Sunday, March 26, 2006

Aaron Russo: From Freedom to Fascism

I went to an advance screening of Aaron Russo's film, "America: From Freedom To Fascism", yesterday with my family at Adirondack Community College (the very same "institute of higher learning" that UN-invited me from representing Ralph Nader in a presidential proxy debate that I helped to organize - an excellent example of how the bastards really work). Check out the film's trailer (the first website listed). It was really well put-together and will speak its message well to, I think, a huge variety of audiences.

To say the least, there are certainly some areas where the average Libertarian and I have significant disagreement, but Russo's film is very simply a damning look at the encroachment of governmental and corporate powers. We can all agree that these are steadily dissolving our rights and freedoms and that this MUST, ultimately, result in a fascist state. On that issue, we are in MAJOR agreement. The film speaks to us less from a pulpit or lectern. Russo simply wants to know WHY? The whores in the corporate media would do well to follow his example. Where is the law that says Americans HAVE to file or pay income tax? Where is it? Pamela Brooks wrote a nice story about the showing of the film but will the Post-Star have her do a special story on the IRS and its tyrannical and illegal behavior? Will she be told to interview IRS officials and do a follow-up on their side of the story? Please don't hold your breath - I wouldn't want anyone to asphyxiate. ;-)

Much kudos to Bob Schultz, the local tax/constitutional activist and one of Russo's primary inspirations for the film. Mr. Schultz is the founder of "We The People Foundation". His courage and tenacity in taking on the evil that seeks to destroy our freedoms and the country that we all love makes him a good American by any measure. Bringing this film here and getting the Fascist Daily (or the ComPost-Star by which name I prefer to call them) to report on it and help get people out to see it is a major coup. After all, remember when Ralph Nader came to the area, IN PERSON, to talk about many of these same issues that Greens and Libertarians and Conservatives and independents and other smart people know are important, LeeAnn Womack got WAY better coverage.

Russo intends to go to Cannes with his film and then to attempt theatrical release. The film will need some help getting distributed, to say the least. Mr. Schultz says that you can sign up to aid in that cause ($5 to $50,000 dollars) by contacting Russo or Schultz through the website's. I've already signed up and urge you to do so as well. We'll also show the film at the cafe as soon as it is legally available for that purpose. I urge you to check out the trailer.


Nader's Response to Doctor Dean's Democratic "Survey"

This piece is from Counterpunch. It is Ralph Nader's response to Howard Dean's survey about where the Democrats should go next ... I have a few suggestions of my own ... but Ralph's aren't so bad, either .... ;-)

March 20, 2006

The DNC's "Grassroots Agenda"
Howard Dean's Plea for Advice

I just received a letter from Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, describing me as a "Democratic Leader" and "an active and engaged member of our Party in your community." He asks for my "opinions" which "will help shape the future direction of the Democratic Party and make us more effective in building grassroots support for our agenda."

Dr. Dean attaches a survey "registered in your name and intended exclusively for your use." How nice! He made me feel even more exclusive when he called me "the strength and soul of the Democratic Party," along with other "local leaders."

Well, with such encomiums, how could I not peruse the lengthy questionnaire so that I can meet Mr. Dean's expectations. Especially with his personal instructions "Ralph, please turn the page to begin your survey."

The questions covered some important topics. They include one asking whether I support "new tax cuts targeted at working families." But no request for my opinion on removing the massive Bush tax reductions for the wealthy, for their unearned income of capital gains and dividends, and for large corporations now making rocket profits.

Another inquiry asked about raising the minimum wage of $5.15 per hour, but no higher figure was listed. Nor was there a question about labor law reform assisting workers in our concentrated industrial, commercial and retail economy (eg. WalMart) to establish or expand trade unions. The present system is rigged in favor of giant companies.

Down further in the survey, there is the question about allowing Medicare to bring in less expensive drugs from Canada, but nothing about controlling sky-high drug prices, including drugs developed by your federal taxpayer research dollars or drugs purchased without Uncle Sam having the right to bargain under the new notoriously nutty drug benefit concoction.

Question seven asks quite properly my opinion about "healthcare for all Americans." Three choices: tax credits for employers, medical savings accounts or "a government-run system where everyone is guaranteed health coverage." Who gave them these last words-the HMO industry? Why didn't the Democratic National Committee simply say "full Medicare for everyone?" Besides, the DNC should have said "a government-funded" system, which is what I believe they and "single-payer" advocates understand those words to mean. Not a takeover of the entire medical and health industry by the government.

One would have thought Dr. Dean would have caught this miswording.

Two questions relate to withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Various time frames are offered. But there is no question about whether a survey of Democratic leaders want to impeach Bush and Cheney or in any way hold these documented, serial outlaws accountable.

No inquiries on the corporate crime epidemic, so well described in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Business Week magazines. No question about the massive corporate welfare payouts, directly and indirectly by the U.S. Government, including the eminent domain controversy of seizing homes to raze them and give away the land to corporations.
Mississippi, for instance, wants to allocate $240 million in Hurricane-related federal tax escapes to a Korean auto company to build an assembly. The nearly $1 billion package of corporate welfare amounts to giving Kia Company $500,000 per job created, declared Automotive News in a critical editorial recently.

The survey also ignored the bloated, wasteful, redundant military budget, denounced as such by many Congressional and Executive branch reports, which now absorbs over one half of your entire federal discretionary budget. And there is no Soviet Union to provoke any more continual building of the Cold War era of weapons systems ala Lockheed Martin's endless wish list.

Of course, no Democratic Party survey ever includes a question on the need for much more consumer protection to avert harms and fraud, eating mightily into the standards of living, health and safety.
Sure, you can't keep adding questions for a survey like this but omitting questions relating to corporate crime, fraud and abuse of power is a telling commentary on the heavily business-funded Democratic Party. Which may explain why there is no question on getting dirty private money out of our public elections.

I was just getting going with my private critique of this survey when it occurred to me that I could not, in good conscience, reply to it. After all, I am not "an active and engaged Democratic Party leader."

Oh how indiscriminate and indiscreet computers have become, Dr. Dean!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The ComPost-Star and Teen Drinking

Our own local editorial wunderkind was a guest on WAMC's Roundtable earlier today. They were talking about issues in the "North Country". Apparently, the "North Country" is now Fort Edward and their terribly important "teen-drinking problem".

The ComPost-Star editor just can't get enough of this issue. He is apparently back on his puritanical teen-drinking tangent ... AGAIN! He spent almost all of his allotted time talking about the Fort Edward kids who .... gasp .... drank alcohol! It was a repeat of all of his previous, simplistic, wrong-headed, obsessive-compulsive, lunatic tangents on this tired subject (except this time everyone listening in the Capitol District heard as he bad-mouthed our close neighbors to the east).

Kids die from drinking and driving. They do. That is a fact. However, that issue is Drinking & DRIVING, isn't it? It is not the same as TEEN ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION. Two totally separate issues. This editor knows that kids in Europe, most of whom have had access to alcohol from a fairly early age and who don't often own or drive cars, seem to avoid killing each other by DRINKING AND DRIVING almost completely. What he consistently fails to mention is that a HUGE majority of those Americans who kill behind the wheel seem to be .... ADULTS! If he really wants to save lives, perhaps he could use his bully pulpit to attack the real problems, ADULT DWI and ALCOHOLISM. Or perhaps he could use his substantial powers to foster a more enlightened attitude about alcohol in this country....!?

The Post-Star has had Teen Drinking as a subject in over 240 printed pieces since 2003. Our own local congressman, John Sweeney, is currently being investigated by the Justice Department for having alleged dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The Post-Star has printed only one story about that. The story simply repeated the allegations that have been made and then allowed a Sweeney staffer to refute any claims of wrongdoing. Is this what currently passes for investigative journalism in our neck of the woods?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Post-Star Responds

The Post-Star responds to my "tiresome ramblings"! (See Mark Mahoney's post below)

What happened? Well, to sum things up, I sent an email out yesterday about Jack Abramoff and's report on his misdealing which included the LOCAL NEWS that our own LOCAL Congressional Representative, John Sweeney, is being investigated by the Justice Department in relation to Abramoff. I simply asked in my email why this story was not page one in our "LOCAL" paper? Why do I have to read these things online? After all, its a "local" story, right?

I had two amazingly quick responses from the Glens Falls Post-Star. Maury Thompson (a reporter) let me know that he had already posted a story to the website ( and that he was working on a story for today's front page (Tuesday, March 14, 2006 - Page One). Great story, great positioning, great job, Maury! Good work! Then, Mark Mahoney emailed me, as well, to say that the paper allocates TONS of its resource to local stories. In his email, Mark refers to this story as a "national story with local implications".

I appreciate the Post-Star getting right on this story. Thank you, guys! I do hope that you'll stick with this story and try to dig up the dirt, though, because, I don't know about you, but I remember that not so long ago our infamous little fascist congressman ran into a power pole in Greenwich after getting drunk at Willard Mountain. I also remember that he sat in his vehicle for over two hours on his cell phone and refused to leave the vehicle or open his windows to communicate with the civilians and officials who arrived on the scene to help. He left when his NYS Trooper friends showed up to "take him away". No breathalyzer was ever administered. No charges were ever laid. No investigation was ever conducted. The Post-Star did, to its credit, post a few buried stories on Drunk-Boy's little escapade, but did they ever really achieve a result? Was justice ever served? Did they ever uncover the truth? Did they editorialize that Sweeney was a drunken idiot who should be voted out? Did they relentlessly go after him and try to let their readership know what had really happened? In case the suspense is killing you, the answer is, "No, they did not." They ran a few "Sweeney's assistant said ....." stories and gave up on the whole thing.

Lets hope that this isn't "Drunk Boy Redux", in which local media prints idiotic non-answers from Weeney's staff and then throws up their hands and waits for national media to tell us the rest of the story. I sincerely hope the Post-Star will stay on this and not let go of it the way they usually do. I can hear the excuses now, "Well, Gee, Matt, Weeney's assistant said that Weeney never even knew this Abramoff guy. What more do you want from us? We did our jobs!"

Mr. Mahoney left his email address and phone number after his missive and asked that I send it out. Please do get in touch with him and let him know that we demand to know the truth about Sweeney/Abramoff and that we don't want our local media to give up on this local story until the truth is known!


(The following is an email from Mark Mahoney, the Post-Star's Editorial Page editor and author of many of its editorials)

When you're scrawling your tiresome ramblings about how awful and out of touch this paper is, do you ever consider how much effort and resources we put into covering news that actually relates directly to the people in this community?

We're going to have the Roll Call story tomorrow. In fact, it was on our Web site before you sent out your latest missive. We don't overlook national stories with local implications, and we never have.

We don't have the resources to station a reporter in Washington, D.C., or even Albany. As Ken and I have explained to you numerous times, obviously without much impact, we pay wire services to get us the national news.

We do, however, have a reporter at Glens Falls City Hall. And in Washington County. And Warren County. And Saratoga County. We'll have one at the Lake Luzerne town meeting tonight where they're discussing a controversial theater proposal. And one at the Hudson Falls village board meeting where they're putting together their budget. We've had a reporter sitting at a local murder trial for the past week. We've got one working on local school budgets. And others working on village elections. And another writing about what's happening at local businesses. We've got at least four people dedicated exclusively to getting community and hometown news and calendar and senior citizen and church items in the paper every day. We'll have our sports staff and local photographers covering the high school basketball tournament at the Civic Center this weekend in which several area teams are playing.

As we speak, we have at least half-a-dozen Freedom of Information requests pending with state and local government bodies. And we'll have our reporter at the local protest in Glens Falls on Saturday marking the third year of the Iraq war.
Oh, and yes, we did have a local reporter at Rock Hill Bakehouse covering a breast-feeding group on Saturday. Perhaps you saw the article on the front of today's Arts/Life section. It was underneath the photo spread of the Lake George Opera performance at the Charles R. Wood Theater in Glens Falls.

That's what a local paper does. That's what we do. We cover local news.
Maybe you'd prefer that all those people instead be assigned to the search for Osama bin Laden or to dig up dirt on the president's ties to United Arab Emirates.
But I doubt most of our readers would agree.
(I hope you'll share this response with your devotees.)

Mark C. Mahoney
Editorial Page Editor
The Post-Star, Glens Falls, NY
518-792-3131, extension 3220

Monday, March 13, 2006

Abramoff and SWEENEY?

Check this story out. It truly belongs in the "Well, If this isn't a local story, I don't know what is!" category. has reported that John Sweeney may be connected with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. The Post-Star's (and WAMC's) favorite congressional fascist puppet has had his financial records pulled by the Justice Department as part of their investigation into Abramoff and his crimes.

The Post-Star always ignores meaty news like this. They often use the old "We're just little, local paper" argument. They only cover "local" news. Well, you don't get much more freakin' local than your own congressional district, do ya? Where's the story? Where's the digging? Must the alternative press ALWAYS and embarrassingly scoop our poor little local print media? Do we always have to read these stories online 6 weeks to a year before they Post-Star even bothers to reprint a badly-written AP story on page 6?


A window into the Abramoff investigation?

If you're into reading tea leaves from the Jack Abramoff investigation, Roll Call has a report worth considering today: Between June and October of 2005, the paper says, Justice Department staffers pulled financial disclosure reports on at least nine members of Congress and at least seven former Congressional staffers.

Four of the members are ones you'd expect: Reps. Tom DeLay, Bob Ney and John Doolittle and Sen. Conrad Burns, each of whom is a Republican lawmaker with well documented ties to the disgraced Republican lobbyist. But Justice Department staffers also pulled records on five members who have, as Roll Call puts it, "no public connection" to the investigation into Abramoff's dealings: Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and John Sweeney, Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott and Earl Pomeroy, and Democrat Eni Faleomavaega, the delegate from American Samoa.

Staffers for Pomeroy and McDermott tell Roll Call that they have no idea why the Justice Department might have been pulling their bosses' records. Pomeroy has returned about $7,000 in contributions linked to the lobbyist, Roll Call says; McDermott didn't get any in the first place. Faleomavaega apparently tagged along on a taxpayer-sponsored but Abramoff-organized trip to the Marshall Islands in 1999, but it's hard to imagine that the lobbyist or his clients had a lot of interest in influencing a delegate.

The list of formers staffers whose records were pulled isn't so surprising. Justice Department staff appear to have been interested in the doings of an aide to DeLay, an aide to Doolittle, three aides to Burns, an aide to Republican Rep. Jim McCrery, who took a goodly pile of cash from Abramoff's tribal clients; and David Safavian, who served as a Congressional aide before becoming the Bush administration's top procurement official, a job from which he resigned just before he was indicted on charges of lying about his dealings with Abramoff.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Free Trade, Foreign Ownership and Thomas Freakin' Jefferson

More scary food for thought.

Are you, as a consumer, supporting our way of life or China's slave trade and the Arab emirates purchase of the bulk of our resource?


When Americans No Longer Own America
By Thom Hartmann
Common Dreams
Monday 27 February 2006

The Dubai Ports World deal is waking Americans up to a painful reality: So-called "conservatives" and "flat world" globalists have bankrupted our nation for their own bag of silver, and in the process are selling off America.

Through a combination of the "Fast Track" authority pushed for by Reagan and GHW Bush, sweetheart trade deals involving "most favored nation status" for dictatorships like China, and Clinton pushing us into NAFTA and the WTO (via GATT), we've abandoned the principles of tariff-based trade that built American industry and kept us strong for over 200 years.

The old concept was that if there was a dollar's worth of labor in a pair of shoes made in the USA, and somebody wanted to import shoes from China where there may only be ten cents worth of labor in those shoes, we'd level the playing field for labor by putting a 90-cent import tariff on each pair of shoes. Companies could choose to make their products here or overseas, but the ultimate cost of labor would be the same.

Then came the flat-worlders, led by misguided true believers and promoted by multinational corporations. Do away with those tariffs, they said, because they "restrain trade." Let everything in, and tax nothing. The result has been an explosion of cheap goods coming into our nation, and the loss of millions of good manufacturing jobs and thousands of manufacturing companies. Entire industry sectors have been wiped out.

These policies have kneecapped the American middle class. Our nation's largest employer has gone from being the unionized General Motors to the poverty-wages Wal-Mart. Americans have gone from having a net savings rate around 10 percent in the 1970s to a minus .5 percent in 2005 - meaning that they're going into debt or selling off their assets just to maintain their lifestyle.

At the same time, federal policy has been to do the same thing at a national level. Because our so-called "free trade" policies have left us with an over $700 billion annual trade deficit, other countries are sitting on huge piles of the dollars we gave them to buy their stuff (via Wal-Mart and other "low cost" retailers). But we no longer manufacture anything they want to buy with those dollars.

So instead of buying our manufactured goods, they are doing what we used to do with Third World nations - they are buying us, the USA, chunk by chunk. In particular, they want to buy things in America that will continue to produce profits, and then to take those profits overseas where they're invested to make other nations strong. The "things" they're buying are, by and large, corporations, utilities, and natural resources.

Back in the pre-Reagan days, American companies made profits that were distributed among Americans. They used their profits to build more factories, or diversify into other businesses. The profits stayed in America.

Today, foreigners awash with our consumer dollars are on a two-decades-long buying spree. The UK's BP bought Amoco for $48 billion - now Amoco's profits go to England. Deutsche Telekom bought VoiceStream Wireless, so their profits go to Germany, which is where most of the profits from Random House, Allied Signal, Chrysler, Doubleday, Cyprus Amax's US Coal Mining Operations, GTE/Sylvania, and Westinghouse's Power Generation profits go as well. Ralston Purina's profits go to Switzerland, along with Gerber's; TransAmerica's profits go to The Netherlands, while John Hancock Insurance's profits go to Canada. Even American Bankers Insurance Group is owned now by Fortis AG in Belgium.

Foreign companies are buying up our water systems, our power generating systems, our mines, and our few remaining factories. All because "flat world" so-called "free trade" policies have turned us from a nation of wealthy producers into a nation of indebted consumers, leaving the world awash in dollars that are most easily used to buy off big chunks of America. As notes, US Government statistics indicate the following percentages of foreign ownership of American industry:

Sound recording industries - 97%
Commodity contracts dealing and brokerage - 79%
Motion picture and sound recording industries - 75%
Metal ore mining - 65%
Motion picture and video industries - 64%
Wineries and distilleries - 64%
Database, directory, and other publishers - 63%
Book publishers - 63%
Cement, concrete, lime, and gypsum product - 62%
Engine, turbine and power transmission equipment - 57%
Rubber product - 53%
Nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing - 53%
Plastics and rubber products manufacturing - 52%
Plastics product - 51%
Other insurance related activities - 51%
Boiler, tank, and shipping container - 50%
Glass and glass product - 48%
Coal mining - 48%
Sugar and confectionery product - 48%
Nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying - 47%
Advertising and related services - 41%
Pharmaceutical and medicine - 40%
Clay, refractory, and other nonmetallic mineral products - 40%
Securities brokerage - 38%
Other general purpose machinery - 37%
Audio and video equipment mfg and reproducing magnetic and optical media - 36%
Support activities for mining - 36%
Soap, cleaning compound, and toilet preparation - 32%
Chemical manufacturing - 30%
Industrial machinery - 30%
Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities - 30%
Other food - 29%
Motor vehicles and parts - 29%
Machinery manufacturing - 28%
Other electrical equipment and component - 28%
Securities and commodity exchanges and other financial investment activities - 27%
Architectural, engineering, and related services - 26%
Credit card issuing and other consumer credit - 26%
Petroleum refineries (including integrated) - 25%
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments - 25%
Petroleum and coal products manufacturing - 25%
Transportation equipment manufacturing - 25%
Commercial and service industry machinery - 25%
Basic chemical - 24%
Investment banking and securities dealing - 24%
Semiconductor and other electronic component - 23%
Paint, coating, and adhesive - 22%
Printing and related support activities - 21%
Chemical product and preparation - 20%
Iron, steel mills, and steel products - 20%
Agriculture, construction, and mining machinery - 20%
Publishing industries - 20%
Medical equipment and supplies - 20%

Thus it shouldn't surprise us that the cons have sold off our ports as well, and will defend it to the bitter end. They truly believe that a "New World Order" with multinational corporations in charge instead of sovereign governments will be the answer to the problem of world instability. And therefore they must do away with quaint things like unions, a healthy middle class, and, ultimately, democracy.

The "security" implications of turning our ports over to the UAE are just the latest nail in what the cons hope will be the coffin of American democracy and the American middle class. Today's conservatives believe in rule by inherited wealth and an internationalist corporate elite, and things like a politically aroused citizenry and a healthy democracy are pesky distractions.

Everything today is driven by profits for multinationals, supported by the lawmaking power of the WTO. Thus, parts for our missiles are now made in China, a country that last year threatened us with nuclear weapons. Our oil comes from a country that birthed a Wahabist movement that ultimately led to 14 Saudi citizens flying jetliners into the World Trade buildings and the Pentagon. Germans now own the Chrysler auto assembly lines that turned out tanks to use against Germany in WWII. And the price of labor in America is being held down by over ten million illegal workers, a situation that was impossible twenty-five years ago when unions were the first bulwark against dilution of the American labor force.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote of King George III in the Declaration of Independence, "He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation…" he just as easily could have been writing of the World Trade Organization, which now has the legal authority to force the United States to overturn laws passed at both local, state, and federal levels with dictates devised by tribunals made up of representatives of multinational corporations. If Dubai loses in the American Congress, their next stop will almost certainly be the WTO.

As Simon Romero and Heather Timmons noted in The New York Times on 24 February 2006, "the international shipping business has evolved in recent years to include many more containers with consumer goods, in addition to old-fashioned bulk commodities, and that has helped lift profit margins to 30 percent, from the single digits. These smartly managed foreign operators now manage about 80 percent of port terminals in the United States."

And those 30 percent profits from American port operations now going to Great Britain will probably soon go to the United Arab Emirates, a nation with tight interconnections to both the Bush administration and the Bush family.

Ultimately, it's not about security - it's about money. In the multinational corporatocracy's "flat world," money trumps the national good, community concerns, labor interests, and the environment. NAFTA, CAFTA, and WTO tribunals can - and regularly do - strike down local and national laws. Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man" are replaced by Antonin Scalia's "Rights of Corporate Persons."

Profits even trump the desire for good enough port security to avoid disasters that may lead to war. After all, as Judith Miller wrote in The New York Times on January 30, 1991, quoting a local in Saudi Arabia: "War is good for business."

- Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author of over a dozen books and the host of a nationally syndicated noon-3pm ET daily progressive talk show syndicated by Air America Radio. His most recent books are What Would Jefferson Do? and Ultimate Sacrifice.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Instant Runoff Voting at Work In Burlington!

This story on IRV (Instant Runoff Voting - a system of voting that has the potential to save our democracy) apparently WAS printed in the Post-Star on March 5th. As such, I can't really call them nasty names and point out their lack of interest in aiding our ailing democracy through this corrupt era of two-party dominance of our precious electoral system. :-(

Good work Post-Star! Kudos to you for recognizing that the implementation of IRV is a step in the right direction and that it demands coverage. Good work!


Vt. City Electing Mayor Via Instant Runoff
The Associated Press
Saturday, March 4, 2006; 12:58 PM

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Runoff elections are typically cumbersome processes, taking weeks and sometimes months to determine a winner. Burlington is going to do it all instantly.

In an innovation known as instant runoff voting, the results of Tuesday's five-candidate election for mayor and whatever runoffs are needed to settle it will all be known soon after polls close.

For the first time in a mayoral election in the United States, voters will mark their ballots for their favorite candidate, along with their second, third, fourth and fifth choices.

If none of the five gets 50 percent of the vote on the first round, the candidate with the lowest vote total would be eliminated. Then the second choice of the voters who made that candidate their initial pick would be counted, and so on.

"As soon as somebody gets to 50 percent, it stops," said Jo LaMarche, the city's election director.

The winner will succeed incumbent Mayor Peter Clavelle, who announced last year he would not seek an eighth two-year term in the city of nearly 40,000 people.

Advocates promote instant runoff voting, also known as ranked-choice voting, as a way of boosting voter turnout and encouraging more people to run for public office by eliminating concerns that a third-party candidate might be a spoiler.

"Nationally, people are catching on to how IRV can open up our politics," said Ryan O'Donnell, communications director of FairVote, the Center for Voting and Democracy. "It's a reform that produces majority winners, encourages candidates to reach out to more voters, and eliminates the 'spoiler' problem."

If Florida had used instant runoff voting, the outcome of the 2000 presidential election likely would have been different, said Doug Amy, professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College and author of "Behind the Ballot Box: A Citizen's Guide to Voting Systems." Votes that went to Ralph Nader might ultimately have gone to Vice President Al Gore.

"I think that really brought that problem to national attention," Amy said.

San Francisco has elected members of its board of supervisors using instant runoff, but Burlington will be the first community in the nation to elect its chief executive officer with the system.

A number of other counties, cities, and towns have shown interest, according to FairVote, including San Diego, Oakland, Davis and Berkeley in California. LaMarche said she has gotten calls about the system from cities in South Carolina and Alaska.

"A lot of people are just waiting to see how this works with Burlington," LaMarche said.

Bills are pending in at least 15 states to implement instant runoffs at local levels or statewide. The state of Washington last year gave a number of mid-sized cities authority to conduct instant runoff voting, although none has so far used it.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the idea. Some election administrators worry that fewer people will show up at the polls because of the system's complexity. There is also concern about incomplete counting in later runoff rounds.

Doug Lewis, director of the Election Center, which represents elections administrators nationally, said those all are concerns he and his colleagues have heard about instant runoffs. But he can't say whether they're valid.

"Until you work with it enough and find out it would be difficult to find out," he said

LaMarche believes Burlington voters will not see much that's unusual Tuesday. The only difference is the extra places after each mayoral candidate's name on the optically scanned ballots for second, third, fourth and fifth choices.

The Burlington city clerk's office conducted voter training in January to try to get voters interested and educated. There also have been mailings explaining how the system works.

Candidates even have tried to take advantage of the new system. Progressive Party candidate Bob Kiss' signs promote him as the "first choice for mayor." Republican Kevin Curley has told his supporters that he endorses Kiss as a second choice. Democrat Hinda Miller has declined to endorse a second choice, arguing she's confident she'll win in the first round.

Friday, March 03, 2006

ComPost-Star Finally Admits The Truth About Soldiers' Views On Iraq Occupation

Okay, I guess we can all stop thinking of the Post Star as cowards and warmongers. They printed a story today on the Zogby troop poll five days after it was published in the Village Voice.

Thank you, all my friends at the Post-Star for finally letting the soldiers speak for themselves. Thanks, as well, for using a Knight-Ridder story that goes on to rationalize the poll and to explain why its probably deficient. Better late and slanted than never, though, right?


Poll: Most soldiers support withdrawal

By Drew Brown
Knight Ridder
Published on 3/3/2006

WASHINGTON -- Nearly three out of four American troops serving in Iraq think U.S. forces should withdraw within a year, and more than one in four say the United States should leave immediately, according to a new poll published Tuesday.

The poll, conducted by Zogby International and the Center for Peace and Global Studies at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., was a rare effort to determine the views of American troops serving in a ground war.

Twenty-nine percent of the troops surveyed said U.S. forces should leave Iraq immediately, another 22 percent said they should leave within the next six months and 21 percent said within six to 12 months. Twenty-three percent agreed with President Bush's call for troops to stay "as long as they are needed" and 5 percent were unsure.

David Segal, a military sociologist at the University of Maryland, said that while most service members were more conservative than society as a whole, it wasn't surprising to see them reflect attitudes similar to civilians, who increasingly oppose the war.

Those views aren't necessarily an indication that troops are losing faith in the war, Segal said.

"One could argue that troops are saying, `Hey, we've accomplished a great deal. It's time to get out,' which is what you hear a lot of people in Washington saying," he said.

According to Zogby International, the survey consisted of 944 military respondents who were interviewed face to face at several locations throughout Iraq from Jan. 18 through Feb. 14. The names of those interviewed and where they were interviewed weren't disclosed. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

The survey was conducted without the Pentagon's permission, and some military officials privately questioned its validity, since troops in a combat zone are likely to express negative views of their situation.

"The poll's findings certainly aren't reflective of the attitudes we see displayed by the majority of troops, who are performing in a remarkable manner in a combat situation far from home," said Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman.

American soldiers in Iraq, in interviews with Knight Ridder, frequently have expressed discontent with the situation there. They've cited too few soldiers to control the insurgency, a lack of equipment and pessimism about the success of the mission.

Other main findings from the survey:

--85 percent of those surveyed believed that the war was "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9-11 attacks," although the 9-11 commission in 2004 found "no credible evidence" that Iraq had cooperated with al-Qaida in the attacks.

--68 percent believed that the real reason for the war was to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

--58 percent said the current mission was clear, and 42 percent said it was unclear.

--About 2 in 5 saw the Iraqi insurgency as mostly homegrown, with very little foreign involvement.

--53 percent said the United States should double the number of troops and bombing missions to control the insurgency.

--55 percent opposed using harsh interrogation methods on prisoners.

--43 percent said their armor and equipment were adequate.

While 89 percent of Army reservists and 82 percent of National Guardsmen said the United States should leave Iraq within a year, 70 percent of regular Army troops thought that American forces should withdraw within that time frame.

Of regular soldiers who said that, nearly 28 percent thought American forces should leave immediately.

A little more than 25 percent of regular Army troops said U.S. forces should stay as long as necessary.

Forty-nine percent of Marines said the United States should leave Iraq within 12 months. More than 37 percent said U.S. forces should stay as long as they're needed. Only 9 percent of Marines thought there should be an immediate pullout.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

While Bill & Monica Were Otherwise "Engaged", Hillary & Sam Walton Were Swinging!

A good friend sent me this piece from the Village Voice. It outlines Bill and Hillary's long past relationship with the Walton family and, more specifically, Hillary's activities as a member of their Board of Directors over the course of many years. I wonder how Democratic apologists will deal with this additional hypocrisy from our own tire-burning, sort of anti-abortion, pro-patriot act, pro-war U.S. senator? Will the press even bother to let people know? (Its a rhetorical question - We all know they are cowards and will not print the truth at the expense of the powerful or corporate).

While we're waiting to see if the local corporate press will "grow a set", lets keep our eye on the Post-Star and see if they will follow up on the report I sent them showing the Zogby poll in which 72% of American troops stationed in Iraq felt we should get the hell out of Iraq within the year. When will they print our soldiers' views in their so-called "newspaper"? Will they ever? I guess its pretty naive to expect the corporate pro-war media to honor our troops by giving them voice, isn't it? Call me Mr. Naivete.


Wal-Mart’s First Lady - Hillary’s Past Belies Her Support of Labor
by Ward Harkavy
Village Voice
May 24 - 30, 2000

Twice in three days last week, Hillary Rodham Clinton basked in the adulation of cheering union members. Her record of supporting collective bargaining, however, is considerably worse than wobbly.

Pity the thousands of unionists at last Tuesday's state Democratic convention who chanted her name, and the hundreds of retired Teamsters at Thursday's luncheon in midtown who had interrupted their Founder's Day meal to hear the corporate litigator turned union-loving Democrat deliver a campaign speech.

They would have dropped their forks if they had heard that Hillary served for six years on the board of the dreaded Wal-Mart, a union-busting behemoth. If they had learned the details of her friendship with Wal-Mart, they might have lost their lunches.

She didn't mention Wal-Mart. Instead, she praised the Teamsters and other unionized workers as a "key movement in creating the middle class," and she pledged to "prevent anyone from turning the clock back," reminding them that "the Republicans are trying to do away with collective bargaining."

As she was leaving the dais, she ignored a reporter's question about Wal-Mart, and she ignored it again when she strode by reporters in the hotel lobby.

But there are questions. In 1986, when Hillary was first lady of Arkansas, she was put on the board of Wal-Mart. Officials at the time said she wasn't filling a vacancy. In May 1992, as Hubby's presidential campaign heated up, she resigned from the board of Wal-Mart. Company officials said at the time that they weren't going to fill her vacancy.

So what the hell was she doing on the Wal-Mart board? According to press accounts at the time, she was a show horse at the company's annual meetings when founder Sam Walton bused in cheering throngs to celebrate his non-union empire, which is headquartered in Arkansas, one of the country's poorest states. According to published reports, she was placed in charge of the company's "green" program to protect the environment.

But nobody got greener than Sam Walton and his family. For several years in the '80s, he was judged the richest man in America by Forbes magazine; his fortune zoomed into the billions until he split it up among relatives. It's no surprise that Hillary is a strong supporter of free trade with China. Wal-Mart, despite its "Buy American" advertising campaign, is the single largest U.S. importer, and half of its imports come from China.

Was Hillary the voice of conscience on the board for American and foreign workers? Contemporary accounts make no mention of that. They do describe her as a "corporate litigator" in those days, and they mention, speaking of environmental matters, that she also served on the board of Lafarge, a company that, according to a press account, once burned hazardous fuels to run its cement plants.

Wal-Mart, though, was the crown jewel of Arkansas, the state's First Company fit for a first lady. During her tenure on the board, she presumably helped preside over the most remarkable growth of any company until Bill Gates came along. The number of Wal-Mart employees grew during the '80s from 21,600 to 279,000, while sales soared from $1.2 billion to $25.8 billion.

And the Clintons depended on Wal-Mart's largesse not only for Hillary's regular payments as a board member but for travel expenses on Wal-Mart planes and for heavy campaign contributions to Bill's campaigns there and nationally. According to reports in the early '90s, before Bill and Hillary moved to D.C., neither was raking in the big bucks, but prominent in their income were her holdings of between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of Wal-Mart stock.

A press report on the Clintons' finances during the early stages of Bill's 1992 run for the presidency showed that most of their income came from her $109,719 annual salary from the Rose Law Firm and tens of thousands of dollars in fees she received from serving on corporate boards. (She was on two others besides Wal-Mart's.) Her honoraria and director fees grew almost as fast as Wal-Mart's profits during the '80s—rising from $111 in 1980 to $6500 in 1986 to $64,700 in 1991, according to the same source.

During the same period, small towns all over America began complaining that Wal-Mart was squeezing out ma-and-pa stores and leaving little burgs throughout the Midwest and South with downtowns that featured little more than empty storefronts.

But selected small companies were doing quite well, thanks to the Clintons' friendship with Wal-Mart. The Boston Globe reported in January 1992 that Bill Clinton had introduced a brush company's executives to Wal-Mart executives, hoping that the two could do bidness. Executives of the brush company had been rebuffed in previous attempts to sell their products to Wal-Mart. Lucky for the company, it happened to be located in New Hampshire, where Clinton was trying to win a presidential primary. At the time, Hillary Clinton was still on Wal-Mart's board, and the retail giant was still resisting the unionization of any of its workers.

Last week, Hillary was wearing a different hat. She stood in solidarity with the elderly Teamsters as Local 237 president Carl Haynes greeted her warmly, endorsed her, and then left early on what other union officials described as "AFL-CIO business."

But the AFL-CIO was thinking of other business only a few months earlier when the union's leaders, including its chief, John Sweeney, marched specifically against Wal-Mart's oppression of its meat-market workers. According to a Web site run by activists at the AFL-CIO affiliate United Food and Commercial Workers, Wal-Mart "has profited by pushing its workers to the bottom of the wage scale." The union points out that hourly wages "average $2 to $3 per hour less than at unionized supermarkets." More grave for workers everywhere in the United States are these figures spouted by union activists: Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the country, "yet fewer than 40 percent of its workers are covered by the company's health plan."

The union notes that Wal-Mart's "hometown" judge in Arkansas issued a nationwide temporary restraining order against the UFCW, barring anyone associated with the union from entering Wal-Mart facilities to educate workers about their legal rights in the workplace. The union, however, successfully appealed the order—noting that the judge holds more than $500,000 in Wal-Mart stock. The case remains in litigation.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart's first lady, who also benefited from Wal-Mart stock, solicits support from union workers.

Which makes her words to the elderly Teamsters last week especially poignant: "You can count on me to stand up for the right to collectively bargain!"

Right on, sister!