Stop the vote thieves before they steal

“If you can’t win it, steal it.” That should be the slogan of the Republicans in the 2002 election as it was in the 2000 election. Attorney General John Ashcroft has just announced his “Voting Access and Integrity Initiative.” In the guise of combatting voter fraud, it is a plan for massive disenfranchisement of African-American, Latino, American Indian and other working class voters.

Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has already sounded the alarm that the Republican Party is paying an agent, John Lauck, to find “questionable” voter registrations of American Indians on reservations in South Dakota where 16,700 new voters have been signed up. At stake is the Senate seat now held by Democrat Tim Johnson. If the Republican challenger John Thune wins, by foul means or otherwise, Bush will be one seat closer to control of the Senate. Bush and Cheney’s worst nightmare is labor and American Indian voters displaying the same clout they used to oust Republican Sen. “Slippery Slade” Gorton in the 2000 election.

Even the late Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota is a target. More than 100,000 absentee ballots were mailed to Minnesota voters. All those returned with votes for Wellstone will be thrown out. But all absentee ballots for his GOP opponent, Norm Coleman, will be counted. Expect a court challenge to this legal trickery.

In Florida, Democrat Bill McBride is gaining on Republican incumbent Governor Jeb Bush. A warning of the trickery came in the Sept. 10 primary when thousands faced closed polling places, long lines and non-functioning voting machines, a repeat of the Bush vote-scrubbing scam perfected in the 2000 election.

This is a moment for maximum vigilance. Let’s redouble the effort to get out the vote, early. Let’s ensure an army of poll watchers at every polling place to block the right-wing election thieves.

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Did the Russian hostages die for Caspian oil?

At least 117 hostages and 50 of their Chechen separatist captors died Oct. 26 when Russian security police flooded a theater with a suffocating narcotic gas. Once again, the masses of the Russian people are in mourning. Russian President Vladimir Putin, echoed George W. Bush, vowing a broad U.S.-style war against terrorism.

As with Bush, Putin’s hard-line aims to deflect questions about the performance of his own security agencies. All but two of the hostages were killed by the Russian SWAT teams. Putin’s decision to end the hostage crisis by brute force recalls Gen. Westmoreland’s comment during the Vietnam War that it was necessary to “destroy the village in order to save it.” What policy does Putin have to end the crisis in Chechnya other than to annihilate it?

We have a few questions of our own. Why has the U.S. State Department repeatedly met with Ilyas Akhmadov, “foreign minister” of the Chechen rebels, most recently January 24 of this year? The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the meeting as an “unfriendly act. … the administration of the U.S. encourages Chechen separatists … This meeting took place at a time when new, irrefutable proof appears of direct connections between the leaders of the Chechen militants and Osama bin Laden.”

Many of the Chechen terrorists are veterans of the CIA war in Afghanistan. They served NATO and the Pentagon in Kosovo and Macedonia in dismantling Yugoslavia. On June 21, State Department official Elizabeth Jones, called on Russia to negotiate a peace agreement with Chechnya. In the course of a news briefing, she mentioned that U.S. military instructors are now deployed in neighboring Georgia and the U.S. has military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan in the oil rich Caspian basin. Is the Bush administration flirting with the Chechen rebels to gain a stranglehold on Central Asian oil? Perhaps they think a client Chechen state would help ExxonMobil grab Caspian oil.

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