Friday Mashup (8/17/12)

August 18, 2012
  • I’m overdue to clean out my “in” bin, so here goes…

    …a new book — “Who’s Counting?” by John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky — charges that Al Franken’s 2008 defeat of incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman may be directly attributable to felons voting illegally.

    Coleman led on election night, but a series of recounts lasting eight months eventually gave the seat to the former Saturday Night Live star.

    Later, a conservative watchdog group matched criminal records with the voting rolls and discovered that 1,099 felons had illegally cast ballots. State law mandates prosecutions in such cases; 177 have been convicted so far, with 66 more awaiting trial.

    Franken’s eventual margin of “victory”? A mere 312 votes.

    (There are also allegations of Democratic Party voting shenanigans in Washington state and Connecticut that I may attempt to deal with on another day, if only to prove that the parties alleging wrongdoing are utterly wrong once more.)

    In response, this tells us the following…

    I don’t mean to be disrespectful, just instructive, but I’d like to comment on the comments of Sen. Coleman and Gov. Pawlenty. As we know, Coleman won the 2002 Senate election 11 days after incumbent Sen. Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash. Polls showed Wellstone was going to win that election. For Coleman to call Franken “an accidental senator” is tragically ironic, for there are some who believe Coleman was the original accidental senator.

    As for the governor, he has spoken three times about the recount, and he’s been a bit fast and loose with his facts. First, in the early days of the recount, he spread — on Fox News — the completely untrue story about Minneapolis ballots that were supposedly being driven around in the alleged trunk of an unknown and non-existent elections official. He spoke of this days after it was reported that the story was a fable.

    Later, in a call with reporters, he overstated by thousands of percentage points the increase of absentee voters in 2008, trying to say that Franken won the election because of that.

    In fact, Franken won the recount by 49 votes BEFORE absentee ballots were counted.

    Media Matters has a typically thorough takedown of Fund and von Spakovsky here, pretty much destroying their evergreen charges that Al Franken somehow managed to steal the Minnesota U.S. Senatorial election four years ago.

    This is par for the proverbial course for Fund and (in particular) von Spakovsky; this tell us that the latter “served” as a Justice Department lawyer who was also Republican Party chairman in Fulton County, Ga. before going to Washington; while in the Peach State, von Spakovsky worked towards requiring Georgia voters to have photo identification, which (as we now know) disenfranchises primarily Democratic voters.

    In the typically inside-out world of Republican Party politics, this of course makes Fund and von Spakovsky the perfect choices to scream about election impropriety (when others are responsible, of course).

  • Next, I give you more hilarity from Flush Limbore (here), who said that “some guy” apparently told him that President Obama had had the worst grades of any Harvard student (typical).

    Gee, I wonder if that’s why Laurence Tribe, one of Obama’s former professors, once called the president “the best student he ever had” here?

    You know what, Foxies? Why don’t you just stick to doing what you do well (as illustrated below) and leave news/political commentary for the grownups (I can dream, can’t I?).

  • Further, I give you Ken Blackwell at The Daily Tucker (here, regarding veep Joe Biden’s recent “chains” remark – please)…

    So who was it, Mr. Vice President, that broke those slave chains? It was the Republicans. Republican Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and signed the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery. It was Republicans who passed the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution that abolished slavery, provided for equal protection for former slaves, and extended the suffrage to them.

    Every vote cast against those constitutional amendments was cast by a Democrat. Every vote cast against every Civil Rights Act in the 19th century was cast by a Democrat.

    …Uh, no. As noted here

    (The 1965 Voting Rights Act) passed the Senate by a vote of 77 to 19 (on May 26th of that year), with 47 Democrats and 30 Republicans in support and 17 Democrats and 2 Republicans opposed.

    And I give you the following from one of those two…

    Before voting against the bill, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who had switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in September 1964, eulogized the Senate as the “final resting place of the Constitution and the rule of law, for it is here that they will have been buried with shovels of emotion under piles of expediency, in the year of our Lord, 1965.”

    And of course, like Fund and von Spakovsky, Blackwell doesn’t know anything about disenfranchising African American voters, among his other exploits as Ohio’s former Secretary of State, as noted here…not much he doesn’t.

  • And finally, this tells us the following…

    Former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis (Ala.) will speak at the Republican National Convention later this month in Tampa, Fla., the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced Thursday.

    Davis co-chaired President Obama’s 2008 campaign and seconded his nomination at that year’s Democratic National Convention, but aligned himself with Republicans after losing a Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2010.

    Davis campaigned with Mitt Romney on Wednesday in Virginia.

    Oh, and let it be known that Reince Priebus, the Repug Party chair (and good luck with that when doing the spell check!), said that Davis will “give voice to the frustration and disappointment felt among those who supported President Obama in 2008 and are now hungry for a new direction.”

    I’m not sure that there’s a more pitiable character in our national politics right now than Artur Davis (I mean, what with “Goodhair” Perry, Little Ricky, Baby Newton Leroy, and The Pizza Man having happily receded into the media background).

    So what, is Davis going to go all “crazy Zell Miller” from the 2004 Rethuglican National Convention on us now?

    Well, maybe this provides a clue (in which Davis tries to make common cause with the Teahadists)…

    “Ladies and gentlemen, in 1980, one man, from a small town in Illinois, said I know what they say, I hear the doubts in the wind, but I will not be bowed,” Davis said. “This man, who was supposedly old and faded, issued the same call that a 43-year-old named Jack Kennedy issued in 1960, and said that we can do better.”

    That said, Davis admitted that “we don’t have Ronald Reagan running this year. There was only one. But I want to submit to you, that Ronald Reagan’s values are alive in the Republican Party today.”

    Oh, and if it isn’t disgusting enough for Davis to try and conflate JFK with The Sainted Ronnie R, it should be noted that he also invoked the memory of Rosa Parks too.

    Not to worry, though – I thought Cynthia Tucker definitely got the lowdown on Davis here

    Don’t be fooled by the clichéd announcement (of Davis’s party switch). Davis defected for all the wrong reasons. He left the Democrats out of personal pique — a feeling of rejection left by his humiliating loss in the Alabama Democratic primary for governor.

    For seven years, Davis was a rising star in Democratic circles, a bright and promising member of Congress, a well-educated representative of the post-civil-rights era of black leadership. Elected to Congress in 2002, he defeated 10-year incumbent Earl Hilliard, whose many ethical lapses and support of Middle Eastern tyrants had made him an embarrassment.

    But Davis ¬— who is nothing if not ambitious — made a serious misjudgment in 2010, forfeiting his secure post as representative of Alabama’s 7th congressional district to run for governor of that state. As a black Democrat, he would never have been elected to the helm of one of the most conservative states in the union, but he was widely expected to win the nomination.

    That was before Davis fell prey to an unfortunate fallacy about moderation and bucked President Obama’s health care plan. Though Alabama, my home state, has one of the nation’s highest rates of uninsured, Davis refused to support the health care plan.

    There is much in (Davis’s) analysis that is wrong and wrongheaded. For example, Davis credits Bill Clinton for a period of robust economic growth, but says “this is not Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party” — borrowing from Mitt Romney’s recent rhetoric. Both men willfully ignore one of Clinton’s bravest acts: He pressed Congress to raise taxes, which set the stage for that growth.

    And on the subject of identity politics, Davis is just as wrong. The GOP may have grown more sophisticated about executing its southern strategy, but it remains a tool for dividing voters along racial lines. Davis’ marriage of convenience is unlikely to be a happy one.

    I know it’s easy to forget that our 40th president was once a Democrat who switched political parties because it suited his political ambitions also. But if Davis has any aspirations towards anything near that height of political power and has made this move with that goal in mind, then it is inevitable that he will find out what “frustration and disappointment” truly means beyond any and all doubt.

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    Burying Bushco’s Brand Of “Civil Rights”

    January 23, 2009

    thernstromA week ago, an Op-Ed column appeared in the New York Times by Mary Frances Berry, the chairwoman of the Commission on Civil Rights from 1993 to 2004, in which she made the following observation…

    The Commission on Civil Rights has been crippled since the Reagan years by the appointments of commissioners who see themselves as agents of the presidential administration rather than as independent watchdogs. The creation of a new, independent human and civil rights commission could help us determine our next steps in the pursuit of freedom and justice in our society. A number of explosive issues like immigration reform await such a commission, but recommendations for resolving the controversies over the rights of gays, lesbians and transgendered people should be its first order of business.

    I thought that was interesting because I haven’t read too many African American leaders speaking of the struggles of LGBT individuals in terms similar to the struggles they faced themselves, and still do today.

    Well, in response (and inadvertently validating Berry’s claim, I think), we have this letter from two members of the current commission, in full-on umbrage mode I should add; it appeared in the Times today…

    In “Gay but Equal?” (Op-Ed, Jan. 16), Mary Frances Berry argues that the United States Commission on Civil Rights should be abolished and replaced with “a new commission” addressing “the rights of many groups, including gays.”

    Ms. Berry’s concern is not with the commission’s lack of jurisdiction over sexual orientation issues, which could be remedied by statutory amendment. Rather, her grievance is that the commission has a conservative majority and will retain that majority until 2010, when President Obama is scheduled to make his first appointments.

    During Ms. Berry’s tumultuous tenure as commission chairwoman, the Government Accountability Office called it “an agency in disarray,” which lacked “basic management controls.”

    In contrast, today it has received three consecutive clean audits, substantially increased the quality and integrity of its reports and has been taken seriously again as an independent civil rights watchdog.

    We trust that President Obama will not look to Ms. Berry for advice on the commission.

    (Berry’s original column is linked from the Times letter today, I should note.)

    http://www.usccr.gov/images/bios/heriot.jpgFunny, but I didn’t read in Berry’s original column the words “crippled since the Reagan years, though everything was cool when I was in charge during Clinton’s administration and Bush’s first term.” Methinks the authors of the Times’ letter today, Abigail Thernstrom (pic above right) and Gail Heriot (left) doth protest too much (and attacking Berry for her term, aside from being mean spirited – particularly when Berry didn’t mention Thernstrom or Heriot by name in her original column – is hardly the point).

    So as you might expect, this made me curious to learn more about Thernstrom and Heriot and their roles in Dubya’s Commission on Civil Rights, and as former Boston Globe (and current New York Times) reporter Charlie Savage told us here in July 2006 (Savage has been following the doings at Dubya’s CCR for awhile now)…

    …documents show(ed) that only 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003 (for the CCR), after the administration changed the rules to give political appointees more influence in the hiring process, have civil rights experience. In the two years before the change, 77 percent of those who were hired had civil rights backgrounds.

    In an acknowledgment of the department’s special need to be politically neutral, hiring for career jobs in the Civil Rights Division under all recent administrations, Democratic and Republican, had been handled by civil servants — not political appointees.

    But in the fall of 2002, then-attorney general John Ashcroft changed the procedures. The Civil Rights Division disbanded the hiring committees made up of veteran career lawyers.

    For decades, such committees had screened thousands of resumes, interviewed candidates, and made recommendations that were only rarely rejected.

    Now, hiring is closely overseen by Bush administration political appointees to Justice, effectively turning hundreds of career jobs into politically appointed positions.

    And when discussing Bushco acolytes in high government positions where they had no business whatsoever, particularly here, the name of Hans von Spakovsky comes to mind, kind of the same way a case of acid reflux attacks you at an unsuspecting moment; as TPM Muckracker’s Kate Klonick tells us here…

    …(von Spakovsky), (t)he former Justice Department official whose nomination to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was thwarted when Democrats objected to his long record of support for restrictions on voting rights, has been hired as a “consultant and temporary full-time employee” at the ostensibly bi-partisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR).

    And in today’s Times letter, Thernstrom and Heriot tell us that the USCCR is being run oh so much more efficiently now than it was under Berry’s tenure, right?

    Well, as Klonick tells us…

    So where is the money (for von Spakovsky’s $125 K salary) coming from? Well it turns out that USCCR is about $400,000 (pdf) under budget, and something had to be done with all that money before December (’08). Although according to a federal source, the agency has other pressing needs — understaffing and out-of-date technology — the commissioners decided instead to spend at least part of that money on four temporary staff assistants.

    And concerning Thernstrom, this Sourcewatch article tells us that she wrote a book highly critical of affirmative action in 1987, vigorously challenged allegations of systematic bias against minorities in the 2000 Florida presidential election, and has called for all Democrats to be removed outright from the board of the USCCR.

    Sourcewatch also tells us that…

    Thernstrom first attracted the attention of conservatives with a thundering denunciation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Public Interest magazine in 1978. She “distinguished herself with her hostility toward any method of promoting black and minority representation”. [7]

    And as of last August when Klonick of TPM wrote her story about von Spakovsky, of the eight commissioners on the Civil Rights Commission CCR, it should be noted that only two were Democrats.

    How did that happen, I hear you ask? Well, for more information, we should turn to Gail Heriot, Thernstrom’s fellow CCR member. As Savage tells Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! here…

    (Heriot is) a law professor in San Diego, very conservative, a member of the Federalist Society, (who) had been a delegate to the 2000 Republican Convention and had applied to join the state panel in California, state advisory panel for the US Civil Rights Commission, calling herself a Republican in 2006. But shortly after that, in August of ‘06, she reregistered as an independent, and six months later Senate Republicans installed her as an independent, because there were still four Republicans officially on the panel, as a fifth conservative. She’s still there now. She was just reappointed to a new six-year term yesterday as an independent. She said she just has some policy differences with the Republican Party. I asked her to name one, and she declined.

    So a Repug changing their party affiliation to “independent” is a nice way for them to stack the commission with like-minded right-wing ideologues, huh?

    Well, at least Thernstrom or Heriot didn’t refer to Berry as “black and bitter,” as John Tanner, former chief of the CCR, did (noted here, with Tanner apologizing profusely after he was caught saying that in an Email – idiot).

    To conclude, I should note again that the authors of today’s letter state that “they trust that Obama will not look to Ms. Berry for advice on the commission.”

    I don’t know about that. But I can guarantee you that he won’t look to Thernstrom or Heriot for “advice” either.


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