Saturday, June 30, 2012

Obama vs. Romney Electoral Map, July 1 Update

NOTE: This post was updated on Sept 1 HERE.

We have been updating our prediction on the first of each month, and this month.....NOTHING changes.  We still see Obama being re-elected by an electoral vote of 304-234.  We see no changes in any states this month, as Obama's victory on health care and increased Latino organizing appear to be counterbalancing the generally poor economy.

Here's the map, with some analysis of swing states below:

ARIZONA: Once a red state, we see a backlash happening on several fronts: the zany antics of Sheriff Joe, efforts to define 'personhood' at ovulation, harping on the 'birther' issue, and harsh rhetoric about immigration should cause a perfect stew of resentment against Republicans by Hispanics, women, young people, and independents.  The elimination of three clauses of Gov. Jan Brewer's pet anti-immigrant legislation will further energize progressives and immigrant-rights groups to win in Arizona. We see this state swinging Blue now.

IOWA: Polls are mixed, and too close to call. Iowa is tough to gauge, and will be close: we give the edge to the organizing capabilities of the religious right combined with the pro-Romney Des Moines GOP machine. Red.

FLORIDA: This should be Blue, but a massive effort by Republicans in the state to purge voting rolls of Democratic-leaning groups is almost certain to throw the electoral votes of Florida into court - again.  We give it to the GOP - again.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Though it went for Obama (narrowly) last time, this is a tight state.  An active Libertarian Party bid in NH that emphasizes peace and an end to the war on drugs will hurt Obama as much as Romney; and an increasingly organized Green Party effort will hurt Obama far more than Romney.  Given the already tight race in this state, we now give it to Romney - though we doubt he will win it with a majority of votes.

NORTH CAROLINA: Democratic convention in Charlotte notwithstanding, there is some Triumphalism among the religious right over the recent vote to ban Marriage Equality in the NC Constitution.  This momentum may just carry them through the Fall.

As for the other "swing" states: We still give Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Ohio to Obama, and Indiana (won by Obama in 2008) to Romney. We do not believe that Obama is in danger of losing Wisconsin, but next month's recall election may tell us more about political organization and voter sentiment.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Court Invalidates Most of Arizona Immigrant-Check Law

In  spite of my usual criticism of both Congress and the President, I tend to be deferential to the Supreme Court.  Maybe it’s because it’s in this body that I place my last vestige of hope that our Republic will not entirely transform into the Evil Empire; maybe, on less desperate days, it’s because I understand that fine the points of law on which many decisions turn are not really the broad stroked reported by the mass media.  

 Nonetheless, I was initially feeling dejected when I heard that Arizona’s immigration law (“SB 1070”) was upheld.  The harassment of all racial, ethnic, and linguistic minorities could not proceed with legal blessings.  The media have shown Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer gloating and declaring that enforcement will begin.

But wait.

I then heard that the vote was a unanimous 8-0 vote (with Justice Kagan not participating.)  

Unanimous?!  Even the liberal Justices?  Even Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who once infuriated conservatives by saying,

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life..."

How could this “wise Latina woman” support a law that places every latino under legal suspicion by their mere existence in Arizona?!

And so, I set aside the media accounts of the ruling and looked closer at what the Court actually said.

The  Court considered four separate sections of SB 1070. 

SB 1070 §3 made it a crime for failure to apply for, or carry, “alien-registration papers.” 

A majority, 6-2,  struck this section down as unconstitutional. It crossed the philosophical divide: conservatives Alito & Roberts, centrist Kennedy, and liberals Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor all voted to void this section.  No one will have to apply for ‘papers’ and carry them.

SB 1070 §5: made it a crime for illegal immigrants to seek work, apply for work, or perform work. 

A 5-3 majority (Breyer, Ginsburg, Kennedy, Roberts, and Sotomayor) struck down this section as well, because it conflicts with the Federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which makes it illegal for employers to hire or employ unauthorized workers. If Congress wanted to create crimes against employees as well, it would have done so, said the Justices.

SB 1070 §6: permitted police to make a warrantless arrest of a person if there was probable cause to believe the individual committed a public offense making them deportable.  

The same 5-3 majority (Breyer, Ginsburg, Kennedy, Roberts, and Sotomayor) struck down this section as well.

That leaves only one section of the bill that was challenged and upheld:

SB1070 §2B: Requires an officer to make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested if there’s reasonable suspicion that person is in the country illegally. This portion also requires law enforcement to check the immigration status of people arrested and hold them indefinitely until the status is determined.

This section was approved 8-0. 

Keep the following in perspective:

The Court is not saying they agree with or like the law; they are simply issuing a determination as to its constitutionality.

Second, the law only permits the inquiry “…if there’s reasonable suspicion that person is in the country illegally.”

Not if they’re brown.  Not if they speak Spanish.  There must be a reasonable suspicion that they are here illegally.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, was very clear in warning Arizona by writing that this section, too,  could face future constitutional problems if it results in law-enforcement officers detaining an individual longer than they would have without SB 1070 requirements.

All in all, the Justices threw out the most onerous provisions of the law; the one provision they allowed to stand, they allowed to stand with a stern warning that how Arizona chooses to carry out this provision will determine its fate.

I’m breathing a little easier.


Monday, June 25, 2012

When the Republic Becomes the Empire: Jimmy Carter on U.S. Security Policy

"THE United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights. 

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues. 

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile. 

The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” 

Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.

In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate. 

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times. 

These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.
Meanwhile, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, now houses 169 prisoners. About half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security.” Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either. 

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends. 

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years."

Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, is the founder of the Carter Center and the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize. A version of this op-ed appeared in print on June 25, 2012, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: A Cruel and Unusual Record.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Challenged by Citizen Action in VT

On May 23 of this year, more than 100 concerned citizens, including four local members of Nuke Free Monadnock, for entered into an assertive dialogue with the representatives of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at a public hearing held at the Brattleboro (VT) High School.  At least one local newspaper criticized the public for being ‘chaotic,’ ‘disruptive,’ and unproductive.

Not so, says my friend and colleague Steve Chase, Director of the ES Master’s Program 
Concentration in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability at Antioch University New England. 

What follows is his detailed account of how a group of citizens refused to allow the NRC to bully them into submission. In the end, the citizens prevailed and were heard.

His eye-witness account:

“… The so-called disruption … was that a half dozen elderly women [who] stood near the NRC’s table at the front of the room. They were not in the way and were completely silent. They just wore black clothes and white masks and held signs saying the aging and accident-prone Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor is not safe.

At this point, an NRC representative said that having women standing at the front of the room disagreeing with the NRC was intolerable and disrespectful. The NRC reps then refused to start the meeting until the women sat down.

Members of the crowd asked the NRC officials to please just go ahead with the meeting. The NRC refused again. The crowd then voted on whether the NRC should start the meeting. The crowd overwhelmingly voted yes. The NRC officials then ignored the crowd’s vote and instead sent police to pressure the women at the front of the room to sit down — even though the women were breaking no law and were not being disruptive.

At this point, about 40 to 50 people quietly got up and joined the women at the front of the room to make sure these women would not be mistreated or arrested at the orders of the NRC officials in the room. The NRC officials then got angrier and walked out of the meeting en mass saying the meeting was over.

Four concerned citizens then sat down at the table at the front of the room and said that the “People’s NRC is now in session.” In order to let the public be heard, one of these people asked if there was anyone in the audience who would like to speak about their concerns about the safety of the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor. People lined up at the mic and then started giving their testimony in an orderly fashion.

As this was happening, we could see the NRC officials looking in through a window and saw their upset faces once they realized that the meeting was going on without them and their attempt to disrupt the meeting had failed.

They then engaged in much animated discussion with each other and the police outside the meeting room. Finally, after several minutes, they came back, stood close to the door, and said that they would now be willing to hear testimony and respond to questions from the public.

Several members of the public thanked them for changing their minds and agreeing to engage in a real democratic dialog. Questions, statements, answers, and animated back and forth dialog with the NRC began and went on for more than 30 minutes beyond when the meeting was scheduled to end.
Then, after the NRC spokesperson admitted that there is nothing the public could say that would change the NRC’s mind about supporting Vermont Yankee, more than 90 concerned citizens got up and said the meeting had gone on long enough.

We then marched out slowly in a single line chanting, “Shut It Down.” We didn’t even chant that loudly.

Thinking over the whole evening again, I do believe that “this is what democracy looks like.”

This wasn’t chaotic mob action, but a disciplined group of concerned citizens who were assertive and spoke up for the public interest and challenged the NRC for being more of a lapdog for the nuclear industry than a watchdog for public safety.

Hopefully, the [media] will no longer disparage concerned citizens who have come out time and time again to participate in hearings, rallies, marches, petition drives, or lobbying their elected officials. This ongoing citizens’ movement has now won the full support of Vermont’s U.S. senator, governor, state Senate, and attorney general — as well as the attorneys general of several other states.

Director of the ES Master’s Program Concentration in
Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability
Department of Environmental Studies
Antioch University New England
40 Avon St., Keene NH 03431"

Congratulations to all who participated and held their ground!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

In Memory of "Sparky," one year later....

[This is a re-post from one year still makes me very sad...and very angry.  Angry at the "AIDs Service Agency" that banned him from assistance for speaking his mind.  Anger at those who spit epithets at him because he had a virus.  Anger at those who were annoyed at his presence - and made their feelings obvious.]

 Mark Parsons was a big-hearted man, a philosopher, a theologian in his own right, a housemate for over a year, and, most of all, a wonderful man and a true friend.

He wrote the following last night, before taking his life this morning. The message is universal:

Hate creates Hate and here is proof

"I am a gay man with AIDS. I have been living with it for 27 years now. I always see bible thumping christians pontificating about the evils of homosexuality but did you know an even more incideous hate exitsts very close by where the people have access to you heart and Soul? Your sisters perhaps? You know, the "I love you but wish you weren't gay thing". Always a but.......Here is a quote from my Loving sweet sinister, [name ommitted by me]

You fucking AIDS faggot! I wish you would die fucking soon so me and the rest of our family can catch a break! Will you please fucking die and get it over with!

This is the woman I chose to be my health care proxy. I know, that is kind of like a jew asking hitler over for dinner. But i have a forgiving heart, but after all haven't I been forgiven by so many! But I thought this would be a good lesson for ME because now I will know the results of manifesting Hate in the world. I have always wondered what that was like and Now I will now. What I may do with the information I am not really sure. I will let you know in a follow up. I can't really recall ever manifesting hate before. I wonder if it will make me feel guilty. Probably not because guilt really only comes from judging doesnt it? Ulnimately the lesson will be mine. I wonder if all the "Loving" people in my life will turn on me. That would be interesting. Maybe I will get sad but thats no problem because i don't have anything. Or i guess I could go to jail but they at last will provide three hots and a cot."

Love you always, Mark....


Friday, June 15, 2012

Wildfire FireFighters Go Without Health Insurance...

According to the US Fire Administration, a branch of FEMA, there were more than  78,792 wildfires in 2009.  These fires burned a total of  6,00,000  ( 9,375 sq miles) an area larger than my home state of New Hampshire.

In the last 12 years, 179 firefighters died on the job while putting out these blazes….and that doesn’t include the numbers of firefighters who were injured or who are suffering long-term health effects from intense exposure to heat and smoke.

And in spite of the heroic efforts put forth by those who put their lives on the line saving other people’s property…the federal government refuses to allow these firefighters to access government employee health insurance, because they are considered "temporary employees."  The perverse irony of that is that more effective the firefighters are, the more they are marginalized as just 'temporary' workers.

Jon Lauer, a Denver, Colorado firefighter, has initiated a campaign to change this federal policy.  In an open letter to President Obama, Lauer writes:

“Dear President Obama,

I am writing to request an optional health benefits plan for seasonally employed federal wildland firefighters and their families.

The work that wildland firefighters perform is critical. Each year they are responsible for keeping tens of thousands of homes and businesses from being consumed, often protecting entire towns from the threat of fire.

Because wildfire is overwhelmingly more common between the months of May to October, the majority of firefighters are seasonally employed. More than 90% of these return to service year after year. They often work the equivalent of a full year's worth of hours in six to seven months, but are never given the opportunity to buy into a government health care plan even at the most basic level, because they are classified as temporary workers.

There are many risks these brave men and women take in order to serve their community. Since the year 2000, 179 wildland firefighters have been killed in the line of duty, and the conditions of the firefighting environment have been linked to cancer and respiratory disease leading to permanent lung damage.

Seasonal federal wildland firefighters demonstrate a commitment to service equal to that of permanently employed firefighters and other emergency responders. It is only right and fair that they have access to a quality, affordable health plan for themselves and their families. I urge you to introduce legislation that makes seasonally employed federal wildland firefighters and their immediate families eligible for year-round health insurance coverage.”

Lauer has an online petition at :

 We encourage support of Lauer and America’s firefighters.