Saturday, February 08, 2003

IF YOU SLEEP WITH A SNAKE, DON'T BE SURPRISED WHEN IT BITES YOU

In last year's state elections, Nebraska's AFL-CIO and NEA both stayed neutral rather than endorse the Democrats' candidates. My supposition is that it was because they knew Stormy Dean had no chance at all of getting elected. The withdrawal of support not only guaranteed that Dean wouldn't get elected, but it torpedoed the only viable constitutional candidate Nebraska had. Moreover, the unions at both the state and national level started trying to play footsie with the GOP.

Here's what it has won them:
Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, yesterday disavowed an anti-union fund-raising letter that bears his signature after several union leaders condemned the letter because it accuses "big labor bosses" of seeking to expand their power at the expense of national security.

The letter, which raised money for the National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation, criticized "the union bosses' drive to use the national emergencies we face today to grab more power." It said this drive "presents a clear and present danger to the security of the United States."


Needless to say, DeLay is doing a fast tapdance to disclaim the letter, which bears his signature. But the damage is done.

What the hell do you expect, labor leaders? A chorus of "Solidarity Forever" from Karl Rove?

Allow me to remind you that the GOP is the party that brought you the breaking of the Air Traffic Controllers' Union and Nebraska's current "right to work" laws which give NO protection to workers at all, with or without a contract. If you are naive enough to believe that you will get any support for your membership from the GOP, you are like unto the pigs in the final chapter of Animal Farm, seen through the window standing on their hind legs, drinking and smoking with the human farmers as they sell their fellow animals for slaughter.

Thanks to Daily Kos for the tip.
WHY I AM OUTRAGED

If my writing is sounding more and more outraged, it's because I am more and more outraged. Here's why:

- The Bush administration, through Ashcroft's Justice Department, is proposing to restrict fundamental civil rights in the name of the "war on terrorism" even more with its proposed "Patriot II" legislation. Read about it from Bill Moyers last night and the original post from the Center for Public Integrity. Secret arrests. Expatriation at the whim of the Justice Department. Deportation without conviction. THIS IS NOT THE AMERICA I SERVED FOR TWENTY YEARS!

- New York Mayor Bloomberg, apparently at the behest of the Justice Department, wants to block a peace rally in New York City on the flimsy excuse that it will tie up traffic and has gaps that won't let traffic move. Of course it's pure coincidence that this rally would happen at the time when the UN Security Council is considering a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq. And it's coincidence that this rally may well draw a huge crowd.

- Bill O'Reilly, the Rush Limbaugh of Fox News Network, uses the epithet "wetback" to describe Mexicans on his TV show, and it slides past the notice of the mainstream media.

What's a liberal to do?

Fortunately, there has been a very cogent suggestion from Steve Soto, filling in for the ailing Kos on The Daily Kos:
First, spouting off in the blogs and staying engaged and informed, trading opinions and sharpening arguments, and conceding an opponent’s well-made points is healthy and good for all of us.
[. . . ]
Secondly, although it may feel as if your message won’t make any difference, the experience of the right-wing media Wurlitzer of the last two decades shows that a small group of well-informed people who keep the heat up and gradually spread the effort around can convince officeholders and the media that people are paying attention to something other than the establishment spin.

Third, you should also have similar email and fax address books for the key people of your local newspaper(s) and TV stations, and just as importantly, the national writers, editors, and punditocracy.
[. . .]
Fourth, instead of feeling alone with your concerns, join groups on issues that interest you so that you can network, obtain more information, be a better lobbyist of the media and officeholders, and build local networks of like-minded people.
[. . .]
My overall point is that no matter how bad some of these days get, you can set yourself up with the means and outlets to do something about it. Fretting about it and being silent is what your opponents want you to do, and it does no good for your own mental health or the country as a whole. Instead, speak up and you might be surprised at how many of your neighbors feel the same way but don’t act because they don’t want to feel alone. Make sure that you and like-minded people send emails and faxes to officeholders and the media, participate and organize, and most importantly, vote. It all sounds basic, but as we saw last November, failure to do so can set us back to a time where the optimism is sucked right out of us.


I would add one more point: Become involved in your local political party. In Nebraska, the Democrats have become almost clones of the GOP only because the liberals have abandoned it. Go back into party meetings, functions, rallies, and voice your opinion. Volunteer to work precincts. (NB: I did this, and before I knew it I was an alternate to the state central committee!). Show the Democrats that you don't want a clone of the Republicans; you want a progressive party.

Remember, we're the state that gave the country populism in the first place!

Friday, February 07, 2003

shame

I never thought I would feel shame to be a citizen of this country. At its best, the American nation (that is, the people) is generous, kind, supportive, hopeful, optimistic, a true place of liberty and freedom in all its best senses.

What makes me ashamed is the actions of a government of questionable legitimacy. First we learn unequivocably that the party in power acted to interfere with attempts to encourage citizens to vote. (see below). Then, on NPR I hear of citizens and permanent legal residents leaving this country for fear they will be summarily rounded up and deported. (All Things Considered, 2/4/03, transcript available for $4.95). Seems they are being turned away at the Canadian border because Canada is getting overrun with -- hold your breath -- political refugees from the United States!

Think about it. People fleeing this country for fear of persecution! Political refugees from the United States!! There was a time when those being persecuted came here as a refuge from persecution!

Now I read (via Atrios, of course) of this horror being drafted by Ashcroft's Justice Department and run by Cheney and Denis Hastert for their thoughts. One except scares the living shit out of me:
Section 501, “Expatriation of Terrorists”: This provision, the drafters say, would establish that an American citizen could be expatriated “if, with the intent to relinquish his nationality, he becomes a member of, or provides material support to, a group that the United Stated has designated as a ‘terrorist organization’.” But whereas a citizen formerly had to state his intent to relinquish his citizenship, the new law affirms that his intent can be “inferred from conduct.” Thus, engaging in the lawful activities of a group designated as a “terrorist organization” by the Attorney General could be presumptive grounds for expatriation.


The analysis is by the Center for Public Integrity, but as I read the text, it's pretty damned accurate. This draft allegedly hasn't actually been proposed as legislation -- yet -- but you can bet your ass that the first suicide bomb that goes off after the attack on Iraq will precipitate the introduction of this murder of our civil rights.

I am truly ashamed that my president (and he is my president, like it or not) and his administration has so radically and so blithely damaged what this nation stands for -- far more than Osama bin Laden could ever have done.
ONCE AGAIN, THIS IS YOUR PARTY, NEBRASKA!

This article via Atrios about GOP efforts to block Democratic "get out the vote" calling in New Hampshire doesn't surprise me. It pisses me off.

The more I hear of this, the more I become ashamed.

UPDATE

The executive director of the New Hampshire GOP has resigned. The party chairman says he resigned "so we can make sure we're focusing as a party on the important issues."

If this were another country -- say, Cuba or Iran -- you can bet your bottom dollar that the GOP would be screaming its head off about unfair election tactics and that the beneficiary of these tactics came to power illegally and should be deposed.

Isn't this a bit more important than pecker tracks on a dress?

Thursday, February 06, 2003

US TO CREMATE CASUALTIES FROM CHEMICAL OR BIOLOGICAL ATTACKS IN IRAQ

According to CNN,"[t]he Pentagon is considering cremating remains of troops who may die in a chemical or biological attack in a possible war with Iraq, officials said Thursday."

It also makes the effect of body bags coming back from the desert less dramatic. And harder to count. Does that mean I think this administration would falsify casualty figures?

You betcher ass, Dad!

THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY

I want so badly to believe Dubya on Iraq. I want so much to see satellite photos of nuclear power plants and chemical weapons arsenals; to hear intercepted phone conversations between Saddam and Al-Qaeda operatives; to have an Iraqi defector take the podium at the UN and tell about the secret underground air base in the hills of Kurdistan. I want to be convinced.

But I also want credible evidence. I can't help it. I am not only an attorney, I'm also a former spook. I want to see hard facts. And so far I am not seeing what I want to see, so I have to stay in the "reticent" column.

The cause isn't helped much when I read accusations that the British "dossier" on Iraq may have been largely plagiarized. The keyword here, boys and girls, is credible. Plagiarized material is, ipso facto, less credible than original research.
THIS IS WHO YOU HAVE ELECTED, NEBRASKA!

Daily Kos, one of the great bloggurus, reports in some detail on the goings on at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference at which Dick Cheney was a keynote speaker.

These are the shock troops for our current administration. The money comes from Wall Street. The votes came from Nebraska. They will again unless we have the courage to stand up and speak loudly and clearly against it.
IS THERE A NEBRASKA DEMOCRAT IN THE SENATE?

Apparently not. Nebraska pseudo-Democratic Senator Ben Nelson has stated (through one of his staff members with whom I spoke this morning by phone; he may also have made a statement to this effect elsewhere) that he will not support a filibuster against the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the DC Court of Appeals.

So he will support a Hispanic. What's wrong with that? Plenty, if you look at the record of this particular person. Miguel Estrada has zero experience as a judge. I mean zero. He's never sat on a bench, unless it was a softball bench. Either he knows nothing about Supreme Court cases, or he refuses to talk about them:
"No matter how many times I tried, no matter how many opportunities he was given, Mr. Estrada insisted that he could not state a view on a single Supreme Court case," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, who chaired Estrada's confirmation hearing last year.

"By remaining silent, Mr. Estrada only buttressed the fear that he's a far right stealth nominee, a sphinx-like candidate who will drive the nation's second most important court out of the mainstream."


More than being just a nominee to the DC Circuit, Estrada is being put into place as a nominee to the US Supreme Court if there is a vacancy. Bush wants two things: a conservative, pleasing the right, and a Hispanic, thus seeming to be "diverse." However, I note that according to CNN, even "Hispanic and other minority groups" oppose his nomination.

I cannot for a moment believe that there aren't highly experienced judges around the country -- Hispanic, Black, Oriental, or lily-white -- who could be nominated for this position. There are even some who are conservative. Make Bush propose someone credible; someone with judicial experience -- someone who knows what the hell he is doing.

Oh, and by the way. Note to the Nebraska Democratic Party: If the guy we got elected to the Senate won't vote with our party, why should we give him any money?

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

AM I GOING TO HAVE TO GIVE UP BARBECUE?

You may or may not know that I am not a native Nebraskan. I was born and grew up mostly in North Carolina, spent a couple of years in Minnesota, graduated high school in Pennsylvania, and then went into the Air Force at age 18. Still, my basic roots (if "you are were you were when") come from North Carolina.

Those roots have been severely tested recently. I began despairing watching Jesse Helms at his best in the 90s; gained some hope as the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area grew to world prominence as a research center. When Trent Lott committed his not surprising gaffe, I could take some comfort in saying, "It's okay, he's from Mississippi; he don't know no better." And John Edwards as a Democratic presidential candidate (even though he's too moderate for the barricades) gave me a lump of pride.

Then along comes Howard Coble. The guy who thinks it was okay to intern the Nisei in WWII and it may be okay to do the same to Arab Americans.

North Carolina barbecue is the best barbecue in the world. Made from slow-cooked pork shoulders, chopped and mixed with a tangy, spicy sauce known as "dip," it is a pleasure that keeps me from ever considering becoming a vegetarian. It also keeps me from renouncing my North Carolina heritage. But much more of this foolishness and I may have to start a chain of barbecue joints up here in Cornhusker territory just so I can turn my back on the Tar Heel State and the crop of idiots it's currently producing.

If only Nebraska had beaches...
WHAT HAS -- AND HAS NOT -- BEEN DEMONSTRATED AT THE UN

After having reviewed CNN and MSNBC's take on Colin Powell's presentation at the UN today, I, a jury of one, have reached the following conclusions, based on the "more likely than not" standard:

1. Saddam Hussein is not in compliance with various UN directives and resolutions to cooperate fully with the UN inspectors, nor has he ever been since the end of the Gulf War.

2. Saddam Hussein has at least a minimal degree of cooperation with Al Qaeda, in the form of giving asylum to its senior members.

3. Saddam Hussein does not currently have completed, assembled weapons of mass destruction.

4. Saddam Hussein does has some elements to build chemical weapons, but not all the elements.

So he stands convicted (if that is the term) of violating a number of UN resolutions. That, in my mind, means that it is for the UN to deal with him.

I wish -- oh, how I wish -- that Colin Powell had come in with pictures a la Adlai Stevenson to throw in the Iraqis' face. I keep hearing references to information that we "can't reveal" for whatever reason. Believe me, I understand the need to protect inside sources. But at some point, we have to use the intelligence we have, or the source becomes useless. Or, worse yet, we lose our credibility.

If, as I suspect, Bush and his gang of four are hell-bent to attack Iraq, they should do it and quit worrying about this veneer of respectability. If they win, they get to write the history books. If they lose (i.e., take longer than a month or lose more than a couple hundred American GIs), they would look like jerks with or without UN approval. The end results are the same. So why bother with appearances?

Monday, February 03, 2003

"LITTLE OLD WHITE LADIES IN NEBRASKA" FUNDING REPUBLICAN BLACK ORGANIZATION

We on the barricades learn via Atrios and the Washington Post that "little old ladies from Nebraska" are funding the African American Republican Leadership Council, according to its lily-white spokesman, Kevin L. Martin.

We sent one of our urchins into the streets of Gonad, Nebraska to speak with Mrs. Zeke (Marlene) Jenkins, president of Nebraska Little Old White Ladies for Colored Republicans (NLOWLCR). Our urchin brings back the following report:

URCHIN: I understand that you and your colleagues are providing most of the funding for the AARCL.

MRS. JENKINS: Oh, yes, sure, you betcha. Why, we just love those colored folks in Congress like that nice Jake Watts...

URCHIN: You mean J.C. Watts?

MRS. JENKINS: Oh, sure, that's his name. He's just so cute. He never fights with anyone. He just goes along with what all the people want.

URCHIN: What about State Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha? He's black, but I thought most people outside of Omaha didn't like him.

MRS. JENKINS: Well, I mean, after all, he just always wants to fight with people, dontcha know, and never goes along with what real people want.

URCHIN: How do you feel about Secretary of State Colin Powell?

MRS. JENKINS: Well, is he really colored? I thought he was from Jamaica or somewheres?

URCHIN: Is it true that you gave money to the AARCL yourself?

MRS. JENKINS: Well, I don't know, you know. I just write a big check to the Republicans. My husband Zeke tells me that we have to keep the Republicans in power or else Communists and Mexicans will take over the state.

URCHIN: So you don't actually write a check to the AARLC?

MRS. JENKINS: Well, I guess not. But if the Republicans tell me that this AARP...

URCHIN: AARCL, the African-American Republican Leadership Council...

MRS. JENKINS: Yeah, that's them, if they need money over there in Africa, by golly, I'll send them money. I wonder if they need my grandson's old baby clothes?

URCHIN: Thank you, Mrs. Zeke Jenkins of Gonad, Nebraska.

Sunday, February 02, 2003

MORE ON CHUCK HAGEL AND VOTING MACHINES

I've got to quit taking a day off; every time I do all hell breaks loose and I am expected to deal with it.

I talked a bit earlier about Chuck Hagel and his connection to ESS, a company that makes voting machines, including the ones used in Nebraska.

Now Common Dreams News Center has written an article full of innuendo -- but never actual accusation -- that Hagel rigged votes in Nebraska to beat fringe candidate Charlie Matulka last year:
Maybe Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel honestly won two US Senate elections. . . .

The respected Washington, DC publication The Hill (www.thehill.com/news/012903/hagel.aspx) has confirmed that former conservative radio talk-show host and now Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel was the head of, and continues to own part interest in, the company that owns the company that installed, programmed, and largely ran the voting machines that were used by most of the citizens of Nebraska.

Back when Hagel first ran there for the U.S. Senate in 1996, his company's computer-controlled voting machines showed he'd won stunning upsets in both the primaries and the general election. The Washington Post (1/13/1997) said Hagel's "Senate victory against an incumbent Democratic governor was the major Republican upset in the November election." According to Bev Harris of www.blackboxvoting.com, Hagel won virtually every demographic group, including many largely Black communities that had never before voted Republican. Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska.

Six years later Hagel ran again, this time against Democrat Charlie Matulka in 2002, and won in a landslide. As his hagel.senate.gov website says, Hagel "was re-elected to his second term in the United States Senate on November 5, 2002 with 83% of the vote. That represents the biggest political victory in the history of Nebraska."

What Hagel's website fails to disclose is that about 80 percent of those votes were counted by computer-controlled voting machines put in place by the company affiliated with Hagel. Built by that company. Programmed by that company.


What Common Dreams fails to disclose is that Charlie Matulka was (and is) a fringe candidate, allowed to run because none of the Nebraska usual suspects would run against Hagel -- knowing that he would beat the garbage out of anyone who won. Matulka got virtually no support from the state Democratic party (neither did anyone else except the party's desperation candidate for Governor). So the fact that he got less than 17% of the vote doesn't need to be attributed to dark conspiracy. Rather, attribute it to a party that didn't show up for an election.

As for Hagel's defeat of Governor Ben Nelson in 1996, consider that this state was in the midst of a swing right that is still ongoing. Ben Nelson calls himself a Democrat but acts and votes like a Republican. (He was one of the only Democrats to vote in favor of the Iraqi war resolution. Hagel resisted until the very last minute and got some serious concessions from the White House before he did). Traditional liberals in this state haven't had a candidate they could really support since Bob Kerrey got out of politics. There was no vote rigging then.

Having said all that, Chuck Hagel would be well advised to divest himself to all connection to ESS and McCarthy. Perception is reality. And if Chuck really is thinking about a run for the White House some day down the road, he ought to make sure he looks clean.

I can't speak to the reliability of voting in Georgia or anywhere else. All I can say is that in this blogger's opinion, Chuck Hagel beat Charlie Matulka because Charlie wasn't a credible candidate and the state Democrats really weren't interested in fielding one. I wonder what will happen in 2008?

UPDATE: THE BIGGER ISSUE

After reading commentary on this issue on a number of blogs, it occurs to me that while Chuck Hagel's connection to ESS is not as sinister as some would have it, there is something unsettling about having a candidate owning a piece of the company which counts votes. Chuck Hagel wouldn't use that to his advantage. The next guy may not be as honest as Chuck is.

It also occurs to me that the issue of tracking the vote through the ether is a valid one, albeit not directly connected to Sen. Hagel. One of my favorite sci-fi books is Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. At one point the newly-freed Lunar Free State elects a congress via counting votes through the central computer of the Lunar Authority -- which the revolution controls. So the congress is heavily slanted towards the revolutionary party. Surprise!

You know what, Chuck? You want to clear this issue up quickly? Divest yourself of all connection with McCarthy -- sell everything off, whether the rules say you "have to" or not. Then propose legislation to require some kind of tracking of electronic voting. Put your name on it. Become associated with keeping voting machines "honest."

We'll see.