Progressive Calendar 11.30.07
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 08:21:13 -0800 (PST)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    11.30.07

1. Human rights    11.30 11:15am
2. Craft sale/FNVW 11.30 2pm
3. Human rights    11.30 3pm
4. Palestine       11.30 4:30pm
5. Che today       11.30 5pm
6. World AIDS Day  11.30 6:30pm
7. WW Jesus Buy?/f 11.30 7:20pm
8. Gender violence 11.30 7:30pm
9. NOW/rigged vote 11.30 8:30pm
10. Moyers/Israel  11.30 9pm

11. Homeless vets  12.01 10am
12. Screw the king 12.01 10:30am
13. NWN4P-Mtonka   12.01 11am
14. GreenParty StP 12.01 12noon
15. Plymouth vigil 12.01 1pm
16. Tech-share     12.01 1pm
17. Spaghetti/YAWR 12.01 6pm
18. Jarvi/poetry   12.01 8pm

19. Dave Lindorff - US coup planned for Venezuela? News not fit to print
20. Johann Hari   - The plot to rig the 2008 US election
21. Mark Morford  - Black Friday die die die
22. ed            - I hear America bleating   (pastiche poem)

--------1 of 22--------

From: Human Rights Events Update <humanrts [at] umn.edu>
Subject: Human rights 11.30 11:15am

Speaker: Robert T. Coulter
Executive Director
Indian Law Resource Center

Friday, November 30, 2007
11:15 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
Room 30, Law School
Free and open to the public

Robert T. Coulter will give a public presentation as part of the
International Human Rights Law class on Friday, November 30.

A major proponent of indigenous human rights, he was one of the principal
moving forces behind the newly adopted U.N. Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples. He will speak on the drafting of the Declaration and
how it can be used.


--------2 of 22--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Craft sale/FNVW 11.30 2pm

Friday, 11/30 (2 to 9 pm) and Saturday, 12/1 (9 am to 4 pm), craft sale to
benefit Friends for a Nonviolent World, held at Minneapolis Friends
Meetinghouse, 44th & York, South Mpls.  http://www.fnvw.org


--------3 of 22--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Human rights 11.30 3pm

Friday, 11/30, 3 to 5 pm, Yale history prof Jay Winter lectures on "The
Birth of the Human Rights Movement," Ford Room (710), Social Science
Building, 267 - 19th Ave S, U of M West Bank, Mpls.
http://igs.cla.umn.edu/events/


--------4 of 22--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Palestine 11.30 4:30pm

Friday, 11/30, 4:30 to 5:30 pm, vigil to end the occupation of Palestine,
Snelling & Summit Aves, St Paul.  Karen, 651-283-3495.


--------5 of 22--------

From: Minnesota Cuba Committee <mncuba [at] USFAMILY.NET>
Subject: Che today 11.30 5pm

Che Guevara: Are his Ideas Relevant in the World Today?
Friday, November 30, 2007
5-7 pm
La Raza Cultural Center, 2nd Floor
University of Minnesota, Coffman Union
300 Washington Avenue SE, Minneapolis*

Panel Discussion followed by video montage of Che's life
Refreshments will be served
Admission is free

Panelists:
Professor August Nimtz, University of Minnesota, Minnesota Cuba Committee
Ernie Mailhot, Socialist Workers Party
Raudemar Hernandez, lecturer/practitioner of Afro-Cuban culture (invited)

Sponsored by La Raza Student Cultural Center and the Minnesota Cuba Committee
For more information: Caitlin Weis, 651 418-9337
* Parking and directions:
http://www.coffman.umn.edu/about/directions.php?PHPSESSID=d43e867e27a1ebe822fc0a7a8e2df45a


--------6 of 22--------

From: David Strand <mncivil [at] yahoo.com>
Subject: World AIDS Day 11.30 6:30pm

http://www.mnaidsproject.org/worldaids2007.html

A World AIDS Day 2007 Event
Hope for the future, stopping HIV through cutting edge research

On Friday, November 30, The HIV/AIDS Division of the Minnesota Department
of Human Services, The HIV Services Planning Council, Hennepin County
Medical Center Positive Care Clinic, and the Minnesota AIDS Project are
commemorating World AIDS Day 2007 at Intermedia Arts with an event
focusing on hope for the future of people living with HIV through cutting
edge research.

This is an exciting time in the world of HIV treatment as many new potent
HIV medications are on or about to come to market.  These new medications
offer hope especially for those who have exhausted their medication
options along with anyone living with HIV who is on HIV medication
therapy.  Along with these new medications, the evening will focus on
cutting edge research in the areas of gene therapy, vaccine research, and
microbicide development.

Martin Delaney, founder of Project Inform, will be coming from California
to give a presentation on these new medications and cutting edge HIV
treatment research.  Martin is masterful at presenting this material in a
way that is easy to understand whether you're a person living with HIV or
a trained clinician.  Along with Martin, there will be community speakers
talking about the message of hope they are imparting to the HIV community.

The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. with socializing and appetizers by
Chef Todd followed by the presentation beginning at 7:00 p.m.  Whether you
have HIV or care for those who do, this is an amazing opportunity to learn
about some of the most exciting and promising research being conducted in
the fight against HIV.

Overflow parking is available at the Egg and I restaurant adjacent to
Intermedia Arts: 2822 Lyndale Ave. S. Minneapolis.


--------7 of 22--------

From: "Krista Menzel (Merriam Park Neighbors for Peace)" <web [at] mppeace.org>
Subject: WW Jesus Buy?/f 11.30 7:20pm

What Would Jesus Buy?
Opens Friday, November 30, 2007
Landmark Edina Cinema
3911 West 50th Street, Edina
November 30-December 6 - 1:50 | 4:30 | 7:20 | 9:50
After December 6 - Check with theater

Check out our homegrown activists in one of the most fun anti-consumerism
demonstrations to ever hit the Twin Cities!

The charismatic Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel
Choir take us on a cross-country crusade to save Christmas from the
Shopocalypse! Their mission begins on Black Friday, when families bloated
from their Thanksgiving turkeys spend the night freezing in mile-long
lines to trample each other at early bird sales. Reverend Billy is here to
invade the parking lots and temples of commerce, to liberate consumers
from their corporate trances. From preaching at the Mall of America, to
exorcising the demons from Wal-Mart Headquarters­Reverend Billy takes his
gospel to the Promised Land. Changelujah! The Shopocalypse is upon us "Who
will be saved?" Must-see viewing before you head to the mall. Produced by
Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) and directed by Rob VanAlkemade.

Director: Rob VanAlkemade
MPAA Rating: PG           [MOA/Wallmart rating: $#&@!]
Run Time: 1hr 31mins
Release Year: 2007
Country of Origin: USA
Official Web Site:
http://www.wwjbmovie.com/

Edina Theater Showtimes and Tickets:
https://tickets.landmarktheatres.com/Landmark.aspx?TheatreID=266

[How is the Walton family to make even more money every year if you don't
spend spend spend? They are building a pile of gold to the moon, and you
can help. -ed]


--------8 of 22--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Gender violence 11.30 7:30pm

Friday, 11/30, 7:30 to 8:30 pm, Women's Program staff of the Minnesota
Advocates for Human Rights presents a short presentation and discussion on
local and international work related to gender violence, Common Roots Cafe,
2558 Lyndale Ave S, Mpls.  http://www.mnadvocates.org


--------9 of 22--------

From: t r u t h o u t <messenger [at] truthout.org>
Subject: NOW/rigged vote 11.30 8:30pm

NOW | Will the 2008 Elections Be Free and Fair?
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/112907U.shtml

How safe is your right to vote? Former Justice Department official and
voting rights activist David Becker, who worked under both President Bush
and President Clinton, alleges a systematic effort to deny the vote to
hundreds of thousands, even millions of people.


--------10 of 22--------

From: t r u t h o u t <messenger [at] truthout.org>
Subject: Moyers/Israel 11.30 9pm

Bill Moyers Journal | Middle East Peace?
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/112907V.shtml

In the wake of this week's peace summit in Annapolis, Bill Moyers Journal
profiles the politically powerful group Christians United for Israel
(CUFI), whose leader, Pastor John Hagee, wants to bring millions of
Christians together to support Israel.


--------11 of 22--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Homeless vets 12.01 10am

Saturday, 12/1, 10 to 11:30 am, meeting of Homeless Veterans for Peace,
Peacehouse, 510 E Franklin, Mpls.  Bob 612-789-9020.


--------12 of 22--------

From: Leslie Reindl <alteravista [at] earthlink.net>
Subject: Screw the king 12.01 10:30am   [ed head]

Sat. Dec. 1, 10:30-12:30:  Walk Away from the King - Here's How!
Discussion and Reporting
Merriam Park Library, Corner of Marshall and Fairview, Saint Paul
(BYO Coffee)

These meetings spring from the belief that the current economic system is
unsustainable and destructive.  They are intended to begin concrete
in-the-world projects that offer alternatives to this system.  They are
free and open to all.

One goal of the meetings is to gather a critical number of people who are
able and willing to engage in the action research of creating real world
economic and social alternatives.  Here are some steps we might take, to
build the road while walking on it:

    * A cooperative business proposition, with groundwork already in
      place, that will serve as an economic engine (and real-world
      model) for a dynamic scale-appropriate alternative to capitalism,
      grounded in the Commons (report)

    * Research into what other groups are doing, to learn what is
      working, around the U.S. and in other countries. Are there
      models that we can adapt or learn from? Can we connect and cross
      pollinate with groups who share our sense of urgency, and the
      willingness to think, step and live in new ways?

    * Spiritual and cultural reinforcement and support as as we chart
      and begin to explore unknown territory

    * Spreading the idea locally, via the film "What a Way to Go," or
      other venues, learning circles, meetings or gatherings

Come meet with other like-minded people and get started "doing"!

[For others, there's the Rosy Buttsitters, dedicated to developing couch
potatoism into an Olympic sport. (USA! USA!)  For yet others, there's the
Deer-in-the-Headlights Freeze and Stare group, where you stand statue
still on a public corner, eyes glazed over as if watching TV, moaning
softly ooohhhh ooohhhh ooohhhh under your breath. -ed]


--------13 of 22--------

From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at] comcast.net>
Subject: NWN4P-Minnetonka 12.01 11am

NWN4P-Minnetonka demonstration- Every Saturday, 11 AM to noon, at Hwy. 7
and 101.  Park in the Target Greatland lot; meet near the
fountain. We will walk along the public sidewalk. Signs available.


------14 of 22--------

From: Andrew Abruzzese <spreadleft [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: GreenParty StP 12.01 12noon

Our Monthly Membership Meeting for December 2007 is this coming Saturday.
12/01/07
12:00-2:00
Mississippi Market (Selby/Dale)

Agenda:
Treasurer's Report (5 min)
Committee Reports (20 min)
IRV
Action
Communication
Memb/Fin
State CC Rep Report (15 min)

Early 2008 fundraiser, preferences for date/time/location (15 min) We will
discuss information gathered so far regarding date/time/locations for an
early 2008 fundraiser and what remains to be planned.

January elections (5 min) We will discuss plans for GPSP officer elections
in January.  We will discuss the need for ample member turnout at the
January meeting, and the need for candidates for the various offices.

Strategic Plan follow-up session, preferences for date/time/location (10
min) We will discuss a potential strategic planning session follow-up for
early 2008- dates/times/locations

Caucus Night (15 min) Will discuss GPSP plans for 2008 caucus night,
taking stock of GPMN's plans as they stand at this time.

GPSP involvement in local issues and events (15 min) We will hear reports
from members who have attended community meetings, forums, etc on issues
of local concern, such as LRT, Rock-Tenn, 08 Republican Convention, etc.

Announcements

Andrew Abruzzese co-chair, Green Party of Saint Paul 651-917-2846


--------15 of 22--------

From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at] comcast.net>
Subject: NWN4P Plymouth vigil 12.01 1pm

NWN4P Plymouth vigil, every Saturday, 1-2 PM

The "New Hope vigil" has moved to County Rd. 9 (also known as Rockford
Rd. or 42nd Avenue N.) and Vinewood, one block east of 494, for the
winter months. You may park in the lot between Chilis and Bakers Square.
Express your thoughts on your own sign or feel free to use one of ours.
Vinewood is the entrance to Target Greatland and Rainbow. Please join
us; all are welcome.


--------16 of 22--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at] visi.com>
Subject: Tech-share 12.01 1pm

LOCAL OPEN SOURCE GEEKS TO HOST RAPID FIRE TECH-SHARING EVENT
Short Circuits to be held Dec. 1, 1pm at Acadia Café

Open Circuit, a local technology-sharing group, will be hosting their
first event Sat., Dec 1 at 1pm at Acadia Café. The event, entitled Short
Circuits, will consist of a series of 10-15 minute presentations about
using open source technology to better our community.

Open Circuit was established this summer out of the desire for local open
source technology enthusiasts to share knowledge and educate others.
Amanda Luker, a longtime volunteer at Arise! Bookstore in south
Minneapolis, helped found the group out of a desire to find people
struggling with similar issues. "In many activist and nonprofit
organizations, the volunteers or staff managing websites or other
technology pieces are self-taught or overworked -- or both. Having a
network to share information and ask questions is something we desperately
need, and fits with our ideals of 'open source' information."

Internet marketer and citizen journalist Bretton Jones joined Open Circuit
out of a desire to aid local nonprofits and community organizations. These
organizations "can easily boost their messages via community and social
media networks, building bridges to new, young audiences of helpful
volunteers." Jones will be presenting on web video production and
syndication method. Local Flash developer and open source enthusiast
Thomas Saunders views his interaction with computers akin to interaction
with a musical instrument. "You can do some cool things with your own
instrument, but you can't have a symphony without a large group of people
learning, sharing, practicing, and playing together, and that's how I kind
of view this organization."

Anyone is welcome to sign up and present on a project they are working on
(open source is encouraged, but not required). A projector, laptop and PA
will be provided for the presentations. Each presentation will be followed
by a short time for questions or feedback.

A few examples of some presentations are:
1. Building a community wireless mesh network
2. Video blogging
3. Social media utilization
4. Making 3 dimensional panoramas with flash and Papervision3d, an open
source Flash 3d engine
5. Drupal-based site hosting a database of youth media projects
6. Free educational software for teaching the building blocks of
programming
 More information is available at http://tcopencircuit.org/ The cost of
the event is $5.

Open Circuit is a Twin Cities knowledge-sharing network working to
demystify computers and information technology. They foster the free
circulation of technical knowledge to help community organizations
increase their organizing capacity and improve the common good.

If you would like more information about this topic, please call Amanda
Luker at 612-590-3276 or email Open Circuit at
admin [at] lists.tcopencircuit.org.

[If you would like less information, call Tim Pawlenty or George Bush -ed]


--------17 of 22--------

From: "Krista Menzel (Merriam Park Neighbors for Peace)" <web [at] mppeace.org>
Subject: Spaghetti/YAWR 12.01 6pm

Spaghetti Dinner Benefit for Youth Against War and Racism

eat delicious food, support your local anti-war movement!

Saturday, December 1, 2007
6:00-9:00 p.m.
Walker Community United Methodist Church
3104 16th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN

As you probably know, Youth Against War and Racism is building for a
metro-wide student walkout on November 16th. This event will be a great
opportunity for young people around the Twin Cities to protest and get
active against the occupation of Iraq and military recruitment in schools.

However, this event is costing us A LOT of money. We've already printed
thousands of fliers that have been passed out in area high schools, as
well as making buttons, posters and banners to advertise. On top of that,
we have the expenses of putting on the event itself, paying for our
full-time activist Tyrus, as well as the other day-to-day costs of running
our organization.

YAWR doesn't get any big donations from corporations, and we definitely do
not have the money to match the over-inflated budget of the Pentagon. We
rely exclusively on donations from our supporters to keep going. In other
words, we are counting on YOU!

That's why we are organizing a Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser on December
1st. This will be a great way to support the work we do, and eat some
delicious food prepared by youth activists! It will also be a great
opportunity to hear from students involved in the anti-war movement, and
we also plan on providing some entertainment as well.

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to
<mailto:against.war [at] gmail.com>against.war [at] gmail.<mailto:against.war 
[at] gmail.com>com
as soon as possible! Tickets range from $10-$100, and please let us know
how many people you're bringing with you so we can ensure we've got enough
food!

Thanks again for your support, and we'll see you on December 1st!

Youth Against War and Racism
(612) 532-1980
www.yawr.org
www.myspace.com/yawrmn
<mailto:against.war [at] gmail.com>against.war [at] gmail.com


--------18 of 22--------

From: Richard Broderick <richb [at] lakecast.com>
Subject: Jarvi/poetry 12.01 8pm

Saturday, December 1:  Please join Diane Jarvi/Jarvenpa at "Wild Night at
the Black Dog," a reading/performance to celebrate the publication of The
Tender Wild Things, her latest collection of poems, and Wild Gardens, her
new CD from Lupine Records. The event is taking place at 8:00 p.m. at the
Black Dog Cafe, in Lowertown St. Paul, 308 Prince. Admission is free -- call
651/228-9274 if you need directions.

Jarvi/Jarvenpa, whose grandparents were all born in Finland, grew up in
the Twin Cities, but has performed extensively abroad where she is known
as "Minnesota¹s Nightingale."  Her CD¹s are an eclectic blend of original
material, Finnish folk songs, blues, and world music, including songs from
Spain, Provence, Russia, Sweden, France, and elsewhere. She has studied
music in Finland and, besides playing the guitar, is a master of the 5, 8,
10, 15 and 36-string kantele, a folk harp native to Finland. Of her
singing voice, Ron Hubbard of the Pioneer Press has written that it is
"marvelously versatile, alternatively soothing or scintillating, but
always soulful," while poet Thomas R. Smith praises her newest collection
of verse as "wonderful poems, musical to their core" !


--------19 of 22--------

News Not Fit to Print
US Coup Planned for Venezuela?
By DAVE LINDORFF
CounterPunch
November 29, 2007

The New York Times had a news article about Venezuela in Thursday's
edition, but it was about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saying he would
cut diplomatic ties with neighboring Colombia. There wasn't a word about a
memo from a CIA operative in Caracas to CIA Director General Michael
Hayden, uncovered yesterday, outlining a plan for interfering with a
Venezuelan referendum set for Dec. 2, and laying out the steps for
instigating and backing a coup.

The plot, called "Operation Pliers," and laid out in the letter to Hayden
by an undercover operative named Michael Steele, who reportedly works in
the US Embassy as a "regional affairs officer," was intercepted by
Venezuelan intelligence and released publicly on state TV yesterday.

In the Nov. 20-dated letter, Steele refers to an $8 million US-funded
in-country propaganda campaign against Chavez and the referendum, already
being implemented, which is designed to institutionalize many of Chavez's
socialist reforms and to permit him to continue to run for president
beyond his current two-term limit. He proposes trying to stall the
referendum, which pro-Chavez forces are expected to win handily, and
failing that, to then promote a campaign to refuse to accept the results.
Steele further confirms that the agency is working with international news
agencies in an effort to distort reports about the referendum and the
reforms. (CNN had to apologize for a "mistake" which led to the words "Who
killed him?" superimposed over a photo of Chavez broadcast on CNN's
Spanish-language international broadcast in Venezuela. Was this a
deliberate CIA-inspired black-op?)

Among the tactics Steele recommends in his letter are:

* Promoting street demonstrations and violent protests

* Creating a climate of ungovernability

* Provoking a general uprising

* Working through the US military attache at the embassy to coordinate
with ex-military officers and former coup plotters against Chavez.

Even more darkly, the letter calls for initiating "military actions" to
support opposition mobilizations and strategic building occupations,
involving US military bases in neighboring Curacao and Colombia to provide
support, and even taking control of parts of Venezuela in the days after
the referendum, while encouraging a "military rebellion" inside the
Venezuelan National Guard.

The CIA communication has been reported in articles filed by the
Associated Press, but the Times and other major US news organizations have
not mentioned it.

Instead, the Times today ran a column by Roger Cohen, which compares
Chavez to the fascists of 1930s Europe, and which calls for defeat of the
referendum. (Are Cohen and the Times part of the CIA's propaganda
campaign?)

The Cohen column is so rabid that it would be almost comical, were it not
for the fact that there is a real threat of a bloody CIA-inspired coup in
the democratic nation of Venezuela.

In fact, I thought it would be fun and instructive to alter Cohen's hit
piece a bit, substituting the US for Venezuela, and Bush and Cheney for
Chavez, to show its hypocrisy. Here then, a sample of the only lightly
tweaked column:

Shutting Up America's Bush and Cheney

By Roger Cohen (courtesy of editing by Dave Lindorff)

It was a fascist general in 1930s Spain who coined the phrase "Viva la
muerte!" or "Long live death!" Essentially meaningless, the words captured
the cult of soil, blood and savagery that coursed through European
Fascism, in its Francoist and other forms.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney hate Islamo-fascists; they are
central to their repertoire of insults. But they have not hesitated to
deploy the imagery of death to bolster their rightist brand of
petro-authoritarianism, now operating under the ludicrous banner of
"Homeland, Free Markets and Democracy!"

The slogan looks almost quaint in its anachronism. Bush and Cheney would
no doubt claim American Revolutionary, rather than Spanish fascist, roots
for it (Patrick Henry also invoked liberty and finality). The bottom line
is this. America's oil-gilded caudillos are getting serious about
instituting executive rule, much like Franco and Mussolini.

I might add Vladimir Putin to that list. Like the Russian leader, Bush and
Cheney have already used fears of terrorism, a pliant judiciary,
subservient institutions like the Congress, and the galvanizing appeal of
vitriolic anti-Arabism to concoct a 21st-century authoritarianism,
complete with gulags and arrest and indefinite detention without charge.
But even Putin has not contemplated going as far as Bush and Cheney with
their doctrine of pre-emptive war and "regime change" abroad.

Americans will vote next November most likely between two candidates for
president who endorse many of the new powers already claimed by Bush and
Cheney, and the Congress, even under Democratic control, continues to
grant them additional powers, including the power to conduct sweeping
spying on electronic communications without any court order or
demonstration of probable cause, the power to declare martial law anywhere
in the country on the slightest of pretexts, and the power to expropriate
private property of those deemed to be "threatening" the American
occupation in Iraq.

"The measures amount to a constitutional coup," said Teodoro Petkoffetc.

Bush's and Cheney's grab for emperor status is grotesque and dangerous -
as Fascism was - a terrible example for a world that is moving towards
democracy. Venezuela's Chavez got it right when he told the assembled
delegates at the United Nations General Assembly, shortly after President
Bush had left the podium after addressing the same group, that he could
still "smell the sulfur" left in the room by the American president.
--

Of course, we in America only read such things about foreign governments,
not about our own.

Which may explain why despite the constitutional coup that has been
occurring in the US over the last seven years, we have yet to see any
hearing in the Judiciary Committee on the impeachable crimes of Bush and
Cheney.

Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the
Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His n book of CounterPunch columns
titled "This Can't be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press.
Lindorff's newest book is "The Case for Impeachment", co-authored by
Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at: dlindorff [at] yahoo.com


--------20 of 22--------

The Plot to Rig the 2008 US Election
by Johann Hari

In the long, hot autumn of 2000, the world was shocked by the contempt for
democracy shown by the Republican Party. They knew their man had lost the
popular vote to Al Gore by half a million votes. They knew the majority of
voters in Florida itself had pulled a lever for Gore. But they fought -
amid the confetti of hanging chads - to stop the state's votes being
counted, and to ensure that the Supreme Court imposed George W Bush.

Today, that contempt for democracy is on display again. In California
right now, there is a naked, out-in-the-open ploy to rig the 2008
presidential election - and it may succeed.

To understand how this works, we have to roam back to the 18th century,
and learn about the odd anachronistic leftover they are trying to use now
to thwart democracy. Back then, America's founding fathers decided not to
introduce a system where US presidents would be directly elected, with the
votes totted up in Washington, DC, and the winner being the man with the
most. Instead, they chose a complex system called the electoral college.
This stipulates that American citizens do not vote directly for a
president. Instead, they technically vote for 539 state-wide "electors",
who then gather six weeks after the election to pick the President.

The founders designed it this way for a number of reasons. They wanted the
smaller states to have a say, so they gave them a disproportionate number
of electoral college votes. They also believed that, in a country that was
largely isolated and illiterate, voters wouldn't know much about
out-of-state figures, and would be better off picking intermediaries who
could exercise discretion on their behalf.

It is the worst part of the Constitution, producing perverse results again
and again. On four occasions there has been such a big gap between the
national popular vote and the state-by-state electoral college votes that
the guy with fewer real supporters in the country got to be President. It
happened in 1824, 1876, 1888 and - most tragically for the world - in
2000.

Today, the Republicans are trying to exploit the discontent with the
electoral college among Americans in a way that would rig the system in
their favour. At the moment, every state apart from Maine and Nebraska
hands out its electoral college votes according to a winner-takes-all
system. This means that if 51 per cent of people in California vote
Democrat, the Democrats get 100 per cent of California's electoral votes;
if 51 per cent of people in Texas vote Republican, the Republicans get 100
per cent of Texas. electoral votes.

The Republicans want to change this - but in only one Democrat-leaning
state. California has gone Democratic in presidential elections since
1988, and winning the sunny state is essential if the Democrats are going
to retake the White House. So the Republicans have now begun a plan to
break up California's electoral college votes - and award a huge chunk of
them to their side.

They have launched a campaign called California Counts, and they are
trying to secure a state-wide referendum in June to implement their plan.
They want California's electoral votes to be divvied up not on a big
state-wide basis, but according to the much smaller congressional
districts. The practical result? Instead of all the state's 54 electoral
college votes going to the Democratic candidate, around 20 would go to the
Republicans.

If this was being done in every state, everywhere, it would be an
improvement. California's forgotten Republicans would be represented in
the electoral college, and so would Texas's forgotten Democrats. But by
doing it in California alone, they are simply giving the Republicans a
massive electoral gift. Suddenly it would be extremely hard for a Democrat
ever to win the White House; they would need a landslide victory
everywhere else to counter this vast structural imbalance against them on
the West Coast.

You can see this partisan agenda if you look at who is behind the
campaign. It was set up by Charles "Chep" Hurth III - a Republican donor
to Rudy Giuliani. It was drafted by Tom Hiltachk - a Republican attorney.
Its signature drive was co-ordinated by Kevin Eckery - a Republican
consultant. Its funds were provided by Paul Singer - a Republican
billionaire and one of Rudy Giuliani's biggest donors. Its chief
fundraiser is Anne Dunsmore - who went there straight from her post as
national deputy campaign manager for Giuliani. Seeing a pattern yet?

Indeed, this bias is so blatant that the state Republican Party itself has
now chipped in $80,000 (39,000) to the campaign. Of course, the campaign
is not marketing itself as a Republican rigging escapade. They insist:
"This initiative is not about helping any one party or candidate. It
simply ensures that every vote cast in our state counts in the electoral
college". But the best they can do to provide "balance" is to point to the
fact that one of the men who has given them $20,000, Edward Allred, once
also gave $2,300 to the campaign of Democratic contender Bill Richardson.
Wow.

There is a real risk they could succeed. They are close to getting the
number of signatures they need to secure a referendum in June. (The Los
Angeles Downtown News claims to have witnessed signature-gatherers
offering homeless people food in return for signing.) The turnout for the
referendum is expected to be extremely low, because the state-wide
primaries usually held on that date have been moved forward to February.
So the Republicans only have to activate a small part of their base to
push it through - and they have the cash to do it. California dreamin', on
such a winter's day.

The Democrats in response shouldn't be trapped in the conservative
position of defending the indefensible electoral college. There is an
alternative way to reform it - one that would be fair to all parties. It
used to be thought it was all but impossible to ditch the system because
it would require a constitutional amendment, which needs the approval of
two-thirds of both houses of Congress, plus three-quarters of state
legislatures.

But then constitutional scholars realised there was another way. The
Constitution only requires that each state must "appoint" its presidential
electors "in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct". That
leaves a glimmer of hope. The Campaign for a National Popular Vote is
campaigning for every state simply to commit its delegates to the
electoral college to vote 100 per cent for the candidate who wins the
popular vote. This would render the electoral college a forgotten
technicality. It's very revealing that when the California state senate
voted to introduce this genuinely democratic system last year, the
Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it, with the support of
his party.

It shows that the Republicans' rhetoric of wanting "fairness" and "equal
representation" in California is a honeyed lie. They want a system that
retains their power, even if it subverts the will of the people. It risks
becoming Florida Part II: just when you thought it was safe to go back
into the polling booth. Fasten your seatbelts - it's going to be a bumpy
election.

.j.hari@ independent.co.uk
 2007 The Independent


--------21 of 22--------

Black Friday Die Die Die
by Mark Morford
Published on Wednesday, November 28, 2007 by the San Francisco Chronicle

America's most obscene shopping day meets its doom in an oily nightmare
hell. All true!

Is this why they hate us? Why we hate ourselves? Is this why we seem to
have no real idea who the hell we are anymore, or what it means to have a
humane and thoughtful national identity, and therefore we happily scratch
and claw and fight our way into giant fluorescent-lit hellpits for a
chance at a $29 DVD player and some crappy plasma TVs and a pallet of
heavily discounted spatulas? More broadly: Is this why we're suffering
such a general feeling of ennui and disgust and apathy in the culture
right now, the nagging feeling that we have no center and God has
abandoned us and we therefore simply cannot consume enough goods and
technology to try and fill the void? The answer seems rather obvious.

I don't even know what Kohl's is. I'm guessing some sort of mass-crap
superstore, like Best Buy or Target or T.J. Maxx or a weird amalgam of all
of those and it doesn't really matter because last Friday they opened at 4
a.m. for the mad rush of Black Friday shoppers, because if there's one
thing you want to do when your body is groggy and sleep tugs at your heart
and your dreams have turned vacant and sad, it's grope cheap waffle makers
before sunrise.

Wal-Mart opened at 5. Target opened at 6. Across America, gluttony ruled.
There were stores that had nothing whatsoever to do with gifting or
holiday largess, stores with names like Cabinetry and More or Rug Depot
that nevertheless opened at 6 or 7 a.m. on that now-ominous, insane,
fateful day, if for no other reason than to capitalize on the fact that
there were so many franctic zombified credit-carded bodies swarming about
and it would be foolish not to take advantage.

Some say Christmas day most accurately captures the true nature of the
American spirit. Some say it's Easter. Or the Fourth of July. They are all
wrong. Black Friday has become, far and away, the most glorious expression
of the true American idea, the gleaming capitalist leviathan at its most
violent and orgasmic. Deny it at your peril.

Every year, there are new layers, new strata of absurdity. This year,
retailers were reportedly angry that there are now a few blogs dedicated
entirely to Black Friday sales, and those blogs were posting secret inside
info on which particular items the various stores had marked down for the
supersale, those bait-and-switch items on which the shops willingly take a
huge loss in order to lure in shoppers in the hopes they will grab not
only the $8 electric skillet but also an expensive digital camera and what
the hell, a new stove and a drill set and a car.

Which reminds me of the nice discussion I had over Thanksgiving dinner
about oil. My dinnermate's belief was that, as oil prices creep up and gas
prices inch toward four, five, 10 bucks a gallon in the U.S. over the next
decade, one of the first things to suffer will be the megastores, the
Wal-Marts and the Targets and their Black Friday-promoting ilk, and not
merely because their transportation costs will skyrocket and it will be
increasingly unfeasible for them to ship their sweatshop crap over from
China and then truck it from the docks to the individual stores.

No, he suggested Wal-Mart and its rapacious brethren will begin to fade
because people in the more rural parts of America will refuse to pay the
10 or 15 bucks in fuel costs for a round-trip drive to the nearest big box
mega-outlet just to get some crackers and shampoo and some nails. Instead,
they will return to shopping locally, in their own neighborhoods and
downtowns, where the shops are smaller and the hardware store owner knows
them personally. They might still haul ass to Wal-Mart once a month for a
serious shopping excursion, but that won't be enough for the big boxers to
stay in business for long. And lo, the world will improve. A little.

I am not so certain. Firstly, I do not underestimate the power of
Wal-Mart, et al to viciously alter the time/space continuum for their own
benefit, and to figure out a way around the transport issue, perhaps by
cutting the pay of their sweatshop workforce from eight cents a month to
four and by strapping enormous pallets of crappy ink-jet printers and
porcelain Jesus figurines to the backs of trained dolphins and send them
over from Shanghai. They are just that kind of malevolent.

More importantly, I also just read the disturbing piece in the New Yorker
about the massive new oil boom, how the petroleum titans are right now
stampeding into Canada to lay claim to the land and build massive
facilities for the extraction of a heavy hydrocarbon called bitumen from
the enormous deposits of tar sand found there, in order to convert it into
synthetic crude oil.

It is but one of a slew of new, hugely destructive oil-conversion
techniques. They say there is enough bitumen intermixed with the sand
that, if extracted and converted on a mass scale, it would guarantee
sufficient oil for generations to come. Until recently, the extraction
process was prohibitively expensive. Not anymore. As long as oil stays at
or above $100 a barrel and people unflinchingly pay 4 or 5 bucks a gallon
for gas, well, this brutal new technique will be insanely profitable
indeed.

There are, as you might imagine, horrific drawbacks to this reeking,
stinking, violent process, not the least of which is the appalling
decimation of the natural landscape and the poisoning of the surrounding
lakes and water basins and the horrid economic lopsidedness and the
nuclear reactors currently being proposed to power the insane operations,
not to mention appalling levels of greenhouse gas emissions (much higher
than current refineries), massive water use, and the fact that, should
these systems become deeply entrenched, big oil will continue to have a
stranglehold on U.S. policy and the American identity for decades to come.

These pits, these new facilities are pure ecological nightmares. What's
worse, nothing is stopping the new onrush. They are building them as fast
as they can, with no limitation in sight. Bush just smirks. The GOP just
gloats. Iraq roils on. Should the boom continue, not even the most
liberal, environmentally conscious presidential administration in the
world would be able to stop it. There is simply too much money to be made.
And hence, far from moving away from oil and investigating alternative
fuels and taking global warming seriously, the most powerful and
bloodthirsty among us are still racing full speed ahead, in the worst
possible direction.

This was my counterpoint, that until there's a profound shift in how we
approach the world, in how we view the goods we buy, in how Black Friday
and the rape of Canada are grossly, inextricably connected, we cannot
affect much change. Much as I love the green movement and the Buy Nothing
movement and the Slow Food movement and all the rest, in the face of the
countless billions still to be made by raping the planet for oil, they're
merely the equivalent of trying to water the rainforest with an
eyedropper.

There was only one thing left to do. We both raised our wine glasses for a
humble toast to the belief that man is, at heart, a deeply benevolent
creature, and that a true sea change is coming (we just can't quite see it
yet), that we as a species will wake up and see our way clear very soon,
if not sooner. I'm quite sure we finished the bottle.

Thoughts for the author? E-mail him. Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column
appears every Wednesday and Friday on SFGate and in the Datebook section
of the San Francisco Chronicle.

 The San Francisco Chronicle


--------22 of 22--------


 I Hear America Bleating

 I hear America bleating, the varied baa-baa's I hear,
 Each bleating what belongs to him and her and everyone else,
 Bleating with open mouths their strong malodorous baa's.


 ed
 Thanks for improving my poem. I would have done it myself, but I am,
 alas, dead.
 -Walt Whitman

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