• Election Day, the Lottery, Nature vs. “Culture”


    Many harbingers, okay, events, surround Election Day this year. First, Powerball stakes skyrocketed to more than $2 billion. I entered and lost, new to the game and wanting to trade the issues of “making ends meet” with those of a tree that would be inundated by fungi—that is, my whole karass would convert me into a human wallet.

    “I’d rather be rich and miserable than poor and miserable,” my father used to say.

    After Powerball, or simultaneous with it, came the last lunar eclipse until 2025. We’d see a reddish full moon gradually shadowed over. I carefully noted the time of visibility and stumbled out of bed to greet it at 5:30 am, but when I peered through the slat of my vertical blinds, I was blinded by a harsh light from the top of a neighboring building. I couldn’t make out anything else.

    Step two: another bust. I staggered back to bed after glancing at my cellphone to see ifthe winning lottery ticket had been drawn. It hadn’t.

    Up this morning slowly because of interrupted sleep, I next focused on this day of all days, Election Day. My polls are right on the acreage of my apartment complex. Few people vote there but enough to support its presence. I strolled over to take some pictures—having voted by mail weeks ago—expecting little “action.” I turned out to be it when I asked the front desk if I could photo the room with the machinery and was told to go ahead.

    Once there, I was told harshly to stop—no photos. Go outside where there are signs. Sure, I said. No problem. I didn’t blame their coworker. Blame games are becoming more and more irrelevant to my life, though not to politics. What is campaigning but blame games even more than vital issues?

    So I photoed the signage. Interesting arrangements. The ones advocating Democratic candidates, scarcer than GOP ones, greeted drivers as they pulled up to park but were to the right of the portion of the building where people were voting; GOP ones fronted that area in a neat horizontal row. Then at the parking lot exit, a vertical row of them saluted voters.

    If I didn’t know the political orientations of residents nearby, I would have guessed it.

    So I wended my way home along the winding path that passes the Delaware River. There an array of trees posed for pictures: a stately birch alone among other varieties, embraced by a smaller, gnarled tree about a third of its height. What did that mean?

    Should I personify it?

    I thought of the “woodwide web” formed by trees communicating and sustaining each other via fungal threads, a theory first offered up in the late 1990s by ecologist Suzanne Simard among others. Could I extend this to a tableau of tribute beng paid to a lofty birch by lowly ones with dark-hued bark? Racism perhaps?

    I passed by a self-effacing black woman once I walked further. I wanted to tell her not to forget to vote but remained silent though I hoped she was en route to the polls and not intimidated. Racism lurks barely below the surface of this year’s election—so what else is new?

    I came home to find out that someone in California won the lottery with a perfect ticket. I had purchased my ticket online and allowed for random numerical arrangements. My lucky numbers weren’t winners anyway this time. Maybe I should stick to the state lottery and settle for a jackpot of millions. Yes, I’d settle for millions. Even less, but not by too much.

    Rightwing reactions to the election won’t nurture our democratic ideals. That fungal web has other agendas, more like our more traditional imagery of fungi. Many are poisonous. And so on. Some are delicious … like democracy.

    A hurricane is forecast to hit Florida and then proceed northward to Georgia and produce heavy rain farther north. That’s later this week, just when all the mail-in ballots are being counted and controversy inevitable as the host of election-denying candidates contest (violently?) winners other than themselves. November, usually the tail end of the hurricane season, will be stormy at that level if not literally. Winter follows. I’m told it will be a rough one.

    For democracy?

  • Another [Temporary] Escape from Doomsday Dread

    From flickr.com: Teeth {VID-176489}

    (image from Flikr)

    One remedy for despair over the horrors worldwide and domestic is to go to the dentist for your semi-annual cleaning.

    The technology has evolved to a needle-like device that sprays water at and between your teeth as it probes for plaque and God knows what else. It is screechy loud. That is step one. Oh, please don’t hit a nerve!

    How can I be wishing that this hour will pass? I ask myself. How can I wish my life away?

    Next come all the pointy instruments sterilely packaged in cellophane—those things that jab at you as you again dread a nerve being hit, which today I compared to listening to ragged fingernails scratching a blackboard. Why is that sound such a horror? So is a nerve being hit  and that worst of all possibilities, one of those needle-like implements getting caught in a tooth. A cavity. Fillings are such fun also. I once had one done without anesthesia. I must have been crazy.

    But back to the cleaning: Skreeeee! Oh get your fingernail out of my lip! Why don’t you manicure your nails shorter? Ouch.

    Finally, the fun part. Rinse out and then …  time to floss! Two feet of floss for one mouth? Then toothbrushing time! But oh, you’ve got to be kidding—strawberry flavored? I’m probably the only person in the world who dislikes strawberries. But the taste is mild and still the best part of the ordeal until … the end! Rinse out! Ptui!

    No cavities, everything else normal: tongue, neck glands, whatever else the man dentist, who enters dramatically afterward, was looking for. Oh, please don’t find anything!

    Clean bill of oral health. They’re all out of free toothbrushes and miniature containers of floss, but here’s a travel-sized tube of your favor toothpaste brand. Thanks. 

    Free for another six months. 

    I’ve been going to the same dentist off and on since the mid-nineties. I first went to him for a toothache. A total stranger. Then I looked up at the guy bent over my teeth and saw the handsomest man I’d ever seen in my life. Surprise. Not that getting a filling was pleasant but the shock was. His wife at the front desk was extremely pretty. So going to the dentist was at least esthetically pleasing after that.

    I strolled out into an achingly beautiful autumn day, the sky sharply blue, the foliage peaking. Then reality came crashing down. Back into this pathetic, doomed reality of our poor old world we’ve plundered so badly.

    Putin’s accusation that Ukraine will be using dirty bombs on his country reminds me of Bush Jr.’s “WMD” hoax that led to the Iraq war and all the hell after that. This time the Doomsday Clock’s hand is even closer to that twelve.

  • Congressman Jamie Raskin: "Thank you, PDA, for hanging tough"

    Jamie Raskin
    Jamie Raskin
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    [It all boils down to this:] "Voting is like driving: if you want to go forward, you put it in D; if you want to go backwards, you put it in R."--Jamie Raskin

    The 115th session of the Zoom group Grassroots Emergency Election Protection Coalition (GREEP) featured Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who gained national prominence recently as lead manager in the second set of impeachment hearings against Donald Trump in the wake of the January 6, 2021 insurrection. Farther back in time, Raskin also helped found the Progressive Democrats of America, in the company of two other pioneer activists, Mike Hersh and Joel Siegel. Most of the session focused on the upcoming elections, expectably, as well as MAGA's fascistic threats against our democracy.

    The majority of this country are on our side, Raskin began; youth are registering Democratic at a ratio of two to one; all are moving in our direction. The Republican Party has been reduced to a cult of authoritarian personality around Donald Trump, a huge dive from its origins as Lincoln's party. Rightly did Biden accuse them of semi-fascist elements: "It the shoe semi-fits, you semi-wear it!'

    He named actions like the attacks on early voting, weekend voting, and the mail-in ballot as well as voter challenging (happening in Georgia), gerrymandering, and the filibuster as large symptoms of the decay of democracy we must fight against.

    We need more Democrats in the Senate to codify Roe v Wade and promote gun safety. The GOP thrives on the Electoral College, responsible for installing five popular-vote losers as presidents, two Republicans in this century alone. Gerrymandering isn't in the Constitution, but the Electoral College is. Presidential campaigns focus on swing states almost exclusively: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, and aa few others. We export democracy hypocritically while whittling it down at home. We must have direct elections, which are indeed "democracy itself." 

    For Biden democracy may seem static (as he implied in a speech a few weeks ago), but for Tocqueville it was expanding or shrinking 150 years ago. Raskin specified six Amendments out of many that expand democracy: numbers 15, 17, 19, 23, 24, and 26. We must get back on that track--to a sea change that statehood for the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico would accomplish, for example. We must add an amendment on the right to vote and restore the Voting Rights Act back to the full strength that SCOTUS gutted in 2013.

    "There is no solution to the ills of democracy except for more democracy." We're fighting to keep it this way.

    Joel Siegel, co-convener of GREEP and former lead counsel to Congressman John Conyers, asked Raskin to specify, as a Constitutional scholar (a former professor of Constitutional law before he became a state senator in Maryland), what exact federal laws Trump had violated with the January 6 insurrection: Conspiracy to interfere with a federal proceeding, the official counting of the electoral votes?

    Raskin replied, a federal statute. Halting the proceedings was the whole point of the Stop the Steal movement. "He pointed them like a loaded gun at the Capitol; he knew that they were armed. Bring down the magnetometers, bring down the metal detectors. He had been mobilizing [the opposition]. They sharpened the United States flag into weapons," the Congressman said. They have been accused and convicted of seditious conspiracy, to overthrow the US government. There is a very powerful circumstantial case to be made against them and 150 have already been prosecuted. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice are in a position to prosecute any federal crimes that they see. Many of those prosecuted point to Trump as instigator who forced them to do what they did: "If I'm guilty, then Donald Trump is guilty." And he's facing many other charges, including bank fraud, real estate fraud, and election fraud.

    Another question from Siegel concerned the possibility of limiting the power of extremist groups and their violence against minorities. Why should they be allowed to threaten voters? Aren't there limitations we can put on these groups before it's too late? All 50 states ban "private" militias, Raskin said; this is made very clear in the Constitution. These can be banned. They must be banned at the federal level too. They can be prosecuted but also sued, and many such groups have been bankrupted by this process. This is probably the best way to put them out of business.

    The next subject was Georgia, a hotbed of election corruption with its notorious SB 202 passed in the wake of the "Georgia Miracle" that handed the Senate majority to Democrats. Ray McClendon, head of the state's NAACP and architect of the Georgia Miracle said that early voting began last week and almost 750,000 have already voted, in a ratio of 60 percent Democratic to 40 percent GOP, numbers nearly as large as in 2020 at this time, though-mail-in votes are falling behind. Blacks are overperforming as a percent of the total black registered voters in the state, as a result of massive get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts. McClendon asked Raskin how to amass more support from the funding community for these crucial grassroots efforts, which must be ongoing year-round rather than just during election seasons--how to amass more grassroots support.

    There are strict laws governing financial support of campaigns, said Raskin, and we can't get involved at the level of 501c3 and 501c4 organizations. We all must realize the importance of defending the right to vote at the local level and using that right to reflect the will of the people and procure effective leadership to accomplish this. 

    Civic engagement and civic activism are of crucial importance, Raskin continued. There is a crisis of Constitutional illiteracy. People must be educated; the MAGA component believes that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to allow people to overthrow the government and that the Constitution makes America a Christian nation. It is that kind of Constitutional illiteracy that has gotten us into this terrible situation.

    Said McClendon, the Center for Common Ground is building Democracy Centers all over the Southeast that teach civics, a subject no longer taught in public schools. We're making people aware that they can become activists and participate in the government at the city and school board levels, where the other side has become involved. We need to counterbalance that. When we go into barbershops and beauty shops and out on the streets to to reach out to the people, they ask where we are the rest of the year beyond getting us to vote. 

    Raskin pointed to certain practices already in place year-round, including free minor auto repairs so that people won't be pulled over and harassed because they need them; diapers and food are also made available to those in need.

    GREEP co-convener Harvey Wasserman, also an author and academic, emphasized how crucial it is for the Democratic Party to move away from its marriage to high-expenditure media to a far more effective level, grassroots organizing, which could win the upcoming election.

    Well-known author and fascism scholar Brynn Tannehill spoke of the fascistic scapegoating of transgender populations by Putin, Orban, and Members of Congress like Margery Taylor Green and even Marcia Blackburn. "There's still a great degree of discomfort about transgender people." They will bear the worst brunt of the fall of democracy. It's extremely scary. She spoke of planning to leave the country with her family if things continue in this direction. She asked what officials like Raskin are doing to protect against this.

    Raskin said he was proud to have sponsored and seen passed a gender rights bill in Maryland in 2014. He said we must protect transgender people against violence and Republicans' discrimination. For protection we must support the police rather than defund them. On January 6, mostly black and Hispanic police saved his own as well as his son and daughter-in-law's lives--they were together at the Capitol that day. The bigoted element must be eliminated, of course. But police have performed well in major cities. 

    Dennis Bernstein, host of the nationally syndicated radio show Flashpoints, next compared the recent voter intimidation and thuggery in Arizona to death squads in the drug-dealing Central American military who threaten those who dare to testify against them in court. Bernstein further pointed to arrests in Florida of ex-felons unaware that they still lacked the right to vote. The state legislature, Raskin added, had voted to charge ex-felons for the expenses of their imprisonment, a poll tax right out of the end of Reconstruction, in violation of the Twenty-fourth Amendment. We must address such discrimination in all of the states and get the Department of Justice to proactively protect the right to vote.

    Bernstein further asked how dangerous are the threats of nuclear attack being traded by both this country and Putin. Raskin called Putin a desperate madman. "We must aggressively support the national sovereignty and democracy of Ukraine and keep diplomatic channels open," he said, expressing hope for a Ukraine victory and US intervention to get Russia to rebuild the county.

    Wasserman commented on the importance of aid, worried about a GOP takeover of Congress in 2022, which might oppose it, and the consequent possibility of Putin taking over the nuclear power plants in Ukraine and thereby becoming dictator of Europe.

    Activist Jim Garrison, founder and president of Ubiquity University, asked how it is possible that Donald Trump isn't already in court and in jail, given the enormity of his ongoing coup attempts, white supremacy violence, and thuggery. Where is the federal government? Why aren't Democrats taking the kind of action that will be normal?

    "The walls are closing in on Donald Trump," said Raskin. In New York, in Georgia, not to mention his theft of crucial classified documents that he hid at Mar-a-Lago. It's got to be charged. There was probable cause that a crime had been committed and much more contraband found than was initially expected. "I don't know what's going to happen." Congress can discover and make known the evidence and proof, but it's up to the Justice Department to indict. How can it not indict in a situation like that? This was an overall conspiracy to interfere with government proceedings. Raskin called Trump a "notorious and hardened criminal" for this and the many other attacks on American democracy by him and his supporters. 

    He quoted MLK that "the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." 

    Go to https://grassrootsep.org for a video recording of the complete event.


  • Fight or Flight? What Happened to the Future as a Sunrise?

    Dew of youth

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    To list everything going on here and everywhere that's keeping us up at night and torturing us by day would inevitably leave things out--we so depend on MSM headlines and bylines that leave out so much. But even MSM lists are long.

    Climate change, wars in Ukraine and elsewhere, climate-related crises, politics here and in the UK as well as China's looming takeover of Taiwan and Biden's threats--these top the limitless list. Add to that worldwide inflation and the tanking economy here.

    So I know some people who have given up on confronting these horrors daily and sworn off reading and hearing MSM. One reports massive relief. I knew a family in Vermont who escaped into the green hills from wherever and ignored MSM many years ago. The grandmother, however, would sneak into the public library and scour newspaper headlines when she could.

    Another weapon I've read about is to escape into a happy event in past life or find other sources of guiltless happiness once a day. That seems to be a good idea. I escape into my work on arcane and erudite peer-reviewed scholarly publications and into films on Netflix and TCM. Also Jeopardy for half an hour a day five days a week. I am daily disappointed when it ends, however many questions I can answer. Forget it when sports or pop culture are subject categories.

    The rest of my waking time is spent worrying and feeling helpless. Even when I'm exercising. I read nonfiction, so no escape there. 

    All of a sudden, the future is a huge question mark where earlier it was more of a given, though world wars were grim future deniers and covid still threatens. Younger generations mostly blame the boomers, not the billionaires and warmongers.

    It will take a miracle to cure the blight of climate change and constant recourse to violence to solve crises. Then we can get to other issues, like world hunger and disease. Meanwhile, we must play the blame game and hammer those at fault until the miracle happens. If only they could realize their destructiveness and care about it. They can go far toward reversing it. 

    Some say it's too late--climate change has already exceeded the tipping point. Xi says US, get out of our way into Taiwan, peaceful until it turns bloody. Russia won't turn back.

    Imagine peace. Imagine a world with a shining future, a sunrise our youth walk into.

  • Nader/Green on "Crushing the GOP in 2022": "A Blue Wave Is Possible"

    Ralph  Nader
    Ralph Nader
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    "The GOP is about dread, anxiety, and fear.... [It is] messianic and driven."--Ralph Nader

    There are few things more dreaded by elections experts than close elections, and these are expected as votes are cast for the 2022 midterm elections"four Senate seats and 28 House seats are rated by Politico as toss-ups. Alan Minsky of PDA specified that swing districts that will decide the election encompass 50-70 House seats in nine states. Poll findings deliver mixed predictions. Politico expects that voters will choose more Democratic than Republican governors, however. 

    On September 18, the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) hosted a forum featuring the renowned outspoken environmentalist and progressive Ralph Nader along with his long-time ally Mark Green, a progressive activist attorney who was New York City's first Public Advocate from 1993 to 2001. 

    Moderated by PDA leaders Mike Fox and Alan Minsky, the forum's focus was optimistic. In the fifty days remaining before Election Day 2022, plenty can be done to win Democratic victories across the board. Nader and Green based their presentations on their new webpage https://winningamerica.net, unprecedented outreach endorsed by Sen. Ed Markey and Representatives Hakeem Jeffries, Jim McGovern, Jamie Raskin, Carolyn Maloney, John Larson and Peter DeFazio, among others. The featured report/volume, Crushing the GOP, 2022, aims "to counter the early conventional wisdom that there was no way to stop a red wave in the 2022 due to inflation and the midterms jinx for the presidential party." The Democratic candidates must be made aware of ways to surge ahead in the coming election. Articles written by 24 leading experts focus on the economy, health care, crime and corruption, national security, and children, "Trump vs. Democracy," "War of the Words," race, class, and democracy, winning language on climate violence, and GOTV. 

    Every election looks like the most important in history when it occurs but, said Green, the upcoming midterm is the most important offyear election since 1862 [and of course 1860] in that it could "overturn the collective values and assumptions of our constitutional democracy." For this reason, he and Nader, outspoken progressives, have turned to the more mainstream Democratic Party to uphold these principles. They also stress the many goals that most Americans share, regardless of party affiliation.

    Inflation is highest since the Carter years, due to disruptions in the vital supply chain, the pandemic, Putin's war, and corporate market power. One problem is that a substantial percentage of the public, "five-minute voters," are unaware of the issues involved for many reasons ("vote with their gut, not their head"). Fully 120 million qualified voters haven't even registered. The GOP has been skilled in recruiting some of their own among this category back to the polls or even to the polls for the first time.

    The Republicans are masterful at extremely catchy slogans--loaded words and phrases like "woke," "critical race theory," and "cancel," all of which Green dismissed as empty and without substance, but "a winning phrase can break through" and has led to stunning successes. "Their goal is to demonize Democrats and immigrants and make sure voters think about their enemies rather than their families." Democrats need to catch up with such effective outreach.

    There is much that the people on both sides agree about, believe it or not in these troubled times, including safety for our children in cars and elsewhere, raising the minimum wage, cracking down on corporate crime, and "government-guaranteed socialism," which includes of course social security and medicare, as opposed to corporate socialism, Nader later added. "We all bleed the same color." There's far more uniting people than dividing them. The appeal is universal.

    Our public is scandal fatigued, said Green; violence is now a weapon of the far right ("dangerous extremists") far more than the left--only one side tried to overthrow our government on January 6, 2021. 

    "We can capture the people who want to be mainstream rather than extreme." Democrats must win over 5 to 10 percent of "soft" Republicans or 5 to 10 percent of Independents to add to Biden's seven million-vote margin and victory in the House.

    The biggest problem now is civic groups' exclusion from campaigns, with candidates too involved in politics and with the media, said Nader, next to present. Democratic ads and campaigns are "dull and repetitive," and "campaigns are tired." They turn people off and actually boomerang. Nader suggested that PDA break through into campaigns and not just be an adjunct. It's so hard to get through--"you can because you're half inside and half outside." With the Winning America guidelines, they can get through to all the communities and "arouse, energize, and connect" with the voters. 

    "Why haven't the Democrats landslided?!" "We have by far the best policies and the worst GOP in history." We're proposing new ways and old ways of getting through to more voters. "The Republicans run on vague values because they can't run on their record." 

    A list of "Twelve Kentucky Values" favored by a majority in that state was found to be unaddressed by Mitch McConnell. Moreover, midnight-shift workers feel excluded. They must be reached. You have a midnight campaign to celebrate their indispensable contributions to society: firefighters, EMTs, retail workers. This sort of activism appeals to the press. Other outreach must extend to low-turnout Democratic districts, who can be offered free food at the polls once they have voted. Two-sided, inexpensive cards distributed to voters can contrast the two major parties' positions on bread and butter issues. They must be very accurate and reach a large number of voters. The people persuade themselves, unlike the "five-minute voters" ("He's a nice guy"; "I like the way he talks about the flag"). The positive blue values contrasted with the negative GOP ones paint the GOP as a party of "dread, anxiety, and fear." The people must understand this--"they are ignored on inscrutable billing, turned down on health care; it's a nightmare constantly."

    You must publicize the voting records in Congress. Senator Rick Scott's (R-FL, head of the reelection committee for the Republican senators) Rescue America program is so radical that Mitch McConnell was horrified and shuns any association with it. One part of it "sunsets all federal legislation for five years, including social security, medicare, OSHA, consumer protection, FDA," on and on. "But don't worry. Congress can just re-extend them." The press must reify this, must be very specific. 

    Said Nader, language is of great importance in Crushing the GOP. Never say "white collar crime"; say "corporate crime." The GOP prefers "corporate power" over "workers," "taxpayers," "consumers," "patients," and "big agribusiness" against the farmers.

    One thing that actually resonates is that taxpayer money goes toward sports arenas the people build and the corporations cash in on. Naming rights are sold to other corporations rather than granted to the people. Taxpayer money should instead go toward playgrounds and recreation facilities in neighborhoods. 

    "Start asking opinions. Have worker gatherings. Have them tell you what their work life is like, what their economic deprivation is like. They're desperate to have a voice" and not just shake hands--both liberal and conservative workers. We must reach the Reagan Democrats who shifted to voting Republican. Give workers lawn signs and buttons--the Republicans are way ahead of us here. These are symbols.

    People are still saying that they don't know what the Democratic Party stands for, and they are leaning liberals. Rural voters must be reached. Art Cullen, a rural newspaper man from Stormlake, Iowa, has written about why rural voters are turned off by Democrats and how to get them back. 

    These things can be done fast, in the next 50 days. Republicans phoned leaning Republicans unlikely to vote and gained large numbers of votes. 

    Why does the right wing have more energy than Democrats? They're messianic, driven. They tell their leaders what to do. They got rid of Boehner. You must up the energy level of potential Democratic voters.

    In Winning America, there's a focus on beating back the phony charges from the GOP: critical race theory, defunding the police, the crime thing, they don't like community policing. They control the initiative and put the Democrats on the defensive. They're soft on corporate crime. "Grab the offensive immediately!" There is focus on a too few issues. Stacey Abrams is focused on abortion rather than expanding more broadly into freedom for women. "If you have 12 arrows in your quiver you don't use just three of them.... She needs to broaden her progressive economic agenda."

    "The Republicans are anti-children in so many ways": They repealed the regulation of pesticide that was extremely toxic to children. It was about to be controlled. They're against daycare, paid family leave, all the Western country social safety nets. They've abducted the children into the internet gulag with all kinds of violence and violent games. They're pumping all kinds of fat, salt, and sugar to increase obesity epidemics and youthful diabetes and high blood pressure. "The Democrats are too piecemeal." There should be an umbrella focus on protecting our children, who are our future, our posterity. Talking about left-right issues. Parents are losing control over their children because of the internet, separating them from their families, nature. My sister's book You Are Your Own Best Children addresses children nine to twelve. A huge issue. That's where you want to hit. Both sides want the same things for their families: decent public transit, highways, bridges repaired, public schools that aren't broken down. All the money is going to empires abroad. Bring it back home. Our taxes should be used for us, not for corporate welfare, bailouts, handouts....

    Nader called pollution "deadly violence." The environmental justice movement describing this must become more muscular. The worst pollution occurs where poor people live. Fully half of the population is poor or extremely poor, he said. Then there are people who are barely making it. You must connect these issues. They affect all the people.

    "Democrats are at an advantage.... They must move fast with their eyes, ears, hearts, and minds." In the swing states particularly. "We are fighting for our lives."

  • Greg Palast, "Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman"

    (Note to readers: This is a review; the previous blog entry was a preview.--Ed.)

    One aspect of Greg Palast's latest harrowing investigation, as executive producer Martin Sheen says, is horror. This is a horror movie, replete with unfathomable corruption and the ghosts of hideous violence.

    It is a dire tragedy--opening on the heels of Stacey Abrams' failed lawsuit to prove the lawless corruption of many electoral practices in Georgia, including the scrubbing of registration rolls that handed the 2018 gubernatorial race to Brian Kemp.

    Another aspect of Vigilante is heartbreak: of the senseless repression of hundreds of thousands of innocent voters caught attempting to vote while black. Individual victims are interviewed crying over the abuse of their rights, including a first cousin of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 96-year-old Christine Jordan, and Major Gamaliel Turner, this country's leading expert on warfare of the future. While he was stationed in California serving this country, he applied for an absentee ballot. When he didn't receive it, he contacted the registrar's office and was told that his vote had been challenged. He had to make the inquiry. No one told him. Once a Georgia vote is challenged, subjects must prove their qualifications, often residency, even if they've lived and voted in the same place for years. Turner was able to regain his rights. But the same thing is happening to countless others in Georgia who won't be told unless they ask about it. They must be warned. They stand to lose their votes--250,000 of them have already been challenged. To find out if you've been challenged, go to SaveMyVote2022.org.

    Georgia history is a leitmotif in Vigilante. In one example, an armed Georgian militia in Civil War regalia is showcased early in the film. They proudly wave Confederate flags and their new solid white "secession" flag with a large red star in the center--red the color of Republicans or blood or both?

    And red is the bright color of the dress sported by another corrupt interviewee, Pamela Reardon, her comfy home protected at the front door with an assault weapon. This ambitious GOP operative is convinced that election 2020 in her Peachtree state was stolen from Trump. Nonresident votes kept him from winning, she says. She alone has challenged more than thirty-three thousand voters, though she claims only to have sent out "letters" (caging postcards?) requesting proof of address. Challenged herself on this point, she loudly throws Palast out, swearing as he leaves, most unbecoming to a southern lady. He thanks her.

    But the star of the film, if not the oppressed victims of repression time and again, If not Palast, is the vigilante, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who campaigned initially on his humble background and professed wish to integrate school--both lies. Palast traces his lineage back to the first importers of African slaves into Georgia before the Revolution. Get this: slavery was against the law in Georgia even then. Farmers objected to this atrocity in vain.

    More recently, Kemp is the scion of a thriving construction corporation, owners of myriad acres of wooded land now a source of toilet paper pulp for Koch Industries among others.

    We are treated to a brief tour of one of the plantation manor homes of Kemp's forebears. They'd smile with pride, though challenging voters originated with Gene Talmadge, a Ku Klux Klanner elected as governor of Georgia in 1945. 

    Kemp revived this practice with the passage of SB202 in the immediate wake of the Georgia Miracle in January 2020 that swept a black minister and Jewish filmmaker into the Senate, giving the majority to Democrats.

    Kemp's SB202 not only allows any Georgian to challenge an unlimited number of voters--48,000 have been challenged in Cobb County alone, one of the few Democratic strongholds in this swing state. It also criminalizes the donation of water and/or food to voters stuck in long lines at the polls"a felony, an act of "civil disobedience."

    Palast delves into more Georgia history, including the lynchings whose ghosts cry out for justice. An interview with the Georgia Historical Society ends when the subject of the Hayes-Tilden 1876 electoral impasse comes up; the fear is that the board of directors, all moguls appointed by Kemp, would be offended.

    Parallels are drawn with D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, which defends the KKK's denial of voting rights to blacks"portrayed by white actors in blackface.

    The "KKK Act" of 1871 actually forbade the intimidation of voters.

    "The South Will Rise Again"? Yes, the film concludes, not with reactionary fantasies but MLK's dream: "This too [the corruption] will pass. We're stronger and better!" "Spirits crying out for justice will rise from their graves."

    Defending his own ghosts, Kemp is battling the ghosts of oppression--a horror story indeed. 

    Lasting an hour, Vigilante is narrated by Rosario Dawson, directed by David Ambrose, and produced by the Academy award winner Maria Florio. To find live presentations, go to Click Here. To order the dvd, go to Click Here

    Don't miss this warning of an already-metastatic cancer. It's about the future of democracy. It will anger you and provoke the activism and actions crucial to preserving it.

  • Palast's Latest Investigation, "Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman," Out October 4

    DVD cover of
    DVD cover of 'Vigilante'
    (Image by Greg Palast)
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    It's heartbreaking. Today on the weekly online edition of the Green Grassroots Election Protection Coalition, the well-known and hugely accomplished investigative reporter, author, and filmmaker Greg Palast discussed his forthcoming documentary Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman.

    Produced by Martin Sheen and Maria Florio, Vigilante exposes the new voter law In Georgia (the "Election Integrity Act of 2021," Senate Bill 202) that allows any Georgia voter to challenge any other Georgia voter. So far, one GOP operative has challenged 4,000, another 32,000, and altogether hundreds of thousands have come under this lethal fire. The voting year is crucial of course: there are both gubernatorial and Senate races pitting Democrat Stacey Abrams against Republican Brian Kemp [again*] and Democrat Raphael Warnock against Republican Herschel Walker and Libertarian Chase Oliver.

    In this context, Palast's not-for-profit Investigative Fund is nonpartisan; the bottom line is to make sure that the candidate that voters choose takes office. In 2018, among other investigations, he targeted the 2018 match between Abrams and Kemp, which awarded Kemp the victory by 50,000 votes, by exposing and litigating over the hundreds of thousands of other voters purged from the registration rolls who would have put Abrams over the top (see Click Here ).

    In Vigilante, says Palast, "I concentrate on Georgia because that is where the vigilante hitmen are most desperate" and where the ultra-right takes its ballot box trickery for a test drive."

    "If you can't win elections, arrest the people who are going to vote against you," is how Harvey Wasserman, co-convener of Green Grassroots Election Protection Coalition (a coalition of activists, journalists, and others concerned with free and fair elections), summed up the GOP strategy in Georgia.

    There has been absolutely no national press about Georgia's SB 202, which also makes absentee and dropbox voting highly problematic; it is also a felony now to hand drinks or food to people standing in line to vote, even for hours under the hot Georgia sun.

    Contrast the silence about SB 202 with the wide circulation of the film 2,000 Mules, produced by True the Vote, a GOP-empowered organization that militates against true election integrity even as it has coopted this term for its own purposes. 2,000 Mules has been viewed by millions all over the country. The focus is mainly on black male voters supposedly committing voter fraud by stuffing ballot boxes and being paid $10 per ballot. Palast compared this film to D. W. Griffiths's Birth of a Nation, which Palast called the "Elders of Zion of Black voting." Vigilante is meant to be an antidote to 2,000 Mules.

    Vigilante also exposes lineage Kemp has labored to hide. A "scion of dynasties," he is descended from the families who first brought African slaves to Georgia and earned prodigious wealth descendants continue to enjoy. The text of SB 202 that Kemp signed contained a picture of a plantation. Kemp's family, owners of massive forests in Georgia, does business with Georgia Pacific, a Koch brothers company. Others are stepping into GOP activism as the Kochs withdraw: Paul "the Vulture" Singer, who has been a featured billionaire predator in Palast's previous publications,** and the Bradley Foundation, which has contributed $2 billion to fight against voting rights in Georgia and Florida, among other states. The idea of challenging voters originated with a KKK governor of Georgia, Gene Talmadge, who escaped the FBI by dying before they could indict him.

    Kemp also signed a bill outlawing the teaching of critical race theory--against teaching history, as Palast specified. He has lots to hide. A cousin in Virginia openly acknowledges the family's past and is working on reparations.

    How does the process of voter challenge work? Voters are supposed to receive a postcard, designed to look like junk mail (remember voter caging?), but they often don't receive one or mistakenly discard it, and hence don't find out until too late that they've been challenged--too late means that they simply cannot vote. And consider this: a voter may be challenged on Election Day. But if you know you've been challenged, you go to a county office, in person only, to prove at a hearing that you are you and reside where you claim to.

    What is being done to fight back against this blatant discrimination? Are the Democrats challenging Republicans? Palast dismissed this possibility as worse than ridiculous. Activist organizations will litigate, and educate and otherwise reach out to targeted groups. In 2020, Palast credits attorney and activist Barbara Arnwine with having worked with colleagues to drive challenged voters to county office hearings, enough to have handed over Georgia's hugely contested presidential vote total to Joe Biden. Register and reregister, said Palast, who himself had to reregister when he found himself dropped from the rolls in Los Angeles.

    Vigilante offers far more to a public that must be informed accurately about the machinations that so threaten democracy. What else can be done? Activism and support of organizations fighting back: Black Voters Matter, NAACP, SCLC, and others, including of course the Palast Investigative Fund. The film will be shown first in New York City on October 4 and subsequently in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Order your copy and donate at Click Here.


    *Kemp was, by the way, secretary of state, that is, in charge of state elections, in 2018.

    **And speaking of Palast's "horror role," another prominent figure from his previous investigations, Kris Kobach, of crosscheck infamy, is back in circulation running for attorney general of Kansas, after having lost gubernatorial and Senate races in his state. Less power to him!


    (originally published 8/22/22 at OpEdNews.com, https://www.opednews.com/articles/Palast-s-Latest-Investigat-Georgia-Election_Georgia-Governor-Race_Georgia-Politics_Investigation-220822-850.html)




  • "You Cannot Dry the Whole World's Eyes": Selections from the poetry of Neil Mochrie

    Christ the Redeemer
    Christ the Redeemer
    (Image by kasio69)
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    Neil Mochrie, a prolific Scottish poet who lived from 1935 to 2005, has much to teach posterity. One hundred of his poems, some of which are written in Scottish, are collected in the posthumous volume Selected Poetry & Verse (published privately in 2018 and edited by Alison Clark). The following is taken from Clark's biographical preface:

    "An early master of the standard poetic forms - sonnet, ballad, Burns stanza - Mochrie had an excellent ear for rhythm and rhyme... together with [a] quirky sense of humour and love of puns. [During his lifetime,] he published some pieces in school and university magazines and in The Glasgow Herald as it was then entitled. Some are included here.... Neil Mochrie wrote to seek to understand himself and to explore and express his thoughts and feelings on everything from the personal to the political. Poetry works best and is, paradoxically, more universal when it addresses the particular. When his poems focus on an individual person, a feature of the natural world or a particular relationship, Mochrie is at his most successful."

    I have chosen a few poems from section 6 of the volume, "God and All That," admittedly my favorites [and in the chronological order determined by the editing] but difficult to choose from this outstanding collection that also includes sections on "Nature, Life and Love," "Family and Friends," "Thinkers, Seers and Poets," "Fun and Games," and "Ye Ken Noo." Thanks to Neil's daughter Mary Mochrie for sharing this wonderful collection with me.


    - 2004 -

    He moves between the sunlight and the shadows, 

    staffed but stumbling down the shattered street.

    His way is marked by traces in the sand:

    the dark stains placed there by His wounded feet.

    The pale tracks left upon His dusty cheek

    mark sweat or tears " impossible to say.

    Flickering in and out of time and space

    gingerly He steps and makes his way.

    A mother in a cluttered, doorless, doorway

    hugs tightly with her one still useful arm

    her infant daughter's small and stiffened corpse

    still, to the last, protecting her from harm.

    He stops and kneels down in the rubble,

    gazes with love into her dimming eyes.

    She sees within them as her vision fades

    the opening gates of Mahmud's Paradise.

    Above, the marshalled ghosts of honoured dead

    hang down their heads in silence and in shame

    that all they died for has drowned in the mire

    of greed and power that's set the world aflame.


    - 1985 -

    I do not wish to be a sorcerer

    Conjuring you up

    Using my need for a spell

    Out of the subnatural depths

    Conjuring you up

    Out of my broken fragments of imagination

    Conjuring you up

    To face me here across my kitchen table.

    Sometimes you come unbidden.

    Sometimes when I call in pain

    Or in the dumb hurt of singleness

    You come.

    I am afraid that what I call

    May not be you

    But my own phantom.

    I am afraid of my successful sorcery.

    But sometimes you come

    And seem more real than I am to myself.

    On these occasions I reach to take

    The hands you offer

    And the love.

    "Come to the table!"

    I call to whoever may be in the house.

    "The guest has brought wine and bread

    And news from beyond the world."

    You look deep into me

    Saying with laughter

    "All is well." 


    - 2001 -

    He sits across from me and smiles:

    he knows the vagaries of man.

    He nods while I digress, and smiles:

    all is unfolding as per plan.

    I show my sorrows and my pains,

    my tears, grimaces, trembling hands.

    my passions lost and duty's gains.

    He smiles and nods and ... understands.

    "You loved your father but he wrought

    despair and violence in your life.

    Your mother loved you, so you thought.

    Why did you never take a wife?

    It's time to live now for yourself:

    sufficient is the cure of one.

    Leave others' burdens on the shelf:

    life should contain a bit of fun.

    You cannot answer for us all,

    You cannot dry the whole world's eyes.

    We each must stumble, trip and fall

    upon our way to Paradise.

    The halt, the lame, the blind may fail

    and perish somewhere on the path.

    The single-minded will prevail

    and harvest all the aftermath."

    He says my dream of sacrifice,

    of self transcended by surrender,

    is but the clumsy artifice

    of an ingenuous pretender.

    The power, the glory are not mine.

    I'm free to come down off my cross:

    my pearls are barely fit for swine,

    my fiery words unkindled dross.

    He sits and nods, another smile

    that says he knows more than I can,

    and thinks his trickster sleight and guile

    are equal to the Son of Man.


    - 2003 -

    He did come back you know.

    I met him at the turn of the Millennium.

    We had been thinking about him a lot, I suppose,

    And those who believed that he might call again

    ere all stirred up.

    I didn't pay all that much attention.

    I admired his work and life of course

    and much of what he'd taught.

    We were brought up to do so,

    although I found in adulthood

    the gory details had been sanitised a bit

    and no-one seemed to realise

    we had recreated on a truly global scale

    The kind of world he'd lived and suffered in.

    I was walking the dog at the time.

    He fell into step beside, almost like an old friend,

    Asking me how I was and so on"

    He seemed to know the family.

    It took me some time to realise who he might be

    And when I did, I stopped.

    The dog licked his hand.

    I asked him why he had come

    And he said he'd never really gone away,

    Only for the few days when things got really rough.

    I wondered what he was doing these days.

    He said he still looked out for people, like he used to,

    and looked after his father's "many mansions."

    "Collecting rents?" I asked.

    "In a sense" he replied "and doing repairs".

    I got caught up in the earthy reality of this exchange:

    "New builds?" I enquired.

    "Those too."

    There was a long silence.

    "What kind of people live in them?"

    "Anyone who really wants to".

    We were at the door of my house.

    I hesitated, unsure what to do or say.

    "Thanks for the chat" he smiled,

    "Perhaps we'll meet again some time."

    He continued on his way.

    At the crossroads he half-turned and waved.

    I wish I'd asked him in.


    - 1993 -

    Hear the god's truth, the bad news!

    this is the gospel of wrath

    that you had ignored or forgotten:

    the unrevealed darkside of love,

    the frozen blackside of joy!

    Here is the terminal judgement

    on man and on his creation

    when the sole available counsel

    is dead or gone off on vacation

    and Justice, who sees all things clearly,

    her blindfold untied, loose and fallen.

    prepares to make up her own mind

    since her scales are perpetually broken.

    The lion has eaten the lamb

    but experiences no satisfaction.

    The hunter who dropped his prey swiftly

    has turned his slow hand to slaughter.

    He shoots, intending to maim,

    his enemy's three year old son

    who is toddling after a mother

    who walks far too fast to follow

    as she clutches a small loaf of bread

    and a jerry-can half-full of water.

    He starves without knowing or heeding

    his bosom friend's teenage daughter

    who nurses her crippled lover

    unaware that her unborn child

    is withered forever within her.

    The oil-fired white knights of power,

    their tanks painted pallid for peace,

    confide to electrical ears

    that this is not war as they know it.

    The howl that comes over the aether

    Is not merely a technical defect

    but a voice from the Pleistocene past

    crying out across the millennia

    trying to shout very clearly

    "This is what war is for."

    Mothers in shell-shattered shelter

    mix into some brown sewer water

    the dry-as-dust denatured milk

    of humanitarian kindness

    for children who move and breathe weakly

    but utter no noise, not a whimper

    in the cellar's least insecure corner.

    Here is the back door to Hell

    in the alley which runs from despair

    where the trash cans are thoroughly clean

    and the rats and the cats and the dirty dogs

    and the scabby dead donkeys are gone

    and the fleas and the lice and the cockroaches

    are looking for much better quarters.

    Elsewhere a barking mad godman

    yelping loudly above his white collar

    makes one plea for peace on earth

    and ten for a yen or a dollar

    to buy Bibles in Serbo-Croatian

    to be trucked to the scene of the conflict

    or send missions to maltreated Muslims

    offering baptism under slow fire.

    This is the last wagon to roll

    (we go as far as the Moon

    but the stars are too far away).

    This is the Last Chance saloon

    try one last throw of the dice

    put your stainless hands in your pockets

    for discounted guns, bombs and rockets

    or, if you want to be nice,

    bandages, aspirins, rice.

    This is the closing down clearance

    these are the final reductions

    this is the LAST DAY OF SALE!

    Hear the Big O at the end

    (Z is for zero my friend)

    Look at the scroll rolling up:

    here is God in the Garden

    weighing his long pruning shears

    gauging the tall Tree of Life,

    there is the dead branch of Man,

    leafless and fruitless in summer,

    waiting on high autumn winds 

    to know what He meant by the Fall.

    (also published August 8, 2022, at OpEdNews: https://www.opednews.com/articles/You-Cannot-Dry-the-Whole-God_Poet_Poetry_Wholeness-220808-784.html)

  • “Stop using the sky as a sewer”: Where’s There’s Youth, There’s Hope

    From flickr.com: Gang of Youths {VID-175537}

    (image from FLICKR)

    It all started, this thought stream, when I put down the book on possible outcomes of the inevitable cataclysm and also put aside an invitation to a free barbecue at an upscale senior community recruiting new residents. One was too sad and the other bordering on cop-out escapism for a lifelong activist. 

    Remember the energy, enthusiasm, and promise we all used to associate with youth? I thought. Have the Republicans and the super-rich successfully undone the dawning of the youth cult that began in the 1960s? When Kennedy beat Nixon in 1960, since Nixon represented a continuation of the Eisenhower era, it was a victory of youth over the old age that the vacation president typified. Ushered in by the second-youngest US president in history, the sixties proceeded to glorify youth in every way. But by the end of the decade, after putting a man on the moon, we were sending our youth off to die in Vietnam. Did the youth cult begin to die then? At the end of the decade that finally put Nixon, JFK’s foil, into office to prolong the Vietnam war, which youth vehemently protested against? Or did its slow demise just begin, exacerbated by the Powell manifesto and culminating in the prophesied cataclysm to be brought on by climate change and nuclear annihilation? How do we view our youth these days? After 60 years, do we pity them as those who will confront head on the cataclysm? Why is there such a gerontocracy in Washington? With the average age of members of Congress around 60 and the height of the pecking order largely around 80? Is it because youth are so held back by the constraints of a strangling economy? SCOTUS, despite the median chronological age of its “Injustices,” constitutes an ideological gerontocracy.

    The death of most everything that youth used to imply is one symptom of a dying world, I guessed.  Al Gore, source of the quote in this article’s title, persists in holding out hope. Reduce the carbon emissions level to net zero by 2050, he says, and there is hope that the ultimate extinction won’t occur. He maintains this optimism “mainly because of young people all over the world now demanding change—including Greta Thunberg.”

    Youth activism persists, then, reminding us of the sixties spirit. And people are still donating children to the population though the birthrates at home and worldwide have substantially declined. The children I know directly are being raised as if into the same world as I was, as my daughter was, taking a uniform future for granted.

    And so, it seems, each time a wanted child is born, hope is reborn. I can’t put that aside, nor the dream that something will come along—an idea, a fix, to turn this all around. Destruction implies its inverse and I’ll never stop waiting for it to arrive.


  • The Ultimate Triumph of Wade

    Pro-choice and anti-abortion demonstrators outside the Supreme Court in 1989, Washington DC
    (Image by Lorie Shaull)
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    Roe v. Wade has been overturned, in the wake of another life-affirming New York state law in the SCOTUS v. Bruin decision, and both debacles are contagious, as many conservative states have already demonstrated by limiting if not planning to eliminate the option to abort unwanted or impossible-to-accommodate childbirths.

    Women's rights and human rights have been violated. In the first instance, the Supreme Court has opened the door to every variety of underground illegality and untold dire consequences to women's health and lifestyles if not lives themselves. It has welcomed in a new Salem witch hunt, turning neighbor against neighbor, Or is it McCarthyism reborn? 1984? Or something even worse? 

    The largest number of victims of this heinous repression will be, as usual, indigent people of color. Opponents of Alito's decision can predictably study the outcome after a measure of time. Affluent people will have channels to eliminate unwanted pregnancies. There will be few other abortions to count, actually. Prisons will fill up with "murderers." Again, read "indigent people of color."

    Could the ERA, if enabled--it has already been passed but very belatedly--be effective in counteracting the five reactionaries? The deadline for enactment was 1979 [perhaps 1982] and this has yet to be updated, even if belatedly, triggering more litigation, ending up with the same SCOTUS. All new appointees are young enough to stalemate the Court for generations.

    Today's SCOTUS decision will be chain reactive, leading to even more repression including elimination of birth control devices. Vasectomies will become illegal. So I can't summon men into the palliative picture unless they can be required, by the Court, to behave responsibly once they've impregnated a woman. And what of the "pro-life" society that insists on bringing children into the world whom parents are ill-equipped to nurture? Will they set up adoption services? Foster parenting? Do they forget about fostering life once it leaves the womb? Are they really "pro-pre-life"?

    What if sexual intercourse becomes illegal except when performed to procreate? You know whose lives will be ruined.

    I once asked an anti-choice proponent, a middle-aged woman, how many crack babies she was willing to adopt. She said she would adopt, not specifying how many, but later adamantly changed her mind with words along the lines of "It's a rotten stinking world we live in!"

    As far as legalizing the carrying of concealed weapons in public places, the Senate passed a counteractive law yesterday making some gestures toward mitigating this headlong rush back to the days documented by John Wayne movies. Some gestures. How many of the fifteen Republican Senators who voted for this measure will be reelected? How many of the 14 Republican Members of Congress who opted to support it this afternoon?

    Gun violence has been condoned and women's rights violated. Is it a gender thing? More men than women own guns in this country--40 percent of men and 22 percent of women. And women are victimized by the overturning of RvW [along with the responsible partners who stick with them].

    Joe Biden was searching for possible executive orders to counteract SCOTUS this morning. The latest headlines indicate that he didn't succeed.