Sunday, November 30, 2008

Unembedded Poetry: A Review of David Smith-Ferri's "Battlefield Without Borders" Saturday 29 November 2008

by: Ryan Croken, t r u t h o u t | Review http://www.truthout.org/112908Y

"On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, as our political figures and talking heads wrangled over the best way to babysit the cradle of civilization at the barrel of a gun, American poet and peace activist David Smith-Ferri had a different idea: he would go to Iraq and ask the people who lived there how they felt. "I wanted to interview Iraqis," he writes, "about the threat of war. Surely, I reasoned, it should matter to us what people in Iraq think." This presumption, startling in its seeming innocence and radical common sense, underpins the poetic and humanitarian mission of his book, "Battlefield Without Borders: Iraq Poems." Culled from Smith-Ferri's experiences as a writer and importer of contraband medical supplies on three separate trips to the Middle East between 1999 and 2007, "Battlefield" is a staggeringly eloquent portal into the forgotten human dimension of our engagement with Iraq, and an exercise in the project of person-to-person diplomacy. As an unembedded storyteller, Smith-Ferri reinserts Iraqi civilians back into the generally depersonalized conversation we are having about them and without them.

While these characters express a range of sentiments - anger, valor, resilience, desperation, uncanny hospitality - they share one thing in common: they are all undeniably human. In working towards, as Kathy Kelly, author of the book's foreword, puts it, dispelling "the dangerous notion that only one person live(s) in Iraq, the notorious dictator Saddam Hussein," Smith-Ferri transforms a hazy crowd of very foreign foreigners into a collection of individuals who are extremely relatable and very much "like us." In the world of "Battlefield," people have been turned back into people, and, consequentially, the doors to empathy and communication are swung open. Suddenly re-humanized through the thoughtful deftness of Smith-Ferri's art, the crisis flares in our hands. Iraq is no theoretical quandary. It becomes personal, intimate, active. As the poet continues to bring Iraqi voices to American ears, we realize that these are not conversations to be overheard, but to be absorbed dir ectly. "Tell the American people we are not their enemies. / Tell the American people we love them, / but we must have our lives back!" The message is clear: if you are an American person, these people are speaking directly to you.

"Tell my story ... tell my story ... tell my story ... " After hearing "these same three words" over and over again while traveling around Iraq and through neighborhoods in Jordan where uprooted Iraqis struggle to survive in exile, Smith-Ferri becomes explicit in his intention to relay the insights, appeals and agonies of a deeply misunderstood country.

Here on this page I spill Suad's words,
jagged obsidian chips that lacerate this paper,
its blood marking the hands of everyone who reads this book.

All of this storytelling begs the question: how do we listen? Thusly marked by Suad's bloodied words, how do we respond? "Battlefield" does not answer these questions for us. It is a window, not an instruction manual. It invites us to contemplate our interconnectedness with another people in a world where borders - cultural, linguistic, geopolitical - have been erected to prevent the recognition of a shared humanity. Literally and literarily, Smith-Ferri crosses these borders and bears witness to previously inaccessible realities. After visiting a bomb shelter that became a tomb for over 400 Iraqis after two "very smart" American missiles slipped into the ventilation shaft and incinerated everyone inside, Smith-Ferri is slammed with an inter-culture shock of such bare-faced enormity that it kindles a sudden dark enlightenment:

My eyes were never meant to see this,
to flare like torch, sudden with knowledge,
like windows, to open on this illuminative dawn,
but like tinder in its box (named American, middle class)
to remain cold, untouched,
and far from flintstone truth.

Smith-Ferri's "flintstone truth" burns at the heart of his stories, whose ultimate lesson is perhaps that we ourselves are a part of them. This realization of suddenly being a part of the plot destabilizes the cozy illusion that there are vaguely bad things happening somewhere way over there in a strange land that many of us can't locate on a map. The battlefield has come home. The wounded are laid bare before us. "Fighting them over there so we don't have to think about them over here" loses its absurd currency. Distance is capsized, walls are torn down, and we find ourselves fighting this war not only on our shores, but in our own hearts and minds. What is our obligation to Suad? Where do complicity and culpability lie? "These poems strip us of our innocence," Kathy Kelly observes. "David prods us to be uncomfortable"; he prods us to become sensitized actors in a drama that is already difficult to observe from the air-conditioned mezzanine.

"Battlefield Without Borders" offers brutal, vivid and tender portraits of the fallout of the modern American-Iraqi engagement. Its lessons should be at the forefront of our minds as we try our best to figure out how to respectfully assist in the reconstruction of a country whose history and future have become inextricably linked to our own. More information about the book can be found at its Web site, www.battlefieldwithoutborders.org. All proceeds from the sale of the book are donated to Direct Aid Iraq, a grassroots humanitarian relief organization aimed at providing urgently needed medical care to Iraqis displaced by the sanctions, the invasion and the ensuing occupation. Information about Direct Aid Iraq is available at http://www.directaidiraq.org/.


"Battlefield Without Borders"

Iraq Poems by David Smith-Ferri
In January, 2007, Haley’s Publishing will produce a volume of poetry I wrote, with a beautiful Foreword written by Kathy Kelly. The book is entitled Battlefield Without Borders, Iraq Poems. I wrote about two thirds of these poems while in Iraq, after encounters with Iraqi people, in a wide-range of settings –– from hospitals to homes to bomb sites. The remaining poems have been written since, during the escalating terror and insanity of the current war and occupation. Marcia Gagliardi, the publisher at Haley’s, is generously donating her proceeds from the sale of this book. And my partner has generously agreed to match Marcia’s donation, so that for every $14 book that is sold, $12 will go into a fund for Iraqi victims of this war. You can read some of the poems here.

In December of 1998, Art Laffin, an activist, traveled from Washington, D.C. to Ukiah, CA, where I live, to give a slide presentation about his recent visit to Iraq. Iraqi people, at the time, had been living for eight and a half years under a crushing economic embargo, about which I knew next to nothing. What Art provided was a primer in horror and in a compassionate, hopeful response to it. From him, I heard stories of doctors, trained in Europe and the United States, unable to treat diseases because of a lack of equipment and medicine. I saw pictures of young children dying of diarrhea, dying in their mother’s arms. And I wanted to do something constructive in response.

I also learned about Americans who risked large fines and prison terms because they violated federal law by traveling to Iraq and bringing medicine and clothing to Iraqi hospitals. These were ordinary Americans, who scaled the sanctions wall and returned with pictures, stories, heightened understanding, and new information not reported in the media. I decided to visit Iraq for myself – to be able to speak from personal experience. Eight months afterward, in July, 1999, I visited Iraq for the first time, as part of an eight-member fact-finding delegation organized by the Chicago-based group, Voices in the Wilderness. The purpose of our trip was to gather first hand information about the humanitarian crisis caused by international economic sanctions and the terror caused by the policy and practice of "no-fly zone" bombings.

Three years later, in September, 2002, in the frightening run-up to the invasion, I returned to Iraq. On this delegation, I had three goals. First, I wanted to interview Iraqis – in some cases people I had talked with on the prior trip – about the threat of war. Surely, I reasoned, it should matter to us what people in Iraq think, how they perceive our possible actions and how they might respond. Second, I wanted to investigate the likely real life consequences of a United States military invasion on ordinary Iraqis. Last, there were a few families in Iraq with whom I’d maintained indirect contact, and I wanted to see them and talk with them and their children. I knew that if war did come, this might be the last chance I’d ever have to see them.

During each trip, I visited people who lived at the edge of a precipice, and whose point of view had the clarity that only comes with proximity to death. I met with a wide range of people –– doctors, patients, clerics, lawyers, teachers, taxi drivers, waiters, shoeshine boys, shop owners, business people, UN program directors, et al. I encountered anger and terror, to be sure, but also a remarkable depth of hospitality and warmth, intelligence and goodwill. The encounters were intense and emotionally charged, not only those which occurred at bomb sites and hospitals, but also ordinary meetings with people in a bakery or hotel lobby or restaurant.

In these circumstances, my urge to write became a need to write, a need to process and give form to experience so I could share it and remain sane. Below is a sampling of the poems. The book is dedicated to Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and to Barbara Lubin, Driector of the Middle East Children’s Alliance, for their steadfast and nonviolent opposition to war in the Middle East and the compassionate example of friendship and solidarity they’ve set at great personal risk.

My e-mail is david@battlefieldwithoutborders.org. And please consider buying a copy of the book and supporting the fund for Iraqi victims of war.

Thank you,

David Smith-Ferri
November, 2006

Friday, November 28, 2008


There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition.
Rod Sterling

Let us evolve ------ soon.
ARREST THE REAL TERRORISTS

http://therealnews.com/t/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=2323

Read the whole story here: http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/1-over-one-million-iraqi-deaths-caused-by-us-occupation/

#1. Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation

in Top 25 Censored Stories for 2009

Over one million Iraqis have met violent deaths as a result of the 2003 invasion, according to a study conducted by the prestigious British polling group, Opinion Research Business (ORB). These numbers suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq rivals the mass killings of the last century—the human toll exceeds the 800,000 to 900,000 believed killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and is approaching the number (1.7 million) who died in Cambodia’s infamous “Killing Fields” during the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s.

Sources:
After Downing Street, July 6, 2007
Title: “Is the United States Killing 10,000 Iraqis Every Month? Or Is It More?”
Author: Michael Schwartz

AlterNet, September 17, 2007
Title: “Iraq death toll rivals Rwanda genocide, Cambodian killing fields”
Author: Joshua Holland

Reuters (via AlterNet), January 7, 2008
Title: “Iraq conflict has killed a million, says survey”
Author: Luke Baker

Inter Press Service, March 3, 2008
Title: “Iraq: Not our country to Return to”
Authors: Maki al-Nazzal and Dahr Jamail

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The piece below is long for a blog post....but, it must be read completely. TAKE the time. An important message is being sent from Dahr Jamail, to the people who voted in the new president. WE, the people, must hold our leaders accountable.
I voted for Barack Obama --- I believed his words.. "Change...Yes we Can" Over the last few weeks, I am sadly disappointed with his administration selections. I am sadly disappointed about the new rhetoric regarding the War in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay torture camp .... President Obama....in your own words...."You have a mandate." Many Many Many people in this country gave one of their last dollars to elect a man who dare speak of change. I plan to hold him to his words.
Full Story from our dedicated patriots at Truth-Out ;:: http://www.truthout.org/112608A
Learning to Lead Wednesday 26 November 2008
by: Dahr Jamail, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

photo
(Artwork: Charmingly Bohemian)

"Observance of customs and laws can very easily be a cloak for a lie so subtle that our fellow human beings are unable to detect it. It may help us to escape all criticism, we may even be able to deceive ourselves in the belief of our obvious righteousness. But deep down, below the surface of the average man's conscience, he hears a voice whispering, 'There is something not right,' no matter how much his rightness is supported by public opinion or by the moral code." - Carl Gustav Jung

What's in a system?

We in the United States have grown acclimatized to a system that first dehumanizes us and then inevitably feeds on our dehumanization, sucking away at our resources, our rights, and our resistance while we scamper frantically around in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

We would like to imagine that it is our agency that drives us, and that our lives are under our control. The truth, however, is that we are the ones under control. The reason we do not notice it is that this control is masked as security, which we have been told is synonymous with freedom.

Recently, I passed through an airport checkpoint monitored by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and witnessed the "system" rear its ugly head yet again.

TSA is one of several security gifts from the Bush administration, or rather, from the twisted conjunction of corporate business and state power that oversees and safeguards our "freedom" and "democracy" through an elaborate system of control mechanisms.

Immediately in front of me, an elderly gentleman in a wheelchair was trying to reason with the security guard who was asking him to take off his sandals. "What do you want me to do? I didn't wear socks so you could see my feet since I'm unable to bend over and take off my sandals."

"Sir, you must comply with policy," the guard said in a raised voice, as three other TSA agents moved in behind him, arms folded ominously across their chests, and surrounded the elderly man in the wheelchair who requested their assistance, doing what he could to "comply." None of the guards stepped forward to take off his sandals for him in order to check his feet.

In exasperation he shouted, "I'm asking for help, and you won't do it, so what do you want me to do? What the Hell am I supposed to do? What are you afraid of? I'm an old man in a wheelchair! Are you afraid of my sandals?"

The guards would not allow him through the x-ray until he eventually lowered his voice. We must never upset the status quo, because that is an important pillar of a system that holds change in dread. Do not rock the boat, and don't you dare speak up, lest it indicate that something is wrong.

It requires no crystal ball to see that we are embedded in a system that has no qualms about harassing old men in wheelchairs or making pregnant women walk through x-ray machines. It is the same system that is killing scores of Iraqi and Afghan civilians daily, and killing the planet systemically. It is a system that requires us to be sleepwalkers, rather than alert and sensitive humans.

A Symbol Is Born

My partner was in Tanzania recently. I quote from an email from her which encapsulates the elation that individuals and societies across the globe have experienced at the unprecedented outcome of the recent presidential election in the United States. "My short band radio was already on, tuned to the BBC ... I bent down to photograph a small beautiful white flower that grows on the plains here, and as I clicked the shutter, the radio announced that Obama had won the election ... It was an incredible moment, to be here in East Africa as we elected our first African-American President."

Indeed, the profundity of an African-American being elected into the office of the president of the United States of America cannot be overstated. Barack Obama will soon be living, with his family, in a White House that was constructed by black slaves. The significance is not lost on most of us, or on people across the world, especially in Africa. Indeed, the times they are a-changing.

The entire presidential campaign was abuzz with talk of change. Barack Obama, elected, symbolizes the deep desire for change in our country. We thirst for it like one would for cool water in the desert. Our lungs are starved for a breath of positive change in a new direction. We crave a genuine diversion from the death-wish course that corporate capitalism has been pursuing for as long back as most adults in this country can remember.

The victory of Barack Obama symbolizes our need for change. The inhabitants of this planet are beginning to sense the need for something that can replace the willful and self defeating death urge of corporate consumer culture that is bent upon destroying everything. The fate of the world, one could argue, is dependent on a shift in consciousness. The election of Barack Obama has demonstrated that this shift is, in fact, occurring.

My partner wrote that her entire journey "... has been wonderfully saturated by the immense excitement for Obama. Being so close to Kenya, the local news shows images of his family's joy and the villagers dancing, and also Kenya's own mock election of our candidates. I haven't met a single person, who upon learning of my US citizenship didn't initiate a conversation about Obama and the future of the US. They are thrilled, and seemingly proud, of America poised for change ... and as I traverse one corner of this massive continent, I hear it over and over again: 'We love Obama - he has a hard road ahead of him, but the world is ready to stand by him.' One woman chose to clarify to me '... and it's not because he's black-skinned that we believe in him ...'"

She continued, "After eight years of feeling angry at and ashamed by the actions of the Bush administration, and in the very moments of worldwide celebration for our country's clear voice for a new path, I find myself feeling a certain excitement for the challenging road that lies ahead for our country. Here, amidst nearby turmoil and tribal conflicts, Africa is, as is the whole world, looking to us again with a sense of renewed possibility in their eyes."

Undeniably, there is possibility in this moment.

But is there change?

Since it is the United States that is primarily responsible for dragging the world economy into a recession, much of the world is now relying on it to provide the solution. Needless to say, the same applies to our vainglorious attempts at empire building, our excessive contribution to heedless pollution, our invasion of sovereign states, our transgressions and violations of international law....

We have an African-American president, but let us also bear in mind that he is but a symbol, and our need and faith may not suffice for the symbol of change to deliver real change.

There is a tremendous schism between what Barack Obama is saying, and what he is doing. Already, he is gathering around him a group of people that are not only likely to maintain status quo, but worse, cause our current catastrophic situation to worsen.

On November 17, Obama promised on CBS News 60 Minutes to shut down the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, while his advisers are simultaneously crafting a plan to create a brand new system of "Preventive Detention" and "National Security Courts." Preventive detention facilities do not give people the right to challenge their own detention, which is essentially what the Guantanamo Bay gulag has been all about - detaining people without charging them with a crime, and without trial. All we have at the moment is a suggestion of brand change, but nothing about policy change.

Obama promises to restore the moral stature of the United States. He has John Brennan and Jami Miscik, former intelligence officials under George Tenet, leading his review of intelligence agencies and making recommendations to the new administration. Brennan supported warrantless wiretapping and kidnapping (extraordinary rendition) and Miscik was involved with the politicized intelligence alleging WMDs in Iraq. They were both part of the team that provided the phony intelligence when Tenet informed Bush during the lead up to the Iraq invasion that the intelligence to support it was a "slam dunk." The incoming administration has also revealed that there will be no attempt to bring criminal charges against government officials who authorized or engaged in torture during the Bush presidency.

The new Defense team is being led by former Deputy Defense Secretary John P. White, who is the chair of the Kennedy School of Middle East Initiative at Harvard, and Michele Flournoy, president of the Center for a New American Security famed for the Iraq bombing and sanctions under President Bill Clinton.

Obama's transition team leaders are six of his top fundraisers, four of whom raised $500,000 or more for his campaign. One of them, Tom Donilan, was a lobbyist for mortgage giant Fannie Mae during 1999-2005. The President-elect himself voted in favor of the recent $750 billion bailout.

We were also treated to an echo of hollow rhetoric from the Bush chambers when the new president said on CBS that, "It is a top priority for us to stamp out al Qaeda once and for all," and that killing or capturing the groups mastermind Osama bin Laden was "critical" to US security.

On that note, let us note that Obama has already made it clear he refuses to "rule out" using mercenary companies in war zones, he has labeled Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a "terrorist organization," he plans to escalate the war in Afghanistan, and he has pledged to use unilateral force in Pakistan to defend US interests.

Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, despite having stated that his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq was "mistaken," was an important facilitator of the war. He has also shamelessly championed the absurd idea of partitioning Iraq into three areas based primarily on ethnicity and religion (Balkanization).

Nor let us forgive the apparent selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. She was an ardent supporter of her husband's sanctions and bombing campaign against the people of Iraq throughout the 1990s, and she supported the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which helped lay the groundwork for George W. Bush's invasion in 2003. As a US Senator, Hillary Clinton said, "Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile-delivery capability and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaida members ... I want to insure that Saddam Hussein makes no mistake about our national unity and our support for the president's efforts to wage America's war against terrorists and weapons of mass destruction."

Other so-called liberal hawks either in or advising Obama's team include the likes of Madeleine Albright, a war criminal who, as Bill Clinton's Secretary of State, was asked on 60 Minutes if she thought the price of 500,000 Iraqi children killed by the sanctions was worth the price to contain Saddam Hussein and said she thought that the price was "worth it."

The list is long, but I will just mention two more of note. Martin Indyk, the founder of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, spent years working for AIPAC and served as Clinton's ambassador to Israel and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, while also playing a major role in developing US policy toward Iraq and Iran. In addition to his work for the US government, he has worked for the Israeli government, and with the neo-conservative think-tank the Project for the New American Century - which devised the US blueprint for global domination.

The idea of Obama keeping Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense is equally disturbing. Let us remember, it is Gates who supports a new generation of nuclear weapons at a time when even George Shultz and Henry Kissinger are calling for nuclear abolition. Gates wants to apply his surge approach to Afghanistan, and while he has criticized the massive budget and influence of the Pentagon, when he had the chance to rectify both problems, he has refused to do so. For example, in his FY 2009 budget request - the last he will be officially responsible for - he added $36 billion, an increase former CENTCOM commander Anthony Zinni noted, "is roughly equivalent to the entire budget for International Affairs."

Schism Galore

On November 16 it was reported that Obama is pursuing an ambitious peace plan in the Middle East that involves the recognition of Israel by the Arab world in exchange for its withdrawal to pre-1967 borders.

Yet, the first appointment he made was of Rahm Israel Emanuel as his White House Chief of Staff, easily the most powerful office in the executive branch. In the 1940s Rahm's father, Benjamin, helped smuggle weapons to the Irgun, the Zionist militia of former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The Irgun carried out numerous terrorist attacks on Palestinian civilians, including the bombing of Jerusalem's King David Hotel in 1946.

Rahm's father, commenting on how his son would influence US policies toward Israel, is reported to have told an Israeli paper, "Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House."

To his credit, Emanuel apologized for his father's incendiary remarks. But that does not alter the fact that he has been a consistent and vocal pro-Israel hardliner. In July 2006, Emanuel was one of several members who called for the cancellation of a speech by visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to the Congress because al-Maliki had criticized Israel's bombing of Lebanon. Around the same time, Emanuel referred to the Lebanese and Palestinian governments as ‘totalitarian entities with militias and terrorists acting as democracies" in a speech supporting a House resolution backing Israel's bombing of both countries that had caused thousands of civilian casualties. He accompanied Obama to an AIPAC executive board meeting last June, immediately after the Illinois senator had addressed the pro-Israel lobby's conference.

Emanuel is one of the most influential politicians and fundraisers in the party, and has played not an insignificant role in the costliest campaign for presidency that the country has known.

Sheldon Wolin writes in "Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism":

"When a minimum of a million dollars is required of House candidates and elected judges, and when patriotism is for the draft free to extol and for the ordinary citizen to serve, in such times it is a simple act of bad faith to claim that politics-as-we-know-it can miraculously cure the evils which are essential to its very existence."

Security Lies in Securing Bases

"The truth is replaced by silence, and the silence is a lie." - Yevgeny Yevteshenko

Barack Obama announced on CBS that immediately upon taking office on January 20, he and his security advisers will "start executing a plan that draws down our troops" from Iraq.

What we never hear him mention is the massive US military infrastructure being developed in Iraq. The US "embassy" in Iraq is the largest embassy in the world and the most secure diplomatic compound in the world.

At a construction budget that now exceeds $1 billion, the "embassy" is a self-sustaining cluster of 21 buildings reinforced 2.5 times the usual standards, with some walls as thick as 15 feet.

Plans are for over 1,000 US government officials to work and reside there. They will have access to gyms, swimming pools, barber and beauty shops, food courts and the commissary. There will also be large-scale barracks for troops, a school, locker rooms, a warehouse, a vehicle maintenance garage, and six apartment buildings with a total of 619 one-bedroom units. The total site will be two-thirds the area of the National Mall in Washington, DC. And, luckily for these "government officials," their water and electricity supplies and sewage treatment plants will be independent of Baghdad's city utilities. Meanwhile, one of four residents of Baghdad, a capital city of over six million, are now displaced from their homes thanks to the so-called surge. Of those lucky enough to still have a roof over their head, they receive an average of 3-4 hours of electricity on good days, and recent reports show that at least 45 percent of Iraqis lack access to safe drinking water.

Then there are the permanent military bases in Iraq.

To give you an idea of what these look like, let's start with Camp Anaconda, near Balad. Spread over a modest 15 square miles, the base boasts two swimming pools, a gym, a mini-golf course and first-run movie theater.

There are 30,000 soldiers who live at the Balad Air Base, where they can inspect new iPod accessories in one of the two base exchanges, which additionally offer piles of the latest electronics and racks of CDs to choose from. Thousands of civilian contractors live at the base in a section called "KBR-land." Doctors at the base hospital carry out as many as 400 surgeries every month on wounded troops.

Air Force officials on the base claim their runway is one of the busiest in the world. A steady stream of unmanned Predator drones carrying Hellfire missiles take off from there along with F-16s, C-130s, helicopters and other aircraft from a total of 250 that the base houses.

If our troops aren't up for the rather lavish dinners served by Third Country nationals from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh working for slave wages, they can dine at Burger King, Pizza Hut, Popeye's or Subway, then wash it down with a mocha from Starbucks.

There are other gigantic bases in Iraq, such as Camp Victory near Baghdad Airport, which when complete will be twice the size of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, currently the largest overseas US base since Vietnam.

At Camp Liberty, adjacent to Camp Victory, soldiers even compete in triathlons. According to a news article on a DOD web site, "The course, longer than 140 total miles, spanned several bases in the greater Camp Victory area in west Baghdad."

There is never any talk of full withdrawal of all forces from Iraq because US policy dictates a continuance of its military presence there. Less than two weeks after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, military officials announced the US intention to maintain at least four large bases in Iraq for future use, to be located respectively near Baghdad International Airport (where the triathlon was), at Tallil near Nasiriyah in the south, at either Irbil or Qayyarah (80 kilometers apart) in the Kurdish north, and one in western al-Anbar province at al-Asad. These do not include Camp Anaconda in Balad.

Billions of dollars have been spent in their construction, and if today they are in the mentioned locations, it only indicates that the military planners had blueprints ready long before Mr. Bush declared that major combat operations were over in Iraq.

Note that while US officials never use the word "permanent" when referring to military bases in Iraq, they do talk of "permanent access." I quote from a front page story in The New York Times on April 19, 2003, entitled "Pentagon Expects Long Term Access to Four Key Bases in Iraq": "There will probably never be an announcement of permanent stationing of troops. Not permanent basing, but permanent access is all that is required, officials say."

None of the 700-plus US military bases and installations located abroad are considered "permanent," which is why ambivalent instruments like SOFA, the Status of Forces Agreement exist.

A quick glance at US government military strategy documents is even more revealing.

The 2002 National Security Strategy claims: "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States." To accomplish this, it adds, we will "require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia."

Another interesting document is "Joint Vision 2020," within which the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's "vision" is, "Dedicated individuals and innovative organizations transforming the joint force of the 21st Century to achieve full spectrum dominance: persuasive in peace, decisive in war, preeminent in any form of conflict."

The Quadrennial Defense Review offers another priceless key to US foreign policy. In this document, a stated ambition for the US military is to have the capacity to fight "multiple, overlapping wars" (Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. ...) and to use the US military to "ensure that all major and emerging powers are integrated as constructive actors and stakeholders into the international system."

What can be a more obvious proclamation from US policymakers about having replaced the Cold War with a Long War for Global Empire and Unchallenged Military Hegemony? Viewed through this lens, it is not difficult to comprehend the need for permanent US bases in Iraq and elsewhere.

At the height of the Roman Empire, Rome had 39 foreign military outposts. The British had 38 at their peak. The US, in the twilight of her lust for empire, currently has just over 730 according to the Department of Defense.

We have not heard from our new President-elect any articulation of the intent of total withdrawal of all US military personnel and bases from Iraq. Nor has he made any suggestion about the imperative to alter the country's policy of global domination.

Making Real the Symbol

But this is not the time to despair, or merely hope.

"The cure for despair is not hope. It's discovering what we want to do about something we care about." - Margaret Wheatley

To underscore the essence of this moment in history, I refer once again to my partner's email from Africa, "We must not forget the tremendous responsibility we have now, to see that Obama maintains his promise of change ... we must not relinquish this moment nor this victory into his hands entirely. As he learns to lead us, so must we learn to lead him."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Calling all Wild Womyn.....check this out....

"Circles invite us to share our authentic selves. I can't remember a time when I was not part of a circle of powerful women, sharing a heart space and love of something that moved each one's soul."

http://www.joanclark.com/pages/joanwomen.html

Thursday, November 20, 2008


"Ruin and recovering are both from within."– Epictetus

About Epictetus
Epictetus, the Roman-era Stoic philosopher, lived a very ascetic life, believing that happiness came from living "according to the will of nature" and that free will comes from how we respond to circumstances. He was born in 55 AD in what is now Turkey and spent most of his life in Rome. He spent his youth as a slave and became crippled due to his master's harsh treatment. He was later exiled to Greece, where he founded a school and wrote his most famed work, The Discourses. He died in 135.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If you can not help with your wallet....help with your voice...email our Senator, Carl Levin.
http://levin.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm

Dear Sen. Levin,
As a man of conscience, I urge you to do what can be done to get some federal assistance immediately to the Native American citizens in south Dakota, specifically in the Pine Ridge and Wanblee areas. The recent and continuing blizzards have put the health and safety of the elders and the children at risk... they have very few resources on which to rely. Please step forward to lead your colleagues to do the right thing before disastrous results occur. I have friends out there, and they are in a very bad way.
Respectfully,
"your name"

for news report : http://www.indianz.com/News/2008/011884.asp

Early Season Blizzard Blasts South Dakota

Native American Music Awards is collecting donations....if you can help.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2008/11/russell-means-lives-still-at-risk-from.html

PINE RIDGE, S.D. -- Russell Means at the Republic of Lakotah said the blizzard is threatening Lakota lives on Pine Ridge. Amanda Milk, in her eighties, has no legs and is a dialysis patient. She has been snowed in and presummed dead."Many hundreds of American Indians are still snowbound and without electrical power or water on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation," Means said today, Monday, Nov. 17, 2008. Sofia Romero, age 98, is also snowed in, with no power, no water and her food situation is unknown. Emme Zimiga, age 96, is snowed in, with no power, no water, and the food situation is unknown.In Hisle, there are 38 households, with an average of 17 persons per household, still snowed in with out power or water. In the Lost Dog Community, there are five families snowed in, with no power, no water, and their food situation is unknown.The Lacreek Electric Association reports that over 1,000 power distribution poles were broken by the storm and have been replaced. However, dozens more are still down, while repair efforts have been diverted to the some of the main distribution lines still partially inoperative.Means said, "The Red Cross effort is vehemently incompetent."The American Red Cross sent a contingency of one volunteer, Monica Turkleson, who departed the Reservation prematurely on Saturday, November 15th. "Ms. Turkleson╩╝s 'aide' consisted of'nothing and her behavior was reported as impatient, rude and racist," Means said. Means suggests that this organization change its name to the “White Cross.”Read more ...

Saturday, November 15, 2008


The council of the Grandmother's Speak.....

THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF
THIRTEEN INDIGENOUS GRANDMOTHERS

Updates from Italy and Spain
Grandmothers at the Vatican

In July, 2008 the Grandmothers Council traveled to the Vatican, to Assisi, and to Borja and Barcelona in Spain. Although the planned Gathering in Gabon had to be rescheduled, the Grandmothers were able to complete the European leg of their journey with a very successful time in Italy and Spain. The Gabon gathering has been rescheduled for 2010.

In Rome, the Grandmothers fulfilled a long-held intention to lay down prayers at the Vatican. They delivered a letter to the Pope requesting that the Vatican rescind several Papal Bulls. Davian Presents the Petition, and Gifts

The Council was also able to bring along their first Youth Ambassador, Lakota great-grand-daughter Davian Stands, who represented her people and all indigenous youth by dancing at the Vatican in her traditional regalia.

In Spain, the grandmothers offered teachings to more than 300 people at workshops in an ecovillage at Borja,where they were hosted by the amazing women of Arboleda de Gaia, who arranged all of the events for the Grandmothers in Spain. For the release of the Spanish edition of their book, the Grandmothers gave numerous television and press interviews and held a book signing at the Barcelona library for a packed crowd of 300. The Queen of Spain sent her regards.

Their prayers on their final night in Europe at the Gaudi Garden, on the International Day for the Healing of the Waters, attracted over 600 people. For information on Arboleda de Gaia and upcoming events in Spain, see the website at www.consejo13abuelas.es.

Booksigning at BarcelonaBaby Blessings in Barcelona

As Grandmother Mona Polacca said at the book signing: "This is a historic occasion. 500 years ago, the ancestors from Spain and Italy came to our lands and planted their flags. Just a few weeks ago, we came to the Vatican. But we did not plant our flags; we planted our prayers. We are here to open a way so that some day our grandchildren might come here and meet with your grandchildren in a peaceful way."

On behalf of the Grandmothers, their children and grandchildren, we want to thank you once again for being an inspired support for their global prayer-in-action.

http://13grandmothers.smugmug.com/gallery/3604982#205079415_jbCSH

http://13grandmothers.smugmug.com/gallery/3604982#205079854_5rGuE

http://13grandmothers.smugmug.com/gallery/3604982#205078974_ySKyM
The piece below from our friend over at "Ranger against the war" blog......She offers up her bit of quiet wisdom......

http://rangeragainstwar.blogspot.com/
"Much of the electorate is pumped up on a Nuevo Camelot, but they fail to remember that America's Camelot I failed to deliver a performance equal to the rhetoric. Change does not arrive by Fed Ex.

Aside from the overly indulgent lifestyle of the average individual and the rapacious behavior of the new robber barons, the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©) has exacted a tremendous toll on the nations' economic health. The bleeding must be staunched, and the new president must conclude U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, even if it seems a little Basil Fawlty ("Sorry folks, an error, apologies all the way 'round. Let's help you build some schools now.")

There will be no successful outcome to these phony wars. Nothing will change this fact. The project can be remolded, but it is a loser in any guise. There comes a time when a nation must admit that goals and policies are unachievable and unacceptable both morally, financially and militarily.

Afghanistan and Iraq will never be beacons of democracy, therefore, the U.S. must throw them under the bus before the brakes fail and the engine melts down.

There is discussion that Bush will pardon all PWOT torturers before leaving office. This move is being heralded as a healing balm which would free the Obama administration of one thorny issue. The idea is inappropriate as a pardon can not be issued prior to trial, just as a law cannot absolve torturers from prosecution. Not only the torturer proper must stand trail, but his enablers and the National Command Authority are also guilty -- the President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense and CIA director who authorized the torture.

President Bush should also stand trial at the World Court, even if pardoned by a future president. Being president does not protect one from prosecution for criminal behavior.

The "worst of the worst" in Gitmo will also be released if and when they are bound over to the civilian federal court system. If they do not walk, then the court system has crossed over into fanaticism and fascism, much as the PWOT has done.

Bottom line: the chain of evidence is produced from a poisoned tree. Denial of
habeas corpus along with a myriad of other abuses demands nothing short of release. The bravest act of morality would be for Obama to issue pardons to all the Gitmo prisoners, with the exception of the Top 12.
However, even the Top 12 should be thrown out of court in an ideal world due to government malfeasance. This is in recognition that these 12 will be dangerous people, but also realizing 12 people can never bring the U.S. to its knees.

No doubt characters like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are lethal scumbags, but even in his case, evidence gotten from torture session should not be admissible as court's evidence. Just because one is dealing with scum, does not mean we must become scum to deal with them. That is why we have always abided by the rule of law to guide us to a higher ground.

America's legitimacy and dignity died as a result of post 9-11 governmental policies. Recognition of the unconstitutional behavior will demand the release of the prisoners.

There must be a reckoning at the National Security Agency for the domestic warrantless spying on U.S. citizens. The NSA must be brought back to operation within the legal parameters of its charter. This extends to the entire Department of Defense, Department of State and all intelligence operations of the government.

The Department of Homeland Security needs to be evaluated concerning threat analysis and cost effectiveness.

America must get real about its place in the world. The U.S. is but a part of the whole, and the President is not elected to rule the world. The President is responsible to The People to support the Constitution and espouse liberty within our borders.

Neither the U.S. nor its president can force democracy on alien cultures and countries."


Thursday, November 13, 2008

This from one of my favorite sites..........
http://www.freewillastrology.com/




Changing the Way We Change

Dear Readers,
I love our relationship. You feel like my extended family. And if you know the importance that family often holds for people born under the sign of Cancer, like me, you're aware of how evocative it is for me to make a statement like that.

A substantial minority of you aren't Americans, and so have had only a marginal interest in the electoral spectacle that we Americans were enthralled by for so long. I hope that my writing about the Obama-versus-McCain showdown (and its parallel theme, the Uranus-versus-Saturn showdown) has yielded some useful fodder for your personal evolution, even if you haven't been riveted by the specific details of the unfolding drama.

Among the American part of my readership, there have been a few outcries and uproars about my involvement with the political process. Those of you who are McCain supporters or Nader devotees haven't been happy with my tilt toward Obama. Other readers don't think I should sully myself with any kind of political meditations, but should remain above it all. One of the most interesting emails I got about this issue is here.I've welcomed your dissidence and complaints, as I do any time my writing piques your desire to speak out.

One of my favorite tasks is to inspire you to liberate your imagination. To do that well, you have to be eternally primed to question the ideas and motivations of any so-called authority, expert, leader, or teacher -- including me.And besides that, I love the fact that my extended family is a diverse group of wildly different characters. I certainly don't want to hang around exclusively with people who are like me.+With all that as a preface, I'll go ahead and express my joy in Obama's ascendancy:BRAVO! VIVA! HALLELUJAH! EUREKA! ABRACADABRA!

More than a vindication of a particular ideology or political agenda, his selection by a majority of American voters (ratified by an even vaster majority of the world's citizens) is a triumph of emotional intelligence, integrity, reasonableness, compassion, and the higher powers of human consciousness.
It is a profound sign that Americans are growing up. Obama invites us to be motivated not by fear and hatred but by the "better angels of our nature," in Abraham Lincoln's phrase.What's especially thrilling to me is that Obama's spirituality is the soulful, thoughtful kind. His humble, rational relationship with the divine mysteries suggests that fundamentalists, whether they're the religious right or the new atheists, will no longer be able to frame the mainstream debate about spiritual matters.

Here is a good essay about the issue.I think the rise of Obama also vividly demonstrates an important point about pronoia. Many of us have been convinced that we've been living through the New Dark Ages; we've been entranced by the belief that the world is in terrible trouble and we're all on the brink of disaster. Even those of us who don't swallow that cynical meme have had to acknowledge that some crazy bad stuff has been happening.But the way I see it, the election of a smart, spiritual black man who is a good listener with a flexible mind is not some impossible miracle, not some inexplicable escape from certain doom.
The truth is that many of us have been preparing the way for this outbreak of pronoia for years. Obama's emergence as a prime leader is a natural evolution of the work we've all been doing behind the scenes and outside of the media's spotlight -- both on ourselves and on our local institutions.As Sam Smith has written: "Obama is not a catalyst of change, but rather its beneficiary."

Here are two essays that capture some of the essence of other important themes in Obama's victory:"Obama is the first postmodern president""Very smart people are thinking and talking in serious conversations from which narrow ideologues have been rigorously excluded,"
Now I want to mention two big caveats about this monumental shift in the collective destiny of America.First, Obama and his team have a lot of work to do. That's why I endorse many of the points listed on these two websites:
The first 100 days: What Obama can do to address the cratering economy, broken healthcare system, two wars, poverty and inequality, and the stained US reputation in the world. and here:
Fix This, Barack
Second we Americans have a lot of work to do. The resuscitation of our country will have to be accomplished primarily by we-the-people, and as much on the local level as in the federal realm. This won't just be a matter of political organization. It will also require us to be continually at work on ourselves, purging the parts of us that resonate in harmony with the dying world and feeding the parts of ourselves that are capable of creating a paradise-on-earth.Here's a quote from my book:As much as we might be dismayed at the actions of our political leaders, pronoia says that toppling any particular junta, clique, or elite is irrelevant unless we overthrow the sour, crippled mass hallucination that is mistakenly called "reality" -- including the part of that hallucination we foster in ourselves. We can't change the world unless we change ourselves.The revolution begins at home. If you overthrow yourself again and again, you might earn the right to help overthrow the rest of us.Here's a quote from Carl Jung:"The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others."Finally, a quote from Tom Robbins: "Political activism is seductive because it seems to offer the possibility that one can improve society, make things better, without going through the personal ordeal of rearranging one's perceptions and transforming one's self."++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Words of wisdom from
Henryk Skolimowski --- my favorite Philosopher.

THE NEW DAWN FOR AMERICA

An enormous burden has been lifted out of our minds.
A lot of anguish and grief has been released from our souls.
CONGRATULATIONS TO AMERICA!
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE PEOPLE OF AMERICA!
The New Dawn has come. The time has arrived for a new catharsis and a new great reconstruction.
We need new ideas and new vehicles for pursuing and accomplishing our reconstruction.
Henryk Skolimowski has conceived a new concept, which is also a vehicle, which he calls


COMPASSIONALISM
This is as an alternative to present capitalism. The old fashion socialism and communism are dead. The old fashion neoliberal capitalism is dead. We need new ideas, new leases of life, new vehicles. COMPASSIO NALISM may become such a vehicle — if we so choose.
Compassion is a value term. Capitalism is a value term. Indeed each of these terms denotes a separate value system. Let us not start the discussion by claiming that capitalism is a descriptive system, objective for that matter, and based on rationality; while compassion is an attitude of the heart, a subjective preference. No, no, no. Such a position is biased, superficial and shallow. It is so because compassion represents a whole belief system, a set of values and a worldview. Just like capitalism represents a whole belief system, a set of values and a worldview. None of them is rationally justified. There is no external rational agency, which can validate either capitalism or compassion. And none of them is scientifically justified. Each is justified contextually by the whole system it represents.
The connected, holistic and reverential nature of the universe is the justification of the rationality of compassion. It is true that often the heart and the intuition are the first to recognize the holistic and reverential bond of all beings. But in addition, compassion is rationally justified by its larger cosmology (all is connected and participatory), its value system (to share with others is more important that selfishly hoard), and by its eschatology (the ultimate purpose of life is self realization and not hoarding material goods).
COMPASSIONALISM is not a new fiction. If it is, then it is a much better fiction than the present rapacious capitalism.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

This is a moment in time....when as if all the stars lined up in a brilliant pattern.... when as if all the trees swayed in the same direction, against the wind...when as if invisible divine energies took visible form. I am in awe...a quiet, secure calm... I feel a peacefulness and happiness that has roots; the ability to move with a bounce in my step, despite the challenging issues that lie ahead!!! Last night humankind took a quantum leap in consciousness....ushering in a compassionate, collaborative, community inspired era.

I have deep gratitude to all the people who made this real...to those who tirelessly gave of themselves and their energies. Amy, Chelsea, Todd, Anne, Ellen, JoAnn Rose, Mary Jo, Lily, Zoe, Jeremy....This election....in no uncertain terms, demonstrated the power of the people to make the impossible, possible.

The people elected men whose lives represent all that is right about America! Diversity, Courage, Perseverance, Empathy, Wisdom, Freedom, Independence and Tolerance.

Barack Obama has open the doors of Change & Hope for us to walk through, but more importantly He has given us a reason to "Believe" ---




Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Black Box Voting was asked by YouTube to prepare an easy to follow public education program for Protecting the Count on ELECTION NIGHT and the days that follow. We collaborated with Videothevote.org and Election Defense Alliance. YouTube has created a Channel called Video Your Vote. The Black Box Voting Protect the Count series contains important information and several video clips never before made public.
Please distribute immediately and as widely as you can.


EASY INSTRUCTIONS: View the videos that best fit your location.
1. Protect the Count - most locations in America(4 min)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3_xFb1sWKU
Takes 90 minutes on Election Night. You can even go out after polls have closed. Please also view video # 3, because it shows what to look for to identify tampered poll tapes and the kinds of small errors on tapes that can appear with memory card tampering.

Upload any video you take to http://www.videothevote.org/

Post link or comments for what you found in the state and jurisdiction at http://www.blackboxvoting.org/


2. Protect the Count - Absentee / Central Count (8 min)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZp3rA1XXjw
(Applies to 13 states with CENTRALLY COUNTED ballots and/or HEAVY ABSENTEE VOTING)
These are the most challenging Protect the Count locations.


3. Protect the Count - New England / New Hampshire(5 min)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CV4M12w6tY4
If you live anywhere in New England and can drive to any voting machine location in New Hampshire to observe and video poll closing, please do so. If you live anywhere in America that has polling place results tapes, please look at this video to see what tampered tapes look like.
Contact Protect the Count - New Hampshire organizers at protectthevote@gmail.com
You can view the list for which New Hampshire locations use voting machines here:
http://www.bbvforums.org/forums/messages/157/157.html


4. Protect the Count - New York (9 min)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmSn4qLdgbU
New Yorkers are probably in the best shape for Election 2008, but not for long. This shows the details of how the counting of the lever machines proceeds after polls close, and gives you the details of the fight New Yorkers will have on your hands in 2009.
I'm counting on you to be as proactive as possible to fight for your voting rights. The actions in the Protect the Count series are self-serve, simple to do, and designed for just grabbing a neighbor or a buddy and taking action. Don't worry about blanketing every area or organizing the whole state. Just pick a place and DO it. I guarantee it will be a fascinating and important experience, and could provide THE crucial evidence in the very undesirable event that the election turns out not to be fair.
Bev Harris
Founder - Black Box Voting
http://www.blackboxvoting.org/
* * * * *
This is an Election Alert for Black Box Voting list members. If someone has passed this along to you and you would like to receive these alerts, you can register here: http://www.bbvforums.org/cgi-bin/forums/board-profile.cgi?action=register
You can pass this e-mail along to others using the link below.
You can remove using a link below.
You can ask questions by posting them in your state and jurisdiction's area at BlackBoxVoting.org, or by e-mail: crew@blackboxvoting.org
* * * * *
Needed NOW:
Donations - http://www.blackboxvoting.org/donate.html
Black Box Voting
330 SW 43rd St Suite K
PMB 547
Renton WA 98057
Check this out...................Oh please do not let Michigan be the Flordia and Ohio?????This from truth-out ...............
http://www.truthout.org/110408K

ES&S Voting Machines in Michigan Flunk Tests, Don't Tally Votes Consistently
By Kim Zetter
November 03, 2008 6:47:24
Optical-scan machines made by Election Systems & Software failed recent pre-election tests in a Michigan county, producing different tallies for the same ballots every time, the top election official in Oakland County revealed in a letter made public Monday.

The problems occurred during logic and accuracy tests in the run-up to this year's general election, Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson
disclosed in a letter submitted October 24 (.pdf) to the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The machines at issue are ES&S M-100 optical-scan machines, which read and tally election results from paper ballots.
Johnson worried that such problems -- linked tentatively to paper dust build-up in the machines -- could affect the integrity of the general election this week.
"The same ballots, run through the same machines, yielded different results each time," she wrote. "This begs the question -- on Election Day, will the record number of ballots going through the remaining tabulators leave even more build-up on the sensors, affecting machines that tested just fine initially? Could this additional build-up on voting tabulators that have not had any preventative maintenance skew vote totals? My understanding is that the problem could occur and election workers would have no inkling that ballots are being misread."
Tuesday's election is expected to be the busiest ever, and ES&S tabulators -- both touchscreen machines and optical-scan machines -- were responsible for counting 50 percent of the votes in the last four major U.S. elections, according to the company. The company's optical-scan machines are now deployed in 43 states.

Johnson, who could not be reached for comment, said that "four of our communities or eight percent" had reported inconsistent vote totals during the logic and accuracy tests with the ES&S machines. She also said that conflicting vote totals had surfaced in other areas of Michigan as well, though she didn't elaborate on this in her letter. "While problems with performance and design with the M-100s have been documented, this is the first time I have ever questioned the integrity of these machines," Johnson wrote in her letter.
According to news stories, a race in the August Republican primary in one Michigan township did have a discrepancy in tallies that were counted by hand and by ES&S optical-scan machines. The clerks race in Plymouth Township was recounted after the losing candidate requested it. The initial machine count had showed Joe Bridgman defeating Mary Ann Prchlik by 1,920 to 1,770. But the
hand count narrowed the margin to 1,885 to 1,727. Officials attributed the discrepancy to "smears and marks" on the ballots, which skewed the results when they were run through the machines.
In Oakland county when officials there met with ES&S to discuss the errors encountered during logic and accuracy testing, ES&S maintained that the problem was dust and debris build-up on the sensors inside the machines.
"This has impacted the Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) settings for the two Contact Image Sensors (CIS)," Johnson wrote the EAC.
Johnson also revealed in the letter that county officials are prohibited from performing maintenance or cleaning on the machines or they risk voiding ES&S warranties. ES&S has not performed any preventative maintenance on the machines since they were delivered three years ago.
Johnson closed her letter by urging the Commission to investigate whether vote totals could be affected by the failure to perform regular cleaning and preventative maintenance on the machines. She requested a "federal directive or law" that would allow county clerks to conduct random audits to test machine accuracy using machines that have had preventative maintenance performed in the last year. She also urged officials to develop a plan for accurately canvassing election results.
"I believe this matter, which is not a partisan issue, but an issue of integrity, needs your immediate attention and I would urge you to investigate as so much is at stake," she wrote.
ES&S has not responded to a call for comment.
The Election Assistance Commission, which quietly posted the letter to its web site today, did not send an announcement about the issue to election officials but simply included a link to the letter in a routine newsletter that it distributed by e-mail to election officials shortly before 5 pm Eastern time, less than 24 hours before voters around the country arrive to the polls.
EAC spokeswoman Jeannie Layson said the Commission received Johnson's letter late in the afternoon on Wednesday after EAC chairwoman Rosemary Rodriguez, to whom the letter was addressed, had left to conduct an interview with ABC's 20/20 program. She said Rodriguez was out of the office Thursday and Friday and only saw the letter today when she returned.
John Gideon, co-executive director of
Voters Unite, an election integrity group, said he was troubled by the Commission's lack of urgency over the matter.
"If they haven't done anything with it then how are they fulfilling their duties as a clearinghouse and passing on information?" he asked. "If they didn't do something with it, as far as I'm concerned it's misfeasance. They have a legal duty to warn election officials of problems."
Gideon said it was particularly troubling, because there was likely an easy fix to the problem if the issue was related to build-up in the machines.
He pointed to a problem that occurred in 2004 in Yakima County, Washington, with optical-scan machines made by Hart InterCivic. During a hand recount of the governor's race in the general election, election officials discovered that machines had failed to count votes on 24 ballots. An investigation later revealed that
the machine had missed the votes (.pdf) due to "a small foreign object (dirt or paper debris) in the scanner."
An e-mail sent from Hart InterCivic to officials concluded that "periodic cleaning of scanners during periods of heavy use will reduce the risk" of losing votes and that a service representative could provide them with proper training and supplies to clean the machines.
The Election Assistance Commission was created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to serve as a clearinghouse of election administration information and to
oversee the federal testing and certification of voting machines, but it has yet to certify any voting system under its testing program, which was launched in early 2007.
The Commission has often been criticized by voting activists for failing to monitor problems with voting machines and share crucial information that election officials need to have.
Layson told Threat Level in September that since the Commission didn't oversee the certification of any voting systems that are currently being used in elections, it has no official role in monitoring the equipment and will only monitor voting equipment problems that occur with systems that become certified under its program.
Pamela Smith, president of
Verified Voting, said the important thing with regard to the ES&S scanners is that voters get assurance that their votes will be counted accurately.
"When significant problems such as this one are discovered by diligent officials like the one who reported this case, remedies must be developed," she wrote Threat Level in an e-mail. "At the very least, the EAC could proactively alert other jurisdictions using this type of voting system that it may be an issue. That way, states that are willing to conduct post-election audits could do so, and check their vote counts."

See also:
Lab that Tests and Certifies Voting Machines Suspended
Video the Vote Slammed Over Misleading Vote-Flipping Video
Report: Magnet and PDA Sufficient to Change Votes on Voting Machine
$82 Buys E-Voting Secrets
Voting Machines Switch Votes; Officials Blame Voters
ES&S Voting Machines in Tennessee Flip Votes
Texas Voters Urged to Avoid Straight-Party Options After Vote-Flip Complaints
Law Center Sends Letter to States About Vote-Flipping Machines
Votes Flipped in Ohio Race that Used E-voting machines
After Records Reveal E-Voting Glitches, Election Official Jokes She'll Stop Keeping Records
ES&S Failed to Disclose Manila Manufacturer to Fed Agency -- UPDATED
Dan Rather Investigates Voting Machines -- Uncovers New Surprises ...
ES&S to be Rebuked, Fined and Possibly Banned in CA?