Thursday, November 29, 2007

Some things I've been meaning to tell you...

My North Coast Journal book review of Naomi Wolf's "End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the references I see out there. I had promised to post a bunch of links and I regret the delay. I urge you to listen closely to what she is saying. This list is by no means comprehensive.

Lecture at University of Washington, 10/11/07
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjALf12PAWc
Lecture in Baltimore, MD, 11/7/07
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h117oU65fIc
On Stephen Colbert's show:
http://www.alternet.org/blogs/video/63860/
Mind Over Matters radio interview 10/22/07
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aW9PulYpjGs

Last Sunday Wolf penned an OpEd for the Washington Post. She periodically posts to Huffington Post. She gave a good interview to BuzzFlash back in September. And from another good one last week with Don Hazen at AlterNet:

DH: Well there's a lot of activity currently in terms of the Justice Department aimed at purging voters ... reducing voter rolls ... that's an ongoing battle to try to keep voters eligible. Conservatives are always trying to reduce the electorate. By the way, are you familiar with Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism?

NW: Yes, and it all makes a lot of sense. And its certainly historically true. We're in this post-9/11 period when there is a lot of potential for these kind of "shock therapy" things to happen, but virtually everything ... has happened previously in history in patterns. It's just the blueprint. It's not rocket science.

I could tell last fall when a law was passed expanding the definition of terrorists to include animal rights activists, that people who look more like you and me would start to be called terrorists, which is a classic tactic in what I call a fascist expansion.

DH: Don't look at me -- I'm not a vegetarian. Just kidding.

NW: (Laughs) Right. It's also predictive ... according to the blueprint, that the state starts to torture people that most of us don't identity with, because they're brown, Muslim, people on an island. They're called an enemy.

That there will be a progressive blurring of the line, and six months, two years later, you're going to see it spread to others. ... According to the blueprint, we're right on schedule that this kid recently got tasered in Florida, I gather, for asking questions.
Where to begin to comment? First of all, I am now reading the Naomi Klein book (Shock Doctine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism) referenced above and I recommend it as strongly as I have with Wolf's book. Earlier this year I read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. As I make my way through Klein's book I am recognizing a tight nexus between all three books. Just as Wolf traces historical echoes of dictatorships, parallels common to the story of all authoritarians closing down open societies, Klein takes the same regimes and angles in on the economic shock therapy typically used to pave the way down a path shepherded by Perkins the hit man, in other words perpetual servitude to the American empire.

Notice above that Wolf says "blurring of the line." To me, this reinforces and builds upon the notion of inherent uncertainty, which is often created by falsely balanced contradictions or completely unverifiable claims. The added uncertainty that Wolf is forecasting is a more individual consideration. It amounts to a People who live with a nagging fear - am I next?

It is also important that Wolf invokes a blueprint for the onset of fascism. Even more important is her statement that it is predictive. In the BuzzFlash interview, she rhetorically asks:
"...if it is reasonable to assume we will have fair, transparent elections. Given all these violations of these sacred tenets of democracy, do you really think that George Bush is going to say, fourteen months from now, that the great pageant of democracy -- a fair election -- must proceed without intervention or corruption? That the people have spoken, the people's will be done? Is that really common sense?"
This position she arrives at is the same one I've held for seven years, though we get there in different ways. She is saying that she expects there will be elections. I don't think it is unreasonable to consider the prospect she may be wrong, but I'm able to accept the premise. Because what she says about upcoming elections is that we know they won't be decided legitimately. With even the first draft of the Voter Confidence Resolution (originally called No Confidence Resolution), on April 10, 2004, I was making the same predictive statement, that there would be no basis for confidence in the results of elections held under current conditions.

There is something a bit weird about predictions. Nobody reading these words would consider gazing into a crystal ball to be a legitimate means of news gathering. So how can a best-selling author, on a non-stop book tour, get away with making predictions? Consider that she is not making a guess. She is not even talking about the future. She is describing things that are already happening, but which many people just don't see. This too is one of the echoes described in End of America. You may know the expression "good Germans," referring to the dazed and confused populace that let Nazism rise to power. Sadly, yet predictably, many "good Americans" cannot or will not recognize fascism when they see it.

Come to think of it, I have made some other predictive statements, particularly about the economic and environmental crashes inevitably looming on the horizon. There simply is no argument to be made that our course on either front meets any definition of sustainable. Thus, this too is a prediction of the present. Many of us are certain the collapse has already begun. Here we are only talking about how long it will take and what degree of personal uncertainty must become the norm before what is now clearly visible to some becomes apparent to all.

* * *

I'm late to the show for commenting on the privileged impeachment resolution introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich a few weeks ago, when he attempted to force a floor vote in the House of Representatives. However, the stray notes I made at the time take us back to one more predictive statement:
Republicans as a rule are obstructionist in this Congress. Yesterday they had many possible ways to obstruct, any of which would alter the course away from the only thing worth describing as a goal, which is a successful vote to impeach.

Republicans portray themselves as victims, even as they bully the world. To prolong impeachment discussions, inwardly believing they are benign, creates a new, manageable internal threat. As Wolf notes in End of America, fascist dictators always evoke threats, both internal and external.

In this year's Reflections on Independence (Vol. 5), I pointed out that there is no precedent for expecting this admin to allow itself to be held accountable. It will never allow impeachment to proceed through all its machinations. However, whatever method of preempting impeachment one may imagine, it will not be unleashed until deemed necessary or opportunistically ideal. By prolonging and managing the pace of the impeachment discussion the admin increases its control over when that point of perceived necessity arrives.
With a few weeks gone by now, I don't really see that Kucinich's welcome bravado did anything to shift control of the impeachment issue. Worth noting, though, is this statement by New Hampshire State Representative Betty Hall. While I don't consider her endorsement of Kucinich's presidential candidacy to be too relevant, she goes much further by introducing her own impeachment resolution in the NH House.

At least two things are significant about this. First, while it may take a few months, NH law guarantees this resolution will get a full floor vote - it cannot be killed in committee. The other important part of this development is that Hall's resolution was drafted primarily by Paul Lehto, election protection attorney, co-founder of psephos-us.org, and the author of the Foreword to my book, We Do Not Consent (free .pdf download). The genius Lehto displays here is connecting the necessity of impeachment with the absolute destruction of legitimate elections. The final paragraph of the resolution:
That, for directly harming the rights and manner of suffrage, for suffering to make them secret and unknowable, for instituting debates and doubts about the true nature of elections, all against the will and consent of local voters affected, and forced through threats of litigation, the actions of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney to do the opposite of securing and guaranteeing the right of the people to alter or abolish their government, being a violation of an inalienable right, and an immediate threat to Liberty, is good cause for impeachment to be immediately granted.
Of the dozens if not hundreds of good causes for impeachment, this one may be the oldest chronologically if we go back to November and December 2000.

One last thing I've been meaning to tell you. A few weeks ago there were demonstrations of the US-approved torture tactic called waterboarding. This YouTube video was filmed in front of a Justice Department building, and this footage was taken by Code Pink members confronting CA Sen. Dianne Feinstein in front of CNN studios in D.C. This could only be done with volunteers willing to endure the pain and risk of death. It is totally surreal. Imagine you're a cop. On an ordinary day you might observe a group carrying signs and singing songs ("mostly say hooray for our side!"). You might see people lay down in the street for a "die-in." But what do you do when you see somebody conducting waterboarding, even if on a willing subject?

Can an ordinary beat cop bring you up on war crimes charges?

How does the sacrifice of allowing oneself to be waterboarded compare to the sacrifice of being arrested for torture, charges exactly applicable to Bush, Cheney, etc.

Is a demonstration of torture, even if on a willing victim, consistent with the principles of non-violence? I don't have an answer for this but imagine it could be quite debatable. Comments welcome.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Eureka Reporter OpEd: Confidence in election counting?

Well, I haven't exactly been doing NO writing. This is coming out in Thursday's Eureka Reporter, online as of a few minutes ago.

http://www.eurekareporter.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?ArticleID=31179

Confidence in election counting?
by Dave Berman, 11/28/2007

Elections officials may hope the public has both confidence and faith in election results, but it is only reasonable for them to seek confidence, and never faith. This is not a church-and-state issue. This is about the public's non-negotiable right to oversee the process by which we empower our representatives. This is also about distinguishing things that can and cannot be known with certainty.

Who among us can say how many stars are in the sky, pebbles on the beach or blades of grass on a field? Many religions contemplate an all-knowing deity, perhaps worthy of your faith. Yet we do not install our neighbors in public office to then accept their word unquestioningly. Still, election machines can only require faith because the secrecy of the computer programming leaves no rational basis for confidence in the results reported.

Nationwide, many voters still use paperless electronic machines known to lose votes, swap a voter's choice, count backwards and tally more votes than registered voters. Once a "glitch" occurs, there is no way to know if any "correction" reveals the correct count of the votes cast. Even if no problems occur, there is still no permanent record to verify the data considered proprietary and kept secret by the machine manufacturer.

Humboldt County does provide the benefit of paper ballots; however, it continues to feed them into optical scanners - big black boxes - where ballot markings are encoded into a form humans can't read. From there, only faith allows one to accept the results. Again, there is no rational basis for confidence.

It is not overly suspicious to raise these questions. Security reviews conducted in three states (including California) have found that Humboldt County's optical scanners are so vulnerable to tampering that no "procedural mitigations" or enhanced security measures can guarantee the sanctity of the machines.

The GEMS central tabulator program continues as part of Humboldt County's vote-counting system, used at the Elections Office to combine results from all precincts. Use of this program inexplicably continues more than three years after the Department of Homeland Security's Computer Readiness Team labeled it a threat to national security.

Back to faith and confidence. Not only is it inappropriate for the election process to demand blind faith; when the process is spelled out, it seems hard to believe anyone would willingly invest their faith in it.

The Elections Office operates equipment that may as well be a divining rod. The people there do their job and report the numbers they get. They should have no more influence over those numbers than a nurse checking a patient's temperature. Yet Elections Office staff can't vouch with any certainty the accuracy of the numbers it announces. Media report these same numbers without any verification. The public goes whistling past the grave of democracy.

Are elections inherently like stars, pebbles and blades of grass? No! Imagine a community meeting room full of voters who each drop a pebble in an urn. When it comes time to count, we see there are exactly the same number of votes and voters, and with the entire community as witnesses, the votes may be counted and recounted ad nauseam. The results would be the same over and over and this can be known with certainty. This is a rational basis for confidence in the results and it does not require faith. This is what we can achieve now in Humboldt County by hand-counting our paper ballots.

Go to www.voterconfidencecommittee.org for a detailed report on election conditions in Humboldt County, including recommendations for improvement. E-mail info@voterconfidencecommittee.org to join our roster of voters willing to hand-count on election night. We hope soon to show the Board of Supervisors there are enough of us to do the job.

No argument will be taken seriously if it openly advocates secret vote counting, ensuring inherently uncertain results that require blind faith. No, we never hear that argument. Yet that's where Humboldt County stands, at least partially because the community has not challenged it strongly enough. This despite our own documented track record of modem failures, memory card failures and even complete failures requiring machine replacement in the field during election day.

(Dave Berman lives in Eureka.)

NOTE: This essay as I submitted it had the following closing paragraph:

It can happen here, Humboldt. You'll know it has when nobody asks questions and we take everything on faith.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Press Release: VCC Gathers Support For Hand-Counting Ballots





PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Dave Berman
707-845-3749 or
info@VoterConfidenceCommittee.org

Voter Confidence Committee Gathers Community Support For Hand-Counting Paper Ballots

Group To Participate in Local Broadcast of Peter B. Collins Radio Show

Syndicated talk radio host Peter B. Collins will be broadcasting his afternoon radio show on 1480AM KGOE live from the Eureka Theater on Friday November 30. Local election integrity group the Voter Confidence Committee (VCC) will be represented in the lobby promoting their recent Report on Election Conditions in Humboldt County, and collecting names from voters interested in and willing to hand-count paper ballots in place of the electronic voting machines currently used here.

"We want to provide the County with hundreds of names of voters who will do the work and help build a more involved electorate," said VCC co-founder Dave Berman. "Hand-counting provides transparent, secure and verifiably accurate election results that we just can't get with machines counting the votes in secret."

Collins' progressive talk show airs from 3-6pm weekdays in Humboldt and several other radio markets. Each Friday, Collins devotes the final hour of his program to the topic of election integrity.

"The integrity of our elections has declined sharply in recent years, partly due to exposure of the flawed processes in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004," said Collins. "The switch to touch screen voting machines has made things worse, and each Friday at 5:00 pm we talk with Brad Friedman of Bradblog.com about the full range of issues that lead to corruption and loss of voter confidence. I think it's really important."

VCC members are scheduled to appear between 5pm and 6pm during Collins' live local broadcast. For more information about Peter B. Collins, visit www.PeterBCollins.com. For more information about Humboldt County election reform efforts, visit www.VoterConfidenceCommittee.org or e-mail info@VoterConfidenceCommittee.org.

Following the broadcast there will be a musical performance by political satirist Roy Zimmerman, who has been making funny songs for many years, previously as the founder of The Foreman. For more information see www.RoyZimmerman.com.

# # #



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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Time to Check Your Least

This past week I was approached by several people wanting my involvement in different election integrity projects. I agreed to do a conference call discussing a campaign calling for the recall of electronic voting machines. I endured a seemingly endless e-mail thread about pooling resources specific to each machine vendor. More locally, a writer who once did a story on me wrote to ask how she should proceed with a community member who wants to tell of election irregularities.

With Paul Lehto's eternal encouragement, I submit it is a necessary challenge for each of us to recur to principles. I have cultivated many phrases and unique arguments throughout hundreds of essays in the past five years or so. These would be my principles to which I shall now recur.

I have often written of "the least you can do." From Blueprint For Peaceful Revolution:

This motivational meme is great for identifying next steps.
  • To help people overcome apathy or complacency, encourage them to identify the least they can do to have a tangible impact, and then to commit to doing at least that much.

  • When an intermediate or long-range goal cannot be achieved in a single step, the least you can do reveals the lowest hanging fruit on the most practical path.

  • When recruiting assistance, the least you can do is the lowest pressure pitch (you can’t ask for less).
There is sometimes solace in this notion. Life, the unstoppable passage of time, the responsibilities of reality, all these things contribute to my less frequent blog posts. Lament, sometimes, for not writing more could easily be the sort of thing I might beat myself up about. But not so anymore. This "least" idea is so ingrained in my world view that I quickly think of the VCC report that came out earlier this year, all the media work that followed, the creation and distribution of the hand-count calculator tool - and the responses it generated from people who adapted it and put it to work in their communities.

I remember five years ago working with the premise that traditional American activist techniques were futile and we should be reinventing activism. Back then I had published nothing and never even spoken on the record at a public event. But I had an e-mail list, because sending important news articles to friends was the least I could do. Then some readers suggested, and helped me build and launch, the GuvWurld News Archive, a permanent public repository of information the government would probably prefer history not record. It too had become the least I could do.

As I began blogging and organizing, my least repeatedly increased. I recognized this as part of the phenomenon itself - it is inherent, that successive small incremental achievements will necessarily increase or enhance what then becomes the least you can do.

So as I review my activities of this year, I realize I have achieved far beyond what once may have been my least. I conclude that I have at least done my least this year, if not more. Given that, the writing I wish was getting done doesn't hang over my head. It sometimes seems so basic that it ought to fit under the umbrella of least, but in reality much more is required of me to keep up my previous blogging pace than is needed to do the other things I've done this year.

Now back to these projects that stream through my inbox. I don't have the time or resources to do justice to the ones from this week, and this is pretty common. Now, it occurs to me that the Project-Based Format, an experimental talk radio show format that I have previously described, would be ideal for maximizing support of each of these projects and others.

The idea of the show is that the host acts like a project coordinator hooking up with citizen organizations and individuals to advance the work being done for change. It is the same advocacy journalism concept that has driven WDNC and the GuvWurld Blog before it. The success of the radio show will not be determined by ratings or money or audience size, but instead it will be judged solely on its ability to facilitate change. To be in the position, as the host of the show, would elevate one's least to an awesome level.

Since I first wrote about the Project-Based Format, I have always put it out there hoping any radio host already on the air would try out the approach. So far no takers. It may just be that I have to make it work for me to be the host if the format is ever going to be tested. But for all these years now it has been far beyond my least, a goal I haven't really fancied to pursue, though I've had a few encouraging conversations about it with people in radio.

This has been a year of great personal change for me, which I know will continue and hopefully accelerate in the new year. If all goes according to plan, by spring I will dramatically reorient my relationship with time, money, and freedom. Of course my head is full of lots of big ideas, not just the radio show. These are beacons in the distance, glowing signs showing the way the baby steps of least should take me.

I write about the Project-Based Format today because these recent projects genuinely reminded me of an idea I'd only temporarily set aside. But I also write because I so often have the urge to write, and this is just a fortunate moment when I let it happen. Most importantly, though, I write because it is a powerfully positive thing to assert intentions, goals to be manifested. Even this simple thing may be your least. I encourage to you check and find out. Discover the least you can do, and commit to doing at least that much.

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As shown on
Dave's new blog,
Manifest Positivity

We Do Not Consent, Volume 1 (left) and Volume 2 (right), feature essays from Dave Berman's previous blogs, GuvWurld and We Do Not Consent, respectively. Click the covers for FREE e-book versions (.pdf). As of April 2010, paperbacks are temporarily out of print. Click here for the author's bio.

Back Page Quotes

"Give a damn about the world you live in? Give a damn about what you and I both know is one of the most shameful and destructive periods in American history? If so, do something about it. You can start by reading We Do Not Consent."

— Brad Friedman, Creator/Editor, BradBlog.com; Co-Founder, VelvetRevolution.us


"If in the future we have vital elections, the "no basis for confidence" formulation that GuvWurld is popularizing will have been a historically important development. This is true because by implicitly insisting on verification and checks and balances instead of faith or trust in elections officials or machines as a basis for legitimacy, it encourages healthy transparent elections. It’s also rare that a political formulation approaches scientific certainty, but this formulation is backed up by scientific principles that teach that if you can’t repeat something (such as an election) and verify it by independent means, it doesn’t exist within the realm of what science will accept as established or proven truth."

— Paul Lehto, Attorney at Law, Everett, WA


"Dave Berman has been candid and confrontational in challenging all of us to be "ruthlessly honest" in answering his question, "What would be better?" He encourages us to build consensus definitions of "better," and to match our words with actions every day, even if we do only "the least we can do." Cumulatively and collectively, our actions will bring truth to light."

— Nezzie Wade, Sociology Professor, Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods


"Dave Berman's work is quietly brilliant and powerfully utilitarian. His Voter Confidence Resolution provides a fine, flexible tool whereby any community can reclaim and affirm a right relation to its franchise as a community of voters."

— Elizabeth Ferrari, San Francisco, Green Party of California


"This is an important collection of essays with a strong unitary theme: if you can't prove that you were elected, we can't take you seriously as elected officials. Simple, logical, comprehensive. 'Management' (aka, the 'powers that be') needs to get the message. 'The machines' are not legitimizers, they're an artful dodge and a path to deception. We've had enough...and we most certainly DO NOT consent."

— Michael Collins covers the election fraud beat for "Scoop" Independent Media


"What's special about this book (and it fits because there's nothing more fundamental to Democracy than our vote) is the raising of consciousness. Someone recognizing they have no basis for trusting elections may well ask what else is being taken for granted."

— Eddie Ajamian, Los Angeles, CA


"I urge everyone to read "We Do Not Consent", and distribute it as widely as possible."

— B Robert Franza MD, author of We the People ... Have No Clothes: A Pamphlet for every American