Saturday, October 22, 2016

Law And New Mexico Law

Bernalillo County, NM, has a feature on its web site that lets you see what your own specific ballot will look like on election day. (On this same page you can also check your voter registration status.)

The county web site explains that each precinct has a different ballot and there are more than 500 different ballot in Bernalillo County alone. It doesn't say why. There are obvious reason why ballots would differ from, say, one congressional district to another, but as to why they differ by precinct I can only guess that it's because each precinct has a different combination of ballot measures and of boards and bodies people are being elected to.

It's been pointed out that there's no way to write in someone's name for president this year. I'm not sure this is legal and I'm not sure it matters in New Mexico. There seems to me to be law, and New Mexico law. Rather, different localities here have their own ways of doing things and it's accepted that that's OK. I'm sure a native could give you quite a few examples of this. I'd think it's owing to our unique historical background and values and the fact that the federal government is looked upon differently here. A guess.

The first time I encountered this was the first time after moving here that I renewed the physical that's required for my commercial driver's license. Most of the physical -- eye test, urine test, blood pressure, etc. --  is conducted by nurses and then a doctor or nurse practitioner comes in and looks you over and pokes you, looks over the other results and then signs off on it, except that this particular nurse practitioner wrote on my physical card that I needed to wear eyeglasses even though I had passed the eye test, just not by enough for her satisfaction. These physicals are federally mandated and have federally mandated standards, but in New Mexico there are New Mexico standards.

For president, incidentally, I'll vote for the ticket of Gloria LaRiva and Dennis Banks running on the Party for Socialism and Liberation ticket. I'll have more to say about this later. It will be a disappointment to people like me that Hillary Clinton's victory will be so lopsided that not voting for her won't matter and that we can't spend the next eight years defending ourselves against accusations that we put Donald Trump in office. People still blame Ralph Nader for George W Bush getting into office, despite the fact that this has been disproven. Nader took votes equally from Bush and Gore, and more Democrats voted for Bush than for Nader, the Democrats being unable to come up with candidates people like, Hilary Clinton being a prime example of this. She's very disliked and will only be elected because people dislike Trump more.  Most Americans and especially young people won't even vote, they are so disillusioned by the candidates that get put up and by the way politics has come to serve only the ruling class. And people don't like candidates Democrats nominate because they're Republicans who are only liberal on gay rights and abortion, as Jim Hightower pointed out at the time.

There's also a ballot measure that would convert Bernalillo County to a "home rule" county. This would give the county board more independence from the sate legislature in various ways and is fairly common around the country, but the way it's done here is unique, too, owing to votes of the people at different times in our history. This ballot measure has put before Bernalillo County voters twice before and has been defeated twice, so why it's being brought up again isn't clear to me.

I've seen nothing about this ballot measure in the media save for a recent article in the Albuquerque Journal from the point of view of an attorney who helped draft the measure and is in favor of it passing. I have no particular reason to oppose the measure except for the fact that when something like this hasn't been publicized it raises concerns about why not. It's possible, for example, that the county board wants to do something it can't do unless this gets passed. Law and New Mexico law.

It's suggested in the Journal article that it's supporters might want to change some county offices, like treasurer, from being elected to being appointed by a county executive, and I assume this kind of "power grab" attempt is why it failed before. The people don't like giving up what power they have.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Clinton Foundation Pays Women Less Than Men

Is among the headlines generated today by today's batch of leaked Clinton campaign emails, which keep being released by the thousands almost daily by Wikileaks.

I'm having a blast reading one delicious surprise after another and hearing people come up with ridiculous reasons for why we need less information about the people who run our country and not more.

The Clinton campaign is trying to make the story be about Wikileaks and Russia -- to discredit the emails because of who hacked them, which isn't known and can't be discovered. According to multiple computer experts it's impossible to tell who hacked you. Another storyline, that the emails were doctored, has been drowned out by the sheer volume of the release -- tens of thousands.

And of course the source of the hack, while it may be interesting and a story in itself, doesn't matter as far as the truth contained in the emails and their significance. Using the Clinton campaign's logic, if Hitler told you to get out of the road because a bus is coming, you'd have to stay in the road.

The truth revealed by the leaked emails isn't that Hillary Clinton and those around her are cynical and dishonest or even that it's verified in writing now that Clinton is a warmongering servant of big Wall Street banks, big corporations and rich people. Most people know that about their elected officials and don't care. Which is another thing.

The truth revealed by the emails is in how they are being treated by Clinton supporters and a mainstream media that by and large favors Clinton over Donald Trump and is helping her to win.

It's that we pretend to be rational and fair and just when we are not.

It's that when there's news we don't like, that doesn't make it a bunch of lies. It's that when there's new we don't like we don't like it.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hillary Voters Vote For War

The Washington Post reports today that the "foreign policy elite" can't wait for a President Hillary Clinton so we can start killing more people again.

The Post's interviews with these people, along with the recently leaked transcripts of Clinton's $250K Goldman Sachs speeches, confirmed the fact that, knowingly or not, if you vote for Clinton you're voting for escalation in Syria and against Russia and Iran. You're voting to kill a lot of people. A lot of them. And throw a lot more money down the toilet that is the foreign policy consensus.

This elite, a "bipartisan" cabal of former state department officials, think tank members, consultants and the like, who rotate from one place to the other in a revolving door I might add, laments that President Obama hasn't been aggressive enough toward Iran, Russia and Syria, among other things they dislike him for. This is despite Obama having expanded the Middle East killing spree begun by the GW Bush Neocons to Libya, Syria, Yemen and North Africa and become the drone assassinator in chief and provoked nuclear armed Russia and China in various ways like instigating a coup in Ukraine and surrounding them both with military alliances and missiles. This foreign policy elite wants more direct confrontation than that. They want war, which, as the head of the joint chiefs of staff told congress recently, is what the no fly zone Hillary and this elite both favor will amount to. War with Russia.

This elite cares little that, as I read the other day, the US military, since Bosnia, has killed, depending on the estimates you use, between 1.5 and 2 million people, and you can add in that terrorism has exploded because of it. This goes back before 9/11, and it's gotten worse since then.

The same elite panicked when it looked like Donald Trump might be president, the Post reports, not because he says gross things or isn't smart enough or qualified enough or abuses women but because he wants to be less aggressive and kill fewer people and pull back some of our vast military death machine that spans the globe with over 1,000 instillations and consumes more than half of federal spending, while things like food stamps and Head Start are being cut.

The Post article ends with soothing assurances that Clinton won't kill as many people as Bush did -- we'll see about that -- but one thing is certain, a vote for Hillary is a vote for more death and a vote to feed fewer Americans and educate fewer of the children who are our future.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hillary's Emails

Wikileaks is still releasing thousands of emails a day from the account of Hillary Clinton's campaign manager John Podesta and they confirm the view of her already held by people like me on the radical left that she's a warmongering whore of Wall Street. That's a polemical statement, of course. Translated into everyday American it means she's way too quick to use the US military and she thinks government is supposed to help create a climate where business can profit so that workers can have jobs, which is basic truckle down Reaganomics. In other words she's at the center to center-right of where the American political spectrum today which is further to the right than it was 10, 20 and 30 years ago.

There are also the kind of revelations, like when she told the Goldman Sachs upper crust in one of those $250K speeches that you have to have a "public and a private position" on issues. The polemical translation for this is that she lies her ass off in her public statements. But all politicians talk like she does. They "spin" everything. Anyone who has been in the politics business for awhile knows you have to be careful of what you say and not give your opponents any ammunition. You promote what you want as much as you can because you know it will get torn down by opponents. It's another version of what we do in our own conversations where we're not very honest at all, and it's why we keep some distance between ourselves and almost everyone except maybe one close intimate, usually a spouse, and even then we have secrets.

Maybe the most serious revelations from the emails are what they reveal about the press in the US. There are emails from reporters from big time publications like Politico and the New York Times who want are showing the Clinton campaign their articles before they publish them and letting them take out what they don't like. The Free Thought Project has an article citing ten such emails that's worth a look, I think.

The mainstream media of course is largely ignoring the whole stream of leaks, because they favor Clinton but also because they want to be seen by their sources and peers as staying within the bonds of conduct approved of by the power establishment. It's the old wink and a nod thing that has always been with us. Wikileaks has been successfully demonized within that establishment and the Clinton campaign has been defending itself by attacking Wikileaks and suggesting it's in collusion with Russia and wants Trump to win.

The younger generation, fortunately for American democracy, pays more heed to things like Wikileaks than they do to mainstream figures like Hillary; in fact the media has been putting out articles saying that Millennials aren't getting excited about Clinton, which means they won't vote. Twitter is used predominately by the younger generations and a quick glance at the Twitter pages demonstrates their preferences for sources of information. Everything Wikileaks posts is "re-tweeted" between 7 and 12  thousand times. Everything Hillary posts is re-tweeted 3 or 4 thousand times.

The leaks won't affect the outcome of this election. Donald Trump has made sure of that. But historians are much more interested in primary documents, like emails, than they are in daily news articles. The books they write won't influence this election but will be read by the leaders of tomorrow.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

He Was Here Just A Minute Ago

Two images, each, I think, beautiful in its own way, and in many ways.

I came across the second while trying to find out some information on the first. The first, by Reuters photographer Carlo Allegri, is a woman who called herself Sista Soul Love. She was protesting something -- possibly forgiving white people, according to one person who posted video of her on YouTube, but I'm not really sure -- outside the Charleston, SC, AME church the Sunday after the massacre there in 2015 of 12 Black church members by a white supremacist, according to the caption when the photo was used by The Guardian. They used it with a gut wrenching essay by Kiese Laymon, a professor of English and African American studies at the University of Mississippi, about being Black in the USA and about what the grandmother who raised him thinks about being Black in the USA that he wrote after the Charleston church massacre.

I liked these images because they were visually appealing to me, and part of that was because their content, visual and symbolic, in each case set my synapses to popping, they just struck so many conscious and unconscious cords at once, and finally because they made me wonder, if America gives up on Jesus, what will it turn to?


Saturday, October 15, 2016

FBI Entrapment

We'll see if the three men arrested by the FBI in Kansas for "plotting to bomb a Garden City apartment complex where about 120 Somalis live" following a "major" 8-month investigation turns out to be another case of entrapment. Several studies have been done about this and one found as many as 95 percent of domestic terrorism cases the FBI brings are cases of entrapment. This article talks about other studies that find that well over half were entrapment.

Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle
What the FBI does is, agents or paid informants find some low life idiots, often through online social media now, gradually befriend them, gain their confidence, and then suggest bombing something. Sometimes the FBI even gives them fake bombs to plant. Then they move in for the big arrests and then it's the choreographed press conference where they tell the media how they saved America from great harm after a "major" 8-month investigation and give themselves lot of credit using vague and meaningless terms like "conducted an investigation" and never say just what that means or entails.

It's hard to say if they do this because they need to justify their budgets or themselves, but it's an insight into the mind of law enforcement people.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

In The US, Gridlock Has Been The Norm

There have been but a few brief periods in US history when partisan gridlock wasn't the rule and when the congress cooperated and made deals, Vanderbilt University professor Marc Hetherington maintains.

Hetherington says that decades of polling data show that US citizens aren't very ideologically different from each other, not even the ones who are engaged and vote, but that that latter group is very partisan -- which essentially means they hate the other side, and voting isn't based on ideology so much as  distrust of what the other side would do if they got into power.

The party members and elected officials themselves are ideological, however, and he's in agreement with frequent commenter to this blog New Mexican in saying that both parties have been captured by their ideological extremes. But the general public votes not on the basis of ideology but on the basis of their distrust of the other party.

Gridlock and obstructionism, he says,  are engaged in because they work in terms of sitting members being re-elected. Distrust of government and of "the other side" are so high among the public that voters expect their representative to oppose anything the other party attempts. But again, it's not about ideology but about distrust.

Hetherington spoke at a presentation for the London School of Economics Public Lectures and Events series which are made into a podcast and steamed in various formats. Hetherington also has written a book about on this topic with fellow political scientist Thomas Rudolph, Why Washington Won’t Work: Polarization, Political Trust, and the Governing Crisis, published last year. The London School of Economics has quite a few Americans teaching there and the talk series features quite a few Americans. I'm not sure what that's about but I do listen to one of the talks now and then during my nightly drive to Holbrook and back.

Hetherington says his father was an advisor to Republican congress members of the 1950s and 60s and and he describes himself as left of center. He expects partisan gridlock to get worse over the coming period because it works, in the electoral sense, for the party out of power. He says Democrats were as obstructionist to GW Bush as Republicans have been to Obama. Those of us who are partisan may not remember it what way but Hetherington is very data driven. If you want to disagree you'll need statistics.

He also says that the much talked about demise of the Republican Party is just not accurate. They are in good shape,  controlling more state houses and governorships than Democrats -- more than they have since the 1920s (and New Mexico's house for the first time in a long time) -- and control the US house now, which for the past 50 years had been controlled by Democrats, and sometimes control the US senate, too. It's only with the presidency that the Democrats have a demographic advantage because Democrats have the electoral votes of the bigger states -- Democrats narrowly outnumber Republicans in those states whereas Republicans have big numerical advantages across wide swaths of the nation -- the so called red states.

This map from Wikipedia which, through the use of shading, shows the average margin of victory in presidential elections from 1992-2008, is a visual representation of what he's saying.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New Clinton Emails And The Road Ahead

Leaked emails between Hillary Clinton and longtime campaign official and adviser John Podesta wherein strategies are formulated by her campaign on how it would handle the political fallout if transcripts or videos of her $250,000 a shot private speeches to Wall Street tycoons ever got leaked necessarily detail much of the content of the speeches and they simply confirm what many millennials and Bernie Sanders supporters already knew about Clinton; that she's a very Wall Street and corporation friendly "New Democrat" who as soon as the votes are counted will look after ruling class interests and leave her working class supporters to rot, just like her husband did, and like Barak Obama has done and fiscally conservative Democrats like we elect in New Mexico always do. Some of the emails confirm her positions about her desires to escalate the wars in the Middle East, especially Syria and Iraq, and to send many more US troops over there. Others talk about more directly confronting Russia and China, two nuclear superpowers already feeling backed into a corner by increasingly aggressive, increasingly Neocon US Imperialism.

Positions, votes and remarks by Clinton that had already confirmed that kind of view of her have been circulating on social media and small internet news outlets for years but haven't been in the mainstream media that much, and the timely release this past weekend of the video that has caused Donald Trump's latest meltdown ensured that Friday's leaks stayed out of the mainstream media this time. What has been in the news is being attacked by Clinton surrogates as being a Russian plot, or they're saying the emails have been doctored, and the mainstream media has obliged those takes on them.

This stuff isn't going away and will haunt the entire presidency of this woman, who is already reviled and distrusted by a majority of Americans and who will sail into power on the votes of about one-quarter of eligible voters. I'm afraid the polarization we've seen so far will seem like nothing. Very few Americans are going to feel at home here and our democracy and our sense of nationhood will fray even further.

Whether the world survives an increasingly likely nuclear confrontation between the US and the other nuclear armed powers is another question. As for the hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners who will join the hundreds of thousands already killed by the US war machine and the terrorism that has mushroomed because of it, oh well. Black lives matter, white lives matter, but those lives don't. Not to Americans, not to Hillary supporters.

The entire Wikileaks trove is online and has already been saved, printed out and stashed away in many different places, no doubt.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Gallery In Damascus

I saw this picture of a small art gallery in Damascus in the Wikipedia article on Syria, an ancient country full of architectural and artistic treasures that's suffered a lot of damage since the US blew up the Middle East by invading Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria for no good reason and caused the current explosion of militant Islamic fundamentalism. Between the US military and the Islamists they've destroyed those countries, their economies and caused millions of deaths and even more serious injuries.

If you click on the link for that picture or go to the Syria article and click on that picture you get a high density version and can zoom in on the detail -- filigrees in the little stone arch, old wiring, the clamps they put in the stone to hold up the strings and chains that hold up the pictures, garments and tapestries. A cigarette butt. Old woodwork. Evidence of the lives, the stories, the personal histories that, oblivious to most Americans, get pissed away and blown away by our ruling class betters as they rampage across the world seeking more and more profits.

Another picture in that article shows a Syrian soldier wearing Russian gear and holding a Chinese automatic rifle. Yes, they're involved, because the US ruling elite is out of control and trying to push them back to their borders with aggression in the pipeline rich Middle East, Ukraine, the South China Sea and from its 1,000 bases around the world. They, China and Russia, aren't starting any wars, are simply trying to get by and make a buck, too, but no, we have to have it all, the US ruling class does, and Hilary and her lackey class are trying mightily to help them have it in exchange for a mansion and a few servants of their own.

Meanwhile the editor of The Nation magazine, the standard bearer of "progressive" ideals in the US, is posting links to the Democratic Party's platform and calling it the most progressive in its history. The thing is full of allusions to what I've just been talking about, and anti BDS and anti Venezuelan and anti this and that people allusions that promise full speed ahead imperialism, all of it smothered in idiotic identity politics platitudes designed to make the party's identity politics base believe that they'll soon be moving up the power hierarchy and enjoying more of the proceeds of those imperial profits without ever mentioning that with identity politics the current system, with its hierarchy of power and profits, is left in place. When they move up somebody else will necessarily have to move down a notch or two.

That base and almost the entire media and political establishments are today howling about Donald Trump talking like men and women do all over the US, China, Russia and Syria and pretending that they aren't like those men and women and in so doing are expressing the same instinctual urges we all express but in ways they've all agreed are socially acceptable, and doing it in terms that make them sound as cool and attractive as possible before they look in the mirror to make sure they look as sexy as can be.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

HP Instant Ink

I've been meaning to say something about this printer ink replacement program I'm on, HP Instant Ink, which might work for some of you. When I bought a new Hewlitt Packard "Envy" series printer a few months ago, at the end of the conversation the person pitched a program Hewlitt Packard has where for a monthly fee they mail you ink cartridges when your printer needs them. You pay per month, not by how much ink you use.

It sounded like it might be good for me because with my night working schedule I'm pressed for time during the day to do things like run around and buy ink cartridges. This same dynamic has led me to to do more and more of my shopping online. I don't dislike shopping but I'm not inclined to go shopping when I'm sitting at home thinking about it and my imagination balances doing more sitting at home with fighting wild maniac traffic. Some people might confuse this with laziness.

Anyway, HP instant Ink, as they call it, has been working well for me. I'm on the 100 pages per month plan. They debit my checking account $4.99 a month ($5.25 with tax) and I get to make 100 copies a month and all the ink is included. (I still have to buy paper.) To start off with they sent me the special ink cartridges that they say hold about twice as much as a normal cartridge. I still had ink in my printer and billing didn't start until I'd installed one of the new cartridges. When they notified me billing had begun I just went ahead and installed the other new cartridge.

The cartridges apparently send the HP company information about my ink level. HP also keeps track of the pages I print. I had to sign up for the program at the HP web site (where my current status is is represented by this screen shot.) Maybe they get some of the information that way, some from the printer, some from the cartridges, but yes, they are watching me and know my printing habits. So the NSA and FBI do, too.

I've been on it for four months now and so far I haven't even received any new cartridges and my printer tells me it's only used about half the ink in each cartridge, so HP seems to be getting a good deal on this but so am I, I think. Oh yes, you must send the cartridges back when they're empty. They give you the prepaid envelopes. I hope I can keep track of them.

As you can see I have some rollover credits. I've gotten close to my 100 page limit once or twice and it caused me to be more careful abut what I print, but most months I don't come close to my 100 page limit.

In the past, when I was buying those $30 something replacement cartridges, I would tend to print what I wanted to print because I was afraid the cartridges would dry out if I didn't use them, which has happened to me. This program has probably made me more frugal in printing overall, although I don't pay that much attention, and when I do think of it I go to the web site and sign in and it shows me where I'm at.

My innate frugality though still has me habitually printing everything in draft mode to save ink when I could be printing everything in high quality mode and it wouldn't cost me any more than I'm paying now, $4.99 per month, $5.25 with tax.