Thursday, April 28, 2005

Forgive my skepticism

I am skeptical. I find it extremely hard to believe that when Bush and his neocon friends started in office talking of a way to go to Iraq, that they just "lucked" (word chosen to represent Bush's viewpoint, not my own) into the 9/11 attacks. Maybe they did. But in other countries in the history of the world, such convenient events are sometimes exposed as having been rigged so the people in power could justify, or pretend to justify, their action.

So I am curious. I believe curiosity is a sign of intelligence, and blind acceptance a form of mental laziness. Could the truth about 9/11 be other than has been, for the most part, presented to us? I know I'll be taping this to see if there is something more I should know that might help me understand these events in a different light.

I don't like to hear only one account of major events. I've learned that all too often the government and the media will tell us not just small, but incredibly huge lies when something important is at stake.

Book TV is going to air a lecture about this. Here's the information for others who too may be curious.

Saturday, April 30 at 10:30 am

The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions
David Ray Griffiin

Description: David Ray Griffin takes a critical look at the official 9/11 Commission Report put out by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. Professor Griffin argues that the "omissions and distortions" in the report amount to a cover-up by government officials and says that the available evidence suggests that the Bush administration was complicit in the 9/11 attacks (either by ignoring known threats or through actual participation in the planning of the attacks). Professor Griffin asks a series of questions which he says have been either inadequately answered or completely ignored by the commission. These include questions surrounding the attack on the Pentagon, the way in which the World Trade Center towers collapsed, and the behavior of President Bush and his Secret Service detail following notification that a second plane had hit the WTC. The talk was hosted by the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth ( and took place at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Includes Q&A.

Author Bio: David Ray Griffin is professor emeritus at the Claremont School of Theology, where he taught for over 30 years (retiring in 2004). He has authored or edited over two dozen books, including "God and Religion in the Postmodern World," "Religion and Scientific Naturalism," and "The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11."


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Where is our moral outrage?

In a time when the MSM touts that the election showed a mandate for a return to values, I have to ask, where are those morals? I haven't seen any signs of morality coming from the Capitol. Have you?

In the President's budget, those in need are starved even further while those already rich will be made immensely richer. It's a full out class war waged by the rich against the poor. The budget is immoral. Where is the outrage?

Our country is considering providing asylum to known terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. This man, probably on orders for his employer, which for years was the CIA, by his own admission blew a Cubana Airlines flight out of the sky. The plane was filled with innocent civilians, including the Cuban Olympic team of fencers. Are they only terrorists when they don't work for us? Where is the outrage?

The news from Ohio continues to break hearts. Have you seen the videos of the long lines of disenfranchised voters, waiting in the rain, some of which were ultimately turned away and not allowed to vote? This is America. Voting is a civil rights issue. Fifty years - half a century - have elapsed since Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus. But just last November,thousands of African-American voters in Ohio were treated like second class citizens. While richer white neighborhoods had enough voting machines so people could get in and out in a matter of minutes, the people in Ohio faced daunting lines, misinformation about polling places, and were in some cases turned away even though they had been in line before the cutoff time. I'm both surprised and pleased to see Common Cause take up this issue. See the short film produced by Erin and Conrad Stanley that Common Cause is now circulating.

I recently had a chance to see the work in progress of a bold film on Ohio called Electile Dysfunction. It should be finished and out this summer. All over the country, little citizen groups are springing up to fight to give us a country where there truly is no taxation without representation. A little moral outrage can go a long way towards righting wrongs in this country. Let it fly.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Electronic Voting - Visibility on the Rise

Bloomberg presented a great summary today of the concerns and progress on the e-voting issue. Quoting:
After two tight presidential elections in a row, each producing complaints about voting machinery, proponents say a paper trail is the only way to convince voters that elections are safeguarded from technological defect or high-tech fraud.
Missing, however, is the fact that having paper means nothing if the paper ballots are not also automatically counted, to some degree, to verify the machine counts.

I had a discussion with some activists today re electronic voting here in Los Angeles County. Conny McCormack, the County Registrar, has been vocal saying that there is nothing to fear from electronic voting, but that she'd "vociferously" object to being forced to purchase machines that give a voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT). Sounds like she's talking out of both sides of her mouth. If there's nothing to fear from the machines, then there should be nothing to fear by auditing them via paper ballots. What's the problem? Time, and money. The county needs to purchase machines soon to comply with HAVA. But McCormack has been defensive of Diebold in the past. California right now can only allow the purchase of machines by Sequoia, a competing vote machine manufacturer. Is McCormack objecting to the VVPAT because Diebold doesn't produce one yet and therefore can't enter the market? McCormack is recommending the County stay with Inkavote, an optical scan system. But optical scan systems are still tabulated by computer and still vulnerable to fraud.

It's not enough to have paper ballots, even voter verified paper ballots, unless some portion of the paper is counted regardless of who won and by what margin. An unaudited system is one begging for fraud to walk in the front door.

There are some benefits to the newer, direct recording electronic (DRE) machines, which can provide ballots in multiple languages and are more accessible to people with disabilities. As the Bloomberg piece notes:
Advocates for disabled voters also are unhappy, saying the emphasis on paper ballots undermines efforts to let people with visual, physical and other disabilities vote without assistance. Voters with disabilities now often need help from poll workers, so their choices aren't secret.

The technology used is not the key issue, although it is important. The key issue is that whatever system is used MUST be verified through a percentage-based hand-recount done on a surprise basis. Nothing less will assure people in the next election that their votes were counted accurately.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Present at the Creation, Again

I had a marvelous experience of déjà vu tonight. I attended my first Meetup since having left the Howard Dean campaign in Vermont a little over a year ago. And wow, was it inspiring. A room full of activists sharing common cause is manna for the soul.

All over the country tonight, people from both Democracy for America (sprung from the original Dean for America campaign) and from True Majority, the group run by Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen, came together in pubs and restaurants, community centers and homes across America, to discuss an action plan to combat the president's plan to dismantle Social Security.

My group met in a backroom of a little restaurant on the "westside" here in Los Angeles to strategize. The goal? Plan and publicize meetings with our respective Congresspeople to encourage them to oppose Bush's plan to privatize social security.

Democracy for America had sent along DVDs to be played during the meeting. I was thrilled to see Jim Dean, who I had once sat next to at a meeting about Connecticut, where Jim ran his brother's state campaign. (Presidential elections are not national in scope - they are a conglomerate of state organizations, each battling the other for priority and resources. Not ideal, but without public financing, there you go.) And at the end, of course, there was Howard, bigger than life, flashing that charming self-deprecating grin, and telling us, essentially, that we still have the power.

I flashed back to all the long hours, the stepping over sleeping bodies to get to my desk in the morning (a fact which was noted in a New York Times piece by a freelancer who slept on the floor with them, on occasion), the flights to Iowa and the drives to New Hampshire, the CNN bus, the paucity of press at the early events and the masses of cameras towards the end, the big egos but bigger hearts of co-workers, and mostly, the sheer enthusiasm - that feeling we were all participating in something really special. Something that really could change America.

I was a bit of a skeptic to all the enthusiasm, even as I basked in it. I had been down that road before. In 1992, I worked on Jerry Brown's presidential campaign out of the national headquarters in Santa Monica, California. That too was a heady trip. People with vision and passion, grueling but rewarding hours, and a charismatic leader who told us we weren't just running a campaign, we were starting a movement to "Take Back America." (Deaniacs, Brown had that line first. I have that on a 1992 t-shirt I've never thrown away to prove it.) But when the Brown campaign ended, the dream came to an abrupt halt. There was a token effort at starting a group called "We the People" that never really did anything. It was the most devastating experience of my life. All that work, for nothing. Or so it seemed.

I'd like to think now, in retrospect, seeds had been planted. And when Dean came along, 12 years later, spraying cleansing water all over that ground, the dormant seeds drank and sprouted and raised new faces to the sun. And once above ground, we weren't going back into our seedpods again.

So many of the people running for public office in the last year became inspired because of the Dean campaign. This time, it was no lie. This time, the movement really is continuing. When 50 people turn out in a little corner of the Southland on a weeknight for something besides an audition, that's really something. When 500,000 people turn out all over the country, that's really something else!

I feel so proud to have been part of Dean for America. It feels good to be back in the saddle with Democracy for America, raising my hand to volunteer once again. It feels good to be around so many people who still believe they can make the world a better place for all. It feels good to dare to hope, after such a long dark period.

Sure. I'll help. What do you need?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Exit Polls Revisited - Likelihood of Fraud is High

A very significant report was just completed by a bunch of PhD statisticians on behalf of the non-profit organization US Count Votes. Jerry Policoff, over on Daily Kos, wrote an even more condensed and clear summary.

Here are the most important facts:

  • The exit polls predicted a Kerry win by 3%. Computer counts showed Bush winning by 2.5%. Not only is that a 5.5% swing, that is the largest difference in exit poll history.

  • The pollster, Edison/Mitofsky, validated their process by selecting from actual computer data using the same decisions made in selecting voters. When that count was done, the results were only off by 0.3%, and biased in the opposite direction to the 'error' in the exit polls.

  • The margin of error in this rigorous, validated scientific study was 1.3%. 5.5% is more than 4 times that figure and therefore demands an explanation.

  • The given explanation by the group conducting the exit polls is that Bush voters were less likely to state their preference than Kerry voters. The pollster gave no evidence supporting this assertion. In other words, it was just a guess. But for that to be true, more people should have responded to the pollsters in democratic precincts than in republican precincts. However, the data shows the reverse is true. People were more likely to talk to pollsters in republican precincts. So if anything, the error should have overestimated Bush's lead.

  • The exit polls asked about both the Presidential and Senate races where applicable. The exit polls correctly predicted the Senate races, but not the Presidential races.

  • As the report states:
    This difference between the accuracy of the Senate and presidential exit poll is puzzling. Historic data as well as the exit polls themselves indicate that the ticket-splitting rate is low. It is reasonable to expect that the same voters who voted for Kerry were also the mainstay of support for the Democratic candidates in the Senate.
  • These simple facts caused these PhD staticians to conclude the following:
    The many anecdotal reports of voting irregularities create a context in which the possibility that the overall vote count was substantially corrupted must be taken seriously. The hypothesis that the discrepancy between the exit polls and election results is due to errors in the official election tally remains a coherent theory.
In other words, we need to now face the facts: The vote count as presented simply cannot be correct. The numbers are significantly skewed beyond mathematical error towards Bush. If we don't press to find out what happened, we're giving someone permission to steal our vote in the future.

Our vote is the most precious asset we possess as citizens in this country. People have died so we could avoid taxation without representation.

So what can we do? Much.

1. Please join one of the many groups working to protect our vote. Give them time or money or both.

2. Write your Congressperson and ask them a) to seriously and comprehensively investigate the discrepancies between the exit polls and the counts, (preferably using some of the same, honest people who wrote the report, as opposed to a "Warren Commission" guaranteed to produce a preordained conclusion), and b) ask him or her to support Rush Holt's bill H.R. 550, the "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005."

3. Find out what your Secretary of State is doing about electronic voting in your state. Ask to see their plan.

Please get busy. There's no time to lose. It takes a year to put anything in motion, and the 2006 election is therefore right around the corner.

This is really serious. If we give up our vote, we are no longer a democracy. It's ours to save or give away. Demand that it count.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Martin Luther King, RIP

Thirty-seven years ago today, the Reverend Martin Luther King was shot down as he stepped out onto the second floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel.

King had already been almost fatally attacked years earlier, at a book signing. But as he arrived in Memphis, he mentioned the warnings he had received in his now-famous "I've Been to the Mountain" speech, the last he would ever make.

History will judge us by how we treat his memory, and his death. For years, the government told us a lone nut, James Earl Ray killed the man. In fact, the government still holds to that. But as in the cases of JFK and RFK, that conclusion is simply not supported by the evidence.

Why would James Earl Ray plant a gun 10 minutes in advance of using it? A store owner saw a man leave a bundle in front of his store minutes before King was killed. AFTER King was killed, the bundle was opened to reveal a rifle with James Earl Ray's fingerprints on it.

How do we know this? Because the King family, God bless them, had the fortitude to force this case into court. Most Americans don't know, because the MSM never told them, that in 1999, the King family sued Loyd Jowers in a civil suit for conspiracy in the assassination of Martin Luther King. The jury not only found Jowers guilty, but also found that "others, including governmental agencies, were parties to this conspiracy as alleged by the defendant." In other words, when finally tried in court, the people ruled that a conspiracy involving people working for government agencies killed King.

Does that surprise you? It should. Does that anger you? It should. Does that move you to action? It should. If we do not discipline our agencies, who will they kill next, and on what new patsy will they pin the blame? And what will we do then, if anything?

It is a sad comment not just on our times but on all time that the greatest threat to power is sometimes those with the noblest of intentions, to serve the greater good, to stand in nonviolent protest against oppressors. There are those who would character Jesus as a leader as a "peacenik" - a hippie of his time, a rebel leader, who said those who live by the sword would die by the sword. The price of freedom and justice has, throughout history, been extraordinarily high.

It takes a lot of courage to speak truth to power. Martin Luther King had that courage. Both John and Bobby Kennedy had that courage. I pray that I will see another leader of such courage in my lifetime. But I fear for the safety of any who dare rise their head above the crowd.

But please dare. We need you, whoever you are.