Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Kucinich Isn't Controlled by Wall Street's, Insurance's or Weapons' Money$

Dennis Kucinich is the Democrat's Democrat. He's the only candidate who opposed the war in Congress and gave the members of Congress his arguments why it was wrong. He's been proven 100% correct. He's the only candidate who had the foresight and analytical ability to explain the situation and stick to it. (Obama said he opposed the war but after being elected he then voted for every bill funding the war until recently.) He's the only candidate in office who has not been bought by Wall Street and other big business interests. He's the only candidate who has presented an actual bill into Congress for a practical exit strategy out of Iraq -- HR 1234. He's the only candidate who has supported HR 676 medicare for all. He's the only candidate who supports impeachment and has introduced a bill to impeach Cheney. He's the only candidate who voted against the Patriot Act.

After pointing out that neither Clinton, Obama, and Edwards would commit to leaving Iraq before 2013, Kucinich says,
"Think about the Democratic nominee standing next to the Republican nominee for the November 2008 election. What happens if the Democrats choose someone who was for the war, who voted to fund the war, and who has taken positions that, say, of Iran "all options are on the table" -- where's the debate?"

[Since that debate, Edwards has backtracked and now says he wants to pull out all the "combat" troops within 9 to 10 months, but he wants to keep a 5,000 soldier brigade in Iraq to "protect the embassy" and prevent civil war, which is really just an invitation to more troops being brought back in to protect those troops.]

Kucinich is the only candidate in office who has the guts to say that we went to war for "OIL".

Check out this 23 minute interview with Paul Krugman on The Young Turks. At 14:00 Krugman says his answer to the budget problem is health care reform. Then host Cenk Uygur asks, "What kind of health care reform do you envision that would work to fix that problem?" Krugman says, "Ideally, Medicare for all." What is weird is that Krugman doesn't give recognition to HR 676 the Conyers-Kucinich bill that would establish Medicare For All.

And later at the end Uygur asks which president Krugman would pick and Krugman says "Not allowed, Times rules." referring to the policy of the NY Times where he is a columnist. But then he adds, "I'm a progressive. John Edwards has been pushing the progressive cause. All of the other leading Democrats, Hillary has been matching him with a lag." It is a sad commentary that Krugman plays the front runner game and again fails to mention that Kucinich is the progressive who advocates Medicare For All which is the fix that Krugman says is needed as well as the other real progressive issues. This is the problem that Democracy has when the candidate with the plans that people like Krugman actually advocate gets ignored for a candidate like Edwards who has the front runner glamore but doesn't have the actual progressive health care plan that Krugman supports.

Here's Kucinich's appearance at the SEIU Candidates' Healthcare Forum in Las Vegas where Kucinich makes all the same points that Krugman makes about why Medicare For All is the fix for health care reform.

Kucinich says in no uncertain terms that the for-profit insurance companies should be taken out of the health care equation. He says,
Today at this forum, the sub-message is that you can't break the hold that the insurance companies have. Not a single candidate up here has challenged the underlying problem with our health care system. And that is insurance companies are holding our health care system hostage and forcing millions of Americans into poverty with unconscionable premiums, co-pays, and deductibles. [Applause] So I ask you, is it consonant with America's greatness that candidates step away from the one solution that could change it all -- a not for profit health care system is not only possible but HR 676 a bill that I've introduced in a number of Congresses, the Conyers-Kuciinich Bill, actually establishes Medicare For All, a single-payer system and its a not for profit system. It's time we ended this thought that health care is a privilege, it is a basic right. And its time we ended the control that insurance companies have not only over health care, but over our political system.

This is exactly what Krugman as an economist is saying is needed, but while Edwards, Obama, and Clinton continue to play footsie with the insurance companies and to put forward health care plans that attempt to let the insurance companies continue their profits, only Kucinich has put forward a nuts and bolts plan to remove the insurance companies from setting health care costs and availability.

It is time to wake up and be proud of and to support the Democrat who is advocating the real reforms necessary to make this a nation of the people, by the people and for the people, and not a nation for the big business interests who are paying for Obama's, Edwards', and Clinton's campaigns.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Zen of Kucinich's "Strength Through Peace"

A diary by WinSmith (short for Winston Smith the protaganist in Orwell's 1984) in the Dalily Kos blog site had a witty attack on Bush and the Republicans that brings up Zen:
When the President Poops, It Is Not Poop
Mon Oct 29, 2007 at 07:50:46 AM PDT

I've come to the conclusion that the radical republican zealots running this country aren't actually the batshit insane sexually frustrated war mongering incompetents that they appear to be.

They're actually Zen Buddhist Eastern Mystics offering us the most profound Enlightenment we could ever hope to acquire. We just can't see it.
The republicans aren't just the most corrupt, anti-American and disastrous political party to hold power in this country's history. They're also teaching us a valuable lesson in perception:

What we see is not what we see. Poop is not poop.

Reality is simply a construction in our minds. It's whatever we want it to be.

Oh sure, this fact free form of self delusion has gotten hundreds of thousands killed and damaged the entire 200+ year framework of our government.

But it's so mystical, man.
Because so long as we lie to ourselves inside our own minds, so long as we control our own critical thinking to automatically fall into line like intellectual lemmings, we will never again have to worry about anything at all.

Just wait for our cues.

Let the mouthpieces at Fox simply tell you what the new "truth" is, and PRESTO, it is!!

Think about how wonderful and glorious that state of mind will be!!

We can WIN in Iraq even as the country descends into chaos and disaster. We care about a "culture of life" even as millions of American children are denied healthcare.

But none of that will matter. Because if the president says his poop is not poop, then it is not poop.

It is the Zen Republican Mantra of "truth."

And it will set us all free of worries. Free of our money. Free of our environment. Free of a future.

I thought it was cute, but it does present a misunderstanding of Zen that is every bit as false as the falsehoods of the Republicans that are being criticized.

Another blogger, MarkC, wrote in response:

Could you choose a better analogy?

One of the things I like about Zen is that it is not well suited to denying reality in an "Emperor has no clothes" kind of way. Its denial of conventional reality is not selective -- you can't say "When the president takes a poop, it is no longer a poop" unless you're also saying "when anyone takes a poop, it is not a poop."

Most kinds of Zen are asking you to question the things you believe are objective about reality, but not selectively. It is part of a therapy to realize that the things you think you desire like immense wealth are not really desireable. If the Republicans were really such "Eastern Mystics" they would realize that material goods, profit off of no-bid contracts, and bloody oil windfalls would also not be real, just as their poop is not real. And we'd all be better off for it.

I agreed with MarkC and added the following post to clarify the issue of views of reality and why Zen advocates including the absolute view along with the plain but relative truth view of reality.

You are right, Zen is about truth and love.

Okay, I'm going to be serious here and discuss why the Diarist is insulting Zen,even though he means well.

The false charge of mysticism against Zen is based on a misunderstanding about the polarized mental frames that in fact Zen teaches us to avoid.

When Zen says "reality is not reality" it is not just a mystic's nonsense. It is saying "your mental construct of reality should not be mistaken for actual reality." It is not saying "your mental construct of reality should be replaced by my mental construct of reality. Zen points oat the very interesting awareness that comes from recognizing the function of mental constructs.

In Buddhism there are "three views of reality" which are the false view plus the two truths. The first of the three views of reality are the false views based on imagination. This is the view of reality of the "horn on the rabbit" or the "fur on the turtle." We can imagine this as a fact of reality even though it is not real. This is the false view of reality of George Bush when he imagines WMD in Iraq as a fact.

Then there is the view of reality that is based on relative truth of the present. The sky is blue, the water is wet, the day is warm, the night is dark. These truths are grounded in the relative perceptions of the moment. They are the truths of people everywhere and form the basic aspirations of people. They are the basis of all folk wisdom and common sense. It is when we stray from this relative truth of reality into the false imagination of reality that we get into trouble.

The third view of reality is the absolute view of what is called the mystic experience of no-view. This absolute view can be called the experience of complete unification with reality. It is directly seeing the face of God. There are no words to adequately describe this view of reality, and because there are no adequate words, it is sometimes said, "reality is not reality" in order to drive the mind out of its complacent nesting in words and concepts. This giving up of words is necessary, otherwise, only the relative view of reality is accessible, and a person will never know the awesome joy of the unity of reality.

Without the experience of the view of absolute reality (i.e., the non-experience of the no-view) a person has a very difficult time distinguishing between relative truth view of reality and a false mental construction view of reality. When any person does have a grounding of the relative truth view of reality, it is because they have intuitively touched upon the absolute view of reality within their own mind, even if they are not conscious of having done it.

George Lakoff has presented the concept of framing in a way that helps people understand how the false mental constructions operate in arguments. But it is not just enough to provide an alternative frame or mental construction to counter the Republican false views of reality. The alternative view or frame must be grounded in the relative truth view of reality.

Unfortunately, the Democrats have as hard a time with false views of reality as the Republicans do. The Democrats often don't see the false framing by Republicans, or they share it, and so they argue about small differences within the paradigm, rather than about the paradigm itself. This is how Democratic leadership buys into the false views of reality that justify not impeaching the president, that justify continuing the war funding, that justify building a border wall between the USA and Mexico, etc.

For a good example of challenging the false view of reality that the Republicans and Democrats share in foreign policy look at Dennis Kucinich's campaign for "Strength Through Peace." This is a reframing of the paradigm of foreign policy that shifts from the false view of reality to the relative truth view of reality.

The Republican's false view of reality says that war is peace. The relative truth view of reality says peace is peace, war is war, and it is easy to tell the relative differences. The absolute view of reality says at the bottom, peace and war are relative terms that both come out of the unified state of reality so don't think that you are in a position to judge what is going on until you can tell the false view from relative truth within the context of unified truth.

This Zen view of absolute truth of reality expressed in the phrase "judge not, lest you be judged" is often mistaken as an immoral view. In deed it is not so. To help people find the absolute view of reality it is said, "think neither good or evil, what is your original face?" But once you see your original face (i.e., the face of God) then you will live in the relative truth world and know the difference between hot and cold without the confusion of being judgemental. Then you can tell the difference between real peace and war, without falling prey to the false views and propaganda that would have you support "our peace by taking the war to them" whoever that may be.

When we can see that it is a false peace that is achieved by war as an instrument of foreign policy then we can see the relative truth that says a real peace can only come by giving up war as a tool of foreign policy. You can see the relative truth that war is only useful to achieve peace when it is absolutely defensive for self protection, not for protecting the imagined ephemeral and false "US interests" anywhere around the globe. This is the meaning of Kucinich's very Zen-like "Strength Through Peace" campaign, which like the Zen in martial arts, recognizes that the master of a martial art is the one who doesn't have to use it, much less to threaten to use it, unless the other person attacks first.

Send a letter to the President about Iran

Please join me in signing a letter to President Bush opposing a war with Iran. This can be done at StopWarOnIran.org

You can use the letter that they have written or you can write your own letter, or you canduse their letter as an outling and edit it to suit yourself as I have done.

This is a small thing that only takes a little time but records your voice as a voice against the madman in the White House.

Thanks, Gregory

President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Rice, Secretary of Defense Gates, U.N. Secretary-General Ki-moon, Congressional Leaders and media representatives:

You are taking our great nation down the path to war again without the least shred of evidence for your outlandish claims against Iran.

You have seeded the media with false reports of an alleged nuclear threat posed by Iran. You have misled people with your presumed need for the U.S. to take military action. These reports recall your lies about the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" issued before the war on Iraq.

In the lead up to the illegal invasion of Iraq, Mr. President, you and your Administration asserted that Iraq possessed massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and that it was capable of launching an attack - nuclear, chemical and biological - on the U.S. within 45 minutes.
Mr. President, you said that the U.S. had to attack immediately, and could not "wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

You lied to the American people then about Iraq, and you are doing it again about Iran.

Iran is not a threat to any US interests. Iran has not invaded any other country in over 200 years. I wish I could say the same about my country. I wish I could say that my country never overthrew the legitimate government of Iran and installed a "royal" dictator on a throne against every true value of American democracy.

I add my voice to oppose a new war in the Middle East. I urge an immediate end to your campaign of sanctions, hostility, and falsehood against the people of Iran. I oppose any new U.S. aggression against Iran. Iran can be a good partner in the world if we only treat them with respect and honesty. The USA needs funds for human needs, not for endless war against fake enemies.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Open Letter to Dan Siegel, Re: KPFA Election

Open Letter to Dan Siegel,
Interim Executive Director, Pacifica Foundation
Re: KPFA Local Station board Election
October 26, 2007

Dear Mr.Siegel,

This is a reply to your "Open Letter to the Pacifica Community" dated October 24, 2007. (Attached below.)

Frankly by criticizing campaign statements and removing them form the website, I'm truly amazed that you would take a position so diametrically opposed to the First Amendment. As the Interim Executive Director of Pacifica Foundation with the grandest tradition of free speech in the United States, your anti-free speech attitude is shameful and demeaning to the Pacifica community and a stain on the Pacifica tradition.

You ask, "Is this type of rhetoric acceptable?" but you don't give even a single example of the rhetoric you are condemning. Thus you are not engaging in debate. You are attempting to stifle debate by presenting your opinion alone.

But more importantly is your attack on "rhetoric" itself! Your question -- "Is this type of rhetoric acceptable?" -- is the same question used to attack Pacifica for its broadcast of George Carlin's now famous and precedent setting rhetoric. When I read your attack on free speech I laughed wondering what would George Carlin say? I think he would say that you are acting just like the owners of America who believe they can define what rhetoric is or is not acceptable.

You confabulate the KPFA candidate statements with a WBAI candidate statement. For what purpose? There is no connection, and your including the two together in that way can only cause confusion in the Pacifica community.

You allege that the KPFA candidate statements "contain little more than personal attacks on their opponents." By offering your personal conclusion and by not offering a single example, you are unduly attempting to influence the election. The Pacifica Foundation's Fair Campaign Provisions provide:


No Foundation or radio station management or staff (paid or unpaid) may use or permit the use of radio station air time to endorse, campaign or recommend in favor of or against any candidate(s) for election as a Listener-Sponsor Delegate, nor may air time be made available to some Listener-Sponsor Delegate candidate(s) but not to others. All candidates for election as a Listener-Sponsor Delegate shall be given equal opportunity for equal air time, which air time shall include time for a statement by the candidate and a question and answer period with call-in listeners. No Foundation or radio station management or staff (paid or unpaid) may give any on-air endorsements to any candidate(s) for Listener-Sponsor Delegate. The Board of Directors may not, nor may any LSB nor any committee of the Board or of an LSB, as a body, endorse any candidate(s) for election as a Delegate. However, an individual Director or Delegate who is a Member in good standing may endorse or nominate candidate(s) in his/her individual capacity. In the event of any violation of these provisions for fair campaigning, the local elections supervisor and the national elections supervisor shall determine, in good faith and at their sole discretion, an appropriate remedy, up to and including disqualification of the candidate(s) and/or suspension from the air of the offending staff person(s) (paid or unpaid) for the remainder of the elections period. All candidates and staff members (paid and unpaid) shall sign a statement certifying that they have read and understood these fair campaign provisions." (Article 4, Section 6)

While, this provision specifically applies to "air time", the clear intent is that Foundation management is not to make use of radio station facilities to endorse in favor or against candidates. Your actions on the KPFA website and your letter do constitute endorsement against candidates in violation of the bylaws.

California law requires that a corporation provide fair and reasonable election procedures. It is not fair and reasonable to promise to allow website distribution of candidate statements and then revoke that promise at one station for arbitrary and capricious reasons while allowing the members at other stations to continue to have access to website candidate statements.

Now, you allege that campaigning against opponents by pointing out the opponents words and deeds is a "personal attack." This Orwellian definition of personal attack is simply a Republican tactic at preventing debate. Nothing in the campaign statements that you object to contained personal attack.

Providing information to listeners that they would not be able to get otherwise is not a personal attack. Providing the electors with the text of an email that advocates "dismantling the LSB" is not a personal attack. If anything is a personal attack it is your false characterization of political debate which falsely attacks the character of the candidates.

Criticizing the Interim General Manager, Lemlem Rijio, for not attending LSB meetings is not a personal attack.

Criticizing Sasha Lilly, the Interim Program Director, for telling programmers they couldn't encourage people to attend peace marches is not a personal attack.

Criticizing Sherry Gendleman, an LSB member and candidate for reelection, for being against elected boards and against program council empowerment is not a personal attack.

These are all fair political issues.

As a community and progressive organization that supports free speech we must ask ourselves whether your type of unilateral dictatorial censorship is acceptable. Pacifica has important challengers and it can only meet this challenge if robust political debate is allowed within the organization. You demonstrate the heights of cynicism to claim that stifling debate is good for the organization. You are attacking the civil rights of candidates to their political speech in the name of protecting civil rights in society. What hypocrisy!.

Free speech is established in our nation exactly to prevent petty tyrants from applying their personal definitions. What you label "toxic" debate is actually the first real debate in the new democratic structure of Pacifica. You may call the light of debate "toxic", but in this case it is only toxic to the infection that hides in the dark.

Raising the question of the "morale" of "hard-working and underpaid staff" is an indicator of your misguided views. The morale of the staff is not uniform. There are staff people who oppose the status quo. Their morale is destroyed by current control by the status-quo-conservatives within the organization. Those staff members who are so petulant as to need protecting from open debate among the listeners should either get a thicker skin or leave the organization. Staff have their input into the governing process by their election of their representatives. If the staff oppose the majority of listeners then it is the staff who will have to adapt. The Pacifica staff and programmers have traditionally ignored and demeaned any listeners who disagreed with them. This attitude is what is destructive and does not need to be enshrined by you.

Additionally, your actions are a blatant example of prejudice and favoritism since you are attempting to support and defend particular candidates against political criticism. Your duty was and is to remain neutral and to keep the appearance of impartiality in the election. You have violated this duty.

You claim that "Many people are now calling for administrative and legal responses to abusive candidate speech." Excuse me, there is no such option. First the speech has not been determined to be abusive by any means of due process. Second, there is no administrative or legal response to candidate's speech by the organization. Nothing in the Fair Campaign Provisions discusses any "abusive" speech other than the abuse of endorsements which is what you have abused.

In the process of adopting the Fair Campaign Provisions the question of abusive political debate.was raised and rejected as being against free speech and impossible to define. Your present arbitrary decision proves the wisdom of that choice. You admit that "distinguishing between reasonable criticism and 'personal attacks'" is "problematic" for the courts, yet you unilaterally and arbitrarily assert your own higher ability to do just that.

In fact, to keep nonprofits from even attempting to do what you have done, that is, to arbitrarily decide the organization might be liable for a candidate's statement and use that as justification for censorship, California specifically law protects nonprofits from any liability for candidates statements.

California Corporations Code states:

5525. (a) This section shall apply to corporations publishing or mailing materials on behalf of any nominee in connection with
procedures for the nomination and election of directors.
(b) Neither the corporation, nor its agents, officers, directors, or employees, may be held criminally liable, liable for any negligence (active or passive) or otherwise liable for damages to any person on account of any material which is supplied by a nominee for director and which it mails or publishes in procedures intended to comply with Section 5520 or pursuant to Section 5523 or 5524, but the nominee on whose behalf such material was published or mailed shall be liable and shall indemnify and hold the corporation, its agents, officers, directors and employees and each of them harmless from all demands, costs, including reasonable legal fees and expenses, claims, damages and causes of action arising out of such material or any such mailing or publication.
(c) Nothing in this section shall prevent a corporation or any of its agents, officers, directors, or employees from seeking a court order providing that the corporation need not mail or publish material tendered by or on behalf of a nominee under this article on the ground the material will expose the moving party to liability.

This section plainly protects Pacifica from any liability for any material supplied by a nominee for director. As such it would also apply to nominees for delegates where the publication is in furtherance of complying with Section 5520's fair election procedures requirement. Thus your claim that your action is defending Pacifica from complaints by other candidates is patently false. The law specifically immunizes Pacifica from these types of claims between competing candidates.

If Pacifica has a problem with any campaign materials or thinks that any liability may arise, then Section 5525 provides the remedy: seek a court order. The law says Pacifica and its agents and employees are not liable, but if there is doubt then Pacifica or its agents and employees who believe there may be liability may see a court review. You have subverted the statutory scheme by inserting your own view of potential liability for that of the due process provided by law for a court to determine if liability extends to anyone. This kind of usurpation of law is the definition of tyranny.

If one candidate has a complaint against another candidate for alleged defamation, that is a private action and has nothing to do with Pacifica. You know that political speech is the most protected speech under the First Amendment that there is. Therefore any assertion that Pacifica has a duty or obligation to infringe political speech has no basis in law.

Your actions of broadcasting your management favoritism and preference and your blatant interference in and attempt to influence the election, have now put the legitimacy of the KPFA election into doubt. You have directly exposed the organization to a viable election challenge.

I can only hope the Pacifica Community repudiates your crass attempt to influence the outcome of the election and that the Pacifica Board of Directors directly repudiates your actions so that there will be not doubt that your petty tyranny is not taken at expressing the proud tradition of free speech at Pacifica..

Gregory Wonderwheel
Santa Rosa CA


An Open Letter to the Pacifica Community
From Dan Siegel, Interim Executive Director
October 24, 2007

Dear Friends,

Pacifica's local station board elections have taken a particularly nasty turn. A group of candidates running for the KPFA local board have issued statements that contain little more than personal attacks on their opponents and station staff. A candidate at WBAI engages in blatant race-baiting.

As a community and a progressive organization we must ask ourselves whether this type of rhetoric is acceptable. Pacifica has important challenges. We live in a nation whose leaders wage unjust and unpopular wars around the globe, attack our civil rights and liberties, oppose efforts to achieve racial justice and equality for all people, and pursue policies that widen the gap between rich and poor. The often toxic debate within Pacifica restricts our ability to respond to these issues, saps the morale of our hard-working and underpaid staff, and discourages people of good will from participating in our organization.

Many people are now calling for administrative and legal responses to abusive candidate speech. We are reviewing our options, but libel laws, difficulties in distinguishing between reasonable criticism and "personal attacks" (as well as deciding who should be empowered to make such judgments), and Pacifica's tradition of support for free speech make such measures problematic.

In the end, Pacifica's members will decide whether hate speech and hateful speech will be tolerated in our community. We need leaders who will work to improve our programming, broaden our listener base, and attract needed financial support. I urge all of you to carefully review the candidate statements and to cast your ballots for candidates who reflect both your views on how this organization should be run and your values on how democratic debate should occur in a progressive organization that reflects the diversity of our society.

Dan Siegel
Interim Executive Director
Pacifica Foundation

Sunday, October 21, 2007

KPFA Local Station Board Election

An endorsement letter for the KPFA Local Station Board Election was posted in the Portside "Tidbits" post. This is my response

Moderator at Portside
Re KPFA Election Tidbit of 10/20/07

Since Portside Tidbits has waded into the KPFA election I feel compelled to write a response and to speak for alternate endorsements.

I consider myself to be a friend of Mary and Jon Fromer, having worked closely with Mary Fromer on SEIU related projects when I was a Local 707 union member (steward and vice president) and she a Local 707 staff field agent. However, IMO, she and Jon are backing the wrong horse in their endorsement of the so-called "Concerned Listeners" slate for KPFA. There are at least four "slates" in the elections including the other three: "The I-Team" (I for Independents), "People's Radio", and "KPFA Voices for Justice." Information about all 4 slates can be found at:
http://pacificana.org/kpfa-delegate-election-2007-slates as well as comparative information about what the repeat candidates said in previous elections. The official KPFA election website is at http://lsb.kpfa.org/elections however, it is woefully behind in making the candidate statement information available.

For the nine open listener candidate seats, I'm endorsing the following candidates from three slates: Steve Conley, Joe Wanzala, Chandra Hauptman, Tracy Rosenberg, Gerald Sanders, Bob English, Dave Heller, Sureya Sayadi, and CC Campbell-Rock.

Listeners of KPFA should know that the "Concerned Listeners" slate is the "listener" group that most supports the entrenched staff group that is fighting to maintain the status quo at KPFA. The "Concerned Listeners" are indeed "concerned" that other listeners do not get to exercise any democratic control over KPFA management and station policies. All of the three other slates are independent of the staff controlled agenda.

Unfortunately, the way KPFA station politics works, the KPFA staff use their connections with their progressive guests (see the names on the list of "endorsers") to endorse those "listener" candidates who will not challenge the staff hegemony on the Local Station Board or in governance of KPFA. These endorsers know their friends on the staff and I must conclude, good people that they are, that they are simply acting in self interest to support who their staff friends tell them are worthy candidates. It is a sad day to see these progressive endorsers stoop to become just an example of cronyism on the left. They have now become progressives who are intervening in a listener election in order to not jeopardize their own air time on the station. I'm most embarrassed to see Kevin Danaher's name on the list as I thought he was more savvy than that.

A brief history of the issues: As one of the people intimately involved in the democratic evolution of KPFA and Pacifica from a self-selecting board of directors to a listener and staff elected board of directors I know where of I speak. When I was on the committee that designed the first election for the KPFA Local Board we debated the role of staff in station governance. On the one side people argued that staff should have no role in governance and that the listeners who paid for the station should have all seats on the governing boards as the local station and national director levels. I argued on the other side that staff presence, as designated seats in governance, and that staff ability to elect their own representatives was good for worker democracy as a model as well as essential to getting staff to "buy-in" to the new democratization of the nonprofit corporate structure. The side for staff inclusion won. This debate was subsequently reproduced in the debate over the new Pacifica Corporation bylaws and again the staff-inclusion model won out. Staff now have a guaranteed designated 25% of seats on the local station boards and on the national board of directors.

However, after witnessing what has happened since I argued for this percentage of staff representation I have had strong doubts about it. As a matter of principle for democratic worker involvement in governance, I still support it, but over and over again I have witnessed staff misuse their power to stifle any change from the status quo. Staff have blocked program committees from functioning to provide any evaluation or change in programs.

Staff have prevented any effective management oversight by listener representatives on the local board. They have only been able to do this with the collaboration of the listener representatives of the so-called "Concerned Listeners."

A recent example of how staff operate occurred with a policy motion regarding on-air premiums such as speeches. Frequently the station will air a speech from a well known progressive and then stop the speech before it ends and tell listeners if they want to hear the whole speech they can subscribe and receive the speech as a "premium" for their donation. Listener representatives on the KPFA Local Station Board presented a motion to that would set policy to guarantee that any speech or similar recording broadcast on the air -- but not aired in full -- and offered as a premium to listeners only if they subscribe, would be aired in full at a later date for those listeners who either couldn't afford the subscription amount required or who had already subscribed on other programs and did not want to have to donate for "premiums" in order to hear the whole of every such program used during the fund drives. The so-called "Concerned Listener" slate allied itself with staff to vote down this listener-friendly policy motion.

Thus, though staff have only 25% of seats (staff are not homogenous, but only a small amount of staff are listener-friendly) the staff sycophants of the "Concerned Listener" slate provides the voting support to pretty much rubber stamp the staff supported status quo on most issues.

As a minor note, Conn Hallinan is already on the KPFA Local Station Board as a member of the "Concerned Listeners" slate and now they are attempting to add his brother Matthew to the Local Board. This kind of "progressive" nepotism within the "Concerned Listeners" is just another example of human nature at work on the left. It should not be endorsed. Aren't there other candidates among KPFA's approximately 20,000 voters who could run on their slate without needing to have two brothers on the board? (With a smile I note that I would not take this position if siblings were on competing slates, so that this appearance of nepotism would not be present.)

Specifically, among the current "Concerned Listener's" slate I would council against reelecting incumbent Sherry Gendleman who is among the mostegregious pro-status quo rubber stampers on the Local Board.

I haven't yet decided on my final order of ranking the candidates I endorse and intend to vote for. Voters should know that your vote is ranked and counts most only for those at the top of your list so it is important that you rank your votes in order of most favored first for your vote to be meaningful in the way you intend.

A final note about the election: I am proud to have been in some measure instrumental at KPFA in helping to establish the proportional representation voting method, including IRV (instant runoff voting), for the election of the Pacifica local station boards and their directors. Votes for candidates are ranked according to preference and your first ranked preference will get your whole vote and your following preferences will get a piece of your vote if your top candidate receives an excess of votes needed to get elected, and if your top candidate doesn't receive enough votes to get elected then your whole vote goes to your next ranked candidate. This model provides that representation will be based on percentage of support rather than on 50.1% controlling the entire result. Thus any slate will get the percentage of support that it has in the election. For more information on proportional representation election models see the FairVote website at

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Doha Debates Dazzle

I recommend highly The Doha Debates. This is a debate forum presented by the Qatar Foundation:

Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development is a private, chartered, nonprofit organization, founded in 1995 by His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar. Guided by the principle that a nation's greatest resource is the potential of its people, Qatar Foundation aims to develop that potential through a network of centers devoted to progressive education, research and community welfare.

The Doha Debates are an inspiring expression of the human spirit and the faith that discussion of controversial issues followed by a vote is the best way to decide issues. The debates are conducted in English.

The Doha Debates have a format similar to the traditional `Oxford Union' debate, where discussion centres on a "motion", usually a controversial statement. Two teams argue for and against the motion; the discussion is then thrown open to the audience, directed by the chairman, Tim Sebastian. At the end of the debate, a vote is taken and the chairman announces the result, declaring the motion to have been passed or rejected by "the House".

Among the challenging motions that have been considered are:

"This House believes it is time to talk to Al Qaeda."
"This House believes the pro-Israeli lobby has successfully stifled Western debate about Israel's actions."
"This House believes the face veil is a barrier to integration in the West."
"This House believes only a new dictator can end the violence in Iraq."
"This House believes that the international community must accept Hamas as a political partner."
"This House believes it is time for the Arab League to disband."
"This House believes that oil has been more of a curse than a blessing for the Middle East."
"This House believes that Arab women should have full equality with men."

As you can see, arguing these motions from the heart of the Middle East is quite an inspiring endeavor.

The Doha Debates are an amazing educational forum that works on many levels. First, the debates educate in the process of how to engage in pointed discussion over sensitive questions without resorting to fighting. Second, the Debates provide the informative content of diverse views that are seldom heard together in the same venue. Then the vote taken at the end of the debate is itself an educational tool for teaching the fundamentals of democracy and trusting in the wisdom of "the House" to reach the best conclusion. This is a subtle and profound education.

And as if that were not enough, in addition to the education of the participants, an equally important and profound education is given to the viewers in the West to observe how the diverse audience of "the House," composed of people primarily from the many Arab states, engage wholeheartedly in the debates and their voting conclusions. The Debates make it clear that the participants are not "aliens" or radically different human beings, but are simply people with the same hopes and aspirations of people everywhere. In other words, the Debates provide insight into the views of educated bilingual Arabs and shows that those views are as diverse and reasonable as the views of educated peoples everywhere.

I must admit that of the 20 debates presented in their video formats, when I voted at home I was in the majority of 19 of the debates. So I feel pretty in tune with the audience there. I was in the minority on the motion "This House believes that the Middle East road Map for peace is dead". I won't say why I decided as I did, or whether the motion passed or was rejected, because part of the fun of watching the Debates is to hear and consider them and to vote along with the House.

If you want to learn something about how the people of the Middle East think without the filter of US propaganda in the US media, please watch the Doha Debates.