We almost got rid of Bannon

It seems that Steve Bannon has been removed from the National Security Council:

In a move that was widely seen as a sign of changing fortunes, Mr. Trump removed Mr. Bannon, his chief strategist, from the National Security Council’s cabinet-level “principals committee” on Wednesday. The shift was orchestrated by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, who insisted on purging a political adviser from the Situation Room where decisions about war and peace are made.

Given that Bannon is an awful person, this is one of the few good pieces of news coming from the Trump administration. It seems we almost got lucky:

Mr. Bannon resisted the move, even threatening at one point to quit if it went forward, according to a White House official who, like others, insisted on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Mr. Bannon’s camp denied that he had threatened to resign and spent the day spreading the word that the shift was a natural evolution, not a signal of any diminution of his outsize influence.

In fact there needed to be an intervention to keep him:

Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, a longtime Bannon confidante who became a prominent Trump supporter during the campaign, urged Bannon not to resign. “Rebekah Mercer prevailed upon him to stay,” said one person familiar with the situation.

So they really to keep a horrible person in a position of power. To see how horrible, look at Bannon’s explanation for why he left the council:

“Susan Rice operationalized the N.S.C. during the last administration,” Mr. Bannon said in a statement, referring to President Barack Obama’s national security adviser. “I was put on the N.S.C. with General Flynn to ensure that it was de-operationalized. General McMaster has returned the N.S.C. to its proper function.”

Operationalize is a weird work but it just means to make something operational, which means Bannon left after he had ensured that the council no longer operated.

Crime in New York City

The crime rate in New York City is lower than it’s been in generations:

New York City finished 2016 tied for its second lowest number of homicides in the modern era of record keeping, driving the city’s rate for each 100,000 residents to the lowest level among major U.S. cities except San Diego.

NYPD figures show 335 killings last year, down from 352 in 2015. The fewest killings were in 2014, with 333; 2013 also recorded 335 homicides. The 2016 number is preliminary and might be adjusted upward if certain cases are reclassified as homicides.

Total shootings, defined as discharge of a gun in which someone is injured, totaled 998, down from more than 1,100 in the prior year.

Since hitting a record high of 2,245 homicides in 1989, New York City killings have declined markedly and are comparable to what the city experienced in the 1960s, when record keeping differed from the CompStat method initiated in 1994 by then-commissioner William Bratton.

And it could be even lower if other states had stronger gun laws:

A gun-trafficking ring in Virginia brought more than 200 legally purchased guns up the I-95 corridor to New York, where they unwittingly sold them to an undercover detective, according to an indictment unsealed on Wednesday.

The indictment of 627 counts charged 24 people, some of whom have violent criminal records and ties to the Bloods street gang, with conspiracy and illegal weapons sale and possession. In all, the authorities recovered 217 guns, including 41 assault weapons like AK-47s, AR-15s and a Thompson submachine gun.

In a phone call in September, Antwan Walker, of Highland Springs, Va., said it was to buy guns in Virginia.

“There is no limits to how many guns I can go buy from the store, you know what I mean?” he said.

But we have to allow such people to buy an almost unlimited number of guns because FREEDOM.

Judge puts temporary ban on temporary ban

An appeals court has denied a Trump administration request to immediately reinstate it’s ban on Muslims people from seven countries. In this story we see how ridiculous things are under Trump:

The decision is expected to pave the way for Iraqi doctor Deelan Dakhil to travel to Washington, D.C., Monday with her sister, Vian, who is receiving a human rights award from the Lantos Foundation, a New Hampshire organization.

Vian Dakhil, a member of Iraq’s Parliament, is being recognized for her efforts to combat terrorism, a crusade which made her into one of ISIS’s “Most Wanted” women.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson granted her special permission to travel, said Katrina Lantos Swett, the foundation’s president.

Deelan Dakhil said her sister is eager to visit the United States to discuss the Yazidi people, a religious sect in Iraq that faced mass genocide and religious persecution by the Islamic State.

So, an Iraqi who works to combat terrorism and is receiving a human rights award needs to get ‘special permission’ to travel to the US despite already having a Visa. Let’s read about her:

Vian Dakhil, an Iraqi lawmaker and internationally renowned activist who has been called the militant group’s “most wanted” woman, was due to travel to Washington, D.C., next week to collect a human rights award.

She is being recognized for “her courageous defense of the Yazidi people as they faced mass genocide two years ago at the hands of the [ISIS] and for her ongoing rescue mission on behalf of enslaved Yazidi women,” according to the foundation’s website.

The Yazidi people are part of an ancient religious minority who are particularly reviled by ISIS. They were driven from their historic homeland on Mount Sinjar in August 2014.

At the time, the militants captured thousands of women and children — more than 2,000 of them are still believed to be enslaved by ISIS.

During the ISIS onslaught in 2014, Dakhil made an unrehearsed, tear-filled plea to save her people.

Dakhil is the only Yazidi lawmaker in the Iraqi parliament. When not advocating for her people in Baghdad, she spends time in Irbil working to secure the release of women and girls captured by ISIS.

Obviously she’s a likely terrorist that the US has to block.

Fuck the electoral college

So, Hillary Clinton lost (via here) by negative 2.86 million votes (in other words she had 2.86 million more votes than Donald Trump but lost the election anyway). She lost in the electoral college which was used instead of direct votes:

Some delegates, including James Wilson and James Madison, preferred popular election of the executive. Madison acknowledged that while a popular vote would be ideal, it would be difficult to get consensus on the proposal given the prevalence of slavery in the South:

There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.

So, one of the main reasons for the introduction of the electoral college was to give the slave states more power than actual votes would indicate; the less populous states went along with it since it also gave them more power. You would think that they would have gotten rid of it when the 14th amendment was passed, but it didn’t happen.

One way to make the electoral college more fair would be to increase the number of representatives in the House. At the beginning a Representative represented about 30,000 people. The number of constituents slowly increased through the 1800s up to about 200,000 by 1900. The Reapportionment Act of 1929 capped the number of representatives at 435 and now each Rep. has about 720,00 constituents. Right now, since the number of electoral votes is the number of representatives plus the number of senators, the less populous states have more voting power per voter than the more populous states:

The average electoral vote represents 436,000 people, but that number rises and falls per state depending on that state’s population over 18 years of age. (The map above shows the population 18 years and older per electoral vote by state.) The states with the fewest people per electoral vote, and therefore the highest “vote power,” are Wyoming, Vermont, and North Dakota. In Wyoming, there are 143,000 people for each of its three electoral votes. The states with the weakest votes are New York, Florida, and California. These states each have around 500,000 people for each electoral vote.

The good thing about reapportionment, is that it doesn’t take a Constitutional amendment to change. Let’s get on that.

Republicans don’t like democracy

It seems Russia is trying to undermine our democracy:

FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Jr. are in agreement with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House, officials disclosed Friday, as President Obama issued a public warning to Moscow that it could face retaliation.

In the closed-door Senate briefing, CIA officials said it was now ‘‘quite clear’’ that electing Trump was one of Russia’s goals, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

CIA and FBI officials do not think Russia had a ‘‘single purpose’’ by intervening during the presidential campaign, officials said. In addition to the goal of helping elect Trump, Putin aimed to undermine confidence in the US electoral system, intelligence officials have told lawmakers.

Donald Trump is having none of it:

‘‘I think it’s ridiculous,’’ Trump said in an interview with ‘‘Fox News Sunday,’’ his first Sunday news-show appearance since the Nov. 8 election. ‘‘I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. . . . No, I don’t believe it at all.’’

He knows better than the CIA, NSA, and FBI. He’s probably getting messages through his fillings.

In North Carolina Republicans are taking a stand:

Having lost the governorship of North Carolina, Republicans there are resorting to a novel strategy to subvert the will of the voters: They are trying to strip the new governor of some of his powers.

First, for weeks after the close election, Gov. Pat McCrory refused to concede to Attorney General Roy Cooper, demanding recounts and alleging, without evidence, widespread voting fraud. It didn’t get him anywhere. So on Wednesday, during a hastily convened special session, Republican lawmakers introduced bills to, among other things, require State Senate confirmation of cabinet appointments; slash the number of employees who report to the governor to 300 from 1,500; and give Republicans greater clout on the Board of Elections, the body that sets the rules for North Carolina’s notoriously burdensome balloting.

and:

In North Carolina, the federal court also struck down some state House and Senate districts, and those judges recently ordered new districts drawn and special elections held next year.

North Carolina Republicans have used the current districts to achieve veto-proof majorities in both chambers. In addition, they hold 10 of the state’s 13 congressional seats. By contrast, statewide contests suggest a narrower gap between the parties. Two Republicans won statewide elections last month — President-elect Donald Trump with just under 50 percent of the vote and Sen. Richard Burr with 51 percent.

Expect more of this type of thing in the future. Our democracy is wandering in the wilderness.

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Trump will screw Trump states

Kevin Drum put this up:

Once Obamacare’s subsidies are repealed, it’s likely that 3 million people with expensive pre-existing conditions will be instantly tossed out of the health care system, unable to get insurance and unable to afford proper care.

He’s using the numbers from here. If you look at the chart in Kevin Drum’s post you notice that the states with the highest percent of people with pre-existing conditions voted for Trump. In fact, there are 23 states that are at or above the US average of 27% with pre-existing conditions–of these 4 voted for Clinton including Maine which split electoral votes (3 for Clinton, 1 for Trump). And all 11 with 30% or higher voted strongly for Trump (Clinton got less than 40% of the vote in all those states).

Hey, here’s a scatterplot (DC is the one in the upper left):

pre-exist

Donald Trump has said he wants to keep the ban on people being denied health insurance if the have pre-existing conditions but the health insurance companies will go bankrupt unless they’re allowed to charge them much more and/or force almost everyone to have insurance. Since the mandate to have insurance is not one of the things Trump wants to keep, health insurance will become unaffordable to a good chunk of these people which is why Kevin Drum says that 3 million of these people will be instantly tossed out of the health care system.

Trump voters really know how to stick it to themselves.

The House vote is rigged

Donald Trump is fond of saying the voting in the US is rigged. For fun, let’s look at the polling for a generic race in the House. Pollsters’ compilation of the polls has a generic Democrat getting 45.9% and a generic Republican with 42.5% (9.7% are undecided and 1.9% are for others). This, of course, means that Republicans are expected to hold the House:

Note that because of partisan gerrymandering and other factors, Democrats would have to win the popular vote by a substantial margin to take control of the House of Representatives. For example, the national House popular vote in 2012 (blue line) gave a margin of 1.2% for Democrats, yet Republicans currently control the chamber, 234-201.

Now that’s rigging the vote–more people voted for Democrats and yet more Republicans were elected. The trouble for Trump is that this kind of rigging doesn’t work for Presidential elections, that’s why Republicans push so much to make it more difficult for likely Democrats to vote.

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