#2018

“VOTE. It’s the only thing left.”

August 7, 2018

All that’s left is the vote.

George Packer.

DT’s consolidation of power. None of the other forces that might have checked the rise of a corrupt homegrown oligarchy can stop or even slow it. The institutional clout that ended the Presidency of Richard Nixon no longer exists. The honest press, for all its success in exposing daily scandals, won’t persuade the unpersuadable or shame the shameless, while the dishonest press is Trump’s personal amplifier. The federal courts, including the Supreme Court, are rapidly becoming instruments of partisan advocacy, as reliably conservative as elected legislatures. It’s impossible to imagine the Roberts Court voting unanimously against the President, as the Burger Court, including five Republican appointees, did in forcing Nixon to turn over his tapes. (Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s nominee to succeed Anthony Kennedy, has even suggested that the decision was wrong.) Congress has readily submitted to the President’s will, as if legislation and oversight were burdens to be relinquished. And, when the independent counsel finally releases his report, it will have only the potency that the guardians of the law and the Constitution give it.

Behind these institutions lies public opinion, and we are quickly learning that it matters more than laws, more than the Constitution, more than the country’s supposedly inviolable founding principles. “If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it,” George Orwell wrote, in “Freedom of the Park.”  “If public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.” During 1973, the year Watergate became a national scandal, facts changed the political views of millions of Americans, Nixon’s approval rating fell from sixty-seven per cent to less than thirty per cent, and his fate was sealed. In our time, large blocs of public opinion are barely movable: Trump’s performance in Helsinki—declaring himself on the side of Russia, against his own intelligence agencies and the integrity of American elections—received favorable reviews from eighty per cent of Republicans. Yet public opinion still plays a central role in safeguarding democracy, and it becomes decisive through voting. Demonstrations can capture attention and build solidarity, books can provide arguments, social media can organize resistance. But if the Republicans don’t suffer a serious defeat in November, Trump will go into 2020 with every structural advantage.

Democrats have a habit of forgetting to vote between Presidential elections. Republican turnout has exceeded or equalled Democratic turnout in very midterm since 1978, no matter which party held the Presidency, with an average margin of three per cent—more than enough to decide control of Congress in a closely divided election. The demographic groups that are least likely to vote—young people, Latinos, and those with a high-school education or less—tend to be Democratic constituencies. This tendency has been especially stark in the past two midterm cycles: in 2014, the turnout among eligible voters aged eighteen to twenty-nine was seventeen per cent—one in six. The disappearing Democratic voter also had an effect on the latest Presidential election, when, for example, African-American turnout dropped almost five per cent from 2012—a crucial difference in the three key states that gave Trump the Electoral College.

Republicans, for their part, don’t always entrust their hold on power to democratic methods. Since 2010, nearly half of the states have passed laws that make it harder to vote—from restrictions on early voting to I.D. requirements, mandatory proof of citizenship, and purges of voting rolls. The purpose of these laws is not to fight a mythical epidemic of fraud but to depress turnout of normally Democratic constituencies. They show incremental signs of success: a government study found that new laws reduced turnout in 2012 in Kansas and Tennessee by two or three per cent, notably among young and black voters. Other states have expanded the franchise, particularly to former felons, but Republican control of two-thirds of state legislatures and the shift of courts to the right give the momentum to efforts to curtail voting.

Gerrymandering is another effective tool for staying in power. The Brennan Center for Justice recently released a report on the effects of redistricting in states like Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas. Algorithmic mapping has grown so precise that Republican legislatures have created a sixteen-seat advantage in the House of Representatives that remains impervious to standard electoral pressures. In November, just to achieve a bare majority, Democrats will have to win the national congressional vote by nearly eleven per cent. (Other studies put the number at around seven per cent.) And legislatures elected this year will redraw state and federal districts after the 2020 census. There’s a thick seawall standing in the way of a blue wave.

But it’s self-defeating to exaggerate the external obstacles: in 2016, Democratic turnout declined in states with and without new voter restrictions. Gerrymandering is a time-honored practice of both parties—look at Maryland’s House delegation. Unfettered money in politics doesn’t always favor Republicans, let alone guarantee victory—Hillary Clinton raised twice as much as Trump did. The greatest obstacle to voting is the feeling that it won’t matter, and that feeling seems to be more prevalent among Democrats.

In some cases, that sense may be based on overconfidence and insularity—a presumption that the other party’s outrages will automatically disqualify it in voters’ eyes. More often, it comes from a belief that politics doesn’t change anything in people’s lives. For two generations, the Republican Party has been an expression of grassroots conservatism, most recently the fever that’s ceded the Party to Trump. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has grown less connected to its voters. It’s like a neglected building, perennially on the edge of collapse, which left-leaning Americans occasionally use for some purpose and then abandon.

This year, something seems to be changing. The new faces among Democratic candidates, the new energy behind them, suggest a party of members, not squatters. But, come November, they will have to vote. It’s the only thing left. ♦

The disturbing world of Jim Carrey’s anti-trump cartoons.

(Holed up in his L.A. home, the actor sketches furiously, and watches lots of cable news.)

George Bethea

House Republicans have called for the impeachment of Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, who is overseeing the Russia investigation, but his defenders are speaking out. Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, has called Rosenstein “highly capable,” while Sally Yates, the former acting Attorney General, said that the impeachment effort would “undoubtedly fail.” Perhaps the most impassioned testimonial came from the actor Jim Carrey, who drew a picture of Rosenstein as a saint with a halo, invoking early Christian art. Carrey tweeted a photo of the drawing to his nearly eighteen million followers, with an earnest plea: “I hope there are other Republicans like you who will defend us against this thuggish lot.”

Since 2016, Carrey has created more than a hundred cartoons protesting the Trump Administration, a pastime that borders on the obsessive. “I fight him to the end,” he said recently, citing the Bhagavad Gita. “It’s my Arjuna moment—my responsibility to pick up the sword.”

Carrey was at his home in Los Angeles, a one-story ranch-style house where he lives alone. (On this day, two employees and a publicist were on hand.) Now fifty-six, he wore a black T-shirt and cargo shorts. His hair was shaggy. He’s still acting—he’d spent the previous afternoon on the set of an upcoming Showtime series he’s starring in, “kidding”, directed by Michel Gondry—but, like everyone else these days, he watches a lot of cable news.

He sat down near a large television in his living room. “Right now, everybody is laser-focussed on every detail of this Administration,” he said. “And I am, too. I read news online, but mostly I watch MSNBC. They’re flawed, but Rachel Maddow is really good.” He sketches while he watches: wonky portraits, satirical headlines, grotesqueries. “It makes me feel better if I can alchemize all of this,” he said. “Turn it into something creative and make people on the Twitter feel good.”

Besides cartoons, Carrey also makes abstract paintings. The walls of his house are covered in his own work: Technicolor images streaked onto mirrored surfaces, or canvases that have been slashed and stitched. Some are signed “Church of FFC.” (The acronym stands for “Freedom from Concern.”) Though he was an artistic child, he didn’t start painting seriously until seven years ago, he explained, “in the midst of heartbreak.” The cartooning started the day before the 2016 Presidential election. “It was in the middle of the killer-clown phenomenon,” he recalled. He shouted to his art manager, in the next room. “Linda, can you find that killer-clown sketch?”

Linda replied, “The killer clown pressing the button, or the—”

“Pressing the button, yeah,” Carrey said, slightly impatient.

She brought over a drawing of Trump as a clown with a blue nose and fangs.

Politically, Carrey described himself as a “conservative Democrat, because I don’t like boundaries.” As a cartoonist, his humor tends toward the obscene. He flipped through a stack of sketches, and found a picture of Trump with a Russian flag planted in his rear end. “I did that one before the Helsinki meeting,”  he said. “It was a prediction.” There were drawings of all the minor players: Sean Hannity as a manatee, Trey Gowdy as an insect, Adam Schiff as a Ken doll dropping his pants. (Carrey found the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee to be insufficiently animated on TV. “Show some passion!” he wrote in the caption. “We’ve had it with your calm, reasonable manner! make some f’ing noise!!!”) His position affords some flexibility. “I don’t work for a publication, so I’m allowed to do crude things, which I enjoy,” he said. “Twitter doesn’t mind.” Lingering on two Munch-esque portraits of Rudolph Giuliani, mid-scream, Carrey said, “I love these Giuliani images.” He pointed to his subject’s bridgework: white on top, brown below. “These people don’t bother to dye the bottom teeth.”

Carrey said that, as an actor, he’d most like to play Paul Manafort. “When I see Manafort walking into the courtroom, I’m, like, ‘Does anybody else notice that he’s, like, a frigging alien in a skin suit?’ Hasn’t studied his subject.” He stood up and did an impression, legs and arms akimbo. “He’s an interesting character, because he hasn’t visited his actual being in a long time. He’s been consumed by a maelstrom of future chaos.”

Carrey called out to another employee. “Brogan,” he said. “Can you bring up Roy Moore? You know, the little one? It’s in there.”

Like many people in show business, Carrey has crossed paths with Trump. He recalled meeting him at a New York fund-raiser. “He said, ‘Hey, Jim.’ I said, ‘Hey, Donald.’ Later, I rented his ice rink for a Valentine’s Day skate. He was a fine guy when he was a reality-show host.” He returned to his sketch pad. A more subtle idea had occurred to him. “I started drawing a cartoon this morning that’s just an empty desk and chair on the floor of the Senate,” he said. “I don’t know what the caption will be yet.” ♦

#PaperBallots2018

July 17, 2018

Top Voting Machine Vendor Admits It Installed Remote-Access Software on Systems Sold to States

 

Remote-access software and modems on election equipment ‘is the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner.’

 

“The company’s machines were used statewide in a number of states, and at least 60 percent of ballots cast in the US in 2006 were tabulated on ES&S election-management systems. It’s not clear why ES&S would have only installed the software on the systems of “a small number of customers” and not all customers, unless other customers objected or had state laws preventing this.

Election-management systems are not the voting terminals that voters use to cast their ballots, but are just as critical: they sit in county election offices and contain software that in some counties is used to program all the voting machines used in the county; the systems also tabulate final results aggregated from voting machines.”

Full article by Kim Zetter:

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/mb4ezy/top-voting-machine-vendor-admits-it-installed-remote-access-software-on-systems-sold-to-states?utm_campaign=sharebutton

Boston Globe, Feb. 19th, 2018

WASHINGTON — Hoping to counter waves of Russian Twitter bots, fake social media accounts, and hacking attacks aimed at undermining American democracy, state election officials around the country are seizing on an old-school strategy: paper ballots.

In Virginia, election officials have gone back to a paper ballot system, as a way to prevent any foreign interference. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe this month ordered county officials to ensure new election equipment produces a paper record. Georgia lawmakers are considering legislation to replace a touch-screen voting system with paper.

Top election officials around the country are growing increasingly alarmed about this fall’s midterm elections, with a drumbeat of dire warning signs that Russia is determined to influence them. And many are concerned that President Trump has not focused on the potential for more attacks on America’s election system like the one Russia launched in 2016.

With little leadership from the White House or Congress, they are acting locally, trying to outwit potential hackers by upgrading equipment and enhancing the cybersecurity of systems that contain sensitive voter registration rolls. Secretaries of state and other elections officials around the country in recent months also began applying for security clearances so that federal officials can start briefing them on classified information — and potential threats to election integrity.

Election officials are also turning away from fully electronic systems they fear can be hacked. They see paper as reassuring for voters: Physical ballots can be counted again if anything untoward happens to computerized tabulating systems.

About 30 states allow some form of electronic voting, most for overseas absentee voters. A handful prohibit full electronic voting, including Massachusetts, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“I’ve always been in favor of paper ballots, even when it was fashionable to use electronic systems,” said Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin. “You take the card, you mark your choices, you take it to the box. You ensure it’s counted. All the cards are retained. If there’s a question you can go in and count the cards.”

Over the past several weeks, the nation’s top intelligence officials have said that Russians are already at work trying to disrupt the midterm elections, building on their efforts in 2016. In some cases, they are attempting to spread misinformation using social media platforms, while in others they are targeting the American election infrastructure.

“Our democracy is under attack,” Jeh Johnson, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, said in an interview. “I believe that the cyber threat to our nation is going to get worse before it gets better. Those on offense, which include nation states, are increasingly tenacious. And those of us on defense struggle to keep up.

“I believe we have yet to learn the full extent of the Russian influence campaign in 2016,” he added. “And they’ve been given little disincentive to do anything different in 2018.”

The risks came into sharp relief on Friday with a detailed indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations that allegedly worked to help Trump win the 2016 presidential election. They posed as Americans, stole identities, and sowed political discord by planning rallies, paying for political advertisements, and engaging in social media activity.

The indictment alleges that the conspiracy began in 2014 and had a monthly budget of $1.25 million, with the aim of conducting “information warfare against the United States.”

Jeanette Manfra, chief cybersecurity official for the Department of Homeland Security, has also stated that Russian hackers targeted 21 states’ election systems before the 2016 presidential election, breaching a small number of them. She noted that there was no evidence any votes were changed.

While states have been trying to upgrade election infrastructure to prevent such problems as hacking, there is an ongoing debate over how to counter misinformation campaigns.

“We have to be careful about injecting the security apparatus of our government into regulating speech,” Johnson said. “Other governments do that. In this country we have to be careful about calling that a national security matter. Governments like ours do not regulate speech, particularly political speech.”

Instead, he said, it may be up to such service providers as Facebook and Twitter to do more to regulate access to their networks.

Galvin, the Massachusetts secretary of state, says the misinformation is a problem for all election officials — but it’s also something a bit out of their control.

“Are people questioning? Yes. Is the questioning a concern of people like me? Yes. Because it makes it much more difficult for people like me to say, ‘Come out and vote, your vote will count,’” he said.

State officials say the last several months have involved a flurry of activity to prepare for threats.

“At the state level we’re doing everything we can. All the states, red states or blue states, are diligent and focused about trying to protect their systems,” said Vermont Secretary of State James Condos, a Democrat who is the incoming president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. “But it goes back to the top. If the president is not willing to help us, then we’ve got to fend for ourselves.”

The concern, largely, is of the unknown: that foreign hackers are quicker to discover the holes in American cybersecurity than US officials are at plugging them.

“As I say to others, we’re only as good as today is,” Condos said. “The bad actors are constantly evolving, they’re constantly changing. They’re looking for different ways to get in. We’re trying to stay ahead of them, or at least even with them.”

Election experts say the aim of Russia or other foreign forces during the midterm elections is probably not to help one candidate win or to help Republicans maintain control of the House or Senate. Instead, they say, the effort seems driven more toward simply sowing doubt among Americans about the validity of our voting system.

“It is high risk and questionable reward to actually try and change an outcome of an election in the US,” said David Becker, founder and executive director the Center for Election Innovation and Research. “What you can do is a low-risk, high-reward proposition — which is what the Kremlin has been doing — which is be open about your intent to mess with our elections, be discovered, and then let the American people sow their own doubt about their system.

“This is really about whether the voters have trust in our method of choosing our leaders, which is essential for our democracy,’’ he said. “Russia has been absolutely essential in diminishing that trust.”

President Trump has downplayed Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. Congress last year overwhelmingly passed a sanctions package to punish Russia for meddling, but the Trump administration announced last month that it would not implement those sanctions.

“It is a dereliction of duty that the president has not taken steps to punish Russia for its 2016 actions,” said Liz Kennedy, senior director of Democracy and Government Reform at the left-leaning Center for American Progress and the co-author of a recent report examining election security in all 50 states. “Clearly not imposing the sanctions that Congress ordered . . . is exactly the wrong signal to send to Russia.’’

While election experts have been generally pleased with the amount of work that state election officials have been doing to improve their systems, there is still a wide degree of concern that states are not getting enough help from Washington.

“I really see this as our current Sputnik moment,” Kennedy said. “If they have these tools they’ve developed, we need to outsmart them and develop better tools. . . . Time is short. It needs to be a real priority.”

Matt Viser can be reached at matt.viser@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mviser.

One door too many.

July 5, 2018

‘Veteran MJ Hegar saw her long-shot congressional bid gain an astonishing amount of credibility mere hours after her campaign released a biographical campaign video that, as of press time, had drawn nearly two million views on YouTube.’

My whole life has been about opening, pushing, and sometimes kicking through every door in my way. Ready for a Congress that opens doors for Americans instead of slamming them in our faces? Then join our campaign by donating today: https://bit.ly/2MOp4Ye

‘Since she launched her campaign last summer, Hegar was on a quiet list of Democratic sleeper candidates – long shots running professional campaigns in heavily Republican districts that could become competitive in the event of a major Democratic wave this fall. Already, she managed to outraise Carter in the first quarter of this year – a major warning sign for any incumbent up for re-election.’

[link to full story from the Texas Tribune]

https://www.texastribune.org/2018/06/25/viral-doors-ad-democrat-mj-hegar-aims-unseat-us-rep-john-carter/

6.30.18

June 19, 2018

A nationwide mobilization against family separation on JUNE 30TH, with a march on Washington and cities around the country.

Information: familiesbelongtogether.org

Undefeated.

April 25, 2018

“I am not even sure who you are. Are you, at this moment, sitting on Capitol Hill or in a state house? Are you a young teacher in Maryland wondering if you should run for something? Are you a volunteer mentoring students on the west side of Chicago? Are you browsing through a bookstore in Atlanta, wholly unaware of what your future holds? I don’t know if you are a Democrat or Republican or something else, I just know you are out there somewhere.”

And I can’t wait to meet you.

 

Democracy, Media Literacy, Civic Engagement

February 17, 2018

“The Americans are very impressionable people; they see what they want to see. I have a lot of respect for them. I am not upset at all that I ended up on this list. If they want to see the devil, let them see him.”

Russian Oligarch Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, one of 13 Russians indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday, February 16th, 2018, for interfering in the American election.

Full Indictment:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/16/us/politics/document-The-Special-Counsel-s-Indictment-of-the-Internet.html

“Facebook, Twitter and Google have all identified the Internet Research Agency as a prime source of provocative posts on divisive American issues, including race, religion, gun laws and gay rights, particularly during the 2016 presidential election. Facebook found, for example, that the agency had posted 80,000 pieces of content that reached more than 126 million Americans.” [NYTimes]

Tedx Wandsworth/2.8.18

Imagine a world where democracy lives up to its lofty promise… where problems are solved by debate and compromise rather than vitriol and internet trolls. A nice thought isn’t it?” asks Brian Klaas. As a scholar of democracy and authoritarianism, he’s seen fear-and-division politics rising across the world, but says we’re more powerful than we think in reversing this trend. Beyond the uncomfortable stats of our civic shortcomings; he shares moments with those he’s met risking their freedom and their lives for a democratic choice; and offers five concrete ways we can start changing what we don’t like.

Thoughts from Brian Klaas:

Democracies around the world are dying. Remember: Being a citizen is a full time job.

V

O

T

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#2018

People who say, “my vote doesn’t matter”? Wrong.

Politicians pander to those who vote. (Who votes in majority? Older white males.)

Democracies are dying. One man in Russia who was being followed by the secret police told Klaas, “You don’t know how lucky you are.”

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

-David Foster Wallace

We need to remember how powerful we are.

Of the people.

By the people.

For the people.

Ongoing paradox: People are unhappy with the system, but not many do much to understand it…or do anything.

In the midterm election in 2014, 36% of registered voters voted. 64/100 didn’t bother.

In the 2016 presidential election? 60% voted. And the current president was voted in by 30% of the US population. Apathy voted a candidate into the Oval Office.

80,000 people tipped the election…enough to fit into a football stadium.

We get the candidates we deserve.

P  A  R  T  I  C  I  P  A  T  I  O  N

Our collective power to save democracy:

  1. Vote in every election…local and national, because the local candidates become national candidates.

  2. Before the election talk to 10 people before voting.

  3. Be the boss to your politicians; they work for us. Whether they agree with you or not, tell them how you feel.

  4. Reach out to someone who believes completely differently from what you believe. And listen.

  5. Run for office or organize a new political group.

Actions become ripples and those ripples become tsunamis.

Think about it. If women waited for an invitation, we still wouldn’t have the right to vote.

2018 is ours. And the youth? They are activating.

︶⁀°• •° ⁀︶

Go see it. It will give you hope. (Stay until the very final credit rolls.) ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

February 16, 2018

All in with Paulette.

February 7, 2018

My name is Paulette Jordan and I am running to be the next governor of Idaho. 

I was born and raised in the countryside of northern Idaho, where I developed a strong connection to our state’s land and the people who share it. I am a proud member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe. My family, descendants of formidable Head Chiefs of the Great Northwest and Palouse region, taught me the importance of fighting for all people and protecting our natural resources. I have since served in the Idaho House of Representatives and I am a mother to two wonderful sons.
I am running for governor because the future for the next generation of Idahoans is at stake. Too many of our families and neighbors have been left behind.
ogether, we have the power to build a future where all Idahoans receive a high quality public school education. No matter who you are, you should have access to affordable healthcare and the opportunity to earn livable wages without the constant stress of how to make ends meet. I want to revitalize Idaho’s main streets and fix our government to make it more fair, more efficient, and more effective for all Idahoans.
I know what it takes to win tough races and I know a little bit about being an underdog. I was the only Democrat elected to the Idaho House of Representatives in all of Northern Idaho. If we win this race, I’ll be the first Native American governor in the country and the first female governor in Idaho’s history. But this race for governor is bigger than me, and it’s bigger than party politics. It is about the very heart and soul of Idaho: our people, our land, and our future.
I am profoundly honored and grateful for the grassroots support and momentum around my campaign so far and I would love for you to join my team today.
Together, we will restore our state to its original promise: an Idaho by the people and for the people.
Let’s get to work.
Sincerely,
Paulette Jordan
To donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/pgannouncement 
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