Nate Silver Defends The Recounts Advocated By Jill Stein

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It is doubtful that the recounts which Jill Stein has pushed for in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania will change the election results. Despite this, Nate Silver has made the following case as to why this is beneficial, calling it more of an audit than a true recount:

The first proviso: Let’s not call it a “recount,” because that’s not really what it is. It’s not as though merely counting the ballots a second or third time is likely to change the results enough to overturn the outcome in three states. An apparent win by a few dozen or a few hundred votes might be reversed by an ordinary recount. But Donald Trump’s margins, as of this writing, are roughly 11,000 votes in Michigan, 23,000 votes in Wisconsin and 68,000 votes in Pennsylvania. There’s no precedent for a recount overturning margins like those or anything close to them. Instead, the question is whether there was a massive, systematic effort to manipulate the results of the election.

So what we’re talking about is more like an audit or an investigation. An investigation that would look for signs of deliberate and widespread fraud, such as voting machines’ having been hacked, whole batches of ballots’ intentionally having been disregarded, illegal coordination between elections officials and the campaigns, and so on. Such findings would probably depend on physical evidence as much or more than they do statistical evidence. In that sense, there’s no particular reason to confine the investigation to Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania, the states that Hillary Clinton lost (somewhat) narrowly. If the idea is to identify some sort of smoking gun indicating massive fraud perpetrated by the Trump campaign — or by the Clinton campaign, or by the Russian government — it might be in a state Clinton won, such as New Hampshire or Minnesota. Or for that matter, it might be in a state Trump won fairly easily, like Ohio or Iowa.

A second “condition” is that the burden of proof for claims of a fixed election ought to be high. That’s because there’s enough evidence for there to be a clear presumption against theories of massive vote-rigging…

In many ways, undertaking an audit of the election results is tantamount to performing a test for a rare but potentially fatal disease. You want to weigh the probability of successfully detecting an anomaly against the invasiveness of the procedure and the chance of a false positive result. Oftentimes, the risk outweighs the reward. For instance, many experts warn against mammograms for women in their 40s because the underlying risk of breast cancer is low for women of that age and the rate of false positive tests is high, causing undue stress for the patients and subjecting them to further tests and operations that might be harmful.

What are the costs of an election audit? Running them will cost several million dollars, but that’s fairly trivial in an era of billion-dollar campaigns. Instead, since these audits aren’t routine — although maybe they should be — the cost is mostly that they could undermine the perceived legitimacy of the election and the longstanding norm toward uncontentious transitions of power from one president toward the next. Which might be more persuasive … if Trump hadn’t spent the weekend peddling a conspiracy about how he thought the results were rigged in Clinton’s favor because millions of people had voted illegally…

Ultimately, though, I’m in the information business. An audit very probably won’t detect a conspiracy, but it will reveal information about our voting systems. FiveThirtyEight and most other American news organizations are founded on the premise that more information is better, even if it risks being misinterpreted. I’ve never questioned that premise more than I have over the course of this election. But over the next four years, we’re all going to have to get used to an environment in which nuggets of insight come buried in mounds of misinformation. An audit is as good a place as any to start.

Plus there is a certain satisfaction in seeing Donald Trump get upset over the recounts after he has claimed before the election that the election was rigged, and more recently claimed that he was only denied a victory in the popular vote due to voter fraud. Bernie Sanders called this claim “disgraceful and unfounded nonsense.”

One thing we are learning is that there are road blocks interfering with the recounts. The most complicated of the three is Pennsylvania where Stein is both filing suit and trying to obtain a recount through a rather complicated procedure:

To initiate a statewide recount through the courts, the Stein campaign must sufficiently prove that there was a strong probability of election fraud in Pennsylvania.

But with that high bar for the Stein campaign to meet, the campaign is also hoping to initiate a recount through another route, with Pennsylvania voters in every precinct submitting affidavits to their precinct clerks asking for recounts in their respective precincts. So far, the Stein campaign said, they had successfully gotten 100 precincts to make the requests — a fraction of the necessary 9,163 voting precincts.

Further complicating the effort, the Pennsylvania Department of State noted that some of the precincts are in counties that had finished certifying their election results, closing the five-day window for petitioning precincts to hold recounts.

Stein is also filing suit in Wisconsin after the Wisconsin Elections Commission refused the hand recount she requested.

Donald Trump Is President-Elect Because The Democratic Establishment Picked The Wrong Candidate

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Democrats might be doomed to continue to lose if they fail to understand why they lost the 2016 election. Hopefully Clinton aides are not typical of the party as they are now blaming everyone other than their candidate. Politco reports on how they blame James Comey, as well as other factors:

Most Clinton supporters agreed that was part of it. But it wasn’t just that.

So much of the campaign’s energy was spent explaining inherited issues, they said, like the paid speeches Clinton delivered to Wall Street banks, pay-to-play accusations about the Clinton Foundation, and fallout of Clinton’s decision to set up a private email server at the State Department. “They spent their time protecting her, explaining her, defending her, with all these issues, the speeches, the Foundation, the emails — that became the energy of the campaign,” sighed one longtime Clinton confidante.

The paid speeches and the glitzy fundraisers, they said, did not paint a picture of a woman connected to the real suffering in the country. But that, they said, was just who Clinton was after so many years in the spotlight. “Her outlook is, ‘I get whacked no matter what, so screw it,’” explained one longtime confidant. “I’ve been out here killing myself for years and years and if I want to give the same speech everyone else does, I will.”

What the Democratic establishment which rigged the system for Clinton miss is that all of these problems were predictable and should have been considered before giving Clinton the nomination. All of these problems are based upon Clinton’s actual actions. They are not fabrications of the right wing media as Clinton apologists often claim. I was writing blog posts for months before the nomination warning how risky it was to nominate Hillary Clinton. Michael Moore predicted Trump would beat Clinton in July. Among the major reasons was The Hillary Problem:

Our biggest problem here isn’t Trump – it’s Hillary. She is hugely unpopular — nearly 70% of all voters think she is untrustworthy and dishonest. She represents the old way of politics, not really believing in anything other than what can get you elected. That’s why she fights against gays getting married one moment, and the next she’s officiating a gay marriage. Young women are among her biggest detractors, which has to hurt considering it’s the sacrifices and the battles that Hillary and other women of her generation endured so that this younger generation would never have to be told by the Barbara Bushes of the world that they should just shut up and go bake some cookies. But the kids don’t like her, and not a day goes by that a millennial doesn’t tell me they aren’t voting for her. No Democrat, and certainly no independent, is waking up on November 8th excited to run out and vote for Hillary the way they did the day Obama became president or when Bernie was on the primary ballot. The enthusiasm just isn’t there. And because this election is going to come down to just one thing — who drags the most people out of the house and gets them to the polls — Trump right now is in the catbird seat.

Democrats clearly picked the wrong candidate. Bernie Sanders was beating Trump by double digits in head to head polls, while Hillary Clinton was at best barely beating him. If Sanders was the candidate we would not have faced any of these scandals. Bernie Sanders could have attracted the votes of those voting for change, including those voting due to economic anxieties.

Fredrik deBoer wrote in The Washington Post that Bernie Sanders Could Have Won.

Donald Trump’s stunning victory is less surprising when we remember a simple fact: Hillary Clinton is a deeply unpopular politician. She won a hotly contested primary victory against a uniquely popular candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders. In her place, could he have beaten Trump?

That Clinton has unusually high unfavorables has been true for decades. Indeed, it has been a steady fact of her political life. She has annually ranked among the least-liked politicians on the national stage since she was the first lady. In recent years, her low favorability rating was matched only by that of her opponent, animated hate Muppet Donald Trump. In contrast, Sanders enjoys very high popularity, ranking as the most popular senator for two years in a row. Nationally, his favorability rating is more than 10 points higher than Clinton’s, and his unfavorability rating is more than 15 points lower. This popularity would have been a real asset on the campaign trail…

But turnout matters in a close election, and here she suffered significantly compared with President Obama in both 2008 and 2012. In Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties in Michigan, the heart of Detroit’s black voting bloc, Clinton won 55 percent of the vote — compared with 69 percent for Obama in 2012. Meanwhile, it was in Michigan that Sanders won his most shocking primary victory, probably through the same forces that hurt Clinton on Election Day: Her agenda did not seem to offer much hope to those hurt by deindustrialization and outsourcing. We can only guess how much better he might have performed there, or in Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (which he also won in a surprising primary upset) had he been the nominee. But there is little doubt now that his success in the Rust Belt was a canary in the coal mine for the Clinton campaign, a now-obvious sign that she was in trouble.

Indeed, turnout overall was a major problem for the Clinton campaign; though not all votes are yet counted, it’s clear that Clinton received millions fewer votes than Obama in several states, while Trump frequently received more than Mitt Romney did in 2012. Nor did Clinton enjoy the benefits of party crossovers. There was much talk of “Clinton Republicans” who would, in the spirit of the Reagan Democrats, cross party lines to oppose Trump. But according to the exit polling of the New York Times, more Democrats crossed over and voted for Trump than Republicans crossed over and voted for Clinton. Sanders, notably, never had trouble drawing crowds, and in the Democratic primary campaign, turnout rebounded from 2012 lows. Whether that rebound was a result of voters’ enthusiasm for Sanders or the opposite is hard to say; what’s clear is that Clinton wasn’t able to get out the vote herself and that she lost both Democrats and independents to Trump, while Sanders had notorious luck with independent voters.

Some Clinton apologists are blaming her loss on third party votes, but most of these votes were not from people who would have ever considered voting for Clinton. Many of those making the argument use bogus assumptions that Clinton would have received the third party vote if they were not on the ballot while Trump was not affected by votes for Gary Johnson and Evan McMullen. In reality Trump lost around the same number of votes to third party candidates as Clinton did.

Aaaron Blake looked at how the math does not support the claims that Stein and Johnson cost Clinton the election. Besides, Clinton was never going to get the votes of most of those who voted for Stein and Johnson. To argue that Clinton could have won with their votes is as nonsensical as saying Clinton could have won if she received the votes of those who voted for Donald Trump. Mathematically true, but the argument makes no sense in the real world.

Those who made the mistake of backing Clinton for the nomination need to learn from their mistake and look at why people felt that Hillary Clinton was too abhorrent to consider voting for. Stein and Johnson were both on the ballot in 2012 but they did not stop Barack Obama from winning. Clinton’s bigger problem were not those who voted for third parties, but Democratic voters who either voted for Trump or stayed home. As Paul Waldman pointed out, “She got 6 million fewer votes than Barack Obama did in 2012, and nearly 10 million fewer than he did in 2008.” That is despite everything we know about Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton thought she could get people to turn out to vote for her by showing how awful Donald Trump is. Her campaign centered on attacks on Trump, rarely providing any good arguments to support her. While she was right that voters had a low opinion of Trump, she failed to recognize that voters had a comparable view of her. This was a no-win strategy with Clinton as the nominee.

America Rejects Clinton And The Establishment

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In an election in which both candidates were dreadful, unfortunately only one could lose. Democratic Party leaders rigged the system to nominate the one candidate who could not even beat Donald Trump. If the Democratic Party was democratic during the primaries we could have woken up today to a President-elect Sanders and a Democratic Senate. Instead, in a year in which the voters wanted change, the Democrats picked the most conservative, establishment choice imaginable. Clinton would have been the best president that money could buy. That is a key reason why she lost. Clinton epitomizes everything which is rotten in our system, and in the end that mattered more than even the racism, xenophobia, and shear idiocy of Donald Trump.

We have seen many versions of Donald Trump over the years, and hopefully we will see one of the better versions of Trump in the White House.  He has been inexcusably racist, but has also sought the support of minorities. While he offers no concrete plans for accomplishing these things, he has differed from Republican orthodoxy in expressing support for providing health care to all, preserving Social Security and Medicare, and rebuilding infrastructure. The extreme social conservatism he has expressed as a candidate may have been motivated by political expediency and hopefully will be abandoned. Many past Republicans have appealed to the religious right to get elected, and ignored them once in office. While Trump often appears dangerously incoherent on foreign policy, he could conceivably be an improvement over the neoconservative interventionism of Hillary Clinton. Better relations with Russia could be a favorable outcome of a Trump presidency, not something to oppose as Clinton has. Trump has even supported an end to the drug war in the past, but that was not heard during this campaign.

Even if Trump does turn out to be more moderate than he has been as a candidate, we will see a turn to the right and many undesirable outcomes of his presidency. However, we would also see a sharp turn to the right with Hillary Clinton, who might have been the lesser evil, but who also could have done more harm. Partisan Democrats ignore how much conservative Bill Clinton’s record actually was.This year they fooled themselves into thinking both that Hillary Clinton is a progressive, and that she is not corrupt. They fell for the claims in their echo chamber and sold their souls in the hopes of winning, and did not even wind up with an election victory.

A Clinton presidency would have meant a return to Cold War relations with Russia, and probably surrogate hot wars–at the very least. Clinton has already indicated a willingness to entertain a grand bargain which would cut Social Security, comparable to how the Clinton’s “reformed” welfare. While she would keep abortion legal, she would also probably make it more rare, having indicated a willingness to cooperate with Republicans to enact further restrictions on its availability. Her far right views on civil liberties, and her support for an increased role of religion in public policy, should have been alarming to more on the left.

This would have been a sad day regardless of who won the presidency. The one good thing to come out of this is that there is now hope that the Democratic Party will not remain under the control of neocons and DLC conservatives like Clinton and Kaine. It has been discouraging to see Democrats justify, and even defend, Clinton’s conservative record. Even worse, many have ignored the overwhelming amount of evidence of corruption on Clinton’s part, and how both Clintons have used their government positions to amass great personal wealth. Lack of an indictment is not a sign of innocence. It is an example of  how rotten the system is, and a Clinton victory would have further institutionalized such corruption.

Democrats deserved to lose by nominating Hillary Clinton, but the failure of the party establishment provides an opportunity to change leadership and reform the party. We are already seeing Clinton supporters blaming Bernie supporters, Stein supporters, Russians, the FBI, misogyny, the electoral college for Clinton’s defeat. They blame everyone except those who deserve the blame: Democrats who rigged the nomination for a candidate who is unfit to be president, and of course Hillary Clinton.  Clinton is both unfit to be president, and she ran a terrible campaign. Her message basically consisted of claims of “it’s my turn” and attacks on Donald Trump. She offered very little in terms of a positive message to support her. Trump’s message that the system is corrupt and needs change resonated far more.

While Trump won as the change candidate, much of the change he offers is not the kind of change we need. We must keep a check on Donald Trump. Fortunately our system does provide mechanisms to do so. The chances of doing so are greater if Democrats now defend liberal principles and do stand up to him when needed. They must behave more as they did during George Bush’s second term, and not as they did during his first. The ACLU is already preparing to challenge Donald Trump if he goes through with his promises which would restrict civil liberties.

There are Americans who want better than what both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have offered. It is looking like a majority might have voted for Clinton over Trump, with most voters not liking either choice. While more voted for third parties than in the past, the number was still small. Unfortunately most people only saw the choice as Trump or Clinton, so many voted for the only change candidate they saw–but did not necessarily agree with his positions. They voted for the wrong type of change, but still change. At least we end the election with a result few would have predicted–the defeat of both the Clinton and Bush families.

The Five Percent Solution To This Year’s Awful Presidential Candidates

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This year we have had two dreadful candidates from the major political parties, giving us a choice of a corrupt warmonger and a racist buffoon. The major political parties failed to nominate acceptable candidates. Voting for Clinton is essentially a vote for war, while Trump has shown no coherent understanding of the issues and the results, of his election are quite unpredictable. Voting for one of them will only perpetuate the problem.

Hillary Clinton looks likely to win, leading in the polls, and showing an even stronger position in the electoral college. Clinton is only likely to win because the Republican alternative looks even worse to most voters. Despite leading in the polls, a majority of voters continue to have an unfavorable view of Clinton. There is no reason for the major political parties to offer better choices if they can win with the types of candidates they now offer.

Voting for a major party candidate this year means either returning to the horrors of the Bush years with Clinton, or the unacceptable choice of Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is the candidate of the neoconservative status quo. Fifteen years after the 9/11 attack we are in a state of never-ending war, with growth of the surveillance state and lack of respect for civil liberties and privacy. While Trump has entertained the idea of ending the drug war in the past, he has not raised this during the campaign. Clinton remains a hardliner on the drug war, and is probably too conservative on cultural issues to change. Bill Clinton moved the country to the right on many issues when president, and Hillary is probably more conservative than Bill.

The best solution is to vote third party. Historically third parties have been among the most effective ways to force the major parties to listen to outside views. In the twentieth century, Democrats often adopted progressive positions to avoid losing votes to third parties of the left.  Without that pressure, we are seeing the Democratic Party move steadily toward the right.

This year, only third party candidates such as Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party have shown any interest in issues such as reducing foreign interventionism, curtailing the surveillance state, or ending the drug war. Jill Stein also supports the progressive policies of Bernie Sanders, while Johnson has problems on numerous issues.

Voting third party is not about whether you can win. In most states it is clear only one candidate can win. Nobody would expect all voters to vote for Clinton in blue states and Trump in red. Democracy is about voting based about your principles, not based upon who is likely to win.

It is not even necessary to win the election for a vote to have meaning. For third parties, it is about reaching 5% this year so that they can get matching funds and help with future ballot access. Jill Stein has reached 4 percent in one recent poll, and could reach 5 percent if more Sanders supporters would turn out to vote for her. Gary Johnson has exceeded 5 percent in multiple polls, and has an even better chance of achieving 5 percent in the election. State laws differ, but better results this year can also provide ballot access in the next election. The third parties can more effectively raise issues if they both have more money and do not have to devote as much effort to simply getting on the ballot.

This isn’t about whether a third party candidate can win as there are huge benefits for a third party to reach 5 percent, which is possibly achievable even if victory is not this year. It isn’t even about whether you want Jill Stein or Gary Johnson specifically to be president. Neither will be, and the vote is really for their party platforms and to influence the direction of politics in the future.

Democratic Elector States He Will Not Vote For Clinton In Electoral College

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An elector in Washington has reminded us of another way in which this strange election year can become even stranger. AP reports that an elector (photo above), who had supported Bernie Sanders, states he will not vote for Hillary Clinton in the electoral college:

A Democratic elector in Washington state said Friday he won’t vote for Hillary Clinton even if she wins the popular vote in his state on Election Day, adding a degree of suspense when the Electoral College affirms the election results next month.

Robert Satiacum, a member of Washington’s Puyallup Tribe, supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. He said he believes Clinton is a “criminal” who doesn’t care enough about American Indians and “she’s done nothing but flip back and forth.”

He said he has wrestled with what to do, but feels that neither Clinton nor Republican Donald Trump can lead the country.

“She will not get my vote, period,” he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

Unless Clinton should show a further drop in the polls, I doubt that the electoral college vote will come down to a single vote, but yesterday I did show a plausible scenario in which it was a near tie. This scenario showed a tie or Trump winning by a single vote, but if this is plausible then there are also possibilities in which Clinton wins exactly 270 electoral votes and the loss of one will prevent a victory. If one elector is saying this publically, there is also the possibility of other electors doing the same, in both parties.

Third party candidates also have a  small chance of winning a state, which could prevent a major party candidate from reaching 270 electoral votes. This has been the hope of both Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, who is very unlikely to win a state, and independent Evan McMullin, who has been polling well in Utah. Some Sanders supporters are also hoping that he can win Vermont on write-in votes, but chances of that are very remote with Sanders not even campaigning.

If no candidates obtain 270 electoral votes, the election will be decided by the House of Representatives, a scenario not seen in the United States since the last season of Veep, or in reality occurring only in the 1800 and 1824 elections. Members of the House can choose between the candidates with the top three number of electors. Supporters of third party candidates, along with some Sanders supporters, hope that members of the House will reject both Trump and Clinton and vote for their candidate, choosing the third place finisher. Someone who receives even a single electoral vote from an elector such as the one in Washington could come in third and be in contention. The vote is by state, coming down to which party dominates each state’s delegation. Republicans will win unless there is a Democratic sweep this year in Congress far beyond what anyone thinks is possible.

While any scenario involving anyone other than Clinton or Trump becoming president is highly unlikely, the most likely of the remote possibilities would be if Johnson or McMullin win a state, or if some Republican electors vote for an establishment Republican such as Mike Pence or Mitt Romney for president. Then there is a remote chance that House Republicans could wind up voting for someone other than Trump. If Republicans are divided, there is also the possibility that Democrats could join in support of a Republican other than Trump.

Update: Think Progress reports that a second elector from Washington has said they might not vote for Clinton. On the one hand, it is understandable that a pro-Clinton site such as this would be very upset by the prospect. On the other hand, Democrats should have thought through the ramifications of nominating a candidate as unfit to be president as Clinton.

Donald Trump Is Right On This One: Hillary Clinton’s Syria Policy Could Lead Us Into World War III

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When Donald Trump says something stupid, such as when he botched his comments on Obamacare today, or when he claimed that he is the only Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton, that is a “dog bites man” story. We have come to expect this from Donald Trump, who is  running the most inept campaign for president that I have ever seen. The more interesting “man bites dog” story, one of the rare times when Trump gets it right, was with Trump warning of the risk of Hillary Clinton getting us involved in World War III.

Donald Trump had this to say in an interview with Reuter’s:

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Democrat Hillary Clinton’s plan for Syria would “lead to World War Three,” because of the potential for conflict with military forces from nuclear-armed Russia.

In an interview focused largely on foreign policy, Trump said defeating Islamic State is a higher priority than persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, playing down a long-held goal of U.S. policy…

On Syria’s civil war, Trump said Clinton could drag the United States into a world war with a more aggressive posture toward resolving the conflict.

Clinton has called for the establishment of a no-fly zone and “safe zones” on the ground to protect non-combatants. Some analysts fear that protecting those zones could bring the United States into direct conflict with Russian warplanes.

“What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria,” said Trump as he dined on fried eggs and sausage links at his Trump National Doral golf resort. “You’re going to end up in World War Three over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton,” he said.

“You’re not fighting Syria any more, you’re fighting Syria, Russia and Iran, all right? Russia is a nuclear country, but a country where the nukes work as opposed to other countries that talk,” he said…

On Russia, Trump again knocked Clinton’s handling of U.S.-Russian relations while secretary of state and said her harsh criticism of Putin raised questions about “how she is going to go back and negotiate with this man who she has made to be so evil,” if she wins the presidency.

While I have also expressed concerns about Trump’s general incoherence on foreign policy, I have previously noted the same dangers as Trump discussed in Clinton’s history of belligerence towards Russia. As I discussed after Clinton repeated her support for a no-fly zone in Syria during the last debate, this is a very dangerous policy. Last  month Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford testified before Congress that imposing a no-fly zone “would require us to go to war, against Syria and Russia.” Clinton admitted that “you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians” in one of her leaked Goldman-Sachs speeches.

Spencer Ackerman also wrote in The Guardian Why Hillary Clinton’s plans for no-fly zones in Syria could provoke US-Russia conflict.

The proposal of no-fly zones has been fiercely debated in Washington for the past five years, but has never attracted significant enthusiasm from the military because of the risk to pilots from Syrian air defenses and the presence of Russian warplanes.

Many in US national security circles consider the risk of an aerial confrontation with the Russians to be severe.

“I wouldn’t put it past them to shoot down an American aircraft,” said James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, on Tuesday in response to a question from the Guardian at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Those who have patrolled no-fly zones over the relatively freer skies of Bosnia and Saddam-era Iraq fear that a President Clinton would oblige the US to what one retired US air force three-star general described as an indefinite “air occupation”. Such a move would risk the lives of US pilots – and dare confrontation with a Russian military which is more aggressive than it has been in years.

Critics of the plan also question how using US military power to establish and police a safe space for beleaguered Syrian civilians would contribute to the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad – the explicit goal of US policy in Syria.

“If she is not politically posturing, it’s going to be a disaster. I hope it’s political posturing,” said John Kuehn, a retired navy officer who flew no-fly zone missions over Bosnia and Iraq. Kuehn who called denying an adversary its airspace “the cocktail party military application of power of choice”.

David Deptula, a retired air force lieutenant general who commanded the no-fly zone operations over northern Iraq in 1998 and 1999, said the Russians were a “complicating factor” but considered the problems with a no-fly zone to be more fundamental…

The challenges for a no-fly zone over Syria outstrip those the US has faced over Libya, Bosnia and Iraq. Assad’s surface-to-air missiles, protecting the Mediterranean coast and southern regions the regime still controls, were formidable before the recent Russian addition of what Clapper, a former air force general, called “very advanced” S-300 and S-400 systems that can blanket the majority of Syrian airspace with missiles.

Staging a no-fly zone requires either the assent of regional allies – Turkey is the nearest potential partner to Syria, but it has concentrated in recent months on improving ties with Moscow after Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet in November 2015 – or an expensive, open-ended and risky deployment of aircraft carrier groups to the eastern Mediterranean.

But the most distinguishing feature of a Syria no-fly zone in 2017 would be the aerial presence of another great-power air force with an objective which is diametrically opposed to Washington’s.

Even without the involvement of Russia, a no-fly zone is a major military undertaking, likely to drag us into a larger war in Syria. The added problem of Russia’s involvement very well could lead to World War III. There are many reasons not to vote for Donald Trump, but that does not mean that voting for Hillary Clinton is a wise choice either, as a vote for Hillary Clinton is essentially a vote for war.

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Americans Support Legal Abortion & Marijuana

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Recent polls have shown that voters want the government out of their personal business, including support for keeping abortion legal and for legalized marijuana. The Hill reports on a poll on abortion rights:

Political candidates, consultants and the media generally misunderstand the politics of abortion rights. They tend to believe either that most voters oppose abortion or that the anti-abortion base is larger than the abortion rights base. But neither is true.

A recent nationwide poll by Ann Selzer (declared “The Best Pollster in Politics” by FiveThirtyEight), commissioned by the Public Leadership Institute, proves that voters overwhelmingly support abortion rights both in general and when asked about specific reproductive rights policies. In addition, the poll shows that those who “strongly support” abortion rights substantially outnumber those who “strongly oppose” it.

Our poll found that by a margin of 69-to-27 percent, American voters approve of the constitutional right to abortion established by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. This result is similar to many polls over the years that have found Americans approving Roe by margins of 2-to-1 or greater.

Another poll from the Pew Research Center shows strong support for legalization of marijuana:

The share of Americans who favor legalizing the use of marijuana continues to increase. Today, 57% of U.S. adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while 37% say it should be illegal. A decade ago, opinion on legalizing marijuana was nearly the reverse – just 32% favored legalization, while 60% were opposed.

The shift in public opinion on the legalization of marijuana has occurred during a time when many U.S. states are relaxing their restrictions on the drug or legalizing it altogether. In June, Ohio became the 25th state (plus Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico) to legalize marijuana in some form after Gov. John Kasich signed a medical marijuana program into law. This November, Americans in nine states will vote on measures to establish or expand legal marijuana use…

By more than two-to-one, Democrats favor legalizing marijuana over having it be illegal (66% vs. 30%). Most Republicans (55%) oppose marijuana legalization, while 41% favor it.

These polls show that, of the major and minor political candidates, Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson side with the majority on supporting abortion rights, while Donald Trump is on the wrong side.

Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are the only candidates who consistently side with the majority on ending marijuana prohibition. Donald Trump has spoken of legalization in the past, but is hardly consistent on this. Hillary Clinton is the most conservative candidate on drug policy, having been a hard-line supporter of the drug war. This puts her views to the right of both the nation and the majority of her own party. While Clinton has tried to soften her position at times during the campaign, one of the leaked Wikileaks emails showed that her private position remains one of hard-line opposition to ending prohibition.

Record Number Doing Google Searches For Write-In Voting

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With both major political parties nominating candidates who are unacceptable for the presidency, I’ve noted before that more people than usual are looking at third party candidates this year. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both ethically unfit to be president, and neither are likely to address major issues such as the expansion the warfare and surveillance state since 9/11. Donald Trump runs as the outsider, but is inconsistent, and often incoherent on the issues, and has unique ethical issues, including a history of assaulting women. Hillary Clinton is much better than Trump on issues of concern to women, but otherwise is the candidate of the neoconservative status quo who would take us back to the horrors of the Bush years, and who epitomizes everything which is rotten in politics.

With the major party choices so poor, CNN reports that many voters are looking at another alternative, write-in votes:

Americans have expressed deep misgivings about both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton throughout the course of the presidential race. This week, their distaste is showing up in their search behavior.

Google Trends data indicates that the online searches for “write-in” surged over the last week by more than 2,800%, hitting a record high since 2004. The states with the highest rates of search are not battlegrounds, but Republican and Democratic strongholds…

Related searches to “write-in,” according to Google Trends, largely focus on two politicians, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Pence, the Indiana Republican. Searches for “is Bernie Sanders a write in candidate” spiked 2,750% in the last week while searches for “write in Mike Pence” spiked 2,400% in the last week.

Results though are different in the states. In Utah, for example, where a recent poll found Clinton and Trump tied with independent candidate Evan McMullin only four points back, the volume of searches for “Mitt Romney write in” grew by 4,000% in the last week.

Google Trends data don’t show what caused this trend, but the campaign trail was rocked on Friday after a 2005 video tape surfaced featuring Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in a vulgar and sexually aggressive conversation about women. Trump later apologized for the remarks — first in a video and later during during Sunday night’s debate with Clinton — but since then has been rebuked and abandoned by members of his own party. Some called for Pence, Trump’s running mate, to lead the ticket instead.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s campaign has it’s own set of problems; WikiLeaks began releasing thousands of hacked emails from the account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Some of the emails, including one that suggested a senior campaign aide had communicated with government officials about the release of her State Department emails, led to accusations of collusion from Trump and other Republicans.

Seeing Donald Trump fall so far behind Clinton in the polls should put an end to the arguments of voting for Clinton based upon fear of Trump. That was never a very good argument as, regardless of how terrible Trump might be, those of us who disagree with Clinton on the issues, and who do not feel she is fit to be president, should not be denied our democratic right to vote for a candidate who is closer to our beliefs. There is far less reason to fall for “lesser evilism” when there is no longer a realistic pathway for Trump to win 270 electoral votes. The possibility of Evan McMullin taking Utah’s electoral votes out of the Republican column makes the chances even more remote. Gary Johnson is also taking votes from both Trump and Clinton.

While many on the left are considering write-in votes for Bernie Sanders, I would prefer to see votes go to Jill Stein. Stein has similar views to Sanders on economic issues, and has argued more forcibly on foreign policy. Stein, along with Gary Johnson, has also been a strong advocate of ending the drug war. Regardless of any comparison between Stein and Sanders, a vote for Stein will have greater impact. A vote for Sanders would purely be a protest vote. On the other hand, if Jill Stein could get 5 percent this year, which is possible if more Sanders supporters would vote for her, this would qualify the Green Party for matching funds in 2020, and assist with ballot access. With the Democratic Party moving so far to the right under Hillary Clinton, we need a viable party on the left to either force the Democrats to consider liberal and progressive issues, or to provide an alternative.

Stop the Presidential Debate Cartel

An excellent video response to the exclusion of third party candidates from the debates.

The Awful Choice Of Trump Or Clinton Making Third Parties More Acceptable, Even To Establishment Newspapers

third-party

Both political major political parties nominated candidates who are unfit to be president, along with opposing many of the principles which supporters of each party had claimed to have supported. While many Democrats expressed objection to Clinton in the primaries, most appear to be falling in line, willing to ignore the fact that their nominee supports much of the agenda of George W. Bush which they had recently opposed. More Republicans are willing to stick up for principles in opposition to Donald Trump. Some, especially neoconservatives, are backing Clinton who, after all, is one of them. A growing number are showing a willingness to actually challenge the duopoly and back Gary Johnson.

Hillary Clinton has benefited from this in receiving the endorsements of multiple Republican as well as Democratic  newspapers. Once again, that it is no surprise that many Republicans have endorsed Clinton as she is essentially one of them in thought and behavior. A growing number of newspapers, realizing that neither Trump nor Clinton is ethically fit to be president, are endorsing Gary Johnson. Yesterday I mentioned The Detroit News, a newspaper so Republican that we called it The Nixon News in a previous era in the Detroit area. They wrote, “Donald Trump is unprincipled, unstable and quite possibly dangerous. He can not be president.” On Clinton they wrote, “character matters. Her career-long struggles with honesty and ethics and calculating, self-serving approach to politics trouble us deeply.” They defended supporting a third party candidate in writing, “We anticipate our decision not to support either of the major party candidates will bring charges that we are throwing away our endorsement. Our contention is that an endorsement based on conscience is never wasted.”

The Week also reported that Gary Johnson has received the endorsements of the New Hampshire Union Leader, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal, and The Caledonian-Record along with an additional one today. While he received some endorsements in the primaries, they note that no newspapers have endorsed Trump for the general election.

The Chicago Tribune  described Donald Trump as, “a man not fit to be president of the United States. ” They also reject Clinton, partially out policy disagreements (seeing her as more liberal than she actually is based upon how she campaigned against Bernie Sanders), along with “serious questions about honesty and trust.” They also defended the choice of a third party candidate:

We reject the cliche that a citizen who chooses a principled third-party candidate is squandering his or her vote. Look at the number of fed-up Americans telling pollsters they clamor for alternatives to Trump and Clinton. What we’re recommending will appeal less to people who think tactically than to conscientious Americans so infuriated that they want to send a message about the failings of the major parties and their candidates. Put short:

We offer this endorsement to encourage voters who want to feel comfortable with their choice. Who want to vote for someone they can admire.

The same principle applies to those of us who plan to vote for Jill Stein as opposed to Trump or Clinton.

USA Today also had an editorial calling Donald Trump “unfit for the presidency.” It is a sign that they recognize that Clinton has flaws of her own that they could not actually take the step of endorsing her. While some on the editorial board were willing to support her, others felt differently, leaving open consideration of a third party candidate:

Other board members have serious reservations about Clinton’s sense of entitlement, her lack of candor and her extreme carelessness in handling classified information.

Where does that leave us? Our bottom-line advice for voters is this: Stay true to your convictions. That might mean a vote for Clinton, the most plausible alternative to keep Trump out of the White House. Or it might mean a third-party candidate. Or a write-in. Or a focus on down-ballot candidates who will serve the nation honestly, try to heal its divisions, and work to solve its problems.

Whatever you do, however, resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump.

Voting for a major party candidate this year means either an unacceptable choice such as Trump or returning to the horrors of the Bush years. While some newspapers find that an acceptable alternative, I do not. Fifteen years after the 9/11 attack we are in a state of never-ending war, with growth of the surveillance state and lack of respect for civil liberties and privacy. Hillary Clinton would institutionalize the horrors of the Bush years, probably with the support of many Democrats who show a lack of concern for liberal principles, leaving few of us to protest. It is totally unpredictable as to what Donald Trump would do, but it seems as foolhardy to trust him with the powers of the presidency as it would be to trust Clinton based on her record. This leaves voting for a third party as the only ethical choice. Both Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are preferable to Trump and Clinton regarding the warfare/surveillance state, with Stein being preferable to those on the left when comparisons are made on additional issues.