Taking Back Democracy — State by State

At Long Last — Putting an End to Gerrymandering 

“For the party in control of the map-making, the main objective is to herd the opposing party’s voters into the fewest legislative districts possible while spreading its own party’s voters as evenly as possible among the remaining districts… It’s called gerrymandering, and it’s not pretty.” — The Detroit Free Press Editorial Board, August 2015

VNP 2

A grassroots group in Michigan wants to make the Great Lakes State the first in the nation to constitutionally bar politicians from participating in the redistricting process. The nonpartisan ballot question committee, Voters Not Politicians, is launching a petition drive for a 2018 constitutional amendment to strip professional partisans of their ability to gerrymander districts to favor political parties.

The Supreme Court ruled back in 1964 that redistricting must be “fair and effective representation for all citizens” — a fine idea in a theoretical vacuum, but it certainly has not proven to be operational under the rancor of partisan politics. Districts have been manipulated at both the federal and state level, crippling the electoral process and weakening our democracy.

Katie Fahey of Voters Not Politicians asserts it’s time to end the dominance of the “back room of politicians”, explaining:

“Michigan historically has been a middle-of-the-road state, with the two major parties generally receiving virtually the same number of votes for the Legislature and Congress. The Legislature and Congressional delegation should reflect that fact. In 2016, the difference between the two major parties’ state House vote was just 3,000 votes (0.07%). But the creative maps developed by the politicians and their consultants gave one party a 63-47 advantage in the House. Every other election in this century has been similarly distorted by the mapmakers.”

Michigan is not unique in their politically tortured district maps. The practice of gerrymandering knows no party, but as Republicans came to dominate state legislatures across the nation over the past decade, GOP operatives set to work redrawing districts that simply defy logic and ethical norms.

Neighboring Wisconsin recently got spanked hard in a federal court ruling which found the state’s extreme gerrymandering unconstitutional. Subsequently, the court rejected a request from the governor to await a Supreme Court decision on the question. Wisconsin was ordered to redraw their districts in time for the 2018 midterm elections. Similar legal action against gerrymandering is in the works in Michigan.

The Wisconsin decision fueled additional challenges in a number of states, with the high court expected to rule on charges of racial gerrymandering in North Carolina and Virginia in June. Redistricting along racial lines has long been considered a violation of both the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act — yet it persists wherever minorities exist. In advance of the anticipated surge in legal challenges, Tufts University, in partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, is now offering a 6-day course for mathematicians to train them on how to become expert witnesses on the topic. Over 900 people have indicated interest in the program.

Michigan voters have their eye on the ball with their proactive state constitutional amendment drive which will create a 9-member Citizens’ Redistricting Commission, focused on these core principles:

  • Politicians, given their inherent conflict of interest, should not be in charge of drawing district maps
  • Michigan’s representatives in government should reflect the political views of the state overall
  • Minority communities must be assured fair and adequate representation
  • Partisan gerrymandering—the practice of manipulating district lines to protect incumbents, political parties or individual candidates—must end
  • Communities of common interest should be preserved
  • Districts should be compact and contiguous

State Independent Commissions became possible through a landmark 2015 Supreme Court ruling which struck down a Republican challenge to the authority of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The door for reform was kicked wide open.

In recent years, Democrats have suffered the most from extreme gerrymandering. The Democratic National Committee has been under increasing pressure from stake holders to tackle the problem. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is the point man for aiding states in the redistricting process makeover. He’s been tapped to head the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, an organization intent on undoing the state-level gerrymandering mess. It seems a new appreciation for the “all politics is local” maxim is driving the DNC’s renewed interest in capturing state Houses.

Redistricting will next occur after the decennial census in 2020. So, significant change can only occur well after the 2018 midterm elections — a contest heavily skewed by GOP redistricting.

The process of petitioning for a constitutional amendment in Michigan is an arduous one requiring the collection of well over 300,000 valid signatures within the narrow window of 180 days. And, it’s not cheap. Political strategist Howard Edelson, of the Edelson Group, a veteran of a number of statewide ballot-measure campaigns, told the Detroit Free Press that the cost will run between $10 and $15 million. Voters Not Politicians is actively fundraising. You can learn more by clicking HERE.

Putting an end to gerrymandering is certainly a herculean task — as with all things political, scruples typically are the first to go out the window for those in power. It’s a malady affecting both parties. Martin O’Malley (D), the former governor of Maryland, recently came clean on his abuse of the redistricting process. His turn-around occurred contemporaneous to being served a subpoena commanding his testimony about his participation in redrawing the state’s congressional districts in 2010 to the advantage of his party.

O’Malley spoke at length last month at the Boston College School of Law on the restoration of the integrity of our democracy through bipartisan cooperation:

“America needs non-partisan redistricting commissions not only for drawing Congressional districts every ten years, but for state legislative districts as well. This simple reform, already being adopted in some states, must become the new norm of American democracy.

Maryland is somewhat unique in that the current governor, Larry Hogan (R), shares O’Malley’s call for a nonpartisan commission to consider redistricting.

Another Republican, a former governor of California, also weighed-in on doing-away with the practice of unscrupulous partisan redistricting:

“We took the power of drawing the district lines away from the politicians and gave it back to the people, where it belongs… We’ve proven that gerrymandering can be permanently terminated.”

Yep, that was Arnold Schwarzenegger.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

To support Voters Not Politicians click HERE.

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Ed Schultz — Boxcar Hobo on the Trump Train

Craven opportunist? Sour grapes? Angling for Spicer’s job? It’s true, Ed Schultz has become a rabid Trump apologist.

Ed Schultz

Schultz on a rant

Former MSNBC host, and multi-platform political commentator Ed Schultz, gone from conservative mouthpiece in his early years, to populist liberal television personality, has now morphed himself into a shrill Trumpet.

Schultz filled a variety of shoes during his 2009-15 stint at MSNBC. Six months after his cancellation there he found a new gig with RT America — News with Ed Schultz. RT America is a Russian-owned affiliate with a shallow bench of personalities. However, the media outlet has earned a depth of criticism for being a front for Russian propaganda.

Immediately following Trump’s train wreck presser this week, Schultz posted a vitriolic video to his Facebook page. We’d expect this level of lunacy from Rush Limbaugh (and he delivered too), but Ed’s gone round the bend, off the rails, and over the cliff with this epic apoplectic fit:

“…CNN has been reporting things that are unsubstantiated, that they are unprofessional, and that Jeff Zucker, the CEO, should be fired…

Now, whether you like Donald Trump or not, the man came out today at his press conference and he cleared the beach. He took it to ’em. He took it to ’em on fake news. He took it to ’em on the intelligence community. He took it to ’em on Russia. He has no deals with Russia, unless you have to clear some wax from your ears. And, all of you liberals are accusing me of being a big Trump fan. I am a fan of the truth.

And, I know that CNN is whoring-out breaking news, saying things about the administration that simply is not true. And, notice that they haven’t sourced any of their stories about the connection between the Russian intel people and the Trump campaign.”

Break out the Q-Tips folks. Vox.com reports that it’s true that Trump does not have any direct business ties with Russia, with this qualification:

“But that’s only part of the picture. He has partnered with Russian financiers on major projects elsewhere around the world. Russian investors have been instrumental in helping him cope with all the credit problems he has thanks to his serial bankruptcies. And a number of Trump’s former and current advisers have had financial ties to Russia.”

Vox found that Trump has been trying, and failing, for over three decades to cement a solid financial relationship with the evolving Russian aristocracy.

It appears Mr. Ed has tapped into that particular vein of presidential insecurity — and it’s paying off.

Ed likes

A quick perusal of Schultz’s Facebook likes and follows indicates that his sell-out seems to be working well for him. There was a noticeable uptick in his likes just as he embarked on his anti-CNN rant.  So yes, he’s clearly looking for employment opportunities with his new friend group.

He’s a shill. He’s a hack. And, in his own words — “whoring-out” his brand.

I unliked his page. Schultz has moved on, and his progressive friends should do so too.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

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Yes, The Russians Can Hack an American Election

“So, when you’re talking about an advanced attacker, like a nation-state, unfortunately mere disconnection of the voting machines themselves from the internet isn’t enough to stop them.” — J. Alex Halderman, expert on election security, on the oft-repeated myth that our voting machines are safe from hacking.

putin eyes

Photo: The Register (detail)

Something Wicked This Way Comes

I read with mild alarm this week when one of my favorite columnists admonished his readers to put on their big boy pants and accept the election results or risk looking like “irrational birthers.”

This opinion piece appeared as new revelations of Russian interference, potential for blackmail, and unholy alliances with the Trump administration came to light in a damning piece of journalism published by the New York Times. While, hovering menacingly off the eastern seaboard is a Russian spy ship as a backdrop for these precarious times.

We are instructed by some to largely disregard foreign influence in our electoral process and instead adopt pragmatic solutions for moving forward by gaining a better understanding of the nation’s internal campaign landscape. Attempts to assuage voters on the integrity of the election continue to miss the mark.

Trump and his flying monkeys regularly gin-up public unrest over imaginary voter fraud. It’s doubtful there was any of that in the 2016 cycle. Neither did hacking play a role in the result. Yet, the potential for election hacking in future contests is very real, and the Russians are certainly working to that end. Midterms are right over the horizon.

Denial of the threat frequently employs two arguments. First, each state has its own unique patchwork of voting machines, in theory rendering a widespread successful hack impossible. And second, naysayers claim that because the machines are not connected to the internet they are inviolate.

The first argument is just plain silly. Hackers would only need to identify those key states and districts where they could potentially throw an election. They don’t need to hack every last machine.

But it’s the second claim that is a dangerously naive assumption about how actual hacking occurs. Professor J. Alex Halderman — a University of Michigan computer science and engineering expert who specializes in the security of election systems, knows all too well the folly of this belief.

The “Air Gap Connection” Hack

Halderman appeared on C-SPAN last October to explain the easy mechanism by which a foreign or domestic entity could stealthily alter election results even with no internet connectivity of voting machines. It’s called an “air gap connection” hack. Earning its name from plumbing terminology, air-gapped computer networks are physically isolated from other systems, the internet, and wifi. This is the case with our voting machines, except there’s a simple way to get around the air gap. And American spies perfected it.

Readers may recall Stuxnet from several years ago, when the United States teamed-up with Israel to hack and disable Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. The Iranian computer network was air-gapped, except for one key vulnerability. Malware was introduced via a USB flash drive that had been used on an internet connected computer and then on their protected system. These devices are needed to transfer data from one network to another — in this case it was through a contractor updating the programming of the closed system. The worm did its damage then erased itself, leaving the Iranians clueless as to what occurred.

American voting machines have the same susceptibility, but with much less vigilance protecting their integrity — if any effort is put forth at all. They require flash drives or memory cards to transfer data from unprotected municipal computers to the air-gapped machines. That’s how our voting machines are programmed prior to an election. Halderman warned of the very real threat:

“The voting machines have to receive the data about the ballot design, about the software that’s running on them from somewhere, and they get that data from central systems in the counties or states. These are called Election Management Systems… And, because the voting machines are receiving the data and sending back data to these central systems, it doesn’t go over the internet — but it goes over what we might call a ‘sneakernet’, which is basically memory cards.

So, when you’re talking about an advanced attacker, like a nation-state, unfortunately mere disconnection of the voting machines themselves from the internet isn’t enough to stop them.”

Whistling past the graveyard, the chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Thomas Hicks, asserted in a Sept. 2016 C-SPAN interview that “there’s no way to hack into those machines using the internet.” True, but by that flawed logic, we should all be relieved to also learn that we can’t catch the Zika virus from a toilet seat.

It gets worse. Hackers may not even need to transfer the malware via a flash drive or memory card. Wired magazine reports that technology exists that uses radio waves through cell phones to attack air-gapped systems. Multiple avenues of technology exist to break into seemingly isolated systems.

How Real is the Threat?

Very.

Last month we learned that municipal computers in Grand Traverse County in Northern Michigan were the subject of a 2014 foreign-based hack. The FBI has been monitoring the situation since that time. Paul Knific, of Epic Technology Solutions, the county’s IT consultant, advised that the hack put all the computers on that network at risk. The breach appeared to have been a preliminary test of the system. Knific described it: “It was kind of like, ‘Hey we’re here.'”

And so they are.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

Edited 2-15-17

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ACTION ITEM: Jan. 20th – “Unfriend” the White House Facebook Page

The Obama Administration will be handing-over the keys to the White House Facebook page — don’t let Trump blowup your newsfeed with his childish rants. 

Just over 8 million devoted citizens — myself among them, have had the pleasure of following the Obama administration and the First Family on Facebook over the course of many years as they presided over an era of prosperity and growth. The content was always respectful, informative, and inspired. A class act, through and through.

Thank you President and First Lady Obama.

But, at 12:01 pm this friday, January 20, 2017, that stream of uplifting messaging will be silenced. In its place, Americans can expect a steady assault in the form of vitriol, misinformation, and utter immaturity. The incoming Tweeter-in-chief’s unhinged communications — from both himself and his surrogates, will be a toxin to the soul of our nation.

Action item: At precisely 12:01 pm, “unfriend” the White House Facebook page. But first, post a civil message expressing your rejection of the incoming wave of corrosive hatred and ignorance, couple those words with a fond farewell to the decent people who have given us so much to be hopeful for over the years.

Why send a message? White House communications are subject to the Presidential Records Act of 1978 — meaning that your words, in this era of the terabyte and beyond, will absolutely become part of the historical record. The WH Facebook page offered the following cautionary notice in 2014:

“Comments posted on and messages received through White House pages are subject to the Presidential Records Act and may be archived.”

WH FB page

From the White House Facebook page

Keep it decent and smart. Trump’s people may attempt to block you, and possibly delete your message, but they will be in violation of the law, and at odds with the directive of the Archivist of the United States at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Under Trump, we can expect a whole new look for the page. Predictably, the long list of White House accomplishments (currently found on the “About” page) under President Obama will be scrubbed from public view. See recent entries below, because they will be gone soon — both on social media and possibly in reality.

Milestones
2015
  • Nearly 200 Countries Reached a Global Agreement to Combat Climate Change
  • Every Student Succeeds Act Signed Into Law to Fix No Child Left Behind
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations Concluded, Supporting American Jobs
  • Clean Power Plan Finalized—Our Biggest Step Ever to Combat Climate Change
  • Deal Secured to Prevent Iran from Acquiring a Nuclear Weapon
  • The Supreme Court Held that Same-Sex Couples Can Marry
  • The FCC Voted for a Strong Net Neutrality Rule to Keep the Internet Open and Free
2014
  • The End of Our Combat Mission in Afghanistan
  • Statement on Charting a New Course with Cuba
  • Address to the Nation on Fixing Our Broken Immigration System
  • Historic Joint Announcement on Climate Change Forged with China
  • Prohibitions Against Workplace Discrimination Extended for LGBT Contractors
  • President Obama Launched My Brother’s Keeper
  • Minimum Wage Raised to $10.10 for Workers on New Federal Contracts
2013
  • The Supreme Court Held the Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional
  • Announcement on the ConnectED Initiative Bringing Students into the Digital Age
  • Violence Against Women Act Reauthorized
  • Second Inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama
  • Middle Class Tax Cuts Made Permanent, Tax Breaks Ended for the Wealthiest Few

After this friday, the tone of the page will reflect the brittle, thin-skinned social media persona of the new president, and it should be of no surprise if it’s pressed into service as another platform for his threats, lies, and attacks.

Life in the rarefied air of Trump Tower has left the incoming First Family at a loss on basic nuances and ironies. The somewhat clueless new FLOTUS, Melania Trump, has stated that the primary focus of her tenure in that position will be to combat the epidemic of social media bullying. In that spirit, send her the message that you are in full agreement, and are taking a proactive approach by “unfriending” her loathsome and hateful husband and his flying monkeys as they gain administrative control over the WH page.

America is tired of Trump’s talking-heads and paid pundits indignantly sputtering all over the media stage — insisting that the public must ignore their man’s puerile gaffes and insults,  while demanding we unquestioningly trust him to (at some unspecified point) start behaving like a grown up.

He’s a mentally disordered child, and he’s not changing. Unfriend him.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

 

 

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Trump’s Army of Deplorable Flying Monkeys

“I’m getting threats and everything else from some of his supporters. I’m getting them all day long — now they’re kicked up a notch.” —  Chuck Jones on being attacked by Trump.

flying-monkeys

Among those millions of gormless voters who opted to obtain their “news” from pimply Russki-backed Macedonian teenagers and late night Twitter rants from the great American Putin puppet, few are prepared to accept the consequences of their ignorance. It’s much easier for them to persist with their risky gambit, buttressed by their unpatriotic embrace of a bare-chested sociopathic dictator on horseback. Donald Trump, the rapacious casino tycoon, understands their compound human failings all too well, and thrives on exploiting those character flaws.

He’s playing Russian Roulette with our Constitution while buffeting America with a constant stream of mendacious bluster. Even those who find him utterly repugnant, and they are the majority, discover themselves distracted by his circus showmanship — or, as the media now calls it: the latest “shiny thing.”

Every time the insomnolent president-elect decides to shape public policy through a 3 am 140-character salvo, stocks tumble and death threats are made. For those who think inciting instability and incivility is clever statesmanship — they could benefit from a little shoring-up in the values department and a lesson in history. Yet, instead of engaging in serious self-examination, Trump loyalists persist in their adoration of the petty dictator without question. Fran Lebowitz scathingly characterized the vulgar pull of Trump:

“He’s a poor person’s idea of a rich person. They see him. They think, ‘If I were rich, I’d have a fabulous tie like that. Why are my ties not made of 400 acres of polyester?’”

While he’s permanently destroyed the words “great”, “fabulous” and “terrific” for the entire english-speaking world, his real crimes against humanity continue to draw scant attention.

Here’s another word that should be inextricably linked to Trump: Provocateur.

He’s effectively weaponized his cult members — painting targets on those subject to his churlish ire on any given day. Trump’s gone out of his way to publicly pick fights with individual citizens, journalists, Muslims, the entire intelligence community, the military, the judiciary, Mexico, most of the Middle East, and our second largest trading partner — China. Additionally, he’s scaring the living crap out of the whole of Europe.

On the campaign trail, Trump openly suggested that 2nd Amendment advocates could take care of the threat of Hillary Clinton and her potential Supreme Court nominations. At a rally, he unashamedly ginned-up the crowd with a thinly veiled lone wolf threat to incite the assassination of Hillary Clinton, or perhaps a Supreme Court Justice:

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is I don’t know.”

Within minutes of his public statement, there were cries of foul play, including an assertion from former NSA Director Michael Hayden that Trump should be cuffed and taken downtown:

“Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him.”

Then after the election, Trump mean-tweeted at Chuck Jones.

Who’s that ? It’s hard to remember. There have been so many.

He’s just one more among a host of individuals finding themselves in the crosshairs of our tantrum-prone commander-to-be. Jones is the president of the United Steelworkers Local 1999. He criticized the president-elect for telling falsehoods regarding the Carrier Corporation deal.

Remember that? It was only four weeks ago. So much has transpired since then. Trump tweeted that Jones was doing a “terrible” job. Then, he dashed off a follow-up tweet criticizing the whole of the local union membership for its laziness saying they should “spend more time working-less time talking.”  True to form, Trump supporters rushed to their dear leader’s defense. The fact that Trump knew what would happen next is not in doubt. Jones told NBC News:

“I’m getting threats and everything else from some of his supporters. I’m getting them all day long — now they’re kicked up a notch.”

And just this week, Trump tried to release his monkeys on the esteemed Meryl Streep. She, along with all of Hollywood can hold their own. No worries. Good on them for speaking up.

Among Trump’s more serious proxy threats is the time he treasonously invited the Russians to engage in espionage and hack the emails of Hillary from the time she was Secretary of State. His followers roared their approval, while the media pondered and delicately postulated, unable to publicly utter the “T” word — Treason.

When the incalcitrant president-elect didn’t like the content of his security briefings regarding Russian interference in our electoral process, he insulted the competence of the intelligence community, thereby damaging that critical connection well into the future — a relationship that is key to the safety of every American.

Now this week, he tweeted that intelligence officials are acting like Nazis.

Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham will have none of this from the presumptive leader of their party. This is much bigger than politics.

It’s clear we’re not in Kansas anymore when FOX News Tweeted Michael Moore’s comments on the grave danger of Trump snubbing the intelligence community.

fox-mm-tweet

It’s not just FOX News recalibrating their moral compass. Glenn Beck has had his own come to Jesus revelation. He remains among the very few Republicans who have stood firm in their opposition to the evil forces which swept Trump into office. Warning that a Trump presidency would be an “extinction-level event” for America, Beck has been an unexpected voice of sanity in a dark, dark time for our democracy.

Trump Fake News Tweet

Trump Tweet

The baffling press conference (if we can call it that) this week should be a clarion call for all in the media. Trump stunned the room when he launched into textbook bullying, calling CNN “fake news.” A claim he followed-up with, naturally — a tweet.

The incident prompted FOX News anchor Shep Smith to call out the president-elect over his lack of decorum, saying that journalists should not be subject to “belittling and delegitimizing” by someone in his position.

The press should take note that the only news outlets that are thriving in this corrosive environment are those willing to step-up and call it like they see it. The New York Times, Washington Post, and Vanity Fair are in ascension while other papers and networks continue to sink.

This is a president who has vowed to curtail the freedom of the press, yet squeamish reporters and their shortsighted editors are focused on protecting their limited access to Trump and his stable of loathsome surrogates. It is obnoxious when television reporters use implied inflection when reading his tweets on-air. They’re aiding and abetting the inarticulate charlatan. They should boycott his immature social media rants and demand a full schedule of real press conferences.

I’m not holding my breath.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

 

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A No Confidence Vote on Trump

Do you live in a state, city, town, or village where voters rejected Trump? If so, please urge your state and/or local leaders to entertain a resolution expressing no confidence in Donald J. Trump and in the process which led him to become the apparent president-elect.

We encourage you to share this article with your elected leaders to entrust them to put a public voice to the growing national concern over the pending Trump presidency. It would additionally be advisable for civic-minded corporate and non-profit boards to consider adopting a similar resolution.

While this type of proposal is purely symbolic and would carry no legal weight, it is intended to send a clarion call to Republican leadership advising them that the citizens of this nation reject the legitimacy of a Trump election, and find him, along with his cohorts and cronies, unfit for office.

Republicans have a long history of offering “sample legislation” through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). So, it’s long overdue for progressive interests to broadly advance proposals of their own. Let’s start with one that supports the democratic process and reaffirms a commitment to the highest level of integrity in the executive branch.

Here’s a sample resolution:

A Resolution Expressing No Confidence in the Presidency of Donald J. Trump

Whereas, Donald J. Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for ruthless leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte — individuals whose words and actions embody that which is wholly antithetical to the values of our American democratic principles, civil liberties, and rule of the law, and who are known for their strongman tactics and human rights violations, including state-sponsored murder; and

Whereas, During the course of his campaign Donald J. Trump has: mocked disabled citizens; incited violence threatening the safety and wellbeing of journalists and those who exercised their 1st Amendment right to criticize him; savagely insulted Gold Star families; expressed contempt for minorities and immigrants; openly disparaged the integrity of the judiciary and the competence of military leadership; demonstrated a pattern of blatant sexism and misogyny; employed racism and xenophobia to encourage divisive and violent behavior; and shown a willful disregard for truth and honesty in his words and deeds; and

Whereas, Donald J. Trump, during the course of his campaign, publicly incited 2nd Amendment supporters to act against his opponent, Hillary Clinton; and

Whereas, Donald J. Trump has exhibited a flagrant disrespect for well-established foreign and domestic policies and protocols thereby jeopardizing the American economy, the safety of its citizens, and its prestigious international standing; and

Whereas, Donald J. Trump has allied himself, and his potential administration, with known White Supremacists, Nationalists, Wall Street tycoons, climate-deniers, and those whose express goal is to erode the civil liberties of minorities, women, Muslims, the LGBT community, immigrants, and refugees; and

Whereas, Donald J. Trump is on record boasting about touching women’s genitals against their will; entering beauty contestant dressing rooms uninvited and unannounced; and publicly speaking of his own daughter in sexually explicit terms; and

Whereas, Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization’s worldwide business interests and holdings present a serious threat, through conflict of interest, to our national security and to the economic stability of this nation; and

Whereas, Donald J. Trump has refused to disclose his income tax returns, and has yet to produce a credible report on the true status of his health; and

Whereas, Donald J. Trump’s propensity to litigate, and make threats to do so, in lieu of diplomacy and the careful application of basic conflict resolution principles, demonstrates his profound inability to rise to the level of statesmanship required of the Office of President of the United States; and

Whereas, Donald J. Trump’s undignified use of social media to bully individuals and groups who question him, and to spread falsehoods, is a national embarrassment and a danger to the office to which he aspires; and

Whereas, Donald J. Trump has repeatedly indicated his intention to curtail 1st Amendment protections of a free and open press; and

Whereas, Donald J. Trump’s refusal to engage in security briefings and his public statements against the CIA are a grave danger to national security, and a threat to global stability; and

Whereas, The viability and integrity of our election process has been rightfully called into question, and the exposed Russian hacking and interference casts doubt on the validity of the results; and

Whereas, The inappropriate pre-election actions of FBI Director James Comey may have influenced voters against Hillary Clinton when he publicly stated that the FBI was reopening a fruitless investigation into her emails — an empty endeavor which proved to be of no merit. Mr. Comey disclosed the FBI investigation while he refused to go public with the CIA’s findings; and

Whereas, Donald J. Trump and Republican operatives actively attempted to thwart efforts to examine potential voting anomalies through hand recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania — a process initiated with the intention of ensuring the integrity of the system; and

Whereas, The CIA has affirmed that the Russians covertly influenced the outcome of the election in favor of Donald J. Trump. Multiple experts have testified that our voting machines are vulnerable and remain an open door to hackers, particularly through unsecured municipal computers which are used to transfer software and data to electronic ballot readers and touchscreen machines; and

Whereas, Donald J. Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by an unprecedented margin of well over 2.5 million votes; and

Whereas, Donald J. Trump, his campaign staff, his transition team, and his cabinet nominees and hopefuls, collectively display a manifest disdain for basic decorum, the democratic process, and our Constitutional values, thereby rendering them unworthy of the highest office of the land; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, on behalf of the voters of (name of municipality), we submit this resolution expressing No Confidence in Donald J. Trump as President-elect of the United States of America. The people of (name of municipality) possess no confidence in his ability to lead with the necessary integrity and dignity befitting the Office of President of the United States, nor do they have confidence in the integrity of the election process by which he became the apparent president-elect.

Every United States citizen, hand-in-hand with their elected and appointed officials, has a sacred duty to speak up, loud and clear, to protect the Constitution, and the values for which it stands. Trump is a clear and present danger to all they hold dear.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

Related: City of Baltimore passes a resolution condemning Trump’s bigotry.

Also: Harry Reid calls for Comey’s resignation.

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Pence: King of Corporate Tax Subsidies

Trump would have America believe that he and Gov. Pence are wizardlike job-saving innovators with their $7 million tax bargain with United Technologies to save about 1,000 Carrier Corp. jobs — at a cost of $7,000 per job over ten years, and with the employee concession package remaining an x-factor in the deal.

In truth, Indiana has been handing-out corporate tax breaks like candy to multiple large and successful ventures, the bulk of them since 2011. Good Jobs First, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, tracks corporate subsidies. They report that Indiana is the sixth worst in the nation in terms of ceding revenues to the private sector. The state has forked-over nearly $8.3 billion in recent years to over 9,000 companies.

Below is a chart listing the top ten corporate welfare queens in the Hoosier State. Good Jobs First reports that the vast majority of these deals occurred in the past 5 years. For the full report click here.

indiana-tax-subsidies

Indiana’s top ten corporate welfare queens. Source: GJF

Pence has sucked his gullible boss into a scam.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

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Trumpism: You Can’t Fix Stupid, But You Can Call it Out

Trump voters, while not an entirely monolithic group, do share certain commonalities — among them are an acceptance of racism, hatred, xenophobia, sexism, misogyny, among a host of other deplorable traits.

trump-hate-swag

Trump swag vendor. Source: NYT video still

Additionally, it can be argued that this basket of demographics is noticeably lacking in the department of intellectual dexterity. Rust Belt, Deep South, Evangelical — all to the last one are rigid of mind and impervious to reason. There is little point in the Democratic Party attempting to engage them in “conversation” — as so many have suggested was the missing ingredient in this electoral cycle.

On last friday’s “domestic news roundup” of The Diane Rehm Show, CBS White House correspondent Major Garrett spoke about the utter futility of pressing Trump supporters with actual facts. He explained that while working the campaign trail, they behaved exactly as conspiracy theorists categorically do — any challenge to their beliefs led to a deeper conviction and embrace of their dearly-held falsehoods:

“Any fact checking I did for them, or for many of them, was prima facie evidence that I was biased. And that I was wrong. So fact checking Trump was proof, not that he was wrong, but that he was right, and that anyone who would raise a question about the underlying relationship between what he said in the facts was biased.”

Democrats are not immune to harboring their own strained, yet quixotic, version of reality. They have a long and storied history of believing that if they just explain things slowly and simply enough, the electorate will understand — because surely good sense will prevail. After all, they are the party of inclusion — ever so nice and always politically correct, tolerant of other people, even with those whose ideas and “values” are an abomination to this great democracy, and to humanity as a whole.

This is exactly why the far right heaps ridicule on progressives. They laugh at them.

Democrats need a new playbook.

Stop coddling and cajoling those who deal in the currency of hate speech. Even if only by proxy, all Trump voters struck that Faustian bargain.

You can’t fix stupid, nor can you fix mean, and there’s plenty of the latter among the Trump crowd.

We hear reports daily of people feeling emboldened by Trump’s acrimonious rhetoric — and of those same individuals subsequently paying the price for publicly parroting their chosen leader. Here’s a short list from recent news:

It is imperative that each and every public display of hate be called-out for what it is, and punished accordingly.

Another frontline war of words that needs to be fully engaged is in the media. They must call lies for what they are, and name the monsters for who they are — white supremacists, fascists, nazis, KKK members. It’s not the “alt-right.” The Associated Press has instructed journalists to use the term cautiously and within very specific parameters — with quotation marks, and the qualification that the title is “self-described.” They offer this advice to reporters:

“We should not limit ourselves to letting such groups define themselves, and instead should report their actions, associations, history and positions to reveal their actual beliefs and philosophy, as well as how others see them.”

Google Chrome now offers an extension to users which will automatically convert the term “alt-right” to a more accurate moniker: “white supremacy.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center held a press conference this week focusing on the proliferation of hate crimes and speech since the election, noting that all too many of these events are occurring in academic settings — children acting-out on what they hear at home. The SPLC made a largely symbolic plea for Mr. Trump to denounce these acts of hate, and to apologize for his role in fostering the vile behavior.

Sadly, our soon-to-be sworn in president is more focused on an imaginary epidemic of flag burning, and on how he’s being lampooned in the most recent SNL skit.

True patriots have a job to do. At every turn, and in every dark corner, Americans must shine a light on the ugliness, expose it, and eliminate it from our culture.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

 

 

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See All of Trump’s Deleted Mean-Tweets

President-elect Trump appears to have no more self-control than candidate Trump. This orange cat just can’t manage to change his spots. Legal questions about maintaining presidential records were raised when he deleted a Tweet critical of the cast of Hamilton last week.

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Trump’s mean-tweet

The Tweeter-in-Chief won’t be able to hide his regrettable tweets though — for two reasons.

First of all, it’s the law.

Back in 2009, the White House issued an official determination that social media content, specifically citing Facebook and Twitter, is subject to the Presidential Records Act of 1978. Trump is legally compelled to obtain the consent of the Archivist of the United States at the National Archives and Records Administration prior to deleting any public communication.

Of course, we all know that the letter of the law won’t prevent Trump from hitting delete. That brings us to the second reason the impulsive president-elect’s gaffes and blunders will remain in the public domain.

His deleted Tweets will be archived through a cooperative agreement between Twitter and ProPublica — who are currently in the process of taking over the service which originated at the Sunlight Foundation. (Sunlight isn’t dropping the ball, but passing it to another excellent organization, while they are refocusing on blunting the effects of the Citizens United ruling.)

The Twitter project is called Politwoops, and it collects and publishes the deleted Tweets of all high-profile politicians. Most of them are examples of poor grammar or spelling, but there are some real gems to be found too.

The hand-off appears to be a work in progress, leaving the data a bit spotty at this time, but we can be confident that as ProPublica gets its tech labs up and running, there will be plenty of ill-thought Tweets to consider from the future President.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

While we wait for Politwoops to go fully online, there’s always the NYTs compilation of Trump’s mean-tweets to review.

And of course — apologies to orange cats.

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Open Letter: Chief O’Brien Must Fire Officer Peters

An Open Letter to Traverse City Police Chief Jeff O’Brien:

Dear Chief O’Brien,

Fire Officer Michael Peters.

With an understanding that you are committed to the often lengthy path of due process, note that the officer’s recent conduct was dangerous to the safety of the community which your department is sworn to protect, and it has damaged trust in local law enforcement.

While Traverse City does not boast a wide range of racial and ethnic diversity, it has a small but growing community of color, and is a town known for its progressive culture of inclusivity, and for the thoughtful quality of its public sector servants.

Many area residents were shocked and saddened by the conduct of Officer Peters when he chose to fly a Confederate flag on his pickup truck at a peaceful Veterans Day Love Trumps Hate rally held in opposition to Trump’s abhorrent policy pledges and his un-presidential private and public behavior.

In addition to Peters’ gross public display of such a deeply offensive symbol, the off-duty officer reportedly parked his vehicle illegally and was seen drinking a Bud Light at the scene before driving away. His actions were clearly meant to intimidate rally-goers and are unbefitting of a member of the Traverse City Police Department.

Some may argue that his actions were within his 1st Amendment rights — that it was protected speech. As a public servant though, he is held to a higher standard as a condition of his employment, even while off-duty.

Most police departments have in place a written code of ethical conduct which extends to off-duty behavior. We understand the TCPD has adopted a generic code borrowed from the military — Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer, which specifically states a violation (in an off-duty capacity) would include:

“[An] action or behavior in an unofficial or private capacity which, in dishonoring or disgracing the officer personally, seriously compromises the person’s standing as an officer.”

Typically these codes will include things like personal grooming standards — tattoos, hair length, etc., but more broadly they demand that officers conduct themselves within the bounds of the department’s overall mission — with the primary goal always being public safety.

As a former manager of a financial institution in the same community, I was required to sign a code of conduct pledge that said, as an officer of the bank, I was prohibited from engaging in any conduct which could adversely impact the image of the institution, including my dress, manners, affiliations, and financial transactions. A violation would have led to termination.

In an article in PoliceOne.com, a professional trade publication, on the topic of police ethics and disciplinary actions, the author finds that courts rarely challenge the terms of these agreements, and give police departments wide discretionary authority to implement, interpret, and enforce their codes. Citing a 1976 Supreme Court case as precedent for maintaining a vigorous disciplinary role for administrators, PoliceOne notes that the case touched-on freedom of choice questions for off-duty officers:

“In a footnote to the decision, the Court even gave a nod to the department’s Code of Ethics as an example of those regulations which may “infringe on…freedom of choice in personal matters” but which nonetheless are related to the department’s overall mission and organization. Regulations upon officer conduct when off-duty have been similarly upheld to the extent those regulations did not pry into personal matters.”

Under your watch, Traverse City has recently moved to a “community policing” model — a system intended to strengthen trust between law enforcement and the people they serve.

Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, under its guidelines states the primary goal of the program is to promote community trust in police departments, as explained in their handbook, Community Policing Defined. Simply put, trust builds better, stronger, and safer neighborhoods.

Officer Peters’ behavior has cast aspersions on the integrity of the TCPD, offended and frightened the public, violated the core tenet of Community Policing, and likely was a breach of code of conduct rules at several levels. And now word comes that this isn’t the first time he has put the TCPD in a bad light. At Chief O’Brien’s press conference on the topic we learned that Peters was reprimanded for flying the same flag on his vehicle while parked in the city police parking lot.

Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers has issued a social media statement on the ongoing process of investigation:

“As many may be aware now, a very unfortunate situation between peaceful protestors in the Open Space and an off duty city police officer occurred Friday evening. After a long day on the phone with the City Manager and our Chief of Police, I can report that an investigation is forth coming and that the officer in question will be suspended pending an investigation and dealt with accordingly. This type of behavior is not something we inTraverse City accept from our employees and especially from a member of our police force. Chief O’Brian [sic] assures me he is working toward a speedy out come to remedy this and that Traverse City citizens will be safe and free from discrimination.”

By way of a small example of the collateral harm the actions of Officer Peters has inspired — when I shared the news story on social media, it immediately attracted a number of disturbing comments which others found offensive and frightful, prompting one of my friends to private message me with the following:

“Wow, you have some really sick guys commenting on your post today. Very scary. Be careful.”

Just as Trump’s words and actions have served as a catalyst for hatred and bigotry across the nation, so have Officer Peters’ in this Northern Michigan community. The ramifications of his poor judgment won’t dissipate with a dock in his pay and a few extra hours of sensitivity training. His behavior has created a dangerous ripple effect, not just in Traverse City though, because news of his disgusting display of intolerance has spread worldwide and will surely have a negative impact on tourism — the bread and butter industry for our town. The National Cherry Capital’s diversity swells during the summer months as guests from all over the world converge to enjoy the Cherry Festival and the Film Festival. Adjacent communities could be negatively impacted too. We want all to feel welcome and safe here.

Officer Peters is not fit for the important duty of protecting the residents and visitors of this welcoming and peaceful community. His behavior is antithetical to the values we hold dear.

Chief O’Brien — fire Officer Peters.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

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