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Monthly Archives: August 2013

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Labor Day – A Day for Reflection

Labor Day. For much of the world this is a day of reflection to honor the martyrs who stood up to wealthy capitalists in the fight for dignified employment, the eight-hour workday and the five-day work week. It is a day to honor those who sacrificed their lives so that we might be home in time to eat dinner with our families and to have Saturday’s off to watch our children play baseball or soccer. It is a reminder that many of the blessings we take for granted today came at a terrible price.  If we forget how we got these benefits they will slowly erode over time and history will reap itself.

Much of the world celebrates Labor Day not in August, but in May. Have you ever wondered why? Would you be surprised to learn that labor celebrations around the world commemorate events that took place in Chicago in 1816?  Students of history will recognize this as the Haymarket, or May Day Massacre.  Below is one account from the Encyclopedia of Chicago History via Wikipedia.  http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/571.html

Haymarket and May DayLABOR UNREST, 1886 (MAP)

On May 1, 1886, Chicago unionists, reformers, socialists,anarchists, and ordinary workers combined to make the city the center of the national movement for an eight-hour day. Between April 25 and May 4, workers attended scores of meetings and paraded through the streets at least 19 times. On Saturday, May 1, 35,000 workers walked off their jobs. Tens of thousands more, both skilled and unskilled, joined them on May 3 and 4. Crowds traveled from workplace to workplace urging fellow workers to strike. Many now adopted the radical demand of eight hours’ work for ten hours’ pay. Police clashed with strikers at least a dozen times, three with shootings.

At the McCormick reaper plant, a long-simmering strike erupted in violence on May 3, and police fired at strikers, killing at least two. Anarchists called a protest meeting at the West Randolph Street Haymarket, advertising it in inflammatory leaflets, one of which called for “Revenge!”

The crowd gathered on the evening of May 4 on Des Plaines Street, just north of Randolph, was peaceful, and Mayor Carter H. Harrison, who attended, instructedpolice not to disturb the meeting. But when one speaker urged the dwindling crowd to “throttle” the law, 176 officers under Inspector John Bonfield marched to the meeting and ordered it to disperse.

Then someone hurled a bomb at the police, killing one officer instantly. Police drew guns, firing wildly. Sixty officers were injured, and eight died; an undetermined number of the crowd were killed or wounded.

The Haymarket bomb seemed to confirm the worst fears of business leaders and others anxious about the growing labor movement and radical influence in it. Mayor Harrison quickly banned meetings and processions. Police made picketing impossible and suppressed the radical press. Chicago newspapers publicized unsubstantiated police theories of anarchist conspiracies, and they published attacks on the foreign-born and calls for revenge, matching the anarchists in inflammatory language. The violence demoralized strikers, and only a few well-organized strikes continued.
HAYMARKET POSTER, 2002

Police arrested hundreds of people, but never determined the identity of the bomb thrower. Amidst public clamor for revenge, however, eight anarchists, including prominent speakers and writers, were tried for murder. The partisan Judge Joseph E. Gary conducted the trial, and all 12 jurors acknowledged prejudice against the defendants. Lacking credible evidence that the defendants threw the bomb or organized the bomb throwing, prosecutors focused on their writings and speeches. The jury, instructed to adopt a conspiracy theory without legal precedent, convicted all eight. Seven were sentenced to death. The trial is now considered one of the worst miscarriages of justice in American history.

Many Americans were outraged at the verdicts, but legal appeals failed. Two death sentences were commuted, but on November 11, 1887, four defendants were hanged in the Cook County jail; one committed suicide. Hundreds of thousands turned out for the funeral procession of the five dead men. In 1893, Governor John Peter Altgeld granted the three imprisoned defendants absolute pardon, citing the lack of evidence against them and the unfairness of the trial.

Inspired by the American movement for a shorter workday, socialists and unionists around the world began celebrating May 1, or “May Day,” as an international workers’ holiday. In the twentieth century, the Soviet Union and other Communist countries officially adopted it. The Haymarket tragedy is remembered throughout the world in speeches, murals, and monuments. American observance was strongest in the decade before World War I. During the Cold War, many Americans saw May Day as a Communist holiday, and President Eisenhower proclaimed May 1 as “Loyalty Day” in 1955. Interest in Haymarket revived somewhat in the 1980s.

A monument commemorating the “Haymarket martyrs” was erected in Waldheim Cemetery in 1893. In 1889 a statue honoring the dead police was erected in the Haymarket. Toppled by student radicals in 1969 and 1970, it was moved to the Chicago Police Academy.

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DOJ Let’s Halliburton off the Hook for Destroying Gulf Oil Spill Evidence

It seems possible that Halliburton Energy Services didn’t what it’s three-dimensional computer simulations of what when wrong in the Macondo Well blow-out to get into the hands of federal prosecutors. The simulations were destroyed and the DOJ filed criminal charges against Halliburton for this destruction of evidence. Halliburton was subsequently allowed to settle the charges of destroying evidence with the DOJ, pleading to just one count. Sen. John McCain is among those who feel that justice was not being served here. The following excerpt is from E&E News. A link to the full article is found below as is a PDF copy of Sen. McCain’s letter.

Republican questions Halliburton’s Gulf spill settlement

Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter

Published: Thursday, August 1, 2013

http://www.eenews.net/special_reports/gulf_spill/stories/1059985487

Arizona Sen. John McCain today expressed deep concerns about the Department of Justice’s recent settlement with Halliburton Energy Services Inc. over the destruction of evidence following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Republican asked DOJ several questions about how the $200,000 settlement came about and whether it is sufficient given the nature of the allegations. [SNIP]

Halliburton admitted to one count of destroying evidence and agreed to pay the maximum statutory penalty of $200,000. Additionally, Halliburton faces three years of probation and has agreed to cooperate with DOJ’s ongoing investigation into the Gulf of Mexico explosion and spill that killed 11 rig workers.

The settlement stems from three-dimensional computer simulations that Halliburton ran after the blowout on the Macondo well. Engineers were trying to determine whether BP PLC’s decision to use fewer centralizers around the well’s casings than Halliburton had recommended may have caused the blowout. [SNIP]

“Why did DOJ settle this case for such a relatively small fine rather than choose to prosecute Halliburton to the full extent of its culpability in the Deepwater Horizon disaster?” McCain asked.

McCain also raised questions about Halliburton’s decision to contribute $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation separate from the settlement.

Read John McCain’s Letter Here: http://www.eenews.net/assets/2013/08/01/document_pm_01.pdf

NSA Data Collection Can’t Be Made Safe

President Obama said, ” Between all the safeguards and checks that we put in place within the executive branch, and the federal court oversight that takes place on the program, and congressional oversight, people are still concerned as to whether their emails are being read or their phone calls are being listened to.”

ObamaPhone

Wrong premise, Mr. President! I am upset because a government program directs that my emails and phone calls be collected and stored somewhere. Whether the government ever reviews them is beside the point. The whole concept of the NSA’s data collection ideology is unconstitutional. For government to collect private communications is a criminal act, one the United States would have forcefully condemned if this had taken place in the former Soviet Union.

Sending emails or placing calls isn’t like putting out the trash. I willingly release my garbage to the  public streets. Any passerby can grab it, so I have a diminished expectation of privacy. This isn’t true of my personal communications. My neighbors can’t read every email I send.  I do expect that personal communications are not in public view. But even if the government required trash haulers to catalogue and save the contents if my garbage it would be an outrage.

Governments need systems of checks and balances more robust than then the character of those who administer them. The mass collection of domestic communications by or for the NSA already crosses the line, so no safeguards or checks can make it safe or acceptable.

It’s Time for Citizens to Take Control of Our Democracy

alg_turmoil_polls

 

North Carolina doesn’t want you to vote if you live in a college dormitory in that state. They don’t want you to vote if you don’t have a special state identification card. There is a provision in state law that polling places can serve a maximum of 1500 voters, but in Boone, where college students nearly caused the parish to go for Barak Obama, you must now travel out of your way to the one polling place left, which serves over 9,000 voters. With only 45 parking spaces the parking lot will need to fill and empty every 6 or 7 minutes to accommodate everyone.  Of course, accommodating all the voters is the last thing this Republican controlled local voting board has in mind.

Throughout the South and in other conservative stronghold around the country the story is pretty much the same.  Since the United States Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act an ideologically obstinate Republican Party, which is in demographic  decline, is responding to growing pluralism and power sharing by rejecting democratic majority rule in favor of vote manipulation and dirty tricks.  In one voting precinct in Texas, changes to the distribution of voting machines would have predominately African-American polling places handle ten times the number of voters as predominately White polling places.  In every Republican controlled state the voting districts have been redrawn to make it nearly impossible for them to lose their incumbency.  And all these changes are not random developments but elements of a nationwide plot to project conservative power and suppress opposing or alternative social views.

Admitting  that there is a problem with our democratic process is difficult enough. Fixing it will be even harder. Elections are the province of state governments, each with unique constitutions, chapter laws and administrative policies. In a previous post [http://wp.me/p2WIGz-7B ] I reported on the results of a survey I conducted of the constitutional voting rights articulated in every state constitution. The results were disturbing.  Most of the rights we think we have are not supported in the language of most state constitutions and no state constitution has adequately defined voting rights.

Voting is, of course, the cornerstone of democracy.  It is the means by which political power is aggregated and distributed within a democratic society. Each vote is a transfer of power collected by the chosen candidate.  The integrity of the voting process is therefore critical to a democratic society. It is too precious to entrust in partisan hands. The administration of the election process should be pre-partisan, outside of total government control.  It should be directly under citizen control.

Our present system of election relies on election administrators appointed by the party in power.  In most states that means the State Secretary of State. Keeping in mind that most states don’t have constitutionally secure voting rights, the legislatures have significant control over election procedures and the Secretary of States have great leeway over how these laws are implemented. Among the strange consequences this has cause is the turning over of elections to private voting companies. Most or our votes are cast and counted by private companies using electronic machines run on proprietary software. The voting companies are accountable to no one. We citizens didn’t ask for this and there was no discussion about this prior to hiring these private firms to collect and count our votes.  Since these companies have taken over the election process we have had some of the most unusual and controversial elections in modern times.  I have written extensively on this subject in the past (see below).

How should we protect our voting rights? By electing non-partisan, independent citizen boards to run our elections.  All voting policies and procedures should be approved through public referendum developed by these citizen Boards of Election.  Citizens on these boards should have no party affiliations and should not hold any public office.  These citizen boards should be responsible  for everything from drawing congressional districts, maintaining voter registrations preparing ballots, assigning polling places, etc. right down to training poll workers and monitoring elections. Any significant changes in voting policy should have to be put to a public vote.  If private companies are to be hired to count our votes, it is the voters who should decide whether or not to use them.  In my view, there should be nothing involving the franchise that isn’t itself subject to direct citizen approval.

The candidate who collects the most votes wins the consent to govern. In the bargain, the candidate in a representative democracy is expected to represent everyone, even those opposed to him or her.  In exchange, all the people consent to be governed by majority rule even if there candidate didn’t win. Representatives should do what is right for the greatest good even if it isn’t what is popular at the moment or aligned with the interests of those who supported the candidate.  Of course, this is the ideal, not the practice.  But today, the basic bargain that makes a Republic work has broken down. Elected representatives are narrowly pursuing the interests of their political donors and party constituents almost exclusively. The Republican minority in the Senate no longer accepts majority rule, using filibusters to forcing super-majorities on nearly every vote. With this same disregard they are making it harder for citizens who don’t agree with them to vote in public elections. Governments and powerful interests have broken faith with democracy.  It’s time for ordinary citizens to take back control over the democratic voting process.

MY BLOGLIOGROPHY ON VOTING ISSUES

The sorry state of voting rights in America, a 50 state comparison
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/03/sorry-states-of-voting-rights-in.html

How voter ID laws might block you from voting
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/07/seven-ways-voter-id-could-block-you.html

Republicans have a 5% election fraud handicap built into the voting system
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/08/republicans-have-5-election-fraud.html

Many state are unprepared for a fair and free election
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/07/many-states-unprepared-for-fair-and.html

Outsourcing or privatized voting process overseas
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/07/outsourcing-our-privatized-voting.html

Voting rights denied to a record number of “felons”
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/07/voting-rights-denied-for-record-numbers.html

Ireland Scraps Electronic Voting Machines for Good
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/06/ireland-scraps-electronic-voting.html

Secret flawed voting software discovered and exposed
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/06/ireland-scraps-electronic-voting.html

Does voter suppression have a new target in Florida (Latino’s)
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/05/does-voter-suppression-have-new-target.html

To know your Voting Rights you must know your state constitution
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/03/voting-know-your-rights-know-your-state.html

Can a convicted, or formerly convicted felon vote? Lots of confusion
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/04/can-convicted-felon-vote-major.html

Colorado sues for voting privacy, but do we have that right
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/02/colorado-group-sues-for-vote-privacy.html

A private company has the first peek at election results
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/02/company-wprivate-access-to-vote-totals.html

Voter suppression in America to get a hearing at the United Nations
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/03/voter-suppression-in-america-to-get.html

Caucus voting flubs highlight election system flaws
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/02/caucus-voting-flubs-highlight-our.html

South Carolina out sources vote count to Spain
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2012/01/south-carolina-outsources-vote-count-to.html

A voters “Bill of Rights”
http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2011/10/voters-bill-of-rights.html