Iran Sends Delegation to Assist Florida Election Officials

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad today announced that he has dispatched a team of election officials to Florida to assist officials there in tabulating the results of Tuesday’s Presidential race.

“I was shocked and saddened to see images on the news in recent days which showed so many dark skinned people waiting on lines that stretched as far as the eye could see — some spending their entire day waiting in the heat to exercise their right to vote,” the one-time influential leader told reporters. “It reminded me of sadder times here at home — before we embraced the freedom and democracy we all enjoy now.”

Ahmadinejad also added, “I found it particularly sad because Gov. Rick Scott has always been such a good friend to me ever since we first met back when I was running for mayor of Tehran. I’ll never forget meeting him at a spaghetti dinner fundraiser and finding, much to my surprise, how much we had in common — particularly when it comes to our philosophy regarding the role of government.” Continue reading Iran Sends Delegation to Assist Florida Election Officials

Remember Caution Is a Prerequisite of Success

I love history because I feel it. Others enjoy a kiss or music, great art; history flows deep in my soul with its own compass of beauty. My challenge is to wander outside of language’s cages and find how we are bound to freedom, for history is always about the drama of freedom. Barack Obama’s re-election is one of freedom’s greatest moments. I loved it. But every wisdom tradition warns that in the shadows of great moments are dangers and obstacles throbbing and alive with their losing gasp.

I congratulate the President—and the country—but I am going to write about the dangers swept up in that great moment; the dangers, though defeated and diminished, that are a threat to the freedom that I love. History shows dangers, after being pummeled, return redoubled. If dangers are not guarded against, the great moments of history become a pinnacle of achievement rather than a base camp for building greater success. And in the great success and jubilation of celebrating the re-election of Barack Obama with the support of states from east to west (and maybe south!), mighty danger lurks.

In a country where men and women from Kenya were captured, shipped and sold as property at public auctions and stripped of legal and personal rights, denied even the right to marry by Christian ministers and church elders, made into forced labor, compelled to accept forcible rape upon their women, our President, a descendant of Kenya, was told by an immigrant, speaking as his opponent’s surrogate, that he needed “to learn to be an American.”  That immigrant overlooked that the sons and daughters of Africa know all too well and have learned too deeply what America means. The danger in the casual denial of his words hints at the old auctions, except the descendants are increasingly being marginalized. Their worth extracted, they are floss. The old story is still written in the wastes of higher unemployment, lower incomes, in communities overrun with crime, violence, and dropouts.

These communities must return to their history of self-help, established within the communities created by the auction block, communities that honored marriage and deeply embedded a self-love unbroken by violence and words, a self-love whose self-worth was tied to its ethics and pride in education, work and achievement. The African-American community need be painfully aware of the dangers that stand in front of its destiny, blocking its progress, subtly attempting to change its inner truth.  At the moment of the highest achievement by one of its improbable sons, it stands on the precipice of imploding doom.

An irony of last night’s success is that women were the prime group in re-electing a man. In state after state, the President’s margin depended on women voters. His opponent narrowly tried to isolate employment as a single issue for women voters, as his party isolated women as a group. Not just jobs; health care is primarily economic. The Republican resistance to Obamacare is not to health, but to costs, or how the payment and revenues are directed. Before Obamacare, virtually every state had higher costs for women, with giant holes in coverage related to women, on reproduction and illness that affected women at a higher incidence than men. In many ways, women are the driver’s of the national balance sheet; Walmart has woefully exploited their skills, other women have sold them out, some buy into an ideology that marginalizes them, many miss the global picture, and more struggle with poverty. Continue reading Remember Caution Is a Prerequisite of Success

Is Rodney Davis being honest about his relationship with George Ryan? (IL-13)

My patience has worn thin listening to Rodney Davis complain about campaign ads on his ties to convicted former Governor George Ryan. Davis claims the ads by DCCC are misleading, but Davis has never denied the basic facts: that Davis worked for George Ryan and was on Ryan’s clout list. If you look at the bigger picture, Davis’ denials smell funnier than the original ads.

Davis says the ads are false because they call George Ryan “Governor,” while Davis worked for Ryan only while he was Secretary of State. That’s irrelevant nitpicking, especially since Ryan was convicted for what he did as Secretary of State. Davis further refutes the ad by saying he was a low-level, anonymous employee who never took favors from George Ryan. He doubts that Ryan even remembered his name or knew who he was.

As I wrote before, Davis was granted a leave of absence from his job with the Secretary of State’s office to run for State Representative in 1996. That’s a pretty big favor not available to people in most normal jobs.

I decided to do a little fact-checking with the Illinois State Board of Elections. Davis donated $200 to the Ryan campaign fund in December of ’96, shortly after losing his campaign for State Representative. There was no reporting requirement for smaller donations at that time, so there may have been additional unrecorded contributions, such as low-dollar tickets to fundraisers.I tried to confirm that the donation isn’t from a relative in Taylorville with the same name but the Davis campaign isn’t very responsive to me right now. Regardless, I found something much more interesting.

Campaign finance reports from the time period Davis ran for State Representative aren’t online, so I went to the state election office in Springfield to pick up a copy. I scanned some of the results and uploaded them here. As I looked through the documents, I googled the names of large Davis contributors from outside Taylorville. In most instances, I found that those individuals were working for George Ryan.

Davis raised thousands in campaign contributions from managers he worked with in Ryan’s Secretary of State office.The most generous donor was Craig Roberts, who was serving as a high-ranking aid to George Ryan and would later become Chief of Staff to Congressman John Shimkus.  Over the campaign, he gave a series of donations and in-kind contributions totaling over $4,700.00. That’s pretty generous for someone taking a public salary.

Others include April Cook, who contributed a series of donations and in-kind contributions coming to $579.63. She worked in the Secretary of State human resources division. Jane Vredenburgh, an executive assistant to the Secretary of State, made multiple donations adding up to $650.00, and in later years would be a major Shimkus donor as well. Deb Detmers was manager of the Indexing Department where Davis worked, finance director of the Ryan campaign fund, and later moved to the Shimkus staff. She helped Davis too, making in-kind contributions.

Judging by the items donated, it appears that management staff were helping Davis host fundraising events. One wonders how many other Secretary of State employees made smaller, unreported donations at Davis campaign events hosted by their coworkers and bosses.

All of this by itself isn’t necessarily anything sinister. It’s not unusual to raise political funds from co-workers. Davis and his donors may even have left Ryan’s office to work for Shimkus because they were bothered by corruption in the office. But, if that’s the case, then why not say so? Why the amnesia routine?

What makes it significant is the context of what was happening in the Secretary of State office under George Ryan. Employees were expected to buy campaign fundraising tickets and do political work, sometimes on state time. As one article put it: “In offices all over the state, employees came to believe that their careers, evaluations, promotions, and pay increases all depended on their ability to raise campaign contributions for their political patron, then-Secretary of State George Ryan.”

Davis donated to the Ryan campaign fund at a time when employees were pressured into doing so. In fact, the supervisor of his department, Deb Detmers, testified in court that she was pressured to meet quotas for selling fundraising tickets to employees she supervised. Continue reading Is Rodney Davis being honest about his relationship with George Ryan? (IL-13)

Rodney Davis makes wacky claim that climate change stopped 16 years ago (IL-13)

How did I miss this whopper?! Republican Congressional candidate Rodney Davis claimed during a radio interview that climate change stopped sixteen years ago.

Clearly, you can tell that’s true because over the last several years we definitely haven’t had an unusual degree of extreme flooding along the Mississippi, no extreme droughts, and no Frankenstorms. Oh yeah, wait, those things are happening more often and it’s exactly what scientists told us to expect as a result of climate change.

You can listen to his comment after the 42:00-minute mark during a Focus interview on WILL public radio. A caller asked Davis how he plans to deal with climate change (no, it wasn’t me this time). Davis answered by claiming that, according to recent reports, “global warming stopped about sixteen years ago.”

Then he launched into his usual repetition of the Exxon/Koch Brothers talking point that there’s still a debate about whether man-made pollution is causing the crisis. It’s the argument climate change deniers have retreated to now that it’s impossible to ignore the change that’s already happening. As always, he dodged saying where he stands on whether man-made pollutants are the problem. He has gone through the entire campaign refusing to tell which side of that debate he’s on.

The caller interrupted Davis to tell him “that’s absolutely wrong” about climate change stopping, and challenged him to talk to a Nobel Prize winner at the University of Illinois about the scientific reality. That guy deserves a gold star. He may have been referring to a Professor of Atmospheric Science, Don Wuebbles, an outspoken, internationally recognized expert on climate issues who’s right here in central Illinois.

I googled the wacky claim about global warming stopping sixteen years ago and discovered it has been making the rounds on right-wing blogs and talk radio shows like Glenn Beck’s. It started with discredited writer Davis Rose publishing an article in a conservative British tabloid, which claimed there’s a report showing global temperatures stopped rising in 1996. The original report came from the British Met office.

The Met Office is the British version of the national weather service. They wrote a brutal, detailed response to what they describe as “misleading information” in the article. Here’s my favorite part: Continue reading Rodney Davis makes wacky claim that climate change stopped 16 years ago (IL-13)

Abuse Is Always in the Name of Love

Mitt Romney’s latest ploy is to pretend he is Barack Obama. For the past month, he has tried to walk in the President’s footsteps, in a brazen attempt to broaden his appeal. That ploy is a word-thin disguise to attract undecided voters and disgruntled Democrats to his radical-right positions on health, taxes, and women’s rights that these groups would normally reject.

If America accepts such a naked, transparent deceit, it has become an abuse victim, a country willing to ignore reality, past history and bad decisions, to willingly put itself at-risk by embracing all the wrong done in the name of a love for America.  What kind of people try to stop the abuse by reuniting with its perpetrators? Especially when the threats to safety and security never stopped, but in the classic fashion of abusers, have increased, becoming more distorted, domineering and shrill?

In fact, Romney wants to deny the abuse and put it on Obama, the blame-shifting that is the hallmark of dysfunction. Fault is always on somebody else. The interior narrative goes, “My errors, of which there are none, were made in good faith. Can’t you see my desire and devotion? And I have to be this way because of what happened.” Abusers rearrange the details of history to fit a narrative of good and evil that distorts and conceals truth and freedom. So the slaps and screams, the seething anger, the spontaneous rage, the stripping away of dignity, the shredding of self-worth, the putdowns and retorts, the demeaning language breaks the victim’s will.

Some in America have brought into the blame-shift. Victims beget victims. Their experience of abuse becomes a template. It recreates itself and perpetuates itself when it hits a tipping point. I have seen this with inner city crack epidemics in eastern cities; an out of control dysfunctionalism that altered the social fabric and changed the arc of success put in place by previous generations. I can tell you that healthy common sense is hard to recover for people conditioned to thinking abuse is a way of life. Continue reading Abuse Is Always in the Name of Love

Wind farm ban becomes issue in Sangamon County, Illinois board election

Proposed changes to the county wind farm ordinance have become an issue in the election for Sangamon county board seats. In August, I wrote about the county board threatening to turn away green jobs and clean energy by adopting the most extreme restrictions in Illinois.

County board members punted the issue again by extending the ban on wind farms for another six months. Ordinance changes, which may halt development of a wind farm proposed in western Sangamon County, will be considered again after the election.

The delays, hesitation, and threatened destruction of a project that would create badly needed green jobs has been raised by several candidates challenging county board incumbents. Mike Ziri was the first to contact me after my blog post. Ziri is a Springfield Democrat running in district 11. Both Ziri and Mike Crews spoke in favor of wind farm jobs at the Liberty Brew & View candidate night last month. Crews referenced his opponent’s vote for the wind farm moratorium in a campaign mailing.

The sponsor of the ordinance is Springfield County board member Tim Moore. I contacted his election opponent, Tony DelGiorno, to ask if this is an issue in his race. He speaks about it with voters while knocking on doors and it’s included on his campaign website. Tony sent me this quote: Continue reading Wind farm ban becomes issue in Sangamon County, Illinois board election

Congressional candidates Gill, Davis occupy same stage but different realities. IL-13

Democrat David Gill and Republican Rodney Davis shared the same stage for their debate last night, but they’re clearly not living in the same reality. Let’s review a few issues.

Debt and Taxes

Rodney Davis started the debate by saying his top issue is cutting the national debt. His plan for doing so is to cut taxes. Seriously. He wants to reduce revenue to bring down the debt. He doesn’t believe in that arithmetic thing Bill Clinton was talking about.

Later in the debate a student question asked the obvious. Are spending cuts alone without a tax increase enough to deal with the debt, and what, specifically, would you cut from the budget?

Davis again repeated the magical debt-reducing tax cut theory that worked so well for George W. Bush. He didn’t name any specific spending cuts he would support. He told the university audience that his unspecified spending cuts would free up more money to spend on student financial aid for college.

In a single debate, Davis claimed that everyone will get tax cuts, that tax cuts will reduce the deficit, that only things you don’t like will be cut from the budget, and all the spending you do like will still be increased. Also, everyone gets a unicorn that farts glitter.

David Gill said he supports ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but does not support any tax increase on the middle class. Unlike Davis, he named something specific he would cut. Gill thinks we should already be out of Afghanistan and that military spending can be cut as we withdraw.

Gill’s plan of proposing specific cuts in a bloated part of the budget, and expiring the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy could be described as a reality-based strategy to cutting the debt. Counting on trickle-down tax cuts to magically grow the economy, as Davis suggests, is exactly how we got the debts of the Reagan and Bush years.

Energy and Climate Change

The moderators didn’t bring up climate change, but David Gill did twice. First, he brought up the droughts that hit farmers hard this year and spoke about the need to keep things from getting even worse due to climate change. He later said he takes a science-based approach to the issue, and that it’s a real problem we need to deal with.

Gill says that if we’re going to subsidize energy sources that it should be clean tech development rather than subsidies going to oil and dirty energy. He brought up the dirty industry dollars going to the Davis campaign several times, including donations from Exxon, Exelon, and the Koch brothers.

Davis debated both Gill and his own flip-flopping positions on energy. First, he said he opposed federal support to clean energy projects like Solyndra. When asked directly about the clean energy tax credit for wind, he said he supported it, even though he opposed them just last week. Later he went back to attacking federal spending for clean energy yet again.

Davis flip-flopped three times in under an hour, and never said a word about climate change. He doesn’t appear to believe in either science or arithmetic.

Health Care Choice

Rodney Davis repeatedly used the fear tactic of telling people that universal health care will result in the government dictating their choice of doctors and health care decisions. He believes a “market-based” insurance system will give people the freedom to choose their own doctors and health care options. It gets truly bizarre when Davis supports this argument by pointing to his own experience while being on a government, taxpayer-funded health care plan provided by his federal government job. Continue reading Congressional candidates Gill, Davis occupy same stage but different realities. IL-13

Debate Moderator Fail: Does anyone worry about gas prices when their home is destroyed by disaster?

I always felt Candy Crowley focused on the frivolous, like most of CNN, so she exceeded my expectations moderating the Presidential debate. She mostly did an acceptable job, but her decision to focus the energy discussion on gas prices rather than climate change was a massive failure.

Crowley chose the question on gas prices and asked two follow-up questions to keep the focus there. It’s a way of framing the energy debate that ignores a far more important issue. If a person’s home or workplace is destroyed by a catastrophic flood, hurricane, or wildfire, or if their crop is destroyed by drought, then suddenly gas prices aren’t the most important problem. I can only guess about whether Crowley’s misguided focus is due to a lack of understanding of the enormity of the problem or because of CNN’s reliance on massive advertising revenue from the fossil fuel industry. The press is still part of the problem.

It’s disappointing that Obama didn’t raise climate change himself, but keeping the focus on gas prices is a way to put politicians who want to deal with climate change on the defensive. Obama did the right thing by investing heavily in clean energy and efficiency. But, the smaller stimulus investments in clean coal have largely been a failure and pandering to coal is gaining Obama nothing politically. The coal industry will continue spending millions to fight him, no matter how much he increases coal mining production or throws subsidies at them. Continue reading Debate Moderator Fail: Does anyone worry about gas prices when their home is destroyed by disaster?

Nasty Republican attack site complains about negative campaigning. Order a Dr. Radical.

I’ve heard that Republicans have a guy following around Democratic Congressional candidate David Gill in surgical scrubs and calling himself “Dr. Radical.” The Illinois Republican Party (where Gill’s opponent, Rodney Davis, used to be Executive Director) has a website to match, complete with a cartoonishly bad photoshop job of Gill putting on a surgical glove, as if he’s about to perform a colonoscopy.

The website is mostly full of gross distortions about Gill wanting to end Medicare, when the reality is that he would essentially extend it to everyone. But, the best part is when this sophomoric, ugly campaign site accuses David Gill of “not running a positive campaign.” Seriously!

Dr. RadicalThis made me laugh for a good ten minutes. Isn’t that the perfect conservative talk-radio style attack? The site is saying, “We expect you to run a positive campaign while we call you childish names and lie about your platform.” It reminds me of Mitt Romney’s recent whining that Obama is running a negative campaign after Romney spent the past year lying about Obama’s record. Davis and Romney want everyone else to follow the rules they ignore.

It’s standard operating procedure for talk radio conservatives to accuse Democrats of anything shameful that Republicans are in the process of doing. My favorite was during the Mark Foley Congressional page scandal when Fox News kept bringing up a similar 30-year-old scandal involving a Democrat. Was that supposed to be an excuse for Foley?

Another example is when you have a candidate, like Rodney Davis, who wants to put everyone’s health care in the hands of the private insurance industry, which obviously wouldn’t include a public program like Medicare. Falsely accusing Gill of wanting to end Medicare is a tactic to blur the distinction between the two candidates. Now, reporters who want to seem balanced will write headlines like “both campaigns accuse the other of attacking Medicare” and the issue is successfully obfuscated. The tactic usually works. Continue reading Nasty Republican attack site complains about negative campaigning. Order a Dr. Radical.

Rodney Davis has more trouble answering questions again, and again, and...

A pattern is emerging in Rodney Davis’ campaign for Congress (IL-13). He’s trying to run without answering tough questions or taking clear stands on controversial issues. He mostly attends private Republican events and has so far avoided public forums where he would have to answer difficult questions.

When a reporter asked about his previous support for the Ryan budget he said he supported some parts but not others. But, he wouldn’t say which parts. When asked if he supported the parts that cut Medicare he “didn’t want to get boxed in” by taking a position.

Then he scurried away when I asked him about climate change during a press conference about flooding. How does someone rationalize holding a press conference about flooding along the Mississippi and NOT talk about climate change?

When people posted dozens of questions on his campaign page asking for his position on climate change his campaign ignored them and deleted every single question, no matter how politely worded. During a press conference on energy policy (held at a gas station outside the district) he still managed to avoid explaining whether he shares the anti-science, conspiratorial views of his former boss, John Shimkus.

Back in June he walked away from a voter who asked if he supports the Ryan budget and ignored a group who asked if he would support a minimum wage increase.

This Tuesday, Action Now gathered outside Davis’ $250 a plate fundraiser at the Illini Country Club. They asked, once again, why Davis is holding private events outside the district instead of answering tough questions.

Action Now has an online petition asking Davis to hold a town hall meeting in Springfield. It makes the modest request that Davis: Continue reading Rodney Davis has more trouble answering questions again, and again, and…