Monday, September 29, 2008
BUT Paulson will try again.
Original post this morning:
This is not about economic competence, moral hazard, perverse incentive, or any of the other cynosures of neoliberal policy wonkery. And preserve us from the absurd claim that this is some kind of socialism. It is about class power. If they wanted to resuscitate the economy, here are some possibile uses for that $700bn. Think of households and public sector institutions that are failing largely because the system is failing them: they couldn't put $700bn to better use? How about just nationalising the healthcare system? All of that would certainly stimulate the economy, provide jobs and help people who really are in need, but it would also risk revivifying the exiguous social democratic constraints on the operations of capital. You give people the idea that the tax base should be used in their interests, to give them secure jobs with decent pay, public services, well-funded inner city schools, any of that, they might never be away from the till with their hands out. Greedy taxpayers have to learn that this money is earmarked for conscientious wealth creators and their warriors, not for sloths with their heads stuck in the bargain bucket.
Ira Allen Chapel at the University of Vermont
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Saturday, September 27, 2008
“I’m not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to,” Mr. Newman said last year on the ABC program “Good Morning America.” “You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that’s pretty much a closed book for me.”
But he remained fulfilled by his charitable work, saying it was his greatest legacy, particularly in giving ailing children a camp at which to play.
“We are such spendthrifts with our lives,” Mr. Newman once told a reporter. “The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.”
The Episcopal Church: excelling in irrelevance?
With each passing day, the profound irrelevance of the Church becomes more and more evident. In this irrelevance, the Episcopal Church excels.The Rev. Phillip Cato is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington. His current work is in bioethics, for the National Institutes of Health, and professional ethics.
Even a superficial knowledge of the events which are overtaking our nation is enough to make the case that our church has no direction to give and nothing intelligent to say.
Our economy is at the brink of total collapse. This is so self-evident that no argument needs to be made. Kevin Phillips, several years ago, in Wealth and Democracy, made the case that the United States was following the same pattern that proved the economic undoing of Spain, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. We abandoned a producer economy for one that is primarily financialized, with all our wealth in the form of traded paper.
What he predicted has come to pass. Wealth is concentrated in relatively few hands; the middle class (the former productive class) is greatly diminished, and regularly exploited for the benefit of the wealthy. Political power is oriented primarily toward benefiting those with wealth. The paper instruments upon which this wealth depends increasingly do not represent much that is tangible, the very conditions which preceded the 1929 stock market crash.
The current administration has accrued and claimed exceptional power to act as they choose without constitutional constraint. With sleight of hand, and a willful lack of truthfulness, they have led our nation into an ostensible “war on terror” which changes identity with predictable regularity as the need to justify preemptive war presents itself.
Almost every abuse of executive privilege and power has been on full display. Justice is regularly disregarded and trampled under foot. Disregard for the poor and antagonism toward the strangers in our midst are now a consistent and macabre caricature of Biblical teaching.
In the midst of all this, our Church, the Episcopal Church, squabbles with its internal critics, and behaves as if settling issues of sexuality, and its expression in the Church, are the only serious moral issues in view.
Our bishops waste time at Lambeth and in earnestly disciplining their recalcitrant colleagues while the moral, economic and political world is collapsing around us.
Somewhere in all of this, there is a mistaken hierarchy of values.
The church stands unprepared to deal with economic hard times; it spends unconscionable amounts of money and human resources on propping up failing congregations that have no sense of mission; it is completely unprepared to deal with either natural or health disasters; it eschews any prophetic stance against a corrupt government and a moribund Congress; and it seems to have no sensitivity to the plight of its own members.
When the Church becomes totally irrelevant, and that time is near upon us, those who have looked to it for spiritual and moral leadership will have to look elsewhere.
Though God loves the world; our Church apparently loves only itself and its institutional survival. And that survival increasingly makes very little difference.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Thoughts on John McCain as our constitutional dictator 25 September 2008
If one needs further proof of what is most scary about John McCain , it is provided by his grandstanding yesterday and today. The reason for my concern is linked to my previous post about the non-"authority" of George W. Bush. Well, folks, the same is true of both McCain and Obama, as a matter of fact. Neither of them has anything whatsoever to contribute to the negotiations going on right now, at least if one takes seriously the repeated argument that we are in a crisis that demands an immediate solution, and that the solution should be hammered out by people who really know what they're talking about (and are not engaged in crass political calculation). John McCain, by his own admission, knows very little about economics in general and, I am confident, about complex financial institutions in particular. His only contact with them was as a participant in the corruption generated by Charles Keating and Lincoln Savings. So, if we assume that the negotiations involve knowledgeable people, including Paulson, Bernanke, Barney Frank, Charles Shumer, and others, including, no doubt, Republican representatives and senators, McCain has nothing useful to add. Obama has many, many strengths, but I am not aware that knowledge of the intricacies of financial institutions is one of them. So Obama has nothing useful to add. It is as if one asked them their views about whether the new super-collider in Switzerland should shut down several months in order to engage in relevant repairs. There are people who know the answer, or at least the range of probabilities of different courses of conduct, but I am absolutely confident that neither McCain nor Obama is one of them. Both totally lack what philosophers call "epistemic authority," i.e., relavent knowledge about the topic under discussion. And that is true about the delicacies of responding to the ostensible financial crisis.
"It's not based on any particular data point," a Treasury spokeswoman told Forbes.com Tuesday. "We just wanted to choose a really large number."
See, they just made it up.
"This is our Katrina"
The unsuccessful millionaire Democratic candidate for the United States Senate (against Lieberman in 2006) wasn't being ironic, either. File this under disaster capitalism of a different sort. God.Help.Us.
(Greenwich is one of the wealthiest towns in the state.)
Financial crisis, leadership, and governance
I have to say, first, that I think it's completely inappropriate for any presidential candidate to be injecting himself (and thereby, the whole business of election-campaign politics) into the present situation of crisis-time economic governance. Neither John McCain nor Barack Obama has any responsibility under the law for dealing with the current crisis that is any greateer than that of any of the other 98 US senators. They are not the leaders of-- or even, as far as I know, members of-- any of the relevant Senate committees. Yes, they need to be kept informed of what's going on in the negotiations in Washington (which are reported to be nearing completion.) But they are not members of the current congressional leadership. It is that leadership, the leadership of the administrative branch, and the heads of the Federal reserve and SEC who between them need to reach agreement on the size, terms, and modalities of the bailout package.
McCain's rushing around acting as though he is currently the "leader" of something is childish at best, an active distraction at worst.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
There were no NOLA type jazz funeral bands playin', of course. Kinda wish there were, to startle the vacationing lunch bunch capitalists on Church Street.
TODAY, a group of people of varying political persuasions (including moi) held a protest downtown by the Democracy statue on Main Street (between Leahy's office and the County Courthouse). Protesting the proposed shameful swindle by the Federal Government with its corporatist Secretary of the Treasury on the citizens of this land. The Burlington Free Press covered the protest. We marched up Church street, too, and stood in front of the Federal Building on Elmwood and Pearl. Major local television media and the community's intrepid Channel 17 videographer were there, too. So check the news programs this evening.
I'll update with pbotos I took later on.
... our reflections about Herbert for today boil down into one hard question: Would George Herbert have had a blog?
The question isn't entirely frivolous. For the Herbertish quality we find most missing today is the pure chemical once known as reserve, and probably more easily understood in today's speech if we call it modesty. This is the holy reticence that gives us a double commemoration in 2008, and one of the most telling facts about Herbert's poems: in keeping the 375th anniversary of Herbert's death this year, we also mark the 375th anniversary of the publication of his masterwork, the collection of paraliturgical poems known so well to us as The Temple. Herbert did not publish his poems during his lifetime, and in entrusting them in manuscript form to his friend Nicholas Ferrar he did so with sincere reluctance. It is the same sacred modesty that led John Keble to write his poems not for the press, but for his friends, and the same reserve that kept him from publishing them until his friends demanded it. This is the same sense of propriety and inner judgement that has given centuries of Christians the wisdom to think before speaking or writing, let alone acting or promoting their own preferred agenda as the best for others to follow. And it is deeply, sadly antithetical to our wired world in which the spaces between thought, keyboard and mouse are measured in synapses rather than in minutes or hours. With so much easy information at our fingertips, we've lost some of the ability to discern what is wheat and what is wonderbread. Allowing some space in our communication for breathing and grace may make us slightly less efficient, but it will also make us more like the salt and light Christians are called to be in the world.
We're not thinking it'd be universally beneficial to move toward seventeenth-century modes of thought and behaviour, and we're personally happy to see the passing of the theology enshrined in a church that sang of 'The rich man in his castle / The poor man at his gate / God made them high and lowly / And order'd their estate'. But the reticence, modesty, reserve, caution, carefulness, restraint—call it what you may—that fills Herbert's life and writings and makes them so valuable for us today has largely passed away as well. It's time to bring it back, and Wordpress or Blogger will probably not be helpful in that endeavour. We need to remember that Herbert lived, prayed, and wrote in a church fraught with conflict, much like ours. The forty years of his short life saw quite as much ecclesiastical change around the world as the last forty have seen in our day. But his attitude in this period of bewildering party politics was one of servanthood, duty, sacrifice and focus rather than their opposites.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Here is the wording of the ballot item for the City Election in March, 2009:
“Shall the City of Burlington be advised to revoke the $21 million proposal to renovate and redevelop the Moran Plant with the understanding that the voters have lost confidence in the way the proposal agreement has been proceeding?”
Paulson Bailout Plan a Historic Swindle
Financial-market wise guys, who had been seized with fear, are suddenly drunk with hope. They are rallying explosively because they think they have successfully stampeded Washington into accepting the Wall Street Journal solution to the crisis: dump it all on the taxpayers. That is the meaning of the massive bailout Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has shopped around Congress. It would relieve the major banks and investment firms of their mountainous rotten assets and make the public swallow their losses--many hundreds of billions, maybe much more. What's not to like if you are a financial titan threatened with extinction?
If Wall Street gets away with this, it will represent an historic swindle of the American public--all sugar for the villains, lasting pain and damage for the victims. My advice to Washington politicians: Stop, take a deep breath and examine what you are being told to do by so-called "responsible opinion." If this deal succeeds, I predict it will become a transforming event in American politics--exposing the deep deformities in our democracy and launching a tidal wave of righteous anger and popular rebellion. As I have been saying for several months, this crisis has the potential to bring down one or both political parties, take your choice.
Christopher Whalen of Institutional Risk Analytics, a brave conservative critic, put it plainly: "The joyous reception from Congressional Democrats to Paulson's latest massive bailout proposal smells an awful lot like yet another corporatist lovefest between Washington's one-party government and the Sell Side investment banks."
A kindred critic, Josh Rosner of Graham Fisher in New York, defined the sponsors of this stampede to action: "Let us be clear, it is not citizen groups, private investors, equity investors or institutional investors broadly who are calling for this government purchase fund. It is almost exclusively being lobbied for by precisely those institutions that believed they were 'smarter than the rest of us,' institutions who need to get those assets off their balance sheet at an inflated value lest they be at risk of large losses or worse."
Let me be clear. The scandal is not that government is acting. The scandal is that government is not acting forcefully enough--using its ultimate emergency powers to take full control of the financial system and impose order on banks, firms and markets. Stop the music, so to speak, instead of allowing individual financiers and traders to take opportunistic moves to save themselves at the expense of the system. The step-by-step rescues that the Federal Reserve and Treasury have executed to date have failed utterly to reverse the flight of investors and banks worldwide from lending or buying in doubtful times. There is no obvious reason to assume this bailout proposal will change their minds, though it will certainly feel good to the financial houses that get to dump their bad paper on the government.
A serious intervention in which Washington takes charge would, first, require a new central authority to supervise the financial institutions and compel them to support the government's actions to stabilize the system. Government can apply killer leverage to the financial players: accept our objectives and follow our instructions or you are left on your own--cut off from government lending spigots and ineligible for any direct assistance. If they decline to cooperate, the money guys are stuck with their own mess. If they resist the government's orders to keep lending to the real economy of producers and consumers, banks and brokers will be effectively isolated, therefore doomed.
Only with these conditions, and some others, should the federal government be willing to take ownership--temporarily--of the rotten financial assets that are dragging down funds, banks and brokerages. Paulson and the Federal Reserve are trying to replay the bailout approach used in the 1980s for the savings and loan crisis, but this situation is utterly different. The failed S&Ls held real assets--property, houses, shopping centers--that could be readily resold by the Resolution Trust Corporation at bargain prices. This crisis involves ethereal financial instruments of unknowable value--not just the notorious mortgage securities but various derivative contracts and other esoteric deals that may be virtually worthless.
Despite what the pols in Washington think, the RTC bailout was also a Wall Street scandal. Many of the financial firms that had financed the S&L industry's reckless lending got to buy back the same properties for pennies from the RTC--profiting on the upside, then again on the downside. Guess who picked up the tab? I suspect Wall Street is envisioning a similar bonanza--the chance to harvest new profit from their own fraud and criminal irresponsibility.
If government acts responsibly, it will impose some other conditions on any broad rescue for the bankers. First, take due bills from any financial firms that get to hand off their spoiled assets, that is, a hard contract that repays government from any future profits once the crisis is over. Second, when the politicians get around to reforming financial regulations and dismantling the gimmicks and "too big to fail" institutions, Wall Street firms must be prohibited from exercising their usual manipulations of the political system. Call off their lobbyists, bar them from the bribery disguised as campaign contributions. Any contact or conversations between the assisted bankers and financial houses with government agencies or elected politicians must be promptly reported to the public, just as regulated industries are required to do when they call on government regulars.
More important, if the taxpayers are compelled to refinance the villains in this drama, then Americans at large are entitled to equivalent treatment in their crisis. That means the suspension of home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies for debt-soaked families during the duration of this crisis. The debtors will not escape injury and loss--their situation is too dire--but they deserve equal protection from government, the chance to work out things gradually over some years on reasonable terms.
The government, meanwhile, may have to create another emergency agency, something like the New Deal, that lends directly to the real economy--businesses, solvent banks, buyers and sellers in consumer markets. We don't know how much damage has been done to economic growth or how long the cold spell will last, but I don't trust the bankers in the meantime to provide investment capital and credit. If necessary, Washington has to fill that role, too.
Finally, the crisis is global, obviously, and requires concerted global action. Robert A. Johnson, a veteran of global finance now working with the Campaign for America's Future, suggests that our global trading partners may recognize the need for self-interested cooperation and can negotiate temporary--maybe permanent--reforms to balance the trading system and keep it functioning, while leading nations work to put the global financial system back in business.
The agenda is staggering. The United States is ill equipped to deal with it smartly, not to mention wisely. We have a brain-dead lame duck in the White House. The two presidential candidates are trapped by events, trying to say something relevant without getting blamed for the disaster. The people should make themselves heard in Washington, even if only to share their outrage.
Whatever the events of this week mean, nobody should believe the overblown claims that the market crisis signals the death of "free market" ideology. Free market ideology has always been a servant to the interests of capital, and its presence ebbs and flows depending on its usefulness to those interests.Republocrat Welch: Pay attention to that last paragraph.
During boom times, it's profitable to preach laissez faire, because an absentee government allows speculative bubbles to inflate. When those bubbles burst, the ideology becomes a hindrance, and it goes dormant while big government rides to the rescue. But rest assured: the ideology will come roaring back when the bailouts are done. The massive debts the public is accumulating to bail out the speculators will then become part of a global budget crisis that will be the rationalization for deep cuts to social programs, and for a renewed push to privatize what is left of the public sector. We will also be told that our hopes for a green future are, sadly, too costly.
What we don't know is how the public will respond. Consider that in North America, everybody under the age of 40 grew up being told that the government can't intervene to improve our lives, that government is the problem not the solution, that laissez faire was the only option. Now, we are suddenly seeing an extremely activist, intensely interventionist government, seemingly willing to do whatever it takes to save investors from themselves.
This spectacle necessarily raises the question: if the state can intervene to save corporations that took reckless risks in the housing markets, why can't it intervene to prevent millions of Americans from imminent foreclosure? By the same token, if $85bn can be made instantly available to buy the insurance giant AIG, why is single-payer health care – which would protect Americans from the predatory practices of health-care insurance companies – seemingly such an unattainable dream? And if ever more corporations need taxpayer funds to stay afloat, why can't taxpayers make demands in return – like caps on executive pay, and a guarantee against more job losses?
We're going to go out on a limb here and call the Vermont U.S. House of Representatives race for the incumbent, Democrat Peter Welch. Or perhaps we should be more precise and say for the Democrat-Republican Peter Welch, which is how his name will appear on the November ballot. Welch is now officially a “fusion candidate,” having received enough write-in votes on Republican ballots in the Sept. 9 primary election to win the GOP congressional nomination. While he calls himself a proud Democrat, he graciously accepted the nomination this week; by implication, he's a proud Republican when votes are at stake.No wonder he's voted to continue funding the war and has not called for Bush's impeachment. He's a Republocrat!
Welch is not the only Democratic fusion candidate on the Vermont ballot this year. The state auditor of accounts and state treasurer also picked up the Republican nominations because the party failed to field candidates for those positions, too.
Perhaps the popular Republican governor, Jim Douglas, has short coattails. Or maybe the state Republican Party made a strategic decision not to contest the U.S. House seat Welch has held since 2006, choosing instead to concentrate on securing the statehouse once again for Douglas, who is running for a fourth term against Democrat Gaye Symington and Independent Anthony Pollina. Congressional races are expensive, after all, and incumbents are often hard to beat.
But wouldn't the cause of democracy have been better served if Welch had a Republican rival? Dysfunction in Washington is all the more reason that voters need to hear from the major-party candidates in order to understand, and differentiate among, divergent points of view on the important issues of the day. Without a Republican opponent, Welch is unlikely to campaign as vigorously as he might have otherwise. He owes his constituents a thorough briefing on what he's tried to accomplish in the past two years and what his priorities are for the next two. After only one term in Congress, he's off easy, unchecked by a viable challenger.
We should mention here that Welch isn't running unopposed -- the names of three independents, a Progressive Party candidate [Thomas James Hermann] and a Liberty Union candidate [Jane Newton] will also appear on the November ballot. But you're unlikely to see or hear all the candidates together in one place, fielding questions from either the press or the public.
To this end, the League of Women Voters of the Upper Valley wants to host candidate forums for the Twin States' congressional and gubernatorial races (see today's letter on the opposite page). So far, the organization has had trouble drumming up interest. Some of the candidates have declined the invitation, including Welch and Rep. Paul Hodes, who represents New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District. As the League points out, independent and uncommitted voters yearn to see candidates side by side. Are Welch and Hodes too smug or just too busy to join a League forum? Whatever the case, we hope the League has better luck with the gubernatorial candidates and with the major contenders for New Hampshire's U.S. Senate seat, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and incumbent Republican John Sununu. Participatory democracy cannot succeed without participation -- of the candidates, their parties and the people.
Friday, September 19, 2008
... I grew up in England at a time of some non-trivial economic disruption there. The thing I'm missing here in the US today, that I would expect and hope to hear more of, is leaders from different walks of life-- including political leaders-- talking publicly about how "we are all in the current crisis together", and "we need to take extraordinary steps to help the most vulnerable among us in these difficult times," and so on.
I haven't heard anything of that, yet.
Well, I guess this is only to be expected from a country in which medical care has been deeply marketized, where the materially rich are treated like demi-gods, and where the most common assumption in the mainstream media is that people are concerned about the economy primarily as investors, rather than as working families with pressing social and economic needs.
It would be great if the current crisis could lead to a new, richer understanding here of the intimate relationship between the situation of society ("the public good") and the situation of the individual citizens.
"I never thought they would kill us because we were just ordinary people," says Saih. "I only realised [what they were going to do] when they began the countdown... Een, twee, drie." Three soldiers started shooting the men in the back.Rawagede is one of the most notorious events in the history of Indonesian struggle for independence against the Dutch. Witness accounts from survivors (Dutch-Indonesian-Sundanese) say that some young males of 11-12 years old were among those massacred!
According to the village, the soldiers shot dead all the men – 431 people. It was summary justice, meted out as the men were running away or hiding in the river. In 1969, an investigation by the Dutch government into war crimes in Indonesia says 150 were killed in Rawagede.
Saih, now in his late 80s, is one of the 10 survivors and relatives who, 61 years later, are asking for an apology and compensation for the massacre in the Indonesian village of Rawagede carried out by Dutch soldiers on December 9, 1947.
My father lived in Soerabaja - in the Dutch East Indies - in the 1930's. He never really talked about his experiences there and only confessed when he was older that he was ashamed of the treatment of his fellow countrymen toward the native population. Only now are the Dutch coming to terms with their colonial past and inherent racism.
Bravo to The Burlington Free Press for its editorial ("Fix balloting mess by November election," Sept. 11) and John Briggs' reporting ("Shortage of ballots mars vote," Sept. 11). I am pleased to see the Free Press has woken up to the ineptness at City Hall, rather than taking the "word" of spinmeisters in the Kiss administration. I hope City Council wakes up, too, and gives more than a wrist slap to Mr. "Nice Guy" Pacy, as they did after the first ballot fiasco of spring '08.
City Hall staff criticisms of voters and hard-working election workers show a lack of accountability. Clearly the fault of the second ballot fiasco of fall '08 lies with Kiss appointee Ben Pacy and the Secretary of State's Office. The Nov. 4 General Election is too important: Their excuses show an unacceptable contempt for the election process, the voters of this city, and democracy.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Essay: Houston after dark
How to fathom that 5 million people are without power? The best way is to see it for yourself, to see a normally luminescent city - a bonanza of lights and billboards and ever-beckoning commerce - engulfed in almost total darkness.
Out on the highways and thoroughfares, in the middle of the night, you can drive for miles without seeing anyone, or any light other than that coming from your car.
They become so scarce as to greet you like a friendly smile.
Gaudy car dealerships. Gas stations with no gas. Flashing logos at tacky bars and restaurants. Even still-burning cigarette butts. These are your friends while you drive in pitch black Houston.
Cruising through a neighborhood with no lights can conjure an eerie feeling. You know people are there, tossing in bed as they sweat, cursing the hurricane for all their discomforts, but when you cannot see them or any sign they exist, you feel like the only person in the world.
Drive deeper into the darkness and you see the detritus of old trees in the street, cars parked in the driveways of big Texas houses, discarded plywood or generator boxes, but you don't see any people. And you don't see any light.
So you head back to the big streets, back to see your friends, the lights, and wonder at the randomness of where light remains. On the east side of the North Freeway, Greenspoint Mall is but a silhouette, but the other side of the median is as bright as a summer's day, where a host of businesses look as though they could open any moment. Carmax is bright enough to resemble a sports stadium, but a neighboring dealership has not only no lights but no cars, either.
As you drive around the two loops, all you see are bright, flashing sirens, which mean something too, as they are bringing scarce light to dark places and maybe darker happenings.
Then, as you wind around a bend, heading back downtown on U.S. 59, you see it, the only place that never darkened during the storm: the Houston skyline.
Light, alas, is everywhere.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Boots and I were arrested back in June 2006 when the then-Intelligence (sic) Czar, John Negroponte, was in St. Johnsbury, Vermont to give a graduation address. You can read all about it here.
Now, two and a half years later, our cases are going to be heard by the Vermont Supreme Court. Yep, on Tuesday, September 23rd at 9:30, the court will consider both State v. Wardinski and State v. Colby, as our ever-gifted lawyer, the great David Sleigh, will argue that we were well within our rights to stand and object to Negroponte’s presence that day. Yes, I said “gifted” and “great,” mostly because he is and also because he agreed to take this case pro bono. While this case certainly doesn’t have the drama of his Guantanamo case – yes, he’s representing a detainee there – it should be interesting. Come watch the show if you can.
Brennan's restaurant burns [I've dined there, my favourite restaurant in Houston, a landmark dining experience!]
Brennan's opened in downtown Houston more than 40 years ago and constantly rated as one of the best eateries in the city.
It's a favorite spot for Sunday brunch and family celebrations.
It was only one of several fires across the city of Houston late Friday and early Saturday morning. But as hurricane force winds approached Houston, the fire department ordered a handful of fire stations to not go out and battle any blazes until the storm threat subsided.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
EDITORIAL Burlington Free Press 11 September 2008
Fix balloting mess by November electionWell, it's more than that: it's incompetence from City Hall. Notice in the news reports how the SoS and City Hall nincompoops just pass the buck and blame the "newbie" poll workers. Owen told me he had phoned City Hall repeatedly about the ballot shortfall and it took a while for them to respond. Otherwise, the election day ran smoothly up until the time they had to count the votes - and it was the convoluted, complex SOP's of the Secretary of State's office that bogged the poll workers down. Notice that tv media reports give the impression that poll workers walked off the job, when in fact, Owen Mulligan was in communication with City Hall about the problems at every turn and asked for assistance. You'd think City Hall had come to rescue democracy, from the way Pacy and Bergman explained it. Notice that Kiss appointee Pacy is again not accepting responsibility for his failure to perform, after the mess up in March.
Few people seemed to care very much about the primary on Tuesday, including state and Burlington city officials charged with running the election.
Amid a voter turnout that approached historic lows, the Burlington election was beset with problems including a shortage of ballots, and delays in tallying results and promptly reporting the outcome.
State and city election officials have less than eight weeks to make sure there is no repeat of the mangled performance that marked primary day in Burlington. They need to make sure the city can handle the expected heavy turnout for the November elections that include the presidential race.
Lack of attention to details seems to be at the core of the problems that tripped up the Burlington voting.
In two wards, the Secretary of State's Office sent too few ballots to the polling place -- 200 ballots instead of 2,000 in Ward 5 -- yet local officials failed to notice the shortfall until too late. The only way an 1,800-ballot shortfall goes unnoticed is if nobody at the state and local level is paying attention.
The problem with the ballots added to the difficulties poll workers were having in filling out results forms required by the state. Some election workers were too exhausted to finish the task. Election officials were forced to find more counters at 11 p.m., four hours after the polls had closed.
Owen Mulligan, clerk for Ward 6, told the Free Press that he received inadequate training before election day, adding City Hall had failed to do its job.
In general, results were slow to make their way to City Hall, something Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Ben Pacy attributed to having to follow directions from the Secretary of State's Office. The same requirements, however, failed to significantly delay results from the other Chittenden County towns.
But for Burlington, following election rules closely might be a good thing given the problems that a failure to follow procedures caused after last Town Meeting Day.
In the days after the March elections, Pacy improperly broke the seal on the ballot box from Ward 7 several times before a recount was conducted. That incident led to a lawsuit accusing the city official of possible vote tampering and calling for a new election. A judge rejected the claims.
This time, the judgment will come from the voters. The ruling may be less benign, especially from those who took the time to cast ballots in an election that state and city officials failed to manage competently.
The problems in Burlington happened when fewer than 3,000 votes were cast. For the general election on Nov. 4, the city can expect 10 times that number heading to the polls. Election officials must fix this mess. Otherwise, the verdict will be clear: guilty of contempt of voters and the election process.
UPDATE: John Briggs has an article in today's BFP.
Mulligan said the vote tabulations and the requirement to record the tally on state forms proved to be "extremely time-consuming." He said the pre-election training he received was an overview and involved no "hands-on" training, either with the voting machines or the state forms.I'm glad to see that the Free Press is finally waking up and is not accepting the excuses of City Hall.
"Overall, we were able to pull this off, which is why we were there so long, but it took quite an effort," he said. "I don't want to see a repeat of it. I don't understand how we can't have enough ballots."
If City Hall doesn't offer hands-on training before the November general election, "I'm going to conduct it myself," Mulligan said. "I'm going to make sure it doesn't happen again, but if they don't give me enough ballots, there's nothing I can do about that."
Monday, September 8, 2008
Saturday, September 6, 2008
GLITTERING ROYAL EVENTS
After 50 years on the throne Queen Wilhelmina, who herself became Queen at the tender age of 18 (back in 1898) 'handed down' her powers as Monarch to her only daughter & heiress, Juliana.Photo: © Bettmann/CORBIS
Amsterdam, September 6, 1948 was an exceptional day, both for the Dutch Monarchy as well for all those who wanted a new start in life after WWII. [Dutch monarchs are not "crowned."]
I had arrived in the USA with my mother a few weeks before. I was just four months old.
A fascinating NOS-documentary (in Dutch) broadcast on 5 September 2008:
1948 is recalled in the documentary: abdication of Wilhelmina, inauguration of Juliana, the celebration for the two queens, post-war rebuilding, recollections of eye witnesses of the events of 6 September:
1948: 'Juliana, een nieuwe koningin'
NOS Short biography of Juliana (in Dutch):
Friday, September 5, 2008
Thursday, September 4, 2008
"Dear Voters - BED will have a question on the primary ballot."Here is my reply on the FPF:
On the primary ballot? Why not on the GE ballot on November 4th? The purpose of this primary to choose candidates from the various political parties for statewide office and for our representatives in Washington. So, why is this question put to the voters on primary day? Could it be that BED knows thatAnd with the smaller turnout, a lower number of eligible, registered voters will be deciding the question.
less people will vote in the primaries than in the GE and are assured passage of their question? Don't get me wrong, I support the hard work of BED in providing service for the citizen ratepayers (I am one). Putting the question on the September 9th ballot may indeed be a smart move on the part of BED, but - call me a cynical voter - it's a dodgy trick.
Today it is critical that you make your voice heard in the Ramsey County Attorney and St. Paul City Attorney offices. Demand that they drop all pending and current charges against journalists arrested while reporting on protests outside the Republican National Conventions.The Real News has a series of videos on Amy Goodman's arrest.
The Ramsey County Attorney’s office is in the process of deciding whether or not to press felony P.C. (probable cause) riot charges against Democracy Now! Producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Please contact Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner by all means possible to demand that her office not press charges against Kouddous and Salazar.
Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner
Susan Gaertner for Governor
The St. Paul City Attorney’s office has already charged Amy Goodman with misdemeanor obstruction of a legal process and interference with a peace officer. Contact St. Paul City Attorney John Choi by all means possible to demand that the charges against Goodman be dropped immediately.
St. Paul City Attorney John Choi
firstname.lastname@example.org (cc: email@example.com)
Goodman was arrested while questioning police about the unlawful detention of Kouddous and Salazar who were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention.
During the demonstration in which the Democracy Now! team was arrested, law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force against protesters and journalists. Several dozen demonstrators were also arrested during this action, as was a photographer for the Associated Press.
Be sure to cc: firstname.lastname@example.org on all emails so that our team can deliver print outs of your messages to the St. Paul City Attorney and Ramsey County Attorney offices.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
According to reports in the newspaper De Telegraaf [link in Dutch; rough translation in English], the country's intelligence service, the AIVD, has stopped an espionage operation aimed at infiltration and sabotage of the weapons industry in Iran.The Telegraaf story was published on 29 August, the day after the Obama coronation. Oh, that's just lovely. These kinds of speculative stories have run before, so who knows? But it's interesting that it's just weeks away to the U.S. 2008 General Election. For what it's worth, the Telegraaf story was linked by 52 blogs (and now mine).
"The operation, described as extremely successful, was halted recently in connection with plans for an impending US air attack on Iran," said the report.
"Targets would also be bombed which were connected with the Dutch espionage action."
"Well placed" sources told the paper that a top agent had been recalled recently "because the US was thought to be making a decision within weeks to attack Iran with unmanned aircraft".
"Information from the AIVD operation has in recent years been shared with the American CIA secret service."
Brig Gen Seyyed Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of the Iranian armed forces, warned at the weekend that military attacks against Iran would trigger a Third World War.
(Thanks to Anonymous/Patrick for the alert about the Telegraaf story.)
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
More than 280 people were arrested here in St. Paul Monday, the opening day of the Republican National Convention. Among them were several journalists covering the protests in the streets, including three of us at Democracy Now! Amy was detained trying to question police officers about the arrests of Democracy Now! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole SalazarPlease call Ramsey County Jail in Minnesota and demand the release of Democracy Now! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar who were illegally arrested at the RNC protests. (Goodman was released.)
CALL 651-266-8989 to log a complaint against the bogus charges.
OTHER BLOGGERS PLEASE COPY AND POST THIS COMPLAINT LINE NUMBER. THANKS.
That is the only number for complaints that is working. A friend phoned and was rudely cut off twice by the receptionist taking his call. On his third attempt, he was able to have his complaint logged in.
I just phoned this afternoon and was able to get my complaint logged in successfully. The receptionist was polite, as well she should be.
Monday, September 1, 2008
There was a time when these conventions meant something more than mere pageantry. They were the place where arguments were made, platforms thrashed out and delegates wooed with policy. But like British party conferences, conventions are now essentially media events at which the media enjoys neither particular access, information nor, for the most part, insight. The result is two weeks of propaganda rolled out like a well-choreographed marketing campaign and faithfully transmitted by supine outlets.