Friday, January 25, 2008

Letter to Hamas and the Valiant People of Gaza

Is it Time to Take an Alternate Route on the Roadmap to Peace?

January 25, 2008

Dear Gazans,

Peace be upon you.

This letter asks you to consider an alternative route on the road map to independent sovereignty and peace. This alternative road asks the people of Gaza to take independent action toward establishing for yourselves a constitutional democracy as a separate and sovereign nation.

Many people in the United States recognize as I do that you are suffering under an illegal and immoral occupation as few other people in the world have suffered. You have shown the world your valiant spirit of perseverance and determination in the face of the greatest odds arrayed against you. We have been told by people who have visited Palestine that this is a time of even greater moral trials and that no one would find you lacking in moral courage if you were presently dispirited by the seemingly unending abuse that you have had to bear.

Perhaps what those of us who support you worry about the most at a time like this is that the pressures of occupation and oppression that you must bear will find expression in attacks among yourselves. This is the human condition of all imprisoned people who see no way out of their entrapment. The recent events of piercing the southern wall with Egypt was a welcome sign that you still have the courage and determination to breakout of your confinement rather than to destroy yourselves with in fighting. Now is also the time to break out of the mental confinement that prevents you from establishing your sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence.

I believe that now is the time for Hamas to lead the way toward an alternative future that accepts the present realities and at the same time shows the world the pride and resilience of your people. Now is the time for Hamas to lead Gazans to independence. While this might be called a “three-state solution”, such a condition may be only temporary until the West Bank can also assert its independence and reunification talks can begin. But for now, this present day, the time is ripe for you to create your own terms for independence. There is no hope of a “one-state solution” that combines Israel with Gaza and the West Bank. Also, In today’s reality with the USA supporting Israel unconditionally, and with Israel making unjust demands as preconditions to a “two-state solution”, there is no practical hope for an agreement to be reached with Israel. Israel will not agree to any arrangement of a two-state solution in which they do not control the terms. Today the reality is that Israel has successfully divided Gaza and the West Bank politically and co-opted the political conditions of the West Bank.

Therefore the only available alternative route on the road map to peace is for the people of Gaza, led by Hamas, to take your destiny in your own hands and set out on your own on the road to independent sovereignty. Do not wait for anyone to give you permission to do this. Such permission will not come, and indeed will not be deserved just because you ask for it. You must show the entire world by your concrete actions that you are committed to both peace and independence and then the world will respond accordingly.

To achieve both peace and independence means that you must show yourselves determined and capable of creating your own sovereignty based on democratic principles, that the people are sovereign and governed by law not by the rule of individuals or juntas. The rule of law is best demonstrated by the creation and allegiance to a constitution, rather than to a person or party. If Hamas were to demonstrate that it is committed to creating a nation with democratic principles, I believe it would secure the faith and loyalty of the Gazan people for generations.

The commitment and determination for a sovereign nation based on democratic principles must be based on a strict policy and determination for peace. This will be the greatest test of Hamas. It will mean a certain amount of determination to not strike back at Israel when Israel can be guaranteed to attempt to provoke violent response in order to undermine the credibility of Gazan independence. But if on the one hand Gazans led by Hamas can show the world that they are committed to building an indigenous democratic governance and on the other hand that they are determined to do it peacefully, then the world will come to the aid of Gaza when it previously has been reluctant to do so.

What do I mean when I say democracy? It is relatively simple. There are three dimensions to democracy and each dimension has two poles making six primary factors:

The Axis of Sovereignty: 1. The people are sovereign. 2. The people exercise their sovereignty by the rule of law not individuals, cliques, or juntas.

The Axis of Self-Rule: 3. The people govern by majority rule. 4 The majority rule is constitutionally limited by minority rights.

The Axis of Protection Against Tyranny: 5 The governance system has a separation of powers so no one branch or group has all the power. 6. The governance system has checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power within a single branch from becoming tyrannical.

Along these three axes, the dimensions of democracy may be measured and plotted.

By using these six benchmarks, any nation’s system of governance that is created under its own local customs, culture, and conditions can be rightly and truthfully called a democratic nation. Today in the USA we have seen our own government stray from these principles and to that extent our own claim to being a true democracy is jeopardized.

I do not presume to tell the people of Gaza what particulars may be adopted to meet your own sensibilities for democratic self-governance. I have full confidence that you have both the cultural and intellectual conditions necessary for meeting together in good faith to craft a democracy that is suitable for your own needs and self expression. Simply apply your historical conditions and culture toward working to embody these six factors of democracy and you will achieve your purpose.

I will point out that the most delicate aspect of democracy is in the Axis of Rule. Many people believe that democracy is sufficient where the majority rule. That is not the case. The rights of the minority must be protected for many reasons, but chief among them for the very practical reason that everyone will be in the minority at one time or another. Also, some people misunderstand what it means to protect minority rights. Some people believe that by giving the minority the ability have a say in debates alone is sufficient. That too is not the case. It is not good enough that a minority must be allowed to participate in a debate if the minority is then exploited or oppressed after the majority has voted against them. The prevention of exploitation and oppression of minorities is something that must be enshrined with equal power and assurance in the commitment to majority rule. A majority that does not restrain itself from exploiting the minority while it has the power is a majority that has become tyrannical and is abusing its power. That is mob rule, not democracy. But how the minority is to be protected, by what specific appropriate rights and how they are to be enshrined in a constitution, this is for the Gazans to determine, not outsiders.

Additionally, I will point out a common misunderstanding that occurs in the Axis of Protection Against Tyranny. When the government is created having a separation of powers within itself, there is always a primary and fundamental question of the reserved right of the people to their sovereign power. It is not enough to say that the people will create a constitutional government and then the government will rule over the people. The sovereignty of the people must always trump the power of government. The people must be acknowledged to be ruling themselves by means of the government, not that the government is ruling the people. This is the most important and primary separation of powers that is the essential context for democracy even though it may not always be explicitly spelled out in a constitutional document, though it should.

Also, because the people are sovereign, the checks and balances of the system of governance must include the power of the people to have free discussion and access to the information that is necessary for that discussion to be both relevant and fruitful. Failure in this regard, where US corporations control the media, is a primary and fundamental problem with American democracy. All of the European democracies have a better system of information and a freer press than the USA. That is one reason that they are not as imperialistic in their world relations as the parochialism of the USA engenders by the failure of a truly free press in the USA. Gazans, as led by Hamas specifically, must create a trusted environment for free exchange of ideas and dissemination of information for democratic self-rule to be effective. This will be the greatest gift that Hamas could ever provide for the people of Gaza.

So what are the steps that Hamas should take on this alternate route?

FIRST, Hamas, as the elected representatives of the people of Gaza, should immediately declare the sovereignty of the people of Gaza to independent self-rule by issuing a Declaration or Testament of Independence. I suggest that such a statement of independence:

1. - State the necessity for the action to protect the people from the current condition of occupation that violates international law and to seek the aid of free nations for the support of the people of Gaza;
2. - Affirm the right of the people of Gaza to self-rule;
3. - Promise to initiate a process for the creation of a constitution by which the people of Gaza will express their aspirations for democratic self-rule;
4. - Affirm that Hamas accepts and abides by UN Resolution 242 and that as soon as Israel withdraws its armed forces from the occupied territories as referenced in Resolution 242 that the provisional government established by Hamas will recognize the territorial inviolability and political independence of Israel;
5. - Affirm that when the people of the West Bank achieve independence that talks for reunification between Gaza and the West Bank will be held;
6. - Affirm that Hamas and any provisional government will abide by International Humanitarian Law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the rulings of accepted international tribunals on that law and that Hamas expects that the nations of the UN will also abide by such rulings and specifically come to the aid of Gaza and the people of the West Bank in upholding the ruling of the International Court of Justice that Israel's construction of a wall on Palestinian land violates international law;
7. - Ratify the importance of human rights with a statement of commitment to the principles spelled out in the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights;
8. - Ask for the assistance of the UN and individual nations toward establishing an independent nation of Gaza;
9. - And ask that the nations of the world immediately send diplomatic delegations to Gaza in order to begin the process of mutual recognition.

There is no reason to delay this step. It will send a shock wave around the world that will get the attention and respect of nations that have heretofore watched from the side lines. This is the only viable way for the people of Gaza to demonstrate that you deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect equal to that given to Israel. No one can give you independence, you must assert it for yourselves.

In such a manifesto of independence, I caution that it is important to show restraint in declaring the necessity of independence in the context of the aggression shown by Israel. Yes it is important that the violations of international law by Israel be clearly stated, including the failure of Israel to provide protections for occupied peoples, the illegal confiscation of property and resources, and the violations by Israel through its policy of collective punishment, but in outlining these violations it is imperative that in order to develop a credible acceptance of independence that you show restraint in their description and keep to Israel’s actual violations against the people of Gaza and not vainly attempt to list whatever you believe to be the ills or outrages of Israel in its own governance of itself.

SECOND, Hamas should immediately begin to organize and convene a provisional government. Hamas must have and show the world that is has the strength of integrity and purpose to work toward the goal of self-rule by including people of opposition parties in the provisional government. Hamas should regularize its armed forces into a legitimate defense force and into regional or municipal police forces. By the one action of demonstrating that Hamas is willing to give up direct control of its armed militia in favor of government controlled defense and police forces, Hamas will show the world that it truly has the best interests of the people of Gaza at heart. Hamas should have no fear of loss of political power, because the people of Gaza will rejoice in the honor and strength shown by Hamas through its commitment to self-rule.

THIRD: The provisional government should immediately send out diplomatic envoys to receptive nations with a request to help the people of Gaza end the Israeli blockade of Gaza. In addition to guaranteeing the freedom of navigation through international waterways under UN Resolution 242, this should include reference to the Berlin Airlift that ended he Soviet Union’s blockade of Berlin and ask the governments of the world to come to the aid of Gaza now with a similar Sea and Airlift to end the illegal blockade. Egypt should be asked specifically to recognize the independence of Gaza and to allow international relief and trade to travel through Egypt to Gaza. Also, Hamas should announce the beginning of reconstruction necessary to reopen Yaser Arafat International Airport (YAIA) in Gaza and seek specific cooperation and aid from any nation that will supply its expertise for this purpose.

FOURTH: Hamas should set a date as soon as reasonably possible for an election of delegates to a constitutional convention. Hamas should request that the Carter Center and the UN assist in guaranteeing that the election will be fair. Hamas has already demonstrated that it can hold fair elections and so this should not be an obstacle. The election of delegates hopefully will be on a proportional basis of representation so that minority voices will be included. Much will depend on the inclusion of minority party voices in a constitutional assembly for such an assembly to have the force of authority to be accepted by the people. Assure that the end product of the constitutional congress will be put to the people for ratification.

FIFTH: Put the proposed constitution to the people for ratification and pledge to enforce the results.

SIXTH: During the term of the provisional government, affirm the commitment to peace and international non-violence by preventing retaliatory attacks on Israel. There will be no greater force for gathering the assistance of the world to rally in support of the people of Gaza than to show that the Gazan people are committed to working through international tribunals, rather than by tit-for-tat attacks, to achieve justice. For every single act of aggression against the people of Gaza committed by Israel, the Gaza response needs to be taken to the UN and world judicial tribunals as well as to direct appeal to the people of the world. Forbearance in violent retaliation will gain far more for the people of Gaza than any meager result of rocket fire. While Gaza is attempting to reopen Yaser Arafat International Airport, if the Israelis attack it and destroy it, then there must be no retaliation but a determined demonstration to the world that the work will continue peacefully in the redevelopment of the airport. Gaza must be prepared to rebuild the airport as best it can many times over in order to get international investment from Western nations in the project which will be the best guarantee that it will not be destroyed by Israel.

SEVENTH: During the term of the provisional government, show that Hamas is willing to work democratically with local areas and neighborhoods by promoting local assemblies to provide input both to the transitional government and to the process of creating the constitution. By providing a measure of local municipal autonomy in districts, Hamas will demonstrate that it has a true commitment to democratic self-rule.

LASTLY, these steps along this alternative route to peace are within the reach of the people of Gaza without waiting for the agreement of either Israel, the USA, or other nations. A truly sovereign people do not need the approval of other nations to establish their independence. By establishing your independence on your own terms while showing the world that you acknowledge the necessary requirements of democratic principles for any nation that embarks on self-rule, Hamas will gain the respect of people everywhere for itself and for Gaza.

Peace be upon you, the people of Gaza.

Gregory Wonderwheel
Santa Rosa, California, USA

P.S. for Blog: Here is a link to other comment on a "three state solution." Use your favorite search engine (mine is ) to find more.

New York Sun Editorial

Factoids: Gaza is a little larger than the independent island nation of Granada, over twice the size of the independent nation of The Principality of Liechtenstein and over 150 times the size of the independent nation of The Principality of Monaco. If Gaza became an independent nation it would be the 201st largest nation with approximately 32 smaller nations.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Democratic Primaries Are Over, I'm Headed for Greener Pastures

After watching what the Democratic Party has done to Dennis Kucinich, it is abundantly clear that the Democratic Party doesn't care a whit about democracy or the principles of fair play.

Rather than conducting a primary election for delegates in which every candidate has an equal chance to collect delegates going to the convention, the Democratic Party has rigged the game so that candidates who represent a minority view within the party are disenfranchised.

The Democratic Party does this in many ways but the two chief ways are through the manipulation of the voting system using the 15% rule, and the manipulation of the debate system by collaboration with the media-military corporations. Just as the Democrats in congress have sold out the Party over the war and impeachment, the Democratic Party has abdicated its own authority over its own primaries and convention by giving control of our public elections to private corporate interests.

This cannot stand if we are to have a viable democracy. It is not the neo-cons to blame only. Instead the Democratic Party is bringing us a neo-fascism that is sold with the expertise of Madison Ave. By having no principles when it comes to the conduct of the primaries and the debates the Democratic Party has shown its true colors.

There used to be a time when conventions were open and the delegates at the convention picked the Party nominee after a few or many rounds of voting. This was because candidates could get delegates in any amounts and build up a minority pool of delegates. When several candidates get a minority of delegates each then it is much more difficult for one delegate to get a majority. For example, if four candidates have 14% that is 56% and the fifth candidate can only get 44% and not go into the convention with a majority.

Of course over a hundred years ago it used to be that the delegates to the conventions were selected through party machines in the various states and at the convention where the nominees were selected, as Franklin D. Roosevelt said, thorough "a system typified in the public imagination by a little group in a smoke-filled room who made out the party slates." The direct primaries were created and adopted to make the nominating process more democratic, as FDR said "to give the party voters themselves a chance to pick their party candidates."

The primaries used to begin in summer after the June recess of Congress. By creeping competition to be first, they now begin in January and we are all familiar with the most recent controversies over this front loading of primaries with the Michigan and Florida voters now disenfranchised from the primary process through no fault of their own in the wrangling between state and national party bosses, sometimes even party bosses of the opposite party setting the date of the primary.

However, more than front loading, the major threat to giving the party voters themselves the chance to pick their party candidate is the 15% rule that effectively reinserts the party bosses into the direct primary in a sly and ingenious manner. They have done this by manipulation of the debate system and by rigging the voting system.

Manipulating the Debate System:

I have found the blogs and comments discussing the question of Dennis Kucinich's exclusion from the debates to be most informative. Many people who would otherwise call themselves liberals or progressives resort to the most fallacious arguments against fair and democratic debates when it is in the interest of their own candidate getting an advantage. Thus all kinds of arbitrary ideas are put forward about why Kucinich should be kept out of the debates with no regard for measurable objective standards.

For example, people have said that Kucinich should be kept out of the debate because "no one gives a shit" about him, as if that constitutes a rational argument. I have read people arguing that if Kucinich is in the debates then any person who simply registers as a candidate should be in the debates as if it doesn't matter that Kucinich is actually on the ballots of all the states. Cataloguing the logical fallacies would take a separate blog in itself.

But even more pernicious and diabolical to democracy is the acceptance of the idea that private corporate interests, the very interests who are today's party bosses operating in a smoke-free room out of public scrutiny, should be allowed to determine which candidates may fairly participate in the most important public election in the nation. The party bosses have entered into an unholy alliance with their corporate backers and masters to allow the media machines to manipulate the perceptions of the public in a manner that keeps bona fide but minority voices outside the forum of the legitimate debates, thus delegimatizing those critical voices.

As Kucinich pointed out on Democracy Now! yesterday:
AMY GOODMAN: You’re just about to come to the studio, and so we’ll be having you join in the debate you were excluded from last night. But before you do, as you pull up right near the Capitol in Washington, D.C., explain your lawsuit and what happened at the last minute last night as the case made its way through the courts of Las Vegas.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: NBC, GE, maintained—well, they—you know, we were invited and as a result of meeting criteria of being in the top four in a national poll. This was before Bill Richardson dropped out. And when I met the criteria, NBC then announced they had changed the criteria so it would only be the top three that would be invited.

We challenged that as a contract, and attorneys in Nevada won a case before a superior court judge, who said that NBC had an obligation to provide me with a place in the debate, and if they did not, he would stop the debate from happening.

NBC—and when that account was journalized, NBC then immediately contacted the Supreme Court, and a hearing was held. I was told it was an extraordinary hearing of all seven members of the Supreme Court, who—three of whom were in Carson City, Nevada and were teleconferenced in, and they heard a presentation by NBC’s attorneys, who maintained that the debate was essentially a private matter and that no—you know, really little discussion on their part of any public interest came up. They alluded that, alternatively, this was a matter that should have been brought before the FCC, not a contract matter, and then, in the same breath, said that cable networks aren’t [inaudible] to the FCC.

So we’ve—you know, we’re in a conundrum here about what the public’s rights are, because this goes far beyond my humble candidacy. It goes right to the question of democratic governance, whether a broadcast network can choose who the candidates will be based on their narrow concerns, because they’ve contributed—GE, NBC and Raytheon, another one of GE’s property, have all contributed substantially to Democratic candidates who were in the debate. And the fact of the matter is, with GE building nuclear power plants, they have a vested interest in Yucca Mountain in Nevada being kept open; with GE being involved with Raytheon, another defense contractor, they have an interest in war continuing. So NBC ends up being their propaganda arm to be able to advance their economic interests.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, in the court filings, NBC painted itself as the victim. It said, “Mr. Kucinich’s claim is nothing more than an illegitimate private cause of action designed to impose an equal access requirement that entirely undermines the wide journalistic freedoms enjoyed by news organizations under the First Amendment.”

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, the double [inaudible] here is apparent. First of all, they’re, you know, broadcast licensees. NBC operates its network under the FCC Act of 1934, supposedly to function in the public interest, convenience and necessity. They do not do that. And some of the law they were citing related more to newspapers, which have a broad First Amendment protection, and newspapers, of course, are not licensed. You know, broadcast licensees have an altogether different responsibility. But they were claiming that they were shielded from that by a congressional action which exempts cable companies from FCC purview. So, you know, this is one of those things that my attorneys are going to take up with the FCC, certainly, but you haven’t heard the last of legal action on our behalf here with respect to NBC.

I think that what they’re trying to do is stack a presidential election using their broadcast media power, and they’re doing it to further the interests of their own parent corporation, General Electric. And this is something that I am not going to stop challenging, because this is really important to issues of democratic governance, what kind of country we’re going to have, because the corporations are really in a position where they’re using the broadcast media to rig presidential elections by determining who’s viable based on who gets coverage; in the advent of an election, who goes on the news shows and who is getting their contributions from their executives. This is a real serious matter.

AMY GOODMAN: As we break the sound barrier, including Congressmember Dennis Kucinich in the presidential—Democratic presidential debate that took place last night in Las Vegas, we now turn to a question asked by Tim Russert, host of NBC’s Meet the Press.

TIM RUSSERT: The volunteer army, many believe, disproportionate in terms of poor and minority who participate in our armed forces. There’s a federal statute on the books, which says that if a college or university does not provide space for military recruiters or provide a ROTC program for its students, it can lose its federal funding. Will you vigorously enforce that statute?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: Yes, I will. You know, I think that the young men and women who voluntarily join our all-volunteer military are among the best of our country. I want to do everything I can as president to make sure that they get the resources and the help that they deserve. I want a new twenty-first century GI Bill of Rights, so that our young veterans can get the money to go to college and to buy a home and start a business.

And I’ve worked very hard on the Senate Armed Services Committee to, you know, try to make up for some of the negligence that we’ve seen from the Bush administration. You know, Tim, the Bush administration sends mixed messages. They want to recruit and retain these young people to serve our country, and then they have the Pentagon trying to take away the signing bonuses when a soldier gets wounded and ends up in the hospital, something that, you know, I’m working with a Republican senator to try to make sure never can happen again.

So I think we should recognize that national service of all kinds is honorable, and it’s essential to the future of our country. I want to expand civilian national service. But I think that everyone should make available an opportunity for a young man or woman to be in ROTC, to be able to join the military, and I’m going to do everything I can to support the men and women in the military and their families.

TIM RUSSERT: Of the top ten rated schools, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, they do not have ROTC programs on campus. Should they?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: Well, there are ways they can work out fulfilling that obligation. But they should certainly not do anything that either undermines or disrespects the young men and women who wish to pursue a military career.

TIM RUSSERT: Senator Obama, same question. Will you vigorously enforce a statute which says colleges must allow military recruiters on campus and provide ROTC programs?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Yes. One of the striking things, as you travel around the country, you go into rural communities and you see how disproportionately they are carrying the load in this war in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan. And it is not fair.

Now, the volunteer army, I think, is a way for us to maintain excellence. And if we [are deploying our military wisely, then a voluntary army is sufficient, although I would call for an increase in our force structure, particularly around the Army and the Marines, because I think that we’ve got to put an end to people going on three, four, five tours of duty, and the strain on families is enormous. I meet them every day.

But I think that the obligation to serve exists for everybody, and
that’s why I’ve put forward a] national service program that is tied to my tuition credit for students who want to go to college. You get $4,000 every year to help you go to college. In return, you have to engage in some form of national service. Military service has to be an option. We have to have civilian options, as well, not just the Peace Corps, but one of the things that we need desperately are people who are in our foreign service who are speaking foreign languages, can be more effective in a lot of the work that’s going to be required that may not be hand-to-hand combat but is going to be just as critical in ensuring our long-term safety and security.

TIM RUSSERT: This statute’s been on the book for some time, Senator. Will you vigorously enforce the statute to cut off federal funding to a school that does not provide military recruiters and a ROTC program?

JOHN EDWARDS: Yes, I will.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, would you?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Absolutely not. Our society is being militarized. And part of the problem is NBC, which is a partner defense contractor through the ownership of General Electric of both NBC and Raytheon. So NBC is really promoting war here.

The truth of the matter is that we need to make it possible for our young people, if they desire to go in the military, they can go to a recruiter’s office, instead of telling campuses that if you don’t let recruiters on campus, you’re going to lose your money. That, to me, is antithetical to a democratic society.

We should be finding ways for young people to be able to go to college tuition-free, and I have such a proposal that would enable every person, every young person who wants to go to a two- or four-year public college or university go tuition-free, by the government spending money into circulation.

We need to reorient our society. These kind of questions really are intent on continuing the militarization of our society and of telling young people in a very covert—well, actually in a very overt way, “Well, here are your options for a career in the military,” which is an honorable career, of course, but at the same time, in our society, young people are finding not only are they having trouble being able to afford a college education, but once they get that degree, what are their options after that? I mean, our economy has been a mess.

Until the Democratic Party asserts control of its own debates and takes the question of who may be in or out of the debates out of the hands of the corporate media that is dominated and literally owned by the same people who are benefiting from the war contracts and prevention of a fair health care system, among other things, the primary system is broken in such a way that it can not be called democratic.

As I see it, the most logical, fair, and reasonable way to determine who should be in the debates is to be consistent with the purpose of the primaries which is to gather delegates for the convention. This is a two-prong test to determine if a candidate is a bona fide candidate. so that every bona fide candidate will be in the debates. Any candidate who is on the ballots of enough states to theoretically get a significant and substantial number of delegates should be in the debates as long as he or she is an active candidate.

The first prong is not whether the candidate has simply declared as a candidate, but whether the candidate has a national campaign that has gotten the candidate on the ballot in a certain number of states. I would suggest that the number of states should be any combination of states that control between half to two-thirds of the delegates. It doesn't make much difference to me whether the cutoff is 50%, 60% or 67&, but it should be a discrete number that is objective to measure. There is no personality preference involved, no polls or ranking of candidates.

The second prong is a practical question of whether the candidate still has an active campaign. This is most important to keep objective and not subjective. Many, if not most, people who address this question confuse their subjective impression of an active or inactive campaign for objective indicators. I suggest the following as truly objective indicators of an active campaign:
(1) Obviously the candidate has not announced withdrawal.
(2) The candidate is continuing to actively raise money and report to the FEC.
(3) The candidate has visited and personally campaigned in or has an open campaign office in the states in which the candidate is on the ballot.
(4) The candidate has won at least one percent of the vote in one primary on the previous three primary dates. I call this a "three strikes" rule. Failure to hit at least once on three consecutive primary dates and you're out of the debates until you get at least a one percentage hit in a following primary.

These four qualifications would insure that the barrier is low enough to guarantee an open and fair access to the debates not depending on the super-rich status of the candidate's supporters while also keeping the number of participants to a realistically practical number. Having an objective measurement for the cutoff prevents the irrational arguments that are currently being used which amount to nothing more than rationalizations why "my" candidate should be in the debate and "you're" candidate is boring.

Rigging the Voting System by the 15% Solution

By moving to direct party primaries, the voters were able to have direct influence on the conventions. The primaries, not the party bosses, selected the delegates to the convention. The delegates were then only beholding to the candidates they were pledged to, and to the voters who elected them, not to party bosses who appointed or controlled their appointment.

Thus, a candidate who represented a minority view could go from primary to primary collecting a minority of delegates, but still have enough delegates at the convention to have a potential to effect the outcome. In addition to presenting that minority view through the debates, that candidate representing a minority view could represent that view at the convention itself.

However, by changing the rules, the Democratic Party has created s primary system that rigs the process even more in favor of the most well funded candidates who of course are the very candidates who are beholding to the Party bosses and their corporate backers and masters. Now, in order to be awarded delegates in a state primary or caucus a candidate usually must reach a 15% threshold.

That 15% barrier guarantees several results: (1) any candidate who is under 15% can't collect delegates (2) primaries are no longer about collecting delegates for the convention but about public perceptions of "winners" and "losers", (3) the playing field of the primaries is tilted toward the early frontrunner who becomes perceived as a winner well before any significant number of delegates have been distributed.

Since a candidate under 15% may still represent up to 14% of the voters, those voters are disenfranchised by a system that removes them from the process. Whether a candidate represents 2 to 14% should be irrelevant in a representational democracy where that 2 to 14% should be represented as a minority viewpoint within the party. However, but ensuring that a candidate uner 15% doesn't win any delegates at all, there can be no incentive for voters to continue supporting the candidate who gets nothing for their efforts.

If a minority of voters sees that their candidate is receiving his or her fair share of delegates in the process then they can be happy to continue supporting their candidate who they know will take their minority of delegates to the convention to represent them. However, if they get nothing for their efforts, there is no way the minority candidate can continue to solicit the financial support needed from event the minority of constituents who suport them. Thus the party bosses use the 15% rule to get rid of the minority voices within the party as soon as possible, makeing a charage out of the process pretending that the primaries are fair but rigging them so that the minorty gets nothing for their efforts and is instead guaranteed to be left out of the delegate distribution.

We have only to look to the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary to see how the party bosses and their media backers and masters have competely distorted the process. As far as the caucus distribution of delegates was concerned, Iowa was a virtual three-way tie. Obama won 16 delegates, Clinton was a close 2nd with 14 delegates, and Edwards was a close 3rd with 14 delegates.

Imagine the difference in the direction of the primaries if the Iowa vote had been reported as a close 3-way race and virtual tie. Since a candidate needs 2025 delegates to be nominated, the difference of one delegate each in the distribution of the first 45 delegates was statistically insignificant. To be truthful, the media should have reported the Iowa results as a virtual tie with the outcome as statistically insignificant. Instead, we got the mind-blowing hype of an incredible win for Obama, and the reorting that Clinton came in third by the popular vote, when in fact, due to the distribution of the vote by county she actuall came in second in the delegate count.

Consider this when it comes to the reporting of Clinton's "third place finish" in Iowa: Why didn't Al Gore win the presidency when he won the popular vote? Because he lost the electoral college count. It is just the same in Iowa, Clinton came in ahead of Edwards in the delegate count so she should have been reported as teh second place finisher in a squeeker of a race. She should not have been reported as the third place finisher because the popular result of the distribution of Iowan state delegates was not the determining factor of the literal result of the distribution of national convention delegates.

So instead of reporting the results in Iowa in an accurate, fair, and dispassionate manner, i.e., that the results were the statistically insignificant 16-15-14, the media manipulated the results and called Obama the "winner" of an upset and Clinton the 3rd place runner up when she was actually second.

An identical distortion of reality occured in New Hampshire. Clinton was declared the amazing comeback winner, when in fact the New Hampshire results were a literal tie: both Obama and Clinton received 9 delegates. The media should have reported: "New Hampshire a tie". Instead the voters were misled about the results, now in Clinton's favor, by calling Obama a "loser" in New Hampshire, when in fact he came in tied in a dead heat.

All this fundamentallly misinforms the voters about the primary process, drawing the attention of the public to the voting results as if the "winner" of the election "wins" the state's delegates, and drawing attention away from the truth that delegates are distributed generally proportionally, but not counting those under 15%.

After New Hampshire the delegates count by one caucus and one primary was Obama 25, Clinton 24, and Edwards 18. Yet anyone reading or listening to the media would not have known this. They would not have known that Edwards was still a viable candidate. And since then, with this manipulation of the reporting and distortion of the truth, we have seen Edwards' hopes fade from day to day, as the media now concentrates increasingly on Obama and Clinton as a two-way race.

The unfair winnowing of Edwards will be complete as soon as he falls below the 15% barrier because he will then get nothing for his efforts and so his supporters will get nothing for continuing to support him.

Instead of the primary process being one in which candidates can fairly compete for delegates in every state and at the end of the primaries at the convention compare results and see what the distribution of delegates are for the various candidates and their positions, the primary process is one that is rigged to throw out minority candidates early so that only the most corporately well funded candidate can compete.

People call the primaries a horse race, but imagine a horse race in which at every other furlong or turn the horses in the rear are forced out of the race. By the home stretch it is virtually guaranteed that only one candidate is left in the race. Is that democracy? It isn't because in fact primaries should not be a horse race, because in that home stretch there are states where the voters would have liked to have their votes count fairly toward delegates at the convention. This is the reason that the absurd frontloading of primaries becomes necessary and the primaries that used to only occur after June are now beginning in early January.

The Democratic Party is Corrupt

The abject and total failure of the Democratic Party to hold fair debates and instead turning the public debates over to the private interests of private corporations and the rigging of the primaries though the 15% barriar that prevents the fair distribution of delegates according to their actual support means that the Democratic Party is corrupt when it comes to its own democracy.

And what is worse is that the Party denies the problem and denies its reeponsibility for creating the problem. Why? Becasue to adknowledge the problem means to acknowledge that the private corporations control the party lock, stock, and barrel. Any semblance of democracy within the selection of candidates is a complete and fraudlent charade. The party bosses select which candidates they will accept every bit as much as the Supreme Council of Iran slects determines the official candidates, and then the Democratic Party bosses send the candidates out to the primaries where only the super-rich (i.e., the ones whom they support) can survive. Only the Demcratic Party restrictions are more pernicious to democracy than Iran's because it is hidden within the process and denied by the very party bosses who use the restictions and rules to manipulate the process and benefit from that minipulation.

I see no way that the grassroots of the Democratic Party can fix this. I admire Dennis Kucinich greatly for trying to work within the Party to give voice to the people. I truly believe that in fact the positions and voice of Kucinich are the voice of the majority of Democrats in the rank and file. The issue polls show this clearly. When no names are mentioned, the Democratic Party voters agree more with the Kucinich positions than with any other candidate. But the personality polls demonstrate that the issues can be so manipulated by the media and the party bosses and the process so rigged by the rules, that a majority position gets turned into and characterized as a minority viewpoint, and even worse a minority viewpoint that is not allowed to gather delegates fairly.

I see no hope for the Democratic Party. I can't buy the notion that I should vote for a corrupt party doing the bidding of the super-rich transnational corporations just because the exploitation by Democrats is less than the exploitation by Republicans. I can of course completely understand and appreciate why the exploited voters would want to vote for the kinder and gentler master, so I won't begrudge you or any voter personally for staying within the confines of the corporate controlled Democratic Party. But as long as you vote for corporate Democrats like Obama and Clinton, I do ask you to accept responsibility for the continuation of the war, for the lack of a really universal, nonprofit, and fair healthcare system, for the lack of fair elections, for the continuation of the militaristic society, for the US exploitation of Africa, for the US support of the illegal occupation by Isreal of Palestine, etc., etc., etc. The Democrats are as completely responsible for these as the Republicans.

So, until the Democrats decide to give up corruption and decide to play fair to minority perspectives and to have hold fari primaries I will not be voting for any Democrat who doesn't call for or work for real and actual reform within the Party. Since neither Obama nor Clinton nor Edwards is calling for reform within the Party I won't be voting for any of them.

I'll be voting Green in Novemeber.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The New Hampshire Polls Weren't Wrong, the Media Was

ABC's Gary Langer writes in The New Hampshire's Polling Fiasco : "There will be a serious, critical look at the final preelection polls in the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire; that is essential. It is simply unprecedented for so many polls to have been so wrong. We need to know why."

Sadly Mr. Langer's "look" doesn't seem very serious. I'd like to know why the Mainstream Media (MSM) as represented by ABC should be believed? I suggest that any allegation made by the MSM that the polls were wrong is suspect, because it was the MSM that reported on those polls wrongly. The MSM is now trying to cover its misreporting by claiming the polls were wrong. As I see it, the New Hampshire polls weren't wrong. It was just that the MSM didn't know how to read them.

Let's analyze rather than blindly follow the MSM's fictions.

The results of the election were:

Clinton 39%
Obama 37%
Edwards 17%
Richardson 5%
Kucinich 1%
(unassigned 1%)

The Real Clear Politics (RCP) pre-election polling averages had for 01/05/08 to 01/07/08 was:

Obama: 38.3
Clinton: 30.0
Edwards: 18.3
Richardson 5.7
(unassigned 7.7)

First, in the RCP polling average there is only one percentage number (Clinton's) out of four that is outside the expected margin of error. Obama's, Edwards' and Richardson's numbers were within a reasonable margin of error. So how is that, in Langer's words, either "simply unprecedented" or "so wrong"? It's not.

Next, how do the numbers in the RCP poll add up? 38.3+30.0+18.3+5.7= 92.3 leaving 7.7% unassigned going to either "undecided" or Kucinich or other candidates like write-ins.

Compared to the RCP poll averages, the results showed that Kucinich got 1% leaving 6.7% unaccounted for. Those 6.7 added to the poll's 30.0 for Hillary gives 36.7% for Clinton. Then add the 1.3 from Obama and 1.3 from Edwards and the 0.7 from Richardson's (all three amounts were within the margin of error but they went to Clinton) for 3.3 and then subtract the 1% not assigned and you have 30.0+6.7+3.3-1.0=39% which is the actual result for Clinton.

So, according to the averages, the polls weren't wrong at all for Obama and Edwards, it was only that of the 7.7% that was unaccounted for, most of it went to Clinton and none to Obama, Edwards, or Richardson. That is not a big mix up in the polls. It was the MSM reporters who jumped to a conclusion because they didn't know how to read the polls.

If the media had analyzed the polls correctly instead of trying to create flashy fireworks to report, they would not have focused on the number that gave Obama an apparent lead, but on the relatively large number of 6.7%undecideds. Had that large number of 6.7% been correctly reported there would have been speculation about which candidate would get it. Even if people speculated that it would all go to Obama, or be evenly distributed, the only surprise compared to the polling is that this number went all to Clinton.

A poll provides an abstract snapshot using numbers. Each number has a margin of error. Add to each number's margin of error the number of undecided and you have the reasonable range that the numbers of the poll must be considered to have. The MSM seems to have mistaken logic for probability by thinking it was not logical that an amount equal to the undecided would all go to Clinton. But just as a toss of a coin may come up heads seven times in a row, logic actually dictates that all the undecided voters may go to only one candidate.

So the number of undecideds must be added to each candidate's margin of error number to know what the possible swing is that is portrayed by the poll's snapshot. That is the "logic". Now, the probability is more unlikely than likely that the undecideds will all go to one candidate, but before an election that is not a question of logic. Before an election, logic dictates that even improbable but not impossible outcomes must be considered to be within the range of numbers that the poll is reporting.

But under no circumstances if the polling was read correctly, should the media have reported that this 6.7% was a lock for any of the candidates and it should have been reported that the 6.7% was the wild card that meant the election could go any direction. The media should not have reported "the polls predict Obama will win," but only, "this poll shows a likelihood of Obama winning but also it is possible within the margin of error and if the undecideds break for Clinton that Clinton could win." Then it is up to the audience to decide how probable or not the outcome based on the length of time between the poll and the election. By the same token, the polls did show that even if all the undecideds went to Edwards and his margin of error was considered, that he would not win. So on that score too, the polls were not wrong.

But because the MSM wanted a story, it created its own narrative of a big swing to Obama in the polls and totally ignored the 6.7% that was unaccounted for. By ignoring that 6.7% the media created the story instead of reporting it. The MSM should have reported that the polls showed Obama and Clinton in a close race to the finish and that due to the number of undecideds and the margin of error it was still too close to call.

Now, the media and pundits of the MSM are once again creating a story, this time that "the polls were wrong", when in fact it was not the polls that were wrong but only their mistaken interpretation of the polls.

As we have seen, it looks like most of the undecided voters and a few of the voters for each of the other candidates shifted to Clinton. By the way, I am not saying that in fact all the undecided voters went to Clinton. I am saying that any of the undecided voters who went to the other candidates can be accounted for by a shift from those candidates to Clinton that was well within both the general margin of error and the inherent uncertainty of polls due to considerations of the polled support being softer than harder.

Also, we must remember that there is no longer the length of time between Iowa and NH that there used to be. Thus the Iowa "bounce" for Obama was not able to be polled in a stable state. The MSM should have known the bounce was unstable and reported that any bounce toward Obama would, like a pendulum, necessarily have some amount of back swing. The question that the MSM didn't report is whether the polls that had swung so much in Obama's favor from Clinton would swing back any before the election.

The election showed that a completely reasonable number of people who had polled in the bounce for Obama, either came back to their pre-Iowa pro-Clinton feelings or had their soft support switch to Clinton. All this should have been considered in reading and reporting on the polls, but this is too complicated for the MSM which hates complications and must find a single simple story line that is no more complex than a slogan to sell to the masses as the view of reality.

Alternatively some pundits like Tim Russert are creating a story that the polls weren't wrong and instead the Clinton "victory" was stunning. This is just as mistaken and results in saying such absurdities as this.

"NBC's Tim Russert, subdued for most of the night, resumed some of his post-Iowa-caucus exuberance shortly after Clinton's victory speech. 'One of the greatest upsets in American political history. Underscored,' he said on MSNBC. 'This is the political equivalent of Ali-Frazier.'"

No, Mr. Russert, this was not at all an upset, much less "one of the greatest upsets in American political history."

The polls said the race was close because there was an average 8.3% difference with 6.7% unaccounted. Clearly if the 6.7% went to Clinton then the result was statistically too close to call. That is actually what appears to have happened, so it was not a "greatest upset." Again, only by buying the crazy idea that the 6.7% should be ignored can someone like Russert believe that there was an upset or like Langer that the polling was unprecedented.

Lastly, let's look at the MSM fairytale that Clinton won New Hampshire.

In fact, New Hampshire was a tie. The MSM theme that Clinton was way behind was an illusory fraud, so the new theme that she is now a "comeback girl" is also a fraud.

Clinton was virtually tied in the Iowa results since she came in second place and only one delegate (out of 4,049) behind Obama (16 to 15), while Edwards was in third place in Iowa with 14 delegates (not counting superdelegates for any of them which Clinton has many more of). So with 15 delegates meaning she was only one delegate behind Obama's 16 and with a candidate needing 2025 delegates to win the nomination, the Iowa results did not put Clinton at all far behind Obama. One out of 2025 is not the "huge" win or the huge lead that the MSM and the Obama campaign made it out to be. Obama's campaign should never have allowed themselves to be sucked into that fairytale whirlwind.

In primaries, the actual difference in the number of votes doesn't count if the percentage is less than the percentile needed to win a delegate. Thus in New Hampshire, where the vote difference was not enough to award and extra delegate, the result between Clinton and Obama was a practical tie with 9 delegates each. The so-called 2% "stunning victory" in New Hampshire was an illusion since Clinton really needed about a 4.25% lead just to get one more delegate than Obama for a real win.

Since New Hampshire was an actual dead-heat tie for delegates between Obama and Clinton coming off a virtual tie in Iowa, there was no great "fall behind" and no "great upset" win for Clinton. Both angles on the Iowa-New Hampshire story are made up by the MSM and pundits like Russert and analysts like Langer create illusory sizzle out of the plain facts.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

My experience with "white" and "colored" drinking fountains

I was reading a comment in the Daily Kos diaries and someone wrote that there are times that someone had to take a chance to refuse to sit at the back of the bus or to drink from the "whites only" water fountain. That reminded me of my first experience with such fountains.

In 1957 when I was seven years old I went on vacation from California to Louisiana where my mom grew up to visit my Aunt Irma and Uncle Jack and cousins. My mom was from Louisiana and dad was from Kentucky, and they had moved to California after WWII for the opportunities and to get away from the Southern racist society. My mom didn't want her children growing up in that culture. When I went to see her home town at the age of seven I knew nothing of the prejudice of racism.

In Louisiana my grandmother was a dirt poor single mother raising several kids and did sewing and dress making for the African Americans who lived just across the neighborhood's social divide. But at age seven I didn't know this history and my grandmother who was then nearly 80 and also living in California never talked about it.

One day I visited Uncle Jack at the lumber mill where he worked and he took me for a tour around the giant operation to see where the logs were sliced and then turned into boards. The large tractors carrying trees, the giant saw blades six feet across, the incredible noise of the saws, were all very impressive to this young boy.

At one point I got thirsty and looked for a drinking fountain. I saw two water fountains about 20 feet apart. One was the rectangular metal refrigerated cooler type and the other was a dirty white porcelain type not much larger than a salad bowl. The metal cooler fountain was higher and harder to reach. So I naturally went to the porcelain one and took a drink. The water was cool and refreshing.

When I returned to my uncle's side he scolded me and said I was not to drink from that fountain because it was for the "coloreds". I didn't quite know what he was talking about. He said I should drink from the other one and asked me didn't I see the signs? I looked again and sure enough the signs that had not even registered on my consciousness because I had never seen them before were posted above each fountain, "whites only" and "colored". That seemed like the stupidest thing I had ever seen or heard. Of course it made more sense to me to get a drink out of the porcelain fountain because I could reach it on my own. The water was the same water from the same pipes, and I didn't care if it was refrigerated or not. I asked why, but Uncle Jack said that's just the way it is. But I could see by the look on his face that he was dead serious so I didn't talk back or ask any more questions about it.

But from that day on I knew that adults were no longer to be trusted blindly to make sense, and that the reason of my own mind was a higher power and to be trusted more than what any authority figure, even a relative, had to say.