Monday, January 15, 2007
Last year I spoke at this same event and did not capture audio or video, but made the text of my remarks available here. I will not publish this year's words other than to make this audio file (.mp3 ~8 min.) available for your listening pleasure.
In today's speech I hit a few themes familiar to anyone who has read my writing over the past few years. In particular, I address inherent uncertainty, a topic dealt with masterfully in Sunday's Doonesbury comic strip.
CLICK TWICE TO ENLARGE
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Family and professional obligations have kept me quiet and out of sight these past two months. Gone but not forgotten, I hope. Ready or not, here I come, back in the saddle again.
During this WDNC hiatus I did not publish anything anywhere. I read a lot less, stopped getting e-mail from various lists and sometimes didn't return individual messages (sorry). I did no scheduled public speaking appearances, sold no books, and attended hardly any meetings, events or political actions.
A notable exception was the Eureka City Council meeting in early December when Mayor Bass and Councilmembers Glass and Leonard were sworn into office. I listened closely to the words in the oath they all swore (to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic).
I used the public comment period to point out to them that they had just acknowledged at least the possible existence of domestic enemies (no more dismissiveness toward "conspiracy theorists"). Would they know one if they saw him or her? Could we recognize a domestic enemy by his claims of unilateral power to change the Constitution? To jail any of us without charges? To spy on us?
I suggested that those in our community who feel that the Council should only deal with strictly local matters ought to re-consider the oath that defined the commitment these public servants had just made. There wasn't a word about pot holes. The Council is on notice. This community will hold Councilmembers to their oath and require official municipal support in restoring our rights, and our rightful status as citizens rather than subjects of an empire.
One other outing I was glad to make time for was a mid-November afternoon spent hand counting paper ballots! This was part of the 10% manual audit conducted by Humboldt County to double check the accuracy of the official election results sponsored by Diebold. I was part of a four person team, or board, and I was the only one doing it for the first time. The arrangement had one person reading off the votes from the ballots, two people independently marking separate tally sheets based on what they heard, and then my role was to visually confirm that what was called out matched what appeared on the ballot. In four hours I caught two misspoken votes. I think we can know that I did not miss any others because the tally sheets matched each other perfectly for every race, and together matched the machine count.
I have two main observations on the experience. First, as soon as we started I noticed that ballots had been marked with x's, checks, and all other manner of incomplete markings that voters are explicitly cautioned not to use lest the machines are unable to read them properly. If we were going to count them based on our clear ability to discern voter intent, I asked my fellow board members, shouldn't we expect to get different results than the machines that can't read these markings? I was assured that the machines could indeed read these marks, and our matching hand count results proved this to be true.
The other important lesson likely to elude the community, even with the point being made here, is that an accurate machine count in one election is not a guarantee for future elections. To think that would be like assuming a safe drive to work one day means you'll never be in a car accident. We are still dealing with an inherently secret process laden with proven security flaws. Hand counting 10% of the vote is an attempt to create a statistically significant basis for confidence in the results of this election.
Aside from that, the Voter Confidence Committee has been quietly working on its report on the November election. Since nothing we developed was going to alter the outcome of any race, we decided not to rush against the backdrop of the holidays. Our report will likely be out in early February and I strongly expect that we will reveal some information not previously covered by the local media. Further, given that our members were intimately involved with virtually every aspect of the election process, we will be presenting many recommendations that will make the county look good upon implementation.
So it has been a very introspective spell for me. While I haven't had the means to do much, I realized my least (as in "the least I could do") had changed. I've spent what little time was available having conversations laying the groundwork for two large long term ideas. One is to launch a radio talk show, as I have previously described, presenting the advocacy journalism approach in the form of the Project-Based Format. The other project is about joining marketing concepts with framing to craft actions and campaigns for the progressive movement. I'll leave it a bit vague for now as some of the initial pieces are still moving into place.
It hasn't been easy for me to take this time away. However, it is the "least" principle that keeps me feeling whole as I know that the success of these big picture programs will one day show that I hadn't completely disappeared or stopped contributing to the cause during this period. In fact, on Thursday I was invited to speak at the Humboldt NAACP event on MLK day (noon, Jan. 15, the Adorni Center in Eureka). This is a big honor, in my opinion, as it was when I spoke there last year. Those words were well received at the time, and then many times over at the GuvWurld Blog, on Democratic Underground, and in the We Do Not Consent book. This time my aim is to make an appeal for unity. Members of all community groups should attend and be recognized for their work and their cause. Members of the NAACP will be encouraged to use these people as liaisons to new and greater community involvement and alliances.
So that's about it for now. I can't promise how much I'll be posting here at WNDC in the coming weeks though I am itching to show how the tide has turned for the election integrity movement. For starters, read this article from the Ventura County Star.