Happy Thanksgiving

A few years ago, I made the decision not to write anything new for Thanksgiving, but, instead, to recycle something that I’d written the year before. And, ever since then, I’ve been posting the same damn thing. Well, here it is again. I was tempted to remove some of the old references, and replace them with new ones, but it occurred to me that altering this post, which is fast becoming a family classic, would be like changing It’s A Wonderful Life so that Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed dance Gangnam Style instead of the Charleston in that scene that takes place over the high school pool. So, with that in mind, here it is, untouched… Enjoy….

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This Thanksgiving morning I’m tempted to get political and say that I’m thankful above all else for things like the fact that a majority of Americans still think of Sarah Palin as being unfit to serve as President, and that former U.S. House majority leader Tom DeLay was found guilty yesterday of money laundering. But, I’m trying to think less about politics today, and the swirling gyre of retardation that is the Tea Party, and focus instead on friends and family. I probably don’t say it here as often as I should, but I’m incredibly thankful for both. Without my family, I wouldn’t be here. And, without my friends, I wouldn’t be the person that am today… Sure, I might be a better, more successful and more productive version of myself without them, but I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. So, before I get started with this post, I’d just like to note that I’m incredibly thankful for everyone that I’m related to, from my grandmother in Kentucky, to my daughter, who is now in the other room, looking at our enormous turkey through the little glass porthole in the oven. There have been some bad times, and we’ve lost some people over the years, but, all in all, I’d say that we’ve been really fortunate as a family. As far as I know, all of us that are alive at the moment, healthy, happy, employed and have roofs over our heads, which is quite an accomplishment in today’s world. As for friends, the same, for the most part, goes for them. A few are temporarily without partners or between jobs, but, as far as I know, the people in my friendship network (“tribe” sounded too new age) are doing pretty well, and I’m thankful for that. But, what I want to write about today are a few of the less obvious things that I’m thankful for – things that I don’t think I’ve ever shared with you before.

I’m thankful that my friends Dan and Matt, when they’d graduated from college, moved to Ann Arbor to live with me. If they hadn’t, I might never have had the misdirected encouragement I needed to start a band. And, if the three of us hadn’t formed a band, I probably wouldn’t have ever ventured into Ypsilanti, where I met my wife, Linette. There are others that played a role as well, like Ward Tomich, who booked us to play at Cross Street Station that fateful night. Without al of these folks, I’d likely be living in the forest today, sucking nutrients from moss-covered rocks.

I’m thankful for the car crash that my dad had in the late 60’s, which almost tore his arm from his body. If it hadn’t happened, my dad surely would shipped off to fight in Vietnam, with the other men that he’d been training with. Of the dozen or so men in his group, only two returned alive. I cannot imagine growing up without a father.

I’m thankful that my mother encouraged my father to apply for job at AT&T after he was released from the Navy. (He worked at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital after recovering from his accident.) He’d been working highway construction jobs when she talked him into applying for a position at a remote audio relay station of some kind near Monticello, Kentucky. He got that job, flipping switches and listening in on people’s private phone calls, and the rest is history. He steadily climbed up through the ranks, ending his career at the company headquarters in New Jersey – probably one of the few people without a college degree to do so. If this hadn’t happened, I would likely still be in the same small town in Kentucky today, instead of in the worldly, sophisticated metropolis of Ypsilanti, Michigan.

While my parents never graduated from college, they did both attend classes as they could, which wasn’t easy with full-time jobs and two kids to raise. I remember pretty clearly my mom studying Spanish late at night at the kitchen table. And I remember them proof-reading class assignments for one another. It made an impression on me, and I’m forever thankful for it. It’ll probably make my mom cry to hear it, but I’m also thankful that they stopped taking me to church at a young age.

I’m thankful that my parents valued education enough to settle our family in a decent school district, instead of closer to where my father was going to be working. My dad, most days, left for work at 5:00 AM to catch the bus, and didn’t return until 7:00 PM or so at night. He did that for over a dozen years straight, and, because of that, I got to attend a great public school, where I met people like Dan and Matt – the guys I mentioned above who moved to Ann Arbor to make noise, drink $1 pitchers of beer, and publish zines with me.

Speaking of sacrifice, I’m also thankful that my distant relatives made the decision to come to America when they did. They did so without knowing if they’d ever see their homelands again. They left everything they knew in England, Sweden, Scotland, and Poland, in order to make a better life for their families. And, it’s because of their sacrifices that I’m here today, not having to work in the fields from sun up to sun down as they did.

Oh, and I’m thankful that, of all the mental illnesses in the world, I got OCD, which kind of has its up-side.

OK, there’a whole lot more I’d like to say, but that’ll have to be it for now, as the buzzer on the oven is ringing.

Happy holidays.

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J. Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, sees evidence that election results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked

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On Election Day, J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, told the BBC, “Unless the election is extraordinarily close, it is unlikely that an attack will result in the wrong candidate getting elected.”

Well, you all know what happened next.

The whole election came down to just 107,330 Votes in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

And, now, Halderman, and other prominent computer scientists, are urging an investigation.

Yes, as we were discussing yesterday, it’s looking as though things are about to get even more strange.

The following clip comes by way of New York magazine.

Hillary Clinton is being urged by a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers to call for a recount in three swing states won by Donald Trump, New York has learned. The group, which includes voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, believes they’ve found persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked. The group is so far not speaking on the record about their findings and is focused on lobbying the Clinton team in private.

Last Thursday, the activists held a conference call with Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and campaign general counsel Marc Elias to make their case, according to a source briefed on the call. The academics presented findings showing that in Wisconsin, Clinton received 7 percent fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic-voting machines compared with counties that used optical scanners and paper ballots. Based on this statistical analysis, Clinton may have been denied as many as 30,000 votes; she lost Wisconsin by 27,000. While it’s important to note the group has not found proof of hacking or manipulation, they are arguing to the campaign that the suspicious pattern merits an independent review — especially in light of the fact that the Obama White House has accused the Russian government of hacking the Democratic National Committee.

According to current tallies, Trump has won 290 Electoral College votes to Clinton’s 232, with Michigan’s 16 votes not apportioned because the race there is still too close to call. It would take overturning the results in both Wisconsin (10 Electoral College votes) and Pennsylvania (20 votes), in addition to winning Michigan’s 16, for Clinton to win the Electoral College. There is also the complicating factor of “faithless electors,” or members of the Electoral College who do not vote according to the popular vote in their states. At least six electoral voters have said they would not vote for Trump, despite the fact that he won their states.

The Clinton camp is running out of time to challenge the election. According to one of the activists, the deadline in Wisconsin to file for a recount is Friday; in Pennsylvania, it’s Monday; and Michigan is next Wednesday. Whether Clinton will call for a recount remains unclear. The academics so far have only a circumstantial case that would require not just a recount but a forensic audit of voting machines. Also complicating matters, a senior Clinton adviser said, is that the White House, focused on a smooth transfer of power, does not want Clinton to challenge the election result. Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri did not respond to a request for comment. But some Clinton allies are intent on pushing the issue. This afternoon, Huma Abedin’s sister Heba encouraged her Facebook followers to lobby the Justice Department to audit the 2016 vote. “Call the DOJ…and tell them you want the votes audited,” she wrote. “Even if it’s busy, keep calling”…

So, what do you think? Is this just one more conspiracy theory, or might there actually be something to this? And, if so, should we fight for an investigation? Without a paper trail, I don’t know how possible it would be, but is it worth the effort? Or, at this point, would it just be a distraction, keeping us from the real task at hand, which is trying to build a unified resistance against the Trump administration?

If you should want to call the Department of Justice and request that the 2016 vote audited, here’s how to reach them.

Department of Justice: 1-800-253-3931 (press 5) or 202-353-1555 (leave message).

And, here, if it helps, is a script shared with my by a friend last night: “My name is [first last name], and I’m calling from [city],[state] to respectfully request you pursue an investigation into the possibility of vote tampering in 2016 presidential election, with particular attention to Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Please issue an injunction until a thorough investigation can take place.”

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Maybe it’s just me, but are you finding it difficult to get in the Thanksgiving mood when Nazis are gathering in D.C. to chant “Hail Trump”?

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Given that, for many of us, this Thanksgiving will be the first time since the election that we’ll be spending time with our Trump-supporting relatives, several articles have been written about how to open up lines of communication, in hopes that, just maybe, constructive dialogue can be had. While I have my doubts as to whether, in most cases, reasonable conversations can be had over turkey with people who, at best, supported a candidate in spite of his clearly being a lying, racist misogynist, especially when all parties involved will be well-armed with cutlery, I appreciate the effort that people will be investing, and wish them all the best.

I know, in most instances, if your aim is truly to engage in meaningful conversation, with the objective of finding common ground, this probably wouldn’t work as a strategy, but, if it should come up, I’d be incredibly interested to know what the Trump supporters in you family make of the fact not only that our President-elect has selected a known white nationalist to be his chief White House strategist, but that, since the election, we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of incidents of racial intimidation directed at Americans of color.

Again, I know it might be counterproductive, if your objective is to build bridges, but I’d be particularly interested to know what your conservative relatives think of this video which came out earlier today of National Policy Institute President Richard B. Spencer, who the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a “professional racist in khakis,” addressing more than 200 of his fellow white nationalists at an event in Washington, DC this past Saturday… During the event, as you can see it the video, the attendees chanted, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”

The Atlantic, which apparently had a person shooting video of the event for a documentary they’re working on about Spencer, had the following to say about what they saw transpire.

…For most of the day, a parade of speakers discussed their ideology in relatively anodyne terms, putting a presentable face on their agenda. But after dinner, when most journalists had already departed, Spencer rose and delivered a speech to his followers dripping with anti-Semitism, and leaving no doubt as to what he actually seeks. He referred to the mainstream media as “Lügenpresse,” a term he said he was borrowing from “the original German”; the Nazis used the word to attack their critics in the press.

“America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Spencer said. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

The audience offered cheers, applause, and enthusiastic Nazi salutes…

Spencer, who is credited with bringing white nationalism into the American mainstream under the banner of the “alt-right,” has said his dream is “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, and the work of his Virginia-based think tank, they’re also proponents of “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”

Again, I know it may put a damper on the festivities to broach the subject of ethnic cleansing over the dinner table, but, if you should have an opportunity to share this video over the holiday, I’d be curious to know what kind of response you get. I suspect most would write it off as just the ranting of a few on the far right fringe. I’ve got to think, however, that some might actually see it for what it is – a very real, and growing, threat to everything that America stands for. And I would love hear what those people – the ones who voted for Trump and are now concerned about the rise of the far right – are doing in order to stop their party from embracing the principles of white nationalism.

I should add that I wouldn’t, if I were you, suggest that your Trump supporting relatives are responsible for what we’re beginning to see play out across America. I don’t expect that anything good would come of yelling, “Look what you’ve done, Mom!” However, I do think it’s possible that, if you approach it with a certain degree of sensitivity, leaving your relatives a way to exit the conversation with their dignity somewhat intact, progress can be made… What if, for instance, you were to say something like… “I know this isn’t what you were expecting when you voted for Trump, Dad. I know you were angry about the status quo, and just wanted to shake up the political system, bringing in an outsider with a different perspective, someone who could make things better. I know, when you cast your ballot, you weren’t thinking that Trump’s win could usher in an era of brutality and racism. And I know these things that we’re seeing now have to trouble you. My question for you is, at what point do you act? What has to happen for you to accept that this isn’t just a few bad apples, but something more significant? And, when that happens, how will you respond?

However you decide to approach it, I wish you the best of luck, and I hope your family is able to weather the storm.. And here’s hoping, in spite of everything happening around us, you can all find something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

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Thank you, Mike Pence, for drawing my attention to Alexander Hamilton

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In politics, as in business, it’s long been accepted practice to release bad news on Fridays in hopes of keeping media scrutiny to a minimum… And, I’m sure it was with this in mind that President-elect Donald Trump, this past Friday, released word that he’d agreed to pay a $25 million settlement to former students of Trump University, rather than go to court and respond to charges that his unaccredited education company was, to quote a former Trump University employee, “a fraudulent scheme… that preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.” [During the campaign, Trump had vowed to fight the charges, which he said had no merit, vigorously in court, but apparently, as with so many other things, like his promise to reopen the coal mines of West Virginia, he had a sudden change of heart after winning.] In the age of social media, however, releasing news on Friday is no guarantee that people won’t see it. And, as you might imagine, word that our soon-to-be President had essentially paid $25 million rather than face fraud charges in court, quickly made its way across social networks. Fortunately for Trump, however, the barrage of negative posts did not last long, thanks to another, even bigger, news story.

Mike Pence, our aggressively anti-gay Vice President-elect, had, for whatever reason, decided that he needed to see the Broadway musical Hamilton early Friday evening. And, as you might imagine, he wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms by the theater-loving audience he encountered. And, when word made it out of the theater that Pence was not only welcomed by a chorus of boos, but addressed from the stage by the cast, the story of the $25 million settlement was effectively pushed from the front page of the internet. [Brandon Victor Dixon, the black actor who currently plays the role of Aaron Burr in the musical, addressed Pence directly after the performance, stating, “We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us.”]

Well, as you might imagine, some immediately speculated that it wasn’t just a coincidence that Pence, who has advocated for both gay conversion therapy and anti-immigrant policies, felt the need to see a Broadway musical with a plot revolving in part around the awesomeness of immigrants, featuring an openly gay, Latino leading man. [The chorus “Immigrants, we get the job done,” which is sung jointly by Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis di Lafayette in the play, received a standing ovation during the performance that Pence attended.] Yes, some are suggesting, that Pence was directed to see Hamilton, knowing that his presence would create an incident which would both push the Trump University fraud case off the front page, and give our President-elect an opportunity to lash out on Twitter against the cruel liberals in the audience who had made his Vice President feel so unwelcome… If true, it was absolutely brilliant, and demonstrates just what we’re up against.

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[“If your media outlet is focused on Trump v Hamilton instead of Trump’s $25m fraud settlement, you are a sad pawn in Trump’s game,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior aide to Barack Obama, to The Guardian… “The controversies will divert you from the scandals,” warned David Frum, a former speechwriter to president George W Bush.]

Interestingly, though, this purposeful diversion on the part of the Trump administration, if that’s what it was, had an unintended consequence for me. Having never seen the musical Hamilton, this most recent incident got me doing a little research into the plot, which, in turn, led me read about the life of Alexander Hamilton online, which in turn led to a frenzied search among our bookcases, looking for my copy of The Federalist Papers. [The so-called Federalist Papers are a collection of 85 articles submitted anonymously to New York newspapers beginning in 1787 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution.] And I didn’t reemerge from the Hamilton rabbit hole until I’d come to Federalist Paper #68 (March 12, 1788), in which Hamilton, writing under the alias Publius, says the following, which, given the current situation we’re facing as a nation, seems very much worthy of discussion. “The process of (the Electoral College),” he wrote, “affords a moral certainty, 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.”

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I’m sure someone else out there, with a better understanding of Constitutional history, can do a better job of explaining it than I can, but here’s what I understand Hamilton trying to impart in that quote… Essentially, what he’s saying there is that, when he and his fellow founding fathers drafted the Constitution, they purposefully chose not to have our President selected by a simple majority vote. Having seen examples in history of people selecting unqualified leaders in the past, they chose instead to create a system, wherein, instead of voting directly for our candidates, the voters in each state instead select Electors, who are then given the task of electing the President of the United States. And, in that way, four founding fathers built in a safeguard that, in time of emergency, could be employed to save the republic.

And, the more alarming the prospect of the Trump presidency looks, the more people seem to be rallying to this idea, as first expressed by Hamilton, that Electors should have the freedom to essentially override the popular vote. [In this case, though, it wouldn’t really be an override of the will of the people, as Hillary Clinton’s popular vote count currently exceeds Trump’s by over 1.5 million.] Here, to give you a sense of what people are saying, is a clip from an article in today’s Atlantic titled The Electoral College Was Meant to Stop Men Like Trump From Being President.

Americans talk about democracy like it’s sacred. In public discourse, the more democratic American government is, the better. The people are supposed to rule.

But that’s not the premise that underlies America’s political system. Most of the men who founded the United States feared unfettered majority rule. James Madison wrote in Federalist 10 that systems of government based upon “pure democracy … have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property.” John Adams wrote in 1814 that, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself.”

The framers constructed a system that had democratic features. The people had a voice. They could, for instance, directly elect members of the House of Representatives. But the founders also self-consciously limited the people’s voice.

The Bill of Rights is undemocratic. It limits the federal government’s power in profound ways, ways the people often dislike. Yet the people can do almost nothing about it. The Supreme Court is undemocratic, too. Yes, the people elect the president (kind of, more on that later), who appoints justices of the Supreme Court, subject to approval by the Senate, which these days is directly elected, too. But after that, the justices wield their extraordinary power for as long as they wish without any democratic accountability. The vast majority of Americans may desperately want their government to do something. The Supreme Court can say no. The people then lose, unless they pass a constitutional amendment, which is extraordinarily difficult, or those Supreme Court justices die.

That’s the way the framers wanted it. And, oddly, it’s the way most contemporary Americans want it too. Americans say they revere democracy. Yet they also revere those rights—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms—that the government’s least democratic institutions protect. Americans rarely contemplate these contradictions. If they did, they might be more open to preventing Donald Trump from becoming the next president, the kind of democratic catastrophe that the Constitution, and the Electoral College in particular, were in part designed to prevent.

Donald Trump was not elected on November 8. Under the Constitution, the real election will occur on December 19. That’s when the electors in each state cast their votes.

The Constitution says nothing about the people as a whole electing the president. It says in Article II that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” Those electors then vote for president and vice-president. They can be selected “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” Which is to say, any way the state legislature wants. In 14 states in the early 19th century, state legislatures chose their electors directly. The people did not vote at all.

This ambiguity about how to choose the electors was the result of a compromise. James Madison and some other framers favored some manner of popular vote for president. Others passionately opposed it. Some of the framers wanted Congress to choose the president. Many white southerners supported the Electoral College because it counted their non-voting slaves as three-fifths of a person, and thus gave the South more influence than it would have enjoyed in a national vote. The founders compromised by leaving it up to state legislatures. State legislatures could hand over the selection of electors to the people as a whole. In that case, the people would have a voice in choosing their president. But—and here’s the crucial point—the people’s voice would still not be absolute. No matter how they were selected, the electors would retain the independence to make their own choice…

And others, under Hamilton’s name, are pushing for our 2016 electors to essentially break the promises they’ve made to cast their votes on behalf of Trump, and cast them for Clinton instead. [As I understand it, we’ve had 157 “Faithless Electors” in U.S. history, so it’s not unprecedented, but the scale being discussed here, in the movement to get committed Electors to vote against Trump, is significantly larger than anything we’ve seen discussed in this country before.] The following overview, which is from the site Hamilton Electors, sums it up quite well.

#HamiltonElectors are patriots participating in the electoral process who believe that Presidential Electors are responsible for safeguarding our nation’s future and ensuring that the next President is the best person for the job. As Electors, we honor Alexander Hamilton’s vision that the Electoral College should act as a Constitutional failsafe against those lacking requisite qualifications, ability, and virtue from becoming President. Guided by the Framers’ original intent, we’re compelled this year to do our job as Electors, to put party aside, and to put America first. So we are encouraging Electors from both red and blue states to answer the Founding Fathers’ call, deliberate, and unite behind an alternative Republican Candidate: the Hamilton Candidate. Americans of all political persuasions are invited to join us and show their support online by spreading the word online, in their communities, and at their statehouse on December 19 when the Electoral College officially meets.

[Yes, they’re calling for another Republican candidate to be substituted for Trump. Others, however, are suggesting that either Clinton or Sanders receive the votes of these Electors.]

For what it’s worth, I should add that I’m not altogether comfortable with the idea. While it’s painfully obvious to me me that Trump is a dangerous and reprehensible man, and a threat to our nation, I don’t like the precedent that it would set. The idea that 538 Electors could just choose our next President on their own seems incredibly undemocratic to me. But, as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures, and I suspect, if the founding fathers were with us today, they’d tell us that Trump is exactly they kind of person they constructed the Electoral College to protect us from. But, yeah, I’d hate it if the shoe were on the other foot, and Republicans had tried to keep Obama from taking office by essentially coordinating an Electoral College coup. But, then again, in this case, Trump not only lost the popular vote, but we now know that both the FBI and the Russian government interfered with electoral process in order to deliver a dangerous, authoritarian xenophobe to the White House. So, yes, I think it’s worth at least discussing the possibility of “the Hamilton option.”

Personally, even if we were successful, and convinced enough Electors to turn “faithless,” and vote to keep Trump from the White House, I’m not convinced the results would be any better. I think, most likely, it would lead to civil war. But, as I suspect we’re heading in that direction anyway, I’m to sure how much that would really matter. No matter what we do at this point, it just feels like we’re in for a lot of pain, sorrow and insanity.

As much as it pains me to say it, I think we’re so far past reality now that there’s no hope of turning things around. I mean, we elected someone we all knew to be a pussy-grabbing conman… how does a nation come back from that?

At this point, it feels like we’re living inside a really poorly written mini-series.

Whenever I think, “Well, things couldn’t possibly get any weirder,” they do. The plot just keeps unfolding, getting stranger and stranger by the day. Yesterday it was Ivanka Trump announcing that she’d be selling the jewelry off her body, as though the White House were just a set in the QVC studio. And today our President, who has constantly derided members of the left for being too sensitive, is attacking Broadway for hurting the feelings of his Vice President, all while Nazis across town were cheering him over dinner. And there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight.

I’m not one to make predictions, but, if I had to guess, I’d say, based on what we’ve seen thus far, that we’re going to see some Electoral College drama. And I say that primarily because the musical Hamilton has now been brought into this narrative. It’s like when you’re reading a book, and a character mentions some little detail, and you just know that it’s going to be significant later, as it wouldn’t have been said otherwise. It just seems to perfect to me that Pence was at Hamilton. It feels like we’re deep inside of a plot that’s already been written… Is it just me, or are you feeling it too?

[The drawing at the top of this post is of Alexander Hamilton being mortally wounded in a duel by Aaron Burr, the sitting Vice President of the United States, on July 11, 1804. I decided to include it as a reminder that our nation’s history has been absolutely fucking crazy from the start. I thought that some of you might take some comfort in that.]

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Can an app help “Stop Trump” and create a culture of active resistance?

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I’d like to preface this post by saying that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone else already had this same idea that I’m about to share with you here. As it’s so simple, I’d actually be surprised if someone hadn’t. But, as I haven’t seen anything like it before, I thought that I’d mention it here, in hopes that it might lead to an interesting and productive conversation on how technology might help us battle against what’s coming… I should also mention that, if no one is doing it yet, I really wouldn’t care if one of you wanted to take the ball and run with it. The only thing that matters to me is that a tool, like the one I’m about to describe, gets made and distributed, and I don’t care who does it, as long as they’re on the side of truth, justice and fairness… With all of that said, though, if no one else is already doing it, and if no one else wants to give it a shot, I’d be happy to try, assuming, of course, I can pull together a motivated team of software developers, policy wonks, and marketing people capable of pulling it off. [Surely some of our left-leaning Ann Arbor tech folks would jump at a chance to help save their country, right?]

OK, so here’s the genesis of the idea.

A few days ago, I posted something here asking that people call their elected representatives in Congress and express their anger over President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to appoint Steve Bannon, a white nationalist, as his chief White House strategist. In the post, I included a number of links to sites where people could find contact information for their Senators and Representatives, as well as several other related resources, like a spreadsheet full of tips on how to communicate successfully with one’s elected officials. And, in addition, I also added a bit of detail concerning which House members here in Michigan had already come out against the Bannon appointment, and which hadn’t… And all of this got me thinking, “What if we could make an app that could deliver simple, targeted tasks like this to motivated members of the resistance every day?”

And that’s pretty much the idea. At it’s most basic, the app that I’m envisioning would send you an alert whenever it’s determined that one of your elected officials could use a call urging him or her to take a specific action to thwart the Trump administration. Your phone would buzz, and you’d get a message with the number of an elected official to call, a brief script to follow, and links to additional background information, should you care to do any further research of your own. It would be that simple. [By way of background, it’s important to know that constituent phone calls, to a large extent, dictate the positions elected officials take on specific issues.]

For instance, let’s say an app like this one that I’m describing existed earlier this past week, when I posted about Bannon’s appointment and encouraged people to call the district offices of their Representatives… Let’s say I had the app on my phone. I might get an alert telling me that, as a constituent in Michigan’s 12th Congressional district, I should call the office of Senator Gary Peters, asking him to go on the record against the Bannon appointment. It would do this because, at that time, Gary Peters had not yet taken a stand on Bannon, while my Congressperson, Debbie Dingell, already had. [Peters did eventually come out against Bannon, making a statement on the floor of the Senate yesterday.] In other words, the system, knowing where you were registered to vote, would suggest the best possible call you could make on a specific day to fight the Trump agenda.

And it wouldn’t just have to be about making calls. The system could give you a daily idea on how to push back against the administration. One day, it could be a prompt to make a call, like the one mentioned above. Another day, it could just ask you to post a particular news story to your social network. Or, maybe, it could tell you about a demonstration taking place at a Trump affiliated business within driving distance. Or, perhaps, it could suggest that you to give $5 to Planned Parenthood in response to something said by Vice President-elect Pence the evening before. The important thing is, it would give people something constructive to do every day, keeping them engaged, and helping them to find their voices and use them.

And that’s what I love about this idea… It would get people into the habit of calling their elected officials on a regular basis, a necessary first step in building an active culture of resistance in which individual citizens feel empowered to voice their opinions.

And, on top of all of this, if we could sell this app for a few bucks, we might also be able to raise some money for a few good causes, like the ACLU.

I should add that I know this isn’t a trivial task. It would require some work. In Michigan alone, we have 14 Congressional districts, and we’d have to have a team of people either constantly thinking about where pressure could best be applied, or a system where people could collectively decide on such things, which would add a significant level of complexity. But, given what we’re facing, I think the effort might be worth it.

So, what do you think? Is it worth pursuing?

Posted in Ideas, Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

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