Through the Smog: November 27, 2016
The Weekly Windshield Wiper Clearing Through Media B.S.
#Recount2016: Stein Files in WI & Pledges to File Elsewhere, Clinton Campaign to Participate, Trump Pushes Conspiracy Theory
Citing counsel from a coalition of nonpartisan experts, Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein launched an initiative to file for a vote recount in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Using funds solicited on her campaign website, Stein made the Wisconsin deadline on Friday and plans to push for recounts in Pennsylvania by Monday and Michigan by Wednesday. On Saturday, Stein vowed to push for recounts in other states that have not yet had filing deadlines.
I will do a recount in any state where the deadline has not passed. Help my staff find state deadlines: https://t.co/VsruD0r8FR #Recount2016
The Clinton Campaign broke its silence on Stein’s recount efforts on Saturday morning with a statement from Marc E. Elias, general counsel to Hillary for America. In a key part, Elias noted the campaign’s vow to participate wherever Stein initiates a recount:
“Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves, but now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides. If Jill Stein follows through as she has promised and pursues recounts in Pennsylvania and Michigan, we will take the same approach in those states as well.”
In his first response on the subject, President-elect Donald Trump referred to Stein’s recount efforts as a “scam,” but by mid-day Sunday he had returned to Twitter to peddle a conspiracy theory that millions of people voted illegally, thus costing him the popular vote. There is no evidence of this to support his claim.
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
This Newsweek piece with veteran voting rights attorney John Bonifaz, founder of the National Voting Rights Institute, is a helpful guide on what to expect and what to pay attention to as we proceed through #Recount2016.
Grave Concerns Over Trump’s Conflicts of Interest
Though concerns of Trump’s conflicts of interest were evident before the election, his continued interactions with his business and business partners have attracted more media attention.
The Washington Post this week reported that long-stalled Trump towers in former Soviet republic of Georgia and Argentina are now back on track following his election. Likewise, a review of Trump’s business dealings by The New York Times revealed a “menu of the kinds of complications that could create a running source of controversy” and “tensions between his priorities as president and the needs and objectives of his companies.”
Eerily reminiscent of Nixon’s “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal,” Donald Trump claimed “the law’s totally on my side, the president can’t have a conflict of interest” in a meeting with The New York Times on Tuesday.
The Emoluments Clause, however, says otherwise. This clause in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution was created to prevent the President, most of all, from being corrupted by foreign influences. Trump is poised to violate the clause on his first day in office and such a violation, according Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe, one of the nation’s preeminent constitutional scholars, would qualify as one of the high crimes and misdemeanors that serve as grounds for impeachment.
Trump Foundation Broke “Self-Dealing” Rules in 2015 & In Past
As it turns out, while the media was diligently digging into the Clinton Foundation (over baseless allegations that she used her influence at the State Department to garner charitable donations), the Trump Foundation had the scandal that the media had been looking for all along. In the Trump Foundation’s IRS tax filings for 2015, Donald Trump’s charitable foundation admitted to the IRS that it violated a ban that prohibited “self-dealing.”
The prohibition on self-dealing means that you can’t use your non-profit’s money to benefit yourself, your family, or your businesses. Apparently this is exactly what the Donald J. Trump Foundation admitted to.
Thanks to some excellent reporting done by The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold, here is what was revealed:
“The admission was contained in the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s IRS tax filings for 2015, which were recently posted online at the nonprofit-tracking site GuideStar. A GuideStar spokesman said the forms were uploaded by the Trump Foundation’s law firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.
The Washington Post could not immediately confirm if the same forms had actually been sent to the IRS.
In one section of the form, the IRS asked whether the Trump Foundation had transferred “income or assets to a disqualified person.” A disqualified person, in this context, might be Trump — the foundation’s president — or a member of his family or a Trump-owned business. The foundation checked yes.
Another line on the form asked whether the Trump Foundation had engaged in any acts of self-dealing in prior years. The Trump Foundation checked yes again.”
Russian Propaganda in the Election
Two teams of independent researchers found that the spread of fake news was part of a coordinated Russian propaganda campaign. This effort involved bots and paid human online “trolls” that helped spread, and create, fake articles and right-wing news stories that bashed Clinton and boosted Trump. This spread of disinformation was amplified by social media, The Washington Post reported:
PropOrNot’s monitoring report, which was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.
This news is especially alarming given that U.S. intelligence officials have confirmed that they believe Russia was responsible for the hacking, and releasing, of DNC emails related to Hillary Clinton.
Faithless Electors Push to Deny Trump the Presidency
Politico this week reported that at least six electors have launched an effort to deny Donald Trump the presidency and undermine the legitimacy of the Electoral College.
Alluding to the Founding Fathers’ intent for the College to serve as the last line of defense to ensure the office of President would “never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications,” these “faithless electors” are lobbying their Republican counterparts to reject their oaths and vote against Trump on December 19.
This move is encouraged by many voters who are dismayed by Trump and call for the Electoral College to reflect the popular vote, which Hillary Clinton is currently leading by more than 2.2 million — the widest margin in over a century.
Trump Plans To Eliminate NASA Climate Change Research
After appearing to acknowledge the fact that humans are influencing climate change during his meeting with The New York Times, Trump advisor Bob Walker told The Guardian that a Trump administration will eliminate NASA’s climate change research. Walker, who is who is leading the Trump transition team for NASA, said they would cut funding for NASA’s Earth Science division.
“We see NASA in an exploration role, in deep space research. Earth-centric science is better placed at other agencies where it is their prime mission.”
Climate scientists are outraged at the prospect of NASA’s climate research being cut. Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University, spoke on this development:
“Without the support of NASA, not only the US but the entire world would be taking a hard hit when it comes to understanding the behavior of our climate and the threats posed by human-caused climate change.”
Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said the elimination of NASA’s Earth sciences would be “a major setback, if not devastating.”
“It could put us back into the ‘dark ages’ of almost the pre-satellite era. It would be extremely short sighted.”
This development, coupled with Trump’s other energy related proposals, has environmentalists very worried.
Federal Judge Halted Obama’s Overtime Rule Set To Impact More Than 4.2 Million Americans
In March 2014 President Obama signed a memorandum that directed the Department of Labor to catch up with the modern economy and update the regulations defining which white collar workers are protected by the Fair Labor Standard Act’s overtime and minimum wage standards. This past May, President Obama and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez announced the final rule to modernize these regulations that included an extension of overtime pay protections to 4.2 million workers within the first year of implementation.
The rule accomplished this by increasing the salary threshold from $23,360 annually, the standard salary level set in 2004, to $47,476 annually, which would effectively restore “overtime pay to the middle class after decades of erosion had reduced it to a benefit available only to low-wage workers.”
On Tuesday, a United States District judge granted a preliminary injunction to temporarily halt the rule’s enforcement nationwide and, in doing so, effectively endangered pay protections for 4.2 million+ Americans.
The injunction delays the law while the case makes its way through court to determine if the DOL had the authority to issue the regulation, but it serves as a strong signal the judge will ultimately rule with those opposed. Perhaps more significantly, the injunction and/or total blockage would make it easier for Donald Trump, who ran as a champion for the working class, to revoke overtime rights from millions.
Fidel Castro Dies
Fidel Castro, former President of Cuba, died Saturday night at the age of 90.
Thought of as as both a revolutionary and dictator, Fidel ushered in the Cold War of the 1950s and became embattled with eleven United States presidents throughout his fifty years in government. Castro kept close control on every aspect of the nation, instituting Lenin-inspired governance throughout the island. Though he maintained his leadership of Cuba, Castro became increasingly wary of public appearances in his later years.
In 2008, Castro completely transitioned presidential power to his younger brother Raul; making him the second longest reigning leader since Queen Elizabeth of England.