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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 08:49 PM
Number of posts: 64,769

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Voting is not only a right, it is a responsibility. Thus, when I hear a person say, “I don’t bother to vote, because it doesn’t make any difference,” I know that person is not only ignorant, but also irresponsible. And, in my opinion, they are traitors to democracy. Let me explain.

“Democracy” is not a system provided by the nation-state; it is a process that citizens engage in. It is, by definition, a continuous -- thus constant -- process. The right and responsibility to vote is a significant part of that process. Nothing can make this clearer than to consider the current attempts by members of the republican party to deny groups of people this right, in the context of the historical struggle of various groups to secure the right to vote.

“Voting rights,” and the right to run for office, are defined by both state and federal laws. Thus, where the US Constitution and federal law do not define voter/ candidate eligibility, the various states have the discretion to determine the individual’s rights. And frequently, the individual states have created laws to disenfranchise specific groups of people.

Even after the Revolutionary War, various states disenfranchised not only all non-white male property owners, but groups of white men who owned property. These restrictions, not surprisingly, targeted Catholics, Jews, and Quakers. Officer-holders in Delaware had to take a specific “Christian” oath. South Carolina only allowed Protestants to hold office. And in Maryland, Jewish men would not have voting rights until 1828.

The question of Native American voting rights has always been complicated. It wasn’t until the 1879 Standing Bear trial in Nebraska, that Indians were deemed human beings “within the meaning of law” in the United States. Just how “human” was long a matter of individual state interpretation, of course: up until the mid-1960s, for example, a white man who raped an Indian woman could only be charged with a misdemeanor.

By no coincidence, issues of voting rights began to change in the post-Civil War era. The 14th Amendment (1866) provided citizenship to black people -- in theory, though not often practice, this added 2/5ths to their previous 3/5ths legal status as “humans.” Then, in 1869, the 15th Amendment determined that black citizens could not be denied the right to vote based upon race.

Thus, in the years between 1890 and 1908, ten of the 11 former Confederate states would ratify new constitutions with provisions to disenfranchise potential voters by way of literacy tests and poll taxes. This, of course, provided the added bonus to restricting the rights of poor white men, as well: it targeted specific ethnic groups that had immigrated to the US in recent decades, such as the Irish and Italians.

In 1913, the 17th Amendment allowed for voters to determine who their US Senators would be. Until then, a handful of people in each state selected their Senators.

The right of women to vote cannot be found in Mitt Romney’s binders. The 19th Amendment (1920) provided women with the right to vote. There had been individual states that recognized this right even before 1920: Wyoming had provided for this right in order to be granted statehood. And women could vote in Colorado before 1920; however, women’s votes didn’t count as much as men’s votes.

In 1962, the state of Arizona was still attempting to deny voting rights to non-white citizens with “Operation Eagle Eye,” which enforced literacy tests. And it wasn’t until the US Supreme Court ruled in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections that poll taxes were found to be unconstitutional.

The 2000 presidential election involved the state of Florida’s denying a large number of citizens the right to vote. The vast majority of those disenfranchised were black people. Surprising, right?

In 2002, the Bush-Cheney administration -- installed by the Supreme Court in opposition to the actual 2000 election results -- would pass the Help Americans Vote Act (HAVA). In 2004, the Bush vs. Kerry election would be determined by voter suppression in Ohio.

Only 14 states do not require a mailing address to register to vote. In the others, those who are homeless (or frequently move, due to low income) are disenfranchised. Residents of Washington, DC, have long had separate, but unequal, voting rights. Citizens with past felony convictions face hurdles intended to keep them from voting. And the current “voter ID” law movement is certainly just the updated version of the historic effort to declare that while all people are created equal, some are a heck of a lot more equal than others.

Democracy is a muscle. Voting is one important exercise. Exercising that right to vote is a vital part of the process of keeping democracy in proper shape. Having it in proper shape is the best option for preventing the theft of the 2012 elections.

H2O Man

Mitt's Mutt Whistle

CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me get — let me get the governor in on this. And Governor, let’s — before we get into a…


CROWLEY: …vast array of who says — what study says what, if it shouldn’t add up. If somehow when you get in there, there isn’t enough tax revenue coming in. If somehow the numbers don’t add up, would you be willing to look again at a 20 percent…

ROMNEY: Well of course they add up. I — I was — I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years, and balanced the budget. I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget. I ran the — the state of Massachusetts as a governor, to the extent any governor does, and balanced the budget all four years. When we’re talking about math that doesn’t add up, how about $4 trillion of deficits over the last four years, $5 trillion? That’s math that doesn’t add up. We have — we have a president talking about someone’s plan in a way that’s COMPLETELY FOREIGN to what my real plan is. (Emphasis by H2O Man)


The transcript alone does not tell the whole story behind this little exchange in last night’s debate. (You have to watch it, to fully appreciate how Romney is attempting to insult Barack Obama.) And I have been disappointed that no journalist has focused on it -- yet. But I do expect that either Chris Matthews or Lawrence O’Donnell will report on it soon.

Simply put, at a time when Romney was getting his ass kicked by President Obama, he pulled this line out. It was one that his campaign had prepared, and that Willard had rehearsed, for two reasons: one, it was an obvious shout-out to the rabid right wing; and second, it was intended to throw the President off balance, by showing the willingness to deliver the dirtiest of low-blows.

It didn’t work in the intended manner.

The Champ is Back!

That was the single best political debate that I've seen. And I say that as a person who recognizes that presidential "debates" have become something less than true debates. TV, which has increased the visibility of these contests since 1960, has also created an atmosphere where the appearance of style often trumps substance.

President Obama was impressive. Willard Romney made an impression, but it surely wasn't a good one. Perhaps the most accurate measure of this was the look on Michelle Obama's face as she approached her husband after the debate, and that of Ann Romney.

I think that this debate was just what we needed to give us the burst of energy necessary to work every day right up to the polls close on Election Day.

Obama vs Romney II

3-8-1971: Joe Frazier decisions Muhammad Ali, 15 rounds..

1-26-1974: Muhammad Ali decisions Joe Frazier, 12 rounds.

10-1-1975: Muhammad Ali TKOs Joe Frazier, 14 rounds.

I understand why some folks do not like to compare politics to boxing. And I fully appreciate that presidential elections lack the socio-political significance of the Ali versus Frazier trilogy. Still, I think that by examining their three classic bouts, we can get an idea of what to expect in tonight’s Obama vs. Romney debate #2.

In what was called “The Fight of the Century,” two undefeated heavyweight met at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1971. The older and better educated folks on this forum will recall that this fight was viewed in a larger cultural context. Ali, who had taken a brave stance against Uncle Sam’s war in Vietnam, represented both “Black Power” and the counterculture. Frazier, through no fault of his own, was identified as the establishment’s champion. (He definitely wasn’t!) Frazier won by decision in a fight that caused more controversy than the first Obama-Romney debate.

Ali would win a convincing decision in the second fight. I was sitting at ringside at MSG that night. Muhammad used his greater size, speed, and skill to outbox Smokin’ Joe. Then, in their “rubber match,” the two stood toe-to-toe, in what most experts consider to be the greatest heavyweight title fight in boxing history. After 14 back-and-forth rounds, Joe’s corner man Eddie Futch told the referee to stop the fight. He would later say that he was convinced that Joe would have risked death had he attempted to fight that last round.

I believe that tonight’s debate will be won by President Obama. He will, like Ali in the second fight, use his greater intellect, political skills, and personality to pick an outclassed Romney apart. Then, in next week’s third debate, President Obama will go toe-to-toe with Romney, and deliver a whipping that kills Willard’s political career.

Like the Ali vs. Frazier trilogy, historians will focus on the 1st and 3rd debates in future coverage of the Obama vs. Romney contest. While the second one might lack some of the excitement, it will demonstrate the difference in the contestants’ level of skills. I’m looking forward to a group of friends coming over to watch it tonight. And after they leave, I’ll enjoy getting on DU, to discuss the event.

Enjoy tonight’s debate!


One of the things that I found most outrageous about Paul Ryan in the vice presidential debate was his saying that “unelected” people should not be deciding issues such as abortion. Instead, he said, it should be left up to “the people” of a given state. The idiocy of his position is a given: the issue of abortion should be made by the individual woman. She should be respected as having the right to consult with her family and her doctor, but in the final analysis, that decision is her’s, and her’s alone.

Yet Ryan’s position is both dangerous and offensive for other reasons. It is, in fact, part of a larger agenda of the right-wing republican party. It involves both our federal government being rooted in the Constitution, and also public education. Let’s take a moment to look at each of these factors.

Although the republican party gives lip service to the Constitution -- much as they do the flag and the military -- they front for the oligarchy that runs this nation from behind a curtain. And that oligarchy is neither 100% domestic, nor does it want the concepts expressed in our Constitution to be revived. Just the opposite: the sad truth is that the corporatists are anti-American. And examples such as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Willard Romney, and Paul Ryan provide ample evidence of exactly that.

There would be no need -- none whatsoever -- for the United States to have a federal court system, including the Supreme Court, if it was not necessary to balance the two other branches in terms of interpreting the Constitution. No intelligent person could claim that the USSC has been perfect in doing this vital task. This is true from this nation’s earliest decades, to more recent times. The two most obvious recent examples would be found in the USSC deciding important issues on purely political reasoning: the 2000 presidential election that placed the loser in the White House, and the decision to allow unlimited financial “contributions” to influence future elections.

But it more than these recent, high-profile cases. It has been in determining who is recognized as fully human, and thus having constitutional rights and protections. This has included all people who are not white men -- and plenty of white men, by the way. It has included everyone who doesn’t happen to share the ruling class’s religious belief system -- which, by no coincidence, places them in a category as “less human,” “less necessary,” and “less worthy.”

More, properly understood, the USSC should serve as the protector of individual and group rights in conflicts with corporate interests. Indeed, that is already at the very top of the mountain of issues that will define what it means to be fully what it means to be fully human in our society. Should, for example, a “religious corporation” that calls itself a church be able to decide who an adult American can or cannot marry? Or should an “energy” corporation decide that a community’s environmental integrity should be sacrificed on their alter of greed? The list goes on and on.

The truth is that the make-up of the United States of America is a-changing. Now, obviously all white men aren’t part of the oligarchy. Nor are all of the oligarchy’s members white men. But they do have similar features to one another, and they share common interests. They want to have the power to control society -- and that includes in the USA and the rest of this planet Earth. And to safely hold control over the changing population of America, they must destroy knowledge of what the Constitution has been, what it currently is, and what it can and should be.

Two of the most important ways to accomplish this are: to destroy public education, and to keep the masses in a state that involves equal parts of anxiety, ignorance, and distracted. In the proper sense, public education is one of the corner-stones of the very foundation of a Constitutional democracy. It prepares individuals, no matter what their particular talents or calling may be, to become valuable, contributing adult members of the greater society. Indeed, a sixth grade student should have the ability to identify three reasons why Paul Ryan’s call for “people” rather than the federal courts to decide constitutional issues is flawed. And a high school senior should have the ability to see the real reasons that the necroconservative branch of the republican party is determined to start a war with Iran -- a war in which they may well be called upon to kill or be killed.

Thus, the oligarchy finds it easier to deal with a pack of merry fools than with a single intelligent human being. Scare the public with “the threat of mushroom clouds” and “yellow cake.” Fill the prison-industrial complex with people caught consuming the “illegal” drugs -- because, as Abbie Hoffman noted, it’s only safe to abuse the drugs that your doctor prescribes. Forget who is actually flooding our communities with drugs -- or blame them darned college students. Keep people so distracted that they don’t realize that they’ve been hypnotized ….and that the very technology that handcuffs their conscious mind could be transformed into the tools to help them obtain their full humanity.

I could go on and on. But my editor tells me that I lose people when I carry on and on. So I will sign off for now, with hopes that I have conveyed my thoughts in a proper manner.

Fight the Good Fight!
H2O Man

Boxing: Biden vs Ryan

Biden begins pressing
And Ryan is forced to retreat
But if Ryan backs up an inch farther
He’ll be in a backstage seat

Joe Biden speaks for the left
Paul Ryan squirms for the right
Just look at the Vice President
Carry the fight

Ryan keeps lying
Insuring his doom
It’s just a matter of time
Until Smokin’ Joe lowers the boom

Biden stand up for the truth
Republicans begin to rage
They can hear Willard yelling
“Get that loser Ryan off the stage!”

Paul Ryan starts crying
The moderator wears a frown
The debate can’t be serious
With Ryan exposed as a clown

The Fox News crew panics
Hannity scurries to go on the air
“Biden cheated!” he shrieks
“Telling the truth just ain’t fair!”

Friday’s polls show the impact
Of this one-sided fight
The majority of voters
Reject the Romney-Ryan blight.

Michelle Obama

Lawrence O'Donnell just played some clips of Michelle Obama speaking earlier today.

She is outstanding at being able to communicate exactly why we should be working very hard in the final weeks of this presidential election contest.

Rage Against the Machines

“It is beneath human dignity to become a mere cog in the machine.”
-- Mahatma Gandhi.

“There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
-- Mario Savio; Sproul Hall, Berkeley; December 2, 1964.

I was recently sent a “link” to an article that stated the federal government was preparing to stop citizens from photographing the Williams’ Midstream Station, in Brooklyn, PA, which is the beginning-point of the proposed Constitution Pipeline. The article suggested that this was to prevent terrible-ists from trying to prevent the energy industry from exporting gas to foreign lands. I wondered why not just place an enormous fence around the site -- similar to the type that the Patrick Buchananists advocate for borders and exclusive neighborhoods? I mean, anything with the word “Constitution” in it must be mighty patriotic, and worthy of protection from environmentalists and other rational people seeking to exercise their Amendment 1 rights.

An internet/ public access television journalist from Binghamton, N.Y. has been telling both Face Book and e-mail groups about a “local media blackout” on hydrofracking- related stories. He is correct. Several reporters have provided me with information on stories that have been buried, due specifically to a local energy executive’s pressure.

Today, I received an e-mail from Dan Lamb, the democratic candidate for New York State’s 22nd district seat in the House of Representatives. His opponent, republican millionaire Richard Hanna, is associated with the energy executive who is actively suppressing the media. By no coincidence, Hanna is resorting to the same tactics. Below is a quote from a television station manager’s e-mail explaining why their local stations were not going to go through with a televised debate:

“He (Hanna) indicated to me that we would not be considered for his ad dollars and our level of cooperation in the future could be affected. I have councelled with Tim Busch and we are going to have to back out of this taping on Friday and deal with our relationship with Congressman Hanna on our own. I regret making this decision so late for WSYR as we jointly announced this last week. However I do not want to offer Dan Lamb a forum to bash Hanna and call him out for an ‘Empty Chair‘. I have reached out to Richard to tell him of my decision.”

More at:
In my “web-book” about community organizing, I included information about the most effective ways to approach the media. There are, obviously, times when it is necessary to go above and beyond ordinary means. When the opposition uses their financial power to suppress a “free press,” however, other tactics become important. I’ll try to list a few examples.

By nature, the majority of “local” journalists will tend to be liberal; editors will be moderate; and managers/owners will be conservative. Thus, it is essential that grass roots activists develop a working relationship with reporters, and a speaking relationship with editors. In the past two weeks, for example, people in the Binghamton area have been calling the local newspaper and television stations, to request open and fair coverage of the anti-hydrofracking issues they are failing to report on. In response, one reporter was able to publish an important story in the paper; the television stations then followed suit. Always remember to identify one media source for maximum pressure -- because if one reports an issue, usually the others will, too.

Also, do not overlook the power of the smaller media sources. An area “weekly” newspaper published an op-ed I wrote, in their current edition. Within 24 hours, I knew people were talking about it -- in part because two people approached me in public to have me autograph their newspapers. I also have had a number of phone calls, and was asked to address a civic group on the general topic. (Several town- and county-level politicians were among the group I spoke to.)

More, resources such as the internet and public access television are important. Likewise, when a businessman at the civic group’s meeting asked me what I needed to “get the message out,” I mentioned how I’ve wrote for a number of small papers (such as the Native American newspaper I used to co-edit). After the meeting, this gentleman told me to “move forward” on such a paper, and that he would gladly cover the expenses.

I’ve been pretty busy in the two days since then. I’m working on Dan Lamb’s campaign, along with a couple other local candidates’ campaigns. This includes helping to set up a debate between five candidates, running for two seats on a town board, as well as writing press releases and assisting with radio ads.

This is besides working on an epidemiological study of a village poisoned by several toxic industrial waste dump sites. And attending meetings -- lots of meetings -- some public, others at friends’ and associates’ homes. In fact, I’m getting ready to go to one now …..to discuss setting up a series of meetings with editors and station managers …..to discuss how they can prevent “boycotts” of their media, should they be willing to be open and fair in their coverage of local/ regional campaigns and issues.

For “democracy” is not a place or status -- it is an ongoing process.

H2O Man

Mold Romney

“They’re somewhat like the lowest of forms of plant and animal life. Even at their highest point of vitality there is not much life in them; on the other hand, they don’t die.”
-- Senator Eugene McCarthy

Many good and decent citizens had hoped that, by the end of the first presidential debate, the Romney-Ryan ticket would be officially and mercifully declared dead. However, as Eugene McCarthy accurately described the Republican Party -- at a time when former VP Richard Nixon was engaged in the republican primary contest -- the party consists primarily of a mutated mold that imitates human life.

This particular strain should not be mistaken for those that merely cause low-grade infections. The Romney-Ryan ticket threatens the life of our already compromised system of Constitutional democracy. Be awake. Be aware. Engage in the Good Fight.

There is more than enough work to be done to keep us all busy through the elections. And then, the real struggle begins.

H2O Man

The Glib Factor

Glib: (adjective) readily fluent, superficial, or insincere.

My father used to say that an honest person is often at a disadvantage in an argument with a liar: the honest person has only the truth to tell, while a liar has unlimited options. However, he noted, the honest person only needs to remember the truth, while even that liar with a strong memory rarely can recall all of lies he has told.

I thought about that last night, as I watched the presidential debate. From the opening statements on, I thought that President Obama seemed flat. He provided the only truth in the contest, but his presentation was not as energetic or forceful as I had hoped. Willard Romney, on the other hand, was lying with the gusto that resulted in many people -- and not only the anti-Obama and/or pro-Romney folks -- declaring Mitt the “winner.”

In a historical perspective, that’s not a surprise. It makes Barack Obama the 4th out of five sitting presidents to lose the opening televised debate against his challenger. And, for better or for worse, last night’s debate is now part of American political history. Yet that is not the only context in which we can and should view the debate. Indeed, in purely political terms, it is but the first of three presidential and one vice presidential debates set for this month.

More, in the larger political sense, a candidate who appears “flat” in the first debate can rebound far more easily than one who can be shown to be a pathological liar. But to more fully explain this, let me use a non-political illustration. Before retiring, as some here know, I was employed at a county mental health clinic. Much of my work was in forensic mental health, which simply means working on cases that involved the judicial system. And before that, I worked in another county, investigated incidents of family violence -- most often child abuse. No surprise that I have had the experience of encountering some of the damnedest liars our society produces.

I rarely found it productive to confront pathological liars in general, pre-trial situations. Rather, I would document, document, and document their lies. Then, I’d document some more. When the court process began, I was well-prepared to show each and every lie. The “little” lies were often as important as the “big” ones, because they show that pathology we know as “glibness.” And, oh my glibness, no judge or jury likes a glib liar. Just can’t trust them.

No matter if one thinks that President Obama did okay last night, or that he gave a sub-par performance, the fact is that the national media is focusing on two primary issues today: first, that Romney exceeded expectations, while President Obama was flat; and second, that Romney -- at very least -- stretched the truth to the point that many of his previous positions were unrecognizable.

The VP debate next week will be important. I find Joe Biden to be one the most most respectable politicians of my lifetime …..not because he is perfect -- no one is -- but because he is usually passionate about telling the truth as he sees it. On the other hand, I hold Paul Ryan beneath contempt. The fact that since being selected for the vice presidential slot, Ryan has been exposed as a petty liar is just -- because his “rep” was built upon the old “even if you disagree with him, you like him, because he is honest” baloney.

Likewise, Romney’s campaign relies upon a “clean-cut” image. And in politics, it is not just if you get tripped up: it’s how far you fall. The Democratic Party has the ammunition needed to show the general public that Mitt is yet another lying politician. But it is up to Barack Obama to expose Romney as the glib, pathological liar that he is. The President has two more debates in which to do so.
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