Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day

Saturday, December 3, 2016

December 3, 2016
Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, wants a recount in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It’s difficult to see why. Certainly she will not win the election nationally or in those states, having won small fractions of the vote there, as elsewhere. If a recount moved all three states into the Clinton column, she would win. The odds of that are small, so it’s difficult to imagine that Stein expects that to happen. Even if it could, why would Stein want Clinton to win, after running against her, and making very negative statements about her?[77]  Is it a desperate save-us-from-Trump reaction similar to the plea that electors from Trump states violate their oaths? Is Stein feeling guilty of costing Hillary the election? It’s true that Stein’s votes were more than the Trump margin in Michigan, and Wisconsin and, as of yesterday, in Pennsylvania. Whatever the motivation, the three states Clinton would need are the only states targeted by Stein.
None of that matters, according to Dr. Stein, who claims that this is merely an exercise in good government. "Our effort to recount votes in those states is not intended to help Hillary Clinton. These recounts are part of an election integrity movement to attempt to shine a light on just how untrustworthy the U.S. election system is."[78] Also, her application is disinterested: "The Stein/Baraka campaign is well positioned to lead the effort as election integrity advocates, without a personal conflict of interest in the outcome."[79]  The identification of the campaign with the recount is odd considering this disclosure: "Though Jill Stein was a Green Party presidential candidate, the party did not endorse the recount initiative. Her 2016 vice presidential running mate, Ajamu Baraka, is not a plaintiff."[80]
As to evidence supporting recount, Stein offers this: "We are conducting these recounts because independent election experts have pointed to 'statistical anomalies' in the presidential election results in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Experts who have studied our voting system for years have concluded many of our voting machines are hackable."[81]  Is that true in only those states? The coincidence is a little hard to accept.
"Whether these machines were hacked by foreign or domestic agents will be determined by using the mechanisms available to us in each state we conduct a recount. Statistical anomalies could arise through other means, as well."[82]  In other words, all they have to go on is speculation or, to put more kindly, suspicion. This is confirmed by an affidavit by Stein’s expert: "One explanation for the results of the 2016 presidential election is that cyberattacks influenced the result. This explanation is plausible, in light of other known cyberattacks intended to affect the outcome of the election; the profound vulnerability of American voting machines to cyberattack; and the fact that a skilled attacker would leave no outwardly visible evidence of an attack other than an unexpected result."
However, in addition to the absence of "outwardly visible evidence," this all seems somewhat aimless; he adds: "Were this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack? Probably not. I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked. But I don’t believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other."[83]
There seems to be a long-term political motivation as well; one of Stein’s recount web pages tells us: "Independently funded candidates like Jill Stein cannot stand a chance if our electoral system is rigged in favor of establishment, corporate-funded candidates."[84]  How does "rigged in favor of the establishment" square with hacking, possibly by "foreign agents"?
Another explanation was offered by Greg Palast, based on comments by a lawyer involved in the recount: it isn’t about hacking, but about possible errors in software used to tabulate votes, and about ballots discarded due to alleged irregularities.[85]  However, the latter is contrary to the description of the problem and the evidence on the Stein web sites, which make only a passing reference to discarded ballots, and the recount procedure doesn’t seem oriented toward them. As to the former, Palast conceded that the Stein forces do not have access to the computer codes.
It’s impossible to make sense of all of this. The decision of the Clinton campaign to join in the recounts is less mysterious, but unfortunate, as is not only looks like sore losing, but also allows Trump fans to say, "See, Clinton thinks it’s rigged too. Didn’t her people tell us to accept the results?" However, the response by pro-Trump organizations to the recounts has been a mixture of outrage and panic.
This continues to be a strange election year.

82. Ibid.
83. pennsylvania_but_has_no_evidence_of_fraud.html  
85. recount

Saturday, November 12, 2016

November 12, 2016

Among the hazards of criticizing our politics is that one runs out of superlatives. Dub something the worst, the most egregious, the most baffling, and soon something arises that better deserves those pejoratives. Just when the ultimate seems to have been reached, there is a new record. I have in mind, of course, the advent of Donald Trump as President.
In 2000, the electoral college produced a President thought to be unsuited to the job, although more people had voted for his opponent. This year it produced one who is unequipped by experience, temperament or intellect; again, his opponent received more votes. At least this time the partisan Supreme Court didn’t have its thumb on the scale. I referred the other day to our recapture of the prize for electoral folly. Implicit in that contest was the notion that in 2004 George W. Bush was the worst imaginable choice as President. No longer.
Many voters were angry and anxious, and felt that a liberal elite, undefined but somehow in charge of government, did not understand them or care about their concerns. (Congress is in Republican hands, but never mind). Once the contest was framed in those terms, Hillary Clinton was at a disadvantage, being regarded as part of that uncaring set. How Donald Trump, a self-centered financial manipulator, became accepted as their champion is a mystery. One only can assume that his followers did not regard him as a potential president but only as the spokesman, the outlet, for their anger. It would be interesting to know whether many of them actually expect that he will change conditions in their favor.
We’re in the odd position of having to hope that someone who never should have been nominated will perform well, or at least not disastrously. It’s almost impossible to guess whether he will be better, worse, or simply different from the Donald Trump of the campaign. As one of his advisors put it, a Trump administration "is basically a blank slate that needs to be filled in."

Thursday, November 10, 2016

November 10, 2016

I woke up Wednesday morning feeling that I was on another planet, or at least in another country. The new one was ugly, hostile, frightening. I suppose that sense mirrors the pre-election feelings of those who voted for Trump, and why they did so. They wanted change, but may learn to be careful of what they wish for.  
Twelve years ago, following the (re)election of George W. Bush, London's Daily Mirror asked, "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?" The Brits lost their ability to denigrate our good sense by voting for Brexit, but it didn’t take long for us to recapture the lead in self-destuctive folly.
It remains to be seen whether the rise of Trump causes any rethinking on the part of the Republican Party. His victory and Republican retention of Congress probably will discourage any such movement but, if it were to happen, it might be more serious than the 2012 exercise. It might, as in 1964, be the product of a wing of the Party.
In the meantime, the Democrats need to do some soul-searching. Hillary Clinton was not a good choice as their standard-bearer. Among other problems, she represented the wing of the Party — neoliberal, centrist, New Democrat, whatever — which is too cozy with big business and too much into globalization to convince ordinary people that it is on their side. She represented staying the course when many voters, Democrats as well as Republicans, wanted a new direction.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

November 5, 2016
In late 2012, the Republican Party, noticing that it hadn’t won the presidential election, produced a report entitled "Growth and Opportunity Project," which acknowledged, grudgingly and in limited fashion, that it had a problem: "Public perception of the Party is at record lows. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country." Most of the report dealt with perception and messaging, rather than substence, but it took its task seriously enough to make some progressive recommendations, such as this; "We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. . . . We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years."
However, the report, while criticizing the Party at the national level, praised its record in state government. "Republican governors are America’s reformers in chief. They continue to deliver on conservative promises of reducing the size of government while making people’s lives better." The only part of that which is accurate is reduction of government. "Reform" is used in an odd sense; the report holds up as examples Sam Brownback of Kansas, who has proved that "conservative" economic theory doesn’t work, and Bobby Jindal, whose state became a fiscal and environmental mess, along with Chris Christie and Scott Walker, none of whom should be a role model. There isn’t a new age visible there.
It will be interesting to see what sort of report, if any, arises out of the Party’s capture by Donald Trump.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November 1, 2016
To say that this is an unusual presidential year would be a substantial understatement. The race for office is closer than it ought to be, given the Republican candidate, in part due to a populist revolt against perceived misgovernment by elites, but also due to the virtual absence any discussion of issues in media coverage, and due to the unpopularity of the Democratic candidate.
The primary season was odd: on the Republican side, there were multiple candidates, none very impressive but some preferable to the winner. On the Democratic side, the — to me still baffling — inevitability of Hillary Clinton limited the race to four, quickly reduced to two. Bernie Sanders, for all his merit, hardly would have been predicted, a few years ago, as a viable candidate. Mrs. Clinton was lucky in both races: few challengers for the nomination and an ignorant, clumsy extremist as the final opponent.
Mr. Trump has obliterated any record, at least in modern times, for offensive comments by a nominee for the presidency. Early on much of that had little play, partly because of the tendency of most of the media to strike a pose of neutrality, and partly because of the sheer volume of his outbursts, giving rise to an "oh, that’s just the Donald" response. Eventually, he became too gross to be given a pass.
The debates were, on the whole, a disaster for Trump. Although he made some effort to be under control in the second and third, his character by then was too well known for redemption. Certainly the low point was his threat to jail Mrs. Clinton, an indicator of the dismal state of politics in this country. Contrast 2008. At McCain rally, a woman in the audience said, "I can't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's not, he's not uh — he's an Arab." McCain, having none of that, retook the microphone and replied: "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not [an Arab]."[75]  How far we have fallen in eight years.
Mrs. Clinton’s defects as a candidate, both as a campaigner and personally, virtually faded from view in the storm over Trump’s attitude toward women, but now she is again under the microscope thanks to the baffling disclosure by the FBI director of e-mails on a computer used by a Clinton aide. Even leaving aside the usual reluctance by officials to make controversial announcements just before elections, Comey’s action is odd: no one seems to know whether the new items are significant, or even really new. The effect of the announcement was to stir up the media and aid Trump, an effect Comey must have anticipated.
One of the ironies of the treatment of Mrs. Clinton, by the media and by the Trump forces (Fox would fall into both categories) is the focus on the e-mails while overlooking more serious matters. One of my greatest concerns is her attitude toward military intervention. We all know by now that she voted for the invasion of Iraq (and for the panic-induced Patriot Act). There hasn’t been much attention to her role in the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, which has led to chaos and the establishment of an ISIS outpost. Apparently having learned nothing from the results in Iraq, Secretary Clinton supported intervention in Libya. After Qaddafi was hunted down and killed by rebels, she quipped, inanely and flippantly, "We came, we saw, he died," and then laughed: regime change as comedy.[76]
At a lecture we attended a few days ago, the speaker declared his support for Mrs. Clinton, joined no doubt by all of the audience, but portrayed her in terms which conjured up an image of Joan of Arc. Those of us who will vote for her need to be realistic, and acknowledge that this is very much a matter of choosing, if not the lesser evil, then the less flawed candidate. Both parties have serious work to do if we are not to be faced with this situation again.



Monday, October 24, 2016

October 23, 2016
The state of the union is not good, politically and otherwise, and the present election contest both reflects and exacerbates that condition. There hasn’t been a discussion of important issues; it’s been a verbal, and occasionally physical, brawl. As Garrison Keillor put it, "The bitterness of it has been exhausting. The ‘issues’ were piffle and mishegoss; there was zero illumination; the election was all about hostility."[68]  Mrs. Clinton has not run a high-level campaign, and a fraction of Trump’s misbehavior would have sunk any other presidential bid in living memory. The presidential debates have been a bad joke.
Donald Trump has painted a picture of a nation in decline; he wants to "Make America Great Again." He and his campaign are a travesty of democratic politics, but it would be a mistake to conclude that, because he is a demagogue, we can ignore his claim that there are serious problems. In February, Hillary Clinton offered a mixed-message response to the Trump slogan: "Despite what you hear, we don't need to make America great again. America has never stopped being great. But we do need to make America whole again. Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers."[69]  The second part of her comment was apt, but the first was politically-patriotic nonsense.
All of the problems which the Trump campaign has traded on existed before he decided to run, and they will not disappear with his defeat. Political polarization already was significant before this year’s campaign. Violence is endemic. Racial tensions are high. Police are feared and distrusted because of race-based incidents; The Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed Trump, worsening the impression of official racism. Police misconduct has brought retaliation. The country is awash in guns; elections are awash in money. The "war on terror" threatens to corrupt our institutions, if not our souls; one aspect is our treatment of "enemy combatants": "There is no parallel in our history for such endless, unscrutinized detention."[70] Wealth and income are so unequally and unfairly distributed that we are on the road to becoming two societies. Congress is dysfunctional, primarily due to the obstructionism of the Republicans.
As if to ensure that no one could be unaware of the last problem, John McCain vowed that a Republican Senate would block any nominee to the Supreme Court by a President Clinton: "I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up. This is why we need the majority."[71]  The Court would be lacking one or more members for four or eight years. McCain’s promise probably was at least partly election-year bluster, but a plea to elect Republicans so that they could continue to obstruct is an accurate reflection of their role in government.
An interesting perspective on economic inequality was provided by an article in Spiegel Online, written by its Washington bureau chief. "America feels like an exhausted democracy," he said. Noting the improvement in the economy, he pointed out that its benefits are unequally distributed. "[T]his growing wealth is largely restricted to a group of multimillionaires and billionaires whose lives have become disconnected from those of the rest of the country. . . . This breakdown into a nation of a few winners and many losers has done something to the country's mentality." [72]
Any serious attempt to address the nation’s ills will require some measure of national unity. We pride ourselves on peaceful transitions of power and some degree of rallying around the new leader. The latter has been diminished after the last two elections, and it’s likely that a new low would be reached following a Clinton victory. Trump has predicted that the election will be rigged. There have been threats by some of his supporters of violence or other forms of resistance to his probable loss. Trump ally Roger Stone warns: "If there’s voter fraud [which he expects], this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government." [73]  Trump fanned those flames in the final debate by refusing to promise that he would accept the outcome of the election.
Any overture to his followers has been made more difficult by an outburst on September 9 by Mrs. Clinton: "You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic – you name it. . . . And he has lifted them up. . . . He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks -- they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America."[74]  However, they are Americans, and are representative, though often in a distorted way, of more general complaints and concerns held by many of their fellow citizens. Dismissing them in terms no more elevated than some of Trump’s doesn’t exactly set the stage for post-election reconciliation.
Somehow, if any progress is to be made, if we are even to prevent matters from getting worse, there must be a coming together, a renewal of a sense of community. At the end of the bickering and mud-throwing of the third debate, Mrs. Clinton offered this: "Well, I would like to say to everyone watching tonight that I’m reaching out to all Americans — Democrats, Republicans, and independents — because we need everybody to help make our country what it should be . . . ." Perhaps that will be the theme of the last two weeks of the campaign. Better— slightly — late than never.


68.The Washington Post 10/18. "Mishegoss" is Yiddish for "foolishness, nonsense, craziness." (No, I didn’t know that either).


70. Rakoff, " ‘Terror’ and Everybody’s Rights," New York Review of Books, 9/29/16

71. supreme-court-35636acca966#.un345mvb1 

72. a-1092548.html. Spiegel Online is a web service of the German magazine Der Spiegel.

73. contemplating-the-unthinkable-he-might-lose/?tid=a_inl&utm_term=.d861a67377a7


Sunday, September 25, 2016

September 25, 2016
There might have been reason to think that Hillary Clinton could win the election by being a centrist. After the Republicans nominated an embarrassment, peeling off right-of-center votes seemed a reasonable strategy. (I speculated, not entirely seriously, that her logo, "I’m with Her," with a right-pointing arrow for the crossbar of the H, was a hint). However, relegating half of Trump supporters to a basket of deplorables and patronizing the other half wasn’t the way to attract them away from the Donald, or to seduce right-leaning undecideds. It illustrated two of Mrs. Clinton’s major weaknesses: she isn’t a natural or skillful campaigner, and her understanding of ordinary people seems limited.
Another potential weakness is the flip side of the centrist image: to some she’s too liberal to support, to others too conservative. I quoted one of the former persuasion on July 16; he worried about a "politically correct, free-milk-and-cookies, European-style social democracy" under Hillary. On the other side we have this: she is a "hideous imperial corporatist." Also, we mustn’t "ignore the plutocratic, racist, ecocidal, sexist, repressive and military-imperial havoc that Democrats inflict at home and abroad in dark, co-dependent alliance with the ever more radically reactionary Republicans."[67]
At least the Hillary-is-a-leftist writer admitted that he probably would vote for Trump, a bad decision but one oriented toward the real world. Our Hillary-is-an imperial-corporatist writer will toss away his vote in a noble gesture/fit of pique by voting Green. He feels safe in doing so because the threat of Trumpism isn’t real: Clinton will win.
Maybe she will, no thanks to our leftist scold, but if she doesn’t, don’t bother him; he’s too busy dreaming of a true liberal world.

_fascism_is_ not_coming_20160923