Archives for: September 2010
It's the Afghanistan family owned dog that didn't bark. And it proves something about elections and democracy.
Afghanistan is in yet another crisis in their crisis-of-the-month club. This one is about massive vote fraud.
- ballot stuffing documented by video
- thugs threatening election officials
- poll workers handcuffed and removed
- backroom selling of huge blocs of ballots
- lists of winners drawn up before voting began
- overt intimidation of voters
There was an astonishing amount of voting fraud, over 3,000 serious complaints. 1,800 active investigations are ongoing, the majority of which could overturn election results. The freewheeling wild, wild, west election corruption involved pretty much every sort of fraud imaginable.
Amid the thousands of reports of vote fraud, there were no published reports of voter fraud. Nobody, it seems, showed up pretending to be an eligible voter. Nobody was even accused. Now why was that?
It doesn't take deep thought to find a plausible answer. If you want to steal an election, you simply can't do it by getting hundreds of thousands of individual ineligible voters to show up. The risk involved in buying thousands of votes from one corrupt official can get you the results if you're not caught. You multiply the cost a hundredfold, and multiply the risk of getting caught, if you try to steal an election by getting individual voters to sneak in. Every one of those fake voters risks jail time, every one. If any one of them is caught, the chances are the organizer will also go to jail.
And the chance of catching that one cheat is pretty high. Of all the thousands needed to steal a close election, just one neighbor has to notice something fishy. One bogus address, one unfamiliar face, one voter that somebody is pretty sure doesn't belong as they rub elbows waiting to tell their address, and the whole thing will blow up.
So, in Afghanistan or in the United States, if an election is to be stolen, it will either be done in a back room, where thousands of ballots can be stolen or tally sheets marked at one time, OR it will be done in the open by trying to prevent the other side from casting legitimate votes.
In Afghanistan, preventing voters from casting ballots is called strong arming. The perpetrators are called thugs. In the United States, it is more often called a specialized photo ID requirement. The perpetrators are called Republicans.
If you already voted in any election this year, you can’t vote in the Presidential Election...
If anybody in your family has ever been found guilty of anything you can’t vote in the Presidential Election...
If you violate any of these laws, you can get 10 years in prison and your children will be taken away from you.
- - Bogus Notices, Milwaukee, WI, November 2, 2004
Distributed in African-American neighborhoods to intimidate voters
When the government in England changed hands this year, Conservative Kenneth Clarke was among those with new responsibilities. He took over several posts from Jack Straw. The most impressive sounding was that of Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. The main duty is the care and safety of the Great Seal of Britain, a task which is often taken over by another appointment, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. A Lord of the Rings, so to speak. The Isles are a source of constant ceremony. Maybe it looks good on a resume. Question: "I see here you were once the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. What did you do?" Answer: "Nothing. Nothing whatsoever."
It was once a critical position. When John Scott Eldon held the post in the early 1800s, he presided over the House of Lords, and he was the British equivalent of the US Chief Justice. So he presided over Very-Important-Cases. Two hours into one case in York, he noticed that one of the 12 jurors was gone. Another juror explained to Eldon, "he's gone away about some business, but he left his verdict with me." Oh my.
I confess to a bit of skepticism. Eldon hated having ordinary people in control of anything at all and he especially hated that common citizens could be members of juries. He may have, well, exaggerated for effect. Or maybe not. Back in the stone age of computers, working as a programmer analyst, I was told I was about to be assigned some project. A busy secretary was at my shoulder before I had been given the assignment, demanding to know how long completion would take. Some suit somewhere in the company was demanding a report right that minute. I refused to answer. I had no idea what would be involved. "We only need an estimate," said the insistent secretary. Years later, I am still amazed. What sort of people would demand an answer with no idea at all of what was involved?
Now we have an answer. A few days ago, Republicans released a "Pledge to America" promising a new direction for America. The pledge included slashing taxes for the wealthiest Americans and balancing the budget. They would exempt anything to do with the military including overseas wars and deployments, anything to do with homeland security, and subsidies to local law enforcement. The list goes on, eventually covering the overwhelming majority of the Federal budget. David Stockman was a top adviser to President Ronald Reagan. He says it can't be done, even if you close all national parks, stop inspecting food that goes on America's kitchen tables, "you're exempting two-thirds of the budget and you're focusing only on non-defense discretionary, which actually is only about 500 billion or 15 percent of the budget, it's pretty obvious you can't get the job done." So Social Security and Medicare pretty much have to go, or so it seems.
Do they have a solution that will not leave children and the elderly starving on curb sides? On Fox News, this past weekend, John Boehner (R-OH) offered his reassurance about what will happen after the election. "Let's not get to the potential solutions. Let's make sure Americans understand how big the problem is. Then we can begin to talk about possible solutions."
Sounds to me like Eldon's missing juror is John Boehner's sort of voter.
When you start down that path, you just invite all kinds of problems. I know. I've been there.
- - John Boehner (R-OH), In Fox News Interview, September 26, 2010
On why the Republican Pledge to America, in its promise to slash the
budget, contains no specific budget cuts
Monday morning quarterbacking is a legitimate pastime. We learn from the past, right? Sunday morning quarterbacking is okay as well. We should have an opinion on how policies we favor are being argued.
A close friend laments the negative tone campaigns are taking. It's such a turnoff, she complains. She is far from the mindless truth-must-be-in-the-middle sort of independent that is represented by the popular press. In fact, she seems pretty solidly in the Obama camp. And she is right about negative campaigning. The attack ads, at least in Missouri, tend to be repellent. The problem is negative ads work, in a two person zero-sum game. You don't win by becoming more popular. You win by becoming more popular than your opponent. Being less unpopular will do. In a zero-sum, two contestant game, a murder-suicide strategy can work. Just make your opponent more hated than yourself. "I may not be a day at the beach, but my opponent is no picnic in the park."
The campaigns in which negative ads tend not to work are three way contests. In 1992, Bill Clinton was nominated as the Democratic candidate. A group of leading Republicans gathered in the White House with President Bush. Seated around a large table, they considered Republican chances that year. A reporter asked what threat Bill Clinton posed to the President's re-election. The answer was a round of laughter.
Ross Perot joined the race and became the main challenger. Bush was the leader with Perot behind but gaining. Bill Clinton was shown to be in flat dead last place. Then Bush and Perot began attacking each other. The attacks escalated and got meaner and more personal. Bill Clinton was asked his opinion on which side was right. He answered, "I don't think either of these guys likes each other." He became the front runner. After Perot dropped out, then in, then semi-in, Clinton and Bush turned their guns on each other, but it was a two candidate race by then. Clinton became the new President.
It does seem to me that this year makes a new sort of contrast possible. The I'm-right-and-you're-evil approach is not needed when actions and positions speak for themselves:
Against any of several incumbent Senators: "My opponent is not an evil individual. But his commitment to business interests is extreme. When he voted last year that a victim of gang rape should have been forced to submit her so-called conflict with fellow employees to company arbitration, it took business interests past any sort of common sense. None of us wants excessive business regulation, but telling telling that teenager that going to the law would get her fired is not an acceptable approach."
Against most any Republican: "My opponent is not evil. But his commitment to business interests is extreme. In the final few months of Republican deregulation, small children died from eating contaminated peanut butter. The company responsible knew the product was contaminated, but they sent it to American tables anyway. My opponent honestly believes the loss of profits provides enough incentive for corporations to act responsibly, and government should not interfere. I think those children should not have died, and executives should have gone to jail when they did. It's an honest disagreement, and on election day you'll have a chance to choose."
I'm not sure such an approach would satisfy my friend. But it appeals to me.
The Congress should not be involved in writing or rewriting private contracts. That's just not how we should handle matters in the United States Senate, certainly not without a lot of thought and care..."
- - Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), October 6, 2009
On a teenager ordered by a corporation not to report a brutal rape
The professor, interviewed by some national publication was completely mystified. "I can't understand how Reagan won; nobody I know voted for him." I recall it as a reaction to the 1966 California election of Ronald Reagan as Governor. It was a signpost for early epistemic enclosure, a cocoon existence from real life. He should have extended his circle of friends.
The story may not be true. I have seen it repeated most often to cover, improbably enough, the Nixon re-election in 1972. Pretty much everyone but McGovern knew the night before the election what the day after the election would look like. As Massachusetts goes, so goes the District of Columbia. As Foster Brooks put it, if McGovern had run against Goldwater, nobody would have won. Still, the story is perfect. If it didn't happen, it should have.
The problem with cocoons is that, to some extent, everyone lives in them. Most of those I know are co-workers, church goers, or family members. Not entirely representative of American society. Primary election winners occasionally crash and burn when they forget that activists within their own political party are usually a minority within a minority.
Sometime Republican Senatorial Candidate Rick Lazio ran against Hillary Clinton in 2000. Hilary was pounded as a carpetbagger. Her support in New York City was a mile wide and an inch deep. The reaction of upstate, mostly rural, New York ranged from hostility to hatred. She went on a learning tour of upstate counties and gradually turned folks around by simply listening. Lazio campaigned by repeating the surefire lines that pleased those who attended Republican tea parties at country club gatherings.
At a now famous debate, Lazio stalked over to Clinton and physically crowded her, demanding that she sign something. Conservative partisans hooted and cheered the physical aggressiveness. Hillary won with 55% of the vote. Lazio forgot who his audience had become. He was still fighting to win the primary he had already won.
Midterm elections are conducted differently than those in years divisible by 4. It becomes more important to rile one's own base than to appeal to centrists. This is one reason rabid Republicans will win against whimpering Democrats. But one case of cocoonism seems blatant enough to have an effect.
John Raese (R-WV) is running for the Senate seat vacated when Robert Byrd died. He is making a contest of it and has a solid chance of winning. He can't have helped himself with his answer during a radio interview. He was asked a softball question about his business expertise. He started with what may have been a clumsy attempt at self-effacement. "I made my money the old-fashioned way, I inherited it." Well, John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert inherited tremendous wealth, and yet became advocates for the working poor. JFK was deeply moved by the plight of miners while campaigning in the same state now considering Raese. So Raise went on with his comment about his own inherited wealth. "I think that's a great thing to do. I hope more people in this country have that opportunity as soon as we abolish inheritance tax in this country, which is a key part of my program."
That the thrust of a campaign for inherited power and position might not appeal to the working families of West Virginia appears not to have crossed whatever mind his parents bestowed on the privileged Mr. Raese. Don't hold it against him. Everyone he knows inherited great wealth.
Well then why aren't monkeys still evolving into humans?
- - Christine O'Donnell (R-DE), candidate for US Senate, October 15, 1998
On why evolution is a myth
A radio preacher once met with me, on a visit by the pastor of the church I attended. The preacher explained that folks dying and going to heaven just didn't happen. It was anti-scriptural. I mentioned the 23rd chapter of Luke. Jesus says, "I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." The preacher insisted it was a misprint. The comma was in the wrong place. Jesus had actually said, "I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise." A comma.
My father told a story when I was very young. I don't remember now if he regarded it as actual. It involved a misprint of the thirteenth chapter of the First Book of Kings, back when mistranslations were punished by torture and death. A frantic search-and-destroy mission was conducted for all the Bibles of that edition. The misprint was in the Biblical story of an old prophet on a quest to find a man of God. It also involved a misplaced comma: "Saddle me the ass, he said. So they saddled him, the ass." Okay, probably not true.
Fundamentalists are divided between those who believe that God wrote the scriptures and those who believe God dictated the Bible as a busy executive might dictate a letter. That last has authors of scripture merely transcribing the words of the Lord, except without shorthand.
The core definition of most religions is scripture. The core difficulty with most religions is scripture. Scripture is a record of spiritual revelation. God speaks to humans. Humans write what has been revealed to them. Those writings often become scripture.
When God speaks to humans, humans write according to their own understanding. They are often limited by the available wisdom of the day. Thus the revelation that we should treat others as we would want to be treated is applied in Genesis to the lesson that when you sell your daughter into slavery, you should offer the purchaser a money back guarantee. After all, you would want a guarantee of the services of any woman you bought from her father, wouldn't you? The wisdom of Leviticus allows for health, self-respect, love for neighbor, and love for God. Relying on the understanding of the day, those truths were applied by outlawing shell fish, multiple threads in clothes, crop rotation, and active homosexuality.
We hear a humorous story of resistance to God, and foolish anger at God over excessive mercy. Instead of learning about trusting the Lord and believing in mercy, we are tempted by the lesson that a great fish gobbled Jonah. Political candidates are defeated in primaries for not coming out for a six day creation story convincingly enough for voters.
As the late Joseph Campbell pointed out, "it isn't about science against religion, but of the science of today against the science of three thousand years ago." Those who regard scripture as revealed Truth substitute the record of revelation for revelation itself. We endanger ourselves when we become as diners in a spiritual restaurant who ignore the sustenance and instead eat the menu. And yes, in our idolatry, we do quibble over commas.
I'm talking about people who are committed to a radical homosexual agenda, they have been able to link up with a number of other groups and the result is that it's almost like an Antichrist spirit, almost a capacity to silence the Gospel from being proclaimed.
- - Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church, September 19, 2010
The World of Doorman-Priest investigates British journalism and the rapid evolution of street cleaners into possible threats picked up as a precaution, then into terrorist operatives plotting assassination and mass murder. He then concludes with their release. They were only street cleaners after all. Oh ... well ... never mind.
Chuck Thinks Right is pretty angry about the liberal New York Times plan to attack John Boehner with an unfounded allegation. Chuck is aghast that anyone would publish something without checking to see that it is true. Sadly, it turns out, Chuck forgot to google his own story. Turns out to be bogus. Outrageous, isn't it Chuck? Someone publishing a story without checking it!!!
Slant Right's John Houk is at it again, selectively quoting Islamic scripture to show it to be inherently violent. The same tactic would "prove" Christianity to be about executing bratty children and assassinating those who wear intermixed threads in their shirts.
- Stimpson at MadMike remembers Eddie Fisher.
If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, you have legislatures.
- - Justice Antonin Scalia, September 17, 2010
Arguing that equal protection guaranteed by the Constitution does not
apply to women, gays, or ethnic minorities
...nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
- - 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, July 9, 1868
As criticisms of criticisms go, it doesn't even rise to a slap on the wrist. Democrats in California have launched a biting attack ad about Republican Senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina. They are now subjected to some fact checking. Voters first became acquainted with Fiorina when she offered her Valley Girl evaluation of Senator Boxer's hair: "so yesterday!" The shifty eyes and the mocking voice were stereotypically catty. She all but meowed. It was like watching John Fund at his creepiest. Imagine him in falsetto drag.
Her own attacks against her primary opponents, and then incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer, have been awesome in a bizarro world sort of way. They have featured conservative sheep in peril from disguised liberals, who sometimes float in a sort of messianic way above the earth. The savior sheep turn out to be falseprophetsheep, come to lead sheepy followers astray. They turn out to be demon sheep, eyes glowing red for the cameras.
Fiorina was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, until she and several fellow executives were fired. The scandal involved using corporate funds to hire private detectives to spy on suspected critics, and to impersonate board members and journalists in order to get private phone records. She was known for outsourcing jobs, dismissing critics as whiners. Her let-them-eat-pink-slips quote was "there is no job that is America's God-given right."
The Democratic attack ad is well targeted, probably a bit harsher than average, even in a tough election year. "As CEO of HP, Carly Fiorina laid off 30,000 workers. Fiorina shipped jobs to China. And while Californians lost their jobs, Fiorina tripled her salary, bought a million-dollar yacht and five corporate jets...Carly Fiorina. Outsourcing jobs. Out for herself."
PolitiFact is an independent fact checking group. They are usually pretty tough on such ads. They say this one is only partly true. But their criticism seems less than robust. It is true she fired 30,000 workers, they say. But a later merger with another company ended up picking up workers as well.
She didn't actually use her own funds to buy jets. They were corporately owned. Four of the five jets she bought and used were only upgrades, kind of like when you trade in your used car while buying a new one. Well, more like when you trade in four used cars to buy five new ones. Okay, okay... if your cars can fly and you can get the corporation you run to pay for all of them.
It is true her salary tripled from $1.2 million in 2001 to $4.1 million in 2002. But that was only during one year. She went down to only $3.2 million before she was fired, because the value of the company was steeply declining under her leadership. She may have seemed unsympathetic while she was slashing jobs, but she suffered right along with everyone else. How would you feel if your income went down by almost a million dollars, and then you suddenly lost the use of your jets?
When Democrats criticize Carly Fiorina, you have to feel for her. When you think about it, they're attacking a victim. At least she still has the yacht.