How would you like to be King or Queen for a Day!

With the sudden ascension of Oprah on the political stage it seems that a trip down memory lane all the way back to 2015 through 2016 is needed. I have read a few posts proclaiming that because Oprah is being talked about as a candidate in 2020 we should take it seriously. We are now in the era of the celebrity candidate, and America only trusts wealthy performers anymore. Hillary lost because she could not do a performance speech, is the noise I hear. Hillary lost because she had no answers for what troubles Americans, she had no credibility and all her so-called achievements were on paper only. Hillary lost because she was not qualified, Trump won in spite of not being qualified. Trump had answers, and most of those answers depended on him being able to deliver.

Whether he has or not is a matter of opinion.

There was also another dynamic behind Trump’s success, that could play a major part in someone like Oprah Winfrey actually running for president. The media. Les Moonves called it straight when he noted that Trump might make a horrible President, but he is great for CBS. Moonves is the Chairman of the Board at CBS. Not only did the media, all the media, not just CBS cover Trump 24/7 during the primaries but they did nothing about examining his qualifications to be President. Granted, they did not do a very good job of that on any candidate, except Sanders. Perhaps it was because of the Socialist label but Sanders was being asked for details of his proposals that could only be answered once the legislation is actually written. All others, but especially Trump, were never held accountable for their statements about policy.

Was there any interviews with other business executive that did business with him? And fellow students at college, were their memories talked about? Trump was just covered 24/7, even mildly critically at times, but still talked about. There is no doubt that the out of proportion coverage of Trump only validated in many minds his agenda. Which was tailored as only a salesman could to give the voters (customers) exactly what they wanted to hear. It was, in the end the media propped up salesman that won, not the celebrity. The media propped him up as a celebrity but people voted for who they though was a very successful businessman who spoke raw truths. The media failed to show us how unsuccessful he really was, and I am still waiting to hear from former employees. Why?

Stop blaming Trump voters being deplorable, stop blaming voters not voting, stop blaming Hillary or Bernie. In the it was our First amendment Free Press that failed.

OK Probably Hillary and the DNC are somewhat to blame, but their narcotizing blather might have been a major step backwards.

Advertisements

United We Stand – Divided We Get Trampled

So many, many people are upset. Some are Democrats, probably most Democrats. but Republicans are as well, but probably not most. Last of all, every single person that does not pledge allegiance to either the Democrats or the Republicans are upset. Of course they are upset that in an era with a reported low unemployment rate, jobs are scarce, for those with jobs their pay is barely keeping up with inflation. They are upset because we are at war all over the world, and once a month we hear about a soldier or two being killed in a country that many Americans never heard of. They are upset because every week another mass shooting takes place, or an unarmed black youth is gunned down by the police. They are upset because on the news all they hear about is how horrible the President is, and so they believe it. But they are also upset that their health insurance rates are skyrocketing, the Russians have taken over our elections, and oil is being spilled in our oceans and in our water supplies.

Anger and frustration is expressed by every single American. Sure, some of these things anger different people. Perhaps you don’t believe Russia is controlling our elections, but instead you are angry that our election vote counts are unreliable and unaudited. Our anger at the status quo exposes the common line of thinking that we are a nation divided. We are not divided. We may not all be angry about the exact same things, but we are all angry that the status quo is not working for the American people. We are united on this fundamental issue. We are united in the knowledge that most of what see and hear on the TV news and opinion shows only tells us half the story, and nobody reads more than one newspaper – if that, radio is over flowing with sports talk and heavily biased opinion, and who can tell what is true on social media. But on all that mishegas we are united.

This is what happens when resume trumps truth. We saw that in our last Presidential election. With only two candidates that we could choose from with the knowledge that one of them would win, their main credential for the job was their resume. Republicans refused to look into the basis of Donald Trump’s boasts of accomplishments, which in hindsight it seems impossible that he personally accomplished anything. Democrats took the list of jobs that Hillary Clinton did within government service and never dug very deep into her accomplishments. Resume trumped truth. (pun so very intended)

But here we are on the verge of losing unfettered access to the web’s cornucopia of information and entertainment, implementing tax reform that will accelerate all the wrong things and as a result it will not bring back a strong and large middle class or create pathways for the poor to improve their lot, starting a potential nuclear war with a second-rate nation in a real world reenactment of the Marx Brother’s “Duck Soup”. This all, to be blunt, is caused by the complete takeover by a single party. Democrats abdicated their participation in choosing to follow the republicans lead in both domestic and foreign policy. All they do to separate themselves from Republicans is a more tolerant social policy. And even that has withered into a shadow of what it needs to be. But even then, it is sufficient to keep Republican voters hating on all Democrats. Take away the labels, and we become united.

When someone tells you how divisive Donald Trump is, or that the nation is divided, remember that we, the people, are united. We want prosperity and we want peace. We may have disagreements about what to fix and how to fix it, but we agree that fixes are necessary; the rest is called democracy.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want – A Story About Ranked Choice Voting

Consider the times you have gone to the voting booth and the feeling of dread that you have sensed for the previous couple of months leading up to the election makes you wonder why you even bother. For many the dread of picking between two evils, or at best voting against the worse choice, is justification to stay home, and not bother.
But on top of the lack of candidates that even closely resemble your values, there is the election process itself. Republicans claim there are millions and millions of people voting illegally, and they usually vote for Democrats. The Democrats point to laws passed mainly by Republicans that are sold to the public as a fix for those people who allegedly voted illegally. These laws require a list of particulars for each citizen to show as proof of their right to vote. The result is that many legitimate voters, mostly minorities, the elderly, and the poor are denied their right to vote, and illegal voters are never actually found.
Democrats on the other hand have made sure their candidates are vetted by the party as being consistent with the Party’s objectives of resolving most policy issues with public/private partnerships, so that partnership can be used in order to raise money for campaigns and keep out any candidate that questions the party agenda. The result are few candidates that serve up any new ideas. Both Democrats and Republicans are now built upon the same foundation of deference to the private sector that was put in place during the Reagan administration and reinforced during Bill Clinton’s term.
What has happened is that Democrats tend to minimize the variety of candidates while Republicans minimize the number of voters, especially historically Democratic voters. This dynamic has reduced the choices of ideas and candidates. This contributes mightily to the dread that Elections bring to American voters, and added to their well founded belief that their vote matters very little, if at all.
But, unfortunately there is more that is restricting the quantity of democracy (if that is such a thing) here in the US. The United States does not have a trustworthy system of vote counting. There are few laws enforcing strict validation of voting counts and only a handful of jurisdictions require post election audits. Making remedies harder to implement, the courts have generally opted to recuse themselves from litigation on election issues deferring to the legislature for resolution.  In general courts have served mostly to reinforce the existing two party system that has evolved into a political monopoly trust.
The Democrats and the Republicans have monopolized to the tune of well over 90% of all office holders belong to one of them. They compete for your vote, but only against each other, their competition stops when it appears there is anyone challenging their monopoly. That is the definition of a monopoly trust, and it violates the law; additionally a two party system, is in no manner based upon anything in the Constitution. But it is so embedded into our conscious that nearly all political discussion revolves around Democrat vs. Republican, every single party that is not the Democratic or Republican party is lumped into a single 3rd Party. Without going down the political party rabbit hole, leave it to note that this forced choice is also a large contributor to voter dread.
A frequently noted remedy for many of these issues is to implement a voting process called Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). It also is frequently referred to as Instant Run-off voting. The following points summarize what I have learned about RCV.
HOW RCV WORKS
  • Each ballot allows a voter to vote for potentially every candidate ranked by the voters preference.
  • If no one achieves a majority of votes on the first counting of all #1 choices, then the votes are tallied again. Only anyone who voted for the last place finisher has his #2 choice counted. If a voter chose only one candidate, then their ballot is no longer part of the process.
  • The recounting continues until a single candidate achieves 50% +1 votes. That person is then declared the winner.
  • Each city or town can make their own rules regarding how many choices a voter actually has. But minimums are defined.
  • In most jurisdictions that have implemented RCV, Primary elections are eliminated.
GENERAL ISSUES WITH RCV
  • Does not resolve the problems with vote counting, and in fact it’s complexity amplifies those problems.
  • Election fraud becomes harder to determine, easier to implement, and mistakes are much more likely to occur.
  • The proposed MA RCV does not address party control of the election process. If implemented statewide, the Democrats and Republicans will likely use their large base in order to crowd out other parties, in the same manner that monopolies crowd out competition.
  • RCV works best only when all candidates are viable. Since it usually eliminates Primaries elections which are in place to filter out the candidates that are not viable, it is possible that a poor candidate could win, especially when there is large field of candidates.

A SOLUTION – That addresses what is wrong with our Election Process

  • All Ballots must be counted both mechanically and by hand. Any significant deviations triggers an automatic recount. The mechanical software code and database must be made available to the public.
  • All ballots and machines must be audited before a vote is certified. At least 20% of the vote must be subject to a forensic audit.
  • Voter registration is automatic at age 18. On Election day polls must be open for at least 36 hours and is a holiday. No early voting, except for absentee ballots.
  • Only one ballot for primary elections. You may vote for up to three candidates for each seat being voted for during the Primary. These are NOT ranked votes, all votes have equal weight.
  • All offices have two possible votes in addition to the candidates.
    • “None of the above” (NOTA) and “Abstain”
    • If NOTA wins, then the election must be held over with all new candidates. Abstain, reduces the actual number of votes needed for victory. Voting for either of these two is void if a vote for anyone is also made.
  • The Primary winners are chosen by taking 1/3 of the total voters for all candidates (less any abstains) and awarding a position on the general election ballot for every candidate starting from the candidate with the largest number of votes until the 1/3 of the total voters are tallied.
  • The General election also has the NOTA and abstain options, but a voter can only choose up to two candidates to vote for.
    • The same rules apply as in a Primary, but the winner must receive over votes of over 50% of the voters, excluding abstains. If no one has over 50% of the voters then another election is held and with only the candidates that were in to top 50% of all votes. The winner is determined by a plurality.  In any General election where NOTA wins, then a new election is held with an entire slate of new candidates.

Venn

When trying to describe my political orientation I have morphed through many descriptions. Some have been decided by the state of my own beliefs, other times I have tried using terms that describe what political party I most associate with. I have toyed with using what is in vogue for most people that I politically agree with, and with using what most aptly describes my leanings.

My grandfather was involved with Boston city politics, becoming a campaign manager for a long time City Councillor. That meant he was a Democrat. It was from my mother’s side that I inherited the Democrat bent. My father was a cynic who rarely voted. He never subscribed to any party because he believed they were “all a bunch of crooks”. From my father, I inherited cynicism; which rested dormant in my mind until world events pushed me to recognize in an abstract way my father was right. All politicians are a bunch of crooks. Not because they necessarily stole from public coffers, but because most put the comfort of the wealthy before that of the voters. Oddly, as my own cynicism began to blossom during my later teen years and the Vietnam War through the Reagan administration, his lessened as he began to dutifully believe the President was justified to do whatever was needed because he knew things we didn’t. For a while I considered myself a Democrat.

In fact, I am still registered as a Democrat. But I cannot participate in their party activities. I’m still invited to their get-togethers, but I cannot find the space in my life to go. I am not #Demexit. I am #NoMorePoliticalParties.

My wife was brought up in an Italian Catholic home, but their religion was belonging to the Democratic Party. She has never wavered from that. She did try a few religions before settling on becoming a Jew. So a nice Italian Catholic Democrat girl, became a Jewish Democrat. Those are the Venn Diagram she individually lives in.

As I noted over the years I modeled my descriptions along more esoteric terms. Lately I have bundled them all together into a long stream such as “Progressive, Liberal, Left Wing, Bleeding heart, Social Democrat. I intentionally leave out the Liberal Libertarian part that was actually a moniker I used online for a while. Inevitably people would accuse me or tell me that if I used Libertarian in my self description that regardless of any modifier I use (such as Liberal!) then I am a Libertarian and are therefore required to follow the Libertarian agenda. I realized that thinking was true across the political spectrum when I stated opposition to early voting and was rebuked by someone telling me that “Democrats are in favor of early voting”. Perhaps I am not a Democrat? Is autonomy dead? Do most people actually look to political parties to tell them what to believe? Current events tell me this is so, more now, I think, than ever.

Watch the news, read the paper and everything is characterized into one single grouping for Liberals. Liberals believe Russia hacked the election, they tell us. Conservative voters believe that Trump will bring good business sense into managing US economic issues. None of that makes any sense. Russia did not hack the election, Trump has no business sense at all. I’m a Liberal and I know Conservatives that don’t believe Trump would know how to run a lemonade stand.

In reality, we are all defined by the Venn Diagrams that describe each of us. The media, in a day when there is time to tell the story that is real are supposed to be cynics, instead they are toadies of the lowest sort. I have noted some of the Venn circles that I find myself in, I bet almost every person that reads this shares at least one circle with me. That cannot be covered in today’s political party setup.

From here on I will call myself a #TrueLiberal. Anyone can use the nomenclature, it’s only purpose is to separate those of us that want to disassociate themselves from the any of the established Political parties.

Keep Political Parties Away from our Elections

The evidence proves that Political Parties running elections is bad for Democracy.

Ideas for election reform have been flowing across my facebook screens nearly daily for the last month. Many of the ideas individually have a lot of merit, but there are some that are downright dangerous. The most common ideas are ranked choice voting, eliminating gerrymandering, open primaries, making election day a holiday, even more early voting, vote by mail, automatic voter registration, and mandating paper ballots. I am sure there are others that I missed listing and others that I have not heard about.

Why is election reform such a hot topic all of a sudden? A major driver was the recent election for president that did not turn out in any way how the experts all expected it would.  Their malfeasance has turned into a state of shock all across America. So the next question is, what went wrong that never went wrong before. As far as I can tell, nothing went wrong that hasn’t gone wrong before. That means that the problems that need fixing haven’t changed. Why all the fuss now? My thesis is that nobody wants to admit that anything was going wrong before. Especially the pundit class, that group of people who sit around tables that are near TV cameras and pontificate just as I am doing now, except my laptop camera is turned off and I don’t get paid. Also the pundit class keeps getting to talk into cameras and say stuff and two weeks later when they are all wrong, the same group gets brought back in front of the cameras and are asked to pontificate some more. Instead of looking back and asking what are we missing, they pretend that the real problems with our entire election are not consequential, and as the cognitive dissonance distance between what is broken and what the pundit class bases their predictions increases, the less reliable the predictions are, and the less the public believes them.

A reliable election process is where the best candidates are selected and those candidates should represent as much of the spectrum of ideas as possible. It also depends on all the votes being counted, and anytime the count is in doubt, a recount should be expected as a matter of course. Enforcement of election procedures along with the same level of audits used to validate that a bank is responsibly and honestly counting all the money individuals have handed to them for safe keeping is the minimum we should expect if protecting democracy is a true government objective. Are any of those standards happening in our election system? I don’t think so at all. In fact until we implement procedures to assure we have a process that brings forth candidates that advocate a broad spectrum of ideas, and elections whose results are trusted by the electorate, then any changes that do not directly address those problems will remain small band-aid patches on a deep wound. And if that is all we implement, then the band-aid will fall off and the wound will open even wider.

In order to bring forth multiple candidates with differing philosophies the two-party system has to be relegated to back of the line. It was obvious to the Founding Fathers that as odious as political parties are, they will form nonetheless. That should be accepted but in no way be legislated as a requirement for candidacy nor should parties be outlawed. People will do what they always do and form cliques, it is government’s role to make sure that parties do not make the rules.  Right now, our election system is so locked down as Democrat vs. Republican that around 98% of all elected officials in the US are members of one of those parties. That only two candidates are considered viable in at least 98% of our elections means that other ideas are literally stifled. Actual discussion is diminished and the voter finds nobody that truly represents their personal point of view, resulting in lower voter turnout. Counting ballots must take place on paper, but technology should not be eliminated. While scanner software is easy to manipulate, there is no reason that programming the machines cannot be done using open software, data entered (such as candidates names and their related printed information that appears on the ballot) should be in plain language. The program code should be written in an interpretative language so that any literate individual can read and understand how the program tabulates the votes .  Audits of at least 10% of the polling places must be mandatory and the audits must be a hand count of the scanned paper ballots.

There are two more critical issues that must be addressed since their impact on elections is profound. First, a law must be passed overturning the Supreme Court decision to release certain states and other jurisdictions from Justice Department oversight of changes to their election laws. It became obvious within days that the court had made a mistake since one state after another passed voter restriction laws as soon as the oversight was removed. Along with that, the law should provide tools for any polling places that are insufficiently supplied with voting machines or ballots to have those ballots printed at any nearby printing facility via a temporary eminent domain authority.

The second critical point is to remove any political party restrictions for Primary elections. This has become a frequent point made by many, but most do not go far enough since they only require that anyone can pick which party’s ballot they want. But consistent with my earlier point that parties must be relegated to the back of the line, each person showing up to vote in a Primary gets only 1 ballot with all the candidates on it. This becomes more critical when there is more than one office on the ballot. A person can then vote for the person they want in the primary no matter what parties their choice of candidates aligns with.

Thanks, Russia!

All over the press, mainstream media, social media, water coolers, and barstools the talk is about President Trump’s relationship with Russia. Every person he knows that ever spoke to a Russian is being presented as further evidence of collusion with Russia between his campaign and even President Trump himself in order to alter the results of the vote last November. A serious charge that if proven true should mean more than the removal of just Donald Trump as President. Since the accusations extend to numerous individuals within his campaign, a legitimate case could be made that the election itself is invalid. However calling telephone conversations that have been documented as not having been found to have any evidence of collusion along with the total lack of any hard forensic evidence means that the charges, if true would be hard to prove. In fact, there are significant reasons to discount every justification being made by the press and the government to take the idea of Russian meddling in the US Presidential election seriously.

But there was election tampering and it all occurred by US interests without any foreign assistance. Hillary Clinton actively rigged both sides of the primary. She manipulated the media with the assistance of the “unbiased” DNC, laundered contributions that were intended for other Democratic candidates in other races. There was also money used by the DNC and the Clinton campaign to create a hidden stash that was used to create social media propaganda and outright attacks on Sanders and his supporters. Additionally there are questions outstanding as to the validity of the actual votes counted in the Primaries due to red flag discrepancies between the count and exit polls. On the Republican side, the Clinton campaign enlisted assistance from various media outlets to minimize their coverage of Sanders and fill in that void with an overdose of coverage of the two most extreme Republicans, Trump and Cruz.

During the general election, Republicans had already proactively rigged the vote by engaging in wholesale voter suppression of targeted likely Democratic voters. There was minimal, exit polling which is the international standard in which to gauge the validity of the vote. Additionally when challenges did arise, recounts were either impossible due to all electronic votes tabulated without a verifiable audit trail, or both parties conspired to raise the costs of funding recounts as to make them all but impossible to achieve.

And after all that known improprieties by US interests we are supposed to get all worked up because the Director of the FBI stated that Vladimir Putin hates Hillary Clinton? That was an actual reason provided at one point by then FBI Director Comey.

But still, when I mention these issues, people tell me to ‘get over it’. Why? The supposed two party system was manipulated so that the choice would be between a person whose only accomplishment in life was marrying a guy who later become President, while she garnered an incredible resume, but little else and a man who rose to fame and fortune by the grace of his father’s business acumen backing him up. Ever since his father’s death, his career has been a string failures punctuated with a few get rich quick schemes. In other words, this election was not between two people who have been proven capable, but between two corrupt and incapable individuals. Whether the Russians had any influence in the outcome, the damage was done before they ever got involved. Maybe, the Russians did us a favor, or more likely we are just giving them another reason to make a toast and down a shot of vodka.

The Apprentice Learning on the Job

BradFromSalem

Pardon me for revisiting the election, or should I say “election” that happened last November. Before anything else, I would like to apologize to all my friends that supported either Hillary or The Donald. I truly do respect that you made your choice and acted upon that choice by voting, but I get the feeling from both camps, inspired by the candidates themselves, that the implications and the stories of the November 2016 Presidential election are still reverberating and being digested. Listen up folks that support or just voted for The Donald, let’s talk about your guy. Mainly because you won, but also because I am pretty sure that most of you just thought your vote was a middle finger statement to the establishment. Admit it, you probably thought your guy would not win. Not for popularity issues, but because you were sure the election was fixed.

You voted for The Donald, and some of you still embrace his Presidency; while others are pissed that you had no choice. It was the hated Hillary Clinton or the middle finger to the establishment Donald. Those were the choices. But oddly, a number of persons that voted for The Donald have come forward and have spoken out that Bernie Sanders was their first choice, or that at least in a race between The Donald and Bernie, there was a distinct possibility their vote may have gone to Bernie. – Fascinating. But the choice was not Bernie vs. The Donald, you voted for Trump, you got Trump. If you really are happy with his performance so far, then God bless you. It truly is beyond my comprehension, because he has failed at every attempt to implement his agenda. Either by the courts, performing their Constitutional duty to uphold the Laws of the US and defend the Constitution; or by politics. It is a funny thing about being a politician, it’s sort of like any other profession. Take Librarian for example. A Librarian needs to know how to manage a library and what the numerous tasks are that only a librarian could enumerate. The same is true for a politician, they don’t just make laws and there are numerous tasks they must perform. Someone that has demonstrated little patience to actually learn the job, or bring in as close advisors people that have learned the job, is destined to fail. Donald Trump is failing, his campaign positions are melting away and his promises are morphing into mere suggestions when they are not being spun around 180 degrees. This emasculation has taken place over his first 100 days. He may recover, but until that happens I will find it very hard to support him on any issue. One last comment to all my Hillary supporting friends, no I do not regret not voting for her. The Donald is worse than I thought he would be, but I should have seen that coming based on his business success rate.