Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Voting Fraud in Ohio + O'Connor & Ginsburg Speak Out

One of the greatest travesties of the 2004 election was Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's failure to challenge the problematic results in Ohio, a state controlled by Republicans who are under multiple investigations for a host of outrageous financial improprieties, including grand theft, fraud, and money laundering to support the Bush-Cheney campaign. (There's even a bizarre, murder-tinged angle involving Florida governor Jeb Bush and his state's Toll Authority!) There were many indications that the voting process and counting went awry, but Kerry didn't ask for a recount, thus giving his imprimatur to the idea that Bush had been legitimately elected. (Matt Taibbi wrote a great piece in the New York Press on how strange the 2004 Ohio results were. As he pointed )

BlackwellDespite Kerry's indifference or timorousness, take your pick, local politicians and parties decided to challenge the count (and recount). The Libertarian and Green presidential candidates (though not Kerry and Democrats) sued to require a legal recount which--are you ready--has yet to take place! Two years later, and no one still knows what the official, legal count in Ohio was! Oh, yes, there was a recount, but it violated state law, not that that stopped Bush-Cheney Ohio Re-Election Co-Chairman, Secretary of State, and now ultra-right-wing Christianist candidate for governor J. Kenneth Blackwell (a Black man, pictured at right, who recently decided to address and trumpet the fact that he'd addressed, then conceal that he'd a addressed a secretive far right organization, the Council for National Policy, whose members include a notorious White supremacist and far right crackpots; okay, I could easily be talking about the Republican Party in Congress, but you get where I'm coming from). The Libertarians and Greens haven't given up, though.

In populous Cuyahoga County, whose seat is Cleveland, a range of shenanigans were alleged to have taken place. Two county Election Board officials had already been charged, and now, according to BradBlog, a third, Jacqueline Maiden, has been indicted. Quoting the AP report, BradBlog says

The third highest ranking employee at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has been indicted on charges of mishandling ballots during the 2004 presidential election recount.

Jacqueline Maiden is the third board worker charged with six counts alleging that Ohio laws were not followed in the selection and review of ballots for the recount.
Maiden, now the board's elections coordinator, was the director of the elections division during the recount in December 2004.

Two other board workers, Rosie Grier and Kathleen Dreamer, were indicted in August and scheduled for trial May 8. Dreamer was the manager of the board's ballot department and Grier was an assistant manager.

(I know, but it's not that Rosie Grier. I think.)

The three employees continue to work at the Elections Board, however, despite their indictments, just as Ohio's Republican Governor Bob Taft remains in office despite having been convicted of an ethics violation related to the larger state and federal investigations of the Tom and Bernadette Noe-GOP financial scandals.

Last year, Ohio posted highly unusual--statistically problematic--results in its ballot referendums, bucking a Democratic tide all across the US. But do you think anyone is going to look into what happened in November 2005 by the time this fall's election rolls around? They still haven't had a legal recount of the 2004 election! The media simply don't give a damn because they support the status quo and above all want to provide Bush, the best friend megacorporations ever had, with legitimacy. The Republicans surely don't care, and if Blackwell was able to "game" the recount this past time, Lord knows he's going to do all he can to ensure he waltzes into office later this year.

As for the Democrats...oh well, you recall what they did to Paul Hackett, right?


O'ConnorSpeaking of flawed elections and those who make them happen, it didn't take long. Just a few months after stepping down, former Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is speaking out about the danger caused by right-wing threats against the federal judiciary. In a March 9, 2006 speech at Georgetown University that both Raw Story and NPR's Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg publicized (the transcript is here), O'Connor specifically singled out comments by former House leader and GOP powerhouse Tom DeLay and Texas's extremist Senator John Cornyn. Such comments, she noted, posed a threat to what remains of the US's liberal democratic republic and, if not opposed and addressed, pave the way for dictatorship. As Totenberg recounted,

I, said O’Connor, am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning. Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and former communist countries where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O’Connor said we must be ever-vigilant against those who would strongarm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.

GinsburgBut O'Connor isn't the only Supreme Court judge speaking out. Recently Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a regular target of the far right (along with Catholic Republican conservative Anthony Kennedy), while speaking in South Africa, also pointed out that she and O'Connor had received death threats, including a general call on website for "patriots" to start killing the two of them.

What did the disgraced, multiply indicted former Republican leader (DeLay) say?

The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior. (USA Today, March 31, 2005)

The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state... is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them. (Washington Times, April 14, 2005)

Legislators for too long have, in effect, washed our hands of controversial issues from abortion to religious expression to racial preferences, leaving them to judges whom we then berate for legislating from the bench. … This era of constitutional cowardice must end." (Dallas Morning News, April 9, 2005)

Our next step, whatever it is, must be more than rhetoric. Washington Post, April 11, 2005

What exactly did the junior Senator from Texas (Cornyn) say?
“We seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently. ... I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds and builds to the point where some people engage in violence.” (Baltimore Sun, April 11, 2005)

The rhetoric that both O'Connor and Ginsburg are decrying doesn't appear to provoke that much concern from the Republican Party or its far-right enablers (or should I say the far right and its Republican Party enablers?). Avowed right-wing plagiarist Ann Coulter openly joked about poisoning Associate Justice John Paul Stevens not long ago. At the April 2005 ironically named Justice Sunday II gathering, which drew religious extremists from across the country like a magnetar, the rhetoric would easily have been appropriate among the Nazi Brownshirts or SA, who didn't hesitate to assassinate liberal or moderate (or even conservative) judges they felt to be a threat to Hitler's rise and rule, or any number of officials in Stalin's Soviet state.

In fact, according to People for the American Way, one of the Justice Sunday extremists, lawyer Edwin Vieira, after claiming that Justice Kennedy's jurisprudence "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law," described his solution for dealing with federal judges, which he noted came from Stalin: "He [Stalin] had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem.'" According to the April 9, 2005 Washington Post, Stalin's exact quote was, "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem."

I'm glad to hear that O'Connor, who played a direct role in placing Bush and the corrupt and incompetent circle surrounding him in the White House in 2000 (Bush v. Gore), has decided to speak out, and not simply about the death threats, which are hardly surprising, but about the larger threat to the nation's governance. Ginsberg's comments are welcome as well. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the Yahoo! News article linked above claims that 3/4ths of the over 2,000 federal judges have requested increased protection. (Last year a deranged, disgruntled former plaintiff killed the husband and elderly mother of Chicago-area federal judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow before killing himself.)

The issue is that Congressional leaders, and members of the Republican Party, to which DeLay and Cornyn belong and which harbors the fascist-leaning, theocratic Justice Sunday crowd, denounce these threats--because we're not just talking about strong disagreements with judicial rulings--need to fulsomely denounce these threats. But they won't, not only because they don't want to alienate their base and criticize fellow members, but also because they realize how effect such thuggery is. Just look at the three-decades long extremist rhetoric, coupled with outright violence, against abortion providers and reproductive rights. If they can intimidate the judges and force them to rule according to far right ideological precepts before their fanatical supporters harm them, that would be the preferred route.

One thing I hardly wonder about is whether Gonzales, the Justice Department and the FBI are as concerned about the effects of the Republicans' anti-judicial fanaticism and its possible tragic ramifications as they are about adults accessing pornographic material or anti-war activists. I mean, come on. Are they keeping an eye on the people who were calling for O'Connor's and Ginsberg's deaths? Are Coulter and her diehard supporters under surveillance and warrantless wiretap? What do you think?

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