Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Progressive Voter Guide...

Ran across this excellent site for Progressive Voters in Whatcom County:

The only  issue I disagreed with them on is their "straddle the fence" stand on HJR 4220. I am consistently against laws that would weaken fundamental rights guaranteed us either by the Bill of Rights or longstanding legal decisions.  Usually these attempts are motivated by fear; fear of crime, fear of communism, fear of terrorism, fear of skin color, fear of the opinions of others, fear of guns, etc.

But every step  we take to limit our rights puts us one step closer to Sparta rather than Athens. The death to a country's liberty and rights always comes in a series of small steps. It is always easy for our species to short-sightedly limit the rights of others we detest.  Justice William O. Douglass pointed out the flaw in such reasoning succinctly: "The liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected."

The same law that denies a true murderer bail might be used to deny a political activist falsely accused (or framed) tomorrow.  This conflict is the freedom and burden we suffer with under our constitutional protections. It is why Thomas Jefferson once remarked,  "Postpone to the great object of Liberty every smaller motive and passion."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Your Whatcom County Ballot

Some years ago, I wrote an interesting article published by an excellent (but now defunct) local weekly on the problems with Whatcom County's ballot and the tabulation of votes. The editor and publisher of that weekly was John Servais, who has published for years the longest running and most well-read all-electronic news outlet in Whatcom County.  I had at that time decided to organize my own PAC and attempted to co-ordinate four candidates whom I considered progressives to run together.  These candidates were all serious "grass roots' types who had been active in the community; some of them for years. I really wasn't sure exactly what I was doing, but I had come to seriously believe that there was deep corruption in the city and county governments of Whatcom County after fighting what seemed like a long and torturous battle to remove narcotics trafficking from my neighborhood. (But that is a another story...)

To continue....The ballot counts for vote by mail elections come in batches over a period of days. The auditors were not then (and probably are still not) allowed to count ballots before election day after the closing of the election. So I dutifully pulled up a spreadsheet and began to segregate 'per reported batch' the percentage of votes for the candidates I had supported. What I saw shocked me. My candidates were all underdogs. They trailed in early voting, but as the batches came in, at least two showed promise of either winning of making it to the second round of voting. And then, just when some promise was being shown, their percentages of votes in subsequent rounds all tailed off in seemingly neat, parallel curves leaving their opponents to win.

This provoked me to carefully examine my ballot, the Sequoia voting machines, the Whatcom County Auditor, and the integrity of "Voting by Mail."  Everything that I found scared and shocked me.  I went so far as to visit the County Auditor and review the lists of disputed ballots, requested and received technical specifications for the Sequoia voting machines, and talked with the head of elections in Whatcom County. He was a very nice man, but of course, my article had caused some backlash and he cautioned and complained to me about creating "lack of faith in government".  Actually, I understood his complaint. This is a small county, voting regulations and practices are largely state determined, HAVA was just being implemented,  and as the electioneering head pointed out, they hadn't even given him enough funds to put a card-key lock on the voting machine room door!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Please Vote

Beyond all beliefs that your vote may not be counted, or counted correctly, or that there are no good options in the initiatives or in the party members whom you will elect, there are still good reasons for you to vote:
  1. Voting tells the people in power that you count; that your voice cannot be ignored.
  2. Voting tells everyone in your community that you count; that you will vote again. It establishes your historical track record as someone who participates in the electoral process.
  3. Voting helps you discipline your mind to understand the complicated world of politics and economics and helps you solidify your relationships to the political world around you.
Most of us alone can do very little about the problems of the world around us. But together, we are thousands of of voices, thousands of people talking, thousands of people caring, thousands of people willing to exercise their will; all of us reaffirming, in the elegant and timeless (here slightly edited) words of Thomas Jefferson :

"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men [all peoples], deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Week To Go: The WA State Initiatives...

Where your ballots go in Whatcom County...

Have you looked at your crazy WA state ballot yet? Better start early...Oh yeah, that quietude you hear is the sound of the all those erudite Bellinghammers actually reading the text of those initiatives this weekend!(not).  In case you were under the the illusion that your ballot measures are brought to you by "grass roots" movements, the official PDC statistics to date show that over $60M has been contributed by initiative committees with $18M left to be spent.  Do yourself a favor for the next week (or maybe forever), turn off your television and read your ballot.

This is mostly a ballot of the fascist right attempting to impoverish the socialist left with the exception of 1098.  For an interesting visual analysis of contributors to the state initiatives see here. In 1098, the ultra-rich have finally realized that if they don't pass an income tax in Washington state, their fortunes and their state will collapse into a heap of chaos and poverty. Here's where the Democrats and Republicans line up on with the WA State Initiatives.  Below are the official contributors to this mess. At least the two sides make this easy: They don't agree on anything!:

Initiative Democrats Republicans
1053 No Yes
1082 No Yes
1098 Yes No
1100 No Yes
1105 No Yes
1107 No Yes
Referendum 52 Yes Rejected
Senate Joint Resolution 8225
Engrossed SHJR 4220
Bellingham Transportation Yes
Bellingham School District 501 Yes

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Candidate Forum for Basic Needs

Tonight, I watched the last hour of the "Candidate Forum for Basic Needs" which was last year's Human Services Forum. It may have just been the last hour, but all the candidates appear have been justly humbled by the recession - You could see it in their faces.  They now know inside themselves what most of us have just begun to guess at: That the anarchic future of wealth destruction and massive poverty in Whatcom County is just beginning.

None of the candidates I saw tonight, whether they were arguing liberal or conservative viewpoints really have a handle on the intensity of the economic storm to come. How could they? All of them are just a bunch of neighborhood locals like ourselves, watching our world tear apart at the seams.  Some of them had heartfelt tragic stories about community members living in campers and people buying gas with change. All of them were using the political rhetoric "of the last war"; arguing for solutions whose possibilities don't exist anymore. The conservatives wants jobs for which there is no demand. The liberals want funding for social services for which there is no revenue. What will actually happen once democracy, capitalism, and the "rule of law" start to fail in small counties such as ours will present challenges considerably more chaotic than we should expect local politicians to be able to imagine.  No one talked about how we should restructure the social contract if government funding accelerates its current pace of revenue loss. No one addressed: "What happens if a recovery never comes?"

Christine O'Donnell, Constitutional Scholar

 Usually, I don't like to highlight gaffes of politicians. They are human like the rest of us, but six minutes into this video, Christine O'Donnell proves:
  • she has never read or studied the constitution or history of these United States with any depth
  • she is not being briefed or handled by anyone competent enough to prevent her from appearing to be a political novice.
We all make mistakes. But not knowing the content of the first amendment and running for the United States Senate are not phrases that should ever exist in the same sentence. In reality, Senate candidates when discussing religion should be intelligent enough, and historically grounded enough to understand the skepticism with which the Founding Fathers viewed organized (especially state based) religion, their embrace of Deism, and their defense of secular reason as the sine qua non of government.  Someone should ask Christine O'Donnell if she has read "The Age of Reason", the consummate Deist commentary subscribed to by many if not most of the Founding Fathers. So terrible was the fear of state based religion and persecution by a theocratic state, that the founding fathers attempted to excise the possibility of state based religion from our constitution:
[text of the First Amendment]:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Thomas Paine's exceptionally popular treatise (The Age of Reason)  made clear the fear that most American's had of state based religion during the colonial period:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Disappearances, Political Violence and Tea Parties....

Not often in the history of our small city have two bodies been pulled out of the waterfront a scant month before an important general election; a general election that could radically alter Washington State's tax structure. Should you wish to read about the "Smiley Murders" that Mr. Clark's case could possibly resemble, I found these sites useful:

Should you wish to read about a history of reactionary intimidation and political violence in the Pacific Northwest and Whatcom County, I would recommend this bibliography:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Poverty in the United Sates

Poverty Rates in the United States from the Census September 2010 Report

The Census released a devastating report this month on poverty in the United States. The article was discussed nationally in both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.  According to summary findings that I have reformatted below:
  • "The poverty rate in 2009 was the highest since 1994, but was 8.1 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available. 
  • The number of people in poverty in 2009 is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates are available.
  • In 2009, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 11.1 percent and 8.8 million, respectively, up from 10.3 percent and 8.1 million in 2008.
  • The poverty rate and the number in poverty increased across all types of families:
    • married-couple families (5.8 percent and 3.4 million in 2009 from 5.5 percent and 3.3 million in 2008)
    • female-householder-with-no-husband-present families (29.9 percent and 4.4 million in 2009 from 28.7 percent and 4.2 million in 2008) and 
    • for male-householder-no-wife-present families (16.9 percent and 942,000 in 2009 from 13.8 percent and 723,000 in 2008)."