Tag Archives | Elections

The Wool Over Our Eyes

P2PStills51

No one likes having the wool pulled over their eyes. Now imagine wealthy CEOs hiring millions of knitters to blanket your entire city with a massive wool sweater, soaked in gasoline. That’s what dark money is. It’s rich interests that already have millions to burn, but would rather spend that money on polluting our election process and muffling the public’s voice. And they are going through ever-greater hoops to hide the source of the money in this election cycle, precisely because people seeing the truth is bad for their cause.

What our founding fathers and mothers set forth in America was an experiment in democracy, one that seemed daring at first independent of a monarch, but soon needed to enfranchise the rest of its citizens. To those that came before us, who sought to build a better life for their children, the right to participate in our democratic process was paramount to what it meant to be free.… Read the rest

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Citizens United, Explained With Dogs

It is an antiquated rule banning cameras from the Supreme Court, when they are public proceedings affecting all Americans. John Oliver was right to challenge this seclusion from the public eye on his recent episode of Last Week Tonight when he had no choice but to dramatize courtroom proceedings with a bench of jurist dogs. Clearly a better means of public information is necessary for the highest court in the land.

Until then, here is a case that is often mentioned, though is still not clear to all: Citizens United vs. FEC, which said that corporations have the right to spend unlimited outside money in elections. Working with interviews compiled for my documentary exploring the Citizens United decision, PAY 2 PLAY, I have re-mixed the footage to include the Supreme Court of Canines.

This election cycle shows that the impacts of Citizens United are no laughing matter, with more anonymous money flowing through our elections than ever.

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Election Conspiracy Theories Are An American Staple

Many (if not most) Americans think that illegal or unfair tactics are used to influence political elections. The Los Angeles Times casts these beliefs as conspiracy theories, but does that make them any less true?

During this 2014 midterm election season, mainstream and social media have inundated voters with tales of schemes and skulduggery. Whatever the result of Tuesday’s election, many will believe that the process was rigged, the outcome is fraudulent, and they were cheated. The pattern of conspiracy theories is unfortunate but familiar.

Voting machine lever

How pervasive is the belief that American elections will be swayed by improper means? Very. In 2012 we conducted surveys to gauge what Americans thought about the integrity of the system. Just before the election, we asked a national sample of respondents about the likelihood of voter fraud if their preferred presidential candidate did not win. About 50% said fraud would have been very or somewhat likely.

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An Open Letter to My Democratic Spammer

Campaign signs, Santa Ana, 1926 by Orange County Archives via Flickr (CC by 2.0).

Campaign signs, Santa Ana, 1926 by Orange County Archives via Flickr (CC by 2.0).

Writing and covering politics, I pretty much end up on everyone’s campaign fundraising list during election season. No one ever asks, one day I simply get a new email that sounds similar to every other email screaming about how if no one donates money now the Koch brothers will own us forever or just a little more dough will make a huge difference to the campaign and “don’t you want to see real change in (insert city/state/country)?”

Sorry guys, just because I covered the time you showed up to a march somewhere or said something mildly interesting that had more substance than a 20 second talking point once doesn’t mean I want to open my barren wallet and give you the dust, lint and crumpled business cards inside. Forget about money, I’d much rather eat tonight and your fundraising dinner with the bag boiled vegetables and bland chicken is worth less than the frozen pizza in the back of the ice cabinet at the liquor store I’m surviving on.… Read the rest

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Hormones Affect Voting Behavior, Researchers Find

voting1Via ScienceDaily:

Researchers from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and Rice University have released a study that shows hormone levels can affect voter turnout.

As witnessed by recent voter turnout in primary elections, participation in U.S. national elections is low, relative to other western democracies. In fact, voter turnout in biennial national elections ranges includes only 40 to 60 percent of eligible voters.

The study, published June 22 in Physiology and Behavior, reports that while participation in electoral politics is affected by a host of social and demographic variables, there are also biological factors that may play a role, as well. Specifically, the paper points to low levels of the stress hormone cortisol as a strong predictor of actual voting behavior, determined via voting records maintained by the Secretary of State.

“Politics and political participation is an inherently stressful activity,” explained the paper’s lead author, Jeff French, Varner Professor of Psychology and Biology and director of UNO’s neuroscience program.

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US Supreme Court Opens Up Federal Elections To Richest Bidders

Make no mistake, the US Supreme Court’s decision to remove limits on monetary donations to candidates for federal political office is a game changer. The New York Times editorial board weighs in on the implications:

John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice of the United States of America.

John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice of the United States of America.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its crusade to knock down all barriers to the distorting power of money on American elections. In the court’s most significant campaign-finance ruling since Citizens United in 2010, five justices voted to eliminate sensible and long-established contribution limits to federal political campaigns. Listening to their reasoning, one could almost imagine that the case was simply about the freedom of speech in the context of elections.

“There is no right more basic in our democracy,” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote in the opening of his opinion for the court in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, “than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.”

But make no mistake, like other rulings by the Roberts court that have chipped away at campaign-finance regulations in recent years, the McCutcheon decision is less about free speech than about giving those few people with the most money the loudest voice in politics.

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The Lottocracy Has Arrived: Say Goodbye (and Good Riddance!) to Campaigns, Candidates, and Elections

Pic: USGOV (PD)

Pic: USGOV (PD)

“It is accepted as democratic when public offices are allocated by lot, and as oligarchic when they are filled by election.” – Aristotle (Politics IV. 9, 1294b8)

I was in the process of cobbling together a piece on sortition (the selection of government officials by lottery) but it turns out that Alexander Guerrero – an assistant professor of philosophy, medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania – has beaten me to the punch, and then some! He has written a superb essay about the subject and has also come up with an alternative system which he has dubbed “the lottocracy”, an idea which is challenging, thought-provoking, and incredibly hopeful…

So what’s wrong with the system of representation which we currently employ?

“In the presence of widespread citizen ignorance and the absence of meaningful accountability, powerful interests will effectively capture representatives, ensuring that the only viable candidates — the only people who can get and stay in political power — are those who will act in ways that are congenial to the interests of the powerful.”

What is the historical precedent for sortition?

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Voting Machine Manufacturer Diebold Charged Over Bribery, Fraud, And “Worldwide Pattern Of Criminal Conduct”

dieboldNo big deal, they were just the company in charge of making sure that democracy happened. Via the BRAD BLOG:

One of the world’s largest ATM manufacturers and, formerly, one of the largest manufacturers of electronic voting systems, has been indicted by federal prosecutors for bribery and falsification of documents.

The charges represent only the latest in a long series of criminal and/or unethical misconduct by Diebold, Inc. and their executives over the past decade.

A U.S. Attorney says the latest charges are in response to “a worldwide pattern of criminal conduct” by the company…bribing government officials and falsifying documents in China, Indonesia and Russia to obtain and retain contracts to provide ATMs to banks in those countries.

In 2010 the company settled an SEC fraud suit for $25 million. They also admitted in 2008 that they had overstated 2007 election division revenue by some 300% in hopes of manipulating stock prices.

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The Tea Party Is Over

Reading the recent post about how Ted Cruz is some Biblically-prophecied “anointed king” caused me to have a severe horror flashback of the previous Republican administration, in which the commander-in-chief  of that time essentially declared the “divine right of kings” as the reason for his place in the Oval Office.

But then I come to read that our corporate overlords have decided to deprioritize the Tea Party as an electoral brand. It’s nice to know that fascists plutocrats won’t put just anybody in office.

VIA Yahoo! News:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A slice of corporate America thinks tea partyers have overstayed their welcome in Washington and should be shown the door in next year’s congressional elections[. . .]

Call it the wrath of establishment Republicans and corporate America, always considered the best of friends. Since the Republican takeover of the House in 2010, they’ve watched the GOP insurgents slow a transportation bill and reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, block a treaty governing the high seas and stand in the way of comprehensive immigration legislation.

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Non-Human Holders Of Political Office

mule_voteIs human status a requirement for holding the reigns of power? Via Wikipedia, a brief look at notable and heroic non-human electoral candidates:

Incitatus, the horse of Caligula, who it is alleged became a consul and a priest.

Boston Curtis, a brown mule, was offered as a candidate for a Republican precinct seat in Milton, Washington in 1938, winning 52 to zero.

In 1967, an Ecuadorian foot powder company advertised its product, Pulvapies, as a mayoral candidate in the town of Picoazá. Surprisingly, the foot powder won by a clear majority.

Pigasus the Immortal, a boar hog that the Yippies nominated as a candidate in the U.S. presidential election, 1968.

The mayor of Sunol, California was, for ten years (1981–1990), a black Labrador-Rottweiler named Bosco.

Tião, a bad-tempered chimpanzee, was put forward by the fictional Brazilian Banana Party (Partido Bananista Brasileiro, actually the satirical group Casseta & Planeta) as a candidate for the Rio de Janeiro mayoralty in 1988.

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