Archives August 2016

Will There Be Faithless Electors in 2016?
Trump’s hairpiece in the wild. Photo by Valerie G. Bugh.

You may remember that during the run-in to the 2016 Republican convention, the #NeverTrump people were trying desperately to come up with some way, short of dynamite, to put out the dumpster fire that the conservative movement has been feeding lo these past three decades, and is now threatening to consume the GOP.

At the same time, it was pointed out that the Democrats didn’t have the same problem, in part because they had nominated a human being rather than a Monster From the Id, and partly because of superdelegates, party officials whose vote counts way way more than that of regular delegates from your state.

As universally-reviled as superdelegates are, at least they act as a firewall: if the ordinary people had nominated an obviously unacceptable candidate, like a bowl of granola, for instance, the superdelegates could have overridden the will of the people.

Which brings me to the general election: the way presidential elections were originally set up in the US constitution, we don’t actually vote for president: we vote for a guy who’ll go over to Washington, find out who the best candidate is, and vote on our behalf. In many states, electors are not bound by the popular vote and can, in principle, vote against whomever the people chose: so-called faithless electors. Apparently there have been two of them since 2000.

But this election feels different. Trump is not your run-of-the-mill Bad Candidate. Even high-profile Republican insiders consider him not just suboptimal, but unacceptable, even dangerous. So I wonder whether we’ll see any faithless electors in January.

In practice, it probably (hopefully!) won’t be necessary: if Clinton wins in the standard way, the electors will be able to go about their voting as usual, in relative obscurity and irrelevance. But if Trump wins, there’s that safety valve. It’s also possible that he’ll lose, and throw an epic temper tantrum such that not even the electors will want anything to do with him, and might change their votes in protest.

As usual, when dealing with predictions, I expect to be proven wrong about a lot of this. I’m not psychic, you know.

Nigerian Scammers Are Good People

Via Slashdot comes an IEEE Spectrum article about a new scam from Nigeria. In brief, instead of asking you for money directly, they redirect your business email. They wait until someone orders something from your company, then rewrites the bank routing numbers and such so that the client sends money to the scammers’ account instead of yours.

So far, so bad. Technically interesting, ethically very bad. The moral of the story, as always, is be careful where you type your password, and if something looks hinky, think about it.

But then there’s this part:

Bettke and Stewart estimate the group they studied has at least 30 members and is likely earning a total of about $3 million a year from the thefts. The scammers appear to be “family men” in their late 20s to 40s who are well-respected, church-going figures in their communities. “They’re increasing the economic potential of the region they’re living in by doing this, and I think they feel somewhat of a duty to do this,” Stewart says.

Let’s just toss that on the pile marked “Religion doesn’t make people more moral”, shall we?