Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fraud in the Secretary of State's office, while claiming to be investigating voter fraud

Better Georgia, a liberal advocacy group, has an audio recording of Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp addressing a Gwinnett County GOP breakfast meeting last December saying that, if Democrats are successful in their voter registration drive, "they can win these elections in November."

Now we are less than two months before those elections, and Kemp's office has launched an investigation into the voter registration activities of the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group founded by State House Minority Leader Stacey Adams.

Available evidence suggests that these are trumped up exaggerations of the expected minor flaws in registration forms.    The group says it has collected some 85,000 registration forms, although not all of those have yet been processed and turned over to the SofS office.

Abrams said that fewer than 25 forms are being investigated, and that the Project had been working with the SofS office from the beginning, pointing out to them some of the incomplete or flawed forms that they were submitting.

The fact is that state law requires that voter registration projects turn in ALL forms, even if they are incomplete or have mistakes.   Adams says they knew a certain number were incomplete but they were obeying the law by turning them in.  "What we are being accused of is turning in the information we are required by law to turn in," she said.

That hardly consists of voter fraud -- or even voter registration fraud.   But of course that didn't stop the campaigns of Nathan Deal for governor and David Perdue for senator from slamming Democrats with these bogus charges and trying to turn it into a campaign issue.

It seems to me that Republican SofS Brian Kemp has some explaining to do.   Like so many other Republicans in state governments, he is misusing the power of his office to commit a fraudulent investigation intended to intimidate and suppress further voter registration efforts.

Combined with his comments to the Gwinnett group, how is this not abuse of the power?

And when are the voters going to wake up and think about what it means that, by all these actions, Republicans are essentially acknowledging that they can only win elections by suppressing voter turnout?


Friday, September 12, 2014

Send the war-mongers to Iraq

I loved this letter to the editor in today's AJC from Bob Eberwein of Atlanta, headlined as:  "So anxious to head back to Mideast?" 
"House Speaker John Boehner has just announced that we need boots on the ground to deal with ISIS.  I agree.   Let's issue boots to him, Cheney, Rumsfeld and McCain, and fly them ASAP to the Middle East."
Right on.    What a retro spectacle yesterday, bringing in Dick Cheney -- who more than anyone else was responsible for our decade-long debacle in Iraq -- to advice Republican House members on going into Iraq . . . again.


Ted Cruz booed by Christian group

The video clip shows people booing so loudly and continually at speaker Ted Cruz that he finally leaves the stage (played on Huffington Post, 9-11-14, under heading "Ted Cruz Booed Offstage").   I would like to boo Ted Cruz off the entire national political scene. '

Here's how HP describes it:
"Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was booed off the stage at an event hosted by a Christian organization in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night.

"The conservative firebrand delivered the keynote address at an event hosted by In Defense of Christians, an organization that raises awareness of persecuted Christian and minority communities in the Middle East. But the audience turned hostile when Cruz said, 'Christians have no greater ally than Israel.'"

Rather than seeing that many people have legitimate opposition to Israel's brutal treatment of Gaza -- the blockade, economic suppression, land acquisition, and widespread destruction -- Cruz called those booing him bigots and anti-Semitic.
"I will say this: I'm saddened to see that some here, not everyone, are so consumed with hate.  I will say this: If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you. Thank you, and God bless you."
And with that, he walked off stage -- as loud booing and some applause continued.  It wasn't clear whether the applause was supporting him, or for the fact that he was leaving.  

The organization blamed it on a "few politically motivated opportunists."   Others said that they were there to discuss the plight of Christians in Iraq, not the Israel-Hamas conflict, and they resented Cruz's attempt to "hijack" the meeting for his political purposes

When I watch the video, it's clearly a widespread reaction to Cruz, not "a few."   No doubt, he is a grand-standing, political animal who may have very conservative principles;  but I'm cynical enough to believe that it's all a tactic.


Thursday, September 11, 2014


December 7, 1941

September 11, 2001

Those dates are etched in our collective consciousness as the two most major attacks on our homeland itself:    Pearl Harbor (Hawaii) and The World Trade Center (New York).

Both led us directly into war.

And now on the 13th anniversary of 09-11-01 we are on the verge of another war against the group calling itself The Islamic State (or ISIS or ISIL).

Yes, the president did not call it war;  but calling it "extended counter-terrorism" does not change the fact that this is a distinct escalation of our involvement -- back in Iraq and now possibly Syria.

President Obama was in a very tough spot.   Nothing has changed since he had justified a more modest response of airstrikes -- nothing, that is, except the very deliberate, provocative release of videos of a masked, black-clad executioner beheading two American journalists.

Almost overnight, the American people's support for taking further action against ISIL leaped to a sizable majority.

I am very divided in how I'm thinking about thisbut one thing is clear.   We are extremely fortunate that our president is taking time to build a coalition that includes other Muslim nations.   We cannot again go into a Muslim country on our ownwe must have other Muslim nations as allies.   It would only provoke a surge in recruitment for their cause.

In fact, that is exactly what ISIL hoped to incite.   That is why they released those videos, trying to make it inevitable that we would escalate our attacks.

The other important thing for President Obama and his advisers to consider is that we must plan for what happens after we achieve the goal of taking down ISIL.

That is the lesson we hopefully have learned from the debacle of our Iraq invasion in 2003 and its aftermath -- which led directly to this.


Our death penalty paradox: We agonize over making executions painless; but we still kill them.

Let me be very clear:   I am strongly opposed to the death penalty, no matter the horror of the crime.     My opposition boils down simply to this:   I do not believe that anyone, either as an individual or collectively through state laws, has the right to intentionally end another person's life -- except to protect other lives or to end intractable suffering.

Then, in addition, I oppose the death penalty because we are increasingly finding that innocent people have been put to death after being wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit.     The most recent of these was the two brothers in Texas who were just exonerated by DNA testing, after spending 30 years in prison.  

What I find puzzling is those who do support the death penalty but agonize about making executions painless.   The planned execution of a man in Texas was protested because it was said that the lethal drugs they planned to use were expired -- suggesting that it might prolong the dying process.    A recent case in Oklahoma of a faulty IV injection of the lethal drug resulted in a prolonged dying process during which the man was presumed to be in pain.

What I don't get is that they think it is all right to kill them, but not to cause them pain in the process.    I've read recently that the guillotine is the most painless way, but we recoil in horror . . . even to the word "beheading."

So are we trying to kid ourselves into thinking, by using lethal injections, we're simply putting them to sleep and not really killing them?   Is it to counter our guilt for killing someone that we get so concerned for the comfort and safety of the one we're killing?

Again, don't misunderstand my position.    I am not in favor of intentionally, or inadvertently, causing pain in the process of killing someone.   I just think it's a little absurd to agonize over hurting someone while in the process of extinguishing his life.

We should abolish the death penalty as barbaric, as have a number of nations and some of our own states.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Not so fast, Gov. Christie

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the infamous George Washington Bridge closure that resulted in days of horrendous traffic back-ups in a New Jersey town.   It has been revealed that some of Gov. Chris Christie top aides (like his assistance chief of staff) were directly responsible for ordering the blocking.

It remains a scandal-in-waiting pending an ongoing federal investigation that has broadened and includes Gov. Christie himself.    Meanwhile, Christie has tried to regain his momentum as a front-runner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.'

But not so fast, Governor.    You might escape direct accountability in this bridge scandal;  but that is small compared to other things that are being investigated by the feds, including diverting federal funds for disaster relief to non-disaster purposes and awarding huge contracts to cronies.

That all goes to whether Christie is actually corrupt, or just playing the game and managing to stay just inside the law, or at least to keep his fingerprints off the dirty work.

There are other reasons the national GOP should perhaps take a close look at whether they really want him as their standard bearer in 2016.

It was also revealed this week that the State of New Jersey has had another credit down-rating -- in fact this is the seventh eighth credit down-rating since Christie has been governor.  And this, as others, is directly related to how he has managed state funds -- including diverting huge amounts from pension fund payments.

So, Listen Up, Republican friends.    Do yourselves a favor.    Don't be swept up in Christie-fever by the big, blowhard, bully who polls best against HRC.   You might find yourselves with a big, stinking turd on your doorstep.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lame duck GOP congressman speaks the truth

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) was defeated in the GOP primary race for the senate nomination, so he is in his last few months of being a congressman.   Whether this was an unguarded moment or an intentional what-the-hell, I-can-say-what-I-want-now moment, Kingston was quoted in the New York Times as saying this about whether President Obama needed to get congressional approval to increase the campaign against ISIS:
"A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later.’ It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long."
The sad thing is that I'll bet the majority of Republicans actually do have that attitude;  their actions would suggest that it's more like 90% of them.

What happened to the honorable tradition that politics stops at the water's edge?   That, when faced with an outside enemy, we become one body.  Even if we disagree, we gear up to do what has to be done, under one commander-in-chief. 

Perhaps we need to re-instate the draft.   No more wars where most people's families are not represented in those in harm's way.   Our army is a group we have hired to do our fighting.  So decisions about war do not so often have a personal consequence on the deciders.


ADDED NOTE:    I later learned some context for the quote of Rep. Kingston.   He himself thinks Congress should debate and vote on this, and he would vote for it.   The quote above was not an expression of his feelings but rather the attitude he hears from some of his colleagues.

Gov. Deal must go . . . two bad news items concerning him in today's paper

My opposition to Georgia's governor, Nathan Deal, is both deeply personal (for his scurrilous, slimey pandering to homophobic voters at the expense of LGBTQ kids in his 2010 campaign), and it is also based on his actions in office (see below).

Today, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution carried two stories that, in my opinion, reflect very badly on the governor.

1.  Front page, center headline:  "State ethics chief fired."

     This, of course, refers to Holly LaBerge, about whom I have written.  She was Deal's hand-picked replacement for the former ethics chief that he forced out of office when she was getting too nosey investigating ethics claims against the governor.   That replacement has now been fired by the commission after a Superior Court judge called her "dishonest and lacking transparency" in her failing to turn over a memo possibly incriminating the governor's top aides -- and indeed the governor himself.

     I believe this is shaping up to be a politically explosive situation for the governor, who so far has managed to shroud himself in sanctity, claiming to have had nothing to do with this.   But I do not believe that Holly LaBerge is going to keep quiet.   I look for her now to become a whistle-blower herself and expose the whole deal involving Deal.

    Unfortunately, that won't likely happen until after the November election -- unless Holly sings to the press rather than just waiting on a lawsuit and trial.

2.  Inside headline:   "$3.3M to pay for health insurance navigators."

     This stems from Gov. Deal's refusal to take the Affordable Care Act's gift that would allow states to expand Medicaid, with federal money paying 100% of costs for the first three years and up to 97% after that.     

     The current story stems from the fact that the legislature (with Deal's approval if not encouragement) passed a law last spring that made it illegal for any state employee to assist citizens seeking guidance in navigating the federal health insurance market place.    Such a program last year had helped 33,000 Georgians.   Now this would be illegal.

     Today's headline refers to a $3.3 million grant that has been made available by a Macon non-profit group, Community Health Works.   The purpose of the grant is to fund just the sort of navigating assistance that our governor and lawmakers prohibited state workers from doing.

Do we really want this man to have another term as governor?

Vote for Jason Carter for Georgia governor.
Vote for Michelle Nunn for U. S. Senator
Vote for Greg Hecht for Georgia Attorney General
Vote for Valerie Wilson for Georgia State School Superintendent.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Death row case #3: Even worse than we knew . . .

Details continue to be released about the miscarriage of justice for two African-American half brothers who were convicted of rape and murder 30 years ago.   The prosecutor, Joe Freeman Britt, was cited by Guinness World Records for having achieved 40 death penalty convictions;   so it is now difficult to wonder how often those convictions, like these two, were based on police and prosecutorial misconduct.

Well, in fact, only 2 of those 40 ever resulted in an execution.   At age 70 and now retired, Britt is still convinced that they were guilty, even after hearing of the DNA evidence.   As is so often said of killers when they are being sentenced:   "He shows no remorse."

Here is the glaring fact that Mr. Britt failed to take into account three decades ago when he was so intent on chalking up another two death penalty convictions.

Roscoe Artis, the man DNA evidence has now shown to be the murderer, lived right next to the field in which the child's body was found.  He already had served prison time for violent sexual assaults.   But strangely he was never questioned -- even when, four weeks later, he confessed to the rape and murder of a teenage girl in similar circumstances and only a short distance from where the murder for which these two innocent men were convicted took place.

It is inconceivable that any person with an ounce of humility or compassion could have failed to think that maybe he had the wrong guys, that perhaps the confessions of a 15 year old and a 19 year old, both with IQs in the 50-60 range, and without legal advice, might have been coerced?

Joe Freeman Britt, may not be guilty of murder;  but he is guilty of robbing two innocent men of thirty years of their lives.    And with 40 death penalty convictions and only 2 executions, one has to wonder how many of the others were also wrongfully railroaded to death row by a zealot and a bully.

And a system that considered the lives of black boys to be expendable.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Death row case #2

I re-read my post from yesterday ("Know-it-all Scalia wrong about death row case");   and I realized that my intent was to slam Scalia for rejecting a review of this conviction because he considered it such a horrendous crime, rather than granting a review because of police misconduct and prosecutorial miscarriage of justice.

That is all true.   But as I consider the story again, what stands out to me is the larger picture of the great inequality of justice in this country.   Poor and minority people often do not get fair trials because they cannot afford the good lawyers that are too often necessary to get a fair trial in our system.

Indigent defendants get court appointed lawyers, it's true.   But they are often either inexperienced or ineffective;  and, even if they are good, they do not have the budgets to hire expensive experts or to do costly forensic testing, like DNA.

This headline exoneration story reinforces what we saw in Ferguson, Missouri.   If Michael Brown or these two brothers had been white or privileged, the results would have been very different.