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Message to fellow techies (and everyone else)...
Time to start working on those '06 elections, and change the balance of power!

During the 2004 election season, I wrote an article urging my fellow techies to oust Bush. I'm sure they didn't need much encouragement -- it's common knowledge that the technical field has suffered a huge drop in wages, and has lost a number of U.S.-based jobs, as a direct result of Bush's policies. Well, the states with large technical communities went for Kerry. We did our job.

Now it's 2006, and we're in the mid-term election season. Republicans control both the House and Senate, while supporting brutal wars and passing draconian legislation on a broad range of topics, throwing our country back 100 years or more. It's time for techies and everyone else to work for a change!

James Webb (Virginia's Democratic Senate candidate), photo by Pam RotellaSo this year, we (and our non-techie friends, nearly all of whom have been suffering in various ways) need to adopt a new strategy:
1.) Finding a way to DONATE something to a political campaign, and
2.) Reaching out to other states' elections.

The reason we need to make political donations a habit is that most corrupt politicians are funded by special interests money, and there's a reason for that. Special interests aren't going to waste their money on ethical people who spend their time and effort on the public's well-being. Big interests want big results, and that means big money for them, regardless of how many people have to suffer in order to make that happen. It could involve going to war in order to sell more weapons or acquire control of oil wells... or laws favoring pharmaceutical corporations... or relaxing environmental regulations... and so on. Only sold souls need apply.

In other words, if we the people want a candidate who'll represent OUR interests, we have to find a way of financing them ourselves. I think that everyone should consider making political contributions a REGULAR part of their budget during election years. And it isn't that much of a sacrifice for most people. Even giving $25 helps -- if a thousand people were to come up with $25, that's $25,000. Raising $25 isn't that hard -- just find a substitution for something normally bought. Sacrificing a little luxury helps justify the expense, and if your candidate doesn't win, you won't feel so bad that all you gave up was eating out a couple of times. So eat at home a couple of times when you would have eaten out, and there's your $25. Or commit to packing a lunch SEVERAL times between now and November, and there's $100 for your candidate. People doing really well should consider more -- if 1,000 people were to come up with $1,000 each, that's a million dollars. There's power in numbers, and if it's one thing the downtrodden have these days, it's numbers!

According to current Federal election law, donations can be made to candidates in other states. So if you're living in New York and it's pretty obvious that Hillary is going to win anyway, you might want to make that strategic donation to a campaign where the money will actually make a difference. It's not unethical -- you're not voting for the local populace, just helping candidates without special interests money to get their messages out. To make an individual contribution to a Senatorial or Congressional race, you must be a US citizen, and the maximum individual contribution is just over $2,000 per candidate, per election. Questions about other details can be asked of the candidates' campaigns. For those doing especially well, other donations can be made to the Democratic Party (I would mention both parties, but the Republican Party just represents the failed status quo), or PACs like moveon.org.

Diebold truck on the move at night, photo by Pam Rotella There's also labor to be donated -- finding a campaign in your area where you can help. It's immensely important to register as many people as possible, and then motivate them to get to the polls and vote on election day. The Republican Party has various vote-rigging schemes in place, and if it's possible to beat some of them, it'll be by coming up with enough votes to overcome the missing, changed, and challenged ballots. (See my article on 2004 election fraud for an explanation by Greg Palast on how 2004 was stolen.)

The worst part of election fraud is that electronic voting machines are often involved, and so that's another issue to work on -- getting all voting in the US changed to paper ballots, counted in the open. But even with all of the vote rigging schemes in place, some Democrats still manage to win, and everyone needs to do as much as possible in order to change the status quo.

"The Diebold Bombshell" (Diebold included "back door" in voting software)

Choosing the candidate to support requires a little time, but it's worth doing the research. Some candidates are on the road to a landslide anyway, and it'd probably be more effective to target those candidates where our time and money can make a difference. I'm not familiar with most of the Congressional races, but here's a little info on some of the races (most of them Senate races):

Congressional Races

Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), photo by Pam RotellaOhio: Former US Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich is running for his Congressional seat in Ohio again. The man is a VEGAN (strict vegetarian), and is known for his inspiring speeches, endless energy, and strong advocacy for civil rights and economic justice. I remember seeing him speak at Fighting Bob Fest in Baraboo, Wisconsin, in 2003. He was running in the Democratic Party's Presidential primaries at the time. Kucinich promised to cancel NAFTA and the WTO/GATT, saying that he learned how to do that from George W. Bush. That is, when Bush canceled the ABM treaty (one of many bad Bush policy decisions that will no doubt haunt us later), Bush used a clause allowing the President to opt out of the treaty, and Kucinich said he checked -- WTO and NAFTA have the same clause. Unfortunately for America's workers, Kucinich didn't win the primary, but his Presidential campaign did bring him some name recognition. Today Kucinich is immensely popular, almost always votes on the right side of issues, and I tend to think he'll win his Congressional seat anyway. But he's such a good candidate that it's best to do everything possible in order to ensure the landslide that Kucinich deserves.

There are many other famous Congressmen who are American institutions now, like Maxine Waters (one of the first to stand up for Gary Webb's account of the CIA's involvement in Iran-Contra), Cynthia McKinney (one of the first to question the government's official line on 9-11, and she also smacked a police officer in DC for being stupid* -- something a lot of people would like to do at times, I'm sure), John Conyers (a long-standing civil rights proponent), and the like -- they're so famous that they're most likely Congressmen/Congresswomen for life, unless they run for higher office. It's the lesser-known races to watch, where a little work or money would really make the difference. (Note: Cynthia McKinney recently lost her primary in Georgia, at the same time Lieberman was losing Connecticut, and so she is knocked out of the 2006 election yet again... in the midst of more computer voting "network problems." Yeah, we all know how those "electronic voting network problems" happen, don't we? Hopefully McKinney will find another position soon... perhaps in a state with less election tampering and manipulation.)

Senatorial Races

Virginia: Yes, this is the race where the incumbent, Senator George Allen, used the obscure racial slur "Macaca" on a dark-skinned member of his audience. His Democratic challenger is Jim Webb, a former Republican who changed parties largely because of the Iraq War and poor leadership from Bush & Co.

I still can't believe that I'm supporting an old Republican for Virginia's Senate race. And Jim Webb isn't just any Republican -- he was Secretary of the Navy under RONALD REAGAN! (You KNOW he's good when Pam Rotella is willing to overlook the fact that he worked for REAGAN.) I've heard that Webb has said he's proud of working for Reagan to this day. But the best thing about Webb's old Navy Secretary job is that Webb finally walked away from it, actually resigned, supposedly over budget cuts that he felt were too severe. Webb was also a decorated Vietnam Vet, and remained Republican until the 2004 election when he voted for Kerry and decided to join the Democrats -- once again, we see Webb walking away when things get too crazy. I like to see that, tells me a man can think for himself, and that he has a minimum amount of personal integrity.

James Webb being interviewed by NBC's Channel 29, photo by Pam Rotella

Ironically, Jim Webb is a better Democrat than many lifelong Democrats running this year. He's against the Iraq War, and was against it before it started -- as were millions of people in this country and across the world. Somehow I knew it'd take old Vietnam Vets (like Kerry and Murtha) to get us out of the Iraq War, because they know what killing and dying for BS are all about. (As far as I'm concerned, we need more shot-up Nam Vets in the Senate in general -- people who understand what it's like for the people we're sending to war now. These days, the people making decisions to go to war have avoided military service, including Webb's opponent, George Allen.) Webb is also concerned with the disappearing middle class, and has promised that he'll stand with Senators like Russ Feingold on the abuse of Presidential power. And Webb is pro-choice, too. Wish more "real" Democrats had a spine like that. Of course, I suspect that Webb is more of a Republican on certain issues, but he's on the right side of so many issues that he's impossible to pass up. I know how valuable a vote against the war is, especially in the era of Republican strong-arm tactics and "accidents" like the late Senator Wellstone's. Webb is a very brave man, someone who rushes in to help his country when almost nobody else will, and he deserves all the support we can give him. This is literally a matter of life and death, as people are dying in Iraq every day now.

Webb seems to have a great deal of support from the military, even among those who are too young to have known or served under him. I remember driving through Richmond, Virginia one day with Webb bumper stickers on my rear window (the rest of the trunk & bumper were already taken -- with other stickers). A bunch of young guys with short haircuts pulled up alongside me at a traffic light and started cheering, while one of them bothered to yell out the window "Sticker number ONE!" I still can't believe that they specified which sticker they were cheering for, but apparently they wanted to make it clear that my anti-Bush stickers weren't what made them so happy.

I doubt that Webb's military support comes from his work with Reagan -- I think it's more what he's done elsewhere. Webb is known for his pro bono defense of a Marine convicted of war crimes in Vietnam, eventually clearing the defendant's name after his suicide, and Webb was involved in a Hollywood film with a similar theme, "Rules of Engagement" -- a Hollywood version of a war crimes trial. I actually bothered to watch "Rules of Engagement," despite my lack of enthusiasm for war flicks or most Hollywood movies in general. But reading endless attacks on the film by the campaign manager for Webb's opponent, Dick Wadham (his real name), was a lot like seeing numerous commercials for the film. Dick Wadham has to be one of the most obnoxious campaign managers ever, and after hearing him ridicule the film so much (as they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity), I just had to see what all the fuss was about. (That's another reason I'd like to see Webb win -- Wadham is just so annoying that it'd be great to never hear from him again!) I was amazed that I could actually tolerate the film. Although it is yet another war movie, with its Hollywood nature coming through, it had some really interesting points to make. I don't mind being a movie snitch at times, but this time I'll let the movie speak for itself, because its message was a little complex to summarize in a sentence or two.

Also, one of Webb's promises during this Senate campaign was to introduce legislation giving veterans of today's wars a new G.I. Bill. My father's college education was partially financed by the G.I. Bill (eventually helping him to find work when the economy went sour under... ahem... REAGAN), and it was a very popular and successful benefit for veterans. In other words, Webb is really an ADVOCATE for US veterans. That's why kids too young to know him are cheering for him now.

Unfortunately, Webb's campaign is underfunded so far, and will depend heavily on the National Democratic Party for support. His is a race where donations from the public could make a huge difference, and his is also the choice race for those concerned with the Iraq War and Veterans' rights and benefits.

Connecticut: I just had to update this page after Ned Lamont won over Senator Joe Lieberman in the primaries. (Yay!) That's a huge win for anti-war activists, and a stunning defeat for those Democrats who think that supporting the war will somehow help them hang onto their jobs in November. Quite the opposite!

Frankly, I was hoping Lieberman would go away a long time ago -- namely when Al Gore was running him as VP back in the 2000 elections! The man is simply a CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN running on the Democratic ticket. Although I hate to throw away so many years of experience in a Senator, Lieberman was so extreme that even The King of the Chickenhawks, Dick Cheney, was supporting Lieberman in this election, threatening voters that a vote for Ned Lamont was like a vote for the "terra-ists."

Of course, another highly questionable "terrorist plot" was foiled in Britain right after Lamont's election (Don't they always just pop up at the most convenient times for Bush & Co.?), taking Lamont's easy victory off of the front pages, and threatening the public with more martial law-type measures at airports after they refused to go along with Dick Cheney's little money-making wars. Money-making for his old buddies that is, not for you and me -- everyone else gets a huge national debt and dead children out of the deal, and can expect plenty more where that came from if Democrats don't take the House and Senate this election.

Wisconsin: Wisconsinites are too smart to give up Herb Kohl. He doesn't go for the headlines, but he's super-nice and well-known in the state. I was just in Wisconsin during the end of July, and the state's Democratic primary is still going on. Although Kohl is expected to easily win, his opponent is making the primary a little more fun -- Ben Masel will only accept $1 donations, and Masel has pointed out that Kohl doesn't seem to understand free speech issues on the internet. Now, that's a big issue for me, and for everyone else aware of how CIPA (a law originally passed as a way to protect children from online porno at public computers) is being used to limit political dissent coming from the internet. One of my rants was about a library using CIPA to block political web sites, apparently without the library's knowledge that their porno filters were blocking political humor sites -- some librarians there were shocked that sites they occasionally visit were blocked by the software they were using. The Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law found that rant and later interviewed me about my experiences at that library, and then included that information in their excellent publication on Internet Filters. Needless to say, this is a big cause of mine -- everyone familiar with the internet knows that the government wants to crack down on free speech there. They don't like "real news" on their dealings provided by the alternative press, and these days the best place for that alternative news is on the internet. I'm very concerned about Herb Kohl's stand on this issue, and will probably contact him about it soon.

But I still love Herb Kohl because of what he's known for -- constituent service. And I knew about this long before he became famous for that. You see, I have an elderly mother who just isn't on the internet. She won't even touch a computer, still sends handwritten letters as a matter of fact. Well, shortly after Herb Kohl was first elected, mom needed some forms from the government. Somehow she ended up contacting Kohl's office, apparently because the forms were in Washington, and so were they. Kohl's staffers retrieved the forms -- literally walked down the street for my mom -- not once, but TWICE, because mom lost the forms the first time. So I'll ALWAYS love Herb Kohl for his staff not only putting up with my mom, but cheerfully helping her twice. They don't come any nicer.

Otherwise, for Wisconsin's Federal election this November, it's better to invest money in some of Wisconsin's Congressional races, where incumbent Republicans range from extreme to useless. Kohl is actually wealthy and finances his own campaigns anyway. There are super-wingnuts like Jim Sensenbrenner, but Sensenbrenner is so entrenched that it might be a better strategy to concentrate on other races. I wish someone would get rid of Paul Ryan, not because he's always voting the wrong way (he's more useless than extreme), but because he's so irritating for his constituents, who can never count on him for anything that matters.

Pennsylvania: It's all over, Bob Casey won. I don't even know how a right-wingnut like Rick Santorum managed a win 6 years ago. Maybe people mistakenly thought they were getting another Arlen Specter, a pro-choice Republican who knows better than to take a hard party line, or he wouldn't be in office today. Pennsylvanians demand better than Santorum.

Montana: Jon Tester, the Democrat in this race, could benefit from some outside funding.

Bernie Sanders (D-VT), photo by Pam RotellaVermont: As much as I admire Jim Jeffords for resisting the Republican strong-arm tactics of Tom Delay, and temporarily giving Democrats the edge in the Senate by changing from Republican to Independent, this time Bernie Sanders is running against him. Sanders is such a great Congressman that he's definitely the better choice, and is expected to easily win this one. He's just that good. Hopefully Jeffords can find another political seat sometime soon. Good politicians often turn up again later, recycled into another job somewhere.

New York: What, you expect me to tell you something OTHER than Hillary? Don't even bother checking the papers -- Hillary won.

West Virginia: Robert Byrd is one of the greatest Senators ever, and West Virginians aren't going to let him go. As long as he's healthy enough to serve, he'll be there.

Utah: This state will no doubt return Orrin Hatch (R), a hopeless right-wingnut. I have no idea why Utah hangs onto him -- he really hurts their image, one of the worst Senators ever. And I had to update this page to give you an example. While driving through the DC area recently, I caught a C-Span Radio rebroadcast of confirmation hearings for the FDA Commissioner Nominee (currently the acting temporary Commissioner), Andrew C. von Eschenbach. While other Senators were aggressively questioning Eschenbach, largely because Eschenbach has apparently based some decisions on right-wing ideology instead of science, Hatch told Eschenbach that his resume looked fine to him, and then ASKED ESCHENBACH WHEN HE WAS GOING TO REGULATE DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS.

Now, this is a very important issue for those whose LIVES HAVE BEEN SAVED by dietary supplements (like mine) -- the right to buy herbs, vitamins, and other supplements as we see fit. It only seems logical that Americans should have the freedom to choose whatever kind of medical care they want, or self-treat with supplements of their own choosing -- what they call "health freedom." Historically, the FDA is an agency that will crack down on alternative medicine, literally showing up with guns and a paramilitary force to shut down doctors who dare to become too good at curing cancer, AIDS, or the other big moneymaking diseases for big pharmaceutical investors like the Bush family. That's what the FDA and FTC do -- they ensure maximum profits for the pharmaceutical companies and the AMA, and shut down every effective alternative cure they can find. Also, although there's plenty of hard evidence on the efficacies of various herbs and other alternative treatments (Germany's Commission E is a good example of exhaustive research on both herbs and drugs, and incidentally I heard that REAGAN went to GERMANY for treatment when he had colon cancer -- notice he didn't die from the cancer), the FDA has outlawed any claims by producers of these supplements.

According to the FDA's rules, claims of cures can only be made by DRUGS they approve, and the proof that these drugs work are based on research by the companies MANUFACTURING them. In other words, people who have a strong financial interest (often billions of dollars) in getting a drug to market are the only people the FDA will trust in deciding whether the drug is safe and effective. That's why you have people keeling over dead from Vioxx and whatnot -- drugs properly prescribed are one of the top 5 leading causes of death in this country, thanks to people like Orrin Hatch -- a Senator not only eager to kill people with any war that the Bush family wants, but a Senator who insists on the same FDA policies that have cost more Americans their lives than all of America's wars combined.

Leave it to Orrin Hatch -- he'll do everything he can to be sure you can't get anything other than full-priced drugs from pharmaceutical corporations. So what if your child dies from cancer? It's not his kid, and anyway, it's more important to him that pharmaceutical stocks go up for the Bush family. After all, that's what being a right-wing stooge is all about!

Mississippi: Who knows why Mississippians keep Trent Lott, other than the fact that Mississippi didn't want to end slavery OR segregation. There's the south, and then there's the "Deep South", and Trent Lott is about as "Deep South" as it gets. With bad hair, too.

Massachusetts: Massachusetts Senator-for-Life Ted Kennedy will be elected as long as he's healthy enough to run. After that, he'll be replaced by one of his relatives. The man should have really been President, but he decided to stay in the Senate after his immensely popular brothers were both assassinated while trying their hand at that job. People from Massachusetts (and the rest of the country) are smart enough to know that the Kennedy brothers were some of the few brave enough to stand up for real freedom and the public good. Remember what Kennedy said just weeks ago when the latest anti-flag burning amendment was up for consideration (don't Republicans have anything more IMPORTANT to do?) -- that it'd fly over an America that was a little less free. Who else talks like that in the Senate? OK, some people come close. But there's nothing like a real Kennedy.

California: Dianne Feinstein isn't quite a Barbara Boxer, but Californians will hold onto her anyway.

Florida: Racist extraordinaire and vote-rigging queen Katherine Harris is running against Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. Nelson is expected to win, but in the land of electronic Jim Crow and other assorted vote tampering schemes, Nelson needs all the help he can get!

Nevada: Although Jack Carter (D), the former President's son, has been written off as not having a chance, his web site is rather interesting. Wouldn't it be cool to help him turn things around and win, though? Nevada already uses solar panels for some of its highway sign lighting, so why not send a Carter to the capitol, along with some new solar panels?

[Posted 16 June 2004; Updated 15 August 2006]

*The officer wouldn't allow McKinney into her office because, he claimed, despite seeing her day after day on the job, he just didn't recognize her. So what was he trying to say here -- that "they all look alike," at least to him? McKinney later apologized and tried to make excuses for him, saying that maybe he didn't recognize her because of a new haircut. Just like a good politician, McKinney was apparently trying to help the officer save (his dumb snow-bunny white) face.

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