The River

Monday, November 08, 2004

Iraq, vote fraud, justice -- connecting the dots

"Our military has brought justice to the enemy, and honor to America." -- Bush press conference, November 3, 2004

AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais
President Bush answers questions during a press conference Nov. 3 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House.

George W. Bush is a certifiably insane, messianic mass murderer. This is how he describes Iraq, where U.S. forces are now bombing and occupying hospitals and massacring civilians.

But for a fascist on a crusade, it’s called “justice.”

This man just stole the White House, and his mania is going to destroy this country. And many a capitalist and corporatist has been putting big money into this far right coup on America for many years, unconcerned. They’ll come out alright, regardless.

No need to worry about little people concepts like freedom and democracy, that’s a marketing ploy for suckers. No need to worry about the foundations of civilized behavior, because we’re producing profits, and according to the cult of capitalism, profits are good. Prisons are profitable, poisons in food are profitable, unnecessary and harmful drugs are profitable, and war is very profitable.

Seek redress at the ballot box?

Not any more. The social progress of the 60s was all well and good, but sooner or later it becomes a hinderance on corporate profits. So rich men with the money to create in every sector of society set to work. Consolidate and snap up media properties to make sure rabble never see the truth. Fund charitable organizations to siphon off activists into compromising activities. Allow only a far right party and a defanged centrist party. Sell the far right party as power trip to the confused, the lost, the stunted, and the frightened. Tell your most ardent cult members they are doing God’s work. Use the centrist party as a foil, and demonize them for those that need an enemy within as well as without.

Most importantly, control the ballot box. It can be done, once you own the press. After all, who will tell the people?

The New York Times? Nah, they got your back.

On November 6, no doubt feeling pressure due to the rumors on the Internets, The New York Times acknowledged some vote problems in Ohio. It was, of course, a typical blind-man-in-a-room-full-of-deaf-people piece. The paper finds the story one of those ex-a-gerr-a-tions.

The story starts with this bombshell:

An electronic voting machine in hotly contested Ohio added 3,893 votes to President Bush's tally in a suburban Columbus precinct, even though there are just 800 voters there.

But an official called it "some kind of hiccup" and that was good enough for the NYT. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Here is the money quote, the one to assure readers that everything is OK:

The problem, first reported by The Columbus Dispatch, is one of many election night glitches that have surfaced in several states. But all problems so far fall into a class described by Doug Chapin, director of the Election Reform Information Project, as "no big and lots of littles," with no discernible effect on the outcome.

No biggie. Thought we’d mention it, but no discernible effect here. Not much of a story, and besides we have better things to do. The New York Times: All the News That’s Fit to Truncate.

What really caught my eye was the organization they used to throw cold water on the issue; despite my interest in DRE, I’d never heard of the Election Reform Information Project. The name has that bland sound of many an initiative in the so-called public interest. You know, like gutting pollution controls and calling it the "Clean Air Act." So who were they? I consulted my friend Google.

They are funded by the Pew Charitable Trust, which, understandably, claims on its web site to be independent, non-profit and to serve the public interest.

I decided to see what others say about them.

I found a Christian evangelical site that which noted:

The [Pew] trusts have various avenues for grants including Public policy, culture, education, health and human services, environment, and Religion. The statements which are Reconstructionist in nature, state: "The Religion program seeks to advance a deeper understanding of religion's contribution to the ideas, beliefs, morals and institutions that shape culture and society, and to help people of faith improve their efforts to make a greater contribution to contemporary public life...

Uh oh. Religion in “institutions.” Would that be like government institutions? Like the executive branch of the Federal Government?

I searched again and found something about the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The Forum - which was established in 2000 through a grant from the Trusts to Georgetown University - plans to continue building on its work in religion and domestic policy while significantly expanding its efforts in religion and world affairs, including U.S. foreign policy.

Religion in foreign policy? That sounds way too familiar, and not good at all.

I learned that Luis Lugo was appointed director of the Forum in January, 2004. Also, it seems The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life is a partner with The Center for Public Justice, which studies the influence of religion in politics and public life.

Justice, huh. And Bush just used the word in relation to his war of aggression. Code to the religious movement fundies?

On its web site, the Center for Public Justice highlighted a Lugo essay, quote:

“In this important essay, Luis Lugo argues that governments and churches should be 'equal partners' in assisting the poor and needy. Each has its own distinctive contribution to make and both are needed if the poor are to receive the justice and mercy they require.”

Churches don’t need the government to do good works. And besides, there’s that quaint notion of separation of Church and State. And I wonder if this reference to “justice and mercy” is anything like Bush’s use of the term “justice.” Not good.

It appears “justice” is much on the mind on the aptly named center.

We at the Center are committed to public service that responds to God's call to do justice in local, national, and international affairs.

We believe Christians should contribute to the renewal of political life.

We want to encourage officeholders and citizens to take their civic responsibilities seriously.

We envision a republic where government is competent, leaders are trustworthy, and civic society is thriving.

Our mission is to equip citizens, develop leaders, and shape policy in pursuit of our purpose to serve God, advance justice, and transform public life.

At FACSNet, I learned of Lugo's participation in a forum in Washington, D.C. called "God & Politics: Religion and the 2004 Elections." Dr. Lugo discussed the latest research from the Pew Forum and the potential implications for the 2004 election.

This seems rather precient, pegging the religion implications of the November election, considering it was September. Did you see the moral values hype coming two months ago?

Then I found something at Christianity Today that pegged Pew as closely tied to the right wing, or at least not inclined to side with the public, web site verbiage notwithstanding.

Wonks for Christ

At Civitas, grad students learn to think Christianly about public life.

Civitas is sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trust, which cooperates with the Center for Public Justice, the Brookings Institution, and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

AEI. Rabid righties. Featured scholar on their page right now? Neocon Richard Perle.

So it began looking like the Election Reform Information Project was set up by connected insiders to debunk real advocates for vote integrity such as Bev Harris, Dr. Menlo, Cyndy, me.

And here is the NYT running point for them, allowing a release valve for the story while dismissing it with a bought-off "non-partisan" organization.

I looked some more and I found further ties between Pew Charitable Trusts and the Bush Administration.

Someone of a different religious bent – neoliberalism – has a site up about Pew. What’s interesting is the site author has figures on the millions that the Pew Trust has invested in energy companies, which is not surprising, considering the trust was founded with oil industry money.

Digging some more, I found a story from 1997 claiming
“Pew moves to set U.S. energy deregulation agenda.”

The article says a Pew-funded group was responsible for helping to get a bill passed that allowed California utilities to stick consumers with the “stranded costs” of some of their mistakes, like defunct nuclear power facilities.

In California, legislators passed a bill in August 1996 that holds all electricity customers responsible for "stranded costs" incurred by the three big private utilities (Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas and Electric Co.) through investments in nuclear power plants and other uneconomic electric generation projects. Many environmentalists and energy analysts hold NRDC, which is funded by the Pew-backed Energy Foundation, responsible for the bailout bill because its leading negotiator, Ralph Cavanagh, refused to fight the utilities' demand that consumers pay off their stranded costs.

The article goes on to talk about activists’ struggles with Pew on the bailout issue:

Grassroots energy activists say they are hoping that NET's [the Pew-funded National Environmental Trust] promise to include the bailout message in its campaign is a sign that the corporate-minded Pew, and other key funders such as the Energy Foundation, will start to fight the utilities on stranded costs or at least help out groups that are trying to do so.

"I'm not ecstatic, but it seems to me that most groups there said 'Stop the bailout' must be part of any education campaign," USPIRG's Aurilio told the Bay Guardian. "I don't think they [NET and Pew] can avoid putting that into the campaign."

But some activists fighting stranded costs said they felt cautious in expressing optimism, because NET, which is rapidly gaining power as a well-funded and influential organization, is a creation of Pew, whose money comes from and is invested in such dirty industries as oil, mining, and paper (see "Pulling Strings," 10/8/97). Pew tends to finance projects and organizations that are friendly to corporate interests.

And those would be the same corporate interests who want us to shut up about the Iraq war and the stolen election. The interests that fund non-governmental organizations to funnel grassroots activity into a dead end of compromise and ineffectiveness. The interests that own the major media outlets. The interests that are increasingly relegating democracy to the status of inconvenient but necessary charade.

You can read about it The New York Times, provided you supplement with your own research.



Email Update from Pew Charitable Trust:

"Effective January 1, 2004, The Pew Charitable Trusts transformed from a foundation into a newly independent non-profit organization. The Trusts will now have a greater ability to fulfill its core mission--informing the public with credible, fact-based research on key issues of the day, advancing policy solutions when the case for change is compelling, and supporting America's civic life and communities.

This change in status allowed us to move from a .com site to a .org site. Would you kindly update any links on your Web site to reflect our new"

Chris Cappo
Public Affairs Temp
The Pew Charitable Trusts

should read: The Trusts will now have a greater ability to fulfill its core mission -- misinforming the public with credible-sounding, fact-esque research on key issues of the day, advancing policy solutions when the case for change to a theocracy is compelling, and supporting America's civic life and communities.

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