Chris Hayes, the Best Journalist in Cable News, Explains Why the Fiscal Cliff Isn’t a Cliff

About a year ago I completely stopped watching all of the mainstream weekend news programs (McLaughlin, This Week, Face the Nation and Meet the Press) and have been watching instead Chris Hayes’ MSNBC Saturday and Sunday morning 2-hour program, Up with Chris Hayes.

What’s different about Chris Hayes?

Well, in addition to being brilliant and quick and — this is different — joyful, Hayes, the Washington D.C. Editor of The Nation and Senior Editor of In These Times, structures each of his programs in an entirely ad hoc manner, inviting a diverse group of guests appropriate to the subjects under discussion each week.

There are no pundits on his program. The punditocracy is dead.

I longed for such a structure when I used to watch “pundits” like George Will, Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson, who seemed willing to present themselves — absurdly — as experts on everything.

Chris Hayes, on the other hand, seeks out experts of various kinds — authors, academics, businesspeople of all genders and color and race  — whose experience is germane to the subject under discussion each week.

For the last year I have been thinking of posting a short blurb about Chris Hayes, and so I have been on the lookout for just the perfect example of his craft. Every single week seems to be a perfect example.

So here is a short 7-minute clip from this morning’s show, in which Hayes rants about the meaning of the fiscal cliff, and explains why it’s not a cliff, and explains why the discussion of the cliff is riven with hypocrisy.

This example (prefaced by an apparently unavoidable 30-second commercial message) shows as well as any other week chosen at random, how joyfully he approaches his work.

I love that.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Frank Rich on Truthiness, Intellectual Nihilism and the Decline of Journalism

This is an exceptionally good article in the New York Magazine by the always good Frank Rich. It’s a summing-up not just of the election, but of what has become of truth and what has become of journalism in this modern post-fact era of “truthiness.”

After allowing as how all politicians lie, he focuses primarily on those who have excelled at it in this current election season (guess who), and what it bodes for us all that ambitious politicians unhinged from reality can garner such exceptional levels of support (be afraid, be very afraid).

Personally (and Rich doesn’t say this, I do) I mark the beginning of the greatly accelerating decline of truth in our modern political age at the 1976 election campaign of Ronald Reagan, whose aw-gee-shucks folksy tales of welfare queens and jelly beans seized the hearts and minds of his earnest followers. In his zeal to preach the gospel that government is the only problem, Reagan taught the modern GOP that truth is irrelevant.

Fantasyland
Frank Rich

Denial has poisoned the GOP and threatens the rest of the country too.

Mitt Romney is already slithering into the mists of history, or at least La Jolla, gone and soon to be forgotten. A weightless figure unloved and distrusted by even his own supporters, he was always destined, win or lose, to be a transitory front man for a radical-right GOP intent on barreling full-speed down the Randian path laid out by its true 2012 standard-bearer, Paul Ryan. But as was said of another unsuccessful salesman who worked the New England territory, attention must be paid to Mitt as the door slams behind him in the aftermath of Barack Obama’s brilliant victory. Though Romney leaves no political heirs in his own party or elsewhere, he does leave a cultural legacy of sorts. He raised Truthiness to a level of chutzpah beyond Stephen Colbert’s fertile imagination, and on the grandest scale. That a presidential hopeful so cavalierly mendacious could get so close to the White House, winning some 48 percent of the popular vote, is no small accomplishment. The American weakness that Romney both apotheosized and exploited in achieving this feat—our post-fact syndrome where anyone on the public stage can make up anything and usually get away with it—won’t disappear with him. A slicker liar could have won, and still might.

[…]

But that’s the Republicans’ plight. The country has a larger problem—“intellectual nihilism,” as the writer Noam Scheiber recently labeled it. Since 9/11, often but not always under the right’s aegis, truth has been destabilized in America. The Bush administration’s contempt for what it dismissed as the “reality-based community” was vindicated when it successfully ginned up a war by convincing Americans that the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis and that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Our susceptibility to elaborate, beautifully wrought myths remains intact—whether we’re being spun by politicians, captains of finance pumping up a bubble, or sports heroes like Lance Armstrong and Joe Paterno. The news business, which we once counted on to vet hoaxes and fictions, is now so insecure about its existential future that it was cowed to some extent by the Scarboroughs, Noonans, and Roves, with most of the networks, not just Fox, ignoring the statistical data of Silver and others and instead predicting a long, nail-biting election night. (In reality, the election was called for Obama at 11:12 p.m. EST on NBC, just twelve minutes after it had been in 2008.) Our remaining journalistic institutions have even outsourced what used to be the very definition of their craft, fact-checking, to surrogates relegated to gimmicky sidebars (awarding Pinocchios and “pants on fire”). The fact-checkers have predictably become partisan targets, only further destabilizing the whole notion of what is meant by “news.”

Read the full article here.

Krugman: “Let’s Not Make a Deal”

Paul Krugman is advising President Obama to end the G.O.P.’s hostage-taking strategy by refusing to be intimidated by the “fiscal cliff.”

Mr. Obama should hang tough, declaring himself willing, if necessary, to hold his ground even at the cost of letting his opponents inflict damage on a still-shaky economy. And this is definitely no time to negotiate a “grand bargain” on the budget that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

[…]

Both the Bush-era tax cuts and the Obama administration’s payroll tax cut are set to expire, even as automatic spending cuts in defense and elsewhere kick in thanks to the deal struck after the 2011 confrontation over the debt ceiling. And the looming combination of tax increases and spending cuts looks easily large enough to push America back into recession.

… Mr. Obama has to be willing to let it happen if necessary.

[…]

So what should he do? Just say no, and go over the cliff if necessary.

It’s worth pointing out that the fiscal cliff isn’t really a cliff. It’s not like the debt-ceiling confrontation, where terrible things might well have happened right away if the deadline had been missed. This time, nothing very bad will happen to the economy if agreement isn’t reached until a few weeks or even a few months into 2013. So there’s time to bargain.

Krugman suggests that President Obama is in a stronger position now than ever to deal with G.O.P. blackmail.

Read full article: “Let’s Not Make a Deal

“GOP on Ice” (Cartoon by Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune)

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune, Nov 7, 2012

Why Your Vote Is Not Secure in Nevada County

In Nevada County, California, my wife and I are glad to have the option of receiving our ballot by mail, having about a month to study it and fill it out, then hand-delivering it ourselves directly to Clerk-Recorder Greg Diaz’s office at the Rood Center in Nevada City.

We delivered ours about a week ago.

We’ve had the impression that this is the most secure method of voting in this county.

But according to the information I found this morning on the Verified Voter website, our votes are still vulnerable in several serious ways, mostly related to the technology in use at the polling places and at the clerk-recorder’s office itself.

The technologies in use in California vary from county to county, with about a dozen counties using paper-only ballots, as the following map illustrates:



According to the California Secretary of State’s webpage, the technology in use in Nevada County is called the Hart Intercivic, and it is used statewide in only three other counties (Humboldt, San Mateo and Yolo). The Intercivic belongs to the class of voting technologies called “DREs” (Direct-Recording Electronic).

The Secretary of State’s webpage explains DREs this way:

All direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines used after January 1, 2006, must have an accessible voter-verified paper audit trail, pursuant to California Elections Code Section 19250. All voters voting on an electronic voting machine should review and verify their ballot choices on this printed paper record, prior to finalizing and casting their ballot. Once the ballot is cast, this paper record of the ballot is retained inside the voting machine as part of the election audit trail to verify the accuracy of the votes recorded. In accordance with California law, voters do not get a printed paper record of their vote choices.


CLICK FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE HART INTERCIVIC


So, what’s the problem?

Here’s what Verified Voter has to say about the Hart Intercivic eScan in use in Nevada County:

Security Concerns1

Unsecured network interfaces Network interfaces in the Hart system are not secured against direct attack. Poll workers can connect to JBCs or eScans over the management interfaces and perform back-office functions such as modifying the device software. The impact of this is that a malicious voter could potentially take over one or more units in a precinct and a malicious poll worker could potentially take over all the devices in a precinct. The subverted machines could then be used to produce any results of the attacker’s choice, regardless of voter input. We emphasize that these are not bugs in the Hart software, but rather features intentionally designed into the system which can be used in a fashion for which they were never intended.

Vulnerability to malicious inputs Because networked devices may be connected to other, potentially malicious devices, they must be prepared to accept robustly any input provided by such devices. The Hart software routinely fails to check the correctness of inputs from other components, and then proceeds to use those inputs in unsafe ways. The most damaging example of this is that SERVO, which is used to back up and verify the correctness of polling place devices can itself be compromised from those same devices. This implies that an attacker could subvert a single polling place device, through it subvert SERVO, and then use SERVO to reprogram every polling place device in the county. Although we have tested some individual components of this attack, we did not have time to confirm it in an end-to-end test.

No or insecure use of cryptography The standard method for securing network communication of the type in use in the Hart system is to use a cryptographic security protocol. However, we iound a notable lack of such techniques in Hart’s system. Instead, communications between devices generally happen in the clear, making attack far easier. Cryptography is used for MBBs, but the key management involves a single county-wide symmetric key that, if revealed, would allow an attacker to forge ballot information and election results. This key is stored insecurely in vulnerable polling-place devices, with the result that compromise of a single polling place device enables an attacker to forge election MBBs carrying election results for any device in the county.

Failure to protect ballot secrecy Hart’s system fails to adequately protect ballot secrecy. A poll worker or election official with access to the raw ballot records can reconstruct the order in which those votes were cast. Combined with information about the order in which voters cast their votes, this can be used to reconstruct how each voter voted.

  1. Hart Red Team Penetration Report, California Secretary of State Top to Bottom Review (2007) 

Conclusion

All electronic voting technologies statewide and nationwide share one pernicious feature: they are all proprietary.

How has it come to pass that our vote — what Thom Hartmann calls “the beating heart of democracy” — has been privatized?

A national DRE standard should be implemented and include the requirement that all electronic voting machines will be open-source (the internal hardware design and software program should be freely available for public inspection and review).

In truth, voting technology nationwide should be part of the publicly-owned and regulated commons.


Additional Resources


GOP Protests Non-Partisan Tax Report Showing No Connection Between Top Tax Rates and Economic Growth

From the New York Times, November 1, 2012:

Nonpartisan Tax Report Withdrawn After G.O.P. Protest

By JONATHAN WEISMAN
Published: November 1, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Congressional Research Service has withdrawn an economic report that found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth, a central tenet of conservative economic theory, after Senate Republicans raised concerns about the paper’s findings and wording.

The decision, made in late September against the advice of the agency’s economic team leadership, drew almost no notice at the time. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, cited the study a week and a half after it was withdrawn in a speech on tax policy at the National Press Club.

But it could actually draw new attention to the report, which questions the premise that lowering the top marginal tax rate stimulates economic growth and job creation.

“This has hues of a banana republic,” Mr. Schumer said. “They didn’t like a report, and instead of rebutting it, they had them take it down.”

Read full article here: “Nonpartisan Tax Report Withdrawn After G.O.P. Protest

12 Ways You Can Safeguard Your Vote

Reprinted from Yes! Magazine

By Fran KortenDoug PibelPaul Mozur

Election Day is right around the corner. Here are 12 tips to make sure your vote is counted.

Will it happen again? On November 6, we may see voters waiting in long lines, only to find they’re not on the voter rolls or because they now need to show ID to vote. In a new twist, some people may refrain from voting because they think they need ID, even when they actually don’t.

If you’re worried that we will wake up November 7 to find election procedures in question, read on.

The staff at YES! Magazine has researched the recommendations of voting integrity advocates and offers 12 ways you can protect your own vote—and the fairness of the system. Please forward this checklist to others to help make our election system work.

Before Election Day

1. Check your registration. Even if you think you’re registered, you might not be. Check online at www.CanIVote.org. Or call your local election officials (find their contact information at the Overseas Vote Foundation).

2. Find out where your polling place is and check the opening and closing times. Polling places can change. If you wait until the last minute, you can always track down your polling place by calling 1-866-OURVOTE or texting “vote” to 69866.

3. Mail with care. If you’re voting by mail, check carefully where you need to sign, how to seal the envelope, and how to mark the ballot. Note that some ballots weigh more than an ounce and require extra postage.

4. Vote early. If you encounter problems, you’ll have time to sort them out and may be able to help others.

5. Find out whether your state requires ID to vote, and what kind. You can find a state-by-state guide with details about your state’s requirements at www.866ourvote.org/state.

6. Find out who’s in charge. Make a phone list of your county and state election officials—it may save valuable time on Election Day if you need to get registration verification or other information.

On Election Day

7. Be sure to bring whatever ID your state may require. It’s always a good idea to take along some form of government-issued identification, such as your driver’s license. You may not need it, but it’s best to have it.

8. Bring your cell phone, if you have one. If you encounter or observe any problems, call a hotline immediately (see point #11).

9. Ask for a paper ballot. If you don’t want to use a machine, see if your polling place can provide a paper ballot. Some states, such as California, require polling places to have these available on request. If machines aren’t working or there are other problems, ask for an emergency ballot (although they may not be available everywhere).

10. Verify your vote. If you’re voting on an electronic voting machine, check the review screen to make sure it reflects your vote. If the machine produces a paper record (27 states require one), read it carefully to make sure it correctly reflects your vote. If it is incorrect, speak to a polling attendant. Don’t leave until you’re sure your vote has been properly recorded.

11. Document and report. If you encounter or observe difficulties such as excessive lines, voter harassment, or malfunctioning machines, be sure to take pictures and write down the details. Get all the facts you can—location, names, and specific problem.

We recommend two nationwide networks where you can report problems. One is 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683), which will have volunteer lawyers in many locations standing by to provide assistance. The other is 1-866 MY VOTE-1 (1-866-698-6831), which will record your problem by voicemail, then forward your call to your local board of elections. Both will enter the information you provide into a database, then use that information to support challenges to problem elections, as well as demands for reform in the future.

Into the future

12. Work for fair, transparent elections. Voice your questions about voting machines, voter suppression, and election problems promptly. Keep the issue in front of your election officials. If we want clean, trustworthy elections in 2014, we have to start working on it now.

Want more information? Here are three websites from the leading edge on voting issues.


Fran Korten, Doug Pibel, and Paul  Mozur wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. We’d also like to thank the staff at Demos, who helped us with some last-minute updates.

Interested?

YES! Magazine encourages you to make free use of this article by taking these easy steps. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons LicenseCreative Commons License

Bomb Scares, Belligerent Tea Partiers and Last-Minute Disenfranchisement – This Election Is Already Ugly

Reprinted from Alternet

By Joshua Holland

We’re seeing all the right-wing nonsense about our elections bear fruit.

In Florida, Ohio and North Carolina , a majority of Republicans believe that Democrats will steal this election and a majority of Dems are convinced that the GOP’s going to do the same. It’s a sign of how deeply compromised our democracy has become.

Credit for this sorry state of affairs goes to the right-wing fabulists who concocted the specter of widespread in-person voter fraud simply to pass ID laws that depress turnout in Dem-leaning constituencies. Also thank a number of recent Secretaries of State bent on decreasing the vote for partisan gain — folks like Katherine Harris, Ken Blackwell and John Husted.

Blame the constant stream of BS stories hyped by the conservative media – endless dogs and dead people voting. And the Supreme Court for intervening in 2000. Save some ire for Wally O’Dell and Diebold in 2004, and a little bit for lefty bloggers who turn every voting glitch into a major threat to our elections. This widespread distrust is already bearing fruits, with a series of nasty incidents at early voting places.

In Orange County, Florida, which Obama won by 90,000 votes in 2008, the final day of early voting was interrupted for 3 hours when police discovered two “suspicious packages ,” one of which they destroyed in a controlled detonation.

At the Huffington Post, Dan Froomkin writes:

If Election Day goes anything like the past 17 days of early voting in North Carolina, here’s what you can expect at your local precincts on Tuesday:

  • Belligerent citizens demanding the right to personally inspect the voting process and yelling “shut up” at the top of their lungs when election officials tell them that only official poll observers can do that.

  • Official poll observers who have been improperly trained by the groups they represent and think it’s their job to interrogate voters rather than just watch.

  • Long lines, which means that a lot of people end up waiting outside the designated no-electioneering zones, getting harangued by campaign workers.

  • Shouting matches between Republican and Democratic campaign workers — and sometimes voters standing in line — that can involve name-calling, threatening gestures, and the summoning of law enforcement.

  • A guy driving a tractor-trailer bed filled with effigies of Democratic officials, including President Barack Obama, with nooses around their neck. (Federal officials are looking into that one , which took place at an early voting center in Eastern North Carolina on Thursday.)

Police were called when a County Commissioner in Manatee County, Florida, became belligerent with poll-workers who asked her to refrain from campaignig for her son within the no-electioneering zone.

In Wisconsin, they’re trying to avoid a repeat of the chaos that aggressive poll-watchers created during the recall. The Wisconsin Journal :

“Some of the observers felt they needed to try to intimidate our workers or the voters, and that just won’t be tolerated this time,” said Diane Hermann-Brown, past president and current communications chairwoman for the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association. “Badgering isn’t going to be an option. There won’t be any third or fourth chances . You’re going to deal with it, or you are out.”

Conservatives have complained the Government Accountability Board has placed too many restrictions on where observers can stand, and who they can question, but election agency director Kevin Kennedy said a proper balance has been struck between the rights of observers, the privacy of voters and the need to keep lines moving when turnout is heavy.

Meanwhile, the Romney campaign is itself training Wisconsin poll-watchers — to mislead voters about their rights.

 
The Associated Press also reported on the nastiness at polling places in North Carolina:

The State Board of Elections has received many reports of “aggressive electioneering” at in-person voting sites. Candidate and party activists have been entering no-campaign zones — state law requires a 25- to 50-foot buffer at the door of a voting place — to work potential voters and using profanities and other aggressive language with the opposing side, a state board memo says.

There also have been reports of voters being told wrongly they can vote by phone or they can’t vote if they have outstanding traffic tickets. Voters also have complained about letters they’ve received that contain their voting history and those of their neighbors.

“I have heard more complaints, more misinformation and more what I call intimidation or suppression than any time during my tenure,” said state elections executive director Gary Bartlett, who’s held the job for nearly 20 years. Independent or third-party groups seem responsible for most activities that prompt complaints, which have come from every area of the state, Bartlett said.

The tea party group True The Vote is training Ohio poll workers, in violation of state law and likely with standards different than the state’s.

Twice in the last few weeks, voters in Maricopa County, Arizona – Home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio – were sent notices by election officials telling them to vote on November 6 in English and November 8 in Spanish.

Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, who is doing everything in his power to avoid counting votes, apparently defied federal courts yet again on Friday when issued an order that could invalidate legal provisional ballots.

Steve Rosenfeld reports, “Democrats in Denver are worried that their top local election official—who is running for county commisioner as a Republican—is not planning to deploy enough voting machines to easily accommodate polling place voters on Tuesday, particularly in racially mixed areas where Democrats are expected to do well.”

Florida Governor Rick Scott has also been a leader in making it hard to vote, leading to scenes like this – described as a 9-hour wait in what is obviously not a GOP stronghold:

It’s getting ugly out there. So, be careful, but go vote – voting really is the best revenge.

What’s the Difference Between the Romney-Ryan Economic Plan and the Invasion of Europe by Barbarian Hordes?

What’s the Difference Between the Romney-Ryan Economic Plan and the Invasion of Europe by Barbarian Hordes?

The barbarians were redistributionist socialists by comparison.

Here — in about two minutes — Robert Reich explains the Romney-Ryan economic plan.

Jim Reed Campaign: “LaMalfa Supports Plan That Would Bankrupt Medicare”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 3, 2012
For more information, contact: Jim Dyar (530) 921-8361
jimd@jimreed2012.com

Fall River Mills, CA – Doug LaMalfa has backed a plan that would bankrupt Medicare in four years, put millions of seniors at risk of losing their health care and return billions in waste, fraud and abuse back into the health care system. And it’s all in order to give subsidies to the insurance companies and hospitals that are contributing thousands to his campaign. LaMalfa’s stance puts him out of step not only with Congressional Republicans who voted for these long-term savings in Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan, but also the White House. (1) (2)

“Doug LaMalfa’s plan endangers the lives of our seniors, who could be forced to choose between feeding themselves and their health care if his plan to bankrupt Medicare goes through,” said LaMalfa’s opponent, Democrat Jim Reed. “Anyone voting on Tuesday should know that LaMalfa won’t stand up for our seniors. We simply can’t let this happen.”

Until just three weeks ago, LaMalfa’s only campaign position on his website was an erroneous argument to repeal the Affordable Care Act. LaMalfa said the act would cut $716 billion from Medicare, thus hurting seniors. Every non-partisan analyst who has studied the act has confirmed differently. Instead of LaMalfa’s lie, the act would save Medicare $700 by eliminating waste and inefficiencies within the insurance bureaucracy. Every guaranteed benefit would remain in place under the current act, and many would be added like free preventative care. (3)

But LaMalfa favors bureaucracy at the expense of saving Medicare. LaMalfa’s plan, what he calls a “market-oriented approach,” would kill the program by the year 2016.

“Doug wants to privatize Medicare and switch to a voucher system that would throw the health care system into the hands of insurance companies that are funding his campaign,” Reed said. “We absolutely can’t do this. Doug’s plan is a threat to this beloved program and a threat to the health of our older Americans.”

It’s not surprising that LaMalfa would support such a dubious plan forseniors. He has taken more than $34,000 from health care and insurance companies for his campaign and has a terrible voting record in Sacramento. (4) In 10 years of state government, he has consistently opposed measures to lower the cost of prescription drugs, expand senior-targeted health insurance coverage and improve quality of life for nursing home patients. He opposed SB 1248, a law upgrading California standards for nursing homes and other intermediate care facilities. (5)

“The senior citizens of our district deserve a moderate Congressman who looks out for them – not an ideologue who wants to shred government programs at the expense of properly honoring and caring for our elderly residents,” Reed said. “Putting seniors at the mercy of insurance companies trying to profit off their backs isn’t what America needs.  We need to strengthen Medicare, not send it to insolvency for the extremists to earn political points.”

—-
(1) “Those Medicare savings -achieved through reduced provider
reimbursements and curbed waste, fraud and abuse, not benefit cuts –
appear in the House Republicans’ FY 2013 budget, which Ryan authored.”
[ABC News, 8/14/12]

(2) CNN Fact Check: Would Romney bankrupt Medicare by 2016? 9/7/2012.
http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/07/politics/pol-fact-check-medicare/index.html

(3) Annenberg Public Policy Center/FactCheck.org: Misleading onslaught
by 60 Plus, 9/17/2010.
http://www.factcheck.org/2010/09/misleading-onslaught-by-60-plus/

(4) [Federal Elections Commission, Accessed 11/3/12]

(5) [SB 1248, AB 813, AB 2747]

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