Friday, September 28, 2018

9/27/18 A Day Of Supreme Injustice

The Kavanaugh Senate hearing is inscribed in stone as is the name of our Supreme Court.  A day of exceptional injustice.  Let us count the ways:
l.  It is confirmed that in spite of decades of work by millions in America, women are still treated and regarded as second class citizens in this patriarchal society.   Christine Blasey Ford was treated as unapproachable by old, white, Republican men with their deferring to a skilled, temperate female prosecutor hired to ask her questions because they were simply unable to empathetically treat her as an equal.  They knew their misogyny would be on full public display.  If you are unaware, Ms. Ford was an accuser of Brett Kavanaugh for an act of sexual violence against her.    The majority party controlling the committee and hearing were fearful complete due process in the form of routine fact gathering by the FBI might disadvantage the male Supreme Court nominee over his woman accuser.

Ms. Ford's testimony was lauded for her quiet, measured and humble recounting of the details of the sexual attack.  She in fact did it convincingly and with grace and composure.  Kavanaugh's testimony was lauded by his supporters as powerful, confrontational, full of rage and tears of either rage or self pity.  They wanted a strong, alpha male performance from him and got it, with abundant denial of any possibility that he engaged in sexual assault, excessive drinking or behavior out of character with his upper class, elite and superstar youth defined by hard academic work, athletics, service and church.
Ms. Ford would have been castigated had she exhibited anger and rage about the assault on her person.  Patriarchy required that Ms. Ford present herself in a ladylike fashion.  She did so as a deeply wounded person. 

Had the performance styles reversed with Ms. Ford  testifying with anger, confrontation, rage and tears, she would have be judged poorly in the one on one  contest set up by the Republicans.   Had Kavanaugh been quiet, measured and totally under control emotionally, he would have been judged as wimpish and judged poorly.  Ironically, had he comported himself as you might wish a judge, with those characteristics, he would be less likely to be confirmed for the appointment.   Stereotypes of male and female behavior prevailed both among the testifiers and the male Republicans seated on the committee.  The arc of justice for males and females in America has barely moved in my many decades of life.  Real men are expected to be aggressive.  Real women are expected to be passive and submissive.

2.  Accusation and denial of sexual assault were treated as equal by the committee.  This was not a court proceeding where there is a presumption of innocence for an accused.  Women accusers with credible stories about their abuse must be believed in non-judicial proceedings.   The woman accuser was treated with no deference compared to the accused though the risk and impact on her life and that of her family has been and will be much more extreme than the on the life and family of the very privileged accused, Kavanaugh. The accuser was not given fair play with the denial of testimony from corroborating witnesses to the assault event.  Ms. Ford will not benefit financially or socially by coming forward with her story.  She will be vilified in some circles as was the case with Anita Hill, an accuser decades ago.  Ms.  Anita Hill suffered greatly for years following, while the accused has enjoyed decades on the highest Court of our land with much social advantage.  A similar future is not expected for the very courageous and temperate Ms. Ford.

The very worst possible outcome for Kavanaugh will be remaining on the Circuit court for a life time appointment and life among Washington D.C.'s elite. It is likely he will be elevated to the Supreme Court, whose decisions therefore will be tainted by his lying background and myth making about his extraordinary intellectual skills.

3. The Republican majority on the committee failed to provide the routine background investigation on  the event, its players and witnesses.  Why the rush?  There is no timetable for such a nomination. They failed to provide all necessary background documents as is routine for such proceedings in congressional committees.  Why?   The only plausible explanation is that they did not want all the background facts to be known on the fitness of Kavanaugh for this lifetime appointment.  Though Kavanaugh's testimony was an eruption of raw, raging anger and self-pitying tears, he was subjected to far lesser scrutiny on both his public record and his character as is routine in such nominations, immensely important factors for any reasonable body to deliberate on his fitness for this appointment.The only plausible explanation is that the majority did not want full scrutiny to jeopardize this highly ideological, right wing elitist.

In sum, this process and outcome was damaging to a very frayed democracy and presents a dismal future for justice in our badly damaged system of checks and balances.

Allow me to ask those who saw both Ford and Kavanaugh's testimony.  Who exhibited the judicial temperament we hope for in nominees for the highest court in our land?  The answer is obvious.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Delaware's Elections Task Force's Failure of Imagination

On September 11, 2018 a task force empowered by legislation passed a couple of years ago to replace decertified voting machines, unveiled its choice.  The process was absent any meaningful voter/citizen participation and input about its new machine it hopes will record and count our votes correctly.  It is called the Express Vote xl from the infamous voting systems manufacturer, ES&S.   Any consideration of un-hackable paper ballot voting systems, such as voting at home or polling place based paper ballots and scanners were completely ignored.  The techies at the Commission got their toy; Delaware voters got potentially screwed.  And a former Vice Chair of the Deldems was their lobbyist, selling us out in terms of voting cyber-tampering security. Below is a presentation I made at the announcement meeting.  It at least evoked about an hour of very robust discussion, but concluded with a unanimous vote to recommend this vulnerable, brand new (certified in July 2018 by the EAC) system cyber security experts across the country have researched and deemed unreliable.  It now goes to the legislature for funding.

Task Force, your process completely failed to engage Delaware voters.  It was secretive, minimally publicized and without voter input.  
First, the process undertaken several years ago to replace our voting system was flawed from its inception.  It was non-transparent, late, devoid of citizen participation and education on potential voting method options before you jumped to machine purchases.
You failed take advantage of an historic opportunity provided by our need to replace an unrecountable 22 year old voting technology.  Our legislature’s task force creation bill chose machines over methods.
You bypassed  an opportunity to inform your electorate on voting options used successfully elsewhere and engage our voters in a public discussion about those options, cybersecurity and their preferences, such as paper ballots at home or at polling sites.
Instead, the task force bill treated this historic event as just another routine purchase of machines, failing to imagine a different future. Again, machines over methods.
Second, we voters were poorly represented in the task force meetings with sporadic and spotty participation of our elected officials.  This was their fault and they share the shame. Hardly any voters were involved.  The minutes revealed no robust discussion over potential future voting methods to be explored.
As the process ensued, our elected officials were denied a voice in the selection process on an absurd premise that they would have a conflict of interest with scoring and choice.  This was an abrogation of their responsibility.   You legislators and commission members provided no public forums to engage voters in discussion of election technology options. Worst of all,  we were denied expert outside opinion on cyber security research and voting system vulnerabilities.
Third. Missing also was any public discussion about the decade long history of technical malfunctions leading to protests and lawsuits all over the country.  You were in denial about to the emerging public crisis about Russian intrusion into the country’s voting systems.    It was as if that issue just bypassed Delaware while raging all over the country. You dismissed the return to paper ballot voting in many jurisdictions, a foolproof defense against tampering and cyber intrusion. Your indifference to this solution led to no paper ballot system vendor bids.  Task force, you own this malfeasance.
You have chosen to approve untested new voting technology.  You have subjected Delaware voters to needless risk that our votes will be  not properly counted and recorded.  The solution, at least temporarily, was right in front of you, paper ballots in some form, either filled out at home or at polling sites.  You denied us this solution for 2018.
You ignored the expert advice from a dozen or more university research organizations and a hundred or so cyber security scholars, who LOVE technology and are not owned by the vendors who have a record of lying, misrepresentation and non-transparency.  That advice is to provide voters with unhackable, countable paper ballots  until cyber secure, proven and risk limiting auditing techniques are available with confidence.
You own the shame of malfeasance and arrogance. Worst of all, you failed to engage your imagination.  You chose machines over methods.  

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Church That Prides Itself In Not Changing

I was once a Roman Catholic.  That ended many decades ago.  But not without trying to change it.  I left a Church that, after working several years with a fantastic group of Catholic reformers called the National Association of Laity, prides itself in claiming it has not changed over the centuries.   This work spanned the 60's into the early 70's.  We busted our butts in our local parishes and also with the national hierarchy to institute changes like women priests, birth control and family planning and married clergy.  This was the brief era of Pope John xxiii and the Second Vatican Council. We worked on wealth transparency for the people of the Church, for them to better understand the enormous power of their Church expressed in wealth.  Our theory was, if we could expose the truth here, we could disarm some of the Church's autocratic power over its flock.

Among our projects was to convey to our fellow parishioners our organizational support for the newly announced Roe v. Wade decision empowering women with their own bodies.  We were 100,000 strong across the U.S. and we had the clout to be heard.  We shook the foundation of both the conservative and liberal wings of the American Catholic Church.

Another project was for a team of us, at our own personal expense, to fly around the country and meet with Bishops and convince them during this time of Church upheaval and hope for change that by revealing the investment and real estate wealth of the American Church, they would show transparency to the flock and engender more dedication to the good works of the Church.  Better still, if they would divest of some of that wealth and provide greater assistance to people in need, they could enhance respect for their work and show that they were earning their tax exemption.

After several years of these meetings, we actually succeeded in opening up the balance sheets of every diocese of the country, published in media reports and newspapers all across the U.S.  We were sure we were on our way to other major reforms.  Transparency was the key message that propelled us.  Oh, how wrong we were.

In a few short years the local flocks, the sheep as it were, showed they really didn't give a rats ass.  All they cared about was their own redemption and the good feeling of forgiveness for their sins the Church offered them if they were good sheep.  Good sheep didn't speak out.  Didn't question. Didn't get in the business of the Church. Transparency didn't really matter as long as their personal needs were met.  This, coupled with conservative Church leadership reversing the modest reforms that liberals initiated killed the movement for change.  Transparency died along with our loss of John xxiii.  I made the decision in the early 70's that this was not a community of faith I found worthy of my time or service.  To this day my departure was one of the best decisions I've every made.

Little did our reformist group know that all the while, behind the scenes,  Priests were molesting and raping children of both genders, and on occasional discovery were quietly transferred to other parishes.  The really egregious cases were shipped to South America or off to other lands to prey on children there.   The Bishops we thought we were dealing with in good faith were covering up these horrific abuses people's humanity in the interest of protecting the reputation of their beloved Holy Mother Church, not the interests of the faithful they were claiming to serve.

Decades later, in he early 2000's, while volunteering for a progressive public radio station in Houston, I met a victim of abuse who had served as an alter boy.  I, like many, had been reading of cases of pedophilia and sexual abuse going public around the country.  Meeting this severely damaged person gave me the idea that my Houston-Galveston diocese was not any different from Boston, or Chicago or other parts of the country as related to this Church scandal.  My diocese, or rather, that of my Catholic friends was just not yet exposed.   I felt I could make at least a small difference.

Through this brave victim of my former Church led me to a half dozen other such victims he knew and a very low publicity group called SNAP.  They had banded together to address both the legal and the public remedies needed to end the abuse of others.  Through these contacts I was able to produce a series of radio programs giving voice to a range of sexual victims of Priests and complicit Bishops in the Church leadership in that area. 

That radio project and the voices and stories of betrayal and victimization they told has never left me. So, when I read about the recently announced huge expose in Pennsylvania involving at least 300 priests and over 1,000 victims of these predators,  I felt the need to write this blog.  Here is an exerpt of an interview with the attorney in PA who started uncovering this massive abuse.

Serbin is also disappointed with the Vatican’s response, which came two full days after the damning report from Pennsylvania was released. “Three popes have been involved in overseeing this [scandal] since I started. I really think they are as much responsible as each of the bishops and church leaders in the States,” he says. “They knew there were serious problems. They knew children were being harmed for life. They knew families were being torn apart. Some of these child predators were so perverted, and I don’t know how any decent human being, not only a member of a religious organization, could look at this other than with disgust.  And this still shocks me to this day. This should never happen again. And these bishops and church leaders, these heads should roll.”,

Here we are, decades into a massive coverup, hearing of it again.  Though the Church has paid a big price in selling off many of those real estate holdings the NAL and my colleagues managed to get revealed to the faithful , it is  not nearly enough to heal the wounds of the good people damaged for the rest of their lives.

This raises a big question in my mind.  Should a democracy host such an organization preying on and covering up the deeds of its predators?  Should such an organization be allowed to function in a free society?  Should such an organization still be granted a tax exemption for its still very large income stream?  I don't think so.   Since the first public revelations of Church pedophilia in he late 90's, now 20+ years later, do you see any signs that the Roman Catholic Church is divesting itself of its pride in the claim that it doesn't change?  I don't.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The World Witnessed An Act Of Treason on 7/16/18

Donald Trump today, in Helsinki, in view of the entire world committed an act of treason by its classical Constitutional definition.  He aided and abetted a foreign nation who has interfered with our most precious right to free and fair elections.

The Special Counsel evidence of Russian actions in influencing the outcome of our 2016 Presidential and Federal election through direct engagement with our processes, electioneering and voting infrastructure, revealed in the July 13, 2018 is inescapable.  It led to the indictments of Russian military leaders, directed only by their President Putin  What they did and accomplished would not have been possible without the obvious assistance and collaboration of Republican Party and Trump campaign leadership, starting with the candidate himself and inclusive of key leaders within the organizations directing the intricate and complex process of American campaigns and elections.

The specifics of this collaboration were granular in detail with data involving very localized knowledge and research that could have been known only to American political operatives.

Key campaign and party players who deny the facts now on the ground, acknowledged by a Grand Jury of our fellow citizens as well as the entirety of our Federal intelligence and criminal justice agencies, are complicit in conspiracy to commit Treason.  They must be relieved of duty.

 It is nearly certain that Trump and  his complicit Vice President do not possess the integrity to resign as an act to preserve our democratic Republic. It is equally certain that the Republican leadership in Congress are craven power mongers who also do not have integrity.

 If this is the case,  We The People have no choice but to flood the streets of the Capitol and grind the work in our public buildings to a total halt until resignations are rendered.  And, in November, elect nearly total replacements to our Congressional Republican office holders.  A process needs to be put in place to elect a new President and Vice President that does not involve succession by complicit Republican leaders under the normal succession process.  These are not not normal times.  Whatever provisions are unavailable through clearly stated Constitutional and statutory law should be administered by our Supreme Court with assistance from sitting State Governors to assure a lawful restructuring of new Federal leadership.

State leaders need to rise up in protest through all possible means to both impede further Federal governing activity and temporarily fill the void created with State services and actions.

There simply is no choice available to us that will restore our functioning Republic.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Declaration Of Independence Is Still Being Drafted

file:///C:/Users/merri/Desktop/images.jpgfile:///C:/Users/merri/Desktop/images.jpgIt is Independence Day, 2018.  Parks and Picnic grounds are filled with Americans celebrating this monumental event in human history.  All in those parks are everyday citizens enjoying family and community time in remembrance of the Declaration of Independence.  Its drafting was done by a relatively small segment of the population, but on behalf of the whole population of the Colonies at that time, which really only was meant to serve the white, property owning men of the day.

Among those feasting in the parks of today, only a small percentage are actively engaged in the drafting process.  Most attended the fireworks events are along for a free ride thanks to maybe 20% of the folks at the grills and on the blankets who are actually working as engaged citizens and activists in trying to perfect the language of this amazing document and future Amendments to the Constitution which followed.  Always expanding those protected from tyranny.

The intent was to free people from tyranny.  It is ironic to me that we are still working toward that goal a quarter of a century later.  And more ironic that the tyranny is coming mostly from within, not distant shores separated by oceans.  That tyranny, or authoritarian rule is very much upon us today in the form of a President and followers in his administration who are very much a small minority among us, but empowered by the inaction of most among us.

The inaction is I think not malicious in intent, rationalized by such thinking as..."I'm too busy, my family responsibilities don't allow me to engage, I can't afford the time,  it is too hard, I don't know what to do, or it is hopeless".  These are the majority of the folks on the picnic grounds around us who are either not motivated to engage in the drafting work, oblivious to the necessity, or just plain greedy with their time and self interest.

So, I want, in what likely are the closing chapters of my life,  to honor those who inspired me to do some small part of the drafting so that I and future generations that follow me might enjoy freedom from tyranny.   Sadly, I don't remember all their names, so forgive me for seeming to neglect many by name deserving of recognition as drafters of the Declaration of Independence.   I want the unengaged to know these American Patriots, if not by name, at least by deed.

The YMCA camp counselor who paired me with a black camp buddy at an early age.  The leaders of the Catholic Worker Movement who gave me my first taste of activism as a college student.  My Army Intelligence School buddies from Notre Dame with whom I teamed to "invade" segregated Baltimore night clubs in Baltimore in our uniforms, demanding service with our fellow African American officer.  We got service for sure.    My Knights of Columbus friend who recruited me to team on getting a distinguished African American physician into the way less credentialed all white organization.  Sadly, he was still blackballed.  The massive crowd on the Mall at the MLK I've Got A Dream Speech. The people I met in bars in Black neighborhoods in Detroit and DC as they were burning.  Our Parish Priest in Minnesota who recruited us to network the parish's first African American family.

The leaders and 1000 Citizens for Good Schools activists in Houston with him I had the privilege to integrate the Houston Independent School District with by overthrowing a racist, segregationist school board.  May Kaye Merriman, my first spouse who ran a pro-integration, pro-busing State school board campaign and got 44% of the vote.  Her work with NOW that engaged me in that movement and the diversity message Panel of American Women and her brave fellow liberal feminists.  Billy Carr, Godmother of Texas Liberals who recruited me to the movement to throw the Tory Democrats out of power and purge the Party of Wallace supporters.  The Bushes helped by recruiting them to build the Texas Republican Party.  The renegade Texas Legislators, Craig Washington, Ron Waters, Mickey Leland and Bennie Reyes who gave us 10 years of the Renaissance in Texas and Houston Democratic politics.  My fellow Bravehearts who formed the opposition to the attempted breakaway, all white west side Houston school district it took us 7 years to defeat.  Leaders in the Vietnam and Iraq/Afghan anti-war movement who taught me how to organize on college campuses. 

My fellow organizers of the Democratic Forum in Salt Lake City who introduced Democratic Party values to a very Republican city in the early 80's.  My partners with the Take Back Movement at KPFT-90.1 FM radio whose success resulted in giving a progressive and liberal political voice to Houston in the Bush era.  Orell Fitzsimmons and Wade Rathke of SEIU and Acorn to taught me Acorn style of community organizing. Gerry Birnberg Chair of the Harris County Party who gave me the opportunity to create and chair several committees dealing with grassroots organizing and training, combating Tea Party Voter Suppression and Party Messaging.  David Van Os with whom I had the privilege of creating and organizing the Progressive Populist Caucus of the Texas Democratic Party and lead as Chair for 5 years.  Texas Democratic Party Chair Charles Soechting and Boyd Richie who gave me opportunities to act as an advisor on Party reforms and serve on the Platform Committee respectively.

My spouse Julie Jackson who inspired me with her leadership of the 7th Senate District of the Texas Democratic Party, ably served as a Steering Committee member of the PPC, serve as organizer with Billie Carr and our neighborhood Precinct Chair.  More recently she has been a key organizer of the resistance movement in Wilmington, Delaware through Delaware Women For Inclusion.  She has inspired with brilliant work creating a wildly successful Facebook Community called Impeach the Mother Fucker Already.

These people have given me the courage and inspiration to do my small part in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, thankfully a continuing work, likely always needed to fend off tyranny.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Sorry, Few Things In Democracy Stay Fixed

One thing I've learned in many decades of living is that you no sooner get stuff fixed in a democracy and someone comes along and breaks it again.  It is a perpetual cycle.

I recently heard a young person criticizing boomers for leaving him with a mess of stuff that needed fixing and he blamed them for allowing them to be broken.   Sorry, young man, many of us boomers and earlier generations worked our asses off fixing broken stuff.   In my lifetime, civil rights and voting rights.  Segregated schools.   Choice for women and families.  Terrible, dumb wars with no purpose.  Humane treatment of immigrants.  The right to collectively bargain for decent wages and benefits.  We even thought we had fixed hate and discrimination at least to some extent with the election of our first Black President.

But, here we are today.  Having to fix this stuff all over again.  And the breakage seemed to occur with lightening speed.  And the repair work ahead is likely to last for generations.  That is because, some of us got lazy; some got smug that the job was done.  Others of us thought no one would have the indecency to fuck things up and retract progress.   Some of us thought holding out our vote for good but not perfect people was okay.  Others of us thought that just voting, but not working in our communities was enough.  Some of us thought that as long as we concentrated on our own families, that would be enough and was our only duty.

Sorry, that strategy didn't work out for you. You complained, but didn't act to engage in the actual repair work in a timely way.   You and your families, some of you. may be okay through the breaking things phase.  But you have a duty, in a democracy,  to care about and care for others not so fortunate.  And pitch in to help them.  It starts with caring about them and the democracy that has served you well for a good part of your lifetime.

It is time for you who watched the breakage but did not act with those of us, not enough of us, to start the repair work while the breakage was fresh, to now get off your asses and lend a hand.  You can do something.  Everyone has some capacity to do something.

Help a democracy appreciating candidate.  Volunteer in your community.  Join reform groups doing their work. Run for office.  Preach the gospel of repair work. Write stuff.  Send letters. Blog.  Send money if nothing else.  And encourage others to join with you in fixing broken things.  Just voting has proven to be not enough.  Sorry,  I know it means extra work, more hours not fishing or golfing.

Now get a move on.  This is really serious.  A dangerous time for democracy.  It is not too late if enough of us give a shit.  Act.  Now.

Oh, and you people breaking stuff, sorry, but fuck you.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Many Americans Want Authoritarian Rule

Liberal democracy is hard.  It is slow.  It requires public engagement and continual nurturing.  Many Americans, maybe up to about 40% , find the work just too demanding.  Yielding to an authority "who is the only one that can fix this" really is much easier.  Those who lean towards a Stern Father form of governance are finding Trumpism appealing.  They didn't like gridlock.  Who does?  They felt the economy and social trends were not advancing their interests.  They mainly care about themselves and their families, seeing societal problems as mainly the fault of those who don't take care of their family responsibilities.   They find the prosperity gospel appealing because they believe that if they are righteous, they will prosper.

These are the people who by and large are not civically engaged.  They vote, as they showed us in 2016, but that is about it.  They are used to yielding, social influence in their families and neighborhoods, which they prefer to be like them and their kind.  They don't like change excepting when it benefits them.  They rail against bureaucracy, paying taxes, social advances for groups that don't look like them and blame economic stagnation on the government, not loosely regulated  corporations that employ or provide them income.  In  the main they do not engage in civic life, seeing their family responsibilities as singular.  They see those of European descent as superior, morally and culturally.

Governance by edict can make things happen fast.  Government by compromise is often slower and less efficient in terms of making things happen fast.  Thus the appeal of authoritarian fascism took root in places like Argentina and Chile in our own hemisphere.  And the same appeal in Europe  in Spain, Italy and Germany in the 1930's and 40's when economies were not providing prosperity for many. Other countries exercised authoritarianism not in conjunction with an independent industrial and commercial sector, but through economies managed totally by government such as China and the Soviet Union.   We had an early moment of truth in our own nation with a devastating civil war based on a fascist and racist culture who preferred to take the lives of tens of thousands than compromise their authoritarian Confederacy of slavery for a common good.  A horrific war resulted in Europe when the authoritarians insisted on imposing their values on those committed to the hard, slow work of democracy. Authoritarianism lost in all cases, but it took the horror of war to resolve the conflict.

All of these social systems have one characteristic in common with our capitalistic system;  an elite segment of the society garners most of the economic benefit and power.  Our founders were in the main educated elites.  Our government leaders mostly come from elite, privileged segments of society.  The same is true of authoritarian led societies across the globe.   The Trumpite segment of our political sphere do not see democracy as method of governance that can benefit only benefits others and their world view is that they want the first claim on both benefits and power.

Theirs is not an egalitarian or idealism driven view of the social order.  Theirs is a Ayn Rand libertarian view of I'll get mine and you're responsible for getting your slice of the pie.  Yes, they go to church on Sunday and are often led it prayer for others, believing that  a god is responsible to care for the subjects of their prayers.  And they are often happy to join others in their church in providing assistance to those in need  because they all see merit for such assistance in the same way.  Many see the merit of helping others on a micro level; adopting a disadvantaged child, taking food or clothing to a needy family.  But they don't see their responsibility as extending to support or assistance for groups through government agencies, using their tax dollars.  They have an authoritarian view that they alone can better determine who is worthy of their assistance.

Those well intended people who urge me to reach out to Trumpites with the belief we can find common ground will have to explain to me exactly what common ground I can share with these people.  Where is it and what does it look like?   And how does this reappearance of authoritarianism differ from the past which had resulted in war, death and destruction?  What is different about this time? Have we favoring democracy learned from the past?  Have Trumpites learned from the past?

Only time will reveal the answer.  In the meantime, those favoring democracy, Resist with all the strength you have.