Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-03-26 08:48am

I would argue that some of the big contributing variables to the early success of Virginia plantation owners in American politics were:
1) They had a relatively 'martial' culture (could talk more about this later) that made it easy for them to establish themselves as war heroes.
2) The state had a larger population in absolute terms and had been developed longer, making it a more natural source for strong political networks
3) As slave-owning aristocrats they had more leisure time to practice politics. The was the dirty underbelly of the Jeffersonian vision for America, that his "yeoman farmers" might very well have to own slaves or be too busy grubbing dirt to participate in the Jeffersonian concept of citizenship.
4) Their state was physically proximate to the national capital, which is something of an advantage in playing national politics in an era before railroads and telegraphs. Richmond to Washington is a few days' strenuous travel if you have a good carriage; Boston to Washington is rather longer.

The overwhelming dominance of slaveowners over non-slaveowners in the presidency (excepting people named Adams) seems to have been an artifact of the political order that ended with the Jackson administration and the rise of the Whigs. Note that as slavery became more of a political issue in the 1840s and '50s, we see fewer and fewer slaveowners winning presidential elections. The slave states did not reliably vote in a bloc, or when they did vote in a bloc they often supported "slaveocrat" third party or dark horse candidates that split the vote. This process ultimately foreshadowed the 1860 election outcome, where the free states voted "Lincoln" and the slave states voted "anyone BUT Lincoln" and couldn't agree on which non-Lincoln to elect.

That said, it is clearly true that the Electoral College had the effect of giving the slave states exaggerated electoral clout. I suspect it also got into the Constitution because it also gives small states exaggerated clout whether they own slaves or not, that this helped, but the slave/free state divide was certainly a factor.
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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Civil War Man » 2018-03-26 06:36pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-03-26 08:48am
The overwhelming dominance of slaveowners over non-slaveowners in the presidency (excepting people named Adams) seems to have been an artifact of the political order that ended with the Jackson administration and the rise of the Whigs. Note that as slavery became more of a political issue in the 1840s and '50s, we see fewer and fewer slaveowners winning presidential elections. The slave states did not reliably vote in a bloc, or when they did vote in a bloc they often supported "slaveocrat" third party or dark horse candidates that split the vote. This process ultimately foreshadowed the 1860 election outcome, where the free states voted "Lincoln" and the slave states voted "anyone BUT Lincoln" and couldn't agree on which non-Lincoln to elect.
A couple things upended that political order.
1. Westward expansion. More states means more electors means it's harder for one state to be a kingmaker. For example, in 1792, Virginia had almost 16% of all electors, which is the largest concentration of electors in a single state in American history. By the 1860 election, they had under 5%. Ironically, this was the slave states hoisting themselves by their own petard, since they were the driving force behind the westward expansion. The slave owning class needed to constantly expand into new territory, since the way they farmed inevitably exhausted the soil and left it essentially infertile.

2. Immigration. Large numbers of immigrants from Europe, especially Irish immigrants (the Great Potato Famine took place between 1845-1849), came to the US, heavily favoring northern ports, since there were more opportunities for work in the industrialized north than in the south, where a majority of the work was agricultural, and that most of that was done by slave labor. As an added kicker, each new immigrant in the north counted as a full person for the purpose of determining electors, while new slaves in the south only counted as 60% of one.

Just look at the change in electors over time. NY had 12 in 1792, grew to 42 by 1832, before decreasing to 35-36 from 1844 to 1860. PA went from 15 in 1792, got as high as 30 in 1832, then went down to 26-27 from 1844 to 1860. Meanwhile, VA has 21 in 1792, by 1832 they were only up to 23, and by 1844-1860 they were down to 15-17. The political clout of the northern states grew as they got more people, which is the exact opposite of the "the Electoral College benefits small states" argument.

Also, fun fact, the reason the slave states split between different candidates during the 1860 election was because the delegates from the slave states intentionally sabotaged the Democratic Convention in Charleston to make sure that the party would fail to pick a nominee. They did this because they wanted Lincoln to be elected, since it would give them a casus belli for seceding from the Union and declaring war on the northern states.

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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by houser2112 » 2018-03-27 08:24am

Civil War Man wrote:
2018-03-26 06:36pm
The political clout of the northern states grew as they got more people, which is the exact opposite of the "the Electoral College benefits small states" argument.
Is anybody saying this? "The Electoral College benefits small states" is really "the Electoral College benefits small states disproportionately". The EC is not the Senate; the number of votes for a particular state is dependent partially on population, so if the northern states are gaining population much faster than the southern, their influence will surely grow. As of 2010, Rhode Island (the biggest gainer under the EC) has 0.34% of the population, but 0.74% of the EC votes (+0.40%). The biggest loser, California, has 12.07% of the population, but just 10.22% of EC votes (-1.84%).

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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Civil War Man » 2018-03-27 10:03am

houser2112 wrote:
2018-03-27 08:24am
As of 2010, Rhode Island (the biggest gainer under the EC) has 0.34% of the population, but 0.74% of the EC votes (+0.40%). The biggest loser, California, has 12.07% of the population, but just 10.22% of EC votes (-1.84%).
That still ignores realities of voter participation. If there were truly universal suffrage and 100% voter turnout in all states, that would be true. Turnout in the US is closer to 40-60%, though, depending on who's up for election. If you halve the number of ballots being cast in a state, you double the voting power of the ballots that are cast, because electoral votes are set prior to the election and do not change based on participation.

If we assume that 60% of the total population turns out to vote (because presidential elections tend to have higher turnout), and that turnout is even across all states, then based on your own numbers RI would have 0.204% of the population in control 0.74% of the EC votes (+0.536%), while California would have 7.242% of the population in control of their 10.22% share of the EC (+2.978%). The decrease in turnout increases RI's share slightly, but turns California from the biggest loser into one of the major winners. If we make it a low turnout year, RI controls 0.74% of the EC with 0.136% of the population (+0.604%), while California still controls 10.22% of the EC with only 4.828% of the population (+5.382%).

Again, the EC disproportionately benefits states with large populations and low voter turnout, because large populations increase the state's share of electoral votes, while low voter turnout puts that larger share of votes in the hands of a small number of people. It was most explicit in the antebellum US, where slaves were used to artificially boost the congressional representation of slave states despite them not possessing the right to vote by design. Today, it's why most attempts at manipulating the vote involve preventing opponents from voting as opposed to easily detectable shenanigans like ballot box stuffing.

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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by houser2112 » 2018-03-27 11:04am

Civil War Man wrote:
2018-03-27 10:03am
houser2112 wrote:
2018-03-27 08:24am
As of 2010, Rhode Island (the biggest gainer under the EC) has 0.34% of the population, but 0.74% of the EC votes (+0.40%). The biggest loser, California, has 12.07% of the population, but just 10.22% of EC votes (-1.84%).
That still ignores realities of voter participation.
Well, I suppose it does, but outside of the blatant voter participation discrepancies like in the antebellum South you mentioned, I don't see how that has anything to do with the point being made about the EC.
If there were truly universal suffrage and 100% voter turnout in all states, that would be true. Turnout in the US is closer to 40-60%, though, depending on who's up for election. If you halve the number of ballots being cast in a state, you double the voting power of the ballots that are cast, because electoral votes are set prior to the election and do not change based on participation.
And if we reductio ad absurdum it all the way down to 1 voter per state, the big pop states are the big winners because they have the most EC votes. I don't see how it's useful to say that because there are ways to reduce the number of people that actually vote, therefore EC is a bad system. With voter suppression, any system that is at all dependent on population will have this effect.

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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Civil War Man » 2018-03-27 12:09pm

houser2112 wrote:
2018-03-27 11:04am
And if we reductio ad absurdum it all the way down to 1 voter per state, the big pop states are the big winners because they have the most EC votes. I don't see how it's useful to say that because there are ways to reduce the number of people that actually vote, therefore EC is a bad system. With voter suppression, any system that is at all dependent on population will have this effect.
Except 1 voter per state doesn't happen, while 40-60% turnout is not uncommon for an American election (though usually slightly higher on Presidential election years). And even my counter-example was likely underestimating the discrepancy, because I didn't factor in things like age (since children count towards population, but cannot vote) or suppression of votes for felons, which differ from state to state, or differences in voter turnout (RI and California are estimated to have had slightly under 60% turnout in 2016, while Colorado had over 70% and Texas had a little over 51%). Basing the estimates on 1 voter per state is just as fallacious as one that assumes 100% of the population casts a ballot.

And my point is that that the EC is a bad system because it rewards voter suppression, because a state's share of the vote does not change based on turnout. Even voter suppression tactics that disenfranchise your supporters are rewarded, so long as they disenfranchise your opponents more. With something like straight national popular vote for President, a state's share of the vote is based only on voter turnout. Suppressing the vote only decreases the say your state has in choosing the President under a popular vote system, because it increases the share of the vote for states that don't engage in voter suppression.

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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by houser2112 » 2018-03-27 12:38pm

Civil War Man wrote:
2018-03-27 12:09pm
And my point is that that the EC is a bad system because it rewards voter suppression, because a state's share of the vote does not change based on turnout. Even voter suppression tactics that disenfranchise your supporters are rewarded, so long as they disenfranchise your opponents more. With something like straight national popular vote for President, a state's share of the vote is based only on voter turnout. Suppressing the vote only decreases the say your state has in choosing the President under a popular vote system, because it increases the share of the vote for states that don't engage in voter suppression.
Any system, even PV, will reward voter suppression if you can do it in such a way to benefit you more than the other guy. I can't think of a system that accounts for individual votes at all where this wouldn't be a problem, so I guess I just don't see it as an indictment of EC.

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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Civil War Man » 2018-03-27 01:37pm

houser2112 wrote:
2018-03-27 12:38pm
Any system, even PV, will reward voter suppression if you can do it in such a way to benefit you more than the other guy. I can't think of a system that accounts for individual votes at all where this wouldn't be a problem, so I guess I just don't see it as an indictment of EC.
This is only true for certain races. Under a popular vote system, voter suppression is only rewarded if it affects the whole system. For all of its massive amount of flaws, one of the benefits of the US's decentralized electoral system is that voter suppression is difficult to apply nationwide. California cannot affect who votes in Texas, and vice versa. So, if President were determined by nationwide popular vote, voter suppression in either state would only succeed in decreasing the say that one state has in determining President unless the other states also engaged in the same voter suppression.

The suppression would be rewarded downballot, though. State-wide voter suppression would be rewarded for gubernatorial, senatorial, congressional, and local elections. In a similar vein, voter suppression in local elections would be rewarded for local positions like mayor or school board member, but would only serve to reduce the municipality's say in state-wide elections unless other cities and towns did the same thing.

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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-03-27 01:59pm

You still deal with 43% of Texans voting for Clinton and 32% of Californians voting for Trump in 2016. Those votes mean nothing in the winner takes all system. And Gerrymandering is one of the more effective voter disenfranchisement systems we currently have. This also helps the gerrymandering party in local and state elections. They can round up enough voters of the opposing party into "gimmie" districts where they are over-represented, thus ensuring their candidate, but also cutting down on how many representatives they can send to D.C. or the state capital.

I don't know how well it would work, but an obviously more fair system (under our dumbass 2 party system) would be if Texas has 10 representatives and 40% voted (D), then Texas sends 4 Dems and 6 Reps to Congress or their state legislature. How those candidates are selected is a whole other matter.

In a presidential race, IMHO (I definitely could be wrong) this would lead to more moderate candidates being fielded since you cannot rely near solely on pandering to the fringe groups because currently if you can carry enough of them, the other votes just don't matter.

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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Vendetta » 2018-03-27 03:29pm

TheFeniX wrote:
2018-03-27 01:59pm
In a presidential race, IMHO (I definitely could be wrong) this would lead to more moderate candidates being fielded since you cannot rely near solely on pandering to the fringe groups because currently if you can carry enough of them, the other votes just don't matter.
It would also make every state more competitive, making it worth the parties time not ignoring any in favour of the larger swing states.

But given that the states get to choose how they do it, and if they promise the parties all their EC votes they can get more pork.

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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-03-27 03:54pm

Vendetta wrote:
2018-03-27 03:29pm
But given that the states get to choose how they do it, and if they promise the parties all their EC votes they can get more pork.
I just find it moronic we're still treating the Federal election system like we did back when there were divides like "slavery vs abolition" or "industry vs agriculture" and we act like moving information reliably takes months, so we still need these special DBags to vote for us.

Even something stupidly simple can do the job: we already HAVE a Federal USPS office pretty much everywhere. And we act like "Hey, Mr. John Smith, since you're here and the primaries are over, would you like to go ahead and cast your vote?" is something we just can't abide. Instead we make people wait in long lines on a certain day and time because we're fucking stupid like that. And our elected officials want to make voting as obtrusive and annoying as possible.

Even if I wanted to do something moronic like say "Make FeniX vote solid (D) in every federal election until I say otherwise," how is that not my right? Then just send me one of those "please update your address (vote) and mail back" junk mails every year.

If the states themselves want to run their bullshit like it's 1800, whatever. But there's really no excuse I can see, except the whims of partisan hacks, why our Federal system hasn't seen a major overhaul. In anything outside local elections: my vote does not fucking matter. Harris was solidly (D) and now Waller is solidly (R). At the local level, there's competition, but it makes it really hard (considering my busted back) to get out and stand in fucking line to cast a vote that means jack shit.

Now, tell me tomorrow my vote for President or Senate members will be counted 1-to-1 with every other American/Texan's vote and I'd be happy to put up with it versus begrudgingly getting off my ass to "do my part" or whatever other bullshit line we come up with to make people do stupid shit.

EDIT: Not just the county, the election districts I was and current am in: they are not competitive at a national level.

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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Esquire » 2018-03-28 10:43am

TRR and I had an argument about this maybe six months ago; I think the contention was something like 'but what if the Russians somebody got my voting records and did [unspecified bad thing] to me because of them?' I'm underselling this, because I think it's silly, but it's not any more unreasonable a thing to worry about than any number of others. This is very neatly addressed by making it an opt-in system, though.
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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-03-28 11:52am

The thing is, ballot secrecy IS a very important consideration. We've seen what societies look like when it's not especially hard to find out how people vote, and it's not pretty. We take for granted that you have the right to keep your voting decisions private from everyone, including the government, if you want to. There is nothing stopping you from telling your Tea-chugging boss that you vote Republican, then muttering "fucker" and voting Democrat just to spite him, for instance.

In a society where electronic records are kept for extended periods of time about who voted on what, the risk of many if not all American voters getting doxxed and having their individual vote choices revealed are... pretty high. This is very likely to result in some additional voter intimidation and suppression in areas where the prevailing culture is strongly (D) or (R)-leaning.
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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Esquire » 2018-03-28 03:39pm

More than the >40% of people who don't vote because it's too much of a hassle? And in any case, it's not exactly tricky to work out what somebody's politics are, given that everybody and their grandmother plasters blatantly partisan stuff all over the place*. I'm not wedded to this, but I think the situation more likely to result in large-scale political persecution is the current one, where tiny weird fringe movements get outsized representation just by being so angry about whatever their semi-imaginary issue is that 100% of them show up on Election Day, and not the one with an opt-in auto-vote system of the sort TheFeniX describes.

Plus, I'm at least a little pro-anything which de-mystifies reform efforts in this country, because there are just so many things which should be fixable with ten minutes and a bottle of legislative white-out but currently require national-scale grassroots movements and take two decades.
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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-03-28 04:45pm

Esquire wrote:
2018-03-28 03:39pm
More than the >40% of people who don't vote because it's too much of a hassle?
Uhhh... maybe? I mean, don't get me wrong, I favor improving people's access to the vote, but NOT at the cost of leaving them susceptible to doxxing over who they voted for.
And in any case, it's not exactly tricky to work out what somebody's politics are, given that everybody and their grandmother plasters blatantly partisan stuff all over the place*.
Thing is, you don't have to if you don't want to. It is possible to be outwardly apolitical, or at least apolitical enough that other people don't know your politics just from being your supervisor at work

Giant leaked datasets of who voted for who would subvert this norm.

Again, it's not that I don't want to reduce the problem, but secret ballots are like free speech in that they were one of the first protections added in the early days of modernish democracy, and they were added for reasons.
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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Esquire » 2018-03-28 05:59pm

Not that early; secret ballots only became universal in the US during the 1890s according to Wikipedia. I'm just quibbling, though - in any case, any company with a significant capital-to-worker ratio* could already use politics as a hiring metric if it wanted to - politics aren't a protected class - and the fact that they don't indicates to me that nobody actually wants to. 'Review super-sketchy stolen voting records dataset' is, I should think, a higher activation-energy activity than 'review Facebook posts.' Yes, this skips over the set of 'people who have gone far out of their way to never say anything political in an attributable place,' but that's... honestly not so large a set of people that I'd really worry about it, assuming that easier voting helps resolve some of the crazy partisanship-related issues we've got now and that I'm not totally off-base. I work and live in a reasonably rarefied setting, maybe it's significantly different elsewhere. I've certainly missed/misread this sort of contextual thing in the past.

Anyway, with an opt-in system, anybody not comfortable with the idea that their political affiliation might someday become known by somebody could just... not opt in. This seems like it would avoid most of the issues you bring up, not so?

*Worded this way to cover entities like Walmart, which could establish a Walmart Secret Police Loss-Prevention Associate force to check up on all its employee's politics if it wanted to, and also Honest Joe's Feed Store in Nowhere, Wyoming, where Honest Joe himself probably knows anybody he's thinking of hiring and could just do some social media digging if he wanted to.
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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Elheru Aran » 2018-03-28 07:37pm

Political *leanings* are one thing. How people actually vote is another. Yes, it's probably predictable to some degree if you want to get personal. But the point is that under the current system you don't *know* for certain that someone voted one way or another, and that's a good thing.
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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-03-28 10:26pm

Esquire wrote:
2018-03-28 05:59pm
Not that early; secret ballots only became universal in the US during the 1890s according to Wikipedia.
Quite frankly, the 19th century was a formative period for modern democracy in general; there were a lot of very basic institutions like "not having any people be slaves" and "universal suffrage" and "one person, one vote" that took time to get established. The reference baseline circa 1800 wasn't "modern democracy" it was "the Roman republic."
I'm just quibbling, though - in any case, any company with a significant capital-to-worker ratio* could already use politics as a hiring metric if it wanted to - politics aren't a protected class - and the fact that they don't indicates to me that nobody actually wants to. 'Review super-sketchy stolen voting records dataset' is, I should think, a higher activation-energy activity than 'review Facebook posts.' Yes, this skips over the set of 'people who have gone far out of their way to never say anything political in an attributable place,' but that's... honestly not so large a set of people that I'd really worry about it...
Uh, the people who go the farthest out of their way to avoid being publicly political may well be the ones who MOST need the ability to avoid doing so. For example, people who live in areas where hyperpartisanship is common and people with opposing political views are in a strong majority, putting them at risk of harassment by specific individuals who would be willing to harass them.

...

More generally, the absence of a secret ballot has a HUGE potential for large scale abuse by government organizations on top of any private-sector issues. That isn't a problem as long as the government is strictly nonpartisan, but we really, really shouldn't strip out all our safeguards against government organizations being partisan just because we take for granted that they won't be.
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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2018-03-28 11:45pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-03-28 10:26pm
Esquire wrote:
2018-03-28 05:59pm
Not that early; secret ballots only became universal in the US during the 1890s according to Wikipedia.
Quite frankly, the 19th century was a formative period for modern democracy in general; there were a lot of very basic institutions like "not having any people be slaves" and "universal suffrage" and "one person, one vote" that took time to get established. The reference baseline circa 1800 wasn't "modern democracy" it was "the Roman republic."
I'm just quibbling, though - in any case, any company with a significant capital-to-worker ratio* could already use politics as a hiring metric if it wanted to - politics aren't a protected class - and the fact that they don't indicates to me that nobody actually wants to. 'Review super-sketchy stolen voting records dataset' is, I should think, a higher activation-energy activity than 'review Facebook posts.' Yes, this skips over the set of 'people who have gone far out of their way to never say anything political in an attributable place,' but that's... honestly not so large a set of people that I'd really worry about it...
Uh, the people who go the farthest out of their way to avoid being publicly political may well be the ones who MOST need the ability to avoid doing so. For example, people who live in areas where hyperpartisanship is common and people with opposing political views are in a strong majority, putting them at risk of harassment by specific individuals who would be willing to harass them.

...

More generally, the absence of a secret ballot has a HUGE potential for large scale abuse by government organizations on top of any private-sector issues. That isn't a problem as long as the government is strictly nonpartisan, but we really, really shouldn't strip out all our safeguards against government organizations being partisan just because we take for granted that they won't be.
To springboard off of this:

Does anyone here think for a second that the Trump administration wouldn't issue an executive order firing any and all federal employees who didn't vote for Trump?
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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Esquire » 2018-03-29 10:44am

It's really, really hard to fire federal employees, and the basic thesis is that making voting easier also makes it vastly less likely that we'll get a second Trump administration - but yeah, fair points, Simon and Alyrium.

I get where you guys are coming from; it's not an unreasonable set of things to be concerned about. My personal thought is that, given [modernity], inclusiveness of the political process is more important to a functioning republic than its privacy, but I freely admit I haven't got any significant personal experience of the potential negatives of that position and may be completely off-base. In any case, there's ways to achieve the benefits which don't pose quite the same risk of the downsides you bring up.
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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-03-29 01:01pm

Yeah. See, the thing is, on another forum I frequent... I have seen, I have specifically seen people on the left calling for, or making claims tantamount to calling for, revoking the voting rights of people who vote or believe along "fascist" lines Some of them define the present-day Republican Party as 'fascist,' and I wouldn't even be criticizing that, except in the context of the whole "revoke the vote" thing

To be fair, those individuals tended to walk that back after the rest of the group gave them a... talking-to, but this is not purely an academic concern. There are, and have always been, people in a democracy willing to try to secure their hold on power by depriving others of the vote. And able to justify doing so in their own terms by saying "but these guys are really terrible!"

Basically, the same impulses that in the past led to things like political parties being banned and people being privately or publicly censured for holding disagreeable political views are clearly still there under the surface. Insofar as [modernity] prevents those impulses from expressing themselves, my theory is that the impulse is blocked through specific mechanisms.

Thus, I consider it unwise to remove or damage the mechanisms, because they may well be examples of Chesterton's fence in action. We may not fully perceive the need for the obstacle, until the obstacle is removed and we are suddenly face to face with the very monster it was built to obstruct! :)
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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by TheFeniX » 2018-03-29 01:49pm

You don't have to ever make the ballot public. We manage to do so with absentee voting. And worrying about the database getting hacked is great up until you realize that the Diebold voting machines could be hacked so easily you really have to put "hacked" in quotation marks.

Either way, I'd expect (wrongly obviously) a way from my government to look at the technology available currently and come up with a way to vote that is fast, secure, and easily accessible. But they don't. Even if they had to go with something stupid like you leave a slip of paper at the USPS, there's ways to make that secure.

There's a middle ground here.

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FaxModem1
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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by FaxModem1 » 2018-04-10 03:08am

Washington Post Opinion
Michael Cohen is in serious legal jeopardy
By Randall D. Eliason

April 9, 2018 at 8:52 PM


Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal attorney, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 19, 2017. (Aaron Bernstein/Reuters)
When your lawyers need lawyers, it’s usually a bad sign. When your lawyers have their offices and homes raided, it’s a really bad sign. News that federal investigators on Monday took the extraordinary step of executing a search warrant at the legal office of Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal attorney, indicates that Cohen is suddenly in serious legal jeopardy of his own. And although the investigation is not directly related to the Mueller probe, it’s yet another example of the legal walls closing in on one of the people closest to Trump — someone who may have a wealth of information about the president’s own conduct.

The FBI executed the search warrants at Cohen’s New York office and his home and hotel room. The warrants were obtained by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. According to a statement from Cohen’s attorney, prosecutors informed him their investigation is, “in part,” based on a referral from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The first thing to note about this striking development is that the warrant was not obtained by Mueller himself. Whatever the subject matter of this particular investigation, it apparently falls outside of Mueller’s jurisdiction and thus resulted in his referral to the New York prosecutors. So we know the potential crimes that led to the search today do not directly relate to Mueller’s inquiry into any conspiracy with Russians to influence the election or related crimes such as obstruction of the special counsel’s investigation.

We also know that a search warrant, unlike a grand jury subpoena, requires prosecutors to go before a federal judge to demonstrate probable cause that a crime has been committed and evidence of that crime can be found in the premises to be searched. Before approving a search of a lawyer’s office, a judge would want to be satisfied that there was some substance behind the prosecutors’ allegations. This is not just some prosecutorial fishing expedition; it bears the imprimatur of a federal judge.

We don’t know for certain the nature of the Southern District’s investigation. The potential crime outside of Mueller’s jurisdiction to which Cohen has been linked most directly relates to the $130,000 payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels just days before the presidential election. If Cohen made that payment himself or facilitated the payment from another individual or company, it could be deemed an illegal contribution to Trump’s campaign. There could be other alleged offenses, such as tax or bank fraud violations, surrounding any such payments as well. Or there could be other non-Stormy-Daniels-related allegations about Cohen’s conduct that have not yet surfaced publicly.

This was not just any search warrant; that the raid took place at a lawyer’s office further highlights the seriousness of the investigation. Searches of an attorney’s office are extremely rare and are not favored, due to their potential to impinge on the attorney-client relationship. Prosecutors must jump through multiple hoops to get such a warrant approved, both within their own office and at the criminal division of Main Justice. (Notably, this would likely have included approval by Trump’s own guy, the new interim U.S. attorney for the Southern District, Geoffrey S. Berman, who was just appointed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions this past January.)

Prosecutors are also required to consider less intrusive alternatives to a search warrant, such as a subpoena, if practical. Approval of a search warrant suggests prosecutors were able to demonstrate not only the gravity of the potential case but also the risk that evidence might be destroyed or otherwise go missing if they pursued a less aggressive option.

Cohen, and perhaps the president, will likely argue that this raid violates the attorney-client privilege. Indeed, on Monday evening, Trump said it was “a disgrace what’s going on.” In a search like this, prosecutors typically set up a privilege team or “taint team” of investigators not involved in the case to review potentially privileged documents and shield those from the team actually involved in the prosecution. There is an exception to the attorney-client privilege if communications to an attorney are used in furtherance of a crime or fraud; that could come into play here as well. And documents related to anything Cohen did on his own — after all, Trump has denied knowing about the payment to Daniels — are likely not privileged if they do not contain attorney-client communications. Documents are not automatically privileged simply because they passed through an attorney’s hands.

There may well be litigation concerning whether particular records seized during this search are protected by privilege. But seizing the records now allows prosecutors to ensure that the integrity of the evidence is maintained while those legal issues are sorted out.

Cohen, someone extremely close to Trump and who has been known as the president’s “fixer,” appears to have serious legal problems. If federal prosecutors feel they have enough on you to execute a search warrant, it’s never a good sign — just ask Paul Manafort. And to the extent that Cohen, part of Trump’s innermost circle, might have knowledge relevant to Mueller’s inquiry, we can’t rule out the possibility that his own legal troubles could induce him to cooperate in the Russia investigation.

Hold on tight — it’s only Monday.
So, what does it mean when the President's lawyer has his office turned upside down in a raid?
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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Vendetta » 2018-04-10 02:13pm

FaxModem1 wrote:
2018-04-10 03:08am
So, what does it mean when the President's lawyer has his office turned upside down in a raid?

It means someone was able to convince a judge he's been a very naughty boy.

Also, it's not Mueller's investigation that's doing this, so it probably means it's something directly about Cohen not necessarily as part of his conduct on the behalf of the President.

Of course, that doesn't mean he can't be persuaded to co-operate with other investigations in progress by this.

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Re: Trump Dump: Internal Policy (Thread I)

Post by Korto » 2018-04-14 11:03am

I just wanted to mention he's not President Bobo the Orange-Faced CLown anymore.

Now he's President Spanky the Orange-Faced Clown.

(With thanks to Colbert)
“I am the King of Rome, and above grammar”
Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor

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