Voting Machines Story

About Bev Harris! The Seattle Times: She’s at center of high-tech voting debate:

Bev Harris, a middle-aged woman who operates a small public-relations business out of her Renton home, would seem an unlikely person to be at the center of a national battle over electronic voting.

Yet in recent months her muckraking, Web-based journalism has helped energize a growing movement of citizens and computer scientists concerned about the potential for fraud in America’s increasingly high-tech elections.

Harris has been vilified as a conspiracy theorist and lauded as “the Erin Brockovich of elections.”

Go Bev!

Update - Bev has a book coming out soon!

Free Trade – A Comment I Left

Here’s a comment I left in this discussion at Brad DeLong’s blog:No Free Traders in Import-Competing Industries

“Dailey” left a comment beginning: “You simply can’t have one country that has created a moral component in economics–minimum wages, the right to associate, anti-discrimination laws, anti-child labor laws and environmental standards competing with countries that don’t have such standards and justify it under the banner of comparative advantage.

We saw what happened during the Industrial Revolution when the economic sector was given free rein. We are creating the same milieu internationally. As tariffs are removed industries can and do seek out low wage labor which is really just another name for powerless labor. “

My comment:

Dailey nails what is wrong with “free trade.” WE have minimum wages, worker safety regulations, etc. “They” don’t. And, suspiciously, the very same crowd that in the US is pushing to get rid of those protections here is pushing “free trade.”

Science is supposed to measure what happens. It is supposed to be DEscriptive not PREscriptive. Free trade economists are telling us what would happen “if only” people would act a certain way. But it looks to most people like a downward spiral – we lose jobs to Mexico and get poorer. Mexico loses jobs to Thailand and gets poorer. Thailand loses jobs to China and gets poorer. China might be getting richer but that isn’t going to benefit ANY of us in our lifetimes. And if China isn’t playing the game by the same rules as all the free traders, it’s not only never going to benefit the rest of us, we’re going to be REALLY sorry for handing the world’s prosperity to a communist dictatorship.

Here’s the deal — we can see with our own eyes that people are losing health insurance and pensions, and working longer hours, and getting deeper into debt while a very few rich people get vastly richer. It LOOKS like part of this is because jobs are being sent offshore. But it might be that the benefits of that free trade aren’t being shared, and wealth is being concentrated. Anyway, free trade is going to be blamed.

I’m NOT advocating protectionism. I think most people who currently oppose free trade want to see minimum wages, workers rights and unions for our trading partners so they BENEFIT and can afford to buy things from us, instead of the obvious downward spiral to the bottom that is OBVIOUSLY occurring now.

In December I wrote about President Carter’s famous “Malaise” speech.

(Also here.) A good writeup on the context and background of the speech is available here.

I wrote,

Carter was being attacked in a new way, by the newly-formed web of right-wing organizations funded by a few extremely wealthy individuals, corporations and foundations, and employing many of the CIA’s covert-government-destabilization experts that Carter had fired following the Church committee hearings that exposed so much CIA wrongdoing. On top of the turmoil of the previous years the country was being subjected for the first time to a well-funded campaign of well-crafted anti-government and extremely partisan anti-Carter messaging. This kind of mean-spirited, harsh, extreme, cruel, mocking, ridiculing partisan attack that we’re so familiar with today was not something that the public had been exposed to on such a scale in the 1970’s. Until this time the country held together and worked with their leadership – you can feel so much of that attitude in Carter’s speech.

That whole piece is worth reading again.

Here’s some of Carter’s speech:

As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.

These changes did not happen overnight. They’ve come upon us gradually over the last generation, years that were filled with shocks and tragedy.

We were sure that ours was a nation of the ballot, not the bullet, until the murders of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. We were taught that our armies were always invincible and our causes were always just, only to suffer the agony of Vietnam. We respected the Presidency as a place of honor until the shock of Watergate.

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our Nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our energy problem.

He goes on to talk about our dependence on oil from the Middle East and the consequences.

PLEASE read his whole speech. And keep in mind what we know today — the right had been cranking up its “message amplification” infrastructure, spreading their anti-government, anti-community, pro-corporate messages, working to set us against each other and discourage us from voting and participating in democracy.

Eve of Destruction

Eve of Destruction by P.F. Sloan. How many readers remember the 1965 Barry McGuire version?

Googling: Listen online to a version by Mudcatt. Here’s a version by Lemmy & The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. (?)

The Eastern World

It is explodin’

Violence flarin’

Bullets loadin’

You’re old enough to kill

But not for votin’

You don’t believe in war

But what’s that gun you’re totin’

And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’

But you tell me over, and over, and over again my friend

Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction

Don’t you understand what I’m tryin’ to say

And can’t you feel the fears I’m feelin’ today

If the button is pushed, there’s no runnin’ away

There’ll be no one to save

With the whole world in a grave

Take a look around you boy,

It’s bound to scare you boy

And you tell me over, and over, and over again my friend

Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction

Yeah, my blood’s so mad

Feels like coagulatin’

I’m sittin’ here, just contemplatin’

I can’t twist the truth

It knows no regulation

Handful of senators don’t pass legislation

And marches alone can’t bring integration

When human respect is disintegratin’

This whole crazy world

Is just too frustratin’

And you tell me over, and over, and over again my friend

Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction

And think of all the hate there is in Red China

Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama

Ah you may leave here for four days in space

But when you return it’s the same old place

The poundin’ of the drums

The pride and disgrace

You can bury your dead, but don’t leave a trace

Hate your next door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace

But you tell me over, and over, and over, and over again my friend

You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction

No, no, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction

Jobless Claims

Jobless Claims Fall.:

“Initial claims fell to 386,000 in the week ended Aug. 16, down 17,000 from an upwardly revised 403,000 in the prior week and below analysts’ expectations for 395,000 claims.

The running four-week average, which is viewed as a better gauge of the labor market because it smoothes volatility, was below the key 400,000 mark for the third week in a row. “

Good news. At least, until they are revised upward above 400,000 next week. Even so, we’ll still hear that next week is the 4th week in a row below 400,000.

Who Is Our Economy For?

m4s0n501

Brad DeLong has a post about productivity growth in Europe and America. What it comes down to is America builds lots of “big box” retail stores and Europe doesn’t. From the Financial Times piece he refers to:

“The new stores are the “big boxes” such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Best Buy, large new buildings set up on greenfield sites at interstate highway junctions, in suburbs and, increasingly, in inner cities. As these new stores reap the rewards of their size, openness and accessibility and drive smaller stores out of business, they bolster the average productivity of the US retail sector as a whole.

While countries differ, Europe has many ways of stifling modern retailing, from green belts and land-use restrictions to laws that prevent companies from lowering their prices. These make life difficult for new, more efficient retailers in order to protect small, traditional merchants.”

So my question, a usual, is, “Who is our economy FOR?

Yes, “big box” stores “bolster the average productivity.” What that means is more work gets done by fewer workers who are paid less. Increased productivity is supposed to be “good” for the economy. And it can be, if the economy is structured in ways that productivity increases and other economic gains flow to the public. If our economy is working for us, that would happen. It’s what happens when regular working people have a say in what happens, like when unions are strong, and when more regular people are voting.

It comes down to whether we want to be greeters at Wal-Mart, and look at Wal-Marts, and have our downtowns be all Starbucks and Gap stores — or live in nice, pleasant communities with small bakeries and neighborhood stores owned locally… We (those few in America who get to make these decisions) are choosing the former. France chooses the latter.

Economically the Wal-Mart scenario doesn’t help the average person one bit – we’re going to be the greeters. The products on the shelves will be produced by people making 15 cents an hour somewhere. Fewer and fewer people getting the benefits.

Am I exaggerating? The answer lies in the statistics for concentration of wealth. If concentration of wealth is accelerating, then no, I am not exaggerating. More and more of the benefits of our economy flowing to fewer and fewer people. How long are we going to put up with this?

Liberal Media Bias

From Joe Conason, “Big Lies – the Right Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth.” Pages 35-36.

“Even more important than the inherent media bias in favor of conservatives is the huge financial advantage lavished on right-wing propaganda over the past twenty years by major funders. The largest and most notable, which work closely together, are the Smith Richardson, John Olin, Sarah Scaife, and Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundations. Coordinating their expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars, the directors of those four foundations (along with many others) have underwritten a formidable infrastructure of think tanks, magazines, publishing grants, media programming, and academic research, all of which promote conservative ideas. The imbalance has been exacerbated by the reluctance of liberal foundation executives to match the ideological zeal and singular focus of conservative philanthropy. The result is that there are currently three national organizations producing media criticism on the right – and only one performing a similar function on the left.”

Told You So.

From something I’m working on, about fighting the right:

The people who write the books are funded. The people who write the op-ed pieces are funded. The people speaking on any given radio or cable TV show are funded. The people speaking to public interest organizations are funded. Even the people who initially write many of the templates for letters to the editor are funded.

Everyone we’re up against is well paid. They have resources. They have influence. And they’re fighting a war. On our side, there’s very little. It’s like the money people on our side aren’t in the game, and don’t understand that you can’t sit this one out – war is war and you can’t call a “time out.”

Hey, money people, if you fund a redwood grove, maybe hiring a biologist and paying a lawyer… for $500,000 a year for 10 years, and then the President declares that the best way to fight forest fires is to cut down the trees, or a Federalist Society judge rules that the best use of our resources is for corporations, those trees are GONE and your $5 million investment is GONE.

The right IS coming, they ARE working to destroy the things you care about. They are working to change the public’s thinking and get their politicians elected. THAT is how they are getting their way. You can’t just fund narrow-issue programs anymore and expect them to be effective. You have to also start funding an infrastructure that works to change basic public attitudes, just like the right is doing.

This Is The Right

Eachaton is pointing to this site celebrating the bombing of the UN headquarters that killed 17 and injured more than 100 people. I recommend reading it and the comments that follow.

“I heard this on the news this morning and had almost popped the cork off of a bottle of sparkly when I heard that it was the U.N. HQ in Baghdad.” [Instead of New York. - DJ]

I wrote about the right and the UN a few days ago.

This isn’t an isolated example of the kind of cruelty that is routine from this crowd. Remember when Ann Coulter said she regretted that al-Queda didn’t attack the NY Times building instead? Remember Bush mocking the woman he was preparing to execute? According to the story, “Please,” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, “don’t kill me.”

It reminds me very much of a right-winger who commented in a CompuServe political discussion I was engaged in, after the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma, “The government finally got a little bit smaller today.”

Compassionate conservatives, my ass!

A Comment I Left

Here’s a comment I left (editted just slightly) to this post at Eschaton, talking about General Clark and whether he should have opposed the Iraq war:

I respect Clark’s position – and, to a lesser extent, Kerry’s.

When the President of the United States tells you that there is a serious and imminent threat you don’t really have a choice. You just have to go along. Our LIVES depend on believing him. Even if you can’t see the threat it’s the President’s JOB to be looking out for it. This is especially true if you are in the military or have a military background. (That was my only edit.) Maybe he knows something he can’t tell you. You don’t have a choice. And, most important, no president has ever betrayed that trust before and it is hard to imagine one so corrupt that he would.

Now it’s done, and we can look back, and it’s really looking a lot like Bush lied, and betrayed that trust that protects all of our lives, and used it for political and financial gain for his cronies. This may be the worst thing that any President has ever done – the worst political crime ever committed in the U.S.

But BEFORE, we had no choice, really, because we HAVE TO trust that when the President says there is a threat to our lives, he is telling the truth!

Now Kerry, I think has less of an excuse. He had access to the intelligence. I was in the room when he was asked if there was something going on that the public does not know about, and he said, “No.” That was his entire answer. So he has less of an excuse than most of us. He should have done much more to expose that.

But Clark is NOT “in the loop” and, like I said, when the President of the United States says we have to do something because there is a threat to our lives, we don’t really have any choice if we want to stay alive. Now that it’s over and we can look back and see what Bush did, it is absolutely essential for our own protection that we get Bush out of there. We can’t trust and believe him next time, and next time there might actually BE a threat!