Progressives Should Focus On Russia

Too many on the “left” say progressives should not be focusing on the Russian interference in our democracy. They say it is just an excuse to allow the failure of Clinton and Democratic leadership to offer the public good policies that help people instead of just helping corporations and the rich slide. Some even say it is just old 1950s-style “red-baiting.”

Criticism of Russia is not related to previous pre-1990s criticisms of communism or socialism. Russia is not that. Today it is a kletocracy run by one guy and a bunch of oligarchs, sort of the perfect Koch/Thiel/Trump/corporate state that Republicans are trying to bring about here.

They Did It

The Trump campaign did do this and the Republican Party is running cover for it, just so they can continue to loot us with tax cuts for the rich and taking away the things our government does to make our lives better.

Its better for progressives if the spectrum of power goes from the left to centrist Dems, instead of from centrist Dems to the far right as it does now. Using Russia to get lots of Rs out of power and move that spectrum left only helps us obtain an environment in which Medicare-for-All, free college and university, allowing everyone to vote, restoring taxation and regulation on corporations, breaking up monopolies, bringing racial and gender justice, ending privatization, finally fighting climate change and all the other things needed to heal the country and planet are possible to achieve.

We need the public to understand that conservative/Republican/corporate rule is anti-democracy and not legitimate. Focusing on Russia helps us get there.

The Russia Story Isn’t Going Away

It’s not like the Russia story is going to drop from the news, allowing other things to be discussed. So ride the wave instead of fighting the tide.

The Russia story actually gives us an opportunity to talk about good policies instead of policies that hurt the country, by tying that discussion to Russian efforts to hurt us. All the talk about Russia gives us the opportunity to tie Republican anti-government policies to the ways Russia hoped to benefit from their interference in our democracy. Russia helped put them there in an effort to hurt the country and Republican policies hurt the country.

The Russia story delegitimizes Republicans by exposing their lack of legitimacy. (Along with voter suppression, gerrymandering and other ways they are not legitimately in power.) The more they and their policies are delegitimized the more progressive policies fill the vacuum.

Note how Medicare-for-All is being widely discussed, even while the Russia story dominates.

All the talk about Russian interference in democracy offers us a chance to remind people of what democracy means. erference in our democracy.

15th Blogiversary of Seeing the Forest

This is the 15th anniversary of this blog.

This is the Welcome post.

This is the first real post, same day, about an hour later:

Ralph Nader is a Scab

In the union movement we learned the hard way that the only way to fight the moneyed interests is to stick together. It’s called SOLIDARITY. It’s what “union” MEANS.

When unions are in a fight the members stick together, and those crossing the lines are called “scabs”.

In the 2000 election it was the usual fragile Democratic coalition fighting the usual moneyed interests. Ralph Nader broke the solidarity, divided the coalition, and lost us the election. Ralph Nader is a scab.

This is the original at the “Blogger” site.

We Do Not Have Legitimately Elected Officials

Do we have legitimate governance, with the consent of an informed electorate?

If a voter makes a choice based on a campaign that is based on lies, disinformation, promises that are never meant to be fulfilled, incorrect assumptions and premises, psychological manipulation, intimidation, well-funded mass propaganda and the rest of the entire modern Republican operation — is there a legitimate outcome? Are votes that result from that legitimate votes?

What about a candidate who just lies, saying “what the voters want to hear” with no intention of doing what was implied in the campaign? Are those “legitimate” votes?

A “legitimate” election requires a properly informed electorate given adequate and correct information upon which to make a decision. Trickery, misinformation, lies, misdirection, manipulation, financially outshouting, and all the things we understand as modern “elections” actually mean the results are not legitimate and anti-democratic.

Never mind mass voter suppression, gerrymandering and the other ways our system has become “rigged” against allowing democracy to function. Never mind possible tampering with voting machines. Those things are also for real. But alongside those, this general non-functioning of democracy has become “normalized.” We do not even expect candidates to just tell the truth about issues that are important to us anymore, and when they do they are considered to be “outside the mainstream.”

Look at the extent to which our supposedly democratic system has been de-legitimized. This is not just about Trump, this has become systemic. Saying what is needed just to get votes is a violation of democracy and de-legitimizes the outcome. Tricking people, lying, manipulating, outspending all de-legitimize the outcome.

How can we restore truly functioning, free, informative news media combined with an attentive, educated electorate? How can we restore legitimacy to our entire democratic process? The first step is to call it out, stop accepting it, see it for what it is and say it for what it is.

Thoughts On Russia Election Systems Hacking Report

Here are some thoughts on the report that Russia was trying to — or did — hack into our election systems before the election.

1) Why was this a secret? Who from? Obviously it wasn’t a secret to Russia. Maybe they’re keeping the idea that they detected it a secret? (And this tips Russia or whoever off to what we did not detect, by the way.)

2) We only know about hacking that we detect, not that which we do not detect. It’s like the saying that nothing in Washington remains a secret. The response to that is, “except for the things that do. We don’t know about those things.”

3) It shouldn’t matter if election systems are hacked. Our election system should be set up from top to bottom so that you just count actual votes. We used to do that. Now we do not. We believe what we are told the results were. Seriously. that way there is a record of actual votes, that you check whether you detect hacking or not. The way we do things now there’s no way to know who wins elections. If you set the system up correctly then it doesn’t matter if it is hacked. (It matters if someone finds a way to “stuff” a ballot box. But good systems can even prevent that, and that doesn’t decide national or even statewide elections.)

3a) If machines have “paper trails” you could count what’s on the paper and compare it to what the machines reported. We don’t do that. One reason we don’t is because that “costs too much.” (Even when someone raises the money for a “recount” it doesn’t usually involve actually counting the paper records.) Instead, we believe what we are told the results were.

3b) There are still lots of machines out there without paper trails. In Georgia, for example. They are old and very easy to hack. There are real indications they get hacked. There is no way to know. So with these machines there is no way to know for sure what the voters actually wanted. There is no way to know if they were hacked, no way to know if they made mistakes. Just no way to know. Instead, we believe what we are told the results were.

4) The only way to have an honest election is to use paper ballots. These can be tabulated by machines. Then you hand count a large random sample and check that against what the tabulators report. If that count is off by even a single vote, something is fishy and you have to count all the paper ballots. With paper ballots and careful checking you do know who actually won.

5) If you want to know who actually won an election instead of what the “powers that be” tell you, you have to do things that we largely do not do now in too many places. Instead, we believe what we are told the results were.

6) As for messing with the registration lists to keep people from voting, that’s a different problem. (Voter ID laws are also a form of messing with the registration lists to keep people from voting.) Are we hearing about lots of people being turned away at the polling places? If so this form of hacking is also a serious concern. I understand that lots of “provisional ballots” are not counted and this is serious. To solve this stop the laws that make it harder to vote, and just make it easier to vote. And make voting a holiday so people don’t have to leave work, go after work, etc. Make it easier to use verifiable, mail-in ballots.

Update: Hand counts should match what the machines are reporting. If not something is fishy. Unfortunately even “recounts” do not necessarily mean a real hand count. In Wisconsin, 2016 for example. Watch this:

A Small Piece About Having Trouble Writing

I mentioned the other day that I haven’t been writing.

On July 16,2002 I tried out blogging at a place called “Blogspot”, and ended up writing something almost every day since, sometimes several pieces per day.

But at the end of April I left my position as a “Senior Fellow” at Campaign for America’s Future, and haven’t written much since. I’ve started working at the Center for Media and Democracy and will start writing regularly there at same point. But right now I’m having a problem writing.

The problem has a few causes (I think).

  • I’m overwhelmed with incoming crap, mostly about bad things Trump does. But also so much breaking news about investigations, corruption, collusion with Russia, things like that. So things are moving so fast. I feel like by the time I finish writing a piece, it’s irrelevant.

    I can’t even imagine how it is for people who produce a show like Chris Hayes’ or Rachel Maddow’s. They book guests in advance, do a lot of research to prepare, and then 10 minutes before the show Trump does something really bad or really stupid, or some news breaks about some new connection between Trump and Putin… and all that work is down the drain.

  • A feeling that whatever I write it won’t do any good. I spent year writing warnings that we are on a path that could lead to a Trump. Now we’re there, no warnings are needed. I’m not sure how we get out of this.

    Those are the main reasons. I’m still doing lots of radio shows, and those are just fine. It’s not like I don’t have anything to say.

    My friend (known as) Meteor Blades suggested trying to write small pieces. So this is a small piece about having trouble writing.

  • Job Change

    Friday, April 28 was my last day at Campaign for America’s Future / People’s Action and the blog. After a break (and assuming Trump hasn’t killed us all) I will be writing at the Center for Media and Democracy, the organization that investigates and exposes corruption. You know them for ALEC Exposed, KOCH Exposed, SPN Exposed, SourceWatch and other incredible investigative work they do. I will be writing about corruption and democracy.