Last year in Ohio, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted attempted to suppress non-Republican voters.
Ohio has introduced a new tactic in their broader attempts to make it even harder for Democratic voters to get to the polls this year. Early voting stations in Ohio’s heavily Democratic counties will only be open between 8 am and 5 pm, while Republican counties have expanded their hours to allow voting on nights and weekends. Early voting stations in Ohio’s heavily Democratic counties will only be open between 8 am and 5 pm, while Republican counties have expanded their hours to allow voting on nights and weekends.(1)
A federal court ruled that this was bullshit. Well, maybe not "bullshit." What Judge Peter Economus actually said was the following: "A citizen has a constitutionally protected right to participate in elections on an equal basis with other citizens in the jurisdiction."(2) After Husted decided to ignore the court order.(3) the court ordered Husted to present himself for a hearing.(4) to explain himself. This caused Husted to back down.
Flash-forward a year and Husted is back at it.
Under his latest plan, early voting would begin 29 days before an election, rather than 35, and early voting on the Sunday before a general election would be eliminated except in presidential years.(5)
That last part might not seem like a big deal but as ThinkProgress notes, the GOP knows how important that final Sunday is to certain voters.
[...]A GOP consultant who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution said black voters were a concern. “I know that the cutting out of the Sunday before Election Day was one of their targets only because that’s a big day when the black churches organize themselves,” he said.(6)
That is not all Ohio Republicans are up to. Earlier this month, the Ohio Senate has passed SB193 which makes it borderline impossible for a third party to get on the ballot.(7) It was introduced in September but it took until October 8 to pass. The vote fell largely along party lines with 22 Republican votes for while one Republican joined the 10 Democratic votes against.(8)
Bob Fitrakis, Ohio Green Party Co-Chair State Government and Oversight and Reform Committee eloquently spoke against the bill but to no avail.(9)
The first major problem with Senate Bill 193 is the requirement that minor parties must get 3% of the vote in a statewide election every two years to stay on the ballot. The median vote test in the nation for a party to remain on the ballot for those states that require it, is 2%. SB 193 requires 3%. Ohio’s northern neighbor, Michigan, for example, only requires 1%.
The second problem is requiring a newly qualifying party to submit both a petition for the Party and then separate petitions for each of it nominees. SB 193’s requirement for 2014 of 55,809 valid signatures is a massive barrier for any minor party. Then requiring the Party nominees to submit additional petitions is an added difficulty. Clearly any minor party that submits 55,809 valid signatures has demonstrated support for their nominees and should be able to nominate by convention.(9)
Fitrakis and the Green Party aren't the only ones to be angered by this bill. The Libertarian Party is furious, too.(10)
Earlier this month, I wrote about Republicans and voting and their attempts to control the outcome.(11)
Thanks to Republican gerrymandering, in the 2012 elections Republicans won victories in four key states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin) even though they didn't win majorities in those states.(12) In fact, Republicans had a 1.1 million popular-vote deficit.(13) Think Progress reports that in seven states, Republicans so stacked the deck in their favor that they actually picked up seats while winning 1.4 million less votes.(14)
In January of this year, the Republican State Leadership Committee released a report which actually boasts of the fact that the only reason they have control of the House of Representatives is because they gerrymandered congressional districts.(13) The report notes that people voted for Republicans only 49 percent of the time in congressional races(13) yet Republicans enjoy a 33-seat margin in the U.S. House.(13)
British comedian Russel Brand recently authored an article for The New Statesman(15) which led to an interview with Jeremy Paxman for the BBC(16) in the course of which, Brand admitted that he doesn't vote. This pronouncement has been much commented upon on the internet(17) but frankly I think Brand gave a valid defense.
It's not that I'm not voting out of apathy, I'm not voting out of absolute indifference, and weariness, and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations now and has now reached a fever pitch, where we have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that [is] not being represented by that political system, so voting for it is tacit complicity with that system.(16)
I quoted Emma Goldman before and I will do it again: "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." For some they already have; for others they are working on it; and for still others they are making it not worth your while by removing all options except the two party plutocracy.
Like Goldman, Colin Ward was an Anarchist. While he was British and that system differs from the American one, his article entitled "The Case Against Voting" is well worth a read.(18)
(1) Shen, Aviva and Peck, Adam. "Ohio Limits Early Voting Hours In Democratic Counties, Expands In Republican Counties". ThinkProgress. August 10, 2012. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/08/10/670441/ohio-limits-early-voting-hours-in-democratic-counties-expands-in-republican-counties/
(2) Millhiser, Ian. "BREAKING: Federal Court Strikes Down Ohio Law Restricting Early Voting". ThinkProgress. August 31, 2012. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/08/31/784981/breaking-federal-court-strikes-down-ohio-law-restricting-early-voting/
(3) Shen, Aviva. "Ohio Secretary of State Refuses To Comply With Early Voting Court Order". ThinkProgress. September 4, 2012. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/09/04/793441/ohio-secretary-of-state-refuses-to-comply-with-early-voting-court-order/
(4) Shen, Aviva. "After Bucking Federal Judge On Early Voting, Ohio Secretary Of State Ordered To Appear In Court". ThinkProgress. September 5, 2012. http://thinkprogress.org/election/2012/09/05/803331/after-bucking-federal-judge-on-early-voting-ohio-secretary-of-state-ordered-to-appear-in-court/
(5) Millhiser, Ian. "How Ohio’s Top Elections Official’s Early Voting Proposal Would Keep Black Voters From The Polls". ThinkProgress. October 25, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/10/25/2840111/ohios-elections-official-unveils-plan-cut-early-voting/
(6) Shen, Aviva. "Florida Republicans Admit Voter Suppression Was The Goal Of New Election Laws". ThinkProgress. November 26, 2012. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/11/26/1234171/florida-republicans-admit-voter-suppression-was-the-goal-of-new-election-laws/
(7) "SB 193 As Passed by Senate". 130th General Assembly of the State of Ohio. http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/bills.cfm?ID=130_SB_193
(8) "Senate Vote on SB 193 (Oct 8, 2013)". Open States. http://openstates.org/oh/votes/OHV00001380/
(9) Fitrakis, Bob. "Third Parties in Ohio knocked off the ballot". The Free Press. October 8, 2013. http://www.freepress.org/columns/display/3/2013/1989
(10) Adams, Becket. "Ohio Libertarians Sure Feel Like They’re Being Shoved Off the Ballot". The Blaze. October 17, 2013. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/10/17/ohio-libertarians-sure-feel-like-theyre-being-shoved-off-the-ballot/
(11) "Republicans and voting". The Modern Left. October 7, 2013. http://www.themodernleft.com/2013/10/republicans-and-voting.html
(12) "Republicans Win Fewer Votes, but More Seats than Democrats". CQ Press. February, 2013.library.cqpress.com/elections/document.php?id=rcookltr-1527-84193-2523552
(13) Keyes, Scott. "Republicans Brag They Won House Majority Because Of Gerrymandering". Think Progress. January 17, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/01/17/1459991/rslc-gerrymandering-house/
(14) Millhiser, Ian. "Study: Republican Gerrymandering Cost Democrats 1.7 Million Votes In Just 7 States". Think Progress. February 4, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/02/04/1534201/study-republican-gerrymandering-cost-democrats-17-million-votes-in-just-7-states/
(15) Brand, Russell. "Russell Brand on revolution: “We no longer have the luxury of tradition”". The New Statesman. October 24, 2013. http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/10/russell-brand-on-revolution
(16) Grenoble, Ryan. "Russell Brand's Epic Interview With BBC's Jeremy Paxman Just Might Start A Revolution (VIDEO)". The Huffington Post. October 25, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/25/russell-brand-revolution-interview-paxman-bbc_n_4164283.html
(17) Williams, Mary Elizabeth. "The Russell Brand conundrum: Is choosing not to vote ever okay?". Salon. October 25, 2013. http://www.salon.com/2013/10/25/the_russell_brand_conundrum_is_choosing_not_to_vote_ever_okay/
(18) Ward, Colin. "The Case Against Voting". http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/colin-ward-the-case-against-voting
A right wing group of truckers has pledged to shut down the inner loop of the Washington, D.C. beltway for a "Truckers Ride for the Constitution" rally.
Earl Conlon, a Georgia trucker who is handling logistics for the protest, told U.S. News tractor-trailer drivers will circle the beltway "three lanes deep" as he rides with other participants to Congress to seek the arrest of congressmen for allegedly disregarding the Constitution.(1)
Conlon pledged to shut I-495 down with the exception of the left lane which would be strictly for emergency vehicles. But for everyone else it will be a different story with Conlon saying "everybody that doesn't have a supporter sticker on their window, good luck: Nobody in, nobody out."(1) He further stated that if the cops try to interfere they will go ahead and shut down all three lanes.(1)
How can we avoid this? Conlon says that all the government has to do is arrest everyone his group feels has violated his or her oath of office.(1) These indictments will be handed out by a "citizens grand jury".(1)
Pete Santilli, a spokesman for Truckers Ride for the Constitution, has suggested potential violence at the rally.
Santilli claimed, "If we do not rise up this week, peacefully, there is going to be Three Percenters who I will also join, to make it not so peacefully."...
...Claiming that a violent revolution would be inevitable if the semi-trailer truck protest failed to accomplish its goals, Santilli claimed that Three Percenters will take "the next logical step to stop our domestic enemies." He added, "I'm prepared myself to give my life in this effort as a United States Marine."(2)
Of course, Santilli also claimed that the government wants to "take my guns away" in order to arm Al Qaeda.(2) As for the "Three Percenter" thing, the concept of the "Three Percenters" comes from the belief that "During the American Revolution, the active forces in the field against the King's tyranny never amounted to more than 3% of the colonists."(3) The modern Three Percenters don't claim to represent 3% of the American people...although they think they might(3). They do claim to represent 3% of the American gun owners.(3) And that is enough for them.
The Three Percent today are gun owners who will not disarm, will not compromise and will no longer back up at the passage of the next gun control act. Three Percenters say quite explicitly that we will not obey any further circumscription of our traditional liberties and will defend ourselves if attacked. We intend to maintain our God-given natural rights to liberty and property, and that means most especially the right to keep and bear arms. Thus, we are committed to the restoration of the Founders' Republic, and are willing to fight, die and, if forced by any would-be oppressor, to kill in the defense of ourselves and the Constitution that we all took an oath to uphold against enemies foreign and domestic.(3)
Santilli’s group has won support from conservative radio hosts for its threats.(4)
A few years back, Orson Scott Card penned a tirade justifying overthrowing the government(5) simply because court decisions in California and Massachusetts ruled that maybe...just maybe...gays are people, too.
Because when government is the enemy of marriage, then the people who are actually creating successful marriages have no choice but to change governments, by whatever means is made possible or necessary...
...How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn....(5)
Shall I assume that there is a police detail following Orson Scott Card around? No? Right. Of course not.
Ever since Obama won the presidency, there has been talk of armed revolution on the right(6) and yet there don't appear to be any widespread police squad monitoring them. But if you are a Muslim then it is a different story.(7)
On the other side of the political spectrum, recall what happened when largely peaceful leftist activists began the occupy movement. There were police infiltration(8), FBI infiltration and manipulation(9), armed police officers driving protestors from encampments(10), and were savaged(11) by the likes of Rush Limbaugh.(12)
In North Carolina the fallout from the recent "Moral Monday" protests have revealed a systematic process on the part of the police to profile and track suspected anarchists.
General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver testified to a murmur of disbelief among the many lawyers attending the Wake County District Court hearing that his 18-officer department had people in this region they labeled “anarchists” and collected intelligence on them.
Weaver did not identify the so-called anarchists, nor did he reveal how many his department considered to fall in that category.
But the chief at the helm of the law enforcement agency that arrested more than 930 people this past summer testified that his officers had scanned the many “Moral Monday” rallies with eyes trained for "anarchists."(13)
The FBI has been dragging people into grand juries and pressuring them to give information about suspected anarchists. People who refuse, like anarchist Jerry Koch, are thrown in jail and held in contempt.(14) Why was Koch targeted? In 2008, a cyclist placed an explosive device outside an army recruitment station in Times Square. The cyclist wasn't Koch so one might ask, again, why was Koch targeted?
When his lawyers pressed the prosecutor for a reason, they were told he was believed to have been at a bar where a conversation between other people took place and information about the incident was discussed. No further details were given.
The message to other dissidents? If you are thought to be anywhere even near the wrong kind of conversation, you could be suspect.(14)
Koch isn't an anomaly as there have been others in the past past year. In the Pacific Northwest, four people from Washington and Oregon were imprisoned for refusing to testify against other activists.(14) According to FBI training materials, agents are taught that anarchists are "Criminals seeking an ideology to justify their activities."(15) But I guess when you have an overt ideology to justify your actions it is acceptable. As long as that ideology is right wing.
So to recap: when a right wing group openly espouses an willingness to overthrow the government, talk radio supports them and law enforcement agencies largely leave them alone. If you are a left wing activist you are smeared by talk radio, profiled by the police and/or the FBI, and dragged into a grand jury and coerced into naming names.
Tea Party activists like to paint themselves as just humble regular folks with a beef against government corruption and increasingly limited personal freedom. Yet the truth is something different.
In fact, it was the very opposite of grassroots and democratic. It was the creation of billionaires intent on destroying our government, preventing Americans from getting access to healthcare, and sabotaging any attempt to regulate Wall Street or the oil industry.
The small handful of oil and Wall Street groups behind the Tea Party, groups like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity, were all front organizations for the billionaire oil tycoons and banksters who wrecked the economy.
And if you need any more proof of whose interests the Tea Party actually represents, consider this: Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks actually began as parts of the group Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was created in 1984 to defend the interests of big tobacco companies. They even started something they called a "tea party" in the 1980s so that smokers could have a "smokers' rights" group.(16)
Want to know whether you are lodging a legitimate protest against the government or if you are instead just a puppet of the right wing oligarchy: how many of you were arrested? If the answer is zero, you are a puppet.
Admittedly, the "Truckers Ride for the Constitution" is still a day off so it is possible that things will suddenly change with law enforcement deciding that maybe they should treat right wing activists who talk of shutting down cities and arresting politicians as the threats they openly claim to be. But I'm not holding my breath.
UPDATE: Apparently a mere 30 trucks showed up for the protest. My prediction that the police would not arrest anyone was on the mark.
Virginia state police did stop four tractor-trailers Friday morning after they drove side-by-side, across all four northbound lanes of the Beltway’s inner loop. That caused traffic to slow to 15 miles per hour. State police troopers stopped the vehicles and “warned them not to impede traffic,” Geller said. The drivers were not issued tickets and allowed to “proceed on their way.”(17)
Compare that to the preemptive arrests made by the Chicago police last year on the eve of the Chicago NATO summit.(18)
(1) Nelson, Steven. "'Truckers for the Constitution' Plan to Slow D.C. Beltway, Arrest Congressmen". U.S. News and World Report. October 07, 2013. http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/10/07/truckers-for-the-constitution-plan-to-slow-dc-beltway-arrest-congressmen
(2) Johnson, Timothy. "AUDIO: Conspiracy Theorist Radio Host Calls For Violence If Trucker Protest Fails". Media Matters. October 9, 2013. http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/10/09/audio-conspiracy-theorist-radio-host-calls-for/196365
(3) "What is a "Three Percenter"?". Sipsey Street Irregulars. February 17, 2009. http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2009/02/what-is-three-percenter.html
(4) Garcia, Arturo. "Right-wing truckers’ organizer: ‘We will defend our nation to the absolute death’". Raw Story. October 09, 2013. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/10/09/right-wing-truckers-organizer-we-will-defend-our-nation-to-the-absolute-death/
(5) Card, Orson Scott. "Orson Scott Card: State job is not to redefine marriage". Deseret News. July 24 2008. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700245157/State-job-is-not-to-redefine-marriage.html?pg=all
(6) "Right wingers defend freedom via treason". The Modern Left. November 10, 2009. http://www.themodernleft.com/2009/11/right-wingers-defend-freedom-via.html
(7) Francescani, Chris. "New York police sued over surveillance of Muslims". Reuters. June 18, 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/18/us-usa-newyork-nypdsurveillance-idUSBRE95H15020130618
(8) Pinto, Nick. "Occupy's Undercover Cop: "Shady," Ubiquitous, & Willing To Get Arrested". Gothamist. October 10, 2013. http://gothamist.com/2013/10/10/occupys_undercover_shady_ubiquitous.php
(9) Potter, Will. "FBI Supplied Occupy Cleveland “Terrorists” Arrested in May Day Plot". Green is the New Red. May 1, 2012. http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/fbi-anarchist-terrorists-may-day-ohio/5988/
(10) "Oakland cops eye Occupy camp after Ore. arrests". Associated Press. November 14, 2011. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57324027/oakland-cops-eye-occupy-camp-after-ore-arrests/
(11) Bershad, Jon. "Rush Limbaugh: Occupy Wall Street Protesters Probably Glad They Can Now ‘Move Back In With Their Parents’". Mediate. November 16th, 2011. http://www.mediaite.com/online/rush-limbaugh-occupy-wall-street-protesters-probably-glad-they-can-now-%E2%80%98move-back-in-with-their-parents%E2%80%99/
(12) "Limbaugh: Occupy Wall St. Protesters Are "Perpetually Lazy, Spoiled Rotten, 99 Percent White Kids"". Media Matters. October 06, 2011. http://mediamatters.org/video/2011/10/06/limbaugh-occupy-wall-st-protesters-are-perpetua/137831
(13) Blythe, Anne. "Police were on lookout for anarchists at Moral Monday protests". News & Observer. October 07, 2013. http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/10/07/3263240/nc-general-assembly-police-chief.html
(14) Simonton, Anna. "How the FBI Manipulates Grand Juries to Intimidate Political Dissidents and Radicals". AlterNet. October 09, 2013. http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/how-grand-juries-are-manipulated-fbi-intimidate-political-dissidents-and-radicals
(15) Potter, Will. "Newly Released FBI “Domestic Terrorism” Training on Anarchists, Environmentalists, Show COINTELPRO Tactics". Green is the New Red. May 29, 2012. http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/fbi-domestic-terrorism-training-anarchists-eco/6199/
(16) Hartmann, Thom. "The Libertarian Billionaire Agenda Propelling the Tea Party Monster That Has Shut Down Congress". AlterNet. October 03, 2013. http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/libertarian-billionaire-agenda-propelling-tea-party-monster-has-shut-down
(17) Hedgpeth, Dana and Aratani, Lori. "Trucker protest hits Beltway but causes no major delays, authorities say". The Washington Post. October 11, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/va-state-police-trucker-protest-launched-on-i-95-north-vehicles-head-toward-beltway/2013/10/11/c8049b7e-3266-11e3-89ae-16e186e117d8_story.html
(18) "Chicago cops start preemptive arrests on the eve of NATO Summit ". RT. May 18, 2012. http://rt.com/usa/chicago-police-law-raid-609/
Let's talk about the shutdown for a minute. Or at least, the Republican response to the shutdown they instigated.
Some members of Congress have announced that they will donate, refuse or hold in escrow money they earn during the shutdown.(1)
But not all. Not Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) for instance.
"Whatever gets them good press," Terry said of members giving up their salary. "That's all that it's going to be. God bless them. But you know what? I've got a nice house and a kid in college, and I'll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That's just not going to fly."(2)
If Terry's snarkiness makes it seem like he isn't really taking the shutdown seriously, that is probably because the Republicans really aren't. When forced to talk about why the shutdown is still happening you get an small insight into how the modern Republican mind works.
"We're not going to be disrespected," Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) told The Washington Examiner. "We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."(3)
Yes, Stutzman just admitted that they don't even know what it is that they want to get out of this. But something, dammit. Something. How about someone a little higher on the Republican totem pole?
Less than two hours after President Barack Obama turned up political pressure on Republicans to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the president was looking for "unconditional surrender."
"The president said today if there's unconditional surrender by Republicans, he'll sit down and talk to us," Boehner said Tuesday. "That's not the way our government works."(4)
Look at the verbiage being used here. "Unconditional surrender." "We have to get something out of this." This is either a game or war. But even if the latter, it is merely a war game as there is no actual violence or seizing of land and/or property.
This is one of the many reasons why the two party system is ridiculous. All they care about is getting one over on the other side. Not doing their jobs to the best of their ability. Not helping the country get on its feet and improve.
And they certainly aren't concerned with you or your well being.
(3) O'Keefe, Ed. "Which lawmakers will refuse their pay during the shutdown?". The Washington Post. October 08, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/10/01/which-lawmakers-will-refuse-their-pay-during-the-shutdown/
(2) Terkel, Amanda. "Lee Terry Needs His Salary During Government Shutdown To Pay For His 'Nice House'". The Huffington Post. October 04, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/04/lee-terry-government-shutdown-nice-house_n_4044511.html
(3) "This Quote Says Everything About The GOP's Shutdown Stand". The Huffington Post. October 03, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/03/marlin-stutzman-government-shutdown_n_4034123.html
(4) Siddiqui, Sabrina. "John Boehner On Debt Ceiling: Not Threatening Default Would Be 'Unconditional Surrender'". The Huffington Post. October 09, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/08/john-boehner-debt-ceiling_n_4066123.html
I just read an article on Truth Out by William Rivers Pitt entitled "Half the Republicans You Know Are Insane"(1) which initially describes the findings of a poll which found that Republicans are more likely to believe Government Conspiracy Theories.(2)
Some of the results are pretty eye opening.
When asked if they believe that Mr. Obama is secretly plotting to remain in office when his term expires, 44% of Republicans answered "Yes."(1)
Yet there were some examples given where the author's commentary struck me as a little untrue.
When asked if Muslims are working to implement Sharia Law in America - the harshly medieval seventh-century Islamic code best represented by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Wahabists in the ranks of al Qaeda and (shhhh) a significant portion of the rebels in Syria - 44% of Republicans said it was true. If you know five Republicans, once again, two of them believe this, and a third is halfway convinced. Um...how? Where? In what way? Because women can now get free contraception and gay people have the same rights as you do? You think the Taliban is down with that?(1)
Gay people have the same rights as you do? Really? While polls show increasing support for same-sex marriage,(3) it took President Obama until 2012 to show his support.(4) Even with all this, only a handful of states allow marriage and There is no federal law that consistently protects LGBT individuals from employment discrimination.(5)
Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.(5) A mere 17 states and D.C. also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.(5) This proves that gay people have the same rights as cisgendered people?(6)
For example, a question was posed about whether the respondents believe the Obama administration is coming to take their guns away, and 62% of Republicans answered "Yes." If you know five Republicans, that means three of them believe this, and a fourth has doubts. This, despite the fact that no gun legislation of any impact whatsoever has shadowed the president's desk since he took office.(1)
Maybe William Rivers Pitt and I have a different definition of the term "legislation of any impact whatsoever". I think allowing people to carry concealed guns in national parks(7) is kind of a big thing. It even replaced a law signed by good Old Saint Ronnie that required guns be locked in glove compartments or trunks of car that enter national parks.(8)
Soon enough, William Rivers Pitt turns the article into a polemic about how not enough
of the right people vote.
Make no mistake about it: these people will vote in 2014, because they always vote. If it is raining live, ravening, man-eating jaguars outside, they turn out with strong umbrellas and cast their ballots for the pro-gun anti-Sharia Jesus-and-fetuses candidate. Because guns, and Sharia, and they believe everything they've heard and read from their beloved bedlam news sources.
Why is the government shut down? Because a lot of people don't vote, but these people did in 2010, like they always do, and the crazy will elect the crazy every single time and twice on Sunday, amen.
Thanks to Republican gerrymandering, in the 2012 elections Republicans won victories in four key states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin) even though they didn't win majorities in those states.(10) In fact, Republicans had a 1.1 million popular-vote deficit.(11) Think Progress reports that in seven states, Republicans so stacked the deck in their favor that they actually picked up seats while winning 1.4 million less votes.(12)
In January of this year, the Republican State Leadership Committee released a report which actually boasts of the fact that the only reason they have control of the House of Representatives is because they gerrymandered congressional districts.(11) The report notes that people voted for Republicans only 49 percent of the time in congressional races(11) yet Republicans enjoy a 33-seat margin in the U.S. House.(11)
In Ohio, state Senate President Tom Niehaus (R) vowed to create an congressional map that "that Speaker Boehner fully supports."(13) Ohio Republicans completely redrew the map to benefit Republicans including adding a peninsula with no residents at all to Rep. Jim Renacci’s (R-OH) district because it included the headquarters of a company whose leaders donated to Renacci.(13) While the state is roughly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans(14), Republicans gave themselves an advantage in 12 of the state’s 16 congressional districts.(14) The map combined the 9th and 10th districts forcing Democratic Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich to compete against each other for a single seat. With Kaptur's win,(15) Republicans got to remove a Democrat without even having to run against him.
Republicans in Texas are currently fighting to keep their newly gerrymandered map and in court documents openly admit that "both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats."(16)
But the point that William Rivers Pitt was trying to make is something I have seen many people claim: that Republicans overwhelmingly get out to vote and Democrats don't. How does one know that all those non-voting people would vote Democratic Party? Is there any valid reason to suppose that there isn't a large block of non-voting Republicans who would then vote Republican if motivated to actually vote?
And this is all overlooking the fact that certain elements of society are targeted to prevent their voting. Republicans have a tendency to target youth voters for exclusion based on the assumption that they will overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
Nevada Republican Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey recently admitted this on a local talk radio show.
“We have some real opportunities in 2014. This is a great year in an off presidential election. Seemingly no Democrat at the top of the ticket against Sandoval.No Harry Reid. Probably where we had a million voters turnout in 2012, we’ll have like 700,000. A lot of minorities, a lot of younger people will not turn out in a non-presidential year. It’s a great year for Republicans.”(17)
Pennsylvania Republicans have been working hard to block youth voting as well.
An amendment being pushed by House Republicans would in effect penalize Ohio colleges and universities if they help out-of-state students register to vote. The plan requires any school that offers a student proof of residency documentation for voter registration to give that student in-state tuition. According to one estimate, more than 23,000 students hailing from the state’s 13 biggest schools could be disenfranchised under the plan.(18)
In August of this year, Governor Pat McCrory signed House Bill 589 into law which makes student IDs and out-of-state driver’s licenses invalid for the purpose of voting.(19) The Republicans who are so worried about voter fraud are actually banning legal government issued IDs as forms of identification for the sake of voting.
Convicted felons are also targeted for voter disenfranchisement.(20) It is estimated that 5.85 million people were ineligible to vote in 2012 due to felony disenfranchisement laws.(21)
Emma Goldman once said "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." For some, they already have.
With all these facts, is the government shut down really because a lot of people don't vote? Is it really because the crazier elements of the right wing often do vote? Or is it because the Republican party has figured out a fool proof way to win elections even when they don't carry the popular vote.
(1) Pitt, William Rivers. "Half the Republicans You Know Are Insane". Truthout. October 03, 2013. http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/19201-half-the-republicans-you-know-are-insane
(2) Williams, Jim. "Conspiracy Theories Round Two: Republicans More Likely To Subscribe to Government Conspiracy Theories". Public Policy Polling October 02, 2013. http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2013/10/conspiracy-theories-round-two-republicans-more-likely-to-subscribe-to-government-conspiracy-theories.html
(3) Silver, Nate. "Support for Gay Marriage Outweighs Opposition in Polls". The New York Times. May 09, 2012. fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/support-for-gay-marriage-outweighs-opposition-in-polls/
(4) "Obama Affirms Support for Same-Sex Marriage". ABC News. May 09, 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/obama-sex-marriage-legal-16312904
(5) "Employment Non-Discrimination Act". Human Rights Campaign. October 1, 2013. http://www.hrc.org/laws-and-legislation/federal-legislation/employment-non-discrimination-act
(6) "Cisgender". Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisgender
(7) "Major Garrett: Obama has expanded, not reduced gun rights". CBS News. July 23, 2012. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505267_162-57477652/major-garrett-obama-has-expanded-not-reduced-gun-rights/
(8) Murse, Tom. "How Many Gun Laws Did Obama Sign?". About.com. http://uspolitics.about.com/od/Gun-Control/a/Gun-Laws-Signed-By-Obama.htm
(9) "Gerrymandering". Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrymandering
(10) "Republicans Win Fewer Votes, but More Seats than Democrats". CQ Press. February, 2013.library.cqpress.com/elections/document.php?id=rcookltr-1527-84193-2523552
(11) Keyes, Scott. "Republicans Brag They Won House Majority Because Of Gerrymandering". Think Progress. January 17, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/01/17/1459991/rslc-gerrymandering-house/
(12) Millhiser, Ian. "Study: Republican Gerrymandering Cost Democrats 1.7 Million Votes In Just 7 States". Think Progress. February 4, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/02/04/1534201/study-republican-gerrymandering-cost-democrats-17-million-votes-in-just-7-states/
(13) Millhiser, Ian. "How John Boehner Engineered An Ohio Gerrymander To Save His Speakership". Think Progress. October 2, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/10/02/2718621/how-john-boehner-engineered-an-ohio-gerrymander-to-save-his-speakership/
(14) Millhiser, Ian. "Documents Show Boehner Helped Gerrymander Ohio Map Giving GOP 12 of 16 Congressional Seats". Think Progress. December 13, 2011. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2011/12/13/388360/documents-show-boehner-engineered-gerrymandered-ohio-map-giving-gop-3-of-4-congressional-seats/
(15) Kane, Paul. "Rep. Dennis Kucinich suffers primary defeat in Ohio". The Washington Post. March 6, 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/kucinich-faces-uphill-battle-for-redistricted-seat/2012/03/05/gIQA6MFrvR_story.html
(16) Millhiser, Ian. "Texas Brags To Court That It Drew District Lines To ‘Increase The Republican Party’s Electoral Prospects’". Think Progress. August 14, 2013. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/08/14/2465761/texas-brags-to-court-that-it-gerrymandered-to-increase-the-republican-partys-electoral-prospects/
(17) Easley, Jason. "Republican Says 2014 Will Be Great Because Minorities and Young People Won’t Vote". PoliticsUSA. September 25th, 2013. http://www.politicususa.com/2013/09/25/republican-2014-great-year-minorities-young-people-vote.html
(18) Whitaker, Morgan. "Ohio GOP’s new plan to suppress the youth vote". MSNBC. May 02, 2013. http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/05/02/ohio-gops-new-plan-to-suppress-the-youth-vote/
(19) "Republican Contempt For Youth Voters Is Nothing New". Young Democrats of North Carolina. August 28, 2013. http://www.ydnc.org/2013/08/republican-contempt-for-youth-voters-is-nothing-new/
(20) King, Ryan S. "Expanding the Vote". The Sentencing Project. September, 2008. http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/fd_statedisenfranchisement.pdf
(21) Pilkington, Ed. "Felon voting laws to disenfranchise historic number of Americans in 2012". The Guardian. July 13, 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jul/13/felon-voting-laws-disenfranchisement
The government shutdown got me thinking about food assistance.
Just a couple of week ago, Republicans in the House passed a bill which would massively cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program.
House Republicans narrowly approved a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s food stamp program Thursday that would slash about $39 billion in funding over the next decade, cut aid to about 4 million Americans in the next few years and shift the burden of providing aid to some of the nation’s poor to state governments.(1)
Current funding for the SNAP program is safe throughout the length of the government shutdown, but other programs aren't.
Food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will not be interrupted by the shutdown. It’s funded through October by the 2009 Recovery Act. School lunches and breakfasts will continue to be served during October. The program known as WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) is in a tougher spot. No new funds will be available until a shutdown ends. Funds that states have on hand could “continue operations for a week or so,” the Agriculture Department says. The department’s own contingency funds would also help, but couldn’t cover the full month.(2)
With so many employees now furloughed due to the government shutdown, there will be many more people now in need of assistance as it becomes more difficult to pay bills. hundreds of thousands of government employees are expected to see paychecks delayed.(3) While Social Security and Medicare benefits will keep coming, there will be delays in processing new disability applications.(3) Senior nutrition grants, which provides meals for 2.5 million elderly Americans,(3) lose funding.
If you are one of the people who aren't too adversely affected by the government shutdown, please think about donating some money to a local food bank to help those in need.
Alternately, you could get involved with an organization like Food Not Bombs and help feed the hungry.
(1) O'Keefe, Ed and Chokshi, Niraj. "House approves GOP plan to slash food stamp funding". The Washington Post. September 19, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/09/19/house-approves-gop-plan-to-slash-food-stamp-funding/
(2) Trumbull, Mark. "How government shutdown affects benefits for seniors, poor, jobless, veterans (+video)". The Christian Science Monitor. October 1, 2013. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/DC-Decoder/2013/1001/How-government-shutdown-affects-benefits-for-seniors-poor-jobless-veterans-video
(3) Moya-Smith, Simon and Rafferty, Andrew. "A government shutdown: What could it look like?". NBC News. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/29/20745618-a-government-shutdown-what-could-it-look-like?lite
Earlier today I read about a series of articles on feminism published in The State Press at Arizona State University.
A pair of new columns in the A-list ASU campus newspaper deliver starkly different lines of thought on feminism in 2013. Both can be summarized by their headlines. The opening shot: “Feminism is Just Not for Me.” The counterpunch: “Feminism is for Everybody.” Game on.(1)
The first article authored by columnist Annica Benning takes the position that feminism isn't needed claiming "the chances of me being denied a job based on my gender are incredibly slim".(2) She further says feminism is discriminatory.
The larger problem I have with the feminist movement is they seem to want preferential treatment because of their sex. It’s akin to reverse discrimination. Many male-dominated industries seek out women for the sole purpose of appearing diverse, which does not sit well with me. I do not want to be sought out because I am a woman. I want to be sought out because I am the best candidate.(2)
Christine Truong penned the rebuttal explaining that sometimes discrimination is subtle from glass ceilings to the less subtle media reportage on rape cases.
It is every time the media tells the story of a rape with sympathy to the rapist: “What was she wearing? How many sexual partners does she have, and why was she out so late at night?”(3)
Truong further explains what feminism really means.
Feminism has always been about getting people, whether male or female, to recognize women as fully developed human beings in their own right, and not as a complement to the other sex. It is certainly not about getting a free meal with the added bonus of “putting down men.” There is a thoughtfulness required in taking these ideas seriously, and a sensitivity to empathize with the injustices others have endured that seem to be lacking.(3)
Coincidentally, an hour or so later I read an article detailing an experience actors Dennis White and Cherie Johnson had with police in South Carolina.(4) The article isn't about feminism at all but it is about discrimination.
Apparently, White and Johnson were approached by police as they were stopped by the side of the road admiring the scenery. The police initially claimed Johnson had a warrant for her arrest (she didn't) and the two were handcuffed and badgered to allow a search of their vehicle. When they finally consented and the police found nothing illegal, the two were turned loose without so much as an explanation or an apology. The actors are both black and feel that the police racially profiled them.
The story is told first person by Dennis White and while reading it I couldn't help noticing White's choice of language when referring to his female companion. Right off the bat in the second paragraph of White's story he refers to Johnson as "My lady" and this continues throughout the entire article.(4)
"...My lady and I..."
"...Being a man who desires to accommodate his woman..."
"...My lady, proceeded to walk towards his car..."
"...He asked me my woman’s name..."
"...I have been racially profiled several times in my lifetime but it touched my core when my woman was included..."
"...He immediately recognized my lady..."(4)
Dennis White's account of his experience constantly used a possessive style of speech towards Cherie Johnson. The idea that a woman could ever be the possession of a man is something that is routinely casually expressed. I looked through the comments on the CNN iReport article about White and Johnson and I didn't see a single person pointing out how his words expressed a deep inequality between himself and Johnson. I imagine if this was brought to Dennis White's attention he would insist he doesn't think of Cherie Johnson as property or less than himself yet that is exactly what that language portrays.
I'm not trying to condemn Dennis White. I think this article is an example of the kind of subtle discrimination Christine Truong was getting at in her article. I think all of us could afford to pay more attention to our language and how our casual use of certain words can demean a person.
(1) Reimold, Dan "Battle in State Press at ASU Centers on Female Columnist Confession: ‘I Don’t Get Feminism’". College Media Matters. September 27, 2013. http://www.collegemediamatters.com/2013/09/27/battle-in-state-press-at-asu-centers-on-female-columnists-confession-i-dont-get-feminism/
(2) Benning, Annica. "Feminism is just not for me". The State Press. September 23, 2013. http://www.statepress.com/2013/09/23/feminism-is-just-not-for-me/
(3) Truong, Christine. "Feminism is for everybody". The State Press. September 25, 2013. http://www.statepress.com/2013/09/25/feminism-is-for-everybody/
(4) Diggs, Krystol. "Two Hollywood Actors Get Stopped, But Not For An Autograph". CNN iReport. September 28, 2013. http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1041070
To promote his film, The Fifth Estate, Benedict Cumberbatch gave an interview to Decca Aitkenhead for The Guardian. Cumberbatch is playing Julian Assange in the film so the conversation veered towards mass surveillance and civil liberties. At one point Cumberbatch said "If they are saving lives, how can you say that is less important than civil liberties? You don't have any liberties if you are dead."(1)
That seems to be the crux of the debate here: Is the government spying on its own citizens making them safer?
We read about the recent events at a Nairobi shopping mall or the Washington Navy Yard and worry that this kind of violence could invade our personal lives. According to Robert Kraft, a psychology professor at Otterbein University, "these horrific events are no more likely today than they were yesterday or 10 years ago."(2) While David Schanzer, a Duke University professor who directs the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, says "Since 9/11, you are far more likely to drown in your bathtub than be killed by terrorists in the United States."(2) Todd Farchione, a professor at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, speaks of how terror can affect our mindset.
"The probability of something happening is so very low," Farchione says. "But this is the nature of terror and terrorism: It gets in our heads that something could happen. This is the entire idea of terror. It's like this insidious fear that seeps into our mindset."(2)
So if we aren't in any more danger today then we were a decade ago, why must we give up our privacy?
Earlier this year, National Intelligence director James Clapper outright lied when he answered a question about whether or not the U.S. government was "wittingly" collecting information on millions of Americans.(3)(4) When someone does something for you and/or your safety, that person rarely feels the need to lie to your face about it.
But it isn't even new. This isn't extreme behavior that we have to tolerate for now because it is a new and scarier world. That is just the story put forth to make these actions more digestible.
We already knew that the FBI's COINTELPRO program had been covertly and illegally "surveying, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations"(5) with targets including Martin Luther King, Jr. and members of black nationalist groups.(5) Now we discover that the NSA had been spying on targets at the same time and there was a large overlap.(6)
Newly-declassified documents reveal that the National Security Agency targeted one of America's most revered civil rights icons.
The National Security Archive at George Washington University released the information Wednesday, showing that Martin Luther King Jr. was on the agency's watch list during the 1960s. Also mentioned as targets in the report were fellow civil rights leader Whitney Young, boxer Muhammad Ali, and two prominent members of Congress, Sens. Frank Church (D-Idaho) and Howard Baker (R-Tennessee). The program was also viewed by some officials as "disreputable if not outright illegal," the report adds.(6)
The NSA's program was called Project MINARET(7) and it created "watch lists" of American citizens.(7)
The NSA has been surreptitiously handing information to the DEA via its Special Operations Division, or SOD.(8)(9) Initially created to combat Latin American drug cartels,(8) it is now being used to help the DEA prosecute American citizens for drug offenses using information the NSA has gathered via spying on all of us. Another interesting feature is that recipients of information are instructed to "omit the SOD's involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony."(8)
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.(8)
Further, it appears that the IRS has been receiving information from SOD with the same instructions to hide SODs involvement.(10)
On the topic of the DEA, they also seem to like to check out citizens' confidential prescription records.(11) Without a warrant.(11)
The Drug Enforcement Administration thinks people have “no constitutionally protected privacy interest” in their confidential prescription records, according to a brief filed last month in federal court. That disconcerting statement comes in response to an ACLU lawsuit challenging the DEA’s practice of obtaining private medical information without a warrant.(11)
If the government was serious about protecting us it might want to make sure the people in charge of protecting us have valid security clearance.
Federal prosecutors have documented at least 350 instances of faulty background investigations done by private contractors and special agents for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in recent years, illustrating what some lawmakers call systemic weaknesses in the granting of federal security clearances.(12)
Those 350 instances are a mere percentage of the number of background investigations conducted each year.(12) That makes you feel safer, right?
Thanks to Edward Snowden's leaks, we have a glimpse of just how much security and privacy we don't have due to government intrusion.
Though the published documents lack many details, the protocols the agency may have the ability to break or circumvent include Web encryption such as Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Security Layer, the Internet protocol encryption and authentication technology IPsec, common virtual private network systems used for anonymity and secure remote access, and Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol. (VoIP) The backdoor-planting projects, known as “Bullrun” in the United States and “Edgehill” within the NSA’s British equivalent the GCHQ, have made “vast amounts of encrypted Internet data…exploitable,” according to one leaked document.(13)
And don't forget that your smartphones aren't safe now either.(14)
How is this protecting us again?
But it is controlling us.
(1) Guardian Staff. "Benedict Cumberbatch: Chelsea Manning and civil liberties – interview transcript". The Guardian. September 13, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2013/sep/16/benedict-cumberbatch-clarification-interview-transcript
(2) Washington, Jesse. "World Safer Than Ever Despite Terror Attacks And Mass Shootings, Experts Say". Associated Press. September 28, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/28/safer-world_n_4009112.html
(3) Tigabu, David. "NSA PRISM Program: Did Intelligence Director James Clapper Lie to Congress?". PolicyMic http://www.policymic.com/articles/48213/nsa-prism-program-did-intelligence-director-james-clapper-lie-to-congress
(4) Knox, Oliver. "Intelligence chief Clapper: I gave ‘least untruthful’ answer on U.S. spying". Yahoo! News. June 10, 2013. http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/intel-chief-clapper-gave-least-untruthful-answer-u-164742798.html
(5) "COINTELPRO". Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cointelpro
(6) Gentilviso, Chris. "NSA Spied On Martin Luther King Jr., Declassfied Documents Reveal". The Huffington Post. September 26, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/26/nsa-martin-luther-king-jr_n_3995150.html
(7) "Project MINARET". Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_MINARET
(8) Shiffman, John; Cooke, Kristina. "Exclusive: U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans". Reuters. August 5, 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/05/us-dea-sod-idUSBRE97409R20130805
(9) Shiffman, John. "How DEA program differs from recent NSA revelations". Reuters. August 5, 2013. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/05/us-dea-sod-nsa-idUSBRE9740AI20130805
(10) Fakhoury, Hanni. "DEA and NSA Team Up to Share Intelligence, Leading to Secret Use of Surveillance in Ordinary Investigations". Electric Frontier Foundation. August 6, 2013. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/08/dea-and-nsa-team-intelligence-laundering
(11) Wessler, Nathan Freed. "The DEA Thinks You Have “No Constitutionally Protected Privacy Interest” in Your Confidential Prescription Records". ACLU. September 24, 2013. https://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty-national-security/dea-thinks-you-have-no-constitutionally-protected
(12) Zakaria, Tabassum. "Faulty Background Checks: Hundreds Of U.S. Security Clearance Records Falsified". Reuters. September 25, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/25/faulty-background-checks_n_3986330.html
(13) Greenberg, Andy. "Ten Things We've Learned About The NSA From A Summer Of Snowden Leaks". Forbes. September 9, 2013. http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/09/09/ten-things-weve-learned-about-the-nsa-from-a-summer-of-snowden-leaks/
(14) Rosenbach, Marcel; Poitras, Laura; Stark, Holger. "iSpy: How the NSA Accesses Smartphone Data". Spiegel Online. September 09, 2013. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/how-the-nsa-spies-on-smartphones-including-the-blackberry-a-921161.html
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