If You Don’t Vote, You’re Part of the Problem

I go out and check my mail today and find no less than 18 postcards from every Tom, Dick and Harry running for some public office.  Robo calls, live calls, door to door, TV ads you name it, we’re getting hit with it.  It’s time to vote again.

And yet, even with all the publicity, there are people out there with no intention of getting out there and doing the one sacred deed one can do to exercise what power that has been given to them.  Given to them by people they know and people who they have never met, over decades and centuries.

Like many of my fellow Americans I have known some of these people, my Grandfather joined the U.S. Navy when he was too young, he was 17, and followed his older brother Frank into war.  Before he was 18 he was on the U.S.S. Chenango aircraft carrier in the South Pacific fighting the Japanese.   He saw first hand the destruction of Hiroshima after we dropped the bomb, and made it home in one piece.    From there he raised his family and lived the American dream that he had  helped to preserve and I got the privilege of being witness to the latter half of that life.  Frank wasn’t so lucky, and came back to America with a U.S. flag.

The threat to our way of life is rarely so conspicuous as the one imposed by Adolf Hitler, who once drew a swastika over the U.S. on a world map accompanied by the word “bald” which translates in English to “soon”.   And soldiers aren’t the only ones whose responsibility it is to defend this country from nefarious forces attempting to steal our freedoms, in fact, no outside force has ever threatened this country more so than the internal indifference that Americans show for the direction this country goes.

Consider something that President Eisenhower said when speaking of one such potential threat.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

The advice to take nothing for granted and to be an alert and knowledgeable citizenry is applicable to far more than just the military-industrial complex.  It goes for every other industry who tries to influence our government on their behalf and at our expense.  It goes for all the politicians who are happy to accommodate them as long as the citizens of this nation are not being diligent.

When the cats away the mice will play.

So how diligent are we?  How many of us take the responsibility passed down to us seriously to preserve the rights that were literally given to us by the soldiers and voters that came before us?  Since the early part of the 20th century turnout of eligible voters for a presidential election has rarely seen a mark as high as 60%, and is usually closer to 50%.  And that’s the general election, primary elections are even worse.  That’s a disgrace.   It’s your duty as an American to vote and to encourage others to do the same.

Due to a bizarre ruling by SCOTUS,  Citizens United v. FEC gives corporations personhood and all the rights that come along with it under the U.S. Constitution, that of course includes the right to free speech, the right to lobby the government for redress of grievances and worst of all, has interpreted money as speech, so now these corporations can rain down as much money under the guise of free speech as they can to a very receptive and corrupt congress. Who runs this country?  Not us.  We’re losing the grip on the steering wheel.

Thanks in large part to the 50 or more percent of this population who doesn’t bother to vote our nation is becoming a plutocracy, a cancer from within that no amount of military can defend us from.  It’s not terrorism or some totalitarian regime encroaching on our freedoms, nobody from abroad, no military is going to invade this country.  It is however being invaded right now and if you aren’t one of the diligent, one of the alert, the knowledgeable then it’s on you.  If you don’t vote, you’re part of the problem.

The Republican War on Voter Fraud

The republicans in this country are quite the crusaders.  They seem to be crusading every time we turn around, and now that they appear to have the Tea Party under control they’ve turned their focus on the real problems that face America in this day and age.  Lowering taxes, keeping government off our backs, making sure those naughty gay people can’t desecrate our institution of marriage, protecting insurance companies from sick people etc.

Lately the crusade du jour is one to make sure people have to use a picture ID in order to vote.  The argument for this is to make sure you are who you say you are when you show up at the polls.  The bumper sticker argument is to stop voter fraud.  Sounds like a noble cause on the surface, if you’re not a citizen you can’t vote, you can’t vote more that once or in a district in which you don’t reside.

If anyone were to google voter fraud they would find dozens of examples of this illegal activity, there’s no doubt, it’s going on.   But when a solution to voter fraud comes up,  to use ID at the polls, it doesn’t take a political scientist to look into it and find that ID only combats one kind of voter fraud, and that’s voter impersonation. Voter impersonation is simply the act of showing up at the polls and pretending to be someone else.  All other forms of voter fraud are systematic in nature and would not be effected by showing an ID at the polls.  People who support voter ID laws fail to tell you this and usually use the blanket term “voter fraud” as if most or all types of voter fraud will be deterred by demanding ID at the polls.

And the real kicker, voter impersonation is virtually non-existent.  That’s right, it doesn’t exist.  Lets get this part straight, the one and only type of voter fraud that ID laws can deter doesn’t even exist on any mentionable level.  According to News 21, a study done in all 50 states turned up 2,068 cases of voter fraud overall since 2000 and only 10 cases came up with impersonation fraud. That’s 1 out of every 15 million voters.   It doesn’t exist.

Think about that the next time you read that some politician like a governor or a senator claim to have uncovered 172 cases of voter fraud in their state and a voter ID law is needed to curb it.  Ask yourself, was this 172 cases of impersonation fraud? Was there even one case of impersonation fraud in the batch?

Of course the republican establishment would have you think otherwise, during an interview on the Diane Rehm show Professor Richard Hasen he said while he was researching voter fraud for his new book, “Voter Wars”, he came across a report by Hans von Spakovsky for the Heritage Foundation that said a grand jury report from New York shows that impersonation voter fraud is a serious problem. When Hasen wrote Spakovsky to get the report, he got nothing.  Spakovski and the president of the Heritage Foundation didn’t want to talk about it.

Here’s Richard Hasen in his own words on the DR Show

HASEN

Now put aside the fact that 1984 is not that recent and the report covered 1968 to 1982.  I wrote to von Spakovsky who had written to me before to put things on my blog, I’d like to see the report.  Silence, didn’t hear from him.  Put it up on my blog, I’d like to see the report.  Does anyone have the report?  Silence.  I wrote to the president of the Heritage Foundation and said I’d like to see the report.  Silence.  No one would give me the report.  It’s a principle of scholarship that you share your data so people can verify it.

Eventually, the UC Irvine Law librarians were able to track down someone at the district attorney’s office in Brooklyn who found a copy of the report.  I posted it on my blog.  It’s now available to the public.  What did it show?  No impersonation voter fraud, collusion by election officials.

Once you understand that ID doesn’t stop absentee ballot fraud, ballot tampering by election officials, intimidation or any other kind of voter fraud, you then must stop for a second and wonder why the republican party is spending so much time, money and hot air even going so far as to lie to the public in order to enact voter ID laws.  They’re in an absolute frenzy over this.

You know exactly why.  The people who these laws disenfranchise are predominately democrats.  The goal of course is to suppress the vote.  Election fraud goes each way with both democrats and republicans engaging, but voter suppression seems to have an ugly conservative  history with such tactics as poll taxes, land ownership requirements and literacy tests aimed at African Americans as well as working class and poor white voters.

Only 30 to 50% of eligible voters actually get out to do so, depending on the election.   Some of us in this country find that statistic to be a disgrace,  while others it appears find that kind of turnout to be too much.

George Zimmerman will go to prison. Gun violence will go on.

I was listening to a local radio show the other morning where one of the topics in their news segment was Zimmerman/Martin. Drew & Mike were pondering why this case was a polarizing political topic. Thoughout the segment their inbox got bombarded by local listeners who made it clear that many people here in the WRIF demographic in Detroit think that Zimmerman was well within his rights to everything he did that night and furthermore, Martin somehow got what he had coming.

Drew and Mike, not exactly champions of liberal thinking, were baffled.

It is polarized though, because it is true that a great many people in the U.S. believe that Zimmerman had the right somehow to follow someone in public, and while armed, create for himself a situation where he felt entitled to shoot another person. How does this work?

The simple fact at the end of the day is that all evidence according to any living people point to the fact that if Zimmerman had never shown up that night Martin would have walked home from the store with some candy and been with his parents watching a ball game. Zimmerman didn’t stop a crime in progress, didn’t stop a crime before it happened, he only stopped some kid from walking home. Thats it.  Yet here we are with an incredible wave of support from the right for George Zimmerman, frankly because he’s the one with the gun.

Nevermind that the Stand Your Ground law doesn’t apply in this case according to the prime sponsor of the legislation Dennis Baxley and the Governor who signed it into law, Jeb Bush. When asked by Neal Conan of NPR  Interview why the law does not apply here Baxley said this, “Well, simply because if you carefully read the statute, which most of the critics have not, and read the legislative analysis, there’s nothing in this statute that authorizes you to pursue or confront other people.”  Furthermore Baxley also said,  “The Senate sponsor, Senator Peaden, former senator,  he said it doesn’t apply. From my review, I certainly – it certainly wasn’t the intent of any of us to protect anyone who was pursuing and confronting other people.”

Ask yourself this, if the person walking home in the dark had been the one with the gun and had a licence to carry it, and George had been the one shot dead would the conservative right be on Martins side?  You bet. All Martin would have to say would be something like “he came up on me in the dark and I was scared. I was standing my ground.”   Every pro-gun, pro-carry supporter in the nation would be sending money to the Travon Martin defence fund.

We have a gun violence problem in America, and its not just criminals who are guilty of propelling the problem.  The problem owned jointly by anyone who thinks they have the right to shoot another person, an attitude that in itself is rather unique in our society.  Look at any other country in our category and what do you see?  Even criminals by and large refuse to use a firearm in the commission of a crime. It’s beneath people to shoot each other in those countries.

Pro-gun supporters are correct that it’s not the gun that kills it’s the person using it. So stocking up the entire country with guns shouldn’t make gun violence rise at all with that logic.  And that’s what we’ve done, according to the Graduate Institute of International Studies the U.S. citizens own 270 million of the worlds 875 small arms. Thats 90 guns for every 100 people in the U.S.  Another piece of conservative logic is that more guns equates to less crime. That one is dead wrong. If that were the case the U.S. would have no crime to speak of would it?   We’re the most heavily armed country in the world bar none.   Gun violence doesn’t come from crime, it comes from the belief that we have the right to shoot people if one can only justify it.  That is what the folks on the right are constantly trying to prove.  That’s why George Zimmerman has become the latest hero on the right, the poster boy for justifiable homicide.   George Zimmerman was the one with the gun.  He has to be made to look like the victim here or it won’t work.  But that’s impossible isn’t it? Martin was doing nothing wrong.  But even innocent bystanders cut down by a stray are considered collateral damage by the right, the price we have to pay in order not just to keep and bear arms, but to use them on each other on a regular and steady basis.

George Zimmerman will go to jail and he should.  But I can’t help but think that maybe on some level, buried deep within his lack of common sense and mixed up with the belief that he has the right and authority to shoot his fellow citizens, he is a victim. He’s a victim of conservative thinking.  And so is Travon Martin.

OBAMA’S CHRISTMAS TREE TAX

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In case you haven’t heard, the Obama administration has taken another shot at destroying Christmas. Lucky for all of us the good people on the right, like David Addington from the Heritage Foundation are here to protect us this sort of evil socialism.  According to our republican friends Obama has been trying to impose a 15 cent tax on all Christmas trees sold in the U.S.  The truth of the matter is quite different.

The reality of the matter is in stark contrast to what the right is trying to spin. The National Christmas Tree Association requested and agreed to the fee to promote the sale of real Christmas trees through a USDA promotional campaign much like the ones we already see from other campaigns like the “Got Milk?” promotion.

The NCTA issued this statement concerning the proposed fee:

This program was requested by the industry in 2009 and has gone through two industrywide
comment periods during which 565 comments were submitted from interested parties.
More than 70% of the growers posting comments, and nearly 90% of the state and multi-state associations that posted comments indicated that they were in favor of the program. A group of Christmas Tree farmers and retailers spent nearly three years studying the potential positives and negatives of a checkoff promotion and research program, including looking at other commodities that have similar programs.
The program is designed to benefit the industry and will be funded by the growers at a rate of 15 cents per tree sold. The program will be administered by an independent 12-member board of small business owners who grow and sell farm-grown Christmas trees and
they will be responsible for developing and approving promotional and research efforts to benefit the entire industry.

All one can think is that there must be a lot of people on the right who own stock in artificial trees.

 

Really Newt?

Newt Gingrich has an answer to income inequality, get rid of the adults who are working as janitors in schools and the unions that protect them and give those jobs to children under the age of 16. According to Newt the child labor laws aren’t there to protect children as much as they are to protect union jobs. I wonder if Mr. Gingrich ever pondered how it would make poor families better off to take a decent paying job away from Dad so that they could turn around and give it to Jr. for minimum wage?  That’s assuming there would even be a minimum wage, if Newt were to get his way.