A few developments this week in the case of Mike Connell, the GOP IT guru who died in a single-engine plane craft last December, just after being forced to testify in a long-standing OH 2004 voting rights case, but before the case could come to trial. As The BRAD BLOG has long covered both the lawsuit, and Connell's central role, I wanted to make sure the new developments were noted here. Forgive my quick copy and paste, necessarily, given the circumstances of the week which still have me otherwise distracted in many ways. Background links on the entire Connell story are included at the end of this item...
The sisters of Michael Connell, a GOP IT consultant and former associate of Karl Rove who died in a plane crash last December, are now questioning the circumstances surrounding his death.
“Shannon Connell of Madison says her brother Michael rarely talked about work,” a local Wisconsin paper reported Thursday. “She knew he ran an Ohio company called New Media Communications that set up websites for Republicans including former President George H.W. Bush and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. But it wasn’t until after he died last December, when the small plane he was piloting crashed, that she learned via the Internet of his tie to a voter fraud case and to allegations that presidential adviser Karl Rove had made threats against him.
“‘At first, it was really hard for me to believe Mike was dead because somebody wanted him dead,” the paper quoted Shannon as saying. “But as time goes on, it’s hard for me not to believe there was something deliberate about it.”
“A native of Illinois, Shannon moved to Madison in 2002,” the paper adds, “the same year as her sister, Mary Jo Walker. Walker, a former Dane County Humane Society employee, has similar concerns about their brother’s death: ‘It doesn’t seem right to me at all.’”
On the eve of the Presidential election, facing an historic defeat, the Republican National Committee quietly filed a motion to dissolve an existing consent decree in which they’d agreed not to engage in voter caging or other types of voter intimidation. Since 1982, the RNC has been restricted from conducting so-called “ballot-security” measures that have historically been used to deter thousands of Americans—largely low-income and minority citizens—from voting. Now, the RNC wants to be free of these restrictions. A hearing on the RNC motion is scheduled for next Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for New Jersey.
The case began in the early 1980s when the Democratic National Committee sued the RNC for voter suppression tactics that targeted about 45,000 people in low-income and minority areas. The RNC subjected minority voters in New Jersey to misleading election notices, the intimidating placement of off-duty police around polling places, and the unlawful practice of “voter caging” whereby unfounded voter challenge lists are compiled from returned mass direct mailings.
The case, DNC v. RNC, resulted in a 1982 decree in which the RNC agreed not to engage in voter caging and intimidation activities or to target minority voters.
Despite the consent decree, the RNC began using similar tricks in Louisiana in 1986. Under the guise of fraud prevention, the RNC facilitated voter caging programs and other tactics. Commenting on the program, Kris Wolfe, the Midwest RNC political director, sent a memo to Lanny Griffith, the Southern RNC political director, saying “I would guess this program will eliminate at least 60,000 to 80,000 folks from the rolls…If it’s a close race…this could keep the black vote down considerably.” The DNC filed a contempt motion to reopen the case and enjoin the RNC from conducting the Louisiana programs. Once again, the RNC voluntarily agreed to a consent decree rather than fight the claims in court. The result was a 1986 decree [PDF] in which the RNC agreed not to do any ballot security programs anywhere in the country without prior court approval.
More than 20 years later, on November 3, 2008, the RNC moved to terminate the 1982 and 1986 consent decrees. The RNC claims the consent decrees hamstring their efforts to combat voter fraud, despite the fact that voter fraud is less common than death by lightning.
Well, they got the Supreme Court. Now's as good a time as any to get "official" permission to suppress the vote again. Beats winning by actually getting more votes than the other guys, I guess.
Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said on Tuesday he would switch to the Democratic party, presenting Democrats with a possible 60th vote and the power to break Senate filibusters as they try to advance the Obama administration’s new agenda.
Specter's announcement reflects an estrangement from the increasingly authoritarian, hard-right ideologues who now control the shattered remnants of the Republican Party. In California, the Republican Party passed a resolution to deny funding to six Republican lawmakers who joined with Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrats, passing a budget to prevent this state from falling into an economic abyss. In the U.S. House of Representatives, every Republican acted as one to say “no” to a vital stimulus, offering only the very measures that led to the current economic meltdown—tax cuts for the wealthy. Three Republican Senators, Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, had no sooner broke ranks in voting for a compromise version of the stimulus package before they found themselves targeted by conservative groups, with Specter facing a primary challenge from hard-right Republican Pat Toomey.
It is a testament to how far the remnants of the Republican Party have moved to the right that RNC Chairman Michael Steele suggests Specter would have been defeated by Toomey because of the former moderate Republican's "left-wing voting record."
As we pointed out previously, upon the anticipated denial of former Senator Norm Coleman's appeal by the MN Supreme Court, Senator-elect "Franken...would be in a solid position --- legally and politically --- to then lobby the Senate hard and directly for an immediate seating, even if Coleman chooses to continue his fool's errand with an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court." Franken would become the 60th member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, ending the ability of the 'Party of No' to block the Democratic agenda --- unless either Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe beat him to it.
UPDATE 4/29, 5:55pm PT: In an op-ed appearing in today's New York TimesSenator Snowe observed that "being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of 'Survivor' --- you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe." Whether that means that she would be prepared to follow Specter off the reservation remains to be seen.
"The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention . It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.
The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called 'universal jurisdiction.' Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution."
My italics. Reagan was admant [sic] about prosecuting torture, but also prosecuting inhuman treatment that some might claim was not full-on torture. Now go read National Review or The Weekly Standard. And look what has happened to conservatism in America.
Reagan was, of course, part of the Blame-America-First crowd. Soft on terror. Friend of the evil-doers. Why did Ronald Reagan hate America?
Kindra Muntz, president of Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections (SAFE) emailed over the weekend to request "nationwide pressure" be placed on legislators in Tallahassee and, given the ugliness of this particular effort, we'd agree. See the bottom of this article for some action links which Muntz suggests taking to counter what she describes as a "dangerous" and "devastating" bill being quietly fast-tracked through the FL legislature by the GOP down there this week.
Here's a couple of passages from two no-holds-barred editorials from over the weekend, excoriating this latest, blatant attempt at voter suppression by the Sunshine State Republicans who, this time, have got elderly voters (and much more) in their cross-hairs. Among a few pretty horrible things this bill does (see below for much more), it would end the use of "Retirement center identification" and "Neighborhood association identification" for the elderly when voting at the polling place.
The first editorial below comes from the St. Petersburg Times which calls the effort "disgraceful," a "naked grab for power," and charges, "Republican legislative leaders have lost all sense of shame with their 11th-hour bill to roll back voting rights in Florida."...
In my opinion voter suppression is an ugly act. When one party is in power and then pushes legislation that only serves to help to ensure they will stay in power then there is something wrong with our democracy. This is now the case in Florida where the party in power waited until week seven of a nine week legislative session to attempt to ram-rod through bills in both the House and Senate that will help to ensure they stay in power. Our two ‘Featured’ editorials (here and here) explain what is happening in Florida much better than I can. ...
Of course, the video above underscores the plain truth that the "protesting" tea baggers sore losers, had no real clue what the hell they were even doing at their tiny "protests" on Wednesday, which they only showed up for, to protest against their own best interests, because Fox "News" told them to. The photo below (courtesy "rumproast") may say it all...
All of Wednesday's confused, desperate (though rather amusing) "protests" were, of course, dwarfed in size, actual meaning, and actual grass-rootsness, by dozens of actual grass-roots protests during the Bush years, such as this one against the Iraq War and these when Bush was inaugurated in '05, even though somehow Fox "News" forgot to promote those actual protests, and the rest of the corporate media forgot to cover them at all.
But ssshhhh...don't tell the tea baggers sore losers, they think they've started a "revolution"...
I'm impressed, frankly, with the unflinching outspokenness of Meghan McCain (John's daughter) in her quest to restore sanity, and a future, to the Republican Party. No idea whether she'll have any success --- at least for the foreseeable future --- but her willingness to stand straight up to her own party's not-minimal thuggery is impressive.
Today, McCain is out and out calling for the GOP to "Go Gay" by embracing same sex marriage (she still calls it "gay marriage," but that's because she's still a Republican), and begins her case by pointing out that it was the GOP deity himself, Ronald Reagan, as Governor of CA in 1978, who fended off a ballot proposition which would have outlawed gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools.
"Reagan’s argument centered around the idea that parents already had all the rights they needed to protect their children and that the government did not need to interfere," McCain notes, pointing to an actual conservative doctrine which the GOP has all but abandoned in their bigoted, unConstitutional demands for Big Government intervention into the private lives of homosexual Americans.
I'm digging fairly deeply into the details of what could be a tremendously important story to come (unrelated to this issue), so for the moment I'll just leave you with a few of the money quotes from her essay at The Daily Beast today:
At the most basic level, sexual orientation should not be a factor in how you are treated. If the Republican Party has any hope of gaining substantial support from a wider, younger base, we need to get past our anti-gay rhetoric.
Lest we forget, our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, grants the same rights to everyone in this country—“All men are created equal.” If you think certain rights should not apply to certain people, then you are saying those people are not equal. People may always have a difference of opinion on certain lifestyles, but championing a position that wants to treat people unequally isn't just un-Republican. At its fundamental core, it's un-American.
She finishes with the incredibly overly optimistic notion: "I believe the Republican Party has, at this moment, the opportunity to come forward and play an instrumental role in securing gay rights." Nonetheless, she deserves credit and kudos for having the courage to say it. It's a pity it'll likely fall on so many deaf, crazy, tea-bagging ears.
By way of begrudging public service to those in the community at large who may not understand why so many --- such as Rachel Maddow as seen in the video at right --- are having such a difficult time not bursting into laughter whenever discussing the nutty rightwing "tea baggers," we offer this link to the Urban Dictionary in hopes of allowing you too in on the joke.
Between the whackazoid self-proclaimed tea baggers and the anti-marriage, anti-homosexual hate group National Organization for Marriage's new, unfortunately acronymed "Two Million for Marriage" (2M4M) campaign, seriously, you folks may wanna do just two or three minutes of Googling before you come up with your next new, snazzy, self-identifying catch-phrase.
Or, at the very least, consult former Congressman Dick Armey for some advice first.
During the exchange between Rove and Roe, as reported by Schroeder, Rove tells Roe that he has a file on Feeney, and Roe, who was angry with Rove for cracks he'd made on Fox "News" at Feeney's expense just after the extremely corrupt FL Republican had lost his 2008 election, says angrily to Rove: "You guys wouldn't be in the White House without Tom."
Given the coverage we've offered over the years on Feeney, and former Republican computer programmer Clint Curtis' allegations against him, several folks --- including our friends Marcy Wheeler of emptywheel and Patty Sharaf, filmmaker of Murder, Spies & Voting Lies: The Clint Curtis Story --- sent us the link to the Politico article, asking our opinion on what Roe may have meant by that crack.
In the interest of keeping links to that story from continuing to pile up in our Inbox, here's our take on Roe's purported comment to Rove...
No. He's not crazy at all. Glenn Beck pours metaphorical "gasoline" on "himself," his viewers, and his imagined newly-tyrannical America, and his own, and his viewers', rapidly accelerating, self-perpetuated sense of victim-hood. When he/they eventually --- and it shouldn't be long at this rate --- actually light the match and blow themselves/us up, feel free to point back to this item, when we're told "who could have predicted it?"...
Beck's daily hour on governmentally subsidized cable TV, and three hours daily on our publicly owned radio waves, is a tremendously responsible use government welfare, and reflects brilliantly on our Founding Fathers' guarantee to one single industry --- and one single industry only (the press) --- in our U.S. Constitution.
That's a very responsible use of that singular Constitutional dispensation, Glenn. Keep up the bad work.
BTW, in case you missed it on Wednesday, Jon Stewart --- an actually responsible steward of public largess --- spoke directly and brilliantly to the crazies like Beck and Hannity and O'Reilly and Levin and Bachmann et al, by informing them (since they don't seem to know): "I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing...that's not tyranny, that's democracy"...
That video --- actually worth watching and taking notes --- follows below...
Republican Army and Marine vet caller to Rush: "You're one reason to blame for the Republicans losing...You're a brain-washed, Nazi...Anybody who could believe in torture, has got to have something wrong with them...What's the matter with you?! You never even served in the Army!"
Rush replies: "You're stupid and ignorant...you don't know diddly-squat..."
Seriously, give it a listen above right. Media Matters has the transcript, Scholars and Rogues has more details. It's getting ugly out there in Limbaugh Land.
Must-Listen Musical Addendum: And as long as we're on the topic...We'll opportunistically take this opportunity to share Rush 'admitting' he's 'a Nazi'. If you haven't heard this brilliantly hilarious satirical tune, featuring Rush in his own words (as created by Atlanta's WNNX-FM), well, get your goose-stepping boots on, turn it up loud, and hit play below...
While out on the stump for VA's Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell, former Gov. Mike Huckabee made an hysterical joke to the laughing assembled crowd of Republicans, instructing them to "Do the lord's work" by not letting voters to the polls if they don't plan to vote for McDonnell.
HUCKABEE: You have two jobs. One - get all those people who are gonna vote for Bob out to the polls and vote. If they're not gonna vote for Bob, you have another job. Let the air out of their tires and do not let them out of their driveway on Election Day. Keep 'em home. Do the lord's work, my friend. I'm giving you an opportunity...yes, do the right thing.
Of course, it was just a joke. Who in the Republican Party would ever do such a thing in this country?!
Well, other than the guy in the video on the right, Paul Weyrich, one of the founding fathers of the modern Republican vote suppression movement, who, until he recently died, was a regular, legendary consultant to the nation's top Republicans, and also another hysterically funny Republican Baptist just like Huckabee.
WEYRICH: Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome - good government. They want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."
McDonnell's Democratic opponent in the VA race, former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe, wasn't laughing. He sent a letter to supporters describing Huckabee's comment as "no joking matter," noting: "People died for the right to vote in this country, and we have to protect it." Rachel Weiner has the full letter tonight at HuffPo.
Beyond that, we'll spare you the photographs of the who-knows-how-many African-Americans who not only were kept from voting in this nation by others just "doing the right thing" and "the lord's work," but who were strung up in trees by their necks in order to keep them from voting and to send the hilarious message to others that they'd best not be let out of their "driveways" come Election Day. We'd go on, but it's all just so funny, we can't even keep typing.
There's folks to the right of Ann Coulter? Well, yeah, since Coulter is little more than a phony "conservative" opportunist (and voter fraud felon). We always enjoy it, of course, when these guys eat themselves alive. So who are we to stop them? And we're equally glad to know that the cowardly Coulter also now runs away during interviews with them on the radio, just as she did with us way back in 2005.
Here's the latest video campaign, launched by the anti-choicers on the right, wherein Coulter can't run fast enough...over and over again. As Coulter's '08 endorsed Mitt Romney is likely the closest thing resembling a "legitimate" front-runner for 2012 --- at least by GOP standards --- it'll be fun to watch this internecine fight ramp up between now and then...
(Hat-tip Wendy Norris, who has more at Colorado Independent)
As we wait for the 3-judge panel in Minnesota to issue their verdict in former Sen. Norm Coleman's U.S. Senate race, in which the Democratic challenger Al Franken was found to be the winner by a bi-partisan state canvassing board, D.C. lawmakers are cranking up the political battle which awaits beyond that decision, which could come any day now, and its predictable appeal to the MN Supreme Court by the loser (who will "probably" be Coleman, according to his own attorney).
Sen. "Big Bad" John Cornyn (R-TX), the chair of the National Republican SenatorialConspiratorial Committee (NRSC), is now threatening "World War III" if the Dems try to seat Franken before a U.S. Supreme Court appeal is completed, or even a new federal suit that could be filed by Coleman in U.S. District Court if he chooses...even if those additional judicial processes could take "years"...