Thursday, July 29, 2004

GOP Flier Questions New Voting Equipment

This is rich. Now even the Republicans are expressing concern about the integrity of elections.

St. Petersburg Times Article (in GuvWurld News Archive, links to original)

"The liberal Democrats have already begun their attacks and the new electronic voting machines do not have a paper ballot to verify your vote in case of a recount," says a glossy mailer, paid for by the Republican Party of Florida and prominently featuring two pictures of President Bush. "Make sure your vote counts. Order your absentee ballot today."

Voting absentee as a response to this crisis of confidence is like wearing a condom to ward off the flu: the precaution bears no relation to the problem. We have no BASIS for confidence in the legitimacy of US elections for many more reasons than just the growing pattern of unreliable results produced by electronic voting machines. Among these, consider the farce of competition between the two major political parties. As an example, think about the large number of Congressional seats deemed "safe," and the relative handful thought to be up for grabs. Further evidence can be seen in the response to this story:
The mailing surfaced at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday and stirred outrage by Florida delegates and elected officials.

"I've seen that advertisement. It's appalling," said Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. "It is an acknowledgement that there are excessive error rates with touch screens even by the party in power."

"That is awful. That is disgusting. Despicable," said state Sen. Ron Klein, D-Delray Beach. "Why use dirty tricks to scare people?"

"It's unbelievable," said state Sen. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston. "They're the ones who won't certify a machine to attach a paper trail."

The feigned indignation shouldn't fool anybody. Are they mad that our elections have no credibility or that the Republicans are undercutting their ability to complain about it? Regardless, neither side is trying to create a more accountable government through greater competition of ideas, and neither side is making a meaningful effort to reform our kangaroo elections. The status quo works for those in power. An illusion must be maintained so Americans don't become too "disillusioned" and realize the Consent of the Governed is being denied, ignored and otherwise deemed irrelevant. This is the crux of the myth of democracy.

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Monday, July 26, 2004

Con Artists and the Fear of Fraud

I made a rather elementary connection just now. Con artists are said to run confidence schemes or scams. The derivation of the word "con" is quite clear. The No Confidence Movement asserts there is no BASIS for confidence in the legitimacy of US federal elections. Put another way, those conducting and participating in US federal elections are indisputably known to us as scammers, or con artists.

"Why should anyone trust their verdict on the integrity of voting machines..."
The partial sentence above comes from Paul Krugman's latest op-ed "Fear of Fraud"  (in the GuvWurld News Archive, links to NYTimes).  He is referring to Florida election officials appointed by Jeb Bush: 

"Jeb Bush says he won't allow an independent examination of voting machines because he has "every confidence" in his handpicked election officials. Yet those officials have a history of slipshod performance on other matters related to voting and somehow their errors always end up favoring Republicans.  Why should anyone trust their verdict on the integrity of voting machines, when another convenient mistake could deliver a Republican victory in a high-stakes national election?"
It is certainly positive to see increasing attention focused specifically on "voter confidence."  Krugman comes very close to introducing the standard frame of the No Confidence Movement, though he doesn't quite come around to the key word, BASIS (for confidence).  The full value of Krugman's case is also diminished by singling out Republicans.  The point is really that the entire electoral process has become a charade, one intentionally propped up via cooperation disguised as competition between Republicans and Democrats.  Krugman concludes "Fear of Fraud" with the promise of a future column about what can be done.  

I do actually look forward to what else he has to say.  But in the meantime, we are making an exponentially bolder stand behind the No Confidence Movement.  My promise for a future column is a big kick in the ass for the Greens, Libertarians and other marginalized third parties.
  The teaser is this: no favored third party issues will ever be won if they must be fought for in this rigged system.  Address the myth of democracy or perpetuate it at the peril of every other desired change.

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On Campaign Trail, Bush Postures For Peace

I really thought this Reuters story from last Tuesday was going to get more play (in GuvWurld News Archive, links to multiple sources).

In a highly visible interview with NBC's Tim Russert, Mr. Bush previously called himself a "war president." No Orwellian contradiction seems too audacious these days so I won't feign surprise that Mr. Bush would take the hypocritical pose of "peace president" now, despite the unanimity of the evidence against such a claim.

I thought this story *might* resonate because Kerry could have used it as a way to reframe the campaign. Kerry could transform this race at any time if he floated a similar trial balloon for peace. I've never really expected Kerry do such a thing, it's just that this was a unique opportunity that he could have used to this end. Instead, he'll continue to serve the corporate party masters and Pentagon warmongers, barely registering as even a false alternative.

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More Guest Contributions

"Tuesday is my day to flier. I printed up 250 and pre-cut 'em."

(Eric, in Boston, targeting Democratic convention goers with the generic No Confidence Movement leaflet available for download
A letter to the Eureka Times-Standard from one of the people who recently addressed the Arcata City Council on behalf of the No Confidence Movement:
Dear Editor,

I fear that the only reason the Arcata City Council reacted so negatively to the strongly-named "No Confidence" resolution was that it wasn't spearheaded by one of their own. 

That could be the only reason why, subsequent to the public comment, a mudsling upon those of us who came to take part in the democratic process ensued. It was during this that one council member felt the need to refer to Eurekans as "outsiders who don't even go to their own City Council meetings."  To this I'd like to respond as follows:

First, if you really believe everyone has a choice in where they live, you have a lot more money than you think you have. Some of us don't  have that luxury.

Second, if you dare vilify me for leaving my area to go to an area that I feel has (read: "felt had") a more open and progressive sociopolitical environment, then you also vilify every immigrant who has left their country for ours for the same reason.

I went to a meeting in a town renowned for being on the forefront of progressivism, to help be a force for change and with a sense of common ideals.  Surprised and shocked, I left confused, downtrodden, and alienated.

I did not go with an intention to offend, but the decision by some council members to take my "outsider" presence as such proves to me that they don't see us as being in this together, which is really too bad.
Scott Menzies - Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Nepal/Education


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Guest Post From Tim in Sacramento, CA

Tim in Sacramento, CA shared the following submission to the Sacramento Bee:

During the tenure of the present Bush administration, much has been loss to us. It has been loss to us in specific as Americans and in general to the world.  Certainly, our personal freedoms, our personal liberty, have been assailed to a frightening degree.  One effect of this, is the degree to which the fears of the voting public have been translated into a, what could be called, “apathy of acceptance”.  

This apathy, it seems, has only aided in magnifying our fears.  Because of it Americans as a whole have given control of their liberty, their country, over to an administration whose personal agenda and ethics are at the very best questionable.  At worst, they are globally destructive.

It could be said that our lack of confidence has been fostered because of, “a wrongness", with the system as a whole.  A, "wrongness", with America, a "wrongness" wherein the Dream of America has become a nightmare of fear, injustice and the erosion of liberty.  A "wrongness" that is leading our country down the path of being one of the world's bullies instead of its champion.

While it is true that the current administration has carried this "wrongness" to new heights, it must be remembered that it is more than just one party's fault, more than one individual or group of individuals' faults. It is a "wrongness" that has come about because of the complacencies of the general public and the avarice of those that would enslave them.

In the end, “We The People”, along with past and present administrations are all just puppets of a system gone very wrong.

Many people now feel a sense of powerlessness.  It has immobilized them. Leaving them disenfranchised and confused.

And thus, we find ourselves at a crossroads.  The past tempts us, the present confuses us, and the future frightens us. And our lives slip away, moment by moment, lost in that vast terrible in-between.

But there is still time to seize that one last fragile moment. Time to choose something better. Time to make a difference.  Time to stand up to our fears and begin taking our Democracy, our nation, back from the “wrongness” which would pervert it, has perverted it.  A first step towards this change is the creation of and passing of, the No Confidence Resolution.  Indeed, the creation of a No Confidence Movement.

If we don't act, we will continue to suffer greater and greater consequences.

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Sunday, July 25, 2004

Crisis of Confidence

I took the last few days off from the No Confidence Movement and now I have several entries I want to write all at the same time.  I'm going to limit this one to commenting on an article from Sunday's Eureka Times-Standard: "Crisis of confidence: Should we trust our electoral system?

James Tressler wrote this based partly on an interview with me last week.  When we met, I told him about my conversation with Humboldt County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams.  McWilliams' recent op-ed invited phone calls from citizens interested in observing election machine testing procedures (707-445-7481).  When I spoke to McWilliams he personally invited me to view the machines, an offer Tressler notes I didn't take up (it's more like haven't yet taken up).
McWilliams was pleasant and not the least bit defensive in the fifteen minutes he spent answering my questions.  I was particularly interested in the R&G reports showing some Humboldt County election machines did not meet federal standards, others were not state certified and some were short on both counts.  McWilliams confirmed that his office provided the data which was fairly characterized in the report.  He said that for many years there was no system for re-certifying patches or updates, which he likened to the type routinely applied by ordinary computer users.  He said he was expecting to receive new upgrades very soon, possibly the next day, which had the certification of CA.
I don't understand why the Times-Standard didn't pursue these simple questions and publish this straightforward answer when first asked to investigate.  Not only is this important and timely, their noisiest local voter advocate handed them a story that wouldn't even make anybody look bad.  Even in today's article these reports were not addressed.  McWilliams does say some interesting things, however:

Meanwhile, Humboldt County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams said while there are always problems in any election cycle, he's "generally confident" in the nation's elections system.

Noting the 2000 Florida recount, McWilliams said the integrity of an election shouldn't rely on technology. Rather well-established policies and procedures, as well as poll worker training, are the backbone of a reliable voting system.

"One thing occurring in all this rhetoric about election integrity is all of a sudden there are thousands of self-proclaimed experts who know what's wrong with elections and how to fix it," McWilliams said. "My concern is all the energy thrown at elections (integrity) is diverting time away from the issues and candidates, which I think are far more important."

This doesn't all add up for me.  If elections shouldn't rely on technology, as McWilliams suggests, then the fact that they do makes me wonder why he is "generally confident."  It is one thing to describe yourself this way but another to demonstrate a sound BASIS for this position.  Yet again, the central question of the No Confidence Movement is not addressed (whether there is or is not a BASIS for confidence).   It also should not escape notice that conceding problems in every election cycle means it has been a while since a BASIS for confidence has existed.  What's more, election integrity itself is a top issue so let us not be diverted into thinking otherwise.

The last part of the article reflects the perspective of Dan Faulk, a "government lecturer" at Humboldt State University.  A close reading shows he supports holding "national forums" to address the questions the No Confidence Movement is raising.  Tressler notes in his final paragraph that the next phase of the No Confidence Movement will coordinate with the "Institute for Policy tap into a national network of communities called Cities For Peace."  Even though Tressler doesn't make us out to be agreeing, Faulk strikes me as a great potential ally.

I must also correct a misrepresentation about the Electoral College and the winner-take-all system.   Tressler erroneously reports that the No Confidence Movement makes no effort to address such matters, while Faulk suggests their importance.  I have asked Tressler to consider publishing a clarification that would educate readers about instant runoff voting and proportional representation, two key goals of the No Confidence Movement. 

So for a while this article goes out of its way to paint a disconnect with someone who actually seems to be coming from very much the same place as the No Confidence Movement.  I will make contact with Faulk as soon as I can, and I will inquire about speaking opportunities on campus.  My best case scenario would be participating in a panel discussion with McWilliams and anyone from the Times-Standard.

On a positive note, there is one important way that the framing was right on, though it was a direct quote from Faulk rather than prose from Tressler:
"I see anyone who does anything like that as providing a public service because people can engage in a conversation -- do we have confidence in our system or don't we?" Faulk said. "That conversation is absolutely essential to democracy."

So Faulk comes close on the question of BASIS for confidence, but still doesn't quite get there.  On the other hand, this is excellent reinforcement of the public service frame often adopted here. 

Before I conclude this entry, I want to encourage everyone to practice thorough vigilance about framing of stories.  Last Wednesday, the Times-Standard ran an article saying: "Formerly known as the No Confidence Resolution, the Building Confidence Resolution's text has been significantly altered, although the basic message is still somewhat intact."  The Building Confidence resolution was the Arcata City Council's watered down alternative that I never supported.  This utter inaccuracy has not been corrected. 

There is a correction in this week's Arcata Eye after last week's exaggerated claim that "eight other cities and towns across the country have endorsed a similar resolution." Actually, I only said that supporters are organizing in at least eight other communities. I'll share some of that support in the next few entries.

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Thursday, July 22, 2004

Arcata City Council Passes Building Confidence Resolution

Earlier this evening, the Arcata City Council passed a version of the Building Confidence Resolution first shown here in draft form. What ultimately passed was revised during Council deliberations. While I did not favor the final form or the outcome, one good thing I'll note is Councilmember Michael Machi's last minute amendment adding language urging other communities to speak out (paraphrasing). This was the one way in which the Council seemed to draw upon the strategy presented by the No Confidence Movement.

The flip side is that some of our ideas were completely dismissed. The Council would not address whether there is or is not a BASIS for confidence. Likewise, they wouldn't touch the issue of Consent of the Governed. Councilmembers Conner and Stewart took umbrage, claiming insult, at the suggestion that the myth of democracy is perpetuated by their dismissal of our ideas. Conner even denied that they are our ideas. Well we brought them up and that makes them ours. And they refused to discuss them, which is typical of how competition of ideas is stifled. That's what happens when third party candidates aren't allowed to debate and it is behind every "lesser of two evils" election.

Here are the prepared remarks I made to the Council. As with the letter I wrote to Councilmember Conner last week, I do greatly appreciate that we share many goals. It is not as if the Council passed a resolution opposing sensible election reforms. Quite the contrary. They have taken a step in calling attention to several much needed specific changes. What would be better is actually trying to create them rather than just talking about them.

Finally, an Orwellian irony. Since the inception, the No Confidence Movement has emphatically been about ideas, and in particular a strategy. At no time, including tonight, have I taken aim at any person. Yet tonight, while having my ideas insultingly dismissed, I was deemed insulting. I confess I am finding it surprisingly easy NOT to take it personally. I sincerely hope the same for others tonight and forever onward.

For better or worse, as the story of the No Confidence Movement unfolds, this is the end of chapter 1. As the next phase of the No Confidence Movement begins, we are starting to coordinate with the Washington DC-based Institute For Policy Studies to tap into the national network of communities (Cities For Peace) that passed anti-war resolutions.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Prepared Remarks Presented to Arcata City Council 7-21-04

I want to thank you for allowing this public discussion to take place tonight. While you are considering the Building Confidence resolution tonight, this was written as a response and alternative to the No Confidence resolution. To comment on the former, I must reference the latter.

When I first started working on the No Confidence resolution, I asked Councilmember Meserve for input and support. He was not sold on the idea but he encouraged me to reach out to the Veterans For Peace and the Redwood Peace and Justice Center and to get back to him. The Vets have endorsed the resolution and the Peace and Justice Center has donated meeting space and assigned volunteers to leafleting and signature gathering. Both organizations also contributed greatly to shaping the language that evolved over the various versions of the resolution.

Councilmember Conner recently paid me an interesting compliment, saying I had generated more media attention for a concept than anyone else she could recall. Thank you. I know this has had a tangible impact too. For example, Marilyn Machi, wife of our esteemed Councilmember, heard my first interview on KMUD. Her reaction was to encourage Michael to see me speak at the meeting I was promoting for the purpose of increased public participation. As I recall, it was my interest in building consensus that interested them both.

When Michael subsequently approached me privately, he encouraged me to address some less obviously aligned groups and agreed to make some introductions. One meeting, with members of the Executive Committee of the Arcata Chamber of Commerce, resulted in a significant revision to the No Confidence resolution. Michael’s constituents recommended adding the specific goals of instant runoff voting, proportional representation and public campaign financing.

I regret that no others of Councilman Machi’s referrals were willing to meet with me. Still, this one meeting alone was likely the most integral bridge yet built. It connects the goals of the No Confidence resolution with Councilmember Conner’s alternative, the Building Confidence resolution. As the No Confidence resolution developed further, always as a result of community collaboration, we reached a point where both Councilmember Meserve and Mayor Ornelas expressed willingness to support it.

So far in this story, I’ve done everything that everyone has asked, built support among virtually everyone willing to consider the ideas being promoted, and inspired absolutely no opposition. I remind you, our contention is that the electoral system and the media have become so untrustworthy that there is no BASIS for confidence in the legitimacy of US federal elections.

Do we want to build confidence? Of course. This is implicit in all of the goals we identify and the methods by which we are pursuing them. If the No Confidence resolution needs to add the phrase “building confidence” to become explicit, that is a small accommodation easily achieved.

Would this address the Council’s stated concern about negativity? Well first let’s consider whether this concern is justified or applicable, given that we are pursuing the same positive goals you are. The word “No” in No Confidence was singled out yet we accept that word in our No Tolerance policies towards rape, discrimination, and drunk driving. Shouldn’t we have a No Tolerance policy for fraudulent elections? This is what we are striving for as the first step in a broader strategy. It is the approach itself we need to preserve and I wonder if you would be more comfortable expressing zero BASIS for confidence or presenting a Zero Tolerance policy for election fraud?

It is inexplicable that you have completely dismissed this aspect of our reform movement. There either is or there is not a BASIS for confidence. Rather than address the question, where nobody has yet argued in the affirmative for the existence of a BASIS, it would appear that you are rejecting the idea of a No Tolerance policy for fraudulent elections.

I know this is not your intent. But it will be the result of passing the Building Confidence resolution. In a sense, where the No Confidence Movement declares “we will not allow ourselves to be lied to anymore,” we seem to be hearing the response, “oh yes you will.” Our position allows us to fairly lay claim to the mantle of “voter advocate,” without ever calling for a boycott. The bottom line is this: there are parallel plans that share goals. The No Confidence resolution creates the action necessary to deliver results whereas the Building Confidence resolution pays lip service to a mere subset of our ideas.

The No Confidence resolution addresses the denial of the Consent of the Governed. This aspect of our Movement has also been dismissed by your alternative. Perhaps this was previously unintentional. At this point, however, I am trying to present your reflection in a mirror. This reveals a conscious choice between a plan for real change and words that identify the problems and the goals without providing the means to bridge the two. It pains me to say this, but with all due respect, the Building Confidence resolution is another false alternative that perpetuates the myth of democracy in America.

That is one way that people could look back on tonight though I don’t think it is in anyone’s interest. This night could also be regarded as an historic occasion. For this to happen, it would mean: honoring rather than ignoring three months of community collaboration; addressing the no-brainer question of whether there is or is not a BASIS for confidence; and joining our stance against allowing ourselves to be lied to.

I appreciate that you have to consider the ramifications beyond tonight. I hear that you feel it is safer to support the Building Confidence rather than No Confidence resolution. This may be the case, if you fear backlash simply for having taken a bold step. Personally, I think the greater concern should be for passing up an opportunity to initiate a plan that actually stands a chance of addressing the all but certain eventuality of another uncertain election outcome.

I urge and even beg you to revisit and pass the No Confidence resolution as the best possible way to achieve the goals set out in the Building Confidence resolution.

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Monday, July 19, 2004

Kerry Readies Legal Challenges To Election

NYTimes Article (in GuvWurld News Archive, links to original)

I suppose some may see this as a way to build confidence in the legitimacy of the upcoming election, or at least to fortify Kerry's chance at coming out ahead.  Really, though, would this be necessary if we had a reasonable BASIS for confidence in the legitimacy of elections? 
I'll answer my own question: this seems necessary because we inherently understand that we are routinely lied to and that there is NO BASIS for confidence in the legitimacy of US elections.  This is shown to us over and over again at every level and yet for the most part the country ambles on in denial.  We must take responsibility for not allowing ourselves to be lied to anymore.

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Sunday, July 18, 2004

They're sending my friend to Iraq

I just found out the US Army is sending an old friend to Iraq.  I am unable to attend a send off gathering but want him to know that not only will I support him, I will keep fighting for his freedom while he's gone.  I know that's backwards from the propaganda, but it's the truth.  There is no government but ours threatening to take more rights away with Patriot Act II.  There is no al Qaeda or Iraqi resistance cell preparing to declare martial law on San Francisco.  And whether our election is called off or just held for show again, my friend in Iraq won't really be in a position to deal with it.

I know when he leaves for Iraq he'll be going from bad to worse.  But what about when he returns?  After all, we're warned that by then we may see a terrorist atrocity lead to the cancellation of elections and martial law.  He'll leave the war to come home to the war.  I am not hoping for this.  I hope he comes back and can resume his happy life in San Francisco.  Still, I'm concerned that he could be among the 20% reportedly suffering from post traumatic stress.  Worse, he might be excluded from statistics for political purposes, like the tens of thousands suffering from
DU exposure. 

Again, that's not what I wish for him or anyone.  I can't help thinking ahead to his safe return.  Positive visualization is useful.  Let me tell you what else I want to see:

A small town passes a
resolution.  It says there is no BASIS for confidence in American elections.  It says the Consent of the Governed is being denied.

Other communities pass similar statements and the national dialog begins to change.  The Consent of the Governed is being withdrawn. 

These communities begin to coordinate and build consensus.  We aim to restore a genuine participatory democracy encouraging competition of ideas. 

I hope I will hug my friend again some day.  I hope when that happens, he has understood that the best way anybody could support the troops is to replace this government that is
addicted to war.  

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Saturday, July 17, 2004

An open letter to Arcata City Councilmember Elizabeth Conner

Dear Councilmember Conner, 

At the July 7th Arcata City Council meeting you expressed concerns about the No Confidence resolution and promised to work on an alternate version.  Now that you have provided a draft (below) I must thank you for keeping your word and joining me in efforts to realize the fundamental changes in our electoral system necessary for a truly participatory democracy.  Please send me any revisions that may occur so that the GuvWurld blog can continue the transparent public service of keeping our community informed and participating. As I read it now, it appears we both advocate:
Knowing that we share these goals makes it seem like no matter what language gets passed we will be lauded for so directly addressing these matters at this moment in time.  I invite you to join me in taking an additional and even more meaningful step.  Let's devote ourselves to enacting these changes rather than merely calling for them.  Only one of these is the real goal.  The other is an alternative that echoes the very problem we have been discussing; a kind of passivity that allows the myth of democracy in America to continue.  We have already agreed that action must be taken, rather than just encouraged.

Your resolution is called "Building Confidence."  I like your phrase and favor adding it within the body of the No Confidence resolution.  You are saying explicitly what is most clearly implicit in the No Confidence resolution.   Conversely, by overtly stating there is NO BASIS for confidence, we are directly addressing the unstated underpinning of your resolution.  I hope I haven't misunderstood you, but as far as I can tell, there is still nobody who wants to take the position that there IS a BASIS for confidence.  There is currently no foundation for us to "build" upon.  What better position for us to take than one that is unopposed? 
In addition, to help us achieve our aim, for three months the No Confidence Movement has grown through acceptance of this paradigm.  It equates with a tag line: we are taking responsibility for not allowing ourselves to be lied to anymore.  If the extent of our accomplishment is calling for change that doesn't occur, elections will continue to be untrustworthy.  Nobody will argue directly that we should allow ourselves to be lied to, so let's consider the net effect here.
In sharing this letter openly it is my hope that community members will understand the subtle differences in our otherwise united front on electoral reform.  Ideally you will be hearing from more of them in the next several days and especially at
City Hall next Wed (7/21 7pm) when the Council convenes.  In the ongoing GuvWurld spirit of public service, below I have also provided contact numbers for all the Councilmembers. 
Again, Councilmember Conner, I want to sincerely thank you for bringing this degree of  scrutiny so far into the public spotlight.  If it is ultimately to matter, our leadership, yours and mine, must deliver results.  Please revisit the
No Confidence resolution as the strategy most likely to bring us to our shared goals.  
In Respect and Peace
Robert Ornelas, Mayor - (707) 822-5953
Michael Machi, Vice Mayor - (707) 269-0394
Connie Stewart - (707) 822-5953
Elizabeth Conner - (707) 441-9776
David Meserve - (707) 441-9846
"Building Confidence Resolution"
Whereas the City Council of the City of Arcata wants voters to participate in and have confidence in democratic elections; and
Whereas voting exclusively by electronic and computer voting machines without a paper record could be subject to, or perceived to be subject to, manipulations; and
Whereas widespread disenfranchisement of eligible Black, Hispanic and college-student voters by voter roll purging occurred during the 2000 presidential elections; and
Whereas winner-take-all elections can serve to limit representation of diverse political points of view while instant run-off voting would allow for more democratic elections for less expense; and

Whereas campaign finance reform legislation is needed to limit the influence of large corporations and other private interests on U.S. elections; and
Whereas it is vitally important that citizens who vote in the United States know that their vote will be fairly counted;
Now therefore be it resolved that the City Council of the City of Arcata does hereby support and encourage citizens to get involved in efforts to enact campaign finance reform, instant run-off voting, proportional representation and other efforts to promote democracy and increase confidence in U.S. elections.
Be it further resolved that the City Council of the City of Arcata does hereby express our grave concerns about purging of voter rolls leading to further disenfranchisement of Black, Hispanic and other voters and about the use of electronic voting without a paper trail.
Be it further resolved that that the City Council of the City of Arcata does hereby express our appreciation to the California Secretary of State, Kevin Shelley, for excluding the use of electronic and computer voting machines in California.
Be it further resolved that the City Council of the City of Arcata encourages all eligible citizens to register and vote.

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Friday, July 16, 2004

FL Congresswoman Brown Calls 2000 a Coup, Gets Censured By House

There is video of this here:

and coverage from a Jacksonville, FL newspaper
here (in the GuvWurld news archive, links to original).

This all came up because of efforts to deny funding for having UN observers monitor US elections this November.

"Only a rat can win a rat race." - Spearhead

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Arcata Update - New Leaflet, Home Stretch Game Plan

I have laid a little low this week but I've been working on understanding and addressing Arcata City Councilmember Elizabeth Conner's counter-offer to the No Confidence resolution.  As promised at the July 7th session, she and Councilmember Dave Meserve have been working on new language.  In the next 24-48 hours I will publish a statement directly addressing their alternative.

Meanwhile, there is a new Arcata leaflet available for download in the right side nav bar.  I'll be making copies tomorrow and getting them to the Redwood Peace and Justice Center, among other places, where volunteers can pick up a handful to distribute.  RPJC also has petitions for the No Confidence Movement so if you live in Arcata, please consider signing and/or collecting signatures. 

The Councilmembers have made it clear to me in the past week that they need to hear from more of you.  Please let them know that the No Confidence resolution is our best strategy for building a large enough swell of support to create the change we seek.  Here are their official contacts from the City of Arcata website. 

The Council will address this topic when it meets again next Wednesday, July 21 at 7pm.  In the few days until then we have an opportunity for a really concentrated impact.  What is the least you can do?

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Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Lawsuits Emerge On Parallel Track to No Confidence Movement

In early versions of the No Confidence resolution (now on version 4.0), one of the reasons given for having no BASIS for confidence was Florida's rule banning re-counts of votes cast on touch-screen machines. This insanity is now being challenged in court.

I wrote about another important legal development on Sunday. Bev Harris and Andy Stephenson have been keeping quiet about this for several months as one of the conditions of the suit moving forward. Now they have issued a press release that details how they are helping California, under official whistle blower terms, to collect money defrauded by Diebold. A victory in this case would taste especially delicious as their unique whistle blower status falls under an arcane legal provision called Qui Tam which apportions a percentage of the settlement to whistle blowers who help the government recoup fraud losses. Harris and Stephenson intend to put their potential reward toward funding their Black Box Voting organization.

It seems Meghan Vogel has picked up the No Confidence Movement as part of her beat at the Eureka Times-Standard. I called her this afternoon to see if she knew about the Qui Tam suit. I was pleased to learn she had heard about it on NPR this morning. Even better, she suggested there was somebody else at the paper I should speak with. James Tressler was then grateful when I referred him to the R&G report (.pdf) I've previously referenced here describing how some of Diebold's election machines in Humboldt County fail to meet federal standards, some lack state certification, and some fall short on both counts. Perhaps now we'll finally see a more thorough investigation reported in our local press.

Time prohibits me from updating every No Confidence Movement-related thread right now but I urge everyone to circulate the link to the GuvWurld blog: Also, it would be of immense service to the No Confidence Movement if I could get some IT assistance for one specific goal. Please contact me if you have the requisite skills (perhaps PERL or ASP) to create an automated subscription service so readers can sign up to receive individual messages or daily or weekly digests. I am not looking for an RSS feed. Thank you.

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Monday, July 12, 2004

Letter to re: No Confidence Movement

Dear BuzzFlash,

You have been a consistent source of valuable information and I have made multiple daily visits to your site over the past two years. You have recently presented articles that describe proposals to cancel or postpone US elections this fall. This is of course in addition to the many varied stories demonstrating an array of election anomalies and systemic shortcomings that all but guarantee another uncertain outcome in November. It is for this reason that I ask you to drop the pretense that support for Kerry is in America's interest. The only plan on the table that really takes aim at the problem here (as well as offering some very meaningful solutions) is the No Confidence Movement.

The thesis of our effort says "there is no BASIS for confidence in the legitimacy of United States federal elections." In three months, not a single opponent has emerged to argue that there IS a basis for confidence. In Arcata, CA the City Council is considering what we hope will be the first of many resolutions to this effect. We are mindful of the trend represented by the more than 300 anti-Patriot act statements that have failed to restore our rights. Yes, it is a good thing that so many communities have spoken out, but as a strategy it has failed to produce tangible change.

The No Confidence Movement is aiming to learn from this. The Arcata resolution ponders its role as the first of its kind, urging other communities to contribute to a cumulative impact (also phrased as "triggering a domino effect that will build to a tipping point"). We have done this through the language of the Declaration of Independence which says that the "just Powers" of the Government are derived from the "Consent of the Governed." It is clear, not only through voting fraud but also "free speech zones," "safe" Congressional seats in gerrymandered districts, and secret budget expenditures (among many other examples) that the Consent of the Governed is being denied, ignored and otherwise deemed irrelevant. The Declaration of Independence says it is our "Right and Duty" under these circumstances to "alter or abolish" our "Form of Government."

We are not seeking anarchy but rather the creation of a new democracy built on competition in the free market-place of ideas. Our vision includes designation of Election Day as a national holiday, instant runoff voting (IRV), proportional representation, state by state elimination of the winner-take-all system (or the entire Electoral College), public campaign financing, national standards for uniform election machines (or no machines at all), and an explicit determination that money does not equal speech and that corporations do not have the same rights as humans.

BuzzFlash has risen to such a high level of prominence and influence that your site alone could solidify the country's understanding that democracy is currently a myth in America. Many of us are pooling our voices to say we will not allow ourselves to be lied to anymore. Please amplify our chorus and step into the truly meaningful leadership role that your vast audience needs you to play. Everything there is to know about the No Confidence Movement can be found at

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Stats on FL Election Machine Errors; Kerry Plans Legal Challenge to Touch Screen Machines

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Article (in GuvWurld archive, links to original)

This article has a lot of startling data. The most riveting factoid shows 1% of e-votes cast in Florida's Dem primary were lost:
Records from the March 9 Democratic presidential primary show that votes were not recorded for one out of 100 voters using the new ATM-style machines. That's at least eight times more than the number of flawed votes cast in the same election with pencil marks on paper ballots tallied by an optical scanner.

Also, this piece seems to suggest that John Kerry is planning his own No Confidence announcement.
The presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee, John Kerry, already has plans to legally challenge the election based on the questionable reliability of the touch-screen voting systems.

This must scream loudly as validation for the No Confidence Movement. If a presidential candidate can express this concern, a small town City Councilmember should have no qualms about how it looks to question the legitimacy of elections.

There have been a lot of articles added to the GuvWurld News Archive over the last week. I just want to remind everyone of the availability of this resource. Atop the list of links in the GuvWurld blog nav bar, click Week in Review for a list of articles added to the archive in the past seven days, or Today's News for pieces uploaded in the past 24 hours.

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Sunday, July 11, 2004

This is what passes for democracy

July 11, 2004, 11:35AM

Reviewers of DeLay's ethics got his money

Associated Press

AUSTIN -- Four of the five Republicans investigating an ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay have received campaign contributions from DeLay's political action committee, records show.

Full Story (in GuvWurld News Archive, links to multiple sources)

This story takes place on the cusp of an ongoing ethics truce in Congress:
Congressional watchdog groups have complained bitterly about the ethics cease-fire, saying worthy cases have not received the scrutiny they deserve because of fears of retaliation.

"What's the use of opposition parties if they won't root out corruption in the other party?"asked Gary Ruskin, director of the Congressional Accountability Project.

Ruskin said that the ethics committee has become "a bipartisan group of good ol' boys"looking out for each other, and that private citizens need to play a role in the process.

Attention Private Citizens - Upon careful consideration, we have determined that this does not, in fact, constitute democracy. This form of government is participatory and involves checks and balances. Our democracy in particular came with operating instructions:
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

We don't invoke the Declaration of Independence lightly or so readily. However, as the No Confidence Movement has demonstrated, the Consent of the Governed is being denied, ignored, and deemed irrelevant. We have specific ideas for "what would be better?" and a plan to build consensus support.

It starts with a single statement passed by a City Council in Anytown, USA. The statement says there is no BASIS for confidence in the legitimacy of US elections. The line in the sand says we will not allow ourselves to be lied to anymore. Will anyone really say "oh yes you will"?

As a matter of strategy, we have sold ourselves short until now. We must start calling out those who reinforce and perpetuate myths by inhibiting our means of debunking them. Tim in Sacramento put it to me this way: "As the dogsleders say, time to “lead, follow or get out of the way.”"

What comes to mind are the sorts of creative confrontations that Michael Moore selects. Only it works with all people trying to maintain an indefensible position, not just famous people and politicians. Last year I dubbed this the Tilt Strategy:
It is much easier to identify tilt targets than to achieve a tilt. However, this approach does have a proven track record, used most notably by Michael Moore. In "Bowling For Columbine," Moore is accompanied by victims of the Columbine school shootings as they confront K-Mart executives about the continued availability of bullets at K-Mart stores. The scene concludes with a pledge to discontinue the practice. Moore tilted K-Mart. In another memorable example, Moore used his now-defunct TV show "The Awful Truth" to stage a mock funeral in front of the offices of an HMO denying a transplant to one of its patients. Several years later, the man and his second-hand pancreas are alive and well thanks to Moore's creative confrontation. He successfully tilted the HMO, leading them to adopt a specific preferred remedy, a necessary element of any tilt that should answer the question "what would be better?"

We will not allow ourselves to be lied to anymore. Either explain the basis for maintaining confidence in the legitimacy of US elections, or allow us to declare there is NO BASIS for confidence. Lead, follow or get out of the way. Does this line of reasoning need to be explored before or during the next Arcata City Council meeting?

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Electronic Voting Critics Sue Company Under Whistle Blower Law

AP Story (in GuvWurld archive, links to multiple sources)

AP Technology Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Electronic voting critics are suing Diebold Inc., alleging that the hardware and software company's shoddy equipment exposed California elections to hackers and software bugs.

California's attorney general on Friday unsealed the lawsuit, among the first e-voting cases to rely on an obscure legal provision for whistle blowers who help the government identify fraud.

Computer programmer Jim March and activist Bev Harris, who filed the case in November, are asking the state and counties to join the lawsuit. They're seeking full reimbursement for Diebold equipment purchased in California.

The obscure legal provision is called Qui tam:
Qui tam - often used to find fraud involving Medicare or defense contracts - is a provision of the Federal Civil False Claims Act. Some states have similar acts.

Individuals tip off the government to embezzlers or shoddy contractors - and the whistle blowers get up to 30 percent of the reimbursement.

This raises an interesting question: would another crooked election with an uncertain outcome enable us all to join a class action suit? I ask this only partially tongue in cheek. Of course I'm not interested in seeing a lawsuit or another botched election. But if the No Confidence Movement does not build to a tipping point by November, it is relevant to consider how our cause will adapt to unfolding events.

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Objective Reporting On Voting Reveals Indefensible Position

Thanks to Eric in Boston for this NYTimes piece from Thursday (in GuvWurld archive, links to original).

David Pogue poses as a classic journalist, clearly going out of his way to be fair and balanced in showing the pros and cons of electronic voting. It is important to note his conclusion that the voting machine companies are not to be trusted:
""How can we trust the voting-machine companies?" You can't, really.
The tales of conflict-of-interest and contributions to political parties are appalling. (Visit for a complete, if a bit overheated, list of alleged violations of propriety.)."

This speaks to why I emphasize the absence of a BASIS for confidence. You can't hold the position that the voting machine manufacturers are not trustworthy and simultaneously claim complete confidence. It is an indefensible position.

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Saturday, July 10, 2004

Florida List for Purge of Voters Proves Flawed

A contribution from Pat in San Francisco:

Too much preoccupation with presidential politics has any debate on the 'no confidence' resolution stifled with the SFGP [San Francisco Green Party] right now. I'll bring it up again at a county council meeting next week.

Meanwhile, here's yet another story/link to include for support in favor of the resolution:

NYTimes Article (in GuvWurld archive, links to original)

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Thursday, July 08, 2004

Arcata City Council Delays Action on No Confidence Resolution

Forgoing their first historic opportunity to pass the No Confidence resolution, last night the Arcata City Council chose to take more time to study it with an eye towards revising the language. This is both good news and bad news, though it is common with progressive ideas entertained by the Council.

As shown below in the prepared remarks I made last night to the Council, I framed the situation as an "opportunity" and a "hopeful plan" addressing "what would be better?" Still, the "No" part of No Confidence was deemed negative and it was suggested that instead we should be commending the CA Sec. of State for his de-certification of Diebold machines. While I certainly think that was a good move, it hardly ensures legitimate elections will prevail across the land, and it does nothing to address the overarching myth of democracy in America. In fact, no Councilmembers even commented on the myth framework though Mayor Bob Ornelas did say flatly that he had "no confidence" and that any further revisions would not be "strong enough."

Oddly, it was mentioned that the resolution should have more teeth but should not give the appearance of discouraging people from voting. (As an aside, incessantly fraudulent elections deter people from voting, not an attempt to call the bullshit on its face.)
Fortunately, this wasn't simply thrown back in my lap. Councilmembers Dave Meserve and Elizabeth Conner have agreed to work with me. This is a great pairing because the two are not obvious allies. If they can agree, unanimous support will then be much easier to attain.

So, the challenge as I now see it is to continue to compromise on the language that will make these two Councilmembers happy while maintaining the overall concept and strategy that has made this effort unique from the start. Up to and including last night, I have still not spoken privately with Councilmember Conner. I am optimistic that finally doing so will reveal or create a much more open mind that grasps the connection between the mass delusion in which we live and our ability to show, by example, how to think globally and act locally.

Remarks prepared for Arcata City Council – July 7th 2004

We are here tonight because we have observed the abject failures and rigged nature of our electoral system. Pondering the question “what would be better?” has led to the creation of the opportunity before you; a choice - to initiate a hopeful plan of change.

We are here tonight to take responsibility for not allowing ourselves to be lied to anymore; to urge you, our community spokespeople, to make this statement on our behalf; and to begin the cumulative process of building national consensus for remaking democracy in America based on competition of ideas.

While the resolution was originally my idea, the wording you see now comes from three months of consensus building in our community. The present version bears almost no resemblance to the original, except for the overall concept and strategy. The distinction is important because it shows the plan has always met with approval, subject to debate merely about how best to articulate it.

To be perfectly clear – our argument says there is no BASIS for confidence in the legitimacy of US elections. No opposition has yet argued that there is a basis for confidence, a litmus test I hope you will apply in your deliberations which I also hope will exclude the unquestioning blind faith that helped get us here.

The brave people of our community have dared to imagine a future in which we genuinely participate in our democracy. This is supposed to be an American birthright yet democracy in the US is a myth.

The election and voting issues cited in the No Confidence resolution are merely one set of examples to demonstrate the denial of the Consent of the Governed. The myth of democracy is also seen in “free speech zones” that prevent Americans from petitioning their leaders for redress of grievances; “safe” Congressional seats in gerrymandered districts; and the taxation without representation of spending our federal budget dollars in secret.

We are here tonight to exercise and enforce our inalienable rights and to reaffirm the timeless and immutable self-evident truths listed in the Declaration of Independence. It is no exaggeration to say that the town meetings leading to this moment have spawned a growing No Confidence Movement already active in at least eight other towns.

Passing the No Confidence resolution means power to the people, and to the peaceful. While I recognize your prerogative to make further changes, I respectfully request that you pass our collaborative effort as-is in deference to the many views already considered.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The Oregonian Prints No Confidence Letter to the Editor

Thanks to Chuck in Portland for sending me the link.

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Portland Re-Cap

My Portland trip was smooth and successful. I've added the KBOO radio interview to the nav bar links. It is much shorter than the others and is more of a news report that includes a few quotes from me. It is a good synopsis.

I also appeared on "A Growing Concern," a public access TV show hosted by Jim Lockhart. I really look forward to making that available here. Jim said a VHS tape is on its way. I'll need some help digitizing. Please contact me if you can help.

And serendipitously, while scoping out the Blues Fest on Sunday, I spotted an person who was interviewing people in the crowd. I dropped a leaflet on him and within 30 seconds his mini disc was recording. We probably talked for 10-15 minutes. He seemed to really get it, especially about advocacy journalism. I haven't seen the recording on the Portland IndyMedia site yet but he told me to search for it over the next few days and it will be added.

Somehow, I also managed to crank out a letter to the editor of the Oregonian. Besides the local paper, I read something even more important the other day at This looks like my dream think tank. All the strategies employed throughout the No Confidence Movement, many of which were being developed last year, map onto what the smartMeme team is doing. I spoke to Patrick today, encouraging him to watch out for news of the Council vote.

I confess I am excited that it is now the morning of July 7, 2004 and tonight the Arcata City Council will consider the No Confidence resolution. Between the 4th of July holiday and the increased public speaking I've done, recent reactions to the No Confidence Movement have reinforced my sense that we are unveiling an historic opportunity.

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Monday, July 05, 2004

Letter to the Editors of The Oregonian - re: Restrictions Could Imperil Election

Dear Oregonian:

Robert Landauer's seemingly exhaustive list of known election discrepancies ("Restrictions Could Imperil Election," 6/29/04) demonstrates there is no BASIS for confidence in the legitimacy of US elections. No electoral reform effort is even aspiring to address everything he listed. Anyone wishing the position "I'm fully confident we'll have legitimate elections with a unanimously accepted outcome," must explain their basis for confidence. There is none.

In Arcata, CA this week (7/7/04), the City Council is considering a No Confidence resolution. Other communities, including Portland, have concerned citizens working towards the same end. Unlike the many disparate anti-Patriot act resolutions that have failed to restore our rights, the No Confidence Movement is consciously cultivating cumulative impact, essentially triggering a domino effect destined for a tipping point of genuine change. For more details, please see:

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Thursday, July 01, 2004

VFP 56 Endorses No Confidence Resolution

The new wording and the new pitch (which still needs work but got the job done) have brought the No Confidence movement yet another small tangible step forward. This has been the biggest day yet for this effort.

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No Confidence Resolution Makes Giant Leap to v.4.0

The No Confidence Movement does indeed have a lot of momentum, as was reported in today's Eureka Times-Standard. Unbeknownst to reporter Meghan Vogel, influential and accomplished peace activist S. Brian Wilson has leant his considerable writing skills to the cause and I am now thrilled to direct your attention to version 4.0 of the No Confidence resolution.

While some of the details included in prior versions have been removed, the brevity of this new version makes it a lot easier to grasp the connections between the top (whereas) and bottom (resolve) sections. Ultimately, reading the new version leaves me even more optimistic that we will get the three necessary votes from the City Council next Wednesday (July 7). And even more importantly, this streamlined edition of the resolution makes it absolutely clear that we have no BASIS for confidence in US federal elections and that we urge other communities to join with us in invoking the powerful words of the Declaration of Independence.

Read the resolution.

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More Press Coverage For the No Confidence Movement

Meghan Vogel from the Eureka Times-Standard delivered another solid piece advancing our cause today: No Confidence Movement Gaining Momentum

I will have more to say later this afternoon, including a big announcement about the next version of the No Confidence resolution.

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