Mrs Clinton’s silence

After Mr Trump boasted of sexually assaulting women, Mrs Obama has made an inspiring speech against him, but Mrs Clinton has changed the subject, talking of insults to other groups,  even of watching cat gifs. “But we’ve got a job to do, for people and for cats“.  Mmmmmm. It is good to see her drawing laughs.

If she brings up Mr Trump’s assaults, she risks her husband’s use of political power to gain sexual favours being brought up, and her response to allegations in the 1990s. It was not pretty. He paid $850,000 to Paula Jones who alleged he had propositioned her and exposed himself. Ms Jones’ lawyers sought to show a pattern of behaviour to make her testimony more persuasive, and asked him about Monica Lewinsky: he denied having “sexual relations” with her, and her semen-stained dress was shown in evidence for the attempt at impeachment. He was not impeached because insufficient Senators voted for it; should he have lost the Presidency?

One issue is respect for the office. Garrison Keillor has pointed this up, claiming Mr Trump is not human, and desiring him to show his belly-button to prove it. Some allege Mr Trump was sniffing because he was on coke. He calls for drug tests before the next debate. The political landscape has been coarsened by birtherism; but still it is disrespectful to demand the President’s birth certificate, or that the candidates be blood-tested.

That means that certain possible wrongs will not be brought up.

Should Mrs Clinton had left her husband? Some say infidelity breaks a marriage. I don’t believe in hard and fast moral rules like that. It is a relationship. Two people decide what they want and can bear. There are grey areas.

We talk of views “evolving”. The US has equal marriage, only a little after England won it. Equal marriage is clearly right, so President Clinton’s policy in the US army of “Don’t ask don’t tell”, where gay men could serve (and get training, and worthwhile careers) if they kept quiet about their sexuality, is monstrous. Yet before he brought it in, on 28 February 1994, men could be ejected from the army for homosexuality. It was a move forward. Possibly more might have been politically possible, but the policy lasted until 2011. The world’s view has moved on since then, despite the hate groups.

Powerful men should not exploit that power for sexual gratification. Sex should be consensual. This is clear. And, Republicans should not have been able to undermine the democratically elected President because of it. These things are murky, but I absolutely support her staying with her husband and fighting on his side at the time. And it makes it difficult for her to criticise Mr Trump. Mr Trump’s boastings are far worse than anything proven against Mr Clinton, but such comparisons are disgusting.

Mrs Clinton does not need to refer to Mr Trump’s sexual assaults. Others can do that for her. She can “go high” on this one. She is qualified to make the decisions a president must make, and it is clear he should not. Completely clear: so his tweet, Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail. Instead she is running for president in what looks like a rigged election, does not seem threatening or dangerous to me, but pitiable.

Meet the Jeannetts

How could anyone vote for Trump? Well, some consider abortion is the most important issue of the election. Two facebook friends resident in the US, both met through WordPress, were brought up Republican and in one case conservative Evangelical, but both will be voting for Mrs Clinton in November. However, through them I get to see what their friends say.

Andrew Jeannett shared a despicable video from a programme called Faith for our Nation, broadcast on the Believers’ Voice of Victory Network, Dish channel 265. Kenneth Copeland says, You’re going to be held seriously, seriously, to account by God if you don’t vote… You’re going to be guilty of murder, you’re going to be guilty of every baby that’s aborted from this election forward. God speaks to Copeland, and told him personally, I know my way around politicians, I’ve been dealing with them since Nimrod, and I’ve never failed yet… This is God’s nation and no body is going to take it away from him. Mr Jeannett shared this as a video from Right Wing Watch, commenting, fear fear fear!!!! guilt guilt guilt!!! hear it, see it, distance yourself from it. I say, The LORD will not hold him guiltless, who taketh his name in vain.

Not even all pro-life people take this view. Charissa comments, Y’all do not have the corner market on life issues. We are all equal in the eyes of God, from the unborn babe to the convicted killer…each life is exactly equally precious to God. […]What about the Syrian refugees who are literally trying to escape being starved to death or bombed or some other horrendous end[…] There is an incredible amount of false guilt that goes around Christian circles especially. When you have people in places of presumed authority and leadership telling you constantly that you are doing something wrong, whether or not you actually are, you are probably going to feel guilty. She asks what would lose Trump their vote?

One answers, only if he adopted Hillary’s platform. Another agrees: Mr Trump would have to change his publicly stated position on abortion and adopt Hillary’s. Yes, he may not follow through and stay the course once he’s elected, but I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt. What choice do we have, after all? Hillary has already made it abundantly clear that she favors killing babies in the womb–even up to the moment of birth. Nothing–I repeat–NOTHING! could be more heinous than that.

Trump is a liar, says someone. David Record (Uncle David) most pro-Trump here, says Trump hasn’t been a pathological liar over his lifetime… Benghazi… emails… He didn’t defend a rapist and get him off Scott free. That last line is an attack on American justice. A jury finds not guilty, but Record knows better, and thinks people he thinks guilty should not have a public defender- or that public defender should not do her job. He is incorrigible. So is Susan Jeannett Neal, who says I’m voting for Trump. I believe that he is God-driven and will restore law and order to this country and wipe out ISIS, which no one else has even tried to do.

Mel uses striking language to attack Trump. Where are his fruits? Where are his treasures stored? He is not your savior. He will hand you over to the Romans to be crucified.

Abortion is not the only lunacy prayed in aid of Trump. Open borders = 600 million people estimated to come here, what kind of life will it be for the children and grandchildren WAKE UP AMERICA! Hmm. Is that Poe or Godwin? I can never remember.

Dan sees it in apocalyptic terms. Israel was overtaken when it did not follow God. We could be too. But Keaton, whose evangelicalism I dislike- As I understand the Bible, those poor souls who are aborted would be ferried instantaneously to Heaven, bypassing all of the sin, pain, and ugliness of this world is unduly negative- nevertheless brings in climate change. Do not rape the planet.

I went to Susan’s page, counted twenty pro-Trump or anti-Hillary posts in one day then gave up. They include “I was the Clintons’ Hitman” by Larry Nichols, and a meme calling Paul Ryan a traitor. David Record’s page has a post calling Christians against Trump “Pharisees”, a Clinton Scandal video, and another calling Mrs Clinton the most pro-abort candidate we’ve ever seen.

I see what she says, but don’t understand why. She thinks abortion is the most important issue; she thinks Mrs Clinton is a monster; but I can’t understand why anyone would think like that.

Susan is deplorable, possibly; incorrigible, certainly. But not even all conservative Evangelicals will vote Trump. Thank God!

Then I found this in the Washington Times. The candidates are as bad as each other, says Suzanne Fields, and one commenter blames this on the MSM: Kasich could have trounced Clinton, but the MSM pushed the GOP to the Right, and promoted a candidate Mrs Clinton could beat.

The Trump Effect

The Presidential election is having a terrible effect on schools. Minority children are terrified. A kindergarten Latino child, told by classmates he would be deported, asked every day “Is the wall here yet?” Bullies are empowered: some use the word Trump as they taunt or gang up on others. Teachers who normally use elections for lessons in democracy and the responsibility of citizenship find that the word “Trump” alone is enough to derail a class, and that the election inflames ethnic tension and the fear and anxiety of children of colour.

The need for teachers to be non-partisan stymies attempts to impart positive lessons about the electoral process. Every student from pre-schoolers up is aware of the rhetoric, tone and catch-phrases. “We’re going to build a wall”. Now the notorious phrases include “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”  The campaign is omnipresent, on social media and rolling news. Children talk about this whether or not the teachers take part. If a child says When Trump wins, you and your family will get sent back in the classroom, they say worse in the hallway. Students take the campaign intensely personally, and marginalised pupils bear the brunt of abuse.

Children worry about being sent back to where their parents or grandparents came from, and even the descendants of slaves fear being sent to Africa. They cannot feel safe with the level of hatred expressed in the news and even by trusted adults. Undocumented students have a right to education but come to school fearful that they will be interned, and separated from their families. Students from six to twelve cry in class. This reduces grades and ability to concentrate. One student can’t sleep at night, another has panic attacks. A Muslim teenager was suicidal after other pupils shouted slurs from their cars. Where the home country is unsafe, the fear is greater. Syrian children are traumatised again. Students with undocumented relatives think all the other students hate them. Even very young children use the N word as a slur. Students in majority black areas, with less interracial tension in the playground, still feel fear, and wonder if this is what all white people think of them.

Distrust grows as students recall lessons about American ideals, then wonder how someone who holds those ideals in such contempt could be so popular. America is a “Nation of immigrants” but immigrants feel unvalued. The usual rule is that a teacher will not discuss their own politics, but how to respond to a child who begs you not to vote for Trump because he will deport their parents? I have tried to reassure my students that no matter the outcome, they will be okay. I don’t even know if that’s true.

Teachers work to keep their classrooms respectful, so must remind students that there are different rules there from the debate stage. Bullies are emboldened, claiming they are just saying what everyone is thinking, using slurs, name-calling and inflammatory statements. Muslim students are called “ISIS”, “Terrorist” or “Bomber”. Kids tell other kids they will be deported forcibly. Even at an all-white school, “Dirty Mexican” became a common insult. Bullying affects health and can lead to self-harm. Bullies claim they are not bullying, but “telling it like it is”. Students have become very hostile to opposing points of view, regardless of the topic. Any division now elicits anger and personal attacks. Bullying, though, crosses party lines and “Trump” can be used as an insult, implying the victim is the type of person who would support him. Students are angry, and their anger can escalate into fist-fights.

Educators want a lively exchange of ideas in healthy debate. One of the goals of education is to teach students how to make persuasive arguments, support opinions with facts and listen to the perspectives of others. Those goals are out the window in many classrooms. Some teachers are enthusiastic about the opportunities to teach about media bias and fact-checking rather than gossip, but find it hard to find age-appropriate factual information. Teachers find teaching about the election “stokes the fires”. If it can get you suspended from high school, it is not appropriate in a candidate.

Being a good citizen of the US democracy is a main goal of schools, but children are disillusioned and disconnected. The rhetoric does not help their ability to use reason and evidence.

From the Southern Poverty Law Centre report The Trump Effect (pdf).

Vote Green

With a heavy heart, I voted Labour.

My heart says vote Green, but with my constituency “too close to call”, with a risk of a Tory ousting the Labour MP, I had to vote Labour. The Conservatives, if returned, will gleefully eviscerate all public services, privatising all which they cannot yet destroy, and ensure wealth gushes up to the richest. There is no “trickle down”, all the leaks have been fixed.

The Labour party offers little hope. They will continue with austerity, though it harms the economy. They will not reverse any of the Tory damage, which ratchets us towards Oligarchichal capitalism. I only vote Labour because a Tory MP would be even worse. The Scottish National Party, if in coalition, may mitigate some of the harm Labour neglect would do.

The Green party offers hope. Getting rid of nuclear weapons is just part of our principled valuing people for more than just their value in the dog-eat-dog capitalist system and offering a genuine alternative for society, in which humanity may survive the threats to the climate and the biosphere.

May we soon follow New Zealand to a proportional system.

Knowing and partly knowing

I will vote according to prejudice, but this is not entirely my fault.

Andrew this morning was incredulous and sardonic: “The Government say the economy has grown, but what is the value in that when we are all worse off?” He tells me that the GDP growth since 2010 has been smaller than the population growth.

There you have it. A factoid, which I have from Andrew, whom I trust because he is a retired accountant so should understand these things, and a Quaker so should attempt truthfulness.

Conclusion: more Tory lies.

Then my prejudice kicks in: that is before we consider that the benefit of economic growth has gone to the richest- my impression from various sources, which I can’t remember reading or hearing in exactly those terms but believe; and that GDP includes consumer spending, so our economy “grows” if we spend more on imports.

What do I make of this? The UK had either the biggest debt in the world or the lowest debt in the G7, says HuffPo. I had heard of Public Sector Borrowing Requirement- oh gosh, back in the 80s, it may not even be a thing anymore- but not PSNB which is Public Sector Net Borrowing. I look at that word “Net” which I understand, and wonder what the whole phrase might mean. “Total borrowings” says HuffPo, which is different from the budget deficit: 11% rather than 7.7%.

The debt in 1997, when Labour replaced the Tories, was 42% of GDP, and now it is- oops, the article does not say. In 2008 the debt was 35%. The deficit in 1997 was 3.9% of GDP, and 2.1% in 2008.

You know the difference between the debt and the deficit, of course, you have been paying attention over the last seven years.

I am happy to conclude, more Tory lies.

I hear that 25% of the “new jobs” the Tories claim are Zero-hour contracts. What is to stop an employer needing a steady 350 hours’ work a week employing 35 people and giving hours to the ones who give it least trouble? Who cares about the workers? Not the Tories who want to increase benefit sanctions to destroy the safety net and so drive workers into jobs which do not provide a living wage…

That last paragraph is me emoting, but there are facts to be rational about, somewhere, here.

dismal science

May General Election Predictions in Full

My general election predictions, in order of likelihood:

1. Both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party come out with around 280 seats each. With no other viable coalition, they enter a grand coalition. A quarter of the MPs of each can leave in disgust and they still have an overwhelming majority. The Labour Party is annihilated in the 2020 election.

2. The Labour Party, slightly ahead, forms a coalition with the Greens, Scottish Nationalists and Welsh Nationalists. David Cameron, proclaiming the slogan English Votes for English Laws and declaring the government illegitimate, boycotts Parliament, supported by the Tory councils across England and Tory Police Commissioners.

3. The Green Surge continues, increasing geometrically not arithmetically and buoyed by the success of Syriza in producing the first economic growth in Greece in five years and of Podemos in the Spanish elections. A Green majority government abolishes nuclear power generation and scraps British nuclear weapons. Foreign nuclear energy companies sue Britain for hundreds of billions of pounds in lost profits through the Investor-State Dispute Settlement procedure of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Britain refuses to pay up, and the USA invades to enforce payment backed by a UN resolution and the gleeful concurrence of Mr Putin and Mr Xi, who hope America will stop being so holier than thou at last. Jacques-Louis David, Helen and Paris

Vote.

OurVoiceOurVote_logoTwo American professors in France could only vote at the Presidential election by making a four hour round trip. One was Republican, one Democrat, so they could have agreed not to vote, as their votes would cancel each other out; yet they made that trip together.

This helps me understand why voting is important: by voting, I honour those who have made it possible for me. The UK has not yet been a democracy for a century- a fifth of the adult population eligible to vote is no democracy- so it behoves me to vote, just as I would undertake jury duty. I participate in the national conversation.

It does not particularly matter if I get my vote correct. I care, and I want the best representatives, but if I get it wrong my mistake is corrected by my peers. It is a group responsibility, and I may rely on the group. Yet I should take my part in that group decision, as without my contribution it has less value.

In a state of apathy, where few vote, we may have poorer quality representatives, who feel less scrutinised. Yet I have heard that in the local council elections there is a reduction in the number and quality of candidates. Who wants to be elected to enforce the cuts ComeOutVoteLogo-300x293in spending imposed by central government? Not voting is a possible protest. Yet-

in voting I claim my part in my society.

I want you to vote, and I wish to persuade you by appealing to “honour” or “duty”- emotive words rather than reasoned. Arguably as your vote by itself makes almost no difference at all, there is no point in any particular person voting- yet, because if none of us voted we might lose the ability, it is beholden on us (yes, I know) to vote. It seems to me that votes for UKIP, the racist party which racists can kid themselves is not shameful, will do genuine harm, and yet democracy is a conversation and a process, and that harm will be corrected as people come to see it.

A benevolent dictator might be better than democracy, but as none has ever been found, democracy is the least worst option.

Vote for policies

Les vaches 1Labour is left, Conservative right; Labour for the Workers, Conservative for the Toffs, both claim to be for the “squeezed middle”, “hard working families” etc. Good enough as a rule of thumb? Should I Vote for Policies, rather than these crude concepts?

On a run-through, I wondered if I could pick out the BNP (overt racists) and got it wrong in two areas, picking the Labour Party instead. So my rule of thumb is better: I would not vote UKIP- mostly closeted racists, some lunatics, seeking populist votes for nefarious ends- on any account. I might vote Green in Brighton, it is good to have Caroline Lucas in Parliament, but elsewhere Greens won’t win. In my East Midlands constituency with five MEPs elected on the d’Hondt method, about 12.3% of the vote gave the Liberals an MEP last time, and the Greens are well below that figure.

The Vote for Policies site gives policies for six parties on Crime, Democracy, the Economy, Education, the Environment, Europe, Health, Immigration, and Welfare. I vote by the economy. But what do the words mean? We will increase the private sector’s share of the economy– by cutting public spending. Tory obviously. I am Keynesian (or possibly following “common sense” as Keynes derided) so no to that.

We do not accept that service improvements require ever-increasing government expenditure, and believe there is substantial waste and inefficiency that can be eliminated while vital front line services remain fully protected. I disagree. If there were any cure for waste, it would have been found by now: contracting out produces profiteering by creative misinterpretation of contractual obligations. I learned that when a client in a block of flats could not believe the contract for cleaning the common areas did not include removing a large blood stain from the stairs.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/98/Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_071.jpg/320px-Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh_071.jpgAt least I can spot the BNP, here: they would Tackle the national debt problem by cutting expenditure on all projects which do not serve British interests, including the annual costs of £18 billion spent on “global warming,” the £13 billion spent on immigration. I doubt their calculations, and loathe their call to resentment and fear- “They’re wasting your money on immigrants”, they whine.

Europe. Campaign for continuing reform of the EU budget so that money is spent only on the things the EU really needs to do. Honestly, who would oppose that? Fight to stop MEPs having to travel to the Strasbourg Parliament every month, wasting €200 million a year. Concrete, obviously right, and unachievable because it would mean French loss of face.

Health. The right to choose a GP in your area open at evenings and weekends. Given that the BMA is far better at negotiating than the Department of Health, this means vast increase in GP’s wages for little benefit.

Les vaches 2Welfare benefits. Everyone to receive a basic Citizen’s Income to allow everybody to make meaningful choices between paid employment, part-time work, self employment, volunteering and encourage a better balance between work and everyday life. Wow. Lovely. Is it possible? Not by voting Green. The question is not, would I like what they say they want to achieve, but do I trust them to achieve it?

Try the Policies Browser to find more policies, apparently from 2010 not now.

Try this quiz showing how hard it is to distinguish policies of UKIP and the Monster Raving Loony Party. I scored 6/16, poorer than random.

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The Liberal Democrat leaflet makes me less likely to vote for them. “Millions of BRITISH JOBS are at RISK” it trumpets. It says if we leave the EU we will lose out. So one lot scaremonger to leave, the other lot scaremonger to stay. I also got a leaflet from a fuckwit Chris Pain, who has no party, and no chance of election, but has paid for leaflets to say that UKIP is not serious enough about leaving Europe. Only the fuckwit Chris Pain will stop the further £10 billion it will cost the UK to prop up the Euro.

Electoral reform

My new voting system would divide Britain into fourteen regions, each with forty constituencies. Each constituency would elect one member of parliament, the one with the largest number of votes. Then all the votes of the region for each party would be added together, and ten additional seats in the Commons would be allocated, to make the proportion of members for each party in the region most closely resemble the proportion of votes. The candidates who got most votes would be given these additional seats.

An example. The Conservatives are strongest in rural constituencies, the Labour party in urban constituencies, and the Liberal vote is more evenly spread. Suppose the Conservatives with 35% of the vote came first in 18 constituencies, and the Labour party with 45% of the vote came first in 20, the Liberals with 17.5% of the vote came first in two, and the British National Party with 2.5% of the vote came first in none. Ten additional seats would make the membership of the Commons most closely resemble the proportion of voters for each party. The BNP with 2.5% get one MP, the one of their candidates who got most votes in her own constituency. The Liberals, with 17.5% of the vote, have 4% of the seats. They get seven of the additional members, to make up their proportion of members to their proportion of votes. The Conservatives have 35% of the vote, and 36% of the members. The Labour party have 45% of the vote, and 40% of the members. The Labour party get the other two additional members.

I chose forty constituencies and ten additional members simply to illustrate the system. Within this pattern, the number of constituencies and the number of additional members can be varied. Scotland would be one region, because of its national identity. Yorkshire has a strong regional identity. London, the vast urban sprawl, would be another.

The membership of the Commons would be proportionate to the votes of the country. Coalition government would be the norm, but then the Labour party is a coalition, with voters, members and MPs having widely differing views. There would be no tactical voting: a Labour voter in a strongly Tory constituency could know his vote would count. There would still be protest voting- a Conservative sick of his party but unwilling to vote Labour could vote Liberal.

That brings out the main difference from the Alternative Vote, on which we had a referendum last year. There, in a single member constituency a voter would list the candidates in order of preference. If one candidate got 50%  of the votes, she would be elected. If not, the candidate with the least votes would have his second preference votes allocated between the other candidates. This would be repeated until one candidate had more than 50% of the votes.

The AV system as proposed would strongly favour the Liberals, as Conservative or Labour voters are far more likely to give their second vote to the Liberals than to the other main party. It would not, necessarily, make the membership of the Commons more proportionate.

My system, (not entirely original) would preserve the link between member and constituency, but also allow a Labour voter in a Conservative constituency to have a Labour MP, and complain to that MP. Purely regional lists give too much power to central party organisations: here, local members would select their candidate, and the second-placed candidates with the most votes would be elected. Independents could still stand, but have a better chance of being elected if they formed party alliances with candidates in nearby constituencies.

My system also illustrates that a very important question in voting system design is, one vote or more than one? More than one favours centre parties, and would particularly punish the Conservatives in Scotland, where the ruling Scottish National Party is on the Left, and few second preference votes would be Conservative.

After the Referendum defeated AV, voting reform is not a current issue, but I have enjoyed thinking through implications and criticisms, and tweaks to address shortcomings; and a different writing challenge. My pictures illustrate my belief that no-one can rule without the acquiescence of the people (influenced by persons of influence) and that unless the people are broken-spirited and starving, that means the consent of the people. It is far less painful with democracy.

What criteria are most important in designing a voting system?