Posted by: vernacularsnoop | September 2, 2008

Member of Canadian parliament joins Green Party

West Vancouver Member of Parliament (MP) Blair Wilson has decided to join the Green Party of Canada after meeting with party leader Elizabeth May, giving the Canadian Greens their first MP and a chance to be included in an upcoming debate of national party leaders. Despite impressive recent growth and poll numbers that often surpass Canada’s third major party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), Canadian Greens were in danger of being excluded from the debate since the young party had not elected anyone to parliament.

Blair Wilson

Blair Wilson

“I am extremely happy and proud to be able to join Elizabeth and the Green party and do something so positive for two core values that my family and I deeply believe in,” said Wilson. “One of those obviously is protecting the environment and the other one is advancing the cause of democracy.”

West Vancouver MP joins Green Party

Altho a recent poll showed that 77.2% of Canadians wanted Green leader Elizabeth May in the upcoming debates, leaders of other parties had insisted that only parties with representation in parliament should be allowed to debate. Now that the Canadian Greens have met that condition, it remains to be seen whether the other parties will keep to their word.

Elizabeth May, leader of Canada's Green Party

Journalist Amy Goodman from the popular news show Democracy Now! was arrested along with two of her colleagues while reporting on the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. According to democracynow.org, DN! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar were arrested for what a local sheriff called “suspicion of rioting”, altho they informed the officers that they were members of the press covering the events on the ground. Amy Goodman proceeded to question officers about the arrests of her producers, and was subsequently arrested and charged with obstruction of a legal process and interference with a “peace officer.” Goodman’s arrest was caught on video and can be seen on youtube:

Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com has more coverage of the police crackdown outside the RNC. Greenwald reports that Amy Goodman and her producers have been released. The publicity generated by the arrest may have played a part in the release of the DN! journalists – the video of Goodman’s arrest has gotten over 180,000 hits on Youtube in its first 14 hours. According to Greenwald, police harassment of journalists at the RNC has expanded in scope to include even members of the mainstream press, including correspondents from the Associated Press and CNN.

Posted by: vernacularsnoop | August 29, 2008

Make them debate

Debate is absolutely vital to democracy. When candidates debate, it gives large numbers of engaged voters the chance to consider their stances on the issues from all sides. Debate shows us certain things about a candidate – such as how well she performs under pressure, or how well she really knows the issues – that scripted press releases and TV ads hide. Perhaps the best thing about debate is that fresh ideas can gain a popular audience, forcing candidates to step outside the status quo and show their true level of commitment to progress.

If debate is such a great thing for democracy, why, then, is debate such a rarity in today’s political process? How can incumbents get away with refusing to debate their challengers? Of course, the reasons that politicians avoid debate are obvious: those who lead in the polls are afraid of anything that could upset the balance. We have a typical example in the 2008 presidential race. In May, when he was considered an underdog, Senator Obama declared, “If John McCain wants to meet me anywhere, anytime, to have a debate about our respective policies in Iraq, in Iran, in the Middle East or around the world, that is a conversation I am happy to have.” Come August, Obama is leading McCain in the polls, and “anywhere, anytime” seems to have been forgotten. Ralph Nader talks about Obama’s evasive maneuvers on Democracy Now!:

“McCain offered ten town meetings to Obama. Obama said no. Google wants a—let’s see, a September 18th debate in New Orleans. McCain said OK, Obama said no. A veterans’ group coalition out of Fort Hood, Texas, they wanted a debate. McCain said OK, Obama says no. Isn’t that amazing?”

Nader knows a great deal about the presidential debates, partly from first-hand experience. In 2004, he was stopped by police from even entering the debate hall as a spectator, despite the fact that he had a ticket. To paraphrase one commentator from the movie “An Unreasonable Man”, Nader was excluded from the debates in 2000 because they said he wouldn’t be a factor. Then the day after the election, they changed their minds and said that he was the deciding factor.

It was from Nader’s book “Crashing the Party” that I first learned how the Democratic and Republican parties control the presidential debates through a corporation called the Commission on Presidential Debates. The established parties created the CPD in 1987 to wrest control of the debates away from the League of Women Voters, which the parties deemed insufficiently compliant with their demands. If today’s debates seem scripted and lifeless, like dull recitations of memorized lines, it’s because they are. The CPD not only stifles participation from outside the two-party system, it also meticulously supervises the moderators to make sure that everything is nice and predictable, with no surprises for the candidates or the debates’ corporate sponsors (some sponsors this year include Wal-Mart, the tobacco industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the coal lobby).

This is a pathetic state of affairs and cries out for reform. First of all, Americans need to start sending the message that debate-dodgers will not get our vote. When a candidate runs away from debate, he is essentially saying, “I have no confidence in my abilities; I believe that my opponent is more competent than me and would probably do a better job if elected.” We should demand that all office-seekers engage in debates with their opponents to prove that they are qualified. Secondly, we should demand that the presidential debates be run by an independent authority like the League of Women Voters, and that all candidates who are on enough ballots to win the required number of electoral votes be included. I am confident that if Cynthia McKinney were in the presidential debates, she would blow away the corporate media’s caricatured portrayal of her and bring the Green party’s message to millions of people who weren’t even aware that they had a real choice. Of course, Bob Barr, Ralph Nader and Chuck Baldwin should be given the same opportunity.

Just one real debate could change the course of our country…

Posted by: vernacularsnoop | August 28, 2008

What’s dragging down the US economy?

Neoliberal globalization, for one. An OpEd News article called “Democrats Against Democracy” argues that Bill Clinton, who many inexplicably credit with the late ’90s tech-stock-fueled economic bubble, actually deserves the blame for many of the systemic problems with the modern American economy.

The true corruption of the Clinton years was the way the Clintons sold the services of the Presidency to the highest bidder.  There was little that was out of bounds.  They happily sold off America’s economic strength.  The trade agreements of the Clinton years were the death knell to the notion that America would build anything real and of value.  Our manufacturing capability was sold off for a short term bump in the corporate balance sheet.  Today’s economic problems all trace back to that.  We are a nation of debtors who don’t produce anything of real value any more.  All of our trade deficits, the falling dollar, the bubbles in the speculative markets, they all stem from this basic problem.”

Democrats against Democracy

For a perspective on how we can set things right, here’s an article called “Build America so America works again” by John F. Penn, vice president of the Labor International Union of North America. The article is brief and fairly general, but makes a strong point. A longer analysis of how to create sustainable economic development in America could include green jobs and clean, renewable energy. We could put millions to work making American more energy-efficient, and millions more developing the energy sources that will break our addiction to fossil fuels.

“Today, having put our industrial base on a fast boat to China and our financial house in a mortgage crisis, the global economists are still calling for “tax cuts and deregulation” to fix our problems. They were wrong then and they’re wrong now. The answer is to reinvest in America: our infrastructure, our people, our future.”

Build America so America works

Posted by: vernacularsnoop | August 28, 2008

How the corporate media covers politics

AT&T logo on Democratic National Convention merchandise

AT&T logo on Democratic National Convention merchandise

During the Democratic National Convention there was an extremely interesting segment on Democracy Now! called – take a deep breath – “AT&T throws party to support Dems who voted to grant telecoms immunity for illegal domestic wiretapping.” Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and a few others from the independent media decided to crash the AT&T party to ask attendees why the giant telecom corporation was throwing a private party for Democratic legislators just weeks after the Democratic congress passed the FISA bill with retroactive immunity for the telecom industry. The few journalists who wanted to cover the event couldn’t get past the bouncers, so we may never know how AT&T thanked its friends in the Democratic party for the early Christmas gift of retroactive immunity.

Retroactive immunity – a phrase that conjures images of Richard Nixon – is not only a way for the telecom corporations to dodge legal accountability for violating our 4th amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure. It will also put an end to the class-action lawsuits that, in the face of Speaker Pelosi’s see-no-evil attitude towards the Bush administration’s crimes against the constitution, may have been the last way to discover some of the truth about what Cheney, Bush, Rove and the other neocons were really doing in the deep, dark heart of the Bush white house. By the way, the house and senate – both controlled by Democrats – passed the bill 293 to 129 and 69 to 28, respectively.

Issues regarding the telecom industry are usually buried by the corporate media. The reason that the FISA controversy got so much airtime was that Senator Obama, after claiming that he would filibuster the FISA bill if it included telecom immunity, changed his mind and decided to vote for it after all. In other words, it’s the usual story about a Democratic candidate talking a lot of bull to placate the base, then turning around and voting to please giant corporate donors once the nomination is locked up. The AT&T party in Denver is a symptom of the disease of pay-to-play politics, which is steadily turning both the Republican and Democratic parties into corporate sock puppets.

One of the most interesting moments of the Democracy Now! story was when Amy Goodman encountered Salon.com blogger and constitutional law attorney Glenn Greenwald, who also had no luck getting into the AT&T party. When Greenwald started describing his experience with the mainstream corporate media, he summarized some of the feelings I’ve had about CNN, Time and other corporate media outlets but couldn’t put my finger on:

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, what’s interesting is, we had a party at Salon.com, and there were a lot of members of the media, the sort of mainstream media, who were there, and what was interesting to me, interacting with them—I don’t normally do that, thankfully, but I did that that night—is they sort of look at politics from the most cynical and the shallowest perspective, which is, they do what they do on television, which is, they talk about whether certain things are politically beneficial, how it will play in the eyes of the mythical American that they convince themselves they speak for, and it’s completely bereft of any substance. They’re just pageants, and that’s how they cover them.

Insightful stuff. The full Democracy Now! story is here:

AT&T throws party to support Dems who voted to grant telecoms immunity for illegal domestic wiretapping

Posted by: vernacularsnoop | August 26, 2008

NZ Green Party pushes for open WiFi and no software patents

One of the political parties of New Zealand, namely the Green Party, is pushing for bold plans for New Zealand’s technological future. The policy would exclude software from the patent process and investigate the possibility of a free municipally owned wireless network. Can you digg it?
With the corporate media refusing to give Greens more than token amounts of airtime, the Green Party needs to take advantage of alternative ways to spread its message, especially the internet. By submitting stories to Digg about Green stances on technology and civil liberties, Greens can gain the support of the freedom-loving web users who helped light a fire under Howard Dean and Ron Paul’s campaigns.
Now that Barack Obama’s running mate is Joe Biden, who is notorious on the web for his efforts to crack down on internet freedom, Greens could make real headway by publicizing McKinney/Clemente’s platform on technology and civil liberties issues. Perhaps one of the writers at Green Party Watch could prepare a statement for the McKinney campaign…

read more | digg story

More information on Joe Biden’s record on internet freedom from Times of the Internet:

Joe Biden no friend of the Netizen

Posted by: vernacularsnoop | August 26, 2008

Mongolian Green leader Saruul Agvandoorj freed!

This is a follow-up to “Free Saruul Agvandoorj!” It’s great that Saruul is free, and let’s hope that all of the political prisoners in Mongolia are released soon. Here is a message from Saruul Agvandoorj about the whole story behind the peaceful protest that landed her in jail:

A message from Saruul

Dear Greens around the world,

Many thanks to you for your generous support for our release and Mongolian democracy.

The Mongolian parliamentary elections, this year and since 1990, have been manipulated by the Mongolian Communist Party, which is also called the Mongolian Revolutionary Party.  The false results made many people angry.  Because of the corruption and law-breaking of the Mongolian Communist Party, many people, mostly young, protested to voice their opposition.  One young man was shot in the eye by the police.  He lost his eye.

When the Communist Party chief, who is also the Prime Minister, did not appear, the protesters grew more angry.  Their calls for change grew louder.  Some police in civilian clothes made the protesters even angrier.  No one knew they were police because of their civilian clothing.  Some young men took stones, then everybody began to collect stones for throwing.  Nobody knows where the petroleum and some chemical substances came from.  By the evening, the building was on fire.

On July 11th, there was a big fight between the police and protesters.  On the 12th of July, 800 young men, 9 women and 14 children were arrested.  8 people were killed.  The police hunted them like antelope.  6 young men lost their eyes.

Many people could not understand why the police were shooting people in the eyes and killing them.  Why were these poor people, without any guns or knives, hunted like wild animals?  Many of the arrested people did not know their rights.  They were punished. They had to sign some documents because they were very afraid or injured.  And the Communist leaders, including the President of Mongolia, didn’t want to release those political prisoners.

Arslan and I began a silent sitting strike opposite of the government building.  We called for the release of those political prisoners.   The Communist leaders always say, “Mongolia is a democratic country.”  We believe there should not be political prisoners in a democracy.  We also protested against the Mongolian dictatorship.  That is the real reason why we were jailed for 14 days.

The government lawyer, who sent us to jail, told us, “It was not a sitting strike.  It was a demonstration.”  But in the report of the national human rights commission of Mongolia, written in 2007, stated that, “A strike is not a demonstration.”  In spite of the report, the lawyer was directed by Communist leaders and the President of Mongolia to arrest us.  They don’t like the words “political prisoners” and “no dictatorship.”

In Mongolia, we have a real Communist dictatorship like before 1989.  Calling it the mafia is more accurate.  Our Communists must win elections to make big money from foreign mining companies.  And as a so-called democratic country, they can get financial support from the G-8 countries.  It is similar to the situation of many African countries.

It was unbelievable that we were released.  Thank you all dear Greens.  We were only fed bread and water for 14 days.  Today someone told me that the police did not want to release us.

We are not really free though.  They are listening to my phone calls and more.  We will continue to organize.

Thank you and God bless you all!

Peace,
Saruul

Posted by: vernacularsnoop | August 26, 2008

SC Democrats fight to remove Green candidate from ballot

The South Carolina (un)Democratic party is fighting to remove Eugene Platt, Green party candidate for SC State House, from the ballot. After securing the Green nomination, Platt ran in the Democratic primary to add another ballot line to his name (which is allowed by SC law). Platt lost the Democratic primary, and the Democrats promptly went to work trying to remove his name from the ballot under SC’s “sore loser law”. Thing is, that law is meant to prevent someone from defecting to another party *after* losing a primary; whereas Platt had already won the Green line when he tried for the Democratic nomination. More details at Ballot Access News:

South Carolina Democrats intervene in court to keep Green Party candidate off ballot

As one poster pointed out, by the SC Democrats’ logic Hillary Clinton would have been kept off the ballot for her senate reelection bid in New York if the Working Families party had declined to nominate her. The idea that any party should be allowed to block another party’s candidate from the ballot is simply undemocratic. Let’s hope that the Carolina Greens and the ACLU can successfully challenge this cynical attempt to restrict voter choice.

Posted by: vernacularsnoop | August 26, 2008

Swiss Young Greens head ballot initiative to ban gas-guzzlers

I’m not sure if this would fly in the US, but it’s a step in the right direction for Switzerland at least. The Swiss Young Greens have gathered over a hundred thousand signatures to call a national vote on an initiative called “For more people-friendly vehicles.” If passed, the initiative would require new vehicles to meet a certain level of efficiency, with exemptions for existing vehicles and some categories of commercial vehicles. Predictably, some people will claim that they have a right to drive a guzzler, but I think that the clear and present danger these vehicles pose to the environment, others on the road, and their own drivers is sufficient reason to ban them.

End of the road for large cars?

Posted by: vernacularsnoop | August 25, 2008

Green Party forms in Lebanon

This article from the Lebanon Daily Star heralds the arrival of a new political party in Lebanon: the Green Party. While the Daily Star presents a grim view of Lebanon’s political climate, the article also expresses hope that the Greens can get past traditional sectarian politics to solve some pressing problems. Lebanon’s forests are disappearing at a breakneck pace and its drinking water is dangerously polluted, to name just a couple of dire environmental situations facing the country.

The Green Party is a welcome addition to the political arena in Lebanon

I wish them the best of luck in their efforts to change Lebanese politics and save their country’s beautiful environment.

Cedar forest in Lebanon

Cedar forest in Lebanon

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