Truth

Covert US Program Used Social Media to Subvert Cuban Government

April 3, 2014

 

WASHINGTON, DC – The Associated Press revealed the existence of a secret government program implemented by the US Agency for International Development (USAid) designed to foment political instability in Cuba by using a mobile social media app called Zunzuneo.

The plan behind the fraudulent Twitter-like messaging service was to first build up an unsuspecting dedicated readership before eventually introducing subversive political content to users. Possible tactics involved encouraging the creation of spontaneous “smart mobs” which might oppose the Castro regime. At its height over 40,000 Cubans were active on the social media platform.

The program began development in 2010 and was made possible by the acquisition of over 500,000 Cuban mobile numbers. In a country with heavily restricted communications, the US government saw mobiles as a unique opportunity to directly influence Cuban citizens. Any evidence implicating the US government was carefully concealed by an elaborate series of offshore shell companies.

USAid is generally known as a humanitarian organization and not an intelligence agency. Their officials claim the Zunzuneo program falls under the “democracy promotion” section of its mission. The legality of the program is under question.

 

Fiction

Covert Russian Program Used Social Media to Subvert US Government

September 3, 2016

 

MOSCOW – The Associated Press revealed the existence of a secret government program implemented by the Russian Agency for International Development (RUSaid) designed to foment political instability in the US by using a mobile social media app called WhatsApp.

The plan behind the fraudulent Twitter-like messaging service was to first build up an unsuspecting dedicated readership before eventually introducing subversive political content to users. Possible tactics involved encouraging the creation of spontaneous “smart mobs” which might oppose the Obama Administration. Over 40 million Americans were active on the fake platform.

The program began development in 2010 and was made possible by the acquisition of over 5 million US mobile numbers. In a country with heavily monitored communications, the Russian government saw mobiles as a unique opportunity to directly influence US citizens. Any evidence implicating the Russia was carefully concealed by an elaborate series of offshore shell companies.

RUSAid is generally known as a humanitarian organization and not an intelligence agency. Their officials claim the WhatsApp program falls under the “international development” section of its mission. The legality of the program is under question.

Take-Away

Despite the absence of any direct evidence, Russia has been making regular headlines lately about its supposed interference in the 2016 US presidential election. Coverage rarely acknowledges the fact that the US has a long history of attempting to influence foreign elections.

Do you remember back in 2014 when the story broke about a secret US campaign to use a Twitter-like social media platform to spark political rebellion within Cuba? It was a fairly major news story but coverage wasn’t a fraction of the current speculation surrounding Russia’s theoretical machinations.

How big of a story do you think it would be if WhatsApp turned out to be a secret Russian program designed to foment political revolution in the US?

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Truth

Angry US Response to EC Tax Ruling on Apple

August 30, 2016

 

WASHINGTON, DC – The BBC reported today that the United States government strongly opposes the European Commission’s bombshell ruling that Apple owes €13bn in back taxes.

Democratic Senator Charles Schumer called the decision a “cheap money grab by the European Commission.” The US Treasury warned the European Union is undermining the sovereignty of member countries and becoming too powerful as a tax collecting authority. Even the Obama Administration issued a statement asserting US taxpayers would be denied the €13bn in revenue that would otherwise be paid when Apple eventually repatriates its immense overseas profits.

The ruling was reached after a three year investigation. The commission found that Ireland had negotiated an unfair tax deal with Apple that allowed them to pay an effective corporate tax rate of less than 1%, far below the standard tax rates of the US or Ireland. But commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the initial tax deal was unlawful. “Member states cannot give tax benefits to selected companies – this is illegal under EU state aid rules.”

Both Apple and the Irish government vocally condemned the ruling claiming it will damage investment and employment in Ireland and throughout Europe. Apple maintains it has not broken any tax laws and intends to appeal the ruling.

 

Fiction

Angry US Response to EC Tax Ruling on Chevron

August 30, 2016

 

WASHINGTON, DC -The BBC reported today that the United States government strongly opposes the European Commission’s bombshell ruling that Chevron owes €13bn in back taxes.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called the decision a “cheap money grab by the European Commission.” The US Treasury warned the European Union is undermining the sovereignty of member countries and becoming too powerful as a tax collecting authority. Even the Obama Administration issued a statement asserting US taxpayers would be denied the €13bn in revenue that would otherwise be paid when Apple eventually repatriates its immense overseas profits.

The ruling was reached after a three year investigation. The commission found that Germany had negotiated an unfair tax deal with Chevron that allowed them to pay an effective corporate tax rate of less than 1%, far below the standard tax rates of the US or Germany. But Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the initial tax deal was unlawful. “Member states cannot give tax benefits to selected companies – this is illegal under EU state aid rules.”

Both Chevron and the German government condemned the ruling claiming it will damage investment and employment in Ireland and throughout Europe. Chevron maintains it has not broken the law and intends to appeal the ruling.

Take-Away

Most Americans loathe tax dodging multinational corporations. And the EU Apple ruling has indeed sparked anger in America, but mainly at the EU itself. For some reason, when ruling tech giants like Google, Facebook and Apple shelter overseas profits it doesn’t incur the same public wrath as when wealthy individuals, energy corporations or banks do the same. Why is that?

Are you a personal fan of Apple? Does that impact how you feel about their tax practices? Would you be more upset if ExxonMobil or Monsanto were instead in a confrontation over taxes with the European Union? Is tax dodging inherently immoral, or does it matter who is doing the dodging?

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Truth

Sanders’ Illegitimate Son Non-Issue

May 31, 2016

 

Burlington, V.T. – Many Americans would be surprised to learn that Senator Bernie Sanders’ son was born out of wedlock. This striking personal detail is highly unusual for an American elected official, let alone someone running for president. Sanders has long been known for deflecting media inquiries into his personal life. But the intense media scrutiny of a national campaign has cast renewed focus on his past. Even so, the revelation appears to have generated little interest from voters.

Levi Noah Sanders was born on March 21, 1969 at Brightlook Hospital in St. Johnsbury, Vermont to the senator’s once girlfriend Susan Campbell Mott. Sanders and Campbell agreed to a shared custody arrangement. The boy’s upbringing preceded Sanders’ election to office, a time characterized by spotty employment and unstable income. As Sanders’ campaign gained momentum his son, now 46, has made supportive statements to the press.

Sanders was divorced at the time of the birth, but his previous marriage was not with Campbell. During Sanders’ decades-long tenure as a public official, reporters had at times mistakenly assumed Levi was a product of that first marriage. There is no record of Sanders ever bothering to clarify the issue, or that he was even aware of the mischaracterization.

 

Fiction

Clinton’s Illegitimate Son Non-Issue

May 31, 2016

 

New York, N.Y. – Many Americans would be surprised to learn that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s son was born out of wedlock. This striking personal detail is highly unusual for an elected official, let alone someone running for president. Clinton has long been known for deflecting media inquiries into her personal life. But the intense media scrutiny of a national campaign has cast renewed focus on her past. The revelation appears to have generated little interest from voters.

Samuel John Francis was born on March 21, 1969 at St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock, Arkansas to Clinton’s once boyfriend Mark Francis. Clinton and Francis agreed to a shared custody arrangement. The boy’s upbringing preceded Clinton’s election to office, a time characterized by rigorous studies and a burgeoning law career. As Clinton’s campaign gained momentum her son, now 46, has made supportive statements to the press.

Clinton was divorced at the time of the birth, but her previous marriage was not with Francis. During Clinton’s long tenure as a public official, reporters had at times mistakenly assumed Samuel was a product of that first marriage. There is no record of Clinton ever bothering to clarify the issue, or that she was even aware of the considerable mischaracterization.

Take-Away

The fact that Mitt Romney’s father was born in Mexico led to zero speculation concerning his son’s citizenship. But even when Obama was up for reelection a significant percentage of the US population still believed his loyalties were to Kenya, the birthplace of his father. Many believe racism explains this glaring double standard in the 2012 presidential election.

This time the conspicuous double standard concerns sexism. The fact that Bernie Sanders had a son out of wedlock was an extremely minor issue during his run for the Democratic nomination. Do you believe Hillary Clinton would be treated differently if she had been the candidate with an illegitimate son? To be fair, Clinton has always been the Democratic frontrunner, so a more intense vetting process is to be expected. But even if Sanders managed to win the nomination do you think his illegitimate son would be as much of a liability for him as it would be for Clinton?

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Truth

SEC Settles Fraud Charges With Mortgage Executives

May 31, 2016

 

WASHINGTON, DC – The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced today that First Mortgage Corporation (FMC) of Ontario, California will pay $12.7 to settle a civil fraud case involving the deceptive sale of mortgage-backed securities insured by the Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA).

The SEC alleged FMC knowingly portrayed sound loans as errant by intentionally withholding on-time checks for deposit so the loans could be falsely devalued, sold and repurchased for a profit. The scheme was conducted with the knowledge and approval of six senior executives. Investors did not see any of the illicit gains.

The SEC contends $7.5 million in illegal profits were generated this way between 2011 and 2015. The deceptive tactic was used on hundreds of loans to low income homeowners.

“It is critical that we hold senior management fully accountable for this kind of misconduct, which we were able to accomplish here quickly due to the cooperation of company insiders,” said SEC Enforcement Director Andrew Ceresney.

The settlement was reached with no admission of wrongdoing or criminal conviction. FMC executives agreed not to serve in a public company for five years.

 

Fiction

NYPD Settles Robbery Charges With Bank Thief

May 31, 2016

 

New York N.Y. – The New York Police Department (NYPD) announced today that ringleader Larry Daniel Johnson of Boca Raton, Florida will pay $12.7 to settle a non-violent robbery case involving the unlawful systematic extraction of accountholder bank funds backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

The NYPD alleged Johnson falsely impersonated lawful accountholders and gradually withdrew small amounts of cash from their accounts to avoid detection. The sophisticated scheme was apparently conducted with the continuous aide of multiple collaborators who expected to eventually earn a share of the illicit gains.

The NYPD contends $7.5 million in illegal profits were generated this way between 2011 and 2015. The deceptive tactic was used on hundreds of accounts of low income citizens.

“It is critical that we hold these thieves fully accountable for this kind of misconduct, which we were able to accomplish here quickly due to the cooperation of civilian informants,” said NYPD Chief Bill Bratton in a press conference statement.

The settlement was reached with no admission of wrongdoing or criminal conviction. Johnson agreed not to go near a bank for the next five years.

Take-Away

Nearly a decade after the Great Recession ordinary Americans across the political spectrum are still furious at the lack of even a single conviction for the illegal lending practices that led to the global financial crisis. Under Obama the SEC has conducted a long series of investigations against questionable lending practices, but instead of seeking criminal conviction, the standard procedure is an out of court settlement free of any admission of guilt.

Why Is the theft of millions of dollars from thousands of citizens treated differently when the culprit is a banker? Why does the government choose to settle out of court over and over instead of sending these cheaters to prison? How would the public react if a bank thief was able to settle out of court and avoid prison or even a criminal record?

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Truth

Supreme Court Tie Blocks Obama’s Immigration Order

June 23, 2016

 

WASHINGTON, DC – An evenly split Supreme Court decision today effectively halted President Barack Obama’s controversial executive order to prevent the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants who are related to legal citizens. The order would not have provided protection for convicted felons and was estimated to affect approximately 4 million people. The tie left standing a lower court’s ruling that said Obama’s order exceeded his authority.

Republicans leaders praised the action as a crucial check on presidential overreach. “The president is not permitted to write laws — only Congress is,” House Leader Paul Ryan said in a statement. “This is another major victory in our fight to restore the separation of powers.”

In remarks at a Univision town hall in March 2011 Obama appeared to acknowledge that executive orders affecting deportation were on tenuous legal standing. “With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed.”

Obama, a former constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School, echoed similar sentiments to the National Council of La Raza in July 2011. “I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you. Not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions. That’s not how our Constitution is written.”

But today the President struck a very different tone. “Today’s decision is frustrating to those who seek to grow our economy and bring a rationality to our immigration system, and to allow people to come out of the shadows and lift this perpetual cloud on them.”

 

Fiction

Supreme Court Tie Blocks Trump’s Deportation Order

June 23, 2017

 

WASHINGTON D.C. – An evenly split Supreme Court decision today effectively halted President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order to accelerate the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants who are related to legal citizens. The order would not have provided protection for those without criminal offenses and was estimated to affect over 4 million people. The tie left standing a lower court’s ruling that said Trump’s order exceeded his authority.

Democratic leaders praised the action as a crucial check on presidential overreach. “The president is not permitted to write laws — only Congress is,” House Leader Nanci Pelosi said in a statement. “This is another major victory in our fight to restore the separation of powers.”

In remarks from Trump Tower in March 2016 Trump appeared to acknowledge that executive orders affecting deportation were on tenuous legal standing. “With respect to the notion that I can just increase deportations through executive order, that’s not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed.”

Trump, a longtime advocate of building a security wall on the border with Mexico, echoed similar sentiments during a Fox News interview in July 2016. “I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you. Not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions. That’s not how our Constitution is written.”

But today the President struck a very different tone. “Today’s decision is frustrating to those who seek to grow our economy and bring a rationality to our immigration system, and to force people to come out of the shadows and face the law of the land.”

Take-Away

At first glance this ruling may appear to be about immigration. Many in favor of shielding illegal immigrants from deportation opposed the decision. But was the question before the court actually about immigration or the machinery of American democracy? Should considerations of immigration policy have any bearing on judgment about the separation of powers? What if a different president issued an executive order making immigration more restrictive, and the court still ruled it as an overreach? Would many upset today instead be praising the government’s “checks & balances”? A past statement by Obama suggests he knew his action reached beyond the role of the executive branch. Are his statements hypocritical?

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Truth

Congressmen Urge Expansion Of Japanese Automakers in US

October 13, 2013

 

WASHINGTON – Touting the vast economic benefits of Japanese investment in the U.S., a  group of 79 congressmen sent a letter this week urging President Barack Obama to support Japanese auto manufacturing in America.

The bi-partisan letter was drafted by Democrat Pete P. Gallego and Republican Alan Nunnelee. It sought “to remind the president of the significant contributions these automakers and dealers make to our nation’s economy.”

“Congress and the administration must continue to foster a business climate that promotes the United States as a premier location for global companies to build, sell and export their products,” the letter said.

Japanese automakers have invested nearly $50 billion to establish 29 automotive plants in the U.S. which employ 79,000 Americans. An additional 419,000 Americans are employed at dealerships that sell Japanese cars.

The plea reflects the growing clout of the Japanese auto lobby on Capitol Hill. The letter arrived as the Obama administration is negotiating a wide ranging free trade agreement involving a dozen countries.

American automakers have been actively working to reduce Japan’s influence on the talks. The easing of Import tariffs on Japanese products that protect American companies is a massive threat to American automakers.

 

Fiction

Congressmen Urge Expansion of American Automakers in Mexico

October 13, 2013

 

MEXICO CITY – Touting the vast economic benefits of American investment in Mexico, 79 Mexican senators sent a letter this week urging President Enrique Peña Nietoto to support American auto manufacturing throughout Mexico.

The multi-party letter was drafted by Senators Gerardo Ibarra and Francisco Castellón. It sought “to remind the president of the significant contributions these automakers and dealers make to our nation’s economy.”

“Congress and the administration must continue to foster a business climate that promotes Mexico as a premier location for global companies to build, sell and export their products,” the letter said.

American automakers have invested nearly $25 billion to establish 15 automotive plants in Mexico which employ 38,000 Mexicans. An additional 210,000 Mexicans are employed at dealerships that sell American cars.

The plea reflects the growing clout of the American auto lobby in Mexico City. The letter arrived as President Nieto is negotiating a wide ranging free trade agreement involving a dozen countries.

Mexican automakers have been actively working to reduce America’s influence on the talks. The easing of Import tariffs on American products that protect Mexican companies is a massive threat to Mexican automakers.

Take-Away

Every politician wants to keep American jobs from moving overseas. When an American company relocates factories or offices abroad, this “outsourcing” is seen as a betrayal by American business or as evidence of a hostile domestic business climate.

Yet when a foreign company opens a branch on U.S. soil that provides American jobs, the situation is seen differently.

How do you think the Japanese feel about their automakers “outsourcing” factories to Americans?  How do Mexicans feel about American auto companies providing jobs for their citizens? How do you feel about American automakers opening plants in other countries?

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Truth

Kremlin Uses Vast Propaganda Campaign to Justify Crimea Annexation

March 29, 2014

 

MOSCOW – Russia commemorated the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine with a fervently patriotic celebration in Red Square complete with bands, fireworks and grand political speeches. The event seemed at odds with the fact that Russia had just unilaterally invaded a much smaller country and broken off a huge piece of its sovereign territory, an act much of the world regarded as naked aggression.

Russia’s involvement in Ukraine was made possible by a relentless government disinformation campaign designed to galvanize popular support for military action. The domestic propaganda onslaught successfully fomented widespread nationalist passions and paved the way for annexation.

In the beginning, Ukrainian protesters were depicted as conspiring fascists working closely with insidious Western forces. Fabricated stories of refugees fleeing to Russia fostered the misconception that the burgeoning revolution was a direct threat to Russia.

The Kremlin’s decision to support separatists in eastern Ukraine was initially portrayed as a heroic and noble campaign to ensure the safety of ethnic Russians in Ukrainian. That narrative later developed into a crusade to reclaim Russia’s historic lands, justifying the annexation.

President Vladimir Putin addressed cheering citizens and Russian media in Red Square, painting the land grab as a way for long displaced Russians to return to their homeland.

 

Fiction

Kremlin Uses Vast Propaganda Campaign to Justify Invasion of Iraq

May 1, 2003

 

MOSCOW – Russia commemorated the toppling of Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein with a fervently patriotic celebration in Red Square complete with bands, fireworks and grand political speeches. The event seemed at odds with the fact that Russia had just unilaterally invaded a much smaller country and violently removed their sovereign government, an act much of the world regarded as naked aggression.

Russia’s involvement in Iraq was made possible by a relentless government disinformation campaign designed to galvanize popular support for military action. The domestic propaganda onslaught successfully fomented widespread nationalist passions and paved the way for invasion.

In the beginning, the Iraqi government was depicted as an existential threat working closely with shadowy terrorist forces. Fabricated stories of weapons of mass destruction fostered the misconception that the Saddam Hussein was a direct threat to Russia.

The Kremlin’s decision to unilaterally invade Iraq was initially portrayed as a heroic and noble campaign to ensure the safety of Russian citizens from a nuclear terrorist attack. That narrative later developed into a crusade to remove Saddam Hussein and install a Russian style “democracy”.

President Vladimir Putin addressed cheering citizens and Russian media in Red Square, declaring the swift toppling of Iraq’s government as a “mission accomplished”.

Take-Away

It can be hard to understand how Vladimir Putin’s popularity ratings have actually gone up as he’s fostered civil war in Ukraine. In the US we hear stories of Russia’s pro-war media blitz shamelessly peddling bald faced lies and distortions to its citizens. The propaganda looks so thick and the pretexts so flimsy, one wonders how ordinary Russians fall for it.

But isn’t there something familiar about all this? Didn’t our own population succumb to a government implemented  pro-war campaign to invade Iraq in 2003? Didn’t the rest of the world look on and wonder how Americans could believe tiny and faraway Iraq was an imminent threat?

For those who doubt this characterization of the American media in the run up to the Iraq invasion, consider a study by media watchdog Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting chronicling the vast overrepresentation of pro-war views on network broadcasts despite widespread public opposition to the war.

Other strong parallels exist. The Kremlin’s firing of Russian historian Andrei Zubov for voicing views that “contradict Russia’s foreign policy and inflict careless, irresponsible criticism on the actions of the state,” is reminiscent of MSNBC’s cancellation of Phil Donahue’s talk show after he voiced opposition to the Iraq invasion.

 

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Truth

Study Asks Why Economy Excels Under Democratic Presidents

July 29, 2014

 

Princeton economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson released a study today exploring whether U.S. presidents can significantly affect the economy. The widely reviewed report focuses on why GDP, job growth and other economic measures consistently mark far higher during Democratic versus Republican presidencies.

The paper begins by unequivocally demonstrating that by every major economic indicator, the U.S. economy has performed far better during Democratic presidencies. Though the causes of these numbers are contested, this basic assertion is widely accepted as fact. Unsurprisingly, many Democrats see the statistics as proof of superior governance, while many Republicans view the correlation as a result of luck.

Blinder and Watson next ask whether the composition of Congress or “pure time series explanations—such as changing trends or mean reversion”, can account for the partisan growth gap. The answer is a resounding “no”.

The later sections look at economic factors that might explain the disparity such as global economic conditions, economic policy and circumstances that could be understood as matters of luck. The authors conclude that oil shocks and productivity shocks “each help explain the growth gap”, but do not tell the whole story. Perhaps surprisingly, Blinder and Watson found neither fiscal policy shocks or monetary policy shocks had any statistically significant bearing on economic performance.

The economists ruled out as a significant factor any boost to confidence electing a Democratic president might instill in the general population. The authors note that reliable measurements of public confidence are elusive, so their assessment here appears tentative.

In the end, Blinders and Watson concede their study is inconclusive. They find “luck” factors like oil and productivity shocks can explain up to 62 percent of the partisan growth gap, yet they are far from certain that the remaining 38 percent is attributable to the executive branch. They conclude by acknowledging further study is necessary to explain this contentious phenomenon.

 

Fiction

Study Asks Why Economy Excels Under Republican Presidents

July 29, 2014

 

Princeton economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson released a study today exploring whether U.S. presidents can significantly affect the economy. The widely reviewed report focuses on why GDP, job growth and other economic measures consistently mark far higher during Republican versus Democratic presidencies.

The paper begins by unequivocally demonstrating that by every major economic indicator, the U.S. economy has performed far better during Republican presidencies. Though the causes of these numbers are contested, this basic assertion is widely accepted as fact. Unsurprisingly, many Republicans see the statistics as proof of superior governance, while many Democrats view the correlation as a result of luck.

Blinder and Watson next ask whether the composition of Congress or “pure time series explanations—such as changing trends or mean reversion”, can account for the partisan growth gap. The answer is a resounding “no”.

The later sections look at economic factors that might explain the disparity such as global economic conditions, economic policy and circumstances that could be understood as matters of luck. The authors conclude that oil shocks and productivity shocks “each help explain the growth gap”, but do not tell the whole story. Perhaps surprisingly, Blinder and Watson found neither fiscal policy shocks or monetary policy shocks had any statistically significant bearing on economic performance.

The economists ruled out as a significant factor any boost to confidence electing a Republican president might instill in the general population. The authors note that reliable measurements of public confidence are elusive, so their assessment here appears tentative.

In the end, Blinders and Watson concede their study is inconclusive. They find “luck” factors like oil and productivity shocks can explain up to 62 percent of the partisan growth gap, yet they are far from certain that the remaining 38 percent is attributable to the executive branch. They conclude by acknowledging further study is necessary to explain this contentious phenomenon.

Take-Away

Do you believe the economy responds to the president’s policies? It probably depends on whether you are a Republican or a Democrat.

In the face of these statistics, most Republicans are probably inclined to see the relationship between a president and the economy as limited or at least extremely complicated. But what if this study found the opposite conclusion?

The purpose of today’s entry is not to prove Democratic policies are better for the economy. As usual, the Single Standard contrasts factual events with an alternate reality to expose bias. Today, we are challenging Republicans and Democrats to consider their home team bias.

Republicans, dare to ask yourself, what if the economy consistently performed better by all common metrics only when a Republican was in charge? Would you argue that the president doesn’t deserve any credit? Would you be interested in carefully studying the relationship, or would the general trend be convincing enough?

And to Democrats who believe this phenomenon shows their policies are superior, do you believe Blinder and Watson’s analysis is truly inconclusive? Or do you secretly believe the mere correlation is proof enough?

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Truth

Supreme Court Ruling Determines Bush President

December 12, 2000

 

WASHINGTON – In a narrow partisan vote, the United States Supreme Court struck down a Florida Supreme Court decision today, ending a statewide recount and consequently electing Texas Governor George W. Bush president. This marked the first time in U.S. history where a Supreme Court ruling determined the outcome of a presidential election.

Prominent Democrats immediately contested the ruling, claiming the party line 5 to 4 vote was political. Some said the unusual distinction making the majority opinion “limited to present circumstances” was evidence that the decision was politically motivated. This provision means the ruling will not set a precedent for future cases.

Long before the Supreme Court’s decisive ruling, Democrats portrayed the Florida election process as corrupted by Republican state officials allied to the Bush campaign. Opponents claimed widespread voter disenfranchisement, flawed voting technology in poorer, minority areas, and outright corruption more than made up for Bush’s tiny 537 vote advantage.

Particular scrutiny was cast upon Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a younger brother of George W. Bush, and his role in the recount process. The younger Bush was accused of intentionally purging voting rolls of a disproportionate amount of African Americans, a demographic that votes heavily Democratic. He also held the role of state chairman of his brother’s presidential campaign, though he strongly denied exerting any influence in the recount process.

Democrats also objected to the actions of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who administered the statewide election and recount while simultaneously holding the role of state co-chairman of the Bush campaign. Aside from the apparent conflict of interest, Harris was accused along with the governor of conspiring to unfairly purge voter rolls of poor and minority voters.

Harris was also responsible for initially halting the recount process and declaring Bush the winner. This led to a state circuit court ruling upholding her action, which was then overturned by a Florida state appeals court, thus resuming the recount. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ultimate ruling in Bush v. Gore struck down the appeals court’s verdict, once again ending the recount and declaring Bush the winner.

 

Fiction

Supreme Court Ruling Determines Gore President

December 12, 2000

 

WASHINGTON – In a narrow partisan vote, the United States Supreme Court struck down an Ohio Supreme Court decision today, ending a statewide recount and consequently electing Vice President Al Gore president. This marked the first time in U.S. history where a Supreme Court ruling determined the outcome of a presidential election.

Prominent Republicans immediately contested the ruling, claiming the party line 5 to 4 vote was political. Some said the unusual distinction making the majority opinion “limited to present circumstances” was evidence that the decision was politically motivated. This provision means the ruling will not set a precedent for future cases.

Long before the Supreme Court’s decisive ruling, Republicans portrayed the Ohio election process as corrupted by Democratic state officials allied to the Gore campaign. Opponents claimed widespread voter disenfranchisement, flawed voting technology in richer, whiter areas, and outright corruption more than made up for Gore’s tiny 537 vote advantage.

Particular scrutiny was cast upon Ohio Governor Sam Gore, a younger brother of Al Gore, and his role in the recount process. The younger Gore was accused of intentionally purging voting rolls of a disproportionate amount of senior whites, a demographic that tends to vote heavily Republican. He also held the role of state chairman of his brother’s presidential campaign, though he strongly denied exerting any influence in the recount process.

Republicans also objected to the actions of Ohio Secretary of State Pauline Jones, who administered the statewide election and recount while simultaneously holding the role of state co-chairman of the Gore campaign. Aside from the apparent conflict of interest, Jones was accused along with the governor of conspiring to unfairly purge voter rolls of rich and older voters.

Jones was also responsible for initially halting the recount process and declaring Gore the winner. This led to a state circuit court ruling upholding her action, which was then overturned by an Ohio state appeals court, thus resuming the recount. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ultimate ruling in Gore v. Bush struck down the appeals court’s verdict, once again ending the recount and declaring Gore the winner.

Take-Away

Do you have a hard time understanding liberal rage over the 2000 presidential election? Simply imagine if the tables were turned and a liberal majority on the Supreme Court ruled Gore the winner after his own brother oversaw the recount process. The fictional article above lets us easily imagine such an alternate reality. Can you imagine the response of Republicans and conservatives had things gone this way?

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Truth

Americans View Arab Spring with Increasing Pessimism

October 18, 2012

 

Nearly two years after the political eruptions known as the Arab Spring, Americans are more pessimistic than ever that the conflicts will benefit citizens throughout the Middle East.

A national survey by the Pew Research Center found that a majority (57 percent) of Americans do not believe recent changes in Arab countries will improve the living standards of everyday people, an increase from 43 percent in 2011.

Optimism rapidly deteriorated as democratic governments failed to quickly replace repressive dictatorships. Nascent but partial democracies have struggled to develop following the toppling of governments in Libya and Egypt. Many view increasing violence in Syria as an indication that future democracy is highly unlikely. Elsewhere, government crackdowns and repression dim hopes for political change.

Over half (54 percent) of Americans say political stability is more important in the Middle East than the establishment of democratic governments. Only 30 percent say democracy is a higher priority than stability, down from 37 percent in 2011.

Opinion differed slightly across party lines. Democrats were slightly more optimistic than Republicans and Independents that events of the Arab Spring will generate improved societies.

 

Fiction

Colonists View Revolutionary War with Increasing Pessimism

October 18, 1777

 

Nearly two years after the outbreak of violent resistance against British occupation, separatists are more pessimistic than ever that the conflicts will benefit colonial citizens.

A national survey by the Colonial Research Center found that a majority (57 percent) of colonists do not believe the fight for American independence will improve the living standards of everyday people, an increase from 43 percent in 1775.

Optimism rapidly deteriorated as Washington’s army failed to quickly defeat British military forces. Clashes between revolutionaries and those loyal to the Crown cloud prospects for a viable independent state. Many view increasing violence throughout the colonies as an indication that future democracy is highly unlikely. Repression at the hands of the British navy have dimmed hopes for political change.

Over half (54 percent) of colonists say political stability is more important in the New World than the creation of an independent government. Only 30 percent say democracy is a higher priority than stability, down from 37 percent in 1775.

Opinion differed slightly across party lines. Federalists were slightly more optimistic than anti-federalists and loyalists that the Revolutionary War will generate an improved society.

Take-Away

The recent people-powered revolutions throughout the Middle East have generated widespread suffering, violence and destruction. Sometimes it can be difficult to see the potential for progress.

Today’s story reminds us that democracy is never born without excruciating and prolonged labor pains. A look at U.S. history reveals many parallels with today’s struggles. The American Revolutionary War, which can be seen as a model for democratic development, took decades of political evolution and eight long years of violence to throw off a repressive government and establish a new democracy.

How do you feel about the aftermath of the Arab Spring? Do you believe it will ultimately lead to happier and more democratic societies in the Middle East? Or has the conflict only made the world a more dangerous place? Is it fair to compare the Arab Spring to the American Revolution, or are the historical circumstances too different for a useful comparison?

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