Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Political Compost

My brain has been busy lately-- well not always. Some of the time I have spent online doing some shopping. And I was actually having some positive thoughts about injecting a tiny bit of my own money into this lousy economy, if not locally, at least some of it for good causes, including for gifts. And I had come across a couple of awe inspiring items, one of them a work of art.

Meanwhile, as usual, I did a cursory survey of the current news, and could have sworn that I read somewhere that the Chicago Tribune was going bankrupt, which is sad, while not surprising, since most print media are suffering from the web takeovers and the general dissatisfaction with the conventional news outlets, which are dominated by corporate interests and have been losing some of their journalists, leaving the country with a Fourth Estate lying on its back with all fours up in the air, almost a comical sight if it were not so tragic.

Then I heard on The News Hour that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojavitch had been arrested for corruption―OMG!! This is so close to home, the second bad governor in our neighbor state, one right after the other, and a story that is blasphemous in its assault on democracy. This kind of stuff is starting to get annoying.

While washing the dishes, the scary thought occurred to me that some of the downfalls happening around the country in local and state governments are all symptomatic of an increased vulnerability to the cynical takeover of our most cherished and hard won values, and we have brought it all upon ourselves. I am beginning to expect to see more and more of these people in positions of power falling over like dominoes, one after the other. And what is this like for the young people who are struggling to survive in a broken economy, with fewer options for education or decent jobs, as so many corporations have shifted to international robbery? And the people holding office have shifted to shiftier behavior.

Meanwhile, stories out of the African Continent are more and more demoralizing, with disease related to lack of clean water, and conflicts elsewhere related to tribal identities, which in the past were purposefully stirred up by dominating invaders. And violence has been springing up in Asia again, some of it directed at English speaking immigrants. The world is a mess, partly perhaps as a result of global economic woes, but chiefly, it seems, as a result of Western political domination. "Humanitarian" has almost become an oxymoron, if not for just a few sane persons, now mostly living on another continent than our own. The United States has slid down off its mountain top into the ocean, where the pollution was already thick with death before we got this far down.

So my personal resolution to write in a more optimistic vein fell down there with the rest of the country. Into that morass of self pity.

In the grocery store, which I went back to today, having forgot a few key items yesterday, I find that it sometimes takes me a minor heft of courage to pass by the corn chips. And in that spirit I am going to corral myself back to the hopeful again.

Despite the frustrations of living "below poverty level," with some troublesome challenges, I am looking forward to the coming New Year. We still don't know when the slide we are in will slow down enough for us to start climbing back up again, or even if we will be so blessed. But we have already heard the greatest wake-up call in perhaps the entire history of human civilization.

Perhaps this moment in time is the greatest opportunity ever for writers to register their thoughts, their fears, their outrages, their hopes and prayers. More and more of us are writing to be heard, with the free blogosphere out there now, meaning that a cacophony of opinions are sometimes waging a war for the available ears. But, wow! Together we have composted more political garbage than ever before even thought possible.

In some ways it should not surprise us that the rotting organic matter can give off an odor. If done properly good compost doesn't do that, but we are beginners at this new, heretofore unheard of avocation, a kind of collective outcry to get the rotten apples out of the barrel so they can be recycled into new life forms. We don't want to attract wild rodents, but we are just beginning to learn how to protect the resources we have, which is a totally new thing for a profligate society.

If we look in the right places we find many, many like-minded people who are more experienced at such things, some of them in alternative political parties or parallel social and issue oriented movements. Eventually we will get to the point that we will be sharing responsibilities with each other in whole new ways. And those "short-timers," waiting for us to fire them, who are so resistant to the prevailing reality, will begin to out themselves, tripping over themselves. They are already making themselves the butt of more and more jokes, until we are all profiting from their horrible mistakes by seeing opportunities to laugh. Laughter and crying are close allies of the human spirit.

A sense of humor is the greatest of all gifts. We can keep it in our pockets, more valuable than money, more readily available than food or water in trying times such as these.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Jon Eliot interview with Juan Guerra on Air America


Still, some "pundits" believe they know all about this story just because Mr. Guerra has been crying out to be heard by a deaf, dumb & blind corporate media machine. He has true grit, IMHO.

What, did you expect that exposing scandal in the Bush administration would produce no power struggle, and everyone would just smile and follow the grand jury's directions??? HA HA HA HA!

Case dismissed on (untrue) technicality, not on merits.

More background from Guerra himself. Does he sound like a "nutcase," or a true patriot who wishes to complete his job?

UPDATE 12-16-10, links are no longer active. The story refers to Juan Angel Guerras, District Attorney for Willacy County, TX, who indicted Dick Cheney around 2008. He charged the judge to recuse himself for conflict of interest.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ghosts Walk the Walls of Just Us

In the late nineties a news story here in Missouri came out of a Texas videotape. The videotape had emerged in a suit against our state. In a Texas private prison some of the incarcerated men were being abused by the use of violent restraint techniques and dogs. A Missouri felon had been transferred to that prison because of overcrowding in our own correctional institutions, and he won his case.

Missourians were dismayed by this and soon afterward Missouri prisoners being held in Texas were returned to our state, the contract with the private facility ended. That particular company running prisons was thought by some to be adequately punished by its loss of our business. However the prison industry is still flourishing today. In fact it would seem that one of the chief industries of Texas may have become incarceration, with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), a federal agency, as its chief customer. What a way to replace the corporate cattle ranches that moved south of the border after NAFTA.

Just now, we are learning of a murder of a prisoner in Texas which occurred in 2001, in a different private prison owned by the GEO Group whose stock is offered by Vanguard Group. This crime finally resulted in a civil judgement costing GEO $47.5 million. Another separate charge of murder in Val Verde County, Texas, has been tried more recently against a GEO guard. This is just the beginning of this story, which has been connected by the District Attorney of Willacy County, Juan Guerra, to Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales, who have now been indicted. One might wonder if this is the beginning of the truth telling that will follow the end of the Bush White House. And could some of those recently revealed illnesses of Bush's current Attorney General Michael Mukasey have any relationship to these revelations? It is enough to make one sick. Yet the story has not been widely reported, no surprise to bloggers.

The latest episode of this unfolding political thriller is a request for removal of the presiding judge who has been playing South Texas games with the local D.A. Guerra, who claims this judge caused him to lose reelection by filing a suit against him which was later dismissed. The judge also has a relationship to one of the local potential defendants, a Texas legislator. With a hearing set for today. Raymondville, the town where the prison is located, could get a little economic boost from the journalists likely to show up if the most famous of the stock holders in the Geo Group, which provides prison beds for federal and state offenders, actually show up. Wouldn't it be ironic if Cheney and Gonzales are indeed standing before a court in a town that dubs itself "Prisonville?'

The Lone Star State is one I have visited several times over the years. It's pretty much a straight shot over Highway 44. The billboards telling drivers things like "You are now in Big Country" always made me laugh. Parts of the state are vast expanses of grass-- other parts are desert. The tourist attractions tend to be along the Gulf Coast or in the larger cities.

Some western Texas towns where cattle are still being shipped north on trains to meat packing plants can have an oppressive odor of animal excrement hanging in the air. St. Louisans may also remember the odor of rotting blood around packing plants from back in the day when we had at least two in the metro area. It's enough to make anyone a vegetarian overnight But sometimes shipping and killing animals just plain stinks. Humans are humans though. I would never want to confuse species.

If you look at where Raymondville sits on a map you notice that it is a short way north of Brownsville, a place where the building of the Border Wall this side of the Rio Grande has been more vocally disputed that anywhere else. Brownsville has been described by some ecologists as an open biome, where people and species of all sorts go back and forth between the two countries, and have for an estimated thirty centuries. Many of the people living on either side are indigenous and have dual citizenships. No one in the vicinity is happy about the building of what has been called by Homeland Security "a fence." Yeah, eight foot tall steel tubes welded together are surely no obstruction to vision. Just ask Boeing, the company whose California branch has the contract to build it. If it's a fence it has Homeland Security specifications. Questions about it linger.

You may have seen this rising monstrosity covered on Now or on Bill Moyers' Journal on PBS. If not I recommend watching those episodes online. This is a federal project that involves four states, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. A Working Group at the University of Texas has cited human rights violations affecting in particular the long standing tribal indigenous peoples who were here before any European immigrants arrived. Their videotaped testimony {link opens your video-player} to the Inter­American Commission on Human Rights is also an hour long education. Who, under such circumstances has the first word about this land and how it is used or abused? Most Americans have begun to understand that we owe some form of reparations to the people our previous generations have used as though they are lesser beings. Take some time to inform yourself on this issue, and invite others to do so as well. Then begin to speak out to Congress, often and loudly.

That is what my blog is about, your Write to Be Heard!! Put your thoughts into your own words and tell your Senators and Representatives that reprehensible policies based on false fears do not make us more secure. They instead only incite anger, fear and divisive politics, not to mention injustice. And the use of private prisons by any government ought to be outlawed. Instead of being cost effective they raise costs not only by the per bed rate charged but by the lobbyists who continually seek longer sentences. No public official should ever have financial holdings in a government supported prison industry.

The Rio Grande makes a nice border between ourselves and our neighbors to the south. Do we really want to be capturing people who cross it and charging them with crimes while we ignore the real crimes of our own "leadership?" What is this fear, that terrorists are coming into the U.S., if not a bogus front for profiting from human flesh? Our own legislators and former Presidents accelerated this movement of people with so-called "free trade." It is free only to the corporate entities, which are made up of stockholders, some of whom are severely ethically challenged.

Our southern boundary has a rich history of disputes. Since those earlier times of conflict I would like to believe Americans have grown up as a people. Wouldn't it be so much lovelier to work together, celebrating our distinct cultures, and extending friendship to peoples and nations who have oftentimes served as humble examples of heroism to us? Or should we continue to capture immigrants to our land as prison meat?

As I have written before in this blog, we have nothing to lose but walls. Whether prison walls or border walls, both serve some purpose some of the time. A retaining wall can protect a garden or lawn from erosion. But neither can be used to an extreme against persons without causing injury. Most people relate to each other in a friendly manner, as "just us folks." When people in the upper ranks of the social or political hierarchy forget that they themselves are only human like the rest of us they make wrong decisions, and it is up to us to correct them. In some instances that may require a correctional institution.

For their sake hope the indicted do not end up in private prisons in Texas.

More Sources and suggested sites for information:






Who broke the case to the news media?


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Talking Turkey on the Economy

This year the American people have more than ever to be grateful for. While this might sound contradictory to a lot of us in the face of this economy, we have been given another chance. How often does that happen? Think about it.

Let's talk turkey. We have been the most spoiled brat consumerist country in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood for decades on end. The process accelerated under the Clinton Administration with the internet bubble and the passage of the first so-called "free trade agreements," and then blasted into outer space by the totally criminal Cheney-Bush war machine. Some of the experts are now saying the whole world economy was based on United States consumerism. No matter what the scientists told us about global climate changes threatening the lives of our own children we continued to buy stuff, bottled water, electronics, SUVs, houses, dinners out with ever increasing size of food portions. Nothing seemed to have any force of waking us up from our American Dream, the corrupted version, now available on DVD. We really must acknowledge the problem to begin recovering.

After the disastrous consequences of 9-11 and various Gulf Coast hurricanes we started yapping on and on, angrily blaming all our problems on the Muslim world, as if they could have done anything to have saved us from our hunger for more-- more oil, more bottled water, more corn syrup in our food and drink, more chain restaurants, more travel, more sex toys, more revealing clothing, more swimming pools and luxury homes, not to mention weapons, guns, bombs and the games that replicate them. Things were as they "should be," USA on top of the world, playing king of the hill, a dangerous and delusional game that could not but result in our eventual tumble down the hill alongside our friend jill, the EU.

Finally the inevitable happened and for the first time since our founding we have had to take a thoroughly good look at ourselves in the mirror of destiny. We haven't even begun to see our own image through that frosted up glass. And we may well remain in this fog until reality sets in. That is how delusional thinking works. "No, this can't be true, we are the wealthiest country on the planet, and nothing will ever change that." China chuckles, Russia outright laughs. And Higher Power, if it Be, raps us hard on our knuckles just for starters.

A lot of us, including me, have likened what we are now experiencing as analogous to the Great Depression. But it isn't. Yes, that fall was precipitated by a Gilded Age, a generous dose of materialistic obsession, as well as political corruption. But the real story today has more to do with the bottom line of natural resources. We have gobbled resources up like rats in a grain elevator who have a genetic metabolic disorder. It hasn't mattered to us how much we have or how little some others are living on-- we have still needed desperately to continue to eat, eat, eat, gobble, gobble.

Now, about those turkeys, and I don't mean the ones that are now leaving office. The turkey was the bird that Benjamin Franklin would have chosen for our national symbol instead of the bald eagle. He was, of course, talking about wild turkeys, the kind that I used to have in my rural front and back yards when I once lived in a little cottage up a gravel lane. They were close to extinction by mid twentieth century, with an estimated count of 300,000 birds nation wide.

The Eastern wild turkey is indigenous to Missouri and also a feed into our current state economy. Unlike eagles that soar in the sky these gloriously feathered creatures keep to the limbs of trees for safety, mostly living close to the earth where they consume insects, select grains and nuts. Every spring and fall these birds, related to quail, pheasant and grouse, reinstate themselves as a success story in the history of conservation in our state, bringing hunters out to rural areas to bag themselves a meal. Because of our first rate conservation efforts Missouri can now afford the hunting of over ten thousands of these creatures each year.

Where I was living in the late 80s, in Iron County, the turkeys were probably attracted to the pond on the roadside end of the property, a watering hole inhabited by peeper frogs and surrounded by tall grass and wildflowers. My undisciplined dog had alerted me to their presence by barking at them at night After that I noticed them more often as I traveled the countryside on home visits. They fly in small groups, gathering in flocks in some fields, and once I happened across a pile of feathers left behind by some hungry coyote.

The local people knew when hunting season began and when it ended so they could choose when they themselves would hunt. "Those city folks are going to be out here this weekend like flies on dead roadkill," they would say on the last days of the shotgun season. It was the most likely weekend for hunting injuries to show up in the ER and the worst two days for putting yourself in harm's way. Same with deer season. But it brought money in, which was important of course. Money is important to all of us, each in our own way. Some of us who are used to living more humbly are also more likely to survive the ups and downs because we have developed survival skills along our paths which we never forget.

Others ride individual private jets to Washington, D.C., to beg for a bailout loan. They expect their workers to keep them fat, even when some of us "lower" beings are starving. Here they are now, wearing their depleted money bags like millstones around their collars, having taken a workforce down with their lack of vision, not having planned ahead or faced the facts about the consumption of domestic and foreign oil that they have been selling to us for decades. We should help them out of this fix? Whatever for? So they can build factories in other countries for lower wage workers?

Instead we need to direct our attention to the workers, the people who create the wealth by their own sweat. We need to extend unemployment compensation, place some safe guards on IRAs and retirement funds, create a system of health care that treats everyone equally and covers all of us. We need infrastructure repair jobs created in every large city. We need mortgage assistance for the people who are in danger of losing their homes. And we will have to shore up the conservation efforts everywhere, planting neighborhood gardens, eating food that is within a two hour drive of where we live, and cutting back on the fertilizers that are creating dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico by farm runoff. We are going to have to start using some of the knowledge we have gained about renewable energy and energy conservation. If we want to remain a viable species in the web of life we will have to steward the planet in a more conservative and responsible way. This will be an exhilarating, wondrous experience as each community begins thinking and acting locally instead of just monetarily.

Globalization is necessary in the realm of human rights but not in the corporate world. The World Bank has not regulated global trade, it has facilitated escalation of exploitation by companies we know as "American," but what have they really become? Truly American corporations will need to be regulated with an eye to benefiting GDP, not CEOs. Capitalism is not in and of itself evil, but the motives behind it often become so.

Do we need any of these fat cats, who have been selling financial products that are essentially empty folders of bad debt? NO! Send them straight to prison. Empty some prison beds for them by creating recovery services for drug users and dealers that include training to work in self motivating neighborhood gardens, cooperatives, local theaters, shops, restaurants, and renewable or passive energy manufacturing. Make small business loans available in downtrodden urban neighborhoods instead of accelerating big business on the interstate edge of suburbia. We need to call a lobbyist what s/he is, a prostitute for corporate bigwigs, and make the job title "lobbyist" represent a felony crime. The johns in Congress need reforming as well as antibiotic shots into their every "but, but, but. . . ."

We are going to have to return to our roots as a community based democracy which is based on an assumption of sharing and responsibility for each other, a naturally occurring hierarchy of cooperation that is inherent in all primates. In the spirit of Thanksgiving perhaps we can remember that the living local model for American democracy was taught to us by the indigenous population of people whom the pilgrims met, and who were later to be exploited by the immigrant European concept of take, take, and take some more.

The reality is that we will have to accomplish this goal of community if we want to survive on a planet that our dear nation has been robbing blind. The word "corporation" in no way actually implies rights recognized by the Constitution. In fact the word has been expanded in meaning from a collection of like minded investors in business together so that it has taken on a connotation of corruption, imperialism, exploitation and downright evil. Money can only be a false idol to a social parasite.

Sometimes I feel kind of sorry for the Ayn Rand fans and other upper one per cent of the top ten percent of our population that control most of the world's wealth. They are so addicted to a way of life that feeds them more, more, more, that they have lost their sanity. If you dropped them off at a house trailer out on old Highway V they wouldn't have the foggiest notion what a turkey looks like or how to hunt for one.

Chances are the one they might spot would be in their own mirror, which is now beginning to defrost. And this is a good sign for the resurgence of true democracy, which has been handed back to the people after a recent significant election.

Just don't let yourselves down, folks. You are going to have some real work ahead of you. Vigilance is ever so. Change is welcome but never easy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Twelve Points in favor of Impeachment

1. My support is fully behind pursuing impeachment of current members of the administration, George W.Bush and Richard (Dick) Cheney. I deign not to designate them by their presumed titles, President and Vice President.
2. Holding the current administration accountable is required to safeguard the United States Constitution.
3. The press has publicly recognized the fears of some members of Congress related to their inside knowledge of administrative policies that skirted legality. Not only was a sovereign nation illegally invaded and war illegally waged, but also illegal torture was used against persons who had not been given Rights which are sacrosanct to Americans as well as to civil society in the World. Lies were used to produce more lies and violence was initiated without warrant or due process
4. Congress now must act, since the truth has emerged, in order to effect a remedy. This will require courage. Courage is a quality admired by the populace.
5. Failure to pursue all legal means necessary to reign in the powers of the Presidency will result in damage beyond knowing to our nation. The failing economy is only the beginning of the decline that could ensue.
6. The outcome of pursuing every legal remedy, including impeachment proceedings against both persons known as the President and the Vice President, preferably simultaneously, will be to relieve our nation of its now damaged reputation in the eyes of the world and to restore confidence of its citizens in the government.
7. Assuming a political stance of looking forward rather than back as a way of protecting individual Congress members is not a choice. It smacks of cowardice. It is an inside-the-Beltway idea that has no relevance to the people who cast votes in a nation no longer recognizing the sovereignty of The People.
8. Our nation has ventured into the beginning of a reign of fascism, a too close alliance between government and corporate powers. The so-called "Bail-out" is symptomatic of this.
9. The Republican and Democratic Parties have become way too intertwined and mutually corrupt. Their members are deluded by material gain and illusory power rather than serving as our true representatives. Other Parties must be allowed equal access to office.
10. Currently reigning political corruption is most damaging to us in foreign policy. We often label other nations as intolerant and in violation of civil rights. In fact we are a nation of great resources and wealth with an obligation to share with those who are not so blessed. Yet we fail to provide some of our own citizens with "the pursuit of happiness" as could be provided by health care.
11. Money forfeited to the now defunct regime of evil, to be replaced by President-elect Barrack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden, has been wasted on violence, personal accrual of assets, false and nefarious propaganda and directives such as the imperial rule of the Department of Justice, blasphemous violations of the Constitution by political operatives for political gain, abuse of the role of Commander in Chief, and establishment of illegal empire in foreign states. These are indeed high crimes and misdemeanors.
12. As a citizen of the United States of America, I demand that the Congress of these United States proceed with impeachment against George W. Bush and Richard (Dick) Cheney.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fwd: Re: [IOW] discussing Emanuel in new role

Thinking in the most optimistically possible vein I will hope that
Emanuel will serve as a good diplomat to deliver the peace plans of
Obama to the conservative element remaining in Congress.

Since the bushco administration has been in power, war resistance has
been a hard row to hoe. Personally I think we need to approach the
subject in a lot smarter way then we did in the Viet Nam era. Perhaps we need to demonstrate against the news media, for example, because they don't cover the protests.

This economy is definitely, most certainly about the war machine. It is
the only industry that continues to thrive in this country, and it uses
tremendous amounts of fuel on an hourly basis to stay alive. Climate
change is in the whole mess too.

What we need is an intelligently woven fabric for our future that
includes all the essential fibers and colors. On some news program
yesterday evening a group of young people were saying that Obama
represents more than a Presidency-- he represents a Movement, the Yes We Can Movement.

After a Peak Experience like we all had on Election Day evening it is
common to drift downward a bit and start to wonder if any good will
really come of the change. If we can keep steadily reassuring each other
that we will find new ways to continue forward with new allies,
including the young people who voted for the first time, I believe, Yes
We Can end these wars. The question about Afghanistan & Iraq that exists as I understand it is that we actually invited a new wing of "Al Quaeda" into Iraq by invading them. Obama has been saying we never should have gone there-- we wasted our resources there and stirred up a genocidal conflict.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan the methods being used to track "the enemy,"
either "Al Quaeda" or the Taliban, has been through satellite images and
a huge electronic secret underground Air Force headquarters that
sometimes mistakes civilians for soldiersof the enemy. They bomb villages by pushing a button. It is the remnants of Rumfelt's idea of the remote control war, and it is devastating to its targets. Foot soldiers might actually
be easier for the local villagers to get along with. I don't know how
the costs would compare. We need to start negotiating instead of just

At least that is my interpretation of what Obama has been trying to tell
us. It is difficult to make your plans clear under the attack of stupid
ads that emphasize every fact in the wrong light.

So, I take it that everyone is planning to meet with the Greens on Sat.
a.m. for local action about the City Gov.,
Organizing meeting to elect Elston K. McCowan Mayor of the City of St.
(Writing a plan to use military dollars for financially strapped
cities sounds like a winner to me
10:00 am, Saturday, November 15, 2008
F.I.R.E. [Firefighters Institute for Racial Equality]
1020 N. Taylor [4 blocks north
of Delmar at C.D. Banks St.]

. . . and then they will attend Chuc's  VFP afternoon event at the Carpenter Library regarding the economy. I would think we would talk even more there about how to shift the military budget to domestic needs, pulling the money out from under the war machine.
Pat B.

Announcement: Town Hall  Meeting: Life on the Edge of a Bubble: How Long Can We Hold On?

Saturday, November 15, 3:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Carpenter Branch Library, 3309 South Grand Boulevard, St. Louis, MO
(S. Grand at Utah)

Filmographer Michael Berger has organized a Town Hall Meeting concerning the current financial crisis. Come speak out and listen!

Sponsor: Veterans For Peace
Contact Chuc Smith

We are interested in hearing about how the current crisis is affecting people. We will be asking participants what they see as the long term impact of the unfolding events?  What pressures are you experiencing? Does government have an obligation to work for fairness and equitable distribution of the wealth or should "free" markets be allowed to resolve this crisis.  Will our children and future generations have more or less opportunity for economic mobility?  What is role should government play in our economic affairs?  Can we even speak of a "free" market?  How does government policy influence the economy?  These are a few of the questions we would like to explore.

We need voices and ideas as well as folks willing to listen and learn. This is what Democracy looks like!

All the best...

Chuc Smith, past president of the Don Connors Chapter of Veterans For Peace

Wage Peace!

Charles T. Smith
1524 Eastmont Place
University City, MO 63130

Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization.  
Mohandas Ghandi

Saturday, November 8, 2008

After the celebration, back to work in Congress

We can be proud as Missourians that one of our Senators had been on board with the candidacy of Barack Obama from the beginning. They were good friends when Claire McCaskill was running for her current office, and Obama came to Missouri to campaign for her, as she later accompanied him in his run for President.

Now that he is our President-elect, as well as still a Senator for another couple of months, here is a speech that you might want to read that reveals how she felt about the bailout. She and Obama ultimately both voted to support it, but these words do reveal how well she comprehends what they were doing and how adamantly she decries the continued corruption of a deregulated free market system.

Here is a letter that I just sent her encouraging her to continue reigning in the CEOs.

Dear Senator McCaskill:

Most Americans are elated to have our newly elected President preparing to take over. As Missourians we are also proud to have one of our Senators playing the role of close associate to him.

At the same time the reality of everyday life has been shaken by our economic catastrophe. The "news" of the downturn apparently was brought out to the surface months after it first appeared as a way of making certain that the privileged few at the top could hold onto some of their wealth through legislative robbery of the people who are mere workers.

Don't imagine that your constituents will simply get over this. People are blogging about which of these "bailed out" firms contributed to whom and in what amounts.

You yourself are a woman of considerable wealth compared to most, and I hope that you understand that many of us are still angry at the Clinton Administration for passing NAFTA, which seemed to have been based on the economy of Arkansas related to Tyson chicken factories.

When John McCain's campaign began to use the phrase "change is coming," I laughed, saying, no, CHANGE IS HERE. This is the truth of the matter. The ever expanding materialistic marketplace that has put product above humanity has cornered us. Those who recognize how some of this happened will reassess the size of their own garages and tighten their belts, as our parents used to say.

But we will also be looking for people in Washington who are going to show genuine tightening of the Beltway as well.

We are done with artificiality. We want the Senate to take leadership in reigning in the spoiled rotten CEOs. No economy, no bonus. No bailout for bank administrators.

Bailouts for workers.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My computer clock shows a few minutes after 10pm. NBC has just declared Barack Obama the winner, and our new President Elect. I have been watching/listening to the election results via KPLR/The Beacon online.

Lacy Clay is being interviewed. MO has still not been declared either way. It is an emotional moment, electric. Crowd chanting "Yes we did," after campaign slogan "Yes we can" has been accomplished, at least presumably. Tears flow.

And our new Governor is Jay Nixon, no surprise at all. But he has had an impressive lead. He is giving his acceptance speech, and is overjoyed. Of course, he may not have the other State wide offices in his corner.

My daughter calls to share her excitement.

Huh, the real live John Combest, MO bloggers' best friend, is on camera now. I didn't realize he is that young.

10:19 John McCain is conceding already!! OMG! as an election integrity advocate I would advise him to wait until morning, but I guess it looks that solid. My daughter calls to share her excitement.

"Whatever our differences we are all Americans."

The crowd is a bit contentious over his statement of personal blame for the loss. He is very gracious, the crowd is as polarized as ever. Let's hope that they will see the coming change, which has been the theme of the contest, as a transformation that fits their needs as time progresses.

We still don't know the outcome of the Presidential race in MO. I will be curious to see the final results of the polling compared to the counted votes.

So much for now. I have an appointment tomorrow & have to get some sleep. My daughter is elated, and so am I, although still wondering about some of the state offices.

Well, I do need to mention the 7 hour waits in Velda Village today, and Goeke's comment on TV that the Missourians for Honest Elections were to blame, because they advised people to ask for paper ballots, LOL. Everybody with a brain knows by now that paper is quicker as well as safer. You would think that it would be a no brainer to provide all the polling places in North St. Louis which have a majority of black voters with an adequate number of paper ballots.

Nevermind. The truth will emerge. And the BoEC will be newly appointed by a new governor.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Check your Voter Registration Now

So, suppose you go to the polls and find out when you get there that your name is not on the list of registered voters? What do you do? Who do you call? Why ask this beforehand?

Election day is now only days away. Take this one action now--check to see if you are truly registered. We are at a turning point in American history in more ways than one, and having our vote received and counted is essential to our future. Among the many tricks in the book of election shenanigans is the old standard of purging the voter rolls at the last minute-- illegal, but a known maneuver. This apparently actually happened in St. Louis City in 2000, disenfranchising hundreds or even thousands of voters. You may remember the uproar. Since then a great deal of work has been done to prevent such an occurrence from happening here again. In fact this evening Jonah Goldman of Election Protection appeared on Channel 5 NBC News.

Still we have had reportedly ten percent of the voters in Missouri removed from the lists. Could you be among them?

Since 2002 a lot of changes have occurred in our voting systems, and one of them is the installation of Missouri Centralized Voter Registration (MCVR), with the Secretary of State-- or chief election officer-- keeping one computerized version of the rolls from all over the state. The object of this is supposed to be to keep any voter from voting in more than one place. Never mind that the statistical instances of this happening are virtually nil. It was written into the Help America Vote Act, the biggest recreant legislation Congress ever pulled over on the American people.

Naturally the new computerized data systems have been found to be faulty in some states, with suspicions surrounding them, as though the new voting machines were not already enough of a problem. The new software is really a middleman added to the more tried and true older methods of local control.

St. Louis City and County have used these new MCVR systems several times already to work the bugs out, and bugs they have had too. Fortunately we still have access here to the plain old voter sign-in books, and chances are that we will have smooth and cool poll workers in enough numbers to compensate, if we can all be patient with the process. If you happen to be voting late in the day, please stay to ask whether the number of votes counted is equal to the number of voters who signed the book. Say your "please" and "thank yous" to the poll workers, whom we often under appreciate.

But, before Tuesday arrives, if you are like me you might want to look up your name on the Secretary of State's website, if, like me, you had heard you could do that. Attempting to use it turned out to be futile, so that duty of confirming registrations has been punted back to the counties, after the website problems were reported to the SoS office.

When I called the County Board of Election Commissioners (BoEC), they had received so many new registrants (about 50,000) that they had already postponed using the Missouri Centralized Registration until after this major election.

This entire situation of numerous new voters and highest turnouts ever expected should alert us to the need to check your registration ahead of time, especially for new or changed registrations. Don't wait until Tuesday to call. The phone lines will be busy enough that day.

The County continues to use the system they have always used and found my name with my current address readily. The employee who spoke to me on the phone was terrific, and encouraged me to send others to the phone to check their own registrations if they feel the need. So in St. Louis County, if you have any question about whether you are properly registered. call them at (314) 615-1800. They are receiving massive numbers of calls, of course, so be patient, hang on the line until someone answers. And don't wait until election day to check-- call ahead of time.

The St. Louis City Board of Election reports that they have also received numerous calls from individual who could not find themselves listed on the MCVR. Therefore you are advised to call them at (314) 644-4336.

When you do finally go to vote the lines may be long, so request a paper ballot, which takes less time than the touch screens and is also hand recountable. Remember to bring along an ID that shows your current address, or a recently postmarked utility bill or government letter. If your registration is not on the list you can check to see if there are two election judges who recognize you from a previous election-- they can co-sign you into the book.

Or they may be able to look back in the book for your name. If not you can vote on a provisional ballot, although this should only be done as a last resort. You should never take a provisional ballot if you are at the wrong polling place. Instead, if you are unsure, vote early enough to have the time to go to the right place. A poll worker can look up your address for you to see if it is served by this specific polling place and send you to the right one. Some polling places have been consolidated, so confusion may occur. Your polling place is always listed on the card you receive from the BoEC a few days before the election, and that card is also a piece of government mail that can be used as your ID. Put it in your wallet the minute you receive it.

If you are certain you are registered and in the right place, but not being allowed to vote for some reason, your next move is to request a provisional ballot. The envelope it is in has a detachable ticket that gives you an 800 number to call later to be certain your vote was counted. In some cases you may be required to provide further documentation that you do live at the address you have claimed.

Never leave without voting! Read the signs about your voting rights and insist, politely, that you are here to vote. If you are time pressed and know you are in the right place but being told you are not on the list, request to vote on a provisional ballot. If all else fails and you cannot get help from the poll workers where you are, call Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR VOTE. Your call will be rerouted to the local advocates of Voter Protection Coalition in St. Louis where volunteer lawyers can answer your questions, speak to the election judges for you, and if necessary come to your polling place to intervene.

If you have been convicted of a felony but have served all of your time including parole or probation you are qualified to vote in Missouri although you must have been registered before the deadline, which is now passed.

This year the BoEC will mail you a card that has your complete ballot issues and candidates listed on it. You can also download this information ahead of time at http://www.stlouisco.com/scripts/elections/index.cfm
or (for city) http://www.stlelections.com/images/pdfs/samp%20ballot%20nov.pdf

By the way, in some other states now, as in Ohio in 2004, the vote count online reporting is being funnelled through a software middleman. Bev Harris is asking people to use VideoTheVote.org to record the vote counting. Perhaps if you have a press card the election directors will allow you to do this.
Or possibly candidates will be allowed to do so.

This is a turning point in our nation's history, and we are all responsible for increasing our vigilance over the voting rights that we have won over the centuries. Prepare ahead of time and make your voice heard through a PAPER ballot.
This information is provided as a public service and can be copied and distributed freely.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Missouri Election Protection On Track

Channel 5 news at 10 pm surprisingly showed a sound bite of U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway giving a phone number hotline for election fraud. I thought I heard her say strongly that election fraud will not be tolerated. That was not in this video of her full press release from Wed. morning.

This Platform blog by Eddie Roth appears to have been updated to reflect his conversation with Phillip, and also has a link to Phillip's prepared testimony for the BoEC. Congrats, Phillip! Outstanding work.

Here is one that was on the Tues. Fox 2 News featuring our beloved Goeke.

And another in the Wed. P-D about the BoEC meeting, with Goeke's argument continuing against Project Vote testimony to the contrary.

Reading between the lines I think perhaps someone or ones have already contacted Hanaway's office re: their concerns. Mr. Rove, you can stay home. You will not disrupt us here.

Missourians are not called the Show Me State for no reason.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A New Era in American History

By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean.
- Mark Twain

Thoughts have been running around in my head since that memorable day, September 19, when the stock market first crashed and Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson danced out in front of Congress demanding we turn over all our money. This past week I heard more than once that we are now beginning a new era. George Soros appeared on Bill Moyers' Journal Friday evening, October 10, and he may have been the original source of the new phrase, since he said it there, and has written a new book. That idea rang true as perhaps the culmination of a whole new book genre written by multiple authors about the scandalous Bush administration and the loss of power in Congress.

The elephant in the room is not just a republican, it is “The War,” that illegal incursion and continued invasive occupation of Iraq that was illegal in the first place, illegal now, and ill conceived by global thieves. Representative Nancy Pelosi, current House Speaker, has been videotaped saying, “At the time it seemed like a good idea,” in reference to the secret change in administration policy which included spying on American citizens, only one in numerous violations of our cherished Constitution. This spending of 720 million dollars a day in Iraq, which has chiefly benefited questionable military businesses with connections to government, is the dark underbelly of our fall. We the People themselves have become a cheap commodity. Have we ourselves no inherent value compared to the oil our country drinks for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

The Bush House and its advisers will be forever chiefly known as the robber barons who retreated into history under the guise of saving us from our own greed and addiction to oil by raping every corner of the earth for more, more, more. Act I, Scene I, as I well remember, opened in the first Bush administration, with journalist Dianne Sawyer confronting the then president, H.W., by initiating a question around a toy soldier on a White House mantle. He said, “I have not yet experienced my test of fire.” He sounded, to me, defiant to her critical gaze. When the Gulf War was later declared by him I spent half a day crying, remembering Viet Nam, and placed a candle in my window at night fall. Later on I noted another candle in a window across the street.

Since that time, if not earlier, we have been setting our sights on oil all over the world. To think we could save ourselves now by drilling in the Alaska wilderness or continental shelf is the last sputtering of an addict's demise.

This is not going to be easy, folks. It's like going off tobacco cold turkey. Every one of us is going to feel it in every corner of our individual little bodies. So you think you feel bad now, having lost a lot of money? So your paralyzed cilia are waking back up in your bronchial tubes and hacking up noxious mucus? If you have been in some position of power and responsibility all eyes are on you now. The “underclass” who have been living on less for their entire lives will be in a position of advantage to you, having developed survival skills you know little about. You can't miss what you have never had, and you do not have a desire for what you have never known. How many of us are ready to be good sports about this?

Imagine missing time spent standing with a few friends at a bus stop in a big city on one's way to a job in outer suburbia, where the development has spread further and further out, away from the decline of infrastructure, the rise of crime, the old, dominant brick buildings, the newer skyscrapers, the concentrated population and dirty politics, the white people on some streets and other colors on others, the endless cry for renewal, money spent on a new stadium while schools have been taken over by the state.

You would miss the neighborhood where you live in old flats made of nineteenth century brick. The street corner liquor store, that corner where the dope is sold. The little storefront now converted into a safe house or a church with an evangelical minister. The food pantry that you visit another short bus ride away so as to help your grandma who watches your kids while you spend ten hours at least including transportation time to go to work. The outdoor market where your cousin goes at the end of the day to collect the leftovers the vendors discard as garbage. That park where one of your uncles can be found with his bottle of whiskey in a brown bag, sitting on a bench until he notices the approach of a blue uniform. The old school yard where you played as a child, of the now boarded building. This neighborhood is filled with memories, and still houses those you know as family.

You take the bus way, way out there to the fringes of the metropolitan area through the city to the county, through the inner suburbs to the fringe where neighborhoods of new condos and houses built out of imported lumber from now deforested places in countries that have few environmental laws, and you step off at a high class shopping center where people spend the money they have “worked hard” for, in professional jobs in health care, education, business administration, or whatever, after earning doctorates in their respective fields. You do know where the IT jobs have gone, right? Well, think now back to the days of fifty students in a classroom. We are not going to be able to afford this continued high class/ low class division of labor, with the bus riders unpacking shoes in the back rooms for your preciously covered exquisite little feet.

Either we are going to have to move out to your house or you back into ours. All those highways that you built out to South County or West County (to create jobs, you reasoned) are not going to continue to be needed. We will have to consolidate again, ride bicycles, share rides, and invest in mass transit. Some of us have been saying this for forty plus years now, but most of you have become great fans of Walmart, where poor folks can buy work clothes to wear into office buildings, where they clean offices after you go home.

This is all going to be hugely emotional, and not only emotional. If you are one of the lucky ones who has been spending time in the gym you are unlikely to need to continue when you are depending more on your shoe leather to get you wherever. People in China are glad to hear this because they will be shipping us the footwear until we get back to the geographic reality of needing actual skilled labor and factories again right here where we live ourselves.

These are not easy things to consider, while contemplating the ravages of continued severe and unpredictable weather patterns which have just begun to emerge. The surface of the earth itself is warming up, and it may contribute to geological disturbances and water shifts with some contraction and expansion of solids being altered from recent into new forms. We never know until it happens.

What will tomorrow be like? It is the ever present question which keeps us focused on the mystery and pulls us into the future. These will be exciting times too, not just times of stress and conflict. These challenges may actually pull us together if we choose our leadership wisely and follow our hearts toward the possibilities, the potential for creativity and new communities of diversity as a replacement for our weaknesses and greed. Once again our culture will look to the Sun as a source of inspiration and power, as cultures of old universally did.

Yes, I agree, this is the beginning of a new era. Perhaps instead of Armageddon it will emerge as another marker that has been predicted for years by a different subculture than the extreme right. Reagonomics and Bill O'Reilly will be history.

We have now entered The Age of Aquarius in a tangible way. Celebrate!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dogpaddling in Muddy Elections

On April 3, 2007, for the first time, I voted on a touchscreen voting machine (DRE), because St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners did not offer any alternative method of voting that day. Such a wonder-- to click a button on a screen and my vote slips into the black box! Makes me want to run out and shout "Paper Ballots! They can be recounted!"

Our overworked Elections Director argues that the DREs save the municipalities money spent on paper in the smaller elections. (They also can be programmed with more than one ballot style for overlapping voting districts.) In fact they have a host of ongoing expenses the county pays for, and just ask any candidate who has requested a recount what they think of them. There is no way to recount electronic votes with assurance of accuracy. Run the electronic records back through again, and they will come out the same. Recounting the paper trail is of little use since people rarely think to check it, or do not notice errors, if they can read the faint and small print. Sometimes the machine eats the paper. Only hand counted hand marked paper ballots have been shown to be truly accurate.

How can we, as concerned citizens, assure the integrity of our elections? We want to boil it down to an assurance that each citizen of this state and this nation has the right to vote. That right includes having the vote accurately counted. Numerous ways of interfering with that right have been dredged up by jealous minds since humans first drew straws. American history is colorful with stories of election fraud methods and episodes.

The place where we live no longer looks to me like America, though. Does it to you? What has happened to us? Have we fallen to the bottom of the ocean like Atlantis? Are we entering the crux of a lost civilization, or do we still have time to turn around, to heal our water-inundated lungs of this corrupt government drowning in corporatocracy? We simply did not know how to swim in a global electronic age. Computers have become a new literacy test, whether in elections, the stock market, jobs or school. And we have lessons to learn about any process that is electronic.

Let's float with hope for a moment or two. In life energy terms a human who has fallen into cold, clear water has about twenty minutes before rescue efforts will no longer be able to revive the most susceptible neurological pathways. Dirty water, like we have fallen into, complicates the outcome. Magnify this one life into an entire society-- or its middle and lower classes-- and maybe we do still have time to forestall the worst effects. Some of the outcome may depend on faith and courage. A whole lot of it depends on a long course of difficult rehabilitation for the bad actors. Yes, we will have to work to fix our elections systems. And then we will have to start actually voting.

This can be viewed as an exciting time, though perilous. Currently a suit in Ohio seeks to bring to light the egregious web-based shenanigans that occurred in reporting the outcome of the 2004 elections. In 2006 in Sarasota County, Florida, 18,000 votes mysteriously disappeared. Other stories have been reported in many states. Since then two corporations who sell these machines have admitted problems with the equipment's functioning. How can we know how many elections nationwide may have been affected?

We all owe a debt of gratitude to the citizen journalists and activists who have hammered away at the truth since 2000, when outcomes that were outside of the expectation of exit polls became obvious. Our government, instead of making this evidence very public knowledge, has worked against us by stone walling, with news media taking years to recognize the problem. Now most of us know it exists. We owe it to ourselves to increase our vigilance.

Since the passage of HAVA (Help America Vote Act of 2002) the magnifying glass of reform has been showing questionable elections in many ways. Voter roll purging, especially in urban areas, is usually done under the fiction of preventing individual voter fraud. Consider St. Louis City in 2000 when 50,000 voters were removed from the rolls as inactive and at least hundreds of them thereby lost their right to vote. Let's be clear. "Voter fraud," in which one person tries to vote twice or misrepresent oneself as a qualified voter, is so rare that it does not threaten the outcome of our elections. Election fraud, on the other hand has had a long and vigorous life everywhere people vote, and may even be part of the human condition, the querulous competitive part that election laws are written to control.

In some states like Missouri we have open primaries not requiring voters to register with a party. Members of one party can encourage crossing the party line to vote in the opposite primary to defeat a candidate, often based on bigotry. Technically this is not illegal-- it's just dirty.

A particular problem in urban areas is the failure of any given state to make provisions for adequate numbers of qualified, trained personnel to work at the polls. This also constitutes an obstruction to the polling booth.

Posting confusing signs, wrong election dates and places or voting qualifications, threatening arrests or sending uniformed guards to polling places are all standard ploys in the election fraud toolkit. Stuffing ballot boxes and lying about a candidate's history or background fit into this category too. Voter caging, which involves sending out letters to voters and then challenging those whose letters are returned, has been reportedly used recently to challenge even the votes of some of our military service members. So these are some of the ways, from the ground up, that disenfranchisement is still accomplished nowadays.

Holding public office is such a plum position, partly because huge sums of money are paid by corporations to keep their very best friends in office.

More sinister yet is the apparent direct link between an "administration," corporate money, and the obfuscation of America's best interests. Sticking only to issues related to elections, we now know for sure that the U.S. Department of Justice has been diluting its responsibility to protect voting rights. Further, criminal prosecutions have been sought by politicians under nearly imaginary charges against candidates, officials, or organizations of the "wrong" persuasion; Vendettas were played out in the 2006 press against citizen activists in Kansas City who chose to work toward improving voter participation.The second term firing of eight U.S. Attorneys was, at its heart, intended to produce disenfranchisement, with one such incident here in Missouri implicating a Senator.

Since HAVA, newer methods of election fraud have surfaced. Particularly in Ohio fewer DRE voting machines than needed were delivered to some largely Democratic urban precincts, resulting in long lines and some voters unable to vote in the time available. Because each voter takes several minutes to fill out a touchscreen ballot, especially on long ballots typical of urban areas, lines formed covering blocks. DRE machines can break down, and were all that were offered to some voters, including in some precincts in St. Louis County since 2006 when poll workers were trained to direct voters to use them instead of the optical scanners.

Optical scan ballots are quicker and can be hand counted later if necessary. More voters can vote at once by using them.

At a polling place in November of 2006 in University City, Missouri, about eighty people were waiting outside the front door, plus another twenty inside. Individuals said it took them as long as an hour to vote. Can you imagine waiting like this if you are someone who gets around in a wheelchair? If you have small children? If you need to get to work?

One person, already inside the door, was told to use a provisional ballot, but that it was too late to get in a separate inside line. The rule is being in line by 7 p.m.

The use of DREs in and of itself constitutes disenfranchisement in two more ways. First, there is a digital divide. In New Mexico 2004 comparison studies of use of these machines in communities of people of color showed a huge number of undervotes, compared to in white communities.

Even more sinister, though, regardless of whether the machine has a paper trail or not, these machines employ an electronic ballot, which is neither visible nor verifiable by the voter. Who-- or what-- is doing the counting is the question when18,000 votes in Sarasota County, Florida “disappeared” in 2006.

The so-called "paper trail" of the DRE is not a ballot. It is not what is counted by the tabulator. What is counted is the ephemeral bit of information that one enters on the touchscreen, which then disappears into the black box. There it may be flipped to the other candidate, made to disappear, added, subtracted, or multiplied. None of this can be seen by the human eye. All traces of malicious or mistaken programming can be eliminated before forensic examination of that machine. And the corporate holders of the trademarks for the machines claim the right to refuse government oversight of the computer code.

In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, an audit of the spring 2006 primary by Election Science Institute showed that the sums recorded on four sources, 1) the paper trail's computer generated total, 2) the hand counted individual votes on the paper trail, 3) the memory card, and 4) the computer's ballot archive (hard drive file), did not match each other! Four separate but unequal totals were found! These internal inconsistencies were found in all the DREs. No total could be trusted as the correct one.

Thus, it is readily apparent that the effects of HAVA have cost the states more than they imagined possible. Some of the principle players in passing it are now convicted felons (under other corruption charges). The Election Assistance Commission created by HAVA is appointed by the President and has functioned in a partisan way. Benefits to disabled voters of using “more accessible” DREs have not been realized. And it has been largely left up to the states to fix this mess. The vendors of the new machines pocketed the federal funds.

Optical scanners also have problems. The ones we now have in use are programmed with secret code too, which means corporations refuse public review of the computer code. They are also vulnerable to hacking or invasion by viruses, some even by remote wireless connections. And any election administered by private industry is open to corruption.

When a friend and I went to observe the post-election vote counting in St. Louis County in 2006 we were allowed to see a limited view, without audio, while two of the vendor's representatives were inside the room helping with the process. Who might the vendors want elected? Who is doing the oversight?

At least optical scanners do have the paper ballot,
though, which can be hand recounted. And the voter, by filling the ballot out by hand, verifies the vote as part of the process, a safeguard that has been proven elusive with the DREs.

HAVA left us all dog-paddling or even on the verge of drowning, whether in the Missouri River, the Gulf of Mexico, or any other body of water touching the United States. We will not arrive back to dry land unless each of us who votes notices what is going on and reports any suspicions to an oversight group, e.g. Election Protection, by calling 1-866- OUR VOTE. If the majority of us participates as citizen witnesses we might just make it onto some safe shore. Keep on hollering "Paper Ballots! They can be recounted!”

revis. Oct. '08

Sunday, October 5, 2008

"Trouble the Water"

This film, which is currently running at the Tivoli in University City, is a must see for anyone who recognizes Hurricane Katrina as a major turning point in American history. The initial video is a bit rough, but hold on as it gets better and tells the story of a transformation of the key characters, who recognize how they have been victimized and are empowered by their own faith and character to rise above their circumstances.

It is something that will stay with me for a long time. One of my friends who saw it with me was relating the story to one of the families the Quakers sponsored here in St. Louis, as she recognized parts of the Ninth Ward from photographs she had seen. She also updated me on how they are doing now.

And the sad truth is that we will have more of this occurring as climate change continues and people continue to cling to their homes in dangerous places. What choices will people have left now that the economic landscape is so ravaged?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fwd: DN!: Book: Cheney's Drive for Warrantless Spying Nearly Brought Down Bush Presidency

pat has sent you a story from Democracy Now!, a daily independent radio and TV news program:

We speak to award-winning journalist Barton Gellman about his new book, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency. Gellman reveals Cheney played a crucial role in maintaining warrantless spying even after Justice Department officials began to doubt its legality in 2004. Gellman writes: "The history of the Bush administration cannot be written without close attention to the moments when Cheney took the helm—sometimes at Bush's direction, sometimes with his tacit consent, and sometimes without the president's apparent awareness." [includes rush transcript]

To read, listen to, or watch the whole story:

The person who sent you the story added the following comments:
So, Cheney created the warrantless spying & never bothered to even inform Bush. Somehow, not too surprising, but good to know.

1st public airing potentially before Nov. election

Judge in Ohio has agreed to hear testimony of the IT guy who knows about the switcheroo accomplished in the 2004 Ohio elections under then SoS Kenneth Blackwell. Let's hope this hits the fan before the Nov. election.



Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Values v. Reality: Power v. Family

Here (below) is George Lakoff's analysis of the Palin candidacy. He reminds us to frame the discussion as a values point of view rather than arguing on the true issues per se. After watching the coverage of the RNC on PBS this evening, listening to David Brooks & Mark Shields, my impression is that there is still a lot of controversy about Palin among the delegates on the floor, and some would like to nominate Mike Huckabee instead, according to Brooks. Shields says that some people think her nomination was a mistake because by choosing to accept it she should have known it would quickly shoot her daughter into the limelight as the most famous pregnant teen, unwed, in the world, which is a heck of a lot of pressure for her. A "good mommy" might have considered the consequences of her own ambition on her daughter's life.

To me, it is mostly all about oil. Palin is willing to have the Feds let big oil come in to wreck the Alaska wildlife habitat just to feed the country's oil habit.

Apparently McCain is unwilling to face the facts. We have to stop using fossil fuels, unless we want the oceans to boil up more hurricanes, melt more glaciers, and drown the oceans in decreased salinity and increased acidity, not to mention the disastrous weather effects on the continents that we are now seeing regularly.

When Lieberman was the Dem.VP choice in 2000 I did not realize what a fool the man was. Apparently he would have run with McCain this time around, but the Dems refused to allow him to do it. Still, he endorses McCain over Obama!

So, what are you going to do personally? Continue to drive your gas guzzling automobile or switch to public transit? The buses and trains will never get any money until people start seriously choosing to ride them. Does the future matter to you, or are you in the denial snooze that the media have hypnotized us into?

If it doesn't matter a bit if you progeny survive (we will probably last, but they won't) go ahead & vote for McCain/Palin. It is a family issue, definitely, and they are pro death, pro war, pro corporate power, pro climate havoc. Don't let the lack of birth control convince you that Palin is pro-life. She is pro personal power.

P. Berg

The Palin Choice: Democrats Need to Shine a Light on the Shared
Anti-democratic Ideology of McCain and Palin, by George Lakoff

The Reality of the Political Mind

By George Lakoff (Submitted on Labor Day to BuzzFlash by Mr. Lakoff)

This election matters because of realities—the realities of global
warming, the economy, the Middle East, nuclear proliferation, civil
liberties, species extinction, poverty here and around the world, and
on and on. Such realities are what make this election so very crucial,
and how to deal with them is the substance of the Democratic platform
Platform-by-Cmte-08-13-08.pdf [1]).

Election campaigns matter because who gets elected can change reality.
But election campaigns are primarily about the realities of voters’
minds, which depend on how the candidates and the external realities
are cognitively framed. They can be framed honestly or deceptively,
effectively or clumsily. And they are always framed from the
perspective of a worldview.

The Obama campaign has learned this. The Republicans have long known
it, and the choice of Sarah Palin as their Vice-Presidential candidate
reflects their expert understanding of the political mind and political
marketing. Democrats who simply belittle the Palin choice are courting
disaster. It must be taken with the utmost seriousness.

The Democratic responses so far reflect external realities: she is
inexperienced, knowing little or nothing about foreign policy or
national issues; she is really an anti-feminist, wanting the government
to enter women’s lives to block abortion, but not wanting the
government to guarantee equal pay for equal work, or provide adequate
child health coverage, or child care, or early childhood education; she
shills for the oil and gas industry on drilling; she denies the
scientific truths of global warming and evolution; she misuses her
political authority; she opposes sex education and her daughter is
pregnant; and, rather than being a maverick, she is on the whole a
radical right-wing ideologue.

All true, so far as we can tell.

But such truths may nonetheless be largely irrelevant to this campaign.
That is the lesson Democrats must learn. They must learn the reality
of the political mind.

The Obama campaign has done this very well so far. The convention
events and speeches were orchestrated both to cast light on external
realities, traditional political themes, and to focus on values at once
classically American and progressive: empathy, responsibility both for
oneself and others, and aspiration to make things better both for
oneself and the world. Obama did all this masterfully in his nomination
speech, while replying to, and undercutting, the main Republican

But the Palin nomination changes the game. The initial response has
been to try to keep the focus on external realities, the “issues,” and
differences on the issues. But the Palin nomination is not basically
about external realities and what Democrats call “issues,” but about
the symbolic mechanisms of the political mind—the worldviews, frames,
metaphors, cultural narratives, and stereotypes. The Republicans can’t
win on realities. Her job is to speak the language of conservatism,
activate the conservative view of the world, and use the advantages
that conservatives have in dominating political discourse.

Our national political dialogue is fundamentally metaphorical, with
family values at the center of our discourse. There is a reason why
Obama and Biden spoke so much about the family, the nurturant family,
with caring fathers and the family values that Obama put front and
center in his Father’s day speech: empathy, responsibility and
aspiration. Obama’s reference in the nomination speech to “The American
Family” was hardly accidental, nor were the references to the Obama and
Biden families as living and fulfilling the American Dream. Real
nurturance requires strength and toughness, which Obama displayed in
body language and voice in his responses to McCain. The strength of the
Obama campaign has been the seamless marriage of reality and symbolic

The Republican strength has been mostly symbolic. The McCain campaign
is well aware of how Reagan and W won—running on character: values,
communication, (apparent) authenticity, trust, and identity — not
issues and policies. That is how campaigns work, and symbolism is

Conservative family values are strict and apply via metaphorical
thought to the nation: good vs. evil, authority, the use of force,
toughness and discipline, individual (versus social) responsibility,
and tough love. Hence, social programs are immoral because they violate
discipline and individual responsibility. Guns and the military show
force and discipline. Man is above nature; hence no serious
environmentalism. The market is the ultimate financial authority,
requiring market discipline. In foreign policy, strength is use of the
force. In fundamentalist religion, the Bible is the ultimate authority;
hence no gay marriage. Such values are at the heart of radical
conservatism. This is how John McCain was raised and how he plans to
govern. And it is what he shares with Sarah Palin.

Palin is the mom in the strict father family, upholding conservative
values. Palin is tough: she shoots, skins, and eats caribou. She is
disciplined: raising five kids with a major career. She lives her
values: she has a Downs-syndrome baby that she refused to abort. She
has the image of the ideal conservative mom: pretty, perky, feminine,
Bible-toting, and fitting into the ideal conservative family. And she
fits the stereotype of America as small-town America. It is Reagan’s
morning-in-America image. Where Obama thought of capturing the West,
she is running for Sweetheart of the West.

And Palin, a member of Feminism For Life, is at the heart of the
conservative feminist movement, which Ronee Schreiber has written about
in her recent book, Righting Feminism. It is a powerful and growing
movement that Democrats have barely paid attention to.

At the same time, Palin is masterful at the Republican game of taking
the Democrats’ language and reframing it—putting conservative frames to
progressive words: Reform, prosperity, peace. She is also masterful at
using the progressive narratives: she’s from the working class, working
her way up from hockey mom and the PTA to Mayor, Governor, and VP
candidate. Her husband is a union member. She can say to the
conservative populists that she is one of them—all the things that
Obama and Biden have been saying. Bottom-up, not top-down.

Yes, the McCain-Palin ticket is weak on the major realities. But it is
strong on the symbolic dimension of politics that Republicans are so
good at marketing. Just arguing the realities, the issues, the hard
truths should be enough in times this bad, but the political mind and
its response to symbolism cannot be ignored. The initial Democratic
response to Palin — the response based on realities alone — indicates
that many Democrats have not learned the lessons of the Reagan and Bush

They have not learned the nature of conservative populism. A great many
working-class folks are what I call “bi-conceptual,” that is, they are
split between conservative and progressive modes of thought.
Conservative on patriotism and certain social and family issues, which
they have been led to see as “moral”, progressive in loving the land,
living in communities of care, and practical kitchen table issues like
mortgages, health care, wages, retirement, and so on.

Conservative theorists won them over in two ways: Inventing and
promulgating the idea of “liberal elite” and focusing campaigns on
social and family issues. They have been doing this for many years and
have changed a lot of brains through repetition. Palin will appeal
strongly to conservative populists, attacking Obama and Biden as
pointy-headed, tax-and-spend, latte liberals. The tactic is to divert
attention from difficult realities to powerful symbolism.

What Democrats have shied away from is a frontal attack on radical
conservatism itself as an un-American and harmful ideology. I think
Obama is right when he says that America is based on people caring
about each other and working together for a better future—empathy,
responsibility (both personal and social), and aspiration. These lead
to a concept of government based on protection (environmental,
consumer, worker, health care, and retirement protection) and
empowerment (through infrastructure, public education, the banking
system, the stock market, and the courts). Nobody can achieve the
American Dream or live an American lifestyle without protection and
empowerment by the government. The alternative, as Obama said in his
nomination speech, is being on your own, with no one caring for anybody
else, with force as a first resort in foreign affairs, with threatened
civil liberties and a right-wing government making your most important
decisions for you. That is not what American democracy has ever been

What is at stake in this election are our ideals and our view of the
future, as well as current realities. The Palin choice brings both
front and center. Democrats, being Democrats, will mostly talk about
the realities nonstop without paying attention to the dimensions of
values and symbolism. Democrats, in addition, need to call an extremist
an extremist: to shine a light on the shared anti-democratic ideology
of McCain and Palin, the same ideology shared by Bush and Cheney. They
share values antithetical to our democracy. That needs to be said loud
and clear, if not by the Obama campaign itself, then by the rest of us
who share democratic American values.

Our job is to bring external realities together with the reality of the
political mind. Don’t ignore the cognitive dimension. It is through
cultural narratives, metaphors, and frames that we understand and
express our ideals.

George Lakoff is the author of The Political Mind: Why You Can’t
Understand 20th Century Politics With and 18th Century Brain. [1]

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Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization.
Mohandas Ghandhi

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Nothing to lose but walls

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell underneath
And spills the upper boulders in the sun.
--Robert Frost

We used to see and hear the stories on TV, black and white back in the early sixties, of people trying to climb the Berlin Wall and being shot down, of others tunneling under, and we cheered them on. To us in our middle class neighborhoods these scenes were cruel aspects of some life far away from us, while we lived in freedom in America.

The Diary of Anne Frank, televised version, ended with that creepy up and down siren that lived on in the imagination afterward, even though that detail was actually a fiction. All of us little white children could never have imagined the horrors even in our own country of segregationist policies that kept some people out of the halls of power. Until they too showed up on that little screen in the living room, most of us were excruciatingly naïve. We had not yet comprehended our own shame, far less that of others, far less that of governments.

Oh, it was all in the Bible, those verses that we memorized and sought to practice against reprimands from our parents. But we had very little other context than our own back yards, the swing sets, the doll houses, the teeny little green rubber soldiers that engaged in make believe battles on the sidewalk or on the living room rug. A lot of us had fathers who were soldiers in World War II.

Across the street from where I was a new little house went up next to the giant oak tree and a family moved in with a couple of girls around my age and their little brother. Their father was a “Mason,” or so my mother told me with a touch of disdain in her voice. I never was sure what that meant or why it angered her. Maybe she was jealous.

But clearly it was some kind of distaste which was not even something described in the Ten Commandments, to my knowledge. I wanted her to be friends with the mother because one of those girls and I hit it off over making mud pies together. Before we moved away from there when I was twelve that family was already in another new house, bigger and better, around the block from us, and my first real friendship with someone outside the family had vanished into thin air. I never really knew what had happened. My first best friend had to be substituted for by some girls at school who were, presumably, of the right sort of Christian like us.

Where do those kinds of wall come from, the ones that prevent people from speaking their minds and honestly working out their problems, leaving some things unsaid with the blessing of humane acceptance? Those subtle walls known as prejudices slowly build over time into physical structures, separating us from the benefit of alternatives to our own rigid thinking. In the U.S. we now have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and are building actual physical walls on our southern border.

Now, nearly half a century later than making my first solid friendship, everything on the computer screen is in color and you will not be able to watch TV next year if you have not yet made some adjustments for high definition. Oh yeah, it is all still about money. Some of us have access to information, political power, education and jobs and others do not.

And now we have businesses such as Boeing, a corporation which is a member of Dwight D. Eisenhauer's predicted military-industrial complex, benefiting from the current rage in building walls to keep people from crossing borders to our south, just like Israel has around Palestine. Here we have the effects of so-called “free trade” at work, along with climate change. Well, you know, it is all for our safety against terrorism (one of those “isms” in the same class as racism). And building walls provides Americans with jobs, not to mention gives some specific contractors access to government handouts. Who gives a deflated dollar if it hurts them there foreigners or does virtually no real good for us? For the most part it is kept totally out of our eyesight anyway, since the corporately owned media will not let us know what we are doing as a nation. And that keeps us innocent of any crime as individuals, at least in our imaginations.. It is all the property of the Homeland Security office or some foreign state that we underwrite. None of us need get our own hands dirty if we don't want to. It is just the way things are. We gotta have walls.

During my last couple of years in high school I lived in a southern state, not the Deep South, but close enough. We were some of the first students to go to the now desegregated school. The town was still divided, as it probably remains to this day, into black and white neighborhoods. Moving back to St. Louis again not long after graduation-- and even up until today-- our neighborhoods are still generally ethnically divided. People say that they want to live by people who are like them, but that is not the whole story and we know it, everyone who has half a brain. Yeah, we still have these walls, which we work together to maintain, despite those noble words of Robert Frost. If only they could tumble down so readily among us creatures so easily divided by hierarchical heritage with our fearful brains and hairless bodies hiding under clothes. Each of us insists we are some special breed because of the small piece of land upon which we were bred by circumstance outside of our command. Sometimes I feel lucky to be able to answer the eternally famous St. Louis question, “Where did you go to school?” with two words, ”Not here.”

Because I don't fit in anywhere. Because I started out working in the trenches with the least among us and did so for years and years, and I always wanted to learn something new. So I found out at a young age what dying was like, what a corpse actually looks like, how people are terrified by death and work like hell to bring someone back, rarely entertaining the idea that for some it might actually be an improvement over what they are experiencing on this plane.

And I went from hospitals to homes and usually made friends with the “lower class” workers and patients because they were more like me in many ways, despite some advantages that I have benefited from. In my own early life there had been violence, a lesson that imprints itself indelibly on the organism's physical body forever after, leaving trust of others always in question. Besides that I was “shy,” a quiet person who didn't talk excessively like most “leaders” do, so I became an astonishingly good observer, since that was my job, and also my lifestyle.

Politics are everywhere and nearly always involve dirt. When they sink to violence we might consider them animal, but the truth is that no other species is as self destructive as we are to ourselves. When Mr. Gorbachev “tore down those walls'” in 1989 as leader of the Soviet Union he was just a few years past the Chernobyl incident in the Ukraine. Reagan may have taken credit for it but internal pressure was probably more likely the cause of democratic moves in Eastern Europe.

Perhaps I have spent most of my life looking for something that will always remain totally inexplicable and elusive. We apparently cannot escape the despicable ways that humans beings behave so that we find lasting peace.

But this week I was given renewed hope by a small band of international human rights workers who sailed on a couple of fishing vessels into Gaza, opening the Palestinian citizens there to outsiders for the first time in forty-one years. The Free Gaza Movement had arrived.

On Saturday, August 23, two boats landed on the beach where they were welcomed by enthusiastic Palestinians, who have been blockaded into their small borders by the Israelis since 1967. Perhaps facing the devastation of ensuing global climate disruption will bring us forward into a new era of peace, working together for our common interests.

We really don't have much to lose in hoping.