Monday, May 21, 2007

Dangerous Minds

One of my favorite high school teachers had a colorful phrase he used to say to those of his students he found especially, egregiously foolish: "If you people had a brain, you'd be dangerous".

I'm reminded of that phrase this morning, when I go over to Mike Norton's blog and in his comment threads find the following public display of utter braying witlessness (not from the inestimable Orto himself, natch, but from one of the chains he and I both seem to have forged in life that we cannot, now, unshackle ourselves from no matter what we do):

I suppose that the talk of "stealing" the 2008 election has to start somewhere.

As I pointed out before, all of the alleged shenanigans were totally ignored when it turns out that the Republicans lost the last election. And these shenanigans were whined about all over the blogosphere until about two hours after the polls closed. Then everything was both hunky and dory.

If there are true, actual, demonstrable voting problems were should all be screaming, yelling and fighting to fix them -- no matter if "our" side wins or not.

If the election process is dirty, or flawed, then let's pull together and fix it.

This is the sort of talk typical to the kind of person who likes to think of themselves as 'fair' and 'open minded', the sort of 'independent voter' who 'looks beyond party affiliations' and 'tries to vote for the best candidate regardless of political bias'. And all the other high minded crap that a contemporary 'undecided' voter uses to justify being 'undecided', generally right up to the point the curtains on the voting booth jerk shut behind them.

It's only then, as they stare, all fawn-eyed and gape-jawed and trembling at the array of options before them, does this 'fair, open minded, independent and unbiased independent voter' really start to make up his or her mind. You can nearly hear the mental wheels creaking and the gears grinding as they are brought to the sticking point where they absolutely must come to some sort of final, conclusive decision, an act of mental will unnatural to them, which they hate with every fiber of their being and which they do everything in their power to postpone for as long as they possibly can, short of simply not voting at all. (These sorts always vote, because by voting, they get a cheap sense of superiority over many of their fellows which is as precious to them as the One Ring To Rule Them All was to Gollum. And yet, still, they just HATE to have to actually make a decision. If the act of voting didn't allow these people to strut around smugly, once more securely swaddled in their cocoons of self righteous civic exceptionalism, for the several years until the next election comes along, they'd never trouble themselves to do it at all. This is why no society can ever achieve full electoral participation short of mandating it by law; if we ever got to a point where a majority of the eligible population voted voluntarily in every election, these monkeys would naturally have to abstain, simply so they could feel that they are different from the mob, and, therefore, innately better.)

And, as a good, solid general rule, the way these people are going to vote, at that point where they are actually driven to it very nearly at spearpoint, will be largely based on whichever political ad they saw or heard most recently, maybe on the radio while driving to the polls.

In other words, such people are sheep. Worse, they're fools... and they are the kind of fools that, according to everything I've heard over the past decade or so, have decided every major election in the United States in that time period, largely due to our incredibly polarized electorate.

In the particular case of the passage I've quoted above, the foolishness is especially egregious. When you find someone who genuinely believes that contemporary American elections have no 'true, actual, demonstrable voting problems', you have found a startling example of a person who lives full time in their own little pig headed paradise, comfortably cushioned from anything bearing the remotest resemblance to reality by their own provincial prejudices and rigorously maintained invincible ignorance.

Regard the stunningly circular non-logic: ...all of the alleged shenanigans were totally ignored when it turns out that the Republicans lost the last election. And these shenanigans were whined about all over the blogosphere until about two hours after the polls closed. Then everything was both hunky and dory.

In other words, "You guys stop complaining about how unfair it is when, despite all those unfairnesses, you still manage to win. Nuh uh. If the election is unfair, you should protest the results even when they favor your guys."

I... honestly, I just don't know where to start with this, but, basically, I guess I'll try to dig in here:

Who, exactly, are the Democrats supposed to call to complain about rigged election results?

Local election boards? State election officials? State governors? Federal judges? Congress? The Supreme Court? The President?

I'll leave aside the fact that, when the Republicans blatantly stole the 2000 elections in Florida, the Democrats raised sixteen different kinds of hell and did everything they possibly could to contest those election results, and at every turn, they were balked by corrupt Republican election and government officials (up to and including the winning candidate's brother, who just happened to be Governor of the state in question) at every level of the government, and when the case went to the Supreme Court, that Republican dominated judicial bench shut it down in a so called 'legal' decision that has since been ridiculed and derided all over the world, and, for all I know, all over the universe, ever since.

People protested. They tried to count and recount the votes, and got shut down by an obviously corrupt Secretary of State (Katherine Harris, as well as by hired Republican thugs flown to Florida by Halliburton for the sole purpose of staging violent, illegal demonstrations in front of recount sites.

They appealed to a Republican dominated Congress and were ignored.

The Democratic candidate hired the best, or at least, most expensive, lawyers in the world and took his case to the Supreme Court, and got shut down.

People protested when the same thing happened again in Ohio in 2004. A corrupt, Republican dominated electoral system in that state deliberately shifted voting machines out of predominantly Democratic (read: poor, urban, minority) dominated districts, to create long lines that would keep a significant percentage of potential voters from actually being able to cast their votes. When people complained, they were, once again, ignored.

But, again, leave all that aside. I ask again: who you gonna call? And after two elections of this nonsense, why would you even bother?

How many times do losing Democrats have to hear people like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh braying over the national media "You lost, move on, get over it" before they get the message?

Here's the message: the game is rigged, absolutely. If you're not in power already, if you're trying to take power away from the incumbents who have already stacked the system with their people, then you can't just win an election by 1, 2, or 3 percent. Nope. They've already stolen that much of your vote, before you ever get a single registered Democrat into a voting booth. If you want to beat Karl Rove at his preprogrammed Wheel of Fortune, you have to win BIG. You need a genuine landslide; you need a population so thoroughly disgusted with what the opposition has been doing in office for the last however many years that despite every barrier they will throw up in your way, you still manage to get enough people out to the polls to win that election by 4 percent, or 5 percent, or 6 percent.

And then what will happen is, you'll win, but it will be reported as a narrow squeaker, something you only pulled off by 'a few percentage points', a 'statistical aberration attributable to many factors', something that 'isn't really a clear message from the American people about anything, to anyone'.

But, nonetheless, you won. You can now initiate investigations, appoint special prosecutors, repeal bad legislation and, hopefully, pass better legislation in its place. Work to get rid of the corruption, and reform the system from within.

And, you know, you should complain about this? And, worse, if you don't complain, it somehow proves that... ummmm... wait, I need to get a running start for a leap of illogic like this... the system was never corrupt in the first place?

How does that make any sense at all? Given the inherent corruption of the system, demonstrated everywhere in 2000 and again in 2004, why would Democrats complain when they finally manage to win? When you win against a system this corrupt, what it demonstrates is that you really did legitimately win... not just by the narrow percentages actually (grudgingly) admitted by the opposition owned media, but by significantly larger margins that the official vote will never reflect and the media will never report.

The way our electoral system currently works is very simple -- tie goes to the incumbent. Scores with a spread less than 3% also go to the incumbent. This is the Karl Rove advantage, built into the system over two decades of Republican dominance of at least two out of the three branches of government. This is why Rove has been confidently predicting a 'permanent Republican majority' for the last ten years; this is why Republicans were so utterly flabbergasted by the results of the 2006 elections. It's why Bush won't fire Gonzales and Gonzales won't quit; because if the Justice Department remains corrupt, it's very feasible that the 2006 election results may be merely a momentary aberration, and Rove can get the Party of Power back on top again in 2008.

From Armed Madhouse by Greg Palast, page 225:

Jacksonville is a city more divided than Berlin when the wall was up. The acting elections supervisor in that race, Dick Carlberg, from the white side of the wall, was in charge of counting the vote on the black side. Those votes were cast on some ancient punch-card machines. At the elections office, Dick was happy to explain to me how he counted those votes. In a voice sticky sweet with Southern charm, he explained that he put the cards through an automatic reader, which just doesn't read too well if a card isn't "clean punched." He ran the cards through once, and thousand indicated no vote for President. When he ran those through again, the punches opened a little more and Al Gore picked up 160 votes, George Bush just 80.

Bush officially won Florida by 537 votes. Carlberg knew the count was whisker-close when he did his second run. Then he stopped counting.

"So, Dick, if you ran the 'blank' ballots through a few more times, we'd have a different President," I noted. The Republican gave me a big, wide grin and wouldn't answer.

These are the people that we're supposed to complain to, when elections don't go our way, or (bafflingly) even when they do.

I can't say this makes any sense to me, but, then, I try to look at things at least somewhat realistically. Here in the real world, elections are corrupt now and have been corrupt probably since the first Cro-Magnon put the first white or black rock into the first badly cured hide bag to vote for either Ogg or Gurg as cave fire marshall.

Corruption is endemic to any voting process. It should be opposed at every opportunity, by everyone, yes. But the fact that you complain going into the election about your vote being suppressed by the people in power, and then, when it turns out they didn't manage to quite suppress enough of your votes, you stop complaining, doesn't mean no votes were suppressed. It simply means, you won big enough that they couldn't manage to steal it away from you... this time.

But only a fool ignores what is happening right now, in every state, especially the battlefield states. Here, for example, is a fabulous graphic created by Joseph Cannon of Cannonfire, showing to even the most foolish and willfully ignorant out there exactly what the U.S. Attorney purge was all about:

The map shows the election results of 2004 -- blue states, red states, and 'battleground', or, purple, swing states decided by less than 3% of the vote. Amazingly enough, to date, every U.S. Attorney purge/replacement has taken place in a swing state.

This should be enough to show anyone that for Karl Rove and his masters, it's all about the power -- getting it, and keeping it. In America, that means winning elections, and if your boys don't serve the people well enough to win them legitimately (and, worse, the rubes catch on) then it means stealing votes -- not many, on the grand scale of things -- just, you know, 3% of the total cast, or that could be cast, if you didn't manage to monkey wrench things beforehand.

The U.S. Attorney purge was about putting U.S. Attorneys in place in swing states that would help Republican electoral efforts by initiating high profile bogus vote fraud investigations against Democrats, and by providing high profile indictments against Democratic candidates or incumbents during election season. It wouldn't matter if the charges were ridiculous and the cases were either quietly dropped after the elections, or reversed immediately on judicial appeal, because to Rove and those who run Rove, nothing that happens after an election matters. They own the media, and they are well acquainted with what George Orwell called 'the memory hole'. If people don't know about something, they can't be bothered by it, and even if they do know, they won't be bothered by it if nobody reminds them of it at the right time.

That's ALL the U.S. Attorney purge was about -- throwing elections. Because if you game the elections well enough, you get to do anything you want the rest of the time. Lie. Forge documents. Manipulate evidence. Invade other countries for no reason you'll ever publicly admit to. Control the price of oil. Lock people up without trial. Torture people. Steal. Gouge. Seduce teenagers under your care while actually voting on actual legislation on the actual floor of the actual House of Representatives. Patronize prostitutes while simultaneously legislating 'family values'. Shoot people in the face. Whatever. You take the election, you take it all... because when you control every branch of government, and when every single person in a position to pass laws, or enforce laws, or investigate what you're doing, or report on it to anyone, is in your pocket, getting a cut of the take, you have nothing to worry about.

Nice work if you can get it.

Everything with these guys is about stealing the elections. Everything. Bush's new immigration bill? Almost certainly will be used to suppress Democratic voters; see here and here.

Then there's the current push for increasingly rigorous ID checks at the polls -- these new laws demanding that everyone prove they are a U.S. citizen before being allowed to vote. Here's just one of many, many examples of proposed new legislation to 'tighten' ID requirements from what they are right now (which you can see here).

You can read here about a bill passed by the House of Representatives just before mid term elections in 2006 that would require presenting a photo ID before you can vote in a Federal election in 2008, and that would mandate presenting a photo ID that confirms U.S. citizenship to vote in 2010. (Such IDs do not currently exist; if you think this is a backdoor attempt to push through the generally unpopular 'Federal ID' cards that the Republican dominated government has been trying to foist on us for about the last twenty years, well, there ain't no flies on you.)

If you look at the text on that bill, you'll see the Republican Congress was originally targeting the 2006 elections. The bill passed the House, but got bogged down in the Senate, which is lovely; if it hadn't, and every voter in American had been forced to present photo ID prior to pulling a ballot lever, that incredibly tight mid term would almost certainly have swung to the Republicans... because rich white people never have much trouble producing proper I.D., or, for that matter, finding a local poll worker who will certify their identity if they happen to leave their wallet home. It's only poor non-whites who have difficulty producing with the correct identification, and who never seem to have anyone to vouch for them when they can't.

The devil here is, as always, in the details. The key phrase in H.R. 4844, the text of which you can find here, is:

shall require the applicant to provide a photographic copy of any document which provides proof that the applicant is a citizen of the United States, in accordance with guidelines established by the Election Administration Commission in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State.'.The problem is, there are currently no Photo IDs in America that provide 'proof that the applicant is a citizen of the United States' besides passports. Who has passports? Not poor people. We don't need 'em, because we don't ski in Europe, and they cost time and money that we generally don't have, or don't want to invest in something we're never going to use.

I had read reports that stated a more recent clause was inserted into this bill, that would require states to provide acceptable photo IDs to any citizen applicant at no charge. I don't see any such clause in the text on the page I found, but, well, maybe it's there in a later draft. But, again, there's a Catch-22 here. Assuming you're happy with the very concept of there being a form of standardized Federal ID with your photo on it that you must present in order to vote (and don't even try to convince yourself that the utility of such an ID would stop there; it would rapidly become the 21st Century equivalent of a Social Security card), it's going to be goddam hard to get, if you have to prove you're a U.S. citizen to get it... just as hard as it is to get a passport now. You'll have to present some form of proof of citizenship, which is, generally, an original birth certificate... something many people do not have, especially including the poor, the non-white, and the elderly... demographics that (by sheer coincidence, of course) tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

However, I do not really mind the idea of people needing to present a U.S. Voter's photo ID in order to vote, with one little codicil: that in order to get such an ID, you do not need to present any form of documentation at all. What you DO need to do is pass a test... the same test that U.S. immigrants have to pass to become citizens. Make it mandatory for EVERYone who wants to vote to pass this test, and I'll get behind any Voter ID card legislation anyone wants to put forward.

If, on the other hand, you simply want to pass laws that guarantee that only Buffy and Vince get to vote, because, by sheer coincidence, Buffy and Vince tend to vote Republican, well, sorry... I can't play that game with you.

These are the 'shenanigans' that are currently underway to suppress poor and non-white (in other words, Democratic) votes in the next election. The current Administration knows exactly what it is doing when it weeds out U.S. Attorneys that will not go along with its voter suppression agenda, and when it puts forward laws carefully crafted to keep millions of people who almost certainly would vote Democrat from ever setting foot in a polling place.

For what little it's worth, my guess is that when and if we ever learn precisely what Bush Inc. has been doing with all that illegal domestic surveillance they've been conducting, it will also turn out to be an effort at election manipulation. Again, with these guys, everything is about the next election. If they're doing something dirty, it's nearly a lock that you'll eventually find out that, somehow, it was intended to cook someone's vote.

In the meantime, though, never doubt that Karl Rove and crew are busy using every tool they have to manipulate a Republican victory in 2008, and as long as the Republicans have power over any branch of government, over any government agency, over any department or cabinet or directorate or apparatus or elected or appointed official, they will be using those 'assets' to cook the next election. Because this is all they care about -- getting and keeping power. At all costs (hopefully, though, not to them). Now more than ever, since they've seen the horrible, terrible, unpleasant, unacceptable, and appalling results of letting an election get away from them.

I mean, jesus -- let Democrats get back into power and the little fuckers actually ask questions! They fucking investigate your ass! They exercise goddam oversight! They try to hold you responsible for the consequences of your own legislative and executive actions! They actually try to enforce the goddam law -- on rich white people, for fuck's sake!

I mean, seriously, what the fuck is that all about?


At 9:52 PM, Blogger I will not live in fear said...

Well I read about half of that before the amazing arguments of the ever-bubbly Bunnyman became too much for me.

I've got to say that political awareness is very important but until we get someone who isn't a politician nothing is really going to change.

In my opinion the sooner we get someone who just doesn't give a damn about protocol and is willing to reveal everything to the public (other then national security).

We need someone in the chair that's going to just do what he or she promises and isn't afraid to say "well I fucked up" without someone needing to expose him.

Thats about as political as I get. Generally I believe doing the right thing is simple and if you have as much power as the President of the USA and are too scared to "change" what is wrong you shouldn't have the position.

'nuff said.


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