Saturday, August 8, 2020

President Trump Signed Executive Order Redirecting Federal Employers Hiring Requirements

President Trump Signed an Executive Order, Friday August 7th, to redirect Federal Employers to weigh Applicants’ Skills over College Degrees.

"Today, I'll sign an executive order that directs the federal government to replace outdated ... degree-based hiring with skills-based hiring," Trump said during a Meeting with the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board. "The federal government will no longer be narrowly focused on where you went to school but the skills and the talents that you bring to the job." Trump added that his Administration had Valued Merit for a long time.

Adviser to the President, Ivanka Trump, who Co-Chairs the Advisory Board, said the Order will allow the Government to "better recognize the talents and competencies of all Americans" it Hires.

The White House isn't necessarily Eliminating Degree Requirements but is instead Encouraging that Skillsets for Jobs be Prioritized, making a Degree less Important.

Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, the Board's other Co-Chair, said the Need for Apprentices and Vocational Training was widely Needed prior to the Coronavirus Pandemic that has now put Millions of Americans Out-of-Work.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will be responsible for Executing the New Directive in an attempt to get more Americans back into the Workforce Quickly.

Private Companies are encouraged to follow this New Protocol, and Companies like IBM have already Rolled-Out Initiatives like this, reportedly Hiring 15% of its Workforce from Non-Traditional Backgrounds last year, Hiring based on Skill rather than One's Level of Education.

This Strategy is expected to help Employ Individuals from Underprivileged areas who could Not necessarily afford a Two- or Four-year Degree.

The Workforce Advisory Board is expected to Announce Details of a Private-Sector Ad Campaign led by Apple, IBM, and the Nonprofit Ad Council, as a way to Encourage Alternate Pathways into the Workforce besides a College Education.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Latest U.S. Tool to Fight Election Meddling

The U.S. Government on, Thursday August 6th, for a brief moment, became one of the Biggest and Perhaps most Annoying Telemarketers in Russia.

Seeking to Publicize New Rewards of, up to $10 Million, for Information about People trying to Attack the American Voting Systems. the State Department sent Text Messages to Cellphones in Russia and Iran.

It was the 2020 Version of a Longstanding Tradition of Projecting American Messages across the Borders of Adversaries.

During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe Broadcast Pro-Democracy Programs across the Iron Curtain.

In 2003, the U.S. dropped Leaflets in Iraq warning against the use of Chemical Weapons.

To the Russian Government, and many Russians, the attempt looked ham-handed.

Maria Zakharova, a Spokeswoman for the Russian Government, Ridiculed the Message, which she said had appeared on many Russian Cellphones. “The Program would yield Nothing for the United States government, and was more than just annoying to Russians.” she Predicted.

“By calling on people to talk for money about interference in American elections, the American special services are unceremoniously interfering in our life. What is this if not a real hybrid attack?” she wrote on Facebook.

One Twitter user in Russia posted: “For 10 million, I’ll say anything. Even that the Americans landed on the moon.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

FL Sen. Rubio's Bill to Change Key Dates for Electoral College Process

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced a Bill to Extend the Federal Safe Harbor Period for States to Determine Electors from, December 8th, 2020 to January 1st, 2021, for this year’s Presidential Election. “Americans Should Expect Election Chaos.”

Back in May, he called for pushing these dates Back in the Federal Statute that Governs Presidential Elections, when he identified several Dates in the Election Calendar that should be Changed for this Fall.

The last stages in the presidential election process are the casting of votes by the electors and the counting of those votes in Congress. The framework statute governing the meeting of the Electoral College and the counting of the electoral votes is the Electoral Count Act, passed in 1887. The Act provides that Congress must count the electoral votes on January 6th, 2021. That date should not be changed; January 6th is the first date the newly-elected Congress meets and the President must, according to the Constitution, be inaugurated on Jan. 20th. But the two other key dates in the Act, which might have made sense in the 19th century, can easily be moved back today; there is no contemporary policy reason these dates need to be fixed where they currently are. Pushing them back would not only provide breathing room for states to complete the vote count properly under the exceptional burdens this fall, but also for potential legal challenges.

- The first is the date the electoral college formally votes. By law, that date is currently Dec. 14th. But there is then a gap of more than three weeks until Congress receives and counts those votes on Jan. 6th. . . . But there is no need for [that gap now]. Congress could easily push this date back several weeks. The electors could vote on Jan. 3rd, the same day the new Congress convenes (the Act currently requires the certifications of election to be transmitted by registered mail, but that could be changed to permit those votes to be transmitted electronically). … Moving this date back is key to relieving the vice-like pressure states will potentially experience in properly processing and counting the anticipated flood of absentee ballots.

- The second key date is the so-called safe-harbor date, which provides that, if states certify the winner of the election by this date (technically, if they appoint a slate of electors) then Congress will be bound by that determination. This means Congress will not challenge the validity of those electors if they have been appointed by Dec. 8th. As the country learned in Bush v. Gore, this date puts states under tremendous pressure to complete their processes by then. But this date, too, can easily be moved back without compromising any policy concerns. If Congress moved back the date the electors vote by two weeks or so, it would move this safe-harbor date back by the same amount.

- To deal with the foreseeable and unforeseeable problems that could arise from changing our election process almost overnight, pushing this date back would be good policy – particularly for this year’s election. [T]hese minor date changes to the Electoral Count Act should not be controversial . . . Congress would be doing the country a service if it held hearings and addressed the Act, at least for these two minor date issues (the Act is also notoriously ambiguous on other major issues and clearing up these ambiguities, before our next disputed election, would be wise).

Given the Sensitivity of anything involving the Electoral Count Act, and Congress’ general Propensity Not to Act before Absolutely Necessary, the prospects for Congress Changing these Dates in the Act are perhaps Not Promising. But moving these Dates back would give Election Officials more time to manage Successfully and with less Controversy the Extraordinary Burdens they will likely face this Fall.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Friday, August 7, 2020

Can Trump Give His Convention Speech from White House?

President Trump said he will "probably" Deliver his Republican National Convention Acceptance Speech "live from the White House," prompting Questions about the Legality of such a Decision. "I love the building. I'm there right now. I spend a lot of time here. A lot of people didn't spend as much time. I spend a lot of time here and I like it. And I think it's a great place and greatly representative of our nation," Trump said in support of the idea.

In response to Trump's comments, Senate Majority Whip, John Thune (R-SD) asked "Is that even legal? I assume that's not something that you could do. I assume there's some Hatch Act issues or something there." Later that day, Trump doubled-down on the Idea and told Reporters, "It is legal. There is no Hatch Act, because it doesn't pertain to the President."

Trump is Right, the President and Vice President are Exempt from Violations under the Hatch Act, but it Does Apply to the presumably dozens of other Executive Branch Staffers who would be involved in a Convention Event. The Hatch Act, which was passed in 1939, Limits the Political Activities of Federal Employees, while on duty or in the workplace. Essentially, it Prohibits Federal Employees from Engaging in Political Activities, like Campaigning, in a Government Building, like the White House.

When asked about the Legality of Trump's proposed Plan, Kathleen Clark, a Law Professor at Washington University in St. Louis who Covers Government Ethics said: "While the President giving his RNC acceptance speech from the White House wouldn't be a violation for the President as such, it could be a violation for federal employees who assist him in preparation for that event. The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from using their government authority to influence an election and by definition if they're involved in helping the President with his RNC acceptance speech, that is influencing the election."

However, Clark said even then the Risk is Low because she believes this Administration has Turned a Blind Eye to Past Potential Violations of the Act.

Kellyanne Conway, for example, has remained an Adviser to the President despite the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) Recommending her Removal, many times, for Violating the Hatch Act by "disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media."

According to the Congressional Research Service, the Office of Personnel Management can Flag Potential Violations and the OSC can Investigate them but ultimately it's up to the Individual's Employing Agency to decide whether to Remove them based on the OSC Recommendation.

"This administration acts as though they don't care about the Hatch Act," Clark said. "The context of multiple violations and a refusal to hold violators accountable is relevant as we anticipate what Trump is going to do with regards to his RNC speech."

Legal Issues aside, Top Lawmakers on the Hill are concerned about the Optics of the President making an Overt Campaign Speech from the White House. "It's very wrong," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12th District) said. "For the President of the United States to degrade, once again, the White House as he has done over and over again, by saying he's going to completely politicize it is something that should be rejected right out of hand."

Several Republicans have also Expressed Doubts about the Viability of the President's Suggestion. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told PBS NewsHour Correspondent, Lisa Desjardins, that Trump giving his Convention Speech on Government Property would be Problematic.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Using Secure Ballot Drop Boxes for Absentee Voters

I Support using Secure Ballot Drop-Boxes, Mobil Units with Voting Officials aboard, and Curbside Voting.

Elections Officials across the Country are Accelerating their efforts to Install Secure Ballot Drop Boxes, a move they hope will make Absentee Voting Simple and Safe for those wary of the Mail or Fear Exposure to the Coronavirus at Polling Places.

The efforts come as Voters voice Concerns about timely Delivery of Mail Ballots.

Already, Postal Workers are Reporting Days-Long Backlogs of Mail across the Country, calling into question whether Ballots will Arrive at Elections Offices in time to be Counted in November.

President Trump has also ramped up Attacks on the Integrity of Mail Voting, in a year when more Voters than ever are Expected to Choose that Method because of the Pandemic. But he and VP Pence have been using Absentee Mail Ballots to Vote while in D.C.

But the use of these Drop Boxes, which often look similar to a Mailbox and are Typically under Video Surveillance or Guarded, has come under Attack in States newly Adopting them this year.

Some Skeptics worry the Boxes may Not be Properly Monitored to prevent Tampering, or that Voters will Not know how to Use or Find them.

In the Battleground State of Pennsylvania, these Drop Boxes are now in the Center of a Trump Campaign Lawsuit raising similar Concerns.

Some see Drop Boxes as a Safer and more Reliable way to Cast Ballots than the Mail. For instance, Michigan Elections Officials urged Absentee Voters to use Drop Boxes rather than the Postal Service after Mail Delivery Backlogs led some to Receive their Ballot as late as One Day before State's Primary Elections.

“Once it leaves the voter’s hand, the elections official has no control over it until it’s back in their hand. I think that’s why these drop boxes give them a little bit more of a sense of … ‘If you put this in the drop box by the appropriate time on Election Day, it’s going to count,’” said Matthew Weil, Director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Elections Project. “That’s a good feeling for an elections official, and I think voters should feel confident in that option, too.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Trump's Phantom Orders

Florida’s Coastal Waters are Safe from any Future Offshore Oil and Gas Development, President Trump Boasted in an Interview. “We’re not gonna be drilling, and I’ve already put out that order ― actually quite a while ago,” he said when asked if he could Commit to Not Drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. “We can’t do that. And the people of Florida just don’t want it. You know, there are some states that don’t mind it, but Florida does. And I live here too, and I vote here. And I will tell you, that’s not going to be happening.”

Aside from the Hypocrisy of Proposing to Open nearly All U.S. Waters to Fossil Fuel Development while Declaring “not in my backyard” for Florida, the “Order” Trump Claims to have put out appears to be a Figment of his Imagination.

Trump has issued No Such Order, but it’s Not the First Time he’s touted a seemingly Nonexistent Decree.

Trump appears to be taking Credit for Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Announcement in January 2018 that, on the Recommendation of then, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), whom he called a “straightforward leader that can be trusted”, he was taking Florida “off the table for offshore oil and gas.” Many saw the Decision as a Political Favor for Scott, a Vocal Trump Ally, ahead of his Run for Senate. The Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management later told Congress that “the secretary’s statement stands on its own” and was “not a formal action,” and Zinke himself acknowledged “no one was exempted.” The Administration’s Plan to Expand Offshore Drilling remains On Hold.

Diane Hoskins, a Campaign Director at Ocean Advocacy Group Oceana, said that Trump’s Remarks are Encouraging but “a far cry from any official protections” for the Area. “Will President Trump give other states that oppose offshore drilling the same assurances?” she asked. “And will he immediately and formally withdraw his radical plan to expand drilling to nearly all waters?”

Trump’s Public Proclamation on Offshore Drilling is reminiscent of his Response to the Devastating 2018 Wildfires in California, the Deadliest and most Destructive Wildfire Season in the State’s History. In a January 2019 Post to Twitter, Trump Declared that he had “Ordered” the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to Cut-Off Wildfire Relief Aid for Fire-Scorched California until State Officials “get their act together” and do a Better Job of Managing Forests, despite the fact that many of the Infernos primarily Burned on Federally Managed Lands. That came after the Administration used the Disasters to Push Partisan Policy, connecting the Infernos to a Years-Long Fight between Farmers and Environmentalists over Water Resources. The following Month, a FEMA Official said that the Agency “never got any such directive” from Trump.

When Tornadoes ravaged the State of Alabama in March 2019, Trump took a much Different Tone. “FEMA has been told directly by me to give the A Plus treatment to the Great State of Alabama and the wonderful people who have been so devastated by the Tornadoes,” he wrote. Much like the other Cases, there is No Record of a Directive beyond Trump’s Twitter Post.

More recently, the President has made Sweeping, and False, Statements about his Power to Order States to Reopen amid One of the Worst Pandemics in a Century. “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that is the way it’s gonna be,” Trump told Reporters in April when Pressed about his Plans to Force Governors to Restart their Economies. “It’s total.”

He made a similar Declaration the following month about his Authority to Force States to deem Churches as Essential Services during the Pandemic.
“Allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now for this weekend,” he said. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors.”

Rachel Laser, a Lawyer at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, was among many who Challenged Trump’s Rhetoric. “The president doesn’t have that power,” she said. “The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution forbids the federal government from strong-arming the states.”

Asked what Provision of Federal Law allows the President to Override a Governor’s Order, White House Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, dodged, instead Accusing Reporters of “desperately” wanting to see Places of Worship remain Shuttered.

While Trump fancies himself an All-Powerful Ruler and has a History of Referencing Nonexistent Orders, he has Issued a Slew of Real Ones with Great Fanfare, on everything from Advancing Construction of Fossil Fuel Pipelines to Targeting Social Media Companies that have Fact-Checked his Misleading Claims. In fact, he Signed More Executive Orders in his First 100 Days than any other President in History, although many Resulted in little Concrete Change or were Blocked by the Courts.

His use of them is Not without Irony. “I don’t like them,” Trump said of Executive Orders while on the Campaign Trail in January 2016. “And our country wasn’t based on executive orders.”

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Thursday, August 6, 2020

DNC Convention Update

On Wednesday August 5th, the Biden Campaign made Official what had been apparent for a while, the Candidate’s Milwaukee Convention was Dead.

Joe Biden will accept the Democratic Presidential Nomination in a Speech Broadcast from Delaware.

Credentialed Reporters were told to Stay Home. Convention Delegates already had No Plans to Attend and are Voting on Party Business via an Electronic Form.

Since some think Biden’s Entire Campaign is coming down to the Question of how President Trump has handled the Pandemic, it was Surprising that he waited this long to pull the plug on the Gathering, Scheduled to start on Aug. 17th.

Democrats have been rigorous in their Commitment to Safe Practices. For example, Reporters, who were to be Tested for the Virus Daily, were told that unlike Previous years they would Not have been Allowed to Share Credentials with Colleagues because Swapping Neck Lanyards could cause Contagion.

“I’ve wanted to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis,” Biden said at a Fundraiser after the Announcement.

Conventions long ago stopped being Deliberative Bodies that chose the Presidential and Vice Presidential Nominees. Howard Dean, the Former Head of the DNC said that a New Rule Change this year even gives Biden the Sole Authority to Nominate his Running Mate. Previously Delegates would still have a Vote, but that’s been Pro-Forma for a long time, and now it has been Dispensed with Entirely.

Policy Conflicts over Platform Language were once Serious Business, but they No Longer Matter as much. As far back as 1996 Bob Dole, the Republican Presidential Nominee, Dismissed the Relevance of the Platform when he shrugged, “I haven’t read it.” This year, Republicans simply Adopted the Entire 2016 Platform Verbatim.

The Democrats have had a more Robust Debate but they already worked out their Platform before the Convention Starts.

The Conventions are still Justified as Vehicles for raising Money, for Highlighting the Next Generation of Talent, and, most Importantly, for Speaking unmediated to the Electorate over Four Nights of Prime-Time Speeches.

The Virtual Conventions, this year, will Dispense with Everything except the Primetime Programming, which is really the Main Event anyway, and can be done without Putting Thousands of People in a Tightly Packed Convention Center.

They will provide the Parties with an Experiment about what Really Matters. And as with a lot of our Adjustments during the Pandemic, Child Care Routines, Work Habits, Vacation Plans, Social Life, the Two Parties and the Media may find that many Features of these Antiquated Gatherings are No Longer Necessary.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker