Sunday, May 29, 2005

Decline to state (cont.)

I have been thinking for a while about what I should write in response to Kevin McKeown leaving the party (see below). Actually, I don't have much to say. From my perspective, Kevin McKeown seemed to be the main force behind the effort to demonize Michael Feinstein and persue for four years allegations into mishandling by Feinstein of a donation to the Green Party of Los Angeles County. McKeown carried around a file of evidence against Feinstein and would bring it out on the slimmist of context. McKeown certainly had a part in writing the text that he quotes below, refering to the donation as "the worst public scandal in our party's history". He also had a large part in promoting the scandal.

With Kevin McKeown on the Green Party of California (GPCA) Coordinating Committee, the issue of the mishandled donation came to a head at the recent GPCA plenary, and as a result of what happened at the plenary, McKeown has left the party.

But what happened at the plenary? I was there, and I believe McKeown misrepresents it in his letter. He says that "a minority wishing to avoid the issue refused to ratify the previously-circulated agenda, and succeeded in delaying the meeting by almost five hours." That's just not true.

The night before the plenary, the coordinating committee apparently changed the item about the donation to an advisory, rather than an action item. The next morning, just before deciding whether to approve the agenda, an ally of McKeown brought a motion to unseat the Los Angeles County delegation, most of whom supported Michael Feinstein in the matter. The coordinating committee decided, after much confusion, that the LA delegation could not be unseated. Then most of the Los Angeles delegation voted to accept the agenda. Some, who wanted to have a separate vote to disqualify the LA delegation, voted against the agenda, as did others including the San Francisco delegation, who were upset about an entirely different issue.

While Michael Feinstein is not blameless, it is unclear if he has ever had the power to settle this issue to the complete satisfaction of McKeown and a few others. In my opinion, Kevin McKeown's crusade on this issue has come at the expense of the better interests of the Green Party. Although the issue was not fully settled at the recent meeting, I am hopeful that the party can move on from this point and do the important work we should be doing.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

License to murder

Murder Charges Dropped Against Marine
Published: May 26, 2005

Filed at 10:36 a.m. ET

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- A former Wall Street trader who rejoined the Marines after the Sept. 11 attacks will not be tried on murder charges for killing two suspected Iraqi insurgents, a Marine general decided Thursday.

The decision by Maj. Gen. Richard Huck, commander of the 2nd Marine Division based at Camp Lejeune, ends the prosecution of 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano, whom prosecutors accused of killing the men without justification.

''Down at the unit level, there was never a question about Ilario's conduct and whether or not he did the right thing,'' Charles Gittins, Pantano's civilian lawyer, said. ''It was up in the higher echelons. The people removed from combat situations needed to put more trust in their officers rather than assuming they're guilty.''

''That's exciting, isn't it,'' said Pantano's mother, Merry Pantano of New York, who said she hadn't yet spoken to her son about the decision. ''Needless to say, we are quite ecstatic.''

The two Iraqis were killed during an April 2004 search outside a suspected terrorist hideout in Mahmudiyah, Iraq. Pantano, 33, contended he shot them in self-defense after the men disobeyed his instructions and made a menacing move toward him.

Prosecutors alleged Pantano intended to make an example of the men by shooting them 60 times and hanging a sign over their bodies -- ''No better friend, no worse enemy,'' a Marine slogan. While citing self-defense as his motive, Pantano did not deny hanging the sign or shooting the men repeatedly.

An Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury session, was held in April. In a report dated May 12, the hearing officer, Lt. Col. Mark Winn, had recommended that the murder charges be dropped.

While finding some problems with Pantano's behavior, Winn concluded that one witness' accusation that Pantano shot the detainees while they were kneeling with their backs to him was not supported by other testimony or evidence.

Witnesses testified the sergeant who was Pantano's main accuser was a weak Marine who was bitter about Pantano removing him from a leadership role within the platoon.

More than a half-dozen Marines who served with Pantano in Iraq praised him in testimony, saying he was an able leader who remained cool in combat and was amiable with Iraqis.

Winn wrote in his recommendation that Pantano should face nonjudicial punishment for allegedly desecrating the bodies by reloading his weapon and repeatedly shooting them. Pantano said he shot the men until they stopped moving.

Huck could have accepted Winn's recommendation, given some form of administrative punishment or gone ahead with a court-martial. He decided that Pantano should face no punishment for any of his actions.

''The best interests of 2nd Lt. Pantano and the government have been served by this process,'' the Marine Corps said in a statement.

Supporters of Pantano said troops should not be second-guessed for decisions made in fleeting seconds of combat. A North Carolina congressman had urged President Bush to intervene and dismiss charges.

Pantano also has become a popular subject for conservative radio hosts, and his mother started a Web site in his defense.

Pantano is now helping to train troops at Camp Lejeune, but his attorney said he hopes the decision will clear the way for the Marine to return to a combat unit.

''I think (the decision) demonstrates that Ilario acted honorably in combat and the suggestion that he didn't that tarnished his reputation was unjustified,'' Gittins said. ''I'm pleased for Ilario and his family because the nightmare is over."

Stuff like this is inevitable in war. But the military isn't doing much to discourage it. Again and again, the military refuses to hold troops or officers accountable. Meanwhile, we're losing the battle for hearts and minds.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

decline to state

Former Green Audie Bock
Former Green Audie Bock

Santa Monica City Councilman Kevin McKeown has left the Green Party. According to an e-mail he sent to a Green Party listserv today, McKeown re-registered "decline to state", effectively resigning from the party, the Green Party of California's Coordinating Committee, and the Green Party of Los Angeles' county council.

McKeown has been feuding with Michael Feinstein, a Green and former City Council colleague for several years over issues including a $10,000 check made out to the Los Angeles Green Party that Feinstein accepted. Feinstein says he directed the money into rent for a party office in Santa Monica, but McKeown and several others have called the transaction into question.

McKeown says he finally decided to leave the party after the state meeting this past weekend, in which the assembly dropped discussion of the contested donation from the agenda.

Here is the letter:

I want you to hear this directly from me, personally. If you wish to
forward this, please forward it in its entirety.

As the only elected governmental official on the Green Party of California state Coordinating Committee, I have for some time been uncomfortable with the GPCA's ongoing inability to file legally required political donation and expenditure records for a number of checks intended by donors for the Green Party, but apparently diverted through a privately controlled account. After four years, the matter finally was put before the California Green Party's highest decision-making body, the General Assembly, this past weekend.

Delegates from around the state were presented with written documentation, including a letter from the GPCA Finance Committee that explained the seriousness of the situation. That letter, part of each delegate¹s information packet, concluded,

> It is fair to describe the public outcry over the mismanagement of the funds
> in the account in question as the worst public scandal in our party's history.
> That scandal is now part of our history -- an indelible part. The only
> question remaining is whether you, the representatives of the Green Party of
> California, wish the party to continue our efforts to bring this problem to a
> conclusion based upon legal compliance and a political resolution based upon
> our own principles and values.

Instead of seeking responsible resolution, a minority wishing to avoid the issue refused to ratify the previously-circulated agenda, and succeeded in delaying the meeting by almost five hours. Eventually, the 80-odd frustrated delegates voted to remove only one item from the day's general assembly agenda -- the matter of the legally-required financial filings.

Greens, who advocate for political transparency and clean campaign financing, have now actively chosen to ignore compliance with California's primary political finance disclosure law, 1974's Political Reform Act.

As an elected official trying to represent Green integrity in local governance to a Santa Monica constituency unfortunately very familiar through hometown headlines with ³the worst public scandal in our party¹s history,² I find myself in an intolerable conflict.

I've done my best, but I still have unresolved concerns with California Green Party leadership that considers itself above the law on financial transparency and electoral integrity.

I have this morning re-registered as ³decline to state.² I shall continue to work with you on implementing the Ten Key Values in Santa Monica, California, the nation and the world.


Kevin McKeown
Santa Monica City Council

My take in an upcoming post.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

From inauspicious beginnings...

After a slow start yesterday, the Green Party of California plenary more of a future focus today, and actually got some business done:

The General Assembly (GA) agreed by consensus to endorse and support a Green-initiated coalition to raise the minimum wage in California. The Californians for Fair Wages Coalition is designed to bring a statewide initiative in Nov. 2006 to raise the minimum wage in the direction of a living wage, including a provision to index the minimum wage for inflation. The specific language has not been drafted yet, and will include input from two stake holders conferences to be held later this year.

The GA also voted to support two measures at the national level of the Green Party. The initiatives, and a third that had majority support but did not meet the two-thirds threshold, were brought by Greens for Democracy and Independence (GDI), a national organization of Greens instituted after the 2004 elections to address what they see as inadequacies with Green Party of the United States (GPUS) internal policies.

The first measure would change state representation in the GPUS coordinating committee and presidential conventions to reflect the number of Greens in each state (party registration), rather than the current formula, which is based on the size of a state's congressional delegation. The second measure, which also passed, would give Presidential candidates more control over their delegates to the national election. The third measure, which failed to gain the support of the GA, would preclude the national and state parties from endorsing or supporting candidates endorsed by either the Democrats or Republicans.

There was wide support for all three measures, although a significant minority believed there had not been enough discussion about them at the local level, and that the language could be improved. The proposal's presenters promised to bring all concerns to the national discussion, which will be held at the next GPUS meeting this July in Oklahoma.

Hopefully the party will reach national consensus about these ideas over the next year and have a smoother nomination process in 2008.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A few Green Party things...

I finally made it to the Los Angeles Greens meeting last night. There is really a great vibe in that group. The LA Greens and other area Greens are going to have a presence at the "Action Day for a Better California" rally next Wednesday organized by the California Teachers Association.

More Green Election News:

From GreensWeek (not yet updated online) comes news that two Greens were elected in Oregon on Tuesday:


Pacific Green Party candidate Matt Donohue was elected to the Corvallis (509J) School Board on May 17, defeating rightwing
Republican John Turman (49.67% to 39.18 %) and marking the 4th local victory for the party in Benton County. There are currently two Greens on the Corvallis City Council and one on the Benton County Soil & Water Board. Local Greens note that Donohue and his campaign manager, Corvallis City councilor George Grosch, ran an old-fashioned, shoe-leather, phone-calling grassroots effort.

In Jackson County, Green Party candidate Mat Marr was just elected to Ashland District 5 School Board. Marr, who is 24 years old and considered a rising star in the Green Party, successfully unseated incumbent Chuck Keil, president of the Jackson County Democratic Party Coordinating Committee.


One of the coolest things on the agenda for the Green Party of California plenary this weekend is a little consent calendar item to support State Senator Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica)'s single-payer health care bill (SB840). I don't know what the chances are for this, but this seems like an awesome bill. For more info, check out Health Care for All.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Live blogging the elections

Update: 11:30 P.M.: Villaraigosa winning big. 56.2% of precincts reporting (plus absentees): Villaraigosa 59.1% - Hahn 40.8%
Hahn hasn't yet conceeded ("looks like it's going to be a long night" Not for me. Off to bed.)

Still waiting in vain for returns in L.A. (as I write this: 9% reporting, Villaraigosa 53% - Hahn 47%. Update: 11% reporting: Villaraigosa 56% - Hahn 44% )

In Oakland, Patricia Kernighan appears to have won with a large margin. Aimee Allison came in fourth, with about 13.6%:


Total Number of Precincts 37 Precincts Reporting 37 100.0

% Times Counted 8370/25977 32.2 % Total Votes 8281

SHIRLEY GEE 1420 17.15%
AIMEE ALLISON 1127 13.61%
PAUL E. GARRISON 646 7.80%
PAMELA A. DRAKE 192 2.32%
TODD PLATE 29 0.35%
Write-in Votes 14 0.17%

Monday, May 16, 2005

Women to vote in 2007

Kuwait Grants Political Rights to Its Women

CAIRO, May 16 - Kuwait's Parliament granted full political rights to women on Monday, making way for them to vote and run for office in parliamentary and local elections for the first time in the country's history. The surprise amendment to Kuwait's election law ends a decades-long struggle by women's rights campaigners for full suffrage, and promises to redefine the city-state's political landscape.


The prime minister, Sheik Sabah al-Jaber al-Sabah, a member of Kuwait's ruling family, has been under growing pressure to allow women's suffrage and is believed to have forced the measure through ahead of a planned trip to Washington. He is widely expected to appoint a woman as minister of health in coming weeks.

Although women can now run in all elections, the legislation was passed too late for them to run in the council elections next month. The soonest they will be able to run in any election is 2007, when parliamentary elections are scheduled.

More deaths at the hand of religious fanaticism

I would like to echo the thoughts of Richard Bradley (on The Huffington Post) about the Newsweek article about Guantanomo Bay and the outsized reaction in Afghanistan and other parts of the Arab world. Whether or not interrogators desecrated the Koran (it isn't hard to believe, is it?), the response has been totally incomprohensible. To blame Newsweek for the deaths from rioting, as the administration and its apologists are doing, misses two points. First, it is the administration's own fault that a story like this is so believable. And second, it signals wrongly that the reaction was understandable--but perhaps it was understandable to the religious fundamentalists in the White House. This is like blaming soccer referrees for murders by soccer hooligans: the call may have been wrong, but the proper response is to boo loudly, not stab a fellow hooligan and throw him from the bleachers.

We sure aren't winning the hearts and minds of conservative Muslims around the world, but violent riots in response to alleged symbolic attacks aren't going to win many hearts and minds over here, either.

I frankly don't understand--and don't support--religious fanaticism and infantilism.

Elections tomorrow

The Los Angeles mayor's race is tomorrow. Mayor James Hahn and--to a lesser extent--Antonio Villaraigosa have succeeded in throwing enough mud that most people, including reporters such as an NPR correspondent I heard this morning, have given up on trying to differentiate the candidates. This, of course, is Hahn's only chance to win.

Tomorrow is also the last day to vote in Oakland's monthlong mail-in city-council special election. A recent East Bay Express article explained how the election's winner-take-all format (no primary or run off, instant or otherwise), could hurt progressive candidates including Green Party candidate Aimee Allison.

[P.S. I've been away from this blog for a bit because of computer difficulties.]

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Not another victory for Democracy

Thanks to Erin for turning me on to this story...

Lawmakers Block Women From Voting in Kuwait


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, May 3 - Conservative lawmakers in Kuwait's Parliament on Tuesday created a constitutional roadblock that effectively killed a measure that would have allowed women to participate in city council elections for the first time. Hours later, the elections were called for June 2.

The action eliminates any chance that women will be able to take part in elections for another four years, when city council seats are again up for grabs.

The legislation initially was passed by Kuwait's 64-member National Assembly on April 19, but in accordance with Kuwaiti law faced a second vote for ratification on Monday. But Parliament ended in deadlock on Monday when 29 members abstained and only 29 voted for it, leaving the legislation just shy of the 33 votes needed.

Efforts to resume voting on the measure on Tuesday failed when opponents argued that it had already been rejected and that any new vote would therefore be unconstitutional. In a surprise move, the prime minister, Sheik Sabah al-Jaber al-Sabah, shelved the issue for two more weeks. Because the elections were called under the existing law, women are barred from participating in the coming municipal elections even if the measure ultimately passes.

While the city council holds little political significance, winning the right for women to run for office there was seen as a first step in gaining the right to run for Parliament.

The prime minister, who is a descendant of the ruling Sabah family, had promised in the past to push through full political rights for women during the current parliamentary term, which ends in June. He said he would appoint a female cabinet minister once women get suffrage.

Women's participation in politics has been a divisive issue in Kuwait for years, and in recent months has grown heated as advocates for women, backed by international pressure, appeared to make strides. Bahrain, Qatar and Oman have all held elections in recent years, and all have allowed women to vote.

Kuwait's elected Parliament exercises a great deal of control over the government. But while the Kuwaiti Constitution gives equal rights to men and women, the country's election law bars women, along with men in the police and military, from voting. That limits the voting base to only 15 percent of the total population of 950,000 Kuwaitis.

Women would essentially double that base, and redraw the country's political map in the process. But conservative and tribally backed members of Parliament say Islam and Kuwaiti custom bar women from holding that much power.

"The parliaments of most other Muslim countries don't have as much power as we do," said Waleed al-Tabtabae, head of Parliament's human rights committee and a fervent opponent of the measure. "We have no problem with women voting, but we do have a problem with women standing for elections. Islam dictates that the head of the nation must be a man, and we are technically the head of the nation here."

Numerous Kuwaiti women hold high government posts, including the ambassador to the United Nations, Nabeela Abdulla al-Mulla.

Advocates for women contend that their opponents are simply trying to keep their seats. For many lawmakers, the difference between winning and losing can come down to a few votes, and a strong women's vote would threaten the existing order.

What's harder to do in sports than hitting a round ball with a round bat?

Okay, I wouldn't bring this up in my political blog, except that I am beginning to think the only solution is political.

See, I am a part of this weekly pick-up softball game every Saturday in Culver City. It is a really fun game, spirited but not too competitive. We don't count innings until we start to get tired and decide it is the top of the seventh. Everybody throws in a little bit of money to cover the field and balls: $5 a game, or $100 for six months.

Anyway, after missing a lot of games this winter because of the 100-year storms, Culver City decided to rip up our contract. We had even just signed legal waivers saying we wouldn't sue if we got hurt during a game. While trying* to get our money back, we realized how hard it is to play a pick up game of softball in LA. Now a days you have to have a committee and a friend in the Parks and Recs department just to play at a park or a school on the weekend. We started meeting at a middle school in Sherman Oaks--which hardly had a proper field, just a backstop abuting a lawn--but they kicked us off, saying we need a permit to play. That is basically the policy everywhere--many fields are simply locked up; the others are either already reserved or require a permit, an onerous process that as we have seen may result in money being stolen.

I won't expect anyone else to care about this, but I do think there is a basic public policy problem here. Public fields should be open to the public, and any permitting process should be used only to avoid conflicts when too many people want to use the field at once--not to make money, discourage use, or reward local corporations.

*Update 5/9/05: I am told our group did get its money back.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

No. 2 in the Axis of Evil

Read this article by Christopher Hitchens in Slate, because he is right about the horrors of North Korea, and absolutely correct that we should accept refugees. Read the article, but try to forget that Hitchens promoted (and still promotes) the war in Iraq, the war that was based on lies and is tying down our military and making it harder to prevent injustice anywhere else in the world. Read the article, but skip the intro and the conclusion, in which Hitchens meekly imagines that the President is being brave by speaking ill of North Korea:

How extraordinary it is, when you give it a moment's thought, that it was only last week that an American president officially spoke the obvious truth about North Korea. In point of fact, Mr. Bush rather understated matters when he said that Kim Jong-il's government runs "concentration camps."


Bravo to President Bush, anyway, for his bluntness.
Hitchens wants to invade and liberate North Korea. One hopes he wouldn't entrust that task to our current President.