Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

"The Buzz" Continued...

Issue: "Bleeding economy," Oct. 18, 2008

Mixed nuts

On Oct. 6, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) announced the conclusion of its "most successful voter registration drive in history with more than 1.3 million new voters registered in 21 states." The following day, Nevada state officials raided the group's Las Vegas office as part of an investigation into allegations of voter fraud. ACORN is accused of filing voter registration forms with false or duplicate names.

Such allegations are nothing new for the massive organization, which works to encourage and enable voting in low-income communities, often among predominately minority populations. Several former ACORN workers have faced indictments for fraud in past voter registration drives. A 2004 investigation into irregularities at an Ohio-based ACORN affiliate revealed fraudulent registrations of underage voters, dead voters, and even fictional voters with names like Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy, and Jive Turkey.

In the current election cycle, the Republican National Committee and the campaign of GOP presidential nominee John McCain have accused ACORN of flooding election officials with sloppy, last-minute registrations in an effort to push unqualified voters onto the rolls. The McCain camp has pointed to past ties between ACORN and Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama as evidence that the organization's questionable practices are politically motivated. ACORN officials deny any partisan agenda.

Gore's army

Former Vice President Al Gore is behaving like a cornered cat. At the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York last month, the global-warming crusader admitted that his vision for dramatic cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions is failing. "This is a rout," he said. "We are losing badly." Gore's solution: Lash out. "If you're a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration."

That call for law-breaking encourages an extreme sentiment already at work in some quarters of the environmental movement. Just two weeks prior to Gore's statement, a British jury acquitted six Greenpeace activists charged with vandalizing a coal plant. NASA scientist James Hansen, a prominent voice in the anti-global-warming movement, testified on behalf of the defense that such property damage had a "lawful excuse" due to the impending dangers of a planetary climate crisis.

Hansen and Gore view coal energy as villainous, even though it provides an affordable source for 40 percent of the world's electricity needs. Gore mocks the notion of new "clean coal" technology, calling it a misnomer on par with "healthy smoking." He opposes the construction of any new coal plants that lack expensive carbon sequestration systems, even plants that would replace older, less efficient ones. That opposition has helped shut down 60 new coal plant projects in the last year. Meanwhile, plans to construct hundreds of new coal plants in China have moved ahead unimpeded.

Off the hook

Since July, former White House counsel Harriet Miers has been on the hook to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in an investigation of the firings of nine federal prosecutors in 2006. But a federal appeals court on Oct. 6 blocked that lower-court order and also exempted current Bush chief of staff Josh Bolten from having to turn over documents to Congress. Democrats claim the prosecutor firings were politically motivated, while the Bush administration has said the terminations were in the normal scope of presidential prerogative. In reversing the lower court, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals said the case will likely become moot before it can be resolved. The 110th Congress will in January "cease to exist as a legal entity, and the subpoenas it has issued will expire. . . . If the case becomes moot, we would be wasting the time of the court and the parties."

Name game

"Brides" and "grooms" are returning to California. State health officials announced they have revised marriage license applications, reinstating the time-honored terms due to popular demand. The terms disappeared from the applications after the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in June, replaced by the gender-neutral language "Party A" and "Party B." The new paperwork will feature blank spaces for applicants' names and personal information, with boxes for checking "bride" or "groom." Since the boxes appear next to both names, the form will work for all comers-including two brides or two grooms. City clerks will begin using the new forms in November.

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