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Entry for September 03, 2008

September 3, 2008

Good, here’s the story:
> Thought you young voters would like to read this J
> Mom/Pat
> > > > > Dear Classmates,
>
> As an Alaskan, I am writing to give all of you some information on
> Sarah Palin, Senator McCain’s choice for VP. As an Alaska voter, I
> know more than most of you about her and, frankly, I am horrified that
> he picked her.
> Her husband works in the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay and races snow > mobiles. She is a life
> time member of the NRA and has worked tirelessly to allow
> indiscriminate hunting of wildlife in Alaska, particularly wolves and
> bears. She has spent millions of Alaska state dollars on aerial
> hunting of these predators -from helicopters and airplanes, dollars
> that should have been spent, for example, on Alaska’s failing school
> system. We have the lowest rate of high school graduation in the
> country. Not all of you may think aerial predator hunting is so bad,
> but how anyone (other than Alaska wolf-haters, of which there are
> many, most without teeth), could think this use of funds is
> appropriate, is beyond me. If you want to know more about the aerial
> hunting travesty, let me know and I will send some links to
> informative web sites.
>
> She has been a strong supporter of increased use of fossil fuels, yet
> the McCain campaign has the nerve to say she has “green” policies. The
> only thing green about Sarah Palin is her lack of experience. She has
> consistently supported drilling in ANWR, use of coal-burning power
> plants (as I write this, a new coal plant is being built in her home
> town of Wasilla), strip mining, and almost anything else that will
> unnecessarily exploit the diminishing resources of Alaska and destroy
> its environment.
>
> Prior to her one year as governor of Alaska, she was mayor of Wasilla,
> a small red neck town outside Anchorage.The average maximum education
> level of parents of junior high school kids in Wasilla is 10th grade.
> Unfortunately, I have to go to Wasilla every week to get groceries and
> other supplies, so I have continual contact with the people who put
> Palin in office in the first place. I know what I’m talking about.
> These people don’t have a concept of the world around them or of the
> serious issues facing the US. Furthermore, they don’t care. So long as
> they can go out and hunt their moose every fall, kill wolves and bears
> and drive their snow mobiles and ATVs through every corner of the
> wilderness, they’re happy. I wish I were exaggerating.
>
> Sarah Palin is currently involved in a political corr uption scandal.
> She fired an individual in law enforcement here because she didn’t
> like how he treated one of her relatives during a divorce. The man’s
> performance and ability weren’t considered; it was a totally personal
> firing and is currently under investigation. While the issue isn’t
> close to the scandal of Ted Steven’s corruption, it shows that Palin
> isn’t “squeaky clean” and causes me to think there may be more issues
> that could come to light. Clearly McCain doesn’t care.
>
> When you line Palin up with Biden, the comparison would be laughable
> if it weren’t so serious. Sarah Palin knows nothing of economics
> (admittedly a weak area for McCain), or of international affairs,
> knows nothing of national government, Social Security, unemployment,
> health care systems – you name it. The idea of her meeting with heads
> of foreign governments around the world truly frightens me.
>
> In an increasingly dangerous world, with the economy in shambles in
> the US, Sarah Palin is uniquely UNqualified to be vice president. John
> McCain is not a young man. Should something happen to him such that
> the vice president had to step in, it would destroy our country and
> possibly the world to have someone as inexperienced and inappropriate
> as Sarah Palin. The choice of Palin is a20cheap shot by McCain to try
> to get Hillary supporters to vote for him. when McCain introduced her
> today, Palin had the nerve to compare herself with Hillary and
> Geraldine Ferraro. Sarah Palin, you are no Hillary Clinton.
>
> To those of you who, like me, supported Hilary and were upset that she
> did not get the nomination, please don’t think that Sarah Palin is a
> worthy substitute. If you supported Hillary, regardless of what you
> think the media and the democratic party may have done to undermine
> her campaign, the person to support now is Obama, not Sarah Palin. To
> those of you who are independent or undecided, don’t let the choice of
> Palin sway you in favor of McCain. Choosing her shows how unqualified
> McCain is to be president. To those of you who are conservative, I
> guess you have no choice for president. But please try to see how the
> poor choice of Palin tells us a great deal about McCain’s judgement.
> While the political posturing inherent in the choice of Palin is
> obvious, the more serious issue is the fact that the VP is, literally,
> a heartbeat away from the presidency. Sarah Palin is totally and
> unequivocally unqualified to be vice president, let alone president.
>
> I know this is a lengthy and emotional email, but the stakes are high.
> I thought it might help for all of you, regardless of political
> affiliation, to know something about Palin from someone who has to
> live with her administration in Alaska on a daily basis.
>
> Jackie S.
> > > ____________________________________________

MARVIN E FREDLAW

— On Sat, 8/30/08, Ilyse Hogue, MoveOn.org Political Action wrote:

From: Ilyse Hogue, MoveOn.org Political Action
Subject: McCain’s dangerous choice
To: “Marvin Fredlaw”
Date: Saturday, August 30, 2008, 11:46 AM

Yesterday was John McCain’s 72nd birthday. If elected, he’d be the oldest president ever inaugurated. And after months of slamming Barack Obama for “inexperience,” here’s who John McCain has chosen to be one heartbeat away from the presidency: a right-wing religious conservative with no foreign policy experience, who until recently was mayor of a town of 9,000 people.

Huh?

Who is Sarah Palin? Here’s some basic background:

  • She was elected Alaska ‘s governor a little over a year and a half ago. Her previous office was mayor of Wasilla, a small town outside Anchorage. She has no foreign policy experience.1
  • Palin is strongly anti-choice, opposing abortion even in the case of rape or incest.2
  • She supported right-wing extremist Pat Buchanan for president in 2000. 3
  • Palin thinks creationism should be taught in public schools.4
  • She’s doesn’t think humans are the cause of climate change.5
  • She’s solidly in line with John McCain’s “Big Oil first” energy policy. She’s pushed hard for more oil drilling and says renewables won’t be ready for years. She also sued the Bush administration for listing polar bears as an endangered species���she was worried it would interfere with more oil drilling in Alaska
    .6
  • How closely did John McCain vet this choice? He met Sarah Palin once at a meeting. They spoke a second time, last Sunday, when he called her about being vice-president. Then he offered her the position.7

This is information the American people need to see. Please take a moment to forward this email to your friends and family.

We also asked Alaska MoveOn members what the rest of us should know about their governor. The response was striking. Here’s a sample:

She is really just a mayor from a small town outside Anchorage who has been a governor for only 1.5 years, and has ZERO national and international experience. I shudder to think that she could be the person taking that 3AM call on the White House hotline, and the one who could potentially be charged with leading the US in the volatile international scene that exists today. ���Rose M., Fairbanks, AK

She is VERY, VERY conservative, and far from perfect. She’s a hunter and fisherwoman, but votes against the environment again and again. She ran on ethics reform, but is currently under investigation for several charges involving hiring and firing of state officials. She has NO experience beyond Alaska. ���Christine B., Denali Park, AK

As an Alaskan and a feminist, I am beyond words at this announcement. Palin is not a feminist, and she is not the reformer she claims to be. ���Karen L., Anchorage, AK

Alaskans, collectively, are just as stunned as the rest of the nation. She is doing well running our State, but is totally inexperienced on the national level, and very much unequipped to run the nation, if it came to that. She is as far right as one can get, which has already been communicated on the news. In our office of thirty employees (dems, republicans, and nonpartisans), not one person feels she is ready for the V.P. position.���Sherry C., Anchorage, AK

She’s vehemently anti-choice and doesn’t care about protecting our natural resources, even though she has worked as a fisherman. McCain chose her to pick up the Hillary voters, but Palin is no Hillary. ���Marina L., Juneau, AK

I think she’s far too inexperienced to be in this position. I’m all for a woman in the White House, but not one who hasn’t done anything to deserve it. There are far many other women who have worked their way up and have much more experience that would have been better choices. This is a patronizing decision on John McCain’s part- and insulting to females everywhere that he would assume he’ll get our vote by putting “A Woman” in that position.���Jennifer M., Anchorage, AK

So Governor Palin is a staunch anti-choice religious conservative. She’s a global warming denier who shares John McCain’s commitment to Big Oil. And she’s dramatically inexperienced.

In picking Sarah Palin, John McCain has made the religious right very happy. And he’s made a very dangerous decision for our country.

In the next few days, many Americans will be wondering what McCain’s vice-presidential choice means. Please pass this information along to your friends and family.

Thanks for all you do.

���Ilyse, Noah, Justin, Karin and the rest of the team

Sources:

1. “Sarah Palin,” Wikipedia, Accessed August 29, 2008
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Palin

2. “McCain Selects Anti-Choice Sarah Palin as Running Mate,” NARAL Pro-Choice America, August 29, 2008
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17515&id=13661-8735240-G4o.57x&t=1

3. “Sarah Palin, Buchananite,” The Nation, August 29, 2008
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17736&id=13661-8735240-G4o.57x&t=2

4. “‘Creation science’ enters the race,” Anchorage Daily News, October 27, 2006
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17737&id=13661-8735240-G4o.57x&t=3

5. “Palin buys climate denial PR spin���ignores science,” Huffington Post, August 29, 2008
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17517&id=13661-8735240-G4o.57x&t=4

6. “McCain VP Pick Completes Shift to Bush Energy Policy,” Sierra Club, August 29, 2008
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17518&id=13661-8735240-G4o.57x&t=5

“Choice of Palin Promises Failed Energy Policies of the Past,” League of Conservation Voters, August 29, 2008
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17519&id=13661-8735240-G4o.57x&t=6

“Protecting polar bears gets in way of drilling for oil, says governor,” The Times of London, May 23, 2008
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=17520&id=13661
-8735240-G4o.57x&t=7

7 “McCain met Palin once before yesterday,” MSNBC, August 29, 2008
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=21119&id=13661-8735240-G4o.57x&t=8

Want to support our work? We’re entirely funded by our 3.2 million members���no corporate contributions, no big checks from CEOs. And our tiny staff ensures that small contributions go a long way. Chip in here.



PAID FOR BY MOVEON.ORG POLITICAL ACTION, http://pol.moveon.org/. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. This email was sent to Marvin Fredlaw on August 30, 2008. To change your email address or update your contact info, click here. To remove yourself from this list, click here.

McCain chooses Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for V.P. – Yahoo! News,
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080829/ap_on_el_pr/cvn_veepstakes

SPECIAL CONVENTION EDITION

Sen. McCain Picks Gov. Sarah Palin

Sen. McCain selected Gov. Palin to be his running mate. What do you know about her?
See Gov. Palin’s Biography and Contact Her

    Okay they said that she doesn’t have experience in the political areana. They also said that it has to be balanced out, one has to have experience and what doesn’t have to have experience. quote from a disgruntle voter: “is behind those awful helicopter hunts on wolves, bears & other wildlife! I personally fought and donated to try and get those stopped! I don’t need a cold bitch like that in charge of me!”

    Transcript of Roll Call Interview With Palin – August 31, 2008, 5:32 P.M. – By Shira Toeplitz, Roll Call Staff

    The following are excerpts from an interview with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) on Aug. 14 in her Anchorage office. About two weeks later, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) picked Palin to be his vice presidential running mate.
    The entire article may be viewed at http://www.rollcall.com/news/27818-1.html

    Oh my!, In the news today, I believe that I could run the country in better shape than it is, now. It has been run in the whole. All the underground corruption is going on and it is out in the open for everyone to see. It does not take experience to make the country into what it is now. I can do a better job than what has been done. So the republican and the democratic ticket is balanced out, experience and non-experience. I do wish that we had a woman vp on the democratic ticket.

    As a matter of fact, I am glad that the president played it safe, did you see how many rogue democratic leaders where out. I would not have trusted so many rogues around me. I am glad that our president played it safe.

    Nevertheless, the democratic incumbent and nominee has a calling on his life. I belief with exhuberants and unity, the democrats will push the electoral vote to what it is and maybe secure a place in the white house. He and his humble wife and destined for great things….

    VP Cheney assures Azerbaijan of U.S ‘interest’

    From: Warren Green
    Subject: [TheThoughtsofBlkMenfamily] Slavery Haunts America’s Plantation Prisons_What Can Obama Do About This
    To: TheThoughtsofBlkMenfamily@yahoogroups.com
    Date: Friday, August 29, 2008, 3:26 PM

    by: Maya Schenwar, t r u t h o u t | Report

    photo
    (Artwork: Paul Giambarba / t r u t h o u t)

    On an expanse of 18,000 acres of farmland, 59 miles northwest of Baton Rouge, long rows of men, mostly African-American, till the fields under the hot Louisiana sun. The men pick cotton, wheat, soybeans and corn. They work for pennies, literally. Armed guards, mostly white, ride up and
    down the rows on horseback, keeping watch. At the end of a long workweek, a bad disciplinary report from a guard – whether true or false – could mean a weekend toiling in the fields. The farm is called Angola , after the homeland of the slaves who first worked its soil.

    This scene is not a glimpse of plantation days long gone by. It’s the present-day reality of thousands of prisoners at the maximum security Louisiana State Penitentiary, otherwise known as Angola . The block of land on which the prison sits is a composite of several slave plantations, bought up in the decades following the Civil War. Acre-wise, it is the largest prison in the United States . Eighty percent of its prisoners are African-American.

    ” Angola is disturbing every time I go there,” Tory Pegram, who coordinates the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3, told Truthout. “It’s not even really a metaphor for slavery. Slavery is what’s going on.”

    Mwalimu Johnson, who spent 15 years as a prisoner at the penitentiary and now works as executive secretary of the Capital Post-Conviction Project of Louisiana, concurred.

    “I would truthfully say that Angola prison is a sophisticated plantation,” Johnson told Truthout. “‘Cotton is King’ still applies when it come to Angola .”

    Angola is not alone. Sixteen percent of Louisiana prisoners are compelled to perform farm labor, as are 17 percent of Texas prisoners and a full 40 percent of Arkansas prisoners, according to the 2002 Corrections Yearbook, compiled by the Criminal Justice Institute. They are paid little to nothing for planting and picking the same crops harvested by slaves 150 years ago.

    photo
    On land previously occupied by a slave plantation, Louisiana prisoners pick cotton, earning 4 cents an hour. (Photo: Louisiana State Penitentiary)

    Many prison farms, Angola included, have gruesome post-bellum histories. In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, Angola made news with a host of assaults – and killings – of inmates by guards. In 1952, a group of Angola prisoners found their work conditions so oppressive that they resorted to cutting their Achilles’ tendons in protest. At Mississippi ‘s Parchman Farm, another plantation-to- prison convert, prisoners were routinely subjected to near-death whippings and even shootings for the first half of the 20th century. Cummins Farm, in Arkansas , sported a “prison hospital” that doubled as a torture chamber until a federal investigation exposed it in 1970. And Texas ‘s Jester State Prison Farm, formerly Harlem Prison Farm, garnered its claim to fame from eight prisoners who suffocated to death after being sealed into a tiny cell and abandoned by guards.

    Since a wave of activism forced prison farm brutalities into the spotlight in the 1970s, some reforms have taken place: At Angola, for example, prison violence has been significantly reduced. But to a large extent, the official stories have been repackaged. State correctional departments now portray prison farm labor as educational or vocational opportunities, as opposed to involuntary servitude. The Alabama Department of Corrections web site, for example, states that its “Agriculture Program” “allows inmates to be trained in work habits and allows them to develop marketable skills in the areas of: Farming, Animal Husbandry, Vegetable, meat, and milk processing.”

    According to Angola’s web site, “massive reform” has transformed the prison into a “stable, safe and constitutional” environment. A host of new faith-based programs at Angola have gotten a lot of media play, including features in The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor.

    Cathy Fontenot, Angola ‘s assistant warden, told Truthout that the penitentiary is now widely known as an “innovative and progressive prison.”

    “The warden says it takes good food, good medicine, good prayin’ and good playin’ to have a good prison,” Fontenot said, referring to the head warden, Burl Cain. ” Angola has all these.”

    However, the makeover has been markedly incomplete, according to prisoners and their advocates.

    “Most of the changes are cosmetic,” said Johnson, who was released from Angola in 1992 and, in his new capacity as a prison rights advocate, stays in contact with Angola prisoners. “In the conventional plantations, slaves were given just enough food, clothing and shelter to be a financial asset to the owner. The same is true for the Louisiana prison system.”

    Wages for agricultural and industrial prison labor are still almost nonexistent compared with the federal minimum wage. Angola prisoners are paid anywhere from four to twenty cents per hour, according to Fontenot. Agricultural laborers fall on the lowest end of the pay scale.

    What’s more, prisoners may keep only half the money they make, according to Johnson, who notes that the other half is placed in an account for prisoners to use to “set themselves up” after they’re released.

    Besides the fact that two cents an hour may not accumulate much of a start-up fund, there is one glaring peculiarity about this arrangement: due to some of the harshest sentencing practices in the country, most Angola prisoners are never released. Ninety-seven percent will die in prison, according to Fontenot.

    (Ironically, the “progressive” label may well apply to Angola , relative to some locations: In Texas, Arkansas and Georgia , mo
    st prison farms pay nothing at all.)

    Angola prisoners technically work eight-hour days. However, since extra work can be mandated as a punishment for “bad behavior,” hours may pile up well over that limit, former prisoner Robert King told Truthout.

    “Prisoners worked out in the field, sometimes 17 hours straight, rain or shine,” remembered King, who spent 29 years in solitary confinement at Angola , until he was released in 2001 after proving his innocence of the crime for which he was incarcerated.

    It’s common for Angola prisoners to work 65 hours a week after disciplinary reports have been filed, according to Johnson. Yet, those reports don’t necessarily indicate that a prisoner has violated any rules. Johnson describes guards writing out reports well before the weekend, fabricating incident citations, then filling in prisoners’ names on Friday, sometimes at random. Those prisoners would then spend their weekend in the cotton fields.

    Although mechanical cotton pickers are almost universally used on modern-day farms, Angola prisoners must harvest by hand, echoing the exact ritual that characterized the plantation before emancipation.

    According to King, these practices are undergirded by entrenched notions of race-based authority.

    “Guards talked to prisoners like slaves,” King told Truthout. “They’d tell you the officer was always right, no matter what.”

    During the 1970s, prisoners were routinely beaten or “dungeonized” without cause, King said. Now, guards’ power abuses are more expertly concealed, but they persist, fed by racist assumptions, according to King.

    Johnson described some of the white guards burning crosses on prison lawns.

    Much of this overt racism stems from the way the basic system – and even the basic population – of Angola and its environs have remained static since the days of slavery, according to Pegram. After the plantation was converted to a prison, former plantation overseers and their descendants kept their general roles, becoming prison officials and guards. This white overseer community, called B-Line, is located on the farm’s grounds, both close to the prisoners and completely separate from them. In addition to their prison labor, Angola ‘s inmates do free work for B-Line residents, from cutting their grass to trimming their hair to cleaning up Prison View Golf Course, the only course in the country where players can watch prisoners laboring as they golf.

    Another landmark of the town, the Angola Prison Museum , is also run by multi-generation Angola residents. The museum exhibits “Old Sparky,” the solid oak electric chair used for executions at Angola until 1991. Visitors can purchase shirts that read, ” Angola : A Gated Community.”

    Despite its antebellum MO, Angola ‘s labor system does not break the law. In fact, it is explicitly authorized by the Constitution. The 13th Amendment, which prohibits forced labor, contains a caveat. It reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States .”

    That clause has a history of being manipulated, according to Fordham Law Professor Robert Kaczorowski, who has written extensively on civil rights and the Constitution. Directly after the 13th Amendment was enacted, it began to be utilized to justify slavery-like practices, according to Kaczorowski. Throughout the South, former slaves were arrested for trivial crimes (vagrancy, for example), fined, and imprisoned when they could not pay their fines. Then, landowners could supply the fine in exchange for the prisoner’s labor, essentially perpetuating slavery.

    Although such close reproductions of private enslavement were phased out, the 13th Amendment still permits involuntary servitude.

    “Prisoners can be forced to work for the government against their will, and this is true in every state,” Kaczorowski told Truthout.

    In recent years, activists have begun to focus on the 13th Amendment’s exception for prisoners, according to Pegram. African-Americans are disproportionately incarcerated; one in three black men has been in prison at some point in his life. Therefore, African-Americans are much more likely to be subject to involuntary servitude.

    “I would have more faith in that amendment if it weren’t so clear that our criminal justice system is racially biased in a really obvious way,” Pegram said.

    Prison activists like Johnson believe that ultimately, permanently changing the status quo at places like Angola may mean changing the Constitution – amending the 13th Amendment to abolish involuntary servitude for all.

    “I don’t have any illusions that this is a simple process,” Johnson said. “Many people are apathetic about what happens in prisons. It would be very difficult, but I would not suggest it would be impossible.”

    Even without a constitutional overhaul, some states have done away with prison farms of their own accord. In Connecticut , where the farms were prevalent before the 1970s, the farms have been phased out, partially due to the perceived slavery connection. “Many black inmates viewed farm work under these circumstances as too close to slavery to want to participate,” according to a 1995 report to the Connecticut General Assembly.

    For now, though, the prison farm is alive and well in Louisiana . And at Angola , many prisoners can expect to be buried on the land they till. Two cemeteries, Point Lookout 1 and 2, lie on the prison grounds. No one knows exactly how many prisoners are interred in the former, since, after a flood washed away the first Angola cemetery in 1927, the bodies were reburied in a large common grave.

    Point Lookout 1 is now full, and with the vast majority of Angola ‘s prisoners destined to die in prison, Point Lookout 2 is well
    on its way, according to King.

    ” Angola is pretty huge,” King said. “They’ve got a lot of land to bury a lot of prisoners.”

    No one knows how many of the prisoners kept in involuntary servitude at Angola are innocent. But at least one who has proven his innocence in court, overturning his conviction, is still behind bars. Please see “Declared Innocent, but Not Free.”

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