Retired California State Senator is using AI to transcribe local government hearings for search and alerts

Sam Blakeslee, a retired Republican California state senator, worked with Cal Poly students to create Digital Democracy, a service that aggregates videos of the interminable, innumerable -- and vital -- local government hearings and meetings and then use machine-learning systems to generate automated transcripts so that activists, journalists and citizens could search and analyze them. Read the rest

Echoing Infowars, Trump lies that 'very dishonest' U.S. press are covering up terror attacks

President Donald Trump went full Alex Jones Infowars conspiracy theory wingnut today, saying the American news media are conspiring to cover up a vast series of Islamic terrorist attacks in which innocent God-fearin' Americans have been killed.

Statements like this from authoritarian leaders are the sort of thing you hear when a regime is preparing to institute martial law. Perhaps that is where America is now headed. Hope not.

Today's wackadoodle Trump camp statement was yet another nutty lie, just like Trump's long-running racist birther campaign against President Barack Obama, whom we miss terribly, please for the love of God make this descent into national insanity stop.

Read the rest

Romania's anti-corruption protests are massive, growing, and they're playful and serious at once

When the government of Romanian PM Sorin Grindeanu announced that they would gut the country's anticorruption statutes, removing criminal sanctions for official corruption, the country erupted into mass protests. Read the rest

Billionaire charter-school advocate and political donor calls Betsy DeVos "unprepared and unqualified"

Eli Broad is a billionaire who's made major donations to both the GOP and Democrats to push for charter schools, and his Broad Foundation has spent millions lobbying for public funds to go to private schools ("school choice"); but even he thinks that charter school advocate/ponzi scheme billionaire/Christian warrior/plagiarist/sister of war criminal Erik Prince/latter-day Marie Antoinette/convicted election fraudster, Betsy DeVos is unqualified to serve as Secretary of Education, a role that Donald Trump has selected for her. Read the rest

Captain America sworn in as Bay Area councilman

Last night, Lan Diep held Captain America's shield during his swearing in as a San Jose, California city councilman. From NBC Bay Area:

Diep, a Republican legal aid attorney, received cheers after he said "I do solemnly swear" when the clerk asked if he would defend his oath of office. His final vote of his first meeting? Joining the council in unanimously banning the communist Vietnamese flag from flying in San Jose.

In an interview after the meeting, the proud comic book geek and Houston-born son of Vietnamese refugees said that Captain America stands for the "kinds of things I strive for: equal justice, fair play and democracy."

Read the rest

Supreme Court: Trump nominates Neil Gorsuch

Neil Gorsuch, currently serving on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, is Donald Trump's pick to fill the seat opened by Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia's death. The youngest nominee in 25 years, 49-year-old Gorsuch could provide decades of reliably conservative opinion from the bench.

"A special thank you to @POTUS," was posted to an as-yet-unverified Twitter account in Gorsuch's name. "As Mr. Trump's Supreme Court nominee I promise to always do what is best for the American People. #SCOTUS"

Though Scalia died a year ago, Congressional Republicans refused to consider any pick from then-president Barack Obama, let alone his nominee, Merrick Garland.

Gorsuch is described by the Washington Post as "a less bombastic version" of Scalia, ruling in favor of allowing corporations religious exemptions from federal regulations. Conservatives hope to see aggressively anti-abortion opinions from Gorsuch, though the opportunity to issue one has apparently not come before him so far in his career.

He's also shown a libertarian bent when it comes to law enforcement, dissenting when two colleagues on the bench sided with a cop who arrested kids who belched at them. Read the rest

Lawrence Lessig on how Congress should behave when the president breaks the law

Lessig compares the current constitutional crisis -- a lawless, reckless president; law enforcement officers flouting federal court orders -- with previous crises, such as the impeachment of Nixon, and says the major difference between then and now: then, Congress had a bipartisan consensus that "they were engaged in the most serious job a member of Congress could have — because they knew that in a critical sense, the very stability of the Republic depended on them behaving as adults." Read the rest

What political party dominates your occupation?

Verdant Labs put together an interesting infographic on the political tendencies of various jobs. Read the rest

Petition demanding Donald Trump release his tax returns breaks White House record

The petition to "immediately release Donald Trump's full tax returns, with all information needed to verify emoluments clause compliance" has received more signatures (385,845 so far) than any other petition in the White House's We the People petition system's history.

From Huffington Post:

As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had over 368,000 signatures, surpassing the previous record of 367,180. The previous record-holder called for the United States government to “legally recognize the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.”

President Donald Trump spoke at the GOP Congressional retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday. He did not bring up his tax returns.

Trump has kept in place former President Barack Obama’s online petition system, which was created in 2011 to increase accessibility to government. The site also still states that a petition with at least 100,000 signatures will get an official response.

A spokesman for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the petition.

Spoiler alert! The response will be: "All the signatures were forged by someone sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds." Read the rest

Scenes from the inauguration of President Zuckerberg

Quartz editor Gideon Lichfield has published a science fictional vignette depicting the final backstage moments before the 2025 inauguration of President Mark Zuckerberg's second term. Read the rest

Belgian Parliament: if we shut off free booze in Parliament, we'll have to go back to dragging lawmakers out of the bars to vote

The Belgian Parliament has voted to continue its decades-long practice of supplying free booze to lawmakers, despite several incidents of unpleasant, drunken behavior, because the alternative is going back to having to drag elected officials out of the local bars when it's time to vote. Read the rest

White House insiders: Trump ordered Sean Spicer to lie about crowd sizes because he was "demoralized"

"Nearly a dozen" White House staffers have told Washington Post reporters that Trump was "demoralized" by press reports that showed a poor turnout for his inauguration and a much larger turnout for the Women's March the next day, and overruled his advisors and aides' advice to let it go -- instead, he ordered press secretary Sean Spicer to tell a series of easily falsifiable lies to the media that misrepresented the turnout for the inauguration. Read the rest

Corinthian Leather: the collected political nightmare photoshops

Due to infrequent but insistent requests for my unpleasant Photoshops of various politicians, I'm putting as many of them as I can remember here in one place. Sweet dreams!

I'd make a calendar but the licensing fees involved would necessitate crowdfunding it, which sounds like hard work.

There are a couple of extras here not seen before, such as Donald McNugget; and I likely missed a few too. Read the rest

How jokes won the election

Emily Nussbaum at The New Yorker takes a deep dive into comedy's outsize role in Trump's victory. It's one of the best long reads about the pop culture that defined this election. To use Emily's comedy metaphor, with notable exceptions like "Delete your account," Hillary and her supporters didn't read the room and were heckled at nearly every turn. Read the rest

Samantha Bee lets Trump enabler Kellyanne Conway have it

Before Trump's omnipresent spokescobra Kellyanne Conway distracted everyone with her inauguration get-up, Samantha Bee delivered a withering assessment of Trump's greatest female enabler of all time (Putin holds the male title). Read the rest

The secret to success in local politics: steal from the people, but not too much

In a new paper in Progress, Oxford economist Vuk Vukovic argues that the key to re-election in local politics is to be just corrupt enough: giving lucrative contracts and other benefits to special interests who'll fund your next campaign, but not so much that the people refuse to vote for you. Read the rest

The Women's March and the Judean People's Front: After Occupy, after trumpism, a new networked politics

Doubtless you've laughed at the ideological war between the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea. I laughed along with you: having grown up in politics, I know firsthand about the enmities that fester between groups that should be allies -- groups whose differences can only be parsed after months of study, but who are seemingly more at odds with one another than their obvious political opponents on the "other side" of the debate.

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