Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Are The Democrats Poised For Victory?

"County Election" by George Caleb Bingham 1851 Posted by Picasa

Bring yourself back to the point quite gently. And even if you do nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back a thousand times, though it went away every you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.

---St. Francis De Sales, On Meditation

It is important to see that the main point of any spiritual practice is to step out of the bureaucracy of ego. This means stepping out of ego's constant desire for a higher, more spiritual, more transcendental version of knowledge, religion, virtue, judgment, comfort or whatever it is that the particular ego is seeking.

---Chogyam Trungpa

To find perfect composure in the midst of change is to find nirvana.

---Shunryu Suzuki

At my workplace the other day, a retired social studies teacher, in to substitute and an astute Republican, challenged us assembled Democrats in the lunchroom. We're in Ohio remember, where the gubernatorial election in November will decide between Democrat Ted Strickland, a sensible and friendly man, and Republican Kenneth Blackwell, deranged and perhaps crooked evangelist. Our Republican friend said, "If you guys can't win this time, you'll never win!"

Not counting the distinct possibility that both the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were rigged, it would seem the Democrats have issues galore and an increasing advantage as the campaign season begins. But what do we see, what do we hear? I see business-as-usual, I hear snoring. Where is thundering oratory about corruption and injustice? I am not alone on the brink of dismissing the Democrats as out to lunch. What follows is a review of Ted Kennedy's new book, written by the publisher of Harper's Magazine~~~

Edward Kennedy's Bland, Tepid Book

Posted on Sunday, May 14, 2006. Edward Kennedy and the Democrats' dwindling hopes. Originally from The Providence Journal, Tuesday, May 2, 2006. By John R. MacArthur.

If you want to know why the Democrats are unlikely to retake the majority in either house of Congress this November, you need look no further than the boilerplate party platform, just published, entitled America Back on Track and allegedly written by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D., Mass.). Already, that Kennedy claims to be the actual author of this "book" reveals an unbecoming vanity—common to his father and late brothers—that weakens the cause of defeating President Bush's right-wing hordes. But worse is that one of the last, semi-authentic liberals in the upper house would let his name be used by a party machine that seems determined to maintain its minority status in Washington.

With Bush way down in the polls, Tom Delay in disgrace and Iraq a growing disaster, you would think that the Democrats, including Kennedy, might sense an opportunity. Read this committee-written tract and witness the opportunity squandered, just as it was squandered in 2004 by the junior senator from Massachusetts, the “Kennedyesque” John Kerry.

To be fair, Ted Kennedy does acknowledge a “collaborator” for America Back on Track named Jeffrey Madrick, the editor of Challenge Magazine. But it's not fair to poor Madrick to be saddled with such a task, or blamed for the result, even if he was well paid.

Turgid, often self-contradictory, and always predictable, this book—if it had to be published—should have been ghosted by somebody with the courage to reject at least some of the bromides mandated by a party leadership in rapid decay.

Which isn't to say that America Back on Track is useless. Viewed as the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee platform for the 2006 campaign, it has value as a summary. Kennedy/Madrick marshal lots of alarming facts and statistics to buttress their criticisms—overly polite—of Bush and the belligerent Republican majority in Congress. For example, in the realm of Bush administration secrecy, I didn't know that Congress's nonpartisan General Accounting Office had to resort to a lawsuit (unsuccessful) for the first time in its 80-year history to try to pry loose the membership of Vice President Dick Cheney's notoriously secret energy task force.

Regarding America's class, race and market-distorted education system, it's interesting to learn that France and Germany, on a percentage basis, graduate twice as many students with bachelor's degrees in science, math, computer technology and engineering as the U.S. does—this, in part, because U.S. pharmaceutical companies pay their MBAs so much more than their PhDs. On average, say the authors, U.S. “teachers earn . . . almost $8,000 less than comparable graduates in other fields, and the gap almost triples to $23,000 after fifteen years.”

Conventional liberals, Kennedy/Madrick want the federal government to increase its paltry contribution to public schools, still too reliant on the class-biased, locally levied property tax. Washington now provides only 8 percent of K-12 funding, ensuring that Bush's “No Child Left Behind” program will remain a cruel fraud (Howard Dean called it “No Child Left Untested”).

Addressing America's increasingly sordid labor market, Kennedy/Madrick note the obvious: that workers can't live decently on the minimum wage—frozen since 1997 at $5.15 an hour—particularly since there's no national health insurance. Disgusting enough, but worse when you learn that 86 percent of low-wage food-service workers receive not one day of paid sick leave.

But as Kennedy systematically kneels at each station of the cross of liberalism—racial equality, environmental protection, universal health care and international cooperation among others—I can't help being struck by the timidity of someone supposedly so far to the left of the American spectrum and so politically secure in his position.

If you can wade through the sea of blandness, all the way to the end, you might conclude that the country is in dreadful shape—steered by a reckless and tyrannical president; mired in an utterly unjustified foreign bloodbath; dominated by jeering plutocrats and shyster corporations—and that something radical needs to be done. In the face of this crisis, Kennedy et al. offer clich├ęs, sometimes contradictory, in the voice of an advertising agency: “Terrorism is our greatest threat . . . ”; “among our most tragic errors is that we have not clearly defined our new enemy”; then, apparently thinking better of the first statement, “terrorism is our newest enemy, but the spread of nuclear weapons remains our greatest threat.”

Meanwhile, Kennedy can't get the economic threats straight either. He wants a “job-creation tax credit” in the U.S. to combat job losses and wage declines caused by “offshoring.” But he evidently hasn't considered the vast wage differential between Springfield and Shanghai. Like other Democratic “free-traders,” and “pro-immigrant” politicians, Kennedy can't reconcile his supposed love of the American working stiff with his distaste for protective tariffs.

Absent high tariffs on cheap Chinese imports, and without a substantial, government-driven transfer of wealth from the top (where Kennedy lives) to the bottom (where the stiffs reside), all the “job training” in the world won't do much to ease the pain. Raising the minimum wage would help, but unless there's a limit on the flood of desperate immigrants—“guest workers” or illegals—you can't expect the free market to force wages up “naturally” to a humane level. You can't have it every which way. So Kennedy ducks and proposes “community-impact statements” when a corporation ships its assembly line to Mexico or China. Thanks, Ted.

He also ducks on energy. The market (and higher taxes) can promote conservation and fight pollution—indeed, we should welcome higher oil prices to discourage consumption and increase fuel efficiency. But Kennedy only suggests more stringent government mileage standards for cars and trucks because he's afraid of opposing cheap gasoline. At the same time, his call for greater investment in “alternative . . . energy, especially renewable sources such as solar, biomass, and wind energy” is hypocritical given his steadfast opposition to the proposed Nantucket Sound wind-energy project.

As for Iraq, “it's hard to maintain with a straight face that the war was justified” but Kennedy the party man dares not fall out with Democratic hawks and declares that “success in Iraq is essential . . . ” This is both asinine and cynical. Imagine reading these two phrases together at the funeral of your son or daughter killed in the Sunni Triangle.

I wonder what would have happened if Ted Kennedy had really written his own book, free of party dogma and the ghosts of his brothers. A radical notion, but I've heard from mutual friends that he has an authentically generous heart. And even the professional Kennedy hater Howie Carr admits that Ted Kennedy has a sense of humor, a commodity sorely lacking in America Back on Track. In his book, The Brothers Bulger, Carr quotes Teddy's response to a restaurant meeting with the scary and obdurate Billy Bulger, the longtime Massachusetts Senate president. Bulger had insisted on ordering the most expensive items on the menu, all the while refusing to compromise with Kennedy. “I don't know whether we should try to persuade him,” Kennedy remarked to an associate. “I know we can't afford to keep feeding him.”

It's never too late to get back on track. Just ask the former drunk driver George Bush.

About the AuthorJohn R. MacArthur is the publisher of Harper's Magazine.


jazzolog said...

Bob Fitrakis, the Green Party endorsed candidate for Governor of Ohio, was at Ohio University last night. I saw no advertisements for the event anywhere, nor any article in the newspapers. A single line in the Events Calendar of yesterday's Athens Messenger caught my eye and I got to go. The lecture hall in Bentley was hardly packed, and the students seemed not particularly informed on either who he is or what kinds of issues concern him. But Bob was at full tilt and as usual showered his audience with the "hidden" truth of this nation's political and economic situation. Those issues are listed here at the Green Party site~~~

The Fitrakis for Governor site is here~~~
Check out his credentials at the About Bob link.

He said the Democrat candidate, Ted Strickland, is a great guy and a friend, but we shouldn't expect him to hit away at stolen elections and illegal wars. While the "corporatists" own the Republican Party, the Democrat Party is available for rent whenever it serves their interests. As for the Republican candidate, Ken Blackwell belongs in jail. Here's an article he wrote, with his writing partner Harvey Wasserman, last Tuesday~~~

Elections & Voting
Will the major media finally cover the electronic election fraud issue?
By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
Online Journal Guest Writers
May 16, 2006, 00:45

That the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen has become an article of faith for millions of mainstream Americans. But there has been barely a whiff of coverage in the major media about any problems with the electronic voting machines that made those thefts possible -- until now.

A recent OpEdNews/Zogby People's poll of Pennsylvania residents, found that “39 percent said that the 2004 election was stolen. 54 percent said it was legitimate. But let’s look at the demographics on this question. Of the people who watch Fox news as their primary source of TV news, one half of one percent believe it was stolen and 99 percent believe it was legitimate. Among people who watched ANY other news source but FOX, more felt the election was stolen than legitimate. The numbers varied dramatically.”

Here, from that poll, are the stations listed as first choice by respondents and the percentage of respondents who thought the election was stolen: CNN, 70 percent; MSNBC, 65 percent; CBS, 64 percent; ABC, 56 percent; Other, 56 percent; NBC, 49 percent; FOX 0.5 percent.

With 99 percent of Fox viewers believing that the election was “legitimate,” only the constant propaganda of Rupert Murdoch’s disinformation campaign stands in the way of a majority of Americans coming to grips with the reality of two consecutive stolen elections.

That the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post finally ran coverage of problems with electronic voting machines this week is itself big news. It says the scandals surrounding computer fraud and financial illegalities at Diebold and other electronic voting machine companies have become simply too big and blatant for even the bought, docile mainstream media (MSM) to ignore.

The gaping holes in the security of electronic voting machines are pretty old news. Bev Harris's has been issuing definitive research since Florida 2000. warned of the impending electronic theft of Ohio 2004 with Diebold machines eight months before it happened.

After that election, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) issued a report confirming that security flaws could allow a single hacker with a wi-fi to shift the vote counts at entire precincts just by driving by. Then the Government Accountability Office reported that security flaws were vast and unacceptable throughout the national network of electronic machines.

Despite overwhelming evidence that George W. Bush has occupied the White House due to the fraudulent manipulations of the GOP Secretaries of State in Florida and Ohio, none of this has seeped into "journals of record" like the Times and Post.

Until this week. The Times was sparked out of its stupor on May 11, after officials in California and Pennsylvania warned that Diebold touch-screen machines, slated to be used in upcoming primaries, were hopelessly compromised. Michael Shamos, a professor of computer science at Pittsburgh's high-tech Carnegie-Mellon University, called it "the most severe security flaw ever discovered in a voting system."

Douglas W. Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa, says "this is a barn door being wide open, while people were arguing over the lock on the front door."

The Times refers to the uproar as "the latest concern about touch-screen machines" while having completely ignored dozens of complaints in Ohio 2004 that voters who selected John Kerry's name saw George W. Bush's light up, or saw the light on Kerry's repeatedly go out before they could complete the voting process.

The Wall Street Journal ran the following kicker: "Some former backers of technology seek return to paper ballots, citing glitches, fraud fears."

The WSJ could have ran that story last year after the bipartisan commission on federal election reform co-chaired by President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker noted in no uncertain terms that: "Software can be modified maliciously before being installed into individual voting machines. There is no reason to trust insiders in the election industry any more than in other industries."

Indeed. There's every reason because of the unprecedented power and money involved in U.S. politics to trust them less than anybody else.

In its March 2006 primary, it took a week to tally Chicago's votes because of technical problems in Sequoia Voting Systems equipment. In Maryland, electronic voting scandals prompted a unanimous vote by the State House of Delegate demanding that touch-screen machines be scrapped. The Maryland Senate effectively killed that bill, which is certain to come back.

Citizen lawsuits are being filed in Arizona, California, New York and New Mexico by the nonprofit Voter Action organization.

The new concerns about Diebold's equipment were discovered by Harri Hursti, a Finnish computer expert who was working at the request of Black Box Voting. The new report forced Diebold to warn of a "theoretical security vulnerability" that "could potentially allow unauthorized software to be loaded onto the system."

In other words, one of the prime manufacturers of the machines on which America casts its votes has admitted those machines can be hacked.

But as the Times has finally reported, the company, in one of the new century's most truly laughable letters, has claimed that "the probability for exploiting this vulnerability to install unauthorized software that could affect an election is considered low."

A company spokesman has admitted the flaw was actually built into the system to allow election officials to upgrade their software. But Diebold is apparently confident that those officials would never, ever cheat. "For there to be a problem here, you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software," says Diebold's David Bear. "I don't believe these evil elections people exist."

The Times has thus far chosen not to report on the staggering history that frames such statements. As reported in 2003, Diebold CEO Walden O'Dell promised in a GOP fundraising letter to "deliver Ohio's electoral votes to George W. Bush." The election chief in Florida 2000 was Katherine Harris. In Ohio 2004 it was J. Kenneth Blackwell. Both controlled access to their state's electronic voting machines, and are widely believed to have exploited their now obvious flaws. Both served simultaneously as Secretary of State and as state co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign. As of today, the electronic access cards for Ohio's electronic voting machines have been ordered into Blackwell's personal office, despite the fact that he is the GOP nominee for governor in the upcoming November election.

Recently passed House Bill 3 in Ohio does not mandate post-election audits of electronic voting machines, nor does the Help American Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. The rush to electronic voting machines was fueled by the passing of the HAVA Act, which authorized more than $3 billion in federal funds to purchase new voting equipment. HAVA's principal architect was Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), whose financial ties to Diebold, through disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, have yet to be fully exposed.

Blackwell personally negotiated a no-bid contract for Diebold touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic machines (DREs) while holding stock in the company. Under HB3 Blackwell will decide whether the machines will be audited or not in an election where he is running for governor.

"We're prepared for those types of problems," said Deborah Hench, the registrar of voters in San Joaquin County, California, according to The Times. "There are always activists that are anti-electronic voting, and they're constantly trying to put pressure on us to change our system."

Aviel Rubin, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, did the first in-depth analysis of the security flaws in the source code for Diebold touch-screen machines in 2003. After studying the latest problem, The Times reported Rubin said: "I almost had a heart attack. The implications of this are pretty astounding."

More coverage from the mainstream corporate media may surface as the machines malfunction in the 22 primary elections scheduled in May and June. The next major e-vote meltdown should occur during the May 16 primaries in Kentucky, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

There's still time to move to hand-counted paper ballots for the November 2006 election. And if current trends continue, some of the mainstream media may actually start reporting on the issue.

Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of "How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election and Is Rigging 2008". They are co-editors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of "What Happened in Ohio?" soon to be published by The New Press.

Copyright © 1998-2006 Online Journal

jazzolog said...

Greg Palast
June 7th, 2006

Anne Coulter says we’re “Godless” — we “liberals.” And by “liberals,” she means anyone who wants to keep the government out of our underpants, out of Iraq, and out of the business of helping Big Business shoplift America.

It’s time someone took on the blonde bully.

Anne, I realize yesterday was special day for you, releasing your book on June 6 — 06-06-06.

Going through it, I must, admit, is heavy going: ‘Godless’ is a 300-page brick of solid meanness and pin-head hatreds packaged like a fashion magazine: Big Brother wears Prada.

You accuse those who don’t sign on to your list of prejudices as the Lord’s enemies. That’s not original, Anne: the Taliban thought of it before you and they too were partial to dressing in black.

You want to talk about Godless? OK, let’s go:

Would the Lord lie us into a war?

Would the Lord let thousands drown in New Orleans while chilling at a golf resort?

Would the Lord have removed tens of thousands of Black soldiers from the voter rolls as the Republican Party did in 2004?

You talk about being “Christian” — but with all your zeal to fire up electric chairs and Abrams tanks, you sound more like a Roman.

I suggest this, Anne: let’s debate. Set the time, set the place, and I’ll be there. Nose to nose, my facts versus your fanaticism.

But I know you don’t have the guts to do anything but lob idiocies from your electronic Fox-hole.

Your new book is called, “Godless.” Your autobiography should be called, “Gutless.”

Greg Palast, winner of the George Orwell Courage-In-Journalism Prize, is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Yesterday, he released his book, Armed Madhouse: Who’s Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal ‘08, No Child’s Behind Left and other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War.”

jazzolog said...

This entry, created this morning (Pacific Time) at Daily Kos, already has 640 comments!

Money is to Liberals as Sex is to Conservatives
by SusanG
Fri Jun 16, 2006 at 10:28:18 AM PDT

Evil. Suspect. Immoral. Dirty and shameful. Something no one should be proud to admit either having or enjoying. But mostly ... the ultimate temptation to succumb to selfish hedonism and to betray ideals.

In both cases - sex and money - knee-jerk condemnation of those who enjoy either is stupid, simplistic thinking.

Of course, we recognize it when we condemn it in Republicans. After all, we think, who but a right-wing fundie would think that love consummated between two consenting adults, whatever their gender, whatever the position, is a sin?

But we rarely recognize this one-dimensional, stereotypical assumption in ourselves when we apply it to those who have money. After all, who but a liberal would think wealth, no matter how honorably earned, no matter how honorably spent, is a stain upon the idealistic, progressive soul?

We pride ourselves in this burgeoning people-powered movement on giving voice to the true views held by average Americans. For the most part, we're right. Polls consistently show that most citizens now agree that the Iraq war was a mistake, that President Bush is a lousy president, that clean air and water are priorities, that good schools for our kids are necessary and that our health care system needs a major overhaul. The one area that liberal activists often seem seriously out of touch with mainstream views is attitudes toward money.

Most Americans view economic success as a validation of their hard work, savvy, entrepreneurship and an indication that they are meeting a previously unmet need for their fellow citizens. But too often in progressive circles, an individual living anywhere above the federal poverty guideline is dismissed as "selling out" or being co-opted. Of course, in a few individual instances, this may be the case. But these, I would argue, are aberrations, and even the right wing recognizes it as such; the constant railing from conservatives about limousine liberals and George Soros show that they at least get it: liberals with some money in their pockets can be a fearsome thing when it comes to funding candidates, issues, think tanks, progressive infrastructure. Far from selling out, liberals with wealth - and I'm including some with inherited wealth like the Kennedy family - are the right's worst nightmare.

The fact is, money is a tool. In and of itself, it is absolutely neutral. It can be spent for good, it can be spent for evil. Just like a hammer, it can be used either to bash someone's head in or to build a house. We don't condemn the tool as inherently suspect, but the uses to which it is put, and to label anyone who starts earning decent money as immediately suspicious is as ludicrous as Republicans condemning anyone enjoying consensual sex outside the strictures of Leviticus as sinful.

As we are seeing more and more progressives able to make a full-time living off of giving voice to our movement, this "money is evil" mindset must be reexamined. People like Markos, John Aravosis, Duncan Black ... well, I glory that what they have to say is worth paying them to write it or say it. As Air America gains markets and advertisers, I rejoice that the views expressed there are valued enough to be acquiring some serious coin. I'm dizzy with happiness at the thought that Michael Moore made a shitload off of Farenheit 911.

I want this movement's best minds and hearts in a comfortable financial position. I want them undistracted by calling landlords each month to whine and wheedle about overdue rent. I want them fully focused on building our infrastructure, networking, getting our message out by any means necessary. I want them to be able to hire help if they need it. I trust them, you see, to use their time and money wisely, and here, for me, is where the real nub of the problem lies and the frightening parallel with the right-wing condemnation of sex for pleasure.

I've long thought that the individuals on the right who assume sexual freedom will give rise to all sorts of inarguably exploitive sexual situations - pedophilia, rape, manipulation of the trusting sexual partner and abandonment - are telling us a lot more about their own dark side than about the reality of most of our sexual relationships. And I often give a silent prayer of thanks that they are tamping themselves down, even as I resent their efforts to impose their strictures on the rest of us who have managed to handle our sex lives with some dignity.

I've now come to view objections to other progressives acquiring money and the accompanying power in the same light. It's telling me a whole lot more about what these purist economic protestors who want us all starving in garrets would do with a large chunk of change than what the folks now earning a living through progressivism will do in the future.

Thus, if you don't trust yourself to handle money wisely in the service of your ideals ... please, stay away from it. But don't impose your own knee-jerk economic prejudices on your fellow progressives. Instead, welcome the flourishing as evidence that our moment is arriving and we are connecting with America in a way that shows people are willing to pay to have us build our people-powered vision.

Liberals can handle money and its accompanying temptation, I'm certain. Sit back and watch. It's about to happen.