The new debate over war powers, defense policy, and the National Guard
Benson Scotch appeared at the University of Wisconsin Law School on April 2, 2009, together with special guest State Representative Spencer Black, lead sponsor of WI National Guard federalization review legislation
Last August hundreds of people from across the country convened in Madison, WI for the 2nd Democracy Convention. Made up of nine individual conferences, the Convention was an extraordinary space for individuals and organizations to network with and learn from one another in the service of building a larger, more dynamic democracy movement.
If George W. Bush – notorious for skipping his Texas Air National Guard drills during the Vietnam War – were in the Guard today, he’d be up in the air without a propeller.
That’s because today’s National Guard has become virtually indistinguishable from the nation’s active-duty forces in the war zone. The majority of these so-called part-time soldiers have served combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many– if not most – deployed more than once.
As of April 24, 622 members of the Guard have been killed [.pdf] in the two-front war since 2001. Forget the whole bit about “weekend warriors” – reservists have become indispensable to the ongoing overseas operations since Bush himself launched the country into war nine years ago.
Despite the heat and threat of thunderstorms, about 500 African-Americans are gathered in Rowlett Park for an end-of-summer day of barbecuing, dancing and playing cards. It’s the fifth annual Old School Picnic, a community park jam that brings together two black neighborhoods that were torn apart when the College Hill and Ponce de Leon public housing projects were razed in 2000. Earlier that morning, President Barack Obama held a massive campaign rally in nearby St. Petersburg, trying to turn out every last vote in this key swing state. The week before, Republicans had made their big bid for Florida at their national convention.
Democracy Now discusses how voter suppression in the 2012 elections will prevent millions of eligible voters from being able to cast a ballot or have their ballot counted. Greg Palast is the author of the recently released New York Times bestseller, "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps."
In a forthcoming law review article, Richard Briffault of Columbia Law School argues that the rise of super PACs and unfettered contributions and spending this election cycle are “effectively ending the post-Watergate era of campaign finance laws.”
To help understand what is shaping up as a watershed election cycle, I asked Briffault to explain the path that took the country from stringent post-Watergate contribution limits through Citizens United to today’s multi-billion-dollar free-for-all.
On Wednesday, October 10, eight lawyers from five different law firms in northern Virginia assembled in a DLA Piper conference room here for voter protection training from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. It was the first of fifteen training sessions before election day in this crucial battleground state.
The Election Protection coalition plans to recruit 10,000 volunteers to assist at the polls during early voting and on election day in twenty states, particularly in high-turnout minority voting areas and historically disenfranchised communities. It will staff thirty-two call centers in English and Spanish through its 866-Our-Vote hotline. This conference room will be one of them.
Ten states now have unprecedented restrictive voter ID laws. Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin all require citizens to produce specific types of government-issued photo identification before they can cast a vote that will count. Legal precedent requires these states to provide free photo ID to eligible voters who do not have one. Unfortunately, these free IDs are not equally accessible to all voters. This report is the first comprehensive assessment of the difficulties that eligible voters face in obtaining free photo ID.
This report reviews how prepared each state is to ensure that every eligible voter can vote, and that every
vote is counted as cast. Because we cannot predict where machines will fail during the upcoming national
election, every state should be as prepared as possible for system failures.
The Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Newark Constitutional Litigation Clinic and
Common Cause surveyed states’ voting equipment and ranked the states according to their preparedness.
The rankings are based on how states laws and practices compare to a set of best practices already being
used in some places.
In the past two years, states across the country passed a wave of laws that could make it harder to vote. The Brennan Center chronicled these laws in our report, Voting Law Changes in 2012(originally published on October 3, 2011)
UPDATED 10/16/2012: Voting Laws in effect for the 2012 election
Fourteen states have passed restrictive voting laws and executive actions that have the potential to impact the 2012 election, representing 185 electoral votes, or 68 percent of the total needed to win the presidency.
A breakdown of laws and executive actions in effect in 2012:
If We the People are sovereign, we must control the government. Corporations are created and chartered by the government which, acting on behalf of We the People, gives corporations privileges, not rights. Neither the government, without the consent of the governed, nor corporations have the right to rule over the people. Since corporations have gained the legal status of persons, corporations have accumulated rights and become rulers — in other words, they can tell the government what to do.
The much-delayed work of setting federal standards for electronic voting machines is speeding up, and there is reason for concern. Voting machine companies and their supporters have been given a large say in the process, while advocates for voters, including those who insist on the use of voter-verified paper receipts, have been pushed to the margins. Election officials and machine makers may be betting that after the presidential election, ordinary Americans have lost interest in the mechanics of the ballot. But Americans do care, and it is unlikely that they will be satisfied by a process in which special interests dominate, or by a result that does not ensure vote totals that can be trusted.
When news broke that California's electronic voting machines were vulnerable to cyber-attack, it was a team of computer scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, who hacked one of the systems, eventually leading California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to bar use of the machine in state elections.
"We tried to violate their security any way we could," Giovanni Vigna said of the machines, manufactured by Sequoia and until recently in use in Ventura County. "We successfully compromised the system."
On August 28, 2006, the Brennan Center released a report and policy proposals regarding the performance of various voting systems and their ability to allow voters to cast valid ballots that reflect their intended choices without undue delay or burdens. This system quality is known as usability. Following several high-profile controversies in the last few elections including most notoriously, the 2000 controversy over the butterfly ballot in Palm Beach voting system usability is a subject of utmost concern to voters and election officials.
The way the two major parties control the presidential debates is a perfect microcosm of how political debates are restricted in general. Though typically shrouded in secrecy, several facts about this process have recently come to light and they are quite instructive.
Democracy Now interviews author George Farah and Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald about how the Commission on Presidential Debates restricts the ability of the presidential debates to be fair and open. The broadcast ends with an interview with two of the leaders in the Chilean student movement, which recieved an award for organizing Chile's largest protests for free higher education. (skip past headlines to get to interviews):
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will weigh in on the controversy over voter fraud and decide early next year whether Arizona can require residents to show proof of their citizenship before they register to vote.
The justices agreed to hear Arizona's appeal of an anti-fraud provision that was adopted as a ballot initiative in 2004, but was struck down by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Jane Platten gestured, bleary-eyed, into the secure room filled with voting machines. It was 3 a.m. on Nov. 7, and she had been working for 22 hours straight. “I guess we’ve seen how technology can affect an election,” she said. The electronic voting machines in Cleveland were causing trouble again.