Thursday, May 5, 2016

Trumpeting - also known as the misfirings of a loose cannon

And now watch Trump trumpeting:

He's a loose cannon and loose cannons tend to misfire:

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Can tough Grandma Hillary beat a 19th Century misogynistic con artist

The United States is now full of expert political pundits and members of the professional news media who in 2015 stated without hesitation that Donald Trump could never be the Republican nominee.

The 2016 Presidential Election will be between candidates Donald Trump and the Democratic nominee, most likely Hillary Clinton.

And now many, way too many, Democrats, independents, and those same folks who said Trump would never be the nominee are saying Trump cannot win the Presidency. They are wrong.

Let's begin with the fact that white women age 35-49 continue to poll 39% for Trump, while only 34% will say they would vote for Clinton.

Much is being made about Hillary Clinton playing "the woman card" with a lot of opinion being published like this from Pulitzer Prize Winner Politifact Donald Trump wrong that Hillary Clinton 'doesn’t do very well with women' in which experts point out that polls show Hillary leading Trump among women by 9%, 53% to 34%.

Yeah, 34% makes them think Donald is wrong. At any given point in time in 2016 a misogynistic male with 19th Century attitudes about women could receive 34% of the votes for President from American women voters.

After all, as Donald would say, the alternative is only a female former U.S. Senator and former Secretary of State who has a daughter and granddaughter and who is having a hard time in the primaries because the  Bernie Sanders left believes she's too right-of-center. After all Bernie is a man who knows. Why would any women vote for her.

Polls, of course, are just snapshots at a particular point in time. The international news service Reuters maintains a "rolling" poll system that keeps track of a number of important information points, including Clinton v Trump. Here's how the poll of registered voters likely to vote in November looks today (click on the graphs to see a large version):

As you can see, variations over time have been significant. But as of May 3, 2016, Clinton had about 46% of the vote regardless of sex. Trump has 41% of the men voters and  33% of the women voters.

When you dig down into the numbers you find what you might expect - that men-over-50 strongly favor Trump over Clinton - 55% to 33%.

But you also find what should be some disturbing information for the Clinton Campaign (again click on the graphs to see a large version).

Women between the ages of 35-49 poll 39% for Trump and 40% for Clinton compared to men of that age group 54% for Clinton, 36% Trump. When we add in one other factor, we get this:

White women age 35-49 continue to poll 39% for Trump. But only 34% will say they would vote for Clinton, while 41% of white women over 50 would vote for her and 43% under 35 would vote for her. The irony is of white men age 35-49, 50% would vote for Clinton.

The overall picture for white women is that it is a toss-up between Hillary and Donald with 23% still willing to listen to Donald:

Some might say this is a polling anomaly. But as I pointed out here in the post "The Woman Card" - Donald plans to beat Hillary with 2004 strategy: "While many want to argue that this didn't happen, the general thought about the 2004 election was 'soccer moms' became 'security moms.'"

The problem is, those "security moms" are very important in swing states where a Democratic win occurs with margins of a few hundred votes.

It's too simple to say Hillary has the lead. Right now when we look geographically Clinton's lead is almost non-existent in all parts of the country but the Far West and the Southeast:

 It is surprising, but she does have a lead in the Southeast.

And of course she has a large lead in the Far West (except among white women age 35-49).

The problem is the Far West states voters will award their Electoral College Votes to the Democrat regardless of who the candidates are.

What Hillary will need is strong support in the the rest of the nation, places like New England where the poll numbers look like this:

This is Bernie Sanders home turf. Bernie is out  right now campaigning against Hillary Clinton. Bernie's continuing efforts between now and June 7 will be supplemented by an unexpected running mate, Donald Trump.

And whatever Bernie and Donald say about Hillary over the next seven weeks will begin the new media message to beat Hillary between now and November.

This, then, raises the question. Between today and November 8, can Donald Trump actually use his misogynistic male 19th Century attitudes about women to get just enough votes from women in the right states by creating the "Protector of  American Women and Children" image of himself.

It isn't impossible to imagine nor is it silly. This year's election is immersed deeply in a renaissance period of the comic book superhero. Trump is skilled at using media and America's "news" media has become easily used.

In this case, he doesn't have to "leap tall buildings at a single bound", he need only appear the strong male to the "security moms" in swing states like Ohio. Trump succeeded in overpowering a large slate of potentially competitive strong male candidates on the Republican side.

Trump's next challenge is how to overpower a grandmother. Of course, he has the help of Bernie and 61% of other age 50+ white men. And apparently he will have the help a lot of American women, particularly those age 35-49. Given what he has accomplished over the past year, it's hard to see how he will lose.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

What uninformed person told you the United States is a democracy? It has never been one. It is a republic.

Now that the primary season is nearing a conclusion, a certain kind of opinion piece headline starts appearing such as We are all just this screwed: Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and our muddled, perverted democracy Whenever such foolishness appears I feel like this

More and more I wonder what we are teaching our kids about American government. Sure there are places in New England where some local governments are literally run as democracies. And in some, perhaps misguided, states there are initiative ballot measures. But by and large government at all levels in the United States is not democratic (small "d").

Instead our government structures follow a republican (small "r") model which is a form of government that is not a monarchy or dictatorship, and is based upon the rule of laws created by a small percentage of the population.

There is a simple reason for this, but you have to have some familiarity with the facts of American history as it pertains to the period when our governmental forms were created pursuant to the American philosophy of government that existed at the time. And you do need to understand the time.
The year 1776 was not much different from the year 76. In both years and eras there were no airplanes, cars, electric lights, radio, telephone, telegraph, television, Ipods or Ipads. There was no electricity, no steam, no combustion engine, no natural gas power, not even propane. There was no Internet, nor were there railroads, buses, steamships, telephone or telegraph wires and no tall buildings.

Travel was by horse or horse and carriage. It took Jefferson ten days to reach Philadelphia from Monticello and John Adams 7 or 8 from Concord. It took George Washington 8 days to get to his inauguration ceremony in New York from Mt. Vernon.

- Populist Daily

When the Constitution was written, only white male property owners (about 10 to 16 percent of the nation's citizens) were allowed to vote. Yet for some reason many Americans think that when the Declaration of Independence and, more importantly, the Constitution were written, the white male oligarchy of that time  wrote those documents to establish a democracy.

For those who don't know, and any American who got beyond sixth grade shouldn't be in that group, the Federalist Papers were written by the "Founding Fathers" to explain our Constitution and the motives behind it. In the Federalist Paper No.9 Alexander Hamilton explained (emphasis added):
The science of politics, however, like most other sciences, has received great improvement. The efficacy of various principles is now well understood, which were either not known at all, or imperfectly known to the ancients. The regular distribution of power into distinct departments; the introduction of legislative balances and checks; the institution of courts composed of judges holding their offices during good behavior; the representation of the people in the legislature by deputies of their own election: these are wholly new discoveries, or have made their principal progress towards perfection in modern times. They are means, and powerful means, by which the excellences of republican government may be retained and its imperfections lessened or avoided.
Following up in Federalist Paper No. 10 James Madison laid out what the "Founding Fathers" hoped to prevent in America through the Constitution - democracy and factions (emphasis added):
By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

...Is a law proposed concerning private debts? It is a question to which the creditors are parties on one side and the debtors on the other. Justice ought to hold the balance between them. Yet the parties are, and must be, themselves the judges; and the most numerous party, or, in other words, the most powerful faction must be expected to prevail. Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufactures? are questions which would be differently decided by the landed and the manufacturing classes, and probably by neither with a sole regard to justice and the public good. The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets.

It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.

The inference to which we are brought is, that the CAUSES of faction cannot be removed, and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its EFFECTS.

...From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy ... who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.

A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking....
In other words, we Americans do not live in a democracy, we live in a republic, created by a landed oligarchy in the late 18th Century, with checks and balances built in to protect the interests of the propertied class.

If you take the highlighted phrases expressing concerns about the masses in Madison's writing...
  • A zeal for different opinions concerning religion
  • an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions,
  • But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property
  • Shall domestic manufactures be encouraged, and in what degree, by restrictions on foreign manufactures?
  • The apportionment of taxes you get the feeling I do, that things don't change much despite the passage of hundreds of years? And it is the passions over those kinds of issues that Madison and company greatly feared.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of an oligarchy but in which I have crossed out the groups our Founding Fathers indicated in their writings they did not want to have participating in the American oligarchy.
Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people might be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, religious or military control. Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next, but inheritance is not a necessary condition for the application of this term.
Let's not get confused. The U.S. Government governing 5,308,483 people in 1800 consisted of:
  • a House of Representatives of 106 members directly elected by the people;
  • a Senate of 32 members "chosen" by the legislatures of the 16 states;
  • a Vice-President elected by the members of the Electoral College, some of whom were directly elected and some of whom were selected by the legislature of their state;
  • a President elected by the members of the Electoral College, some of whom were directly elected and some of whom were selected by the legislature of their state;
  • a Supreme Court of six members nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate for life.
By virtue of its design this system created an oligarchy of 0.00275% of the population. Sure, under this system a House member might get elected who wasn't real oligarchy material by virtue of wealth, family ties, education, or business affiliation, but he still owned property or he wouldn't be there.

Oh, and American democracy fans should know U.S. Senators were chosen by legislatures until Oregon pioneered the direct election of Senators in 1907 with others following resulting in the 17th Amendment in 1913.  Regarding the Electoral College that selects the President, the Constitution states:
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
This provision in the Constitution has not changed.

But since the Civil War, Electors have been elected by popular vote, more or less. As we know today in most states the winning Presidential candidate gets all the electors (Maine and Nebraska use the "congressional district method", selecting one elector within each congressional district by popular vote and selecting the remaining two electors by a statewide popular vote). Under this system, the candidate getting the most popular votes does not always win under this system. In other words, we don't democratically (small "d") elect our President.

Wring your hands if you want but in the United States we most certainly have never had a "muddled, perverted democracy" because we have never had a democracy. And based on this year's Presidential election, it is my opinion that it's ok that we don't have a democracy.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

If given the chance, would you vote for this person to be President?

Nearly four months ago, an American politician gave a nationally publicized speech that could not get much attention because of the media focus on angry, loud politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump who try to stir and capitalize on the anger of many, many voters. Here are some excerpts from that speech:

At the outset, I’ll say this: you’ve paid attention to what has been happening in Washington, and you’re not naive.

Neither am I. I see what you see. And many of your frustrations are my frustrations.

A frustration with a government that has grown day after day, year after year, yet doesn’t serve us any better. A frustration with the same, endless conversations we hear over and over again. A frustration with promises made and never kept.

We need to be honest with each other, and with ourselves: while [the members of the other party] in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone. There is more than enough blame to go around.

We as [members of my party] need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken.

And then we need to fix it.


Today, we live in a time of threats like few others in recent memory. During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.

No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws, and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.

At the same time, that does not mean we just flat out open our borders. We can’t do that. We cannot continue to allow immigrants to come here illegally. And in this age of terrorism, we must not let in refugees whose intentions cannot be determined.

We must fix our broken immigration system. That means stopping illegal immigration. And it means welcoming properly vetted legal immigrants, regardless of their race or religion. Just like we have for centuries.

I have no doubt that if we act with proper focus, we can protect our borders, our sovereignty and our citizens, all while remaining true to America’s noblest legacies.


We would encourage American innovation and success instead of demonizing them, so our economy would truly soar and good jobs would be available across our country.

We would reform education so it worked best for students, parents, and teachers, not Washington bureaucrats and union bosses.

We would end a disastrous health care program, and replace it with reforms that lowered costs and actually let you keep your doctor.

We would respect differences in modern families, but we would also insist on respect for religious liberty as a cornerstone of our democracy.


Our forefathers paved the way for us.

Let’s take their values, and their strengths, and rededicate ourselves to doing whatever it takes to keep America the greatest country in the history of man. And woman.
Would you vote for this politician as a candidate for President? Here is an opinion piece by Barack Obama's Ambassador to Belgium in the Washington Post regarding her nomination in August The first female president of the United States might not be who you’d expect and here's a link to the PBS Newshour's full transcript of her speech.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Presidential campaign, Quemoy, and data caps - what's important?

The federal government is doing something significant that will significantly affect the lives of all our children and grandchildren. You won't hear a word about it in the Presidential campaign this year.

In fact, if you think about the multitude of debates held this year they have been pretty consistent with the lessons taught in 1960 and 1980 on how to fool most of the people at election time.

You probably discuss Quemoy and Matsu on a regular basis. What? You don't?

Or maybe you talk about the economy and your finances. Yes you do.

1960 - The First Televised Debate: Quemoy and Matsu

Quemoy and Matsu are a couple of islands off the coast of China that were the significant foreign policy issue discussed in the Kennedy-Nixon Debate, the first televised Presidential Election debate ever held. You didn't hear much about them after that debate.

That set the stage for future Presidential campaigns. If you are going to talk about something specific regarding foreign policy, make sure it really is insignificant because future foreign policy crises are something about which you can do little - it depends on what other people in other places choose to do.

Thus in the 2000 three Presidential debates and one Vice-Presidential debate, our military readiness and spending and important foreign policy issues were discussed. But the word "terrorist" nor the country "Afghanistan" were never mentioned by anyone. Of course on 9/11/2001 terrorists based in Afghanistan altered the future of the world by attacking the United States.

1980 - It's The Economy

Twenty years after the first televised debates, in 1980 another debate between Carter and Reagan in which in his conclusion Reagan said:
"Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we're as strong as we were four years ago?
That set the theme for campaigns in the future, or in a more simplified version  "The economy, stupid" which James Carville coined as Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign strategist.

Under the Constitutions, Presidents have no direct power over the federal budget. And, as we learned in late 2008 early 2009 as the economy crashed right before a Presidential Election, what policy choices they do have over the economy aren't determined by political party platforms.

In the three 2004 Presidential and one Vice-Presidential debates, the banking industry was not discussed, at all.

What we learned in 2008-09 is that we already have a system in place established by Congress that, for better or worse, forces the Executive Branch to select from undesirable choices to limit the harm resulting from an economic crash.

About Congress. While the Presidential debates discussed how to save the crashing economy, the voters expressed their will regarding the Congress, which was the branch of our government responsible for the undesirable choices. In the 2008 U.S. House of Representatives elections the Democratic Party expanded its control in 2008. That year was the largest Democratic Senate gain since 1986 expanding the Party's majority.

Subsequently the public blamed George Bush and/or Barack Obama. They sort of blamed Congress except, of course their own members of Congress. What they did not do is look in a mirror for the persons responsible.

On the other hand....

21st Century and Communication

Federal government agencies are working with communications companies - phone and internet service providers - to set the policies that will have completely replaced the electronic communications systems that existed in 1990 with a new system.

Essentially we are nearing the end phase of a long term policy realignment that began 20 years ago with the Telecommunications Act of 1996 adopted by Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton.

The intent of the law as stated by Clinton was to increase competition. Bernie Sanders voted against the law. In fact the unintended consequence of the law was that competition decreased and in 2003 Senator Hillary Clinton and Congressman Bernie Sanders both supported the S J Res 17 / H.J.Res72 measure to try to stop the decrease in competition.

Right now the FCC is about to let the third-largest cable company in the United States, Charter Communications, buy the second-largest cable company, Time Warner Cable. Charter will become the second-largest broadband provider, behind Comcast, once its merger with Time Warner and a related purchase of Bright House Networks are complete. Together Comcast and New Charter will control 70% ± of the nation's high-speed broadband connections.

The competition issue may now be a non-issue. But there is so much more that will establish the environment in which Americans will communicate for several decades - technology changes notwithstanding. And despite the rhetoric, privacy is probably not going to be the first on everyone's list of "why did they do that?"

Issues such as data caps and universal access are being decided. For a better understanding don't pay any attention to the Presidential campaign - read articles like Take that, ISPs: FCC declares war on data caps and Comcast raises trial data caps to a terabyte but won't commit to nationwide rollout to learn more.

Regarding the Presidential campaign, what is important is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the next five years will be making most of the significant long term decisions about electronic communications that will affect you for a long, long time. The FCC consists of five commissioners appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate for five-year terms.

Who will your favorite Presidential candidate appoint to fill those seats? Good question. You won't hear it asked at any debate or discussed by any candidate. After all, unlike the economy or who is going to attack the U.S. next year, who sits in those FCC seats is something the next President can control.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

It's likely Clinton v Trump, but it could be up to California on June 7


Absent some devastating occurrence, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for President. The numbers are pretty overwhelming:

Hillary only needs 30% of the delegates from states that have yet to hold their primary or caucus. She has 57% of the delegates from the states that have held their primaries of caucuses having received 56.5% of the vote in those primaries or caucuses. Complaining Bernie supporters notwithstanding, he has 39.6% of the delegates having received  41.9% of the vote in those primaries or caucuses.

Of the states left, all but one are primary states. Hillary does better in primary states, having won 21 of 28, than caucus states, having lost 11 of 15. And, of course, all remaining contests are proportional so she won't be facing any winner-take-all situations. To date, the only state she did not get more than 30% of the vote was Bernie's home state of Vermont. Even in next door New Hampshire she got 38% of the vote. 

In terms of participation rates in the Democratic contests to date, of the voters likely to vote Democratic in the General Election, on average 50.8% have participated in primary states and 11.2% have participated in caucus states. So at its Convention in August the Democratic Party has no clear idea what its strength among voters looks like.

The numbers aren't as clear in the Republican Party:

Donald needs 50% of the delegates from states that have yet to hold their primary or caucus. His complaints notwithstanding, he has 50.3% of the delegates from the states that have held their primaries or caucuses having received 39.6% of the vote in those primaries or caucuses.

In terms of participation rates in the Republican contests to date, of the voters likely to vote Republican in the General Election, on average 56.5% have participated in primary states and 12.5% have participated in caucus states. So at its Convention in August the Republican Party has no clear idea what its strength among voters looks like.

It is still mathematically possible for Donald to not succeed in the Republican Convention (and for Bernie to beat Hillary). Which brings us to....



This is where things get weirdly serious.

The California Republican Primary is a closed primary, meaning you have to be a registered Republican to vote. Donald Trump has already started notifying independents (and anyone else) to re-register Republican because he knows his strength is not among party stalwarts.

Secondly, of the 172 delegates, 159 are distributed among the Congressional Districts (3 delegates per District) with the winner in the District getting all 3, 10 delegates are at large with the statewide winner getting all 10, plus 3 pre-determined (State Chair, National Committeewoman, National Committeeman).

And so we read Ted Cruz lays groundwork for last stand in California which tells us:
But Ted Cruz may have one last ace up his sleeve: California. The state’s GOP primary race here, which takes place on June 7, the final day of the presidential primary season, is shaping up to be the Texas senator’s last stand of his tenacious run at the Republican nomination. At stake: 172 delegates — more than any other state’s GOP primary.

Even if he still loses key GOP races in Indiana and Nebraska in May, California’s large delegate count could help Cruz block Trump’s path to the nomination and force a contested convention in Cleveland in July, said Mark Jones, a Rice University political scientist.  “California will be pivotal,” Jones said. “It has enough delegates that it could allow Cruz to turn the tables.”

On Wednesday, Cruz made the surprising move of announcing former GOP rival Carly Fiorina as his running mate, even though he trails Trump in the race. It was seen by many as another strategic maneuver to gain momentum and stunt Trump's progress. Fiorina has a history in California politics, though not a particularly positive one. She lost a Senate race here to Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer in 2010 by 10 percentage points.
A number of articles point out that Fiorina lost to Boxer in the General Election in 2010. They seem not to understand that Fiorina won the Republican Primary in 2010.

California's Republicans are a struggling minority, lost in a sea of left leaning independents and Democrats. But in a closed primary, it's those Republicans who will select delegates in a winner-take-all state-wide and 53 winner-take-all Congressional District mini-contests.

The Cruz camp is going to have to work hard to try to take all those delegates. And Fiorina is part of that effort as noted in With Carly Fiorina as running mate, Ted Cruz has eye on California:
“She’s a known commodity in California,” Mark Meckler, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, told the McClatchy Washington Bureau on Wednesday. “Her name is well known in California. The question is – too little, too late?”

Cruz’s announcement followed victories by the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, in five states on Tuesday. It came two days ahead of the California Republican Party’s convention in Burlingame, where Cruz, Fiorina, Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are all scheduled to speak.

But Fiorina was widely praised in both her Senate campaign and long-shot presidential bid for her performance in debates, for which she enjoyed a brief surge in polls nationally and among California Republicans last year.
To discount the Fiorina move by the Cruz camp is foolishness disseminated by the liberal left press. Fiorina can help Cruz in the California Republican Primary. After that, California will vote Democratic in the General Election absent the inability to vote because of the great earthquake of 2016. So who cares if she lost to Boxer.

Should Cruz win the nomination, in the General Election Fiorina might offset "The Woman Card" just enough. It's going to be an interesting California Republican Primary campaign season.


California's Democratic Primary campaign season may not be that interesting. Figuring out the delegate selection process is confusing.

California has 548 Democratic delegates, 317 of which are distributed among 53 Congressional Districts and will be allocated proportionately to candidates by District based upon the June 7 Primary results in each District.

An additional 105 at-large delegates will be allocated proportionately to candidates based upon the statewide June 7 Primary results. Then there are 53 pledged party leaders and elected officials (PLEO), distinct from the so-called superdelegates in that they are pledged to presidential candidates based on the statewide results of the Primary.

Finally, there are 71 Superdelegates, including 39 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 2 Democratic U.S. Senators, and some elected State officials beginning with the Governor, each of whom will decide who they will vote for at the Convention. At this time, 48 have indicated they will vote for Clinton.

For some reason, some people think Bernie has a chance in all this mess to come up with sufficient delegates to beat Clinton in the Convention. The average of the most recent polls shows Clinton with 49% and Sanders with 41%. It's hard to imagine Clinton not getting 40% of the delegates, or 220 delegates, from California. But the Democratic Primary is open to independent voters, those who have not registered as a member of another party which gives Sanders a greater potential.

Most likely the remaining Democratic Primaries, including California, will just give Sanders a further opportunity to advance the Republican case against Clinton in swing states in the General Election.

"The Woman Card" - Donald plans to beat Hillary with 2004 strategy

In typical Donald Trump fashion, after making his foreign policy speech he sidetracked the media by going all in to overcome his greatest political weakness - women voters - using a 2004 Republican strategy and Bernie Sanders foreign policy rhetoric.

Examples of headlines today include Trump doubles down on Clinton and ‘the woman card’ and Trump hits Clinton on the 'woman's card,' again, the latter story explaining:
The Republican front-runner's remarks came two days after he first played the "woman card" card in a speech following Tuesday's primaries, when he said that Clinton wouldn't get 5% of the vote were she a man.

On Thursday, Trump told [Today Show] hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie over the phone that “without the woman’s card, Hillary would not even be a viable person to even run for city council positions."

Trump's assertion that women voted for Clinton because she's a woman appeared to be countered seconds later by Trump himself, when Lauer asked Trump if women voted based on gender.

"No, I think they vote for security. I think they vote for jobs. And that's why I'm doing so well," Trump said, stressing his success in exit polling among women in the past two weeks' primaries.
As explained in a Washington Post article regarding Trump's initial "woman card" comment:
“Frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card,” Trump said in a news conference at Trump Tower. “And the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”

That was a significant expansion of Trump’s by-now-familiar claims that Clinton is unqualified — and one that made New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s wife, standing behind Trump before the TV cameras, appear to grimace.

It also crystallized the question of how the nation will reckon with its first presidential election between a man and a woman. What was once subtext — latent sexism in American life and the question of what is and is not off-limits when contemplating a woman as commander in chief — is now a full part of the political conversation.
Donald intends to use what he knows were Sanders' strongest attacks on Clinton to beat her, such as:
"I worry," Sanders said at a debate in December, "that Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be."
Trump will combine the anti-Clinton-incompetent-on-national-security issue made an irrational favorite by Sanders with what he rightly or wrongly believes about women: "I think they vote for security."

This women-and-national-security issue came about post-9/11. In 2000 women voted 54% for Gore, men 54% for Bush. Women voters outnumbered men and Gore won the popular vote. In 2004 51% of women voted for Kerry, 55% of men for Bush. Women voters outnumbered men and Bush won the popular vote. While many want to argue that this didn't happen, the general thought about the 2004 election was "soccer moms" became "security moms."

The best article on the subject was Wooing mom by columnist Kathleen Parker which appeared in many newspapers across the country and told us:
What women want, apparently, is to be safe. In post-Sept. 11 America, the group of swing voters formerly known as "soccer moms" has morphed into "security moms" - mostly white, married women with children who worry first about national security.

In other words, in a trend that Freud doubtless would find unsurprising, women are looking to their leading man for protection. It is, after all, a jungle out there.

Thus far, polls show Bush leading among such women, which is causing headaches for the Kerry campaign. In recent years, women reliably have voted Democratic, as in 2000, when 54 percent went for Al Gore.

But 9/11 really did change everything, including women's idea of an alpha male.
The Trump camp is counting on winning the male vote by a margin 60±%, but know they really can't win the election unless the women vote margin for Clinton is less than 53% . The security issue worked in 2004. Kathleen Parker explained it all for Donald:
"It's just a feeling, a comfort level," Dina Murphy, a New Hampshire mother who voted Democratic the past three presidential elections, told the on-line newspaper "I trust Bush more to lead our country."

When it comes to hearth and home, females vote their ovaries. It's the nest, dummy.

On a deep-brain level, mothers want what they dare not utter aloud in a culture that pretends the sexes are the same. They want a man to protect them and their helpless offspring. And the alpha male will be recognized on a level too primitive to be measured by polls.

Oh, by the way, those tremors you feel? Don't be alarmed. It's just the hate-Daddy Metro crowd stamping their feet in protest. This is not an unexpected response when long-buried truths bubble to the surface. It will pass. Sometimes they just need a nap. Meanwhile, as campaign strategists try to paint a portrait of their candidate as the more intellectual, or the smarter strategist, or the morally superior man, or the more nuanced or the tougher hombre, they're missing the point. The real issue in the post-9/11 dating game is simple: Which is the truer man?
In a response to this viewpoint in the Washington Post Play the ‘woman card’ and reap these ‘rewards’! by Alexandra Petri the logical reasons for women supporting Hillary over Donald are offered:
Ah yes, the woman’s card.

I have been carrying one of these for years, proudly.

It is great. It entitles you to a sizable discount on your earnings everywhere you go (average 21 percent, but can be anywhere from 9 percent to 37 percent, depending on what study you’re reading and what edition of the Woman Card you have.) If you shop with the Woman Card at the grocery, you will get to pay 11 percent more for all the same products as men, but now they are pink.

Show the Woman Card to your health-care provider and you will enjoy new limits on your reproductive rights, depending on what the legislators of your state have decided is wise. Get ready to have a lot of things about your body explained to you!

The Woman Card entitles you to constant scrutiny and judgment from all corners at all times, whether you asked for it or not. Try talking! Or rather, don’t.
In November women voters will determine whether Trump becomes President instead of a well-qualified woman, we bros4hillary notwithstanding. In the meantime Bernie will continue his efforts on behalf of Trump's plans:

It's hard to believe these women would elect Donald either through action or inaction, but it's possible.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Poverty, White Women, and Death - Bernie fails at complex issues Part 2

“If you are born in Baltimore’s poorest neighborhood, your life expectancy is almost 20 years shorter than if you’re born in its wealthiest neighborhood,” the senator from Vermont said, adding that “15 neighborhoods in Baltimore have lower life expectancies than North Korea. Two of them have a higher infant mortality rate than Palestine's West Bank.”
Hmmm, Bernie again. It's not hard to understand why some Americans are attracted to simplistic answers to complex problems. But let's not be confused by what's going on:

This year Americans in large numbers are angrily buying into the demagoguery of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

And guess what. There does appear to be a serious, long-term death problem related to income and social status developing in this country that isn't something one can easily solve. As reported in The Washington Post there is A new divide in American death that doesn't have the lefty appeal for Bernie to rage about:
White women have been dying prematurely at higher rates since the turn of this century, passing away in their 30s, 40s and 50s in a slow-motion crisis driven by decaying health in small-town America, according to an analysis of national health and mortality statistics by The Washington Post.

Among African Americans, Hispanics and even the oldest white Americans, death rates have continued to fall. But for white women in what should be the prime of their lives, death rates have spiked upward. In one of the hardest-hit groups — rural white women in their late 40s — the death rate has risen by 30 percent.
This doesn't have the outrage appeal for the left, but...
This reversal may be fueling anger among white voters: The Post last month found a correlation between places with high white death rates and support for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Bernie did not utter the death sentence phrase when he was campaigning in Iowa or Oklahoma. But in Maryland he was trolling for votes from these Baltimore folks pictured in The Washington Post article which gave us the quote at the top of this post...

Apparently these folks believe Sanders is going to solve the Baltimore poor-neighborhood-discrepancies-in-life-span problem associated with personal income, neighborhoods in which I assume the people in the picture live. Yeah, right.
"In this country we are going to make profound economic changes. The people on top will not continue to accumulate billions of dollars in personal wealth while children in Baltimore and inner cities in this country go hungry, and have inadequate healthcare and education."
It would be nice if it was that easy.

"Poverty is a death sentence" is the glib statement made by Sanders to lead into an argument that he will reduce the Baltimore death rate among the younger population in those mostly-African-American neighborhoods. 

But the fact is that in the United States the leading causes of death for people under the age of 25 (exclusive of birth related causes) are vehicle accidents, suicide, accidental poisoning (including drug overdoses), and homicide. (For the rest of us, the leading causes are related to our diet, smoking and lack of exercise.)

If Bernie could solve this problem it would be not a day too soon according to this Washington Post chart showing the homicide totals (please note that I did modify the background color for the years of Bill Clinton's Presidency):

Bernie's been in Congress for 25 years now. And yet we read this...
Sanders has continued to talk on the campaign trail about his astonishment at the conditions he saw, including many boarded-up homes and a lack of banks and grocery stores.
Where's he been the last 25 years? Has he ever been in Detroit??? I thought he won Michigan.

Oh, right. He won lefty white Michigan, not Detroit or Flint.

Populist demagoguery is a rich American tradition. This year we have both Sanders and Trump.

What's disheartening is that the demagogues themselves always believe the claptrap coming out of their mouths precisely because its simplistic - from and for simpletons.

Death rates growing higher is not a simplistic problem, whether its among white middle-aged women in rural America or black youth in the inner cities.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The soda tax - why Bernie fails at complex issues just like Donald

According to America's favorite grumpy old man Bernie Sanders, the Berkeley, California, soda tax apparently was put in by the right wing regressive tax mongers who control that bastion of fascism.

I know that's not what Bernie said exactly, but nonetheless what he said effectively asserts that. In an interview he laid out his position:
Sanders addressed issues both national and local, including [Philadelphia Democratic] Mayor Jim Kenney’s plan of a soda tax to fund youth educational initiatives.

“My disagreement is how he proposed to fund it,” Sanders said. “I think that taxing soda is a regressive way to fund it. That tax burden will likely come down on low-income and working families, many of which are struggling right now to make ends meet.”

How would Sanders fund it?

“The way I would fund it is you ask the wealthiest people in this country, who are doing phenomenal well, to start paying their fair share of taxes,” he explained.
Bernie, like most 19-year-old college students, sees the world with a politically simplistic mind.

While running for office last year, Philadelphia Democratic Mayor Kenney outlined a program that would establish schools as hubs of the community and provide universal pre-kindergarten programs for 3- and 4-year-olds without needing to raise property taxes. Since he was elected, Kenney has struggled to find a way to make it all work and has come up with a plan and the funding - the latter being a tax on soda.

Of course we would all prefer that the wealthiest people in the country be taxed to fund programs like this. That's why such programs don't exist in cities like Philadelphia.

Heck, we all know that having been in Congress for 25 years, Bernie solved the problem years ago by having Congress fund universal pre-kindergarten programs across the nation by taxing the Koch brothers.

Except he didn't and couldn't and doesn't have a clue about how bad it was to rant about taxing the rich in that Philadelphia context while ignoring the kids Kenney is trying to help. And his supporters say that's just fine because they support Bernie's socialist values.

Except a true socialist - you know, not a European Social Democrat but a true socialist - would simply ban both sweetened and artificially sweetened soft drinks because of what they do to the health of the poor and everyone else resulting in higher medical costs which have to be funded by the government.

And then a true socialist would take over ownership of alternative beverage companies because that is what socialists believe - that production should be owned by the government.

Bernie is not a socialist as explained in The Socialist Case Against Bernie which points out:
He does not call for nationalizing the corporations and banks, without which the reorganization of the economy to meet people’s needs rather than maximizing the profits of capitalist investors could not take place … He is clearly seeking to reform the existing capitalist system.
Bernie is as delusional as Donald when it comes to dealing with complex issues. There is a reason why things haven't worked out so well in the real world for the delusional. There are other delusional people who disagree with you with that same level of passion.

But back to the soda tax. A tax on soda is one way of raising money, a way that has been used very successfully by those right wingers in Berkeley.

The arguments are complicated but one of the best written summaries was Think a Soda Tax Is Regressive? Try Diabetes. And at the same time the voters of Berkeley voted for the tax, the voters in San Francisco voted against it as explained in Why Berkeley passed a soda tax and S.F. didn’t.

The problem is when you isolate the economics of a soda tax, it is regressive. And when you can't provide universal pre-kindergarten programs you are putting the next generation from low income families at a disadvantage.

Having discovered the soda tax, does a progressive like Kenney throw the baby out with the bath water? Bernie would because the babies aren't important, it's the principle of the thing.

Hillary, who unlike Bernie has raised a baby, understands that in the real world of politics and government to get approval of, and implement, programs that benefit people you have to pick the best available options.

Until Bernie came along and offered up the same argument used by the giant international beverage corporations to oppose a soda tax, Kenney only had to fight "corporate interests" which were vulnerable because soda is unhealthy and those corporations are making money making people unhealthy.

Now Kenney has to fight a theoretical economic argument that looks something like "those poor folks are the ones who drink poison A soda the most so we shouldn't tax poison A soda because that would be a regressive tax."

All because Bernie offers up simplistic ideas just as Donald does.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The convention delegate selection process is not unfair, just weird, so Sanders & Trump quit complaining

When you start hearing politicians complain about the rules, you know you'd better check on what is actually happening. The Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders campaigns have been complaining about how unfair the delegate selection process is in their respective parties.

So I checked. Admittedly it is difficult to get actual accurate numbers. But doing the best I could, the table above reflects what I discovered (you can click here or on the table to see a larger version).

In the states in which primaries and caucuses have been held to date, Bernie has received 42.0% of the vote and has 41.2% of the committed delegates from those states, including his superdelegates. So overall, he doesn't have much to complain about to Democratic Party officials.

What he has to worry about is that to win the nomination of the first ballot at the Democratic Convention Hillary only needs 35.28% of the delegates and superdelegates from the states which will hold primaries and caucuses between now and August.

In the states in which primaries and caucuses have been held to date, Donald has received 38.1% of the vote and has 48.6% of the delegates from those states. So if anything, he ought to shut up about it.

But his problem is to avoid a contested Republican Convention - he has to win 53.57% of the delegates from the states which will hold primaries and caucuses between now and August.

The reality is that absent some news devastating her campaign, Hillary will likely get the 35.28% of the delegates she needs. On the other hand, Donald may not get the 53.57% of delegates he needs as he has fallen short of winning 50% of the delegates in every state but his home state of New York.

In both the Democratic and Republican Parties, the 50 states and various other locales have created a mishmash of rules for selecting convention delegates. But there is no system that would be considered perfect by everyone.

On the face of it, party primary elections conducted by the states seem the way to go. But the first question you run into is who should be allowed to vote in a party's primary?

Independents complain that they should be allowed to vote in the party primary of their choosing on election day. After all, it is the state that's holding the election.

But the parties are private organizations that depend on their membership for success. So party officials set rules to exclude everyone but voters registered in their party in some states.

Others allow independents to vote in their primary. And a few allow any registered voter to vote in their primary, which then raises the logical question of why not permit everyone to vote in as many party primaries as they want?

So many states have taken note that the parties are private organizations and don't pay for primary elections. Many party purists like this. They prefer to hold party caucuses around their states. The question is who gets to participate in these gatherings?

Usually they are limited to persons registered to vote in the party. In some states, you can register to vote when you walk through the door which seems pretty open.

The other question is when do you hold these caucuses? One assumption is that a day and time should be selected to facilitate the best turnout. But people have forced their states to hold elections over several days at a time, have mail in ballots, and are talking about online voting. This has happened because so many of our citizens now work retail with shifts covering 24 hours/7 days a week. Is it even possible to hold a fair caucus event in a period shorter than a week?

Then there is all those rules created by locals in all those 50 states, territories, the District of Columbia, and some place called "Democrats Abroad" in the Democratic Party

Nonetheless, we Americans do seem to fumble our way through all this. I don't like it any better than anyone else. But it's hard to disagree with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus who last week stated on CBS’s “Face the Nation”:
“The RNC doesn’t have the authority to change the rules even if we wanted to, and each candidate has to know the rules, learn the rules, and abide by the rules and ultimately the majority will decide everything [at the Convention in August]."
The simple statement is "quit your beefing."

Finally when it comes to Sanders and his supporters, please quit finding excuses and particularly stop dismissing those who have voted for Hillary.

It is no wonder that a high-profile group that includes the Democratic Party chairs of South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi sent a letter expressing its concern about his characterizations of the South, which they contend “minimize the importance of the voices of a core constituency for our party”: African-Americans.

Click here to download the letter which is far more courteous and thoughtful than anything I would have said to Sanders. Bigotry is bigotry. Just because some white Southerners don't conform to your behavioral expectations is no reason to dismiss Democrats who live in the South who chose to vote for your opponent.

Oh, and quit your beefing.

Monday, April 18, 2016

As a California Democrat, you must praise the $15 minimum wage and ignore the evil of Apple - it's all very confusing and very wrong

“No one who works full time should live in poverty,” said California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, a Democrat expressing his pride in the new $15.00 minimum wage bill.

I'm a California Democrat and I've always thought the minimum wage should be tied to the consumer price index, but I have a problem with Kevin de León's statement

The "California" part of being a "California Democrat" is important. California is a state that - because of the size of its economy, population, and geographic area - could easily be a nation-state:
  • Out of the 200± nations in the world, we would have the world's eighth largest economy. 
  • We would be the 38th largest country in population, about the same as Poland and larger than Canada.  
  • We would be the 60th largest country in area, about the same as Paraguay and larger than Germany. 
In theory California is a politically liberal state. We Californians live in a "Trifecta" state, meaning that Democrats control both houses of the state legislature and the Governor. A 65% Democratic majority controls the State Assembly and the State Senate.

Our Congressional delegation has a total of 53 members, with 39 Democrats (including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi) and 14 Republicans.

In addition to the Governor, all other statewide elected offices - two U.S. Senators, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Controller, State Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction - are Democrats.

Being large in area has even resulted in a California Red-Blue divide with a "Left Coast" and "Inland Right" - here's the map of the last Governor's election by county which is fairly consistent with most statewide elections:

(One piece of trivia is only two Republican members of the House of Representatives have coastal districts, Darrell Issa and Dana Rohrabacher, both of whom a number of times have been panel members on "Real Time with Bill Maher.")

As noted in the beginning, the Democratic leader of the State Senate told us “No one who works full time should live in poverty.” Notice that he didn't say "No one should live in poverty." This statement didn't seem to bother anyone in the press but it bothered me.

Because of his phrasing, he seems to imply that someone should live in poverty - specifically all those who don't work full time. And that gets me to my point about the apparent shallowness of our political leadership.

Is a higher minimum wage a Democrat's idea of shifting wealth from the notorious 1% to the working poor???  Did resetting the minimum wage  really deserve all that self-congratulations??? Not in my mind.

Where exactly do these Democrats think most of the minimum wage workers work??? And where do these Democrats think these minimum wage workers shop??? Whole Foods or WalMart??? Do these Democrats really believe prices on things the working poor buy won't go up???

Then there's the problem of who is going to get that minimum wage raise? More than half of those in poverty are in a household where no one has a job, so raising the minimum wage is of no help to them. Many of the working poor are already earning over the minimum wage but are stuck in poverty because they are not employed full time.

All the available statistical data indicates that just 12 percent of the benefit from raising the minimum to $15 will go to poor families, but 38 percent will go to people in families with incomes at least three times the poverty level.

Is raising the minimum wage a bad thing? Of course not. It needed to be done. And much to my surprise it was adopted with a built in future cost of living increase so it won't continue to be stuck at some historical level.

But let's keep in mind that a person working full time for minimum wage will see an increase of $4 a day - less taxes, which start with 30¢ deducted for Social Security and Medicare. Good grief! A minimum wage increase will increase the amount the minimum wage working poor contribute towards the care and feeding of middle income old people like me.

Let's be clear. Even though it needed to be done, an increased minimum wage isn't a solution to what's wrong with our economy. For instance, it certainly doesn't even distribute to shareholders some of that Apple offshore money we all know about.

In fact California's Apple Inc. and its legion of fans are part of what's wrong with our economy.

Apple is California's preeminent company. Democrats by the millions buy and swear by Apple products. And as reported by the New York Times:
Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.

The president’s question touched upon a central conviction at Apple. It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.
When an upper middle class Democrat smugly embraces his or her very expensive Apple product, that ultimately confirms there is no personal thought of commitment to make retail spending choices that support the American worker.

Further, as noted recently in many news stories, in its SEC filings Apple reported holding $181 billion offshore, making it among the top American companies doing so. In If Apple didn’t hold $181B overseas, it would owe $59B in US taxes it is noted:
"Losing ... potential tax revenues every year is a very big deal," Neil Buchanan, a professor at George Washington University, said by e-mail. "That money could be used to reverse recent cuts in Head Start, and/or assistance to state governments to fund education at all levels, or increase the Earned Income Tax Credit, and on and on. Politicians who respond to proposals to fund these programs by saying that ‘we can't afford it’ are simply saying, ‘I'd rather cut Apple's tax bill than educate our children.’"
That also is a loss of about $15-20 billion in California tax revenue, money that could have been used to assist the poor.

Which brings me to Bernie Sanders, a Democratic politician who would fit right in the shallow California Democratic political scene. Bernie recently attacked G.E., a company that for a myriad of reasons has completely restructured itself, spinning off or selling its banking, insurance and finance arms and its retail appliance subsidiary. The process hasn't been kind to American workers who were employed in those subsidiaries, angering unions.

There are no angry union voters associated with Apple. Plus a vast number of Bernie supporters have spent a lot of their disposable income on Apple products. So Bernie would have to tread lightly about Apple.

Let's rage against G.E., which last year "repatriated" about $36 billion in foreign earnings from the sale of GE Capital, paying about $6 billion to the Internal Revenue Service. Let's rage against G.E. because it is politically safe. No Bernie supporter is going to be offended because he/she recently bought a GE railroad locomotive or aircraft engine. Bernie just has to avoid pointing out how hypocritical his supporters are if they own anything made by Apple.

His supporters would be, of course, democratic socialists so long as they didn't have to give up their expensive shiny iProducts. But they can't be American socialists and buy Apple products. Apple finds American workers undesirable, studiously avoids paying American taxes, and pays its retail employees less than $15 an hour.

At least the new California and New York $15 minimum wage laws will increase wages paid to many Apple store employees as discussed in Apple’s Retail Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay and Apple Retail Workers Sue Over Unpaid Wages, Overtime. Yep. The Apple Store employee who sold you that expensive shiny iProduct was paid the same as employees at WalMart, another company Democratic politicians feel comfortable criticizing.

Here's a new catchphrase: When you think of Apple think of WalMart.

For our Democrat-led, Democratically-controlled California government, a number of political choices existed to supplement the income of people who live in poverty. One of those specifically would transfer money mostly from the  poor and middle classes to some members of the working poor - raising the minimum wage

Governor Jerry Brown signed California's first-ever earned income tax credit into law in June 2015. Flying under the news radar was an actual new-to-California program to help the poor adopted by California Democrats - and a miserly program it is, estimated to cost $380 million out of a total budget of $122 billion, hardly reminiscent of the party of Franklin Roosevelt.

Let's put this into perspective. In this state run by Democrats, poverty statistics are grim. The state has the highest child poverty rate in the nation. In adopting that EIC law, California joined twenty-five other states and the District of Columbia that have earned income tax credits. You know, left right wing states like Kansas which has had an EIC law since 1998 and Oklahoma which has had an EIC law since 2002.

Since we can't get that tax money from Apple, one way of using the tools of government effectively this year, in 2016, would have been to raise the state income tax rates 4% generating the extra $2 billion and then increasing the state's expenditure on the earned income tax credit by a factor of 5.

Of course, there would be instant opposition from middle class Democrats and, because it's an election year, their elected representatives even though the impact would not be significant for most Californians.With a 4% increase here's what the tax impact would be:

Funding a tax credit increase with a 4% increase in income tax rates would disproportionately take income from the notorious 1%. But it would require a family making about $65,000 a year before deductions to pay about $60 as their share to help the poor, a tax increase which many of these California Democrats would object to even though a family pulling down about $1 million year after deductions would pay $4,100 a year as their share.

Instead of one that is truly miserly, California could have implemented an EIC that broadly supplements the income of low and moderate income families, even better than the federal system. But that would have required our politicians to take risks.

This election year they bravely raised the minimum wage which costs the taxpayers nothing and will cost the 20% of  upper income earners little. Basically shuffling some money around within the ranks of the low-to-moderate income households, this allowed Democratic rank-and-file to feel really good about themselves so that they could reward themselves by buying the latest shiny Apple iProduct.

Maybe both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have exposed the one problem making American government unworkable - the two existing political parties. The 19th and 20th Century populist and socialist ideas being bandied about this election year by Trump and Sanders - protectionist trade policies for example - will not improve the human condition in 2050.

Whether led by Jerry Brown in California or Bernie Sanders in Vermont, I don't see evidence of a Democratic Party that is willing to transform our economic system into something that will work for everyone in the 21st Century. It may be it is time for new ideas from a political party willing to take risks.

In the meantime, I cannot be comforted knowing my state's Democratic party believes the justification for the long-overdue increase in the minimum wage is that "no one who works full time should live in poverty.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The American oligarchy myth reappears as frequently as Bigfoot

Myths are created to explain or mystify. The existance of an oligarchy that controls government in the United States is one such myth that appears more frequently than Sasquatch.

Politicians running for office describe this oligarchy as secretly running government in the United States. This is, of course, utterly silly. But using this myth appeals to voters who apparently don't know anything about how our country is governed. Then again, I have to admit that sometimes I find myself drawn in when I find some public policy offensive, until I think about our government.

We have 50 state governments which are run by 18,749 elected officials most of whom aren't members of anything resembling an oligarchy. (There are another 500,000+ elected local officials but that's another topic.)

Because of the "Tea Party Effect" of the past decade, the majority of these state governments are implementing populist right wing policies.

In fact, 23 of the States are Republican trifectas where both legislative houses are Republican controlled and the Governor is a Republican.

It is important to acknowledge that 34 states have Republican Governors, Republicans control 33 of the state lower chambers and 35 of the state senates (and the Nebraska unicameral legislature).  Those Republican legislatures and governors disable programs like Obamacare and try to implement extremely conservative social legislation.

Because populist right wing activist voters aren't easily distracted by shiny iStuff or the latest organic carrot petfood like lefties, they earned that control by working diligently every week rather than briefly every four years.

Despite the fact that many of my fellow lefties think the populist right is uninformed, the populist right wing clearly understands that the way to take control of government is from the bottom up, not the top down.

The populist right wing took control the House of Representatives, members of which are elected from Districts which districts are designed (gerrymandered) by Republican legislatures.

The fact is that in terms of direct revenue, the federal government collects about $3.3 trillion which is Constitutionally controlled by the House of Representatives, while states and their local governments collect about $3.3 trillion Constitutionally controlled by those Republican State officials.

Presidents don't have the ability to determine how all that money is spent. They can recommend, but per the Constitution federal appropriation measures are initiated in the House of Representatives and state expenditures aren't even in the President's field of vision.

With or without the President's input, the federal government spends about $0.6 trillion of that on military costs, $0.7 trillion on Medicare costs, $0.6 trillion on Medicaid costs, $1.2 trillion in Social Security/retirement payments, etc. State expenditures on education is about $1.0 trillion. Together they spend $0.3 trillion on transportation, $0.4 trillion on low-income programs (welfare, unemployment, etc.), and more than we can imagine.

We lefties every four years see some shiny iCandidate that we just must have as President so that he/she can experience the frustration resulting from our irresponsible neglect of the real, complex American government.

How did your state lower house representative and your state senator vote on your state's participation in the expansion of Medicare or implementation of Obamacare? Do you know?

It's both silly and convenient to blame whatever is wrong with our government policies on some oligarchy. Most of us need only look in the mirror to see what's wrong with our government.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Clinton's email issue and the recent history of the federal government's Swiss Cheese information systems

I was recently asked if the email issue facing Hillary Clinton represents a serious threat to her becoming President.

Since I began working with computers in 1970 and have been using email since the mid-1990's, I had to take some time thinking about this controversy. The problem as it has been described is Hillary regularly, but not always, used a personal email server for State Department business email.

One has to look at the reality that, outside of the military, the federal government's IT systems are generally out-of-date and, based on stories about them being hacked, look more like swiss cheese than bricks. If you are unaware of the long list of U.S. government servers that have been hacked (even interdepartmentally such as when CIA improperly hacked into Senate intelligence committee computers), you really are disconnected from the news.

Anyway, knowing that since the 1980's I have personally owned more sophisticated computer systems than those available at work to almost all federal employees other than those in the military, I felt I needed to take a quick look back at the "big picture" view of the problem rather than from some kind of black and white judgemental view.

Email. According to Wikipedia:
Electronic mail, most commonly called email or e-mail since around 1993, is a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients. Email operates across the Internet or other computer networks.

U.S. Secretaries of State:
  • January 23, 1997-January 20, 2001 - Madeleine Albright, and her predecessors, didn't use email.
  • January 20, 2001-January 26, 2005 - Colin Powell, whose career was in the military where not only was IT funded but employees were expected to understand and use it, received classified information through personal email accounts; stated: "And, in fact, a lot of the e-mails that came out of my personal account went into the State Department system."; stated: "I wish they would release them," Powell said, "so that a normal, air-breathing mammal would look at them and say, 'What's the issue?'"; stated about his complete overhaul of the State Department computer systems:  "What I did when I entered the State Department, I found an antiquated system that had to be modernized and modernized quickly. So we put in place new systems, bought 44,000 computers and put a new Internet capable computer on every single desk in every embassy, every office in the State Department. And then I connected it with software. But in order to change the culture, to change the brainware, as I call it, I started using it in order to get everybody to use it, so we could be a 21st century institution and not a 19th century."
  • January 26, 2005-January 20, 2009 - Condoleezza Rice, didn't use email though some staffers did send or classified information through personal email.
  • January 21, 2009-February 1, 2013 - Hillary Clinton, used a personal email server which has been criticized; when she became Secretary of State the WikiLeaks problem was just coming to light - you may recall that was when secret official military, State Department, and other security information had been compromised because the federal government computer/records systems were/are inadequately secured and woefully out of date.
As someone who has worked with confidential law enforcement information and with computers for over four decades, in 2009 I would have preferred to use a system I designed over the State Department system. The fact that Clinton could use a non-public personal server was better than what many, many government officials were doing.

Which leads us to this 2016 story FBI Quietly Admits to Multi-Year APT Attack, Sensitive Data Stolen:
The FBI issued a rare bulletin admitting that a group named Advanced Persistent Threat 6 (APT6) hacked into US government computer systems as far back as 2011 and for years stole sensitive data.

The FBI alert was issued in February and went largely unnoticed. Nearly a month later, security experts are now shining a bright light on the alert and the mysterious group behind the attack.

“This is a rare alert and a little late, but one that is welcomed by all security vendors as it offers a chance to mitigate their customers and also collaborate further in what appears to be an ongoing FBI investigation,” said Deepen Desai, director of security research at the security firm Zscaler in an email to Threatpost.

Details regarding the actual attack and what government systems were infected are scant. Government officials said they knew the initial attack occurred in 2011, but are unaware of who specifically is behind the attacks.

“Given the nature of malware payload involved and the duration of this compromise being unnoticed – the scope of lateral movement inside the compromised network is very high possibly exposing all the critical systems,” Deepen said.

In June 2011 an "interesting" email problem developed as described in this article:
The targeted phishing scheme that struck hundreds of top U.S. government officials' personal Gmail accounts was neither difficult to perform nor incredibly sophisticated.

The attackers were able to pose as legitimate, trusted senders from the State Department, Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Defense Intelligence Agency by sending e-mails from what appeared -- even on close inspection -- to be real e-mail addresses ending in familiar domains like, and

To accomplish that, the attackers told their mail server to send e-mails from the spoofed addresses rather than their own. Though most e-mail clients like Gmail or Microsoft Outlook don't allow users to do that, that's one of the fields an administrator of an e-mail server can easily change.

When that's done, it's incredibly difficult or sometimes impossible for a user to know that the sender is really an impostor.
I want to believe things are better now, that when John Kerry became Secretary of State on February 1, 2013, the IT used by the State Department was brought up to current standards by the end of Clinton's term and are constantly being upgraded, that things are at least as reliable and secure as that iPhone the FBI struggled to hack. I want to believe that but one has to wonder about the federal government security systems since the CIA improperly hacked into Senate Intelligence Committee computers but the federal government could not hack an iPhone.

And that 2016 Advanced Persistent Threat 6 story seems to squash my wishes that they are doing better.

One could make an argument the primary legal obligation of officials like the Secretary of State is to protect certain classes of information which could become classified at some future date (no known information that was classified at the time an email was sent is contained in the Clinton email disclosed to date). Public records laws notwithstanding, to have used the government's systems in 2009 through 2013 would seem almost a dereliction of that duty because those government systems were so inadequately secured.

Is this whole controversy just politically motivated or a legal threat to Clinton becoming President? Any good attorney would know that the first hurdle to make a legal case is to prove that Hillary, an attorney herself, plotted to have her email set up on a personal server for a nefarious purpose which is illegal. If real evidence of that intent on the part of Hillary exists, then she has more than one problem.

Absent that evidence, I think a pretty good choice was made to use a private server over the swiss cheese technology used by the government in that period.