All posts by amynomous

The roots of being misinformed

Not having access to information isn’t really why people are so misinformed. Several studies have shown that it’s how strongly people believe untrue things, leading them to collect and even invent—information which supports those beliefs.

Morans

Misinformation has become the rule of the nations political decision making process, not the exception, and a  new study called, “How Voters Become Misinformed” supports a growing body of evidence that “voter’s values are strongly associated with distorted beliefs, which influence their choices …” The study employs a “knowledge distortion index”—using three state initiatives  in Washington from the 2006 general election cycle to examine the phenomenon in greater detail.

Despite a significant number of incorrect “facts,” which were used to help construct their distortion index, voters being exposed to media and campaign messages have a surprisingly limited effect on their decisions. The study’s lead author, Justin Reedy, said; “The two theories of how people analyze issues and develop factual beliefs are heuristics and cultural cognition.”

“Both recognize that people develop distorted factual beliefs because of their views, but disagree how those distortions happen. Heuristics researchers generally agree that most people have a limited attention span and try to process political information quickly, needing little information to help them align their views with their ideology.”

“Cultural cognition researchers, see political opinions driven by deep-seated values about how the world works, and are not dependent on political information…holding that people will get social cues about nearly any issue to align their views with their underlying values.”

The third distinction between the two models is preferences: “Heuristics researchers argue that once someone has developed a belief, factually distorted or not, it becomes a significant factor in their decision making. Cultural cognition, sees core values as the factor which drives their decision making on issues—and that distorted factual beliefs are just an incidental occurrence along the way.

This study supports a growing body of evidence that many voters are systematically misinformed on issues and their factually erroneous beliefs strongly influence how they vote, a serious problem for our political system which allegedly reflects the “will of the people,” and supposedly respects the basic principal of factual reality.

John Adams once observed, that “Facts are stubborn things,” and since the days of Ronald Reagan, as a nation we have managed to convince ourselves that “Facts are stupid things.” An it is painfully obvious that we live in a country where an unshakable confidence that personal beliefs supersede all other evidence, and that we have become a nation unwilling to engage in any personal reflection or self examination.

Several months ago, I wrote a letter to the Central Virginian about Fox Derangement Syndrome, calling it a “self reinforcing feedback loop” predicated around the perpetuation of bigotry that reinforces existing attitudes and opinions.    The local responses to that letter over the ensuing weeks were both predictable and off base. With calls for “God to bless FOX News,” along with projective claims that they were being “persecuted” and “silenced by vicious attacks.

Fox racism

The question, then as now, is how tolerant should we continue to be when confronted with such naked prejudices?

Next: http://bluelouisaorg.fatcow.com/2014/08/23/consequences-of-willful-ignorance/

Jon Taylor

 

 

Consequences of willful ignorance

The consequences of allowing this mindset to go unchallenged is that as a society we end up looking the other way while a separate and unequal social, legal and economic system perpetuates itself. A system that is now on prominent and daily display in Ferguson Missouri, a town which “bankrolls itself through racial profiling and harassment of minority citizens in penny ante violations that are ratcheted in costs and ramifications through manipulative measures.” www.dropbox.com/s/vwptqn3mhq9xvy7/ArchCity Defenders Municipal Courts Whitepaper.pdf

Despite Ferguson’s relative poverty, fines and court fees comprise the second largest source of revenue for the city, in the amount of $ 2,635,400, nearly half the cites income” In 2013, the Ferguson Municipal Court issued 24,532 arrest warrants and 12,018 cases, “or about 3 warrants per household.” Does anyone seriously believe there are many other places in the country averaging 3 warrants per household?

On that note,  it would be informative to see what Louisa counties interlocking sheriffs department, Commonwealth Attorneys office, and court systems response would be to Freedom of Information request for their data on how much money they have raised over the years in fees and fines, and what the breakdowns are by race, and offense.

Furthermore, the city uses a number of procedures that make it difficult for defendants to navigate the courts. A Ferguson court employee reported, that “the bench routinely starts hearing cases 30 minutes before the appointed time and then locks the doors to the building as early as five minutes after the official hour a practice that could easily lead a defendant arriving even slightly late to receive an additional charge for failure to appear.”

The power structure in Ferguson is almost exclusively white despite the fact that African Americans comprise 67% of the population.  Ferguson’s police chief and mayor are white. Of the six City Council members, one is black. The local school board has six white members and one Latino. Of the 53 commissioned officers on the police force, three are black. http://www.latimes.com/nation/ nationnow/la-na-missouri-st-louis-police-shooting-teen-20140811-story.html#page=1

One of the results of such aggressive policing and the spiraling of charges has been the mass transformation of an entire population into fugitives successfully disenfranchising them of their vote, because felons and fugitives don’t vote. Is Ferguson an example of how imbalanced policing leads to imbalanced justice leads to imbalanced representation and voter suppression? http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/08/18/1322691/-The-Seamy-Underbelly-Of-Ferguson-Starts-To-Appear

Ferguson

In an article in Esquire, Charles Pierce quotes from Leon Litwack’s Trouble In Mind, which talks about life under the legal segregation in the American South. “The use of excessive force by the police underscored the determination of the police to remind blacks at every opportunity of their vulnerability and helplessness. It was their way of checking their ‘impudence.” The violence meted out by the police and sheriffs was no aberration but stems from ideological conviction — that blacks understood only force, that they worked and behaved best under the threat of the lash and that their uncontrolled impulses required a special quality of discipline. A black Richmond Virginia newspaper suggested that blacks regarded the local police ‘with a distrust bordering on hatred,’ and that police officers reciprocated such feelings ‘with compound interest.‘”

It gives the lie to the accepted — and acceptable — history of this country of the struggle that black citizens have had to become fully part of it. The American idea, and the American experiment — all of these things had limits, and the people who set those limits, as well as the people penned in by them, have always been fully aware of them. They cannot be wished away. They cannot be legislated away. And, increasingly, it appears that they cannot be swept away, either, not without a substantial portion of the country’s feeling as though it has been disenfranchised itself by the enfranchisement of other people.

The American dream, it turns out, may have been zero-sum games pretending to be limitless. It is a mistake to describe slavery — and, then, “race” — as America’s Original Sin. Race is not Original Sin because it has never been truly absolved, washed away forever at baptism because we have convinced ourselves that it has been. Then Ferguson happens, and we realize, for a moment, that we have set the limits for the American dream, within the confines of that unabsolved sin. http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/25427-focus-ferguson-the-limits-of-everything

Outside of Ferguson, the countries longstanding racial and political disconnect is reflected in a recent Pew Research Center poll which says 80% of percent of black Americans say it raises important issues about race, while only 37 percent of whites agreed. 61 percent of Republicans believed race is getting too much attention while 68 percent of Democrats held the view that the case highlights important issues surrounding race. www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/only-37-whites-polled-believe-michael-brown-shooting-raises-race-issues

Louisa’s power structure is similar to Ferguson’s with African Americans making up 22% of the population. Both the country and school board have but one black member, and our elderly African American sheriff has been a figurehead for well over a decade in an overwhelmingly white police force. Surprisingly, despite having roughly 40 % more people than the city of Ferguson Louisa’s court system derived income is a lower at $ 2.41 million.

Beyond those similarities, what’s significant is that many of the attitudes we’ve seen so prominently displayed in Ferguson are alive and well in Louisa.

Compare the difference in priorities between Albemarle County’s police chief, Colonel Steve Sellers, with Louisa’s real sheriff, Deputy Chief Donnie Lowe. Col. Sellers was focused on the dynamics, “My observation of what we’re seeing in Missouri is it didn’t just happen in a police shooting. It happened long before that,” while acknowledging that his county force has a diversity challenge. “Quite honestly,” he said, “I don’t think my department is as diverse as the community is, and we have to do some work in that area.”

Whereas Donnie Lowe, seemed more concerned with how the numbers look. “We try to recruit the best prospects we can, but African-Americans….Hispanics and women are hard to come by because they are in demand. If they meet the standards, there are a lot of larger departments who are interested in them, departments that pay better and they either recruit them from us or away from us.” http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/ local/missouri-incident-a-reminder-to-local-police-to-engage-the/article_56629818-25ae-11e4-9f9a-001a4bcf6878.html

His superficial attitude is in direct contrast with Charlottesville’s police chief, Timothy J. Longo who put things in perspective saying that recruiting and maintaining a diverse force is difficult, partly because of the legacy of police during the civil rights era.

Keep in mind the profession of law enforcement, particularly around the civil rights movement, was an arm of the government who we now know were part of the enforcement of laws that were later deemed unconstitutional,” “That’s part of our history that will never be erased nor forgotten.”  Something that “Sherriff” Donnie Lowe never considered when he allowed his police force to violate people’s rights at a peaceful protest in Louisa back in 2010. http://www.bluevirginia.us/diary/2143/video-jon-taylor-on-the-ed-show

Next: http://bluelouisaorg.fatcow.com/2014/08/23/can-numbers-create-accountability/

Jon Taylor

 

 

Can numbers create accountability?

While demographics of the population of Ferguson and of the local police forces are part of the equation, watching the data, particularly of the police force may be even more important, and sometimes the numbers just don’t lie. The numbers have pointed to problems in Ferguson long before Brown’s killing. In the case of the Ferguson police, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office found that they were twice more likely to arrest blacks than whites in traffic stops, and were twice as likely to find evidence of drug trafficking in white suspects than black ones.

And in Charlottesville, police chief, Longo created a stir earlier this year when he shared data with the City Council showing that in the preceding 18 months blacks had been stopped by officers more than twice as often as whites for a warrant less pat downs, known as a stop-and-frisk. Tracking stop-and-frisk statistics are required elsewhere, but not in Virginia. Still, Longo said, he views the data as an essential tool for gauging the role of race in his department’s work.

What that process was really about was measuring the quality of a decision that gets made which impacts the constitutional right of a citizen by requiring officers to clearly articulate in a narrative form the basis for their actions,” Longo said.

Both Longo and Sellers claim that policies and data-based tracking are a means to ensure officers are acting consistently and constitutionally. With Logo saying, “I can’t know the content of your heart; I can’t read prejudice and bias in your heart. But what I can do is measure the quality of the decisions that you make on the street that affect people.” http://www.dailyprogress.com/news/ local/missouri-incident-a-reminder-to-local-police-to-engage-the/article_56629818-25ae-11e4-9f9a-001a4bcf6878.html

It’s interesting to note that the only public commentary on this article was this.

The thing that stood out to me in this article was how frequently police perform tasks deemed unconstitutional like “unwarranted searches” and then try to move on like nothing was wrong. Last time I checked the 4th amendment, protects citizens against illegal search and seizures. The sad part to me is we as American citizens allow this practice to continue when it goes directly against our constitutional rights. Maybe if the police didn’t constantly use such tactics I would trust them more, and maybe others would too.

This simple question of accountability to the public goes to the heart of what is happening around the country, our police departments are more concerned with protecting their own self interest as the enforcers of their authority and our increasingly unfair economic system. It’s no coincidence that as major crime has plummeted over the past three decades that our police forces have become increasingly larger, more aggressive, more militant and more invasive of our civil liberties. Strange, I always thought their primary reason for existing was to protect us, not repress us.

free stuff

As the overreaction in Ferguson shows, many police department have become militarized thanks to the ‘1033 program,’ which has provided billions of dollars of surplus military equipment and weapons used in war zones to local law enforcement agencies around the country at no or little charge, along with virtually no training. The consequences of militarized police forces have become clear. A person’s home is no longer considered to be a place of sanctuary, our Fourth Amendment has been compromised, and local police have become conditioned to see the citizens in their own communities as the enemy.

Next: http://bluelouisaorg.fatcow.com/2014/08/23/there-is-no-data/

Jon Taylor

There is no data

When it comes to police shootings, nobody really knows how many happen. Despite a 1994 congressional order Federal officials still don’t know. Nor do they know how many incidents of “excessive force” by police occur each year because they don’t keep track of them.

When Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act in 1994 they recognized the need for reliable information, and ordered that “the Attorney General shall, through appropriate means, acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers.” The law directed the Justice Department to “publish an annual summary of the data acquired” concerning excessive force. It was one of a number of obligations imposed on the Justice Department under the law. It left some key questions unanswered, including the definition of excessive force, even as it forced shorthanded researchers to manage with limited resources.

Five years later, in 1999, the Bureau of Justice Statistics acknowledged that “the incidence of wrongful use of force by police is unknown. Research is critically needed,” adding that “current indicators of excessive force, such as civilian complaints and civil lawsuits, are all critically flawed.

Many reasons account for the lack of comprehensive data, including the complexity of reporting. The absence of facts, though, can hinder efforts. “That’s a clear, clear problem,” Matthew Hickman, associate professor of criminal justice at Seattle University. “When it comes to use of force, we have almost nothing.”

At one point, the International Association of Chiefs of Police maintained a police shooting database, which has not been updated since 2001. “We need data to make decisions,” Alex R. Piquero, professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas. “Data should be the underpinning for everything we do.”

Two decades, and this is where we are” said Hickman who formerly worked for the Bureau of Justice Statistics. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/08/20/237137/data-on-police-shootings-is-hard.html?sp=/99/200/365/

The FBI publishes some numbers their annual Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR), and according to this report “justifiable homicides” jumped from 378 in 2008 to 410 in 2012. The statistic might seem solid at first glance. Independent of the FBI, he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of Justice Statistics — also estimate the number of police homicides per year at around 400.

But since there’s no effort at all to record the number of unjustifiable homicides by police, many police homicides aren’t recorded. Account for all that, and you would have the true number of police homicides each year, a figure that’s considerably more than 400. http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-many-americans-the-police-kill-each-year/

Recently , Kyle Wagner of Deadspin began to compile a list of all police-involved shootings in the U.S, and D. Brian Burghart, editor of the Reno News & Review, has been attempting a crowdsourced national database of deadly police violence. Here are his comments on what he’s learned so far.

Nowhere could I find out how many people died during interactions with police in the United States. Try as I might, I just couldn’t wrap my head around that idea. How was it that, in the 21st century, this data wasn’t being tracked, compiled, and made available to the public? How could journalists know if police were killing too many people in their town if they didn’t have a way to compare to other cities? How could cops possibly know “best practices” for dealing with any fluid situation? They couldn’t.

The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this project is something I’ll never be able to prove, but I’m convinced to my core: the lack of such a database is intentional. No government—not the federal government, and not the thousands of municipalities that give their police forces license to use deadly force—wants you to know how many people it kills and why.

It’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence. What evidence? In attempting to collect this information, I was lied to and delayed by the FBI, even when I was only trying to find out the addresses of police departments to make public records requests. The government collects millions of bits of data annually about law enforcement in its Uniform Crime Report, but it doesn’t collect information about the most consequential act a law enforcer can do.

I’ve been lied to and delayed by state, county and local law enforcement agencies—almost every time. They’ve blatantly broken public records laws, and then thumbed their authoritarian noses at the temerity of a citizen asking for information that might embarrass the agency. And these are the people in charge of enforcing the law.

The second biggest thing I learned is that bad journalism colludes with police to hide this information. The primary reason for this is that police will cut off information to reporters who tell tales. And a reporter can’t work if he or she can’t talk to sources.

It happened to me on almost every level as I advanced this year-long Fatal Encounters series through the News & Review. First they talk; then they stop, then they roadblock. http://gawker.com/what-ive-learned-from-two-years-collecting-data-on-poli-1625472836/+kylenw

Next: http://bluelouisaorg.fatcow.com/2014/08/20/is-posse-commodus-is-coming-to-town/

Jon Taylor

Is Posse Comitatus coming to town?

Democratic Representative Steve Cohen recently said on MSNBC that wartime weapons should not be used “against our own citizens when there is civil unrest and civil protest. Even if it got to the point where it did where they are breaking some glass, that’s no reason to come with the amount of force that was brought by the police in Ferguson…” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/18/police-militarization-congress_n_5688357.html

So how did we get to the point where overwhelming response and the use of internationally banned tear gas is even considered an acceptable response?

cops

The militarization of our police forces started to ramp up as part of the war on drugs. After 9/11, the rationale shifted — with often comical results. One small Indianapolis suburban police sergeant explained it this way: “You have a lot of people who are coming out of the military that have the ability and knowledge to build IEDs and to defeat law-enforcement techniques.” When localities can’t get their hands on military surplus, they often go out and buy it on their own, and the problem of military grade equipment in the hands of local police departments is widespread. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/20/upshot/data-on-transfer-of-military-gear-to-police-departments.html?_r=0&abt=0002&abg=1

At Virginia’s State Fair last year, Caroline County showed off its own armored personnel carrier, with an county information explaining, “the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office was one of the few remaining localities in the region without some sort of armored personnel carrier.” Along with military equipment, local police departments also have adopted military tactics such as no-knock, dynamic-entry raids by SWAT teams. In 1981 there were 3,000 such raids. Now there are more than 80,000 a year. http://www.timesdispatch.com/opinion/our-opinion/columnists-blogs/bart-hinkle/hinkle-could-it-happen-here/article_f1ec64b1-3b2c-5bb3-b582-cf19d744d506.html

When it comes to threats to our liberties, it appears that Eisenhower had it right after all.

MIC

Others would say this has roots in over a decade of US defense strategic planning, increasingly concerned over the risk of civil unrest at home triggered by catastrophic events linked to climate change, energy shocks or economic crisis – or all three. And that it is one of the reasons why Western security agencies have developed their unprecedented capacity to spy on their own domestic populations, along with sharing information between themselves through programs like the NSA’s Prism and the development of the  Minevra Initiative http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minerva_Initiative .

Since the 2008 economic crash, our intelligence agencies have increasingly been spying on political activists, especially environmental groups, on behalf of corporate interests, along with sharing this and other information with local police departments.

In May, unilateral changes were made to US military laws formally granting the Pentagon extraordinary powers to intervene in a domestic “emergency” or “civil disturbance”  “Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances.

The folks at the Pentagon and our alphabet soup of security agencies fear that environmental, economic and other crises could provoke widespread public anger toward government and corporations in coming years. The revelations about the NSA’s global surveillance programs are just the latest indication that while business as usual creates instability at home and abroad, and disillusionment with the status quo escalates, citizens are being increasingly viewed as potential enemies that must be policed by the state. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/jun/14/climate-change-energy-sh

According to Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, and soon to be published book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.” This is ultimately a story about bad timing.

The climate crisis hatched in our laps at a moment in history when political and social conditions were uniquely hostile to a problem of this magnitude –the tail end of the go-go 80s, the blast-off point for the crusade to spread deregulated capitalism around the world. Climate change is a collective problem demanding collective action the likes of which humanity has never achieved. Yet it entered mainstream consciousness in the midst of an ideological war being waged on the very idea of the collective sphere, and has created all sorts of barriers to our ability to respond effectively to this crisis.

Corporate power was ascendant at the very moment when we needed to exert unprecedented controls over corporate behavior in order to protect life on Earth. It has meant that regulation was a dirty word just when we needed those powers most. It has meant that we are ruled by politicians who know only how to dismantle and starve public institutions just when they most need to be fortified and re-imagined. And it has meant that we are saddled with an apparatus of “free trade” deals that tie the hands of policymakers just when they need maximum flexibility to achieve a massive energy transition.

Confronting these various structural barriers to the next economy is the critical work of any serious climate movement, and it’s not the only task at hand. We also have to confront how the mismatch between climate change and market domination has created barriers within our very selves, making it harder to look at this most pressing of humanitarian crises with anything more than furtive, terrified glances. Because of the way our daily lives have been altered by both market and technological triumphalism, we lack many of the tools necessary to convince ourselves that climate change is real – let alone the confidence to believe that a different way of living is possible. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/23/climate-change-fight-of-our-lives-naomi-klein

This is where the real battle lies, with how we define ourselves, our societies, our place in the world, and how will affect not just our species but potentially every other species on the planet as well.

Jon Taylor

Questions media coverage of local elected official

Is Allen Jennings the only independent business owner or citizen of this county who owes back taxes to the county? You would certainly think so!

Is he the only businessman who has been adversely impacted by our economy since 2005? Are there no other citizens in this county struggling to manage their finances and keep their homes and businesses afloat, or is it just because he is a member of the Louisa County School Board and happened to have honestly testified in court on behalf of a member of his church that this public vendetta never seems to end?

Is there any degree of integrity in any entity that would reveal his personal tax indebtedness along with only his photo in the local newspaper? To date, we have not had a single story written or revealed of any other person or business who currently owes personal or property taxes to Louisa County, let alone had their picture and personal information published again and again.

So, why is he being treated differently than other delinquent taxpayers in Louisa? He obviously is making every effort to bring his taxes current after having paid more than $36,000 already, while he continues to be vilified by media entities.

As I watch the daily news  casts everywhere around the world today I see haters—violence in the name of religious beliefs, disregard for the safety and lives of innocent children, unfettered abuse of women, and negative statements about one group of human beings or the other.

Are we ever going to realize that in order for all of us to enjoy a better life on this planet, we must treat each other as we would want to be treated and to be the very best people we can be? Can we have more random acts of kindness and compassion instead of repeated attempts to publicly embarrass people and show hate and hostility.

Gloria Pope

 

The Tea Party is destroying America

Eric Cantor recently lost his seat to Tea Party candidate Dave Brat. Cantor had become more interested in his personal advancement than he was about his constituents. Unfortunately, 7th District voters may have voted themselves and our government out of the frying pan into the fire.

Never since the Civil War has our government and country been more divided. The current Congress has been called “the most do nothing Congress in history.” Why? Because of the Tea Party’s influence! Prior to the recent congressional recess, and throughout the past year, several major issues were not voted on, because Tea Party members objected, even though lack of passage had a detrimental effect on numerous people.

Their radical ultra-conservative ideals have hurt the unemployed, students, farmers, seniors, hungry children and women. They passed the VA bill only because to do otherwise would be considered un-American by everyone.

The Tea Party consistently spreads hate and discontent toward our president and our government. In my opinion, they are likened to rebels in the Arab countries who have caused civil uprisings and wars. They do this by planting their homemade billboards throughout our states, sending unsolicited e-mails filled with lies, halftruths and innuendos to private citizens, and using other social media political advertisements to incite hate and discontent.

Conservatives get angry because they believe most of the Tea Party’s comments and liberals get angry because they know most of the comments are exaggerations and downright lies. Neighbors are angry with neighbors, friends with friends, and families with relatives. This is how all the civil wars in the Middle East got started.

We have the greatest country in the world. Heretofore, we were the most united country in the world. We always prided ourselves in taking care of our own. Since the Tea Party started evolving we are no longer united. We no longer take care of our own.

Now that he has won the primary, Brat is shying away from being called a member of the Tea Party. Who does he think he’s kidding? I want members of Congress to work with each other, not against each other. I want my congressman to make sensible decisions for the good of the majority, not radical decisions to appease the few.

That’s why I will be voting for Jack Trammell in November. Jack is a conscientious, grass roots family man and active member of our community. Although he is a Democrat, he is not too liberal to work with conservatives for the benefit of all.

Deanna Nicosia

Virginia’s voter ID laws suppress voting

BlueLouisa’s http://bluelouisaorg.fatcow. com/2014/07/28/committed-to-equal-rights-justice-voting-demographics/ is the first of several posts showing the many ways Virginia’s Republicans intend to suppress voting. Beyond winning elections, one of their primary objectives this year is to limit voting by any means necessary to favor the “right” kind of people, those who will vote for their candidate, and their recent actions are confirming that this is how they see the future of Virginia’s elections.

Starting with how the author of Virginia’s voter ID law Senator Mark Obenshain started a last minute campaign petitioning the State Election Board, issuing scorched earth press releases, and partisan Facebook postings  https://www.facebook.com/markobenshain/ posts/770959592927520 to rally the faithful around the pretense of preserving the integrity of the vote.

State Delegate Vivian Watts, puts this in perspective, noting that the purpose of the ID law was to prove that a voter had official ID which proved their identity. “If we had chosen to use the word ‘current,’” she said, “then ‘current’ would have been there.” Since Obenshain chose to publicly accuse the States Attorney General of the very thing he is doing, redefining what is a legal ID after the law has been established, he’s certainly got some brass.

Or how Virginia State Board of Elections Secretary Donald Palmer — a Republican appointed by former Governor, “SpongeBob” McDonnell recently sent 125,000 registered voters’ letters saying they appeared to be registered in another state. When questioned about it, he claimed they were an “administrative error“, leaving his underlings to officially confirm that these letters were “accidentally” sent to voters who had moved within Virginia — not voters registered in multiple states, in addition to sending out all those correction letters, all on the state’s dime.

This is not the first time he has tried this, two years ago he tried to purge thousands of “suspected” out-of-state voters with a list so error-riddled, that Republican Chesterfield County Registrar, Lawrence C. Haake III refused to use it. Palmer then unsuccessfully tried to have the local elections board to overrule him. http://thinkprogress.org/election/2014/07/30/ 3465970/ virginia-elections-error-letters/

Ever since this fake controversy over “valid identification” first emerged, the State Board of Elections has been asking for comments from the public. According to Donna Miller Ronstant, “Those public comments which you solicited presumably to take into account in making this regulation … were overwhelmingly against expiration dates.” According to the Fair Elections Legal Network, commenter’s were opposed to the proposed change by nearly a 4:1 margin, with 445 being opposed and 125 were in favor.

But Chairman and lifelong Republican operative Charlie Judd made it clear at the hearing that he had no intention of considering any views but his own, starting with ignoring written guidance from the Attorney General’s Office calling it “a position paper, not an opinion,” along with people like Hope Amezquita from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia who said “If the state’s purpose of passing the (voter ID) law is to prove who you are, an expiration date does not make sense.” http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/state-regional/elections-board-will-not-allow-ids-expired-more-than-months/article_635bfd0e-1d9b-11e4-871b-0017a43b2370.html?mode

Initially Judd opposed a 12-month window for expired IDs, only relenting after Palmer assured him that allowing 12 months served as insurance to protect their ruling against claims that it was unconstitutional.  A ridiculous proposition, when even the Department of Motor Vehicles accepts passports which have expired within five years ago as acceptable proof of identification, along with a birth certificate. When in fact, having a photo ID isn’t even necessary to obtain a Drivers License, just a birth certificate and document like a copy of an insurance policy.

Unsurprisingly, the Board passed the motion along party lines by a 2-1 vote that any photo ID’s used for voting must be current. With Chairman Judd disingenuously claiming “It’s understood that ‘valid’ means you can use that for its intended purpose. That means if you cannot use that driver’s license for its intended purpose, it’s no longer valid,” and that this motion was “to protect the integrity of the voter base.”

There is absolutely no evidence that Virginia’s ballots are insecure, or that voter fraud changed a single election in the Commonwealth. In fact, the whole national outcry about “ballot protection” is nothing more than a cynical exercise in excluding some voters. Perhaps deep down Judd recognized the depths of his own hypocrisy, and made a point of keeping his head and eyes down when calling for a vote, where he and Palmer quickly approved the motion. http://hamptonroads.com/ 2014/08/cynical-campaign-ballot-protection

Makes you wonder what he thinks about the intended purpose of the new free Virginia Voter Photo Identification Card which never expires that you can get at your county registrar’s office?

For now, any photo ID which expired less than a year ago can be used.  The Commonwealth Attorneys office intends to look at their motion, a process which could take anywhere from two to six weeks. http://www.nbc12.com/ story/26216083/state-board-of-election-votes-against-expiration-dates-on-ids

From Senator Obenshain’s fake legal concerns, to the Board of Elections actions these actions have one common agenda — to cause confusion in the voting process and to make it difficult for certain voters to vote.

So what do you intend to do about it?

Jon Taylor

Next http://bluelouisaorg.fatcow.com/2014/08/09/the-myth-of-voter-fraud-2/

The myth of voter fraud

The primary reason conservatives give for voter ID laws is to eliminate voter fraud at the polls. A long term research project by Justin Levitt a professor at the Loyola University Law School recently found that there were 31 possible incidents, not proven incidents in the last 14 years, out of over 1 billion ballots cast. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/06/a-comprehensive-investigation-of-voter-impersonation-finds-31-credible-incidents-out-of-one-billion-ballots-cast/

According to him, some of these incidents will turn out to be something else: a problem with matching people from one computer list to another, or a data entry error, or confusion between two different people with the same name, or someone signing in on the wrong line of a poll book.

One way to look at this conservative obsession with fraudulent voting is that it is a solution in search of a problem. When you stop to think that so far, eight states have devoted significant resources to combating a nearly non-existent problem somewhere on the order of 10-8 incidents per billion votes cast; it becomes clear that like the argument that the Confederate states made about “states rights” that it is nothing more than a transparent attempt to make voting more difficult for certain groups, backed by the same people who have a long history of trying to make voting more difficult.

In his research, Professor Levitt, discusses how any debate about this issue hinges on two things: costs and benefits.  The costs of these sorts of laws vary, because the laws themselves differ from state to state with some being are more burdensome than others. The twin benefits of confidence in the voting process, and stopping voter fraud are supposed to be the goals of these laws.

He cites how the Wisconsin Supreme Court recently failed on both counts, as an example of how most states are failing to meet this simple test. First, the court ruled that ID laws could enhance public confidence — in theory, they might make us feel better about results of elections.

An effect that is hard to spot, people in states with more restrictive ID laws don’t generally feel better about their elections than people in more permissive states. People who think elections are being stolen, and people who think they’re not, will hold on to that opinion no matter what the voter ID laws. The primary factor which influences whether people think the elections are fair is whether their preferred candidates win.

Second, they ruled that ID laws can help stop fraud, citing an example that ID laws aren’t designed to stop. A case in where a supporter of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was charged with 13 counts of election fraud, including “registering to vote in more than one place, voting where he didn’t live, voting more than once in the same election, and providing false information to election officials,” according to an account by Talking Points Memo. Wisconsin’s new ID law would not likely have prevented any of the alleged violations.

This sort of logical misdirection is pretty common, diverting attention away from the fact that election fraud does happen. Most current voter ID laws aren’t designed to stop fraud with absentee ballots. In fact, laws requiring ID at the polls push more people into the absentee system, where the chance of fraud increases.

Nor would it address vote buying, coercion, fake registration forms, or ballot box stuffing by officials in on the scam. Instead, requirements to show ID at the polls are designed for one thing: to stop people showing up at the polls pretending to be somebody else in order to cast one  fake ballot, a very slow clunky and incremental way of stealing an election, and why it rarely happens.

He then turns to look at the four states with the harshest voter ID laws, who in just a few elections have rejected more than 3,000 votes for lack of a “proper” ID. This doesn’t include voters without ID who didn’t show up, or record keeping mistakes by officials. In concluding his analysis; he asks the question we all should be asking, how many legitimate voters are being turned away?

Something that doesn’t occur to those freedom loving Republicans who chose to focus on how many of those 3,000 could have been fraudulent ballots. The reasons why conservatives are unable to address this contradiction are ideological and cognitive; and why their actions continue to pound the square peg into the round hole.

Doing everything possible to hold onto their fearful older, white Christian base, by suppressing the votes of the poor, and elderly, younger single women, Latino’s and blacks. Groups that Republicans refuse to court, because it would mean they would have to change their messages and policies. Like the old Tareyton cigarette commercial they would rather fight than switch, giving us all a black eye in the process.

fight

Jon Taylor

Next: http://bluelouisaorg.fatcow.com/2014/08/09/fight-or-flight/

 

Fight or Flight

The decision to fight for the status quo rather than change is not unique to Republicans. In fact, one can argue it’s an American trait. Rick Perlstein’s three-part history of modern American politics http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-extremism-hasnt-sunk-right?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark is a cautionary tale about the nations and particularly conservative’s inability to address hard truths.

For conservatives, the biggest ideological sin one can make is to acknowledge that they aren’t “special”, and that the rules of society apply to them as well.

Pearlstein’s story starts with the end of the Nixon presidency and the turmoil of the Ford & Carter era when Americans were confronted with some hard choices: either acknowledge the nation’s shortcomings, and embrace “a new definition of patriotism, one built upon questioning authority and unsettling ossified norms,”– or run away. As a nation, we chose to run away, following Ronald Reagan’s lead, refuting the cynicism that Watergate inspired while capitalizing on the cynicism it fostered about government. For many, he was the country’s exorcist, driving out the demons of suspicion and self-doubt.

Throughout his books he refers to the “suspicious circles” of liberal elites and journalists who believed the Vietnam, Watergate and revelations about the CIA and FBI revealed something deeply troubling about the state of our union. Borrowing the term from a Reconstruction-era New York Times editorial aimed at discrediting people like abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison who warned that the post-Civil War South was slipping back into racist tyranny. “Does he really imagine,” the Times wrote of Garrison, “that outside of small and suspicious circles, any real interest attaches to the old forms of the Southern question?

History has proven that these “suspicious circles” were right about what was happening in the post-Reconstruction South, with Nixon, Watergate and even Reagan.  Pearlstein reminds us how today the Tea party backlash to the civil rights movement is ideologically connected to that earlier Reconstruction-era backlash. One of our contradictions as a people is the fact that we have always been capable of accomplishing great things, even if it’s a little late, like fighting a war to end slavery, and then going back 100 years later to abolish Jim Crow.

There was no second Reconstruction after the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, there was only recrimination. Such cultural backlashes are usually abetted by journalists, succumbing to outrage fatigue. The post-Watergate conservative uprising marked the beginning of the “both sides do it” narrative which continues to degrade political reporting. Suddenly, the media didn’t have much appetite for reporting anything out of the ordinary.

William Greider, a journalist best known for his book Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country famously lamented that when the CIA complained about a story to the Washington Post, how this once formerly “adversarial” paper “rolled over on its back to have its belly rubbed.”

This brings us to Eric Cantor’s recent announcement that he would be resigning before his term was up and calling for a “special election” to replace him during the post election lame duck session. All this accomplished was to add to the 7th Congressional district voter’s confusion, allowing him to “… execute a self-serving act without appearing to rub voters’ noses in it.” Disguising the fact that he’s busy looking for another job, while avoiding disclosing anything to the House Ethics Committee.

When he was in office, he never believed in transparency and accountability, so why shouldn’t he try to be free — free at last from those “legal and ethical restrictions that could cause messy and unnecessary complications?” After piously promoting his devotion to public service at his farewell speech, the next day he hypocritically called for a special election.  Disingenuously claiming that it would give the 7th district voters a leg up on having a voice in Congress, ignoring when he was their representative, they were never represented.

Exactly why Governor Terry McAuliffe granted that request, we will never know. His decision gave Eric one last opportunity to give his constituents another one fingered salute. http://www. timesdispatch.com/news/state-regional/virginia-politics/jeff-schapiro/schapiro-cantor-games-the-system-even-as-he-leaves it/article_ 133ab461-30d6-51d9-9649-860916aafdfd.html

Eric’s blatant attempts to confuse the voters of 7th District election is another aspect of the Republicans common agenda — to cause as much confusion in the voting process as possible while making it difficult for certain voters to vote. When it comes to this kind of clandestine voter suppression, what do think we should do about it?

Jon Taylor