The Globalization of Elections Will be a Great Thing — Provided We Survive This Awful First Phase

The digital international interference in our election — ghastly and disastrous though it is — is just the first phase on a process of the globalization of the democratic and political processes.

If we start with the obvious assumption that people in all countries now have enormous interests in the results of elections in other countries, add to it the nearly as obvious assumption that the more they realize that, the more they will expect to have a way of communicating that, you very quickly get to the idea that the international system needs to build ways that those views can be communicated to voters in each country.

Without it any way condoning Putin’s behavior, or certainly Trump’s two-faced encouragement of it, nonetheless, seeing it as an expression of that desire to be heard by a highly powerless and frightened country, may help us think of long-term ways of ensuring that cross national voices are heard.

Of course, any such approaches have to be transparent, truthful, multi-lateral, and respectful — all qualities in much shorter display than they should be.

But imagine for a moment that a mechanism had existed for Russian voters to communicate to their US equivalents their of course overblown and hopelessly manipulated fears for Russians in the Stalin-Diaspora.  Maybe those fears would then have been less subject to manipulation and hysteria.  Of course, it would have been necessary for Russian voters to have known that the fears had been communicated, and at least to some extent, heard.  I wonder also how well the working class voters in the UK who carried Brexit knew what those similarly situated in the EU, many of whom they must have met in their now cheap European holidays, felt about the issue.

There is an interesting, but failed, precedent for this.  Back in 2004, the Guardian organized a project which encouraged Brits to write to Clarke County Ohio voters (cold communication), expressing their concerns.  The experiment backfired, with the Republicans making hay with the supposed interference.  Most Republicans appear to have been more sensitive about such things in those days!  (Maybe they are less concerned about covert involvement than transparent efforts.)  Looked at from the non-US point of view, of course, that over-reaction would have shown the rest of the world that the US was contemptuous of the views of outsiders.  Again, without justifying the conclusion, such a feeling would reinforce the sense that the only way to influence  US elections is covertly.

So getting Americans used to the idea will have to be a critical component of any strategy.

Some first thoughts on ways of moving forward in the short term might be:

Having Americans living abroad reaching out to people in their host countries and systematically sharing what they hear of what people want from the US with their networks and even in a new special public forum.

Similarly, encouraging those with family abroad to solicit the views of family and share them in such a forum.

Much better cross-national polling, with explanations of countries strongly held views and explanations for those views.

General encouragement of e-mail and other communication across borders — not in one direction, but reciprocally and multi-laterally, with a particular emphasis on linking people with similar backgrounds who would tend to trust each other.  (Much easier now with translation software.)

Having a televised Presidential debate before an international audience, and with the questions submitted by that audience.  It would be a great opportunity for grandstanding, but also a wonderful test of how candidates dealt with all the challenges of that environment.  Imagine to the message to the world about our understanding of our international responsibilities.

Having the various processes by which governments consult the public be expanded to welcome international views.  It is hard to imagine the incoming administration adopting such processes, but not so hard to imagine some state governments, such as those of California, dong so.  Indeed, to think of a concrete example, the California Courts adjudicate cases all the time involving those outside the US, particularly family cases.  Would it not make sense for the California Courts, in the process of soliciting opinions from their user, to listen to to out of country users?

That is all about communication.  In the long term, we need globalized institutions that provide reassurance to voters in all countries that their interests will be protected.






How to Close Down Phone Spamming — Millions Could Answer and Talk and Talk and Talk and Talk

The phone spam seems to be getting much worse, particularly on mobiles.  For the first time, my default is to not answer all unrecognized calls.  Most of them seem to come from a small number of law violators.

So, here is crowd way to respond.

Instead of not answering, or hanging up, actually follow the steps and engage the person with vague discussion, thus wasting their time.  If enough do that, it will simply no longer be worth the commissions, and the industry will die.  Its all about incentives.  Such a campaign could be set up to be triggered only when a certain number had signed up to do it.

There is a risk, I suppose, that you will end up getting extra calls, either as revenge, or because their algorithm will tell the companies that it will be worth it to call.  J]If enough people just keep wasting their time, and the ploy fails.

Remember, it is critical not to give out any information, or to do anything on your phone or computer that is suggested by the perpetrator.

By the way, in my conversations, the one approach that seems to work is things like: “What do your parents think of you doing this job?”  “What does you God think?”  In one case the person on the phone simply said, “I have to eat.”

What would be best of all, however, would be if an app could be triggered on your phone so with an AI interface that would engage the caller in conversation, without any more intervention on the victim’s part.  The software could be updated based on how effective its own data shows it to be.

A great project for a hackathon.

How do you ask someone to be the first American to die for a Putin policy?

Testifying against the Vietnam war in 1971, John Kerry famously asked “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

Today, given Trumps’s conflicts and the likely illegitimacy of the election result, due to the events that led to the CIA hacking finding, we now have to ask:

How do you ask someone to be the first person to die for a Trump hotel?

How do you ask someone to be the first person to die for a Putin policy?

I do not know how to answer the question, but I do know that this country is heading towards the largest crisis of leadership legitimacy it has ever faced.

Congress Should Pass a Concurrent Resolution urging Trump Not to Allow His Administration to Do Anything That Helps Putin Till the Election Hacking Issue is Resolved

Congress must pass a Concurrent Resolution that would urge Trump and his administration not to do anything of benefit to Putin or Russia until the election hacking questions are at least preliminarily resolved.

The rationale for this is simple and essentially unarguable:  Putin should derive no benefit from the actions now confirmed by the CIA.

The most obvious example of such a benefit would be Trump’s removal of Obama’s Crimea sanctions, (great news for a certain oil company) but there are plenty of other ways that Trump could reward Putin.

Interestingly, if Trump were serious about protecting the national interest, he would immediately agree to such a pause, because any other message makes our political system an open target for all, without any disincentive.

What a legacy that would be for President Trump?  How great would such an America be?

The more you think about this, the more terrifying it becomes, and the more we appear to be relying on the integrity of a tiny number of Republican Senators to stop such an outcome.


A President’s First Duty Is To Protect the Legitimacy of The Electoral System

In any political system, the first duty of the leader to maintain the clear legitimacy of his or her power.  If that legitimacy derives from the military, then that support had better be clear, for example.

In our constitutional system, therefore, the first and  most critical task of the President is to protect the legitimacy of the election.  That duty is greater than protecting your own win.  This legitimacy is seriously threatened by any credible evidence of external interference, particularly by a traditional adversary.  For there to be such a serious threat there does not need to be conclusive proof of such interference, or its impact.  A CIA finding obviously rises far beyond such a standard.

Therefore, any president-elect who ignores, trivializes, or refuses to take seriously such a finding has to be in gross violation of his as yet unsworn oath.

While everybody, including the Electoral College Electors, has to consider how to respond to this simple and unarguable fact, we need to be honest and direct that it exists.

To put it a slightly different way, Nixon’s White House dismissed the significance of a “third-rate burglary attempt.”  They did not deny that a burglary had occurred.  They did not, as least nominally, fail to cooperate with the investigations.


What Does Really Big Business Think About Trump?

The answer to this question may appear in this apparent memo written within the US Chamber of Commerce, but not yet on Wikileaks.

To:        Leading Members, Chamber

From:  Policy Council

Re:        Analysis

Our long term view is that not only the coming Trump Presidency but the voting behavior that made it possible represents a fundamental threat to the interests of our members.

The election not only throws into doubt many short term aspects of the decision-making environment in which our members operate, but also casts into doubt whether American voters can be relied up for consistent support for the international stabilization predictability, integration and standardization that is essential for out members, and indeed similar organizations in other economic zones, to operate effectively.

In that sense, any short term policy changes are much less harmful (and some may even be beneficial to many of our members in the short term) than the lack of confidence in the future existence of the American umbrella that is no longer reliably avoidable for our members.

The question therefore for leadership is whether we need to shift our long term focus from our current reliance on the US political system and the power of the US, to the strengthening of a network of international quasi and supra governmental organizations that can provide the guaranteed predictable environment that our members require.

An even more difficult question is how much we are willing to accept international enforcement of human rights guarantees in return for the international groups having sufficient power to provide that guarantee.  Of course, such agreement by the states to the US Bill of Rights was essential to obtaining ratification of the US Constitution.

Such a major change for the Chamber will be the result of a long process of assessment and planning, but it is our view that that process must begin now.



A Tale of Two Briefings

Is not clear to me whether Trump’s reluctance to listen to intelligence briefings, or the intelligence worlds reluctance to provide substantive ones, is greater.

So these two authenticated transcripts, in one case an extract and the other the full one, should be useful in understanding the dynamics.

One: Extract From Daily Presidential Briefing to President Obama

Briefer:  Mr President, here are the highlights.  Our KH satellites picked up additional movement of advisors into Syria, and HUMINT confirms a strengthening relationship between Asad and Putin.  In Ukraine, intercepts show anxiety in the pro-Russian rebel leadership that you successor will get Putin to sell them out.  We are picking up increasing doubts about the EU in Hungary, but increasing support in Poland.  There is a cabinet crisis not yet publicly reported in the Czech Republic  .  .   .

President:  Stop there.  Do you have that overall Europe assessment done yet?  Why has your Ukraine analysis changed?


Two:  Full Text of Occasional Weekly Briefing of President Elect Trump

Briefer:  Good Morning Mr Preisdent-Elect

Trump:  Hi, what’s up?

Briefer:  Not much.

Trump: Fine, bye.  See you next week.