Wednesday, December 29

Merry Christmas: What happened in Ohio (and to America)?

And lo, came the season of good spirits and good will toward your fellow man. The spirit of giving and brotherhood.

You know what I would like to have for Christmas?

I'd like to see some justice and integrity from those in whom we trust. I'd like to see companies like Pfiser show the the same type of good character that Merck has already shown by voluntarily pulling Celebrex off the market in order to protect the health of their customers. It seems to me this would make the Bush Administration very happy, as they seem quite big on volunteerism.

While Governer of Texas, Bush made compliance with State environmental policies voluntary. As a result only one company in Texas is known to have actually complied with those policies.
A similar approach, implemented by Bush's original EPA director Christine Todd Whitman has left significant amounts of agent orange contaminition in her own home state of New Jersey, putting the nearby residents of the town of Edison at risk.

The American FDA did indeed find and note contamination problems with the creation of the 2004 flu vaccine. Yet, they choose to ask that company to volantarily resolve the problem. They didn't. It took English authorities to do something to protect the public and the result was a vaccination crisis.

The Bush approach is an idealist one I think. It seems to feel that governmental oversight inherently dimishes the natural tendencies for individuals and companies to do the right thing on their own. Making the compliance with the EPA, FDA, SEC and other agencies volantary is a great deal like taking the speed limit in every city and making it - volantary. You wouldn't actually have to follow the speed limit anymore if you didn't feel like it. Wanna drive 115 mph on the sidewalk? Well, we wouldn't like it - but we'll only ask you to stop nicely.

And if you don't - we'll just say "Stop" again, real politely.

Wouldn't that be a cool world to live in? A world of true and absolute freedom. Freedom from surveilance, freedom from responsibility - freedom from consequence. Everyone would essentially be on their own recognizance, and you'd just have to trust that they'll all do the right thing all the time. And honestly, I think most people would do just that. Most people would not suddenly become wild careless maniacs. Most people wouldn't decide to do donuts in the crosswalk of the neighborhood elementary school. Most people are decent.

But some aren't. Some people are likely to get hurt. Not everyone. Just some. Probably only a very few. Maybe only one.

What I'd like to see for Christmas is people at all levels of our society, private individuals, corporate heads, regulators and police all rally behind the idea that one unneccesary death or injury is too many.

But I'm not expecting that to happen, because most people and most corporations, are essentially out for themselves! Their motivation is self-gratification, not the good and general welfare of the people. Sometimes that self-gratification can be effectively linked to the welfare of others when the relationship of trust between customer and client - between giver and receiver - is maintained. That trust is best maintained with honesty; with truth and the character to face the consequences when you make an honest mistake. Merck showed this kind of character when they decided to pull Vioxx off the market, however the result is that their stock price has plummetted and they are very likely of being taken over by other pharmacutical companies - such as Pfiser. So the good-guy company gets crushed, while the company that stonewalls continues on.

That's the way the market truly works. Economic Darwinism is a bitch.

And in Bush's America that is particularly dangerous, because besides the idea of getting government off of the back of those poor overburdened polluters and incompetant uncaring corporations - is the idea that the people have no right to know about these activities. They seem to feel that bad corporations will be taken care of by the market - yet they consistently fight tooth and nail to prevent the press or whistleblowers from being able to inform the market and allow people to make the choices that would allow their theory of market darwinism to function. You have no further than to look at the way they've handled the situations with Valerie Plame and her husband former Ambassador Joe Wilson, or former Treasury Secratary John O'Neal, or Richard Clarke to see how they handle those who would tell the public the truth.

50,000 people dead, and counting in Indonesia as a result of the Tsunami and the Bush Administration is sending them less money than he's spending on his inaguration balls, in fact he was so greatly moved by this tragedy that he decided to remain on vacation. Not to worry, Bush will soon deflect people from this issue with another wonderful slight-of-hand political maneuver. He's done it so many times, I doubt this will even cause him to blink.

Despite this, just once, I'd like to see those people who support the Republican party wake up. I'd like to see them stop putting the power of the party ahead of the priorities of the nation and the world. One time isn't too much to ask, but time and time again, they fail.

Whether you support Democrats or Republicans - whether you wholeheartedly believe that George W. Bush was the right choice for America, and that he won both the 2000 and 2004 elections "fair and square" - I think you'd have to feel that all the people have to have confidence in those elections or else the fabric of our democracy is fractured, just as much as the Ukraine has been recently. I've heard many on the right loudly call for new elections in the wake of problems in the Ukrainian election - but where are those voices when it comes to problems in Ohio or problems in Florida?

What I want for Christmas is the truth. Did Kerry legitimatly lose? Maybe. Probably, I think. But were their many many irregularities which are grossly troubling and should make any American concerned? Definately.

Even if you choose to ignore the problems in Guantanemo and Abu Ghraib or the failure to get basic services re-established and rebuilt in Iraq, the irrelevent and ineffectiveness of the FDA, SEC, EPA and Superfund. If people can only pick one thing - I think they need to focus on the privatization of the election.

Most companies and individuals involved in the election process probably did the right thing. I honestly believe that. But also - there was absolutely no speed limit in effect. No legitimate oversight. No responsibilty. No consequences. None what-so-ever.

So now, the recount in Ohio has been done and Kerry gained about 300 votes, pathetically fewer than was neccesary to change the results. So what were the Repubs so afraid of? Voting has never been a partisan issue before. Counting votes accurately never has been. It is now.

What I want is for those on the right - to finally stop coming up with excuses and evasians and finally - volantarily - do the right thing, and begin to seek the truth. All American's should be rallying around this issue - because if the right can steal and election - so can the left.

But I'm not holding my breath, because I strongly suspect the truth - and reality - is not something they worship. Their one and only true God, is the Republican Party.

All Hail - Republi-God!

Mark Halvorson and Kirk Lund:
We may never know what happened in the Ohio vote
Mark Halvorson and Kirk Lund
December 29, 2004 HALVORSON122

The right to vote and to have each vote count is the cornerstone of democracy, but deep cracks are showing in this cornerstone.

Disturbing reports of voting irregularities in Ohio recently led nine of us from Minnesota to monitor the recount of its presidential election. The recount was not only to verify the outcome of the Ohio vote but also to ensure accountability in a flawed system.

Problems encountered by tens of thousands of Ohio voters included: waits as long as seven hours at polling places; shortages of poll workers and voting machines; electronic voting machines that malfunctioned; election-counting discrepencies; voters being directed to the wrong polling place, and uneven policies governing the use of provisional ballots.

As observers, we encountered irregularities and obstacles in the recount process. In Perry County, we inspected the voter logbooks, which showed 100 people voting in one precinct without any signatures, leaving no way to verify who actually voted. A lawsuit asking the courts to overturn the results of the Perry County auditor's race alleges that the number of votes exceeded the number of people who signed the voting books.

Under Ohio law, each county must randomly choose a precinct to recount by hand and by machine. If the two counts do not match, officials must conduct a countywide recount by hand. Most county Boards of Elections, however, chose to preselect the sample precinct, a violation of the law. Some counties refused to proceed with a full hand recount when the hand and machine tallies failed to match.

In two of the three counties we observed, technicians from Diebold and Triad, manufacturers of voting machines and vote-counting software, were present during the entire recount. The Diebold technician in Hardin County was actively involved in giving instructions to the observers. Further, he arrived the day before the recount to prepare the machines and data disks that contain the election results.

At an Ohio hearing convened by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., an affidavit was filed on behalf of Sherole Eaton, an election worker in Hocking County, describing how an employee of Triad may have tampered with the vote tabulator when he dismantled it three days before the Dec. 13 recount. In her affidavit, she states the technician told her "how to post a 'cheat sheet' on the wall so the ... count would come out perfect and we wouldn't have to do a full hand recount of the county."

Conyers has asked the FBI to investigate. Attorneys for John Kerry filed two motions on Monday to preserve the evidence in this case and to take the deposition of the Triad technician.

On Dec. 16 we attended a Franklin County Board of Elections public hearing in Columbus. Citizens expressed their anger and outrage at having to wait up to seven hours to vote. One woman referred to the long lines as a "new poll tax." The Election Protection Coalition reported that of the 464 complaints about long lines in Ohio, 400 came from Columbus and Cleveland, where a large proportion of the state's Democratic voters live.

Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, who cochaired the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio, has come under heavy criticism for his handling of the election and the recount. He refused to respond to questions by several members of Congress.

Conyers charged in a subsequent letter that Blackwell's refusal to answer questions is "part of a pattern of decisions that have worked to obstruct and stonewall a search for the truth about voting irregularities."

Blackwell is also seeking a protective order to keep him from being interviewed as part of a court challenge to the Ohio election.

We will never have a clear picture of Ohio's election results because of the lack of a statewide manual recount, lack of a voter-verified paper trail for many of the state's voters who used electronic voting machines, questions of possible machine tampering, and untold numbers of discouraged voters deterred by long lines. We call on Sen. Mark Dayton to join Rep. Maxine

Waters and other members of Congress to stop the approval of the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6 until there is a full investigation into what really happened in Ohio.

Mark Halvorson is a social worker and cofounder of Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections - Minnesota, a grass-roots group that advocates for election integrity. Kirk Lund is an attorney.

No comments: