,

Democracy In The Balance: Indiana Goes Jim Crow

by Bob Fitrakis

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling in favor of the Hoosier state’s Jim Crow voter identification law sanctions the continual racist assault upon black voters and institutionalizes the disenfranchisement of the poor.

Not surprisingly, the axis of evil — Justices Anton Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — claim that “the law should be upheld because its overall burden is minimal and justified.”

In a real democracy, the burden should be on the state to enfranchise voters, not on the state to think of ways to keep poor people and minorities from the polls. At the age of 18, all eligible voters should be routinely registered to vote with a unique identifier, similar to a social security number. Scalia, Thomas and Alito love “state’s rights” and “Jim Crow.” As partisan Republican appointees, their judicial opinions are blatantly partisan and their approach to democracy, as it has been through most of American history, is to shrink the electorate.

The Supreme Court should have mandated that the state provide, free of charge, voter IDs for every eligible citizen in Indiana beginning with all graduating high school seniors. We increasingly live in a police state, where the Patriot Act monitors you day and night, and the NSA spies on you through the Echelon system. But Big Brother can’t figure out who’s eligible to vote?

Voting must become a constitutional right, and for that matter, so should privacy. That way, backward Hoosiers kissing the ass of right-wing Republicans would be prevented from ushering in another Jim Crow era.

The other three justices, John Paul Stevens,John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy, argued that the Indiana voter ID law, the way it is written, does not appear to be unconstitutional or to violate voter rights, therefore they voted it could stand.

So democracy remains in the balance. The problem is those facial challenges won’t come until the middle of the 2008 election, as once again Karl Rove and his racist pals objectively disenfranchise millions of black voters. The problem is any actual challenge to the voter ID law from a voter probably won’t come until Election Day 2008, as once again and his racist pals objectively disenfranchise millions of black voters.

I’m with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright on this. God, our concept and name for the force and principles for universal justice will damn this law.

Why Hillary Wins The Big States

by Bob Fitrakis

Many people have asked me my thoughts about the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Here’s my brief analysis of why Hillary appears to be “winning” many large states.

Obama actually won in Texas, he barely lost the primary but won the caucus later that night and got more delegates than Hillary.

As for Ohio and Pennsylvania — and the other “must-win” state, New Hampshire — these are more problematic. For example, Obama was predicted to win in the tracking polls in New Hampshire. and the exit polls showed him winning. Bizarre election irregularities involving touchscreen machines seem to have played a role in Hillary’s statistically improbable win.

Both the exit polls in Ohio, which were barely within the margin of error (see the Free Press article Did Republicans give Hillary her victory in Ohio? by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman, http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/19/2008/3041) and Pennsylvania, where it looks like Obama should have lost by less than 4 points but Hillary won by 10 points — suggest problems with the electronic voting. The key factor in Ohio and Pennsylvania are the Republican crossover votes. Hillary is winning not because she’s winning Democratic primary voters, but because Republicans are deliberately crossing over to vote for her in order to prolong the Democratic primary process. As long as Obama and Hillary continue to fight each other, then McCain gets a free pass and the Republicans will urge the defeated candidate supporters to crossover to the Republican side in November.

The Republicans want to run against Hillary. Their playbook is ready. I suspect there have been some electronic irregularities in her favor in NH and PA by Republican vendors of voting machines. But mainly, it’s the Republican crossover vote.

As long as our election system remains nontransparent and in the hands of private for-profit voting machine companies, we’ll never know the real vote count in these states.

Bob Bytes Back Archive: 7/10/1996 Tommy Takes The Town

by Bob Fitrakis

Tommy, George and Greg and Bob Dole would have to be an idiot to pick George Voinovich for vice president. Despite the obligatory fawning articles this past Sunday in both the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Voinovich-to borrow a phrase from President eagan-is up to his keister in a scandal. You can bank on it. In fact, you can take Tommy (T.G.) Banks to the bank on this. Remember the name, he’ll be a key factor in why Voinovich won’t be selected as Dole’s running mate. Or, if Dole is more out of it than he seems, why Ohio will have its own version of Whitewater. The governor, with the assistance of the Columbus Dispatch and assorted lawyers and PR flaks, are in the fight of their life to keep Andy Zajac’s well-documented Akron Beacon Journal article on contract steering, published a week ago Sunday, from becoming a major scandal. The article is so explosive it would not only deny Voinovich the VP slot he so covets, but also dash his hopes for winning a U.S. Senate seat -if he’s passed over by Dole-in 1998.

As mentioned last week, the Governor’s Chief of Staff Paul Mifsud suddenly announced his resignation on June 24 to spend more time with his family. In reality, ace reporter Zajac had been dogging Mifsud for months about a strange, sweetheart construction deal with the Banks Carbone Construction Company. Tommy Banks, the minority owner of the company, took out two permits for an estimated $210,000 in construction on the house of one Dr. Kathy Bartunek, future wife of Mr. Mifsud.

Now, Mr. Mifsud and Dr. Bartunek claim that Tommy Banks promised to build a plush-library, office, breakfast nook, etc.-1,200 square feet, two-story home addition as well as a 1,450 square feet, three-car detached garage for only $35,000. Yep, that’s right folks, for the remarkable price of $35,000. Now, according to the governor’s guy Mifsud, Banks blew it, and overran the construction costs to $109,000. Nobody can explain why Banks’ permits totaled $210,000. Mifsud and Bartunek have not produced canceled checks, as of yet, to show that they actually paid Banks anything, let alone the $109,000.

More curiously, after completely blowing the deal with perhaps the second most powerful man in Ohio politics, Banks went on to receive nine of 16 unbid minority contracts from the state of Ohio. A case of ultimate incompetence paying off? Hardly. Coincidence, Banks and Mifsud insist. No other minority contractor received more than three unbid contracts.

When Zajac began asking about Banks’ construction job and proof of payment, Mifsud and Bartunek tried to pressure the Beacon Journal management not to publish the story. In fact, Bartunek’s attorney, Megan Peters, even sent Zajac a threatening letter claiming the now-wife of the governor’s chief of staff was not a public figure. Someone in the guv’s office purportedly leaked the letter to a few select journalists in an obvious attempt to intimidate other reporters from jumping on the scandal. Christopher Davey of the Cincinnati Enquirer -a paper that has ignored the scandal -received a copy. Coincidentally, Davey was just hired as a communications spokesperson for Attorney General Betty Montgomery starting this week.

Meanwhile, Mifsud got Alan Johnson of the Dispatch to spin his damage control in a preemptive strike piece against Zajac’s piece in the June 29 edition. Zajac’s front page article appeared the next day, June 30. Johnson’s piece now stands as a pathetic orphan. Essentially, the article informs us that Mifsud had called upon the Ohio Ethics Commission to investigate him and immediately clear him. Notably, the Dispatch failed to print or mention the wire version of Zajac’s story the next day.

The Dispatch’s attempts to paper over the scandal were soon done in by Tommy Banks. Another Dispatch reporter, John Futty, was hot on Tommy’s trail in the local South of Main scandal. So, in one of the most bizarre layout decisions in Dispatch history, Johnson spun Mifsud’s prenuptial agreement and no financial interest in the property angle on page two of the Metro section on July 2. Johnson’s article refers to Thomas G. Banks of Banks Carbone Construction. Directly underneath Johnson’s story is a continuation of Futty’s front page article. Futty tells us that the same Mr. Banks, of T.G. Banks Special Projects Division and T.G. Banks & Associates, owes the city more than $12,000 in back taxes and the Bureau of Workers Compensation $131,000 in premiums. Undaunted, Banks copped the Billy Milligan defense with Futty. His evil corporate self headed T.G. Banks & Associates-it had the liens against it; the Good Tommy ran Special Projects and owed no money. And Tommy’s good friend Police Chief Jackson had his police department investigating the non-profit South of Main Development Corporation, whose subsequent demise allowed Banks to take over all their construction contracts with the city.

Turns out, Tommy is also civic-minded, giving big bucks to Mayor Greg Lashutka. And the mayor’s lovely wife saw fit to represent T.G. in a lawsuit. I’m also not quite sure whether it was the Good or Bad Tommy who brags about having built a garage for John Wolfe. Anyway, it seems Tommy’s just one lucky guy. After all, he was awarded a big COSI contract and one of the four people voting on it was the mayor’s then-Chief of Staff Bruce Johnson.

Looks like Tommy is going to do for the mayor what he’s already doing for the governor.

Bob Bytes Back Archive: 7/03/1996 Family Values

7/03/1996
Family Values
by Bob Fitrakis

Hey, did you hear the one about the governor’s chief of staff, Paul Mifsud, recently resigning “to spend more time with his family”? Family values, you gotta love those Republicans. I mean, here’s this guy at the pinnacle of power practically deciding who gets what contract, grant, tax abatement, etc. and he just walks away because he’s a family man. Right! You may have seen a strange little preemptive strike of an article in Saturday’s Dispatch where “Daddy Knows Best” Mifsud called upon the Ethics Committee to investigate himself. Why?

Read the Dispatch on Sunday and you won’t know. But please, please, don’t read Sunday’s Akron Beacon Journal. It wrecks the whole “family values” spin. Seems Mr. Mifsud’s then wife-to-be had some “sweetheart”-type construction-some $220,000 worth-done on her home by “minority” contractor T.J. Banks. Banks, the minority, owns the majority of the company and the Carbone family owns the rest. And, boy, coincidentally, do they get a lot of state contracts. Anyway, it’s all in that awful other Sunday paper you absolutely shouldn’t read under any circumstance. ‘Cause, you know, sometimes a man just likes to walk away from it all and spend some time with the missus and the young’un.

And rumor has it that a former top-level Dispatch executive who was canned may also have had a sweetheart home construction deal with the ubiquitous Mr. Banks, who was building commercially for the Dispatch Printing Company at the time.

Deconstructing Construction

Don’t fret, the Big D didn’t really go liberal on us in Sunday’s front page lead article. Yeah, it sounds like they’re apologizing for ineffective Big Government cost overruns on the Statehouse renovation. But that’s just a cover.

Their headline is a classic: “A pittance per person makes Capitol stately.” They go on to tell us how the $112.7 million restoration-“64 percent higher than the estimate”-is perhaps one of the greatest bargains in modern governmental history. Their lead, “the $29 renovation of the Statehouse is complete.” That’s $29 times 8.2 million taxpayers.

Now, after such a bargain, it would be uncharitable to bring up the fact that they regularly chastise the Clinton administration for cost overruns on every federal building they could find. Indeed, a recent editorial complained that a building with large cost overruns shouldn’t be named after the former President Ronald Reagan since he-of tripling the long-term debt from $800 billion to $2.4 trillion fame-was “a budget-cutter.” And Hitler was a peacemaker.

Oh, and the Dispatch forgot to mention they own the property right across the street that zoomed up in value with the renovation. So, it’s not really liberalism, just plain old socialism for the rich.

Covert Operations at Rickenbacker?

All evidence points to Columbus’ Rickenbacker airport as the site of covert CIA operations during the Yugoslavian civil war. As previously mentioned in this column, admitted “ex-CIA” airline, Southern Air Transport (SAT), moved its hub from Miami, Florida (“ah, the good ol’ Bay of Pigs days”) to Columbus in 1995. This is the same time that President Clinton secretly authorized the arming of Bosnian Muslims, brought to our attention by Bob Dole and other Republican members of the U.S. Senate as a campaign issue.

In January, Southern Air official David Sweet admitted that Southern Air Transport held contracts with the U.S. government related to the Peace Accord signed by Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia in late November in Fairborn, Ohio.

Sweet noted, according to the Dispatch, that one of SAT’s “advantages” is its fleet of 15, L-100 Lockheed Hercules planes, a commercial, extended version of the military’s C-130 cargo planes. Sweet praised the L-100’s ability to land on “unimproved” airstrips. Loaders who worked for Rickenbacker, not SAT, report loading uniform 10,000-pound crates on the L-100s throughout 1995, prior to the Peace Accord.

I can only speculate as to what was in them. Arms for the Bosnian Muslims? No doubt SAT officials, as they’re trained, will deny this and claim they should neither be tainted by their CIA ownership from 1960-1973, nor their role in the Iran-Contra scandal. Still, being ex-CIA is a lot like being ex-Mafia.

Just ask Columbus’ own General Richard Secord, an international arms dealer with long-standing ties to the CIA who leased a C-123 Southern Air Transport plane that was shot down on October 5, 1986 over Nicaragua and made Iran-Contra a household word. Secord last emerged from the spookworld in the early 1990s in Azerbaijan where he had ties to a U.S. oil company, MegaOil, where ex-U.S. armed forces members were paid mercenaries conducting “military training programs.”

A UN procurement dispute in 1993 found that both SAT and Evergreen helicopters, another “ex-CIA” proprietary, contained more (ex-)spooks than a Jaycee’s haunted house at Halloween.

In November 1993, the Los Angeles Times reported that SAT procured lucrative supply contracts to service U.S. peacekeeping forces in Somalia, including one to fly Israeli mineral water from Mogadishu to outlying towns at $30,000 a day. So, the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, what’s the next job? Saudi Arabia? I’d think twice before buying that property near Rickenbacker. Could be a different version of red, white, and boom!

,

City Of Peace

By Bob Fitrakis

April 3, 2008

The great moral issue of our era is the illegal war in Iraq. Like the issues of slavery, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War in past epochs, silence on this issue equals complicity.

On March 17, the Citizens Grassroots Congress presented a Columbus “City for Peace” resolution to the Columbus City Council. Notably, 283 cities, 10 counties and 17 states across the nation have passed peace resolutions, from Arrowsic, Maine to South Charleston, West Virginia to Missoula, Montana.

Yet, the Columbus Dispatch, in a March 22 editorial, denounced the peace resolution as an “Empty gesture.” They cautioned Council to “focus on city issues,” not the war in Iraq. The Dispatch calls the resolution “symbolic and ineffectual.”

In 1838, when Angelina Grimke became the first woman to address a legislative body in the U.S., her plea for a resolution from the Massachusetts legislature against slavery met with similar scorn from the mainstream media.

The slaves couldn’t speak for themselves, nor can the more than one million Iraqis who have died as a direct result of Bush’s war. The voices of 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been silenced as well.

In addition to these incalculable human costs, we can begin to add up how this war, that was supposed to “pay for itself,” is devastating the economy in Columbus, Ohio.

According to the National Priorities Project, “Taxpayers in Columbus, Ohio will pay $135.1 million for additional proposed Iraq War spending for FY 2008. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided:
• 47,896 people with health care or
• 151,338 homes with renewable electricity or
• 3,060 public safety officers or
• 2,069 music and arts teachers or
• 15,591 scholarships for university students or
• 12 new elementary schools or
• 1,260 affordable housing units or
• 81,262 children with health care or
• 21,039 Head Start places for children or
• 2,153 elementary school teachers or
• 2,373 port container inspectors”
The cost of the war continues to rise daily. The monthly cost exceeds the monthly cost of the Vietnam War (adjusted for inflation) by half a billion dollars.

And what has the war accomplished? The war has turned Iraq, an anti-Al Qaeda state with no ties to the terrorist organization, into a symbol for “accelerated recruitment” for Al Qaeda, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The country is now “a training and recruitment ground (for terrorists) and an opportunity for terrorists to enhance their technology skills,” according to the U.S. National Intelligence Council.

Mainstream newspapers also warned Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. from speaking out against the Vietnam War. But, on April 4, 1967 he ignored their advice because he believed “Somehow this madness must cease.”

“I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America. To the leaders of our own nation: the great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours,” pronounced King at the Riverside Church in New York City.

The Dispatch says the Council’s work should “all center on making Columbus a better place to live.” The cost of war on our city will leave us both economically and morally bankrupt. The cost of silence is far greater than the price of a principled stand.

This military madness once again afflicts our nation, and our elected officials lack the courage to take a stand for peace. The people overwhelmingly voted for peace in the 2006 election, turning out the party of war. The silence of the City Council, to borrow the words of King, equals betrayal of their constituents and their own conscience.


Bob Fitrakis is Editor & Publisher of The Free Press (https://freepress.org), where this article first appeared.