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Et Tu, ACLU?

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
January 27, 2010

The Supreme Court’s atrocious Citizen’s United green light for unlimited corporate campaign spending had a willing accomplice—the American Civil Liberties Union.

Why?

As long-time supporters, we are horrified by the ACLU’s betrayal of political reality and plain common sense.

Standing proudly with the victorious corporate hacks on the steps of the SCOTUS was none other than the legendary First Amendment crusader Floyd Abrams.

Keith Olberman has called him a “Quisling” for aiding and abetting this catastrophic confirmation of corporate “personhood.”

The ACLU has long been the go-to stalwart of First Amendment rights. Its list of accomplishments is long, impressive and essential.

The ACLU has bravely faced divisive, expensive controversy. Long ago it defended the right of American neo-nazis to march through Skokie, a heavily Jewish suburb of Chicago.

The ACLU has also defended the right of such loathsome haters as the Ku Klux Klan to gather and speak.

In these and other such cases, the ACLU has been right, and has courageously paid a price.

But perhaps the organization has confused those valid First Amendment cases with a Citizen’s United decision perpetrated by the most virulent judicial opponents of individual speech in the history of the Court. In reference to this case the ACLU says it “has consistently taken the position that section 203 is facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment because it permits the suppression of core political speech, and our amicus brief takes that position again.”

We respectfully—but vehemently—disagree. Simply put: money is not speech, corporations are not people.

Given the immense sums of cash these corporations have to spend, the Citizen’s United decision is the equivalent not of guaranteeing individual Nazis the freedom to march, but instead of granting the Party itself the right to drive tanks down the street, guns ablazing.

It’s not the same as giving individual Klan members the right to hold a rally, but rather for the organization to do public lynchings as part of a terror campaign aimed at taking tangible power.

Nowhere in the Constitution do the Founders mention the word corporation. There were a small handful of them at the time of ratification, all strictly limited by state charter to where and what kind of business they could do. They bear scant resemblance to the multi-national behemoths we confront today. Those who wrote and ratified the First Amendment would be horrified by their very existence.

The moneyed power of these corporations and their access to the First Amendment through the myth of “personhood” has been the ultimate pox on American politics since the 1880s.

It has been reported that the ACLU Board is now considering endorsing limits on campaign spending. Abrams has been reported ( http://reason.com/blog/2010/01/25/liberals-vs-free-speech-aclu-e ) as arguing that “The worst thing you could do – the absolutely worst thing you could do – is transform a civil liberties organization into a liberal political organization.”

But this decision has transformed the ACLU into a conservative political organization, working to arm the ultimate enemies of democracy with unlimited monetary and political power.

We are confident the activist community can survive this latest assault on democracy. It will not be easy, but it can be done.

A good first step would be for the ACLU to face reality and now oppose the false claims anti-human money machines have made on our sacred Bill of Rights.


Attorney Bob Fitrakis & Historian Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection. Bob’s Fitrakis Files are at www.freepress.org, where this article first appeared. Harvey’s History of the US is at www.harveywasserman.com.

Will Diebold Steal Ted Kennedy’s Seat – And The Senate?

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
January 18, 2010

The same types of machines that helped put George W. Bush in the White House in 2000, and “re-elect” him 2004, may now decide who wins the all-important “60th Senate seat” in Massachusetts. The fate of health care and much much more hang in the balance.

As Bay Staters vote to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, most will be marking scantron ballots to be run through easily hackable electronic counters made by Diebold/Premier.

A paper ballot of sorts does come through these machines. But the count they generated was seriously compromised in the Florida 2000 election that put George W. Bush in the White House. Similar machines played a critical role skewing the Ohio 2004 vote count to fraudulently re-elect him.

In 2004, Lucas County (Toledo) Ohio, incorrectly calibrated Diebold scantron machines left piles of uncounted ballots in heavily black districts in the inner city.

The Free Press also found that on optiscan machines in Miami County, Ohio the reported totals were significantly higher than the actual number of people who signed in to vote.

Ironically, the cheated candidate in that election was Massachusetts’ now-senior Senator John Kerry. Kerry is circulating email appeals warning that this election is a “jump ball” in which “shady right-wing organizations and out of state conservatives have descended upon the state in droves.”

But Kerry himself has infamously said nothing about the theft of the 2004 election. Neither he, the Democratic Party, nor the Obama Administration have done anything to change a system in which elections can be stolen by the very-well-funded Republican-owned companies that make and administer the vote-counting machines. A dozen election protection groups from around the country have now issued an “orange alert” warning that the Massachusetts vote count could be “ripe for manipulation.”

Thus Kerry’s new colleague could be “selected” by the same means that deprived him of the White House.

According to Selectman Dan Keller of the western town of Wendell, some Massachusetts communities — including his — do have hand-counted paper ballots.

But most of the state relies on Diebold scantron counters which can be manipulated in numerous ways, including switching calibrations and moving ballots from precinct-to-precinct or county-to-county, thus reversing intended votes from one candidate to another.

According to Brad Friedman at BradBlog (http://www.bradblog.com/?p=7650 ) LHS Associates sells and services many of the machines being used in this special election. Though the vast majority of elected officials in Massachusetts are Democrats, control of the vote count can be a grey area where voting machines are involved, especially given Sen. Kerry’s 6-year stupor over the stolen 2004 election, a record of inaction amply matched by the Democratic Party and Obama Administration.

According to Friedman, LHS “has admitted to illegally tampering with memory cards during elections,” and has a Director of Sales and Marketing who has been “barred from Connecticut by their Secretary of State.”

The stakes in this election cannot be overstated. The deceased Senator Kennedy’s seat holds the key to a filibuster-breaking 60-seat Democratic majority in the Senate. State Attorney-General Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate, is a supporter of the Obama health care plan, and an opponent of atomic power.

Coakley’s opponent, conservative Republican State Senator Scott Brown, has been running a Tea Bagger-style “populist” campaign.

Poll results differ substantially as the campaign winds down, but all show a close race. Thus Diebold, a thoroughly tainted player with deep Republican roots, could hold the key to the election by shifting the outcome in just a few key precincts.

After internet-based reporting broke the story of the stolen 2004 election, thousands of election-protection activists turned out to monitor the 2008 vote count. Among other things, careful exit polling was done to provide a close reality check on official vote counts. Poll monitors interviewed voters and carefully scrutinized voting procedures and how ballots were handled and counted.

Often overlooked are voter registration manipulations, which were used in Ohio and elsewhere to strip hundreds of thousands of voters of their right to cast a ballot. In Ohio alone, more than 300,000 legally registered voters were electronically removed from the voter rolls between the 2000 and 2004 elections. Most were in heavily Democratic urban areas.

In 2008, the Free Press found that the number of purged Ohio voters jumped to more than a million.

Thus the fact that the electoral apparatus in Massachusetts is apparently in the hands of Democrats may not matter. Private vendors like LHS and Diebold have the actual control over the final numbers.

In Massachusetts, a recount only occurs if the final results are less than half of one percent, and as election reform activist John Bonifaz points out, Massachusetts does not require random audits of the computerized vote counting machines to compare the computer results to the optical scan ballots marked by the voters. Bonifaz notes that in the Al Franken-Norm Coleman Minnesota Senate race in 2008, “everything was ultimately hand-counted.” The problem in Massachusetts hinges on whether the race is close enough to trigger a recount, which candidates can peition for within thirty days.

Exit polls remain the gold standard for election integrity throughout the democratic world. But in Ohio in 2004, the exit polls indicated that the election results were reversed and that Kerry actually won. Jonathan Simon, election integrity expert, points out that the exit polls in 2008 in Minnesota “…had Franken winning by 10%! This is a huge disparity, not remotely reflected by the recount.”

“Could the exit poll have been that badly off? Or could a large number of ballots, 200,000 or so, been swapped out before the recount? Here is where the chain or custody, or lack thereof, comes in. These ballots were not exactly under heavy surveillance during the month-long period between election day and recount completion,” Simon said.

What will matter in Massachusetts is how thoroughly election-protection advocates are able to scrutinize voter certification, access and ballot security. Billions of dollars—and much more—are riding on the outcome of this election. Those who believe it cannot or would not be stolen are simply in denial.

Given the Democratic party’s astonishing lack of leadership on so many issues, it is entirely possible that Scott Brown could legitimately beat Martha Coakley in this election.

But it is also possible that the outcome could be manipulated by the companies in control of the registration rolls and vote counts. It will be up to citizen election protection activists to make sure that doesn’t happen yet again.

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman broke many of the major stories surrounding the theft of the 2004 election, and have co-authored four books on election protection, which appear at www.freepress.org, where they are publisher and senior editor, and where this story first appeared.

Silence Remains Betrayal – An Update Of A Bush-Era Article For The Obama Administration

Bob Fitrakis
January 18, 2010

President Obama should know that his silence in regards to the military industrial complex is a betrayal of the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Rev. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 – exactly one year after, to the day, he profoundly indicted U.S. militarism. Obama unleashed same militarism in his so-called Afghanistan surge. King’s “Silence is Betrayal” speech, given at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, denounced “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift.”

In the middle of the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression, the lack of a Green New Deal and jobs programs that make the U.S. less energy dependent are leading to imperial folly in Central Asia. Obama’s popularity erodes as he embraces the same militaristic policies that destroyed President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. As the architect of the War of Poverty, Michael Harrington, used to say, “The War of Poverty was not lost in America, it was lost in the jungles of Vietnam.”

As more than 30,000 new troops pour into Afghanistan, as the government of the United States runs a trillion-dollar yearly deficit, and the annual defense budget approaches $600 billion, not including the $200 billion war budget for Afghanistan, King’s words remain relevant today.

With the U.S. accounting for half of all military spending on Earth and the fact that we could hire every unemployed worker in Afghanistan for a mere $4 billion, we could use the remaining $196 billion war budget to rebuild the infrastructure of the U.S.

The real battles being fought out in the U.S. and in Central Asia echo King’s struggle for economic justice alongside the sanitation workers in Memphis. President Eisenhower understood that “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

King, despite his inner search for truth, did not come easily to opposing the politics of the Johnson administration as the Vietnam War raged. King’s great spirit, that seemed to instinctively speak truth to power, feared “the apathy of conformity” in “his own bosom.” King courageously overcame being “mesmerized by uncertainty” and instead, spoke out forcefully.

Dr. King broke the “silence of the night” and found his famously distinct voice, set apart by its universal tone of moral resonance. He looked into the hell-black “darkness that seemed so close around us” and urged people of conscience “to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls ‘enemy’.”

King, like Christ, knew that the Vietnamese people, like the Afghanistani people, are our brothers and sisters. His speech was an attempt to reach out to dehumanized American foes and “hear their broken cries.”

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values . . . a true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, ‘this way of settling difference is not just,’” King spoke.

Looking out into the great waves of history, King observed that, “The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursue this self-defeating path of hate.”

King pointed out, then as now, “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.” There is yet time to draw back from the siege of Baghdad; to say no to the clash of cultures, to end the empty and self-destructive rhetoric of perpetual war in the name of perpetual peace.

If we don’t make that choice, King put it well: “If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality and strength without sight.”

President Obama still has a choice today. Thus far, he has chosen to ignore the true legacy of King and pursue the dream of imperial folly.

Original article:
http://www.freepress.org/columns/display/3/2010/1801

Second Saturday Salon

Join us in celebrating the Free Press’ 40th anniversary year
at the
Second Saturday Salon
Saturday, January 9, 2010 from 6:30pm-midnight
1021 East Broad Street – side door, parking in rear

Find out about the origins of the Free Press back in the late 60s and early 70s.
Socializing with refreshments, art, music, and progressive friends.
Co-sponsored by the Central Ohio Green Education Fund
truth@freepress.org
253-2571