Friday, June 29, 2007
One of my most durable allies, based a world away in Columbus, OH, Rady Ananda has sent me an essay that I knew right away belongs at WDNC. Naturally I was drawn right in by her title, which builds off of words I've used in several places this week to promote the release of the Voter Confidence Committee Report on Election Conditions in Humboldt County, California. Note that I only learned later she has posted the same essay with a different title at OpEdNews.com.
Anyway, what I love about this essay is its ruthless honesty - its effort to move us all to act in a way that is consistent with the information we know we have. I have often said this is the way to conquer cognitive dissonance. This theme runs strongly through my fifth annual Reflections On Independence, due out early next week. For now, challenge yourself and read on...
HCPBs are ON the table
By Rady Ananda
I must be experiencing "cognitive dissonance" with our peaceful revolutionary leaders. If we agree that "government IS the problem" then why do we bother even talking to them? Why debate them, why respond to them, why acknowledge them? They cannot prove they were elected, and we can prove they do not vote in accordance with the majority of the populace (92% Zogby poll on transparent vote counting; 19% approval rating of Congress, etc.)
Since the government so clearly and consistently ignores us, why not ignore them? Isn't it premature to meet with them now, before the bulk of the people have decided how to proceed?
If we agree that secret vote counts (as conducted on machines) are anathema to democracy, and we believe in democracy, then why do we vote? Doesn't that legitimize secret vote counting?
If we agree that hand-counted paper ballots, without media reform, without an informed electorate, without viable choices on the ballot who represent the interests and concerns of the people, are irrelevant, then why do we continue to vote?
Are we not long past time to withdraw our consent? Isn't it long past time to withhold our taxes? To withhold our vote? To withhold our attention from elites?
I've been reading Paulo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed; Pedagogy of Hope; Pedagogy of Freedom), George Monbiot's Age of Consent: Manifesto for a New World Order; and both volumes of Derrick Jensen's Endgame. I am desperate to find winnable strategies to implement democracy and take back our world from the rich (whose social and environmental practices look insane, to me).
Freire thinks we should start at the bottom – not the top. Engage in dialogue with the oppressed, and move forward at THEIR level of awareness. Here's how he puts it: "Leaders cannot treat the oppressed as mere activists to be denied the opportunity of reflection and allowed merely the illusion of acting, whereas in fact they would continue to be manipulated – and in this case by the presumed foes of manipulation."
Isaiah Berlin agrees: "But to manipulate (people), to propel them toward goals which you -- the social reformers -- see, but they may not, is to deny their human essence, to treat them as objects without wills of their own, and therefore to degrade them." Source: Two Concepts of Liberty, 1958 (thanks to Tom Feeley).
Freire characterizers our would-be revolutionary leaders who would develop the platform of change without our input and consent as merely asking us to exchange one set of oppressive rulers for another. He believes that when we use the tools of oppression – in this case manipulation thru "sloganizing" – we are oppressors. We are what we do.
Monbiot, interestingly, does not believe that localization will lead to a successful revolution. Instead, he argues that a global world parliament (similar to the World Social Forum, and to the US Social Forum in Atlanta this weekend) will be what leads us to victory. He makes a strong case. The basic premise of his argument is world government by elites is a given – whether we like it or not. Our only hope, then, is to develop a people's forum that holds global government to account.
But all agree that the oppressed must be given voice. While our revolutionary leaders are off in the halls of power debating, cajoling, discussing with elites, the oppressed continues to be ignored.
My question goes to this. How do we engage the populace? Isn't that where our strength really lies? What would get those teens at the public library to read our blogs, to post their own, to posit their own solutions, instead of playing video games on library computers?
What would make 20-somethings more interested in social justice? In fair elections? In peace and a living wage, or universal health care?
I agree with Digby that bloggers are part of a revolutionary participatory democracy. I see journalism as recording history according to elites, and bloggers as recording history according to the people. But obviously, we cannot limit ourselves to the internet – where only a small fraction participates.
Do we follow Che Guevara's (and Paulo Freire's) example and travel from town to town in dialogue with the oppressed? My experience with this is that without offering an alternative that seems reasonable to the people, they don't even want to talk about the sorry state of affairs.
Where we do agree is that before we can have a meeting of the minds between social justice activists and elites, we must first have a meeting of the minds among ourselves. If I could travel to Atlanta this weekend, I would; and I would be speaking for a living wage, hand-counted paper ballots, civil unions for the GLBT community, and peace (for starters).
I sincerely look forward to reading the reports from the US Social Forum, and hope that some of my questions are addressed.
(I published this at http://tinyurl.com/3du4tr)
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Last night I presented the Voter Confidence Committee press release announcing the release of the Report on Election Conditions in Humboldt County, California. I put that out to Humboldt media and to the Humboldt Supervisors and to the City Councils of Eureka and Arcata. The message went to several election integrity e-mail lists, and as I understand, forwarded on to several more as well. It currently has 15 recommendations (not bad) at Democratic Underground and has a top headline position at OpEdNews.com. It has only been on Daily Kos for a few minutes and experience says not to expect much response there. Sherry from the California Election Protection Network wrote me requesting permission to post it on their site but I don't see it up yet.
Now, how about some reactions in Humboldt? I don't imagine too many (if any) people here have read the whole report yet. That's OK. I just wanted to take a moment to further establish a little tone for this announcement and the introduction of this new body of work. What is now happening is the start of a campaign where we are not accepting that this can't be discussed and considered. We're starting the discussion by offering a considerable collection of facts and recommendations. Hand-counting paper ballots is on the table. Let the community dialog begin!
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I won't say it is the only reason I have so few blog posts in the past eight months, but the Report on Election Conditions in Humboldt County (.pdf) just released by the Voter Confidence Committee is something significant I have to show for that period of time.
The press release below says it (almost) all. The image below it is something I've had in my head for more than two years. I could never find anyone willing to do the graphic design work. What I always imagined as a flier or poster is now a powerful diagram that simplifies several pages of text in the report. Regardless of what else happens, I hope this image is picked up and used around the country wherever people are organizing on behalf of hand-counted paper ballots. Huge thanks to HSU student John Carter for helping breath life into this vision.
PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Group calls for community dialog on hand-counting paper ballots
June 27, 2007 - The Voter Confidence Committee (VCC) announces the release of its Report on Election Conditions in Humboldt County, California. The report contains an evaluation of the most recent local election (November 7, 2006), put in the context of widespread national electoral problems, and offers solutions that can be implemented locally. The VCC is a proponent of hand-counting paper ballots and is a strong critic of electronic voting machines which often fail, are not secure, and count the votes in secret.
"The ultimate goal of the Voter Confidence Committee is an engaged community working together to hand-count all paper ballots cast in an election," said VCC spokesperson Dave Berman. "This report is meant to be a community building tool and a blueprint for transparent, secure and verifiably accurate elections in Humboldt County."
Members of the VCC are seeking opportunities to present their findings and recommendations to other area community groups, media outlets, and local elected officials. Berman and fellow VCC member Rabbi Les Scharnberg will be interviewed at 7pm on Wednesday July 4 by Ellen Komp of the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project during her monthly call-in show on KMUD.
The report is available for free download at www.voterconfidencecommittee.org. Hard copies of the report are available by request. To request a copy or schedule a presentation, contact Dave Berman at 707-845-3749 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
# # #
This is a visual summary of the report:
CLICK TO ENLARGE
Monday, June 18, 2007
Dr. Bob Bowman (bio) spoke at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka Monday night, assuming the role of president for a speech he imagines giving to the Congress, the American People, and the world, upon his inauguration. It was not difficult to suspend disbelief - Bowman was Presidential in the classic sense. He took on countless issues and I have copious notes I hope to turn into a longer WDNC post before the end of the week. All I can deal with tonight is the question I asked following his speech:
What do you suggest We The People do when the government falls, either into martial law, or through some unitary executive directive, or refusing to leave office at the next election?
Bowman, who was outstanding on every issue he addressed and fully took on every question he was asked, spoke reassuringly about two instances when Nixon and Reagan had the nuclear button taken away from them. Bowman said there is an element of the military, which he encourages, that he says would not follow illegal orders, such as if Cheney directs a nuclear assault on Iran. It was as if he wanted us to feel like the scenario in my question couldn't happen, even though he knew that we all know it is possible.
So before he could conclude I interrupted: "what can WE do!?" This was the first time anybody in the SRO crowd had any reason to challenge him (though he was a bit roundabout in answering Dave Meserve's question about the European missile defense program). Bowman paused and then said that he is a peaceful man and he would hope that We The People could approach the situation peacefully. However, he added, that we have a Second Amendment for exactly this reason. He said he would peacefully put his body on the line to support everyone else's exercising of their Second Amendment rights. He also said that he would hope the military would encircle the People, and then turn their backs in and their guns out.
I can't really say what kind of response I was expecting, but this took me by surprise and just left me pondering. A few short minutes later and the event was over. A few people commended me for my question and I got into conversation with one of them. I think what we realized is that this is the question we as community organizers need to deal with, and now. I think we've all really known this for a while so likely this is just a dose of ruthless honesty hitting me now to remind me that it is literal when Bob Bowman comes to town and says we have to take our country back.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Last night's post about the new vacancy in Humboldt County's election department was quite likely a scoop for WDNC. I'm not expecting to be back on the advocacy journalism beat with the intensity and posting frequency of the past, at least not for a little while longer. But following the news I broke last night, it calls for an update based on a few things I did today.
Around midday I called Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich to inquire about the Election Manager job description and qualifications. She was rather non-plussed to be hearing from me about this and mentioned that she knew I had "gone to the media" with the news already. I didn't ask for clarification but I thought of three things she might have been referring to.
First, after publishing last night's post to WDNC, I also circulated it to various election integrity e-mail lists. This is the advocacy of it all. I'm publishing news of a job opening and saying I want to help find some possible candidates. I also put the announcement on Democratic Underground and Daily Kos. This seemed the least likely of the three things Carolyn might have meant.
Another step I took last night was to forward the news to Peter B. Collins, with the suggestion that he interview Carolyn on his radio show to get the news of the job opening to some potential candidates. I did not hear back from Peter B. and so I do not know either way whether he or his producer had contacted Carolyn.
Now, before I mention the third possibility, it is worth noting that Carolyn spoke about the people who already work for Humboldt County and have responsibility for filling job openings. She did not particularly welcome my interjection into the process, though surely it won't surprise her that I, and no doubt the Voter Confidence Committee, will be closely monitoring the hiring process and hoping to see an agreeable candidate win the position. Carolyn was intentionally vague and not helpful when I asked how to find the job description and qualifications. That's ok. A very basic search led me to this page displaying all County job openings, and this .pdf describing the now vacant Election Manager position. The date on that description is December 2002 so I imagine it will soon be updated.
To explain the third possibility I imagined about Carolyn's "gone to the media" reference, I have to mention stopping at the Eureka Reporter this morning. Since submitting my most recent opinion column to them, which they published with the most fabulous of names, No Wonder We're Ready For Revolution," I have been wanting to share two suggestions with Managing Editor Glenn Franco Simmons. I've met with him a few times prior, and while conveying my recommendations to him in a series of "off the record" e-mails, we had both been hoping to meet once again to talk in more detail. Unfortunately, Glenn has missed a lot of work lately and I have yet to catch up with him.
For no real reason, I chose to drop in unannounced at the paper today. Glenn was once again unavailable but I was fortunate to get a few minutes with Assistant Managing Editor Diane Batley. She received my first idea better than I could have possibly imagined. I told her that I understand newspapers don't have the manpower to fact check every letter to the editor, yet it is clearly in the interest of the paper to keep "false facts" out of print as much as possible. For example, the bogus claim that the American military "surge" (escalation) has reduced the death rate in Iraq was one of the reasons I wrote that recent column linked above. I proposed (and have been for saying for a while) that newspapers ought to require letter writers to document and source their claims. Diane opened today's paper and showed me that the instructions for submitting letters now include requiring this evidence. She said it was appearing this way for no more than a month. I had already gotten my way once before opening my mouth today. I think that's pretty effective advocacy, though I admit it is possible others have been pushing the same idea.
The second idea I gave to Diane built on the first. Clearly, a newspaper's reputation and credibility must be protected through proactive measures. A "false fact" appearing in a letter to the editor still leaves the newspaper in the position where any reader might later cite this misinformation and attribute it to the paper thereby damaging its credibility and reputation. In other words, it is no more acceptable to have a factual error appear in a letter than it is in an article written by a staff reporter. In each case, a correction notice is warranted. In the example above, my response was not a sufficient proactive protection of the newspaper's credibility after publishing a letter writer's inaccuracy. This so-called "self-correcting mechanism" does the further harm of leaving readers to determine which "fact" to believe. This is not a difference of opinion and the paper has no need to adjudicate if it were. But this is a question of fact/fiction and is exactly how we wind up with what I have so often called the rift in the perception of reality.
I will not venture to guess how persuaded was Diane, but we can now watch to see if the Reporter institutes a policy of running corrections for factual errors in letters to the editor. If it happens, you will know it is because somebody's been doing some advocacy work. Having delivered my two brief points in no more than ten minutes, I stood up to leave. Then I remembered to ask, had she heard about Lindsey McWilliams leaving the elections department? That's when I figured I probably had the scoop last night. Friday's Reporter has this feel-good piece about Lindsey, including many quotes from Carolyn that were likely obtained between the time I had "gone to the media" and called her about the job description.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
According to Aryay Kalaki of the Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County, long-time County Election Manager Lindsey McWilliams has left his position as of Monday and will soon take a similar position in Solano County, California. I won't say I'm celebrating but I have been calling for McWilliams to resign for a long time. What I will say is that this is an opportunity. Aryay also reported that Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich seems a bit stressed over having to fill not one but four vacancies in her elections department. Are there qualified members of the Election Integrity Community who I should encourage the County to recruit?