Barry’s Blog # 189: Trump: Madness, Machines, Migrations and Mythology, Part Eleven

In the last days of 2016, politics, media and fake news were in flux, and the stench of madness within the gates was more pronounced than ever before. There was now almost no difference between politics, news and pure entertainment. Pundits debated which celebrities would perform at the inauguration – was Trump offering ambassadorships to agents who could secure major talent – would the Radio City Rockettes show up? – while over a thousand incidents of hate speech and attacks were reported.

Even as Trump was raising an “unpresidented” collection of Neo-Nazis, government-haters and mad dog warmongers out of the swamp to cabinet positions and making it clear that his primary enemy would be China, the media was normalizing him and his racist thugs. Meanwhile, Obama doubled down on the theme of Russian hackers with unsubstantiated allegations from the CIA, imposed sanctions on Russia’s intelligence services and expelled 35 Russian diplomats, including the chef of the San Francisco Consulate. Legions of Clinton supporters, egged on by most of the “respectable” media, flooded social media with a narrative that resolutely refused to examine any of the real reasons for her defeat.

In mythic terms – only mythic terms will do – a very low-quality Dionysus had flung open the gates of Thebes, destroyed the palace and the prison and let loose the madness.

1

Channeling the madness

Trump posted the usual circus of Twitter innuendos, met with Kanye West, then, with Don King at his side waving an Israeli flag, casually dismissed all criticism. In a televised interview Julian Assange  stated that the source of the damning Clinton emails was a Clinton insider, not Russia, but the media ignored him.

Half of Trump supporters still believed that Obama was born in Kenya, even though Trump himself had disavowed the claim. Six in ten of them believed that millions of illegal votes had been cast in the recent election. A quarter of Clinton voters agreed, and about half of them also believed that Russia tampered with the actual vote tallies to help elect Trump, a claim that Obama had specifically disavowed. And “…lest we forget, wrote Michel Chossudovsky,

…the leaked emails revealed that the DNC was busy undermining Bernie Sanders’ candidacy during the primaries through various corrupt and fraudulent practices including smear campaigns directed against Bernie.

This was almost all terribly bad news for those who still hope for the resurrection of American democracy, and not simply the growing acceptance that Trump would be President in three weeks.

Sadly, it was clear that the Democrats were resolved to ignore the evidence of their increasing irrelevancy, as they kept Nancy Pelosi and rest of the old guard in place and even elevated the warmonger and “Senator from Wall Street” Chuck Schumer to Senate minority leader – precisely the worst possible leader, wrote Jon Schwarz, at the worst possible time. The New York Times offered its usual sage advice, repeating what it had been saying for forty years: to win next time, the Democrats should move to the right. With several of their senators facing serious re-election challenges in 2018, this was a prescription for political suicide.

There are many other scenarios swirling around. In one, writes Michael Niman,

There is a chance that Donald Trump will be impeached. If so, the Republicans will lead the effort, and it will probably take place within a year of his inauguration. At that point, the ultra-“conservative” Republican establishment will get what it could never accomplish at the polls – President Mike Pence.

There were those who wondered whether Trump had picked Pence back in August as “impeachment insurance,” noting that the Democrats would certainly think twice about removing Trump with Pence as the only alternative.

Assange asserted that Trump really is an outsider to the Washington (if not the Wall Street) elite, and that he was creating

…a weak structure which is displacing and destabilizing the pre-existing central power network within D.C. It is a new patronage structure which will evolve rapidly, but at the moment its looseness means there are opportunities for change in the United States: change for the worse and change for the better.

Oy vay. What’s the best possible scenario, at least for those who are not entirely and permanently disenchanted by the two-party system? Is there hope for a revived, progressive Democratic Party? Certainly not if the old guard remains in place. Something else has to emerge. Charles Eisenstein writes:

For the last eight years it has been possible for most people (at least in the relatively privileged classes) to believe that society is sound, that the system, though creaky, basically works, and that the progressive deterioration of everything from ecology to economy is a temporary deviation from the evolutionary imperative of progress…A Clinton Presidency would have offered four more years of that pretense. A woman President following a black President would have meant to many that things are getting better. It would have obscured the reality of continued neoliberal economics, imperial wars, and resource extraction behind a veil of faux-progressive feminism.

Hazem Salem writes,

Hillary Clinton has given us back our freedom. Only such a crushing defeat could break the chains that bound us to the New Democrat elites. The defeat was the result of decades of moving the Democratic party…away from what it once was and should have remained: a party that represents workers. All workers…So here is our silver lining. This is a revolutionary moment. We must not allow them to shift the blame on to voters. This is their failure, decades in the making. And their failure is our chance to regroup. To clean house in the Democratic party, to retire the old elite and to empower a new generation of FDR Democrats, who look out for the working class – the whole working class.

Naomi Klein adds:

Trump’s message was: “All is hell.” Clinton answered: “All is well.” But it’s not well – far from it…Neo-fascist responses to rampant insecurity and inequality are not going to go away. But what we know from the 1930s is that what it takes to do battle with fascism is a real left. A good chunk of Trump’s support could be peeled away if there were a genuine redistributive agenda on the table. An agenda to take on the billionaire class with more than rhetoric, and use the money for a green new deal. Such a plan could create a tidal wave of well-paying unionized jobs, bring badly needed resources and opportunities to communities of color, and insist that polluters should pay for workers to be retrained and fully included in this future…It could fashion policies that fight institutionalized racism, economic inequality and climate change at the same time. It could take on bad trade deals and police violence, and honor indigenous people as the original protectors of the land, water and air.

Many progressive writers including Sanders, however, seem to be focusing primarily on domestic issues, important as they are, without acknowledging the elephant in the living room: the American Empire, its fundamental, mendacious immorality, its astonishing wastefulness, its environmental destruction, its support for brutal dictatorships, its colonization of the minds of millions of young men desperate for real initiation, and the fact that it is by far the primary cause – both by design and by effect – of terrorist violence and the ongoing epidemic of fear that motivates support for reactionary politicians. Add that criticism to your picture of a reformed Democratic Party and we’re in business! May it be so!

Noam Chomsky teaches about two views of democracy, exemplified by Aristotle and James Madison. Both agreed that if we have full democracy, the poor will eventually unite and take away the property of the rich. Aristotle’s solution was to reduce inequality. Madison, articulating the basic contradiction of American mythology, argued that the solution was to reduce democracy. But American myth gave us our demographics, and long-term demographic changes will lead to the collapse of the myth of Innocence, if we can survive long enough. Here are the facts:

1 – Voters over the age of 45 opted for Trump by nine points. But white people, angry or not, are dying off while people of color are increasing, even in the flyover states.

2 – Young people with each generation care less and less for the racist, homophobic, misogynistic, militaristic, climate-denying, puritanical and fundamentalist rhetoric of their elders. They don’t care about your sexuality, your drug habits or who you sleep with. They see and feel the contradictions and the suffering of the world better than their parents.

And if they can identify candidates worth voting for, they get engaged in the electoral process. They are, after all, about rebirth and renewal. Although Clinton lacked Sanders’ personal appeal or any progressive intentions whatsoever, even she carried the under-30 vote by an 18-point margin – and in the primaries Sanders collected more youth votes than Clinton and Trump combined.

Here’s a map of the Electoral College results if only those aged 18-25 voted in November (from a poll done a week before the election, and it may not even include all those non-resident college students who were not allowed to vote where they went to school:

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This is not a universally rosy picture of the future, as Chauncey DeVega writes, but it seems generally to be the case. And it’s our only hope. May it be so. Eisenstein writes:

We are entering a space between stories. After various retrograde versions of a new story rise and fall and we enter a period of true unknowing, an authentic next story will emerge. What would it take for it to embody love, compassion, and interbeing? I see its lineaments in those marginal structures and practices that we call holistic, alternative, regenerative, and restorative. All of them source from empathy, the result of the compassionate inquiry: What is it like to be you?

——————————————-

Our migrations, geographic and emotional, have brought us to the very edge. In the words of the Beat poet Lew Welch: This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.

As I suggested, Dionysus has flung open the gates of Thebes, destroyed the palace and the prison and let loose the madness. Trump is a classic con man, and in that sense, he embodies an aspect of the Trickster archetype. He is, of course, no Pentheus; he is neither young (except in his emotional immaturity) nor a King. He will soon, however, revert to what he really symbolizes: the outmoded, destructive values of the old House of Thebes that, in its delusions of divinity, would slaughter its own children.

But as a very low-quality Dionysus, he has enacted an apocalypse – he has lifted the veil and shown us the truth of who we actually are, when we are at our worst. There’s no hiding now from ourselves. For that we must thank him and Clinton too, for being so incompetent. The simple truth is that we must know who we are at our worst before we can begin to imagine who we might be at our best. Now it’s up to us. As the God says at the end of The Bacchae:

And if you had known how to be wise when you did not wish to be, you would have acquired Zeus’ son as an ally, and would now be happy.

 

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Barry’s Blog # 188: Trump: Madness, Machines, Migrations and Mythology, Part Ten

It’s always about stories – and all the stories we tell are ultimately about ourselves. The American mobility story includes a south/north variant. Millions of African-Americans left the South between 1920 and 1970. Their motivation was perhaps less about the entrepreneurial spirit and more about the refugee experience. They escaped the terror of a Jim Crow society for the promise of freedom in northern cities. Many of them, like the whites moving east to west, found that freedom and new opportunity as well.

Others, however, realized that they’d accepted a Devil’s bargain, trading away their old communal values for this new sense of individualism. Indeed, they composed a whole new sub-genre of blues music: longing for the country life and the old folks at home. Those who did remain in the South were more tied to the land, more religious and more conservative. And as we’ll see, this was true for whites as well.

America experienced an even larger demographic change a generation after the Civil War. For the first time, movement began to reverse (except for those still heading to California), back toward the cities. This was partially because of the closing of the frontier. After the Oklahoma land rush, most of the good land was taken (by large corporations, but that’s another story), and family farms took the brunt of capitalist centralization of the economy. Histories of late 19th and early 20th centuries typically emphasize the mass European immigration into the eastern cities but tend to ignore a nearly equal migration – some twenty million people – from the country back to the city. By 1920, despite the lingering mythic narrative, America was primarily an urban nation.

The migration of country people enriched the city but – this is crucial to understand – severely shrunk rural diversity, even as the outmoded and unchanging Electoral College ensured that the rural states retained their influence in Congress. This has been continuing for 130 years or more.

And the story is full of ironies. Kansas, for example, is now governed by one of the most reactionary bunch of thugs imaginable. But during the Populist/Progressive era of the early 1900s the state was a center of radical politics. For the full story, read Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas?

During the Depression, large numbers of dispossessed farmers abandoned the “dust bowl” of Oklahoma, Texas and other prairie states and attempted to make a new life in California. Altogether, some 3.5 million people left the area.

And in the 1970s through the 1990s, Big Business outsourced jobs to the Third World, causing steel-producing jobs to decline from 400,000 to 140,000. The middle class moved to the suburbs, but those who’d lost out in the economic transition began another migration, this time from the “rust belt” toward the “sun belt.” slide_30

From 1970 to 2006, Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh lost about 45% of their population and the sun belt population increased by 150%. The demographic transition also shifted congressional representatives from north to south, a factor that exacerbated the already unfair situation in the Electoral College.

But there is another issue having to do not with the desire to escape poverty but with the idea of diversity, and with the terrible pressure to conform in an age when everything is in flux. Granted, it’s natural to want to live among those we consider our tribe. Consider the seasonal migration of “snowbirds,” retired people escaping northern winters, who temporarily swell Arizona’s population by 300,000, and who cause Florida’s elderly population to fluctuate by nearly 20%. snowbird-graphic

These days the word “village” more than any other seems to encompass our longings for community, which we (and much media advertising) still associate with the country. Remember the “back to the land” movement, when thousands of hippies established rural communes to escape the violence and ugliness of the cities? In 1969 Joni Mitchell sang:

Got to get back to the land and set my soul free…

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

Can you see now how much that impulse was rooted in American myth? Back in 1921, Al Jolson sang:

California, here I come
Right back where I started from…
That’s why I can hardly wait,
Open up that Golden Gate!
California, here I come!

Now let’s look at the roots of our current mess, and our broad topic of “Trump: Madness, Machines, Migrations and Mythology” from yet another perspective. Consider a hypothetical example of a progressive and/or gender-non-conforming and/or creative and/or pregnant and/or Pagan and/or atheist person growing up on a farm or in a small town in Iowa or any of thirty other “flyover” states and subject to family pressure to conform or even discrimination. Red-blue maps of these states consist of dark-blue islands in the cities surrounded by red exurbs and rural areas.

Or how about a person with no health insurance living in a state that hasn’t accepted Obamacare, or one who needs medical marijuana but lives in a state that hasn’t legalized it (funny how the state-by-state maps dealing with these issues nearly overlap the red-blue maps)?

Consider the internal pressure on such persons to think of moving to one of the two or three university cities in that state, or to Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis or Kansas City, or ultimately to New York or California. Or even to another country: the State Department estimates that between three and eight million non-military Americans, including 400,000 retirees, are living abroad,  studying, missionizing, playing or simply escaping the madness.

California doesn’t simply symbolize freedom; it also leads the nation in the rate of economic growth, by more than twice the national average. Aside from less-educated Latino immigrants, the state tends to attract the highly educated, who (at least until this past election, when college-educated whites voted for Trump) are increasingly correlated with voting liberal. Democrats hold a 12-point edge in party identification among those with college degrees. Only twelve years ago the parties were even on that score. Consider also that educated people were relatively evenly spread across the nation’s cities in 1970. Now, writes Bill Bishop, author of The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart, college graduates have congregated in particular cities.

But that’s not the only reason people move here – or why some people move to more conservative areas. Bishop also writes:

The generation of ministers who built sprawling mega-churches in the new suburbs learned to attract their stadium-sized congregations through the “homogenous unit principle.” The new churches were designed for cookie-cutter parishioners, what one church-growth proponent described as “people like us.”

But demography does support democracy. After the 2008 election, when 69% of first-time voters supported Obama, Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, complained:

It’s a bad thing for Republicans when you drill down into all these states, and see lots of new voters, newcomers…It’s like, where did all the Republicans go? Did they move to Utah?

After Obama’s re-election in 2012, Lindsey Graham was quite candid: “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” His solution to the obvious demographic trend of old white people dying off was, of course, to disenfranchise people of color, and it was already well under way. As I’ve shown earlier in this essay, the Republicans succeeded.

I’m not presenting myself as a detached observer. Long before I began to write about American myth, I unwittingly engaged in precisely the same east-west migration. Back then we called it “splitting for the coast.” The implication was clear: wherever “we” were, the “scene” was old, dark, violent, conforming, predictable, boring, oppressive, crowded and full of relatives with their impossible demands and expectations. Family was something to escape from. As James Hillman said, American psychology mirrored its economics: the isolated individual in a hostile world. Sammy Davis said “I gotta be me.” Sinatra gave everyone permission to do it “my way.” But even earlier, during World War One, Sophie Tucker had sung, How Ya Gonna Keep ’em Down on the Farm after they’ve seen Paree? It was a very old story.

Demographic change is the final element in the Trump story, and the story of the collapse of democracy. Reactionaries were able to seize control of government in two-thirds of the states – and throw the 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 (yes, an un-corrupted vote would have given Democrats supermajorities in both houses of Congress) and 2016 elections by gerrymandering, purging millions of voters and manipulating the machines – partially because thousands, perhaps millions of people left the “flyover” states for more welcoming social climates.

We’ll never know how many. But Bishop offers a telling statistic: “In 1976, only about a quarter of America’s voters lived in a county a presidential candidate won by a landslide margin. By 2004, it was nearly half.” Twelve years later, we can assume that this number has increased further.

Clinton (and in the primaries, almost certainly Sanders) took the entire west coast, along with Colorado and Nevada. More Californians voted for her in the general election – 62% – than at any time since Roosevelt’s 1936 re-election, and she took the state by over four million votes. She even won conservative Orange County. In Washington state’s King County, which includes Seattle, she received a higher percentage than Obama received in 2012. And politicians here have made clear their intention to resist Trump. But even though Democrats won supermajorities in both Senate and Assembly, Latino California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon says, “We woke up strangers in a strange land.”

I’m not judging anyone for the choices we made. And how many are dedicated enough to leave, say, Oakland, to move back to Kansas to help organize and re-convert it to a Blue state? But we can imagine: what if half of that four million majority had relocated back to Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania? Now, writers such as Alec MacGillis can paraphrase Horace Greeley with “Go Midwest, Young Hipster.” (her subtitle: If you really want Democrats to win in Iowa, move there.) Here’s a similar article.

California’s growth rate has slowed somewhat in recent years, mainly due to the high cost of living (which is itself a result of earlier migrations). But last year it still had 70,000 more arrivals than departures. ca_migration_v2_101-01

There are now about forty million souls here – who, by the way, are represented by two senators, the same as Wyoming, with fewer than 600,000 residents, or North Dakota, with 700,000.

This is the truth about our freedom to move around: each time a progressive-minded person leaves a Southern or Midwestern state to live where they feel more welcome, the area they leave becomes relatively more conservative. And this creates an ongoing feedback loop that impacts others in the same situation. As California becomes more diverse and progressive, Kansas becomes whiter and more reactionary, and more people feel the urge to get out.

This is not an exclusively American theme, by the way. One way to understand how Israel has evolved into such a belligerent and racist nation is to realize that between 700,000 and a million Israelis have emigrated in recent years. Some 30% of the rest would seriously consider leaving if they could. Many have sought economic opportunity, others have chosen to escape the perpetual war climate, and some leave because their secular lifestyles and anti-war beliefs conflict with the growing orthodox majority. That leaves a situation exactly like what I’m describing, as the Jerusalem Post notes: “Those remaining in Israel are increasingly ethno-nationalists such as religious Zionists, Russians, traditional-minded Sephardim and Ethiopians.”

And as long as I’ve touched upon this touchy topic, I must also remind you of a similar feedback loop. As the Israeli population becomes more reactionary, its government, like the governments of the Red states, assumes the privilege of being more brutal toward its own Dark Other. But the loop cannot perpetuate itself without regular infusions of cash (cui bono, follow the money). Despite the occasional flair ups, purely for the camera, between Netanyahu and Obama, the U.S. this year gave Israel its largest aid package ever – $38 billion over ten years. No Koch Brothers, no Trump, and no U.S. imperialism, no Netanyahu.

The subject is rarely what we seem to be talking about. The subject is always us, and how we view the world through the eyes of American innocence.

Next: some conclusions and possible scenarios for the future.

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Barry’s Blog # 187: Trump: Madness, Machines, Migrations and Mythology, Part Nine

Demographic: picture of the people

Migration: change, related to mutate

We moderns take for granted the freedom to move about, visit exotic places, sell our houses, join a different church, take a job that requires moving to another city, study abroad or even become “ex-patriots.”

But consider that (with the exception of certain nomadic tribes) most people throughout history in most places, including Europe, spent their entire lives in the same place, and that place was very likely where their great-great-grandparents had also lived. People were connected with place in ways we can barely imagine. They were indigenous (“sprung or born from the land”). Enter America.

The idea of America was born in the age of exploration and colonialism. People began to move long distances for conquest or opportunity. Others – the black others – moved because they were forced to. Chapter Seven of my book goes into great detail to describe this idea of America and the new mythic narrative that Europeans evolved. Here I want to give some of the background to our sacred value of mobility and how it has had its own impact on the madness of Trump.

Although empires always fabricate ideologies to rationalize conquest, only Americans, from the very start – even before they called themselves Americans – justified invasion, enslavement and genocide with stories of idealism, good intentions and, eventually, “Manifest Destiny.” Only in America could an 18th century minister encourage his flock: “There are 3,000 miles of wilderness behind these Indians…We must free our land of strangers, even if each mile is a marsh of blood.”

This magical notion has been the bedrock foundation of our foreign policy – or at least of our beliefs about it – since Day One. The myth of American Innocence equated mobility with progress; we improve by moving. Indeed, many believed that history itself was heliotropic, moving constantly westward. From 1492 until the official closing of the frontier in 1890, white people saw (or convinced themselves that they saw) thousands of miles of empty land for the taking. Cheap western land served as a safety valve for the discontented, so abject poverty (among whites) was, for a while, relatively uncommon. To an extent unimaginable in Europe, Americans became landowners, and land meant freedom.

pioneers-a

There were many painful lessons to be learned, but white men easily forgot those lessons, because they always had the privilege of continually existing in a “new” America. America The Beautiful (1895) sings:

O beautiful for Pilgrim feet

Whose stern impassioned stress

A thoroughfare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness!

Always moving towards something better, Americans tended to look condescendingly upon those who stayed home. For the upwardly mobile, to be is to be stuck. De Tocqueville observed,

A man builds a house in which to spend his old age, and he sells it before the roof is on… he soon afterwards leaves to carry his changeable longings elsewhere… he will travel fifteen hundred miles to shake off his happiness.

Mobility (symbolized eventually by the automobile) expresses an enduring and deeper aspect of the myth: starting over. One could always pull up stakes, move on, try something new or join a different church.

One needed to constantly expand and grow geographically, economically, socially and spiritually. This led to wildly divergent yet philosophically similar ideals, from infinitely expanding consumer economies to “New Age” spirituality. But always it means movement: in 2005, only six percent of the million inhabitants of Las Vegas – the ultimate place of the New Start – had been born there.

“New Start” implies a familiar archetype. Tribal initiation takes boys out of their community before returning them with their sense of purpose revitalized. We could think of it as points in time rooted within space (the ancestral land). America inverted this ancient relationship – a person could simply leave home to acquire a new identity. Our toxic mimic of initiation became points in space rooted in time.

As early as 1600 America symbolized the New Start for all of Europe, humanity reborn into innocence. By 1865, newspaper editor Horace Greeley could write, “Go west, young man,” and everyone understood that personal improvement went along with the nation’s manifest destiny.

This version of the myth remains nearly as strong today, but so does its shadow, the astonishing unwillingness on the part of “native” whites to welcome newer immigrants and to blame them for all evils. immigration-nologo-2 One source of the “white anger” we’ve been hearing so much about is disappointment that the promise of America – like an empty fortune cookie, as Tim Wise says – has turned out to be a con job.

Part of the con is that Americans became, like no one before them ever had, individuals. For the most part, they moved west not as clans or tribes or with shared religious values, but as isolated individuals. Historian Greil Marcus writes,

To be an American is to feel the promise as a birthright, and to feel alone and haunted when the promise fails. No failure in America, whether of love or money, is ever simple; it is always a kind of betrayal.

More than any people in history, we suffer from a queasy rootlessness at the foundation of our identity. Its source is the bedrock of unexpressed grief for the incomprehensibly massive suffering that Europeans have inflicted on this continent.

Now, all these years later, the Electoral College and its irrelevance to modern democracy is connected directly to this notion of mobility. I know this has been a depressing time and a sobering essay, so please allow me a small joke. After long deliberation, I’ve been able to condense my entire book down to two sentences: It sucks here. I’m moving west.

The myth offered people from as far back east as Europe the idea that freedom, defined most often as the opportunity for ambitious persons to move forward in space as well as in spirit, to get ahead, to make a killing. Consider that people have pondered and acted upon these questions for the entire span of American history, right up to the present. From covered wagons to Silicon Valley, California in particular is filled with such people and their descendants.

This is not a one-dimensional (or uni-directional) story. The nation had always seen migrations from the east coast to progressively further westward and rural areas, with cities growing up in the Midwest. But our sense of ourselves – our identity – had remained rural in character, and so did our mythology, which has been populated with many colorful characters who come from the outlying areas, enter the Big City, tweak the noses of the urban big-wigs and return home laden with cash. Dionysus cons Apollo, with the help of Hermes. And when, in countless Western movies, when one of those fast-talking, fancy-dressing city slickers ventures out to the frontier, he usually gets what’s coming to him.

This of course is not a purely American motif; it goes back to the European traditions of the Holy Fool and the legend of Parsifal and back further to ancient trickster myths. But the archetype of the Con Man is purely American.

Americans (white, rural Americans) in particular have always hated the perceived corruption of the Big City and its corollary Big Government, despite always receiving more in subsidies than they give in taxes. And if you doubt the potency of this mythic narrative, let me remind you that every single Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon, and almost all of the Democrats, have portrayed themselves (despite their Ivy League credentials and Wall Street connections) as “outsiders” reluctantly taking up the crusade of cleaning up the mess in urban (read: non-white) Washington. Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” is merely the latest version of a very old story.

We’ll go deeper into this notion of mobility in the next installment.

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Barry’s Blog # 186: Trump: Madness, Machines, Migrations and Mythology, Part Eight

Part Eight: Recount This

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The recount effort that overnight mobilized over ten thousand volunteers and raised over $9 million, ended on December 12th. Although it raised the hopes of millions, it was clearly doomed from the start. Ultimately, though it will be a tiny footnote to the broader story, it is part of the story, and a timeline of its major aspects certainly places it in the “madness” category of this essay series. Join me as, once more we enter the muck of hardball politics and media silliness.

11/21: Federal judges rule that Wisconsin’s 2011 redrawing of State Assembly districts to favor Republicans was an unconstitutional, partisan gerrymander.

11/23: Jill Stein announces a fund drive to pay for recounts. Many Greens, including her running mate Ajamu Baraka, oppose the effort. He says, “It would be seen as carrying the water for the Democrats.” On the Democratic side, one insider suggests

…it probably was the Stein people looking for a way to stay relevant, raise some money and take the stink off of them. Instead of everybody screaming, ‘You made Trump happen,’ she is (wants) to change that whole narrative.

Several computer scientists publicly urge the Clinton campaign to call for recounts in three states, noting that she had received 7% fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic voting machines compared to those that had used paper ballots.

11/24: The Washington Post publishes its extraordinarily mendacious “Fake News” article. The Greens file for a recount in Michigan.

11/25: In Wisconsin, where Trump’s margin of victory is 27,000, a record 300,000 registered voters lacked the newly required ID and could not vote. The state had the lowest turnout in 20 years. It was down by more than 50,000 in Milwaukee where 70 % of the state’s African-American population lives. Evidence of foul play is exposed in three precincts in Outagamie County, each claiming that more people had voted in the presidential race than had voted. County officials imply that the same honest error was made in three precincts – and that in all of them, Trump was a huge beneficiary of that error. Embarrassed officials quickly delete over five thousand Trump votes and zero Clinton votes before the recount has even begun. Stein raises over $4.5 million in three days.

11/26: Trump tweets that the recount attempt is a “scam.”

11/27: Trump tweets that he’d won in a landslide, “…if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” The White House insists on the “overall integrity of the electoral infrastructure,” which ensured results that “accurately reflect the will of the American people.”

11/28: The Clinton campaign, giving in to public pressure, half-heartedly announces that it will join the recount effort “as an observer” but will not contest the results of the election. In Wisconsin, the Greens cite differing margins of victory for Trump based on the voting technology used and inexplicably high voter turnout (up to 85 %) in many rural counties. The state government, solidly controlled by Republicans, rejects Stein’s request that all paper ballots be counted by hand, announcing that each of its 72 counties can decide what to do. Stein sues; the state responds by tripling the recount fee to $3.5 million.

She faces similar problems in Pennsylvania, where most counties have no paper trail or use central tabulators that are so old and simple that computer security academics use them in their classrooms to show students how easily voting can be hacked. But rather than making the obvious accusation of Republican vote-flipping, Stein repeats the Clinton line: she seeks the recount not to prevent Trump from stealing the election, but rather to stop Russian hackers from interfering.

11/30: Members of the Electoral College – The “Hamilton Electors” – call on electors from both parties to unite in rejecting Trump and backing a more “reasonable” Republican like John Kasich. Michigan announces a full, statewide hand recount.

12/1: A federal court rejects Trump’s request to stop the Wisconsin recount, and it begins. Three counties that had unexpected surges to Trump, including Outagamie County, refuse to hand count their paper ballots when they have an option to machine-scan them. Trump petitions to stop Michigan’s recount, hoping to delay the process and make it harder to complete before presidential electors convene. Meanwhile, one of his people is convicted of election fraud from 2012.

Stein, who has raised nearly $7 million in a week, sues to speed up the Michigan recount and repeats that her goal is not to change the election result but to ensure “the integrity and accuracy of the vote.” Clinton’s national vote lead increases to over 2.5 million. Philadelphia voluntarily chooses to recount, and causes Pennsylvania to revise the numbers, shrinking Trump’s lead from 71,000 to 47,000. The state is now within 0.2% of triggering an automatic statewide recount. But the court will not allow recounts in any precincts until three voters in the precinct present affidavits to support the recount. Of 9,000 precincts only about 30% can be hand-recounted. In Michigan, his lead shrinks from 13,000 to under 11,000, again before the recount begins. A nonprofit group in Florida sues to force a recount there.

12/2: The Michigan Attorney General (a Republican) sues to block the recount, but the Board of Canvassers deadlocks. Trump advisor Roger Stone threatens Clinton with indictment if she joins in the recount effort. Researchers announce that 75,000 people in Michigan had mysteriously cast no vote for president —almost twice as many than were cast in 2012 – and these “under-votes” were concentrated in the heavily Democratic precincts of Detroit. Trump sues in Pennsylvania. A federal judge refuses to stop the Wisconsin recount. A Stein observer there posts visual evidence that five of the nine voting machines in her county had tampered seals that come with the warning label that “Removal of seal voids warranty.”

12/4: In Democratic-leaning Milwaukee County, five hundred disputed votes that the Trump campaign is trying to reject are ruled as valid. The Wall Street Journal falsely announces that the Greens have given up in Pennsylvania. The Greens take the Pennsylvania case to federal court. Mike Pence and Reince Preibus assert that Trump was “entitled” to his claim that millions had voted illegally.

12/5: A Michigan judge orders an immediate start to the recount, and for the state to “assemble necessary staff to work sufficient hours” to complete the recount by a Dec. 13 federal deadline. In Wisconsin, Nineteen counties refuse to let the recounters look at all the evidence. In an interview, Greg Palast says, “Don’t call it the recount. Call it the count of those votes that never were counted.” He estimates that 4-5 million votes were not counted in this election. Even so, he argues, Trump actually lost Wisconsin and Michigan by landslides.

12/6: Heavily-Democratic Wayne County announces that half of Detroit votes may be ineligible to be recounted because of problems with the ballots. The city’s election director blames the discrepancies on the city’s ancient voting machines, 87 of which broke down on Election Day. 392 of the city’s 662 precincts, nearly 60 percent, could not reconcile the number of votes cast according to the machines with the number of ballots issued according to the electoral rolls. He argues that according to state law only those precincts that can be reconciled can be included in the recount. His circular argument posits that the destruction of evidence by those being investigated should be grounds for not continuing with the investigation. The same situation is present in other southeastern Michigan counties with communities of color such as Flint and Lansing.

Stein points out that there were 75,000 “under-votes” in Michigan, ballots that were filled out except for the vote for President—70 % higher than the number in 2012. A Michigan judge orders the state to undo its previous approval of the recount, and the state Attorney General insists that state courts have the power to stop the recount. A federal court overrules them.

12/7: Stein moves to get two Republican justices of the Michigan Supreme Court disqualified from the case because Trump has mentioned both of them as potential nominees for the United States Supreme Court. The state passes a bill retroactively requiring the Greens to pay more for the recount. Other Michigan counties disqualify entire precincts from the recount. The Ingham county clerk admits,

If there’s damage to the plastic containers storing the ballots, or if the seal number on the containers doesn’t match the poll books, then there is a very good possibility that precinct will not be recountable.

Twenty-five Wisconsin counties use the same unreliable machines for their recount as on election night. This means that those machine-counted votes are counted less than the hand-counted votes in the other 47 and violates the Equal Protection Clause which was the central holding in Bush v. Gore, that similar ballots must be counted in the same way.

Since hand counts are being used in many of Wisconsin’s rural and predominantly white counties and machines are being used in many counties with large minority populations like Milwaukee and Racine, the failure to use a hand recount in all counties creates uneven results and racial disparities in the count. Several Republican super PACs use this argument to sue to stop the recount. Officials admit that many of Wisconsin’s voting machines are indeed connected to the Internet and are theoretically hackable.

12/8: Several Wisconsin counties (including Brown County, where Trump received seven times the average victory margin of the GOP nominee in the last four presidential elections) decide not to preserve images of paper ballots they had counted using electronic scanners.

12/10: A federal judge blocks Florida’s attempt to throw out tens of thousands of mail-in ballots, and accuses the Secretary of State of “delaying a hearing on the lawsuit, so that he could use every second available to run out the clock.” The state refuses to respond to the lawsuit demanding a recount until after the deadline.

12/11: Stein presses her appeal in Pennsylvania, arguing that over 4,000 people in Montgomery County, which supported Clinton over Trump by 21 points, had voted, only to find their ballots certified as “non-votes.” Hundreds had discovered the mistake within moments, when the machines recorded they had shown up but kept returning their ballots with no votes cast. In the following days, many of them were shunted from one office to another as they tried to submit petitions to have their ballot counted. Those who persisted were confronted with filing fees of as much as $500 or ultimately told they had missed a deadline.

12/12: The Wisconsin recount ends with Trump’s lead increasing by 130 votes. Pennsylvania certifies Trump as its winner hours after a federal judge blocks Stein’s push for a recount, saying her suspicion of hacking “borders on the irrational.” The same Democratic spokespersons and media who have agreed with this assessment continue pointing to Russian hackers.

12/13: Michigan officials discover that 37% of precincts in Detroit tabulated more ballots than the number of voters tallied by workers in the poll books. A federal judge in Michigan halts the recount after about half of the ballots are checked, with a “no fraud” conclusion. Clinton gains 102 votes. Trump wins the state despite getting 30,000 fewer votes than George W. Bush did when he lost it in 2004.

Republicans in Missouri move to institute new voting ID restrictions for the next election. In Wisconsin, Republicans announced plans for new restrictions on early voting. As Stein said, the recounts in Michigan and Wisconsin “looked everywhere except in the areas of greatest risk.”

————————-

There are many technical issues, such as how to recount votes that were cast electronically and have no paper trail, or how to reconcile the hundreds of different systems used in the states. On the face of it, the recount was doomed to fail because of these issues and because there was no effective way to address the massive elephant in the living room – the pervasive and successful drive to strip several million people of their right to vote.

I remain perplexed by some major questions:

1 – What did Jill Stein want? Many members of the Green Party publicly opposed the recount effort. She never challenged the basic narrative offered by both Democrats as well as Republicans. Nor did she make what should have been the obvious criticism of Republican stripping and flipping. Indeed, her effort served to legitimize the narrative that blamed Clinton’s defeat on Russian hackers – as if the primary enemy of a progressive America were a foreign government rather than its own oligarchs – when the only claims of such involvement came from U.S. intelligence agencies.

And why did the Stein campaign only seek recounts in three states where Trump won? Why were recounts not sought in states where Democrats won too? The answer to this one, at least, is obvious: There were no signs pointing to fraud, no divergence between announced results and exit polls. But this not-seeking also gave the appearance that Stein was supporting the Democrats.

Stein did raise her money (far more than she’d raised for her entire campaign) from some 160,000 people who gave an average of less than $50 apiece, most of whom have not given to Green candidates before. Ten thousand volunteers signed up to help the drive. She’s not allowed to keep what she didn’t spend, and she’s promised to donate it to groups that research election fraud. But she does have a huge addition to her mailing list. Perhaps that’s what it was all about.

2 – Why did media gatekeepers first ignore the recount effort and then treat it with responses running from disdain to outright sarcasm? Why was much of the information that I’ve gathered reported accurately in local news outlets in the three states in question but ignored on the national level, even by media obviously favoring Clinton, the same media that makes such a stink about Russian hackers? Perhaps the time-honored tactics of first marginalizing progressives and then blaming the evil “Other” are more consistent with a narrative that Democrats and Republicans share: the system itself works just fine, and trouble comes only from the outside. But this idea only punts us over to a deeper question:

3 – Why don’t the Democrats ever contest the results of obviously hacked elections? Neither Al Gore nor John Kerry has ever supported investigations into the massive irregularities in 2000 and 2004. Kerry had actually raised a $7 million legal fund to protect the 2004 balloting, but never allocated any of it to an independent investigation and did nothing to fund or support an Ohio recount that might have given him the Presidency.

This is, to me, the biggest mystery in American politics in the 21st century (9-11? That’s easy). Why, after exerting themselves beyond the physical and emotional capacities of people a third their age – seven days a week for a year, two years, for their entire adult lives, in pursuit of this ultimate affirmation of their own value – why would people such as Gore, Kerry and Clinton not take the relatively small steps of endorsing legitimate investigations that might overturn their defeats?

In the Democratic primaries the Sanders campaign certainly had reason to challenge corrupted results in California, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois and other places. But they didn’t. Bruce Dixon suggests:

Apparently staying in the club with Hillary and the DNC was more important than standing up for the people who voted for him, or the principles they believed in. So there were no challenges.

Indeed, Why haven’t the Democrats gone to further lengths to publicize, expose and fight the entire edifice of stripping and flipping?

These questions can only take us into the realm of pure speculation; so here we go:

1 – Democrats really do believe in the fairness of the election process, and in the American myths that underlie it – except that they clearly did to Bernie what they allowed Trump to do to them.

2 – Clinton had (still has) a reasonable fear of being indicted – but neither Gore nor Kerry did.

3 – The thing was rigged from the start and the Democrats knew all along – but why did they fight so hard, at least until November 8th? And why did they resurrect the bogus charges of Russian hackers?

4 – As Jesse Jackson asks, “Is it because neither party thinks suppression of the votes of people of color and the young is an unacceptable outrage?”

5 – What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Barry’s Blog # 185: Trump: Madness, Machines, Migrations and Mythology, Part Seven

I’ve spent zero on advertising. – D. Trump

Much of my writing circles around my basic assertion that this is one of those times in American history when great holes appear in the façades of our myths. And when they do, the oligarchs and patriarchs who most profit from their continuation go to extreme lengths to shore up those holes and re-invigorate our sense of innocence. It’s increasingly obvious that the old story no longer fits, but that we have yet to imagine the new story.

But what does it mean in practical terms to say this? To me, it means that as culture begins to collapse, its institutions – all of them – collapse as well. And this means that institutions that evolved over very long periods of time to bring out the best in people – their higher selves, so to speak – now function to bring out the worst in us. The police are an obvious example, and so are the media.

I haven’t added this obvious “M” word to my ongoing blog title because the media surround the madness, machines and migrations that I’ve been writing about. We hear about the pervasive madness of daily life and form our opinions about it through the media. Postmodern people can barely claim to exist without the media, which, like myth itself, are so omnipresent that we hardly notice them. In the old analogy, the fish never notices the sea because it is all the fish knows.

It’s a common cliché to blame “the media” for so many of our problems. But we need to go deeper, especially in helping to understand Trump. For 150 years in modern literate (and now electronic) culture the media have usurped the ancient function of priests, poets and story tellers, who for 99% of human history had told us the stories of who we are. This is an immensely complicated issue. But for now, we’ll have to note only the most critical aspects, beginning with how the media gave Trump an absurdly unfair advantage.

George Lakoff reminds us that most Democratic politicians come up through law school and the reasoning skills it trains them in, while many of the most influential Republicans attend business schools and are trained above all in marketing, with its intense interest in brain functioning. In my terms, the Republicans have known very well the terminology of American myth. The Democrats have appealed to the head, while the Republicans have spoken to the gut. This has never been more obvious than in 2016.

So we’re talking, by the way, about the Trump brand. In this media-determined world, it matters not a bit who Trump the human being is, what he thinks about, what he believes or even if he has any strong beliefs. By the way, it’s important to understand that we can say this about almost any politician including Barack Obama, who will fade away soon, leaving as his legacy a Democratic Party that has lost over 900 state legislative seats during his administration.

We are talking about brands, and it is the media that communicates them; it is the image of Trump trumpspam-0that he and his people have expertly created out of mud, like a golem, which the media has obediently fed to us.

1 – They began normalizing his bigotry and misogyny well before the election, giving him some $3 billion in essentially free advertising. They allowed him to utter (and then repeated) whatever lies he wanted and rarely took the time to correct or fact-check him. Why? Cui bono: the Trump show drove ad revenue to levels the industry hadn’t seen in years. And they hardly needed to do this, as he showed his master’s manipulation of them early on. Later, when (too late) they turned on him, their attacks drove the same revenue streams.

2 – And this was “legitimate” journalism. Beyond that, fake news and heavily-subsidized right wing extremists like Alex Jones, Matt Drudge and Breitbart pumped the internet with fear-mongering and white supremacist propaganda. CNN hired Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and others as talking heads. Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live, Dr. Oz and – yes – Stephen Colbert all gave Trump guest spots that helped in the normalizing process.

3 – All media, at least until October, fed the loony notion of equivalency between the two major candidates, that Clinton’s email transgressions were on the same level of danger as Trump’s deranged threats. The result: two terribly unpopular candidates, but one with a stranglehold on the election process itself.

4 – And of course, to the extent that they gave Trump free publicity, they marginalized and even demonized the only truly popular candidate, Bernie Sanders.

This analysis goes a long way toward answering my initial question way back in Part One of this series:

Forget about: How could he win? or How could she lose? – because she didn’t…The real question should be: Why didn’t she beat this immensely unpopular buffoon by thirty points? Why was the election so close?

And my ensuing discussion of “stripping and flipping” explains how we went from an unnaturally close election to an apparent conservative sweep. We are now subject to a 24/7 reality show out of Washington, flavored by Hollywood. But we’ll have to address this notion of “fake news,” because the phrase itself implies that the “news” is objective, balanced and unbiased.

Socially, we receive our mythic instructions – our sense of who we are in the universe – in two major forms, public education and the media. For a detailed critique of public education and its intentions, read the works of John Taylor Gatto or my summary of his ideas in Chapter Five of my book, which include this:

Public schooling teaches children that they can exchange obedience for favors and advantages. It was never intended to create citizens, but servile laborers and consumers. It leaves children vulnerable to marketing, which ensures that they will grow older but never grow up. And it reverses the age-old tradition of identifying a child’s unique gifts. The latest insult, standardized testing, continues to convert hope into docility and narcissism. An unexpected bi-product has been an epidemic of illiteracy.

To Noam Chomsky, public education is a system of imposed ignorance in which the most highly educated people are the most highly indoctrinated. In political terms, “A good education instills in you the intuitive comprehension – it becomes unconscious and reflexive – that you just don’t think certain things…that are threatening to power interests.” This includes, perhaps more than any discipline, historiography, the teaching of history (another function formerly held by the storytellers and poets). I write in Chapter Seven:

The “Dunning School” of racist historians dominated the writing of post-Civil War history well into the 1950s. William Dunning, founder of the American Historical Association, taught Columbia students that blacks were incapable of self-government. Yale’s Ulrich Phillips defended slaveholders and claimed they did much to civilize the slaves. Henry Commager and (Harvard’s) Samuel Morison’s The Growth of the American Republic, read by generations of college freshmen, perpetuated the myth of the plantation and claimed that slaves “suffered less than any other class in the South…The majority…were apparently happy.” Daniel Boorstin’s The Americans: The Colonial Experience doesn’t mention slavery at all. Similarly, Arthur Schlesinger’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Jackson never mentions the Trail of Tears.

The media, to Chomsky, functions “to keep people from understanding the world.” Its purpose is “to inculcate and defend the economic, social, and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the state.” Media decision makers begin with the people at the top who deliberately decide what “news” and “opinions” to produce and whom to market their product to, but they end with the great majority of editors and journalists whose educations have already prepared them for their work. They do not need to be told what the limits of acceptable discourse are. Chomsky writes:

…the elite domination of the media and marginalization of dissidents that results from the operation of these filters occurs so naturally that media news people, frequently operating with complete integrity and goodwill, are able to convince themselves that they choose and interpret the news ‘objectively’ and on the basis of professional news values.

If there is anything to be learned from the Trump ascendency, it is how our desperate need to remain innocent has made it easier for our cultural gatekeepers to censor the news so as to divert us from important issues toward trivia, keep us uninformed, marginalize legitimate alternatives and encourage millions of us to abandon the voting process itself. The news has never been the news, but for the last forty years it has generally functioned as little more than state (that is, corporate) –funded propaganda.

It’s been a common progressive complaint to blame the corporate media for so long that Trump had no difficulty flipping the notion to criticism of the liberal media and then shortening it to “the media.” But it’s important to remember that in any large, capitalist nation the function of the media is twofold: to make money and to assist the central government in the ongoing chore of keeping people asleep and docile.

I’ve addressed the general issue in many previous blogs: here, here, here, here and here.

In the interest of brevity, I’m offering a series of links from sources I trust, and I hope they encourage you to look a bit deeper.

The CIA and the Press: When the Washington Post Ran the CIA’s Propaganda Network

The Major Purveyor of ‘Fake News’ is the CIA-Corporate Complex

The Lie of the 21st Century: How Mainstream Media “Fake News” Led to the U.S. Invasion of Iraq

The Entire Mainstream Warmongering Media is Fake

7 Reasons that the Corporate Media Is Pro-War

— The Fake Mainstream Media

How Russia is pilloried while real news about Israel goes unreported

Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda

NYT’ bias amazes: long article about online incitement in Israel/Palestine only blames Palestinians

— How War Propaganda Keeps on Killing

Rather Than Exposing Propaganda, WaPo Shows How It’s Done

Clearly, the main stream media (MSM) have faithfully pursued their agendas, and those intentions are cynical at best. But we have to address a slightly different question: what about honest, progressive critics of the system? How much of its assumptions do we take for granted? Again, this is a huge, complicated issue having to do with how many of us, with the best of intentions, set ourselves up as gatekeepers so as to channel even righteous rebellion into familiar – and manageable – channels. In a future blog, I’ll address this question in more detail (hint: think false equivalences). For now I’ll use only the most current example, how we try to explain the Trump phenomenon.

Alternet, a reliably progressive news source from which I glean much useful information, posted this excellent article on December 1st: 13 Top Theories for How Trump Won and Why Clinton Lost: What’s Your Theory? I say “excellent” because they offer a comprehensive list ranging from racism, misogyny and working class anger to Clinton’s support of trade deals to James Comey and fake news. But they barely mention the corrupt nature at the core of the whole thing that to me actually made the difference, vote flipping. They still cleave to conventional thinking that anyone versed in political science can understand. But we are not in conventional times.

I think they do this because liberals more than other Americans respond to the internal pressure to believe that the system itself – democracy in America – can still be reformed, that essentially, things as they are, bad as they are, are still the way they’re meant to be. In other words, we are in the realm of myth – not easily identifiable archetypes or heroic images (I’ll go there too in another post), but the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and our profound need to believe in those stories.

Next: going deeper, into the recount.

Fake quotes will ruin the Internet. —Benjamin Franklin

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Barry’s Blog # 184: Trump: Madness, Machines, Migrations and Mythology, Part Six

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes. Everybody knows.

                           – Leonard Cohen

“In a dark time, the eye begins to see,” wrote Theodore Roethke. Now we move from vote stripping (profoundly unethical, but legal) into the fetid slime of criminal, mass vote flipping. Hold your breath, or your nose, and roll in it with me.

For weeks Trump warned that the system is rigged. But the Great Con Man knew perfectly well whom to bet on. Two days before the election he changed the litany, just slightly: “Folks, it’s a rigged system. It’s a rigged system and we’re going to beat it. We’re going to beat it.” dieboldadstalin

A recent Harvard study ranked the U.S. electoral system as the worst in the developed world . But let’s not be too hasty to blame the Republicans. Palast, Fitrakis and Wasserman have convincingly shown that in the primaries the DNC was able to manipulate the vote, all to the detriment of the Sanders campaign.

In State after state, claims Jonathan Simon, author of Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and the New American Century, “The vote counts were more in favor of Clinton than the exit polls, which were more in favor of Bernie Sanders. We saw a very consistent pattern of that.” In Massachusetts, Sanders won all the precincts with hand-counted paper ballots but lost all the ones with electronic voting machines. As we will see, what was going around would come around.

But in this business the Democrats are mere amateurs. The real pros are the Republicans. That the DNC should have lowered itself to such corruption is evidence that they occasionally visit this realm. The Republicans, however, have lived there for decades. The DNC can do its dirty work in the primaries because they control both the process and most of the elected officials and “superdelegates.”

The Republicans, however, have been doing it in every national election since at least the year 2000. How? For decades, they’ve put their resources into “downballot” (state and local, all the way down to school board) elections. As a result, they’ve controlled the gerrymandering process, which has won them about two-thirds of governorships, state assemblies and, most critically, secretaries of state – the people who control the election process in almost every state. These are the people whose people actually count the votes.

Now we must speak about exit polls, which are the State Department’s own “gold standard” used to measure the honesty of – and in several cases – decertify elections in other countries, most recently in Nicaragua and Uganda. Our own Agency for International Development (a well-known front for the CIA) has stated:

Detecting fraud: Exit polls provide data that is generally indicative of how people voted. A discrepancy between the aggregated choices reported by voters and the official results may suggest, but not prove, that results have been tampered with.

I know…simply to contemplate this subject, we must set aside the colossal irony that the U.S., which has bombed nearly fifty sovereign nations since the end of World War Two and destabilized countless others precisely by corrupting their elections, should present itself as the arbiter on human rights and fair elections. And yes, it is a mark of our own innocence that so many well-meaning Americans never question this narrative. Eric Draitser explains why this issue is so important:

…the stealing of the election is relevant because the claim to democracy is, in essence, America’s claim to global leadership, to the righteousness of its own hegemony. To call the democratic façade into question is to undermine the very notion of “American Exceptionalism” which both Wall Street parties so ignominiously proselytize as gospel.

Palast continues:

Exit polling is, historically, deadly accurate. The bane of pre-election polling is that pollsters must adjust for the likelihood of a person voting.  Exit polls solve the problem…In 2000, exit polls gave Al Gore the win in Florida; in 2004, exit polls gave Kerry the win in Ohio…So how could these multi-million-dollar Ph.d-directed statisticians with decades of experience get exit polls so wrong? Answer: they didn’t. The polls in Florida in 2000 were accurate. That’s because exit pollsters can only ask, “How did you vote?” What they don’t ask, and can’t, is, “Was your vote counted?”

In the most egregious example, Ohio’s Secretary of State had complete control of the electronic voting machines and almost certainly flipped the vote in 2004, giving the election to Bush. Do you remember how exit polls showed John Kerry with a huge lead that mysteriously evaporated in the evening after the polls closed?  Do you remember how, at almost exactly the same moment, the U.S. refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Ukrainian election – because of the exit polls?

Do you remember all the controversy surrounding Diebald and its CEO Walden “Wally” O’Dell, who was

… feted as a guest at then-President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch…who pledged to raise more than $100,000 for the Bush reelection campaign. Most memorably, in 2003 O’Dell penned a letter pledging his commitment “to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President.”

Ah, Ohio, as you go so goes the nation. That Secretary of State, the ironically-named African-American Ken Blackwell – who was also Bush’s honorary campaign co-chair as he administered that crucial 2004 election – has been named leader of Trump’s transition team for domestic issues.

Wisconsin, a more liberal state saddled with a Republican governor, is another terrible example.

So let’s look at some of the most important 2016 results. Consider the eight swing states with at least ten electoral votes:

State      Winner       Votes         %     Governor

Ariz.       Trump          11        50-45      R

Fla.         Trump          29       49-48      R

Mich.      Trump          16       48-47      R

N.C.        Trump           15       51-47       R

Ohio       Trump           18       52-44      R

Penn.     Trump           20       49-48     D

Virg.       Clinton          13       50-45      D

Wisc.     Trump             10      48-47    R

Note several things:

1 – Six of the states have Republican governors and Secretaries of State.

2 – Trump won all six states.

3 – Clinton won one state, and its governor is a Democrat.

4 – Trump won one state with a Democratic Governor, Pennsylvania, by one percent.

5 – He won four of them – Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – by one percent. Granted, this is not even circumstantial evidence of anything. But we have to understand these figures in the context of vote flipping.

6 – Hundreds of thousands of voters (primarily Black) were purged in those states, perhaps 300,000 in Wisconsin alone.

7 – Finally, consider the exit polls.

We can never know how many people went into booths in those states, voted for Clinton on electronic machines, left the building and told a professional poll taker whom they’d voted for, but whose vote, unknown to them, was then flipped. This was precisely the case in Ohio in 2004, and I see absolutely no reason to assume that the Republicans didn’t do it again, everywhere they could.

Indeed, according to Jonathan Simon, Clinton’s Florida lead in exit polls was 1.3% but she lost by 1.3%, a 2.6% shift. In North Carolina her exit poll margin was 2.1%, but the final vote count showed Trump with a 3.8% lead. She had a 4.4% lead in Pennsylvania but she lost by 1.2%, a 5.6% shift. The North Carolina and Pennsylvania shifts – 5.6% – are way outside the margin of error and therefore very unlikely to occur by chance. Altogether, exit polls were conducted in 28 states. In 23 of them the discrepancies between the exit polls and the vote count favored Trump. In 13 of them those discrepancies exceeded the margin of error.

So why don’t we hear more about about this? Consider Edison Research, the company contracted by major media outlets to conduct exit polling on US elections. Joe Lenski, its executive vice president, candidly admits that Edison massages its exit poll data once official vote counts have been released to align the exit poll numbers with the electronic vote totals. Indeed, the whole argument about vote flipping is possible only because many researchers have been able to post those exit polls before Edison can change them.

If you’ve read this far and remain skeptical, you may be taking the conventional stance that flipping is impossible because the voting machines are not connected to the Internet. Well, this has nothing to do with the Internet – and therefore with “Russian hackers.” It has everything to do with who actually, physically, has possession of the machines, and in almost all those states it was Republican Secretaries of State.

Manipulation occurs at two levels, on-site and post-voting. One cybersecurity analyst explains:

 …in-person manipulation is possible. Some machines are vulnerable, due to accessible ports where a hacker could plug a laptop or smartphone to add fake votes. The Sequoia AVC Edge machines feature a yellow “Activate” button on the back that can allow user to enter multiple ballots at a time. Nevada has employed these systems statewide, while Louisiana did the same with early voting without backup paper records…“It’s the technical equivalent to stuffing a voter box,” Scott said. “You can tap that as many times, for as many votes as you want to give the person.”…To exploit the tactics, a perpetrator would need access to a voter machine for an extended period of time, which is possible given background checks for election officials and poll workers aren’t a national requirement.

Wisconsin, by the way, uses machines that have been banned in California precisely because they are easy to tamper with. Other machines come with special “ballot protection” software to prevent this sort of thing. But, says Palast, in Ohio, the Secretary of State gave specific instructions to disable that software.

Another professional admits:

 …after the votes are collected…The results go from that machine into a piece of electronics that takes it to the central counting place…That data is not encrypted and that’s vulnerable for manipulation…more than 40 states are using voting machines that are at least 10 years old…the more than 9,000 voting districts across the country all have different ways of running their elections — down to the type of machine they use…only 60 percent of states routinely conduct audits post-election by checking paper trails. But not all states even have paper records…

Then we have the issue of early voting. Bill Palmer points out that seventy percent of Florida’s nine million voters voted early, and that exit polls showed her with a lead so massive that it was “mathematically insurmountable,” except of course for the possibility of fraud.

Before we go on, it bears repeating that this is precisely what the Democratic power structure did to Bernie Sanders, and it may help explain why Clinton (see below) was so reluctant to join Jill Stein in pressing for recounts.

In any event: for all the reasons we’ve listed above why Clinton was such a terrible candidate and her Wall Street sponsors so responsible for so much human misery, she still actually won the election, not just the popular vote.

About those exit polls and the Myth of Innocence: almost everything that the various progressive writers and authorities whom I’ve been quoting throughout these essays comes from careful study of the exit polls. However, with the exception of Palast, Simon, Mark  Miller, Fitrakis and Wasserman, very few of them have commented on the absolutely crucial discrepancies between those polls and the official count. I can only imagine a few possibilities. Either they really didn’t notice, despite Palast’s constant presence on Pacifica Radio, or they don’t believe that the discrepancies are important – or cognitive dissonance has set in.

I have long argued that liberals are subject to the myth of innocence at least as much as conservatives, and this is a prime example. Despite over fifty years of evidence from our first military coup (the first Kennedy assassination) onward past several October Surprises, past the second (9-11), past all the “false flag”terror events, the vast majority of liberal and progressive pundits have cleaved to the childish notion that American elections are fair, or at least that cheating is a minor aspect.

Worse, they have become gatekeepers of the truth who have often joined with conservatives to marginalize those who question our dominant narrative: It can’t happen here – this is America! To begin to question any aspect of the story we tell ourselves about ourselves is to open the door to the possibility that the entire story – and our own identity – is built on un-solid ground.

Let’s go deeper.

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Barry’s Blog # 183: Trump: Madness, Machines, Migrations and Mythology, Part Five

“Stripping and Flipping” — Voter Suppression and Computer Fraud

The Democrats were defeated because of their own insolent incompetence, because of our antiquated electoral college system and because race is still the dominant factor in American life. That said, Clinton won more than the popular vote, and by over two million. She almost certainly won the Electoral College as well.

To go deeper, we have to get apocalyptic (to lift the veil from our eyes) and understand the dark side of our electoral system. Already in March of this year Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman warned of “Disturbing signs of the time-tested ‘Strip and Flip’ strategy for stealing elections”:

The core approach is to STRIP citizens of their voting rights, then FLIP the electronic vote count if that’s not enough to guarantee a win for the corporate 1%…Historically, “stripping” has been based on race. It’s rooted in the divide-and-conquer strategies of slavery and Jim Crow segregation. Today it centers on racist demands for photo ID and other scams designed to prevent blacks, Hispanics, the young and the poor from voting.

Why did industrial swing states (see below) won by Obama flip to Trump? Clearly, African-Americans and other progressives stayed home because Clinton couldn’t motivate them as he had, and some of his white supporters went to Trump.

Those innocents who naively believe the narrative of fair elections probably assume that this explains everything.

Damn the conventional wisdom. We may well find the answer in pursuing another question: Why, despite the polls favoring Clinton, did the vast majority of high-rolling, last-minute gamblers bet on Trump?

Yes, this was reported in the media, but no one seems to have paid it much attention, except for other gamblers. Before you cast the conspiracy theory hood over me (the conventional means of shutting down discussions), shouldn’t we ask what these pros knew? Did they think that the FBI revelations would sway large numbers of voters? Or did they know that millions of people would not be able to vote – or that their votes would not be counted? We might also ask, as Fitrakis and Wasserman do:

Those who dismiss such warnings as “conspiracy theory” might confront this simple question: “How will the electronic vote count in the 2016 election be verified?” The answer is simple: “It can’t be.”

In 2010, I wrote this in Chapter Ten of my book:

The U.S. is the only democracy that disenfranchises felons, over five million people, two million of whom are black. This simple fact has utterly determined the course of recent history. The more African-Americans a state contains, the more likely it is to ban felons. The average state disenfranchises 2.4 percent of its voting-age population but 8.4 percent of blacks. In fourteen states, the share of blacks stripped of the vote exceeds ten percent, and in five states it exceeds twenty percent. While seventy-five percent of whites register, only sixty percent of blacks can. Seven Republican senators owe their election to these laws. Had felons been allowed to vote in 2000, Al Gore’s popular vote margin would have doubled to a million. If Florida had allowed just ex-felons to vote, he would have carried the state by 30,000 votes and with it the presidency.

Since then, the number of disenfranchised voters has risen considerably. voterid-001-701x467 The vast majority of them are poor, working and incarcerated people, and had they been allowed to participate, they certainly would have propelled Democrats into landslide victories with progressive mandates. And this condition existed before the Supreme Court disemboweled the Voting Rights Act. This election was the first in fifty years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, and the numbers of the disenfranchised are certainly only the tip of the iceberg.

These numbers do not include Americans residing in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands, all of whom are considered U.S. nationals, not citizens and can vote in primaries but not the general election. This is an aggregate population of nearly four million people – nearly all of them people of color.

They are part of a much larger group, those who for all reasons are ineligible to vote, including prisoners and college students on campuses not in their home districts. The adult population according to Wikipedia is 245 million, and 220 million are eligible to vote (about half of whom actually do). This results in a staggering number: some fifteen to twenty million American adults are not allowed to vote. votersuppression_infog-2_700 But many of them once could vote and have been stripped – quite deliberately, in Republican-controlled states – of their legitimate rights. Two articles by Greg Palast, here and here, show the grim details and the astonishing numbers of voter suppression in America.

Because of the Supreme Court ruling, fourteen states had restrictive new voting laws on the books this year: Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. map_0Almost all of them saw decreased turnout and went to Trump, with the exception of tiny New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Virginia. These last three states are the only ones of the fourteen with Democratic governors. More on this later. Much more.

The liberal post-election narrative wants to blame African-Americans for Clinton’s loss. Clearly, thousands of them could not stomach voting for her. But those who retained their eligibility this year found it much harder to vote even if they wanted to.

In one of many examples, the changes to the Voting Act allowed the worst offending states to reduce the number of polling places by nearly nine hundred. In several states this means that people of color (most assuredly not white suburban voters) had to drive long distances in order to stand in line for several hours. Such scenes were repeated in African-American precincts in most of the swing states.

And when they finally got inside, hundreds of thousands – perhaps millions, according to Palast – learned that they would not be allowed to vote. tried-to-vote

Shall we go even deeper?

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