Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Archive for April 7th, 2011

GOP County Clerk Dinged For Past Elections Handling “Finds” 7,381 Votes For Prosser

Posted by Phoenix Woman on April 7, 2011

Photo by Invisible Hour (Flickr Creative Commons)

Something is stinky in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. A whole bunch of people are calling shenanigans over this:

Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus just announced that she forgot to report votes from the City of Brookfield on election night, giving Justice David Prosser an additional 7,381 vote edge, ending any free recount possibilities, and giving Prosser the election.

The scenario, given the cast of characters, requires one to suspend disbelief to accept it as true.

Nickolaus, a highly partisan Republican who formerly worked in the Republican Assembly caucus, has been under fire for insisting on keeping voting records in her own personal computer rather than using a more sophisticated system most of the rest of Wisconsin uses.

Who brings us the news?  Not a legitimate media outlet, but Christian Schneider, an operative of the right-wing Wisconsin Public Research Institute.  The first “breaking news” came from the National Review Online. How did he get the news?

Nickolaus said in a news conference tonight that “human error” was responsible for her failure to include City of Brookfield totals in the vote counts she reported for Waukesha County on election night.

“It was human error … which I apologize for … which is common,” she said somewhat haltingly.

In fact, earlier in the day, before the magic laptop votes appeared, One Wisconsin Now noted the really odd poll results pattern in Waukesha County:

On Tuesday, shockingly-large turnout suddenly emerged from Waukesha County, which did not comport with either the results of previous spring elections, or even internal estimates from city officials mid-day. In fact, a Waukesha City Deputy Clerk said at 1:18pm that turnout was very typical, predicting somewhere between 20 to 25 percent. As Tuesday night wore on, reporting in Waukesha County stopped altogether for hours, leaving observers to wonder what was going on. Then suddenly, results suggesting massive turnout started to pour in rapidly with Prosser adding dramatically to his total by a 73-27 percent margin.

One Wisconsin Now estimates put overall turnout near 38 percent, a wild outlier to historical data and the earlier mid-day estimation of Waukesha’s own officials. In April 2009, turnout was 20 percent; April 2008, turnout was 22 percent and in April 2007, turnout was 24 percent. All of these elections had hotly-contested Supreme Court races as well.

And when you add in the fact that Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, a former staffer for the Republican State Assembly Caucus when Prosser led that caucus, has been chastised before and repeatedly for her secrecy and her rather hinky handling of election data, suddenly things start to look REALLY suspicious.

Here’s what super-duper stinky about this: If these magic laptop votes, discovered two days after the election, are allowed to stand, they make it so that Prosser’s margin is just large enough to avoid an automatic recount; Kloppenburg would have to pay for one if she wanted one. How convenient — for Prosser, who used to be her boss. What a coincidence — that they would be found in a county whose voting system was run by someone known for her penchant for secrecy and cutting corners, as well as being a hardcore Republican ideologue.

(Crossposted to Renaissance Post.)

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How free are we?

Posted by Charles II on April 7, 2011

The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.
The enjoyment — The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

These are the simple, the basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor — anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. FDR, 1/6/41

There are not jackbooted soldiers in the streets of America.
There is not a gigantic gulag filled with political prisoners.
There is more than one political party.
Americans are not forced to attend meetings for political indoctrination.
There are many newspapers, radio stations, and television stations.

And yet, the United States shows a number of the hallmarks of a nation under authoritarian rule.

* Certain forms of torture are explicitly claimed to be legal, as is targeted assassination (indeed, torture is routinely used against common criminals in US prisons).
*One fourth of the prisoners in the world are in the United States.
* Five million people are outright excluded from political participation.
* The public shows very high levels of misinformation on many important issues.
* The press refuses to discuss certain topics, or does so in perverse ways.
* Jackbooted thugs have been deployed in the streets of one city, New Orleans.
* Numerous people are prevented from working for what amount to political reasons. These include whistleblowers, union activists, other political activists, but also, for example, non-fundamentalist Christians in fundamentalist sections of the country.
* A governor has threatened to use the National Guard against peaceful protestors, and another has arrogated to himself the power to seize and disincorporate towns and cities.
* People are afraid to talk openly, especially in public spaces, about controversial topics.
* Activists are arrested and imprisoned over increasingly vague crimes, particularly using the anti-terror statutes.
* Political figures are hounded (Clinton) and even jailed (Siegelman) using phony scandals.

What confuses the issue is that in authoritarian countries, the central authority is usually the State. In the United States, elected/appointed officials are only a part of the State. The major banks, for example, control the Federal Reserve and therefore enormous wealth. Corporate wealth is highly concentrated, such that perhaps 200 people sitting on the boards of the top corporations control the flow of most of the wealth of the nation. The press is highly concentrated and the control of it rests in the hands of a few dozen board members and CEOs. A few dozen billionaires control a disproportionate amount of wealth. So, to the roughly 600 key elected officials in Washington, the top leaders of the military and intelligence agencies, the nine Supreme Court Justices, the fifty governors and the 200 top legislative officials of the states, and the mayors of the largest 20 cities: add another 500 key players in finance and media, whose power clearly rivals that of the elected government: that is the American government.

By this estimate, fewer than 1500 human beings decide the fate of 300 million others. Of that 1500, probably fewer than 100 are central to what happens. This is roughly the size of the Soviet decision-making apparatus. That there are divisions of opinion within this government does not make it less authoritarian. As Wikipedia says,

“In practice, however, the degree of control the party was able to exercise over the state bureaucracy, particularly after the death of Stalin, was far from total, with the bureaucracy pursuing different interests that were at times in conflict with the party. Nor was the party itself monolithic from top to bottom, although factions were officially banned.”

The US in 2011 is not the Soviet Union in 1932-3. But is it free?

* When the public routinely understands the issues…
* When one of the channels on my television comes from a union…
* When torture is banned in jails…
* When money doesn’t rule politics…
* When people freely talk politics and religion…
* When no one is afraid to send a letter to the editor…
* When everyone can vote, and almost everyone wants to…
* When no one is denied a job because of political belief or for being honest…
* When fear of hunger, homelessness, and denial of medical insurance are not used as intimidation by employers…

Then, I will start to think of the United States as a free nation. And I think that FDR would agree that this is not a vision of a distant millennium, but something that can and should be accomplished in our lifetimes.

Posted in freedom | 1 Comment »

The Zoetrope: An Open-Source Do-It-Yourself Wind Turbine

Posted by Phoenix Woman on April 7, 2011

Thanks to Jo6pac for tipping us off to this great idea:

If you live in an area that sees a fair amount of wind and you’d like to reduce your utility bill by harnessing some of that wind power, a wind turbine might be a good idea. The trouble with most commercially made home wind turbines, though, is that they’re fairly expensive, extremely tall and, if you have neighbors, they might not appreciate the new addition to the neighborhood.

Washington state resident Mike Marohn commissioned an inventive alternative. It’s called The Zoetrope and it’s a vertical-axis wind turbine made out of easily attainable parts and, according to this article, it can be assembled by just about anyone.

More information on it can be found here.

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