The US Supreme Court may be about to make a second Trump term inevitable. The nine “Justices” have just heard oral arguments in an Ohio voter registration case. If their decision goes with Secretary of State Jon Husted, it would mean Republicans like him throughout the United States will be able to scrub from the voter rolls millions of citizens merely because they are suspected of wishing to vote Democrat. In Ohio alone, millions of Ohio voters have tried to vote on Election Day over the past four presidential elections, only to find their names were erased from the pollbooks. What’s technically at stake is whether the federal government has the right to demand fairness in purging voter registration rolls. Or will the secretaries of the various states be free to purge whomever they want. In other words, it’s supposedly a “state’s rights” case. But this is a country where an Attorney-General who fought for state’s rights to avoid accepting racial integration is now overriding the explicit choice of some thirty states to enjoy legal marijuana. In Ohio, secretary Husted has become infamous for his extremely aggressive partisan purges. The state has roughly 5.5 million voters. GOP secretaries of state have become experts at the selective purging game. In 2004, then-Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, stripped some 309,000 voters from the rolls and nearly all came from heavily Democratic cities – Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. In Cleveland, nearly a quarter, 24.96% of all voters were removed from the voting rolls. Blackwell simultaneously served as co-chair for the state campaign to re-elect Bush/Cheney. Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Blackwell was officially in charge of running that election. The election was decided by less than 119,000 votes, giving George W. Bush a victory over John Kerry, who never said a word. As many as 300,000 of those votes were flipped on electronic “push and pray” machines by a Bush family consigliere operating on an unbid state contract with a bank of servers in Tennessee between 12:20am and 2am election night. Between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, an extensive study conducted by the Free Press examining all of the voter registration rolls in the state’s 88 counties found that 1.25 million had been scrubbed from the rolls. Again, these purged voters were overwhelming from Democratic precincts. The latest Husted tactic is to mail letters to citizens who have not voted in the last two elections. He demands they write him back to confirm where they live. Husted’s letters do not contain return envelopes. The now-defunct welfare rights organization ACORN and the Obama campaign had to engage in a massive project to re-register the voters before Election Day. In the run up to the 2012 presidential election, the Free Press exposed the fact that 1.1 million voters had been purged, according to public records. The purges were highest in poor, minority and urban precincts. The rural county boards of elections that are overwhelmingly Republican rarely strip any voters from the voting rolls. In other words, if you receive junk mail from the Secretary of State, along with all the other junk mail you get, it’s not enough that it got to you without bouncing back. Husted instead demands a personal response, or else he will void your right to vote. Part of his public excuse is that citizens who have died may remain on the voter rolls. But the obvious solution would be to link directly with the state’s coroner offices and integrate death notices into the management of the voter rolls. Husted is also notorious for seizing on minuscule miscues to pitch ballots. An omitted middle initial, a name that has changed, forgetting to write your birthdate on an absentee ballot, or putting something on the wrong line….all are fair game for Husted to make sure you don’t cast a ballot, or that if you do it’s a provisional which he will then pitch in the trash depending on your age, skin color or social class. In the 2016 election, Husted’s office failed to send absentee ballots to more than a million citizens, again virtually all in urban areas. What can’t be explained is why, in a computer age with unlimited hard drives in a state that requires voters to show ID at the polls, you would strip any registered voters unless you knew they had died or you had evidence they no longer lived in the county. Should the Court allow this to continue, GOP Secretaries of State around the US can be counted on to purge voter rolls deep and wide enough to swing almost any election. The White House recently established a national commission to move the stripping to a new level. Blackwell was a charter member. So was Kris Kobach of Kansas (KKK) who pioneered the use of the Crosscheck computer program to strip the rolls in some thirty GOP-controlled states. Last month Trump suddenly, without explanation, abolished the commission. But as investigative reported Greg Palast has shown, the registration stripping has been moved into the Department of Homeland Security. Where Kobach’s commission was opaque, now the partisan purge process with be essentially invisible. State officials who refused to provide critical information to Kobach may now have no choice with DHS. In other words, America’s Trump-run FBI/KGB/Savak apparatus may now have the power to silently and invisibly remove enough potential voters to elect and re-elect whoever it wants. That might include not only Trump, but Husted, who is running to become Ohio’s lieutenant-governor, and Kobach, who wants to be governor of Kansas. This and much else could turn on the Supremes’ decision on the Ohio case. Should Husted’s right to purge whoever he wants from the voter rolls be confirmed by the Court, our sham elections will become an even bigger charade. ——————- Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-written The Strip & Flip Disaster of America’s Stolen Elections: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft, available at www.freepress.org along with The Fitrakis Files, at Harvey’s www.solartopia.org, his History of the US can be had. ]]>
LA Progressive on January 5, 2017 Published at TruthDig on January 11, 2018 The announcement by US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions that he’ll pursue federal pot prosecutions has two age-old motivations: power and money. Financially, of course, the Republican party is vested in America’s vast private prison system. Every new arrestee means money in the pockets of the investors who own and operate them. Keeping those cells and beds occupied is the essence of the industry”and of Pot Prohibition. The Drug War is a giant cash cow, not only for the prison owners, but for the cops, guards, lawyers, judges, bailiffs and all the other operatives whose livelihood depends on destroying those of the nation’s tens of millions cannabis customers. Medical legalization in about half the country, and full legalization in California, Colorado and other states, represents a serious threat to this multi-billion-dollar incarceration scam. Sessions has risen to its defense. Then there’s the power. As long as so many millions of people smoke the stuff, marijuana’s illegality give police the ability to bust whoever they want, whenever they want. It is the core enabler of a police state. In fact, Pot Prohibition is a major foundation of the Republican Regime stretching from the White House and Congress to state government, the courts and beyond. The key is disenfranchisement. Since the Drug War’s initiation by Harry J. Anslinger in the 1930s, the principle focus has been on people of color. Anslinger promoted the term “marijuana” to deal with cannabis because it has an Hispanic twinge and aroused paranoid bigotry among the white population. While promoting films like “Reefer Madness” to make pot appear like some sinister force, Anslinger’s minions made cannabis into a racist menace. But it was Richard Nixon who took the assault to its ultimate depth. Nixon hated blacks and hippies. He also had a serious interest in slashing into their communities, and depriving them of the vote. In 1972 his own Blue Ribbon Schaefer Commission recommended against Prohibition. Chaired by Pennsylvania’s liberal Governor Richard Schaefer, it said the health impacts did not warrant a national campaign. Nixon ignored all that. Amidst a terrible war and racial upheavals, he proclaimed Drugs to be America’s most serious problem. His own staff knew better. As aide John Ehrlichmann put it: “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. “You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” The Drug War gave Nixon the key to his “Southern Strategy.” Through a wide range of racist rhetoric and policy, he successfully campaigned to move southern white racists from the Democrats to the Republicans. But many southern states had substantial black constituencies. He needed to make sure they could not vote. Slapping them in jail for pot was a powerful way to do that. Because pot is essentially everywhere, it also lets police arrest pretty much any black person they want at any time. According to Michelle Alexander’s THE NEW JIM CROW, tens of millions of blacks and Hispanics have since been busted. And independent survey by Prof. Bob Fitrakis has estimated the number of Drug War arrests since 1970 in the range of 41,000,000. At a cost of more than a trillion dollars, the US could instead have sent virtually everyone it busted for pot to a four-year university instead. Instead, the assault has injected deep into the black and Hispanic communities a cultural toxin based in the prison culture. While busting peace, environmental and social justice activists for cannabis, politicians like Trump and Sessions damage the black and Hispanic communities while turning elections and driving the country to the right. Sessions occasionally make absurd moral and public health claims for keeping cannabis illegal. But the damage it has done to individual lives and the broader community is incalculable. Pot Prohibition has worked wonders for a fascist establishment keeps power only by using it as a way to crush its opposition, steal elections and fatten its pockets. Anyone that says otherwise is blowing toxic smoke. + = + = + = + = + Harvey Wasserman hosts California Solartopia at KPFK-Pacifica, 90.7FM in Los Angeles, and the Green Power & Wellness podcast at prn.fm. He is author or co-author of about 20 books, including Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth atwww.solartopia.org. Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter @Solartopia]]>
Sluggo” Wasserman Originally published by the LA Progressive on December 30, 2017 Enough is enough. Especially when it comes to a name. Many of you have undoubtedly faced a crisis or two about your own. It can come from anywhere, like changing (or NOT) your family name when getting married. Or dumping the curse of one you never liked. Famous examples abound. The great Texas-born classical pianist Van Cliburn was in fact Harvey Lavan Cliburn. Lady Gaga is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. Kirk Douglas was Issur Danielovitch. Marilyn Monroe came from Norma Jean Mortenson. Tony Curtis had been Bernard Schwartz. John Wayne was Marion Mitchell Morrison. You get the picture. When I was born in Boston 72 years ago this New Year’s Eve, my mom made my father promise not to name me “Harvey.” Dad’s father, who’d just passed away, was Herschel. So the “H” was unavoidable. But there were certainly better choices. She never forgave him. Me either. My middle name is Franklin, as my parents were big FDR fans. As an historian, I like it for Ben. But “Harvey”? The rabbit in the Jimmy Stewart movie was in fact a real-life “Pooka”, a Celtic spirit. But in light of recent history, now that I’ve moved to Los Angeles, being introduced to new friends comes with “NOT the Hurricane, NOT Weinstein, NO relation to Debbie Schultz.” Enough! So I am shedding my slave name. Instead, where viable, we go with my hippie logo: Sluggo. That silly moniker originated with a friend who thought I looked like a comic strip character, now long gone from the funny pages. Like me, that Sluggo had a sister Nancy. For more than a decade I lived with it on my communal farm, amidst friends and lovers who never knew my “real” identity. That silly moniker originated with a friend who thought I looked like a comic strip character, now long gone from the funny pages. Like me, that Sluggo had a sister Nancy. For more than a decade I lived with it on my communal farm, amidst friends and lovers who never knew my “real” identity. The name’s best feature is that little kids love it. It always morphs into “Swuggo”, prompting an instant smile. It’s also a decent WTF radio name, quick to say, puzzling, memorable, at home in Solartopia on KPFK and PRN. It stuck on the hippie farm in part because I was also a baseball player (see photo). Now in my early seventies, I remember myself in my early twenties as being a spectacular athlete. And, of course, the older I get, the better I was. Ask me after a few more brain cells disappear and I’ll tell you about my Hall of Fame career with the Red Sox, my banner years with the Celtics and my singles championships at Wimbledon and the US Open. But in the interim, “Harvey Wasserman” will stick around for bylines. “Sluggo” will pop up mysteriously in the middle, when an editor will let it ride. Like a Pooka, he’ll get ink on random name tags, along with “No Nukes” or “Solartopia”. He is ALWAYS the only Sluggo in the room. It’s a great ice breaker. And no hurricane, Weinstein or Debbie Schultz. So how about you? Got a name you HATE? One a parent stuck you with you NEVER forgave them for? Or one you LOVE but never had the nerve to adopt? Sure you do. Now take the leap!! You’ll be glad you did. Just be sure to pick one that makes you smile when kids mis-pronounce it. Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman
# + # + # + # + # + # + # + # + #+ # + # + # + #Harvey “Sluggo” Wasserman has many grandchildren who call him “Boppa” and/or “Harby.” “Swuggo” will now be added to the mix. Follow Harvey on Twitter @Solartopia Hear California Solartopia on KPFK 90.7 fm Los Angeles on Thursdays at 6:30 PM Pacific. ]]>
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)
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman 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. ———— 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.]]>
Harvey Wasserman originally published on The Progressive on October 30, 2017 A 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.“““““““““““““““““ 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 ]]>
Harvey Wasserman Originally published on October 11, 2017 on TruthDig
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. ##########################
The Progressive on September 25, 2017
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. 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. “““““` Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter: @Solartopia]]>
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. ———————- Harvey Wasserman’s History of the United States is at www.solartopia.org. ]]>
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. ——————- 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. ]]>