This is by now a familiar dynamic: Outright, undeniable crimes are committed, often very heinous ones -- mass murder, military aggression, torture, vast financial corruption and fraud, warrantless spying, egregious violations of the Constitution -- but somehow, no one is actually responsible for them. They just sort of, you know, happened, all by themselves.
The most we can possibly do about these crimes is to conduct a non-binding "investigation" -- preferably by a committee of "serious" Establishment figures -- who will then offer suggestions on how to avoid such unseemly situations in the future. Of course, most of the time it would be too "divisive," too "partisan," to do even that much. But in any case, you certainly can't prosecute anyone for these crimes.
(This innovative concept only covers crimes in which powerful people might be involved, of course. Any ordinary person remains subject to the full weight of the increasingly draconian law -- although, if said ordinary person was commiting crimes at the behest of powerful people, the application of the law can suddenly become miraculously light, or even non-existent.)
The New York Times points us to yet another of these perpetratorless crimes. In fact, the venerable Gray Goose -- sorry, Gray Lady -- of American journalism acts as close accomplice of a crime wave that seems to strike nationwide every two to four years: the deliberate and illegal disenfranchisement of millions of citizens, almost all of them the poorest and most marginalized in American society.
After eight years of a veritable Ossa of evidence of gamed, thrown, fixed and finagled elections, this week the NY Times bestirred itself to notice that something might possibly be amiss in the nation's electoral process. A headline writer topped the story with weakest possible statement of the undeniable truth: "States' Actions to Block Voters Appear Illegal." And you can bet your bottom dollar (as it falls through the bottomless pit of the Beltway bailout banditry) that if the New York Times deigns to acknowledge even the "appearance" of some mischance in the divinely ordained machinery of the Establishment, the actual rot is very far gone indeed.
Thus the thoroughgoing disenfranchisement of eligible voters -- as many as three million in 2004, as Greg Palast has noted -- has finally spilled into the paper's sacred precincts. The first paragraph puts in plainly:
Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times.
Hard to put it more plainly than that: voters in key states are being disenfranchised in violation of federal law. In other words, a very serious crime is being committed, a bloody shiv job to the heart of the democratic process.
Wow! Wonder who could be behind such a brazen and dastardly crime -- a crime that benefits very powerful people seeking even greater power? Why, no one, of course! Here's the very next paragraph of the story:
The actions do not seem to be coordinated by one party or the other, nor do they appear to be the result of election officials intentionally breaking rules, but are apparently the result of mistakes in the handling of the registrations and voter files as the states tried to comply with a 2002 federal law, intended to overhaul the way elections are run.
You see? It just sort of, you know, happened. And even though these open violations of federal law -- i.e., crimes -- are affecting likely Democratic voters "disproportionately," the Times says, they are not being directed by anyone toward any particular aim. Nope. It's just some kind of strange repeat of this really weird thing that happened back in 2004 and 2000, when the same kind of people were tossed from the voting rolls by the multitude.
The paper traces the crimes to the "Help America Vote Act" of 2002. The Times, along with the rest of the corporate media, continues to treat this bill as if it were a serious attempt to address the ludicrously inept and decrepit U.S. electoral process, instead of what it transparently was: an attempt to codify into law the vote-suppression machinery that threw the bollixed 2000 Florida vote into the hands of the partisan extremist faction on the Supreme Court, two of whom had family members pocketing wads of cash from the Bush campaign. HAVA was meant to spread this deliberate chaos throughout the entire country -- and it has done so.
But the tender eyes of Times readers must be shielded from such ugly truth. Instead, we get yards and yards of carefully hedged, bled-dry prose, obscurely outlining a pattern of systematic vote suppression in key states but ensuring that, once again, no one can possibly blamed for it -- and certainly no one can possibly be charged for it. It's just some kind of rare and unpleasant natural phenomenon, like, say, a boll weevil infestation. Or the war crime in Iraq. Or the American torture program. Or the destruction of the American economy. And so on.
At the moment, with the McCain campaign cratering like a merchant bank, the disenfranchisement crime wave will probably not be enough to skew the election. Even with a few million voters blocked from the polls, the widespread revulsion toward the ruling party will probably swamp the polls and put the Democrats back in the White House. Whether this result will be an unmitigated joy and genuine change in the nation's headlong degradation is another matter, one which we'll be taking up in a later column. The merits, or lack of same, of the contending candidates are not the issue here. The point is that millions of the poorest, most marginalized Americans are being denied their right to vote for whomever they please. This is, as even the New York Times acknowledges, a federal crime. But it is not, however much the Times tries to obsfuscate the issue, a perpetratorless one.
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This story was published on October 11, 2008.