NAACP vs. THE ZOMBIES

12 05 2012

We just listened to Richard and Mimi Farina’s”House Un-American Activity Blues Dream,” an electrified and electrifying musical offering that preceded Bob Dylan’s more famous “Bringing It All Back Home”  by several months, and marks the initial cross-fertilization between rock and folk music.  Although it’s  almost fifty years old, it continues to resonate–one recent commentator on Rombama/Obomney even went so far as to note that

Both Obama and Romney stay fit, dress sharply and look vaguely out of sync when wearing blue jeans.

certainly an odd echo of Farina’s line about “Presidential candidates in new Levi jeans.”

And Farina’s solution to his feelings of alienation in the USA–a trip to Cuba–continues to raise American hackles, as Ozzie  Guillen discovered to his dismay.  Talk about getting “banged hard on the head”!

But most of us are not going to pick up and go elsewhere.  “America, love it or leave it,” the reactionaries used to say in the sixties, and a lot of us lefties, from old SDS types like me to the youngest Occupiers, have picked up that gauntlet and said, “yeah, I love America and I ain’t leaving.  What are you gonna do about it?”

The answer has been, “do everything we can to disfranchise as many left-wingers as possible, so we can continue to hold the reins in this country.”  Some people have been directly disfranchised, like the five million or more Americans who cannot vote because they have been convicted of felonies.  The US is one of the only countries in which felony conviction results in permanent loss of voting rights, at the same time as it has, both by percentage and in raw numbers, more of its population in jail or under control of the penal system through probation and parole than any other country in the world, largely for “victimless” crimes such as drugs–mostly marijuana–pornography, prostitution, and traffic violations.  The allegedly felonious percentage of our population picked up markedly when Reagan declared the “war on drugs,” which, as I commented last month, turned the “war on poverty” into a war on the poor.

this is your prison population on a “war on drugs”!

Even if they have never suffered legal consequences from the herb’s contraband status, marijuana users who wish to remain free will tend to keep a lower political profile due to their vulnerability, an effective form of “passive-aggressive” repression that, I believe, is one of the deliberate consequences of the government’s unrelenting efforts to keep marijuana illegal.

But there are subtler ways to disfranchise people than by outright busting them.  The NAACP has written an excellent report on this subject, and I’m going to summarize it for you. It’s called “Defending Democracy:  Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights In America.”

The NAACP starts by pointing out that the non-white population of the US is increasing faster than the white population.  I was surprised to learn that heavily white Republican-ruled Texas is now a “majority-minority” state–one in which non-whites outnumber whites.  This is also the status of California, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia.  I was also surprised to learn that five other states–Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, and Nevada–are likely to join that category by the next census.  in this context, the extraordinary efforts of mostly white Republicans to limit ballot access and civil rights that have been so prominent  in Arizona, Florida, and Georgia make sense–the old order is indeed crumbling, and those who have reaped its benefits are determined not to surrender them without a fight.  In those states and others, the NAACP lists several common tactics:

1 )Tighter restrictions on voter registration drives, such as the extreme penalties imposed in some states for getting registration details wrong or failing to return  petitions in a very narrow window of time.

2 ) Greater limitations on where and when citizens can register to vote.  State legislatures have moved to shut down “same day registration,” which allows citizens to register and cast a ballot at the same time.  Other states have simply never complied with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which required state public assistance agencies to provide voter registration services.  “Public assistance agencies” doesn’t just mean “welfare agencies”–it includes motor vehicle and drivers’ license bureaus.

3) Stricter laws about proof of eligibility, such as demanding “proof of citizenship.”  Many older African-Americans were born at home and never had a birth certificate, thus cannot “prove” they are citizens.  Another way in which white Republicans are limiting the right to vote is by instituting longer residency requirements.  This has a heavier impact on non-whites, who, since they are less likely to own their own homes, move more frequently than whites.

4 )Some states are reversing more liberal policies about re-enfranchising ex-felons, which has, according to the NAACP, removed “hundreds of thousands” of–primarily non-white–voters from the rolls. This has been most egregious in Florida, whichis one of the states teetering on the brink of being “majority-minority,” while Iowa has some of the strictest anti-drug laws in the country.

5) States are purging voters from the voter rolls on the allegation that they are dead, have moved out of the district, or are felons, when in fact they may merely have the same name as such a person. Frequently, those purged are not notified and only find out they have been erroneously disqualified when they show up to vote. According to the NAACP  “in Florida, a flawed purge program erroneously flagged and purged 12,000 voters (mostly due to typos and other obvious clerical errors). Over 70% of those flagged voters were African-American or Latino.”

6) Many states have substantially reduced the days and hours when early voting is allowed.  Since people of color are more likely than whites to be working jobs that will not allow them to take time off to go to the polls for a Tuesday election, this has a disproportionate impact on non-white, low-income voters, who are likely to favor candidates espousing more liberal social policies–i.e., candidates who are not Republicans.

7) Many states have passed laws requiring voters to present a photo ID.  According to the NAACP’s report, “Eleven percent of U.S. citizens nationwide—approximately 22.9 million people—do not have government-issued photo IDs. Twenty-five percent of African-American voting-age citizens (over six million people) and 16% of Latino voting-age citizens (nearly three million people) do not possess valid government-issued photo ID. ”  Note that the average is one in ten, but among African-Americans, it’s one in four.  When you factor in the one out of every eight African-American men who can’t vote because of a felony conviction (and granted there’s some overlap), the trend gets kind of obvious, doesn’t it?

And why is this happening?  Proponents of tighter restrictions on voter eligibility blow a lot of hot air about “voter fraud,” but even their best efforts have turned up only an insignificant number of unqualified people attempting to vote, certainly not enough in any district to actually influence an election, and most cases are due to clerical error or misunderstanding.  On the other hand, advocates of stricter voter ID laws in South Carolina were honest, or foolish, enough to come out and say, according to the NAACP’s well-footnoted document, “that suppression of the African-American vote was ‘why we ‘need [voter ID laws in South Carolina].”

And that wasn’t just an isolated, fringe opinion.  The NAACP also quotes American Legislative Exchange Council founder Paul Weyrich, who said

“our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

This sounds like a job for the U.S. Department of Justice, which has the 1965 Voting Rights Act to use against such blatant racism.  But there’s good news and bad news there.  The good news is, Section 5 of the Act requires the DOJ to  “preclear”  any changes in the voting laws in 15 target states that have reputations for discriminating against minorities. That is, the Department of Justice has to OK changes, including redistricting plans, before they can be implemented.  The bad news is, that only applies to 15 states, while the American Legislative Exchange Council’s henchmen and henchwomen have pushed through restrictive legislation in 31 states.  The further bad news is that the DOJ’s enforcement of the Voting Rights Act has grown increasingly anemic through the years, and came to a virtual standstill  during the Cheney administration.  Despite rhetoric to the contrary, under the Obama administration the DOJ has not focused on this area, seemingly preferring the easier pickings of going after medical marijuana providers, while the restricted-voting cabal pushes several cases on the Constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act through the Courts, probably figuring that, if they can persist long enough to get it all the way to the Supremes, that fascist body will grant their petition. The court’s stance has pretty uniformly been “more rights for rich corporations, fewer for the average Joe, or, as George Orwell put it in Animal Farm,  “Some animals are more equal than others.”

And, even if the Supreme Court, Inc. doesn’t take the case or decides in favor of the Voting Rights Act, the corporatists will keep on coming, just as they have kept on coming about abortion, climate change denial, and every other issue that might imperil their control or their profits.  If you’ve been thinking,” if this is an Apocalypse, where are the zombies?” you need look no further.  They Who Cannot Die are in the Republican Party, propelled by the profit motive and dysfunctional belief systems.  If it wasn’t so serious, it would be pathetically humorous to watch the Democrats attempting to reason with them.   The NAACP’s report concludes with a call to return to the tactics that initially advanced the Civil Rights movement, which, considering the many differences between America 50 years ago and America now, may or may not be effective, especially since corporatism has largely displaced populism in the halls of power.  They–no, we–had better gird up our loins.  It’s going to be quite a struggle.

music:  Ani DiFranco, “Which Side Are You On?” (1st link is the recorded version, 2nd is a wonderfully spirited live one)

Advertisements




SHARIA, AMERICAN STYLE

8 10 2010

The opposition to building Muslim community centers and mosques around the country has generated a new fear buzzword for Americans:  Sharia.  People are freaking out about the possibility that they will have to obey some other religion’s do’s and don’ts.  What they don’t realize is that we already live under American Sharia.  These are laws that we grew up with, so we tend not to notice them or their religious basis, but these proscriptions and directives are based on irrational religious beliefs and not on common sense.

The situation is complicated by the fact that we actually have two dominant religions in this country, religions that sometimes contradict each other and sometimes feed into each other, and one of them is so deeply embedded in everybody’s upbringing that it’s rarely even recognized as a religion.

The two are Christianity, especially Protestantism, and….Economics.

Economics?

The Random House Dictionary defines religion, in part, thusly:

a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe…and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

If you look at what happens in this country, most decisions are made based on economic, not “Christian,” values–i.e., will it make money for me in the short run?  Even self-styled “Christians” make economic decisions, if only because economics is so deep in our bones that most of us don’t think twice about its influence.

One good example here in Nashville is the likelihood that WRVU, Vanderbilt University’s radio station, will sell its broadcast license to the highest bidder, who is unlikely to continue the station’s tradition of edgy, non-mainstream music and community participation.  If economics were not such a dominant religion, there would be no question about transferring the license to an entity that would continue the station’s current service to the community, regardless of that entity’s ability to pay top dollar for the airspace.

Here in Nashville, too, just as in most of the rest of the country, we have seen thousands of acres of woods and farms that made a huge contribution to our quality of life turn into suburban homes and strip malls because that was the way to maximize financial profit in a belief system that places a low value on open land and a high value on development.  In the same spirit, moving factories overseas to take advantage of a cheaper workforce is only a rational decision from a very narrow economic standpoint, as is the decision that the degradation of the environment is an “externality” that does not have to be factored in to the cost of production.  These are beliefs, not facts.

One point where Economic and Protestant Sharia intersect is that both accord more respect to the wealthy than to the poor.  Consider the recent Supreme Court decision granting corporations the same free speech rights as “natural persons.”  If corporations were not fantastically wealthy, they would never have gotten this recognition.

A lower court recently made corporate persons even more equal than us natural persons when it ruled that the Alien Tort Act, under which a number of aggrieved foreigners were suing US corporations for human rights abuses and environmental degradation overseas, applies only to natural, not corporate persons.  So, corporate persons have the right to spend unlimited amounts of money to freely express themselves, but cannot be held liable for harm they cause.  Pretty neat, huh?  I submit that this distinction, this free pass, was granted, at least subconsciously, in recognition of the corporations’ superior wealth and earning power.

Gee….if corporations have all the rights of natural persons, and then some, shouldn’t conservatives demand that they demonstrate that they’re of different sexes to merge, also known as–marry?

And that question brings us to this month’s “truth in strange places” award, which goes out, a few months after the fact , to Judge Vaughn R. Walker, chief judge of the US district court of northern California.  The judge was initially appointed by Ronald Reagan, blocked by Democrats who feared he would be insensitive to gay and low-income issues, then finally appointed to the bench by George Bush the First.  Asked to rule on the Constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, he struck down the measure, saying:

the Court asked whether a majority of citizens could use the power of the state to enforce “profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and moral principles” through the criminal code. The question here is whether California voters can enforce those same principles through regulation of marriage licenses.  They cannot.

He stated further that “the state has no compelling interest” in the sex or sexual orientation of individuals applying for a marriage license, concluding:

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.  Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.  Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

The judge didn’t come out and call Proposition 8 what it really is, but I will:  American Sharia.  Our homegrown Sharia is also responsible for laws against abortion, marijuana and other drugs, laws limiting or prohibiting alcohol sales, limits on public assistance, the push for prayer and Bible classes in public schools, discouraging the teaching of sexuality and birth control in public schools, laws against nude bathing, attempts to limit unmarried individuals’ access to birth control and other anti-sexual attitudes and legal restraints, calls for censorship of the arts, and probably other things that I am so used to looking at that I can’t even see them.

When I was a kid there were “blue laws” that prohibited stores from being open on Sundays, the Christian sabbath…in a way I miss that, it was kinda nice to have a recognized non-commercial day of the week (tho I was brought up Jewish!). But, in modern America, it’s commerce, commerce, über alles!

All this is by way of pointing out that what makes Islamic Sharia scary to people is that it’s somebody else’s church’s rules, not theirs. Most of those who oppose Islamic Sharia seem all too eager to impose their own, homegrown version on the rest of us.  No, thanks.

An America under conservative Christian law–no abortions, no overt homosexuality, wives subordinate to their husbands, is the pipe dream of the “Christian dominionists,” a group whose views have been widely ridiculed, most notably by the “Dear Dr. Laura” letter, which famously asks questions like,

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

Yes, friends, these are the kind of questions that “following Biblical law” leads us into.  There is currently an uneasy alliance between business conservatives and religious conservatives, each attempting to use the other to advance their own agenda.  If next month’s election proves to be as much of a disaster for the Democratic Party as many predict, we can look forward to a clash of the Titans as Karl Rove’s crew and the Christian dominionists battle for hegemony.

My prediction?  Neither will be successful, and the country will fall into ruin around them as they struggle.  You think there have been some wild drops on this roller coaster ride?  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Jackson Browne:  “Before the Deluge





TRUTH IN STRANGE PLACES

10 04 2010

It’s been a while since I made any “Truth in Strange Places” awards, so I’ll make up for that by giving out three of them this month, to Nashville’s Congressman Jim Cooper, former President Bill Clinton, and current “Drug Czar” Gil Kerlikowske.

Cooper gets his award for this quote:

But when you look at TN Blue CrossBlue Shield you see a company that claims to be non-profit but just built a brand-new $400 million headquarters in Chattanooga, and they leveled a small hill to build their headquarters. And I’ve discovered the Blues(BCBS) nationwide get a billion dollars every year from the federal government. You see those sort of abuses and you think, ‘Can’t we do better than this?’ There are countless tens of thousands of people in our area and millions across Tennessee who need a fairer, better deal. Why can’t we do that? Truth is, the insurance lobby has the most powerful lobby in all of American history. They’re so powerful there really isn’t an oversight committee in Congress. They got in 1946 a provision that basically banned congressional oversight, which is the catbird seat if you’re an industry. Very few industries if any have had that sort of privilege. Plus they get exemption from antitrust laws. I think they should be competitive, private businesses — not favored with all these government perks, and that’s the way they’ve been for a long time.

Thanks for coming so  close to telling like it is, Jim, even if you don’t agree with me that these corporate persons deserve capital punishment for contributing to the death and suffering of so many  real human beings.

And Bill Clinton?

He called U.S. free trade policies in Haiti, which helped destroy the country’s ability to feed itself and pushed hundreds of thousands of people out of the countryside and into the cities, as well as into illegal immigration to the U.S., “a devil’s bargain,” and said

Since 1981, the United States has followed a policy, until the last year or so when we started rethinking it, that we rich countries that produce a lot of food should sell it to poor countries and relieve them of the burden of producing their own food, so, thank goodness, they can leap directly into the industrial era. It has not worked. It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake. It was a mistake that I was a party to. I am not pointing the finger at anybody. I did that. I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did. Nobody else.

Of course, that’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as this country’s interference in Haiti, not to mention all the other blowback from NAFTA, which he campaigned against as a candidate but then supported as President.  (Barack Obama is not the first Democrat who ran to the left and governed to the right!)  NAFTA, after all, had the same consequences in Mexico and the rest of Latin America as it did in Haiti, collapsing self-sufficient local economies and displacing millions of people, who went streaming to the big cities of their own countries and across borders to this country, where the Faux News approach has been to blame these refugees for what our government did to them. Blame the vicitim….right.

And lastly, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, when interviewed, of all places, on Faux News, about the possibility that California might legalize and tax not just medical but all marijuana use, responded

Why would anybody pay taxes on a substance you can grow in your back yard?

Good point, Gil.  Let’s hear it for the local option!  That’s all for tonight!

Greg Brown–Spring Wind






SOMETHING ELSE HANGING OVER OUR HEADS

22 03 2008

from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The next major earthquake on the Hayward Fault – inevitable anytime now, experts say – will be the Bay Area’s own Hurricane Katrina, affecting more than 5 million people, causing losses to homes and businesses of at least $165 billion and total economic losses of more than $1.5 trillion, scientists warn.And that’s from ground shaking alone. If major fires break out – think 1906 in San Francisco – the total losses would be far higher, they said.

The staggering numbers come from new predictions of losses resulting from a magnitude 7 temblor on the fault, in which ground shaking could spread from the quake’s epicenter directly on the fault to communities as far off as Santa Rosa and San Jose – or beyond.

Seismologists and quake loss experts joined Thursday to report the latest assessment of what scientists call “the single-most dangerous fault in the entire Bay Area.”

The analysis came from the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, from Risk Management Solutions, a scientific and engineering firm in Newark, and from the Association of Bay Area Governments. Their view of the past and future was sobering.

Records and geologic trenching show that five major quakes struck along the Hayward Fault between 1315 and 1868 – an average of one every 140 years. The 140th anniversary of the last big one falls on Oct. 21.

The Hayward fault runs up the east side of the bay, right through the middle of what has become a major urban area.  Even fewer structures in this area are insured against damage than were insured on the Gulf Coast when Katrina hit…and those who were insured know what that, all too often, was worth.  California ain’t likely to fall into the ocean from this one, but a lot of residents may wish it had….





OOPS…AN EXTINCTION EVENT!

18 03 2008

Back in the early eighties when we first started becoming aware of the fact that humans were about to screw the planet up past fixing, my friend Darryl said that he thought we would probably drive some species critical to our survival to extinction and then notice that it was now too late….it looks like we’re entering that zone of possibilities….from the New York Times:

Chinook Salmon Vanish Without a Trace

Tim Calvert, a fisherman, in San Francisco. The scarcity of Chinook salmon may keep the Pacific fishery closed for the season.

SACRAMENTO — Where did they go?

The Chinook salmon that swim upstream to spawn in the fall, the most robust run in the Sacramento River, have disappeared. The almost complete collapse of the richest and most dependable source of Chinook salmon south of Alaska left gloomy fisheries experts struggling for reliable explanations — and coming up dry.





COPING WITH COLLAPSE

29 02 2008

part 2 of an excellent interview by Carolyn Baker:

My top priority is to keep my mind open. And not to lose my sense of humor-in the grand sense. Our number one responsibility, I believe, is to come to grips with our psychological self, to take a good long look inside and find out who we really are, learn how to rid ourselves of greed, learn to how bridle ego and petty desire, learn how to share and to give and to live with less and more simply. At bottom, we must learn how to cooperate. To be member of a group or a team with no motivation other than enabling the whole. This is good advice regardless of the global situation.

Should the economy collapse or a catastrophic weather event decimate the region where you live, the coming out of it will occur through the spontaneous forming of community, either as an emergency enterprise or a long-term way of living. And this is best done when an individual has given up selfishness, shed vain materialism, and embraced the interconnectedness of all life and each other. I work on my attitude and humor more than anything else because it is my being and my mental health that will make me the most helpful to others if conditions are reduced to basic survival. In this, I am no better than a work in progress.

plus another, similar essay:

After 25 years of college teaching and administration, I left college as my primary work environment for agriculture in the early l990s. I sensed that many of humanity’s support systems and the natural capital that sustains us were breaking down. I wanted to learn more about the basics of food, water, plants, animals, the soil, climate, and the elements. I wanted to be able to feed myself and others with good, nourishing food during an uncertain future of diminishing natural resources and heightening conflicts.

After a search I decided to move to Sonoma County, remaining in the state of my birth. Whenever this native son tries to leave my home-state, California, my body goes where I direct it, but only for a while; then my feet take me back home. Sonoma has nearly 500,000 people and is within the creative San Francisco Bay Area. I bought land with berry vines, apple trees, oaks, redwoods and a tiny house in the uplands of the Cunningham Marsh near the small town of Sebastopol, where less than 8000 souls live.

Our community actively deals with issues such as making a transition to alternative energy sources and the increasingly chaotic global climate. We have active neighborhood groups and support each other to buy local and re-localize. Among the effective groups here are the Climate Protection Campaign and the Post-Carbon Institute. Sebastopol citizens regularly elect well-informed officials who seek to deal with the real issues. We welcome newcomers as we work together to build community during this transition to a post-carbon future.

and this one from the other side of the continent:

At a Barak Obama rally in Putney last week, his foreign policy advisor, Anthony Lake, said that an Obama presidency would help “America once again lead the world.”

O, Tony, that ship has passed, passed, passed. Thanks to GATT, NAFTA, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and torture, we’ve done what I used to think was impossible – we’ve turned America into a third-world nation. Obama might be able to clean up some of the mess, but we won’t be leading the world any time soon.

Yet here in Vermont, we’ve accepted the idea of peak oil. We talk about running our cars on fry grease, heating with wood, and, in general, doing the back-to-the-land thing, 2.0-style.

We talk about starting a barter economy and creating local “dollars” to trade for goods and services. We talk about growing our own vegetables, buying local foods and turning ourselves from omnivores into localvores. We talk about using rags for tampons and diapers. We talk about learning to be self-reliant and curbing our consumerism.

It’s like living in a different America. Outside, people are pretending the economy is chugging along, while we’re preparing ourselves to live after a fall which most Americans don’t believe is coming.





DOING THE AFTERMATH

9 02 2008

It’s all over but the shouting in the New Hampshire recount, and the results, I would have to say, are mixed at best. On one hand, Hillary Clinton won fair and square, and there were not major inaccuracies in the count. On the other hand, the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office reportedly treated the recount request, and the ballots themselves, in such an offhand manner that it was hard for observers (biased ones, admittedly) to believe they weren’t trying to hide something.

Electronic memory cards were missing. Ballots were kept in open boxes. Gee, I always thought of New Englanders as neat by nature, but according to the accounts I’m reading, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a very prim-looking guy, was treating the cornerstones of democracy the way a distracted teenager treats his homework. I’m surprised we didn’t hear the line, “the dog ate my ballot.”

Meanwhile, we have Brad Friedman of Bradblog and Bev Harris of BlackboxVoting.org straining hard to find voting machine problems, but ultimately having to admit that “Most of the big reports are election administration failures. Administration failures are those failures that cannot be blamed on voting machines or the voters or poll workers. They are those failures that fall directly in the laps of clerks or registrars or boards of elections. Not enough paper ballots at the precinct is an administrative failure.”

One of the administrative failures was ballots in California that seemed rigged to cause independents to disqualify themselves from voting in the Democratic primary by failure to mark the right box on the ballot. Also in California, many people who intended to register as “Independent” were instead registered by the Board of Elections as “American Independent,” which is George Wallace’s old party, and were thus barred from voting in the Democratic primary. Another was that, in Green Party primaries, conducted by Republican and Democratic officials, there were (somewhat predictably) major glitches that may have been negligence and may have been malice–like ballots not being sent to rural counties in Arkansas, or Illinois’ decision to print a green stripe on Democratic ballots and a brown stripe on Green Party ballots, and fail to inform polling officials of the Green Party ballots’ existence, so that many Green Party voters were given green ballots instead of Green Party ballots.

Hey, guys, everybody knows the Dems are the ones with the brown stripe! But seriously, until we have a Green Party hefty enough to have representatives in the Board of Elections, we are not going to get any respect from the big guys. They are so insecure, and with such good reason…By the way, in case you hadn’t heard, the Greens are splitting between Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader like the Dems are splitting over Hillary and Barak.
But there have been no reports of weird results from the voting machines, no complaints of voter intimidation. Of course, it is just a primary, but would Diebold really skew their machines for Hillary? Considering the amount of attention that’s on this issue right now, the odds and consequences for getting caught probably look unacceptably high.

Here in Tennessee, we had faith-based voting, which is what you have to call voting on touch-screen machines. This may be our last video poker election, though! More on that in a minute.

Faith-based voting brought a big win for the faith-based candidate, Mike Huckabee, who wants to put Jesus in the Constitution, just like they did in The Handmaid’s Tale. He hasn’t said if he wants to change the name of the country to The Republic of Gilead. Tennessee also went for Hillary Clinton, in a pattern that I find very disturbing.

Obama won big in all the urban counties, including Williamson, which is usually considered a conservative hotbed–I guess what Dems there are around Franklin are liberal ones. In rural, redneck Tennessee, however he rarely polled more than 20% of the vote, and there were counties in which John Edwards did better than Obama.

Couldn’t have been because he’s white, now, could it?

What I infer from this is that racism is not dead in Tennessee, and I don’t think that bodes well for Obama’s chances should he win the nomination. If he doesn’t get the nomination, I’m not sure Hillary will be able to win the election, because she’s going to have to squash a lot of people’s hopes to prevail.
Here’s a couple of numbers for you: so far, approximately 17 million people have voted for Democratic candidates in the primaries, and only 11 million have voted for Republicans. I’m sure that if the Dems try hard enough, they can blow that lead.

And of course, John McCain is now the Republican front-runner, and the buzz on him is that a lot of conservatives and evangelicals won’t vote for him, so he can’t win, either. This is kind of a backwards way of arriving at the conclusion that the 2008 Presidential election is a no-win situation, but really it is. Whoever wins the election is inheriting a bankrupt, spendthrift country that can’t get out of a war it has no moral justification in pursuing and no money to pay for, a country that almost singlehandedly (through our prostitution of China and widespread promotion of “the American way of life” is pushing the planet into a heatwave the likes of which have not been felt since there were crocodiles in Greenland.

Phew….let’s not talk about that now…it’s almost too horrendous to contemplate…can we have a little good news? Even if it’s just a little?

OK, how’s this…as I said earlier, it looks like Tennessee is going to be able to dump its touchscreen voting machines, hopefully by next fall’s election, if the feds co-operate. (Downside: more toxic high-tech junk!) In spite of tremendous, almost inexplicable resistance by Tennessee Election Commissioner Riley Darnell, who acts like his salary gets paid by Diebold rather than Tennessee taxpayers–and hey, maybe it is, how would we know? In spite of resistance from the state’s election officials, and the same goes for them, a small group of committed citizens talked to enough legislators and got enough other citizens to talk to their legislators to get a bipartisan bill to the floor of the Tennessee House that calls for Tennessee to switch over to optical scan voting machines by 2010 at the latest, and this year if the feds come up with the funds. New Jersey Representative Rush Holt is pushing a bill through that will make funds available to states to switch back from the touchscreen machines mandated by Bush’s Helping America Vote Republican Act of a few years past. It’s not perfect, but it’s an improvement that, hopefully, can be improved upon.

Speaking of improving on the improvements, the next step after verifiable voting in Tennessee is getting somebody on the ballot who’s worth voting for. Current ballot laws in the state map out a tortuous and unlikely pathway for third parties to get a named ballot line–that is, for candidates to be identified on the ballot as being members of the Green Party, just for example, rather than as “independent.” A recent court case in Ohio ended with the Federal Sixth Circuit Court declaring that Ohio’s law, which is quite similar to Tennessee’s, is in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. The Green Party of Tennessee has joined with the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party to initiate a lawsuit to overturn Tennessee’s ballot roadblock, and we have every reason to believe that the decision will be handed down in time for the November election.

It’s a little step, but it’s the first one we can take, and whatever we do, we can only do it one step, one day at a time. I hardly even see how it connects with changing the big picture, considering the resistance even a relative lightweight like Barak Obama met out in the hustings of Tennessee.

Perhaps all that’s left for us at this point is to meet the coming catastrophe as gracefully as we can, because it’s becoming obvious that politics-as-usual is going to prevail in the short run, and politics as usual is as capable of dealing with what’s headed our way as the Polish cavalary was capable of stopping the blitzkreig. And we, with our scattered little Green Party here in Tennessee, are metaphorically even more powerless than the Polish Cavalry. But we have a vision, and a call to live that vision–so what else can we do?

music: Eliza Gilkyson, “Milk and Honey”








%d bloggers like this: