Friday, November 09, 2012

What Now For Republican Politicians?

Reports of the demise of the Republican party are, I'm almost certain, premature. Had Obama handled things differently after his election in 2008, we might indeed be seeing the Republican party being replaced with the Libertarian party.

Had Obama investigated the actions of the Bush administration, if that investigation had uncovered and publicised the illegal activities that administration engaged in (especially the manipulations of the vote in 2000 and 2004), and had the authors of those policies found themselves in jail, the word 'Republican' would become a word no sane politician would want to associate with.

And had Obama not bailed out the banks - if he had allowed them to fail - he would have created a storm of chaos and suffering. However, he then could have used that bailout money - perhaps even only a fraction of it - to use the Federal Government to ride to the rescue of people and small businesses in need of credit and relief. And he could have ushered in a new era of regulation of Wall Street.

But Obama chose to move on from the crimes of the Bush administration. He chose to prop up the banks and the current system, and settled for incremental changes. Despite these conservative actions, actions which merely nudged the status quo slightly, he was attacked throughout his first term and his reelection campaign as a radical socialist, a proponent of unprecedented Government control of the economy, and a person in favor of buying votes and support with Government assistance programs to lazy poor people who didn't want to work.

That is to say, despite having the clearest opportunity since the Great Depression to step in with the power of the Federal Government to directly help citizens, he chose, on his own free will, to use that Governmental power to keep the current economic system in place, and merely nudge it a bit toward greater regulation and stability.

Obama approached each issue not from a radical, leftist perspective, and not even from a particularly liberal perspective. He aimed right down the center. And for these centrist plans, he was virulently attacked and obstructed by the Republicans. The Republicans routinely opposed policies they themselves had supported in the recent past, simply because Obama was proposing them. Centrist, sensible policies full of compromise were attacked as radical and socialist. The main example of this would be the opposition to a health care plan almost identical to the one touted in Massachusetts by the eventual Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.

Obama's victory, though decisive, was not a landslide. It could be said that a stronger nominee could have won the election, or that Hurricane Sandy provided a crucial October bump for the incumbent. But it is difficult to find a strong nominee for a party that embraces a bizarre coalition of capitalists that put profit above every other consideration, along with evangelical Christians who oppose abortion rights, immigration, affirmative action and are not accepting of gay relationships. Romney is from the former category, and spent the primary season fighting a stream of candidates from the latter. A capitalist is never going to turn down an opportunity to make a profit selling something to or getting cheap labor from a person, no matter whether that person is gay, or straight, brown or white, Christian, Muslim or Atheist. That is the essential conundrum of the Republican coalition.

Romney had trouble coming across as a man with a deeply religious foundation, because the truth is he has a capitalistic foundation. Furthermore, he sought to paint Obama as a dangerous President with an unprecedented radicalism. It's relatively easy, given Obama's name, appearance, and urban intellectual mannerisms, to make this case to a large swath of the country. But it's not a big enough swath, particularly when no evidence of Obama's supposed radicalism exists.

The aftermath of a national disaster is usually a good opportunity for an incumbent to make himself look good. Bush blew it with Katrina, but a President almost always gets a bump from marshaling the forces of the Federal Government to help storm victims out, and Sandy was no exception. But it particularly helped Obama because it further dissipated the myth that he was some sort of radical, dangerous outsider. He calmly and rationally acted responsible in the face of a crisis, in order to help ordinary people in trouble. Romney's campaign was hurt by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's appreciation of Obama's competence. But it was also hurt by Romney's offhand offer to abolish FEMA in order to reconcile the ever present Republican tax-cut-to-the-wealthy economic plan with the new found 'bring down the deficit' call the Republicans trot out only when they are running against an incumbent Democrat. Romney was painted into a corner by the conundrum of his coalition's opposing interests, and he threw FEMA under the bus. It came back to bite him in the ass, but it was really his coalition that was ass-bitten from the start.

The Republican plan, since Clinton won in 1992, has been to attack the Democrats' character relentlessly, obstruct their agenda at all costs, stoke fear in poorer white folks, fear of blacks, fear of Hispanics, fear of gay people. Their economic plan has been to decrease the tax burden on large corporations and wealthy individuals at all costs, and to obscure the harmful effects of these policies on poorer white folks. They have bolstered these efforts with attempts at voter disenfranchisement.

While they paint perfectly reasonable Democrats as radical, it is they who have done the most radical, unprecedented things in this country since 1992. They have pushed the boundaries of legality by having a special prosecutor investigate a sitting President for a land deal that happened before he was elected. That is something that never happened before. They then had this special prosecutor move right over into investigating the President's personal life. That is also something that never happened before. They impeached a President and nearly removed him from office for uncovering an embarrassing affair, asking him about it under oath, and charging him with perjury. In a historical sense, these were radical actions.

In 2000, in Florida, they utilized an unprecedented loose match to a list of felons in order to remove as many legal African-American voters from the rolls as possible. The secretary of state acted in an astonishingly partisan manner in presiding over elections and recounts in Florida in 2000 as well as in Ohio in 2004. They gerrymandered congressional districts in unprecedented illogical, and sometimes arguably illegal ways in order to increase Republican representation in Congress. They poured unprecedented amounts of money into elections and lobbying, and they were able to lower income taxes and capital gains taxes on the wealthy and large corporations in order to present a radically different distribution of wealth from what we had in 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, and 1990. The stretched and broke rules, defying conventions and the basic spirit of fairness for the short term gain of a few, while others suffered. And then they had the gall to align themselves with moral Christians.

The Republicans' election successes of the last 20 years have not been built upon creating a platform that would appeal to the majority of citizens. Their successes have been built on radical manipulations of the process, and by tricking churchgoing, religious Christian Americans into thinking that they shared their concerns. And by painting reasonable Democrats as radicals.

And the problem with this plan is that it does not stand up to the facts of what is actually true. Democrats have not been radical in the last 20 years. Republicans have, in several ways. Democrats have not been free-spending irresponsible deficit builders. Republicans have far outpaced Democrats in their building of the deficit. Clinton pushed, over virulent Republican opposition, a return to the top bracket tax rates when Reagan left office. He also streamlined programs like welfare and cut a lot of spending. Clinton left office with a surplus, and with the economy booming. George W. Bush pushed through tax cuts to the wealthy, and spent huge sums on dubious military adventures in Iraq, building up record deficits. He left office with the economy in shambles and with the debt ballooning. Obama decided to save the economy and had to increase the deficit to do so, something Republicans wanted in order to save their fortunes. Into this situation wades Mitt Romney saying that something must be done about this horrible national debt. He convinced some people, but not enough.

Because what he was saying was just not true. Recent history shows that a Republican is not the person you want to trust to bring a deficit down.

Also, in the last 20 years, those citizens who want to ban abortion have, despite many Republican electoral successes, not seen Roe V. Wade overturned. They also have not seen an end to affirmative action. They also have not seen any significant immigration restriction. Republicans have managed to cut taxes to the wealthy and ease financial regulations many times over. But they haven't shown any real interest or desire in making their fundamentalist Christian supporters' dreams a reality.

Republicans are going to have to start having real positions on real issues that appeal to Americans in real ways. Not by promising them things you cannot or don't intend to give them. Not by playing on their deepest fears. Not by tricking them. Not by gerrymandering them. But by offering them something. And by offering them something, you are going to have to keep a little less for yourself.

1. Stop calling the fantastically wealthy 'Job Creators', and stop trying to connect less tax burden on the wealthy and huge corporations with economic growth and patriotism. They don't go hand in hand and enough people realize it that your gravy train has a flat tire. If you keep pushing it, you may end up with no train at all. Instead of calling yourselves fiscal conservatives while actually being wealth distribution radicals, actually BE fiscal conservatives.

2. Stop demonizing Hispanics. The truth is, immigrants to this country work hard at low paying jobs other Americans don't want to do. They represent a pool of cheaper labor, which is good for capitalists. There are plenty of white people that are fearful of Hispanic culture and influence. Instead of stoking that fear, assuage that fear, and you can compete with the ever expanding Hispanic vote, instead of going after the ever-shrinking 'fear of Hispanics' vote.

3. Commit yourselves to true democracy, by abandoning these radical efforts at voter suppression and gerrymandering and voting machines with invisible software. Work the system, don't game it.

4. Stop denying climate change, and promoting the idea that there is plentiful cheap oil if only we would drill for it. You don't have to be a total green environmentalist, but adapt an energy policy that's based on reality.

5. Stop denying that Government has a useful role in peoples' lives. This narrative paid dividends for Reagan, but its time has passed. The essential conundrum is that your candidates are trying to get people to vote for them so they can become part of the Government. If Government has no useful purpose, why are you running for office? So that you can get paid to do nothing?

In short, the Republican establishment has used the Government and the good will of the American people as a moneymaking scheme. At some point, the money and power you can squeeze out of that scheme will dry up. That day has come and the jig is up. If you are not in jail or strung up from a lamppost as a result of your participation in this scheme, consider yourself lucky. Join the community of the United States of America's democratic self-governance by the people and for the people.

Or go live in one of your tax havens if you would rather lord over the peasants. Have fun hiring your own police force.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

This here is a 'wow' article on Dubai. It doesn't surprise me, but it's pretty shocking nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009



In 1999, wealthy political investors known as 'pioneers' came up with the idea of, and financed, the presidential campaign of George W. Bush, son of former President George H.W. Bush, who was at that time holding the largely ceremonial Governorship of Texas.

Under the ruthless and brilliant direction of Karl Rove, and with the aid of a news media intent on ridiculing the awkward but competent Al Gore, and with the aid of a Nader candidacy sucking voters disenchanted with Clinton's centrism, the candidacy of George W. Bush manuevered itself into striking distance of the Presidency.

With the aid of the President's brother, Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida, and Katherine Harris, Secretary of State of Florida and state chair for the Bush campaign, Voter rolls were liberally cleansed of African American and other likely Democratic groups of voters. An extremely close election in Florida was called by the networks for Bush, despite the fact that a recount was likely and that recounts tend to add more votes from poorer, more Democratic districts due to their inferior voting machines.

With a complicit news media and a Secretary of State acting in Bush's favor, Gore had to go to the Florida Supreme Court to try to get a recount, while fighting a public relations battle to convince people he was not being a sore loser. The Florida Supreme Court (who should be given medals for patriotism) came down with a sensible decision on how to recount the votes, based on Florida law which clearly favored determining voter intent.

With a recount likely to end up favoring Gore, the United States Supreme Court shockingly agreed to review Bush's case. Then even more shockingly, they ruled that the recount must stop. For the U.S. Supreme Court to meddle in a state's election, even for a national office, was shocking and unprecendented. Their logic was flawed. And yet they stopped the recount and gave the election to George Bush. Months later, findings were released which indicated that had a full recount based on determining voter intent been undertaken according to Florida law, Gore would have emerged with more votes, and would have won the Presidency. And yet, he did not, due to the astounding, anti-democratic and unpatriotic actions of Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris, and 5 Supreme Court Justices, all of whom derelicted their duties as Americans in order to install their preferred candidate in the White House. Let us name them. William Rehnquist. Antoin Scalia. Sandra Day O'Connor. Anthony Kennedy. Clarence Thomas.

Once President, the administration of George Bush, largely run by Vice President Dick Cheney, proceeded to hand out large sums to the 'pioneers' in the guise of a number of disingenous policies - policies whose effects were usually contradictory to what their names described. No Child Left Behind. Clear Skies Initiative. Regulations were dismantled and industry exectives were appointed to regulate (or to not regulate) their own industries. The Alternative Minimum Tax was abolished - retroactively, and taxes already paid were returned to large corporations that financed Bush's campaign. Meanwhile, Neo-Conservatives from the Project for The New American Century were shaping foreign policy.

Before September 11, 2001, the Bush Administration ignored warnings from the Clinton Administration and from subsequent intelligence that indicated that Al Qaeda was capable of and was planning an attack on American soil. On that day, over 3000 Americans died in the attacks. The Neo-cons' PNAC document stated that a 'New Pearl Harbor' might be necessary to garner public support for its foreign policy goals. With 9/11, that event happened. And what the Bush Administration did after 9/11 is exactly what the Neo-Cons proposed.

They used the good will and sympathy from the nation and the world to enact more policies which enriched the 'Pioneers'. They used that good will to go to Afghanistan, where a pipeline opposed by the government there soon got underway. They used that good will to sell the nation and mainstream news media on a war in Iraq, which helped them to control the world's energy supply, and allowed them to funnel still more money to Halliburton and other 'pioneer' companies such as Blackwater. Meanwhile, they ran the national deficits up and ballooned the national debt. With all the money going into their contributors' pockets. Meanwhile thousands of American soldiers died. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died, and millions suffered as the infrastructure of Iraq was destroyed. Here in America, the infrastructure crumbled. Laws protecting ordinary working Americans disappeared. Those people got poorer. But the pioneers got richer, and this was all that mattered to them. This was a grift. This was organized crime on a huge scale. They stole our surplus, then they borrowed money and stole that. It was the joining of Corporate and Political power - the very definition of Facism.

Slowly, more and more Americans began to wake up and notice that something was wrong. This was not an administration. These were not conservatives. These were not moral Christians. The geniality of Bush fooled people for a long time. People trusted Bush to be decent. They believed him, and if someone like him was in control, it seemed unlikely that evil was being done. But Bush was not in control. He was never in control. He wasn't interested in being in control. That's why he was the perfect front man for this operation.

As the levees crumbled in New Orleans and Katrina drowned the city and its poorer residents, the last of the veneer began to strip away. Throughout history, faced with this dilemma, Fascist dictators became more and more desperate and would crack down harder and harder. And they would not reliquish control until it was pried from their dead hands. However, in this peculiar form of American Facism, the unmotivated and empty vessel of a leader had no power or interest in maintaining power to the end. In typical Bush fashion, they prepared to leap overboard with their profits as the ship sunk. Like rats, off they went in their lifeboats, with one last bailout of the institutions whose unregulated malfeasance caused the economy to collapse. And they rowed away, waiting for a day when the people once again trusted their Goverment and their news media. And when that day comes, they will once again try to exploit the public trust for private greed. Meanwhile, they will buy up the desperate nation's resources for pennies on the dollar. They are desperate for wealth and power, and they think this makes them better than the rest of us. In fact, they are sick, deranged human beings, who think it perfectly acceptable for others to suffer and die so that they can have more and more.

A new day is upon us. A new generation of leaders, led by the decent and earnest Barack Obama, has gained power and tilted the balance once more toward a vision of the public good. As we continue to feel the effects of this Bush hurricane which has leveled our nation, we will all suffer and we will all have to work together to restore what we have lost. To rebuild on a solid foundation of teamwork and mutual respect. Power will once again belong to those that have earned it in the eyes of their fellow citizens.It will be hard, and it will be good.

But I, for one, will never forget what those bastards did to us. What they did to our soldiers. To the residents of New Orleans. To the people of Iraq. Whether Bush and Cheney and everyone else who was a party to this scheme spends the rest of their lives in a jail cell or sipping margaritas in Paraguay doesn't matter to me anymore. But I want the people of this nation to know what happened. I want the details to be exposed, and publicized. We should know exactly what they did and how they did it, so that next time, more of us will see the warning signs, so that people like Dick Cheney, who by all rights should have lived his life muttering to himself at the last seat of some bar, will remain there, and leave the rest of us to build the best life we can for our families and our communities.

To George Bush and Dick Cheney and the Pioneers: Fuck off and die.


Peter Fuhry

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I'm going to go a bit against the grain here. Why exactly, now more than any other time, is Harry Reid being Mr. Tough Guy about Blagojevich's appointment of Burris to Obama's Senate seat?

If he calls a vote to exclude Mr. Burris, he's on shaky Constitutional ground. If they seat Mr. Burris and then try to expel him, he needs a 2/3 vote, which may be difficult to get. Why invite a lawsuit and a big hubbub? And why all the posturing, threatening not to seat a Blago appointment? Now that Blago has called your bluff, you have to step to the plate.

Meanwhile the Illinois secretary of state threatens that he won't certify the appointment. On what authority?

Everyone is falling all over themselves to prevent this guy from making an appointment. Meanwhile, though it may be clear that he isn't an honorable fellow and isn't fit for office, he has yet to be convicted of anything - he has yet to be impeached, and he is still, legally, the Governor of Illinois. Everyone is getting their panties in a bunch over this guy, but they're making the mistake of posturing and threatening. And they don't have the power to follow through.

Read it: We don't have the power to easily and ethically stop Blagojevich from appointing Burris to the Senate.

And what is the big deal anyway? So Burris, who seems to be at least somewhat qualified, serves out Obama's term. Then, he probably loses the primary in the next election, as he has before... Unless he distinguishes himself and distances himself from the Blagojevich stink.

I think Reid will cave on this, as he caves on most things after talking tough. But I think he picked the wrong thing to talk tough about. Of all the things!

I would like to see Reid step down. He's shown bad judgment in the way he's handled this. This is like bad parenting. You make threats and yell and scream, and then capitulate. How about staying quiet and calmly enforcing rules and pushing your agenda as best you can? How about calling the Republicans' bluff like everyone calls yours?

How about Russ Feingold replacing Harry Reid? Shit, even John Kerry would be better.

* * *

And another thing. Diane Feinstein will never whine about Big Business ruling America and stealing from the treasury. But appointing Leon Panetta to head the CIA? Hissy fit. I think Diane Feinstein is an idiot.

This is a ballsy move for Obama. I like it, because it's confrontational. It says "I'm going to change the culture at the CIA," and that's a dangerous thing to do. It's also a scary thing for Panetta to do. But it speaks to a conviction and a dedication to reversing the torture ethos, and removing the stink of providing 'intelligence' to satisfy a political need. Panetta has a history of being principled.

Monday, December 15, 2008

This is awesome

This is the most awesomely awesome thing I've read in a long time.

RAHM EMANUEL: This is Rahm.
ROD BLAGOJEVICH: Hey Rahm, yeah it's Rod.
EMANUEL: Uh-huh. What's going on governor, I'm busy.
BLAGO: Well, it's about that Senate appointment...
EMANUEL: We already gave you the list of people we like.
BLAGO: Yeah, I been looking the list over. Interesting names. Good people. How's the transition going?
EMANUEL: It's going fine, governor. Are you calling to fucking tell me anything, or what, cause I--
BLAGO: No no, I'm just wondering if you have all your picks already made. I heard something about Dashle for HHS--
EMANUEL: I'm not gonna discuss ongoing deliberations, gov, you know that.
BLAGO: Hey, come on Rahm, let's not act like I'm a stranger here.
EMANUEL: Did I call you a stranger? If I thought you were a stranger, you think I'd be interrupting my important fucking business to take this fucking phone call?
BLAGO: Hey you don't have to get curt with me, Rahm.
EMANUEL: This isn't me being curt, Gov, this is me being fucking busy. Now what did you call about?
BLAGO: I'm just feeling you out, seeing if Valerie [Jarret] still wants that Senate seat, just wondering what kind of priority that is for the President-Elect.
EMANUEL: Actually, it's not a priority. Valerie's had second thoughts about the job.
BLAGO: What, she doesn't want it anymore?
EMANUEL: She's having second thoughts. You want more details, you ask her.
BLAGO: She won't take my calls.
EMANUEL: Big fucking surprise.
BLAGO: What's that supposed to mean?
EMANUEL: Um, I don't know, what's it supposed to mean governor? A.) You're a fucking crook. B.) You're a fucking asshole. C.) All of the above.
BLAGO: I'm clean Rahm, you know this. You think that fucking Fitzgerald would being twiddling his fucking thumbs if he had shit to go on?
EMANUEL: I gotta go, Gov. You appoint who you want, we really don't give a shit.
BLAGO: What if I appoint Valerie, what if she takes it?
EMANUEL: What do you want me to say? We'd appreciate it, I'm not gonna fucking kiss your ring over it.
BLAGO: "Appreciate it"? Come on, this is a senate seat we're talking about. It's worth a fuck of a lot more than appreciation.
EMANUEL: You asked us for a list, we gave you a fucking list, you want to make your own list then make your own fucking list. [Raising voice] But if you're asking for anything else from me, or Barack, or Valerie, then you can fucking stop talking right now Rod.
BLAGO: Wait a sec there Rahm. Wait just a fucking minute. Who are you to talk to me like that? I fucking made you.
EMANUEL: You made me? You made me? Tell me you're fucking joking.
BLAGO: No no no, you listen to me shit-face. You see this list I got, the names motherfucking Obama fucking wants for the Senate. I just ripped it in two. How you like that? Oops, Harris just dropped it in the shredder. Harris?
HARRIS (muffled): Yes sir?
BLAGO: Did you just drop that list in the shredder?
[Whirring, shredder noise]
HARRIS (muffled): I did.
EMANUEL: Do you have me on fucking speakerphone?
BLAGO: It's in the shredder, Rahm. The list is bye bye.
EMANUEL: Hold on a sec -- you got me on fucking speakerphone? Who the fuck do you think I am?
BLAGO: Who are you Rahm? Who are you? You're shit, you hear me? Don't come back to Chicago Rahm, it's not your town any more.
EMANUEL: Pick up the phone Rod.
BLAGO: I'll put someone in the senate who will fucking fuck you. I might even put myself in there, how you like that Rahm? How you gonna explain that to fucking Barack, every time he's gotta call me up for my fucking vote. He'd have to take my calls then, wouldn't he?
EMANUEL: [Screaming] I said pick up the FUCKING phone!
BLAGO: [Picks up phone, speakerphone off] I got your attention now, didn't I?
EMANUEL: Shut the fuck up and listen to me for one second Rod. And I want you to listen carefully, because this is the last time I'm ever going to talk to you. You are fucking dead to me. You been fucking dead to Barack since '06, now you're dead to me. Know what that means? That means you're dead to my people in Chicago, Daley on down, and all these friends you think you have aren't gonna touch you with a ten foot fucking pole.
BLAGO: Oh now you're the fucking Godfather? Fuck you.
EMANUEL: No fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.
BLAGO: Fuck you!
EMANUEL: Listen up asshole. The shit's gonna hit the fan, maybe tomorrow, maybe next month, and when Fitz finally brings down the hammer it's gonna be my name that's going through your head. You won't know the hows or the fucking whys, but it's gonna have my fucking fingerprints all over it. Have a great life fatso.
BLAGO: Hey fuck--
EMANUEL: [Click.]
End of conversation

Friday, November 21, 2008

Why Minnesota Rocks

This is a release from the Citizens for Electoral Integrity of Minnesota. This is a great thing to read, and explains pretty well how to run an election. I'm putting it here in its entirety - pg

Why Minnesota's Recount Process is a Model for the Country
- Statement by CEIMN November 20, 2008

Mark Halvorson, Director, Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota; David Klein, Elections Operations Specialist, formerly with the Ohio Secretary of State; and Pam Smith, President, Verified Voting Foundation.

With a celebrity candidate and record-setting expenditures the race to represent Minnesota in the US Senate captured the nation’s attention even before the historically close margin was announced. An automatic, manual recount of the Minnesota U.S. Senate race that began could last until mid-December. As non-partisan, election integrity advocates in Minnesota, we welcome this attention and hope that one of the outcomes will be lessons learned that strengthen our democracy.

One reason for our optimism is that Minnesota’s election system minimizes problems and circumstances that have historically reduced voter confidence. The occurrence of such problems and circumstances in other states plagued the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. The people, procedures, and technology comprising Minnesota’s election system are among the most respected in the nation. Minnesota’s election system has great potential to certify results that accurately reflect the will of the voters and in which voters can have confidence.

Minnesota’s reputation for electoral integrity begins with the state's choice of election technology: a system of voter-marked paper ballots which are read by optical-scan machines. A meaningful recount is possible because the paper ballots provide a permanent record of each voter’s intent. Such a permanent record does not exist in all states; over one third of the states use electronic machines that do not offer voter-verifiable paper records. Many top computer security experts have warned that paperless electronic voting is inherently insecure and does not provide for a real recount.

Minnesota’s election process is characterized by transparency and openness. Citizens can, and do, observe the process. For example, Citizens For Election Integrity Minnesota, The League of Women Voters Minnesota, and Common Cause Minnesota are mobilizing a non-partisan citizen observation of the recount to protect the integrity of the process.

Minnesota independently assesses the accuracy of the election system that uses optical scanners by auditing a random sample of roughly 5% of the ballots immediately after every federal election cycle; 16 states conduct post-election audits, which is the highest number ever, but not high enough. There is no question that every state should include a mandatory process to independently check the accuracy of election results that includes provisions to expand the verification when errors are detected. Moreover, such post-election review processes need to have mechanisms in place to see that the errors are corrected automatically instead of needing to go to a judicial or a legislative body. The audits, along with the 2008 primary election recount, have given Minnesota election officials statewide the experience in manually counting ballots and in determining voter intent necessary for the impending U.S. Senate recount.

Claims of partisan application of the law will inevitably be leveled in these situations. Certainly there is a benefit to laws in Minnesota and elsewhere that prevent our state’s chief election officer from grossly appearing to have a conflict of interest such as overseeing an election while also chairing the state’s committee to elect one of the candidates as was the case in Florida (2000) and Ohio (2004).

The detailed, written procedures of the Minnesota recount law leave little room for discretion or bias in conducting the recount, covering: the ballot chain of custody, ballot counting, and the interpretation of voter intent. The Minnesota recount law requires that 100% of accepted ballots be manually inspected, counted, and tallied.

At the end of the recount, we expect to see a lot of really bored lawyers, election officials, reporters, and citizens who were present for the sorting, stacking, and counting of 2.9 million paper ballots. We expect confirmation that the vast majority of ballots unambiguously reflect a selection of one of the candidates, or no vote at all. We expect a tiny percentage of ballots marked in a way that the optical scanners cannot determine the voter’s intent, which could change the outcome given the miniscule margin. Any programming errors, software glitches or clerical errors in reporting vote totals will be caught and corrected by the manual recount.

Be careful not to yawn and fail to recognize that the effort and detailed care is necessary, even if the outcome doesn’t change – there is no other way to be confident in the results of this race. It is not that a systematic review is required because we distrust the election system. Rather, a systematic review is required because we care enough about this important process to be as certain as possible.

Friday, November 14, 2008

GM Bailout?

Hey... I have an idea.

Extend Medicare to cover all GM employees.

You save the country and the industry from a bloody Labor-Management battle.

You effectively bail out GM by saving them from crushing health care costs for their employees. You remove the incentive to bust the Union or export jobs overseas. You turn one corporate giant against another.

If you borrow more money from China to bail them out, that money's going to go right into the healthcare industry. Fuck that.

The other car makers, and other corporations, are going to line up to be a part of this deal. The health insurance industry is killing us. The only way to stop them and get decent health care for all Americans is to turn the other industries against them.

I have another idea: Huge tax breaks for every electric car manufactured. GM and the other carmakers, including startups, can get huge tax savings, basically bailouts, by producing electric cars. You've got to produce the financial means for these major car makers to stop being pawns of the oil companies.

If GM and the US carmakers don't want to take your deal, you let them fail and let Tesla, Myers Motors, and Commuter Cars inc take the deal.

I have little sympathy for the American auto manufacturers. Most of the cars they produce don't sell. They make 20 different models each, all of which do basically the same thing, hoping to make one that's 'hot' and catches the fancy of your average car buyer. Instead of searching for new markets (hybrid, electric, etc) they merely hope that extending more and more credit to car buyers will help them to buy cars more often. They have a very inefficient strategy. If people can't get the credit, their whole scheme is over. If people were more like me, and avoided going into debt for a car that will lose 90% (or more) of it's value in 10 years, there would be no auto industry.

But if I could buy an electric car for $20,000 that would give me thousands in fuel savings, I might do it. I, like most people, drive less than 50 miles per day. It's astonishing that I simply cannot buy such a car today, though it would meet my needs perfectly. My only option is for a tiny, expensive vehicle from a boutique startup, or an equally expensive conversion. If GM was still making the EV-1, can you imagine how many would have sold when gas hit $4 a gallon? It probably would have saved their ass. The Government of California already tried to save their ass in the 90's and they said 'Fuck you'. Now they come asking for a handout and blaming the unions. Maybe we should tell them 'Fuck You' and give the money to Tesla.

I actually think unions can be problematic. They wield enormous power, and while they are great, and necessary, in order to prevent worker abuse, they can shoot themselves in the foot by handicapping their industry and by eliminating merit-based pay. In this way, they can encourage mediocrity. And I say this as a person who's grandfather was a union boss. It's a tricky business. In a way, a union wedges itself into a position of co-managing the corporation, and they've got to think that way.

And I think most of them do. But I think the expanding cost of health insurance has put a knife into Labor-Management relations in this country. And I think they ought to work together to remove that knife and repair relations. And I think the Government ought to encourage that.

Pipe dream, I know.