PROTEST THE ESCALATION OF TROOPS TO AFGHANISTAN!

Tuesday, December 1 at 11pm
Federal Building, 200 N. High, at Spring and High Streets
Please join us at the federal building for a half hour to protest the escalation of the war.

Also, Mark Stanbery has written a draft letter to the editor on the subject. Please use this information and write your own letter to the editor as another outlet to demonstrate the people’s disagreement with the President’s decision:

On the letter to editor, see attached, it is really rough draft with NPP stats of cost of war, “Can we afford this war?” title.
Peace, Mark D. Stansbery

Sample Letter to the Editor: DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT

FIRST EDITION (November 26, 2009)

Can We Afford this War?

The Cost of War in Afghanistan continues to confound people in leadership and on the streets. In tracking the US cost of the war in Afghanistan the ledger must include: an individual cost of war casualty counter, state-level numbers and trade-offs., and Federal Budget Outlays including Supplemental Funding Bills.

Jo Comerford , the National Priorities Project Executive Director, a research organization that analyzes and clarifies federal data, stated that, “With President Obama moving forward with his campaign promise to increase troop levels in Afghanistan, the US public faces two important questions as we reach his administration’s troop escalation: What will be the cost and impact of more troops, for both the US and Afghanistan? And what are the Obama Administration’s long-term goals?”

Seven years ago, the “global war on terror” began in Afghanistan as a military response to the September 11 attacks. In March 2003, the United States also invaded Iraq. Today, US forces are deeply engaged in both countries with some 200,000 US troops in the region, of which 137,000 are in Iraq and about 68,000 in Afghanistan, with the Obama Administration requesting at least an additional 30,000 troops.

Visit www.nationalpriorities.org to access this information and other timely federal budget analysis tools and reports. The American Friends Service Committee can be found on-line at www.afsc.org.

Al-Gathafi’s Big Tent

Bob Fitrakis


November 24, 2009


Colonel Muammar al-Gathafi lives in a really big air-conditioned tent with cushy rugs and incredible chandeliers. How do I know? I visited the tent on the 40th anniversary of the Libyan revolution, when a 27-year-old al-Gathafi overthrew the Libya government, Che Guavera-style (his hero).

The controversial Libyan leader, who helped train and fund insurgent groups all over the world, now wants to compete in the marketplace of ideas — and he and his supporters think his Green Book may offer a new perspective. One Green Book idea: every citizen is entitled to one mortgage-free house, or tent. That’s the way it is for 5.5 million Libyan citizens.

Following al-Gathafi’s recent trip to the United States, where he spoke for an hour and a half at the United Nations — questioning the assassinations of Kennedy and King — former U.S. Congresswoman organized a delegation to visit Libya and attend the First International Conference of the Green Book Supporters Society.

After a 9-hour flight to Frankfurt, Germany and a 3-hour hop to the shores of Tripoli, I arrived Thursday morning, October 22, greeted by Society supporters at the airport. The 11-member U.S. delegation was whisked off to the Bab-Al Bahre Hotel to mingle with hundreds of representatives from around the world.

But many Green Book supporters were shocked to see an U.S. delegation. We were the first of any note since President Ronald Reagan attempted to assassinate al-Gathafi with F-16 fighter jets in 1986, instead killing his 5-year-old adopted daughter. United States sanctions against Libya were lifted in 2004 and in 2006 the U.S. removed the country from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, but the U.S. has been slow to engage with al-Gathafi. In the meantime, the countries of Africa voted him the President of the African Union and businessmen from China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia have flooded the scenic Mediterranean port city of Tripoli. Construction cranes are everywhere and 2000 miles of undeveloped and unpolluted Mediterranean coastline beckon.

Initially I thought I was in Libya as a reporter, although I began to get suspicious of what was written on my nametag when delegate after delegate asked me for my analysis of President Barack Obama and what was happening in U.S. politics, post-Bush. On Thursday and Friday I worked with the U.S. delegates in drafting a statement of friendship to be read at the conference. It ended: “We know that a better world is possible. We are here to build it in solidarity with each and every one of you, and with our brothers and sisters around the world.”

My thoughts were that if Richard Nixon could embrace Chairman Mao and his Red Book supporters, we can dialogue with al-Gathafi. After all, as the Colonel likes to point out, he was the first man to send out a warrant through Interpol to arrest the terrorist bin Laden.

Journalist Wayne Madsen and I wandered through the old walled city of Tripoli, run-down and hard hit by the U.S. sanctions yet currently being renovated in anticipation of a flourishing tourist trade. Libya is in the process of building the largest airport on the African continent and expects it to be a destination for people from all nations. While we were warned that we shouldn’t be there without an interpreter or guide, we felt safe strolling through the incredible ancient fortress.

Four of us shopped in Tripoli’s central market. Sadly, I found it virtually impossible to buy any authentic Arab wear. Most of the clothes being sold were knock-offs of U.S. styles with names like “Calvin Place,” manufactured in China or Cambodia. Also the ubiquitous satellite dishes offered four English-speaking channels: the BBC, CNN, Fox’s Action Movies, and another U.S. action-adventure channel. I wondered about the wisdom of showering the Libyan people with movies like Mission: Impossible and Rambo Part III.

On Sunday, the conference of 400 or so participants convened. Oddly, a conference organizer ushered me into the first row of VIP-reserved seats, right in front of the Secretary General. I wasn’t sure why. Unexpectedly, the U.S. delegation interpreter asked me to read the Society’s founding charter. Puzzled, I asked why. He replied, “You are the head of the U.S. delegation.” How did I become the head? “Your badge says so,” he told me. In some ways, I figure I’m at fault for not taking basic Arabic in college. Apparently with Congresswoman McKinney representing the North American continent, I somehow became the leader of the U.S. delegation.

It could have been worse. I could have been asked to play ping pong a la China in the ‘70s. During the introduction, I managed to catch the phrase “Green Party Governor Ohio.” Al-Gathafi’s Party is also called the Green Party. I hope there wasn’t some confusion here between the ruling party of Libya and the tattered remnants of aging environmentalists who gave me 1% of the vote in the 2006 election. After giving the speech before a sea of TV cameras, and only occasionally stumbling over the word Jamahiriya (Republic), I improvised by ending with the slogan “All power to the people, all power to the People’s Congress!”

Suddenly they postponed the conference on Sunday and Abdurahmane, our interpreter, told us we were going to meet a special guest. Conference members boarded buses and headed along the seashore highway in Tripoli. The bus pulled into a military compound and we were ushered through heavy security. What else could it be — we were destined to sit in al-Gathafi’s big tent.

I never thought I’d be hanging out in his tent, in a compound with a shrine dedicated to his dead daughter. Once again, I found myself in the front row next to Congresswoman McKinney. Behind me, a man called my name “Ro-bert.” He began “I wrote the statement you gave yesterday. It was the Great Leader’s idea that someone from America should read the speech. You did well but you improvised a little.” I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.

Finally, the Colonel came in and we observed a moment of silence for the thousands of Libyans kidnapped and relocated by Italian occupational forces on that day in October 1911. Al-Gathafi spoke for more than an hour. His speech’s theme was clear — corporate capitalism was failing in the West and the Green Book’s version of socialism offered an alternative.

He stressed over and over again that people should actually read his Green Book and not listen to Western propaganda about it. He emphasized that true democracy must be rooted in the religious and cultural traditions particular to each society. He specifically cited the Torah, the Bible, and the Koran as sources for law and democracy. His voice was strong and he spoke slowly. It is clearly legacy time for the aging leader of both Pan-Arab and Pan-African unity.

Why must there be People’s Congresses: “The rich create the Parliament, they own the press.” Denouncing the rich, he stated, “They have a right to steal, you have the right to protest.” Al-Gathafi commented specifically on the United States: “The wealth of society is the property of all Americans and should be distributed that way.”

In our current climate of economic collapse, the ideas in al-Gathafi’s Green Book may make sense to some. Yet, it seems implausible that the great vilified enemy of the U.S. will rise from the ashes of near assassination to influence U.S. politics. Still, who knows? It is intriguing that a robed, revolutionary Bedouin living in a tent in Tripoli seemed to have a more realistic assessment of the U.S. economy and democracy than most of our own elected officials. Next time, let’s let him set up his tent in New Jersey or New York City and maybe a few more people could dialogue.


Original Article Published At:
https://freepress.org/columns/display/3/2009/1788

On voter Registration, The Columbus Dispatch Gets It Right, Almost

11.17.09
By Bob Fitrakis

Is election reform brewing in the Buckeye State? In an extensive and well-argued editorial the Dispatch made the case for the integration of key state government databases into a statewide electronic voter registration system under the control of the Secretary of State’s office, as proposed in pending legislation.

Ohio’s voter registration databases are in disarray. In the 2008 presidential election, many voters found their right to vote challenged in Ohio because of discrepancies in state and federal databases. For example, under Social Security I am listed as Robert John Fitrakis, but on my driver’s license it’s Robert J. Fitrakis. On the voting rolls I’m Robert Fitrakis. If the states would integrate their databases and establish a single form for voter registration, bizarre challenges over middle initials and names may become a thing of the past.

But privately controlled non-transparent electronic voter registration systems pose a great threat to democracy. Each county keeps its own records, a few have told the Free Press they don’t know how to use the Secretary of State’s data system. Many counties have outsourced their voting rolls to private vendors using secret proprietary software – the same vendors who also own electronic voting machines suspected of manipulating election results.

Ohio purged more than 1,250,000 voters between the 2004-2008 elections. Many of these voters lost their ability to vote because of electronic poll books using proprietary software and hardware provided or controlled by private companies with questionable loyalties. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s Everest study of voting machine security indicated that while the hardware and software connected with electronic voting is vulnerable to hacking, there is virtually no security in place to protect the electronic poll books that contain the registration lists.

In 2004, nearly 10,000 Cleveland area voters learned this the hard way when a Diebold electronic poll book had a supposed “glitch” and purged them from the rolls just prior to Election Day preventing them from voting.

The Dispatch’s logic on several vital points is impressive, although certain safeguards against any centralized database manipulation must be in place. The specter of former Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell still haunts Ohio elections.

It is worthwhile to take the Dispatch editorial point by point. The capital city’s daily monopoly begins with an obvious criticism: “Ohio’s county boards of elections spend more time and money shuffling paper around in an outmoded voter registration system than on anything else.” Citing the example of Maricopa County in Arizona, they note that online registration costs are 3 cents per registrant, compared with 82 cents for those registering on paper. The cost saving comes from pushing a button at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and sending the exact same data to the Secretary of State’s office and the county boards of elections versus filling a registration form out on paper, mailing it to both of those entities and having it keyed in.

A key point not mentioned by the Dispatch in this process is that every eligible citizen that registers to vote should be given a copy of that registration by the BMV or, say, the Ohio Dept. of Job and Family Services, which can be used as proof of registration if there’s any dispute when casting a vote.

Paper trails and receipts are a necessity in guaranteeing voting rights. Systems must be in place to assure that central database activity initiated by the Secretary of State must be transparent to the public, and should never be controlled or manipulated by private companies using proprietary software.

The Dispatch editorial was driven by an issue near and dear to the Free Press editorial staff – the unacceptable high numbers of Ohioans who were forced to cast provisional ballots in the last two presidential elections. These back-of-the-bus Jim Crow ballots, as the Free Press has documented repeatedly, are primarily cast by minorities and the inner-city poor.

As the Free Press reported following the 2004 election, “An earlier analysis in the Free Press of the 155,428 unofficial provisional ballots recorded at the Secretary of State’s website found that a clear majority, 85,096, came from the 15 counties Kerry won.”

And so the sorting and discarding of Kerry votes begins https://freepress.org/columns/display/3/2004/985

Election Summit summary: What really happened in Ohio in 2008 https://freepress.org/departments/display/19/2009/3629

2008 Ohio Election Protection Report https://freepress.org/departments/display/19/2009/3630

What the Dispatch editorial fails to note is that a shocking 10% of all Ohio voters on Election Day 2008 were forced to vote provisionally. Provisional voters reached record numbers in 2008 with Ohio reporting 193,000 provisionals cast on Election Day. Election observers noted up to 20% provisional ballots cast in some inner city precincts. Free Press research documented that in comparable battleground states like Missouri and Virginia, very few voters were forced to vote provisional ballots — only .02% (7,000 voters) and 01% (4,500 voters) respectively. Ohio’s numbers are so staggeringly high in contrast, they should be challenged by under the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

The Dispatch comes down firming on the side of Ohio public agencies asking Ohioans if they want to register to vote or update their voter registration data. “Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner; Franklin County’s Republican deputy elections director Matt Damschroder, and the Brennan Center for Justice in New York all agree that any Ohio election-reform law should require workers at BMV and Job and Family Services offices to ask clients whether they want to register to vote or have their registration updated…” the Dispatch wrote.

But why stop there? Every public college and university in the state should be required to do the same thing. Last time I checked all the public higher education institutions had computer systems capable of transmitting data. Better yet, all of the public high schools in Ohio should be required by law to ask their students if they want to register to vote on their 18th birthday and transmit that data to the Secretary of State’s office as well as their local board of elections.

Ideally, the solution should be for the state of Ohio, and all states for that matter, to assert an affirmative duty to register all citizens automatically to vote when they are 18 years old. The right to vote should never be taken away from a citizen because a private company controls the poll books or because a partisan political party challenges someone’s identity based on minor discrepancies in a public database.

FREE PRESS SECOND SATURDAY SALON FREE PRESS SECOND SATURDAY SALON

FREE PRESS SECOND SATURDAY SALON
November 14
6:30pm-midnight

Join local progressives to meet, network, and socialize, with music, art, food.
Art display by Malcolm J and Paul Wilbur, folk singer, and poets.
Hear about Bob Fitrakis’ trip with Cynthia McKinney to Tripoli.
Showing “Re-Think Afghanistan.”
Co-sponsored by the Central Ohio Green Edudation Fund.

1021 E. Broad St., side door, parking in rear.
truth@freepess.org, 614-253-2571

Sunday Nov. 1 7:30 P.M. Columbus Screening of Re-Thinking Afghanistan

Sunday, November 1, 2009
Re-Thinking Afghanistan
7:30 PM. Columbus Screening of Rethink Afghanistan. View Brave New Foundation’s recently released documentary directed by Robert Greenwald, director of Outfoxed, Wal-Mart: The High cost of Low Price, and Iraq for Sale. Sponsored by Community Organizing Center, Columbus Campaign for Arms Control, Middle East Peace Committee, Alternatives to Militarism Project. CONTACT: Mark Stansbery for more details.
Location: Old First Presbyterian Church, 1191 Bryden Road, Columbus, Ohio 43205
Phone: 252-9255
Email: walk@igc.org
Website: www.rethinkafghanistan.com