Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Democracy's dead too

* kathleen reardon:
"Predictability is the kiss of death in negotiation, politics and war, and yet we're extremely predictable in our need for a "win." Once predictable, we're manageable. And that can't be good. A much more clever means of succeeding will be needed. But it won't be found until simple, limiting constructions (win or lose) no longer shape the thinking of those who could make a difference.

While most of us think that ideas shape language, we are inadequately trained to notice how language shapes ideas and therefore decisions. And as we've seen, it can be used to excuse inexcusable actions.

If we don't, as a country, pay closer attention to how this works to our disadvantage and locate the fallacies hidden in our unquestioned assumptions, there is good reason to believe that the road we take will have one very unacceptable result: a place in the history books for a president and vice president who supposedly "won" a war but lost everything else that mattered."

* calipendence has the bad news from CA-50:
"Folks, Democracy died here today in San Diego... Or at least took a big step in that direction. With what the judge did today in dismissing this case, he basically gave folks like Dennis Hastert the right to in effect declare someone running for congress the winner before votes are counted or certified and after that's done, there's nothing that can be done about it. Yuri Hoffman in my book is now joined the list of traitors, and one has to wonder that with a name like that, if he wasn't practicing some form of "justice" from the Soviet Union rather than this country's.

Here's the Union Tribune's write up of this decision, which they of course have no link from the web site page to. Brad Blog's thread on this has everyone from Bev Harris and Jim March to Paul Lehto (the attorney) commenting on it basically saying that Democracy's dead too. It's pretty depressing."

update: here's the statement from Paul Lehto (from brad):
"Today the court dismissed the election contest in San Diego's 50th Congressional District, holding that it had no jurisdiction or power to hear an election contest, administer a recount, or allow any evidence at all to be produced concerning a Congressional election, after a Representative has been sworn into the House of Representatives.

This powerlessness to protect the voters or the integrity of our elections on the part of the Superior Courts of California is due to the early, unilateral and premature swearing-in of Brian Bilbray to the House of Representatives on June 13th, only seven days after the election of June 6. The defendants claimed in briefing filed with the court on or about August 22, and the court held today, that the premature swearing-in resulted in the "exclusive jurisdiction" of Art. I, sec. 5 concerning elections to be transferred to the House of Representatives. After that point, this exclusivity means that nobody else has authority concerning any aspect of the election.

The swearing-in was indeed premature and an undemocratic transfer of power away from the People and in favor of politicians in Washington DC for numerous reasons. As of June 13th:

  • 1. By written admission of the Registrar of Voters in a letter there were thousands of votes were still uncounted on June 13th, the letter stating that 2,500 votes were still uncounted as of June 15 at 5 p.m. PST, Eastern Standard Time, which is slightly more than two days after the swearing-in on June 13th.
  • 2. Partial election totals indicated on June 13th that only a few thousand votes separated the candidates,
  • 3. As of June 13th, the defendants knew or should have known from news reports that the election would be disputed with recounts requested,
  • 4. As of June 13th, no manual audit had been started or completed as required by California law, and
  • 5. As of June 13th, it would still be 16 days or more before official certification of the election results - the only thing that makes an election complete, legal and official.
  • 6. Even as of today's date, no human being or combination of human beings have counted these votes even once; we've only been provided with totals to be taken on faith from reports of Diebold optical scan and touchscreen voting machines, with the possible exception of a 1% hand audit.
  • 7. On the level of the principles that our country was founded upon, the only legitimate political authority is that derived from the consent of the governed, and a fair election process. Given that elections are purely procedure and don't promise us substantive results that the best candidate will necessarily win, if the procedure of the elections is compromised, there is no political legitimacy. As it stood, the thousands of people and organizations concerned with this election all declared that based on all of the procedural irregularities ranging from sleepovers of voting machines, to precincts with turnouts that were thousands of percent higher than registered voters, there was simply NO BASIS FOR CONFIDENCE in the June 6 election.
  • Taken together, this partial list of circumstances means that the election was not finished when exclusive power was transferred to the House by the swearing-in on June 13th, and it terminated the democratic processes that we all expect to operate to their conclusion. In other words, if this was a sports game, it was as if the Speaker of the House terminated the "game" and declared victory with something like ten minutes left on the clock, instead of playing this closely contested game until the clock ran out as we would all expect. This denied due process (a complete election) to the voters, denied equal protection of the law to the 50th Congressional District (which does not have recount rights, while other Congressional districts and other election races do have recount rights) and, in fact, denies democracy to us all.

    Today, the plaintiffs are declaring victory, having proven not only that an election was corrupted and invalid, but that democracy itself was denied. The House of Representatives denies that voters have any say whatsoever. They've exercised their absolute power to swear in Bilbray, and they've heard enough of this elections business, they deem a recount or investigation unwarranted. Checks and balances of elections have been eliminated, the public's right to supervise elections by witnessing vote counting and obtaining information about it has been denied, and in its place is an assertion of absolute uncheckable power, something that was clearly anathema to the people who wrote our Constitution and founded this country specifically in the context of elections, because elections were intended to be the People's primary if not sole protection against oppressive government, but if the House of Representatives can legally do this, then they can legally do anything, including ignoring elections entirely.

    It is particularly troublesome that the Speaker and the Representative sworn in are members of the same political party. If only none of us knew which political party the Speaker of the House and Representative Bilbray were both affiliated with, I think all americans would agree that this was an improper action by the House, an abuse of elections, and a crime against democracy.

    In fact, the decision to swear in Bilbray by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, was based on a fax of unofficial results sent by Suzanne Lapsley of the California Secretary of State's office to the House of Representatives. Presumably, the Speaker made an assessment that no further vote counting, auditing or certification would be necessary, and Bilbray was sworn in, with the intent that thereafter any and all actions taken by anybody would be void and without force and effect, due to the "exclusive jurisdiction" of the House concerning the Qualifications of its Members.

    In summary, we set out to prove that a *particular* election in the 50th Congressional District in California was invalid and corrupted. What we in fact proved today, beyond any reasonable doubt, was that democracy itself was prematurely terminated and denied by the intentional actions of the defendants and the Speaker, and that they specifically intended this effect to occur, as they argue vociferously in their briefs that the plain and clear meaning of their premature swearing in was to render everyone else without power or jurisdiction to do anything. Under their interpretation of Art. I, sec. 5 of the US Constitution, everyone else except the House of Representatives is powerless to do anything about any election once a member is sworn. It is not within the legitimate sweep of this power, however, to exercise it before the election is over. Ironically, this tactic rendered the certification of the election null and void, so in this sense the defendants agree with the contestants that the election certification was not valid.

    In dismissing this case on constitutional jurisdiction grounds, the court stating in its opinion in part, quoting another case with approval:

    "Under our form of government the judicial department has no power to revise even the most arbitrary and unfair action of the legislative department, or of either house thereof, taken in pursuance of the power committed exclusively to that department by the constitution …. {…} There is no provision authorizing courts to control, direct, supervise, or forbid, the exercise by either house of the power to expel a member. These powers are functions of the legislative department, and therefore in the exercise of the power thus committed to it the senate is supreme. An attempt by this court to direct or control the legislature, or either house thereof, in the exercise of the power, would be an attempt to exercise legislative functions, which it is expressly forbidden to do." ( Id. , at pp. 606-607.)

    It may come as news to the voters of America that their Courts are powerles to "revise even the most arbitrary and unfair action of the legislative department…." The Court could have (as it was requested to do) assessed the Constitutionality of the premature action by the House given Roudebush v. Hartke, a US Supreme Court case stating that states have the right to perform the count, so therefore they have the right to perform a recount as well. But here again, the early swearing in was the defendants end-around this US Supreme Court case, as well as its end around democracy, the San Diego Superior Court, the rights of the contestants, and the requirement that all parts of the Constitution be upheld, not just Art. I, sec. 5.

    Whether or not an appeal from this particular case is the vehicle, the contestants will fight on harder than ever before, because it is now clear that there are powerful forces in our country willing to exercise raw power to terminate elections.

    Given the undeniable nature of the power grab that took place in San Diego's 50th Congressional District, the entire nature of the debate about the question of whether any elections officials might ever take advantage of less open methods of modifying or terminating election results via the opportunity of secret vote counting provided by electronic voting machines seems clearer than ever before. Unless the people reassert their right, consistent with the 92% result in the recent Zogby poll, to supervise elections and obtain information regarding them, democracy itself will be lost."


    rimone said...

    calipendence: ...With what the judge did today in dismissing this case, he basically gave folks like Dennis Hastert the right to in effect declare someone running for congress the winner before votes are counted or certified and after that's done, there's nothing that can be done about it.

    after reading your comment and the rest of Luke's post, i am fucking fuming, livid, throwing things here.

    can nothing else be done? this is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE and i'm hoping it's not a harbinger of things to come for all of US.

    fucking cocksucking cheating prick bastards.

    calipendence said...

    This ruling definitely sucks! Sibel, if you're reading this, please find a way to get Mr. Hastert fucked good now! As he just royally fucked all of us now, especially us here in the 50th district.

    This is a sign of the ugliness to come unfortunately. And as I noted before in other threads. I think that might also be illustrated more vividly what we might have to do to overcome this drive to dictatorship when I predict Mexico will get pretty violent trying to do the same when their Independence Day comes up in a little over two weeks from now on the 16th.

    I'm hoping to get an interview with e-voting expert Doug Jones when I'm visiting Iowa next week and I've got some ideas on hopefully how we can make some of it useful in solving this issue.

    calipendence said...

    Interesting note that in the NC Times writeup that was just posted, Francine Busby has been interviewed on this issue and has spoken up pretty strongly on this finally.

    Seattle attorney Paul Lehto said Republicans knew that once Bilbray had been sworn in, it would be highly unlikely that Busby or any other candidate would file a complaint with the House, since they wouldn't want to be perceived as sore losers. Lehto said the federal statute is wrong and should allow for any voter, not just candidates, to file such a protest.

    In a brief phone interview Tuesday, Busby said that she was not aware of the federal statute that would have allowed her to file a protest with the House of Representatives.

    But the judge's decision was wrong, she said.

    "It's outrageous that this judge just said the state of California doesn't have jurisdiction over our own elections, over this election," Busby said. "What happened today should be of concern to all voters."

    Hopefully she will continue to be more strident on this issue now and will make it a campaign issue that Bilbray and other Republicans will have to respond to!

    LeeB said...

    Oh, I hope so! I would love to see this case show up in campaign ads all over the damned country. Please, Please, Please!

    The thugs have become so blatant in the last six years it has GOT to bite 'em in the butt, and soon.

    lukery said...

    jeebus calipendence. this is just disastrous.

    we share your pain.

    Anonymous said...

    My God. I can't believe this. Can this decision be overturned?

    So let me get this straight, swearing someone in now trumps the voting outcome of an election?

    Quick! Someone swear me in as President.

    - Jiminy Cricket

    lukery said...

    JC: "Quick! Someone swear me in as President. "

    LeeB said...

    Luke! What's so gawddamm funny??!

    Jiminy!! Raise your right hand . . .

    lukery said...

    someone grab a bible. and a constitution!

    rimone said...

    what LeeB said. and what lukery said, as long as it's not that constitutional toilet paper we've heard so much about lately.

    lukery said...

    was it bill maher who said 'bush swore on the bible to uphold the constitution, not the other way around'?

    LeeB said...

    No, Rimone. It's not constitutional "toilet paper" . . . it's constitutional confetti.

    We need a nice flat surface, some of that spray glue stuff, and one of those foam core board thingies so we can reconstruct it - sort of like a collage

    rimone said...

    that would be wonderful street theatre, LeeB, to have people holding aloft something like that made huge w/a nice zingy slogan e.g., 'NOT a goddamn piece of paper' but better than that.

    naturally, this would be part of that parade we've been talking about when we're all dancing in the streets and throwing flowers and all.