Supreme Court

Whitehouse.gov petition: Immediately appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court

The citizens of the United States have a right to the good faith consideration of each Supreme Court nominee. In an attempt to subvert the will of the people expressed in the reelection of President Barack Obama in 2012, the current Senate has willfully failed to make a timely assertion of their advise and consent right.

There is legal precedent in United States v. Olano which ruled that the holder of a constitutional right may waive the right by engaging in an excessive delay in exercising it.

Merrick Garland was nominated on March 16, 2016, more than 237 days ago, greatly exceeding the previous maximum consideration delay of 125 days. The Senate has waived its right. Please proceed with Judge Garland's appointment.

Needs 47,525 signatures by December 9 to get a response from the White House.

Update: Oh hey, here's another that already has more votes.

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The Electoral College Was Designed To Prevent Trump. You Can Make This Happen.

Trump can still be stopped. The Founding Fathers foresaw just this catastrophe, and built a fail-safe into the Constitution.

It's called the Electoral College. Alexander Hamilton was explicit: this mechanism was designed to ensure that "the office of president will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications." In short, it was designed to prevent just this situation: the rise of an unqualified demagogue like Donald Trump.

You can make it do what it was meant to do.

The requirement here is modest: a small group of Republican electors must be persuaded to vote their conscience. No question that many of these are appalled at the prospect of a Trump presidency; surely a few are courageous enough to cast a vote for someone else. (Most if not all would vote for another Republican, of course; it doesn't seem likely that many would choose Hillary Clinton.) Depending upon how current recounts turn out, somewhere between a minimum of ten and a maximum of thirty-seven electors would have to defect in order to bring Trump's count down to less than 270.

If neither party ends up with 270 votes, then the decision passes to the House of Representatives, and a vote in that chamber determines the winner. The House is permitted to choose from among the three candidates who receive the most votes in the Electoral College. Hence, dissenting electors can rest assured that they -- and the voters they represent -- will end up with a Republican president. [...]

Why should Democrats fight for this? Because any conceivable choice on the part of the Electoral College and the House, however extreme, would be preferable to Trump.

This would not be an abuse of the Constitution. Quite the opposite, as I say: it would be the proper use of the Constitution to prevent the abuse of a general election. The Founding Fathers would have approved. More: they would have been distressed to see this not happen, given the circumstances. They chose to found a republic that was not a direct democracy, and this is why: a simple binding majority vote provides no check upon the election of a tyrant. (This election was an exception, ironically: Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, and direct democracy would have spared the world the terrifying promise of a Trump presidency.) [...]

So, how do you accomplish this? The process is simple: write to electors in states that went red, and beg them to vote their conscience. The complete list of relevant electors can be found here, with contact information: "Flip the 37."

Change.org Petition: Electoral College Electors: Make Hillary Clinton President on December 19:

We are calling on the Electors to ignore their states' votes and cast their ballots for Secretary Clinton. Why?

Mr. Trump is unfit to serve. His scapegoating of so many Americans, and his impulsivity, bullying, lying, admitted history of sexual assault, and utter lack of experience make him a danger to the Republic.

Secretary Clinton won the popular vote and should be President.

You Dumb Motherfuckers, By James Madison:

Hey there shitheads. Remember me? Yeah, it's James *fucking* Madison. Third Secretary of State? Supervisor of the Louisiana Purchase? Fourth President of the United States of America? That guy. How's it going?

What's that? You're scared? You're worried you might elect as the next President a misogynistic turkey leg that somehow escaped the state fair, fell into a bale of hay, and inexplicably managed to bankrupt six companies? Oh dear, that sounds stressful. And nobody saw it coming? Wow, that sucks. I mean, Jesus Christ, how did nobody consider that one day, some insane demagogue might incite a populist rebellion and threaten to shit on our country? How did no one think to create some kind of safeguard?

OH WAIT. I DID. IN FUCKING 1787.

Remember that Constitution you guys all say you *loooove* so much? Yeah, I wrote that shit. All of it. Even though for some reason you assholes keep thinking it was Jefferson. And because I'm way smarter than all of you, I wrote in a little something I call the Electoral College.

Yeah, so, Mr. Madison's dissent aside...

The idea behind the Electoral College is that the people can't be directly trusted, and instead appoint a set of grown-ups to make the actual decisions for them. It's the same reason we have a Congress and Senate instead of just letting everyone vote on laws directly.

However, in practice what the Electoral College does is disenfranchise huge parts of the country, because its dynamics ensure that Presidential campaigns only really happen in about six contentious states, which are neither the most populous nor the most typical. The candidates focus their campaigns on those states, and the topics that resonate most with those states, and ignore the rest of the country. That's why Ohio and Florida get to decide who our President is, and California largely doesn't matter, despite having more than twice their combined population.

What are the Major Shortcomings of the Current System of Electing the President?

First, voters are effectively disenfranchised in two thirds of the states in presidential elections. Under the now-prevailing statewide winner-take-all rule, presidential candidates do not campaign in states in which they are far ahead because they do not receive any additional electoral votes by winning such states by a larger margin. Similarly, candidates ignore states where they are far behind because they have nothing to gain by losing those states by a smaller margin. Instead, presidential candidates concentrate their public appearances, organizational efforts, advertising, polling, and policy attention on states where the outcome of the popular vote is not a foregone conclusion. In practical political terms, a vote matters in presidential politics only if it is cast in a closely divided battleground state. To put it another way, the question of whether a voter matters in presidential politics depends on whether other voters in the voter's own state happen to be closely divided. In the five most recent presidential elections (1988 -- 2004), about two thirds of the states have been non-competitive, including six of the nation's 10 most populous states (California, Texas, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, and North Carolina), 12 of the 13 least populous states; and the vast majority of medium-sized states.

Second, the current system does not reliably reflect the nationwide popular vote. The statewide winner-take-all rule makes it possible for a candidate to win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

So this is why I hold two opinions that the simpleminded might see as contradictory:

  1. Given that the Electoral College exists, it would be right and proper, not to mention legal, to use that system to keep a fascist, racist rapist out of office.
  2. The Electoral College is a bad system and should be replaced with a national popular vote.

There's an interesting approach underway in an attempt to make this happen without having to go the full route of a Constitutional amendment: states are individually passing laws saying "our electors pledge to follow the popular vote, but only as soon as enough other states have also signed on." (Game theory!)

Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions possessing 165 electoral votes -- 61% of the 270 electoral votes necessary to activate it. [...]

Because of these state winner-take-all statutes, presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the issues of concern to voters in states where the statewide outcome is a foregone conclusion. As shown on the map, two-thirds of the 2012 general-election campaign events (176 of 253) were in just 4 states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa). Thirty-eight states were ignored.

State winner-take-all statutes adversely affect governance. "Battleground" states receive 7% more federal grants than "spectator" states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more Superfund enforcement exemptions, and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions.

Two-thirds of Presidential Campaign Is in Just 6 States

Two-thirds (273 of 399) of the general-election campaign events in the 2016 presidential race were in just 6 states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Michigan).

94% of the 2016 events (375 of the 399) were in 12 states (the 11 states identified earlier in the year as "battleground" states by Politico and The Hill and Arizona. This fact validates the statement by former presidential candidate and Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin on September 2, 2015, that ""The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president. Twelve states are."

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Facebook: Still Literally The Worst

Facebook's Fight Against Fake News Was Undercut by Fear of Conservative Backlash

According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company's decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias. One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people's feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It's unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.

"They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, "there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics," and that "a lot of product decisions got caught up in that."

"The strength of our community depends on authentic communication."

"The news would be true if you people would just play nice."

The feedback we've gotten tells us that authentic stories are the ones that resonate most.

"Users tell us that things that they think are true make them happy."

"We rely heavily on the community to report content."

"We in the petrochemical industry rely heavily on the community to report toxic spills."

In a Facebook post published after the election, former Facebook product designer Bobby Goodlatte blamed the social network for boosting the visibility of "highly partisan, fact-light media," and for not taking bigger steps to combat the spread of fake news in the lead-up to the election. "A bias towards truth isn't an impossible goal for News Feed," he wrote. "But it's now clear that democracy suffers if our news feeds incentivize bullshit."

Zuckerberg:

"Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea."

Move Fast & Break Democracy!

I don't know how Facebook thinks -- who could? But it might be something like this: The real engagement drivers are fun videos, viral things about human cultural identities, the world's largest banana splits, racist things, boobs, and things about aliens. Everyone is upset today that Macedonian teenagers searching for a quick buck wrote that Hillary Clinton had an FBI employee murdered. But what about tomorrow? Let's say you blocked all the publishers from Macedonia. Are you also going to take away the articles that say that healing crystals can lower blood pressure? What about if CBS Sunday Morning does a piece about angels? [...]

For Mark Zuckerberg to say that less than 1% of news on Facebook is a hoax is a little like saying that less than 1% of your brain is malignant cancer. It's not the 1% but the malignancy. It sounds like things are 99% okay, but it's actually a very bad diagnosis.

This is your irregularly-scheduled reminder:

If you work for Facebook, quit. It is morally indefensible for you to use your skills to make that company more powerful. By working there, you are making the world an objectively worse place. I'm sure you can find a job working for a company that you don't have to apologize for all the time.

You can do it. I believe in you.

Previously, previously, previously.

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John Oliver's half hour monologue on Trump is amazing

"It's true! That happened!"

"If you're like me, the implications of this have been hitting you in waves. One minute you're numb, and the next minute you realize that Donald Trump, this man, will soon have access to the nuclear codes. Then maybe you get distracted by daily life until it hits you again, oh, our future president was supported by a former Grand Wizard of the Klan, and sixty million people voted for him despite that. And then maybe you finally manage to get some sleep. But then you wake up realizing, oh shit, the Supreme Court! [...]

Now, it has been wave after wave of nausea all week. I woke up on Thursday feeling fractionally better, but then I turned on the TV and saw Trump in the Oval Office with President Obama. And just look at the President's face there! He cannot believe what he's looking at either! [...]

And then you remember, Trump's going to be in charge of the military! And leaders there do not know what to expect. [...] Our President-Elect has, at various times, said he would bomb civilians, loot oil, and waterboard, which isn't so much a military strategy as the series of words that Donald Rumsfeld mutters so that he can stay hard while he's masturbating.

Look, Trump won this election. Which means he won the Electoral College, which for reasons I will never understand no matter how many times it's explained to me is how things are done. And many people, it's important to remember, many people are happy to see him in office. [...] But for the rest of us, we are faced with the same questions as a guy that woke up the day after a Vegas bachelor party, deep in the desert, naked, tied to a cactus and a dead clown.

Namely: how the fuck did we get here, and what the fuck do we do now?"

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The Pyramid at the End of the World

Nekoma's only bar, the Pain Reliever, sits on its only street.

At one end are three towering silver grain silos and at the other in the distance is the Pyramid peaking over the grassy rise, one of its giant white eyes peering right at you.

According to various people on the Internet, the Pyramid on the Prairie was built by the Illuminati. It was modeled on an ancient Mayan burial temple. The government ran top-secret human experiments inside it. It was the property of a pacifist religious sect who bought it for a large sum of money.

Only the last is true and not completely.

Previously, previously.

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