Happy Solstice to all!!
Friday, December 05, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
(With Credit to the authors.)
BLOCK THE VOTE
Will the GOP's campaign to deter new voters and discard Democratic ballots determine the next president?
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. & Greg Palast, Rolling Stone, Oct 30, 2008
These days, the old west rail hub of Las Vegas, New Mexico, is little more than a dusty economic dead zone amid a boneyard of bare mesas. In national elections, the town overwhelmingly votes Democratic: More than 80 percent of all residents are Hispanic, and one in four lives below the poverty line. On February 5th, the day of the Super Tuesday caucus, a school-bus driver named Paul Maez arrived at his local polling station to cast his ballot. To his surprise, Maez found that his name had vanished from the list of registered voters, thanks to a statewide effort to deter fraudulent voting. For Maez, the shock was especially acute: He is the supervisor of elections in Las Vegas.
Maez was not alone in being denied his right to vote. On Super Tuesday, one in nine Democrats who tried to cast ballots in New Mexico found their names missing from the registration lists. The numbers were even higher in precincts like Las Vegas, where nearly 20 percent of the county's voters were absent from the rolls. With their status in limbo, the voters were forced to cast "provisional" ballots, which can be reviewed and discarded by election officials without explanation. On Super Tuesday, more than half of all provisional ballots cast were thrown out statewide.
This November, what happened to Maez will happen to hundreds of thousands of voters across the country. In state after state, Republican operatives - the party's elite commandos of bare-knuckle politics - are wielding new federal legislation to systematically disenfranchise Democrats. If this year's race is as close as the past two elections, the GOP's nationwide campaign could be large enough to determine the presidency in November. "I don't think the Democrats get it," says John Boyd, a voting-rights attorney in Albuquerque who has taken on the Republican Party for impeding access to the ballot. "All these new rules and games are turning voting into an obstacle course that could flip the vote to the GOP in half a dozen states."
Suppressing the vote has long been a cornerstone of the GOP's electoral strategy. Shortly before the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, Paul Weyrich - a principal architect of today's Republican Party - scolded evangelicals who believed in democracy. "Many of our Christians have what I call the 'goo goo' syndrome - good government," said Weyrich, who co-founded Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell. "They want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote. . . . As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."
Today, Weyrich's vision has become a national reality. Since 2003, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, at least 2.7 million new voters have had their applications to register rejected. In addition, at least 1.6 million votes were never counted in the 2004 election - and the commission's own data suggests that the real number could be twice as high. To purge registration rolls and discard ballots, partisan election officials used a wide range of pretexts, from "unreadability" to changes in a voter's signature. And this year, thanks to new provisions of the Help America Vote Act, the number of discounted votes could surge even higher.
Passed in 2002, HAVA was hailed by leaders in both parties as a reform designed to avoid a repeat of the 2000 debacle in Florida that threw the presidential election to the U.S. Supreme Court. The measure set standards for voting systems, created an independent commission to oversee elections, and ordered states to provide provisional ballots to voters whose eligibility is challenged at the polls.
But from the start, HAVA was corrupted by the involvement of Republican superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, who worked to cram the bill with favors for his clients. (Both Abramoff and a primary author of HAVA, former Rep. Bob Ney, were imprisoned for their role in the conspiracy.) In practice, many of the "reforms" created by HAVA have actually made it harder for citizens to cast a ballot and have their vote counted. In case after case, Republican election officials at the local and state level have used the rules to give GOP candidates an edge on Election Day by creating new barriers to registration, purging legitimate names from voter rolls, challenging voters at the polls and discarding valid ballots.
To justify this battery of new voting impediments, Republicans cite an alleged upsurge in voting fraud. Indeed, the U.S.-attorney scandal that resulted in the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales began when the White House fired federal prosecutors who resisted political pressure to drum up nonexistent cases of voting fraud against Democrats. "They wanted some splashy pre-election indictments that would scare these alleged hordes of illegal voters away," says David Iglesias, a U.S. attorney for New Mexico who was fired in December 2006. "We took over 100 complaints and investigated for almost two years - but I didn't find one prosecutable case of voter fraud in the entire state of New Mexico."
There's a reason Iglesias couldn't find any evidence of fraud: Individual voters almost never try to cast illegal ballots. The Bush administration's main point person on "ballot protection" has been Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department attorney who has advised states on how to use HAVA to erect more barriers to voting. Appointed to the Federal Election Commission by Bush, von Spakovsky has suggested that voter rolls may be stuffed with 5 million illegal aliens. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that voter fraud is extremely rare. According to a recent analysis by Lorraine Minnite, an expert on voting crime at Barnard College, federal courts found only 24 voters guilty of fraud from 2002 to 2005, out of hundreds of millions of votes cast. "The claim of widespread voter fraud," Minnite says, "is itself a fraud."
Allegations of voter fraud are only the latest rationale the GOP has used to disenfranchise voters - especially blacks, Hispanics and others who traditionally support Democrats. "The Republicans have a long history of erecting barriers to discourage Americans from voting," says Donna Brazile, chair of the Voting Rights Institute for the Democratic National Committee. "Now they're trying to spook Americans with the ghost of voter fraud. It's very effective - but it's ironic that the only way they maintain power is by using fear to deprive Americans of their constitutional right to vote." The recently enacted barriers thrown up to deter voters include:
1. Obstructing Voter-Registration Drives
Since 2004, the Bush administration and more than a dozen states have taken steps to impede voter registration. Among the worst offenders is Florida, where the Republican-dominated legislature created hefty fines - up to $5,000 per violation - for groups that fail to meet deadlines for turning in voter-application forms. Facing potentially huge penalties for trivial administrative errors, the League of Women Voters abandoned its voter-registration drives in Florida. A court order eventually forced the legislature to reduce the maximum penalty to $1,000. But even so, said former League president Dianne Wheatley-Giliotti, the reduced fines "create an unfair tax on democracy." The state has also failed to uphold a federal law requiring that low-income voters be offered an opportunity to register when they apply for food stamps or other public assistance. As a result, the annual number of such registrations has plummeted from more than 120,000 in the Clinton years to barely 10,000 today.
2. Demanding "Perfect Matches"
Under the Help America Vote Act, some states now reject first-time registrants whose data does not correspond to information in other government databases. Spurred by HAVA, almost every state must now attempt to make some kind of match - and four states, including the swing states of Iowa and Florida, require what is known as a "perfect match." Under this rigid framework, new registrants can lose the right to vote if the information on their voter-registration forms - Social Security number, street address and precisely spelled name, right down to a hyphen - fails to exactly match data listed in other government records.
There are many legitimate reasons, of course, why a voter's information might vary. Indeed, a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that as many as 20 percent of discrepancies between voter records and driver's licenses in New York City are simply typing mistakes made by government clerks when they transcribe data. But under the new rules, those mistakes are costing citizens the right to vote. In California, a Republican secretary of state blocked 43 percent of all new voters in Los Angeles from registering in early 2006 - many because of the state's failure to produce a tight match. In Florida, GOP officials created "match" rules that rejected more than 15,000 new registrants in 2006 and 2007 - nearly three-fourths of them Hispanic and black voters. Given the big registration drives this year, the number could be five times higher by November.
3. Purging Legitimate Voters From the Rolls
The Help America Vote Act doesn't just disenfranchise new registrants; it also targets veteran voters. In the past, bipartisan county election boards maintained voter records. But HAVA requires that records be centralized, computerized and maintained by secretaries of state - partisan officials - who are empowered to purge the rolls of any voter they deem ineligible. Ironically, the new rules imitate the centralized system in Florida - the same corrupt operation that inspired passage of HAVA in the first place. Prior to the 2000 election, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and her predecessor, both Republicans, tried to purge 57,000 voters, most of them African-Americans, because their names resembled those of persons convicted of a crime. The state eventually acknowledged that the purges were improper - two years after the election.
Rather than end Florida-style purges, however, HAVA has nationalized them. Maez, the elections supervisor in New Mexico, says he was the victim of faulty list management by a private contractor hired by the state. Hector Balderas, the state auditor, was also purged from the voter list. The nation's youngest elected Hispanic official, Balderas hails from Mora County, one of the poorest in the state, which had the highest rate of voters forced to cast provisional ballots. "As a strategic consideration," he notes, "there are those that benefit from chaos" at the ballot box.
All told, states reported scrubbing at least 10 million voters from their rolls on questionable grounds between 2004 and 2006. Colorado holds the record: Donetta Davidson, the Republican secretary of state, and her GOP successor oversaw the elimination of nearly one of every six of their state's voters. Bush has since appointed Davidson to the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency created by HAVA, which provides guidance to the states on "list maintenance" methods.
4. Requiring Unnecessary Voter ID's
Even if voters run the gauntlet of the new registration laws, they can still be blocked at the polling station. In an incident last May, an election official in Indiana denied ballots to 10 nuns seeking to vote in the Democratic primary because their driver's licenses or passports had expired. Even though Indiana has never recorded a single case of voter-ID fraud, it is one of two dozen states that have enacted stringent new voter-ID statutes.
On its face, the requirement to show a government-issued ID doesn't seem unreasonable. "I want to cash a check to pay for my groceries, I've got to show a little bit of ID," Karl Rove told the Republican National Lawyers Association in 2006. But many Americans lack easy access to official identification. According to a recent study for the Election Law Journal, young people, senior citizens and minorities - groups that traditionally vote Democratic - often have no driver's licenses or state ID cards. According to the study, one in 10 likely white voters do not possess the necessary identification. For African-Americans, the number lacking such ID is twice as high.
5. Rejecting "Spoiled" Ballots
Even intrepid voters who manage to cast a ballot may still find their vote discounted. In 2004, election officials discarded at least 1 million votes nationwide after classifying them as "spoiled" because blank spaces, stray marks or tears made them indecipherable to voting machines. The losses hit hardest among minorities in low-income precincts, who are often forced to vote on antiquated machines. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in its investigation of the 2000 returns from Florida, found that African-Americans were nearly 10 times more likely than whites to have their ballots rejected, a ratio that holds nationwide.
Proponents of HAVA claimed the law would correct the spoilage problem by promoting computerized balloting. Yet touch-screen systems have proved highly unreliable - especially in minority and low-income precincts. A statistical analysis of New Mexico ballots by a voting-rights group called VotersUnite found that Hispanics who voted by computer in 2004 were nearly five times more likely to have their votes unrecorded than those who used paper ballots. In a close election, such small discrepancies can make a big difference: In 2004, the number of spoiled ballots in New Mexico - 19,000 - was three times George Bush's margin of victory.
6. Challenging "Provisional" Ballots
In 2004, an estimated 3 million voters who showed up at the polls were refused regular ballots because their registration was challenged on a technicality. Instead, these voters were handed "provisional" ballots, a fail-safe measure mandated by HAVA to enable officials to review disputed votes. But for many officials, resolving disputes means tossing ballots in the trash. In 2004, a third of all provisional ballots - as many as 1 million votes - were simply thrown away at the discretion of election officials.
Many voters are given provisional ballots under an insidious tactic known as "vote caging," which uses targeted mailings to disenfranchise black voters whose addresses have changed. In 2004, despite a federal consent order forbidding Republicans from engaging in the practice, the GOP sent out tens of thousands of letters to "confirm" the addresses of voters in minority precincts. If a letter was returned for any reason - because the voter was away at school or serving in the military - the GOP challenged the voter for giving a false address. One caging operation was exposed when an RNC official mistakenly sent the list to a parody site called GeorgeWBush.org - instead of to the official campaign site GeorgeWBush.com.
In the century following the Civil War, millions of black Americans in the Deep South lost their constitutional right to vote, thanks to literacy tests, poll taxes and other Jim Crow restrictions imposed by white officials. Add up all the modern-day barriers to voting erected since the 2004 election - the new registrations thrown out, the existing registrations scrubbed, the spoiled ballots, the provisional ballots that were never counted - and what you have is millions of voters, more than enough to swing the presidential election, quietly being detached from the electorate by subterfuge.
"Jim Crow was laid to rest, but his cousins were not," says Donna Brazile. "We got rid of poll taxes and literacy tests but now have a second generation of schemes to deny our citizens their franchise." Come November, the most crucial demographic may prove to be Americans who have been denied the right to vote. If Democrats are to win the 2008 election, they must not simply beat John McCain at the polls - they must beat him by a margin that exceeds the level of GOP vote tampering.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
By Josh Schrei, Guerilla News Network, 09 Oct 2008 http://www.guerrillanews.com/articles/3854/Year_Zero
When the shell-shocked, illiterate, and pissed-off country folk of Cambodia who later came to be known as the Khmer Rouge finally drove back government forces and stormed the capitol of Phnom Penh in the 1970s, they focused all their pent up rage on one class of people - intellectuals.
Basically, if you had a college degree, you were killed. If you were a doctor, you were killed. If you wore glasses, you had your face bashed in with a bat. The initial killing spree that took place was rabid and brutal, carried out with the type of rage that is only seen when a people who have lived under the boot of a real or perceived enemy for years are finally let loose.
In this case, however, the rage was misguided. The intellectuals in Cambodia weren't really the problem. And the disproportionate anger towards them was not historically intrinsic to the peasantry; it was a slowly, methodically developed political tactic employed by Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot to do one thing and one thing only - whip his base into a frenzy and keep him in power.
Certainly scapegoatism is not a new political tactic - the Nazis being the classic example. But what is interesting and terrifying about cases like Cambodia is the particular type of rage that is generated when a country-dwelling 'underclass' who have felt inferior and put down by the 'smarter' urbanites finally get their day toŠ shine.
Unfortunately, the years that follow such bloodbaths tend to be - to put it mildly - not very fun. During the cultural revolution in China for example, infant mortality rates soared because qualified doctors were often seen as elitists and were either not allowed to practice or were killed outright.
There's a simple reason why the years after anti-intellectual purges aren't fun. Because intellectuals matter. It really shouldn't even need to be said, but frighteningly in the current political climate, it does.
Obviously no-one in the United States is overtly advocating violence against the intellectual elite, but in metaphorical and increasingly real terms, the Republicans are waging a war pitting middle American 'Joe Six Pack' and 'Hockey Moms' against coastal elitists with Harvard degrees. Sarah Palin is the personification of this, taking George Bush's strategy of 'everyday speak' to even greater heights (or lows) than George ever did. Apparently, in the Karl Rove strategy book, 'if it ain't broke don't fix it', so much so that now the war of 'everyday America' vs. 'the smart people' is absolutely central to Republican electoral strategy.
There should be no underestimating how dangerous and toxic this strategy is. By simultaneously gutting the very educational and social programs that support and sustain 'Joe six pack' with one hand and with the other creating a vitriolic culture in which those who actually are educated are seen as 'other' and therefore not worthy of governing, the Republican party is toying with the future of this country in ways that can and will cause irrevocable damage.
We all might laugh or cringe when Sarah Palin talks about being 'five weeks on the job' and bringing 'Joe Six pack' into the white house or describes herself as a 'pitbull with lipstick.'
What we should be is very, very afraid.
Leaving aside the fact that what America needs both domestically and abroad at this particular juncture in history is to be governed by a pair of really, really smart people, the truly frightening prospect is what will happen if the Republicans continue with this tactic. The historical parallels are ugly. Nineteen-thirties Italy comes to mind. As does post WWI Germany. As does - in an extreme example - Cambodia.
In immediate terms, the natural outcome of this 'everyday man' nationalism and anti-elitist frenzy combined with economic downturn is a drastic drop in America's ability to compete in the world. Our nation's economy lessens as our nations ability to lead the global conversation lessens, and then, as the economy tanks and jobs diminish, the gap between 'Joe Six Pack' and the coastal elites widens, the hatred and division grows. To the point that to half the nation's people, it somehow, astonishingly, becomes a negative to speak of how smart, or well educated, or articulate, or worldly a person is.
A nation such as ours, founded on a very heady document written by some very smart and very well educated people, should never, ever shy away from electing scholars as president. We have, and we should, embrace it.
There are two saving graces here. One is that thinking Republicans are actually starting to realize the danger that Palin - and the campaign of class war that she represents - poses to their party and are becoming more and more vocal about it.
The other is that everyday Americans have suffered the most at the hands of the current administration and many of them realize it. Hopefully more will.
The ones that don't - the ones that rabidly call for a 'hockey mom' in the white house while the rug is being pulled out from underneath them - they're the ones whose blindness would soon have them picking up the metaphorical bat and taking it to the very doctor that could heal them.
Hopefully the rift in the republican party over the new Palinism - and a democratic victory - will create a shift towards a more thinking, issue-based Republican party. Otherwise, to put it bluntly, we might as well close our schools, shut down our borders, send more of our sons and daughters off to die, and rename 2008 Year Zero.
McCain thinks that "Joe the plumber" outs Obama's tax plan as hurting middle America. But if you actually watch the video, you see a really important thing that the republicans don't mention:
Obama spent time talking to someone who clearly disagreed with him, explained his plan, and treated the man with respect. Have you ever seen McCain behave respectfully toward someone who disagreed with him? NO - he treats with disdain those who dare to disagree with him.
So forget about the facts concerning Joe the Plumber -
That he was NOT undecided, but is a registered Republican already planning on voting for McCain,
That he is NOT a licensed plumber according to Toledo records,
That he would have to be making a whole hell of a lot more than $250k a year to actually net more that $250k AND
If he actually was a good enough businessman to net more than $250k a year, the tax break would be going to his employees (you know, the ones actually standing in shit all day doing plumbing work.)
But forget all that - the real story is about grace, and respect, and listening to your opponent's man.
That is Barack Obama. America needs this man.
Friday, October 10, 2008
The crazies are out there, calling OB a terrorist and shouting "kill him" at rallies. And I'm saddened at the racism that McCain/Palin are winking at and nodding to. Holy shit. November can't come soon enough. And I still won't breath easy until it's such a landslide that the Republicans can't steal another election. Because you can be sure that they will try to do just that, if they have a hope in hell of getting away with it.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Saturday, September 27, 2008
THE TRUTH ABOUT SARAH PALIN
Sarah Palin's credentials as a "reformer" are nothing but spin. She has sided with Big Oil, lobbied to increase pork spending and abused her public power to carry out personal vendettas. Here's a guide to separating myth from fact.
Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, Oct 02, 2008 9:30 AM
THE MYTH: "She took the luxury jet that was acquired by her predecessor and sold it on eBay. And made a profit!" - John McCain, at a campaign stop in Wisconsin
THE FACTS: No one bought the jet online. It was eventually sold through an aircraft broker - at a loss to taxpayers of nearly $600,000.
THE MYTH: "I told the Congress 'Thanks, but no thanks' on that Bridge to Nowhere." - Sarah Palin, convention speech
THE FACTS: Supported the infamous pork project in her 2006 run for governor, even after Congress had killed the bridge; derided its opponents as "spinmeisters." Reversed her stance a year later - but kept the money, doling out the $223 million in federal funds to other pork projects throughout the state.
THE MYTH: "We ... championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress." - Sarah Palin, convention speech
THE FACTS: As mayor, employed a lobbyist who also worked for Jack Abramoff to secure $27 million in pork spending for Wasilla - more than $4,000 per resident. In her two years as governor, requested $453 million in earmarks. Alaska ranks first in the nation for pork, raking in seven times the national average.
THE MYTH: "I found ... someone who stopped government from wasting taxpayers' money." - John McCain, introducing Palin
THE FACTS: Signature accomplishment as mayor: building a $15 million hockey arena that plunged the city into debt. Broke ground on the project without finalizing the city's purchase of the land; the resulting fiasco cost Wasilla $1.3 million - roughly $200 per resident.
THE MYTH: "Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems - as if we didn't know that already." - Sarah Palin, convention speech
THE FACTS: "I beg to disagree with any candidate who would say we can't drill our way out of our problem." - Sarah Palin, July 2008
THE MYTH: "We began a nearly $40 billion natural-gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence." - Sarah Palin, convention speech
THE FACTS: With federal approval years away, not a single section of the pipeline has been laid. State could end up paying the pipeline's contractor $500 million - even if it never breaks ground on the project.
THE MYTH: "She's from a small town with small-town values." - Fred Thompson, convention speech
THE FACTS: Wasilla and the surrounding valley recently named the meth capital of Alaska, with 42 meth labs busted in a single year.
THE MYTH: Palin has "taken on the political establishment in the largest state of the union." - Fred Thompson, convention speech
THE FACTS: Served until 2005 as director of fundraising group associated with indicted senator Ted Stevens.
THE MYTH: "She's fought oil companies." - John McCain, introducing Palin
THE FACTS: Collected $13,000 in campaign contributions from oil and gas lobbyists, including Exxon, BP, Shell and Chevron. BP was a sponsor of her inaugural ball.
THE MYTH: "She's been to Kuwait. She's been over there. She has been with her troops. The National Guard that she commands, who have been over there and had the experience." - John McCain, highlighting Palin's national-security credentials
THE FACTS: Never had a passport before 2007, when she made a brief photo-op trip to visit troops in Germany and Kuwait. Has never been to Iraq, and has not met a single foreign head of state.
THE MYTH: "I have protected the taxpayers by vetoing wasteful spending." - Sarah Palin, convention speech
THE FACTS: As governor, sought travel reimbursement for 312 nights she spent in her own home.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
WHY THEY CHOSE SARAH PALIN
...And What to do About it...
Mark Crispin Miller, Brad Blog, 9/16/2008 http://www.bradblog.com/?p=6392
A Guest Editorial by author and NYU media professor, Mark Crispin Miller...
"Strategists say that Mr. McCain can now count on a more motivated social conservative base to help him in areas like southern Ohio, where the 2004 race was settled."
--The New York Times, Sept. 7, 2008, A1
"In investigating the 2004 election in Ohio--examining pollbooks, talking to pollworkers and election officials, as well as reading local newspaper accounts --we could find no data of a late surge to the polls by born-again Christians. What we did find is certified voting totals in areas favoring Bush that didn't match the number of voters who officially signed-in on the poll sign-in sheets."
--Email from Bob Fitrakis of The Columbus Free Press, Sept. 7, 2008
To understand how Team McCain intends to get away with stealing this election, we must recall how Team Bush got away with it four years ago. (Those aren't two different teams.)
The plan for stealing this contest has everything to do with the ostensibly surprising choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP.
1. Election Day, 2004: The Myth of Bush's Christian "Surge"
First, let's recall that, after the 2004 election, everybody said that Bush had won because the true believers of the Christian right had come out--or, rather, poured forth--in unprecedented numbers, often at the last minute, to support him. Of course, by "everybody," I'm referring to the entire commentariate, both mainstream and left/liberal. On TV and in print, in news analyses and op-ed articles, they all said that Bush/Cheney had been re-elected by America's "values voters."
And they said it with a certain awe--as well they should, since Bush's victory was a sort of miracle. He had disapproval ratings in the upper 40's: higher than LBJ's in 1968, higher than Jimmy Carter's in 1980. Nor was he very popular in his own party, as many top Republicans came out against him--including moderates like John Eisenhower, rightists like Bob Barr, and many others such as William Crowe (chair of the Joint Chiefs under Ronald Reagan), General Tony McPeak (former Air Force chief of staff and erstwhile Veteran for Bush), libertarian Doug Bandow, neocon Francis Fukuyama, Lee Iacocca and Jack Matlock, Jr. (Reagan's ambassador to the USSR); and many other, lesser figures in his party also publicly rejected him.
And so did sixty (60) newspapers--all in "red" states--that had endorsed Bush four years earlier: two thirds of them now going for Kerry, the others none of the above. American Conservative, Pat Buchanan's own magazine, ran endorsements of five different candidates, only one of them for Bush. And 169 tenured and emeritus professors from the world's top business schools all signed a full-page ad decrying his economic policies, adducing them as reasons not to vote for him. (The ad was written by top faculty at his own alma mater, Harvard Business School.) The ad ran in the Financial Times, which, like The Economist, endorsed John Kerry.
And still Bush won, despite such big defections, thanks to that enormous turnout by the Christian right, as everybody kept on saying--even though there were good reasons to be very skeptical about that notion.
2. Election Day, 2004: There Was No Christian "Surge"
First of all, that talking point came from the Christian right itself, whose members certainly had every reason to exaggerate their clout. That they thus credited themselves, and that the claim was duly amplified by their own party and its propaganda organs (Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, et al.), should have been enough to make all non-believers doubtful.
And non-believers should have been especially suspicious of that claim because there's not a shred of evidence to back it up. On the other hand, there's solid evidence that that immense, last-minute vote for Bush was nothing but a propaganda fiction, cooked up by Karl Rove to mask his party's theft of that election.
To begin with, that fiction is preposterous on its face, since there were nowhere near enough of such right-wing believers to account for the incumbent's staggering advance, as Bush reportedly received 11.5 million more votes than he had won four years before. And how many evangelicals did that surge include? According to Karl Rove himself (among others), there were 4 million evangelicals who had not voted for Bush/Cheney in 2000. So, even if Rove managed to get every single one of them to vote for Bush this time around (and it's unlikely that he did), they could not possibly have made so big a difference--unless, of course, their numbers somehow magically increased inside the polls, like Jesus's loaves and fishes.
In any case, Bush seems to have done worse with evangelicals than he had four years before. Consider how his "base" performed, in fact, on that Election Day, as measured by the National Exit Poll (and scrupulously analyzed by Michael Collins, whose essay, "The Urban Legend," is included in Loser Take All). Close study of the numbers in 2004 reveals that there was no big national surge of "values voters": on the contrary.
First of all, the nation's rural vote declined, dropping from 23% to just 16% of the overall national vote; and Bush's total rural vote went down from 14 million to just under 12 million. And while the nation's small town vote increased substantially--by 88%--those voters did not favor Bush as they had done four years before, but opted in near equal numbers for John Kerry. Of those 9.5 million votes, Bush got 4.9 million, while Kerry got 4.7 million. (In 2000, Bush had won 3.1 million small town votes, to Gore's 2 million.) And then there were the voters in the suburbs, who did come out for Bush in greater numbers than four years before--but hardly by enough to make for a decisive jump of any kind, as Bush won 28.3 million of those votes, to Kerry's 25.6 million.
On Nov. 11, Pew published the results of their most precise survey of the electorate. Having asked Americans to name the issue that most concerned them as they cast their ballots, Pew found that Iraq was Number One, noted by 25 percent, followed by "jobs and the economy," noted by 12 percent, with 9 percent invoking "terrorism." Only 9 percent named "moral values" as their main concern--with only 3 percent of them referring specifically to "gay marriage" (and another 2 percent referring to the candidates' own private lives).
Those numbers tell a very different story from the one hyped proudly by the men atop the Christianist machine. In particular, they said that they helped Bush prevail through their well-managed opposition to gay marriage--which Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, called "the hood ornament on the family values wagon that carried the president to a second term." That there was evidently no such wagon did not blunt the impact of such theocratic propaganda, which quickly resonated all throughout "the liberal media," so that it now stands as the truth.
Indeed, it was accepted as the truth so quickly that it went unquestioned even after the dramatic mass reaction to the Terri Schiavo case a few months later, when Bush and the Republicans in Congress intervened in that domestic tragedy, trying to force the very outcome that the Christianists were calling for: "Americans broadly and strongly disapprove of federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case," ABC News reported. The public supported the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube by 63% to 28%, according to the network's polls.
And so it was throughout the media. According to USA Today, 76% disapproved of Congress's handling of the case, while only 20% approved. CBS News found that 82% believed that Bush and Congress should have stayed out of it. And so it went, with poll after poll confirming that the Bush Republicans' attempt to force their "moral values" on the situation was appealing only to a small minority, a/k/a the fringe. "When nearly 70 percent of the American public disagrees with you," wrote Eric Boehlert at the time, "you're out of step with the mainstream."
That strong reaction by (at least) two-thirds of us was far more telling than the press, and most top Democrats, were willing to perceive, and so they couldn't, wouldn't see the awful truth: Either We the People had abruptly given up our "moral values" since Election Day, or our apparent vote for Bush was a deception, based on vote suppression and election fraud committed in Ohio and elsewhere throughout the nation.
Thus the myth of that immense, last-minute Christian turn-out was a rationale concocted to "explain" Bush/Cheney's re-election--and the US press immediately bought it, out of a clear eagerness to close the book on that election right away, and thereby black out all the glaring signs of fraud throughout Ohio (and Florida, and elsewhere). Indeed, the press at once laughed off the "theory" of widespread election fraud, dismissing all the facts as fantasy; and in their place it offered fantasy as fact (as they had done before, and have done since).
And so, because the media never did revisit the 2004 election, that groundless "explanation" quickly hardened into gospel (so to speak)--which brings us to the present, and the strategy for stealing this election, too.
3. Election Day, 2008: Another Christian "Surge"?
The choice of Sarah Palin has been widely and repeatedly assailed as evidence of John McCain's "bad judgement." Certainly that choice was very bad. Indeed, it may prove to be catastrophic. But to take it as a sign of John McCain's mere recklessness is probably a big mistake. First of all, there is no reason to believe that the decision really was McCain's, since Karl Rove's minions are in charge of his campaign, which means that Rove himself is running it (as he evidently has been from the start). And while it surely was a rotten choice in moral and/or civic terms, it certainly was not an instance of "bad judgement" in Rove's moral universe, where winning is the only thing that counts; and Sarah Palin was selected so that (she and) John McCain could "win"--and, even more important, get away with it.
They picked Palin not because she is a woman, and might therefore appeal to diehard Hillary supporters. They picked Palin because she is a theocratic true believer, who has the Christianists all swooning at the prospect of her reign (which will commence as soon as Jesus answers all their prayers for John McCain's quick death). To get some sense of their millennial excitement, read this excerpt from an email recently sent out by one of them, to others of her kind:
I believe you are aware that Dutch Sheets [http://www.dutchsheets.org/] was used by the Lord to call prayer before the 2000 election that was so close. He said this morning that this election is perhaps even more critical than 2000 because of the Supreme Court. If the right political posture is not elected, we stand to lose decades of progress and the results could be enormous. Last year Chuck Pierce and Greg Hood prophesied that in 2008 we would not be electing a president but a vice president. Dutch said he could get no release in his heart to back Huckab[ee] even though he was pressured by many in the body of Christ. Huckab[ee] is a good man and a strong believer, but he was not God's choice. Dutch also told us that he knows a man who gave McCain a prophetic word that McCain had made a vow to God when he was at the bottom during his POW days and now God was calling in that vow. McCain was visibly moved by this word.
Dutch was traveling to Texas on Friday and when he landed in the airport his wife called and told him to get to the TV asap. He watched McCain introduce Governor Palin and he said he began to weep, even though he knew nothing about her. He asked God, "What is the significance of this 44-year-old woman?" And he saw the clock said 4:44. He asked the Lord what that was all about and the Lord said, "Ezekiel 44:4." "He brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple; so I looked, and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD; and I fell on my face. NKJV ..... North gate representing Alaska [sic].
And so on.
Such fervor, which now unifies the Christianist community, was not stoked merely by the sight of Palin's glowing kisser on TV. More importantly, the governor became the instant darling of the Christianist far right once all the top dogs of the theocratic movement looked at her, and pronounced her good. To some extent, she was their choice--and so it's wrong to claim, as some indignant pundits have, that Sarah Palin "was not vetted." The governor was vetted by the Council for National Policy, the secretive and highly influential steering committee of the Christianist far right, which seeks to junk the Constitution and replace it with Leviticus and other flights of Holy Writ.
They approved this choice, because Sarah Palin is quite willing to promote the Christianists' apocalyptic program with a brazenness, and comprehensiveness, unprecedented in the history of American political campaigning. Her disparate crackpot policies are all expressions of the same extremist creed. There are, of course, all her Levitical sexual proscriptions: no abortions even for those women who've been raped (or raped by their own fathers); no sex education; no condoms. There are her incremental steps to Christianize the public schools: her moves against their secular librarians; her readiness to get Creationism into the curriculum. And then there is her mad anti-environmentalism: her tacit eagerness for further global warming, and, therefore, her passion for oil-drilling everywhere; her opposition to clean water legislation; her willingness to see the polar bears die off; her letting hunters gun down wolves and bears from low-flying planes, etc. All such reckless policies derive from an apocalyptic wish to see the planet die, so that Lord Jesus will come back here, and start kicking ass and taking names. (Palin's pastor holds that He will set up his command post in Alaska.)
None of this insanity appeals to anyone outside the Christianist community, which is no larger than it was when Bush tried to "save" Teri Schiavo from "judicial murder"--or when he was anomalously "re-elected" by those legions of fictitious "values voters." The choice of Sarah Palin, therefore, surely was not based on any rational calculation of some real electoral advantage; for that ferocious bloc is far too small to pull that off, no matter how firm their conviction that God wants them to.
In fact, the only way that Palin and her doddering partner can prevail in this election is by stealing it, as Bush and Cheney did (both times). Certainly the ground has been prepared for yet another stolen race, Bush/Cheney's party having made enormous strides in sabotaging our election system (while the Democrats just sat there, whistling). Now, from coast to coast, it's far more difficult (for Democrats) to register to vote, and far more difficult (for Democrats) to cast their votes, while countless (Democratic) voters have been stricken from the rolls, through purges carried out by the Department of Justice.
Thus Bush's government has legally diminished the electorate (the Roberts Court approving every step). Meanwhile, the regime also continues to suppress the (Democratic) vote illegally, either through voter "caging" prior to Election Day--or, far more effectively, by fiddling with the numbers electronically at every level, and/or simply dumping countless names (of Democrats) from the electronic voter rolls, and/or putting far too few machines in (Democratic) polling places, and/or disinforming (Democratic) voters as to when and where to cast their votes, and/or simply scaring (Democratic) voters into staying home.
That is what it takes to steal elections in America--all of that, and also something else: a quick-'n-easy explanation for the outcome. For if those final numbers are surprising, there must be some rationale that can (apparently) account for them. And that is why the Bush machine put Sarah Palin next to John McCain. By arousing the hard core of vocal Christianists, they prepared the ground for the eventual redeployment of the same canard with which they justified their last unlikely "win": that millions of believers did the trick.
Indeed, it was not just the choice of Sarah Palin, but the whole convention, that was clearly calculated not to pull in undecided and/or independent voters, but to get the fringe alone to stomp and holler for the ticket. The party platform--crafted under the command of Christianist election-rigger J. Kenneth Blackwell--is a (literally) scorched-earth "faith-based" document, calling even for a ban on stem cell research in the private sector. And the convention spectacle itself was basically one long display of cultural resentment, with lots of loud, self-righteous jeering from the stage and on the floor (with an epic show of ridicule by that fine Christian, Rudy Giuliani).
It was strongly reminiscent of the GOP's 1992 convention--a show that very clearly turned the nation off, and helped defeat Bush Sr.'s bid to stay in office. Team McCain decided to revive that model, not because the nation has turned Christianist since then, but as a way to motivate the fringe, and thereby make it possible to tell the pundits, on Nov. 5, that it was those Americans who turned the tide for John McCain.
4. A Word to the Wise
In fact, that claim will be the secondary "explanation" for McCain and Palin's "win." The first, of course, will be Obama's race, and the sad "fact" that America's just not ready to vote for a black man." We will hear endlessly (as we have already) about "the Bradley effect," and how it struck again, with millions of white folks who had openly approved Obama suddenly deciding, in the sanctum of the voting booth, to vote like Klansmen, thereby electing John McCain.
We'll hear from Clinton people that he lost because he didn't put her on the ticket. We'll hear from Michael Moore, Ralph Nader and The Nation that he lost because he ran too corporate-friendly a campaign. We'll also hear from Mark Penn and the Wall Street Journal that he lost because his campaign was too "populist."
George Lakoff will tell us that Obama lost because he failed to frame the issues properly, Thomas Frank will note that all those Kansas-types are still too dim to know what's good for them, and Thomas Friedman (among others) will point out that Obama lost because he never made that crucial "gut" connection with "Joe Six-Pack" (whom Friedman and those others know so well). Meanwhile, many others will ascribe Obama's loss to all the lies and slanders heaped upon him by McCain's campaign and its confederates, who, we'll hear repeatedly, "Swift-boated" him to death, just as they did to Kerry (as if Kerry really lost the last election).
Some of those assertions will be partly true--and all of them are sure to be irrelevant. For if McCain and Palin "win," that victory will either be a miracle (which is, of course, how some of their supporters will explain it) or just another massive rip-off, perpetrated right before our eyes. And no such miracle is likely; for there is still no reason to believe that that old man and his demented running mate have any broad appeal. The polls now putting them ahead are highly dubious, based on a ten-point over-sampling of Republicans, and crafted without any calls to cell phone users (who comprise a large part of Obama's base).
Otherwise there is no evidence of any large-scale movement toward McCain and Palin--who have to trek to theocratic enclaves, like Colorado Springs, in order to draw cheering multitudes, while Obama/Biden draw them everywhere they go. With Democrats all in a panic, let's recall how few Americans turned out to vote in the Republican primaries, and how few new voters the Republicans have registered to date. Compare that feeble record with the vastly larger numbers who came out for Obama (and for Clinton), and all those whom the Democrats have registered to vote. Since then, the prospects for McCain have not improved, regardless of the spin on Sarah Palin--for this economy is in the crapper, and he has said repeatedly that he just doesn't know about such things. That issue, and his wild commitment to a war that most Americans oppose, make his victory in November quite improbable, to say the least.
And there you have the reason why the GOP must, once again, deploy its giant criminal machine: to cut the Democrats' vast popular advantage. And it is happening right now, as you sit reading this, as each day brings in new reports of voters purged, machines "malfunctioning," ballots slyly misdesigned, and other measures meant to benefit McBush's party. (The fraud is not occurring "on both sides.") Such evidence is far more solid than the nervous speculation that Americans might vote on racial grounds--or the fantasy that Sarah Palin's co-religionists could really win it for McCain.
The theft of this next race is only possible because the Democratic Party and the media, and principled Republicans, have shut their eyes to this regime's crusade against American democracy. And now the only way to stop it--or, if it does happen yet again, resist it-- is to face it at long last, and talk about it openly. It's therefore not enough to raise more money for the Democrats, and not enough to get more voters registered, and get them to the polls; and not enough to spread the word about McCain and Palin, or to try to get the media to do a decent job; and not enough to fight the smears and lies about Obama, and to demand that he and/or the Democrats get tougher.
While all of those activities are crucial, they'll amount to nothing if the race is finally rigged, and most Americans don't know a thing about it. And so, whatever else we're doing, we must also speak out loud and clear about that possibility. Otherwise, if that disaster should befall us, we will be as much to blame for it as those Republicans who pulled it off, and all those Democrats who let them get away with it.
Cross-posted at Miller's "News From Underground"...
Mark Crispin Miller is the author of several books, including The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder and Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform. A Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University, he runs the blog News from Underground. His latest book, Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008, is a collection of 14 essays by the leading figures in the election reform movement, including one by Brad Friedman and Michael Richardson of The BRAD BLOG.
WHAT PRIVILEGES DO MCCAIN AND PALIN RECEIVE BECAUSE THEY'RE WHITE?
13 ways McCain and Palin have enjoyed preferential treatment in the presidential race.
By Tim Wise, BuzzFlash, 18 Sep 2008 http://www.alternet.org/story/98915/
For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.
White privilege is when you can get pregnant at 17 like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.
White privilege is when you can call yourself a "fuckin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their fuckin' ass," and talk about how you like to "shoot shit" for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.
White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.
White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-size colleges, and then governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don't all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. senator, two-term state senator and constitutional law scholar means you're "untested."
White privilege is being able to say that you support the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance because "if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it's good enough for me," and not be immediately disqualified from holding office -- since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the "under God" part wasn't added until the 1950s -- while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school, requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.
White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you. White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was "Alaska first," and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she's being disrespectful.
White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do -- like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the eight-hour workday, or an end to child labor -- and people think you're being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small-town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college -- you're somehow being mean, or even sexist.
White privilege is being able to convince white women who don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women and made them give your party a "second look."
White privilege is being able to fire people who didn't support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.
White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the United States is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God's punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you're just a good churchgoing Christian, but if you're black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you're an extremist who probably hates America.
White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then having people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a "trick question," while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O'Reilly means you're dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.
White privilege is being able to claim that your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it, a "light" burden.
And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising and the United States is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren't sure about that whole "change" thing. Ya know, it's just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain.
White privilege is, in short, the problem.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Just thinking about Palin makes me a bit nauseous. And if I start talking about her I go immediately on life tilt and my blood pressure goes up! So I want to include an article by Depok Chopra that says it all with some calmness...
OBAMA AND THE PALIN EFFECT
by Deepak Chopra, Chopra Center, (undated) http://www.chopra.com/node/1064
Sometimes politics has the uncanny effect of mirroring the national psyche even when nobody intended to do that. This is perfectly illustrated by the rousing effect that Gov. Sarah Palin had on the Republican convention in Minneapolis this week. On the surface, she outdoes former Vice President Dan Quayle as an unlikely choice, given her negligent parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing. Her state of Alaska has less than 700,000 residents, which reduces the job of governor to the scale of running one-tenth of New York City. By comparison, Rudy Giuliani is a towering international figure. Palin's pluck has been admired, and her forthrightness, but her real appeal goes deeper.
She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and turning negativity into a cause for pride. In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out of sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of "the other." For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don't want to express them. He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind. (Just to be perfectly clear, I am not making a verbal play out of the fact that Sen. Obama is black. The shadow is a metaphor widely in use before his arrival on the scene.) I recognize that psychological analysis of politics is usually not welcome by the public, but I believe such a perspective can be helpful here to understand Palin's message. In her acceptance speech Gov. Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate their resistance to change and a higher vision
Look at what she stands for:
*Small town values - a nostaligic return to simpler times disguises a denial of America's global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.
*Ignorance of world affairs - a repudiation of the need to repair America's image abroad.
*Family values - a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don't need to be needed.
*Rigid stands on guns and abortion - a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.
*Patriotism - the usual fallback in a failed war.
*"Reform" - an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn't fit your ideology.
Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical, that minorities and immigrants, being different from "us" pure American types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and globalism is a foreign threat. The radical right marches under the banners of "I'm all right, Jack," and "Why change? Everything's OK as it is." The irony, of course, is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress. The irony is superficial; there are millions of women who stand on the side of conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness
Obama's call for higher ideals in politics can't be seen in a vacuum. The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow - we all do. So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted? No one can predict. The best thing about Gov. Palin is that she brought this conflict to light, which makes the upcoming debate honest. It would be a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking horse for the reactionary forces that have brought us to the demoralized state we are in. We deserve to see what we are getting, without disguise.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
I took this pic quite a while ago, but it's still one of my favorites. This was taken along the Hudson Hope highway, about halfway between Hudson Hope and the Halfway Bridge. We found this guy stuffing his face, and even stopping to take the pic (with the 300mm zoom - of course) seemed to elicit a response of "huh??" He never stopped chomping on dandelion greens...
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Saturday, June 14, 2008
I took this through the livingroom window. Again handheld - I have a tripod, but was afraid that she would be gone by the time I set it up! So she isn't very sharp, but I was pleased. I used a sigma 70 - 300mm @ 300mm and held my breath...
I'm playing around with macro photography. Trouble is, I don't have a dedicated macro lens. This was taken with my Canon digital rebel and a Canon 50mm 1.8 @1.8, autofocus. It was also handheld, no it isn't tack sharp - far from it. But I like it!
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Then in March we added a new baby to the family - here is Dori, also knows as Doribug, pumpkin 2, and that damn puppy (depending on what shit she's disturbing at the time!)
She's 3/4 Sheltie and 1/4 American Eskimo, but we think she's part fox!
And here is Dori now:
We also have 2 horses, but I'll post them next time.
Now so you know - these aren't the pics I was referring to in the opening paragraph... But I have to show off the furkids first - then the scenery...