Saturday, September 18, 2010

The fallen

September 7th an Iraqi soldier launched an attack on US soldiers, wounding nine of them and killing two. 16-year-old Staff Sgt Philip Jenkins was one of the two killed. Steve Penhollow (Journal Gazette) reports that the Belmmont High School was the location of a public memorial for the soldier today. Megan Trent (Indiana News Center) notes that "hundreds" turned out for the service and:

"Sergent Jenkins was lost in Iraq, which is ironic because our mission in Iraq has been downgraded from a combat mission to a mission of helping the Iraqi people rebuild their nation," said Patriot Guard Rider Chaplin Pat Brase.
Hundreds of people turned out for Saturday's viewing and funeral... a testament to the legacy Jenkins leaves behind.
Scott Nolan works with Sgt. Jenkins' mother, Rose Jenkins. "I think it's very important that the community show some support for our military personnel and support them and what they're doing and just pay tribute and give thanks to all that they do for our and for our country."

The other soldier shot dead September 7th was 22-year-old Pfc James F. McClamrock.
Ben McNeely (Independent Tribune) reports on the Friday funeral for McClamrock at Forest Hill United Methodist Church:

Mark McClamrock, pastor of Concord A.R.P. Church, eulogized his son, saying James lived his life knowing full well the biblical mantra -- "There is a time to be born and a time to die." -- and what that meant.
"We all want to be loved – to know that we have a purpose," the elder McClamrock said. "James found that. He told us when he signed up for the military I could die right here. He chose to serve his country."

Meanwhile Rick Maze (Army News) reports:

Veterans of Operation New Dawn, the name assigned to the newest phase of military operations in Iraq, would be guaranteed the same veterans benefits as people who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom under legislation introduced Thursday in the House of Representatives.
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said he is trying to ensure that the Defense Department’s decision to give a new name to Iraq deployment as it shifts to less combat-intensive operations does not inadvertently lead to the denial of any special benefits or access to health care approved by Congress for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

The following community sites --plus Antiwar and Jane Fonda -- updated last night and today:

We'll close with this from the Michigan Green Party's John Anthony La Pietra:

John Anthony La Pietra for
Fairer, Better Elections
Secretary of State * Green Party
386 Boyer Court * Marshall, MI 49068

News Release: September 17, 2010

La Pietra Celebrates Constitution Day
With Call to Guard "Equal Voting Opportunity"
Posts Survey of Voting Conditions on Website;
Invites Voters to Report on All Precincts Statewide,
and Help Build a Case for Fairer, Better Standards

John Anthony La Pietra -- the Green Party of Michigan’s candidate for Secretary of State -- is celebrating Constitution Day by calling on voters across the state to join him in finding out how equal everyone's opportunity to vote really is in Michigan.

"Voting and election rights are critical rights, because they help protect all our other rights," John says. "And the right to an equal voting opportunity is even more fundamental than the right to vote itself.

"But if one precinct with 1,500 voters has enough equipment, staff, and space for 20 people to vote at a time -- and another precinct with just as many voters can only accommodate five voters at a time -- which one's going to have longer lines and longer waits? Where will more people get discouraged and go home without voting at all? That's not equal voting opportunity."

That's why John has posted a Survey of Voting Conditions on his campaign Website, at

And he's asking voters in all 5,050 precincts to look at their polling places on November 2, and ask themselves:

* How many voting stations, standing and sit-down,
the precinct has. (And how many more would fit
in the polling place.)

* How many touch-screen voting machines there are.
(This refers to the AutoMARK systems made available
mostly for voters with disabilities, though anyone
may choose to use them.)

* How many vote-counting machines (or "tabulators")
there are.

* How many poll-workers ("election inspectors") there
are, and whether there's any room for more workers.

* What time they went to vote, how long they stay at
the polling place, and how long voting itself takes

* How long the lines are.

The survey page also has spaces for voters to report their city or township, the number of their precinct number, their polling place (and whether or not it is shared with other precincts) -- and, if they can find out from their clerk or the poll-workers, the number of voters registered in the precinct.

"You can print a copy of the survey page and bring it to the polls with you if you want," John says. "But please don't leave it there! You'll lose your survey answers -- and if you leave the page at the voting station, you'll just make more work for the election inspectors who have to keep those spaces clear of any campaigning material."

John will also gladly collect any comments voters make, positive or negative, about what they see happening at their polling places. And he promises to offer his results to whoever wins the election -- and to watch what they do with the information. "But I promise to protect commenters’ privacy rights, too -- unless someone tells me they’re willing to go public."

Current Minimum Equipment Standard
Only Allows 2.6 Minutes to Vote
An important part of the survey, John says, is gathering some basic figures so that simple mathematics can show how equal or unequal voters' opportunities are.

"State law says the minimum requirement for a polling place is 1 voting station per 300 voters registered in the precinct. The polls open at 7am and close at 8pm. That's 13 hours, or 780 minutes. So in a precinct with just enough equipment to be legal, the average voter has two minutes and 36 seconds to vote."

"That's assuming everyone comes in to vote, of course," he adds. "But it also assumes there's no such thing as a peak-hour rush . . . just someone coming in the door every 2.6 minutes, like clockwork. And never spoiling a ballot and needing to vote again, either."

To analyze the survey results, John will also need to know how many voters are registered in each precinct across the state. He plans to ask all 83 county clerks for these figures as of Monday, October 4 -- the deadline for voters to register so they can vote November 2.

"With that set of numbers, and the equipment counts from voters across the state, we can see who has plenty of equipment and who needs more -- where things are fair and where they could be fairer."

And the more voters participate in the survey, the more evidence there'll be about how much higher that one-per-300 standard needs to be. "A station for every 200 registered voters still wouldn't give our hypothetical average voter four full minutes to mark a ballot. How much shorter would that make the lines?" John asks. "What about a station per 100 voters, giving each one almost eight minutes? The surveys can tell us which precincts have that much equipment -- and what voting was like there."

"One way or another," he concludes, "the survey can help make voting conditions fairer and better for everyone."

He's heard one proposal to give the average person 15 minutes to vote, by setting a new standard of providing all precincts with a voting station for every 50 registered voters. But other reforms might make that less necessary.

"If more people can vote absentee, or in person at the local clerk's office the last week or two before Election Day, fewer people will need to come to the polling place -- and the more time will be available at voting stations for those who do vote in person."

Open Letter Sent to Almost 200 Editors --
Have You Seen It in Your Newspaper?
The survey was the main topic mentioned in an "open letter" John sent voters "in care of Michigan’s newspaper editors" -- almost 200 of them -- on September 3, two weeks ago.

John saw the letter Monday on the editorial page of the Battle Creek _Enquirer_ -- and Google shows that it also appeared as a letter to the editor in yesterday's _Observer and Eccentric_ and Westland _Observer_.

"If your newspaper ran it, or runs it -- as a letter to the editor, an actual news story, or both -- please let me know," he asks voters.

The open letter also mentioned an invitation to John's fellow candidates to join him in arranging for a recount of the Secretary of State race. And he renews the pledge he made in the open letter to pay his statewide vote percentage of the $10-per-precinct recount fee -- if his rivals will do the same.

He knows a post-election sampling audit, as described in a proposal by the Michigan Election Reform Alliance, would be a more efficient and cost-effective first step toward verifying vote results. It could serve the same function as statistical sampling of statewide ballot petitions does now. But there's no provision yet in state law for an election audit.

"For now," John says, "a recount may be the best we can do to use our race to set an example and start building voters' trust that it's worth their while to vote because all votes will be counted."

John’s campaign home page is at

The Survey of Voting Conditions page is at

John's September 3 open letter is at

The main page for the Michigan Election Reform Alliance's proposal for post-election audits is here:

To contact John’s campaign for Secretary of State, please e-mail

or write to 386 Boyer Court; Marshall, MI 49068; phone 269-781-9478.

For a list of all of the 2010 Green Party of Michigan candidates, please visit

or contact GPMI at 548 S Main St; Ann Arbor, MI 48104; 734-663-3555.

The e-mail address for this site is