Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Election recounts -- every (Democratic) vote counts

Jill Stein is pushing for Presidential election recounts in three states. The publicly stated reason for the recounts is to make sure "every vote is counted," with claims of hacked voting machines.

However, the goal here is obviously not to make sure all votes are counted. To truly do that all 50 states should be recounted. The goal here is simply to overturn the election and prevent Donald Trump from becoming President.

Notice that the three recount states are just enough electoral college votes to bring Mr. Trump under 270 electoral votes (assuming the recounts switch the result in both states). Also note there are no demands for a recount in New Hampshire, which Mrs. Clinton won by 0.4%. If it's really "every vote counts," recount demands should be based on how close the result is in a state regardless of who won.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Political Extremes

Donald Trump's first cabinet nominations have been announced and the criticism is starting. While some might be justified, to some degree it appears to be criticism just because Donald Trump made the nomination.

Several years ago after watching conservatives attack Barack Obama's proposals, including some which were originally Republican proposals, it seemed they were criticizing everything the President was doing. My thought at the time was if Barack Obama were to propose the Republican Party platform verbatim, the Republicans would actively fight it.

Today after listening to some of the criticism it occurred to me that Donald Trump could really mess with the Democrats by proposing to nominate Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to cabinet posts. One can imagine the furor over such nominations, with one camp trying to decide Trump's secret plan, and the other camp trying to destroy the reputations of Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders since they must secretly favor Mr. Trump's policies.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

And the press goes crazy

One of the big news stories the past day is that Donald Trump had the audacity to go out to dinner without telling the press.

Apparently the press feels it has a first amendment right to know the President-elect's every action and follow him wherever he goes.

They also complain that he isn't giving them a "readout" of his calls with foreign leaders. I've read a number of "readouts" issued by the State Department or the White House. They're uniformly boring and provide little useful information. But apparently the press expects such things.

By odd coincidence, four years ago President-elect Barack Obama did the same thing. He visited Sea Life Park in Hawaii with his daughters after telling the press pool that "there would be no further events" that day. Yet the press didn't seem to feel this was a major threat to their ability to do their job.

While the travelling press pool claims it is a "vital service in a functioning democracy," insisting that the President-elect telegraph his every movement and action seems excessive.

Friday, November 11, 2016

What to do with Hillary?

Now that the election is over, what happens with Hillary Clinton. During the campaign Donald Trump promised to prosecute her for her email server. There are accusations of influence pedaling and other abuses of power.

It appears clear that Mrs. Clinton broke the law. Several ordinary people have been prosecuted and jailed for lesser violations of classified document rules. By this standard, she ought to be prosecuted.

However, I think any attempt by a new Trump administration to prosecute Mrs. Clinton would be a mistake. The email scandal was driven by political considerations. Opinions on whether to prosecute, and even whether there was any misuse of power, were driven by politics -- the left feels she's innocent, the right she's guilty. Any prosecution of Mrs. Clinton next year will look more like a vendetta than a quest for justice.

So what to do? Mr. Trump should not push any prosecution of Mrs. Clinton. At most he should publicly state that he is leaving the prosecution to career FBI and Justice Department personnel and stay out of it. However, there's no way he could do that without claims he's secretly driving the prosecution behind the scenes. So Mr. Trump should stop any prosecution of Mrs. Clinton unless some new revelations demand it. Perhaps state that she'll be prosecuted when Democratic leadership in Congress demands it (implying a truly bipartisan outrage).

There is another option open to Mr. Trump which I thought of this morning. It will avoid discord over Mrs. Clinton's alleged crimes (whether conservatives wanting to "lock her up" or liberals decrying a political vendetta) and allow the country to move on. Donald Trump could instead take a page from the Watergate scandal and pardon Mrs. Clinton for any past crimes. This avoids any future complaints about political vendettas while leaving the country with the message "she's guilty".

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Sore losers

The reaction against the election of Donald Trump has been fast and occasionally violent. Many cannot conceive of Mr. Trump as president for any number of reasons.

Now somebody is pushing a last ditch attempt to defeat Mr. Trump. A petition has been started at Note this is an individual who started the petition, MoveOn is not supporting it (at least not officially).

This petition asks the electoral college not to vote for Donald Trump (and by implication to vote for Hillary Clinton). It gives two reasons. One might be considered valid, Mrs Clinton won the popular vote by a small margin and the petition argues that she should become president. The second argument is that Mr. Trump is an "authoritarian" figure and a "threat to democracy", so doesn't deserve to take office. This second argument, of course, is strictly political. Liberals will recite how George W. Bush abused the presidency, and conservatives how Barack Obama did the same. Without having exercised any presidential power we're told Donald Trump is authoritarian and will run roughshod over the Constitution (again, there are conservatives who would claim the same of Hillary Clinton).

Yet what happens if the Electoral College actually followed this petition? Suppose 50 odd members voted for Hillary Clinton against Mr. Trump (so she got the majority). Would this be our system at work or would it spark one of the biggest constitutional crises in the history of the nation? It could actually create the third Obama term conservatives claim he wants by tying the election up in the courts for the next four years.

Another option would be for a number of Electoral College votes to go to some other candidate (e.g. Gary Johnson or Jill Stein). There is precedent for this, the odd vote has gone to a third party candidate in the past though it hasn't affected the result of the election. If enough votes go to a third party the election would be thrown in to the House of Representatives. Again, a constitutional crisis. While elections have gone to the House in the past, it's never been because electors vote against the voters of their state.

Regardless, this petition, as with the protests, is a case of sore losers. People can't accept the fact that Donald Trump has been elected. There has been so much anti-Trump rhetoric (some true, much false or exaggerated) that there are people who can't imagine living under a Trump presidency. However, the election is over and the results are in. Asking Electoral College members to ignore the wishes of their state's voters seems a "threat to democracy" in a different sense.

It's time for people to accept the results of the election and let Mr. Trump get on with the presidential transition. If Mr. Trump acts in an authoritarian manner after he's in office then he should be impeached. This follows both the Constitution and the traditions of the nation. Of course, "authoritarian" is a matter of opinion, but if Mr. Trump is really that bad the Republicans ought to be happy to give us President Pence instead.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Citizenship and parental sex

The Supreme Court heard a case today about a man with a citizen father, non-citizen mother, born outside the United States in 1962. Apparently the law at the time would give him automatic citizenship if his mother were the citizen, but not when his father is the citizen.

I find this interesting remembering back to the "birther" arguments against President Obama's citizenship. One of the theories promoted was the Mr. Obama was actually born in Kenya, and he wouldn't be a citizen because his mother was married to a non-citizen. I remember arguments that a citizen father married to a non-citizen would confer more rights to his child, the opposite of the case today.

Reading further down the linked post, it appears that my memory was faulty, a citizen of either sex married to a non-citizen had a limited ability to confer citizenship on a child born overseas. This brings up an interesting unintended consequence of the old law. If a woman became pregnant while overseas and couldn't get back to the United States for the birth, it would be better to have the child out of wedlock (giving citizenship) than to be married (citizenship not given).

Looking further at a preview of this case we see the can of worms resulting from the citizenship question. The person in question has been a legal US resident for 40 years. Due to a criminal record the government now wants to deport him and he (wanting to stay in the United States) argues he should be a citizen.

What to conclude from this case? First, obviously, is don't commit crimes. Second, apply to be a citizen. In particular, being a permanent resident of the United States is not the same as citizenship. A permanent resident is still a guest in the country and is open to deportation if residency is abused.