News Releases

Electoral College Can Reflect Popular Vote, no Constitutional Convention Needed

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PAT ROSENSTIEL, pat [at] ainsleyshea.com
Rosenstiel is with the group National Popular Vote. The group advocates the National Popular Vote bill, which “would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide (i.e., all 50 states and the District of Columbia).

“It has been enacted into law in 11 states with 165 electoral votes, and will take effect when enacted by states with 105 more electoral votes.” See the status of the National Popular Vote bill in each state.

The group argues that “State winner-take-all laws are the reason why the vast majority of voters and states are not in play in presidential campaigns.” See video from the group on the constitutionality of the National Popular vote. It notes that states did not originally allocate their electors in a winner-take-all manner. Rather, this practice began proliferating in 1800 because of the rivalry between Virginia and Massachusetts.

Rosenstiel states: “The vast majority of states and the vast majority of voters are ignored because candidates only campaign in a handful of closely divided ‘battleground’ states. Candidates write-off states where they are hopelessly behind. They take for granted states where they are safely ahead. In the 2016 general-election campaign:

“Over half of the campaign events (57 percent of the 399 events) were held in just four states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio).”

Virtually all of the campaign events (94 percent) were in just 12 states (containing only 30 percent of the country’s population).”

Motives of the “Cold-War Hysteria” in U.S. Establishment

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STEPHEN COHEN, sfc1 [at] nyu.edu
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Cohen is professor emeritus of Russian studies, history, and politics at New York University and Princeton University. A Nation contributing editor, his books include Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War.

He recently wrote the piece “Cold War Hysteria vs. U.S. National Security” (with associated interview), which states: “Thus far, no actual facts or other evidence have been made publicly to support allegations that the hacking was carried out on the orders of the Russian leadership, that Russian hackers then gave the damaging materials to WikiLeaks, or that the revelations affected the electoral outcome. Nor are Russian President Putin’s alleged motives credible. Why would a leader whose mission has been to rebuild Russia with economic and other partnerships with the West seek to undermine the political systems of those countries, not only in America but also in Europe, as is charged? Judging by the public debate among Russian policy intellectuals close to the Kremlin, nor is it clear that the Kremlin so favored the largely unknown and unpredictable Trump. But even if Putin was presented with such a possibility, he certainly would have understood that such Russian interference in the U.S. election would become known and thus work in favor of Clinton, not Trump. (Indeed, a major tactic of the Clinton campaign was to allege that Trump was a ‘Putin puppet,’ which seems not to have helped her campaign with voters.)

“Still worse, since the election these allegations have inspired a growing Cold War hysteria in the American bipartisan political-media establishment, still without any actual evidence to support them. … A kind of witch hunt may be unfolding, not only of the kind the Washington Post tried to instigate with its bogus ‘report’ of scores of American websites said to be fronts for Russian propaganda …

“Several motives seem to be behind this bipartisan American campaign against the President-elect, who is being equated with Russian misdeeds. One is to reverse the Electoral College vote. Another is to exonerate the Clinton campaign from its electoral defeat by blaming that instead on Putin and thereby maintaining the Clinton wing’s grip on the Democratic Party. Yet another is to delegitimate Trump even before he is inaugurated. And certainly no less important, to prevent the détente with Russia that Trump seems to seek.”

Obama Could Pardon Immigrants

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AVIVA CHOMSKY, achomsky[at]salemstate.edu
Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American Studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts. Her books include “They Take Our Jobs!” And 20 Other Myths about Immigration and Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal.

She just wrote the piece “A Radical Proposal for Radical Times,” which states: “Donald Trump’s election left many immigrant rights activists in a panicked thought loop. What did he actually say he would do? If he was saying he would deport ‘criminal aliens’ and ‘build a wall,’ is that really any different from what we’ve already seen under the Obama administration? Could he really deport 11 million people? Would he really eliminate President Obama’s signature successful pro-immigrant action, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which granted temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth? If he did, what would happen to these young people? Finally, could there be any way to connect the struggle for immigrant rights to a larger campaign committed to challenging Trump’s extreme version of kleptocratic neoliberal capitalism?

“In the immediate wake of the election much of the attention with respect to the future of U.S. immigration policy has focused on the uncertain status of Dreamers and DACA recipients. On November 17, Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) composed a letter asking Obama to issue a presidential pardon for DACA recipients before he left office, thus making their immigration offenses irrelevant and possibly enabling them to seek permanent legal status. Although the administration quickly rejected the idea, it has not died. A few weeks later, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced the Bridge Act, which would enhance and protect DACA. Meanwhile, at the grassroots, the activism of a growing coalition has made the proposal grow much bolder.

“In large part this is due to the work of groups like the Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative of Boston (IWCC). The IWCC has argued that focusing on ‘Dreamers,’ a group of ‘exceptional’ model immigrants, ignores the key structural, economic, and political issues that ultimately help link immigrants’ struggles to those of all working Americans — the so-called 99 percent.”

* Couldn’t NSA Determine Election Hack? * Why Would Russians Leave Traces?

WILLIAM BINNEY, williambinney0802 [at] comcast.net
RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern [at] gmail.com, @raymcgovern
Binney is former technical director at the National Security Agency. McGovern was a longtime CIA analyst and prepared the daily briefs for presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. They are two of the signers of the recently released memo “U.S. Intel Vets Dispute Russia Hacking Claims” published by Consortium News. They write: “NSA is able to identify both the sender and recipient when hacking is involved. Thanks largely to the material released by Edward Snowden, we can provide a full picture of NSA’s extensive domestic data-collection network including Upstream programs like Fairview, Stormbrew and Blarney. … As for the comments to the media as to what the CIA believes, the reality is that CIA is almost totally dependent on NSA for ground truth in the communications arena. …

“In sum, given what we know of NSA’s existing capabilities, it beggars belief that NSA would be unable to identify anyone — Russian or not — attempting to interfere in a U.S. election by hacking.”

ANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn [at] gmail.com, @andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn just wrote the piece “Questions for the Electors on Russian Hacking” for CounterPunch, which states: “It is being reported that John Podesta, Chairman of the defeated $1.2 billion Clinton presidential campaign, is supporting the call by various officials, including at least 40 Electors, that the members of the Electoral College be given a classified intelligence briefing on the alleged Russian hacking before the College votes on December 19.

“In the event such a briefing comes to pass, it might be helpful if the Electors had some informed questions to ask the CIA.

“1/ The DNC hackers inserted the name of the founder of Russian intelligence, in Russian, in the metadata of the hacked documents.  Why would the G.R.U., Russian military intelligence do that?

“2/ If the hackers were indeed part of Russian intelligence, why did they use a free Russian email account, or, in the hack of the state election systems, a Russian-owned server?  Does Russian intelligence normally display such poor tradecraft? …”

Cockburn’s books include the recently released Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins and, from 1983, The Threat: Inside the Soviet Military Machine.

Trump’s Energy Agenda

unnamed-1Donald Trump announced Wednesday he is nominating former Texas Governor Rick Perry to be Energy Secretary.

ROBERT ALVAREZ, kitbob [at] erols.com
Alvarez is a former senior policy adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Energy and is now a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies. He also writes a column at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

He said today: “After reading the questionnaire sent by the Trump transition team to the Energy Department, here’s what I surmise they want to do:

* Identify federal and contractor employees involved in climate change activities they want to marginalize or get rid of. To its credit, the DOE is refusing to provide these names. The Trump team has now disavowed that this is its intent.

* Freeze all new federal hires and set the stage for lay-offs;

* Seriously curtail energy renewable and conservation programs;

* Figure out the contracting maze (good luck on that one!);

* Figure out how they can reduce cleanup spending at profoundly contaminated nuclear weapons sites, now costing around $6 billion per year, with an estimated total liability approaching $400 billion;

* Find ways to restart the Yucca Mt. nuclear waste disposal site for spent power reactor fuel;

* Spend more on nuclear research and development, especially for Small Modular Reactors. Nuclear R&D already consumes and $2 billion in FY 2016 — the single largest fraction (40 percent) of all energy R&D funding;

* Stem the accelerating closure of aging, uneconomical nuclear power plants;

* Muzzle the Energy Information Administration to eliminate any analysis regarding carbon emissions.

“What’s interesting is what’s missing, especially the nuclear weapons program, which is responsible for maintaining some 7,000 nuclear warheads. This program makes up the single largest piece of the DOE budget and is experiencing out-of-control costs. Military nuclear spending makes up nearly 60 percent of the DOE’s budget.

“Then there’s also the disposition of the huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons materials and radioactive wastes; the Power Marketing Administration’s providing electricity to wide swaths of western states; the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Naval Reactors, and nuclear non-proliferation.

“With a land-base greater than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, the Energy Department is responsible for the largest government-owned research and industrial complex in the United States.

“However, other than adopting the Heritage Foundation’s regressive fossil fuel agenda, cutting back on the workforce, stamping out climate change policies, trying to stave off collapse of the nuclear power industry, and cutting funds for environmental cleanup, it appears that the Trump transition team has no clue of how all the elements of DOE fit together. Now Trump is nominating a person to run the agency who has vowed to get rid this agency but couldn’t remember its name.”

After Aleppo: Will Trump Shift Syria Policy?

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REESE ERLICH, ReeseErlich2[at]hotmail.com
Foreign correspondent and author of Inside Syria, Erlich said today: “The Assad forces have apparently taken control of opposition held areas of Aleppo after four years. It is clearly a major military victory, but does this significantly alter the political landscape? The war is likely to continue. The IS has retaken Palmyra and other rebels still control parts of the country. The Kurdish forces control a stretch of territory along the Turkish border as well as enclaves in Aleppo. Some of the defeated rebels may join the Kurdish-led coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

“The key element to watch, is whether the Trump administration will shift policy to favor Russia and Assad and whether Turkey will continue its de facto alliance with Assad. If so the political balance will shift towards Assad.”

The paperback edition of Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect (foreword by Noam Chomsky) has just come out. Erlich has reported from Syria six times and has visited all the surrounding countries. He is currently on a national book tour and is available for interviews after 8 a.m. Pacific Time.

“It’s a Leak, Not a Hack”

The Guardian reports in “CIA concludes Russia interfered to help Trump win election, say reports” that: “The Kremlin has rejected the hacking accusations, while the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has previously said the DNC leaks were not linked to Russia. A second senior official cited by the Washington Post conceded that intelligence agencies did not have specific proof that the Kremlin was ‘directing’ the hackers, who were said to be one step removed from the Russian government.

“Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, who is a close associate of Assange, called the CIA claims ‘bullshit,’ adding: ‘They are absolutely making it up.’

“‘I know who leaked them,’ Murray said. ‘I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it’s an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack; the two are different things.

“‘If what the CIA are saying is true, and the CIA’s statement refers to people who are known to be linked to the Russian state, they would have arrested someone if it was someone inside the United States.

“‘America has not been shy about arresting whistleblowers and it’s not been shy about extraditing hackers. They plainly have no knowledge whatsoever.'”

CRAIG MURRAY, craigmurray1710 [at] btinternet.com@CraigMurrayOrg
Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.

CommonDreams just published his piece “The CIA’s Absence of Conviction.”

Murray blogs at craigmurray.org.uk and just wrote the piece “Facebook Suppresses Truth.”

Trump State Dept: A Cross Between Exxon and NeoCons?

AP reports: “President-elect Donald Trump moved closer to nominating Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of State on Saturday. … Trump’s team has discussed bringing [John] Bolton [former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush] on as a No. 2 to Tillerson.”

STEVE HORN,  steve [at] desmogblog.com, @SteveAHorn
Horn is an investigative journalist and writer for DeSmogBlog.com. He said today: “Trump has made it clear via his cabinet appointments that energy, and specifically the promotion of climate change-worsening fracked oil and natural gas, will be central to the ethos and mission of his administration. In this way, it’s a continuation of the Obama Administration’s ‘All of the Above’ energy policy, but with a twist: people who actually work directly for the industry may have a seat at the Cabinet table meetings.

“Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil and former chairman of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Petroleum Council, is a case in point as the probable President-Elect Trump choice of U.S. Secretary of State. So too is Rick Perry, the former Governor of Texas and chairman of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), who is Trump’s current top choice as U.S. Energy Secretary. Perry sits on the board of directors of Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Both of them are also climate change deniers and in the case of Exxon, funded the climate change denial machine to the tune of $33 million between 1998-2014. As the old adage goes, ‘personnel is policy.'”

JIM LOBE, jlobe [at] starpower.net, @lobelog
Lobe is an investigative journalist specializing in foreign policy, is regarded as a leading expert on the “neo-conservative” movement and is founder of LobeLog.com, which recently tweeted: “Bolton has urged attacking Iran so often for so many years that he can’t retreat now. Confirmation will likely be a referendum on war.”

On Friday, in response to charges allegedly made by the CIA of Russian intervention in the U.S. election, Trump released a statement: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” But in 2002, Bolton was quoted by the BBC: “We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq … there is no doubt that Saddam is a threat to the region and needs to be disarmed.”

See Bolton’s profile on RightWeb: “Bolton is a notorious foreign policy hawk whose track record includes “pushing regime” change in Iran and bombing its nuclear facilities (in effect, going to war), supporting the invasion of Iraq, and opposing major arms control agreements. He has long dismissed the legitimacy of the United Nations and other international institutions. In one famous speech, Bolton declared, ‘If the UN secretary building in New York lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.’ He dismisses international treaties as nonbinding ‘political obligations.'”

Also see RightWeb profiles of Michael Flynn: “Trump’s National Security Adviser is facing intense scrutiny for promoting conspiracy theories and fake news items, as well as for his consistent attacks on Islam, which he calls a ‘quote-unquote religion’ and a ‘vicious cancer.'” Also, Flynn’s co-author Michael Ledeen (“known for making outlandish claims about Middle East affairs”, and James Mattis: “Trump’s nominee for Pentagon chief has a well-known penchant for talking about why he likes shooting people but he also has some important differences with the president-elect, like frowning on torture and seeing Russia as a threat.”

Billionaire Carl Icahn Vetted Trump EPA Nominee, Has Business Before Agency

refinery-109024_1920_pixabay-creative-commons-2[Public Citizen tweeted Thursday: “We turned Trump’s #draintheswamp campaign ad on its head to expose who he really is — a corporatist, not a populist.” See the video.]

Thursday, it was reported Donald Trump would nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. Friday morning, many media outlets are reporting U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is expected to be his nominee for secretary of the interior. See: “Revealed: The Trump Administration’s Energy Plan.”

STEVE HORN, steve [at] desmogblog.com, @SteveAHorn
Horn is an investigative journalist and writer for DeSmogBlog.com. He just wrote the piece “The Billionaire Energy Investor Who Vetted Trump’s EPA Pick Has Long List of EPA Violations.”

Horn said today: “Missed in most tales about Scott Pruitt being Trump’s nominee at EPA is that a multi-billionaire energy investor, Carl Icahn, actually vetted and interviewed finalists for the Trump EPA job. And Icahn, a business partner of Trump and a donor to his campaign, owns significant assets which would be and have been impacted by EPA regulations. This is not what ‘draining the swamp’ looks like, but more like what a Banana Republic looks like.”

Horn writes: “Asked for his take on President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), multi-billionaire investor and Trump business partner Carl Icahn told Bloomberg that Pruitt is ‘going to really be a breath of fresh air.’ Given Icahn’s business ties, that statement is steeped in accidental irony. … A DeSmog investigation shows that Icahn Enterprises owns oil industry assets based in Oklahoma, which are involved in EPA enforcement violations, and does business with TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline system.”

A New McCarthyism?

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The Hill on Thursday published the piece “McCarthy’s ghost smiles as Dems point the finger at Russia” by Norman Solomon.

ELLEN SCHRECKER. ellen.schrecker [at] gmail.com
A retired professor of American history at Yeshiva University, Schrecker is a leading authority on McCarthyism whose books include Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America and No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism in the Universities.

She said today: “In many ways, a new form of McCarthyism could appear. Trump adviser Newt Gingrich has called for a new House Un-American Activities Committee to target ‘Islamic extremists.’ Meanwhile, proposed blacklists — of anti-conservative professors, allegedly Russian-oriented websites, and who knows what else — are sprouting up within the mainstream. And, if we think about personalities, we should recall that McCarthy himself was often out of control.

“But, what is critical and what is poorly understood is how what we call McCarthyism depended on the willing collaboration of liberals and moderates who normalized its anti-communist hysteria. Hubert Humphrey not only backed the Internal Security Act of 1950, originally sponsored by Richard Nixon, but even added provisions for concentration camps for communists.

“Universities are particularly endangered. Reagan became governor of California by running against Berkeley. Today, we see ‘political correctness’ being used as a pretext to target higher education as well as an increasingly successful campaign to silence the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

“The net effect of the acquiescence of liberals and moderates is, as in the fifties, the further silencing of the left, the elimination of substantive controversy, and a normalization of right-wing extremism.”

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan [at] earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley, a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002.

She said today: “Why are so many U.S. politicians so keen on resurrecting the ghost of Joseph McCarthy? The ‘Red Scare’ fear of Communism spanned FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s entire 47-year career and stupidly motivated him to overlook organized crime while working with and feeding information to Joseph McCarthy [and the] House Un-American Activities Committee vilifying and blacklisting thousands of productive and prominent American citizens, as disparate as the last century’s most important scientist Albert Einstein and American folk singer Pete Seeger. The same irrational fear was a main factor in ginning up the disastrous Vietnam War and also led Hoover’s FBI to begin its COINTELPRO program targeting Martin Luther King Jr. (among others).

“The simple answer to why this sordid McCarthy-like history seems to be on the verge of repeating can be found in the prescient words of James Madison, known as the ‘Father of the Constitution,’ who recognized that ‘Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.’ That is why Madison and other Founding Fathers tried so hard to guarantee First Amendment freedoms of speech, association and press and put ‘checks and balances’ into the supreme law of the land to try to prevent what has now happened: a state of ‘perpetual war’ taking hold.”

Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, wrote in his piece: “On Tuesday, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and six ranking members of major House committees sent President Obama a letter declaring, ‘We are deeply concerned by Russian efforts to undermine, interfere with, and even influence the outcome of our recent election.’

“A prominent signer of the letter — Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee — is among the Democrats most eager to denounce Russian subversion.

“A week ago, when the House approved by a 390-30 margin and sent to the Senate the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal 2017, Schiff praised ‘important provisions aimed at countering Russia’s destabilizing efforts — including those targeting our elections.’ One of those ‘important provisions,’ Section 501, sets up in the executive branch ‘an interagency committee to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence.’

“This high-level committee could easily morph into a protracted real-life nightmare. … All in all, the provision is a gift for the next president, tied up in a bow by congressional Democrats.”

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