Saturday, August 28, 2004

527's Should Not Be Eliminated

Winning Argument is a new and very useful liberal/progressive blog. It focuses on one issue at a time and gives some great talking points, perfect for talking to your neighbor, coworker, or relative.

Here's what they say about 527's (e.g. Move On)

Why you are right:

1. They are not shadowy. The IRS now requires 527s to disclose "the names and addresses (and occupation and employer if an individual) of all persons who contribute $200 or more...and of all persons receiving expenditures of $500 or more." This information is searchable and publicly available. You can find it here. (IRS website)

2. If 527s were eliminated it would empower wealthy individuals over groups. The constitution prohibits limiting an individual's own political speech. (The government can constitutionally regulate individual contributions that finance other people's political speech). If 527s were eliminated it would simply provide an additional advantage for people who have enough resources to fund their own political speech relative to those of limited resources. (Buckley v. Valeo)

3. Political speech is a good thing. The effect of eliminating the 527 form would be to reduce to amount of political speech because it would be harder for people to organize. Political debate is at the center of any functioning democracy. It shouldn't be only available to political parties, candidates and the very wealthy.

Why they're wrong:

Calls by President Bush and others to eliminate 527s are simply a political ploy to avoid directly condemning advertisements by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. But the problem is not with 527s themselves. The problem is that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are lying
.

Ota Sik Dies

LA Times

Ota Sik, the architect of economic liberalization during Czechoslovakia's ill-fated 1968 Prague Spring, died Sunday at a hospital in St. Gallen, Switzerland, after a long illness. He was 84.

Czechoslovakia's communist government adopted Sik's economic ideas in 1965 to restart stagnant industrial growth. His new economic model called for limited reforms in the Soviet system, including less central planning and a more liberalized market economy. His plan was described as a third way between communism and capitalism.

Sik, who was head of the economics institute at the country's Academy of Science, was appointed vice premier and economics minister in April 1968 as part of Premier Alexander Dubcek's reform campaign to create "socialism with a human face."

Dubcek's campaign was crushed when Soviet-led Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia on Aug. 20, 1968.

When the country's communist regime collapsed in 1989, new President Vaclav Havel invited Sik to join an advisory board of prominent citizens. Sik retained his left-wing views and criticized the country's economic plan, saying the elimination of state subsidies would wreck many large enterprises that had flourished under the communist government.

"I cannot share a view which anticipates a quick rise in unemployment to hundreds of thousands or millions of people," he said in 1990.

He estimated in 1989, with some accuracy, that it would take at least 12 to 14 years for Czechoslovakia's economy to catch up with the more prosperous Western nations.


The Independent (UK)

Sik was the most politically aware of Czech economists; and the best economist among politicians. It was these qualities that made him the chief spokesman for the economic reform lobby; and which helped him form a successful alliance with political reformers in the leadership of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (CPCz) as well as with the disgruntled Slovak political establishment.

After the crushing of the Prague Spring, Sik wrote an interesting and accessible economics book, The Third Way, proposing an alternative to Western capitalism and Soviet-style command economy. The title was later "stolen" to describe a very different political economic agenda advanced by Tony Blair, et al.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Remembering the Hebron Riots

The Forward

Seventy-five years ago, a two-week orgy of pogroms took place in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Safed, Hebron and a number of smaller locales in British-ruled Palestine, at the end of which 83 Jews had been killed and hundreds wounded.

Pogroms are not spontaneous events, and those of August 1929 were no exception. The affair began August 15, Tisha B'Av, when a few hundred Jerusalem schoolchildren held a flag-waving demonstration at the Western Wall — allegedly inciting a group of Arabs to violence. The next day, following Friday afternoon worship, 2,000 Arabs burst out of the Mosque of Omar on the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, and came down to the Western Wall, where they chased off the few Jews who were around, beat the shammes, tore up prayer books and burned the little notes stuck in the wall by Jews. It was suspected that the speaker in the mosque that day had incited Arab worshippers to violence. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, later admitted as much.

Hebron caught the worst of it — 68 dead — mainly because the Jewish population there was not part of the Zionist movement, whose settlements fared far better because of their clandestine defense units. The Hebron community was made up of a long-settled Sephardic community, as well as many younger religious Jews who had gone there to study in a branch of the Slobodka Yeshiva, the famed Lithuanian mussar institution. The carnage in Hebron was particularly ugly, the mobs having sliced a variety of body parts off of their victims. Just over a half-dozen of the victims were American kids from New York and Chicago who had come to study at the famed yeshiva.


The situation was also especially bad in Safed, another religious community that dated back to its heyday as a center for kabbala in the 16th century. Nearly two-dozen Jews were killed there, and the Jewish quarter was burned down, leaving hundreds homeless. In Jerusalem, sporadic violence went on for days. Outlying neighborhoods were evacuated and looted by Arab mobs. Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon's house was ransacked, and his manuscripts were burned.

The British were slow in quelling the violence, but when they did put their foot down, it came down hard: Dozens of Arabs were killed. But Palestine's Jews were furious and concluded that without the ability to defend themselves, the Jewish community would be doomed.

A month after the pogroms began, the secretary of the Arab Executive Committee, Awni Abdul Hadi, confided to a New York Times reporter that not only were the attacks pre-planned, but also that his organization was responsible for the incitement. He also threatened worse pogroms if the Balfour Declaration was not rescinded.

Nader Falls Short in Missouri

KTTV reports

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's first attempt to get on Missouri's general election ballot on Nov. 2 has failed. The secretary of state's office says Nader supporters failed to get the 10,000 valid signatures they need.

The secretary of state says the group submitted 12,893 signatures last month, although the group says it submitted 14,003 signatures. At any rate, county clerks across the state could only verify 9,006 valid signatures of registered voters.

Spence Jackson, a spokesman for the secretary of state, says a court challenge is allowed within 10 days. Kevin Zeese, a spokesman for Nader's presidential campaign, says campaign officials are evaluating the possibility of an appeal. Another option is for Nader to meet the deadline of Oct. 22 to qualify as a write-in candidate in Missouri.


The New York Times has a longer piece on Nader's problems elsewhere, including Pennsylvania.

Samuel C. Stretton, a Philadelphia elections lawyer who represents Mr. Nader, said Wednesday that he was "getting nervous" because his own spot check of the signatures was showing that, just as the Democrats had charged, many were not those of registered voters.

"They've put together one of the best organized petition challenges I've ever seen," Mr. Stretton said of the Democrats. He said he would ask the court on Thursday to order a check of the signatures and that if a large percentage were not those of registered voters, he would recommend that Mr. Nader drop the case.

Likud rebuffs Sharon Again

Ariel Sharon is very far from being one of my favorite politicians, but it is increasingly cleat that he has made a major break with the hard-liners in his Likud Party. Some have treated Sharon's disengagement plan as nothing more than a charade. I don't think this is correct.

This is what happened according to Haaretz


The crushing rebuff at the Wednesday night convention came in votes over a proposal by Likud "rebels" to block the Labor Party from joining a unity government.

Convention members were asked to vote on two resolutions - one from Sharon, authorizing him to carry out coalition negotiations with any Zionist party, and a competing one from Minister Uzi Landau rejecting a coalition with Labor. Sharon's own proposal was defeated by just 5 votes - but Landau's passed 843 to 612, a majority of 231. The votes were hand counted following a computer breakdown.


Sharon did gather the support of a majority of Likud's members of the Knesset (24 out of 25).

I can't claim to be an expert on Israeli politics, but it seems clear to me that a split in Likud is inevitable. Formed in 1973, representing conservative powers in Israeli politics. Its name is Hebrew for "unity".The uniting factor for Likud was the idea that the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, Gaza, the West Bank and Golan Heights should be included into the state of Israel. Just as there was no truth in Izvestia and no news in Ivestia, there is now no unity in Likud.

This is shown clearly in the final paragraphs of the Haaretz article.
But Minister without Portfolio Landau, one of the leading opponents of both disengagement and Labor's entry into the coalition, rejected both the allegation of boycott and the allegation that he and his fellows were a rebellious faction. It is Sharon, he charged, who has repeatedly "scorned" the Likud and its historic path - by terming Israel's presence in the territories an "occupation," by calling for a Palestinian state, and by ignoring the decision of Likud members, who rejected his disengagement plan in the May referendum.

Sharon's desire to bring in Labor is merely one more example of the prime minister's utter contempt for his own party, Landau said. As for Labor, "we aren't rejecting a party - we're rejecting a path," he said.

Labor's presence in the government, he said, would mean a return to the 1967 borders, the division of Jerusalem, an end to the army's determined war on terror, and the return of both Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres to the center of the political stage.

"We can't split the national camp," he said. "To vote for bringing in the Labor Party is to commit suicide." Ministers Tzipi Livni and Gideon Ezra also spoke on Sharon's behalf. Landau's backers included Deputy Minister Michael Ratzon and MKs Michael Eitan and David Levy.

Our Fanatics and Theirs

Marc Cooper of LA Weekly and the Nation, translator for Salvador Allendae has some interesting comments about the strange relunctance of American leftists to criticize Islamic fundamentalists.

I was watching, by accident, the opening ceremonies of the Olympics the other night and was struck by the language used by the NBC network anchors. As the U.S. delegation came onto the field and was met with a thunderous ovation, the NBC guy said (paraphrasing closely): “The Greeks clearly distinguish between the American people and the American government – most of them oppose U.S. foreign policy but they love and admire individual Americans.”

Fabulous! Is this the historic vindication of the New Left? For this is precisely the same language we old SDSers used back in the Sixties to describe how the Vietnamese felt about the Yankees who were napalming their fields (and sons).

Now, I wonder if we are allowed the same latitude in describing Islamic terrorism. Some of my friends on the Left are still having some trouble admitting such a thing exists – at least as some form of agency independent of U.S. imperialism.

And those who do, still have tons of trouble criticizing Islam itself. This is awful strange given the supposedly overwhelming secular nature of the American Left. The same people who can publicly, and rightfully, slap around the Pope and the institutionality of the entire international Catholic con game all of a sudden go mum when someone suggests that Islamic terrorism might – to some degree, just maybe, perhaps, sorta-kinda- have its roots in Islam itself!

Oh, heavens no. A thousand curses on your 72 virgins! To criticize Islam itself is ipso facto racist.

But are you sure? Why can’t we apply our Vietnam/U.S. Olympic Team standard to this question? Something like: we clearly distinguish between individual Moslems some of whom we love and admire on the one hand and on the other the obscurantist traditions of a major religion which refuses a modernizing reformation and which conspires to keep hundreds of millions (especially women) in spiritual and even physical bondage?

Cooper recommends this interview with Bahram Soroush, an Iranian leftist civil rights activist living in the U.K. He was interviewed for satellite TV on a program produced by the Iranian Communist Workers Communist Party.

Polly Toynbee raised some similar issues in a recent Guardian column.

It is bizarre how the left has espoused the extreme Islamist cause: as "my enemy's enemy", Muslims are the best America-haters around. The hard left relishes terrorism: a fondness for explosions and the smell of martyrs' blood excites their revolutionary zeal, without sharing a jot of religious belief.

More alarming is the softening of the brain of liberals and progressives. They increasingly find it easier to go with the flow that wants to mollify Muslim sentiment, for fear of joining the anti-immigration thugs who want to drive them from the land.

The liberal dilemma over Islam is not unlike the prevarications of some over communism in the cold war. To attack the atrocities of the reds put you in bed with the anti-socialist Thatcher/Reagan red-baiters. What would George Orwell write about Islam now? He would probably ignore what others said about the company he kept, shrug off those claiming him for their own ends and plough his own furrow, speaking out against both the danger of religious fanaticism and the Muslim-hating racists - the polite ones in Times immigration panic articles or those with steel-toed boots on the streets of northern towns.

Irving Howe had developed the concept of "substitute proletariat" to analyze some of the strange and strangely attractive diversions of the New Left of the 60s and 70s. I think that something very similar is going on today.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Politics on Music Row

The Nashville Tennessean took a look at politics in the music industry, especially country music.
Should Singers Strike a Political Note? includes interviews with Merle Haggard, Nancy Griffith, Sara Evans, Martina McBride, and others.

It's more dangerous now,'' said Merle Haggard, whose hippie-baiting, Vietnam-era songs Okie From Muskogee and Fightin' Side of Me still rank with his most popular works. ''It seems to be more damaging to the females: Seems like people don't want them to say anything.''

Don't stereotype,

Toby Keith, whose Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue song became a military rallying cry, is often assumed to be a Republican, though in a recent Tennessean interview he expressed mixed feelings about the Iraq war and said he was actually a registered Democrat
.


Walzer on War

"we are doomed to continue arguing about war; it is a necessary activity of democratic citizens."


The Forward has an excerpt from the introduction to Michael Walzer's Arguing About War, to be be published this month by Yale University Press, a collection of Walzer's essays on the contemporary war issues since his classic Just and Unjust Wars.

Tim Garden, a former UK Air Marshall reviewing AAW in The New Statesman, had this intriguing comment.
Just-war theory has conventionally divided into two parts: the decision to go to war (jus ad bellum); and the conduct of war itself (jus in bello). Walzer proposes a third consideration, jus post bellum, which he defines as justice after the war.
Add it to your must-read list.


Charter Schools Flunking

New York Times ( registration required):

The first national comparison of test scores among children in charter schools and regular public schools shows charter school students often doing worse than comparable students in regular public schools.

The findings, buried in mountains of data the Education Department released without public announcement, dealt a blow to supporters of the charter school movement, including the Bush administration.

The data shows fourth graders attending charter schools performing about half a year behind students in other public schools in both reading and math. Put another way, only 25 percent of the fourth graders attending charters were proficient in reading and math, against 30 percent who were proficient in reading, and 32 percent in math, at traditional public schools.

Although the Bush administration has been a huge proponent of charter schools, they apparently didn't bother to actually look at the data. It only came to light after sleuthing by the American Federation of Teachers.

The results, based on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly known as the nation's report card, were unearthed from online data by researchers at the American Federation of Teachers, which provided them to The New York Times. The organization has historically supported charter schools but has produced research in recent years raising doubts about the expansion of charter schools.

...

Federal officials said they did not intend to hide the performance of charter schools, and denied any political motivation for failing to publicly disclose that the data were available. "I guess that was poor publicity on our part," said Robert Lerner, the federal commissioner for education statistics. Mr. Lerner said further analysis was needed to put the data in its proper context.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Election Fraud by Consumer Advocate

Widespread forgery has been found by the Service Employees International Union fraud and forgery investigation into Nader's petition for the Oregon ballot. At a press conference this morning, SEIU released more evidence. The key item: SEIU Local 49 contacted 269 people whose names were on petition sheets - and only 32% report that they actually signed the Nader petitions. The key quote, from SEIU veep Alice Dale: "This fraud is too pervasive to have been committed without at least the complicity of the signature gatherers."

Meanwhile, it appears that Ralph failed to gather enough signatures to get on the South Carolina ballot.

Voter Suppression in Florida

Bob Herbert's column in the New York Times

State police officers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando and interrogated them as part of an odd "investigation" that has frightened many voters, intimidated elderly volunteers and thrown a chill over efforts to get out the black vote in November.

The officers, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which reports to Gov. Jeb Bush, say they are investigating allegations of voter fraud that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March.

Officials refused to discuss details of the investigation, other than to say that absentee ballots are involved. They said they had no idea when the investigation might end, and acknowledged that it may continue right through the presidential election.

"We did a preliminary inquiry into those allegations and then we concluded that there was enough evidence to follow through with a full criminal investigation," said Geo Morales, a spokesman for the Department of Law Enforcement.

The state police officers, armed and in plain clothes, have questioned dozens of voters in their homes. Some of those questioned have been volunteers in get-out-the-vote campaigns.

I asked Mr. Morales in a telephone conversation to tell me what criminal activity had taken place.

"I can't talk about that," he said.

I asked if all the people interrogated were black.

"Well, mainly it was a black neighborhood we were looking at -- yes,'' he said.

He also said, "Most of them were elderly."

When I asked why, he said, "That's just the people we selected out of a random sample to interview."

No Moderates at GOP Convention sez Ariana

Ariana Huffington:

If I read one more article talking about all the "moderate Republicans" who are going to be speaking at the upcoming GOP convention, I'm going to have a seizure.

Let's get one thing straight: anyone who is backing George Bush in the 2004 election is, by definition, not a moderate -- no matter how warm and fuzzy their position on abortion and gay rights.

Social issues like choice, gay rights, and gun control are not the defining issues of this campaign. The defining issues are: how the war on terror is being prosecuted, the wisdom (to say nothing of sanity and morality) of slashing taxes in a time of war, and the blatant irresponsibility the GOP has shown by saddling our children with a national debt that will reach $12 trillion over the next ten years. Period.

And if someone is backing Bush on these fundamental issues -- as "big tent Republicans" Rudy Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are -- then they are immoderate fanatics, just like the man they are supporting. The rest is just a swing-voter-friendly smoke screen.


Sunday, August 15, 2004

Israel Shamir Exposed by Searchlight

Searchlight, the leading British anti-racist, anti-fascist magazine had an interesting report in its May issue.

A man who claims to be one of Israel’s leading intellectuals is also a Swedish antisemitic writer. Israel Shamir presents himself on his website as a leading Russian-Israeli intellectual and a writer, translator and journalist. But in 2001 he changed his name to J├Âran Jermas and has surrounded himself in Sweden and Norway with antisemites and strange conspiracy theorists.

Shamir also claims to have occupied a string of important positions as a translator of classical works and to have worked as a journalist in several heavyweight media institutions, including for the major Israeli paper, Haaretz. However, when Monitor started investigating Shamir’s past last year, it found no evidence that Shamir had ever held these positions. His supposed job as Moscow correspondent for Haaretz turned out to consist of just a few freelance articles.

The Swedish Census Registry does give a few clues about Shamir and his movements. It shows that his name was entered onto the Registry in October 1984 and he later obtained Swedish citizenship. According to the register he still lives in Dalagatan, Stockholm, not in Jaffa, Israel, as he publicly claims. Shamir’s first wife and two sons also live in Stockholm.

In July 1993, Shamir emigrated to Russia and later to Israel, where he married again in July 1994. He and his new wife returned to Sweden in autumn 1998.

Shamir, who claims to be one of Israel’s leading intellectuals, has concealed the fact that he has lived in Sweden for a long time. Another strange fact is that there are hardly any references to Shamir on the internet before 2001, the same year in which he changed his name. This was a strange time to do this, just as he was being noticed and had started to publish his works under the name of Israel Shamir.

(Read the entire article here)

Even though Shamir has been denounced as a raving anti-Semtic loon by such pro-Palestinian activists as Nigel Parry and Ali Abunimah and Hussein Ibish, he has been enthusiatically embraced by much of the Arab American community and pro-Palestinian, including radical leftists, in Europe.

Back in 2001, Parry wrote "an increasing amount of the tone and content was observed by more than a few to fall into what could -- if this hadn't been an Israeli Jew writing it -- best be described as a classic anti-Semitic repertoire. Shamir's identity as a Jew initially enabled people to excuse this, until the whole mess began to unravel as more and more questions were asked."

So it turns out that Shamir is not an Israeli and apparently is not Jewish in any real sense. He defines himself as a Christian.

While it is positive that Parry, Abunimah, and Ibish rejected Shamir, by their own words they were willing to work with him, even after they knew he was a extremist.

Reporting on a three hour meeting with Shamir in Washington DC in 2001, Ibish wrote
I strongly felt that subsequent offerings have tended to the crude bashing of Jews in general and the implication that the United States, if not the world, is controlled by some sort of Jewish cabal. Also, it seemed curious that no one had heard of him, if he was, as he claimed,
"one of Israel's most respected journalists."
In other words I went to the meeting with serious concerns and doubts, but also with a good deal of hope that we could clear things up and lay the basis for developing a working relationship.
Even after Shamir outlined his plans to "marginalize" American Jewish and to portray Ariel Sharon as the anti-Christ to fundamentalist churches, Ibish expressed only a rhetorical difference with Shamir.
I spoke with him at length about the need for him to moderate his outrageous language (remember this is before the Tufts speech and the Easter Message) and to be aware of the sensitivities of political discourse in the United States. I tried to explain why I had a problem with some of his rhetoric

Umansky on Cuba

Check out Eric Umansky's diary of his recent week-long visit to Cuba in the on-line magazine SLATE. Umanksy has done his homework and doesn't fall into the apologetics and Fidel-worship of many visitors. This is world's removed from the sad tales chronicled by David Caute (The Fellow Travellors) and Paul Hollander (Political Pilgrims.)

Umansky's entry for Friday was especially interesting--a report on a meeting with human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez.

Sanchez criticizes the Bush administration:

...like everybody else I've spoken to—dissidents or otherwise—Sanchez rails against the U.S. embargo and the Bush administration's hardline policies. "The White House's policies are causing us—the opposition—to lose," he says. "There's an old saying, 'The best ally of a dictator is a foreign enemy.' The result is that the White House has facilitated repression here."

Sanchez picks up a copy of the State Department's recent report titled, "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba."

"Look at the chapter one," he says, pointing to the title: " 'Hastening Cuba's Transition.' "

He waves the paper in disgust. "In Cuba, there's a great nationalist feeling," he says. "The Bush administration just doesn't understand Latin America."

Flipping to the acknowledgements page, Sanchez starts jabbing his finger at the names of Daniel Fisk and Roger Noriega, two hard-liners who helped oversee the report. "These two have never been to Cuba; they've never asked us dissidents what we think. We feel like hostages to their policy."

And he criticizes Castro:

Sanchez starts talking about Cuba itself. He shows me two maps, one of prisons in Cuba before the revolution and one now. The new map shows perhaps 10 times as many prisons. "We never used to be a country of crime," says Sanchez. "Now we have one of the largest incarceration rates in the world." Thousands—mostly suspected prostitutes, he says—are jailed under a law against "dangerousness," a vague Minority Report-type provision that essentially criminalizes intentions.

Sanchez's work is well-regarded. But it's impossible to verify his numbers, since, as he points out, Cuba keeps its incarceration rates secret and prohibits inspections by human rights groups or the Red Cross—the only country in the Western hemisphere to do so.

"Welcome to our gulag," Sanchez says, pointing to the map. As others have explained to me, it's not that there are thousands of political prisoners. It's that so much of regular life—from selling a car to owning a VCR—has been made illegal. So just about everybody breaks the law. They are pushed into doing so because of the absurdly low state salaries (about 260 pesos or $10 per month). Cubans get free monthly rations—in addition to free education and health care—but it's not enough, so just about everybody in one way or another works in the black market. (One example: When I was driving, I saw farmers offering peanuts along the side of the road. Then, at one point, they ran off into the bushes. Turns out a police car was driving by.)


White Racist Selected to Advise Arizona Anti-Immigrant Ballot Measure

In a new special report released on August 6 the Center for New Community warned Arizona public and civic leaders that the organization Protect Arizona Now has selected a white supremacist leader to chair its national advisory board.

Dr. Virginia Abernethy is a leader in several white supremacist organizations including the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC).

The racist Council of Conservative Citizens is the modern incarnation of the Citizens Councils of America, more commonly known as the White Citizens Councils. The Citizens Councils of America fought to maintain segregation and actively promoted white supremacy. In addition to her leadership in the CCC Abernethy also currently serves on the editorial board of the racist and anti-Semitic journal, The Occidental Quarterly.

The Occidental Quarterly, first published in the fall of 2001 promotes the belief that "Immigration into the United States should be restricted to selected people of European ancestry," according to the Quarterly's statement of principles.

"Abernethy serves alongside a virtual who's who of white supremacist intellectuals," said The Rev. David Ostendorf executive director of the Center for New Community. "Her fellow editorial board members include unabashed white nationalists, anti-Semites, proponents of eugenics, and even an individual who has published over a dozen articles for a Holocaust denial magazine called the Journal for Historical Review," he said.

"With charges of racism already swirling around I-200, the controversial ‘Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act’ ballot initiative, the statewide anti-immigrant group supporting the initiative Protect Arizona Now (PAN) has taken a surprising step of choosing a leading figure in the white supremacist movement to chair its new national advisory board," so begins the newly released report entitled Protect Arizona Now Selects White Supremacists Leader to Chair National Advisory Board by the Center for New Community exposing Abernethy’s involvement with Protect Arizona Now.

The report documents the full extent of Abernethy's connections to white supremacist organizations and alerts both public and civic leaders to the dangers of such an appointment. The report is available on the Center for New Community website at http://www.newcomm.org/pan.pdf.

"This is a critical opportunity for citizens of Arizona to show that bigotry has no place in public policy initiatives," said Center for New Community’s field director, Eric Ward. "PAN’s appointment of Dr. Virginia Abernethy, an individual active in the leadership of multiple white supremacist organizations, has numerous disturbing ramifications. It legitimizes racism and xenophobia in the political arena, helping to “mainstream” white supremacy. It conveys respectability on white supremacist organizations. And, as California’s Proposition 187 campaign demonstrated, it forebodes the likelihood of an even uglier and more divisive situation in Arizona," Ward said.

<>The Center for New Community is a national organization dedicated to building community, justice and equality based in Chicago, Illinois.

This is one of ballot measures circulated by Ralph Nader's signature gatherers in Arizona.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Roberts Flip-Flops on Goss

Pat Roberts then:

“Porter Goss? That trial balloon went up, and Sen. [John] Rockefeller [D-W.Va.] got out his BB gun and popped it out of the sky…We do not want a partisan fight right before the election…. Apparently, if you have the vice chairman firmly opposed to the nominee, I don’t think that’s a very good starting point.”
--July 14, 2004

Pat Roberts now:

"I don't think we can afford to wait…We have a known quantity. He has experience. He has expertise. I've known him for 16 years. I think he is a good pick."
--August 11, 2004

The myth of a church-going gap

Discussion of religion and the 2004 politics has in large part focused around what has become the weekly church-going gap. Polls have shown a remarkable difference between those who attend church weekly and those who attend more often.

The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll for example shows Bush leading Kerry among registered voters who are weekly churchgoers by 57% to 39%, while Kerry has a nearly equally big lead among registered voters who seldom or never attend church, 57% to 41%.

It turns out this gap is really not what it seems. The gap among women who go to church every week is much smaller--52% Bush to 42% for Kerry.

Male regular churchgoers support Bush by a nearly 2-to-1 margin over Kerry. Among white males, t he gap is even larger -- 70% of registered voters in this group support Bush, 27%
Kerry.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Which Side is the ISO on?; Iraqi Left Asks

I found this very interesting article by Mahmood Ketabchi, an Iraqi leftist active in the Workers Communist Party of Iraq. It presents a perspective that deserves the attention of the Western left.

Ketabchi criticizes the stance of the International Socialist Organization. The ISO (in the US) and especially its British cousin, the Socialist Workers Party (which shouldn't be confused with the American SWP) , have played leading roles in the anti-Iraq war effort. In the process the SWP has built an alliance with the UK wing of the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood.

The WCPI is playing an active role in the Union of Unemployed in Iraq (UUI) and the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq, and the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq. (It should not be confused with the Iraqi Communist Party which has evolved into a sort of social democratic party and which has participated in the provisional government.)

As usual, under the rubric of “supporting the opposition to the U.S. Occupation of Iraq,” the ISO continues to deny class and class struggle in Iraq, and lends its rabid support to Iraqi nationalist and Islamist forces. In the entire article of 2,260 words, there is not even one word about Iraqi working class struggle for freedom and equality or the tremendous efforts by Iraqi workers who are fighting under incredibly harsh and brutal conditions to organize their ranks against the US occupation and capitalist exploitation of Iraqi workers. You will not find one word about the women’s liberation movement that opposes the US government, violence against women, misogynism, and all brutal laws and regulations that turn women into subhumans. There is nothing about the squatters’ movement for decent housing and a better life. There is no word of communism, socialism, unionism, workers’ councils, neighborhood committees, workers rights, women’s freedom, equality, secularism, etc.


In the U.S. and the West, it is only cultural relativists and bigots like Bush and his cronies, who divide Iraqi society along lines of ethnicity, religion, and tribalism, that can deny the class reality of Iraqi society. In Iraq, it is the Iraqi bourgeoisie that appears as the nationalist movement, Islamist forces, tribal heads, and agents of the CIA and the Pentagon that deny and reject workers and their struggle.


And this

Why has the ISO turned itself into an apologist and rabid defender of “the resistance movement” which is carried out buy reactionary nationalists and brutal Islamist forces? Why are they ignoring Iraqi workers and their struggle, the women’s liberation movement, etc? Iraqi workers, through their unions and councils, have repeatedly opposed the US occupation of Iraq and demanded an immediate withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. Is this opposition of any importance to the ISO? Have mass protests of workers, continuous strike actions, shop floor activities, unionism and general assembly movement any value for the ISO? Aren’t these struggles targeted against the US government, Halliburton, Bechtel, etc? Is it of any importance to the ISO that Iraqi unemployed workers across Iraq became a thorn in the side of the U.S. occupation authority? Which side is the ISO on, Iraqi workers or the Iraqi bourgeoisie? It is quite a shame for an organization that calls itself “International Socialist” to ignore workers and their daily endeavors for a better life and to become a mouthpiece and spokesperson for Islamists and Nationalists.


And

Eric Ruder [of the ISO] goes on to tell us that a victory by the Iraqi resistance over the US is a victory for “our side”:

“If the Iraqi resistance drives the U.S. out of Iraq, it would be a major setback for Bush’s agenda and the agenda of U.S. imperialism. This would be a tremendous victory for our side--making it much more difficult for the U.S. to choose a new target in the Middle East or elsewhere in trying to impose its will.”

Suppose the the ISO’s wish comes true and the much beloved and eulogized “Iraqi resistance” defeats the U.S. government. What happens to Iraq thereafter is not an issue for the ISO. A victorious Iraqi bourgeoisie will viciously turn Iraq into an unbearable hell for the Iraqi masses. How would ISO respond to that? What will they tell Iraqi workers? Would they say, “We supported the criminal Islamists and nationalists to come to power?”


And

The “side” the ISO is talking about is for sure not the workers’ side, the side of socialists and communists. An American defeat at the hands of reactionary nationalist and Islamist forces in Iraq, considering the balance of social and class forces in the U.S., may even lead to the rise of a brutal and more right wing bourgeoisie force in the U.S. The U.S. defeat, as ISO claims, will not necessarily benefit workers and socialist movement in the U.S.


Two other artilces by Ketabchi Debunking Left Nationalism and Bourgeoisie criticism of Imperialism” and “ISO: National Isolationism or International Solidarity” can be found at http://www.wpiraq.org/english/index.htm

Oklahoma's Extremist Senate Candidate

Tom Cobun, republican US Senate candidate from Oklahama,

"The gay community has infiltrated the very centers of power in every area across this country, and they wield extreme power. ... That agenda is the greatest threat to our freedom that we face today. Why do you think we see the rationalization for abortion and multiple sexual partners? That's a gay agenda.'"

He's also the guy who said

"I favor the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life."

He also the guy George Bush picked to head up the national AIDS commission.

Oklahoma voters will have a chance to reject Cobun in November, by voting for the moderate Democrat Brad Carson, who is even or slightly ahead in the polls.

Nader Falls Short in California,

San Francsico Chronicle reports


Former consumer advocate Ralph Nader appears to have fallen far short of the signatures required to be an independent presidential candidate in California, but his supporters -- insisting it's not over -- say they'll ramp up efforts to get him on the state ballot as a Green Party candidate.

The Nader campaign had turned in just 82,923 signatures to state officials as of the 7 p.m. deadline Friday -- just more than half of the 153, 035 valid signatures required to put him on the ballot as an independent candidate, according to the secretary of state. Monterey and Mono counties will not report their numbers until Monday but were unlikely to produce enough signatures to qualify Nader for the ballot, state officials said.

Officials in the Nader campaign, citing the difficulty and cost in gathering signatures in the nation's most populous state, said they suspended their signature-gathering efforts last week and did not expect to meet the requirements for the California ballot.

But in a move that has caused a deep rift in the state Green Party, backers of Nader and his vice presidential candidate, longtime Green Party member Peter Camejo, are now trying to get the ticket on the California ballot under the auspices of the Greens.

Nader and Camejo and their followers are putting forward all sorts of rationalizations for this blatant power and ego trip. But it is time for a little honesty. Nader made a decision to bypass the Green Party which would have assured him widespread ballot access. He did little to built the Green Party or any political institution to the left of the DP in the last four years. He announced his candidacy without any sort of real accountability. There is nothing resembling the intellectuals and artists for Browder which the CP was able to assemble in 1932. Nader is accountable to no-one.

Ted Glick on Nader's California Maneuver

(Ted Glick is a long-time, New Jersey based, left activist who has been involved with the Green Party. He is National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive Politics Network, www.ippn.org)
the Nader/Camejo campaign, having failed in their efforts in California either to get the Presidential nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party or to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot as an independent, has launched an effort to take away the ballot line of the
Green Party's nominee, David Cobb, and put Nader on instead. They are doing this even though it has been national Green Party policy for years that in order to be affiliated with the national Green Party a state party has to agree to support whoever is chosen as the Presidential nominee by the national party.

In other words, the Nader/Camejo campaign is willing to risk disaffiliation, at least, if not a seriously divided Green Party nationally, for the short-term purpose of getting Nader on the California ballot. ...

I really hope that what is happening is not an opening salvo in a less-than-principled campaign on the part of **some of** the pro-Nader forces within the Green Party to confuse and disrupt the efforts of the Cobb/LaMarche campaign, a kind-of "rule or ruin" approach to politics. The purpose of this destructive campaign would be to either lay the basis for a move to "take over" the Green Party after November 2 or, if that can't happen, to split away as many individual Greens as possible and establish a "Ralph Nader party." If this is what is really going on, they may find that their tactics will backfire on them. There are many Greens who support Nader who do not and will not support such an effort.





The Return of David Duke

Leonard Zeskind, one of the best right-wing watchers, has an interesting brief report in The Nation on the return of David Duke, who got of federal prison just before Memorial Day.

As a movement, white nationalism is at a turning point. The militias of the 1990s have largely disappeared. Skinheads that once served as street soldiers for the Aryan set currently behave more like a group of music industry entrepreneurs. Moreover, after Pat Buchanan led the Reform Party off a cliff in the 2000 elections, the possibility of a viable third party outlet has disappeared. In its place, a constellation of neo-Confederate and anti-immigrant activists and think-tankers are carving out a twenty-first-century white nationalism--without reference to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that have traditionally animated such enterprises. Into this vortex re-enters David Duke. Target the Jews, he said in New Orleans. While we're at it, let us sign a compact: "no enemies on the right" and "zero tolerance for violence."...

The newest initiative, however, is also the oldest: Go after the Jews. On this point, Duke is the reigning master. In 1998, he self-published a 736-page screed titled My Awakening. Then he sold foreign-language translations of the anti-Jewish chapters--which he relabeled Jewish Supremacism--and spent two years traveling in Italy, Russia, Ukraine, and other points East and Middle East. Duke now claims that over 500,000 copies are circulating in the Russian federation alone. The reprint has already been translated into nine languages, he told his friends in New Orleans, and when it goes into Arabic, sales "will go into the millions." In a strange twist, Duke now believes that Russia might be the "salvation of the white race." The one-time Communist enemy is increasingly "anti-Zionist," he claimed.

Wingnuts Smear McCain

Not satified with slandering John Kerry, the right-wing is now smearing John McCain for the sin of having denounced the Swift Boat charges.

Joseph Farah "Why McCain defends Kerry"

Slime, pure slime.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Evangelicals and Messianic Jews

Looks like some evangelicalsare as insensitive to Jewish sensibilities as the main-line Presbyterians who not only called for divestment from Israel, but gave increased support to a sco-called Messianic Jewish congregation.


Eric Greenberg "Evangelicals Seen Forging Alliance With 'Messianic Jews'" (Forward August 6) reports.

The founder of a fundamentalist Christian men's movement plans to forge a new alliance with "messianic Jews" that could undermine crucial relations between pro-Israel Evangelical Christians and the Jewish community.

Bill McCartney, the former University of Colorado football coach who in 1990 created Promise Keepers, a national Christian men's ministry, is planning to launch "Road to Jerusalem." The group is designed to strengthen ties between Evangelical Christians and messianic Jews — a term used to describe people who believe that Jesus is the messiah, but continue to identify as Jews and perform Jewish rituals. Jewish organizations frequently have accused messianic Jews
adopting misleading tactics in their attempts to win over other Jews.

In recent years, Jewish organizations generally have succeeded in convincing many evangelical groups to refrain from working with messianic Jews. This arrangement has made it significantly easier for American Jewish organizations and Israeli officials to embrace evangelical support for Israel.

Some observers, however, say that a new era could be dawning, with Evangelical Christian groups more willing to risk their good relations with Jews and Israel by allying themselves with the messianists.

"What I'm sensing now, and I'm concerned about it, is a deliberate effort on the part of some evangelical groups to affirm their messianic components," said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president and founder of International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Eckstein, whose organization raises money for Israel each year from evangelical donors, said that he was unfamiliar with McCartney's efforts, but has seen hints of such a trend for months.


Some neo-cons like Daniel Pipes have been entertaining the fantasy of an ethnic re-alignment with Muslims flocking to the Democrats and Jews moving wholesale to the GOP. Never likely in my opinion. McCartney project will make it even more of a pipedream.

DNA of the Social Gospel

Peter Steinfels has an interesting piece in the NY Times (registration required, but free)

A century ago, Walter Rauschenbusch was the leading thinker of what was first known as "social Christianity" and then simply as the social gospel. The textbooks say that by 1918, the social gospel, like Rauschenbusch himself, was on its deathbed; but in fact its genes lived on in religious responses to the Depression and helped shape the civil rights movement of the 1960's.

Bush Blows Cover of Double Agent

The Bush administration has blown the cover of one of the most important assets inside al-Qaeda that the US has ever had. It was bad enough when they blew the cover of Joe Wilson's wife, an undercover CIA agent who had worked on stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction. This, which also appears to be a violation of Section 421 of the US Code, is infintely more craven and damaging to US security.

Reuters reports:


U.S. officials providing justification for anti-terrorism alerts revealed details about a Pakistani secret agent, and confirmed his name while he was working under cover in a sting operation, Pakistani sources said on Friday.

A Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, who was arrested in Lahore secretly last month, had been actively cooperating with intelligence agents to help catch al Qaeda operatives when his name appeared in U.S. newspapers.

After his capture he admitted being an al Qaeda member and agreed to send e-mails to his contacts," a Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters. "He sent encoded e-mails and received encoded replies. He's a great hacker and even the U.S. agents said he was a computer whiz."

Juan Cole asks

Why in the world would Bush administration officials out a double agent working for Pakistan and the US against al-Qaeda? In a way, the motivation does not matter. If the Reuters story is true, this slip is a major screw-up that casts the gravest doubts on the competency of the administration to fight a war on terror. Either the motive was political calculation, or it was sheer stupidity. They don't deserve to be in power either way.

One possible answer was provided by two little noticed reports in SALON which seem to indicate the Bush administration has been more interested in doling out patronage slots to its political allies than in expertise and competence in the Department of Homeland Security.

How Secure in the Department of Homeland Security? (June 22)

The policy director for the Department of Homeland Security's intelligence division was briefly removed from his job in March when the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered he had failed to disclose his association with Abdurahman Alamoudi, a jailed American Muslim leader. Alamoudi was indicted last year on terrorism-related money-laundering charges and now claims to have been part of a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah. [Alamoudi has since pled guilty.]

After a flurry of interagency meetings, however, Homeland Security decided to leave the policy director, Faisal Gill, in place, according to two government officials with knowledge of the Alamoudi investigation. A White House political appointee with close ties to Republican power broker Grover Norquist and no apparent background in intelligence, Gill has access to top-secret information on the vulnerability of America's seaports, aviation facilities and nuclear power plants to terrorist attacks.

The FBI raised concerns with Homeland Security officials in March after discovering that Gill had failed to list on security clearance documents his work in 2001 with the American Muslim Council, the officials said. The advocacy group, which was controlled by Alamoudi, has been under scrutiny in an investigation of terrorism financing. The lead agent in that investigation works for an arm of Homeland Security. Gill's omission of the information on his "Standard Form 86" national security questionnaire is a potential felony violation. There is no evidence, however, that Gill has taken any action to compromise national security.
There is also this follow-up article (Homeland Security inspector general launches Faisal Gill inquiry).

Now I doubt that Gill had anything to with this leak. It is more likely to have been made by higher-ups or people more in the loop.

Back to Cole's analysis:

So one scenario goes like this. Bush gets the reports that Eisa al-Hindi had been casing the financial institutions, and there was an update as recently as January 2004 in the al-Qaeda file. So this could be a live operation. If Bush doesn't announce it, and al-Qaeda did strike the institutions, then the fact that he knew of the plot beforehand would sink him if it came out (and it would) before the election. So he has to announce the plot. But if he announces it, people are going to suspect that he is wagging the dog and trying to shore up his popularity by playing the terrorism card. So he has to be able to give a credible account of how he got the information. So when the press is skeptical and critical, he decides to give up Khan so as to strengthen his case. In this scenario, he or someone in his immediate circle decides that a mere double agent inside al-Qaeda can be sacrificed if it helps Bush get reelected in the short term.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

A Freudian Slip from Bush

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

President Signs Defense Bill

Marriage Wedge in Australia

Right-wing Austrlian Prime Minister John Howard has taken a page out of the Bush-Christian Right playbook with a Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004.

The bill is seen as a tactic to unsettle the Opposition, and a potential ‘wedge’ to divide Labor voters.

The bill seeks to amend the 1961 Marriage Act to prescribe that ‘marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’. It further amends the 1975 Family Law Act by specifying that ‘certain unions are not marriages.

Bush Fails to Promote International Religious Freedom

Judd Legum reports in Salon ("Persecuted for their faith -- and ignored by the U.S."--premium content)

For the last several years, the State Department has ignored the recommendation of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom -- an independent body created by the IRFA -- to list Saudi Arabia as a country of "particular concern for religious freedom."

Saudi Arabia isn't the only country whose crackdown on religious expression is ignored by the administration. The State Department also turned a blind eye to its own findings on Pakistan, Eritrea and Turkmenistan and failed to list them as countries of "particular concern."

The requirement that the president (via the secretary of state) designate countries that "engage in or tolerate violations" of religious freedom as being of "particular concern" is one of the most significant provisions of the IRFA. Rabbi David Saperstein, the first chairman of the Commission on International Religious Freedom, explained that this process is important because countries "often try to accommodate U.S. concerns to avoid [that] designation." As a result, a number of countries have made changes "that made life noticeably better" for individuals who had been mistreated because of their religion.

The law requires the president to make this designation each year by Sept 1. But the Bush administration's last designation was in March 2003 -- more than 16 months ago. Saperstein says the administration's failure to comply with the timetable of the law "undermines the consistency of diplomatic efforts across the globe and eases the pressure" on countries that persecute people on the basis of religion.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

$8 Billing Missing in Iraq

David Hackworth reports:


I

n Iraq, $8.8 billion is MIA. Serious dough even for the big spenders in Washington, D.C.

A pal in Iraq slipped me a draft Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Inspector General (IG) report dated July 12, 2004, that blisters the CPA for giving the missing billions to Iraqi ministries without appropriate controls.

The IG report concludes: “The CPA did not provide adequate stewardship of over $8.8 billion in DFI (Development Fund for Iraq) funds provided to Iraqi Ministries through the national budget process. Specifically, the CPA did not establish and implement adequate managerial, financial, and contractual controls over the funds to ensure they were used in a transparent manner.”

Offshore bankers must be burning the midnight oil these days with all the new secret accounts pouring out of Baghdad!

And small wonder that L. Paul Bremer went to ground in June after he turned the running of Iraq over to the Iraqis, closed down the CPA and flew home for an attaboy lunch with President Bush at the White House.

I’m not suggesting that he's living high on the hog on some Cayman-type island in the Caribbean, but I am saying that he was the guy in charge in Iraq – and when it came to handling the funds in his trust, the IG report clearly states that he “did not exercise adequate fiduciary responsibility over DFI funds provided to Iraqi Ministries.”

Early in the occupation, one senior CPA adviser asked for help from Bremer’s legal eagles and was blown off with the following double talk: “There are no written guidelines delineating the senior advisers’ role, responsibilities and authorities.” The Iraqi ministers were expected to “assume responsibility for and exercise authority over all recurring, day-to-day functions of their Ministries” as Bremer & Company went about “ncreasingly empowering the interim Ministers, consistent with their capabilities.”

Their capabilities appear to be well worth investigating, since my sources have been telling me for months that Iraqi payrolls have been heavily padded with ghost soldiers and ghost guards.

According to the IG, “CPA did not implement adequate controls to ensure DFI funds were properly used for salaries of Iraqi employees.”

For example, the CPA paid 74,000 guards even though the actual number of guards couldn’t be validated. On one site alone, 8,206 guards were on the payroll, but only 603 warm bodies could be counted. Elsewhere, more than $17 million was allocated to guards and the Iraqi army without one piece of backup paper. Pals in Iraq say this has been standard drill since the birth of “a very dysfunctional” CPA.

They Knew...

We now know that the Bush administration was warned before the war that its Iraq claims were weak.

In “They Knew ,” David Sirota and Christy Harvey present the definitive case that the Bush present the definitive case that the Bush administration knew it was deceiving Americans about the danger posed by Iraq. Sirota and Harvey use government reports and other information on the public record to compile the information and timeline that proves the Bush administration built a case for war by ignoring and twisting its own intelligence reports, and in the process deliberately misleading the American public and the international community.

In the IN THESE TIMES cover story, Sirota and Harvey give an airtight case that the Bush administration knew:

  • Iraq posed no nuclear threat
  • Iraq-uranium claims were not supported
  • There was no hard evidence Iraq had chemical or biological weapons
  • Saddam and bin Laden were not collaborating
  • They were misleading America.

Could the Kerry Plan Work?

Juan Cole suggests that the Kerry plan on Iraq might work, while Laura Secor outlines how diplomacy could defeat terrorism in The American Prospect
(full article available to TAP subscribers.)

The Coming Election Fraud?

A scary article "How They Could Steal the Election This Time", by Ronnie Dugger, in the current Nation:

In November 2 millions of Americans will cast their votes for President in computerized voting systems that can be rigged by corporate or local-election insiders. Some 98 million citizens, five out of every six of the roughly 115 million who will go to the polls, will consign their votes into computers that unidentified computer programmers, working in the main for four private corporations and the officials of 10,500 election jurisdictions, could program to invisibly falsify the outcomes.

The result could be the failure of an American presidential election and its collapse into suspicions, accusations and a civic fury that will make Florida 2000 seem like a family spat in the kitchen. Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's Labor Secretary, has written, "Automated voting machines will be easily rigged, with no paper trails to document abuses." Senator John Kerry told Florida Democrats last March, "I don't think we ought to have any vote cast in America that cannot be traced and properly recounted." Pointing out in a recent speech at the NAACP convention that "a million African-Americans were disenfranchised in the last election," Kerry says his campaign is readying 2,000 lawyers to "challenge any place in America where you cannot trace the vote and count the votes" [see Greg Palast, "Vanishing Votes," May 17].

The potential for fraud and error is daunting. About 61 million of the votes in November, more than half the total, will be counted in the computers of one company, the privately held Election Systems and Software (ES&S) of Omaha, Nebraska. Altogether, nearly 100 million votes will be counted in computers provided and programmed by ES&S and three other private corporations: British-owned Sequoia Voting Systems of Oakland, California, whose touch-screen voting equipment was rejected as insecure against fraud by New York City in the 1990s; the Republican-identified company Diebold Election Systems of McKinney, Texas, whose machines malfunctioned this year in a California election; and Hart InterCivic of Austin, one of whose principal investors is Tom Hicks, who helped make George W. Bush a millionaire.

About a third of the votes, 36 million, will be tabulated completely inside the new paperless, direct-recording-electronic (DRE) voting systems, on which you vote directly on a touch-screen. Unlike receipted transactions at the neighborhood ATM, however, you get no paper record of your vote. Since, as a government expert says, "the ballot is embedded in the voting equipment," there is no voter-marked paper ballot to be counted or recounted. Voting on the DRE, you never know, despite what the touch-screen says, whether the computer is counting your vote as you think you are casting it or, either by error or fraud, it is giving it to another candidate. No one can tell what a computer does inside itself by looking at it; an election official "can't watch the bits inside," says Dr. Peter Neumann, the principal scientist at the Computer Science Laboratory of SRI International and a world authority on computer-based risks.

Feds Fails to Ease Hispanic Voter Registration

Washington Post reports:

Federal promises to make registering to vote easier for Spanish-speaking voters by posting the required forms on the Internet have been lost in translation.

Seven months after the government hired a company to translate the material, and nearly a year after the English version was made available, nothing appeared online.

On Friday evening, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, after questions from The Washington Post, rushed a translated version still under review onto its Web site. But as of yesterday afternoon, the Federal Election Commission did not offer the Spanish version on its site. At issue has been the 33-page National Mail Voter Registration form that allows people to register from anywhere in the country.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Poll : Support for Christian Nation Amendment

George Barna, the evangelical sociologist and pollster, asked questions about "how Christianized do Americans want their country to be?" Interestingly enough, he went beyond the usual questions about creationism, pledge, motto, and commandments, to ask about a long standing, never accomplished goal of some Christians: a constitutional amendment to declare the United States a Christian nation. Some might remember vaguely that Illinois Congressman John Anderson caught some flack because he had co-sponsored a "Christian nation" amendment when he was first elected to the US Congress. Less well known is that the idea of such an amendment goes all the way back to 1844 when Senator and future President James Buchanon. The idea was championed by the National Reform Association, and opposed by the National Liberal League, after the Civil War. So far as I know, an explicit Christian National amendment isn't on the open agenda of any significant Christian Right organization, though a local option and states right versions have been advocated. There was a stealth version of the Christian nationa introduced by Oklahoma Congressman Ernest Istook in 1977. There does appear to be significant support for the idea among evangelicals.

Here's what Barna found;

Americans are opposed to “a constitutional amendment to establish Christianity as the official religion of the United States” by a two-to-one margin (66% oppose, 32% in favor). People with a college degree were only half as likely to support this idea as were those who do not have a college degree (19% vs. 37%, respectively).

In fact, the only population segment that was generally supportive of this proposal was evangelicals, who were twice as likely as other adults to support the idea (66%). A slim majority of non-evangelical born again adults (53%) rejected this idea, while large majorities of notional Christians (72%), people of other faiths (77%) and atheists and agnostics (91%) opposed such an amendment.
Seems to me that this might be an interesting question to ask candidates for Congress.

(The "Christian nation" concept is debunked by Liberty Magazine, a publication of the Seventh Day Adventists, here and here)

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Make or Break Week(s) for Nader

The first two weeks of August could well be a make-or-break test for the credibility of Ralph Nader's quixotic independent candidacy for President. Without the machinery of the national Green Party to get on 51 ballots across the country, Nader has gotten into bed with the dubious remants of Ross Perot's Reform Party, anti-immigrant and anti-clean election forces in Arizona, the Christian Coalition and the Citizens for a Sound Economy in Oregon, and the Republicans Party in Michigan. But will it work--even in the narrow, practical sense.

Nader, if I am up to date, withdrew his Arizona petitions, failed to meet the requirements to get on the ballot in Texas, but is suing to get on the ballot under different requirements. It could be that there other problems in other states.

There is a certain, unstated, minimum of states which Nader must get on the ballot if he is to be to be taken seriously as a national candidate who should be included in polls or debate.

Here are the hurdles facing the Nader campaign in the next two weeks. (Information and quotes from the Nader website and Ballot Access News.)

August 2

Arkansas:

"We need 1,000 valid signatures therefore our goal is 1,600 signatures by Monday"

Maryland

"Need to collect 10,000 valid signatures therefore our goal is to collect 13,500"

August 3

South Dakota

" We need 3,346 valid signatures our goal is 5,000 signatures"

August 4

Connecticut

"Need 7,500 valid signatures therefore our goal 12,000"

Alaska

"need to collect 2,878 valid signatures therefore our goal is to collect 3,800 signatures"

August 6

California

"Need 153,805 valid signatures therefore our goal is 210,000 signatures"

August 11


New Hampshire

"Need to submit 3,000 valid signatures, 1,500 from each of two congressional districts therefore our goal is to collect 4,000 signatures - 2,000 from each district"

August 13

Iowa

"2,400 valid signatures in not less then ten counties (they do not have to be registered voters, but must be qualified to be registered voters)"

States without Coordinators

According the Nader-Camejo campaign website, the Nader folks are still lacking state coordinators in

Alabama
District of Columbia
Florida
Kansas
Maine
North Dakota
Vermont
Wisconsin
Wyoming


Zacharek on The Manchurian Candidate

Stephanie Zacharek, Salon's movie critic, defining herself as a "left patriot" slams Jonathon Demme's remake of The Manchurian Candidate.

Politically speaking, we live in a dangerous world, one in which simplistic slogans have taken the place of nuance, in which thought is discouraged and meek acceptance of any evidence placed before us is rewarded. That explains how we get toothless, gutless, one-note political movies like Jonathan Demme's "The Manchurian Candidate," a picture that purports to have a galvanizing, liberal-minded theme (big business is taking over our country and our lives) but is really just ploddingly pedestrian.

Zacharek praises the original and has something interesting to say about one of FDR's Four Freedoms.

a picture that's sometimes spoken of as if it were just an entertaining anti-McCarthyist relic or a sci-fi-tinged paranoia fantasy. Frankenheimer's "Manchurian Candidate" is a claustrophobic, obsessively controlled meditation on what it means to love your country, and how a certain kind of fear is a necessary component of that love. "Freedom from fear" was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's well-intentioned dreams for Americans, but it was a misguided one: Truly loving your country means fearing for its future, every day and every night, through peacetime as well as war, through moderate administrations as well as radical ones, through quiet times as well as eras clouded by terrorist threats.

She says the basic premise of the remake is mistaken:

One major problem with "The Manchurian Candidate" is that Demme seems to think that in 2004 he can swap a big corporation for the evil Communist foes of the late '50s and early '60s and still preserve the flavor and essential meaning of the original picture. He can't, simply because the first "Manchurian Candidate" isn't about anything as simple as the dangers of anti-Communism: It's a tone poem to democratic ideals, while Demme's movie is just a conventional thriller with a leaden message.

And unlike its predecessor, this new movie is almost completely humorless.

So, the remake is not worth seeing, but by all means, rent the original and, if you're a movie buff pay attention to Stephanie Zacharek. (Check out Rotten Tomatoes on SZ here.)

Remembering the Warsaw Uprising

Thanks to the excellent Harry's Place for calling my attention to these links.

This website is dedicated to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, which took place sixty years ago.

Robert Taylor in the Tribune (This was George Orwell's paper--The Labour wing of the Labour Party, one might say.)

This weekend in the Polish capital, Warsaw, one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century will be commemorated by its people.

It was 60 years ago on August 1 1944, that the city rose up against their hated Nazi oppressors in order to liberate Warsaw from German rule before the arrival of the Red Army, which had just reached the east bank of the River Vistula a stone’s throw away.

For the next two months, Warsaw was turned into a battlefield and charnel house.

Street by street, the German forces recaptured the capital as civilians were murdered in their tens of thousands.

After its surrender on October 2, Adolf Hitler ordered the utter destruction of the city and those Poles who remained alive in its ruins were dispatched to concentration camps.

By the time that Soviet troops entered Warsaw on January 20 1945, the once beautiful Polish capital – often described before the war as the Paris of the east – had been turned into little more than mountains of rubble.

The battle for Warsaw was a heroic moment in modern Polish history.

But not until August 1989 were the Poles able to honour its memory through officially recognised events.

The Soviet Union refused to allow any commemoration and their satellite Communist Governments in Poland made sure that none were held.

Many in the West still confuse the 1944 uprising with the Warsaw ghetto rebellion of the Jews in early 1943.

But it needs to be treated separately and more widely understood as it takes its honourable place alongside the Normandy landings in June of that year and the July 20 failed German plot to assassinate Hitler as one of the final decisive moments of the Second World War.


There is also this worthy story featuring an interview with historian Norman Davis.