Friday, December 16, 2016

Who Lost the White House?  (Rating the Evils)  The Russians Did It (Or It Was the Hubris of the Elites?)  Take Your Pick  (The Acceptance of Evil)

Making Russia the Enemy

FAKE NEWS Is a Distraction from the Disastrous Performance of "Real" News

NC Republican Lawmakers Move to Restrict Power of Incoming Democratic Governor
Hamilton Electors Have a Message for Donald Trump:  "You’re Fired"
By Rejecting Recount, Is Michigan Covering Up 75,000 Ballots Never Counted?
After Outrage, Trump Team Disavows "Enemies List" Questionnaire at Energy Dept.

So, was it incipient fascism or just intellectual (political) fatigue (and in the end just not giving a damn as to which is the lesser evil)?

In this regard, the election didn’t represent a great groundswell of support for fascism, but rather a great, national exhaustion with politics. The prospect of four years under a thin-skinned loony toon surrounded by the bitterest dregs of Republican has-beens, racist conservative media impresarios, and disgraced military pensioners too embarrassing for their own armed-forces colleagues is truly awful and terrifying to contemplate, but we should not forget that this side lost the popular vote and represents perhaps a quarter of the actual adult population of the United States. It was the lowest turnout in 20 years. If this marks the death of American democracy after all, we can at least comfort ourselves with the knowledge that it was less a homicide than the drivers nodding off at the wheel.
Still, the Democrats lost. They lost the presidency on narrow procedural grounds:  the antebellum inequity of the electoral college doesn’t care that the entire population of Wyoming could reside comfortably in a few hip neighborhoods in Brooklyn. They also lost down-ballot, as they’ve been losing for a decade now, from Senate races to state houses across the country, in great part because, in the era of Obama, the party has focused ever more single-mindedly on the singular prize of the presidency. How then, with so narrow a focus and such tremendous resources, with a loathed sexual deviant with a bad rug and a nasty disposition as an opponent, did they manage to lose the White House?

Who Lost The White House?

After a long, ugly, and immensely stupid presidential election, a modest plurality of a little more than half of voting-age Americans voted to make a deeply loathed avatar of the despised political establishment the next President of the United States. Unfortunately, they were improperly geographically distributed, and so our next president is going to be a deeply loathed TV con man who flipped a few critical states by promising to reestablish national greatness through a vague program of populist economics and protectionism, who expertly played on rural and exurban resentments about someone else — black people, women, immigrants, whomever — getting a notionally better handout. 
In this regard, the election . . .  
For four decades, real wages have remained flat. Though they’ve fortunately not yet figured out how to agree to do it, Democrats and Republicans alike do agree that the country needs “entitlement reform,” which is how over-educated boobs with a good employer retirement contribution match refer to taking away your Social Security and Medicare. The country is embroiled in a series of endless, fruitless foreign interventions that only make the world outside seem more violent and unstable. Segregation by race and class remains endemic. While, at the same time, social advances by LGBTQ people, women, and people of color are real, they are very tenuous, and often undercut by the precariousness of people’s economic situations, vast regional variations in workplace protections, unending legal challenges to abortion and birth control, and the racist foundations of the drug war and modern policing.
But I want to focus on economics, because those with prominent platforms in politics and the media generally are urban, highly educated, and overpaid, and the terrible sense of economic precariousness in the lives of huge segments of the American population is distant and abstract to them. Successful people also tend to back-project ability, talent, drive, and merit onto their autobiographical stories of success, and the importance of sheer, stupid luck — having the right parents; being in the right place at the right time — gets edited out.
Here is where, oh, say, a prominent liberal economist might weigh in with what the smart kids now call “an explainer,” but for the fact that his own Nobel-winning work was part of the intellectual ferment that bubbled up our current toxic brew. Krugman, years before his opposition to the dumber policies of George W. Bush made his name synonymous with the left side of American liberalism, mostly was known as a staunch free-trader, a defender of globalization during a period in which, whatever the supposed benefits for the so-called broader economy, the manufacturing belt began to rust.

He staunchly defended wages as the market price of labor and opposed living wage laws as job-destroying interventions in an efficient market. “[T]he amorality of the market economy is part of its essence, and cannot be legislated away,” he wrote. Credit where due:  Krugman did believe in after-market redistributionist intervention. But like a good technocrat, he couldn’t bear to just give people money. He imagined a tax credit instead, another needless pile of paperwork and documentation foisted onto the working poor to force them to waste time begging for a contingent benefit.
The same 40-odd years that saw worker productivity spike while wages flattened, job protections declined, and the systems of social safety were dismantled were — not coincidentally — the period during which the Democratic Party as an organization and institution latched itself to a meritocratic myth that, at its logical conclusion, turns life into an endless nightmare of perpetual competition, the children of today trying to out-compete the Chinese for the entry-level jobs of tomorrow, which require six years of experience and a master’s. At least conservatives pay lip service to the countervailing comforts of church and charity, even if they don’t really mean it.  
The meritocrats, of course, have outcompeted you and are smarter than you, and they must relentlessly prove it. They were all immensely pleased by how clever and interesting the Affordable Care Act was. It didn’t feel like a government program; it felt like a cool internet business. And if you are a writer for "Vox," you may indeed have time to putz around comparing plans and calculating the relative merits of high-deductible plans that you can’t use because you can’t afford any of the deductibles anyway, but for most working people, this just adds to the dull reality of life today, a dismal labyrinth of incomprehensible paperwork and unnecessary bureaucracy when all you really want is to go to the doctor or to retire without going broke.
The argument is that something like Obamacare is complex and corporate because that was the only way to smuggle in the benefits without tripping over the obstructionist GOP. This argument would hold more merit if the Democratic Party ever bothered to engage in full-throated advocacy for a real, non-means-tested, universal program which then got whittled down in negotiation. Instead, the party endlessly triangulates against itself, and the few things that squeak through often are worse than the alternative nothing. The real Clinton campaign slogan wasn’t “I’m With Her”; it was “How About $12.50?” — Hillary Clinton’s answer when asked about a $15 per hour minimum wage.
Even the increasing problems and prominence of nasty racism and xenophobia around and following the election owe something to these basic material conditions. Now, look, there are a lot of straight-up, unreconstructed racist shitheels in America. America is a racist country. But a significant number of people who voted for Barack Obama turned around and voted for Trump over Clinton — maybe enough, combined with Clinton’s flat or declining turnout among minorities, to flip a few counties and therefore a few states from one column to the other. A retreat into petty affinity groups, a hardening fear and distrust of outsiders, an unwillingness to abnegate personal prejudice in favor of economic self-interest — i.e., to vote for the promise (if not the outcome) of Barack Obama, even if he is a black fella with a funny name — are all hallmarks of a people losing hope in any prospect of shared, universal material betterment and prosperity, a people turning back to the tribal protection of me and mine.
You don’t have to like it or excuse it, but you have to understand it. If, indeed, there can be no hope for Trump voters; if the divide is unbridgeable; if no politics exists that can reach even a few percent of them and turn them toward a project of mutual, shared well-being, justice, and fairness, then there is no hope. They’re lost, and we’re fucked forever. If the people who stayed home are offered nothing but some vague promise of innovative jobs in an endlessly new economy, then there is no hope. They’re lost, and we’re fucked forever. Politics is at its most basic level transactional. A vote is purchased with a promise. Hillary Clinton:  “America is already great.” Donald Trump:  “I am your voice.”
I’ll steal a line from the Democrats. Democrats, do better.
Vladimir Putin did not install Donald Trump in the White House. The "New York Times" editorial page did. The "Washington Post" editorial page did. The means-testers and meritocrats did. Hillary Clinton and her campaign did. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Read this entire pointed-little-head essay here. Don't miss it! (Bless it. (h/t "Jefferson Airplane"))

The lesser evil is still evil.

And rating the evils . . .

Message From the Future:  Your Acceptance of Evil Has Condemned Us All

Written by Chris Floyd

12 December 2016

You are taking a path into darkness. It began years ago, with your acceptance of crimes and inhuman practices on a vast scale. In the late 20th century, your leaders once confessed on national television that they had killed 500,000 innocent children with death-dealing sanctions — then declared this atrocious massacre was “worth it.” Yet there was no outcry, no outrage, no uprising, not even a peep of protest. Indeed, the leader who carried out this massive slaughter of innocent children ended his reign at new heights of popularity and forever after was considered a beloved elder statesman.

Your next leader lied brazenly to start a war that killed a million innocent people and led directly to decades of murderous instability in numerous countries. He too ended his days in wealth and comfort and public regard. Your next leader refused to prosecute the crimes of aggression and torture openly committed by his predecessor; instead, he continued his practices, enshrining many of the heinous practices into settled law, waging undeclared war in more than half a dozen countries and personally signing off on extrajudicial murders every week of his reign.

By this time, the moral degradation of the people was so complete — they had countenanced, cheered or ignored so many crimes and so much corruption on so many levels — that they easily fell prey to a voracious, half-crazed demagogue and the forces of fascism, feudalism and lawless rule that he brought into power. This was the nominal end of your democracy, but it was already deeply rotted from within — rotted by your years of turning a blind eye to monstrous crimes committed in your name by both factions in your power structure.

Because of your shameful acquiescence, your shallow understanding of the forces that ruled you and used you and manipulated you, your bedazzlement by public image, your astonishing credulity at the transparent lies and hollow, sinister pieties you were fed, we, your descendants, have lived in squalor, rancor, violence and despair all our lives, for generations. There is no hope for us unless you abandon your slavish ignorance, your adherence to partisan fantasies about the factions of the power structure that rules you, and rise up to overthrow it. Bring fearless clarity to bear on the reality of what you have accepted. The murder of 500,000 children. The millions murdered in the wars you started and the wars bred by your wars. Assassination. Torture. Dehumanization and demonization of your fellow human beings, both at home and abroad.

It is your acceptance of these things that has brought you to the final turning point represented by a berserk demagogue’s rise to power. Now there is nothing left for you to do but resist:  resist with all your might, with every means at your disposal — but always, always, with the full knowledge of how you came to this place, and your own connivance and collusion in this descent. Keep this in mind as you fight, so that it doesn’t happen again. You are not exceptional, you are not plucked out by God for special favor:  you are human beings like all the rest, and like so many human beings in so many societies down through the ages, you have failed to look your own evil in the eye, you have failed to confront and condemn acts that make you shudder with horror when you hear of them committed by  other nations.

Own this knowledge — this terrible, tragic knowledge — and let it guide as you fight the putrescence that past crimes have now brought gushing forth, and as you build something better in the aftermath. Otherwise, you are lost, and we are lost, the world itself is lost.

It still gives the idea that before this time, things were rather good in the "exceptional country". I just read an article in ( site based in India, whose present government seems eerily like what we await). It was about fake news from the time of Teddy Roosevelt, the US actions in Korea, and it was by Jay Janson in "Dissident Voice."
I had never heard of Janson, but his background is impeccable and his explanation worth considering.
And about 10 seconds in of gentle questioning, they'll freely admit their support of evil in their adherence of "lesser evilism," which frequently is actually the greater evil, or the more effective evil.
Evil elites get singled out for exclusive blame too often. There's plenty of complicity for evil going around. they can be your neighbour, your work mate, or even a family member.

Trump Says He Doesn’t Need Daily Intelligence Briefing Because He’s ‘Smart’
Donald Trump:  ‘Nobody Really Knows’ If Climate Change Is Real (It Is)

Carl Bernstein:  Donald Trump’s Disdain For Facts Worse Than Nixon

If you haven't felt that the Trumped election hasn't provided enough of a circus act thus far . . .  get ready for the next grand charade to unwind.

I mentioned earlier that it played out like these guys hatched this plot at a million-dollar cocktail party years ago. Let's hope that we don't have to step over that line. And take these guys too seriously.

From my mentor Mark Crispin Miller:

This Russia-did-it propaganda sets the stage for overturning Trump's election (or "election") WITHOUT any real investigation of the vote.
Thus "Putin" will become the villain of the piece, taking all the blame for the bipartisan corruption of the US voting system - all the blame for any fraud committed in the general election (and, by implication, all the fraud committed in the Democratic primaries).
So we may end up having civil war at home, and a very hot new Cold War with Russia, AND get to keep "our" rotten voting system:  a lose-lose if there ever was one . . . .

And what a hit that would be.

Those Russians.

So smart.

And so much better than we at stealing elections.


Russian Interference Could Give Courts Legal Authority To Install Clinton

By Alex Mohajer
A 1995 federal court ruling out of Pennsylvania may offer some clues to Clinton supporters as to possible legal authority for removing an elected official from office and replacing them with their erstwhile opponent.
In light of late-breaking reports Friday evening that Russians interfered with the 2016 presidential election to assist Donald Trump’s victory, Clinton supporters are furiously in pursuit of remedies.
At 10:45 p.m. Friday evening, the Washington Post broke an explosive story alleging that Russians had interfered with the 2016 presidential election in order to assist Donald Trump in a victory over democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The story reveals that a CIA assessment detailing this conclusion had been presented to President Obama and top congressional leaders last week.
The development has Clinton supporters and other concerned Americans confused and hot in pursuit of potential remedies. No clear constitutional remedy exists to halt the certification of the outcome. Article II of the U.S. Constitution vests Congress with the power to determine the date by which the Electoral College will cast their votes, presently set for December 19. In recent weeks, a massive online movement asking members of the Electoral College to become “faithless” or “conscientious” electors and to vote for Clinton instead of Trump has garnered national attention.
The electors would be well within their constitutional authority to do so, say groups like Hamilton’s Electors, which claims that the purpose of the Electoral College is to prevent demagogues like Mr. Trump from assuming the nation’s highest office. A petition urging the Electoral College to make Hillary Clinton president has gained nearly 5 million signatures.
Proponents of this strategy are concerned, with good reason, about the likelihood it will succeed. With Donald Trump having won 306 Electoral College votes, 37 Republican electors would need to switch their votes to Clinton, a tall order, and in the event that no one candidate has 270 electoral votes, the decision would go to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Some social media users have begun circulating the phone numbers of various state attorneys general, urging fellow citizens to contact them and request that the Electoral College voters be enjoined from casting their vote until such time that all formal investigations of Russian hacking conclude. Once the electors cast their votes on December 19, they fear, any constitutional means for preventing Trump’s road to the White House will be exhausted.
However, at least one court decision suggests there is some federal authority to invalidate the election outcome after the fact.
In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand the ruling of a federal district judge in Pennsylvania that invalidated a state senate election due to fraud, ordering the winner be removed from office and the subsequent vacancy be filled by his opponent. (Marks v. Stinson, 1994)
The Pennsylvania state senate held a special election in November 1993 to fill a seat that had been left vacant by the death of the previous democratic senator, and pitted Republican Bruce Marks against Democrat William G. Stinson for the spot. Stinson was named the winner, but massive fraud was later uncovered that resulted in litigation.
Two of the elected officials who testified in the Pennsylvania case said under oath that they were aware of the fraud, had intentionally failed to enforce laws, and hurried to certify Stinson the winner in order to bury the story. The narrative recalls the Washington Post’s revelation that Republican Mitch McConnell was aware of the CIA’s conclusion that Russians had intervened and opted to do nothing.
In February 1994, after Stinson had already taken office, a federal judge ordered he “be removed from his State Senate office and that [his opponent, Bruce Marks] be certified the winner within 72 hours.”
Stinson appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, but ultimately, this was the first known case in which a federal judge reversed an election outcome. In January 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the ruling to stand.
The high court’s decision to not interfere with the lower court’s ruling indicates at least some federal legal precedent that high courts may rule the outcome of an election invalid due to fraud or interference. Which is to say, that if after Donald Trump assumes office it is shown that Russian hacking (or any fraud, for that matter) robbed Hillary Clinton of the presidency, there is some legal authority on point that implies courts could seat Clinton instead.
Obviously both the stakes and the office in question are much higher than in the 1994 case. There has been no case of first impression with regards to the presidency being overturned to the wrongful winner’s opponent.
There is also, of course, no constitutional Electoral College process or system in Pennsylvania, so the situations are not exactly analagous. But the reasoning behind the federal court’s decision may hold muster.
It is not clear how the 1994 federal case would impact a presidential election. Furthermore, that case involved the judge throwing out all absentee ballots and requiring the vote be decided only by those ballots cast at the machine, which would be problematic in the case at present.
As of December 9, Clinton has won the national popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes. According to Cook Political Report, the vote count has Clinton approaching 66 million votes, meaning the first female major-party nominee has already earned more votes than any other presidential candidate in history, second only to Barack Obama (the totals suggest she is on course to surpass the president’s 2012 count, as well).

And then this . . .

There’s Something About Donald…

If I didn’t know any better, I might think that Trump’s crackpot performance since Nov. 8th is really meant to set the stage for Hillary to jump back in and “save us” from him.

"ProPublica" comes to the President Troll (er, Trump) rescue.

The Highly Uncertain Future Facing Us with the Trump Administration

December 15, 2016

The incoming Donald Trump administration is taking shape and the invaluable site "ProPublica" has compiled a continuously updated list with brief backgrounds of what we know about the people being proposed so far for cabinet and cabinet-rank posts. It seems to be a mix of bankers, corporate executives, political hacks, and military people, plus one nutty person (Ben Carson) to liven things up at cabinet meetings when he is not spaced out. None of them has a background that suggests that they are likely to work for the benefit of many of the less-well-off Trump voters. So the betrayal of the working and middle classes, many of whom voted for Trump because of his grandiose promises to solve all their problems, is well under way.

What is also going to be interesting to see is the dynamic of how this set of people work together. Although the US president has a lot of executive power, the government is simply too big and unwieldy for one person to run and it depends on a lot of people working in concert. Trump’s autocratic style was developed in a business where he was able to hire and fire people at will and everyone had to be obsequious to him and he clearly revels in that milieu. Technically he can still do that since cabinet level appointees serve at the will of the president, but many of the people he has chosen are also used to autocratic systems in which they call the shots. It is inevitable that at some point, sooner rather than later, Trump will be displeased with something they do or that they are getting more attention than him or even (gasp!) more praise than him. How will a narcissist whose style is to humiliate those who displease him, react? And how will these people who are not used to being belittled, react in turn?

Another thing to watch for are the inevitable lawsuits that are going to be filed as the Trump administration takes actions that are of dubious legality. Autocrats are used to thinking that their word is law and although US presidents have got used to thinking that they can bend the law to their will, Trump is likely to take that approach well beyond even what Obama and Bush and their predecessors did. Trump has been a magnet for lawsuits in the past and there is no reason to think that he will be less so as president. How will he react when a court rules against him?

A third thing to watch is what happens when Trump’s business interests around the globe are targeted by those forces like al Qaeda, ISIS, and al Shabaab who see in them much softer targets of emblematic US power than military bases, US embassies, and consulates. You can be sure that those groups are going to target them. Is the US military going to be deployed as a security and retaliatory force for his private business interests?

It also seems likely that we are definitely going to see, at least initially, a tilt away from China and in favor of Russia. But China is a bigger economic power in the world than Russia. It has for a long time been building up alliances around the world by providing economic support to nations, especially in Asia and Africa, the new emerging markets. How will China react to any attempts by Trump to ‘punish’ that nation for its monetary and trade policies? And what will happen when US and Russian interests collide over some future issue? There are already strains over Syria and Iran policy and you can be sure that there will be more to come. Russia has its own global agenda and its president Vladimir Putin has ambitions of increasing and extending Russian power and is no fool.

Another big unknown so far is what a Trump administration will do concerning Israel and Palestine. Trump has been pandering to Israeli extremists by promising to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, a step that will be bound to inflame tensions in the region because it will be seen as a further step in Israel’s illegal annexation of Palestinian land and the continuation of the apartheid state that exists in the Occupied Territories.

We are entering an uncertain period because the US government is going to be run by people whose commitment to continuity is highly weak and who seem to believe even more than past administrations that the US really is the ruler of the world and can impose its will on it despite any opposition. That kind of hubris is what leads to trouble.

No comments: