What’s the Recount All About?

Listening to the Sunday morning new shows this past weekend, it appeared to me that the pending or potential recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania were shrouded in mystery. Perhaps you might like a bit of light cast on the subject?

To begin, let’s be very clear. The recount process is NOT about determining who voted legitimately or not but solely about determining whether all votes were tabulated and counted accurately.

Let’s start with the obvious questions.

FIRST: Why Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania?

[1] Historically, those states have been predictably Democratic and would likely be close and thus might have been deliberately chosen as targets of a possible “fiddle” by someone so disposed;

[2] The aggregate popular vote margin in those States was about 100,000 and therefore could be decisive. IF the popular margin was reversed in each of the three states, the Electoral College result instead would be 278 for Clinton and 260 for Trump;

[3] Several comparable counties in all three states produced seemingly conflicting results—for example, adjacent counties that historically have had very similar voting patterns apparently showed surprisingly different results—which is what led some computer geniuses to have serious questions about possible explanations for that disparity.

SECOND: Could the system have been fiddled?  I am NOT remotely a computer expert, but I can understand when intelligent people speak English and explain in simple terms. Given the fact that such “fiddlers” would likely be of Moscow and New York Philharmonic standards, here are the possibilities:

[1] Hackers might have targeted the voting machines. Modern voting machines (though not all are alike) are vulnerable to a hack that could produce phony results. In some areas, votes are first recorded on paper and then ballots are fed into machines for tabulation. Functioning as properly intended, a machine accurately logs all votes as they are expressed on the paper ballots. If such a voting machine had been hacked, it could have taken in ballots as usual but simply returned an inaccurate count.

In other areas, votes are input directly (without paper) into the machine, which prints a sort of “receipt” intended to serve as a confirmation for the voter. Because the accumulation and counting of votes is still performed by the machine itself, it would be possible that a hacked system could log a different vote than the input while still printing a receipt that indicates that it was functioning correctly.

Any direct assaults on all voting machines would have taken a great deal of careful coordination and could not have been easily tailored to the specific needs of a particular election without arousing significant suspicion. But given a very high level of sophistication, such an attack could leave no trace beyond a discrepancy between paper ballots and electronic vote tallies.

Broadly viewed, hacking of voting machines is widely regarded as the most complex method to have been employed and is thus the least likely?

[2] Hackers could have attacked the transmission of voting results. Assuming that voting machines were not hacked, the most likely “fiddle” would be to alter the vote count during transmission from one official database to another. Such an attack could be perpetrated by a single person, even one in a foreign country, and because interim tallies would be evident to the hacker, a more precise manipulation would be possible even as the initial counting was still underway. Such manipulation could have been simple as adding or subtracting a few 1’s or 0’s. Evidently, such interventions can be almost impossible to trace or even detect. However, such a manipulation would be evident from looking at all voting machines again and the paper ballots and comparing those to the final original tally.

If the voting machines and/or the computers that reported the original “official” final tallies had been hacked, there inevitably would be a disparity between the vote as originally recorded and as tabulated in a recount.

Why was the Clinton campaign initially reluctant to ask for a simple recount, which is legally normal and permissible, to prove or disprove the possibility of a disruption? Nothing like this has ever happened before and possibly, in the moment, the Clinton campaign was so shocked that they were simply asleep at the switch.

Her concession, exhaustion, and desire to heal surely were part of why Clinton initially did not get involved. Whatever Clinton’s reasons, it was left to the Green Party’s Jill Stein to ask to shore up the integrity of the election process. She raised the requisite amount of money in a just couple of days, (itself an amazing occurrence) and has begun the recount process, perhaps to assuage whatever guilt she might feel for potentially having played spoiler.

What happens next? The simple recount process should not take long. For many reasons, this is not like Florida in 2000—this recount more resembles a straightforward routine audit.

Most likely nothing notable will change and we can then all breathe a sigh of relief that our election system is still intact, even if we are unhappy with the result.

But if the recount numbers are clear and reverse the outcome in all of those three states, we will be in completely uncharted territory. And the question of WHO was behind such a hack will become central. There will certainly be serious political consequences for America and the world.

Either way, a recount will ensure that the sanctity of our election process has been preserved.

At the end of every Election Day, that is the bedrock of DEMOCRACY!


Six No-Trump

Now that we have woken up to the fact that we indeed needed to wake up, we should ask what on earth we have woken up to.

Perhaps we will be watching the equivalent of a game of bridge or poker over the next few years, and we will have to try to figure it out. In bridge, a hand with five trump cards is necessary for an opening bid. In poker, five cards of the same suit are called a flush. Both hands are sure openers in their respective game. Neither is quite a full house or a slam, but each is enough to win a contract or a hand. More will be needed to win a game, but for now the only thing I see for sure are five different Trumps.

A first Trump is a thin-skinned egoist who desperately needs constant attention, adoration, and validation. He responds only to attention and flattery, a trait that makes him malleable, inclined to agree with the last person to whisper in his ear. Politicians normally need thick skins and the ability to sort through a lot of conflicting viewpoints. If any aspect of Trump is truest, it is surely this one, which makes him and the country very vulnerable.

A second Trump is a blowhard, pompous pitch artist with no regard for the difference between fact and fiction. This may be the most dangerous Trump because he, himself, so often seems to believe whatever he says as he, knowingly or unknowingly, misleads all who come within earshot, whether they are friend or foe.

A third Trump is a man with an exceptional schnozzle, a remarkable ability to sniff out what is going on in the heads of others. His wonderful nose may have made him a good negotiator in business, but it remains to be seen how well this Trump will perform on the world stage. Different cultures and languages often confuse even the best noses.

A fourth Trump is cruel, a bully willing to hit on anyone or anything. This Trump mocked a disabled reporter, the parents of a Muslim American soldier, and a war-hero Senator, among others. He is not only hateful, disagreeable, and destructive, he has no redeeming qualities.

A fifth Trump can be practical, personable, and capable. Look at his transcript from his day at the New York Times, which is very much worth reading in its entirety. The fact that he reversed many of his early worst positions in front of that audience should not be dismissed out of hand simply because he was so wrong earlier. So far, there is some good news. But it remains to be seen if this Trump can remain in control.

Remember the movie, a few years back, called All About Eve. Eve had three quite distinct personalities and moved between them seamlessly, without even being aware of the changes. The more we have seen of Trump over the past two years, the more Trumps we see. Whenever he appears, we can never be sure which one will show up, and it is obvious that he hardly is aware of his multiple personalities.

A case can be made that this unpredictability keeps the public alert and interested while leaving competitors and adversaries uncertain. Trump said many times during the campaign that he favored preserving the element of surprise. If that is what he is up to, perhaps he can make it work with some people, issues, and places. We can only hope.

But the global and domestic economies are built on a structure with three legs—dependability, reliability, and predictability. The free-market system, that Trump loves, needs all three of those legs all the time, if it is to function properly. People need to count on a manageable future, if they are going to make the investments necessary and essential to create and sustain economic growth.

In terms of the president-elect’s bridge game, his no-trump bids are likely to be most effective. Spades should help with infrastructure; diamonds will surely be for his daughter, and hearts for the rest of his family. And he will certainly be willing to use Clubs on his enemies!

In terms of his poker game, the question is where his Full House will be –DC or Fifth Ave—and whether or not he can manage the House not to mention the Senate. He will struggle with Straights in dealing with his business conflicts. And it is likely that he will only grow more Flush with the increased value of his global brand.

It would surely be easier, if this all was really just a game.

By Dawn’s Early Light

A little over a year ago, as Barack Obama fielded questions about the possibility that a Republican candidate would undo the progress he had made on combatting global warming, the president told a reporter that he was “confident in the wisdom of the American people.”

It is a sentiment that has been echoed by all manner of political actors throughout the history of America: “Do not ever sell America short!” But this election raises serious new questions about whether we can/should trust the wisdom of Americans, even taken as a whole over time.

Consider that, according to a CBS News exit poll, about a quarter of Trump voters consider him not qualified to be President. In contrast, only five percent of Clinton supporters thought she was not qualified to be President.

The question those facts  confront us with is this: how could about 15 million people vote for a man who they said was not qualified to do the job they were electing him to do?

And if one adds the 100 or so million people qualified to vote but chose not to vote for any Presidential candidate to the 60,000,000 voters for Clinton, Trump won only about 25 percent of possible voters in America. Given Clinton’s approximately 2 million vote margin in the popular vote, it seems to me that Trump has no more than a thin reed of a mandate to radically reverse decades of slow and painful process for America to adjust to a shrinking and changing world.

One man with whom I spoke five days before the election told me that he could not stand either candidate, but felt that “the system” could better contain Trump’s flaws. After all, he said, Hillary Clinton has been and is still the system. Trump’s voters, particularly those who believe he is unqualified or dishonest, clearly voted against the system that Clinton represented, as did, albeit in an indirect way, the 42 percent of eligible voters who stayed home on Election Day.

The standard “elite” line here would be to say that those non-voters are dopes, deplorable, or not nearly informed enough to make a reasonable decision.  It would also be pointed out that Trump will be hard pressed to be able to bring back the jobs he has promised to bring back, his infrastructure plan seems more to benefit his friends than meet crucial needs, and that he has already begun to build his White House team primarily with loyalists and hard-liners. All that is hard to grasp, but maybe that is what it takes to get us elites off our butts.

Is it possible that a lot of his supporters never cared whether he was competent? Were they really electing him to do the job of the President? Or was Trump more a fantasy than a man, his victory little more than a symbol of his voters’ desperate desire for change? Were they still mesmerized and confused by his reality TV show?

Is it still possible that Trump may be a sign of a deep, well-kept secret wisdom held by the American people? Perhaps, we elites are blind to the fact that our system may, in fact, be fundamentally broken. Perhaps, by ourselves alone, we elites might never have seen that reality and the underlying wisdom of the American people was simply to wake us all up!

It may also be possible that Trump is proof of a deep, underlying bigotry in America. Or maybe his election is really a canary in our metaphysical coal mine, a sign that we can no longer count on genuine FACTS or TRUTH to guide us safely through history. How do we solve the dangers of fake news rampaging through the echo chamber of social media, propagating fiction as truth?

If there is good to be seen in this dawn’s early light, it may be that despite all the signs, the American people might yet turn out to be quite wise in a way that is not yet quite clear.

Hopefully we–all of America—may yet wake up and pull ourselves up by our legendary bootstraps to deal with our broken system, and emerge on the other side of the next four years without sliding into bankruptcy or autocracy.

Hopefully, the Stars and Stripes will still stream above the ramparts, though it may be full of rips and holes that must be quickly mended.

Situational Depression

Beware! The first signs of something both personally and nationally troubling are beginning to emerge.

While Hillary Clinton was not universally loved by the people who voted for her, the expectation of a Clinton victory was so widespread that the actual results sparked serious anxiety and fear, both of which are widespread and growing.

The symptoms—and I see some in myself—are loss of energy, loss of hope in the future, and fear of the unknown. None of this is unusual and should have been more expected. How long it may last and what to do about it do not lend themselves to easy answers.

If you feel lethargic and want to stay in bed with the covers over your head; if your appetite is waning; if you do not have the energy to go see a movie you had wanted to see; if you have one more commiserating phone call with a fellow traveler; if you have begun to cancel plans a few weeks out; even if your retirement portfolio went up by 3% after the election and you feel both guilty and befuddled—these and many other similar symptoms are clearly signs of your situational depression.

THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NORMAL. Do not stress out over these symptoms. They are to be expected in some degree by all normal people.

The first thing to do about this is to simply recognize this for what it is. What you are worried about is real and should be worried about, but dipping too deep into your worry can not only make you feel worse but could lead to a serious capitulation of national political will.

I recently recommended a new book called Hitler’s Ascent. I am not saying Trump is the same as Hitler (though there are similarities) but when Hitler was finally elected in 1932, the German leadership population withdrew in horror and disbelief. If they had stood their ground, the world today probably would be a different place.

We must gather our skirts and start carefully to ENGAGE in serious steps to rebuild our own hopes, plans, and expectations. All the same, we have time to think about what we might do with our time and money to support long term rebuilding of the centrist political activities necessary to having lively and attractive alternatives to Washington-based programs.

It will be a tough time for several years, and those of us over 80 may never see a rational national government again. But our descendants should not and cannot submit to hopelessness.

Calm, rational centrist David Brooks predicted a few days ago that Trump would be gone in a year. I have no idea how he came up with that. But even if he is right, that alone will not wipe the slate clean.

We have to get new leadership in the Democratic Party and new candidates for the House and Senate in 2018. That alone should keep a lot of us busy.


What to do?

Quite a few readers have asked a fair question. “What can ‘lil old me’ do now to try to help ameliorate the post-election blues?”

1-    Do NOT wallow in what-ifs. They do not help.

2-    Identify and “adopt” a non-college educated person—from your home town or wherever and seriously try to get to know him/her. You will both soon discover that you pull your pants on one leg at a time.

3-    Identify and adopt a high school kid and encourage and advise and help him/her find and go to college and stay with it.

4-    Pay your taxes on time and send a letter to the WH saying: “I just paid my taxes. Did you? And when will we see your tax returns?”

5-    Talk to strangers on buses and trains and share your hopes and dreams.

6-    Join your favorite public interest organization—say, global warming—and get more involved and try to reduce your carbon foot print!

7-    Do not let the crude adage “getting rich is the best revenge” mislead you. You need to double down on your public engagement.

8-    When you hear of someone in trouble, see if there is something you can do to help. Stand up against racism, sexism and every other -ism that stains our nation

9-     Start now to help one or more Senators in their reelection or election hopes in 2018. 24 Democrats need to be reelected and 8 Republicans. Switching 4 Republicans would make a giant difference to the future of the Supreme Court in particular.

10-     Identify and get seriously involved in the career of a current member of the House of Representatives around age 35 who you think has promise as a national leader.

If you can self-direct yourself into doing any reasonable part of this list –think what nearly 60,000,000 like-minded people might accomplish for the country and the world.

That is why this wakeup call ‘could’ prove to have been useful in due course.

All that said, at the first signs of any pre WWII-style arbitrary misuses of power, all hopeful bets have to be dropped immediately, and David Brooks prediction today in the NY Times that Trump may be gone in a year may be right? So be prepared for that crisis too.


Apples and Apple Carts

I have been chewing over yesterday’s thoughts and have a few additions that might help some folks deal with the amazing overturn of our national apple cart.

First: We are certainly the first large country in the world to have an election decided by such a narrow margin to be able (so far) to have a peaceful transition. We should be proud and happy that our DEMOCRACY—with all its faults—can WORK to avoid serious social /political disruptions!

Second: It is already clear that the Clinton campaign made a massive, fundamental error. They featured her 30 years of experience in helping to run the country, when that simply painted the bull’s eye on her as the problem. That is to say that, she was the perfect poster child for dysfunctional government. Right or wrong, the way many people see things today is that a continuation of the status quo simply meant more stagnation and gridlock. Bernie Sanders proved that but she never ‘got it’. And amazingly, 60% of those who voted for Trump told the exit polls they did not believe he was fit to be President. Hopefully, he will hear that and take it to heart and mind and compensate?

Third: This may have been the last election in our history in which whites, almost exclusively, dictated the outcome. The demographics of this nation are changing, and the Democrats depended on Obama’s coalition to bolster Clinton’s numbers. Perversely, there was backlash and that did not work.  Everyone thought women everywhere would be so outraged by Trump’s misogyny that women would vote heavily against him. If women had voted according to that expectation, the outcome would have been different. Racism is still active and alive and looks to be more powerful than sexism.

Fourth: A man I met a week ago—well educated, very successful, and at 58 about to run the Marine Corps marathon—said he was voting for Trump. I was astonished and asked why. He said “I can’t stand either of them, but I can’t stand her more. And I believe the system can manage him better than it could manage her.” I queried him as to how. His answer was that the military would never execute his orders if he was wrong. I still doubt that seriously, but now I think I get the other part of his point. Since she is from the system, he did not see ‘that system’ as being capable of reining her in. He had a point there.

Fifth: Correct or incorrect, a lot of people “out there” felt they are left out, looked down on, and not getting their fair share because Washington is not working for them. No doubt when that happened in primitive times, people who felt that way took matters into their own hands and upset the applecart in the weekly market place to get their apple. That pretty much is what is happening. And the devil takes the hind most.

Sixth: The biggest risk today is that the Supreme Court could become stacked for 20 or more years. Let’s hope the oldies stay healthy until 2018 and then the Democrats must regain control of the Senate and can reverse the Republican waiting game! Start digging deep for that goal NOW!

In one sense, I think most of the 120 million people who voted would agree [if they ever thought about it much] that there are a lot of major forces at work in our lives that no government can do much about—globalization of economics, global warming, global and regional conflicts that effect national security, and the changing composition of our own population. We may simply have to learn to manage and live with those realities that are, as Milton Berle liked to say, ‘bigger than all of us’.

Perhaps –even though Trump did not win the legitimizing flag of a plurality of the popular vote by over 200,000 votes nationally—upsetting the apple cart might yet turn out to have been a surprisingly healthy wakeup call. It forces us to address the state of our politics and the engagement of our electorate in a very new way.

While that may be difficult to see clearly today, it should make us stronger and safer in the long run.

Bush II left us with some terrible legacies- in life and purse; Trump will no doubt do some of the same which we must deplore and work to avoid.

But, remember an apple a day is said to keep the doctor away!

‘Good’ Mourning?

What creatures of habit we are? Everyone I saw this morning en route to my office spoke those words –I assume without the ‘u’. Is that a good sign? Yes, life goes on and we will survive. Six observations follow.

First: Perhaps a real Trump may now emerge from his ‘reality’ campaign ‘Trump persona’  and say “I really did not like a lot of what I saw of myself during the campaign, but that is what it took to get your attention and support. Now I promise you will begin to see the real me, who truly believes I can get things done for ALL the American people AND uphold our long held beliefs in fairness and honor. I will make Washington work for the first time in a long time. Give me a chance.”

—Am I dreaming or what? Has the alarm just gone off?

Second: Clinton presented her secretive, hectoring personality to a ‘deplorable’ public. And sadly, in many ways she got back what she gave, BUT not what we the people deserved. As it turns out our “system” gave us the worst possible candidate except for the one worse that we came to believe was the only one she could beat. This did not have to be. Her hubris based on her long self-fulfilling career prevented her from not hearing and acting on the best advice from all but her ‘clinging’ true believers who never ‘got it’ about what was going on out there in the sparse countryside.

Third: We so-called elites put too much faith in our view of realism, rationality and reasonableness. What happened was beyond our capacity to anticipate. We now have to cleverly use our best tools to adapt, manage and come to understand finally the anger and distrust about ‘our’ system that we allegedly control.

If we had controlled the ‘system’ –which we did not—then it would be all our fault. Remember, what the Republicans did just after the election in 2008, when they pledged to hobble Obama. Finally they succeeded! And, they managed to pin the tail on our donkey.

Fourth: I remember Wolman Rink in central park in NY that some 20 years ago Trump fixed for NYC in several months after years of failure by the City. He succeeded where the City had failed because he got ALL the rules and regulations SUSPENDED. Unfortunately the country and world he now faces are a bit more complicated than an ice rink.

Fifth: Perhaps Trump will compensate for his lack of knowledge and attention span by using whatever talent he can recruit. Hopefully, as he is NOT a conventional conservative, he may surprise some people and turn out to be a productive contrarian.

Sixth: Trump’s present economic plan would almost surely quickly bankrupt the country. We can only hope when that reality hits him and his team they will rethink that plan. In the meanwhile we all need to go back to work and turn out our daily dozen.

Tears, anger and remorse do not help. It is what it is. It is hard to remember a bigger shock in my life than Pearl Harbor.  I think this is harder because we are our own worst enemy and it was easier to build a lot of planes and tanks than it will be to conjure trust out of thin air.

And I beg the Generals and Admirals to do what they can to independently watch carefully when he reaches out to put his fingers on buttons in a moment of pique.

It takes a lot of curiosity, blind faith and living optimism to find any good in today’s mourning news.  To do that we need to help align all three sectors –government, not for profit and for profit—in such a way as to find rational answers to all of societies’ most difficult problems.

The good news is that we have had an amazing wakeup call and now we have to redouble our belief in our future, and triple our efforts to make that future better than a lot of us mourningfully expect now.