CO-OPPING NASHVILLE

13 12 2015

As many of you probably know, I ran for Metro Council last summer.  My candidacy was pretty minimal–I made no attempt to recruit volunteers or raise money, and spent none of my own.  I created a blog and a Facebook page to lay out my platform, attended several candidate forums, posted ideas and answers on several internet voter education sites, and was interviewed by the Nashville Scene, which, as it did when Howard Switzer ran for Governor, trivialized my campaign and ignored my issues because they’re Democrats and we’re Greens, and they don’t care for competition on the left. (I was hoping to provide a link to the job the Scene did on my friend Howard, but they have apparently opted to chuck that article down the ol’ memory hole. Probably a good call on their part.)

There were three key pillars in my platform.  One was re-localizing Nashville, economically, socially, and politically–creating neighborhoods in which people could attend school, shop, work, and go out and socialize without needing to use an automobile–thus simplifying the city’s traffic problems–and granting these neighborhoods a fair amount of control over their zoning, codes enforcement, new construction, schools, and policing.  Another pillar was to identify and foster industries that would serve local needs that are currently being met by goods imported from across the continent or across the ocean.  The third pillar was to foster co-operatives as a form of small-d democratic community organization–not just food co-ops and other retail establishments, but worker-owned service and manufacturing co-ops, and housing co-ops, as well.  These worker-owned co-ops would include the local-needs industries, and the housing co-ops would be part of a larger context of urban land trusts. All these would serve to increase opportunities and living standards for lower-income Nashvillians, stabilize their neighborhoods, and empower them with an ownership stake in the places where they work, shop, and live. My proposals were largely modelled on the ones that made Bernie Sanders’ reputation as Mayor of Burlington–they were radical and populist but pragmatic and very “doable.” They are also infectious, in the sense that people hear them, like them, and make them their own.  Their emphasis on citizen, not government, ownership appeals to people all over the political spectrum.2015_1206co_2

That was my basic message.  About 2,300 Nashville voters heard it and signalled their approval by voting for me.  That earned me second-to-last standing in the election, but, for me, the important part of my campaign was that, in the course of attending the candidate forums, I got to speak repeatedly to the candidates who did win the election.  Hey, at several of these, there were more candidates on the stage than voters in the audience! Besides, candidates are also voters, and we each had four votes in the election besides the one each of us was likely to cast for ourselves.

And so, I planted my seeds, with no idea which ones would sprout or where, and, once the election was over, happily returned to my wooded hollow and my usual pursuits.  Imagine my surprise early last week when I glanced through my email inbox and discovered that the Tennessee Alliance for Progress (TAP), in partnership with Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH) and the Southern Grassroots Economies Project, (which springs from the venerable Highlander Folk Center) was sponsoring an all-day workshop on….creating co-operatives in Nashville.  How could I not go?

Read the rest of this entry »





HI, MY NAME IS MARTIN, AND I’M ADDICTED TO HOT SHOWERS

5 06 2013

I have been aware of the looming collapse of our ecosystem for over thirty years now.  In the early 80’s, my friends and I concluded that, at some point, humans would cause the extinction of some species that would later prove to have been vital for our own survival.  We’d heard of the Club of Rome, and thus were also aware of the possibility of peak resources and the “Limits to Growth” that they might dictate.  Nevertheless,it seemed to us that, unchecked, humanity would turn the planet into one vast, and ultimately starving, city.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s, climate change crept into our discourse, but at the time it seemed like something that our great-grandchildren would experience.  Well, we were wrong about that.  Things are happening at an increasing rate of speed, and the rate of increase is increasing, but not in quite the catastrophic way we expected.  Call it the collapse of a thousand cuts.

Some of them are certainly huge, catastrophic cuts, like Hurricanes Sandy or Katrina,  (not to mention the Pacific typhoons that have been devastating Southeast Asia, although we have heard little about them in the USA news bubble), or like the new breed of supersize tornadoes that have been bulldozing the American Middle West.  But every one of those mega-disasters is composed of thousands upon thousands of individual human stories:  homes, businesses, and neighborhoods destroyed, with every family and every person in them trying to find a way to cope and recover, far from the boundaries of their comfort zone.

My wife and I had long felt secure here in our hollow, with hills on all sides that protect us from strong winds, yet elevated enough to avoid flooding.  “No more water, the fire next time,” according to the old spiritual, and so it was for us.  Our home caught fire, possibly due to old, faulty, shoddy-to-begin-with aluminum wiring, an old, cracking, shoddy-to-begin-with chimney, or a gnawing rodent with a taste for insulation, or some combination of those, and substantially burned down on the night of April 16th.  A month and a half later, we are living out of a genuine, certified (albeit privately purchased) FEMA emergency trailer, clearing what’s left of our stuff out of what’s left of the house so it can be torn down and rebuilt, and slogging through the slow process of our suddenly dislocated and disorganized daily life…far from the boundaries of our comfort zone. Read the rest of this entry »





FEELING LIKE CASSANDRA

10 11 2012

One of the most popular archetypes depicted in The Iliad is that of Cassandra, daughter of Priam, the King of Troy, who was gifted by Apollo with the ability to see the future clearly.  She accepted his gift but rejected his advances, and so he added a little something to that gift:  she could forecast the future accurately, but nobody would believe her.  And that, my friends, seems to be the fate of the Green Party.

I said two weeks ago that I would be here tonight, “either crowing or eating crow,” and I’m sad to report that I have a well-baked crow on my plate tonight–and I’m a vegetarian!  Yeow!  Despite the best-financed and organized national Green Party campaign since Ralph Nader ran in 2000, Dr. Stein received only about 400,000 votes nationwide–by far the best Green Party showing since Nader’s 2.8 million total, but far short of our hopes and expectations. Her showing in Tennessee–6500 votes, about 0.26% of the total–was typical of her nationwide showing, which was about 0.3% of the national total.  Well, at least we weren’t  way behind the curve here.  But there are other peculiarities about that total, which I’ll explain a little later.

Martin Pleasant’s Senate campaign was our other statewide race.  We had hoped that the fact that the Democrat Party had renounced their elected candidate would result in a big bounce for Marty, but it was not to be.   Either there are a lot of Tennesseans who think Bob Corker is way too tame, or there are a lot of people who just aren’t paying enough attention to know anything more about who they’re voting for than whether there’s a “D” or an “R” after the person’s name.  “G”?  Does not compute!  Putative Democrat Mark Clayton pulled in 700,000 votes, a hundred thousand of them right here in Davidson County, where he nearly beat Bob Corker, while our man Martin Pleasant only got the attention of about 8,000 voters. Clayton actually won Shelby County. Maybe his strong anti-gay stance resonates with socially conservative African-Americans?  According to the Washington Post, Clayton raised less than $300 for his campaign.  A twentieth of a penny per vote.  I’m jealous.  Bob Tuke, the last “real” Democrat to run a serious Senate campaign in Tennessee, raised around a hundred thousand dollars and only got a few more votes than Clayton.

But hey, the Green Party seems to be everybody’s unwanted stepchild.  The Tennessean left Martin Pleasant out of their voters’ guide.  The Nashville Scene left him out, too, just as, nationally, Dr. Stein got nowhere near the level of attention the mainstream media paid to Ralph Nader.  Can’t let that happen again!

Here in Tennessee, we did a little better on our local races.  Read the rest of this entry »





THE GREEN TEAM

9 06 2012

We held our Green Party of Tennessee nominating convention in mid-May, and, to our delight, came up with nearly a dozen candidates for office, from U.S. Senate to the Tennessee House of Representatives.  I’m going to introduce the candidates to you, in more or less their own words, and talk a little about their  respective electoral contests.

Let’s start with Tennessee House races.

In district 55, we have Susan Shann, who has this to say about herself:

I have occupied many roles: singer / songwriter, music teacher, spiritual seeker, political activist, environmentalist – just to name a few.  I created Earth Revolution, a local-access TV program dedicated to highlighting the good work of  “green” businesses and non-profits in and around Davidson County, and started Transition Nashville, a group inspired by the global Transition Movement, which is working to turn Metro Nashville into a network of localized, resilient and sustainable communities, I see this campaign as another way to speak to my great concerns in life: the protection and preservation of our planet, and thriving, sustainable, socially just communities in which everyone can enjoy access to high quality health care, healthy food, and other necessities.

She is running against Democrat Gary Odom, who is otherwise unopposed.  This is an ideal situation for a Green to run in, since there is no chance Susan can be accused of “spoiling” Odom’s chances for re-election.  While Rep. Odom is one of the more “progressive” members of the Tennessee House Democrat minority, the Republican majority has systematically ignored every substantive bill he introduced.  Nothing personal, that’s just what they’re doing to the Democrats. Hey, if they’re gonna ignore you anyway, you might as well shoot for the moon, and I’m sure Susan’s presence in the race will radically enlarge the possibilities by showing people what lies beyond the nodding complacency of the corporatist Democrat Party imagination.
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Susan’s our only Nashville-area Tennessee House candidate, unfortunately.  I thought long and hard about it, but in the end decided that my health, while on the mend, isn’t up to the stress that being in a tight three-way race in my district would engender.  Give me another two years of feeling good, and I may well be ready to jump in.

We have four Tennessee House candidates in the eastern part of the state.  In District 16, Brian Moneyhun is taking on Bill Dunn, one of the most reactionary members of the Tennessee Legislature.  Dunn has sponsored several “nullification” bills, such as the “Tennessee Firearms Freedom Act,” which attempted to remove firearms and ammunition manufactured in the state from Federal purview.  Another is the “Health Freedom Act,” which attempts to remove the state from the horrible socialist grip of Rombomacare.  Apparently, nobody has told Dunn that the question of whether states can nullify Federal legislation was settled by an event known as the Civil War in the 1860’s, and that the Supreme Court decided, in Raich vs. Ashcroft. that the feds can control commerce even if it doesn’t cross state lines.  I don’t agree with the Raich decision, and apart from its anti-slavery conclusion I’m not sure what to think of the War Between the States, I’m just saying that nullification is not the law of the land.  Dunn has also been instrumental in tightening restrictions on abortions and “controlled substances,”  sponsoring the notorious bill that encouraged Tennessee teachers to preach Creationism, and pushing for drug testing of welfare recipients.  In other words, he’s carrying water for ALEC, not his constituents, and so his record gives Brian plenty of ammunition.

In the 15th District, Calvin Cassady will be in a two-way race with Democrat Joe Armstrong.  This will be an interesting race in an interesting district.  The fifteenth district has been carefully gerrymandered to include UT Knoxville and its off-campus student community, and the predominantly African-American neighborhoods of Knoxville.  Armstrong had no opposition in the 2010 election, winning it 5,000 to nothing, but in 2008 he was opposed by a political unknown with a familiar name, Rachel Ray.   No, not the Rachel Ray.  This Rachel Ray spent only $20 on her campaign, according to official filings, declined to be interviewed, and still got more votes than Armstrong received in 2010, but since he turned out over 12,000 supporters in 2008, he won by a comfortable margin.  Five thousand votes for twenty bucks has to be one of the best expense-to-vote ratios in American political history, and indicates that there is some discontent with Armstrong in the district that Cassady may be able to turn to his advantage.

Here’s my take on Armstrong:  he’s vulnerable because he’s a classic corporate liberal.  The guy is a Democrat, sure, but he’s an insurance agent by trade, part of the corporatocracy that has kept this country from having a decent publicly funded health care system.  And that ties into a lot of other issues.  The high price of health care, and of for-profit health insurance, has a widespread ripple effect on our national culture.  First, it sucks wealth out of the middle class and into corporate coffers, and is a big contributor to the ongoing impoverishment of America.  Second, the way health care in this country is tied to employment stifles innovation.  It makes people cautious about striking out on their own.  Maybe our system was even designed to keep people in a corporate line, or maybe that’s just an unintended consequence of a profit-oriented insurance and health care system.  Anyway, Armstrong, despite his NAACP and Urban League connections, is part of the problem, not part of the solution, and that, I think, is his Achilles heel.

Here’s what Calvin has to say about himself and his campaign:

I am currently an MPA (Masters of Public Administration) student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where I have a 4.0 GPA. I make my living as a real estate investor, fixing up properties in East Knoxville and renting them out.  I  also work as a part-time delivery driver for a local sandwich shop.

As a Tennessee state legislator I will work for low, fair, and equitable taxes that foster investment and economic growth but at the same time encourage income equality. I want to maintain Tennessee as a world-class location for doing business.

I will work for the regeneration of our inner cities through New Urbanist principles, and focus infrastructure improvements on cities and towns rather than four-laning rural highways to nowhere and encouraging urban sprawl.

I will focus state-wide efforts on energy and water use efficiency measures and tax breaks to improve our energy use per unit of GDP. Every unit of energy saved by the end-user means up to 5 units of energy saved at the power plant and a cleaner, more sustainable Tennessee.

I will reform the drug laws in the state by abolishing mandatory minimum sentencing for victimless crimes and strive to end costly state incarceration for non-violent drug offenders.

In the Eleventh district, Don Land will be involved in a three-way race with incumbent Republican Jeremy Faison and Democrat Marjorie Ramsey.  Faison is a home-schooled Christian who beat incumbent Democrat Eddie Yokely by a 4-3 margin in the 2010 election.  Ramsey is a retired factory worker and Democrat Party functionary who does not seem to be running a very aggressive campaign.  Her candidacy may fall into the “dirty job but somebody has to do it”  category.

Susan “Flower” Parker is our candidate in the 3rd District, where she will be involved in a three-way race with first-term Republican Scotty Campbell and Democrat Leah Kirk, who seems to be running a going-through-the-motions campaign–she’s had a Facebook page for a couple of months, but hasn’t put anything on it.

Here’s a statement from Susan:

I am a Tennessee native, born and raised in Bluff City, the mother of two teenagers attending public high school. I work as a substitute teacher for the Sullivan county public school system, and particularly enjoy teaching special education classes; my mother continues teaching high school here in Sullivan County , and will be starting her 45th year in the fall of 2012.  I am an ETSU grad.  I look forward to serving my community to create a better world. My wish is to increase equality for all. I support the local economy and want to find ways to strengthen it. I believe that protecting Appalachian art and culture is a key to our future.

Putting a special ed teacher in the Tennessee House seems like a good idea to me!  Very appropriate!

Those are our Tennessee House candidates.  Why no Tennessee Senate candidates?  Beats me!

music:  Jane Siberry, “Superhero Dream

Next we come to the U.S. House of Representatives races.

In the 7th District, Green Party stalwart Howard Switzer will be taking on incumbent Marcia Blackburn and Democrat Credo Amouzouvik.  Howard says, by way of introduction:

I am an architect specializing in historical restoration and innovative ecological building methods. I was co-chair of The Green Party of Tennessee from 2002-2003 and have been a member of the Green Party’s National Committee for 10 years. I was the Green Party candidate for governor of TN in 2006 and 2010.  I run for U.S. Congress as an agent of change to redirect national priorities away from service to dominant financial interests and toward supporting networks of viable, self-reliant communities, with a focus on human well-being and happiness, by adhering to basic values.

Howard has been the TNGP’s candidate for governor twice, and doesn’t just talk the Green talk–he walks the Green walk, and has done so for many years.  Focussing on a single Congressional district instead of the whole state will enable Howard to give the people of west-central Tennessee a more intense, and much needed, exposure to Green values.  As I’ve often said, we’re not “left,” we’re not “right,” we’re about what makes the most sense, and Howard is an excellent embodiment of, and spokesman for, common sense.

Among his opponents, Marcia Blackburn scarcely needs an introduction; she is cut from the same cloth as Michelle Bachman.  Credo Amouzouvik is a classic Democrat party stalking horse– a wounded Iraq war vet and a recent immigrant from West Africa.  His platform, as set forth on his web site, expresses all the highest ideals of the Democrat Party, the ideals that the DP’s leadership uses to suck in the masses.  How soon will Credo realize that the Dems are all too willing to sell him down the river for corporate gain?  Could he end up going Green?  Not this year, but the contest will give Howard a chance to connect with him. We’ll see!

in Tennessee’s 6th District, our man Pat Riley has a big advantage:  the Democrats aren’t even bothering to field a candidate after right-wing nut job Diane Black beat their last contender by a 7-3 margin.  Judging by his campaign statement, Pat is member of the libertarian wing of the Green Party:

A VOTE FOR ME IS A VOTE FOR FREEDOM.

 I have worked as a health education specialist, teacher, and real estate developer. I am currently a houseboat broker and singer-songwriter. I am a simple man, with a simple plan:

 1.) Stop the wars that are bankrupting the USA

2.) Abolish the IRS

3.) Audit the Federal Reserve

4.) Stop illegal immigration

5.) Stop the war on drugs

6.) Preserve all our  Constitutional rights including the 2nd amendment

I believe in Ron Paul’s message. However, I favor green, sustainable jobs and peaceful coexistence with nature.

The Democrats and Republicans have just about bankrupted this country. It’s time to vote GREEN.

 A VOTE FOR ME IS A VOTE FOR FREEDOM.

Here’s a link to a campaign song/video that Pat wrote and produced.  Contrary to our peacenik public image, he’s not the only Green I know who likes to exercise his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.  We’re a big tent.  Pat’s platform could play well in his largely rural Highland Rim district.  If Diane Black, by some slip of fortune, gets edged out by her even more rabidly reactionary challenger, LouAnne Zelenick, things could be seriously up for grabs in the Sixth.  You never know.

In the 5th District, which is mostly Nashville, there’s a host of Republicans scrambling to be the sacrificial lamb who takes on Jim Cooper, our solidly corporate Democrat Congressman.  The Green Party’s John Miglietta will carry our standard for the third time.  Here’s his bio and campaign statement:

I have a PhD in Political Science and am a professor at Tennessee State University. I have been active with the Green Party for the last several years at the national, state, and local levels.  I am running because the two major parties are not adequately addressing  the issues confronting our country. One of the issues that I am focusing on is American foreign policy. Our country needs to emphasize human rights and respect for international law.  The US should cease intervening in other nations and bring all US military forces and security contractors home from Iraq and Afghanistan. I will also work to end the stranglehold that corporate lobbyists have over government. I also advocate universal single-payer healthcare. My website is http://www.johnmiglietta.org/ and will be launched soon.

While his website isn’t up yet, his Facebook page is, and you can find it here.  It will be very interesting to see how John does, now that he will be running with the Green Party label, rather than as an “independent.”  Nashville’s “progressive” community has traditionally favored Cooper, apparently hoping that if they show their support, he’ll listen to them.  The record, however, shows a different pattern–if you support Jimbo, he will take you for granted.  The way to get his attention, folks, is to send him a message by voting for John Miglietta.  You know darn well the Republicans haven’t got a chance in this district!

In the Second Congressional District, the opposite holds true.  Incumbent Republican John Duncan rolled up 85% of the vote in 2010.  Our candidate, Norris Dryer, could eat into that margin, especially since any discontented Democrat who wants to let the DP know it’s too complacent and corporatist can vote for Norris without worrying about voting for a “spoiler.”   Norris says of himself:

I was born in Elkhart, Indiana on 4/12/43, and earned degrees in Mass Communications and Music History from Indiana University and Boston University respectively. I had a 41 year career in radio, mostly public radio, and continue to play violin in 3 East Tennessee orchestras, Knoxville, Oak Ridge and Kingsport. I was raised a Republican, became a Democrat while at IU and joined the Knox Greens in 2002.  In 2003, I ran for Knoxville City Council as a Green candidate in a non-partisan race, and, although I didn’t get elected, I got 17% of the vote in a 4 person race. I think most Americans are really fed up with our 2 party system, which gives Greens a real opportunity.

Bob Smith is our First District Congressional candidate.  That’s a kind of strange race for us, since the Democrat candidate, Alan Woodruff, served as our lawyer in the court case that got us on the ballot, and Alan has expressed concern that Bob’s candidacy might cost him, Alan, the election.  The First District, however, has not elected a Democrat since 1879, and the Republican incumbent, Phil Roe, got over 80% of the vote in 2010.  If either Alan or Bob can even put a dent in that, then the times are, indeed, a-changing.

Here’s what Bob has to say about himself and his candidacy:

I was born in Titusville, PA and grew up on part of the Seneca Reservation at Kinuza, PA. When I was 18 I joined the Navy, and spent almost 21 years there, mostly working with aircraft armaments.  I spent 11 months and 13 days at sea around the time of the Cuban Crisis on a Radar Picket Ship, doing Air Control for the overflights of Cuba, and pilot retrieval  if they got into difficulty. In 1980 I got out of the Navy and moved to Texas.  I couldn’t go home, because, thanks to Kinuza dam, my hometown was under 700 feet of water. I married Jean in November of that year, and she has remained my steadfast partner ever since.  I spent most of the 80’s and 90’s working at military-related jobs both in the U.S. and abroad, including “doing time” as a civilian contractor in Saudi Arabia.  As i approached retirement, I got bitten by “the Green bug” and realized that the Green Party was an excellent way to express the Native American values with which I was raised.  My platform as a Congressional candidate is to bring those values to bear on the many problems that have arisen since illegal immigrants from Europe hijacked my continent.

And, last but not least, there’s our U.S. Senate candidate, Martin Pleasant, of Knoxville.  Like many races in Tennessee this year, the Democrat facing off with Corker seems to be somebody who’s running because a sacrificial lamb was called for.  Nobody thinks Corker can be beaten, it seems, and since the Republicans have a lock on our hackable, computerized voting machines, it’s possible that if  Jesus Christ Himself ran as a Democrat, even He couldn’t beat Bob Corker.

There’s an important reason why the Greens are running a Senate candidate, even though the race is certainly Quixotic, at least in terms of the possibility of a Green victory.  The reason is that, in order to maintain our place on the ballot, according to state law, a statewide Green Party candidate needs to receive at least 2.5% of the vote.  There are only two statewide races in 2012–the U.S. Presidency, and the U.S. Senate.  Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein could do it for us, but running Martin Pleasant for Senate gives us two chances instead of one.  Presuming the voting machines are fair, that is.  And that’s a dicey proposition, as I’ve said many times before, but one we have to take.

And that’s the show for this week, and my show for this month.  I had intended to talk about the continuing nefarious Obama-Monsanto connection, and what’s happening with the Occupy movement these days, but those stories will have to wait.  Local news first!  And finally, a song for our candidates, sung by yours truly:

music:  Brother Martin, (if you‘re a) Green Party Figure  (first link goes to Facebook site, second to a $0.99-to-download site, third to a free download site–you can listen to it for free on any of them)





THE 2012 ELECTION: FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS

7 04 2012

First the good news:   In Tennessee in 2012, Green Party candidates will be noted as such on the ballot, not lumped anonymously with the “Independents.”   I’ve been doing my best to shout this from the rooftops, but my cohort Howard Switzer has been singing it–we kicked the state of Tennessee’s butt in our court case, as I discussed last month.  Since then, the State has appealed, and also asked for Judge Haynes’ court orders to be set aside pending the appeal, a motion that was denied.

Consequently, we are looking for candidates all over the state.  Maybe you’d like to run for office?  If you agree with the Green Party’s “ten key values“–grassroots democracy, social justice and equal opportunity, ecological wisdom, non-violence, decentralization, community-based economics and economic justice, feminism and gender equity, respect for diversity, personal and global responsibility, and future focus and sustainability (and what’s not to love about any of that?),  if that sounds like more your cup of political tea than an “all of the above,” i.e., “drill, baby, drill, and dig, baby dig” energy policy, ignoring the growing danger signs from our environment, the quiet suppression of civil liberties and persecution of whistleblowers and dissenters, and the unquestioned continued maintenance of a war machine and a corporatocracy that have been deemed not merely “too big to fail” but “too big to challenge,” and just enough lip service to women’s rights and the general progressive agenda to keep people drinking Democrat (TM) Kool-aid, then you have a place in the Green Party.

The further good news is that, in a third of all Tennessee House and Senate races, there is likely to be only one other candidate, so you might not even have to worry about that old bogeyman, “Greens taking votes from Democrats, resulting in the election of Republicans.” Actually, the results are frequently so lopsided  that such an accusation would be pretty baseless most cases, anyway.  Which brings me to the bad news.

When I start by quoting Josef Stalin, you know it’s gonna be bad news, and it really, really was Josef Stalin, the ruthless ruler of Russia, who said (in Russian, of course)

You know, comrades,… I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this — who will count the votes, and how.

And that is definitely the question here in Tennessee.  As I have occasionally mentioned, I have been reading “Vendors Prohibited,” a 60 page report from 2007 in which lawyer Andrea Novick made a fairly conclusive case that none of the companies that produce touch-screen voting machines, known as DREs, are ethical enough to legally do business with the state of New York.  Unfortunately, the facts of the matter were not sufficient to persuade the New York legislature, which went ahead and mandated DRE use in the state anyway.  Here in Tennessee, the situation is similar.  There was a wonderful upwelling of bipartisan spirit in 2008 as the legislature passed “The Tennessee Voter Confidence Act,” including just one little concession to the Republicans:  that the TVCA not take effect until after the 2010 election, “because of the time and expense involved,” a line that the state’s voting integrity activists handily refuted, but that was swallowed hook, line, and sinker by the state’s Democrats–who found that, to their great surprise, the 2008 election turned Tennessee from a genteelly blue-dog blue state into a frothing-at-the-mouth red state, where some of the most important business of the state’s first Republican legislature since Reconstruction, besides making sure that anybody could carry a gun wherever they wanted as long as they had a non-college issued photo ID and didn’t say “gay,” was to–gosh!–repeal the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, as a “costcutting measure.”  Never mind that the switch to a verifiable voting system would have been entirely paid for with available Federal funds.  Never mind that counties grossly overestimated the cost of the switch–famously claiming (see Bernie Ellis’s comments at this link) it would cost $70,000 to store a filing cabinet full of ballots for a few years, or that hand-counting votes would cost $5 per ballot.  Never mind that computers are notoriously short-lived machines, and between their frailty and the ongoing upgrading of computer technology, the machines will likely need to be replaced often and at great expense, as opposed to hand-counted paper ballots, which cost pennies and employ a technology–printing–that doesn’t even depend on electricity, let alone our complex industrial network, to function.  As a result of this switcheroo,  all but two counties in Tennessee use touch-screen voting machines which do not produce a verifiable, recountable paper trail, and the two counties that use optical scan machines employ Diebold products which have been found to be as corruptible as their more digital counterparts.   Let’s look at the record.

The Diebold Accuvote is a machine that reads paper ballots and tabulates the results, a simple job that could easily be done by human beings.  Here’s what Ms. Novick had to say about the Diebold Accuvote:

In December 2005, Ion Sancho, elections supervisor in Leon County, Florida, concerned about the security of the Diebold optical scanners, arranged for Harri Hursti, a computer programmer from Finland, to independently examine a Diebold Accuvote Optical Scanner. Hursti hacked the machine in the simplest way (considered a level one hack capable of being executed by an eighth grader) and exposed just how vulnerable the Diebold Scanner was – it was possible to subvert the memory card without detection.

Diebold’s response to this?  Again, Ms. Novick:

Subsequently, when Ian Sancho was required to acquire machines for the disabled community, Diebold refused to sell to Supervisor Sancho’s county unless he promised not to have outsiders reveal the Diebold machine’s flaws through any more independent testing. Sequoia backed out of discussions with Mr. Sancho and ES&S didn’t respond.
Diebold, as it has done consistently in refusing to accept responsibility for its system’s serious security failures, attempted to minimize the damaging exposure as merely a “theoretical security vulnerability”. In Diebold’s letter trying to spin the damage it was alleged without support “the probability for exploiting this vulnerability to install unauthorized software that could affect an election is considered low”. A spokesperson for Diebold went on to lay blame anywhere but with Diebold: “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…I don’t believe these evil elections people exist.”

To contradict Diebold’s rose-colored view of election officials, we have only to look to Florida in 2000, where Katherine Harris was allowed to oversee the state’s electoral process in spite of her clear conflict of interest as Cheney’s campaign chair for the state, or Ohio in 2004, where Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell was, in the words of investigative reporter Jon Rappaport,

A man who campaigned resolutely for Bush and THEN oversaw the state election which handed Bush a second term. A man who is a player in the Republican party, who knows the score, who can give favors and then ask for favors back, as he pushes his own career upward.

“Is this a conflict of interest that could have led Blackwell to improperly set the conditions for a Bush triumph? Is the Pope Catholic?”

And, of course, we also have to consider the lineage of the Diebold Company itself:  according to Ms. Novick, the company’s top employees have a rap sheet that includes everything from securities fraud to money laundering to cocaine trafficking.  Former CEO Wally O’Dell, who famously promised to deliver Ohio to Cheney in the 2004 election, has since left the company, under suspicion of insider trading.  This story was, for some reason, not widely reported in the media.  Just the kind of company you’d want to have counting your votes, right?   Well, the good news is, Diebold Optiscan machines are only used in two counties in Tennessee–Hamilton County (the city of Chattanooga) where the Republicans have the Democrats whupped so badly the Dems don’t even bother running candidates  (Hey, Chattanooga Greens, are you listening?), and Memphis, where Republicans have mysteriously scored upset victories.

Here in Davidson County, as well as in fourteen other Tennessee Counties, we use the ES&S Ivotronic touchscreen voting machine.  Again, the company’s lineage makes it highly suspect–it was originally founded by Christian Reconstructionists, whose avowed purpose is to take over the U.S. government and make this a “Christian” nation.  Subsequently,  the company was sold to two companies, the Omaha Herald newspaper and the McCarthy Group.   The Herald’s owners have an 11-state, two-country rap sheet, largely involving bid-rigging and fraud. The  good news is, The McCarthy Group either manages its bad PR very well or else hasn’t done anything any more out of line than any other private equity firm–except for one eyebrow-raising possibility–Chuck Hegel went from being CEO of the firm to running for U.S. Senate, and the people of Nebraska voted in that election on ES&S voting machines.  Hegel became the first Republican Senator from Nebraska in 25 years, although Nebraska’s so-called Democratic Senator Ben Nelson is considered a DINO (Democrat In Name Only) even among Milquetoast Democrats.  Speaking of Democrats, Hegel won even in black and Native American precincts that had never gone Republican.  Six years later, he beat Democrat challenger Harvey Mitulka by an astonishing 86-14 margin, again prevailing in traditional Democrat strongholds. Coincidence?  Or cheating?  No way to tell.  Nebraska’s legislature, which is officially non-partisan, had passed a bill forbidding state election employees from examining or recounting ballots.  Ain’t democracy wonderful?

And ES&S voting machines have continued to be involved in bizarre election results, the most notable recent one being South Carolina’s selection of unemployed sex offender Alvin Greene as the Democrat Party’s U.S. Senate nominee.  And what has ES&S’s response to the complaints that have reasonably been raised?

In its reply to California officials who had complained to the company about faults in the voting machines ES&S provided, the company said

ES&S will hold not only the examiners responsible, but the SOS as well, for any prohibited disclosure or use of ES&S’ trade secrets and related confidential proprietary information….if any need for changes is found, Los Angeles County will have to pay for those changes.

What wonderful customer service, eh?  And of course, it’s a snap to hack these machines, make them do what you want, and leave no trace of your trespass.

I’ve been talking for a while.  Let’s take a music break, and then get back to the other two voting machines used in the state–the Hart Intercivic and the Microvote.

music:  Steve Earle, “Conspiracy Theory

OK, VotersUnite.org has 12 pages of screwups involving Hart eSlate voting machines, and their list only covers the years from 2004 to 2006, but it’s got some real gems.  Let’s start with this one, which may help explain why Democrat election officials here in Tennessee were moved to adopt these Trojan horses to begin with:

(election commissioner) Tracy Baker asked Arapahoe County to give a Texas company a no-bid $3.5 million voting-machine contract…. Arapahoe County commissioners twice said no to the Hart voting system, first in the summer of 2002, then again last November, after deciding to put the contract out to bid.
… Between April 2001 and August 2002, Hart spent $3,759.95 on Baker and his staff, company records indicate. That included a $495 golf outing and $30 worth of cigars for Baker’s birthday.

It could have been more. The company turned Baker down when he asked Hart to pay for staff hotel rooms on a trip to Texas in 2002.  “You call any county clerk in this state,” Baker said. “You call any county commissioner. Vendors take you to dinner.”  Lisa Doran, a public information specialist in the Secretary of State’s Office, said Baker has a point.  Donetta Davidson, Colorado’s secretary of state, accepted dinner from vendors when she was the Arapahoe County clerk, Doran said.

which leads to situations like this one:

Travis County. Texas. A “default” selection is a selection automatically pre-set by the software. It remains selected unless the user specifically chooses to change it. To provide a default selection on a DRE voting machine is to give a voter a ballot with a candidate already marked.  Yet, election officials in Austin set up the eSlate DREs with Bush/Cheney as the default choice for president/vice-president. Voters who voted a straight party Democratic ticket watched their presidential votes changed to Bush on the review screen. Officials said voters caused this by pressing the “Enter” button on the second screen of the eSlate machine.

Gail Fisher, manager of the county’s Elections Division, theorizes that after selecting their straight party vote, some voters are going to the next page on the electronic ballot and pressing “enter,” perhaps thinking they are pressing “cast ballot” or “next page.” Since the Bush/Cheney ticket is the first thing on the page, it is highlighted when the page comes up – and thus, pressing “enter” at that moment causes the Kerry/Edwards vote to be changed to Bush/Cheney.

So it’s the voters’ fault, right?  And of course, Hart’s machines are eminently hackable.  Oh, by the way, the notorious right-wing radio chain, Clear Channel, is a major investor in Hart.

The Microvote Infinity is used in the balance of Tennessee’s counties, and the first thing you need to know about it is that it is not designed to make a paper record of the votes it records.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada. That inspires a lot of confidence in the product, doesn’t it?  Or at least indicates that the Microvote’s manufacturers have a lot of confidence in their product.  Well, here’s some excerpts from a couple of  remarkably candid interviews with the actual manufacturer and the company President.  First, the manufacturer’s rep, Bill Carson, told an  interviewer

Unfortunately the ITA (independent testing authority) has a limited scope in what they can test and check on the system. It is based on time and economics. For an independent test authority to absolutely, thoroughly test under all possible conditions that the device will operate properly they would have to spend, in my estimation, 10 times the amount of time and money as it took to develop it in the first place…. And the technology changes so rapidly, by the time they get done testing it, it’s obsolete.

(Picks up electrical cord.) UL says that this will not shock you and it will not catch fire. They don’t tell you that it actually works. That’s beyond the scope of UL testing. Absolutely nothing will you see in the FEC requirements that this (puts hand on DRE voting machine) has to work. It has to have these functions. But it doesn’t have to work.

And Microvote President James M. Ries went even further, saying

The states basically look at the federal qualification testing as being kind of the ultimate testing ground. As a vendor working with these independent testing authorities, they do a good job of following the test plans afforded to them by the vendors. They don’t really go outside of those test
plans…. Well, because of identity or lack of identity with records, there’s really no way that I could prove to a voter, post tally, that their vote exactly counted the way that they voted it.

I guess it’s just a leap of faith and understanding that what we’re doing is what we’re presenting to the county. So there is a bit of uncertainty there. There has to be faith in their local election boards. It’s one of those areas of a leap of faith. That you really do have to have a faith in your local jurisdiction, that they are conducting equitable elections in the best faith of the voters. The larger the jurisdiction, the more scrutiny should exist.

Faith-based voting, folks!  Gotta love it! In spite of this apparent candor, however, in 2008 the state of Indiana fined Microvote $360,000 for 198 violations of Indiana election law.  Deputy Secretary of State Matt Tusing told reporters, …” MicroVote’s apathetic attitude towards proper certification is disconcerting, especially considering that their profits come from taxpayer dollars.” Matt Tusing is a Republican, so it must have been really bad.

So these are the companies the state of Tennessee has entrusted with recording and counting our votes.  Bit of a rogues’ gallery, isn’t it?  Why is our government trusting these companies to count votes accurately and impartially when there is so much evidence against them?  This is not “conspiracy theory,” folks, even though one Democratic candidate in the state with whom I attempted to raise the question dismissed it as such.  This is potential  high crimes and misdemeanors.  Where are the Department of Justice and the Voting Rights Act when you need them?

For a precedent, we can look to Germany, where the country’s Supreme Court declared computerized, privatized voting unConstitutional, citing “fundamental decisions of constitutional law in favour of democracy [which] … prescribes that all essential steps of an election are subject to the possibility of public scrutiny.”   Meanwhile, our Supreme Court is busy sticking up for corporations’ rights to buy elections and make profits, and the right of the police to strip search anybody they damn well please.  Here’s hoping some of the Supremes (the court, not the singers!) get strip-searched!

So, the good news is, the courts have recognized the Green Party of Tennessee’s right to have our name on the ballot.  The bad news is, the elections we are participating in may be easily and untraceably rigged.  If Greens consistently win just enough votes to deny victories to Democrats, it will be a sure sign something is wrong.  Even if nothing so obvious occurs, the fix may be in anyway, aided and abetted by Republican-led efforts to limit the franchise to the wealthier, whiter portion of the electorate.  I had intended to address the rest of the range of Republican efforts to limit the electorate and manipulate the results of elections, but I’m going to have to leave that part of the discussion for next month, because I feel strongly moved to speak to the Treyvon Martin case, the more recent police murder of Kenneth Chamberlain, and the centuries-long chain of racially motivated killings, of which these two are just a couple of the most recent examples.  On that cheerful note, let’s take a music break.

Richard and Mimi Farina–“The Bold Marauder





GOP WINS MIDTERMS BY DEFAULT

14 11 2010

The recent election was a good one for Republicans, and the mainstream, corporate media are busy spreading the big lie that this represents a “turn to the right,” a rejection of Obama’s leftist policies,” and similar drivel.  I’m here to tell you that nothing of the sort happened.

OK, sure, the Republican party now has a lot more say in the national and many state governments, and this will push government policy in a somewhat different direction, but Obama’s policies have never been leftist, and great numbers of people did not change their minds and vote Republican.  Great numbers of people were very disappointed with Obama’s failure to deliver any of the progressive agenda, from health care reform to foreign policy, and stayed away from the polls.  The result:  “a different electorate“–older and more conservative, got to decide the results.

Why did so many of Obama’s 2008 constituency stay away from the polls?  As Dubya once attempted to put it, “Fool me once, shame on you–fool me twice, shame on me.”  Many former Obama enthusiasts were not up for being fooled twice.

How did Obama fail to deliver?  As Green Party activist Scott McLarty puts it,

Which Democratic president escalated the Afghanistan War, protected Bush officials who okayed torture and other abuses of the US Constitution and international law, maintained warrantless spying on US citizens, hired Wall Street front men like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, authorized more taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailouts and new taxpayer-funded nuclear plants, appointed a ‘Catfood Commission’ to explore Social Security reductions, opened up more coastal waters to offshore drilling, promoted the myth of ‘clean coal’ and permitted more mountaintop removal mining, and left a substantial residual occupation force, including military contractors, in Iraq? You know who.

I would add to Scott’s list: Obama’s failure to prosecute not only Bush-era war criminals like John Yoo and Dick Cheney, but financial meltdown criminals like…gee, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, two of his closest advisers.  Obama’s small gestures at helping people who were being thrown out of their homes were widely and correctly perceived to be ineffectual, in line with his overall policy of helping the rich and letting the middle class catch the dreck and pay the bills.  And that “Catfood Commission”? the “Deficit Commission” was a rigged jury, and it comes as no surprise that it recommends cutting Social Security (i.e., forcing the elderly to eat cat food) so we can continue to fund military adventures in the oil-rich regions of the world.  Under Obama, the American empire and its military budget have remained sacrosanct, as has the so-called “War on Drugs.”

When you throw in the way the Obama administration has been in bed with Monsanto from the get-go, and current moves to investigate anti-war activists for possible  (albeit highly unlikely) collusion with terrorists, what’s left to like about the “hope and change” guy?

To add insult to injury, we also had White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs bitch-slapping the progressive movement:

“They will be satisfied when we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality….they ought to be drug tested.”

What a way to “energize the Democratic Party’s base”!

For a lot of people, that was three strikes and out right there.  With Canadian health care, a radically downsized military, and an end to the war on some drugs, this country would be on the road to the right track–but, to the neoliberals running the Democratic Party, “that’s not reality.”  That such obvious common sense is “not reality” in this country speaks directly to who’s in charge and the nature of their agenda, which is not “leftist” at all.  Democrats, just as much as Republicans, exist to serve their corporate masters…er, donors.

And thus it is deeply ironic to see the “Tea Party” and the Republicans portrayed as “a populist uprising.”  What kind of “populist uprising” is funded by billions of dollars of corporate money and calls for deregulating big business, ending environmental protection, cutting taxes for the wealthy, and sharply curtailing aid to the poor, sick, and elderly?  This is not your father’s populism, kids.

The Democrats’ failure at the polls was not due only to their own incompetence; it was compounded by the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, which allowed virtually unlimited spending by the corporate sector…oh, yes, and the unions, too, but hey, they’re pretty much broke and toothless these days.  Through this opened flood gate, about four billion dollars poured, washing away Democrat after Democrat.  It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for them.

This decision from the Supremes should not have been a surprise; after all, it was largely the same bench that anointed the Cheney/Bush junta in 2000.  Republicans like to decry “judicial activism” when a judge overturns a truly unjust law, but they are strangely silent when “judicial activism” favors their agenda.  In both these cases, the Supremes, despite promises to the contrary at their confirmation hearings, kicked precedent out the window and made law out of whole cloth.  In both cases, after a few sputtering protests, the Dems dropped trou, bent over, and took it.  “Oh, baby, make it hurt so good!”

Let’s face it. One major party in this country, the Republicans, is largely sociopathic; the Democrats are the sociopath’s enabler.  They’re not in opposition to each other, they’re a co-dependent team.  The Democratic Party mindset is not healthier than the Republican one.

Their mutual addiction is corporate money.  No matter which party wins the election, corporate influence on our government grows.  At this point, it’s good to remember what Franklin Delano Roosevelt,  the man who saved capitalism from itself, had to say about this influence:

“The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”

Thanks to Ralph Nader for that quote.

To reduce it to Tweet length:

When government is controlled by big business, that’s fascism.  Our government is controlled by big business.  This is fascism.

“Democrat”? “Republican”?  Doesn’t matter.  Our electoral process, and our government, are demonstrably controlled by big business.  We are living in a fascist country. Obama is not a “socialist,” he’s a fascist–and so is Sarah Palin. Whether it’s Republican Rand Paul’s brown  shirts stomping a woman protester or  Democrat Max Baucus having single-payer advocates arrested at a Senate health care hearing, the intent and the result are the same.  “Democrats”?  “Republicans”?  Fascists.  As Paul Simon commented so many years ago in Mrs. Robinson:

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
Listening to the candidates debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Ev’ry way you look at it, you lose

If I’m trying to sing, it must be time for a music break.  Here’s some Greg Brown for you, and after that I’ll talk about how our little David of a Green Party fared against Goliath in this election.

Greg Brown:  “Fooled Me Once”

OK, here’s the Green Party’s election wrap up:

Greens drew enough votes in Massachusetts, Texas, and New York to give the Party the right to be listed by name on the ballot in the next election cycle.  In Massachusetts, Green/Rainbow Party candidate Nat Fortune pulled in over 100,000 votes in his bid to be State Auditor, just over 5% of the total.  Gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein didn’t do quite so well, receiving only 32,000 votes, but she raised enough money to take part in public debates with the duopoly candidates.  Yep, money talks!

In California, on the other hand, Green governor candidate Laura Wells received over 100,000 votes, but was arrested just for showing up as an audience member–with a ticket , no less–when she tried to attend the Brown-Whitman debate.  What was I saying about this being a fascist country?  The plutocracy allows us freedom of thought and action as long as it doesn’t pose a serious threat to them.  But I digress….

In South Carolina, Green Party Senate candidate Tom Clements, whom I featured in an earlier story,  received over 120,000 votes, about 9% of the total.  Democrat Alvin Greene, who did not campaign and is under indictment on felony obscenity charges, got 360,000 votes.  Talk about “yellow dog Democrats”!

Here in Tennessee, the news was not so good.  We were only able to field two candidates, Howard Switzer for Governor, and John Miglietta for Nashville’s seat in the US House.  Both candidates were constrained by lack of funding and the need to keep their day jobs–Howard as an architect, and John as a professor at Tennessee State–and were not able to do much in the way of campaigning or publicity.  Howard received about 1800 votes, off 25% from his  his previous total, and John received less than 400 votes, only a tenth of his 2008 mark.  About the best I can say concerning Howard’s showing is that voters in all but 5 Tennessee counties cast ballots for him, even if the so-called “hippies” at the Farm were no help–Howard only got 18 votes in Lewis county.  C’mon guys!  Won’t even throw down for one of your own when you know the Democrat’s a loser?

In addition to time and funding issues, both Howard and John suffered from a more crowded ballot and the state of Tennessee’s continuing failure to name the Green Party on its ballots.  We are an internationally known and recognized brand, dammit, and voters deserve to know our party affiliation!  We will be talking with our legislators about this soon, believe me.

There’s two more questions to address in this electoral report:

1)was the voting honest?

2) how will this influence the course of events in the US and the world?

Honesty–so far, there are few allegations of fraud, although, with touchscreen machines, it’s very hard to tell.  It looks to me like this election was “thrown” by throwing the Democrat Party’s progressives out of the boat and by conservatives throwing lots of money at it.  Who needs to cheat when you can buy an election fair and square?

My predictions for the future–we will continue to drift helplessly towards the waterfall.  The party of dithering has been replaced by the party of denial.  Whether you do nothing about the waterfall that you know lies ahead or deny there’s a waterfall ahead, there’s still a waterfall in our future, and we’re still unprepared as a nation for the end of cheap oil and American hegemony.  This election just makes it clearer that the government will not bail us out.  We’re going to have to do it on our own.   You’re not going to hear that on the news, for two reasons:  one, it’s not new, and, two, the revolution will not be televised.  Never has been, never will be.  You just gotta do it.

music:  Gogol Bordello, “Raise the Knowledge”





MEMPHIS BLUES AGAIN

12 09 2010

To hear them tell it, West Tennessee Republicans pulled off an electoral miracle in Memphis in August.  In a combined primary and general election, even though voters in the Democratic primary outnumbered voters in the Republican primary, Republicans swept every county-wide general election race, taking control of the state’s largest, predominantly black, heretofore predominantly Democratic city.  Was this a foreshadowing of the power of the predicted Republican comeback in 2010?

But gosh, then all kinds of pesky questions started to crop up.  Many voters had been turned away from the polls because computer records showed they had already voted, even though they hadn’t.  In spite of that, the official tally counted over 6,000 more votes than the recorded number of voters.   Numbered rolls of printed tape from the machines, the “print record” of computerized votes cast on them, disappeared and were not counted.  Poll watchers could tell they were missing because the votes are numbered sequentially, and numbers were missing from the sequence.  Furthermore, polling places had not opened on time, and had closed temporarily during the day due to “malfunctions” of the computerized voting equipment.  Ah, Diebold!  Gotta love ’em!

Somewhere, Boss Crump is smiling.  He was a Democrat, but he appreciated good work.

The next act of this drama involved investigators finding some of the missing ballot rolls in trash bags, in the election commission’s  trash.  There were also disclosures that some of the vote-recording computers involved had not been sealed prior to the election and had been quietly sent home for the personal use of election commission employees after the election, that there had been a “ghost race,” a kind of cybernetic “fifth column” in the voting machines that would have made it much easier for a hacker to switch votes around–and there were many reports of gross vote-switching, when people pressed the touch screen for one candidate, only to have the opponent’s name light up.  And, to top it off, the Election Commission refused to allow independent auditors to check their computers on the grounds that the Diebold software in the computers was proprietary.  Like I said, ya gotta love them Diebold folks!

And how did the Shelby County Election Commission respond to this?  Well, they ‘fessed up that they had  “mistakenly” loaded the computerized voting equipment with a program from the previous election, which was why folks were turned away on the grounds that they had already voted.  Sorry ’bout that…no big deal, right?  Uh-huh.  The commission, dominated by Republicans, went ahead and certified the election, with the two Democrat members making nice and going along.  This is a foretaste of the November election, all right–rigged by Republicans, with the complicity of clueless Democrats–which may point to another reason why Shelby County’s elections turned out so strangely.  If the party’s candidates (think Mike “me-too” McWherter) don’t speak to the real needs of real people, they might not get a lot of voters enthused.

As I’ve written elsewhere, you don’t have to switch a lot of votes in a blatant way to throw an election.  A combination of restricting access to the polls and jiggering the voting machines ever so slightly is an excellent recipe for staying under law enforcement’s radar.  It worked for the Republicans in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio in 2004.   2008?  Let the country go to hell and blame it on the ni-I mean, socialist Obama.  But, I digress….

Back in Memphis,the losing candidates have filed a lawsuit–but, in a state increasingly dominated by Republicans, there’s a good chance that will get nowhere.  Hey, last winter we Greens filed for a summary judgment to get Tennessee to list our party’s name on the ballot, in accordance with recent court decisions, and we’re still waiting for an answer.  “Justice delayed is justice denied,” as Rev. Martin Luther King used to say, and we are not getting justice in this lawsuit.  Of course, if they thought the election might be close, the Republicans would probably move heaven and earth to get us on the ballot and, in their minds, divert votes from the Democrats.

Democracy or dirty tricks?  Judging by their conduct elsewhere, computerized hi-jinks aren’t the only kind being employed by the Grand Old Party to insure their victory in November.  In Arizona, Republicans are taking advantage of a loophole in the state’s election laws to “nominate” Green Party candidates without the approval of the state’s Green Party.  In South Carolina, with the possible help of crossover Republican voting and/or those notorious computerized voting machines, an unemployed US army reject (nothing necessarily wrong with that, actually) somehow came up with the $10K filing fee and won the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat held by Republican Jim DeMint.  Some people want to how he paid that ten thousand dollar filing fee.  I want to know why, in a supposed “democracy,” it costs ten grand up front just to get your name on the ballot.

For that matter, why in this supposed “democracy” are Howard Switzer and John Miglietta, the Green Party of Tennessee’s candidates this year, appearing on the ballot as “independents,” in spite of court decisions that make it obvious that the Green Party has every legal right to be listed by name?

The Green Party does have its name on the ballot in South Carolina, and the good news is that many Democrats are realizing that the Green Party’s nominee, Tom Clements, is a far more viable candidate than Greene, who is currently under indictment for felony sexual harassment.  OK, McWherter isn’t that much of a putz.

But, as Republicans strive for control by any means necessary, the whole ossified system is coming apart.  Reality will prevail, and those of us who know how to live in reality will be the survivors, while those who believe they can bluff and bluster their way through life, who believe that their fast food, credit cards, SUVs, and air-conditioned McMansions are “not negotiable,” will find themselves SOL, to put it in a radio-friendly way.  We will prevail.

music:  Bob Dylan, “Memphis Blues Again”





PRIMARY RESULTS: TWEEDLEDEE AND TWEEDLEDUM AGREE TO HAVE A BATTLE!

7 08 2010

To nobody’s surprise, Bill Haslam won the Republican nomination for Governor of Tennessee on Thursday, and everybody will be surprised if he doesn’t coast from here to the governorship. Haslam’s victory, I suspect, is largely attributable to the fact that he had not one but two tea-partiers snapping at his heels.  Between them, they drew almost half the votes. If Ramsey or Wamp had had the psychological skill to let go of his own ambitions,  step aside, and let the other go one-on-one with Haslam, things might have turned out differently, but tea-partiers are not known for their psychological skills.  If they ever did take control of the government, I think things would get chaotic in a hurry…but they’re too crazy to win, even in a crazy state like Tennessee.  And so Haslam, who seems like a cross between Phil Bredesen and George Bush, is the Republican nominee, and the race is his to lose.

His main competitor has staked out a number of basically Republican positions for his platform–which is why I’m calling him “Me, Too” McWherter.  If Wamp or Ramsey had become the Republican candidate, at least we’d have a clear choice between a right-wing crazy and middle-of-the-road mediocrity.  As it is, a Mc-Wherter-Haslam contest has all the drama and polarity of a faceoff between Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

“Me, too” McWherter supports Arizona’s imposition of a  police state for brown-skinned people.  “May I see your papers, please?”  I can remember when patriotic Americans were proud that that was a question that only got asked behind the Iron Curtain.

He thinks “intelligent design” should be taught in public schools, with evolution given some attention as a “theory.”

He is against a state income tax, a gross act of pandering to the lowest common denominator.  It is this state’s fiscal downfall that wealthy conservatives have sold the average Tennessean on the phony idea that an income tax would affect primarily low- and middle-income people.  That’ s a lie, and McWherter lacks the courage to confront it.  But hey….he’s rich enough that if we had a state income tax, he’d have to pay it.

He showed further lack of courage when asked about the issue of the Murfreesboro Mosque–“you can’t just drop these things into a neighborhood,” he said–as if the Muslim population of Murfreesboro somehow has fewer rights than, say,  the town’s  Baptists.

He has also said he’s against allowing gay couples to adopt children.  Frankly, I think this is an absurdly trivial issue, only pushed to the forefront because peoples’ phobias are being amplified as the general crisis of our culture intensifies, and those who will not face what is happening grow ever more frantic in their efforts to avoid the real issues.

Asked about abortion, he has said that while he, personally, is opposed to it, the decision should be between a woman and her doctor, and not a matter of state law.  That’s the traditional sop the Democrats throw to women–“vote for us, we’ll screw you over every other way the Republicans will, but at least we’re pro-choice.”  But he opposes state funding for abortions–so if you’re poor and pregnant and don’t want to have a baby, tough nuggies.

So….with Democrats like this, who needs Republicans?

Considering the scope and depth of of the problems that face Tennessee, we need a real alternative, and fortunately, one is available.  Howard Switzer is once again running as the Green Party’s candidate for Governor.  With McWherter given a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, I’m hoping that hordes of voters will give up on him and opt for Howard instead, to send  a message to the Tennessee Democratic Party that people are on to their Tweedledee vs. Tweedledum relationship with the Republicans.  It would be a first, but stranger things have happened!

music:  James McMurtry “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore”





TEA PARTIES: BOSTON….OR WONDERLAND?

10 04 2010

When I read about the shenanigans perpetrated by the Republican Party lately, I don’t just wonder “What are they thinking?”  I wonder if they are thinking at all, or if they are merely DNA-powered robots in an extremely reactonary, defensive response to the fact that everything that has ever given them security and a sense of self is vanishing like smoke.

There’s plenty of evidence that there is no thinking involved here, most prominently the “Obama is a Marxist/Socialist!” movement, which I commented on last month.  That post, in which I decried the absurdity of calling Obama a “socialist” and pointed out some of the many ways he does the bidding of the capitalist, corporatist masters of America, prompted a reader who identified himself as “Commieblaster,” from College Road in Olive Branch, Mississippi (oh, the irony!), to comment “Obama isn’t a socialist, he’s a Marxist,” and direct me to his website, www.commieblaster.com.

Well, fair is fair.  If Mr. Commieblaster is open-minded enough to read me, I owe it to him to pay a visit to his domain, and so I did.  Oh, my.

“Eighty members of Congress are Socialists!”  he warns.  What, in his book, makes them “socialists”?  Primarily, it seems, association with an organization called “Democratic Socialists of America,” whose website opens with these words:

Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.

So….the tea partiers, who are reacting to what they perceive as an autocratic government, also feel threatened by the idea that “ordinary Americans” ought to be able to “participate in the many decisions that affect our lives”?   Go figure….

DSA’s site also features a number of articles complaining about Obama’s rightward course  and an interview that specifically addresses “Why Obama is Not a Socialist.”  Other criteria for being a “Socialist,” according to Mr. Commieblaster, include supporting Hamas rather than Israel (which was once described as “the most socialist country outside the Eastern Bloc” and where the government still has far more influence on the private sector than in the US), and entertaining the possibility that Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed.  So…does that make sense to you?

Shortly after hearing from Mr. Commieblaster, I ran across an article written by that ol’ devil Commie, the last Marxist left standing, Fidel Freaking Castro himself, in which Castro said flat out

BARACK Obama is a fanatical believer in the imperialist capitalist system imposed by the United States on the world. “God bless the United States,” he ends his speeches…..

The current administration’s militarist policies, its plunder of natural resources and unequal exchange with the poor countries of the Third World are in no way different from those of its predecessors, almost all of them extremely right-wing, with some exceptions, throughout the past century.

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?

Perhaps Commieblaster would say that Castro is dissembling (the devil is, after all, “the father of lies”), but actions speak louder than words, and the evidence still stands that, with every move they have made, from bailing out banks in the financial crisis to promoting coal and nuclear energy development to subsidizing for-profit health insurance to creating a nationwide broadband system by helping out Comcast, the strategies that Obama and all those “socialists” in Congress have employed have propped up the capitalist system, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that highly centralized, private, for-profit systems are the least sensible, efficient, and economically viable means to promote the common good of the American people.

But I’m not going to talk about that right now.  I’m going to keep examining the reactionary, right-wing mindset that looks at Democratic party corporate shills and sees Marxist-Leninists.  Commieblaster is, as far as I know, just another guy on the street like me.  Let’s look at what happens when the people he supports are elected to office and actually get to act on their vision.

We don’t have to look far to do that, because our own state legislature here in Tennessee is dominated by tea-party types.  What have they been up to lately?

Exhibit A:  A committee of the Tennessee House recently sent four bills on to the whole legislature.    To quote Jeff Woods of the Nashville Scene:

Two .. measures are state constitutional amendments …to ban the individual mandate and the other to decree that the free enterprise system will live forever in Tennessee.

(The other) Two… are identical–both bills that supposedly would nullify the law’s mandate that all Americans buy insurance. There are two of these bills because their respective sponsors, Rep. Susan Lynn and Sen. Mae Beavers, are running against each other in August’s primary and anxious to take sole credit for this monumental achievement.

They all passed by voice votes to loud cheers from tea partiers…..

And…two things stand out about this example.  The first is that our country’s first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, fought and won a civil war in this country  over the question of whether states have the power to nullify Federal law.  The decision was, they can’t do that.

Well, times have changed, you might argue.  OK, how about this one:  our most recent Republican administration likewise argued strongly that states did not have the power to nullify Federal law….in the words of that notorious socialist, Antonin Scalia,

The regulation of an intrastate activity may be essential to a comprehensive regulation of interstate commerce even though the intrastate activity does not itself “substantially affect” interstate commerce. Moreover… Congress may regulate even noneconomic local activity if that regulation is a necessary part of a more general regulation of interstate commerce. …The relevant question is simply whether the means chosen are “reasonably adapted” to the attainment of a legitimate end under the commerce power.

In other words, the Federal Government can tell the states to sit down and shut up.

But hey, Scalia said that in the Raich vs. Ashcroft case, which was about whether the federal government had to recognize California’s medical marijuana laws, and everybody knows that anything goes when you’re trying to stamp out the evil weed…but the Bush junta also successfully swatted down Oregon’s assisted suicide  law and California’s attempts to raise mileage standards on cars. So….states can nullify federal law if Republicans want to fight the gummint, but when Democrats try to insist on states’ rights, it’s not OK.  That seems to be the underlying principle here, does it not?

Exhibit B:  Our state legislature has, by overwhelming majorities and without debate, passed a law requiring all medical facilities that perform abortions to post the following language prominently (in 40-point type) in their waiting rooms, or face serious fines if the signage is absent:

“Notice: It is against the law for anyone, regardless of the person’s relationship to you, to coerce you into having or to force you to have an abortion. By law, we cannot perform an abortion on you unless we have your freely given and voluntary consent. It is against the law to perform an abortion on you against your will. You have the right to contact any local or state law enforcement agency to receive protection from any actual or threatened criminal offense to coerce an abortion.”

Lawmakers soundly rejected an amendment that would have included language pointing out that it is also against the law to force anyone NOT to have an abortion.  In their perception, pro-abortion pressure from Planned Parenthood and domineering husbands is much more of a threat than anti-abortion pressure from fundamentalist churches and domineering husbands. Senator Beverly Marrero, one of the only two State Senators who had the courage to vote against this bill (the other was Andy Berke), said of it

We all know this legislation is purely political, designed to increase the anti-abortion bona fides of lawmakers up for re-election this year.

I couldn’t agree with her more.

Exhibit C:  My state representative’s “weekly update” informed me about HB 3280 which, to quote from the bill summary

..revises the substances that give rise to the offense described above in (1), so that it would be unlawful to operate or be in control of a motor driven vehicle while under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, “drug, substance or combination thereof, affecting” the central nervous system instead of a “narcotic drug or drug producing stimulating effects on” the central nervous system.”

“Any substance that affects the central nervous system”?  What substance that we take into our bodies doesn’t affect our central nervous system?  The bill was aimed at making it illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of anything that might negatively affect a person’s judgement and response time, but, taken literally, makes it illegal to drive under the influence of coffee, food, or any of the many prescription drugs that have “do not operate heavy equipment” warnings on their labels.  I take one of those, metoprolol, and I can’t say that I or anyone close to me has observed it affecting my judgement or co-ordination.   Of course, this  It will  probably be used mostly to persecute people whose urine tests positive for marijuana, in spite of overwhelming evidence that marijuana metabolites in urine are not an indication that one is “under the influence of” marijuana, and despite research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Board that pretty well exonerates marijuana as a cause of hazardous driving.

Well, maybe I shouldn’t get my dander up too much about this, just yet.  Although it passed the House unanimously, so far it’s bogged down in committee in the Senate, which is taking up more important things like allowing mountaintop removal in Tennessee, in spite of the fact that the state generates far more revenue from people coming to appreciate our scenery than it does from people destroying the scenery to pull a little coal out from under it.  And that’s just one argument.

And there’s a bill that will insist that all driver’s license tests shall be conducted in English,unless the applicant’s stay in the country has been

approved and authorized by the United States department of homeland security for a specific purpose, including investing, overseeing investment, or providing needed services to companies or businesses in Tennessee, and for a specified period of authorized stay,

In other words, rich foreigners are welcome; poor ones are not.  This one, too, has yet to emerge from the committee thicket, and the state’s business interests are speaking up against it, so sense may yet prevail in this case.

We also have the spectacle of our supposedly Democratic governor worrying that more people will find out they’re eligible for Medicare and sign up for it, easing their own medical expenses but increasing the state’s.

I could tell you more, but I think I have gone on just about long enough.

Into this tea party atmosphere, more reminiscent of Wonderland than Boston, strides Howard Switzer, who is once again the Green Party’s gubernatorial candidate.  I wish we had a horde of people running for state legislature positions to back him up, but alas, it ain’t happening this year.  You can find Howard’s blog at switzer4governor.blogspot.com/

Naomi Wolf, author of The Shock Doctrine, has found a new popularity among the tea partiers, and in a recent interview she said she has some faith that their questioning of authority will, in the long run, be beneficial.  I hope she’s right.  I am concerned that the tea partiers will turn out to be the 21st century version of the SA, the “brown shirts” who provided the populist muscle that brought Hitler to power and were quickly disposed of as a political force once he and his corporate conspirators consolidated their hold on Germany.  On the other hand, Hitler did not have to contend with shrinking resources and a shifting climate, both forces that are more than equal to the task of toppling a civilization.

Unless they do come to their senses, the tea partiers, who seem to have the momentum in US politics at this point, will continue to spend their energy in irrelevant, illusory, paranoid pursuits, codifying intolerance and ignorance, and squashing any dissent other than their own.  I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

music:  Greg Brown, Worrisome Years





(it’s always darkest before the) GREEN DAWN

12 11 2006

Well, the election results are in, and, as has often been the case in Tennessee, it wasn’t easy being Green. The best percentage of the vote received was the race run by Green fellow traveler Jon Davidson, who garnered 20% of the vote in State House District 52 against well known liberal Democrat Rob Briley—yeah, the family they named the parkway for. Talk about being part of the establishment…. Twenty percent! Over twenty-two hundred votes, nearly as many as statewide candidates Howard Switzer pulled in the governor’s race (2600) or Chris Lugo in the Senate race (2500). Well, at least the Dems can’t call us spoilers. Harold Ford lost it more or less fair and square, probably snowed under by the boobs who turned out to make their religion’s idea of marriage a part of the Tennessee Constitution. All these people so scared of homosexuality…you know, there have been tests done that show that the people who are most homophobic are the ones who are repressing the fact that they have those feelings…as the misadventures of Tom Foley and Ted Haggard have recently demonstrated. The queer tidal wave that all those people are afraid of is—them. The vote in Tennesee demonstrates that we are surrounded by a seething sea of repressed homosexuals! Well, as one of my teachers sarcastically commented, “If you can’t control yourself, control someone else!”

But, I digress….in U.S. House races, Katie Culver and Robert Smith also received better percentages than our statewide candidates, Katie with 1800 votes and Robert with 1,000—if Howard and Chris had done as well as either of them, they would have won about 18,000 votes, still not enough to change the election or even get our party name on the ballot, but I think it would have left them feeling more satisfied. I’m surprised they didn’t do better, especially Howard, since it was obvious Phil Bredesen was going to win in a walk. Howard campaigned intensively among those who have been dumped by Bredesen’s Tenncare purge. He should have done better.

Commenting on the election, Switzer said, “I think the main thing is we don’t have an extensive enough network to get the word out about our candidates. … We have to become more vocal advocates for who (we are) and what we want, pass the word and expand our networks. But, with (electronic voting machines) who knows what the vote tally really was? Our votes are counted in secret in an electronic box we are supposed to have unwavering faith in. “

The biggest kinda-Green vote getter in the state was Ginny Welsch, who won about 3600 votes in Nashville, where conservative Democrat Jim Cooper had no problem retaining his seat. Ginny explored running as an out-and-out Green but backed away when she discovered how much antipathy the label can ignite among ignorant, reactive Democrats, who are, after all, a major voting bloc that any serious candidate somehow needs to cultivate.

I talked with Jon Davidson, who was disappointed in his showing—a friend of his in the state legislature told him that just having his name on the ballot in an otherwise uncontested race should get him about a third of the votes. Jon tested this by spending “only about $100” and not doing any campaigning beyond putting up a website and getting a 45-minute interview from the Tennessean—which, alas, only appeared on their website. Neither Senate candidate Chris Lugo nor gubernatorial candidate Howard Switzer got even that much of a nod from Nashville’s newspaper of record.

Jon noted that his district, according to who votes in the primaries, is about 90% Democratic—he thinks a lot of people just voted the straight Democratic ticket—but he found it gratifying that, in the neighborhood he used to live in, he got 40% of the vote. “And I got 38% of the absentee vote,” he added–”but I don’t know if that was from my friends in the touring music community or from pissed-off Republican soldiers in Iraq.” Jon also noted that turnout in his district was no higher than it had been for the 2002 midterm elections, in spite of all the publicity about how crucial this election was going to be. Nationwide, the turnout was a disappointing 40%.

Some of the best news for Tennesseans was Steve Cohen’s easy win over Harold Ford’s cousin and a Republican for the U.S. House seat from Memphis. Steve has long been the most sensible person in the Tennessee Senate, and he will be sorely missed there, but I look forward to his influence at the national level.

Someone he won’t be seeing in Washington is Richard Pombo, head of the House Environmental Resources Committee, a California representative who went down to defeat. Pombo’s name had become synonymous with putting human greed ahead of the welfare of the planet. He has been replaced by wind turbine entrepreneur Jerry McNerney. Thank you, California.

Tammy Duckworth lost to a Republican. In case you don’t remember, the National Democratic Party literally moved her in from out of state to compete in a race where Christine Cegalis, a fairly radical anti-war candidate was already in place, because they didn’t think Ms. Cegalis could win. Maybe she wouldn’t have won, but neither did Ms. Duckworth. Did Rahm Emmanuel and the Democratic Campaign Committee learn anything from that? Somehow I doubt it.

And I’m not that upset about Harold Ford losing here in Tennessee. Unlike Ford, Bob Corker is honest enough to admit he’s a Republican. We didn’t need to advance the career of a so-called Democrat who wanted to privatize Social Security, who supported anti-environmentalists like Richard Pombo, and who voted for the Patriot Act and the Torture-is-not-torture (Military Commisions) Act. Hint to Harold: try taking Jesse Jackson for a role model instead of Colin Powell.

In general, as I look over national Green Party results, I see the same thing we find in Tennessee: the more local the race, the better the Green Party did. And, while I love tilting at windmills as much as the next old hippie, I think the lesson is clear: we need to follow our own philosophy and act as locally as we can. We need to be working on school boards, zoning boards, county commissions, and the like—we could see our long-term strategy as moving up to winning mayoral races and then state legislature positions. That’s the route individual politicians take, and I think there’s a reason for it: you have to prove your worth at a lower level of responsibility before people will trust you with a higher one. It’s slow, it’s not glamorous, and time is short; but I think it’s the path we have to follow. It’s all about taking care of the details.

That seems to be how the rest of the party sees it.

In a “campaign wrapup letter,” Chris Lugo said:

“Although my ultimate goal would be campaign finance reform,

in the meantime, the practical reality is that progressive candidates in Tennessee

are going to need to do fundraising to get their message out.  Even though we are

going to continue to lose in Tennessee for some time to come, we won't even

register in the eyes of most Tennesseans until we start doing some serious fundraising.

Regarding running Greens locally versus statewide, I think we need to continue to do

both.  In Knoxville (we) are running Greens locally and even though they are losing,

they are continuing to build, having received thirty five percent in one recent Knoxville

 election. I think running candidates for statewide office is very important though, because

that puts (our) voice into the election, which is ground (zero) for the body politic.  There

 is no time when people are more concerned about politics or what is happening in the

 country than during an election, and that is exactly when we need to make sure that we

are being included.”And, as I already said, Statehouse candidate Jon Davidson got 40% of the vote in a

neighborhood where he was known personally without doing any campaigning at all.

So that's what we as Greens will be working on:  networking, fundraising, and local,

 local issues.

The Democrats got themselves elected as part of a national spasm of revulsion.

 They have no coherent plan, and all too many of them have no clue either.

John Conyers, who waxed so eloquently about the sins of the Republican administration,

 now joins Nancy Pelosi in saying “impeachment is off the table.”

 Perhaps this is just a diplomatic move.  Perhaps impeachment will be on the table again

 in the Spring, if the White House sticks to its guns and starts stonewalling Congressional

 attempts at oversight.  But if the Dems stick to form and get all namby-pamby, I believe

the country will neither forgive them nor return to the Republican fold.  Winston Churchill

remarked that “America will always do the right thing, but not until they've tried everything

else.”  The Republicans haven't worked; the Democrats won't work.

There is a Green dawn glowing on the horizon.

(and I don't know why this bottom part got all funny looking!)

music: Leonard Cohen, “Democracy”







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