Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rest in Peace, Senator Ted Kennedy

Rest in Peace, Senator Ted Kennedy

The Lion of the Senate is gone, and our country is the poorer for his passing. Senator Ted Kennedy passed away late last night, surrounded by his family. While we all knew that, given his prognosis, this event seemed inevitable, I am immensely sad now that he is gone.

I had the great privilege of seeing Ted Kennedy on two occasions of great personal significance.

The first time I saw him was in 1994. It was November, and I was in Washington D.C. to attend my first conference on the assassinations of the sixties, sponsored by the Coalition On Political Assassinations (COPA). I had spent the last year reading a great deal about the deaths of his brothers, and had, at that moment, just returned from a visit to the graves of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy at Arlington. I was touring the Senate gallery when all of a sudden, this larger than life presence walked through. I wanted to run over to him, to give him a hug, to tell him I was there on that day because of his brothers, because I wanted to be with those who still felt the truth about who killed them mattered, and was worthy of study.

But I didn’t. Why bring up something sad to this man? He was the one who mattered most, now. He was still alive, still helping people. I checked my impulse and just watched from afar until he had passed out of sight.

The only other time I saw him was at Occidental College in Los Angeles. I took a vacation day from work, grabbed a co-worker from France who, after hearing Kennedy’s book on tape, was a fervent admirer. Kennedy was speaking at a rally for Obama. I sat through all the local politicians seizing their moment in the sun, talking to people who were there to see only one man, but who politely waited as would-be politicians borrowed phrases from Obama’s stump speeches, trying to wash themselves in his glory.

Then Ted Kennedy ascended the stage. My friend, an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter, had been silent during the other speeches. But when Ted Kennedy came on the stage, she turned into a fan at a rock concert, screaming his name and tearing up. It was both hilarious and endearing to see this change come over her. But such was Kennedy’s affect on people.

I had heard for years what a great speaker Kennedy was, how much energy he had. Finally, I was able to witness it myself at close range. He was a consummate speaker. He started with a couple of joking anecdotes, and then let his passion flow as he talked about the need for a leader like Barack Obama. He didn’t screech or bellow. He truly roared, and I remember thinking, this must be why he’s called the Lion of the Senate.

After he was done, his much younger and quite beautiful wife Vicky helped him off the stage. He nearly teared up when he mentioned her, and I remember thinking she must be a very special lady to have won the heart of this man. And it was very clear, watching the two of them, that the love was deeply returned.

I managed to snag his signature before he left the stage. He signed my placard, upside down, with blue ballpoint pen on a blue placard. You can barely see it. But that didn’t matter. I just wanted a moment of contact with the man, however brief, and was ecstatic that I got it.

I am listening, as I type, to several Republicans on Joe Scarborough’s morning show on MSNBC talk with great fondness about him. He had an ability to befriend people with whom he had vigorous and deep-rooted political disagreements, and was loved in return.

When his brothers were killed, Uncle Ted brought those kids—all thirteen of them—into his own family, which would include three children of his own and two stepchildren. He loved all of them deeply.

One of the reasons Ted Kennedy was so effective in the Senate is that he never demonized his opponents, even while never giving ground on his own political morality. He would argue the merits of a bill without ever turning it into a personal attack. And Ted Kennedy knew how to compromise. He fought to get solid legislation passed, and didn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

I fear with his passing that bipartisanship in the Senate may die as well. Kennedy was one of the few still willing to reach across the aisle, to engage those with whom he vigorously disagreed in a respectful manner. Perhaps all the coverage of this aspect of Kennedy will help inform a new generation of leaders how the art of politics should be practiced.

The only solace I have is the knowledge that, unlike his two brothers, who were robbed of their lives too early and too abruptly, Ted had the rare experience of being eulogized, to a degree, while he was still alive. I am grateful he was able to find out just how much he was loved by so many, in the last year of his life.

Rest in peace, Edward Moore Kennedy. I pray we may someday see your like again.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The truth about the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie

I wrote an article showing how the official story doesn't hold a lot of water, re the Lockerbie shooting, and how investigators have come up with a more plausible, if much darker, scenario that involved sneaking a bomb in via a CIA-monitored drug-ring. See the details over at Consortium News.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Response to the open letter from Dr. Stephen Fraser to Sen. Evan Bayh

Another of my friends, Gary Aguilar, has given me permission to share another rebuttal response to more propaganda. A letter has been circulated, ostensibly from "Dr. Stephen Fraser." Gary offers this point-by-point rebuttal, with links. Enjoy, and circulate broadly!
Dear Merk et al,

I read with interest the first pdf attachment you sent, "HealthCareLtr09.pdf." Then I googled up the on-line bill it was criticizing to check the validity of the assertions of the self-described "patriotic American," "Dr. Stephen Fraser," in his letter to Sen. Bayh. So are "Dr. Fraser's" criticisms valid?

No, they're not..

Let's take them, one by one.

#1. "Dr. Fraser" says, "Page 22 of the HC Bill: Mandates that the Govt will audit books of all employers that self insure!!" (sic).

Go to the bill itself, at: There, you'll find it says no such thing. What it does say on the pages circa 22 is that the govt. will inspect entities that "self insure" to determine whether they're financially solvent. It makes sense for the feds to check, too. For if an employer opts out of any and all plans, saying it will cover all its employee health care costs itself, but lacks the wherewithal to do so, workers may be harmed. So it's not unreasonable for the govt., and workers, to know beforehand.

#2 "Dr. Fraser" says: "Page 30, Sec 123 of HC bill - THERE WILL BE A GOVT COMMITTEE that decides what treatments/benefits you get." (sic).

What page 30 actually says is that a Health Benefits Advisory Committee will be established to "recommend covered benefits and essential, enhanced and premium plans." This is standard practice.. Such committees determine coverage in all private plans now. The idea being that just because you'd like Blue Cross or Medicare to pay for your cosmetic surgery isn't sufficient reason for it/them to do so. [I know from my own experience that patients often have unreasonable expectation of what insurers should cover.]

How about the business of that "GOVT COMMITTEE?" The bill says there will be no more than 27 members, all appointed, except for the Surgeon General. Of the 27, 18 will be picked from the outside - that is, they can't be either federal employees or officers. The other 8 will be federal employees/officers who are appointed by the President. Among the non-feds, MUST BE physician providers and representatives of labor and consumer groups, etc. These representatives are far more inclusive of the medically needy public than the panels used by private insurance companies are today.

# 3. "Dr. Fraser" says, "Page 29 lines 4-16 in the HC bill: YOU HEALTH CARE IS RATIONED!

Check page 29 and it says no such thing.

But if rationing is such a bad thing, why do we allow it here in America already? I donate time at San Francisco General where care for the poor is already quite rationed in that the wait lists for services are far, far longer than they are for the poor in virtually all other First World countries. The wait lists in Canada, which is often criticized, is often no longer than wait lists here for private patients. Perhaps not for MRI scans, for which patients may wait in Canada a little longer, but surgical wait times are not much different. (The next available slot on my private surgery schedule is in about a month.)

And America is the ONLY first world country in which its own doctors go on medical missions to serve the poor - WITHIN THE BORDER OF THEIR OWN COUNTRY! "60 Minutes" did a great expose of this - poor American folk - many of them white and apparently most U.S. citizens - assembling before dawn in remote locations to get health care they can't afford.

#4. "Dr. Fraser" says: "Page 42 of HS Bill: The Health Choices Commissioner will choose your HC Benefits for you. You have no choice!"

Nothing of the sort appears anywhere on page 42. Nor, from what I've heard from my AMA rep, is such a policy written anywhere in the bill. All insurers determine what benefits they'll cover under the plan, and many private insurers immorally change the rules after the fact these days, bankrupting policy holders who undergo treatment that they arbitrarily decide they won't cover.

The #1 cause of personal bankruptcy in America is unaffordable health care costs, usually after unexpected, costly illnesses. This situation exists NOWHERE else in the world. Nowhere.

#5. "Dr. Fraser" says: "Page 50 Section 152 in the HC bill: HC will be provided to ALL non US citizens, illegal or otherwise."

You won't find that anywhere on page 50.

There are 4 more attachments which I won't review because I have no more reason to suppose they'll be any more credible than I have to believe Sarah Palin's imbecilities - boosted by the John Birch Society (in the "New American") - about Obama's plans for "death panels."

I have no idea who this "Dr. Fraser" is. But I'd bet that, if he really exists at all and isn't instead just a phony shill for some wealthy conservative, Republican PR machine, he's probably been fed these lies and is just passing them along to others to accomplish what the right wing ALWAYS tries to do: Scare the Shit out of people. Well, shame on "Dr. Fraser!" The obvious goal here it to keep the money pouring into the coffers of the often corrupt, unethical and immoral insurance companies and hospital corporations.

The McClatchy news outlet - which was the ONLY mainstream U.S. news outlet (known then as Knight Ridder) to really warn its readers BEFORE the Iraq War that Bush & Co. were greatly exaggerating the threat Saddam posed - just put out a fascinating piece detailing who's behind the "Dr. Frasers" of the world. It's entitled, "Who's behind the attacks on a health care overhaul?"

As usual, it's conservative, Republican, right-wing liars and manipulators, among them the notorious Rick Scott, Scott, for anyone who cares to check, "left his job as CEO of the Columbia/HCA hospitals during a federal Medicare fraud probe in 1997 that led to a historic $1.7 billion settlement." So the captain of the "Fraud Ship Columbia/HCA" that bilked America of even more than the $1.7 billion they settled for - Rick Scott - is Mary Mark et al's ally in this "freedom fight."

And people wonder why conservative Republicans can't get no respect!

I welcome rejoinders. Perhaps someone will read through all the other attachments and find that, somewhere, he's finally found something worth bitching about. If so, I'd love to hear it!

Thanks, Gary, for being such a true patriot. (Gary was so Republican in his youth he was a member of the John Birch Society. People really can, and sometimes do, change.)

Lockerbie Bombing Limerick

The people are making such hay.
"They let the bomber get away!"
But what they don't know
Is the trial was all "show"
And the truth is not known to this day.

(More later. Lots of background to come.)

Friday, August 07, 2009

And you wonder why people don't trust the media

Just saw this on Google News and had to capture.

Which is it? Are unemployment rates going up, or down? A fact shouldn't be subject to spin. So why do we have two stories making opposite cases?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Response to anti-Obama Lou Pritchett propaganda

One of my email correspondents sent me this wonderful rebuttal to one of those dastardly hate mail items regarding Obama. He took the time to respond. I obtained his permission to share, although I'm withholding his home address, which he included in the original missive.

The next time someone you know forwards you crap like this - please be a Carl and take the time to respond. That one action may have an effect larger than you at first perceive.

Thanks for forwarding the below letter titled “Obama You Scare Me,” by Lou Pritchett, former CEO [he was only a vice president - Ed.] of Proctor & Gamble.

I find it intriguing that he managed to include in one letter, virtually every anti-Obama cliché ever uttered. I respectfully submit my rebuttal below. My responses appear in blue type following each of his contentions.

Your old friend,


Dear President Obama:

You are the thirteenth President under whom I have lived and unlike any of the others, you truly scare me.

John, if he’s just NOW getting scared, methinks Mr. Pritchett must have slept through the entire Bush administration. It is Bush who ignored laws passed by Congress by attaching “signing statements” to laws that UNLAWFULLY claimed that he would not be bound the very laws he just signed. Bush even dismantled the 400-year-old tradition of habeas corpus. If the “decider” decided that an American citizen was an “enemy combatant,” that person was “disappeared” just like people in other dictatorial countries.

Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek, and currently the editor of, has written “Neck Deep - - The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush.” Obviously, I can’t include his entire list of unconstitutional, extra-legal, unauthorized actions or all of the 900+ lies that Bush told to Congress and the American people - - all confirmed and verified - - but, John, please allow me to list just a few key milestones along the disastrous journey Robert Parry mentions in “Neck Deep.”

Saddam's ties to Al Queda: There never were any. The claim is a complete distortion of the truth.

Chem.. & Bio Weapons: We know Saddam had and used these prior to Gulf war I. Why? WE gave him the means to make them. The weapons inspectors and CIA reports all stated there was no evidence Saddam still possessed these weapons.

Saddam's Nuclear program: What existed was dismantled after Gulf War I. But that didn’t disqualify their previous existence brought forward from the past tense to the present tense from serving as a humdinger of a scare factor.

The War would be a cakewalk: Obviously it hasn't been, largely due to the totally stupid assumptions Bush & Rummy made that were based on total ignorance of the culture AND an equally deadly dismissal of our own generals’ advice.

Iraq as a model for Democracy: The shabbiest and most overused “reason for invading Iraq” since the WMD and Al Queda claims were proven to be bogus. The issue here is that there are many, many brutal dictatorship's in the world, John, and to think that we would send 100,000 troops to a foreign land to "liberate" a nation is just plain gullible.

You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you.

To claim that both Honolulu newspapers conspired to run birth announcements for Obama in anticipation that he was a one-man “sleeper cell” who would be “anointed” president some day defies logic. Besides, how many Hawaii officials does it take to prove its legitimacy? Even the respected has examined it!

To quote:

“ staffers have now seen, touched, examined and photographed the original birth certificate. We conclude that it meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship. Claims that the document lacks a raised seal or a signature are false. We have posted high-resolution photographs of the document as "supporting documents" to this article. Our conclusion: Obama was born in the U.S.A. just as he has always said.”

Update, Nov. 1, 2008: The director of Hawaii’s Department of Health confirmed Oct. 31that Obama was born in Honolulu.

Not to mention, John, I bet ten bucks to a donut that previous GOP presidents have a few skeletons in their closets that should have caused Mr. Pritchett to proclaim the same “...I know nothing about [them either].”

For instance, I’m sure Mr. Pritchett didn’t realize that Ronald Reagan became a viable political entity with the help of the entertainment conglomerate, MCA. Reagan signed a waiver when he was President of the Screen Actors’ Guild that allowed MCA production division to negotiate with “talent agency” side of the company and the actors it represented as their agent ...a blatant conflict of interest.

You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no visible signs of support.

Mr. Pritchett must not have ever heard about scholarships. Like all the blacks and Hispanics who attend ivy league colleges must be the results of conspiracies. Did he have the same reservations about General Colin Powell? Or, Secretary of State Colin Powell? Probably not.

You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth growing up in America and culturally you are not an American.

Tell that to all the diplomat’s kids who grow up in other countries...and, who go on to become active in our State Department activities themselves.

Or, tell that to the hundreds of thousands of military brats who grew up in countries where their fathers were stationed.

Sheesh, the level of ethnocentrism and unbridled chauvinism of this guy is truly barf-inducing. Going overseas, according to him, must be enough to cancel out any right to call oneself an American. I can just hear him say, “GAWD NO! We sure don’t want to learn about other cultures when we go to war, as we did in Iraq, we will be guaranteed to totally misconstrue their willingness to accept us with open arms.”

For heaven’s sake, John, I’m just a regular American citizen who has read only briefly about the Iraqi culture. And, EVEN I knew that Bush and Rumsfeld were wrong when they said the Iraqi people would accept us with open arms. These bozos lived on another planet and there are umpteen gazillion former generals who quit military service because of their vociferous disagreement with Bush & Co. They tried to tell BushCo that they were wrong-headed to think Iraqis would welcome us into their country.
No doubt, that naïve notion is the reason Bush & Rumsfeld didn’t think it was important to guard the warehouse with 400 tons of C-4 explosives (that are currently being used to blow up our soldiers) ...and, no doubt, that’s also the reason Bush & Rumsfeld thought it was a good idea to dismiss en masse the entire Iraqi army (against Pentagon advice) and send them home along WITH THEIR DAMN WEAPONS! Yeah, that was a good idea. So, I for one, am thankful that Obama DOES have a multicultural understanding of the world and its various countries ...especially those that are Islamic. We sure as hell can’t afford to have the level of incompetence and rampant ethnocentrism that has been in play during most of the Bush administration.

You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll.

Well, neither had John McCain, but the GOP wanted HIM to run the country. And, look at who they wanted to be VP!

Not to mention, if you look at the string of failing businesses George W. Bush left in his wake, how can you claim that HE ever met a payroll? A couple of W’s businesses had to be bailed out with gifts (not loans) from Daddy’s good friend, the head of the Saudi National Bank - - if THAT doesn’t make Mr. Pritchett scared, then his heart needs to be checked to see if it is still beating.

You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus don't understand it at its core.

For the record, neither did George W. Bush. He was in a rich boys’ National Guard Unit and nobody ever DID collect the $10,000,000 reward that was offered to produce paperwork that verified he was ever even THERE. (His records mysteriously had disappeared!)

Nobody in the unit to which he supposedly belonged even knew the guy! Never had met him. And if military service is a requirement for government service, then what about the FULLY 96% of the top-most echelon of the Bush administration who never served in the military? Rumsfeld? NOPE. Karl Rove? NOPE. Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, etc.? NOPE, NOPE, NOPE and not a chance! What a bunch of BS, to claim military service is necessary when the entire previous administration was made up of rich kids who bought their deferments. ME??? I SERVED IN VIETNAM! And, as for Kerry’s service hear the Republicans, tell it, you’d think that getting SHOT didn’t qualify Kerry for any more credit than if he had played pinball at the local pool hall; much less count as patriotism. Selective perception Mr. Pritchett? Hmmmmm???? I think so.

You scare me because you lack humility and 'class', always blaming others.

What? This is such a blatant opinion that is based on no empirical evidence it doesn’t even warrant a comment. Who, pray tell, defines “class;” and, without specific examples of Obama blaming others, it’s a bit difficult to respond further.

You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.

Being on a task force to improve education at the same time as the President of the University of Chicago doesn’t equate to “hanging with terrorists” unless you accuse the University President of the same thing. The supposed “terrorist” was an anti-Vietnam War Protestor - - just like I was after I came back convinced that war wasn’t winnable and was only about the oil under the Gulf of Tonkin. So, I must be a terrorist by Mr. Pritchett’s criteria. And, I STILL think it was a stupid, unnecessary war that was initiated with the help of lies. (None of our ships were actually was a ruse ...a faked circumstance to panic congress into granting permission to wage war. Just like we were panicked into rushing into the Iraqi war.

You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the 'blame America ' crowd and deliver this message abroad.

So, let’s see if I understand: Mr. Pritchett doesn’t think using 900 + lies to maneuver America into an unnecessary war isn’t something that we might want to acknowledge. It’s not like simply denying it is going to let us “slip that big elephant into the room” without anyone in other countries noticing. Sometimes admitting the obvious adds to one’s credibility, Mr. Pritchett! And world-wide polls demonstrate that such admissions have increased America’s credibility!

You scare me because you want to change America to a European style country where the government sector dominates instead of the private sector.

Mr. Pritchett must have a short memory because he’s obviously forgotten that it was National Socialism - - Hitler’s party - - that promoted the belief that government controlled by private industry is the best of all possible governments. Allowing the private sector to dominate is called, lessee, now. What did Mussolini call it? Oh, I know, he called that fascism. In fact, he used corporatism and fascism interchangeably.

You scare me because you want to replace our health care system with a government controlled one.

Yeah, and Mr. Pritchett claims that we’ll lose our “free choice of doctors.” I pay hundreds of dollars monthly for privately run health insurance. And, guess what?! I can’t choose any doctor I want. I’m TOLD what doctor to go to. But, my neighbor who is on Medicare? He gets to choose any doctor he wants, no restrictions.

So, this point is just scare-mongering. In fact, even after paying hundreds of dollars every month, my wife’s surgery and hospital stay was rejected and we now owe more than $120,000 in medical bills. And, THAT’S AFTER ACTUALLY HAVING PRIVATELY OPERATED HEALTH INSURANCE!

You scare me because you prefer 'wind mills' to responsibly capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves.

Pardon me, Mr. Pritchett, but T. Boone Pickens, who knows a lot about oil availability here in the US, said that you folks who claim that we can become energy independent by drilling the oil that is available in America are DELUSIONAL! That’s Pickens’ own word. Pickens said that we only have 5% of all available oil but we use 25% of the oil consumed. That’s why he said the “drill, baby, drill” folks are being dishonest when they imply it would make a difference to up our own domestic oil production.
You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose that lays the golden egg which provides the highest standard of living in the world.

Pardon me again, Mr. Pritchett, but using that logic, you would probably call the “father of capitalism,” Adam Smith, himself, a socialist. Guess what! Even HE said capitalism needs regulations. Without regulations and oversight by the government, Smith says it would destroy itself.

Let’s face it: we already have seen what “self regulation” can do: it DID destroy the goose that laid the golden egg. Not the regulators. Not by a long shot. Even Alan Greenspan admits that he was wrong to assume that capitalists will regulate themselves. I ask you, Mr. Pritchett: Would YOU be the first little boy to STOP taking candy from the dish when there were no rules telling you to “be polite?” I doubt it. You would be just as greedy as the ding butts who were told that the bubble was dangerously close to bursting because of the lack of regulation and oversight for the laws that were actually on the books. Bush even fired one of his own SEC chairmen because he tried to fine a couple of Wall Street companies who were caught posting transactions after the markets closed. Even those who tried to regulate the laws on the books were fired for their trouble.

You scare me because you have begun to use 'extortion' tactics against certain banks and corporations.

You have the audacity to say that BANKS are being intimidated? After two solid decades of bribing congress and helping to author bills designed to loosen regulations ...after Bush & Obama BOTH having given the banks a total of $14 Trillion in bailout money? Who’s intimidating whom?

SURPRISE FACT: today, August 2, 2009, only 3% of those funds have been invested in shoring up the credit market by being made available for loans - - the very purpose the funds were meant to accomplish. Mr. Pritchett, even little old HAYSEED KANSAS BOY Carl Williams could see that nothing good was going to come from variable rate mortgage loans; or balloon payment loans. If I could see that trouble was brewing, then why the hell didn’t the bankers see it? They didn’t want to stop taking money from the suckers because they knew that the FDIC and/or the government in general would see that they “were too big to fail” so they didn’t have to worry about the consequences of their greedy behavior.

So, I ask again, Mr. Pritchett, whom is intimidating whom? That argument just doesn’t fly, my friend. At least not with anyone with an ounce of common sense, it doesn’t.

You scare me because your own political party shrinks from challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals.

I don’t know if you noticed, but even a couple of former GOP Treasury Secretaries and Alan Greenspan, himself, are going along with the current attempts to shore up the hole in our ship of state that the bankers themselves blew in the bottom. Your comment is nothing more than propagandistic jingoism.
You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people.

Like the bankers who got us into this mess are intelligent. Please...

You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both omnipotent and omniscient.

It sounds like the kettle calling the pot black. Your attitude throughout this letter has been that of a two-bit know-it-all.

You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything you do.

Mr. Pritchett must not watch Fox News, my friend. If THAT is a free pass, then I guess Mr. Pritchett must think that Joseph Goebbels was the German version of Captain Kangaroo.
You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the Limbaughs, Hannitys, O'Reillys and Becks who offer opposing, conservative points of view.

If you think those “intellectual giants” actually are worthy of consideration, then I have some ocean front property here in Kansas I want to talk to you about, Mr. Pritchett.

You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing.

But, yet, you seem to want private industry to be in control of government. I think we’ve already seen what kind of fiasco can come from that formula. Let’s see ...fascist Germany, fascist Italy, American economic melt-down circa 2008...that’s what happens when private industry controls things and there are no regulations to stop them from looting the pockets of the rest of us.
Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will probably not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8 years.

Mr. Pritchett, I think that given the encroaching power of the military industrial complex and its puppeteers, the international oil companies, not even Obama can stop the systematic destruction that’s happening to our constitution. Obama said the US should stop its military support and aid to Honduras because of the illegal coup. Did that take place? Nope. He said we’d be out of Iraq. Will that ever happen? Nope. Did Obama deliver the open government he promised when he was elected? I guess since his Justice Department lawyers were using the same arguments before the Supreme Court in regard to illegal torture and who authorized it, who participated, etc., I guess the answer again is, “Nope.” Obama doesn’t have the authority. It’s above his pay grade. So, yes, I agree: it may, indeed, be risky to write openly about our concerns.

Lou Pritchett
Former CEO [he was only a vice president - Ed.]
Proctor & Gamble

According to Mr. Pritchett, this letter was sent to the NY Times but they never acknowledged it. Big surprise.

Even The New York Times can occasionally smell a pile of BS. That’s saying something since the NYT didn’t smell nary a whiff of BS when it served as THE official US stenographic service that transmitted to the American public the lies the Bush administration cranked out non-stop during the build-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Given their own role in perpetrating misinformation to the public, it must be especially irking to Mr. Pritchett that the NYT didn’t even acknowledge his letter, much less print it.

This rebuttal respectfully submitted by:

P.S. I welcome any comments and corrections of any facts I may have included above. Please include the web sites and sources for the facts that are offered in response.
Me, I might have just said Lou Pritchard is obviously a coward, to be so scared by our President, for chrissakes. I'm glad Carl took the time to elucidate, rather than just ridicule.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Your vote at risk - please pay attention

One of the "worst" things to happen to the election reform movement was Obama's election. A lot of people who were starting to care about whether or not our votes were counted honestly sat back and said hey, the system worked after all, so I don't need to worry about my vote.

Those people are so wrong.

Obama had such a substantial lead going into the election there was simply no point in trying to rig the election in either direction. It was a done deal, as we all saw very dramatically.

But most elections are a lot closer than that, as we remember from recent experience. And as most people are starting to realize, the President is only part of our government. It matters immensely who our Senators and Congresspeople are.

Imagine if Ted Kennedy didn't have a brain tumor, and was heading the Senate committee on the healthcare bill, instead of Max Baucus, who has received a lot of money from health insurance lobbyists. It matters who represents us. It matters a huge deal.

And our votes for Senate and Congress matter. If they are counted as cast. So we must seize control now, in this little window of opportunity we have.

Look at this picture. The dark green states are the only ones that have all paper ballots. The red states have NO paper ballots. The other states have mixes of paper ballots and "direct recording electronic" (DRE, i.e., all-digital/no paper) systems. New York is the only state in the nation still using mechanical lever systems.

(Click here to visit this map at VerifiedVoting and to see the legend.)

It is more urgent than ever that we pass national legislation to guarantee that we have paper ballots that can be routinely audited by hand and counted by hand in any recounts.

Jim Soper, the proprietor of CountedAsCast and a longtime election activist involved in such groups as the California Election Protection Network and the Voting Rights Task Force recently forwarded the following to a large list of activists. He gave me permission to repost it here as well. It's worth every minute of your time to read.

And after reading, please dial up your Congressperson and ask them to support HR 2894, Rush Holt's bill, discussed below. You can also see an ever growing list of the voter protection groups that are supporting the current legislation here. You can also read the entire text of the bill at that link, if you are so inclined.

And now, without further ado, Jim's articulate argument in support of this bill.

Towards Open Elections

Many in the election integrity movement have written about deficiencies in this year's version of the Holt bill (H.R. 2894).

I'd like to offer my perspective.

To start, this web site, makes clear that I have long been opposed to secretive vote counting.

I will also note that we cannot rely on hand-counted paper ballots alone to ensure fair and accurate elections. 50 years ago, if you were black, and living in the Deep South, or a republican living in Chicago, you could rest assured that your vote was not being hand-counted accurately. This is one of the reasons why very good people were in favor of HAVA. They were hoping that their votes would be counted less unfairly if it was an impartial machine and not racists or Mayor Daley doing the counting. What the hopers did not realize was that they could not count on the secretive machines either.

Since history clearly shows that neither machines nor hand-counting by themselves can ensure fair and accurate elections, it is useful to inject redundancy - double checks - into the process.

That's where both hand counts and computers come in, to provide at least two different ways to count the results; by hand and by machine. I agree with the German Constitutional Court decision of March 3 that elections must be checkable without the use of computers; what NIST calls "software independence". At the same time, the Court also understands that it is also necessary to have well-run elections. So it specifically and explicitly stated in paragraph 121 that computers such as scanners may be used in elections, so long as the results are checkable without specialized knowledge, ie. hand-checkable.

In the US, we are a long way from hand-checking results. 32 states do not require by law paper ballots and/or do not require spot checks (see These include the important swing states of IN, MI, OH, PA, and VA. Let me repeat that. 9 years after the Florida fiasco, most states do not require by law even spot-checking of election results, much less hand-counted paper ballots.

So where does the H.R. 2894 stand in all of this?

  • H.R. 2894 requires, over time, the use of paper ballots in all 50 states - Sec 101(a)(2)(A), pgs. 3+. The phrase "a paper ballot marked by the voter by hand or a paper ballot marked through the use of a nontabulating ballot marking device or system" (pg. 4) means no DREs, no VVPATS, paper ballots, in all 50 states.
  • H.R. 2894 ensures, over time, spot checks of election results in all 50 states -Sec 301. This is a good start, but there's more.
  • H.R. 2894 bans Internet connections, including voting on the Internet - 103 (a)(9), pg. 19. The wrong people are pushing that dangerous idea very hard, and we must stop it, now, in all 50
  • H.R. 2894 bans the use of wireless communications devices in election systems, except for infrared - Sec 103(a)(8), pgs. 18+. Many computers, including almost all laptops, have wireless devices built-in on the motherboard. Someone can sit with a laptop in a truck outside the building, and have all day to hack their way in. It is important to close off this security gap, now, in all 50 states.
  • H.R. 2894 requires that the testing labs disclose the computer code to *anybody* "conducting an investigation or inquiry concerning the accuracy or integrity of the technology" - 103 (a)(7), pg.s 13+. The persons checking the software have to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), but those persons may report on what they saw, so long as they do not go into such detail as to disclose trade secrets. I read this to mean that they could write reports similar to the California Top-to-Bottom Reviews of '07 which were very eye-opening to much of the public and the media. I want to see open-source for all software, firmware, hardware and data. Currently, we have to fight just to look at the paper ballots and the data. The more we can look at, the better off everybody will be, in all 50 states.
  • H.R. 2894 improves complaint procedures - Sec 401(b), pgs. 45+. This is an unnoticed, but useful provision that, given a good Attorney General, could lead to actual enforcement of election laws. Real enforcement is starkly missing today, in all 50 states.

There are more useful provisions, but I won't go into detail here. The bill does have a notable flaw - it requires systems for the disabled that can mechanically cast ballots - 102(a)(B)(ii)(II), pg. 9. Noel Runyan, a blind expert on voting systems, finds this requirement unnecessary, a privacy sleeve does the job. I agree and the clause should be improved. But do not think it warrants scuttling paper ballots, spot checks, and Internet- and wireless-free elections.

The Holt bill also gives more authority to the EAC, a corrupt, crony-driven institution. The problem here is that the EAC is already alive and kicking, and nobody has proposed legislation that repairs the situation. It would be better to work on serious proposals for such legislation, than to scuttle paper ballots, spot checks, and Internet- and wireless-free elections.

The Voting Rights Task Force (Berkeley/Oakland, CA) has read through the Holt bill carefully. We have also reviewed the other bills that have been proposed. *No* other bill that we know of addresses the issue of being able to hand-check results on paper ballots. This is the best bill that exists. After months of serious study and debate, the VRTF has endorsed H.R. 2894.

I look forward to supporting legislation that improves on H.R. 2894. In the meantime, this bill opens the door in many states for paper ballots, spot checks, and disclosed source code; i.e. this bill strengthens both hand counting and machine counting. H.R. 2894 also closes the door on DREs, the Internet, and most wireless devices, all of which are dangerous. Congress needs to pass this bill, soon, to advance towards open elections, in all 50 states.

Nobody, and no machine, should be counting American votes in secret.

For further information, email Jim Soper at:
August 1, 09

Thanks, Jim. Well-stated.

And readers, please. You can find your Congressional rep here: Ask them to support or, better yet, cosponsor, HR 2894.

Thank you, as always, for your activism.