Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The Moral Movement in North Carolina

December 23, 2016

I had planned to write a post about the Forward Together Moral Movement in North Carolina, led by the Rev. William J. Barber II, and how the movement brought black and white people together to elect Ray Cooper as a progressive Democratic governor of North Carolina.

I had second thoughts after the Republican majority of the North Carolina state legislature met in emergency session to strip the incoming governor of various powers that the outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory had.

But my final thought was that this was not the end.   In the U.S. political system, there are two forms—money power and people power.   People power wins in the long run so long as the people don’t give up.

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Did the DNC leaks really affect the election?

December 17, 2016

I have learned throughout my long life never to say that some powerful person or institution could not have done a certain thing because doing would have been idiotic.

150px-fsbBut it certainly would have been idiotic for Russian intelligence agents to think they could influence the 2016 election by leaking e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief.

And while that isn’t proof that they weren’t the leakers, it is a reason to reserve judgment.

The Clinton campaign leaks had little or no effect on the election outcome.  All they did was to confirm what some of us already thought about how the DNC was tied in with the Clinton primary election campaign, and Clinton was tied in with her rich donor friends.  If I had been pro-Clinton, this would not have been new information that would have changed my mind.

Within my circle of friends, I don’t know anybody who cared much about the Clinton campaign leaks.  On the other hand, everybody I know who ever handled classified information was upset by the FBI reports on Clinton’s mishandling of classified information.

The CIA statements of about possible Russian involvement in the Clinton campaign leaks have had much greater impact on American public opinion than the leaks themselves ever did.

Where is the National Security Agency in all this?  All this is in the NSA area of expertise.  The NSA would have better information than the FBI or CIA.

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Why the Electoral College result should stand

December 15, 2016

 The original idea of the Electoral College (Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution) was that Americans would not choose a President ourselves, but instead choose the leading citizens from our communities, and delegate the decision to them.

In that way, we supposedly would avoid self-seeking politicians and only choose individuals devoted to the public good.

This idea lasted through precisely one administration, that of George Washington.  From then on we had political parties and electors pledged to particular candidates—precisely what the Founders hoped to avoid.   This reality was reflected in the Twelfth Amendment.

Now certain opponents of Donald Trump, who claim to be followers of Alexander Hamilton, say that electors should ignore their pledges and exercise independent judgment.  This is a terrible idea.

I would be perfectly happy to delegate decision-making to someone I considered to be wise and good, but that is not what I did when I voted in the recent presidential election.   Most American voters don’t know the names of the electors they voted for.  I don’t.  If you do, you’re a rare exception.

I don’t think most Americans who voted for Donald Trump (or, for that matter, for Hillary Clinton) would be willing to see their decisions over-ridden by people they’d never heard of.   This is very different from the original idea of the Electoral College.  I think that Alexander Hamilton and the other Founders would think so, too.

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The CIA and FBI in the 2016 election

December 15, 2016

During the election campaign, FBI statements about Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information hurt her and helped Donald Trump.

CIA statements about alleged Russian hacking of Clinton campaign e-mails hurt Trump and helped Clinton.  As it turns out, the FBI counter-intelligence service is not convinced that it was the Russians who hacked the Clinton campaign.

cia-logoAnd, in fact, Craig Murray, a former British diplomat and human rights activist close to Julian Assange, claims to have personal knowledge that the Clinton campaign leaks came from a disgruntled Democratic campaign staffer.

President Obama wants the “intelligence community” to produce a report on whether Russian intelligence agencies have interfered in U.S. elections going back to 2008.  And he wants the report done before Donald Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20, which seems like an impossible deadline to produce anything more than informed—or uniformed—opinion.

Meanwhile Democrats who are trying to change the Electoral College vote want the electors to be briefed by the CIA on alleged Russian inference.

I have no evidence that the disagreements between the FBI and CIA are any more than an honest difference of opinion.   Even if that is so, I don’t like the idea of presidential candidates being vetted by the CIA.

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Why did Clinton lose? How did Trump win? Part 2

December 3, 2016

trumpclinton3Most of the election forecasters predicted a narrow win for Hillary Clinton, and, in a sense, they were right.

By the latest count, she won a popular vote majority of 2.5 million, or 1.8 percent, over Donald Trump.   That was less than President Obama’s margin of victory in 2012 (5 million, or 3.9 percent) and 2008 (9.5 million, or 7 percent).   It is safe to say that if her margin of victory was as great as Obama’s, Trump would not have been able to win the electoral vote.

So in order to explain the election result, there are two questions to be answered.  Why wasn’t Clinton able to hold on to the 2012 and 2008 Democratic vote?  And how was Donald Trump able to win the electoral vote without a nationwide popular vote majority?

I think Clinton lost ground because she took traditional Democratic constituencies for granted.   Working people—not just the “white” working class—saw less reason to vote for a candidate who took $625,000-an-hour speaking fees from Wall Street and other corporate interests, supported trade agreements that workers blame for job losses and declining living standards, and gave priority to college-educated liberals.

wsws-demcollapse-imageThey didn’t switch to Trump in large numbers.  They just stayed home.  Clinton meanwhile sought to peel off votes from college-educated suburban Republican women.

She still might have won if not for voter suppression aimed at Democratic constituencies such as African-Americans and college people.  As Greg Palast pointed out, voter registrations canceled through use of the bogus CrossCheck system were equal to Trump’s in key states.

The other was the Trump campaign’s success in using social media to target key Democratic voting blocs and persuade them to either support Trump or stay at home.

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Union worker support for Democrats is eroding

December 2, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump is an enemy of organized labor.

He favors “right to work” laws, by which employees can enjoy the benefits of a union contract without having to pay union dues.

He once said that the U.S. economy is un-competitive because wages are too high, although he later backtracked.

He promised to appoint a Supreme Court Justice with the same philosophy as the anti-union Antonin Scalia.

He promised to revoke every executive order issued by President Barack Obama, which presumably includes orders enforcing wage standards for federal contractors and new rules for overtime pay.

So it’s not surprising that American labor unions made an all-out effort to defeat him in the recent.  Labor unions donated $135 million to anti-Trump political action committees, and spent an additional $35 million to get out the vote and other political activities.  AFSCME, the NEA and other unions sent out nearly 4,000 canvassers, who knocked on an estimated 9.5 million doors.

Exit polls indicate that Hillary Clinton carried the vote of union families by an 8 percent margin.  But this is not as good as it seems.  Four years before, Barack Obama won the vote of union households by an 18 percent margin.  In other words, Clinton was down by 10 percentage points.

Donald Trump did better than Mitt Romney among union voters, but his gains were less than Clinton’s losses.  A large number of union families either didn’t vote or voted for small-party candidates.

What wasn’t Clinton able to hold more of the union vote?  First, Trump made a direct appeal to them for votes of union members, which Republicans haven’t done in recent elections.   Clinton tried to appeal to college-educated moderate Republicans, which she did with some success, but not enough to offset the erosion of majorities from traditional Democratic constituencies.

Second, Trump made an issue of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade agreements.  Clinton promoted the TPP as Secretary of State, but opposed it as a candidate.  Many factory workers blame the TPP, NAFTA and other trade agreements for loss of jobs to foreign countries.

I did not vote for Trump, but I think he is right about the TPP.  If he hopes to be re-elected, he’d better not break his word about opposing the TPP as he has so many other campaign promises.

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Election 2016 endgame: reflections

November 29, 2016

I have been concerned for years about the rigging of election results, including—but not limited to—voting machine tampering.   That is why I am in favor of an audit and/or recount in the current Presidential election.

Source: NBC News

Source: NBC News

I do not think there is any realistic possibility of changing the announced election results.   This would require the discovery of discrepancies in all three recount states—Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania—large enough to change the result, and all this before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 19.

What I hope will come out of the audit / recount will be an improved process for national elections—at a minimum, a paper record and a routine audit to verify the paper record.

I didn’t vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.   I am not pleased that Trump is President, but I am opposed to going to extraordinary lengths to keep him from taking office, such as trying to persuade members of the Electoral College pledged to Trump to violate their pledges.   I am more concerned with the integrity of the process than which of two candidates won.

On the other hand, I do not care at all whether the recount process undermines “confidence” in Trump’s supposed mandate.  Confidence is to be earned, not granted automatically.

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It would be unfortunate if the audit / recount process diverted attention from all the other ways in which the election process is and has been rigged.

Greg Palast

Greg Palast

An investigative reporter named Greg Palast has been reporting on vote rigging for years.  One method is the infamous CrossCheck system, whereby somebody who has approximately the same name as somebody in another state is assumed to be the same person, and the name is removed.

We the people don’t know if voting machines were tampered with.  We do know about CrossCheck.

As Palast notes, the names that are checked are almost always common last names of African-Americans or Hispanics.  Here’s how he said CrossCheck affected the current election:

Trump victory margin in Michigan: 13,107

Michigan Crosscheck purge list: 449,922

Trump victory margin in Arizona: 85,257

Arizona Crosscheck purge list: 270,824

Trump victory margin in North Carolina: 177,008

North Carolina Crosscheck purge list: 589,393

Source: Greg Palast | Investigative Reporter

It’s too late to give back the voting rights that were stolen in this year’s election.   The best that can be hoped for is to fix things for the future.

It’s too bad that the Obama administration did not see fit to investigate this.   I don’t hope for anything from Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s choice for attorney-general.   Ending this corrupt and illegal system will depend on citizen activists working on the state level.

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Election 2016 endgame: links & updates

November 27, 2016

This post consists mainly of links to articles about efforts to recount the 2016 U.S. presidential vote.   I never expected the recount to change the  election result.  What I hope is that the recount will make American citizens aware of how easily the voting process could have been tampered with, and of the need for reform..

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trumpwi-d3-page-0

Did the GOP Strip and Flip the 2016 Selection? by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman for the Columbus Free Press.

Why the U.S. State Department would not certify Trump’s election as legitimate by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman for the Columbus Free Press.

They link to other charts besides the one above showing the discrepancy between the exit polls and official vote.

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2016-presidential-election-table_nov-17-2016

2016 Presidential Election Table by Theodore de Macedo Soares for TDMS|Research. This shows the discrepancy between exit polls and official votes in 28 states.

In 13 states, Trump’s margin of victory was greater than the margin of error in the exit poll; in four states—North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida—the exit poll favored Clinton and the official vote favored Trump. In only one state, New York, Clinton’s margin of victory was greater than the margin for error in the exit poll.

Electronic Voting Machines and the Election by Thomas Cooiey, Ben Griffy and Peter Rupert for U.S. Economic Snapshot.

The No-BS Inside Guide to the Presidential Vote Recount by Greg Palast for Truthout.

A Slow Motion Coup D’etat by David Jay Morris for Cannonfire.

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The presidential vote will be recounted

November 26, 2016

Jill Stein of the Green Party raised enough money to meet the deadline for filing for a recount of the Presidential vote in Wisconsin.

She has until Monday to do the same in Pennsylvania and until Wednesday for Michigan.  I’ll update this post after the filing deadlines.

In order to change the apparent result of the election, the recount would have to show that Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, got a majority of the votes in all three states.

That’s not likely.  But a recount even in just one state would help to reassure me that the vote count was honest—or confirm my suspicion that it may not have been.

I think that’s Stein’s motivation as well.  She is not a supporter of Clinton and neither am I, but all American citizens have an interest in an honest vote count.

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No, I can’t prove voting machines were hacked

November 24, 2016

If you leave your car unlocked with the key in the ignition, sooner or later somebody will steal it.

If you entrust your nation’s elections to voting machines that can be tampered with, sooner or later somebody will tamper with them.

If your car is still on the parking lot when you come back, that is not a reason to leave your car unlocked and the keys in the ignition.

I think there’s enough circumstantial evidence to justify an audit of the 2016 Presidential election results in certain battleground states.

But if it turns out that there’s no proof that voting machines were tampered with in this election, that is not a reason to have voting machines that can be tampered with.

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The need for “faithful” Electors

November 23, 2016

I got an e-mail the other day asking me to sign a petition to members of the Electoral College pledged to Donald Trump to switch their votes to Hillary Clinton.

This is theoretically possible.  “Faithless” electors have violated their pledges in previous elections.

161101154244-electoral-college-explainer-animation-orig-00002708-exlarge-169But trying to overturn Trump’s election in the Electoral College would set a terrible precedent.  It is a bad and dangerous thing even to attempt.

If I were a Trump voter in a red state, I would be furious at the idea of my vote being set aside by somebody I probably hadn’t even heard of.

It would mean that, in the future, voting would not necessarily decide the Presidential election.  The vote would be followed by an attempt to persuade, threaten or bribe the Electors into going against the wishes of the voters.

Democracy is possible only when the results of elections are regarded as legitimate, and a peaceful transfer for power is taken for granted.

When elections are not regarded as legitimate, the basis of power is armed force.  And in general the Trump supporters are better armed and better trained in the use of weapons than the Clinton supporters.

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Did Trump owe his win to vote machine hacking?

November 21, 2016

Hat tip for the video link to Joseph Cannon.

Donald Trump got more votes than predicted by exit polls.  Was the problem the exit polls?  Or was it hacked electronic voting machines?

We’ve known for a long time that electronic voting machines can be easily hacked.

We know that in 12 states, Trump’s excess votes exceeded the margin of error.  There were four states—North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida—in which the Clinton won the exit poll and Trump won the vote count.  If Trump had not carried those four states, he would have lost.

Is this proof that Trump supporters stole the election?  No, but it is circumstantial evidence that needs to be investigated and explained.  It should not be let drop.

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Americans once again chose an outsider

November 18, 2016

donald-trump-stump-640x371In my opinion, Donald Trump got as many votes as he did because he is an outsider.

Why are outsiders popular?  American voters don’t like economic decline or stalemate wars.

The earning power of Americans has been in decline for the past 30 to 40 years, while wealth has become ever-more concentrated in the pockets of 1/10th of 1 percent of the population.

Over the same period of time, the United States has become more and more involved in inconclusive foreign wars.

Americans have turned again and again to outsiders who promise to change the system—Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bill Clinton in 1992 and Barack Obama in 2008.   Donald Trump was the outsider in 2016.

The hunger for outsiders will cease when a President leads the nation on a path to prosperity and peace.  Or when the country has declined to such a state that elections cease to be held or cease to matter.

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Trump’s election is not the end of the world

November 18, 2016

A few weeks ago, Democrats and liberals ridiculed Donald Trump for saying he might not accept the results of the Presidential election, and hinting of protests and riots if it was rigged against him.

Now some Democrats and liberals are protesting the results of the election and asking members of the Electoral College pledged to Donald Trump to go back on their word.

Clinical psychologists in New York City and elsewhere are flooded with calls from people who need help coping with their fear of Donald Trump.   Little Hispanic and Muslim children are terrified that Trump supporters are going to come after them.

Donald Trump giving victory speech (AP)

Donald Trump giving victory speech (AP)

They literally believe that the election of Donald Trump is equivalent to the election of Adolf Hitler.

I don’t want to make light of these fears.  I think people really are afraid.

Trump’s election was a bad thing.  A lot of people are going to be hurt because of the Trump administration (for that matter, many would have suffered under a Hillary Clinton administration).

American democracy survived Dick Cheney, Richard Nixon and Joe McCarthy.  I am confident it will survive Donald Trump.  I highly recommend watching the 12-minute Ian Welsh video above and reading the links below for perspective.

Trying to negate the Electoral College vote is a terrible idea.  The effort is bound to fail, and will discredit future demands by liberals and Democrats to respect the rule of law.   Even if it succeeded, it would set a bad precedent of setting aside election results by fair means or foul.

The Electoral College has existed for more than 200 years.  It is what it is because of a compromise that was necessary to create a United States in the first place.   Progressive and liberal presidents have been elected in the past through the Electoral College system and have just as much chance of being elected in the future.

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Jesse Jackson on identity politics

November 16, 2016

During the Presidential campaign of 1988, the Reverend Jesse Jackson was asked, “How you are going to get the support of the white steelworker?”  He replied: “By making him aware he has more in common with the black steel workers by being a worker, than with the boss by being white.”

Source: It’s Class, Stupid, Not Race by Marshall Auerback for Counterpunch.

GOP didn’t gain votes, but Democrats lost many

November 14, 2016

wsws-demcollapse-image

Hillary Clinton was not beaten by an upsurge in votes for Donald Trump.  She was beaten because she lost votes, not because Trump gained votes.

I don’t believe the American public is satisfied with either the Democrats or the Republicans.  That’s why we’ve been alternating Democrats and Republicans in power for the past 30 or 40 years.

We keep giving one party, then the other, an opportunity to prove its leaders can achieve peace and prosperity and, again and again, they fail the test.

As these charts indicate, Hillary Clinton’s loss in the Presidential election was caused by voters turning away from her, not the popularity of Donald Trump.   The charts below show that in every demographic category except “people of color,” the “other / no vote” voters outnumbered Democrats or Republicans.   And even support by “people of color” for Democrats dropped sharply.

Election 2016byrace1-1

Election20161-4

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Republicans gain even more power in the states

November 14, 2016

Republicans, who already control the majority of state governments, gained complete control last Tuesday in Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and New Hampshire.

These maps show the extent of GOP control.

imrs-2

imrs

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Thomas Ferguson on the Democrats’ future

November 10, 2016

Political scientist Thomas Ferguson is always worth reading and listening to.  In this interview with Paul Jay of the Real News Network, he said the Democratic formula of “Wall Street plus identity politics” is dead.

That formula is to take Wall Street money and then champion the interests of women and minorities in ways that don’t threaten Wall Street’s profits.

The problem from the standpoint of the Democrats is that so many people—including women and minorities—are more worried about keeping their jobs, earning a decent wage and paying their bills than they are about Donald Trump’s offensive way of speaking.

But it’s hard to do anything about jobs, wages and debt and stay in the good graces of big donors.

He said Donald Trump could be a popular and successful President if he follows through on certain of his campaign promises, particularly the one to begin a major public works—that is, infrastructure—program.

Is there a chance he would do that?  Too soon to say, Ferguson said.

LINKS

Democrats, Trump and the Ongoing Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit by Glenn Greenwald for The Intercept.  (Hat tip to Tim Mullins)

Clinton actually got more votes than Trump

November 10, 2016

The votes are still being counted, but it now seems almost certain that more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than voted for Donald Trump.

The same thing happened in the 2000 election.  Al Gore received more votes nationwide than George W. Bush.  Two out of the last three Republican victories were with a minority of the votes!

Until and unless the Electoral College is abolished, this is likely to happen again, and always in favor of the Republicans.

trump-clinton1The reason is that Americans do not vote directly for President, but for members of the Electoral College, who then choose a President, and that the Electoral College is tilted in favor of small states—most of them rural states with Republican majorities.

Each state gets a number of electoral votes equal to its representation in the House of Representatives, which is apportioned according to population, plus its representation in the Senate, which is two per state.

Democrats are concentrated in cities and in large states with large cities.  Republicans are more spread out across the country, and are more over-represented in the Senate and in the Electoral College (and also in the House of Representatives, due to gerrymandering).

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Why did Clinton lose? How did Trump win?

November 9, 2016

113282161-post-news-large_transqvzuuqpflyliwib6ntmjwfsvwez_ven7c6bhu2jjnt8Yesterday morning at this time I was confident that Hillary Clinton would win the election and that Donald Trump would lose—not because I thought Clinton was a strong candidate, but that Trump (seemingly) was such a bad one.

Throughout the primary and general election campaigns, I expected Trump to self-destruct and, in the closing weeks of the campaign, I thought he did.

My great fear was that the Clinton administration would be a failure and that, four years from now, a sane Donald Trump would emerge—someone who stood for the same things that Trump stands for, but who had a minimum of dignity, courtesy, self-control and background knowledge, someone equivalent to Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen or Vladimir Putin.

But I was wrong.  Despite all his self-destructive behavior, the real Trump won.   Why?

Trump was a candidate of change, and Clinton was the candidate of the status quo.  More people wanted change, even risky change, than wanted the status quo.

Trump appealed to hate, and Clinton appealed to fear.  Hate is a more empowering emotion than fear.

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How much was the election rigged?

November 9, 2016

Greg Palast reported on how millions of registered voters, mostly African-Americans and Hispanics, were removed from the voting rolls in Ohio, North Carolina and other states.

He reported how there still are electronic voting machines that can be hacked, and how, in Ohio, a new safety feature on these machines was deliberately turned off.

So there is no question that there was vote rigging.  The question is whether this was what gave Donald Trump and the Republicans their margin of victory.

Voters were removed from the rolls by a system called CrossCheck.  The system checks to see whether people of the same name vote in different jurisdictions.  Palast said as many as one in six African-American voters lost their right to vote through CrossCheck.

I happen to know through Google that there are a number of men named Philip Ebersole throughout the country.  Assuming that all or most are registered voters, my voter registration could be canceled without me ever knowing about it until I came to vote.

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Jill Stein’s greatest hits

November 6, 2016

A shorter version is below.

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Donald Trump is not a friend of working people

November 5, 2016

I don’t personally know many Donald Trump supporters.  But I can understand why somebody might be so fed up with what’s happened during the past eight years or sixteen years or twenty-four years that they might turn to somebody such as Donald Trump.

720x405-GettyImages-483208910People will overlook many faults in a leader if they think the leader is on their side.  I think that’s why Trump’s offensive and foolish statements, which would have sunk any ordinary candidate, are overlooked.

Many people think—wrongly—that they have nothing to lose and might as well take a chance on Trump.

Unfortunately, Trump is not really on the side of working people, as is shown by his record in business, by the people on his political and economic team and by his economic policies (provided you read the fine print).

His record as a businessperson shows that he hired unauthorized immigrants so as to be able to pay sweatshop wages and that he often refused to pay employees and contractors what he owed.

His economic advisers are mostly Wall Street investors and hedge fund managers—the type of people he’s denounced on the campaign trail.

And although his actual proposals contain a few things I agree with, it is basically the same old 30-year-old Republican formula—cut taxes (especially on the rich), cut government spending (except on the military) and eliminate regulations to protect workers, public health and the environment.

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A choice of evils: links November 5, 2016

November 5, 2016

Trumponomics, Taxes and the American Worker by David Cay Johnston for the Washington Spectator.

It Didn’t Have to Be Hillary by Andrew Levine for Counterpunch.

The GOP’s Stealth War Against Voters by Greg Palast for Rolling Stone.

Barrel Bomb: the Cataclysmic Close of Campaign 2016 by Chris Floyd for Empire Burlesque.

The Places Left Behind by Lily Geismer for Jacobin.  About the Clintons’ “New Markets” initiative.

Donald Trump in 2008 on Bill & Hillary Clinton

November 4, 2016

Hat tip for this to Mike the Mad Biologist.