Saturday, May 31, 2008

While "defending its honor", MSM still dropping the ball

For starters, I only use “MSM” in the title because “corporate media” or “infotainment media” wouldn’t fit. That being said, the sad irony of the press corps which once again shows how out of touch the village idiots are with reality is that, despite all of the huffing and puffing about how Scott McClellan wouldn’t let them do their jobs, they still are falling flat on their faces at every turn.

I’d use the term jumped the shark (hyperlinked for those who don’t know what it means) to describe them and their role in the whole “reporting the news and professional journalism” thing that they clearly have long given up but I think the term “jump the shark” has kind of jumped the shark...

When news reporters say that their corporate bosses pushed them to take out their “America, Fuck YEAH!!!” pom poms, that is bad enough. But when the same reporter complains about how unfair McClellan was being to criticize them was not only the same one to share a stage with traitor Rove in one of the most eye-burning dances ever and is STILL, to this day the NBC News Chief White House Correspondent, and is not doing the job that McClellan accused him of not doing, well, sorry, I have no sympathies there.

And when someone like Tom Brokaw is shocked, SHOCKED, that his profession were either dumb or complicit or unfit to do the jobs they are supposed to do, it is time to not only call him on this, but to push back forcefully.

When Brokaw says that “all wars are based on propaganda”, he misses the point. Propaganda means the spreading of ideas or rumor to further your cause or to damage an opposing cause. This was not propaganda. It was lies.


Hell, even Speaker Pelosi calls it a lie, although that apparently is still not grounds for impeachment.

What makes this worse, and what all of the whiny whiners are missing is that regardless of whether McClellan is right about them not pushing back hard enough or even, as my friend thereisnospoon says, what they reported after he stonewalled them (although it is an excellent point), is that there are still so many abuses and lies and stories that they should be reporting on and are not.

Where to even begin here? Even equating McCain’s total cluelessness about the troop levels and the violence in mosul with Obama’s minor “gaffe” (if it can even be called a gaffe) about a personal story that happened to be accurate in every meaningful way is a great disservice to what Americans should know when judging who should be their next President. Or the way that the Wright/Hagee/Parsley stories were reported - if they should even have been covered at all in the first place.

And it doesn’t stop there, of course. There are real serious things - things that should be covered and reported to the American people that we deserve to know about. Things that are imperative - things that are both accurate but ignored and things that are inaccurate yet covered non-stop as if they were gospel.

Things like the number of troops that are committing suicide and have PTSD. Things like telecom immunity really being about protecting Bush and his illegal programs. Things like the GAO report that shows how unprepared we are to deal with the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan. Things like the Pentagon propaganda campaign. Things like FISA. Things like fake “evidence” that overblows the threat that Iran is to the United States (or Israel for that matter). Things like the continued devastation in the Gulf Coast, almost three years later.

Things like Rove and Miers ignoring Congressional subpoenas for no good reason. Things like the hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised voters from voter ID anti-voter laws and other voter suppression tactics. Things like the same voting machines that were unreliable in 2002, 2004 and 2006 are still being used, despite many not being certified. Things like asking what exactly happened to the millions of dollars in cash that were “lost” in Iraq. Things like why the US was arming both sides of a civil war in Iraq, or exactly what the role of our troops is or the desired end game is in Iraq or the reason we should still be spending billions of dollars every month there.

So many more things. Even things like why Cindy McCain gets a pass when Teresa Heinz Kerry didn’t. Or why McCain still calls himself a “straight talker” when he is either lying, stupid or just losing it. And even bringing it back to McClellan’s bubble bursting smack in their faces, why they STILL aren’t saying that they were lied to.

All the handwringing and finger pointing and blame gaming in the world won’t change the fact that McClellan passed along (either willfully or not) lies and they were not challenged or questioned at the time. And nothing will change the fact that the independence and integrity of those who are in the corporate media were sacrificed to become “buddy buddy” with the very people that lied and destroyed national security secrets and pissed all over the Constitution and made them out for the damn fools that they proved to be.

Regardless of whether it was their choice or the choice of their corporate puppetmasters bosses.

But instead of this “woe is me” nonsense, how about a bit of reflection and actually using it as a learning experience. There is so much that needs to be reported, so much that needs exposing, so much that a bit of research can lead to a huge story that the American public will be interested in.

The sad thing is that instead of doing the job that McClellan said you didn’t do a few years ago, you choose to keep crying that it just isn’t fair.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

McCain needs to explain his own deep ties to Chalabi

Earlier today, teacherken had a very important diary about the connection between McCain campaign honcho, lobbyist and political advisor Charles Black and Ahmed Chalabi, who we all know as the de facto Iranian double agent who duped the US with bogus intelligence about Saddam.

But there is something that has only been noted here and there which really merits more probing, and certainly demands an explanation from McCain himself - especially if he is to claim that he is not clueless on foreign policy and that is his own connections to Chalabi and how he helped Chalabi dupe the US, how he stood by Chalabi and how he propped up Chalabi all while Chalabi was working for Iran (even FoxNews reported that Chalabi was spying for Iran).

And before you wonder whether this a stretch, it is something that dates back more than a decade, showing a long relationship between John McCain and the man who scammed our country into the worst foreign policy clusterfuck in my lifetime, if not longer. Let’s flash back to 1997, when:

he tried to pressure the Clinton administration into setting up an Iraqi government in exile. Despite opposition from the Pentagon and the State Department, the next fall, McCain co-sponsored the Iraq Liberation Act, committing the United States to overthrowing Saddam and funding opposition groups.

The chief beneficiary of this Act? One Ahmed Chalabi.

However, this is just the very beginning. It is likely that McCain became more involved with Chalabi through Randy Scheunemann who, as Cliff Schecter points out in his book, The Real McCain:

Scheunemann, is largely credited with bringing McCain into the neoconservative fold and creating the rogue-state rollback strategy. Beginning in 2000, when Scheunemann became a key advisor, McCain sought to distinguish himself from other Republican presidential candidates and House isolationists. McCain began reading the Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard and conferring with its editors, especially Bill Kristol.3

Scheunemann joined Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz on another bright idea: giving approximately $350,000 per month in taxpayer money to Iraqi National Congress kingpin Ahmad Chalabi. As we now know, Chalabi lied to the United States about Saddam Hussein’s capabilities and purportedly passed on classified U.S. intelligence to his friends in Iran.

Schenuemann and McCain go back to the 1990s, where he was highly influential to McCain on foreign policy:
Randy Scheunemann, who had drafted the Iraq Liberation Act and was on the board of Kristol's Project for a New American Century, became McCain's foreign policy adviser.


McCain unveiled his new approach in a March 1999 speech at Kansas State University.


The centerpiece of the speech was a strategy that McCain called "rogue-state rollback." Scheunemann says he invented the term, adapting it from the conservative critics of 1950s cold war containment. According to this strategy, the United States would back "indigenous and outside forces that desire to overthrow the odious regimes that rule" illiberal states. At the head of this list of regimes was Saddam Hussein's.

So now that we have established the history of this relationship, and the genesis of McCain’s obsession with overthrowing Saddam (as far back as the 1990s), let’s look at how this has impacted the relationship between McCain and Chalabi - and how McCain has never explained his support and actions that led to Chalabi duping the US into invading Iran - all while benefitting himself in the process.

In a book that was recently released about Chalabi and the US and the Iraq invasion, there were revelations that showed a relationship between McCain and Chalabi going back to 1991:

One of his key backers has been John McCain, who was one of the first patrons of Chalabi’s grand-sounding International Committee for a Free Iraq when it was founded in 1991. McCain was Chalabi’s favored candidate in the 2000 election since Chalabi knew that he would be able to free up the $97 million in military aid plus millions pushed through in Congress and earmarked for Chalabi’s exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, but held up by the Clinton State Department.

But wait, there’s still more.....

Back to the article by John Judis in 2006 linked above. Even as the invasion was beginning and there was debate and questions as to the intent and loyalties of Chalabi (as evidenced by the US raid on his home in early 2004), McCain was still pushing hard for Chalabi:

As the war unfolded, McCain remained a Chalabi booster. With the Iraqi military crumbling in early April, McCain signed a letter with four other Republican senators complaining that Chalabi's INC was not being funded. Appearing on "Good Morning America," he argued for "bringing in Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress as soon as possible."

Despite all of this, as well as the actions of Chalabi that were most certainly in support of Iran and even more certainly against the interests of the United States, McCain is still unapologetic. As recently as this past March, McCain was supporting his decisions to back Chalabi:
Asked by The Times this month if he regretted backing the 1998 law, which produced few discernible results other than bolstering Chalabi, McCain said he did not.

I think McCain owes it to America to let us know how a double agent who was giving the United States false information in order to benefit himself and the Iranian government was either able to dupe him for nearly two decades or whether he still thinks that this double agent who was working for a group that McCain has called a terrorist organization is a “patriot who has the best interests of his country at heart”.

Either way, it shows a stunning lack of ability on John McCain’s part to effectively represent the United States and its interests from a foreign policy perspective.

Monday, May 19, 2008

If you think there is a humanitarian crisis in Iraq now...

There has been a lot of talk over the past few months and even past couple of years with respect to the refugee crisis in Iraq - the flight of much of the professional class from Iraq, the displacement of millions of Iraqis and the sectarian cleansing are just some of the things that jump to mind. Couple that with the high unemployment rate, the lack of electricity, the ongoing violence and rampant corruption, and the outlook has been pretty bleak for quite some time.

However, the recent events and fighting in Sadr City that created a shortage of food, water and medicine for tens of thousands of Iraqis (including up to 75,000 children) is just the tip of the iceberg.

How can that be, you may ask.

Well, let’s add in one of the worst droughts in recent history that will result in an approximate 35% reduction in the production of wheat and barley, leading to thousands more jobless Iraqis, a lack of ability to feed livestock and the need to import wheat as well as vegetables for the first time in years. In fact, the cost to import food into Iraq is now estimated at around $5 BILLION.

Oh yeah, over one million Iraqis are now forced to rely on international food aid (that is, if the aid is even able to reach these people - as is not the case in portions of Iraq).

Let’s look at what this means, other than the danger of already-pissed off Iraqis now losing more jobs, not getting the requisite food, water and medicine, who may now turn to whoever is going to help them - even if it is the local militias or tribes:

From Gorilla’s Guides: Early Warning: Lack of fodder and lack of water because of the drought threaten a true disaster for livestock in Anbar. GZG funds have been requested to ameliorate the situation and preserve what livestock there is. High prices of fodder and no fuel to transport stock to where grass and water are still available are causing severe problems. About 3 million head of cattle are recorded for the governorate before the starting of the summer dry season this year.

This means that 3 million cattle can’t be fed, watered or even transported to another area where they can be fed or watered.

And this is Anbar province - remember Anbar, that province held up as a model of the “surge’s”success, despite the fact that we bribed the local tribes to temporarily not kill our troops. Well, now that resounding success will be tested further - and in an area that two weeks ago saw an attack that killed four Marines - the highest number of Marines killed in an attack since last September.

And what about other areas of Iraq? Let’s look at the Diyala province:

"The shortage of water is the biggest threat that Iraqi agriculture has ever faced," an employee in the directorate-general of irrigation for Diyala province, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "It threatens not only food but also employment in this city (Baquba, capital of the province).


The government is doing little to help people over this crisis. "The directorate is impotent and can give nothing to the farmers," the irrigation centre employee said. "Hundreds of thousands of acres are now desolate, and thousands of people jobless."

Most villagers work in farming, and now that farming no more sustains people as it did, life there is badly hit. Agriculture in this area kept Iraq supplied, and also produced enough for exports. But now farmers sometimes have a hard time feeding themselves.

Much of this has happened over the past year - since an Oxfam International report found a severe humanitarian crisis including the following:

  • Four million Iraqis – 15% - regularly cannot buy enough to eat.

  • 70% are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50% in 2003.

  • 28% of children are malnourished, compared to 19% before the 2003 invasion.

  • 92% of Iraqi children suffer learning problems, mostly due to the climate of fear.

Again, all of these points were PRIOR to the current drought and fighting over the past few months.

The situation in Diyala is not only impacted by the weather and lack of rain - it is also a direct result of the occupation creating an environment of sectarian cleansing, as the main pumping station is located between a Sunni and a Shiite district - two districts that have been fighting for the past two years. But the potential solution to this - set up the pumping station away from these districts so it can be supplied directly by the Diyala River isn’t feasible due to the little problem of dead bodies being dumped in the river:

Some farmers have demanded that the pumping station be supplied directly from the Diyala river upstream of the conflict area.

"But this suggestion was rejected because people know that the Diyala river carries the bodies of those killed in the sectarian fighting," said Abdul-Qadir Omran, a now unemployed trader. "It is not good for drinking, and psychologically it is unacceptable."

People of Baquba are used to seeing bodies floating by in the Diyala river, and have long since ceased to use water from the river or fish in it.

Let’s just put aside the fact that this was caused, at least in good part, by the continuing occupation-without-a-clue-or-plan that Mister Bush and his cohorts have championed. And let’s put aside the fact that there will be plenty of really pissed off Iraqis that want to know why the US or the Iraqi government isn’t doing a damn thing about it.

Let’s just look at the crisis that is facing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in numerous areas of the country from the fighting, the drought, the lack of water, the lack of electricity and the lack of jobs.

A little more than a year ago, it was reported in Newsweek that an investment of $100 million could restart 75% of the Iraqi state run businesses and put over 150,000 Iraqis back to work. Who knows what that number would be today - but it is certain that (1) it would be much lower than continuing to waste the money that is being wasted there now, and (2) focusing on the humanitarian issues that are facing Iraqis now - ones that we created and ones that we did not create is the only way to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis.

It has been very bad for a few years now. It is about to get much MUCH worse. To continue ignoring this large and growing crisis is irresponsible, unethical and immoral.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What other murderous regimes does Cindy McCain profit from?

I won’t even use the comparison to what Teresa Heinz Kerry went through and was accused of when she refused to release her tax returns. Because, while there is a reason to compare the media hypocrisy for hounding Kerry but giving McCain a pass - this is not about a gotcha moment.

Nor is this about John McCain using Cindy’s private jet and the hypocrisy of McCain’s faux maverick persona. And it isn’t even completely about transparency, as the talking meatsticks are focusing on (even though it is consistent with past criticisms of Democrats).

No - this is about something much worse. It is about doing business with murderers and dictators and profiting off of genocide. Maybe that is a strong phrase - but if McCain is vetting his already stuffed to the hilt campaign for questionable financial ties, then he should look no further than his sugar momma wife, Cindy.

Yes, it is clear that McLobbyist has an entire campaign of lobbyists, including just-resigned national finance co-chair, Tom Loeffler, who is also:

a former Texas congressman whose lobbying firm has collected nearly $15 million from Saudi Arabia since 2002 and millions more from other foreign and corporate interests, including a French aerospace firm seeking Pentagon contracts. Loeffler last month told a reporter "at no time have I discussed my clients with John McCain." But lobbying disclosure records reviewed by NEWSWEEK show that on May 17, 2006, Loeffler listed meeting McCain along with the Saudi ambassador to "discuss US-Kingdom of Saudi Arabia relations."

But if McCain is to be serious about being transparent, we should know what other brutal regimes and human rights violators his chief source of income and funding is profiting from.

And while pointing the finger at everyone but himself, Mr. Double Talk Express should tell the world what his own conflicts of interest may be. We have already seen lobbyists making calls right from his own campaign bus. We have seen top lobbyist campaign official after top lobbyist campaign official after top lobbyist campaign official leave team McSame after another embarrassing disclosure finds ties to Saudi Arabia, Burma and other foreign firms seeking Pentagon contracts - and that is just on the overseas front.

We have seen McCain launch hysterical tirades about Obama and Hamas - only to have his own hypocritical ties to or comments about Hamas. We know that his wife had extensive dealings in mutual funds that invested in China and Sudan - to the tune of at least $2 million (that we know of).

The American people have a right to know what investments an aspiring First Lady has - especially one worth over $100 million. There is already ample evidence that the entire McCain campaign is a walking conflict of interest. There is already ample evidence that Cindy McCain is not afraid to do business with corrupt criminals. There is also ample evidence that Cindy McCain is not of the highest moral character.

And there is ample evidence that Cindy McCain is not shy about investing millions in companies that support brutal regimes.

We should know what other brutal and murderous regimes the McCain’s may be profiting from currently, or may possibly also owe favors to.

There should be no “benefit of the doubt”. After all, this is a “post 9/11” world, right?

Your vote only counts if you are republican

Right up front, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Democratic Presidential primary.

No, what this is about is a rigged playing field when it comes to our elections, and how this strategy of “playing defense” - being reactive to the latest republican election crime and looking forward all while the republicans are already on to the next way to disenfranchise millions of voters who are highly unlikely to vote for them in the first place.

And just when everyone starts to realize that, yes, it is a big deal to require someone to get an “official” (whatever the hell that is) ID in order to vote - just ask the 98 year old nun in Indiana, for example, the republicans are...wait for it... once again on to the next way to suppress more likely Democratic voters.

I’ll back up for a moment with respect to these voter ID anti-voter laws, because all too many people really are clueless when it comes to why it is a big deal to obtain a photo or government or whatever else ID.

Let’s say you live in an area where you can’t afford a car (so you take public transportation), or a city where you don’t need a car (like NYC), or you are elderly and haven’t renewed a driver’s license in years or are disabled and don’t have a drivers license, or are move frequently for various reasons or have been displaced due to, oh, say, a major hurricane - just for a few examples. How are you going to be able to get sufficient documentation (birth certificate, for example), or take the time (or have the resources) to waste an entire day in order to get this “free ID”? Now, let’s say that public transportation costs money, and it is difficult to get a day off from work, or if you are disabled, you may need someone to drive you there and back (not to mention wait with you). And, for good measure, in order to get a copy of your birth certificate (that is, if you aren’t elderly or have been displaced or have moved frequently), it costs money.

Tell me again how that is “no big deal”?

But I digress.

What makes this worse is that by not screaming from the rooftops about this republican war against voting rights, the Democrats are falling right into yet another situation where the election will likely be far closer than it really would be if all eligible voters were allowed to vote and have their vote counted properly - if not an outright loss of Congressional seats by theft.

Stacking the deck at the FEC and then holding the FEC hostage so that McCain can break his own campaign finance laws. And what will be done about it? Voting machines that did not pass certification that were owned by highly partisan private interests, are highly unreliable and have shown an uncanny ability to make close to 100% of its “errors” to favor one party. And why are we still using these machines? Illegal caging, illegal scrubbing of voter rolls, illegal phone jamming, illegal redistricting, specious lawsuits by the Voting Rights Section to hinder minority district voters from voting. And what kind of real, meaningful accountability has there been? Thousands of Democratic voter registrations were thrown out by republicans during registration drives, disenfranchising all of those who thought they registered and were eligible to vote.

More importantly, while the “hanging chad” battles were being reacted to, there were privatized electronic voting machines with incredible results in Georgia. While agressive-bordering-on-illegal scrubbing of voter rolls was being reacted to, illegal caging activities were occurring, illegal redistricting was being conducted and bogus “voter fraud” charges were being used as a litmus test for the US Attorneys or as a reason to implement voter ID anti-voter laws were being passed in states with republican controlled legislatures and republican governors.

And while nuns can’t vote due to these new restrictive laws, we now have another battle to contend with - even more restrictive laws than a photo ID:

The battle over voting rights will expand this week as lawmakers in Missouri are expected to support a proposed constitutional amendment to enable election officials to require proof of citizenship from anyone registering to vote.

The measure would allow far more rigorous demands than the voter ID requirement recently upheld by the Supreme Court, in which voters had to prove their identity with a government-issued card.

Sponsors of the amendment — which requires the approval of voters to go into effect, possibly in an August referendum — say it is part of an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from affecting the political process. Critics say the measure could lead to the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of legal residents who would find it difficult to prove their citizenship.

In Missouri, the Secretary of State estimates that this will impact up to 240,000 people. And in Arizona, where this is also a law, an estimated 25,000+ people had their registration rejected for “lack of proof”, even though they swore under oath that they were legal US citizens. And as I said the other day, the US Department of Justice has only had 40 instances of ballot fraud, and only 20 that were noncitizens in a close to four year period.

And speaking of making sure that the proper votes getting counted, lest we forget that it was not just republicans but also republican party operatives in 2000 who were intimidating the vote counters and it was the republican activist judges on the SCOTUS who declared Bush the winner as a result of their mandate to stop counting the votes.

Forget all of this nonsense about “the integrity of the voting system”. There is an all out assault on the rights of people to vote if they are not likely to vote for republicans. It is done under the guise of stopping illegal voters from voting. But the numbers don’t support that. The facts don’t support that. And history doesn’t support that.

It is much more simple - if you aren’t going to vote republican (and more and more people in general as well as various demographic groups are not), then there is a major effort underway to make sure that it is as difficult as possible for you to vote.

And if it isn’t you specifically, it could very well be someone you know.


For the past 7+ years, my conservative father’s stock snarky answer to anything that I pointed out about the Bush administration or the rubber stamp republican Congress was met with a comment to the effect of “oh, don’t you worry, President Hillary will come in and make everything all better”. I always told him that (besides the fact that he was dodging the issue to begin with) there was no way that she would be elected President.

A couple of years ago, when he made that comment to me, my reply was that she wouldn’t even get the nomination - and we even bet a dinner on it. He could only ask who would possibly get the nomination over her. Now, this diary isn’t about Hillary Clinton - it just happens that her Presidential campaign is the product of a Democratic Party mindset that has resulted in oh-so-narrow losses (for the most part) and even some “key victories” in certain ever-shrinking lists of “swing states”.

Now, the “50% + 1” approach worked for the republicans for a number of years, and it (possibly in a self fulfilling prophesy) took a number of states, races and seats out of Democratic Party reach as a result of not even competing in these places. And while her campaign and chances may not be over, this old style of running a winning campaign most certainly is over.

After all, it was inevitable, right?

I guess it was a fairly safe bet for me to say that she wouldn’t get the nomination - since the Democrats are not like the republicans in that the candidate who put in his (and yes, “his”, because it is the republicans we are talking about here) time in and was “next in line” became the nominee. Remember - as late as 2003, Joementum was considered the frontrunner and likely candidate. Bill Clinton in 1992 was certainly not the early favorite, and Gary Hart was the early favorite in 1988 as well.

What this is about more than just how the early frontrunner doesn’t necessarily get the nod (or doesn’t usually get it) is the reason why she lost.

When I bet my dad that dinner, I am not sure that Obama had even declared his candidacy - or whether my dad even knew who Obama was. But I knew that there would be a new way of running a campaign - by using the technology and outreach of the internet, the grassroots, the netroots and social networking in order to organize, raise money, share experiences and GOTV.

We saw the start of that in 2004 with Dean’s campaign. We saw Dean beat the Democratic Party over the head in order to get buy in for the “50 state strategy” - and it has worked in a huge way. Credit some of it to Obama being able to draw in so many new voters (although if not him, then it very well may have been Edwards or someone else). Credit the 2006 elections, the “macaca moment” raising viral videos to a whole new level.

Either way, is was clear to many people way smarter than me that a targeted state, short sighted (and not looking past the first “Super Duper Ultra Mega Tuesday” was somewhat shortsighted), top down campaign that didn’t take advantage of this technology and drastically shifting landscape wouldn’t win if there was to be one that was able to capitalize on the “50 state strategy” and connectivity/outreach potential that the internet/social networking/current technology provides.

That isn’t to blame Senator Clinton for not seeing this and taking this approach. She ran a campaign that she thought would be successful. One that sold her as “the inevitable nominee, so get on the bandwagon early”. But she, and the other top advisors didn’t anticipate (or did anticipate and chose not to utilize it) that there was another way to organize - another way to run a national campaign that would maintain a large degree of control but also involve people in all corners of every state of the country - not just “the big ones” or “the swing ones” or whatever else that excludes a large portion of the population.

And yes, Senator Clinton, with the two decades of name recognition and pretty impressive credentials, not to mention the Clinton name, brand and “machine” behind her drew a huge number of votes in every state. More than McCain in most states - even in states where she lost and McCain won.

But another candidate was able to overcome all of this - and get more votes than her in almost all of these states, even with all of the built in early advantages for Clinton.

Which is a testament to a new style of running a winning campaign - and one that should make all of those who rely on the “old model” of running a campaign very scared. Including McCain, Clinton and anyone else who doesn’t get on board.

After all, it was only inevitable that this would happen.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

To my self-loathing, chest thumping, $h!t talking republican brethren

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite some time, but now is as good a time as any. For the past few months, I (and a fellow liberal traitor) have been “debating” a few rightists on a whole variety of issues. Whether is it nonsense like Rezko or Wright or whatever other manufactured fantasy reason to point out (with escalating rhetoric that only a fifth grader on the playground would be impressed with) why liberal traitors with San Francisco values love terrorists, don’t want to “win” in Iraq and hate America, it always comes down to a few points.

  • Conservatives rule, liberals are teh suck;

  • Everything that went wrong with respect to everything over the past 8 years is because of “Clinton and the coward liberal Democrats” making it harder for America to be the greatest country in the world;

  • Facts provided and documentation of actual events are either ignored or compared to something that the Democrats or specifically Bill Clinton or “the Jew hating” Jimmy Carter did - but never actually addressed or even acknowledged; and

  • Conservatives rule, liberals are teh suck, only this time with insults, strawmen, profanity and my favorite, “I’m done with you”.

This isn’t the first time that I have been down this road. But with the events of this week (and quite possibly with the fact that I am now reading our own Jeffrey Feldman’s new book, Outright Barbarous, coupled with some stunningly delusional talk from my conservative “debate partner” about Gates only saying we should negotiate with Iran because he is afraid of the Democrats being pussies (yes, those are the exact words), it is time to call bullshit on this in the most demeaning and degrading way.

The cries of Democrats being weak or “appeasers” is laughable when you consider those brave republicans who, “when danger reared its ugly head, they bravely turned their tail and fled” and makes you wonder how little sex they were getting when they were in college.

The outlandish and so over the top that it surpassed embarrassing and went straight to pathetic titles of books like Liberal Fascism, Soulless, Godless or talk about “invading their countries and converting them to Christianity” to not caring if al Qaeda were to bomb San Francisco or that the New York Times building should be blown up or that we will roll over one night and crush Canada or whatever “investigation” is done to intimidate the lives of pre-teens because they dare to talk about how SCHIP saved their lives - despite being something that may actually spurn terrorist acts against our country or citizens - makes you wonder just how few friends these people had growing up.

Joking about shooting the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee or “musing” that someone should poison a Supreme Court Justice (how very funny..) or blaming 9/11 on the “liberals and the gays” is as callous as it is indicative of “something not being right” about you. Were you that shunned for much of your childhood that you need to call attention to yourself in any way possible?

Calling me a traitorous selfish idiot because I asked just what “winning” in Iraq would be when told that I don’t want us to “win” in Iraq or that I want America to lose or that Obama hates America but McCain loves America or conveniently ignoring facts or votes or actual events or polls or GAO reports all for a “you have Bush derangement syndrome and are clearly in need of help” is probably the (1) least relevant and (2) mind blowingly childish response that I could ever conjure up and makes me wonder if there is any semblance of logic, reason or the ability to interact socially. Right wing bloggers/101st Fighting Keyboardists being in favor of nothing less than constant military force and intimidation but only when it is by other people’s children yet the only Army they will ever see is the army of strawmen they build is the very definition of cowardly and weak.

But with all of that, the still-clinging to an irrational hatred for all things that aren’t either a violent show of “don’t-fuck-with-me might” (small penis syndrome, perhaps?) and an inability to communicate on any level that consists of anything more than insults, threats is really sad.

Not sad in the traditional definition, of course. Sad and in pathetic. And cowardly. And deserving of nothing short of complete and utter ridicule. Your tough talk and fake bravado shows just how low and insignificant you really are. And how much you hate yourself.

Your time is coming to a close - we’ve wised up to your nonsense. The party’s over. No more “war on Christmas”. No more “if Democrats get elected, we will get hit and hit hard”. No more “bring ‘em on”.

Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out on your way back to the rock you slithered out from under.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The republican war on voting rights

It’s long past time to talk about this whole “election integrity/voter fraud/voter ID/election fraud/ballot fraud” matter in a very different way. Consider the following hurdles that have not been overcome when talking about the need for wholesale election reform:

  • Talking about the hackability of voting machines doesn’t work because you can’t prove that they were, in fact, hacked in a manner that would show not just beyond-a-reasonable doubt but beyond-any-doubt-whatsoever (not fair, but true);

  • Talking about “voter ID”, actually, more like anti-voter laws isn’t working because, well, for starters, the SCOTUS just affirmed this, despite there being no documented case of this type of fraud occurring;

  • Talking about stolen elections hasn’t worked because either “it always happens anyway”, or the same “you can’t prove it” rebuttal;
  • Talking about the US Attorney firings or the redistricting or the stacking of the DOJ with partisan hacks is too complicated to put on a bumper sticker;

  • Talking about the thousands of anecdotes of vote machine flipping went nowhere either; and

  • Talking about exit poll discrepancies has led to the amazing argument that exit polls are not reliable, even though they are used pretty much everywhere else in the entire world as a measure of whether elections were fixed and they have never been as far off as they have so consistently been the past 8 years.

It seems like the whole “War On [insert boogyman here]” theme works well, and the fact is, all of the above - not to mention the few other matters that have come to light over the past few years with respect to election-related issues and questionable vote suppression laws and actions.

And the fact is, the Indiana voter ID anti-voter law is just one of many, many pieces to the bigger picture, all done in the name of “protecting voters” but are really intended to legally give republicans an Election Day headstart of at least 10 million potential votes.

Don’t believe me? OK, fair enough.

According to the National Council of State Legislators, half of the states have voter ID anti-voter laws more strict than the federal requirements:

Twenty-five states have broader voter identification requirements than what HAVA mandates. In these states, all voters are asked to show identification prior to voting. Seven of these states specify that voters must show a photo ID; the other eighteen states accept additional forms of identification that do not necessarily include a photo.

Oh, wait - my mistake. Kansas legislators just agreed on provisions for a voter ID anti-voter law, so make that 26 states by the 2010 elections.

So, now that this is out of the way, I’ll refer to a 2006 DOJ memo that I discussed over the weekend:

the US Department of Justice put out a release regarding the “massive” voter fraud that they have uncovered and investigated. And there was lots to be “proud” of:
As a result of the Initiative, nationwide enforcement of election crimes has increased dramatically. At present, 195 investigations are pending throughout the country. Moreover, since the start of the Initiative in 2002 over 300 investigations of possible election crime have been opened, and over 125 election crime matters have been closed after investigation; 119 individuals have been charged with ballot fraud offenses and 86 individuals have been convicted of these crimes; and 48 individuals have been charged with campaign financing fraud and 42 individuals have been convicted of these offenses.

In over four years, only 42 individuals have been convicted, and under 50 have been charged with campaign finance fraud - now if we think of those who have been heavily lined to campaign finance fraud, one party comes to mind in a big way - and that isn’t the one who keeps pushing “voter fraud” laws. Only 86 people were convicted of “ballot fraud” (of course, Ann Coulter was cleared after calling in a favor from her well connected boyfriend), out of 300 investigations.

The issue of the voter going to the polling place in order to personally cast a vote that is fraudulent is, based on the DOJ’s own numbers - basically nonexistent. And the one high profile case was that of Ann Coulter, someone who conveniently wasn’t charged.

But the issue of voters without proper ID is one that is potential gold for the party that (1) wouldn’t likely get these votes anyway and (2) can eliminate a possible 10 million plus registered voter (or vote) advantage.

Still don’t believe me? OK, fine. Let’s just look at the tens of thousands of Floridians who were disenfranchised in 2000, or the hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters in 2004 who were disenfranchised for a contrast to the 150 or so individuals who the DOJ is touting.

So how am I getting the 10 million plus number that is central to the republican war on voting rights? Well, let’s just forget the 2002 NH phone jamming, or the voter roll purges in Florida that I mention above, or the illegal TX redistricting or the voter roll management lawsuits in New Jersey, Missouri, Maine and Pennsylvania for a minute.

According to The League of Women Voters, close to 11% of Americans (21 million) have no photo identification. They break this down a bit further:

he following statistics reflect those individuals who do not have photo identification:

  • 11% or as many as 21 million Americans

  • 36% of voters in Georgia over the age of 75;

  • 18% of Americans over 65 (6 million);

  • 25% of African Americans;

  • 10% or 40 million people with disabilities;

  • 15% of low income voters

Here are a few more numbers:

  • 650,000 registered voters in Georgia have no photo-ID (law recently passed);

  • 200,000 Missourians of voting age, including 16% of seniors, have no photo-id;

  • 5.5 million African American voting age citizens have no photo-ID;

  • 6 million senior citizens have no photo-id

And just for good measure, here are a few other breakdowns:
People with disabilities:

According to disability advocates, nearly ten percent of the 40 million Americans with disabilities do not have any form of state-issued photo identification. Source: Center for Policy Alternatives

Low income people:

Citizens earning less than $35,000 per year are more than twice as likely to lack current government-issued photo identification as those earning more than $35,000. Indeed, the survey indicates that at least 15 percent of voting-age American citizens earning less than $35,000 per year do not have a valid government-issued photo ID. Source: NYU and Brennen Center Survey

Other than the “we know that older Americans, African Americans, low income Americans are more likely to vote Democratic”, let’s look at a few stats on these demographics. All of these were derived from the tables at the University of Berkeley’s “Quick Tables”.

For Americans between the ages of 56-89, there is a roughly 47% - 39% advantage of “Near Dem - Strong Dem” over “Near rep - Strong rep”. If we break down the numbers by race, even independents outnumber “Near rep - Strong rep” by an amount of 18% - 9% for African Americans. And by the way, “Near Dem - Strong Dem” gets a whopping 73%. If we look at “Other race”, then the “Near Dem - Strong Dem”/”Independent”/”Near rep - Strong rep” breakdown is 52%/27%/20%.

And what about the families earning less than $25,000? Their average breakdown is 47% for “Near Dem - Strong Dem”, 23% independent and 26% for “Near rep” - “Strong rep”.

One more “obvious statistic” can be found to show the disparity. 88% of African Americans voted for Kerry, and 90% voted for Gore.

The real basic take away here is that if you are going to tip elections, you aren’t going to be able to do it “one vote at a time” as these voter id, anti-voter laws purport to combat.

You do it by rigging the system from the inside - by massive voter roll purges that are designed to purge the very demographics that are most likely to hurt the other party, by challenging districting in order to “make it more fair for people’s votes to be reflective of the district”, by implementing laws that are meant to keep millions of people who are likely to vote for the other party from voting and by stacking the deck in the positions where the voting machines are selected and monitored, where the federal and state election laws are “interpreted”, where the decisions are made with respect to voter registration and how the elections are run and even having cousins in the very media outlets who are calling the races for their candidate-cousins.

Make no mistake - this is a more than just a major partisan initiative. This is an all out assault on the voting rights of millions of potential Democratic voters and therefore, votes. This is a premeditated, long term, wide ranging attack against millions of Americans’ voting rights. But it isn’t just an assault on Democratic voters. It is an assault on the most basic right that a democracy affords.

And it should be referred to accordingly.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Let's talk about the "potential for voter fraud"

In upholding the Indiana voter suppression, er disenfranchisement, er “ID” law, the US Supreme Court’s decision contained the following head smacking passage (hat tip to BooMan and Adam B):
The record contains no evidence of any such fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history. Moreover, petitioners argue that provisions of the Indiana Criminal Code punishing such conduct as a felony provide adequate protection against the risk that such conduct will occur in the future. It remains true, however, that flagrant examples of such fraud in other parts of the country have been documented throughout this Nation’s history by respected historians and journalists, that occasional examples have surfaced in recent years, and that Indiana’s own experience with fraudulent voting in the 2003 Democratic primary for East Chicago Mayor -- though perpetrated using absentee ballots and not in-person fraud -- demonstrate that not only is the risk of voter fraud real but that it could affect the outcome of a close election.

Now, I have written a thing or two about election fraud and election integrity issues over the past few years, so I think that I have a bit of a perspective here.

The fact that the US Supreme Court has put the above statement in its opinion is stunning in and of itself. The fact that the discussion about “voter fraud” has centered on the “mysterious evil person who knowingly gives false information in order to vote (or vote in a different precinct)” (oh, the irony there) is one of the biggest problems in the overall area of election integrity.

The number one and number two issues, at least to me, are (1) the fact that time and time again, the voting machines have been proven to be completely unreliable, unverifiable and even more important, owned by major partisan private companies - and have had their President of its’ election unit installing secret software patches on machines in Democratic districts, leading to mysterious 10+ point swings away from popular Democrats at the very last minute and (2) the entire system is corrupt from the inside - a system where bogus “voter fraud” claims can lead to strict laws that are specifically meant to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters, aggressive purging of voter rolls (beyond what even the company in charge of the purging was comfortable with), “caging”, phone jamming and many other documented acts that resulted in tens of thousands of people (mainly likely Democrats) being disenfranchised or suppressed in each of the elections since 2000.

Let’s jump back to the Supreme Court decision again to answer the question posed by those who may ask what the big deal is to get a voter ID, let alone one that is free. This is from Souter’s dissent:

The need to travel to a BMV branch will affect voters according to their circumstances, with the average person probably viewing it as nothing more than an inconvenience. Poor, old, and disabled voters who do not drive a car, however, may find the trip prohibitive, witness the fact that the BMV has far fewer license branches in each county than there are voter precincts.


The burden of traveling to a more distant BMV office rather than a conveniently located polling place is probably serious for many of the individuals who lack photo identification. They almost certainly will not own cars.....and public transportation in Indiana is fairly limited.

The decision further indicates that in order to get the “free” voter ID for the first time, one has to get a birth certificate, a US Passport or something else that....costs money.

So it is ok to disenfranchise “some” people in order to make sure that all of this “voter fraud” - no examples of which were provided (Ann Coulter’s lawbreaking noted above notwithstanding) - doesn’t run rampant.

One other thing to note about photo IDs - roxy at ePluribus Media noted that in Ohio, there was a “glitch” in the system for processing such ID requests, leading to a massive slowdown in the amount of ID cards that are being issued (emphasis mine):

A little article in the Toledo Blade gives one pause ... The article is not long, but though sparse on words it speaks volumes. On Monday it seems there was a little "glitch" with the server at the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. This server is actually a service allowing states to access federal databases as part of the verification process when issuing any state ID cards.

This little "glitch" apparently reduced the number of applications processed in Ohio, from a normal 10,000 per day to 35.

It seems this is not a new problem. A report in the Daily Journal back on Nov. 25th 2007 reports the same type of issue, but which mainly impacted Missouri.

Great, so we have two other states where this is an issue for those who don’t already have photo IDs - and guess which party they are more likely to vote for?

On top of this - how many cases of such “voter fraud” are we talking about? Well in mid 2006, the US Department of Justice put out a release regarding the “massive” voter fraud that they have uncovered and investigated. And there was lots to be “proud” of:

As a result of the Initiative, nationwide enforcement of election crimes has increased dramatically. At present, 195 investigations are pending throughout the country. Moreover, since the start of the Initiative in 2002 over 300 investigations of possible election crime have been opened, and over 125 election crime matters have been closed after investigation; 119 individuals have been charged with ballot fraud offenses and 86 individuals have been convicted of these crimes; and 48 individuals have been charged with campaign financing fraud and 42 individuals have been convicted of these offenses.

In over four years, only 42 individuals have been convicted, and under 50 have been charged with campaign finance fraud - now if we think of those who have been heavily lined to campaign finance fraud, one party comes to mind in a big way - and that isn’t the one who keeps pushing “voter fraud” laws. Only 86 people were convicted of “ballot fraud” (of course, Ann Coulter was cleared after calling in a favor from her well connected boyfriend), out of 300 investigations.

These are NOT large numbers, and of course, in a country with 300+ million people, less than 150 people NATIONWIDE being convicted of election-related offenses is not a huge number. I wonder if this included the republicans involved in the New Hampshire phone jamming, or the republicans involved with illegal redistricting in Texas or republicans involved in Jack Abramoff’s illegal money laundering or republican US Attorneys involved in bringing bogus charges up or republicans involved in illegal voter caging.

Now, let’s contrast that to the tens of thousands of Floridians who were disenfranchised in 2000, or the hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters in 2004 who were disenfranchised, or those in New Hampshire in 2002 from the illegal phone jamming.

And let’s talk about the “potential for fraud” in the highly hackable, highly unreliable machines that fix count the vote for 80% of this country. Or the countless other documented stories of people being disenfranchised in 2004 - nearly all of them ones who wanted to vote for Kerry.

So, if the bar is now being set to “undocumented and unsubstantiated cases of potential voter fraud”, then let’s go all the way.

The Diebold and other electronic voting machines have certainly met the threshold of “potential fraud”, being that the companies are tied in with the republican party, are easily hackable and have show too many “irregularities” and vulnerabilities (all “coincidentally” favoring one party) to be relied on.

The voter roll “purges” certainly have the potential to create fraud - especially in Florida where far too many eligible voters were sinisterly removed from the voting rolls, so why are they not being challenged as unconstitutional?

The counting of ballots in secret by partisans, especially where there are no safeguards in place is certainly indicative of potential fraud. The threat of dismissal of those who do not “find” voter fraud (as in the US Attorney dismissal in Seattle, for example) leads to potential fraud.

Secretary’s of State who are aligned with or are a high level operative in a candidate’s campaign (like Blackwell in 2004 as well as Harris in 2000) can (and has) led to fraud and disenfranchisement - not “voter” fraud but wholesale “election” fraud.

I can go on and on and on. The point is that if we are to let the activist judges on the SCOTUS sanction disenfranchisement of voters and suppression of votes based on what “might be”, then let’s do this the whole way - the entire system is not only corrupt but it corrupt in one direction. To think that the 2006 election was fair just because the Democrats won both Houses of Congress is laughable. There were a number of House races that should have also gone to the Democrats.

The game is fixed. The deck is stacked. And don’t think it isn’t already being stacked for this November as well - from the hackable voting machines to the disenfranchisement to the suppression that will occur on Election Day.

The SCOTUS decision was another nail in the coffin that is the farce of “free and fair elections”. There is no such thing, and will not be such a thing until the severity of the problem - the depth of the rot - is called and exposed for the entire country to see and that the system itself undergoes a wholesale change.

Paper ballots aren’t the problem. People showing up to vote more than once or without proper ID is not the problem.

Rigging the entire system from the inside is the problem. And it is a problem in nearly every state.

And until that is addressed and changed, voter ID laws will just continue to be the shiny object that distracts from the fact that each of the past four elections have, in one way or another - on one level or another - been stolen.