Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Geopolitics: The End of American Democracy?

There is a joke going around in Europe, some of my European friends tell me. They say that they look forward to when America becomes a democracy again. You say again? Well perhaps it is a joke. But it certainly isn't a joke that we perhaps face a crisis of democracy right now. Ian Welsh lays out the basic dynamics over at BOP-news.

There is only one way to stop electoral fraud.

Boots on the ground. You've got to have workers in every single polling station. There have to be flying squads of thick necked union members and lawyers ready to move.

You can't pay for this - it has to be done for free. People have to want to work for Kerry - and that requires more than loathing Bush. It requires believing in Kerry.

It isn't enough to get the most votes - they have to be counted.

People always underestimate the role of force in elections. That doesn't mean that force should be used - but you have to be ready to stop voter intimidation with your own strength. You have to show that you are willing to fight. Ironcally if you're not willing to fight - you are more likely to have to.

This lesson should have been learned in the aftermath of the 2000 election. Remember the Republican "riot"? Those pasty overstuffed suits rioting against the recount. Now, imagine if there had been a group of, say, twenty teamsters around. Think there would have been a "riot"?

Or when there were Republican demonstrations outside Gore's house. The counter demonstrators were ready to go. Gore called them off. He didn't want things to get "ugly".

Be clear that Bush may well be President because of the unwillingness to call out the Dem troops - because of the unwillingness to take to the streets. When the Supreme five deliberated they saw that no one was worked up - they figured they could get away with giving the election to Bush; get away with saying "no, you mustn't count the votes."

Knowing when to fight is just as important as knowing when not to.

But you've got to be willing to fight. And John Kerry keeps making the activist class less willing to fight for him. They want to believe in him - they really do.

But he's making it damn hard.

Ian is absolutely right, except that it's not going to be necessary. It's already necessary. Right now, organs of state and the Federal government are being used in unConstitutional and illegal ways to premptively interfere with electoral results. Krugman in his NYT column summarizes two of them.
This year, Florida again drew up a felon list, and tried to keep it secret. When a judge forced the list's release, it turned out that it once again wrongly disenfranchised many people - again, largely African-American - while including almost no Hispanics.

Yesterday, my colleague Bob Herbert reported on another highly suspicious Florida initiative: state police officers have gone into the homes of elderly African-American voters - including participants in get-out-the-vote operations - and interrogated them as part of what the state says is a fraud investigation. But the state has provided little information about the investigation, and, as Mr. Herbert says, this looks remarkably like an attempt to intimidate voters.

But that's not the whole story. As it turns out, the Justice department is already engaged in a premptive proactive effort to intimidate and influence negatively political activists according to the NYT.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been questioning political demonstrators across the country, and in rare cases even subpoenaing them, in an aggressive effort to forestall what officials say could be violent and disruptive protests at the Republican National Convention in New York...

But some people contacted by the F.B.I. say they are mystified by the bureau's interest and felt harassed by questions about their political plans...

The unusual initiative comes after the Justice Department, in a previously undisclosed legal opinion, gave its blessing to controversial tactics used last year by the F.B.I in urging local police departments to report suspicious activity at political and antiwar demonstrations to counterterrorism squads. The F.B.I. bulletins that relayed the request for help detailed tactics used by demonstrators - everything from violent resistance to Internet fund-raising and recruitment.

In an internal complaint, an F.B.I. employee charged that the bulletins improperly blurred the line between lawfully protected speech and illegal activity. But the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, in a five-page internal analysis obtained by The New York Times, disagreed.

The office, which also made headlines in June in an opinion - since disavowed - that authorized the use of torture against terrorism suspects in some circumstances, said any First Amendment impact posed by the F.B.I.'s monitoring of the political protests was negligible and constitutional.

The opinion said: "Given the limited nature of such public monitoring, any possible 'chilling' effect caused by the bulletins would be quite minimal and substantially outweighed by the public interest in maintaining safety and order during large-scale demonstrations."...

But civil rights advocates argued that the visits amounted to harassment. They said they saw the interrogations as part of a pattern of increasingly aggressive tactics by federal investigators in combating domestic terrorism. In an episode in February in Iowa, federal prosecutors subpoenaed Drake University for records on the sponsor of a campus antiwar forum. The demand was dropped after a community outcry.

Back in the day, the FBI kept a file on MLK Jr. Remember the cookie-eating activists in SF from the Moore movie that were such radicals they were infiltrated by a law enforcement agent? They've given up on subtlety. They intend to subpoena records on you, charge you with vague crimes against the state, and to interfere with your life in order to discourage you from being politically active. Political activism has just become a subset of domestic terrorism.

You would think that given the continuing threat that Alqueda plays, that FBI officers would be dedicated in large droves to addressing things like our border problems.
A leading Democratic lawmaker said on Monday that a multibillion-dollar effort to better protect the nation's borders from terrorists had so far been "a striking failure," but Bush administration officials defended the ambitious project.

The program, known as U.S.-Visit, is a cornerstone of the administration's domestic security efforts. It seeks to create a "virtual border" around the United States by using biometric identifiers for travelers and other new technology to bolster security.

The Department of Homeland Security has begun instituting some major security components at airports and elsewhere, and in June it named Accenture as the prime contractor for a project that could be worth as much as $10 billion in coming years.

Representative Jim Turner of Texas, ranking Democrat on the House domestic security committee, wrote in a letter on Monday to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge that an investigation by his staff showed deep flaws. Mr. Ridge said that his department was relying on outdated technology and that the program's central goal, linking the databases of American intelligence, law enforcement, transportation and border agencies, appeared unmet despite three years of effort and $700 million.

It's clear that the War on Terror has become the War on Democracy. I love Ian and the writers at BOP-news but sometimes I shake my head at their innocence. The Republicans whom I know all too well as a former Republican aren't bothering to wait until November to start stealing the election. They've already begun. They are using law enforcement personnel to intimate the other side and political offices in order to coordinate steps to undermine electoral results now.

The days of stealing stuffed ballot boxes are over. Unless Democrats wake up they're going to go into a rigged game in November. American democracy may already be effectively over, or at the very least the modern Republican leadership is going to make a good go at orchestrating a seizure of power.

Is that an exaggeration? Supposedly the NYT is a liberal news outlet. You couldn't tell it by the coverage. Consider the article referenced above about the FBI visiting activists. What is the NYT headline?

F.B.I. Goes Knocking for Political Troublemakers

That's right the NYT is labeling the people harassed for committing no crime by the FBI as "troublemakers". Well if it's just "troublemakers" then it's okay. How many people are going to read past that headline? And where does a major newspaper like the NYT - and how many other outlets will cover this? - get off calling these people troublemakers?

Were the people who marched on Washington DC with MLK Jr troublemakers? Were the people killed racial lynchings in the south just troublemakers? Was George Washington and the Founding Fathers troublemakers to King George and the British? But if we call them troublemakers it'll all be okay.

The media is broken. It's not merely a single failure of WMD or the Iraq war rationale or the Iraq war coverage. It's broken period. From economics to politics or war, there is less and less that is being covered in a way that actually adheres to basic concepts of reality and honesty. It's not just rogue reporters at the NYT or bloodless editors at the WaPo. The entire system is broken.

One of the ways I know this is because our democracy is being stolen in front of our eyes and the mainstream media except for a few lonely voices here or there is completely ignoring it. These kinds of stories came out too before the Iraq war, and yet everyone was so shocked when it turned out that the conventional wisdom was wrong then. Will everyone be shocked to realize we no longer live in a democracy after these stories once again foretell our doom?

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