Round One has begun, a first clang! in the bruising prize fight that Donald Trump’s presidency threatens to become. It’s The Donald vs. the CIA and a bipartisan bunch of lawmakers. And it’s about whether or not Russian hackers attempted to help Trump win. What do you think he’s gonna say?

As a child of the Cold War—I was 11 years old during the Cuban Missile Crisis—I can easily consider Trump’s defense of Vladimir Putin as treasonous. And then I’m embarrassed because I work with a lot of ex-pat Russians every day, at a software company in California. They’re just people.

And there is plenty on the other side of that moral balance sheet: W’s illegal invasion of Iraq, Obama’s drone warfare all over the Middle East, the weak governments we have manipulated and the dictatorial governments we have supported over the years …just for starters. There is no high ground any more.

But future President Drumpf could make a bid for a new low.

The current “debate” has the CIA alleging that Russia hacked both the DNC and the RNC—but released only data that would disadvantage Clinton. Oh yes, and Trump’s idol Vladimir Putin supervised the attacks personally. Trump’s spirited denial of Russian involvement has cracked only slightly in recent days. One possibility he’s pitched: a 400-pound hacker in a New Jersey bedroom. Or, as Samantha Bee discovered, considerably lighter and sitting in a Moscow cubicle.

Trump should watch Mr. Robot; 400 pounds from that crew would get you three master hackers and their laptops.

Yesterday’s news flash: the Joint Chiefs of Staff was email system hacked, albeit on unsecured computers, but even then you need an address and a password. What’s amazing is not that they broke in, but how easily.

Russian hackers used a well-worn strategy known as a Trojan Horse. They sent some 30,000 individual emails to a university on the west coast; of those, four were forwarded to the Joint Chiefs, where just one was clicked. One. The hackers got in and within an hour the Pentagon was forced to take down its system. There was nothing classified to steal, but the Pentagon had to scrap the hardware and software, and restore the databases from backups. That hobbled our military for two weeks.

Hillary’s Campaign chairman John Podesta got hacked similarly: he clicked on a link that said it would fix a problem he didn’t have. Here’s the heartbreak: he first asked his IT guy, who wrote back that the link was “legitimate”—but now claims that he meant to type “illegitimate.” Oops.

I can’t resist spinning Shakespeare: For want of a typist, the Presidency was lost.

The Russians hacked the RNC too, according to the CIA report. But WikiLeaks released nothing. So WikiLeaks, or at least the Russian government, has information they have not revealed. The question now is could that information be used to blackmail the Trump Administration or any Republican? They might blackmail Democrats too, but since they are out of power, what would it accomplish?

And blaming Russia is too easy. They merely assaulted us with embarrassing (and mostly boring) information. And disinformation. But in every election, every campaign traffics in bullshit to some extent. There are far more effective attacks waged on our elections—and they all come from the inside.

There’s a big rush in the Obama administration to complete an investigation of the Russian hack and put out a report before he leaves office, because it’s easy to imagine Trump just looking the other way. Is he a slave to his investments in Russia? Why not? He also has a need to be seen as winning the election on his own, and not because Putin helped him.

But whether he cares to admit it or even knows it himself, Trump is in Putin’s pocket.

Trump’s response to the CIA assessment that Russia interfered in our election with the express purpose of electing Trump: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”

This is nothing but fresh bullshit coming from the coming Liar-in-Chief. The WMD “intelligence” that Dick Cheney cherry-picked from a source oh-so-appropriately nicknamed Curveball by the CIA. They even warned W’s administration that the raw data was unreliable. So what? We invaded anyway, and of course found no WMD. I don’t believe Cheney ever expected that we would.

Trump’s practiced skepticism is also proof, if you need any, that he cares about rigged elections only if he loses. But I’m telling you no secrets. He said that himself:

Let’s talk about gerrymandering. After losing the 2006 and 2008 elections, the Republicans had a brilliant idea: take over a majority of state governments in 2010, a census year, and gerrymander majorities. They did it by identifying dozens of districts where a Republican might unseat a Democrat, if more money were applied to the race.

More money was applied. The strategy worked, aided by the the Tea Party movement and the tendency for midterm elections to go against the party in the White House. Democrats lost the House of Representatives, and more importantly, lost a number of states. The Republicans won governor and legislature in six of the eight states that border the Great Lakes (the “Rust Belt” plus Minnesota and New York); they wound up controlling 25 states in all.

The first thing many of those one-party state governments did was make abortion as difficult as possible—even though the winning candidates had never campaigned on that issue. But that was just icing on the cake. The real goal was Karl Rove’s dream of a “permanent Republican majority.”

2010 was our once-a decade census year, and the resulting reapportionment in every state to account for population movement. The idea is to keep the same number of people in a state’s congressional districts. Gerrymandering is a perversion of that plan, identifying and legalizing strange-shaped districts that always elect Republicans.

Note that three of those states figured decisively in our 2016 election: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

I know you’re going to tell me that Democrats gerrymander when given the chance, and I’m going to tell you that California voters approved a non-partisan panel that truly did split the state up in a representative way. And then you can tell me that the Democrats can afford to be non-partisan because the state contains such a vast majority of Democratic voters—no matter how you slice it up.

And we’d both be right. Both parties have used gerrymandering to cheat. But the Republicans are not only way better at it right now, they are way more willing to use it. Which brings us to their ongoing effort to prevent citizens from voting at all, with voter ID laws straight out of the Jim Crow era. I’ve written at length about this legal voter fraud already, so I’ll spare you the sweeping summary in favor of one example.

Donald Trump won Wisconsin by some 22,000 votes. That’s 11 Electoral votes in a winner-take-all contest. It could have gone the other way, if the state’s Democratic base had turned out on election day. In Milwaukee county alone, a county with a significant non-white majority, 60,000 fewer votes were cast for Clinton in 2016 than were cast for Obama in 2012.

But why, that’s the question.

You could easily theorize that non-whites simply didn’t show up for Clinton, and I can see that happening. Now consider that Wisconsin’s government has been entirely in Republican control since 2010, and they passed tougher voter ID laws almost immediately after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Did those 60,000 non-voters stay home voluntarily? How do we find out?

I’ve detailed in previous posts the revival of tough Voter ID laws that followed the Supreme Court’s 2013 action. It’s no secret that tightened requirements reliably discriminate against people with less money, and in most places, these people tend to vote for Democrats. So the tug of war has always been: Democrats want more people to vote in an election, Republicans want fewer people to vote.

In other states, voter rolls were pared down, often for illegitimate reasons such as didn’t vote in the previous election. It’s legal voter fraud perpetrated by Republicans who want to disenfranchise the people who vote against them. We are a republic, with a constitution that prevents simple “majority rule”—but voting is both the biggest civic responsibility and the most precious right.

What’s happening in too many places is that people who should be able to vote, are not even on the list. But even when they do vote, the people in power—and right now that’s Republicans—hang onto power like dictators. Some examples:

  • North Carolina’s gubernatorial race was oh-so-close but won by a Democrat. Now in the lame duck session, the Republican-controlled legislature passed laws that severely limit the new governor’s power. And the defeated Republican governor signed them as one of his final acts in office.

As a commentator noted, this is banana republic behavior.

  • Maine’s repulsive reactionary governor ordered his Labor Department to not enforce a new minimum wage law voted in by the public. This is not as unusual as it sounds. George W. Bush issued “signing statements” with a lot of laws passed by Democrats, stating clearly what portions of them he would not enforce.
  • A reporter in Michigan uncovered evidence that some 70,000 votes were not counted, all coming from heavily black (and likely Democratic) Flint and Detroit. This in a state that Trump won by 11,000 votes.

We have seen the enemy, and with a little help from Vladimir Putin, they are us.


The Political Apprentice #2

Written by

Steve Schlich is retired after 35 years of writing fiction about software: “easy to use,” “does what you want,” and the like. Hobbies include webmaster for, writing songs and short stories. In 2004, he created, a website chronicling the naughty public art in Washington, D.C. He lives happily with his wife and cats, north of San Francisco.

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