Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Party like a Russian!

As Robbie Williams sings, Party like a Russian, or in Trump's case like an oligarch replete with gold plated penthouse flat and full size Simba for little Barron to ride.  It is very hard to wrap our American thoughts around a first family like this, since we have never seen one like it before.

However, some computer geeks in Michigan are saying not so fast.  There are irregularities popping up in the Midwest vote count.  J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, is telling the Clinton camp to demand a recount of the Midwest ballots because he feels electronic voting machines could be off by as much as 7 per cent.  Is it one last desperate gesture to derail a Trump White House, or could these guys have found a ghost in the machine?

So far the Clinton camp is not responding publicly, but one imagines they are looking into it.  One can see Trump swinging Ohio, but Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin too?  It seemed too good to be true election night, even if Michael Moore says he saw it coming.  The closeness of the tallies alone warrants a recount in all three states, which Hillary would need  in order to turn the electoral college.

At this point, she has a nearly 2 million popular vote lead over the Donald, thanks to her big wins in New York, California and Illinois.  In the eyes of the electoral college, a Californian is worth only one-fourth a Wyomingite, as the low populous states get an inordinate share of the electoral college ballots.  A slave counted more during the antebellum days, thanks to the three-fifths rule in the Constitution.

But, Donald is doing his best to have none of this rain on his parade.  He feels he won the election fair and square and has big plans for his first 100 days in office. A large part of it revolves around his new brother in arms, Vladimir Putin, who he appears to be on very close terms with for a man who says he has never actually met the Russian president face to face.  Billboards in Russia proclaim a brand new day in American-Russian relations not seen since World War II.

Trump has also vowed to tear up the Trans-Pacific Partnership and look more closely into our NATO alliances.  In Trump's world view, every country has to pull its weight, no more handouts from the US.  This means the Baltic nations are scrambling to meet the minimum investment of two per cent of their GDP to be considered full members.  They aren't very keen about this cozy relationship developing between Russia and the United States.  At the moment, there is a strong NATO presence in the region, which Balts feel is the only thing that keeps Vlad the Impaler from storming the three tiny countries, and reclaiming them as his own, like he did Crimea.

This is one reason some Senate Republicans have raised a red flag.  Putin may be AOK in Donald's mind but cold warriors like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are not so happy about this new relationship.  Russia still views Eastern Europe as being in its sphere of influence, and has been staunchly opposed to any militarization in the region.  They fought George W. Bush bitterly over a missile defense system in Poland and Hungary, and have been very upset with the NATO joint exercises in the region during the Obama administration.  Recently, Putin declared the Baltic Sea a no-go zone for NATO warships, and is beefing up his presence in the port city of Kaliningrad.

The Donald doesn't seem to be losing any sleep over it.  What do the Baltic countries matter in his great vision of the world?  Too cold and inhospitable for golf courses.

Fortunately, Trump seems to be considering Mitt Romney as Secretary of State.  Mitt at least has a broader world view and most likely would want to maintain our long standing relationships with Europe.  However, he too seemed smitten by Putin at one time, although he later walked back that statement and labeled Russia our number one security threat.  If Trump is looking to establish a good relationship with Russia, Mitt might not be the best choice.

It seems Putin is getting an unprecedented peak into Trump's administration, with some suggesting that Donald is running his cabinet picks by the Russian strong man, at least those that interest him.   The two appear to be in constant communication, plotting a joint strategy for when he gets into office.   Meanwhile, the acting President has been warned in no uncertain terms not to over-stretch his authority over the next two months.

No one really knows what a Trump administration will bring, since he has surprisingly kept his thoughts pretty close to his sleeve these past two weeks, preferring instead to lash out at SNL and the cast of Hamilton.   One can only hope that there might indeed be a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours in the Upper Midwest beyond Flint, and that these ballots are called into question.  I don't think we are ready for the United States of Trump, even those who supported him.

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