voter fraud has factored prominently in Texas politics for years, raised largely by Republicans who have won virtually every statewide election for almost two decades. The state’s controlling party aggressively seeks to root out alleged fraud, while Democrats decry such GOP efforts as a ploy to suppress the vote.

Passed in 2011, Texas’ strict voter ID law repeatedly landed the state on the national stage, most recently earlier this year when a federal appeals court found it discriminatory.

If anyone is trying to rig the presidential election, Texas is not the place to do it, according to state election officials. The secretary of state’s office noted Tuesday that Texas’ election system is “highly decentralized,” making it very difficult for a successful statewide conspiracy.

“The election isn’t conducted on a statewide level but in each of Texas’ 254 counties, which use a variety of voting machines and methods,” Alicia Pierce, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, said in a statement. “Due to the decentralization, plus the layers of cross-checking done with election results, prearranging the outcome of a statewide election would be essentially impossible.”

So if there is any fraud going on, it’s the Republicans who are engineering it.

And as Juanita Jean at C&L notes, this didn’t really become a big deal until Hillary Clinton started to make the state look like a toss-up.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Short Takes

Haiti is facing a surge in cholera after Hurricane Matthew laid waste.

North Carolina is undergoing record flooding after Hurricane Matthew.

Ratings for the second debate fell from 84 million to 66 million.

Federal judge orders Florida to extend voter registration one more day.

Samsung halts sales of Galaxy 7 replacement phones.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Short Takes

After decades of war, peace between Colombia and FARC.

Another mass shooting, this time in Houston.

A federal judge blocked attempts to approve proof-of-citizenship for voters.

The Justice Department is sending $20 million to police departments for body cameras.

Jury selection begins in the Dylan Roof trial in Charleston.

Tropical Update: Invest 97L could move toward the U.S.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Short Takes

The bombing suspect in New Jersey had been checked out by the FBI in 2014.

President Obama delivered his valedictory address to the UN.

Another unarmed black man was shot and killed by police, this time in Tulsa.

Federal judge tells Texas to revise their voter ID laws.

Tropical Update: Two storms, Karl and Lisa, are in the middle of the Atlantic but no threat to land now.

The Tigers beat the Twins 8-1.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Short Takes

Wages shot up in 2015 with the biggest hike since 2007.

U.S. bombers send message to China, Russia, and North Korea.

Florida Zika outbreak hits 70 cases.

Supreme Court rejects early voting in Ohio.

NCAA pulls tournament games from North Carolina over bathroom bill.

Tropical Update: TS Julia heads north over northern Florida into Georgia.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Short Takes

Syria ceasefire takes effect.

Clinton campaign explains mishanded health scare.

President Obama will veto the bill that allows 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia.

Brazil ratifies Paris climate agreement.

The UN reports that Iran has kept to the nuclear arms agreement.

Kansas, Georgia, and Alabama must remove proof-of-citizenship from voter ID according to a federal court.

The Tigers beat the Twins 4-2.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Short Takes

Donald Trump does a drive-through to Mexico.

Supreme Court refuses to reinstate strict North Carolina voting rights law.

Brazilian Senate votes to oust President Dilma Rouseff.

Report: Ohio’s restrictive abortion law makes women less safe.

Tropical Update: It started out as Invest 99L, then became TD 9, and now it’s Tropical Storm Hermine and heading for Florida’s Big Bend.

The Tigers beat the White Sox 3-2 and get the sweep.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I Voted

I Voted 08-30-16I stopped at the polls on the way home.  It was raining and all of the electioneers — all campaigning for judges — were huddled under ponchos or the trees in the parking lot of the church where the polling station is located.  They tried to hand me their material but I had a list of recommendations from a lawyer friend and so I politely declined their suggestions.

It was a short ballot; a page and a half.  Since it’s a closed primary I couldn’t vote for someone to primary out Marco Rubio, but I did get to choose a Democrat to run against him.  I also got to choose a candidate to run against U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lentinen.  She’s not a right-wing nut job — she’s on the right side of LGBT issues — but she’s a Republican and I’d vote against her if it my other choice was Teddy the Wonder Lizard.  I also voted in favor of the constitutional amendment for solar power.  After all, this is the Sunshine State, according to my license plate.

When I got home there were four messages on the machine all urging me to vote for a particular candidate.  I even got one from former President Jed Bartlet.  (He said his name was Martin Sheen, but I’d know that voice anywhere.)  He wanted me to vote for Alan Grayson.  Sorry, Mr. President; I already voted, and Mr. Grayson is just too much of a loose cannon and he’d get slaughtered upstate where they don’t have a problem voting against a “non-Christian.”  I’m not wild about Patrick Murphy, either, and there was another choice anyway.

Polls are open until 7:00 p.m. local time.

Primary Day

Today is the Florida primary for local, state, and federal offices including the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.

If you live in Miami-Dade County and need a guide to the ballot and polling places, go here.  If you’re in Broward County, go here, and if you’re in Monroe County (the Keys), go here.

It’s also primary day in Arizona where Sen. John McCain faces a challenge from the right.

I’ll be voting on my way home from work.

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