WASHINGTON, DC — In the face of rising gas prices, partisan sniping over his Supreme Court nominee, and a resumption of insurgent violence in Iraq, Pres. Bush’s job approval rating has slipped into a post-holiday funk, again dipping below 40 percent, a new poll by Zogby International found.
Bush’s approval rating almost mirrors the percentage of respondents — 40 percent — who said the nation overall is headed in the right direction.
The deterioration in the president’s numbers appears to be the result of eroding support among the investor class and others who supported him in his 2004 re-election bid, said pollster John Zogby. And the problem is the Iraq war — just 34 percent of respondents said Bush was doing a good or excellent job managing the war, down from 38 percent approval in a Zogby poll taken in mid-October.
Bush’s overall job approval rating in that poll was at 46 percent.
Among investors, Bush’s support for managing the war dropped five points since October, from 45 percent to 40 percent, Zogby data shows. But Zogby said the glaring split between how Republicans, Democrats and independents think the president is handling Iraq is remarkable.
“The numbers in support for the war in Iraq are extremely low among Democrats and independents,” Zogby said. “This is a partisan war.”
While 61 percent of Republicans said Bush was doing a good job managing the war (down from 70 percent in October), just 11 percent of Democrats and 28 percent of independents gave him good marks in that area. Among Democrats, 71 percent said Bush was doing a “poor” job with the war, while 17 percent said he was doing only a “fair” job.
Among men, 36 percent said the president was handling the war well, while 31 percent of women agreed. Half of those surveyed said they feel safer with Bush as president, compared to 38 percent who said they feel less safe.
Respondents rated the war in Iraq and the “war on terror” as the two top issues facing America. Jobs and the economy were also important, they said, with health care coming in a distant fourth, followed by concern over gas and fuel prices.
Asked about his leadership of foreign policy in general, 36 percent said Bush was doing a good job.
Asked about which party they would support when making a decision about the race for Congress in their home district, Democrats maintained a 33 to 26 percent edge over Republicans.
But as the nation’s capital sinks further into scandal talk revolving around Congress and allegations of improper gifts doled out by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the poll shows the public has yet to hold one party more responsible than the other. Despite Democratic efforts to paint the Abramoff influence-pedaling case as a Republican scandal, the GOP holds a slight advantage in the minds of respondents when it comes to integrity — 35 percent said they believed Republicans have more integrity, while 34 percent gave the nod to Democrats. Of those polled, 19 percent said neither party had integrity.
The nationwide Zogby poll, conducted Jan. 9-12, included 1,030 interviews and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
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BURLINGTON — For years, Burlington filmmaker and activist Robin Lloyd has travelled throughout Latin America, observing firsthand the death and destruction left behind by U.S.-bred military policies promoting counterinsurgencies.
More recently, she has been traveling the world as part of Code Pink, is on the national board of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, and continues to work as a filmmaker and publisher of Toward Freedom, a progressive-minded, international public affairs website.
On Nov. 20, she took her longstanding opposition to U.S. policies of torture and became one of 40 people arrested at an annual protest against the U.S. Army’s Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). She expects to serve at least three months in a federal prison as a result and pay a fine of up to $5,000.
The school is more commonly known by its former moniker, the School of the Americas (SOA), and is located at Fort Benning in Columbus, GA. Each year, thousands of protesters gather at its gates.
More than 15,000 people were at the Nov. 20 protest, according to protest organizers, making it one of the largest gatherings. After “a rough night” in a local county jail, Lloyd posted bail, but will return on Jan. 30 for a court hearing on a federal charge of trespassing.
Lloyd, who is 67, is no stranger to civil disobedience. She was part of the legendary Winooski 44 arrested in 1984 for a sit-in at the office of U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford over U.S. involvement in Central America, and the Republican senator’s own votes.
At their trial, protesters invoked the so-called “necessity defense”; in other words, they were forced to take illegal actions to stop a greater injustice. This defense, along with invoking elements of international law, was used justify their actions. Chittenden County District Court Judge Frank Mahady agreed with their reasoning and, in a decision still hailed today in some legal circles, acquitted the group.
While Lloyd says she may use the necessity defence again, she doesn’t believe that the federal judge in Georgia will be as understanding as his Vermont counterpart was two decades ago.
Her arrest also means she won’t be able to travel early next year to the World Social Forum, to be held in Venezuela, an annual gathering she had been looking forward to attending.
Lloyd was the only Vermonter arrested this year. Several years ago, thousands of protesters were detained, and then later released, after they crossed onto the school’s property.
“I had gone down just once before, when 4,000 of us walked into the zone with our crosses … and they stopped us and put us all in buses and drove us somewhere and let us out,” Lloyd recalled of her previous protest at the school. “They didn’t fingerprint us or anything.”
Since 9/11, however, Lloyd said the school has beefed up its security around the annual protest, and prosecutors have doled out harsher punishments. “They had three fences, but you could still climb under the fence and that’s what people did. We were hoping that 500 people would cross over, and we could overwhelm them.”
Lloyd said the growing U.S. public debate about the use of torture by the military helped to bring in additional protesters this year to the SOA.
Lloyd was arrested while attempting to issue a warrant for citizen’s arrest to Colonel Gilberto R. Perez, director of WHINSEC. The warrant cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “[N]o one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Lloyd claimed that Perez is harbouring known human rights abusers, and should be held accountable.
The SOA has been located at Fort Benning since 1984 when it was kicked out of Panama because of its strong connections to military coups and torture, protesters say. More than 60,000 soldiers from throughout Latin America have graduated from the SOA, many of them responsible for some of the worst atrocities in Latin America since the school’s inception in 1946. The list includes the massacre of over 900 civilians in El Mozote, El Salvador, in 1981, and numerous massacres in Colombia this year.
“The people who come to this school are knighted with impunity,” Lloyd said. “They know that no one is going to bring them to account in their countries. This is the grandfather of developing the policy of counterinsurgency, which means setting up these paramilitary groups and slaughtering innocent civilians.” Best website for news
So what’s all this month’s flag-waving, drum-beating, parading down Main Streets, and setting off fireworks all about? Are Founding Fathers signing the Declaration of Independence? Nice ideas. American colonists winning their Revolutionary War? Against exactly what? The British Empire, the first formal fascist corporate-dictator-state religion alliance?
I don’t know what planet you live on, but that declaration is a signed piece of paper and the War of Independence isn’t over by a long shot. In fact, the latest edition of U.S. fascism has slipped into the mainstream of the United States largely undetected.
Many flag-wavers have identified with the enemy, while a silent majority struggles with learned helplessness as the corporate-controlled media weaves its version of the crazy-making shell game. Here’s the truth, shuffle, shuffle, pick it out. No, not that one. Wrong again! As Mark Twain allegedly put it, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.”
Meanwhile, the major media outlets routinely ignore, ridicule, and/or browbeat the resistance.
The original American rebels may have applauded their declaration, won a few military victories, ousted the Brits, and signed on to a confederation of republican states under the Constitution, but their leadership understood full well that democracy was not a done deal.
Indeed, we descendants of the revolution have failed to exercise our responsibility to grow the Founders’ innovative form of democracy. And although the courageous among the past few generations have fought for women’s right to vote, civil rights, women’s control of their bodies, hundreds of environmental causes, fair economies, sustainable technologies, and peaceful resolutions to war (Vietnam, Gulf War, War on Drugs, invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the concept of the War on Terrorism), the majority of so-called U.S. citizens live in denial, wrapped in Old Glory, championing the status quo. Most of us are oblivious to our virtual slavery in the concentration camp of corporate conventionality.
It wasn’t like we weren’t warned about the bad guys and the location of future battlefields. The Founding Fathers cautioned us that the threat to democracy would not arrive as a fiery invasion from overseas, but that it would slither from inside our very own federal government, its powerful coils silently, bit by bit, squeezing out the citizenry’s life force.
Thomas Jefferson cautioned us that “even under the best forms [of government] those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” As early as 1821, he witnessed firsthand the corrosive nature of the threat: “Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation [of power] first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.”
James Madison agreed: “We are free today substantially, but the day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few.”
Future presidents substantiated the Founding Fathers’ fears. Theodore Roosevelt observed, “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower identified the hidden entrenched interests in his 1961 warning: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Ike was right.
Well, here we are at Year Four of the permanent War on Terrorism; James Madison’s prediction strikes to the heart of the matter: “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”
A few years ago, historian Chalmers Johnson outlined how our democratic ideals will wither away under the pressures of a state of perpetual war, increased propaganda, seriously eroded constitutional rights, and an aggressive executive branch. “America,” he concluded, “will cease to resemble the country outlined in the Constitution of 1787” unless the people commit to a “revolutionary rehabilitation of American democracy.”
As a longtime Brattleboro resident, I have participated in a number of civic-minded groups — Interfaith Council, Brattleboro Area Peace and Justice Group, Southern Vermonters for Environmental Protection and Fair Economy, Brattleboro Climate Protection, Northeast Center for Social Issues Studies (the group behind the buy-the-dams movement), Democracy School, Second Vermont Republic, New England Coalition, and the CVPS- and VELCO-sponsored Southern Loop Working Committee.
Vermonters working with hundreds of such groups do a wonderful service to our community and our state. But while we citizens are busy confronting symptoms, the underlying pathology of U.S. fascism continues to erode our efforts to create a sustainable economic future for our children and our communities.
With all due respect for those serving time as combatants overseas or as convicted felons for civil disobedience, I recognize as some of our most courageous citizens the minority who are trying to “think globally and act locally,” and the fewer still who are investigating the truth behind 9/11 and/or Vermont’s peaceful secession from the once confederated union of independent states.
When theologian David Ray Griffin, author of two scholarly books on the official 9/11 conspiracy theory, spoke last fall to standing-room audiences, Vermont’s daily newspapers did not report on the events, let alone honor those who responded to Griffin’s Christian expression of courage and moral authority with a standing ovation.
Want to bring the Declaration’s words back to life? Want to line up on the side of independence? Keep up your good work, join any number of local groups, or check out 911sharethetruth.com, 911truth.org, vtcommons.org, or vermontrepublic.org.
After the signing of the Constitution, when someone asked wise old Ben Franklin what type of government the framers had drafted, he answered with a simple challenge to future generations, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Richard Foley is a member of the Second Vermont Republic and Vermont Commons: Voices of Independence.
QUANTICO, VA — A Vermont soldier at the centre of a national effort to help active-duty military personnel find ways to tell members of Congress they want the United States to pull out of Iraq is now handing out care packages at several military bases around the country that make it easy for troops to speak out.
The care packages include informational flyers and baked goods, as well as copies of the movie, Sir No Sir, a documentary about military resisters during the Vietnam War, and The Ground Truth, which follows soldiers from basic training to deployment to Iraq to their homecoming and reintegration.
“The main purpose of the care packages though, is to carry an appeal for redress in a pre-addressed envelope to the troops,” said Liam Madden, a Bellows Falls native, and U.S. Marine sergeant.
Madden said if 100 care packages can be distributed at each of the bases, he would consider that a success. The idea was kicked around on a conference call regarding the appeal for redress several weeks ago.
An “appeal for redress” is a legal means by which service members can appeal to members of Congress to urge an end to a U.S. military occupation. Under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, active-duty military, National Guard and reservists can send a protected communication to a member of Congress regarding any subject without reprisal.
“We saw the holidays as a great opportunity to reach out to the troops and simultaneously show our support and deliver our message to the active duty,” Madden said.
There are volunteers working at the following bases: Fort Carson in Colorado; Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona; Dover Air Force Base in Delaware; Groton Naval Base in Connecticut; Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia; and the cluster of bases in southern California, as well as bases near Washington, DC.
“We are working with a few dozen volunteers. Some are getting their first taste of this type of participation,” said Madden. “The project is a coalition of active service members who have submitted appeals for redress, veterans and veterans organizations, military families, and concerned citizens throughout the country.”
Madden said he has not received any hostile responses from his fellow service members or his chain of command.
“I’ve found that very few people support the occupation, but that many have reservations about us withdrawing too quickly or they feel we now owe the Iraqi people our help,” said Madden. “I also get the impression that the idea of being socially and politically involved is something very foreign to most of the fellow service members I’ve encountered.”
Madden hopes the packages will be delivered before the new year, and hopefully before Christmas.
Madden, a 2002 graduate of Bellows Falls High School, is currently stationed in Quantico, VA, after serving in Iraq’s Anbar province from September 2004 until February 2005. He currently has two months left on duty and does not plan to re-enlist.
To date, more than 1,200 U.S. servicemen and women have signed these appeals, which state: “As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”
The idea for the redress appeals originated in January when Seaman Jonathan Hutto of Atlanta, GA, was deployed to Iraq.
An old buddy of Hutto’s, who was a member of the G.I. movement to resist the Vietnam War back in the early 1970s, sent him a 30th-anniversary copy of Soldiers in Revolt written by David Cortright. The book chronicles the movement within the military during the Vietnam War who advocated to end that war and bring the troops home. One of the avenues they used was appealing to political leaders in Washington.
By 1971 more than 250,000 of these active duty servicemen appealed to Congress. Reading this gave Hutto an inspiration to speak out.
During the Vietnam War era, many credit the outspoken words of veterans and active-duty soldiers for bringing about an end to that war, rather than any politician or citizen-led movement.
Madden, and others hope that their speaking out will help bring a quick end to the Iraq War.
For more information
The group is looking for contributions to help pay for the packages and is looking for additional volunteers.
To donate, checks can be mailed to: Appeal for Redress Holiday Project, P.O Box 53052, Washington, DC 20009-3052, or at www.appealforredress.org.
The ingredients of the care packages are:
• An appeal for redress in a pre-addressed envelope;
• The “bait,” otherwise known as baked goods and other treats;
• Where they are available we are incorporating DVDs of the films Sir No Sir and The Ground Truth; and,
• Each regional team is in charge of all other “gifts” in the care packages such as informational flyers about the supporting organizations.
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With none of the controversial touch-screen voting systems that have raised red flags in other states and a safeguard mechanism in place, Vermonters can be assured of secure election results come November, according to Secretary of State Deb Markowitz.
Or can we?
A handful of local activists have their doubts, and last week a national voting watchdog pointed to what they say are serious problems with the Diebold optical scanner system used in Vermont.
Calais resident Jim Hogue, who helped propel the state’s ban on paperless electronic voting in 2003, said he thought at the time that the battle was over. “I thought ‘OK, we’ve won’ … and then I started discovering how vulnerable the optical scanners were.”
Optical scanners read text or illustrations printed on paper and translate the information by digitizing an image. Vermont town clerks themselves opted to use the Diebold 1.94w system, not only because it’s user friendly but because it’s compatible with existing printers, said Markowitz.
Seventy-three of Vermont’s 246 towns use them, representing more than 50 percent of the state’s approximately 417,000 registered voters.
The system allows voters to mark paper ballots, typically with pencils or pens, independent of any machine. Voters then insert their ballots into the scanner, which optically records the vote.
“It’s not just me feeling that way. What the security minds nationally are looking at as people are talking about concerns with touch-screen technology, they’re really suggesting in large part going to an optical scan technology,” said Markowitz.
She said her confidence is bolstered by Vermont’s longstanding relationship with a Massachusetts company, LHS Associates, which has been configuring Vermont ballots for 20 years. ”With an optical scan, no matter who’s producing the machine, it’s being configured by people we know; we know their names, we know which machines they’re dealing with,” said Markowitz.
“When they configure Vermont’s races, every ballot is different in every community. It’s done in an open process by people working on freestanding machines. … Nobody can make a change without others being aware of it. From there it goes to a mailer that can only be accepted by the signature of the clerk. So our security starts as soon as the fingers are touching the card-setting of the ballot, and under our chain-of-custody rule the town clerk knows exactly who has touched the card.”
To top it off, the scanners are kept in a locked vault until Election Day, Markowitz pointed out. And finally, under the state’s 2003 legislation, the secretary of state may conduct a random audit of election results.
“The last piece of the security cycle is to have the ability to say if you do something funny we can catch you. We have this new law that allows us to conduct random audits and we plan to do that in this coming election,” she said.
But Richmond resident Gary Beckwith of the group Vermonters for Voting Integrity said Vermont election officials are placing blind faith in a system that has been proven vulnerable.
“We’ve got a problem in Vermont: Our system is not secure and that’s indisputable at this point,” Beckwith maintains. “Several independent tests have confirmed it’s not secure, and the real problem, in my mind, is that the people responsible for keeping our system secure are not concerned.”
According to the website electionline.org, Vermont is one of only four states that require a paper ballot system; seven more states use no electronic equipment whatsoever.
Beckwith ticks off a list that includes the California secretary of state refusing to certify Diebold voting machines after they failed in 10 security tests, and Leon County, FL, officials who banned the machines because of security flaws.
In a letter this summer to Kathy DeWolfe, director of elections in Markowitz’s office, Beckwith demanded to know what Vermont was going to do “now that we have obvious and credible evidence that Diebold as a company cannot be trusted.”
$12 and four minutes
Last week, the national voting advocacy watchdog group, Black Box Voting, announced that a pair of middle-aged, computer savvy women working with the group bought $12 worth of tools and in four minutes penetrated the memory card seals of the Deibold 1.94w system, removed and replaced the memory card, and sealed it up again “without leaving a trace.”
The group said it purchased an optical scanner and made the attempt after two Florida studies “proved that election results can be altered in such a way that the supervisor of elections cannot detect the tampering.”
The hackers removed five screws to unfasten the sealed memory cards, the group said in a press release. “Inside, all that stands between a poll worker (or an insider at the warehouse or elections office) and the open-for-business memory card is a washer which you can unscrew.”
The group’s latest test comes a year after computer expert Harri Hursti determined that the Diebold design incorporates “the mother of security holes.”
“This design would not appropriately be characterized as ‘a house with the door open.’ The design of the Diebold Precinct-Based Optical Scan 1.94w system is, in the author’s own view, more akin to ‘a house with an unlockable revolving door,’” Hursti wrote.
Because the system’s removable memory card contains an executable program which acts on the vote data, changing the program on the memory card can change the way the optical scan machine functions and the way the votes are reported, Hursti wrote.
“The system won’t work without this program on the memory card. Whereas we would expect to see vote data in a sealed, passive environment, this system places votes into an open active environment. With this architecture, every time an election is conducted it is necessary to reinstall part of the functionality into the optical scan system via memory card, making it possible to introduce program functions (either authorized or unauthorized), either wholesale or in a targeted manner, with no way to verify that the certified or even standard functionality is maintained from one voting machine to the next.”
Diebold: Get real
In a real-world election setting, the Black Box Voting scenarios are implausible, according to Diebold. “Everything they throw out is a what-if scenario that isn’t reflective of a real election environment,” said Diebold spokesman David Bear. “They haven’t been able to do any of these things in a real election scenario.”
“They’re trying to perpetuate this inaccuracy that the technology has made it more likely for someone to corrupt an election,” Bear charged. But even if you believe in a “cabal of people that are nefariously corrupting an election,” he said, paper ballots are far more vulnerable than electronic polling.
Black Box Voting’s four-minute, $12 hack is predicated on the “sleepover” concept, in which voting machines are sent home with poll workers for days or even weeks before an election, giving someone ample time to break the seal and reprogram the cards.
“This experiment shows that the seals do nothing whatever to protect against access by insiders after testing, and the seals also are worthless in jurisdictions like Washington, Florida, California, and many other locations where voting machines are sent home with poll workers for days before the election,” the group contends.
DeWolfe said under Vermont’s chain-of-custody procedure, the memory cards are either locked in the machine and locked in a vault, or, when sent out for configuration, are sent only by Fed Ex or UPS with a signature required.
“The analogy is that is I give you my hard drive, you can corrupt my computer,” according to DeWolfe. “If you don’t have access to my hard drive, you can’t corrupt it. Similarly, in Vermont only clerks have access to memory cards.”
But even without a sleepover, with some planning the process could be done in the time it takes for one of two poll workers to take a bathroom break, said Black Box Voting Director Bev Harris.
“You would have to have another memory card available to put in as a substitute, but you can buy memory cards on the Internet. The recipe for hacking has been on Internet for more than a year, and the source code has been on the Internet for six years,” said Harris.
Diebold’s Bear scoffs at the notion that local election officials would risk a federal criminal sentence.
“I don’t think a lot of people believe this stuff. I think quite honestly most people don’t think about it, most people are honest, fair people and their intent is to go to the polls and vote for the candidate they prefer. And most people who work at the polls just want to perform their civic duty,” he said.
Beckwith warns observers not to be too quick to discount fraud potential just because Vermont is a small state. “Vermont was the second highest deviation in 2004 election of exit polls in the country,” he said. “We were 10 percent off from the exit polls, even though [Democratic presidential candidate John] Kerry did win Vermont.”
It’s not the Vermont end that worries him, Beckwith said, but what happens when the memory cards go back and forth.
“I trust the town clerks; I understand the memory cards are kept secure. But before every election, the cards are sent back to these companies and they have unfettered access to the memory cards,” he said.
The response from Markowitz and DeWolfe that these are trustworthy companies is asking Vermonters to put “blind trust in these two private companies, and we know that they have the ability and the access to do something like this,” he said.
In June, a yearlong study on electronic voting released by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law concluded that the three major electronic voting systems used in the United States — including Diebold’s optical scanners, touch screen with paper trails, and those without paper trails — have significant security and reliability vulnerabilities.
“All three systems are equally vulnerable to an attack involving the insertion of corrupt software or other software attack programs designed to take over a voting machine,” according to the study, which involved government and private-sector scientists, voting machine experts, and security professionals.
But the report also said the vulnerabilities can be overcome by auditing printed voting records, which is Markowitz’s security fallback.
Hogue said even that is not enough. “If random clerks would do random audits, that for me would take care of it; random clerks making up their own minds with their own people, and it’s public and transparent … I would be thrilled. And there is nothing preventing that in Vermont law, a redundant count, as distinctly different from an audit, which happens after the fact.”
Beckwith also wants to see a hand-counted audit on a significant percentage of the ballots. “There is no test that can be done on the memory cards to ensure they don’t have malicious code; the only way to determine the election has been counted correctly is to do a hand-counted audit, an audit comprised of randomly selecting a certain percentage of the voting precinct,” he said.
The percentage of votes that should be counted is also debatable, he said. California law requires 1 percent of the ballots must be hand-counted. A discrepancy would trigger a more extensive hand count.
“Most people do not think 1 percent is enough, and some think we have to hand count all of them … I’m not a statistician or a mathematician; I don’t really know statistically how much we would have to count to have confidence, but from the research I’ve done most statisticians say somewhere around 5 percent would give you 95 percent assurance the election was counted correctly.”
At Black Box Voting, Harris said given the nation’s recent history of apparent discrepancies, U.S. voters should not be satisfied until they can exert control over the counts.
“A panel of citizens should be able to say we’re going to pick something, put a lockdown on it and count every ballot … . That would go a long ways toward satisfying people; people need to be able to oversee the whole thing, not 1 percent that someone else chooses.”
Harris is calling for a shift in how U.S. voters think about elections.
“It is no longer enough to observe and tell stories about what you saw — even if you sign an affidavit. The sad fact is, anecdotes don’t produce change, even when they are very well organized,” she writes on the Black Box Voting website. “It’s time to shift your thinking from watching elections to collecting evidence” through audio and video recordings, photographs, and public records requests.
The group has a voter’s toolkit posted on their website, www.blackboxvoting.org, to inform voters of their rights, and help people decide what to do and how to do it.
NEWFANE — Voters in this postcard-perfect town didn’t like the resolution asking Rep. Bernie Sanders to start impeachment proceedings against Pres. George Bush. So they made it broader.
After three hours in a crowded, creaky town hall discussing bridges and budgets, 121 voters endorsed by paper ballot a measure to ask both Sanders and the state Legislature to set impeachment wheels in motion. A proposed amendment to impeach Vice Pres. Dick Cheney was voted down, as was an effort to delay the original resolution indefinitely.
“The purpose of this meeting is to discuss town business, not a national business,” asserted Gunther Garbe, moving to postpone.
But Selectboard member Dan DeWalt defended his measure.
“What is happening today in our name, even though it’s on the other side of the world, affects us locally in the numbers of our sons and daughters and mothers and fathers who are dying, in our tax dollars, in the number of people who are rapidly becoming our enemies and plotting to destroy us,” he said. “We see the results of these policies locally and directly, and as a result, it is incumbent upon us to address these policies.”
Unlike voters in Marlboro, Putney, Dummerston, and Brookfield, who spoke mainly with their votes in favour of impeachment, Newfane residents took nearly an hour to debate and vote on the measure, which ultimately passed 121-29. In Brookfield, where the measure passed 59-38, voters stood for a count. In Newfane, emotions ran high on both sides.
“My ancestors in Germany were silent during the time of the atrocities in Germany,” and Newfane resident Norm Kuebler, “I’m not comparing Bush’s actions to Hitler’s … all I’m asking is for discussion.” Calling democracy a privilege, he continued, “We have this privilege. I suggest we take advantage of it; we should discuss this and any item that may come up in the future, whether it’s abortion or whether you like the Red Sox or the Yankees.”
Sanders issued a quick response to the Newfane resolution, saying it would be impractical for him to pursue impeachment in a Republican-controlled Congress.
“The difficulty that we face is that with Republicans controlling both the House and the Senate and serving as a virtual rubber stamp for the White House, they have consistently refused to even hold serious hearings or investigations on any of Bush’s abuses of power or misguided decisions,” he said in a statement.
But Leland & Gray drama teacher Ann Landenberger said the town’s actions send an important message, not just to lawmakers, but to young people, many of whom feel powerless to confront their government’s policies. “A lot of my high school seniors believe what they do is pointless,” she said. “This is a very important symbol; we’re saying that right here we can initiate change.”
A handful of residents defended the president, including some comments that served as a testament to the power of the White House message machine, which has consistently attempted to implicate Iraq in the 9/11 events, despite the absence of any evidence to support such a claim.
“On 9/11, I stood in my office and I watched the planes go into the buildings; I watched my friends and colleagues jump from their office buildings to their death,” said an emotional Lenore Salzbrun, her voice cracking with tears.
“I am so grateful that my president didn’t put his head in the sand and he didn’t ignore what happened,” she continued. “He did go out and fight for our safety and continues to, even though it is a very unpopular thing for him to do.”
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