Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ted Kennedy's widow on the bill passing the Senate

The moment Ted Kennedy would not want to lose
By Victoria Reggie Kennedy
Sunday, December 20, 2009; A19

My late husband, Ted Kennedy, was passionate about health-care reform. It was the cause of his life. He believed that health care for all our citizens was a fundamental right, not a privilege, and that this year the stars -- and competing interests -- were finally aligned to allow our nation to move forward with fundamental reform. He believed that health-care reform was essential to the financial stability of our nation's working families and of our economy as a whole.

Still, Ted knew that accomplishing reform would be difficult. If it were easy, he told me, it would have been done a long time ago. He predicted that as the Senate got closer to a vote, compromises would be necessary, coalitions would falter and many ardent supporters of reform would want to walk away. He hoped that they wouldn't do so. He knew from experience, he told me, that this kind of opportunity to enact health-care reform wouldn't arise again for a generation.

In the early 1970s, Ted worked with the Nixon administration to find consensus on health-care reform. Those efforts broke down in part because the compromise wasn't ideologically pure enough for some constituency groups. More than 20 years passed before there was another real opportunity for reform, years during which human suffering only increased. Even with the committed leadership of then-President Bill Clinton and his wife, reform was thwarted in the 1990s. As Ted wrote in his memoir, he was deeply disappointed that the Clinton health-care bill did not come to a vote in the full Senate. He believed that senators should have gone on the record, up or down.

Ted often said that we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. He also said that it was better to get half a loaf than no loaf at all, especially with so many lives at stake. That's why, even as he never stopped fighting for comprehensive health-care reform, he also championed incremental but effective reforms such as a Patients' Bill of Rights, the Children's Health Insurance Program and COBRA continuation of health coverage.

The bill before the Senate, while imperfect, would achieve many of the goals Ted fought for during the 40 years he championed access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans. If this bill passes:

-- Insurance protections like the ones Ted fought for his entire life would become law.

-- Thirty million Americans who do not have coverage would finally be able to afford it. Ninety-four percent of Americans would be insured. Americans would finally be able to live without fear that a single illness could send them into financial ruin.

-- Insurance companies would no longer be able to deny people the coverage they need because of a preexisting illness or condition. They would not be able to drop coverage when people get sick. And there would be a limit on how much they can force Americans to pay out of their own pockets when they do get sick.

-- Small-business owners would no longer have to fear being forced to lay off workers or shut their doors because of exorbitant insurance rates. Medicare would be strengthened for the millions of seniors who count on it.

-- And by eliminating waste and inefficiency in our health-care system, this bill would bring down the deficit over time.

Health care would finally be a right, and not a privilege, for the citizens of this country. While my husband believed in a robust public option as an effective way to lower costs and increase competition, he also believed in not losing sight of the forest for the trees. As long as he wasn't compromising his principles or values, he looked for a way forward.

As President Obama noted to Congress this fall, for Ted, health-care reform was not a matter of ideology or politics. It was not about left or right, Democrat or Republican. It was a passion born from the experience of his own life, the experience of our family and the experiences of the millions of Americans across this country who considered him their senator, too.

The bill before Congress will finally deliver on the urgent needs of all Americans. It would make their lives better and do so much good for this country. That, in the end, must be the test of reform. That was always the test for Ted Kennedy. He's not here to urge us not to let this chance slip through our fingers. So I humbly ask his colleagues to finish the work of his life, the work of generations, to allow the vote to go forward and to pass health-care reform now. As Ted always said, when it's finally done, the people will wonder what took so long.

Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), is an attorney.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Let Wall St. Pay for Its Own Bailout!

Let Wall Street Pay for Wall Street's Bailout Act of 2009 (Introduced in House)
HR 1068 IH

1st Session

H. R. 1068
To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to impose a tax on certain securities transactions to the extent required to recoup the net cost of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

February 13, 2009

Mr. DEFAZIO (for himself, Mr. WELCH, Ms. SUTTON, Mr. CAPUANO, Mr. WU, Mr. STARK, Ms. DELAURO, and Ms. EDWARDS of Maryland) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to impose a tax on certain securities transactions to the extent required to recoup the net cost of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

This Act may be cited as the `Let Wall Street Pay for Wall Street's Bailout Act of 2009'.

Congress finds the following:
(1) The Bush Administration allocated the first $350 billion of TARP funds in a manner that has outraged the Nation by failing to provide the most basic oversight of the funds.
(2) Congress has declined to block the remaining $350 billion of TARP funds despite the lack of oversight and the record fiscal year 2009 budget deficit estimated at $1.2 trillion.
(3) The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System has committed more than a trillion dollars to stabilize the economy by bailing out various banks deemed `too big to fail'.
(4) The $700 billion TARP fund and the new Federal Reserve lending facilities were created to protect Wall Street investors; therefore, the same Wall Street investors should pay for this infusion of taxpayer money.
(5) The easiest method to raise the money from Wall Street is a securities transfer tax, a tax that has a negligible impact on the average investor.
(6) This transfer tax would be on the sale and purchase of financial instruments such as stock, options, and futures. A quarter percent (0.25 percent) tax on financial transactions could raise approximately $150 billion a year.
(7) The United States had a transfer tax from 1914 to 1966. The Revenue Act of 1914 (Act of Oct. 22, 1914 (ch. 331, 38 Stat. 745)) levied a 0.2 percent tax on all sales or transfers of stock. In 1932, Congress more than doubled the tax to help overcome the budgetary challenges during the Great Depression.
(8) All revenue generated by this transfer tax should be deposited in the general fund of the Treasury of the United States, scaled to meet the net cost of these bailouts, and phase out when the cost of the bailouts are repaid.

(a) In General- Chapter 36 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by inserting after subchapter B the following new subchapter:
`Subchapter C--Tax on Securities Transactions

`Sec. 4475. Tax on securities transactions.

`(a) Imposition of Tax- There is hereby imposed a tax on each covered securities transaction an amount equal to the applicable percentage of the value of the security involved in such transaction.
`(b) By Whom Paid- The tax imposed by this section shall be paid by the trading facility on which the transaction occurs.
`(c) Applicable Percentage- For purposes of this section--
`(1) IN GENERAL- The term `applicable percentage' means the lesser of--
`(A) the specified percentage, or
`(B) 0.25 percent.
`(A) IN GENERAL- The term `specified percentage' means, with respect to any taxable year beginning in a calendar year, the percentage that the Secretary estimates would result in the aggregate revenue to the Treasury under this section for such taxable year and all prior taxable years to equal the Secretary's estimate of the net cost (if any) to the Federal Government of--
`(i) carrying out the Troubled Asset Relief Program established under title 1 of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, and
`(ii) the exercise of authority by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System under the third undesignated paragraph of section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act (12 U.S.C. 343).
`(B) DETERMINATION OF PERCENTAGE- Such percentage shall be determined by the Secretary not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this section, and redetermined for taxable years beginning in each calendar year thereafter. Such percentage shall take into account the Secretary's most recent estimation of such net cost. Any specified percentage determined under this paragraph which is not a multiple of 1/100th of a percentage point shall be rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percentage point.
`(d) Covered Securities Transaction- The term `covered securities transaction' means--
`(1) any transaction to which subsection (b), (c), or (d) of section 31 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 applies, and
`(2) any transaction subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
`(e) Administration- The Secretary shall carry out this section in consultation with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.'.
(b) Clerical Amendment- The table of subchapters for chapter 36 of such Code is amended by inserting after the item relating to subchapter B the following new item:
`subchapter c. tax on securities transactions'.

(c) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall apply to sales occurring more than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

94th anniversary of labor hero Joe Hill's death by firing squad.

The Man Who Didn't Die
Thursday 19 November 2009
by: Dick Meister,

It's November 19, 1915, in a courtyard of the Utah State Penitentiary in Salt Lake City. Five riflemen take careful aim at a condemned organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Joe Hill, who stands before them straight and stiff and proud.

"Fire!" he shouts defiantly.

The firing squad didn't miss. But Joe Hill, as the folk ballad says, "ain't never died." On this 94th anniversary, he lives on as one of the most enduring and influential of American symbols.

Joe Hill's story is that of a labor martyr framed for murder by viciously anti-labor employer and government forces, a man who never faltered in fighting for the rights of the oppressed, who never faltered in his attempts to bring them together for the collective action essential if they were to overcome their wealthy and powerful oppressors.

His is the story of a man and an organization destroyed by government opposition, yet immensely successful. As historian Joyce Kornbluh noted, the IWW made "an indelible mark on the American labor movement and American society," laying the groundwork for mass unionization, inspiring the formation of groups to protect the civil liberties of dissidents, prompting prison and farm labor reforms, and leaving behind "a genuine heritage ... industrial democracy."

Joe Hill's story is the story of, perhaps, the greatest of all folk poets, whose simple, satirical rhymes set to simple, familiar melodies did so much to focus working people on the common body of ideals needed to forge them into a collective force.

Remember? "You will eat, bye and bye/In that glorious land above the sky/Work and Pray, live on hay/You'll get pie in the sky when you die."

Ralph Chaplain, the IWW bard who wrote "Solidarity Forever," found Hill's songs "as coarse as homespun and as fine as silk; full of laughter and keen-edged satire; full of fine rage and finer tenderness; songs of and for the worker, written in the only language he can understand."

Joe Hill's story is the story of a man who saw with unusual clarity the unjust effects of the political, social and economic system on working people and whose own widely publicized trial and execution alerted people worldwide to the injustices and spurred them into corrective action.

It's the story of a man who told his IWW comrades, just before stepping in front of the firing squad: "Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize!"

Hill's comrades aimed at nothing less than organizing all workers into One Big Union regardless of their race, nationality, craft or work skills, calling a general strike and wresting control of the economy from its capitalist masters. The revolutionary message was presented in the simple language of the workplace, in the songs of Hill, Chaplain, and others, in the street corner oratory and in a tremendous outpouring of publications, including a dozen foreign-language newspapers, which were distributed among the many unskilled immigrants from European nations where unions had similar goals.

Workers were told again and again that they all had the same problems, the same needs and faced the same enemy. It was they who did the work, while others got the profit; they were members, all of them, of the working class. To aspire to middle-class status, as the established labor movement advocated, would mean competing against their fellow workers and chaining themselves to a system that enslaved them.

Organized religion also was a tool of enslavement, to keep the worker's eye on that "pie in the sky" while he was being exploited in this world. Patriotism was a ruse to set the workers of one nation against those of another for the profit of capitalist manipulators.

IWW organizers carried the message to factories, mines, mills and lumber camps throughout the country, and to farms in the Midwest and California.

The cause of radical unionism to which Joe Hill devoted his life was lost a long time ago. The call to revolution is scarcely heard in today's clamorously capitalist society. Labor organizations seek not to seize control of the means of production, but rather to share in the fruits of an economic system controlled by others. Yet, Joe Hill's fiery words and fiery deeds, his courage and his sacrifices continue to inspire political, labor, civil rights and civil liberties activists.

They still sing his songs, striking workers, dissident students, and others, on picket lines, in demonstrations, at rallies, on the streets and in auditoriums. They echo his spirit of protest and militancy, his demand for true equality, share his fervent belief in solidarity, even use tactics first employed by Hill and his comrades.

Hill emigrated to the United States from his native Sweden in 1902, changing his name from Joel Haaglund, working as a seaman and as an itinerant wheat harvester, pipe layer, copper miner, and at other jobs as he made his way across the country to San Diego, translating into compelling lyrics the hopes and desires, the frustrations and discontents of his fellow workers.

In San Diego, Hill joined in one of the first of the many "free speech fights" waged by the Industrial Workers of the World against attempts by municipal authorities around the country to silence the street corner oratory that was a key part of the IWW's organizing strategy.

Not long afterward, Hill hopped a freight for Salt Lake City where he helped lead a successful construction workers' strike and began helping organize another free speech fight. But within a month, he was arrested on charges of shooting to death a grocer and his son and was immediately branded guilty by the local newspapers and authorities alike. Ultimately, Hill was convicted on only the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence.

Hill had staggered into a doctor's office within an hour after the shootings, bleeding from a chest wound that he said had stemmed from a quarrel over a woman. The prosecutor argued that the wound was inflicted by the grocer in response to an attack by Hill, although he did not introduce into evidence either the grocer's gun or the bullet that allegedly was fired from it. He did not introduce the gun that Hill allegedly used and did not call a single witness who could positively identify Hill as the killer. But he easily convinced the jury that the murders were an example of IWW terrorism and that since Hill was an IWW leader and had been arrested and charged with the crime, he was guilty.

As Hill's futile appeals made their way through the courts, Gov. William Spry of Utah was swamped with thousands of petitions and letters from all over the world asking for a pardon or commutation. But he would not even be swayed by the pleas for mercy from the Swedish ambassador. Not even by the pleas of US President Woodrow Wilson.

The governor paid much greater attention to the views of Utah's powerful Mormon Church leaders and powerful employer interests, particularly those who controlled the state's dominant copper mining industry. They insisted that the man they considered one of the most dangerous radicals in the country be put to death.

Joe Hill's body was shipped to Chicago, where it was cremated after a hero's funeral, the ashes divided up and sent to IWW locals for scattering on the winds in every state except Utah. Hill, with typical grim humor, had declared, "I don't want to be caught dead in Utah."

Even in death, Hill was not safe from the government. One packet of his ashes, sent belatedly to an IWW organizer in 1917 for scattering in Chicago, was seized by postal inspectors. They acted under the Espionage Act, passed after the United States entered World War I that year, which made it illegal to mail any material that advocated "treason, insurrection. or forcible resistance to any law of the United States."

The envelope, containing about a tablespoon of Hill's ashes, was sent to the National Archives in Washington, DC. It remained hidden there until 1988, when it was discovered and turned over in Chicago to the men who presided over what little remained of the Industrial Workers of the World, shrunken to only a few hundred members.

The post office apparently had objected to the caption beneath a photo of Hill on the front of the envelope. "Joe Hill," it said - "murdered by the capitalist class, November 19, 1915."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A legacy of incarcerating the innocent

Crusading Calif. D.A. retires, leaves painful wake

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The molesters drank blood, the children said, and hung them from hooks after forcing them to have sex with their parents. They murdered babies, prosecutors told jurors, and snapped photographs as the horror unfolded.

Ed Jagels, renowned as one of California's toughest district attorneys, built his career on the Kern County child molestation cases of the 1980s, putting more than two dozen men and women behind bars to serve decades-long sentences for abusing children.

Appellate judges now say most of those crimes never happened.

Still, generations of voters have embraced the crusading prosecutor's tough-on-crime agenda in this blue-collar basin just a mountain range north of Los Angeles.
Now, as Jagels prepares to retire, the get-tough laws he championed are being criticized in a state crippled by soaring prison costs. And some of those he put away are going public with stories of wrongful conviction in a documentary film narrated by Sean Penn, one of his most ardent critics.

The Bakersfield trials — and half a dozen similar cases that rippled across America during the hysteria of that period — are widely acknowledged to have punished the innocent. Most convictions relied solely on children's testimony, and the state attorney general ultimately found county investigators coerced their young witnesses into lying on the stand and that the probe "floundered in a sea of unproven allegations."

But the silver-haired prosecutor maintains that justice was done in the cases that made him a darling of California's conservative movement.

"Innocent people may have been accused at one point or another, but what I really fear is that perfectly legitimate convictions have been overturned," Jagels said, sitting in his wood-panelled office among portraits of himself with Ronald Reagan and other Republican leaders. "How the people of Kern County feel about what I've done is much more important than what anyone else might think."

Such stunning setbacks might have derailed other elected officials, but Jagels, 60, has thrived amid the oil fields and orchards surrounding Bakersfield. He holds fast that he was right to form a special task force to investigate alleged molestation rings, right to assign his young attorneys to the cases and he has fought the release of those convicted.

He has been re-elected six times, is leaving office on his own terms and hopes to leave the reins next year to a handpicked successor.

That brings little comfort to Brandon Smith, who grew up without his parents after they were sentenced to prison for gruesome sex crimes he and his younger brother described on the witness stand. Smith said he only repeated what he heard during weeks of group therapy, and had no inkling his false statements would mean he would be separated from his family and assigned to live in foster homes for nearly a decade.

"They basically coached me through my whole testimony, and told me that I had to say that my parents had sexually abused me," said Smith, whose parents Scott and Brenda Kniffen served 12 years on molestation convictions before they were reversed by an appeals court. "We've all put it behind us, but the one thing I would love is a verbal apology from Ed Jagels for tearing my family apart."

Since the late 1980s, all but one of 26 convictions Jagels secured have been reversed. Kern County has paid $9.56 million to settle state and federal suits brought by former defendants and their children.

Penn, who met Smith through the film, says the Bakersfield cases struck a chord because he did a short stay in a Los Angeles County jail cell next to a man accused in a major Southern California child abuse case.

Raymond Buckey and his mother, who ran the McMartin Pre-School in Manhattan Beach, ultimately were acquitted of 52 child molestation charges in 1990.
"There is no question that we have to take these kinds of questions very seriously, but in these cases a pretty good system was used really corruptly," said Penn, who also executive produced the film "Witch Hunt," which has been airing nationally on MSNBC. "Jagels orchestrated the rape of these children emotionally, not to mention the illegitimate prosecution of the adults."

Jackie Cummings fled Bakersfield with her husband and two sons in October 1984, when plainclothes police started casing their house looking for members of molestation rings. The family moved from campsite to campsite for a year, terrified that sheriff's deputies would arrest them because they knew a couple on trial for alleged child abuse.

When investigators tracked down the Cummings at a motel, they seized the children, arguing the couple were devil-worshipping molesters. After a year in foster care, their sons were pressured to testify against them in custody hearings.

"He's destroyed hundreds of people's lives," said Cummings, who was never charged with a crime, and whose custody case ultimately was thrown out. "We came back to Bakersfield and the jails were just filling up with people. We knew all those people were innocent, because we were innocent, too."

Since the 1980s, Jagels and county law enforcement officials have made major reforms to their investigative procedures, and now assure all interviews with child witnesses are videotaped and do not include suggestive questioning.

Jagels also has cut a wide swath through California politics in the last 30 years, leading a voter-driven campaign that unseated three liberal justices from the state Supreme Court, and fighting for California's stringent three-strikes law. He was once contemplated a run for state attorney general, but now says he plans to spend his retirement hunting elk. Conservatives praise Jagels' persuasive advocacy for victims' rights and tough sentencing laws, and his record of putting more people behind bars per capita than almost all other California counties.

"Anybody who has spent any time as a prosecutor knows Ed Jagels because he's had such a massive impact on the criminal justice system in California," said Steve Baric, secretary of the California Republican Party.

Now, however as California and other cash-strapped states face dire budget crises and prisons bursting at the seams, officials are rethinking whether it makes fiscal sense to keep locking up so many people for so long.

"As the economy has tightened, policymakers from both parties are asking much tougher questions about whether this tough-on-crime agenda is producing enough of a return for public safety," said Adam Gelb, a public safety policy expert at the Pew Center on the States in Washington.

Scott Thorpe, who leads the California District Attorneys Association in Sacramento, called Jagels a "prosecutor's prosecutor" who helped to popularize support for the death penalty.

Jagels remains adamant that putting more criminals in prison has kept a tight lid on crime in his rural pocket of the Central Valley, and says he'll retire assured that he used his power to keep his constituents safe.

"One thing we know for sure is criminals can't commit felonies when they're locked up," Jagels said. "If California prisons are overcrowded it's not because we have too many people in prison. It's because we don't have enough prisons."

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Going Rouge" Takes On the Palin Nightmare

"Going Rouge" Takes On the Palin Nightmare

Thursday 12 November 2009
by: Maya Schenwar, t r u t h o u t | Interview

Next Tuesday, when Sarah Palin's already-bestselling memoir, "Going Rogue: An American Life," hits shelves, another much-anticipated look at the Palin phenomenon will also debut: "Going Rouge: Sarah Palin - An American Nightmare" (available exclusively at The book includes both new and classic essays by the likes of Max Blumenthal, Eve Ensler, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Jessica Valenti, Juan Cole, Jim Hightower, Robert Reich, Naomi Klein and many more.

I interviewed Richard Kim and Betsy Reed, the editors of "Going Rouge," about Palin's place in the American political landscape, her influence on the tenor of Republican politics, and why they did not choose to make Levi Johnston a focal point of their anthology.

MS: Although your book is being released the same day as "Going Rogue" and has a similar cover, it doesn't seem like you intend to trick readers into buying the book when they mean to buy "Going Rogue." What was your aim in compiling this anthology?

Betsy Reed: We want to emphasize that although the cover has an element of satire, the book is not a parody. Our goal was to present a serious appraisal of Sarah Palin's record and an assessment of her role in American politics - and her future in American politics. She is a very well-packaged celebrity at this point, so we felt it was important to show her beneath the gloss.

Richard Kim: "Going Rogue" has already printed 1.5 million copies, and it has been number one on Amazon for weeks. We can assume that it's going to be painting her in the most generous and heroic light, and it's really important to tell the other side of her story, about her record in Alaska as governor, what she did on the campaign trail and what her politics are, and not to fall prey to the Sarah Palin branding machine.

BR: We're seeing this argument take shape where anyone who's critical of Sarah Palin is portrayed as launching unfair personal attacks on her. Our book is not personal at all; it's about who she is politically. There's really nothing about Levi Johnston in the book.

MS: That's refreshing.

RK: He only enters in there once or twice. There's no full-frontal nudity in the book, either.

MS: I'd like to know how you settled on the title of "Going Rouge," besides the play on words?

BR: Well, we can readily admit the play on words was a large part of the appeal, although we suggest in a cheeky way in our introduction that any similarities are purely coincidental.

But we also argue in our introduction that Sarah Palin represents something interesting and new in Republican politics, in that she is very much presented as a woman - a mother, a hockey mom - and her pedigree as a beauty queen was a very explicit part of her marketing as a vice-presidential candidate. This is highly suspect coming from a party that's been against every major agenda item for the women's movement. The title allows us to comment on that phenomenon: the Republican Party "going rouge."

Why do you think Sarah Palin remains so widely accepted by conservatives as a viable national politician, despite her obvious shortcomings?

RK: A part of that is definitely the narrative she sells; being a mom from Alaska. Also, she also does share the views of 20 percent of the electorate: the far right. And it's clear that they are not actually thinking in this moment of winning national elections. They're not even trying to hold onto a seat in New York's 23rd district, which has been in Republican hands since the 1850s. That was the race where Sarah Palin intervened and hacked out the moderate Republican. So that's a big question that's unknown: Is the Republican Party going to follow Palin into basically suicidal territory in terms of a national election?

BR: I think she does have quite a strong following among a certain cohort of Christian, conservative, white, married women. The Republican party is a mostly male phenomenon, but I think Republicans recognized that they needed to do better with women when they picked her.

RK: Going back to what Betsy said earlier, the narrative that she sends out of being persecuted is actually deeply resonant now with that portion of the Republican Party, which is out of power in the White House, out of power in Congress, and seeing the policies of the Bush years being rolled back. She constantly says, "I'm not being recognized by the national media, so I'm going to go rogue and tell you the story directly." In that way she can bypass Washington and bypass the media world.

BR: It's nothing new - The American right has always felt itself to be aggrieved. They always present themselves as fighting against a liberal elite. During the Bush years, obviously, they controlled everything. But now with Obama, there's a receptive audience for Sarah Palin's line of being the victim of this liberal conspiracy.

MS: That sense of victimhood can make it difficult for the media to cover Sarah Palin at all. If you had to map out a strategy for the progressive media in confronting the phenomenon of Sarah Palin over the next couple of years, what would you include?

RK: The best thing progressives did during the election was stick to record record record; facts facts facts. When you line those up, you see what a disaster she was as governor and what a disaster she would be as vice president.

That should be the strategy going forward. When she posts on Facebook that Obama's going to have "death panels" that execute her Downs Syndrome baby, we have to point to where he actually talks about optional end-of-life consultations. When she talks about how "In God We Trust" has been taken off the dollar coin, implying that it was an Obama plot, progressives have to point out that in fact, this was passed by a Republican Congress and George W. Bush.

So, there's going to be a portion of the electorate that believes whatever she says, but the results of the election and the results of the summer health care debate have shown that if we stick to the facts and the record, she's usually debunked.

MS: So, what kind of impact do you hope the book will have on Palin's probable presidential campaign?

BR: In some ways, Sarah Palin represents very bad news for the Republican Party. So part of us just wants to say, "Go for it!"

RK: But then, look at what she did with Betsy McCaughey's "death panels," which were just a little thing in the New York Post and no one on the national stage was paying attention to it. Then Sarah Palin blasted it on her Facebook page, and for the entire month of August, instead of discussing the public option or single payer or any of the other health care proposals out there, we were stuck fighting that garbage.

BR: So, we're probably not going to see President Palin in 2012. The larger effect we're looking at is that Sarah Palin is warping our political debate.

MS: Criticisms of Sarah Palin always seem to contain this combination of outrage and humor. That's a hard balance to strike, and I'm interested in how you dealt with that balance in compiling the anthology.

RK: Some of the humor in the book just comes from quoting Sarah Palin. She's funny enough just on her own. There's a piece in the book that puts Sarah Palin's own words into verse, in haiku form.

So, some of the writers have a lot of fun with her. She has a sort of comic element, but then there are also terrifying elements to her, like the ignorance that she exposed in her interviews with Katie Couric or with Charlie Gibson.

That balance is represented in the book. The appeal of her youth, her wardrobe, her charm has been used to evade the hard political questions of her record and her knowledge.

MS: Is Sarah Palin a "rogue" phenomenon, or does she represent a trend in the Republican Party?

RK: What we see in Sarah Palin's continued political relevance, even though she holds no office, is that in some ways she's doing what Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey and all these other former Republican politicians are doing - using their status as media figures to push an agenda. They don't have to actually govern, or face the consequences of their actions at the polls. So, what she represents is actually the takeover of the Republican Party by these non-governmental actors - and you can throw Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck in there - this cabal of people who are not beholden to any electorate. Those are the people in the driver's seat.

BR: There's not anything inherently wrong with a person who's a media personality being influential in politics. We have that on the left, too. But Paul Krugman makes a good point in his [Nov. 9] column: These people don't have to worry about governing, so they can be as irresponsible as they want in their rhetoric, and could potentially make the country ungovernable for Democrats.

RK: Even Arlen Specter and Joe Lieberman and Michele Bachmann have to come home and face their constituency. Sarah Palin doesn't need to do that anymore, and that's one of the things that makes her a great danger in the next few years.

"Going Rouge: Sarah Palin - An American Nightmare" can be purchased at

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Twittering while American

Thousands of angry citizens, who fear a "government take over" of the world's resources by powerful governments and the corporations they harbor, took to the streets of Pittsburgh PA.. on Sept 23rd and 24th to protest and disrupt the G20 summit. And while these thousands of protester apparently did not merit even five minutes, of the 24/7 media coverage awarded the few dozens who protested and disrupted our recent congressional town hall meetings, Law enforcement may just end up making some news for having arrested an Elliot Madison for TWITTERING (it's like sending out a mass email, or text message) about the locations of the riot squads and where other police were assembling. Information, by the way, which he found posted on the internet.

You may have heard or read that we have a constitutional right to assemble, and to petition our government, but keep in mind that in most in most jurisdictions, those assemblies must be permitted (unlike guns, at a tea party protest in Arizona or New Hampshire.), and no such permits were going to be issued anywhere near where the the governments met, or from any location where the citizens could actually be heard by these governments' representatives. So Pittsburgh locked down. They brought in and deputized 1000 additional personal as "police", just for the event and they even used an experimental pain complicate technique, called a "sound" cannon to disperse crowds, as well as firing rubber bullets and tear gas at them. Many of these protesters (and a few innocent by standers) were deemed to be committing the crime of protesting with out a permit and were subject to mass arrests, very much like what happen in New York City during the National Republican Convention in 2004. Most were detained until the end of the summit and released with out charges, so short of hiring a lawyer and bringing civil charges against the police, the violation of their civil rights will never be determined. Elliot Madison however, will be getting his day in court.



From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

We've reported here on the use of texting, blogging and tweeting by all sorts of protest movements abroad. But the most recent case, and the arrest of someone tweeting live about protests, took place in the not-so-exotic confines of Pittsburgh.

A self-described anarchist, who was tweeting at the G-20 summit, was arrested. Elliot Madison was accused of directing others to avoid arrest. Madison's home in New York City was searched. He was charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility and possession of instruments of crime.

We asked law professor and former prosecutor Paul Butler about this today. We wondered, is telling protesters that there's a cop up ahead arresting protesters any different from blinking your headlights on the highway to signal there's a cop up ahead with a radar gun?

Professor PAUL BUTLER (Law, George Washington University): There's no universal agreement about whether when you do that you're committing a crime. So, in a few jurisdictions, people have actually been charged with traffic offenses for warning about police. So, in a sense, this is a glorified version of that.

SIEGEL: And that would include busting people for communicating logistics to other demonstrators about where to go?

Prof. BUTLER: Well, that's the very difficult decision the judge will have to make. So these cases present difficult First Amendment issues. It's perfectly legal to protest, but it's not legal to help the bad guy run away. So, it's a thin line, not a thick line, between those two.

SIEGEL: Although the bad guy in this case - we understand the bad guy when he is purveying child pornography or selling drugs - in this case, the bad guy would be the protester who might be arrested by a cop if he goes down First Street instead of running down Second Street.

Prof. BUTLER: And it's tough because the police have to make these difficult, on the spot determinations about where the protesters can go. This information may not be transmitted to the protesters. And so, often, they're arrested for conduct that they didn't even know was illegal. It wasn't illegal five minutes ago. And so, in a sense, all of these tweets and Twitterers are just designed to get the message out about what's legal now.

SIEGEL: The New York Times has some of the messages that were exchanged during the protest against the G-20, some of the tweets. SWAT teams rolling down 5th Avenue - that would be one. Another one was: Report received that police are nabbing anyone that looks like a protester. Black block: Stay alert, watch your friends.

Prof. BUTLER: Yeah.

SIEGEL: What does it sound like to you?

Prof. BUTLER: Well, you know, some of it sounds like pure journalism, just reporting what's going on on the scene, not unlike what I heard when I watch some protest on the local news.

You know, the part about watch out for your friend, that's a little bit more ambiguous. But one concern is that sometimes the police have arrested innocent people. So, if I were the defense attorney, I'd say they're just trying to give people information so that they can conform their conduct to the law.

SIEGEL: Now, but let's say if I were a journalist Tweeting about protests, and I sent out a message: SWAT teams rolling down 5th Avenue, my intent is to inform. It's not necessarily to direct people's conduct. On the other hand, when people are informed of something, they decide what to do on the basis of that information. Is there any bright line in law between when you're just giving somebody the facts of the situation or when the fact of the situation, that is, I see cops who are about to beat down your door, flush it, quick, when that information really is part of a - trying to thwart the law?

Prof. BUTLER: Yeah. Well, intent or motive is key. So if the government can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the idea was to help the protesters evade the police and to prevent the protesters' illegal activities from being discovered, then they've broken the law. But that's a lot that the government will have to prove and, you know, it may be difficult based on the evidence.

SIEGEL: New law will be made in these cases in the coming months.

Prof. BUTLER: And the law is used to adapting to new technology, you know, for - there was a time when the telephone was new. And then there was another time when computers were new. And people used these new instruments for both legal activity and for political organizing and sometimes for illegal activity. And what law has to do is to figure out the difference.

SIEGEL: Professor Butler, thank you very much.

Prof. BUTLER: It's great to be here.

SIEGEL: Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor, is a professor of law at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.


More on G20:

for photos click here

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thousands at G20 no match for dozens at Town Hall Meeting

Thousand march in Pittsburgh, with little to no news coverage, in stark contrast to the none stop coverage of a few dozen who disrupted some of the Congressional Town Hall Meetings in August.

Street Report From the G20
Monday 28 September 2009
by: Bill Quigley, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

The G20 in Pittsburgh showed us how pitifully fearful our leaders have become.

What no terrorist could do to us, our own leaders did.

Out of fear of the possibility of a terrorist attack, authorities militarize our towns, scare our people away, stop daily life and quash our constitutional rights.

For days, downtown Pittsburgh, home to the G20, was a turned into a militarized, people-free ghost town. Sirens screamed day and night.

Helicopters crisscrossed the skies. Gunboats sat in the rivers. The skies were defended by Air Force jets. Streets were barricaded by huge cement blocks and fencing. Bridges were closed with National Guard across the entrances. Public transportation was stopped downtown. Amtrak train service was suspended for days.

In many areas, there were armed police every 100 feet. Businesses closed. Schools closed. Tens of thousands were unable to work.

Four thousand police were on duty, plus 2,500 National Guard, plus Coast Guard and Air Force and dozens of other security agencies. A thousand volunteers from other police forces were sworn in to help out.

Police were dressed in battle gear, bulky, black ninja-turtle outfits - helmets with clear visors, strapped on body armor, shin guards, big boots, batons and long guns.

In addition to helicopters, the police had hundreds of cars and motorcycles, armored vehicles, monster trucks, small electric go-karts. There were even passenger vans screaming through town so stuffed with heavily armed ninja turtles that the side and rear doors remained open.

No terrorists showed up at the G20.

Since no terrorists showed up, those in charge of the heavily armed security forces chose to deploy their forces around those who were protesting.

Not everyone is delighted that 20 countries control 80 percent of the world's resources. Several thousand of them chose to express their displeasure by protesting.

Unfortunately, the officials in charge thought that it was more important to create a militarized people-free zone around the G20 people than to allow freedom of speech, freedom of assembly or the freedom to protest.

It took a lawsuit by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU to get any major protest permitted anywhere near downtown Pittsburgh. Even then, the police "forgot" what was permitted and turned people away from areas of town. Hundreds of police also harassed a bus full of people who were giving away free food - repeatedly detaining the bus and searching it and its passengers without warrants.

Then, a group of young people decided that they did not need a permit to express their human and constitutional rights to freedom. They announced they were going to hold their own gathering at a city park and go down the deserted city streets to protest the G20. Maybe 200 of these young people were self-described anarchists, dressed in black, many with bandannas across their faces. The police warned everyone these people were very scary. My cab driver said the anarchist spokesperson looked like Harry Potter in a black hoodie. The anarchists were joined in the park by hundreds of other activists of all ages, ultimately one thousand strong, all insisting on exercising their right to protest.

This drove the authorities crazy.

Battle dressed ninja turtles showed up at the park and formed a line across one entrance. Helicopters buzzed overhead. Armored vehicles gathered.

The crowd surged out of the park and up a side street yelling, chanting, drumming and holding signs. As they exited the park, everyone passed an ice cream truck that was playing "It's a small world after all." Indeed.

Any remaining doubts about the militarization of the police were dispelled shortly after the crowd left the park. A few blocks away, the police unveiled their latest high tech anti-protester toy. It was mounted on the back of a huge black truck. The Pittsburgh-Gazette described it as Long Range Acoustic Device designed to break up crowds with piercing noise. Similar devices have been used in Fallujah, Mosul and Basra, Iraq. The police backed the truck up, told people not to go any further down the street and then blasted them with piercing noise.

The crowd then moved to other streets. Now, they were being tracked by helicopters. The police repeatedly tried to block them from regrouping, ultimately firing tear gas into the crowd, injuring hundreds, including people in the residential neighborhood where the police decided to confront the marchers. I was treated to some of the tear gas myself and I found the Pittsburgh brand to be spiced with a hint of kielbasa. Fortunately, I was handed some paper towels soaked in apple cider vinegar, which helped fight the tears and cough a bit. Who would have thought?

After the large group broke and ran from the tear gas, smaller groups went into commercial neighborhoods and broke glass at a bank and a couple of other businesses. The police chased and the glass breakers ran. And the police chased and the people ran. For a few hours.

By day, the police were menacing, but at night they lost their cool. Around a park by the University of Pittsburgh, the ninja turtles pushed and shoved and beat and arrested not just protesters, but people passing by. One young woman reported she and her friend had watched "Grey's Anatomy" and were on their way back to their dorm when they were cornered by police. One was bruised by a police baton and her friend was arrested. Police shot tear gas, pepper spray, smoke canisters and rubber bullets. They pushed with big plastic shields and struck with batons.

The biggest march was Friday. Thousands of people from Pittsburgh and other places protested the G20. Since the court had ruled on this march, the police did not confront the marchers. Ninja-turtled police showed up in formation sometimes and the helicopters hovered, but no confrontations occurred.

Again, Friday night, riot-clad police fought with students outside of the University of Pittsburgh. To what end was just as unclear as the night before.

Ultimately about 200 were arrested, mostly in clashes with the police around the University.

The G20 leaders left by helicopter and limousine.

Pittsburgh now belongs again to the people of Pittsburgh. The cement barricades were removed; the fences were taken down; the bridges and roads were opened. The gunboats packed up and left. The police packed away their ninja-turtle outfits and tear gas and rubber bullets. They don't look like military commandos anymore. No more gunboats on the river. No more sirens all the time. No more armored vehicles and ear-splitting machines used in Iraq. On Monday, the businesses will open and kids will have to go back to school. Civil society has returned.

It is now probably even safe to exercise constitutional rights in Pittsburgh once again.

The USA really showed those terrorists didn't we?


Police Use Painful New Weapon on G20 Protesters
Monday 28 September 2009
by: Allison Kilkenny | AlterNet

Police used "sound cannons" to break up G-20 protest groups demonstrating in Pittsburgh.

This technology has been deployed in Iraq as an "anti-insurgent weapon" - it could easily be used as a torture tool.

Pittsburgh police demonstrated the latest in crowd control techniques on protesters when they used "sound cannons" to blast the ears of citizens near the G-20 meeting of world economic leaders. City officials said this was the first time such sound blasters, also known as "sound weapons," were used publicly.

Lavonnie Bickerstaff of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police uses benign language like "sound amplifiers," and "long-range acoustic device" to explain the new weapons in an attempt to sanitize what is essentially a painful weapon that leaves no visible marks on its victims. The mob utilized a similar tactic on snitches when they would beat everywhere except the face. If victims have no outward bruises to show, the world is less likely to believe their stories of assault and harassment.

Unlike aerosol hand-grenades, pepper spray, and rubber bullets (all traditional methods of protest suppression also used at the G-20 protests,) the damage from sound cannons is entirely internal, and can only be preserved on video, but even then, the deafening noise cannot be fully appreciated unless one hears it in person.

(Footage of the sound cannons in action can be seen/heard below. It's clear from these videos that the extremely loud, high-pitched noise causes pain.)

The "long range acoustic device (LRAD)" is designed for long-range communication and acts as an "unmistakable warning," according to the American Technology Corporation (ATC,) which develops the instruments. "The LRAD basically is the ability to communicate clearly from 300 meters to 3 kilometers" (nearly 2 miles), said Robert Putnam of American Technology's media and investor relations during an interview with MSNBC. "It's a focused output. What distinguishes it from other communications tools out there is its ability to be heard clearly and intelligibly at a distance, unlike bullhorns."

Except, police aren't trying to send a distress call to allies 2 miles away. They're literally blasting this extreme decibel of noise directly into the ears of protesters (or any unwitting citizens) standing mere feet from the cannons. Depending on the mode of LRAD, it can blast a maximum sound of 145 to 151 decibels - equal to a gunshot - within a 3-foot (one meter) range, according to ATC. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that permanent hearing loss can result from sounds at about 110 to 120 decibels in short bursts or even just 75 decibels if exposure lasts for long periods.

But there is a volume knob, Putnam notes, so its output can be less than max, purportedly to give us comfort in the knowledge that deafening citizens is left to the discretion of power-hungry police. On the decibel scale, an increase of 10 (say, from 70 to 80) means that a sound is 10 times more intense. Normal traffic noise can reach 85 decibels, reports MSNBC, but these sound cannons cannot be compared to standing beside a busy New York City road.

The BBC reported in 2005 that the "shrill sound of an LRAD at its loudest sounds something like a domestic smoke alarm, ATC says, but at 150 decibels, it is the aural equivalent to standing 30m away from a roaring jet engine and can cause major hearing damage if misused."

This technology has been deployed in Iraq as an "anti-insurgent weapon," and the sonic weaponry is also being used on protesters in Honduras. Seattle Weekly reports that this weapon could easily be used as a torture tool if one doesn't already think this is its only use.

Sonic weaponry is now being deployed domestically to put a chill on free speech. We're told this is the "humane" way to deal with protesters, but it's really just a convenient way to suppress citizens without the messy aftereffects of having to explain bullet holes to reporters. A bunch of protesters complaining about ruptured ear drums doesn't make for dramatic news.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Times Standard Editorial on CA budget cuts

Is hope dying for the assisted living?

Richard Salzman/For the Times-Standard

The Times Standard got it right with the headline, “Adding insult to injury for care providers,” on its Aug. 13th front-page story about the protest by in-home support service care providers. These assisted-living workers have been severely affected by our state's draconian budget cuts, and now the state wants them fingerprinted at their own expense!

What was not clear from the article was our representative's position on these issues, so I checked online and found that Assemblymember Wes Chesbro voted no on ABX4 19-IHSS reform (this is the bill that requires fingerprints and background checks), and he voted no on ABX4 8 -- cuts to SSI & CalWorks. I'm glad that Chesbro took the moral high ground on these two votes.

But I'm not happy about the overall budget “compromise,” which allowed for zero revenue increases despite several good proposals, such as an alcohol tax which would have brought in $1.4 billion a year; a 9.9 percent charge to the value of oil extracted from wells in California, which would have raised over $1 billion a year; and a tax on incomes of over $250,000 a year, which could net $4 billion in annual revenues.

Overall, the situation is dire for those in our society who are the most vulnerable. And when it comes to assisted living, the alternative will only cost us more, both in the short run and the long run. If these people cannot live at home, they will either become homeless or be institutionalized -- outcomes which put an even greater burden on society while providing no benefit whatsoever, not even financial.

The governor, through a constitutionally questionable use of his line item veto, cut Healthy Families by $50 million, on top of the $53 million already cut by the Legislature. According to an analysis by the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, this will mean that nearly 670,000 more children could be dropped from Healthy Families by next June -- despite the 22,000 children already on the waiting list to get onto Healthy Families!

These so-called “blue pencil” vetoes by the governor have included:

* slashing the remaining state support for county health clinics, such as Humboldt's Open Door Clinics, by $25 million;

* cutting the last of the state's support for Domestic Violence Shelters, such as the Humboldt Women's Shelter, by $16.4 million.

* chopping the last of the state's support for the adolescent Family Life Program by $9 million.

* slicing $52 million from the state Office of AIDS, which will result in severely decreased service in Humboldt County for HIV/AID
prevention and treatment;

* eliminating funding for two programs for the aging, which will affect Eureka's new Alzheimer's Center and the Senior Brown Bag Program.

In addition, there was a $124 million reduction for child welfare services, which will come on top of a previous cut of 10 percent. The likely result will be layoffs of hundreds of social workers and caseloads for those remaining that are unmanageable. All this will be added to a whopping $1 billion dollar cut to Medi-Cal.

The budget also amputated $375 million from CalWorks services, and most of these cuts will not begin until July of 2011. So expect the bad times to last for some time to come.

When they were created, I don't remember anyone in government saying that these “safety nets” would just exist in good times -- but that if finances got rough, which would be exactly when they are needed the most, we would cut off recipients.

Assemblymember Chesbro seems to share my outrage about these cuts, when earlier this month he said:
”The measure of any society is how well it takes care of its most vulnerable citizens. It is shameful to balance the state's budget on the backs of children, the aged, the poor and the disabled. Yet this is what the governor seems intent on doing by using the line-item veto to cut nearly $500 million from programs that provide health care for children from impoverished families and services for the elderly, victims of domestic violence, those suffering from AIDS and abused and neglected youths.”

”I don't believe the governor has the legal right to make these cuts. The California Constitution doesn't allow the governor to line-item veto bills that reduce the budget. He can only veto individual items from appropriations bills. The governor is acting like a dictator by assuming power that isn't legally his.”

All of us here on the North Coast should contact the governor ( and echo Chesbro's remarks. We should also come to grips with the reality that any real fix is going to require some reform to Prop. 13.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ask Obama to restore aid to Darfur

Sign the open letter to President Obama

With the rainy season in Darfur approaching and aid yet to be restored, we're calling for bold, agenda-setting leadership on Sudan.

The Save Darfur Coalition, ENOUGH Project, and GI-NET have issued an open letter outlining a plan of action for President Obama.

But this movement has always been about citizens of conscience and courage like you speaking out together—so please, use the form on this website to sign onto the letter today:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Support Kucinich State Single-Payer Amendment

*Urgent: Support Kucinich State Single-Payer Amendment*

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has proposed a crucial amendment for single-payer
healthcare and we urgently need you to call one or more of the 26
Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee. Our message is simple:

Please support Rep. Kucinich's Amendment today to let states create
single-payer healthcare systems. The federal government should give
states the freedom to fix our health care crisis.

You can call any time and leave a voicemail if no one answers. If you do
speak with a staffer, please post their reply here:

You can also urge your Senators and Representatives to support the
Single Payer Health Plan (H.R. 676) by signing our petition:

The Kucinich Amendment would let individual states create single-payer
healthcare systems even if Congress fails to create a nationwide
single-payer system.

That's exactly how Canada evolved towards single-payer: one province at
a time. Given the corporate-funded resistance to single-payer in
Congress, the U.S. may have to follow the Canadian path.

Progressive activists in California, Illinois and Pennsylvania are
leading the way for single-payer systems and the Kucinich Amendment
would remove the legal roadblocks they face.

The fate of the Kucinich Amendment rests in the hands of the 26
Democrats below. Please call as many as you can.

George Miller (CA-7) 202-225-2095
Dale Kildee (MI-5) 202-225-3611
Donald Payne (NJ-10) 202-225-3436
Robert Andrews (NJ-1) 202-225-6501
Bobby Scott (VA-3) 202-225-8351
Lynn Woolsey (CA-6) 202-225-5161
Ruben Hinojosa (TX-15) 202-225-2531
Carolyn McCarthy (NY-4) 202-225-5516
John Tierney (MA-6) 202-225-8020
David Wu (OR-1) 202-225-0855
Rush Holt (NJ-12) 202-225-5801
Susan Davis (CA-53) 202-225-2040
Raul Grijalva (AZ-7) 202-225-2435
Tim Bishop (NY-1) 202-225-3826
Joe Sestak (PA-7) 202-225-2011
David Loebsack (IA-2) 202-225-6576
Mazie Hirono (HI-2) 202-225-4906
Jason Altmire (PA-4) 202-225-2565
Phil Hare (IL-17) 202-225-5905
Yvette Clarke (NY-11) 202-225-6231
Joe Courtney (CT-2) 202-225-2076
Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1) 202-225-5456
Marcia Fudge (OH-11) 202-225-7032
Jared Polis (CO-2) 202-225-2161
Paul Tonko (NY-21) 202-225-5076
Dina Titus (NV-3) 202-225-3252

Monday, June 29, 2009

Humboldt's Election Transparency Project in N.Y. Times

From: Letters to the editor of the New York Times

To the Editor:

Thank you for your editorial supporting the use of paper ballots. I’d like to call your attention to the discovery by the Humboldt County Election Transparency Project that even in Humboldt County, California, where paper ballots are in use, the Diebold GEMS system dropped an entire batch of 197 ballots from its final results in the November 2008 election, leaving no evidence in its “audit” trail.

The discovery was made by the Transparency Project, a volunteer group of which I am a member, using my ballot-counting software.

California’s secretary of state, Debra Bowen, conducted an investigation and discovered many flaws in GEMS, leading her to decertify the version of GEMS then used in Humboldt County.

It is vital that America return to paper ballots. It is equally vital that these ballots be made available for independent counting, whether by hand or by computer-assisted projects like the Humboldt County Election Transparency Project. No democracy can function when its election results are suspect.

Mitch Trachtenberg
Trinidad, Calif., June 23, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Arrests at "Mountain Justice Summer" Protest

The people of Appalachian coal country are continuing their struggle against big coal's mountaintop removal practices and the subsequent destruction of their watersheds. Where I live in Humboldt County California, "Redwood Summer" brought national attention to the clear cutting of the last of the ancient old growth redwood forests (less 3% of the original old growth forest now remain) and the decline of our rivers, streams and fish populations, which continues today. Learn more and offer your support at:

The protest and arrests reported below were staged in advance of a Congressional hearing titled, "The Impacts of Mountaintop Removal Mining on Water Quality in Appalachia", scheduled for this Thursday June 25th before the Water and Wildlife subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Take a moment to contact the members of this committee right now:
Click on each members name to be taken to their website, and then click on contact. Ask them to act now to stop mountain top removal.

You should also ask all Senators to join Senator Cardin as a sponsor of S. 696, The Appalachian Restoration Act, that would outlaw this mining practice. Find your senator here:


Climate Scientist James Hansen Arrested in Mountaintop Removal Protest

Coal River Valley, West Virginia, June 23, 2009 - West Virginia State Police today arrested at least 29 demonstrators, including government climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, actress Daryl Hannah, and 94 year-old former West Virginia Congressman Ken Hechler, for tresspassing on the property of a mountaintop removal coal mining company to protest the destructive practice.

The protesters deliberately entered the Goals Coal plant owned by coal giant Massey Energy to draw public attention to the destruction of mountains immediately above the Coal River Valley community of Sundial in Raleigh County.
The demonstrators attempted to deliver a letter of demands to the company regarding this facility, which they say threatens the students at Marsh Fork Elementary School.

"I am not a politician; I am a scientist and a citizen," said Hansen, who is the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University.

"Politicians may have to advocate for halfway measures if they choose. But it is our responsibility to make sure our representatives feel the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not what is politically expedient," Hansen told a crowd of about 350 people gathered at Marsh Fork Elementary. "Mountaintop removal, providing only a small fraction of our energy, should be abolished."

Also arrested were Michael Brune, executive director of the nonprofit Rainforest Action Network; and Goldman Prize winner Judy Bonds, co-director of the nonprofit Coal River Mountain Watch, along with dozens of Coal River Valley residents and allies.

The protest was staged in advance of a Congressional hearing titled, The Impacts of Mountaintop Removal Mining on Water Quality in Appalachia, scheduled for Thursday before the Water and Wildlife subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The action comes after the Obama administration's announcement last week that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will reform, but not abolish, the strip mining practice that removes the tops of mountains to get at coal seams and then dumps the waste rock into valley streams below.

For 20 years, Dr. Hansen has been outspoken on issue of global warming and the dangers of fossil fuel combustion. He criticized the Bush administration for its suppport of fossil fuels, and now he is criticizing the Obama administration.

In the June 22 issue of Yale University's "Environment 360" magazine, Hansen wrote, "The Obama administration is being forced into a political compromise. It has sacrificed a strong position on mountaintop removal in order to ensure the support of coal-state legislators for a climate bill. The political pressures are very real. But this is an approach to coal that defeats the purpose of the administration’s larger efforts to fight climate change, a sad political bargain that will never get us the change we need on mountaintop removal, coal or the climate."

Coal companies that engage in mountaintop removal mining are clear-cutting thousands of acres of some of the world's most biologically diverse forests, the protesters said in a statement today. "They're burying biologically crucial headwaters streams with blasting debris, releasing toxic levels of heavy metals into the remaining streams and groundwater and poisoning essential drinking water. According to the EPA, this destructive practice has damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 miles of streams and threatens to destroy 1.4 million acres of forest by 2020."

"Every day, mountaintop removal mines use more explosive power than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima," said Bo Webb, an organizer of today's protest and a Coal River Valley Resident. "West Virginians oppose mountaintop removal in our communities. This is not our traditional way of life, and we do not support the destruction of our land or our communities."

"We are all complicit in mountaintop removal whenever we turn on our lights, so we are all responsible for ending it. Mountaintop removal, the world's worst strip-mining, is unacceptable. Period." said Brune. "This is not a practice that needs to be reformed. It is a practice that needs to be abolished."

Mountaintop removal coal provides less than eight percent of all coal produced in the United States, and could be replaced with energy efficiency initiatives or renewable energy sources, the demonstrators say.

They point to recent studies showing that the mountains of Appalachia could support commercial scale wind energy facilities, which would bring long-term, sustainable jobs to the region, but only if the mountains are left standing.

"By sacrificing the Appalachian Mountains for the country's coal addiction, we undermine future investments in 21st century clean energy solutions that will protect our planet, produce more jobs and preserve our natural resources," Brune said.

Today's demonstration is the latest in a string of mountaintop removal protests that saw four people enter Massey Energy's mountaintop removal mine site near Twilight, West Virginia on June 18 to display a banner reading, "stop mountaintop removal mining."

These demonstrators hung their banner from a 150-foot dragline machine - the first time a dragline has been scaled on a mountaintop removal site. The huge piece of equipment removes house-sized chunks of blasted rock and earth to expose coal.

The June 18 protest occurred three days after the Obama administration announced its plan to reform, but not abolish, mountaintop removal mining.

On May 23, more than 75 residents of the Coal River Valley and members of a coalition that includes Mountain Justice and Climate Ground Zero picketed the entrance to Massey Energy's Marfork mining complex. Seven people were arrested. They were protesting the company's plans to blast 100 feet away from the Brushy Fork coal sludge impoundment, which they fear could be breached, releasing the toxic waste.

"It's way past time for civil disobedience to stop mountaintop removal and move quickly toward clean, renewable energy sources," said Bonds, who was arrested today. "For over a century, Appalachian communities have been crushed, flooded, and poisoned as a result of the country's dangerous and outdated reliance on coal. How could the country care so little about our American mountains, our culture and our lives?"

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.


related story:


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

17 arrested anti-mountaintop removal civil disobedience

Please donate to the legal fund here.

Seventeen courageous Mountain Justice volunteers were arrested Saturday, May 23 in a three-part civil disobedience action in our continuing movement to end mountaintop removal. Six are still in jail with bogus, unprecedented, $2,000 cash-only bail amounts, slowing their release. Many of them were arrested for the first time with clean records, and all they did was cross a line onto coal company property. We are raising $18,000 to get them out of jail as we move closer to defeating King Coal. Fundraising has bailed out three others since this morning. Thank you all!

The Kayford Eight were charged with trespass and conspiracy for walking onto the 12,000-acre-plus Kayford Mountain mine and locking themselves to a giant dump truck. Placing U-locks around their necks, they attached themselves to guardrails and the driveshaft of the truck after hanging a banner on the truck's grill that read "Never Again!" Here is a statement from the Kayford Eight:

We locked down at the Kayford mountaintop removal site with mud from the Mingo County flood on our boots and now, with the dusty remains of Kayford Mountain on our boots, we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers jailed for their actions to oppose mountaintop removal coal mining.

Also before dawn, two brave women, donning hazmat suits and respirators, boated onto the eight-billion-gallon Brushy Fork toxic coal slurry lake and launched a 60-foot floating banner that read "No more toxic sludge!" They were charged with trespass and littering. How can you litter on a giant toxic waste dump? Massey Energy has a permit to blast within 100 feet of this impoundment, which sits atop a honeycomb of abandoned deep mines. In 2000, more than 300 million gallons of coal slurry broke through the bottom of Massey's Martin Co., Ky., impoundment, and into the deep mines beneath, then exploding into two watersheds, smothering aquatic life over 100 miles of streams. A Brushy Fork failure would be over 23 times larger than Martin County.

Saturday's two backcountry actions were followed by a picket at the mouth of Massey Energy's Marfork mining complex, which includes the Brushy Fork dam, where more than 75 Coal River Valley residents and supporters emphasized the deadly danger of that impoundment: the 72-foot peak depth of the sludge at the Head Start facility there should the dam break. Seven people crossed the line onto Marfork's property and were arrested for trespass.

While the Kayford Eight were released the same day, the other nine fared differently. The two Brushy Paddlers and four of the Pettus Seven are being held for $2,000 each, cash only. We know you love and care about the people of Appalachia! Now is the time to demonstrate your support through a donation to help bail out these committed and passionate activists. We really need your support more than ever at this crucial juncture in the movement to end mountaintop removal mining!

If donating by mail, make out a check or money order to Mountain Justice at: P.O. Box 86, Naoma, WV, 25140.

For donations that have a much-needed immediate impact, call 304-854-1937. Thank you!


Let's Keep up the Pressure

Be part of ending mountaintop removal: ban its combustion in your community, volunteer in Appalachia, donate to Coal River 17's legal fund.
It's going to take action, continued and direct, to stop Mountaintop Removal. We need to stop the coal bosses from laying mountains low and laying off deep miners. We're going to keep confronting these coal barons, and we need your help.

Help out on the ground in Appalachia—there are opportunities in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Send an email to volunteer (at) mountainjustice (dot) org. We need organizers and hellraisers. We need media and medics. We need cooks, gardeners and folks comfortable in the backwoods.

We also need solidarity. If you can't come to Appalachia, you can organize in your hometown or at your university. Contact us for fundraiser, action, and teach-in ideas or act on your own initiative.

And if nothing else, you can send us money. We need to feed our volunteers and cover our legal fees. However you help, you're a crucial part of ending mountaintop removal and building sustainable economies and communities in Appalachia! Donate here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Children of the Guatemala City garbage dump

The letter below is from a dear friend of mine's daughter who has been working as a volunteer with the children of the Guatemala City garbage dump. On her own, she has also started an art program for these kids and she is asking for support.

It warms my heart to hear of young people willing to give of their time to make the world a better place and I'm sure that bringing art into these children's lives is more significant then any of us can even imagine.

She needs to fund this program on her own, so I am forwarding her letter and asking that you please send in a check for whatever you can afford to:

Safe Passage - Art Program
PO Box 712849
Cincinnati, OH

She says that even five dollars can make a difference.

SAFE PASSAGE is a 501 (C)(3) tax deductible organization with a four star rating from Charity Navigator

Please forward this email


From: Nell Pierce

Dear friends and family,

As many of you know, I decided last spring to take a gap year before college in order to volunteer in Guatemala City with the organization Safe Passage. This Non-Profit organization , founded in 1999 to work with the poorest at-risk children of families working in the Guatemala City garbage dump, has now expanded to support nearly six hundred children (from infants to those in their early twenties) as well their families through educational reinforcement and opportunity. Since August, I have worked as a classroom volunteer with several different age groups and the amount of potential and ambition that these kids possess is humbling, to say the least. Having been raised with an artistic eye, my attention has been drawn especially to the ridiculously creative doodles that I find in their school notebooks. At the moment, there is no structured art program in existence for any of the kids at Safe Passage. Given the spirit of change that has characterized the New Year worldwide and the corresponding energy behind new development at the project, I feel compelled to do something about this.

I wrote up and presented a proposal for an Art Program that would start off with both third and fourth grade and eventually expand to include all ages as support is gathered from both the Guatemalan art community as well as international contributors. The curriculum that I am developing includes projects that are fun and diverse, and each is complemented with a bit of art history as well as some type of reflection (whether it be on self, others, nature, society, etc.). The response has been very positive from all levels of administration, however, they are limited in the resources that they can provide. They kindly provided me with a space that I´ve been fixing up to use as a classroom and storage area, and I have been bringing kids in every afternoon to get things rolling - using materials that I´ve either found, recycled, or bought with the support of a start-up donation. Many of them have directly expressed to me how important art is to them – both as an emotional outlet and as a way to help their families. A fifteen-year-old wrote me a note the other day and told me that he though of drawing as “dreaming with his eyes open.” This sort of desire should not be dismissed.

As the major goal for the program is sustainability, I have created a separate art account to be available for future creativity – hopefully even after I leave towards the end of this summer. Safe Passage has been clear that they cannot provide any financial support, so I´ve taken on all responsibility for fundraising. I´m writing all of you to ask for whatever support you may be able to offer – whether it be financial in the form of a check or fundraiser or mental in the form of ideas…or just a word of encouragement! Aside from the obvious benefit of providing an expressive outlet for the children, this is also an opportunity for the kids to improve our project, as their art from past initiatives has been sold and/or displayed to bring in lots of funds and positive public relations. If you choose to become involved in some way, I will surely keep you updated with photos and monthly reports as things progress (just be sure I have your email address).

I want to emphasize that every cent counts in this initiative – even $5 can go a long way (that could buy pencils for forty students). Given my own position in life as a volunteer and the absurdly cheap mentality I’ve developed living in Guatemala, I understand that big sums aren’t always at our disposal and that this project will grow piece by piece. If you would like to contribute monetarily, please make all checks out to Safe Passage and specify in the memo or on a separate note that it is intended for the Art Program. Checks should be sent to the following address:

Safe Passage Art Program
PO Box 712849
Cincinnati, OH

If you make a donation online , please let me know via email so that I can notify those in charge of collecting the funds as to where the money should be directed.

Please do not feel any pressure from this email, as my intention is only to get the word out. I'm open to everything and truly appreciate anything you can offer!

Lots of love and positive Guatemalan vibes to everyone.

Nellie Pierce

Thursday, February 12, 2009

2009 Pamplin Grove Gathering will be Aug 29th weekend


Saturday August 29th

Doesn’t it feel like we’re just emerging from an eight year winter? Look, there’s still plenty of shoveling to do, but you know you need to kick up your heels and salute the light. Celebrate the End of an Error and a New Day in America

Mark your calendar now and plan to attend the 6th annual - Community Cookout at Pamplin Grove - in Humboldt County, California USA on the weekend of August 29th, 2009.

Ask anyone who’s been! It is a fabulous place to stay the weekend, or just cruise in for dinner
in this majestic cathedral of old growth redwoods on the banks of the Van Duzen River.

Friends, family and well behaved dogs are all welcome. Individual campsites sleeps from 1 to 15 people. You can pretty much get all you want to eat up at the cookhouse, so if you are camping, you don't need much more then a tent, a sleeping bag and pad to be comfortable. Interesting people in abundance. Music, sunshine, volleyball, horseshoes, swimming holes and a bon fire are included.

Early campers can arrive on Friday the 28th, the big potluck dinner is on Saturday afternoon the 29th, and a breakfast will be served at the cookhouse on Sunday morning the 30th.

Car pools from the airport and loaner camping gear can be arranged for out of town guests, and if you don't want to camp, there are motels in nearby Fortuna. You are also welcome to just come out for the day for the big potluck on Saturday.

More details will follow this summer, but mark your calendar now and plan to be in Humboldt County on August 29th

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pamplin Grove Community Cookout 2008

Supper is served at the cookhouse
looking up 300 feet

"The Living Rooms" performing on Saturday afternoon

Election Night Nov 4th 2008 Columbus Hotel Ballroom

Richard and Janelle, co-deputy field organizers
"West Side" Columbus, OH.
Obama Campaign for Change Headquarters

Crowd shot, viewing results on election night, when they called Ohio for Obama.

Norm, Eileen and Chicken, 3 stars of the West Side Headquarters!

GOTV Staging location, Galloway Ohio Nov 4th 2008 Obama Campaign

clockwise: Leslie, Charles, Richard, Eileen and Norm

Obama Hdqts. "West Side" Columbus Ohio

Dave Muehlenkamp, Richard Salzman, Nancy Goodban, Will Packer

The original team that opened the West Side / Hilltop Headquarters for the Obama Campaign for Change in Columbus Ohio USA - October 2008 (Janelle Eagle would join soon after) account closed

If you still have my old email in your system, I'm dropping my inreach account so please update your records.
You can email me at my own domain:

The email for the AEB has also been changed from:

For past editorials and political postings:

Business websites:


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"This Land Is Your Land" Like Woody Wrote It

watch video:

"This Land Is Your Land" Like Woody Wrote It
Sunday 18 January 2009

by: Tommy Stevenson, Tuscaloosa News

Bee Branch - At the conclusion of today's concert for president-elect Barack Obama 89-year-old Pete Seeger joined Bruce Springsteen for a sing-along with perhaps half a million people of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," which I dare say practically everyone in the country knows from childhood.

But sly old Pete, who actually hoboed with Woody during the Depression and Dust Bowl, had the crowd sing the song as it was actually written, as not only a celebration of this great land, but as a demand for workers' and people's rights. That is, he restored the verses that have been censored from the song over the years to make it less political:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn't say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

The "relief office," of course, refers to the ad hoc soup bowls [actually these were offices that gave out small amounts of money to some] and such set up during the Depression before the New Deal began to get the social security net we have all depended upon since the 1930s in place.

Seeger, like Guthrie, has been a controversial figure at times during his life, questioned by the witch hunting committees of Congress in the 1950s, black listed, and even banded from television as late as the late 1960s. was wonderful to see the gleam in his subversive eye as he did his call and response with the throngs in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Somewhere Woody - and Leadbelly, and Sonny and Cisco and the rest of the great balladeers of that bygone era - are smiling tonight.


Full Lyrics

This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me


As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!


In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Chorus (2x)

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