Saturday, April 28, 2012

Retro Romney, "Polyushka Pole!", and "The Russians Are Coming!"

Bill Clinton campaigned in 1992 on "building a bridge to the 21st century". Mitt Romney is trying to paddle us back by canoe to the 1950s!

What's with this guy? He is so retro! He uses expressions no one's used for 50 years. I'm 76 years old, and he sounds out of date even to ME! He also acts and talks like women are still "the girls", and he says that if he wants to know something about them, he'll ask his wife. Doesn't he know any women? Or does he run with a retro crowd where women sit on one side of the room and men on the other. Or "the girls" aren't allowed in the room at all, like at Augusta.

But that's not the worst of it. He wants to revive the Cold War. While Obama can give Medvedev a wink and a nod and a chummy pat on the knee, Romney instead wants to stir up fear of the "Soviets".

Yeah, the "Soviets"!

That's the exact label one of his foreign policy advisers just used in a radio interview attacking Obama's foreign policy.  (Hint, hint, fella:  the Soviet Union has not been around for about 20 years!)

 Romney himself has attacked Obama for confiding in Medvedev that he'd catch Putin later, i.e. when the election is over. Romney calls that "secret" dealing with the Russians.

I personally love an American president giving a chummy pat on the knee to a Russian leader. Having spent 43 years of my life in dread of nuclear war with the "Soviets", as far as I'm concerned Obama can chum with any Russian leader any time, even give him a hug.

Or even sing to him: "I'm so in love with you...."

The motto should be: "Whatever works." Obama worked together with the Russians on getting a nuclear arms reduction treaty. Remember that? Bet you didn't. It got little play at the time and lots of silence since. But it was monumentally important. Actually more important than killing bin Laden. Bin Laden killed about 3000 Americans on 9/11. A nuclear bomb on New York would kill millions. Not that Russia would lob one at us. Thankfully that horror is behind us (though not in Romney's "back to the future" take on things). The real deal is to keep nuclear weapons or materials from getting into the wrong hands or proliferating. The Russians are bright about this point. We CAN work together with them on it. We can and we must.

Another of Romney's foreign policy advisers was on the radio chastizing Obama for having withdrawn our nuclear defense stuff from "Poland and Czechoslovakia". Where does Romney find these guys? There hasn't been a Czechoslvakia since the early 1990s. (That nation split in two.)

It's hard to decide whether the bulk of Romney's campaign is built on willful ignorance or on deliberate lies or on dangerous nostalgia.

As for refighting the Cold War as he and his advisers seem to want to do, let's give him instead a hot war, a real fight for the election!  He wants war? Let's beat the hell out of him in November and then celebrate by watching the great movie "The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!" It's the wildly wonderful depiction of Cold War hysteria that got a standing ovation in Moscow and is beloved in the USA by anybody who has ever seen it.

Then hug the nearest Russian, grab some beers and take turns singing "Yankee Doodle" and "Polyushka Pole".

Like the young Russian submariner says in the film, "I don't want to hate anybody!"

Except Retro Romney! Because his ignorance, lies and backward-turning scare me. And they should scare YOU too!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

GOP Has the Money But We've Got the Feet!

The great secret of American elections is that YOU can beat the GOP's millions of dollars!

I've said it before in postings, but I'll say it again. And this time I've got studies and Nate Silver (numbers expert of the NY Times) to back me up. When I wrote about this before, I was relying on my own observations and calculations from 25 years of running political campaigns.

So learn this, don't forget it, and  -  above all  -  GET YOUR WALKING SHOES READY! The big secret is: The precinct worker can beat the GOP super pac millions.

Corporations may be "people" in Romney's view, but corporations can't walk precincts. And their millions spent on TVads, mailings, and robocalls are no match for the precinct worker.

According to a U of Denver study of the 2008 election, the Democratic precinct workers flipped three states from GOP red to Obama blue! That's real power, kiddo! To flip GOP red anything is an incredible achievement! These weren't close states; they were RED!

In addition, Nate Silver's study, done right after the 2008 election, shows that every 10 contacts an Obama volunteer made with voters gave Obama another 3 votes. That is a superb return on effort! Compare that with the success rate on campaign mailings: A "successful" mailing is one that gets a 5% result. By contrast Obama volunteers got a 30% result!

Therefore, if you walk a precinct for Obama, you will have effectively voted 30 times! Hell, that even beats the ballot-box stuffing of the bad old days in Chicago, home of the motto: "Vote Early and Often". Or the crap the GOP may try to pull this year in vote suppression and counting.

This is not really new news. We old campaigners have always known this about precinct work. But beginning in about 1984, political paid professionals took over election campaigns. They get paid for spending money, e.g. a salary plus a 10 or 15% commission on the paid advertising budget. That's quite an incentive to emphasize TV and downplay the ground game. Additionally, a lot of those paid pros confessed to me that they HATED dealing with volunteers and thus hated dealing with precinct operations. So precinct walkers began to disappear. Buttons disappeared. Bumper stickers disappeared. Local headquarters run by local people also disappeared. Grassroots politics gave way to the artificial turf of heavy-spending pros running incredibly expensive campaigns. Needless to say, the vested interests had no trouble persuading candidates to meet these newly-soaring expenses by swapping influence for big donations.

Everybody complains about corruption of our election system. But the same everybody -  or a reasonable number of them  -  can "take the money out of politics" or significantly reduce it. It's simple, folks:  precinct operations cost NEXT TO NOTHING! Take the money out of politics by putting your feet in it!

So win this one for Obama by walking a precinct. Win one for American democracy by overcoming the money monopoly on campaigns.


And may I ask you to win this one at least in tiny part for me? I'll be 76 in a couple of months and may never see another presidential campaign. I've given lots of my life to Democratic politics, right up to when the big-time paid pros stomped on our grassroots politics. In 1984 I ran the last and only locally operated, on-the-cheap Democratic grassroots campaign headquarters in all of California. The paid pros and the fat-cat fund raisers fought me tooth and nail, including abusive and threatening midnight phone calls. They even tried to get the police to shut down our headquarters. But we fought on and did our job and won our large county for the Democrats when all around us other counties went for the GOP.

With Obama in 2008, I saw the grass grow anew in grassroots politics. That's part of why I really love this man. Grassroots politics is COMMUNITY! It's good for the people. It's good for America!

Don't let me die without knowing that grassroots political  campaigning is really back, that 2008 wasn't just a one-time thing. For unless you walk for Obama, I'm coming back from the grave to kick your lazy butt and break your knees!

So let me R.I.P. And earn yourself a good night's sleep post-election, free of an old lady's ghost and free of your own guilty conscience.

P.S. There will be a future posting on how to open and run a campaign operation for Obama and/or other Democratic candidates in case there are no headquarters in your area. You'll have the time of your life!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ann Romney "At Home" with $20 Million a Year

It doesn't matter whether Ann Romney stayed at home to raise her five sons. Nobody cares.

What matters is that she stayed at home to be a full-time mom with millions of dollars of annual income.  Maybe when her sons were young the family income was lots less than the $20 million annually of recent years. Maybe it was only 10%, only $2 million a year.

That's still an awful lot of money.

I raised five sons and a daughter. Sometimes I was a full-time stay-at-home mom; sometimes I was a  married working mom; and sometimes I was a single parent working mom. In any of these situations I sure would have been glad to have millions of dollars in annual income.

Think how different being a mom is when you've got bushels of money! You can hire household help  - lots of it. Someone else can cook, clean up the kitchen, do the laundry, fold the clothes, do the marketing, pick up the kids, wash the dog (when he's not on the roof of the car). Someone else can go to the dry cleaners, sweep the porch, call the plumber, make the beds, pick up after the kids, pick up after the kids, pick up after the kids. Someone else can bake the birthday cakes, wrap the presents, address the holiday cards, take your various Cadillacs to be serviced, schedule the pediatrician appointments and  the dentist appointments and the barber shop appointments. Someone else can take the kids to get shoes and school clothes. Someone else can make sure teeth are brushed and ears are clean.

You get the picture.

Most of all, you don't have to worry about money. You don't have to think about it at all. There's no budgeting issues, no waiting for the next paycheck to get the kids those shoes. No dismay as the kids' dental bills pile up on your credit card or winter heating oil doubles in cost. There's no stricken sense of calamity approaching when one of your Cadillacs starts making a funny noise. There's no sorrow to endure because you have to tell a kid he can't go on a school field trip because of the expense. Or can't play on the soccer team because you can't afford the equipment.

There's no agony about wanting to sit next to a sick child in a hospital but not having the money to hire a sitter for the kids at home.

Money doesn't buy happiness but it sure can provide you a cushion against the anti-happy aspects of most people's lives.

What money buys is insulation.

Ann Romney has indeed been insulated. There is no way, with millions a year in income, that she can have the slightest idea of any normal mom's life. She knows nothing of being a stay at home mom except the percs: no nasty boss, no juggling work and home, no terror of leaving infants all day with sitters, no raggedy loss of sleep because of days that start at 5 a.m. and end near midnight.

She got the perks of staying home and paid little of the price. With her millions she could avoid all the mess and work of baking cakes and just enjoy the birthday boy blowing out the candles. She never had to suffer the loss of income of a stay at home mom. Nor did she have to endure (let's face it) the boredom and loneliness of being home alone all day with small people who are less than stellar conversationalists. If the home drill got a bit tedious, she could boogie on down to her "girls club" for companionship or jump a plane for a week of fun somewhere.

Hers was not the stay at home life of 99.9% of those moms who do stay at home. If ahe chose to do some of the scut work of mommying, she could so choose. But, unlike the rest of us, she had a CHOICE. We had no choice about who cleaned up the vomit when a kid was stricken with flu at 3 a.m.

Mitt Romney boasts that he relies on his wife for information about women and their concerns. If this be true, he's a very stupid businessman. What chief executive would use a consultant who knows NOTHING about the topic, i.e. nothing about the lives of women other than the lives of very rich women?

Because Romney and his missus are so insulated by their vast income, they don't even know that they don't know! This accounts for his "tone deaf" remarks that underscore his wealth, like relating to NASCAR on the basis of being chums with owners of NASCAR teams. Romney isn't just "tone deaf". He's deaf, blind, and so wrapped in wealth he might as well be from Mars. And if he's from Mars, Ann is from Venus, an even further planet. Neither has a clue about lives of people outside a $20 million a year bubble.

This is probably what that clumsy nobody, Hilary Rosen, meant to say. Let's hope so. But it's hard to give the benefit of the doubt to a woman who so ineptly creates a distraction just when Obama had accrued a 20% advantage with women voters. In its thirst for controversy, the media bent over backward NOT to tell the public that Hilary Rosen has absolutely no role in the White House and none in the Obama campaign. Her sole role is getting herself on TV. Given the politically stupid nature of her attack on Ann Romney, it's pretty obvious why no one at the White House or the election campaign gave her a job. With a Democratic friend like Hilary Rosen, who needs an enemy?

Better yet, to paraphrase that famous political film, "Bambi":  "If you can't say something well, don't say anything at all."

Will Rosen's remark change any votes? No. And that points out another instance of how out of touch with women Romney, his missus and his fellow GOPers are. They think we women are a bunch of dumb bunnies who will abandon a candidate who is solidly on our side because some woman we never heard of said something about Romney's wife.

WE WOMEN ARE NOT STUPID (except for Hilary Rosen).

We do not think as we are told to think. We older ones had a lifetime of men telling us what to think and what to do. "We have been down on the floor!" The younger among us can't even imagine such goings on and certainly want nothing to do with such a program. SO SHUT UP, ROMNEY, AND YOU GUYS AT THE AUGUSTA GOLF COURSE!

And shut your wives up too, the last women in America who do what their husbands tell them to do. We don't want mouthpiece Ann Romney telling us about the hard work of being a stay at home mom when she did not have to do one lick of the work of being a stay at home mom.

So just shut up, Ann Romney, and go to your roots-bleaching appointment like a good girl and leave us real women alone.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

"And His Word Has Been Golden"

"He has not made treaties with us, but he gave us his word. And his word has been golden."

That is the voice of James Allan, chair of the Coeur d'Alene tribe of Native Americans. He is talking about President Obama.

Obama keeps his promises. Of course he can't when the GOP block him, but that is not his fault, a truth that many liberals seem unable to grasp.

No group in our society is more able to evaluate the promise-keeping of a president, or anyone else for that matter, than the Native Americans. They have centuries of being the victims of the lies, false promises, and disregarded treaties perpetuated by the "white man".  Maybe it took a "black man" to finally do the right thing.

The promise Chairman Allan is talking about is huge.

At issue has been the disgusting, virtually criminal abuse by the federal government of its fiduciary duty to the Native Americans vis-s-vis the natural resources on their lands, chiefly gas and oil. Theoretically the feds were supposed to protect the interests of the Native Americans when the fed licensed these resources to big corporations. The feds were also supposed to ensure that the Native American tribes received the royalties they were entitled to by federal law. For most of a century, the feds sold out the Native Americans with corrupt corporate agreements and failed to collect or properly administer the revenues to which the tribes were entitled. It was a shocking abuse of federal power that I first heard of in the mid-1970s in California when working as an assistant to the Secretary of Resources in the first Gov. Jerry Brown administration. Unfortunately there was nothing the State of California could do about the matter.

What made the feds' crime particularly heinous was the terrible need that the tribes had for that money. And still do. Name a statistic that describes misery, and the Native Americans rank the highest. Poverty, unemployment, lack of education, lack of medical care,  infant mortality, suicide, short life expectancy, serious illness. Behind the statistics is one image we should all carry in our conscience: elderly Native Americans freezing to death in lonely little hovels on vast and empty land.

But not quite empty. Oil rigs pump in desolate reservations. Oil and gas pipelines crisscross the semi-barren reservation landscape. But none of the wealth from this oil and gas has flowed to the people who OWN the oil and gas. They couldn't even get fuel for their own hogans and trailer-homes.

Then in 2008 Barack Obama promised the Native Americans he would correct this injustice. And he has. It was announced this week that the feds will distribute $1 billion now to one group of tribes, with another $3.4 billion already in the pipeline for a second group of tribes. (That's a hell of a better pipeline than the ones now crossing the reservations!) Beyond these two steps of redress are others still in the works.

Of course, if Obama is not re-elected, the Native Americans will lose out on getting any further justice regarding their resources. You can't seriously imagine that a Romney regime would do the right thing on this issue. Do something contra to the greedy-grab of big U.S. corporations? No way!  

Since its beginnings in the 1970s, great progress has been made in correcting the horrific injustices inflicted by white society on Native Americans. I am deeply glad to have given nearly ten years of my life to the that effort. (Ironically, I got far more from the Native Americans than I gave, but that's another story.) Yet there have remained two outrageous injustices on which there has been no progress at all. One was the oil and gas mess, and the other was the so-called "land claims settlement" of 1953 in which the U.S. government offered recompense of pennies on the acre for all the land taken by the U.S. from the California tribes in the prior century. Most of the California Native Americans, desperately poor as they were, refused the fed payments and refused to accept that one side can impose a miserly take-it-or-leave it arrangement as a "settlement". Any hope that this second injustice will also be corrected depends on who sits in the White House, as do all other decisions by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Not all hearts are buried at Wounded Knee.

President Obama has a good heart. A Native American elder once told me to stop feeling apologetic for being white among Native Americans. "Being Indian is not about blood; it's about being of good heart." So our president is not only partly black; he's partly Native American. And that's how it should be. The president should be president of all the people. Especially the most forlorn and vulnerable among us.

The president of the USA should not be the president chiefly on behalf of the big corporations. In a nutshell, that's the essence of the 2012 election. We the People? Or We the Corporations that are supposedly people?

Nor should we who support Obama forget our Native American brothers and sisters. They have done a heroic job these last thirty-five years in asserting their rights. But they still need a president with a good heart. And they need the rest of us to be sure he gets elected. We are all in this together.

This is a life and death election. Don't let another Native American elder die of cold and hunger because you didn't give this election your all. Like our president, be of good heart.

Like our Native American brothers and sisters these past thirty years, fight on! Yes, we can! Yes, we must!



Saturday, April 7, 2012

The REAL Mitt Romney At Last! And He's Evil!

At last we know exactly who the real Mitt Romney is.

At last we see his "core", the essence of his character. And he's definitely NOT the "good man" that George H.W. Bush said he was endorsing in late March.

He's a rotten, irresponsible, cold-blooded liar. And he is cruel. He's even willing to lie when he doesn't have to, when the stakes are small and the harm is great. He's even willing to lie when the lie is stupidly, cringingly transparent and calculated to feed racism and division in America. He's willing to lie when the lie further frightens the ignorant and helpless old people around me.

Indeed, in my seventy-six years, he's the worst man to run for president as a candidate of a major party. No other candidate, Republican or Democratic, has ever revealed such a total lack of character. Not even Nixon when, in the 1968 campaign, he said he had a "secret plan" to end the war in Vietnam. At least maybe there was some subjective truth to what he said; maybe he thought he had a plan or could devise one.

Romney's lie slid past every major mainstream commentator last Monday in Milwaukee when he said, "I think that there is a desire to establish a religion in America known as secularism. And I know that, based upon reports, the Obama administration gave this a lot of thought, a lot of discussion."

Really? Does Romney really believe that the White House staff and the President sit around trying to figure out how to establish secularism as the new religion in America. Not focusing on the Iran situation, or the economy, or gas prices, or what to do if the Supreme Court overturns the health care act, or other things that are actual issues.

They want to start a new religion of non-religion? Why, in heaven's name, (forgive the reference)  would they want to?

It's a silly accusation on the face of it. It poses a conspiracy that has no point to it, no credible benefit for the supposed conspirators. Romney himself can't possibly believe this nonsense.

But it's not a lightweight smear of a lie. It's vicious in its intent and pernicious in its result.

It's guaranteed to feed the racist hatred that already engulfs the approximate 30 to 40% of our fellow Americans who HATE President Obama principally because he is "the other". Most of them believe all of the following:  He's not white. He stole the election by pretending to be born an American. He's pretending to be a Christian but is really a Muslim. He is secretly taking America into European-style socialism. He has a Kenyan Mau-Mau outlook on our western world. He is "apologizing" for America all over the world and thus disgracing us. He was reluctant to have Bin Laden killed. These are the lies the 30-40% truly believe.

I live among the people who believe this crap. In the Pennsylvania mountain valleys of our Northern Appalachia, it is actually Alabama, as once noted by Democratic strategist James Carville. But these Northern Southerners are not bad people. They are, indeed, very good people. But they are ignorant, isolated, poor, and feeling very threatened by a rapidly changing America they do not understand. They "cling to their guns and their Bibles", just as Obama said in 2008. His was a sound and compassionate take on these folk. They are indeed clinging, out of fear, to all that they have left to give them any sense of security. Even their families are being ripped away from them as their young ones flee to higher education and city jobs. Many of my neighbors are alone now, facing old age without any recourse to the extended family life that dominated the region until the past fifteen years.

I bitterly resent Mitt Romney, or any other ruthless huckster, battening on the fears infecting my friends and neighbors. They are good and sweet people, dreadfully lost in a cloud of impenetrable "religious" haze that teaches them that science is a hoax, the mainstream media is the prisoner of "liberals", and that all the problems we must solve as a society are actually but signs of the impending "end-days" and thus should be welcomed. Many in my tiny zip-code community of two hundred actually believe that  Al Quaeda has targeted us and we are about to be placed under shariah law. Not "us" as Americans generally, but "us" as a community of two hundred struggling old people!

To paraphrase the old ad, it ain't nice to pick on poor and frightened old people. Among them is ninety-three-year-old Isabel. She lives alone, managing as best she can though her eyesight is now going. She still grieves her dear husband whom she nursed at home in his final illness although she was then in her eighties. When my husband died six years ago, it was Isabel's crackly old voice that gave me courage. But now Isabel is deeply terrified. She and our other elderly now have more nightmares, among them losing their monthly Social Security. It's all they've got. That and their religion, both of which the GOP says they will lose.

Thanks a lot, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and all you other deficit-distorting hawks! My poor neighbors and friends believe that Social Security is running out of funds RIGHT NOW. They think they face imminent starvation. They who have fed everyone they ever came across who was in need, who raise funds for disaster victims with community suppers of over-salted corn soup and the world's worst "ham pot pie", which is very little ham and mostly lumps of dough that never digest.

Now Romney compounds the fear factor that drives the far right. He adds yet another burden to the aching fear the uneducated and confused already carry. He tells them that Obama has a conspiracy to take away their religion. In their ignorance they believe that a president can do this. Their religion is their last comfort in a comfortless world where they can no longer afford to even heat their homes above 50 degrees and where they might not get next month's precious Social Security check.

Romney told this lie about secularism and the White House when he didn't have to. By Monday, April 2 in Milwaukee, he had sewn up the Wisconsin primary and by every calculation he had the GOP nomination in the bag. He didn't need to lie that day to get more far right support. And he knew it.

What he doesn't know and doesn't care about is people. Like poor little ninety-three-year-old Isabel. He's willing to lie in order to further terrify people whose vote he's already got. That's just vile cruelty.

No. Romney is not the "good man" that George H.W. Bush said he was endorsing.

He's an evil man.

This evil man must not be president of the United States.

Let's win this one, not just for Obama and for our future, but let's win it for old and fragile Isabel. Let's win it for all the fearful and misguided who oppose us and will not thank us for looking out for them when they are too misguided and exploited to look out for their own best interest. Instead of resenting and demeaning them for their hatred and ignorance, let us be their guardians. Let us be the extended families they have lost. Let us leave no one behind. Can we work hard to win a victory for which they will resent us even more?

Yes, we can. And by all that is good, we must. We must defeat Romney and the GOP.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Two Numbers That Can Doom 2012?

There are two numbers just published that can spell big trouble for the Democrats this election year. By contrast, there is one number that could save us.

Let's take the bad news first. The rate of new jobs fell in March way below the heartening gains in the prior three months, per the figures just released by the Department of Labor. Back in December when the first good job numbers appeared, I warned that they could evaporate quickly. (Sometimes I hate being right!)  The reported 120,000 in new jobs in March was way below the 200,000+  of each of the three prior months. Worse, it was only half what "experts" were predicting. This is very threatening because Obama's re-election and the prospects for the rest of the Democratic candidates rest largely on the PERCEPTION the economy is improving. Just a perception that there's a hiring slow-down can kick the wheels out from under consumer confidence with bad results for goods demand and thus jobs in future months.

The second bad number is the drop in new voter registrations in Florida. Compared to this time in 2008, new registrations have fallen by more than half. This means the Democrats may have ALREADY lost the equivalent of half of the winning margin of votes that Obama had in Florida in 2008. (The margin was only 200,000 out of about 8 million cast.)

As we all recall from 2000, Florida can decide an election, just as Ohio did in 2004 with only a 60,000 margin for George W, much of which can be attributed to Ohio's GOP state government playing nasty games with voters so that there were fewer polling places in heavily Democratic areas. Some poor Democratic souls waited 22 hours in lines to vote in Ohio in 2004. Many more gave up and left.

The one good number in the face of bad numbers, including the millions coming at us in GOP super pac dollars, is that there are millions of US. We are the answer. It will be our diligent campaign efforts and our hard-earned, small contributions that win this election. This time around WE are the hope and the change. If Obama is re-elected, plus we regain a Democratic House and hold the Senate, he can finish putting into place much more of that change we hoped for, so much of which was stymied by the GOP since 2008.

He promised this week to "fight every single day" to win this election and secure our vision of fairness as opposed to the Romney-Ryan-Rush-Limbaugh vision of this country. Unless we help Obama win we are headed into an American Apocalyspe that will be dreadful. The GOP economic blueprint, with its disproven policies, will take us into a Great Crash and Great Depression that will make the 1930s look like a kids' picnic. That's just for starters; the rest of the destruction I leave to your imagination vis-a-vis environmental issues, women's rights, civil rights, income distribution, regulation of food and drugs, and the safety of our air and water.

And there will be war. The GOP has made plain it's just itching for another war. If it's against Iran, it could be a nuclear war. Don't forget that Israel has nuclear weapons.

Nobody is coming to save us or save Obama. The great lesson of his life, and for all of us, is just that. No Big Daddy is coming to smooth our way, his or ours, as did George Romney for Mitt Romney. What we want, we are going to have to get for ourselves, just as Obama earned his own way out of food-stamp-level poverty to the highest office in the world.

If we want this election and a decent future, WE have to go out there and GET IT! Not some hazy Democratic Party, not the fat cat Demos. US!

We are the US in USA! We are the 99%! We are the singers of the songs.

Let it not be the funeral dirge of America that we sing now or in the future. At this season of the year, let's instead borrow from that other celebratory season of Hanukkah the wonderful song of Peter, Paul and Mary: "Don't Let the Light Go Out!", here greatly edited:

"Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years.
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears.

Light one candle for the Maccabee children
With thanks that their light didn't die....

Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand....

We have come this far always believing
That justice would always prevail
This is the burden, this is the promise
This is why we will not fail...."

You can hear Peter, Paul and Mary sing this great anthem on your computer. Do it! We are the people of song and hope.

The GOP and the super rich have no songs. No Peter, Paul and Mary. No Woodie Guthrie. No Pete Seeger. All they have is money. They don't stand a chance against us.

I've learned in my seventy-six years that the people of songs and the dreamers of dreams always win in the long run. Provided they try. Together.

Yes, we can.

Monday, April 2, 2012

You Could Be Trayvon Martin!

It's not only young black males who are threatened by the Stand Your Ground laws, bad as that is. Like seventeen-year-old Traynor Martin, we are ALL newly at risk of being shot by some trigger-happy, gun-toting jerk who will face no repercussions.

In my area of central Pennsylvania a young white man was recently shot and killed when he merely approached the wrong house by mistake. The shooter inside the house suffered no consequences. In this case, he was "Defending His Castle", an ancient doctrine that in recent years has gone from strictly-defined to loosely allowed in many states.

The recently-loosened Pennsylvania law that shielded the shooter is a milder version of the Florida law. Pennsylvania previously required that the castle defense be based on some more overt evidence of intent to enter the dwelling than merely approaching it. That made sense because salesmen of aluminum siding, religious missionaries, and do-gooders raising funds for charities may approach a house in all innocence. They may be a nuisance, but they don't deserve to be shot because someone in the house got nervous.  Under the older law, the common advice of cops to householders genuinely threatened by a burglar or other miscreant was, "Shoot if you're sure. Then drag the body over the doorsill before you call us." There had to be some hard evidence that the dead guy had indeed intended to enter.

Those days are over.

In the increasing number of states with looser self-defense (or castle-defense) laws, we are all at risk. In the wildest extreme, if we go to a neighbor's house to borrow a cup of flour, the neighbor shoots us before we even get to the back door merely because she felt afraid. Or if we stop at a house to ask directions. Or go collecting for the Cancer Society. The risk runs strongest where, as in Florida, the shooter apparently need only assert that he "felt threatened", not just in his own house but ANYWHERE!

Equally bad, the defense apparently kicks in IMMEDIATELY as a practical matter, virtually precluding arrest, prosecution and trial by jury as to whether there were any grounds for fear on the part of the shooter or any evidence SHOWING the shooter was actually afraid. All the shooter needs to do is claim to have been fearful.

In Florida a self-defense killer apparently doesn't have to prove anything in court. Under Florida's apparent application of the law, there won't even be a court case. If there were, the prosecution would have to prove that the killer of Trayvan Martin did not feel afraid of the youngster.

How in the hell do the cops and the prosecution prove THAT? How do you ever prove what's in someone's mind? That's the question asked by the police chief in charge of the Traynor Martin case.

What's been lost in the outcry over the Traynor Martin killing is that the Florida law apparently shifts the burden of evidence in asserting self-defense. At least that is the reading seemingly given the law by the district attorney who, at the outset, refused the police request for prosecution of the shooter. It appears that the DA thought the police simply didn't have enough evidence (or couldn't get it) to meet their newly-imposed burden of proving that the shooter did NOT FEEL frightened enough for his own safety to warrant killing Traynor Martin. And that DA may be right about the Florida statute, that there's no amount of evidence that can meet the police burden.

In the recent "old days", the accused had the burden in most states of showing that "a reasonable man" would have felt sufficiently threatened to warrant killing a perceived attacker. This is, more or less, the "objective test", and was applied by juries: What would a reasonable man have felt and done in the circumstances?

Now the Florida law apparently abandons any "objective" standard and merely focuses on how the shooter SAYS he felt. That's a "subjective" test in the extreme.

And it's virtually unmeetable for police or the judicial system. No matter what evidence the police might have discovered in the Traynor killing through more thorough investigation, it's hard to see how they could have utterly discredited the shooter's claim of how he felt. We CAN'T know what he truly felt subjectively, and he well may have actually felt threatened, though for no good reason. He certainly seems like a guy who is living out some serious hallucinations about being the good guy, the enforcer, in a world of vicious evil-doers who litter, or leave garage doors open, or drive fast on "his" streets. No matter how ego-inflated, misplaced and unreasonable his fear was, all he has to do is claim it.

The police now wear the handcuffs. The judicial system is handcuffed. All of the arguing on television and the Net about what really"happened" is pointless and irrelevant. Seemingly, all that matters is what the killer CLAIMS was in his HEAD. No mere facts can challenge that. Even the fact that he initiated the situation doesn't count. Nor does his pursuing the victim count even though that seems the opposite of "stand your ground". Nor does the police operator telling him, vis-a-vis following the boy, "We don't need you to do that".

All the shooter needs to do is keep moving his moment of fear closer to the actual shooting, and thus he can walk right over everything else. If the local district attorney is correctly interpreting the Florida statute, all that counts is how the shooter felt the moment before he killed. No matter what he felt or did, when he first saw the boy, or began following him, or defied the police instructions to desist. All that matters in Florida, it now appears, is how he felt just before he pulled the trigger. And thus all he has to do is keep moving the goal posts in his version of events. He doesn't even have to be STANDING his ground; he can be lying on it with Traynor under him or over him. All he has to do is say that, at the critical moment, he was afraid for his safety.

And that's exactly what he and his family have been doing over the past week, moving the goal posts to that last critical moment as they amend the shooter's story day by day. It took a while for his attorney to get them on the right track, but it's happened now. The extended, piecemeal version of the shooter's story, emerging over about two weeks, indicates serious coaching on the part of a slow-thinking lawyer or else it indicates a slow-learning client. (A defense attorney may not encourage a client to lie but can certainly "explain the law" to him until the client grasps what kind of story he has to produce.)

Maybe a more senior district attorney in Florida will sort out this mess. Maybe there's a way of reading the Florida statute so that a killer's claim as to how he felt is not the sole factor in whether a case is pursued. Let's hope so for the sake of some sanity in Florida, where such always seems in short supply.

But there are two larger issues beyond this specific case. (A third big issue, that of racism, is being thoroughly discussed by others, as well it should be.) First, how could so many states have suddenly adopted these looser self-defense laws almost simultaneously? Second, how can you keep youself and your teenagers from being killed for absolutely no good reason by a trigger-happy or unreasonably fearful neighbor or by a police officer?

The answer to the first question deserves a posting of its own when I've finished doing some more fact-gathering. The answer to the second is as follows (based on the advice of good police officers and other experts):

1. Never challenge a police officer! All of them are terrified of being shot by YOU. Especially if you are a young male. Keep your hands at your sides. Keep your hands visible at all times. Don't reach for a pocket or even to scratch your head. Don't run away. Be polite. It's "Yes, Officer" and "No, Officer." DO NOT interfere with a cop's actions against even your best friend. All wrongs in that moment can be righted later, but not the cop's shooting and killing you and your friend because you made a wrong move.

2. Increasingly, one has to be as cautious when confronted by private security guards as when confronted by a police officer. Private security guards in many states are now allowed to be armed. (Is there anybody who can't carry a gun these days?) And there's lots of these pseudo-cops who may be as puffed up about the dangers they face and the power they have as was the killer of Traynor Martin.

3. If you live in one of the states that has Florida-type loose laws on self-defense and defense of the castle, don't go door-to-door for any good causes. Don't even go to a neighbor's house to borrow a cup of flour without calling ahead.

4. Try not to get your neighbors angry with you. As things now seem to be, they can stand their ground right up until they have "legally" shot you and, in due course, are standing on the ground where you are being buried.

Sounds like I'm being an hysteric? Well, Traynor Martin's family certainly never anticipated that he could be legally shot down dead because some jerk "felt" threatened. Traynor just went off to the store for candy that rainy evening.

And he never came back.

So watch it! Ye Olde West rides again! It's every gunslinger for himself! And the rest of us had better practice ducking!