November 24, 2016

Election wasn't rigged and I won't pay Jill Stein #AuditTheVote for #Recount2016 (updated)

I see we're at silly season of conspiracy theorizing again. Next, since it's the same week as that anniversary, we'll have somebody suggest Vladimir Putin assassinated JFK. It's as sensical as anything else about either Putin in particular or the 2016 election in general that's being broached right now.

First, Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman, who first noted interesting anomalies in Wisconsin, explicitly says that he thinks the issue is because polls were wrong:
I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked. But I don’t believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other. 

Now, he does suggest that a thorough audit should be done of votes.

But ONLY in the four Rust Belt states Trump flipped. Well, actually, he omits Ohio. More on that below.

Folks, this is logical fallacy 101 — the file drawer fallacy, or sharpshooter fallacy, or streetlight fallacy, to be specific, by various names, with slight differences in nuance.

He has no reason to suspect the vote anomalies between those

Next under main point 1, per my earlier blogging on vote hacking, since voter machines are NOT connected to the Internet, it couldn't be Putin, which is what Halderman repeatedly insinuates, though he refuses to spell it out.

Well, theoretically, it could be, if Putin's FSB wanted to hack the secretary of state's offices, or other appropriate state officials, or, per Halderman, county offices, in three different states, YET be dumb enough at the same time to leave these bread crumb trails of anomalies.

Or let's let Halderman explain:
It doesn’t matter whether the voting machines are connected to the Internet. Shortly before each election, poll workers copy the ballot design from a regular desktop computer in a government office, and use removable media (like the memory card from a digital camera) to load the ballot onto each machine. That initial computer is almost certainly not well secured, and if an attacker infects it, vote-stealing malware can hitch a ride to every voting machine in the area. 
Some unproven, and apparently untested, assumptions hitchhiking there.

First, is Putin going to target each one of those computers, rather than going my route?

Second, is he going to be that skilled, again, yet leave the bread crumbs cybertrail I mentioned above?

Third, how do you know how well those computers are secured or not?

As the third main subpoint under point 1, Halderman seems to be assuming that Putin knew even better than Clinton how close the election was. Well, given the idiocy of her staff, that's possible. The unspoken greater assumption would be that Putin knew Comey would pick up on Anthony Weiner's emails and yadda, yadda, yadda.

That leads to ... 

The fourth subpoint under main point 1?

White state university prof in computer science? Guy's got Clintonista neoliberal written all over his forehead, even if he protests. Demographic profile fits. The psychology of his triple Lutz spin away from Occam's Razor fits too.

Fifth subpoint? Plenty of election security experts, or general national security experts, a month ago, most in the tank for Clinton, kept saying "Putin this" and "Putin that." Then, a week ago, Director of National Intelligence James "Clap" Clapper said, we got no proof Putin was behind any actual hacks we've looked at.

Sixth subpoint, back to the first subpoint and logical fallacies, plus Clintonista allegiances?

Halderman appears to be cherry-picking his states. Both Ohio and Florida, though also Election Day surprises to Camp Clinton, were won by Trump too handily for people to make recount claims there, although conspiracy theorist Bill Palmer is now making noise about Florida. Nice try, Alex.

Also, and seventh subpoint, as Five Thirty Eight points out, ALL of Michigan uses paper ballots. Halderman's just been officially busted for cherry-picking. This is made worse yet by the fact that the university where he works, Michigan State University, happens to be in Michigan.

The Five Thirty Eight piece otherwise generally takes Halderman, and others, to the woodshed for methodological flaws in their claims. It takes them to the woodshed's annex for doing so at a time when ever-more people doubt the accuracy of voting and they (theoretically) know better on their methodological claims.

On the other hand, per point two?

I agree 119 percent that we should use paper ballots. Most democracies continue to do so, other than we, the cheap "cradle/arsenal/exceptionalism of democracy." Most actually go beyond his suggestion for either paper ballots or paper printouts from machines to use paper ballots, period.

After all, Mr. Halderman, if Vlad the Impaler is smart enough to hack a voter machine, couldn't his hack still keep the paper trail matching a voter's intent?

Third main point?

Why would Putin have reasons to favor Trump over Clinton, per Halderman's insinuation?

Google "Frank Giustra" plus "uranium" plus "Clinton Foundation" to see that Hillary Clinton was more than cozy enough herself with Vlad the Impaler. So, despite agreeing with him on point 2, to some degree, I'm back to suspecting him of being a Clintonista.

Fourth main point?

As I said in my last blogging about election fraud, if it's that easy, why didn't, say, Diebold have Mitt Romney win in 2012? Or make sure that George W. Bush won Florida by more than 137 votes in 2000? As for claims of fraud in Ohio, 2004, Democratic Congressman John Conyers looked into that, and rejected it. Mark Hertsgaard has a good analysis of Ohio 2004, noting there were shenanigans with how many voting machines went to different places, voter disenfranchisement, etc. — but all perfectly legal shenanigans.

The vote fraud conspiracy theorists have their version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears here. They want fraud hard enough to do that any pimply teenaged hacker can't do it, but easy enough that it just happened to be able to flip an election.

Fifth main point?

As a result, I won't pay Jill Stein the money to do a recount in those states. If she wanted to use this as a drive to raise $2 million for the Green Party, that's a different issue. But, if Hillary Clinton "respects the process" or whatever (remember, John Kerry refused to ask for a recount in Ohio 2004) fine. So be it. As for Stein herself?

Update for the sixth main point, from a new blog post of mine. Stein originally planned this all on her own without talking to the GP executive committee, which officially voted against it, and is also asking why isn't she recounting two very close blue states — Minnesota and New Hampshire.

That's despite telling Gail Collins of the the New York Times op-ed staff that she doesn't consider one candidate preferable to the other.

Sorry, Jill: Your 15 minutes of fame are up.

And, per my 15 minutes of fame comment about Stein, she's shifting the goalposts now on both the amount of money needed and its ultimate purpose. Homey definitely ain't playing now.

==

Update: Friend Brains heartily applauds Stein while also calling me out as too cynical for my post a month ago about her investments. The only thing I see to applaud from Stein's recount request is possible Green Party name recognition, which will most likely be as ephemeral as it was in 2004, when Green prez candidate David Cobb, along with the Libertarians' standard-bearer, launched an Ohio recount after Kerry said no. And per Hertsgaard's piece, that turned up nothing of a systemic nature — the only actions were two Cleveland-area elections people charged with fraud not because they'd done anything wrong originally but because they were too lazy to want to to a thorough recount and cheated.

Contra the Brad Blogs of the world (no link from me) who have puffed this up, all the audit then proved was laziness is a human trait, as the election workers didn't cheat on behalf of one candidate versus another. That said, laziness runs through the American voting system in general.

(Heh, heh: BradBlog itself is actually listed as one of my top 10 reefer sites for the week of Dec. 3-9. No, I''m not going there to figure out why.)

As for the issue of Stein's investments, I respect Brains' opinion as a financial planner, and note again what I said at the time of blogging that I knew it was in part a Daily Beast hit. I still think that, if you have that much money, and if you're in a profession like medicine where you could easily go back to the salt mines if you wanted, it's bad optics.

As for the recount's alleged need, I agree with folks at the Verge that Halderman and his ilk have themselves ultimately done a disservice by unnecessarily undermining trust in democracy. In a second piece about the recount, Verge notes that if Stein can get something like routine audits built into all states' voting systems, she will have done a mitzvah right there.

And, speaking of... Wisconsin IS recounting. I still think nothing will be found, and also still think this is mountains out of molehills, but maybe this will lead to more.
This all said, Stein said Clinton was "lesser evilism" a month ago. Is she not still that? On Twitter, Stein claims this isn't for the benefit of one candidate.

Well, ... in a phrase ... "in a pig's eye." Unless she really believes every word of the claims of the likes of Halderman and has not read the likes of Silver refute them, then she knows this is to benefit Clinton.

Hillary Clinton is now bird-dogging Stein on the recount issue. To what end, other than legacy-fluffing and/or CYA, I'm not sure. This is probably her attempt to say, "see, the process works," then mouth words about "healing America," and "the next four years" and blah, blah, blah.

==

Sidebar:

 If Halderman really cared about voting in America, besides presumably protesting voter ID laws in places like North Carolina and Texas, he would:
1. Support Maine's Ranked Choice Voting start in 2018 and call on all 49 other states to follow suit
2. Call for a uniform national standard of voting for the one-Constitution specified national office, the presidency
3. Call on Republicans and Democrats alike to stop with the ridiculous hurdles for third-party ballot access.

I am confident he will do none of those. We'll see if he actually calls for the routine public audits.

Update, Dec. 12: While the FBI and CIA disagree on their motivation on alleged Russian hacks into the Democratic National Committee computer system (along with possible alleged Republican National Committee hacks as well), the two agencies agree that the decentralized nature of US voting, among other things, make a hack of voting systems highly unlikely.

November 23, 2016

Obama had $500K reasons to be nice to JP Morgan head Jamie Dimon (updated)

"I did not have financial relations with Jamie Dimon."
In a blog post yesterday, I asked, "How much can President Obama fellate Jamie Dimon?" (the JPMorgan CEO who appears almost willfully clueless about his bank's losses on derivatives trades).

Turns out Obama the person, not Obama the presidential candidate, has at least $500,000 reasons to "show his gratitude" to Dimon and JPMorgan.

Just what is a "JP Morgan Chase Private Client Asset Management Checking Account," anyway? And, does it buy you a London Whale hunting license?

That's not a total joke. Yes, it's a checking account, but, beyond the dollar amount, it's not like one you or I have.

First of all, with more than $500K, it's not fully covered by FDIC insurance. So, does he have extra insurance on the account? And, via whom?

Second, most people don't regularly write checks for $50K, say, let alone with an extra zero. So, this money isn't just sitting there to earn 0.3% quantitative easing interest like my checking account does. This money is being invested, somewhere, somehow.

But, in what? And what does Obama know about it? He has to know something, as this isn't a blind trust. And, given that Democratic National Procurer Vernon Jordan paraded Obama in front of Wall Streeters in 2003, he's no financial babe in the woods.

(Update, Nov. 23, 2016: It is NOT, contra Glenn Kessler's claim that Obama, while not using a blind trust, had all his money in Treasury bills or mutual funds. Obama's filing statement lists three different Vanguard 500 funds, which would be the mutual funds, plus Treasury bills and Treasury notes. A quick Net search — DuckDuckGoing around the Net, not Googling — revealed no more of what that checking account is. But, Kessler's wrong.

I also found this ... interesting that Kessler made such a claim while doing a fact check story about whether President-elect Donald Trump is correct or not in saying "The president can't have a conflict of interest." Per the Constitution's Foreign Emoluments Clause, which Kessler cites, I'd actually give Trump one Pinocchio, which Kessler did not, because Trump probably thinks "Two Corinthians" is in the Constitution, for as little as he is likely to have actually read it.

The clause (Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8)says:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit under them, shall, without the Consent of Congress, accept of any present, Emolumnet, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.
It was specifically meant for executive officials, believed to be more liability to bribery potential than members of Congress. (Which, as we know, isn't quite true.) It's why presidents go through fig leafs of donating items to their post-presidential libraries and museums.

The Nixonian overtone of the Trump statement is worth that ding by itself. Besides, as Kessler's newspaper competition at the New York Times notes, Trump's foreign investments, many with government-nationalized foreign companies certainly does bring the clause into play.

And, for misstating Obama's investments, and the seriousness of the bankster connection on that one, Kessler needs to give himself two Pinocchios.)

Beyond that, as the story said, he's got bigger amounts invested in T-notes and T-bills, for safe investments. This is money that, theoretically, can be played around with a bit more.

Dear Leader promises that the skewed whale harpooning would be "investigated." I'm sure. Probably about as closely as J. Edgar Hoover investigated Lee Harvey Oswald after realizing all the FBI screw-ups. (Note: For illustrative purposes only; I don't believe in conspiracy theories.) And, maybe about as loosely as Dimon's next contribution to the Obama 2012 professional checking account, or as soon as the "JP Morgan for Obama" Super PAC gets started.

That said, will the Congressional GOP suddenly discover new love for Dodd-Frank, if it is an angle on appointing an independent prosecutor, or holding House hearings, about a "JP Morgan Chase Private Client Asset Management Checking Account"?

Unfortunately, it doesn't help when the recent JP Morgan meeting is filled with fluffers of Dimon, as MoJo Dowd notes.

Dear Leader shot himself in the foot on overtime rules; #WithDemocratsLikeThis

Federal District Judge Amos Mazzant III has granted a nationwide injunction against the Department of Labor's proposed changes in overtime rules, that would have upped the salary ceiling for salaried employees, outside of certain managerial classifications, to almost $50,000.

Now, here's where it gets fun.

Mazzant is apparently a lifelong Republican, or nearly so. He ran for a state district court position in 2004, and lost in the primary. No worry. Tricky Ricky Perry named him to a vacancy on the Fifth Court of Appeals. And people in Texas know that appointments to appeals courts vacancies, above district court ones, are definitely a matter of "connections."

Proof of how dyed-in-the-wool he is can be seen from things like a 2004 general election campaign filing for the seat, which he held for eight years. His campaign contributions from that include money from a legal general counsel at eXXXon. A later one, still in BushCo years at the White House, lists an assistant US attorney, among others. Beyond that, a lot of his campaign money came from lawyers and lawyers' PACs. It's perfectly legal, but not very ethical, even if the firms have no cased pending before the court in question.

And, he was of the giving sort, too. Like $1,250 to the Republican Party of Dallas County in 2006. He also, per this link and the screenshot, gave a total of $500 to John Cornyn's 2006 run and $750 to Shrub Bush's re-elect bid in 2004.



Add in that Mazzant, though not a native Texan, or even a Texas bachelor's degree college graduate, went to Baylor Law. Clear enough picture?

And, Dear Leader nominated him to the federal bench. Why? A tradeoff with Senate GOPers, or specifically, Texas senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn having a hold on judicial nominees, along the lines of pushing Merrick Garland for SCOTUS this summer?

We'll never know; that's probably the least sinister interpretation, and it's bad enough. Yes, Republican presidents, in the face of Democratic home-state senatorial judicial holds, might substitute a more moderate GOP nominee for a wingnut, but I'm unaware of the likes of a President Bush, when faced with Democrats opposing two judicial nominees of his in a state, replacing one of them with a clear Democrat.

Per my hashtag, surrendering hostages to fortune like this may have may have made Preznit Kumbaya feel more successful over the power of his mellifluous voice, but he would be wrong.

This isn't the first time Mazzant has recently made headlines, either. He's also the judge who recently tossed the SEC's original filing against our state's spavined mule attorney general, Ken Paxton.

This all said, setting aside the issue of whether or not Mazzant's legal ruling was right?

The Department of Labor regulatory changes weren't perfect.

I definitely like the idea of a COLA on the new overtime level. Hell, I blogged a decade ago, after the Dems regained control of Congress from the 2006 elections, that they should make a COLA part of a minimum-wage increase. (Which they did not.)

But, doubling the salary level, and immediately? Erm, no.

And, while the 47,000 and change might have been the right price for the coasts, it's too high for the heartland, especially with the immediate phase-in.

The Labor Department should have had this starting earlier, like after the 2012 presidential election, and on a graduated basis of, say, $2,500 a year over four years. Typical of Obama to think he could Kumbaya the GOP for too long on that issue, though.

Question is, can individual states set their own standards here, just as they can go beyond the feds on minimum wage?

November 22, 2016

TX Progressives offer a pre-Thanksgiving blog roundup

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a happy Thanksgiving as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff analyzes Hillary Clinton's performance in Harris County and why we should be careful about using her numbers to project forward.

Socratic Gadfly offers a state and national Green Party post-morten along with suggestions for the future.

President Trump's first cabinet picks are shaping up as unexpected and unconventional, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme proudly stands against the tyranny of Trump rule.  He does NOT have permission...

Neil at All People Have Value noted that the organizers of an anti-Trump march in Downtown Houston this past week were two college students. The work of opposing Trump is going to be up to each of us. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

======================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Daniel Williams sounds the alarm about a dangerous bill for LGBT youth.

Paradise in Hell looks at some pot-related legislation.

Priscilla Dominguez urges everyone to push back against Donald Trump's hate speech.

Scott Braddock says that we may now finally find out what Greg Abbott's agenda for governing is.

Very, Very Urban illustrates the mood for the next four years.

November 21, 2016

A heartland left-liberal vs Clintonista elites

There are six women in my office, here in red state heartlands.

Not one mentioned it when Trump's "pussy grab" comments came up. And I'm quite sure all of them, if they voted in the presidential election, voted Trump.

I should have pondered that more at the time. I wouldn't have needed to later postulate a reverse Bradley effect for Trump winning, and I would have recognized at the time that he had a better chance than thought, per the L.A. Times poll that said so regularly.

As for other issues?

Is Trump some sort of racist? I think so. The decades-old suit for redlining blacks in rentals is good proof. And, don't claim that an out-of-court settlement with no admission of guilt is a point in his favor; that's the way the feds roll in general against rich defendants. Proof in his favor would have been Trump fighting the suit and winning. Don't claim a Jewish son-in-law is proof in his favor, either. A person can be racist toward one group and not toward another.

Back to the heartland. If not racist, there's still plenty of Project Implicit type unconscious bias running around the heartland. Or, there's the old "I have black friends," or "I have black friends and even they say...." This doesn't mean that every Trump voter is racist, or even if so, that that was a major voting factor.

Fact is, we don't know how many pro-Trump alt-right types even showed up to vote, and how many just turned out to protest.

Trump's victory was kind of complicated. Clinton's loss probably less so. Lower turnout, lower percentage of minority votes, bad strategic decisions made worse by running them all through a computer algorithm? That's obvious. I'm not a Millennial, but, I am a left-liberal, not a liberal, and her campaign simply had no appeal.