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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Meet Ohio's Religious Right - Rich, Powerful, and Corrupt as Hell

The guy's either nuts, dishonest, or both. I'm voting both. Ohio's 'Patriot Pastor', Rod Parsley, told an audience at a 'War on Christians' conference, "If you think 2004 was something, we have not reached critical mass! We are the largest special interest group! … We’re building order from chaos! We’re fighting the sword with the word! We’re fighting savagery with hope! I came to incite a riot! Man your battle stations! Ready your weapons! Lock and load!" [Video here]

What Parsley is referring to the 2004 election when Ohio, the key battleground state, was delivered to Bush, re-electing him. And the 2006 elections. And 2008. People For the American Way tells us:

In meetings across Ohio, “Patriot Pastor” recruits are told of a world in which the “forces of darkness” are working through politics to destroy the country and its destiny as a Christian nation. [Megachurch Pastor Russell] Johnson and Parsley warn of an America where Christianity is under siege from powerful cultural and political forces, and they often find a receptive audience for such claims on one side of the sharply divided political landscape.


“This is a battle between the forces of righteousness and the hordes of hell,” says Johnson. While Parsley and Johnson claim their churches do not explicitly endorse candidates – Johnson says he just wants “decent people” to be elected – their close collaboration with [Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth] Blackwell suggests a different story. The “Patriot Pastors” movement is so interwoven with Blackwell’s campaign that critics have begun to question whether their operations still qualify for tax-exempt status like a church, or whether it is more accurate to classify them as political action committees.

Ken Blackwell's name probably rings a bell. He oversaw the 2004 election and has been accused of many dirty tricks and even of throwing the election in favor of Bush. ComputerWorld posted this article just today:

A report questioning the accuracy of Diebold Election Systems' e-voting equipment in a recent Ohio election gives more ammunition to critics who doubt the viability of electronic voting technology.

The report, issued publicly last week, was based on a study funded by the Board of Commissioners of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. It claimed that even backup paper records meant to assure voters that their votes were tabulated correctly can prove inaccurate.

Nearly 10% of the paper copies of votes cast in the election were "either destroyed, blank, illegible, missing, taped together or otherwise compromised," the report said. Ohio law requires that each machine include a so-called voter-verified paper audit trail listing each vote -- and considers that the official ballot.

Other charges are more serious. From Scoop:

By late afternoon on November 2, 2004, nationally, all the exit polls showed John Kerry winning with 50.8% of the votes and showed George W Bush with 48.2%, meaning Kerry had a 2.6% lead over Bush.

But when the vote counts came in at the end of election day, Bush had 50.9% of the votes, and Kerry had 48.1%, meaning Bush received 2.8% more votes than Kerry.

According to Dr Ron Baiman, PhD, from the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois in Chicago, who has 16 years of experience teaching statistics to both graduate and undergraduate college students, there would be about 1 chance in 900,000 of that kind of statistical error occurring.

Blackwell's often portrayed as a religious zealot, like Parsley and Johnson, but his history suggests a political nihilist. "Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell is perhaps the single most opportunistic politician in the history of Ohio," Bob Fitrakis wrote for The Free Press last year, "His career began in Cincinnati in the 1970s and progressed to statewide office until today. Along the way, he metamorphed from a charter reform Democrat, into a Carter Democrat, then a New Democrat, then an Independent, then a moderate Republican, then a conservative Republican, and is now the state’s leading reactionary right-wing Republican." Any way the wind blows in order to get elected. By this time next year, he might have morphed again into a radical socialist.

Fitrakis lists many of Blackwell's 2004 tricks. A few of the worst:

The Franklin County Board of Elections called or wrote to an undetermined number of voters who obtained absentee ballots, challenging their addresses. In at least one case, after a series of angry phone calls, the Board admitted there was nothing wrong with the address in question and reinstated voting rights. The voter in question was a registered Democrat. His wife, an independent at the same address, was not challenged. It is unclear how many others have been wrongly knocked out.

Even if they are counted, Franklin County’s absentee ballot forms were rigged in ways strikingly reminiscent of those in Florida 2000. On many absentee forms, Kerry was listed third on the list of presidential candidates. But the actual number you punch for Kerry is “4.” If you punch “3” you’ve just voted for Bush. Sound familiar?

In four other Ohio counties, the notorious Diebold company, whose CEO Wally O’Dell had pledged to deliver Ohio’s votes to Bush, provided the proprietary “secret” e-voting software to count votes without any paper trail. O’Dell lives in the wealthy Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington and was a major Bush donor.

The Columbus Dispatch (which endorsed Bush) and WVKO Radio both documented phone calls from people impersonating Board of Elections workers and directing registered voters to different and incorrect polling sites. One individual was falsely told not to vote at the polling station across the street from his house, but at a “new” site, four miles away.

Blackwell is now a candidate for governor. Like Bush, he's running behind in Ohio polls and, like Bush, it shouldn't surprise anyone if Blackwell wins. Ohio's state government is corrupt as hell - Gov. Bob Taft pleaded no contest to a charge of receiving under the table gifts from businessman and Ohio GOP mogul Tom Noe. Noe, in turn, stole millions from Ohio in a notorious 'Coin-Gate' -- a scam to buy rare coins under the pretense of making an investment of state funds. And, yeah, the whole thing's as crazy as it sounds.

This is the state, this is the party, and these are the people that the holyrollers have embraced. Both Parsley and Johnson are preachers of 'prosperity gospel', which is basically a belief that 'Jesus gonna make you rich'. So it's really no shocker that this bunch of hucksters, crooks, and scam artists are their peers. But is there more to it than a couple of con artists taking advantage of a culture of corruption? PFAW reports:

Almost without fail, Johnson exploits the notion of a Christian America that is being persecuted and destroyed from within. Describing the “spiritual warfare of epic proportions” he sees taking place in the nation, Johnson writes on the group’s web site: “From our country's classrooms to our court houses, from Christmas carols to graduation celebrations, from the pledge of allegiance to our state motto . . . the forces of darkness have opposed every public expression of allegiance to God.” He cites not only familiar social grievances such as evolution, abortion, and same-sex marriage, but also economic ones such as medical malpractice insurance and tax policy. “How long will Ohio's families be burdened by excessive taxes and government waste?” he asks, echoing the Republican Party’s talking points.

Here's the thing; I think these nuts actually believe this crap. I think they really believe that they're literally fighting Satan at the ballot box and in the schools and in the press and on and on. Think about it -- if you believed that you were fighting the greatest evil known to the world, would you consider yourself bound by law or ethics or honesty? It's like that old time-machine-and-shooting-Hitler question; wouldn't the evil of one murder be outweighed by the salvation of millions? In this case, wouldn't propping up a few corrupt politicians be worth saving the nation from destruction by Satan?

So goes the logic of the religious right -- nothing is too unethical, too dishonest, or too criminal when the enemy is the devil in the guise of gays, feminists, liberals, scientists, and every other group this bunch of paranoid yahoos think are demonic. They'll turn the government into a criminal gang in order to save the nation.


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