4 08 2012

This story broke  late and may not make it on the air, but it’s too important to ignore.

The Green Party of Tennessee may have just gotten its two biggest breaks yet.

The first is that the District 6 Federal Court has apparently rejected the State of Tennessee’s appeal of Judge Haynes’ decision in February that ordered the state to list the Green and Constitution Parties’ candidates on the ballot as party candidates, not “independents.”  Tennessee Election Commissioner Mark Goins has been doing his best to close his eyes and make us disappear, accepting our paper work but refusing to list our candidates on the state website, but at this point he is going to have to capitulate, or face serious legal consequences.

Our other big break is the bizarre results of the Tennessee Democrat Party primary last Thursday, in which the nomination as Democrat Party Senate candidate was won by right-wing nut job Mark Clayton.  Was this the result of crossover voting by Republicans, computerized voting machine chicanery, or ignorance on the part of the voters plus Clayton’s name being first on the ballot?  We may never know, but the fact is that here in Tennessee, we have a situation analogous to what happened in South Carolina in 2010, when Alvin Greene, an indigent army vet who had been arrested on obscenity charges, won the South Carolina primary and became the Democrats’ sacrificial lamb, “born to lose” to Republican Jim DeMint.  Greene received about 27% of the vote, while the Green Party’s candidate, environmental activist Tom Clements, got 9% of the vote.  I’m surprised that the results weren’t reversed, considering Greene’s complete lack of qualification for the Senate, but he had the advantages of at least nominal support from the Democrat Party and a certain amount of “street cred” for being African-American.

Mark Clayton, on the other hand, will have neither of those factors working for him. Green Party candidate Martin Pleasant is clearly the most prominent progressive choice who will be on the ballot for US Senate in Tennessee this November–anybody else the state’s red-faced Democrats can convince to run will have to do so as an “independent.”

Sometimes,  when life seems dully predictable and likely to remain so, something extraordinary happens and throws everything up in the air.  This is one of those moments.  Glory Hallelujah!



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”


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”

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