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Why The Right Wing Hates And Wants To Smash ACORN

The level of the current right wing frenzy against the Association of Communities Organizing for Reform Now (ACORN) can only be understood within the dynamics of President Barack Obama’s 2008 election and John Kerry’s “official” loss in 2004.

ACORN, more than any other political organization, was responsible for Obama’s victory. ACORN in Ohio, and in key swing states, did what the Democratic Party used to do, but now seems incapable of doing – registering large numbers of low income and working class voters.

Instead of going after the real whores at Chase, CitiBank, and assorted other financial institutions that pimped our system and our people, undercover right wing videographers went for a target that fit their pre-fabricated agenda – a fake Daddy Mac and whore trying to open up a brothel with an ACORN member’s advice. Of course any ACORN people involved in illegal practices should be investigated, as should anyone in the elite financial community and anyone out there misusing federal Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) money.

For that matter, the war criminals in the United States – beginning with Cheney and Bush who committed war crimes, violated the 4th and 8th Amendments by spying on U.S. citizens and torturing people – should be stalked and videotaped whenever possible.

The major reason ACORN has been a target of the Republican Party’s political operatives because it disrupts the strategy put in place by Karl Rove to simply purge as many Democratic voters as possible.

Here in Ohio, the Republican Party led a charge to purge an estimated 1.25 million voters. The GOP attacked black students at Wilberforce, a traditionally black college. They attacked inner city voters in the heavily Democratic wards of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. They attacked students at liberal colleges like Kenyon and students who had gone to major public universities like the Ohio State University and Ohio University.

ACORN was one of the few organizations that was consistently active in the inner city of Ohio’s largest urban areas. Not that there weren’t other voter registration organizations, including the Obama campaign, but the one that asked me to register to vote over and over again in the inner city neighborhood I live in was ACORN.

Recall that Arkansas U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins and Western Missouri U.S. Attorney Todd Graves were fired for failing to go after ACORN during its 2006 voter registration drive. Those responsible for the firing reached all the way to Rove in Bush’s White House.

The National Journal reported that former Bush-Cheney re-election campaign attorney Mark “Thor” Hearne targeted ACORN: “[Hearne]…believed that the U.S. Attorney Todd Graves was not taking seriously allegations that ACORN workers were registering people who did not qualify to vote.”

The Republican sting operation is little more than an extension of the attacks on ACORN in Nevada, Missouri and Ohio in the 2006 election. In 2006, estimates were that ACORN had registered some 1.3 million new voters. The attacks on ACORN, and their contrived nature were revealed at a 2005 hearing before then-Congressman Bob Ney in Ohio, who was later convicted of a felony.

At the federal hearing held in the Ohio Statehouse, Hearne emerged from nowhere claiming to be a voting rights advocate with a front organization called the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR). In a classic Rovian scam, Hearne unleashed an unsubstantiated litany of “voter fraud” charges against ACORN and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Among other things, Hearne, who had no history of ever working as a voting rights advocate, told Congressman Ney that voter registration campaigns were used crack cocaine as an incentive for registering new voters. Using the age-old canard of linking a black civil rights and a welfare rights organization with drugs serves the racist stereotypes consistently pitched by right-wingers.

In Hearne’s testimony in Ohio, he also went after the AFL-CIO and Americans Coming Together (ACT-Ohio) as evil-doers involved in “fraudulent” voter registration.

In a March 2005 letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, Hearne claimed there was “substantial evidence to suggest potential criminal wrongdoing by organizations such as Americans Coming Together, ACORN, and the NAACP-Project Vote.”

In Wood County, Ohio, the Free Enterprise Coalition (FEC) associated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agreed to back a racketeering charge against the NAACP. After Hearne’s showy press conferences, the suit was withdrawn following the revelation that the plaintiffs were being indemnified by the FEC.

The real issue is the emergence of long-standing southern Jim Crow tactics in key swing states like Ohio. In 2004, more than 300,000 voters were purged in the Democratic stronghold of Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. In fact, 24.93% of all voters in the Cleveland area were purges between the 2000 and 2004 presidential election.

If the United States had universal guaranteed constitutional voting rights, ACORN would not be under attack by upper-class white political operatives posing as whores and pimps on their way up the Republican operative ladder.

The small amount of federal money received by ACORN pales in comparison to the tens of billions of dollars in unbid contracts given by Mac Daddys Bush and Cheney to Halliburton.
ACORN is under attack because it is effective and a threat to those forces who wish to disenfranchise millions of U.S. voters. For the most part, Democratic Party officials and their corporate Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) mentors have long ago given up door-to-door inner city voter registration campaigns. ACORN remains as one of the last hold-outs in ensuring the voting rights of millions of forgotten and discarded urban voters.

Bob Fitrakis is the editor of freepress.org. While he’s never worked or been a member of ACORN, in the early 1980s he lived in a house in the city of Detroit that included ACORN organizers.

Fitrakis/Wasserman: Your Electronic Vote In The 2010 Election Has Just Been Bought

Cartoon by M.e. Cohen / HumorInk.com.

Your electronic vote in the 2010 election has just been bought

The ES&S purchase of Diebold’s voting machine operation is merely the tip of a toxic iceberg…

By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman / The Rag Blog / September 24, 2009

Unless U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder intervenes, your electronic vote in 2010 will probably be owned by the Republican-connected ES&S Corporation. With 80% ownership of America’s electronic voting machines, ES&S could have the power to shape America’s future with a few proprietary keystrokes.

ES&S has just purchased the voting machine division of the Ohio-based Diebold, whose role in fixing the 2004 presidential election for George W. Bush is infamous.

Critics of the merger hope Holder will rescind the purchase on anti-trust grounds.

But only a transparent system totally based on hand-counted paper ballots, with universal automatic voter registration, can get us even remotely close to a reliable vote count in the future.

For even if Holder does void this purchase, ES&S and Diebold in tandem will still control four of every five votes cast on touchscreen machines. As the U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to open the floodgates on corporate campaign spending, the only difference could be that those who would buy our elections will have to write two checks instead of one.

And in fact, it’s even worse than that. ES&S, Diebold and a tiny handful of sibling Republican voting equipment and computing companies control not only the touchscreen machines, but also the electronic tabulators that count millions of scantron ballots, AND the electronic polling books that decide who gets to vote and who doesn’t.

Let’s do a quick review:

  1. ES&S, Diebold and other companies tied to election hardware and software are owned and operated by a handful of very wealthy conservatives, or right-to-life ideologues, with long-standing direct ties to the Republican Party;
  2. As votes will be increasingly cast on optiscans, touchscreens or computer voting machines in the United States in 2010, the scant few so-called paper trail mechanisms that are in place will offer little security against electronic vote theft;
  3. The source code on all U.S. touchscreen machines now used for the casting and counting of ballots is proprietary, meaning the companies that own and operate the machines — including ES&S — are not required to share with the public the details of how those machines actually work;
  4. Although there are official mechanisms for monitoring and recounts, none carry any real weight in the face of the public’s inability to gain control or even access to this electronic source code, whose proprietary standing has been upheld by the courts;
  5. With the newly merged ES&S/Diebold now apparently controlling 80% of the national vote through hardware and software, this GOP-connected corporation will have the power to alter virtually every election in the U.S. with a few keystrokes. Unless there is a massive, successful grassroots campaign between now and 2012, the same will hold true for the next US presidential election;
  6. Aside from its control of touchscreen machines, the merged Diebold/ES&S also controls a significant percent of the electronic optiscan tabulators to count cards on which voters use pencils to fill in circles, indicating their vote. Accounts of fraud, rigging, theft and abuse of these optiscan systems are well-documented and innumerable. Any corporation that prints these ballots and runs the machines designated to count them can control yet another major piece of the US vote count;
  7. The merged ES&S/Diebold now also controls the electronic voter registration systems in many counties and states. With that control comes the ability to remove registered voters without significant public accountability. In the 2004 election, nearly 25% of all the registered voters in the Democratic-rich city of Cleveland were purged, including 10,000 voters erased “accidentally” by a Diebold electronic pollbook system. So in addition to controlling the vote counts on touchscreen and optiscan voting machines, the merged Diebold/ES&S and sympathetic hardware and software companies that service computerized voting equipment will control who actually gets to cast a vote in the first place.

Lest we forget: in 2000, long before this ES&S/Diebold purchase was proposed, Choicepoint, a GOP-controlled data management firm, hired by Florida’s Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris, removed up to 150,000 Florida citizens from voter rolls on the pretense that they were ex-felons. The vast majority of them were not.

Computer software “disappeared” 16,000 votes from Al Gore’s column at a critical moment on election night, allowing George W. Bush’s first cousin John Ellis, a Fox News analyst, to proclaim him the winner. The election was officially decided by less than 700 votes and a 5-4 Supreme Court vote preventing a full recount. An independent audit later showed Gore was the rightful winner.

In 2004, more than 300,000 Ohio citizens were removed from voter rolls by GOP-controlled county election boards (more than one million have been removed since).

Various dirty tricks prevented still tens of thousands more Ohioans from voting. The vote count was marred by a wide range of official manipulations coordinated by then-Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.

Diebold was a major player in the 2004 Ohio elections, but was joined by numerous other computer voting firms and their technicians in “recounting the vote” which confirmed the Bush “victory,” despite exit poll results and other evidence to the contrary. In defiance of a federal court order, 56 of 88 Ohio counties destroyed some or all of their ballots or election records. No one has been prosecuted.

In short, the ES&S purchase of Diebold’s voting machine operation is merely the tip of a toxic iceberg. Voiding the merger will do nothing to solve the REAL problem, which is an electronic-based system of voter registration and ballot counting that is potentially controlled by private corporations and contractors whose agenda is to make large profits and protect the system that guarantees them.

Although elections based on universal automatic registration and hand-counted paper ballots are not foolproof, they constitute a start. Stealing an election by stuffing paper ballot boxes at the “retail” level is far more difficult than stealing votes at the “wholesale” level with an electronic flip of a switch.

As it’s done in numerous other countries throughout the world, the only realistic means by which the U.S. can establish a democratic system of ballot casting and counting is to do it the old-fashioned way. With human-scale checks and balances we might even be secure in the knowledge that our elections and vote counts will truly reflect the will of the people. What a concept!

[Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection, available at freepress.org at, where this article also appears, and where Bob’s Fitrakis Files are also available. Harvey Wasserman’s History of the U.S. is at harveywasserman.com.]

The Rag Blog

Free Press Free Movie Sept. 22 – “Children of Armageddon”

September 22 at 7:30pm
Free Press free movie – “Children of Armageddon
A moving and disturbing portrait of the legacy of the nuclear arms
race in Japan, the Marshall Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand and the
planet. With contributions from world-renowned experts Noam Chomsky,
Hans Blix, Arjun Makhijani, Douglas Roche and many others.
Drexel Theater, 2254 E. Main St., Bexley
Sponsored by the Free Press, Central Ohio Green Education Fund and the
Film Council of Greater Columbue
truth@freepress.org

Roll Over Damschroder And Tell Rove The News

I’m always amazed at the political career of Matt Damschroder, Deputy Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections. He’s just been named to the bipartisan Committee to Modernize Voter Registration (CMVR). Matt first came to political prominence in Columbus when he managed the right wing “Flag Lady’s” campaign for City Council. The visibility of her little flag shop on High Street allowed her to do much better than expected in a close defeat.

Matt went on from there to be known as “the chauffer” – the guy who drove around and literally wheeled around former Franklin County Republican Party Chair Michael F. Colley. He went from being Colley’s wheel-man to replacing Colley as the Franklin County Republican Party Chair.

From there it was a short hop to the lucrative and politically powerful position as Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections. In that post Damschroder came to national prominence during the infamous 2004 election. Readers of freepress.org will recall that Damschroder distinguished himself by purging “felons” that weren’t convicted of felonies from the voting rolls, particularly in Democratic strongholds, as well as shorting voting machines from the inner city black wards.

His partisan actions as Franklin County BOE Director cost John Kerry tens of thousands of votes in Ohio’s capital city. And when the bidding was opened for new voting machines in Franklin County, Damschroder accepted a $10,000 check in his BOE office made out to the Franklin County Republican Party from a key Diebold salesperson, Patsy Gallina. Damschroder was censured and suspended without pay for a month for this breach of ethics. His job was only saved thanks to the intervention of the Democratic Party’s ethically-challenged Chair, Bill Anthony. The philosophy at the Franklin County BOE is that an injury to one election official is an injury to all. Covering each other’s asses, and donkeys, is their code of honor.

Prior to the 2008 election, Damschroder purged more than 300,000 voters from Franklin County’s voting rolls – far exceeding any election official in the state of Ohio. And purging more voters in his county that were eliminated in 2004. Matt Damschroder was forced out by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner two days before the 2008 presidential primary. Damschroder had openly defied Brunner’s directives, particularly one mandating that voters be allowed to vote on paper. Damschroder hung on, as party hacks often do, as Deputy Director.

In a just society Damschroder would be busy repenting in prison. But in the United States, he gets promoted for his incompetence and corruption. Now Matt will be serving alongside former United Nations Ambassador and Senator John Danforth, former Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle, former U.S. Reps Harold Ford, Jr. and Susan Molinari.

The goal of CMVR is to update the voting systems, particularly registration. A key charge to the Committee is to “…register voters automatically while also maintaining safeguards against fraud,” according to the Columbus Dispatch. I guess this is in the long tradition of hiring computer hackers for security and bank robbers as advisors to banks to prevent future thefts.

Ironically, the Columbus Dispatch seems to have missed the articles that contained Damschroder’s scandalous behavior. Mark Niquette, as is tradition, reports the Damschroder appointment as straight news as local boy makes good. Without a hint of sarcasm he writes “Matthew Damschroder is one of two local election officials on the bipartisan committee….”

I figure a few unethical debacles on this committee and Damschroder’s ready to lead the National Republican Party. After all, Rove’s retired, isn’t he?

SECOND SATURDAY SALON

SECOND SATURDAY SALON
September 12 – 6-11pm

1021 E. Broad St.
(side door, parking in rear)

Come for the progressive social networking
Have a bit to eat and drink

truth@freepress.org

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David Swanson Visits Columbus

7:00 – 9:00 PM Wednesday
Areopagitica Bookstore, 3510 N. High St., Columbus, Ohio
Book signing and talk. “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.”
David Swanson will be in Columbus to discuss his new book to be published soon by Seven Stories Press. David is a co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org – see http://www.afterdowningstreet.org and http://www.davidswanson.org He is also the author of the introduction to “The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush” published by Feral House and available at Amazon.com. His articles appear frequently on http://www.freepress.org

Swanson holds a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including press secretary for Dennis Kucinich’s 2004 presidential campaign, media coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as communications coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson is Co-Founder of AfterDowningStreet.org, creator of ConvictBushCheney.org and Washington Director of Democrats.com, a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, the Backbone Campaign, and Voters for Peace, a member of the legislative working group of United for Peace and Justice, and convener of the accountability and prosecution working group of United for Peace and Justice.

This event is free and open to the public. Swanson’s new book will be available for purchase and signing by the author. This event is sponsored by the Columbus Free Press and the Progressive Peace Coalition. For more information, contact chammon@columbus.rr.com or http://www.davidswanson.org/book

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The Resurrection Of Antioch College: A Small Victory For Humanity

September 6, 2009

The struggle and victory to re-open Antioch College as an independent institution separate from Antioch University is a major victory for peace and progressive forces in the United States. On Friday, September 4, Antioch University officials signed a 750-page closing document after 14 months of negotiations to turn Antioch College assets over to the Antioch College Continuation Corp. (read: the alumni).

A group of Greene County citizens recently dropped a complaint filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s office to strip the University of its tax exempt status. The complaint alleged that the University had neglected and wasted the assets of the former College, including severe damage to the historical main building at the Yellow Springs campus.

The Attorney General’s office acknowledged that the withdrawal of the complaint helped pave the way for the final settlement.

The Dayton Daily News reports that the resurrected Antioch plans: “…for a small, first-year class in fall 2010.” The Chronicle of Higher Education asserted that: “Admitting applicants and educating students are at least two years away.” And, Antioch University itself said when it closed the College that it would attempt to re-open it in 2012.

When the increasingly corporatist Antioch University Board of Trustees announced that the College would cease operations in July 2008, it was a stake through the heart of advocates of socially-conscious liberal arts education.

The sooner Antiochian-educated students are injected into America’s body politic the better. In many ways, the little liberal arts college in Yellow Springs has functioned as the conscience of American higher education. Also, it has served as an incubator for virtually every progressive struggle that has improved human rights in this nation.

Mussolini understood in his bid for fascism, that alternative and selfless ideas must be eradicated. He once gave a definition of fascism as “illiberalism” and “corporatism.”

Bruce P. Bedford served on the Board of Antioch University as well on the Board of the Arlington, Virginia company GlobeSecNine. The company was described as possessing a “unique set of experiences in special forces, classified operations, transportation security, and military operations” according to Bear Stearns. Michael Alexander, a former Trustee, founded AverStar whose clients were primarily the U.S. Defense Department and NASA. AverStar merged with the controversial Titan Corporation in the year 2000. Titan, with close ties to the Bush administration, pleaded guilty and paid, at the time, the largest penalty under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for bribery and filing false tax returns in March 2005. Questions have lingered over the role of Bedford and Alexander with their close ties to the U.S. military-industrial complex and the U.S. intelligence community.

At the time of the closing, the Dayton Daily News reported that a $5 million accounting error caused the College to close. Bedford, University records show, served as Treasurer just before the decision was made to close Antioch College.

Recalling Antioch’s history is key to celebrating this victory. The Christian Connection founded Antioch in 1852 and famed educator Horace Mann helmed as president in when it opened its doors in 1853. Mann’s quote: “Be ashamed to die until you win some victory for humanity” inspired the progressive spirit of the school. Antioch College was one of the first mostly white colleges to aggressively recruit African American students in the 1940s and refused to expel students accused of “Communist” leanings in the 1950s. Antioch provided a setting for growing activist movements such as the civil rights movement, New Left, Black Power, and feminism. Antioch students were encouraged to participate in practical work along with their classroom learning.

Former Antioch College faculty, staff, and others continued holding classes while the College was closed in what they called “Nonstop” Antioch during part of 2008 and 2009. Students attended classes at Yellow Springs bookstores, coffee shops, churches, homes, art galleries and even at the Glen Helen Nature Preserve.

An alumni reunion is scheduled for October 2 at the re-born Antioch College. Let us hope that the spirit of the event is that which caused the college to be targeted as a “vanguard of the New Left” under the FBI’s notorious COINTELPRO operation. Those who fought to save Antioch have clearly won another significant victory for humanity.

See: Shock, awe and Antioch at freepress.org


Bob Fitrakis represented the Greene County citizens group seeking to strip tax exempt status from Antioch University. He is also the author of “The Fitrakis Files” Spooks, Nukes, and Nazis” on the role of the CIA in Ohio politics and the author of the forthcoming volume Cops, Coverups and Corruption.”