Après nous le déluge

If you’re looking for an uplifting post, keep scrolling. This one is just a reminder that not only has the Republican president-elect undermined faith in American democracy with an outrageous lie about millions committing voter fraud to award his opponent a record-breaking popular vote victory, but as of this weekend, the four most powerful Republicans beneath Trump on the org chart are on record abetting that lie.

House Majority Leader Paul Ryan says it doesn’t matter to him if Trump is lying or not. Senatortoise Mitch McConnell says the claim is “irrelevant.” Reince Priebus says hey, maybe 2.6 million and counting really DID vote illegally. VP-elect Pence says lies about big, important things are just self-expression, so chill.

A clear pattern is emerging:

1. Trump says or does something outrageous through wounded vanity or rank ignorance.
2. Republican leaders rush to normalize the action or statement, regardless of the danger to the nation.
3. Trump’s business associates and/or the Republican Party capitalize on the fallout.

It’s an astounding combination of political cowardice and opportunism — without precedent in my lifetime, I think. Read more

Strategic Miscommunication

There is a long term International Relations concept called the security dilemma, or as I like to think of it, the insecurity spiral. The security dilemma is a Realist concept that arises from the lack of an international sovereign. Basically because there is no overarching international controlling power, the actions of one or more states, usually in regard to military preparations, can/are misinterpreted leading to other states undertaking responses that in turn lead the original actor or actors to respond, leading to more counter responses. All of which causes a crisis of security, an insecurity spiral, which increases the possibility of conflict.

To avoid a security dilemma states, intergovernmental organizations, and a lot of non state actors, try to utilize strategic communication. Joint Publication 5-0 defines strategic communication as:

… efforts to understand and engage key audiences to create, strengthen, or preserve conditions favorable for the advancement of … interests, policies, and objectives through the use of coordinated programs, plans, themes, messages, and products synchronized with the actions of all instruments of national power. Also called SC.

President-elect Trump’s recent, unsecured communications with many foreign heads of state have many concerned that these conversations are creating a type of security dilemma whereby the President-elect unintentionally or intentionally changes decades of American policy and strategic posture. And does so without the benefit of a State Department Protocol Officer, State Department pre-briefing to prepare for these calls, and secured comms to ensure that his conversations cannot be intercepted and used against the US (and our allies and partners) in the future. These communications have heightened tensions between India and Pakistan. And we now have an escalation in regard to the People’s Republic of China, which actually places the ongoing security of Taiwan at risk.

While some of this is a unique combination of the age of social media, 24/7 news media, and the Internet and a President-elect who seems addicted to social media and has a unique talent for capturing 24/7 news media, it is not unknown. To a certain extent the events that led up to World War I were the result of a classic security dilemma leading to a catastrophic insecurity spiral and the outbreak of actual war.

More recently, in the early 1980s, the aggressive attempts by President Reagan to pressure the Soviet Union led to a breakdown that almost led to war over the NATO war game known as Able Archer.

Able Archer was a 1983 NATO war game that was misinterpreted by the Soviet Union. The signals intercepts being made by Soviet Intelligence led them to mistakenly believe that NATO, led by the US and Britain, was preparing a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. This almost kicked off a classic security dilemma as the Soviets mobilized in response to the war game. This was initially misinterpreted by NATO as the Soviets conducting their own, counter, war game. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. After Able Archer’s conclusion, British Intelligence provided a complete report on the security dilemma that resulted from the strategic miscommunication to Downing Street, which then communicated to the Reagan Administration in order to prevent something like this from ever happening again. The documentary below details Able Archer, the Soviet Response, and just how closely everyone, on every side, escaped a war caused by misinterpretation from unintended miscommunication.

The Tabloid Era

A lady wearing a hijab was in front of me in line at the grocery store yesterday, unloading her cart with the help of her two tween girls. While waiting my turn, I scanned the racks of magazines, puzzle books, comics and scandal sheets and saw this:

It occurred to me that we’re entering the Tabloid Era. Trump himself or one of his associates could very well be the source for that story. Some of Trump’s minions have advanced the theory that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the US government and that Huma Abedin was an agent of the Brotherhood somehow.

If I recall correctly, the shitgibbon cited the National Enquirer as a credible news source at some point during the campaign. The Enquirer’s publisher, the aptly named David Pecker, claims Trump as a friend and supposedly axed stories that might have reflected negatively on the shitgibbon, while publishing lurid tales claiming that Hillary Clinton was on death’s doorstep throughout the campaign.

Oh well, I was thinking, standing in that line. We’re a cheap, tacky joke of a country now, mirroring the character of our soon-to-be leader, so why not make the National Enquirer the “paper of record”? It’s not like The New York Times has been using that role to any good purpose anyway.

But my heart ached for the mother and two daughters who unloaded their cart while I waited in line behind them. I was hoping maybe they wouldn’t see the headline. But of course, they see it more clearly than I do. Every single day.

Thinking Security

Several of you have asked in comments or by email if I’d write a little bit (a lot of bit?) about security. Specifically, personal security. I intended to get this up earlier in the week, but things went sideways on Tuesday, then did an inversion on Wednesday, then a triple lindy yesterday, so…

The first thing that I think is important is something I, and several others, have stressed here in posts and comments: freaking out is not a useful activity. I’m not stating that to pooh pooh anyone’s reactions to the elections, whether they be anger, fear, anxiety, stress, depression, or any combination thereof. All of these are normal and understandable responses. And, of course, if you are feeling really overwhelmed and are having trouble finding/regaining your equilibrium please go see a professional counselor or therapist.

The second thing is don’t do this!

CLEVELAND – Police are investigating the theft of seven guns swiped from a Cleveland home sometime early Tuesday morning.

A mom and her two children were asleep upstairs when she said the thief or thieves broke into the home and cleaned out two gun cabinets. “They’re ready for a war, we were ready for a war,” said Teena Brayen

Brayen and her family are doomsday preppers. “We’re preppers, we believe in preparing for what could happen,” said Brayen.

The Brayens are part of the Three Percenters Club, a militia group that ‘exists to… protect and defend the constitution and our way of life’ by helping people ‘execute Military Strategies to defend against foreign and domestic enemies’.

But the items they wanted to use to defend against invasion in Rome made them a target for invasion in Cleveland.

On November 22, burglars – who, Brayen believes, spotted the weapons when she was moving into the home – took seven guns, 12 machetes, body armor, smoke grenades, more than $1,000 in ammo and some of their food.

Two gun cabinets were emptied of their contents: a high-powered, armor-piercing sniper rifle; five shotguns, and a pellet gun.

Leaving aside the Brayens and the Three Percenters Club, which is not the same as the other Three Percenters, what was missing here was a failure to think security.

Thinking security means to proactively consider what the potential threats might be in order to establish effective, reasonable solutions to them. This means to consider what the potential threats and dangers are to oneself, one’s family, and one’s property (home, business, etc) and what reasonable steps should be taken ahead of time to either deter them or, should deterrence fail, respond to them in the most effective and safe manner possible. This is not just for human threats like crime or terrorism, but also for preparing to deal with natural or man made disasters such as a hurricane or blizzard or earthquake or a gas main explosion or a fracking induced sinkhole or earthquake. To do this one needs to consider several questions.

  1. Who or what is the threat? And what kind of threat is it?
  2. Does the location, item, and/or person need to be secured against a potential threat?
  3. What is the extent of the location’s vulnerability?
  4. Does the potential security countermeasure need to be human, animal, technological, or a combination of them?
  5. How far can I, and how would I go about, extending my secure zone away from myself, my family, my home, etc?
  6. What effect will the potential security response have on me, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my employees, coworkers, and/or customers?

Read more

The Case for Not Normalizing Trump


One understandable and widespread reaction to the recent election of a racist, sexist, xenophobic demagogue has been a vow not to “normalize” Trump. I share that impulse and even created a “Not Normal” tag here at the blog to catalog the mounting horrors. But what if a focus on Trump’s unfitness for office plays into his (teeny, tiny) hands?

Matt Yglesias makes that case at Vox, and he goes beyond the now-familiar argument that focusing on things like Trump’s Twitter antics pulls media attention off issues such as the Trump U fraud payout, influence peddling, Wall Street grifter cabinet picks, etc.

Yglesias discusses how politicians in other countries have faced down and defeated authoritarian clowns, noting that they do so on policy rather than character issues since the latter can have the opposite of the intended effect. Here’s an excerpt that cites the work of Luigi Zingales, who chronicled the rise and fall of Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, a man who shares many traits with Trump:

“How, then, did Berlusconi get elected and reelected? He created an unlikely coalition between the business elite, which supports him for fear of the alternative, and the poor, who identify with him because he appeals to their aspirations. In a country where corruption and lack of meritocracy has all but killed the hope of intra-generational mobility, citizens chose to escape from reality and find consolation in dreams. Berlusconi adeptly fosters the illusion that he can turn everyone else into billionaires. His political career is something like Trump’s Apprentice program, only on a national scale.”

In a post-election op-ed, Zingales revisited these themes and observed that the two politicians who beat Berlusconi in elections — former Prime Minister Romano Prodi and current Prime Minister Matteo Renzi — had two important things in common: “Both of them treated Mr. Berlusconi as an ordinary opponent. They focused on the issues, not on his character. In different ways, both of them are seen as outsiders, not as members of what in Italy is defined as the political caste.”

Yglesias also notes the uneasy truce Trump has struck with the Republican establishment, which is wholly dependent on the shit-gibbon’s willingness to support the GOP’s broadly unpopular agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy, dismantling Medicare, overturning Roe v. Wade, etc. He rightly notes that the precarious nature of this alliance presents an opportunity, arguing that Democrats in Congress should stick a crowbar in any cracks they find and exert all possible force to break it.

It’s a fairly convincing case for how Democratic politicians should oppose Trump and present themselves and their agenda as alternatives. But, as many of you have noted in various ways in comments here, the nonstop shit-show that will be the Trump administration is going to require fortitude, focus and the ability to multitask on many fronts from Trump’s opponents, politicians and peanut gallery alike.

I don’t ever want the idea that an unhinged clown like Trump will soon be in charge of an army of flying death-robots to seem normal. The prospect of Trump’s vile spawn leveraging our highest political office for their personal gain should continue to strike us as outrageous for the next three years, eleven months, three weeks and three days.

Can’t we walk and chew gum here, opposing Trump on policy grounds and pointing out that, yeah, we’ve never had such an unqualified, venal, corrupt pig in the White House before? Yes we can.

PS: Breaking news: Pelosi beats back challenge, retaining leadership over the House Dems. Good. We’ll need her experience and vision to successfully oppose the Pig Party.

[Photo via HuffPo]

Nuremberg on the Ohio


Trumpolini will begin his victory tour of the swing states this week, starting in Cincinnati, Ohio on Thursday. This isn’t a normal thing; presidents-elect are usually too busy preparing to take on leadership of one of the largest organizations in the world to bother with staging mass circle-jerks with supporters.

But perhaps the Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer Tour presents an opportunity to show that we’re not all Good Germans. I’m not in Ohio, but if I were, I’d be combing through social media right now to find and/or start discussions about staging demonstrations to counter the fascist-scented adulation event.

And when the shit-gibbon takes his Hair Furor act to Florida, I will be there — regardless of where it is in the state. For the moment, we’re still living in a country where the president understands and respects the First Amendment.

Why bother? Well, Trump is a narcissist who thrives on adulation. But his ego is brittle enough that he is driven to tell embarrassing lies about facts that contradict his self-image, such as his massive popular vote loss and the spontaneous demonstrations that broke out nationwide when he won the Electoral College. It gets under his skin.

Trump’s takeaway from the RNC was that he is “very well-liked.” Well, he’s not; Trump will in fact be inaugurated as the most unpopular president-elect in the history of polling, who lost the popular vote by the widest margin ever. He should be reminded frequently that we don’t all love him, via news reports of peaceful demonstrations, if necessary. No honeymoon for you, you nasty old goat.

I’m sure opinions vary around here on the utility of protests. I think they have their place, and coming out in force to express opposition to a tin-horn fascist wannabe who’s trying to stage a self-love fest on my turf sounds like a good idea to me. What say you?

PS: Opposing Manhattan Mussolini and shoring up democratic institutions will require the ability to multitask. You can call your senators while you’re waiting for the demonstration to start.

North Carolina Finally Limps Across the Gubernatorial Election Finish Line

As we go to the judges scorecard it is important to remember we are scoring on a 10 point must system. The judges are looking for clean punching, effective aggression, and good ring generalship!

What does this mean?

Now we have to see if Governor McCrory tries some other tactic to maintain power despite the outcome of the North Carolina gubernatorial election.

Here’s the North Carolina State Board of Elections Statement:

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA WAKE COUNTY BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS IN THE MATTER OF: CONSIDERATION OF CERTAIN LEGAL QUESTIONS AFFECTING THE AUTHENTICATION OF THE 2016 GENERAL ELECTION ) ) ) ) ORDER THIS MATTER CAME BEFORE THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS (“State Board”) during a public meeting held November 22, 2016, upon the State Board’s own motion to consider certain legal questions affecting procedures and practices in the authentication of the 2016 general election. The State Board received briefing and heard oral argument from the Republican Party of North Carolina and Pat McCrory Committee, represented by Roger Knight, John Branch, and Brian LiVecchi; the North Carolina Democratic Party and Cooper for North Carolina Committee, represented by Kevin Hamilton (appearing pro hac vice); and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, represented by Allison Riggs. After hearing from the parties, reviewing written briefs and public comment, and having reviewed relevant statutes and authorities, the State Board hereby orders the following pursuant to its authority under G.S. §§ 163-22(a) and 182.12:

1. The uniform application of law is necessary to ensure fundamental fairness in the administration of elections and to preserve due process for each voter.

2. Article 8 of Chapter 163 of the General Statutes (“Article 8”) provides the means by which one voter may challenge the eligibility of another voter. No voter challenge may be entered after the deadline or made indiscriminately. A timely challenge properly sustained against a voter who has cast an absentee ballot will result in the exclusion of that ballot from the canvassed results.

3. Article 15A of Chapter 163 of the General Statutes (“Article 15A”) provides the means by which a voter may protest an election. A successful protest must prove the occurrence of an outcome-determinative violation of election law, irregularity, or misconduct. If a county board of elections (“county board”) finds a violation occurred affecting votes sufficient in number to change the outcome of a single-county contest, the county board must retrieve the ballots improperly cast and note the deduction in the abstract. If a county board finds a violation occurred that did not affect enough ballots to change the outcome of any single-county contest, the county board must forward its findings to the State Board. The State Board shall determine whether all ballots improperly cast are sufficient to change the outcome of any multi-county contest. If so, the State Board will order county boards to retrieve and discount affected ballots and revise its canvass.

4. A protest alleging the occurrence of an election law violation that affected votes sufficient in number to change the outcome of a single-county contest concerns the manner in which votes were counted or tabulated, and therefore such protest must be resolved prior to county canvass as required by G.S. § 163-182.10(a)(2). A protest that does not allege an election law violation regarding a sufficient number of votes to change the outcome of a single-county contest shall not delay the county canvass procedures since the county may not retrieve and discount such ballots. In no case shall the county board delay the timely hearing and decision on a protest timely filed.

5. A protest of election brought under Article 15A may not merely dispute the eligibility of a voter. Such a claim must be brought timely as a challenge under Article 8. Rather, a protest of election may include claims regarding the eligibility of certain voters only as evidence that an outcome-determinative violation of election law, irregularity, or misconduct has occurred.

6. The county board of elections shall dismiss a protest of election that merely disputes the eligibility of a voter. The county board shall instead consider the claim as a voter challenge brought under Article 8 after the election.

7. No county board may retrieve and discount a ballot cast by an unqualified voter unless a challenge was timely brought under Article 8, or the State Board or a county board has found that ineligible voters participated in numbers sufficient to change the outcome of the election. The latter finding may be based on a protest timely brought under Article 15A or pursuant to complaint or directive of the State Board under G.S. §§ 163-22(a) and 182.12.

8. County boards of election must preserve the due process rights of all voters, including adequate notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard. If a protest brought under Article 15A includes claims regarding the eligibility of certain voters, the county board must provide notice of the protest reasonably calculated to apprise such voters of the pendency of the protest and afford them an opportunity to present their objections. Due process in the context of time-sensitive post-election protests may mean that county boards expedite notice mailings or reach out to affected voters by other means not ordinarily required under Article 8. At a minimum, county boards must provide written notice to affected voters by expedited delivery service, such that notice is received at least three days ahead of any such hearing.

9. If any county board of elections has retrieved and discounted any ballot in a manner inconsistent with this Order in its canvass of the 2016 general election, the county board shall amend its canvass to include the vote. No such re-canvass shall reset any statutory deadline otherwise associated with the canvass of votes.

10. Counties shall proceed to the canvassing of the 2016 general election consistent with this Order, which shall govern future elections unless otherwise directed by this Board.

This the twenty-eighth day of November, 2016.


A. Grant Whitney, Jr.,

Chair State Board of Elections