Thursday, March 8, 2012

Democracy in jeopardy

Tuesday evening, I attended the Democratic caucus in the mountains near Denver – a small number of people came, some 50 (in 2008 with the fierce competition between Barack and Hilary, it was 350; there were more from my little precinct – 70 – than this time came from the 5). The action in our society is with Occupy…

The people at this meeting were very thoughtful, the resolutions interesting. There was a very good person – Irene Griego, the woman who listened to the discussions and found the Open School a very creative principal (both of my younger children went to the Open School – the youngest is still there - which emphasizes student-oriented education)* Another school board candidate who was running for reelection as a Democrat, left out any specifics of what he had represented on the School Board. I asked what he had stood for (and what he voted against on the School Board). No one knew. One of the organizers had printed out his background which included working with TIAA-CREF. Sue Marinelli, a former candidate for school board and seriously committed to education, vouched for him, but like many Democrats, he was doing a lot to hide who he is from voters, even supporters.

Had he been at our meeting, he would probably have had something to say…

The Democratic Party moves in the shadow of the Republicans who seek utterly to hide or confuse what they are, a party only of the 1/10th of 1%. Much campaigning is, thus, “negative advertizing”. This meeting was. however, strongly for Obama, and of course, there seemed little issue for the caucuses to take up. That Obama yesterday named the costs of war and the recent campaign about Iran was quite remarkable. There is a massive campaign in Congress and the media, egged on by Netanyahu, for a war of aggression against Iran. I doubt if there is another major party candidate who would have delayed it - with the exception of Ron Paul who would not be permitted, short of very radical pressure from below of the Occupy sort of which he is no friend, to be elected). Obama's assumption that nuclear powers which do not themselves disarm, belligerent aggressors and militarists, have moral authority to tell others, even quite reactionary ones - but look who is talking - what to do) is doubtful, but he understands the dangers of wider war and the costs to the Green movement in Iran of an Israeli or US attack.*

This morning on Joe Scarborough, Tom Brokaw surprisingly contrasted Obama's seriousness with AIPAC's "bombast." See also Maureen Dowd here. One could. of course, have said the latter about every recent American war (except for Libya, an illegal exercise of "executive power," every one is mere aggression abetted by "bombast" and lies.) Still, not since John Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis has any American President held back from disaster, particularly in an election year where belligerence and interventions are at their height (see Bruce Russett, Governing the Sword). In both of these cases, the dangers of wider war with nuclear engagement were a possibility (in Cuba, where there were a hundred nuclear headed missiles in place, unbeknownst to the U.S., a certainty...).

There were several striking resolutions at the caucus, for instance, one preserving the jobs of some 200,000 postal workers. As a veteran postal worker at the meeting told us, the Republicans in 2005 required that the post office to create a fund to pay benefits to postal workers far into the future (for generations unborn yet). As a result, the postal service is in the red: there is a big move – supported by some Democrats in Congress, too - to privatize the post office. There were seven such resolutions.

I suggested an additional one which was passed unanimously on having voting machines that leave a paper trail like an IBM. This seems clear enough and something the Democratic Party ought to fight on. But that underestimates the tie of the Democrats to the oligarchy. In 2004, the first time I went to the caucus, I fought for such a resolution here and at the county level (where it passed). But it was removed by the platform committee – lawyers from Hyatt-Brownstein and the like. The Democratic Party is wonderful as a rank and file organization, but troubled in its hierarchical structure (with perhaps the exception of the Green Party and the Justice Party – Rocky Anderson is their Presidential candidate), campaigning in the United States is hierarchical, poll-driven, troubled). In that year, 40 million people voted on such machines, many in Ohio, where there were massive discrepancies between exit polling and votes (that was also true in Pennsylvania and Florida).

For instance, in Ohio, Kerry won according to the exit polls by 4.3% but Bush supposedly won on the recorded vote by 2.6. In contrast, in 40 states, the exit polling got the victor and loser right to three-tenths of a point. Exit polling is a great success of political science, is easy to do very accurately, and is never wrong (was not wrong about Florida in 2000, for example). There is an infinitesimal statistical likelihood of such results – all in the direction of Bush – occurring randomly, good reason to think that the election of Bush the second time was even more fraudulent than the first election.

But the Democrats had no interest in discussing or acting on this in 2004 (the Conyers report after the election traced the suppression of poor voters (likely Democrats) in Ohio, enough voting machines in the suburbs but not in the black areas of Cleveland, for example, or long lines for 10 hours at liberal arts colleges but a 20 minute wait – again more machines – at a Christian college. But the Report did not mention the additional issue of the exit polls. Together those discrepancies, again all in the direction of Bush, were terminally unlikely….

The Democrats also did not protest under Obama the first time (I suspect that Obama won by a bigger margin than the recorded vote…). I asked whether Democrats had any assurance that the voting would be fair this time.

The answer: one person had heard a rumor from a higher-up in the Party that one shouldn’t make an issue of this because people would be discouraged from voting…

If the house is burning down, just put on a bright face and go about your business…

The opposite is true, I suggested and others agreed. Making a fight on this issue means that elections cannot be stolen, that votes count. Nothing is more reeking about the “election” of Putin this week in Russia (he and Bush looked into each other’s eyes at their first meeting, and Bush felt, they understood each other…) than about the 2000 and 2004 American elections (Bush got millions of votes, but there is pretty good evidence that he was never elected President…). But the corporate press hastens to point at Russia...

Jill Parker spoke powerfully for Occupy and I echoed her – those demonstrations made the issue of the 99% versus the 1/10th of 1% vital and shaped what is now, with Obama – though a shadow of Occupy – achieving some distinction from the (even more) imperial authoritarian party.

That party is misnamed conservative. Affection for habeas corpus and opposition to torture would be a long way up for the leadership of either mainstream - corporate - American Party. (The Democratic rank and file, however, is ordinary citizens, genuinely thoughtful on important issues, oriented to a common good).

The “Republicans” however, have a heavy theological streak (in violation of the separation of church and state, a leading point of enmity for Leo Strauss and his political – neocon- followers See here and here. (As a Mormon, Romney is gaining no traction with the Evangelicals and so, is not working to impose his views but endorses Evangelical bigotries/patriarchalisms), That party combines trying to impose Catholic doctrines on women – refusing in non-Church institutions such as hospitals to pay for contraception for employees - but also wants to dispossess many of the franchise. Their war on non-existent “voter fraud” – there is not enough to register, statistically speaking - is a war on ordinary people, particularly blacks and Chicanos. For instance, many people have criminal records (for marijuana “possession”) in what is sadly the largest police state in the world (2.3 million people, 25% of the world’s prisoners, are now in jail from society in the “land of the free”) and are often denied the right to vote, jobs and public housing because of such a record. There was also a decent but elliptical resolution against the police arresting people for marijuana on budgetary grounds rather than on fighting the police state grounds; Obama and Holder are, so far, horrible on this issue).

Others are homeless and certainly in Romney/Koch/AIG/Goldman Sachs world (Goldman Sachs, however, also bets heavily on Obama), “need not vote.”

In Ohio, John Kasich sought to bust public unions and a big movement reversed his measure. But he was also one of some 20 new Republican governors in 2010 who sought to disenfranchise those without identification. The story below is of one of an 86 year old World War II vet who had gotten himself an ID – one lacking an address – and gotten driven – he no longer drives – to walk with a cane to the poll to vote in the Republican primary. He couldn’t vote.

Perhaps the voters or the legal system should deprive John Kasich and the leaders of the Republican party of the franchise for crimes against the right to vote…

86-Year-Old Ohio Veteran Can’t Vote After Government-Issued ID Is Rejected At Poll

By Travis Waldron on Mar 6, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Paul Carroll, an 86-year-old World War II veteran who has lived in the same Ohio town for four decades, was denied a chance to vote in the state’s primary contests today after a poll worker denied his form of identification, a recently-acquired photo ID from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The poll worker rejected the ID because it did not contain an address, as required by Ohio law.

Carroll told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he got the ID from the VA after his driver’s license expired because he doesn’t drive anymore:

“My beef is that I had to pay a driver to take me up there because I don’t walk so well and have to use this cane and now I can’t even vote,” said Paul Carroll, 86, who has lived in Aurora nearly 40 years, running his own business, Carroll Tire, until 1975.

“I had to stop driving, but I got the photo ID from the Veterans Affairs instead, just a month or so ago. You would think that would count for something. I went to war for this country, but now I can’t vote in this country.”

A local Veterans Affairs employee told the Plain Dealer that the decision not to include the address was likely made at the federal level, and because VA IDs are accepted at any location, “the actual address of a veteran isn’t as critical to us.” Carroll was offered a provisional ballot, but the type was too small for him to read and “I was kind of perturbed by then,” he said.

Republicans across the country have pushed voter ID laws to address a voter fraud “problem” that rarely, if ever, exists. Multiple laws have been challenged in court over claims that they disenfranchise voters, particularly minorities and the elderly. Carroll’s story isn’t altogether unique — Tennessee voter authorities denied a 96-year-old woman a voter ID last year because she didn’t have an original copy of her marriage license.

*That there is exactly no reason to think that containment would not work with Iran with one bomb - it worked between Russia and the US, the only power to have used nuclear weapons in anger - is clear. Israel and the US have overwhelming force to apply to Iran in case of nuclear war - they would also destroy life on the planet since radiation spreads...

I have never expected Obama to be more than a leader of the empire, perhaps one who would avoid criminal and counterproductive wars, torture, and perhaps seek green energy. I thus notice when he does something unusual for an American President. He did so in this case. But we may have such a war either because of the need for Netanyahu to distract the world from the Palestinians - see here - or because the pressure to do so in the American elite, checked to some extent by military and intelligence leaders but frothing - becomes too great. This is a time for developing anti-war activity and the recognition that Palestinians are human from below...

*Teachers are mentors at the Open School, advising students on taking a college like array of courses, sometimes student-invented and taught ones, and including work and travel in ways that will further future careers. It has long fought to be a genuinely experimental school in the midst of American public education.

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