Category Archives: Voting issues

I Was an Eighth Grade Communist (and Other Reasons to Vote for Bernie Sanders)

bernie

This really happened. In the eighth grade, prodded by Ms. Spiver, an enthusiastic teacher with an enlightened vision for an open classroom, I had the opportunity to research different governing systems.  I chose communism because the name sounded cool and appeared to frighten everyone. I read about Marx and Lenin and the proletariat of the state and the main idea which I glommed  was to ensure everyone’s basic needs were met. This seemed grand, generous and even beautiful. I quoted the Encyclopedia Britannica at length, and with a flourish, scribbled out three pages in long hand, ending the paper with a makeshift version of the iconic hammer and sickle.

I thought Ms. Spiver would be proud.

The next day I was called into a parent/teachers conference.  This was in Raleigh, North Carolina circa 1976 when the rabid anti-communist Senator Jesse Helms graced the Channel six news editorial spot which my father listened to every. single. night.

Ms. Spiver was all ‘tender mercies!’ and ‘Lord child!’ and ‘where did you get such ideas?’ and I wasn’t sure if she was as concerned about my paper and my education as the possibility that Mr. Creigh, who  substituted as an insurance agent on days when he wasn’t playing the principal, might take serious offense. But I explained, and even defended as best I could the idea of equality, and everyone getting what they needed, these all seemed like fine goals. What was the problem?  Ms. Spiver, to her credit, did not try to correct my initial interpretation, but merely advised that my opinion on the matter was somewhat out of step with the adult population of Raleigh, North Carolina circa 1976. Mom and dad ushered me home, silent in their Buick. Dad finally parked the car in the lot and turned and proceeded to give me the low down. “Communists are bad because they represent a totalitarian system. They don’t allow freedom.  You understand?”

I nodded my head.

“Okay?”

“Okay.”  That sounded like something to avoid. And the tone in my father’s voice was enough for me to forget my flirtation with alternate political systems until high school when we began looking at the social democratic governments, and I found myself once again intrigued by the idea that a government would be based on people getting what they absolutely needed; regardless of their jobs, social stations or life situations.

Denmark, Finland, Sweden, England, to a lesser extent, Germany and Spain. If all these countries pursued such programs, why didn’t we?

My father, with the patience of Job, once again explained what he thought should have been obvious.

“What if I just gave you a dollar every week instead of letting you earn a dollar by mowing the lawn? Hmmmm?”

“I’d have a dollar but I wouldn’t have to mow the lawn.”

Yes, he conceded, okay, but that’s not the point. The point is if you give people something for nothing they’ll take advantage of it. Like all those welfare queens.

By this time, Ronald Reagan was running for high office and was denouncing shady welfare queens that rode around in Cadillacs and bought caviar with tax payer’s money. This activity rankled the hell out of Jesse Helms who never missed an opportunity to denounce the welfare moochers.

Do you want to be a welfare queen?

I decidedly did not want to be a welfare queen. I gathered from my father’s tone that I was not supposed to like the idea of riding around in a Cadillac, eating caviar at the tax payers’ expense, no matter how much fun it might appear.

By the time I entered college, Reagan was in his second term. Taxes had been slashed and the poorer residents of mental homes were dumped onto the city streets.  Despite the loss of tax revenue, billions were being funneled into such patently absurd pursuits as an armed space shield; a so called ‘star wars’  shield that would provide cover for the Western Hemisphere by shooting down missiles aimed to blow up our cities. Since there were none and since billions were being funneled into a useless and unworkable program while the homeless and mentally handicapped were left to fend for themselves, (many times I stood in line with them at the local 7-Eleven), I wrote a few college paper editorials suggesting this kind of activity was ill-advised. I proudly signed my name.

My college Spanish teacher, a middle aged Cuban exile, caught up with me one day.

“I have read what you have written,” she whispered, “You are part of this nuclear freeze movement, too, no?”

“Yes.” I said. Sure I was. Who wouldn’t  be opposed to nuclear weapons lying around waiting to obliterate the world 200 times over?

“Are you a communista?”

Of course I wasn’t a communista! What had that to do with the nuclear freeze movement? But, for her, the nuclear freeze movement was loaded with fellow travelers and communist sympathizers and what not. I tried to ease her mind by telling her I wasn’t a communist, closer to a  democratic socialist, really. This did not appear to help matters.

“You know I come from Cuba. There, when Castro came to power, he forced my family into exile. We had a mansion and servants in Cuba, but when I came to this land, I had to cut my hair and sell it, just to survive. Can you imagine?”

I really couldn’t. “So you were very rich,” I said, “That must have been nice.”

“They stole everything!”

“Right. But now Cuba has much better infant mortality and death rates. It has one of the best medical systems even by Western standards. Cuban doctors help poor people all over the world.”

“So you are a communista!”

“No, I’m not. If I’m anything, I’m a social democrat, like in Finland.”

“It’s the same.”

“No, they’re really different.”

And so I went on to explain to her that one could be a social democrat without falling in lockstep with state run economies like in Cuba or the Soviet Union.  In fact, one of the best examples of social democracy operates as the capitalist heart of Europe: Germany. “They have what they like to refer to as a social market economy. They try to combine the virtues of a market system with the virtues of a social welfare system. You can get a free education, even free higher education, free healthcare and free retirement. Some of your basic essentials are guaranteed by the government, but other stuff, like where you work or what you make is dictated by a private sector economy. Of course, you pay taxes for these things, but the government operates to redistribute the money so it benefits everyone. That is social democracy in a nutshell.”

“It will never work,” she advised me, predicting Germany’s downfall by the end of the decade.

That was 1987. Germany’s still around. It’s 2015. Germany still provides free healthcare, free retirement and free higher education and it is still one of the strongest economies in Europe.  Our economy, conversely, is dogged by huge gaps of inequality, a dysfunctional healthcare system moderately improved by the ACA, insanely expensive higher education costs, and a retirement system whose paltry offerings are even now threatened by reactionary politicians. Our incarceration rate is the highest in the world. Our homicide rate is one of the highest. Our infant mortality rate is higher than Cuba’s and is comparable to Serbia. You read that right, Serbia. None of these things are natural or necessary. They are by design because we refuse to grow up like the rest of the civilized Western world and insist on the fairy tale version of capitalism that doesn’t require any funding for public infrastructure or social services beyond the absolute bare essentials. The only thing we want to pour money into is our vastly over sized military which has caused many more problems in the last few decades than it has solved.

The  majority of the Western industrialized world embraces some form of socialized democracy. In our own country the most successful government programs are inherently socialized: Medicare, Social Security. And, of course, our own Defense Department is an almost entirely socialized bureaucracy.  We have patches of socialism all over the place, but the rightwing has done an excellent job demonizing the term. In fact, the last time someone claiming to be a socialist ran for President was nearly a 100 years ago.   His name was Eugene V. Debs. He famously said when he was convicted of violating the Sedition Act in 1918, that “while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” Ringing words that beautifully encapsulate a social democrat’s world view.

It’s become increasingly obvious that a strictly free market agenda is disastrous for a people and an economy. One only need look at Kansas under Brownback’s ideological leadership. The state’s surplus has been turned into a catastrophic black hole of debt through a combination of tax cuts for the wealthiest and slashing of public funds. One could see the same disastrous pile up under George W. Bush’s leadership.

The Spanish teacher who accused me of being a communist told me that I needed to ‘grow up.’ The nice thing about Bernie Sanders candidacy is that it  is already grown up.  It assumes responsibility for everyone in the nation, not just those that manage to make the cover of Forbes.  He has tirelessly advocated for the poor and the underclass and, unlike the vast majority of American politicians, assumes it’s okay to travel coach class.  But don’t take it from me that Sanders knows what he’s talking about or that social democracy is a mature governing principle. Take it from that flagship of capitalism, the Economist. In a 2013 article, that magazine declared the social democratic Scandinavian countries, “probably the best governed in the world.”

So there’s no need to carry on with this charade that the ‘socialist’ option cannot win.  We can. Actually, in many areas, we already have. Si, se puede, baby. The only real question is, how soon before the rest of us grow up?

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A Red Line for the Dems

MARK WARNER

MARK WARNER

Virginia’s Senator Mark Warner is talking openly about cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid! APV has been aggressive in communicating our unequivocal opposition to radical conservative attempts to intentionally wreck the most successful and popular government programs in American history. We are alarmed and deeply disappointed that Sen. Warner would be a party to such talk. Social Security is solvent today and for decades to come, and its long-term outlook can be easily secured through a marginal raise to the Wage Cap, which would affect only the wealthiest recipients. I urge you to contact your Senators, and if you live in Virginia, to contact Sen. Warner. Tell them not to negotiate away our hard-earned retirement system.

The same conservative radicals who held the American people and our economy hostage in October when they closed the government and threatened our nation’s credit rating with a pointless and dangerous default, have wanted to privatize or eliminate Social Security for a long time. It is time for Progressives to communicate to our lawmakers that this will not stand and that those who aid in such a scheme will have crossed a red line and will not only lose our support but gain our enmity. “Compromising” on how much of this fundamental, bedrock part of the liberal democratic platform to cut, is like negotiating over how much of the Lincoln Memorial we should jack hammer into gravel.

Such a betrayal would not be forgotten or forgiven. Far from ‘improving’ the economy, such cuts would further poison our recovery and hurt the majority of Americans. If this is not sufficient cause for Senator Warner and the other Democrats to reconsider a grand “compromise”, they might speculate on the more immediate, massive and long-lasting damage it will certainly cause their own political careers, and their colleagues’.

Most Democrats will be deeply demoralized. Many will stop donating or volunteering or otherwise helping any politician or Party who engages in this shameful undertaking. Countless others, I suspect, will simply not vote. Capitulation on Social Security will effectively destroy the Democratic brand and their losses at the polls will be predictable and massive. Many moderate to progressive voters may very well actively support alternatives –as a point of principle–even if doing this results in the election of potentially worse candidates.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid should not be “on the table”, and if they are, then the political careers of those who would enable the likes of Ted Cruz and the Heritage Foundation must be as well.

Scott Price
President, Alliance for Progressive Values

9 Democrats who are selling out on Social Security cuts

Contact Info for Senator Warner is here.

Richmond, We Have a Problem

On Thursday August 9th, the Virginia Board of Elections announced that it had purged the State’s voter rolls of thousands of names. After a comparison with data from the Social Security Administration, the Board removed some 10,000 names of deceased individuals remaining on the registered voter list.

Clearing the voter rolls of inaccurate information is certainly a laudable and appropriate action for the Board to take, but in light of so many voting related maneuvers by the General Assembly and the McDonnell administration over the last year, and bearing in mind the nationwide voter suppression movement that threatens to disenfranchise thousands, possibly millions of Americans, this purge, so close to the election raises inevitable questions.

Along with many other states around the nation where Republicans control the government, the demonstratively fictitious voter fraud “crisis” has been used as a wedge to insert new, often misguided and sometimes clearly partisan election laws and rules that together have come to be viewed under the umbrella of “voter suppression” due to their clear tendency towards disenfranchising specific classes of voters like the poor, the elderly, college students and minorities with a track record of voting primarily for the other party.

While any single piece of legislation or administrative action may seem innocuous on its face, and even be justified by a professed concern for accuracy, taken as a whole these initiatives appear to constitute a direct attempt to alter the voting landscape in order to affect the upcoming election and elections in the future in a way favorable to the incumbent party.

With this in mind we’d like to raise the following points about what has been going on in Virginia this election cycle:

  • There simply is NO evidence of voter fraud in the Commonwealth. NONE.
  • In particular, there is NO evidence of widespread or even small scale impersonation (which is what the I.D. laws are supposedly intended to stop), as a means of voter fraud. NONE.
  • There is NO evidence that ANY of the 10,000 names removed from the rolls were used to cast an illegal vote in Virginia. NOT ONE.
  • There is NO evidence that anyone has voted under the name of a cartoon character or as their pet, an example often held up as a justification for such laws. Just because someone fills out a registration form with a joke name doesn’t mean that name passes muster with registrars. Removing those bogus names is the job of our registrars, and they appear to be doing it well.
  • While the voter I.D. law that passed this year expanded the forms of identification allowable at the polls, it also imposes a provisional ballot on anyone without I.D. This ballot will not be counted on election day unless the voter returns and provides one of the forms of identification specified under the new law. In such a case the voter must then go the extra step of later submitting it to their local registrar by 12 noon Friday after the election. Since these new provisional ballots are not the same as real ballots, and will not be tallied without the voter’s further effort to prove their identity, there is strong evidence that many people who cast such ballots cannot or will not go through the expense, time and trouble to complete the procedure, thus resulting in otherwise legal votes never being recorded.
  • We have concerns about the process of issuing new voter cards to every citizen in the Commonwealth so close to the election. There is bound to be confusion and mistakes will be made associated with this roll out, and there is little doubt that the most vulnerable members of the community will be the most affected by errors or delays.
  • The state has yet to do any voter education regarding the new voter registration cards and the new I.D. law. This may prove particularly problematic for the poor, the elderly and voters for whom English is not a first language.
  • We have history to draw from, and there is new evidence that some conservative groups plan to profile and target likely opposition voters with challenges at the polls, both as an attempt to frighten certain groups and to generally muddy and slow the voting process.
  • Voting machines in Virginia are NOT required to keep a paper trail of votes cast. There is ample evidence that voting machines are vulnerable to tampering and hacking, and while we do not question the integrity of individual registrars, we are concerned about a process that relies on an unverifiable technology with proven problems.

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Last year at the General Assembly we saw a raft of bills designed to limit access to the polls. We managed to defeat many of the most severe, but the effort to make it harder for certain Virginians to vote did not end there. Across the country the effort to disenfranchise voters continues on many fronts and in many insidious ways, for instance, the tendency of having fewer voting machines at polling stations in working class and minority neighborhoods – which results in longer lines and a curtailed opportunity for people in these communities to vote.

At a time when we should be encouraging participation by underrepresented Virginians, we could be creating a generally more hostile environment where certain voters are made to feel more like suspects than citizens.

We are worried that all these factors will add up to fewer people exercising their right to vote at a time when participation is already historically low. That is why we will continue to closely monitor this process and speak out when we have concerns.

The right to vote is at the heart of our democracy, and partisan attempts to make it harder for some to exercise that right damage our communities, our Commonwealth and our country.

APV Public Policy Team.

Don’t Mourn. Organize.

Bad news out of Wisconsin last night. Tom Barrett lost to a man who shouldn’t have been elected dog catcher, much less Governor. Scott Walker is also currently the target of a FBI investigation, so he may not sit in that office much longer, but there is no doubt, a lot of people were disappointed last night. I was one of them.

I’m not from Wisconsin, but I know a little of their history. I thought I might share that history to put this defeat into perspective. The first thing you should know is that Wisconsin was the heart of progressive movement in the last century. The second thing you should know –hold onto your hats – those progressives from Wisconsin were originally Republicans. Unlike the pro-business kleptomaniacs of today, the Progressive Republicans, as they liked to call themselves, believed that the business of government was to serve the people. They sought to restrict the power of corporations when it interfered with the needs of individual citizens. In their crusade for reform on a state and national level, Progressive Republicans were led by Robert La Follette, Wisconsin’s governor from 1901 to 1906, and U.S. Senator from 1906 to 1925.

La Follette developed what came to be known as the Wisconsin Idea. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, he argued that “efficient government required control of institutions by the voters rather than special interests.” He thought that the “involvement of specialists in law, economics, and social and natural sciences would produce the most effective government.” To aid in this endeavor, faculty from the University of Wisconsin played a significant part in Progressive reform efforts, helping legislators draft laws and serving as experts on governmental commissions. While advocating for more scientific and efficient government, many of these specialists were equally persistent in their efforts to expand educational opportunities. Much of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation was drafted by Wisconsin citizens, such as Edwin Witte (author of the 1935 Social Security act), who had been trained by Progressive Wisconsin economics professor John R. Commons. In fact, the momentum of La Follette and his allies rippled down through the decades into John Kennedy’s “New Frontier” and Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs.

In many ways, Progressive Republicans of Wisconsin were the exact inverse of today’s Republican party which has abandoned any pretense of intellectual vigor or scientific objectivity. Not a single contemporary Republican candidate could admit to the Theory of Evolution during the primaries, much less support the notion that climate change is a problem caused by man—despite near perfect scientific unanimity on the question. In deference to the ideological zealots on the religious right, they have actively sought to restrict contraceptive options for women across the country and the world–despite its negative impact on women’s health. In deference to ideological free market zealots, they have signed pledges which now make it impossible to balance the budget without slashing social safety nets for millions of America’s most needy, while billionaires have their capital gains shielded from taxes and corporations pay little or no taxes at all. None of this is rational governance. Progressive Republicans would have been horrified to see what the party is doing in their name.

And last night, two billionaires and their surrogates safe guarded Scott Walker, a relentlessly incompetent executive from a recall effort by out spending his opponent about 20 to 1. As Andy Borowitz put it, “Wisconsin: The people have spoken, and they’re both named Koch.”

I think anyone who watched this carefully is disappointed, but Joe Hill—a great progressive and union organizer said it best under much more dire circumstances than these—on his execution day, in fact. He had been accused of murdering a doctor and his son on very scant evidence, but he knew that rational ‘evidence’ isn’t what determined outcomes in cases that involved labor organizers (much less Wobblies!) in deeply conservative Utah. Just prior to his execution, Hill had written to Bill Haywood, an IWW leader, saying, “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize… Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.” His last words to the firing squad that day were beautifully brazen as well. He shouted, “Fire”! .

So let’s learn what we can from this moment, but don’t mourn. Organize.

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The Trust Factor


This Tuesday may be the most important election of the new century. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker with the backing of extraction billionaires David and Charles Koch is matched against Tom Barrett who has been raising funds locally and whom the DNC has refused to financially support. In some ways it’s an obvious David and Goliath struggle. The DNC should be funding this to at least approach parity with what the Republicans and surrogates are spending on Walker. But they are not. They are not spending a dime even though Wisconsin was the home of the progressive movement in the 19th Century. In fact, without Wisconsin, our nation’s 20th century would have looked radically different-probably closer to China’s, with no viable unions, no decent labor laws or protections and consequently no worker rights. I don’t think I’m overstating the matter by saying a victory by Scott Walker in Wisconsin will put that all in play once again. Why isn’t the DNC leading on this? Where is Barrack Obama? Can money obviate everything for the Democrats, even the very heart of their own base? This is not a trivial question.

In Tom Barrett’s last debate performance he called Walker a liar (he is one) and said point-blank that the man is about dismantling labor unions as viable entities across the state (which he is doing). He argued that Walker was treating the state as “an experimental dish for the far right.” All true. More importantly, whether the luminaries in the DNC realize it or not, Wisconsin is a bell weather for the rest of the nation, as Charles Pierce has pointed out it in Esquire Magazine: “In 2010, in addition to handing the House of Representatives over to a pack of nihilistic vandals, the Koch Brothers and the rest of the sugar daddies of the Right poured millions into various state campaigns. This produced a crop of governors and state legislators wholly owned and operated by those corporate interests and utterly unmoored from the constituencies they were elected to serve [Note: Virginia is no stranger to this process—witness ALEC and the ignominious machinations of Governor McDonnell on contraceptive rights]. In turn, these folks enacted various policies, and produced various laws, guaranteed to do nothing except reinforce the power of the people who put them in office. This is the first real test of democracy against the money power. Its true national import is that it is the first loud and noisy attempt to roll back the amok time that Republican governors and their pet legislatures have unleashed in the states at the behest of the corporate interests who finance their careers. It is the first serious pushback not only against Scott Walker, but against Dick Snyder’s assault on democracy in Michigan, and Mitch Daniels’s assault on unions in Indiana, and Rick Scott’s assault on voting rights in Florida. None of this was in any way coincidental. It was a national strategy played out in a series of statewide episodes, aimed at establishing the habits of oligarchy on a local basis.”

This is not toast and tea. We’re talking about real lives and real stakes. When Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein makes it perfectly clear that sophisticated investors don’t or at least shouldn’t rely on his word, it’s a cautionary note that we should apply to politicians as well—especially when they take money from those who would destroy the middle class. It’s painful to note that Blankfein was probably more honest in that brief moment than all the speeches by Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama combined. Don’t believe me, he said, and if you do, you’re a sucker. As Joseph Stiglitz writes, Blankfein makes plain that “those who bought the products his bank sold were consenting adults who should have known better. They should have known that Goldman Sachs had the means, and the incentive, to design products that would fail; that they had the means and the incentive to create asymmetries of information—where they knew more about the products than the buyers did—and the means and the incentive to take advantage of those asymmetries.”

Lesson learned. Politicians have the means and the incentives to create “asymmetries of information.” When politicians are purchased on such a large national scale…well, we get what we pay for, don’t we? When a chameleon candidate like Mitt Romney– who even most Republicans don’t like — can achieve a primary victory based almost entirely on access to cash, the system is out of whack. As Wisconsin shows some of the wealthiest individuals and organizations in this country have used their capital to buy liars and sycophants in public places. They are not disinterested in what their money is buying, either. Far from it. Scott Walker, frankly, was probably a bad buy: a little too showy, a little too much the front man. These folks like to remain a bit more discreet. What they really want to purchase is congressional gridlock on reform and regulation. And subsidies and tax cuts, of course. Everyday companies like Exxon seed doubt about global warming swamping the discourse with paid off pseudo scientists and front groups. At the state level, ALEC produces legislation that knee caps environmental regulation and offers a perverse polluter protection ‘model’ legislation that requires the results of environmental audits to be kept secret. While ALEC and Exxon, infuse massive amounts of money into the legislative process, creating “asymmetries of information.” FOX happily ignores or attacks anyone who would suggest there are real public concerns that need to be addressed. FOX News is the propaganda product of billionaire Rupert Murdoch. ALEC has over 5.7 million dollars in ‘corporate sponsorship’. The Koch brothers have more money than the entire state of Wisconsin. Exxon is the largest and most profitable corporation on Earth. It’s not class warfare to suggest money is tilting the scales in a way that makes it impossible for us to honestly govern ourselves. It’s the truth. And, Democrats — take note– only when we tell the truth as Tom Barrett has done in Wisconsin — can we begin to build a country that we can trust.

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APV thanks Jack Johnson once again for a great post. We also extend our whole-hearted support and best wishes to gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett in Wisconsin’s recall election this Tuesday.
DCKennedy

Debuting at #1

This Alternet article, Rachel Maddow: How America’s Security-Industrial Complex Went Insane is an excerpt from Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Maddow’s new book that will debut at #1 on the New York Times best seller list.

Here’s a little taste of it:

It’s not just the small-potatoes post-9/11 Homeland spending that feels a little off mission. It’s the big-ticket stuff too. Nobody ever made an argument to the American people, for instance, that the thing we ought to do in Afghanistan, the way we ought to stick it to Osama bin Laden, the way to dispense American tax dollars to maximize American aims in that faraway country, would be to build a brand-new neighborhood in that country’s capital city full of rococo narco-chic McMansions and apartment/office buildings with giant sculptures of eagles on their roofs and stoned guards lounging on the sidewalks, wearing bandoliers and plastic boots. No one ever made the case that this is what America ought to build in response to 9/11. But that is what we built. An average outlay of almost $5 billion a month over ten years (and counting) has created a twisted war economy in Kabul. Afghanistan is still one of the four poorest countries on earth; but now it’s one of the four poorest countries on earth with a neighborhood in its capital city that looks like New Jersey in the 1930s and ’40s, when Newark mobsters built garish mansions and dotted the grounds with lawn jockeys and hand-painted neo-neoclassic marble statues.

The New York Times, Janet Maslin, published one of many good reviews, How War Came Home to Stay:

A book by the host of a political talk show is often an ancillary product or marketing tool. But “Drift,” by Rachel Maddow, whose show is on MSNBC, is much more. It is an argument — a sustained, lucid case in which points are made logically and backed by evidence and reason. What’s more, it follows one main idea through nearly a half-century. The subtitle, “The Unmooring of American Military Power,” explains exactly what “Drift” is about.

Sounds like a good read. 275 pages, Crown Publishers, $25.
DCKennedy

HB 3808, BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE?

Tennessee Abortion Bill Would Make Abortion Providers’ Names Public:

“The House Health and Human Resources Committee is expected to vote on the bill Wednesday, and Odom said he expects it to pass in the GOP-dominated House. It will then move to the state Senate, where Republicans are also in the majority.”

HB 3808 Sponsor
Rep. Matthew Hill (R-TN)

The Life Defense Act of 2012, sponsored by state Rep. Matthew Hill (R-TN), mandates that the Tennessee Department of Health make detailed demographic information about every woman who has an abortion available to the public, including her age, race, county, marital status, education level, number of children, the location of the procedure and how many times she has been pregnant. Each report would also have to include the name of the doctor who performed the procedure. (…)

Rep. Gary Odom (D-Nashville) called the bill “very dangerous,” and said the Republicans who voted it out of a House subcommittee offered “no explanation as to why this was something that needed to be done.”

When public servants try to pass a law knowing well that its result will endanger the lives of fellow Americans, their own constituents, an explanation is in order. Earlier this month, Hill said, “The Department of Health already collects all of the data, but they don’t publish it. All we’re asking is that the data they already collect be made public.”

Okay, why? When it will obviously invade protected privacy by publicizing doctor-patient privileged information and could result in murder, why do it?

Tennessee Rep. Gary Odom (D) said, “I think in some small communities that woman would be identified, I think that by publicizing this, it would have serious consequences. … We know what has happened to physicians who perform abortions that there has been violence. … There could be violence against the women. … This is a dangerous piece of legislation. … I think this is full of meanness.”

Meanness? Laws without cause are dangerous. Any political party willing to risk our lives to advance some agenda they have for down the line is dangerous. The precedent set by this law would be dangerous. If you’ve been wondering just how far they’ll go to reverse Roe v. Wade, this one puts it right on the line.

Face it. When a state law is designed to place a bull’s-eye on the backs of law-abiding citizens, we’re in dangerous territory.
DCKennedy

An Opensalon editor’s pick has more here:
The State of Tennessee Needs to Know All About Your Abortion

On with the Witch Hunt – On, Wisconsin!

The war against women continues, gathering legislation, money and white males, trending now against single “parents”, a choice or circumstance affecting mostly mothers.

If SB507 passes into law, the people of Wisconsin will be taught in a “statewide educational and public awareness campaign” that single parents are guilty of contributing to child abuse and neglect.

Senator Glenn Grothman

Senator Glenn Grothman, a Republican and socially conservative lawmaker, is the bill’s sponsor. According to a paper(pdf) he co-authored in 2011, Grothman sites a conspiracy to encourage single motherhood in order to grow the government. “The Left and the social welfare establishment want children born out of wedlock because they are far more likely to be dependent on the government.”

  • A third of Wisconsin’s parents are single.
  • According to the Census Bureau, in 2009 there were 13.7 million single parents across the U.S.
  • Child abuse and neglect are criminal charges.
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To promote the criminalization of single parenthood, the proposed law is worded as follows:

Section 1. 48.982 (2) (g) 2. of the statutes is amended to read:
48.982 (2) (g) 2. Promote statewide educational and public awareness campaigns and materials for the purpose of developing public awareness of the problems of child abuse and neglect. In promoting those campaigns and materials, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.

Section 2. 48.982 (2) (g) 4. of the statutes is amended to read:
48.982 (2) (g) 4. Disseminate information about the problems of and methods of preventing child abuse and neglect to the public and to organizations concerned with those problems. In disseminating that information, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.

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In all the discussion from both sides of the raging debate over reproductive justice and the attacks on women’s rights, someone recently posted this picture that made me consider the slippery slope they’re on – these supporters of legislation that demeans women and curtails their freedom to choose what’s best for themselves.

I called it “a hornet’s sting”, because I’m acutely aware of the secrecy, and now the utter hypocrisy being shown by some who “doth protest too much” against abortion, and I’m not alone. So get off your high horses – you’re not fooling us; we were there. The safe and legal medical procedure to terminate an unwanted pregnancy was not designed just for you and your family, your daughters, your nieces …. Considering yourselves as secret exceptions above the laws you demand for others (and why, because you’re not poor, because you’re educated, because it was an accident?) is reprehensible. You’re secret’s safe with me, but those you have told and the sheer number of people, including friends, volunteers, family members and neighbors who have worked to help women through that difficult process will increase your chances of being outed as this debate heats up once again. Get over yourselves.

Back to SB507, the legislation condemning single parents – that one seems particularly slippery, more slippery than jelly, I guess you could say. The divorce rate in America is the highest in the civilized world – and for the most part, caused by something a spouse has no control over. Infidelity ranks first as the reason given for irreconcilable differences.

No one gets married and has a child, or has a child and gets married with an assurance that divorce will not follow – not a legal assurance, anyway. It just happens, and all the legislation this side of the Taliban won’t stop it.

So, consider the source. We’re human beings, not marionettes being fingered by legislators who pray that “someday soon, these will be the good old days”.

Those days are best watched and laughed at ….

DCKennedy

On the rally in Virginia:

Saturday, March 3rd 2012, over a thousand people protested at the Capitol in Richmond against the continuing assault on women’s reproductive rights. Speakers from NOW Virginia, Women’s Strike Force PAC and Alliance for Progressive Values spoke before a well-behaved and attentive crowd that included mothers with children, students and many women from the generation that fought for and won many of our fundamental reproductive rights. Ostensibly, the rally was in opposition to HB462, which mandates an unnecessary and medically useless ultrasound for a woman seeking an abortion. APV has worked hard against this poorly contrived piece of legislation that claims to provide women with more information about their pregnancy while in fact acting only to place further barriers between Virginia women and their right to choose. APV’s position on HB462 is spelled out in our petition to the Governor (here), which we urge you to sign, but in fact this rally was about the ongoing war on birth control and abortion that has been waged throughout the 2012 session here in Richmond. Numerous bills that would make abortion illegal, make birth control illegal, potentially require police investigations of miscarriages, and end funding for women on Medicaid who’s pregnancies have gone terribly wrong and most be terminated, have come through the legislature, and we have been successful in defeating almost all of them. But the struggle continues. This year we have seen a full court press against the most fundamental of human rights, the right to control one’s own body. Today, as the session winds down, APV members once again stood alongside our brothers and sisters from across the state to implore our elected officials to come to their senses and stop this head long slide back into the “dark ages” to paraphrase pro-choice Senator Janet Howell. We are deeply gratified at the large turn out to this peaceful protest and we want to thank the organizers, some of whom are APV members, for their hard work. However the Governor decides to deal with HB462, we want you to know that we will not go away. We are pledged to stand up against those who would try to turn back the clock on reproductive rights, this year, next year and always. Thank you everyone who came out and everyone who was there in spirit.

APV Public Policy Director,
Scott Price

At the rate we’re going we’ll reach out goal of 5,000 signatures sometime near the end of the week. But for this to happen we all have to spread the word! Please sign and share our petition!

Who’s the Captain now?


Fortunately, and evidenced by this spicy retort from Sarah Jones, the dumbing down of America isn’t working across the board. When Republicans compared President Obama to the “Chicken of the Sea”, the cowardly Captain of the Costa Concordia, she threw the truth in their faces like a pepper jelly pie. Hopefully, it’ll stick and sting long enough to do some good.
DCK

GOP Fail: Republicans Not Obama Have Abandoned Ship Like An Italian Captain

Election Integrity ~ Gone to Spam?

Okay, this might have been funny at one time:

Critical election process and validity issues today are anything but humorous, and yet it seems to be getting worse. The bottom line is simple: If we want America to be the Grandest Banana Republic on earth, we’re on the way. But without a valid democratic election process in place, we can not be considered a Democratic Republic.

Absentee voting – 7 million and growing

No one disagrees that eligible American voters living abroad should be able to vote in our elections without undue complication, yet year after year, and war after war, they are the most disenfranchised group of voters since before the civil rights movement in the 1960s. While soldiers in the field, especially wounded and disabled soldiers, present obvious challenges, timely inclusion of their votes seems like a mission impossible. Any voting process that is problematic for an estimated seven million Americans needs an overhaul – but convenience should not trump election integrity. At this time, all forms of electronic voting equipment and cyber ballot returns are less than secure.

Trial and error attempts to make voting more convenient have been expensive in more ways than one.

A little background: Convenience results in compromise.

A 2001 congressional order for a “specific provision” by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, moved the ballot transit issue away from the mail and into cyberspace. “The project shall be carried out with participation of sufficient numbers of absent uniformed services voters so that the results are statistically relevant.”

“We find the report quite troubling.”

Security consultants at Johns Hopkins University went public with this news release. The same security experts who authored the 2004 report had to issue another statement three years later in response to a 2007 DOD report expressing their continued concerns over the lack of security for proposed Internet voting. And yet, the Development Guidelines for the program still clearly state (pdf):

“• Spring, 2013 – Lessons Learned Analysis: After the 2012 election, FVAP … will provide information to EAC and its advisory boards on the results of the pilot, including the success and shortcomings of the pilot and lessons learned.”

Public right to authenticate and public right to self-govern are basic and essential principles of a democratic election – and not possible with Internet voting.

Cyber attacks are part of our own routine military espionage, and blow-back from that continues to demonstrate that the Department of Defense cannot even insure the Pentagon’s classified information. If that’s the best we can do to protect military secrets at the Pentagon, so be it – but should we be throwing our elections into this cyber and electronic hacking madness that no one can control? No.

Another bad trend is the diminishing right to a secret ballot. Whether secrecy is waived as a convenience for timely receipt of overseas ballots, or whether voter identification is covertly linked to voted ballots, it corrupts the democratic process and needs to be stopped.

When our government and the vendors it hires are concealing their ability to know and store our voting records, it should be headline news in every paper and news broadcast. That doesn’t happen with our media, but fortunately we have well-respected election and voting reform activists, like Bev Harris, executive director of Black Box Voting, Inc., an advocacy group committed to restoring citizen oversight to elections. She keeps us apprised of important developments like her recent post which begins, “Public officials now admit they can see how you voted and link it to your name. This issue affects Colorado, almost all of Washington State, as well as some locations in California, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia and likely other states as well.” 2/12 – CITIZENS SUE TO FORCE GOVERNMENT TO STOP LINKING VOTES TO VOTER –

PBS NEWSHOUR has also reported on some of the dangers we’re facing in this video- Internet Voting: Will Democracy or Hackers Win?

Electronic voting equipment is not a viable option for secure elections, a well-known fact for many years, though we continue to replace safer methods across the country with this vulnerable, hackable, corporately controlled equipment. Incredibly, we even allow the data “coding” that instructs the equipment, to be kept secret by the corporate owners as protected intellectual property.

GAO compliance analysis reviews (pdf) like the following from Ohio’s 2004 election are always disturbing, but the point is, the problems can’t be corrected to prevent future malfunctions. Where electronic equipment and hackers are concerned, it’s not a question of ‘if’ – the question is ‘when’ and the answer is ‘now’.

U.S. Government Accountability Office, Report to Congressional Committees, June 2006 ELECTIONS
The Nation’s Evolving Election System as Reflected in the November 2004 General Election:
“… in Ohio that allowed one DRE machine’s ballots to be added to the
canvas totals multiple times without being detected. In another instance,
our report notes that a malfunction in a DRE system in Ohio caused the
system to record approximately 3,900 votes too many for one presidential
candidate in the 2004 general election.”

“Election officials in a large Ohio jurisdiction … told us that readiness
testing had been conducted by local officials. However, election
officials stated that certification and acceptance testing were not performed …. They also said that neither parallel testing nor audit testing of voting systems was performed.”

Election officials are a known vulnerability in every aspect of election integrity. Every facet of their jobs needs to be closely scrutinized; publicly witnessed, recorded and reported; videotaped whenever possible; and all records of their activity must remain accessible to the public and not allowed to be destroyed.

Those in a position to game our system are boldly imposing criminal activity on the election process as evidenced by the indictments, prosecutions and guilty pleas that are becoming more and more common.

There are numerous examples of these convictions, most recently including West Virginia, Indiana, and in Pennsylvania – Feese gets 4 to 12 years, where “A Dauphin County jury convicted Feese [Republican] of all 40 counts in a case that involved the misuse of millions of taxpayer dollars by hiring out-of-state consultants and diverting legislative employees to develop customized computer software to help elect more Republicans to the Legislature. (…) Twelve Democrats, including longtime House leader state Rep. Bill DeWeese, have been convicted or pleaded guilty in the investigation.”

Is it collusion when officials of both parties are indited and found guilty in an election fraud scheme? I don’t know, but another thing that comes to mind when “software” is mentioned with election fraud is Themis, the vast, nationwide database and voter file set up by the Koch brothers a while back. I’m not sure what that implies, but it gives me an icky feeling.

And the evidence just keeps on coming ….

This article in Salon exposing Diebold equipment vulnerability did not cause the outrage it should have. The reporting of this critical information was short-lived if the media reported on it at all. If our voting equipment is so easily hacked, and the media treats that like a flash in the pan story, moving quickly to report on some sensational, inane non-issue, what does that tell us … and what else matters if bogus voting equipment and the media work in tandem to silence the people’s voice?

For the sake of convenience, or possibly something more sinister, we have reinvented the nice round wheel that rolled through our election process with some confidence – and we’ve turned it into a no-go item. Secret paper ballots and well supervised hand counting with unlimited public transparency is the only way to go at this time – and maybe forever.

Here’s a good rundown of what we should be expecting from our states regarding election law, and why. Pertinent, too, in gauging progress, this article from OEN in 2009, also by Bev Harris, recognizes the state of Maine’s election processes as the best in our nation. Black Box Voting names Maine best in nation for voting rights

Time tested state and local chaos and corruption

Another major, overall and undisputed problem for voters is the myriad of state and local laws for voting and ballot deadlines that complicate our entire election process. These challenges are already overwhelming, but they’re being used and exacerbated by the effective, step by step, state by state interference by The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) whose templates for legislation aim to disenfranchise voters and suppress the people’s voice in an effort to promote corporate interests. This proposed legislation written by corporations is being passed; they are manipulating state politics and the 2012 presidential race in a big way.

Worse still is that states hire private companies to run their elections and tally the results.

We have a lions share of election problems already, and these issues will become more intense as the 2012 general election nears. Now is the time to stop it. Privatizing the responsibility to companies with political and monetary agendas invites corruption. In this Truthout article, Project Censored named the outsourcing of Ohio’s 2004 election votes “as one of the most censored stories in the world.” It is obviously too late seven years after the fact to investigate a possibly botched election, or recover from the damage that may have been done to our country as the result of one, which is why our corporatized media censors the information.

Seemingly, ALEC “urges legislators to fight the [federal takeover] of state election procedures, objecting in particular to universal standards for voting procedures.” However, as John Nichols explains further, “ALEC is not [really] opposed to uniformity in election procedures as such. It just wants the rules to be set by CEOs, campaign donors and conservative legislators. Restricting voting and direct democracy while ensuring that corporations can spend freely on campaigning makes advancing the conservative agenda a whole lot easier. “Once they set the rules for elections and campaigns, ALEC will pretty much call the shots.”

Secure voting is more a matter of national security than anything our military will ever do. Whether our election process is handled by the states, or even if they evolve into a consolidated Federal effort, convenience to voters will never be as important as a valid outcome controlled by the people.

We need a trustworthy, top-notch special committee investigating our failing election processes, and we need it now. The temptation to tamper with election results will always be irresistible to those who are so inclined, and competent hackers can be purchased around the world as easily as our lawmakers have been purchased by corporate America. Monied stakeholders with interest in the outcome of our elections are widespread in this global economy and they will spare no expense to gain advantage.

Fighting for legitimacy in our right to a meaningful vote, like many other critical safety issues, means that we have to change with the times. Regulatory changes to protect the people’s rights are necessary – whether that means more regulations, different regulations or a complete overhaul of the election process.

Recent history would suggest that we long consider the consequences of court decided elections, and to explore and debate our options including those congress has granted the federal government to override state privilege and consolidate the process. It’s highly debatable, and would be a big pill for states to swallow, but a big pill may be exactly what we need, IF it could be done in a way that secures and validates our secret ballot “one person, one vote” democratic process.

Such power has continually been reiterated by the Supreme Court. In 1932, the Court again reviewed the Election Clause‘s grant of power to Congress to regulate the time, place, and manner of federal elections and stated:

It cannot be doubted that these comprehensive words embrace
authority to provide a complete code for congressional elections,
not only as to times and places, but in relation to notices,
registration, supervision of voting, protection of voters,
prevention of fraud and corrupt practices, counting of votes,
duties of inspectors and canvassers, and making and publication of
election returns; in short, to enact the numerous requirements as
to procedure and safeguards which experience shows are necessary in
order to enforce the fundamental right involved. And these
requirements would be nugatory if they did not have appropriate
sanctions in the definition of offenses and punishments. All this
is comprised in the subject of “times, places and manner of holding
elections. (45)

Here’s the latest on the Maine caucus fiasco. They seem to have moved past the “dog ate my homework” excuse saying that the emails reporting their vote tallies had gone to spam – a priceless example of who and what we’re dealing with in the quest for process integrity.

The clock is ticking and the 2012 election is speeding toward us. Maybe it’s the Doppler effect giving the illusion that we have lots more time to think about all this. We don’t.
DCKennedy