Supporting the election audit – Nate Silver @ 538

Why I Support An Election Audit, Even Though It’s Unlikely To Change The Outcome

But that doesn’t mean I take some sort of philosophical stance against a recount or an audit of elections returns, or that other people at FiveThirtyEight do. Such efforts might make sense, with a couple of provisos.

The first proviso: Let’s not call it a “recount,” because that’s not really what it is. It’s not as though merely counting the ballots a second or third time is likely to change the results enough to overturn the outcome in three states. An apparent win by a few dozen or a few hundred votes might be reversed by an ordinary recount. But Donald Trump’s margins, as of this writing, are roughly 11,000 votes in Michigan, 23,000 votes in Wisconsin and 68,000 votes in Pennsylvania. There’s no precedent for a recount overturning margins like those or anything close to them. Instead, the question is whether there was a massive, systematic effort to manipulate the results of the election.

One writer’s take on Christmas

In reply to the question on Quora: “Which religions don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter?”

Still lots of people think these rites are Christian when the truth is they are derived from pagan celebrations!!
  • Christmas originally had nothing to do with either Christianity or Islam – rather it has it’s origins in the midwinter festival coinciding with the Winter Solstice, and many other basically pagan rites dating back thousands of years before the Christian Nativity story, but since much of it is a celebration of nature rather than religion everyone should be able to enjoy it and be happy together despite religion!!

Stefan Heaton

What were the main mistakes of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign?

Stefan Heaton

Stefan Heaton, MBA, University of Oklahoma

 Hillary didn’t make mistakes, not that I saw. Yes, this is coming from a deplorable Trump supporter. I’ll say it again, Hillary did not make mistakes. She did everything right. Absolutely everything that could be expected:

What’s it’s like for Dems

THE BIG IDEA: The uprising inside the House Democratic caucus is about much more than last week’s election results.

WaPo – Nov. 16, 2016


Yes, Nancy Pelosi poorly managed expectations. At one point, she said that her party could pick up the 30 seats necessary to win the House majority. Even during the home stretch, she mulled a gain of more than 20 seats. She wound up getting only six.

But the blow-up that caused the postponement of leadership elections from this Thursday to Nov. 30 – a decision made at the end of a tumultuous, two-hour meeting – is really about young lawmakers who are frustrated by a seniority system that limits their influence, African Americans who don’t feel like they have enough sway over Pelosi’s strategy and members from the heartland who feel that the dominance of coastal elites in the caucus has made it harder for them to connect with their constituents.

— For years now, there has been a problematic lack of upward mobility for younger Democrats. Consider:

The top three Democrats in leadership are 76 (Pelosi), 77 (Steny Hoyer) and 76 (Jim Clyburn). The top three Republican leaders, in contrast, are 46 (Paul Ryan), 51 (Kevin McCarthy) and 51 (Steve Scalise). Pelosi and Hoyer have together led the House Democrats for 14 years now. Ryan, of course, replaced John Boehner just last year after an open election process. (And while rank-and-file Republicans get to vote on who will chair the NRCC, Pelosi picks the leader of the DCCC.)

House Democrats do not have term limits for their committee chairs, as Republicans do. The average age of the Democratic ranking members on the 22 House committees this Congress is 68. The average age of the Republican chairmen is 60. On only four of the 22 committees is the top Republican older than the top Democrat.

The seniority rules mean that the most important committees are led by the oldest members. The ranking Democrat on the Judiciary, John Conyers, is 87. Ways and Means ranking member Sander Levin is 85. Nita Lowey, ranking on Appropriations, is 79. Maxine Waters, ranking on Financial Services, is 78. For context, the Republicans who lead those crucial committees are 78, 64, 61 and 59.

Dave Camp, then chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, questions CMS chief Marilyn Tavenner during a hearing with ranking member Sander Levin back in 2013. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

— There is palpable concern among Democratic elites around town that too many of these ranking members in the House are not pit bull types who can effectively argue for Democratic principles on television and during floor debates. It’s a refrain you hear constantly: Do Democrats really want the 85-year-old Levin running point against the GOP’s drive to repeal Obamacare and negotiating what could be the most significant rewrite of the tax code in a generation? Do they want the 87-year-old Conyers being the tip of the spear against a Trump Justice Department and all the scandals that could potentially bring?

On November 8th – by Noam Chomsky

Trump in the White House: An Interview With Noam Chomsky

Monday, 14 November 2016 00:00 By C.J. Polychroniou, Truthout | Interview

On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump managed to pull the biggest upset in US politics by tapping successfully into the anger of white voters and appealing to the lowest inclinations of people in a manner that would have probably impressed Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels himself.

But what exactly does Trump’s victory mean, and what can one expect from this megalomaniac when he takes over the reins of power on January 20, 2017? What is Trump’s political ideology, if any, and is “Trumpism” a movement? Will US foreign policy be any different under a Trump administration?

Some years ago, public intellectual Noam Chomsky warned that the political climate in the US was ripe for the rise of an authoritarian figure. Now, he shares his thoughts on the aftermath of this election, the moribund state of the US political system and why Trump is a real threat to the world and the planet in general.

C.J. Polychroniou for Truthout: Noam, the unthinkable has happened: In contrast to all forecasts, Donald Trump scored a decisive victory over Hillary Clinton, and the man that Michael Moore described as a “wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full-time sociopath” will be the next president of the United States. In your view, what were the deciding factors that led American voters to produce the biggest upset in the history of US politics?

Reason, belief, and epistemology


by Paul P. Mealing – Tuesday, March 15, 2016  1:20 AM

 Recently in New Scientist (5 March 2016) there was a review of a book, The Persuaders: The Hidden Industry that Wants to Change Your Mind by James Garvey (which I must read), which tackles the issue of why argument by reason often fails. I’ve experienced this first hand on this blog, which has led me to the conclusion that you can’t explain something to someone who doesn’t want it explained. The book referenced above is more about how propaganda works, apparently, but that is not what I wish to discuss.

In the same vein, I’ve recently watched a number of YouTube videos covering excerpts from debates and interviews with scientists on the apparent conflict between science and religion. I say apparent because not all scientists are atheists and not all theologians are creationists, yet that is the impression one often gets from watching these.

The scientists I’ve been watching include Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye (aka the science guy) and Michio Kaku. I think Tyson presents the best arguments (from the small sample I watched) but Michio Kaku comes closest to presenting my own philosophical point of view. In one debate (see links at bottom) he says the ‘God question’ is ‘undecidable’ and predicts that, unlike many scientific questions of today, the God question will be no further advanced in 100 years time than it is in the current debate.

The issue, from my perspective, is that science and religion deal with completely different things. Science is an epistemology – it’s a study of the natural world in all its manifestations. Religion is something deeply personal and totally subjective, and that includes God. God is something people find inside themselves which is why said God has so many different personalities and prejudices depending on who the believer is. I’ve argued this before, so I won’t repeat myself.

At least 2 of the scientists I reference above (Dawkins and Tyson) point out something I’ve said myself: once you bring God into epistemology to explain some phenomenon that science can’t currently explain, you are saying we have come to the end of science. History has revealed many times over that something that was inexplicable in the past becomes explicable in the future. As I’ve said more than once on this blog: only people from the future can tell us how ignorant we are in the present. Tyson made the point that the apposite titled God-of-the-Gaps is actually a representation of our ignorance – a point I’ve made myself.

This does not mean that God does not exist; it means that God can’t help us with our science. People who argue that science can be replaced with Scripture are effectively arguing that science should be replaced by ignorance. The Old Testament was written by people who wanted to tell a story of their origins and it evolved into a text to scare people into believing that they are born intrinsically evil. At least that’s how it was presented to me as a child.

Of all the videos I watched, the most telling was an excerpt from a debate between Bill Nye (the science guy) and Ken Ham (the architect of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky). Ham effectively argued that science can only be done in the present. So-called historical science, giving the age of the Earth or the Universe, or its origins, cannot be determined using the same methods we use for current scientific investigations. When asked if any evidence could change his beliefs, he said there was no such evidence and the Bible was the sole criterion for his beliefs.

Empire of Chaos

With President Trump, Is the American Experiment Over? 
By Tom Engelhardt

The one thing you could say about empires is that, at or near their height, they have always represented a principle of order as well as domination.  So here’s the confounding thing about the American version of empire in the years when this country was often referred to as “the sole superpower,” when it was putting more money into its military than the next 10 nations combined: it’s been an empire of chaos.

Back in September 2002, Amr Moussa, then head of the Arab League, offered a warning I’ve never forgotten.  The Bush administration’s intention to invade Iraq and topple its ruler, Saddam Hussein, was already obvious.  Were they to take such a step, Moussa insisted, it would “open the gates of hell.”  His prediction turned out to be anything but hyperbole — and those gates have never again closed.

The Wars Come Home

From the moment of the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, in fact, everything the U.S. military touched in these years has turned to dust.  Nations across the Greater Middle East and Africa collapsed under the weight of American interventions or those of its allies, and terror movements, one grimmer than the next, spread in a remarkably unchecked fashion.  Afghanistan is now a disaster zone; Yemen, wracked by civil war, a brutal U.S.-backed Saudi air campaign, and various ascendant terror groups, is essentially no more; Iraq, at best, is a riven sectarian nation; Syria barely exists; Libya, too, is hardly a state these days; and Somalia is a set of fiefdoms and terror movements.  All in all, it’s quite a record for the mightiest power on the planet, which, in a distinctly un-imperial fashion, has been unable to impose its military will or order of any sort on any state or even group, no matter where it chose to act in these years.  It’s hard to think of a historical precedent for this.

Meanwhile, from the shattered lands of the empire of chaos stream refugees by the millions, numbers not seen since vast swaths of the globe were left in rubble at the end of World War II.  Startling percentages of the populations of various failed and failing states, including stunning numbers of children, have been driven into internal exile or sent fleeing across borders and, from Afghanistan to North Africa to Europe, they are shaking up the planet in unsettling ways (as their fantasy versions shook up the election here in the U.S.).

It’s something of a cliché to say that, sooner or later, the frontier wars of empires come home to haunt the imperial heartland in curious ways.  Certainly, such has been the case for our wars on the peripheries.  In various forms — from the militarization of the police to the loosing of spy drones in American skies and of surveillance technology tested on distant battlefields — it’s obvious that America’s post-9/11 conflicts have returned to “the homeland,” even if, most of the time, we have paid remarkably little attention to this phenomena.

And that, I suspect, is the least significant way in which our wars have been repatriated.  What Election 2016 made clear was that the empire of chaos has not remained a phenomenon of the planet’s backlands.  It’s with us in the United States, right here, right now.  And it’s come home in a fashion that no one has yet truly tried to make sense of.  Can’t you feel the deep and spreading sense of disorder that lay at the heart of the bizarre election campaign that roiled this country, brought the most extreme kinds of racism and xenophobia back into the mainstream, and with Donald Trump’s election, may never really end?  Using the term of tradecraft that Chalmers Johnson borrowed from the CIA and popularized, think of this as, in some strange fashion, the ultimate in imperial blowback.

WAPO: …what happened to America

After Trump’s victory, the world is left to wonder: What happened to America?

Around the globe, right-wing leaders reacted to the victory of Republican President-elect Donald Trump with joy, while some expats and politicians expressed dismay and anxiety for international relations. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
November 9
Allies recoiled. Adversaries rejoiced. And on the day after U.S. voters made Donald Trump the country’s 45th president, the world was left to collectively wonder: What happened to America?The question hung in the air even as once-unthinkable congratulatory messages poured into Trump Tower from capitals across the globe.

Foreign leaders who had spent months disparaging the Republican nominee as unfit for office were forced to reckon with the reality that he will soon govern the world’s sole superpower. U.S. foes who may have only dreamed of a Trump presidency seemed to scarcely believe their good fortune.

Through it all on Wednesday was a palpable sense that Trump’s stunning victory could fundamentally transform the global order — though in this endlessly unpredictable year, no one dared forecast exactly how.

We asked people around the world for their reaction to Trump’s victory

In Mexico, China, Russia and Israel we ask people what they think of the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States.(Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

“We have no idea what this American president is going to do, when this voice of anger will be the most powerful man in the world,” Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. “Whether he knows his allies and friends, how he is going to approach Vladimir Putin, an authoritarian ruler, how he is going to act when it comes to the question of nuclear armament, all these questions are completely open.”

That profound uncertainty was masked by a succession of bland statements from Trump’s soon-to-be counterparts among the ranks of global leaders.

Through gritted teeth, democratically elected allies congratulated Trump on his victory and promised business as usual.

In Britain — where the Parliament in January debated banning Trump from even visiting the country — Prime Minister Theresa May said her nation and the United States had “an enduring and special relationship based on the values of freedom, democracy and enterprise.” That, she insisted, would carry forward under Trump.

 Global autocrats were far more enthusiastic.

News of the Republican’s victory was greeted with broad smiles and a round of applause in the lower house of the Russian parliament. In a Moscow ceremony to welcome new ambassadors, Putin referenced Trump’s call for warmer ties and said “Russia is ready and willing to restore full-fledged relations with the United States.”

What now: Paul Krugman

Thoughts for the Horrified

I’m not talking about rethinking political strategy. There will be a time for that — God knows it’s clear that almost everyone on the center-left, myself included, was clueless about what actually works in persuading voters. For now, however, I’m talking about personal attitude and behavior in the face of this terrible shock.

First of all, remember that elections determine who gets the power, not who offers the truth. The Trump campaign was unprecedented in its dishonesty; the fact that the lies didn’t exact a political price, that they even resonated with a large bloc of voters, doesn’t make them any less false. No, our inner cities aren’t war zones with record crime. No, we aren’t the highest-taxed nation in the world. No, climate change isn’t a hoax promoted by the Chinese.

So if you’re tempted to concede that the alt-right’s vision of the world might have some truth to it, don’t. Lies are lies, no matter how much power backs them up.

And once we’re talking about intellectual honesty, everyone needs to face up to the unpleasant reality that a Trump administration will do immense damage to America and the world. Of course I could be wrong; maybe the man in office will be completely different from the man we’ve seen so far. But it’s unlikely.

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