🗳️ March 2020 Primary Election Ballot Analysis (I): Introduction & Presidential Primary

I’m now registered as a permanent vote-by-mail voter, and I recently received my ballot for the March California Primary. And that means it is time to start doing the detailed ballot analysis. This is where, for most contests, I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.

In Los Angeles County, this election is bringing big changes. I predict chaos. Los Angeles is getting rid of the old “Inkavote” system, where you would go to your local precinct, and use an inked stamp to mark a ballot, which you then took to a precinct worker to confirm you didn’t mismark (i.e, vote twice for an office, not ink dark enough), and then you put your ballot in the collection box.

Under the new system,  everything — and I mean everything — changes. Gone are your local polling places. Instead, there are regional voting centers — fewer in number, but open for between eleven to four days before the election. You don’t have to go locally — you can go to any center in the county and they will verify your registration and pull up and print your ballot for you to vote.

Here’s a description of the process, somewhat edited, from LAist: “First, a county poll worker looks up your information on new digital “e- pollbook.” The election worker confirms your address and prints a custom ballot specific to your precinct. You then walk that ballot over to a machine, insert it into a slot. The tablet reads your ballot, and presents you the selections to vote on a touchscreen. It then lets you review your selections at the end, and prints it out for you again. After looking things over and confirming they are correct, you insert the ballot back into the machine and you’re done.

The project is called VSAP, There are even videos explaining things. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, lots. They’ve done tests, but small scale. I can just imagine the lines when the electronic verification of registration gets backed up or goes down (here’s your first point of failure, with no backups). There are printers, and tested demonstrated problems with getting ballots printed. Then there are the ballot readers — and remember anything with mechanical collection can break down. That’s not to mention all the behind the scene risks related to the software, counting, collection, and such.

There’s also the user interface: it takes multiple screens to see all the candidates, and on a touch screen, people are more used to swiping as opposed to a “more” button. Some security experts are concerned about independent test results showing vulnerabilities, and there is a vocal contingent of election advocates who believe the only way to safeguard voting is by requiring hand-marked paper ballots whenever possible. Luckily, as the County Registrar notes, “It is still a voter-marked paper ballot. This device is not retaining your voter choices, it’s not tabulating your votes.  It’s just allowing you to mark the ballot in a way that’s clear. For tabulation, the printed ballot is the official ballot.”

Note that, as part of the conditions for certifying the system, everyone has the option of hand-marking a paper ballot.

As for me, I’ll be voting early. Partially, that’s because I’ll be out of town (in Madison WI) on election day. But I also want to try this system when it is less crowded. That’s one reason I’ve been pushing to get this analysis done.

Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks:

  1. The Presidential Primary (this post)
  2. The Congressional, State and Local Offices
  3. Judicial Offices
  4. Ballot Measures
  5. Summary

This part covers the Presidential Primary.

Read More …

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🗳 What Makes the USA: Loyalty to the Constitution, or the President?

Today, on the van ride home, we discussed an interesting scenario: Suppose we hold the election in November, and the Democratic nominee resoundingly wins the popular vote, and wins the electoral college. Donald Trump refuses to accept the result of the election for whatever reason his ego comes up with, declares a “national emergency”, suspends Congress, and refuses to leave his office.

A large number of the Blue-leaning states consider this to be an unconstitutional act, and decide that he has abdicated his oath of office. They declare themselves to be the real United States of America, proclaim their loyalty to the original Constitution, and inaugurate the duly elected President and Vice President based on the electoral college results. They reconstitute Congress, with whatever Representatives and Senators from their states who wish to remain in the new Western United States of America and Eastern United States of America (from both parties), in a new location. They retain whichever Justices of the Supreme Court wish to come over. States hold special elections to fill vacancies, and (quite likely) DC and Puerto Rico are admitted as states. A good portion of the military would also likely come over, as they are more loyal to the Constitution than the President.

Is this secession?

After all, the “new” United States are loyal to the Constitution, have as leadership a President and Vice President that were elected following that Constitution. On the other hand, the United States of Trump have suspended the Constitution, and are following a President that holds office without authority of the vote, and only by virtue of his suspending and ignoring the election results.

Would we see a civil war where the “new” US (the USA) tries to regain the Trump-loyalists (UST)? Probably not. Would the UST try to wage war against the “new” USA, or would they have the attitude of “good riddance” to the Liberals and RINOs? How might property and facilities be divided?

One might think this is far-fetched, but I do think it is a possibility if Trump refuses to leave. Note that this is NOT the scenario where Trump gets elected and attempts to suspend the Constitution. A secession in that case is more problematic: although there is loyalty to the Constitution, you do have a duly-elected President. Although, if there is an investigation that shows the vote was tampered with and Trump really didn’t win the election, then it might happen.

Interesting thought experiment.

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🗯️ Four Things to Remember … and a little bit more

Four important things to remember this election season:

  1. You will not find a candidate that 100% matches your political positions. This means you must compromise on the candidate that comes closest, remembering that…
  2. Any broad policy initiatives must be approved by Congress, and will assuredly change. As we keep reminding those who support Trump: the President is not King. There is only a limited amount that can be done through Executive Order. Most policy needs to come through Congress, and all appropriations need to come through Congress — and bold broad initiatives, such as healthcare, require funding. This means that whatever position the candidate takes will not make it into law in exactly that form. Don’t think you’ll get “Medicare for All”, for example, as that likely won’t make it through Congress.
  3. ANY of the Democratic candidates is better than Trump. This is a key point to remember. Any of the Democrats will respect the role of Congress and the role of the diplomatic and intelligence communities. None will attempt to be autocratic like Trump. So you don’t like Bloomberg because he’s a rich oligarch and buying the election? Even at that, he’s better than Trump. Don’t like Bernie because he’s an angry old white man? Still better than Trump. Don’t like Pete because of his corporate connections and inexperience? Still better than Trump. Don’t like Biden because of his gaffes and history? Still better than Trump. Always remember: ANY of these candidates is better than Trump.
  4. Not voting is a vote for Trump. Thinking of sitting out the election because you don’t like the Democratic candidate that was nominated? Think again. Not voting gives more power to the people voting for Trump. So unless you think having Trump in office is better than than whomever is the Democratic nominee is, make sure you get out to vote.

and here’s the little bit more:

  1. A Democratic Senate Solves Many Problems. It is vital we take back the Senate, so if you live in a state where a Republican senate seat is on the ballot, vote for the Democratic candidate. If we have over 51% in the Senate, we can do another impeachment trial — but this time with witnesses. If we can get near 2/3rds, there is the possibility of removing Trump from office even if he is reelected. Having a Democratic senate will also allow House initiated legislation to finally reach the President’s desk (winning the White House means nothing if legislation gets blocked in the Senate), and provides a real check on the power of appointment — especially of judges.
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🗯️It’s Not the Language; It’s the Constitutional Trampling

userpic=trump

Recently, I’ve had a few friends post articles or pen screeds implying that the reason Democrats do not like Trump is because of his course language.

My reaction to that is to call “Bullshit!” Much as I wish he behaved with more decorum, we’ve had Presidents that spoke coursely before, from Lyndon Johnson to Richard Nixon. If Trump’s worst aspect was his language, I could live with it.

These friends equally go on about how they love his support of life (meaning his current stance on abortion, as he certainly doesn’t sanctify all lives), and his support of Christian values (while not living them himself, which they indicate is acceptable citing King Cyrus).

My reaction to that, again, is to call “Bullshit!”. The job of the President is to uphold the Constitution. That’s the oath that is sworn at inauguration, not an oath to the Bible. The Constitution explicitly states that there shall not be a state religion, nor shall the government interfere with the practice of your religion That means religion is a personal matter for YOU to do. The President should not be dictating one religions beliefs over anothers. If you don’t believe in abortion, then don’t have one.

What offends me from this President is not his language. It is his blatent disregard for the Constitution and the separation of powers. It is his lack of respect for Congress, his lack of respect for Judges that don’t agree with him and side with the law. It is his abuse of his position to take actions that would have been unthinkable for any other President. It is his thinking he is above the law. It is his failure to represent the entire nation instead of just his base.

And for those who proclaim his support of Christian values: what he promotes is decidedly UN-Christian. To my understanding, Christ taught to take care of the poor and the suffering. If the poor or suffering aren’t in a womb, Trump would throw them in the street and cut their welfare. The Bible teaches us to treat the stranger with respect. Trump insults the stranger. Christ threw the moneylenders out of the Temple. Trump embraces the moneylenders and big business, and helps them take advantage of the people even more.

For this particular Impeachment charge, Trump may be acquitted by the Senate. He was able to manipulate the Republican senators in a partisan way to keep evidence hidden and suppress the facts. He prevented a true investigation of his behavior. If President Obama or Clinton had attempted such obstruction, well … let’s just say there is a double standard at play. But it is important to remember that the Senate voting to not remove him from office is not an acquittal of the charges — merely a demonstration that they didn’t want to establish the precedent of removal. Even acquittals by a court doesn’t mean innocence — unless you believe that OJ was really innocent and is still looking for the killer. They sometimes mean the court was just skillfully manipulated by shady legal tricks in front of the bar, or corruption or pressure tactics behind the bar.

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🗯️ Lunchtime Impeachment Thoughts

userpic=divided-nationReading the news while eating lunch brought up some general observations on the impeachment circus:

  • The Republicans need to think beyond this moment and this President, and consider very carefully about what they are doing and the precedent they are setting. Pendulums swing, and eventually they will be out of power. Do they want a Democratic president, whom they believe to be abusing their power, to be able to be tried for impeachment and suppress all evidence and arguments in Congress? Do they want that Democratic president to be able to withhold witnesses? If this had been Bill Clinton, or a President Hillary Clinton, how would they have felt? One would think, if they weren’t under the cult of personality around Trump, that they wouldn’t want to be setting this precedent for the Democrats to abuse in the future.
  • The voting public needs to watch this process carefully, and ask the question: If the President was innocent of these charges, why wouldn’t he be having those who can prove his innocence going in front of Congress to make the case? Why is he suppressing all witnesses and all exonerating information? These considerations won’t make any difference to those already under Trump’s cult of personality (his diehard base), nor will they make any difference to the diehard Democratic base. However, those Republicans moderates who have been tolerating this President need to ask themselves those questions: Why isn’t he out there bringing in counter-witnesses that prove his innocence? What is he hiding?
  • Lastly, all voters need to consider this circus when determining their votes for their House and Senate representation. Especially for the Senate: they took an oath to be bipartisan, and to objectively consider the evidence. What does this say about their trustworthiness when they fail to keep that oath: they fail to allow bi-partisan evidence to be presented, and they fail to objectively obtain and review evidence.

There may be a long game at play here. Even though this attempt to remove Trump may fail, it is likely that Democratic control of the House will remain, and the Democrats may take the Senate. If that happens, and if Trump is reelected, there will be more impeachment charges … and this time, the subpoenas will fly, and all the dirty details will come out (unless Trump finds some excuse for an emergency and suspends Congress — which he can do under the Constitution). If that happens, we need to be really scared (although that does not give the President the power of appropriations or to make laws).

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🗯️ Finesse, or Lack Thereof

userpic=trumpLet’s start off with the basics: Soleimani was not a good man. The world is a better place without him. But this is NOT how you do it.

Here’s the key point: Although he directed terrorist groups, he was not a “terrorist leader” unaffiliated with a government. He was a top General in the Iranian military — a country that Congress has not declared war against.

Just imagine if China or some other country with whom we have testy relations launched a drone strike against one of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and killed him while he was in another country. How would we react? Would we treat that as an act of war?

This is why Trump’s attempt to “wag the dog” — to distract attention from his impeachment and draw attention to himself is so bad. His failure to think ahead, to think about the potential consequences of the action, has put the entire nation in danger.

There are many ways that this nation could have taken out Soleimani without it appearing to be a military operation approved by the President. That’s called finesse, and it is how you prevent war. But this President thinks only about himself and his popularity with his base, and how to look good in the news. He doesn’t know finesse.

The Iranian leadership has put a high bounty on Trump’s head. Just imagine the repercussions if someone takes them up on that offer.

They say they will only hit military targets. But again, imagine the repercussions if they do and American soldiers are killed. We, of course, will escalate … with a country that will not hesitate to do a small demonstration of their nuclear capability.

So suppose they make this personal, and go after a Trump property. Imagine how Mr. Ego will respond. Again, not good.

So suppose they take to the cyber-realm, and work against Trump in the election. Even that is fraught with peril, for it then provides the argument for him to invalidate the election results. After all, it’s OK if Russia meddles on his behalf, but for a country to work against him…

Although Soleimani’s death is a good thing, I can’t see how in the long run, anything good comes from this.

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🗯️ They Just Don’t Get It

userpic=trumpThey just don’t get it – The First: Quid Pro Quo. The issue isn’t “quid pro quo” (QPQ) per se. QPQ’s happen all the time in statesmanship. We’ll give you foreign aid if you … The real issue is using your office for personal political gain — doing a quid pro quo that explicitly involves investigating your political opponent (personal gain), and using for leverage money explicitly authorized by Congress (abuse of authority). It’s the personal gain that makes this an abuse of power.

They just don’t get it – The Second: Rules of Evidence and Testimony. For all the blathering of Trump about evidence and trials, he’s forgetting one thing: THIS ISN’T A TRIAL. If the House chooses to move forward articles of impeachment, there will be a trial. That will be in the Senate, presided over by the Chief Justice, under the rules defined by the Senate. It won’t be a criminal trial … which means that the 6th amendment doesn’t come into play, and the right to confront your accuser. Remember: With impeachment, the most severe penalty is not jail, it is removal from office.

But we’re not at an impeachment trial yet. Right now, what the House is doing is analogous to the police and prosecutors doing the investigation to determine if there is a case to be prosecuted. Grand juries. Investigative legwork. There might be tips from informants, but the informant may never be needed again if the investigation of the tip finds enough evidence. This is all gathering evidence.

If the house investigative team finds sufficient evidence, then it will present their case to the full House. If the full House agrees there is a case, they will vote and pass articles of impeachment. An indictment, so to speak. This doesn’t mean guilt. It means the House feels there is enough evidence for a trial.

At that point — and only that point — the Senate conducts a trial to prove or disprove those articles. If proven, the person is removed from office. The Constitution defines no rules for this trial, other than the Chief Justice presides. So it is for Congress to determine the rules … not traditional jury rules, because this isn’t a criminal trial.

Lastly, remember that the Constitution does not require there to be a crime, in a criminal sense. It is also up to Congress to determine what it believes are sufficient “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Often, it has been abuse of power, in the form of obstruction of justice. Basically, the Congress doesn’t like it when the President tries to go around Congress, not let Congress do its investigatory job, or ignore the will of Congress, who supposedly represent the people.

There’s a great discussion of this latter issue in the TrumpConLaw podcast: https://trumpconlaw.com/35-confrontation-clause

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🗳 Some Thoughts after the Second Democratic Debate

Some post debate thoughts. The bottom and more important factor in all of this is that any of the Democratic candidates is a better choice than Trump. So given that, it boils down to the question of who can bring the fight to him, and who is closest to my positions. The former is much more important than the latter.

Favorites

Booker. I really liked how he presented himself, and how he built his arguments and his energy. In general, I liked his positions. I think he could be a great contrast to Trump, and could energize the minority voters and the youth.

Harris. She was a bit slower to get started, but she brought good energy and could really take apart Trump in a debate. Plus her very nature will infuriate him — which is a good thing, because he makes mistakes when infuriated. She has some troubling criminal justice positions which could hurt her in some sectors, but is it enough to make those people stay at home or vote Trump. She needs to make the case that whatever her flaws, she’s better than Trump.

Warren. If you like Bernie, go for Warren. She brings a strong case and energy to battle Trump, and knows her stuff. She also gets under her skin, and the ONLY thing he has against her is the whole Native American kerfluffle — which is really minor in the scheme of things, and he’s misrepresented himself much worse. My only concern with her is her age.

Others of Interest

Buttigieg … Mayor Pete. I like his ideas and his energy, but he may come across as too young. He could make a great VP candidate.

Klobuchar … Amy. I like her ideas and midwestern values, which could speak to a lot of voters. But she often too a moment to get started, and she’s getting a bit one note on the claim of having never lost anything.

O’Rourke. He came off better in the second debate, but I don’t think he would be able to out maneuver Trump, even with his ideas.

Castro. Has some good ideas, but he hasn’t struck me yet has having the fire to beat Trump.

Has Beens

Biden. Joe, joe, joe. Much as he has the momentum, I think he’s too old. He’s befuddled in his answers, and that’s bad. More important, he has a long long history that can and will be used against him, and he simply refuses to accept it. What he needs to do is admit his past errors, indicate that he’s learned more and wised up, and has changed his mind. But he simply does not have the ability to do this, and tries to dance around the issue — and that dancing will do him in. Trump would love to have Biden, because then he can run against Obama.

Bernie. Bernie worries me in so many ways. He comes across as very one-note. He does not make clear that he will back and strongly work for the eventual nominee. His people give the indication that it is Bernie or bust, and that will lose us the election. He also has problematic past position. Trump would love it to be Bernie because that will energize his base and his turnout. That’s a bad thing.

Also Rans

Jay Inslee. Make him Secretary of Energy.

Gabbard. Somethings up with her. I’m reading things about connections to the Saudis and the Russians, and I’m getting the gut feeling that her campaign is being used to sabotage campaigns of candidates that that Russians are really scared of. It makes me want to support Harris even more, if the Russians are scared of her.

Gillibrand. She kept coming across as a deer in the headlights, waiting for the speech to load from the external drive.

Delany. Every time I see him, I think of John Fiedler, the bald guy on the Bob Newhart show.

Yang. Very one note with his guaranteed income.

None of the rest strike me as having the necessary fire to beat Trump — they are much more of the same we have every year.

 

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