Thursday, December 13, 2012

Israel Is Right To Distrust Chuck Hagel-- But For Entirely Different Reasons


Unless AIPAC can force Obama to change his mind-- or talk enough of the senators they control into defeating the nomination-- it looks like Chuck Hagel will be the next Secretary of Defense. Let's leave his long record of ugly homophobia out of the discussion for now, although "he consistently voted against legislation that would have expanded hate-crime protections to LGBT Americans [and], according to the Human Rights Campaign Congressional Scorecard, he earned a 0 percent for the 107th, 108th and 109th sessions of Congress."

Many Democrats like him because he was the first Republican to oppose John Bolton’s nomination to be Bush's UN ambassador, because he voted with the Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to begin an investigation into the pre-Iraq war intelligence and because he came out against Bush's unprovoked attack on Iraq when few other Republicans dared. In 2008, he opposed his old colleague, John McCain and endorsed Obama for president. Fine, fine... but there's something else to consider that has long been swept under the rug, especially Inside the Beltway-- how Hagel's electronic theft of his Senate election set the stage for Bush stealing the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Early in 2003, Thom Hartmann helped expose how Hagel cheated to win his reelection 2 months earlier.
Maybe Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel honestly won two US Senate elections. Maybe it's true that the citizens of Georgia simply decided that incumbent Democratic Senator Max Cleland, a wildly popular war veteran who lost three limbs in Vietnam, was, as his successful Republican challenger suggested in his campaign ads, too unpatriotic to remain in the Senate. Maybe George W. Bush, Alabama's new Republican governor Bob Riley, and a small but congressionally decisive handful of other long-shot Republican candidates really did win those states where conventional wisdom and straw polls showed them losing in the last few election cycles.

Perhaps, after a half-century of fine-tuning exit polling to such a science that it's now sometimes used to verify how clean elections are in Third World countries, it really did suddenly become inaccurate in the United States in the past six years and just won't work here anymore. Perhaps it's just a coincidence that the sudden rise of inaccurate exit polls happened around the same time corporate-programmed, computer-controlled, modem-capable voting machines began recording and tabulating ballots.

But if any of this is true, there's not much of a paper trail from the voters' hand to prove it.

You'd think in an open democracy that the government-- answerable to all its citizens rather than a handful of corporate officers and stockholders-- would program, repair, and control the voting machines. You'd think the computers that handle our cherished ballots would be open and their software and programming available for public scrutiny. You'd think there would be a paper trail of the vote, which could be followed and audited if a there was evidence of voting fraud or if exit polls disagreed with computerized vote counts.

You'd be wrong.

The respected Washington, DC publication The Hill has confirmed that former conservative radio talk-show host and now Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel was the head of, and continues to own part interest in, the company that owns the company that installed, programmed, and largely ran the voting machines that were used by most of the citizens of Nebraska.

Back when Hagel first ran there for the U.S. Senate in 1996, his company's computer-controlled voting machines showed he'd won stunning upsets in both the primaries and the general election. The Washington Post (1/13/1997) said Hagel's "Senate victory against an incumbent Democratic governor was the major Republican upset in the November election." According to Bev Harris of, Hagel won virtually every demographic group, including many largely Black communities that had never before voted Republican. Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska.

Six years later Hagel ran again, this time against Democrat Charlie Matulka in 2002, and won in a landslide. As his website says, Hagel "was re-elected to his second term in the United States Senate on November 5, 2002 with 83% of the vote. That represents the biggest political victory in the history of Nebraska."

What Hagel's website fails to disclose is that about 80 percent of those votes were counted by computer-controlled voting machines put in place by the company affiliated with Hagel. Built by that company. Programmed by that company.

"This is a big story, bigger than Watergate ever was," said Hagel's Democratic opponent in the 2002 Senate race, Charlie Matulka. "They say Hagel shocked the world, but he didn't shock me."

Is Matulka the sore loser the Hagel campaign paints him as, or is he democracy's proverbial canary in the mineshaft?

..."The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all other rights are protected," wrote Thomas Paine over 200 years ago. "To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery."

That slavery, according to Hagel's last opponent Charlie Matulka, is at our doorstep.

"They can take over our country without firing a shot," Matulka said, "just by taking over our election systems."

Taking over our election systems? Is that really possible in the USA?

Bev Harris of and has looked into the situation in depth and thinks Matulka may be on to something. The company tied to Hagel even threatened her with legal action when she went public about his company having built the machines that counted his landslide votes. (Her response was to put the law firm's threat letter on her website and send a press release to 4000 editors, inviting them to check it out.

"I suspect they're getting ready to do this all across all the states," Matulka said in a January 30, 2003 interview. "God help us if Bush gets his touch screens all across the country," he added, "because they leave no paper trail. These corporations are taking over America, and they just about have control of our voting machines."

...Many citizens believe, however, that turning the programming and maintenance of voting over to private, for-profit corporations, answerable only to their owners, officers, and stockholders, puts democracy itself at peril.

And, argues Charlie Matulka, for a former officer of one of those corporations to then place himself into an election without disclosing such an apparent conflict of interest is to create a parody of democracy.

Perhaps Matulka's been reading too many conspiracy theory tracts. Or maybe he's on to something. We won't know until a truly independent government agency looks into the matter.

When Bev Harris and The Hill's Alexander Bolton pressed the Chief Counsel and Director of the Senate Ethics Committee, the man responsible for ensuring that FEC disclosures are complete, asking him why he'd not questioned Hagel's 1995, 1996, and 2001 failures to disclose the details of his ownership in the company that owned the voting machine company when he ran for the Senate, the Director reportedly met with Hagel's office on Friday, January 25, 2003 and Monday, January 27, 2003. After the second meeting, on the afternoon of January 27th, the Director of the Senate Ethics Committee resigned his job.

Meanwhile, back in Nebraska, Charlie Matulka had requested a hand count of the vote in the election he lost to Hagel. He just learned his request was denied because, he said, Nebraska has a just-passed law that prohibits government-employee election workers from looking at the ballots, even in a recount. The only machines permitted to count votes in Nebraska, he said, are those made and programmed by the corporation formerly run by Hagel.

Matulka shared his news with me, then sighed loud and long on the phone, as if he were watching his children's future evaporate.

"If you want to win the election," he finally said, "just control the machines."
Well, at least he didn't piss off the yentas on the ridiculous Sunday morning TV gab-fests. This is as good a time as any to bring up Barney Frank's new thought piece on the new mandate for the Defense Department, in which he points out that progressives need to stay strong on cutting back on military spending. Remember, Barney was one of the 22 in the group of bipartisan congressmembers who signed a letter this week demanding the military budget be "on the table" in the Grand Bargain deficit reduction negotiations.

There were so many encouraging signs for liberals in the election results this year that one of the most significant has been overlooked. For the first time in my memory, a Democratic candidate for President argued for less military spending against a Republican candidate who called for great increases-- and the Democrat won. George McGovern was the last Democratic candidate to talk about spending less on the military. Subsequently, every Democratic presidential candidate was told that he had better look sufficiently tough on national security because a perception that Democrats were too weak vis-à-vis the Soviet Union was a major point of vulnerability. That is why Michael Dukakis, a public official with an extremely distinguished record, and a man of great dignity and integrity, staged an ill-conceived photo-op of himself wearing a helmet and riding in a tank, which became a negative factor in his campaign.

...In the past few years, with President Obama having completed the withdrawal from Iraq, with the killing of Osama bin Laden, and with the announcement of a plan to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014 (too late, but an improvement over the open-ended commitment Obama inherited), it has become possible to get some political traction for our efforts to cut military spending. Because so much of that spending stems from overreach advocated by those who believe that America should be the enforcer of order everywhere in the world-- and because we subsidize our wealthy European and Asian allies by providing a defense for them so they need not spend much on their own-- there has been increasing conservative support for reining in the military budget. Ron Paul, who goes far beyond most liberals in his eagerness to impose severe military cuts, was a popular figure with a significant base of GOP support not despite taking this position but in part because of it.

Earlier this year, for the first time that I can recall, a majority of the House of Representatives voted to reduce the military appropriation recommended by the House Appropriations Committee. The cut was only $1.1 billion-- less than it should have been-- but it was a decision that froze spending at the previous year’s level, and it passed by a vote of 247-167, with the support of both an overwhelming majority of Democrats (158-21) and a significant minority of Republicans (89-146).

Deficit reduction over the long term must include significant reductions in military spending along with tax increases on the very wealthy if we are to avoid devastating virtually everything we do to promote the quality of life at home. A realistic reassessment of our true national security needs would mean a military budget significantly lower not only than the one President Obama inherited, but that which he now proposes. That is, by next year, we no longer should be forced to spend additional funds-- close to $200 billion a year at their peak-- in Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally, we can reduce the base budget by approximately $1 trillion over a ten-year period (this includes the $487 billion reduction that President Obama proposed in early 2012) while maintaining more than enough military strength to fully protect our security and those of our allies that genuinely need help because they are too poor and weak in the face of powerful enemies. (Should the nation decide in a democratic way to go to war again, that would require an increase in the military budget, and I would hope, in taxation to pay for it.)

Getting the military budget down to that level-- which would mean a reduction of about $250 billion from what it was in the first year of the Obama Administration-- faced two obstacles at the beginning of this past year. First was the traditional political concern that the Republican presidential candidate would have an advantage over the Democrat on the question of who can better protect our national security. Fortunately, Obama understood that things have changed, and that the American people are ready for a reduction in military spending. Governor Romney, operating in the traditional conservative mode, missed it. One of the most important signs that the public was ready to support a rational-- i.e., significantly reduced-- military budget came during Clint Eastwood’s ramble at the Republican National Convention. One of the few coherent things he said in that memorable debate that he lost to a chair was that the President should have announced his willingness to pull out of Afghanistan altogether. This criticism of the President from an antiwar position elicited cheers from the Republican delegates.

...Given the numbers involved, the major trade-off in putting together a total deficit reduction package is between the military and health care, by far the biggest nondefense spending item in our budget. Reductions in Medicare, Medicaid, grants from the National Institutes of Health, aid to hospitals, etc., clearly will have far worse social consequences than equivalent cuts in the military and, I believe, more damaging economic effects, because there is more of an economic multiplier from the health expenditures than from military spending.

...[B]eing the strongest nation in the world can be achieved much less expensively than at current levels. Obama deserves a great deal of credit for ending the war in Iraq, for committing to ending the war in Afghanistan, and for successfully withstanding Republican pressure to spend more on the military. But I believe he underestimates the extent to which the public is willing to support even further reductions, and I believe that he may appear to be overly influenced by being told that as President, he has the duty to continue to lead the indispensable nation.

The United States was indispensable in 1945 and for many years thereafter, given the weakness of other nations, including our closest allies, and the strength of the Soviet Union. But things have changed. We can no longer afford to be the indispensable nation extending a military umbrella over many allies on whom it is not raining-- and who can well afford their own protective gear if it does. Fortunately, there is no longer any need for us to play that role, and that in turn is fortunate because, for a number of reasons, we cannot succeed at the job when we try.

This all means that a major political task going forward for liberals is pushing for further reductions in military spending, an objective that we now know is not only socially and economically necessary but also politically achievable.

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At 9:25 PM, Anonymous me said...

O'Bummer strikes again.


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