Sunday, November 27, 2016

Four Things that Jill Stein and the Clinton Campaign Should Do With Their Money Instead of a Recount


A recount won't change the results, and in my view, I don't see how it would reassure people that the election was "fair," since even in Pennsylvania there are not enough paper ballots to really audit the vote.

If this election was stolen, it wasn't by Russian hackers infiltrating voting machines- it was based on voter suppression and disinformation. The things that would really give confidence back?

1. Move for laws that would require state voting to have audit-able paper ballots.

2. Aggressively pursue Republicans for their voter suppression tactics in key states.

3. Fortify the Hatch Act, which Comey clearly violated.

4. Move for more ethics in the media on how fake and illegal news is reported, especially when the disinformation is being used intentionally by a hostile foreign government to manipulate our election.

These activities were far more responsible for Trump's shoestring victory, and right now, are open avenues for continued tampering with our elections. They ought to be closed.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Electoral College Tie: Could We End Up with Trump and Kaine as Pres and VP?

Here's an unlikely scenario that could make the unusual election season seem tame by comparison: what if we end up with a President Trump and a Vice President Kaine?

The idea isn't so far fetched.

First of all, what would it take for a tie? All it would take right now is for New Hampshire to tip into the Republican column on Nate Silver's Fivethirtyeight.com map. The odds here are certainly not long. Several polls have shown Trump ahead in New Hampshire, though others favor Clinton. Silver gives Trump close to a 40% chance of winning New Hampshire, more than any other state currently in Clinton's column. If polls are off by even a small factor in Trump's favor, Trump is likely to capture this state first.

That puts the race into a 269 to 269 tie.

What happens next? This article gives a short overview of how the election then goes to the Electoral College and Congress to determine the President and VP.

With the House solidly in Repbulican hands, it's pretty safe to assume Trump would eventually emerge as the Presidential winner, even with a few supposed "faithless" Republican electors who decide not to vote for him.

That turns the VP election over to the Senate. Right now, Silver's most likely scenario for the Senate is a 50 - 50 tie. In the event of a tie, the sitting Vice President (Joe Biden), casts the deciding vote. Mr. Biden is sure to vote for his Democratic colleague, Tim Kaine.

What would a Trump / Kaine Presidency look like? Interesting, Dems would control the Senate, with Kaine, a Democrat, presiding over the Senate, and Trump as President. One can imagine either the worst gridlock possible....or perhaps, the idea that real compromise might be done. Either way, the unusual arrangement would certainly make the past year's folly seam like a light hearted romp in comparison. The HBO show Veep might become more of a real-life documentary than an absurdist comedy.....

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Trump versus Khan: Defining American Values

Could this be the defining moment of the 2016 election? With 100 days to go, and a bomb-throwing GOP candidate seemingly careening toward self destruction, anything could happen, but the face-off between Donald Trump and Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Gold Star parents of slain war hero Humayan Khan, may well go down as the most memorable portrait of what this election is about.




Mr. Khan's speech at the Democratic convention was certainly the most electric not only because of its genuineness and emotion, but because of the vivid way he and his wife were able to capture something that has eluded the Democratic party for decades: a concise and pointed way to articulate their patriotism. In laying out the case against Trump, Khan not only cited the constitution, he called on the nation to remember that what defines America - a nation of immigrants - isn't the color of our skin, our religion, or our ancestry, it's our adherence to an ideal and a core set of values: freedom, justice, and equality. These were the values that gave birth to our nation, for which our soldiers fight (and sacrifice their lives), and which binds us together as Americans, in good times and bad.

I'll admit, I've been a fan and supporter of Hillary Clinton ever since she took on a Republican Congress as First Lady and passed a health reform bill that eluded her slicker talking husband. However, I wasn't particularly thrilled by her nomination speech - her list of policy "specifics" culled from the agenda of left-leaning Bernie supporters was lacking in any genuine specifics on how she was going to address our country's finances, grow our economy, or address the concerns of blue-collar workers who are flocking to Trump's nativist pandering. But she got better toward the end as she went into the international sphere - you can tell this is where her inner wonk gets most excited. It was clear that Hillary had a strong hand in constructing the four days of the Democratic convention, which proceeded much like her speech (from the far left to the wonkish and parriotic - neigh, conservative with a small c - defense of American values and presence in the world). This blend of liberal activism with conservative American exceptionalism is what I first loved about Hillary, and it's clear that Hillary's America first will celebrate a rainbow coalition that represents the modern face of America and yet defends the same principals and values that defined this country over 200 years ago. Right on!

Turn then, to Trump, who seems to relish being the model of that other strain in American culture: the ugly American, the selfish, oafish blowhard who cares only for himself. Of course he would take the bait laid by the Democrats and the Khans at the convention. My feeling is that Trump's supporters are probably, truth be told, a little embarrassed by the man, but respond to a policy proscription - curtailing immigration, cutting trade, stepping back from the world, shoring up the boarders, and investing at home - that a smarter, saner Republican might have surmised and capitalized on, if only that party hadn't been so shackled by lemming-like groupthink for the past eight years. Meanwhile, a shrewd outsider like Trump seized on a popular program prescription that was invisible to party mainstream. Oh well, as they say, you've got to dance with the girl that brung' ya.

But the reason that America has opened its boarders, taken the lumps of free trade, and stepped into world affairs is *precisely* because of its values. The values of freedom, justice, and equality don't end at the boarder. Americans see threats to their way of life, to human rights abroad, and they can't sit idly by. Americans believe in a free economy where ruling elites don't have their thumb in the pie shoring up insider deals and artificial oligarchies; they negotiate trade agreements because economic freedom and the free flow of goods - while causing pain as economies transition - ultimately do provide a better life for children able to seize upon the  advantages that their talents, culture and education can bring to the world economy. Trade makes the world, as well as America, more free. And Americans welcome immigrants not simply because they are themselves the descendants of immigrants, but because we are a nation of values, and welcome anyone who shares these values and feels compelled, as the Khan's did, to instill in their children the same sense of patriotic wonder and sacrifice to these ideals that we ourselves feel.

I don't want to belittle the issues that are driving this election - the hollowing out of the blue-collar middle class, the lack of investment in our social and physical infrastructure, a tax and social safety net system that is neither fairly distributed nor realistically funded, the moral hazard created by big money in politics and excessive greed in finance that led to a great Recession and anemic recovery and still has not been fairly paid out. These are real issues that neither candidate is yet fully realistically addressing. But America, at its heart, is not a nation of whiners. When the going gets tough, Americans don't shrink from the world. They rise to the occasion, believe in their own abilities, fight for the little guy, stand up to the bully, stand up for their values, make a difference, and yes, make real sacrifices. These are core American values - values on display last week by Mr. and Mrs. Khan, two Muslim American immigrants - and they are what's really at stake in this election.

Trump, perhaps more than any other candidate, exposes why the current nativist impulse on the right - even if understandably motivated by turbulent economic times and Washington gridlock that has allowed a sustain decline of the middle class - is also deeply un-American. That he can so easily expose this through his mocking of Americans who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to our country is perhaps just the strange coincidence of this strange and slightly unhinged candidate now on our public stage. But if in the end it reminds us all - both Democrats and Republicans, as well as Independents - why we are all Americans, and what our shared values are, it may turn out to be precisely the best thing this country needed to get past this present time of entrenched partisan bickering, and find its soul again.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

This Crazy Election: Why Our Politcal Pendulum Swings in Three Dimensions

Crazy, isn't it, that Republicans so hate their potential presidential candidates that they are campaigning harder against them than are the Democrats?

How did this crazy situation come to be? Why is Trump so anathema to the 'mainstream' Republican party? It's clearly not his rhetoric and exclusionary attitudes (which they've condoned in the past). What they really detest are his policies: increasing trade barriers, meddling in corporate affairs, and so on. What's going on?

Trump is no friend of the Supply Side economics that swept Reagan to victory. In fact, he's more anti-corporate than Bill Clinton (and conceivably Hillary). So what gives? How is it he's able to run on the Republican ticket at all and still be trouncing his candidates in the primaries?

That's because he speaks articulately on two other core dimensions in the political spectrum - cultural issues, and America First-ism. Those are also core issues well articulated in the Reagan Republican coalition that re-defined the political landscape in 1980.

What we are seeing in this election, in fact, is no leading candidate (except Ted Cruz, potentially) who cares about the core issues that drove the Regan economic revolution: low taxes, low regulation, and opening free trade. All the major candidates, in a somewhat belated reaction to the historical wage inequity and post-Great-Recession anger of the 2007 bank-driven economic collapse, are taking populist arguments over economic ones.

This may seem unusual, but we all know the pendulum swings back and forth in America - from right to left, as they say. But it actually swings in three dimensions. The three dimensions of the Reagan definition of politics: social issues, economic issues, and foreign policy interventionism. In that sense, with all the major candidates (Hillary, Trump, and Cruz), we see the pendulum swinging away from the low-intervention and socially progressive Obama years and towards activist government along one of the three dimensions.


If we examine the chart above, we find Regan in the upper left corner: defining the "right" side of the triple pendulum of Neo Conservative, Socially Conservative, Supply Side government. With Bill Clinton, in blue, the pendulum swung toward the lower right - away from all three, but slightly.

When G. W. Bush took over, and swung the pendulum back, it didn't quite swing back to the type of Supply Side government Regan had defined. GW was a high-spending conservative who didn't give the same credence to Regan's religious leaning out of the government.

Next came Obama - one might argue he is more liberal than Bush on spending, one might argue more conservative (at least working to level the debt). At any rate, no movement towards the supply side with Obama, but a distinct movement to social liberalism and away from Neo Con interventionism.

In other words - the pendulum moved right on social issues and down on foreign policy, but not forward or back on the economic spectrum.

Now we have three candidates promising the swing the pendulum back - but back where? Both Hillary and Trump, interestingly enough, promise to take us even further from the supply side theories that ruled the Regan coalition. Only Cruz is a firm tax cutter, but his conviction about international affairs may leave some of his Republican colleagues cold.

But Trump - no matter how like Regan he sounds on the stump, is now as far from the economic revolution of the '80's as any candidate can get. He would certainly snap us away from the placid Obama years, as would Cruz. But you can see how anathema he would be for economic conservatives forged in the purity of the Regan triple-play.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Five Crazy Developments with Sony's "The Interview"

Yep, a "buddy-movie...turkey...with a slob aesthetic" has become the most notorious film of the decade. Here are five recent developments with this Seth Rogen / James Franco farce elevating this film to ironically weird heights.

Hustler is remaking The Interview into a porn parody.

Taiwanese animators have reenacted "The Interview" scandal as a series of weird animations.

Treehouse Theater in New York is planning a live script reading of The Interview on December 27th.

A Congressman wants to arrange a special screening of "The Interview" for the Capitol.

and after all this Hallabalo, Kim Jong-un is still planning to watch "The Interview."

Wow. In a year with Whiplash, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman, and Interstellar, this is the film getting all the attention?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Defensive Poetry

I was reading some kind of publishing industry research brief today and found the authors quoting Donald Rumsfeld - or what they called a "Rumsfeldian phrase" - that is, stating that they felt there were "known unknowns" and "unknown unknowns." It was a bit startling to see that after less than a decade the great Rumsfeld has already been entered into the cannon of American poetry.

Yes, practically a decade has gone by since an American defense secretary became the most lauded accidental post-modern poet who ever lived, but it inspired me to think again of Rumsfeld's great poem, "The Unknown":


The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.
—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing


Those of you who would like to peruse more Defense Department post-modern poetry can do so here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Generation X = Generation Screwed

While the Democrats and Republicans debate the draconian Medicare cuts in Paul Ryan's budget plan the point that has gotten overlooked is exactly for whom all these benefits would be eliminated: people under 55.

It's a telling number.

Ryan is the first politician to begin to put on the table what so far politician's have yet to discuss: what is going to happen to the retirement planning safety net that most of us have relied on as we struggle to fund our 401K's and figure out how we'll survive in retirement.But believe me, this is just the opening of the conversation.

The age that he picks is certainly no accident. Fifty-five: after the biggest swell of baby boomers have safely secured their government-guaranteed retirement.

Assuming all these negotiations pass next year, then for the rest of us louts born after 1957, it's sorry, sucker.

Or as comedian Bill Maher said on "Real Time" last night (in reference to the Charlie Sheen comedy tour travesty), "already got your f***ing money, dude."

That's what the big mass of Baby Boomers and elderly voters running government are going to be saying to us smaller proportion of Generation X'er as they debate this issue. Sorry there's nothing left for your retirements. Already got your money, dudes.

Ryan's proposal is just the first of the great big screwing us Generation X'ers have coming.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Deconstructing Palin's Rhetoric Against Anti-Rhetoric Rhetoric

In terms of twisted logic, the speech on Wednesday from Palin posted throughout the internet surely is a mind-bender, but let's unpack what she is saying just the slightest bit.

"“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker,” Ms. Palin said. “It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”"

But Palin's accusers aren't blaming society - they are specifically blaming her. They are saying what she is saying, that Palin should be accountable for her actions of "inciting" hate against people such as Gabrielle Giffords (i.e., creating exaggerated claims such as "death panels" and rhetorically suggesting the death of political enemies). "Because this was your doing," says William Rivers Pitt in one of the most direct connections between Palin and the shootings. "You put the cross-hairs on her, and someone finally pulled the trigger. Run from it all you like, Lady MacBeth, but this blood will never be washed from your hands."

So here is the difference - while those on the left are saying that incitement is an "action" that bloggers and politicians should be held accountable for (as if they had pulled the trigger themselves), those on the right are claiming a right to incitement. Incitement is mere discourse. However, when the left begins to act like the right - when they use the same tactics of casting blame, exaggerating ('this was your doing') and pointing fingers, the right calls this "blood libel."

"Pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence that they purport to condemn," says Palin, in yet another turn of phrase seemingly designed to provoke controversy. In other words, if anyone accuses Palin's rhetoric of having any effect in the real world, they are inciting violence.

Ok. So Palin's point is, you can only be responsible for inciting violence if you disagree with her. If you agree with her, you are merely using rhetoric that is not responsible for anything.

This is logic that the right uses to reinforce its groupthink. It makes little sense to most people, but if you look at it carefully, Palin's speech is calibrated to capture the minds of only one audience: her followers. With its twisted, unpackable logic and code words, it's explicitly designed to keep them in line and prevent them from, in a moment of tragedy, waking up from the closed in cocoon of isolated derangement she is trying to keep them in.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Will Obama Finally Take the Gloves Off?

The big question is, if health care wins, will Obama finally take the gloves off - finally discard this mistaken attempt at "bipartisan" negotiations with a party whose only goal is to make the President fail at all costs?

The Republicans have gotten Obama to waste a year on these dalliances. But passage of health care reform may prove that such attempts can be a trap: the more aggressive Obama will seem more Presidential (and also possibly more prescient), and thus see his popularity rise, along with the popularity of his programs. That will give him the wind behind him to make the other needed and hard-fought changes, such as banking reform.

It's a paradox, isn't it? The more Obama tries to be reasonable and reach across the aisle in that negotiable, Senatorial style he has, the weaker he seems, and the more his popularity slips with moderates. In a weird way, then, the best way for Obama to bring the middle of the country along may simply be to be more definite about pushing for his ideas.

We shall see. But I have to say, this new, feisty Obama is more appealing than the one we've had to date.

Pass Healthcare for Spite?

There are all sorts of good reasons the healthcare bill should pass - but could the degeneration of the Tea Party movement into an ugly, angry mob be the final straw that kicks it over the goal line?

There are a lot of things one might criticize the bill for - though at this point, after a year of tinkering, it's hard to imagine coming up with anything else that would nearly come close to creating real health insurance while also controlling costs. If nothing else, perhaps these demonstration may open people's eyes to just how much the whole issue has become a proxy for something else: the last gasp of American know-nothingingism. And perhaps that will convince that last few wavering senators that the opposition to the bill has nothing whatsoever to do with health care at all.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

JK Lassser - Tax Tip of the Day

Here's a nifty widget giving you a new tax tip every day until April 15th.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lessons from the Coakley Loss

Is the Dem's loss of 60 seats in the house today in the Massachusetts special election really a "wake up call" that the Obama agenda is really too far left, as even moderate Dems like Evan Bayh are suggesting?

Or is it, as I might suggest, more a sign that our country has - like California - become completely ungovernable?

The healthcare legislation - massive and weighted with legislative favors as it is - is already a massive compromise that attempts to steer through a forest of self-interested lobbyists and contingencies to make some progress addressing just one issue that threatens to collapse our continued existence as a country. Clearly no one is happy with the result - and from what I'm reading on comment boards, the discontent with it is as much from the left not getting a public plan as it is from the right having anything happen at all. But how could anyone in their right mind possibly think we could get anything better? Or that the current situation is sustainable?

I should add, the Democrats are clearly deluded if they try to rationalize this vote than anything other than a backlash. Unlike Virginia or New Jersey - two races where there were other circumstances where Democrats might rationalize the loss - this vote is a clear signal that Dems have lost the public on the issues. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the two parties are so far apart now that there's not even consensus on what our basic reality is. Independents, meanwhile, don't really want to try new ideas - they just want to punish whoever is in power.

Attempting change means pissing some people off. And voters are clearly pissed off. The message that Massachusetts voters have sent, it seems to me, is f* you, America. I'm sure it feels good to say. Too bad it just leads us all to the brink of the abyss even faster.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Top Ten Conspiracies for 2009: Did Vampire Squids Cause Swine Flu?

It's that time of year again - time to list the top conspiracy theories from the year that's past.

For those of you new to this annual feature, the full rules are here, but the gist is basically this: every December, I list the conspiracy theories that made the biggest headlines during the past year. To qualify, they need to have an air of the bizarre, and not be the kind of thing proven true (as in an actual criminal conspiracy - of which, this year, thanks to the financial crisis, we certainly have plenty). Rather, these are the fanciful stories that have captured acclaim and started rumors, with no real basis of fact in evidence.

Naturally, as one might expect, with a new party taking office this year, most of the top conspiracies for 2009 now come from the right (as opposed to from the left, as they have for the past several years).

And now, without further ado, let's have a drum roll....and get to our list.

10. The mob killed JFK. Perhaps one of the most enduring conspiracies of all time, this one breathed new life this year with new books and a TV show on Frontline resurrecting one of Oliver Stone's favorite memes.

9. Sarah Palin's "dollar coin" conspiracy was perhaps notable not as much for its wide attention as for it's laughably typical Palin foible: the grand conspiracy plot she refers to (moving "In God We Trust" to the side of the coin) was actually approved in 2005 by George Bush.

8. Did you know that the CIA is following you on Twitter? So that explains all those annoying DM's.

7. Call the fake Obama birth certificate the conspiracy that wouldn't die. Though we reported this one last year, this year even a District Judge was tempted to side with the conspiracy theorists.

6. ACORN this year became the organization that conservatives loved to hate...and so the nutty conspiracy theories flourished. We have the campaign finance law violation conspiracies, the growing "I lost my local election because of ACORN" conspiracies, the tax evasion conspiracy, the ACORN/Obama federal grants conspiracy, the ACORN hooker conspiracy, a lovely little ACORN gun conspiracy, the ACORN stole the Presidential election conspiracy (what else?), and perhaps my favorite, that ACORN caused the financial crisis. At least no one's blamed them yet for the weather.

5. Speaking of conspiracies no one would have expected, who would have expected a swine flu conspiracy this year? So many villains to go around that really, the whole list of them deserve to be condensed into one.

4. Naturally, one would not expect a review of 2009 conspiracies to end without some kind of communist plot making the top of the list. So I nominate Glenn Beck's Apollo Alliance Manchurian Candidate White Board Conspiracy to take the spot.

3. I love the writings and assorted ramblings of Matt Taibbi. And I think his Goldman Sachs vampire squid conspiracy really has to take the cake as the second runner-up for this year's top conspiracy. After all, who didn't want to take a swing at the fat cats at Goldman this year?

2. Coming in second for this year's top conspiracy: global warming has been faked by scientists. Even the UN is investigating this hot conspiracy. I tell you, when a conspiracy is breaking news at the UN, you'd better pay attention.

1. But even that didn't surpass this year's top conspiracy: The Obama Health Care Death Panel conspiracy. When the U.S. Congress gets into the business of spinning conspiracy theories, even the President has to respond.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Moral Hazard Rears Its Ugly Head: What To Do

With Goldman Sachs now left as a de-facto monopoly supported by the government, there's good reason for public anger - even from conservative financial institutions like the Financial Times - at what are now record breaking bonuses funded by taxpayer money: bonuses that are eye-popping even by the standards of Wall Street.

The Goldman bonuses are perhaps the biggest example of what people mean by "moral hazard." That is, the problems created when governments step in and rescue companies, even companies deemed critical to the economic health of the country.

The problem with Goldman is, there's no longer any downside for the bankers making these obscene bonuses. The company is now "too big to fail," so there's no real risk involved: the traders at Goldman know that taxpayers will step in to support the company if it gets in too much trouble. Thus, traders at Goldman are now able to take insane amounts of risk with what amounts to other people's money - our taxpayer money - but taxpayer's get none of the upside of that risk, only the Goldman traders do.

In essence, then, the bailout has created the biggest sucking sound the world has ever heard: the sound of about a hundred fortunate few sucking the remaining lifeblood out of the world economy.

We knew moral hazard would be an issue when we went into the bailout. And certainly, all the bank regulation in the world, and all the limits on executive pay, ain't going to do a thing to stop the sucking from Goldman, which has already given the TARP money back and thus has escaped any regulation or pay cap talk - and even if they hadn't are so entrenched in the government that they'd find another way to make off with our cash.

Certainly, no good capitalist wants to get into sweeping regulations about pay....and passing a law to tax Goldman Sachs specifically will just create the biggest loophole ever known, when Goldman - which has all the ins in the government it needs to avoid such a fate anyway - simply renames itself. So there seems like there's no good solution, right?

But there is. The solution - which is so obvious, I'm surprised I haven't seen anyone else suggesting it - is to raise the top tax rates. At least for people making obscene money in the heart of the recession - let's say, anyone making $1M a year or more. Call it a "windfall tax" and raise the rate to 55%. After all, isn't that the least that the rich bastards can do for our depleted country? That would recapture some of the oomph from Goldman, as well as anyone else making out in our depressed environment (no doubt due to the largess of the government in the first place).

The solution is so obvious, the fact that no one in the Obama administration has suggested it makes me wonder: just how different is this administration from Bush's anyway? On the issue of Goldman managing the economy, it seems: not much.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Barney Against the Rabble

Joe Klein says the Republican party has gone insane.

I watched a good hour and a half of Barney Frank holding his own against the wailing rabble. Captivating TV, like cage knuckle brawling. Give 'em Hell, Barney.