Bleats

Dumped US Attorney General Jeff Sessions Is The Patron Saint Of Everyone That's Worked For A Boss That Openly Hates Their Guts

Hot tip: if your boss is regularly tweeting about how much you suck, it's probably not going to end in a promotion.

Normally there’s a bit of a news lull after an election while everyone gets a sense of the new lay of the land. Unsurprisingly, US president Donald Trump wasn’t into self-reflection at the news that he had just lost the House to the Democrats.

Instead he warmed up by ramping up his rhetoric about the media being enemies of the people (including suspending the White House access pass for CNN’s chief political correspondent Jim Acosta on the spurious grounds that he assaulted a White House intern), praised Fox News for doing an “incredible job” for the Republican Party during the election, and also “accepted” the “resignation” of his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Sessions chose to resign in much the same way that passengers on the Titanic chose to go for a cheeky midnight dip, and brings to an end one of the most one-sided love stories of the Trump era.

Sessions was one of the very first Republicans to get on board the Trump express – endorsing the then-nominee back in February 2016 with the memorable quote “this isn’t a campaign, this is a movement”.

For that, and his support throughout the primaries and the eventual campa-sorry, movement, he was made attorney general following the election in November that year.

That sounded weird then, huh?

Unfortunately Sessions had been asked about knowledge of Russian interference in the election by then-senator Al Franken during his confirmation hearings, at which point he’d said “I’m not aware of any of those activities.” Problematically, just under a month after being sworn in, he was revealed to have had spoken twice to the Russian ambassador to the US.

Thus, when the Justice Department began rumbling with rumours of an investigation into Russian interference, Sessions recused himself from any involvement. As far as Trump was concerned, Sessions not being able to shut down any such investigation rather defeated the entire point of having an attorney general.

By May Trump was openly accusing Sessions of “disloyalty” for obeying the rule of law rather than protecting the president from legal challenges. By July he was telling reporters “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”

And as the investigation went on, so did Trump.

And on…

And on…

And on…

By September the internationally respected investigative reporter Bob Woodward was quoting the president in his book Fear: Trump in the White House as having described Sessions as “mentally retarded” and “a dumb Southerner” – which Trump somewhat implausibly denied.

And as such Sessions is a powerful reminder for everyone who has ever worked for a boss that openly hates them: things aren’t going to get better, no matter how unwavering your support and unquestioning your loyalty, and really you should just raid the stationery cupboard before throwing a lit match over your shoulder on the way out.

Still, now it frees up Jeff’s time for other important work…

The Trump Administration Just Played the Gender Card To Justify Banning A CNN Reporter From The White House

We're officially in the upside down now, everyone.

So, the day after the US midterms CNN’s high profile political correspondent Jim Acosta was asking the president of the United States about his campaign-long claims that the migrant caravan from Central America which is about 1000 miles from the US border is a threat to the nation.

And Trump dismissed the question, refused to answer a follow up, and once Acosta no longer had the microphone declared that he and his network were enemies of the people.

That looked a bit… well, you know, Soviet-y.

But then there was a twist! Acosta’s White House press credentials were pulled, according to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as punishment not for his impertinence in asking a question at a press conference, but for “placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job”.

Video of the entire interaction – in which said intern attempted to take the microphone off Acosta, and which he firmly but un-assaultingly hung onto – exists, complete with Acosta saying “pardon me, ma’am” and the aide sitting down again – and would seem to disprove the claim that he was in any way violent.

Except if you’re on Twitter where Trump supporters are already claiming it proves that Acosta assaulted the young lady and that, if anything, there should be legal consequences.

Judge for yourself:

Of course, if this was a sane and reasonable epoch we would find ludicrous the very idea that a man who boasted about grabbing women’s crotches would be up in arms about a male reporter refusing to let go of a microphone.

After all, if he was super-sincerely concerned about the safety of women, he might not be so gung-ho about overturning the laws guaranteeing safe and legal termination services, for one thing.

In other words: in the unlikely event you still harboured any hope that maybe yesterday’s results would lead to some move toward healing the partisan divide within the United States, you might want to put that gently euthanise that hope now.

You know, like the rest of us did a while ago.

Hey, United States, Australia Does Elections And Democracy (And Sausages) Better Than You So Lift Your Game

Or you know, have your midterms determined by a minority of a minority again, if you want.

As the entire world waits with genuine confusion and no small amount of trepidation for the US midterms and ask huge questions like “will the Democrats reclaim the House, if not the Senate?”, “Will the populace repudiate Trump or double down?” and “Why do they have a weird bonus election in the middle of the term anyway?”, Australians might look at the claim that this could have the greatest turnout of any midterm in recent political history and go “…by which they’re predicting that maybe half of the people that could vote will actually do so? How the hell does that work?”

And you probably know that the US has voluntary voting, as do most of the planet’s democracies, and that Australia is one of the weird nations that oblige its citizens to participate in their democracy, even if they’re really, REALLY hungover.

Neat! Now, go decide who represents your electorate!

The election which elevated Trump enjoyed the participation of “about 56.9 percent of the voting-eligible population” on Election Day, according to Vox. This meant that 27 per cent of Americans actually voted for the current president (and yes, slightly more did vote for Hilary Clinton).

Similarly the Brexit vote – the decision for Britain to leave the European Union – was decided by 37 per cent of eligible voters: just over half of those who bothered to show up and cast a ballot.

Analysis of the result concluded that young people, in particular, failed to show up and vote. And that’s a lousy way to run a democracy.

Shhh.

That said, voting turnout in Australia is actually on the decline. The 2016 election saw the lowest voter turnout ever at just under 91 per cent, and the Wentworth by election’s turnout was a pitiful 78 per cent.

However, Australia’s decision to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act in 1924 is possibly the smartest thing our nation has done in terms of maintaining a vaguely representative system of government.

And it’s not because of abstract ideas like that voting is a civic duty in a functional democracy, or because sausage sizzles are fun, or because voluntary voting is correlated with less participation by marginalised groups (as the Netherlands discovered after abandoning compulsory voting in 1970) – although all those things are good reasons.

It’s because since the law forces all Australians to participate, it also obliges the state to make it possible for everyone to participate.

For example: Australian elections are held on a Saturday specifically because everyone needs to attend a booth and that’s the least inconvenient day for the largest amount of people.

And sure, Saturday’s aren’t great for everyone – Jewish folks, for example, for whom it is the Sabbath. But you know what day is not convenient for anyone? Tuesday, the day the US holds their elections. Who the hell has a Tuesday off?

Also, you know how every US election has horror stories about polling booths being closed down in black-or-Latino-majority neighbourhoods, or moved inconveniently far from public transport, or deliberately understaffed in order to create artificially long waiting times?

OH GOD SHUT UP BRIAN YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

That stuff doesn’t happen in Australia because we have the Australian Electoral Commission: an independent statutory authority which runs our elections, and which is therefore also tasked with the job of ensuring that all citizens have access to polls.

They’re the people that make sure that people can vote, even if they’re in regional Northern Territory or Western Australia and therefore thousands of kilometres from a polling booth, or in hospital on Election Day, or offshore serving in an armed forces capacity.

The AEC also redraws electorate boundaries so that they contain around about the same number of people. Because it’s done by the AEC the government has no direct hand in the matter, unlike in the US where politically-motivated committees often redraw electorate lines to benefit their party.

(Deliberately redrawing electorates to benefit a party is called “gerrymandering”, which – and this is both true and amazing – is a term invented when Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry drew ridiculously-shaped electoral boundaries to best benefit his party in Boston, one of which supposedly resembled a salamander. Amazing.)

So, United States, there are a few things you should be doing to make your elections more transparent and geared toward participation.

I mean, what would happen if only certain demographics in electorally-key areas were able to cast ballots in an opaque system susceptible to party manipulation and outside influence?

Why, can you imagine?

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