Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hillary Clinton's insubordination disqualifies her from the presidency

The single most important reason not to elect Hillary Clinton for president is that she has committed insubordination on the job as Secretary of State. As a result of her insubordination, she will almost certainly be indicted for violating numerous federal laws relating to her handling of classified information in her emails and on her email server.

This blog post today relies up another blog post by Chetan Hebbale. Judging by his credentials, he's a scientist and has a very strong interest in genetics. OK, he's not a lawyer. But he knows enough to get an abridged version of a 24,000 word blog post on this subject published at the Georgia Political Review.

His article, "Do I Really Need to Worry About Hillary’s Emails? Yes. She Will Be Indicted. (Full Form)", explains in detail how we learned that she was using her own email server to handle official communications during her tenure as Secretary of State. Hillary has said that she didn't know she was passing classified information through her own email account through an unsecured, unencrypted server and messaging system. The record shows that she passed classified information to many people who did not hold a clearance to see that information. She also transported that server containing classified information to a company for maintenance and hosting, and the people in that company did not have clearance.

It is clear that Hillary has no intention of harming the United States. But that is not what the law focuses on. The law is only concerned about the information and the security of the same. Which law are we talking about? The law within and governed by her non-disclosure agreement. Under that law, it doesn't matter if she knew she was passing classified information to others without clearance. The law only cares if she did pass that information.

A few words about the author of the blog post upon which this post relies: Chetan Hebbale is not some right-wing fringe blogger:
"Despite being a mostly liberal Democrat and a Hillary admirer, I’ve come to the conclusion that Hillary Clinton and her aides not only violated numerous federal criminal statutes, but may have conducted a cover up to hide incriminating evidence – the likes of which forced Richard Nixon to resign as President."
I will leave all the gory details to you to read in his articles and focus instead on the issue of insubordination. Hillary Clinton was approached more than once about the use of her own email on her own phone and was offered a government email account and phone at no cost to her. She declined all assistance more than once and insisted on using her own email account and server. The rules and regulations permit her to use her own device and email account, so long as the information being passed was not classified. She was given an email account to use which she never activated and never used, so if she was going to send or receive any classified information it wasn't through authorized channels.

Upon entering office as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton signed an employment agreement, passed a background check and signed a Non-disclosure agreement. These are standard operating procedures for high level government positions, and many, many businesses. If an ordinary employee had done what she did, she would almost certainly have been terminated the moment any leaks were exposed.

If she were in the armed services, this would be insubordination, quite literally, and she would be ejected from the military or court-marshaled. You know how it is, "loose lips lose ships". Hilary is asking us to elect her as Commander In Chief, despite her willingness to insubordinate her superiors - and the people.

Here is another way to look at insubordination. The people elect representatives. Those representatives pass laws and delegate authority to agency heads in the executive branch to execute and enforce those laws. Hillary Clinton was an agency head for 4 years and decided that at least one law didn't apply to her.

Everyone is expected to adhere to those laws or face penalties prescribed by those laws. Even the president. The president is the chief executive and has a duty to enforce those laws. When he appoints someone to office, and Congress confirms that appointment, the president has a reasonable expectation that the laws of this nation will be carried out by his subordinates.

When Hillary uses her own email server and address to transmit classified information rather than the one provided to her at government expense, that is insubordination. Not just to the president, but also to the people. As a result of her indiscretions, she will be referred for indictment. But whether or not she will be prosecuted is a political decision that only Loretta Lynch, the US Attorney General can make.

During all that time, certain people knew what was going on and asked Hillary to correct and she refused. She was a cabinet level officer of the US government and few others could command her to correct the situation. Hillary seems to believe that she operates under a separate set of rules from everyone else. As an ordinary employee, she would have been terminated long ago. But as the former first lady, she gets a pass? Really?

When I vote to elect someone to the office of President of The United States, I expect that person to follow the laws just like everyone else. To do anything else is insubordination of the will of The People.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Blackmail doesn't work in presidential primaries. Just ask Hilary Clinton

Whew. For a minute there, I thought I was going to have to troll for Trump. I was feeling dejected at the prospect of having to hold my nose and vote for Clinton. The mainstream media is trying to tell us that Bernie is throwing in the towel, that he's laying off staff and giving up. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I was also seeing comments in social media from people who seem to have done their research to show that Bernie has no chance to win the nomination. But then I saw something else. Someone had done the math again to show that the odds of Hillary showing up at the convention with the delegates she needs to win the nomination are slim to remote. I had seen that before several times but this time, what I saw is that Hillary needs to win, at best, 70% of the remaining delegates. The math says that even if Hillary wins California with 60% of the vote, she will still have to get 80% of the remaining delegates.

There is no way she's going to do that. It gets better. She may have more than 500 superdelegates in tow due to her ability to buy them, but those superdelegates are going to have to swallow their pride (and their campaign money) when they see tens of thousands of Bernie supporters descend upon the convention in July. Where are the marches for Hillary? Do we see any streets filling up for Hillary? Any stadiums? I didn't think so.

Wait a minute. What about those 520 superdelegates that have expressed support for Clinton now? Sanders has only 39, so she should win by now. No, they don't actually vote until the convention, so they don't count.

What we've been seeing is a sort of blackmail in this primary election. The implied message is, "Look, I'm Hillary Clinton and I deserve to win this election. I earned it and you can't take it away from me. I know, I haven't always followed through on my word. Yes, I betrayed you with NAFTA by running strategy sessions in Congress to get it ratified, I betrayed you by my support of the repeal of Glass-Steagall signed by my husband, my support for a lousy crime bill in 1994, my vote for the Iraq War and my tacit support of Wall Street. I know it looks bad, but really, I'm here for you. Oh, you don't like me? Vote for me, or you get the Trump!"

This blackmail was never more clearly explained than by the following meme:

The only job Trump has is to make Hillary Clinton seem more palatable. That's it.

Why would Trump want to be president? He's a businessman with a job that is far easier than being president. Businessmen don't have to make everyone happy. They only have to make money. The president? He has to find a way to keep the country running and that means making everyone happy if he can. The president has to make decisions that he might lose sleep over for weeks even months.

The businessman? He takes a vacation on an atoll in the South Pacific when he wants to chill. Trump doesn't really want to be president. That is the hardest job in the world, but it does come with great perks. Running a business is like having your own personal bank if you do it right. I think he'd rather be counting his money than the votes he might need to get some bill passed.

The mainstream media would have us believe that Sanders is ready to give up. He's not. Not even close. He does the math, too. He knows that Clinton isn't going to net the delegates she needs to secure the nomination before the convention. You need to know it, too. The odds are slim to remote that she can pull it off. Unless maybe, there are a few election officials willing to tilt the table, you know, like they did in Massachusetts. Then there might be a problem for Bernie.

After New York let someone go for purging the voter rolls before the election and Arizona made very deep cuts in polling places, all eyes are on the election process and infrastructure now. You want to tilt the table for Hillary? be prepared for scrutiny from us, from the DOJ, from your attorney general, maybe even the UN.

There will be a contested convention. There is simply no other option given the math. Hillary knows this or she would not be offering an olive branch to Sanders supporters. She must be really, really worried about the Bernie or Bust voters.

So don't give up hope, Bernie supporters. Bernie has nothing to lose by going all the way to the convention. The more he campaigns, the more his message gets out. That's all he has to do. We The People will do the rest.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

It's hard to claim you have a mandate when your voters think elections are rigged

As the election wears on, we're going to be hearing stronger and stronger calls for Bernie Sanders to stand down. Bernie offers no signs of stopping, of standing down. Bernie is in it to win it and he is committed to showing up at the convention. He has legions of supporters who believe in him and that will continue to support him even if he does eventually lose.

There is a credible threat from the Bernie or Bust crowd that they will walk away and the Clinton team is truly frightened of the prospect that they will. I can see it in the way they debate in social media: "Oh, you're going to write him in? Then you're voting for Trump, you big dummy." Their condescension is beyond the pale. But their fear is palpable. The number of Bernie or Bust voters is about 33% of Sanders supporters, or, roughly 41% of Democrat voters as of last November, and that number is likely to be bigger now. That's not even talking about the huge contingent of independent voters who will not vote for her, either.

There is still hope for Bernie supporters and a lot can happen between now and June.

Now there is a new poll out that says that half of Americans think that the election is rigged. Think about that. Half of Americans believe that their votes are not being counted fairly. That's about the same number of voters who believe that neither major political party truly represents them. Who needs to listen to them when you can spend a third of your time dialing for dollars with the who's who of American wealth?

There is at least one mathematician, Richard Charmin, who has presented very strong evidence of election rigging. He points to the exit polls in Massachusetts where the raw data show that the results of the exit polls are being adjusted to match the election results. Here is some of the logic behind that assertion:
Clinton led the adjusted exit poll (1406 respondents) by 50.3-48.7%,  a near-exact match to the 1.4% RECORDED vote margin.  But her 50.3% share was IMPOSSIBLE.  The proof is self-explanatory: How could Clinton gain 114 respondents and Sanders just 7 among the final 109 exit poll respondents?
Clinton won  by 51-49% on electronic voting machines from ES&S, Diebold and Dominion.  Sanders won 68  hand-counted precincts by 58-41%.   He won 250 of 351 jurisdictions and had at least 58% in 110.  
The odds against that kind of result are remote at best. Yet, we are relying upon exit polling to show if the official tally is right. What they are doing is adjusting the exit polling data to make it conform to the election results. That's not exactly scientific, but that's what they're doing as standard operating procedure.

We have also seen live election reporting that actually shows Sanders numbers going down as the night wore on:

Isn't that statistically impossible? I think so. Notice that this is not an error. In the first image, we see Sanders winning handily with 16% reporting. Later, with 39% reporting, he's lost a third of his votes.

These aren't the only examples. There are numerous studies of election fraud throughout modern American history. But this is the first election I've seen where it's really starting to get notice in social media. Blockchain voting, your time has come.

We know that we can solve the problem of election fraud with available, off the shelf technology, but the political will must be there, and it has to start with small jurisdictions and work its way up. Small jurisdictions are the low hanging fruit of change.

If Hilary wins, and based on current trends she's on track to win, she's going to have a really hard time claiming a mandate of any kind. 45% of the voters in this country now identify themselves as independent. That's more voters than all the voters who are registered with both major parties. Neither party truly represents America anymore.

If the story of election fraud takes hold in the national discourse on the election, convincing Americans that Clinton truly represent their interests becomes orders of magnitude harder for her.

If your party doesn't really represent America anymore, rigging elections is probably the only thing left to do to stay relevant. Sure, the elite figure that Americans will forget what happened. They will if they have to work 2-3 jobs just to make a living. They can't even participate in the rule making process that allows for close primaries, electronic voting that has little to zero oversight and rampant disenfranchisement campaigns whenever it suits the elite to purge the voter rolls.

Staying relevant with rigged elections doesn't give you a mandate. It gives you an oligarchy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Our elections are crashing by design

Who could explain why two of some of the most unpopular candidates in history are on track to win the presidential nomination in their respective parties? Sure, you could say that both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump are winning their respective party primary elections for the nominations, and they are doing so, handily. But that is with the people most loyal to their party, paying no mind to independent voters who outnumber either party.

The Economist has an article, "Unloved, Unstoppable", suggesting that despite a lack of any love for Clinton, she might be the inevitable president of the United States. Despite every effort to make sure she doesn't win the nomination, she is managing it, just not as well as some had hoped. Two of the primary elections she won are under investigation. She's had to adopt much of Bernie Sanders' platform to "unite" the party. Fortunately for her, the mainstream media has been there, every step of the way to clean up the narrative and make her more, well, palatable.

Perhaps she will unite the party. But to do that, she will have to let 43% of the nation go. They're the independent voters. She will also risk seeing more than 1/3 of Sanders supporters walk and vote for someone like Jill Stein, the presidential candidate for the Green Party. Some are even considering Trump since, as surreal as this may seem, Trump and Sanders actually agree on a few very significant issues.

The system we have now seems designed to ensure that most of us are supremely unhappy with the outcome of our presidential election. Check out these unfavorability ratings of the candidates (from HuffingtonPost):

                              Favorable                 Unfavorable           Net        

Sanders                  47.6                          41.2                        +6.4

Clinton                   38.7                          55.6                        -16.9

Trump                    29.9                          63.6                        -33.7

Clinton and Trump both seem to be running their own version of the Southern Strategy. Clinton wants to shut out independent voters from the primaries, but seems to forget they will be needed come November. Trump is confident he'll get the white vote, and he knows they will be Republican. Guess who is getting most of the press? Trump and Clinton.

Sanders? He would like to bring in everybody and his favorability ratings reflect that. He doesn't want to exclude anyone from voting. But he's not getting the press he needs to win. That's being handled in social media because that's all he can get.

Our myriad systems of closed, semi-closed and open primaries have led us down this obstacle course. We have a highly restricted right of nomination that excludes independent voters. Hilary Clinton really doesn't get why there is so much bile and hatred for her. One look at the two primary contests that are under investigation in Arizona and New York will tell you: long lines, unreliable hours, locations and awful availability of information.

This primary season honestly looks like a shell game to keep voters guessing at how to get their vote in for Sanders. Arizona and New York both had the fix in for Clinton to keep her chugging along. Even Pennsylvania voters had a hard time finding a polling place. Connecticut closed 66% of their polling places compared to 2008.

There are some who might say that nothing in politics happens by accident. It is no accident that we got here. Decades of constant fiddling with state primary rules have made voting confusing at best, impossible at worst. If there were open primaries everywhere, Sanders would almost undoubtedly win the primaries up to this point. Yet, here we are, uninformed by mainstream media afraid of radical change, confused by complex and arcane rules for registration and voting, and beset by election officials who aren't really willing to take responsibility when things go wrong.

One thing is for certain though. Millenials are getting a huge taste of humble pie and they don't like it. In less than a generation, the old guard will be dead and their kids will see what has happened to their friends and they too, will get a taste of it. What is in that humble pie? Student debts, terrible job security in the sharing economy and a cabal of elected officials that take them for granted.

Millenials are starting to notice what they've been doing in Europe. They see kids in Europe going to college for free, escaping without a crushing burden of debt that makes it near impossible to buy a house and start a family. They see hardly anyone in Europe going bankrupt over health care costs. They see employees getting ample time off for vacation and maternity.

Here, they see real jobs going overseas and are finding it increasingly difficult to find a good job even with a college degree. They see how the majority of all new wealth created in this country is going to fewer and fewer hands. They know that evolution is going in reverse here. They know their lives will have a lower standard of living than their parents unless they make a change.

All is not lost if Bernie loses, and there is still a chance that he may win. There is still a chance that Hilary may find herself indicted for being such an idiot with her email server, hopefully, before she can give her acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination. She may find that the Democratic elite is having some cold feet when they see the mass exodus after the primaries. She may also find that many of Sanders' supporters will have moved on without her to get someone they trust in Congress.

Things may look bad, and it might have to get worse before it gets better. I'm glad to see that Bernie is in it to win it and that he's not backing down. He has stated over and over that he is committed to this race until the convention and I'm still with him.

If he doesn't win the nomination, there will be others to follow. The revolution has started and it's going to get organized. If not this presidential election, then at the next election, we will get a true progressive for president. Even the Washington Post knows this.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Censorship and astroturfing will not win the Democratic nomination

In recent days, I've come across some interesting reports about Clinton, her supporters and her campaign. I'd like to put some of them together here for your review. What I share here could be used as a measure of the weakness of Clinton as a candidate for president. There are plenty of websites and Facebook pages dedicated to explaining why you might not want to vote for Hilary Clinton. But they probably don't cover the examples I found in the last few days.

Last night, I began to notice reports that an organized, concerted effort was made to take down the largest Sanders groups on Facebook. This has been observed and documented. Why supporters of Hilary Clinton wanted to do this the night before 5 states are set to in their respective primary races is beyond me. Here is one meme currently in circulation to get the word out:

Such an effort belies the confidence that Clinton supporters have about their candidate. If they truly believed that Clinton will prevail on the merits, they have no need to interfere with Sanders supporters and their social media activities. Such action would expose them to criticism by the opposition. If this were reported in the mainstream media, it would surely compromise their standing in their respective social media circles and perhaps tarnish the image of Hilary among her supporters and people who have not made up their minds.

The Hilary campaign has spent $1 million to correct the record. There is, actually, a SuperPAC called "Correct the Record" and it is actively coordinating with the Clinton campaign to "address" people who have attacked Hilary Clinton on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and elsewhere. These are paid professionals, writing responses to such attacks, and they call it "pushback". The Daily Beast has the story and here is the nugget:
"Due to FEC loopholes, the Sunlight Foundation’s Libby Watson found this year that Correct the Record can openly coordinate with Clinton’s campaign, despite rules that typically disallow political campaigns from working directly with PACs."
The Clinton campaign is using a legal loophole to allow coordination with a SuperPAC for the purpose of getting their message out. But the best part is this: people working for Correct the Record are paid to do what they do and to make it look like they are just ordinary, unpaid supporters. This is called "Astroturfing". According to Wikipedia:
"Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by a grassroots participant(s). It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source's financial connection. The term astroturfing is derived from AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to resemble natural grass, as a play on the word "grassroots." The implication behind the use of the term is that there are no "true" or "natural" grassroots, but rather "fake" or "artificial" support, although some astroturfing operatives defend the practice (see Justification below)."
These are just a few of the signs that Hilary Clinton's campaign doesn't believe it can muster the support needed to win the nomination without paying people to speak for them in social media. Some of her supporters honestly believe that they have to silence the opposition to win. Clinton supporters and her campaign would have us believe that Hilary Clinton is the presumed nominee, but without our knowledge of their behavior.

Yet her supporters and even members of her campaign are not so sure she can win. If her supporters were so sure, there would be no need for attempts at censorship. Fortunately, all the Sanders groups on Facebook that went missing last night, on the eve an election in 5 states, have been restored to their original status. If her campaign were sure that Clinton would prevail in the remaining primary contests on the merits, they would have no need to pay anyone to act covertly to shape public opinion in social media circles.

Censorship and misinformation campaigns are not signs of confidence. They are signs of desperation.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Somebody is really worried that Sanders will try to flip superdelegates in July

There are a few articles popping up here and there about this idea that Sanders is far enough behind that he's planning on trying to flip superdelegates at the convention. A few people are concerned that if Sanders did that, why, he'd be working against the will of the people. Here's an insightful example:
In other words, Clinton might still be able to claim the most number of popular votes. She might be able to claim the most pledged delegates. She might be the top choice among voters. But because the superdelegates are not bound to obey voters’ preferences, Sanders might convince them to abandon Clinton — and the voters — and switch to his side.
So let's talk about the will of the people.

Here's a handy chart to show how the delegates are distributed. There are several patterns to observe here. Take for example, Vermont. This is Sanders' home state and he cleaned Clinton's clocks there. Yet, somehow, Clinton still managed to bag 3 superdelegates. In all cases the superdelegates are not proportionately split based on the vote and they are most decidedly in Clinton's favor. Even where the vote is close in the primary election, Clinton gets the majority of superdelegates.

Yet, no one in the mainstream media is accusing Clinton of lobbying superdelegates against the vote of the people.

Now take a good look at California way down at the bottom of the list as they are next to last in the primary season. 48 superdelegates have already expressed support for Clinton and the vote isn't even until June. Is that an expression of the will of the people? I don't think so. Maybe we should get their names so that we know who they are come the convention. We wouldn't want them getting re-elected now would we? I mean, if they're going to pledge support so long before the primary election, they're pledging support without knowing what the will of the people is, right?

This idea that any effort to lobby superdelegates at the convention against the will of the people is being used as a double standard. It's a convenient smear that works well if you have a lead for now and want to minimize the damage your opponent is already doing to you. You know, bringing up large speaker fees in the middle of a public debate can really hurt your standing in the remaining elections.

But one thing is clear, the superdelegates don't actually vote until the convention. The mainstream media loves to count them because it helps their cause - keeping the status quo. These suiperdelegates won't really count until the convention, no matter what they say. If Sanders turns up at the convention with a lead in the popular vote, and a lead in pledged delegates, the superdelegates won't have much choice in the matter of voting for a nominee. Why not?

Because there is a large contingent of Democrats that just joined the party to vote for Sanders. And there is an even larger contingent of independent voters who will see right through all of those superdelegates who still manage to find the gall to vote for Hilary - if Sanders prevails in the battle for pledged delegates.

Hilary had a large lead in the polls last year, more than 50 points. That's now down to just a few points between them in national polling after spending $153 million on the campaign. If that's the best she can do with a deep and wide network of media and political supporters, it's hard to believe that the trend will not continue. Already, this could be counted as a monumental failure to communicate her message to the voters. Given the trends, I doubt she will find the nomination waiting for her at the convention.

Few people understand the depths of the hypocrisy of the Clinton campaign on this issue of lobbying superdelegates against the will of the people until they see that Hilary bought insurance. "What kind of insurance?", you might ask. Margot Kidder (yes, *that* Margot Kidder) wrote a very interesting article on that very subject. Last August at the Democratic Convention (I guess they hold them in off years, too), Hilary Clinton arranged with the DNC to funnel money from big donors in big bundles to the DNC and then to various elected officials through the Democratic parties in at least 33 states. Many of those elected officials are superdelegates that now steadfastly support her because she helped fund their campaigns for re-election.

Kidder has written an informative an lucid article that blows away any notion of superdelegates voting the will of the people. And right now, there are more than 500 superdelegates that are breathless in their support of Hilary for President. But the Clinton campaign didn't tell you that most of those superdelegates were bought, did they?

Do you still feel like Clinton is going to win the nomination? I don't. I really don't see how Clinton can win an honest election at this point.

They're still asking Bernie to quit and we know why

The other day, I saw an interview Bernie Sanders gave to MSNBC. Every question was a leading question, dripping with the implied statement that, "it's over". They wanted to know if he would consider toning it down since Hilary is the presumed nominee. They wanted to know if he would consider running as VP to Hilary. They wanted to know if he would urge his supporters to back Hilary. It went on and on like that, but not necessarily in that order.

That is what I've come to expect from highly paid journalists who may or may not have a financial interest in seeing Hilary win. I know that the 90% of the major media, some like to call "mainstream media" is owned by 6 parent corporations. And we all know who they want for president: Hilary or a Republican. Anyone but Bernie would do.

The nomination for the Democratic Party is far from over. There is much to consider before Bernie even considers dropping his bid for the nomination. For example, of the primaries we've had so far, he's won 17 and Hilary has won 14. But it's so over, isn't it?

They're not that far apart unless, like the mainstream media, you add all the superdelegates that Hilary lobbied before Bernie even announced his nomination and all those that chipped after each loss in the primaries.

Wall Street loves Hilary compared to Bernie. Wall Street gave Hilary lots of money and has no love for Bernie - he doesn't want their money. He wants your vote and your money to fund his campaign and $27 is enough. The mainstream media is owned by Wall Street, for who else owns their stock and sits on their boards of directors?

There is this "official ballot" that was mailed out in Pennsylvania, just days before the election:

Most people can see that this is political advertising. But it's marked as an official ballot, and of course, Bernie is not on the ballot. That's part of how we know it's not a real ballot. It's not easy to figure out who "Caring Philadelphia" is. Who produced this? If they think their candidate is so strong, why leave Bernie off their sample ballot?

I think this meme says it all:

There are people who say that Bernie has no chance. But the math says that it's harder for Hilary to prevent a contested convention than for Bernie to be ahead of her in the pledged delegate count when the Democratic Convention opens in July. There is at least one statistician who says that a contested convention is almost certain based on the numbers so far.

Lastly, Gallup polling has shown American perceptions about how favorable they view either Bernie or Hilary have changed over the last 8 months. She went from a commanding 63% favorable to the mid-30s. At the same time, perceptions of Bernie have been trending up to 52%. Bernie clearly has the upper hand as people get to know him more. Bernie now has a 16 point lead over Hilary - Americans have a far more favorable view of Bernie than they do of Hilary.

Bernie has said he is committed to go all the way to the convention. He's never wavered from that commitment and I hope to see him there, at the convention, making a strong case for his nomination. At best, he will win the nomination before the convention. There will be no coronation for Hilary.

He has no reason to quit now. The mainstream media can stop asking him about quitting and accept him for who he is: a viable and competitive candidate for president.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The same circumstances that helped Clinton to win so far will help the GOP in November

Arizona and New York. They both have a few things in common: they purged voters, cut polling places, polling place hours, had long, long lines for voting and are now receiving scrutiny for their decisions. Soon to be in trouble Rhode Island has made big cuts to polling places to save money, too. I guess they're intent on spending the money saved to do the work of the people. Even if they can't vote.

The decision by the Rhode Island leadership to cut their polling places might have come about because this poll has Sanders ahead 60/40. Or that the last poll I could find on has Clinton with only a 9 point lead in Rhode Island. Nationally, Sanders and Clinton are less than 2 points apart in the RCP national average of polls. When Sanders first started he was below 10%. Check out how things have changed:

Sanders has closed a more than 50 point lead to less than 2 points in the national polls. I'm sure that this is not welcome news to the Clinton team. Judging by the trends, Sanders will overtake Clinton in the national average of polls at RCP in a few weeks and hold that lead until the convention.

But the rubber meets the road at the polls. Clinton has a deep and wide political network willing to pull every lever to ensure that Clinton wins. Clinton won and won big in the southern states where she is familiar to everyone there. She's got national name recognition and has been counting on that familiarity. But as they say, familiarity breeds contempt.

We are now starting to see that contempt from the Clinton campaign. Common Dreams has an article that nails that contempt from the Clinton campaign rather concisely:
After the New York primary, an unnamed senior Clinton aide told POLITICO’s Glenn Thrush, “We kicked his ass tonight,” and, “I hope this convinces Bernie to tone it down. If not, fuck him.” David Axelrod, who worked as a chief strategist for both of Obama’s presidential campaigns, tweeted, “Minutes after Hillary Clinton talks unity, her spokeswoman calls Senator Sanders’ campaign ‘destructive.’ I honestly don’t get it.” David Plouffe, an Obama campaign strategist who endorsed Clinton, accused the Sanders campaign of “fraud” because they sent out fundraising email saying there still was a path to the nomination. Brad Woodhouse, president of the Clinton super PAC, Correct the Record, characterized Sanders as a “spoiler,” even though he has every right to fight for the nomination at the convention as Clinton does.
The Clinton camp has been relentlessly telling the rest of us that Sanders has no path to the nomination. They are doing anything and everything to shutdown the Sanders campaign. They know that without him, they can devote more of their resources to defending their campaign from the GOP. They say that the Sanders campaign is destructive, a spoiler.

But if you look at the pledged delegate counts, 1428 to 1151, a lead of only 277, Sanders is still a serious contender. Seth Abramson at The Huffington Post says that a contested nomination at the Democratic Convention in July is a near certainty. With math and logic, Abramson shows that Sanders is almost certain to prevent Clinton from reaching the 2383 pledged delegates needed to win the nomination before the convention. Remember, the Clinton camp is determined to disqualify Sanders and thinks that they can unite the Democrats later. Maybe so, but they're likely to face a lot of independent voters later.

Even if Clinton wins, astute observers will see that the rules that helped Clinton win will also help the GOP win in November. The nation is stacked with conservative legislatures, governors and gerrymandered districts. The head to head poll averages at RCP show Sanders winning with wider margins than Clinton against Trump and Cruz. They also show her losing against John Kasich where Sanders wins by a close margin, within the margin of error. Judging by the polling, Kasich is the dark horse of the GOP and could possibly turn out as the nominee after the convention.

The GOP leadership have admitted as much that they would rather face Clinton than Sanders. So they would be happy to help Clinton win in places like Arizona, New York and perhaps Rhode Island, as they did in the southern states. Where the GOP dominates, the election laws and the polling place cuts are all designed to help conservatives, no matter what party they come from. Sanders has distinguished himself from Clinton as more liberal and that why he's closed the gap. He has no reason to stop now and by all accounts, there no sign that he will.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

To Clinton supporters that mock Sanders supporters after NY primary: Remember, they might be giants

The New York Democratic Primary is now swirling in a vortex of contentious debate and finger pointing. The following meme serves as an example:

Sanders supporters are visibly upset about the situation and have amassed at a number of fronts to deal with it. They have filed complaints with the New York Attorney General. They have file a lawsuit claiming widespread voter suppression on election day. They are filing provisional ballots in the hopes that they will soon be counted.

Some Clinton supporters have added insult to injury by mocking Sanders supporters. USUncut has covered the story in some depth and have provided some examples of this behavior, which is probably the tip of the iceberg. The examples they use show that some Clinton supporters have framed the complaints of Sanders supporters in the following ways:

  • "You haven't voted for years and suddenly, you're interested in voting for Sanders?"
  • "Your claims are nothing but a conspiracy theory. There is no conspiracy, so deal with it."
  • "You're an independent voter and wanted to vote for Sanders, so you registered as Democrat. Welcome to the party. We've been waiting for you."

As noted by USUncut, the troubles at the New York polls result from arcane rules for voter registration that also have put New York at the bottom of the nation for voter turnout. Clinton supporters should take note: the rules that make it easier for Clinton to win will also make it easier for Republicans to win.

Hundreds of thousands of voters have been purged from the voter rolls in New York, with 126,000 removed from the borough of Brooklyn alone. All of the people who were purged will have to register again if they want to vote. What are the odds they will show up in November for Hilary Clinton? I'd say that they're rather low at this point. That could help the Republican candidate come November.

So let's take a review of recent history. A few weeks ago, CNN reported the following campaign strategy regarding Sanders:

"Disqualify him, defeat him, and unify the party later."

With behavior like the examples above, uniting the party will be a cinch, won't it? You may be able to unite the party, but those independent voters who joined the party to vote for Sanders? How do you think they feel? The following meme might be an indicator:

Clinton supporters may mock Sanders supporters now, but the independent voters who came to the party to vote for Bernie Sanders will not stand for it. They make up 43% of the voters nationwide, they don't poll well with Clinton and she knows it.

If you want the Sanders supporters to show up in November and vote Democrat up and down the ballot, you might want to nominate Sanders at the Democratic Convention in July. That's probably your best shot at preventing a Republican White House.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Obama lost New York, too, and we all know how that turned out

OK, so people are a little bit disenchanted with how things have gone down in New York. Bernie Sanders lost New York, 57-42%. Obama lost New York 57-40% in 2008. Really, this is not so bad. It's just a scratch. Every statistician watching this race knows the numbers. The FiveThirtyEight Blog had Hilary at 92% chance of winning, so we knew what was coming.

There was a lot going against Bernie in the state of New York, anyway. He does well with independents, but New York has a closed primary. 3.2 million voters, roughly 27% of all voters, could not vote in this primary because they are independent voters. Keep in mind that Bernie polls very well with independent voters.

Someone has noticed that a tally of the vote by county shows that Bernie won the vast majority of the counties, but he lost in the densely populated areas. Check out the graphic below from the New York Times:

The delegate counts are, for now, 135 to 104, so this wasn't a terribly resounding loss for Bernie's campaign. The Democratic Party of New York will also hold a convention to complete the delegate allocation. As we've seen before, Bernie tends to pick up more delegates at the state conventions for the Democratic Party.

There is also a lawsuit pending to open up the New York Primary to voters who were disenfranchised by the mysterious change in their party declarations the last time they registered. Election Justice USA filed suit to open the primary independent voters and anyone who might have had their party affiliation changed. The lawsuit was delayed because the judge said that the plaintiffs named the wrong defendants. That was actually very nice of the judge to do that. Instead of dismissing the suit, he helped them out. It's unlikely that they will prevail, but now the stage is set for a political movement to open the primary elections in New York.

That same lawsuit also seeks to address enormous voter purges in recent months. Even the mayor of New York City expressed surprise by the number of people who were purged from the voter rolls. Since November of last year, more than 126,000 people have been purged from the voter rolls in New York. There is also a petition afoot to audit the voter purges.

The results of the New York primary election will only stoke the fire for the Sanders campaign. It's not a resounding loss, not even close. Remember, in 2008 Obama lost to Clinton in New York by roughly the same margin as Sanders, only slightly bigger. Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan and he still went on to become president. Sanders won Michigan in what some say was a history upset that nobody saw coming. If anything, I'd say that Sanders has even more reason to campaign until the Democratic convention is over in July.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Secure elections are not a matter of trust, they are a matter of removing any doubts

Today is the day they hold the New York primary election. Reports are in the alternative press, with news of disenfranchised voters. There are many reports of people finding out on election day that they cannot vote in their closed primary. There is a pending lawsuit to require an open election to ensure that every willing voter can vote. There are also worries about the states still ahead of us. But you won't find any of this in the mainstream press. They won't have it.

There has been a breech of trust in our election systems and it will be addressed. Maybe not in this election, but in the next year or so, there will be pointing fingers and discovery of the cause of the electronic mayhem at the polls. We will need to rebuild our trust in our voting systems.

I would like to share with you a little bit of my philosophy about trust. I developed this philosophy from my experience working with computers. Stuff like, "Never share your password with someone you don't trust", comes to mind. As a desktop support technician, when people were entering their passwords, I always turned away. I was aware that with someone's password, I could impersonate them by using their account. Even when a user offered to share their password with me, I said, "No, I'm not interested. I have no need to know your password." I wanted to remove any doubt that I might have known someone's password.

By the same token, I lock my computer at work when I walk away. It's not a question of trust in my fellow employees. Of course, I trust them. I lock my computer to remove any doubt that anything could be done on my computer in my name, while I'm away. Computer security is not just about trusting my coworkers - it's about maintaining that trust by doing my part to remove any opportunity for someone else to act in my name. By locking my computer, by looking away and affording my users the privacy they need to enter their passwords, I am removing any doubts about trust between us

The allegations of voter purges, of the stripping of party declarations in the voter records, and even vote flipping, could all be solved with a system that removes any doubt about their integrity. But first, we're going to have to replace our voting machines, the servers that capture their votes and the databases used to record everything, with something better, much better.

The news today about New York, Arizona and any other place that has closed primaries will make two changes almost completely inevitable: all elections will be open to independent voters and the implementation of blockchain voting records.

We're already seeing movement to open the primaries in New York with a lawsuit to open it today to deal with the apparent changes in party declarations reported by lifelong Democrats and new voters. They estimate that as many as 27% of the voters in New York may be surprised to find that they are not able to vote in this election. Making the primary election open is really just the first step and there is at least one organization dedicated to doing just that, The Independent Voter Project.

The Independent Voter Project seeks to make all elections for public office open elections. The reason for this is simple. Independent voters make up 43% of the electorate and the number is growing and will continue to grow as both major parties fail to represent the interests of most Americans. They are now larger than either party alone.

It might now seem obvious what the major parties were trying to do. They could see the loss of registered voters and sought to close the primaries to grow the membership. But that didn't happen. Independent voters aren't going away and they want to be heard. Closing the primaries was exactly the wrong thing to do.

Even with open primary elections, we still need to do something about securing our elections. If we're going to use electronic voting, then we need to be transparent from the bottom up. That means ditching machines with proprietary code and using paper until we can implement a system that will use records that cannot be arbitrarily altered.

Many of the voting machines we use are more 10 or more years old and run old versions of Windows. To create transparency, we need to use open source systems and put our security out in the open for all to see. Security through obscurity doesn't work and it never has. Software is built by human beings and it's not perfect, but it's good enough for most cases. Secure software is hard to write, but when hundreds or thousands of people work together, they can build better, more secure software. This is because the code is open for all to see.

What is open source software? Most operating systems like Windows, Linux and Unix are written in C and C++. When programmers write their code, they include comments to make it easier to understand what the code does. Computers don't understand that code, so the programmer will run that code through something called a compiler to create machine readable code. This is the binary code we know as an EXE file on Windows.

When the human readable code is processed by a compiler, the comments are stripped out as they are not needed by the computer to run. A programmer could take binary code and decompile the code to reveal the human readable code that was written by the programmer, but the comments would be removed. Code without the comments is very difficult and time consuming to follow.

To put it differently, we could decompile something like Windows to know what it does, but without the comments, it would take much longer to understand it. Even simple programs can be confusing without the comments. This is why open source software is so popular. When the code is shared, it teaches everyone who reads it how software works. We need open source software for electronic voting so that we know how it works before we put it to use in an election.

The second part of the security program is the data produced by the software. All software has input and output. When you use Word, whatever you type is input, and Word records your input to a file. That file is in a very well understood format that can often be read by other programs like WordPerfect and LibreOffice.

When we shop online, we create an account and use that account to record what we bought. That information is stored in a database, usually, an SQL database. SQL databases are flexible and easy to manage. It's easy to put information in and read it out. We can run queries or scripts against the database to change many records at once based upon certain criteria. We can selectively modify records en mass, at will with an SQL database. Most SQL databases are password protected, but they're only as secure as the administrator of that database.

Our voting records are often maintained in general purpose databases like SQL or Microsoft Access. These databases may be good at managing data, but they were not built with security baked in. That was added later. We need to use a database that is made to be secure from the beginning.

That database is called blockchain. Blockchain databases are built with security baked in from the ground up. The most well known blockchain database is called Bitcoin, a database designed to work as a medium of exchange, like the dollar. Bitcoin is peer-to-peer, meaning all computers that run Bitcoin have a copy of the database. All computers can check with other peers to make sure they have an accurate copy of the database. They can all check to see if the copy they have is corrupted and get an accurate copy if so.

Every transaction in the database is linked. The integrity of one transaction depends on the transactions before it. Every transaction builds upon the last. Any attempt to modify past transactions will compromise the integrity of the database and will be easily detected.

Blockchain technology is so effective, that Wall Street investors are taking an active interest in putting it to work for transaction recording and for investments. They have taken a shine to Bitcoin on Wall Street.

If blockchain is good enough for Wall Street, it's good enough to secure our voting records. Companies that promote the use of blockchain technology for voting have already appeared and are making their offerings known. We have the technology, we only have to use it.

Everything that happens in this presidential election, every compromise, every complaint, every purged voter record, will only make the argument for change more compelling. Open source blockchain voting systems are inevitable. It's just a matter of political will and time.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Nothing says "leader" like waiting for everyone else to act first

I think that the New York Democratic Debate on April 14th settled the question of leadership in a rather compelling way. The question of leadership was pointed out in the following meme:

The meme above refers to the discussion during that debate about the transcripts of numerous speeches that Hilary Clinton gave to the large banks. For each speech, she hauled in at least $225,000. A fair number of observers are asking Hilary to release the transcripts of those speeches. So far, she has refused. She demurred at the New York debate and said that she would release the transcripts if every other candidate that did speeches at big banks would, too.

It is a fair question to ask someone who is running for president: will you release the transcripts of speeches you gave for big banks who happen to have a great deal of influence on public policy? We would like to see if the policy positions you share with the big banks are the same as the policy positions that you shared with us. If those two sets are not congruent, perhaps your unwillingness to share them is a reflection of your fear of what they will do to your campaign. These are all questions we should ask of any candidate for public office, especially the highest office in the land.

To his credit, Bernie Sanders has not given any speeches to the big banks. He simply is not interested in the money, and he has not created entanglements that would compromise his judgement. This is what leaders do.

It was reported that during a recent speech, Hilary Clinton's campaign set up a white noise machine to keep reporters from hearing her speech. From a privacy standpoint, this is a pretty smart thing to do. From a political standpoint, this appears to be an overt effort to obscure from the public, policy positions intended only for a small private group of individuals intending to buy influence. Is that leadership?

When Bernie gives a speech, he makes it loud and clear before large crowds. He wants television coverage for his live events, but has had trouble getting it. The mainstream press has been willing to show an empty stage vacated by Donald Trump instead of showing Bernie Sanders giving a speech to more than 20,000 people in a stadium packed to capacity. He doesn't need a white noise machine because he's a leader who is unafraid of the impact of his message on his campaign.

Hilary voted for the Iraq War. Bernie did not. The vote was 77-23. Bernie was the only independent in the Senate for that vote, led the opposition to the war and voted against it. Hilary voted for it along with 76 other members of the Senate and of them, and there were 29 Democrats and 48 Republicans who voted for it. 21 Democrats voted against it along with one Republican. Those who voted against it did the unpopular thing and were on the right side of history. They were not convinced that there was enough evidence to justify the war. That is leadership.

During that same debate, Hilary Clinton attempted to take the high road on gun control. She talked about Sanders voting 5 times against the Brady Bill for the time limits. She claimed that a significant number of guns from Vermont have made their way to New York. When it was revealed that only 1.2% of the guns the get to New York actually came from Vermont, she was asked why she put out that statement. She demurred again by saying that a lot of guns in New York are from out of state, but never explained her motivation for putting out that statement.

Maybe she's a strong supporter of gun control, but she sure seems to like selling arms to foreign governments with really bad human rights records. Especially when the Clinton Foundation gets a hefty donation from an interested party. I know, this sounds like a plot line from House of Cards. International Business Times has reported that as Secretary of State, Hilary authorized an arms deal worth $29 billion to Saudi Arabia. Two months before the deal was approved, Boeing gave $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation. I guess that cinched the deal.

Saudi Arabia isn't the only country on the shortlist. Mother Jones covered the same issue and has compiled a nice list of 20 countries that are implicated in the same kind of pattern:
The Saudi transaction is just one example of nations and companies that had donated to the Clinton Foundation seeing an increase in arms deals while Hillary Clinton oversaw the State Department. IBT found that between October 2010 and September 2012, State approved $165 billion in commercial arms sales to 20 nations that had donated to the foundation, plus another $151 billion worth of Pentagon-brokered arms deals to 16 of those countries—a 143 percent increase over the same time frame under the Bush Administration. The sales boosted the military power of authoritarian regimes such as Qatar, Algeria, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, which, like Saudi Arabia, had been criticized by the department for human rights abuses.
A true leader is willing to thrust policy positions into the spotlight for open debate. A true leader doesn't take a position because it's popular. A leader takes a policy position that he or she believes in and shares it with everyone. And that leader makes every effort to ensure that policy positions are consistent with action and that they are consistent across the board. That is what I see in Bernie Sanders and that is why I support him.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

How do you grow the economy when 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings?

It's an astonishing statistic: 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings account. That's according to Senator Bernie Sanders:

Fact-checking this is easy. A search for "Bernie Sanders" and "62%" and "savings account" brings up this article from Market Watch at the top of the search results leading with the following quote:
Americans are starting 2016 with more job security, but most are still theoretically only one paycheck away from the street.
Approximately 63% of Americans have no emergency savings for things such as a $1,000 emergency room visit or a $500 car repair, according to a survey released Wednesday of 1,000 adults by personal finance website, up slightly from 62% last year. Faced with an emergency, they say they would raise the money by reducing spending elsewhere (23%), borrowing from family and/or friends (15%) or using credit cards to bridge the gap (15%).
Now compare the American savings rate with other developed countries:

Notice that our socialist friends across the pond have nearly double the savings rate of our country. Just how do they manage that? Could it be that they've managed to limit the influence of big money in government? I think so.

I saw a video of the rally Bernie Sanders had in New York at Washington Square Park that was held on April 14th. There were at least 27,000 people attending. Streets were filling up long before the start of the rally:

They know that something is very wrong with the economy and that something needs to change. They know who they're up against:

All those tapped out donors to Hilary Clinton's campaign are not out of money. They've hit their legal limit for making direct contributions. While Bernie visited the Vatican (with the assent of the very liberal Pope Francis) just before the election in New York, Hilary attended $2700-a-plate fundraisers with very wealthy donors to get additional funding for her campaign. Trust the Republicans have their own big money donors, too.

Can any billionaire living in the United States say that he or she is proud that 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings account? Are they proud to say that most people are one financial hit away from being on the streets? If establishment politicians want to keep the status quo, how do they expect to grow the economy when so many people do not have the money to spend to grow it?

That is what this election is about. The wealthy cannot grow the American economy without the rest of us. They need us, but over the last 30 years, have been trying to figure out a way to grow their own wealth without us. There are some who say that wealthy Americans don't need us anymore. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. But if the wealthy truly believe that their fate is not tied to the fate of the 99%, maybe they should move out.

The rest of us want to rebuild our roads, our schools and create a health care system that works for all of us. See those people filling the streets and stadiums? They would gladly pay a bit more in taxes if that meant saving the money they now spend in health insurance premiums with a Medicare For All plan. They would gladly pay a little more in taxes if that meant spending $1 trillion over the next ten years to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and create 13 million jobs. They would gladly spend a little more at Starbucks and McD's if the minimum wage rose to $15 an hour. They know that when people have more money to spend, they grow the economy.

That is just some of what all those people are showing up at Bernie's rallies for. Bernie has been filling stadiums beyond capacity and has received more than 6.5 million donations to his campaign for his "radical" change program. Some people say that he's a socialist, and that socialism has never worked. Everything that we were told would happen under communism has happened to us under capitalism:

Bernie's detractors have falsely claimed that he's promoting a form of socialism that has failed before, and that will eventually become communism, so why should we try it now? Bernie has described himself as a Democratic Socialist. He's no more socialist than Denmark, Finland or Germany, or even, the United States from 1933 to 1978. Democratic Socialism is what grew the United States into a world economic power. We had a strong middle class up until around 1980 after Ronald Reagan was elected president, and then things went downhill.

We're not asking for elimination of the wealthy or to nationalize their industries as might happen under a socialist or communist government. All we are asking for is to return the middle class to primacy in America. Now is that so radical?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Peer pressure, addiction and big money campaign finance

A few days ago, I wrote a post concerning the very real spectacle of Hilary Clinton using campaign funding to buy off support from 33 state Democratic parties. In support of that post, I used a story written by Margot Kidder, the actress who played Lois Lane in the 1978 film, Superman. Her article is astonishing in detail, and describes the remarkable chutzpah of a presidential candidate completely determined to make sure that the will of the people may not be heard.

Although there are many fine nuggets of information in Kidder's article, I found myself curious about the following passage:
Most state democratic parties don’t want Campaign Finance Reform. They feel they can’t afford it. Many local politicians become terrified of voicing support for alternative candidates out of fear of being cut off the Democratic Party gravy train.
To put it differently, they don't seem to mind exploiting a Supreme Court ruling that permits fast and loose handling of money from billionaires and millionaires to the state Democratic parties, then to the DNC and then back out to select candidates that toe the line. They're exploiting the 2014 Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon vs. FEC, but that's OK because it's legal. The problem is, as many voters have observed, it's not moral.

What we've been witnessing over the last thirty or more years, is an arms race of sorts. Every year, the amount of money required to win an election keeps going up. Every 4 years, some astronomical sum is reported to have been spent by each candidate vying for the nomination of their respective party, and then for the presidency.

Members of Congress are spending up to a 3rd of their time on the phone dialing for dollars from their billionaire and millionaire benefactors. Somehow, along the way, the idealism they brought with them to Congress was buried with money. Other people's money, with an agenda that doesn't happen to coincide with the rest of us.

The big money in politics denies the American people a debate on the merits of any bill before becoming law, of any voice in shaping public policy.

This arms race in campaign finance is an addiction. This addiction started out small in the 1980s. Once politicians tasted big money, and saw the advantages of using it to win elections, they got high. They began to justify the big money by saying that everyone else is doing it. You should, too.

If someone else got more big money, an elected official seeking to retain office would get on the phone and dial for more money. They would offer more compromises to their integrity and their character. They probably think, "Ok. I'll do this for one more election cycle and then I'll get back to the idealism I came here with. I'll work in the public interest again. But for now, I need more money to win re-election." But that never happens.

At some point, the gravy train has to stop and our elected officials need to be reminded of who put them in office, again. And again. And again.

The phone is ringing. It's waiting for someone to pick up. It's a distant, muted sound, but it's there. It's the people calling. Waiting for answers to the questions like, "Who do you work for? Are you really going to send our kids into another useless war again? Are you really going to cut food stamps to save a few bucks to justify a tax cut to millionaires and billionaires? Are you really going to raise the retirement age for Social Security to ensure you get that big money hit for the next election? Will you please fix the plumbing in Michigan?"

People like Larry Lessig have demonstrated that there is a very real problem of big money in politics. Lessig created the superPAC to end all SuperPACs, They're using that money to fund candidates that will work for real campaign finance reform in Congress. "Real campaign finance reform" means more than just placing limits on contributions and requiring disclosure.

We also need laws that say you can't trade favors for money. We need anti-corruption laws that have real teeth in them, laws that say if you're caught taking a bribe, you go to prison. All we want is a debate on the merits. As Lessig said in a TED Talk speech a few years ago, we want representative government dependent upon the people alone:
"The framers gave us what they called a republic, but by a republic they meant a representative democracy, and by a representative democracy, they meant a government, as Madison put it in Federalist 52, that would have a branch that would be dependent upon the people alone."
Bernie Sanders is the only candidate for president with the self-discipline required to reject big money in his campaigns for Congress and now for president. He has proven that ordinary people can run for public office and win without accepting astronomical sums from a few very wealthy people. He's done this over and over for 14 elections straight. He doesn't need a law to tell him to reject big money.

Bernie Sanders is willing to run on the merits of his policy proposals alone. He is running on the merits of his record, alone. He is dependent upon the people alone.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The difference between Hilary and Bernie is economics

There are some pundits who say that from a policy perspective there isn't much difference between Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Perhaps now there isn't since, as some have noticed, Hilary has adopted at least half of Bernie's message and policy positions.

Yet it is clear that Hilary is far more militant than Sanders, having served in an administration that has sold far more arms to foreign countries than the Bush Administration. She is a more conservative deficit hawk than Bernie is. And she still makes an occasional racist gaffe where Bernie has been fighting for civil rights since the 60s. Some refer to her as a Goldwater Girl, a reference to her very early Republican career and support for Barry Goldwater's run for president.

I found an interesting graphic on the internet to show where the primary candidates stand politically, shown below:
That graphic was created by The Political Compass, an interesting website dedicated to exploring the full spectrum of political thought. Notice where all the GOP candidates stand, in one little corner to the upper right. There really isn't that much difference between them, except that Trump is far more overt than the rest of them in terms of bigotry.

From an economic perspective, there is apparently, not that much difference between Hilary Clinton and the Republicans.

Economist Dean Baker notes that Bill Clinton, along with the International Monetary Fund, (IMF), worked to impose harsh penalties and restrictions upon Asian countries in the wake of the Asian currency crisis of the 1990s. They did not receive sufficient help from the IMF, so they built up large reserves of US dollars to prevent that kind of crisis from ever happening again. Reserves built up by the Asian countries made the dollar strong relative to their own currencies, and that helped to grow and maintain a trade imbalance.

Moreover, the Clinton Administration, along with every succeeding president, worked to pass and implement trade agreements that put manufacturing workers in direct competition with millions of low wage workers around the world. At the same time Bill Clinton and others like him were praising free trade and the benefits of having low wage workers build the stuff that we all buy, they were protecting professionals like doctors and lawyers from international competition. The reason is obvious: professionals have more political power than manufacturing workers.

The trade imbalance that we have today is not due to natural economics. It is due to the way the rules were written under the Clinton and succeeding administrations. We've seen Hilary waffle on trade agreements. Bernie Sanders opposed NAFTA and remains a staunch opponent of so-called "free trade agreements" that protect the professional class while thrusting manufacturing workers into competition with low wage workers overseas.

Asher Edelman, one of the models for the Gordon Gekko character in the movie, Wall Street, is a trained economist and successful businessman. He has endorsed Bernie Sanders based on his own analysis of Sanders' policy proposals. He is yet another economist who is calling for the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act. Bernie Sanders is promoting a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act to acknowledge how the world has changed and to deal with the shadow banking that helped to put our country into a recession. Hilary Clinton is opposed to re-instating the Glass-Steagall Act.

What is so important about the Glass-Steagall Act? Glass-Steagall was enacted in the 1930s in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929. It separated commercial banking from investment banking. Commercial banking is where most of us put our money and get our loans. We have savings and checking accounts that are protected by government insurance. Thanks to the repeal of Glass-Steagall by Bill Clinton, that wall was removed, allowing investment and commercial banks to merge. This allowed the unprecedented growth and consolidation of giant, too-big-to-fail banks that surround us today.

With Glass-Steagall in place, investment banking did not get insurance for their investments. Without it, the American people are on the hook for the mistakes of the investor class. Where Sanders wants to re-instate Glass-Steagall, Hilary Clinton has been steadfast in her support of the status quo.

Most of of this economic activity is happening on Wall Street, in New York, the same state that Hilary Clinton once represented as a Senator in the United States Congress. She won two terms as Senator and then was appointed by President Barack Obama to be Secretary of State. I think it's an open question as to why she moved there, you know, just to run for Senate.

She won both elections for Senate with comfortable margins. She won the primary election in 2008 against Obama in New York. Now she is running for president against Bernie Sanders. Polling is strongly in her favor. But we've noticed that the polls have been wrong by large margins in past primary contests between Hilary and Bernie.

There has been a record surge in registration of new voters in New York, mostly first time voters. An estimated 41,000 people have registered to vote in New York between March 10th and March 20th. The Sanders campaign is hoping that this is a sign that voters in New York are wising up to the differences between Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton. I'm inclined to think that they are ready for Sanders.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Could the Hilary Victory Fund explain superdelegate support in states won by Sanders?

Some of you may remember Margot Kidder. You know, the actress who played Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeves in Superman back in the 80s? Yes, I'm talking about *that* Margot Kidder. Turns out she's also an activist and writer living in Montana.

Kidder has made some rather startling observations about how the Democratic National Committee has worked with Hilary Clinton to buy the loyalty of 33 state Democratic parties. In her article, she shows us the nitty-gritty details of how the Democratic Party is using a Supreme Court ruling that gutted an important cap on campaign contributions from a single donor:
"The idea was to increase how much one could personally donate to Hillary by taking advantage of the Supreme Court ruling 2014, McCutcheon v FEC, that knocked down a cap on aggregate limits as to how much a donor could give to a federal campaign in a year. It thus eliminated the ceiling on amounts spent by a single donor to a presidential candidate."
McCutcheon is just one of the Supreme Court rulings that got us here and it's not even the most well known case to reduce the voting power of everyone else. In fact, Harvard law professor and former presidential candidate Larry Lessig has found a series of Supreme Court decisions (video) that were handed down over the years to narrow the number of relevant funders down to 132 of the richest people in the United states. These are the people who contributed 60% of all SuperPAC money and wield the right of nomination. The Clinton campaign, and all of the GOP campaigns are taking money from at least those 132 people who deign to run our country.

The story of the Hilary Victory Fund, in all its gory details, explains how Bernie Sanders can win a landslide in Alaska with 80% of the vote and yet at least one superdelegate still feels justified in her support of Clinton. That superdelegates was confronted by a voter in Alaska on Facebook, and in that exchange, she confirmed that she had no direct financial ties to Hilary. Yet she insisted that Hilary was the better candidate. Fortunately, at least one Alaskan superdelegate has expressed support for Bernie Sanders.

Notably, despite a landslide victory with 86% of the vote in Vermont, 4 of the 10 Vermont superdelegates are holding fast to their support for Clinton. We've seen similar results in a number of states where Sanders wins but the superdelegates pledge their vote to Clinton. This pattern of behavior could be explained by the Hilary Victory Fund.

In her article, Kidder describes a campaign finance system that is designed to allow anyone making an endorsement of Hilary, or a superdelegate holding steadfast support for Hilary, to be able to say that they have no direct financial connection to Hilary. The money goes from billionaires and millionaires to the Hilary Victory Fund, to the DNC and then out to the various state Democratic Parties to help fund campaigns. So few people understand the relationship of the Hilary Victory Fund to the DNC that plausible deniability allows elected officials and superdelegates to support her without admitting to any financial ties.

The deep and wide reach of the Hilary Victory Fund, and Hilary Clinton's network of political operatives appears to be using money to secure superdelegate commitments to Hilary long before the primaries even started. This arrangement was made back in August of 2015, before Bernie Sanders even announced his candidacy. Clearly, Hilary is dead set on not allowing a repeat of 2008 by creating an apparent financial encumbrance upon the votes of the superdelegates.

The Hilary Victory Fund scandal could prove to be a fatal flaw in her campaign. Campaign finance reform is the one issue that isn't being discussed as a major policy issue by any candidate among both parties, except for one: Bernie Sanders. Bernie isn't taking that money to run his campaign, and he didn't ask superdelegates to commit to him at the Democratic National Convention last year, and pay them for the favor.

Bernie Sanders understands that America has become an oligarchy and that most of us, the 99%, are asking for a few really simple things. We want a voice in Congress and in our statehouses. We want legislation to be passed on the merits, not on the amount of money backing it. And we want the right of nomination to be restored from the oligarchs to the American people. We're not asking for much. We just want a government that works for all of us.