Posts Tagged ‘Presidential Election 2012’

Candidate Romney’s management fiasco

November 17, 2012


Mitt Romney campaigned for President as a successful businessman who would be a capable manager of government.  But the Republican get-out-the-vote effort on election day was crippled by a management fiasco called Project Orca.

Poll watchers of the two political parties maintain “strike lists”—lists of registered voters of their parties, whose names are stricken from the list when they vote, so that party workers can concentrate on getting those who haven’t voted yet to the polls.  Project Orca was intended to make this process more efficient by digitizing it.

A Romney campaign worker named John Ekdahl described the fiasco on his blog.

On one of the last conference calls (I believe it was on Saturday night), they told us that our packets would be arriving shortly.  Now, there seemed to be a fair amount of confusion about what they meant by “packet”.  Some people on Twitter were wondering if that meant a packet in the mail or a pdf or what.  Finally, my packet arrived at 4PM on Monday afternoon as an emailed 60 page pdf.  Nothing came in the mail.  Because I was out most of the day, I only got around to seeing it at around 10PM Monday night.  So, I sat down and cursed as I would have to print out 60+ pages of instructions and voter rolls on my home printer.  Naturally, for reasons I can’t begin to comprehend, my printer would not print in black and white with an empty magenta cartridge (No HP, I will never buy another one of your products ever again).  So, at this point I became panicked. I was expected to be at the polls at 6:45AM and nothing was open.  I was thankfully able to find a Kinko’s open until 11PM that was able to print it out and bind it for me, but this is not something I should have had to do.  They expected 75-80 year old veteran volunteers to print out 60+ pages on their home computers?  The night before election day?  From what I hear, other people had similar experiences.  In fact, many volunteers never received their packets at all.

At 6:30AM on Tuesday, I went to the polls.  I was immediately turned away because I didn’t have my poll watcher certificate.  Many, many people had this problem.  The impression I got was this was taken care of because they had “registered me”.  Others were as well.  But apparently, I was supposed to go on my own to a Victory Center to pick it up, but that was never communicated properly.  Outside of the technical problems, this was the single biggest failure of the operation.  They simply didn’t inform people that this was a requirement

Things got worse.

So, I headed back home to see if I could get my certificate.  I called their official help line.  It went unanswered.  I tried their legal line.  Same thing.  I emailed them. No response.  I continued to do this for six straight hours and never got a response.  I even tried to call three local victory centers.  All went straight to voicemail.

While I was home, I took to Twitter and the web to try to find some answers.  From what I saw, these problems were widespread.  People had been kicked from poll watching for having no certificate.  Others never received their pdf packets.  Some were sent the wrong packets from a different area.  Some received their packet, but their usernames and passwords didn’t work.

There is a lot more to Ekdahl’s post, but this gives you the general idea.

So, the end result was that 30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help.  Like driving people to the polls, phone-banking, walking door-to-door, etc.  We lost by fairly small margins in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Colorado.  If this had worked could it have closed the gap? I sure hope not for my sanity’s sake.

The bitter irony of this entire endeavor was that a supposedly small government candidate gutted the local structure of GOTV efforts in favor of a centralized, faceless organization in a far off place (in this case, their Boston headquarters).  Wrap your head around that.

I think Ekdahl is right.  The Republicans would have done better if they had concentrated on getting out the Republican vote instead of their counterproductive effort to limit voting by voters from Democrat-leading groups.

But somebody made money out of Project ORCA, and I doubt that person will suffer any bad consequences as a result of the foul-up.  This kind of thing goes on in the private sector as well.

Click on The Unmitigated Disaster Known As Project ORCA to read John Ekdahl’s full post.

Click on Trickledown Schadenfreude for more about Romney’s mismanagement of his campaign.

Click on Why Romney Was Surprised to Lose and Financiers Still Aren’t Rocket Scientists for more.

Hat tip to Making Light.


Obama: McGovern’s coalition and Nixon’s policies

November 15, 2012

The McGovern political coalition of suburban white liberals, African-Americans, college students, feminists, and environmentalists, which went down to ignominious defeat to Richard M. Nixon in the 1972 Presidential election, delivered a majority vote to Barack Obama in 2008 and again this year.   But what they got is another Nixon administration—expanded war, warrant-less surveillance, prosecution of whistle-blowers, a war on drugs and disregard for the laws, the Constitution and the separation of powers.

McGovern72Senator George McGovern, the Democratic Presidential candidate in 1972, ran on a platform of peace in Vietnam, universal health care, a minimum guaranteed income for the poor and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.  He suffered one of the most overwhelming defeats in American history, losing the electoral vote 520 to 17 and the popular vote 60.7 percent to 37.5 percent.

Like Nixon, Obama inherited a losing war, and, like Nixon, chose to intensify the war before making a reluctant withdrawal.  Like Nixon, he does not support universal health care, but instead pushed through a substitute plan originally designed by the conservative Heritage Foundation and later enacted in Massachusetts during the administration of Mitt Romney.  Like Nixon, he talks of the embattled middle class, but never of poor people.

Nixon is infamous for his abuses of power, but Obama goes further than Nixon did in covert action, surveillance without warrants, prosecution of whistle-blowers and assertion of the right to act outside due process of law and the American system of checks and balances.  So as is known Obama does not have a personal enemies list, but he has created the precedent of signing death warrants on his own unchecked authority, and who knows what a future President might do with that authority.

richard-nixon-1Nixon’s greatest positive accomplishment was in making peace with China, in defiance of the sentiments of most of his core supporters.   I don’t think Obama will go to Iran as Nixon went to China.   The way Obama has defied his core supporters has been in bailing out Wall Street and offering to gut Social Security.

Click on The Obama Realignment for conservative columnist Ross Douthat’s thoughts on the McGovern coalition.

Click on  In the Land of the Free for a British view of the U.S. Presidential election.

Nate Silver and the triumph of fact

November 13, 2012

One of the big winners in the 2012 national election is Nate Silver, a statistician-blogger who predicted President Obama’s election victory.  He called every state correctly and predicted the margin of the popular vote correctly, while better-known pundits, especially on the Republican side, were embarrassingly wrong.   He was subject to personal abuse as well as accusations of left-wing bias from readers who forgot that he predicted the Republican comeback in Congress correctly in 2010.

natesilverforecast2012He was lucky as well as right.  Based on the odds that Silver himself quoted, it wouldn’t have been surprising or discrediting if one of the swing states had gone otherwise than as he predicted.  But he certainly deserves his success and acclaim, for basing his conclusions on fact and logic rather than intuition and wishful thinking.

I’m not surprised that Silver got his start as an analyst of baseball statistics.  I think that on the average daily newspaper, sports writers and their readers have a more sophisticated understanding of statistics than political and business writers do.

Click on Nate Silver wiki for his biography, including his background as a baseball statistician and how during one period of his life he supported himself playing on-line poker.   If you read it, you’ll better appreciate the following comments by Bob Lefsetz on The Big Picture web log on the lessons of Nate Silver’s career success.


Another problem with the electoral college

November 10, 2012

The brilliant statistical election analyst, Nate Silver, pointed out that if Mitt Romney had won the popular vote by as big a margin as Barack Obama did, he would still have lost the electoral vote, provided the distribution of his vote among the states was the same as it was.

Silver-Nate-artSilver said Romney would have had to win by three percentage points—more than any Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988—in order to win the electoral vote.  Moreover, Silver said, the Democratic advantage in the electoral vote is likely to persist for the next few elections.

I’m of the opinion that the Presidential candidate who gets a majority of the votes is the one who ought to be declared the winner.  I’m aware that the rules are different, and I don’t blame anybody for playing by those rules, but I think the rules should be changed.

Besides being more fair and just, an election by popular vote would dilute the influence of voter suppression on the Presidential election.  Voter suppression matters most when, as in Florida in 2000, a small number of votes more or less than tip the electoral votes of a big state.

Click on As Nation and Parties Change, Republicans Are At an Electoral College Disadvantage for Nate Silver’s full report in his FiveThirtyEight column.

Click on National Popular Vote for a plan for reforming the Electoral College.

A vote for the “idea of Obama”

November 9, 2012

idea of obamaThe cartoonist Tom Tomorrow used to draw cartoons showing the disconnect between the actual Barack Obama and the “idea of Obama” in the minds of his core supporters.   The “idea of Obama” is a cautious progressive who favors peace, civil liberties, full employment and health insurance for all.   Even though, in my opinion, this view does not reflect reality, I’m glad that a majority of voters apparently favor the “idea of Obama,” or at least think it is better than the alternative.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote the other day:

The greatest and most enduring significance of Tuesday night’s election results will likely not be the re-election of Barack Obama, but rather what the outcome reflects about the American electorate.  It was not merely Democrats, but liberalism, which was triumphant.

To begin with, it is hard to overstate just how crippled America’s right-wing is.  Although it was masked by their aberrational win in 2010, the GOP has now been not merely defeated, but crushed, in three out of the last four elections: in 2006 (when they lost control of the House and Senate), 2008 (when Obama won easily and Democrats expanded their margins of control), and now 2012.  The horrendous political legacy of George Bush and Dick Cheney continues to sink the GOP, and demographic realities – how toxic the American Right is to the very groups that are now becoming America’s majority – makes it difficult to envision how this will change any time soon.

Meanwhile, new laws to legalize both same-sex marriage and marijuana use were enacted in multiple states with little controversy, an unthinkable result even a few years ago, while Obama’s late-term embrace of same-sex marriage seems to have resulted only in political benefit with no political harm.  Democrats were sent to the Senate by deeply red states such as Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota, along with genuinely progressive candidates on domestic issues, including Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, who became the first openly gay person elected to the Senate.  As a cherry on the liberal cake, two of the most loathed right-wing House members – Rep Joe Walsh of Illinois and Allen West of Florida – were removed from office.

via Glenn Greenwald

The actual differences between Obama and Mitt Romney were less than their campaign rhetoric indicated.  I think both candidates are aligned with Wall Street and the military-industrial complex, both accept perpetual warfare as a necessity which supersedes the Bill of Rights.  Within that basic framework, Obama will try to appease poor people, minority groups and feminists while Romney would have scapegoated them.

In their campaign speeches, Obama and Romney were very different.  We might have been back in the days of Johnson versus Goldwater.  The election outcome was highly significant as an indicator of what the voters want, although not necessarily of what they’re going to get.

I think that President Obama’s priority is to make a Grand Bargain with the Republicans on balancing the federal budget, which will involve compromising Social Security, Medicare and other historic Democratic social safety net programs.

But maybe I am wrong (which I certainly have been in the past) and the President’s supporters are right.  Either way it is important for Americans to let their elected representatives know what they think about important issues—preserving Social Security, not going to war with Iran, preventing Wall Street banks from gambling with the U.S. economy.


United States election map 2012

November 8, 2012


Here’s another election map, this one from Canada’s National Post.

Hat tip to catherinephung.

A German view of the U.S. election

November 7, 2012

On Monday, a writer for Der Speigel, the German newsmagazine, offered this view of the U.S. election.

nullThe United States Army is developing a weapon that can reach — and destroy — any location on Earth within an hour.  At the same time, power lines held up by wooden poles dangle over the streets of Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey.  Hurricane Sandy ripped them apart there and in communities across the East Coast last week, and many places remain without electricity.  That’s America, where high-tech options are available only to the elite, and the rest live under conditions comparable to a those of a developing nation. No country has produced more Nobel Prize winners, yet in New York City hospitals had to be evacuated during the storm because their emergency generators didn’t work properly.  ****

Romney, the exceedingly wealthy business man, and Obama, the cultivated civil rights lawyer, are two faces of a political system that no longer has much to do with democracy as we understand it.  Democracy is about choice, but Americans don’t really have much of a choice.

Obama proved this.  Nearly four years ago, it seemed like a new beginning for America when he took office.  But this was a misunderstanding.  Obama didn’t close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, nor did he lift immunity for alleged war criminals from the Bush-era, or regulate the financial markets, and climate change was hardly discussed during the current election campaign.  The military, the banks, industry — the people are helpless in the face of their power, as is the president.

Not even credit default swaps, the kind of investment that brought down Lehman Brothers and took Western economies to the brink, has been banned or even better regulated.


That’s all too true.  If you had asked me 50 years ago which 21st-century nation would have science-fictional technology for surveillance and waging war, while being unable to provide basic services for its people, I would have named the Soviet Union, not the United States.  That’s the kind of society you get when you are ruled by an elite group that is unaccountable to the general public.   I don’t think the United States ever will become like the Soviet Union under Stalin, but unless something changes, we could wind up very like Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

But the German writer seems a bit complacent about his own society, and especially about calling the United States an example of “total capitalism.”  Germany is being governed in the interest of its big banks just as the United States is.  The austerity measures that the German government is forcing on the European Union is moving Europe toward the same conditions that the writer doesn’t like in the United States.

What happens if the electoral college is tied?

November 6, 2012

A Constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College is highly unlikely because it would require approval of legislatures or conventions in three-quarters of the states.

Another way to do it is to have state legislatures pass a National Popular Vote law directing their electors to vote for whoever gets a majority of the popular vote, such laws to go into effect when enough states have passed such laws that such states would have a majority of the electoral votes.  Nine states, with 132 electoral votes, have passed such laws.

Click on National Popular Vote for more.

Election Day Links

November 6, 2012

I’d rather vote for what I want and not get it, than vote for what I don’t want and get it.

==Eugene V. Debs

Pundit accountability: The official 2012 election prediction thread by Ezra Klein

Why the Long Campaign Season Has Been Bad for America by Conor Friedersdorf

Eight Candidates We Can’t Believe Are Actually Going to Win by Tim Murphy of Mother Jones

America’s voting system is a disgrace by David Frum

2012 Presidential Election Interactive Map and History of the Electoral College

Drawing Up the Districts: the Gerrymandering Mojo Index

Don’t forget to vote

November 6, 2012


Click on Candorville for more cartoons.


Poll watching

November 6, 2012


Click on xkcd for more cartoons.

Hat tip to Unqualified Offerings.

The real problem is the bipartisan consensus

November 5, 2012

Two respected Washington analysts, Thomas E. Mann of the reputedly liberal Brookings Institution, and Norman J. Ornstein, of the avowedly conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote a book earlier this year entitled It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, about government gridlock.

The problem, they said, is the Republican leadership, which during the Obama administration has used the threat of the filibuster, cloture and other parliamentary delaying tactics to obstruct the normal function of government.  Our system of checks and balances, they say, has become dysfunctional.

I have glanced through their book, although I have not read it in full, and I think what they wrote is factually true.  Delaying tactics that in the past were used in extreme situations are now used routinely by the Republicans in Congress to wage political warfare against the Obama administration.

I don’t think the Republican leadership is exclusively to blame for this.  I also blame President Obama and the Democratic leadership for not fighting back.  The worst abuse was in setting up a situation in which a 60-vote majority was necessary to get anything through the Senate.  But the Democrats could have changed the rules at the opening of the Senate session, as Republicans threatened to do when Democrats were in the minority.

The larger problem, in my opinion, is not Republican obstructionism, but the measures that do get bipartisan support—undeclared wars, presidential death warrants, the bank bailouts, the “war on terror” and the “war on drugs.”   Every issue mentioned in the Tom Tomorrow cartoon [1] represents bipartisan consensus.  If somebody had tried to filibuster the National Defense Authorization Act or the renewal of the USA Patriot Act, I would have applauded them.

What can an American citizen do to break out of this bipartisan consensus?  One way is to engage in protests and demonstrations, like my friend Hal.  Another is to join a political party and work within it for change, like my friend Michael.  These are both honorable choices.  My way is to vote for someone outside the political consensus, such as the Green or Libertarian candidate.  I plan to vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party, but if Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party were the only alternative Presidential candidate on the ballot, I would vote for him.

This is a time to be thankful that the United States is a federal system and that the Constitution establishes checks and balances based on a separation of powers.  Whatever hopes there are for progressive social change rest with state governments, not in Washington.  Since we have 50 different state governments, it’s possible that at least one of them will be a laboratory for successful social reform, such as Vermont experimenting with a public option for health care.

If you believe you have to vote for a major-party candidate for President, you can look for principled liberal Democrats, libertarian Republicans or third-party candidates to support for the Senate and the House of Representatives and for state and local offices.  Even a minority voice can remind the public that there are possibilities outside the bipartisan consensus.  The Founders established the principle of separation of powers in the Constitution precisely for the kind of situation that exists today.   An independent Senate and House of Representatives are not a problem.  They are part of the system of checks and balances we need now more than ever.

Click on Naked Truths for a review of It’s Even Worse Than It Looks by Hendrik Hertzberg in the New Yorker.

Click on The US presidential debates’ illusion of political choice for a comment on the bipartisan consensus by Glenn Greenwald for The Guardian.

Click on A case for Gary Johnson and Why I’m Voting Green for alternatives to the bipartisan consensus.

Click on This Modern World for Tom Tomorrow’s web log.

[1]  Unlike Tom Tomorrow, I do not advocate new federal gun control legislation.

Why I’m not for Mitt Romney either

November 2, 2012

I’ve written posts about why I won’t vote to re-elect Barack Obama.  But that doesn’t mean I would consider voting for Mitt Romney who is at least as bad and may well be worse on all the issues on which I find President Obama unacceptable.

Conor Friedersdorf summed it up well.

Romney and Ryan are perfectly comfortable with all of the most sweeping attacks on Madisonian checks and balances that Presidents Bush and Obama have presided over.  The Republican nominee hasn’t just defended detaining people indefinitely without charges or trial.  He’s called for doubling the main facility where it is done! Romney avows that he is alarmed by an advisory board that would decide which treatments Medicare and Medicaid should cover; yet he is comfortable with the literal death panel Obama runs from the White House, where he and his minions add names (including American citizens denied due process) to a secret kill list.

Did Romney defend the Fifth Amendment? (“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury… nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”)  No.  Rather, he defends actions that plainly violate it.

During the war in Libya, waged in violation of Obama’s own articulated understanding of the War Powers Resolution, Romney didn’t point out that the Constitution gave Congress the power the declare war.  And no surprise. Romney subsequently said that if elected, he wouldn’t need to consult Congress before launching a war against Iran.  Is that the position of someone who grasps the wisdom of the Constitution and champions an original understanding of it?  In fact, it shows disregard for the plain text of the document, and ignorance of the reasoning for vesting war-making power in the legislature rather than a single man empowered like a bygone British king.

Other things Romney favors: a secretive federal agency that conducts warrantless spying on millions of innocent Americans; strapping terrorism suspects to boards and forcing water into their lungs right to the edge of drowning them; and constant invocations of the state secrets privilege to shield federal officials from being held accountable for past illegal acts they perpetrated.  In short, Romney is a friend to neither liberty nor the rule of law nor a federal government limited by the Constitution.  He should feel the ire of all limited government conservatives.

… … His position on Afghanistan is incoherent — he vows he’ll be out of the country by 2014, and simultaneously says it’s reckless to announce a date by which we’ll leave.  Even in hindsight, he doesn’t understand that George W. Bush’s War in Iraq was a mistake, and has argued that the U.S. should’ve kept troops there longer.  … …

… … The centerpiece of Romney’s campaign?  A domestic agenda that he obviously cannot enact. As Romney tells it, he’ll cut tax rates 20 percent, repeal the estate tax, refrain from raising taxes on the middle class, refrain from cuts to Medicare, spend more on the military, possibly wage a war against Iran, and reduce the deficit.  Doing all he’s promised is mathematically impossible.

via Conor Friedersdorf.

In much of what Friedersdorf wrote, the differences between Romney and Obama are mainly differences of degree, not of principle.  But there is another important respect in which Governor Romney is more dangerous to American freedom and democracy than President Obama is.

That is the attack of his supporters on the right to vote.  Republican state governments are throwing up obstacles to voting, ostensibly at the non-existent problem of voting by ineligible voters but actually intended to discourage voting by African-Americans, poor people, old people and college students.  In a close election, this may be the margin of victory.

This is a reversal of the whole direction of American history, starting with the Mayflower Compact in which people who were not of noble birth asserted their right to form their own government according to their own decision, and continuing with the Declaration of Independence’s assertion of the right of self-government, and with the extension of the franchise to the property-less, to women and to African-Americans.  In the civil rights era, people sacrificed their lives for the right to vote.   Now leaders of the Republican Party are willing to turn back the clock to the days of the poll tax.

Click on Why I Refuse to Vote for Mitt Romney for Conor Friedersdorf’s complete article.

Click on Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama for Friedersdorf’s earlier article.

Click on Voting Wrongs by Elizabeth Drew and my earlier post on The new battle over voting rights for comments on voter suppression by Republicans.

Click on Romney’s Claims of Bipartisanship as Governor Face Challenge for a New York Times report on Romney’s tenure as Massachusetts governor.  It was a mixed record, and not all bad.  If Romney’s record as governor was all I had to go on, I might be tempted to vote for him.

Click on Greed and Debt: the True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital by Matt Taibbi for a damning report on Mitt Romney’s business career.

Click on At the Olympics, Mitt Tried to Convict an Innocent Man for a report by Lou Dubose of the Washington Spectator.  [Added 11/3/12]

On the other hand, there is one respect in which Barack Obama is worse than Mitt Romney.  Obama has been able to reconcile liberals to the policies of George W. Bush, which Bush himself was never able to do and Romney would not be able to do.  In editorial after editorial endorsing Obama, the issue is framed as a greater or lesser degree of continuous war, a greater or lesser police state, a greater or lesser catering to the Wall Street oligarchy, rather than of how to achieve peace, liberty and justice.

I hope that principled Republicans will vote for the Libertarian Party ticket, just as I hope principled Democrats will vote for the Green Party ticket.

A post-election crisis of legitimacy?

October 29, 2012

Some friends of mine made an argument I hadn’t considered as to why liberals should vote to re-elect President Obama, even if they live in states certain to go for either Obama or Governor Romney.  They fear a crisis of legitimacy, due to Barack Obama winning the electoral vote and Mitt Romney possibly winning the popular vote.   That is a real danger.

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight poll analysis

Prior to the 2000 election, it looked as if Al Gore might win the electoral vote and George W. Bush the popular vote (you’ll recall the actual result was the reverse).  The Republican Party was geared up to challenge the legitimacy of a Gore victory.  I think the same thing can be expected in the event Obama loses the popular vote, or even wins by an extremely narrow margin.  There will be lawsuits, bogus charges of voting fraud and endless protests.

This danger, arguably, could be lessened by Green Party supporters holding our noses and voting for Obama.

This is a strong argument, but for me a crisis of legitimacy would be a lesser evil than acquiescing in the legitimacy of (1) creation of a secret paramilitary force (described in a recent Washington Post article) with a mission to executive an ever-expanding list of death warrants based on secret criteria, (2) an open-ended policy of expanding undeclared war based on flying killer robots, (3) impunity for torturers, continuation of secret CIA interrogation centers and condition of a policy of rendition, (4) protection of Wall Street bankers from financial failure and prosecution for financial fraud, and (5) the undermining of Social Security, Medicare and other basic safety net programs.

These are all things on which Obama and Romney agree.  The worst thing that President Obama has done is to convince so many American liberals to accept these conditions as normal and as a framework for debating the issues.

In 2008, I voted for a candidate who ran on a slogan of hope and change.  Now, in 2012, I am being asked to re-elect that candidate on the grounds that there is no hope and that change is impossible.

I’m not sure that a Romney administration would be greatly different from a second Obama administration.  Under a Romney administration, liberal Democrats might remember that they are liberals, and would be able to oppose abuses of power without being constrained by party loyalty.

Many Democrats are bitter about Green Party supporters in Florida in 2000, saying that if they had voted for Al Gore instead of Ralph Nader, Gore would have won.  But that was only one factor in Gore’s defeat, and not the major one.  The most important reasons for Gore’s defeat were the blatant bias against him of the Washington press corps, the disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida for bogus reasons, the “white collar riot” of Republican activists to block a  recount, and a partisan Supreme Court decision. Al Gore himself, acting (as he thought) for the greater good of the country, accepted defeat and told the country to move.   I don’t think that Mitt Romney and his supporters will accept defeat so gracefully.

But if President Obama loses the popular vote, or the popular vote is close, it will be his own fault, not my fault.  He would be more popular if he had not gone against public opinion in pro-actively protecting the Wall Street banks against financial failure and criminal prosecution, and in expanding rather than winding down U.S. wars.

Click on President Obama Could Lose The Popular Vote, Win in the Electoral College for an explanation of what could happen.

Click on FiveThirtyEight Blog for Nate Silver’s continuing expert analysis of poll results.

The legacy of Barack Obama

October 26, 2012

Barack Obama leaves a rich legacy.  He has established a bipartisan consensus that the powers of the President of the United States include the signing of secret death warrants based on secret criteria, and created a secret paramilitary force using flying killer robots to carry it out.  He has established a bipartisan consensus of never-ending warfare with no criterion for victory that could ever bring that warfare to an end.  He has established the principle that the government has a right to operate in secrecy and that insiders who reveal wrongdoing deserve to go to prison.  What other powers would a fascist dictator lack?

Obama has acted pro-actively to protect Wall Street bankers from prosecution for financial fraud, and to prevent the
“too big to fail” banks from being broken up.  He has offered to bargain away Social Security and Medicare in return for tax changes that could be achieved simply by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire.

When I think of Obama, I think of Bradley Manning stripped naked in his solitary cell.  I think of a 16-year-old boy sitting by the side of a road, suddenly turned into a “bug splat” because of the actions of his father.  I think of young black men going to prison for years for trivial drug offenses that Obama himself committed as a young man.  I think of Obama’s former chief of staff saying that everyone who expected Obama is keep his campaign promises is a “retard,” and his press secretary saying they should be drug-tested.

I will not vote for Barack Obama.  I will vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party, but almost all the alternative parties have a better platform than Obama’s.  It is a foregone conclusion that New York state will go for Obama, but if some of us show we want a better choice, that may have some effect in the long run.  Like the late Eugene V. Debs, I think it is better to vote for what I want, and not get it, than vote for what I don’t want, and get it.

Even if I lived in a swing state, I still would not vote for Obama.  It is not a foregone conclusion that a Romney administration would be worse.  If Romney is elected, some Democrats may remember they are liberals.  There might be opposition to the Wall Street oligarchy, the Homeland Security state and perpetual war, which there was under the Bush administration, but which has been neutered under the Obama administration.

Click on the following links for more.

The Obama Contradiction by Tom Engelhardt.

Obama moves to make the war on terror permanent by Glenn Greenwald.

The Question That Makes Most Obama Supporters Nervous and Evasive by Conor Friedersdorf.

President Romney Can Thank Obama For His Permanent Robotic Death List by Spencer Ackerman.

Symptoms of the Bush-Obama Presidency by David Bromwich.

Obama’s Betrayals: First the Base, Then the Party by Dave Lindorff

The other Presidential debate

October 24, 2012

Four Presidential candidates—Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party—had their own debate in Chicago the other night.

They were amateurish as performers.  Barack Obama and Mitt Romney could have done a better job than any of them of playing a President on TV or in the movies.  But they got into the substance of issues.  And for all their differences, they did agree on following the Constitution instead of fighting undeclared wars or locking people up without criminal charges.

Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson and Gary Johnson, but not Virgil Goode, agreed on the futility of the current war on drugs, and called for legalization of marijuana.  Stein and Anderson called for an expansion of the U.S. welfare state, while Johnson and Goode want to roll it back in order to balance the federal budget.

The last question they were asked was how they would amend the Constitution if they could.  Anderson would enact a gay rights amendment, Johnson and Goode would enact a congressional term limits amendment, and Stein would enact an amendment that stated spending money is not free speech, and corporations are not people.  Goode agreed with the latter, but said it would only require a congressional resolution.

Based on the debate, I now think I will vote for Jill Stein.

Click on Shift-Alt-Debate for Conor Friedersdorf’s thoughts on the alternate debate.

The debate was carried by the RT network, a Russian-owned English-language news network that broadcasts to the United States, and (I understand) by C-SPAN.

Is Obama really a defender of Social Security?

October 24, 2012

A blogger in New York state’s North Country says she’s going to vote for Barack Obama in order to ensure than Social Security and Medicare are here for her children and grandchildren.

Once upon a time I cast a vote that I later deeply regretted. I was a member of a labor union, and I voted for a contract that preserved my benefits, but reduced them for people who would be hired in the future.  Upon reflection, that vote left a bitter taste in my mouth.  I vowed to never again cast a vote that would preserve privileges for myself, and deny them to others.

This election is another occasion when I’m being offered that choice.

Over and over, Romney, Ryan and their surrogates say that if you are 55 years or older, your Social Security and Medicare benefits will not change under the Ryan budget, which Romney has pledged to sign into law.  That’s not good enough for me.

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Obama’s public stance on Social Security is that he “believes that no current beneficiaries should see their basic benefits reduced and he will not accept an approach that slashes benefits for future generations.”   I’ve read many articles over the years that point out that the fix for Social Security is a small one: lift the income ceiling for the payroll tax that funds the program so that wealthier people pay more into the system.  If that seems unfair to those wealthier people, I answer that it means that their rate of return drops, but that they benefit – we all benefit – when our elderly are not poor.  An economic analysis done by Gary Engelhardt and Jonathan Gruber in 2004 states that the poverty rate among the elderly declined from 35 percent in 1960 to 10 percent in 1995, and concludes that this reduction in poverty can be explained by increases in Social Security support.

I don’t think of Social Security as a retirement investment.  I think of it as an insurance program that we all pay in to so that our parents will have greater financial stability in old age, and so that we ourselves will have greater financial stability when we get old.  I want my kids and grandkids (and YOUR kids and grandkids) to also be part of the program.

The fix for Medicare is tougher, with the poorly funded addition of prescription drug coverage in 2006 not helping the financial situation.  Healthcare costs are tough to handle at all levels right now, whether you are poor on Medicaid, receiving Medicare, have private insurance (as I do), or are uninsured.  Obamacare actually helps Medicare, extending the period of time until costs exceed revenues.  I know that a fix is needed, but I won’t sign on to one with my vote that will greatly increase health insurance costs for my kids and grandkids while preserving my benefits.

What it comes down to for me: If we decide as a nation that we can no longer afford to take care of our elderly as we are doing now, then a scaling back of benefits should happen now, for everyone.  Our young people by and large are not any more able to put money aside for their retirement and future healthcare costs than my generation was, so why should we be sheltered while they take the brunt of both paying for my benefits and then not getting similar benefits when they retire?

I’m voting for the team that seems to want to at least try to solve the problems so that we don’t rob a basic level of security from our kids and grandkids.  The future generations who will be affected by a downgrade of Social Security and Medicare are not way off in the foggy future. They will be sitting around the table at this year’s holiday dinners with us.

via scifiknitter.

I think scifiknitter is dead right about the importance of defending Social Security and Medicare from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.  But I don’t share her confidence that Barack Obama can be counted on to defend these vital programs for the next generation.

The President time and time again has expressed a willingness to cut Social Security, Medicare and other social programs in return for a return to Clinton-era tax rates on Americans in the upper income brackets.  He packed the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission with advocates of cutting back on Social Security.  This is not something he was forced to do.  He could have achieved his tax goals simply by allowing the Bush era tax cuts to expire.

President Obama had not made Social Security and Medicare a central issue in the campaign.   In the debates, he told Governor Romney that he thought the two of them largely agreed about Social Security, and that he was open to the same kind of fixes that were made under President Reagan.  Those fixes entailed increasing payroll taxes and raising the Social Security retirement age.

The President says he will not accept reductions in “basic” benefits for current recipients or “slashes” in benefits for future generations.  He doesn’t define “basic” or “slashes,” so if you read his statement as a lawyer would, you see he gives himself a great deal of leeway.

I think that President Obama’s goal is a grand bargain with the Republican leadership to balance the federal budget by means of moderate tax increases with cutbacks in government spending, including entitlement programs.  He has expressed a willingness to make more cutbacks in social programs than rich people would pay in increased taxes.  I don’t know what is in his mind, but my guess is that he accepts the elite consensus of opinion and sincerely believes that cutbacks in social programs are necessary.

Click on Seniors and Social Security for the full White House statement on Social Security.

Click on Social Security and the Evolution of Elderly Poverty study for the full Engelhardt and Gruber study.

Click on Romney’s statements on Social Security for quotes illustrating Mitt Romney’s positions.  He really is as extreme an enemy of Social Security as scifiknitter says he is.

Click on Why even President Obama won’t champion Social Security for economics journalist Dean Baker’s analysis of the reasons why Obama and other American politicians won’t stand up for the United States’ most popular social program.

Click on Obama’s Betrayals: First the Base, Then the Party for comment on the significance of the President’s failure to campaign for progressive Democrats.

A time for decision

October 4, 2012

politics democrats vs. republicans

My desired outcome for the Presidential election is that the Green Party, the Libertarian Party or both get a larger number of votes than the margin of victory in the popular vote between the Democratic and Republican candidate.

My ideal (unrealistic, I know) outcome is that the Greens and Libertarians would gradually replace or take over the Democrats and Republicans, so that we Americans would have an actual choice of parties based on genuine differences of principle.

Click on Political Cartoons from Tom Toles for more cartoons.

Homer Simpson casts his vote

September 21, 2012

Hat tip to The Dish.

Machine politics: the real threat of voter fraud

August 27, 2012

While great effort is being put into meeting the supposed threat of voting by people without proper ID, a more serious threat of election fraud is virtually ignored.  About one in four American voters will vote on digital electronic voting machines without any paper record to verify the machine tallied the results correctly.  Furthermore these machines use secret proprietary software, so there is no way to check for possible flaws.

In the lead-up to the 2008 election, many people were concerned about the Diebold touch-screen voting machines.  Votes were miscounted or deleted in a number of elections, and computer experts showed that the machines could be hacked without detection.  Since then Diebold has been absorbed into Dominion Voting Systems which, along with Election Systems and Software, provides virtually all the digital electronic machines used in American elections.

These problems haven’t gone away.

Following a June 2009 election, officials in Pennington County, South Dakota, discovered a software malfunction that added thousands of non-existent votes to the county totals.

In a municipal election in Palm Beach County, Florida, in March 2012, a problem with election management software allotted votes to the wrong candidate and the wrong contest. The official results were only changed after a court-sanctioned public hand count of the votes.

In the 2008 Republican presidential primary in Horry County, South Carolina, touch screen voting machines in 80 percent of the precincts temporarily failed, and when precincts ran out of paper ballots, voters could not cast ballots in their home precinct.

In a test-run for an online election in the September 2010 Washington, D.C., primary, a hacker team was able to change all of the votes to “elect” their own candidates. The online voting system was days away from being launched in a real election for use by overseas and military voters. After the incident, the Internet voting system was canceled.


Here is a chart from an organization called the Verified Voting Foundation that shows the predominant types of voting systems in the various states.

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Here is a simplified version from Mother Jones.

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The Verified Voting Foundation in a joint report with Common Cause and the Rutgers School of Law made these recommendations to ensure an honest count:

  • Require paper ballots or records of every vote.
  • Have a contingency plan if the machines break down.
  • Protect military and overseas voters by counting their marked ballots, not by tallying them on-line.
  • Institute a post-election audit to ensure the electronic report is correct.
  • Use ballot reconciliation practices to flag votes being added or lost as they are tallied.

The original argument for touch screen machines was that some physically handicapped persons could not work the levers on mechanical voting machines.  Here in New York state, the old machines have been replaced by scan-able paper ballots, which anybody can use and which are available for recount if anybody thinks the scanning machines made an error.

Click on Counting Votes 2012: Verified Voting Foundation for more from the Verified Voting Foundation.

Click on Digital Voting Machines: Still FUBAR? for more from Mother Jones.

Click on Counting Votes 2012: for a joint report and recommendations by the Verified Voting Foundation, Common Cause and Rutgers School of Law.

Click on Touch screen voting is not as safe as an ATM for an explanation of the potential problems by Philip Michaels, a board member of Missourians for Honest Elections.

Click on Leftycartoons for more political cartoons by Barry Deutsch.

Is Obama really the lesser of two evils?

July 26, 2012

Many liberals who are dissatisfied with Barack Obama intend to vote for him anyway because they think Mitt Romney is worse.  But is President Obama really the lesser of the two evils?

Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are committed to tearing up the Bill of Rights in the name of the so-called war on terror.  Both are aligned with Wall Street financiers, and to continued war overseas.  On the other hand, Obama is less extreme than Romney, probably will make better (or less bad) Supreme Court appointments and make be better on social-cultural questions that don’t threaten the wealthy and the powerful.  But none of these things make him the lesser evil.

What the Obama administration has done, which the Bush administration did not do and the Romney administration probably would not be able to do, is to destroy the liberal opposition.  Democrats in Congress defended Social Security against President Bush; they have not defended it against President Obama.  They questioned President Bush’s claim of authority to imprison and torture people on his personal say-so; they have not questioned President Obama’s claim to kill people on his personal say-so.  If President Romney started a war with Iran, I’d expect a certain number of Democrats to oppose him; if President Obama did the same thing, not so much.

Republicans in Congress have been justly criticized for partisan obstructionism, but on issues of civil liberties, waging war and protecting financiers, there is a remarkable bipartisan consensus.  I would have thought Republicans would oppose President Obama’s assertion of unilateral power to commit acts of war, target people for killing and cloak his actions in secrecy, but on these issues they are at one with the Democrats.

I expect to vote either for Jill Stein, the candidate of the Green Party, or for ex-Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, the candidate of the Libertarian Party.  It doesn’t really matter, since it is a foregone conclusion that President Obama will carry New York, but I would not vote for Obama or Romney even if New York were a battleground state.

Click on Obama May Not Even Be the Lesser Evil for a good article by Andrew Levine in Counterpunch which makes this point.