For whom to vote? That is the question. I live in Texas. In Texas people like to say that things are bigger here. Well in the area of elections, we have some Texas-Sized No-Brainers.
For me, usually it is quite clear. The National Republican party is one where atheist Karl Rove and plenty smart Chicken Hawks (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Limbaugh, Hannity) use homophobia, racism (pigment-phobia), terrorism and nationalism (both linked to the same process of xenophobia) to get votes, from ignorant, bigoted, wackos (Bush's word - not mine) while they give away billions to profit-making industries in insurance, credit cards and weapons. The pro-welfare for the rich neo-liberals allow their corporate friends to rip-off pension funds, jack up energy costs, and turn the American economy into one where wealth distribution parallels Brazil, Mexico, and other places we call the Third-World.
Their bedpan partners in crime, fund illegal wars, and allow Disney, Wal-Mart and the rest to use slave labor (kids in Bangladesh earn three cents per shirt ... three cents). These Democrats in power like the Drug War, the War on Terror, mandatory high-stakes testing for everyone except their own kids (aka the War on Children), want more people in prison (War on Black-Brown), oppose infrastructure projects for buses, light rail, wind farms and solar energy that would costs LESS than the one trillion used for illegal occupations, no-bid contracts, murder of over 500,000 in three years, and their current nuclear weapons programs. Did someone say "duck and cover?"
Our Duopoly in Washington (which in all likelihood also has its minions in your Governor's Mansion and State House) likes vote-flipping machines (thank you Diebold) and ballots that they count with their software. Ain't that right Senator Hagel? Those in power do not want systems that are low-tech and fair ... i.e. real paper ballots, counted and tabulated by teams of five or seven real people. Remember kids in elementary -school learn arithmetic via solar powered calculators - not nutrition-powered brains!
So when election time rolls around and the corporate press - including NPR with its war-profiteer sponsors like Lockheed-Martin (welfare king who poisons the planet with weapons), ADM (welfare king who poisons the planet with artificial sweeteners), Exxon-Mobil, various investment brokers (the kind who like to exploit children) ... - tells you that there are TWO and only TWO candidates or parties, you should realize:
"Ya been had. Ya been took. Ya been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Led astray! Run amok!"
My general advice is vote for the Greens, Peace and Freedom, Labor, Socialist, Libertarian, or Natural Law Party candidates. There is just no way to break the grip of ignorance and vicious, anti-human and anti-humanitarian nature of the patently anti-democratic and anti-libertarian corporate-police state that is the United States until people remove their hoods.
With that said, I have some particulars about races in Texas that should be generalized to places around the nation and inform our readers.
(A) In Brownsville, Texas, a Harvard law school graduate, Rolando Olvera, is running for the office of District Court judge. Olvera is openly a Republican and was first appointed to the bench by a Republican governor and confirmed by a Republican-controlled legislature. What are his taking points? They come straight (no pun intended) from Hannity/Rove. Olvera says that he is non-partisan, that justice is blind, and that his job is merely to apply the law, not rule on its legitimacy according to his personal beliefs. When challenged on the meaning of the U.S. Constitution, as explained by Federalist #84, Judge Olvera replied that Federalist #84 is not law. He is right - it is just part of the group of essays that explains the meaning of the Constitution.
Why is Federalist #84 important? It explains that the Constitution limits government - not individuals. The implications are obvious. As written, the Constitution says that government cannot restrict abortion, drug use, prostitution, or same-sex marriage. But according to Olvera, judges are supposed to follow the law - even when the law is WRONG or unconstitutional. The second challenge to Olvera occurred when a woman asked him, if, as he argued, judges were supposed to be non-partisan and apply law robotically, "why should anyone vote for him?" The answer was empty and pointless. The logic of Hannity and Rove provided enough rope for Olvera to hang himself. The questioner was right. If Olvera wants to claim that he cannot permit same-sex marriage or must put marijuana growers in prison, despite (or due to) his Harvard law school education (filtered through Fox logic), then we do not need him as a judge. I hold that if you vote for judges in your state and they use this "anti-judicial activism" nonsense, you throw the bums out.
(B) In the Sixth District of Texas one bigoted, xenophobe, war-funder/criminal (incumbent, Republican Joe Barton) is being challenged by war-criminal David Harris (a so-called Democrat). Mr. Harris is just another face of empire that the pro-war elites of the Democrat party want to put in power. According to Sarah Larson, 56 so-called (but wrongly named) veterans are running for Congress under the Democratic banner this year. Mr. Harris is not a veteran in the sense that he has experience, which, when combined with his intelligence, creates wisdom. Rather, Harris is a proud and unapologetic war-criminal. Furthermore, like fellow Texan G. W. Bush, Harris has NO idea how the three branches of government work.
Through the radio station WBAI of New York, a Vietnam veteran who now lives in New York (working as a street vendor and part-time newsmaker), interviewed Harris about his platform. Harris said that if elected, he would NOT defund the illegal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Harris pulled out (pun intended) and dusted off his copy of Republican party taking points (Vietnam era) and said that the U.S. cannot just pull out of Iraq, lest a bloodbath ensues. Harris added that he would continue full funding for the war [sic] (someone needs to tell war-criminal Harris that when U.S. troops occupy a nation, terrorize and bomb civilians, leaving depleted uranium and over 1,000,000 cluster bombs that will kill millions for years to come against a defenseless people, it is not a war - we call it ungodly slaughter). Harris added that if in Congress he would fight to bring the international community to the table, blah, blah, blah.
That is, Harris' solution for Iraq is diplomacy. Note to war-criminal Harris, the Executive Branch decides whether and how to conduct diplomacy. The Congress has the power of the purse and to declare war.
Just to let you know how Harris views his vacation in Iraq, review his words. Through an e-mail, sent directly to me, on 5 October 2006 Harris said:
I have been saying for months that the money we have been spending in Iraq ... should be used here in the United States for Homeland Security, Immigration Reform, Healthcare, Education, etc. I don't support the war and have been speaking out against it since getting home.
... cutting off funding is not the answer because our soldiers are still deployed. We must bring the world community back to the table and engage them in the rebuilding process ... [so] we can stop spending billions in a country that doesn't want us there. We cannot just leave and we cannot just pull the funding because we will totally send that region into civil war.
There are no easy answers in Iraq, I know because I spent 14 months deployed for a war I didn't support and don't to this day.
... I have a greater understanding than most candidates running for office because I was deployed [in Iraq]. I have served this country for 14 years in uniform ... We need to at least [sic] live up to our pre-war promises and set the conditions economically, politically, and militarily before we leave. ... I didn't start this war, but when elected I will do everything in my power to bring our troops home.
I count seven contradictions or points of stupidity (and one split infinitive). I especially like Harris' argument that he opposed every minute of those 14 months where he participated in the war crime called Iraq. Then he says that he knows best, because he served the country by being a war criminal. That wins my vote every time. Heck, I was and am against the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, but silly me - I am too stupid or inexperienced - to appreciate that we need to keep the troops there, even though I oppose the way Harris does?! Harris cannot name one single pre-war promise that "we" made to Iraq. (Was it something about WMDs - or that Bush claim that he had no qualm with the people of Iraq, but only wanted Saddam for violating the UN resolutions about non-existent WMDs?) Forget that. The really important point is that the pre-war economic sanctions killed Iraqi children and helped Saddam Hussein stay in power - Madeleine Albright said it was worth it, who am I to argue, oh well.
If you support empire and war criminals, call up Henry Kissinger and have a fiesta for the new wave of old-school Democratics. If you want to reject bigotry, endless war, and the impending National Security States of America, tell Harris and his fellow unapologetic war criminals to find a different line of work.
(C) The Texas Governor's race. The choices are simple, support one of three who want to maintain the system of inequity, miseducation and diseducation called the TAKS test (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) or vote for the guy with enough brains to listen to TEACHERS and eliminate the farce. We call him Kinky Friedman.
In Texas, like every other state, save Utah (if stories about the Red-state revolt are true), through a combination of federal money (no child left untested), political bigotry (cut money for the undeserving poor, Black and Brown), and Reaganesque logic (the problem with government is giving any money to folks who are not rich, White, or my friends), publics have accepted systems of so-called high stakes testing in the elementary and secondary grades.
Of course the testing system does not promote learning, create accountability, or help students become creative thinkers who will serve as tomorrow's leaders. Instead, these tests, which measure mediocrity, crush creativity, limit analysis and non-linear thinking. No music, no acting, no foreign language acquisition, no self-directed learning. But testing making companies reap huge windfalls, making crap that no one needs and selling it as a "teaching aide."
Unlike every other candidate, Kinky Friedman has talked to teachers and parents and heard the wisdom of those who are not on the payroll of textbook and testbook publishers. They have said with one voice - Just Say No. Say no to the TAKS, it wastes time and puts an extraordinary amount of stress on children - needlessly.
Granted, the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) has not endorsed Mr. Friedman. Instead they endorsed Ms. Carole Strayhorn. I called the TSTA and asked why. The Head of the TSTA, Donna New Haschke, said that Ms. Strayhorn wanted to get rid of the TAKS. When challenged, Haschke protested saying that Strayhorn only wanted to use the TAKS as a diagnostic tool - which I agree would be admirable. But when pressed, Haschke admitted that Strayhorn's plan is to reward teachers and schools that produce superior TAKS results - i.e. use the test as a measure of achievement! (By the way, Strayhorn's plan is really different from that currently used in Texas. Strayhorn wants to give school districts money one year after their test results. The present system has a two-year lag).
So the TSTA - which is supposed to represent teachers - has endorsed a woman who wants to maintain the inane system that cripples children, bores and scares them, and turns the profession and vocation of teaching into a practice that parallels a video presentation and demands all the talents of a prison guard. And you thought that teachers' unions exist AND have power. Not in Texas. (We call it a right to work state, not a work with rights or work for the right state).
Though one reporter's hit-piece said that Mr. Friedman had no plan on how to make up the $2.3 billion dollar short-fall that would occur if Texas abandoned the TAKS, the state's current education budget is $35 billion. How much of that goes directly to TAKS teaching, study guides, overtime pay, pre-testing, etc? The TSTA does not know! I will say it again. I asked Haschke, "how much of the No Child Left Behind money goes for TAKS and TAKS related activities and costs?" She had NO idea. Wake up teachers, wake up people. When the woman who is supposed to advocate for teachers both endorses the anti-educational tool and has no idea of how much money is wasted on it, it is time to find new leadership.
I voted for Kinky. I am looking to put a crimp in the political duopoly. What are you doing?
Originally published on Virtual Citizens Virtual Citizens provides Free Content to Global Media.