Category Archives: Election 2012

‘Bi-Partisanship’ just another word for nothing left to lose…

Before the ink is even dry on the election newsprint that declared a major victory for Democrats this week, Thomas Friedman, the New York Times liberal poster boy is claiming that now—right now!—is the exact moment the country needs to embrace (wait for it) ‘bi-partisanship’! With the exception of a few annoying facts—like a Democratic sweep of nearly every close toss-up state—the column could be the same he’s used for the last 5 years. It’s rather like the Republicans ‘ideas’ surrounding tax cuts. If the economy is booming cut taxes, it will boom more! If it’s ailing, that’s okay, cut taxes, that will stimulate the economy! It doesn’t really matter what the illness is, the cure is always the same. I had a friend in college who claimed smoking weed held the same magical properties. He eventually dropped out. Thomas Friedman should follow his lead.

Compromise, in particular unilateral compromise (which seems to be a Democratic specialty) with the current crop of far right Republicans is a preposterously bad idea for at least two reasons.

1—Although it might sound pretty (and all the beltway folks clamor for it like heroin) it’s bad politics. Any compromise with folks to the right of Attila the Hun will not be favored by a majority of Americans. How do I know this? We just gave the Democrats another 4 years and expressly denied Republicans that option based on this question. Winning a national mandate doesn’t mean we want to compromise with a bad idea from Republicans we just rejected; that means we want good ideas from Democrats implemented. That’s what election are about. And as some Republican famously said, ‘elections have consequences’.

2—It enables bad behavior. The Republicans are right now in the position of an addict or alcoholic that has finally hit bottom. Ever since Rove famously taunted the ‘reality based’ community, Republicans weaned on the ephemera of Fox News have preserved a kind of alternate universe of facts and ideas. Just as an addict or alcoholic will skid through life until something breaks– the car, the kid, their head—Republican’s alternate universe was shattered on November 6th. There’s probably no better sign of the cognitive dissonance in play than Karl Rove, the Republican’s rain maker, arguing with a Fox News pundit over the reality of losing Ohio. He just didn’t get it. He might never get it, but I suspect quite a few of his colleagues (and donors) have. So Republicans can either kick the habit or go back to their delusional ways. ‘Bi-partisanship’ at this point enables them to continue with the illusion that their ‘ideas’ are actually workable solutions. They are not. Neither politically nor practically. The core Republican idea—maybe the only real domestic idea they have had in the last 12 years–tax cuts for the wealthy– has created a disaster for our budget, a windfall for billionaires, and havoc for the middle and lower classes. Compromising on tax cuts for the wealthy is like being an enabler. As Nancy Reagan so calmly cautioned us years ago, ‘Just say No’.

Finally, even if a ‘compromise’ of some degree is necessary to avoid the artificially created ‘fiscal cliff’, you don’t start negotiating by conceding the need for ‘bi-partisanship’…You start with a firm assertion of what the majority of Americans want: Increase taxes on the wealthy (popular with Mitt Romney voters as well exit polls have shown), preserve cuts for those making less, get out of Afghanistan, safe guard Social Security, create and fund an alternate energy infrastructure that will grow jobs in the US and lessen the impact of man-made climate change, etc. If Republicans have ideas that will make these plans possible, by all means listen to them. But Obama needs to be firm in the referendum that has been delivered by this country. It was quite clear going into the voting booth that there was a fundamental choice between two ideas of governance. Obama and the Democrats represented the idea of the commonwealth, that our government was to be used to further the public good. The Republicans represented a call for limited government and further privatization. They lost—and, more importantly — their core idea of a diminished government in the public sphere lost. Americans want a government that helps them in times of need and emergencies, that protects them in old age, that provides healthcare and retirement benefits. Now, it’s time the party we elected acts like it.

~by Jack Johnson

Last Minute Museings on Election Eve

Twas the night before the election and all through the progressive house…

  • So it is election eve and like most rational people I am waiting with bated breath for this whole damn thing to be over. It is exhausting to say the least to have an election cycle that for all intents began on January 20th 2009 and has moved with a slow, relentless, pulverizing momentum that only enormous amounts of time and money can produce, until today it consumes everything in its path. I am done at so many levels with this election and yet whatever the outcome on Tuesday, I know that it will begin again almost immediately. Permanent campaigning is not, to borrow a phrase from my Occupy friends “what democracy looks like”.
  • We are being told again by both sides that this is simply the most important election in history and that any sense of cynicism and apathy about the process is a form of betrayal. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in voting, even in voting when I don’t like either candidate, but I think it is legitimate to ask if the vast majority of Americans are really being served by the election system we have now.
  • If I need to explain why Mitt Romney would make an awful president then you probably got to this blog by accident and should redirect to Gawker or NFL.com or whatever. Yes, Romney would be a disaster piled on the disasters that have come before and in that context voting for the president to keep Romney out of the White House is an understandable position to take in this cycle. My friends on what passes for the hard left these days make a good point that participating in the system merely gives the system legitimacy and helps to perpetuate it. By system, they often mean the WHOLE system, capitalism, democratic republicanism, hell private property etc. I don’t necessarily roll that way, but I feel like I do perceive a fundamental truth in what they say. As a progressive I often feel left out of the discussion within the large tent of Democratic politics. They make the right noises, but they often don’t come through for us and they are confident that we’ll show up to volunteer and contribute and vote for them because we don’t want the latest flavor of conservative crazy to win control of the government. We can look no further back than the presidency of George W. Bush for an example. Al Gore was not very exciting, and a lot of folks on the left especially after a pretty exhausting Clinton administration that had veered ever to the vanishing center, wanted to send a message… enter Ralph Nader and hanging chads and the Supreme Court and bam, there was George Bush. We were told that Bush and Gore were exactly the same and I suppose that from the vantage point of the Comintern they were, but the practical results were awful for our nation and for most of us as individuals, not to mention all the people around the world who died because we had the wrong guy in the White House. So yeah, elections matter. Gore, I am confident, would not have done what Bush did… But.
  • This has been a pretty bad cycle indeed. In 2008 a lot of people poured their hopes and dreams and their decade long frustrations into the person of Barack Obama and that vessel could not contain them. I think that Obama’s presidency has been competent in light of the challenges he faced entering office. He followed what more and more is looking like the worst presidency in at least 150 years and maybe ever. He inherited a nation in the midst of an economic collapse the likes of which had not been seen in 70 years, embroiled in two unpopular, failed wars and riven by a deep and abiding political schism in which one party seemed to be going more and more off the rails while the other muddled along trying to clean up the mess like the long-suffering spouse in an abusive relationship. I think the president is a decent person, I can’t help but like him at that level. He’s educated, deliberative and nuanced in his thinking.  And as a 52-year-old progressive, I got to do something in electing him that I honestly did not think would happen in my lifetime. I retain a residual affection for Mr. Obama that will not go away soon and that colors my perception of him. My friends on the left scoff at this sort of thing, but it is real and it is important, and of course I am also as susceptible as the next person to the US vs. THEM, often sports team conflated dichotomy that has come to be the central part of American politics: I acknowledge that I want Obama to win partially because I want to make the bad guys suck it!
  • So I’d rather have a second Obama term than a Romney term, but make no mistake, Obama has failed on several crucial fronts that I don’t think he had to, and I am deeply disappointed in him. I largely give him a pass on the economy; there are forces at work right now that no president can control and certainly not in one term with a do-nothing Congress. The original stimulus was too small by half and people knew it at the time, but the president still seemed to think that he could horse trade with the GOP in Congress or compel them through this famously strong rhetorical arguments. Much of the stimulus got wasted in useless tax cuts to try to woo people who already seemed to actively hate him personally. His policies and those of the FED and yes, the “bailout” (I know, I know), probably kept us out of the Great Depression part II, but the recovery has been weak and Europe remains in trouble and it feels like we missed a chance to change things for the better and make the people who caused this actually pay. We needed systemic change, an end to the failed policies of the last 3 decades and real economic growth based on higher wages and better benefits for workers and less on corporate profits. Obama should have been stronger in making the Democrats in Congress do serious work on banking and financial reform but he wasn’t, either because he couldn’t or he didn’t want to – pick your flavor. Dodd/Frank is a start of sorts, but it is very weak and could have been better just by going back to the rules that worked so well for half a century between FDR and Reagan. Maybe this wasn’t politically possible, but it sure would have looked better if Obama had not filled his administration with bankers from Goldman Sacks and other Wall Street insiders, as in the case with the economy and healthcare, perceptions matter, and it sure looked like business as usual to a lot of us on the left.
  • Healthcare is a case in point: Obama took his sizable election capital after 2008 and invested it in the first substantive healthcare overhaul since the 1960s. Obamacare is flawed, but it is a real step forward. It is also probably about as good a deal as the American people were likely to get despite the Democratic control of both houses of Congress and the presidency. But because the president didn’t want to make the mistake many thought that the Clintons had made in 1992, he decided to farm out the work to Congress which isn’t very good at writing or passing sweeping legislation anymore, unless it involves curtailing civil liberties. He also threw away a lot of what progressives wanted at the outset. He made deals with the pharmaceutical industry that kept them largely on the bench through this process which was smart politics but muddied his message. While Speaker Pelosi delivered the House without much problem, in the Senate we were treated to all the pork-barrel and Christmas tree lawmaking that Congress is infamous for. The president got a bill eventually but at tremendous political cost, and instead of being able to claim a victory he got slapped by just about everyone including progressive who were furious that he never even brought up “single payer”, not even to bargain away. Worse, Obamacare as it is now being called by everyone (I think the GOP may come to regret that choice of words), will be the last piece of major healthcare legislation for years to come. No one wants to fight that fight again on the Hill and so whatever chance we had at Medicare-for-all is gone for a decade or more and perhaps will have to wait till the baby-boomers are gone and the system readjusts.
  • Of course for many progressives it is the president’s abysmal civil liberties record that galls the most.  George W. Bush and Dick Cheney should have been impeached and removed from office, and they should have stood trial for war crimes for the things they did while in office. I don’t care about motivation or incompetence or whatever, the Bush administration has done terrible lasting damage to the concept of the rule of law in this country and just being remembered as a crappy president isn’t enough frankly. By that measure Barack Obama should also have a day in the docks. He promised to close Gitmo and never did. He claimed to end torture, but his administration has allowed a dangerous and continued opacity in intelligence matters and is perhaps even more secretive it is dealings in our new Cold War than the Bushies. I see no reason to believe them even if I am more inclined to support them. The drone war is a foreign relations and human rights disaster and has very troubling connotations for policing and surveillance in our own country. The security and surveillance state has only grown under this presidency and in signing the NDAA with its controversial language authorizing the president to selectively kill American citizen without charges or trial, we saw a further, shocking disregard for the Constitution (from a guy who taught constitutional law, for crying out loud), and constitutes a reasonable explanation alone for why so many progressives are seriously thinking about sitting the election out. What can I say to them? Romney would be worse? It’s clearly true, but is a lousy answer all the same.
  • But I can’t sit out the election because Romney WOULD be worse. A lot worse, I think. This president has been disinterested in pushing for action on climate change which is probably our biggest national threat going forward, but he has put more money into clean energy than anyone before him. I think we have a better chance to save Social Security and Medicare with Obama in the White House than Romney and Ryan. I think we have a better chance of avoiding more conflicts in the Middle East with Obama than Romney, who has hired the entire discredited Bush foreign policy team to advise him. And we have a better chance of keeping women’s reproductive choice legal, over-turning Citizens United, saving the EPA, getting equal rights for gay people, relying on science instead of superstition, and coming up with a sane immigration policy with Obama in the White House and Obama nominating the next couple Supreme Court justices.
  • So what do we do Wednesday? Both parties will begin gearing up for mid-terms in 2014 and of course the next presidential cycle in 2016. I am not exaggerating. As progressives we can bow out, we can sign the occasional petition and go to the occasional rally when it is something we feel strongly about and so then in 2016 we can lament that no one is talking about our issues. We can say, oh it is all too hard and everyone is a liar and if only we could be like Egypt or Spain or something. We can wring our hands and complain and wait for some new leader to come along… or we can do what many of us have started to do. We can continue to organize ourselves, we can join forces across ideology and special interest, we can use the levers of power and we can vote with our wallets and our feet as well as our ballots. You know this may seem odd, but for some time I have looked at the way the Christian fundamentalist community does its business with a certain sense of awe. In many regards, they are just awful, but they are very organized, they are relentless, they rebound quickly from defeat, they compromise when practical but they stick with their core goals and they are in it for the long haul. They support their friends and they punish their enemies in the extreme. Without wanting to be them, I can say that there is a lot to learn from them. So many on the left want a movement outside conventional politics, well the fundies tried that and it didn’t work; now they have largely co-opted the Republican Party and the conservative movement. They don’t have complete control, but they are a real force to reckon with such that the bankers and the apparatchiks have to deal with them. They fuel the Tea Party and they make sure their ideas, no matter how outlandish, get into the mainstream discussion, and they require adherence to the party line even when it means losing temporarily. They have their own media system, their own entertainment and business community that exist in a strange parallel universe to popular culture as a whole. They used to be mocked and taken for granted by the Republican leadership, who said what the hard right wanted to hear at election time and then did as they pleased. That is no longer the case and there are lessons for the secular left that bear learning if we are to get more out of our troubled relationship with the Democrats.
  • I know some folks want that separation. They dream of a European system where tiny splinter parties have outsized power. Good luck with that. Frankly, I’d rather have two large centrist parties where national consensus and compromise are the rule, than one where unreconstructed Bolsheviks and Neo Nazis can cast meaningful votes – but that’s just me. By the way, I don’t necessarily think that is what we have now, in fact I think we have a fun-house mirror version of that these days, and that won’t change until the GOP is punished at the polls for acting like spoiled, kind of crazy children and the Democrats learn there’s a price to pay for walking away from their base. I think we have to make Democrats take us seriously by offering them the carrot of our support with real strings attached and punishing them when they go astray. Part of this means building an infrastructure that finds and nurtures progressive candidates and gets them elected at the local level (which is how the conservatives do it), training them and cultivating them and building a structure that supports them when they are out of office as well. A lot of this sort of thing sounds too messy, too much like playing by someone else’s rules for my hard left friends who dream of general strikes and popular uprisings. In some ways, I’m with them. I’ve walked on picket lines and spoken at demos and I will again. But I also helped found APV because waiting for some organic moment when the dialectic shift and a new thesis emerges is not for me. I want to fight back, and to do that you need the right tools and you need to master the terrain. So I’ll be voting on Tuesday and I’ll be back at work on Wednesday whoever wins.

Scott Price

Richmond, We Have a Problem

On Thursday August 9th, the Virginia Board of Elections announced that it had purged the State’s voter rolls of thousands of names. After a comparison with data from the Social Security Administration, the Board removed some 10,000 names of deceased individuals remaining on the registered voter list.

Clearing the voter rolls of inaccurate information is certainly a laudable and appropriate action for the Board to take, but in light of so many voting related maneuvers by the General Assembly and the McDonnell administration over the last year, and bearing in mind the nationwide voter suppression movement that threatens to disenfranchise thousands, possibly millions of Americans, this purge, so close to the election raises inevitable questions.

Along with many other states around the nation where Republicans control the government, the demonstratively fictitious voter fraud “crisis” has been used as a wedge to insert new, often misguided and sometimes clearly partisan election laws and rules that together have come to be viewed under the umbrella of “voter suppression” due to their clear tendency towards disenfranchising specific classes of voters like the poor, the elderly, college students and minorities with a track record of voting primarily for the other party.

While any single piece of legislation or administrative action may seem innocuous on its face, and even be justified by a professed concern for accuracy, taken as a whole these initiatives appear to constitute a direct attempt to alter the voting landscape in order to affect the upcoming election and elections in the future in a way favorable to the incumbent party.

With this in mind we’d like to raise the following points about what has been going on in Virginia this election cycle:

  • There simply is NO evidence of voter fraud in the Commonwealth. NONE.
  • In particular, there is NO evidence of widespread or even small scale impersonation (which is what the I.D. laws are supposedly intended to stop), as a means of voter fraud. NONE.
  • There is NO evidence that ANY of the 10,000 names removed from the rolls were used to cast an illegal vote in Virginia. NOT ONE.
  • There is NO evidence that anyone has voted under the name of a cartoon character or as their pet, an example often held up as a justification for such laws. Just because someone fills out a registration form with a joke name doesn’t mean that name passes muster with registrars. Removing those bogus names is the job of our registrars, and they appear to be doing it well.
  • While the voter I.D. law that passed this year expanded the forms of identification allowable at the polls, it also imposes a provisional ballot on anyone without I.D. This ballot will not be counted on election day unless the voter returns and provides one of the forms of identification specified under the new law. In such a case the voter must then go the extra step of later submitting it to their local registrar by 12 noon Friday after the election. Since these new provisional ballots are not the same as real ballots, and will not be tallied without the voter’s further effort to prove their identity, there is strong evidence that many people who cast such ballots cannot or will not go through the expense, time and trouble to complete the procedure, thus resulting in otherwise legal votes never being recorded.
  • We have concerns about the process of issuing new voter cards to every citizen in the Commonwealth so close to the election. There is bound to be confusion and mistakes will be made associated with this roll out, and there is little doubt that the most vulnerable members of the community will be the most affected by errors or delays.
  • The state has yet to do any voter education regarding the new voter registration cards and the new I.D. law. This may prove particularly problematic for the poor, the elderly and voters for whom English is not a first language.
  • We have history to draw from, and there is new evidence that some conservative groups plan to profile and target likely opposition voters with challenges at the polls, both as an attempt to frighten certain groups and to generally muddy and slow the voting process.
  • Voting machines in Virginia are NOT required to keep a paper trail of votes cast. There is ample evidence that voting machines are vulnerable to tampering and hacking, and while we do not question the integrity of individual registrars, we are concerned about a process that relies on an unverifiable technology with proven problems.

.

Last year at the General Assembly we saw a raft of bills designed to limit access to the polls. We managed to defeat many of the most severe, but the effort to make it harder for certain Virginians to vote did not end there. Across the country the effort to disenfranchise voters continues on many fronts and in many insidious ways, for instance, the tendency of having fewer voting machines at polling stations in working class and minority neighborhoods – which results in longer lines and a curtailed opportunity for people in these communities to vote.

At a time when we should be encouraging participation by underrepresented Virginians, we could be creating a generally more hostile environment where certain voters are made to feel more like suspects than citizens.

We are worried that all these factors will add up to fewer people exercising their right to vote at a time when participation is already historically low. That is why we will continue to closely monitor this process and speak out when we have concerns.

The right to vote is at the heart of our democracy, and partisan attempts to make it harder for some to exercise that right damage our communities, our Commonwealth and our country.

APV Public Policy Team.

Follow the Dark Money.

More and more we are self-segregating as far as where and how we get information. It is very easy now for people to get the majority of the information they receive about the world around them from media and websites that reinforce pre-existing opinions and beliefs. This is true in particular of our friends on the Right, who recent studies show are more and more encased in a self-contained information universe that has its own internal consistency, but which often deviates wildly from the world at large. It does not help that the massive amount of money that is now flowing into our elections largely from anonymous conservative donors, is being used in part to hunt down and target these voters based on where they go on the internet. This article raises several troubling questions about privacy online and the echo chamber that is now in place for so many potential voters.

Dark Money Political Groups Target Voters Based on Their Internet Habits

The Trust Factor


This Tuesday may be the most important election of the new century. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker with the backing of extraction billionaires David and Charles Koch is matched against Tom Barrett who has been raising funds locally and whom the DNC has refused to financially support. In some ways it’s an obvious David and Goliath struggle. The DNC should be funding this to at least approach parity with what the Republicans and surrogates are spending on Walker. But they are not. They are not spending a dime even though Wisconsin was the home of the progressive movement in the 19th Century. In fact, without Wisconsin, our nation’s 20th century would have looked radically different-probably closer to China’s, with no viable unions, no decent labor laws or protections and consequently no worker rights. I don’t think I’m overstating the matter by saying a victory by Scott Walker in Wisconsin will put that all in play once again. Why isn’t the DNC leading on this? Where is Barrack Obama? Can money obviate everything for the Democrats, even the very heart of their own base? This is not a trivial question.

In Tom Barrett’s last debate performance he called Walker a liar (he is one) and said point-blank that the man is about dismantling labor unions as viable entities across the state (which he is doing). He argued that Walker was treating the state as “an experimental dish for the far right.” All true. More importantly, whether the luminaries in the DNC realize it or not, Wisconsin is a bell weather for the rest of the nation, as Charles Pierce has pointed out it in Esquire Magazine: “In 2010, in addition to handing the House of Representatives over to a pack of nihilistic vandals, the Koch Brothers and the rest of the sugar daddies of the Right poured millions into various state campaigns. This produced a crop of governors and state legislators wholly owned and operated by those corporate interests and utterly unmoored from the constituencies they were elected to serve [Note: Virginia is no stranger to this process—witness ALEC and the ignominious machinations of Governor McDonnell on contraceptive rights]. In turn, these folks enacted various policies, and produced various laws, guaranteed to do nothing except reinforce the power of the people who put them in office. This is the first real test of democracy against the money power. Its true national import is that it is the first loud and noisy attempt to roll back the amok time that Republican governors and their pet legislatures have unleashed in the states at the behest of the corporate interests who finance their careers. It is the first serious pushback not only against Scott Walker, but against Dick Snyder’s assault on democracy in Michigan, and Mitch Daniels’s assault on unions in Indiana, and Rick Scott’s assault on voting rights in Florida. None of this was in any way coincidental. It was a national strategy played out in a series of statewide episodes, aimed at establishing the habits of oligarchy on a local basis.”

This is not toast and tea. We’re talking about real lives and real stakes. When Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein makes it perfectly clear that sophisticated investors don’t or at least shouldn’t rely on his word, it’s a cautionary note that we should apply to politicians as well—especially when they take money from those who would destroy the middle class. It’s painful to note that Blankfein was probably more honest in that brief moment than all the speeches by Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama combined. Don’t believe me, he said, and if you do, you’re a sucker. As Joseph Stiglitz writes, Blankfein makes plain that “those who bought the products his bank sold were consenting adults who should have known better. They should have known that Goldman Sachs had the means, and the incentive, to design products that would fail; that they had the means and the incentive to create asymmetries of information—where they knew more about the products than the buyers did—and the means and the incentive to take advantage of those asymmetries.”

Lesson learned. Politicians have the means and the incentives to create “asymmetries of information.” When politicians are purchased on such a large national scale…well, we get what we pay for, don’t we? When a chameleon candidate like Mitt Romney– who even most Republicans don’t like — can achieve a primary victory based almost entirely on access to cash, the system is out of whack. As Wisconsin shows some of the wealthiest individuals and organizations in this country have used their capital to buy liars and sycophants in public places. They are not disinterested in what their money is buying, either. Far from it. Scott Walker, frankly, was probably a bad buy: a little too showy, a little too much the front man. These folks like to remain a bit more discreet. What they really want to purchase is congressional gridlock on reform and regulation. And subsidies and tax cuts, of course. Everyday companies like Exxon seed doubt about global warming swamping the discourse with paid off pseudo scientists and front groups. At the state level, ALEC produces legislation that knee caps environmental regulation and offers a perverse polluter protection ‘model’ legislation that requires the results of environmental audits to be kept secret. While ALEC and Exxon, infuse massive amounts of money into the legislative process, creating “asymmetries of information.” FOX happily ignores or attacks anyone who would suggest there are real public concerns that need to be addressed. FOX News is the propaganda product of billionaire Rupert Murdoch. ALEC has over 5.7 million dollars in ‘corporate sponsorship’. The Koch brothers have more money than the entire state of Wisconsin. Exxon is the largest and most profitable corporation on Earth. It’s not class warfare to suggest money is tilting the scales in a way that makes it impossible for us to honestly govern ourselves. It’s the truth. And, Democrats — take note– only when we tell the truth as Tom Barrett has done in Wisconsin — can we begin to build a country that we can trust.

~~~~~

APV thanks Jack Johnson once again for a great post. We also extend our whole-hearted support and best wishes to gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett in Wisconsin’s recall election this Tuesday.
DCKennedy

Who’s the Captain now?


Fortunately, and evidenced by this spicy retort from Sarah Jones, the dumbing down of America isn’t working across the board. When Republicans compared President Obama to the “Chicken of the Sea”, the cowardly Captain of the Costa Concordia, she threw the truth in their faces like a pepper jelly pie. Hopefully, it’ll stick and sting long enough to do some good.
DCK

GOP Fail: Republicans Not Obama Have Abandoned Ship Like An Italian Captain

What to do when there is no right answer.

Progressives and the Ron Paul fallacies – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com.

This article raises several uncomfortable questions that APV and its members will be struggling with in 2012.  To our credit I think, we have not ignored the many failings of this president, still many of us I’m sure, feel pulled in multiple directions, and I for one will not refuse to participate out of some sense of political purity.  So what’s a body to do?

Right now I guess I’m with Katrina vanden Heuvel, Paul is repugnant, but he’s the only one raising questions that need to be addressed and for that reason he needs to be taken seriously by us on the left.  He may come to the same places I do,  or at least much closer to them than the president, but I can’t say I’d ever pull the lever for him, mostly because he gets to these places by taking a series of twisty, turny back roads through crazyville and racist town.

“There are, as I indicated, all sorts of legitimate reasons for progressives to oppose Ron Paul’s candidacy on the whole. But if your only posture in the 2012 election is to demand lockstep marching behind Barack Obama and unqualified scorn for every other single candidate, then you are contributing to the continuation of these policies that liberalism has long claimed to detest, and bolstering the exclusion of these questions from mainstream debate”.

Here’s how Greenwald would describe an honest Obama supporter, I don’t know if I agree with his characterization completely, but I don’t think he’s far wrong either.  It is the conundrum of our times, I am so tired of voting for the lesser of two evils.

“Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.”

What a Hobbsian choice is that.

I will say this, the Obama presidency should be a lesson to us all, not to support individuals, but policies, not good intentions, but concrete actions.  I’m not a big believer in third parties or withdrawing from the battle because we don’t like the ground it’s being fought on, but we, as progressives have to do a better job exerting the power we do have.  This president may well get my vote on election day, but he will not get the money, the time or the effort he got from me in 2008.  Maybe he can win without it, probably he can, but if not, it is his own fault  I’ve suffered from battered liberal syndrome for long enough.

Blutocratic Party vs. Spinach Party

Their hooey is a lot of phooey. ~ Olive Oyl

These old cartoons are fun, especially when you think about what was happening when they were created. This is Betty Boop for President (1932 events)

Mr. Nobody was voiced by Irving Aaronson, a successful band leader of the twenties most notably with the Commanders. The lyrics to Betty’s songs were by Al Lewis, who also co-wrote the classic Blueberry Hill. Betty Boop’s voice, Mae Questrel, would become the voice of Olive Oyl.

In 1948, Olive Oyl decides “their hooey is a lot of phooey”, and gets a dream run of her own.
(1940’s events)

In 1956, candidates Popeye and Bluto are full of promises, but the experienced winner, who wouldn’t vote for either one until the work was done, is … Olive Oyl!
(1956 events)

There’s a lot that could be said about how or whether campaigning has changed over the years, but in keeping with the animation, here’s a more recent take on it.

Family Guy – Undecided Voters (2008):

DCKennedy

The GOP’s victim-blaming strategy

As we on the left are beguiled by the power and energy of the OWS movement et al, we must not forget that there is an alternate reality inhabited by much of the nation with a whole different narrative.

“Rather than permit America to consider any responsibility for the gross immoralities of our foreign aggression, the GOP’s demand for reparations plays to our exceptionalist conceit by implicitly suggesting that — facts be damned! — the war was Good and Just. And not just moderately good and just, but so Good and Just that we deserve to be paid for our trouble. Along the way, this self-righteous posture implies that we shouldn’t change anything about the (highly profitable) Military-Industrial Complex that led us into the war in the first place.”

via The GOP’s victim-blaming strategy – Republican Party – Salon.com.

Election Integrity ~ Gone to Spam?

Okay, this might have been funny at one time:

Critical election process and validity issues today are anything but humorous, and yet it seems to be getting worse. The bottom line is simple: If we want America to be the Grandest Banana Republic on earth, we’re on the way. But without a valid democratic election process in place, we can not be considered a Democratic Republic.

Absentee voting – 7 million and growing

No one disagrees that eligible American voters living abroad should be able to vote in our elections without undue complication, yet year after year, and war after war, they are the most disenfranchised group of voters since before the civil rights movement in the 1960s. While soldiers in the field, especially wounded and disabled soldiers, present obvious challenges, timely inclusion of their votes seems like a mission impossible. Any voting process that is problematic for an estimated seven million Americans needs an overhaul – but convenience should not trump election integrity. At this time, all forms of electronic voting equipment and cyber ballot returns are less than secure.

Trial and error attempts to make voting more convenient have been expensive in more ways than one.

A little background: Convenience results in compromise.

A 2001 congressional order for a “specific provision” by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, moved the ballot transit issue away from the mail and into cyberspace. “The project shall be carried out with participation of sufficient numbers of absent uniformed services voters so that the results are statistically relevant.”

“We find the report quite troubling.”

Security consultants at Johns Hopkins University went public with this news release. The same security experts who authored the 2004 report had to issue another statement three years later in response to a 2007 DOD report expressing their continued concerns over the lack of security for proposed Internet voting. And yet, the Development Guidelines for the program still clearly state (pdf):

“• Spring, 2013 – Lessons Learned Analysis: After the 2012 election, FVAP … will provide information to EAC and its advisory boards on the results of the pilot, including the success and shortcomings of the pilot and lessons learned.”

Public right to authenticate and public right to self-govern are basic and essential principles of a democratic election – and not possible with Internet voting.

Cyber attacks are part of our own routine military espionage, and blow-back from that continues to demonstrate that the Department of Defense cannot even insure the Pentagon’s classified information. If that’s the best we can do to protect military secrets at the Pentagon, so be it – but should we be throwing our elections into this cyber and electronic hacking madness that no one can control? No.

Another bad trend is the diminishing right to a secret ballot. Whether secrecy is waived as a convenience for timely receipt of overseas ballots, or whether voter identification is covertly linked to voted ballots, it corrupts the democratic process and needs to be stopped.

When our government and the vendors it hires are concealing their ability to know and store our voting records, it should be headline news in every paper and news broadcast. That doesn’t happen with our media, but fortunately we have well-respected election and voting reform activists, like Bev Harris, executive director of Black Box Voting, Inc., an advocacy group committed to restoring citizen oversight to elections. She keeps us apprised of important developments like her recent post which begins, “Public officials now admit they can see how you voted and link it to your name. This issue affects Colorado, almost all of Washington State, as well as some locations in California, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia and likely other states as well.” 2/12 – CITIZENS SUE TO FORCE GOVERNMENT TO STOP LINKING VOTES TO VOTER –

PBS NEWSHOUR has also reported on some of the dangers we’re facing in this video- Internet Voting: Will Democracy or Hackers Win?

Electronic voting equipment is not a viable option for secure elections, a well-known fact for many years, though we continue to replace safer methods across the country with this vulnerable, hackable, corporately controlled equipment. Incredibly, we even allow the data “coding” that instructs the equipment, to be kept secret by the corporate owners as protected intellectual property.

GAO compliance analysis reviews (pdf) like the following from Ohio’s 2004 election are always disturbing, but the point is, the problems can’t be corrected to prevent future malfunctions. Where electronic equipment and hackers are concerned, it’s not a question of ‘if’ – the question is ‘when’ and the answer is ‘now’.

U.S. Government Accountability Office, Report to Congressional Committees, June 2006 ELECTIONS
The Nation’s Evolving Election System as Reflected in the November 2004 General Election:
“… in Ohio that allowed one DRE machine’s ballots to be added to the
canvas totals multiple times without being detected. In another instance,
our report notes that a malfunction in a DRE system in Ohio caused the
system to record approximately 3,900 votes too many for one presidential
candidate in the 2004 general election.”

“Election officials in a large Ohio jurisdiction … told us that readiness
testing had been conducted by local officials. However, election
officials stated that certification and acceptance testing were not performed …. They also said that neither parallel testing nor audit testing of voting systems was performed.”

Election officials are a known vulnerability in every aspect of election integrity. Every facet of their jobs needs to be closely scrutinized; publicly witnessed, recorded and reported; videotaped whenever possible; and all records of their activity must remain accessible to the public and not allowed to be destroyed.

Those in a position to game our system are boldly imposing criminal activity on the election process as evidenced by the indictments, prosecutions and guilty pleas that are becoming more and more common.

There are numerous examples of these convictions, most recently including West Virginia, Indiana, and in Pennsylvania – Feese gets 4 to 12 years, where “A Dauphin County jury convicted Feese [Republican] of all 40 counts in a case that involved the misuse of millions of taxpayer dollars by hiring out-of-state consultants and diverting legislative employees to develop customized computer software to help elect more Republicans to the Legislature. (…) Twelve Democrats, including longtime House leader state Rep. Bill DeWeese, have been convicted or pleaded guilty in the investigation.”

Is it collusion when officials of both parties are indited and found guilty in an election fraud scheme? I don’t know, but another thing that comes to mind when “software” is mentioned with election fraud is Themis, the vast, nationwide database and voter file set up by the Koch brothers a while back. I’m not sure what that implies, but it gives me an icky feeling.

And the evidence just keeps on coming ….

This article in Salon exposing Diebold equipment vulnerability did not cause the outrage it should have. The reporting of this critical information was short-lived if the media reported on it at all. If our voting equipment is so easily hacked, and the media treats that like a flash in the pan story, moving quickly to report on some sensational, inane non-issue, what does that tell us … and what else matters if bogus voting equipment and the media work in tandem to silence the people’s voice?

For the sake of convenience, or possibly something more sinister, we have reinvented the nice round wheel that rolled through our election process with some confidence – and we’ve turned it into a no-go item. Secret paper ballots and well supervised hand counting with unlimited public transparency is the only way to go at this time – and maybe forever.

Here’s a good rundown of what we should be expecting from our states regarding election law, and why. Pertinent, too, in gauging progress, this article from OEN in 2009, also by Bev Harris, recognizes the state of Maine’s election processes as the best in our nation. Black Box Voting names Maine best in nation for voting rights

Time tested state and local chaos and corruption

Another major, overall and undisputed problem for voters is the myriad of state and local laws for voting and ballot deadlines that complicate our entire election process. These challenges are already overwhelming, but they’re being used and exacerbated by the effective, step by step, state by state interference by The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) whose templates for legislation aim to disenfranchise voters and suppress the people’s voice in an effort to promote corporate interests. This proposed legislation written by corporations is being passed; they are manipulating state politics and the 2012 presidential race in a big way.

Worse still is that states hire private companies to run their elections and tally the results.

We have a lions share of election problems already, and these issues will become more intense as the 2012 general election nears. Now is the time to stop it. Privatizing the responsibility to companies with political and monetary agendas invites corruption. In this Truthout article, Project Censored named the outsourcing of Ohio’s 2004 election votes “as one of the most censored stories in the world.” It is obviously too late seven years after the fact to investigate a possibly botched election, or recover from the damage that may have been done to our country as the result of one, which is why our corporatized media censors the information.

Seemingly, ALEC “urges legislators to fight the [federal takeover] of state election procedures, objecting in particular to universal standards for voting procedures.” However, as John Nichols explains further, “ALEC is not [really] opposed to uniformity in election procedures as such. It just wants the rules to be set by CEOs, campaign donors and conservative legislators. Restricting voting and direct democracy while ensuring that corporations can spend freely on campaigning makes advancing the conservative agenda a whole lot easier. “Once they set the rules for elections and campaigns, ALEC will pretty much call the shots.”

Secure voting is more a matter of national security than anything our military will ever do. Whether our election process is handled by the states, or even if they evolve into a consolidated Federal effort, convenience to voters will never be as important as a valid outcome controlled by the people.

We need a trustworthy, top-notch special committee investigating our failing election processes, and we need it now. The temptation to tamper with election results will always be irresistible to those who are so inclined, and competent hackers can be purchased around the world as easily as our lawmakers have been purchased by corporate America. Monied stakeholders with interest in the outcome of our elections are widespread in this global economy and they will spare no expense to gain advantage.

Fighting for legitimacy in our right to a meaningful vote, like many other critical safety issues, means that we have to change with the times. Regulatory changes to protect the people’s rights are necessary – whether that means more regulations, different regulations or a complete overhaul of the election process.

Recent history would suggest that we long consider the consequences of court decided elections, and to explore and debate our options including those congress has granted the federal government to override state privilege and consolidate the process. It’s highly debatable, and would be a big pill for states to swallow, but a big pill may be exactly what we need, IF it could be done in a way that secures and validates our secret ballot “one person, one vote” democratic process.

Such power has continually been reiterated by the Supreme Court. In 1932, the Court again reviewed the Election Clause‘s grant of power to Congress to regulate the time, place, and manner of federal elections and stated:

It cannot be doubted that these comprehensive words embrace
authority to provide a complete code for congressional elections,
not only as to times and places, but in relation to notices,
registration, supervision of voting, protection of voters,
prevention of fraud and corrupt practices, counting of votes,
duties of inspectors and canvassers, and making and publication of
election returns; in short, to enact the numerous requirements as
to procedure and safeguards which experience shows are necessary in
order to enforce the fundamental right involved. And these
requirements would be nugatory if they did not have appropriate
sanctions in the definition of offenses and punishments. All this
is comprised in the subject of “times, places and manner of holding
elections. (45)

Here’s the latest on the Maine caucus fiasco. They seem to have moved past the “dog ate my homework” excuse saying that the emails reporting their vote tallies had gone to spam – a priceless example of who and what we’re dealing with in the quest for process integrity.

The clock is ticking and the 2012 election is speeding toward us. Maybe it’s the Doppler effect giving the illusion that we have lots more time to think about all this. We don’t.
DCKennedy