Saturday, September 29, 2012

The GOP's shocking (yet unsurprising) attempt to steal the election: Why is Nathan Sproul still walking around as a free man?

Here's tireless blogger Brad Friedman on Thom Hartmann's show discussing the amazing Republican voter registration fraud that Mitt Romney's paid consultant and long-time GOP operative Nathan Sproul almost got away with.  Sproul and his firm Strategic Allied Consulting, at the behest of the Florida RNC (and those of other states, it's now coming out) who hired them, had been sending in address changes for Democrats in at least ten Florida counties, re-registering them as living in various strip malls and commercial buildings; this way, when said Democrats went to vote, they would be turned away or forced to vote using provisional (aka not counted) ballots. Disenfranchising them, in short.

His firm were also registering deceased people in Palm Beach County and other Florida counties.

Of course, the Florida RNC are scrambling to distance themselves from Sproul, despite having paid his company some USD$1.3 million this year alone. But even as they're trying to remove the stench that is their effort to steal the election for The Stench, it now comes out Sproul was doing the same thing in other key battleground states.

From The Brad Blog:

Since that appearance, FL officials are now confirming "suspicious and possibly fraudulent voter registration forms" in "at least ten counties" in the state, which shatters the "one bad apple", "just one individual in Palm Beach" talking point which the AP had been helping both the RNC and Sproul's shell company, Strategic Allied Consulting, pass on to the public late last night. 
There will be more on this, as the story continues to be both developing and fast moving. I'm working on pulling together several threads all at once over here, as there is evidence that this scandal is larger than just the five key battleground states (FL, NC, VA, NV, CO) acknowledged by the RNC, so far, where Sproul's firm was working.

Friedman notes that Sproul has been doing this for years.

I want to know why Nathan Sproul, along with any and all persons involved in all this baldfaced fraud, is not in prison.  Electoral fraud is a serious federal crime

If you aren't already doing so, I highly recommend following Brad on Twitter--he's @TheBradBlog --so as to stay up-to-the minute with this story.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Score one for football; teachers, not so much

What a shame it is that Education majors in our various universities don't have people taking tests for them and writing their term papers.  Nor do they have wealthy alumni buying them cars and condos and lawyering them up when they get in trouble for their controlled-substance-abusing or female-student-raping.

Because if Education majors were thus valued, their subsequent work as teachers and the importance of their labor issues would perhaps be held in the same regard as the work and labor issues relevant to the game of football.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A sharp rebuke of the Slash-happy Sociopaths threatening our people

If you're like me, you've seen the damning Secret Romney Fundraiser Video in its entirety (full video here, full transcript here).

And if you had any doubt about the things that would happen to retirees, veterans, the poor, the middle class, the unemployed, students who aren't from wealthy families, Americans who have the misfortune to fall ill or suffer an accident while unemployed or poor or continuing-to-exist-after-having-served-in-the-Armed-Forces or all the above, under a Romney presidency...well, the gentleman from Utah (or was it Michigan? Or Massachusetts?) made it crystal-clear for you at that fundraiser.

As I wrote on Wednesday, Mitt Romney is in awe of the way Chinese slave-labor factories are run.  This should concern you.

Romney is also enamored of privatizing (and thus significantly cutting) Americans' earned benefits--namely Medicare and Social Security--and slashing social programs like Medicaid. While far from perfect, Americans' earned benefits and social programs--meager though they may be, certainly as compared to those the rest of the developed world enjoys--keep millions of elderly, sick, and poor Americans from falling right off the edge.

It cannot be stated often enough: Any and all federal spending cuts should come from the billions of dollars that annually enrich the REAL entitlement pigs: Defense Contractors. And not from programs that quite literally protect, and save, American lives.

President Obama has said that everyone must do his part to tackle the national debt, that everyone must sacrifice.

I would like to know how an unemployed person for whom Medicaid means the difference between life and death can reasonably be expected to sacrifice anything at all.

I would like to know how an elderly person who already has to scrimp and save in order to stretch his or her Social Security check and thus make rent, put a few store-brand groceries in the fridge, and buy a comfortable mattress or a decent winter coat every five years or so can reasonably be expected to sacrifice anything at all.

But here's the thing: Social Security can be kept solvent for many decades to come simply by raising the wage cap, and indefinitely if the cap is done away with completely. Currently (in 2012, that is) only the first $110,100 of one's earnings are subject to the Social Security payroll deduction--dollars above that amount are not.  So those who make less than $110,100 per year have 100% of their earnings taxed for Social Security; those who make more than that--whether it's thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars more--have a decreasingly smaller percentage of their income in play.  In other words, under current parameters, an investment banker who ears, say, a million dollars a year, will only see 11% of his income subjected to the SS deduction; the remaining 89% is, for the purposes of SS at least, untouched.  However, the schoolteacher making $50,000 and the small businessman drawing a salary of $95,000 will see the entirety of their yearly wages subjected to the deduction.

One begins to see why the very wealthy, along with the conservative think-tanks and Super PACS they lavish with funding, are against raising the cap to keep the program solvent for everyone: they are reflexively opposed to anything that means more for the nation and less for them.  They prefer to slash to ribbons a successful program that has lifted millions of elderly Americans from poverty (or else privatize the program and loose it to the vagaries of the stock market)--and to thus relegate the elderly to existing in poverty--than have the same percentage of their annual income subjected to social security as the rest of the country. Heaven forfend.

But lets return to the notion of "entitlement" as it truly exists, and not earned benefits, which incidentally is how this writer regards Social Security, Medicare, Public Education, and yes, even Medicaid, and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as "food stamps").  And I include Medicaid and SNAP because I believe in a robust social compact; I believe that simply by being a human being who exists in this incredibly wealthy, resource-rich country, you have inalienable rights--rights you are born with--namely, the right to breathe air, drink water, eat food, and not bleed to death, cough up your lungs, be consumed by microbe or tumor, or otherwise suffer and/or die from one of the myriad illnesses and injuries that modern medicine can alleviate (if not always cure).

Or, as I often state, after referring people to the cold facts about the better health outcomes, happier citizens, and large, thriving middle classes of Europe's Social Democracies:

Yes, I'm a Socialist*. So was German-American, theoretical physicist, and renowned genius Albert Einstein. What are you--an Anti-Socialist?

Via Robert Reich, here are the REAL Entitled Housewives (and SenateWives) of America.  Just look at these numbers (click to enlarge):

Now, consider how the United States' defense budget compares to that of the next five biggest spenders in the world. I'm not a math whiz, but even I can see the big elephant in the room (so to speak, although the defense contractors lobby--and donate heavily to--politicians of both parties).

The United States spends more than twice the combined defense-spending totals of China, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia. You read that correctly. In terms of defense spending:

2 X (China+Japan+UK+France+Russia) = USA

(Graphic via HuffPo, on behalf of FaceTheFactsUSA,
a project of The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.)

Cut this, Congress, not the earned benefits of--and vital assistance to--the citizens for whom you work, as opposed to the bloated defense contractor giants for whom, despite any gifts, "donations", and perks they shower you with, you do not work.

Cut this, Catfood Commission.

Cut this, Mr. President.

* Socialism, alas, is all-too-frequently conflated with Communism, even today. I blame television, vestigial McCarthyism, the above-mentioned conservative think-tanks, and the country's moneyed sociopaths (aka much of Wall Street), who recoil in horror at the notion of being limited to just seven mansions and one private jet if they had to pay a tiny bit more to make life healthier and happier for the people and country that undoubtedly played a part in their own rise to riches, whether they care to admit it or not.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chinese slave-labor: The segment of Mitt's Secret Video that no-one on tee-vee is mentioning. Yet.// UPDATED

By now, virtually everyone has seen at least part of the Mitt Romney Secret Video. And the mainstream media has focused on Romney's jaw-dropping assertion that 47% of Americans are dependent on government and possessed of what he describes as a sense of "entitlement" to such things as food, health care, and housing.  These people, he says, don't pay income taxes, and since they won't be voting for him, they aren't worthy of his attention.

However, there is another segment that deserves attention. And I can only imagine why it's not, as of this writing, being widely discussed: it is, in short, a devastating indictment of the horrific truth behind outsourced labor.

It shows Romney talking to the rapt fundraiser-attending audience about a Chinese factory he was considering buying during his Bain days.  He describes what sounds like a gulag with wonder and admiration in his voice:
"Ninety-five percent of life is set up for you if you were born in this country," Mitt scolds.  "We went to China to buy a factory there.  It employed about 20,000 people, and they were almost all young women, between the ages of about 18 and 22 or 23.  They were saving for potentially becoming married." [How Romney knew this about the employees, one can only guess--it was probably something the factory owner told him through a translator, knowing Romney was a man whose faith placed a great deal of value in being married, ahem.
"...seeing them work, the number of hours they work per day, the pittance they earned, living in dormitories with, uh, little bathrooms at the end of maybe ten...ten rooms. And the rooms, they have twelve girls per room. Three bunk beds on top of each other." 
"And, and, and around this factory was a fence, a huge fence with barbed wire and guard towers. And we said, Gosh! I can't believe that you, you know, keep these girls in! And they said, No, no, no, this is to keep other people from coming in, because people want so badly to come work in this factory that we have to keep them out!"
No mention of Foxconn-style netting around the upper floors to catch any stray suicidal workers.

Now, if you think for a moment that Mitt Romney, Outsourcer-In-Chief of Bain Capital, believed that Chinese factory owner's story to the rich American men to whom he wanted to sell his factory, I've got several bridges to sell to YOU.

Romney knows full well what goes on in places like the one described.

He simply didn't want to spoil everyone's dinner.

Do watch the whole thing. I have a feeling the reason the network Chatterati are not talking about this too much is that many of the products made by their sponsors come from factories exactly like this one.

UPDATE: Via Patrick at Politicalgates, here is a short documentary called Santa's Workshop. It details the conditions at factories like the one Mitt Romney described at his USD$50,000-a-plate fundraiser earlier this year.

I urge readers to watch it; its subject matter is undeniably heartbreaking, but nothing is going to change until a hell of a lot more Americans are fully aware of what goes on in these sub-Dickensian factories halfway around the world.  I don't mean just entertaining an abstract notion à la "Oh, this was probably made in a sweatshop, ha-ha", but rather, having a full, visually and viscerally-informed understanding of the way their fellow human beings are treated in order to keep toys, electronics, and other consumer goods ultra-cheap--and corporate heads like Mitt Romney ultra-wealthy.

This film, Santa's Workshop, is almost entirely in English; the few foreign-language segments are all accompanied by English subtitles.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My thoughts on Innocence of the Muslims: There IS no full-length movie.//UPDATED

Yesterday evening, Bloomberg news posted an article entitled Figure Tied to Anti-Islam Film Has Criminal Fraud Record.
With all due respect to the writers, the article mainly reports that which those of us following the developing story online already knew earlier yesterday: that Mr. Bacile/Nakoula was an ex-con with a pretty jaw-dropping history of bank fraud and identity theft, and in the late 1990's, involvement in methamphetamine trafficking/creating.
However, at the end of the article, I found an extremely revealing quote from Christian extremist, "Wake Up America" video-star, and Media For Christ figure Steve Klein (my emphasis):
Klein, 62, heads the group Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, which stages rallies and educational events, contending Islam is a threat to U.S. democracy and freedom.  
He said he read the script before the movie was shot and advised the filmmaker to recruit actors through a Hollywood talent agency. Klein said he didn’t know the name of the agency.
The movie had one theatrical showing at a cinema on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, Klein said.
“I got there about a half hour before the movie started and stayed a half hour after it started and I saw zero -- nada, none, no people -- go inside,” Klein said.
To date, Klein is the only source I'm aware of for the assertion that Innocence of the Muslims was actually a movie--not just a 13-minute piece of agitprop--that was shown in a theatre, that is to say, an unnamed cinema on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.
Look at Klein's exact word choice: He says he got there thirty minutes before the movie allegedly began--a reasonable window of time while the lights are still on before assorted previews, commercials, and the actual movie begins and an important detail indicating you could see properly if you were going to later assert, believably, that no-one else walked in.
Klein then says he stayed a half-hour after the movie started and saw "zero -- nada, none, no people -- go inside,".  This time frame is important, too, because if he had claimed to have sat through the entire length of the alleged movie--let's say it was purported to be 90 minutes--he might have been asked about scenes and details that he saw which were not in the now-infamous 13-minute clip.  Klein needed to be able to explain the fact that he knew of no other scenes or details, so he kept the time frame of his alleged attendance very short.
Think about it: Why would the person who has, thus far, seemed rather proud of and unapologetic about the "film" NOT want to sit through the entirety of the project that he helped bring about--at least once? Even if it meant sitting all by himself in a dark theatre for 90 minutes (which would be preferred conditions for a critical screening anyway)?
I seriously doubt Klein sat in any theatre on Sunset and watched Innocence of the Muslims by himself for any length of time whatsoever.
And I strongly suspect, based on what we know so far, that there IS no full-length movie. Only the incendiary agitprop piece, timed to be just long enough, but not so long as to exceed the 15-minute time limit that YouTube places on uploads by non-verified accounts.

[I copied this post directly from a long comment I made this morning at Daily Kos; that site's font and typesetting styles remain intact.-- DNT]

UPDATE: It turns out I was wrong about the 13 minute clip being all there was. (I maintain Klein is still lying about having seen the movie in a theatre on Sunset. If evidence proving otherwise surfaces, I will publish it here.) This Monday morning, I'm learning there is a longer version--74 minutes--of the film that has recently been posted to YouTube. I will not link to it here, but readers should easily be able to find it if they are so inclined.

Furthermore, yesterday afternoon, I learned via the extremism-watchdog blog Talk To Action that islamophobic blogger Pamela Geller had not only co-hosted anti-Muslim rallys with Coptic Christian extremist Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih, head of Media For Christ, but also had posted on her blog Atlas Shrugs a fundraising appeal for the "movie" by another figure involved in the making of the film--seemingly a screenwriter who goes by the name Ali Sina (his own website is currently offline, and all Internet archives after summer of 2011 have been scrubbed).

Ali Sina establishes a clear intent to inflame:
I am not thinking of a high budget movie, but given the subject matter, it can become one of the most seen motion pictures ever. (Recall Danish cartoons?)
And in a comment responding to another Atlas Shrugs reader, he offers details that would appear to line up with the content of the piece that would eventually be called Innocence of Muslims:
"Any film about Mohammed should not leave out the beheadings of 900 men and boys of the Banu Quraysha tribe, his 78 battles in the last nine years of his life, nor his thieving, misogyny, lying, murderous and paedophilic ways. But somehow, I would expect it to have these glaring omissions. We are in the politically correct self-loathing West and are afraid of offending a mouse if it sports a crescent." 
Not so! All those details are in the movie. That is the whole porpose of this movie - to tell what others don't. In 4 hours you can't tell everything, that is why I have chosen the parts that really matter. The devil is in the detail.
Obviously, this is a developing story. As further, updated information becomes available, I will share it in a new post.

-- DNT

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Spring 2002 Visit to Ground Zero and What the Bell Told

Incredibly Close: The recovery ramp from the ashes of the WTC
(neither journalists nor volunteers were permitted beyond this point).

It has been over a decade since I took the photos I'm sharing today.

I awoke this morning and thought, It's time.

Since my family first immigrated to the States, landing in Florida in the mid-1970's as I was set to enter the tenth grade, I've always felt a strong connection to New York City. I would first travel there as a college student (during the period when my parents lived in Westchester County and my father worked in Manhattan).  I would return on countless occasions: to visit friends; to briefly pursue a dream of acting (a short-lived dream indeed); to visit various in-laws (my husband, whom I met in St. Petersburg, was born in New York City at a hospital that has since undergone various transformations, including a stint as a psychiatric hospital, and you can make of that what you will); and in the spring of 2002, to attend the BookExpo at the Javits Center put on by the ABA (the American Booksellers Association), at the invitation of our dear friend, the author Amy Tan.  Amy had encouraged me to bring along the galleys of Virtual Vintage, the book Random House would publish that fall and which I'd recently co-written with artist and fellow vintage maven Linda Lindroth.

The day I arrived, Amy offered me an invitation: Did I want to accompany her and Lou (husband Lou DeMattei) that night on an excursion to the off-limits depths of Ground Zero? We would be helping Amy's friend, the artist Rhonda Roland Shearer, with a most excellent project. Rhonda had learned that firefighters (the FDNY's men who were working around the clock to recover the remains of the thousands of people killed on September 11th) were burning through their work-gear--boots, protective anoraks, safety equipment, and so forth--faster than the city could or would keep up with replacements. So Rhonda founded WTC Ground Zero Relief and got busy, contacting companies to provide the gear, storing it all in her studio space, and setting up shop in one of the site trailers right in the middle of the recovery. Her friends--tonight it would be us--helped by manning the table where firefighters spelled out their names (to be embroidered on the anoraks by Rhonda's seamstress) and gave their boot-size (so as to be fitted with a new pair).

In my medium-long life, I've been fortunate to be part of some truly extraordinary scenes, to have met and conversed with (and committed to permanent memory) the kind of characters--the kind of protagonists--one might invent had they not, by their real, flesh-and-blood presence, preemptively rendered such invention completely superfluous.  This was one such scene.

These characters, these brave, quiet gentlemen, worked on as we took down names and distributed boots and gear.  They had a system for notifying one another when someone had found something--a sooty watch, perhaps, or else a portion of femur--and it involved the ringing of an old-fashioned wall-mounted electric bell, not unlike the ones I remembered from my high school days in Miami.

It rang once that evening, while Amy and Lou and I were there with Rhonda. I'll never forget that moment. Ever.

But I had brought along a camera, and I did have children whom I wanted to show this to one day. So--quietly, timidly--I took the handful of photos you're seeing in this post (click on any one to significantly enlarge).

Rhonda Roland Shearer, right, and members of the recovery team.

Some of the FDNY who were on duty that night. They were so polite and funny; many were impressed that I could spell the most complicated Italian names!

A wider view of the ramp. Note the many banners and American flags.

A solemn reminder to all, and a glimpse of the emotional trauma that recovery personnel were, understandably, suffering.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

In which I find graphic meaning in the Mean Season

One of these days, I'm going to treat myself to a new Photoshop package (mine is a many-years-old version that won't function on my almost-new laptop) but this otherwise-awesome computer's minor lacking hasn't stopped me from creating a few political posters by using the Publisher layout of Word for Mac, then converting the results to a .jpg file (I simply take a screenshot of the poster and rename and export it as a .jpg, in case you were wondering).

I began doing these as amusements/boredom-killers on a rainy afternoon--of which there were many this summer, particularly in August--and Tweeted them out via @litbrit and of course, put them on my Facebook page.

And in response to a few readers who've asked me to collect and post them in a single spot...well, here they are! I hope you enjoy them. (Click on any one to enlarge.)

There will be more. Promise.

The War on Women: It's real, it's serious, and it's deadly

This is a comprehensive and extremely well-done video that every woman, young and old, needs to see.

I realize that most of my readership shares my left-leaning politics, but I'd suggest the issue of women's health--specifically, reproductive rights, access to birth control, and the freedom to choose abortion and make your own decisions about what is best for your personal, private body--is a non-partisan one.

In other words, it matters not if you're a Democrat, Green, Republican, or Independent: If you are a woman, your rights have been, and are, under assault in the United States. And the erosion of those rights will continue--ad infinitum, ad nauseum--until and unless we wake up, stand up, and fight.

Please watch and share.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

This funny re-do of an old AFSCME Union ad never gets old.

"We got broads out there who keep yer kids from getttin' run over by some hard-on..." Ha!

Wow, it's actually Labor Day already. Time to put away those white shoes and white jeans that were too hot and/or impractical to wear anyway. Roll on AUTUMN, my favorite season by far.

Birthday (never mind), Hallowe'en, Zappaween, Thanksgiving, pumpkin pies, soups of all kinds, and of course, Christmas. Which in Florida happens in autumn, because we don't get proper winters.