Archive for September, 2010

Double-Barrelled Hypocrisy (Tea Party edition)

September 24, 2010

A “self-made” man named Ron Johnson is a Tea-Party backed candidate running for Senate in Wisconsin against Senator Russ Feingold.  Johnson pushes the boundaries of caricature and parody as it is, his rally cry, according to The Awl, is: “First of all, Freedom,” but he doesn’t stop there: pimping a full-blown Atlas Shrugged fetish as well as his belief that climate change theories are “lunacy.”   But what Johnson can’t stand most of all is BIG government.  Johnson characterizes government spending and subsidies as “a threat to our freedom,” while insisting that “government doesn’t create jobs” etc. until you look closely at his background, as Abe Sauer from the Awl did, and find out, predictably,that “his company received millions of dollars in industrial revenue bonds.”   TPM goes into the specifics:

“In 1979 a company called Wisconsin Industrial Shipping Supplies, owned by Johnson’s brother-in-law, received a $75,000 development grant from the city of Oshkosh to build a rail spur to a plant it was building. One of the conditions of the grant required WISS to hire 11 people in exchange for the funds. Just a few months later, WISS became Pacur — the company Johnson owns today — and the factory was opened. The factory itself was also built with the help of a $1 million government-issued development bond.”

The hypocrisy is so brazen it would be funny if it wasn’t, sadly, putting the excellent, progressive Senate career of Russ Feingold in peril.  I just assume people like Johnson are pathetic, lying hypocrites and wait for the revelation to come and prove it, and it always does.  The only thing ever truly in doubt is the depth of their hypocritical dishonesty.

Sauer’s excellent piece in the Awl dissects the dissonance and Orwellian “doublethink” inherent in someone basing their whole sales pitch on being a gritty self-made Horatio Alger style hero steadfastly against evil government handouts, yet owing their entire success and livelihood to precisely those evil government subsidies and handouts.   There is a further, more openly comedic, layer of hypocrisy and doublethink in Johnson’s story, painfully omitted from his campaign bio, which is:

“the story goes that after moving to Wisconsin ‘Ron started a business called Pacur with his brother-in-law’ and he has said he built his business from ‘from scratch,” from “the ground up.’  But what Johnson’s campaign doesn’t often mention is that the candidate was set up with the business by his billionaire father-in-law. Uppity Wisconsin has unearthed evidence that Johnson’s firm Pacur is the beneficiary of less-than-market-driven business from its main client, Daddy Inc.”

This is indicative of a pattern you see in Right-Wingers from Tucker Carlson to Aubrey McClendon echoing that infamous quote uttered by Molly Ivins regarding George W. Bush: “He was born on third base, and swears he hit a triple.”  The gods and giants of nepotism are always on hand to give you condescending, paternalistic advice about hard-work and the merits of slogging through hardscrabble American days and nights with the aid of your father’s million dollar cane collection. It’s a cottage industry.  So to recap: Government subsidies for me and/or the random machinist in Racine, WI-horrible and antithetical to American Way of life; but they magically become indispensable, ingenious tool of capitalist creation and moxie when employed by Ron Johnson and his ilk.  Got that?  Here’s the most Orwellian exchange and ridiculously implausible language destruction in the whole damn episode, a textbook example of how doublespeak is the new norm in our political ‘discourse,’ as reported by WKOW in Madison (emphasis mine):

The Oshkosh plastics factory owned by Republican senate candidate Ron Johnson was built, in part, with the assistance of a $1 million government-issued industrial development revenue bond

According to records provided by the city, the money was loaned to Wisconsin Industrial Shipping Supplies – Pacur’s previous name – a company owned by Johnson’s brother-in-law…

The funds were used to buy land, construct the building and buy equipment at the new factory, which Johnson said he co-owned on day one…

Johnson’s campaign says the money is a loan from private investors.

“‘I believe we’ve thoroughly covered industrial revenue bonds earlier on,” Sara Sendek, a Johnson spokeswoman, said. “It does not utilize taxpayer money or put taxpayers at risk.'”

See if you just grit your teeth and stare off into space, while insistently, yet always serenely and professionally, repeating that “What appears Black is, actually, White” you may be able to win a seat in the United States Senate at the expense of one of the few members of that body who actually puts the concerns of his constituents into legislation.

Yet another layer of Johnson’s loathsome Orwellian doublethink dissonance is that like all Tea Party ciphers he is ostensibly, openly a fierce critic of the bank bailout, until you look at his campaign donations and strangely enough you notice a lot of contributions from the very banks he swore should not have been bailed out.  Again, the Awl reports:

“For example, the cash Johnson received from the Financial Services Roundtable PAC on August 27 and the American Bankers Association PAC on July 8 and July 30 came from, amongst others, hardcore Treasury bailout beneficiaries such as JP Morgan Chase, SunTrust, Bank of America, Regions Financial, Zions and First Horizon. The money Ron Johnson received from the Bluegrass and Senate Majority Fund PACs came, in part, from one of the greatest bailout beneficiaries of them all, Goldman Sachs. Despite statements about staying out of politics this cycle, Goldman donated to both PACs on March 31 of this year. On June 24, Ron Johnson’s campaign received two $5,000 donations from the Bluegrass PAC, a day later the campaign received two donations from the Senate Majority PAC in the same amounts.

To be clear, while it may not be the backbone of his funding, some of the very bailout money that Ron Johnson has criticized is now funding his campaign.”

There you have it: The New American Way in Politics.

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Sounds of the Animal Kingdom

September 15, 2010

“I could buy a parrot and train it to say, ‘tax cuts,’ but at the end of the day, it’s still a parrot, not a conservative.”

Delaware Republican Party Chairman Tom Ross on Tea Bag Cipher Christine O’ Donnell

That quote was uttered by the chairman to the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne before said trained parrot defeated 9 time U.S. Representative and former Delaware Governor Mike Castle in a primary yesterday evening.   Continuing with the animal motif, Mr. Ross had previously stated that Ms. O’ Donnell was “not a viable candidate for any office in the state of Delaware” and that “she could not be elected dog catcher.”  Those remarks would actually earn Ross death threats.

Who would have ever thought that the United States depicted in Mike Judge’s brilliant film Idiocracy would become reality so quickly?  Dionne’s piece is titled “The Tea Party: From Rebellion to Absurdity,” but absurdity isn’t even a strong enough word to describe the candidacy and actual primary victory of Ms. O’ Donnell, whose incompetence, ineptitude, and fringe religiosity is a bridge too far for even Karl Rove. Rove’s, unprecedentedly truthful, comments haven’t earned him death threats, yet, but a bunch of conservatives are calling him an effete liberal traitor (really) and other colorful, witty things.   For once, I agree with the man.  From what I’ve seen O’ Donnell makes George W. Bush seem like Stephen Hawking.  If you think that’s harsh, revisit the quote at the outset which was uttered by the chairman of the Delaware Republican Party.  Tea Party candidates have knocked off siting Republicans like Bob Bennett all year, but, tellingly, this is the first time state and national Republican leaders have spoken out so vociferously and vehemently against an insurgent challenger.  O’ Donnell, has myriad personal and financial question marks surrounding her and according  to an ex-aide “was living on campaign donations-using them for rent and personal expenses.”  Being capable of that sort of brazenly fraudulent graft and hucksterism usually favorably impresses state and national GOP brass, which again shows you how extreme this woman truly is-that it does not in her particular case.

When George W. Bush was installed into the Presidency and started practicing his special brand of reverse alchemy turning gold into rubbish and ruin many people in the blogosphere started recalling the startlingly prescient H.L. Mencken quote which said:

“The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.
The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

This quote can be applied even more strictly and presciently to the case of O’ Donnell’s victory in an effort to discern why America is indeed hurtling headlong into Idiocracy, when you isolate, what I believe to be, the key passage, which is: “As Democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more, the inner soul of the people.”   Mencken was referring specifically to the office of the Presidency, but the “inner soul” of a frightening number of Americans is what is being honestly reflected in the ascendancy of people like Christine O’ Donnell, and that’s what is so troubling.   Nobody, particularly conservatives, wants to admit that an honest self-examination of the American psyche and collective consciousness would uncover traumatic and highly unflattering things, completely at odds with the notion of “American Exceptionalism” taken as gospel by many on both sides of the political spectrum.  A perfect example of what I’m talking about can be found in The Washington Post, which ran a story on Monday where they looked at the divisive nature of O’ Donnell/Castle primary and it featured the following quote (emphasis mine):

“‘Christine O’Donnell is just an ordinary citizen, and that’s what I like about her,'” said Greg Gergen, a Wilmington Republican who said he will vote for O’Donnell.”

The quote emphasizes the importance of the “inner soul” of the people and how the reflection of that soul in candidates like O’ Donnell is what guides their votes.  This voter feels ordinary and wants a national leader to reflect that quality as well.  The problem with this is that many “ordinary citizens” I know can be found sitting in fast food restaurants talking about Lebron James, Lady GaGa and/or fantasy football.  I’m guilty of a some of those things as well, but I’m not running for office, you see.  The problem with “ordinary” is that the world is a bafflingly complex place, that more often than not calls for extraordinary intellect, discipline, intangibles, willpower, restraint etc. etc. to keep things from reverting to a bad, old-fashioned Hobbesian maelstrom.  Nobody wants to feel inadequate and be crushed under the heels of the dreaded “elitism” label, but the fact remains that worthwhile leaders should and do exhibit “elite” qualities and the trend of American voters looking at those qualities with disdain and/or as a negative is a big, big problem going forward and is one of the pillars of the accelerating slide into Idiocracy.

“Second Amendment Remedies”

September 14, 2010

I’ve been writing a lot about Blackwater recently.

One of the passages in Jeremy Scahill’s incredible book on Blackwater that has always haunted me is actually only tangential to the company itself.  In outlining, and giving proper context to, Erik Prince’s worldview by showing his connections to the hardcore, right-wing Christian conservative movement, Scahill examines Prince’s relationships with Christian conservative heavyweights such as Charles Colson, Gary Bauer and Richard Neuhaus.  Neuhaus established a journal called First Things which published a “symposium” titled “The End of Democracy?” in November 1996, the same month President Clinton easily won re-election.

Scahill noted that The First Things symposium asked:

“whether we have reached or are reaching the point where conscientious citizens can no longer give assent to the existing regime”

Notice that language.  You hear strikingly similar language used all over the right-landscape these days.  They couch what is basically a call to insurrection in “moral” terms.  They choose derogatory, and pointedly condescending, and demeaning language in the attempt to de-legitimize a Democratic president, branding the Clinton administration a “regime.”  Unfortunately President Obama’s background has given them a vast wealth of non-sensical, outrageous fantasy to embarrass themselves with.

Scahill continues, on page 30 of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, noting that the symposium seemed to “predict a civil war scenario or Christian insurrection against the government.”  The First Things symposium explored options “ranging from non-compliance to resistance to civil-disobedience to morally justified revolution” (emphasis mine).

There it is stated plainly: “morally justified revolution.”  We’ll consider resorting to bloodshed, ‘morally justified’ bloodshed, if we don’t get our way at the ballot box in a Democratic society.  This was in 1996.  It cannot be overstated that the essays in this symposium were not written by fringe characters like Terry Jones, but by “mainstream,” supposedly respectable, figures like judge Robert Bork who was famously defeated in his confirmation hearings after being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan.

The unsigned introduction to the symposium bellowed that:

“The Government of the United States no longer governs by the consent of the governed…What is happening now is the displacement of a constitutional order by a regime that does not have, will not obtain, and cannot command the consent of the people.”         First Things, November 1996

The hubris and dangerous arrogance contained in that statement is stunning.  In 1996 Bill Clinton won re-election with 379 electoral votes and over 8 million more popular votes, yet ominous things are written about the “displacement of the constitutional order” and the President’s inability to “command the consent of the people.”   This is how Democracy functions.  Yet, the silence four short years later, when a conservative was installed into the Presidency by the Supreme Court under questionable circumstances after losing the popular vote, was deafening.  No veiled threats of insurrection from the Charles Colson’s of the world when a strong case could be made that the Bush Administration did not have the “consent of the people.”   Scahill’s reporting on this helped me discern a pattern, which is, that religious and otherwise extremist conservatives immediately start trying to de-legitimize Democratic, and Democratically elected, Presidents; in conjunction with that they start whispering about imaginary offenses against the Constitution (while real ones silently piled to the sky during the reign of George W. Bush) and threatening insurrections and revolutions, which brings me, finally, to Sharron Angle.

Sharron Angle, Senate candidate in Nevada, steeped in the exact same extremist religious conservative milieu that shaped Erik Prince, infamously remarked that:

“I’m hoping that we’re not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.”

Besides the linguistic similarities of Angle remarks to the ones by the authors of the First Things symposium, these dangerous, irresponsible words fit squarely into the right-wing narrative that if fundamental Democratic principles and methods, such as free and fair elections, produce outcomes unfavorable to conservatives then it becomes to OK to start advocating “morally justified revolution,” with guns of course.

This language and rhetoric has finally started to unsettle fellow conservatives, which may be one of the only ways to stop its spread.  The Huffington Post reported, via the Las Vegas Sun, that Nevada Republican Danny Tarkanian, who lost in the GOP primary to Angle, took the rare step of speaking out publicly against the dangerous and irresponsible notion of “Second Amendment Remedies” saying:

“Now, I’ve been on the campaign trail, and I heard a lot of people say to me, you know, why do we have our Second Amendment rights, it’s to, so the public can overthrow the government if they fail to respond to the government’s will. That may be all good and well, but I’m not going to take the position that we need a civil uprising to overthrow our government.”

This is the corrosive effect of such language, over the course of years, writ large.  Thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Charles Colson, advocating the violent, religiously sanctioned overthrow of our government when you don’t like specific election results, to a public official nonetheless, is now apparently so widespread that Tarkanian was rattled and/or moved enough by this realization to publicly inveigh against it.  Tarkanian continued, saying explicitly:

“You know, we have a process where you go out and you vote for your elected leaders, and if you don’t like them then you’ve got to get enough people to vote against them, and then they’ll get out of office. I don’t believe you go out and you start shooting people… I don’t believe the vast majority of Americans are going to agree with having a civil war because our elected leaders aren’t voting the way we want them to. That’s why we have elections and you vote them out of office the next time.”

It is unbelievably sad that a grown-up has to actually come out and re-state such basic, structural Democratic principles in this manner.  Tarkanian is obviously not a national figure with a lot of stature, but I view his going public with these comments as a positive development.

Backlash against this incendiary rubbish has to come from moderate conservatives as well as from independents and Democrats.  I hope this is a step in that direction.


Triple Xe

September 10, 2010

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about that haunting, creepy scene in Apocalypse Now where, far up the river, Willard encounters a small band of soldiers in pitch blackness, punctuated by sudden explosions and shards of bright light, and Willard finally says, in exasperation, “Hey solider, do you know who’s in command here?” And the crazed, wild-eyed soldier replies: “Aint you?”

That scene is playing out in real life.  Again.  The New York Times published another excellent piece by James Risen, last week, where he examined revelations that Blackwater/Xe set up in excess of 30 “shell companies” so that they could keep obtaining government contracts they would not otherwise have received under their tarnished, radioactive real name.  Not only did this deception enable Blackwater/Xe to procure the contracts, but the combination of the murky nature of private security and the obfuscatory intentions behind creating multiple shell companies made accountability and oversight of their actions nearly impossible.

This deception is unfolding on two separate levels.  The first can be gleaned in Risen’s report that:

“Congress began to investigate the affiliated companies last year, after the shooting deaths of two Afghans by Blackwater security personnel working for a subsidiary named Paravant, which had obtained Pentagon contracts in Afghanistan. In a Senate hearing earlier this year, Army officials said that when they awarded the contract to Paravant for training of the Afghan Army, they had no idea that the business was part of Blackwater”

Let’s just note in passing that this company, no matter the name, just can’t refrain from murdering people and ending up under investigation.  They just cannot do it.   But read that statement: at a certain level, the Army did not even know who they were hiring.  Isn’t there someone in procurement and accounting who looks into a company’s corporate governance, history, track record etc. before millions of tax payer dollars are showered upon them?  Or does the Army just want to hire Blackwater/Xe no matter how dangerous and corrupt they are?  Is Afghanistan that violent and hopeless that they need cowboys and assassins to do the dirty work no matter the cost and/or diplomatic risk?  If that’s the case why are we still there?  Fundamentally, arrangements like this are about deniability and even though I take the Army at their word regarding the hiring of Paravant, you can see how well the ultimate goal of deniability was achieved by everyone involved.

The second, more important, more Willard-esque level this works on can be discerned in these frightening words from Senate Armed Forces Committee Chairman Senator Carl Levin who said (via Huffington Post):

“Army contracting personnel …. said that one way they monitored the contractor’s performance was from their office in Florida, and that was by checking in with Colonel Wakefield … in Kabul. However, Colonel Wakefield …. told the committee that Task Force (TF) Phoenix, a subordinate command, had oversight responsibility. Even after the May 2009 incident, a review of policies at Camp Alamo uncovered continuing ‘uncertainty’ as to what ‘authorities and responsibilities are over contractors,’ including ‘disciplinary issues’.”

Translation:  Q: Hey soldier, do you know who’s in command here?  A: Ain’t you?

I’d skimmed Risen’s article last Friday when it appeared and although I’d considered posting about it as a follow up to my previous Blackwater/Xe post, I was busy and fatigued.  But that quote from Senator Levin was included in a piece published yesterday on the Huffington Post by Janine R. Wedel, author of Shadow Elite, and, in my view, put Risen’s article in a different, more ominous context.

Wedel’s post is fascinating on it’s own merits because she puts the “ambiguity” and confusion resulting from Xe’s use of “shell companies,” which render oversight and accountability nearly impossible, into a larger frame, eloquently and cogently characterizing the narrative logic and momentum behind such maneuvers on a macro level :

“ambiguity is a key feature of the new system of power and influence, and it serves power brokers an important function. They can play different sets of constraints off each other, skirting accountability in one venue by claiming they were operating in another. They need not necessarily break the rules; they merely shift around them. Ambiguity is what affords actors deniability: while advancing their own agendas, they agilely defy scrutiny and public accountability.”

You see the dynamic she describes here and the crucial causal relationship between ‘ambiguity’ and ‘deniability’ playing out again and again, whether it be Blackwater or BP.   Both Risen and Wedel cite a chilling, internal Blackwater email, written by a company official, and former CIA agent, named Enrique Prado, that explicitly mentions, and according to Wedel “markets” this ‘deniability.’  The email reads:

“’We have a rapidly growing, worldwide network of folks that can do everything from surveillance to ground truth to disruption operations,’” Mr. Prado wrote in the October 2007 message, in which he asked another Blackwater official whether the Drug Enforcement Administration might be interested in using the spy network. ‘These are all foreign nationals,’ he added, ‘so deniability is built in and should be a big plus.’”

Besides providing proof that the ability to escape accountability is of paramount importance to the majority of Blackwater/Xe’s dealings, this disturbing email also contains a few ominously Orwellian gems like its frightening invocation of “folks” who can perform “ground truth.”

How long before they are selling their ability to perform “ground truth” in, and not to, the United States?

After all that’s what mercenaries do, right?  Especially ones that feel spurned and unappreciated enough to move from Virginia to Abu Dhabi.

This creeping sense of everyone accruing power no matter the cost, yet somehow maintaining enough distance and structural ambiguity to evade and deny accountability pervades my impressions of America in 2010.  People like Erik Prince and Tony Hayward are defiantly in charge until their scams are uncovered or they do something like destroy the entire Gulf Coast, then all of a sudden not only are they not in charge-they can’t even remember anything about their structure of command or if they had the right engineering specifications…and it was the other company’s fault/responsibility anyway, and so-on and so forth.  Constantly, continually and masterfully, as Wedel wrote, “skirting accountability in one venue by claiming they were operating in another.”

Is this state affairs destined to be permanent? Can our national equilibrium be restored?

Lexicon Devils

September 4, 2010

After narrowly upsetting entrenched Alaskan Republican familial scion Lisa Murkowski in a Primary on August 24th, Tea Bag Senate hopeful Joe Miller invoked Al Franken’s name to cast a scary specter over the the fact that absentee ballots were still being counted saying to Fox Business News (via Salon):

“It concerns us any time somebody lawyers up and tries to pull an Al Franken, if you will. We are very concerned that there may be some attempt here to skew the results.”

And thus Franken’s name enters the conservative, and by extension national, political lexicon as a description and/or synonym for illegitimacy, shorthand for “funny business,” an epithet that signifies electoral chicanery with manufactured votes and stolen outcomes.  It’s an illustration of two things: (1) Conservatives are definitively not at all beholden to things like facts, truth and legally sanctioned outcomes, because as Alex Pareene sadly observes in the Salon piece above “In a fact-based world, ‘pull an Al Franken’ would mean “‘win an election by receiving more votes than the other person.'” (2) Conservatives cynically, yet masterfully, understand and exploit the fact that we currently do not live in a “fact-based world” or “fact-based” mental environment, and that in this age of false, tortured media equivalence ie: “Conservatives are actively starting to question whether or not the sky is actually blue.  DO they have a point?” Conservatives can and will inject brazen falsehoods, insinuations and smears like “pulling a Franken” into the modern media linguistic environment where usage, such as Miller’s, will lead to repetition which will eventually bestow some warped sense of legitimacy and acceptance on a Demonstrably False claim like “pulling a Franken.”

Attaching doubts and the stigma of illegitimacy on Senator Franken’s victory is a Demonstrably False enterprise because the record delineating the legality of his victory is extremely lengthy, clear and accessible.  Mr. Miller, of Palin’s Alaska,  is supposed to be an attorney of some kind, so his usage of Franken’s name in this particular context is especially dishonest and disingenuous.  An example of the clarity and accessibility of the record as it pertains to the contested Franken/Coleman election can be found in the upcoming, University of Minnesota Press, book This is Not Florida, written by journalist, Jay Weiner who goes into copious, sometimes exhaustive detail, earning the Frank Premack Public Affairs Journalism Award (Minnesota’s highest journalism honor), for his reporting  on the complex legal machinations of the 2008 Franken v. Coleman recount and subsequent election trial.

Weiner objectively observed the candidates navigation through the minutia of Minnesota Election Law and his work in This is Not Florida provides a critical illustration of the skeletal infrastructure of Democracy, deftly translating arcane recount procedures, absentee ballot statutes and legal jargon into straightforward prose, so that anyone with an interest in probing the bare bones of democracy: how votes are really counted at the count, what statutes stipulate grounds for legal rejection an absentee ballot, etc. can refer to the anatomical schematics painstakingly diagrammed in these pages.  Weiner, a veteran sports journalist who worked at the Minneapolis Star Tribune for 28 years, was thrust “serendipitously” (his exact word) into covering the election immediately after returning from the Beijing Summer Olympics.   He quickly delves into the ‘nuts and bolts’ aspects of Minnesotan Electoral Law which mandates a hand recount if an election result is less than one-half of one percentage point, which it certainly was in the case of the Franken/Coleman election as the candidates were separated by a sliding scale of only a few hundred votes out of nearly 3 million cast (with that high a number of total votes an electoral margin of as many as 15,000 votes or less would have triggered a recount).  Weiner notes the composition, and political affiliations, of members of the State Supreme Court, the Canvassing boards, election court judges etc.  This old fashioned, painstakingly middle of the road reporting (laced liberally and sometimes clumsily with sports metaphors) was assembled from Weiner’s laborious coverage of the state Canvassing Board’s meetings, the election contest trial and “almost every media briefing conducted by the two campaigns, their lawyers and the secretary of state’s office during the recount and trial”   (Weiner p. xiii).

Accusations designed to cast a pall on Franken’s legitimacy were being made by Coleman’s team and Republicans almost immediately following election night, which is one reason Weiner goes into great detail keeping score of the Judges political proclivities and the politics of the officials who appointed them, for instance the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court Eric Magnuson was a law partner of Republican Governor, and stalwart conservative, Tim Pawlenty who had appointed him to the bench in June 2008, while Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is dubbed “perhaps the most liberal elected official” in Minnesota (Weiner p. 38).  It’s silly to even have to consider things like these in an advanced, civilized society that conservatives always assert is at the vanguard of human achievement and accomplishment, ie. that vaunted “American Exceptionalism, ” yet it is they who’ve poisoned the atmosphere with petty accusations and baseless insinuations of bias, incessantly projecting nefarious deeds and intentions onto Democrats when the most blatant acts of bias and rancidly selfish, short-sighted partisanship in recent memory were committed by conservatives like Katherine Harris and the plants responsible for “the Brooks Brothers riot” during the infamous Bush v. Gore recount.  These people look at our society and our politics in such a two-dimensional manner that it appears impossible to them that these public servants and officials in Minnesota aren’t as prejudiced, corrupt and compromised as they are in their thoughts and dealings and therefor incapable of making an honest decision in the best interests of the public as codified by the constitution.  It starts with things like Reagan’s gibberish “Never speak ill of your fellow Republican” platitude, which if you think about it plainly tells you that their allegiance is always to their crooked little team/party first, not country.  The miserable, mush-mouthed McCain campaign tried to turn this inside out and project it onto Obama and the Democrats with their “Country First” gambit and for once people saw through it.

Like Pareene’s lament for a “fact-based world,” it’s as if Weiner knew that no matter how much honest, non-partisan work the lawyers, judges and canvassing board officials did, any result that didn’t favor Coleman was going to be cast by conservatives as biased and illegitimate, so belaboring the point of the political affiliations of the judges who made these pivotal decisions was a sad necessity of his work.  Towards the end of the book, Weiner cites a Wall Street Journal editorial (date is not specified), that attempts to establish a foothold for the “Coleman won the election but lost the recount” meme by stating that “Mr. Franken now goes to the Senate having effectively stolen an election.”  Weiner reacts bluntly to ludicrous assertions of this nature on page 226 of This is Not Florida:

“Stolen? If so, it was theft in plain view of a dozen judges, four of whom sat on the state Canvassing Board, the three judge trial panel picked by the Supreme Court, and a five judge Minnesota Supreme Court, with three judges appointed by Republican governors.  All thieves, no doubt.”

The truth is out there; and very easy to find to Mr. Miller.

In Weiner’s detailed observation of the recount and election trial, Coleman ultimately lost in court because, besides garnering more legally cast votes, Franken’s campaign, at the behest of the DSCC, had prepared for a recount and had recount action plans in place, as well as the specific lawyers, in-mind, and at the ready, to step in execute them immediately in the event a recount was necessary.  Lawyers such as Marc Elias and Chris Sautter who specialize in electoral law and recount litigation were hastily dispatched to Minnesota on Franken’s behalf.  Sautter, in particular, was extremely experienced and well-versed in recounts co-authoring The Recount Primer, literally the proverbial book on the subject.  In response, and in a typical move indicative of the misjudgments that would mar Coleman’s recount efforts, Coleman and his people chose a successful criminal defense lawyer named Joe Friedberg to be his lead election trial attorney.  Weiner analyzes Friedberg’s appointment in the following passage:

“Friedberg’s strength was his ability to woo jurors.  There would be none in this case.  His strength was in finding holes in a prosecutor’s case; in this trial, Friedberg would have to present the case.  He was skilled in cross-examination.  This Coleman case Friedberg was about to present would rely on direct examination.”  (Weiner p. 158)

Not only were Franken’s lawyers and campaign operatives more prepared, they harvested data better, keeping precise track of every call made on every challenged absentee ballot, following Sautter’s hard-won advice to always “keep track of the call at the table” which his experience:

“taught him that what a local judge decides during the hand recount is almost always what the more centralized Canvassing Board decides once the process moves to the next level and the votes are formally and finally counted”  (Weiner p. 49)

Superior preparation and informed legal strategies like this are why Franken prevailed.  As Weiner notes, “On this meticulous exercise, the Coleman team fumbled the ball.  According to just about every Coleman staffer and legal adviser, his campaign was not diligent in tracking every day exactly how the recount went in all 106 recount sites.” (Weiner p. 49)  Also, by all accounts, Democrats in Minnesota had far superior data on who their voters where and what precincts they lived in so that they could target absentee ballots in specific counties secure in the knowledge that a higher percentage of votes would surely be theirs when the ballots were examined.

Ultimately the state Supreme Court handed down a “per curiam,” or unanimous, opinion affirming “the decision of the trial court (also unanimous) that Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast.”  (Weiner p.214).  In an excellent, wide-ranging analysis Ohio State Law School professor Edward Foley wrote that “this unanimous affirmance of a unanimous trial court will stand as a model for how hard-fought battles over the winner of a high stakes election should be handled” before concluding:

“The Minnesota Supreme Court’s unanimity in Coleman v. Franken will stand the test of time as a model of judicial impartiality in the resolution of an intensely combative election contest because the membership of that court is politically diverse and because its decision follows upon the unanimity of a comparably diverse three-judge trial court.

No one can reasonably accuse Minnesota’s judiciary of favoring Franken because he was a Democrat.  The ruling and the reasoning of the judiciary would have been the same if the positions of the candidates had been reversed.”

So despite mountains of evidence, testimony and unanimous legal sanction and uncommon uniformity of judicial opinion, certain dregs of the conservative movement insist on casting aspersions on this election in bold defiance of an incontrovertible truth.   It is time for these lies, to be called what they are and expelled with extreme prejudice from our system, and it’s fitting that the man’s name at the center of this latest slur wrote the blueprint on calling out “lies and the lying liars who tell them.”  I’d love to see honest journalists and pundits follow suit.