March 10, 2016

Crisis: Stopping Trump, Polls, Encryption, Democracy, Chomsky
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Tech CEOs & Republican Leaders Met Last Weekend to
     Plot to Stop Donald Trump

2. How About an Election Without Polls?
Civil Rights Activists Say Encryption Is a Racial Justice

4. Our Democracy Under Serious Attack
5. Noam Chomsky: 2016 Election Puts US at Risk of "Utter


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, March 10, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about a secret meeting of tech CEOs and Republican leaders who want to stop Trump being the Republican presidential candidate (but none of the secrets of the meeting are revealed); item 2 is about elections without polls (I am against: polls are the only ways to find out about electronic falsifications of voting); item 3 is about black civil rights activists, who concluded, quite correctly, that American democracy is much endangered by the FBI's and the NSA's secret attempts to gather all information about anyone, as if anyone is a terrorist; item 4 is about an article that says correctly that American democracy is under attack, but does so in the context of a historical lesson that will not interest many (I think); and item 5 is about a recent interview with Noam Chomsky, who - correctly, in my view - says that the 2016 American presidential elections are extremely important.

1. Tech CEOs & Republican Leaders Met Last Weekend to Plot to Stop Donald Trump

The first item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!

This starts as follows:
As Donald Trump won three out of four states on Tuesday, Republican efforts to derail his candidacy are increasing. The Huffington Post has revealed leading establishment Republican political figures met with top GOP donors at a secretive meeting this past weekend at the American Enterprise Institute’s annual World Forum on a private island resort off the coast of Georgia. Attendees of the event included Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google co-founder Larry Page and Facebook investor Sean Parker, as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, political operative Karl Rove and House Speaker Paul Ryan. The main topic of the weekend retreat: How to stop Trump. We speak to Nick Baumann, senior enterprise editor at The Huffington Post.
I say, for I did not know this. And I note that the "top GOP donors" were invited as well. But who they are isn't said, and while Nick Baumann does get inter- viewed (check out the last dotted link if you care) he doesn't say much.

But Democray Now! also had been interviewing Cornel West (<- Wikipedia), who did have a mostly reasonable reaction:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’d like to ask Cornel West, your reaction—we’ve got about a minute and a half left—to this secretive meeting just this past weekend of key members of the American ruling class about what to do about this election?

CORNEL WEST: I think it’s embarrassing when you have a neofascist as the public face of your major party, the Republican Party. But it’s a party that’s been captive to big banks and big corporations. It’s been a party that has condoned and permitted xenophobia against precious Mexicans, precious Muslims, gays and lesbians, black people. And you have hawkish foreign policies. When you get all three together, Trump is a culmination. He just happens to have this narcissistic personality out of control, and the media loves it, corporate media, because they make big money on it.

But the response can’t be milquetoast neoliberal Hillary Clinton. She doesn’t have what it takes to deal with the enthusiasm of a Donald Trump. You have to have the enthusiasm of a genuine populist. And keep in mind, I’m a democratic socialist. My brother Bernie, he’s a genuine populist. He’s not calling for the nationalizing of industries. He’s not calling for the curtailing of private property. He is a genuine populist. He can win.

I think that is mostly correct, although I also must say - perhaps because I am a European, with different ideas about the various meanings of "socialism" - that it sounds a bit odd to present Bernie Sanders, who has quite often said that he is a "democratic socialist" as a "genuine populist", and to insist that he is (bolding added) "not calling for the nationalizing of industries" and "not calling for the curtailing of private property".

Not to be misunderstood: I think Cornel West meant well, and that he very probably spoke the truth. It merely sounds odd in my European ears, and it does show one thing: It is far from clear what "socialism" means. (The last link is to an effort of myself, of last September.)

2. How About an Election Without Polls?

The second item is b
y Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
Sen. Bernie Sanders won the Democratic presidential primary in Michigan, defeating Hillary Clinton ... and all the pollsters. Election statistician Nate Silver wrote that Sanders’ Michigan victory “will count as among the greatest polling errors in primary history.” Imagine if we had an election season without polls. Instead, the energy, investigation and money should be spent delving into candidates’ records, whether they’re a businessman like Donald Trump or they’re politicians like Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. This will lead to a better informed, more engaged electorate.
I do not think this is a sensible idea, and my reasoning is as follows: It is in fact very easy to commit a major voter fraud in electronic elections, as pointed out by various authors and as reviewed in Nederlog. And the only way to find this out (possibly) is because of differences between polls and votes.

Therefore I am for polling, though I agree with Goodman and Moynihan that there are dangers in it as well.

Next, here are some statistics, which are quite revealing and also quite important:

It is astounding that Bernie Sanders is where he is today. Look at the Tyndall Report’s summary of Campaign 2016 coverage. Andrew Tyndall has offered an independent daily analysis of the flagship evening news programs on CBS, NBC and ABC since the late 1980s. For the calendar year 2015, Tyndall writes, these networks produced more than 17 hours of reporting on the presidential campaigns. That’s over 1,000 minutes of national broadcast television airtime. Donald Trump received 327 minutes, or close to one-third of all the campaign coverage.

Bernie Sanders received just 20 minutes. Hillary Clinton got 121 minutes of campaign coverage, six times the amount Sanders received. In one striking example of the disparate coverage, “ABC World News Tonight” aired 81 minutes of reports on Donald Trump, compared with just 20 seconds for Sanders.
Put in terms of percentages: Trump got 33% of the "political broadcasts"; Clinton got 12%; Sanders got 2% - which is "fair" compared to "ABC World News" which gave Sanders considerably less than 1% of the time spend on Trump.

In fact, this is not fair at all, and shows how strongly propagandized Trump is by the American media.

If the above is interesting (and I think it is), so are the following statistics:
The Pew Research Center reports that, in this year’s first 12 primaries, Republicans have turned out 17.3 percent of eligible voters, while Democrats have turned out 11.7 percent. These are record-high numbers, according to Pew, but consider just how low they are: More than 82 percent of Republicans and more than 88 percent of Democrats didn’t vote.
This means that - with these "record-high numbers" - 4 out of 5 Republicans did not vote, and 9 out of 10 Democrates did not vote in these primaries.

And this is part of the reason (there are quite a few more) why I am not interested in reviewing the very many jpurnalistic "analyses" of these primaries: They try to predict national outcomes on the basis of votes of 1 in 10 to 2 in 10 voters, in specific states, which just seems nonsense to me.

3. Civil Rights Activists Say Encryption Is a Racial Justice Issue

The third item is b
y Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

An association of racial justice activists, including a founder of Black Lives Matter, published a letter claiming that the civil rights of minorities could be abused if the FBI gains the power to force a technology company such as Apple to undermine its users’ activities.

“One need only look to the days of J. Edgar Hoover and wiretapping of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. to recognize the FBI has not always respected the right to privacy for groups it did not agree with,” the letter stated. The signatories included arts and music nonprofit Beats, Rhymes & Relief, The Center for Media Justice, The Gathering for Justice, Justice League NYC, activist and writer Shaun King, and Opal Tometi, Black Lives Matter co-founder and Black Alliance for Just Immigration executive director.

They argue that the FBI’s tactics haven’t changed since the Hoover era. “Many of us, as civil rights advocates, have become targets of government surveillance for no reason beyond our advocacy or provision of social services for the underrepresented.”

I say, which I do mostly because I think this is quite evident. Indeed, I go considerably further: The civil rights of minorities will be abused by spying
on their e-mails and sites, and very probably have been thus abused since
quite a few years.

But I do agree with these "
racial justice activists". The article also quotes a spokesperson for one of the signatories of the letter:

“Basically what people need to understand is that to protect your first and fourth amendment rights in the digital age, we need to update the law to the digital age,” Cyril said. “Everything we do is online…encryption is necessary for a democracy.”

Cyril is certainly right about encryption: without it democracy is thoroughly dead, because the secret services know everything about anyone, do so in secret, and can do whatever they please, also in secret.

As to updating "the law to the digital age": I think the law, and specifically the Fourth Amendment (<- Wikipedia), has been systematically and intention- ally broken since the Patriot Act (<- Wikipedia) of 2001 by all American governments since 2001.

What you first have to get, before "updating the law" - it seems to me - is a government that is willing to uphold the laws as they stand. And the last four
governments have all refused to do so, and all did so on the basis of bullshit and lies.

4. Our Democracy Under Serious Attack

The fourth item is by David Morris on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:
The founding fathers minced no words about their distrust of the masses. Our first president, John Adams warned, “Democracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy.” Our second president, John Adams, insisted, "Democracy is nothing more than mob rule.” Our third president, James Madison, the Father of the Constitution declared, "Democracy is the most vile form of government.”
I do not say "No" - but this was around the year 1800, when only a sufficiently rich part of the white male population could vote, and blacks, women, and all other white males could not. And this was then also the more or less normal situation.

Here is some more, from 24 years before 1800:
In 1776, the year he signed the Declaration of Independence, John Adams presciently wrote a fellow lawyer about the collateral damage that would result from “attempting to alter the qualifications of voters. There will be no end to it. New claims will arise. Women will demand the vote. Lads from 12 to 21 will think their rights not enough attended to, and every man who has not a farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other, in all acts of state. It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions, and prostrate all ranks to one common level.”
Twohundred forty years onwards, women have the vote; one is an adult at age 18; and in principle the poorest and the richest have 1 vote each - BUT the very rich have been allowed legally to spend any amount to get elected; ordinary voters' ideas and ideals are hardly discussed in the media; and while there is a formal kind of democracy, the practice is that only the very rich or their lawyers have a real personal say in the outcomes and have all the money to guarantee that they will be heard.

Unfortunately, it seems to me as if David Morris has turned over his database, and tells the story of democracy in the USA from 1776 till the present day in - what seems to me - excruciating detail.

You can read it by clicking the last dotted link, but while I agree with the title of the article, and with the ending, that I will quote, I do not think this history of the past sheds very much light on the problems of the present.

But I - sort of - agree with the ending:
The Founding Fathers had an elitist vision of governance that Americans in the 20th century disavowed. But democracy is a fragile flower. Untended, its roots wither. Recently we have not been good gardeners. Perhaps as a result, democracy is now under siege. It is up to an engaged citizenry to honor those who have given their lives over the last century to achieve universal suffrage by protecting and expanding the franchise in the face of concerted attacks by monied power.

5. Noam Chomsky: 2016 Election Puts US at Risk of "Utter Disaster"

The fifth and last item today is b
y C.J. Polychroniou on Truth-out:

This is based on an interview with Noam Chomsky. Here are a few bits from it, and the first is about the importance of the 2016 presidential elections:

Noam Chomsky: It cannot be overlooked that we have arrived to a unique moment in human history. For the first time, decisions have to be made right now that will literally determine the prospects for decent human survival, and not in the distant future. We have already made that decision for a huge number of species. Species destruction is at the level of 65 million years ago, the fifth extinction, ending the age of the dinosaurs. That also opened the way for small mammals, ultimately us, a species with unique capacities, including unfortunately the capacity for cold and savage destruction.

Yes, indeed. There is this on the Republican and the Democratic candidates:

In general, the ideological positions of the Republican candidates seem to be more of the usual: stuff the pockets of the rich and kick the rest in the face. The two Democratic candidates range from the New Deal-style of Sanders' programs to the "New Democrat/moderate Republican" Clinton version, driven a bit to the left under the impact of the Sanders challenge.

That seems correct to me. Chomsky also agrees with the interviewer that Cruz and Rubio are in fact more dangerous than Trump, but I will leave that to your interests.

Finally, here is Noam Chomsky on Bernie Sanders:

America's youth seems to be captivated by Bernie Sanders' message. Are you surprised by how well he is holding up?

I am surprised. I didn't anticipate the success of his campaign. It is, however, important to bear in mind that his policy proposals would not have surprised President Eisenhower, and that they are pretty much in tune with popular sentiments over a long period, often considerable majorities.

Yes, I agree - and it is both true and quite ironic that many of Bernie Sanders proposals are like those of the Republicans of the 1950ies (who also taxed the
rich at 90%, which did nothing to destroy the rich), and indeed also "
pretty much in tune with popular sentiments over a long period".


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