[NOTE: Ari Berman, author of the article discussed below, joined me on my KPFK/Pacifica Radio show today. That interview is now posted here. - BF]
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While readers of The BRAD BLOG may be familiar with many of the items covered in Ari Berman's fine new article "The GOP War on Voting" at Rolling Stone today (and in its Sept 15, 2011 issue on newsstands), it's great to have a summary of all of the latest state-based assaults on voting rights instituted to date, in the wake of last year's Republican wave election, all in one place.
Berman covers all of these and more in his piece on the "unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008," described by one civil rights advocate as "the most significant setback to voting rights in this country in a century"...
The League of Women Voters in Wisconsin announced it will file a lawsuit in Dane County Circuit Court charging that the Badger State's newly-enacted polling place photo ID restriction law violates the state's Constitution.
From a strictly legal perspective, the decision by the League's attorney Lester Pines to challenge the new photo ID law pursuant to the state's Constitution is significant.
Under Equal Protection analysis, any impartial jurist would readily understand that the statute does not meet the heightened scrutiny that accompanies the fact that, under the WI Constitution, voting is deemed a "fundamental right."
While certain exclusions are allowed in the Constitution, such as laws which exclude felons or those whom the state deems "mentally incompetent," the language explicitly notes that "every United States citizen age 18 or older who is a resident" of Wisconsin may cast a vote.
See ThinkProgress for more detail on this, but I just wanted to flag this moment as I find it exceedingly creepy, and suspect this is more often than not the way these things happen. The quick handshake, wink, nod and walk away --- Bank of America, in the form of a top national executive, pledges the corporation's fealty to a Presidential candidate.
No need to discuss what the quid pro quo will be. No need for Perry to even acknowledge it out loud. It's just a 5 second investment by BofA almost certain to pay off should Perry be victorious. Really creepy...
But, ya know, what's the big deal? As Gov. Rick Perry's current main competitor for the GOP Presidential nomination, Gov. Mitt Romney explained recently, "Corporations are people, my friend."
The Jones County, Mississippi, slogan is "A Great Place to Live." While this may or may not be true, and I've never been there, it's clearly not a great place to vote. At least if voting in a way that is verifiably accurate for the citizenry is something one might care about. A remarkable statement by the county's Circuit Clerk, and a unanimous decision in support of it by the County's Board of Supervisors this week, has made that as clear as can be.
You may recall that just last week, e-voting system failures --- such as e-voting machines that wouldn't start up at all and votes that were counted twice --- led to chaos and uncertain results in Mississippi's state primaries, leading one official to declare days afterward, as they were all struggling to sort out results of several close elections: "At this point there is no election...Everyone is baffled."
Against that backdrop then, behold what Jones County, MS, Circuit Clerk Bart Gavin is now calling for --- and receiving unanimous approval from the Jones County Board of Supervisors for(!) --- as irresponsibly reported without even a hint of fact-checking by Laurel Leader-Call reporter Charlotte Graham under the laughably misleading headline, "Improving the voting process" [emphasis added]...
Yesterday, The Post & Courier of Charleston, South Carolina reported that a local "Council of Governments [COG] approved a resolution...asking for the state to audit how its voting machines are working."
The "machines" are the 100% unverifiable ES&S iVotronic touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems.
The Post & Courier not only mentions the fact that state election officials insist that the "iVotronic machines reliably tally votes," but buys into the canard that "increased skepticism" is based upon [emphasis added] "human errors made during last year's elections." It adds that the COG resolution expressed "a concern [that the] voting machines...do not incorporate a 'paper trail' that could facilitate unequivocal confirmation of election results."
If there is any state in the nation that should realize that casting a vote on the ES&S iVotronic amounts to an exercise in blind-faith, with or without a so-called "Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail" (VVPAT), it would be South Carolina...
I'm not sure what's more obnoxious, the way the Republican Party itself ignores and belittles their own 2012 Presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul --- who reportedly finished a very close second to Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is receiving tons of attention, in the hopelessly gamed Iowa Straw Poll over the weekend --- or the way the mainstream corporate media ignores and belittles him.
I suppose if Paul wasn't belittled by these jerks he'd get no media attention whatsoever.
No matter your personal or political feelings about Paul, the way he is treated by the establishment elite, the way they, not voters determine who will or won't be a "viable" candidate, is appalling in my opinion.
Jon Stewart, appropriately, let 'em all have it for that last night, asking incredulously: "How did libertarian Ron Paul become the 13th floor in a hotel?!"...
Neither the recent claim made by anonymous hacker, Abhaxas, that he/she had hacked into Florida's e-voting database nor the efforts by FL election officials to minimize the breach of its system comes as a surprise to The BRAD BLOG.
In fact, minimization of the vulnerability following the reported hack calls to mind what Roger G. Johnston, Ph.D of the Argonne National Laboratory describes as the Arrogance Maxim:
The ease of defeating a security device or system is proportional to how confident/arrogant the designer, manufacturer, or user is about it, and to how often they use words like "impossible" or "tamper-proof".
One would think that Abhaxas had Johnson's Arrogance Maxim in mind. As reported by Doug Chapin of the University of MN, the anonymous hacktivist responded to the official denials by hacking into the FL voting system a second time; posting "a directory listing of the Florida database with the (sarcastic) observation 'Glad you cleaned up, pretty secure now guys'."
As an encore, Abhaxas then hacked into Montana's government website, where he/she exposed 16 databases.
While Chapin acknowledges the vulnerability exposed by the hack, once again, as is his habit over the years, Chapin draws the entirely wrong lessons in pointing to the need for better training and security procedures...
So, this guy is the front-runner for the 2012 Republican nomination for President of the United States?...
TPM has more context, etc., and you can decide for yourself whether Romney was echoing the absurd Citizens United line there (that corporations are Constitutionally entitled to the same rights as human beings), or whether he was trying to say that what is good for corporations is good for the people who own and/or benefit from them.
But what strikes me is that Romney appears quite flustered and weak in that exchange. The entire tussle, with a few hecklers at the Iowa State Fair serves to make him appear profoundly unPresidential, when appearing Presidential is one of the few things he can be good at...at times. Perhaps Mittens oughta stay away from state fairs...and campaign appearances where actual people get to ask questions and stuff...for a while.
One thing is for certain though. Fairly or unfairly, that comment is likely to haunt him for a long time to come. I suspect it will become a landmark moment in Romney's political trajectory frankly. That view seems to be shared by both Rachel Maddow, who points out this isn't the first such awkward campaign appearance by Mitt, and by Stephen Colbert as well, who says Romney's "historic" statement yesterday makes him "this generations civil rights champion --- a Dr. Martin Luther, Inc., if you will." (Videos of their takes below.)
Nonetheless, for the moment, even after last night's very lively and entertaining Iowa GOP Debate on Fox "News" (a few, if not all, of the high/lowlights of what TPM describes as 'GOP Fight Night' here), Mitt still remains the man to beat --- though that's not saying much, given the current Republican field a full 15 months away from next year's Presidential election.
Maddow and Colbert video takes on Romney's "Corporations are people, my friend" comment follow...
Okay, so it's Nicole Sandler, not "Micole", but it makes for a more alliterative headline, so too bad.
I'm back on deadline on the exclusive series I've been working on for a few weeks. So, for the moment, here's just a few of the more fun media appearances I've done lately, in the wake of Tuesday's recall elections in Wisconsin. Looks like I was able to help, if only momentarily, to turn the topic --- on a few Progressive airwaves anyway --- away from the idiotically premature horse race nonsense (Iowa Straw Poll anyone?), to the far more important track conditions that otherwise almost never get discussed on air at all...until it's too late...
Includes my appearance in the first few minutes and then, after I'm gone, continuing discussion of the points raised during it by callers throughout various moments during the rest of the show. One of those moments was a caller who identified himself as Derek Woodward from Alton, PA who was clearly (and purposely) misinformed about the GOP push for disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restrictions.
"Why would you not want to ensure that only the people that can vote are eligible to vote?," asked the Woodward. The responses he received from Stephanie and Jim Ward and a caller or two were great. My work here is done!
Okay, not really. So here's just a couple of articles to support their responses on that question which arises in light of the Rightwing disinformation masters who purposely misinform gullible folks like Woodward...
On today's BradCast on Pacifica Radio's KPFK here in Los Angeles, I picked up on all that's transpired over the last several days in the Wisconsin recall mess, as reported at The BRAD BLOG of late, including yesterday's late-night concerns about our old friend Kathy Nickolaus, the GOP activist and County Clerk of Waukesha County which played a key role in last night's drama and reported results.
Last Friday, Aug. 5, in a 15-page letter [PDF], the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked the U.S. Department of Justice to deny pre-clearance of South Carolina's photo ID law, as signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley (R), pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Pre-clearance must be denied if the law was enacted for a discriminatory purpose or if it has "the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color."
As the Voting Rights Act of 1965 addressed specific barriers to voting that had been enacted by the Jim Crow South, the ACLU letter, of necessity, focuses upon the disproportionate impact upon South Carolina's African-American electorate who are amongst the 178,175 registered South Carolina voters who do not possess the forms of photo identification required by the state's new polling place Photo ID restriction law. However, the ACLU's discussion of pretextual justifications for the Palmetto State's new law exposes a GOP intent to suppress the vote on the basis of class as well as race not only in South Carolina but in the spate of similar photo ID laws that are being pushed in state after state by the GOP, and supported by their paid partisan shills in the right-wing media...
[NOTE: My radio interview today with Karen Bernal, head of the CA Democratic Party's Progressive Caucus, on my KPFK/Pacifica show, about the groups' resolution in support of a Democratic primary challenge to Obama, as detailed below --- and the state party's troubling reaction to it --- is now posted here. - BF]
Nader argued that without a primary challenge and vigorous debate on issues important to the Democratic base, Obama would "be able, for another four years, should he win, which is likely, to turn his back on the liberal progressive base and become Obama/Bush Administration 2. Just look at all the similarities with the Bush Administration."
Host David Shuster challenged Nader by suggesting that "a primary challenge to President Obama would hurt him, cause fissures in the democratic party and possibly impede the party efforts in the the general election."
"Well, it's just the reverse," Nader countered. "It will challenge him, bring the best out of him and there's nothing worse for a candidate in terms of lessening the enthusiastic level for him than to go through an unchallenged routine of repetitious primaries."
The former Green and then independent Presidential candidate discussed a soon-to-emerge, campaign by Democratic progressives to organize an initiative in the coming days "not designed to defeat [Obama], in the Democratic Primary, but designed to generate a robust debate, and put the liberal progressive issues on domestic policies, including job production and foreign and military policy, on the national Presidential agenda in 2012."
He said that without such a challenge, Obama would be allowed to continue serving little more than just "the corporate warlords and corporate barons of Wall Street."
By the way, in an article last January, Canning called on Nader himself to register as a Democrat and consider exactly such a primary challenge to Obama.
Nader is not the only high profile figure to discuss the possibility of a primary challenge to the President. Vermont's extremely popular Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said on Thom Hartmann's radio show the Friday before last that he thought "it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition."
Then, over this past weekend, as word of the debt ceiling "deal" brokered between Obama and the Republicans, featuring historic spending cuts but no increases in revenue, leaked out, word came in that some 75 Progressive Caucus members of the California Democratic Party (CDP) had passed a controversial resolution in support of, you guessed it, a Democratic primary challenge to Barack Obama.
According to a statement posted with their resolution at WarisaCrime.org: "Gathering in Anaheim during an Executive Board meeting of the CDP, the group overwhelmingly endorsed the resolution following a discussion on the importance of not only challenging the far-right agenda of unmitigated corporate greed but also the current administration's willingness to slash 650-billion dollars from Social Security and Medicare."
They voted for it, before they voted against it. But that was the 7 times they voted to raise the debt ceiling when it was their "President" in the White House.
As ThinkProgress notes in their blog item accompanying the following video compilation of Republicans arguing on the House floor in 2002 and 2004 to raise the debt limit in a clean bill with no spending cuts, "no less than 98 currently serving House GOP members" voted in favor of doing exactly that --- back then --- in order to pay the bills for spending they'd previously approved.
But that was then, with a Republican in the White House, before they decided to create a fake "crisis" in order to terrorize the nation's economy in a shameful attempt to return to power. Hypocrisy on parade...
Anti-war sentiments today are strikingly similar to what they had been in March 1968 when Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) challenged fellow Democrat and incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson in the New Hampshire primary. In March 1968 only 41% of Americans said "no" when asked whether we made a mistake in sending troops to Vietnam. Today six out of every ten Americans surveyed (70% of Democrats) favor an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan. Another 59% oppose our involvement in Libya.
While opposition to war is similar, the "democracy deficit" --- what Prof. Noam Chomsky refers to in Failed States as the significant gap between the policy positions of the electorate and their elected representatives --- is much wider today than it had been in 1968.
Medicare, the centerpiece of President Johnson's Great Society, like Social Security, the centerpiece of FDR's New Deal, remains immensely popular with the American people. As revealed by a recent Washington Post poll, 78% of Americans oppose cutting Medicare. 72% favor raising taxes on incomes over $250,000 and only 17% oppose raising taxes on those making more than $250,000.
Yet, the political elites of both major parties, operating, as they did during the Wall Street bailout of 2008, under a contrived crisis mode, are advancing alternative deficit reduction proposals that will, in the words of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (see video below) "do just the opposite of what the American people want."
While third parties are an option, today we sorely need an option that was available in 1968: a Eugene McCarthy...
On my Pacifica Radio show today on KPFK in Los Angeles, I discussed yesterday's report at The BRAD BLOG concerning the woman who was forced to jump ridiculous hoops while trying to help her son get Photo ID at the Wisconsin DMV in the wake of the new GOP voter suppression law there which institutes polling place Photo ID restrictions before legal voters are allowed to cast their legal vote.
By the way, I spoke to the woman today --- who'd like to be identified only as Nicole --- and she made clear that her video was not secretly taped (as, for example, James O'Keefe's ACORN hoax tapes were). Her video camera was on the table and in plain sight the whole time, she told me.
As seen (and heard) in her video tape, during the process of trying to get the Photo ID for free at the DMV, as allowed by the new statute, the son's bank statements were rifled through, and questioned as to whether they showed enough "activity" on them. Also, they were almost charged $28 for the "free" ID, which brought up questions as to why the WI DMV policy is to charge applicants, unless they know to "request" the ID for no charge.
I also took the opportunity during the show to offer a bit more background context, including a 1980 sound clip from Paul Weyrich, one of the "conservative" movement godfathers, during which he calls for fewer people to be allowed to vote. "Quite candidly," he said to the convention of Baptist ministers where Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell also spoke, "our leverage in elections goes up when the voting populace goes down."
That's what all of this is about. He says it quite plainly in the video tape.
Weyrich went on to found the non-profit American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC), the group of Rightwingers said to be responsible for writing the polling place Photo ID restriction laws being passed by Republicans now in state after state. I also share some hard stats on who will actually be affected by these laws (and who will not.) And, for good measure, I tossed in some Stephen Colbert speaking about Photo ID and "voter fraud" as well.