Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hiding From Constituents During Recess

A sign of the times is elected "representatives" hiding from the very people they were elected to represent. 

Voters in Maine mounted a campaign to find their elusive representative Bruce Poliquin during the congressional recess this week. Ridgely Fuller of Belfast wrote:

For the last two months 2nd District voters have been visiting, calling and writing to Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s offices requesting  Town Hall meetings during the congressional recess. Constituents want to share their concerns and understand Bruce Poliquin’s vision for the future of Maine. Despite assurances that we would receive a response last Friday were told that his home recess schedule was “completely booked”.  His office staff in Wash DC informed us that Rep. Poliquin does not hold Town Meetings for “security” reasons. They also won’t release his schedule for “security” reasons.
An automated response to a request for an appearance told us [Poliquin] uses visits in the 2nd  District only to meet with “job creators” and “local leaders”.

Meanwhile I was with another group of constituents who turned up at the Portland Public Library yesterday because of an email they had received stating that Senator Angus King would be on hand to respond to his constituent's concerns.

Instead they were met by part time office staffer Dan Reardon who was bewildered at their misunderstanding. Queried about when King would be holding town hall meetings during the recess, he responded that none were scheduled. But, he would be happy to convey our questions to the senator.

Here's what Eric Poulin of The Soapbox on WMPG, Southern Maine's Community Radio Station wanted to ask:

When it was my turn I asked how the senator reconciled his proclaimed advocacy for environmental health with his years of funding for the Pentagon, the biggest fossil fuel consumer of any organization on the planet. Reardon responded, "That's a good question." 

If King himself had been there I expect that he would have answered my question by citing the need for "security" as a top priority, and then dodged my follow up question, "But senator, isn't our greatest security threat climate chaos and rising sea levels?" These are inconvenient truths that those in power believe are best not aired in public.
"Protest at Arctic Council events in Portland" October 5, 2016

King, who hosted an arctic council in Maine last year to plan how to capitalize on opportunities offered by thawing northern shorelines, would probably rather not have to answer my question.

Meanwhile, just up the road, a different group of constituents was chasing down Maine's other senator, Susan Collins, following a street action opposing the North Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) outside major investor TD Bank. Activists Starr Gilmartin reported:

We went down the street with Morgana [Warner Evans] to do an impromptu town hall meeting with Collins lunching at restaurant down the hill. She refuses to go to town halls to meet with the community, the community will meet her on the street.

In a related development, the juiciest troll bait on my twitter feed this week was the demand that my rep should meet with his constituents. It seemed like the talking points had already gone out to attack anyone who called out a rep for failing to meet with the public.

(Note that Chellie Pingree is not my representative, and I am unable to find if she is or isn't holding any community meetings during recess as she usually does.) 

A tempest in the rather small teapot that is the state of Maine, but part of an international trend where public agencies stop even pretending to be accountable to the public they serve. A concerned Australian shared this tidbit from a letter she recieved from Greenpeace recently:

we asked a government agency - the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) - for information about a proposal to give $1billion of taxpayers’ money to kick-start the Carmichael coal mine. Denied. Why? It might generate community protests and questions from journalists. 
This behaviour from our government is secretive and undemocratic. They're ready to spend billions of public dollars funding dirty energy and endangering a national treasure - the public has every right to know about it.
This seasoned environment activist further noted:
hitting a brick wall in my efforts to encourage Westpac bank, one of Australia's ' Big Four' not to support Adani.  A submission through their suggestions and feedback page met with a ' we are unable to respond to your email, please ring..' I did and was advised that the online form was the only way to communicate with them, with further suggestion that perhaps there were problems with their website. I tried again later with the same result. 
Despite being told that they do not have a mailing address, I have discovered one, so the next step will be posting a snail mail letter and lodging a copy in person at a branch.  
So there's another tactic -- give people the run around until they give up.
But guess what? We're not giving up.

Monday, February 20, 2017

When Other Nations Interfere in U.S. Government, Some Are More Equal Than Others

Illustration of a carnival float recently unveiled in Viareggio, Italy -- a nation where the U.S. has meddled in elections since 1948.
The most raging controversy of many on my social media posts lately has been the argument sparked by sharing an article from Dan Kovalik on The World Post, "Listen Liberals: Russia Is Not Our Enemy." I had not anticipated that the arguments presented for this point of view would draw so much ire; in general the older, whiter respondents are the angriest, while the younger and more diverse respondents see Kovalik's point. I suppose the polarizing of the public's outlook in the current era is best explained by media diet, with those consuming MSNBC most likely to be drinking the Koolaid of Russia as boogey man.

Sharing this meme did not seem to dampen the ardor of the hate Russia brigade:

To me this map suggests an authentic motive for demonizing Russia: look at all that thawing Arctic shoreline, ripe for Western imperialists to sink in their drilling gigs and piplelines. 

The responses ranged from demanding to know why Kovalik was "whitewashing Stalin" (not alive during the time period being analyzed) and why I was bashing liberals rather than opposing the current regime. People I used to think stood on the same side of the antiwar movement with me -- people who were notably absent during the Obomber years -- object to criticism of the narrative being sold by the corporate press, and I think it is probably because they don't get out of the echo chamber very often to seek information elsewhere.

I tried to broaden the texts we were considering by suggesting "The Neocons and the 'Deep State' Have Neutered the T$$$$ Presidency, It's Over Folks!" by The Saker in GlobalResearch and the documentary Ukraine on Fire by Oliver Stone. The latter describes how the U.S. supports neo-Nazis there.

What I should have shared is something the came across my screen the next day: "Israel interferes in our politics all the time, and it's never a scandal" by Philip Weiss in Mondoweiss.

As spring approaches, the prospect of the annual AIPAC gala in Washington DC for U.S. lawmakers is on my mind. Plus,"Bibi" Netanyahu and the demagogue have just taken a meeting upon the occasion of a state visit by the Israeli Prime Minister. Mondoweiss contributor Katie Miranda created a cartoon of their exchanges titled "The day the two greatest salesmen in the world met at the White House."

Actually I had been thinking about Bibi or, more specifically, his wife, as news rolled in about how much the lavish life style of the First Family is costing U.S. taxpayers (allegedly one month of guarding them costs approximately as much as one year of guarding the Obamas). Sarah'le as she is popularly known is sometimes the subject of columnist Uri Avnery's observations on government by kleptocracy.  Last summer his column on Gush Shalom's website "Petty Corruption" revealed

The generous Israeli taxpayers (including me) paid for the five days of Bibi's stay in New York last fall, to the tune of some 600,000 dollars. This sum – more than 100 thousand dollars per day – included the payment for his private hairdresser (1600 dollars) and his make-up woman (1750 dollars). The purpose of the trip was to address the UN General Assembly. I wonder how much each word cost. 
The information was disclosed by order of the court under the Freedom of Information Law.

There are more ominous parallels between Israel's government and the current regime in the U.S. Both aspire to an apartheid state where white makes right and profits are to be had building separation walls and supplying the technology for human rights violations based upon racism. 
Photo shared by Dawn Neptune Adams at Oceti Oyate camp, Standing Rock:
"HolyElk Lafferty standing in front of the militarized police response to a Grandmothers' Tipi Teaching" Feb. 19, 2017

Both the U.S. and Israel practice vicious suppression of indigenous people's demand to live in peace and without inteference on land and waterways their families have nurtured for many generations.

A Palestinian woman mourns the destruction of olive trees. | Photo: Flickr / Frank M. Rafik

Just this week the Senate considered appointing David Friedman the new U.S. ambassador to Israel, a man who maintains a home in Jerusalem courtesy of ethnic cleansing during al-Nakba. In his piece on Electronic Intifada Michael Brown wondered "Why won't Democrats call out Friedman's crimes?
The posting of a settlement advocate as US ambassador to Israel would certainly mark a new extreme. But it would not be illogical. 
For decades, the US political elite – Democrats and Republicans alike – have advanced Israel’s colonialist project by providing billions of dollars in military aid. This is simply another step toward the US government normalizing the illegal settlements it has watched grow over the last 50 years.
An old joke comes to mind. Q: Why doesn't Israel just become the 51st state already? A: Because then they would only have two senators.

Police cooperation is a less well-known aspect of the cozy relationship between the alleged "only democracy in the Middle East" and the alleged democracy I live under; militarized police response to nonviolent civil disobedience looks similar in the U.S. and Israel because law enforcement officials regularly go to Israel for training. Sometimes the training occurs here, on U.S. soil.

But, hey, let's keep demonizing Russia and deflecting attempts to see ourselves as others in the world see us: the most violent, warmongering, election-interfering nation in existence. No matter whether there's a D or an R in the Oval Office. 

Because: do as we say, not as we do.