7 04 2012

First the good news:   In Tennessee in 2012, Green Party candidates will be noted as such on the ballot, not lumped anonymously with the “Independents.”   I’ve been doing my best to shout this from the rooftops, but my cohort Howard Switzer has been singing it–we kicked the state of Tennessee’s butt in our court case, as I discussed last month.  Since then, the State has appealed, and also asked for Judge Haynes’ court orders to be set aside pending the appeal, a motion that was denied.

Consequently, we are looking for candidates all over the state.  Maybe you’d like to run for office?  If you agree with the Green Party’s “ten key values“–grassroots democracy, social justice and equal opportunity, ecological wisdom, non-violence, decentralization, community-based economics and economic justice, feminism and gender equity, respect for diversity, personal and global responsibility, and future focus and sustainability (and what’s not to love about any of that?),  if that sounds like more your cup of political tea than an “all of the above,” i.e., “drill, baby, drill, and dig, baby dig” energy policy, ignoring the growing danger signs from our environment, the quiet suppression of civil liberties and persecution of whistleblowers and dissenters, and the unquestioned continued maintenance of a war machine and a corporatocracy that have been deemed not merely “too big to fail” but “too big to challenge,” and just enough lip service to women’s rights and the general progressive agenda to keep people drinking Democrat (TM) Kool-aid, then you have a place in the Green Party.

The further good news is that, in a third of all Tennessee House and Senate races, there is likely to be only one other candidate, so you might not even have to worry about that old bogeyman, “Greens taking votes from Democrats, resulting in the election of Republicans.” Actually, the results are frequently so lopsided  that such an accusation would be pretty baseless most cases, anyway.  Which brings me to the bad news.

When I start by quoting Josef Stalin, you know it’s gonna be bad news, and it really, really was Josef Stalin, the ruthless ruler of Russia, who said (in Russian, of course)

You know, comrades,… I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this — who will count the votes, and how.

And that is definitely the question here in Tennessee.  As I have occasionally mentioned, I have been reading “Vendors Prohibited,” a 60 page report from 2007 in which lawyer Andrea Novick made a fairly conclusive case that none of the companies that produce touch-screen voting machines, known as DREs, are ethical enough to legally do business with the state of New York.  Unfortunately, the facts of the matter were not sufficient to persuade the New York legislature, which went ahead and mandated DRE use in the state anyway.  Here in Tennessee, the situation is similar.  There was a wonderful upwelling of bipartisan spirit in 2008 as the legislature passed “The Tennessee Voter Confidence Act,” including just one little concession to the Republicans:  that the TVCA not take effect until after the 2010 election, “because of the time and expense involved,” a line that the state’s voting integrity activists handily refuted, but that was swallowed hook, line, and sinker by the state’s Democrats–who found that, to their great surprise, the 2008 election turned Tennessee from a genteelly blue-dog blue state into a frothing-at-the-mouth red state, where some of the most important business of the state’s first Republican legislature since Reconstruction, besides making sure that anybody could carry a gun wherever they wanted as long as they had a non-college issued photo ID and didn’t say “gay,” was to–gosh!–repeal the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, as a “costcutting measure.”  Never mind that the switch to a verifiable voting system would have been entirely paid for with available Federal funds.  Never mind that counties grossly overestimated the cost of the switch–famously claiming (see Bernie Ellis’s comments at this link) it would cost $70,000 to store a filing cabinet full of ballots for a few years, or that hand-counting votes would cost $5 per ballot.  Never mind that computers are notoriously short-lived machines, and between their frailty and the ongoing upgrading of computer technology, the machines will likely need to be replaced often and at great expense, as opposed to hand-counted paper ballots, which cost pennies and employ a technology–printing–that doesn’t even depend on electricity, let alone our complex industrial network, to function.  As a result of this switcheroo,  all but two counties in Tennessee use touch-screen voting machines which do not produce a verifiable, recountable paper trail, and the two counties that use optical scan machines employ Diebold products which have been found to be as corruptible as their more digital counterparts.   Let’s look at the record.

The Diebold Accuvote is a machine that reads paper ballots and tabulates the results, a simple job that could easily be done by human beings.  Here’s what Ms. Novick had to say about the Diebold Accuvote:

In December 2005, Ion Sancho, elections supervisor in Leon County, Florida, concerned about the security of the Diebold optical scanners, arranged for Harri Hursti, a computer programmer from Finland, to independently examine a Diebold Accuvote Optical Scanner. Hursti hacked the machine in the simplest way (considered a level one hack capable of being executed by an eighth grader) and exposed just how vulnerable the Diebold Scanner was – it was possible to subvert the memory card without detection.

Diebold’s response to this?  Again, Ms. Novick:

Subsequently, when Ian Sancho was required to acquire machines for the disabled community, Diebold refused to sell to Supervisor Sancho’s county unless he promised not to have outsiders reveal the Diebold machine’s flaws through any more independent testing. Sequoia backed out of discussions with Mr. Sancho and ES&S didn’t respond.
Diebold, as it has done consistently in refusing to accept responsibility for its system’s serious security failures, attempted to minimize the damaging exposure as merely a “theoretical security vulnerability”. In Diebold’s letter trying to spin the damage it was alleged without support “the probability for exploiting this vulnerability to install unauthorized software that could affect an election is considered low”. A spokesperson for Diebold went on to lay blame anywhere but with Diebold: “For there to be a problem here, you’re basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software…I don’t believe these evil elections people exist.”

To contradict Diebold’s rose-colored view of election officials, we have only to look to Florida in 2000, where Katherine Harris was allowed to oversee the state’s electoral process in spite of her clear conflict of interest as Cheney’s campaign chair for the state, or Ohio in 2004, where Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell was, in the words of investigative reporter Jon Rappaport,

A man who campaigned resolutely for Bush and THEN oversaw the state election which handed Bush a second term. A man who is a player in the Republican party, who knows the score, who can give favors and then ask for favors back, as he pushes his own career upward.

“Is this a conflict of interest that could have led Blackwell to improperly set the conditions for a Bush triumph? Is the Pope Catholic?”

And, of course, we also have to consider the lineage of the Diebold Company itself:  according to Ms. Novick, the company’s top employees have a rap sheet that includes everything from securities fraud to money laundering to cocaine trafficking.  Former CEO Wally O’Dell, who famously promised to deliver Ohio to Cheney in the 2004 election, has since left the company, under suspicion of insider trading.  This story was, for some reason, not widely reported in the media.  Just the kind of company you’d want to have counting your votes, right?   Well, the good news is, Diebold Optiscan machines are only used in two counties in Tennessee–Hamilton County (the city of Chattanooga) where the Republicans have the Democrats whupped so badly the Dems don’t even bother running candidates  (Hey, Chattanooga Greens, are you listening?), and Memphis, where Republicans have mysteriously scored upset victories.

Here in Davidson County, as well as in fourteen other Tennessee Counties, we use the ES&S Ivotronic touchscreen voting machine.  Again, the company’s lineage makes it highly suspect–it was originally founded by Christian Reconstructionists, whose avowed purpose is to take over the U.S. government and make this a “Christian” nation.  Subsequently,  the company was sold to two companies, the Omaha Herald newspaper and the McCarthy Group.   The Herald’s owners have an 11-state, two-country rap sheet, largely involving bid-rigging and fraud. The  good news is, The McCarthy Group either manages its bad PR very well or else hasn’t done anything any more out of line than any other private equity firm–except for one eyebrow-raising possibility–Chuck Hegel went from being CEO of the firm to running for U.S. Senate, and the people of Nebraska voted in that election on ES&S voting machines.  Hegel became the first Republican Senator from Nebraska in 25 years, although Nebraska’s so-called Democratic Senator Ben Nelson is considered a DINO (Democrat In Name Only) even among Milquetoast Democrats.  Speaking of Democrats, Hegel won even in black and Native American precincts that had never gone Republican.  Six years later, he beat Democrat challenger Harvey Mitulka by an astonishing 86-14 margin, again prevailing in traditional Democrat strongholds. Coincidence?  Or cheating?  No way to tell.  Nebraska’s legislature, which is officially non-partisan, had passed a bill forbidding state election employees from examining or recounting ballots.  Ain’t democracy wonderful?

And ES&S voting machines have continued to be involved in bizarre election results, the most notable recent one being South Carolina’s selection of unemployed sex offender Alvin Greene as the Democrat Party’s U.S. Senate nominee.  And what has ES&S’s response to the complaints that have reasonably been raised?

In its reply to California officials who had complained to the company about faults in the voting machines ES&S provided, the company said

ES&S will hold not only the examiners responsible, but the SOS as well, for any prohibited disclosure or use of ES&S’ trade secrets and related confidential proprietary information….if any need for changes is found, Los Angeles County will have to pay for those changes.

What wonderful customer service, eh?  And of course, it’s a snap to hack these machines, make them do what you want, and leave no trace of your trespass.

I’ve been talking for a while.  Let’s take a music break, and then get back to the other two voting machines used in the state–the Hart Intercivic and the Microvote.

music:  Steve Earle, “Conspiracy Theory

OK, has 12 pages of screwups involving Hart eSlate voting machines, and their list only covers the years from 2004 to 2006, but it’s got some real gems.  Let’s start with this one, which may help explain why Democrat election officials here in Tennessee were moved to adopt these Trojan horses to begin with:

(election commissioner) Tracy Baker asked Arapahoe County to give a Texas company a no-bid $3.5 million voting-machine contract…. Arapahoe County commissioners twice said no to the Hart voting system, first in the summer of 2002, then again last November, after deciding to put the contract out to bid.
… Between April 2001 and August 2002, Hart spent $3,759.95 on Baker and his staff, company records indicate. That included a $495 golf outing and $30 worth of cigars for Baker’s birthday.

It could have been more. The company turned Baker down when he asked Hart to pay for staff hotel rooms on a trip to Texas in 2002.  “You call any county clerk in this state,” Baker said. “You call any county commissioner. Vendors take you to dinner.”  Lisa Doran, a public information specialist in the Secretary of State’s Office, said Baker has a point.  Donetta Davidson, Colorado’s secretary of state, accepted dinner from vendors when she was the Arapahoe County clerk, Doran said.

which leads to situations like this one:

Travis County. Texas. A “default” selection is a selection automatically pre-set by the software. It remains selected unless the user specifically chooses to change it. To provide a default selection on a DRE voting machine is to give a voter a ballot with a candidate already marked.  Yet, election officials in Austin set up the eSlate DREs with Bush/Cheney as the default choice for president/vice-president. Voters who voted a straight party Democratic ticket watched their presidential votes changed to Bush on the review screen. Officials said voters caused this by pressing the “Enter” button on the second screen of the eSlate machine.

Gail Fisher, manager of the county’s Elections Division, theorizes that after selecting their straight party vote, some voters are going to the next page on the electronic ballot and pressing “enter,” perhaps thinking they are pressing “cast ballot” or “next page.” Since the Bush/Cheney ticket is the first thing on the page, it is highlighted when the page comes up – and thus, pressing “enter” at that moment causes the Kerry/Edwards vote to be changed to Bush/Cheney.

So it’s the voters’ fault, right?  And of course, Hart’s machines are eminently hackable.  Oh, by the way, the notorious right-wing radio chain, Clear Channel, is a major investor in Hart.

The Microvote Infinity is used in the balance of Tennessee’s counties, and the first thing you need to know about it is that it is not designed to make a paper record of the votes it records.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada. That inspires a lot of confidence in the product, doesn’t it?  Or at least indicates that the Microvote’s manufacturers have a lot of confidence in their product.  Well, here’s some excerpts from a couple of  remarkably candid interviews with the actual manufacturer and the company President.  First, the manufacturer’s rep, Bill Carson, told an  interviewer

Unfortunately the ITA (independent testing authority) has a limited scope in what they can test and check on the system. It is based on time and economics. For an independent test authority to absolutely, thoroughly test under all possible conditions that the device will operate properly they would have to spend, in my estimation, 10 times the amount of time and money as it took to develop it in the first place…. And the technology changes so rapidly, by the time they get done testing it, it’s obsolete.

(Picks up electrical cord.) UL says that this will not shock you and it will not catch fire. They don’t tell you that it actually works. That’s beyond the scope of UL testing. Absolutely nothing will you see in the FEC requirements that this (puts hand on DRE voting machine) has to work. It has to have these functions. But it doesn’t have to work.

And Microvote President James M. Ries went even further, saying

The states basically look at the federal qualification testing as being kind of the ultimate testing ground. As a vendor working with these independent testing authorities, they do a good job of following the test plans afforded to them by the vendors. They don’t really go outside of those test
plans…. Well, because of identity or lack of identity with records, there’s really no way that I could prove to a voter, post tally, that their vote exactly counted the way that they voted it.

I guess it’s just a leap of faith and understanding that what we’re doing is what we’re presenting to the county. So there is a bit of uncertainty there. There has to be faith in their local election boards. It’s one of those areas of a leap of faith. That you really do have to have a faith in your local jurisdiction, that they are conducting equitable elections in the best faith of the voters. The larger the jurisdiction, the more scrutiny should exist.

Faith-based voting, folks!  Gotta love it! In spite of this apparent candor, however, in 2008 the state of Indiana fined Microvote $360,000 for 198 violations of Indiana election law.  Deputy Secretary of State Matt Tusing told reporters, …” MicroVote’s apathetic attitude towards proper certification is disconcerting, especially considering that their profits come from taxpayer dollars.” Matt Tusing is a Republican, so it must have been really bad.

So these are the companies the state of Tennessee has entrusted with recording and counting our votes.  Bit of a rogues’ gallery, isn’t it?  Why is our government trusting these companies to count votes accurately and impartially when there is so much evidence against them?  This is not “conspiracy theory,” folks, even though one Democratic candidate in the state with whom I attempted to raise the question dismissed it as such.  This is potential  high crimes and misdemeanors.  Where are the Department of Justice and the Voting Rights Act when you need them?

For a precedent, we can look to Germany, where the country’s Supreme Court declared computerized, privatized voting unConstitutional, citing “fundamental decisions of constitutional law in favour of democracy [which] … prescribes that all essential steps of an election are subject to the possibility of public scrutiny.”   Meanwhile, our Supreme Court is busy sticking up for corporations’ rights to buy elections and make profits, and the right of the police to strip search anybody they damn well please.  Here’s hoping some of the Supremes (the court, not the singers!) get strip-searched!

So, the good news is, the courts have recognized the Green Party of Tennessee’s right to have our name on the ballot.  The bad news is, the elections we are participating in may be easily and untraceably rigged.  If Greens consistently win just enough votes to deny victories to Democrats, it will be a sure sign something is wrong.  Even if nothing so obvious occurs, the fix may be in anyway, aided and abetted by Republican-led efforts to limit the franchise to the wealthier, whiter portion of the electorate.  I had intended to address the rest of the range of Republican efforts to limit the electorate and manipulate the results of elections, but I’m going to have to leave that part of the discussion for next month, because I feel strongly moved to speak to the Treyvon Martin case, the more recent police murder of Kenneth Chamberlain, and the centuries-long chain of racially motivated killings, of which these two are just a couple of the most recent examples.  On that cheerful note, let’s take a music break.

Richard and Mimi Farina–“The Bold Marauder


14 04 2008

Forty years ago, I stood on a hill in San Francisco with my best friend and, as we clung for dear life to a couple of trees in a tiny park, I visualized spending my life taking San Francisco down–tearing it up building by building, street by street, replanting the native flora, liberating the creeks, seeing the regreened valleys and hillsides teeming once again with the birds and beasts that once thrived there, before the human cancer arrived.

Today I read, with joy, that as the “mortgage crisis” deepens into a permanent condition, at least one city has started doing just that…Youngstown, Ohio.  Not the most glamorous location, but ya gotta start somewhere….

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio ( — Youngstown, Ohio, has seen its population shrink by more than half over the past 40 years, leaving behind huge swaths of empty homes, streets and neighborhoods.

Now, in a radical move, the city – which has suffered since the steel industry left town and jobs dried up – is bulldozing abandoned buildings and tearing up blighted streets, converting entire blocks into open green spaces. More than 1,000 structures have been demolished so far.

Under the initiative, dubbed Plan 2010, city officials are also monitoring thinly-populated blocks. When only one or two occupied homes remain, the city offers incentives – up to $50,000 in grants – for those home owners to move, so that the entire area can be razed. The city will save by cutting back on services like garbage pick-ups and street lighting in deserted areas.


They’re taking down the street lights!  That’s some of the best news I’ve heard lately!  There are few individual aspects of Western Civilization that irk me more than street- and “security” lights.  At the least, they should be hooked up to motion sensors so they only go on if something’s moving in their vicinity.

And little farms are springing up…may this spread like wildfire!


21 04 2007

My mother died ten days ago. This is the eulogy I read at her funeral, not part of a radio show, at least not yet.   In some ways her death was a great relief, because she has been in declining health for years, and I have been mourning her gradual departure for a long time, but the actual fact of her passage is a tremendous shock. Wordsmith that I am, I am at a loss for words to express my feelings. “Don’t cry for me, ” she said as she lay dying, and, so far, I haven’t. Her death is a tremendous reminder to me to work as hard as I can for what I believe in while I still have the strength.

Without further preface, here it is:

My mother was born April 6, 1912, in New York City, the granddaughter of Russian Jewish immigrants on one side and French Jewish immigrants on the other. Her grandfather was a door-to-door peddler in Illinois; her father was the leading floor covering salesman in New York City—but my mom graduated from high school in 1930, into a society that was falling apart from the Great Depression. So, she had to figure out her own way through the world—choosing to work and travel and be her own person instead of following the traditional path of marrying out of her parents’ home and into her husband’s.

She journeyed to San Francisco in search of a new life thirty years before I did, and I grew up on her stories of being penniless in San Francisco and hitchhiking to Canada with her friends, little dreaming that, as a young man, I too would hitchhike around the country and find myself penniless in San Francisco. She imbued the stories she told with a sense of excitement and wonder that taught me to see my life as a series of adventures—when I could just as easily see it as a series of trials.

As an independent woman, my mother also developed a strong sense of social justice that led her into political activism in the heady, radical thirties, and her passionate stories of strikes, leafleting, and picket lines, (sometimes joined by my grandmother, a feminist in her own right), of partying with the young Communists and taking part in huge anti-Nazi demonstrations when German passenger ships would dock in New York, likewise helped form my view of proper adult behavior. But she was not all seriousness; she aspired to start a dance school where people could learn dances from around the world, as a way of fostering international understanding.

And it was her passionate commitment to social justice, her desire to do as much as she could to stop the Nazi menace, that led her to volunteer for the U.S. Army when war broke out. She started out cleaning airplanes, but soon her natural talent for understanding and expressing the human situation was recognized, and she spent much of the war on the staff of various Army publications as a writer and editor, in England and France.

And it was in England that she met my father, a soldier and a shy country boy from western Ohio with a conservative, traditional Christian upbringing. I think neither had ever met anyone quite like the other. Although she had vowed at twenty-five never to marry and have children, the attraction of opposites and the ticking of her thirty-three year old biological clock combined to pull her and my father into marriage.

So, she moved with him to central Ohio, where she and my father soon began to suffer from culture clash long before it had a name. In an attempt to solidify their disintegrating marriage, she bore me, at the relatively late age of thirty-six. The pregnancy, after several miscarriages, was difficult, leading her doctor to recommend that she never attempt pregnancy again. The final difficulty came when she still had not gone into labor a month past her due date. After one exam, her doctor told her to come back the next day. “NO!” my mother said. “I’m not leaving this hospital until I have my baby!” My ten-months pregnant mother was so forceful about this that the doctor gave in and set up an immediate c-section, in the course of which he discovered that my mother had the beginnings of an infection that, in another 24 hours, would have had serious consequences for both of us. Thanks, Mom.

I was only a year old when my mother went back to college, part-time, with the aim of becoming a schoolteacher. Graduation and divorce happened close on each other, and she found herself with a new life as a single mother and a substitute teacher. Work was unpredictable, my father was not forthcoming with alimony, and there were times when money was short and we didn’t have a whole lot to eat. The penny-pinching skills my mother had learned in the Great Depression came in handy, as did her upbeat attitude. Life was always an adventure.

Then, unexpectedly, one of her substitute teaching assignments turned into a full-time teaching position—eighth grade English—in a Dayton, Ohio suburb, a job she would hold for over twenty-five years. Every night, over dinner and between grading a never-ending stream of papers, she would tell me her day’s adventures. Adventures challenging her students to read, to think, and to write. Adventures working with, and sometimes clashing with, conservative school administrators who found her as fascinating and difficult as my father had, but had to respect her talent as a teacher. Adventures starting a branch of the National Federation of Teachers—a bona fide, militant, AF of L union—when she grew frustrated with the compromises brokered by the National Education Association in her school district. She did not rest until her upstart union was the recognized bargaining agent for Kettering’s teachers. She taught me that you can take on the status quo and win.  (Note–Since writing this, I discovered that her AFT chapter sputtered and died when she retired, which is just as good a lesson–don’t worry about whether you win or lose!)

Through all this time, she stayed connected with her family in New York, Every summer, she and I would head for New York City, where we rented a room in a large, old, ramshackle beach house. My grandparents summered in the room next door, and there were two other couples in the other rooms on that floor, each with its own tiny refrigerator and stove. We all shared the same bathroom. Other couples and families with kids took slightly larger apartments in the attic, ground floor, and basement. Old men smoked cigars, played pinochle, and read Yiddish newspapers. Some of them bore the tattoos they had been branded with in concentration camps. We were on the beach block, and a very long way from Wonderbread, suburban Ohio. It was my first experience of living in community, and I loved it. Thanks, Ma.

So, she shouldn’t have been too surprised when I joined the Caravan, and the the Farm. She came and visited me on the Caravan when we arrived back in Nashville, and spent a night on the bus with me—and the eight or ten other single people living in it. A few months later, when we had settled on the Martin Farm, she arrived on a Sunday morning and found the gate locked and deserted—we were all at Sunday Morning Services. she just climbed over it—in her high heels—and walked in. She was not afraid of adventure.

In addition to her union activities, she had become active in the Democratic Party, working at the neighborhood level to educate people and get out the vote. This led to her running as a Democratic candidate for the Ohio state legislature, but it was a strongly Republican district and a strongly Republican year—1980. At least she made her opponent work for his seat! She was never afraid to challenge power and authority in the name of social justice.

A few years later, in 1984, she was selected as a delegate to the Democratic convention, and helped nominate Walter Mondale. It was not a high point for the Democratic Party, but it was one of the high points of her life. One of my most treasured photographs of her was taken at that convention. She is holding a Mondale sign over her head and looking absolutely fierce.

Her commitment to her family diverted from politics, back into teaching, after that. Our kids were coming into their teenage years and we invited her to come down to the farm and work some of her English teacher magic on them. She devoted a stormy, but fruitful, year to our young wild ones, deciding at the end of it that she had had enough of butting heads with teenagers—but she succeeded in maintaining warm, friendly relations with all those little butt-heads that have continued through the years as they have grown into adults with teenagers of their own. She had a way of finding what kids were good at, and encouraging them, even as she gave them a hard time for their shortcomings.

She returned to Ohio and resumed her Democratic Party work, always pushing for the Democrats to take more populist stances, never hesitating to challenge entrenched elitism wherever she found it. Although age and heart disease were slowing her down, she had not lost her taste for novelty and adventure—so she accepted our invitation to move to Tennessee three years ago and started a new life her at 92, with verve and gusto. She never felt that she was too old to do something to make the world a better place, and she was a tremendous inspiration to everyone who came in contact with her. Although she is gone, her spirit and intentions live on in many, many people.

Goodbye, Mom, and thank you for so very much.


hello there. i am your cousin of some sort, i believe second, as you know my mother is your first cousin. my name is steffani and i am 31 years old as of tuesday. :) my mother told me she mentioned me profusely when the two of you met last year, so maybe i am a tiny bit familiar. i have WANTED to contact you for a while, but my mother said that maybe i should wait. anyway, i can no longer wait because i want to share that i really admired your mother when i was a child. i used to be babysat by aunts eva and dot. your mother used to visit randomly, at least in my memory, and i just KNEW she and i were some kind of RELATIVES, partially because even as a young child there was no one remotely like me in our family and mostly because i could keenly feel that unlike every other grownup i had ever met, i had SOMETHING in common with her. my memory of her was that she was ballsy and beautiful and earthy and exotic and SOMEHOW “what i wanted to be when i grew up.”..and of course her DEMOCRAT STICKERS on her car…. i am now the democrat sticker lady in my family (though maybe not so much so anymore i am more “green”, i would say, this time around) and would hope and pray that SOMEDAY would have been an INSPIRATION for some other small child in close minded Ohio (and our family, bless them all) like your mother was for me. losing a parent is an experience that is daunting, enlightening, awful, and transformative, and i want to share with you that my thoughts are with you during this time and my memories are of your dear and wonderful mother, who as you can see meant a LOT to MANY people, even me. thank you and blessings… steffani (jennings) crummett
Posted by steffani (jennings)crummett (sandy’s daughter) on 05/11/2007 02:46:36 PM


10 12 2005

The first thing that got my attention was a story about how FEMA was stalling the Louisiana Secretary of State’s efforts to contact the dispersed population of New Orleans so that the (predominantly black, predominantly Democratic) city’s upcoming election would be truly representative—it seems that New Orleans is currently a much whiter, more Republican town than it was before Hurricane Katrina—which, by the way, was three times larger than Hurricane Camille, in 1969, the last (actually, the first) category 5 Hurricane to hit New Orleans.

And, speaking of hurricanes, I discovered that our Republican congress has declined to spend the 14 billion dollars the Army Corps of Engineers estimates it would take to restore Louisiana’s wetlands and really make New Orleans safe—they’d rather pour it down the Iraq hole, which sucks up about that much money every six weeks. Omigawd, think about that—TEN BILLION DOLLARS A MONTH FOR THE WAR IN IRAQ. Anyway, the government is not going to do what it takes to make New Orleans safe, just to make sure that all those nigras and Democrats don’t all get in a pile together again. No, sir.

FEMA cited concerns for the evacuees’ privacy as the reason they wouldn’t give Louisiana Secretary of State Al Ater the current addresses of the evacuees. On the other hand, FEMA has been very helpful in letting law-enforcement agencies find out if any sex offenders from the Big Easy have landed in their towns. Don’t want none of our young children despoiled by them degenerates, nossuh. But I digress.

I started noticing that what they were doing to largely black, largely non-Republican voters in New Orleans was part of a pattern. News surfaced that the career Civil Rights lawyers in the Justice Department had not approved of either the Georgia plan to require voters to purchase an expensive photo ID, or Tom DeLay’s Texas redistricting plan (which gerrymandered the state to make six more Republican districts), but that Alberto Gonzalez Franco had gone ahead and OK’d these Republican power grabs. First he claimed the Civil Rights Division had concurred, but then he said, “The fact that there may be disagreement somewhere within the ranks doesn’t mean that the ultimate decision is the wrong decision.” Newspeak, anyone? Doublespeak?

Another Justice Department official, Mark Corallo, a Bush appointee, claimed that Gonzalez’ decisions in Texas and Georgia were “just reversing decades of liberal bias” in the Civil Rights Division. More doublespeak, eh? Thanks to NPR, by the way, for publicizing this story and providing these quotes.

In New Hampshire, former GOP national committee member James Tobin is on trial for allegedly being part of a conspiracy to jam not only Democratic Party get-out-the-vote phone banks, but a non-partisan “get-a-ride-to-the-polls” hotline. Two other people have already been convicted in this conspiracy. Do you see that pattern I’m talking about?

And then there’s Ohio. Oh, boy. The state has mostly gone over to paperless electronic voting, which Bush’s so-called “Helping America Vote Act” (which should be called “the Helping America Vote Republican Act”) is designed to push, and funny things have happened. There were some ballot reform measures which, according to polls by the conservative Columbus Dispatch, enjoyed widespread popular support—like, 2-1 in favor. They mysteriously went down to 2-1 defeats, instead, while the paper’s poll on a ballot measure supported by the state’s Republicans was accurately reflected in the vote.

Strangely, the polls were most inaccurate in districts with paperless voting, just like when John Kerry had the election stolen from him. This would seem to call for a recount, right? Guess what! Ohio’s Republican legislature is working on passing a law quintupling the cost of doing a recount , and outright forbidding anyone to challenge the results of a federal election in Ohio, period. Will this stand in court? Considering who’s appointing the judges these days, the answer is, it probably will. The bill goes even further, requiring the same kind of stringent ID standards that were labelled “Jim Crow” in Georgia, and making it easy for (frequently Republican) DA’s to prosecute people for conducting voter registration drives. Ah, the eye of the beholder….

Similar laws are being introduced in other Republican-majority states. Free elections means we’re free to elect them, right?

And where are the Democrats on this? Asleep at the switch. There needs to be hell raised about this kind of chicanery, this mockery of democracy, but the Democrats are not speaking out, not walking out, not sitting in, they’re just acting like it’s business as usual. MoveOn is not working on this. The DLC certainly isn’t. Even Dennis Kucinich doesn’t have anything to say on the subject.

We in the Green Party have a lot of great ideas about how to reinvigorate the American electoral process—opening the ballot to minority parties, instant runoff voting (in which voters get to vote for both their first and second choices), maybe even proportional representation, all tried and tested procedures that would make for a much more nuanced and lively democracy in this country. BUT the foundation of democracy is honest elections, and it looks like that’s not in the forecast.

What the Republifascists don’t understand is that, although they can steal elections, they can’t b.s. the natural world, and the natural world is catching up with them—and all the rest of us, too. More on that after this….

music:  ”Soldier of Plenty,” by Jackson Browne


The county commission here in Pleasants County,WV has chosen to go with electronic voting machines in the upcoming elections thanks to these new HAVA laws requiring modern voting techniques across the country. It hasn’t made big news locally, but I just wonder what our citizens, mainly senior citizens, are going to think next November when they have to cast their votes on Ms. Pac Man machines. We’ve always used paper ballots and I don’t know why we can’t continue to do so.
Posted by chad edwards on 12/22/2005 12:28:26 AM

There’s a movement down here that’s at least making some noise about this switch–though it seems to me the officials have their minds made up already. There will be some kind of “paper trail” on them, though, so at least that much of a dent has been made in the move to electronic voting.
Posted by brothermartin on 12/24/2005 01:12:00 AM

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