Friday, August 23, 2019

Are they plotting to 'save US Conservatism?'

At the end of this weekend posting, I'll speculate on signs of desperate scheming among residual "elders" of the Republican Party and their backers who, like Prussian nobles of 1933, are murmuring "what have we done?"

== Competition vs cooperation ==

My friend (and RASR) investment guru John Mauldin knows something's wrong. He knows the U.S. right has gone insane, but keeps trying to couch it in terms that "balance" the blame. This time he refers to the brilliant economic pundit Michael Lewis whose seven-part podcast called Against the Rules "begins by talking about referees, specifically the referees who toil at NBA games. Later episodes deal with the “referees” in financial markets, courts of law, civil society, and government."

Now you know I'm one of the folks most avidly pushing rediscovery of Adam Smith. Competition is great! But as Smith reiterated, competitors will cheat. They always have, across at least 4,000 years. For the last couple of centuries we've taken gradual, then major (if incomplete) steps toward solving the problem through careful regulation

I've long said that regulation to prevent cheating sits at the core of our five great competitive arenas... DEMOCRACY, MARKETS, SCIENCE, COURTS and SPORTS... the last one proves the point. And I'm glad to see Michael Lewis working it.

Blatantly, sports would collapse without close regulation. Science mostly successfully self-regulates with fierce reciprocal accountability, though some institutions are required. Courts are meticulous, but can be poisoned with 3rd rate judges (a top GOP priority.)

Democracy and markets must have cheating-prevention protocols thoroughly legislated, as our parents knew in the Greatest Generation. And since Reagan, the top goal of the GOP has been to tear down (not update) those cheating-prevention tools. And as a result, now Democracy and Markets are in freefall collapse.

Alas, John M. then tries to get away with the last stand of RASRs -- Residually Adult-Sane Republicans -- crying out "Both sides are at fault!"

It's not true. It's not even remotely true. 

"But the overarching theme on both left and right is that the “referees” are no longer fair or impartial." 

Riiiight. Except at the level of a few cherry-picked anecdotes and some loopy campus lefty-flakes, there is no equivalence to hide behind.  (Example: blue states institute paper ballots and auditable elections while red states buy no-audit machines from companies with Russian ties. How do you call that equivalent?)

A RASR who also loves America and civilization - and honest-competition, and hope for a decent future - has one option. Help kill the Republican Party dead. Be confidently assured that the Democratic Party, after restoring the Rooseveltean contract of the Greatest Generation, along with science and active leadership solving real problems, and restoring accountability... 

...will then break apart! The half that forms a new "right-ish" party - the Adam Smith wing - will be pro-entrepreneurship! While also believing in facts, justice, equality, facts, honest elections, facts, science, competitive markets and and saving the Earth... and facts. It will be everything you want. But first you must help us slay a vampire elephant.

== The Smart-Rich: are they awakening? ==

A crucial divide is between those oligarchs who think insatiable cheating will perch them atop a neo-feudal pyramid of inherited wealth and power vs. those who can smell inevitable revolution. 

“It’s not whether we should be capitalist or socialist. It’s how do we make sure that capitalism is working the way it has in the past,” said top investor Alan Schwartz at the recent Milken Conference, warning of “class warfare.” He noted that salaries and wages as a percentage of the economic pie are at a postwar low of 40%, prompting a “throw out the rich” mentality that would require some form of income redistribution to head off.

Mega investor Ray Dalio further warned that unless the American economic system is reformed so “that the pie is both divided and grown well” the country is in danger of “great conflict and some form of revolution that will hurt most everyone and will shrink the pie.”

Not to mention Anthony Scaramucci, who in the last week or so seems to be trying to create an anti-Trump wing of the Republican party.

And most recently, the Business Round Table (of all conservative groups) in August 2019 issued a powerful statement finally rejecting an old cornerstone, Milton Friedman's manifesto that executives owed duty only to their stockholders' immediate value, and nothing and nobody else. That monstrous ethos is now seen as catastrophic, even by the BRT, who say that all stakeholders -- employees, contractors and suppliers, and the environment and civilization over the long term, should get full consideration and voice.

Let’s be clear. Capitalism did not “work” well across nearly all of the last 6000 years, because elites foiled or slowed its competitive creativity with relentless cheating. It’s what powerful males will do, 99% of the time, and that history led Marx to confidently predict a violent, proletarian-revolution end game. But it turned out that there was another path: curb the cheating. Successive waves of reform across the last 200 years started with the American Founders seizing and redistributing up to a third of the land in the former colonies, ending feudalist oppression. 

But other cheats flourished and it wasn’t till the Rooseveltean social contract that markets became flat-fair-open-competitive enough to really take off, growing an unprecedented middle class, while making shared investments in infrastructure, science, education, health, R&D and children… the greatest success story in history. 

That is, till that contract suffered slash-burn attacks, starting in the 1980s. And every retraction of that balanced approach – every “supply side” restoration of cheating – led to slower growth and skyrocketing disparities.

Maintaining a civilization of empowered citizenship -- the "diamond-shaped social structure" about which I often speak -- is a dilemma well described by famous historians Will & Arial Durant, in The Lessons of History:

"…the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealth or by revolution distributing poverty.”

Doubt it? The works of Karl Marx, lately thought consigned to history's dust-bin, are flying off the shelves now, on university campuses and in worker ghettos around the globe. And the smarter billionaires are starting to consider what kind of society will serve their enlightened self-interest. In EARTH and in EXISTENCE I forecast that some members of the world wealth aristocracy would start holding meetings about this. Perhaps we are seeing crude, preliminary signs.

Okay... we're ready for what I promised, the aroma I am sniffing of rats desperately seeking to bail... or get off a sinking ship.

== Schemers hoping to "rescue" the GOP ==

I've been (as you know) tracking signs of an underground movement by retired or retiring GOP figures, simmering and trying to scheme for the "salvation of US conservatism." 

I doubt that either of the two who have stepped up, so far, are in on it. ex-Gov. Bill Weld is a former Libertarian Party presidential candidate who -- in a sign of how low we've sunk -- appears to be taking Trump on from the president's "left." Just yesterday Joe Walsh, a conservative radio show host and former Republican congressman from Illinois, telegraphed he is running against Trump from the hard right. Nor would be the stand-up Schindler-figure, Justin Amash (like Oskar Schindler, a creep who refuses to sink further into outright evil.) 

Certainly Mitt Romney is scheming. That's a given, no matter what else! But the recent wave of Texas retirees from the House? Who knows?

The figure we aren't seeing, who is doubtless talking to desperate zillionaires is Paul Ryan. (Remember him? You will, soon. Oh bet on that.)

Deterring all of this, of course, is the 88% approval rating of Trump among Republican voters, daunting almost everyone from uttering a word, let alone standing up to the madness openly.

Left out of those polls? The plummet in self-identified Republicans, nationwide, threatening with extinction the zombie implement that has served Murdoch and Putin so well. (And yes, I deeply worry what will happen when Two Scoops is seen by them as more a liability than asset: don't eat anything fed to you by your commie pals, Don, lest you be more valuable to them as a martyr.) (God bless the US Secret Service!)

Also, just how brittle is that 88% Republican support? I recall Watergate, when Nixon's devoted support collapse, like sediment raining from a supersaturated solution, or like sentiment draining from tens of millions of Republican women.

Final thought: these oligarchs should ponder deeply the fate of the Junkers-caste prussian oligarchs in 1930s Germany, who thought they could control a populist beast they helped stir into hydrophobic frenzy.

Surprise, surprise! In its froth, the beast threw its riders and a gifted svengali leaped aboard, grabbing the reins. (Remember the line from CABARET: "Do you still think you can control them?")

The beast is not to be blamed as much as the beastmasters who crafted this outbreak. You who thought you could control this were not anywhere near as smart as you thought you were. And the smartaleck "fact-people" you've waged war against are not as stupid as you envision.

History would have predicted this. If you bothered to learn any.


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Larry Hart said...

Here's a key phrase from the "" article above:

So when Michael Baca was appointed as one of Colorado's nine presidential electors***, he (along with the other eight electors) took, as required by Colorado law, an oath affirming that he would cast his electoral ballot for the candidate who received the highest number of votes in the State on November 8

It sounds as if, in Colorado at least, there were no separate "Clinton electors" or "Trump electors", but rather a slate of electors chosen by the legislature who were pledged to vote for whoever won the state. Except they also have the God-given right to vote any way they please at the moment, well after the November election.

So is it paranoid to think that heavily-gerrymandered Republican legislatures (I'm looking at you, Wisconsin) might appoint electors who will all have attacks of conscience and vote for Trump, whoever won their states? Or that right-wing activist groups won't engage in subterfuge in Democratic states, slipping their members quietly into the pool of electors?

From what we've seen recently of how Republicans operate, how could we expect them not to do those things? Mitch McConnell would even argue with a straight face that it's not cheating--it's following the rules to the letter. Too bad for us who foolishly thought that the popular vote or the state-wide vote had any bearing on the outcome.

Catfish 'n Cod said...


I see where you are going, but I don't think this is really the manner by which Republican states might seek to subvert the election. Whatever the Tenth Circuit says, there are thirty states that attempt to bind presidential electors -- and when considering the validity of an electoral vote, it is *that State's law* that Congress is required to consider under 3 USC 15. Whether that state law is in conflict with the Constitution has not been considered by SCOTUS, and they have no intention of doing so if they can avoid it.

Here's some of my research material: National Conference of State Legislatures on the EC.

In most states, the parties choose electors beforehand; technically and legally, these are the people on the ballot -- the legislature has simply, for the convenience of the public, bundled them together under the slate they are pledged to. The parties choose the most stalwart party faithful -- usually state party mid-level personnel -- in another effort to prevent faithless electors. Colorado's system sounds bizarre to me, and while I haven't looked, I doubt many states do it that way -- it's a recipe for faithless electors, rather than a backstop.

No, what I fear most is an attempt by a legislature to dissociate the popular vote from the electors entirely -- to change state law to once again place the choice of electors in their own hands. In a sufficiently gerrymandered legislature (*cough*Wisconsin*cough*North Carolina*cough) it might be possible to override a Democratic governor's veto and ram through a slate of electors the population of the state opposes.

But! If such is attempted, a Democratic official may send in the alternate ballots of the Democratic electors -- and force Congress to decide the issue -- and if Congress deadlocks, then by federal law, the Governor decides, not the legislature.

So I can only see this working in a state that votes Democratic yet has a Republican trifecta in power. It might happen in Texas, or Georgia, or Florida, should those states swing; but it can't work in North Carolina, or in the Midwest states that are more likely to provide the tipping-point votes.

And if something of this nature is tried, 3 USC 15 may need revisiting.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Meanwhile, BREAKING NEWS from across the Pond: Boris is up to more than just delaying Parliament. Unconfirmed, but sounding extremely plausible, that both sides are ready to tie the British Constitution in knots over Brexit.

I am seriously worried now about all that Russian money in London having direct effects. Boris' stubbornness is political suicide for the Tories: given other reports, it's clear HM Government knows full well the economic consequences and the risk of dire straits in Britain to take no-deal Brexit... and is willing to risk it anyway. The strain is already tearing the Conservatives apart, and if it actually works, the backlash will collapse the party anyway.

Therefore this maneuver only makes sense for Boris if he intends to allow the Tories to collapse and build a natpop party from the wreckage -- and to continue using bad-form tactics to command a hostile Parliament, for even if he accomplishes this goal, there is no way the Johnson Cabinet can long survive after this level of perfidy. And there are only two reasons I can think of for Boris to have backing from within the Tories for this plan: sheer patriotic fanaticism... or skullduggery.

I'm watching closely, because as the walls keep closing in, our own conservatives may start reaching for desperate political trickery such as this. The President* isn't capable of this sort of maneuver, but the Senate Majority Leader is a master of it, and there are quite capable practitioners to be found in the governments of the several states.

Darrell E said...

Do you think there is any chance that the queen would break the long precedent of staying out of politics and deny a request by Johnson to shut down Parliament? That would be interesting.

Larry Hart said...

Catfish 'n Cod:

No, what I fear most is an attempt by a legislature to dissociate the popular vote from the electors entirely -- to change state law to once again place the choice of electors in their own hands. In a sufficiently gerrymandered legislature (*cough*Wisconsin*cough*North Carolina*cough) it might be possible to override a Democratic governor's veto and ram through a slate of electors the population of the state opposes.

That's an even more straightforward way of accomplishing the same thing. Instead of seating Warren electors who secretly know they'll vote for Trump instead, the legislature simply seats Trump electors no matter the November election results.

In better times, I would say any party who attempted this would go the way of Barry Goldwater in 1964, but we live in the age of the "unpresidented". Republican voters would be fine with it, and Democrats would have little to no recourse. Except rebellion, of course.

Zepp Jamieson said...

That's pretty amazing about the jumping spiders. It seems to be a fairly broad-spectrum thing, this underestimation of the mental abilities of animals. I remember the huge shock waves that rippled around over the news that optopii were showing signs of abilities well beyond what anyone considered possible for an invertibrate. Since then, we've learned some startling things about the ability of fish to communicate (including, in at least one specials, vocalisations) and even tool-using. As I kid, I was told that humans were the only species capable of using tools; now we know we share that ability, not only with other primates, but seemingly unlikely species as corvids and fish.

locumranch said...

Failure to honour the Electoral College will be the 'death knell' of the United States of America because to disband the Electoral College is to condemn the less populous states to political servitude, governance without representation & the tyranny of the masses.

As for Brexit, I predicted this outcome months ago:

Following a Hard Brexit, the USA will grant the UK most favoured trading partner status and subject the EU to the very same penalties & trade barriers (and then some) that the EU attempts to inflict upon the UK which, in turn, will force the EU remainers to choose between the Russian Federation Scylla & the US Charybdis.

To paraphrase Voltaire:

The West must have an external enemy if it is to remain united, even if its continued unity requires that it invent one in the form of a Russian Bogyman.


Zepp Jamieson said...

I think that in light of the House Speaker's declaration that Johnson was ripping up British law with this action, there is a chance that the Queen might perform what amounts to a pocket veto of Johnson's action.

David Brin said...

No grand boldface yammer-declaration? I starting actually skimming before realizing who it was. Clever stunt.Fortunately, nothing entered working memory.

Alfred Differ said...

The SpaceX ‘flying water tank’ video is easy enough to find now, so next time you see “The Martian” and the liftoff scenes from the surface of Mars, imagine replacing the flaming rocket with the one with Mach diamonds and you’ll be closer. That tank has the methane engine in flight I think.

Larry Hart said...

Benedict Donald found a new way to be evil:

Donald Trump doesn't like anything foreign and has found a new way to show it. He has just issued a rule stating that children of members of the armed forces stationed abroad to defend the country are no longer automatically American citizens. The rule also applies to the babies of civilian government employees working in embassies, consulates, and other official government offices outside the U.S.. The rule goes into effect on Oct. 29. The parents of any children born abroad can apply for citizenship, but there are conditions the parents have to meet for it to be granted and not all service members and government employees qualify. It is a new and exciting way to thank the service members for risking their lives to defend the country.

Depending on the laws of the country in which the child is born, he or she could be stateless. Only a handful of countries recognize birthright citizenship, nearly all of them in the Western Hemisphere. Fiji, Tanzania, and Tuvalu, are the only ones outside the Western Hemisphere who recognize it in all cases, although Azerbaijan, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, and Luxembourg recognize it is some special cases. That could mean a child born to two U.S. service members in most of the world has no nationality at birth and cannot obtain a passport to travel anywhere, including to the U.S.


Jon S. said...

Turns out the regulation itself is only mildly evil - but I can't imagine that the "mistaken impression" on rollout was entirely accidental.

The new restriction will apply only if the child does not have at least one parent who a) is currently a citizen of the US, and b) was resident in the US for at least five years after the age of (IIRC) 14. It was apparently originally intended merely as clarification of an existing policy.

However, as the official to whom questions were directed seemed unclear on this, and the website was absolutely no help, one can be pardoned for wondering if this might have been a test run of sorts, to see if people might be amenable to pulling birthright citizenship in some cases. The camel's nose in the tent, as it were.

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

one can be pardoned ...

Many can, apparently. :)

for wondering if this might have been a test run of sorts, to see if people might be amenable to pulling birthright citizenship in some cases.

I realize that the subject of this article is a separate debate about babies born outside the country, but when Trump supporters talk about "eliminating birthright citizenship", I wonder what the resulting mess would look like. As things stand now, my birth certificate is what proves that I am a natural-born US citizen. I don't have naturalization papers or any other documentation that I became a citizen at any point in time. I just was one because I was born here.

If the birth certificate is no longer sufficient to establish citizenship, then what does?

Larry Hart said...

The US Constitution:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

The eligibility requirements for the presidency are all stated in the negative. The Constitution spells out who is not eligible to be president. It says nothing about the universal set which those requirements pare down.

I maintain that my cat could be president. The fact that he is neither a US Citizen nor 35 years of age is immaterial, as those restrictions only apply to persons, not to cats.

Larry Hart said...

Ok, an actually-relevant passage from the Constitution:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress...

Nothing about popular votes or candidates' choice. The state legislature decides the manner of choosing electors. They can take the state-wide vote to be merely advisory. There doesn't have to be a state-wide vote at all.

Alfred Differ said...


These things can be modified/interpreted/augmented by later legislation, so one must be careful about literal interpretations of the Constitution. Take it from a libertarian that is is too easy to be simplistic about literal interpretations.

Case law

That's the order of precedence and each informs the one above it HOW things are done.

Pick any one of our rights in the first ten amendments and see how they are actually defined and you'll find a web of content. Pick freedom of religion and you better find the Lemon Test or you haven't tried. 8)

The danger with Electors isn't about a big conspiracy to seat faithless electors. The danger is some states will do one thing, other states will do another, the US House will get upset, and then the election is litigated long enough to threaten Constitutional deadlines as with the 2000 election.

If things went the way YOU were suggesting, that produces a much simpler, immediate result. The lead starts flying. I think it less likely than the multi-front court battle, though.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Alfred has the right of it, but with an added twist: it matters very much *when* the state legislature attempts to do a bait-and-switch.

Once a state has set up an election, including the primaries and filings for candidacy and so worth, it is very questionable whether a legislature can then cancel it because it didn't like the probable result. (This is for any election, not just for electors for President.) It is almost certain that, once the election occurs, they cannot switch out the electors: that door was barred shut after the debacle of 1877.

The only way this could be clearly legitimate is if it were done months ahead of time -- probably by spring of 2020 at the latest. And that would be a long enough time for the whole thing to be endlessly debated, for the Congresspeople (especially the House members who must all be re-elected) to make a stand on the counter-maneuvers to be taken, and most importantly for state politics to operate on those foolish enough to attempt open and blatant oligarchy without sufficient authoritarianism to back it up.

Trying such deviousness is the only way I can see the National Popular Vote Compact getting quickly and cleanly approved -- as the means by which all such shenanigans would be prohibited in future.

I can't see anyone at the federal level approving of such tactics, not even the most hardcore House reactionaries, as it would weaken the Union and thus their own power. We are starting to see reactionaries in a few states (looking at you, Arizona, North Carolina) extreme enough to try something so foolish. I'm not sure the RNC is capable of shutting such silliness down at this point.


Meanwhile: Her Majesty is keeping her powder dry on her Reserve Powers -- which is probably wise. She can only act once, and to paraphrase the lyricist, she is not throwing away her shot. As long as there is hope that Parliament can extricate themselves without the Crown's meddling, it's far preferable to have BoJo hoist on his own petard of deviousness. The whip of the Lords and the leader of the Scottish Tories have resigned in protest.

The alliance against Brexit needs to be meeting all weekend to hammer together a unified resistance if they want to win; BoJo expects to first delay, then divide and conquer, and finally win the game of chicken with anyone who doesn't split off. He's out on a limb on this plan; the entire corps of emeritus Tory leaders that I've heard speak are disgusted. His chips are all in; his career as a politician is finished if this doesn't work. (Of course, he can always fall back on being a parasite; he's perfectly positioned to do so.)

A theory has been floated elsewhere that the end-goal, after the balkanization of the UK, is to make England into the largest offshore banking haven for the oligarchs: in other words, to place England in precisely the position that our host posited for, ahem, "Helvetia". Comments?

scidata said...

Some alternate futures could be quite positive. We've discussed the possibility of Can-Am union before. Of course, Canadians would seek dignity and respect for all people, sincere and thoughtful environmental stewardship, loyalty to steadfast allies, a fair and transparent economic system, universal healthcare, safe and inclusive K-12 education strong on evidence-based rationality, lawful governance, and a noble and honourable justice system. I'm sure we could work something out. 8+ new blue states, with 16+ new Dem senators. By either EC or PopVote, that's checkmate. The Confederacy follows the Napoleonic Empire and the Third Reich down the icy road to oblivion.

Larry Hart said...

Catfish 'n Cod:

t is almost certain that, once the election occurs, they cannot switch out the electors: that door was barred shut after the debacle of 1877.

But the individual electors can still choose to vote differently, even if that violates state law. The supreme court already ruled that way.

I'm glad for your reassurance that it's not as easy to pull this off as it seemed, but I'm not entirely convinced yet.

Trying such deviousness is the only way I can see the National Popular Vote Compact getting quickly and cleanly approved -- as the means by which all such shenanigans would be prohibited in future.

I'm all in favor of the Compact, but it wouldn't entirely eliminate the faithless elector problem. If electors are allowed to change their vote in violation of state law, then doing so in violation of the Compact isn't much more of a stretch.

I can't see anyone at the federal level approving of such tactics, not even the most hardcore House reactionaries, as it would weaken the Union and thus their own power.

I can easily see Mitch McConnell doing so, as well as the four Republican supreme court members whose names aren't John Roberts.

She can only act once, and to paraphrase the lyricist, she is not throwing away her shot.

Heh. Thanks for the Hamilton line.

Larry Hart said...

Trump has gone on to cartoon super-villainy:

Sick Migrants Undergoing Lifesaving Care Can Now Be Deported

Maria Isabel Bueso was 7 years old when she came to the United States from Guatemala at the invitation of doctors who were conducting a clinical trial for the treatment of her rare, disfiguring genetic disease. The trial was short on participants, and thanks to her enrollment, the Food and Drug Administration eventually approved a medication for the condition that has increased survival by more than a decade.

Now 24, Ms. Bueso has participated in several medical studies. She has won awards for her advocacy on behalf of people with rare diseases, appearing before lawmakers in Washington and in Sacramento. Through the years, her parents have paid for the treatment that keeps her alive with private medical insurance.

But last week, Ms. Bueso received a letter from the United States government notifying her that she must leave the country within 33 days or face deportation. Her doctor, lawyer and mother described the order as tantamount to a “death sentence.”


Back in the '80s, Eddie Murphy did a routine in which he asked why someone would shoot the Pope. His speculation was "Maybe he wanted to go to Hell, and he didn't want to wait on line with everyone else. He wanted to take the Hell express."

Like any good story, it explains a lot.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Ah, scidata, scidata. Unfortunately the pseudo-confederates have been obsessing about exactly this sort of scenario since not long after fascism's previous fiery demise. Without a great deal of cultural preparedness on both sides of the World's Longest Unfenced Border, it would be seen as a plot to impose progressivism on poor oppressed wypepo -- and in some ways, they would even be right! For most of the Canadian provinces *would* demand a more active, more distributionary, more service-oriented federal government as part of the annexation deal. Not all would -- most of the red team would be surprised to find folk closer to their hearts in Alberta and Saskatchewan. But even they wouldn't be like the hard core ranchers of Wyoming; more like Montana, where conservative Democrats do win elections on a regular basis.

Suffice it to say that, far from preventing a second outbreak of hot civil war, such an attempt would immediately trigger it. Just as only Nixon could go to China, only a heartlander could possibly propose Canadian annexation and succeed.

I can see some futures where it happens. But not until the consequences of our climate cowardice have become clear...


@Larry: I still think you're overfretting. I checked with friends in Colorado, and they have the same system as the rest of the Union: a slate of electors is chosen by the party, either by state conventions or party committees, and are submitted as part of the package of qualifying for the ballot. The electors are specifically chosen for party loyalty. The only way I can think of to get Democratic Party electors to throw their votes towards this President* (as opposed to symbolic gestures they are sure will be of no effect) is physical threats to their families, and if we are at that point, we have bigger problems.

And for the other scenario, where the legislature effectively cancels the presidential election in their state -- while technically and legally plausible, I can't imagine how such an action would not trigger a state-level constitutional crisis.

As for a federal constitutional crisis -- if one Compromise can install white supremacy, why can another not remove it?


Yet another theory for BoJo's Brain was posited in the NYT today. Perhaps BoJo *wants* to be thrown out of office, and thrown out specifically to prevent Brexit. Once the ensuing General Election campaign was underway, he could then rally the reactionary right to "Vote Tory - The Party That Went To The Mat For Brexit". If this is so, methinks the right honorable gentleman is being too clever by half.

scidata said...


I think the confederates can rest easy on this one. The real hurdle would be convincing Canucks to give up on our own confederation. We are a proud lot (just like Aussies, Kiwis, and Greenlanders).

matthew said...

I think Alfred and Catfish N Cod (welcome back!) are both being *way* too sanguine in their trust of our courts in dismissing the faithless elector scenario. All it takes is, say, the Georgia state legislators (or other Red State that voted Dem in the presidential election) to write a law on November 12 or so reasserting their historical role in choosing electors instead of the party. Republican-led courts would then recognize the "original" intent in the Constitution, and Bob's your uncle.

The fact that it would start a civil war is a plus to the Republicans. They are certain of their marital prowess and want to start a hot war ASAP before the strength of numbers and aging demographics catch up to them. Listen to loco and the ent - they want to kill the rest of us. Believe them. They've both said as much here. I hear as much every day from my acquaintances.

The question is not how low Republicans will go. The question is the will of the rest of us to stop them.

Larry Hart said...


I think the confederates can rest easy on this one. The real hurdle would be convincing Canucks to give up on our own confederation.

A better plan might be for the blue states to join Canada. Better yet, can states have "dual citizenship"?

Larry Hart said...

Catfish 'n Cod:

If this is so, methinks the right honorable gentleman is being too clever by half.

Yeah, as with Trump, it's hard to picture Boris Johnson playing 3-dimensional chess. I find "He wants to go to Hell, and he doesn't want to wait in line with all those people" to be a more plausible scenario.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I've heard Canada defined as being what the United States would be if it weren't for the Confederate South.

David Brin said...

No. It's simple. Canadians save humanity. Surrender. With ten more blue states we can fix this mess. Then let you go! On condition you take South Carolina and Florida with you.

Larry Hart said...

This is admittedly outright satire, but still "funny because it's true", or at least it's plausible...

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Hoping to bolster the core message of his 2020 campaign, Donald J. Trump ordered Mike Pence to locate a passage in the Bible where Jesus tells people “to get the hell out of here,” White House sources confirmed on Monday.

According to the sources, Trump summoned Pence to the Oval Office and commanded him to find “somewhere in the Bible” where Jesus “tells people that they don’t belong here and they should beat it.”

Pence, who seemed startled by the request, asked Trump if he meant the time when Jesus expelled money changers from the Temple, but Trump shook his head angrily. “No, not that. I don’t want to piss off Deutsche Bank,” he said. “I want something where Jesus tells the poor and the meek or whatever to go back to the shithole places they came from.”


Larry Hart said...

It's finally getting mainstream notice (emphasis mine) :


White evangelical Christians, the rotting core of Trump’s base, profess to be guided by biblical imperatives. They’re not. Their religion is Play-Doh. They have become more like Trump, not the other way around. It’s a devil’s pact, to use words they would understand.

In one of the most explicit passages of the New Testament, Christ says people will be judged by how they treat the hungry, the poor, the least among us. And yet, only 25 percent of white evangelicals say their country has some responsibility to take in refugees.

Evangelicals give cover to an amoral president because they believe God is using him to advance their causes. “There has never been anyone who has defended us and who has fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump,” said Ralph Reed at a meeting of professed Christian activists earlier this summer.

But what really thrills them is when Trump bullies and belittles their opponents, as counterintuitive as that may seem. Evangelicals “love the meanest parts” of Trump, the Christian writer Ben Howe argues in his new book, “The Immoral Majority.” Older white Christians rouse to Trump’s toxicity because he’s taking their side. It’s tribal, primal and vindictive.


Larry Hart said...

With the Labor Day holiday weekend beginning, I'm not sure how much I'll be around tomorrow, so I'll take my annual time to note that the six consecutive months whose (English) names contain fewer-than-seven letters is coming to a close, and the long, dreary six consecutive months whose names have seven-or-more letters begins.


Zepp Jamieson said...

Yup. Roman counting for the next four months--7th month, 8th, 9th and 10th. Then a month that could just as easily have been called Janus except the Romans had already abandoned a sensible calendar, and then February, the only month not named for some ancient god, or inaccurately numbered. (OK, back then New Years was March 1st, but when they changed that, they should have renamed the months). And people complain that the rain calendar year in California got moved to October 1st!

Larry Hart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

Way back when the earth was cooling in the 1960s, I began to notice that the long month names "felt" worse than the shorter ones. Of course, back then, I had to start school every year in September, so that piece is self-explanatory. But eventually, I realized that the entire set of "long" month names (seven-or-more letters) were consecutive, as were the entire set of "short" month names. The former was the start of school, the descent into winter, and ended with the worst months of weather here in Chicago. The latter was spring, the end of school, and summer vacation. 40 years later, the connotations still stick.

My wife sometimes refers to me as "Calendar Boy". Not sure why. :)

Zepp Jamieson said...

Hopefully she isn't saying you're dated....

Your delineation holds up French, but not in Australian.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

A friend once had a roleplaying plot with an occult-themed bar. The waitresses were named April, May, Junie, and Julie. The bartender was a guy, and his name was Gus... IIRC the next hire was scheduled to be Janie, but the game ended before then.

@Larry: Lots of churches split into Northern and Southern halves at the time of the Civil War. Most merged back afterward. The ones that did not have strong correlation with the folks willing to put expediency and politics over religious principle.

This also correlates with another important phenomenon: the rapid rise of American secularism and the near-collapse of evangelical youth participation. While the faithful obsess about perceived grievance, they hardly notice that far fewer people will stick around to enjoy the fruits of any successes they might have. And it's their very willingness to sell out principles that is driving the exodus. Far from defending their faith, their own actions have wounded it grievously.

Why would they do this? Perhaps because of the intersection of their present circumstances with antebellum thinking and the confederate heritage -- which long predates the armed rebellion -- of verbalizing a sense of oppression in order to recruit neutrals into defending their assertions of privilege.

David Brin said...

"But what really thrills them is when Trump bullies and belittles their opponents, as counterintuitive as that may seem. Evangelicals “love the meanest parts” of Trump, the Christian writer Ben Howe argues in his new book, “The Immoral Majority.” Older white Christians rouse to Trump’s toxicity because he’s taking their side. It’s tribal, primal and vindictive."

Yes, but the left-middle are stupid for thinking it is ONLY about racism/sexism/nativism/ rischism. Far far more relevant is that Trumpinfuriates the people these folks hate far more. Smartypants professionals who know stuff.

Larry Hart said...

The Times op-ed above didn't specify who the Evangelicals enjoy him being mean to. Just making clear that his being mean to them is what the hypo-Christians like about him. His being an unapologetic bully and a bull in a china shop is a feature, not a bug.

Larry Hart said...

Comment moderation? That bad, huh.

Hopefully temporary.

duncan cairncross said...

As BREXIT churns onward I think Dr Brin is 100% right

Leavers are like Trumpers - people who hate "Smartypants professionals who know stuff"

And like Trumpers MOST of them are from my generation and Gen X - the ones with brain damage from Leaded petrol

David Brin said...

Someone give me a sentence and link to the best site where the most paranoid faithless electors scenarios are discussed? how a Republican controlled state legislature might get away with appointing its own slate of electors if – say – the voters of Wisconsin choose a Democratic slate at the ballot box. Paranoid or not (and would those state assembly members have houses to go home to, before that night was out?), these fantasies aren’t, alas, entirely science fiction anymore.

Two best links?

Larry Hart said...

I'm not sure this is exactly what you're asking for, but I'm not a big consumer of social media:

A federal appeals court ruled late Tuesday that presidential electors who cast the actual ballots for president and vice president are free to vote as they wish and cannot be required to follow the results of the popular vote in their states.

The decision could give a single elector the power to decide the outcome of a presidential election — if the popular vote results in an apparent Electoral College tie.

"This issue could be a ticking time bomb in our divided politics. It's not hard to imagine how a single faithless elector, voting differently than his or her state did, could swing a close presidential election," said Mark Murray, NBC News senior political editor.

It hasn't been much of an issue in American political history because when an elector refuses to follow the results of a state's popular vote, the state simply throws the ballot away. But Tuesday's ruling says states cannot do that.


Larry Hart said...

From the same like I just sent you (but can't see myself because you've got comment moderation turned on) :


When voters go to the polls in presidential races, they actually cast their votes for a slate of electors chosen by the political parties of the nominees. States are free to choose their electors however they want, Tuesday's ruling said, and can even require electors to pledge their loyalty to their political parties.

But once the electors are chosen and report in December to cast their votes as members of the Electoral College, they are fulfilling a federal function, and a state's authority has ended. "The states' power to appoint electors does not include the power to remove them or nullify their votes," the court said.

Because the Constitution contains no requirement for electors to follow the wishes of a political party, "the electors, once appointed, are free to vote as they choose," assuming that they cast their vote for a legally qualified candidate.


David Brin said...



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