Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Sign Petition to Support Rep. Holt's Fair Elections Bill
There's alot of work going on within New Mexico and nationwide to try to ensure fair elections where our votes are counted accurately. If we can't feel confident about this, is our democracy actually working? We know the answer.
That's why HR 550 is important. There's a petition on Rep. Rush Holt's web site to support this election reform bill, which he sponsored. The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (HR 550) would:
- *Mandate a voter verified paper ballot for every vote cast in every federal election, nationwide; because the voter verified paper record is the only one verified by the voters themselves, rather than by the machines, it will serve as the vote of record in any case of inconsistency with electronic records;
- Protect the accessibility requirements of the Help America Vote Act for voters with disabilities;
- Require random, unannounced, hand-count audits of actual election results in every state, and in each county, for every Federal election;
- Prohibit the use of undisclosed software and wireless and concealed communications devices and internet connections in voting machines;
- Provide Federal funding to pay for implementation of voter verified paper balloting; and
- Require full implementation by 2006
Not unexpectedly, the bill is currently stalled in the House Administration Committee and needs a boost. Today, blogs around the nation are posting information on HR 550 and urging their readers to sign the petition and contact their Congressional reps to urge them to sign up as cosponsors of the bill. It's also a good idea to contact members of the House Administration Committee to light a fire under them about this issue. CapWiz provides an easy way to contact members of Congress. You know what to do.
Iraq Vets to Speak Against Occupation Saturday
Veterans for Peace member Tina Garnanez, a 24-year-old Dine (Navajo) Iraq occupation vet, will speak at the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice this Saturday, December 3rd, from 2 to 4 PM. Tony Garcia, an Iraq war veteran and medic, will also speak. A press conference will precede their presentation.
These two Iraq war/occupation veterans will answer questions you might have about the occupation and why they are speaking out against this war. Please honor their courage in "going public." They will also be speaking to various high school classes in the Albuquerque area. The two vets will be guests on IndyMedia TV Community Cable Channel 27 this Friday night at 7:00 PM. For further information please call 304-3144.
Join the Citizen Petition to Preserve our National Forests
From the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance:
Join millions of Americans who've shown their support for the Roadless Rule — sign the Roadless Petition today! Help stop federal plans favoring logging and mining in the last pristine areas of our national forests, including 1.6 million acres in New Mexico!
When you sign, you'll be telling the Bush Administration to reinstate the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which it repealed in May, 2005 in spite of an earlier pledge to uphold the rule.
Your voice will help ensure that areas like the Pecos and Gila National Forest in New Mexico stay roadless, and that other wild National Forests across America also stay protected for future generations to come. SIGN the Citizen's Petition TODAY here!
What's At Stake:
More than 58.5 million acres of roadless National Forests are on the chopping block, including 1.6 million acres right here in New Mexico!
To learn more about the Roadless Rule, please visit the website of the Heritage Forest Campaign: http://www.ourforests.org/roadless/about_roadless.html
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
ACTION ALERT: Last Election Reform Task Force Meeting 12/14
From Paul Stokes of United Voters of New Mexico:
The last meeting of the NM Legislature's Election Reform Task Force will be held in Room 307 of the Roundhouse at 9 AM, Wednesday, 14 December. A good crowd in the gallery to show support for our key issues will be really important in getting our key concerns addressed.
Our top issue is likely to be paper ballots. Another important issue that we are likely to raise is assuring that the paper ballots or paper audit trails are hand counted rather than machine counted. A third issue that concerns us is that the Task Force is recommending that correcting problems in the audit provision can be put off until the 2007 legislative session because that would still leave time to be ready for the 2008 presidential elections. We want to be sure that delay won't result in dropping the matter.
Click the link to download a paper prepared by New York Verified Voting that provides excellent background for the advantages of paper ballots over DREs (Direct Recording Electronic), which are the touchscreen or pushbutton electronic machines: Advantages of Paper Ballots (PDF)
In order to meet the new New Mexico law for "voter verifiable and auditable paper trails", the DREs would need to be retrofitted with printers. These printers produce a paper tape similar to a grocery receipt, which is kept by the state as the record of the vote.
Personally, I think the key reasons to prefer paper ballots that can be counted with optical scan machines or by hand over the DREs that count the ballots electronically and produce a paper trail are that with paper ballots:
- The paper ballot is inherently verifiable by the voter as part of filling out the ballot,
- There is considerable good experience in NM and across the country with paper ballots and optical scan machines,
- Paper ballots and optical scan machines have demonstrated fewer errors than DREs,
- Paper ballots are a much more intuitive, easily understood medium,
- Paper ballots are much easier to recount by hand for audits and recounts,
- Voting systems using paper ballots and optical scan machines cost much less than DRE voting systems.
See the PDF download above for additional reasons and rationale.
Los Alamos Study Group to Launch New Disarmament Center
From the Los Alamos Study Group:
The Los Alamos Study Group is seeking volunteers for its NEW Los Alamos Disarmament Center in Los Alamos, opening December 10th. This is a bold action that will allow us to be a part of the Los Alamos Community and be a voice for those working for nuclear disarmament from a localized place. The Center will be a base for social action, studies of peace and justice issues, and spiritual formation. It will do this through a number of means:
- The Center will be an educational resource and “counter-museum,” attracting visitors interested in an alternative perspective to what the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Bradbury Science Museum offers.
- It will bring attention to the large number of businesses and organizations that have endorsed the Call for Nuclear Disarmament.
- It will be a converging force to spread the Call for Nuclear Disarmament and to carry out other organizing initiatives.
- It will be a place for small discussion groups and meetings.
- It will offer a supportive base for LANL employees and others in the Los Alamos Community to oppose the design and manufacturing of nuclear weapons at the LANL.
- It will attract visiting scholars, interns, and other activists from afar to work with us.
- It will offer religious communities an arena to incorporate social action into their spiritual formation.
Join us in creating a Disarmament Center that will be a focal point for political, social justice, and spiritual action! Educational programs, organizations, and spiritual communities, and individuals are invited to create a formal program with us or make arrangements to volunteer at the Los Alamos Disarmament Center to stand up against militarism, nuclear weaponry and environmental hazards. This may be in the form of an internship, a spiritual social action program, or out of a social consciousness to work for non-violent change. We envision the Center to be a network of concerned citizens contributing to the common goal of nuclear disarmament.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 505-265-1200 for more information.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Today's Must Read
UP IN THE AIR: Where is the Iraq war headed next? by Seymour Hersch, in The New Yorker.
Positive Reception for Veterans for Peace Float in Twinkle Light Parade
From Terry Riley:
I was on the Veterans for Peace pro-soldier, anti-war float in this Saturday's Albuquerque Twinkle Light Parade. The reception was FANTASTIC. Only three or four people along the route said anything negative. The rest were very supportive and many thanked us directly for the display. Whole families cheered us as we passed them. Just before the parade started somebody said he hoped that nobody took offense to our float. He was so wrong on that count. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are a couple photos of the float. (Click images for larger versions.)
Editor's Note: If you'd like to support the troops or vets by making a contribution or sending them something special during this holiday season, here are some links that make it easy:
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Signs 'O The Times
It's likely you've received one of these church signs in your email recently. Okay, you've probably figured out by now that they're not real church signs. The good news is that you can make your own version at the Church Sign Generator website. (A nod to BG for the link.)
Friday, November 25, 2005
Once again, our house is observing Buy Nothing Day on this Friday after Thanksgiving when the entire consumer culture is out there fighting for "bargains." No fuss. No muss. No crowds. No stress. Less credit card debt.
Instead we're just hanging out with our parakeets, our lovebird and our new sun conure. Reading (me "The Kite Runner," Mary Ellen " Deception Point "). Throwing a few chores into the mix. Planning on seeing a movie tonight -- maybe Walk the Line, Good Night, and Good Luck or North Country. Okay, buying movie tickets is technically buying something, but at least it doesn't entail visiting a Wal-Mart and the tickets aren't made in the Third World using slave labor. Ah, it feels so good! Are you with us?
Thursday, November 24, 2005
A Cheney Thanksgiving cartoon, stolen from FarrFeed, who stole it from Kos, who stole it from wherever, but what a GREAT political cartoon:
Here's another I found:
Personally, I'm thankful for New Mexico sights like these:
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Now Can We Impeach Him?
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Sound Off: A Party Out of Order
Picture this: A large, long meeting room dominated by a raised stage at the front where the Chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico and other Party officers sit or stand at a lectern high above the crowd of State Central Committee (SCC) members at their 11/19/05 meeting. The only microphones in the hall are at the lectern and in front of the officers. No provision is made for members in the hall to be heard if and when they are allowed to raise questions or make motions.
The Chairman announces, in a series of admonitions, that Robert's Rules of Order will be employed to control the procedings so that the views of both the majority and the minority will be protected. Hmmm. He introduces a "parliamentarian" he says will ensure that these rules are followed. Even at this early point in the meeting, it seems clear that formalized control of speakers and top-down authority will trump any rights of the members to express their views, propose actions or ask questions. The Chairman and other Party functionaries have established an intimidating physical environment coupled with threats of an intimidating enforcement of nitpicking rules to set the stage for a meeting of what used to be called the People's Party.
According to State Democratic Party Rules, it's the SCC that is charged with reviewing, analyzing and approving the Party's budget and spending, and it's designated as the governing body of the Party generally. The Rules state that, "The State Central Committee is the supreme governing body of the DPNM when regularly convened . . . It shall have general supervision and control of the political affairs of the party." Moreover, "It shall have the authority for appropriation of state party funds." The Party Rules also stipulate that "the Chairperson and the Treasurer shall present a financial report and proposed budget for the Committee's consideration."
Given such clearly delineated powers, you'd think a significant focus of those organizing any SCC meeting would be to ensure that members of the Party's "supreme governing body" have a chance to be heard, literally and figuratively. You'd be wrong.
Over many years, the so-called leadership of the DPNM -- Party officers, powerful elected officials, candidates -- has become accustomed to calling all the shots at SCC meetings and in almost every decisionmaking circumstance. Meanwhile, the SCC has been effectively demoted to the minor role of rubberstamping the decisions that come down from on high, and has generally been kept out of the loop as the Party retreated from anything but surface adherence to principles of transparency, accountability and inclusiveness. The Party Rules have not been changed to reflect this, but it's how the Party has been functioning -- as a top down, secretive collection of insiders.
Enter many new faces who were elected to the SCC after Kerry's loss in the 2004 presidential election, many of them grassroots activists of one persuasion or another. I, myself, am included in this new crop of SCC members. We showed up ready to rock and roll, return the Party to its roots and resurrect the Party's former bottom up power structure. As you might expect, we weren't exactly welcomed with open arms. Generally, we were treated like a rag-tag bunch of mouthy peasants who didn't know our place in the centralized scheme of things.
We started making noise, proposing changes, getting active, asking questions, studying the Party Rules and demanding they be followed. Having worked so damn hard since the early days of the presidential primary campaigns and continuing through the Congressional and Presidential races, volunteering, knocking on doors, phonebanking and donating money, we were dedicated to fixing the things we saw as broken within the Party. Unfortunately, many in the higher echelons of the Party saw this, and continue to see it, as a threat to the status quo, to their little kingdoms of influence, power and money that keep Party business running as usual, with the usual suspects in charge.
After learning alot about how the Party operates and what levers of power we could possibly use to implement change, we organized as an ad-hoc group called NM Grassroots Democrats. Not progressives. Not liberals. Core Democrats on the ground. We organized, held meetings, sent a letter to the other SCC members around the state, made phone calls, built a listserve, raised money and created materials for a table to attract support at the SCC meeting in Santa Fe last Saturday. We paid $150 for a literature table at the SCC meeting, the same amount charged to candidates.
Over several months, we developed a series of motions and inquiries to raise at the SCC meeting that addressed some of our primary goals. Most of these had to do with pushing the DPNM to follow its own rules. They included getting members named to the Rules Committee with a meeting scheduled within two months, reinstituting a meaningful platform process that encourages the input of ordinary Democrats around the state, following rules in getting resolutions approved, ensuring that accurate meeting minutes are kept and distributed in a timely manner, getting the required affirmative action committee back into action and obtaining budget and spending information in a format that allows the SCC to make informed financial decisions, as delineated in the Party rules.
Real radical, huh? You'd think so by the reception we got at the SCC meeting. Even though our group provided the Chair with copies of our proposed motions and inquiries before the meeting and made a concerted effort to follow Robert's Rules in presenting them, we were stymied at every turn by the Chair. It was evident that Chairman John Wertheim and the powers that be were hell bent on rushing through the meeting, calling votes on committee reports before any debate or discussion could occur and confusing those trying to participate with often incorrect applications of Robert's Rules. The so-called official parliamentarian was never allowed to weigh in.
To make a motion or ask a question, we had to jump up from our seats and try to get the chair's attention without benefit of a microphone or run up to the front of the room, below the towering stage, to beg a microphone from the table. This often resulted in the individual being rudely chastized, criticized, humiliated or ruled out of order while they stood alone at the front of the room with Chairman Wertheim looming above. Despite the Chair's statement that he would help participants navigate the complicated fine points of Robert's Rules, we were usually refused an answer when we tried to ask how best to get our motion or question addressed. Clearly, the plan was to isolate those who dared to try to speak, portray them as "troublemakers" who were disturbing the conduct of business and shoot them down using unevenly applied parliamentary procedures.
The Chairman would make a pronouncement and if a speaker tried to respond with a question, watch out. A couple of the more persistent questioners were even threatened with removal from the hall by security unless they immediately fell silent. Ah yes, real democracy in action. Which brings to mind this quote from Major Roberts, who wrote Robert's Rules:
"While it is important to every person in a free country to know something of parliamentary law, this knowledge should be used only to help, not to hinder business. One who is constantly raising points of order and insisting upon a strict observance of every rule in a peaceable assembly in which most of the members are unfamiliar with these rules and customs, makes himself a nuisance, hinders business, and prejudices people against parliamentary law. Such a person either does not understand its real purpose or else willfully misuses his knowledge."
Despite all this, we did manage to get a number of our motions approved in between the protestations of the Chair and the congratulatory appearances of candidates and elected officials, flowers for the departing Executive Director and the rushed committee reports. We found that rushing into a motion before the Chair could get a protest out was the best method. It worked much better in the earlier portion of the meeting, before the Chair knew what was coming. Later, the only way to get a complete sentence out was to get your hands on a microphone and bellow to the crowd despite the Chair's threats to have you removed.
End result of this long litany of undemocratic conduct? Creating more mistrust, anger and disappointment in the Party's rank and file members. Discouraging participation and action. Stifling energy. And for what? You have to ask what the Party is hiding, don't you? What are they afraid of? In a political environment rife with corruption and dishonesty on the part of the now resigned Democratic Treasurer and other Dems, you'd think that transparency, responsiveness and conducting businesss according to the Party's own rules would be paramount. Guess again.
--This is a personal Sound Off by Barbara Wold, SCC Member and Chair of Precinct 462. Sound Off is a regular feature of the blog that allows individuals to voice their views on timely issues and controversies. Click on the Email Me link on the upper right-hand side of the page if you'd like to submit your own Sound Off.