Old Well: UNC Chapel Hill Campus

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Finally, someone I can vote for

"The Green Party is no longer the alternative; the Green Party is the imperative." (Rosa Clemente)

Hey, I'm only one individual, but isn't that where we begin--ourselves? The light just popped on. Me, I'm voting Dr. Jill Stein on Tuesday!

I wanted to vote Green Party here in KY back in 2008, but it wasn't a ballot option then, so I voted Nader. This time, I've the option to pull the lever for a better nation and a greener world. I'm voting for transparency, economic equity, corporate and banking scrutiny, alternative energy, single payer health reform, a more peaceful world.

Lincoln famously spoke at Gettysburg of a government "of the people, by the people, for the people." Come Tuesday, I'm voting not for oil, corporations, hedge funders or banks. I'm voting for the people.

Vote for Obama? Don't bet he'll deliver. If you ask why I say this, just scroll down to my September 12 post that gives instances of 500 promises he made in 2008, but didn't keep.

Romney? Let's not get silly. This guy's worth $250 million, yet paid an effective tax rate of only 14% on his 2010 and 2011 income. By the way, Romney owns several luxurious homes, including a $10 million New Hampshire retreat on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee along with a La Jolla $12 million residence he wants to replace with an 11,000 square foot version, replete with an elevator garage costing 50,000K. But, oh, he cares about you!

The shame of these four debates has been the absence of humanity's greatest challenge posed not by a nuclear Iran or an expansionist China, but climate change. Excuse the oxymoron, but it's a silence that echoes a continuing callousness to what is already eroding our future. Meanwhile, hurricane Sandy portends still more to come.

And just who is Jill Stein? You can, of course, go to her website JillStein, but just a few biography tidbits:

Age 62, she hails from Illinois, but has resided in Massachusetts since graduating from Harvard University (magnum cum laude) and Harvard Medical School. A long time instructor in internal medicine and mother of two grown sons, she lives with her husband, Richard Roher, also a physician, in historic Lexington. Dr. Stein first entered into politics when she ran for governor in 2002. She's authored two well-received medical reports, one of them translated into several languages. Active as a citizen, Dr. Stein has been twice elected to Lexington's Town Meeting and been in the forefront of health and environment reform efforts. She's appeared on TV shoes such as Today and <>Fox.

Some would argue a vote for Stein is a vote for Romney, since it's likely one less vote for Obama. I beg to differ. In some states already in the electoral column for Romney, like Kentucky where I live, casting a Green Party ballot isn't going to supplant destiny. It does, however, allow me a voice. What it helps assure as well, should we Greens poll 5% nationally, is the infusion of $20 million in federal funding that will help build momentum for building the party and setting the agenda for meaningful social and economic justice. In this year's tedious march to the election, Greens have been left out of the conversation. A vote for Stein voices our demand for a seat at the table.

Additionally, third parties have their place in the political arena, even though they don't win. The most recent example was Ross Perot, who gleaned enough of the vote to put Bill Clinton into the White House in '92. The same again in '96, when Perot captured 18% of the vote. By the way, Clinton never achieved a 50% majority in either election. On the other hand, Bush, the son, won because there wasn't any substantive third party opposition, resulting in an election thrown into the Supreme Court in 2000.

Third parties help us draw distinctions. If you took away the party and candidate labels in the recent debates, could you really discern the differences between the candidates?

Third parties, in close elections, teach losers not to play the expediency card. Had Gore tweaked his positions just a bit more to the Left in 2000, he would have conceivably nullified Ralph Nader's 1%, winning the election outright. Iran? Afghanistan? Conversely, Nader with just that one percent may have altered history. This year's election doesn't pose a serious challenge to Obama's reelection. While the ballot numbers may be dead even, Obama leads in nearly all of the battleground states and will likely achieve a plurality of at least 20 electoral votes beyond the required 271. Rest assured, your vote won't be wasted in its underscoring of the salient issues.

Let me close with a quote from Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Chris Hedges:

The November election is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It is not a battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It is a battle between the corporate state and us. And if we do not immediately engage in this battle we are finished, as climate scientists have made clear. I will defy corporate power in small and large ways. I will invest my energy now solely in acts of resistance, in civil disobedience and in defiance. Those who rebel are our only hope. And for this reason I will vote next month for Jill Stein.


Update: Police arrested Dr. Stein Wednesday evening in Texas when she brought food and supplies to protestors at the Keystone XL pipeline construction site in Wood County. In a later statement, Stein said that Obama and Romney were only talking of the symptoms, not the causes of disasters like Sandy.

Note: For specific Green Party goals, see Jill Stein

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Assets and liabilities of the candidates

The NYT is reporting that the Labor Department will release its October jobs report, on time, tomorrow morning. The last before the election, it could influence any undecided voters that may still be out there. I know I'll be giving it close scrutiny. Yes, I'm one of the undecided, as I find it a stalemate when it comes down to weighing the assets and liabilities of each candidate.

I've pursued this election campaign daily, watched the debates, scrutinized the media feedback. Using a ledger approach, I find the issues, pro and con, come down to mainly those I list here:

Obama assets:

Environmentally aware

Clean energy proponent

Economic stimuli

Health care reform

Tax equity

Return to 1967 borders for Israel

Banking reform efforts

Pro choice

Obama liabilities

Big government

Failure to initiate immigration reform

Apologist for America

Possible Administration cover-ups

May allow Iran the bomb

Supports the Employees Free Choice Act

May appoint additional activist Supreme Court members

Less business friendly

Romney assets

Small business advocate

Strong military

Would appoint constructionist Supreme Court members

Balanced budgets

Opposed to The Employee Free Choice Act

Less government intrusion

Strong on non-nuclear Iran

Romney liabilities:

Pro life

Less compassion for the poor

Would replace current social security index

Beholden to Israeli lobby

Insensitivity to global warming

More dirty coal and oil advocacy

While economy analysts are anticipating tomorrow's report will indicate continuing gains in jobs, manufacturing, and housing, this may not help me get past my stalemate as a voter caught in an eclectic mix of liberal and conservative purviews, in keeping with my mindset that truth usually falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

In 2008, I voted for a third party candidate. I may do so again.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gone with the Wind? Sandy's election impact

"The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley." (Robert Burns)
The October surprise arrived this evening in Sandy's windy assault on the Northeast. How it factors into next week's election is anybody's guess, and you can work varying good or bad scenarios for either candidate. Provided he doesn't make any mistakes, the President can be seen being presidential. It's also a safe bet that most folks on the receiving end are likely to be grateful. The storm, moreover, relieves Obama from the incessant focus on a still languishing economy along with the emerging reality of the government's grievous misfire in preempting the Benghazi debacle.

As I write, the Labor Department may delay Friday's crucial job report until after the election. Probably no conspiracy here, since we don't know how the report would break in favoring Obama or Romney, though you'd think the Administration would push for its release we're it favorable, come hell or high water. After all, the economy has been showing inklings of improvement in several sectors, ie., housing and employment.

Perhaps the most potent advantage for the President is that the storm may corral the incipient surge towards Romney even in battleground states like Ohio, now rated a toss-up.

You might argue that Sandy has handed Obama the election on a silver platter. But hold on: there's one thing the speculative press may be missing that favors Romney. Vast as Sandy is, with winds extending 175 miles from its center, it mainly impacts those states, apart from Virginia, that are foremost in the Democratic column anyway.

Whatever happens, the media will have plenty to chew on following next Tuesday's voting results.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why I'm an Independent!

As I write, monster storm Sandra plows its way towards its projected target. In like manner, our rancorous politics will soon funnel into Election Day. I wish I could say November 6 will, like refreshing rain, bring our national rancor to its close, but I know better, and so do you.

Whatever the result, our ills are likely to continue and may even worsen: a sluggish economy; soaring deficits; the shrapnel of sequestration in January. Abroad, a tiltering Europe; an Arab Spring gone wrong; the progressive materializing of Iranian nuclear capability. Perhaps we should lament the winner's fate.

As it stands right now, I'm not tethered to either candidate. Both have proven themselves masters of solipsism masquerading as wisdom. Not wanting to be manipulated by party interests, I registered as an independent several years ago. Wary of the dangers inherent in political partisanship, I found unanticipated support one day in coming upon George Washington's remarkably visionary Farewell Address (1796), warning of the destructive capacity of political parties to vest themselves in parochial partisanship rather than the national interest:.

It [party faction] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of ;party passions.

My father was a life-long Democrat, despite admiring Teddy Roosevelt. I think he'd have liked Reagan as well had he lived, though probably wouldn't have voted for him. I married into a family much the same way, for whom "Republican" probably came close to a dirty word. And obviously there are Republicans who have never opted to vote Democratic. All of this just tells me how much we're shackled by the culture we're embedded into, beginning with family, rather than filtering the debris through that best teacher, experience.

Political rancor isn't anything new, of course, but then you'd think in the digital age we'd have our wits about us and not fall prey to demonization and snake oil promises.

In closing, let me quote another distinguished American, Walt Whitman, on the corruptive legacy of partisanship:

America, if eligible at all to downfall and ruin, is eligible within herself, not without; for I see clearly that the combined foreign world could not beat her down. But these savage, wolfish parties alarm me. Owning no law but their will, more and more combative, less and less tolerant of the idea of ensemble and of equal brotherhood, the perfect equality of the States, the ever-overarching American Ideas, it behooves you to convey yourself implicitly to no party, nor submit blindly to their dictators, but steadily hold yourself judge and master over all of them" (Democratic Vistas, 1870).

And that's why I'm an Independent. I'm just not going to drink the snake oil!

Be well,


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Zarkaria's GPS: must viewing

I always enjoy tuning into Fareed Zakaria's GPS. Zakaria, who also writes for the Washington Post and Time, strikes me as a man largely free of assumptions, or political bias. Last week, for example, he provided helpful explanation of Mitt Romney's all over the map positions, motivating Republicans, whether liberal or conservative, to be wary. Romney's shifts lie behind retired general and former Bush secretary of state Colin Powell's endorsement on Thursday of Obama for reelection.

Zakaria offers that Romney's protean shifts are due to Tea Party elements within the Republican Party. It's stratagem entirely, though one could argue this reenforces the widely-held notion Romney's deceitful. According to Zakaria, Romney's surge in the polls is due to his moving over to more moderate positions on key issues. In short, this is the real Romney who can now return to the middle that characterized his tenure as Massachusetts's governor. After all, Obamacare is modeled after Romney's historic health insurance legislation in Massachusetts. While it doesn't get Romney off the hook, it's analysis like this that can provide another purview.

I also enjoy the broad spectrum of GPS' panel feature with its participants drawn from neo-con to far left. Again, cool-headed analysis to extract the factual and reasonable governs Zakaria's show.

One of my favorite, can't wait show elements comes at very end when Zakaris gives his weekly book recommendation. I've actually taken him up on several of his recommended reads such as Charles Murphy's Coming Apart: the State of White America, 1960-2010, a book by the way that supports Romney's off-the-cuff notion of the 47% who pay no taxes and not necessarily from need. I intend to pursue this week's recommendation of Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail--but Some Don't.

For me, Zakaria provides a refreshing change from the pervasive mortar shelling of the current political scene, whether at MSNBC or Fox News, or among the partisans of the print media and social networks at large. After all, I like finding the truth for myself as best we humans can get at it to someone's imposing her notion of the truth on me.

You can dismiss me as quixotic, but I find the probing almost as much fun as the finding.

Thank you, Fareed!

Be well,


Thursday, October 25, 2012

The dismal failure of the debates

It's just a hop, skip, and a jump and Election Day will be upon us. Although debates possess potential to help us view candidates more fully, and even to shift momentum as seems to have occurred after the first debate, they can frequently run as shallow as a drought stream in August. More likely we remember them for their gaffes, or their generating new memes such as President Obama's "bayonet" analogy of the last debate, the likeability of the proponents, their apparent command of facts, etc.

Alas, the casualty is more likely to be substance. Whatever happened to seismic suffering and its inveterate challenge? From these debates you would gather poverty--think the likes of Bangladesh, Haiti, Somalia--has been solved. And global warming? While we may debate its causes, we cannot deny its consequences, already upon us and mapping our future. Think about it: three debates (four, if you include the veep debate) and not one question on global warming! I hold that we define ourselves not only by what we say, but by what we omit.

In all the debates, moderators have played a big share in their failure by not asking the sizzling questions on issues such as nuclear proliferation. If nothing else, these debates have mirrored a colossal absorption with ourselves in their shocking indifference to the plight of our earth and its increasingly beleaguered populace, not just the American middle class.

Must all moderators derive from the press, often with their own hidden biases? We would do better with the likes of someone like Fareed Zakaria, whose mainstay is to sound out the truth rather than adumbrate ideology. Or perhaps a panel approach of disparate moderators to provide for balance, scope, and substance would offer us better vistas.

In so many ways, these debates have failed all of us in their platitudes and cliches. Consider the matter of economics, rightly a center piece for focus in the Great Recession. To promise more jobs and balanced budgets should not be conflated with result. We must get at the devil in the details. Two unacknowledged integral factors posing destabilization of the middle class with no easy, if any, resolutions are vested in globalization and the digital revolution. Third world workers can now compete in a global market place at lower cost. Meanwhile, the digital revolution means more jobs going through the shredder. Increased stimulus spending is unlikely to dent their effects and may ultimately even complicate our morass.

At the worst, we can take the ostrich approach and bury our heads in the sand. (Our debates show we have a talent for this.) At the best, we can at least probe for solutions.

More than ever, we need to preempt the political capacity for glibness rather than substance. In an elbow-touching world menaced with the damocles sword of marginalized income and hammer blows to Nature's resiliency, it behooves us to hold our candidates' feet to the fire.

Anything less subjects ourselves to further political manipulation and erosion of trust, complicating our future.

Be well,


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Doesn't get better than this

Karen and I saw Argo yesterday, the film about the ingenuous CIA-Canadian rescue of the six Americans holed up in the Canadian ambassador's Tehran residence in the aftermath of the seizure by Iranian militant students of 52 of their fellows at the American embassy in November,1979.

You may already have seen it, and even if you haven't, I'd be doing you a considerable disservice to give you any details.  Now don't cheat by googling and miss all the fun. I promise you this film will keep you glued to your theater seat from beginning to end.

Of course, a lot of the film's tension is orchestrated, since one of the six has recently shared that everything actually went like clock work.  By the way, the hostages had three plans to work with, but chose this one, the film production guise, as the most likely to succeed and embraced it immediately. Not so in the film.

Other inaccuracies occur as well; for example, the Shah's full name isn't correct. Also, Premier Mossadegh was appointed by the Shah, not elected. Free elections haven't been part of Iran's history.

The primary roles of Britain and New Zealand in helping the Americans are ignored.

At the end of the movie, former President Carter says, "Eventually we got them all out." I seem to remember an aborted rescue attempt somewhere. The truth is the Iranians spitefully released the hostages on January 20, 1981, or on Inauguration Day when Reagan took office.

But the movie overcomes its exaggerations, just maybe because it's more fiction than fact, thus enabling its transformation into an intense, well-performed thriller that will surely catapult it into Oscar consideration. Ben Afleck, who directed the film, plays CIA agent Tony Mendez, with understated brilliance, replete with a 70s' shag-carpet beard.

That last scene--a lumbering Swiss jet lifting its wheels, heavy trigger-finger revolutionaries in hot pursuit--Oh, my God!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Foreign vote monitors in this year's election

When the polls open this upcoming Election Day, you may be seeing UN affiliated monitors at your local voting place, particularly in places like cities with large minorities. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), for example, will be sending 44 observers.

This comes at the request of leading liberal groups such as ACLU, NAACP, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Conservatives are outraged, although monitors have been present since 2002 and a number of states directly allow for it. In what augurs to be a close election, every vote matters, and thus a wave of conservative attempts to ensure voting fraud is minimized. Civil rights organizations, on the other hand, worry about the disenfranchisement of minority votes, who are likely to vote for Obama.

Such groups are sending up to 15,000 monitors of their own, concentrating on 80 cities, to counter scores of conservative ones. Meanwhile, the courts have been consistently ruling against conservatives' implementing specific eligibility requirements.

As I see it, both sides are justified in their concerns. We only have to recall the closely contested 1960 election of John Kennedy to the presidency with its large scale fraud in Illinois that altered the outcome. Fresher in our minds is the Florida debacle of 2000, decided only by Supreme Court intervention.

Elections shouldn't come down to getting our guy (or gal) in by hook or crook. Voting lies at the heart of what we're all about and should be free of intimidation and fraud.

How widespread is fraud? I think it substantial, given the worst in human passions that exist when it comes to politics. We live in a nation of an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. You can't question their citizenship when they register at the local court house. And then there's the problem of double voting among those who reside in two states over the course of a year, which includes many with winter homes or out-of-state students. Unfortunately, and ironically, we don't have a national computer tracking system in place. As I pointed out in an earlier post, we can’t even track those who over stay their visas--and this after 9/11!

Personally, I favor a national ID card. While, yes, you'd have to provide proof of citizenship, I don't grasp how opponents may consider this intimidation. After all, we require documentation for benefits such as Medicare and Social Security. And, yes, we require photos on passports. No honor system here! Drivers licenses aren't sufficient, as an increasing number of states grant them to undocumented residents. ID cards are successfully employed by countries such as Germany.

Since both liberals and conservatives believe elections should be fair, surely both could find a better way to ensure the ballot is accessible and fair. Unfortunately, mistrust and rancor have so far preempted their bridging the impasse, exacerbating narrow self-interest.

I propose a non-partisan commission to study the problem and make recommendations to the Congress. This commission needs to take a look at the Electoral College with its winner take all approach as well.

Your thoughts?


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Twitter's wrong move

Twitter today did the unprecedented. It shut down a neo-Nazi site, @hannoverticker, though only in Germany at the request of the German government. Earlier in the year Twitter announced it would close down sites in conflict with local law while leaving them open internationally. I wonder if this policy is really nothing more than appeasement of religious conservatives in Islamic counties such as Iran or Pakistan. Whatever, today they exercised that option for the first time. We''ll have to see where this thing ultimately goes. Despotic governments will probably become even more adamant in demanding the same be done for them when they find their power threatened.

Think about it: Twitter has proven a catalyst for change in such countries, a jungle drums scenario that dispenses what ideologues would snuff out, the yearning of the oppressed to undo their shackles. It's inconceivable to think of an Arab spring without the social media's advocacy; the phenomenon of the Occupy Wall Street Movement that spread to other countries; the daily revelations of otherwise sequestered Syrian government atrocities against its own people.

Twitter, what you've done is a grievous wrong. I can't really speak for your motives, but the end doesn't justify the means.

In Turkey, world-renowned pianist Faxil Say's trial has begun. He's been arrested for alleged defamation of the prophet Mohammed. Ironically, the charges stem from several of his tweets. "I am not sure if you realize it, but if there is a louse, a non-entity, a lowlife, a thief or fool, it's always an Islamist." So much for Turkey's aspirations to join the European Union. Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, must be turning over in his grave.

In our own land, the threat to harness our right to free speech remains under continuous attack in the current reign of political correctness and the narrow confines of political and religious ideologues bent on imposing their own views, not through better arguments, but by shutting now those who oppose them. This afternoon, In Ocala, Florida, as Republican veep nominee Paul Ryan gave a campaign speech, malingers gathered nearby, bent on disrupting the rally.

Back to Twitter. Why not protect the speech rights of tweeters like prominent African-American actress, Stacey Dash ("Clueless"), who recently urged her 200,000 followers to vote for Romney. Almost immediately, scores of threats on her life. Hey, Twitter, these are the people you need to use your broom on.

Censorship has its place against those who sanction violence, or like those just mentioned. Otherwise, as I've said, fight a bad idea with a better one.

John Stuart Mill was spot on when in he wrote in On Liberty, that "if all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

I suspect the roots of Twitter's action is money. Nicholas Kulish, writing in the New York Times, takes us back to last summer's Olympics when Twitter blocked the account of a British journalist who heavily criticized NBC's reporting of the Games. (NBC is one of Twitter's corporate sponsors.) Twitter later apologized and reinstated the account.

Twitter may have opened up a Pandora's box for itself. So far, six governments have made requests for site closures.

Be well,