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The Irony of the Electoral College

Ruben Bolling
© Ruben Bolling

So, should we ever use the Electoral College for its intended purpose? Or should we abolish it? Otherwise it is just an anachronism that keeps causing problems.

Yes, it is undemocratic, but the founders intended it to be that way. In fact, the founders weren’t sure they trusted full-on democracy, and purposely limited it. So what’s more important now? Real democracy, or following the wishes of the people who wrote our constitution? Because it doesn’t look like we can have it both ways.

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Where’s the Irony?

This website is dedicated to “political irony”, including humor. So you might think that the election of Donald Trump would make it easy to find good stories. But it isn’t turning out that way.

For example, it is hardly ironic, and certainly not humorous, that Trump is filling his cabinet with the same alligators he promised to drain out of the DC swamp, or that he has already reversed his position on pretty much every one of his campaign promises.

But isn’t that jumping the gun? I mean, his administration hasn’t even started yet, and it has been obvious for a long time that promises coming from the mouth of Trump typically last only until they stop getting him the attention he craves.

We should be paying attention to what he does, not what he says he will do. And we already have something that is required of every president-elect, and which Trump has started doing. And it already looks bad.

As is expected, Trump has been calling up the counterpart leaders of other countries to introduce himself. First, he completely screwed up the calls to the British Prime Minister, Theresa May (telling her who to appoint as US ambassador), and a personal meeting with Japanese leader Shinzo Abe. So much for our close allies.

Then he called the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, and praised him for his war on drugs, in which thousands of suspected drug users and dealers have been summarily executed without trial. Trump told Duterte that he was doing it the “right way”, according to Duterte’s account.

Then Trump praised the leader of Pakistan and offered his support. Seriously, Pakistan? The country that was harboring Osama bin Laden? And has supported other Islamic terrorist groups and sold nuclear weapons to North Korea? Very bad!

This also pissed off Pakistan’s sworn enemy, India, which was a really stupid thing to do. And not just because India and Pakistan have come close to using nuclear weapons against each other. The US has been long cultivating a relationship with India as a counterweight to China, but Trump might have just trashed that.

Finally, speaking of China, Trump really pissed them off by having a friendly phone call with the leader of Taiwan. Officially (since 1979), Taiwan is a renegade province of China and the US doesn’t recognize them. Or we didn’t. China is hopping mad and has already lodged a formal complaint against Trump.

[Coincidentally of course, the mayor of a Taiwanese city has reported a meeting with a representative from the Trump organization, who expressed interest in developing resort hotels there.]

But none of this is ironic and it sure as hell isn’t funny. Is it any surprise that Trump is making a complete mess of it? Don’t we already know that Trump doesn’t listen to anyone? The State Department is completely dismayed because Trump has refused to even be briefed on these countries before he calls them.

So if you were wondering why I wasn’t posting so much about Trump, that is why. I’ll keep posting, but don’t expect me to report on every stupid thing that Trump does or says. I have no interest in and would take no joy in chronicling the massive screw-ups of Trump.

Of course, if he does something good, that will be ironic.

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Late Night Political Humor

[Jokes from Nov. 16, 2016]

“President Obama was in Greece yesterday to meet with the Greek prime minister. Yep, Obama went to the birthplace of democracy to say, ‘Spoiler alert!'” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama was in Greece today and he visited the ancient Greek Acropolis. Obama said, ‘I wanted to get used to seeing a once-great democracy in ruins.'” – Conan O’Brien

“Obama began his final foreign trip in Athens, Greece, while back in the White House Joe Biden held his final toga party as vice president.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Vice President Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Mike Pence had lunch together this afternoon. And just to piss him off, Biden told the waiter it was their anniversary.” – Seth Meyers

“According to a new poll, almost 60 percent of Americans believe Donald Trump should compromise with Democrats. Like, instead of a wall at the Mexican border, maybe a beaded curtain?” – Seth Meyers

“Donald Trump said the transition is going well and he has spoken to ‘many foreign leaders’. Then someone had to explain to Trump that Barack Obama is not a ‘foreign leader’.” – Conan O’Brien

“President-elect Donald Trump is in the process of building his cabinet right now and it’s going to be a Solid Gold Cabinet full of all the finest snacks. This is kind of nutty. One of the names on Trump’s short list for attorney general is Senator Ted Cruz. Who, of course, was Trump’s bitter rival on the campaign trail. This is going to be like if Tupac hired Biggie to be his head of security.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Experts say one of the biggest threats facing Donald Trump’s presidency could be North Korea. Evidently, Kim Jong Un is so incompetent and unstable, they’re worried Trump will give him a cabinet post.” – Conan O’Brien

“One of Donald Trump’s potential attorneys general is reportedly already working on a plan to make Muslims register with the government. Does anyone see a problem with that, or do you ‘Nazi?'” – Seth Meyers

“Yesterday Donald Trump and Mike Pence reportedly received their first presidential daily briefing of sensitive national intelligence. Or as Trump asked Putin, ‘Do you prefer email or fax?'” – Jimmy Fallon

“The mayor of London said recently that if people based in the U.S. want to escape Donald Trump’s administration, quote, ‘London is open.’ Said Melania, ‘Taxi!'” – Seth Meyers

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Turnabout or Russian Roulette?

The Russian government has been hacking into the computer systems foreign corporations and governments for a while (including the DNC), but it looks like finally the shoe is on the other foot.

The Bank of Russia, the central bank there, has confirmed that hackers have stolen two billion rubles, the equivalent of US$31 million from commercial banks and their corporate clients in Russia. The hackers also used social media to spread stories questioning the financial security of Russian banks and predicting the collapse of the Russian financial system.

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Willing Suspension of Disbelief

Jack Ohman
© Jack Ohman

Will Trump supporters ever realizing that they’ve been had? Even if they realize it, will they be able to admit it? And most of all, will they be able to do something about it? Or have they been so tribalized that they will rally around him no matter what he does?

As many of you know, I’m doing some extended traveling now. Have been in Spain for a while, and it is interesting to learn about Spain’s period of fascism. I know in the US we like to compare people we don’t like to Hitler, but I think with Trump, a closer look at the history of Francisco Franco might be apt. Franco came to power basically promising to make Spain great again. He initially had wide support, but quickly turned into a dictator and even instituted concentration camps to get rid of undesirables. And because he was a strong anti-communist, the US actually supported him.

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Late Night Political Humor

[Jokes from Nov. 15, 2016]

“I read that Donald Trump doesn’t want to live at the White House full-time. He’s thinking about commuting from New York City. It’s all part of Trump’s plan to make America great again, and to make traffic in New York City worse than ever.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Trump apparently wants to commute to Washington, D.C., by helicopter. Trump asked the pilot if he’s got those radio headphones so they can talk to each other in the air and the pilot was like, ‘Nope’.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Donald Trump has announced that as president, he’ll take a salary of $1 a year. And he promises he’ll earn every penny.” – Conan O’Brien

“Donald Trump has reportedly asked for his adult children to get top-level security clearance so that they can see classified documents and explain them to him. Trump is trying to get top-secret security clearance for his kids, which explains why today Vladimir Putin asked Trump to adopt him.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President-elect Trump tweeted that he would have won the popular vote if he had campaigned more in New York, Florida, and California. Trump explained, ‘I just got tired and ran out of terrible things to say.'” – Conan O’Brien

“President Obama announced this week that, after meeting with Donald Trump, he plans to spend more time with his successor than presidents typically do in order to help ease the transition. When asked how long he thought the transition would take, President Obama said, ‘Four years’.” – James Corden

“Obama is going to walk Trump’s team through all this. So, basically, Obama is going to be going around the White House saying, ‘OK, now hit control-C. OK, now hit P to print.'” – James Corden

“President Obama actually said yesterday that if things get better under President Trump, he’ll be the first to congratulate him. Well, technically, he’ll be the second because Trump will congratulate himself first.” – Jimmy Fallon

“It was reported that Trump’s team was unaware that they needed to replace the entire West Wing staff. Trump’s team basically thought the White House was like a Best Buy that occasionally gets a new store manager.” – James Corden

“Dr. Ben Carson has reportedly told Donald Trump that he isn’t interested in serving in the Trump administration. And just like at the debates if his name is called, he won’t answer.” – Seth Meyers

“There are reports that Bill Clinton encouraged Donald Trump to run for president. When asked about it, Bill Clinton said, ‘It hasn’t been this tense around my house since … well, you know…'” – Conan O’Brien

“Former President George W. Bush announced that he and his wife, Laura, went to an animal shelter last week and welcomed their new dog, Freddy, into their family. Yeah, apparently even the Bush family needed an emotional support dog after that election.” – James Corden

“High school students across the country walked out of class today in protest of Donald Trump. Which is weird, since he’s living proof that you can do none of your homework and still become president.” – Seth Meyers

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Incivil Discourse

Tom Tomorrow
© Tom Tomorrow

Do Trump supporters really expect Democrats to give the respect to Trump that they never gave to Obama?

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Trust, but Audit

Nate Silver gives a good argument that we should automatically audit our elections. In other words, we should regularly check our elections for irregularity, not just when the count is close. It shouldn’t be a recount, it should be an audit that is always done for every major election.

He compares it to a cancer test, which should be done regularly in order to make sure there is no big problem lurking.

Sliver also talks about the risks of doing this. Back to the cancer analogy, there is always the danger of a false positive, which could unduly undermine confidence in an election result. But making an audit a regular thing rather than something that is only triggered when the results already look irregular, will help allay that.

I completely agree. We need to have trust in our voting systems, and currently we have little data to give us that trust. We need some kind of audit.

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Late Night Political Humor

[Jokes from Nov. 14, 2016]

“Last night, on ’60 Minutes’, Donald Trump gave his first TV interview since being elected — and get this, he said that he will only take $1 a year as president. All part of Trump’s unending commitment to never pay taxes.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Trump said that he would not accept the standard $400,000 salary that presidents get. That story again: Trump made his first deal as president-elect and lost almost $400,000.” – Jimmy Fallon

“During an interview yesterday, Donald Trump told his supporters not to harass Latinos and Muslims. ‘Uh-oh’ said black people.” – Seth Meyers

“Donald Trump told supporters last night not to harass Latinos and Muslims, saying, ‘I will say right to the cameras, ‘Stop it” — and then he winked so hard his wig unsnapped.” – Seth Meyers

“On ’60 Minutes’ last night, Donald Trump said he wishes his campaign’s tone had been ‘nicer’ and more ‘on policy.’ Trump said, ‘But then, I would have lost.'” – Conan O’Brien

“During a ’60 Minutes’ interview, Trump said going forward, he will be ‘very restrained’ on Twitter and Facebook. So, the interview was taped Friday, and then on Sunday — two days later — he went on a tirade against The New York Times on Twitter. But he didn’t use all caps! Baby steps. It’s something, right? Lowercase.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“During the interview last night on ’60 Minutes’, Donald Trump said, ‘I’m a very sober person.’ After hearing this, half of America said, ‘So were we, until last Tuesday.'” – Conan O’Brien

“Donald Trump’s children are helping him transition to the White House. Right now 10-year-old Barron Trump is interviewing the next head of the NSA.” – Conan O’Brien

“According to The New York Times, Donald Trump wants to continue holding large rallies after he takes office — and Hillary Clinton wants to continue hiking deeper and deeper into the woods.” – Seth Meyers

“Donald Trump has stated he wants to make it easier to sue journalists. He also wants to use the Second Amendment to shoot the First Amendment.” – Conan O’Brien

“Rumors are circulating that Donald Trump has been telling his advisers that he plans to spend his weekends in his Trump Tower penthouse in New York City instead of the White House. I don’t think that’s what voters meant when they said they wanted a Washington outsider.” – James Corden

“If he does decide to live in Trump Tower, presidential historians tell us this is the first time a sitting president will be living above a Niketown.” – James Corden

“I love that Trump thinks he can just take off back to New York. Just imagine Trump on a Friday afternoon at the White House asking his national security adviser, ‘Hey, you think this ISIS briefing will be over by 6:00? It’s just I’ve got a thing.'” – James Corden

“After Donald Trump met with President Obama, Trump seemed surprised by the scope of the president’s duties. Trump said, ‘Who knew?’ And Hillary was like, ‘I did.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“When Hillary Clinton found out Trump wasn’t planning on staying in the White House on weekends, she was like, ‘Since you’re not going to be there… ‘” – James Corden

“President Obama held a press conference today, his first since the election. At which every one of the reporters asked him about Donald Trump. A few of them tried to get Obama to say something insulting about Trump but he didn’t bite, he was very diplomatic. He says he hopes Donald Trump makes things better, plans to do everything he can to help them. In other words, ‘Good luck, dummies, I’m out of here!'” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Meanwhile, protests continue across the United States. This afternoon a group of student protesters for some reason decided to storm a local mall. It got a little bit crazy. The good news is this is the first time in almost five years that anyone under the age 21 has been to a mall. Good for Orange Julius, I guess.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“A new study revealed that having a pint of beer every day can help prevent strokes and heart disease — so this one is on me, Justice Ginsburg. Keep going.” – Seth Meyers

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Blind Trust

Tom Toles
© Tom Toles

Donald Trump has refused to put any of his assets into a blind trust, like every modern president has done. And he still won’t release his tax returns. And he is already conducting business himself with the heads of foreign states that will enrich himself, even though he promised to turn his companies over entirely to his children.

This is what we get when we elect a con man as president.

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It’s Yuge!

Yes, it is true. Trump is the first president-elect who is merchandising. You can buy a “Make America Great Again” ornament for your Christmas Tree for only $149 (plus shipping). In addition to being available on Trump’s website, you can also buy it from Amazon.

And that’s where the fun begins. Because Amazon allows comments, and the comments are hilarious. Here’s a few examples:

Despite ordering a more reasonable ornament, this one arrived. It. Is. Yuge. It’s absolutely yuge. It’s the biggest ornament. Yuge.
I hung it on my tree, but it is so yuge that it has totally unbalanced my whole tree. No matter where I hang it, the tree leans waaaaaay over to the far right.

The only Christmas ornament that will try to deport your nativity scene.

Put it next to my mother Mary ornament and let’s just say she ain’t a virgin anymore.

There’s plenty more worth reading.

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Late Night Political Humor

[Jokes from Nov. 10, 2016]

“Donald Trump will be the first U.S. president ever to have appeared in an ad for Pizza Hut. In fact, some pundits are predicting Trump will run in 2020 against Flo from Progressive.” – Conan O’Brien

“There’s talk that Donald Trump may appoint Sarah Palin as secretary of the interior, which means she would oversee the National Park Service. When they heard that, bears were like, ‘Well, we had a good run.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Newt Gingrich said in an interview yesterday that would he like to serve as chief planner for Donald Trump’s administration. But first, before starting his new job, though, he must finish up his contract at the Keebler tree.” – Seth Meyers

“Some people are admitting that it’s weird to say ‘President-elect Trump.’ It’s especially weird for me because ‘President-elect Trump’ happens to be my safe word.” – Conan O’Brien

“Later, the market went down when Trump announced he’s getting rid of Obamacare. The market went up when Trump simply assured everyone that he replaced it with ‘something terrific.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Some analysts say a Donald Trump presidency could cripple the future of legalized marijuana. And to make matters worse, once it’s crippled, Trump will make fun of it.” – Conan O’Brien

“It was a busy day today at the White House with President Obama hosting NBA champions the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as President-elect Donald Trump. It actually got a little awkward when Trump walked up to LeBron James and said, ‘Nice to meet you, Mr. President.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“It was a busy bay at the White House. In addition to the Trumps, they welcomed the Cleveland Cavaliers to be honored for winning the NBA title this year. It happened to be on the same day. There was one awkward moment when LeBron James grabbed the basketball to sign it — turned out top Donald Trump’s head.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“It was another interesting day in America today. The transfer of power has already begun at the White House this morning. President Obama sat down with President-elect Trump, but Trump did a funny thing. He came in and said, ‘You’re fired.'” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Today, the transfer of power began when President Obama hosted Trump at the White House for the most surprising remake of ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.'” – Stephen Colbert

“Donald Trump visited President Obama in the White House today, which got Trump really excited to do his favorite thing: evict a black family from their home.” – Seth Meyers

“What did they talk about? What was the tour like? ‘All right, Donald, this is the Blue Room, this is the Red Room, and down the hall is the office I said you were fundamentally unfit for. Library’s downstairs.'” – Stephen Colbert

“This is the first time they met. They never met before. That must have been so strange. ‘Sasha, Malia, come down, meet the man who questioned Daddy’s citizenship for the last eight years.'” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Can you imagine how awkward that meeting was? The first African-American president sitting down with a president-elect who was endorsed by the Klan? A guy who spent five years, created his political career, demanding Obama prove where he was born, then denying he did it.” – Stephen Colbert

“They were to meet for 15 minutes, but it was 90 minutes. Trump had questions for Obama, like ‘How the hell do I get out of this?'” – Jimmy Kimmel

“President Obama and Donald Trump met at the White House today, where they discussed foreign and domestic policy. You know, things like which one is which.” – Seth Meyers

“Trump is now receiving the classified daily intelligence briefing known as ‘the book’, making it the only book he owns that doesn’t have his picture on it.” – Stephen Colbert

“They were besieged by reporters in the Oval Office at which point the president offered Mr. Trump unsolicited advice for dealing with the press. [plays clip of Obama] ‘Thank you, everybody. We’re not — we are not going to be taking any questions. [To Trump] This is a good rule — don’t answer any questions when they’re yelling at you.'” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Of course, Trump wasn’t alone. Melania was there for a private meeting with Michelle Obama, to ensure the peaceful transition of speeches.” – Stephen Colbert

“While President Obama met with Donald Trump, Michelle Obama met privately with Melania Trump. Michelle said, ‘It’s a pleasure to welcome you and Donald to the White House.’ Melania said, ‘It is a pleasure to welcome you and Donald to the White House.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“While their husbands were talking, the first lady met with soon-to-be first lady Melania Trump. Michelle said, ‘Welcome to the White House, Mrs. Trump.’ And Melania said, ‘Welcome to the White House, Mrs. Trump.'” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Melania Trump’s home country, Slovenia, is said to be ‘very proud’ of her. Then Slovenia admitted, ‘We really don’t have a lot going on.'” – Conan O’Brien

“So, Michelle actually had a nice time showing Melania around, although it got weird when they walked into the Lincoln Bedroom and Melania said, ‘Wow, what a lovely closet.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Vice President Joe Biden got together with incoming Vice President Mike Pence. Biden went over the primary responsibilities of being vice president, which are: not falling asleep at the State of the Union address … and that’s about it. So they covered that.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“While our leaders try to make the best of this, millions of Americans were very unhappy about how this election played out. Thousands of protesters took to the streets last night in Chicago, New York, here in L.A., a number of cities. It’s somewhat refreshing to see people angry in real life instead of just on Facebook, isn’t it?” – Jimmy Kimmel

“So many people protested the results of the election. I saw some tweets that said this election is a total sham and a travesty, the Electoral College is a disaster, and we should wage revolution. The surprising part — this was all from Donald Trump’s Twitter feed after the 2012 election. So technically, all of those Trump protesters actually agree with Trump. See, we’re already coming together.” – James Corden

“It’s been 48 hours since the election — I’m happy to report the healing has begun. I just unblocked three family members on Facebook.” – Conan O’Brien

“A man is suing Donald Trump for $1 billion, claiming the campaign caused him ’emotional distress’. That man’s name is Billy Bush.” – Conan O’Brien

“Bernie Sanders told reporters yesterday that he is prepared to work with Donald Trump. But then he warned Trump, ‘I keep the office hot and I don’t clean up my pistachios.'” – Seth Meyers

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Preventing Known Voter Fraud

I am delighted that Jill Stein will force recounts to be done in several states that used voting machines that are known to be easily hacked.

No, it is not because I think Hillary Clinton actually won the election. That is not the point.

The point is that if we know that certain voting machines are easily hacked, then the only way to ensure that our elections are valid is to make sure those machines have not been hacked, or at least determine if they have been hacked so we can do something about it. I would be saying the same thing if thought the election had been stollen from Trump. Indeed, this should be a bi-partisan issue.

If you want a detailed explanation of this, I highly recommend you read J. Alex Halderman’s article that gives an excellent explanation of the problem, and what we can do about it.

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Manchurian Social Networks!

A week ago I posted an article arguing that the easiest way to throw an election would be to spread disinformation over social networks. Well, we now have proof (independently verified by two parties) that this has already happened.

Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.

You really do need to read the whole WaPo article. This is important. Foreign interests are deliberately spreading disinformation in order to not only change the results of US elections, but to destroy America’s standing in the world and to discredit democracy around the world. And it is working.

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Late Night Political Humor

[Jokes from Nov. 9, 2016]

“Donald Trump is gonna be president. Republicans hope he’ll keep his promise to build the wall, and Democrats hope he’ll keep his promise not to accept the election results.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Last night Donald Trump reached out and grabbed America by the … Virginia.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Last night, Donald Trump was elected president. The first thing I did this morning was call my old high school bully and congratulate him.” – Conan O’Brien

“I had the weirdest, weirdest dream last night. Remember that guy who used to host “The Apprentice”? I dreamed we elected him president.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Two things happened last night: Donald Trump got elected president, and my job just got easier for the next four years.” – Conan O’Brien

“Donald Trump won the presidential election last night and then, out of habit, Kellyanne Conway said, ‘No, he didn’t!'” – Seth Meyers

“After the results came in, Donald Trump gave a big victory speech. He said he couldn’t have done it without the love of his life, his rock, his better half … FBI Director James Comey.” – Jimmy Fallon

“It was a weird night to be watching the news. If you were flipping around, every news anchor on every channel was just going, ‘uhhh,’ and then going to commercial.” – James Corden

“As the evening went on and the results came in, every anchor looked like a child slowly realizing that no one was showing up to his birthday party.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“President Obama called Donald Trump last night to congratulate him, and even invited him to the White House for a meeting tomorrow. Of course, it was hard to understand Obama, ’cuz at the time he was chewing 80 pieces of Nicorette.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama congratulated Donald Trump in a speech today and reminded the country that we ‘are all on the same team.’ It’s just that now, half of us are on defense.” – Seth Meyers

“President Obama has invited Donald Trump to the White House on Thursday to discuss transition plans. And Trump is pretty nervous, he’s never been to a black man’s house before.” – Seth Meyers

“Trump also received congratulations from Russian President Vladimir Putin. They spent two minutes on the phone discussing politics, then an hour saying, ‘No YOU hang up!’ ‘No YOU hang up first.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“People who voted for Trump are happy today. People who voted for Hillary are disappointed. But listen, no matter who you voted for, the important thing is you all got stickers.” – James Corden

“When Hillary found out she lost she conceded with grace and dignity. When Gary Johnson found out he lost he was like, ‘Wait, the election was yesterday?'” – James Corden

“For the millions who are disappointed for Hillary, remember, America has a special place for people who lose. Ironically, it’s the cast of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’.” – Conan O’Brien

“Hillary underperformed among women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and young voters. Really the only place she did very well was among pollsters.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“I read that polls may have been off because the shift to cellphones made it harder to collect data from people. Then Hillary said, ‘They seemed to have a pretty easy time collecting data from MY phone!'” – Jimmy Fallon

“Apple began selling refurbished iPhones in its online store yesterday. Which is good news for the 40 million people who smashed their screens last night.” – Seth Meyers

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