IN THE NEWS
February 22, 2008It Ain't Just Diebold -- These electronic voting machines are ridiculously unreliable and should all just be tossed in a landfill and let's start over again with paper ballots that can provide some semblance of democracy. The Star Ledger is reporting that "The numbers from the cartridges that print out vote tallies and the paper-tape backup within the machine didn't match." and furthermore "similar problems were found in voting machines for Bergen, Gloucester, Middlesex and Ocean counties." There are 10,000 Sequoia Voting Systems machines used in New Jersey. The attorney general's office called the problem "an unwelcome puzzle". Interesting phraseology. One wonders how many times the unwelcome information was turned away and ignored in the past. The office says, "We're still confident we got the right numbers," in defiance of all logic. Based on what? Blind faith? Reluctance to deal with "an unwelcome puzzle"? See more discussion of this on bradblog.com.
Bloomberg: Fraud, But No Investigation -- And once again inexplicably, though New York Mayor Bloomberg called the fact that Obama got zero votes in districts in Harlem "fraud", he is not choosing to launch an investigation. Again, this is in defiance of the most basic logic, and once again we must ask, is it just laziness, reluctance to take on the problem? See bradblog.com. It's obvious we don't have the accurate result of the election. But the officials just say, "Oh well. Hum-de-dum." A Sense of Proportion -- Howard Zinn urges us all to come down from Election Madness. "The very people who should know better, having criticized the hold of the media on the national mind, find themselves transfixed by the press, glued to the television set, as the candidates preen and smile and bring forth a shower of clichés with a solemnity appropriate for epic poetry... No, I'm not taking some ultra-left position that elections are totally insignificant, and that we should refuse to vote to preserve our moral purity. Yes, there are candidates who are somewhat better than others, and at certain times of national crisis (the Thirties, for instance, or right now) where even a slight difference between the two parties may be a matter of life and death. I'm talking about a sense of proportion that gets lost in the election madness. Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes-the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth." Furthermore, Zinn says, "We can be sure that the Democratic Party, unless it faces a popular upsurge, will not move off center. The two leading Presidential candidates have made it clear that if elected, they will not bring an immediate end to the Iraq War, or institute a system of free health care for all. They offer no radical change from the status quo. They do not propose what the present desperation of people cries out for: a government guarantee of jobs to everyone who needs one, a minimum income for every household, housing relief to everyone who faces eviction or foreclosure. They do not suggest the deep cuts in the military budget or the radical changes in the tax system that would free billions, even trillions, for social programs to transform the way we live." See progressive.org. White Collar Workers Organize -- "Time for white-collar workers to join up" at Allied News Obama Pledges End to War in 2009 -- Reaching further than before, Obama now promises to end the Iraq war in 2009. Is skepticism in order? Of course, but as Tom Hayden writes in The Nation, "The astonishing thing is that antiwar sentiment among Obama's base is running strongly enough to push the candidate forward to a stronger commitment." Hayden says current developments "should be a wake-up call to the peace movement to become more engaged in the presidential election." Yes, keep that sense of proportion, but keep the pressure on. As Howard Zinn writes, "Let's remember that even when there is a 'better' candidate (yes, better Roosevelt than Hoover, better anyone than George Bush), that difference will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore... Without a national crisis-economic destitution and rebellion-it is not likely the Roosevelt Administration would have instituted the bold reforms that it did." Torture is Torture -- A letter in May 1900 from the Philippines about the treatment of a prisoner reads "Now, this is the way we give them the water cure. Lay them on their backs, a man standing on each hand and each foot, then put a round stick in the mouth and pour a pail of water in the mouth and nose, and if they don't give up pour in another pail. They swell up like toads. I'll tell you it is a terrible torture." See "Barbarism Lite" by Karen Greenberg at tomdispatch.com. 86-Year-Old Rep Leads Impeachment Charge -- New Hampshire Congresswoman Betty Hall is heading an initiative to have Bush and Cheney impeached. Cabinet.com World Against War -- On March 15, there will be World Against War demonstrations around the world. For more information see theworldagainstwar.org. Lock 'em Up -- Wonderful, feisty, spirited Brattleboro Vermont citizens will vote at town meeting on whether President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should be indicted and arrested for war crimes, perjury or obstruction of justice if they ever step foot in Vermont, says the Rutland Herald. A rare pocket of sanity in the U.S. Bush Approval Falls Under 20 -- According to the American Research Group, "Among all Americans, 19% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 77% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 14% approve and 79% disapprove. Among Americans registered to vote, 18% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 78% disapprove."
February 22, 2008Vital Questions Never Asked -- Dennis Kucinich said he is initiating an investigation into the strange preponderance of put options placed on United Airlines and American Airlines on September 11, 2001. Put options are essentially bets placed on a stock to decline, which of course they did drastically after the 9/11 catastrophe. The unusual number of put options on those two airlines that day leads to the suspicion of previous knowledge of the attacks by those who bought the options. Kucinich said, "I don't know what happened. I'm not alleging anything here. But I sure want to find out how it happened." (See Jones Report)
"Well, Jack, you can't say that Dallas doesn't love you..." -- Why did the Secret Service drop its surveillance for weapons at an Obama rally an hour before he appeared? According to the Star-Telegram, "Security details at Barack Obama's rally Wednesday stopped screening people for weapons at the front gates more than an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage at Reunion Arena. The order to put down the metal detectors and stop checking purses and laptop bags came as a surprise to several Dallas police officers who said they believed it was a lapse in security. Dallas Deputy Police Chief T.W. Lawrence, head of the Police Department's homeland security and special operations divisions, said the order -- apparently made by the U.S. Secret Service -- was meant to speed up the long lines outside and fill the arena's vacant seats before Obama came on." What is going on here? How can this be allowed? The Secret Service didn't return calls from the Star-Telegram about the incident, but the deputy police chief said the 17,000 people seemed to be a "friendly crowd." What? Friendly crowd? What is that guy doing in law enforcement? Did he see how friendly the crowd was in the films of Dallas on November 22, 1963? I hate to even comment on the implications of this. One Lonely Sane Voice -- A letter to the Guardian asks the question everyone should be asking about the "war on terror": "The US and Israel have expressed satisfaction at the car bomb explosion in Damascus which killed Imad Mughniyeh on Tuesday. Could these two governments perhaps now clarify their position on the phenomenon of planting bombs in major capital cities so that we can be a little more clear on what constitutes a terrorist outrage?" A Whisper Reaches America -- The story of FBI whistle blower Sibel Edmonds alleging that high-ranking U.S. officials conspired to sell nuclear secrets on the foreign black market finally made it into a domestic mainstream paper, the Dallas Morning News. See more about the background on this at bradblog.com. Management Style -- Paul Jenkins draws an interesting analysis of the failure of the Clinton campaign on huffingtonpost.com. Hillary Clinton's campaign may justly be seen as an indication of how she would govern. It has not been impressive. Eugene Robinson in the washingtonpost.com also muses on the blundering of the Clinton campaign.
February 23, 2008
The Emerging Authoritarian State -- A woman who called the police for help in Stark County, Ohio, was stripped by two male police officers and a female officer and put in a cell naked without even a blanket for six hours. She apparently produced her sister's driver's license by mistake for ID and things went crazy from there. The woman and her husband are suing the sheriff's department. See the video here: alternet.org. More at Raw Story. Gitmo Lawyers Endorse Obama -- According to boston.com, "More than 80 volunteer lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainees today endorsed Illinois Senator Barack Obama's presidential bid" ... saying they believe Obama is "the best choice to roll back the Bush-Cheney administration's detention policies in the war on terrorism and thereby to 'restore the rule of law, demonstrate our commitment to human rights, and repair our reputation in the world community.' The attorneys are representing the detainees in habeas corpus lawsuits, which are efforts to get individual hearings before federal judges in order to challenge the basis for their indefinite imprisonment without trial. The attorneys praised Obama for being a leader in an unsuccessful fight in the fall of 2006 to block Congress from enacting a law stripping courts of jurisdiction to hear Guantanamo detainee lawsuits. The constitutionality of that law, which was part of the Military Commissions Act, is now being challenged before the Supreme Court in one of the most closely-watched cases this term." Beyond the Propaganda Screen -- Dahr Jamail, author of Beyond the Green Zone, went to Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, but not as an imbedded journalist, which would have kept him close to the soldiers and the official point of view, but instead as a private individual talking to people beyond the American quarter. Brutally harsh truth. Grassroots Analysis -- A "Grassroots Mom" went to the Library of Congress website, went through the senate careers of Clinton and Obama in depth and did a comparison. It's a very interesting analysis and worth reading. She says they are both competent senators, care about many of the same things and co-sponsor many bills. Both introduced legislation to protect children from lead, says Mom, but "the difference is in the scope and the approach. Obama's bill shows how he thinks big: do everything we can to make sure that lead-painted Thomas the Tank Engine toys don't get into the hands and mouths of millions of toddlers in this country. Or Hillary: encourage people by offering tax credits to clean up lead paint in old buildings.... Obama's bills risk pissing off the toy industry and the Chinese. Hillary's risks nothing." Both introduced measures to deal with the foreclosure crisis. Clinton's is "A bill to amend the Truth in Lending Act, to provide for enhanced disclosures to consumers and enhanced regulation of mortgage brokers, and for other purposes." Obama's is "A bill to stop mortgage transactions which operate to promote fraud, risk, abuse, and under-development, and for other purposes." Obama introduced four bills on energy, reforms for the auto and oil industries and incentives for the production of alternative energy sources. The writer found only one Clinton bill on energy, one to impose a temporary profit fee and use the revenue to expand energy tax incentives. She points out that "Obama wants to 'repeal certain tax incentives for the oil and gas industry'. Clinton sees the answer in a 'temporary oil profit fee' and to 'expand certain energy tax incentives' for alternative energy. Obama introduced 10 healthcare bills or amendments. Clinton introduced more, but none of them passed, while one of Obama's did. When the Mom looked more closely at Obama, she said, "I was blown away as I started going through his record. ... In addition [to bills on healthcare and energy] he had introduced bills on Iran, voting, veterans, global warming, campaign finance and lobbyists, Blackwater, global poverty, nuclear proliferation, and education. On Iran: S.J.RES.23 : A joint resolution clarifying that the use of force against Iran is not authorized by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq, any resolution previously adopted, or any other provision of law." And a bill to prohibit deceptive practices in Federal elections, a bill to provide housing assistance for very low-income veterans, and a bill on preventing global nuclear proliferation. Mom says he has a better record of getting his bills co-sponsored and passed than Clinton. She made a list. Worth looking at. (Daily Kos) How Clinton Blew It -- No, it's not over. But it's pretty amazing how far the campaign has fallen. There's a fairly good analysis by Steven Thomma in the Seattle Times. "She had everything going for her. The most famous name in politics. A solid lead in the polls. At least $133 million. Yet Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton finds herself struggling for political survival, her once-firm grasp of the Democratic presidential nomination weakened. What happened? Sen. Barack Obama, for one thing — an unusually gifted speaker with a face that appeals deeply to the Democratic Party. He also had a better-organized campaign." The New York Times columnist Bob Herbert also weighs in on what has happened. "You can analyze the Clinton campaign every which way from sundown. But I suspect that the senator’s biggest hurdle from the beginning was the unforgiving nature of time. The tides of history change. Some of Barack Obama’s young and most fervent supporters were just three or four years old when Bill and Hillary Clinton were joined by Al and Tipper Gore for a remarkably successful bus tour through eight states to kick off their campaign against George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle in 1992." Words Do Matter -- "Why does he have to be a lightweight just because he speaks well? Are being a master orator and a substantive policymaker mutually exclusive?" Mario Brossard in AOL News
February 25, 2008Monica Lewinsky For President! It seems thinking back that the always-controversial Hillary Clinton got her biggest boost in popularity during the colossal shame and embarrassment of the Monica Lewinsky affair and the insanity that Ken Starr and the Republican hit team put the country and the Clintons through at that time. Now the Clinton's are in another tight corner. With pundits saying Hillary's turnaround for the worse came during the South Carolina primary campaign when Bill started shooting his mouth off, I would hate to know what the mood is behind the scenes when those two are alone together. I guess we'll have to ask Bob Woodward, who claims to have the capacity to quote from their bedroom conversations when no one is around. Maybe the best thing for Hillary would be if Bill would get lost. Maybe he should run away with Monica in one last ditch effort to recover the momentum of the campaign. But seriously, and this is oh so serious, while pundits discuss what went wrong with the Clinton campaign and how badly managed it was, how it spent too much money on Dunkin' Donuts, didn't plan for post-Super Tuesday, etc., the thing that went wrong with it (and it ain't over yet) is just the Barak Obama phenomenon. It's one of those things that is not entirely predictable and is on paper extremely improbable. Some say it is being manipulated by the media to put Barack in position, then knock him down to clear the way for Supreme Butt-Kisser McCain. But no one is entirely in control, so we shall see.
February 26, 2008Obama's Conservative Credentials -- According to Paul Street writing "The Obama Illusion" for Zmagazine, Obama's credentials are quite pleasing to conservative factions in many ways. He supported neocon hawk Lieberman over anti-war opposition Ned Lamont, voted to confirm Condi Rice for Secretary of State and John Roberts to the Supreme Court, chose Lieberman to be his mentor in the Senate, voted to renew the PATRIOT act, he said he opposed a single-payer national health insurance plan on the grounds it would put people in the insurance industry out of work. There's quite a list, take a look. He should not be too much of a threat to the right wing establishment.
Doing Homework on Obama -- For more reasons not to lose your head over Obama, see the Black Agenda Report, which has done a number of articles urging sobriety when looking at the Obama phenomenon. See "Black America's Real Issue With Barack Obama", "Barack Obama: Hypocrisy on Health Care", "Barack Obama: The Mania and the Mirage" and "Barack Obama And The Winds Of War". 60 Minutes Blocked in Alabama -- The 60 Minutes report on Don Seigelman, the political prisoner targeted by Rove and the Repug thugs was blocked in Alabama. See Alternet.org, cannonfire. The owner of the station, Oak Hill Partners, according to southernstudies.org, "was founded by billionaire Texan Robert Bass, the son of oilman Perry Richardson Bass. Robert's brother Ed was a Yale classmate and personal friend of George W. Bush, and along with brother Lee they put up $25 million to finance Harken Oil in the late 1980s while George W. Bush was serving on the board of directors. The Bass brothers' political action committees donated more than $200,000 to Bush's gubernatorial campaigns, while their personal donations topped $270,000, according to UTWatch.org. Lee Bass was also among the Bush Pioneers in 2000 and 2004, raising at least $100,000 for the presidential campaign in each election cycle, according to Texans for Public Justice." The Alabama Democratic Party called for a special prosecutor to look into the Seigelman case. Obama Surges -- According to CBS, "Barack Obama with a 16-point lead over rival Hillary Clinton among Democratic primary voters nationwide." Two weeks ago they were tied. In January, that's last month, Clinton was 15 points ahead. Look Out Ahead -- Hillary Clinton's argument about having more foreign policy experience will backfire when it comes time for either she or Obama to face McCain, who obviously has more experience than either, says Guy Saperstein at Alternet. McCain's experience doesn't make him a better choice because he's a raving warmonger and a liar who now pretends he didn't say the Iraq war would be "easy," which unfortunately for him was recorded on tape. But Clinton has been one of the most hawkish Democrats, most notably on her decision to authorize the Iraq invasion. Saperstein says, "She and Bill have tried to explain that vote on the grounds that President Bush's true intentions, and the debacle Iraq would soon become, were 'unknown and unknowable.' These claims cannot withstand scrutiny, however. Long before October 2002, there were abundant reasons not to trust anything Bush/Cheney said about Iraq. Long before October 2002, there existed a large body of scholarship that detailed the regional and religious conflicts that would erupt in Iraq if Saddam were removed. Two of the best predictors of the fiasco that Iraq would become, were President George H.W. Bush and his National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, both of whom had written well-known articles and memoirs about why Baghdad should not be invaded -- in the case of Scowcroft, in a New York Times Op-Ed shortly before the vote on the Iraq Resolution. And these warnings were not lost on the large majority of Democrats in Congress; in fact, 148 Democrats in Congress (125 in the House and 23 in the Senate) saw through the smoke and mirrors, accurately perceived that Bush/Cheney would use the resolution to invade Iraq, and voted against the resolution. Hillary Clinton missed all the clues, took the Republican bait, and made one of the worst foreign policy decisions in modern American history." Celebrating Ignorance -- General Motors Corp Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said as recently as last month that global warming is a "total crock of shit," but says his views had no bearing on GM's commitment to build environmentally friendly vehicles. He did not comment on whether being a dumbass hampered his ability to run a major corporation. planetark.org
February 28, 2008Existential Politics 2008 -- We are seeing a fascinating episode of existential politics playing out with Barack Obama. People on all sides of the issues agree that what is happening with Obama is a phenomenon. Many who oppose Obama see the phenomenon as a kind of hysteria with people attaching to something that is superficial and unreal, that Obama is able to ignite people's hopes without having anything to really deliver. Those arguments are not without substance, but there is something going on that is larger than Obama or any other player in this drama.
When I say existential politics, I refer to a quality of becoming, of transformation. Norman Mailer described it well. He said an existential political act "is existential precisely because its end is unknown." An existential political act is one that creates a new reality.
I've seen a number of articles and e-mails lately that have referred to Obama's record, some in favorable terms, some not. Paul Street in Z Magazine points out a litany of Obama votes and comments that put him way too close to George Bush for my comfort. He's talking change, but his votes give the corporate titans who are raping the country and the world little to fear. On the other hand, a blog by someone signed as "Grassroots Mom" at dailykos.com compared the legislation introduced by Obama and Clinton and Obama's record looked impressively progressive. Some say the Republican crossovers in the primaries are trying to eliminate Clinton to set up a weaker candidate that they can beat in the general election. Some say that Obama is entirely false and manipulative with his appeals to people's desire for change and is really only a corporate stooge. It's hard to know what the reality is, but my point is that there is no hard reality. These are transformational processes. The future is in the making, it is not pre-determined. Whatever Obama is now, is not what he will be six months from now. He could be better or worse, but he will be different.
Howard Zinn finds the point of resolution in all these views. Neither of the Democratic candidates offer a radical change from the status quo. It's clear from their voting records and their public statements. But even Roosevelt, Zinn says, would probably not have instituted the reforms he did if he and others had not perceived that it would be dangerous to do otherwise because the country was in the grip of a huge crisis that included "economic destitution and rebellion."
No matter who wins, the system will not offer reform unless the people force it to. There are only three possible candidates left to vote for, four if you count Nader. But no matter which of them wins, if the people do not keep the pressure on after the new president takes office, very little of what needs to happen will happen to correct the disaster course we are now on.
Davd Lindorff at commondreams.org makes this point quite well. "It must be acknowledged that the Obama phenomenon is a real thing," he says. "That is to say, whatever his personal politics, his candidacy is genuinely igniting a wave of passionate support across the nation among people‹particularly the young, and more recently African Americans-who had for years been ignored by, and consequently disinterested in the political process. It might be that this is all the result of the magic of charisma, a winning smile and a good turn of phrase. But even so, it would be a mistake for the jaded left, myself included, to dismiss this phenomenon as meaningless, and to ignore it or its potential. Indeed, I want to suggest here that Obama may at this point have the proverbial tiger by the tail, in that his clarion calls for 'hope' and for 'change' may be stirring up hopes and expectations for those very things in a way that will not easily be denied should he succeed."
It's up to us, "we the people".
February 29, 2008Rather Vs the Corporatocracy -- Dan Rather railed against CBS' "corporate overlords" in court on Tuesday. See New York Daily News
Huxley's Insights -- Aldous Huxley pre-saged Noam Chomsky's Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies in his essay "Propaganda in a Democratic Society" his 1958 book Brave New World Revisited. Check it out at deoxy.org/huxley1. Good Terrorism -- Did George Bush say he opposes terrorism? Well let's qualify that. The President opposes some terrorism. Other terrorism is cause for great celebration. As Noam Chomsky points out at tomdispatch.com, when a car bomb in Damascus killed Imad Mughniyeh, the American and Israeli governments could barely contain their joy. Presidential candidates now routinely talk about "killing" leaders they oppose, they no longer feel it necessary to honor any kind of legal processes or order. How do they expect to discourage terrorism and bring about peace when they celebrate it when it serves their interests?
-- David Cogswell