Tag Archives: Clinton

A U.S. Parliament: Imagine All the Parties

The State Coffers

The State Coffers

If grandma had wheels she’d be a bus. If Eleanor Roosevelt could fly she would have bombed Dresden. And if the U.S. had a Parliamentary System, like most of the world’s democracies, it would have seven viable parties. Or at least that’s my best guess. In a Parliamentary System, the legislature chooses the prime minister, thus the executive and legislative bodies are intertwined; for better or worse. I’m on the “better” right now.

A Parliamentary System just ain’t going to happen in the U.S., but imagining it, illuminates the forces and fragments that shape American politics today. It also reminds us how inadequately the Left-Right, Liberal-Conservative, and Democrat-Republican dichotomies reflect the thinking of average Americans about politics.

The effort here to sketch a more accurate political map of the U.S. has serious limitations; but,  it’s a start, as much as can be done in a 1000 word essay. My seven imaginary U.S. Parliamentary Parties don’t include numerous likely Splinter Parties;  perhaps the Anti Common Core Union; the anti GMO Food Alliance; and so on.

My best (educated) guess is that no more than two thirds of the current U.S. electorate would actively identify with one of these seven parties. The rest are independents, swing voters, non participants, marginally attached, or splinter party voters. Also, I don’t include an Independent Party among the seven. Take a look at this good PEW article, decomposing the political universe a different way, but with good survey based numbers.

Here is the list of the seven main, viable parties in my imaginary U.S. Parliament, not in order of (suspected) popularity:

1. Nationalist Party. Akin to Tea Party, with populist core. Leader(s): Cruz,
Santorum.

2. Business Party. A.K.A., Corporatist Party; includes current “establishment” R’s.
Leaders (s): Bush, Romney, Fiorina.

3. Family Values Party. Main line, solid social conservatives, evangelicals, religious
voters. Leaders (s): Huckabee.

4. Freedom Party. Akin to Libertarian Party; Ayn Rand is their philosopher queen.
Leaders (s): Rand Paul, Paul Ryan.

6. Social Democrat Party. Essentially the Warren-Sanders Democrat Wing:
Leader (s): Warren, DeBlasio, Sanders.

7. Green Party. Intense and active greeners and environmentalists. Leader (s): Jerry
Brown. (He’s tried making California an international leader everything Green).

There is of course a lot of overlap among the first four parties, And also within the last three. By “viable,” I mean these seven parties would consistently earn enough support, at least 3%-5% of the vote in most elections, a common threshold for holding seats in a parliament. Perhaps three or four would emerge as perennial competitors with large pluralities (maybe 15% to 35%).

After the election (of the legislators), if no party has more than a majority of seats in Congress, they try to form a (stable) coalition to select a Prime Minster. That’s where the real fun begins. There are countless possibilities. Here is one of many:

Barrack Obama (or Hillary Clinton) as head of the Center-Left Party in 2012, would have invited the Social Democrats and Green Partiers to join a governing coalition. If that was not enough to hit 51%, (not an implausible scenario), the Business Party (of establishment Republicans) might have been played ball with them. Stranger things have happened. That would have amounted to the Grand Bargain around budget, revenues, and maybe even immigration, that eluded Boehner and Obama. It would have driven the Tea Partiers crazy. The possibilities are endless.

The first four parties in the list represent factions, wings, segments of the current Republican Party, people who identify themselves as “conservative,” and some of today’s independents who tend to vote Republican (if they vote at all).

The last three parties on the list are, for the most part, factions of the current U.S. Democratic Party, people who identify themselves as “liberals” or “progressives.”  The Center-Left party imagined here is a lot larger than the other (Warren-Sanders) segment of today’s Democrats – what I here call the Social-Democrats. That’s based on real data.

But if Social Democrats had their own party, identity, and profile, they might draw a lot more from the Center-Left, which I take to include many closet Social Democrats who are pragmatists; they know they couldn’t win if they threw caution to the wind.

Notice that I don’t include a Center-Right party in my list, though the Business Party in this typology comes close. Republicans are a lot more fragmented and intense than Democrats. In a multi party system, they’re not as likely to have a broad based, big tent umbrella counterpart to the Center-Left Party; again, the Business Party may qualify.

Short of endorsing the Parliamentary over the Presidential system, we can say this: government shutdowns, brinkmanship on paying the Federal debt, and (arbitrary, ill considered) sequestrations (automatic budget cuts) would have likely been averted with a U.S. Parliament.

See you at the next constitutional convention to adopt amendments to overturning Citizens United; and, if there is time, perhaps creating a U.S. Parliament. If you want to read more about pros and cons of adopting a Parliamentary System in the U.S., read here, here, and here.

 

 

 

Channeling Elizabeth Warren: What an Uncensored Liz Might Say About the Hillary Clinton Announcement

What was Elizabeth Warren thinking as Hillary Clinton formally announced her candidacy for President?   What would Liz be saying if she was not a realistic and committed Democrat?  Let’s channel the more aggressive, less practical side of the Massachusetts Senator, imagining what she might tweet.  On the Sunday morning talk shows, Liz says she too is “ready for Hillary.”   Perhaps she really is!  The line that stood out most from Hillary’s announcement yesterday was: “the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.” That’s vintage Warren.

Nonetheless, here are five imaginary, edgy Warren tweets that were never sent. And won’t be.

1. Over more than two decades, the Clintons advanced and accelerated fundamental policies which have helped America edge closer to oligarchy than it’s been in more than a 100 years.

[Ed. Note: This process began well before the Clintons arrived on the scene. The U.S. is perhaps at a quarter to twelve on that clock; not yet mid night].

2. Bill and Hillary drank a lot of the post 1970s De-regulation Kool-Aid, some of which was sound and needed; but overall (in its zealotry) harmed a lot of average people.

[Ed.Note: The post 1970s De-regulation Movement, reversed a lot of Progressive era and New Deal policies aimed at (harmful) concentrations of wealth and power and protections for consumers and labor. While some deregulation fostered more competition, a good (rhetorical question) looms: “Is there a single example of consumer prices going down and market competition increasing after deregulation of a U.S. industry?”]

3. Speaking of deregulation, the Clintons were totally on board to gut decades old financial regulations in 1999 which had protected average people’s money from being squandered in risky big bank investments.

[Ed. Note: In 1999, Democrats led by Bill Clinton and Republicans by Senator Phil Gramm, repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which had (among other things), separated commercial and investment banking. That enabled big banks to use the money of average people and (barely) middle class home buyers to make risky investments. The ensuing crash decimated the wealth in the middle.  Repeal of Glass-Steagall was of course not the only reason for the crash, but it played a big part].

4. The Clintons have been gung-ho NAFTA style free traders, and brought a lot of other Democrats with them. The form of free trade they supported helped decimate the wages and benefits of U.S. workers.

[Ed. Note: For U.S. multinational companies, in particular, NAFTA has been a way to keep a lid on worker wages and benefits, and avoid thorny regulations (which presumably restrain trade).  This is not your father’s, nor David Ricardo and Adam Smith, Classic Free Trade. There is evidence that trade pacts help nations avoid conflict. That’s good. But that has costs which need to be borne by all of society, not just average people].

5. Clintonian Welfare Reform left many poor people with no work or low wage, subsistence jobs. Democrats’ support for “welfare reform” helped feed Republican ideology around “free-loading” and Romney’s 47 percent theory.

[Ed. Note: New Deal and Great Society welfare (public assistance) needed to be reformed. But Clinton policies were long on getting people off welfare rolls (and maybe into work), and short on providing the right training (or apprenticeships) to find decent paying jobs. These are the main criticisms of Clinton welfare reform.  Arguments that trumpet the policy’s success are represented here].

Channeling Elizabeth Warren’s aggressive side as it might view the Clinton presidential candidacy was a revelation.  It was soon clear that most of the words pouring out didn’t do a very good job of separating Hillary from Bill. Is that sexist?  And unfair?  Perhaps both,  though surely not intentionally.

The problem is that we don’t know very much about Hillary’s position on wage stagnation, inequality, financial sector regulation, free trade, the condition of the middle class, and many  other core and defining financial and economic issues of our time.

That’s partly because Hillary dealt mostly in foreign affairs during the years these issues have been front and center.  But she has also avoided saying much about them, beyond high level generalities.  She won’t be able to continue doing that much longer.

If she watched the video announcing Hillary’s presidential run, am sure that Warren appreciated her saying “the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.”  That is, indeed, vintage Warren!   But it still falls in the platitudinous category.  It will be fascinating to see how the cross word puzzle is filled-in over the next twenty months.

An Encryption Angle on the Clinton E-Mail Affair

An Encrypted Message?

An Encrypted Message?

Hillary Clinton’s problem with her e-mails are raising questions about judgment, honesty, and the security of her communications while Secretary of State. I’ll leave it for others to decide whether this is just a “bunch of hooey,” in a long string of ferocious “anti Clinton propaganda,” as Clinton ally and confidant, James Carville says; or if it has real substance. Regardless, all of this is now fare for the “Road to the White House, ” and puts Benghazi issues on the first page of Google searches again.

For the nerd writing this blog, the most important questions raised by Clinton E-mail Gate are around the security of electronic transmissions (generally); and especially the role and potential of Encryption, or lack thereof. (Here is a good sketch of how Encryption works).

These questions are the same, now all-too-familiar ones, raised in the NSA/Snowden affair; British intelligence agency (GCHQ) spying on news organizations; and the hacking of Sony, which almost brought that company to its knees, while making public some very embarrassing e-mails by it’s executives.

One of the first questions that should have been asked about Hillary’s private server and e-mail system, was whether her technicians used any form of Encryption, at least for e-mails in transit.  The only answer that has surfaced so far comes from a Bloomberg News report that hasn’t received much attention.  It says that Mrs. Clinton’s email-server had a “mis-configured encryption system.”

It’s not clear exactly what that means, other than her tech consultants tried installing some form of routine encryption, but botched the job. According to the Bloomberg story, “although Clinton worked hard to secure the private system, her consultants appear to have set it up with a misconfigured encryption system, something that left it vulnerable to hacking…..”

Further research reveals that building a robust, easy to use, universal, turnkey, Encryption system for all e-mail, is a lot harder than most of us realize; logistically, more than technically, if you can separate the two.

Years after British journalists were spied on by their government’s intelligence agency, The Guardian found that news organizations like the Associated Press, Le Monde, LA Times, CBS News, Forbes, Baltimore Sun, and Der Spiegel were still lax in protecting journalists and their sources from surveillance; still putting all of the people who communicate with them at risk of being spied on.

You’d think today’s tech geniuses could find a way to help us all routinely and robustly Encrypt our e-mail. But, as “Digital Trend’s,” Geoff Duncan put it: “the bottom line is that email as we know it today has never been secure, and the myriad ways we send, receive, store, and use email messages makes fully securing email a very difficult problem; at best.” This,  from an established tech company specializing in personal and custom networks and servers, like, perhaps, the consultants Hillary used.

Even many among us fixated on privacy have second thoughts about strong Encryption when they learn what it may really mean. Not only is it tedious and arduous to get there, but it’s questionable whether you could ever search your own e-mails (easily,  if at all) if they were encrypted on Google servers. That’s both good and bad. The best (and relatively understandable) explanation I’ve found as to why this is so difficult, can be found here.

Actually, the big e-mail providers, like Google, Yahoo, Apple and Microsoft appear to be closing in on this Holy Grail.  But, one formidable obstacle is U.S. Government security agencies, which are very worried about throwing away the Encryption key, so that no one except the users in the sender-receiver diad can ever decipher the message. That of course is really the whole point of strong Encryption.  But it would mean that NSA, for example, or it’s British counterpart, couldn’t decipher messages between terrorists planning an assault on a world cup soccer game.

Here is one vivid and very recent story about obstacles Google encountered offering user selectable Encryption for their customers.

Darrell Issa’s investigators would also be frustrated if a strong form of Encryption prevented them from finding out what Hillary might have written to the White House as the tragic Benghazi events unfolded?  She may not have written anything; if she did, it likely wound up on a (relatively) secure State Department server; or on a server (like at the White House’s or CIA’s) which may claim the Issa Committee is not entitled to see it.  The treacherous road to the White House!