Archive for February 2008
Gutless Wonder Senate Democrats will, thanks to Harry Reid and that tireless corporate sycophant, Jay Rockefeller, the telecom lobbyist’s BFF, pass the FISA bill today that will retroactively legalize Bush’s lawlessness and protect him, his administration, the Gonzales DOJ, and runaway telecom corps from any accountability for years of illegal spying. As Greenwald puts it:
[T]he most extraordinary aspect of all of this, if one really thinks about it — it isn’t merely that the Democratic Senate failed to investigate or bring about accountability for the clearest and more brazen acts of lawbreaking in the Bush administration, although that is true. Far beyond that, once in power, they are eagerly and aggressively taking affirmative steps — extraordinary steps — to protect Bush officials. While still knowing virtually nothing about what they did, they are acting to legalize Bush’s illegal spying programs and put an end to all pending investigations and efforts to uncover what happened.
How far we’ve come — really: disgracefully tumbled — from the days of the Church Committee, which aggressively uncovered surveillance abuses and then drafted legislation to outlaw them and prevent them from ever occurring again. It is, of course, precisely those post-Watergate laws which the Bush administration and their telecom conspirators purposely violated, and for which they are about to receive permanent, lawless protection.
Chris Dodd, who sacrificed his presidential ambitions to fight this bill, made an impassioned speech against passage last night. He lays out what’s at stake with little or no beating around the bush (no pun intended). Watch and listen to what a principled Democrat looks and sounds like. This may be the last time you get to see one.
In Rolling Stone, Robert Kennedy Jr wrote in June of ’06 that his study of the ’04 election had convinced him “that the president’s party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people”.
Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 2004(12) — more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes.(13) (See Ohio’s Missing Votes) In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots.(14) And that doesn’t even take into account the troubling evidence of outright fraud, which indicates that upwards of 80,000 votes for Kerry were counted instead for Bush. That alone is a swing of more than 160,000 votes — enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.(15)
(emphasis added; numbers are citations attached to the original article)
The article produced something of a firestorm, with the Bush Admin hunkering down in fervent denial and the mainstream conservative press largely ignoring the survey that provided the evidence.
In this week’s RS (not online yet), Kennedy reports that Ohio’s new Sec of State, Jennifer Brunner, ordered an audit of the state’s e-voting machines by two independent teams of specialists. The results were even worse than she expected.
[The] teams…found that the terminals are so insecure they simply cannot be trusted. “There is the ability,” concludes Brunner, “to mount a wholesale attack on our voting system.”
Researchers were able to alter election results using only a magnet and a personal digital assistant. Forty percent of touchscreen machines manufactured by Diebold – now known as Premier - flipped votes [overwhelmingly from Democrat to Republican as shown by the '06 survey-MA], and one of the company’s machines erased votes without warning once its memory card was full. Even more alarming, electronic ballot counters could be rigged by poll workers to disregard votes without anyone knowing. “If that were done for just a few minutes every hour, you will have a vote total that doesn’t look too far off,” Brunner says. “Unless you did a hand count of every ballot, you’d never know it.”
All of which would pretty much explain the massive discrepancies Kennedy uncovered in ’06.
Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad(3) never received their ballots — or received them too late to vote(4) — after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations.(5) A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states,(6) was discovered shredding Democratic registrations.(7) In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes,(8) malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots.(9) Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment — roughly one for every 100 cast.(10)
The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush’s victory in the electoral college. Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency. A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count.(11)
Put what the audit discovered could be done with the machines together with what GOP operatives were actually caught doing – shredding Dem registrations, purging Dem voters, obstructing the vote in Dem districts, and the like – and a clear picture emerges of a stolen election, and stolen on a nationwide scale. Every battleground state seems to have had its Republican ops ready and willing to “play hardball” by breaking election laws wholesale on behalf of George W Bush and his Cult. With a GOP hack like Ken Blackwell Sec of State in Ohio in ’04, there seems to have been no check whatever on Republican dirty tricks.
For those who may say, “This is ancient history. The election is over. Why dig it all up now?” I say, “Neither party can be trusted and all those machines are still out there. If one side can rig an election, so can the other side. If one side goes unaccountable and unpunished, they will both be emboldened to do it again. Our democracy is on the ropes as it is. Do you want to kill it for good?”
Diebold changing its name is like a tiger pretending to be a zebra by adding a pair of pointy ears – a superficial disguise that will only fool the dumbest antelopes in the herd. If we are going to use evoting machines, we MUST have machines that leave a paper trail so ballots can be hand-counted if necessary (as bad as these machines are even when they aren’t being hacked, verified hand counts probably ought to be a regular part of the process).
Until and unless we do, our elections are not safe or reliable in the hands of either party.
Two recent posts at Talk to Action, the website that specializes in tracking the religious right, show quite clearly that despite our overwhelming rejection of mixing religion and education in the public arena, Xtian theocrats not only haven’t given up the effort to make the US a “Christian Nation” governed by Biblical rather than secular law, they’re surrounding their failed attempts with new arguments possibly scarier than the last bunch. Don Byrd opens yesterday’s post on Bush’s latest school voucher proposal by saying, “If there is one thing we should have learned from the Religious Right by now, it’s that they never give up.” Something we should remember always – you can’t take your eyes off them for a second.
Witness Bush’s latest excuse for proposing school vouchers yet again even though it’s been proved repeatedly that they don’t work. Under the typically Orwellian name, “Pell Grants for Kids”, misleading and inaccurate to say the least, Bush’s rationale verges on the creepy.
Non-public schools, including faith-based schools, have helped to educate generations of low-income students; however, they are disappearing at an alarming rate.
The buried assumption that it is the appropriate business of govt to rescue religious schools in financial trouble is directly contrary to our Constitutionally-mandated neutrality toward religion in a secular society. Byrd disposes of this argument in a few words.
Of all the stated reasons I’ve heard to offer school vouchers, propping up religious schools has got to be the worst. Religious institutions should make their own case for being, and should be supported by like-minded believers, not by taxpayer money. If they are “disappearing”, that is a concern to be addressed by the church, not by the government.
We certainly don’t want the mechanisms of the state to stand in the way of the church. But, we can’t be promoting them either.
Bush’s inability to either understand or accept that relatively simple concept is one of the hallmarks of his presidency and a key reason why it has failed. His “thinking” is so ideological, so limited, so shallow in nearly every respect that even patently improper ideas are never questioned. No matter how absurd they are or how much evidence exists that they’re wrong, ineffective, or even harmful to American society, he cannot see their flaws simply because he’s decided not to look for any. Anything he chooses to believe is true, and any evidence that it isn’t must have been faked or twisted. Like most ideologues, he always assumes that everyone else is also an ideologue. Like most corrupt Republicans, he assumes that everyone else must also be corrupt. Like most conservatives, he finds it easier to foster simple-minded beliefs than to do the work it would take to find the truth.
Which brings us to Chris Rodda’s post on HR 888.
HR 888 is a bill introduced by Cong Randy Forbes (R-VA) that would try to force the phony “history” of our Founders’ supposed Christianity into the school system.
This resolution, which purports to promote “education on America’s history of religious faith,” is packed with the same American history lies found on the Christian nationalist websites, and in the books of pseudo-historians like David Barton. It lists a total of seventy-five “Whereas’s,” leading up to four resolves, the third of which is particularly disturbing — that the U.S. House of Representatives “rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation’s public buildings and educational resources,” a travesty of the highest magnitude, considering that most of the “history” this resolve aims to promote in our public buildings and schools IS NOT REAL!
(emphasis in the original)
In his latest post, Rodda catches us up on what Forbes has been saying to sell his bill and, true to form, he’s lying, this time about who he claims is against the bill.
The first is Mr. Forbes’s implication that the ACLU is somehow at the forefront of the fight against his resolution:
“You know it’s amazing to me — we get groups like the ACLU that are fighting so hard against this resolution, and yet you know some of the things that they have fought to allow people to do and say which so undermines the strength of this country, but yet they’re right out there fighting saying that we don’t even want these words discussed — we don’t even want ‘em put out there for the American people to talk about ‘em and see ‘em, and you know, it just isn’t a lot of intellectual honesty that goes around.”
The ACLU? As far as I know, the ACLU has had nothing to do with the fight against this resolution.
But the ACLU is a favorite – and therefore easy – target for the Right, so why not another lie? After all the others, one more will hardly be noticed.
Dan Barton’s influential – and very short – book, The Foundations of American Government, purports to prove that the Founders intended America to be a Christian Nation ruled by Biblical principles through a combination of seriously warped interpretations, out-of-context quotes, and just plain invented “history”. It has been debunked by both legitimate history scholars and experts in religious history so often that it’s astounding there’s anyone left who doesn’t know how bogus this “information” is. Yet that is the version of history that Forbes wants to foist on the country’s educational system. By force of law, if necessary.
And at no moment do any of these clowns, from Bush to Barton, have a moment’s hesitation when confronted by facts. They believe what they believe and facts are what they say they are, even when they make them up. Despite overwhelming evidence that Americans don’t want a theocratic govt, they’re going to shove it down our throats anyway, even if they have to do it under the radar when we’re not looking.
They’re fanatics, and fanatics NEVER QUIT. Neither can we.
The Bush/Cheney Administration is the worst in American history by any measure you can think of. The idea that $$$millions$$$ will be spent on a Library/Institute (read: Propaganda Center) to continue and even advocate for that appalling, horrendous agenda should be anathema to any institution of higher learning in the country, or to the country as a whole. It’s an abomination of the highest caliber, as if the citizens of Chile, freed from his dictatorship, would have to be continually wounded by an institution glorifying Augustus Pinochet’s rule of mass murder and social upheaval in perpetuity.
That the Bushes have tagged a well-respected Methodist university to be the site of a public relations nightmare glorifying the president who vociferously and unilaterally violated nearly every Methodist belief is bad enough. That he is to be allowed to do it at all – anywhere – is a travesty all its own. It means we will not be spared the arrogance and moronic elitist worldview of the Bushes ever. Their minions and flacks will be guaranteed a forum from which to shout their advocacy of torture, intolerance, authoritarianism, and the destruction of any feeling of community in the name of selfishness and greed that will make the depredations, tricks, and lies of the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute look like harmless pranks.
When Caligula finally died, ending his reign of terror, was his family allowed to found a school in his name justifying and even glorifying his ruinous imperium? Of course not. Yet we are going to allow George W Bush, the man who killed thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis by starting a pointless war with lies and then kept it going with years of more lies, to build a monument to himself and his treachery on our soil – once democratic, American soil.
George W Bush didn’t just violate Methodist values during his presidency, he violated American values. Our values. Wholesale. He dumped on them as eagerly as a cheerleader dumps on the values of the opposing team. He thought – and thinks – no more of violating the laws passed by Congress than he would think of stepping on a passing worm. They mean as little to him as gnats on a summer evening – annoying little pests to be crushed between his fingers when they can’t simply be ignored.
Signing statements, refusals to provide information about anything, refusals to acknowledge let alone obey subpoenas, blanket statements that no Congressional committee has the power to stop anything he wants to do – the list is near endless. Outright lawbreaking followed by bland, categorical rejections of the 230-yr-old American belief that we are a country where not even the chief executive is above the law.
George W Bush is the opposite of everything we’ve ever believed we represented, and we’re going to let him build an institute to spread that gospel from sea-to-sea?
Stop the Library, and not just at MSU. For all our sakes, stop it period, now and forever, from being built anywhere on American soil.
How about Turkmenistan?
Rev Andrew Weaver, one of the Methodist leaders of the movement to prevent the Bush Library and Propaganda Training Center from being placed at Southern Methodist University, writes that the latest sleezy move from the Bush forces is an attempt to by-pass a vote on the siting. From the emailed press release (ignored by the media, as far as I can tell):
In a conference call held on January 9, 2008, the eleven active United Methodist bishops in the South Central Jurisdiction were asked to issue an interpretation of United Methodist church law that would circumvent a vote by lay and clergy delegates and permit the immediate establishment of a partisan Bush institute at Southern Methodist University (SMU) along with the planned Bush presidential library. The request to the bishops came from the George W. Bush Foundation.
The controversial institute, dedicated to promoting the domestic and international views of George W. Bush, would not be under the supervision of SMU and would hire without regard to university policy. No other university with a presidential library has permitted such an institute on its campus.
Bishop Kenneth W. Hicks of Little Rock, Arkansas, said, “My reason, conscience, and experience tell me that the bishops do not have authority to circumvent the right of the 290 delegates to the Jurisdictional Conference to vote on a 99-year proposal for land use of this nature. I encourage my fellow bishops to honor the voting rights of the Jurisdictional delegates.”
It’s nothing new for George W Bush to demand that exceptions be made to any rule he finds inconvenient. He has pioneered the use of unilateral signing statements to ignore any laws passed by Congress that he doesn’t care for and has willfully, deliberately and repeatedly broken laws expressly forbidding certain acts (torture, wiretapping) that he endorses, telling both Congress and the Supreme Court that he is, in effect, above and beyond any law he doesn’t like and there’s nothing they can do about it. (Read John Dean’s Worse than Watergate for specifics of just how arrogant a lawbreaker Bush is.)
So the news that he is demanding that Methodist church law be “interpreted” contrary to that law’s clear and unambiguous meaning is no particular surprise. In fact, it’s pretty much par for the Bush course. It’s What He Does. In this case, what he wants is to avoid allowing the almost 300 delegates to vote – as Methodist Church Law says they have the right to do – at the next Jurisdictional Conference.
In the conference call, the eleven active bishops were asked to interpret church law to declare that the decision of the Mission Council, a 21-member interim body which approved the use of SMU land for the institute after heavy lobbying in March, 2007, is final. This would permit the Bush Foundation to avoid submitting the matter to the 290 Jurisdictional Conference delegates meeting in Dallas in July, 2008, where the outcome of such a vote is in doubt.
“In doubt.” Bush doesn’t want to chance losing his choice of a site just because a few hundred delegates are appalled that a torturer and imperialist authoritarian wants to use the imprimatur of the Methodist Church for the “institute” that will defend torture and advocate perpetual war, the abandonment of social responsibilities to the poor, and an anti-democratic state – all of which are contrary to Methodist thinking and beliefs.
Reverend David Severe, Director of Mission and Administration for the South Central Jurisdiction, wrote to an SMU professor on October 6, 2007, that “All actions taken by the Mission Council interim the Jurisdictional Conference must be ratified by the next Jurisdictional Conference session.”
“To not protect their right to vote on the use of land by the George W. Bush Foundation is a violation of the democratic and open processes of our church,” said Bishop Hicks. “I am worried that the disenfranchisement of Jurisdictional Conference delegates will undermine our ministry together as a church.”
It should worry those Methodist delegates that the president who will be represented by this institute at a university that used to pride itself on its law school, has so little respect for Church Law that he wants it overturned for something as minor as his convenience.
“I can understand why the George W. Bush Foundation does not want the Jurisdictional Conference to vote on this issue,” said Andrew Weaver, a United Methodist pastor and graduate of SMU. “In recent months, colleagues and I have spoken to dozens of delegates who are increasingly questioning the wisdom of placing a partisan think tank on the grounds of a United Methodist institution. The George W. Bush Foundation wants to prevent the vote because it fears the outcome. It appears that the Bush Foundation has no respect for the laws and procedures of the president’s own denomination.”
Well, it has no respect for laws passed by Congress or for the Constitution. Why would Methodist Church Law be treated any differently? The law to George W Bush is an irritating nuisance to be ignored whenever it gets in his way.
It would be nice if, just this once, he learned that wasn’t true.