How the GOP Rigs Elections

By a journalist that has made election rigging his bailiwick, Ari Berman, author of Give Us the Ballot, the seminal work about modern voting rights and election chicanery.

Wisconsin was always a reliably blue state: home of Sen. Robert LaFollette, one time socialist candidate for president; part of the progressive revolution of the late 19th, early 20th centuries; home to a vibrant labor movement; the student movement of the 1960s, etc.

It took work to make that state part of the Trump coalition, but it wasn’t honest work, no sir.  Scott Walker, wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries survived a recall effort in 2010 because of so many fair minded Wisconsinites (about 10%) who didn’t like him but thought the recall unfair.  That fair mindedness so common among Democrats/liberals/progressives is a virtue that is often used against them to plunder the commons.  What’s really unfair is what Walker and his GOP storm troopers have done to the state since – eroding voting rights, labor rights, consumer rights – they’ve been a model for how a state government can be deranged into serving the 1% rather than their citizens.  The GOP has become expert at that.

How the GOP Rigs Elections

In 2012, Obama carried Wisconsin by seven points, and Democratic legislative candidates received 51.4 percent of the statewide vote, but Republican candidates won 60 of 99 seats in the Statehouse. Under the Republican map, the number of safe GOP seats in the 132-member legislature increased from 55 to 69, and the number of swing districts decreased from 24 to 13. It’s a practically foolproof system: No matter what happened nationally, Republicans would maintain control of state politics.

The aggressive toxic gerrymandering that Wisconsin’s GOP pushed through over the people of the state, is on trial in the Supreme Court this year.  As is NC’s and Pennsylvania’s.  All these states and more took advantage of their 2010 election win like Larry Nassar on a gymnast and they should be blown up in like fashion.


Trump’s Chinese Solar Panel Tariffs – Good and Bad

Firstly, I’m not against tariffs.  As a student of 19th century history it baffles me that free trade has become such a powerfully accepted mantra, even at the cost of so many American jobs and the disintegration of the middle class.  But tariffs on solar panels, the only such protectionism so far from the America First president, seem like a specific attack on alternative energy.  Of the many stupid, stupid, STUPID actions of this administration and his party in year one, the attacks on alternative energy and support for dying or dead industries like coal and nuclear are absolutely inexplicably stupid and pointless.  This feels more like a part of that, than an effort to protect an American industry.

But as this piece in The Week explains, it likely won’t have that much negative effect on the continuing swap of dirty energy sources for clean ones, and may have a positive effect on American solar panel producers – which would be great.

Estimates suggest the cost will rise at most by 10 percent, and probably far less for smaller-scale residential installations. That increase will push the cost of solar installations back up to where they were a mere year and a half ago. “I don’t believe this decision will reverse the solar expansion in the U.S.,” Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “The global solar industry will adjust. The penetration of solar in the U.S. will continue.”

Furthermore, solar panels from abroad are cheap because the countries that produce them often have low living standards. Their workers aren’t paid much. That means those manufacturers don’t really have to come up with new innovations and technological breakthroughs. They can compete mostly on price. American manufacturers, by contrast, have to pay their workers a lot more — and thus have a lot more incentive to innovate. American-made solar panels won’t be the cheapest. But they might be the best.

That all makes sense, business-wise, and so long as it doesn’t cause any business or municipality to cancel a solar panel installation, we’re all good.

Now if Trump would put a tariff on foreign steel, that would be a real debate and would have much more of a protectionist effect on our economy.  Things are booming, building is happening everywhere.  Something to help the American steel industry may actually  make a difference.  Let’s see if Trump does that.  I suspect that he won’t just like he’ll never actually take any action against Saudi Arabia, the actual largest funder of worldwide terrorism rather than Iran.  It’s all just rhetoric and gestures.

I Think There’s Going to Be Several Forms of Collusion, But I’ll Take This One For Now

McClatchy reported a connection between Russian money that went to the NRA, who piled $30M into Trump’s campaign.  As Michelle Goldberg asks Is This the Collusion We Were Waiting For?

In short, a very influential Russian mobster, wanted to face money laundering charges in Spain, Aleksandr Torshin is deputy governor of the Russian central bank, and of course close to Putin, has been cultivating connections to the NRA, and by extension the GOP, for years.  He also met with Donald Trump, Jr. at the RNC (while others were meeting with the Russian ambassador, Fredo was with Torshin).  Torshin allegedly funneled Russian money to the NRA who then made it rain in unprecedented fashion on Trump (money, not pee).

The extent to which the FBI has evidence of money flowing from Torshin to the NRA, or of the NRA’s participation in the transfer of funds, could not be learned.

However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.

Russia has been making ties with American conservatives for years, white nationalists and yes, even the NRA although Putin is not in favor of gun rights for Russians.  But you’d expect that from an autocrat wouldn’t you?

If a relationship between the N.R.A., Trump and Russia exists, Torshin and Butina appear to be the nexus of it. Torshin helped create a Russian gun-rights group called Right to Bear Arms, and Butina runs it. The purpose of the group is ambiguous. Gun laws in Russia are strict, and if people close to Putin actually wanted to change them, creating a group alluding to America’s Second Amendment seems like a weird way to do it. As Simpson said in his House testimony: “Vladimir Putin is not in favor of universal gun ownership for Russians. And so it’s all a big charade, basically.”

That $30 million, however, is just what the N.R.A. spent on the presidential race. It also backed other candidates, reportedly spending $55 million overall. The organization helped Republicans cement control of Congress. If it did so with Russia’s assistance, the whole party is implicated.

It’s all worth a read and worth seeing Rachel Maddow’s segment on it from 1/18/18.  I am certain that it’s going to end up being revealed as just one form of many forms of collusion that took place in the election.  An entire network of Russian spies, Russian plutocrats and Russian nogoodniks made contact with stupid Americans who naively believed anybody that says they’re on their team, with a wink, a nod and white power salute, is a teammate.  None of these Americans ever stopped to think could this be illegal?  Amazingly, even after the FBI told the Trump campaign that foreigners might try to contact them and curry favor, they continued to actively stay in contact with them.  So they’re stupid and brazen.  And the more the authorities investigate the wider a net they need to cast.



Looming Shutdown Over Mismanagement and Crazy

While DACA is tossed about as the main reason that we’re on the brink of a government shut down, it’s way more complex.  Lots of Democrats and some Republicans are tired of the mismanagement of doing budget band aids instead of actually negotiating a long term budget.  When Bernie Sanders can get on TV and plead for the Pentagon to have a long term budget they can plan effectively with it makes the faux warrior Republicans look pretty bad.  Also, the Democratic base is tired of letting Trump/McConnell/Ryan skate on their cynical DACA and Chip promises.  So they’re willing, finally, to call the Republicans bluff and withhold votes on another temporary fix without addressing DACA and Chip and other human interests (that Republicans, supposedly human, should want, but oddly don’t).

Given that most Republicans agree with the 87% of Americans that DACA should be fixed and that Chip should be funded (the government will actually save money if they do) this shouldn’t be that hard.  Democrats are even willing to give some on border security.

That said, we are still dealing and the Republican split personality on immigration.   And sadly Republicans are devolving on even that issue.  As Ezra Klein notes in his 12 Thoughts on the Shut Down.

9. I don’t pretend to know how a shutdown will play out. But I’ll admit I’m unnerved to see not just Trump, but McConnell and others, begin to refer to the core issue as “illegal immigration” — the more they define DREAMers as illegal immigrants and a DACA deal as amnesty, the harder it will be for them to back down and eventually cut that deal.

The GOP troglodyte caucus that will not accept any deal on immigration except to deport them all, even Dreamers who have known no other country than the U.S. are strengthened by Trump’s irrational sucking up to them.  He has literally taken every possible position on immigration and we’re all suffering from his “whatever the last one to speak to him says” decision making.  He’s made the troglodytes his base and no matter how much rational people appeal to him, Steve Miller and the other Fox News hardliners get to him last and put the fear of his 32% base, literally the only people who do still love him, withdrawing their love like his mommy and daddy must have for him to be such a needy child.

The troglodytes and every Republican in fear of their venomous influence will make DACA another no-brainer that just can’t get done.  Similar to the NRA and their influence that keeps a 90% pro-background checks public from getting universal background checks.

As Linda Ellerbee would say:  “And so it goes.”

Furiously Trying To Pass Off Blame for Shutdown When You Run Everything is Kinda SAD!

Every Republican is shoehorning the message that its Democrats’ fault if the government shuts down into every conversation in a pretty desperately silly way.

Elaine Chao (McConnell’s wife): Good morning Mitch , how did you sleep last night?

McConnell:  better than Senator Schumer who is going to be held responsible for shutting down the government.

Chao:  Can I make you eggs for breakfast?

McConnell:  Why would Democrats keep American children from getting the healthcare they need?  They don’t care about children or DACA.

Chao:  Okay, I  can make eggs or what?

McConnell:  Democrats are going to have egg on their faces when this is all over.  For shutting down the government.  It’s all on them, ya know.

Chao:  Okay, I’m going to work.  At the Dept. of Transportation.  While its still open.

McConnell:  While the Democrats keep it open, but they won’t, they’re going to close it!!!

Chao:  Okay Mitch.  You know there’s no reporters around, it’s just me.  I heard you say you don’t even know what the President wants.  You know and I know that you and Ryan decide what gets a vote or not. So you don’t have to keep pushing the talking points on me. Have good day.

(She leaves.  Pause.)

McConnell:  Democrats shut down my breakfast.  The American people will not stand for such a cynical approach to the most important meal of the day.

One Year In – They Cut Taxes for the 1%

That’s it.  That’s the only legislative accomplishment for the party with complete control of the government.  They can’t even put a long term budget together to keep the pop stand open.  The sole, lone, only, singular thing they could get their act together to do (and that was by reconciliation in the Senate) was tax cuts, 83% of which go to corporations and the GOP donor class.

Tell me we’re not already a fascist country.  Not “on the road to,” not “dangerously close to the slippery slope”, not “careening towards” or any other modifying language.


Another Scared Little Boy With Too Much Power Heard From

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton,  Army veteran and strong male conservative voice of conservatism countering the indecent femme voices of libturdness doesn’t want to hear from his constituents.  At least not if they have complaints.


The recipient of this cease and desist letter is a 60 year old woman and part of Ozark Indivisible who has been calling his office, as she describes, every day.  She responded to a question from the Arkansas Times blog:

I received a letter from the office of U.S. Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas after calling and expressing my grave concerns over his actions and support of this administration’s agenda concerning a wide variety of subjects from the attack on our healthcare, DACA and immigration issues, to national security, to the rise of white nationalist fascism, to the environment, the gutting of our State Department, the attack on the free press…and similar deeply troubling actions & motives I’ve seen Senator Cotton support & condone. It was odd to receive this letter as I’ve called other Members of Congress to express my strong thoughts and opinions about their actions and thought this to be not only my duty as an American citizen but my First Amendment right granted all U.S. citizens by our U.S. Constitution, the foundation of our Democracy.

She hasn’t been profane with his staff or anything like that (although Cotton’s office has another story, see below).  She’s not even one of the people who have been sitting outside his office for weeks trying to get his attention.  She’s just been calling. Opinionated 60 year old ladies can be pretty difficult, granted, as they invariable remind one of your mother, and who wants to hear from their mother that they’re senatoring poorly?

Yesterday, demonstrators — self-identified as being from “shithole countries” — were asked to leave Cotton’s Washington office after a noisy encounter with staff members who told them they’d be arrested for unlawful entry if they didn’t leave. They did, chanting “Dream Act Now.”

Ozark Indivisible says this isn’t the only cold, impersonal, formal and 1st Amendment violating letter emanating from Cotton’s office.  No, it’s a thing to get these letters. Several people have received them, although Cotton’s office denies it and says there was just one sent to a constituent who threatened violence and called one of Cotton’s interns a cunt.  Then the story changed and it was just about the “c-word”.  So you’re telling us a 60 year old woman called an intern a cunt on the phone?  Hm.  I’m dubious.

Now if she had called Cotton a cunt, I could believe it.  He deserves it.