The Malkin thing
Thursday, November 10, 2005
OK, so one of my regular readers has already wondered out loud if I'm obsessing over Michelle Malkin -- a fair enough question, since I've been posting a lot about her lately. And I'm going to be doing a lot more over the next week or so.
Let's just say that it's not about the person. And it's not an obsession, exactly. More of a focus.
Most of you will have noticed by now that this blog is primarily dedicated to tracking the extremist right and its interactions with mainstream America -- and especially in the ways extremism expresses itself violently, both as eliminationist rhetoric and thuggish behavior. And of course, as the author of a book on the Japanese American internment, I've written a lot on that subject as well.
So it shouldn't be surprising that Malkin comes up on this blog a lot, for a lot of reasons:
- -- She's written a book of fraudulent history about the internment.
-- Her latest book is about the supposedly "unhinged" nature of modern liberalism, painting liberals as the political bloc most under the influence of extremists.
-- She is herself a classic example of what I call a "transmitter": someone who treads in both the extremist and mainstream right with relative ease, picking up ideas that have circulated in the echo chambers of the far right and repackaging them for mainstream conservative consumption.
So I'm going to be exploring the latter two aspects of her week over the next week or so in a serial review, of sorts, of Unhinged.
And then, I hope, I can let the subject rest for a bit. Certainly, I don't expect to engage in any kind of actual give-and-take with Malkin.
That's because, to date, she's responded to my criticism of her work exactly zero times. Indeed, her response to me so far has been to pretend, as best she can, that I simply don't exist. And I'm sure if you ask her, it has nothing to do with the points I make or the strengths of my arguments. Nope.
Nor does it have anything to do with her backing out of that agreed-to phone interview. No no no.
I expect that it's because I'm "unhinged." Makes for a nice catch-all excuse for cowardice, doesn't it? Especially when you're fond of boasting before audiences of adulating conservatives that you've unflinchingly confronted all your critics openly. Um, all of them but one, that is.
Now, it's true that Malkin has made oblique references to my work, mostly by linking to right-wing hacks who post blather attacking me (for the most, ad hominem). The latest was Michelle's post linking to this nonsense from Brian Maloney, her partner in reporting on the Air America non-story and a Seattle radio personality who seems not to have a show these days. She also links to a Glenn Reynolds post that just approvingly links to Maloney. Here's what Maloney wrote in response to this post:
- Does this sound like anything more than journalistic sour grapes? Malkin's been at this a long time, it's hard to argue she hasn't paid her dues.
Worse, Neiwert is the author of a competing book on Japanese-American internment camps and that's a likely element of his obvious animosity.
Yet this site was linked to a number of liberal blogs this weekend, resulting in much higher than average traffic. Anything to slam your enemies, one supposes.
By the same standard, how many liberal writers would hold up as "journalists"? Why can't a commentator be a journalist? Yes, the times have changed, but Malkin's role is clear to her readership.
In working with Michelle, it's clear her investigative abilities are well-honed, so is small town newspaper "crime blotter" experience really necessary to develop this skill?
Especially interesting: in order to bash Malkin, circa-1999 Seattle Times columns are cited (and their backlash), forcing the reader to trust Neiwert's interpretation of ancient history. Proving only that there were differences of opinion over a talk show guest booking dispute, his argument falls flat.
A couple of factual points:
-- The post in question was not inspired by, nor was it a response of any kind, to her book. It was strictly in response to her blog posts. Maloney's characterization of it as being so was just factually false.
-- The links he cites later to "circa 1999 Seattle Times" columns, and from a "hit piece," didn't come from this post. They came from an earlier one I linked to in this post.
As for the rest, welllll ... in order for there to be "sour grapes," one has to envy the position of the person being criticized. And believe me, there is nothing about Malkin's career to envy.
I mean, really. Sure, she gets a lot of face time and makes lots of bucks. But who would envy a sellout political hack whose career is completely dependent on creating fresh propaganda for a well-moneyed movement? Please.
But that's the entire substance of Maloney's response to the many facts I cite, as well as the many examples of Malkin's shoddy work I provide: I'm envious of her.
Guys like Maloney populate the media business, especially in broadcast media, and they represent everything wrong with it, because they have no idea what constitutes serious journalism. They're only capable of ad hominem "he's a bad person with bad motives" arguments, because that's how they think. Their own positions are never the product of logic, reason, or fact, but instead of narrow personal interests and vendettas. So they assume it's true of everyone else.
No wonder he and Malkin get along so well. As you'll see in the coming week, that's pretty much the whole substance -- such as it is -- of Unhinged.
But for what it's worth: I don't really have any thoughts about Malkin the person (if, indeed, her work really is the product of one person). I'm not that interested, because her work reveals her to be such a shallow ideologue. I don't hate her -- and the idiots who post hateful, misogynistic and racist shit about her on liberal boards are, as I've said before, not on my side. (I also have a policy of deleting those kinds of posts here.)
Malkin is worth tackling for two good reasons: A) she is very influential, particularly in the blogosphere; and B) her work is harmful disinformation that needs to be examined and eviscerated. And as it happens, I have the kind of information needed to counter her pollution. So please, bear with me.
A privacy amendment
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Conservatives like to pretend that there is no general "right to privacy" because those words don't appear in the Constitution.
So maybe it's time for the American public -- which does believe it has such a right -- to end the discussion once and for all and put them in.
Dan Savage (via Sasha) suggested the other day that progressives put together their own campaign for a constitutional amendment establishing, once and for all, a general right to privacy.
This actually was an idea I proposed to folks in Salon's Table Talk some years back, but no one else seemed to want to latch onto it. So I've had to satisfy myself with arguing, ardently, for Democrats and progressives to drop all this talk about a "right to choose" and start talking about a "right to privacy," because that is what is really at stake with the ascendancy of so-called "strict constructionists" to the federal bench under the Bush regime. I've made that argument here again and again and again and again.
Fortunately, during the recent Senate hearings on John Roberts' appointment to the Supreme Court, the right to privacy indeed came rushing to the fore as a significant point. Rather predicatbly, right-wing propagandists like Rich Lowry weighed in pre-emptively on Roberts' behalf, arguing that because the Constitution doesn't explicitly list a general right to privacy, it doesn't exist:
- There are privacy rights in the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment, for example, prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The entire constitutional scheme is meant to limit government power and leave people alone most of the time. But there is not a generalized, abstract right to privacy unhinged from any constitutional text.
The mischief began 40 years ago in the case Griswold v. Connecticut, when the Court struck down a prohibition on contraceptives on the basis of a "right to marital privacy." The bit about "marital" was quickly dropped, and the new discovery became a general right to privacy.
In Griswold, the Court suggested the right might be found in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and/or Ninth Amendments. In other words, it must be there somewhere, anywhere. But since the right to privacy is nowhere mentioned, the Court had to contend that it resides in "penumbras formed by emanations." In layman's terms, that means in partial shadows formed by emissions, which it doesn't take a constitutional scholar to conclude sounds pretty vaporous.
"'Privacy' [has] functioned as a euphemism for immunity from those public-morals laws deemed by the justices to reflect benighted moral views," write scholars Robert P. George and David L. Tubbs. From a right for married couples to obtain contraceptives, it has evolved into a constitutional right of homosexuals to engage in sodomy (in the case of Lawrence v. Texas in 2003) and then the right of gays to marry, in a 2003 Massachusetts-supreme-court decision.
But Roberts didn't make this argument -- after all, it was precisely this position that had destroyed the nomination of Robert Bork back in 1987. Roberts had to expound quite bit on "the so-called right to privacy" (as he once put it), but gave answers that, on the surface, seemed to suggest he agreed with the existence of such a general right.
However, as William Saletan at Slate pointed out, his answers actually were slick evasions that paved the way for him to overturn Roe v. Wade on the basis of the limitations to such privacy rights:
- Roberts was asked to locate the right to privacy in the Constitution. He quoted parts of the Bill of Rights pertaining to military occupations and invasions of citizens' homes. Does the right to privacy extend beyond those contexts? Roberts offered one addition: "I agree with the Griswold court's conclusion that marital privacy extends to contraception." Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., pressed him about the extension of contraceptive rights to unmarried people. "I don't have any quarrel with that conclusion," he allowed. What about Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 case that interpreted Griswold to bar prosecution of private sex between consenting adults? Roberts ducked the question, citing "the difference between the issue that was presented in Griswold and its ramifications." In other words, any claim of privacy beyond the specific "issue" in Griswold—the right to marital contraception—is a "ramification" Roberts might reconsider.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., asked Roberts whether the right to abortion "is so embedded that it's become a part of our national culture." Roberts demurred, explaining, "That gets to the application of the principles in a particular case." Feinstein asked Roberts whether the "right of privacy applies to the beginning of life and the end of life." Roberts begged off again, arguing, "The exact scope of it, with respect to the beginning of life and the end of life—those are issues that are coming before the court." Feinstein asked Roberts about his pro-privacy remarks to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Roberts affirmed the "right to be left alone" as "a general statement of the principle." But he cautioned, "With regard to particular restrictions [Wyden] was talking about ... I don't think it's appropriate to comment on."
You get the picture. Privacy is a principle so general that its assertion against any "particular restriction" unspecified in the Constitution, aside from a ban on married people using birth control, is a mere "ramification" or "application" open to review. By refusing to define privacy's "scope," Roberts eviscerates it.
Save the Court has more:
- By saying that he believes in a constitutional right to privacy the way every member of the Court does, Roberts is essentially saying that he would provide virtually no real protection for the right to privacy. Every member of the Court, of course, includes Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. According to their view, any right to privacy does not encompass a woman's right to reproductive choice, and both have argued that Roe v. Wade should be overruled. According to their view, any right to privacy apparently does not include the right of consenting adults to be free from criminal prosecution for what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, as reflected in their dissents in Lawrence v. Texas. And according to Scalia's view, the right of privacy does not give even a fully competent adult the right to refuse unwanted medical treatment, as reflected in Scalia's opinion in Cruzan v. Missouri Dept. of Health.
Now, the subject continues to linger with the nomination of Samuel Alito to the court, likewise virtually assured to be a vote to overturn Roe:
- Alito wants government to be able to interfere in personal decisions on reproductive rights. In Casey, Alito stated that he would have upheld a provision of Pennsylvania's restrictive anti-abortion law requiring a woman in certain circumstances to notify her husband before obtaining an abortion. His colleagues on the Third Circuit and the Supreme Court majority disagreed and overturned the provision.
But like Roberts, Alito is adopting the phony "I do believe in privacy rights" stance adopted by Roberts. And it appears to be working:
- Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said Alito told him in their meeting that he recognized a right to privacy, the principle that underlies the Supreme Court's abortion rights rulings. "I think he believes in that fundamental right," Durbin told reporters in Washington.
Volokh Conspiracy explores quite a bit more of Alito's real positions WRT privacy rights. As one commenter notes:
- What exactly does he mean by "right to privacy"? The problem with that right (apart from the question of whether it's in the constitution) is that it's definitionally nebulous--it could mean a great deal or could mean next to nothing, depending on how one construes "privacy." If the right to privacy does not preclude spousal notification for abortions, then it's essentially a defense against state intervention, not a defense of personal sovereignty, which is a very important philosophical distinction.
Another commenter immediately observes:
- Yep, pretty nebulous, sorta like "due process" or "privileges and immunities", "unreasonable search", "free exercise" or any of those unenumerated rights lurking in the 9th Amendment (maybe privacy is even one of those rights). One can certainly argue that there is no general right of privacy from government intrusion in the Constitution because the Constitution does not explictly provide for such a right but if "definitionally nebulous" made recognizing the right problematic (or the extent of the right), then that same objection could be applied to any number of rights in the Constitution.
Indeed, the right to privacy is generally recognized as one of those unenumerated rights inherent in the Ninth Amendment:
- The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
And as Jeralyn at TalkLeft noted back in 2002, the Ninth Amendment rights widely recognized by jurists over the years have included not just the right to privacy but also the right to self-defense, which in my mind provides a more powerful bulwark in defense of private gun ownership than does the Second Amendment.
Yet, strangely enough, we don't see conservatives arguing that there is no "right to self-defense" ... even though those words appear nowhere in the Constitution.
As those wild-eyed leftists at USA Today point out:
- In fact, the right to privacy is older than the republic, protected in the Constitution and affirmed repeatedly in a century of court rulings before the abortion controversy. Though the word privacy isn't in the Constitution, the "right to be let alone," as Justice Louis Brandeis put it, permeates the document.
What are freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom from unlawful searches and the like other than respect for privacy? Leading Founders urged adoption of the Constitution as necessary to protect "private rights." And the Ninth Amendment was added to assure that other rights already taken for granted were "retained by the people."
Starting in the 19th century, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects the privacy of the mail and that individuals have a right to refuse medical treatment.
Thus it was no stretch when, in 1965, the court overturned a Connecticut law banning birth control. Surely, the court ruled, the right of privacy prohibited police searches of "the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms." That decision, Griswold v. Connecticut, was the foundation for Roe.
To the anguish of those who want government in the bedroom and other personal places, privacy rights now protect unmarried and same-sex couples and individuals.
I think it's pretty clear that the coming Supreme Court lineup -- and particularly the Robert court -- is going to bring an end to Americans' general right to privacy.
Progressives would be smart to begin preparing against that eventuality now. As Sasha notes, it will be fun watching conservatives tie themselves up in knots explaining to Americans why they don't have a general right to privacy. But even more important, it is the kind of campaign around which a positive, forward-thinking progressive agenda can gain traction.
Malkin and journalism
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Speaking of Michelle Malkin, check out Alex Koppelman at Dragonfire as he weighs in on Malkin's standards when it comes to journalism.
Koppelman points out (as I did earlier) that Malkin has never worked as a reporter or in the belly of the daily production of reportage, and quotes me regarding her career here in Seattle as a columnist. Then he continues:
- None of this has stopped Malkin from interpreting even the minutest details as evidence of a liberal media conspiracy. Last week, it was a photo of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, altered by USA Today in what Malkin called the "malicious photoshopping of a black Republican official." Undoubtedly, the photo had been altered -- Rice's dark, bloodshot eyes had been whitened, and her pupils had changed in shape, becoming unflattering, even creepy -- but such alteration is hardly evidence of malice. In fact, alterations like those happen all the time as photo editors try to make their work more visually interesting.
... This week Malkin's back at it. Her new target is James Dao, a reporter for the New York Times, and a piece he wrote after the number of American casualties in Iraq hit 2,000. In the article, Dao quoted part of a letter Corporal Jeffrey B. Starr wrote to his girlfriend in case he died in Iraq, which he did in April of this year. Dao chose a quote from the letter that expressed Starr's premonition of his own death. Malkin, though, was angered by what Dao left out -- a part of Starr’s letter in which he confirmed his willingness to die for what he considered a noble cause. This, to Malkin, was proof of "selective editing" and "agenda-driven" reporting by Dao. But the truth is never as black-and-white as Malkin sees it.
Dao declined to comment for this article, but he did forward along an Email from Bill Borders, a senior editor at the Times. "The most prominent part of the presentation of Starr was the picture and caption at the top of Page A15," Borders wrote. "The caption represented him this way: 'His father, Brian Starr, said his son believed in the war but was tired of the harsh life.' The article also reported that even after his son's death Brian Starr 'remained convinced that invading Iraq was the right thing to do.' " And, in fact, Dao explicitly referred to Starr's pro-war views, using the same language given in the caption.
There can be some debate as to whether Dao should have included the rest of Starr's letter, and I myself would say he should have, not because the additional material would substantively change the portrayal of Starr, but because Starr's letter was a moving look into the thoughts of a soldier whose life was tragically cut short. But that's ultimately an editorial decision -- including the omitted portions of the letter would have meant fitting 100 additional words into the story. In a piece totaling more than 3,500 words, as Dao's did, that may not seem like much, but the article included the words of more than a dozen soldiers and their families, as well as background on the war, statistics on the death rates of soldiers, charts and photos. If Malkin had experience as a reporter she would know that in a newspaper, where articles must fit spaces defined more by advertising and layout concerns than editorial concerns, every word matters. Cutting 100 words of Starr’s letter, after summarizing the pro-war views those words reflected, allowed Dao to explore the lives of other soldiers, other families hurt by tragedy. That's not bias; indeed, it's the essence of a reporter's job.
Koppelman's piece was fresh in my mind when I happened upon Michelle's self-written profile at Pajamas Media:
- A lot of the work that I do, it isn't just about opining, but about investigative journalism as well. That's one of the coolest things about the blog, being able to do that kind of hybrid thing. I got a lot of criticism in the past for doing opinion pieces with a lot of reporting in them. A lot of mainstream media editors aren't comfortable with that because they don't expect it. So I love that about blogging.
A few words about investigative journalism:
Investigative journalism is actually an extremely arcane, and hallowed, field within the trade. The people who are investigative journalists will spend months, sometimes years, working on a single story. Their specialty is a knowledge of genuine investigative techniques, including those employed by private investigators, and include some practices that some people (like certain mayors of Spokane) might consider devious. But for the most part, it's arduous work that requires, above all, an ability to comb through stacks of records and pull out important information.
Real investigative journalists are capable of employing their skills in a variety of areas: crime, corporate mismangement and malfeasance, government corruption and incompetence, and political scandals -- though the latter, while the best known, are probably the least often applied.
If you want to get a sense for the work of real investigative journalists, spend some time strolling about the site of Investigative Reporters and Editors, the premier organization for such journalists in this country. And note: If you do a search on their site for "Malkin," you come up empty.
There are very few genuine investigative journalists working today at most mainstream newspapers, mostly because they are expensive and not terribly productive in terms of the quantity of copy that newspapers rely upon, and because they also have a nasty habit of embarrassing the friends of their publishers. For some reason, when budget cuts come down in today's newsrooms, the investigative spots are usually the first to go.
Sometimes I am mistakenly referred to as an "investigative journalist," and I always try to take pains to correct that misinformation. What I do is more in the way of "research journalism" -- that is, I tend to rely on standard research techniques (interviews and archival research) rather than investigative techniques.
I've known and worked with a number of real investigative journalists over the course of my career, including Jay Shelledy (who worked on the Don Bowles investigation) and James Steele, of the famed Barlett and Steele duo.
In fact, Jim Steele is a friend of mine.
And Michelle, trust me -- you're no Jim Steele.
'Unhinged': Early notes
Finally got my copy of Michelle Malkin's new book, Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild, and have begun digging already. Suffice to say that every aspect of my earlier critique has been confirmed in spades, and then some.
Of course, you can't judge a book by its cover. But I had an immediate question about its cover -- specifically, the back cover.
Y'see, the early reports on the book indicated that not only would Malkin feature nasty, ugly quotes from nasty, ugly liberals on the back cover, but it would include their e-mail addresses.
And that's what they showed when Malkin appeared on O'Reilly's show the other day. O'Reilly even specifically mentioned it.
But when my copy arrived, the nasty quotes were there ... but not the e-mail addresses.
Now, I have to admit, I was hoping to be one of the unhinged liberals Malkin quoted on the back cover.
But I also have to admit that I wasn't nasty enough. In fact, the bigots and mysoginists she does quote are definitely not on my side (regardless of what Malkin likes to imply, as she does for the entirety of this book).
I was hoping to be there anyway, just because I wanted to see what kind of mail it would generate to be on Malkin's list.
And when the inevitable death threats arrived, I really wanted to be able to sue the bejeesus out of Malkin and Regnery.
I wonder if that's why there weren't any e-mail addresses, as promised.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Ask yourself which is the more important principle:
- -- the right of American citizens to vote, or
-- preventing those who are ineligible to vote from doing so.
Now, think of this as a kind of Rohrschach test: The answer you give is neither right nor wrong. But it does tell us a great deal -- about your politics, about your priorities, and about what kind of American you are.
I think a strong case can be made that without the latter principle, the former is rendered meaningless. There are legitimate reasons to exclude some from voting -- particularly non-citizens, felons, and those who have already voted once -- and that failing to protect adequately from fraud dilutes and pollutes the meaning of every legitimate voter's ballot.
But there's little doubt, in my mind at least, that the former principle is far more significant; without it, the latter is not just meaningless, it's inoperative.
The right of Americans to vote, and the need to encourage citizens to participate in the voting process, is one of the real bedrock principles of our Republic and its democratic institutions. So while the need to protect against fraud is obviously fundamental, the pursuit of it must never come at the expense of the right of citizens to legitimately participate.
Better, in my mind, to let a hundred felons vote than to prevent a single citizen from legitimately casting their ballot.
Today's Republicans, obviously, disagree with me.
In the wake of the hotly contested Washington governor's race that saw the GOP's well-noted anti-democratic tendencies come rushing to the fore, we now face the prospect of an outrageous attempt by Republicans at intimidating voters by threatening to disqualify them -- often without any real evidence for doing so:
- GOP challenges rights of hundreds of voters
Republican claims in King County draw angry denial
By GREGORY ROBERTS
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
Hundreds of worried and angry voters deluged the King County elections department Friday with calls questioning a Republican-backed effort challenging their right to vote in Tuesday's election, elections officials said.
Several voters said that King County GOP Vice Chairman Lori Sotelo was dead wrong in her claim that their voter registration addresses are not those of legitimate residences. And Democratic politicians denounced the Republican initiative as a blatant attempt to intimidate voters.
State GOP Chairman Chris Vance acknowledged some challenges were brought in error and would be withdrawn. But he vigorously defended the undertaking overall and promised more of the same.
The spark for the political firestorm was the delivery of certified letters Thursday from the county elections department to voters on the GOP hit list, which totaled 1,774 names after duplicates were eliminated. The letters informed the voters of the challenge and cited the state law requiring voters to register at a valid residence address.
"I'm extremely disappointed and angry at the audacity of this woman and the party she represents," said Demene Hall, who got one of the letters. Hall has lived for 16 years at the Watermarke apartment building at 320 Cedar St. in Seattle, her registration address.
Hall, who said she is "too African American" not to be a regular voter, said Friday she came of age in the civil rights era and watched her parents hand out political fliers outside polling places they were not allowed to enter.
"We just buried Rosa Parks on Wednesday, I got the letter on Thursday and today is my 57th birthday," she said. "And they're challenging my validity?"
Vance acknowledged that the inclusion of the Watermarke on the list was a mistake. Elections officials late Friday said Sotelo had rescinded 140 of the challenges.
But, Vance said, "The overwhelming majority of our challenges are valid."
Right. Actually, there's no proof of that, and plenty of evidence that the majority are in fact mistaken.
The Daily Kos diary entry by Andrew Villeneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute lays out what has been happening:
- And here's what's really clever: the filing of the registrations was timed to be right on the eve of the November 8th election, so that hearings have to be scheduled after the election. The GOP is hoping that voters whose registrations are being challenged will get discouraged and just not even bother to vote at all.
After the letters began arriving, the news media and progressive NW bloggers quickly jumped on the story.
The story first appeared on The Stranger's website, where one of the voters whose address was challenged posted to the site's forum:
- So I get this certified letter from King County today informing me that my voter registration has been challenged.
Attached is a form signed by some woman named Lori D. Sotelo saying that "under penalty of perjury" she has "personal knowledge and believe that this person ... does nto reside at the address given on his or her voter registration..."
Under the section where she is asked to provide factual basis for the challenge, she writes "Voter is registered to vote at an address that is not a physical residence."
WTF? I live in a vintage apartment building in Belltown [the Watermarke] with about 60 other people. Then I talked to my neighbors - EVERYONE I talked to also received the letter.
Yep -- that's right. The Republicans challenged the voter registrations of EVERY SINGLE PERSON in THIS apartment building:
[Shot of Watermarke building]
Others being harassed are people who have lived in the same house for decades, and still others whose residence is also where they operate their business.
Vance and the GOP later admitted that the Watermarke residents were included by mistake and rescinded their challenges. However, the Seattle Times reported on others who were not so fortunate, though their challenges were every bit as bogus:
- Jeff Weber, another voter whose registration was challenged, said he lives and is registered at his home in West Seattle, and is mystified about how he ended up on the Republicans' list.
"I think it's outrageous," he said. "It's a bungalow in West Seattle. ... It's a single-family house on a 5,000-square-foot lot. If they had done any investigating at all, they would have known."
Annette Fallin of Belltown said she was notified her registration had been challenged the same day she mailed in her absentee ballot.
"I'm very irate over it," she said. "I get this piece of mail telling me they're not even counting it like a normal ballot."
The challenge to Fallin's registration was one of the 140 the GOP dropped Friday. More than 50 of the 140 were registered at her apartment building, the Watermarke on Cedar Street.
The challenges to Thoma's, Taylor's, Blodgett's and Weber's registrations were not rescinded.
What is the GOP doing here? Can you imagine being one of these voters -- a legitimate, long-time voter who expects to cast their ballot as they always have, and suddenly you get a letter from a Republican official who says she's going to challenge your right to vote? That's not just Orwellian: it's Kafkaesque.
But then, it's what we've come to expect from today's Republican Party. It well knows that its grip on power is either maintained, in many places, or obtained, in places like Seattle where it struggles, by the slimmest margins -- and that its interests are more often served by suppressing voter turnout.
After all, it was a similar vote-suppression effort in Florida in 2000 that likely delivered that state to George W. Bush and with it the presidency. Many will recall Greg Palast's reporting on the effort, which has always struck me as a little shaky, particularly his assertions -- which he admits are simply estimations -- that 90 percent of the ChoicePoint voter-roll eliminations were incorrect. But there's little doubt that there was an extremely high rate of error in the purges, certainly in excess of 50 percent.
That's simply unacceptable. If you accept the primacy of the right of citizens to vote, then these attempts at preventing ineligible votes have to be as close to perfect as possible; an error rate of even more than 1 percent is too great. Because anything more than that means you're violating the inviolable.
[There's also a notable hypocrisy in all this for those of us who were observers in the Gregoire-Rossi tussle, because Republicans have made it a constant subsequent talking point -- no, a screaming point, really -- that King County elections officials proved themselves hopelessly corrupt and incompetent in this election, notably by their inability to reify a relatively small number of ballots with the numbers of votes (it was around .3 percent).]
But then, these kinds of vote-suppression effort have become commonplace in the GOP, particularly in areas where there are strong Democratic voting blocs, which are always what Republicans target. Recall, for instance, that there have been broader voter-suppression efforts, including those in Ohio in 2004.
To Republicans, elections no longer are sacred exercises in democracy. They are just another game that they can rig. All in the name of power.
And that's what the Rohrschach test reveals: If you prioritize the rights of voters, you will oppose vote-suppression efforts, particularly those that would intimidate legitimate voters. If you prioritize fraud prevention, then in the end you're placing process before participation -- the cart before the horse, as it were -- and, if you approve of the techniques currently in vogue with the GOP, you ultimately are willing to discard the rights of legitimate voters. The latter reveals a profound anti-democratic impulse, while the former indicates a healthy respect for democracy.
The latter also reveals, I think, the disposable ethics of the conservative movement: In the end, all that matters is winning. If democratic principles are trampled upon a bit, well, we can just pick them up and dust them off afterward, can't we?
Or, as long as they're laying there in the dirt, maybe we can just trample on them a little more.
UPDATE: David Goldstein at HorsesAss.org runs down the preliminary numbers, and it looks grim for Chris Vance and Washington State GOP. It appears their error rate may be in the 30 percent range or higher. That's literally hundreds of bogus challenges.