Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Emails Ad Nauseum

The current tally of emails to, from or about Hillary Clinton that have been made public:

December, 2014: As the result of FOIA requests and demands by the Republican Party, 55,000 pages of 33,000 emails from Clinton's server were turned over to the State Department and ultimately made public.

July, 2016: 19,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) hacked and released by Wikileaks.

August, 2016: Judicial Watch lawsuits demands State search its servers for emails to or from Clinton. Judicial Watch receives and releases 296 pages of emails to or from the State Department, 44 of which it says were not previously released.

October, 2016: 12,000 emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's account.

One objection to Secretary Clinton using a private server is that it was less secure and therefore vulnerable to hostile prying. This makes sense, even though so many others did the same, beginning with Clinton's predecessor Colin Powell. But what do we know about the actual security of Clinton's email system?

October, 2014: Hackers accessed the White House servers.

November, 2014: Hackers broke into the State Department servers

September, 2016: Hackers broke into 500 million Yahoo accounts
Today: Still no evidence that any of Secretary Clinton's emails were hacked, though Podesta's gmail account indeed was.

So unless and until we find that hackers did get information from her account, that argument falls flat, particularly since the State Department's server was indeed broken into.

Each new release engenders "aha!" articles in the press, purportedly proving some misdeed on the part of Clinton or her advisors. Headlines are lurid, though -- if you bother to read them -- actual details don't support the broad accusations. As an example, this week we read about an attempted quid pro quo between the State Department and the FBI over classification of some emails. It appeared the State Department might be involved in some cover-up for Secretary Clinton. Yet this morning, we learn that the arrangement originated not with State, but with the FBI, and was withdrawn once the agent learned whose communication was involved. 

This is the pattern we've seen. First a charge that Clinton swapped uranium mining licenses to a Russian firm in exchange for a large donation to the Clinton Foundation. Whoops, actually the State Department was only one of many agencies from both Canada and the US that signed off on the deal. Next a charge from the Associated Press that fully half of Clinton's meetings while Secretary of State were with donors to the family's foundation. Whoops, turns out that was not just wrong but a huge embarrassment for the AP. 

The reality is that the campaign does normal strategizing and brainstorming and that Secretary of State Clinton wrote only very short dull emails (as she was typing them all on her Blackberry). With all the partisan charges that she's guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, wouldn't you expect that somewhere in the 64,000 secret communications made public recently, there'd be at least a shred of evidence?

What does not happen, what I've seen nowhere in the media nor from those I follow on social media, is a question about why snooping into Clinton's correspondence is perfectly legitimate, yet no one seems to demand the same from any other politician.

  • When did you last see Donald Trump's, Gary Johnson's, or Jill Stein's communications stolen and publicized?
  • Where are Barack Obama's and George W. Bush's? Oh yeah, Bush's staff deleted 5,000,000 of them in 2007 that were housed on the RNC's servers after receiving a subpoena
  • Where are John Kerry's, Colin Powell's and Condoleeza Rice's?
  • Where are Paul Ryan's, Mitch McConnell's, and others in Congress?
  • Where are the private communications from Supreme Court justices?

I think the big question here is: Why should we get to snoop around Hillary Clinton's correspondence but we don't seem to have the same prurient interest in anyone else's? And what does it say for our 4th Amendment Right to Privacy that we indulge this invasion?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Who are Trump's Remaining Allies?

As the presidential campaign approaches the finish line, it seems a good time to take stock of what remains. For Donald Trump, the despised titular head now of the Republican Party, there remain over 40% of the electorate still planning to vote for him. That's about 64,000,000 potential voters.

But if we look at traditional institutions that might align with one candidate or the other, the picture is bleak, particularly since his burn-the-house-down antics of the past week. Here's the current situation, as best I can fathom.

Former Presidents: There are two former GOP presidents and neither supports their party's candidate.

Republican Party: Republican voters may still support him, but the party establishment is unenthused. Some have openly disavowed him (Romney, Kasich, Graham) and others have flip-flopped, some several times since the Convention in July. Neither the Speaker of the House (Paul Ryan) nor the Senate Majority Leader (Mitch McConnell) will speak or campaign for him. In fact, hundreds of prominent GOP leaders -- including six of the last seven GOP nominees since 1988 (exception being Bob Dole) -- have publicly opposed his candidacy.

Top Donors to Republicans: Charles and David Koch have diverted their substantial donations down ballot. Many others have asked the GOP to replace Trump.

Major Daily Newspapers: Not a single major newspaper in the country has endorsed Mr. Trump for president, including many that have never before endorsed a Democrat, such as the largest papers in Texas, Arizona and Utah. Then this weekend, two small daily papers became the first. Compare that to 147 for Secretary Clinton, only 53 of which endorsed President Obama in 2012.

CEOs of Large Corporations: Though businesses cannot directly contribute to political campaigns, an examination of the Fortune 100 CEOs in September showed not a single one donating to Trump's campaign, though a full third of them donated to Romney. Clinton however has doubled the support Obama received from top CEOs.

Veterans: In the wake of his attacks on Senator John McCain's service, on the gold star Khan family, then his dismissal of generals, his shady alliance with Vladimir Putin and his insult to veterans suffering from PTSD, Mr. Trump may well be the first Republican nominee NOT favored by military veterans. In a September poll, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson ("what's Aleppo?") emerges as the clear favorite.

So Mr. Trump cannot count on his party, major donors, the media, his peers in big business, nor the GOP's most loyal constituency for support. That leaves what entities in his court?

The Right-Wing Media: Breitbart News, Fox News, Alex Jones and others stand by Mr. Trump, enthusiastically defending each new controversial development.

White Nationalists: Support from the KKK's David Duke, The Daily Stormer, The Traditionalist Workers Party and the rest of the white nationalist/supremacist groups is unyielding.

Rural America: Among (white) rural Americans, Trump leads Clinton by a large margin, particularly among those with no college education. This is his vital constituency.
Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin: Trump's best allies seem to be in the Russia-to-Wikileaks pipeline, dredging any possible digital thefts from Secretary Clinton's advisors and allies to uncover whatever nefarious bits they can harvest.

So what do you do if all the traditional sources of support turn against you? You charge them with corruption, claim the process is rigged, and fire up those still on your side. The downfall of this strategy is obvious though. We end up, post-election, with a weakened democracy as a large segment of the (often heavily armed) population disavows the outcome and threatens violence.

This is where we are.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Dangers of DIY

One of the blessings of the internet is the easy availability of instructions for all sorts of 
 do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, from fixing a dripping faucet to canning pickles or replacing a camshaft position sensor, whatever the heck that is. With affordable software and equipment, many of us have taken to designing our own gift cards, practicing sophisticated photography techniques and self-publishing our creations. There are even TV networks devoted to the DIY passion. Build your own furniture, rebuild your kitchen, bake your own wedding cake.

I for one love dabbling in new endeavors. I -- who have never written anything imaginative before -- decided to write a novel and I just may write my own will too. When someone I love has a medical diagnosis, just watch me search the internet and read everything I can about it, second guessing the doctors.

Doctors are one group whose professionalism is no longer respected in our culture. Everyone is a pop
medical expert, studying the latest superfoods and diet advice, then loading up on supplements from the natural food store. I should pity the doctors, who have intensively studied human anatomy and physiology as well as chemistry and who have to keep current with research in their fields. But I don't. I don't because in my field -- education -- everyone also assumes their own ideas are superior to our training and experience. 

You may have studied for many years to be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a graphic artist or any other profession. But don't expect Americans to defer to your training or your experience. We're suspect. We think you're in collusion with each other or with big businesses tied to your practice perhaps. We think you're the enemy. Until we need you.

This is the best I can make of the current fascination with outsiders in politics. We treat the presidency (and all other government offices) as though there were no skills, no knowledge and no experience required. Those of us with the least education mistrust anyone with too much of it. Give us the guy who doesn't understand how it works, might well flunk a geography test, and has no history of accomplishments in the field. 

Professional politician. That's no compliment, in spite of the importance of the job or the fact that navigating political realities and abiding by the intricate rules of the institutions are essential to getting anything done. 

I don't mind that one of my senators has been in the Senate long enough to make prudent decisions -- perhaps not as radical as I would like -- about what can get done. I don't mind that my new governor had so much experience as a successful legislator and secretary of state that she was able to whisk through several progressive changes to Oregon law in her first months. I'm happy to see new legislators from every walk of life -- farmers, teachers, nurses, engineers -- bring their important perspectives to governing. But I don't want a rookie governor. 

I also don't want a rookie doctor, a rookie teacher, a rookie lawyer, or a rookie president. No, thank you.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Steal and Reveal

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There's a new force in American politics. Hack into private conversations, hope for something embarrassing or criminal, and leak them to the press. Some come via Wikileaks, at least some of them stolen by Russian sources. Others  come from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests or Congressional subpoenas.  What they all seem to have in common is their target: Hillary Clinton.

From the 2010 State Department leaks by Julian Assange's Wikileaks to the latest release by the conservative Judicial Watch this week, we have a window into the minutiae of Secretary Clinton's correspondence with staff and colleagues. Thanks to the Russians -- who seem to have a particular interest in embarrassing Democrats this election cycle -- we have a trove of Democratic Party emails to pour over and now learn up to a hundred more Democrats' emails have also been hacked by Russia and will probably by released at whatever is determined to be the most damaging time.

I've taken a look at the most-cited worst examples from these troves. I suspect the Steal and Reveal folks were disappointed on the whole. From the American media though, you would think they'd uncovered all kinds of shady business. Here's the cheat sheet:

2010 Hack of State Department Cables (Wikileaks):  
In cables drafted by U.S. diplomats, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is described as an "alpha-dog," Afghan President Hamid Karzai is "driven by paranoia," and German Chancellor Angela Merkel allegedly "avoids risk and is rarely creative."(Washington Post, 29 Nov. 2010)
However, this release did considerable damage beyond the above embarrassments. (250,000 cables)

2015 Subpoena of Clinton Emails (Benghazi Committee):
Nothing in the emails was particularly damaging, but controversy swarmed around the emails that were deemed "private" and destroyed. Suspicion that relevant information could have been destroyed. Also charges that top secret information passed through Clinton's private server, though we now know that some were later classified confidential but none at the time. (30,000 emails)

2016 Hack of DNC Emails (Russia/Wikileaks):  The Washington Post examined the worst of the emails. Interestingly, all of them came from late April and May when it was already clear who the nominee would be.
On May 5, a staffer email suggested raising Sanders' religion as an issue. It wasn't picked up on and wasn't done.
On May 17, after controversy erupted over the Nevada state Democratic convention, Wasserman Schultz called Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver a "Damn liar," 
Later, "Spoken like someone who has never been a member of the Democratic Party and has no understanding of what we do," she said in response to a Politico story about Sanders saying the party hadn't been fair to him.
On May 3, Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias offered the DNC guidance on how to respond to accusations from the Sanders campaign:"My suggestion is that the DNC put out a statement saying that the accusations the Sanders campaign are not true"
On May 21, DNC national press secretary Mark Pautenbach suggested defending charges the DNC had undermined his campaign. Said Sanders "never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess." (20,000 emails)
 2016 FOIA Release of State Department Emails (Judicial Watch): While the Subpoena pulled emails from Clinton's server, these are emails to or from Clinton on the State Department server. Previously FBI Director Comey had uncovered a handful of emails to or from Clinton that were not included in the 30,000 turned over in 2015.
A single email has received most of the attention: one to a staffer requesting that Gilbert Chagoury, a wealthy Clinton Foundation donor of Lebanese descent, get to speak to the person at State responsible for Lebanese affairs. The staffer responded that the former ambassador to Lebanon would be the best contact. Yet there's no indication that the meeting ever took place. (Multiple FOIA requests; about 1000 pages)
Still to come: Hack of Clinton campaign (Russia): We don't know what might be contained in these emails but, given Julian Assange's vengefulness against Hillary Clinton (who called for his arrest), we expect them to be released at whatever time is deemed most damaging to the campaign. Perhaps days before the election when they'll be front page news.

There are no comparable spy campaigns against Clinton's opponent. We have his numerous court depositions and his public tweets -- all damning aplenty. But one has to wonder why the one-sided attacks?

If we were a nation that valued law and privacy, we would be outraged over the thefts and publication of private communication. But we seem to be more a nation that values dirt. And yet, there is nothing particularly damning here.

What can we glean from these few hundred thousands of communications regarding Hillary Clinton? I glean one thing: she is very careful about what she says, as well she should be, given the previous investigations of the Clintons during her husband's administration.Or, like me, she's a lousy phone typist and has to keep messages short.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

False Accusations do Hurt

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Today was a rough day. My stomach was in knots and my anxiety showed. No, I'm fine. All is well in Oregon. Family are good. Dogs too. I was anxious for tonight's speech. I read on Twitter the BernieorBust kids intended to disrupt Hillary Clinton's big speech. I feared boos during her moment. This actually troubled me the whole day.

No, I don't know Hillary. I don't think I even know anyone who does know her. We aren't linked in any particular way; I haven't been a direct beneficiary of her work. For much of her career, I've found her too hawkish, too much an opportunist. Opportunist. Now, isn't that interesting? It's another way of saying ambitious. I know some ambitious people but they have different anatomy. Why does her ambition bother people?

Where I've connected with her is as a leader who faced difficult times. Being someone with a clear vision and willing to do the hard work to get things done isn't easy -- not in politics and not in education. You see, I moved from being a popular teacher to a controversial administrator. In each of my leadership roles, there was someone working to undermine me, someone who made me divert productive time to address allegations and discontent. One person, actively working to attack your principles, your life's work, your integrity, your competence, can get more traction than you'd think.

In my first principal job, I had an employee who resented me. She told me she'd only support me if I accepted her as my mentor. I did not. I heard these crazy allegations of things I'd supposedly said, done, or intended. I tried to focus instead on the school we were trying to build. But there is nothing more hurtful than being wrongly accused, at least for me. So how do you respond -- through the hurt? You stay calm, you show no emotion, you address the issue and treat it as a valid concern. Later, if you get home before your husband falls asleep, you unload. Then in the morning, you are smiles and cheerfulness; veneer face.

My second administrative job was as Director of Special Education for our district and I dealt with some of the same while trying to do a hard job well.

Later, I asked to be a building principal again. The superintendent charged me with "civilizing" the high school I was to lead. Yes, that was his word. The school had been poorly managed for too long. Yes, there were great teachers, parents, kids and classified staff. But staff complained of lax attendance (often a class of 25 would only have 6 show up) and rules were applied to poor kids but sometimes not athletes or kids from powerful families. Two thirds of graduates never attended college or trade school. Nearly half of freshmen never graduated.

With the overwhelming support of the staff, we imposed some strict rules, some of them like my previous high school. Attendance came immediately under control, college enrollment rose to 83% of graduates, rules were enforced fairly to all, administrator visibility and whole staff efforts to focus on positive behavior helped the students become considerate and welcoming to visitors and to each other. There was more too, but suffice it to say that I don't work hard for a difficult change without seeing it through. The lucky thing for the next principal is that maintaining standards is a fifth the work of imposing them initially. Teachers and other staff were appreciative of the work we did and the outcomes we achieved.

But there was one. One employee who dedicated himself to undermining me. I don't think his accusations landed much with staff, but he was determined and managed to convince a group of students. He carried his complaints to the district office where, shortly after I arrived, the principal I replaced had become superintendent -- the one whose mess I had been charged with cleaning up.

The superintendent decided (as many Americans have) that if there were allegations, there must be a reason. There were crazy accusations and negative spins on good things that were happening. Again, I learned to listen, respond calmly, show respect, and move on. There were hurtful things, very hurtful things. I pretended to have thicker skin than I really do. I hid my hurt and focused on the work that needed to be done.

Hillary Clinton has endured many, many more crazy accusations, high budget investigations, subpoenas for everything but her baby teeth, and a public and a media that assumes that "where there's smoke there's fire". If there have been so many "scandals", she must be lying. She must be dishonest. She must be crooked.

I look at her and see someone a hell of a lot stronger than me. I finally gave up. It just wasn't worth defending myself against nonsense, working 70 hour weeks to improve my school, and even crying myself to sleep.

I bet she has unloaded to her family and friends in confidence too. I imagine the tears flowing when no one is around. I can see her struggling not to keep reliving the latest cruelty as her head hits the pillow. I see it because I've been there. I suspect most of us have.

I've read everything anyone has suggested about her alleged crimes. In 25 years and god knows how many billions in investigation expenses, how many subpoenas and witnesses, there's still nothing of consequence. Now I've lived a squeaky clean life, but you hire full-time staff to investigate every inch of it, give them an unlimited expense account, and I'll bet there will be something that looks bad, whether or not it really was.

I'd like Americans to make up their own minds. Shut down the noise -- the accusations and name-calling and silly memes -- and stick to the facts. She's tough, which makes her unlikable to some who prefer their women sweet and soft. She's ambitious, just like every person who ever entered politics. If we can stop hating long enough to examine, we might find a person who can do the job for us.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hall of Shame

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Today, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he would vote for the bigoted, misogynistic business failure. It seemed a good time to list others who have now put party above principle (or country). Here are the most prominent with their former quotes about the man.
(Note: updated as the Hall of Shame grows)

06 June, 2016 Update
Lindsay Graham removed from the Hall of Shame. His comment today:
      Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, another former primary rival of Mr. Trump’s, urged Republicans who have backed Mr. Trump to rescind their endorsements, citing the remarks about Judge Curiel and Mr. Trump’s expression of doubt on Sunday that a Muslim judge could remain neutral in the same lawsuit, given Mr. Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim noncitizens entering the country.
     “This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy,” Mr. Graham said. “If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it,” he added. “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”
Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House
"This is not conservatism," Ryan said. "What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for, and more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for...I told our members this morning to always strive to live up to our highest ideals, to uphold those principles in the Constitution on which we swear every two years that we will defend."
Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has prepared an alternate plan to run Republican Senate candidates separately from Donald Trump, should he be the GOP presidential nominee, according to a report. "We'll drop him like a hot rock" in the general election. (Washington Examiner, 2/27/2016)
John McCain, Arizona Senator
"I would also echo the many concerns about Mr. Trump’s uninformed and indeed dangerous statements on national security issues that have been raised by 65 Republican defense and foreign policy leaders."
 Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor
During a January event in New Hampshire, Christie called Trump one of the "carnival barkers of today. Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it is not the kind of leadership that will truly change America."
Marco Rubio, Florida Senator
“He is a guy who has been protected his whole life, and privileged his whole life, and insulated his life. There’s nothing tough about any of that. This is a massive fraud that he is perpetuating.” 

"If Donald Trump is the nominee, that’s the end of the Republican Party." 
Reince Priebus, Republican Party Chair
(Never criticized the business failure.)

Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House
"very, very destructive" and an example of him going "off the deep end."

And there are too many more. Today, Karl Rove announced he's meeting with the business failure and will presumably fall into line. All who do are complicit.

Notably, there are a few holdouts, a few prominent Republicans who if not outright opposing the business failure, are refusing to get in line. 
Mitt Romney, former GOP presidential nominee 
Jeb Bush, former Florida governor
George W. Bush, former president
George H.W. Bush, former president
Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard
Lindsay Graham, South Carolina Senator
Arnold Schwarzenegger, former California Governor
The question remains: will these have the courage to step out and actively oppose him?