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)





SEE YOU IN COURT!

8 01 2012

Tomorrow, Monday, January 9, at 3:30 in the afternoon, I am going to be someplace I’ve never been before–inside the Federal Courtroom at the corner of Broadway and Eighth Avenue.  I’ve been outside it, involved in demonstrations, several times, but this is the first time I’m going in.  I’m not a witness or a defendant.  I’m a plaintiff, on behalf of the Green Party of Tennessee.  The State of Tennessee is the defendant, and it looks like we have them dead to rights, because we won virtually the same case once before.  We’ve just been the victim of delaying tactics by the state.  Delay, of course, is what governments and large corporations do when they’ve been caught in the wrong and don’t want to admit it.

Here’s the deal.  Way back in 2008, we filed a lawsuit alleging that Tennessee’s ballot access law, which regulates how political parties can get their names listed on the ballot, discriminates against non-duopoly parties–ones that aren’t the Republicans or the Democrats.  We knew we would win this case, because the same Federal Court in which we were suing Tennessee had just thrown out Ohio’s nearly identical, discriminatory ballot access law.

Both these laws shared the same flaws.  The first flaw was that the deadline for a party to gather signatures and get on the ballot was in March, for the November election.  The second was that the guidelines for what constituted a valid signature, or, for that matter, a valid petition, were pretty vague, and seemed to be largely left to the discretion of the Secretary of State, who, as a partisan political official, would have an interest in disqualifying any potential opposition. Another problem with the Tennessee law was that signers of the petition had to declare that they were members of the political party in question, which is a violation of personal privacy.   A fourth stickler was that, while an “independent” candidate only needs 250 signatures to get his or her name on the ballot, a political party needs the signatures of a certain percentage of the total number of voters in the most recent election–a number which currently hovers around the 40,000 mark.  Forty thousand valid signatures means eighty thousand gross signatures, a number that calls for paid professional assistance, at the rate of about two bucks per signature.  So, under Tennessee’s guidelines, it would cost a minor party about a hundred and sixty thou to get its name on the ballot.  Should the party fail to garner 5% of the vote in a statewide race, the process would need to be repeated.  The Democrats and Republicans get their party affiliation listed on the ballot for free.  A further complication is that the Tennessee law mandated that parties who came up with the required signatures then had to hold a primary election, at the same time, and in the same voting booth, as the Republicans and Democrats.  Tennessee, in case you didn’t know, has an “open primary” system–you don’t register as a member of a certain party, and, come primary day, you can walk in and ask for whichever primary ballot you feel like voting on.  Thus, by participating in this kind of free-for-all, a minor party could effectively lose control of its candidates–if a bunch of Republicans wanted to, they could vote for, say, a convicted sex offender as the Green Party’s Senate Candidate, and if enough Repubs crossed over and voted for the guy, the party would be stuck with the turkey for a candidate.

I’m not making that up, either.  It actually happened in South Carolina in 2010, when an impoverished convicted sex offender mysteriously came up with the $10,000 filing fee and won the Democratic primary.  South Carolina’s primary elections, like Tennessee’s, are open.  What’s even more amazing is that, when the loser, a genuine politician (if that’s not too much of an oxymoron for you!) appealed to the state Democratic Party to redo the primary, the Dems declined to do so, and the vote wasn’t even close.  Still more amazing, this sham candidate (whose name, peculiarly enough, was “Greene”), managed to poll 28% of the vote, while a far better-qualified Green Party candidate only received 9%. It’s enough to make you wonder how many people vote in their sleep.

As I so often do, I have digressed.  As I said, we took the state to court, and the state, knowing it was caught red-handed, dragged its feet as long as it could.  We had hoped to have relief from the court in time for the 2008 election, but it didn’t happen.  Finally, in November of 2009, the case came up for a hearing, at which our plaintiff of record was first subjected to low-key torture by being denied drinking water for several hours, and then badgered on the witness stand by the state’s attorney.  Then, once again, silence, until August of 2010, when the court, of course, ruled in our favor–but too late for us to get our party name on the 2010 ballot.   Besides, through an unfortunate oversight, we hadn’t asked for “relief,” i.e., getting our party name listed with our candidates as an outcome of the court case.

But we had successfully overturned the state’s ballot access law, which meant that the legislature needed to pass a new one.  So….what did the lawmakers who had revoked the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act do?  Why, they repassed the old law, with as few changes as they could get away with.  Fewer, actually.  While they removed the privacy-violating qualification from the petition, they only moved the petition deadline back a month, which, according to legal precedent, is not sufficient, and they still insist that we nominate candidates in a primary election–which, as I pointed out earlier, effectively takes the process of candidate selection out of our hands, denying our right of free association.  It would be a little different if we were a big enough party to have competition about who got to run for various offices, but at this point, unfortunately,there are more offices to run for than there are Green Party candidates by a long shot.  In any case, the state’s denial of our right of free expression (putting our party name on the ballot along with our candidates’ names), and their denial of our right to chose our candidates in an appropriate manner are both clearly unconstitutional.  The state’s demand for 40,000 signatures is not, according to legal precedent, considered burdensome, although it sure looks that way to me, but the fact that the state has delegated definition of the guidelines for accepting those signatures as valid to the Secretary of State is, by precedent, unconstitutional.  That is why we are taking the state to court, and that is why we expect to win.

But that’s only half the battle. Let’s take a little music break, and then I’ll tell you about the other half.

music:  Bob Marley, “Get Up, Stand Up”





THE CONTINUING COUP

9 07 2011

I want to take a few minutes to honor the late Joe Bageant, who passed out of this world back in March.  Joe was a longtime editor and writer, but only recently came to what prominence he has (or had) through two books:  the recent Rainbow Pie, a memoir which describes how he became a “radical redneck,” and “Deer Hunting With Jesus:  Dispatches From America’s Class War,” a title which, I think, speaks for itself, in a koanish kind of way.

If you’re not familiar with Joe, here’s a couple of quotes that will give you an idea:

“I always say that if Obama was delivered to the White House with Jesus Christ, a five-piece band and six gilded seraphim holding up his f-ing balls he still won’t be able to do anything because the country’s broke and Congress is bought and sold.”

Just for the record, he wrote that when The Socialist Review asked his opinion of Obama’s election.  And “f-ing” is a polite contraction of the word he really used.  The next quote comes from “Deer Hunting With Jesus”:

“Republican or Democrat, this nation’s affluent urban and suburban classes understand their bread is buttered on the corporate side. The primary difference between the two parties is that the Republicans pretty much admit that they grasp and even endorse some of the nastiest facts of life in America. Republicans honestly tell the world: “Listen in on my phone calls, piss-test me until I’m blind, kill and eat all of my neighbors right in front of my eyes, but show me the money! Let me escape with every cent I can kick out of the suckers, the taxpayers, and anybody else I can get a headlock on, legally or otherwise.” Democrats, in contrast, seem content to catalog the GOP’s outrages against the Republic, showing proper indignation while laughing at episodes of The Daily Show. But they stand behind the American brand: imperialism. They “support our troops,” though you will be hard put to find any of them who have served alongside them or who would send one of their own kids off to lose an eye or an arm in Iraq. They play the imperial game, maintain their credit ratings, and plan to keep the beach house and the retirement investments if it means sacrificing every damned Lynndie England in West Virginia.”

To sum it up:  Republicans may be sociopaths, but Democrats are their enablers.  What a choice we have in politics!  And that brings me to my next subject, the continuing coup here in America, including validation of Joe’s prophetic abilities–there was recently a well-documented incident in which a male Republican government official all but put a female Democrat elected official in a headlock–which, once more sums up the whole situation in one messy image.  More on that later.

One of the more prominent arenas in which the struggle between the psychopaths and their enablers is playing out is the various state and national budget battles that are taking place.  Let’s look at Minnesota as an example.  It may well be a harbinger of things to come for all of us.

The government of Minnesota is currently shut down, because Republicans won’t agree to raise taxes for the wealthiest Minnesotans, arguing that a tax increase on the wealthy hurts everyone.

Now, I have just castigated Democrats for being enablers to their Republican sociopath counterparts,  but credit where credit is due:  Minnesota’s Democratic Governor Mark Dayton laid out his logic in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

The Minnesota Department of Revenue reports that, as a percentage of income, the wealthiest 10 percent of our citizens pay only three-fourths as much in state and local taxes as do the rest of Minnesotans. The richest 1 percent, who on average make over $1.2 million a year, pay only two-thirds as much.

If they all paid the same percentage of their incomes as everyone else, there would be an additional $4 billion in revenues for the next biennium. That would eliminate two-thirds of our state’s next budget deficit.

It would allow us to begin to restore our commitment to education. To serve our senior citizens. To lower property taxes.

Earlier in the article, Dayton pointed out that property taxes have doubled in Minnesota in the last decade–while Republican Tim “no new taxes” Pawlenty was governor.  Property taxes can be very regressive–just because you own land or a house doesn’t mean you have a lot of income, y’know?  Somehow, Republicans don’t seem to have a problem with that tax increase.  Or maybe, it’s “if we didn’t have to support all these socialistic public schools, we could cut property taxes.”  Some school districts in Minnesota have cut back to four-day weeks due to lack of funding.  I’m not that crazy about public schools, myself, for a whole host of reasons I don’t have time to go into now–but on the positive side, they can be one of the glues that hold communities together.

The Minnesota Republicans’ stonewalling on tax increases for the richest one  percent of Minnesotans harks back to one of the highlights of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, when George Bush said:

This is an impressive crowd: the haves, and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite, I call you my base.

And that’s just what Republicans all over the country are doing:  working to make the richest richer and to hell with the rest of us.   In Spain, everybody knows that “Republicans” is just a polite word for “fascists.”  I’d say I wish that awareness would catch on here, but I think there are too many people who don’t care what the opposition calls them as long as they have the most toys.  And so the class war drags on, and the selfish wealthy are winning.

Republicans can collect a political majority for two reasons:  one–a lot of Americans are gullible and mis-educated enough to believe that, even though they’re not rich, they could get rich and it would make them happy; and two–Republicans believe that because they are right it is OK to bend the rules and cheat like hell.  We see this in Republican efforts all over the country to limit voter turnout through increasingly restrictive voter ID laws, voter  caging,  and creative redistricting.

That’s what happened here in Tennessee when the legislature went Republican for the first time since Reconstruction, a hundred and fifty years ago–and not only did they restrict the hours and days for early voting and require people to produce a photo ID to vote, they rescinded the previous legislature’s bipartisan mandate to switch to  a recountable voting system.  We vote on computers in this state, and there is no way to tell whether they are accurately recording voter preferences, but there are plenty of ways to hack the machines so that they inaccurately record those preferences–undetectably.

And what else are the Republicans doing with the power they are seizing from all-too-often clueless Democrats?

They seem to be doing their best to turn America into the kind of country George Orwell envisioned in “1984”:  a small, well-off, well guarded elite, a slightly larger class of desperate wannabes, and a vast, disempowered, ignorant sea of proles, kept in their place by Fundamentalist Christian Shari’a, in our case, rather than Orwell’s “love of Big Brother.”

The nature of this repression is brought to light in a recent Guardian/ Alternet story focused on a fifteen-year old Mississippi girl who is facing a life sentence for having a miscarriage.  Yes, you heard/read that right.  Her case, however, is only the tip of the misogynist iceberg:  Thirty-eight states have passed or are considering “fetal homicide” laws, which are billed as a protection against assaults on pregnant women–but in South Carolina, where such a law has actually been passed, only one man has even been charged, while three hundred pregnant women have been prosecuted, mostly for having had miscarriages and testing positive for illegal drugs, even though there is no scientifically demonstrable link between drug use and miscarriage.  Other states’ “fetal endangerment” laws  have resulted in pregnant women being charged with child abuse and sent to prison simply for testing positive for marijuana.   Is the mother or the prosecutor engaging in “reckless endangerment” here?  Is it not truly Orwellian when we criminalize body chemistry rather than behavior?

But the bullying isn’t just at the relatively impersonal, prosecutorial level.  In at least one case, in Wisconsin, there has allegedly been one-on-one physical abuse.  Newly elected Republican Supreme Court Justice David Prosser allegedly grabbed fellow Justice Ann Bradley, a Democrat, by the neck after she asked him to leave her office for referring to the Democrat Chief Justice of the Court, Shirley Abrahamson, as “a total bitch,”  and threatening to “destroy her.”  Is this not the language of abuse?   What is this abusive man doing on the Wisconsin Supreme Court?  Elected, no less?  This is a sad reflection on our country.

So, seeing the Republican and Democrat Parties as locked into abuser/enabler roles is not just a metaphor.  American politics are dangerously dysfunctional, and, short of the Green Party pulling off an electoral miracle in the next few cycles, likely to become even dumber and more deadlocked as we drift into the future.  The coup that was launched with the Supreme Court’s selection of Cheney and Bush as winners of the 2000 election will continue.   Republicans may succeed in their battle for complete control of the ship of state.  Congress can pass resolutions declaring that the roar of the waterfall ahead is merely a figment of Al Gore’s imagination, and continue to focus the power of the government on oppressing the people rather than saving the planet, but the reality is that the current is only going to get swifter, and the roar is only going to get louder, and sooner or later the American ship of state will lurch over the waterfall at the end of oil and empire, and crash onto the rocks below, dashing all the Republifascists’ control fantasies in the process.  They can’t say they weren’t warned.

music:  Grateful Dead, “Throwing Stones





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”





STUCK ON THE HAMSTER WHEEL

10 02 2008

Some people just don’t get it, and even those who try can’t find their way out…

In China, the cold snap means more CO2 will be pumped into the air, warming things further and opening up more of the Arctic Ocean to pump moisture into the atmosphere….

 At one of Datong Coal Group’s other main mines, the regular quota is 150,000 tons of coal a month, according to one worker. But officials are now asking workers to quadruple that figure to 600,000 tons for February.

“We’ll do it,” said Wang Kuikui, 53, who has worked in the mine for 27 years. “We’ll get 600,000 tons.”

Mr. Wang usually gets three days off for the Lunar New Year, but his leave is now canceled. He earns about $200 a month and lives near the mine in a mud-and-brick, two-room home with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandson. And Mr. Wang is considered fortunate because he has a job at a larger, safer state-owned operation. His son cannot get a job at the same mine and makes money doing odd jobs.

Meanwhile, some people in Kansas haven’t figured out that they’re not in Kansas any more:

Wayne Penrod, Sunflower’s environmental policy manager, told the Senate committee that expanding the state’s use of coal in generating electricity was good for the rural economy.

“Our rural economies need low-cost energy supplies to remain competitive,” Penrod said.

Coal is the best alternative, he said, because it will take too long to build nuclear infrastructure and natural gas is too expensive.

Penrod said Sunflower would earn $25 million annually to manage the new electric generating station for out-of-state companies, including Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association of Denver.

And even those who understand that we have to change the details of our daily lives find it’s hard to get out of the habits you grew up with:

Ann Hancock, the executive director of the Climate Protection Campaign, a nonprofit based in Sonoma County, a wine-growing area north of San Francisco, said that the county and its nine municipalities signed climate-protection agreements with enthusiasm more than five years ago, committing to bringing down greenhouse-gas emissions. Then they tried to figure out how.

“It’s really hard,” Ms. Hancock said. “It’s like the dark night of the soul.” All the big items in the inventory of emissions — from tailpipes, from the energy needed to supply drinking water and treat waste water, from heating and cooling buildings — are the product of residents’ and businesses’ individual decisions about how and where to live and drive and shop.

“They’ve seen the Al Gore movie, but they still have their lifestyle to contend with,” she said.

“We need to get people out of their cars, and we can’t under the present circumstances,” because of the limited alternative in public transportation, Ms. Hancock said. And the county’s many older homes are not very good at keeping in the cool air in the summer or the warm air in winter. “How do you go back and retrofit all of those?” she asked.

Boy, oh boy…shouldn’ta used up all the personal credit on the new clothes and the flatscreen and the ORV and the RV and the SUV, shouldn’ta burnt up all the national credit trying to seize and secure Iraq’s oil fields.  The doublecross confluence of collapsing personal credit and a bankrupt Federal government leave us unable to take the steps we need to take to adapt to the changing situation, and the government unable to do the right thing and help the less fortunate–who are turning into a voting majority of Americans.  If only we had someone to vote for….

But, in South Carolina, of all places, the legislature got it:

House: Nuclear energy not “renewable”

By SAMMY FRETWELL
sfretwell@thestate.com

The S.C. House defeated a plan today to define nuclear power as a “renewable” form of energy after conservationists complained that it could set back efforts to develop solar, wind and other alternative energy sources.

A compromise presented by Rep. Ben Hagood, R-Charleston, avoided a potentially lengthy floor debate between proponents of nuclear energy and those who oppose it.

Many lawmakers favor nuclear power as a way to limit pollution that adds to global warming. But by a 114-0 vote, the House agreed it wasn’t worth including nuclear in the definition of renewable energy.

If the South Carolina legislature can agree unanimously on something like that, maybe there’s hope for the world, eh?

And in the Washington Post, of all places, some guy named Hank Steuver gazes into a crystal ball:

At first, people will go where they always went in times of disaster or need. Not to the Red Cross shelter, but to Wal-Mart.

For a year or so, people won’t like to describe themselves as homeless. But after a while it will be impossible not to notice, in the box store parking lots, a phenomenon that will look like a 24/7 tailgate party that keeps growing: Coleman grills, ice chests, portable DVD players, hamburger buns and Special K breakfast bars. The American campout. In the Great Depression, Roosevelt saw a third of a nation ill-housed. Here you are, in an alternate reality, in the Second Great Depression, ill-housed yourself.

After a while, the 18-wheelers won’t arrive on time, or at all. Supply will be seriously out of whack with demand. Prices make no sense at all. You’ll feel swept up in something out of control, and the only consolation will be that it’s happening to everybody you know.

I hope he’s being pessimistic… 








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