Category: American History

Will Alabama Voters Be Next to Reject ‘Trumpism’?

by Harvey Wasserman

originally published by TruthDig on November 8, 2017

Phil Murphy, right, won the governor’s seat in New Jersey, but during the race, his Republican opponent released a controversial immigration attack ad linking him to a convicted killer. (Screen shot via The Washington Post)

Steve Bannon’s attempted fascist putsch in Virginia and New Jersey has failed.

Is Alabama next? Can the Democrats keep it from being stolen?

Tuesday’s gubernatorial elections in the Garden State and the state “for lovers” were soundly won by moderate Democrats. The elections were widely featured in the corporate media as referendums on Donald Trump.

But the knife cut much deeper. Steve Bannon, the nation’s leading fascist activist-theoretician, offered to campaign for Gillespie, branding him a “culture warrior” in the course of the race. Although Gillespierefused Bannon’s direct aid in the campaign, Bannon praised Gillespie’s adoption of far-right Trumpist ideology and his brutally racist, anti-immigrant ads that reflect Bannon’s extreme right-wing ideology.

Bannon went so far as to say that Gillespie’s swing to the hard right was what made his race competitive. “I do believe Gillespie’s going to pull this thing out,” Bannon said Sunday, two days before the vote. “The lesson of Gillespie is Trumpism without Trump. … We now have forced the establishment to embrace our platform.”

But once Gillespie lost, both Trump and Bannon attacked him for not fully embracing their positions or their presence. Trump was the first sitting president to not campaign in a Virginia governor’s race since Richard Nixon during Watergate. As the defeat became clear, Trump tweeted from Asia that Gillespie did not represent him.

With immigration as a pretext, Virginia and New Jersey voters wereshowered with visual and textual images portraying blacks and immigrants in race-baiting, fear-mongering terms.

Similar images were spread in the 1988 presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush against then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. They linked Dukakis to a pardoned black criminal named Willie Horton. Bush won the election but lost his soul.

The public relations guy responsible, Lee Atwater, issued an apologyjust prior to dying of brain cancer.

Tuesday’s victory in New Jersey was predictable. The truly awful Chris Christie left the state in ruins. His mean-spirited incompetence was staggering on more fronts than can be explained in a single article.

The victory in Virginia was less clear. The current corporatist Democrat governor was term-limited. The state has drifted to the Democrats in recent years. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton won Virginia in 2012 and 2016, respectively, and it has two “blue” U.S. senators. But 2010 gerrymandering gave both state legislative houses to the GOP.

To become governor, the Bush-style Republican Ed Gillespie took to vicious hate-mongering. A victory by Gillespie would have given the GOP an iron grip on the 2020 redistricting process.

Virginia’s 11 congressional seats are split seven to four for the Republicans. The Legislature at Richmond has been firmly in GOP hands, but may be flipped to the Democrats. Hopefully, a fair redistricting process will follow.

But what really matters is that in the former capital of the Confederacy, home of Robert E. Lee, an overtly racist campaign failed. “Trumpism”—using immigration and other cover issues to scream a racist rant—was rejected. This was actually a vote on hate. Thankfully, both Virginia and New Jersey said no.

As an underscore, both Virginia and New Jersey elected African-American lieutenant governors and two Latinas defeated incumbent Republicans for seats in the Virginia legislature. That state’s first transgender candidate also won a seat.

Meanwhile, Democrats took control of the Washington state Legislature, establishing a “Great Blue Wall” against Trump along the three West Coast states—Washington, Oregon and California.

But the next big test will be in Alabama on Dec. 12. The special election to fill the vacated U.S. Senate seat of Jeff Sessions, now Trump’s attorney general, will pit Judge Roy Moore against Doug Jones, a moderate Democrat.

alabama

Moore is the quintessential Bannon fascist. His raucous career has been defined by race hate and Biblical babble. His Deep South defeat would signal the failure of Trumpism’s core bigotry on its ancestral soil. It would also swing a crucial seat in the U.S. Senate, significantly altering the balance of national power.

Alabama is about a quarter black. To win there, the Democrats must confront a computerized Jim Crow assault aimed at disenfranchising blacks. With a Republican governor and secretary of state, the Democrats must painstakingly monitor every ballot, electronic and otherwise.

Alabama’s electoral system now features electronic machines that in many cases offer a ballot image that can be recounted. In a close race, these could make all the difference.

But the Democrats have been slow to act.

Virginia Democrats were urged by election protection activists to prepare for legal action in case a close vote proved vulnerable to theft. But according to a leader of Progressive Democrats of America who was active in the fight on election night, the party did no such thing.

Furthermore, one NAACP organizer in Virginia complained that the party failed to contact key black senior centers to ensure that elders came out to vote. A group called Carpool Vote ferried black voters to the polls.

In Alabama, the party will have to do better in mobilizing its grass-roots supporters, and will need every pixel possible from the state’s electronic voting machines.

In recent congressional elections in Montana and Georgia, Democratic candidates lost close vote counts that might well have been rigged. Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson, along with numerous experts, have expressed the belief that the June race in Atlanta conceded by Democrat Jon Ossoff was stolen.

Given the Virginia/New Jersey rejection of hate, Alabama is now in play. The Democrats have shown they can beat Trumpism.

In Alabama, they also must show they’ve learned some lessons from recent elections.

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Harvey is a lifelong activist who speaks, writes and organizes widely on energy, the environment, election protection, social justice, grass-roots politics and natural healing, personal and planetary.

He hosts “California Solartopia” at KPFK-Pacifica and “Green Power & Wellness” at prn.fm. He edits nukefree.org, solartopia.org and has taught history, diversity and ecology studies at numerous colleges. With Pete Seeger and David Bernz, he co-wrote the Grammy-winning “Solartopia Song.”  Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter @Solatopia

 

 

Will the Trump/Bannon GOP Steal Virginia…and American Democracy?

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman

Ed Gillespie

Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie

 

A big chunk of American democracy is riding on Tuesday’s Virginia election.

The outcome could turn on how well Democrats protect the right to vote….and the right to have the votes accurately counted.

If Democrat and anti-Trump activists do not work to guarantee everyone’s access to the polls, they could very well lose the election.  The GOP has perfected the use of Jim Crow tactics to prevent from voting countless black, Hispanic and other ethnic citizens by electronic and other means.  The Democrats have been weak at best at protecting those votes.

They can also expect a “last minute surge” for Republican candidates, followed by “glitches” in electronic voting machines, especially in rural areas where election boards are controlled by Republicans.  If experience in states like Ohio, New Mexico, Wisconsin and elsewhere are any indicator, ballots will be “found” for the Republicans and “lost” for the Democrats in key swing districts.  These could easily determine the outcome.

They can also expect a “last minute surge” for Republican candidates, followed by “glitches” in electronic voting machines. As election protection activist Mimi Kennedy puts it:

” Georgia’s Special Election ‘glitched’ last April, when  Democrat Jon Ossoff’s totals went over 50% in his House race in the 6th District. That majority would have given him the seat outright. But tabulation in large Fulton County “glitched” for two hours, and when it came back up, Ossof fell below 50% and never recovered. This prompted the runoff election in June, which Ossof’s opponent – Georgia’s Republican former Secretary of State – won by a squeaker margin. When a lawsuit was filed to do forensics on the runoff, Kennesaw State University, which handles Georgia elections, wiped the servers clean but told nobody for months. When forced to admit the destruction of election records, the data managers called it “routine housecleaning.” 

“It is predictable that in rural areas of Virginia, where election boards are controlled by Republicans, problems might arise. For many of these counties, the return to paper ballots is brand-new. Ballots must still be counted by software. Experience in states like Ohio, New Mexico, Wisconsin and elsewhere indicate that “glitches” will occur, be blamed on unforeseeable error, and will benefit Republicans, not Democrats, in key swing districts.  Experience also shows that questions asked in such cases will go unanswered, and results, however anomalous, will stand.”

So far, the Democrats have been notoriously lax in fighting against such disenfranchisement and vote count theft.

According to election protection specialist John Brakey, Virginia now has electronic machines that provide ballot images.  These, he says, must be preserved after the election for purposes of a meaningful recount.  It is not yet clear if Democratic operatives are prepared to go to court or do whatever else is required to guarantee such scrutiny. If not, they may once again find that precautionary measures were the only way to avoid more losses from “glitches” that can never be rectified.

Much more is at stake here than just a few statewide offices.

With the governorship will come control of the state’s re-districting—“gerrymandering”—-process for a decade to come.  Should the Trump-right Republican Ed Gillespie become governor, he will conspire with the GOP-controlled legislature to re-draw the state’s Congressional and legislative districts in 2020.

In a state that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, there are eleven Congressional districts. Gerrymandering has given seven seats to Republicans, four to Democrats.  Thus a fair, non-partisan redistricting process in 2020 could shift as many as three or four seats in the US House of Representatives.  That won’t happen if Gillespie is elected.

Despite a statewide Democratic majority, both houses of the Virginia legislature are controlled by Republicans.

This election will also determine Virginia’s next secretary of state, who will have control over voter registration rolls and vote counts in upcoming elections.

Republican control of the governorship and secretary of state’s office would be very bad news for those fighting the hate-based regime of Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.   Trump has been asked by the GOP to not campaign in the state.  But fascist theoretician Bannon has called the election a referendum on “Trumpism without Trump.”

Bannon, Gillespie and their GOP operatives have saturated the state with vicious, blatantly racist anti-immigrant ads reminiscent of the infamous “Willie Horton” smears run by George H.W. Bush in 1988.  Such fascist scare tactics allowed Bush to beat Michael Dukakis.  GOP strategist Lee Atwater later apologized for those ads shortly before he died of brain cancer.

This year the Trump/Bannon GOP has saturated Virginia with horrific racist and anti-immigrant messages.  They’re also using them in New Jersey, where there is a governor’s race, and elsewhere.  Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Ralph Northam, has responded by saying he will oppose sanctuary cities in Virginia.

But the race has now become a test of how effective such hate-based propaganda can be.

It will also be a test to see if the Democrats are willing or able to protect the right to vote.  And if they can guarantee a fair and accurate electronic vote count after those ballots are cast.

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Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman co-wrote The Strip & Flip Disaster of America’s Stolen Elections: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft (freepress.org, solartopia.org).  They broke most of the major stories about the GOP theft of Ohio’s 2004 presidential election.   Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter @Solartopia.

Swamp Tales: Puerto Rico Cancels $300 Million Trump Crony Electrical Grid Rebuild Contract

by Harvey Wasserman

originally published on The Progressive on October 30, 2017

estamos de pieA flag hangs from a highway overpass in Caguas, Puerto Rico declaring “Estamos de pie,” or “We are standing.” October, 2017.

The swampish saga would be hard to invent. In early October, Puerto Rico’s Energy Power Authority awarded a $300 million tax-funded contract to reconstruct the island’s hurricane devastated power grid to a two-person, two-year-old firm based in the small Montana hometown of Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The company is financially backed by a major donor to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
About eighty percent of Puerto Rico is still without power. Many hospitals are still dark. Local citizens needing medical treatments such as surgeries or dialysis have been forced to flee to places where electric power is available.
Puerto Rico’s power grid centers on antiquated oil, gas, and coal generators, the median age of which is forty-four years. Just two percent Puerto Rico’s juice came from wind and solar. One wind farm, on the south side of the island, survived Hurricane Maria largely intact, as did at least one small commercial solar array.
For Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents, restoring power is a matter of life and death. But the $300 million dollar contract was handed, with no public hearings, legislative discussion or long-term planning, to Whitefish, an obscure company from rural Montana.
At least one Zinke relative—his son—has worked on part-time contract for Whitefish. Zinke claims he had nothing to do with the deal.
Anti-Trump sentiment is rampant throughout the island, fed by a lack of concern expressed by the President for Puerto Ricans’ dire situation, and capped by a recent visit in which he pitched paper towels to a crowd of bewildered local residents. When San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz questioned the contract with Whitefish, the company threatened to stop work, then apologized.
The Puerto Rican power company’s contract astoundingly exempted Whitefish from official audits, stating, “In no event shall [governmental bodies] have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements.” It also waived “any claim against Contractor related to delayed completion of the work,” meaning Whitefish was empowered to pretty much take as long as it wanted to complete the job.
Whitefish wasted no time deploying a gold-plated battalion of high-priced contract workers into the island. Each was granted $1,000 travel expenses for each flight to and from the island. The workers’ contracts called for $80/day in food expenses and $332/day for lodging. Wages were set at $240/hour for a foreman and $227/hour for linemen doing jobs for which prevailing U.S. wages are about $43/hour for supervisors and $23/hour for linemen. In other words, the deal reeked of Trump-era crony capitalism. When word spread, angry locals showered Whitefish workers with rocks and bottles.
But that was not the worst of it. Whitefish appeared to be rebuilding the wind-ravaged grid along exactly the same lines that existed prior to the storm. In other words, the company was reconstructing what was wiped away a month ago, and what would be virtually certain to be wiped away again by the next hurricane.

Since Maria, a lively public dialog has erupted over how to rebuild the island’s power system with sustainable design. Tesla’s Elon Musk sent in a shipment of Powerwall batteries designed to service solar-powered arrays. Tesla also installed a solar/battery/micro-grid array to make the Hospital del Nino entirely self-sufficient.
Musk has been in discussion with Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló about rebuilding the region along renewable lines, with windmills and photovoltaic panels powering a network of micro-grids that would give towns, neighborhoods and buildings a resilient safety net capable of weathering the inevitable next storm.
Multi-billionaire Richard Branson, whose private Necker Island was ravaged by recent storms, has also called for a “Green Marshall Plan” to rebuild the Caribbean with renewable energy. In a recent New York Times op-ed, coauthored with green energy guru Amory Lovins, Branson wrote that by solarizing and decentralizing the region’s grids, “we can stop blackouts caused by monster storms while also saving fossil fuel and reducing emissions of the greenhouse gases that warm the planet and make these storms more likely and destructive.”
Since Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria roared through Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean, smaller nonprofits and activist organizations have also been focused on the vision of a totally green-powered master plan.
On Sunday, October 29, amidst a firestorm of local and Congressional inquiries,The New York Times reported that Governor Rosselló had canceled the Whitefish contract. The company claims to have already spent millions. The court cases will undoubtedly churn up numerous storms of their own.
But the uproar should also focus on the growing demand that the electric power systems in Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean be reconstructed around renewables and microgrids, rather than fossil-fired central distribution networks.
Most likely those systems will not be built by Trump cronies flown in at huge expense, who then must dodge rocks and bottles being thrown by angry locals.

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Long-time Progressive contributor Harvey Wasserman is a safe energy activist and radio talk host based in Los Angeles. Tune in for California Solartopia on Thursdays at 6:30 pm on 90.7 KPFK-fm in Los Angeles.  Harvey’s Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth is at www.solartopia.org. and you can follow Harvey in Twitter @Solartopia

 

How Gore, Kerry and Clinton Put Trump in the White House

by Harvey Wasserman

Originally published on October 11, 2017 on TruthDig

 10.12.house
The White House (AgnosticPreachersKid / Wikimedia)

 

Amidst the hellish chaos of the Donald Trump catastrophe, it’s more essential than ever to understand how he got into the White House and who put him there. Then we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

In her recent blame-everybody-else-while-doing-nothing screed, “What Happened,” Hillary Clinton fingers James Comey, the Russians and Bernie Sanders.

But, in fact, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry put this madman in office.

This trio of multi-millionaire corporate Democrats won the presidential races of 2000, 2004 and 2016. Then they lay down, said hardly a word and did even less as they let George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump rule the land.

All three presidencies were stolen by stripping large numbers of black, Hispanic, Asian-American and young citizens from the voter rolls, and then electronically flipping the vote count. In 2000 and 2016, the thefts were finalized by the Electoral College.

Along the way, the United States House, Senate and a thousand state, federal and local offices also have been flipped. The Supreme Court has come along for the ride.

The impacts—eight years of George W. Bush and an eternity of Donald Trump—have been somewhere between catastrophic and apocalyptic.

We will recover only if we do what the corporate Democrats have not: Face up to how our entire electoral system has been become a sham and then change it.

Let’s start with Al Gore and Florida 2000.

In 2000, Gore was duly elected president of the United States. He won the popular vote nationwide by more than 500,000 ballots. Later, independent assessments showed he rightfully won Florida, which would have given him a majority in the Electoral College.

Officially, Gore lost Florida by 537 votes. In its infamous 5-4 Bush v. Gore decision, the Supreme Court stopped the recount that might have given Gore the presidency. The deciding vote was cast by Clarence Thomas. Gore, as a U.S. senator, had voted to put him on the bench.

But then-Gov. Jeb Bush, George’s brother and son of the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, actually prevented the legitimate citizen votes that would have won Gore the presidency. In shifting Florida from Gore to George W. Bush, Jeb Bush used a wide array of strategies perfected by their father at the CIA for overthrowing Third World regimes that American corporate interests deemed inconvenient. Florida 2000 was the logical follow-up.

As Greg Palast reported, Jeb used the ChoicePoint computer program to strip some 90,000 mostly black and Hispanic citizens from the voter rolls. As reported by activist Bev Harris, some 20,000 votes were electronically bounced around in Volusia County and elsewhere. At critical points on election night, they kept Bush2’s chances alive.

About 50,000 votes were tallied for the great consumer activist Ralph Nader in Florida 2000. Corporate Democrats still scream at him for daring to run at all. That pubic assault has shifted the focus away from how the election was actually stolen while undercutting America’s most effective corporate critic. In the perennial war waged by corporate Democrats against social democrats, this has been the new millennium’s centerpiece.

But had Nader not run, and had all who voted for him tried to vote for Gore, Bush still would have become president. With computerized stripping of the voter rolls, and electronic flipping of the vote count, Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris showed that a governor and secretary of state can take any reasonably close statewide vote and engineer whatever outcome they want.

Until very recently, Al Gore never publicly challenged the existence of the Electoral College, which was originally formed in part to empower slave owners. He was the fifth presidential candidate to rightfully win an election but lose the White House.

After 17 years, Gore still has not confronted publicly the issue of Jeb Bush’s stripping the voter registration rolls or flipping the electronic vote count. Gore has never used his considerable public persona or immense personal wealth to open a public dialog about that election’s corrupted outcome—or to work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Indeed, while presiding over the U.S. Senate as vice president, Gore crushed a legitimate challenge to Florida’s stolen Electoral College delegation that put the GOP in the White House.

Gore has since got a Nobel Prize for his work on climate change. But his actions were the first inconvenient steps to a Trump administration now making climate chaos infinitely worse.

Four years later, John Kerry followed suit.

In Ohio 2004—as in Florida 2000—the voter rolls were stripped and the electronic vote count flipped. This time, the prime perpetrator was GOP Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, today a member of Trump’s “election integrity” commission.

Working with Bush2, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, Ohio’s first African-American secretary of state unleashed a veritable barrage dirty tricks to take the Buckeye State—and the presidency—away from John Kerry.

In Democratic urban strongholds and college towns, precincts were riddled with chaos that was distinctly lacking in rural Republican regions. Incorrect addresses were posted on the state’s official website, and polling stations were shorted on voting machines. While Blackwell spread confusion about the weight of the paper stock required for ballots, he refused to send usable ones to precincts short on voting machines. As a result, thousands of Ohioans—many students and people of color—simply could not vote.

Official letters were also sent to “ex-felons” threatening criminal prosecution if they dared to vote, even though ex-felons can legally vote in Ohio and many who were threatened weren’t ex-felons anyway. At least 300,000 citizens were stripped from the voter rolls, nearly all in heavily Democratic urban areas. Some absentee ballots in southern Ohio were sent out missing Kerry’s name.

In some Democratic strongholds, voters who pressed Kerry’s name on touchscreen machines saw Bush’s name light up. Some who chose Kerry saw that their choice had disappeared by the time they got to the end of the ballot.

There was much, much more, which Bob Fitrakis and I have documented in “How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election,” at freepress.org.

On Election Day, Bush and Rove made one trip out of Washington, D.C.—to check in with Blackwell. They made no public appearances and didn’t bother with Ohio’s GOP governor, Bob Taft.

At 12:20 on election night, despite mass chaos and huge lines (up to five hours long) in Democratic precincts, CNN showed John Kerry winning Ohio—and thus the presidency—by 4.2 percent of the vote. The projected margin was well over 200,000 ballots.

Somehow, a “glitch” stopped the tally. The “problem” was in a server in Chattanooga, Tenn., where the email accounts of Karl Rove and the national Republican Party also resided. They were all managed by Michael Connell, a Bush family high-tech consultant running Ohio’s vote count under a no-bid contract from Blackwell. [Editor’s note: Connell died in a small plane crash in Ohio in 2008, after recently being subpoenaed to testify in a lawsuit allegingvote rigging in the 2004 Ohio election.]

When the flow resumed at 2 a.m., all was flipped. Bush somehow won by 2.5 percent—a 6.7 percent shift. Scholars such as Ron Baiman deemed this change a “virtual statistical impossibility.” Bush’s Blackwell-approved Ohio margin was a beyond-improbable 118,000-plus votes, much of it from three southwestern counties riddled with chaos.

Kerry’s staff was thoroughly briefed on the likely fraud. At noon the next day, with 250,000 votes still uncounted, Kerry conceded. Then he went windsurfing.

Kerry has yet to say a public word about what happened in Ohio 2004, or in other states that year where election theft was blatantly obvious. The fraudulent tactics the GOP “test marketed” in 2004 have been used full force right through the “Trump triumph” of 2016, flipping an untold number of critical elections along the way.

Like Gore and Kerry in 2000 and 2004, Hillary Clinton was the designated winner in 2016. And like them both, she has said and done nothing about the third theft of the U.S. presidency in the first five presidential elections of the new millennium.

Clinton won the national popular vote by at least 2.9 million, despite a massive Jim Crow vote-stripping fraud perpetrated by GOP governors and secretaries of state in about 30 states. Parallel to ChoicePoint in Florida 2000, they used a program called Interstate Crosscheck, spread by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. As reported by Greg Palast, Crosscheck stripped voter rolls on the pretext that citizens were double-registered, even if their names did not match from one state to the other.

Palast estimates that at least 1 million voters were denied their ballots in this way, most of them likely Clinton voters who were black, Hispanic, Asian-American, Muslim and young. As featured in Palast’s book and movie “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy,” Kobach chairs the White House commission aimed at stripping registration rolls in upcoming elections. Clinton mentions Kobach briefly in “What Happened,” but offers no meaningful discussion of how his Jim Crow disenfranchisement campaign might have turned the 2016 outcome—or how to prevent it from happening again.

Clinton also briefly mentions the Electoral College that cost her the White House, but—like Gore and Kerry—gives no indication she plans to do anything significant about abolishing it.

She also fails to explore the fact that she won the exit polls in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin—more than enough to give her an Electoral College victory. In all those states, the official vote count was deeply tainted with massive registration stripping and widespread electronic flipping.

But she harshly assaults Green candidate Jill Stein, echoing Democrat party-line attacks on Nader.

Trump’s total alleged margin in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania was under 100,000. As in Florida 2000, Clinton counts Stein’s votes and complains that had they all gone to her, she could have won.

But she never mentions that she stiffed Stein’s attempts to investigate the obvious fraud in all three states. As Palast has reported, more than enough Wisconsin voters were stripped from the registration rolls using new photo ID requirements to flip that key state to Clinton. In lawsuits filed on behalf of the Stein campaign, Bob Fitrakis has established that Wisconsin also failed to provide transparent electronic voting machine source codes, as required by law.

In Michigan, where Clinton allegedly lost by about 10,000 votes, some 70,000 ballots were recorded without a presidential preference. In the face of obvious manipulation, Clinton has never questioned the absurd presumption that tens of thousands of Democratic voters in Detroit and Flint would slog through long lines and official abuse to cast ballots without marking a choice for chief executive.

In fact, Clinton killed Stein’s attempt to force a recount in Michigan. When a judge ruled Stein lacked standing, but that Clinton had it, Clinton’s lawyersrefused to support the recount. They also stonewalled Stein’s investigationsin Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

None of this is mentioned in “What Happened” or in Clinton’s public appearances. The candidate who rightfully won the 2016 election never mentions the obvious stripping and flipping that defined her losses in the three states that put Trump in the White House. Like Gore and Kerry, she has never indicated anywhere that she intends to do anything to stop this from happening again.

Clinton does, however, famously attack former FBI Director James Comey and the Russians for allegedly derailing her campaign at crucial moments.

Comey’s announcement of an investigation of her emails did, in fact, put a crimp in Clinton’s campaign. She still won the popular vote and the exit polls in the five key states that could have won her the Electoral College.

The Russians may or may not have hacked our electronic voting machines. But it’s abundantly clear, 17 years after Florida 2000, that those machines canbe hacked with ridiculous ease, and that the likeliest culprits will always be local officials whose access is universal, quick and predictable.

The Russians may or may not have also released emails showing that Clinton’s cronies on the Democratic National Committee wrongfully sabotaged the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Again and again, Clinton contemptuously assaults Sanders for his allegedly lukewarm support of her candidacy. But she completely ignores the massive grass-roots social democratic uprising that continues to make him America’s most popular politician.

Instead, she locked up her boring, uninspired candidacy behind the mighty fortress of corporate Democrats who seem to fear the social/green democrats to whom the party must ultimately belong if it’s ever again to take power. She let her personal hatred of Vladimir Putin convince even many of her followers that she might well spark a new Cold War with Russia.

Thus, she still misses and disses the activist nation that nominated Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, helped him survive the GOP’s strip-and-flip assaults, and thus escape the Electoral College death trap.

In 2016 the grass-roots “Hope and Change” tidal wave segued into the “Sandernista” uprising. It became the most powerful grass-roots movement for eco-social democracy in modern U.S. history. The latest incarnation is now in a desperate struggle to take the Democratic Party back from the “Clintonista” corporate elite that has gutted it. Its agenda is to turn the party into a force for peace, social justice and ecological sanity that can actually win elections.

Had Clinton lowered herself to embrace it, she might well have overcome a thoroughly corrupted electoral system and kept Trump out of the White House.

But as of now, there is no indication that either she, Al Gore or John Kerry are awake to the power of that movement, or to the need to confront an electoral system that strips millions of citizens from its registration rolls, flips electronic vote counts, and has used the Electoral College twice in this century to elect the likes of Bush and Trump as president.

With the corrupt remnants of the Clintons’ corporate-owned Democratic Leadership Council (which Hillary praises in “What Happened”) still in control of the party machinery, more than a thousand federal, state and local offices have slipped to the Republicans since 2000. Much of that clearly stems from grass-roots disgust with a party run by a dull, tone-deaf corporate cabal whose agenda on war, trade, welfare and more, is often indistinguishable from that of the GOP.

But much also has to do with the death grip Republican governors and secretaries of state have on the electoral apparatus. In 2016 and 2018, six U.S. Senate seats went to Republican candidates who lost in the exit polls, a virtual statistical impossibility. With those races went control of the upper House—and the Supreme Court.

Trump’s federal commission on “voter fraud,” headed by Kobach, with Blackwell by his side, is escalating the Jim Crow assault on our voter rolls. Easily hacked electronic voting machines guarantee flipped outcomes. The Electoral College still lets small red states deny the duly elected presidential candidates rightful access to the White House.

The reforms we need to our electoral apparatus include universal automatic voter registration, transparent poll books to guarantee duly registered citizens can actually vote, a four-day holiday for voting, easily accessible polling stations, and, above all, universal hand-counted paper ballots, to stay where they are cast in translucent containers with clear chain of custody until they can be tallied in full daylight, with open national oversight.

We also need an end to gerrymandering, the death of the Electoral College and an end to corporate money in campaigns.

All this seems beneath the corporate Democrats. But without such reforms, it’s a sad illusion that the Congress can be retaken in 2018, or that the GOP rampage through state and local legislatures can be reversed.

As for 2020, with the current electoral claptrap, a progressive presidency is almost certainly out of reach.

It will be up to the grass-roots sequel to the Sandernista movement to end this nightmare.

If “What Happened” and their timid inaction are any indicator, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Al Gore still don’t get it. That they opened the door for Donald Trump will be their most profound collective legacy.

“Truth!” shouts Jack Nicholson at the end of the legendary film “A Few Good Men.” “You can’t handle the truth!”

Until they can, these three biggest losers—and their moribund corporate Democrats—are destined for the scrap heap of history.

The sooner, the better.

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We Need a New National Anthem

by Harvey Wasserman

Originally published by The Progressive on September 25, 2017

jimi for harvey

 

The magnificent and historic protests of our nation’s athletes during The Star-Spangled Banner at their sports games are not merely appropriate—they’re long overdue.

The protests rightly focus on the travesties perpetrated against our citizens of color. That highly-paid professional athletes would risk their careers to take this stand is a powerful tribute to the devastating impact racial injustice is having on our society, and to their courage as individuals. The National Football League owners’ blacklisting of the superbly talented Colin Kaepernick is hard evidence of what such an exercise of free speech can cost in today’s America.

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But there’s also another dimension here. The fact is that our national anthem is a terrible song, with racist and militaristic overtones. It needs to be replaced, maybe by a single more appropriate anthem…or maybe by many.

The lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner were written by Francis Scott Key, a slaveowner. He was celebrating the failure of the British to conquer Baltimore in the War of 1812. The Brits had just burned our nation’s capital, partly in response to our burning their Canadian headquarters at York, now Toronto.

The song as it’s sung in public is not explicitly racist. But as Jason Johnson describes in his piece “Star-Spangled Bigotry,” buried in the unsung lyrics was a nasty put-down of freed slaves fighting for the English. A brigade of black soldiers had just humiliated Key and he was not happy about it. The words were set To Anacreon in Heaven, an awkward tune appropriate for inebriation, which is how it was usually sung.

The Navy adopted the song as a military hymn in 1889. Then Woodrow Wilson adopted it in 1916, via executive order, amidst his campaign to stir martial fervor for U.S. entry into World War I. A strong majority of Americans bitterly opposed the war, but Wilson forced it through with an ugly propaganda campaign against Germans as a race.

It took Congress fifteen years—until 1931—to officially make The Star-Spangled Banner the U.S. national anthem.

And it’s always been an ode to war. Nobody made that clearer than Jimi Hendrix. When he played it at Woodstock, 1969, he inserted a devastating version of Taps. Right-wingers piously branded him “unpatriotic,” but Jimi had served in the 101st Airborne.

Today’s professional sports events—especially the NFL—are tainted with militaristic overtones. Air Force flyovers and armed soldiers in formation are everywhere. Those “bombs bursting in air” have been imposed on what should be peaceful pastimes. Those “patriots” who say politics should not be part of sports should first remove the military presence from our stadiums.

In an era so thoroughly plagued by martial madness, we need a new anthem, one that celebrates peace, social justice and diverse expression. Candidates include Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land, sung by radical farmers and workers throughout the 1930s. Other possible songs range from Oh Freedom, America the Beautiful and Amazing Grace to Buffy Sainte Marie’s My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying and Johnny Cash’s As Long as the Grass Shall Grow.

Or maybe it’s time we moved beyond a single national song altogether. In an age and nation so thoroughly defined by diversity, we should be celebrating a multitude of verses.

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Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter: @Solartopia

IT’S A LOUSY “ANTHEM” ANYWAY

by Harvey Wasserman

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The immensely powerful, deeply moving and historic protests of our nation’s athletes against the absurd rantings of our Great Dictator make one thing abundantly clear: the diversity of this nation is not going away.

 

But The Star Spangled Banner should. It’s a lousy song with a racist message.  We need a new anthem—-or to acknowledge many of them.

 

Likewise the dotard illegitimately occupying the White House. We can do better.

 

So let’s combine the campaigns.

 

Words to the Star Spangled Banner were written by Francis Scott Key, a slaveowner. He commemorated the failure of the British to conquer Baltimore in the War of 1812, an utterly useless conflict. The Brits had just burned our nation’s capital, partly in response to our burning their Canadian headquarters at York, now Toronto.

 

As Jason Johnson has shown in his “Star Spangled Bigotry”, buried in the lyrics was a clear racist put-down of freed slaves fighting for the English. They were set to a drinking tune, To Anacreon in Heaven.

 

The Navy adopted the song in 1889, then Woodrow Wilson in 1916. Wilson was stirring up fervor for US entry into World War I, which the majority of Americans strongly opposed. He used that war as cover to crush the Socialist Party, which had millions of supporters. He jailed our greatest labor leader, Indiana’s Eugene V. Debs, for daring to speak against a war that killed at least 10,000,000 people and accomplished nothing.

 

Congress turned down the song a number of times before it was officially adopted in 1931, in the midst of the Depression.

 

The iconic version came from Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, 1969. He did it with no lyrics. But in the midst of the useless, worthless war in Vietnam, he inserted a version of Taps.

 

Right-wingers freaked out and branded him “unpatriotic.”   Unlike most of them, Jimi had actually served in the military.

 

Now it’s played at July 4th celebrations everywhere. I use it to start all my college history classes. Nobody stands.

 

According to political scientist Bob Fitrakis, in the 1930s American farmers and workers celebrated our country with Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land.

 

There are other candidates…and some heated opinions. The great activist Sheila Parks says:

 

“I am hoping you will listen, again perhaps, to these songs and see what they have to say about white people and Native American Peoples

 

Buffy Sainte Marie :  “My country ‘Tis Of Thy People You’re Dying”

 

Johnny Cash: From Bitter Tears – “As Long As the Grass Shall Grow”

 

Maybe someone should write a new one.

 

Or celebrate our diversity by adopting different songs for different events and different teams. Sweet Caroline seems to work for the Red Sox. We Shall Overcome would do well for many public rallies. Hey Hey, Goodbye will serve beautifully at upcoming impeachment hearings.

 

This athletes’ rebellion fits the massive wave of grassroots social democracy that rocked our country just a year ago. Hopefully it will help propel its revival.

 

John Nichols shows in his Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse that Trump’s antics are a clown’s distraction while his corrupt cronies loot our public treasure, financial, ecological, spiritual.

 

His fascistic rantings echo Wilson’s brutal, unConstitutional assault on the farm-labor movements for social democracy a century ago, when he first pitched this anthem, and then stuck us with a catastrophic intervention that killed more than 110,000 Americans and devastated Europe.

 

Those racist lyrics are rooted in contempt for social justice, an inability to handle human diversity, an embrace of for-profit militarism.

 

The Star Spangled Banner is awful, both as a song and for what it celebrates.   Let’s get rid of it, along with that Bum in the White House.

 

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Harvey Wasserman’s History of the United States is at  www.solartopia.org.

 

 

Robert E. Lee’s Treason Still Divides & Kills

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By Harvey Wasserman

Yet another deadly firestorm now swirls around Robert E. Lee. As his statues head to the ash heap, a life defined by slavery, betrayal, and slaughter again divides our nation.

Lee was an icon of the Confederacy and the architect of its defeat. He was a traitor to the United States of America. He cost humanity uncounted lives….right up to now.

Lee’s gentlemanly portraits are a surface illusion. He could be gracious and chivalrous, a dashing strategist and later a beloved college president. .

But his core was medieval and obsolete. He was the ultimate undertaker of a culture of death.

Robert was the son of Henry “Lighthorse Harry” Lee, a Revolutionary officer descended from Virginia’s early slaveowners. But in the early 1800s he served a year in debtor’s prison, and died when Robert was eleven, leaving the family disgraced and in dire straits.

Robert excelled in mathematics and graduated West Point near the top of his class. He served as an engineer and pathfinder in the American conquest of Mexico, where he fought alongside US Grant, who would ultimately defeat him.

In 1859 Lee arrested and hung John Brown after his legendary attempt to deliver weapons from the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, to a slave revolution.

In personal letters, Lee questioned secession and doubted chattel slavery. But bitter controversy still surrounds his treatment of the slaves on his own plantation.

Abraham Lincoln offered Lee a high command in the Union army. Instead he led southern armies against the nation of his birth. That act of treason cost countless lives and still divides our nation.

Though his first first commands were mixed, Lee was a far superior tactician to most early Union generals. His key campaigns protected Richmond, threatened Washington DC, and inspired the Confederacy to press ahead.

But victory fed Lee’s arrogance. In July, 1863, while foolishly attacking the north at Gettysburg, he ordered the legendary “Pickett’s Charge” that cost some 7,000 lives in a matter of moments, breaking the back of the Confederate Army.

As the slaughter dragged on, droves of poor whites fled Lee’s army. To combat desertion, he ordered a mass hanging, and marched his infantry past the corpses.

Thankfully, at war’s end, Lee resisted calls for a prolonged guerrilla resistance. He surrendered himself and his army in tact.

Lincoln and Grant never put him on trial. They gave his defeated troops safe haven, rations and the freedom to return to their farms—-with their personal weapons—-for spring planting. It was among the most magnanimous and far-sighted amnesties ever granted by a conquering army.

In defeat, Lee advocated moderate treatment for freed blacks but opposed their right to vote. His own franchise was stripped along with ownership of the family estate, which became Arlington National Cemetery.

As an individual, Lee radiated charisma and grace.

But the treatment of his own slaves, his military defense of America’s “peculiar institution” and his treasonous attack on the nation of his birth make him one of America’s most murderous criminals. That statues still stand to him anywhere is an affront to our standing as a human community. That beloved individuals like Heather Heyer should die in his wake is all too consistent with the life he led.

Heather’s racist murder in Charlottesville, and the death of two Virginia police officers along with her, form a tragic epitaph to the decisions Robert E. Lee made and the slaughter he helped perpetrate.

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HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE US is at www.harveywasserman.com, where his AMERICA AT THE BRINK OF REBIRTH: THE ORGANIC SPIRAL OF US HISTORY will soon be published.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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